Friday, October 30, 2015

Experimental Self-Defense For Zero Situations

By: Ben Johnson

I have a friend who was very recently besieged by ravenous wild hell pigs. I’ll call the friend “Lexie,” because that is her name, and the hell pigs were a couple of improperly socialized and therefore quite rude American Bulldogs which had somehow gotten off-leash in our Baltimore neighborhood. Apparently they ran up to her while she was in the middle of a very unassuming regular walk down the block, barking and snarling and generally being very uncool indeed.

If you’re not familiar with the breed, the American Bulldog is one of those that qualifies as a potentially fatal attacker if its owner does not take special care to avoid raising a horrifying weaponized giant muscle with teeth. It is a fight-or-flight response dog in any case where it’s unrestrained and not making clear dopey “hey I like you and I want to be your friend” moves.

Lexie reverted to Discover Channel wild bear survival techniques such as screaming and acting like a crazy person and basically shitting herself, which confused the hell pigs sufficiently for her to escape unscathed. I’m not sure I can or should recommend Lexie’s wholly unplanned actions in the case of other potential maulings. Lexie’s initial “please be aware” post on Facebook is currently devolving into a very long, point-missing, and, to be honest, boring discussion about industry standard hell pig defense techniques. My plan is to get on the roof of the nearest car, but I don’t know, and I’d prefer continuing not to know, if that would be practical or effective. I think the simple truth of life is that sometimes people just get torn to shreds by deranged space beasts, and I’m glad that hasn’t happened to me and didn’t happen to Lexie.

Since this incident, Lexie has been obsessed with baseball bats. I’m not going to tell her not to be obsessed with baseball bats. That’s not my job. She got run up on by terrifying ghost hounds, she experienced that, and the emotional fallout is her burden to deal with as she sees fit. My job is to be the friend she knows who might perhaps best be equipped to assist in the purchase of baseball bats and in refining their theoretical optimum fear-deadening utilization. She runs with a very arty crowd, not many of whom will drive her to Play It Again Sports and then review various methods of hypothetical retributive dogsmashing justice in the parking lot.

For my money, you’d probably want to choke up about a third of the way from the base of the handle. Grip that sucker one-handed, so as to still have one good hand available if the primary one gets eaten. You’ll want, I’m guessing, to use several short back and forth downstrokes, while backing away in a fencing-like motion. Think of the bat as a downward-facing windshield wiper for keeping dogs off your legs. You’re not looking to square up a kill shot to the skull with a wide, majestically looping follow-through that’s going to leave you vulnerable if and when you miss. That’s the deadly sin of pride, friend, and it’s what causes people, and again I’m just spitballing here, to die of beast attacks while holding a baseball bat like they’re Gary Sheffield instead of somebody who knows and accepts their limitations. No, seriously, go ahead and look like a goon, and by all means sacrifice power in favor of making contact. The goal is to discourage by making the attacking beast think “ouch, wait, maybe this sucks” as the result of lunging after any random pedestrian who happens to currently be holding a Louisville Slugger.

I am of course not qualified to invent an anti-dog baseball bat maneuver, not by any direct application of experience nor by any theoretical mastery of the involved concepts. I’m just a guy who thought about this particular problem good and hard, and earnestly pretended, while holding a baseball bat, to be attacked by nonexistent dogs in a mini-mall parking lot for a solid twelve minutes. I did this not to come up with a perfect, repeatable solution to a life-threatening problem. I did this because Lexie, who is a cherished friend of mine, had a run-in with a pair of less than welcoming local demon pigs, and this caused her to want a bat, and because I like to think of myself as a good friend I am ready to participate in her healing process to the extent that it involves laughing until she can’t breathe at my taking idiotic dog-fighting test swings behind the Dunkin’ Donuts on Belair Road in Nottingham.

If you are some kind of an expert in fending off ghastly attack monsters with sports equipment, do me a favor: shut up. This isn’t about you. You can’t expect every little random person who happens to have stumbled on an interest in your chosen field to be seriously interested in your opinion. We’re dealing with very particular abstract theory, and very particular emotional responses, and very particular holy shit I thought those dogs were gonna kill mes. They do not apply to you. They do not apply to anybody, really, except to me and to Lexie and to the nonexistent dogs in the parking lot who totally just got their asses kicked. You know who you are.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Take a Dandruff

By: Kelly McClure

People have a lot of different interests. An example of an interest could be: MUSIC. Another example could be: WINE. And then you go a couple rungs down the ladder of interests and land at something like: YARN. Perhaps: BOWLING. And so on, and so forth. Maybe you meet someone new at work, or on an internet sex application and you're like "What are you interested in?" They  might reply with: "Oh, you know, gardening or whatever." But somewhere, at some point, at least one person really wants to just cut the shit and be like: "Dandruff. I'm into dandruff."

