Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Trinidadian Babysitter

During the summers of 1991 through 1994, Marty Murray was my Trinidadian babysitter while school was out and my parents were at work.

He lived five houses down from us and my family had known his since the mid-80s when we moved into the neighbourhood. All the neighbourhood kids would play baseball on the street when the weather was nice. The street was a cul-de-sac, with my home forming the bulk of the it, sitting right at the base. The end of my driveway was home plate. We used a tennis ball and Marty Murray’s older brother, Michael Murray was usually the pitcher. He was the oldest kid on the block, about six or seven years older than most of us, who were not even teenagers yet.
To hit a homerun you had to land the ball on a houses roof. Now, because of the cul-de-sac shape of our street, there was already the basic formulation of a baseball diamond. Our street was shaped like a bulbous beaker. One of the houses in left field had a sloping roof and there was nothing better than watching the green tennis ball bounce off the roof and land on their yard. Centre field was problematic because the ball could simply roll all the way down the street, so those became ground rule doubles, unless of course, the centre-fielder made an error and the ball rolled by him, in which the play is still live and he has to run like hell to catch the rolling ball.
Cars were hit all the time, but they were part of the field and all the parents didn’t care. It was only a tennis ball, after all. What can a tennis ball do to a car?
I had so much fun in the summer. No school, my parents out of the house all day working, friends coming over to watch TV and have marble fights in the basement. Who would ever think that couch cushions could be the most entertaining, versatile invention ever? We could build forts with them to stop marble bombs and we could bash the shit out of each other with them, too. Couch cushions: both protectors and attackers. It was this old set of tan coloured couches with two distinct types of cushions. The smaller type was a simple rectangle, and the coveted one was an L-shape. The more scarce L-shaped cushion was substantially larger and the natural boomerang shape made for maximum torque. Take one of those to the dome and you’re going down.
         
Marty would come over at eight am as my Mom was leaving for work. Dad had to drive all the way downtown Toronto so he left shortly after six am. Marty would greet my Mom cordially. He was a very well adjusted, nice young man; all sixteen years of him. But I knew a darker side of him. He would engage in simple platitudes, but even my twelve year-old ears could see through the sham. He’s putting on this voice and talking so nice and respectful, but I knew that when my Mom left he’d call us ragamuffins and act totally different—beating up on us and talking about sex. Then he’d morph back into the respectful young man when Mom came home at five-twenty pm asking him how the day went, handing him a crisp twenty dollar bill.
The thing is, my friends and I loved the abuse! We’d be building complex forts out of cushions and blankets in the basement and then hide with the lights off. We’d then yell out something like, “Hey bumbaclat! Come and get it!” And then Marty would open the door to the basement and stand on the landing breathing intentionally loud. In the silent darkness, his footsteps down the stairs rang out like thunder as we tried to breathe as silently as possible. The basement was one large main room with two beams near the middle.
Two rooms down a short hallway were never entered. One was a spare room with nothing in it and the other my Dad’s office where he crunched numbers for Sears.
The large room was not a recognizable shape. It was shaped more like something a child would instinctively draw on an etch-o-gram; a rectangle at a Grateful Dead show. Perfect for hiding out and making complexly shaped forts.
There was Ryan hiding in one corner, the short, blonde-haired Irish kid who was way stronger for his size than you would imagine. And the two brothers from a few houses down, Jamie and Kyle, hiding somewhere else. Usually there was at least one other friend, either Waleed, the Palestinian guy from down the street, with four eligible sisters, or Hitesh from a few streets over (who for some reason we all called Chucky), or Johnny, the impossibly skinny Trinidadian kid from one street over. My house came to be a hub in the summer months.
You could hear Marty rummaging around the darkened room. We’d stuff a rectangular cushion into the single basement window to drown out any of the mid-day light that crept through. All of a sudden, there was a howl and you knew he found one of us and they were in for a hardcore tickling and beating appropriate by middle-class suburban Canadian standards. Marty held the unfortunate one down with his knees and gave him the business while the rest of us would wait for some brave soul to take an L-cushion and thwack Marty upside the head with it. There was hooting and hollering as time seemed to almost stop. There was no outside world, only this dark one of cushion forts, truth and consequences.
Even though Marty was technically my babysitter, he didn’t spare me from a brutal tickle-beating. On the contrary, he’d go harder on me just to show the other kids that there’s no nepotism in this underground kingdom.
On this particular day, Waleed was the courageous one who gave Marty a good L-shot to the head as Marty tickle-tortured Ryan, the poor runt of the litter. We were all easy targets for an average-sized sixteen year old, but Ryan was especially so. He was small, but he was the kind of kid you wanted beside you in battle. Maybe not the strongest, but he never gave up and took his beatings like a pro. Ryan laughed and squirmed like a maniac and then –kathumpf!—Marty ate the shot from Waleed and Marty left Ryan supine on the carpet to chase the shadowy attacker. A flurry of silhouettes flitted about the room as Waleed attempted to flee to the safety of the stairs with Marty in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, the hero was thwarted and taken down into a mound of blankets and cushions. His actions were all the more heroic because it was Ramadan and Waleed was on an empty stomach. The sacrifice bore fruit, though, because it allowed Kyle, the largest and slowest of our group, with that weird skin disease that turns it two different colours all over, to escape up the stairs out of the subterranean netherworld, into the light of day. Johnny also escaped and was pushing Kyle’s butt up the stairs so he went faster.
I, too, attempted to escape behind Johnny, but an arm grabbed my midsection and swung me around as I climbed the first step and my head narrowly missed one of the beams as I crashed into a lean-to of cushions and ate carpet. I wailed, “Ahh, haha, ahh!” as Marty laid a tickle-beating on me as the rest of my friends bolted up the stairs towards the light of freedom.

***

The pot was boiling on the stove and the box of KD was on the counter.
Game day.
It was Marty and my mostly white friends against the Brampton Indians (as they called themselves). The Indians were a group of East Indian immigrants of the same age as me. We all went to the same school and were mostly friends with each other. They all lived in the same neighbourhood and the baseball diamond at the school was equidistant between the two groups. A couple of times a week during the summer months we’d play ball against each other. No cellphones or text messages were necessary, or even invented, merely an agreement at the end of one game to meet again at high noon in a few days. No one wanted to miss it, anyways. It was battle time. Us vs. Them. What better things do twelve year old boys have to do when school’s out?
The memories of last year’s World Series was still fresh in our collective minds. It didn’t matter if you were from Calcutta or Kanata, if you lived in Brampton in 1993 you were a die-hard Blue Jays fan. I still remembered watching game six with friends and family the previous year.
The bottom of the 11th, 4-3 Blue Jays over the Braves. The tension was so thick you could barely watch the screen. Nixon bunted to try to score Smoltz from third base and tie the game. There were two outs and it struck me immediately as a dumb move. Why on Earth did he bunt! The fool! There are two outs! Nixon made contact, the shallow ball lolling in the direction of first base. The pitcher, Timlin, had little problem getting to the ball. It was a routine play but with the World Series in your glove and the braying crowd it was anything but. Time slowed down and it seemed that Timlin hesitated a millisecond throwing the ball to Joe Carter at first base; like the weight of history was impeding his movements. He got the ball to Carter just in the nick of time.
The spastic jumping of Carter, like he was being electrocuted is etched into my mind for forever. Surprisingly, he had no rhythm. On the contrary, he was a flailing mess; the most beautiful flailing mess in the world. His celebration will always remind me of pure, ecstatic joy, the kind that is so intensely frenetic your body is unable to contain it.

