Tuesday, October 11, 2016

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

By: Ben Johnson

Congratulations. You certainly got my attention.

You guys sure know how to get my goat. I’ll give you that. And I can see how that’d be fun for you. I’m the over-educated liberal nerd who’d rather be right than happy, and you’re the country-smart redneck who gets to have a little fun at my expense literally any time you feel like it. You’ve been made to feel inferior to overeager puissant little know it all hand-raisers like me for your whole life. I’ve spent my whole life being stuck behind you while you fail to figure out how to exit a parking garage. We grate on each other, but I’m usually more fun to grate on than you are.

You might have noticed I seem oddly restrained right now. Usually with something like "An Open Letter To..." I’d be furiously and condescendingly trying to “teach” you something about how I’m right and you’re wrong. I bet that’s exhausting. I don’t blame you for being tired of that. 

Teaching doesn’t really work unless you sign up for it. And while I wish you would, partially because I like the sound of my own voice, and partially because sometimes I literally can not believe how wrong you are while appearing to think you are right, you don’t have to listen to me. In a way, I respect that about you. Facts, after all, tend to come out of the mouths of people, and people can always be ignored. I'm as good a person to ignore as anybody. I admit it.

If I seem more subdued than usual about the whole being right thing right now, it's because your guy is probably not gonna be the president.

This is not me gloating, by the way. It hasn’t exactly been fun to get here. You, and your guy, put up one hell of a messy fight, and it took a lot out of me. It took a lot out of all of us. You had to stand up surprisingly strong for your God-given right to be wrong, which is a long and shamefully proud tradition in this country, and I felt myself, through my exhaustion and exasperation, behaving in ways I know to be wrong just to try to convince you that I’m right.

Anyway, what now?

We still have to share a country, is what. And it’s a pretty messed up country at the moment. We agree on that. We probably agree, more or less, on the basic idea of how it’s messed up. Namely: the squeeze is on. It feels, strangely, like it’s harder to be alive than it used to feel. Not that it was ever easy. But you know what I mean. Money doesn’t go as far as it used to.

We might even agree to some extent on who’s to blame.

Like I know you’re not a huge fan of Comcast. No sane person on earth loves Comcast. You and I might disagree on a lot of things, but there’s just no way you get a bill for $100 in the mail every month and then go “I’d gladly pay twice as much as that to be able to watch Ice Age 2 whenever I want, yes, thank you Comcast!”

Like you’re not tipping Comcast, are you? “You know what, Comcast, you guys did a really good job this month. Here’s a little something extra for little Joey Comcast.”

Maybe you work for Comcast. But people who work for Comcast probably hate Comcast the most. You ever call up Comcast and talk to somebody who works there? What’s the first thing they tell you? “Many of your questions can be answered online at Comcast.com.” Can you imagine how humiliating it must feel to tell every single person you talk to all day long that your company would prefer if you did not have a job?

And have you ever been to a Comcast customer service center? It’s actually worse than the DMV in there. The DMV has chairs in it. I’d rather go to the DMV all day long than go to a Comcast customer service center for fifteen minutes. I know I said I’d take it easy on the “teaching” thing, but I just find it pretty damn telling that Comcast is less nice to go to than the DMV. The DMV probably has more competition keeping it honest. Like you can actually move to another state that has nicer DMVs. Illinois was pretty good.

Anyway, yeah, you don’t love Comcast.

So you and I are not THAT different. I fucking hate Comcast.

I know you’re not fond of Wall Street. Who’s fond of Wall Street, except for Wall Street?

I know you don’t love Congress. Nobody, not even you guys, loves Congress right now.

Who else do we both not like? I don’t know… Kim Kardashian?

Comcast… Congress… Wall Street… Kim Kardashian…

Oh okay, there’s too much money (Comcast) in too few hands (Wall Street), and the system (Congress) is rigged to keep it that way, and it’s getting pretty damn obvious that money is not actually associated in any proportion with the holder’s actual worth as a contributing human being (Kim Kardashian).

We agree on that. Right?

And instead of doing something about it, together, we’re sitting around arguing about who is worse between Hillary Clinton and Donald The Fuck Are You Even Serious Oh My God I Need To Go Breathe Into A Paper Bag Right Now Trump. Which, okay, we disagree on, but holy crap. Holy crap.

I’m worn out. I don’t know how you guys feel, but I’m worn out. And I have a sneaking suspicion that my being worn out is a part of somebody else’s plan. Being worn out is what makes it easier for me to pay Comcast $100 a month than it is to march up to their headquarters in Philadelphia and burn the damn thing to the ground.

I’ve actually been in there before, and guess what? They basically have a gigantic HDTV in their lobby. Like that’s what they used our money on. And they don’t even let you watch movies or shows on it. It’s just this lame repeating series of videos of, like, local Philadelphia actors tap dancing on a big spinning globe and stuff. They couldn’t even spring for something cool with explosions and lasers. I mean, if you’re gonna rob me every month to build a giant HDTV in the lobby of a skyscraper, go whole hog. Lock the doors so I can’t get in and play Halo on it with your other rich buddies.

