Relationship Pain Avoidance

I’ve probably mentioned at some point that I’m not a big fan of reality television.  Several years ago when American Idol was regularly stomping Angel  in the ratings (Seriously, I think it was pulling something like 10 times the number of viewers.  Possibly more.), I would shake my head and wonder why people were tossing aside quality scripted television in favor of watching a singing competition.

At one point I worried that television was soon going to be nothing but reality shows.  That obviously hasn’t happened.  Yes, there are a lot of them, many of which are absolute garbage.  Meanwhile, scripting television is doing just fine, and we’re in an era of some truly amazing shows.

This post isn’t about one of those series.

Instead, let’s go back to the world of reality television.  While I’m not a fan of the genre in general and am actually frightened that people watch shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and 19 Kids and Counting (Ok.  I wasn’t going to say anything about recent events related to that show.  I have had the same reaction as many others, which can best be summed up with THIS.), there is one reality series that I do like: Catfish.

Catfish sprung out of the 2010 documentary of the same name (Spoiler Alert: The documentary is tomorrow’s Pick of the Week).  Each week, Nev Schulman and Max Joseph attempt to help the lovelorn find the truth about the person at the other end of their online romance.

On the surface, there’s no reason for me to like this show.  The subjects are all teens and twenty-somethings who really should be more online savvy considering they’ve been raised with the Internet.  I jokingly call the show “Oh, Honey”: The Series, because that’s my usual reaction after hearing the stories of these poor sods who genuinely believe that the gorgeous woman or hot guy they’ve been talking to online for 9 months but never managed to meet or even video chat with is actually who they say they are.

The show is coming to the end of its fourth season, and frankly I don’t understand how it still exists.  I’m not saying it’s bad.  I’m still engrossed by it.  I just don’t understand how anyone is still falling for these things at this point.  “Catfish” has entered the English lexicon, and the movie and the show have been around for years.  Doesn’t everybody know the warning signs and how to do some basic investigation?

Apparently not.

I have done a bit of online dating, but I’ve been lucky to meet women who actually were exactly who they claimed to be.  As I had a policy of absolute honesty myself, I didn’t run into any problems.

However, as my kids get older, they will be entering a dating world that involves an online component that didn’t exist when I was their age.  So for their benefit and yours, here are a few of the lessons I’ve picked up from friends, my own experiences, and Nev and Max.

First (and most obviously), don’t lie about yourself.  THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO BE GAINED!!!  I can’t emphasize that last bit enough.  Yes, maybe you’ll get more people contacting you with the photo of that model showing his abs, but you are starting things off with a lie, and any potential relationship is doomed before it even starts.  Beyond the pictures, why would you want to be in a relationship where you can’t be yourself because you started out with some lie about your interests?  I was amazed when I was using online dating sites at the number of women who claimed to be diehard football fans.  Maybe they were.  I don’t know.  The NFL is huge.  If they were lying, they were just asking for Sundays in front of the television watching game after game.  And if they weren’t lying, they obviously weren’t for me, and I wasn’t about to pretend to care about football just to start a conversation with them.  Be who you are and post a picture actually of you.

Second, if you start talking to someone online that you think you might have a romantic interest in, move the conversation to an actual phone call as quickly as possible.  I know not everyone likes phone calls and texting is the preferred form of communication for many folks.  Make a call anyway.  It’s no guarantee that the person on the other end of the line is really who they say they are, but at the very least you can make sure they’re the same gender they claim.  Also, since they don’t have time to compose written responses, you might be able to sense if they aren’t telling the truth about some aspect of themselves.

Third (and this one mystifies Nev and Max constantly), the Internet is your friend.  If your online significant other sends you a picture, do a Google Image Search on it to make sure its not taken from someone else’s Facebook profile or modeling page.  Hell, just Google their name.  I found out that a couple of the women I went on dates with did that as a basic precaution.  It made perfect sense to me, and I certainly wasn’t offended by it.

Fourth, along the same lines, remember that we live in the future.  Video chatting is very easy to accomplish when free wifi is all around.  Both sets of my kids’ grandparents have the capability.  Are you honestly telling me that a 22-year-old in 2015 can’t accomplish it?

I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but if you get catfished at this point, it’s probably your own fault.  The tools are out there.  Nev Schulman isn’t exactly Sherlock Holmes here.  He’s using tools available to all of us (Granted, they may be paying a fee for the reverse phone lookup they use sometimes, but I didn’t even go that deep.).  With some basic digging, you should be able to find out something about the other person.