Marty dumped the yellow macaroni into the boiling water and gave it a stir. About ten minutes later he strained the pasta in a colander, then put in a clump of butter and some milk and that bright orange magic cheese powder. That processed cheese powder was my homerun fuel.
We sat down in front of the TV in the living room and Marty flipped channels.
11:28 am.
We had to be at the ball park in forty-two minutes. It was a twenty minute walk. “Hurry up, boy,” Marty said, upon seeing my half-eaten bowl. “Shut up. I’m not that hungry. Let’s go,” I replied.
          “Put the bowl in the fridge, I don’t want bugs eating it.”
          I plopped the half-eaten bowl between the relish and the milk and rounded up the gear. All the balls, bases, bats, extra gloves. That was part of the deal with the Brampton Indians: Hey, if you’re going to field this sixteen year-old you have to bring most of the stuff. Not to say they didn’t bring plenty of their own bats, gloves, etc., but in the off chance one of their regular guys couldn’t make it and they had some new guy who had no glove, it’s good to have some back up gear. Most of these kids’ parents were very culturally Indian and so some of them only recently acquired an appreciation for baseball, whereas most our team had been playing baseball for years already, all the way back to tee-ball. They had some good players, but not enough. There was always some ragtag guy out in right field who could barely catch and throw, to the benefit of the left-handed hitters like myself.
          Just about noon most of us were at the diamond, with a few stragglers milling in out of the suburban distance. Our team always took the dugout on the right side because of the direction our guys were coming from was closer and the same could be said of the Indians. The dugouts were caged in benches to protect from rogue line drives and foul balls. There were no formal greetings. Not out of any hatred, but rather because we were boys who only wanted to get on with the game. Subtle social interactions fraught with implication were still some years away. Any pomp and circumstance that impeded the beginning of the game was superfluous. No anthems, no tributes, no moments of silence. Shut up and play ball.
          The first thing Marty did was walk the infield, counting his measured steps and placing some ragged old square cushions down as bases. To keep them in place he drove a railroad spike through a hole in the middle of the cushion with a bat.
With the small end of the bat he marked a small ‘X’ in the gravel right above the base, and would periodically check the bases to make sure they weren’t being moved in any helpful direction.
Marty was the communal pitcher. He tossed the baseball at a batting practice speed. He wanted you to make contact. No curveballs, change-ups, or any of that crap; just straight and true. It was a testament to Marty’s prowess on the mound that there were never accusations about favouritism from the Indians. There were the usual scuffles and arguments about a base runner being safe or out, especially because we had to umpire ourselves. Yet things for the most part moved along smoothly and this day was no different. We clobbered the Indians 10-2. In one inning, their third-basemen, Jindy, short for Harjinder, almost took a line drive from Marty’s bat right on the bubble of his turban. “Lorda Mercy!” he cried as his portly frame got up off the gravel, hand on turban to make sure it was still there. Jindy ducked just in the nick of time, and Marty strolled to second with a leisurely double.
Losing spectacularly over and over is not easy for anyone, let alone adolescent boys.
          “Let’s play Cricket if you guys think you’re Alomar,” Dhillon said from first base, cocking his head to get his whispy bangs out of his eyes.  
          “Cricket?” Kyle piped in from the dugout, “This isn’t India, dude.”
          “It’s only like the second most popular sport in the world next to Soccer, dude,” Dhillon replied.
          “Yeah but not here, dummy, and here is what matters,” Kyle shot back.

Our team spent quite a bit of time in the dugout because we were usually putting players on base and banging in runs.
Marty was on the mound the whole game (except when he batted, when one of their guys would pitch), so Ryan spoke freely of his freshly hatched plan to give Marty a good tickle beating. He wanted us to simultaneously—on some kind of agreed upon signal—all attack Marty in the basement and hold him down. “Tay, you take his left arm; Jamie, take his left leg; Waleed take his right leg; and Kyle, you’re the strongest, you take his right arm.” It was the old switcheroo. The hunted were to be the hunters. “Then we all give it to the rasclat until he can’t take it anymore.”
“Yeah!”
          “Fucking right.”
          “Sounds like a plan.”
          “Niiice.”
          “We’ll have to do it at the end of the summer,” Ryan went on, “so we don’t have to deal with it, afterwards.”
          “There’s always next summer,” I said.
          “Ahh, don’t be a suck about it. Everyone agrees, right?”
          “Yep.”
          “Yeah.”
          “Uh-huh.”
          “Sounds like a plan to me.”
          “Hey, I’m going along with it. I’m just saying . . .”
          And all of a sudden Marty hit the ball so hard, we all just stood up to see how far it would go. Even the left-fielder, Preet, stood casually and craned his neck to watch as the ball sailed over his head and rolled towards the pre-school playground. It kept on rolling and rolling, eventually going out of sight and settling amongst a set of play-school swings.
          Everyone packed up their stuff and headed off in the direction of home. It was another endless summer day girded by a carefree walk home under the mantle of victory. If only the feeling could last forever.  

