“Love, Joe” Newsletter #131: So What Now?

November 16, 2016 Blog Comments (0) 75

This post is a cross-post from my weekly newsletter (no, not that oneThe other one) that deals with recovery from hardship, offering life advice that doesn’t suck. I don’t cross-post often, but this one was important. If you like it, I hope you’ll sign up (and sign up for the other one, too, if you want – it’s at the bottom of this page).

•     •     •

 

“It’s not about how you want THINGS to be. It’s about how YOU want to be.”
– Me

#131: So What Now?

Sooooooo, how are you? Anything new since the last newsletter?

I mean, of course, besides the screeching ball of white hot fury this nation has become since last Tuesday, of course. No? Nothing besides that? Well, that’s good I guess.

Except it’s not, is it?

I know you feel it. I feel it with every cell in my body. Things, by and large, are just plain not okay. Not at all. We in the United States are divided amongst one another, and the entire world is paying attention. No matter who you are, no matter where you go, no matter who you voted for, you feel it in the core of your being that you are being judged at all times, by everyone around you.

“Who did you vote for?”
“Who did you WANT to vote for?”
“Why did you want to vote for that person?”
“Why didn’t you vote?”

And it doesn’t matter the answer to any of those questions, because to at least half the nation, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.

Of course, that’s not true. Not one of us is singularly to blame for the state of things, and it’s silly to attempt to bring it down to that. That’s the good news: you can walk around with your head high knowing that none of this is actually your fault. Yay for that, right?

But that doesn’t explain why there’s been more hate, vitriol, anger, and aggravation amongst lifelong friends, co-workers, family members, and strangers the past week than there has been in our lifetimes. We are still blocking people on Facebook (or being blocked). We are still sharing articles from our chosen news sources that explain why WE picked the right thing and anyone who didn’t must be at best misguided, and at worst completely malevolent, hell bent on ending the world as we know it forever. And this is true for BOTH sides.

And there’s the problem: sides. The truth is, the anger and mistrust and despair you are feeling isn’t about who you voted for. Not really.

It’s about the signal other people pick up that tells them who they believe you to be. And as we have gone along in this most current iteration of innovation, those signals have become less and less nuanced; they’re coalesced and aggregated and collated into simpler and simpler categories. As we become more reliant on sources such as Facebook and Twitter to tell us everything there is to know about “Today in your life” we apply more and more filters to keep the noise down and get to the pure stuff.

The stuff WE like. The stuff WE want to see.
And even more, the stuff we LIKE. The stuff we WANT to see.

So it is inevitable that these vastly nuanced, finely detailed super complex organisms known as human beings become less and less identifiable without signaling and signs and commonality. And worse, our ability as humans to have the patience to deal with stuff that isn’t exactly what we LIKE and what we WANT to see diminishes.

What happens is a sort of social shorthand that, time and time again throughout history, boils down to “us” and “them.”

For us in the United States, it started with a pretty severe one: British vs. American. Then things were kinda quiet, until it became North vs. South. Then quiet again, until it became Allies vs Central Powers, then Allies vs. Axis.

And then, a few bombs fell which shook the entire planet, and everyone shut up for a little while for fear of being fully annihilated. Our wars were Cold Wars. Bad things happened elsewhere, in jungles and deserts. For a good 70 years, we had a pretty easy go of it (except that whole Civil Rights movement, but hey, we worked it out. It hurt and people died, but it led to THE EIGHTIES! And that’s when our sides settled and got pretty silly:

Ford vs. Chevy.
Coke vs. Pepsi.
Sega vs. Nintendo.
Xbox vs. Playstation.
Apple vs Microsoft.
Britney vs Christina (I was 100% Team Britney, btw).

But there was a little kink in things sometime around September 11, 2001, and a couple of planes slammed into a couple of towers and the world shook again.

We woke up a little. We realized that the world wasn’t quite as wonderful as we thought it was. Our differences weren’t as superficial. People began realizing there were some pretty severe differences among us. Our natural inclination to retreat to “Us vs. Them” took over and we got really scared. Our reaction as a society was to glue ourselves to 24 hours of news 7 days a week, because everyone who had a working brain cell knew that it was way better to see the next big shake-up coming.

And boy, did the news guys love that.

Glossing over the next decade is relatively easy: we got addicted to information. People fled to the internet. We got super connected with the advent of MySpace and Facebook and Digg and Reddit. People with more time (or money) than sense (or empathy) preyed on this reaction. Those with money built “news” empires and began feeding you information that was tailored to your personal tastes. Those with time griefed and trolled anyone who had opposing viewpoints, for their own entertainment.

And at some point, those things began to merge. And suddenly, we couldn’t really distinguish between what was being done to stoke the fires of fear and rage and anger in us to get us to pay attention (for fear of ever being caught unaware again), and what was actually news.

It became less and less a chess game, and more and more pure checkers. Anytime anyone who wasn’t one of “us” advanced (Gays get to marry, a black man becomes president, Trump wins the Republican Primary, Fox News gets the highest ratings of all cable news networks), the other side doubled-down on their way of thinking. The cycle continued. One side advances, the other side doubles-down.

No one was thinking about accord. No one was thinking about unification or even basic conversation. It’s “Us vs. Them” 24-7 across all of our social networks, at all times, every day. And the volume just kept going up.

That’s not what made Trump win the Electoral College, and that’s not what made Hillary win the popular vote. Those are just the latest horses in the race.

No, the real battle is only exemplified by the Presidential race. The real battle is between us. All of us.

There’s something I learn, and then forget, and then learn again — and every single time I learn it, it sinks in just a little deeper. It’s a secret that, should you or I ever actually take it to heart and learn it and live it, would mean severe drops in ratings on news channels, and severe drops in traffic on Facebook, and severe dips in advertising revenue:

There’s no such thing as “Them.” And there never has been. “Them” is an illusion.

It’s just us, folks. Differences and similarities in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation… All still us.

And here we are, in pain and angry and shocked and sad, mad at “them” for not seeing what should be so clear. Both sides, so convinced they’re right, that they never stopped to realize that the only ones who can lose this battle is all of us.

We’re supposed to take it all into consideration, vote our conscious, and then work our hardest to improve. And we can still do that. We don’t have to LIKE what happened. We don’t have to LIKE who we voted against, and we don’t even have to LIKE who we actually voted for.

We have to like ourselves. It’s not about how you want THINGS to be. It’s about how YOU want to be.

So what now? 

I don’t have an answer for you. But you do have your answer. You already know what it is.

Be that. Despite the hate, despite the arguing, despite the fear and anguish… You have to be the person you know is the best you.

How you go about that is your call. I’ve chosen my path. It’s this. It’s turning off the noise. It’s listening to the arguments against what I understand and believe, so that I can know what is motivating people who don’t see things the way I do. It’s holding my ground where it matters, morally and socially. It’s standing up against hate and bullying, both idealistically and, if I must, physically.

I’m not okay. I am angry and afraid and in pain. But I’ve been angry and afraid and in pain before, and I made it through with love, understanding, education and openness. I also made it through with guts, determination, steadfastness and a reliance on the core of who I am.

It hurt. Change always does. But that’s the path.

So I ask you: So what now?

— Love, Joe

This post comes from my newsletter about survival and growth during hard times. If you liked this post, please consider signing up. And if you know someone who needs to hear this stuff, please feel free to share it with them! Also, if you’re new to this newsletter and you want to see the old ones, check out the archive! The controls for the archive are a bit weird, look in the bottom right corner to go back and foward a page.

 

Continue Reading

How To Actually Win A Fist Fight (Updated)

November 15, 2016 Blog, Classics Comments (1) 130

Image credit: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power

(This guide was originally published on January 8, 2008. In that time, it has been read more than ten million times. Given the current political climate and undeniable reports of bullying and harassment (especially of schoolchildren), I wanted  It has been updated and reformatted, but otherwise remains largely unchanged.)

 

It has to be said, first sentence, first paragraph: the best way to win a fist fight is not to get into one in the first place.

No shit, Sherlock.

Every single mens’ magazine who has ever attempted to publish an article like this has started (and ended) exactly that way and is usually devoid of any real information – sometimes because someone on the editorial staff wanted to avoid putting the periodical at risk for a lawsuit; other times because the author has absolutely no clue what they’re talking about, so they cop out with this “Verbal Judo Wins The Day!” crap. In fact, that’s precisely why I wrote this guide in the first place.

It’s common sense – avoid fighting if at all possible. No one likes to get hit (and if you do, there’s no need to go crawling pubs to find it. There’s any number of clubs filled with rubber-suited men and women who will give you a safety word and a few bruises for the right price…). But sometimes, diplomacy erodes to a good old fashioned bust-up, or worse, your opponent is just a big bully who’s looking to drive a knuckle into your nose. In either case, you are – at some point in your life – going to be called upon to defend yourself.

So… What to do? Well, I can’t promise that the following information will turn you into a hands-of-steel cage fighter who can handle any MMA bruiser in a back-alley match… In fact, if you’re actually in NEED of the information in this article, I can guarantee you that a trained martial artist or fighter will destroy you. But all things being equal, if you’re simply an untrained person who’s facing a bully, or someone looking to simply get the basics under your belt in case something gnarly goes down, I can assure you that you’re way better off knowing this stuff than not.

Note: This guide has been on the net in some form or another for 9 years now. In that time, I’ve gotten lots and lots of feedback. I’ve decided to incorporate my notes on that feedback throughout this latest version. I’ve formatted those side notes like this — bold “Note:” and italic text — so you can tell at a glance which sections have been argued over (and over and over and over), and why I’ve decided to go with the advice that you read here.

Some things before we begin:

  1. I’m giving advice based entirely on my own experiences and training. There are as many opinions on fighting techniques, stances and behaviors are there are people fighting in the world, and really, there’s no “right” and “wrong” – simply “effective” and “ineffective”.
  2. My advice is intended specifically for inexperienced people for whom there is no escape from a fighting situation. Flight is not an option. Training is non-existent.
  3. The entire goal of the guide is to keep instruction minimal and intuitive – stuff you can readily recall when you’re in a dangerous situation, and stuff that won’t set a beginner / inexperienced person up for failure. “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face” is true for a reason. Panic makes thinking tough.

The Basics

First, you need to know a few things:

  1. You are going to get hit.
  2. When you get hit, it does not feel good.

Knowing and accepting those two things as fact will free your mind up enough to begin thinking about much more important stuff, like strategy and technique. If you’re petrified with fear over how much it’s going to hurt when the big bad guy hits you, you’re going to be out of focus. Thus, you’ll be much more vulnerable to taking damage than if you can just accept the reality of the situation and move past it… And perhaps, walk into the situation with a bit of confidence.

