Thursday, January 31, 2013

Classic card of the week

Tim Wallach, 1991 Score, "The Franchise"

Guys, here are some words pulled out of a hat at random. Tell me what you think.



goes about his job

rock of stability


grinds it out

doesn't mind getting dirty

I have a confession to make -- I put those words into the hat, and they were the only words in the hat. Also, there was no hat. Those words come from a baseball card, and describe a popular African American baseball player named Showtime "2 Legit" Johnson, who does a backflip every time he makes an unspectacular play. J/k they describe Tim Wallach.

Solid and unspectacular,

SOLD. Tell me more RIGHT NOW.

Tim simply goes about his job for the Expos day in and day out.

Wow, amazing stuff. Tim Wallach does his job the exact opposite way most people do. For example, I did not go to work today because I feared I would do something spectacular there. (I didn't go yesterday either because I forgot.)

He provides a rock of stability for a team in transition, a team leaning toward outstanding young rookies.

"He is there as the team tries to get better by playing guys better than himself."

He has exceptional instincts and reflexes around the bag, and possesses a strong, accurate arm.

"He knows where third base is and can throw the ball to the other bases."

"He's a blue-collar worker who grinds it out every day," said Expos manager Buck Rodgers.

"He's white," said comically-named Expos manager Buck Rodgers.

"He doesn't mind getting dirty.

"One time he got his uniform dirty while playing a game -- a literal game -- that exists on dirt and for which he earns millions of dollars, and he managed to not freak the heck out as if he were Lea Michelle and just spilled beet juice on an all-white dress before a live, televised performance."

Note: If you were playing the "One Degrees of Separation" game and were given the names of Tim Wallach and Lea Michelle, you're welcome. Glad I could help.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Life lesson: You can’t run from who you really are

I run with a fanny pack. There’s really no other way to put it—I’ve tried to manufacture other names to call it like “runner’s belt” or “awesome pouch” but it’s a fanny pack. I wear it backwards and underneath my shirt so as not to draw attention to it and bring shame on my family. I need it to hold my iPhone and other things like a note that reads, “If you find me passed out on the side of the road, tell the world this is an ‘awesome pouch.’”

I wore my fanny pack while running the PF Chang’s half-marathon recently in Tempe. In an effort to not have to check any bags, I was forced to put other things into my fanny pack, namely my car keys and driver’s license. The latter item was not for identification purposes should something happen, but specifically so that I had the proper credentials to acquire the post race free beer.

After I finished, I happily arrived at a spot on the field to wait for my mom and father-in-law. That feeling of relief and satisfaction was immediately replaced with a sense of angst and unease when I looked in my fanny pack and realized my license was gone.

At the beginning of the run, my music had stopped playing for some reason, so I took my phone out to see what was going on. It was then, I realized, I must have dropped my license on the street, leaving it the unenviable fate of being mercilessly trampled by thousands of people. I shook my fist to the sky and screamed, “Darn you, fanny paaaaaaack!”

Really though, I was perturbed. My license—my identification—was now loose in, of all places, a college town. I imagined some punk ASU freshman picking it up and using it to get into local bars. The guys at the frat house would jokingly refer to him by his bar name, Mike Kenny, instead of his birth name, Steve Glortman, and express disbelief that he consistently passes for 34 instead of a more realistic 22. My name would become an inside joke, a legend of sorts. “That’d be kind of cool, actually,” I thought.

Less cool, however, was the thought of somebody using it for more salacious purposes, like trying to pretend they are me in order to set up a Swiss bank account to launder money. I’ll be but a pawn in their ruthless game—the fall guy! I have seen that kind of stuff in the movies, and I know it happens every day in real life. “Great, I am going to prison,” I thought. I was so upset I couldn’t even think about getting my free beer. (That is a lie.)

Worse yet, I would have to call or—gasp—go to the Motor Vehicles Department. I had just paid an absurd $220 for my annual registration, so I couldn’t wait to discover what they charge to replace a license. Not to mention that, according to science, every interaction with the MVD kills a portion of the soul.