***

I was out in the backyard throwing a baseball up into the air as high as I could while Marty was futzing around with the stereo system. He had our kitchen windows opened as wide as they would go and a wood-panelled speaker placed by each one.
          We started tossing the ball back and forth, moving farther apart with each throw. A voice echoed across the backyard, while Marty mouthed the words: “Six million ways to die . . . choose one.” At first, it was a simple baseline. Like the riff on “Satisfaction” with a Jamaican flavour. Then Cutty Ranks started rapping with dancehall swagger. Marty’s family and mine had lived on the same street for about seven years and were on friendly terms right from the start. I’d known Marty since I was six years old, but this was my first exposure to old school reggae and dancehall. My virgin ears registered it as Trinidadian Voodoo rap. I didn’t like it or hate it too much. It was so laughably alien to me, the music and rhythms were beyond mere liking or hating, a two star or a four star review. I couldn’t imagine how or why you would want to sing like that, but it was intriguing. I heard “A Who Seh Me Dun (Wake De Man)” a hundred times during the summer and the singing remained almost entirely gibberish and bafflegab. Nice groove, though. It sounded so cool. It was fun to play catch to. There was Chinese Laundry and Shabba Ranks, too. The speakers vibrated with the bass to the point that the bass was fuzzy. The couple times I was in a car with Marty, the bass shook the rear-view mirror like a T-rex was approaching. He got into dancehall through his older brother, of course. Michael was the progenitor of our cul-de-sac. Not only was he like six feet tall, not only did he pitch street games and smoke tennis-ball homers by the bucketful, but he actually did stuff with girls. White girls. He liked white girls and they liked him. I saw them surreptitiously around the street and they were all drawn to him like a magnet. Sometimes one would watch us play ball in the street and I would swung the bat extra hard. I don’t know why; she was like sixteen and I had nothing really to say to her, but we never had an audience except for the odd adult stepping out of their house to their car, so if you wanted to watch Michael try to strike me out I was sure as hell going to try a little harder to smash a homerun.
          “A Who Seh Me Dun (Wake De Man)” pierced the thick, suburban summer void. You could practically feel the wrinkled noses of some of the neighbours, as if they came across a dumpster fire.
Marty threw some high banana balls and timed it so the ball would barely go over the backyard fence so I could leap and lean my glove over the borderline and crash into the fence. Sometimes he over cooked it and I had to jump the wooden fence into the neighbour’s yard.
“Oh man, wait until you get into girls,” Marty began after a few minutes of blissful ball-tossing silence. “It’ll change your life, my man. When it happens you won’t be able to control your hips—they just go back and forth uncontrollably.”
He tossed the ball to me and humped the air in time with the reggae. I thought, Huh, that’s odd. It’s pretty easy to control my hips and I can’t imagine not being able to stop them from going back and forth. “Eh, you’re just some island animal,” I said, and threw the ball back with a good amount of speed. 
“You’ll see soon enough, don’t you worry white boi.”
Just then, Jamie came into the backyard and Marty gingerly lobbed the ball to him because he had no glove; while the ball was in motion he ran up to Jamie and started humping him from behind. “It’ll be like this Taylor! But with a girl!”
I started laughing.
“Get off me you fucking ragamuffin!” Jamie howled, crumpling into a shell. Marty eventually let him go. The three of us slid off our shoes and entered the kitchen through the sliding glass door. Marty started to prepare hot dogs and KD, so Jamie and me went into the TV room. We had to turn the volume up on the TV because Marty reversed all the speakers and now Cutty Ranks and Beenie Man bellowed throughout the house. That simple, driving bass line over and over again: Do-do, dah-do-dah-do. Do-do, dah-do-dah-do . . .
          I absent-mindedly flipped through some channels—MuchMusic, TSN, whatever, until Marty called out that lunch was ready. He turned the music low and the three of us sat at the kitchen table. It’s tough to beat KD and hot dogs when you’re twelve years old. Three plates laid out with three forks and a bottle of ketchup in the middle. Marty had two hot dogs and Jamie and myself had one. All three of us had a large dollop of KD.
Jamie said to no one in particular, “I wonder what it tastes like if you put some noodles onto the hot dog.”
          “Well, go for it, big man,” Marty said, barely interested in our senseless, childish mash-ups.
          “I guess, I don’t know . . . I guess it just tastes like a pasta-dog,” Jamie concluded after a bite.
          “Or maybe like a K-Dog?” I offered.
          I grabbed the ketchup and squirted some onto my dwindling mound of pasta, then mixed it all together—the orange and red bleeding together into a brownish goop.
          Halfway through lunch there is a forceful knock at the door, followed by two door-bell rings. There was a sense of urgency or at least impatience on the other side of the door. Marty kissed his teeth and got up from the kitchen and went through the hallway towards the front door. Jamie and myself stopped eating and were watching to see who it would be. I wasn’t expecting any other friends today, and most of the time they’d just walk right in anyways as they hit the doorbell. But who knocks that hard and double taps the door-bell?
          Marty cracked the door open just wide enough to poke his head out. We didn’t have a peephole. A lot of doors in the suburbs didn’t have peepholes, at least not in 1993. There were some hushed whispers exchanged. Jamie and I exchanged puzzled looks, Like what the hell is going on? Then it appeared as if Marty was actually pushing against the door, trying to close it while some opposing force was trying to pry it open. Slowly but surely, Marty’s force was not equal to the outside one, and the door finally swung open. Michael stepped into the foyer like a looming tower and slapped Marty upside his head. There was another person, too, standing timidly behind Michael; it was a girl, wearing tight jean shorts and a white tank-top.
          “Yo! Taylor, bumbaclat, what’s up with you?” Michael yelled out to me.
          “Hey,” I said back.
          This cute white girl with shining auburn hair and red lipstick just stood there with her hands on her hips, while Michael and Marty were having a quiet, yet heated conversation. I could only make out, “. . . no, you’re not allowed,” and “. . . they won’t find out, shut up.”
          Eventually Marty must have relented for Michael and his friend walked towards the basement stairs and disappeared into the darkness.
          “Just ignore them,” Marty said when he came back into the kitchen, “They’ll be gone soon.”
“We’re gonna go watch TV,” I said quickly, and we headed back to the TV room.
“Yeak, OK . . . stay upstairs, though,” he said, preparing to wash the dirty dishes luxuriating in the sink’s soapy bubbles.
I turned the TV on perfunctorily, and for once I didn’t give a flying karate kick what was on.
“Whadya think they’re doing down there?” Jamie asked.
“I don’t know, but we’re gonna find out.”
The front door opened again after a quick double tap. “Yo! It’s just me,” Chucky’s voice said. He slipped off his shoes.
“In here,” I yelled out.
“Marty’s reading some kind of textbook, or something,” Chucky said, entering the TV room.
“Good,” I replied. “He’ll be studying Chemistry stuff for the next while. Now’s the time.”
“What the hell’s going on?” Chucky asked.
“We got company in the basement,” Jamie explained. “Michael Murray is down there with a girl.”
“Man, your parents let him do that?”
“Do what?” I asked.
“My parents would beat the crap out of me . . . let alone him.”
“Are my parents here? Did they approve of this, you bumbaclat? Just shut-up. Don’t you want to see what they’re doing? We got like half an hour left before Marty will be done studying, so let’s go.”
The plan was to stay close against the wall and crab walk towards the basement door as silently as possible. I turned the TV off, and the house reverberated with thumping dancehall.
          Perfect cover.
          I led the way, Jamie behind me, and Chucky in the rear. We slithered along the hallway wall to the stairs that led to the basement. It was bevelled and we moved seamlessly along its contours. I turned around to my accomplices and made the shhh sign with my index finger to my mouth. I knew best that the handle could squeak like fingers on a chalkboard if you didn’t open it right. I gripped the knob and turned it just so, not too fast and not too slow; a pristine whoosh of silence followed. No lights were on, but the basement was flooded with a deep blue. The summer sun was bright enough that the one small window in the main room illuminated the shapes of the couches and the beams.
In a single file, our trio descended the first set of steps to the landing. For guidance, Jamie’s hand was on my back, Chucky’s hand on Jamie’s. I thought I could make out some vaguely human shapes squirming around like tentacles. I couldn’t quite tell if what my eyes were seeing was real, or what was my imagination attempting to connect the dots in darkness.
We were exposed, so I stopped and reversed up the landing, our unit moving instinctively backwards in tandem. “I can’t really see anything, it’s too dark,” I whispered over my shoulder.
There was a row of three round light-switch knobs by Chucky’s head. “Chucky, hit the first dimmer beside you, and barely turn it,” I instructed.
He pushed the tan, plastic circle until there was a small click. A few bulbs downstairs were now live. Chucky twisted the knob ever so slightly until a faint orangey glow grew out of the depths of the bluish dark. “A little more,” I said, taking a peek. “OK, good.”
This prepubescent human centipede again went down the small set of stairs to the landing. With our newfound light, I could see Michael lying on top of the girl, his right foot planted on the carpet. He was grabbing her breasts and making out with her; then he grabbed the meaty part of her thigh.
“Whoa,” I said aloud, some residual KD cheese still stuck to the corners of my mouth.
“What is it?” Jamie whispered.
“I think they’re about to do it, or something,” I whispered back.
“No way. Lemme see,” Chucky said, barely keeping his voice down.
The mix of lights and voices didn’t seem to impact Michael, but the girl, lying on her back, locked eyes with me. She broke off the face-sucking and giggled. “Come on, Mikey, look, he’s watching us.”
Jamie and Chucky were now leaning so hard to get a peak, our heads were stacked on top of one another—like an ice-cream cone with two scoops of vanilla and one chocolate scoop on top. Michael sat up and there was a noticeable tent in his shorts. He sucked his teeth, “Hey, get the fuck out of here, you rasclats.”
The pressure on our pyramid mounted and we toppled over onto the landing, laughing hysterically. Michael got up and made as if to chase us, and that was enough to make us scatter out of the basement, to the safety of ground level.
We spent a few minutes milling about, watching Marty highlight sentences in his textbook. He also had a big chart with a whole bunch of upper and lower case letters together. It didn’t interest us in the least. Within a few minutes were bored again. Sometimes, there are those days in the middle of summer where there’s just nothing to do and you have to use your imagination and make something up.
Chucky said, “I’m going to go blast all the lights.”
“Oh my God, do it,” Jamie said.
“Yup,” I said, knowing it was the single most perfect thing to do in this scenario, and thus required no more elocution on my part.
Marty smiled wryly. Do what you gotta do.
Chucky cautiously opened the door and gave us a final look before he disappeared.
A faint glint of light broke through the space at the bottom of the door, and then there was a scream followed by frantic footfalls thundering up the stairs. Marty capped his yellow highlighter just in time to see the basement door fly open; Chucky flew out of the opening, the door hitting the hinges and swinging back until Michael held out a forearm to block it, in hot pursuit of Chucky.
          Chucky ran down the hallway, heading for the front door. There was no time to grab his shoes. He swung the heavy brown front door open and flew out of sight. Michael ran up to the front door and stopped. “I’ll get ya, Paki-boi!”
          Before he slammed the door shut, we could hear Chucky laughing in the distance.
          The girl had emerged from the basement and was standing there sheepishly. Michael took her arm and they left without a word, only Michael’s extra loud teeth-kiss echoing in the hallway to tell us all we needed to know about the current state of things.

