Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Three Terrifying Things No One Seems to Know about Except Me

#3: Man-Babies

If you’ve ever worked at a 1-hour photo, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, well, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Man-babies are babies that look like grown men. They can be either sex, but are usually male. They look like what you might get if you took a burly Italian man and performed some kind of digital regression to make him roughly the size and shape of a rather large baby. You know how in Harry Potter 5 there’s that hour glass thingy in the Department of Mysteries that turns that Death Eater’s head into a baby? It’s probably a lot like that. J.K. Rowling definitely worked in a photo lab.

I have a hard time communicating to non-photo-store employees exactly what is so frightening about man-babies, but just trust me. They are damn creepy. The worst part is, the parent is always oblivious. They are just as convinced as all other parents that their baby is the cutest thing ever and they take many, many pictures of their little perversion of nature.

Most people have had the unsettling experience of peering into a stroller or crib and finding themselves face to face with what appears to be a giant prune drooling from a gaping hole that only Picasso’s imagination could have placed in that particular spot. It’s awkward as hell to then have to simultaneously stammer praises and excuses for why you can’t pick the bonnet-wearing piece of oozing dried fruit up. But then you learn your lesson and the next time you see the prune monster, you are better prepared.

There is no way to prepare yourself for the sight of a man-baby. Even if you know it’s coming, the sensation of having your guts pulled out through your belly button and then put back in backwards is undiminished. The inexplicably proud mother enters the photo shop, diaper bag and stroller in tow. You immediately recognize her from the prints you just quality-checked and gagged over, and you begin to shiver and murmur prayers to Yctazl, the Tazmanian god of pretzels, that she left the changeling in the car with the windows up. As she crosses toward the counter, you realize from the way her eyes dart concernedly to the stroller that Yctazl will not save you: IT’S IN THERE!

You force yourself not to look. Maybe if you don’t look directly at it, you can get through this. You hand the customer her order before she says a word and hope she interprets your furious typing on the register as efficient customer service and not as a desperate effort to get her and her demon offspring out of the store as quickly as possible. You limit your responses to single-syllables and primitive hand signals because the word “man-baby” is on the very tip of your tongue, ready to spring-board into the biggest customer-interaction disaster in history. Dear Yctazl, just please don’t let the woman stand at the counter for ten minutes reviewing every goddamn print. DO NOT let her order reprints, oh dear Lord of Pretzels, NO REPRINTS!

You wait the exact 2.45 seconds required after handing her the receipt to dash to the back of the store, where you huddle between the toxic waste tank and the spare rolls of glossy 6” paper while the coworkers who didn’t draw the short straw speak to you in soothing tones and offer you smelling salts and chocolate. In 40 minutes or so, you are able to stand up, but a part of you never recovers.

#2: Desert People

If you live in the southwestern United States and you *don’t* know who I’m talking about, it’s probably because you are one of them. If you still aren’t sure after reading this, watch Salad Fingers. Desert People are the so-called humans who inhabit the trailers and glorified tents with aluminum siding that you can occasionally glimpse from the interstate while speeding your way between civilized places like L.A. and Las Vegas. They typically live out of sight of anyone or anything, however, so it’s difficult to gauge how many there are and where.

Because of this, little is known about Desert People. They are likely afflicted with some degree of agoraphobia or possibly suffer from a gross misunderstanding of the virtue of independence. Though some keep animals like dogs and horses, many do not, which shows Desert People have a unique ability to tolerate, or possibly even enjoy, isolation and solitude. Further Desert People are rarely known to reproduce, therefore it must be assumed that there are those among us even now who will one day take up residence inside a tin can in the Nevada desert and will never be heard from again. Another popular theory is that they are descended from the Sand People of Tatooine, sent to Earth eons ago on a mission to locate alternative energy sources, only to find themselves unable to return home due to a shortage of bantha droppings.

If your car breaks down on the way to Vegas, you may be tempted to seek assistance from a Desert Person. Though reliable statistics on the success of such a strategy are not available, one can presume that the average Desert Person will either help you, ignore you, or eat your flesh with equal probability. Choose accordingly.