But if you can’t.  If every search comes up negative, and after weeks of hot and heavy correspondence you can’t ever manage a voice chat, video chat, or in person meeting, you’re being lied to.  RUN AWAY!

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Nathan's Laserium: How Do You Do

My mutant power is kind of an amalgamation of the worst aspects of Kitty Pryde's and Douglas Ramsey's. Doug Ramsey is a lesser-known mutant, not an X-Man but a New Mutant, one of Xavier's younger students. His power was he could understand any language at all. Which didn't make him terribly useful in a fight against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Kitty of course can phase through solid objects, which I can't really do at all, but when she phases through anything electronic she disrupts it. That's the part I can do- wreck computery shit. And like Doug, this is a completely useless ability. At least Doug could read cool books. All my power does is cause me +10 frustration.

Like I can't get any songs off of my iPhone even though I did all the things it says to do. I have many many songs, some of which I don't like. Why the hell did I buy the new Mumford and Sons goddammit? It'd be nice to not have them taking space on my phone. And there's stuff like Tig Notaro's Live, which is amazing but not something I want popping up in my random play music rotation at work.

Back in 1996, for university, I made a fairly complex spreadsheet on Excel 97. I learned some tricks and it came out ok. Never have I had to make a spreadsheet ever since, though. I work in a coal mine running heavy equipment. So I'm a bit rusty. My wife had to make one for her Master's Degree she recently completed, and I was like, 'I can help you'! She was adding a row of numbers from the spreadsheet up on the calculator app on her phone and I swear I'm pretty sure that's what a spreadsheet is for. "Look, if you highlight all these numbers in this column here and then press this little Greek E button that should sum them all up, see?"

She didn't see. For there was now nothing to see. The column of numbers was gone, deleted down to number-limbo.

"Put it back!" my wife yelled.

Undo undo! I got mad undo skillz. You can't even tell but there was this whole slew of typos, a  veritable typo spree in this very sentence, and indeed in every sentence I write, and I just undo them and make them right and stuff. The ones that get by are Corinne's fault. So yeah. I can undo like a boss. It's the "do" part that's a little more tricky for me.

How do you do?

I'm not an old man, and I'm far from a Luddite, but this question looms increasingly larger in my life. Minecraft makes me a little uneasy, because it's something I'm pretty sure my daughters should do, and it will probably make them even smarter than they already are. But what the hell is it? As far as I can tell it's just a bunch of pixelated blocks from the Windows 3.0 age. But the kids who use it apparently learn how to build perfect utopian societies or something.

Hell, even the one computer application type thing I should know, word processors, are moving on without me. I sent a story to a friend for critique and she sent it back to me with this chaos magic of lines and circles all over it- they were notes in the margins. It was amazing. I had no idea you could do that. What else don't I know?

Obviously I can google how to do something. But you have to know that you can do the thing in the first place. I read an article on gizmodo the other day about being the last person in San Francisco with a smartphone. It was funny like you'd expect, but the author casually nailed exactly what is going on in the world for those of us who aren't at the front of the Early Adopter Express:

What this means to me is that everyone [is] learning to speak Technology. Once people gain fluency in that language, even if they’re just consumers, they use the language to have new ideas, and organize the world in different ways. It’s getting to the point where I literally don’t have the vocabulary to understand how other people see, and interact with, the world.

If I was sure I was going to be a coal miner for the rest of my life, standing in knee deep mud pulling giant electrical cable out of the way of a D11 bulldozer while trying not to get run over by it, for example, I wouldn't sweat about it. Fuck it, man, let's go bowling. But even mining is increasingly being overrun with robots and drones and GPS tracking and all that shit. And that's assuming my job has long-term viability, which in this economy it most definitely does not.

I guess what I'm saying is I feel a bit like one of the last of the dinosaurs, looking around and realizing the future is not so bright. I might be needing a new job soon. Who knows. But if so, I'm pretty sure my lack of computer skills might be a limiting factor in what's available for me.

Basically I'm screwed.

So. How do you do? Whatcha working on over there? Can I help? Is it an app? I can totally do this. Try the little greek squiggle lock with horns button there. That always works. How much royalties can I have? We're gonna be rich, right?