***  

The lights are off and the pillow is stuffed into the window. The series of forts that were built earlier in the afternoon were still intact. Almost all of us were there, sitting in a circle inside one of the larger forts. It was almost pitch black except for the flashlight Marty held to his face. It gave his face an eerie glow. Waleed’s stomach growled and Marty shone the light right into his eyes. “Shut that belly up, boi!”
          Marty whirled the flashlight all over like it was a disco. “Listen to da mahn. Here me now!” he proclaimed. With a flourish he abruptly stopped and brought the flashlight back under his chin. He licked his lips, going all the way around twice.
          “Everyone here remembers Mr. Harlow, right? He was always messing around in his driveway, working on cars, lawn mowers, stuff like that? Ever wonder how you don’t see him anymore?”
          Perhaps some of us gave a passing thought to Mr. Harlow’s recent absence, but he lived down near the end of the street and, to be honest, young boys kind of live in their own world, anyways. Now that Marty was forcing us to think about it, I recalled that I hadn’t seen him once this summer.
“Well, his brain literally melted one day—just like that,” Marty snapped his fingers and I flinched. “Ha ha, you pussy,” Ryan said.
“Shut up, loser,” I said back.
“No one knows exactly what happened. The hospital said it was the only case they’ve ever seen of a person’s brain melting like candle wax. They wouldn’t even let his family bury the body because it was too important for science. The government even paid for the funeral. Some people think it was spontaneous human combustion, where for no reason, a part of your body just explodes, but that’s usually one of your arms—” Marty squeezed Chucky’s forearm, “or one of your legs—” then he squeezed one of Kyle’s huge legs in a pincer grip, just above the knee.
“Ow!” Kyle cried.
“But this was different,” Marty continued, switching hands with the flashlight.
“Mr. Harlow’s brain just melted and he died almost right away.” He kissed his teeth. “Nothing anybody could do about it. Mrs. Harlow found him lying there in the garage and immediately called the police. No one really knows what happened to his body. There was no body to bury. Some people think the government got its hands on it and is doing special testing. But I heard from the old Iraqi guy who lives right before the wasteland, he says Mr. Harlow was contacted by aliens and his mind just couldn’t handle it.”
“Yeah, maybe he got anally probed,” Jamie said, and everyone giggled. My favourite show on TV was “The X-Files”. There was a period of months where the show had come close to overtaking my life; it bled into my everyday existence. I longed to be Mulder when I grew up. That one day I would tell the Prime Minister that Sir, we need to halt all flights from Pearson Airport immediately! There’re aliens in the skies!
I wanted to believe so hard.
But I couldn’t fool myself—the only smoking man was my Dad after he got home from work. And my Mom was no Scully. She sat in the living room watching TV, sheathed in a bathrobe, smoking DuMaurier 100’s—“bitch sticks” as we called them. Our cat, Ruffy, a tabby with black and white splotching, like a dairy cow, was always licking her toes. Ruffy was an ice queen. She looked down upon everyone who wasn’t part of our immediate family. The way she licked my Mother’s toes was done in the most regal feline fashion, as if she was licking Jesus’s wounds after he fell from the cross.
 “Wait until you hear the rest, youngblood.” Marty said, calm and collected.
By this time I was positively freaking out. I knew where Marty was going with this story; I put the pieces together in my head. Judging by the circle’s reaction so far, I don’t think anyone else knew, or they would have piped up and said something.
Only I knew.
          I was sure of it.
          Marty continued: “Here’s the thing, though. Take a look at Taylor’s face. He’s the only one who gets it. Marty flashed the light on my chest area to illuminate my face without blinding me. I couldn’t really see anyone else’s expression but I felt their eyes on me. He brought the flashlight back under his chin. “You’re sitting on the work of a dead man. He’s in the sockets, he’s in the carpet, he’s in the walls, he’s in the pillars, he’s in the light, he’s in the dark. Mr. Harlow is everywhere in this basement. He did all the work down here!” Marty shouted. “All of it!”
          We had all heard odd creaks and noises in the basement, most of it the product of our overactive imaginations. We joked about there being ghosts in the basement while simultaneously being scared that there were ghosts in the basement. And this freaked us all out.
          “Taylor’s parents contracted Mr. Harlow to do the basement earlier this year. The project took one month, and then one month after he finished the project his brain melted. I’ve heard him walking around down here.” He slowly panned the flashlight across our silent faces. “Haven’t you?”
There were a couple gulps; inchoate Adam’s apples like small triangles, barely poking through our necks.
Ryan tried to get everyone’s attention with his eyes, but the flashlight kept whirring around the fort and no one noticed. Everyone was caught thinking about Mr. Harlow, so he just yelled out, “Now!” and at first we sat there in stunned silence, unable to move.
          “Now wha—” Marty got out before Kyle lunged for his right arm and the flashlight fell with a thud onto the grey carpet and went out.
Waleed yelled out, “I got his left leg!—”
“—You guys are fucking dead, oh my god, you’re so fucking dead,” Marty said, semi-pinned down and thrashing wildly in the darkness. I grabbed hold of his flailing left arm and Chucky clung to his right leg. There was nothing he could do, nowhere he could go.
All of us began violently tickling him.
          And from his subterranean blanket prison, Marty screamed and screamed.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why Bob Dylan Cracks Me Up

