Farts should be protected speech

Recently, a young Austrian man was fined for farting in the general direction of a police officer approaching him and his friends in a park for an identity check. In court, the man tried to argue that this fine is ridiculous because his flatulence should be protected under his freedom of expression. The presiding judge determined that this is incorrect because farts don’t contain “communicative content.”

Excuse me?

That’s asinine. That ruling really, really stinks. Here’s my rebuttal.

A single fart contains loads of information. Consider, if you will, the act of passing gas around another human being, and what the decision to let it rip can tell us about the farter’s opinion of those around him and his role within that group. Many of us will rip ass in front of others in an attempt to be humorous or to provoke a reaction. Some only fart in front of people they’re comfortable with. Others may unleash the butt trumpet to communicate their disdain, which is clearly what our Austrian friend was going for: this identity check is absurd, sir, and I have zero respect for what you’re doing to me right now, so please have a whiff of my ass.

And then we must consider the tone of the emission. A quick little toot could imply hesitation or a desire to hide the act. An extended ripple could signify ultimate comfort with one’s flatulence or perhaps the intention to display the strength and endurance of one’s rectal walls, perhaps in an attempt to assert dominance or attract a mate.

Aroma, likewise, should not be dismissed as devoid of information. This freedom-loving Austrian clearly did not care if the approaching officers knew about his diet. What if they caught a strong whiff of the most magical of all fruit, the lovable bean, and used that information to rough him up in the parking lot during his next trip to the local Taco Bell? Could an intrepid gumshoe with an attentive nose recognize the scent of this man’s bung blast from a prior crime scene and finally solve a case that had been haunting his dreams for years? Is there cabbage involved? Stench, all on its own, is a veritable library of the experiences attached to each and every one of our cornholes.

Lest we forget, each time we choose to exercise the meat nozzle we are taking on significant risk. Will we produce a gas or a solid? One never truly knows until after the sphincter siren has completed its work. By choosing to steam press his Levi’s in a crowd, this man displayed the utmost confidence. Perhaps he’s secure in the working of his bowels. Perhaps he’s just a dashing rogue, willing to fill his pants if it means sticking it to the man for just a moment. Either way, his bravery is to be lauded.

And so, dear judge, it is with the utmost respect that I must refute your ruling and insist that all flatulence be protected as important expressions unassailable by the law. To do otherwise – to continue cutting your own cheese while condemning this man for carving up his own gouda – would be the height of hypocrisy.

2021 MLB mini-preview

Happy Opening Day! It’s time for my annual preview of Major League Baseball’s upcoming season. I’m going to skip my usual division by division predictions because those make me look like a fool and, frankly, because most of the league isn’t that interesting this year. My hat’s off to any writers masochistic enough to crank out a paragraph about the Rangers or any team in the NL Central.

First, let’s crap on my Red Sox!

Nate Eovaldi’s starting the opener in place of the injured Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez! The second base hole left behind by Dustin Pedroia still hasn’t really been filled! They’re carrying 14 god damn pitchers because they can’t find enough arms that don’t suck! Sounds just like last year. Without fully packed stadiums manager Alex Cora can’t possibly hide any trash can banging to signal incoming pitch types to his hitters. The Sox are stuck worse than the Ever Given. This gonna be a slog.

You want proof? Look no further than the team’s TV affiliate, NESN, who brought in Mo Vaughn, Kevin Youkilis, and Jonathan Papelbon as analysts because putting a bunch of silly former players onscreen is the only way anyone’s going to watch this shit.

But there are some interesting teams in the league. Let’s look at the squads I’ve decided are worth caring about.

Kansas City Royals – Bare with me on this one for a second. Can you guess who the only team in the league is that paid literally all of its employees throughout the pandemic? That’s right, KC! I’m digging their old school approach of just being good dudes. When other teams are making vague wanking motions toward competing, Kansas City’s held on to useful pieces like Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler and added veterans like Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana. They’re trying! I’ll take that over the bullshit going on in places like Cleveland and Colorado any day of the week.

San Diego Padres – Finally, someone’s trying to keep up with the Dodgers and Yankees. San Diego spent all their stimulus checks to build a team that could easily win it all. Plus, watching late night games with former NESN play-by-play guy Don Orsillo is a treat. I’m glad Don gets to be involved with a real baseball team this season.

