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Author Archives: Nicholas Croston

The Dark Side of the Rust Belt Work Ethic

We’re on the ninth day of the Great Seattle Snowpocalypse of 2019. The Snowpocalypse started last Sunday night, dumped several inches of snow by Monday morning, and made the roads so dangerous that it took me 10 minutes to climb up a routine incline on my way to the transit center; a hill which doesn’t take 10 seconds to climb. Still, though, I managed to get my ass into work. I managed to get into work every day that week, in fact, in a week in which staying out due to transportation was perfectly acceptable. I stayed indoors the entire weekend. But now that it’s Monday, I tried to head back into work. Even with the snow still falling and my part of the region untouched by plows and closings happening everywhere, I got up at my usual time, exercised, ate breakfast, and tried to head off into the shiny white void to do my job. Then I spent 20 minutes brushing off my car. After that, I got into the buried vehicle, hit the gas, and couldn’t make it out of the snowbank. So I hit reverse, and still couldn’t escape. Then I hit drive again, hoping I had picked up some momentum, only for the same result. At that point, I finally admitted defeat.

Being a child of the Rust Belt, there’s a certain set of values that I come with. One of them is a work ethic. I take a lot of pride in being a hard worker who does his job right. I also take a lot of pride in my willingness to work in less-desirable conditions. But the fact the I was trying to go on today, after any reasonable person would have looked out the window and gone right back to sleep, leaves me a little bit of time to reflect on something. The Rust Belt work ethic that all of us take such pride in comes with a certain dark side. Namely, paranoia.

Rust Belters are the country’s most paranoid workers.

As with a lot of other things, we like to gussy this up as an effect of our trademark toughness. But this so-called toughness causes us to do a lot of stupid things. We’ve taught ourselves that a proper work ethic means going into work no matter what. We’ll try to force ourselves to work through dangerous inclement weather and sickness, even though doing so places ourselves and our co-workers in danger. We’ll brag about how we take all overtime, never use vacation time or other time off, and push ourselves through extra schedules. We refuse to even use up our proper breaks at work. And somehow, we’re proud of this.

This really isn’t our fault. The Rust Belt is so-named because its economy was once based in heavy industry. When those industries all became outdated and outsourced, the factories closed and left a rash of poverty which the region still hasn’t recovered from. My hometown of Buffalo is the third-poorest city in the United States, and the two cities above it – Cleveland and Detroit – are also both Rust Belt cities. (As is fourth-place Milwaukee.) And I happened to be born just a few years after Big Steel bolted, which means I went through my formative years and entered the workforce when everything had hit rock bottom. The prevailing ethos of the region is that you need to appreciate any job at all where you can get one. You go in, you work, no matter the personal cost, because there were five people in line willing to do your job if you weren’t. The result of this is a mindset which is unique in having both the willpower and ability to accept endless heaps of busywork and both the corporate and customer abuses that, all too often, come with it.

It was John Steinbeck who said the reason socialism never caught on in the United States is because the people all think they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires. That’s the mindset that dominates on the Rust Belt. We’re warped from an early age to believe that the hardest workers will always make do, and that those who are just scraping by aren’t working hard enough. Workers, Rust Belters believe, are supposed to be uncomfortable and on edge because there’s a pile of gold at the end. Those who want things to improve are considered entitled brats who can’t be bothered getting dirty. The largest corporations will keep dropping in with promises of prosperity, but they inevitably bolt. I was saddened to hear that the New Era Cap factory in Buffalo closed and left people out of work. I’m also disgusted that New Era, in spite of that, had the gall to buy the naming rights to the football stadium.

When I moved to Seattle, I found employers who treat their workers with dignity and respect. But I’m also still trying to snap the worse aspects of the Rust Belt work ethic. I felt awkward asking for vacation time when I’ve done so, because I’ve never had employers who offered me that before. When I recently found a dentist who didn’t take weekend appointments, I didn’t know how to ask for the day off to get my teeth looked at. When my teeth turned out to be a bit more of a mess than I had anticipated, I started asking for time off to get them further looked at and fixed with the enthusiasm of a prisoner walking the Last Mile. I don’t know how medical leave even works. I’ve been more at ease in my life than ever, but my programming instilled the idea that I’m somehow supposed to suffer. I’ve finally found a piece of stability and even success in pursuing the life I want to live, so it’s an incredible irony that my old Rust Belt paranoia is still there to keep me from enjoying it.

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A Snowpocalypse Story

A Snowpocalypse Story

The Seattle Snowpocalypse hit right around the time the local weather outlets said it would. It was around noon on Friday, and the entire region had spent the previous two days preparing for a long-range sheltering. The place I worked had announced it was likely going to close early, and traffic on both Thursday and Friday was terrifying even by Seattle standards. The weather folks were reporting the region’s famed Seattle Cement slamming everywhere from Kitsap to Skagit counties for the entire weekend. A good 10-inch pile-up was expected.

Even after a good glopping hit the area on Sunday night going into Monday, I can’t say I was preparing to face anything especially severe. I looked outside on Sunday night and wrote the snow off as just another dusting that I would simply motor through on my work to work on Monday. Then Monday came, and in the waking hours, it was still snowing. Now, if I had been living in the Seattle area longer, I might have known better than to try and plow my way through the snow without the plow and just called in. But nope, I had to go out. I had to make my 15-minute commute to the transit center in 40 minutes across flying snow and ice which Snohomish County hadn’t even started to touch. I kicked myself while at work, doing nothing in the freezing cold, until a little past the afternoon hour when I finally begged off. I left partly because there was nothing to do, but mostly because I was getting concerned about making the final run home with the snow buildup.