The current political climate in America is odd to say the least, and thankfully a lot of celebrities are seizing any and all opportunities to proclaim their righteousness to the masses, just in case we forgot. But there’s one “voice of a generation” who has been suspiciously silent: Bob Dylan. One of life’s little pleasures is laughter, and what currently makes me chuckle as I stand in line at the grocery store is Bob Dylan. It’s not something he said, or one of his lyrics, though. Quite the opposite, it’s what he hasn’t said that cracks me up.
What does Dylan have to say about Trump? Nothing! The guy is a cantankerous, septuagenarian troubadour who tours endlessly year after year. Bob would rather play to 5,000 fans in Dubuque and mumble his way through a barely recognizable version of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ than go to Switzerland and accept a Nobel Peace Prize. Come on, that’s funny. Imagine Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young in the same position. To be fair, he did write a gracious, poignant speech read by Patty Smith. But the road was calling and there were shows to be played. Next time a celebrity is ranting on stage at an awards ceremony or a rally, I’m going to think about Bob, with a cranky face, looking silently out the window as the world rolls by.
I know Bob Dylan pisses off a lot of people, whether it’s his voice or his anti-social behaviour, and it’s certainly understandable. For example, the guy played “Oldchella” earlier this year in the California desert. Tickets were in the thousands. The Stones and Neil Young and Roger Waters also played. The event was geared towards exploiting the nostalgia of wealthy boomers. I don’t really mean that in a bad way, either—if the demand is there than mine away. So Dylan gets out there and is mad that there was a big screen shot of him so the people farther away from the stage didn’t have to look at an ant-person. He had it turned off. Dylan probably isn’t a fun guy to hang with casually; he’s almost certainly difficult. But fuck it all to hell, the guy is a real character. A true American vagabond. As I sit here typing this, the guy is most likely in a hotel in Stockholm getting ready for his European tour. The man is 75 years old and look at his schedule. He globetrots like Skrillex.
You heard it here first: Bob Dylan is going to die on the road, most likely in a hotel room; or maybe a bus. Heart attack on a bus, a highway outside Pensacola. That’s my guess.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Election to End All Elections


Like many others, I was surprised by the recent U.S. presidential election results. I read a fair bit of news and would consider myself abreast of the going’s-on in and around the world—from the New York Times, the Washington Post, to Breitbart and the National Review. I’ll read liberals, socialists, conservatives, libertarians, I don’t care. I’m an inveterate news junkie. Something was amiss, though; all the pollsters had the election as an overwhelming Clinton victory, and though I’d like to think I’m a fairly sceptical reader, I can’t help but be swayed when all the ‘experts’ universally agree. Seems logical to me, I convinced myself. The Huffington Post hilariously had the chances of Clinton winning at 99%. I had no hard contrary data with which to run with. Sure, I noticed that Trump rallies were attended by tens of thousands and the atmosphere was like a playoff hockey game, and that Clinton rallies were dreary and under-attended affairs. I chalked that up to people not being very enthusiastic about her, but that—again!—the experts were right, and she was comfortably ahead by every metric. All of this contributed to the shock of election night. That dark November night where the results bled in slowly and the extent of the wound didn’t become clear until most people were sound asleep, dreaming of a new America.
Since the election I’ve posited this query to liberal voters and have felt very troubled by the answers. I’ve stretched it a little because the woman in the scenario is Canadian, but no matter, she certainly would have voted for Trump. She’s a conservative and has been for decades. It goes like this: my friend’s Mom, who is an immigrant of Pakistani origin, voted for Trump. Is she a racist, sexist, xenophobe? The answers I get vary from, “she’s misinformed,” “yes, it’s simple—she is a racist, sexist, xenophobe,” to “she’s obviously dumb,” “she watches too much Fox,” etc. They simply cannot logically comprehend why a woman of colour would vote for a hate-muppet like Donald Trump. Many liberals are in dire need of introspection, but continue to blame their failures on outside forces. It’s all James Comey’s fault! I have a feeling that a lot of them don’t even have one republican friend (because why be friends with a sexist, racist monster, right?)
Maybe journalists should do what the reporter Salena Zito did and, oh, I don’t know, actually hit the streets and talk to hundreds of residents in swing states where they actually live. Salena lives in Pennsylvania and consistently noted throughout the campaign that there was little support for Hillary and that people were angry. She noted “little” details, like the fact that there weren’t many Hillary Clinton signs on people’s lawns compared to previous elections. She didn’t moralize and pass judgement like many at the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc, who, apparently, don’t get out much to the suburbs. I imagine Paul Krugman or Jonathan Chait don’t much talk to plumbers, electricians, truck drivers and the like, yet their words are in vaunted places and reach millions. Clearly, they don’t have their fingers on the pulse of America.

