Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Parenting License

There used to be this awesome blog called, whythefuckdoyouhaveakid.com  ...but I guess it's no longer active.  What made it awesome was that it said one thing that never fails to come to my mind every single time I take even one step outside my door:  WHY THE F**K DO YOU HAVE A KID?

I had to get a special license and take a class in order to operate a motorcycle.  We require special licenses for doctors, lawyers, realitors, interpreters, teachers, boaters, hunters, gun owners, bar tenders and I think some states even have them for nannies/baby-sitters.  ...Yet we don't have one for parenting.

Sure we have laws about negligence and abuse that are fantastic, but what if the parents are total idiots or douchebags that aren't breaking any laws, they just happen to totally suck at parenting.

I can't go to Wal-Mart, McDonald's or any other public place where kids are prevalent without seeing a handful of these fools hanging around.  You know the type, die-hard "Juno" fans that want nothing more in life than to have a baby even though it is painfully obvious they can barely care for themselves. 

The baby will be like a cute living doll or fashion accessory to Ms. Juno-Fan for a while, until she realizes that raising a kid is really hard work...then she will resent it.  Once the kid starts to talk and have an opinion of his/her own the Mom will likely give up and turn the brat over to the streets.

Don't worry though, she will keep leftover mac-n-cheese on the counter to keep the kid fed...but anything involving getting off the couch is just out of the question for this welfare queen.

And this is where kids like Thug-Jr. come into play.  You may remember hearing about this one a couple years ago, the 7-year-old that stole his grandma's SUV and went on a destructive joyride.

Kids like this don't just happen over night.  They are made over years of indifference and total lack of positive role models.  Plop your kid down in front of the TV and let our trashy entertainment raise him/her...and this is the end result.

Don't worry, he only wants to do hood-rat shit...just like his idols on TV or video games.  I'm not saying those are to blame, I am just saying that those may have been the only role models he had in life...if gangstas can steal cars and get famous, then why not him?  (Ooh look, it totally happened!  He was recently on Tosh.0 for this.)

Cases like this really make me wonder why we don't require parenting classes in school, or at least for when parents find out a baby is on the way.  Would it be so terrible to make sure parents are qualified enough to at least not severely screw their kid up for life?

Random Redneck actually brings up a pretty good counter-argument.  We can't infringe on the rights of others just because we don't agree with them.  But, if the parents don't give a shit then why not just step in and be the role model the kid needs?

This would mean relatives and neighbors would have to actually grow a pair and do something good for the world...but that doesn't seem too likely.  (I don't have much faith in humanity, sorry.)

So what about turning those lame after-school and summer programs into things that the little brats actually would enjoy...like something involving video games and pretty much anything other than that lame-ass macaroni picture garbage.

If kids, like Thug-JR, like to do hood rat shit, then why not take them fishing?  Gutting a fish is about as gangsta as it gets and would totally feed their thirst for violence and it would mean spending hours at a time with someone that is at least motivated enough to go out and do something other than get drunk and watch TV all day.
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Legalizing Marijuana

Before I begin this post, I want to be very clear about this so that there is no confusion whatsoever.

Despite popular belief, I have never smoked marijuana or done any drugs of any kind.  EVER.

However, just because I have no desire to try it doesn't mean I think it should be illegal.  I love stoner culture.  Their snack food is amazing!  Cheetos, Mozzarella Sticks, Captain Crunch, Pudding Cups, Cupcakes, and pretty much anything delicious is "stoner food."  Stoner music is unique and fun to listen to and I think stoner comedies are hilarious because I sort of have a childish sense of humor.  (Fart jokes.)

But, "Radioactive Cheese" is a classy blog for the educated masses...so let's take an economical approach when determining whether or not pot should be legal.

As a recent college graduate, I know first hand just how stiff the competition is for landing a good job.  However, if pot was legalized there would be fewer college graduates and fewer people out competing for jobs and trying to better themselves.  If getting high, and then sitting on the couch, eating snacks and listening to funky tunes all day is what makes someone happy, it is not my place to condemn them.  If someone wants to live this way, nobody should have the right to stop them.  (We are supposed to be a free country, right?)

Plus it's just a really good way of weeding out the competition.  (Bad pun for the day!)

But don't worry, kids!  There are more upsides to legalizing pot!

Stoners are predictable, and if we get enough of them, that will make the stock market predictable too!  Whatever is featured in stoner comedies becomes instantly synonymous with real-life stoner culture.

