Monday, February 02, 2009

What Global Warming?

This was written last Wednesday when things were at their worst here. I didn't get power back in the Fortress of Solipsism until last night, Sunday, which was nearly a week after this all started. More than 100,000 homes in Kentucky are still without power.

This is how the world ends. In ice.

December 21st 2012 came early in Paducah, Kentucky.

Right now I’m living through what the governor of Kentucky has called a state of disaster. And I certainly wouldn’t disagree with him. Because it is.

A massive ice storm blew into Kentucky (as well as a few surrounding states) and wiped out pretty much all of the power in the areas where it hit. The only reason I’m able to type this is because I’m in one of the few places in Paducah, in Western Kentucky even, with power, the office building where I work.

Not only is the power out but most of the phone lines and internet are down as well. If you need to call the cops for an emergency you can’t. The phone lines aren’t working and neither are cell phones.

And the roads, Jesus, the roads are downright anarchic.

Driving home last night was like driving through downtown Beirut. Paducah looked like it had been pummeled with bombs. Power lines hung windshield level and huge tree limbs and even whole trees lay across the roads, all caused by the weight of accumulated ice. At times I didn’t think I would be able to make it home through the natural disaster obstacle course, made even more deadly by the fact visibility was low due to everything being ominously dark and rainy.

Here’s something you probably won’t notice until it isn’t there anymore, because I didn’t. Street lights make it a lot easier to see at night. When they’re not working in a place where you’re used to having them it’s hard to even find familiar landmarks.

For me it was like driving through a war torn area in the fucking Twilight Zone.

That feeling has not changed except for the fact I’m not driving.

I don’t know if Kentucky is on the network news or not right now, because I haven’t been able to watch TV due to the whole not having power thing, but I’m betting it is.

Let me tell you what it’s like to live through this shit. Last night when I did manage to make it home by taking several detours, I entered a dark and cold house with no power. I sat down and lit a candle. The only sound I could hear as I watched my breath in the candlelit air was the sound of trees cracking and huge crashing noises as giant limbs fell and hit the ground and, at times, my house and garage. And it kept happening over and over. It was spooky and at times, when it actually did hit the house, downright terrifying.

It’s not really a sound you can go to sleep to easily.

So I had the brilliant idea of going back to work where there was power and heating and no huge trees falling apart above my head. This involved navigating the maze of death back to work, made easier by the fact I’d already driven through it once and knew what to avoid, which was mostly just roads with trees around them.

I made it back to work without dying and just as I was walking in the power cut off. I cursed God for not existing and giving me someone to blame for this crap, but the power kicked back on after a few minutes and I was saved from boredom, paranoia, and fear by distraction.

I spent the next few hours in the comforts of modern man, heating and powered lights and computers and The Wire. I was of course without the internet as I am now even as I type this. I miss the internet and World of Warcraft and piracy and all things good in the world.

The bad thing about going back to work to enjoy all the stuff I didn’t have at home was that I eventually had to go back home because I didn’t really want to sleep at work. The road maze back home at 4 AM was made even worse by the fact that not only had more power lines and tree limbs fallen making roads I’d driven on earlier impassable, but it was snowing so visibility was even shittier than it was at midnight.

I could have been intelligent and just gone to my parents where there was at least heat from their gas burning fireplace and kerosene heater, but I chose the stupidity of braving out the cold in my own home while the giant tree hanging over my house disintegrated and threatened to fall all through the roof on me all night. Like I said earlier, this was not an easy sound to go to sleep to. When I finally did go to sleep I’d wake up to that familiar sound, like tiny gunshots going off, as the limb snapped followed by the inevitable crashing noise as it either hit the ground or shook my house.

And for whatever reason having home owners insurance is not really comforting as your house gets destroyed by a tree and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.

I heard my phone line snap at one point, though the power line seems to have escaped the carnage so far, except for the fact it’s laying in the yard still attached to the pole and my house, with three huge limbs on it. The power line to my garage was snapped as well.

Somehow I finally managed to sleep through the chaos and cold for a few solid hours only to wake up today to more limbs on my house and garage, my neighbor’s new wooden fence crushed in several places by tree limbs from my yard, and three inches of snow on the ground as if the ice just wasn’t enough.

