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The New Whim Grace Album is Gorgeous. You Should Buy It

Whim Grace promo photo for Black Holes and Unicorns Being a music critic is not really my thing. In fact, I’ve always loathed album reviews. They’re so often eye-rollingly pretentious and chock-full of subjective blabbering intended primarily to meet the minimum word count demanded by somebody’s editor. Endless yammering about idiosyncratic chord structures and time signatures, esoteric influences and the deeper symbolic meaning of this lyric, or that, topped off with insider stories intended to give the impression that the writer is somehow cool, simply by virtue of being aware of some trivial anecdote that not even the band itself would bother remembering. I actually believe that any academic analysis of art is, at best, irritating and pointless, and at worst, a real cockblock to the mind’s ability to simply take a creative work at face value and just, you know, feel something. But Whim Grace is a friend of mine, and she asked me to take a listen and write my thoughts on the album. I agreed, because I have long loved her work. So I listened. And then I listened again. I’ve been listening, for months now. I knew I liked it, but I didn’t really know what to say about it, without falling into the aforementioned quagmire of pretentiousness, so I didn’t write anything. And then I started to feel bad, because I kept not writing, which gnawed at me, because I had made a promise. But still I kept listening to the album, again and again. That part was easy, because it’s really good. Then I decided to just describe it the way I would to a friend. Continue reading

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IT WAS THE ECONOMY, STUPID: Lessons from the 2016 Election of Doom

Income inequality is the cornerstone of repression. Hate for “the other” is a vehicle manipulated by the rich to divide and conquer the poor, who if united, could easily overpower them. Ultimately, Clinton and Trump represent two sides of the same 1% coin, and every time we allow ourselves to get mired in fights about race or gender or sexuality or free speech or emails or religion or even football, they win. Certainly, many of those are serious issues, and they deserve to be addressed by calm, rational people who are willing to hear multiple sides of the argument before rendering decisions. But it is hard for people to be rational when they are angry, anxious, and hungry. The primary concern of ALL people, blue or red or in between, should be to come together and fight for a more level playing field for everyone, and that starts with income equality.

Don’t believe the hype. There is enough to go around. There’s enough for every person to live safely, comfortably and happily, and still allow some people to be extremely wealthy. Don’t let them convince you that it’s the Progressives or the Regressives or the Democrats or Republicans or the whites or blacks or gays or men or women or anyone else that is keeping you down. It’s a few handfuls of extremely rich people who have laid us all out along their own rigged Monopoly board, forcing us round and round in seemingly infinite circles, with no real hope of attaining anything better than bankruptcy or death.

We were all gonna lose, this time, either way. But before we all devolve further into this deepening spiral of fear and loathing, let’s try to remember that income inequality reaches across racial boundaries, gender boundaries, sexuality and religion. It reaches across state boundaries into red areas and blue areas. It affects the great majority of us, to varying degrees. It represents a gushing bullet wound to our Democracy. Racism, sexism, homophobia et al are all serious wounds, in their own right, but this is the one most likely to kill us. We have to start there.

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Is Mike Pence the True Sith Lord?

With all the talk about what a flagrantly racist, unapologetically misogynistic, constantly lying, gleefully cheating, small-business-ruining, contract-breaking, bankruptcy-declaring, ignorance-espousing, lawsuit-dodging, tax-evading, troop-disparaging serial divorce-enthusiast Donald J. Trump is, it’s perilously easy to overlook the fact that his barely-in-the-closet lackey is a homophobe of the highest order, a religious zealot on a level that would make even a Mormon blush, and a die-hard enemy of women’s rights who is, in reality, a far-scarier prospect than Trump, himself. To put it another way, Mike Pence may well be the dark Sith Lord to Trump’s Darth Vader. What’s worse is that there is a very real possibility that the endgame of the Republican Party is to leverage Trump’s unexpected popularity to pull a pump-fake on the electorate and sneak in a candidate that makes Ronald Reagan’s Golden Age of conservatism look like free kombucha day at the Berkeley farmer’s market. It’s a conceivable outcome, and you should be freaking out right now. 

Trump is just a Trojan asshole

Is Trump just a Trojan asshole?