Has going to "White Castle" felt different since "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" was released?  Can you place funions on your grocery list and not make a ridiculous stoner-laugh?  Does standing in front of a gas station make you want to steal a monkey and make pop culture references?

Instead of bailing out American motor companies, we should have made "Harold and Kumar buy a Chevy" and watched as every stoner in the world sold their hemp-shoes to go buy Chevy's.

The amount of money we spend arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people due to marijuana is ridiculous.  We could be spending that money and time on so many better things.

Stoners are harmless, stupid, but harmless...particularly compared to alcohol (which is totally legal).  We all have heard of Violent Drunks, but I have yet to even hear about a violent stoner.  They nap and fart and giggle...that's it. 

Just because they don't do much of anything doesn't mean they can't be of some good to society though.  Laid back and happy people are great additions to any community, being around them makes other people feel good.

Stoner - "Heeeeeey man would you like to listen to Bob Marley and help me make Captain Crunch Bars?"
Me - "Heck yes I would!  I got some frosting to smother on them too if you want."
Stoner - "Righteous!"
Me - "Tee-hee you just said "righteous."

Sure we might have more traffic violations due to stoned people being behind the wheel, and there are negative sides to having marijuana legal.  However, the people that would use it to the point where it inhibits their ability to function in society are likely already abusing some other substance.  Personally I would rather hang with a stoner than an alcoholic just because when they "get their fix" the alcoholic gives me a black eye and the stoner gives me a cookie and a guitar solo.
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Existential War In Me

This is an experimental musical blog-comic.  Yes, I am taking my three favorite forms of Web 2.0 entertainment and combining them into one mind blowing experience.  (Hopefully)

Turn your sound up, and click the link here and let the music video play while you read.  The song is "Halo" by Porcupine Tree, one of my favorite bands of all time.  The idea for this musical blog-comic came to me while running, thinking about where I want to go in life, and listening to this song.

I hope you enjoy it.

Some people have mood swings, and I kind of envy them because I get lifestyle-swings.

One day I will be an ultra charitable vegan, motivated by an insatiable desire to make the world a better place and to make myself a better person.  The only money I will spend is on other people and every action I take is thoroughly analyzed for ethical integrity

The next day I will want to be mindlessly self-indulgent with an endless appetite for instant gratification.  I will only spend money on stuff I don't really need just because I think having it will make me happy...and I won't do any background checks to see if it's fair-trade, environmentally friendly or anything of that nature!  (Gasp!)

During the transitional period between these phases I will find myself heinously conflicted about my goals in life, and to some degree who I am as a person.

I know that deep down inside of me that fat and angry teenager still exists, and boy does he want to kick my ass for being such an insufferable perfectionist.

This is about the time that I will drive 40 miles to the nearest shopping mall and buy crap I don't really need.  Novelty hats, fart machines, gourmet snack food...pretty much whatever looks awesome, feels good or tastes amazing gets brought home and marveled over it for a few hours.

Things seem pretty awesome at this point.  With my belly full of over priced treats and fresh kicks on my feet, I will strut around with more self-content than Oscar Wilde's "Dorian Gray" and Kanye West combined.

It is good to be bad...sometimes.

This phase will last a week at most, and only be borderline obscene for about an afternoon.

Then the guilt sets in and I become aware of how insufferably shallow I've been lately.

I'll start to think about how the cash I spent should have been used to buy food for the animal shelter, or how my energy should be spent on charity and not on working out or running just so I can look good.

I'll get paranoid about karma (and I don't really subscribe to that belief, though I sometimes suspect there is truth to it).  I'll scrub the floors to make even for strutting my shit all over the house.  I'll pick up trash along the roads while running to put those nice new kicks to good use.  ...Then I will stare at the Peace Corp. website and contemplate doing it until I realize that means no internet and lots spiders and/or snakes.

I don't care how good I want to be (or can be), poisonous snakes and gigantic spiders are where I draw the line.

 When I'm in full-blown saint mode, I very nearly shit rainbows and radiate sunshine...but after a while this behavior starts to annoy even myself.

Then I start to shift back to being a bit more self-centered.

As I start to transition back to being increasingly focused on myself, I start kicking myself in the face and brooding over how utterly pathetic it is that I can't just stick to one lifestyle.

Does it always have to be one extreme or the other?  Can't I buy myself something stupid (yet cool) and do something nice for others for no reason?

