I wish there was a petition that needed 10,000 handwritten names to end electronic signatures. I would be the first one to sign, and probably the next 9,999, too. With the ability to electronically sign everything nowadays, I fear I need to write down my inked-signature as much as possible before there’s no need for it anymore.
And that would be a tremendous tragedy.
Let me just note that I love technology. My iPod Touch doesn’t leave my side. My body only sleeps three hours at a time at night, before it forces me awake to check my Twitter and Facebook. And I never have to actually get out of bed to do this, because the iPod lies right next to my pillow the entire time. I’m also obsessed with all things Large Hadron Collider, and technology doesn’t get any bigger than that right now.
But the thought of electronically signing documents that once required an ink signature doesn’t sit well with me at all. I feel like the use of electronic signatures demeans uniqueness, and like most things involving a computer screen, promotes anonymity instead of authorship.
What if the Declaration of Independence had been electronically signed instead?
It would have been horrible! We praise those, who had handwritten their names on one of the country’s most important documents.
There had been true fear about signing the Declaration, but I’m sure a heck of a lot more names would have donned it if electronic signing had been an option. There’s no fear in declaring something from the safety of distance and obscurity. Why do you think there are so many trolls on the Internet? These people who have no problem tearing another person down for posting a video or writing a blog he or she didn’t like. People give despicable insults to others that they would never ever say to anyone’s actual face.
Take away the physical act of putting a defying pen to the Declaration, and it would have lessened the whole thing. It would have been too easy.
Imagine if King George III had confronted any of the electronic signers for their insubordination. Any one of them could have simply replied, “Oh, that wasn’t me! Someone else just typed my name on the Declaration. I swear. Independence… Pssh. Screw that!” And these fearful people could have gotten away with such a lie when everyone’s names are in a uniform font.
Who’s to say who typed whose name?
Electronically signing the Declaration would have left it void of the ink-soaked bravery that stains it forever. Those pen-wielders had balls, not keyboards.
Handwritten signatures can be so reveling about us. There’s that cliché that a doctor’s signature is always obvious. An inked-signature is telling.
I’ll never forget when I went to my bank to close out a savings account. I was a teenager at the time, and, well, it made no sense for me to have an account when I had no money anyway. I needed to sign some official paper to continue with the closure.
Except that there was a problem.
My signature on that day and time did not match my signature from a couple years prior. And my bank flat out refused to service me until I could convince them I was indeed me. I loved this. My signature had changed. I had changed. I had grown a couple years since I signed that paper, and my new signature was proof of that. It had not been a conscious choice either.
My signature had simply evolved.
To this very day, it is never the same two times in a row. Maybe I don’t have the mental capability to memorize every curve, bump or swerve I make in my name. I like to believe that, because my life is in constant flux at the moment, because I’m in constant flux, so is my signature. It’s a true representation of who I am. Neat and consistent handwriting be damned!
A person’s handwritten signature is like their thumbprint. It’s their DNA. It can be forged of course, but the intent is there. Most people take the time to consider how they want their signature to look. It’s this reflection of who they might be. It’s how they choose to have their name appear in the world. We have our actions and choices to define us. Our signatures have their misplaced dots, power “J’s”, or “e’s” that look like “a’s.”
Look, maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Electronic signatures have been around for a while, now, and I can’t envision a world in which every single document isn’t signed in this way one day. That’s technology.
But it makes me afraid of what they will become. Will the President sign an historic bill into law by simply pressing a “Like” button? Where does it stop?
I want to be able to look at a signed document and know the type of person who endorses it. I want to feel like someone gave the time and effort to leave a piece of him or herself on the page. I want freedom from the shackles of predetermined fonts. I want to be illegible. I want to be neat. I want to determine the level of difficulty it takes to read my name. I want the side of my writing hand to smear the ink as I sign my name. I want a pen. Let me keep my pen.
A couple of days ago, the world learned that Joe Paterno is a fallible God. He is caught up in an alleged molestation controversy at Penn State, where he famously coaches the Nittany Lions football team. Former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jon Sandusky has been accused of molesting eight children. Paterno admitted that he was made aware of Sandusky’s horrible actions and told athletic director Tim Curley. He never went to the actual authorities to put an end to it.
I am not here to place the blame solely on Paterno. He may not have alerted the police about Sandusky, but neither did Culrey, Penn State President Graham Spanier, and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who had actually witnessed Sandusky molesting a ten-year-old boy in the locker-room. The President has been fired, Culrey has been placed on administrative leave and Paterno was rightfully let go as well. McQueary? Well, last I heard, he won’t be coaching on Saturday, but he hasn’t been sent packing either.
What happened to those children is horrific and inexcusable. This is why the sympathetic reaction towards Paterno irks me so much. It is a reaction that does disservice to the victims and the moral obligations that we all have. Just because of his stature in the athletic world, should he be exempt from all this? This worries me so much that I was actually surprised to see Penn State’s board of trustees stand up to Paterno and fire him.
Make no mistake about it. Paterno is a Penn State God. His coaching legacy will live amongst the immortals. But he has been the worst kind of God. Paterno has been an idle deity- one that sits back, enjoys the status quo of his own glory, and does nothing to stop the heinous acts committed in his own kingdom.
He is the kind of God that creates atheists.
Yet, his glory seems to transcend his immoral inaction in people’s eyes, and that is ridiculous.
I assist in a sports writing workshop, and we asked our students on Tuesday whether or not Paterno should be disciplined for not reporting Sandusky to the police.
The class was split on its response.
“Why shouldn’t he?” we inquired to those who defended Paterno.
These students only had one response: “Because he’s a famous coach.” No matter the direction, their argument always came back to his golden career. This really disturbed me. No legal reason. No moral defense. Because he’s a famous coach.
This angers me to no end.
These teenagers in my class…the Penn students who rioted when Paterno’s firing was announced…those who stand behind him still…this is their only defense. Because he’s a famous coach. Because he has a legacy. Because he has glory. This is all an unfair stain on the astounding career of a fantastic and loyal coach. He has done so much for us.
But this is not a sports issue. Paterno’s legacy is a mute point. There is a word for the type of monster Sandusky is. There is a word for the type of person Paterno aided in not bringing to justice. Sandusky is a pedophile.
When I brought this point up to my students, their tone instantly changed. There’s something about that word that is so charged. It doesn’t beat around the bush. It’s harsh reality.
And the harsh reality is that Paterno, Spanier, Culrey and McQueary let a pedophile prey on his victims without ever doing a thing in the end.
I heard a clip of the rioting Penn students shout, “One more game! One more game!” They demand that Paterno finish out his Penn State career by coaching Saturday’s game. I can’t help but to imagine what Sandusky’s victims would say if they had known that Paterno and others were aware of their blight. Would they wonder how many more days it would take for just one person to speak up and put their torture to an end?
And that is the point. These men had the power to stop this pedophile and they did nothing. Once Paterno told Culrey of Sandusky’s actions, and it became apparent that he did squat about it, he should not have simply washed his hands of it. He was not freed of this horrible knowledge (and neither was McQueary).
This is a sad commentary on the moral and legal loopholes we give our stars. A riot broke out, because Paterno was fired, not because of the molestation allegations. So, I am not surprised that my students reacted the way they did. And I understand. When you revere someone the way that Paterno is, you feel an obligation to protect them and to have their backs- especially Paterno’s, who always has the backs of his players.
When my students tried to rationalize Paterno’s silence, one of them explained, “Well, he’s a players’ coach. He looks out for his guys.” This is true. But this is not football. This is not a game. This is criminal. The lives of children have been changed forever by a sicko- a sicko that deserves no protection from justice.
When a hero, when a living God, does wrong, we try to rationalize it. We often make him or her the victim. But this is the real world, and having a legion of worshipers is not a legal loophole. Paterno’s lucky. I’d personally like to see him, Spanier, Culrey and McQueary behind bars for nine years. That’s how long Sandusky was allowed to be on the loose, while they all kept their mouths shut.
For some reason, we as a society can’t separate people from the professions that make them famous. This is just another example. Love coach Paterno if you must. He has done great things on and off the field for Penn State. That can never be taken away. But ask yourself one question, and I challenge those who stand behind Paterno to answer this as well: What if it was your little brother, or your child that Paterno knew had been molested, and yet did not do everything in his own power to make it stop?
I asked the same thing of my students, and without hesitation, their response was to strike Paterno down with a vengeance. Those eight children, if Sandusky had set his eyes on them, could have been any one of our loved ones. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t give someone a pass, and then cry foul once we are directly involved.
