Why do we need to pretend so much?

Lego set 70818, the Double-Decker Couch

I built a cool Lego set last night, and it was sitting on my desk when Dorena came into the room this morning. She opined how cute “Hello Kitty” was, and asked if she could take the minifig to work to place it on her desk. Knowing that she fell asleep during the one attempt we made to watch The Lego Movie together, I didn’t want to let it stand — because I rarely do, and that’s a character flaw for another post — and ragged on her about not being able to take Unikitty because she still hasn’t even sat through the movie yet.

Her defenses fired up immediately. “I’ve seen different parts of it, so I’ve pretty much seen the whole thing. It’s been on HBO!”

Indeed, it has been on HBO, where I’ve sat through it a few times. For some reason, I was feeling extra feisty this morning, and asked which part she liked the best.

“The beginning where he’s following all the instructions.”

“Oh, the one part you watched with me that one time, and then fell asleep?”

“No, you don’t sit in the living room with me and see what I watch. I’ve caught parts of it at different times.”

I liked the attempt to deflect on a perceived deficiency of attention, but I pushed on with my line of questioning instead of engaging.  “So what else happens in the movie?”

“I guess it just doesn’t stick in my mind.”

One of the reasons I love this chick is because she’s into TV and movies like I am, and she’s great at quoting things we’ve watched together. Something doesn’t need to be super special to “stick in her mind,” and I’m not writing this to pick on her — I mean, I am, but it’s not the main point. It got me thinking about how we humans always pretend to know about everything. I’ve been contemplating it for a while, and wanted to flesh out my thoughts.

We’re social beings, and we want to fit in. It’s natural to want to be accepted by those we respect in our circles, and part of that is sharing common ground. “I know as much about this thing you like, so you should like me.” That passes the surface test, but maybe it’s more primal.

Exposing any weakness, no matter how insignificant, deflates our ego and in turn makes us vulnerable. To escape that, we improvise a story that should fit into the discussion. We’re creatures of habit and patterns, so we’re able to surmise what’s an expected response to a situation, and can piece it together on the fly. Being able to read threats and counter them helped our earlier sapiens survive, and damn it, it can still work! Instead of diffusing a battle for territory, we’re using anecdotes to maintain conversational standing.

I think that’s the difference between me and my Little Froggy. I’m a knowledge-seeker, so I’m naturally curious about the “whys” and “hows,” while Dorena just goes with the flow. If she gets the behind-the-scenes info it’s cool, but she doesn’t care as long as it just works. It’s a really nice balance, and it brings me down to Earth at times.

Other times, it makes me ponder the inner-workings of the psyche and the social implications, and I write a bunch of words on a blog that no one reads1. You can tell which one of those happened today.

1. The writer previously discarded multiple readers of the blog as "no one," and has revised the entry after receiving affirmations that they are indeed not "no one."

The renewed push.

My family is horrible at communication, and it’s something I’ve half-ass tried to fix a few times. It’s just so ingrained that I can’t avoid it at times. We don’t share our emotions, and we typically wait until it’s the last minute to deal with things. That added up to being really bad at handling loss. I didn’t know what I was feeling, let alone what I needed to get better, and I certainly didn’t know how to convey any of it to my loved ones. The worst part is that I thought I had it figured out.

I did a lot better with Ma’s death than I did Gram’s. I attribute that to the shock of hearing of her condition and within the next 10 hours making the final decision to let her die. You go into emotional desolation and recovery so quickly because you need to ensure your thought process is sound.

I’ve been a lot better at noticing when I slip into bouts of depression, and I’ve been reaching out to people for company when I need to snap out of it. I’ve lost days (and nights) to being a husk, but it’s substantially fewer than I’ve had over the previous two years.

Unfortunately, the last few weeks have been pretty rough on me. Dorena’s grandmother, Libby, went into the hospital for a few days, and at the same time her Great Uncle Garry was admitted to the hospital after a terrifying hallucination.