New York Mets – Like the Padres, they’re trying to build a juggernaut. On paper, this is at least a wild card team. Unlike the Padres, they’re the Mets and something amazingly ridiculous is going to ruin it all. My money’s on ace Jacob DeGrom ending up on the 60-day injured list after Major Biden gnaws on his pitching hand, or perhaps the team’s new ownership losing its fortune because of the Gamestop stock saga.

San Francisco Giants – My god, they are so old. I love it. Somehow, some way, this club still employs Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt. If Bartolo Colon has another comeback in him I guarantee this is where he ends up.

Chicago White Sox – Perhaps the second best mix of up-and-coming young talent and established studs in the league. They’ve got depth problems and Tony LaRussa might be too old for this, but the Pale Hose should be a fascinating team to watch.

Let’s end with a World Series prediction: no one’s stopping the Dodgers. LA over the Yankees in five games.

Down with the salary cap!

In the last decade, the amount of financial terminology required to understand team building in modern professional sports has exploded.

Salary cap! Salary floor! Base salary! Bonus structure! Guaranteed money! Team options! Player options! Arbitration! Super2! Service time! Trade kicker! Trade exception! Sign and trade! Luxury tax! Repeat luxury tax offender penalties! Over slot draft pick compensation! International bonus pool! Restricted free agent! Unrestricted free agent! Bird rights! Compensatory picks! Max extension! Supermax extension! Dead money!

Enough is enough.

In my younger, more naive days, I thought introducing strict rules around what teams were allowed to spend on their players would create a level playing field and make it possible for teams with lower revenues to compete with richer organizations. In my old age, I now know that this is dumb.

When rich teams want to compete, they find a way to make it work. When poor teams want to compete, they don’t do it by spending. Most teams don’t care about competing at all and use their sport’s financial rules as an excuse to justify being cheap.

Take last year’s Mookie Betts trade. The Boston Red Sox moved one of the three best players in the league for purely financial reasons.

I am so tired of hearing how the smart teams don’t spend money. Look at the Yankees and Dodgers and tell me they’re not smart.

Ditch all these rules and let it play out. Let the rich teams spend and the poor teams shop in the bargain bin. That’s how it goes with all these rules in place, so why not make the whole experience easier to digest?

Down with the salary cap!

Ever had sleep paralysis?

I have. It’s freaky shit, which is why I remember each case even though it’s only happened to me three times in my life.

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, here’s the skinny. You fall asleep as you normally do. Maybe you’re flat on your back. Maybe you’re spooning your expensive new waifu pillow. Either way, everything seems hunky-dory. The day’s gone, your awareness has faded to black, and you’re well on your way to a restful night’s repose and a morning where you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.

But then something in your brain goes “LOL time to fuck with this guy!” and all hell breaks loose. Your eyes snap open in the middle of the night. Though you can clearly see the room around you, you can’t move. You get the overwhelming feeling that something else is there, looming over you, holding you in place, and that its intentions are not good. You panic, knowing even your beloved waifu pillow lacks the power to save you. Shit is going down, son.

And then suddenly it’s gone a few minutes later. It’s so weird.

The first time it happened to me, I was a teenager. I remember banishing it from my memory because I had no clue what it was and didn’t want to think about it. It happened again in college, in a dorm room bunk bed, with something evil roaring in my head with all the force of a jet engine. And then it returned last night, with a scratchy hiss in my ears and an ethereal something watching me from just outside the edge of my peripheral vision.

Now that I am a worldly adult who’s listened to a wide variety of paranormal podcasts, I recognized the phenomenon for what it was and tried to pay close attention, in spite of the overpowering dread. What did I learn? Jack fucking shit.

But I’ve been thinking about it all morning. What in the heck brought it back last night, fifteen years after the last incident? I checked a list of suspected causes and none of them really fit.

Was there something gnarly in the grilled chicken sandwich and fries I ordered from a local dive for dinner?

Have I opened a mental gateway to some hellish alternate dimension by meditating too much?

Did a clump of my gray matter decide to seek revenge because it’s been deprived of excessive booze for too long?

Was that the awakening of my Persona, and if so, should I prepare myself for a side career stealing the hearts of the wicked?

Was my apartment complex built atop a pet cemetery for homicidal gerbils?

Did Google decide to test some weird new technology on me because I canceled my YouTubeTV and switched to Fubo?

No clue! Brains are wild, man.

And the worst word of the pandemic is…

Learning!