The next few days were cold and icy, but unexceptional. Hell, I even enjoyed going into work more than usual because the weather was keeping everyone locked inside, which meant work had a pleasantly slow pace. There wasn’t any worry about getting the job done because so few people turned up. The bosses weren’t going to be pissed about the regular outdoor crew taking its sweet time stepping indoors. Employers everywhere understood employees’ reluctance to go out, so people just didn’t go out. If anything, I later thought to myself that I was probably on the crazy side for for going in, at least through Monday and Tuesday. Either that or my old Rust Belt work programming was getting the better of me. On Wednesday, things looked like they were returning to normal. But all week, the local news was saying the snow might not be finished yet. By Wednesday, in fact, it was saying it DEFINITELY wasn’t finished yet. The worst was yet to come. When the week started, getting myself around aside, I had no intention of treating the week any different than any other. I would go and do things as normal, just with ice on the roads. I had bought a Playstation 2 for myself just after Christmas which was meant to replace the one my Father was forced to jettison when he moved to California. That console hadn’t worked right, and when I returned it, the store put me on a waiting list for people who wanted PS2s and returned my money in store credit which was to pay for a new PS2 when one was sold to them. On Tuesday, I finally got that call from the store. My new PS2 awaited with my name literally written on it. They also told me they understood if I couldn’t get there because of the weather, and I said to just hang onto it until Sunday, when I would be free to pick it up. But it took just one day to change my mind, and with more inclement weather on the way, I made the trip to grab it on Wednesday.

Thursday, though, was the day when I sensed that there was going to be something different about whatever was coming. This was a familiar routine. The buildup in the weather report, then the actual hit. It had shades of Winter Storm Knife in Buffalo back in 2014. That enormous sucker had stopped the city dead with seven feet of snow, quarter-mile visibility, and 40-MPH winds on the way to becoming the city’s new standard-bearing winter storm. Even people of older generations admitted that it may have been the blizzard which displaced Buffalo’s old standard of bad winter storms, the legendary Blizzard of ‘77. Now, this is Seattle, so it would be wrong to compare this winter storm to the monster that was Winter Storm Knife, but between the region’s topography, layout, and lack of winter preparation, it was time to settle in for it all the same. Thursday night, I decided I had better get my extra grocery shopping finished and went to Fred Meyer. The self-checkout line was backed up for a half hour, and a reporter from KIRO News was interviewing people for the 11 PM broadcast. I also let my Game Night friends know that I wasn’t likely to show barring a sudden thaw. They responded that they weren’t going to show up either, and out store would in fact be closing early.

Since work was also supposed to close early on Friday, I didn’t make any drastic preparations or changes. The basic plan was to get in and get out. But the thing about a huge storm setting in is that people all wait until the last minute to get serviced, and so, unusually for Friday, it was the busiest day of the week. We were still working for a couple of hours after the snow hit, although since I made the main leg of my journey to work by bus, I made sure I was in the first wave of dismissals. The snow started around noon. I was out by about 2. At about 8:30 that morning, I had gone to a Trader Joe’s across the street to buy a small meal for myself. That usually isn’t an issue. Trader Joe’s opens at 8, and it’s still usually sparse at 8:30. Friday, though, the place was already crowded. The lines stretched back through several of the aisles, and some shelves were already clear. All I was after was a damned wrap, and I must have looked absurd to the crowd there with full baskets. In any case, work continued as normal until workers started trickling out of other departments a little after 12. At 2, I was let out, and since it had only been two hours and there was only an inch of snow on the ground, I thought I might makes fairly decent time on my way home.

That would have to be my old Northeast/Northern Midwest mentality talking again. I’ve been living in Seattle for three years, and my mindset hasn’t quite shifted all the way to the Pacific Northwest setting. If it had, I wouldn’t have bothered going in. But the hard part of the day beckoned, and now I had to set out on my Hell-on-Earth-frozen-over journey back home. A consistent falling of packing snow is treacherous in Seattle, and every driver in the city reacts accordingly. The I-5 traffic was moving extra slow, EVERYONE was trying to get home at the same time, and when I made it to the bus stop, I ran into a long line. Now, I’m hard-pressed for how much of a failure Soundtransit was in the moment. On the one hand, it successfully increased its bus frequency in spite of the ongoing traffic. I saw seven of their busses roll by in the hour I spent at the bus stop; an hour usually means three busses at peak travel times. On the other, only two of those busses let anyone at my stop on at all, and only a couple of people got off. The busses that let riders off didn’t let anyone on. Every bus was so packed that I started trying to think of alternatives, and other people in line had the same idea. The line got shorter, alright. But that was because random wannabe passengers were getting fed up and dropping out. I had to wait, though, because I didn’t have any alternatives.

Seattle-area public transit is a mess of several agencies, all of which are terrible. The main agency that serves my area in Snohomish County is Community Transit, which can’t keep up with anything even when traffic is light and moving at a fast pace. They were supposed to be serving their full compliment of bus routes during this winter storm, and as usual, they were failing. I saw two of their busses roll by in an hour, and both were 860s, which didn’t take me to the stop I needed. People in line were so desperate that they were just getting on any random bus in order to get to a location where they could connect with a bus which could get them where they needed to go. But the driver on that second 860 had obviously overheard a few complaints, and he did something which will forever make him a Saint in my mind: He leaned off his bus, asked who was going to the very stop I needed to reach, and said he could make that place an extra stop without any problems.

I’ve owned my current sneakers for over a year, and they were soaked entirely through. I was cold and wet and getting worried. I quickly spoke up, got on the bus, and let myself feel crammed as the bus made its way north. I’m not much for crowds, especially when they’re tossed like sardines into a moving vehicle. But all things considered, I got home, and I got home in a fairly timely way. After I got off the bus, in fact, traffic on 99 in Snohomish County had let up to enough of an extent that I could make my final grocery stop on the way home, like I had originally planned.

So now there’s not much to do other than wait. Wait for the snow to subside enough for me to get back out, wait for signs of life to how back up in the neighborhood. And, perhaps most importantly, to curse myself for having the Rust Belt mentality of NEEDING to show, no matter the possible cost. My father, year ago, talked about possibly buying a trailer for his car to haul to work during winter storms. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now.

