March 11, 2014

  • Playing the Odds

    I don’t believe in luck.  I’m not saying that luck doesn’t exist, but no one should live their lives on the hopes of being lucky.  We are not all immigrant lottery winners.  Rather, I believe in playing the odds.  The odds are that you will get a better job if you have a college education.  The odds are that you will get a better seat at the show if you get in line early.  The odds are that you will hook up with the girl you like if that girl has a boyfriend.

    How so?  Let’s say that you like a girl and she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  You may think that she’s fair game and therefore attainable (I guess).  However, she is looking at and comparing you to every other guy in the world.  This means that you have to prove to her that you are better than every other guy out there.  Do you really think your vintage and ironic t-shirt is going to sway her away from all those other jerks with more money?  Probably not.  On the other hand, if she already has a boyfriend, she only has eyes for him, meaning that you only have to prove to her that you are better than that guy.  It’s easier to compete against one guy than every guy.  If you do cause a break up, your new girlfriend will obviously be a cheater and have poor moral character, but you will be with the girl that you chose.

    I suppose this theory should work for women as well.  But in reality, if you’re a girl and want to be with a guy, all you have to do is ask.

    If you play the odds, then life will be a lot easier.

March 10, 2014

  • Wes



    The barista at Starbucks today got my name wrong.  This was kind of weird because I’m there almost three times a week and she has taken my name before.  (I suppose I’m forgettable, but anyway.)  I think she thought my name was “Wes,” but I also think she may have had a cerebral aneurysm when she tried to write it on the cup.  What’s going on here?  Is this what happens when the coffee trade is free and not fair?

    (Note:  My real name kind of sounds like “Wes,” I guess.  It is a very short, monosyllabic name.)

March 9, 2014

  • Nexus

    If it’s a weekday and if it’s around 12:15pm, there’s a good chance I’ll be sitting in my car in a strip mall parking lot in the San Fernando valley sipping a GMO-fruit smoothie from Jamba Juice and listening to non-Justin Timberlake music from my Nexus 5 smartphone. This is how I usually choose to spend my lunch hour, and I’m not the only one. Scattered throughout this parking lot I almost always see other forlorn individuals, men and women, doing the same thing. However, I do not know what they’re eating nor what they are listening to (although I’m 80% certain this one guy in a Toyota Tundra is always listening to Slayer). I don’t know who they are, or where they came from. We are all different, but for that moment in space and time, we are all the same: Weirdos having a shitty lunch in our hot cars in a strip mall parking lot.

    This routine has been going on for a little over two years. My personal 9/11 happened two years ago when my wife left me, and my mind overreacted and launched an anti-terror war against my stomach. I couldn’t hold down any solid food so I started drinking smoothies for sustenance. (This is what usually happens when I’m depressed: I can’t eat.) I took anti-depressants to control my mood, and drank alcohol to put me to sleep. I became a lonely, isolated mess who was rapidly losing weight. My life was unbearable. (The smoothies gave me a lot of gas, so life was also unbearable for those who stood next to me.) I started listening to music by Carly Rae Jepsen and reading books by Robert Kiyosaki. (I don’t necessarily regret purchasing Jepsen’s “Kiss,” as it was a non-offensive album, but reading “The Cashflow Quadrant” just made me feel poor.) I even watched tried to watch a season of Grey’s Anatomy. It was probably the most shameful era of my entire existence.

    Aside from a few spontaneous posts and reposts, I realize that it’s been more than four years since I last blogged consistently. I’m also aware that those who are reading this are probably new to this site, and those who read this blog years ago are likely no longer around. Folks who are familiar with this blog probably remember it as a place where I wrote about modern culture, progressive politics, dating/relationship disasters, and terrible pop music. Why did I decide to come back?

    I’ve always felt that I would blog again whenever the time felt right. I don’t know if that time is now, but I do know that, as someone who has been dealing with depression for more than fourteen years (which is also approximately how long as I’ve been known as Manila Jones!), I’ve come to understand that the time will never feel right. So much has changed since I last logged into this site. In fact, I’m in my car right now at lunch typing these words into my smartphone, something that I could not have done four years ago. I accept that I will likely never feel completely OK, but I suppose that this is the most OK I’ve ever felt. What’s past is prelude, the Universe settles all debts, and time heals all wounds.

    I don’t take anti-depressants anymore, but I still go to Jamba Juice. Sometimes I’ll enjoy my lunch inside the store, mostly because the employees are nice to me and they play new hipster songs from bands I’ve never heard of, but most of the time I’ll sit in my car and stream my own music from my Nexus 5. The present is simply the nexus of all occurrences prior, and this blog is my attempt at chronicling that.   This blog has been untouched.  I’m not going to read what was written before this post, but you’re more than welcome to.