Confidence CANNOT be overvalued in a fight situation. If you walk in knowing you will win, your chances of winning are far greater… If for no other reason than the fact that you will gain a psychological edge on your opponent. If you don’t have confidence, fake it. Seriously, it’s important.

If you’re fighting in an enclosed area, position yourself so that there is an exit to your rear. If you cannot, try to get an exit positioned to your strong side (right side, if you’re right handed, left side if you’re left handed). The ability to retreat can make the difference between getting punched and getting beat. It’s helpful to remember that “retreat” does not always mean “flee” – sometimes, you have to back off a bit to get your act together.

If you’re a student or a frequenter of bars, you need to know that there is a very high liklihood that your fight is going to take place in the center of a huge ring of people who are chanting, yelling, screaming and whatnot. If this is the case, get to the door and get in position before they can seal it off as a crowd of spectators.

Lastly, if you’re up against two or more guys, someone with a weapon, or other crazy situation, don’t be a hero – get the hell out of there. If you simply cannot escape, look at the end of this article in the section “Impossible Situations”.

Your Stance

Your stance is the way you stand and position yourself during a fight. It’s by far the most important part of your actual fighting technique. Your base – the position of your feet and legs – determines how much power you can deliver in a blow. You should keep your feet about shoulder width apart, with your “strong” foot slightly forward (note: if you are a trained fighter, this advice might sound suspect, but follow me here: if you’ve never fought before, you have no idea what a “power hand” even is, much less how to use it. The main goal is to keep from being dragged around or pushed over, and a slightly even stance with strong foot forward is far more stable for a novice in a street fight). Your knees should NEVER be locked – keep them slightly bent, but not so much so that you feel a strain in your upper legs.

As far as your “guard” goes, there are any number of techniques and positions that you could adopt, but the most simple is your strong hand in front of your face, your weak hand slightly below it guarding your chin, and your elbows very slightly pointed outward guarding your chest.

screenshot_11_15_16__10_55_amThis amazing video featuring Chris Romulo, MMA / Muay Thai fighter, goes through the basic stances for most fight styles. Even he recommends a strong guard with strong foot forward for beginners. 

Never, EVER drop your guard. Keep your hands in front of your vital areas at ALL times, unless actively delivering a blow or in the midst of grappling with someone.

Keep your chin tucked to your chest as much as possible, and ALWAYS keep your eyes up and on your opponent. You will find that, if you take away the chin and neck as targets, your chances of becoming disabled (knocked out or unable to breathe) are reduced by an order of magnitude. We’ll cover more of this in “Taking A Punch” – for now, you just need to know how to stand.

Now, with that strong foot forward, your strong-side hip is going to be slightly pointed at your opponent, and your strong hand – when you throw the punch – is going to place a lot of pressure on your strong leg. This is vital – if you can use the power of physics to align the transfer of energy from your foot, up your leg, through your hip and shoulder to your fist as you throw the punch, you will devastate your foe when you connect.

Keep moving. Don’t dance around like a moron, or you can get tripped up and probably knocked out… But definitely keep moving to the side, occasionally changing direction. Don’t pick your feet up off the ground completely; rather, try to shuffle slightly. Stay as much of a moving target as you can without putting yourself at risk of being tripped, pushed, or otherwise taken out stupidly. You’ll DEFINITELY want to practice this in your room / garage / backyard to get the hang of it.

Lastly… No wild blows. Don’t go into a fight flailing like a madman, trying to hit whatever you can as much as possible. You’re going to wear yourself out VERY quickly, which will leave you completely vulnerable to the patient opponent – which is completely counter to the goal of this guide, right? You want to win, not end up a bloody lump of exhausted meat on the ground. Find your target, be patient, look for openings, and deliver your blows carefully and with great purpose. And that leads me to…

What You’re Actually Here For: How To Punch Someone

First, the fist:

  1. Fold your four fingers downward into your hand
  2. Place your thumb on the OUTSIDE of your fingers

185257780

Good fist. 

Now, the particulars:

You want to fill the space in your palm with whatever you have at your disposal – a roll of pennies, some dirt or hunks of grass… Anything to reduce the space between your fingers and the inside of your hand. If you have nothing available (or, don’t want to be accused of “dirty fighting” or whatever… But let’s face it, all’s fair when there’s no ref’s and the threat of bodily harm), try to grab the “meat” of your palm, where all those callouses are, and wrap it slightly under your fingertips.

Whatever you do, do NOT fill that space with your thumb. Your thumb MUST be outside your fingers, sitting at a 90 degree angle to your index finger and bent at the second knuckle.

badfist

Bad fist.

Also, regarding your thumb and fingers: Don’t let any of them stray off to the side. Don’t do that little “thumb out” fist-pump swagger thing you saw that one guy do in that YouTube video. Maybe that person is a very skilled fighter and has experience. Assuming you need this guide, you don’t. Don’t take the risk.

The same goes with your pinky. Some flashy morons try to show how cool they are by sticking their pinkies out in the air while waving their fists at you, like it’s wine-tasting time. Don’t be that person. Keep your fist tight – all four fingers folded and your thumb out of the way, or they’ll be sticking WAY out… In a fiberglass cast for six to eight weeks.

fist

Now that you’ve made a fist, it’s time to fling it at someone. First, a word of caution (or, if you prefer, a note on technique): It is IMPERATIVE that you keep the back of your hand completely in line with your forearm at all times. Never, ever flex your wrist in any direction when delivering a punch, or you’ll break it.

There are several types of punches, and I’m sure you can readily call to mind several types based on what you’ve seen in movies, televised boxing matches, MMA bouts, etcetera. The type of punch that I most highly advocate – especially for an untrained fighter – is a simple straight punch. Keeping the elbow bent and at a 30 – 45 degree angle to the body (and in front of your face – remember, don’t drop your guard), extend the fist forward with simultaneous extension of the elbow and the shoulder. The elbow should straighten the arm, the shoulder should deliver the force… It sounds strange, but try not to deliver force by the extension of the elbow. Let your body weight push through your shoulder into your arm. Connect the blow at the peak of extension to get the maximum force out of your blow. Connecting too soon, you’ll lose power; Connecting too late, you’ll throw yourself off balance.

Hooks – the wide-sweeping side punches you see a lot of people throwing – are great for boxing or other score / tactical fighting… But they don’t deliver the force a good straightforward punch will, and they’re SLOW. If someone’s out there scoring you on how many times you connect, sure, go for it. But otherwise, just stick to the straight punches. The same goes for uppercuts and light jabs. Stay away from those unless you’ve been training purposely with combinations and whatnot (which this guide assumes you’re not, since you’re obviously here to learn the basics. All you “trained” fighters out there, I don’t need your emails about how I’m wrong to suggest avoiding these. You know what you’re doing? Go for it… Otherwise…).

Make your punches count – give a full-force blow that connects quickly at the apex of extension each and every time.

Taking A Punch

Have you ever seen the movie Million Dollar Baby? You know the part where Clint Eastwood tells Hillary Swank to step into a punch to minimize its effectiveness? It’s 100% true. Short of simply not being there to take the punch, minimizing the distance between the point the punch was thrown and the point at which it connects will reduce the impact it can make.

The downside is that you’ll need to retreat to set yourself up for your punches. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re aggressive with your defense – because your opponent will do that work FOR you. If you continually turn your body into punches and step forward, they will keep backing up and backing off. This will not only give you the distance you need to throw your punches, it will also give you the opportunity to do so – each time they have to step back, they’re resetting for another attack. This is an opportune time to strike.

Remember our discussion on stances – keep your chin tucked to your chest and keep circling your opponent. Keep them in a situation where they have to calculate movement along with distance to judge strikes. Balance is a key factor in fights, both physically and mentally – if you can keep them off-balance, the edge is yours.

Train yourself to flex your abdominal muscles and keep your core tight on command. When your opponent goes for a solar plexus hit, if you fail to turn into it so that the blow glances off the side, you won’t lose your breath when they make impact.

Lastly… Keep breathing, slow and purposely. Keep the oxygen going to your brain. Don’t allow yourself to lose your breath, or run low on air when you must exhale and flex your stomach to guard against a mid-blow.

Remember this – no blow feels as bad during a fight as you think it’s going to. Your adrenaline is pumping, your nerves are spiking and your mind is racing. You simply won’t have time to feel the pain… It’s the debilitating blows you need to be weary of and guard against, and if you keep taking your opponent’s power away, they won’t be able to take you out.

Kicking

Just… Don’t. Seriously. It’s suicide, unless you’re highly trained, or, failing that, you have an insane opportunity. Outside of the UFC, kicks are pretty much all flash and flair for your audience, and leave you VERY open to counter attacks and moves that can throw you off balance. It’s just plain stupid in a real fight situation to try doing a bunch of roundhouse nonsense.

hqdefault
Not him? Don’t kick.
Note: In a REAL fight situation, anything that reduces balance or stability is dangerous. Kicks – even to the shin – are not something I suggest for a beginner fighter who has not spent time developing balance and strength in the ankles, hamstrings, knees, groin and waist. If you’ve personally trained kicks, and you want to incorporate kicks in your fighting style, I applaud you. But this isn’t “How To Actually Win The Heavyweight Belt In The UFC” and as such, I refuse to advise people to disrupt the balance and stability of their base when they’re not trained fighters (and more than likely, scared out of their minds to even be in the situation). I won’t say you’re wrong if you do. I just refuse to.

Elbows and Knees

Seriously powerful blows can come from the knees and the elbows… However, they force you to be close, and you need some training to use them effectively (elbows especially, since they pretty much remove your guard when you use them). Feel free to practice these on your heavy bag (or, if you don’t have one, head up to the Salvation Army and get an old twin mattress and some duct tape – you can make one in pretty short order). Just know that they are to be used when opportunity permits, not as primary strikes.

Grappling

There’s a very high liklehood – especially if you keep stepping in and frustrating our opponent – that you will be taken to the ground or wrapped up in some way. This is not the end of the world, especially if you can keep your cool. So long as they’re wrapped up on you, they’re not throwing punches… It’s only when they can get you into a position of opportunity that they can strike you, so your primary goal is to GET OUT.

If your opponent has you from behind in a standing position, there are three moves you need to be doing over and over in succession or simultaneously until you break free:

  • Stomp the instep – come down as hard as you can with your heel on their instep. You will damage or disable your opponent’s foot bones and provide yourself with the ability to escape.
  • Backwards Headbutt – keep flinging your skull back toward their nose. If you make contact, freedom awaits.
  • Wring the fingers – don’t pull at the wrists of your opponents’ clenched hands. Get your hands around any or all of his fingers and wring the hell out of them until he either gives up or breaks one.