I feigned happiness at finishing the race and seeing my mom and father-in-law finish, too, but inside I was upset. As we walked out, my father-in-law suggested I try the information tent just to see. I figured why not, but I knew the chances were slim to none. I told the girl what happened and gave her my last name, and she broke out a handful of licenses from a box on a shelf. “Cool, I’m not the only idiot,” I reassured myself. On the very last one, she looked up and said, “Michael?” and my heart leapt for joy. “You’re on your own, Steve Glortman!” I said, and the girl was confused as she handed me my license.

Thank you to whoever found my license and returned it. You saved me a stint in prison and a portion of my soul. More so, you proved there are still good people in this world, and that fanny packs are unattractive and unreliable. Both are equally reassuring lessons.

Be careful out there, brah! (Note: This is not me.)

Note: This column appears in the 1/31 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/1 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: Su amigo ................RUN YOUR CAR ON WATER......................... quiere recomendarle "GREMI DE LLIBRETERS DE VELL DE CATALUNYA"

Before I go tossing jugs of water into my gas tank (note: TOO LATE), maybe we should check who this is from first.

From: ................RUN YOUR CAR ON WATER......................... []

If I didn't know any better, I would say that someone is strongly suggesting I consider running my car on water. Whoever you are, you can stop -- you had me at absurd amount of needless periods and the curious combination of Spanish and English.

Hola {my work email address}!

Is there anything more personable than the greeting, "Hello EMAIL ADDRESS!"? It makes me feel as though the person/robot sending me the email really knows I have email. Maybe they also know my mother's maiden name and the first girl I kissed? They also know I drive a car so it's entirely possible they know all of my innermost hopes and dreams. I shall listen to them and heed their demands.

Su amigo ................RUN YOUR CAR ON WATER.........................,

The gentle nudge to run my car on water is subtle yet effective. Even though the majority of the email so far is in Spanish, the English CAPS LOCK parts seem to represent the general theme. This is the perfect email for someone who has a car but is not quite sure what language he speaks. As for me, I did take eight years of Spanish in school and absorbed none of it, so allow me to translate this email into English:

Dear email address,

Not sure if you speak Spanish or English or whatever, so gonna hedge some bets here, anyway
............................RUN YOUR CAR ON WATER .........................................................................................................
(Note: For the uninformed, 16 periods in Spanish translates to 850 periods in English, although Spanish periods are obviously upside down.)

pensó que estaría interesado en HOMER L'ODISSEA (2 volums) de GREMI DE LLIBRETERS DE VELL DE CATALUNYA.

Translation: Have you ever thought about how interesting Homer L'Odissea, the Spanish actor, is? Then order two volumes of our famous grimy water for your car's catalytic difibulator today!

Don't Drive To Another Gas Station Until You Discover This:

This is the English part, I guess.

Run Your Car On Water,
Triple Your Mileage And
Laugh At Rising Gas Prices...

I think this is a poem?

I am not going to click on this website because I am afraid. More importantly, I don't know anything about cars, but I'm pretty sure they cannot run on water. Also -- and I realize it's cheaper and wouldn't produce exhaust, maybe? -- but isn't water kind of a precious natural resource in its own right? Like, if we started using water to run our vehicles then we'd have a big water problem, right? Don't we already have a water problem? I mean, I live in Arizona and we're more than a decade into a terrible drought. If our cars ran on water this state would disintegrate into a cloud of dust in four hours. This email is basically a suggestion that we replace one endangered resource for another. This would be like, "Why use gas to run your car when you can use RING-TAILED LEMURS?"