Just a few brief moments ago I came across THIS Youtube channel. If you want to know what THIS is before you click on it, I will tell you. It's a Youtube channel devoted entirely to someone picking HUGE dandruff flakes off of a person's scalp, set to classical music.

I don't know how I came across this channel. I was literally just sitting here eating from a bag of trail mix while contemplating either 1) taking a nap or 2) using my rowing machine that I just bought from, and then, *poof* dandruff videos.

You might be reading this and thinking something like "Gross. No thanks." But watch a few minutes and tell me if you don't surprise yourself by making some manner of "UGHHHHHHH" orgasm noise like I did. And don't lie. The dandruff knows.

Here are some of my favorites to get you started:





Further research into this Youtube channel revealed that it's actually NOT solely devoted to videos of dandruff, but also videos of people's legs as they drive, and whatever this is

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why It Matters That Condé Nast Bought Pitchfork

By: Ben Johnson

I Googled this picture of a guy from Pitchfork so this wouldn't just be text

First of all, Condé Nast is a company, like I think a big company. Of some kind. I’m gonna have to Google that. It feels like a thing I should not need to Google, seeing as how I write things often and sometimes do so for money, but I live my life in a way that suits me, and that means just not knowing certain things that would probably only make me upset.

I think Condé Nast has like a CEO or a President or an Editor with maybe a funny name who maybe I am supposed to have formed an opinion about by now. Oh wait, are they the Vanity Fair company?

Okay, yeah, they’re the magazine company that does The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among others. Oh okay. None of the bigtime people involved have funny names. I think just the company itself has a funny name. I think I got Condé Nast confused in my brain with Elon Musk, who is a dude. It seems like, to the extent that they might be people, Elon Musk and Condé Nast would be friends. But one of them is a dude and one of them is a company. Condé Nast is the company.

Pitchfork Media is that music website that I used to read like 10 years ago, back when I gave a shit about music but didn't have any better ways to find out about it. It still exists, and it still is a music website. Probably.

Wait a minute. My co-Bozo Kelly asked me to write about this even though by now it has been revealed that I am not qualified by any measure that includes having a remote interest in the subject at hand. I bet it’s because she is actually involved in both the music and publication industries, and therefore must not say anything derogatory or inflammatory or even mildly opinionated that can be traced back to her, and also she might think it would be funny to have me do this.

How about this.

In the extremely unlikely event that Condé Nast is out there Googling stuff like “Kelly From Total Bozo Said A Bad Thing About Condé Nast Buying Pitchfork” + “Ruin Her Career Tips” and ends up here:

Hello! My name is Ben Johnson and I would like to write about music for money, or possibly about another subject for one of your other publications. This would be very easy for me to do, since as a writer I am quite accomplished at faking my way through almost any subject matter, and also I am a frequent user of money.

The following are samples of things I could conceivably write:

“The new Rihanna album came out today and parts of it are great, and parts of it aren’t so great, but Rihanna is great, in general, even though some of the things she does both in her songs and in her personal life are kind of vaguely troubling, but that is really none of my business.”


“Miley Cyrus is actually very good: a seven part essay in which the word ‘intersectionality’ is both misapplied and overused (and then a whole long thing that reads like repurposed grad school homework but makes some good points)”


“The newest thing is some band from Brooklyn that you NEED to be listening to because they’re skinny and they look good in leather jackets and for some reason you’re afraid of dying without ever having a sex threesome and knowing about stuff like this seems like the right path to be on in order to accomplish that.”


“This latest album by Bruce Springsteen is worth discussing, which I will gladly do right now.”


“A 2,300 word rumination about the inner workings of streaming music services that’s so boring it could contain an entire middle section that just says ‘joob jooba jooba goob joob,’ and nobody would ever notice.”


“Congratulations Condé Nast, Who Is A Company And Not A Person, On Your Recent Purchase Of Pitchfork Media, And On Continuing That Website’s Legacy Of Stiltedly Highbrow Payola-Reeking Objectivist Gatekeeper Style Reportage On Music Industry Micro-Trends Which Affect No Actual Humans.”


“Who am I kidding, I’m currently on hold with a temp agency, which actually suits me okay.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Had A Weird Dream About Baltimore

By: Ben Johnson

I just had a weird dream about moving to Baltimore.

I was wandering around an unknown dream city that I knew to be Baltimore, just kind of going with the flow of evening foot traffic, and started walking up these old steps. The steps sort of ended at a wall you could walk along the top of, and the wall sort of ended at a ledge you could scoot along while hanging from, and the ledge ended at a corner with power lines attached.

I looked out, and the people I had been following were hanging from the power lines, using them as a two-rope bridge to get to a tower type thing, and shimmying down a telephone pole from the tower that went down to the woods.

I thought "this is a weird and dangerous shortcut for all these people to be taking" and was about to head back when a young woman came along the ledge from behind me with a look in her eyes like "come on buddy, there's a line here." So I figured what the hell, none of the rest of these people died, and went out onto the power lines, which I noticed were insulated by a bunch of promotional band material, like rolled up vinyl signs and posters with band names on them. I wasn't worried about falling, but I remember my back and shoulders hurting a lot as I finally got to the tower thing.