If you’re on the ground and wrapped up, you need to do the following things as quickly as possible:

  1. Prevent the mount – don’t let them get on top of you.
  2. Get to your knees as soon as you can.
  3. Scramble like hell to get out of there.

If you end up on your belly, prevent a choke from behind by keeping your chin to your chest and keep your hands around your neck. If you start to feel punches on the back of your head, remember – minimize the distance. Try to get to your knees and get them off of you.

Note: If you don’t know how to fight on the ground, get the HELL of the ground. It’s something I just cannot recommend. If I personally were in a one-on-one fight with someone, regardless of their size, strength or fight style, I’d be on the ground with them in a millisecond, because I’ve trained in arts that focus on groundwork. But for the first, oh… Three months or so of learning that crap? I got OWNED on the ground. So did you. You can puff your chest out on the net and say “no way, I pwnd!” if you want, but it’s a lie. Every beginning wrestler, BJJ fighter, Judo player, etc. found the ground to be the last place on earth they really wanted to be for at least 3 months. You have to learn it. If you have to learn it, it’s out of my guide.

If you can gain the advantage on the ground, mount the opponent and punch the face until they are incapacitated. If they’re on their belly, get around their neck and choke them until they pass out – just make DAMN sure you let go once the snorting starts (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you ever hear it). Going any further, and you could kill them. However, if this is a flee-for-your-life situation and you somehow managed to choke your opponent out, feel free to break an ankle or dislocate a knee to prevent pursuit. Do this in a high school fight, however, and you’re going to end up in juvenile hall.

This leads me to a very important point: if you do gain the advantage in a grappling situation, do NOT perform any ridiculous moves you see on WWE or on movies and telelvision. No body slams, no DDT, no Pile Driver… That shit will seriously injure or kill someone, and there’s a very real part of fighting that you have to consider – what happens tomorrow. If you break someone’s neck and paralyze or kill them, you might be arrested or sued, and no one will let you off with “self defense” when you took the time to perform some ridiculous move on an opponent who was already disabled or overcome.

Plus, there’s the chance that you’ll hurt yourself and lose… And again, losing is counter to the goal of this guide.

Impossible situations

In all of the following situations, fleeing is the optimal response. Get the hell away from the situation and live to fight another day… These situations are unfair, and to be honest, anyone putting you in these situations is out to hurt you in ways that go far beyond simple matters of pride or minor altercations.

Assuming flight is not an option, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Facing a much larger / stronger / better trained opponent: stay fast, stay away. Don’t allow them to grab you, and avoid any and all strikes if possible. Look for an equalizer – gain elevation on them, grab a weapon, throw dirt in their eyes. You need to bring them down to your level if you want to stand a chance… Otherwise, enjoy your ass-beating.
  • Groups of two or more opponents: Find a corner and get into it. Don’t allow them to surround you, no matter what happens. Lash out as hard as possible at one opponent, then immediately move to your strong side and take out the next. Get one guy in front of another – try to keep yourself fighting one person at a time. Again, a weapon or equalizer of some sort should be sought. Go for one-attack-per-person until you break them up and can get out of the situation. If you do find yourself surrounded, attack the man in front of you, then immediately go for the one behind you, turning to face your left and right opponents once you can create a break in the circle.
  • Opponent has a weapon: Get as many objects and as much distance between you and your opponent as possible. Find a shield or other object to deflect the force of a blunt weapon. If the weapon is a knife or other blade, you need to get it stuck in something that isn’t you as quickly as possible. Knife fights look daring and crazy in the movies, but in reality, they bleed you until you die. As an interesting experiment, get your friend to arm himself with a red marker and try to fight him without getting any ink on you. Take a look after the fight to see just how many times you would have been cut. More than once anywhere on your body, you would have died. Once anywhere in your gut, you would have died. Knife wounds are serious. Get the hell away from it.

Final Thoughts And Tips

  • It’s so important, it bears repeating – confidence wins. Go into a fight with the attitude that you’re going to get your ass kicked, and you’ll get your ass kicked. You want to win? Throw as much bravado and confidence at your opponent as you can. Even if you know they’re better, they don’t know that you realize that. Just keep roaring and flashing your feathers like nature dictates you should. At the very least, you might lose the fight, but the next guy who wants to mess with you will know you won’t go down easy and might think twice about attacking you.
  • Always maintain awareness of your surroundings. Know where your exits are. Know if your opponent has friends in the crowd. Know where to grab a chair, bat, or other weapon – especially before your opponent can.
  • There’s no such thing as a fair fight if there’s no money on the line or men in striped shirts judging you. You need to win. More than that, you need to not lose. These goals are paramount. Keep them in mind at all times.
  • At any point you get the chance, disable your opponent. Take out the eyes. Take away the breathing passages. Remove mobility. An opponent who cannot see you cannot fight you. An opponent who cannot breathe cannot attack you. An opponent who cannot move cannot pursue you.
  • Above all else, remember that standing up for yourself is hard, and sometimes it can hurt… But nothing hurts more than being someone else’s bitch. And so long as you are willing to stand up for yourself, it won’t matter if you lose this one fight – you’ll win respect from your opponent and anyone else considering taking you on, and that’s worth fighting for.

Continue Reading

Why I Wrote The “How To Actually Win A Fist Fight” Article

November 15, 2016 Blog, Classics Comments (1) 88

When I was younger, I was a HUGE comic book nerd. One of my regular monthly staples was Wizard magazine – a magazine dedicated solely to fandom of comics, toys and games. It was the closest thing to a “Boy’s Magazine” that wasn’t campy garbage, but it didn’t really talk much about the issues that faced most young and teenage boys. Namely, “Why is my voice cracking, why do I not find girls yucky anymore, and how can I kick that dickhead Corey Martin’s ass?”

In 1992 (ish), Marvel (and Sassy Magazine) spent a great deal of time and money promoting a new magazine they were coming out with called “Dirt” – a magazine intended to be “Sassy, but for teenage boys). For months and months, they displayed this cover shot of their magazine with a guy’s face all twisted and contorted by a fist that was striking it, with the lead story in big yellow letters:

“How to WIN a fist fight!”

002

God, what a bunch of bullshit. 

My buddy Jay and I were SO jazzed about this magazine… Finally, someone was putting out a magazine targeted not only to our age group, but also not overtly stupid. It was the perfect concept, based solely on that one headline.

Anyway, the magazine came out on newsstands that fall, and even though Jay and I made a habit of buying different titles on our trips to the comic store (so that we could trade between one another and get double the value for our reading dollar), we both spent our money on copies of Dirt #1. We both sat on his front stoop, pulled out our copies of Dirt magazine, and turned IMMEDIATELY to that article.

The very first (and only) rule of winning a fist fight, according to Dirt?

“Don’t get into one.”

The article then proceeded to go into a fluffy, three-page write up on “verbal judo” and how to avoid getting into physical altercations through the gentle arts of negotiation and conversation. Midway through reading that crap, we both looked up at one another – nearly simultaneously – and said “Wow… This is bullshit!”

We were expecting proper techniques on making a fist, striking our opponents, foot placement, transfer of inertia at varying points throughout a punch… The cover image showed a guy getting slugged right in the jaw! It was a total bait-and-switch job!

Anyway, that memory has stuck with me my entire adult life, and it recently led me to contemplate making a simple video series directed at teenage boys telling them how to ACTUALLY win a fist fight. I dunno… Is that barbaric? I mean, as an adult, I really don’t think much about fighting people, and I rarely consider the concepts needed to win one – but this might be due to the fact that I spent a great deal of my life doing things that trained me how to manage my aggression.

I just know that, deep down (and in some cases, right on the surface), every single teenage boy wants to know how to punch another teenage boy, and I can remember actively searching out sources on how to do that very thing… I remember wishing that someone, somewhere would just flat-out tell me how to punch a dude. And now that I’m a adult boy, I kinda feel like I should go back and honor that request on behalf of all the adolescent males out there who probably want to know.

And that’s why I wrote my guide on How To Actually Win A Fist Fight. If you need it, there it is. I hope you don’t.

Continue Reading

The (Updated) No-Bullshit Guide To Self Defense For Ladies

November 10, 2016 Blog, Classics Comments (2) 73

The first version of this article was originally written on 8/4/2011. Given the current climate, both politically and socially, I felt it was super important to share it here on my new blog. In the time since I first wrote it, a lot has changed both with my attitude toward things and my writing style. To that end, I’ve updated this piece for tone and current social climate, and added a few new points. But the goal and the techniques remain unchanged.

Several women close to me have shared stories about men who, now that Donald “Grab them by the pussy” Trump has won the election, feel it’s okay to assault women. This makes me stabby. Short of going vigilante, I figured the very best thing I could do is share information with the people in my life and my social networks about how to take care of themselves. This is all information that is taught in most self-defense classes. I highly advocate you take one (or several). This is intended to give you a safe and private opportunity to look into what it takes to defend yourself, free from embarrassment or judgement or harassment.)

A few years ago, I wrote a guide on how to actually win a fist fight. It wasn’t intentional, but naturally being a man (and former boy who didn’t know how to fight), the guide appealed to men and boys who had no fight training, who may have found themselves in a situation where they have to defend themselves against a bully. It was a much bigger success than I ever anticipated, with over ten million reads and shares. To date, I’ve received hundreds of emails from fathers thanking me for writing the guide that finally taught their kid how to stand up for himself, and young men who have faced bullies and other less than savory characters using the tactics I taught them.

After the success of that article, several female readers asked if there was a guide geared more toward them. I did some research and didn’t find one I liked, so I wrote one. Today, I’m updating it for the current social climate.

This week, a disgusting orange man who has a history of sexual assault against women and who openly advocated groping them won the free and open elections for President of the United States. This has given the worst members of the male gender a signal that it’s now socially okay to assault women. In the past 24 hours (a full day since his victory), I’ve read and heard stories from female friends about their friends being assaulted, or being assaulted themselves. Of course, many of the men doing this gross shit say it’s jokes and funny and blah blah blah.  Trump did it. It’s the will of the people or some shit.

Of course, that’s wrong on SO MANY LEVELS. So fuck that. 

It is my sincere hope that no woman ever has to use any of the information in this guide, ever. But unfortunately in today’s social climate, hoping isn’t enough.

woman_attacked-web
 
Don’t let this happen to you… PLEASE. 

This guide will very lightly touch on things that you can learn in just about every self defense course, video and article I’ve ever seen — namely, situational awareness, avoiding becoming a victim, and all of that. It will then dive very briefly into why you should carry a gun, and if not a gun, a can of pepper spray with military-grade tear gas — and if not that, a knife. And then, we get to the stuff I’ve never really seen anywhere: what to do if you need to defend yourself against a male attacker with only your hands.

