Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some Things I Actually Enjoy About The Christmas Season

Some Things I Actually Enjoy About The Christmas Season
by Rob Cottignies

I used to have a blog that exposed the hideous truths behind classic Christmas-related songs. I enjoyed writing it because it got everyone all bummed out. It was really good: well-researched and humorous with purpose. Well, it was mediocre at best, but there were occasionally favorable moments.
Instead of posting it again, I’m writing this blog to counter that one. It’s fairly known that I dislike Christmas and its entire wretched season, which somehow grows longer each year. I think it’s completely phony and full of uncomfortable obligations that ultimately don’t matter. But enough humbug (for now). As the title spoiled, this blog shall list five things related to the horribly obnoxious season which I actually enjoy. Yule love it!


I love cold weather, especially when snow joins the party. I love looking at snow, playing in it, and even shoveling it, though I most certainly will not shovel your stupid driveway. Everything gets so gloriously white, the big flakes make for great pictures, and sometimes you can witness a little kid or ancient fart slipping and getting hurt. Everyone wins when it snows!
It also makes me feel really good when people whine and complain about the snow. To know that I enjoy the hell out of something that makes people unhappy really lights a fire under my Yule log.
Another enjoyable factor about snow is when people freak out and buy gallons of water and loaves of bread because we’re supposed to get three inches and clearly they’ll be trapped inside for weeks.
Unfortunately, people lately like to say that they’ve “outgrown” snow because now they have to shovel it instead of playing in it. I say do both! Go jump off a porch into a fresh pile of snow! It’s so nice!

Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)

Many people know this song by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a side project for members of Savatage, who released the original version in 1995 on their album Dead Winter Dead. It got an even bigger boost when a popular video featuring holiday lights on a house that awesomely blinks in rhythm to this song came out. Aside from being a great tune, it was inspired by something equally awesome, though sad. A cellist (guy who plays the cello; nothing to do with an iPhone) who had left Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, returned years later to find his native city in ruins. Amid the fighting and bombing, he climbed what was left of a fountain and began playing his cello. He did this to show that not all beauty was lost to destruction. He posited that both sides could have just enjoyed the music had they bothered to stop fighting for a moment. This idea is represented in the song by the orchestra and heavy guitars “doing battle” with each other.
His hope for ending the fighting had failed but his story was told when a local reporter tracked him down to ask why he did such a wonderful thing in such a dangerous area. His answers were simple and fairly obvious.
His name is Vedran Smailović.


             You know how you’ve always heard that this Santa Claus has lists labeling nice and naughty children? The nice ones supposedly get gifts but what about the naughty ones? You may think they receive coal in their stockings, which is still a gift and can actually be quite useful. Instead (or in addition) they get to deal with Krampus. In Germanic folklore, Saint Nicholas brings good children gifts every December. To contrast, Krampus, a demonic-looking hellbeast, is in charge of the bad children. He arrives with a whip and chains, stuffs bad kids into his bag, and brings them to his lair, which is similar to a more-familiar fiery place that’s below ground. It is said that Krampus stepped in once bratty kids were no longer afraid of a jolly man bringing them coal. In real life, on Krampusnacht, the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, chain- and whip-wielding drunks dress up as insane goat-men and terrorize children into behaving properly. In case you couldn't figure it out, I generally enjoy things that frighten children...

Bad Santa

            As you could probably guess, I enjoyed the likes of the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge while growing up; but what bothered me about their stories was the end. Sure, people can change, but the 180s these characters pulled never struck me as believable. I would watch about two-thirds of the stories and imagine my own ending, where Christmas was ruined and everyone was not necessarily miserable, but more aware of their own selfishness. I thought I would never again watch an entire Christmas movie. Then stepped in a drunken Billy Bob Thornton. I watched with glee as his Santa would get drunk, vomit, get drunk, steal things, get drunk, pick up gross women, and get drunk, all while saving some time to get drunk. I laughed and loved it, then was saddened by the thought that his tale was probably going to end like my other heroes. It sort of did, but in a perfectly negative manner. I don’t like kids but how could anyone not change after hanging with Thurman Merman for a few weeks?
            Home Alone is great too.