I never thought there would be a time I preferred work over my own house, but this is apparently that time. Why go home? I can’t think of one good reason except to feed my cat.

Tonight I plan on sleeping at my parent’s house even though they’re almost out of kerosene, because at least they have a natural gas fireplace that isn’t going to run out. Oh, did I mention that Paducah is currently out of gasoline because the two gas stations that had power are now out and having to get the police to turn angry people away? We’re also out of kerosene as well. They’ve also stopped all open gas stations from selling diesel fuel to anyone except city trucks involved in the emergency clean up and repair effort.

Another thing I nearly forgot to mention because there’s so much crazy shit going on right now is that the governor of Kentucky has issued a statewide curfew. No one is supposed to be out driving after dark. I have a letter from my work place to be out after dark because I work for a financial institution that must remain open so the few places that are open can do their banking and credit card stuff. I’m sure the main reason he’s issued this curfew is because of the possibility of looting. This place is a looters and criminals wet dream right now. The cops are too busy dealing with the chaos of the storm to deal with anything. It’s not really a pleasant thought knowing no one is watching my house right now. My neighbors have been acting more and more like they’ve lost all touch with reality.

This is from one day without power.

Can you imagine how people here are going to be after seven to ten days of this which is what I’m hearing is going to happen?

Think I’ll go smoke one of the last cigarettes I can even get since there’s no place to get any more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Free Cigarette Day For Kids!

Because I’m a huge nerd, I play this online game called Ikariam. It’s kind of like Age of Empires meets Civilization only without all the graphics as it’s a browser based game that you can play anywhere where you have the internet. It’s basically just building cities and armies and fleets and going out and fighting other players and killing their troops/fleets and taking their shit Viking style. It’s pretty simple.

So in Ikariam players are broken up into groups called alliances. The alliance I’m in is called Crown of Thorns which is pretty damn funny considering the fact that I think Christianity is a kooky superstition and all. It’s nothing personal against Christianity really. I think all religions are just superstitious craziness, cause, you know, they are.

I guess because the name of the alliance is Crown of Thorns (though usually just called Thorns as to avoid having people think we’re pussies who turn the other cheek) one of the members took it upon himself to combat all the vulgarity in the alliance circular message system with DAILY BIBLE VERSES. I guess he got offended because the day before several of the other players kept changing their names to dirty filthy porn star names and kept sending circulars to show off their new names. Plus on any given day there’s usually a fair amount of swearing that every player gets via the circular message system from other players in the group, usually because they’re pissed off about losing a battle. The swearing is kind of expected in a war game.

But bible verses? No fucking way. Pushing your superstitions on me when I’m smarter than that? Pushing them on everyone else who wants to just blow off a little steam playing a game? Fuck you, buddy.

Because I am a force of nature online, I am, of course, not just a member, but part of the leadership of Thorns in Ikariam. (Like every other game I play, but let’s not mention my ego here. Thanks.) I immediately fired off a circular rant about how swearing is better than Jesus. Though I think it was probably a little more diplomatic and eloquent than that because I’m not just a member; I’m one of the people who can kick people out just for pissing me off. As a leader I have to set an example and show poise and dignity and all that bullshit.

And then I get a response from someone else in the alliance that made me realize the Bible and Christians aren’t the only things trying to ruin the world for me.

“What about the children? What about the kids playing Ikariam, Smotlock? My 11 and 12 year old play and I don’t want them seeing a bunch of porn star names and profanity.”

Then another person said, “Yeah, my kids play too. I don’t want them reading filth.”

How about this for an answer?

Don’t let them play. Don’t kids already have enough to do that they can just leave one childish game to the grown ups? Jesus, I thought since I didn’t have any kids I could live my life the way I wanted to. I could drink and smoke and swear like a fucking sailor. I could rampage through my adult world with glee and not worry about being a corrupting influence on children.

But you people keep on popping out kids and you don’t want to baby-sit them so you let them hop online to a very adult world, and you want us to monitor ourselves for their benefit because you’re too lazy to? You want us to watch your kids for you?