Snowpocalypse Driving

Snowpocalypse Driving

When I first made my move to Seattle, I had the attitude that everyone from the Northeast or Northern Midwest did about weather: What the fuck can this place possibly show me? I’ve been buried in snow drifts of five feet, drowned in humidity, and scalded riding my bicycle barefaced in -12 degree wind chills. Dressing up for the cold was my entire life. 10-inch snow dustings were routine. I’ve found myself shoveling snow off my balcony in Buffalo, getting drenched in frozen rain in Chicago, wearing two pairs of pants at the same time, bicycling across ice patches, and watching a city run out of something called a snow removal budget. After all that, what was a little rain? After everything I had endured in my other two hometowns, this would be easy.

Yeah… No. The first great lesson I learned about the weather in Seattle is that Seasonal Affective Disorder is indeed a thing. I knew a lot about the bone-chilling cold that came on sunny winter days, but looking out across a sunny batch of fresh-fallen snow could really cheer you up. Seattle is rainy, and even when it’s not, it’s gray. And humans need a certain amount of sunlight – sunlight is a source of vitamin d, which helps stave off depression. So when I first arrived in Seattle and the dog days of a Seattle winter set in, I was essentially laying on the floor in fetal position, crying and sucking my thumb. It was the psychic effect of seeing nothing but a vast expanse of gray for a longer time than I had even known before. I barely made it through my first winter. (Fortunately, subsequent winters get a lot easier after the adjustment.)

That was nothing compared to the surprise Seattle had for me after I bought my car. Once again, that’s my Midwestern ego talking. When the snow falls and the roads freeze up, we all think about how THIS is our element. And we’re going to charge across the frozen landscape like a bat out of hell, weaving through the traffic on the sparkly asphalt and leaving everyone in the dust!

Yeah, that’s another thing that didn’t quite work out the way I thought it would.

All the great driving skills you attained elsewhere amount to dick when you’re stuck in a place where everyone else is a terrible driver. Out of everyday survival, I’ve had to adopt driving techniques which were unthinkable – and illegal – in other places. Switching lanes on turns and multi-lane switches have become part of my everyday road repotoire. Quick turns, U-turns, stoplight mergers, and dashes into turning lanes are essential. You don’t have to spend money on training if you’re an aspiring NASCAR racer. Just move to Seattle and you can learn everything you need about dangerous driving within a couple of weeks.

In any case, I was wholly unprepared for what Seattle introduced to me when it snowed. I can brag all I want about being from the big, bad, nut-freezing East. Seattle, as with most things, doesn’t give a shit. No, Seattle doesn’t get a lot of snow or wholesale freezes. All that means is that I’m now locked in a dangerous chase with a bunch of people who rarely have to deal with snow on the road, and a city which generally doesn’t handle it well. The worst part of it, however, is that I, myself, have now joined the legions of idiots driving on ice. That’s not to say I’m some sort of idiot as a driver. Rather, it’s because I’m aware of my flaws as a driver and have ended up becoming everything I ever said I hated back East. I’m as bad as the other bad winter drivers on the road, and now I can see why they all suck so much.

Seattle is not a place which knows how to grind it out in a winter. Staying indoors, grabbing a cold six pack, and watching a good football game in Seattle involves buying out every grocery store in the city. Being unaccustomed to true cold and snow, the Puget Sound region doesn’t bother to prepare for it. It expects everyone to hunker down and weather everything out for a week, which is how I found myself at grocery stores trying to get my grocery shopping done when I didn’t need to be there. What that means for the big, tough easterner is that Seattle doesn’t set aside a large pile of money dedicated to getting snow off the ground the second it lands there. So, suddenly, hey, guess what? You know all those idiots we all see in Weather Channel reports crashing into telephone poles at five MPH? I’m now one of them, and that’s because, for all my gasbaggery, I don’t know very much about how to drive on bad winter terrain either. Buffalo was always spoiled when it came to winter. The joke there is how we prefer to drive in winter because all the potholes are filled in, but when the plows and salt trucks coming around every hour, there’s rarely anything to worry about.

Take 10 inches of snow in Seattle. Yes, a lightweight by Buffalo standards, but this city is stuck in a spot where it can’t get rid of the snow. If it’s too cold, it can stick around for awhile. The ice underneath the snow can also stay for longer than we would like. And I’m not the all-knowing snow driver anymore; I’m just as clueless about ice driving as everyone else on the road. Now that I live in a place that doesn’t do snow removal, the slippery elements can settle down on the road for a few days and turn driving into a white-knuckle battle between life and death. Going out on the open road, I’m afraid to hit the gas too hard when the snow is starting to pile up on the road. I can never quite figure out when to start breaking, how fast I can go before hitting the brakes leaves me to slide a good distance, or when the car will stop. Trying to outrun a snowfall is terrible because, without any way of clearing the roads, we don’t know where the crosswalks and driving lanes are. So most drivers in Puget Sound drive slowly, and since hitting the brakes can kill momentum, we run through every red light. Who is going to flag us down and stop us?

The biggest obstacle in the area, however, is the numerous hills and valleys that create Seattle’s terrifying topography. During most of the year, the topography is another one of Seattle’s popular little quirks. Come a snowpocalypse, they’re a terrifying mess of steep slopes and slants. At the beginning of this snowpocalypse, I was climbing a routine hill on my way to the transit center so I could make my bus. I ended up getting stuck for 10 minutes before a guy with a shovel pushed me enough to get me all the way up. And that was a light incline. It wasn’t unusual for me to lose control of my car because the road wasn’t clear through the week. I’m lucky, though, because my corner of the Northwest is relatively flat. If you got to Downtown Seattle in this mess and tried to move east away from Elliott Bay, well, you were sliding back to the drink. I can’t imagine how anyone could have been able to stop trying to make the climb from Cherry Street or Seneca Street or anywhere closer to Pioneer Square or the International District.