Before we begin: This is your life we’re talking about here. Not just staying alive, but living without having to face a severely traumatic experience (being assaulted, groped, or raped). Any man laying hands on you without your consent is assaulting you. Any man continuing to assault you after you’ve said ‘No’ does not care about your feelings, your safety or your welfare. He is going to hurt you or kill you. You need to be prepared to hurt him first and escape.

Even if you know this stuff or have read this guide (or others) in the past, it’s not a bad idea to re-read it and refresh your memory.

Situational awareness

It’s tempting to write off all of the following with the term “common sense.”

When it comes to your safety in a stressful situation, there’s no such thing. “Common sense” is irrelevant in uncommon situations. Everyone, in their day to day lives, knows not to walk down dark alleyways at night by themselves. But I am willing to bet even odds that most of us, in a hurry or with no one around, has taken that shortcut down the dark alley or through the dark parking lot, because the situation wasn’t common. And if someone’s assaulting, you, that situation is certainly not common. So even if you feel this stuff is “common sense” read it with the intent of engraining it in your memory for future use in uncommon situations.

Of course, there’s no need to go out into the world thinking everyone’s out to get you. You don’t have to be in a constant paranoid panic every time you go out in public. But you DO need to keep your head about you.

In the car: 

If your car gets stranded on the highway, stay the hell in it. Don’t go anywhere. Keep an external battery and spare charging cable in your car at all times. You can get both combined for under $30, and that tiny investment can save your life.

Most states have a DOT program that can help you with road-side assistance. This is awesome — but when they arrive, even if a person is wearing a uniform (even a cop), STAY. IN. THE. CAR. No police officer is going to ask you to get out of your vehicle if you’ve done nothing wrong, and even if you have, you have the right to request they call another officer or their watch captain / sergeant to the scene before you exit the vehicle.

On that note: police cars have blue and/or red lights. There are no exceptions. No car without blue/red lights has the legal right to pull you over. DO NOT PULL OVER FOR ANY CAR WITHOUT BLUE AND/OR RED LIGHTS. For those that do, you can legally signal to an officer your intent to pull over by slowing down and turning on your hazards, which you should do until you get to a public, well-lit area.

2009-dodge-charger-police_car_500_0410
 
Police cars may have red lights, blue lights, or both. Typically, Sheriffs and state / federal vehicles (State Troopers, FBI) are blue-only (except in Michigan, thanks Erin). 

 



Out and about / on foot:

Park your car under lights whenever possible, as near to any building as possible (that will be open when you plan to exit). Avoid recessed doorways and alleyways on city streets. Travel with people — if you’re alone, ask a security guard to escort you, or if you feel uncomfortable doing that, look around for a group of girls or guys and girls, and walk near them. Don’t talk to strangers in parking lots, especially men. Keep to yourself.
Fuck all that “what will society think?” crap. If a scary man (of any race) looks scary, stay the hell away. Who cares if you hurt his feelings? The worst that happens is a nice guy has a bad story to tell his friends about how much his ego was hurt, the best is you avoid being beaten and raped. Pick the best option.
Cash goes one way, you go the other:
A quick story: when I was active in Judo, I regularly assisted in teaching self-defense courses. One of the students in my dojo — a girl named Sandy — was a black belt in Judo and studied Akido. She was devastatingly fast and could handle just about every man in our dojo. In the self defense clases, she executed every maneuver perfectly.
One rainy night, she was out on the town with two of her girlfriends, and they were approached by an attacker in a parking lot of a bar. The guy was waving a knife at them and demanding they surrender their purses. Guess what Sandy did?
a) A flying armbar which resulted in a severe dislocation while her friends called the police,
b) A super fast saronagi (over-the-shoudler throw) which flung her attacker across the parking lot,
c) threw her purse at him and ran with her friends back to the bar?
Yeah, it was c. She was a highly trained martial artist. She was even armed with an umbrella. And she had the good sense to do the best thing she could have — give the guy the easily replaceable crap he wanted and run before anyone got hurt.
prada_handbag
 
Regardless of how nice the bag is or what you have in it — it’s not worth it. Toss it one way, run the other. 
If you are approached and mugged, throw your purse (or wallet, or cash clip) in one direction and run the other. Trust me, if you’re being robbed, they will choose the cash over you.
But if they’re not out to rob you — if they’re there to rape and hurt you — you need to know how to handle that. And that’s why I recommend highly that you arm yourself. In order of effectiveness (and preference): a gun, pepper spray, a knife, a tazer / stun gun, a blunt instrument (those stupid key-bats you see on sale around town), hand-to-hand.  I won’t be covering ineffective measures, mostly because they’re ineffective.

Weapons, and why you should have them:

First thing’s first: You must be prepared to disable or kill an attacker who is intent on hurting you. And by disable, I mean to the point of being unable to pursue you. Kicking the nuts and punching someone in the nose? Sounds great. It’s taught by mothers and fathers to daughters the world over. And guess what — it’s pretty much the least effective advice you could ever give anyone.

When physically confronted, men instinctively protect their genitals and face. It’s inborn. We just do it. Then, there’s the fact that adrenaline and endorphins block out the pain caused by being kicked in the balls or punched in the face (long enough to do you grevious bodily harm, anyway). Of course, nut-punching and face-gouging aren’t wholly ineffective. But they’re not the most effective self defense measures.

balls-and-my-word
 
See? Balls and face. Every man defends these things.

 

The golden rules:

1) Keep your head. It’s hard. You’re scared. Try not to let fear turn into panic. Keep breathing. Keep your head up. Keep your eyes open. Don’t fly into a blind rage. Don’t lose sight of your escapes. Stay in control of yourself.

2) Make no mistake — You’re fighting for your life. Not just your ability to stay alive, but also your ability to live the rest of your days without the painful scars of a violent attack. This means you need to let go of any pacifist philosophy or maternal instinct you’ve got and get ready to get mean.

3) Distance is your friend.  Bluntly, you cannot be raped if they can’t get to you. You want as much distance as possible between you and your attacker. Escape is your absolute primary goal. Your best means of escaping an attacker is to have a great head start, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

So my advice on weapons, in order of most effective to least:

 

Get a gun. 

I need to tell you that if you do opt for the gun — and I sincerely hope you will — there’s a LOT to discuss. In fact, it deserves its own guide. But the bottom line is that guns are not meant to intimidate or maim, they are meant to kill. Do not get a gun to scare off an attacker. Do not get a gun to shoot them in the leg. Get a gun to shoot them and kill them and save your own life. If you cannot face this, you probably shouldn’t get a gun. But there’s absolutely no getting around it: in the hands of a woman who has taken the time to learn how to draw, aim and shoot her gun, there’s no better measure to defending yourself. Period, end of story.

1287660313
The GLOCK 26 short-frame 9mm pistol. Concealable, powerful, reliable (but not as reliable as a revolver). 

This will require, if not demand, that you go to a gun range at least once a month and hone your skills, as well as practicing your draw from wherever you decide to keep it (purse, night stand, waistband, whatever). And I highly highly highly advise you take a gun safety class course and a shooting course, at a minimum.

 

If you don’t want a gun, get pepper spray. 

Let’s assume you don’t want a gun, legally can’t get one, aren’t prepared to be a responsible and effective gun owner (by going to the range and practicing, and taking safety courses), or you don’t have the money. I highly recommend you get high velocity bear repellent for your home, and this SABRE spray for personal carry and the car. Don’t bother with MACE — some people aren’t susceptible to its effects, and even those that are are much more susceptible to pepper spray + tear gas.

unknown-1
A keychain / concealable pepper spray canister. They’re 8 bucks a piece. Load up. (And I didn’t pick pink because you’re a lady, I picked it because I personally like and carry pink)

 

As for the bear spray, it shoots up to 30 feet and will flat knock a man down. When in the confines of your home, escape routes are fewer. You want as much distance as possible, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

unknown
Keep a can of bear repellent near your bed, one near any door in your home, and one in the centermost hallway. 

Now, if you’re going to use spray, you need to be aware of a few things:
1) It’s most effective in the eyes, nose and mouth.
2) You need to practice with it just like you would a gun. To not practice with it is folly. You will either fumble with it when you need it, or end up hurting yourself. You’re not “wasting” a can of $30 bear spray, any more than you waste a $30 box of bullets at the gun range. Get spares, and practice.
3) don’t spray it into the wind, or you’ll blind yourself, too.

 

Tasers / stun guns:

 Tasers work… sometimes. But I don’t recommend them.

1) They’re easily defeated by thick jackets and clothing. Ask a cop if you don’t believe me.
2) You get one shot. True, they sell multi-shot tazers, but if someone’s wearing a thick jacket, the other two shots will just fail to penetrate as well, and then you’re screwed.

taser
The taser. You’ve got one shot, make it count (and hope they’re not wearing a leather jacket). 

Handheld stun guns have the same limitations, but with the added issue of proximity. Remember, distance is your friend. Stun guns require you be right next to the attacker.

Furthermore, while they do work, they don’t subdue. They merely temporarily disable. The point of using any of these weapons is to render the attacker unable to attack — and if you temporarily subdue them, then start running and they can get up and pursue, you’ve failed. And now, you’re expending energy and oxygen and time while they pursue you, and if they get you again, you’re in trouble.

 

Knife:

I recommend every woman carry a knife as a backup to their gun / pepper spray. I carry a knife myself. I’ve never had to brandish it, much less use it (thank god). But I have it, just in case. I’m a HUGE fan of spring-assist knives by SOG (specifically, the FLASH II). I recommend a solid aluminum handle. If you can get your hands on one, get a fully-automatic knife like a switchblade. Yes, they’re illegal in many states, but so is rape. Your attacker isn’t letting a pesky thing like “laws” get in his way. Don’t let them get in yours.

stgfsa98_bg

 

The SOG Flash II with aluminum handle and serated blade. It’ll fuck shit up, and it’s legal in almost every state. 

I’m not knife trained in any real manner outside of the very basics, which I’m going to share with you:

1) Hold it blade-down, in an “overhand” grip. This would be like making a fist for punching, only there’s the blade of a knife sticking out of the bottom of your hand.
2) If you’re facing your attacker… What the hell are you doing? Run.
3) If your attacker has you from behind, plunge the blade of the knife into their thigh. Twist it. Remove it. This will keep the wound from closing and do some serious damage to his ability to chase you. DO NOT LET GO OF YOUR KNIFE, EVER. If you do, even if you’ve stabbed your attacker, you’ve just given him a knife. Don’t make his job of hurting you any easier.