    I don’t know who you are or where you come from, but I’ve realized we are all the same:  Weirdos finding our way on this desolate rock in the middle of the universe.

December 6, 2012

  • A Public Service Announcement

    The common sense truth is that there should be enough laws and restrictions to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people, but the laws should allow for enough freedom so that guns are accessible to normal, well-adjusted citizens. I suppose the blurry distinction between the two is the central debate over gun control.

    If Bob Costas’ diatribe about gun control on Sunday Night Football pissed you off, then you’re a sorry person. Gun control isn’t a political, religious, or racial issue. It’s a public safety issue. The fact that Mr. Costas used a public forum to talk about public safety shouldn’t make anyone upset. Nothing he said was offensive. Gun ownership isn’t a religion, so stop acting like he took a shit in your church. If Bob Costas made you unhappy, you deserve your unhappiness.

    Finally, the spirit of the Second Amendment was to give citizens the right to defend themselves, either from other citizens, foreigners, wombats, or the federal government. The Second Amendment is outdated. The feds now have drones, tanks, and nuclear weapons. If they’re coming after you, your machine gun isn’t going to stop them.

August 12, 2012

  • Bricks and Bullshit

    One-third of the population of the state of Maine lives inthe greater Portland area.  The city of Portland, Maine itself has a population of just over 65,000 (which is approximately the population of Cerritos, California, the dinky suburb of LosAngeles where I grew up).  Outside of the Portland metropolitan area, the rest of the state of Maine is mostly wilderness.  I learned these bits of random trivia from an insanely-educated tour guide on a recent trip to the coastal city.  If you’ve ever been to this town, then the first thing that probably struck you about it was that there’s a lot of bricks and bird shit.  The second thing that you probably noticed was that the locals like to consume mass quantities of lobster and beer, which was precisely what brought me to visit.  My prime directive for the trip was to seek out the best lobster in the United States, and I fulfilled this (via a lobster roll) approximately thirty-seven minutes after landing at Portland International Jetport.  The subsequent four days were filled with lobster lunches, dinners, breath, and gas.

    When not ingesting lobster, I usually found myself at one of the local bars.  The Old Port of Portland is dotted with a plethora of microbreweries and pubs, frequented by college students (I still have no idea what colleges are nearby) and tourists sick of eating lobster.  On my first night there I casually strolled into a pub called Gritty McDuff’s, casually sat down at the bar, casually ordered a stout, casually watched the Olympics on NBC, and casually acted like I wasn’t the only non-white person there.  Somewhere in the middle of my third pint, Michael Phelps had won his 127th gold medal and I non-casually high-fived everyone within striking distance. I was more excited about this than logic would dictate.  Phelps had simply just swam from one end of the pool to the other faster than seven other men, but the Olympics make us excited about things we don’t care about.  (I mean, I could still walk along the side of the pool faster than he could swim.)  Yeah, I don’t get it either.

    Anyway, during my high-fiving spree I noticed that someone had sat down next to me.  He must have been there for a while because he was already chowing down on a basket of chicken tenders.  Not only was he the second non-white person in the bar, he also looked like he could have been the genetic bridge between P. Diddy and Steve Urkel.  He introduced himself as Dave and we made small talk as two lonely tourists are wont to do.  Our conversation was mostly boring until he got really animated about Star Trek (I believe a commercial with William Shatner came on the TV and lit a fire under him).  He said he was in Portland to meet with some other Star Trek fans and they were going to Augusta for a gathering of Maine Trekkies.  I know nothing about Star Trek so I didn’t know what to say, but I didn’t want the conversation to die (simply because he looked like he was having a sci-fi-gasm) so I remarked that I was more of a StarWars kind-of-guy.  This prompted him to shout in my face, “Star Wars is full of shit!”within earshot of the bartender in front of us and the bachelorette party behind us.

    For the next two minutes I received a tongue-lashing of how Star Trek was better than Star Wars, most notably how Klingon philosophy was greater than Jedi philosophy. The bartender was indifferent but the group of single girls seemed amused.  I completely had no idea what Dave was talking about.  I suppose he sensed this, so he ended his tirade by saying, “Well, you either get it or you don’t, I guess.”  Now, I’m not one who has supposedly epiphanous moments, but this seemingly plain and simple statement struck me as profound.  It was probably my fourth pint simply taking its toll on my brain synapses, but that non-important remark felt bigger than it was.  I suspect that this pseudo-elation is similar to how Gotye must feel whenever he thinks he just wrote a hit song.

