Category Archives: Society Sucks

Facebook Advertising Sucks: Feeling Like a Sellout

I feel dirty. I feel manipulative. I feel like I’m part of the problem. I feel like I am capitalism incarnate. I feel like a sell-out.

But not really when I actually force myself to think about it.

I wrote a post last year about how Facebook advertising sucks. My main issue with it was that based on your metrics, you find yourself targeting people that are your core audience. To use a political example: if you write some liberalesque blog posts and set up ads targeted towards conservatives (in an attempt to not be biased and to get people to see another opinion outside of their comfort zones) you’ll either be ignored or totally shit upon. Since money is at stake with advertisements, the natural tendency for yourself is to market only to like-minded people so you’ll minimize your cost per reach metric. It makes sense and this is how capitalism works. No one spends money on shit that is pointless. You find yourself narrowing in on the demographic that already agrees/cares about what you’re writing and contributes to echo-chambers online.

(Big Note About Facebook and Self-Promotion: I took all my rambly Facebook-inspired posts and glued them together into an ebook. If you want to read it here’s the link.)

This post, while sort of similar, is complaining about a different aspect of advertising. I want to write about how advertising makes me feel morally corrupt for some reason even though I know it’s perfectly justifiable. It’s one of those deep-seated personality traits I have that I can’t seem to shake. If I advertise or try to sell anything — even if what I’m advertising is totally legit and real — I feel awful about it.

I’ve been dabbling in Facebook advertising for a few years now, but have never seriously been involved with it. I’d “boost a post” here and there, and back when my sister and I were trying to sell shirts I’d toss some money towards ads. It was never that much, perhaps $25 or $50 here or there, and we never found much success with doing so. I advertised my two ebooks on Facebook and Reddit and once again didn’t find much success with it. Yesterday I decided to give it another shot. I started another ad for my personal authors page on Facebook (gimme a ‘like’ if you’re feeling like it) yesterday and have been suffering all over again with it. The moral dilemma that always comes up. Is this really the way to success? Paying Facebook money to market my page?

It works though. Back in October I advertised for the page and actually hit some success with it. In a week my page’s ‘likes’ went from about 20 or so (all close friends and supporters) to over 100: people actually liked my page after seeing it forced upon them. I’m always curious about who actually likes advertised pages because they stick out like a sore thumb to me. But I’m glad some people don’t notice, don’t care, or are actually impressed by what they see. I think this cost me $50 or so. Then peak season began at work and I didn’t worry about marketing myself. I’d worry about it later, like maybe around January 10th.

We live in strange times. The internet has changed what is possible in the past few decades. It’s strange to think back to times before the internet existed. I think of how “easy” it is to do your own think with the internet; anyone can set up an Etsy shop, self-publish on Amazon, have a blog, sell artwork, make fanfiction stories…anything. Your talents can now be visible to the entire world. Wow. I think we’re literally in a golden age of creativity thanks to the internet. I think of what people did to be authors or writers before 2000. Think of physically printing and sending manuscripts to publishers week after week in an attempt to actually make a name for yourself. We don’t need to worry about that. Anyone can make an account somewhere and start writing, painting, etc. Anyone can be creative and get themselves out into the world, and isn’t that what we all want to do? Express our souls and have people notice what we’re saying?

The problem with the openness of the internet is that everyone else is also trying to do their own things. You get lost in the fray of the millions of people trying to make content. Us WordPress bloggers know what the fight means; out of millions of blogs how do you make your site something unique and worth reading? Let alone the question of monetizing and making a job out of it. We’re all tiny bits in some massive machine and how do you get anyone to notice you? You usually don’t. That’s what the struggle is. It isn’t creating or being consistent, it’s being noticed. You could have the best blog/story/music/paintings/poem in the world, but if no one knows about it, who cares?

Sure there is “organic growth” but that is tedious as fuck. As someone who feels like their life is on a timer tickinging down until you either burn out or die, waiting on “organic growth” feels terrible. What if I write some masterpiece when I’m 60 and about to die and no one even hears about it? What if I’m lost in the crowd, out-viewed by people slightly more talented or better at marketing themselves than I am? It’s a scary thought. Being a successful creative person seems to entail being able to market yourself successfully. Hell, even untalented people can market themselves and sell stuff. Think of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Think of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

This is why I decided to toss some money into Facebook advertising again. I feel like I’m hitting my stride, actually making some small but consistent progress towards my goals, and who is there to take notice? Just a few hundred subscribers and people close friends who ‘like’ my Facebook page. It’s a strange place for me to be in. I’ve struggled with self-esteem recently and still do, but I feel like I’m past it in a way. I don’t feel like the main challenge is being good anymore — this is just hard work, consistency, and stubbornness; a blind eye towards failure — I feel like my main challenge is being noticed. This is the main struggle for us creative types in 2020. It doesn’t seem so much as being good but being noticed in the crowd of millions of people trying to do their own thing.

I feel terrible for advertising though. Once again, logically, I know it doesn’t make sense. I wrote this whole post complaining about “people finding you” and how else do people “find you” besides paying money to make yourself appear on their Facebook feeds? I think of the horror stories on Twitter where people simply buy followers and at least I’m not doing that, right? The people that see my shitty and contrived ads don’t have to ‘like’ or ‘follow’, but some of them do. Am I selling out to capitalism and the tempation of being famous or am I just wanting people to find something that they might enjoy to read? I really think it’s the latter, but my gut still tells me I’m a sellout. I think I naturally want to slave away in total obscurity and never do anything notable and it seems like a conscious effort to sabotage myself in that way. Yes, I feel bad for advertising, but I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m not gaming the system. I’m not “cheating.” I’m not cooking books or making shady contracts. I’m just trying to get people to notice the stuff I’m creating which I’m actually proud of even if I don’t like to admit it. And in the writing/blogging/self-publishing market, isn’t this what the big challenge actually is?

Even after writing this I still don’t feel good about it.

War Sucks

Well, we’re in the eighth day of 2020 — and the new decade — and it already seems the world is spiraling into chaos. That didn’t take very long, now did it?

