Monday, December 26, 2011

Wizard!

The editors here at Standardkink are always excited to welcome work and input from the wider world and as such, we have a belated Christmas present for you! Below our friend and occasional contributor King Heifer would like to blow the doors off of your mind with his very thoughtful over-analysis of the Lord of The Rings movies.

Enjoy!





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Why The European Debt Crisis Would Have Horrified Frodo Baggins.

Why The European Debt Crisis Would Have Horrified Frodo Baggins

There’s a grand tradition among American men between the ages of about 15 and 45 of overthinking Star Wars. Wouldn’t light saber wounds cauterize themselves? Why was Obi-Wan Kenobi a pathological liar? Wouldn’t the Empire have named the Death Star something positive, like the Order Orb? Why couldn’t the forest moon of Endor been populated by wookies instead of ewoks? Were the surviving Jedi really stupid enough to try to hide Luke from Darth Vader by stowing him with Darth Vader’s brother on Darth Vader’s home planet? Why was Vader so stupid as to not find Luke there? The pinnacle of this kind of thought is probably the discussion in the movie Clerks about whether the independent contractors who were probably on the second Death Star got a raw deal.

There are probably people who do this with the Lord of the Rings, both books and movies, but you don’t hear as much about them. Well, after watching the extended versions of the movies and discovering – to my shock – that they do actually add something to the versions that were in theaters – let’s watch more four-hour movies! – I feel myself slipping into some serious overthinking of at least the movies. Having never read the books, but also having never heard of Rings fans roaming the streets like rampaging Uruk-Hai over the movies’ misrepresentation of the books, I’m going to trust that the movies accurately reflect the books. Accordingly, I’ll share the three things that have occurred to me as I have put too much thought into the Rings saga.

First, if Gandalf could summon eagles whenever he felt like it, why didn’t he just do that in the first place? He summons an eagle to bail him out when Saruman has him confined to the top of Isengard. He summons eagles to fight off the Naszgul during the battle at the Black Gate. He summons eagles to pluck Frodo and Sam off the slopes of Mount Doom at the end (although they clearly would have been fried by the volcanic gasses emanating from the ocean of lava that surrounded them). Why didn’t he just summon some eagles to fly Frodo directly to Mount Doom at the beginning, or at least after the defeat of Saruman, and save everyone the trouble? (I am assuming that, before Saruman’s defeat, he would have had the power to summon flying creatures to intercept the eagles chauffering Frodo to Mount Doom.) It never looked like the orcs had much airpower to defend against eagles.

Second, Theoden, King of Rohan, is the worst military strategist of all time. We’ll let him slide on the point that, in the Two Towers, he banished all of his horsemen – Rohan’s greatest strategic asset – because he was under the influence of Saruman at the time. (Tolkien’s editor should have asked him the following questions: “Seriously, there’s Saruman and Sauron? And they’re working together? Are you trying to confuse absolutely everyone?”) Once Theoden cleared his head, though, couldn’t he have gone and found the horsemen? He said they would be leagues away by then, but how would he have known? Judging by what the movies showed, his horsemen routinely destroyed the orcs and Uruk-Hai and it took a long damn time for everyone in Rohan to walk to Helm’s Deep. Wouldn’t spending the time to go find the horsemen have been a better option than dragging the whole population into a box canyon? Saruman was manufacturing Uruh-Kai out of mud, so there was no way that Rohan was going to outlast them at Helm’s Deep, even before Saruman invented explosives and suicide bombers to detonate the wall.

Theoden’s bizarre maneuver at Helm’s Deep, however, pales in comparison to his unfathomable tactics at the Battle of Minas Tirith. Recall that Rohan’s horsemen overwhelmed the stationary orcs with a charge dependent on their speed and momentum. As soon as that part of the battle was over, the elephants associated with the nameless men with headdresses appear. So what does Theoden – commander of the fastest, most mobile military unit in all of Middle Earth – do? He orders a frontal assault on the elephants, having his men charge directly at the elephants from the only angle at which they can defend themselves. Wouldn’t Rohan’s horsemen have been 1000% more effective if they had flanked the elephants, attacking them from the sides where they apparently had no defenses other than archers would have been as likely to shoot the other elephants as the rapidly moving horses? Did Theoden learn nothing from the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Hoth? When you’re in the role of the Rebel Alliance, you implement guerrilla warfare, not frontal assaults. Theoden seemed like kind of a cool guy, but Rohan is probably far better off with Aowen running the show.

My third, and much more egregious, example of overthinking Lord of the Rings is my conclusion that the whole trilogy is an argument in favor of a European Union and, by implication, the euro. Tolkien apparently denied that the books were an allegory for World War II, but the parallels are just too strong to ignore, particularly given that he wrote them over the ten years following WWII before publishing the books in 1954 and 1955 when the formation of a European community was a live issue. The parallels leap out. It isn’t very hard to see Sauron as Hitler or Mordor as Nazi Germany, but the whole exercise of manufacturing Uruh-Kai as a super-army also sounds a lot like the Nazi’s experiments with eugenics. The elves are pretty clearly the Americans, with the elves having fought with men in a previous war against the same enemy, deciding – after some initial reluctance – to ally with men again in the current war and then “going into the West” back across the ocean at the end of the story.

The analogy to European history also explains what was, to me at least, one of the more inexplicable aspects of the story, namely the existence of two nations of men. Maybe there was more backstory in the books that I haven’t read, but wouldn’t you think that the nations of men would have gotten the message during the first war against Sauron that they had better stick together? Ah, but, if they had done so, they would not have been such a neat analogy for Britain and France. To me at least, Rohan is Britain and Gondor is France.

This analogy explains a great deal of what happens in the Lord of the Rings. Theoden retreated to Helm’s Deep behind Rohan’s historically impenetrable wall because that was a neat analogy to Britain’s pre-WWII confidence that no army could ever cross the English Channel. Saruman’s use of new technology – explosives – to breach the wall mirrors Germany’s use of new technology – aircraft – to jump the English Channel and nearly win the Battle of Britain, which, on this theory, mirrors Saruman’s near-victory at Helm’s Deep. Theoden’s earlier possession by Saruman and his minion Wormtongue reflects how deep and broad the influence of Nazi sympathizers, or at least apologists, was in Britain before WWII, going all the way to King Edward VIII, who eventually abdicated so they could have the movie The King’s Speech.

The similarities between pre-WWII France and Gondor are just as striking. France’s pre-WWII Third Republic government was something of a mess, just as Gondor did not have a king, but rather only a steward, who was not effective in preparing to fight Mordor. The garrison on the river, Osgiliath, bears similarities to the Maginot Line, which the French built to guard the German border, but which had little effect at the beginning of WWII. After the orcs took Osgiliath, there was little between them and Minas Tirith, just as there was little between the Nazis and Paris once the Nazis invaded the Low Countries. And Minas Tirith is an awfully grand city, like Paris. Finally, Rohan effectively had to invade Gondor to drive out the armies of Mordor, just as the British (and the Americans) had to invade France to drive the Nazis out.

Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “What about the One Ring and the hobbits? They are the stars, after all.” They are, along with Gollum, a metaphor for the use and abuse of the power that comes with winning wars. In the standard history, the allies that won WWI contributed, to some degree, to the conditions that led to WWII by imposing very onerous reparations terms on Germany because of its role in WWI. Before that, Germany and France traded Alsace-Lorraine back and forth, depending on who had won the last war.

To me at least, Tolkien’s theme that the One Ring must be destroyed is an argument that people must forego the traditional taking of war spoils in order to have lasting peace. In this reading, the hobbits are the good angels on people’s shoulders and Gollum is the bad angel. The One Ring is the power to impose yourself on everyone else and that power must be destroyed. Tolkien clearly thought of the hobbits as English, given that they appear to live in some fantasy of the English countryside, but they aren’t really affiliated with any of the major populations of Middle Earth, which apparently tend to forget that hobbits exist. Maybe you could see the hobbits as Irish – it’s awfully green in the Shire – but the Irish were not exactly enamored of the English historically. Same with the Scots, although William Wallace’s fight with the English – to quote Mel Gibson, “Freedom!” – is much further back than Michael Collins’s. Viewing the hobbits and Gollum as metaphors jibes with the facts that hobbits don’t fit into Middle Earth’s demographics very well and that Frodo and Sam are on their own for much of the story.