Can't I run for charity and write an obscenely detailed blog that focuses mostly on myself?

...Shit.  [Cycle of shame]
Friday, November 26, 2010

Anime and Beards

Real men grow beards and watch anime.  Suck it, traditional gender roles.

I often grow a full beard when it gets cold out, mostly to keep warm, but also because it is an awesome way to look much older/mature...and during No-Shave-November, it is a great way to spread Prostate Cancer awareness and assert your masculinity.  (Or something like that.)

Anyway, my room-mate last year, Andrew, was a Japanese major and facial hair enthusiast, and he turned my secret guilty pleasure of watching anime into a full blown addiction when he introduced me to "Keroro Gunso."  This is a Japanese anime about some frogs from space that want to take over the planet, but they really aren't that good at it.  This show is sort of like taking Loony Tunes and Invader Zim and throwing them into a demented blender.

Getting me started on "Keroro Gunso" was a sure-fire way to get me to embrace and celebrate my inner anime-nerd...but only behind closed doors!  Very similar to how alcoholics start out by drinking beers with their friends, I went from casually/socially watching anime to completely obsessing over it.

You heard me right, FROGS FROM SPACE, and yes, my beard does grow in red (aren't you the observant one, Holmes).

...I think it is some kind of genetic mutation that occurs when Irish and Cherokee mix together with bits and pieces of other western European DNA.  Hooray for genetics!

Watching anime isn't anything to be ashamed of really, but it does come with some negative connotations...mostly due to there being so many fantatics with fake cat ears on their heads.  [Why do they do this?  It just makes regular anime fans seem equally insane simply for holding a common interest.]

Back to my main point, dudes watching anime.

Andrew and I had a pretty set schedule.  After school I would go running and he would play playstation, and then we would watch anime until it was time for bed.  This would have been an ideal set up were it not for our suit-mate, Dan, mocking our child-like enthusiasm for cartoons in general.

Dan wasn't around too much, which gave Andrew and I license to nerd it up as much as we wanted.  We were like fat pigs at an all you can eat buffet thanks to the University of Iowa providing an insanely fast internet connection which allowed anime to stream perfectly no matter how shady the site was.

Of course we watched more than one series, and depending on what we were watching we might get a guest or two to join in on our secretly geeky yet totally awesome anime marathons.

Our habit was growing.  It was only a matter of time before word got out that we were watching obscene amounts of anime...and not even the manly stuff like "Gundam" or "Trigun."  We were totally digging the bubbly ultra-cute semi-cat-themed teen drama, "Azumanga Daioh," and could actively quote the show and find moments in life that reminded us of scenes from it.

Quite un-manly and nerdy indeed!  But, we really never gave a crap what other people thought about the things we like.  (We just didn't want to be pestered during what little time we did have to watch it.)

Our neighbor from New Jersey, Julia, would often join us in watching these shows.  It's fine for girls such as Julia to enjoy "Azumanga Daioh" because she is actually in the target audience.  But why the hell would two 22-year-old guys from Iowa love shows that feature kids dressed as penguins?  (Because they really are "super cute" and they usually have perverted jokes in them...Japan is messed up like that.)

Is it possible for straight young men in the midwest to enjoy "super cute" anime?  Dan would say no and most people would agree.  We should be watching UFC in the bars, challenging rivals to the fisticuffs while at football games and maybe even building log cabins by hand for the homeless (because that's what all guys should be doing all the time, every day, forever.)

I love martial arts, Andrew loves football and yet both of us turn into bubbly giggling children whenever some high pitched anime kid flashes a peace sign.  (One of the many recurring themes that makes no sense at all, but for some reason I just eat it all up.)

If women can wear men's clothes and play football, then I think it should be perfectly acceptable for guys to watch all the bubbly anime they want because some of it is actually really funny and well written.  This is akin to having Brett Favre watching "Hannah Montana" religiously. (That is, if "Hannah Montana" was well written and actually funny.)

Being unashamed of liking something, even if it is totally ridiculous, is as manly as it gets.  (Of course, growing a beard helps because beards make all situations better.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

I've been a vegetarian for a few years now, and normally this doesn't interfere with my life...except for when I am desperately trying to build muscle at the gym.  ...okay, so I lied.  Not eating meat has a big impact on my personal life, but the impact is usually limited to feeble attempts at body building.

Aside from making me look like a living skeleton, not eating meat makes social gatherings that involve food a little awkward.  ...and almost all social gatherings involve food.