That’s the truth about what being a weather wimp in Seattle entails. They don’t have to deal with freaking mountains back East. Yes, they get snow there, but they also get all the amenities to deal with it properly. They don’t have to fight with unfriendly terrain. They don’t have to fight with their cars when they hit the brakes and the cars slide all the way down the hill and into the cross-street, which happened to me a few days ago. You can call us weather wimps, but YOU bring your ass out here and deal with this shit.

(You can find my on Twitter now: Niko Croston @baronchairman)

Why We Hate Tom Brady

Why We Hate Tom Brady

Consider the life of a very particular quarterback in the NFL. This quarterback led the exact life that was mapped out for him by birth: He was the son of an NFL lifer who had been the face of his own hapless team for over a decade. He was specifically taught to play the position and was given a full ride to one of the country’s most visible college football programs. Taken first overall and expected to lead his NFL team to a glory it has never known in its current location, this quarterback more than delivered. He built a strong reputation as a guy who rose up to everything thrown at him, posted video game numbers, and became arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. He became one of the faces of his sport and a visible presence as an ad man and a postseason quarterback.

That quarterback’s name was Peyton Manning, and by the account of everything good and true about America, we should hate his fucking guts. Really, go back and read that last paragraph again and tell me there’s anything remotely likable about the guy. So it says an awful lot that he’s considered the consensus good guy in a marquee NFL rivalry between his team, the Indianapolis Colts, and the New England Patriots and their glory boy, Tom Brady. Let’s be clear about this: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever pick up the pigskin. The only arguments left against him are pithy and pathetic. Yes, the NFL is much softer and friendlier toward passers now, but let’s run down a few bullet points: Brady has gotten more production out of less talent than anyone else. Manning was constantly surrounded by Hall of Fame talent playing at their best. Brady’s stints with Hall of Fame talents have been brief at best. Corey Dillon lasted two years, and Randy Moss didn’t even get THAT far. Brady was already a three-time champion when Gronk came on. Brady was the more reliable player of the two – he threw half as many interceptions at his worst than Manning at his best. Manning had to learn several new systems with coaching changes, but Brady has, more than once, CHANGED THE WAY HE PLAYED HIS POSITION. Maybe you’re a Joe Montana person rather than a Peyton Manning person, though. Well, people vouching for Montana are looking more like old men yelling at clouds by the day in the same fashion as people who are willing to acknowledge Michael Jordan’s greatness but still cling to the idea that he’ll never be as dominant as George Mikan. But what the fuck, I’ll humor them anyway. Montana was the beneficiary of consistent Hall of Fame talent and great coaching year in and year out. He had Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest football player of them all. Brady cheated? Maybe, but Montana was the beneficiary of cheating at the very least. Rice has copped to using stickum, and former football player Tim Green wrote that his offensive line played extremely dirty – they used illegal and physically devastating leg whips. Undefeated in the Super Bowl? So are Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Won four? Brady won five out of eight, which means he still gets the edge because five is a higher number than four. The 4-0 record? I’m quite willing to bring Terry Bradshaw into this in response, and the only person stupid enough to think Terry Bradshaw is in Montana’s league is Terry Bradshaw. Coaching? Walsh’s coaching tree produced five Super Bowl winners. Belichick’s produced trash, so you can’t say Brady’s success came from a better coaching staff. Super Bowl competition? Brady beat the 2001 Rams, 2004 Eagles, and 2014 Seahawks – three of the greatest teams the league ever produced. In Montana’s day, the AFC was producing creampuffs. Montana won his last Super Bowl in the 1989 season. The AFC’s first 13-win team didn’t come along until the next year.

In any case, Brady has spent his career being that athletic ideal we all dream of being able to watch. He has always been a natural athlete, but he also started out being a legitimate underdog. He has been the singular keystone on the most dangerous and perfect machine in NFL history. He’s done just about everything he needed to do to prove his claim to the throne of the greatest quarterback in history. He won five Super Bowls, three league MVPs, won out in a single season, became only the third quarterback to play in three straight Super Bowls, and posted 11 wins in a BAD year. And that’s the thing – even when we learn to hate great teams, we always respect them. We respected San Francisco and Washington in the 80’s. We respected the Cowboys and Broncos in the 90’s. We respected the Rams when the millennium turned. Brady – and the rest of the Patriots – won’t be quite so fondly remembered. But why is that? Well, here are some real thoughts. Not the typical bullshit from a fan who’s fed up, but real points that I sat down and considered. (And since I’m a Bills fan, that’s no small matter.)

The Sportsmanship Facade

One of the reasons Tom Brady turned into a premier face of the NFL is because of his image. He was a sixth round Draft pick, which for a quarterback means they’re lucky to set foot on the field at all. A sixth round quarterback is signed to a contract which pays $500,000 for four years, mops up during preseason games, then goes into insurance. But it’s impossible to imagine Brady doing any of that now, because he’s cultivated a particular image. He’s the ideal leader and teammate, the selfless one, the one who will never say or do anything controversial. And for the first several years of his career, he really was that. Hell, flashes of that persona still show up from time to time – Yahoo News reported that, after beating the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, he went to the Chiefs locker room to offer their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, some encouraging words. But this facade started breaking down around 2007, and now Brady has been coming off s whiny and entitled. He didn’t even shake Nick Foles’s hand after the Patriots lost their Super Bowl against the Eagles. He seems to get upset whenever things don’t go his way. He tried to pull privilege to avoid a suspension. He doesn’t own the rare moments where he screws up.