On the other hand, this would really stick it to Haliburton, which would be awesome. If only they didn't own all the water, too. Oh well, as they say in Spanish, "Something something de GREMI DE LLIBRETERS!" Lol.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The weekend project: earning our stripes

My in-laws and brother-in-law are in the Valley for an extended visit, and at the dinner table recently my wife casually mentioned how she’d like to utilize their availability to help rearrange our daughter’s bedroom. After we all agreed to undertake the project, the details of the plan were revealed, and they were considerably less casual than the original mention. “I was thinking maybe we could change her room a bit” turned into “Here are the blueprints CANCEL ALL PLANS.”

My wife has spent the better part of our daughter’s existence acquiring items for this very project—items I have been asked to find storage space for throughout the years, to the point we have no room for food. The delay in starting has been the result of several factors, including the need to await the arrival of other men more adept than me at doing stuff. Also, my wife had not yet prepared herself for our daughter moving from a crib to a bed. I vastly underestimated the emotional strain of such an advancement, and I was unsure how to react to her tears other than by saying, “There, there … do you know where I put the rubbing alcohol? I spilled paint on the carpet.”

Speaking of the bed and paint, we had to paint the bed. My wife wanted all the furniture to be white. The bed we had acquired from friends was white, which, one would think, was good. But it was not good because it was not the white my wife wanted. So my father-in-law and I had to go to Home Depot to get the right paint, a trip that ended with a Home Depot worker running over to us at checkout to give my father-in-law his car keys, which he had left somewhere in the paint section. We were off to a good start.

Other items that required painting were everything. Most importantly the room itself. We spent the entire Saturday painting the bed and breaking down and prepping the room. Sunday, the plan was to paint, and the project would be finished. My wife had previously mentioned something about stripes, which we didn’t think was a big deal. I actually thought she wanted one stripe, like Charlie Brown’s shirt.

She actually wanted an entire wall of stripes, and also the paint for the stripes would be mixed with some glitter, and also here is a YouTube tutorial about how to do stripes. My brother-in-law and I watched the video and our heads exploded. We would have to grid the entire wall with marking points and then tape it with absolute precision. We estimated this would take three months, as we had not yet processed any part of the video after, “So, you want to paint stripes ...” which we actually did NOT want to do, at all.

Have you ever heard of a chevron stripe? Me neither, but it is actually like the stripe on Charlie Brown’s shirt, except four of them on a giant wall, turquoise blue and with glitter. The entirety of Sunday afternoon, while NFL playoff football attempted to lure us downstairs with its pleasant noise, my brother-in-law stood in our daughter’s bedroom making marks on a wall that looked like a complex mathematical formula. He looked like Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting,” and I am now suspicious he is actually a chevron stripe genius who has not yet found his calling. Then with painting tape I went point-to-point with the precision of a mechanical engineer, muttering instructions to myself every step of the way like a crazy person.

We finished taping just as the sun was depriving us of essential natural light. I can honestly say I’ve never been prouder of a finished job than I was looking at that beautifully taped wall, and we had accomplished absolutely nothing tangible. The next day some of the tape had fallen off the wall because it was so cold. I looked at it and was like, “I’m going to work.” I am at work now waiting for word that the room is finished so I can go home.

'Tis finished. (Thanks to my brother-in-law.)

Note: This column appears in the 1/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/25 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spam of the week

When we talk about spam, which is what I do -- seriously, that is what I am doing right now -- we must remember that it does not limit itself to email. Spam will creep into everything if we let it, and we let it all the time because no one really knows what spam is or why it exists or how it can be stopped. For example, many of us have experienced the pure joy of having something show up on our Facebook timeline like, "Mike Kenny watched a video - 'You won't BELIEVE what this girl can do with a banana!'" and the screenshot of the video is a pair of butt cheeks. This is an exciting thing to have happen when your Facebook friends include people who don't necessarily understand spam and who are also your mom.

Another great place to get spam is LinkedIn, which is a site I use solely for accepting LinkedIn connection requests. This week's spam comes courtesy of my sister, who actually uses LinkedIn for networking and for her job, a job that is, from what I can deduce, more important than writing about spam on a blog. That is why I find it flattering that she received spam while trying to accomplish something useful and thought to herself, "My brother writes about spam. Let me forward this junk to him before I contact a major client of mine." Thanks, sis! You won't be disappointed! With this! Not in general as it pertains to my life's purpose!

