All posts by Jay

Remembering Kim Parsell

Some time after December 24th, Kim Parsell died in her home, in bed. I do not know how she died, but seeing how we can draw no lessons from the circumstances of her passing, the facts of how are not germane to the life she lived.

And what a life did she live!

So many of us in the WordPress community know her as #wpmom, and we have given her that title for good reason. She was the wet blanket who threw herself on the fire of drama. She brought people together and had the salty, country-gal personality who would not put up with your bullSHIT and yet would never break one rule of ettiquette in the process of letting you know.

I remember when, in the closing hour of WordCamp Baltimore 2012, she handled a situation with a very disgruntled guest who got on my nerves. She was a professional, and she helped me keep my professionalism intact.

Many of you know her from working on the Documentation team at; I know her as the friend I met at some WordCamp or the other but who’s always stayed in touch. She always checked in to make sure I was doing okay, especially during times of personal crisis. She made an effort to be there for the people who wanted her to be there; and was genuinely sad when she could not make it to an event she’s committed to.

Kim was a dreamer. There are confidences that even her death won’t allow me to break, but she had aspired to shift gears a little and make a living in technical writing; her work for the WP Docs Team was her avenue to prove the value of documentation, and I am crushed, absolutely crushed, that she never got the chance to see that dream through. We are not owed our dreams, but she worked hard to make them happen.

And isn’t that what the whole point of Kim Parsell is? “Keep your head down and kick ass,” she told me once. “The recognition will come, and even if it doesn’t, you know you worked hard.” She never spoke of herself as other than “the little ol’ crazy lady at the top of a hill in Ohio,” and she was always gracious in accepting recognition of any kind that was beyond that self-image of hers.

I am still grieving over her death. When I got the news last night, and was told to keep it on the down-low, I couldn’t help but but unleash a passive-aggressive stream of tweets. I was growl-screaming in my living room while chatting with my closest friends who also knew the news. I felt regret at every invitation to WC Columbus that I didn’t take, knowing that she had made an effort to go to every WordCamp we held in Baltimore. I am sad that I won’t ever get to share cigarettes with her anymore, and that she won’t ever talk my ears off about anything and everything under the sun.  But I also know that this is not how she would want me to react. “You’re fussing over me too much,” she would say.

And she is exactly right. However, I get to say goodbye but once.

Goodbye, my friend. It’s so very, very nice to have known you.

My first year at WebDevStudios

I joined WebDevStudios in late December of 2012, after a brief stint in full-time freelance work. I was presented with an offer that I couldn’t pass up. A year later, I can unequivocally state that my life and my skills in this craft are better, way better, than I could have imagined.

I work with a very supportive team. I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, and to not let pride get in the way of a project. We had a grand time in WordCamp San Francisco, where we as a team got together and not just learned together at the conference, but also learned more about each other when we all shared a living space (and what a space that was!) together for those days. They are, as they say, Good People, and it’s hard to put the details into words. I just know that I can not imagine myself working for and with another team.

I started off as a designer, and I still am. I love making mockups when the projects need it. I love giving feedback to clients and telling them that their design idea might need a little massaging to make it work within the medium. In this aspect, WDS provides me with a medium to perform tasks that I love.

There is no growth, though, in staying within one’s comfort zone. Our projects at WDS have constantly presented new challenges to me, new ways for me to learn new things, and not just about visual design, HTML and CSS (which have been my forte). I’ve learned to manipulate data in WP objects. I’ve gotten creative with loops and logic and yes, some of my work may seem extremely hackish to seasoned developers but dammit, I did it. And the best part is most of my developer-y work passes QA with very few tweaks from a senior dev.

A year in, I wouldn’t call myself as well-hybridized a designeveloper as Justin Sternberg, who’s been at this for three years now, but I am learning. And I am always learning something new. Every day.

This coming year will be no different.

Recapping 2012

It was a year that flew by so quickly that I had spent little time noting events, and worse, self-reflection. One event quickly moved to the next before I could tap the brakes and squiggle a few notes here or on paper. The past year was marked by a lot of travel: WordCamp Miami, WordCamp NYC, WordCamp Boston, WordCamp Philly, WordCamp Raleigh. That’s just on the business side. I attended CPAC thanks to my work with Misfit Politics; made new friends and business relationships both in my WordPress circles as well as with the Conservative community.

Professionally, at the end of September, I quit my sales job of four and a half years to go into business as a full-time WordPress professional, only to take the opportunity of opportunities to work with WebDev Studios. I’ve only been two weeks into the new job and I am very, very happy to be working with the team that Brad, Brian and Lisa had put together. Additionally, I am permitted to moonlight in the same industry (with reasonable restrictions, of course) and I’ve been the designer of choice for a small roster of freelance developers and PR consultants. I also co-organized WordCamp Baltimore with Andy Stratton.