If you look at all of this together, you can take the Lord of the Rings book as a big argument for a Europe community of countries. Recall that, at the end, Gondor and Rohan do not unite as one nation, but rather appear likely to live together in peace and harmony, just like England and France (more or less). The Americans, excuse me, elves go back into the west across the Atlantic Ocean, taking Gandalf the wizard and Frodo the metaphor with them. There doesn’t appear to be any discussion of a Marshall Plan for Mordor, but that wouldn’t have been too much of a jump from the ending of the Return of the King.

Now I know there are a lot of loose ends to this theory. What about the dwarves? What were they? I’d have to say the Russians, given that the orcs apparently inflicted massive casualties on the dwarves in a battle in which the main protagonists did not participate – a la the Nazis’ invasion of Russia – and that Gimli joined up with the protagonists in the main battles. What about the wizards? What were they? It’s a fantasy series, you have to have magic. Moreover, without Gandalf, who would have been Obi-Wan/Dumbledore to Frodo’s Luke/Harry?

In light of all of this, you would have to think that the European debt crisis would have seriously concerned Tolkien, particularly after the Cold War with the dwarves. We don’t want anyone forging any new currency in the fires of Mount Doom.


KH


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Words Today.

Today I happened to encounter several words that I am not accustomed to encountering on a run-of-the-mill Wednesday. These aren’t words I didn’t know, but rather words I don’t generally encounter in life.

Polymath – If ever you are asked to introduce me at a Rotary Club luncheon or a WGA awards banquet (be still my heart!) then I would like you to use this word to describe me. Thanks!

Presumed – Not a terribly esoteric word or anything, but somehow – I think – it has some implied lasciviousness. Maybe that’s just me who thinks that though. Problem being this word was said to me in the most un-lascivious of conversations today. It always makes we smile when people use words I think are dirty in a completely not dirty way.

Presumptive – This was used in the same conversation as ‘presumed’. The two words were used interchangeably. Normally I would rush to my dictionaries to figure out what exactly the difference is, however, I did not. For today I will pretend that the difference is that ‘presumed’ is kinda dirty and ‘presumptive’ is not.




(My dictionaries.)


Adjudicate – I’m absolutely CERTAIN that this word was not used properly when said to me today (in reference to verifying if property taxes were calculated correctly), but I’m too polite to correct people, and I don’t like to get my (secret) English degree all splashed all over everybody when they talk to me.

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Dear Christmas.

Dear Christmas
by james bezerra


Dear Christmas,

I would like less
fat in the index of my body mass,
so please make it not so cold
so that I can run more before I’m too old.
Also, I’d like in my life, some holiday cheer
before we end this crappy 2011 year.
So maybe under my tree
you will leave some grace, some joy, and some happiness for me.

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Luckily Diseased.

High winds have been tossing trees about down her in Southern California and lots of people have been without power for a week now. So rather than donating my electric socks or the duralog I keep in my trunk, I am showing my support by donating this poem, which they can print out and burn for warmth … except … I guess, they probably can’t print it without power … well, how about this: if your power is out, call or email me and I will personally print a copy of this poem and mail it to you and in two to four days when the USPS delivers it, THEN you can burn it for warmth! You’re welcome!



Luckily Diseased
by james bezerra

If, on this eve, so wintery,
an errant tree
has robbed you of electricity,
then it is probably a good time to be
one who suffers from an abnormally
high body temperature!

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Community Spirit.



Community Spirit
by
james bezerra

It is unacceptable to me
that they’re canceling Community.
Sure the Network says ‘hiatus’,
but I say ‘bullshit bogus’!

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Stilts!




Some workdays are very stressful and leave you simply wanting to go the hell home and take a nap. I have had a lot of those days lately. However today was not one of them. Yes, it was long and yes it was stressful, but I came out of it feeling okay. I think this is largely due to the fact that I got to put on my thinking cap and figure some stuff out. I will spare you the nasty details, but I’m taking on a lot of new job functions at work but not really being relieved of any of my old ones. The other day I explained this to the owner of the company and he flippantly told me to ‘get things automated’ meaning that I should find a way to boil my less complex functions down to logic programming. So you know what? I fucking did! I can never fully express how awesome it is to be awesome!

So I set my brain to some of that out-of-the-box thinking that everybody always talks about all of the time but never actually does. And I think that I have figured out how to reduce, not one, but TWO different soul-sucking, day-long processes into Access macros that will take like ten fucking minutes, total! With the (earth-shakingly badass) help of our in-house programmer I think that by the end of the month I will be able to turn 16 man houses of work into something that is more like thirty minutes. How fricken’ cool is that?! (You may applaud now.)

The point of this rant is that I was already feeling pretty good about myself when I hopped in the car and drove back to my apartment. Then, on the way, I heard a story on NPR about … do you wanta guess? … about competitive stilt jousting. Yeah. I said: Competitive. Stilt. Jousting.

This is why NPR is the best. This story is as hilarious as it is awesome. It was the cherry on top of my day.

READ (or listen) ALL ABOUT IT!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Amusing.

Because I find it amusing, here is a picture of girls in skirts smoking.



(It is my blog and I can put whatever I want on it!)

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Everything.

So I know that you have spent the past month or so wandering in a daze and asking yourself, “Where did Jamie go? Why is he not blogging anymore? Is it something I did?”

Well, yes, it was.

Not really though.

November was National Novel Writer’s Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. The goal of participants is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, beginning at 12.01 am on November 1st.

That may not sound like much to people who have a massive output on a regular basis (I’m talking to YOU Stephen King!) but for most of us it is a Herculean feat. It breaks out to 1,667 words every single day and – I should mention – it is REALLY HARD! Especially when you factor in distractions (enjoyable as they may be) like Thanksgiving, birthdays (why is EVERYBODY born in November) and work and such.

Well I chose to write (more or less) about banking, but the exciting parts of banking! Yeah, everyone I explained it to was like, “How are you a grown man and an English major who still doesn’t understand the meaning of the word exciting?”

Anywhoo, the novel did – as they tend to do – spin a little out of control, but, I think, in a good way. It became about more than just banking and more about how everything secretly interconnects to everything. In this way the medusa/hydra that is international banking became almost a metaphor for how all of today connects to yesterday and who we are is just the sum of who we have been and all that sort of mumbo jumbo. Along the way we touch on the stock exchange established by Somali pirates, the joy of trail running, the difference between the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions, Enigmatology, sexual awakening, rules for drinking, how to Google your way out of blackmail, and how Andrew Carnegie was the largest smuggler of mythical creatures in human history.

It is called: Everything is Everything.

Now that the thing is done I am going to spend some time editing it and polishing it and then I think I am going to experiment with e-publishing it. Why not, you know? What have I got to lose? Except my dignity, which is over rated anyway!

Oh, my final word count by the way, was not 50,000. It was 63,368. Because I rock.



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Chapter 13! BANKING!

Below is a very quick excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel. This is all of Chapter 13 in all of its poorly edited glory. I promise that the whole novel is not like this, but I needed to very quickly make banking sound kind of exciting and also explain – you know – why the economy completely tumbled ass backward into hell a couple years ago. And I wanted it to be kinda fun to read.

Also, most of these examples are true (or nearly true) based on my extensive internet research during October and November.

Things you need to know for the below to make any sense:
One of the characters in named “Bellanova”.
He works for a very large bank.
The bank is under investigation starting today.
He calls it, “Investigation Day”.

ENJOY!




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What a Bank Does.

13. What a Bank Does

While there are endless variations and permutations of banks and the services they provide, all banks essentially do two things: they take in money and then give it out again. There is no mystery to it at all.

Person A deposits her paycheck into her bank account and when she wants some of that money back, she removes it to do with as she pleases, to buy sewing notions or drug paraphernalia. To the average person there is no mystery at all. A bank is just a warehouse where her money is kept safe from bandits, muggers and water damage.

If Person A is particularly astute, she might one day ask, “How does the bank afford such a nice building if all it does is charge me five bucks a month for my account?” And then she might think to herself, “Well from other people’s interest, of course!” and go about her day, though she is only partially right.

What would likely never occur to Person A, is that banks are not service institutions. They do not exist to make modern life easier. They exist to make money.

