Monday, August 24, 2015

Little Free Books

We live in an age where we have all the information we ever need literally carried around in our pockets, and yet most people seem to be actively disinterested in learning about the world around them. This isn't new, although the scale and transparency of the whole thing is. It's probably a good thing to encourage that sort of thing, whether it be going to your local library or simply talking up a good bit of literature to someone who might not otherwise do so. One would think that the government, in its grand quest to make a great society, would actively want to encourage such things. But if you want the government at your door, all you have to do is put up a free little library in your own yard.

If you're not in the mood to be annoyed, the link above talks about how a lot of local city councils around the nation are starting to crack down on one of the more creative bits of enterprise we've seen lately--the little free library. Sometimes you'll see them (thankfully, officially sanctioned) in parks, but often you'll see them on the edge of people's yards. It runs almost wholly on the honor system of taking a book and leaving one, if so inclined, and generally speaking no one, even the most derelict of the mopiest whippit consumer, is going to bother messing up a bunch of books. Maybe the occasional confused squirrel, perhaps.

Of course, street-criminal teenagers and woodland creatures have nothing against the city. For various reasons, usually zoning infractions pulled from zoning laws that were made before the amazing horseless carriage sauntered down Main Street, people have been "asked" (i.e., cited) to remove their free-standing structures on their own property, what with them not having a permit or zoning variance on hand. As the article notes above, one council even simply stated that all they needed to do was fill out a permit form--oh, and pay for it, which they were sure a local arts grant would be happy to pay for. Because that's the sort of thing that arts funding should go towards paying shakedowns bribes permit fees to the local council.

This is the sort of thing that drives small-l libertarians like me mad. People get angry when we say we're against regulations, assuming we would rather have asbestos in our Juicy Juice than the iron fist of gummit telling us what to do. But this is the sort of business that's our bread and butter--a government entity, applying a nonsense rule that clearly doesn't apply, crowding out private individuals on their own private property from promoting the general welfare. Is it really controversial to think that adults can determine on their own what they can do with their actions without having to have it vetted through the government to make sure "it's ok"? Is it really the default opinion that if the stars are aligned and someone somehow is worse off because they took a book out of a box it's still worth negative the accumulated positive good it gives to everyone else? I fear that this is a controversial statement, if my social media feed and most people I hear under the age of 25 have anything to say about it.

Make no mistake about it: in this situation, it's the governments goal that less people should read, and for no other reason than they need to assert their power. Sure, this is a minor issue, but multiply this by tens and hundreds of similar actions every day, and you'll understand how frustrated people can get with their elected officials.

Bath Time

My dogs, like all dogs, hate to take baths.

Our dogs--Dexter and Chloe, are both dachshunds, Dex being short-haired and Chloe long-haired. They are generally decent enough dogs, sanitation-wise, if we willfully don't count bad breath. (A yawning dachshund would turn even the stoutest ISIS soldier). Chloe doesn't like to do her business outside when it rains (and sometimes even when it doesn't) and that causes some olfactory concerns once in a while. Regardless, they, like all dogs, get a little ripe after a while, and so must be bathed on a fairly regular basis.

Chloe is relatively calm. Oh, she hates it, but after a few moments of anger she settles in, knowing the less she resists the sooner it will be over. When she was younger, she would willingly try and rinse herself off under the faucet, but has since wised up and decided that I have to do all the work. Dachshunds are nothing if not lazy.

Dexter, however, is a huge ball of anxiety. He has some latent skin issues, and so has to be bathed a little more often, but he can't handle it. He has no idea how to process the fact that he is getting scrubbed with soap and water--and, now, with some medicated shampoo that has to sit for ten minutes or so. He haaaates it. Maybe not hates--he just grouses and fusses and stomps until it's all over. This was manageable for a while, but then he decided that that was not enough and started to protest by taking a sudden dump mid-bath. He would then look at me accusingly, as if there's any among us who hasn't defecated in the shower once in our lives. Thankfully, he has grown out of that phase and has gone back to protesting via high-pitched whining.

They both then have this ritual. They hate getting dried off, so I have to rub them down the best I can, wrap them up like a burrito, and then let them loose, where they spend the next six hours flapping their ears and shaking their bodies as if they just got out of the Iranian embassy.

And then they fall asleep, because they are lazy, easily tired dogs. Just as good dachshunds should be.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

No Thanks

I just finished reading Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, a more-or-less autobiography of her life.

I say more-or-less because it's difficult to classify it as much more than a few disjointed chapters. But we'll get to that in a moment.

I've never had a problem with Amy Poehler. I think she's a perfectly capable comedienne and I've enjoyed her in everything I've ever seen her in. I haven't been a fan of Saturday Night Live for over a decade now, so my exposure to her there has been fairly minimal. Still, at the end of the day, in my experience I've always preferred her partner, Tina Fey, over Poehler.

Still, I find Parks and Rec, the sitcom Poehler starred in, to be incredibly enjoyable, and quickly catapulted her to the top of my list of entertainers I enjoy.

So I figured I would enjoy this book. Sadly, I have to say I was quite disappointed.

First off, it's barely a book. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. It clocks in at a healthy 350+ pages, but a significant portion of those pages are scraps of half-finished sketches and page-gobbling aphorisms even the kitschiest Hallmark store wouldn't carry. Not only that, but she pressed Seth Meyers, her parents, and other staff members to write entire chapters for her. It not too much of a stretch to claim that a third of this book is Poehler notwriting anything at all. To her credit, she flat-out mentions at the beginning that she was having a difficult time writing the book, but that doesn't let her off the hook.