Paterno, and everyone else who knew about the molestations and did nothing, let those children down, let the law down, and let those who believe in them down.
Joe Paterno, football God, deserved to be fired. McQueary deserves to be fired. They all deserve whatever repercussions this will bring them, because those children did not deserve what he and others failed to help stop.
If you’re on the toilet in a public restroom, and the fire alarm goes off, do you chance it?
I was plagued with this conundrum the other day, and I didn’t have a clear answer. And, truly, I believe this is an issue worth addressing.
My work place held a fire drill recently, and the timing was unfortunate. I was sitting at my desk, when suddenly Cheerios, milk, a plain bagel, two chocolate chip cookies and a small free decaf coffee teamed up Avengers-style, and was directed by Joss Wheadon to do the one thing he does best: kill a loved one. More specifically, my stomach loved the aforementioned foods it harbored, and in turn, they destroyed it the way that stars are destroyed- in a massive explosion of gas and matter.
So, I clutched my stomach, and prepared to stand up and make my way to the bathroom. Just then, a screaming alarm filled the entire building. As everyone jumped, I wondered, How do they know I have an emergency?
Of course, I did not really believe the building had alarms that react to the states of my own ones and twos, but the situation was dire. Instead of heading to a stall, though, I had to make my way outside with 600 other people.
For a moment, I considered going against fire drill procedure and rushing to the bathroom. But there were too many witnesses around.
So, after the words “Oh, dear Zeus why won’t you help me after all the turtles I sacrificed to you” passed through my panicked mind, I became preoccupied with another thought: What if I had already been in the bathroom?
Personally, depending on whether fire drill protocol called for supervisors to check all the stalls for stragglers, I believe I would have stayed.
But what if the fire was real? Do. You. Chance. It?
Let’s explore the benefits and downfalls of staying on the toilet, while everyone else evacuates what possibly might be a burning building.
Well, at least you’d be able to say that when faced with the possibility of death, you stuck to your guns that one time.
So, what would you choose?
It’s Halloween! And since Mother Nature decided to ruin the costumed plans my fiance, friends and I had tonight, I watched horror-related movies instead. First, I had a little of John Carpenter’s Vampires. The fact that I remember not disliking this movie as a teenager is not the most surprising thing about this flick. That honor belongs to Bon Jovi not being the worst actor in it. Seriously. Just watch the main woman try to act with words.
I will admit without shame that I had been obsessed with this movie back in the day. I was way more into the genre and I loved the music. It’s still my all time favorite soundtrack. So, today, I grabbed some pizza, wine and pressed play.
So below you will see excerpts of Queen of the Damned and Superman I. The Superman I clip shows the memorable scene where Supes macks on Lois by flying her around town. You see the exact same thing in the Queen of the Damned Clip. Superman and Lestat both even drop their lady loves at one point, only to catch them in a way that says, “Don’t ever back seat drive, because I could always just let you fall.”
Check in at 3:31.
I judge both women. One falls for a man wearing red undies on the outside of a spandex blue suit and the other…well, okay. I’ll give the girl a break. Her man at least doesn’t twinkle in sunlight.
Alright, finally, here goes the comparison between Queen and Ninja Turtles II. In the first video below, you see Super Shredder Barry Bonds his way up through the pier and then fight on stage. In the Queen clip, you see the Queen Super Shredder her way up through the stage. Is this a loose comparison? Maybe. But the snow ruined my plans and I had wine. Enjoy:
Check in at 3:34:
In conclusion, a Vanilla Ice dance sequence is probably the only thing that could’ve made Queen of the damned better.
from The No Niche
Welcome back, Philly- you miserable old-timer! It’s been way too long. What? Three years? We can finally stop this charade. No more distractions. No more parades. Just the longing and heartbreak we’ve missed so much.
It was only in 2008, when the Phillies ascended into baseball heaven with their second ever World Series win. I’ll never forget how Brad Lidge’s perfect arm struck out the final batter, and threw me out my door into the celebrating crowds. Everyone was so happy. Strangers hugged without groping (somewhat). Everyone’s voices became martyrs, as they willingly gave their lives for the life of the only two words that mattered: “We win! We win!” And, sure, some people turned over trashcans and committed plant murder, but they were happy.
It was weird.
This was not the Philadelphia I knew. I strolled through the heart of my city and was lost. Where was I?
Well, okay, I passed by an overturned car on Broad street, and warmed my chilled hands over a newspaper bin someone set on fire. So, it was still Philly in some way.
I was born in 1985. I don’t blame my parents per se, but a part of me is jealous of the children who were born into the current golden-age of Philly baseball (and silver-age of Philly football?).
I don’t remember much about the 80s. I was only five when I escaped them. But, man. The 90s. The closest our sports teams ever got to a championship depended on how straight a pitcher nicknamed “Wild Thing” could throw a ball.
In our sports history, before 2008, we had won one World Series, zero Superbowls, two Stanley Cups (and, in Philly fashion, the team was nicknamed the Broad Street Bullies), and three NBA championships. None of which took place in the last 28 years.
So, please, forgive our frustrations, or don’t. We don’t really care, because we get grumpy. We threw snowballs at Santa and batteries at outfielder JD Drew. To be fair, though, the Eagles were losing big time that day, and everyone assumed that Santa wore red as a target. And the fan, who threw the battery at the Cardinal’s outfielder? Well, he was just a moron, who’ll never see another Phillies game in this city in person, again.
I’ve witnessed fights break out in the stands around me during baseball games. When we were in the midst of yet another losing game, the majority of fans didn’t simply go home. We booed, spat, cussed, punched and kicked through our frustrations.
After 2008, we were still as passionate as ever. Our fans have been known to shut down all-star pitchers just by the sheer volume of our voices. But there’s been an almost scent of pretentiousness in the air.
We now expect to win. Kids these days (says the 26-year-old). This new generation of Philly sports fans doesn’t start every season with that deep seeded feeling that everything that can go wrong for our teams will. They’ve known what it feels like to start a season and know we’re going to win. That’s not a concept one lives if he or she has never known heartbreak.
Well, after the Philles, the favorite to advance into the 2011 World Series, couldn’t even make it out of the first round…after the Eagles have lost the majority of their games this year in ugly fashion, after spending top dollar for key talent, I can already hear the crunch of snow inside hands who prepare snowballs. I can hear the boos, and the sad sighs that follow the even sadder words: “Maybe next year.”
So, welcome back Philadelphia- you’re a grumpy, old bastard. And you’re not dying any time soon.
from The No Niche
Illustration by Kathleen Foley
Richard and Mildred Loving slept next to one another in bed like any husband and wife did during the late night hours.
But, unlike most married couples today, the Lovings had their slumber interrupted by police and a discriminating law that would not only have them spend the next few days in jail, but also lead to their exile from Virginia.
An Unaccepted Love
1958 was not a great time for Richard Loving, a Caucasian brick layer, and Mildred Jeter, his African American and Native American high school sweetheart to be in love.
Slavery had offically ended 93 years prior, but the country was still ripe with racial discrimination.
Mildred had been born in rural Virginia in 1939. These were the times of the miscegenation laws, which sought to keep the Caucasian race “pure” through the prohibition of interracial marriage.
But despite all of this, Richard and Mildred were in love (she was also pregnant at the time) and so the couple drove 80 miles to Washington, and did what Virginia thought an abomination: They were wed.
Five weeks later, they paid the price.
When the Lovings returned to Virginia, their marriage license hung proudly on their bedroom wall. But on the early morning of July 11, 1958, around 2 a.m., the sheriff broke into the couple’s bedroom along with two of his deputies.
“I saw the lights, you know, and I woke up and it was the policeman standing beside the bed and he told us to get out and that we was under arrest,” Mildred recounted in a 1967 ABC News report.
“Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?” the sheriff asked, as he cast his torch’s light over Richard’s face.
“I’m his wife,” Mildred replied. Her husband had been too gripped with fear to answer.
But Richard finally did show the sheriff their marriage license- the piece of paper that proved a Caucasian husband and an African American and Native American wife stood before these enforcers of Virginia law.
“That’s no good here,” came the sheriff’s response.
The Lovings spent the next several nights behind bars. Mildred had been jailed for a few nights, while Richard spent only one night.
Even though the Lovings were married in Washington, their license was invalid in Virginia as dictated by the state’s law. They were charged with “cohabitating as man and wife against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.”
The judge, who found them guilty, embodied the discriminatory law with every word he spoke: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The Lovings were criminals.