He woke up in the middle of the night, and thought there were robbers in the home. He called the police because he was certain there was a woman standing over his bed aiming an AK-47 at him. Very scary stuff. His life is tragic in its own right, and his way of battling his depression was heavy alcohol usage. While in the hospital, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, and I’m pretty sure it led to dementia. His mental faculties have diminished significantly the last eight months, first with general aloofness, and now this especially ominous episode.

On top of that, the one sibling my father-in-law had any sort of normal relationship with died early last week. I love her parents, and to see them so hurt by the loss was really bad. They were out of touch for a while before he passed, so I got a glimpse at what it would have been like if I didn’t reconcile with Ma before it was too late. The remorse is palpable. Body language, facial expressions, vocal tone… It’s more than loss; it’s acute, compounded dejection.

For all the faults in our relationship, I’m glad Ma and I had a chance to connect again, and not finish in discontent. That trepidation of regret was drilled home in full effect at a wake for my Great Uncle Jack last night.

Both sides of my family are quite large when you start getting into generations of cousins. After Gram moved to Florida with Aunt Joette and Garry, I really lost contact with all of Gram’s surviving siblings and their kids. Ma became our liaison with the rest of the family, and she was in close contact with her cousin Gary, who maintained the relationships we didn’t. Together they painted the full familial picture, and it still felt like we were associated.

The biggest bond I had with Ma was music, and I still listen to the artists and songs she introduced me to. There’s a few songs that have come up over the last six months that have really hit me hard because we loved singing them together, but I’ve never missed her more than I did last night.

There was a massive hole in my being as I was a fly on the wall watching my second and third cousins commiserate. It was that sock to the gut telling me that I couldn’t call her and tell her I was there on her behalf. It’s that deep sorrow that she was supposed to move back up here last fall so we could have more time together. It always seems like the biggest fits of melancholy revolve around selfish desires. It’s tedious.

I guess the swirling thoughts in my head boil down to my yearn to stay positive and maintain relationships. I don’t want to wind up missing out on time with loved ones because I was too lazy to try.

John A. Miller TROY – John A. Miller, 84, of Troy entered into eternal life on Friday January 23, 2015 at the Albany Stratton V.A. Medical Center surrounded by his loving family. Born in Cohoes he was the son of the late George and Kathryn Murphy Miller and the beloved husband of the late Janice Shea Miller. Mr. Miller was a graduate of Catholic Central High School. He was a Korean War Veteran serving proudley with the U.S. Army. Upon returning home he accepted a position with Allegany Steel in Watervliet where he was employed as a Millwrite until retirment. Jack was the head usher and a long time parishoner of St. Jude the Apostle Church in Wynantskill. He was an avid NY Yankees fan, and also enjoyed gardening, hunting and most of all spending time with his family and friends especially his morning coffee group at McDonald’s. In addition to his late wife Janice he was pre deceased by his son Scott (Yogi) Miller, daughter Lisa Miller, his siblings Thomas and Marilyn Miller, Joanne Hedges and his niece Joanne Hedges Frank. He is survived by one son James Dubiel, his brother Richard Miller and sister in law Kim Miller, his nieces and nephews , Dickie, David, Cindy, Charles and Kenneth Miller, Carolyn Oleyourryk, Donna Clement, Linda Luciano, Joette Hedges, Kevin Hedges, Gary and James Fernet, also survived by many grand nieces, and nephews and his beloved friend Bonesie the cat. Funeral services will be held on Friday at 8:45 am from the Wm. Leahy Funeral Home, 336 3rd St., Troy, to St. Jude the Apostle Church where at 9:30 am a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated. Interment will follow in St. Jean’s Cemetery. Family and friends are invited and may call on Thursday, January 29, 2015 from 5-7pm at the funeral home. Jacks family wishes to thank Dr. Mede and Dr. Pasquelle along with the staff of the ICU, Palliative Care and Oncology units of the VA Hospital and also to the many wonderful neighbors that surrounded Jack for their friendship throughout the years. In lieu of flowers donations in Jack’s memory may be made to the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center Hospice Unit, 113 Holland Ave. (135), Albany, NY 12208. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/troyrecord/obituary.aspx?n=john-a-miller&pid=173989576&fhid=3913#sthash.egqJChVQ.dpuf

Mythbusters has run its course.