When Person A deposits her paycheck, what follows is an intricate and complicated ballet of movements, none of which are ever seen by Person A.

The bank takes Person A’s money and puts it into a massive pool of money, along with money from Person B and Person C and Person D, etc., ad infinitum.

The bank keeps a small portion of ALL THAT MONEY available in case Person A needs to withdraw some to pay off a gambling debt or in case Person B wants to buy some dirty lingerie on her debit card. But aside from those sorts of things, most of ALL THAT MONEY would just be sitting there all the time gathering dust; except that banks are not warehouses for money.

So what a bank actually does is spend most of that money on other things (which have nothing to do with Person A or Person B or Person C, etc.) A loan is a good example of this. If the bank takes $100 of Person A’s money and gives it as a loan to Person X, then Person X is generally required to pay back that loan with interest. If the interest is $1 a year and Person X pays back the loan after one year, then Person X has paid back $101 to the bank. And remember, $100 of that technically belongs to Person A, but the bank has made $1 just for loaning out money that never belonged to it in the first place! And Person A never even knew about it!

But what happens if Person A wants all of her money back all at once even though the bank has loaned it all out?

Well that’s okay. The bank has kept enough money on hand (from Person B and Person C and Person D, etc.) to give Person A back all her money.

But what happens if ALL the people want ALL of their money back ALL at once?

Well that is called a “run on the bank” and it will cause a bank to “collapse”, because the bank does not actually have ALL THAT MONEY anymore.

However, every single bank that has ever existed throughout all of human history has functioned on the fundamental principle that there will never be a time when ALL the people want ALL their money back ALL at once. Every single bank in existence today (including the one where you keep your money) has made this assumption. Even though the assumption has been proved wrong over and over again.

Fundamentally, however, Person A and Person B and Person C all understand that banks loan money. And it is even likely that Person A has a home loan, Person B has a student loan, Person C has a car loan, etc. The implied contract that exists between banks and the people who use them is that the banks will behave in a thoughtful and responsible enough way that everyone involved is able to benefit from the relationship. Even though this implied contract has been violated over and over again.

These are all oversimplifications, of course.

No where on earth is there a bank that would make a $100 loan with an annual interest rate of 1%, because banks are not in the business of making only one dollar a year. Banks (and by extension, all investment firms, hedge funds, lending and financial institutions, etc.) are primarily in the business of making VERY LARGE sums of money.

How does a bank (or any other financial institution) do that?

Oh there are lots of ways! And new ones are being invented all the time!

Very large banks (like the one that Bellanova works for) like to deal with other very large organizations, like other large banks, countries, or oil companies.
If a large oil company wants to build a series of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico – for instance – it will go to a very large bank and take out a very large loan for hundreds of million dollars. The bank is happy to do this because it will make a lot of money on the interest from a loan like that. Also, a big oil company is often willing to cut the bank in on an extra share of the oil profits. The oil company is willing to be so generous because lots of times the same people run both the oil companies and the banks. How convenient is that!

Other times a very large bank will work with a foreign country (usually a poor one that has oil or diamonds) and will make loans to the otherwise poor government in return for largely untraceable repayment in the form of raw goods like oil or diamonds. This is good for the bank because it generally gets to dictate the terms of the repayment (since the bank has the money and the country does not). So instead of a 1% annual interest, sometimes banks can charge a 100% interest rate! Because a lot of times the bank gets to decide how much the oil or diamonds are worth as a form or repayment, regardless of market price. How good for them! Why would any country want to pay a 100% interest rate on a loan when it could just sell its own oil and diamonds?

Well, sometimes the country can’t. Sometimes other organizations – like the United Nations – won’t let the country sell its goods on the open market. That is called an “embargo”. But why would the Unites Nations “embargo” something like oil or diamonds? Well usually because those countries are run by “dictatorships” that commit “human rights abuses” like “operating death squads”, engaging in “mass genocides” or “ethnic cleansings” or doing things like kidnapping children and forcing them to mine diamonds.

But wouldn’t a big bank get in big trouble for doing something like that?

Well sure!

That is why banks do not loan the money directly to those counties. The loans are broken down into numerous smaller amounts and moved through a purposefully complicates series of “front companies” and “shell corporations” and most of those are located in small countries that don’t have very many banking laws. Sometimes the bank will even pay a lot of money (in the form of cash or diamonds or oil or untraceable bearer-bonds) to members of those governments to ensure that they don’t make any new banking laws in their little countries.

And when one of those “embargoed dictatorships” pays the bank back – say with a million barrels of oil every week – the bank uses even more “front companies” and “shell corporations” to get that oil out to the market to sell at a much higher “price” than it credited back against the “embargoed dictatorship’s” loans. In this way, a very large bank (like the one Bellanova works for) is able to use ALL THAT MONEY that Person A and Person B and Person C and Person D etc. deposited to make massive “profit”. And it doesn’t even have to share any of that “profit” with Person A or Person B or Person C or Person D etc. How great is THAT for the bank!

But those are only a few examples of how smart banks are at making money.

Banks are so smart that they have figured out that they can make money even off the money that they have already loaned out! When a bank makes very large loans and investments, it depletes the money that it has to make new loans and investments (and to pay back Person A and Person B and Person C and Person D etc.). Since the bank has loaned out all that money, all it has now is a bunch of IOUs worth billions and trillions of dollars. So it may not have any money, but it has lots of potential money.

What the bank does then, is roll up all of those IOUs into an “investment opportunity” that other people and companies can buy. This process is called “commoditizing debt”, and the “investment opportunity” is called a “derivative” (names so because it is derived from something else). How exciting!

When a bank (or other financial institution) creates a “derivative” it is sure to mix a lot of unrelated types of IOUs into it (like risky home loans that it wants to get off of its books), that way it is almost impossible for a person or company to know, or even understand, what it is buying. But why would any person or company want to buy a mysterious “derivative”? Usually because the bank or other financial institution has a good track record of making lots of money! And because most of the people who run the “hedge funds” and “investment banks” (which buy most of the “derivatives”) are good friends with the people who run the banks. How convenient!

See, now the banks have managed to take money from Person A and Person B and Person C and Person D, etc. and loan it out in ways that will earn the bank lots of extra profit (which it does not have to share with Person A and Person B and Person C and Person D, etc.) and at the same time, it has managed to sell off all of its IOUs for real money. It has ended up making extra profit at least two different ways from the original money deposited by Person A and Person B and Person C and Person D, etc.! How smart is that!

But what happens if all of those risky home loans start to go bad because people can’t pay them? And why would a bank make a risky home loan in the first place?

Well once upon a time the United States had some old time-y laws called “Glass-Steagall” (named after Senator Carter Glass and Rep. Henry Steagall). Those laws required banks to hold onto the loans and therefore to hold onto the “exposure” that would be created if a loan went bad. So a bank only made a loan if it looked like someone could pay it back. But eventually all the people who used to run the banks went to work for the government as bank regulators. How convenient! And then the banks lobbied the Congress to repeal those old Glass-Steagall laws, which it did.

Then banks told their loan officers (who get paid bonuses on the number of loans they create not the number of loans that get paid back) that they could make as many loans as they wanted! Almost as soon as the new, risky or “exotic” loans got created and sold to people (mostly people who couldn’t have gotten one before) the banks rolled them into “derivatives” and sold them off to other people who didn’t really understand what they were buying. Everybody was making lots more money!

Except for the people who took out loans they didn’t really understand to buy houses they couldn’t really afford. They weren’t making any more money than before.

Sadly, when all those people started to “default” on their mortgages – millions at a time – all of those IOUs that were rolled up inside of all those “derivatives” went bad, meaning they lost their value (or rather, their potential value). Suddenly big companies and hedge funds and investment banks which thought they had trillions of dollars of potential money, didn’t anymore; they just had “loss” and no real money left.

Once that happened, none of the other banks wanted to loan them any money anymore.

Plus, since so many of the companies were interconnected and laterally invested in each other, no one could be sure anymore who actually had any real money left. So everyone stopped loaning money to everyone else. Then whole banks and investment firms began to “collapse”. And since they were so interconnected with other banks and investment firms, those other banks and investment firms began to “collapse”. And for a little while, it looked like the whole world economy was going to “collapse” because no one actually had enough actual money to cover all of the “loss”.