To avoid a one year prison sentence, Richard and Mildred agreed to leave Virginia for 25 years. If they wanted to return to their home state and visit their families, each had to make the trip alone.
Loving v. Virginia
On May 17, 1955, the Supreme Court had ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. On December 1 of the next year, Rosa Parks made the historic decision not to yield her front-of-the-bus seat to a white passenger.
So, with the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and its numerous victories, Mrs. Loving became inspired, and wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. He directed her to the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) where lawyers Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop took the case.
They were headed to the Supreme Court.
The Lovings’ lawyers discussed many ways to approach their day in America’s highest court. But Mr. Loving, no lawyer himself, but a husband, said, “Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”
His emotional words spoke to the very core of their battle. They had placed themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, but at the end of the day, they simply wanted to be able to fall asleep next to one another at home as husband and wife.
“We have thought about other people,” Mr. Loving said in a 1955 interview with Life Magazine, “but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”
With racial discrimination weakened throughout America’s legal system, the Lovings did it for interracial couples everywhere.
In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 to end miscegenation laws throughout the entire country. Sixteen states still had them in place at the time.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had also wrote the court’s opinion for Brown v. Board of Education, wrote in his ruling that marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as racial classification embodied in these stature…is surely to deprive all the state’s citizens of liberty.”
To this Richard Loving proclaimed, “I feel free now.”
The Fight Goes On
Richard and Mildred returned to Virginia as Mr. and Mrs. Loving, but soon after, tragedy struck.
Mr. Loving was killed in a car crash in 1975. Mrs. Loving never remarried. She was a quiet woman, who, never seeking out the spotlight, very rarely gave an interview.
But on June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Mrs. Loving delivered a speech in response to the politically charged issue of gay marriage:
“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.”
By the time of Mrs. Loving’s death in 2008 at age 68, she was survived by her son, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grand children.
At the end of it all, Mr. and Mrs. Loving could claim to be criminals no more. They were simply husband and wife.
from The No Niche
I had my first lover at 5-years-old. When we first met, she was dressed in orange. With my little, inexperienced fingers, I held her close, steam rising from her caramel completion, soaking my face, and her scent…it teased me with promises of great taste to come.
I couldn’t resist any longer. I pressed the orange mug against my bottom lip, and slowly tilted it up, and sipped. The moment the coffee tickled my taste buds, not even Cupid’s arrow could of made me fall any greater in love with the caffeinated liquid.
I was had, but it wasn’t just coffee I had fallen in love with. It was caffeine. That false energy. That pick-me-up. That wonderful hyper-ness that had me bouncing off of any wall I could find. I loved it. And I knew it loved me.
Our relationship lasted for years.
I used caffeine in many forms, but my favorite was coffee. Drinking it became as routine as breathing. Breathing is the most exciting thing one can do, even though it’s done without a second thought. You take a breath inside, and it gives you life. My daily cups of java poured life into me every single morning.
I would catch the 7 am bus to my university, and while everyone else around me moaned and complained about another day of classes or the crowded bus, I would sit back in my uncomfortable seat, my left hand warmed by a 12 oz WAWA cup of coffee, and my lips wrapped around the straw. Headphones clutched my ears, while caffeine and my favorite tunes harmonized as the first light of day broke through. Now, that’s how one survives the early morning.
Caffeine saw me through the tough times. It even helped me battle my life long war with utter shyness. Used to be a time when I couldn’t talk to one stranger, much less a room full. But, one day, I attended an event at a Starbucks, where writers were welcomed to read some of their work. Terrifying, right? Not after two large cups of coffee, and an inability to keep a single inch of myself still. Coffee gave me the caffeinated strength to get up in front of a couple dozen strangers, say a cheesy joke to break the ice and do the most intimate act an writer can do with another: I shared my work.
But, not even a year later, our caffeinated love story came to an end.
I started to develop dizzy spells, and constantly found myself breathless. Even scarier, every once in a while, my heart would pound as if it wanted out of my chest.
“What’s wrong with me?” I finally asked my doctor one day, expecting the worse. I’m a hypochondriac, so my imagination had basically given me a death sentence as I waited for the diagnosis.
“Your body’s having a reaction to bad anxiety,” he explained, and I let loose a sigh of relief. That doesn’t sound so bad. “Your heart is naturally beating fast, now. So, I recommend you don’t have caffeine anymore.”
The Sun instantly sank. Storm clouds rolled in and unleashed Armageddon. It was the end of the world. Of course the doctor didn’t notice any of it. It was only the end of my world.
Caffeine had betrayed me. I gave it my heart, and it wanted to give me a heart attack.
I had decided right away that I’d have to break up with caffeine. Like I said, I’m a hypochondriac, and nothing removes Cupid’s arrow from one’s back faster than dread.
And that’s when I found myself on the run.
The very next morning, I caught the bus as usual, but nothing seemed right. My left hand felt oddly cold. I had my headphones on, but where was the harmonization between music and caffeine that gave me the motivational boost to make it through my day?
I tried to block it all out. I had dumped caffeine, and had to live with my decision. But right as I was starting to compose myself, I glanced out the window, and the universe slapped me in the face. Hanging high above the door to the building directly across from the bus was a huge banner that read, Grand Opening! Dunkin Donuts!
This isn’t happening! I told myself. Maybe I was just hallucinating from caffeine withdrawal. But then my eyes found themselves back down to the pavement, where a giant, man-sized cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee was waving his arms and dancing around.
I realized the worst was happening. Like a scorned lover, caffeine wasn’t willing to let me go without a fight. It would endlessly flaunt itself, tempting me to spend just one more morning together. Caffeine wanted to make me pay for dumping it.
I frighteningly realized that our world is completely saturated with caffeine.
Nothing demonstrated this more than the time my friend and I were walking through campus one afternoon. A salesgirl had pulled us aside, and asked, “Hey! Would you guys like to try some of our caffeinated water?”
How could I possibly survive in a world where my deadly ex stalked me everywhere? I couldn’t even trust water!
Like getting over any bad breakup, I had to rely on routine. I went through my withdrawal, while every trace of caffeine left my system. I had to block out those constant five hour energy commercials, and find a natural way to get a boost. I started to exercise. Like clockwork, I rode my bike everyday. I ate fruit. I got a little extra sleep. I, without Redbull’s wings, pulled multiple overnighters at school to finish projects, and survived!
In a caffeinated world, I am as unplugged as my coffeemaker. I’m free. But, I still wouldn’t completely trust myself in an empty room with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. She is my ex after all.
from Ew! Comic Books!
I attended the Wizard World Philadelphia comic con last weekend, and there were plenty of highlight-making moments that could be number one. It could have been hopping into the passenger’s seat of the 1960′s Batmobile and rolling out every single “Holy!” line that Robin once uttered. Or it could have been attending the hilarious Adam West panel. Or it could have even been when I watched a bunch of Star Wars nerds stage a very uncoordinated light saber battle.
“If they’re going to be virgins for life, you’d think they’d at least be good at this,” one woman onlooker quipped.
But none of these stood out as the number one highlight of the convention for me. No. Instead that prize belongs to the experience I had in the venue’s men’s bathroom. Yes, you read that right. The bathroom- the place I consider to be a black hole of misery wrought by the germs of number one and two. If my bare skin were touch any surface ranging from the door handle to an uncovered toilet seat, my hypochondria would Hulk out, and I’d have to rush home to my shower and WASH! WASH! WASH!
But, regardless, I had some pleasant surprises.
On one trip, I got to wash hands with John Schneider aka Johnathan Kent (sorry, I’ve probably only seen one episode of the Dukes of Hazard). I had to fight like all hell not to ask him how he could raise a son, who thinks all problems can be solved by anticlimactically flying through them.
But the moment worth having came during my first trip to the men’s room.
While I was waiting to wash my hands (which one too many nerds did not bother to do), the guy who had been stationed at the sink I was eying, turned to me and asked:
“Hey, dude, can you unzip me? I really have to take a dump.”
Which, indeed, would have been impossible for him to do, since he was wearing a black, blue and silver unitard. I had no idea who or what from the comic book world he was supposed to be. And with the costume’s zipper placed behind him, he had no idea how he was going to relieve himself without having a major catastrophe.
“No problem,” I said without hesitation, and I unzipped him.
The stranger gave his thanks, and I left the bathroom with a wide smile, not only because I couldn’t wait to tell my finance that I just unzipped some dude out of an unitard in the bathroom, but because the guy himself had not even blinked at the thought of asking me. He hadn’t been cautious about it at all. It was all so…normal.
