It Rained in South Carolina

For those of you who might give a crap – and I know most of you don’t, it rained here today.  Now most of you conscious folk who happen to live in the area will know that.  So why am I wasting your time with this?  Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, I checked the weather on the internet this morning, not two hours before it rained, and you want to know what the chance of rain was?  You want to know?

Zero!

The chance of me running out to my truck and getting soaked from the monsoon-like torrent that was coming down on top of my head was ZERO!  The chance of me having to roll that truck’s window up to keep the rain from soaking the driver’s seat was ZERO!

ZERO!

That’s what the weather service provided me.  That was the information that they bestowed upon my naïve trusting ass because they are the weather guys.  They know what they’re talking about, right?  It’s science, right?  And I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt except this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  I guess it’s just not an exact science.  I mean what exactly are they doing that they can go from zero percent chance of rain to the sky opening up and drenching me?

And I checked the radar!  Nothing!  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky according to them.  I played it back to put that weather-in-motion thing that everybody has now and NOTHING!  It’s like nothing ever happened.  There was no rain, no clouds, NOTHING!  I guess all that getting wet while running around in the rain business was just my imagination, huh?  And I guarantee there was some ditz chirping about the great hot day on the Grand Strand while I’m taking a bath with my clothes on!  Do we really need the weather people telling us what’s going on with their green screen and their Doppler radar and stupid hand gestures and walking back and forth across the tv screen.  You can’t have a tornado everyday!

So how did they come up with this train wreck of a forecast?  I think they’re just making it up, playing Wheel of Fortune on this big wheel they’ve got in their secret weather bunker except instead of dollars, they’ve got weather forecasts, you know, temperatures and chances of something happening.  And then they give the big wheel a spin!  Hey, it’s going to be 99° and NO CHANCE OF RAIN!  And if they screw it up, they give you some kind of B.S. about “accuracy in our weather forecasts is important to us because it’s important to you.”  You know, no apology for ruining your upholstery or your new hairdo, just a bunch of B.S.  And we take it!

I mean, what if every job gave you the kind of leeway the weather people get?  I mean what if the garbage man didn’t pick up your garbage but he’ll “get it next time”?  Or if NASA loses a manned space flight: “I guess Mars wasn’t where we thought it would be – sorry!”  Or how about some nuclear missile technician?  “Geez, I was just turning this key and the thing went off like a rocket!  Did I just start World War III?”  Yes! Yes, you did!

I mean, yeah, everybody makes mistakes or has a bad day, but geez, these weather people have screwing up down to a fine art.  You just imagine, if a casino owner ran his casino the way these weather people forecast the weather, you’d have Donald Trump…

A Trip to the ASMR Barber

As I have perused and abused YouTube for many years – I no longer maintain an account since Google+ took over – I came across the all-time greatest video which is Baba, the cosmic barber in Pushkar, India. If you haven’t seen it or even heard of him, wake up and check him out! Ironically, his videos led me to a niche genre of videos called ASMR, which are intended for relaxation and putting you back to sleep. 😛

So, what is ASMR? As any of the professorial-types will explain in their videos, ASMR is an acronym for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is characterized by the shiver you get down your spine or the tingle around your head or ears when you are getting something like a haircut or some other activity that typically involves personal attention. And “tingle” is a word that gets used over and over with those who make and comment on these videos.

What is an ASMR video like? Well, as I mentioned, a typical video involves some type of personal care activity where the “ASMRtist” is performing a comforting action for you. Many of the videos are done in low tones and some are merely relaxing sounds – those aren’t what I want to describe today; today I want to look at the difference between what I believe makes a watchable video and then those I wish were watchable – or, at least, not so flawed.

As I said, a haircut is one of the simulated activities that predominates the ASMR category and I rather prefer those since I do get that ASMR tingle effect from actual haircuts.

But these aren’t real haircuts – they’re play-acted, or “role-played” – which means there is going to be some bad acting which can lead to distraction, and distraction is a bad thing for ASMR.

Some of the amateurishness of these videos may not be from the acting itself but from lack of preparation on the part of the performer: not having the necessary items or implements on-hand and searching for them on-camera, or when someone performing as a “doctor” gets into some medical jargon and you can tell right off they haven’t got the slightest clue what they’re talking about, or even something as curiously evident as not having practiced the speaking part and doing a poor job of ad-libbing or improvising. I mean, no one twisted their arms to do these or that they had to be impromptu, how could they have not prepared what they were going to say? Not all of them are like this, but when they are, it’s obvious! Some other little points of duh would be giving a haircut without having a comb and blowing “hair clippings” or makeup from the viewer’s face – definitely a no-no in real life!