I am not your baby-sitter. I do not like kids and I don’t really want to be around kids. So how about this? You either monitor what they’re reading online or keep them off the internet until they’re 13 and pretty much know all the swear words already.

But, honestly, if your precious little prize doesn’t already know most profanity by the time they hit third grade, they’re not paying much attention. Back in the days before there was an internet to blame for everything we all learned how to swear at a very young age and we learned from other kids, our parents, and R-rated movies we weren’t supposed to be watching.

And, I don’t know about you, but it did not warp my psychological being to hear words like fuck and goddamn and pussy.

You people who spend so much time trying to shelter your children from reality, all you’re getting is seriously maladjusted kids. They’re in for a very rude awakening when they inevitably do grow up (if they ever grow up) and see the world for what it really is.

And it is not a Disney movie.

Goddamn, you people lie to your kids about Santa Claus and Jesus. You lie to them about reality itself and I’m the bad guy because I write the word fuck on the internet?

I’m not saying it’s cool to show your kids porn. I’m not saying don’t shelter your kids at all, because that’s crazy. There is an obvious amount of sheltering that you do for kids that’s just common sense.

The real problem here is that people love their kids so much they don’t know when to fucking stop. They’re lessening everyone else’s lives for the benefit of a kid that probably doesn’t give a shit about swearing on the internet, because they’re likely not reading it anyway.

It’s kind of like how these idiots want to put labels on everything. They’ve been trying to put warning labels on books for years, because they’re afraid Little Johnny is going to stumble across a Stephen King book in the library and be damaged forever. And the truth is anyone with any intelligence at all knows that kids read things based on their maturity level.

And then there's child-safe pill bottles and lighters and car windows and everything else that's been changed for the sake of children, stuff that isn't for children in the first place. Things that have been changed just because parents apparently couldn't keep lighters and bottles of pills out of their kids hands, because they're too busy being horrible parents.

I know your kids are the light of your life, but I don't even like them. They are the dark of my life. And I do not want to exist in the little child-friendly bubble you are creating for them and everyone else in the process.

What about the children? Nothing, that's what.

They're your fucking problem not mine.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Ego Is Bigger Than Your Ego

I guess I should introduce myself. I am Smotlock to the internet, Shane to my friends and family.

A couple of weeks ago my old online journal/blog of over five years bit the dust along with everything else at I lost five years worth of my own special brand of insanity, translating into over a thousand pages of random stuff and nonsense. I also lost thousands of comments from readers (for the second time) that once meant a lot to me. Well, some of them anyway.

I hadn’t really been writing on Journalspace much lately, but it was always nice to know that any time I wanted to look up something I’d written in the past, I could just click over to the site and do a search within my own blog to find it.

I had this Blogspot journal up from way back, probably the first time Journalspace looked like it was about to go belly up. It always seemed on the verge of collapsing under the weight of the site owner’s ego. Or perhaps my own.

So for the time being this is going to be the place where you get to hear me whine about the shit I loathe and rave about the shit I love, when my allergy to effort is not flaring up.

I’ll probably be moving some stuff that used to be on the old Journalspace site in the hopes new readers will find it here for the first time on a real blogging site. Although, realistically speaking, blogging has been a dying fad since 2004 and I doubt very many people will ever read this. Nor do I care if you want me to be completely honest.

I just really like hearing myself speak.

My old Journalspace blog got over 250,000 hits in its five year lifespan. I know that’s not a lot compared to the really popular sites that get millions of hits in a week, but for a tiny backwater place like Journalspace it wasn’t too bad. I think only a handful of online journals on that site got anywhere close to that number.

While I’m bragging about past accomplishments, from 2003 to 2004 I consistently had the most read blog on Journalspace. That said, being famous on Journalspace was a lot like being famous on the moon. No one still knew who the fuck I was and I didn’t get rich and get lots of groupies. I only got a few groupies and I remained poor and unloved by the masses.

But now I’m here on Blogger where the potential audience is far greater than anything I ever had on Journalspace.

I will say this about this site. I really love the term followers.