- Nathan Waddell

 

Pick of the Week – August 24-30, 2015

As in touch with pop culture as I like to think I am, I realize that I am way behind when it comes to what teenagers (at least my son and his friends) are actually watching.  What they aren’t watching is television.  Sure, they may binge on a show on Netflix occasionally, but mostly they’re watching original content on YouTube.  Some of my son’s tastes are surprisingly educational, such as Crash Course, or about current events, such as The Young Turks

The vast majority of what he watches, though, are videos about video gaming.  I’m going to sound like an old fart here, but I have to admit that I don’t get the draw of watching videos of other people playing video games.  They are immensely popular, though, and apparently profitable.  According to THIS ARTICLE, one YouTube gaming personality, PewDiePie, made over $7 million last year and $4 million the year before that.

While most of these videos don’t do anything for me, there is one YouTube gaming commentator that I’ve come to really enjoy.  He goes by the name of JonTron.  Rather than focus on playing a single game, JonTron often does overviews of some of the odder ends of the video game world.  For example, one episode was devoted to bizarre Japanese shooter games and another covered terrible anti-drug-themed games.

For this week’s Pick, I’ve selected my favorite of his videos: an overview of Games about the Titanic, many of which are based on the 1997 James Cameron film.  Yes, there are enough for an entire video, and (I know this is going to come as a shock to you), they aren’t always accurate to the movie or history. 

The video is entertaining even if you are into video games, but I will warn you that JonTron does engage in some NSFW language. 

This video was also the inspiration for THIS SONG, created in collaboration with the folks at Schmoyoho (Known for Songify the News and the opening theme to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). 

If you end up enjoying the Titanic episode, I encourage you to check out his StarCade series, in which he is going through the history of Star Wars video games.  There are three episodes as of this writing, and the first is HERE.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

On Anniversaries and Phoning It In

I realized this week that I missed my anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  Not my wedding anniversary, mind you.  I’ve been divorced for a couple of years now (Actually, my divorce anniversary passed in the last couple of weeks as well), which has rendered that December day a day that I don’t really think about, to be honest.  I completely forgot about it last year until a day or so later.

And that’s not the topic of this post.  Let’s refocus, shall we?

Just over two years ago, on August 11, 2013, my first post went up on Vampirenomad.com, a lament about the state of vampires in popular fiction.  Since then, I’ve written something every week.  That’s over 100 posts now, and the Pick of the Week column that we started last March probably puts me close to 175. 

I’m not going to rehash it all or do some kind of retrospective.  Most of what I wrote was ramblings about whatever was happening in the entertainment world that grabbed my attention that particular week while Corinne and Nathan provided more creative content. 

Instead, I want to thank our beloved site mistress, the Vampire Nomad herself, Corinne, for inviting me to join the site and giving me this forum to express myself.  I haven’t been doing nearly as much fiction writing of late, but this site has given me the discipline to keep writing something, week after week, even if it’s just a discussion of the various shoes Tom Cruise has worn in the Mission: Impossible films (I never wrote that.  I will never write that.  You have my word.).

In any case, Happy Site Anniversary to Me!

Which brings us to the second part of the title.  To celebrate my anniversary, I considered taking a week off.  That seemed like an odd way to go though.  In recognition of making over 100 posts, I’m not going to post! 

Nah!  I will post something.  But instead of taxing myself, I’m going to take a break and just phone it in.

Phone it in? 

Does that even mean anything anymore?  I mean, I’m typing on a computer and posting this via a broadband Internet connection.   You could be reading this on a smart phone (Or via dial-up…shudder), but otherwise that technology doesn’t even enter into it.  “Phone it in” is just one of those things we say even though the original meaning has practically been lost.  It’s a relic, like the 3.5” floppy disk icon we use for the “Save” functionor saying that you’re going to “tape a show.” 

How did “phoning it in” even get started in the first place?

To the Internet!  (Well, I was already on the Internet, but you get the idea).

According to the Visual Thesaurus, the comment started as a joke in the theater community about stage roles so small that an actor could actually perform it from home via the telephone – literally phoning it in.  In 1938, the author of a column in the Detroit News about the play Our Town, a play with no scenery, stated that “the next step is to have actors phone it in.”

The same write made a similar joke seven years later after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration saying, “As far as we know, there is nothing in any rumor that in case of a fifth inauguration, F.D.R. will phone it in.”

By the 1950’s, the phrase had morphed from simply meaning being able to do your part without actually being there to our modern use of it as a phrase for not really trying very hard.  The Visual Thesaurus article notes interviews with a couple of different actors who use the phrase in this way.  Edmond O’Brien, for example, was quoted by the Los Angeles Times in 1960 as saying, “There’s a great danger of just playing yourself when you’ve been at this trade a while…of just phoning it in.”

Interestingly, a similar phrase, mailing it in, is used more often in sports. 