I’m sure everyone is aware, even vaguely, of what has been going on in the Middle East lately, specifically Iran. To recap if you’ve totally been under a rock: the US Trump (we/us because I’m a proud ‘Merican.) decided to kill/murder/assassinate a big, important Iranian general. Making this action even more terrifying was that fact that he was killed in Iraq; he was in an allied country! Right away you should realize that bombing a target at an international airport of one of our allies is a bad idea. Iran was pissed and threatened us, and Trump, our wonderful commander-in-chief, taunted the shit out of Iran on Twitter. Yes this is how the world works now.

I was hopeful this would be the pinnacle of the entire crisis. Like Trump and Iran would swing their metaphorical dicks around trying to show the other up, and then we’d all forget about it after a few weeks. Nope. I was at work a few hours ago when I heard the newest news: Iran had attacked some of our airbases with missles! Oh. Shit. What would our Dear Leader Donald J. Trump do now? I’m almost certain a retaliatory attack is inevitable, and I’m haunted by the possibility that Trump tosses a few nukes towards Iran just because. I have the sinking feeling that this might be the brink our country is about to go careening off of and my anxiety skyrocketed. I’m on edge. I’m terrified. What if today is the September 10th or the December 6th — the taken-for-granted calm right before the world inevitably changes? I hope this post ages terribly and I can look back in a month and say, “Well, I was worried about nothing!” But until then…

One of my resolutions this year is to only drink on Sunday and I nearly failed today. War? Were we really on the brink of an actual war? For what? What’s the reason? It feels like dominoes falling where we just push the reason back to the last cause, and so on, until nothing makes sense anymore. Iran attacked our bases. But they did that because we killed their general. But we did that because he was a bad guy or something. But he was probably a bad guy because Trump sanctioned Iran and withdrew from the nuclear deal that was in place. And he did that because Obama negotiated the treaty and he attempts to undo anything related to Obama. And so on. Nothing here seems to call for an all-out fucking war though. It’s like a bunch of kids fighting: “I didn’t start the fight, MOM! HE HIT ME FIIIRRRRRSSSTTTT!

I wouldn’t call myself a pacifist because some wars do seem like noble causes and inevitable. The last war in my opinion that was “worth fighting” was World War 2. If we never became involved in WW2 the world might be a very different, darker, and scarier place. We were attacked by an actual country, not a few random ragtag terrorist working on their own, and they had an agenda to wreck the shit out of our navy to dominate the Pacific and protect their empire. It wasn’t a NATO action or anything: Japan attacked and we did what we had to do. The attack on Pearl Harbor also got us involved in kicking Hitler’s ass, which was good for everyone. The war made sense mostly: there were Good Guys (us and our allies) and the Bad Guys (in WW2 there was also THE REALLY BAD GUYS). And before that? The Civil War. It was unfortunate but our nation’s history up to that point almost made it inevitable. Once again it’s an example of a massively important war that shaped our country’s history afterwards. We got rid of slavery. We kept the country united. While war is never a wanted thing, sometimes it almost seems required where there simply is no choice besides standing by and watching the world descend into chaos and evil.

What about Vietnam or Korea? Bullshit, relatively pointless wars with us getting involved via NATO. The Bad Guys here didn’t seem that bad: they wanted to unite their countries but were communists instead of capitalists. I don’t understand why thousands of soldiers had to die for that bullshit. What about Afghanistan and Iraq part 2? There were no Good or Bad Guys there; sure the terrorists were bad, but they’re not an actual country or a well-equipped military. They’re hidden and nebulous. This still didn’t stop us from getting thousands of our own people and civilians killed. About 3,000 people died on the September 11th terrorist attacks; more of our people died avenging the attacks in endless years of war than died in the attacks themselves. Something seems wrong there, doesn’t it?

This possible war seems like one of those latter examples, and even an extreme example of it. If this does turn into a full-fledged war, what will the narrative of it be twenty years from now? What was the grand plan and evil that we had to fight against? Islam? “Terror?” There is nothing. It’s pointless. It’s a war myself — and I’m assuming the majority of Americans — are against.

I think of the average Iranian citizen and how I feel about them. If I seen an Iranian in public, would I harm them? Would I kill them? No. What would I do? I’d probably ignore them because I’m socially inept, but I’m sure I’d smile and maybe say “hi.” I have nothing against them as a people, because they’re just like me. They wake up, go to work, feed their families, and they want the same thing that I do: to simply be able to live their life the best they can. I bet there are thousands of Iranians sitting at their computers trying to type bullshit blog posts, just like I’m doing. I think of how these random, average Iranian citizens must feel about the possibility of a bomb plummeting into their house at night and killing their family. Is this what we’re trying to do here? Mohammed in Iran just wants to write his blog, eat some tasty food, and relax. But somehow when we start talking about “terrorism” and “evil” and “retaliation” we forget about the average person — in the US or Iran — that simply doesn’t fucking want a war. There is no grand sacrifice when your life is lost in a pointless war.

Update a-half day later: This was a post that I churned out at 11 p.m. when the world was still on edge. I decided to post it at 10 a.m. in the morning to actually get some readers, but this was almost the time Trumpy decided to actually address the nation. It seems I was wrong, and as much as I’m a person that likes to be right, this is not one of those times. I’m so happy that maybe this post was a bit anxious and fearful and that it turned out to be unnecessary. Either way I got to vent and felt better about it. I also don’t think we’re out of the woods yet: Trump could get restless in the next month and do some more dangerous shit. But for today? Things seem to be much better than they were 15 hours ago.

My Cynical New Year Sucked

“Hey, there’s my cynicism and negativity! I was wondering where it went. After being moderately positive the past few days I was worried I was going through legitimate changes. Good to know it’s still there.”

I live in the central time zone and this means we’re one hour behind New York’s time, it being in the Eastern US. This usually leads to the TV on New Year’s being changed to watch their New Year’s celebration because it’s kinda like the actual celebration for the entire US. I wonder how West Coast people feel about this, seeing New York do their thing three hours before their New Year, but maybe West Coasters don’t give a shit about New York and what they do.

I think we turned it to Dick Clark’s New Year’s 2020 (apparently the real title of this bullshit is Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2020) immediately after the ball dropped. I noted this was on ABC because I immediately started to wonder what shitty network was covering the New York celebration. ABC. Those were the assholes.