Don’t wave your knife around like you see in movies (this really applies to every weapon). Don’t threaten. Don’t telegraph you have it. Your job is not to intimidate, it’s to escape. If you pull out your weapon, use it. Don’t pull it out unless you are absolutely going to use it. You run the risk of being disarmed, or worse, escallating an encounter to something far more serious by producing a weapon that the attacker is now prepared for.

 

Blunt instruments (bats, flashlights, those stupid “key bats” they sell so you can swing a keyring at a guy intent on hurting you, etc):

Simply put, they require you be close to the attacker. That’s what we don’t want. But they’re better than going bare-fisted. So if you have nothing else, get yourself an ASP (collapsable baton). Know that in most states, an ASP requires a law enforcement ID to buy, unless you go to a pawn shop or gun show. Also, they’re considered a controlled weapon, like brass knuckles or a blackjack. But again, the law isn’t really a concern when someone’s trying to hurt you.

If it is a concern for you, then get a huge 4-battery Mag Lite and carry it everywhere. It doesn’t rouse suspicion, it fits nicely under the seat of your car, and it is legal in all 50 states. It’s also cumbersome. It probably won’t fit in a purse. It’s awkward to carry around stores.

But the truth is, short of a baseball bat, it’s the most effective legal weapon you can possess… That isn’t a gun or pepper spray, of course.

 

stock-photo-frightened-woman-defending-herself-with-her-hands-from-the-boomerang-which-she-threw-to-someone-138812216But probably don’t use boomerangs. (Also, this is the dumbest stock photo I’ve ever seen)

 

Your bare hands (AKA the last resort, AKA what to do if he gets you):

If you’re facing your attacker, read up on my fist fight guide. It’s long, and necessary if you’re not going to heed my advice on weapons and running. Read it. The only difference is that it’s possible a swift kick by you to the knees or genitals might help… But you need to keep in mind, kicking in tennis shoes or heels (or barefoot) can result in a broken foot, or miss and leave you off balance. You need your feet and your balance to escape.

If you are caught from behind and still standing:
a) Stomp instep. Over and over again, stomp right down on his foot, preferably on the instep. Break the foot if you can. It doesn’t take much to do this, by the way. And don’t be satisfied with one good stomp — keep it up until he lets you go, or you break his foot.
b) Sling head backwards, over and over. Break his nose or dislocate his jaw. Either will cause his eyes to water.
c) Grab his fingers (not hands, get a single finger) and wring it like crazy. Break it if you can, especially a thumb. You’ll know it’s broken when you hear the “CRACK!” sound and his yelping.

If you’re on the ground, the fingers thing is still important. Break his goddamn thumbs. If he’s on top of you, get your hands to his face and gouge out his eyes. Did you know it only takes about 15 sq. lbs. of torque to dislodge the eye from its socket? If you clap your hands with any sort of velocity, that’s roughly 60-80 sq. lbs. of torque. Trust me, getting your thumbs into his sockets and pressing VERY. HARD. will be effective.

If you can’t quite get there, slap his ears. Cup your hand and rupture the eardrum.

If you can’t get there, make your hand into a blade (fingers together) and chop / stab at his throat. Don’t punch at it, your fist is too big to fit into the gap between the jaw and collar bone to be effective. You want to crush his windpipe.

If you can’t do that, start raising your knees at high velocity and try to crush his genitals. This isn’t the most effective of all the tactics, but it does work.

At any rate, the SECOND you can get away, do so. And whatever you do, don’t drop your hands to your sides or let him stop them. Thrash. Go fucking crazy. Tear his face off. Never stop until you escape.

 

If he’s got you pinned down…

…and he’s wearing a jacket, sweater or shirt, he’s given you an incredible weapon against himself. Watch the one choke hold every woman needs to learn:

 

If none of that works, and if you can’t get away, OR you’re in a “date rape” type of situation (indoors and unable to just go nuts and run):

 

In a “calm” situation (indoors, date rape):

I want to make it absolutely clear that the first priority is definitely saying no, making it very clear that you are not comfortable, and then if possible fighting him off. It’s only after these tactics have failed that I’m advocating turning the tables and trying another tactic.

You’re in a situation where you’re already trapped and something you don’t want to happen is happening, and fighting has failed. Rather than just giving up, there is a last resort: Rope-a-Dope.

In situations where you are very clearly not giving consent and he won’t stop, and you feel that you are being assaulted, the line has already been crossed. So, If saying “no” and then fighting him off hasn’t worked, pretend to go with it.

Gross, yes. But we’re way past boundaries, and you’re being assaulted and we want this to end (and with as much pain to him as possible.) So the tactic is: Pretend to relax. Pretend to get into it. Start running your hands up and down his shoulders. Work your way up to his face. Maybe even kiss him. Get your hands on both cheeks. If he’s got glasses, just slowly try to remove them first. Put your thumbs right into his eyes. Press like hell and dislodge the eyes from their sockets.

woman-krav-maga

Go for the eyes.

If you can’t get to his face, try asking if you can help him with his pants, or even better, “Go down” on him. Get his pants to his ankles. Get his underwear to his knees. Place both hands around the testicles and yank as hard as you can — try to pull the bastards off. A distended testicle will make him incapable of running, and is FAR more effective than trying to kick or punch the balls. It takes quite a lot of force to rupture one, but not much at all to yank it out of place.

With his pants around his ankles, he’s not going to be able to chase.

If that’s not possible, look for an alarm clock or the phone. Anything with bulk. Grab it and slam it against his head.

In any case, the second you can get out of the room, run. Get out of the house / building. Go to the nearest populated place (a neighbor’s house, a store, a gas station). Yell and scream the entire time. Do NOT remain calm once you’re out — get attention and get it fast. Shame has no place for you here. You’re not the one who should be ashamed — HE IS.

All of this said, it’s far better to have a weapon and be safe and distant. It’s hard to maintain an erection with a bullet in you.

 

Final thoughts:

The major major MAJOR point here is to be aware of your surroundings and not get attacked in the first place. But sometimes, dudes are fucking gross and decide they just want to do bad things, and when they do, I want you to be able to protect and defend yourself.

If you are attacked, you need distance between you and your attacker, as quickly as possible. To that end, a weapon which incorporates distance is primary. One that incapacitates and keeps them from pursuing you is preferred. Or, putting it simply, get a damn gun and learn to use it safely and responsibly.

It’s unpleasant to talk about, but the truth is, there’s no martial art in the world that can teach you how to defend yourself while unconscious. If he can’t get near you, he can’t choke you or knock you out.

If you have no choice, or weapons simply aren’t an option for you, you need to keep calm and use the situation to your advantage however possible. If fighting can’t get you free, turn the tables. You’re already trapped — instead of just surrendering, try a fallback tactic of going with it and attempting to get your hands on the most vulnerable parts of his body, the eyes and the genitals.

Above all else… Be ready to hurt him for real. Because he’s ready to hurt you, and that simply won’t do.

Continue Reading

How To Teach The Internet How To Make The Best Steak They’ve Ever Had In Their Lives

November 6, 2016 Blog Comments (0) 75

Like any decent internet user, I’ve been posting pictures of my food to Instagram for years. My favorite subject: STEAK. As such, I’ve been asked by dozens of people about my technique for perfectly cooked steaks. So I thought I’d deliberately be obtuse and teach you how to teach people how to make steak. Because this is the internet, and nothing can ever be just a straightforward tutorial. It has to be ART.

img_0070

Now, normally you’d start your post on how to make steak with some stupid story about your childhood. You’d want to start super flowery, like “When I was a young boy in suburban Atlanta, my favorite time of year was the moment the leaves turned from the emerald green of the Amazonian Forest canopy to the bright yellows and reds and oranges that marked the coming of cooler temperatures and festive times…” THAT KIND OF CRAP.

So be sure to start like that when you do your post. And make sure to keep including pictures of food, throughout your nine-page diatriabe about your childhood so people know there’s a recipe somewhere in their future while you masturbate with your English Lit degree that doesn’t do you any good anywhere in your real life, except for your food blog. It’s super important.

14470569_10101991769599938_4436914198203608726_n

You can also include inspirational quotes. People like those.

Ingredients

  • Steaks (duh) — I highly recommend Ribeye or New York Strip, but anything with decent marbling will work. The more fat the better. Butcher-cut steaks are best, of course, but this will work with even your basic supermarket special. Just make sure it’s a decent thickness. Thin-cut steaks tend to burn up on the grill.
  • Kosher or Sea Salt: It works with coarse or medium grain, but I don’t recommend finely ground salt, unless you just want a really salty steak. Do NOT use iodized salt. There’s lots of reasons why, like the fact that the iodization process kills the moisture-drawing property of the salt. But also, iodized salt isn’t very tasty.
  • Butter: Kerrygold or another grass-fed butter is best. No margarine.
  • Montreal Seasoning: if you don’t like Montreal, we can’t be friends. But there’s other options, like just salt and pepper. But no seriously, use Montreal.
  • Garlic: Cause garlic.
  • Beer: Because that’s what you drink when you grill. It’s just the rules, man.

Now, before we even get to prep-work (which, if you’re in a hurry, is: pat the steaks completely dry, salt the absolute shit out of both sides, and let sit for an hour per inch of thickness, then rinse, pat completely dry again, then grill), we need to get the absolute most important part out of the way:

 

The Lead Photo

Let’s face it, your kitchen is not cool. My kitchen is not cool. None of us out here writing this stuff can afford cool kitchens. So having some seriously bad-ass custom kitchen photos isn’t going to be an option. And no one wants to post a lead photo of their REAL kitchen, because it looks like this:

img_3098

No one wants to see this. This will not do. So you need a few things before you even start cooking:

  • A wooden table from a thrift shop
  • an oversized measuring cup
  • bamboo salt and pepper decanter (yes, that’s a thing)
  • a cute mustard colored bowl
  • parchment paper
  • a mason jar

 

Once you have those things, you can take a photo like THIS:

img_3101

 

THERE. Now that is more like it. “But where’s the mason jar?” you ask? Well it’s right here:

 

img_3115

 

It’s not enough to drink a beer while grilling if you’re going to teach the internet how to grill. You have to pour that shit into a mason jar. That’s how it’s done. I’m not sure why. You’ll have to refer to the rule book. Someone at the W3C decided that, years ago, beverage photos on the internet that appear in “how to cook” posts must be in mason jars.

Now, we have our nice photo of our food before we begin cooking it. But it’s not enough just to have the nice photo. We need FILTERS!

 

Basic Filters

img_0068

Clarendon: A nice choice for the discerning Instagram food photographer who wants to somehow still be able to post #NOFILTER on their description and have people buy it.