Christmas Date Rape

My last favorite thing about the Christmas season is a song which is apparently not called 'Christmas Date Rape', but ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’. It was written by Frank Loesser, who wrote songs for Guys And Dolls, among other popular plays. He performed it with his wife, who referred to it as “our song”. Then, in typical Gene Autry-esque Yuletide fashion, Loesser made his wife very sad by selling the song's rights for personal profit.
Have you ever really listened to the lyrics? The song is about a woman who is over a man’s house. She tries to leave but he keeps convincing her to stay with the same rebuttal that gets more aggressive and just creepier. I’ve called the song ‘Christmas Date Rape’ around people who thought I was being a big jerk only to hear actual lines like ‘Say, what’s in this drink?’ While I am no fan of date rape, the idea of it being so overt in a popular noel amuses me greatly. Take another listen and enjoy!

DMX Owning Rudolph

We all know that DMX- the heavy metal of rap- can make any situation better. But could he possibly improve a beloved decades-old holiday tune? Well, see for yourself.


Lest you forget my old blog and its curmudgeonly mis-cheer, I now present this lovely summary of it:
-‘Jingle Bells’ has nothing to do with Christmas but a whole lot to do with alcoholism, adultery, and ignorance. And it was written by a Confederate soldier.
-‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’ was written as a drinking game in the Middle Ages. This song is misogynistic, I could never figure out why lords leap; and they are Colley birds- not 'calling'. Thankfully, there is (for now) only one day of Christmas, which I think is still too many.
-Grandma got run over by a reindeer, huh? At least Grandpa is getting drunk and gambling. In fact, once word arrives that Grandma has been brutally killed, nobody cares other than to wonder if they should return the gifts they got for her. Nice, real nice.
-The creator of the storybook ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ received no royalties when it was made into a song and movie. He died broke and alone. And try not to overlook the moral of the story- it's fine to make fun of someone for being different so long as you’re nice if they selflessly get you out of a jam.
-The disobedient brat who saw his mommy kissing Santa Claus will be scarred for life and grow up to think adultery is acceptable and/or that his parents are weird perverts.
-The Christmas Shoes. I mean, come on.

To close, Christmas is awful and I’m going to start gut-punching people for every commercial that uses the melody of a carol but changes its words to something like ‘Tis the season to buy a Honda’ or whatever happens. Cars, jewelry, over-priced toys. Save your time and money and just enjoy the company of those around you, if possible. If you feel like getting these people gifts, do it randomly instead of when you’re ‘supposed to’. And if the thought is really what counts, put some actual thought into these gifts.
Try to make the world a better place. You know, for Jesus.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Social Commentary- Oceans Of Death