Ross Douthat is a smarty-pants writer for the NYT. I don’t know where he went to school but it’s probably Yale or North Western or Harvard. Some place like that. He predicted that the Electoral College vote would be 322 for Clinton and 216 for Trump. Now, here’s a guy who studies and writes about politics for a living at the most prestigious outlet in the world. While you’re at work filing TPS reports, he’s pouring over the minutiae of the election 9 to 5, sussing out patterns and breaking it all down for his readers. He’s got sources all over. And this political expert got it so wrong that a baboon on a three-day K and booze bender could have made a better prediction. The actual, reality-based electoral college results were 306 for Trump and 232 for Clinton. What kind of chaffs me is that there are no consequences. I’m not saying these reporters should necessarily be fired. Honestly, I don’t even know what the consequences should be (maybe no column for two months?), but as a rational man I feel like justice has been cheated. Their attitude amounts to “oops, sorry ’bout that guys, we’ll do better next time, heh-heh”.
Wisconsin, which has typically been a Democrat stronghold, went to the Republicans. Hillary Clinton hadn’t campaigned in Wisconsin since April and seemingly relied on arrogance and celebrity endorsements to carry her to victory. It’s not terribly shocking that rich feminists like Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham, who decry the ‘patriarchy’ and ‘white privilege’ didn’t sway union guys in Wisconsin who have seen their jobs dry up and industries move elsewhere. Perhaps telling them they should feel guilty about being white and how they’re sexist for sometimes crudely commenting on women with their buddies wasn’t a great strategy for the democrats. It was an utterly tone deaf campaign.
The narrative is now that Trump was elected by a dying white electorate who will soon go extinct. And that if Trump was elected every kind of minority was going to be catapulted over the wall. Well, first of all, nearly half the electorate didn’t even vote. They were so terrified they just didn’t give a hoot, I guess. You don’t hear in the news too much about the millions of Latinos and Asians that voted for Trump. And lots of women.  And lots of educated people. All this about the “poor, uneducated white guy” vote is a little misleading. Sure, a lot of uneducated white people did vote for Trump, but that’s just one piece of the pie. In 2012 for instance, 68% of voters who made less than $50K a year voted for Obama, compared to 38% who voted for Romney. And Trump performed better than Romney amongst all minorities. I see some liberals banking on the extinction of white people and then the saintly democrats can regain power. I hate to break it to you, but if liberals continue down the identity politics road, they’ll alienate the working class even more. If the GOP runs a young, fresh, slightly progressive candidate as opposed to a populist buffoon like Trump, imagine how much they’ll win by. You can disagree with me, that’s fine, but I’m telling you, giving righteous lectures to people telling them they’re racist, sexist bigots for voting for Trump is not a winning strategy. It never will be. The liberal media should focus more on how bad a Trump presidency will be for more pressing real world issues like criminal justice reform and the environment, or that he’s filling his cabinet with hard-right religious maniacs, not spilling endless amounts of ink on which bathroom transgender people use.
I know that there are legitimate concerns in the LGBT community when Trump assumes power. The future vice president, Mike Pence, has some alarming views on homosexuality. He’s a proponent of the bizarre practice of ‘gay conversion therapy’. I’m guessing it’s something akin to ‘praying the gay away’. So, that’s alarming. But, in six months when no LGBT rights are curtailed, gay people can still get married, and trans-people aren’t melted down in to Trump Steaks, all the concern will be for naught. It’s the same thing if Bernie Sanders won. You think he’d turn America into some socialist paradise with universal healthcare and free university? Hell no! People need to discern between campaign rhetoric and actual policy. Remember how Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay? Yeah, how’d that go? In regards to building the wall along the southern border, there is nothing inherently racist or wrong about a nation’s desire to protect their borders in the interest of national security. My main gripe with the wall is that it’s a wholly futile endeavour. Yes, illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed, but what will a wall do? People will go over it, under it, through it; they’ll arrive by ocean or by hiding in the trunks of cars. Don’t underestimate Mexicans, they’re hardy people!

The most lopsided electoral college vote was in D.C. Even traditional Red states like Texas still have s high 30s to 40-something % of the population voting Blue. Same goes for Blue states like New York. Yet, something like 93% of D.C. voted for Clinton. A tiny district, more powerful and flush with cash than any other in the world, full of lobbyists who take kickbacks and throw in provisions into bills that never make it into the papers, and sociopaths devoid of any sympathy for the poor who live in rural areas with little opportunities. No empathy for a truck driver from Nebraska with 3 kids. Did you know that the most common job in America is a truck driver? Ah well, he’s just another sucker for the Washington machine to grift. D.C. almost universally voted for Clinton and D.C. is chalked full of the vilest examples of human scum on planet Earth waiting for your fat-ass dirty dollar. The D.C. that voted for Clinton is one not of nasty words but of nasty actions. One could make a case that if you wanted to reject the status quo, if you wanted to make a moral vote against racism/sexism/misogyny and every other hateful ism, you would vote against all the fat, rich white dudes in D.C. who voted for Hillary Clinton. These people don’t care if you’re Muslim or Mormon. No, their discrimination runs deeper than that. They only care about money and exploitation and power. They want to make money with a pharmaceutical company and pour more drugs down your gullet. Oh, but Trump said he grabs women by the pussy! JFK is one of the most beloved presidents in American history and he was a womanizing playboy. So was Bill Clinton. Who fucking cares? Powerful men are generally boorish pigs who fuck lots of women and brag about it. They’re not limp-wristed girlie-men. That isn’t going to change until Clay Aiken becomes president.
I suspect a lot of liberals who act as though they’re horrified by Trump, secretly smiled to themselves when they woke up the day after the election knowing that a whole bunch of fat-cats on Wall Street and K Street were having a really, really bad day. I guess it’s the punk rocker in me, but between moments of disappointment and shock, I couldn’t help but chuckle that the voting public gave political establishment the biggest ‘fuck you’ in a long time, maybe ever.  