 

img_0070

X-Pro-II: When you really wanna sell that contrast, because you’re bright on the outside but SUPER DARK on the inside, and wish people could just see past your happiness act and ask you “What’s wrong?” So you can answer “Oh, nothing!”

 

Advanced Filters:

If you really wanna get wild, you can hop into Photoshop and begin shifting and tilting channels:

img_0066

It’s glitchy and artsy and so cool! It looks like you don’t know what you’re doing, which is a look only those who REALLY know what they’re doing can pull off!

And for the TRULY nutty, out-there, cool kid who wants to bring a little retro-future into their food blog, I suggest going with tilt-wire-grid-mapping turned into a looping gif:

 

img_0067

SO EDGY!

 

Prep Time!

Ok, now that you’ve got your lead photos done, it’s time to get to the prep. These photos don’t have to be nearly as cool or artsy, because they’re “Process” and everyone knows that “process” is a bit messy. Plus, they’re already so impressed by your photographic acumen with the first photo that they’re willing to forgive everything up to the actual money shot of plated food. But that doesn’t mean you can rest… When that grill fires up, you better be ready for a FLAME LICK PHOTO. But we’ll get to that.

So here we go: first, you have to DAB DRY the steaks. Not rub, not blow dry, but DAB DRY. I don’t know why that’s so important, except that dabbing is a fad that kids are doing or something. I blame Drake.

Ok, so you need to salt the absolute crap out of the steaks. I use Diamond medium ground salt, because it’s like a dollar for a massive box from Amazon, so I don’t feel wasteful when I rinse off a half pound of salt from my steaks:

img_3105

Now, you just cover and wait. I recommend drinking beer while you do. And when time is up, and you uncover the steaks, you’ll notice that the salt is moist and dark:

img_3127

Yep, moist and dark, just like my coffee.

Once you rinse the salt off and pat dab the steaks dry, you’ll notice they’ve turned a super dark red:

img_3128

This is where some mega science comes in. The reason you salt the steaks is a) to absorb moisture, but also b) because salt emulsifies fat, and c) swells and softens protein fibers. So, you’re removing water while liquefying fat, which then soaks into the actual protein fibers of the meat. No more steamed meat, hello juicy delicious steaks!

Now, it’s time for a shot of the grill with no steak on it, so I can talk to you about preparation while also showing you all the other yummy things we intend to eat, while not actually talking about how make any of those things cause this post is about STEAK:

img_3135

Please notice how close the beer is to the grill. This was placed there for the shot, because that beer is going to get warm as hell if it actually sits that close to the grill. Don’t forget to put your beer in your photo (and other accessories to your amazing lifestyle, such as the cigar picture I include further down).

Whatever else you cook, cook it first. You need all of it (except the corn, which you wanna leave on so it gets smoked with the meat smokes) off the grill before you cook the steak, cause you need the grill to be at 450 degrees:

img_3138

 

Once you’ve cleaned off the grill and it’s up to 450 degrees, it’s time to put those steaks on:

 

img_3139

 

 

Notice how the steaks aren’t perfectly horizontal. You want them somewhat diagonal, and then after one minute, you want to rotate them 90 degrees to the other diagonal, for perfect grid lines. I recommend using a timer, both because it’s an easy way to count minutes and also because nothing says “internet cooking guide” like a screenshot from an iPhone:

img_3165

 

So the rotation goes:

Minute 1: rotate diagonally

Minute 2: flip and baste with butter, garlic, and Montreal mixture

Minute 3: rotate diagonally

Minute 4: Flip, baste again, Immediately flip, let the butter burn a bit, and remove

img_3173

And make sure in the midst of flipping the steaks, you get a FLAME SHOT for your blog. You need one.

 

img_3184

And here’s the cigar shot I told you about. Mandatory.

 

img_3185

Perfectly charred and caramelized fat on the steak = good steak.

 

Plating and the Coup De Grace

Ok, now it’s time for the money shot:

img_3192

… Well that’s not very interesting. There’s not nearly enough hipster shit going on. One minute, let me go cut the bushes in the front yard….

 

img_3193

VOILA. But still, something’s missing… OH THE EXTREME ANGLE AND FILTERS!

 

img_3197

THERE WE GO. Perfectly cooked internet tutorial steak.

 

And here’s a shot of me pretending you’re going to eat it, because it hasn’t been frustrating enough staring at 20 pictures of someone else’s food artistically positioned to make you as hungry as possible:

img_3199

Bon Appétit!

Continue Reading

The Utter Crap You Can Expect Me To Post On This Here Blog

November 3, 2016 Blog Comments (1) 63

I spent a lot of mental power working out howimg_0061 Thurston Howell III From Gilligan’s Island managed to get enough cigars to last him three entire seasons of the show onto the S.S. Minnow, a tiny charter vessel (which by the way should have been called the M.V. Minnow (Motor Vehicle) or M.Y. Minnow (Motor Yacht), because the designation S.S. was used for vessels that ran on steam power (Steam Ship).

I had a blog post in the making about smuggling networks, and how he could have submerged cases of cigars in airtight drums dragged beneath the boat to avoid any detection, and how he might have rigged a ballast to reduce drag. And then, to get an image to accompany my post, I did some Googling for “Thurston Howell III Cigar” and came up with absolutely nothing.

It turns out, all of the 30+ years of memories I’ve got of the show Gillian’s Island had some weird aspect of Thurston Howell III smoking cigars somehow inserted into my brain. Because as far as I can tell, the man never once smoked a single cigar on screen.

This could be yet another brick on the pile of evidence that is mounting that we are all living in a strange divergent timeline that split from Reality Prime (or R¹) somewhere in the mid-80’s.

This theory began, interestingly enough, from people across the internet remembering that the Berenstein Bears were, in fact, called the Bereinstein Bears. I remember them being called the Berenstein Bears. But for some reason, all of the books, tapes and other media containing the Berenstein Bears are titled “Berenstain Bears.” (Here’s another article, and another, and yet another, and here’s the boring attempt to explain the whole phenomenon, known as “The Mandela Effect” in which masses of people misremember things… But I’m telling you, the Bereinstein Bears were fucking called the Berenstein Bears).

This combines with the newly discovered revelation that Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island did not, in fact, smoke cigars, despite my childhood memories that that man smoked at least one cigar an episode.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of quality analytical investigation you can expect from this blog going forward.

Continue Reading

My relationship with Social Media is unhealthy and I’m sick of being sick.

November 3, 2016 Blog Comments (9) 52

The last few months, I’ve felt sick. Physically ill. Something was genuinely wrong within me. I felt angry all the time. Genuinely, purely angry.

This wasn’t faux frustration I’m talking about. I spent a lot of my youth and young adult life angry due to a large number of genuinely unfair circumstances. I had some horrible things happen that forced me to learn how to deal with that anger. I learned how to meditate, how to channel energy into positive things, and how to cope with the small sparks within me before they could grow into infernos. And the past few months, I’ve found myself completely forgetting all of that teaching, instead being ready to pop at a moment’s notice.

So a short while back, I took a few weeks to really analyze what was going on in me. This is the sum total what I’ve learned.

•     •     •

Social Media, Mental Health and That Asshole Guy Donald Trump

I’ve backed off Social Media a number of times in my life. And one thing that remains true every single time is that, after backing off for a while, you start to not miss it. Yes, at first it’s hard. A day in, it’s difficult not to type “F-A-C-E” into the address bar and have it autocomplete to Facebook. It’s habit, as much as pressing in the clutch before you shift becomes habit while driving. But it wanes after a short while, and after a few days, I don’t really have to think too hard about how NOT to type F-A-C-E” the second I open my web browser.

So a week or more goes by, and I have the habit kicked. I’m TOTALLY over it. All is well, and I’m cleansed. So I feel safe checking in to see what’s going on. And that’s all it is at first, checking in.

Until THAT article shows up.

You know exactly which article I’m talking about, even though it’s different for every one of us. It’s the one that you shake your head at and scoff and think “What the fuck!” And you just HAVE to respond. And the second you do, you feel that shock of poison through your veins that gets your heart going and your mind racing. It’s adrenaline mixed with dopamine. You’re back on the juice, and you know that you’re a few clever observations from Like City and yet another moment of validation.

So I tried sanitizing my Facebook world. I tried unfriending the gross and unfollowing the borderline, and focusing only on my friends and their jolly good times. And I’d pop on and I’d think to myself “Oh, wow, my nephew is at the Kennedy Space Center! He looks so happy! That is so awesome… And look, my friend Rachel just got engaged! How wonderful! And my friend Nikki’s adorable precious angel baby child is trying to eat the lid to a jar of raspberry preserves, and that’s just SO adorable and OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK DID TRUMP SAY?!? I MUST RESPOND!”

It’s like wanting a refreshing beverage and drinking 30% Kool-aid mixed with 70% cyanide, and being thankful for having your thirst quenched.

The older (and presumably wiser) I’ve gotten, the more absolute moral certainty disturbs me. I am an unapologetic liberal, morally. Politically, I would have to say that I’m far more centrist, especially when it comes to rights and fiscal responsibility. For quite a while, I was able to walk that line in conversations and debate. But the last few years, I’ve found myself going all-in on policy, simply because there’s really no other option online. You can’t be in the middle anymore. It’s red team vs. blue team, for all the chips in the pot, at all times, every single day.

It wasn’t immediately apparent that I was slipping into “I’m right, you’re wrong” territory. It took a while (like, years) for me to slip into the role, and once I did, I felt 100% justified going full-bore apeshit on people who, I felt, represented this morally reprehensible division in our country that could somehow fathom voting for a loathesome, disgusting, mysognistic racist, classist, xenophobic, whiny rich-kid-brat 70 year old that is Donald Trump.

The mere fact they could support him put anyone who bothered to advocate or defend any of his policies on the other side of the social fence we’ve all erected.

But here’s the thing: It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s mine. I can’t help it. I am addicted to the call-and-response of people I think are stupid having the audacity to be on MY internet, saying shit I don’t agree with. HOW DARE THEY?!? I was here first (more on that in a bit)!

It’s naive to think you can sanitize your way to a trigger-less existence by removing everyone from it. It’s evil to think you can make them not react in their own way, on their on terms, to the things that upset them inside their own circles. The correct answer to this is to adopt a stance that strikes a balance between not being okay with something, but being okay with the fact that other people get to have an opinion.

I had to learn to just shut the hell up and let it be.

I forget that people who support Donald Trump are human beings with lives and feelings and opinions that are borne of their own personal hardships. Loss of jobs, higher taxes, what few dollars they bring in with their incomes going nowhere near as far as they did 20 or 30 years ago. The sociopolitical divides of their Judeo-Christian upbringing being in conflict with social openness and awareness and acceptance. Everything they’ve ever known to be right, true and correct is being challenged and accepted by people who seem to control aspects of the world they feel completely detached from, and yet completely controlled by.