Personally, I am in the best physical condition in recent years. After I blew up to 225 pounds this June, I decided to take extra measures towards my gym activities and finally trained like I meant it. I am now at 189 pounds and my goal is to be between 170 and 180 pounds, but more importantly, the focus will be on refining and conditioning rather than simple weight loss. I don’t want to be one of those skinny-fat guys. I’ve been there and I hated it worse then when I was at my heaviest.

I paid off my car. After five years, I paid off my car!

What am I aiming for this coming year? For one, I’m moving to my own place, either in June or September. I’ll be traveling just a little less, but would love to spend more time at each destination. Pay off all my debts by end of year. Do great work: work that does my colleagues, employers, and clients proud. Tend to my relationships, both personal and professional. Get ripped. That’s it. The goals seem simple, but the road ahead will have its share of turns and bends, and I’d love to share more of the road ahead with you.

The Work/Life Balance

It’s been two months since I started working for myself, and it’s been great. The fair warnings from friends were fair, though outcomes aren’t as terrible as some have feared. Client work is amazing when one knows how to set boundaries, and this concept of boundaries is, as I am coming to learn, almost foreign to the self- and home-employed.

When I gave a talk at WordCamp Raleigh about some very useful career tips (admittedly, a little light on technical info), one of the things I shared was how I have a laptop dedicated to work. At the end of the day, I not only shut the lid, I shut the thing down completely. I do. And my life is the better for it.

Inspired by a conversation on Twitter about boundaries and how a friend doesn’t even have internet access at home save for what’s on his smartphone, I took a few minutes to take stock of my day, what I do, and The Important Things, as they say:

  1. Three and a half hours of fitness: weights and cardio, from 5am through 830. 
  2. Home at 9 and banging out code or graphics. One hour lunch break, which breaks the extended daily fasts that I take as part of my fitness goals.
  3. Finish at 6.
  4. Hang out with friends or significant other. Read a book, watch TV, go for a walk, go people watching, or just relaxing in perfect quiet at home.
  5. Go to bed between 830 and 10.
  6. Rinse, repeat next day.

I have neither spouse nor child and the demands of life  outside of work are strictly between that of my Important Person and my own personal trifles. In this I may be considered lucky, although I must warn: ennui is a dangerous thing, and when Friday 6pm rolls around and I shut the laptop down, and have little to do outside the home, it can get… crazyfying.

But for anyone who might ask: how do I do it? How do I compartmentalize? How do I shut off? I give one bit of advice: find a hobby or passion that demands your perfect attention. You see: I cannot think about CSS while balancing 135 pounds of weight across my delts and chest to do front squats. I would hurt myself. I cannot think about a WordPress theme I’m working on when I am also concentrating on the perfect form for cleans. When I am at the gym, I have to concentrate or else I waste my time there and open myself to greater risks for injury.

I cannot afford that.

The same goes for Professional Time. I give myself eight hours a day. If I cannot do what I need to do in those eight hours, it is not a failure of the expansive to-do list. It is my failure to manage my time. (Factor in the fact that I also tweet, answer emails, take phone calls (scheduled ones) and instant message with colleagues during Professional Time.)

Because I have made a deal with myself that my time is strictly my responsibility, it is easy for me to get what I need done, done in the time I need it to be done. Try it some time, and you’ll see that boundaries will fall into place naturally.

Getting started with my life.

I am proud to announce that I have signed on Lisa Sabin-Wilson  of E.Webscapes as a major client. In doing so, I am finally launching my career as a full-time, self-employed web designer and developer. That’s the long and short of it. For the details, keep reading.

If you had told me twelve years ago, when I was senior in college, that I would one day start my own business as a web professional, I would’ve laughed. I was finishing my biology degree. I was going to move to the States, work and save money for a few years and get into medical school. I was going to get my money’s worth and be a damned good physician.

Then, life threw me a couple of curve balls and I had to reassess. I can’t get into details, but it took a few months for me to get over things and around Christmas of 2001, my mom got me my first computer. My very own. And she also paid for a cable internet subscription. That’s when I discovered this glorious thing called the Internet.

That’s when I also rekindled a passion that I forgot I had. Our family business back in the day was in printing. I had plenty of books related to page layout, graphic design and typography. I knew how to go beyond making things look good on a page, but also to have aesthetics work towards effective communication. I learned HTML and CSS in the pioneering years and the focus on semantics resonated with me.

I learned to make webpages. Nice ones. And then, when I started running into issues of scalability and management, I had come across such blogging programs as Grey Matter and Movable Type. And I ran into this lightweight, easy to configure program called b2. Then b2 got forked into WordPress, and I found a platform on which I can make awesome sites.