One of the favorite catchphrases of the Right, when trying to leverage and inspire fear and loathing for outsiders in order to push their conservative agenda, has long been, “They hate us for our freedom.” And while the validity of that statement may be arguable, anyone more worried about the threat of foreign terrorists than they are about the very real erosion of domestic civil liberties proposed by this idiot, is living, breathing evidence of the nascent victory of terrorism, itself. This guy wants to roll back pretty much all of the freedoms for which “they” hate us. You know, classic Leftist Utopian stuff like the right of gay people to breathe, the right of women to decide how many people can live inside their own bodies, the right of people not to worship an ancient invisible space-wizard in a state-sponsored mandatory prayer gulag. That sort of thing. Now ostensibly, ISIS (and similar extremist Islamic groups) and Christian fundamentalists are at war. They’ve publicly stated as much for thousands of years. But the thing is, they’re really not all that dissimilar. I’ll put it simply. ISIS and the extreme Right (for whom Pence is a wet dream of a poster child) are like burritos and tacos. On the surface, they appear to be different, sure. They’re different shapes and different sizes…they come in different containers. But on the inside, the ingredients are essentially the same. Look it up, if you don’t believe me. Their ideologies stem from the same original trilogy, and they all believe, more or less, in literal interpretations of the same ancient rules. No rights for women, no rights for gays (or anyone else who is not a straight male with money, really), the formal integration of church and state, and so on. And, unsurprisingly, neither believe in climate change, or much of anything else related to science. Take away the wardrobes, beard length and skin color variation, and there’s not a whole lot of difference.  Continue reading

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Mike Pence is Obviously Super Gay, You Guys

Mike Pence is so obviously gay, the only way he could be MORE obvious would be if he came out and told us that he's gay.

Here’s the next in line for the classic Republican cliche of being an outspoken homophobe who secretly loves the D.

Mark my words – it is simply a matter of time before this guy gets caught with a male intern or well-hung prostitute or a gaggle of little people dressed as hobbits dancing naked around him chanting about how his cock ring rules them all. It’s almost a universal truth that those who scream the loudest have the most to hide. Few have tried harder to bring shame and degradation upon the homosexual community, than this guy. He as a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. ZERO. To put that in perspective, AIDS has a 10% rating.

You’d have to be blind not to see that he has to be hiding something. Also, his hair is maybe a tad too perfect.  What amuses me most is that he thinks we don’t all see right through him. What saddens me is that I genuinely pity him, in a way. I can’t help it, but I’m a decent human being who respects and cares for my fellow man, and I definitely love me some gays. And clearly this frightened little homophobe is suffering from severe repression and probably all sorts of related side effects. Not that that justifies his being a loathsome douche-canoe of epic proportions, but still. I just want to take him to a big gay West Hollywood party, serve up a smorgasbord of dongs and man-butts and say, “Hey there little fella. Go ahead, have a ball. Hell, have two!* Knock yourself out. Just be gay. Have fun. Life is for the living. You’ve been lied to for too long. Let go and let gay. You’re gonna be OK.” And then he, the LGBTQ community, and the world at large would suddenly become so much brighter and happier. You might even say gayer. And also he and Trump would get eaten alive by their own base and annihilated in the election.

If only…

*ZING

Find out more about what a backwoods homophobic religious extremist Mike Pence is, and how he wants to make life harder for the LGBT community, at the politically-neutral and thoroughly cited On The Issues website

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Just Kill Yourself Already, Brock Turner

Brock TurnerDear Brock Turner,

You are a soulless, spoiled, utterly useless sack of shit, and you deserve to die. That’s as nicely as I can put it. You are scum and the world will be much better off without your smarmy, shitty little fuckface polluting it for even one more minute. You are the poster child for everything that’s wrong with rich people, white people, athletes, Californians, and men, in general. In fact, you’re everything that’s wrong with this country. Well ok, not everything. It’s not fair to pin Donald Trump on you. If anything, it’s the other way around. But still. You’re a degenerate black hole of selfish, ignorant, entitled shitfuckery, and you need to go. I hope that’s clear enough for your repugnant little dickbrain to process. Not that I particularly care. My intention here, though veiled as a sympathetic advice column, is to warn other narcissistic, self-indulgent fuckwits that there really are consequences for their actions, regardless of the impotence of our biased, ineffectual and fetid justice system.

Let me be plain. I think you deserve to suffer. A lot. By at least an order of magnitude higher than your victim, whom you’ve unilaterally sentenced to a lifetime of shame, despair, self-doubt, and myriad emotional and physical distresses that she does not deserve, and most certainly did not ask for, regardless of how many beers she drank or the outfit she wore or which alley she slept in. She did not deserve to have you fall upon her helpless body like a vulture feeding on her eternal innocence just to achieve your own brief moment of sexual gratification. Nope. What she deserved was basic human decency. What she deserved was the loving, helping hand of a passing friend who should have recognized her defenselessness and offered to reach out and protect her from the dangers of the night.

All you had to do was exercise the most basic impulse of goodness; the Golden Rule, Brock. But instead, you decided it would be fun to rip off her clothes and fuck away every good night of sleep she would ever have. Instead, you thought it would be a good time to force your filthy fingers into her and scrape away whatever hopes and dreams the world hadn’t yet taken from her. So here we are. Her life has been forever tainted, and you, miraculously, have been released from prison with your goddamn loathsome cock still attached to your body, rather than stuffed down your throat, where it belongs. Good for you.