Subject: LinkedIn new messages

This new message is about new messages. Namely, this one. This message is about itself. This is a truism that is philosophical in nature, and makes me wonder if Plato himself could deconstruct LinkedIn in a way that made sense to the layperson.

Importance: High

Your idea of what can be classified as of high importance is about to be changed drastically.


Invitation reminders:


This may be more amusing to me personally considering I am well aware that the absolute last thing in the world my sister would ever in a million years take active part in would be a pub challenge of any kind, even one Irish in nature. It appears yet again spam has missed its intended target. Had I personally received this message while trying to navigate my way through job title descriptions and client qualifications -- unlikely as that seems -- there's an excellent chance my reaction would have been a genuine, "Oh sh*t! When?"

It also warrants mentioning that the link itself is crap and leads to nothing and is probably a terrible virus. I think this because I opened it so I could make fun of it and closed it IMMEDIATELY after it started being really weird. I may be more active on LinkedIn after all when it is revealed I crashed our company's server while trying to open a link for an Irish pub challenge. I blame my sister.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The pointless process of processing pointlessness

We are living in the information age. This is obvious. We can discover what is happening in real time if we know where to look, and even if we don’t know where to look, chances are we will discover it soon enough anyway. Then after much reflection on the matter we can come to the ultimate realization that we don’t really care. Process it and spit it out. Modernism!

For me personally, the way I find out about things has completely changed over the past few years. For example, I don’t really find out about anything directly anymore. Instead I will go on Twitter and read 20 jokes about something that happened, and I must deduce via context what has happened. If I cannot manage to uncover all the necessary details in my mind, I must a) scroll further down on Twitter for the original news from a viable news source (my ratio of people I follow on Twitter who make jokes about the news to those who report actual news is like 25-1), or b) Google it. Having to resort to option B is the modern equivalent of having to wait for the next day’s newspaper to arrive. I should also mention that I believe it is more important now than ever to be teaching children in school how to use context to gather information, if for no other reason than that they’ll be able to obtain all of their news solely from wisecracks on Twitter, or whatever new medium exists in 10 years. I believe the children are our future.

Indeed, I would say a great portion of my time is spent trying to decipher what has happened before realizing it is extremely irrelevant. The important part is that I am active in the discussion. When someone asks me 25 years from now, “Where were you when you found out Kim Kardashian was pregnant with Kanye West’s baby?” I will say, “I wish I didn’t remember, but I do. I was at my desk eating lunch when I read 50 jokes about it on Twitter, one after the other save for an intermittent update on a war in Syria. Whatever happened to that anyway? Not the war—the bastard child?”

It’s enough to make one think that maybe—just maybe—there’s too much needless information out there to process.

The other day I was standing in the kitchen eating from an absurdly large bag of kettle corn and staring into oblivion while my daughter watched an inane show on television. Not my proudest isolated parenting moment, but sue me—I was de-stressing. Anyway, I shook out of my blank stare long enough to redirect it to the back of the kettle corn bag. It was there I noticed the symbols for Facebook and Twitter and the phrase, “Follow us!”

And right then and there it dawned on me: I can follow this bag of kettle corn on Twitter. I was standing at the height of civilization.

So, did I go on Twitter and immediately begin following kettle corn? I’d rather not say. I will say, however, that I am intrigued about what they (it?) will add to the discussion. Also, what is the discussion? I am increasingly unsure, but whatever it is, I am not going to miss it.

I would like this picture to be the very first thing in our generation's time capsule.

Note: This column appears in the 1/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/18 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: Your help is needed!


CA No: CA2011014394, Court No: CR 2011117965

Ooooh, this seems pretty legit. It has a case number and a "court number" and everything. I better pay very close attention to this federal matter. MY COUNTRY NEEDS ME.