And that’s what I love most about such group gatherings like a comic book convention. No matter the differing levels of nerdiness- whether you’re the nerd from which no obscure Star Trek reference can escape, or the nerd, who only buys one comic book a week, we are all kindred spirits. We all share a core interest, and that’s enough to make us completely comfortable with one another at these events.
And that guy in the unitard was completely comfortable enough to ask me to unzip him. And I was completely comfortable enough to oblige. Was I proud of myself? Yup. And so was Darksied, who was kind enough to give me a fist bump right outside of the men’s bathroom:
from The No Niche
Being biracial can leave you torn between two worlds, if you’re close to one parent and not the other. All of my life, my sister and I have only known my mom’s Ukrainian side of the family. We weren’t close with our African American father, and thus we only possess very minimal memories of time spent with his side. Beyond vague images of me jumping onto the back of my cousin April and demanding piggy back rides (I was that young), I don’t remember anything about them from back in the day.
On the other hand, with my mom’s family, we have our Christmas parties, Easters, birthdays and just random times spent together. We’ve always been an actual family with them.
Don’t get me wrong. I never willingly “chose” my Ukrainian side. My father wasn’t exactly a family man, and despite the efforts of my half-brother, half-sister and African American aunt, he didn’t want to keep in touch with them. They weren’t even invited over to our house. They were these mysterious figures that were already on this island called my family when I arrived, but I was ignorant to who they actually were.
They’ve been like the Others from Lost. They lived on the other side of the family “island.” Every time I looked at my father, I would hear whispers of a family that I knew nothing about. They had been in my family long before I had ever arrived, and yet had this separate life. They tried to keep tabs on us, too. I found out that they would call the house, and ask how we were doing. But they were often turned away. If Jack’s determination to save his camp from the Others had been as strong as my father’s lack of interest in his side of the family, Ben and company would’ve limped back to Otherville with their tails tightly tucked between their legs and never returned.
My father’s side never tried to kidnap my sister and I when we were kids, sure, but in the true sense of the word, they were Others compared to how I interacted with my white side.
But then came the day that my father’s death changed everything.
He had had liver cancer for over three years, and now it was ready to claim his life. Whether he wanted it or not, every bit of his family would arrive to say goodbye to him at the hospital.
I will never forget getting off of the elevator onto the ICU floor. I walked into the waiting area, and before me I saw two African Americans: A man dressed in a correctional officer’s uniform, and an older woman who appeared to be in her 60s. They noticed us, and immediately stood up. But I looked at them with unsure eyes, and approached with caution.
Are they family? I wondered. I had no idea. I hadn’t seen them for well over a decade. They were more air than water or blood.
My mom embraced them.
“How are you, Sheldon?” she asked the man. I know that name! This was my half-brother.
“And this is your Aunt Gene,” my mom also had to introduce the woman.
Then my sister and I gave our hugs, but a part of me wanted to reach out for a hand to shake instead.
Soon, more and more of “them” arrived, and we all found ourselves in my unconscious father’s room- our fingers intertwined, as we stood in a circle around the bed, and prayed.
This was a true family moment. And I felt as uncomfortable as any complete stranger would feel.
Being close to one side of the family over the other can happen to anybody- biracial or not. The complicated issue with biracials, though, is it can be perceived as choosing a “color” as well. It wasn’t just my mom’s side or my father’s side of the family. It was white and black. This made it that much more uncomfortable…especially with the charged feelings that come with the black and white divide.
This is probably far from the truth, but I felt as though that side of the family believed we thought we were better than them in some way. I’ve proclaimed all my life that “I’m half!” but I have really only known the white side. I’ll even brag about being half Ukrainian, because it always seems to catch people by surprise. So, when the time came, and I stood hand-to-hand with these Others, I felt like I had betrayed them in some way for being so close to my mom’s side…because not once in my life have I ever evenly floated between the two worlds.
But the gravity of the African American world suddenly started to pull on me as much as the Ukrainian one.
A couple of days later, I was introduced to my African American niece, nephew and more cousins. Who knew I even had them? I certainly didn’t! I learned about what schools they attend, what languages they study, what sports they like, what goals they have in life. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged. There was laughter, tear-soaked eyes and hugs that felt more and more natural.
At the foot of my father’s deathbed, strangers became family for the first time.
A week later, after the funeral, everyone came back to our house. We opened our door to the Ukrianian and African American sides of my family. We shared a roof. We told stories. We laughed. We ate together the way that families eat together. And I knew we were all indeed family, especially when my Ukrainian uncle and African American aunt tried to drink one another under the table.
Over the last couple of months, I find myself Facebook friends with a number of my Afircan American family members. Facebook certaintly can’t turn water into blood (although, I’m sure there will be a button for that one day), but it’s a start. My girlfriend and I even had the joy of recently visiting my cousin April’s house for the first time (no piggy back rides were allowed, though).
I now find myself floating closer to the middle of my two worlds, as I embrace the Others like the familiar family they should have always been.
from The No Niche
Baseball just got a little less traditional. Eri Yoshida, a Japanese woman who is 5-foot-1 and 115-pounds, has taken the professional baseball world by storm with her sidearm knuckleball.
The 18-year-old pitched on Saturday, May 29 for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, and became the first professional woman pitcher in the United States since Ila Borders in 2000.
The knuckleball is the hardest pitch to throw and hit. Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s finger tips, it dances around like a falling leaf caught in crisscrossed winds until it hopefully lands in the catcher’s glove. Even the pitcher him/herself only has a general idea of where the ball will end up.
Yoshida’s doesn’t disappoint. Some of the knucklers she threw were compared to her idol’s, Tim Wakefield. She pitched a scoreless first inning in her debut, before giving up four runs in her last two frames. She even contributed a RBI single in her first at bat. Her stats: five hits, four runs and one walk in three innings. Not bad considering the amount of pressure and excitement that must have coursed through her history making veins.
Yoshida’s competition was no joke, too. It was second only to the Majors.
“Look at the rosters,” Mike Marshall, Yoshdia’s manager on the Yuma Scorpions, and a former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, explained to the Associated Press(AP). “You have Double-A, Triple-A, big-league guys. This isn’t affiliated rookie ball; this isn’t affiliated A-ball. This is way up there. These are 25- to 35-year-old men she’s playing against.”
Yoshida has made it pretty far. But, just like with any knuckleball, I’m concerned about where Yoshida will end up.
I love this whole story. In the most traditional sport of sports, Yoshida, who pitched in an independent league in Japan last year, is a great breath of fresh air. What I fear most about her accomplishment is it turning into nothing more but a meaningless spectacle.
No doubt her current team is going to make money thanks to her presence. Yoshida is a true rarity, and fans of baseball and human interest stories will come out in waves to see her pitch. The Outlaws held a Girl Power Night during her debut, and are now showing all of their home games online. Yoshida is a money maker. She even has a stage name: Knuckle Princess.
Her presence makes the game about more than just baseball. It’s history. It’s spectacle. But which one will win?
Does Yoshida have a real chance to make history? Could she one day go head-to-head with an actual MLB batter? Maybe even participate in a knuckler’s pitcher duel with Wakefield?
Here’s what one commenter on the AP had to say:
As a pitcher in Chico trying to make it myself, I have to disagree with hiring a women just because she brings in alot of cash for the team. I know it is a business, but she is taking the place of someone much better who has a real shot. I have seen her pitch and she is below average at best. Anybody can be a knuckleball pitcher. Pitchers don’t go that route because it just doesn’t work very well. I could start being a knuckleball pitcher tomorrow and be just as effective and wouldn’t even be considered. On a positive note, I am glad she is inspiring many young girls to play, and after all that is the whole point. To bring joy to fans.
Not many pitchers go the knuckleball route, because the knuckleball is hard to master. Yoshida’s unspectacular performance could be due to carrying the weight of baseball history on her finger tips. There is an underlining tone to the pitcher from Chico’s statement. A woman pitching among men is seen as nothing more than a gimmick right from the start.
This best represents what most closed-minded people will think.
“A woman should be confined to the world of softball. Leave the Big Leagues to the men” has for too long been the way of the baseball world. And as long as people keep to this way of thinking, women with MLB talent will have their goals crushed before their spikes ever dig into a mound.
I sincerely hope that the whole point of Yoshida’s story isn’t “to bring joy to fans.” I’m sure she would agree. She, like any player in the minors, is trying to make it to the Majors. MLB has for too long stuck to its archaic traditions, and has fought the chance to evolve at every turn. Just look at how long its taken instant replay to join the game. Just look at how a limited form of instant replay prevented history on Wednesday night.