Follow me, internet.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Paranoid, But Not An Android

Just a few days ago I was standing in the same place on the planet as Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood, and Phil Selway. You might know them better as Radiohead. You know, that band that wrote that song “Creep” you play along with on Guitar Hero or Rock Band or whatever it is you kids play today because you can’t figure out how to play a real guitar so you play with flimsy plastic toys instead.

Yes, I got to see Radiohead and you didn’t. You may hate me now.

Or actually you might hate Radiohead now, and that’s okay too because they do have some pretty wanky, “look at how artsy and avant garde we are” songs that make me want to throttle Thom Yorke only I’d feel really bad afterwards because he’s a tiny, tiny person and could probably be beaten up by children.

But, come on. Fucking Radiohead, man. In Noblesville, Indiana of all places.

And the show was something close to glorious. The all-encompassing sound. The lights with the huge suspended tubes hanging from the ceilings. The video screen behind them that Thom Yorke used to comical effect. The enthusiastic yet respectful crowd that loved them even though they didn’t play “Creep.” (And probably never will if you know anything about Radiohead.)

In fact, they mostly played In Rainbows. And I didn’t even care because I like In Rainbows. That’s the difference in a band like Radiohead and Pearl Jam. I listened to the last Pearl Jam album one time and never listened to it again. I’ve listened to In Rainbows repeatedly. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have listened to In Rainbows if they hadn’t given it away for free (or whatever you wanted to pay for it) prior to its physical release on CD. Mostly because Hail to the Thief was a pretty boring album. But also because I don't like paying for music.

But they came back from an irrelevant album and made one that’s relevant. And also a very clever marketing scheme to get In Rainbows to debut at number one on the US sales charts. Of course, it wouldn’t really matter if it wasn’t full of good songs, which it is, in this not so humble critic’s opinion. I really love the song “Reckoner” and I’m not sure why.

It was sublime to hear it live.

And they played “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” That’s one of my favorite Radiohead songs from my favorite album The Bends, which I also consider one of the best albums of the nineties. They also played a very loosey-goosey version of “Just.”

For the fans of the more popular Radiohead songs, they played “Karma Police,” but I really wish they would have played “Paranoid Android” instead. Not because I don’t like “Karma Police” but only because I like “Paranoid Android” better, as it wasn’t overplayed due to its length and general difficulty. “What’s thaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

In fact, the show was so good that I wasn’t even angry about the eight dollar slices of pizza, ten dollar beers, and forty dollar concert t-shirts that I didn’t buy. Although I would have really liked to have the one that said “I’m Trapped Inside This Body And Can’t Get Out.” Nor was I angry about the 106 dollars I had to pay for two tickets or the 43 dollars worth of Ticketmaster surcharges. Okay, I’ll admit still being bitter about the surcharges which could have nearly bought another ticket. (Albeit a lawn ticket after the surcharges.)

I did buy myself and Shauna a couple of the ten dollar tour posters, which was probably just sheer consumerism on my part since I have a couple of other tour posters from other bands that I’ve never framed and hung anywhere. They sit rolled up in a closet somewhere. But this one is Radiohead so maybe it’ll end up on one of my walls as a memento of this place and time. (Now that I think about it I should really hang the Silversun Pickups poster from last year that I got signed by the entire band and the singer drew a penis on it to show how much he loved me.)

I think the thing that really surprised me the most about the concert was the fact that there were no drunken annoying people around me yelling out song titles, heckling the band, or just being generally annoying. I don't know why I find that surprising though since it's Radiohead and they don't really attract the jock factor that most rock bands do, mainly because if you have an IQ lower than 120 you just don't understand any of their songs. In fact, the row I was in barely had any people at all, which was odd considering the entire lawn was filled to capacity, as were most of the seats, except in our section which was almost dead center. The only thing that invaded my space the whole show was the smell of some super hydro skunk bud which I noticed was coming from a fifty or sixty something balding upper middle class guy directly behind me. Not really the person you expect to see when you look around to see where the smell is coming from. It smelled so great I nearly spoke to a stranger to say, “Take me to your dealer.”