So, let’s get our haircut! I won’t mention any particular ones, but I do prefer the ladies, so let’s find one of those. Many of the female ASMRtists are attractive – some especially so – but that’s not really a prerequisite as it’s the voice that usually carries the day. What I have noticed about the haircut videos – and this is across-the-board typical with few exceptions – is how unrealistic they are! Let me explain:

Normally, the ASMR video will start out with the woman acting as a receptionist to confirm your appointment. Sometimes these conversations involve some chit-chat to set the tone but sometimes they go on and on – some lasting for up to five minutes! Sometimes the “barber” will do this part and can get into a painstaking explanation of every little detail from what implements will be used to the types of shampoos and conditioners employed. At this point, you will notice something that happens in every – and I mean every – ASMR video where something is being displayed for the viewer: the drumming of the fingers on the object – the “tapping”, as it’s called. Personally, I find this very annoying and unrealistic and certainly not “tingly”, but some people get off on that which brings me to another thing about ASMR videos: commenters will express their desires for certain things, like more tapping, that I find kind of gross and creepy. “I want more tapping… oh, yeah, that’s right, babe… OH, YEAH! That’s good… Oh, so many tingles! That’s so good… I’m melting…” Just the idea that there are some folks out there making these things into something akin to a foot fetish convention is unnerving. What I really appreciate in a good ASMR video is that it seeks to replicate the real-life experience, not cater to some weirdness. If my barber talked to me in a baby voice and told me she was going to cut my hair with scissors and then hold up a bottle and say she was going to wash my hair with shampoo while tapping it, I’d slap the thing out of her hands and scream, “Five minutes of this and you haven’t cut a single hair on my head? You just lost your tip!” Yeah, sounds like I need some relaxation, so back to the show…

From the viewer’s perspective, the barber will typically be centered in-frame and ask silly questions like, “is it okay if I get close to you?” Well. sure, unless you have freak arms and can cut my hair from across the room with your telescopic vision. 😛 So, they move in and will normally start cutting from this position:

Yep, there she is!  How could you not let someone this happy put a straight-razor across your throat? Drawing by James Montgomery.  ©2014 James Montgomery Studios

Yep, there she is! How could you not let someone this happy put a straight-razor across your throat?
Drawing by James Montgomery. ©2014 James Montgomery Studios

I think that it doesn’t dawn on people – and certainly not the performers – that no haircut in the world has ever been given like this unless the barber was sitting in the lap of the client!Haircut 3

You see, we have these things called “legs” and they get in the way of people standing directly in front of us if we are in a barber chair. Every haircut is administered from the side or, at least, a 3/4-view from the client’s perspective. Nevertheless, this is how the overwhelming majority of the haircut videos are done and many of the female ones look like this:Haircut 1

And occasionally this:Haircut 2

I can appreciate those scenes, all the while listening to scissors clipping wildly at my virtual hair in a way no barber ever cuts hair. Naturally, to combat the unwelcome exposure (and the comments that come with it), some women will make a point of holding their hand in a strategic point so that we are stimulated in the way intended and not because our hormones got interested.

Another aspect to all of this is the introduction of binaural microphones. Now the ASMRtist can direct their sounds to only one ear and get that kind of audio isolation one could only find on an old Led Zeppelin LP. As a result, the performer will often lean to one side, out of frame, and whisper something that is completely inappropriate for the “real-life” experience I alluded to earlier. If my barber did that, it would be met with a firm “knock it off, willya?”, but on the ASMR video it’s just warm fuzzy sonic nuzzliness.

Of course, this is the area where sounds, binaural or otherwise, start getting into areas that are inconceivably dumb to me. There are many, many videos incorrectly labeled as “inaudible” when what is intended is really “unintelligible”. These videos are typically someone saying gibberish at a very low volume, but it can be heard, so it is not “inaudible”! The widespread misuse of this term tells me that no one is taking the time to think about the words they are using and that pisses me off besides not liking these types of videos! These and the “whispering” videos are extremely annoying because they are frequently little more than “psst…psst…psst” and have all the tingle-inducing allure of a mosquito or house fly that just won’t leave you alone. Why people enjoy them is hard to fathom.

Another really bad sub-genre of ASMR is the “eating” or “mouth sounds” video. These videos sound alike, so I lumped them together, although the “mouth sounds” could be put into the “unintelligible” category. But these are what you think they are: smacking and crunching and slurping. These videos are just gross and, dare I say, stupid. Where I come from, this is called “bad manners”. It’s impolite to chew with your mouth open not only because nobody wants to see it, nobody wants to listen to it, either! Disgusting videos and they are presented as if they are some kind of treat! There is not a woman on the earth – not even Monica Bellucci – who could attract me by chewing her food so I could listen to it. There was that old line my fourth grade teacher used to say about people who chew gum looking like cows… Girls, there is nothing cute or soothing or ASMR-y about sounding like Jabba the Hut. For those who like it, damn…

Naturally, over the course of time, these ASMRtists had to keep finding new things to roleplay and the videos are ofttimes more about the roleplay and less about the ASMR. You have videos actually insisting there is something soothing about going to the dentist! Seriously? All I have to say about that is not in a million years will going to the dentist ever be anything that I will find comforting!

Check it out for yourself and see what you like and what crosses those boundaries of weird. ASMR is definitely a matter of “different strokes for different folks”. There’s make-up stylists, sci-fi adventures, tarot readings, and reiki affirmations, so you will probably find something you’ll enjoy in something you never knew existed until now!  As for me, I still get a thrill watching the All-Blacks rugby team do the haka!

Photoshop Enables My Dark Side

Photomanipulation of images from Getty Images and Lucasfilms, LTD.