Online learning! Virtual learning! Remote learning! In-person learning! On site learning! Learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning!

Familiarity certainly breeds contempt. The word is now nastier than “moist” and more cringe-inducing than “panties.” If I’m eating a big meal at the dinner table with my family and given the choice between hearing “learning” and “smegma” I will take “smegma” every day of the week. It’s worse than “bae” and makes “fake news” sound reputable.

I hate it.

I vividly remember watching the news a couple months ago. After twenty minutes of non-stop stories using that damn word, I was beyond relieved to see the weatherman. “Finally,” I thought, “a blessed reprieve from this hell.” My heart sank as he began an introduction focused on how the forecast was going to affect the students of our great commonwealth. I braced myself. Right when I thought he was about to unleash the dreaded l word, he paused, seemed to consider things, and used “school” instead. I pumped my fist in unbridled joy.

A big part of my revulsion is the wholesome sheen it puts on a process that is loaded with more bullshit than a Q Anon field trip to an MLM convention. I’m not going to sit here and tell you school isn’t important, but shifting the terminology to “learning” glosses over just how many parts of that experience are unnecessary cruft. My teachers were great and I will always be thankful for them and everyone else who does that job, but maybe half the school day was dedicated to actual learning–which I’d argue is entirely because humans are gonna human. Are we really going to take all the ego-driven lectures about respect, disruptive classmates, unnecessary repetition, irrelevant life lessons, and overwhelming pile of social drama, wrap all that up in the shit sandwich that is Zoom, and call it “learning?” Fake news bae moist smegma panties, I say to that. Stick to “school.” It’s much more accurate.

Like so many events in the modern world, this whole thing is even making George W. Bush seem less terrible. I miss the innocent days when we thought “Is our children learning?” was the worst thing that could happen to the term.

Now all that said, we could be stuck in this pandemic for the next decade and “learning” would still not approach the horror of the absolute worst word in the language: “emails.” God, just typing that sent a shiver down my spine. Pardon me while I grab the salt and make a circle around my couch in case that summoned a demon.

Is it weird…

…that I’m oddly preoccupied with my bottle of fish oil capsules? Like, it says it’s 100% Alaskan, but how do I know some grouper from Kentucky didn’t sneak his way in there?

…that I find it cathartic to see the virtual players I found most frustrating in the first season of my MLB: The Show franchise languishing on the free agent list in my second season? I am legit thrilled that these collections of bits don’t have jobs.

…that I watch the local news every morning because I’m concerned about the anchors and I want to make sure they’re ok? These people are quite obviously so done with this shit.

…that I’m pretty sure I could make it as a “mommy blogger” even though I’ve got the wrong equipment and zero spawn?

…that I’ve saved more money than ever this year but somehow I have enough rewards points on my credit card to get a TV?

…that the best Valetine’s Day date I can think of would be to order a pizza, open a bottle of wine, and snuggle up on the couch to watch and poke fun at the My Pillow dude’s garbage-ass election fraud documentary? Maybe this is why I’m single. (Editor’s Note: It’s not, but this is funnier than the real reasons.)

…that a search for “piano music” in the Amazon Prime Music app somehow lead me down a dubstep fiddle rabbit hole and I don’t regret a second of it? I like to think this one imperfect search result is why Bezos is stepping down as CEO.

…that although I’ve loved video games and genre fiction my entire life, I really don’t understand modern fandom? Like, how in the heck do these people have time to put hundreds of hours into enjoying this thing, keeping up with all the announcements and memes, buying all the stuff, and meeting all the other people who are into it to? It all sounds so exhausting and I can’t understand how it’s possible if you’re not independently wealthy.

…that my apartment is suddenly a lot warmer now that I’ve properly shut the window that wasn’t quite locked? Funny how that works.

More on meditation

It turns out this new habit I picked up a few months ago as a means of stress relief is good for so much more than shutting down my own inner monologue.

Now, I’m good at it. Most days I can take my seat and close my eyes and slip right into a meditative state without thinking about it too much. It’s something I really look forward to, and something I truly welcome when it happens. I figure this is what going back to my favorite sports bar post-pandemic will be like, but better.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but all of this practice focusing on my breathing has made me much better at concentrating on the rest of my life. I used to lose every little object the second I put it down; now, I always remember exactly where my keys, phone, and remotes are. I no longer lose track of what I’m counting or measuring. Best of all, I find it much easier to contentedly focus on a single task and complete it. What I’d come to think of as my “IT brain” because of how I’ve been trained by a decade of tech support has finally stopped ping-ponging around trying to solve eighteen different problems at once. It’s nice. I don’t miss that mental cacophony one bit.