    People say that you shouldn’t think in terms of “absolutes”.  People who believe this unnecessarily live complicated lives.  Life can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  The truth is that everything in the present is an absolute.  You either get it or you don’t.  You either like Star Trek or you don’t.  You either like someone or you don’t.  You either hate “Call Me Maybe” or you don’t.  You either think Lady Gaga is a hermaphrodite, or you don’t.  You’re either a socialist or you’re not.  You’re either happy or you’re not.  You’re either a good person or you’re not.  Everything is one thing, or it’s not.  If you think you’re in the middle on any issue, you’re just lying to yourself, because everyone is someone, or you’re not.  Maybe Dave was right about Jedi philosophy being inferior to Klingon philosophy.  Obi-Wan Kenobi once said that only the Sith think in “absolutes”.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was full of shit.

    You can either simplify your life or not.  Everything else is either bricks or bird shit. 

April 14, 2011

  • It is What it Isn’t

    I’m not the first one and I won’t be the last to state the obvious fact that MTV hardly plays music videos.   As of January 2011, the only time of the day that MTV plays music videos is for three hours very early in the morning when mostly everyone on the west coast is still sleeping.  The rest of the day MTV airs reality and game shows aimed at pregnant teenagers, New Jersey people, and homosexual college students.  This hardly constitutes “music television.”  The last music video I can recall seeing in its entirety on MTV was Bye Bye Bye by ‘N Sync, and that was way back when Carson Daly still gave a damn about children’s after-school programming.  In this age and time where it’s cool to be ironic, MTV programming is equivalent to why hipsters think Pabst Blue Ribbon is good beer:  it is what it is not.

    The same can be said about MTV’s sister channel VH-1.  What started out as an adult-contemporary music video channel, it is now a bastion of pop-culture that plays on the nostalgia that old people (read: born before 1980) have for things not current.  Over the holidays I was surfing DirecTV and ended up watching an old Saturday Night Live episode on VH-1.  I was watching a Weekend Update segment from, I would guess, around 2001 with Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon.  As they were wont to do, these faux news-anchors were acting like sarcastic baboons.  My wife, who was watching with me, laughed a lot and said, “Wow, this is actually funny.”

    I should point out that my wife hates Saturday Night Live.  She doesn’t think it’s remotely funny; in fact she thinks that it’s insulting to anything with a functioning brain.  She’s not the only person who shares this sentiment.  Many people say that the golden age of SNL was in the 1970s with iconic comedians like John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Dan Aykroyd.  Current episodes of SNL are widely panned for being unfunny and overly contrived, and I suspect the only reason people tune in is because of its musical guests (being a musical guest on SNL is still a big deal). 

    I agree with most people on this issue. I started watching SNL in the early 1990s with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and David Spade.  Those guys made me laugh.  Nowadays I feel that SNL isn’t really all that funny, and I’ve felt this way ever since the late 1990s.  However, when I was watching that old episode of Weekend Update last month, I was genuinely laughing, even though I suspected that I wasn’t laughing when I saw that segment when it first aired roughly nine years ago.  I clearly remember hating Jimmy Fallon.  What has changed?  Was Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon’s comedy ahead of its time?  Am I losing my mind?

    A while back I read an article in which Lorne Michaels (the creator and executive producer of SNL) responded to criticism about SNL.  He said that SNL is not as bad as people say it is, nor was it as good as people remember it was.  This struck me as being surprisingly prophetic about everything

    As a whole, we seem to be surprisingly cynical about the present.  We stress out about our jobs, we worry about feeding our kids, and we fear nuclear war.  Every decision we make is approached with skepticism.  Is this show funny?  Who should I vote for?  Will this affect who I am?  When will I die?  Instant information via smartphones and the internet has made the present a hyper-reality.  As such, we’ve become over-nostalgic for the past.  This is why 30-year-olds like watching VH-1 and why extreme Republicans like dressing up as 18th century New Englanders.  Like Saturday Night Live, we’re under the illusion that the past was always better, even though it was probably the same as it is today.

    Something about this makes me feel sad for the present, but then I remember that it is what it is not.

March 9, 2011

  • I Give Up

    Early spring has historically been a boring time of the year for me.  For someone whose disposition is largely dictated by sports seasons, late February and early March is typically bland.  Football season is over and baseball season is only in preseason.  This leaves only hockey and basketball.  While I love hockey, I really don’t get into it until the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, and while basketball is exciting to watch, it’s also boringly simple.  Everything about the NBA can be summed up in three sentences.  A complete basketball neophyte (like my wife) can sound like ABC’s basketball genius Jon Barry by just reciting the following:

    1. The Lakers are too long for any team to match up with.
    2. The Thunder are explosive, but probably can’t survive a seven-game series.
    3. It might take the Heat another year to gel together.