But remember all those people who used to run the banks but then went to work for the government as bank regulators? Well they convinced the United States to give the banks lots of money (called a “bail out”) so that all of the “collapsing” would stop. The government agreed to do that so that modern civilization would not “collapse”.

Well those banks took all that money and they did all the things that banks do to make money into more money and some of them even paid it back to the government so super fast that it made a lot of people wonder if they even needed the “bail out” in the first place, especially since now the banks were showing phenomenal earnings!

One of the banks (the one Bellanova works for) made SO MUCH MONEY that it became such a symbol (to the broke, unemployed, confused and angry public) of greed, dishonesty and malfeasance, that the President himself (on the advice of his political advisors) ordered the Federal Reserve Bank and the Justice Department to work together to figure out what happened.

And that is how Investigation Day came to be!


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We Might Fall.

You probably don’t remember Ryan Star because you never knew who he was in the first place (unless you watched that one reality show like five years ago about how INXS was trying to find a new lead singer) but I like him a lot and I think that – if I could sing, which I cannot – I would like to sound the way that he does.



(This song makes me cry, BTW. I have no idea why. It just SOUNDS sad, right? Also I cry like a little girl sometimes. At songs I mean. Because that is what men do. Whatever, no one asked you.)

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I Didn’t Think about You Today.

I didn’t think about you today
by james bezerra


I didn’t think about you today.
I’ve finally found a way
to get through a whole day
without thinking about the way
you went away.

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A Farewell from Herman Cain.

From the always delightful Borowitz Report.




A Farewell from Herman Cain

My Final Thoughts

Dear Friend,

And when I say “friend,” I mean it in the normal way, not “someone I’ve been sleeping with for 13 years.” Unless, of course, I have been sleeping with you for 13 years. In that case, I do mean it that way.

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to end my inspirational quest for the White House. After much reassessing and reconsidering, I have decided to spend more time being screamed at by my wife. And by “more time,” I mean 24 hours a day, stopping only for bathroom breaks.

But before I go, let me share with you my final thoughts on my campaign. After months of crisscrossing this great land of ours and participating in over three hundred televised debates, I am being disqualified because of an extramarital affair. And that raises the following question: are you fucking kidding me?

I mean, let’s get real. I never heard of Libya. I didn’t know whether that CNN dude’s name was Wolf or Blitz. And my only training for running the #1 nation in the world was running its #8 pizza chain. Yet none of that, I repeat, none of that disqualified me. In fact, I was the front-fucking-runner, as long as I kept my 9-9-9 in my pants. (I have no idea what I meant by that -- I just like saying 9-9-9.)

But here’s the part that really kills me. You’re kicking me to the curb because I was messing around, and instead you’re going with… Newt Gingrich? I repeat: are you fucking kidding me? Oh, I know what you’re saying: you love Newt because he’s an “intellectual.” Well, Newt Gingrich is the intellectual of the Republican field the way Moe was the intellectual of the Stooges.

And that leads me to my final point: you disgust me, America. Right now if I had my way, I’d up and move to another country. I really, truly would. Only I don’t know where any of them are, and my wife won’t let me leave the house.

Goodbye forever,

Herman



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(Thanks to NYDana for sending this my way!)
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Your Mom is a Sex Addict.




I suppose it is possible that I am going to sound strange by saying this, but has anyone else out there been running across all sorts of books and articles and documentaries later telling you how addicted to sex we all are? No? Just me? Okay, well now I feel weird about myself.

Sadly none of these books or articles or documentaries are about how everybody is getting laid and having a good time. No, it would appear that we are in the grip of a sexual-addiction epidemic, or so said a recent NEWSWEEK cover story.

I do not doubt that there is a sexual-addiction epidemic, but I very much doubt it is anything new.

I did recently read that the prevalence of free and easily accessible internet porn (and let me tell you, there is A LOT of it out there! Or so I am told) has been dangerously and unreasonably altering what we expect out of our sex lives, or rather what we EXPECT out of our sex lives RIGHT NOW GODAMMIT! And that I can buy prĂȘt easily.

I don’t really have anything to add to this debate, except that if you’re getting some action regularly, I hope that you are being healthy and kind and sexy about it, in which case, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU EVEN READING THIS BLOG RIGHT NOW?

Anyway, here is the NEWSWEEK ARTICLE I thought it was interesting.


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Watch! Awesome!



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Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo!




I am SO EXCITED!

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow! I’m sure you know all of this already, but the goal is to crank out a 50,000 word novel in a single month. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done. It is an writing exercise! And it is hard!

You aren’t allowed to write anything until November 1st (which is about four and a half hours from now!) but you are allowed to plot and plan. I have spent a lot of time doing that lately and I am looking forward to getting started!

Realistically, I may not finish. I have only ever successfully hit the 50k mark twice, but this year I am really going to work my ass off. To succeed you have to write at least 1,667 a day. A DAY! That is a lot of words. Every. Day. But I am really looking forward to throwing myself into it.

Here is the novel synopsis I just posted on my NANO page:

The misanthropic and (hopefully!) madcap adventures of a team of bankers … unique bankers. The kind of bankers who travel the world quietly solving problems for the world’s largest financial institution and its most valuable clients. The kind of bankers who can overthrow a mid-sized country, make an oil spill disappear, or stop aliens from stealing the moon.

It will be half satire, half international espionage thriller, half love story and half exploration of all the ways in which banks are screwing you! It will also include notes on how to reprogram an Excel spreadsheet to sexually harass someone!


I will post my daily writing chunks on this here blog, so you can read it as I write it! And please yell at me if I slack off.

Some crazy people will be staying up until midnight to start jitting the keys at 12:01, but I shall not. I am kind of tired, so my very exciting Halloween plan tonight is to eat some real food for dinner, do some yoga, and go to bed early. I KNOW! I am so exciting that you can’t believe it!

Tomorrow this super-awesome adventure in awesomeness begins!


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Ode to 8am.



Ode to 8am
by james bezerra

Coffeepot please brew
your black gold faster!
I’m an addict and you,
you are my dealer.

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Still a Mugging?

Still a Mugging?
by james bezerra

Heavens to betsy!
Maybe we should see
if that there deceased body
has in its pockets any money!

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Sailboat.



Sailboat
by james bezerra

Let’s sail our dreams
like a long sailboat
around this giant fishbowl
and then we’ll know
if our love will float

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Laid.

Laid
by James

You know who always
seems happier than me?
People getting laid regularly!

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Sloppy.

Sloppy
by james bezerra

If you’re like me,
sometimes you read your own poetry
and realize sadly
that your rhymes are pretty sloppy.

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Fruit Loopy.



How come really fancy hotels don’t have complimentary continental breakfast?

That’s not a poem or anything, I’m really asking.

A few weeks ago I stayed in a really crappy little motel and got some free Fruit Loops, terrible coffee and a rock hard blueberry muffin out of the deal. I was very please!

But I recently made a reservation for a really fancy pants hotel and guess what? No complimentary continental breakfast! And the hotel has a restaurant in it and everything! So it’s not like the concept of people eating food just escaped them! No! It’s because they want you to wake up and be all like, “Well gee, I’m hungry gosh darn it! And I would really love a rock hard blueberry muffin right now.” So then you go through your luggage because you’re sure that you packed some muffins, so you dig around in your bag, but beneath the leather straps and gimp mask and ball gag and tub of liquid latex all you find is your back-up ball gag. So then you’re all like, “Well, I guess I should go see if they have any muffins at this restaurant I keep hearing about.” And then BAM! you end up spending a hundred and fifty dollars on eggs Benedict and a cup of fair-trade coffee!

When all you wanted was a crappy, dried out muffin and maybe some Fruit Loops if they’re on offer.

They are manipulating you! Playing upon your most fundamental need for substance! It is a racket! A trick! A sham! A fiat! A gambit! A gauntlet! A hootenanny! A shake down! A bloom’en shame! A hold up! A stick up! A despotism! An Orwellian nightmare of free market capitalism run amuck! A Kafkaesque nightmare of unseen power manipulating your fundamental essence! A Dickensian nightmare of not being given “more” food even when you ask nicely, with your big puppy dog eyes and empty bowl and empty stomach and – quite frankly – your empty heart!

Okay, I know that not all of that is actually true or accurate and some of those things I just said don’t even make any sense in this context … sorry? I got excited. BUT LOOK AT ALL THOSE WORDS I KNOW!