Seriously, though, you guys. We should forget about Trump and Hillary, get together, and I don’t know, like, do something about Comcast. Comcast sucks. And all the other problems, too. We’re going to need each other if we’re going to fix those, but in the meantime, Comcast. Let’s take it down. It’ll be like a fun team-building exercise.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Adelaide Climbs A Tree: A Review

By: Kelly McClure

When it was brought to my attention on www.facebook.com that the father of Ben Johnson (aka, Bozo #1), whose name is Ed Johnson, wrote a book, and that book was available for purchase on the website www.amazon.com, I bought it immediately. It did not matter that I had never personally met Mr. Johnson, nor did it matter that the book in question was about a little girl (whom I'd also never met) experiencing some difficulty climbing a tree. I personally felt the need to buy this book to answer the following questions that the existence of the book sprouted in my mind:

1) So, you can just willy nilly write a book and then be like "here, internet, sell this?"

2) Print media is alive and well? (That's not really a question I had, I just wanted to write those words.)

3) So, what's the deal with this tree?

I am a strange friend in that I will literally never call you on the phone or hang out with you, but if your family member writes a book, you can bet that I will be one of the first to buy it. That's how I show that I care. With money. And the internet. 

When Adelaide Climbs A Tree arrived in the mail I was pleased to notice that the book was magazine in nature (zine-esque, if you will.) The cover has a glossy slickness to it, and the paper has literally no odor. These are just some surface findings I thought people would like to know.

Doing my best to avoid any spoilers, the crux of the tale is this: A girl named Adelaide is like "I think I'll climb this tree." No known reason for this activity is given, which lends a lot to the book's mystique. She climbs the tree, un-climbs the tree, and then her life unravels into a Kafka-esque voyage of the inner psyche that results in her, and her grandfather's (Mr. Johnson) understanding that "there is no tree."

I would recommend this book to anyone who is yearning to find out a little bit more about themselves.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Three Good Things: Hats, Walruses, Pillows

By: Ben Johnson


Often referred to by their common social media platform naming convention #hats, real life hats are a useful and good thing to have on your head from time to time.

Here is a partial list of some things hats do:

1. Cover your head.

2. Shield your head and various head parts such as face and neck and general head from things such as sunlight and rain and non-rain precipitation and other kinds of light, and like dripping things that are not rain.

3. Like if you have glasses but not prescription sunglasses you can wear a hat and that way you don’t really have to get prescription sunglasses because you can still se okay even if it’s bright out because you have a nice dark hat brim shielding your face.

4. Extend your head area’s intrinsic personal space bubble several additional inches in all directions, allowing you to navigate crowds and social situations with an extra cushion of ease and comfort.

5. Can look good on your head.

6. Can become an easy way for friends and loved ones to recognize you from afar if you wear a particular hat often.

7. Make your head warmer than it would ordinarily be.

In conclusion: hats are good.


Are walruses good?

If you watch a nature show about walruses, you might come to the conclusion that walruses are, in fact, not good. They can be jerks to each other. Big male walruses especially can seem like assholes. They fight a whole lot, like they do that walrus-fighting thing where they whomp their big ugly walrus necks against each other until one walrus relents, and then dating wise it’s probably some kind of ugly walrus-copulation-as-reward-for-successful-walrus-fighting scene. I bet it's not too much fun to be an actual walrus.

I just Googled what do walruses eat and it turns out they eat clams. Man, they must eat a ton of clams. Walruses are huge. They must have like 50 pounds of clam meat in them at all times. No wonder walruses mostly just lie around and go “bork bork bork bork!” all day. That’s probably about all I would do if I ate enough clams to be 4,000 pounds.

And it’s not like, hey, don’t eat so many clams. I got no beef with a walrus just eating as many clams as they want. Eating clams is a pretty chill move as far as being a predator goes.

I think walruses are good because they look like walruses, and if it weren’t for walruses there wouldn’t be anything in the world that looked like that. You’d see Wilford Brimley or Stan Van Gundy and you’d think “man, that guy looks so much like a…” and then there would not be a word at the end of that thought. But thanks to walruses, there is! Walrus guys need walruses to exist in order for the rest of us to see a walrusy-looking guy and say, "oh man, that guy looks like an exact walrus."

Conclusion: walruses are good.


For my money there’s just nothing better to put your head on than a pillow when it comes to sleeping or resting.

Conclusion: pillows are good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Non-Women In Womanless Bands

By: Ben Johnson

This is what you look like when you talk.

There’s one of those Important Community Dialogues going on in the general vicinity of my Facebook feed these days, and as rational of a person as I like to believe I am about not voluntarily burning to a crisp, I have an inner moth with precious precious straight white cis man feelings that can’t help but be drawn to the flame. Moths are annoying and predictable that way.

This one is about whether there should be women in bands. The idea is that, yes, there should be women in bands. And another idea is that, also, bands who don’t have a woman in them should think about having a woman in them. These are good ideas. It’s a little puzzling why this set of ideas would be threatening to anybody. But oh boy is it ever threatening to some people.