#1: A Centipede that Can Eat a Bat

This is officially the scariest thing in the known universe:

Yours in Perpetual Fear,

S. Misanthrope

Monday, September 27, 2010

FSF: Top 3 Most Inconsiderate Pedestrians

San Francisco has THE WORST pedestrians of any city I’ve ever been in, including cities in Asia where pedestrians deliberately jump out in front of cars in the hopes of having their medical bills covered for life. As a city resident who drives, cycles and walks all over the city on a regular basis, I am uniquely qualified to opine on who is most to blame for the swirling maelstrom of despair that is SF traffic. The buses, aka “MUNI”, are definitely the main culprits, but the pedestrians are not far behind. Here are the three worst kinds of pedestrians in San Francisco:

#1: Crack Heads & Bums

It’s like they have somehow managed to perfectly synchronize their aimless wanderings to coincide with the exact middle of the green light for oncoming traffic at every intersection. I have not once seen a bum cross the street or even begin to cross the street at a time when he/she had the right of way. They will simply meander out into traffic, with never a glance left or right to check for a semi coming toward them at 50 mph, totally oblivious, taking their own sweet fucking time getting to the other side. They don’t just do this at piss-ant little intersections, either. They do this on the freakin’ interstate.

For some reason that is beyond me, the drivers just put up with it. They never honk or flash their lights or use a snowplow attachment or blast “MOVE, BITCH!” on their stereo. Last week some guy just left his shopping cart in the middle of Market Street while he wandered around scaring small children on the sidewalk, blocking traffic in both directions including a trolley and a duck boat full of tourists, but the only people who seemed to notice or care were the frightened children and me. At least those tourists got the “real SF” experience.

“Crack heads and bums are #1?” you say? Seems a bit obvious, I know. #2 is more of a surprise…

#2: Business Men/Women/People in Suits Going to Stupid Fucking Oracle Conventions and Staying at the W

Aaarrrggghhh! Maybe they can turn the motor of the world or whatever, but these people cannot cross the street for shit!

Here is a dramatization of what you can see happening on virtually every corner of the Financial District and Union Square during the business week:

 The next version of Grand Theft Auto should include hordes of these idiots in suits pouring out of some convention center and blindly entering the street where they are easy pickings for you to crush under your 4x4.

Ok, the last group is...


You all suck. No one here can cross the goddamn street properly to save their life. In New York and Chicago, the tourists may stand around gawking on street corners, but the residents quickly herd them along by forming a phalanx and poking them with sticks. The ones that fail to move quickly enough are simply knifed and tossed aside, and it’s all very humane and efficient.

San Franciscan pedestrians, on the other hand, cannot be differentiated from tourists except by reference to their hipster clothing and distastefully disheveled appearance. Behaviorally, they are completely identical. Do they stand and stare in the exact middle of where people are trying to walk? Yes. Do they stand on the corner waiting for the “Walk” sign when there are no cars anywhere in sight? Yes. When they get the magical “Walk” signal, do they proceed as if that somehow indemnifies them against all risk to life and limb posed by buses, cars, bike messengers, and stray bullets? Absolutely.

Frighteningly enough, crossing the street seems to be what SF pedestrians are *best* at. What they are undoubtedly worst at is walking. In all my years biking along the Embarcadero, I have yet to see a person who could walk in a straight line. It makes me think those sobriety tests are rigged because, drunk or not, no one here can do it. All the work that has gone into creating the perfect stochastic random walk function was wasted. All they needed to do was tag a bunch of SF pedestrians and map their progress from the Wharf to AT&T Park. Even the guy from Pi couldn’t find an algorithm to describe that randomness.

Constructive Criticism

If you’re interested in what you can do to avoid being a total douchebag pedestrian, here are a few tips:

1. If there’s somewhere you can move safely that brings you closer to your ultimate destination, move there. Now.

2. If you do not have wheels and are not crippled, do not stand in the middle of the sidewalk ramp. That ramp is for wheelchairs and mulefa only. The rest of you can bend a fucking knee to descend from the curb.

3. When walking in a group, it is not appropriate to walk 5 abreast, thereby blocking the sidewalk for everyone else.
            Corollary A: Groups tend to walk more slowly than individuals, thereby magnifying the rudeness of forming a human roadblock.
            Corollary B: Depending on your size and the width of the sidewalk, it may be equally rude to walk two abreast, particularly if you are a burly Russian man afraid to be seen walking too close to another man in San Francisco and prone to large gesticulations that effectively double your width.