The one place where this whole thing is especially true, but not annoying to me, is Las Vegas. OF COURSE they aren’t gong to give you a free breakfast in Las Vegas! But they make up for it by selling you steak and eggs for a nickel at 4 in the morning. AND they let you play keno while you’re eating! The no free breakfast in Vegas I can understand and respect because the intentions of Vegas are very apparent and it is part of the deal you enter into. They want your money, you want to have a good time and get to use your ball gag. Done. This is the same logic that made it ok for Jay-Z to nark out a bunch of his fans during that late 1990s Napster lawsuit, but not ok for Metallica to do it. As a rapper Jay-Z made it clear that he was in it for the fame and money. Okay, cool, I can live with that. Metallica, on the other hand, was supposedly all about the music and all that inarticulate white man rage and the anti-establishmentarianism-ness, dammit! They had long hair! But then Lars “even my pets think I’m a douche bag” Ulrich personally wheels a titanic full of download records into the courtroom, records with the IP addresses and names of people whose only crime was liking Metallica in the first place. What a fucking prick. I was never a big Metallica fan before that, but since then I have become an anti-Metallica proselytizer.

Um … but I fear that I might have strayed off topic a bit …

I guess the real question to come out of this whole rumination is this: why do you travel with so many ball gags?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So it Goes.


Hi blog,

I know, I know, it has been a while, but it really wasn’t my fault this time. Life has been less than good as of late. I will spare you the gory details, but here are the highlights:

My cat is very slowly and very expensively dying. I am working with the vet, but the vet always gives me that stink eye look that seems to say, “This wouldn’t be happening if you were a better cat parent”, so that always feels good. Also, holy shit is the vet expensive!

My car has been slowly falling apart for awhile now. I did the math not long ago and figured out that I need it to get me through another year. At that point I will have some important things paid off and I will have been able to save some money, and also I think that about a year from now I should be able to make some big life decisions (job, location, some new goals, a revised plan for the future, all that good stuff). But my car is kind of a beater, so I have been trying to give it a little more TLC and as soon as I did, the wheels started to come off the wagon (almost literally) and it has all snowballed: get it serviced, get new tires, get the brakes fixed, stop that god-awful squealing noise, etc, etc, etc. If I really, truly believed in karma, then I would have to guess that this is all happening due to the hubris of my saving money in the first place. I was very proud of myself, I was able to save some money for the first time in a long time. Made me feel like a grown up; like a man. Well all of that is gone now and I will be living on minute rice and boiled dirt for awhile. But so it goes.

Finally, a few people in my life who are (or were) important to me have (separately and without provocation) gotten in touch with me to enumerate the ways in which I am an asshole. These are people for whom I still care deeply, regardless of the ways in which the winds of fate have battered us about. So that just plainly sucks. Though they did make some good points and it does make me think, “Shit, maybe they’re onto something!” And who knows, perhaps they are.

But I will be honest with you dear blog, I’m getting my ass kicked here. Like Mark Wahlberg for the whole beginning half of The Fighter. Seriously.

But I have weathered these types storms before. And some of them were much worse than this one. Much like all of us, life has moods and sometimes it can be kind of a bitch. But so it goes. That was a refrain that Kurt Vonnegutt used in Slaughterhouse-Five and it comes to mind a lot. So it goes.

However, I don’t want you to get the impression I’m spending my days sitting around in a puddle in soiled britches, clutching a dead cat and crying into my beer. Some days are quite good. Running is feeling better each time I go and I have been reading a lot and writing some. I’m impatiently looking forward to NANOWRIMO next month, even though I have yet to lock down a … oh, what’s the technical term … plot. But who needs a plot? That’s my refrain, who needs a plot?

I have a new backpacking bag I really like and I am itching to use it. I want to find a thru hike! I think I may have finally gotten my Base Pack Weight down to ten pounds! (I know, I’m a dork. Please feel free to Google “Base Pack Weight”). I bought a scale recently and I was happy to discover this is the least I have weighed since high school! And it’s not even because I got all binge-and-purge-y or anything! I’m slowly getting in shape! Which is maddeningly ironic because I also haven’t had sex or been naked in front of anyone in a completely unacceptable amount of time. Seriously, I’m starting to understand why people marry conjugal visit-capable inmates (What? Every movie I have ever seen about women’s prisons made them seem like pretty sexy places!)

Meet-an-Inmate.com

Anyway, there’s an update for you. I’m sure you were just dying to have all of that information. So it goes!

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Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street?
by james bezerra

Occupy Wall Street?
Sounds like a good time! But what
are you protesting?



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It’s the Stopping that’s a Bitch.

It’s the Stopping that’s a Bitch
by james bezerra

I would like to go hang gliding,
but am afraid of dying.
Not death from falling,
but rather death from plummeting,
followed by suddenly stopping.

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Ding Dong, Gaddafi's Gone!

Dear Muammar Gaddafi,

BANG YOU'RE DEAD! Hahahahaha!

Thanks,
The Editors at Standardkink

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Last Thoughts of Muammar Gaddafi.

I do not claim to have the ability to psychically retrieve thoughts and memories from dead bodies (although what a highly-rated & crappy television show would that be! Like Ghost Whisperer mixed with CSI or something! And I would solve mysteries!), however in this post I shall posit some guesses as to what the last thoughts of Muammar Gaddafi might have been:

“Where is my all-female bodyguard detail when I need them?! Probably doing their make-up!”

“Look I know you rebels are angry, but doesn’t killing me seem a bit harsh? Wait, what? I had your entire family murdered? Oh … sorry?”

“I hope that I look better than Saddam Hussein did when they pulled him out of that hole in the ground.”

“Any chance this whole ‘Libyan Revolution’ thing is a joke? Or like that thing in The Game where they weren’t actually trying to kill Michael Douglas? Man, that was such a good movie.”

“Sure, if they kill me I will get forty virgins, but as a batshit insane despot I’ve really grown accustomed to having fifty or sixty virgins ...”

“Dammit, if I had known today was going to go down this way I would have worn my other multicolored mumu/quasi-military uniform and matching hat.”

“This has been – like – the shittiest year of my life.”

“I hope that they don’t make this into an SNL sketch. That Fred Armisen is a jerk! I don’t even talk like that.”

“Well, at least I can finally meet Liberace. That guy was so stylish!”




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Looks like a Lizard, Talks like a Lizard, but it’s a …

Hey, remember Newt Gingrich? Remember back when he was running for President … wait, what?! He’s still running from president? Wait … REALLY?! Oh wow, that’s just sad … too sad to make fun of really.

Poor guy, maybe if he hadn’t made a career about of being a professional turd …



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Ron Paul Shot a Guy.

Since you’re so cool you probably saw this on SNL already, but if not:
A very funny sketch about the Republican debates.




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Just a Little Wrong.

So this is a couple of weeks late, and possibly insensitive, but I still keep chuckling about it.

A day or two after Steve Jobs died my dad got home from work and said to my mother, “Honey, I think that Bill Gates died today.”

Come on, that’s hilarious!

I love and admire and respect my father very much, but he has a knack for getting the pop culture stuff a little wrong. One of the other winners was the time he said, “I watched a whole episode of that Rupaul’s Drag Race because I thought it was about drag racing. But it wasn’t.”

That’s not the all-time, best-in-show winner though. My dad doesn’t sleep much, so tends to stay up late working on his laptop with the TV on in the background. He enjoys a good western, as most of our fathers do, and so one night – while looking for something to have on the TV in the background – he came across what looked to be a western he’d never seen. It did not take long however before he discovered that Brokeback Mountain is NOT a western. He is still a little shocked about that one.



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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Name is Music.

Recently my energetic and always in-motion brother the Texas Diplomat gave me a hand-me-down Mac Book (I know, my life is really hard). Aside from the general awesomeness of such a super thing, there is a specific awesomeness here and it has a name.

That name is music.

My music situation has been quite sad for the last few years. When I moved to LA I had a beautiful and wonderful music library. It was esoteric and exotic and just the right amount of pop-y. It was so massive that it lived on an external hard drive. That hard drive crashed and I lost it all. Photos too and a lot of writing, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that I lost a life lived in music.

The years after that were a meager time for me. I was both poor and busy and only able to rebuild in fits and spurts.