But here’s the thing, Brock. Here’s where I’m actually doing you a favor. I know, I know…that was a roundabout introduction for a favor. Forgive me. It’s been a day. But here it is- your life is shit. YOU are shit. Every single thing coming at you for the rest of your life is shit. Sure, it may not seem like it, now. You beat the system. YAY! You got away with raping a defenseless girl. SCORE! Your family is rich and connected and you’re young and white and this is America, where rich white guys can do whatever they want and get away with it. You’re killin’ it, Brock! Or so it seems. But what you might not know is that, in addition to being a wretched puddle of pig vomit, you are also famous, now. The all-powerful Internets have seen fit to deliver your ratfuck face to the entire world, and now you are marked. My guess is, you’re gonna wish you’d stayed in prison. Don’t get me wrong- I’m sure prison was bad. You probably got raped repeatedly by big scary men who didn’t bother to wait for you to pass out first. At least, that’s what I hope happened to you.

Sadly (for capital-j Justice, anyway) that’s probably not what happened. What probably happened was that the same money and privilege that got you such a laughably, offensively short sentence, in the first place, also got you set aside in some minimum-security cell, away from the prying eyes and bulging penises of the general population. And that, to me, is a real shame. Personally, I think they should have just lined up, on a 24-hour rotating cattle call, taking turns splitting you right down the middle with members that would have felt akin to two-by-fours, pounding you until you were out of breath, lacerating your insides until you bled to the point of passing out, only to be slapped awake again by the next in line, who wanted to make damn sure you knew who was giving it to you. That would have been nice to see, regardless of what I must assume would be a rather objectionable smell. Sadly, your money got you a pass. And here we are. Today. But what happens tomorrow, Brock? See, tomorrow you won’t have the secrurity of a confined environment, with big walls and bars and locks and paid guards to protect you. No. Tomorrow you have to go back out into the real world, and that world is waiting for you. It’s gonna tear you apart, Brock.

You’re probably wondering where I’ve been going with all of this. I’m happy to explain. See, the world wants you dead, Brock. Or, more accurately, it wants to see you suffer and die slowly. You don’t want that, do you? I didn’t think so. And so, at long last, we have arrived at the point of my letter. Kill yourself, Brock. Seriously. It’s the best plan. It’s really the only scenario that guarantees that you won’t wake up one night with a dull knife slicing clumsily through your wee little cock and balls, only to be followed immediately by the disquieting sensation of simultaneously choking on them and drowning in your own blood. It’s going to happen, Brock. Maybe not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow. But it’s gonna happen. You’re a bad guy, Brock. People want to hurt you. Lots and lots of people. And, sooner or later, one of them is going to find you, and when they do, they’re gonna slice off your verminous manhood and force it down your contemptible little throat. So let’s be real here, Brock. You should just remove yourself from the equation. It’s really the brightest possible outcome for you, you nauseating little savage. Nobody will miss you, Brock. Not even your parents. Can you even begin to imagine the immensity of their shame? They must really feel awful. I bet they’d go back in time and abort you, if they could. Why prolong their suffering, Brock? For once, go ahead and be the good guy, and abort yourself.

Cheers.

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No Soup For Me: What It’s Like Watching Hillary Win

bullshit soup1Imagine, if you will, a man.

This man has been eating at the same restaurant every day for his entire life. There are always the same two things on the menu. One is a flavorless bowl of watery soup. The other is a bowl of live snakes, spiders and human feces. Naturally, he opts for the soup every time.

And then, one day, he walks toward the restaurant and sees a sign advertising a thick, juicy steak with potatoes and carrots, delicious beer and buttered bread. The man is beside himself with excitement. Something different! Something GOOD! Hallelujah!

And then, as he takes his seat, appetite strong in a way he’d never imagined, and his fork and knife already gripped in his eager hands, the waiter appears, to take his order.

“What’ll it be?” Says the waiter.

“I’ll have the steak, please. It looks incredible! I never believed, after all these years, that I’d ever have the chance to try something so delicious!”

“I’m sorry,” says the waiter. “We don’t actually have any steak. The news kept saying that steak is unhealthy and expensive, so we’ve decided to play it safe and pull it from the menu. We just haven’t taken the sign down. Would you like to have the soup again?”

This is what it feels like being a Bernie supporter, watching Hillary win primaries.