Enabling the Worst Fans on Earth

This is probably Brady’s worst crime. Now, You may take this cynically because I’m a Yankees fan, but if you’ve been reading Every Team Ever, you might have noticed that I said adopting the Patriots is a bad idea because of the enmity you’ll face. The great thing about being a Yankees fan is that you’re grandfathered into a smug culture. We’ve embraced the black hat. When the Boston Red Sox called us the Evil Empire, we wholeheartedly embraced the image and said yes, yes we are. We know what we are and we own it. The Patriots have been on a very Yankee-like stretch of excellence, but backing this machine still isn’t enough for their fans. Despite the Patriots being favored to win every game they play, their fans continue to cling to the image of the scrappy underdog rising up and punching the big bully in the mouth. When that happens in sports, fans of the scrappy underdog are allowed to be insufferable for awhile. But the Patriots’ sustained excellence means this has been ongoing. They continue to brag, they continue to whine whenever the scrappy underdog image is challenged, they continue to focus on refball even when there’s no longer any need. Yankees fans say their team is the best, and any team good enough to beat them deserves to win. Patriots fans still haven’t shut the fuck up about the Tyree and Manningham catches.

Not Retiring Gracefully

One of the unwritten rules of sports is that after an unquestionable legend has accomplished everything they can possibly accomplish, they take off their jersey, wave to the crowd one last time, and thank their supporters and team. Then they go off into the sunset. This is the reason everyone started turning against Brett Favre when he got up there in years. Favre had some good reasons for sticking it out, but we all got sick of him because he had already established himself, and it was time for him to move on. Brady has also accomplished everything there is. Hell, he’s accomplished a lot that will never even be done again. He posted a 16-0 record in 2007. The upcoming Super Bowl will be Brady’s third straight appearance in the Big Game. The only two other quarterbacks who have done that are Bob Griese and Jim Kelly. It will be his ninth overall appearance in the Super Bowl, and when it’s over, he’ll either be 5-4 or 6-3. No one else has ever come close to that. He won five Super Bowls. Only defensive lineman Charles Haley can say the same, and Haley won his five rings between two teams. He ranks fourth, third, and fourth in passing yards, touchdown passes, and passer rating respectively. He has three MVP awards and four Super Bowl MVP awards. He is also the oldest player to have ever won either of those. The fact that he’s sticking around – he hasn’t even mouthed about considering retirement – means he’s just sticking around as a middle finger. He would have been the greatest quarterback in history had he retired a few years ago. Now there’s no point whatsoever for him to be playing anymore, although he may have an unsaid reason for it…

The Common Dumb Celebrity

Brady has the ability to see a football field in much the same way Wayne Gretzky saw a hockey rink. And in his early years, he had an off-field persona which made him the same sort of inconsequential non grata as the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. He provided short clips which were predictable and interchangeable. He avoided giving out personal details, which meant it was easy for us to superimpose characteristics onto him to make him into anything we wanted. That turned him into a hero, but you know that saying about heroes – either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Brady definitely went the latter way. In doing so, he’s proving that he utterly lacks the capacity to function anywhere off a gridiron. He went public with the beliefs that drinking lots of water prevents sunburns. He sleeps in “recovery pajamas.” He differentiates between about six different KINDS of water. In the meantime, he went public wearing a MAGA hat when Donald Trump ran for President, saying it would be great if his buddy Trump became President. Then he backtracked when Trump won, saying he didn’t know much about world events. Well, no shit, Tom. He teamed up with a known quack to sell the techniques he uses to keep in shape. And this has sportswriters eating out of his hand – one Sports Illustrated writer used Brady’s fitness plan, lost weight in three weeks, and started raving about it. Again, this is a no shit call. Tom’s fitness plan is basically exercise hard, eat healthy food, and control your portions. I know because I use that same variation of a fitness routine myself, except…

Tom Brady, Scam Artist

I didn’t pay $20 every month for a fucking app! Here are some of the scams Tom Brady is running: $15 for a 12-ounce bottle of “electrolytes.” This is known commonly as Gatorade or Powerade, or just pickle juice if you want to get cheap. $40 will get you a 12-pack of his protein bars. $160 for a foam roller. Men’s Health reviewed the app and says that it has some good information and workouts, but for what a customer can get out of it, it’s not worth what TB12 is asking of it. In fairness, I can’t confirm whether or not the app is worthwhile because I’ve had a ton of success on my own fitness routine and won’t be throwing $20 at an app every month.

The MAGA Connection

This is something that goes for the entire team, but its become one of the faces of MAGA. Now, this doesn’t make any sense at all. The Patriots are a team that is careful, meticulous, and calculated in everything they do. Donald Trump is careless and wings it without regard for anything other than getting a reaction. In any case, Brady, Belichick, and Robert Kraft have all endorsed Donald Trump, and when things went awry, none of them bothered to denounce him. Even after prominent white supremacists cuddled up to the Patriots because of their support for Trump, the team sort of shrugged its collective shoulders and said, “Yeah, we get fans of all kinds!”

The 2018 One Percent Gift Guide

Well folks, the rich own everything now except the Russians. They even own the country. But this is the time of year where you sit back and ask, does that REALLY warrant the exclusion of your One Percent buddy from your Christmas card list? Jesus would be ashamed! And your One Percent friends do want to feel loved and cherished and respected and dignified, right? Days of robbing good, hardworking folks of their own dignities will leave a good oppressive CEO feeling a little unloved. But what on Earth can you get someone who can buy anything? Well, allow me to answer that question as I present my annual list of perfect gift ideas for your One Percent friend!

 

Tulip E-go Diamond Laptop

The issue of net neutrality became an issue earlier. Basically, your One Percent friend isn’t profiting from net neutrality because the internet is, you know, an important public service now. The One Percent decided that there was no way this could ever stand, and they managed to talk your middle class friends into believing it! Hence, the repeal of net neutrality so your One Percent friend’ internet company would be free to use poor people as pawns in private wars. What better way to celebrate than by giving them this million dollar laptop from 2005? No one is sure what its technical capabilities are, but with a good 80 carats worth of total diamonds encrusted within the thing, who gives a shit? Your One Percent friend is likely old and white haired anyway, so they probably prefer doing things the old-fashioned way.