I used to love Mythbusters, but the allure wore off. I wanted to give this season a chance, because they decided to trim the fat and bring the focus back to what I enjoyed about the show early on. I liked seeing the methodology they worked through to devise their testing scenarios. I loved it when you could see the frustration of an initial design not working out, then the flow of ideas to a viable solution.

simpsons-mythbusters

The show delivered on the promise of what I wanted. They only worked on two “myths” and there was plenty of building and brainstorming showcased. I was entertained by the updated graphic overlays, and the show looked absolutely gorgeous,  which Adam detailed in the most recent episode of Still UntitledThe show looked great, and the content was back to the basics of what made me fall in love with it more than a decade ago, but I got so bored I nearly abandoned the episode before completion. So what happened?

A lot has changed over the last decade in how I seek out and view content. When I only had cable television, my choices for smarter entertainment were substantially limited. Now, I follow about fifteen channels on YouTube that sate my desire for knowledge, and they don’t dumb down the subject for mass consumption.

I understand the confines of broadcast television, and fitting content between commercial breaks, and how it’s all driven by statistics on viewership and advertising. I get it, I just don’t want to tolerate it any longer.

Compare the average amount of science content in an episode of Mythbusters and just some random episode — heh, get it?  — of Veritasium.

I wanted to give the MB reboot a shot, I did, and I decided it wasn’t for me. I can’t go back to network television’s model of science. I guess I just don’t need superfluous destruction after a bunch of words to keep me entertained any more.

Hell, the Tested YouTube channel produces so much interesting content that I’ve been spoiled. We’ll get an entire video of nothing but Adam building something, or some cool insight into the decisions made by Jamie when he decides to build something. We don’t get bogged down with contrived skits introducing content, we just get content.

It’s dense and concise, and we don’t get previews and recaps every six and a half minutes either. Why would I bother with Mythbusters, when there’s such a viable alternative being produced?

Apparently it’s difficult being a baseball fan and an atheist.

I had another horrible encounter with someone that couldn’t just let me sit through God Bless America at the ballgame tonight. I remarked earlier in the year about my increasing disdain for GBA, and as a person that goes to 45+ live baseball games a year, I knew I was going to have my hands full this summer. Since the encounter I vented about in 2012, I’ve begrudgingly stood (without removing my cap) in an attempt to alleviate those types of interactions.

In short-season A ball, there’s 38 games a season (barring playoffs), so we get our fair share of poor renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner. The performer tonight was especially lousy — he was off-key, and dragged out every syllable of every word — and he came out during the seventh inning stretch to do GBA. For some reason, the ValleyCats have been playing the song multiple times during each homestand this year.

I’ve been taking bathroom breaks during the song this summer, but I didn’t need to go tonight. I figured he was going to be horrendous as a singer, and it’s a song I already dislike, so I’d be extra miserable through it. Thankfully, Punk was with me, and when I noticed she wasn’t getting up for it, I latched on to her inactivity (which I’d now label as courage) and stayed firmly lodged in my seat. The dude lived up to my expectations, singing the long version of GBA and taking his sweet fucking time with it. I sat the entire duration, catching up on my Wordfeud matches.

If I was someone that believed in karma, I’d say that I earned a free pass for standing so many times over the last two years, but since there isn’t karma I didn’t catch a break. During the final refrain, the comments started up from behind me, and for the next two innings we were berated:

“Wow, how rude! Sitting through that!”

“Some people are just so disrespectful, I can’t believe it!”

“What ignorance!”

“I worry about the world as this generation of self-centered assholes takes over.”

“People like that hate the country!”

“You just can’t fix stupid!”

That’s when I made the mocking mouth movement gesticulation, and yelled out, “Yap, yap, yap! Shut up and let us enjoy the game!”

“I bet they sit through the anthem too!”