Photomanipulation of images from Getty Images and Lucasfilms, LTD.

 

While there is certainly plenty that I could yip about concerning the cesspool that is the current state of American politics and social culture, in general, I thought I would just do something fun.  When I saw an article about Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, talking about how the Cowboys are the most popular reality show on TV, well, I couldn’t resist.  It was surprising how little I had to do to show Jerry’s true nature.  He just doesn’t know the true power of the Dark Side (Photoshop).

Yeah… I hate the Cowboys.

Hail to the… *psst, what’s their name again?*

I really do not want to keep writing sports-centric pieces, but the inclination for cracking wise got the better of me and I decided to scribble a little nonsense about the NFL team in the sights of the PC crowd: the Washington Redskins.

The owner, Dan Snyder, a not-so-great owner by most accounts, has vowed never to change the name even though many assert that the name is a racial insult perpetrated by the original owner, renowned racist George Preston Marshall. Slowly but surely, the drive to change the name among the general public has grown, but this is the world of high-finance sports and there will have to be a lot more voting with the wallet before any changes are seriously considered.

I have always maintained that if I was the owner of the team, I would change the name, but I would keep the basic design centered around the sweet spear insignia the Redskins wore from 1965-69.

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

photo by Walter Iooss, Jr., Sports Illustrated

However, the name would have to be good — excellent, in fact — and I would not call the team the “Washington Warriors”. Yuck!

My oh-so-very-clever idea for the team name would be to call them the “Washington Engines”, playing to the PC crowd by changing the name, explaining that the name has to do with Washington being the “engine” that drives the country or some other malarkey, while also playing to the racist crowd who didn’t find anything wrong with the native denigration. Racist, you ask? Just keep saying the name. Phonetics, thou art a harsh weapon of wit!

Now that I think about it, since “Engines” would be more appropriate for a city like Detroit, the franchises could switch locations and the Lions would move to Washington, except the spelling of their name would be changed to “Lyin’s” to make it a better fit to match the character of their new hometown.

Yeah, so I won’t be buying the team anytime soon.

Waddle ‘Round the Wadi

Here is a little ditty I wrote as a faux Gilbert and Sullivan show tune. If the metre seems a bit strained, it’s because the music’s changing time signatures are tortuous! It works, believe me. So here is my passionate Persian poem:

Noon in the market square,
I saw you standing in red.
Haggling for cooking wares,
A burqa over your head.

I could only see your eyes,
In your Islamic disguise,
But I have to ask this question of you:

Oh, won’t you waddle ’round the wadi with me?
We’ll only go as far as that distant tree.
The riverbed’s mostly dry,
But I’m a refreshing guy,
And you’re the most attractive mound of cloth I see.

Behind your veil your passion’s burning secretly.
And you don’t have to scream for security.
Cause dear, I mean you no harm,
And you know that I’m not armed.
So won’t you waddle ’round the wadi with me?

I feel the warmth from your smile shining unseen,
And I thrill at your hair’s lovely hidden sheen.
When you avert your eyes what could that mean?
Beneath the reams of cloth you wear,
does your heart beat for me there?

I’ll never see your face,
Or feel the silk of your skin.
I’ll never give you chase,
Can’t tell which burqa you’re in.

But like a Persian star,
I’ll worship you from afar.
Oh won’t you waddle ’round the wadi,
waddle ’round the wadi,
won’t you waddle ’round the wadi with me?

©2013 James Montgomery

April Fool’s Day – A Pictorial Puzzle

Call it associative cognizance or the sophomoric tittering of a post-adolescence adolescent, but on this Day of Great Occasion, I have a puzzle: what does one picture have to do with the other?  As much as I like Melissa Harris-Perry, I have a long-held contempt for the chryon monkeys at MSNBC.  I don’t know what’s worse: them or the closed caption people at FOX.

Nevertheless, see if you can make the connection between these two pictures and why someone at MSNBC needs to be stooge-slapped.

How To Be An Ally

How To Be An Ally

SC

Trebek, I’ll take How to be Anally for $400.

So remember kids, just because you can make words fit a compositional layout a certain way, doesn’t mean you should make them fit together that way!

Allegorically Metamorphosizing

I used to be proud of my gun,
I cleaned it and shot it each day.
But when I saw what others had,
I looked at my gun with dismay.

For my gun was well-used,
It had been used quite a lot.
And I had steady aim,
To fire each and every shot.

But no matter how much I oiled,
Or along its length I rubbed,
My barrel just wasn’t long enough,
To me, it looked like a snub.

And the targets proved more demanding
I was sure it wasn’t my eyes.
Nor was it my stance or my grip I knew,
It was the lack of my gun barrel’s size.

So I went to the gun store,
To survey the supplies they had.
Perhaps, I thought to myself,
My gun wasn’t really that bad.

So I told the owner my problem,
And I smiled when I offered him thanks.
He said there was nothing wrong with my aim,
My gun had been loaded with blanks!

Now I laugh as I let others shoot it,
To think I wanted my gun to be bigger.
It’s much more fun to watch,
As I let others pull the trigger.

©2012 James Montgomery