Luvaglio London Laptop

Alexander Amosu Suit

Okay, this one admittedly comes off like a bit of a budget rack gift. It only costs $110,000, and it’s not encrusted with any diamonds, except for nine of them in the buttons. But you know what? Diamond encrustment only makes a suit look tacky and cheap anyway, and you can’t show up to your Monte Carlo power lunch looking like you’re some cheap and tacky idiot. So while the only diamond in this suit are tastefully placed in the buttons, this suit makes up for that with over 5000 gold and platinum stitches! It looks a lot slicker, and if manpower is a testament to just what a great, great big shot you are, you’ll also be please to know this thing took over 80 hours to make.

alexander amosu suit

Wagyu Steak

One of the great languages of the universe is food. Just ask our current president’s fat ass, which borders on morbid obesity. He clearly likes to eat! And lest anyone forget about his past, we can’t forget that one of his failures is as a steak salesman. One wonders if Donald Trump himself ever feasted on the steaks he sold at The Sharper Image. But one thing is for sure: Whether or not Trump has ever eaten his own steaks, he might enjoy a feast on a $2500 Wagyu Steak! Especially once his Secret Service guys get sick of fattening his Jabba behind even more with the McDonald’s food they’re going on corner runs for! Yeah. Anyway. These steaks are the products of a cattle called Wagyu. They’re raised in a lot of different places, but these elite steaks come specifically from a Kobe variety raised in Hyogo, Japan. These big guys are raised in the most traditional methods possible, except they get fed only beer and massaged by hand. That ensures an incomparable marbling and tenderness. They have an unhealthy load of fat and a high price, which makes them more than good enough for the fatass Ritz Cracker running the country!

World’s most expensive steaks

Louis Vuitton’s Tribute Patchwork Bag

Okay, so maybe you’re One Percent friend’s personal shopping servants went on strike or something. What’s a One Percenter to do? They’re too rich to step outside without their purse giving away signs that say “MUG ME!” But purses from Macy’s are just so, well, pedestrian. What’s a One Percenter to do? Well, Louis Vuitton has the Tribute Patchwork Bag, an ugly-ass bag which is comprised entirely of old Louis Vuitton purse designs that didn’t work out. For a $45,000 price tag, your One Percenter can walk around deeming themselves the ultimate hipster – carrying around expensive items that look cheap! You know, this is exactly the sort of thing they would sell at American Apparel!

Most expensive purse - Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork Bag

iPad Supreme Gold Edition

Apple makes expensive products, so if you decide to splurge for an Apple product, you’re already a favorite in the eyes of your One Percent friend. But what if you want to really push it over the top? Try getting your friend the iPad Supreme Gold Edition! Yes, this is more than some regular old iPad! It’s the 64GB 3G version which is considered top of the line. What do those fancy numbers mean? Who the fuck knows. What your One Percenter friends are more concerned with are a whole other set of numbers: 22K. That’s the gold shell. 2100 grams. That’s the gold shell’s weight. 53. That’s the number of flawless diamonds encrusted in the Apple logo. 25.5. That’s the number of carats those 53 diamonds total. Speaking of diamonds, there’s an iPad made of diamonds as well, but the sitting president likes to tweet from his throne of gold. So a gold iPad might get you in.

World's Most Expensive iPad - Stuart Hughes iPad Supreme Gold Edition

Dodge Tomahawk V10 Superbike

Want the Bat Cycle? This baby is about as close as you can get. All that’s missing is the black paint, arsenal, and United States street legality. Yes, that’s right – this is a concept design from Dodge which is classified as an “automotive sculpture,” and you can’t actually use it to zoom across the Manhattan rush hour traffic. But hell, the One Percent is rich, right? That’s why they’re in the One Percent – they never let little things like laws stop them! This baby will only set you back $555,000. Now remember, that’s only for the chopper. You’ll need to spring for the weapons arsenal and batsuit separately. Your One Percent friend deserves it. Don’t be a cheapass.

World's Most Expensive Motorcycles - Dodge Tomahawk V10

Trek Yoshitomo Nara Speed Concept

Yes, the One Percent believes in having other people and things do work FOR them, but there are those who have certain eccentricities… Well, you never know when a self-powered motorcycle will come in handy. Right? Okay, no matter what you may think of it, the Trek Yoshitomo Nara Speed Concept was created as a work of art by Yoshitomo Nara. (Duh!) Nara has a signature style which is centered around angry, childlike figures. He places his own little take on Lance Armstrong’ Livestrong logo on the crossbar, and that, I think, is the whole reason your One Percent friend would want this $200,000 track racer. It’s all about the novelty of it. And about the fact that, with Lance Armstrong having been outed as a steroid junkie, it will stand as a proud monument in their home to all the illegal drugs they’ve used.

World's Most Expensive Bicycles - Trek Yoshitomo Nara Speed Concept

Super-Complication Watch

Wristwates? Pshaw! Who needs something like that! We all know that if your One Percent friend is an old white man (god, what am I talking about, “if?”) they’ll prefer to have something that makes them look all-important. And the effect of looking at a wristwatch just isn’t good enough. No, they’ll need to yank a watch out of their jacket pocket which is attached to a chain and look at it. To that end, there’s this lovely $11 million jewel from Patek Philippe. Originally created on order by a New York City banker named Henry Graves in 1932 in a contest to see who could create the most complicated timepiece, this sucker hit the record books with two hands and 60 minutes. This watch contains two faces with 24 complications between them. Hey, being in the One Percent doesn’t mean someone isn’t complicated!

super_complication_watch

Oliver Peoples Corby Sunglasses

You have to keep acting young to stay in touch with the cool kids and sell to them! And what do young people love? Hipster sunglasses! You think. You’re not too sure. And what could be cooler than a pair of rockin’ shades that look like they could have been worn by rocker John Lennon? These hip Lennon-esque shades come from GOOP this year, and for $340, you too can give peace a chance!