People will cry afoul at the thought of a woman pitching at any angle other than underhanded.
Yoshida deserves to have the chance for her dreams to come true. She deserves a chance to make real history. The shackles of MLB tradition will never be loosened as long as women players are nothing more than a Girl Power Night attraction.
The team name, Outlaws, seems fitting for this 18-year-old woman. Yoshida herself is an under aged, opposite sex player, upsetting the traditional laws of baseball. I pray her signature pitch evolves into an un-hittable force that yells at MLB, “Bring on the big boys!” because what’s the point of inspiring young girls to play, if they’ll never have a chance to stand on a MLB mound?
from Ew! Comic Books!
Illustration by Kathleen Foley
Every time my fingers worriedly rubbed my right eye, dread clasped its steel hands around my throat, making it harder and harder to breath.
“I can’t believe this is happening…” I could barely hear my own words over the pounding of my heart. “No. No. No. No!”
Pain started to seep in the more I rubbed, and I knew I should stop. My eye was already shrinking as it was.
How come it feels so small? my thoughts shouted. I had been in the middle of Taekwondo class when I decided to remove some sweat from my eye. The very moment I touched it, I could have sworn it had suddenly become a size or two smaller.
I ran down to the restroom, my shrunken eye tightly shut, and my cellphone clutched in my shaking hand ready to call a doctor. I finally found the mirror I sought, opened my ailing eye, and saw that it was completely normal. My sigh of relief was heavy and all too familiar.
Just another day.
Hi, my name is Sam, and I’m a hypochondriac. Please pass the Purell.
Hypochondria is the paranoia that even the most insignificant symptoms are signs of the deadliest of diseases.
“I lost fifteen pounds?” I asked in bewilderment after I was weighed by my doctor during a checkup. “I’ve been riding my bike eight miles every day for the past month…” My watery eyes locked with his. “But do you think I have colon cancer?”
There is no cure for crazy. So, there is no cure for hypochondria. There’s only mounting co-pays.
We are on par with conspiracy theorist. Believe me. “I think my stuffed nose is a sign of liver cancer” sounds just as crazy as “I believe we are all minions of the lizard people.” I’ve seen the look on my doctor’s “Are-you-kidding-me” face. (Co-pay: $20.)
But, recently, I’ve come to realize I may have found the cure for hypochondria: not having health care.
August 31, 2009 marked my one year anniversary without medical benefits.
A health care-less hypochondriac. Such a self-contradicting creature can’t possibly exist, can it?
Hypochondriacs believe that every single little tingle, cough, and tan line are out to get us. Conspiracy theorist don’t believe they think in theory at all. They know without a doubt that the government already sold us all over to Scientology experimentation long ago. Us hypochondriacs know that an eye dilating is a sign of inevitable blindness and not just a symptom caused by low light. (Co-pay: $60. Eye specialist. Multiple visits.) I have rediscovered the same little mole on my arm dozens of times, and each time I knew it was a sign of some horrible fate, whether it was a tic, skin cancer, or molenitis- the imaginary disease I feared, after finding a second one, would cover my entire body in moles. (Co-pay: $0, but loss of sanity.)
Like conspiracy theorist, we hypochondriacs need other people to listen to us. Otherwise, we would be forced to listen to our own crazy thoughts.
“There’s this strange noise coming out of my nose every time I twist to the side,” I fearfully explained to my doctor one day.
“That sound is breathing,” he dryly responded. (Co-pay: $20, and the most embarrassing moment of my hypochondriac career.)
Doctors are to hypochondriacs what bloggers are to conspiracy theorist. Doctors actually listen to us. As long as we have health insurance, they will investigate our theories and examine us, even if for only a quick moment to determine that the sole thing wrong is the natural intake of oxygen.
For one full year, I didn’t have one medically trained ear to listen to my theories. This was a year that featured the outbreak of Swine Flu and Joe Biden’s declaration that he wouldn’t want his family to be in confined spaces lest the new flu get them. (I was in a subway car without my hand wipes when I found that out. Thanks, Joe.) I should have locked myself away in a germ free bubble with a bottle of Purell attached to my straitjacket. But, I’m sure access to a germ free bubble requires health insurance as well.
“I’ve been coughing a lot,” my girlfriend once stated with a half smile, as I drove. “Maybe I have Swine Flu.”
“Get out of my car!” I shouted, only half joking. (Co-pay: the doghouse.)
There were instances where I almost found myself back in the doctor’s office. $60 to see if my stuffed nose and the slight twinge in my right side meant liver cancer…again? I’m crazy, sure, but I’m not a rich hypochondriac. If I thought the rash on my hand would eventually lead to amputation (I did…), I had to take a deep breath, let myself think rationally, and realize it was just sunburn. No expensive emergency doctor’s appointment necessary. I had to force myself to see the absurdity in my thought process. That has been the pattern for over a full year now.
Not having health care has brought some sanity to my life, but I still clutch a bottle of Purell everywhere I go. Everyone needs a 99.99% germ-killing safety net. That’s only rational.
Zombies are usually something we see on movie and television screens, and they pretty much only have a one track mind: Eat humans. They chase people through malls. They chase people through woods. They chase people through pubs. They really need to find a new hobby. Well, in spite of most nerds’ dreams, zombies are fiction.
Or are they?
I’m here to tell you that not only are zombies very real, but they are, in fact, extremely useful. All you have to do to catch a glimpse of one is to look up into the black, and gaze upon one of our universe’s brightest objects: zombie stars.
Cue shrieks of terror.
But don’t worry. Unlike Sam Raimi’s zombies, these stars have no appetite for human flesh. But, just like the concept of zombies, when these stars die, they prey on the matter of a living companion star.
A Star’s Afterlife
Going against genre, these hungry stars are beacons of guidance instead of horror.
Zombie stars do have an actual name. They are classified as Type Ia Supernovae, which sounds technical, but doesn’t take anything away from these celestial phenomena. Supernovae are the type of explosion that even Michael Bay will never even achieve. Bad for the box office, but good for movies with plot.
So, what are the ingredients to trigger such an explosion- one so bright that its light can be seen 14 billion light years away?
Well, first you must realize that unlike our Sun, a lot of stars are part of a binary system, which means that two stars are locked together by each others’ gravity and orbit one another.
Eventually, like all things, both stars will die. For our purposes, things get interesting when one of the stars bites the dust first. So, let’s say you have Star A and Star B locked in a binary system. Star A’s life is over, which is to say all of the nuclear reactions in its core has ceased. Basically, Star A has become a white dwarf- a small, very dense star, which, appropriately for this piece, has a core made of Ash.
Anyway, while Star A has, in fact, died, Star B is still going through changes- one of which will be its transformation into a Red Giant. The star turns red and expands. This is actually the step in the star’s life cycle before it becomes a white dwarf.
In Star B’s case, since it’s now bigger and therefore closer to Star A, the dead star’s gravity brings the star to zombie status by sucking in the matter of Star B. It’s this that sets off a nuclear chain-reaction and sparks the zombie star’s stellar explosion.
Lighting the Unknown
Type Ia supernovae are some of the brightest explosions around. Again, they can be seen 14 billion light years away. That’s impressive to say the least. But what makes these supernovae so useful is their ability to basically all give off the same amount of light (zombie stars always explode when they reach 1.4 solar masses. That’s 40% more mass than our Sun packed into a smaller star!).
This has been paramount in investigating the great mystery of dark energy.
Our universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. Galaxies are getting farther and farther away from each other. This is odd, since gravity should be pulling everything towards one another. Dark energy is the unknown force that’s negating gravity’s influence and causing expansion.
We may not know much about dark energy- other than it might be an actual property of the fabric of space- but we do know it exists in large part to zombie stars.
As noted by Andy Howell of the University California, Santa Barbara in a recent Yahoo! article:
“We only discovered this about 20 years ago by using Type Ia supernovae, thermonuclear supernovae, as standard or ‘calibrated’ candles,” said Howell. “These stars are tools for measuring dark energy. They’re all about the same brightness, so we can use them to figure out distances in the universe.”
Zombie stars have become our cosmic map.
These scavenging candles in the sky made me realize just how primitive our species still is. On this planet, we use GPS, satellites and computers to get around. My uncle prefers to use the English-accented female voice on his GPS, he has fondly (creepily) called British Jane. A person can travel to the other side of the world from where he or she is currently standing, and the trip can completely be mapped out by any device capable of using Google Maps.
But on a cosmic scale, here we are, relying on dots in the sky to map our way through the universe, like old-time travelers, braving across the oceans for the first time.