Ok then.  Instead of just phoning it in this week, I hopefully taught you something about “phoning it in” that you didn’t already know.  My work here is done…

…for this week anyway. 

See you next Sunday!

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

Nathan's Laserium: Not Ready

It’s a big fucking mountain. It’s no Everest, true, but Mount Robson is the highest Canadian Rocky. So it’s big. Not that we were climbing it, of course, but we would be walking around it. And gaining a fair bit of elevation in the process.

No problem.

I love back-country hiking, and I’ve done lots of it. Though not for five or six years. And not after working a nightshift. What was I thinking, scheduling an 11 km leg of a 40 km hike immediately after coming off nights? Oh yeah, I know the answer- I wasn't thinking at all.

That was last week. I survived. It was fun. It was hell. It was amazing. Can't wait to do it again.

Earlier this summer in Jamaica I got a chance to go scuba diving for the first time in eleven years. One time the VampireNomad and I were in Malaysia with nothing much to do so we took a diving course, got all PADI certified. Then I returned to my exceptionally land-locked city and carried on with my life. Despite my vigilance, during the past decade not a single occasion arose wherein I needed to don an emergency BCD and scuba dive into the river to save a small child or something. Over the years, I slowly forgot some of my training. Like what BCD stands for.

Actually I totally remembered Buoyancy Control Device. But the acronym for readiness that you use with your buddy? For me and the VampireNomad it had something to do, shocker, with Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Boromir and the Ring. Something something. That's about all I could recall.

So in Jamaica I decided I could go for a refresher course.

After a half hour in a shallow resort pool my PADI certs were deemed 100%! Off we go!

I tried ignoring the voice in the back of my brain that kept saying "But actually we still have a few questions..."

SPLASH! DIVING! SCUBA!

Let me skip to the end of the story quickly and say it was wonderful and nothing bad happened and everyone lived happily ever after and I love diving and I can't wait to do it again.

But.

For a few minutes I panicked. I was hyperventilating, which of course is not a good idea when you are carrying all of your oxygen in a small tank on your back and you are inside the ocean.

"FUCK THIS," my body was saying. "I'm out of here!"

And it was up to my brain to assert command and get the situation under control. I had to engage in self-talk, which sounds silly but for real, it's what I had to do. "Stop it, Waddell. You have this. You know what you are doing. Control your breathing. Yes. Nice and easy. Okay. Remember your training. Blow bubbles. Equalize pressure. Give your BCD a little shot of oxygen. Alright. Deeper." And so forth. It didn't take long, and I was having a great time, like I said. One other time during the dive, when the current kept trying to rip the regulator out of my mouth my body once again tried to mutiny but I kept that shit locked.

You have to, because ready or not, life is lifing away all around you. Yes, lifing. That is what is happening. Right now.

I could end this right here. "Look I had some adventures! You can too! Go do it now! Rah rah rah!" But that isn't very interesting. And anyways, the adventurous types don't really need me to tell them anything. They're likely too busy adventuring to read this. Not all, of course. But some.

I'd like to address those of you who aren't out there. Who, like me, maybe have a touch of anxiety. Those of you who feel like maybe they're not ready.  All I ever feel ready for is a nap, for the most part.

There's a concept in fiction writing called the Inciting Incident. Your hero, Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker or whoever, is living a normal life, maybe even a bit dull. Maybe the most exciting thing that ever happens is you get to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters. But mostly you don't even get to do that. Then some Ringwraiths or stormtroopers come along and fuck up your life. This incites you to action. Off you go on a grand adventure, a hero's journey. Doesn't matter now not ready you are.

That's how fiction works. Even good non-fiction stories often have that inciting incident. And certainly it happens in real life too, in a more mundane sense. Cheryl Strayed had some events happen in her life that led to her hiking the PCT, woefully ill-prepared. Turned out alright for her. But the inciting incident is just a concept that makes for good stories. It's not a good lifing tool. It kind of has the effect of taking away your agency, doesn't it? You are the boss of your own life! You don't have to wait for an inciting incident. You have agency. You can do whatever you want.

Ready or not.

 

Footnote #1: Here is the scuba mnemonic Corinne and I made up: Boromir Wants Ring Attacks Frodo. Stands for like check BCD, Weights, Regulator (?probably?), Air and Friend. Or something like that. I am not a certified PADI instructor don't sue me!

Footnote #2: Training, knowledge, skills and experience are good things and in no way is this article trying to say that you should not bother with them! Don't die out there!

- Nathan Waddell