4. You can greatly reduce the likelihood that you will be run over by cars, bikes, skateboards, or buffalo if you move in a somewhat predictable manner. Generally, this means you should walk in a fucking straight line.

Let's see if we all can't work together to make this world a more tolerable place, eh?


S. Misanthrope

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Critique of Pure Idiocy

A professor of mine once patiently tried to explain to me that in his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant was not trying to tear down reason, but rather was attempting to better understand and define when reason is a legitimate tool of cognition by exploring the outer edges of reason’s ability. You can better understand when a method is successful if you know exactly when it fails. As a statistician, I accept such explorations as the only path to certain truth. The famous parable of the seven blind people touching an elephant comes to mind: only when all of the edges are defined do you truly know what you’re looking at.

I like to live on the edge because the edge is the only place where I have any hope of figuring out where I am. It’s not hard to know that there’s an edge nearby, but pinning it down with military-grade GPS accuracy is a challenge. At first it seems like you’re straddling the Grand Canyon, then the San Andreas fault, then a small gorge, then finally a hairline crack in the sidewalk that you can walk along with ease, secure in the knowledge that your mother’s back is out of danger.

The problem with spending so much time on the edge is that you inevitably end up spending some time on the wrong side, often a good portion of your time. You have to go through too hot and too cold before getting to just right. Though you always emerge from your jaunt on the Dark Side better informed and better prepared than before, the chagrin you feel from realizing that you crossed over the line without noticing, if even for a second, can be quite strong.

Of course this never happens to me. I am always right about everything all the time. But say hypothetically that this were to happen to some hypothetical person who often walks the line between reason and stupidity quite closely, both for the sake of humor and the sheer thrill of teetering on the brink of morality. That hypothetical person might hypothetically want to make a blanket apology in advance for any people, places, things or ideas s/he may mock and deride unfairly in the future while in the process of finding that precise line.

This is all to say that I am not interested in cherry-picking. I will of course continue to relentlessly lash the more obvious forms of stupid with my wit (religion and modern poetry come to mind), but what I really want to find is that edge, that minute line where smart becomes stupid and reason becomes insanity.

When my circumnavigation is complete, we shall know without a doubt whether we are dealing with a hat or a boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant.

Yours, etc.,

S. Misanthrope

Friday, September 17, 2010

Business Idea: Longer-Burning Religious Texts

It's too bad the whole Koran-burning craze sort of faded out, because I had a great idea to capitalize on that fad. I would produce copies of the Koran specially designed to maximize burning enjoyment. Some would burn brighter, or make different colors as they burn, or sparks. Others would burn for hours and hours like Duraflames. I'd even make ones that you can't put out no matter what you do, like those trick birthday candles.

Of course for every Koran burned, there will be at least 1 person looking to burn a Bible in response, so I will make those too. I'm an equal opportunity offender, after all.

I expect this fad isn't so much over as it is on temporary holiday, which is good news because now I have time to raise some capital and start production before the big wave of demand hits the market. If you're interested in this exciting investment opportunity, please leave your contact information in the comments section and I will get in touch with you right away to arrange a Paypal transfer.

Ever yours,

S. Misanthrope

How Many Korans Can Fit in a Volkswagon?

I do my best to stay as uninformed about current events as possible, but news of the world is extremely hard to avoid in this Age of Information. I put up firewalls, fire doors, razor wire, and a moat with alligators and poison dart frogs, and still I manage to hear about all manner of stupid things being done by stupid people around the world with alarming regularity.

So now some redneck preacher-man has decided to revive the long-standing Christian tradition of book burning. Well, Hallelujah! I’ve had a hankering for some barbequed parchment for awhile now. I’ll bring the coleslaw, you bring the offending literature.

The shocking thing is that he’s not burning The Origin of the Species or Planned Parenthood pamphlets, but the Koran. This, to me, indicates a failure to grasp the “my enemy’s enemy” principle of warfare.