As Howell notes in this ScienceDaily piece:
“The next decade holds real promise of making serious progress in the understanding of nearly every aspect of supernovae Ia, from their explosion physics, to their progenitors, to their use as standard candles,” writes Howell in Nature Communications. “And with this knowledge may come the key to unlocking the darkest secrets of dark energy.”
All we are right now are adventurers trying to map out the cosmos with a little help from the living dead.
Off the Rail
Quick and “out there” tib bits
Theorist Walter Cruttenden believes that our Sun is actually part of a binary system- possibly paired up with a brown dwarf. These are weak stars, and thus might be the reason why it’s gone undiscovered so far. So, will our Sun one day eat the matter of this star, if its out there? Well, that’s for the time span of billions of years, and possibly Sam Raimi, to figure out. And if our Sun does, don’t feel bad for it’s victim. Cruttenden believes that this mysterious star is responsible for patterns of mass extinction on Earth.
Also in this section: Often I like to plug scientific concepts into Youtube, and see what visual oddities pop up. The video below is Youtube’s take on Zombie stars.
from The No Niche
I sat at my third grade desk, with my hands hidden inside, and my light brown eyes lit with wonder at the magical pen between my fingers. It was a special pen, not one of those fancy, felt tip or gold-lined pens, but better than the average.
It came with five different colored inks- red, blue, green, black and purple.
What eight-year-old child- especially one obsessed with writing- wouldn’t find this splendid thing fascinating?
But as my teacher babbled on about the different types of clouds, my mind mingled with them- afloat in the sky, lost in the throes of creativity.
You see, my multicolored pen was so much more than a writing tool. Yes! It was something magnificent.
It was my pen- The Defender of the Universe!
I had loved the very popular television show, The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers at the time. Each of the Rangers had their own specific fighting dino-robot. If the villain of the week was too difficult to defeat with just their fist and feet, they would summon their robots and battle. And if the bad guy still would not fall, the robots would combine to form a single, powerful entity called Megazord.
I had been an expert at taking my pens apart and putting them back together again. What little kid didn’t find excitement in the destruction and construction of objects by his/her own hands? While my teacher was busy reading from a textbook, I undid the casing and pulled out the individual colored inks.
And I’d put on my creativity goggles. In my mind, the inks were five separate warriors much like the Power Rangers. They always had an enemy to face. It was usually a big eraser or a stapler. A thing that dishes out metal shards strong enough to forcefully bind other objects together against their own will? Staplers are the villains of school supplies.
Every day during class, my colored inks and stapler battled.
“Can anyone name which type of cloud hovers closest to the ground?”
Sorry, Mrs. Jones. There’s a raging stapler trying to destroy the galaxy. I’m a little busy here.
Most often, the stapler (or whatever I decided was the bad guy of the day) proved too strong for my inks to defeat, and they had to combine into a single, ultimate fighting force. I put my pen back together, and the stapler never stood a chance.
My pen saved the galaxy day after day!
But I fear it may not be able to save creativity.
I look around at kid toys today, and I fear the world has made imagination more and more obsolete.
With the rise of reality T.V., and toys that restrain creativity, a world-wide blackout on imagination has dawned.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an old geezer complaining about being left behind in the dust of present day progress. I’m only 25-years-old. “Kids these days!” isn’t a phrase that’s always on the tip of my tongue.
But, damn it, kids these days!
Around Christmas this year, my girlfriend and I were in Toys ‘R Us to buy a present for her nephew. I came across the Video Girl Barbie. Unlike Barbie of days past, this doll comes with a camera inside that records everything she sees.
Let’s ignore the obvious creep-factor of this toy. My problem is that it lessens the amount of creativity a kid uses to play with it. No longer will Barbie’s eyes be animated by the power of the child’s mind. Now, the doll literally sees things the way they are through a lens.
It’s all rather boring.
When my third grade pen looked at a stapler, it didn’t see a stapler. It saw what I saw: a villain that would darken all the stars across the galaxy. Nowadays, children see what the toy sees. Place a stapler in front of that Barbie, and it only sees a stapler.
It’s as if toy makers have to make toys as advanced as possible, today. When I was a child, whether it was a pen or a piece of string, I could easily play with it. Okay, maybe that makes me a cat, or, well, a kid simply being creative.
People would rather see life through the eyes of others. People would rather take a break from reality by grabbing the remote control and watching reality.
This isn’t always a bad thing. I admit to being a fan of Bridezilla (which is a topic for another piece). I love my iPod Touch and its applications (Pocket God!). But every now and then, I get the urge to reach for my pen and save time and space. Maybe I’ll have it battle the Video Girl Barbie and rescue creativity from its prison within the doll- the power button.
from Ew! Comic Books!
Let’s face it: The origins, powers and lifestyles of superheroes can be down right scary and disgusting to hypochondriacs and germaphobes like me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering what kind of diseases a radioactive spider can give me. And believe me, I’m not a traditionalist on this issue, but I’d much rather have web-shooters than waking up to find sticky, white rope leaking out of both my wrists.
I’ve bugged my family doctor for much less than that.
So, here’s my top five superheroes a hypochondriac and germaphobe never want to be:
1. Spiderman: I’ve been bitten by plenty of insects, and, being a hypochondriac, the psychological effects were always a 1,001 times worse than the tiny, non-lethal bump left on my flesh. Now, if I had ever been bitten by a radioactive spider, my gut reaction wouldn’t have been to test out my new powers, or try wresting. To tell you the truth, this would actually be fine at first. I wake up with better eye sight, super strength and a danger sense so powerful, I’d know to never let Spiderman 3 happen. But once I make the connection to the radioactive spider, my severe hypochondria would go into overdrive. What the hell is happening to me? Radiation! Am I turning into a spider? Radiation! I just sneezed…is my flesh going got start peeling off next? Radiation! Why do I suddenly have a taste for spandex? Radiation! And of course: What do you mean there’s an ultimate version of myself that has webs shooting out of his wrists? Damn the radiation! Eventually, I rush to the emergency room, visit my doctor’s office everyday and rack up more medical bills and payments for iodine pills than I can keep up with. I lose my home. Is it that harsh Parker luck? Nope. I’m not Peter Parker. Who am I? I’m a hypochondriac.
2. Batman: It isn’t Batman’s origin story or “powers” that make me want to reach for some Purell (with that suit and utility belt of his, he may actually be a hypochondriac). The problem is Batman’s rouges gallery. After a tumble with any one of them, I’d be freaked out for years that I caught something frightful. What respectable hypochondriac is going to go against Scarecrow? All that gas giving off those horrible side effects. Just imagine how much more afraid he can make a germaphobe of public toilet seats (aka public transportation), gas pumps and people who don’t wash their hands. What was that? Mark from two cubicles down didn’t wash his hands? He went straight from the urinal back to his desk? In my best deep, over the top Christian Bale voice, “Run!” I wouldn’t touch the Joker with a two foot Batarang. And I’m pretty sure after Bruce’s, ahem, “encounter” with Poison Ivy in The Long Halloween, I, and especially any woman, wouldn’t want to go near him. At the end of it all, Bruce, please just go see a doctor.
3. Mr. Fantastic: At first, I considered making this the entire Fantastic Four. Getting hit with cosmic radiation and developing the symptoms that those four adventurers did would freak out any hypochondriac. But Mr. Fantastic is a special case. It isn’t just the extreme elasticity (Oh my God! I can bend backwards and touch my forehead at the time. What’s wrong with me?!) The guy’s a genius, and he’s probably been to more worlds and dimensions than anyone. He most likely knows thousands of viruses and diseases that no one else has ever heard of. You don’t want to be a hypochondriac with that kind of knowledge. A simple sneeze might make you think you picked something up from that last visit to the Skrull home world. A sinus infection may be something deadly from the Negative Zone. And a sudden twitch in the eye might be something a seedy electron passed on to you from that visit to Superego, The Living Atom. Knowledge doesn’t just kill, or turn you into a cold-calculating jerk at times. To the hypochondriac who possesses it, knowledge tortures.
4. The Incredible Hulk: Hulk smash, because Hulk have no idea what wrong with Hulk. Hulk smash, because Hulk freaked out, because Hulk’s skin is green, gray, red, and when Hulk not smash, it’s white and puny, which make Hulk then want to smash again! Hulk also talk in third person only. What is wrong with Hulk?! WebMD says Hulk screwed! Spiderman say radiation! Hulk sick! Hulk can’t stop freaking out over what wrong with Hulk… Hulk smash, Smash, SMASH! And, thus, World War Hulk happened, because he’s a hypochondriac. Sorry for the spoiler.