The first thing to kill my mood was the total mass of people in Times Square. Probably tens or hundreds-of-thousands of people all huddled around for who knows how long. This always reminds of a Reddit thread I seen a long time ago where someone pointed out that people in Times Square are usually tourists; no real New Yorker would subject themselves to the unique hell that is the Time’s Square New Year’s Ball Dropping shit. Even stranger is that to actually be there you apparently need to show up like a half a day early. These people had been standing here waiting for 12:00 a.m. January, 1 2020 for over six hours, maybe more. And making this even worse is most wear diapers. If you leave to take a piss/shit you lose your spot. And it’s so cool to be there that you can’t do that! So in this crowd of maybe a few hundred thousand people I imagine them all with adult diapers filled with piss and perhaps shit and the torture of standing in a single area for a quarter of a day. How can you be happy with a filled diaper? Were these people really happy? Or were they miserable and just wanted those sweet social media likes and to maybe end up on TV?

After the actual ball dropped, the crowd seemed to thin quickly. But there were still the lingerers laying down in confetti with their significant others taking selfies. You know, for that sweet social media credit. Selfies everywhere. I get it — capture the moment — but shit. It reminds me of the St. Vincent lyric from the song “Digital Witness”: If I can’t show it, you can’t see me. The only reason to do anything in life is to take pictures of it and show others on social media. If social media never sees it, does it really happen? I was in New York! I was in Times Square! I wore goddamn diapers full of piss to do so! My life is so much more adventurous than everyone else’s!

Then there’s the jackass who proposed to his fiance on national TV. Oh boy. Let’s be as contrived as possible. At first I thought they were going to interview some random guy asking the usual bullshit questions. “How does it feel to be here? What’s it like?” I mean they sorta did this but the guy looked awkward like he had another purpose for being important enough to be interviewed, turned to his fiance, and did the whole typical proposal deal. “There’s no one else I’d rather spend this moment with,” he bends down on one knee and get’s a box out — here we go — “would you marry me?!” She cries, nods yes, and the crowd goes wild.

This was all about 12:10 a.m. New York time — 11:10 p.m. central time — and my mood was already spiraling down the drain.

Ryan Seacrest was hosting along with some lady (apparently Lucy Hale? Okay.) and when I turned to the channel there was like six Asian people joining him. I don’t know who the hell they were, maybe a k-pop group? And then there was some asshole dressed in a shiny purple outfit with tattoos on his face. Who the fuck was this? Some part of my mind that holds information I didn’t even know thought, “Is that Post Malone?” How the fuck do I know what Post Malone looks like? My mom is all about that dipshit and goes on and on about how good he his. “He can make a rock or a metal album because he’s that versatile,” she has said before. I still didn’t think I knew what he looked like. I don’t really listen to his music or care, but goddamn he was dressed like a douche.

I was thinking of posting a picture but, naw, fuck it. Google it if you really want to see him.

He was also drinking what I’m assuming was alcohol out of what looked like a red Solo cup. Part of me wondered what it would be like drinking alcohol on national TV. Did he have his cup and asked the producers if he could drink it on the stage? How would you feel drinking on national TV? Somehow I don’t think any of these thoughts occured to Mr. Malone dressed as awfully as he was.

Then we were gifted with a segment about the Powerball lottery or something. It was a drawing of a possible number between one and five. And whoever of the five people won would get a million dollars. Obviously this wasn’t a real lottery because what lottery has a one-in-five chance of winning a million dollars? It was a promo stunt. A way to ring in the New Year by telling people to play the fucking Powerball lottery. Fuck all to all those people who have gambling problems and made a resolution to change that awful addiction. Play the goddamn Powerball lottery everyday in 2020! Especially cringy was when the host asked the typical question to the new winner: “So how do you feel right now?!”

Then the Jonas Brothers. Once again I don’t really know their music and don’t give two fucks about them and don’t hate them, but it was strange to see them live. They’re a “boy band” apparently just like N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys were back in the 90s, and mostly the three stood on stage and sang songs while a band played all the actual music behind them. One of them played a shitty three cords for an entire song with a single barred finger on the fretboard. That was it? Why the fuck haven’t I record any music yet? I’m not an amazing musician but I can plop a song together with more than three bar chords. Fuck. I can even use a delay pedal!

Luckily the next song had a bit more going on where they actually played some music of consequence. Still, the backing band did most of the actual work. The crowd went wild, and wow, wouldn’t it just be cool to be there? What would it feel like to actually be there?!

That’s about it for the national TV bullshit. I migrated into another room and watched a Scott Manley video about the most important achievements in space in the past decade. Ya know, actual informative, interesting, and non-corporate-sponsored-fun-and-partying enjoyment. But what does it feel like to be part of the crowd?! Doesn’t that matter?!

It wasn’t finished yet though. A certain segment of my family used to love calling us at midnight to scream “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and fuck dealing with that. Many years ago I just stopped answering my phone, sometimes even turning the damn thing off. It would happen every year like clockwork because it basically was clockwork.

It’s been a bit different the past few years with the advent of fancy social media sites like Facebook. No calling is required now; all you need to do is find some gaudy, low-quality .jpg or .gif and spam it to your entire friend list on Facebook Messenger. Obviously it contains the cancer-causing and virulent phrase along the lines of “send this to all of your friends!” which apparently people actually follow. Maybe I should send images with my bank account number saying, “Send $100 to this account and God will bless you!” I’d probably be rich.

Since this family segment is also their own little family, I got the same image from four fucking people. Aunt, uncle, cousin, and somehow my dad. My dad went even more drastic with this image by posting it to his Facebook Messenger story. He has never posted a single thing to his story so I was actually surprised. “Dad updated his story? What? Why? Really?” I opened it up and it was the same fucking image flashing away, tempting my mind to finally have a seizure.