When I hoisted myself up on the platform, there were ten or twelve scraggly looking hip kids, all just staring at me like I was an alien. I wanted to say "party at the moon tower" like from Dazed and Confused, but didn't, and one of them, who looked like my friend Kelly (not Kelly McClure, other Kelly, from Baltimore)​ but wasn't her, told me in a very practiced and confident tone "hey man, we're all just up here to take a band photo. But you can stay and chill if you buy us a drink."

And I knew that these people were gonna be my friends, but woke up before I could explain that I was just there as an honest mistake of naive curiosity and hadn't really been following anybody in like a creepy way, and certainly didn't want to mess up any band photos.

That's what Baltimore is like, right?


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Woman Loses Mind, Yells at Bear, Etc.



"Why are you doing this, bear?"



On Leaving Chicago

By: Ben Johnson

I just left Chicago after living there for over 14 years. 

I've been trying to write some big dumb "this is what that town means in the popular consciousness as filtered through my experience blah blah blah" thing about it, but who am I, Saul Bellow? Am I gonna nail it? Absolutely not. Also, there'd be no point. Chicago doesn't care what you say, anyway. Chicago is a town for Shutting Up And Doing. Anything I'd have to say about it would just be about me, really.

Okay, it's about me then. Me and Chicago.

There's a metaphor that struck me recently:

One of the ongoing things that happened over this last Chicago summer was the Chicago Botanic Garden had one of those Titan Arum flowers, which is the largest blooming flower on earth. It's from Sumatra. The thing grows and grows over the course of a decade or so, and then when it finally blooms for only one night, it smells like a corpse, and all the animals in the rainforest come running from miles around to eat some delicious corpse meat, then go "oh damn it's just a flower, well, I might as well pollinate it with stuff from that other false alarm corpse I smelled last week."

The Botanic Garden lovingly nurtured this gigantic exotic foul smelling asshole prankster flower for 12 years, and it was supposed to have bloomed over one night of its own random choosing sometime in August. I wanted to see it and smell it before I left town, so I did that thing on Twitter where you turn on text messages for a particular account, just to make sure I didn't miss it. They fired off a bunch of totally irrelevant tweets about Heirloom Tomato Week and botany lectures, along with a bunch of cutesy "let's trend, let's go viral" stuff where they tweeted back and forth with other regional botanic gardens who also had Titan Arums scheduled to bloom. It was pretty annoying, to tell the truth.

But I wanted to see this thing because it felt like some kind of a "this took twelve years to finally happen and even if it ends up being just a big dumb line to wait in to smell a big dumb smelly plant, at least that'll be a punctuation of sorts" event I could point to and say "I did it and I was here."

The flower ended up not blooming. The official explanation was that it didn't bloom because of a "lack of energy." That felt like even more of a metaphor. I don't know who's who in it, though. I think Chicago and I took turns being the botanist and the giant lazy corpse stink flower.

It turns out there is another one of these corpse flowers, also at the Chicago Botanic Garden, that just got done blooming, right around the exact moment I was clearing the final trash out of my Chicago apartment. I didn't even know there was another flower, because I quit following the Chicago Botanic Garden in disgust, because I was tired of the flower hype and the Heirloom Tomato Week tweets, and maybe also because I had become a little too attached to the "lack of energy" narrative.

What I was up to while the corpse flower bloomed.

The Chicago Botanic Garden pulled a fast one on me. There's a gigantic stinking flower that bloomed and that I missed because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself and being upset about dumb botany lecture tweets. I know who I am in THAT metaphor. I'm me.

And if I want to extend that whole metaphor, I guess I'm hoping that Baltimore, where I am moving in order to live in the same state as the rest of my family, will be Sumatra. I'd like to live somewhere nobody's tweeting you about Heirloom Tomato Week, and the metaphorical giant wild corpse flowers either bloom or don't bloom, and it's a dangerous, murderous jungle but if you go there you'll at least have a chance to see and smell it all for yourself without relying on a metaphorical institution on metaphorical Twitter with a metaphorical team of self-appointed botanists telling you to wait, wait, wait and in the meantime please enjoy this other programming. Of course I'm probably just setting myself up for another fast one yet to come, and the whole metaphorical point of all of this is that I am simply too stupid and stubborn and reactionary and easily discouraged to live in Chicago or maybe even to flourish at all. I don't know. Split the difference, maybe.

At least in the meantime I'll get to see my niece and nephew grow up. That's something I think Chicago would understand. That's a metaphorical Heirloom Tomato Week I'd actually want to go to. 

So with that all explained and taken care of, it's time to say "goodbye, you big dumb wonderful majestic stinking liar of a lazy flower with the secret sister that only the die hards know about, and good luck." 

Same to you, Chicago.