5. Superman: You may ask, “But, Sam, what would be so bad about being a hypochondriac and invincible in every single way conceivable? If I were Superman, and I caught the sniffles, I would freak out and want to know what the #@$% is so horrible and deadly that it makes me, Superman, blow my invincible nose!
from The No Niche
Is this what the greatest Watson of them all looks like? From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:White-handed_Gibbon_Hylobates_lar_Black_1800px.jpg
My last name, Watson, is a pretty common name which boasts some well-known people. The Watson who puts the “Watson” in Sherlock Holmes’ most recognized quote, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson,” is probably the most famous of all the world’s Watsons, which is pretty bad ass, considering he’s fiction.
Thomas John Watson, Sr., former Chairman of International Business Machines (IBM), had the guts to once declare, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” An enormous miscalculation, sure, but give the guy credit for, what I assume, was his great love for type writers, pen, paper and stone tablets. In a world where newspapers and magazines are dying off (and me with that pesky Communications, Journalism degree!), I almost admire this Watson’s ill-informed statement.
But no one has made me more proud of my last name than a mischievous ape called, you guessed it, Watson!
This particular 8-year-old ape was the catalysis for some major ruckus at Jungle Island last week. Here’s some details from an article:
Saturday’s series of events started around noon when the white-handed gibbon, a species of ape native to Southeast Asia, escaped from his pen. A team of four animal handlers attempted to wrangle the precocious primate, Chatfield said, but he soon made his way to the tall, fenced area enclosing the tigers.
Watson’s presence sparked the interest of Mahesh, who became ‘excited’ and chased Watson around as he made his way across the chain-link fence.
Though he didn’t have a full view of how the tiger made it so far up the fence, Chatfield said he likely lunged, gaining enough momentum to reach the top, where he eventually fell over it.
Investigation is still under way as to how exactly Watson had been able to escape, but one eye-witness in the article claimed that the employee, who was feeding the apes at the time, left the cage door open, and Watson walked through. The ape was later found and captured while he stood on top of a picnic table.
Watson not only successfully escaped his confinement, and four pursuing employees, but then preceded to jump into a habitat filled with a 500 pound TIGER. At eight years of age, I was afraid to walk past the lose tape of cassettes that littered the ground, because they look like long, giant worms. Even at 25, I’m still terrified of snakes, and can’t overcome my fears enough to learn how to swim. This Ape-Watson, though? He had the bananas to piss off a tiger, and then have a picnic!
from The No Niche
The Island of Lost has a problem letting go
It’s a tough economy, and being an ’09 graduate, I have come to fully understand and experience the frustrating job market out there. May marked my one year anniversary of graduating from Temple University. I’m very aware of this anniversary, because I’ve now been unemployed for over a year. I’ve applied to over 40 jobs without even a whiff of employment. The other day I was denied from two employment opportunities. The first rejection e-mail came at the start of my afternoon, and the second at the end of my day.
So, in honor of my latest failure to land a job, and Lost’s departure from our television lives, I’ve decided to talk about what I call the Island Effect.
Lost centered around the lives of Oceanic flight 815 passengers who fatefully crashed onto a mysterious island they just couldn’t escape. No matter what their efforts, they found themselves on the coastline, staring out into an endless blue. Even when a few of them managed to get back to civilization (with beard and all), they inevitably found themselves back on the island, held by its unrelenting grasp.
Welcome to Angelino’s Restaurant…my island.
I crash landed into Angelino’s in November 2006 as a counter boy. I had to masquerade as both student and employee. I stood behind my counter for three years, answering phones, serving customers and doing homework. My class and work schedules often conflicted, and in my last year of school, I often had to choose between showing up to class and getting fired, or showing up to work and failing tests.
Angelino’s wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be, but as long as I needed cash, it was where I was fated to be.
And just like the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 in the first few episodes of Lost, I knew without a doubt that I would eventually be saved.
My “Someone will come for us!” was “Graduation will set me free!”
Well, it’s been over a year now, and that endless blue hasn’t gone anywhere.
I was supposed to fly away from Angelino’s on the wings of my bachelor’s degree. I, like any naive, recent graduate, told myself that I wouldn’t be at Angelino’s come that September.
That restaurant was my college job. It represented being stuck at the point in my life where I was still a kid able to use learning as an excuse to not yet have the job. It symbolized my inability to access the “real world.” But I need the money, right? Car payments…insurance…life. This, of course, doesn’t mean I have to stay at Angelino’s. I could go work at another restaurant, or in retail like I did at Borders for a few months. But, fundamentally, it wouldn’t make a difference. No matter if I’m at Borders, or restaurant B or C, they are all Angelino’s. They are all the same job. When the castaways reached Hydra Island, they were still trapped. It was still the island.
This is the Island Effect. No matter how many jobs I apply for, no matter the opportunities I take up, I end up back behind that counter, the paper and plastic bags the island’s grass beneath my feet.
Angelino’s does whatever it can to prevent me from leaving. A few weeks ago, my boss prohibited us all from reading and writing during work. This is a big dent to me, because having my books on the counter have lead to some great networking with customers. I’ve even gotten writing opportunities because of this.
So, like a true Jacob, my boss puts in measures that gravitates me to the counter, and has even told me that I’m wasting my time trying to have a life off the shores of Angelino’s.
I’m obviously not the only one feeling the Island Effect. When the economy went down, massive layoffs ensued. People who have worked 15-20 years in their profession are now applying for entry level jobs or selling coffee at Starbucks.
One of my co-workers had a job in his field, and his company was even going to pay for him to get his masters degree. Right before he was to start his classes, though, he was laid off, the sands of Angelino’s refusing to let him go.
Often, I find myself working with John Lockes on the island. They are the ones who have nested and adapted. Some of them even start to believe in the island, and refuse to leave, no matter how many master degrees they have. They have bought into the un-fullfilling safety that the island offers. Especially in this economy, those who may be stuck at that retail job, look at it as, “Well, I have a job. And that’s good enough.”
But I mustn’t buy into that.
I just don’t believe. I don’t believe I’ll forever be the steward of the counter. No matter how hard Angelino’s tries to convince me otherwise. I have to believe that somehow, someway the sideways notion that I will have an actual career is real.
“Pick up or delivery?” and the constant ringing phone are my button. I must keep answering that phone, must keep asking that question in belief that it’s all for a reason…that this job is all part of some cosmic master plan to land me my career.
My great fear is to have my career die on the counter of Angelino’s, and, instead of a dog, have it die next to my loyal- but usually not full- tip jar. Like on Lost, the Island Effect leads to desperation. But it does teach you about faith. It forces you to believe in yourself as long as you hold on to the desire to leave the island. You have to believe in yourself, and keep fighting, and keep paying your dues if you’re going to survive.
The moment you give in to the Island Effect, your career is truly lost.
from The No Niche
I’m half black and half white, and I’ve always looked at myself as living proof that the different races within our species can, in fact, get along. My mother (Ukrainian) and my father (African American) came together with blind eyes towards their particular shades of color, and created life. I’m testament to this.
But, recently, my parents have been upstaged.
Scientists have determined that modern humans have traces of Neanderthal in them.
According to the Associated Press (AP), when researchers compared the genetic material from three Neanderthals to five modern humans, they found that between 1 percent and 4 percent of genes in people from Europe and Asia trace back to Neanderthals.
Neanderthals, or cavemen, existed about 400,000 to about 30,000 years ago. Modern humans and Neanderthals lived amongst each other for 30,000 to 50,000 years in Europe and Western Asia. Both species lived in the Middle East thousands of years ago, and this study brings some confirmation to the long speculated idea that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred.
When I read about this, I thought, Why can’t we be more like our ancient ancestors and the Neanderthals?
Throughout our history, and even now, our species has done despicable things against its own members. We’ve enslaved, we’ve persecuted, we’ve discriminated, we’ve committed genocide. We, as a species, are guilty of looking at our own brothers and sisters, and punishing them for being different…all because we’ve never fully accepted the variations in our species.
Blond hair. Red hair. Blue eyes. Brown eyes. Tan. Pale. Tall. Short. Catholic. Atheist. Democrats. Republicans. We’re all one big family, full of diversity, but ironically, afraid of different.
I’ve witnessed this fear and un-acceptance 1st hand. During my time in my high school’s Black Culture club, two of the mentors and teachers told us that black students should ignore the white students who asked them their test scores.