As much as this makes me physically ill to see again, I feel I need to post it. I’m sure you guys know exactly what I’m talking about but here it is anyways:

Let’s see if we can keep this moving to friends and family. (The double space is intentional between “this” and “moving”)

As much as the first hour prior and after the actual New Year sucked, my mental state is still pretty positive. It weathered the storm of my cynicism. I mean I’m still cynical as fuck, but everything else is positive. I think about the people I actually care about — not those insane fuckers in New York or those in Miami watching The Jonas Brothers — and hope they had a good night and will have a good 2020. I hope everyone achieves their potentials this year. Despite the cynicism, I’m trying to see today as a fresh start and will try to do my best in 2020 even if I am terribly flawed just as everyone else is flawed. 15 hours in and the New Year is pretty good so far.

New Year's Resolutions (Don't) Suck?

Note: I don’t want to write. I don’t want to post. I don’t want to think about the optimal time to schedule a post. But I have to: this post has a dictated timeframe with it being about the goddamn New Year. I simply don’t have a choice. So time to buckle down and force something out against my will. This is the struggle of blogging.

I’ve never been a fan of making New Year’s Resolution (as you can read here) but I recently watched a YouTube video by Veritasium that has somehow gotten me totally hyped for the New Year. (I’ll link it below if I can figure out how to do so. You know, learning WordPress and all…) Like I’ve bought into all the bullshit about it for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’ve felt like the past year or two has been an incomprehensible blur and I want a firm date to change my mindset and make small but perceptible changes to my self and my life? I don’t know. At this point I’m not trying to question my random positive mood here. I’m running with it as is because it is a rare and uplifting thing for me to do.

HOLY SHIT LINKING TO A VIDEO WORKED! ON POST 101 I’VE LEVELED UP!

If you didn’t watch the video, Derek explains a few key takeaway points about resolutions:

  1. New Year’s is the best time to set out to do something
  2. Despite #1 most resolutions fail because of the following three reasons:
  3. Resolutions need to be small and not too big or dramatic
  4. They need to be measurable and clear. Vague resolutions will almost always fail
  5. They mustn’t require a ton of willpower

When you’re given these restraints you instantly see the idea of resolutions as better than the popular pipe-dreams you typically hear spouted off. Instead of criticizing people for picking random and unachievable stuff like “be a better person” or “lose weight” you start to realize that maybe by picking smaller and easier to achieve things you might actually be able to fundamentally change yourself in the 365 366 days that are 2020 (2020 is a leap year?! Hello February 29th!). Given these restraints you might start to feel emboldened: maybe New Year’s Resolutions are a good way to start your journey throughout the New Year?

As for my actual resolutions, I’m leaning towards something like giving a single compliment to someone every day. It’s not dramatic, it’s measurable, and achievable but at the same time me going out of my mostly negative and reclusive shell to actually dish out compliments might do me good in the long run. Like Derek said, it’s the idea behind improving 1% a day which leads to massive improvements over time. Now that I think of this more, it does seem pretty adventurous too; what do I do on weekends when I’m only around family? Do I make a pact to only compliment strangers because complimenting family is too easy? Where I’ll have to compliment the denizens that inhabit Walmart or the local derelict gas station? There are some details to work out here for sure because I see some easy ways out for my future self. But I think it’s a good start.

Another possible idea I’ve discovered scouring Veritasium’s YouTube page (he mentioned putting resolutions in the comments) was to wake up early every day. I have a nasty habit of waking up at 12 p.m. after pissing away hours in bed looking a Reddit between 12-3 a.m. so this might help my mood, writing, blogging, productivity, etc. Other random and possible ideas I might settle on are reading something everyday, writing something everyday, and only drinking on Sunday. They are mostly small, easy to enact, and measurable (if I clear up the general “something” that is) so should be accomplishable, but as stated I still have two days to flesh out my ideas into something more concrete. Let me know what your resolutions are below so I might be able to steal them if they’re good enough.

New Year’s Resolutions suck. But this year I’m finding myself embracing them.

Closing Note: I’ve also had this terrible idea to make shirts hating on the New Year.

Holiday Shopping Sucks: Difficult People to Shop For

Note: I’m posting this fully from the mobile app. While I did most of the heavy lifting on PC, I’ve never actuall posted from the WordPress app, so please excuse any screwed up formatting.

Today, at least the day I’m trying to write a draft for this post, is the 17th. This leaves me eight days to get my Christmas shopping done, and unless I want to pay a fortune for shipping it all but eliminates any online options. Hell, the stuff I ordered on Amazon three days ago might not show up until after the holidays thanks to me being as cheap as possible and selecting the “free shipping” option at checkout. That isn’t relevant here; what is relevant is that time is running out. Time is always running out but the Christmas season really puts it starkly into view. You’re left with a month or so (depending on how bad your procrastination is) to buy a small mountain of gifts for your friends/family. What should be a joyous time to show your love and appreciation for people turns into a fucking chore. You have to buy them gifts. It also seems to be a busy time of year, especially for idiots like myself in the package shipping/delivery business, where you find yourself with days slipping and flying by without making any progress whatsoever on your shopping list.

Luckily I only have a handful of people to still buy gifts for, but one thing seems clear: these people are all similar in what makes them hard to shop for. I’ve noticed there’s the “I don’t want any presents” type of person, and the person that simply doesn’t like anything. And there’s also the type of person who you have no fucking clue what they would want, who might be an off-shoot of one of the previously mentioned types from above. This gave me a fun idea, at least where blogging is concerned: maybe I can bitch about the types of people you need to shop for? Categorize these fuckers who are so hard to find gifts for? While it won’t save my ass in the remaining eight days I have, it will make me feel somewhat productive on the blogging front. Gotta rake in those views while you can, right?

The People You Don’t Even Know

This is an easy category: people you don’t know. Who comes to mind here? I’m thinking my cousin’s kids actually. (Are they second cousins or cousins once removed? I don’t know.) I have no goddamn clue what they like to do for fun or what their hobbies are — and I can barely spell their names properly — so obviously how am I supposed to shop for them? There is also the question as to how close people need to be to you to buy them gifts? The social cues and all. Our family is so poor that I don’t have to buy them gifts really, but my point isn’t that, it’s that some people you don’t even know vaguely enough to buy them presents. This usually requires you to ask their parents what they want, and damn if they don’t even know. “Just get them gift cards to McDonald’s,” I’ve really been told before. Yikes. How about a few $20 bills instead?