I had an old (very, very, very old) Compaq that did its business but didn’t do it swiftly or elegantly. For college I bought a little HP netbook that I love because it is the nearest digital equivalent to a pen and paper, but it is such a simple device that I didn’t trouble it with music.

Well now I have this white totem, this sliver; half plastic and half Steve Jobs’ soul. Today I moved over the poor, starving scraps of music that I had left, and then I re-logged into my iTunes account:

And it was glorious.

For literally years I have been scribbling the names of songs down on post-its, hoping that one day I would have a functioning music system that would allow me to find them again.

Well tonight I have gone back and found them again.

Yes, that's right: I am building a library. I have been building playlists! The art of building playlists is very much like writing, but with other people’s words.

So I’m sitting here writing this and listening to the first mix I have made in years. Literally years. Now I know that all of this makes you think that you are reading a blog post from 1999 (back when blogs were cool), which is roughly the last time I was cooking on a Mac, but to those of you soulless detractors who do not recognize that I am having a profound moment of musical re-acquaintance … well I have nothing to say to you. This is an irony-free post I am making right now!

I am very happy and pleased right now.

Music!

I love music and I feel that I have been without it as a force in my life for at least a year, if not slightly more.

I will not (right now) bother you with the details of the mixes and my particular tastes (laughable as they may sometimes be), for now I just want to encourage you to go click open your iTunes and find for yourself one of those songs - we all have those songs, those songs that are transcendent, that move us, that alter us – go find one of those songs, click play, close your eyes and just listen. Luxuriate in it. It is yoga for the soul. So go do that, you’ll thank me.

And I would like to once again thank my brother the Texas Diplomat: you sir are a man among men!

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HELLO The INTERNET!

Hello blog! The Internet! And the World!

Did you miss me … Oh. Did you even realize I was gone … Oh … Well I have to tell you, that’s a real blow to my ego …

Well, anyway.

I had a crazy-busy month of September and was not able to post at all. Here is how it all went down:

I went white water rafting on the American River (Rated A for “Awesome”!)

I worked my ass off at work in preparation for my Grand Canyon trip (Rated F for “Sucked”)

I went on my Grand Canyon trip (Rated AAA for “Awesome Association of America”!)

I came back and worked my ass off at work to make up for being gone on my Grand Canyon trip (Rated F+ for “Super-Sucked”)

I got really sick with a monster cold (Rated P for “Extremely Phlegm-y”)

And by then the month was over. See how time flies when you are alternating between awesomeness and sucking? I guess that in that regard I had a very bi-polar month. Oh! Additionally my cat Lilith (who is almost ten years old) has started having some health problems and I have taken her to the vet like 19 times in the last week and a half. No kidding, I have spent like $600 bucks that I don’t have on cat medical care. In the last week she has been to the doctor more times than I have in the last five years. Poor thing is all shaved down in weird places from all the tests they have done.

But you don’t want to hear about all that! Unless you’re some sort of freakish feline voyeur with a mean-streak, in which case … dude, seek help.

I will be easing back into this blogging-ness; I think we need to get to know each other again, you know? I think we shouldn’t take it too fast … all that.

But here are things that I am working on to share with you:

1)
Notes from my Grand Canyon trip, including, but not limited to:

- How I wasn’t technically in the Grand Canyon.

- How the hell does “40% chance of rain” actually mean “rain 40% of the time”?

- Dead horses.

- The string of curse words which is most appropriate when the hammock you are sleeping in falls to the ground with you in it.
- Camping beards.
- All of the ways in which I am an awesome adventure person (if we ignore all of the complaining I did).

2)
NANOWRIMO starts November 1st!
And since I am better at failing than at anything else, I am eagerly anticipating the beginning of National Novel Writer’s Month. However since I have actually been doing some real writing as of late, I have NO IDEA what to write about in November. So get ready for a lot of posts like:

Um … does this sound like an interesting idea for a novel? “A teenage girl falls in love with a teenage vampire and problems ensue.” Like, is that interesting? No … probably not, huh?

3)
How I am attempting to learn yoga from a video I bought at Target and how – believe it or not – Yoga is actually pretty cool. Even if you’re like me and probably doing it wrong!

4)
Some ruminations on life. I have been doing some reflecting and realized that 2011 has been a year of highs and lows and very little in-betweens. And why I seem to be in a perpetual funk lately.

5)
All the crap I normally write about:
- How Republicans are terrible
- Poetry that is bad
- Ways in which I find myself to be delightful
- Complaints
- Whimsy

Oh blog, we have so much catching up to do!

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Unsuccessful Rhino.

Words I was going to try to use to write a poem about a whistling wiffle ball bat that likes waffles:

Wiffle
Whistle
Waffle
Wonder
Where
Why
Westerly
Winnow
Whittle
Whip
Worchester
Rhino

(Sadly I was unsuccessful at creating this poem. I apologize.)

The Internet Thinks I’m Gay.




My friend Mike the Director got an Amazon Local deal on mountaineering classes and at the exact same time I got one for ballroom dancing.

What are you trying to imply Amazon Local, huh?

That being said … I would LOVE to take ballroom dancing classes!!! Or really, any sort of dancing classes.

In fact, there is a little dance studio around the corner from my apartment and every single time I drive by it I think to myself, “I totally want to learn to do all of that!”

That’s always followed by the crushing realization that I have no one to take a dancing class with. No partner for dancing, or for life. And then I always pull over to the side of the road and cry to myself while I watch all the people in the dance studio twirling around. All happy and dancing and in love.

Too much information?

So maybe Amazon Local isn’t calling me effeminate after all. Maybe it is just mocking me.

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Cake.




The other day my roommates and I were out on the balcony and the neighbor called to us from his balcony (he is a nice Australian guy who lives with his wife and baby and goes to Jesus College) and asked if we would like a cake.

Who turns down a free cake?!

He brought it over. A homemade chocolate cake covered in chocolate frosting so rich and thick that it tastes more like ice cream than cake frosting. One corner of the cake frosting had been scraped away by the Australians who must have decided that it was simply too rich.

But not for me. No sir. I have been eating it for dinner!

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Hell.

Hell
By James bezerra

It would not be swell
to go to Hell.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It IS a small World!

For reasons passing understanding, today this blog got hits from Finland, Iraq and Mongolia!

This is unusual, but totally cool, even if those poor bastards ended up here only by virtue of some cruel Google joke.

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Stop Informing Us!

Dear The Media,

Please stop giving us information about Kim Kardashian. We do not care.

We try to be responsible consumers of news. We also think it is important to keep up with the pop cultural zeitgeist, however you have finally broken our will. Please stop keeping us updated on Kim Kardashian or anyone who is connected to and/or “famous” because of her.

Not since the great Paris Hilton Edict of 2007 have we asked you for anything like this, so please respect our wished and just make her go away.

Respectfully,
The Editors at Standard Kink

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Scarlett Johansson Loves Me.

On the other hand .... just in case there was any question and since it has not been mentioned in awhile: Scarlett Johansson loves me.



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What is Hurtful.

What is Hurtful
by james bezerra

It is an opinion unsustainable
that being a homosexual
is somehow sinful
or harmful
or shameful.
But what is unacceptable
and truly awful
and hurtful
is a political
movement so full
of demagoguery
and hypocrisy
that it cries “blasphemy”
at all those it deems to be
simply unworthy
of the right to marry.
Quite clearly
that’s a position undeniably,
and completely,
full
of shit.

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Adventure-bound.




This weekend I get to go visit some of my family in Sacramento and we are going to go white water rafting! How much fun does that sound like? Jealous much?

I have been rafting once before – though it was a long time ago – and I remember that there is really only one thing you have to remember: don’t fall out of the boat.

Well, as someone who has made a life out of falling out of boats (both real and metaphorical) I am looking forward to what will most certainly be an adventure.

This also allows me to do one of the other things I like most to do in the world, namely, fly with just a carry-on. I do not know why this makes me tingle with joy, but it always. I guess it makes me feel like a ninja! Other terribly mundane things that I love and which make me tingle: checking into hotels, looking at jackets in thrift stores, ordering room service, running my hands along the spines of books in used book stores.

Anyway, I am looking forward to a fun weekend. In eager anticipation I have composed the poem below:

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It’s Totally Exotic!