I worked on this part time for years, and didn’t really get into networking and marketing my skills until around 2009 when I attended my first WordCamp. It was Mid-Atlantic, and was organized by Aaron Brazell. That’s when I started to introduce myself to a vibrant community of developers, designers, and other people who have made a career out of WordPress.

That’s when I discovered the gap in skills that I needed to close. But more importantly: that’s when I learned that this is what I want to do in life. So I hit the books, learned by doing, and eventually mustered the confidence to speak at WordCamps.

felt myself grow. Issues that used to be problematic became easier to solve. I learned to solve problems that I hadn’t dreamed of solving.

I didn’t do it alone. I had made friends with developers and designers who are more skilled than I. And beyond asking them to do my work for me, I asked them to point me in the right direction. Then I did the research and I did the work. Every project taught me something new. 

I wouldn’t have had the business and sales skills to confidently venture into this without the years of work that I did, not doing web work. I worked at Best Buy, I worked at a cadaver lab with incorrigible co-workers, and I am leaving my employer of four and a half years for whom I’ve sold, five days a week, eight hours a day. Sales teaches you about people. I recommend time in sales to anyone who wants to enter into a creative profession, whether it’s through self-employment or with an employer. It will teach you a lot about yourself and the people around you. It will teach you the responsibility that comes with the ability to convince people to trade money for value.

And now, I’m here. I’m an associate designer for E.Webscapes, which means majority of my client work will be for the agency’s clients. I also have the freedom to continue nurturing existing clients and to find my own (with certain limitations, of course). I am embarking on a few professional projects with other web developers, and I will be applying my skills towards making awesome sites and making awesome products. This is not just a job, and this is not just my career. This is my way life.

I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do this, without the confidence of so many people more skilled than I. The words of encouragement have helped alleviate my insecurities. The real talk from those who’ve been in the business longer than I has kept me grounded. When I started the whisper campaign about this career switch, all my developer and designer friends congratulated me. They all showed they believed in me. And it helped me believe in myself. I’m not afraid of disappointing anyone, but at the same time, I want to show my colleagues that their confidence in me is well placed.

I’ve been told, that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Believe me: I’m fucking scared. But there’s no turning back. I’m excited. I’m downright giddy. This is really happening.

I trust everyone who’s told me water isn’t just fine. It’s fucking great.

It’s time to jump.

Marilyn Hagerty and a peek into the America you’ve forgotten about

I first read the now-sensational Grand Forks, ND Olive Garden review by Marilyn Hagerty last night, and in response, I tweeted: “I should’ve written a review like that the day I learned Fat Tire—which I first had in May 2011—had entered Maryland last Oct.”

I really do not know what it was about the column that enamored me. Maybe it was the earnest tone with which she presented the fact that people lined up to eat at an Olive Garden in Grand Forks—GRAND FORKS!—North Dakota and it was written with so little self-consciousness about what the coastal communities from sea to shining sea would think about her and her city. Maybe it was the fact that she had given us a glimpse of communities outside our own—with our blazing fast Internet and “artisanal” dining and our hipster culture—communities that are just as American as ours, only with more heart and soul and yes, Virginia, for some communities in the Midwest, Red Lobster happens to be where you take your girlfriend to propose in front of a crowd and make her your fiancee.

Not a month ago, on Valentine’s Day, there was a tweet making the rounds about how men shouldn’t give their girlfriends mall jewelry store baubles and how you don’t take her out to Red Lobster on a date. To which I said that these people have no clue whatsoever about the backgrounds  of the people who are dining there. That young twentysomething guy with his girl? You don’t know how much he worked, to save up money for a dinner for him and his girl that would cost upwards of  forty dollars. You just don’t know. But sure, let’s sneer at them for their commercialized tastes and their plebian preferences? I’d rather not.

There was a lot of sneering directed at Marilyn Hagerty and the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, whose citizens lined up outside a new Olive Garden, whose citizens used to drive an hour and a half to Fargo just to eat at one, who now  have to put up with judgment from Coastal elites who exclaim in sheer horror about their lack of local and organic, farm-to-table dining options in the city of Grand Forks—GRAND FORKS!—North Dakota and why would anyone even want to live there much less eat at an Olive Garden and much less line up for one?

My vocal admiration of Mme Hagerty landed me a phone interview with Ryan Bakken in which I just poured out my thoughts. Grand Forks is Grand Forks. There was a scene in Friday Night Lights where colleges were trying to convince the individual Dillon Panthers to go to their schools and what they have to offer in terms of football and an education and one, one coach even said “we just had a new Costco open up recently.” Friends, this is America. And it’s bigger than what  you’re used to, and there’s so much more out there than what you think you already know.