The “I Don’t Want Anything” People

This is my dad. You can’t get anything out of him. Making this even worse is that he’s also from the next category: people who don’t have hobbies. I’ll touch on that in a bit because that’s what really makes these people shitty to shop for. I’m one of them myself, but at least I have interests and hobbies that could still point people in the right direction for a gift even if I really don’t want one. Someone could still find something for me if they really wanted to do so.

And as for myself: I really, seriously, actually don’t want anything. It isn’t a matter of being gracious or anything; I just don’t want a damn thing for Christmas. Usually if I need something I’ll go buy it myself, or the things I do need are so specific that I don’t want to trust people gifting them to me. They always buy sort of the right thing but not quite the right thing. I just don’t need any presents. Sometimes you’re the one who is shitty to shop for, at least for other people. And I’m well-aware it’s frustrating for others. I’m basically complaining about myself here and yes I suck and am hard to shop for.

People With No Hobbies

As stated before, the real shitty thing with my dad is not that he doesn’t want any gifts, it’s the fact that he really doesn’t do anything either. My dad’s day, while I’m not 100% certain about it, goes something like this: he wakes up. He eats food that is shitty for his health. He turns the TV on to it doesn’t really matter. (He also has antenna TV so no fancy cable, WiFi, or anything really, just local stations.) He smokes cigarettes. He falls asleep on the couch. He drives to my grandma’s/my uncle’s to help do random shit for them. He goes to work. He sleeps. Repeat.

Not to gripe too much about my parents again (go here I guess) but I really think my dad struggles with depression. He’s a man without interests or hobbies and I think depression is to blame. Whatever the cause is doesn’t matter: try to figure out a gift for a person who literally does nothing for fun or enjoyment. What do I do, get him a pack of cigarettes or something? A gift card for a gas station? Pay one of his electric bills? Give him a free month on the phone bill?

People with Complex Hobbies/Hobbies You Know Nothing About

Some people are really passionate about things, but to such a degree that you simply can’t buy them any actual gifts. Think about the hardcore musician/guitarist. They’re probably so in the thick of their musical passion that they have a favorite brand/size of guitar strings, about twenty effects pedals they use, a certain type of pick they use, and so on. You couldn’t even get them a handful of guitar picks without buying the hopelessly wrong item, even if it is only slightly wrong. They’re so far along in their hobby that you have to know the details of it even to attempt to buy them a gift. Let’s also not forget the high cost of having an upper-level hobby. Buying someone a $100 beginner’s guitar is one thing — buying someone a $5,000 upper end guitar is a whole other level of insanity.

A good example here is, well, my dad again. You see before he was super depressed he was very much into photography but was so far along that you couldn’t buy him anything for it. His few cameras and lenses literally cost thousands of dollars. What would you get a person like this? An SD card? When he already had about five of them? A tripod? Because the two he already had somehow weren’t good enough? A fucking monopod? No. Even if he did have a hobby he was so deep into the hobby that there was nothing you could really buy him.

People Who Want Uninspired Gifts

I also despise people who give you tons of gift ideas but where they’re all uninspired gifts — gifts you can’t sink any meaning or thought into. Like a sweater. Or pants. Perhaps clothes in general. A certain video game. They seem so bland and boring because you simply buy the exact same item they want and there is zero creativity on the gift-giver. Part of the fun of buying gifts is honing in on what they love and surprising them with it. Showing them that yes you do pay attention and care about them and resorting to buying bland gifts just feels so, well, bland. I’ve given up buying my aunts and uncles candles because they’re so damn boring. I’ve just given up.

I want to get something that promotes self-expression or hobbies or your passions in life. Buying a goddamn pair of socks for someone — even if they really fucking want socks — just seems so shitty.

Note: This is a grey area really as you can have “uninspired sounding” gifts that are really inspired. Consider someone who really likes knee-high, multicolored and mismatched, fuzzy toe socks. Getting them “just socks” would be boring as fuck while getting them some crazy, ridiculous socks would be “thoughtful.” Context matters I guess?

People Who Want Gifts They Won’t Even Like

What happens when someone asks for The Sims (or any PC game really) when they only have a shitty five year old laptop that barely loads or operates at all. When you know their gift idea is total shit but can’t tell them this because they want it really badly. You buy it for them, begrudgingly, and they hate it and never use it.

I think kids are very terrible in this aspect because they live in the fantasy of the gift and not the reality. Another example: battery-powered cars. Their own car! That they can drive! Wow! What about in the winter when you can’t use it? What about when you lose the charger and can’t charge the battery? What about when the battery is dead but the kids really want to drive it? These really aren’t winter/Christmasy gifts, but think about trampolines and swimming pools: all the work required for something that will be ignored in a few weeks.

It seemed I had more to say about this topic especially because it applies to capitalism-in-general’s power to convince people to buy shit that they don’t really want or need. I also thought I had more examples but hopefully you get the idea. It’s grandma asking for the hottest and latest “As Seen on TV” product. No grandma, you don’t need Flex-Seal to fix a leaky boat. You don’t own a leaky boat.

The Deep Gifts that are Impossible to Find

I hold the belief that people really don’t know what they want in life, and Christmas gifts are no different. I say this because of a few childhood experiences I’ve had. I was like everyone else and had no real idea what the hell I wanted, and I mean deep down inside what I wanted. I was the typical kid who would ask for video games, toys, legos, etc. and while I liked these things, they never really resonated with me in a crazy life-changing way.

You might wonder what the hell I’m getting at here, but around 1998 or so I received this game I didn’t know existed called Flight Simulator ‘98. It was, as you can guess, a flight simulator game but it wasn’t like all the other shitty aviation games I had played up until that point. It wasn’t some shitty combat game; it was a simulator. Twelve year old me took quite a while for this fact to set it because I literally had to figure out how to fly an airplane in a fairly realistic way, but I eventually figured it out.