Oceans Of Death
by Rob Cottignies

A bunch of years ago, in a place that is approximately 5,794 miles from where I am sitting, Pyramids were erected. Yes, I said erected. These massive structures were each built for one dead ruler, who was wrapped up and shut into a secret room filled with riches. How was the room secret? Well, slaves were mainly responsible for building the Pyramids, burying the pharaoh within, then booby (huh huh, booby)-trapping the rooms and halls on their way out to prevent thieves from entering the tomb. These slaves and other unlucky workers were then violently murdered and thrown into mass graves, which were a fraction of the size of a Pyramid and held hundreds of bodies. Isn't my blog full of fascinating information? Too bad nobody reads it.
Anyway, it was eventually decided that neither of these methods was acceptable- hundreds in a mass grave or a giant tomb for one guy. So cemeteries, which are an odd combination of the two, came to be. My point here is that cemeteries have also run their course.
            Now, the etymology of 'cemetery' is all Greek to me, but Wikipedia describes a cemetery as 'a spatially defined area where the remains of dead people are buried'. The remains of dead people. This, to me, sounds a lot like rotting flesh and a gathering of bones which could be fashioned into weapons for hunting bison. Instead, this is all just… below ground. What is the point?
            Some people find solace in visiting the graves of their fallen loved ones. Some people also smear peanut butter on their genitalia and allow their dogs to lick it off. Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s right.
So what happens after death? It's difficult to find writing on this topic but some that I've found allude to things called souls and thetans and places such as heaven, Chuck E Cheese, and nirvana, even though that's a state of being as opposed to an invisible location. Believe what you will but know this one fact- Upon the cease of bodily life, many many people pay many many dollars for many many loved ones to be inserted into an expensive box which will be lowered into the ground and covered with soil, never to be seen again. What a archaic, pointlessly depressing, ugly ritual that renders the land useless.
You're looking for a solution to this disaster, correct? Of course you are and of course I have one. A very simple one which some cultures already embrace and on which these folks have improved the idea. Get ground up and planted as a tree! Can you sit under a tombstone and read? Can you fall out of a plot marker? Does a mausoleum go through photosynthesis, thus creating life-giving oxygen for live people to breathe?
Is that idea a little too hippie and ideal for you? Then have a Viking funeral! That's what I want, should I become a corpse. I'm not a Viking but I'm also not a cranky old Jewish man yet I use words like ‘chutzpah’ and ‘shmutz’. Bad analogy; I care. For a Viking funeral, the body in question is placed on some sort of craft made from wood and tastefully decorated by loved ones and adoring fans. Craft and body are then set ablaze, on fire, ENGULFED BY FLAMES. Craft and body and fire are then pushed off to sea and observed until all are consumed. Then, possibly and hopefully, there is a wild beach party in the deceased's honor. Wood from the Earth, open air, fire, and water releasing a spirit to wherever spirits go. All five elements. Wonderful.
Is that too Anglo-Saxon for you? Then just volunteer for your body to be eaten by something. I actually wrote that as an alternative but as an insult it's not a bad suggestion if you'd like to go do that right now.
            As with any brilliantly flawless and spectacular idea, there is a downside to cemetery elimination- loss of jobs. Sure, greenskeepers could find other work, but what about funeral directors, their employees, and headstone makers? Well, they could learn another trade. This is the 90s, after all. Also, certain florists could lose considerable business. What they could do is hire writers to petition Hallmark to invent another holiday like they did with Valentine’s Day to boost their floral sales. See, I think of everyone.
And speaking of flowers, how much death does a cemetery need to consume? Weeping people lay flowers six feet above their relative or friend's rotting corpse, and what happens to the flowers? They become rotting flora-corpses. The same thing happens to all of the arrangements delivered to funeral homes. The death of one human causes other humans to kill hundreds if not thousands of plants. Zennists believe in balance. This is a great example of the opposite.
            My big question is, 'What will happen when there's no more room for dead people?' It must happen eventually; Earth’s population is only going to increase. Don't tell me they're going to keep adding cemeteries until the world is clad with rocks listing people's names and some numbers. But what’s the alternative? Dig people up and replace them? Who decides this? Instead of nonsense, use this land productively. Housing of some kind, a social gathering place filled with bonfire pits, a field somehow used to discipline rude children; there are lots of ideas. 'Oh, but if we dig up the bodies to reuse the land, whatever we put there will be haunted.' Shut up. You're a superstitious moron who should be thrown into a volcano. Hey, there's another nice alternative to cemeteries!

What would you want done with your Earthly body should you become so intelligent that you no longer have a use for it?
I've already answered this. Pay attention.

This may be unrelated, but would you consider a job as an executioner?

How do you know about random things like Zen and pyramid-building?
Read a book.

How great are Vikings?
Like, really great.

Friday, September 27, 2013

They're Only Words

They’re Only Words
by Rob Cottignies

I consider myself to be unoffendable, especially when it comes to my geographical background. Call me this, call me that- I don't care. For those wondering, I am 1/2 Spanish, 1/4 Irish, and 1/4 Belgian- spic, dago, mick, waffle-lover (people don't really make fun of Belgians). They're all fine with me, and you know why? To give the obvious quote by the wonderful George Carlin, "They're only words." I appreciate a good insult if it's done cleverly, no matter who the recipient is. But if it's something stupid meant in a hurtful way, I just kind of feel bad for the insulter, who probably has no idea what he or she is actually saying. And that's why we're here today- to explain some common slurs and why they're actually not very harmful.

To start with myself, spic wouldn't even be accurate. It's a shortened form of 'Hispanic' and for some reason is generally reserved for Central and South Americans. My relatives came from Spain. So yeah, don't call me that, if only because it's inaccurate. Dago is an odd word the British used to describe Spaniards, Italians, and/or the Portuguese. It's often used "against" Spaniards as a shortened form of the name Diego. How mean.

I'll get to mick in a little bit and, honestly, nobody makes fun of Belgians. They make waffles and their beer is amazing and many people cannot find their country on a map. However, they are sometimes referred to as Phlegms, a homophone of Flems, meaning the Flemish, who make up only one part of Belgium. Flemish is also one of Belgium's official languages and is really just a strange mix of Dutch, French, and German. So go ahead, make fun of a cultured place.