Having a clear(er) slate from which to work also leads to a better understanding of where I’m at. I’ve learned that I’m naturally an optimistic, happy person. It’s all the dumb assholes who turn me into a pissy curmudgeon. Which means, really, that I need to be a lot less concerned with the dumb assholes.

I’ve also gotten into guided meditations through the Calm app. I’ve learned a lot from the small suggestions the guides make along the way. Typically these end with a quick bit of commentary on life or mental health that are surprisingly relatable and thought-provoking. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be. I like this stuff enough that I’m thinking about going on some sort of retreat when that’s safe to do again.

Best of all, I know I have a reliable tool I can reach for when I need to calm myself down or figure out how to focus.

Got some ideas for ya, Joe

Hours after taking the oath of office, President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. signed about a dozen executive orders rescinding some of his predecessor’s bullshit and charting a course toward a more inclusive, climate conscious future. It’s an excellent start.

As the world’s foremost expert on everything, however, I’ve got some more things he could do if he wants to keep up the momentum. You can have all these ideas free of charge, Joe. Seeing them implemented would be payment enough.

Immediately start going by J.R. Biden Jr. How bad ass does that sound? J.R. Biden Jr. is a wealthy, confident, stylish man of the people with an amazing car, superior grilling skills, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Take your brand to the next level, Joe, and watch China and the Republicans piss themselves in fear of J.R. Biden Jr. The script for the accompanying animated series practically writes itself.

Carve out a stretch of federal land in the middle of nowhere and make it a lawless territory. Now the people who think all government is bad have somewhere to go and will stop getting in the way of actual progress. Don’t want taxes or socialized health care or any of the other things that make the modern world work? Fine. Go. Here. Have fun. But you have to stay there for at least ten years and you have to reapply for citizenship if you want to come back.

Set aside funds to buy Dr. Fauci an all-expenses-paid vacation to the destination of his choice. That guy deserves it. He looks ten years younger since the inauguration. However…it might be fun to pretend you’re rewarding him with a vacation to Mar-a-lago first.

Declare that the Boston Red Sox must spend at least $220 million on payroll this year. Watching decent players sign elsewhere at dollar values the Sox should be able to afford hurts my soul, man. Please do me a solid and make my baseball team at least pretend like it’s trying.

On 2020

So 2020 sucked, right? That’s the prevailing wisdom. I don’t think that’s quite right.

Think back to January and February. How was life back then? What did you expect out of the next twelve months? Chances are that was a better time for you, and that if your outlook wasn’t super rosy you probably had at least a few things you were looking forward to.

I can’t say the start of 2020 was a perfect one for me, but in hindsight…it was pretty damn good. I had some awesome times with an amazing person in a relationship I hoped would get me past my own insecurities and really turn into something. I’d signed on to work with Outland Entertainment on a variety of fiction projects, including the publication of my own back catalog. I won honorable mention in the Boston in 100 Words short story contest. Edge came back at the Royal Rumble after being told over and over again by doctors that his neck was never going to be in good enough shape to allow him to wrestle. Donnie Ding Dong’s reign of stupidity looked primed for a swift and decisive collapse. For the first time in a long time, I liked what I saw my future looking like.

And then…someone halfway around the world decided to have the bat soup special and everything went to hell. Plus Edge got hurt again at Wrestlemania.

So I think it’s not fair to crap on 2020. That year got porked just like the rest of us.

But what’s that matter? It’s not like 2020’s got feelings. But you do, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s that you’re fucked if you don’t work on those. Don’t simply dismiss the last twelve months. Examine them, acknowledge them, and learn from them.