And that’s just when it comes to who should be president.

So they probably feel every bit as passionate about their viewpoints as I do about mine. And they’re willing to overlook the negative traits of the human being running for office that they’ve decided to vote for, because he represents a sea change back to things they can understand. Just like I’m willing to overlook scandals, lies and 30 years worth of political maneuvering in my candidate, just for the shot to be President.

Because for me, Hillary has become an avatar AGAINST what I don’t understand. Just like Trump is an avatar AGAINST what they don’t understand. I truly believe that the vast majority of people couldn’t care less what their own candidate believes, they just don’t want the other one in office because of what they do represent.

And none of this dialog or understanding or insight takes place on Facebook or Twitter. It tries, in pockets and in parts. But by and large, it’s “us versus them” all day, every day.

So I fire shots across bows, because I have clever quips and insights. And I get hundreds of likes every single time I do, because the only people even listening anymore are the ones who already agree with my viewpoints. If I haven’t already blocked or unfollowed “friends” who represent strong opinions on the other side of the aisle for saying things that I deem racist, stupid, poorly thought out, tone-deaf or some other manifestation of their lack of understanding, they’ve most certainly blocked or unfollowed me.

All of this to say, It’s not so much that I want to talk about presidential candidates and how I feel about them, as it is that this most recent dividing line is one of the most stark we’ve faced as a society since the invention of the internet. So it’s the perfect illustration about how society has been driven to division, in part due to validation and the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome, and partly because of the companies that perpetuate and foster it because they actively profit from that division.

And this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

•     •     •

Before Social Media, It Was Just The Internet (or, “Back in my day…)

It was 1990 when I first connected to the Internet. I was on Qlink for the Commodore 64. I still remember the sqeal of the modem and the thrill of seeing that most amazing word appear on the screen, “Connected!”

The whole world, it seemed, was at my fingertips… Because it was. And while there were definitely trolls and griefers on the message boards in spots, by and large, it was an open and inviting place. There was so much to learn, and at 12 years old, I was ravenous for knowledge (and also very very bored at home). The content available back then (as well as the number of users) is dwarfed by several orders of magnitude by what’s out there today, but at the time, it was more than enough to enthrall me.

Time moved forward. Hypertext became a thing. Browsers were developed to view pages written in HTML. The individual networks were deregulated and eventually merged. I was in college around the time The World Wide Web was formed. It was interesting to see that the internet graudated from a hobbyist’s medium, to a place where college kids and professors spent their Fall, Winter and Spring semesters, to the “Eternal September” when the number of users didn’t dip at all after school ended, to the massive, always-on, heavily populated, “something to read on the toilet on my smartphone” sphere of existence it’s become today.

The ride from then to now has had its bumps, and things slowly got weirder and stranger as we went along. When I first connected to the internet, there was a base-level of knowledge, education, understanding and ability you had to have simply to get there. You had to know how to operate a computer. That computer had to have a modem and a phone line attached. You had to know how to set the parameters on the modem to receive signals from the destination modem (and they were all different). Finally, you had to know what numbers to dial, how to connect, how to create an account… There were so many barriers to entry. You had to WANT to be online, and pretty badly.

The main appeal for me, of course, was the lack of barriers and gatekeepers. You want to make something? No one can tell you ‘no.’ Make your art. Write your stories. Publish your ideas and your opinions. The world was open to you. Hundreds of thousands of people could see this thing you made, and if they loved it, they could tell you. And if they hated it, they COULDN’T tell you it had to go. They just moved on.

Then came AOL and CompuServe and Netcom and the like. It got easier. You just plopped a disk into the drive and ran the connection software.

Then came ISDN, DSL, Cable. Modems no longer required any sort of configuration. Internet was always-on, and in everyone’s home.

Friendster. Myspace. Facebook.

The Well. Fark. Digg. 4Chan. Reddit.

Alta Vista. Yahoo. Google.

Palm VII. Handspring. Treo. iPhone and Android.

Walk into any electronics store in 2016 and in an hour, you can walk out with a device that can connect to the sum of human knowledge, anywhere, at any time.

It finally happened. Everyone, Everywhere, had internet all the time, and there was a TON of internet to be had.

In theory, 12-year-old me would be delighted. The potential for everyone to learn anything they wanted, make anything they wanted, publish anything they wanted, whenever, however… It was a utopian concept that thrilled me to my core. It’s what drove me to write in the first place. It’s what gave me my writing career, software development career, design career… It made it all possible, because no one could tell me ‘no.’

In reality, 39-year-old me is horrified. It seems that when everyone can do anything whenever they want, they tend to ruin it — and the companies are there to profit from the chaos of it all.

•     •     •

What Do You Do With A Drunken Internet (Social Media And Mental Health)?

Charlie Brooker recently gave an amazing interview to Vulture.com where he talks about the dissonance that’s created by all of this need to appeal to everyone at once. It’s all brilliant, but in particular, this bit:

There are different groups of people in your life that you behave slightly differently with. You behave one way with your family. You behave in a different way with your work colleagues. You behave differently with your friends from the movie club, your fitness instructor — all subtly different personas. I remember once throwing a birthday party, and people from different pockets of my life were walking around in one room, and I kind of had a psychological breakdown. I didn’t know how to speak. I’d walk over to some of them and it was like, Hang on. How do I speak if my work colleagues are with my old college friends? Who am I?

…Online, you’re trying to appeal to everyone and people who you don’t know at the same time. So I think as a side effect it amplifies the desire for groupthink. And also because of the way there are algorithms going, Oh, so you like hearing this fact about Hillary Clinton, let’s show you something else that’s like that — it reinforces your echo chamber. We’re all helplessly spiraling into corners and bellowing at each other. I miss everything being boring. Just a few years ago everyone was dismissing everything as dull and now nothing is. It’s all brilliant or shit [emphasis mine].

It’s so hard to see what the internet has become en masse. It hurts to see this thing I’ve loved and spent so much time with, on, and around, turn into what it has become. It hurts even more to know that I am part of that problem. I remember a time when it wasn’t this way, and having to live in the middle of it while remembering how it just doesn’t have to be like this is painful. And I have no real way around it. Except to just not be in it.

It’s ridiculous to think that anyone — or even everyone — could mount a counter-offensive against the rampant stupidity (and commercialization of said stupidity) that’s become what the internet is today. It’s not only not possible, it’s not even feasible. For every one of us who dreams of an internet “the way it used to be” there’s literally a hundred thousand others who don’t know what it used to be, don’t care what it used to be, and want us to shut the fuck up about how it used to be.

Because it’s now, now. It’s not then. PROGRESS™ has taken place. So that’s stupid. It’s also toxic. It’s poisonous to be that person in the middle of a massive organism saying “No no, let’s go back to far less people, far less information being shared, and far less progress! Let’s silence the masses who have just discovered what it’s like to be heard!”

It’s pretty much like saying “Let’s Make America Great Again.” It’s code for exclusion. And as much as I miss what the internet used to be, I only miss it because I dreamed of what it could become based on what I was seeing at the time. And by and large, EVERY SINGLE THING I saw it becoming, has happened.

We DO have instant access to the sum of human knowledge, thanks to Wikipedia. Being lost getting from point A to point B is a thing of the past, thanks to Google and Apple Maps. I can have food, groceries, and any number of Lego kits delivered to my home the day I ordered them, thanks to Amazon. There’s no question I can conceptualize that can’t be answered by a simple search thanks to Google and Wolfram Alpha.

And there’s also no shortage of grief. Whether you go looking for it or not, it’ll find you.

When you give everyone a voice, they’re going to use it. And once they find out how great it feels to be heard, they won’t stop using it. When the vast majority of the people speaking live in a country where you have the luxury of being bored, you’re not scrambling simply to survive, and even the poorest of us have hot water, electricity and a car, your baseline for what passes as “having a voice” defaults to either opinion or annoyance.

It’s a hard truth to face, but even at the absolute lowest point in my entire life, I had a car to sleep in. I never spent a night on the street, despite being homeless. I had friends (a lot of whom I met and befriended on the internet) who gave me couches to sleep on, hot water for showers and shelter from the elements when I was in need.

My life is not one of supreme hardship, even at its hardest. And the same is true for the vast majority of Americans (and the developed world in general). Our great war is in ourselves, pushing hard to be heard because we’ve been raised on television and rock and roll and we think that that’s what it means to be special — to be listened to. And what we have to say, by and large, is just some sort of spin on something else we’ve already heard. In the rare instances of a unique voice appearing, it’s a matter of hours before everything they say is drowned out with poison and anger and disagreement. And if it survives that process, it’s a day before it’s co-opted, borrowed, stolen, turned into a meme, circulated, regurgitated, re-memed and washed out within a week.

Our great disquiet is not being fully satisfied 24 hours a day. And we’re on the verge of revolution because of it.

Everyone is so angry with the fact that they’re not being listened to. In some instances, it’s fully justified. There is absolutely no way one could logically disagree that there are entire demographics of people whom have benefited greatly from finally being able to be heard. Homosexual couples can get married. Black lives are mattering. Gender identity is beginning to lose all of the marketing-derived preconcept it suffers from and opening up so that people can simply be how they feel, despite the ridiculous rules that have been made up by movies and TV around how they SHOULD be because they have certain genitalia. Women are finally voicing their aggravation with decades of toxic masculinity in a manner that can’t be ignored, and men are finally able to see what toxic masculinity has done to their own mental health.

All of this, much to the dismay of those who benefit from all of it being unraveled and exposed. I should know. I was one.

•     •     •

Social Media and My Writing

At first, I’d write articles on my blog and post them to Social Media. I’d enjoy the shares and the likes, but the traffic went to my site and read my stuff. That stuff still persists today. You can find it in Google. You can refer to it anytime you want, because it’s always there.

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself writing more and more on Facebook instead of writing on my blog or for a publication or on my books. As a result my writing got more and more reactive, and the impetus shifted mainly to writing because I was upset about something I saw or read, and I knew I could get support for it and/or stir the pot.

Writing because you’re offended is rarely a creative endeavor. Sometimes, yes. But rarely.

I’ve found myself giving the vast majority of my time and effort to short form, temporary, of-the-moment content platforms that monetize my energy (and anger) while controlling the stuff I make there. And what’s more, they profit with every single second we spend fighting, yelling, and arguing with one another. Something about that is profoundly sick. They literally have no incentive whatsoever to quell the hostility and bring us together. In fact, they have vastly more incentive to provoke hostility and promote echo chambers. Something I can tell you from my years at ad agencies, ads sell better to groups of people with highly visible markers for interest, and no marker is more highly visible than what you hate (especially when it’s a polar choice of one thing or the other. It’s way easier to sell someone a pro-Trump bumper sticker when you know they share, for instance, anti-Hillary stories).