Other than the Indiana state police pulling out and following me for several miles on Interstate 70 and then nearly running out of gas because there were no gas stations, it was pretty much a perfect day.

I wish you could have been there, but since you weren’t here are some pictures from the show that I didn’t take because I’m too lazy.

I don’t really need pictures. It’s all in my head.

Safety Is The Death of Liberty

Fire safe cigarettes are the stupidest idea ever. I don’t know if you’ve heard about these things yet, but here’s the deal: Because a few idiots didn’t know how to put out their cigarettes before they passed out and as a result burned down their houses and killed their families, we all get to smoke cigarettes that taste like shit and make your throat and head hurt.

But they are "fire safe" meaning they go out on their own if you aren't smoking them anymore.

Not only did we not have a choice about switching to fire safe cigarettes, they didn’t even bother telling anyone. I was smoking these things for a couple of weeks and wondering why I didn’t enjoy smoking anymore. I was putting out cigarettes that I didn’t finish and I fucking love to smoke. I just thought they were stale or something. I also noticed I was getting headaches but didn’t attribute it to the cigarettes, because, why would I? I have been smoking for years and never gotten headaches. Seriously, headaches from cigarettes?

So imagine my lack of surprise when I’m reading a local news story out about the spiffy new ingredient they’re including in all the cigarettes in Kentucky that is supposed to make them go out after several seconds of no inhaling.

Mostly people were complaining about the taste, but a few people mentioned headaches.

It turns out that these yummy new cigs that everyone is raving about became a state law on April 1st. They’re also state law in Illinois, New York, and several other states in the nation. By next year they’ll be state law in about seventy percent of all US states.

If you’re wondering if your cigarettes are “fire safe” and haven’t noticed the fact that a brand you used to enjoy started tasting like ass, just check above the bar code for FSC. If that FSC is there you are smoking a glue that has been proven to cause tumors in rats.

But, hey, it keeps drunk people from killing children with house fires. Or at least that’s what the chemical is supposed to do, make them fire safe. Even though they are, in fact, burning leaves.

Actually, from all accounts they don’t work so well. They don’t go out in 10 seconds like they’re supposed to. They seem to burn just as long as the old ones. There’s already been at least one fire attributed to a fire safe cigarette.

And I guess that would be fine if you like having an especially toxic chemical added to your already toxic chemicals, but not only are they not fire safe, they have a propensity to burn the fuck out of you while you’re smoking them. Little bits of the fiery glue sometimes fall off the cigarettes and land on your finger. I know this, because that was the other thing I noticed was different about my cigarettes recently. I’ve had my fingers burned from smoking more times recently that I have in the entire fifteen years I’ve smoked. From what I’ve read, fire safe cigarettes also have a tendency to lose their entire cherries which then fall onto your couch or carpet or lap. Reportedly, there is already a lawsuit in California involving a fatal car crash caused by the smoking cherry of a fire safe cigarette.

Simply put, the things don’t work. They do not make fire safer, because that’s kind of the person’s job with the fire in the first fucking place.

Not only don’t they work as intended, they’re also making a lot of people sick. Do a Google search for “FSC cigarettes” and read for yourself. There are plenty of first hand horror stories to make you quickly realize just what a bad idea this really was. Even if only a fraction of the stories are truly caused by fire safe cigarettes it’s entirely too many.

Yet, like the smoking bans in public places this was never something anyone was allowed to vote on. And at least with the smoking bans most people knew they were coming. Most people that are smoking “fire safe” cigarettes don’t even realize a dangerous chemical has been added to their product.

And I know it’s rather ironic to talk about cigarettes making people sick since that is typically the end result of years of smoking. But the key word in that last sentence is years. There are some really sick people who’ve only been smoking fire safe cigarettes from a few weeks to a few months.

If you wanted to make a whole nation of people quit smoking what would be the easiest way to do it?

How about killing them?

Just think of all the money they’ll save on long term health care either making people quit who can’t smoke their poisoned smokes or killing the people who can’t quit.

To the government that thought this was a really good idea, I say this:

Fuck you. You put poison in my poison. I will smoke your poison and laugh.

Then die.