I use this as an example of a deep gift because of how much this stupid game changed my life. I was an avid flight simmer and owned every game until the line was discontinued with Flight Simulator X. And I didn’t just play the game like a casual; I was serious about it. I made flight plans and used actual approach charts and tried to keep things as realistic as possible. While already being a huge aviation nerd, the Flight Simulator series cemented my love of piloting and basically taught me to fly airplanes. When I actually began taking flight lessons I already had a ton of the basics down. And when it came time to get the dreaded instrument rating? I was a goddamn pro at flying with instruments because I had been doing so on shitty PCs since 1998!

These are the kind of gifts I would love to get people: the presents that they don’t even know they want. Some random gift that they’re not sure about but they will remember decades later that might even change their lives. I’ve tried to get a few gifts like these over the years, but nothing seems to have stuck. Maybe you can’t gift these things deliberately and they have to be “happy accidents.” I’m sure my parents buying this for me was an accident with their thought process being something like, “He likes planes. This is a ‘plane game.’ Let’s buy him this.”

In closing

I suppose dealing with people like this wouldn’t be very bad in isolation, like for a singular birthday or something, but when there is one holiday where you buy everyone stuff it becomes a chore. I only have about four or five people left to shop for, but everyone of them fits into at least one of the categories I just bitched about. Buying gifts for people who don’t want anything, hunting for presents for people who want stuff they won’t even like, and so on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a handful of other frustrating people types, so let me know what type of people make your holidays total hell.

The "Woman Yelling at Cat" Meme Sucks

A Case Study of Meme Overuse and Eventual Death

We can’t have good things. We can never have good things. Because once something becomes popular enough the masses will get a hold of it and ruin it. Usually this doesn’t happen with most art forms because most art requires little to no participation from the audience. There are the creators of the art and the viewers of the art and the audience is relegated to be mere spectators of the art form. The read the book. They watch the movie. They look at the painting. They play no role in the creation of the art itself. The barrier of entry is usually fairly high to most standard forms of art; some jackass can’t make shitty music, plop it up on soundcloud, and become instantly famous. Some dickhead with canvas and acrylics from Walmart probably won’t paint a masterpiece that will end up in a museum. There’s a quality filter so to speak. But I think the most important attribute of most “normal” art is that it is static: once art is created it is finished and in its final form. There is no further input from anyone, especially the audience.

Memes are totally different and while I do consider them an artform they’re also a form of communication. This works because the barrier to entry with memes is terribly low; any dingbat can make memes and nothing requires you to actually be witty or good at making them to do so. And there is an audience for these poorly-crafted memes. Consider the horribly dumb populace that infests social media sites like Facebook and Twitter like roaches, you have dumbfucks creating stupid and unfunny memes who “don’t get it” and somehow their abominations are shared and propagated to the masses. It’s the equivalent of the soundcloud artist and amateur painter from above except they can somehow get notoriety with their shitty and terrible work. YouTube is a good example of this where anyone with a phone can plop videos up that everyone in the world can see. There is no filter to prevent bad content from spreading.

You can really notice this as a trend if you know where to look. The meme progression is usually something like this: some random person makes a meme with a narrow context or something. The meme is funny because it’s new and unique and sometimes hilariously confusing because it doesn’t seem to make sense. Think of advice animals: why would animals give advice? It’s entertaining in its absurdity. Or spiderman giving a presentation, etc. I call this initial phase the “proto-meme” phase because it sounds cool enough.

Having a deeper sense of social media put yous in direct touch with proto-memes. I’m not saying Reddit is deep social media exactly but it’s deeper than Facebook, which is about as shallow as a puddle in a driveway. I’ve seen countless memes in more or less original proto-form on Reddit before they mature and make the jump to more popular sites like Facebook. As an example, this is something I think is representative of the proto-meme style that may or may not become popular in the future. I’m especially fond of r/THE_PACK because of how absurd and ironic everything posted there is. It’s like the shit your skeleton-, gun-, flag-, and motorcycle-image sharing uncle shares on Facebook but turned up 1000 times in intensity. Here:

AROOO MFER! Credit: u/IronicMerman. (The style of THE_PACK is even more interesting when you consider the fact that they’re a bastardization of things shared on Facebook. They’re like a reverse of what usually happens to memes: instead of going to Facebook to die, the style is removed from Facebook and memeified.)

Reddit itself is probably more descriptive of the second phase of memes where their popularity grows and people improvise on the formula. I want to call this something like the “classic phase” or something. This is where memes gain enough social critical mass where you can use them in wider conversations and situations. The meme is adapted by many interest groups and cultures even if they have their origins in niche communities. Spongebob memes can make the jump from being unique to TV and movie communities into the wider public. Or a video game meme jumps ship and is adopted by countless other groups unrelated to video games. Creativity flourishes and each community puts their own spin on the meme and interprets it in their own way, creating a cornucopia of memes based off the same initial idea. And most importantly they hold true to the form and humor of the original proto-meme.

After the proto- and classical meme phases is what I’d call the popular phase of the meme. This is what happens when a meme grows up and is adopted by the masses for use. And by masses I mean everyone. Usually you know this phase is upon a meme when your hopelessly out-of-touch and mildly racist aunt Karen starts sharing them on Facebook. Think about Minions. Facebook is the prime example here because it’s where popular memes go to die. It’s where clueless and usually older people get their grubby Boomer hands on our beloved memes, misunderstanding and corrupting them into something that misses the entire point of the meme in the first place. Case in point: the woman and cat meme, the topic of this post. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your travels through Social Media Land recently.

I loved this meme originally. It had all the hallmarks of a good meme: originality, absurdity with a woman yelling at a cat sitting at a dinner table, and a versatility that was impressive. You could adapt the meme or variations of it to nearly anything you needed. I found this on reddit a half year ago, the meme altered and depicting a certain scenario from the video game Apex Legends:

Part of the appeal of a meme is its “inside joke” quality, and this is prime example of such. You won’t understand this at all unless you’ve played Apex.

And my sister sent me this gem where the meme is tweaked to be about video game choices. It highlights the absurdity of the semi-popular and mocked belief that video games cause violence: humor, absurdity, and social commentary all wrapped into a picture of a woman yelling at a cat. It’s also an example of how damn versatile the meme is/was.

And I can’t forget this gem I found which doesn’t depict the meme as usual but pays homage to The Shining. I love it.