I said I'd get to mick, and here it is: People try to insult the Irish by calling them micks. It should be noted that people also fail at insulting the Irish by calling them drunks. Mick is the verbalization of the 'Mc' found at the beginning of many Irish last names. It means 'son of'. If your last name is McDonald, at one point in your lineage some guy was Donald's son. The "slur" for Scottish people, Mac, follows the same idea. In fact, many last names implore this method. Leif Ericson was the son of Eric The Red. Faroese musician Eivør Pálsdóttir's ancestor was the daughter of someone named Pál. Unless you're saying McBitch or Scumsdóttir, there is no harm. As a lovely sidenote, my mother once called me a son-of-a-bitch without realizing she was actually insulting herself. Irony. See how much fun words can be!?

For an unfun word, let’s go to nigger. The word nigger has gone through many forms since its initial ‘niger’ word from the Latin. It meant ‘color black’. ‘Niger’ means ‘black’ in many languages, as does negro, another “derogatory” word. Niger is even the name of an African country. The word nigger was originally not derogatory, and at one time could be compared with today’s ‘dude’ or ‘guy’. Dude Jim. After the slaves in America were freed, many took low-earning jobs in entertainment by portraying clumsy, unsophisticated characters. This correlation gave the word its common negative tone. The moral is, the word itself just means black. That’s your skin color, and that’s OK with me.

While we’re on skin color, gringo refers to white foreigners, mainly according to Mexicans. It means your skin color is white, and that’s also OK with me. White Americans are also sometimes “pejoratively” referred to as crackers. Crackers are delicious, and we all know that being associated with delicious food is not a bad thing. Black people and fried chicken, the Chinese and rice, Belgians and waffles. Great! Anyway, crackers were the primary food source of lower-class people in 16th-century England. Some of those folks were sent to the penal colony now known as the state of Georgia and the term came with them. Do you know who initially called these people crackers? White folks!

All I can say about gook is that, like the rest of these words, it is harmless. First of all, this word has been used “against” Asians, various Europeans, and the English. How can one word offend several nationalities? It doesn’t make sense. The origins of gook as we know it likely trace back to Korea, which was originally called Hanguk [han-gook]. Or, during the Korean War, Koreans often asked the question “Mi Guk?”, which somewhat-loosely translates to “Are you American?” Americans thought Koreans were saying “Me gook!” and began calling them gooks, which was actually their word for Americans! Isn’t this crazy!?

Two words which should be thrown into this cornucopia of controversy are faggot and dyke. The origins of faggot are hazy, but the word initially meant ‘bundle of sticks’. This created the idea that the word’s etymology derives from the days of witch-burning. When a witch was tied to a stake, he or she was surrounded by ‘bundles of sticks’. Theorized but unproven, it is said that homosexuals were burned on the lain faggots because they were “not good enough” to be burned at the stake. Another theory suggests that old women who gathered bundles of sticks were called faggots. This somehow got transferred to effeminate and/or gay men. And in Robin Hood: Men In Tights, when Rabbi Tuckman asks Robin if his “merry men” are faygeles, he’s *literally* asking if they are little birds. So there- this got nowhere. If any or all of this is true, I wonder why people say God is so against sticks and birds.

If nothing else, derogatory words are fair in that there’s at least one for every group or type of people. Gay men had their turn, so now come gay women. Dyke is a shortened form of the word bulldyker, which was coined in the 1920s by- gasp!- a black man. He was wondering why women were bulldyking, which meant getting women into bed with them. At the time, that was a man’s term for a man’s job! Like faggots were originally women, dykes were originally men. What is going on with these words!?

For one last little History lesson, when the (unfortunate) influx of Italians hit this country, many of them did not have proper documentation. Instead of sending them away, the immigration workers simply wrote 'without papers' on the immigrants' entry forms. This was so frequent that 'without papers' was shortened to WOP. Similarly, when Jewish people entered America after some distasteful incidents throughout Europe, many of them could not write their names in English on the entry forms. Instead, they drew a circle. The Yiddish word for 'circle' is 'keikl' [kike-uhl]. So Italians forget their IDs and Jews enjoy round shapes. I don't see the problem.