I freaking dare you to think of a social gathering that doesn't involve food.  ....Go ahead, take your time.

That's right, you can't!  Food is always involved when people get together.  Having someone eat something that you brought/preapared is a great way to show that you care about them.

But what do you do when that person refuses your offering of delicious food?  You stare awkwardly and wonder what the hell is wrong with them.  There's nothing wrong with me, I just don't want to eat meat.

Most of my family and friends are quite supportive of my eating habits since they really seemed to help with my weight loss and active lifestyle.  However, my "little" brother knows that if I ate meat I would be ripped out of my freaking mind...thus making me less of an embarrassment to his god-like biceps.

Unfortunately, not everyone in my family understands the benefits of a vegetarian diet.  My grandma is nearly 100 years old and finds it to be confusing at best, and deathly at the worst.  Yes, my grandma is nearly a century old...but that doesn't stop her from making sure all her grandkids are happy, healthy, and have a mountain of hearty food available.  I would rather gnaw off my left arm than disappoint her (I'm notoriously left-handed), so this makes meal time with Grandma a little difficult. 


Do I cave in to her request and break my vegetarianism to make her happy or do I run away screaming?  Neither!  I just eat obscene amounts of everything else!

Usually I can get away with eating a veggie burger or tofu-dog and this makes her extremely happy since if it looks like meat then it must be just as good for me.  Unfortunately, tofurkey is expensive and nasty, so faking it just isn't an option for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

If you haven't tried tofurkey, it is like taking sawdust, tofu and breading, compressing it into a blob and then smothering it in spices.  Disgusting.

The only thing I hate worse than upsetting Grandma is upsetting my niece.  She is by far the sweetest and most adorable kid on the planet...and SHE KNOWS IT.  Brittni can get me to do anything, and I am not exaggerating.  I ran 16 miles during a heat wave only to bump into her at the finish and then take her to get shaved ice immediately after instead of passing out on the floor with a gallon of water as usual.

It's not that she condemns my diet and thinks it is stupid like my brother does.  She just thinks it's weird for me to refuse to eat anything that is delicious

Fortunately, there is one sure way to make any awkward situation enjoyable...booze!  As I have said before, I don't drink much or often; so when I do have something flammable in my glass the reaction is fantastic.  ...and family gatherings are always a good reason to drink.

My brother-in-law, Kevin, is easily the coolest relative I have since he knows how to solve problems, particularly the ones involving me awkwardly bumbling around the house trying to avoid questions about what is (or isn't) on my plate. 

If I were half as cool as Kevin, everyone would think it's awesome to be a vegetarian...when it really kind of sucks.
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Girlfriend Has A Secret

I dated this totally awesome girl when I was 16, and like most high school relationships it only lasted a couple of months, but we stayed friends after it was over.  We eventually went our separate ways after graduation, but each summer we would hang out a lot.  This previous summer was our last summer at home before finishing college, thus making it our last summer that was guaranteed to be together...we decided not to go our separate ways this time.

She knows me better than I know myself, and I like to think I know her just as well...but there's one very big thing that I do not know about her that has me convulsing with curiosity.  For as long as I have known her she has been working on a novel that is literally on the verge of getting published, but I know almost nothing about it!


You would think I would be the first person she would go to for feedback since I majored in English and have read an embarrassingly vast quantity of books...but, she is smart enough to know that my opinion would be extremely biased and skewed.  I understand that any respectable author knows not to get feedback from the person they also snuggle with when watching movies. (But that doesn't stop me from begging her to read sections out loud...I love listening to her read her work.)

I haven't been this curious about anything in my entire life, not even when I was a child and there was a massive gift for me under the Christmas tree.  Much like that elusive gift, I try to be sneaky and find out what it is...but she is the smartest person I know, and despite my best efforts, I can't figure out what she's been writing about for all these years.

I would try reading over her shoulder as she writes, but she is more protective of this story than a mother bear is of it's cubs...and should I come between mama-bear-girlfriend and her mysterious novel, she will rip my face off!

The threat of losing limbs doesn't stop me.  I MUST KNOW WHAT SHE IS WRITING ABOUT!