Anyways, as stated above the natural progression of a meme that becomes too popular, a meme that has such critical mass that it transcends sub-pop and pop culture, is that it enters mainstream culture. When your parents, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents get a hold of it. It’s when people use the meme as it wasn’t intended, a bastardization where one realizes the creator doesn’t understand the meme’s appeal and humor in the first place. And the saddest thing of all is when the meme is fucking politicized and used unironically. When the humor is stripped out of it and it becomes a way to say something seriously. To prove a point. To make a stance. To yell your viewpoint bluntly at people. To disguise this as humor. This isn’t how memes are meant to be used.

This one depicts the meme as a conversation-frame type meme, a misuse of its original intentions. I mean it’s now a lady having a conversation with a cat. Okay. It’s also kinda dumb.

I was originally going to only post the image, but realized that including the poster/uploader — the eloquently titled page “Cornbread & Cooter” — might say something about the type of people that fuck the memes up in the first place. Think of someone you personally know that would actually follow a page called “Cornbread & Cooter:” they’re probably a fucking moron. Sadly, my dad shared this.

This one depicts the cat looking at Greta Thunberg. Once again, Okay…

As above, I included the poster, “Country Folks & Patriot’s.” I don’t know why there’s an apostrophe there, but hey, I’m not surprised. Without looking you know it’s a page followed by a bunch of old out-of-touch people that live off a steady diet of Fox News and they took a popular meme and fucked it up and politicized it. And once again it isn’t even funny because it’s trying too hard to prove a point. There’s no humor because it has been replaced by a subtle hatred for Greta only disguised as humor, not that these people give a shit about the trees cut down in the first place.

And countless others that I don’t even want to think about. Naturally I don’t save these when I come across them and only upon writing a blog post do I have to hunt them down. And searching through a handful of Cornbread & Cooter’s images leaves you feeling exhausted with society and people in general. Sometimes I want to go hang myself.

The meme is then basically dead. When people who are out of touch with the original intent and humor get ahold of a meme and defile it, no one who properly knows how to use the meme will do so. It then becomes “uncool” to use (unless you’re being ironic) and the real meme-proficient people, creators, and wizards will stop using it. The funny thing is after the meme falls out of favor with its initial fans and adopters it will still find heavy use in the out-of-touch community because they have no idea that it’s not funny anymore. Once again think Minion memes. The only time these dead memes will finally disappear is when the out-of-touch crowd finds newer, fresher, and unmurded memes to leech onto and then kill. It’s a vicious cycle. The popularity of a meme is what will kill it.

Luckily, some memes seem to transcend this fate by being popular but not popular enough to be adapted by the demographics that will kill them. A few examples I can think of is Elon Musk smoking pot and the goddamn “Here we go again” screenshot from Grand Theft Auto 3: San Andreas. It’s pretty easy to see why they haven’t been widely adopted. Elon smoking pot is just too vague for popular adaptation because you need to know the backstory to see the humor in it. And CJ from GTA is hopelessly (and luckily) stuck within video game cultures and can’t transcend out of it.

A fresh cross adapting a GTA meme into something Stardew Valley related.

I suppose the real death knell of memes is when they end up on t-shirts or whatever. This kills the meme. When you start seeing memes on shirts the humor and the inside joke quality of it are just wiped out, murdered, with zero hope of return. And, oh, would you look at this…

HE’S DEAD, JIM. And no I’m not giving credit for this image because things like this can just go fuck right off into hell.

Sorry lady-yelling-at-cat meme. You were one of the better ones, but all good things must come to an end. A victim of your own success you were and while you’ve followed countless other memes into oblivion and while you’re surely not the last to do so, we will fondly remember the times when your were young, new, and full of promise to all of us. Farewell and Godspeed.

Note: I bitched a little bit about Facebook here, as I’ve done in many past posts, and if you’re curious for an entire book bitching about the negative things about Facebook, I wrote an ebook on it. Please check it out if you’re interested!

Rockford Sucks: A Love-Letter to my Home Town

Rockford is one of those cities that’s hard to explain to other people. It’s not an important city like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, or any other “big name” cities you’ve heard of. You can’t mention Rockford, Illinois to someone and have them understand what you’re actually talking about. Is Rockford a classy, small town in Illinois? A larger college town with a fancy economy supported by the mass of college kids in the fall and spring? An old, rundown, ex-industrial town like Pittsburgh? What exactly is Rockford? Hell, even people understand something upon mentioning “Omaha, Nebraska” as bland of a place as that actually is; Rockford is somehow even blander. Rockford doesn’t mean anything and it’s hard to explain something when it really isn’t anything at all. I can tell you what Rockford isn’t and that would be easier than describing what it is. Rockford is a lack of character. A shell in a way.

Rockford is close enough to Chicago to be described by it (“Rockford is close to Chicago…”) but far enough away for it to not really mean anything. Rockford is about 30 minutes away from the outer suburbs of Chicago like Elgin and Schaumburg and the miles of farmland in between excludes it from being a Chicago suburb. Sadly, Rockford would be more notable in this way. Rockford isn’t like Peoria, Moline, or Champaign where it’s its own shitty, solitary city, but isn’t close enough to Chicago to be a suburb. This leaves it in it’s own unique category of being “sorta near Chicago” but not actually part of the Chicago ecosystem.

Hell, we even renamed our airport years ago “The Chicago/Rockford International Airport” because being sixty miles away from Chicago still requires our airport to be named something-Chicago-something to be “notable.” Our airport, despite the name, has nothing to do with Chicago at all, except serving as a convenient location for diversions given heavy storms around the Chicago O’Hare Airport. That’s it.

Rockford is one of those derelict midwestern cities that has its days of glory well past it. The neighborhood I grew up in was surrounded by large and abandoned factories and buildings, and as a kid I always wondered what exactly was in them. I’m talking buildings that take up numerous city blocks that are five or six stories tall: what was left in their remnants? They weren’t being used anymore, but surely someone owned them? What was left in their carcasses? Most of the lower windows had long been shattered and boarded up after bored and mischievous teenagers busted them all out with rocks; you couldn’t even look in and see what the interior was like. The unbusted and boarded windows on the third story and above were obviously impossible to look through. These buildings always mystified me, long-dead symbols of something that Rockford used to be decades ago. Something that it wasn’t any longer.