But, you may think, at least she has some good stories about SNL and Parks and Rec, right? The answer to that is: not really. Parks and Rec gets maybe a chapter, and even the content about SNL isn't much longer. And neither are particularly interesting. She does go into her history of the improv scene, most notably the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is interesting and probably new to most people. Still, she weaves all this with a lot of talk about her childhood, not uninteresting but is so clumsily transitioned between childhood, improv, and stardom it's difficult to enjoy very much.

Added into all this are quite a few "bits" that feel a lot like the sad sort of sketches that might crack the last half hour of SNL. Maybe they aren't that bad, but they certainly feel like fillers.

And, at the risk of perhaps blowing it a little out of proportion, a lot of the stories that she does end up writing about don't exactly make her out to be all that nice of a person. Sure, I'd rather someone write honestly--who wants to read a book by someone who just whitewashes their own lives?--but I have the sneaky suspicion that she doesn't think a lot of the stuff she thinks about Hollywood is particularly wrong.

At the end of the day, Yes Please reads like a book that the author did not want to write and hated the thought of doing. All of the self-referencing of that fact doesn't make it any more enjoyable.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Thousand Points Of Crank

You want cranky? I've got cranky.

1. I don't know why, but some time in the last year or two it's become increasingly common to spell the word "paid" as "payed." Why? Grammar mistakes are nothing new, but I swear everyone knew how to spell that particular word right up until last year. Did someone famous tweet that spelling or something?
2. I think I'm done with superhero movies. I mean, most of them aren't bad, and Marvel is doing some good work, but enough is enough. I think we've hit the saturation point--well, probably a few summers ago.
3. Marlon Brando was kind of a dick. He's a mediocre actor at best, anyway. What's the big deal?
4. I've been playing the mobile game Simpsons: Tapped Out. It's a pretty mindless game involving no decisions that nevertheless is strangely addicting. However, they recently introduced a bizarre system where you have to "build" stuff in 1, 2, 5, and 8 minute increments--normally it's in hours, so you only have to check it a few times a day. But now to do it right you basically have to be doing it constantly. Who the hell wants to do that? I'm doing it, of course, but boy is it kinda stupid and may end up ruining it for me.
5. Just as I get on an egg kick, the price of eggs skyrocket. Come on, birds, what do you have against me? Besides me eating you.
6. I am already annoyed by how people are reacting during this election cycle. Which sucks, because I love politics. But I'm afraid to write anything about it or voice any opinions about it.
7. I saw this on today:

and I totally thought it said Hitler was killed in a likely bear attack. And my first thought wasn't "I must have read that wrong" but was "Surely they don't mean Hitler Hitler, right? Maybe it's some other Hitler, like a singer or something. That visits zoos or something."
8. Daytime television is the worst. The worst. It's so vapid and horrifying. Also: people who microwave fish at work. The worst.
9. I know it's boring and routine to complain about how people drive, but other people drive like idiots. I'm at the age now where driving a few miles over the speed limit is a perfectly reasonable act, and yet I just feel the death stare of indictment from people behind me because I make a conscious choice to not go 85 in a 45 zone.
10.I've complained about driving and food, so why not go for the trifecta? The weather, man, what a disaster. There hasn't been three straight days this summer where it hasn't rained...until this past two weeks or so, where it's barely rained at all. Hey, I don't mind the rain--love it, in fact--but I'm getting tired of mowing my lawn every three days. (Ha! That's a lie. I just stare at it after three days and complain about how awful it looks and then postpone mowing it for like another two weeks.) Anyway, I can't wait for fall.

Edit: Holy cats! I was right! Right after I posted this, I noticed someone else posting something similar. Sure enough, screwed up: is just a pawn in the time-traveling animal-assassin cabal that's clumsily attempting to cover its own tracks.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

You're Never Wrong On The Internet

The internet has been around for, what, four or five hundred years now, and I'm pretty sure since day one people have lied on the internet. There's plenty of theories abound, but they all boil down to a few core concepts: no one knows who you are, so whatever it is you're saying has absolutely no ramifications if you are wrong. If that is the case, why should anyone believe anything?

I won't lie: it's a little saddening. It's not unusual for me to read some sort of sensationalist-sounding article, only having to dig through two or three dozen comments before someone points out the fatal flaw. Meanwhile, all the top comments are from foaming-mouthed indignant citizens reinforcing their opinions about this topic or that, blissfully unaware that they are being lied to. 

We can even extend this sad little parade further; it's frustrating to see people take satire news shows like The Daily Show seriously. Sure, there's a kernel of truth in what they say--as all good satire does--but there's very little difference between the sensationalist stories and the satire that people take at face value. Your exaggerations of reality are funny, to be sure, but they're not actually, you know, true.

And with the advent of social media, where communication is swift and merciless, retractions and corrections are afterthoughts at best and ill-handled annoyances at worst. Actually, no, their non-existence is worse.

It should come as no surprise that the upcoming election prompted my post on this, because already--with barely a few months in and with a year and a half to go--my timelines and news feeds are filled with stories that are blatantly false by any rational standard, followed immediately by people who I know full well should know better believing every word of it to reinforce their opinions. I already vaguetweeted my desire to start unfollowing people who use these threadbare justifications to believe ridiculous things, and already I've been told that the fact that I don't honor varied opinions makes me narrow-minded. It's not that I don't want to hear other opinions--far from it--but that I can't stand people reading such obviously fake things, and even trying to correct them turns into a partisan shitstorm.

I rarely talk politics on my social media (or, if you've noticed, here) because I fear that most rational discourse online has all but disappeared. Even the few times I've found some calm corner of the internet quickly turns into a disaster. People get emotional about the weirdest things, and I can't handle that.  I don't need my opinions in neat little boxes, but we all have to be on the same logical page.