Corby Sunglasses

Zigzag Beanie

Also from GOOP is this $75 way to be a hipster and go retro, all the way back to the 80’s! With this cool little beanie, you can be chic, awesome, and radical all at the same time!

Zigzag Beanie

 

 

 

 

The 2018 Extinct List

The 2018 Extinct List

When people ask us what we hate more than anything else, I’ll bet just about anything that we all give them the politically correct responses: War, poverty, disease, and other things like that. Well, yeah, of course you do. What responsible human being wouldn’t hate those things? But come on now! How much do things like that really affect you? You’re lying your ass off about that because those issues are OUT THERE, and you don’t have to worry about them affecting you day to day. No, the things we hate in this country are significantly more mediocre and unreasonable, but they have this habit of getting under our skins and grating us. Why? Because we put up with them! See, war and poverty and disease are hypotheticals in this country: We know they’re bad, but few of us are ever truly forced to reckon with them, and so we just don’t feel the visceral outrage over them that affects people who have to live around them. What are the things we REALLY hate? We can count some of the things on this list.

 

Slacktivists Who Constantly Bitch at Us by Telling Us About War and Poverty and Disease

Now, I have to mention something important: It’s probably for the best that we get reminded that major world problems exist. The news about them serves as a way to remind us of our place in the world and our duties and responsibilities as people who live in it. What I have in mind here is a very specific type of person who does it. And this person speaks about those subjects with their mouths more than through their actions. They come across as completely disingenuous for two major reasons: The first is because they’re speaking from a position of comfort and have never had to worry about those problems themselves. The second is because that talk is, in fact, nothing but talk. All too often, the person trying to be this self-righteous isn’t taking any action at all to address those problems. In fact, they may be consciously contributing to them.

 

The New York Times

The grand old newspaper! Old reliable! And you know what, it’s also extremely overrated and unworthy of its reputation. Now, I’m not going to be stupid and whine about biases here, but the New York Times has been caught red-handed half-assing its reporting, failing to report, embellishing reporting, plagiarising, and yes, reporting news that’s fake. Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize despite denying Ukrainian famine back in the 1930’s. This was a case that was reopened in 2003 and confirmed. During World War II, the paper minimized reporting on the damned holocaust. It supported the invasion of Iraq. It reported rape charges that turned out to be false, employed Jayson Blair, screwed up widely known facts about a very popular video game… Yes, it won 125 Pulitzer Prizes and three Peabody Awards, but there are various times when The New York Times was got complacent and coasted on its reputation.

 

Missionaries

I’m sure your religion is a real ball for you. But you know what? I really don’t care. The quote that Christians love about going forth and making disciples of all nations yada yada yada… happens to be followed by another one that says not to impose what you’re preaching on people who reject it. The entire concept of missionary work is supremacist, and even Jesus himself thought so! Frankly, it’s bad enough to go out and be accosted by someone telling you that the only Way – capital W – is through JAY-ZUZ!!! But it’s worse that we’re sending people into other countries and trying to turn them into blind followers too. That’s saying you won’t like them until they’re more like you. Last I checked, that was a blatant form of racism, no matter what country you’re trying to do it in.

 

Waits for Major Professional Sports Expansion Teams

You know, there was one team back in the early NHL which went from concept to on-ice play in about a month. Now the process has gotten considerably stupider, or as I like to think of it, Bettmanized. City applies for team. City pays ridiculous fee. City prepares playing arena. League owners vote… Or something? And if the franchise is “awarded” to the city, the fans are stuck waiting for years to see something come up. In the meantime, there’s a naming contest and people buying season ticket packages and lots of other things. And all that is in the best case scenario. It doesn’t take into account that the league you’re waiting on has a weird history of trying to peddle its sport in places with no history of it and fanbases that are disinterested and barely know it exists and the league will probably end up rejecting your city’s bid because it just heard some non-caring place like Jackson, Mississippi doesn’t have a team yet and you bet your sweet ass I’m fucking bitter and impatient!

 

Buffering

Online videos are smoother than ever, yet they’re still in the habit of loading as they play. There’s not much more annoying than watching some great movie or television show that you’re now really caught up in, then having the thing just stop because your internet dropped down an arc thingy! And we all know how this is going to go: You’re going to sit there with a glowering look on your face, waiting around, until an hour later, you come to the realization that nothing is going to happen, so you have to restart the episode from the beginning. If you skip ahead, it has to buffer again, so you start working on something else for awhile until you know the part where the buffering took place is coming up. Then you eagerly get back to watching, and in that exact same spot, it starts buffering again! The absurdity of this is just mind-blowing. We’re long past the days of clunky dial-up connections. Hell, most people are getting their television, movies, and videos online now. Maybe it’s time to find a better way to run videos, you know?

 

Pop-up Ads

Another favorite online pet peeve of everyone which it took me way too long to get around to, you know the ones: They place an enormous block in front of the webpage you’re trying to use, and the click out icon is itty and bitty and sitting in some far-off corner of the ad where it’s difficult to see. Apparently we’ve all gotten too skilled at navigating our way around regular old online ads, so now desperate corporations have to trick us. Furthermore, why are so many of those ads not catered to your own personal tastes? You would think some of these corporations are starting to get the picture. After all, Google is watching us. (Hi, Google!) That just doesn’t make any sense, with all of the non-intrusive regular ads online that DO cater to our personal tastes.

 

Movie Ticket Prices

Life was so much easier back when movie tickets cost only $5. You went to the theater, bought the ticket, and watched the movie. Now it seems like every theater these days offers some sort of premium viewing experience. So we have theaters with 3D, theaters with surround sound, theaters with dolby, and a whole lot of other indecipherable crap. And you know why it’s there? To get your money! Yes, some of these features are quite nice. But you’re still paying an arm and a leg for all of them, and now you’re expected to pay $10 or $15 for the little additions. Then they added the bulk of matinee times and high traffic times, which tacks on an extra $3 to $5. Now the price of a ticket plus theater food for yourself and another person is the price you pay for just a single ticket. It makes you wonder: Are the theaters aware that Netflix exists? Hell, I do volunteer work in an independent video store. If the ticket price tries to smack me like that, I can wait a few months and rent the DVD for free.