It’s Totally Exotic!
by james bezerra

Soon I will take a flight;
to a mystical land I will go,
an exotic place called Sacramento!

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Cheese Dragon.



Cheese Dragon
by james bezerra

It was around Noon
that time I fought a cheese dragon
in the jungles near Rangoon.
He attacked our cargo wagon
which was filled with a whole lot’a
tomatoes, dough and salami.
But being composed entirely
of fresh gorgonzola,
the cheese dragon soon got all melty.
We used his softened body
to make our village a giant pizza!

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Bipolar Explorer.

Bipolar Explorer
by james bezerra

Could a bipolar disorder
possibly compel one
to be a polar explorer?
Because none
of us who really are
well-adjusted would
trek to a place that could
freeze us where we stand.
But others seem to demand
more excitement than is reasonable
and I suspect that is attributable
to some nervous condition
for which there is surely now a medication.
However I wonder if, in curtailing
that restless inclination,
we would be preventing
new forms of exploration.

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Texas Cartoon.


Texas Cartoon
by james bezerra

Is it ridiculous
or just egregious
that Texas wants us
to elect another governor who
is a cartoonish yahoo?

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Grand Canyoneering.




Two weeks from now I will be camping in the Grand Canyon! I am very excited about this because a few short months ago I had never even been outside! If, in September of 2010 you had told me that in September of 2011 I would be hiking down into a giant hole in the ground and then sleeping there in a hammock for several days, I would have asked what the hell sort of medication you had recently stopped taking. However life is a funny thing and always interesting and I do enjoy that fact.

I have spent a lot of time and energy (too much actually) obsessing over what I am taking in with me and how much it all weighs (I will be carrying it all on my back after all) and I have been having quite a fun time being fanatical about it. I will tell you all about it later (probably next week when my preparations will kick into truly obsessive compulsive territory in the final run up to actually leaving), but for the moment here are a few of the more bizarre things I have convinced myself that I need to learn more about/worry about:

How to tie knots (for hammock-hanging and general usefulness).

How to wrap a scarf into a turban (yeah, that’s right).

Finding a hat that is both desert-functional and also stylishly fabulous!

Israeli military guidelines for water-consumption while active in a desert environment (I’m told they have it all figured out).

The geography/geology of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.

Lightweight sandals.

Whether or not I am in good-enough shape to dive off of a waterfall while shirtless.

Whether or not to pack potentially explosive items in a special bag (even if it screws up my other organizational strategies).

Whether to take extra clothes or simply be filthy for several days (right now I’m leaning toward filthy).

When to stop shaving so that by the time we are taking pictures in the desert I will have the beginnings of a nice Navy-SEAL-in-Afghanistan beard going on! (Every man wants to have pictures of himself looking this way, it is simply an eternal truth.

This is half the reason we invented “going to war” in the first place*.)

Is there any way that I can somehow use this trip as an excuse to purchase an ice ax?

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* It is worth mentioning that I am not one of those people who considers hiking a well-established trail to be Rambo-making or anything. Please accept the “Navy SEAL” and “going to war” references as hyperbolic humor and not and in any way reflective of my sense of bad-ass-ed-ness. After all, I’m considering buying a paperback copy of “The Wasteland” to take with me, proving that even while communing with nature I am still more of a pretentious douche than I am an outdoorsman.

Wheelbarrow Haiku.



Wheelbarrow Haiku
by james bezerra

If your heart were a
wheelbarrow, what would you
move around in it?

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Parallel Universe Blood Bank.



Do you think that there is a parallel universe out there where the only thing different is that in the parallel universe blood banks and actual banks are the same place? And they store all of the blood in safe deposit boxes or something? Long metal boxes just filled to spilling with human blood? And instead of a PIN number you have to prick your finger on a biometric needle? And how do I know that they’ve been keeping that needle clean? And when you go in to apply for a loan or whatever, the lobby is always filled with slightly tired people eating Twinkies and watching TV because they just gave blood. And when you get money from the ATM it always comes out a little blood stained because the guy right before you just deposited a bunch of blood into the same slot. That would be weird, right?

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Awkward Porn Revelation.


I very seldom write anything specific about my work, and I am not going to start now … but we just sent out this big email blast about some new programs we’re offering and in the email are some pretty standard “happy business people” stock photos. Well, I swear to god that one of the women in one of the photos does porn.

I’m not kidding! And this isn’t like I’m having a nervous breakdown or anything and seeing porn stars everywhere! And I don’t even watch that much porn or anything … but I would swear on a holy bible that I have seen one of the women in a pornographic film.

You have to ask yourself, what are the odds? But if you think about it, it isn’t that unlikely. The woman is young and cute and has short blonde hair. And is more model-pretty than porn-star-ish anyway. So maybe she moved out to LA, got a gig as a model, moved from stock photo modeling to “sexy” modeling and then to “naked” modeling and then into pornography. Is that career path so hard to believe? I don’t think so. I earned my degree at CSU Northridge and I am certain that I went to school with a couple of women who were in the adult industry (the San Fernando Valley is to porn what the Midwest is to grain, after all). So I don’t even think that the possibility is that slim.

Obviously there is no way for me to confirm any of this though. I mean, I can’t go to my boss and be all like, “Hey … um … where do we buy our stock photos? Because I think I recognize one of the women from some pornography I have seen ...”




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Parallel Universe Fruit.


Do you think that there is a parallel universe out there where the only thing different is that in the parallel universe it is customary to put tiny hats on all of our fruit? So – like – when you go to the grocery store all of the oranges are wearing little (but proportional) top hats? And all the apples have on cowboy hats? And every single grape has a tiny fedora stuck to it? And at home in your junk drawer, along with rubber bands and dead batteries and electrical tape, you have a couple extra old fruit hats, just in case you loose one of the hats on the way home from the grocery store? And what if that was just the way that the world was? Would there be an entire industry devoted to the manufacture of small hats for fruit? And – like – once upon a time the fruit hats were really nice and actually made of felt and stuff, but now-a-days they’re all cheap and mass produced? Since consumerist culture cares less about quality? Anyway, That would be weird, right?

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The Playboy Club.




You know what could be a really good and interesting show? This Playboy Club show that will be on TV this season.

You know what is certainly not going to be a really good and interesting show? This Playboy Club show that will be on TV this season.

I will put money on it. I read an article about it the other day and it would seem that the people behind the show are trying to play up the Third Wave Feminism idea that by using their sexuality, these women are somehow taking ownership of their lives and embracing themselves! Yay! Rainbows! Unicorns!

But I think that in reality that is probably just something that was said by one man - who was trying to sell a TV show - to another man - who happened to be trying to buy a TV show. And I think they probably left out the part about Third Wave Feminism. I think the conversation went like this:

SELLER: Like Mad Men, but set in The Playboy Club.

BUYER: I like it. Will women have a problem with it?

SELLER: I hadn’t thought about that … No. We will make it about how being a half-naked waitress is empowering.

BUYER: I like it.

My problem with the show isn’t that is going to be cheesy – though it certainly will be - my problem is that they’re probably going to completely do wrong the one thing that Mad Men has always does right, which is: embrace the attitudes and inequalities of the times. I mean, on Mad Men they didn’t want Kennedy to beat Nixon! Can you imagine? Pregnant women smoke! Don Draper is an asshole! Men drink at work! Women get paid less for the same job! Not that they can get the same job, because – you know – they’re dames!

But I fully expect The Playboy Club to skip all of that and act as though the weird, off-kilter reality-bubble/oxygen lung in which Hugh Hefner chooses to live is somehow real and okay. When Mister Hefner was 20 or 30 or maybe even 40 … sure, you can live that way if you want. It is a life-choice and yours to make sir, but at a certain point don’t you just become the thing that you were making fun of in the first place? Lame, uncool, powerstructure, old, white men? You know what Hugh Hefner should have done? Grown old gracefully. That’s what a man would do. I’m not saying that I don’t get it I would love to have Playboy playmates hanging around my house, however, at a certain point, when they could be my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren, I like to think I would say, “I just feel icky right now.” But more power too you Hef! Whatever.

Anyway, we have digressed.

The point is, The Hef has welded together a not-real philosophy of love-and-acceptance out of leftover 1960s-peace-love spare parts, thrown in a touch of 1970s decadence and he has used it to justify regular, run-of-the-mill creepy-old-man-ness. And I think The Playboy Club will end up being the same sort of Frankenstein hodge-podge of self-defeating earnestness. And also – I’m just guessing – it will also be pretty poorly written.