I, Irina Sidlauskas, US citizen, the victim in above mentioned case need help…

Am I supposed to know the above mentioned case off the top of the dome? Wait, case number CA2011014394? Sidlauskas versus Johnson Pharmaceuticals? They done my girl WRONG, how can I help?

My situation is pretty bad:

You can't just put a frowny face on legal documents like this, fyi. You have to spell it out.

1. I do not have a car, even if I would have it - I am just afraid to drive, because I am very dizzy.

It's hard to believe there was a time in my life -- as early as two minutes ago -- when I was unaware that Irina Sidlauskas, person I do not know and non-car owner, was too dizzy to drive anyway. I'm on my way, Irina! J/k I'm also kind of dizzy.

2. My speech is worse, so phone conversations out of my reach, unfortunately.

Me: Hi Irina? It's Mike, from email. I need to know where you live so I can pick you up because you are dizzy and drive you to court or whatever for that thing.

Irina: Flarb flarb cochchchchchchc

Me: ...

3. I do not have any money to see doctors to start my disability claim, divorce, support from the individual, who destroyed my life style I had before.

Technically speaking, your insurance company and not your doctors would file a disability claim. Your doctors, however, can obviously help you with your divorce and the reacquisition of your previous lifestyle, in which I imagine you were fed grapes sensually near running water and were rarely dizzy. I feel like I am helping already, with the information I am giving you.

4. All 2012 year I was staying Thailand at my Parents condo. I came home ONLY for me to start all these mess. As soon as I see, that I am able to leave - I will go back to Thailand. Life is cheaper there.

Irina: Mom, Dad! I am going back home to America to make a mess of my life!

Parents: Okay, dear. Just remember when you crash and burn that a washing machine at the Thai Home Depot only costs like 12 Thai-bucks.

5. File for bankruptcy.

I don't know what this list is.

Rhetorical question:

Drop the philosophical knowledge on me, Irina Sidlauskas.

It's a shame that I, US citizen, with no any criminal record, MUST hide in some other country to be able to pay for bread on a table (using my Parents pension to support myself) and to be at ease that people who are dear to me will not be in danger from individual, who almost destroyed me.

That is not a question, nor is it rhetorical. It's actually pretty specific to your exact situation, although I am having difficulty discerning what in the freakin' heck you are even talking about. Nevertheless, rhetorical question: are you dating Chris Brown?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Searching for the place of no returns

One of my first post-college jobs was at a healthcare products company, which was as awesome as it sounds. In the back corner of the warehouse was the Returns Dept., which may have been the most depressing place I have ever witnessed first-hand. It wasn’t even manned on a day-to-day basis—even though I personally processed 873 returns daily—because everyone was afraid of it. Returns just went there and that was that—no other action was taken. It was a black hole of despair from which not even a desire for profit could emerge.

I have frequently thought about returns, because I am weird. It fascinates me that we live in a society where returning stuff ALL THE TIME is normal and acceptable. “Oh I bought this with my own free will but I am an idiot and don’t want it anymore, so I think I’ll return it for a full refund,” is something I just do not grasp. Why do consumers have all the power? Have you ever seen consumers? Have you been to Walmart? They have no idea what they’re doing. That is why I am sympathetic to the plight of the store when I myself take full advantage of this aspect of our society.

Me: I’d like to return this.

Store: Okay, may I ask why?

Me: No.

Store: I hate you.

Me: I understand.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I have not made a mistake but the product is faulty, or a gift, or was processed incorrectly, I become irrationally upset. Really, I cannot stress how irrationally upset I become when I have to return something. I demand nothing but the utmost convenience in the process, and the lengths I will go to get just that are nothing if not inconvenient.