If Hillary’s campaign planted an actor posing as a truck driver at one of her rallies with a sign that read “Truckers Will Haul Hillary to Victory!” and then brought him up to the stage to address the people, then Tommy the Truck Driver could have won this election for Hillary. Instead she opted for born-rich millennial feminists finger-wagging to the public and chastising them about how bigoted they are if they vote for Trump.
I wouldn’t have voted for DJT, but man, I didn’t know schadenfreude levels could go this high watching famous people have meltdowns over the Trump victory. I didn’t think it was possible to cringe as hard as I did watching and reading celebs’ reactions to the Trump victory. They really have to be seen to be believed. I won’t quote Sarah Silverman or Lena Dunham’s painfully dumb bloviating for fear that I’ll OD on douche-chills, but go search them out for yourself. You’ll never read something so maudlin and pathetic in your entire life. You’d think their entire families fell into a volcano.
There’s a case to be made about abolishing the electoral college, but candidates don’t campaign for the popular vote. Bragging about winning the popular vote is like a coach bragging about scoring more playoff goals. Right, but you lost the game.
The Dems ran the wrong candidate, plain and simple. They ran a deeply unlikeable, uncharismatic establishment politician who colluded with the DNC and the press to discredit and smear Bernie Sanders (which violates most of our natural inclinations to fairness). Then they rammed her down voters’ throats and America barfed her up like a four day old fish taco.
Hillary and Bill with their Clinton Foundation are like Walter White and Skyler with their car-wash: a front to launder dirty money and favours. Have an A-1 day, America.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Bit of Diet Advice

Getting older. Sucks, huh? Are you having trouble keeping the pounds off? Well, look no further! I have invented a technique that will melt away those pesky pounds. I can restore you to the former you before the current you was nary a thought in the former you’s head. And the best part? No diet books, no elliptical machines, no dumbbells, no crossfit, no yoga. All you need is an esophagus and a dream.
            Isn’t bacon delicious? My mouth is watering right now just thinking about a few extra-crispy pieces, the kind that just snap right in half. Nom-nom-nom. Now, what if I told you that instead of cooking a pound of bacon, you could cook half a pound of bacon and still get a pounds worth of pleasure? You’d probably say, “Oh there goes Taylor again just being his crazy old self.” But, it’s true! And the great thing is that the technique works with any meal. Take your rice, broccoli, chicken, or your soup and sandwich, or your spaghetti and meatballs. It. Does. Not. Matter. One-hundred percent hit rate. A kill shot between the eyes.  Every. Single. Time.
            It may take a few tries to get the technique down, but like swimming, it’s a skill you’ll have forever and it just might save your life.
            Okay, enough is enough. I know you want me to get to it already. You’re thinking, what’s with all the BS? Just get to this crazy secret already. I think you’re right. Let’s stick with the bacon example. So, you whip out the pan and peel off a few strips. A few minutes later they’re sizzling, and the air is thick with a greasy barbeque smell. Now, come a little bit closer, here’s what you do: eat the slices as you normally would in the flavour desert you inhabited before you learned my innovative technique. Then work your esophageal muscles like a grain elevator. Like a self-powered Heimlich Manouever; beam up the recently consumed meal back into your mouth. An esophagus is like a bicep or any other muscle: you can train it do powerful things.
You should be able to figure out at this point the ingenuity of my method. If not, however, it’s like this: You can eat a meal twice, even thrice! (only advanced practitioners should try thrice). Swallow your meal and then back up the chute it goes. Let that pre-chewed stuffed pepper swirl around again in your mouth. Why not stay an extra night in the penthouse villa that overlooks Flavourtown? Mmmm . . . the rice and tomato sauce is perfect. Ever wonder why most food tastes better after a night in the fridge? How about ten minutes in the belly? One can even type out a few emails while it’s sitting there snug in your own personal hands-free takeout container. We already re-cycle. Why not re-eat? In fact, I’d say you have to be re-tarded to pass up this advice. You can thank me later . . . but not with your mouth full!
If you don’t want to take my diet advice—fine! It’s no skin off my back. This is a great country. You can ingest what you like. Healthcare is practically free. Just eat your three cheeseburgers six times if you so desire. That’s a double shot of freedom right there! Do what makes you feel good, that’s what I say. Yet, my technique is undeniably green and good for the environment. Can’t discount that in this day and age now can you? Got to mind your carbon footprint and all that jazz. Don’t want the grandkids only seeing butterflies and birds in textbooks. And that’s just it: you’re not eating half a pound of ground beef in the meatloaf, you’re only eating a quarter . . . again.
Won’t someone think of the cows and chickens?
Umm . . . well . . . this is kind of uncomfortable . . . but, this guy is.
Imagine all those cute little piggies, irascible chickens, and languishing cows, and then . . . imagine chopping them all in half!
             Keep in mind that my method is one-hundred percent effective for twenty-five minutes after the ingestion of a meal or snack. After that the stomach acids start to take hold of your gut and break down the food. It is imperative not to utilize my regurgitation method after the twenty-five minute window lest you get a mouth blast of acrid stomach bile mixed in with the distant vestiges of the meal’s flavour.
Re-eating is the future of food. Get to it, folks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Looking through the Gate


I look at the way information is currently dissected and consumed on the internet, and in particular, Twitter, the way you dump black oil sunflower seeds into a hopper to funnel down and be devoured by birds. As long as seeds are in the hopper the finches and the sparrows happily munch away. They sloppily consume the endless, free buffet, until . . . the seeds run out.
Well, the GamerGate phenomenon has a lot of fucking seeds left, and it doesn’t look like they’re running out any time soon.
I’m not much of a gamer anymore, haven’t been since I was fourteen when I discovered guitar, weed, and girls (though my fingers only danced with two out of the three). The main issue, after reading countless articles and stalking countless timelines, is that Social Justice Warrior's/Feminists/Games Journalists are trying to push their narrative behind the scenes in gaming, and not looking objectively into matters. Now all those things they’d like to keep in the dark are having a flashlight shined on them. Like rats, they frantically try to scurry back into the dark, but the internet loves the light. In the last month, I’ve seen the word ‘misogyny’ bandied about so much that it has lost all meaning for me. It’s a string of meaningless syllables strung together, like ‘twattleshrub’, or ‘bingatworp’. The word ‘misogyny’ is so grossly misused in it’s over use, that I throw up in my mouth a little bit anytime that label is hurled at someone to refute a point. Just as vague and overused is ‘patriarchy’. These, and many other buzzwords, are used in conversations more as signifiers to like-minded individuals than as words that actually carry any heft. Quite simply, hysterical feminists have radicalized themselves into indifference. It’s painful to watch. It’s easy to spot a SJW type because, like a cult, they all speak in the same platitudes and use the same code words, the same patterns of speech. When I scroll through the timeline of a young gender warrior, it doesn’t take long before you know they’re infected with the SJW curse. “Damn,” I always think, “we lost another one.”