Actually, I do. The problem is with people who throw these words around to make others feel bad. The emphasis, rather than the meaning, is what makes a slur so hurtful. So, to quote myself from my first ‘literally’ blog post, stop using words whose meanings you do not know. And stop being offended by words that really aren’t so bad. There are plenty of clever ways to insult people which don't rely on pointless shock-value.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Social Commentary- Literally III

Literally III
by Rob Cottignies

There is a dog named Pete. He’s a dopey little thing with short stick legs; the kind of dog you’d often see on illegally-too-long leashes in the park. Upon meeting this dog, someone recently exclaimed something to this effect- ‘His name is Pete? I literally just met another dog named Pete. Literally Pete.’ While the first use of the sad and abused L word is apparently acceptable now, the second one was completely inappropriate, ridiculous, and obviously wrong. It made no sense, but it inspired a scheme in my brain. I’ll get to that. This poor word is running through a gauntlet of eternal misery. Every time I conquer an incorrect usage, a newer one is lurking around the corner with a battle axe. If a building exploded each time ‘literally’ was used improperly, we’d all be homeless. It’s being thrown around like a live grenade covered in spikes and bad similes. I’ve accepted that this abuse will not stop but will likely increase to a clinically-maddening level, but I’m still going to fight the good fight. I believe ‘literally’ will be used only for translation once again.
So, on that, everyone is in a big old hullaballoo because certain dictionaries and other resources have added a definition to the ‘literally’ entry. It states, and I quote from merriam-webster.com, ‘in effect; virtually’. This has rendered the term useless. Why? Well, its two definitions are OPPOSITES of each other. Can a stop sign be red and not red? OK, very funny, one could make a blue stop sign if one were so inclined. But that’s not what I mean and if you think it is, play with a toaster in the bathtub. “But the toaster could be unplugged.” Ugh, you bother me.
Without getting into a crazy philosophical debate (which I am willing to do), something cannot be something and also not be that same something. “When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar!” You’re killing me.
Anyway, this dictionarial addition happened simply because people are using the word horribly. I know words tend to change meanings in living languages but I’ve never heard of this. I’m wondering if I start calling fire trucks ‘buggiblops’ and it catches on like an insanely infectious disease, would it too be added to the dictionary?
This unfortunate situation reminds me of another word which has been flagrantly misused. ‘Anymore.’ For knowledge’s sake, this word must be preceded by some kind of negative. I don’t set people on fire anymore. The statement clearly shows that I formerly engaged in bodily arson, but for various reasons I no longer partake. This grammatical assault was more common a few years ago, when I overheard a man in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, say ‘It’s all bullshit anymore.” His wordage was incorrect, but I did and still do agree with him.
Now, back to ‘literally’, my aforementioned brainscheme goes as follows: What I would like for myself and people on my side in this war to being doing is completely destroying the word. I know this is being done anyway, but I’m talking about savagery. Go to the butcher shop and ask for fifteen pounds of shredded ‘literally’. For example, say things like this:
‘That tree is literally.’
‘My literally name is Rob.’
‘I literally did a literally job.’
Beat the life out of this word. Use it where it can’t even be disguised as making sense by some stupid Redcoat dictionary. Use it as an adjective, noun, verb, or even a part of speech that doesn’t exist.
‘Literally is going to literally the literally.’
What!? Saying things like this will get you some pretty strange looks, however take comfort in knowing that you gave these looks first to the people who began this whole atrocity.
Post-script: I was going to name this post ‘Literally The Third’ since it’s the third in my thusfar unheeded series, but I opted for ‘Literally III’. This is clever because it says the same thing but III also looks like the word ill. You’re welcome.
Post-post-script: Off-topic, and perhaps this could be another useless post, but I recently had a nice discussion with two Italians about the use of ‘You’re welcome’ as a response to being thanked. I think it makes no sense. Here is what does make sense- ‘Hey, this is your first time to my house. You’re welcome.’ It’s a gestural statement. ‘Thanks for helping me move my couch.’ ‘You’re welcome.’ ‘To what? The couch? But it’s already mine. And it smells funny.’ This is how I see it: As usual, the Europeans have it right. Bitte. De nada. De rien. Prego. Tað var so lítið. Khahesh mikonam. Не за что!
Look those up and translate them.