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I Apply for Financial Aid from the Doctor Because America Wants Me Dead

HeaderThe following is a letter I recently sent to Legacy Health in Portland, after receiving another huge bill for stuff I thought was covered by my insurance. However, it turns out that, as previously stated, the only thing covered by my insurers was their own ass. I would have been better off setting that money on fire and then snorting the ashes up my nose. Such is the state of healthcare in America, where the best we can hope for is to die poor and alone, while our children slave away for the Starbucks Industrial Complex to pay off their quarter million in college loans.

To: Legacy Patient Business Services

Regarding the blood money I owe. (Pun slightly intended*)

I am writing to apply for financial assistance to help me with my past-due bills of roughly $700. I am a freelance writer, with inconsistent and below-average income. My insurance recently lapsed, due to my inability to afford the $330/month payments. Payments which, apparently, covered just about nothing. Today, before finding out about the $700 debt, I was really excited to have managed to cobble roughly the same amount together to pay off other outstanding medical bills. So that’s about $1400 total, on top of about $4000 in insurance fees for 2015. I had pneumonia and some minor stomach problems, as well as some pretty serious depression stemming from my ongoing financial stress, but nothing that came even close to being worth $$5400. I’ve applied, unsuccessfully, for easily 100 jobs in the past year, and managed to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $30k (before expenses), most of which I made prior to the end of the summer, when things fell off sharply. That was actually the best year I’ve had since I moved to Portland in 2011 to try and find better work. The point of all this is, I don’t have any money. I haven’t paid rent in two months, and would be out on the street if not for the love and generosity of a close friend who has graciously taken me in, while I look for better opportunities. I have not filed my taxes in 4 years, mainly because I made so little and it costs too much to even file them. I’ve just been holding my breath, hoping that my fortunes would turn and I’d one day be able to catch up. I felt the prudent thing to do was to spend what little I had on health insurance, so that I knew that my bases were at least covered in the event of catastrophe. Boy was I stupid. Instead, what I got was this giant bill.

So, I’m told that you have a financial assistance program. Unfortunately, I’m too pathetic even to be able to muster the required pay stubs and tax returns. I’ve included my bank statements for the past two months, which will demonstrate exactly the level of loser you’re dealing with. I hope you can help me. My alternative is to just let it go to collections and put yet another nail in my financial coffin, or just give up entirely and switch to a less metaphorical coffin. I am so frustrated and broken-hearted by this system, this country, and life, in general, that I don’t really even care what happens anymore. That’s gonna be especially true when my anti-depressants run out and I can’t get them anymore, due to my lack of insurance. So you can help me, or not. I’d much prefer that you do, of course. There is still some shred of hope in here, somewhere. But on days like today, when I’m reminded that, for every step forward, I get pushed two steps back, it just gets so hard to find a reason to even bother.

smikleHave a nice day!

– Rob

 

*Because part of the bill was for blood tests, so…

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Great Moments in Unemployment, Volume 3: Monday Morning E-mail to My Recruiter

will write good for wine or rentGood morning! Oh, it’s already 1:00. Well whatever. Good afternoon, then. I’m like, not all hung up on traditional paradigms of time and space, and stuff. I’m like, above all of that, ya know? That’s what my spiritual advisor says. I trust him because he wears a fancy robe and smells like my dorm in college.

Anyhoo, just curious about the ____ thing. Are they going to want to meet with me, at some point? Would it help if I sent over a box of cookies or some flowers or gave them some back rubs? Maybe if I go sing them a song? I can do that, you know. I have a lovely singing voice. Like the sound of silk pajamas being used to clean the floor of a truck stop bathroom at 3am on a Monday morning. No, not really. More like a duck coughing or the sound that clown tears might make.

Obviously, I have a lot of work to do today, so I’ll keep it short. Keep me posted. 🙂

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I Write Rad Recommendations on LinkedIn

LinkedIn-RecommendationThis is what happens when you ask me for a recommendation on LinkedIn:

“There’s nothing worse than having some deadbeat clown flake on paying you what’s owed, especially when your old-school mob tactics have become so frowned upon by law enforcement, sensitive girlfriends, and society as a whole. Gone are the salad days of broken kneecaps, burned-up kitchens, and cozy snuggles with the heads of prized horses. Basically, you’re limited to making a lot of offers that people CAN refuse. It’s so frustrating. That’s what made working with Chelsea at Rainier Collections such a welcome relief. She was just a real go-getter who didn’t take no guff from nobody. It didn’t matter who they were- degenerate gamblers, unemployed single mothers, or sweet little old grannies, Chelsea wasn’t afraid to grab them by the throats (figuratively, of course) and shake them down for every last penny. I loved it. I got my money, and my wardrobe ended up with a lot less blood on it.”

UPDATE: Turns out that wasn’t the job she wanted me to talk about. So I wrote a follow-up.  Continue reading

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