She has told me the gist of what the story is about and has even read selected passages to me  (surely, this is an evil ploy to make me even more curious).  Every time she does this I always find myself stunned and overwhelmed with pure awesomeness.  I admit that my opinion on anything she does is horribly biased because she is my favorite person, but I do believe I am dating the next Tolkien/Bradburry/Lovecraft.  The way she writes with such eloquent detail, and how her plot is meticulously constructed with multiple layers of meaning gives me the impression that her book will be a deliciously layered literary cake that will send her future readers into fits of amazement.

...like I said, I am a little biased.

Anyway, she wants the final product to be a surprise, and like any good artist she doesn't want the world to see it until it is complete.  Because I know bits and pieces about the book she often interrogates me to make sure I am still basically in the dark about it.

I often think that if I were to know too much, she would lock me in her basement until the official release on the off chance I would tell anyone about it.

I'm actually quite nervous about even mentioning that she is writing a book at all.  If I somehow was responsible for making her debut as an author anything less than totally awesome I would have to commit seppuku.

What I know about her book is akin to watching multiple movie previews to Star Wars but never actually watching the movie.  My interpretations are so off base that when I tell her what I think it is about she explodes with laughter at how horribly clueless I am about her book.  This could be because she is relieved that I still know nothing about it, or it could be because my pitiful attempts at analyzing a book I have never read are hilarious.

 In addition to writing this book she has also done multiple drawings of her characters, and sometimes needs a model to pose for her so she can make sure she has the right angles...or something.

I may not know much about her book, but I do know that being asked to pose shirtless with a sword has fed my ego considerably.  ...even though I never did get to see the drawing.

If I never make another post on here again, that probably means I revealed too much about her, her book, or our relationship.  I can't wait to finally read her book, it's the final piece of the puzzle that I need for solving the enigma that is my girlfriend.
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Different Types of Drunk

Despite being an English major from a University with a notorious bar culture, I am not much of a drinker...despite my very best efforts to achieve the noble status of "Drunk Writer."  As an undergrad, I wanted nothing more than to grow a beard, reek of booze and sulk in the corner of a pub with my laptop and regrets.

HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE!?!  [Pretty awesome]

Anyway, on my quest to becoming a booze hound I found that different drinks influence my behavior so differently that I've diagnosed myself as a schizophrenic drunk.  Basically, each type of drink creates a different kind of drunk.

Like I said, I don't drink much since I, unfortunately, do not enjoy being hungover, spending lots of money, or going to places full of intoxicated (and thus erratic) strangers.  I also seem to possess the digestive system of a twelve-year-old child that has spent his entire life on a purely vegan diet.

...When I do drink, it goes a little something like this if I have sweet or caffeinated mixed drinks such as Coke & Rum.
I call this type of drunk "The Tornado" because I become a being of PURE DRUNKEN ENERGY capable of fueling every major metropolitan city on the planet with my spastic behavior and supernova ADHD.

I drank Jagerbombs once, and I will never do it again.  The results were terrifying.  I am surprised the building I was in did not collapse.  I think I played DDR for something like 8 hours with my Japanese, Korean and Chinese dorm-mates until I passed out on the futon and puked all up in my crazy garbage can.  (And I really liked that garbage can too!)

Sugar and alcohol aren't always a bad thing though.  I went as JD from Scrubs for Halloween, and was promptly introduced for the Appletini.  Ooh sweet baby jesus in a jungle gym, that magical concoction is like drinking jolly rangers!  It was so delicious that I didn't care that it made me look like a total wuss.

It turns out that drinks such as the Appletini turn me into The Musical Ladies Man.  I will sing anything and everything.  ...and since I only ever have these at bars, that means Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" will be played at least 20 times.  I will sing along every single time (for the ladies).

Despite popular belief, drinking doesn't make anyone a classy ladies man.  Ever.  This is particularly true when I drink Scotch (my favorite).  Straight liquor of any variety will turn me into a hyper-aware mess that I like to call The Paranoid Agent.

Blue and red lights, people moving toward the exit, gestures that look anything like reaching for a weapon and I am like a Vietnam-vet having a horribly vivid flashback.  It is time to kick ass, save lives and LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND!  If I am drunk on liquor, I will sneak around corners like I am James Bond.  If I have been drinking scotch I will cover my tracks like reality has become "Call of Duty"....and I don't even play that game!

"Why not just drink beer?  It's manly and definitely not the kind of drink to make you an idiot."

Ahh, if only it were that simple.  But, beer is liquid bread...and that just makes me full, sleepy and strangely philosophical. 