    Nevertheless, the lull during this time of the year is further amplified by Lent, the forty-day season in which guilt-stricken Catholics sacrifice a part of their lives.  Many times this includes fasting, particularly on Fridays, but it also includes “giving up” a luxury or vise.  Normally, this does not affect me.  My Catholic friends’ personal sacrifices over the years have never had a significant impact on my life and it has never been something that I particularly cared about.  However, this has changed in the past three years.  Every year since I became hyperactive in Facebook in 2008, I’ve noticed that people have given up Facebook for Lent.  This has always bothered me because all of a sudden the Lenten sacrifice wasn’t something personal; it became something that was publicized and something I had to know about.  When someone gives up something like Facebook, people will notice it.  People won’t see their status updates anymore or see their comments on pictures and notes.   You kind of get the feeling that these peoples’ intent is to tell everyone that they are being pious.  This is not the same as giving up, say, eating candy, which is something that you can do privately and can be more of a personal covenant between the person and God, but giving up a social networking site that you are actively a part of is inherently a public affair.  I’m not a practicing Catholic, but as someone who grew up as a Catholic I think I still have some perspective.  I just don’t see how giving up a social networking website can make you a better person, unless you’re using Facebook to cheat on your wife or sell drugs. 

    Ironically, the people who need to read this probably gave up the internet for Lent.  In forty days, the world will go back to normal and there will be basketball and hockey playoffs to watch.

February 24, 2011

  • Advancements in Being “Liked”

    Last spring I was on the popular website, the Internet Movie Data Base where uninformed movie fans go to become informed about movies that they are fans of.  I was gathering information (or “data”, I guess) about Iron Man 2.  Specifically, I was looking for the plot synopsis of the film. After reading it, I concluded that the plot seemed entertaining and engaging enough for me to want to watch the film in theaters.  I also realized that Scarlett Johansson was in the movie, which made the film even more intriguing not because I enjoy her acting (which I do, sometimes), but because the tight black jumpsuit she wears as the Black Widow accentuates her large breasts.

    Anyway, while I was reading the Iron Man 2 page on IMDB, I noticed that there was a Facebook “Like” button at the top of the page.  I also noticed that it said, “Jason Bautista likes this.”  “What in the name of Robert Downey, Jr. is going on here?” I asked to no one in particular.  Why is Facebook on IMDB, and why is it telling me that my friend Jason Bautista likes Iron Man 2?  Was this some kind of computer glitch?  Does Jason like all movies on IMDB, or only super hero ones?  Does Jason know about this?

    I realized that I was asking the wrong questions.  After that visit to IMDB, I started seeing the “Like” button all over the internet.  For the past year now, it’s been popping up on news sites, sports sites, blogs, and just about any other website that has the potential to be Likeable.  If you’re logged into Facebook while visiting these sites, that “Like” button will tell you if any of your friends “Like” that site, and if you “Like” a site, that action will show up in your Facebook friends’ News Feed. Or, in summary, Facebook has gone nuts and has taken over the internet.

    Now, there is probably nothing wrong with what Facebook is doing.  I’ve read their privacy policy and I’ve consciously agreed to it, so, if they’re giving away my information, I can’t complain about not knowing about it (although there may be ethical issues regarding Facebook changing their privacy policy every several months).  Nevertheless, it certainly feels like all sorts of creepy.  Ever since the mid 1990s when the internet became relevant to the average person, the internet has traditionally been thought of as a mysterious place. You could go look for information about anything discreetly and anonymously.  Your identity online could be something completely different from who you were in real life.  While this is still true, the arrival of social networking websites in the early 2000s opened up the internet.  It made people more comfortable with expressing themselves and sharing their information online.  And what we’ve realized is that people love talking about themselves.  People love sharing pictures and status updates on Facebook, and Twitter helped carry this self-indulgent bullshit to our mobile devices.  We’re witnessing the destruction of the anonymous cyberworld and entering a new era of self-glorification.  With Facebook expanding its services to beyond the Facebook domain, it isn’t shifting the paradigm.  It’s responding to it.

    A lot of people don’t like this.  I am not one of them. As you may have noticed, I’ve implemented the “Like” button on my blog posts for the past year or so.  This is undoubtedly self-indulgent of me to assume that anyone will Like anything that I’ve ever written.  Furthermore, I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a formspring page to add to the degeneration of my own humility.  The limits of my ego are defined only by the limits of technology.  I have no redeeming qualities. 