For example, I recently ordered a pair of shoes online. Yes, that is risky, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to try them on over the Internet. Well, you are not in a million years going to believe this, but they didn’t fit. I spent the better part of a weekend day trying to return shoes online. It was beautiful and sunny outside, yet I was on the couch having like three different “chat sessions” with human-robot hybrids just so I could get a promo code so I didn’t have to pay shipping on the new order. I refuse to do that under any circumstances. I want my tombstone to read, “Never paid shipping twice.”

Meanwhile, I had ordered something for work that was kind of important and fairly expensive. It arrived at the office and the second I saw it I was like, “Nope. Going back. Not the right one.” I could have punched a hole in the wall a la Andy Bernard at that moment. As if I had nothing else to do, I spent three working hours trying to resolve the issue. And by “trying to resolve the issue” I mean trying to get a prepaid UPS return label and a full refund down the penny, which is what I did. I am my own hero sometimes.

Nevertheless, in both cases I had to trudge to the UPS Store to drop off the item, using my own gas in the process. (I mean my car’s gas, although using my own gas would have been better for many reasons.) I was so annoyed in both cases I just tossed the open box on the counter and said, “Label’s on there, didn’t have any packing tape,” and walked out. The Return Renegade is what they call me, sometimes … not really.

I am confident both products will end up in their respective Returns Depts. never to be seen again, joining other products returned thanks to the fickleness of consumerism or the idiocy of customer service. And to that I say, God Bless America.

Note: This column appears in the 1/10 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/11 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Spam email of the week


If I am ever able to earn enough money from this free blog making fun of dumb and pointless emails, I am going to become a philanthropist and create a charity named "CHARITY PROJECT. LET HELP A SOUL," which will be an ironic nod to all of the terrible emails that allowed me to donate this money in the first place. Also, my charity will be targeted specifically at dying wealthy widows from foreign countries with no trustworthy family/friends who -- because they are dying -- cannot help the poor themselves. Judging from the amount of emails I receive of this nature, this has obviously become a terrible epidemic that needs to be addressed. At first I will just raise awareness with a series of televised music concerts, but after everyone is aware, sh*t's going DOWN.

Dear Beloved one, I will like you to read this mail showing some sign
of concern to it.

Trust me, I am very concerned ... about how I can illuminate the pointlessness of your awful email. It's difficult to determine, however, whether or not I, specifically, am "Beloved one," since the list of receiving email addresses that are almost like my email address is very, very extensive. Like, am I Beloved one or is it J/k I know it's me -- that guy's a dick.

My name is puan.Hashim Shahida Amatullah

Oh, that's it? I thought there'd be more. Most people have more of a name than that, but maybe it's because you're foreign? There's only one dot in your name? Are you sure? Not judging or anything, just want to make sure I have your name correct in my ol' memory bank. My name is Mike.

a business merchant in Malaysia.

I meet a lot of people on a daily basis who describe themselves as business merchants ... in my dreams in which I am captain of a 1740s sea vessel on its way to England. Also, when you said your name before I thought to myself, "That sounds Malaysian ..." So far, this all checks out.

As a result of my present medical condition now,

Hate to be the grammar police here, puan.Hashim Shahida Amatullah, but that is redundant. All of your other words are perfect though. And sorry you broke your coccyx or whatever.

my personal doctor confided in me few days ago that I have only but
few more weeks to live and I see it as life been unfair to me.

Oh, my bad re: coccyx. Shouldn't have assumed your condition was so minor.

All my
life i always pray for more opportunity of helping/contributing on
humanitarian assistance. In view of this setback, i want to donate my
estate for humanitarian assistance, since this has always been the
plan of my late husband and besides i have no child.

You know that KC & JoJo song, "All My Life?" For some reason I can't stop imagining them altering the song to, "All my life, I pray for more opportunity of helping/contributing on humanitarian assistance." It's really making me laugh so much over here, to the point where I would give almost anything to hear it happen. Does anyone have KC & JoJo's number? Please leave in comments. Anyway, where were we?