I love Guinness, but I will politely tolerate American beer when socializing...but all beer of all types creates the same type of drunk with me.  I get full, I get deep, and then I fall asleep.  Such is the fabulous life of a narcoleptic philosopher.

And the best part of all of this is that it only takes a few drinks to make me goofy as shit.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Used To Be Fat

I didn't exactly have a happy childhood.  Tons of divorces, drug addict relatives and I got bullied quite often at school...so I became an emotional eater and I played video games obsessively to escape reality.

The world sucked, but I was a god on Xbox and cake was always delicious!
I worked part-time at Arby's and had basically unlimited access to junk food and soda.  At the time, dn-L (Upside-down 7-Up) was my drink of choice.  It was sort of like Mountain Dew, but fruitier and loaded with sugar.  IT WAS DELICIOUS.  So I drank about six bottles of it a day, and was filled with caffeinated rage.  (The worst kind.)

Eventually my teen angst turned into the realization that the world didn't suck because I saw other people enjoying life.  It was at this time that I realized that I was the problem, not the rest of the world.

I started out by playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) obsessively.  As a video game, it was automatically interesting enough to me that I could do it all the time and not get sick of it.

I BECAME THE KING OF DDR...and discovered that I had the ability to keep moving at faster and faster rates.  Eventually, I summed up the confidence to go running despite having massive manboobs bouncing all over.

I mostly ran at night so nobody could see my massive man-tits flopping around, but also because I didn't want anyone seeing me run.  I was fueled entirely by rage and would often be blinded by tears of pure hated at everyone and everything that ever pissed me off and made me feel like life wasn't worth living.

I decided to literally run my problems away.  I would run until I couldn't feel anything, my body or my emotions.  I ran until I was mentally and physically numb...then nothing else mattered.

I found nirvana, and it was in my running shoes and headphones.

It was this release from my prison of anger that made running so enjoyable that I became addicted.  The pounds started to fall off and I was actually feeling good about how I looked and how far I had come.

But, I knew I could do more.

[Dropping this much weight meant that I had to buy new clothes all the time, which totally sucked because I hate shopping...so if you plan on dropping 85 pounds like I did, make sure your bank account can fund a new wardrobe every few months.]

After years of running and several new pairs of pants, I was still socially inept and insecure.  That's about the time I got an e-mail from the University of Iowa advertising Hapkido...a Korean Martial Art of self defense that uses the opponents strength against them through join locking and precise positioning.  Perfect for a scrawny runner like myself, and ideal for building the confidence I craved.

Sure, I learned how to break boards and defend myself...but that's not all I got out of it.

When you spend 5+ hours a week throwing someone around, all social barriers break down.  I finally had something to do with other people on a regular basis and over time partying became a part of the experience as well.

I found happiness.
Monday, November 15, 2010

Cultural Encounters

When I was in college I lived on the International Floor of the dorms, also known as The International Crossroads Community.  This was a fantastic way for me to get the cultural exposure I craved, but couldn't afford since world traveling is expensive and I am poor as crap.

Anyway, I met people from all over the world during my years living there, and during this time I learned a few things about bridging the cultural divide.

First, just because you love a particular show from Japan doesn't mean that all Japanese people love that show too.  In fact, openly loving a certain show might give them the wrong idea about you.

You are not Japanese.  You do not know the stigmas that come with being a fan of Gunso.

Another important thing to consider when meeting someone from a different country is why they came here in the first place.  A lot of international college students came here to experience American culture, not to experience Americanized mutant versions of their home.

Think about it this way; when you go to Japan do you want to eat at Texas Roadhouse or an authentic Ramen shop?

(Of course, a bit of culture sharing is a given...and sushi is just fantastic.)

But what about something closer to home, like our overly-polite neighbors to the north?

Once again, just because the person is from the same place as some things you like, doesn't mean they share your passion for it.

I am from Iowa, but I don't eat meat.  That's right, kids, this Iowaboy doesn't eat pork chops.  The University of Iowa is also my alma mater but I don't give two craps about football or the Hawkeyes.  (Unless the tailgating involves pie, in which case, GOOOO Hawks!)

But do I run around with a bullhorn shouting these things in public?  Of course not!  That would just be rude (and an invitation to get my ass kicked).  The same is true when meeting a foreigner, even a Canadian.

Even Canadians get offended by stereotyping.