Like all men (yes all men) I fuck up real bad every single time I try to enunciate an opinion on matters of feminism. I start out with what I believe are good intentions, and then I’m talking, and then I’m the one talking rather than listening, and that act alone proves I’m not actually all that awoken to the actual content of whatever repackaged ally-positioned gibberish I’m currently spewing, and thus I end up taking a patently rickety rhetorical position that any moth who wishes can easily point out, and then when that inevitably happens I look stupid and feel stupid, which actually is not a bad thing for me to look or feel as a result of opening my mouth about anything having to do with women or womanhood.

Because I do not, and never will, know what I am talking about on that subject.

ALL THAT SAID… you know what? No. No buts. Just those things said. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. All I know about is general personhood.

Anybody can tell me anything and I’ll just do my best, okay? I get to decide the difference between right and wrong for me, and I have to act on those decisions and deal with the consequences of them, just like everybody else. I’d maybe prefer not to be told what to do, but hey, I’m a grown up. Grown ups have to deal with things they’d prefer not to deal with, like for instance utility bills or being told, correctly, that they should shut up once in a while, that their voices are crowding out other voices, that they are, because we all are in a general and essential sense and maybe some more than others if you’re a fan of concepts such as equality, stupid and wrong and unhelpful and unnecessary. Some grown ups have to deal with a lot worse than just being occasionally exposed to uncomfortable truth.

Anyway: I know I shouldn’t say anything. But sometimes I say things. I’m not perfect. I try to at least remember that it’s better if I listen.

Why not listen, dudes in bands?

It’s the least you could do after forming a band and peppering the whole world with event notifications that say, in essence, “hey please listen to me.” And if you’re not in a band: good job. Mission accomplished. Maybe consider also not posting on Facebook. I forgive you, because look at me here, but jeez. Look at us. We fucked up. We always fuck up so, so bad.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Candy Crush Saga Life Lessons

By: Ben Johnson

Look, I know this is bad, okay? This is real, real bad. From a certain entirely accurate psychological standpoint, it’s about the same thing as saying, “sometimes I cut myself,” or “I wish I was dead.” But: I’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone lately. You know, that game people play with the colored dots that you move around and then they explode, and whenever you see somebody playing it in public on the train or in an airport, commuting home in their business slacks and sneakers, you think, “that is just about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen”?

Yeah, that ‘s me.

This is just where I’m at right now, okay? I’m stressed out for a large portion of my life, and then I do this mind-numbingly stupid thing, and then in those moments I find I am doing this thing and not doing anything else, and my mind is soothingly numbed. It’s fine. It’s a fine way to spend your time if the rest of your time is comparably harrowing.

I’m learning from Candy Crush Saga. I’m not learning, like, math things, or “always do the wrapper candy first because that’s hard to get” things, although maybe I’m also learning those things. Really what I’m learning about is—and forgive me for saying this, because believe me I know how it sounds—my own adulthood.

Here are some things being alive, at least my experience of it, has in common with Candy Crush Saga right now:

1. Utterly pointless

2. Goes on forever

3. Isn’t technically “fun”

4. Series of things you have to do

5. Very little control over the things that happen

6. No way to know if you’re even good at it

7. Everything is garish and impossible to understand and also somehow wants your money and also somehow wants to know who all your friends are, wants to connect with all your friends and wants your money and all your friends’ money

8. I don’t know who anybody is even supposed to be

9. Sometimes it’s like “oh well it looks like I’m just not gonna win this time no matter what” and sometimes it’s like “oh wow I thought this was gonna be impossible but it’s totally doable if I just take it one step at a time” and you never know which one you’re even currently dealing with

10. You screw up a lot but mostly it’s no big deal, like most of the time the stakes are really small, like what if I did that thing differently and then that thing would go here, oh whoops, maybe I lose this level and/or the hot dog guy thinks I’m a jerk for like three seconds

11. Sometimes you have to stop, like sometimes you are forced to stop unless you want to bother people you know or pay extra money or cross a similar internal boundary into territory you’ve decided is unhealthy

12. It feels good to get stars or see your name climb a fake leaderboard even though it doesn’t really mean anything

13. The future is just a weird map with no features on it

14. I’m pretty sure I’m not the bad guy, but really there’s no way to know

15. I probably need to get my eyes checked, like I should really do that

16. Culture is a lie

Okay, I made up that last one. Candy Crush Saga doesn’t really make me feel that way about culture, except insofar as I moved to Baltimore less than a year ago and there’s all this interesting and weird stuff to do here and all these new people doing it, and I am constantly confused and feel myself struggling to find anything real I can look at and say “this is who I am,” and maybe the weird things and the new people are more of a distraction than a help in that regard, kind of like how Candy Crush Saga is more of a distraction than a help in every regard.

Am I reading too much into Candy Crush Saga? Not a rhetorical question. Genuine question.

And also: no I am not reading too much into Candy Crush Saga. It’s my life and I can play a dumb game and think whatever the hell thing pops in my head during that. I can do whatever I want. I’m basically a sprinkles candy right now, and I can explode all the blues, or turn them into stripes, or wrappeds, or I can also be Swedish Fishes. I don’t have to listen or do anything. Not all of the time. Nobody can do it all of the time.