I once asked
members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the
money which I have there to charity Organization in Somalia and
Pakistan , they refused and kept the money to themselves. Hence, I do
not trust them anymore, as they seem not to be contended with what I
have left for them.

Word, family is the worst. One time I tried to set up a charity organization in Somalia, and I gave my sister $20 with specific instructions to give it to Somalia. Well guess what? She went right to Anthropologie.

In an effort to compliment the good work of God
almighty and the wish of my late Husband I donate the sum of
Ј2,000,000.00 (Two Million Great Britain Pounds) to you.

Cool cool cool.

On your
acknowledgement of this mail and informing me of your nationality and
current place of resident,

I am an American of Irish heritage and I live in Arizona, now give me my mon-NAY (Chris Tucker voice).

my lawyer will facilitate due processes for
transfer of this legacy to you. May God bless you as you use this
money judiciously for the work of charity.

Maybe your lawyer can directly facilitate the donation of your fortune to a charity? No? Eh, you're right -- better to go through someone you don't know whose qualifications are: "uses email." Eliminate the middle man, and by "eliminate the" I mean "create a second."

Sincere regards,
puan.Hashim Shahida Amatullah From: Malaysia

You know what? Pretty sure we helped a soul today, puan.Hashim Shahida Amatullah from Malaysia. Thanks again for the money. My name is Mike.

Thank you James, a.k.a. Chunter, for the spam submission.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Let us go forth and be positive, fellow Internet users

As the person responsible for handling online content here at this newspaper, it’s become clearer and clearer how much of a double-edged sword the comments section can be. On one hand, if one does not allow the readers a voice, they cease to be part of the conversation, and you are telling stories in a vacuum. On the other hand, the comments section very, very, very often devolves into the lowest possible form of human discourse. If there is any confusion with regards to the latter, feel free to visit any comment thread that has ever existed.

There is so much vitriol out there that many popular news and entertainment sites have disallowed comments. We’ve come quite a long ways from what Thomas Edison envisioned when he created comment threads—that people could read something online and respond, “I enjoyed this because …” or “I disagree with this because {rational thought}.” I doubt he foresaw CAPS LOCK and the ability to produce a sexually explicit emoticon.

We will not forgo comments on our websites, although part of my job is to approve or disapprove of comments before they appear on the sites. My decision is based on one question: Is this hateful/racist/profane/generally offensive or just pointless and dumb? If the latter, there’s not much I can do except approve. You think the new marijuana dispensary is “bout to be crunk wit dat skunk?” Well congratulations, your opinion on the matter has been published.

In fact, one I recently approved was a comment on one of my own columns. The first line was, “No offense, but you are a moron.” The ensuing explanation as to why I am a moron seemed to miss the point of that particular column, although I have certainly admitted as much in many other columns, so no offense was taken. I did, however, respond how I normally do when confronted with what I deem to be unwarranted criticism—with snark and sarcasm.

Which got me thinking. It’s easier for me and for many of us to elevate ourselves above the perceived stupidity of it all, perched high above on our pedestals of condescension. In that respect, it becomes apparent that online comments are not just hurtful in and of themselves, but in our reactions to them. It becomes more important that we flex our ego in the public sphere than advance the conversation, even if it’s one we deem unworthy of having.

It used to be thought that anonymity was what fueled online negativity, but there is plenty to go around on Facebook, Twitter, and among people with known online identities. I believe, as many do, that the face-to-face aspect lacking from these interactions gives people a distorted sense of freedom to say things they never would otherwise. One may think those interactions would be limited enough to not even mention, but after consideration, I realize the vast majority of my own interactions these days, for better or worse, involve me typing. That is where we are.

For that reason I think it’s important we try to raise the level of discourse here, regardless of—because of—however inferior we perceive that which we are confronted with. Either ignore or redirect to something genuinely positive. That’s my resolution this year. I’m not off to a great start, but there is time.

Note: This column appears in the 1/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/4 issue of the Peoria Times.