You also need to consider the history of a country when interacting with people from there.  Germany is an excellent example of this, WWII has left many of them quite ashamed of their history so they tend to keep a future oriented mindset.  *snaps for Germans*

However, their past makes anything from their automatically creepy...therefore, German death metal is the epitome of hardcore.  I know it's passe, but I loves me some Rammstein.  But do Germans?

It's always important to get to know the person before bringing up something controversial and potentially offensive.  WWII, Rammstein, saurkraut...you know, the nasty things their homeland is known for.

Would you bring up nuclear waste when meeting a person from New Jersey?  (God forbid they be from the shore).  [I kid, I kid...]

Okay, so dealing with Germans can be tricky.  But what about the notoriously optimistic Australians?

We all know not to bring up Foster's or Steve Irwin...so how can an encounter with an Aussie go wrong?
Vegemite, that mysterious condiment that many American's have heard is the Australian equivalent to peanut butter.  We often believe they smother it on everything and that it is the source of their powers to be so incredibly awesome!

But is it true, or is it just ramifications of 1950's Australian commercials leaked over to the states?

Accusationsof fraud are serious business.  Don't do it! (unless you are at least 95% certain they are a fraud)  ...unless you are prepared to go to war, and nobody wants to fight the Australians.  They live with freaking spiders the size of chickens and dingoes are a constant threat to their infants, do you really want to mess with that?  Heck no!

So messing with Australians is definitely out of the question; you have to be polite or they will sic their army of kangaroos and koalas on you.

Another culture that it's important to mind your manners with is Mexicans.  Fortunately I speak Spanish (not perfectly though), so I usually am capable of being quite useful when they need help getting used to their new home.  However, most are more than capable of acclimating on their own and many younger Mexicans speak English just fine.

Just because a person isn't from America, don't assume they don't speak English.  If they came here, they likely studied the language beforehand.  Besides, our entertainment and culture is nearly smothering the rest of the world...so it's a little offensive to plunge right into speaking to them in their native language when their English is perfect.
Save the Spanish for after you've become friends, it can be a great way to talk crap about others when it's just the two of you that know the language.  Until then, respect their intellect and speak the language that they worked hard to learn.

After all, English is a tricky language and practice with a native speaker may be why they are here in the first place.

Stereotyping is annoying, disrespectful and an easy way to get your ass kicked.

However, if you know the culture really well, you might just find that some stereotypes are true and function as a great way to socialize.

The Irish stereotype about loving drinking and music is true because it is universally true.  Everyone loves to chill out with a drink and some tunes.  Suggesting this to anyone, even an Irish person, will often lead to immediate awesomeness.

However, not everyone drinks.  Muslims and Mormons are the two examples that come to mind when I think of cultures that that don't socially drink.

Fortunately, there is one sure-fire way to bridge any cultural gap...TOP HATS.

It doesn't matter what country you are from or what religion you follow, EVERYONE LOVES TOP HATS.
Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Typical Conversation With My Little Brother

Part way through making this post I started using a drawing tablet for the first time...so this is more of a learning process than anything. [Deal with it]

Since I finished college I am currently living at home with my Dad and little brother until I get some kind of career started. (And with this economy, that could be a long time.) Anyway, my little brother is far from little, in fact he is roughly double my size and I think holds a few weight lifting records at his old high school.

Fun stats:
Me - 155 pounds, roughly 6ft tall, marathon runner, martial arts enthusiast and vegetarian

My brother may not openly admit to it, but he is actually quite stoked to have me living at home again. I suspect this is because I tormented him when I was still bigger than him, and now the roles have switched and it is time for his revenge.

When I am in my office, which is more often than not, I am furiously applying for jobs since being an unemployed college graduate is horribly embarrassing. ...or I am reading webcomics, watching stupid youtube videos, catching up on Facebook or researching whatever it is that has sparked my curiosity at the time. (95% of the time it is KITTENS)

I'm awesome like that, don't judge me! MY LIFE IS FULL OF EXPLOSIONS AND DANGER!

It doesn't really matter what I am doing, because I tune everything out and focus on what's got my attention.

There could be carpet bombing, an ambush of sentient gummy bears out for revenge, and 5 ice cream trucks out my window and I wouldn't notice.

Ian knows this is his time to scare the living shit out of me just by shouting my name as if there is a huge emergency.