 

LED Car Lights

I just don’t like them.

 

Stores that Move

One of the worst, most inconvenient things there is is needing the services of a VERY particular store. So when you heard down to the local shopping center to take advantage of said store’s services, you head to its location and find nothing but whitewall. The store tries to be all cheerful about it: “MOVING so we can better assist you…” How the fuck is a move supposed to better assist me in doing much of anything? It shuts down the location you need, ensuring that you have to drive to a part of the city that’s 45 minutes away and extremely busy. Yeah, that’s some convenience or better service right there, huh? And there’s no immediate plan to return, and in fact you don’t know when the place will reopen, but you do know that life is going to be a living hell until they do reopen.

 

Television Long-Runners

Honestly, there comes a time when a great television series, no matter how good it once was, just has to gracefully bow out. The Simpsons is pushing 30, and its younger, cooler successors, South Park and Family Guy, are about 20 and 15 respectively. And the problems are always the same: Nothing about them is fresh or new anymore. But since people are zombies who will watch almost anything, they continue giving decent ratings to these old shows, which enables them to clog up the airwaves with more recent junk episodes rather than going away to make room for newer, more daring television shows.

 

How I Understood Stan Lee: The Greatness of X-men

How I Understood Stan Lee: The Greatness of X-men

The original X-men animated series that aired on Saturday morning confused me. I had heard of the X-men, of course, and knew it was about a group of superheroes. The trouble was that my community had left me with a rather askew idea of what proper heroes were. A hero fought evil, right? And they were always upstanding citizens of their communities who treated everyone the way Fred Rogers would, right? They always knew the difference between right and wrong, were kind and decent to all no matter what, and were eternally outgoing, friendly, and engaging. They had secret identities. Just as sure, every villain could be easily spotted by their black clothes, horns, curly mustaches, and evil cackles. And within a short time frame, any hero would take out a villain and leave them unambiguously defeated and rethinking life decisions in a jail cell.

X-men was my first encounter with the true Stan Lee. It wasn’t my first technical encounter with Stan Lee; that would be the Spider-man Saturday morning animated series. But the trouble with that Spider-man series was that it followed most of the same template that I had come to expect from my stereotypical superheroes: Spider-man was a light warrior who fought villains with distinctly nefarious motives. Yes, the show was presented in a serialized format, and yes, Jameson was there to try to give the show some sort of gray area. But the problem was that Jameson was so over-the-top in his fight to catch Spider-man that he came off as a villain himself. The other characters were also presented in ways which gave them moral clarity. So as far as the Marvel universe went, the point of Spider-man soared right over my head. (This wasn’t the first time black and white morality wrecked my view of comics. I was weaned on the Adam West version of Batman, so I missed the point of that too. It wasn’t until my mother finally explained to me that the original Batman – the one I didn’t know about – was a vigilante that something finally clicked.)

X-men was what gave me a colored view on the world of superheroes and my introduction to the kind of work Stan Lee really did. I remember looking forward to that show and being left in a state of shock by how weird it was. When I was that young, the standout figure with the X-men was Wolverine. So naturally, I pegged him to be an ultimate hero in the Superman mold… So why did he spend half the time acting like such a prick? And the great leader of the X-men was Cyclops. So why did he come off as so lost, indecisive, and stuck in his own head? Why did the show seem to spend as much time with the bad guys as it did with the good guys? Why did the show seem to be presenting the bad guys in a neutral light? And why did so many of the non-powered characters seem to hate the good guys?

This was new, and to a kid looking for action popcorn for a lazy Saturday, it was also extremely radical. There was no room for the flawless superhero in Stan Lee’s world. The good guy/bad guy dynamic was still in play, but it was blurred. The few flawless superheroes that did show up were in the habit of getting screwed, and trying to be one rarely if ever meant a happy ending. It took a bit of time for me to understand that X-men wasn’t there to present kids my age with the animated version of Commando every week. It was difficult for me to take at first since everything about X-men’s good guys was an antithesis to everything my community taught me about what being a good guy meant. X-men’s good guys were often good guys for one reason and one reason alone: They fought against bad guys. And I was frequently taking the show’s word on the good and bad guys as well, because a few of the bad guys at least had understandable reasons for being bad.

It was a bit longer still before I figured out that someone behind these characters was trying to get through to me. In my hometown, there wasn’t very much room for anything or anyone that was out of the ordinary, and the ordinary had a narrow definition. X-men was a sign that, somewhere out there, there were people who understood the sort of isolation and loneliness I felt. It dealt with emotions I understood at the time, and others I wouldn’t come to understand until I grew up a little more. In a way, X-men turned into a sort of right of passage, because I began to see that many of the people I was taught to look up to weren’t necessarily good. The kinds of peers that I was constantly striving to be like so they would think I was cool might not be worth the effort. Of course, I didn’t realize the implications of what I was watching until hindsight years later, but X-men was showing kids why they should fine-tune their bullshit detectors.

There’s an irony in the fact that Marvel has hit the mainstream the way it did, because most of the people who took to Stan Lee’s work way back in the day were outcasts who saw much of themselves in it. With the recent success of the Marvel Universe movies, one could make the case that more people were touched by Lee than anyone would have thought. All of the people introduced to Stan Lee’s work the way I was are grown up now, and yet they have favorite Marvel Universe characters and series, and many can eloquently argue and describe their preferences. All of us have seen something in those movies which touches us on a primal emotional level. And those of us who are different have all felt something in it which made us feel like we were understood somewhere.

Mock us for our geek outlets, but don’t try to insist they don’t matter.