People spend money when they’re hungry, horny, or trying to look cool. The first two things sell themselves, but the third… Well, nothing looks cooler to your peer group than something that proves you’re a part of them, and nothing proves that more than showing them how much you hate that thing they also hate, and if you can look clever doing it, even better.

But I don’t run ads. So none of it benefits me in any way whatsoever, aside from ego validation. And a purse full of validation and three dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Here’s a few of the issues I’ve identified when it comes to my writing and Social Media:

The goddamn futlility of it all. Writing on Facebook is spitting into the stream; writing on Twitter feels like spitting into the wind. There are entire swaths of content I don’t even remember writing. It was produced, people “liked” it, it got a massive swell, shared all over and… nothing mattered. I got validated for a thought I had, yay. What the hell changed? I got more followers, and I got shared more, but to what end? What good did it do, besides puffing up my ego?

But I can argue it did a massive amount of harm, if to no one else but myself. I slowly stopped posting articles and concentrated on just writing long Facebook posts. It wasn’t a conscious decision (which is the scariest part, looking back on it). It just kinda happened. Rather than fire up an editor and write an article, I’d start jotting a post and it would just go and go and go and before I knew it, I had 1,000 to 3,000 words penned that inevitably got tons of likes and shares. And I will gladly pay anyone $100 USD if they can, off the top of their head, quote a goddamn sentence from any of them.

How the hell do I handle outright untruths? Arguing with the people who spread them and trying to prove they’re wrong does nothing. There are literally thousands of insane false-information propigation sites being shared daily by Facebook users as if they’re the equivalent of respected, research-based news sources, simply because both are online. And the algorithms of social media ensure that, when you like or respond to or click on or engage with anything, they show you more of it — so you end up in an echo chamber.

So slowly but surely, all that fake shit people click on and share becomes all they ever see, and they build their own reality. Every time they look through that window in their hand or on their desk to the world at large via the internet, all they see is shit that confirms every single bias they ever had. And in the rare cases of rogue articles from ANY source besides the ones they’ve learned to trust sneaking in, they scream “LIES!” at the top of their lungs, without even reading it, because the headline is all they need to know about. It’s all any of us need to know about anymore.

Headline + accompanying picture + opinion = likes and shares ahoy. That’s the churn. And I have no real evidence that I’m not doing the same thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am. And I hate it and I want to stop.

Who’s even reading anyway? The entire Social Media economy runs on likes and shares. People often like and share based on a headline alone. Most people who read the things I was writing there genuinely liked what I wrote and wanted to share with others, and for that I thank them. Those others shared with their others, and I could always tell that I was on the cusp of a “SEE, this is what I was talking about!” Echo-chamber share-a-thon when my likes jumped into the 3oo’s. I don’t have any posts that stay at 300 likes. 100, 200, 250, sure. Once they hit 300, they inevitably hit 3000 – 10,000 shares and likes because at that point, no one is reading it. They’re agreeing with whomever shared it, and that’s about it. And that is EVERY article, every time, no matter what.

After a certain point, it’s just “See, this is what I was talking about” without elaboration or discussion. It’s just another badge sewn on the tribal vest. And those numbers above 300 don’t translate into anything. They don’t result in people researching me, or reading my other posts, or reading my website, or buying books. They’re just numbers. It sure feels good to see, but it doesn’t matter at all in the long run (now, if I was running ads or getting paid to post, that’d be a different story…)

The Traffic Game. You want instant traffic? Write an article about an emerging social awakening. You want instant infamy? Write one AGAINST one. Clicks and likes ahoy. Any writer who writes for a major publication who tells you this isn’t at least in the back of their brain while they produce work is lying to you. Any writer can control that urge to pander for a short while in the name of good journalism… But sooner or later, it DOES affect you.

As someone who actively rebelled against a facet of very important and very powerful cultural awakening (the 2012 piece I wrote for CNN about Feminism in the Geek community) only to discover it was ME who was the problem and not “Fake Geek Girls,” I have found the process of awakening painful, difficult, and rewarding in a way I never thought it could be. Writing my personal opinions out on CNN about how “Geek Culture” was being “Co-opted” by “fakers” was probably the worst best thing I’ve ever done. It exposed me to a critique I wasn’t ready for. It made me stand and attend the cultural hearing that needed to take place.

I had a choice in the moments shortly after publishing that article. I could have doubled-down on my viewpoint and Rush Limbaughed my way to a certain kind of disgusting fame amongst misogynists. Trust me — the offer was on the table. CNN LOVED the traffic spike that piece gave them, and they were more than happy to continue running “Bad Boy Joe Peacock vs. The Entire Geek World” pieces.

But something in me wouldn’t let me do that. I was horrified at the reaction to my piece (although I really shouldn’t have been, in hindsight, but that’s what hindsight is good for— punishing yourself for being stupid).  I honestly thought I was taking up and defending the flag of something I found sacred, through a childhood and adolescence of fighting just to like “geeky” things. But I wasn’t. I was perpetuating a gross exclusion of a type of content, based soley on the fact that when I found it as a teenager, it was made specifically for people like me — white straight hormonally driven escapist males, drawn and written by the same. So, wow, no brainer that it appealed to me, and seemed as if everyone who WASN’T me hated me for liking it.

Times changed. I didn’t get the memo (or, more likely–and this hurts to admit–I did and I threw it away without reading it). And I had to take some time to digest that fact. Not just a few days or weeks, but years of talking to experts, reading every book I could on the subject, and really digging in on what the hell had just happened.

Doing the work was the only answer. And I’m STILL doing that work. Defending what was, merely because it was easier for me to understand, was wrong.

Just like “Make America Great Again” is wrong. Just like wishing the internet was miraculously transformed back to a hard-to-get-on, harder-to-navigate thing merely because it would somehow raise the baseline of education needed to be on it (which, by the way, it absolutely wouldn’t — as I said earlier, there were trolls and griefers back when it started. There always will be, no matter what, a certain demographic of people who get their thrills by annoying, picking on, threatening or otherwise harassing people, because they are bored and their lives lack meaning, and this validates their ego’s need to matter. Again, I should know, because I was one).

So what’s to be done about my toxic relationship with Social Media, if I’m not going to advocate changing Social Media?

The only answer is to change myself.

•     •     •

So what now?

Twitter killing Vine was a wake-up call. At any time, any company that owns the platform you create on can change it or kill it and you’re left without your stuff (or, have your stuff changed out from underneath you). This isn’t the first such wakeup call I’ve had

To that end, I’ve left Twitter (I’ve deleted every tweet and won’t be going back — but I’m not deleting my account, because I don’t want someone with a vendetta snagging the name). Twitter is pretty much a cesspool. It was genuinely useful during the Arab Spring, but since that time, it’s simply become a platform for hate and threats and verbal hostility that goes largely unchecked and unpunished by its owners… Because IT PROFITS FROM THIS. So fuck that.

I’ve dramatically reduced my Facebook activity in the past few weeks, and will continue to do so. When I do hop on, it will be to post pictures of food, cigars, cool costumes, neat records, funny things, or share a piece of writing I’ve created.

I’ve found that my writing has dried up and become mostly nothing the past few years — coincidentally, it started around the time that I started posting paragraphs-long diatribes to social media. That need in me to express myself was being satisfied by daily (sometimes hourly) contributions to a stream of consciousness platform whose idea of content persistence is never useful until the FBI, a potential employer, or a jerk with a vendetta against something you said decide to dig deep to find stuff to use against you.

I’m returning to blogging daily. I am not using Medium or any other platform, because I’ve personally had a few articles ruined as they change how the platform behaved (an easy example: making margin notes now “private notes to self” with no way to change it… I’ve had a few pieces ruined because strong points were made in the margins, and now they just look incomplete). So, I’m back to running my own software on my own server, because hey, if something changes, it’s cause I wanted it to.

From now on, all of my socio-political views are going to be expressed in some sort of longer-form content, either in articles on my blog, or (if they’ll have me back) the journalistic platforms I used to write for, or my books. No more instant validation via Likes and Retweets for little quips that contribute to the sound and the fury, while signifying nothing.

Ultimately, I’m finding a new source of validation, and more and more, it’s coming from within. I’m afraid that I can never, ever detach myself from needing validation, any more than anyone else can or ever will be able to. That state of existence is the mythical concept of Nirvana, and it just plain does not exist — because to achieve it, you would have to destroy your ego, which means you’d have to physically scramble your brain such that it no longer worked fully.

There is no escaping the ego. There is only acceptance that it exists, and that it’s job is to constantly and continually keep you from emotional pain. The pain of looking stupid or weak. The pain of not agreeing with the persona you’ve built yourself to be. The pain of fear. The pain of loss. The pain of existence.

It can’t be destroyed. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be beaten. It can only be accepted and managed. And to that end, I’ve accepted that I am the way I am, and that I don’t have to quit being “me” to be happy. I just need to better express myself and my views, in better mediums for that expression.

I don’t need to contribute to the toxic nature of what has become discourse on the internet. I don’t need to be right all the time. I don’t need to prove how wrong someone who disagrees with me is.

I don’t need what I’ve been doing the past few years. I don’t need to be well-adjusted to a sick society.

What I do need to do is write. And I need that writing to be a healthy exercise. Even if it’s dark… Hell, especially when it’s dark. I need it. I can’t not write. I can’t not let what’s within me sit there without some sort of outlet. It’s just how I’m built.

But I CAN choose to put it in places that matter far more than stirring pots, starting (or contributing to) fights, arguing with my friends and readers on platforms that actively profit from our hating each other, and otherwise venting my colon on Social Media. I can write the books I’ve had stored inside me since I was a teenager. I can write articles that help people cope with pain and disaster, or teach them how not to get bad tattoos or smoke bad cigars or get beat up in a fist fight for no reason. I can do positive things with this energy.

So, I will. And it all starts now, the same way it began in 2001 when I first started writing on the internet: with a website of my own, on my own server, with my own comments section and my own forums and my own newsletter. I know that I will see a DRASTIC decrease in engagement, likes, shares and whatnot… But I don’t care. Because that’s no longer a valid form of currency for me.

All that matters now is producing work I am proud of and sharing it with those who’d like to read it. And I’m very honored that you’ve decided to read it.

Thank you.

Continue Reading

OH man what a cool test post

November 1, 2016 Blog Comments (5) 36

Not even kidding, best test post ever.

Continue Reading