    As history has shown, the advancement of technology is a product of our own egos.  You’ll have to embrace it or surrender to it.  You just don’t necessarily have to “Like” it.

February 23, 2011

  • Caffiend

    Every work day at lunchtime I go to Starbucks, and every time I go to Starbucks there is almost always the same lady working there.  She always greets me in the same dreary way, robotically asking me how I am doing and what I want to drink.  There is never any expression on her face or inflection in her voice.  Qualitative reasoning does not lead me to believe that she has Bell’s palsy or vocal chord paralysis, so I suspect that her problem is that she either (1) does not like her job or (2) does not like herself.  Interacting with someone who is not happy with themselves is always uncomfortable.  It’s kind of like the experience you get from listening to a Nirvana song: any terrible feeling you have about yourself is instantly amplified.   I always feel like my day becomes a little more ruined whenever I see her, but perhaps I just feel miserable because I’m sleepy and tired, which happens to be entirely why I go to Starbucks in the first place.  Sometimes I think that depression and fatigue are the same thing:  In both cases you’re just trying to live through the grunge of your own existence.

    I feel like I just described the entire essence of the city of Seattle.

February 19, 2011

  • Christians Never, Yesterday Forever

    Barack Hussein Obama is probably not a socialistic Muslim terrorist.  He’s probably not even a Muslim.  But, if he is, indeed, a Muslim, then he’s a very lousy one at best because from what I have seen, it has been well documented that he’s a devout Christian and he goes to Church every Sunday, regardless of the fact that he likes to hang out with those evil Democrats.

    Furthermore, Barack Obama is probably not a socialist, but, from a Christian standpoint, I don’t see why it would be such a bad thing if he is.  I don’t know what Jesus Christ’s political outlook was, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was a social fascist.  If the fundamental principle of socialism is that everything must work for the common good (and since the driving force behind capitalism is self-improvement through ambition and greed), then I would suppose that Jesus would be a proponent of that philosophy.  However, the current trend for Jesus fans right now is to vote for whichever policy is perceived as the least socialistic.  Christians tend to be Republican because they feel that that party best represents their values.  But, the truth is no one really knows what Jesus Christ’s values were.  I don’t even know what my own values were ten years ago, so I would feel kind of arrogant to claim to know the morality of a homeless Jewish guy who was born around the year 0.  We only believe we know what he stood for, and what we believe is usually whatever makes our lifestyle more convenient.  The past is always rationalized by the present, and yesterday should never be interpreted in a wholly single perspective.  

    I don’t know how many Christian denominations there are, but the fact that so many exist suggests that no one in the history of the world has had any idea on what the hell Jesus Christ was talking about (that includes me and you). Christianity is like the song Yesterday by the Beatles.  It was a song that was revolutionary in its melodies and chord progressions and it made you feel great every time you listened to it.  And if Christianity is Yesterday, then the Catholic Church is The Beatles.  Like the Catholic Church, The Beatles created it and made it all up.  Yesterday (Christianity) belongs to The Beatles (Catholic Church) and it is only them who can capture its original essence.  

    But, Yesterday has become one of the most remade songs in pop music history.  Each cover artist offered their rendition of the ballad, and each remake catered different sects of the musical fanbase.  Bob Dylan’s version is like Protestantism because he’s revolutionary and rebellious.  Ray Charles’ version is for the Charismatics and Pentacostals because they would rather believe than see.  En Vogue’s version is like Gospel music.  Heavy metal band Rage did a cover of the song, and they’re like Evangelicals because they’re fucking nuts.  Leann Rimes was just a kid when she came out, so her version is like Youth Ministry.  Frank Sinatra was married multiple times, so his version represents Mormon values.  Just like Michael Bolton is a white guy who tries to sing like a black guy, his version is for the Jews for Jesus (it doesn’t make sense).  

    If you’ve ever heard a remake of Yesterday, then you probably thought that it kind of sucked, or, at the very best, was not quite as good as the original.  Every Christian denomination tries to represent Jesus, and every sect believes they’re doing a good job, but it’s really just a cover.  This is not to say that the Catholic Church best represents the “true Christianity” because they were the original Church.  Even The Beatles can’t capture the original spirit of Yesterday, and that’s largely because half of them are old and the other half are dead.  The essence of everything is always lost in time.  Time hates humanity, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that 30 is the new 20.

    That settles it.  Jesus probably doesn’t give a fuck that the Beatles are now available on iTunes.