Apparently the city used to be a heavily industrialized city, and I was told (I’m not sure about the factual basis here) that during the Cold War the Soviets even had our quaint and shitty city targeted by their ICBMs; decades ago Rockford used to be important enough that someone on the other side of the planet felt it needed to be destroyed in a nuclear first-strike against the USA. That’s something right? Sadly (not sadly?), this isn’t the case anymore. I was never concerned for a 9/11-style terrorist attack because of Rockford’s total lack of notability. If anyone wanted to make news, they’d hit a high-profile target. Not Rockford. Communism is long gone and no one feels the need to hurl nukes at Rockford anymore.

Rockford does have a few notable things about it though, if you could call them that. You might’ve heard of the Rockford Peaches, the female baseball team depicted in the Tom Hanks’ film A League of Their Own. You can even see the nearly-forgotten ticket booth that still stands near the river in a fairly run-down and shady looking neighborhood. The actual baseball diamond has long since been demolished and turned into a school. But the ticket booth still stands next to a bunch of shitty houses and small businesses in a neighborhood you probably wouldn’t want to linger in for too long.

I could’ve driven down here and took my own picture, but I also didn’t want to be bothered doing so. It’s not that big of a deal and it’s cold outside. Google Maps works just fine. Image from Google (obviously).

Rockford is also known for Sock Monkeys. No one ever explained to me why this was a thing. And I don’t want to read up on why it’s a thing either.

Cheap Trick, a fairly famous rock band popular in the 70s and 80s also came from Rockford. Strangely I’ve never really listened to them. In fact I feel less inclined to listen to them because they came from Rockford, like I feel pressured to be a fan because of the city I live in or some shit. Their most famous work is At Bufokado (really At Budokan but my attempt at spelling it as “Bufokado” was hilarious enough to leave in place) which actually is a pretty decent album. As for the rest of their discography? I have no idea. At Bufokado was good at least. All I do know is Rockford — the city, the actual government apparatus that is Rockford — felt that Cheap Trick was notable enough to plop signs up of them randomly around the city. I’m especially aware of the one on Spring Creek Road. It shows a bunch of old musicians with Rick Nielsen, their guitarist, looking like a fucking immature kid. Like that’s his look or something. With the stupid guitar with the five necks to it for some reason. He always has this goofy smirk on his face and something about him is immensely punchable (maybe he isn’t that bad). Cheap Trick. Rockford. Yay.

CHEAP TRICK!!1!!1 I’m kinda tempted to find the signs depicting the other band members — like a Rockfordian scavenger hunt — and since I’m a Good Rockford Residence and kinda a nerd for random classic rock knowledge, let me name the other three members: Bun E. Carlos, Tom Peterson, and Robin Muthafuckin’ Zander. Did I get them right? I don’t know.

Note: Rick Nielsen looks even worse when he was sporting a beard/goatee thing. Everything about that look oozes child molester. I don’t know how he ever thought that was a good look for him. Go Google it.

OOoo and before I forget, Fred VanVleet, a big basketball player dude, also grew up in Rockford. He won the 2019 NBA Championship playing with the Toronto Raptors. Yay? I mean cool for him, great job!, but who gives a shit that he grew up in Rockford? It doesn’t make Rockford any cooler; it’s not Rockford that made him win the NBA Championship.

The biggest thing Rockford has going for it (if you could call it that) is the aforementioned and terribly-titled Chicago/Rockford International Airport. UPS set up a fancy air hub back in the 90s — supposedly UPS’s second-largest sort facility — which drove literal tons of cargo volume to the airport. In the past few years Amazon has also begun setting up shop at the field and appears to rival UPS in the package delivery business. While air cargo companies don’t make the biggest news, the airport is rather lively, employing thousands of people to sort, ship, and load packages onto airplanes. In a city of 150,000 (as the sign on West State Street claims it to be at least) package and cargo companies might employee perhaps 1 or 2% of the entire city’s population. While no one really knows about it, the Rockford Airport Chicago/Rockford International Airport is a large cargo airport, one of the largest in the US (according to the link, the 19th largest. Well…). This is probably helped by the total lack of passenger and airline traffic allowing cargo companies to have the airport all to themselves. As the meme goes, it’s ain’t much but it’s honest work. It’s also where I work. (Surprise)

It is the popular and chic thing to talk total shit about Rockford. Everyone who lives here rips on the place nonstop. You can’t help but understand them to some degree. Rockford, as I’ve described, is kinda a black hole of nothingness. There is nothing notable about this place at all besides a few kinda random bullshit things. Old, derelict buildings. An old baseball team they made a movie about. The goddamn infernal sock monkeys. Fred VanVleet. AND CHEAP FUCKIN’ TRICK! It is your typical, bland, and unremarkable midwestern city seemingly well past its prime with nothing for its citizens to be proud of. You can’t make a career here outside of retail and customer service. Even if you find a cushy upper-management job in Rockford you’d almost certainly be working in customer service. Even shipping packages is another form of customer service. To really make something of your life you need to escape, at least to attend a college or a university, only returning with a degree to do something semi-notable.

But outside of all of this, what else does someone want from a city? I really think while some other cities are nicer, have more “going on,” have some semblance of a “scene,” especially in their downtowns, they’re all more or less the same. Sure, while Madison might be nicer, it isn’t some Eden-tier paradise to escape to. I don’t think any city is perfect, and while some are much better than Rockford by whatever metrics you want to measure, who actually gives a shit? While I hate Rockford just as much as the next Rockfordian, I guess I realize that it is home to me. These bombed-out, potholed roads are my bombed-out potholed roads. And the shitty Walmarts that constantly smell like marijuana? Well, they’re my pot-filled Walmarts. The forgotten husks of factories gave my childhood some mystery to think about. The bike path along the river, the lighted Morgan Street Bridge, the uneventful and dead downtown, the bums on the corners begging for money, and the drunkards stumbling around on the roads at 11 p.m., well, it’s all home to me.