“They just assume you did worse than them, and want to put you down,” was the adults’ ignorant argument.
I myself am half white, and didn’t understand why my white half would do that to my black half. They complemented each other so well. I obviously understood the history of discrimination and segregation against blacks, but without a particular incident at the school to validate the mentors’ statement, who were they to make black students mistrust the whites?
Of course, I wasn’t safe from white people, either. I got turned away from lunch tables, from a white relative’s house, and, in grade school, relentlessly made fun of because of my curly hair.
“I remember when your uncle showed up with a black girl from work on Ukrainian Christmas at your grand mom’s house,” my mom recently told me. “Grand mom and grand pop were quiet the entire time and exchanging looks.” She then admitted, “I was living with your father at the time, and they didn’t know.”
Even about a decade after that Black Culture club, I see the emphasis on different still brought up by children.
“Yo, did you know he has a white girlfriend?” an African American 4th grade student of mine, where I tutor, asked another, referring to me. She expected a shocked response back.
It’s disheartening, and insulting (especially to a mixed person like myself) that a question like that is still so easily asked in this day and age. It’s even more sad when you consider that thousands of years ago, different species came together to create life…our life.
The resistance against homosexual marriage is proof that our species still doesn’t fully accept one another, and seems utterly ridiculous compared to the boundaries our ancestors had crossed. Proposition 8 was passed in California almost two years ago, and defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Those of the same sex who want to be together cannot. The same gender of the same species can’t be together, but different species were?
All of this makes me yearn for the days of the Neanderthal. Neanderthals were a different species than us. This is a difference that goes beyond skin color, religion or sexuality. Yet, as our genes now prove, our ancestors got along with them. Our ancestors accepted them. Our ancestors shared “beds” with them.
But with our species still focusing so much on different, Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany warned that the study could be used in a negative way.
The Neanderthal traces in genes of humans were found in people from Europe, China and Papua-New Guinea, but not people from Africa. Paabo suggested to the AP that those who want to perceive this in a racist way to state a difference between Africans and non-Africans will most likely do so. But there are two ways to look at the finding. One is that people outside Africa could actually be more primitive because they have Neanderthal in them. The other is that it may be, for some unknown reason, beneficial to be linked to Neanderthals. With traces of their genetic material in us, one could argue that we’re not even completely human!
We come across data that shows our ancestors mated with those of a different species, and there’s fear that we will use this as a tool for even more discrimination? What an embarrassment we are to the Neanderthals! It really puts into perceptive just how un-progressive our species has been throughout history. We’re certainly less progressive than we were 50,000 years ago.
I left the Black Culture club, because I couldn’t be a part of something that showcased people who heightened mistrust and discrimination between races. It was an insult to who I am, and if my parents had behaved exactly how those mentors said blacks and whites do towards each other, I would never even exist.
With all of our advances in medicine, technology and understanding of the cosmos themselves, I hope we can one day regress back to caveman time, when such an astounding acceptance of different was way ahead of our time.
from The No Niche
I killed a man once. Believe me, though. He had it coming. He struggled- like any man would if he were about to lose his life. But, I did it without compassion, without remorse, and with a great focus that he inevitably realized there was no escape from.
Yup. I killed Big Sam, and he had it coming.
Like any person born into this world, Big Sam’s birth didn’t happen over night. It took time. His parents were a 14 inch sausage, onion and cheese pizza that hooked up with a foot long chicken cheese steak with mayo and ketchup. Night after night they would often meet up inside of my stomach, and lay the ground work for Big Sam’s conception.
I worked at a restaurant, and when I told customers that I loved our food, there was no salesmanship involved. The food was really just that good. And, of course, the food was even tastier, since I was allowed to have it for free after my shifted ended.
Big Sam’s parents conned me.
“Feeling down today?” they’d ask me with their delicious grins. “We’re here for you. Take a bite out of our listening ears and caring shoulders. We’ll make you feel better!”
Thus, Big Sam had been born. It was a slow, but tasty process, and I didn’t sense his presence for a long time. I was completely clueless to all of the signs. My jeans were tighter than usual. My shirts didn’t slip on as easy anymore. Tell tale signs of weight gain, sure, but my denial goggles were firmly in place.
Big Sam had been following me. Stalking me- sabotaging my life from the shadows. And those had to be some pretty huge shadows.
I knew that sadistic bastard felt victory with every pretty girl that didn’t return a smile, with every jean button that wouldn’t button, with every flight of stairs that took five extra minutes to climb.
But, Big Sam got sloppy. And not just four sloppy Joe sandwiches for lunch sloppy.
I eventually caught him.
I had gone out one afternoon with a friend of mine. We ventured around Center City, Philadelphia with our cameras, and took tons of photos. When I got home, I sat down to comb through them. It only took one click on one picture of me to see the harsh truth.
Now, they say that a picture speaks a thousand words. My picture only said two: “You’re fat!”
But that couldn’t be possible! I’m not fat! So, who was this guy, who was standing in the very spot I was supposed to be?
He was wearing my short sleeved, gray shirt. It was usually a size too big for me, but on him, well, it must have been about to rip at the seams. His belly was swelled and rounded. Every time I blinked, I felt as though it grew, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before Steve McQueen would show up to defeat his Blob of a stomach.
And his face! Where did those puffy cheeks come from? And that double chin! Who was this guy I had never seen before? What did this…Big Sam do with me?
It was all out in the open. I caught him. But, now what? He had been in my life for so long. What could I do? Could I even take Big Sam on in a fight? He weighed 200 pounds to my average 163.
Living with him was insufferable.
I couldn’t go anywhere without constantly looking over my shoulders, now that I knew he was there. He must have been saying some bad things about me, too, because I came to realize how differently people looked at me. I even went to his parents time after time to ask them to keep their big boy away from me. But, I always lost the argument and left overly full.
I had become a sad, desperate man. Paranoid. Eyes to the ground as it shook with every heavy step Big Sam took. His constant presence even became too much for the girl I had started dating.
“I like my guys tall and thin,” she told me, without tact for rejection.
If I could have dropped that round belly of his into the inescapable lavas of Mount Mordor, I would have done so without a hobbit’s moment of hesitation.
A couple of months later, everything would change.
I went to a club for a pal’s birthday party. A girl I had not seen in three years, but had a crush on, was also going to be there. I wasn’t going to forgo the chance to reunite. So, I went, and, yes, Big Sam was right there with me. But with oversized clothes, and the darkness of the club, he remained pretty well-hidden. The girl never noticed, and after the night was over, I felt there was something more than a hidden belly of fat between us.
I decided I wanted to see more of her, but what about Big Sam? I surely couldn’t convince the girl to go to dark places all the time. We’d have to be out in Sun light and well-lit places at some point.
So, I knew what had to be done. I had to kill Big Sam.
I wish I could say the killing of Big Sam took some creative thinking and ingenious planning. But, it didn’t. I wielded no carbohydrate-less weapon complete with a vegan silencer. I didn’t hire professionals to take Big Sam for a ride, and drown him in a protein shake river. I didn’t even result to torturing him with fancy equipment, and DVDs of Tae Bo or Pilates before I officially put him out of his misery.
I simply took him outside and made him run. Didn’t even put a gun to his back. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, looked him straight in the eye, and told him, “I have no choice, but to make you do this.”
Big Sam ran day after day, and if scheduling conflicts got in the way, night after night. I made him run from anywhere between 30- 40 minutes with nothing but that focused look in the mirror to carry him on. His time was up.
I killed a man, and I’m not going to pretend it was easy. There were times I wavered. What if someone caught me in the act? Who wouldn’t notice that sweaty belly flailing all over the place while running? Could I handle that attention? What if I wasn’t strong enough to follow through? I worked in a restaurant after all, and was always amongst the delicious parents of Big Sam. They didn’t want their big boy to die off, and they protested my intent with every savory scent and cheesy glance they threw my way.
But I dumped the 14 inch sausage, onion and cheese pizzas and the foot long chicken cheese steaks with mayo and ketchup. I forced turkey sandwiches, apples, pasta and salads with grilled chicken down Big Sam’s throat.
“Choke on that!” I’d scream at the fat.
I forced Big Sam to run, because my life depended on it. By sheer force of will, sweat and bone, I made him take off. And about two months later, and 40 pounds shed, Big Sam proved to be a dead man running.
I killed Big Sam not only for the girl. I did it, because he embarrassed me. I killed him, because I couldn’t let him make me feel bad anymore. I killed him, because he made me look into a mirror and not recognize the reflection staring back. I killed Big Sam, because he had it coming.