At about this point I jump out of my seat and go into panic mode. I fall for this every time because next time could very easily be a legitimate reason to freak out and destroy everything! (Years of violent movies, games, and books have made me a bit paranoid that I'm always moments away from EXTREME VIOLENCE AND OTHER ADULT CONTENT)

After about 30 seconds of thinking the world is coming to an end and the house is being invaded by Vikings and Zombies, I realize Ian was just messing with my head. I sometimes yell at him for giving me a panic attack-aneurysm combo meal, but that's increasingly rare after a few months of living back at home. It's sort of like living near a mine field, an explosion happens and nobody really cares because it's so common.

He's sort of a Buddha type, makes himself comfortable and takes his time getting to the point...assuming he has one other than to push my buttons out of boredom.

If I was smart (which I'm not), I wouldn't fall into this trap every single time. We're a lot like Wiley Coyote and The Road Runner or Tom and Jerry in that the same thing happens just about every time.

1. I tell him to buzz off and that I am busy.
2. He refuses.
3. I react.
4. He goes non sequitur until my head explodes
5. He sells my bloody remains to the local dog food / pinata factory
6. Children and poochies feast upon my tortured remains

....Hyperbole is trendy.

While he spews out an array of questions and observations that have minimal cohesion, I tend to fantasize about literally shoving a massive quark in his mouth. (What good would that really do though? Couldn't he just spit it out? ...The idea entertains me anyway.)

If I respond to even one of these questions, the rest of my day gets altered based on my response.

Ian - "Heeeey do you remember Gitaroo Man?"
Me- "Yeah, I still have the game. It's on the third shelf with the other PS2 games."
Ian - "Sweet. Let's play it until our thumbs fall off!"
Me - "No, I am busy."
Ian - "Yes, you are busy playing Gitaroo Man." [inserts the disc, drags my chair (with me in it) over to the tv and happily beams about how excellent an idea it is]

...escape is impossible at that point, so I avoid it at all costs.

Instead, I tend to go with the sour grapes route. Who would want to spend time with a grumpy jerk?

Apparently Ian would.

My pitiful attempt to put an end to this before it gets out of hand and I lose my cool (and ability to concentrate for an extended period of time afterward) rarely works.

Fun fact: When I get angry or flustered, my voice gets really high pitched and I talk/yell quickly...often all in one breath. It's as hilarious as it is disturbing to see me angry...very similar to Elliot from Scrubs.

Despite being insanely strong and 19 years old, the influence Spongebob has had on him becomes evident at this point.

If I am not blind with rage or annoyed into a coma, I might start laughing at his antics.

Sometimes humoring him and just going along for the ride is a good option. I will space out of course and think about other things while he does his "pay attention to me" bit.

He catches on quickly that I am not paying attention, and therefore he's having a hard time getting me flustered. Insults ensue.

I try not to be a stereotype, but I am mostly Irish (so far as I know), so my temper flares up because I am horribly proud.

We both know he is bigger, but since he has never ran with me or watched me at Hapkido he doesn't know what I am capable of.

So I remind him. (My voice becomes increasingly higher, louder and faster)


Now he has me going and we both know it. He loves it, so he goes right back to doing what he does best. PESTERING ME TO THE BRINK OF INSANITY. Why not? After all, I was pretty horrible to him when we were kids and in a way he does kind of deserve this chance to piss me off on a daily basis.

He really does actually care and only wants to see me enjoy life. Sitting in my office, applying for jobs and getting lost on the internet isn't exactly what anyone would call a delightful lifestyle. He's had his fun at this point and typically suggests something enjoyable (usually involving food, and frequently a backhanded attempt to get me to eat meat as well).

I'm still grouchy. Time to pester me some more. Maybe he can get me to yell again?

Ian is one of the few people in the world that knows just how ridiculous it is to see me get angry. When there is nothing good on TV and he is tired of video games, the next best source of entertainment is to watch me explode and rant like a pissed off chipmunk on caffeine.

I eventually realize he got me to the point of being embarrassingly angry. I get really bummed out that I haven't outgrown this reaction, so I shut down and send him on his way. ....Kind of.

[Inking with the tablet is easy, but writing with it is impossible! It's like trying to write on the credit card swiping thing at the store, only worse because you can't look at your hand and the screen at the same time. NEVER WRITING ON IT AGAIN. From now on, I will use sharpies for the text.]

The cycle repeats until I get flustered again and explode into fits of high-pitched rage or it's time to eat.

We are mature adults.

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I got my English degree and mountain of student loan debt from the University of Iowa. I like boo berry cereal, martial arts, running and cats.
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