Islam is far from the opposite of Christianity. Islam and Christianity are two sides of the same barbaric, mystic coin from a hyperinflated fiat currency set to implode and drag all of us down with it any day now. I hear that faith-based coinage is so devalued, even Charon won’t accept it anymore.

Christianity and Islam’s most powerful enemy is reason, and there’s really not much they can do to fight it. The options are basically the “la, la, la, I can’t hear you,” strategy favored by modern Christians and manifest in movements like “intelligent design” and boycotts of Harry Potter, or the self-destruct approach favored by modern Islamists and Tibetan monks. Neither strategy can really be effective. Their only hope is for people of reason to simply give up for whatever stupid reason (for tolerance, for multiculturalism, for the environment). An unfortunate number seem willing to do this, but we can hold out for awhile yet.

Therefore all the religions, being equal and fundamentally similar in their stupidity, would do well to unite, at least for now. I still don’t think they’d win, but really, it’s their best shot. Christians and Muslims fought each other for hundreds of years, but it was reason that ultimately conquered both. You only send your army out on crusades after you have Galileo securely locked up.

All that aside, the idea of this book burning has sparked some interesting remarks from people on all sides. Our Dear Leader, who was oh-so-concerned about the property rights of the Cordoba Initiative, has basically said that burning the Koran will make many Muslims angry and don’t expect him, the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military ever to exist on Earth, to do anything about the ensuing violence against his subjects, er, citizens. Others have cried that it is wrong to offend a bunch of child-raping, infidel-murdering, women-oppressing, rights-violating, towel-headed, psychopathic savages whose micromanaging imaginary friend prohibits everything fun, from eating bacon to drinking to touching your ass with your right hand (but fucking your nine-year-old wife is A-OK). Then there are the people who think you have the right to burn any book, but that doing so is immoral, the people who are indifferent to the whole ridiculous spectacle, and the people who are ready to burn the Korans, and the mosques, and your little dog too.

The right answer, of course, is the answer that is always the right answer in all human affairs: indifference. But the view I find most puzzling is the “yes you can, but no you shouldn’t” position. The argument is basically that, while you have an absolute right to do what you will with your own property, including burning books, flags, or very small rocks, it is immoral to burn books as books represent ideas, and the proper way to combat an idea is through rational argument.

I have met a number of people in my life who fervently believe that destroying a book in any way, in any context (with the possible exception of a La Boheme situation) is absolutely disgustingly immoral. That’s just about the silliest example of intrinsicism I’ve ever heard. It’s basically saying that books, all books, are holy things that deserve to be enshrined and preserved for all time, merely by virtue of being books.

This view inevitably demands more than merely refraining from destroying books actively. It means you can’t throw a book in the garbage, for example, because you know the garbage ultimately leads to an incinerator. You can’t throw it in the gutter, either, or in a volcano, or feed it to your cat. You have to keep it on your shelf, forever, or pass it on to someone else. The closest you are allowed to come to destroying it is to abandon it in a cafĂ© or on an airplane, but only if your intention is for some other reader to pick it up and continue the life of the book.

This is just plain foolishness. Human beings throw things away all the time. The measure of civilization is in how much value ends up in the trash. We throw away nutritious food if we don’t like how it tastes. We throw out functional clothing that has gone out of style. We throw away furniture, and hard drives, and Stradivarii (that’s the plural of “Stradivarius,” in case you were wondering). The physical paper and ink of a book are typically worth far less than things we throw away every day. It’s really only the content of the book that can have any value at all, but even there, perhaps especially there, value is far from guaranteed.

Anyone who has never had the experience of finishing a book and thinking “That sure wasn’t worth it,” obviously hasn’t read very much. Some books are just bad. Some are so bad that anyone who keeps them in circulation, whether selling them for 1 cent on Amazon or giving it to a friend or dropping it off at Goodwill, deserves to be shot and the cost of the bullet billed to their family. This certainly includes books with bad ideas whose influence should not be spread further.

People are not nearly so crazy about other forms of the written word. We discard junk mail without a second thought, trash old homework with alacrity, line bird cages with newspapers unhesitatingly, and delete obnoxious comments on blogs without guilt. What is so magical about the same bad writing in a binding and a cover?