A few years back I became interested in Scientology. No, I didn’t sign up to be in the Sea Org, rather, I became interested in the (ahem) religion, the way an anthropologist becomes fascinated with the behaviour of a strange new race. It piqued my interest and I became a little obsessed. I consumed the must-read books on the phenomenon (Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright were the best), though I never got around to reading anything from the man himself, L. Ron Hubbard—I don’t suffer sci-fi schizoid hacks gladly. To paraphrase the brilliant comic Sarah Silverman, his name is Ron. I know Ron’s. Ron’s can’t be God’s. I spent many late nights scouring the internet for articles, no matter how obscure, anything from personal blogs to Tony Ortega’s almost daily articles, to desperately going through comment threads with a fine toothed comb).  I watched every video on YouTube, from protests, to interviews, to promotional videos. Is there anything better than unintentional comedy? You want to laugh? Watch this minute and a half clip of a Scientology fundraiser:




You’ve got to admire their earnestness. Sometimes I pity these people, and then sometimes I can’t help but admire their zeal, the certainty of their purpose in life. I’m hopelessly devoid of direction in my life, depressed, and drinking too much. Perhaps I should play Depression Quest?
When I began exhaustively scanning the timelines of those directly connected to Gamergate, reading the blog posts, and watching the videos, I noticed immediately the similarities between SJW’s and Scientologists. It hits you in the gut. I’ve seen a few other random commenters point this out as well. They have the same hivemind speech and behaviour. They all stay within the playbook. You’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. Anyone who ventures off script will be swiftly dealt with.
SJW’s are just Scientologists who grew up watching the Simpsons and are tech savvy.  
            Peruse through any prominent feminist columnist/gender warrior on Twitter and you’ll find a lot of whinging. They point out others’ behaviour in the media and why it’s racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Go and look through Jessica Valenti’s timeline, or Lindy West’s, and you’ll find them endlessly criticizing other people for their behaviour. It’s seemingly all they do. Their articles are the same thing done in a longer form. Sane, rational people look at their Twitter activity and most of their content and are surely turned off by it. We laugh them off as shrill, humourless, professional victims, but a small minority are taken in by all the exciting, radical language and talk of destroying the patriarchy. Unfortunately, that small minority goes full retard. They go trawling through all kinds of media for things to get offended by. They actively search for offense, which is truly bizarre, unhealthy behaviour.
           
During the summers of 2013 and 2014 I worked as a security guard at a wild beach resort located two hours north of Toronto. Loads of young people, usually those who have just finished high school and are destined for post-secondary education, celebrate the transition to adulthood in their budding lives with copious amounts of booze and drugs. For the most part, they’re normal, good kids from all over the greater Toronto area. I interact with thousands of young people from different backgrounds. Terms like ‘rape culture’ and words like ‘patriarchy’ are so obtuse and foreign to the majority of them, they look at me like I have a dick growing out of my ear when I tell them about those terms. This is obviously anecdotal evidence, but rarely do any of the young women identify themselves as feminists. Or even if they do, they’re sensible about the concept. They simply don’t care. Outside of Twitter, and more troubling, the corridors of academia, no one fucking cares about this ultra-modern turbo-feminism cultish bullshit. Not that they don’t care about women’s issues and equality, they do! They just don’t care about identifying themselves under the ‘feminist’ label. Conversely, a lot of the young women are extremely sexually confident and assertive. They show no signs of being oppressed by the patriarchy. Actually, the women appear strong and independent, certainly not intimidated by the males in the group. On Twitter, however, you’d think there’s some vast culture war going on, women fighting for equality. As a side note, I received death threats from real life drunk people, live in the flesh! Where were my trigger warnings! Please donate to my Patre--oops, don't have one.

I’m a pretty loose, liberal guy. I masturbate to tranny porn, I watch cute cat videos, I applaud minorities in prominent positions, and I’ve read more than one Matt Taibbi book. But, I detest the road that liberalism in online media is going down. The overtly PC fringe left is wielding more and more influence at a lot of the journalism/entertainment sites that I frequent, which sadly, I don’t much frequent anymore. I tried, I really did, Salon, but you’re veering into post-modern gender warrior land. Vice, too, is going that route. The former disappeared into the woods long ago, while the latter has just entered the woods, not quite hopelessly lost . . . yet.
            Shit, look how crazy it’s got in the last month alone: I stopped visiting Salon and Vice almost entirely and now find myself reading articles by Milo Yiannopolous of Breitbart because he’s the only reporter digging beneath the surface of the GamerGate saga in any meaningful way. Breitbart for God’s sake! You can’t make this shit up people! The bulk of those supporting GamerGate, I surmise, are fairly liberal, yet the gaming sites—which are invariably ultra-liberal—are so insulated that they’re wholly detached from the sensibilities of their consumer base, and no one is there to regulate this mess. The fox is guarding the henhouse while the farmer is away on business.
            And in a way I sympathize with online publications like Vice. There is so much saturation in the marketplace, so many sites competing for eyeballs, that to maintain profitability they have to publish click-bait and other absurd tripe to harness our collective flash in the pan attention spans. Companies have bills to pay, and in that regard I don’t blame them. Things like journalistic integrity and ethics are neat concepts to be enforced only when a company is secure in their existence, with a firm grasp on its share of the marketplace. Online sites for news and entertainment don’t have the luxury of relaxing their tenuous grasp for one minute, lest they fall behind ahead of the latest click-bait bullshit from one of their innumerable competitors. They all use every ounce of energy just to stay afloat. The result is click-bait and hit-pieces from here to eternity.
            There’s something refreshing and exhilarating in this new media landscape about tuning into entirely independent voices. I don’t even know what you’d call people like Internet Aristocrat and Thunderf00t. YouTube personalities? Media personalities? Vloggers? These voices have become very popular on account of the merits of their ideas, the resonance of their voices. They don’t have massive companies behind them—they’re just people, like you and me! (except with more followers). Hit ‘record’ on that camera and boom! your message is transmitted to the masses sans filter. It makes me get all patriotic, and I think of the adage that through sheer human will and perseverance, anyone born in these United States can become president (full disclosure: I’m Canadian). They, and many others, are the punk rock voices in media. Just like when young people heard The Ramones in in the '70s and thought to themselves, “Hell, I can do that!” we’re seeing that same vibe now. What does Thunderf00t have that any other jerkoff with a computer in their house doesn’t already have, too?   
            What does it say for the games media in particular and media at large that more and more consumers are turning to absolute fucking nobodies, relatively speaking? These personalities don’t hold any formal positions in media. Rather, they are people who can sit at their desk wearing nothing but boxers, half of a soggy, pink Fruit Loop sticking to their lip, and postulate on the state of all things video game/entertainment related, and do a better job of it than those whose livelihoods depend on it. The consumer's trust in the media is not good at all. It’s all sorts of problematically toxic.

I would urge young women, and anyone really, to disregard writers like Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, Rebecca Watson, and Lindy West. Instead, check out women that you can really learn a thing or two from. Women like Lydia Lunch, Mary Karr, Sheila Heti, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Camille Paglia, Bonnie Macfarlane, Lena Dunham, Christine Sommers, Alice Munro, and Tina Fey. Maybe some of these women consider themselves feminists, and some don’t. I don’t really know or care; one thing they all have in common is that unlike the former list of writers, the latter are more versatile. They don’t make gender issues their raison d’etre.
          And praise Xenu for that.