And don’t forget to think about the positives. Build yourself a narrative based on the good things that happened last year. When I think back on 2020, I’m going to try to ignore the frustration, the loneliness, the uncertainty, and that underlying frazzled vibration that’s made every task or interaction feel fraught with anxiety. I’m going to think about the day at the zoo. Dinner at Tony & Elaine’s followed by pictures under the lights in Columbus Park. Playing games at PAX East. Reading my story at the Boston in 100 Words awards ceremony. That feeling of accomplishment when I finished writing Black Yonnix. That first trip to the end of the Minuteman Path on my new bicycle. Having to stop in the middle of a ride to let a mother duck and her ducklings pass. Visiting the cygnets behind Alewife station. The short story class that reminded me I’ve got range as a writer beyond ridiculous fantasy novels. Learning to meditate and feeling all the bullshit just melt away. The tasty things I learned to cook. Laughing at Brent Terheune’s Trumper parody. Stepping on the scale and seeing I’d dropped 20 pounds. The realization that a nice afternoon of slow day drinking is so much more satisfying than pounding swill all night. The nights playing Destiny 2 with friends and family. The endless text threads crapping on the hilariously terrible Red Sox. The first time I ran a mile in 9 minutes, then in 8 minutes, then in 7 minutes. Reconnecting with a few people I’d lost touch with. Singing along with Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” like it’s some sort of instinctual reflex. Opening a package I wasn’t expecting and finding a printed copy of my novel inside. Realizing that everything I’ve done to try to better myself works as long as I remember to use it.

So there’s my 2020. Find yours. Trust me when I say it’ll make you feel better. Then go tell the Trumpers and Covid-deniers to eat shit because it’s their fucking fault you have to do so much of this touchy-feely crap in the first place, god fucking damn it.

On the second season finale of The Mandalorian

Spoilers ahead.

Thinking back on this most recent season of the only reason anyone subscribes to Disney+, it’s clear that the final scene we got was really the only way for this season to end. I think I’d dismissed it as a possibility simply because I didn’t think Disney had the balls to do it. Bringing in such a famous, beloved character that adds an unavoidable connection to material the rest of the show has sort of avoided is a huge risk, especially when it requires the sort of anti-aging technology that doesn’t always work great. That character’s impact could also cast a huge shadow over everything else they’ve announced; if you’ll bring him back once, we’re going to expect him to be around more in other things too.

I won’t lie: the room got a little dusty when that single X-Wing approached Moff Gideon’s cruiser. I thought the earlier brawl between Boba Fett and WWE’s Sasha Banks was as Scott-specific fan-service-y as the show could possibly get, but the possibility that Luke fucking Skywalker, young and unburdened by the sequel trilogy’s stupid god damn motherfucking bullshit, was coming to save the day elicited a legit gasp. At first I tried to logic the possibility away. Surely this was a swerve, a tease before the introduction of someone else. Even when that green lightsaber snap-hissed to life I still couldn’t believe it was actually him.

But then the cowl came down and there he was. For those who don’t know, I like most of the Star Wars movies but I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved the Expanded Universe book series. I devoured those things like they were candy all through my teenage years and into my twenties. I called out of work when they killed Chewbacca with a moon and then again when Han and Leia’s son murdered Luke’s wife. And finally, right there on my TV, was the closest approximation we’ll ever get to the Luke of those lost, de-canonized stories: a young Jedi Master fresh off his victory over the Emperor, traveling the galaxy to right wrongs and rebuild the Jedi. So what if the CGI wasn’t perfect. That one scene almost made the rest of 2020 worth it.

Narratively, Luke’s appearance is like dropping a bomb on the whole setting. Who gives a crap about Ahsoka Tano or the Bad Batch or any of the other series they announced this week when it’s established that Luke god damn Skywalker isn’t just hanging out on his couch waiting for Ben Solo to turn into an emo shithead? The creative minds at Disney have to know this, and I’d bet they’re accounting for it in all of the other Star Wars properties they’re working on. As I wrote previously, this new fleet of stories reeks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s progression, where a series of smaller standalone movies eventually built to massive team ups in the Avengers films. What better way to replicate that structure than by telling the stories behind the first class of Luke’s new Jedi academy? I betcha Grogu won’t be the last new Force user we run into on Disney+.

The elephant in the room, of course, is in the future, when Kylo Ren slaughters all of Luke’s students before the start of the sequel trilogy. Would Disney really get us all attached to a bunch of new characters just so we can watch them die horribly? There’s a lot of money in it, so why not! I’d do it, but I’m kind of an asshole. And besides, the films – and The Mandalorian itself – already set the precedent that “destroying the Jedi” never really means someone got all of them.

As is always the case with any fictional property, we’ll have to see how this goes. This finale arguably does a lot more for Star Wars in general than it does for The Mandalorian, but that might be alright. Let’s just hope they don’t go overboard and bring back Jar-Jar.