Perhaps the Kindle and similar products will finally bring this mentality to an end. I can’t imagine people getting worked up over someone downloading the Koran and then deleting the file. But then people have an endless capacity for getting worked up other nothing, as this incident has demonstrated, so I don’t hold much hope there.

This doesn’t mean that I will be attending any book burnings in the near future. I will no more waste my time preserving worthless literature than I will buying a Koran just to watch it burn. That’s all manner of economic stupid. Which brings me back to my usual “I don’t give a shit” position.*

I understand fully that book burning conjures up unpleasant images of men in red cloaks and funny hats confiscating books that merely point out that 2+2 is 4 and not 8 and using them as tinder to burn heretics alive, but calling book burning immoral because Christians did it is like calling execution by guillotine immoral because of the French Revolution. There needs to be a bit more context before you can make the morality call.

In fact, I’m going to make a pledge. I pledge that when I go home today, I will throw out at least one book that I have clung to irrationally from an abhorrence of destroying books. Maybe several, even. Maybe I will put up a list and all 3 of my readers can vote on which book to destroy and what manner of destruction to use. I’m thinking Dinesh D’Souza will get the Patriot Missile.

Love always,
S. Misanthrope

*There is, however, one book burning I very much hope to attend in my lifetime. I would love to join an entire generation of young people in throwing the Bibles (or Korans or whatever), that they inherited from their parents, on the pyre, as a dramatic display of our culture finally being free of the stupidity of religion.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FSF: Update on My Planter Box

Remember that planter box outside my door that had the homeless woman inside huffing tar and eating gummy bears? Well, she's gone and now we have a lovely new Zen thing going on in there. With bamboo. And tufty grass. And baseball-sized rocks. Right outside my front door that is made of glass. And my windows that are made of glass.

So now instead of a "Welcome! Sleep in here!" sign, I have a "Please throw this rock at my window in order to vandalize/rob/rape/scare the shit out of me in the middle of the night!" sign. Seriously, they may as well have filled the planter with baseball bats, hatchets and lock picking kits.

Next time I am going to take all planter-filling responsibilities into my own hands. I'm thinking quicksand or king cobras might be nice.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Teen Pregnancy IRL

I don't typically research my rants, but, in writing my last post, I started to wonder whether teen pregnancy was this incredibly common thing that I am somehow oblivious to and if that was why it has been showing up all over Hollywood lately. I only knew of one teenager in all my teenage years who was even rumored to have gotten pregnant, but, on the other hand, my friend knew a girl at her Catholic high school in the Midwest who was pregnant with her second illegitimate child at graduation. How common is this, really?

Turns out the latest data, from 2006, showed the first increase in teen pregnancies in over a decade (abstinence-only education, anyone?). 7% of all teenage girls became pregnant in 2006. 7%. Let me say that again: seven fucking percent. And how many, though not smart enough to avoid pregnancy in the first place, were smart enough to terminate? A mere 27%. That means just over 5% of all teenage girls became parents, just in 2006.



Less than 5% of all people alive today should even be parents at any point in their lives, and you're telling me that 5% of the demographic potentially least qualified to be parents (on a long, long list of unqualified people) are becoming parents each year?

The more you delve into the numbers, the worse it gets. Family income is inversely correlated with teen pregnancy. Among pregnant teens, family income is positively correlated with abortion rates. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, half of all teen pregnancies are terminated. In Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, South Dakota, and Oklahoma, less than 15% are terminated. In other words, of this demographic that should not be parents, the ones most incapable of being parents are the ones carrying to term, producing children they cannot afford to raise properly in a culture saturated with destructive religious ideas that merely promote more of the same behavior, on and on and on, without end.

This is beyond depressing. I'm not sure I can even bring myself to mock this situation. No, wait, yes I can.

Obviously sexual education (hell, our entire culture) needs a major overhaul, and I think I know the right direction to go in. In reviewing these statistics, I noticed an intriguing fact: the pregnancy rate amongst teenage boys is 0%.

Further study is needed before conclusions can be drawn, but I suggest we begin by looking at what behaviors differentiate teenage boys from teenage girls that might explain this vast difference in pregnancy rate. Perhaps it is that they masturbate more, or play more video games. Or perhaps having sex with teenage girls will prevent pregnancy. We should get the top scientists working on this right away, but in the mean time, if you have a teenage daughter, do whatever you can to make her more like a teenage boy. You know, whatever the kids are into these days. It's her best hope for avoiding stretch marks.