All that being said, I will totally watch the first episode. Just to be fair. And because I like looking at half-naked waitresses (Did I just invalidate my own argument? Shit.).

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Re-In Love with Life.

From time to time I re-fall in love with life. I just had one of those profound moments of reflection.

Alfred Hitchcock said, “Drama is life with the dull parts taken out.”

Well I agree that 70 – 80% of life is tedium and monotony, but that other 30 – 20% is pure wonderfulness.

I realized that I have been to New York and Boston. I have been to London and St. Louis, Paris, Orlando, and I have eaten fried chicken in Philadelphia with my grandmother (whom I miss dearly). I have had sangria on the roof of the Met (one of my favorite places in the world) and I have watched the sky turn green in Ozark Missouri before a thunder storm. I’ve been to Branson and Las Vegas. I have stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and at the top of the fake one at the Paris Casino. I have been thrown out of bars in San Francisco and loaned my jacket to a naked stripper in Fresno, who was trying to catch some ZZZs on the couch. I have been lucky enough to fall in love and unlucky enough to get stranded at Heathrow for two days. I’ve had fish thrown over my head at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle and I have stumbled ass backward into fist fights in Sun Valley. I personally discovered that the snow in Park City Utah is nature’s best beer cozy and also have experienced a couple of sublimely perfect days in Salt Lake City; there’s nothing quite as perfect as being in love in the cold. I have smoked cigarettes in San Diego while listening to Nada Surf play live while landing jets passed overhead. I’ve driven a rented Vauxhall (on the wrong side of the road) all the way to Stonehenge and walked the world’s best museum in Shelburne Vermont. I have nearly died on a kayak off the coast of Catalina and I have been deliriously in love on 17-Mile-Drive around Pebble Beach. I have straddled the Prime Meridian and the US-Mexico border; for that matter I have flown a kite under a pier on a Mexican beach and personally haggled over the price of a lobster dinner. I have watched a Minute Man III missile launch from Vanderburgh before the sun had come up and I have stood on the flight deck of an operational aircraft carrier, with Tchaikovsky blaring in my headphones. I have known more amazing women than is fair and I have been lucky enough to love some of them and to be loved in return. I have unhooked corsets in dark rooms and made love on a bare stage (empty audience). I have been found guilty in court of a misdemeanor and I have cried in front of more than one therapist. I have fallen in love with the Brooklyn Bridge and been terrified by the Coronado Bridge. And next week I will go white water rafting on the American River and the week after I will hike into the Grand Canyon and then ride a helicopter out of it. There is no end to the things that I love about life, and while life never seems easy at the time, it is simply and always worth the effort.

From time to time I re-fall in love with life.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amazing Kinetic Car Sculpture.

A strange and haunting little short about a guy who built a toy-car city. For fun. Over the course of four years. Odd and amazing? Certainly. Am I afraid I’m going to turn into one of the weird people who does stuff like this? Most certainly.



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Worried about Me?

So were you worried about me?

I had been posting – like – constantly and then, last week … almost nothing.

You must have been very concerned. You're so sweet.

I’m sure you didn’t know what to do with yourself. Were you able to find some other website on the internet where you could fritter away all of those precious moments of your life?

For my part I was simply very busy at work and sapped of strength and vigor. There was even a night last week when I fell asleep at 8pm. Can you believe that? It’s like I caught a lameness disease or something. Thankfully however, it is not a chronic condition! At least I hope not …

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Entrepreneur.




Entrepreneur
by james bezerra

Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.
Sally secretly stashes the cash under her mattress.
Sally gets audited on account of her unreported mattress-cash stash.
Sally serves a sentence of six to sixteen months in the State slammer.

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Body in the River #1.

Body in the River #1
by james bezerra

They found a body in the river!
Let’s go watch ‘em fish it out with hooks!
Eeeeww! How purple and puffy it looks!
Hey … isn’t that your brother?

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Body in the River #2.

Body in the River #2
by james bezerra

Sad to see him so alone;
man-shaped bulge in the river.
Purple flesh peeling from bone,
that’s how we found my brother.

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Wildlife TV = Deep Psychological Problems.



I realized yesterday that since I have been single I have been watching significantly more wildlife and nature shows. And when I say “significantly” I mean about a hundred thousand million percent more. Are these two things connected? Or am I making a false correlation?

Is it:
Being single = watching more wildlife programming

Or is it:
Being single = having more free time = watching more wildlife programming

Or am I looking at it wrong? Maybe it’s this:
Being single + having more free time = watching more wildlife programming

The difference between the last two would be that I have more free time because I am single, whereas the second one says that those two things are true independent of one another.

Or maybe it isn’t about free time at all. Here is the nightmare scenario:
Being single = having to think about dating = fear of having to date = preparing for the vicious dating world by watching wildlife shows

Is my subconscious really so afraid of the prospect of dating – which I have not done very much of in my life – that it is trying to prepare itself this way? No way!

Here is one that’s completely different, but which I would be comfortable with:
Sudden interest in nature & outdoor activities = interest in television programming about nature & outdoor activities = watching more wildlife programming

See, that would be okay and make sense, right?

But wait! What about this:
Being single = sudden interest in nature & outdoor activities = interest in television programming about nature & outdoor activities = watching more wildlife programming

Or worse, this:

Being single = having more free time = sudden interest in nature & outdoor activities = interest in television programming about nature & outdoor activities = watching more wildlife programming

That would be awful! Because it would mean that both my interest in outdoorsy natureness AND my watching of wildlife programming are all derived from my boredom caused by being single! Oh no! I think that would mean that I have lost all capacity to be genuinely interested in anything! My whole life is a lie! This is just shameful and awful! My life is so hard! (Though not as hard as a penguin’s. Man, those poor little bastards have it rough.)

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Consider.

** The editors here at Standard Kink are even more sorry than usual about how bad this next one is. **

Consider.
by james bezerra

What would you do
if you suddenly woke up as a ewe?
Who could have changed you?
And why would they do
such a strange thing to you?
Would you go hunting for
that nefarious you-to-ewe converter?
And assault him with your cuteness
until he made it his business
to re-convert you
from a ewe
and back into you?
That is what I would do!

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An App You Should Buy.


If there was an app that reviewed ransom notes for context, I think that I would buy it. You know how Word gives you different colored squigglies depending on what is wrong? Red ones for misspelling and green ones if it thinks there’s some sort of grammar mistake. (Funny story, my Words has – I think – thrown its arms up in exhaustion and given up on even trying to correct me anymore. Given that my writing style tends to employ a lot of fragments. Like. A. Lot. And also because I have no problem starting sentences with “because” or “and” and “or”. This is not laziness of my part! It is my narrative voice! And stuff.)

Anywhoo, I think it would be fun if there was an app that would read those ransom notes you write all the time and give you squigglies if you’re giving away too much information. Like if you wrote, “It is dark in this basement where I am keeping your Pomeranian” then it would give you a squiggly and when you right click it would suggest, “It is dark where I am keeping your Pomeranian”. See, because the way you wrote it you would be – essentially – telling the people looking for you that you are in a basement.

Or if you wrote, “Bring the money in a green duffle bag to the bus station, which is where I live” then you would get a GIANT red squiggly and when you right click it would suggest simply, “Bring the money in a green duffle bag to the bus station.”

Or if you wrote, “How come your dog won’t eat this Panini I got from the Starbucks next door?” then it would suggest simply, “How come your dog won’t eat this Panini?”

But you would still have to employ some cognitive thought because if you wrote something like, “I’m not actually going to kill your Pomeranian if you don’t pay me, but I just really need the money for some more botox for my girlfriend Mysti - who dances at the Gilded Garter downtown - and to pay Phil the Bookie for all that money I lost on the Sea Hawks game last weekend” then the app might just say: no suggestion. Or it might suggest, “Just get out of the ransoming business.”

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How I Revolutionized Condiment Delivery.




How I Revolutionized Condiment Delivery
by james bezerra

If I were to start up
an internet start-up
I would call it, “Ketchup Getti’up!”
We would digitally supply you
with condiments like ketchup
and it would all be delivered through
your USB ports!

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