That was the final straw. The exact problem I pointed out back in April was spit out to me in person. These fucking morons equate GBA to the anthem and it drives me mad. I spun around to make eye-contact and retorted, “no, because that song actually stands for something!”

“Whelp, ya just can’t fix stupid!”

At this point, my sister was getting pissed, and as the dumb broad went back to the “so rude and disrespectful” comment, she spun around and asked how it’s rude that we don’t believe in god and don’t want to stand up for the song.

“It has nothing to do with that! It’s for the troops!”

Excuse me? The song says it’s a prayer, so presumably the person being goaded into standing beside and guiding America is god, right? Maybe I’m missing something? Regardless, we again attempted to focus on the game and move on.

“They deserve each other. What a pair.”

“They should drop dead!”

“You’re a real piece of shit!”

“What a bullshit attitude!”

“Get out of the fucking country if you hate it so much!”

With increasing fervor, I requested that she leave us alone. She didn’t, so we went to the ushers for help. They didn’t do a fucking thing. I’ve had season tickets for four years, and before that my father and I had partial season-tickets. It amounted to absolutely no support, even though they espouse a “no tolerance policy” for profane, sexist, racist, or otherwise abusive remarks.

Guess that doesn’t cover scumbag atheists, huh? Good to know where we stand. This happened around 9:00 pm, I sent an email to the fan relations person at the ValleyCats around 12:30 am, and I’m typing this at 4:00 am. I’m still perturbed by the experience, so I’m going to try and close with a few funny observations.

  1. She kept calling us rude and disrespectful. I guess harassing the living shit out of two other people isn’t rude?
  2. She repeated the, “You can’t fix stupid” line at least fifteen times. Apparently we’re incredibly stupid and beyond repair, but she can’t formulate more than one phrase to keep repeating.
  3. Sitting through GBA is offensive. (How offensive is it?) So offensive that the only suitable punishments are dropping dead or leaving the country.
    1. Whether she likes it or not, the troops are fighting for me and my sister too. It’s the first fucking amendment to the Constitution. Amazing how dudes in the 1700s knew this was going to be a problem and wanted to protect us from it, isn’t it?
  4. My sister and I have matured greatly over the last two years. The remarkable level of restraint we exhibited would have been unprecedented to our younger selves.
  5. I’m leery of another altercation tomorrow. We both have season tickets, so I’m fully expecting a remark shortly before, during, or after the anthem about me rising for that.
  6. The season’s almost over. This asshole has been riding the umpires about every single call she didn’t agree with all season long. We’ve drowned her out with cheering, and never confronted her about how obnoxious she is. With two regular season games left, it finally boiled over. Awesome.

The real tragedy in all of this is that I want to avoid her now. In her mind, that’s saying she’s right and I’m hiding like a dog that just ate cat shit and spilled litter all over the floor.  I was already experiencing consternation regarding the renewal my season tickets before this, and the way I was treated tonight is really pushing me over the edge on skipping out on them next year.

I’ve tried to have a “live and let be” mindset, where you do your thing, and I’ll do mine. People like this make it really fucking hard to not engage with that militant atheist urge.

Fucking hell, man. Seriously. Fucking hell.

Happy (almost) Independence Day!

While it’s nicely said in this whimsical cartoon, I much prefer the somber, stern tone the Newsroom took with the statistics.

So well done, wasn’t it? As eluded to in the clip, there’s a large amount of people that blindly think we’re the best at everything. Convincing them that there’s problems that need addressing is difficult, because they’re focused on the wrong, trivial things…

I’m not an isolationist, and I believe that there are times where intervention around the world is necessary. I just feel that it would be nice to turn our focus — along with the trillions of dollars invested in failed democratization — stateside for a while. Let’s invest in infrastructure: better sources of energy, modernizing and future-proofing our cables and distribution networks, high-speed mass transit, healthcare, education…

It’s hard, but it’s important to tackle this shit and get it under control. Being blissfully ignorant isn’t good enough. I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t see how maintaining the current course of action is sustainable as the rest of the world advances.