With love,

S. Misanthrope

Teen Pregnancy Drama (in 50 Words or Less)

      A cute teenager has missed her period twice. She goes to the store and buys a pregnancy test. It tests positive. She goes to Planned Parenthood and has an abortion and goes on with her life.

The End

Can I please just say, I am so so so so so so so fed up with the unwanted pregnancy plot line? Like, seriously, we’ve had a solution to this problem for a very long time. There is no drama in that situation, there’s just an operating table. Actually I’m not sure there’s even an operating table, maybe there’s just a normal table and a pill. It hardly warrants a side plot let alone a leading role in any story.

I’ve decided to place a lifetime boycott on unwanted pregnancy stories. It’s just too much of a ridiculous, cop-out plot device. However much I might like a show or a film, if unwanted pregnancy shows up and isn’t resolved within 2 minutes by going to the clinic, I will stop watching. Glee just managed to sneak in before the cut off, and now that’s *it*. No more.

In case you were wondering, other unacceptable plot fails include: the “it was all a dream” ending (fuck you, Vanilla Sky), the “we were in hell/heaven/purgatory all along” ending (I point and laugh at the idiots who sat through 5 seasons of Lost for that crap finale), the “you thought this was the future/past but it’s actually the past/future” twist (I’m looking at you, BSG), and the “biased narrator” twist (Keyser Soze can suck it).

So if something with an actual plot comes along, let me know.


S. Misanthrope

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Every time I collect another nugget of comic gold from my experiences living in San Francisco, I desperately want to record and publish them for posterity. I can’t be the only one having these experiences. There must be at least ten thousand people in this city every day going “What the fuck?”

I envision a forum like “Fail Blog” for this kind of thing. I would call it “Fuck San Francisco” or “FSF” for short. People could fill it with photos or FML-esque stories from the City by the Bay. For starters, I would just post pictures of the weather each day. “July 15th, 55 degrees Fahrenheit and foggy. July 16th, 55 degrees Fahrenheit and foggy. July 17th, 75 degrees and sunny just long enough to convince you to wear shorts, then 55 and foggy the rest of the day.”

Because starting a website sounds too hard, I will have to be satisfied with sharing my harrowing and humorous tales of SF life here.

So right now, the HOA of my building is having the planters in front of the building redone. One of these planters is on the other side of my bedroom wall. Step one of this process was of course to remove all the old plants. For some reason, step two was to also remove all of the dirt, leaving a 4 foot deep man-sized empty box outside my door.

Given that bums regularly sleep, eat and crap in our doorway as it is, I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone turned our empty planter into a comfortable home, complete with doilies and tiny cat figurines. While I have security cameras, they do not cover the planter as I have rarely been attacked by ferns, so for several days I entered and exited my apartment with extreme trepidation.

Then the HOA’s contractors proceeded to step three: paint the inside of the planter with tar. This step, while logical as it seals the planter to prevent leaks, requires several days to dry and also stinks to high heaven. But at least the planters no longer appeared to have open invitations hung on them saying “Hi creepy homeless people, sleep here!”

Or so I thought until I came home that evening to find a tweaked-out bum standing in the planter outside my door, huffing the tar fumes while eating a bag of gummy bears.

And that pretty much sums up life here in San Fran. FSF.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

These Are the Demands and Sayings of Lee

Regarding the hostage-taking at Discovery Channel yesterday, I just want to say a few words to the late James Lee:


You stupid fuck. You know, I was planning to write a post mocking environmentalism and demonstrating how the environmentalist's ultimate goal is death, but you have rendered it completely unnecessary. Were I to write the most absurd parody I could manage of environmentalist principles and their wicked death premise, I could not have come up with anything nearly as ridiculous as your list of demands.

In a way, I owe the splattered remains of your corpse a debt of gratitude. So thank you, Lee. I hope many, many of your eco-terrorist buddies decide to take your advice and relieve the planet and humanity of the burden of their existence.


S. Misanthrope