So why judge? Why sneer at them from your nose that sits higher than your brow? Why is this so weird for so many of you? Why is it so bizarre to you that on karaoke night in a regional chain when the DJ plays the Cupid shuffle for an intermission about three fourths of the people leave their seats and their booths and just dance?

In my phone interview I critiqued restaurant reviews for being highbrow and pretentious. I had mentioned the Internet’s addiction to irony and mean-spiritedness. That’s about as much fire and brimstone I can bring up. Tomorrow we’ll be mean to each other. But tonight, I’ll borrow a page from Mme Hagerty’s interview with the Village Voice and just tell all the haters to go get a life.

Rest in Peace, Andrew Breitbart

This morning greeted us with tragic news of Andrew Breitbart’s passing. He was 43. He went where so few of us didn’t even have the courage to think of going, and I admire his work.

I am never wont towards fandom towards anyone in the political sphere. It didn’t matter if it was Speaker Boehner or a think tank fellow I was sharing a cigarette with. They’re all people to me.

I remember when I met him at Rightonline on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub. He arrived quietly without calling attention to himself. He sat on the edge of the gathered mass of people. I was introduced by a friend to him, first by my name and then with my alias. He smiled and said “I’ve heard of you.”

I didn’t get a picture with him. In fact, I almost never get pictures with famous people. But I remember that cool night Minneapolis, where Andrew Breitbart was just hanging out amongst people I called my friends. He had sat back and was taking it all in, in between conversations with the steady stream of people who wanted to say “hi.” It was like he drew strength from the people around him.

And now he’s gone. And we draw strength from his passing in the days to come.

More thoughts from: Ben Domench, Jeff Goldstein, and Brandon Morse.

A merry Christmas to all my friends

A few days ago I sat down to put together this year’s Christmas card list. Last year I sent out over twenty. This year, I couldn’t even keep up. Add to that the fact that it is not my habit to merely sign a Christmas card with some boilerplate greetings, no. If you got one from me last year you would know I pour my heart into it. Mushy and clingy, I know. So this year, I’d like to do something a little different, and it might look a little lazy if you don’t really know me, but.

If I have called you—and continue to do so—my friend, you do know that I have the best things to say about you. Know that I appreciate you in my life for reasons that I make aware to you on a regular basis. If you feel I’ve been in remiss in doing so, I am sorry. I want to thank you all for the love you have shown me. It’s kept me going through some very tough times.

Some of you are going through the worst of times at this season of the year. You are in my prayers.

I have learned early in school that Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. The story of the Christmas miracle is one that transcends faiths. Treat it as a fairy tale that teaches a lesson, if you want. If you’re of the Body Of Christ, this day is the foundation of half of our theology. May it inspire you to do good. May you be in the company of people who love you.

And if you need me: you know how to reach me. You already know I am here for you.

What in the world is happening to Rick Perry?

The Legend Of Rick Perry, prior to his announcing the candidacy, was polling over Mitt Romney. His supporters—we—were waiting with bated breath for him to join the primary, sweep away the sideshows, show he is Not Mitt Romney, and win the election next year.

Then, all the True Conservatives turned on him on matters of principle and competence, all the while trotting out Bachmann and Cain like they were better than Perry and Romney combined, and, to make a long story short, we’re going to be stuck with Romney.

How in the world did this happen? Perry’s debate gaffes are easily explicable. As governor of Texas, he’s had an amazing record in limiting the scope of the government. The problem is that he hasn’t been forced to justify his policies as if they were bad policies. I look at his gaffetastic debates and I see a man who finds it difficult to explain the obvious. We all know that the obvious is the hardest to explain.

This is why Perry has had such a tough time at the debates, and answering to questions about how he needle-raped little girls with Liquid Whore (a brilliant Ace of Spades -ism, perhaps the most brilliant one), or the TX educational initiative for the children of illegal aliens, or the license to hunt destructive wild boars from helicopters. To him, it is all obvious, which will make a Perry presidency, should it happen, very difficult. I still want him to win. I just wish more people did.

It’s time for Occupy Wall Street to get disbanded

For the most part, I have chosen to ignore Occupy Wall Street and similar events elsewhere on the blog while I took my damned glorious time to form an opinion. I had also focused more on We Are The 99 Percent, and have in the past tweeted responses to the postings especially for the most pathetic ones, and the ones who don’t quite follow the trend of that dismal blog.

I have spent some time following accounts of what’s going on in Zucotti Park and especially in Oakland, CA. Brady Cremeens has the definitive laundry list of why the entire Occupy movement, not just the one in NY, has lost its moral standing.

They’ve occupied “Wall Street” for over 45 days and in the time since, we have seen this “community” lose its sense of order. It started off as thefts; and the irony was so delicious when we read about an Occupier’s “$5000 mac laptop” getting stolen. For a bunch of folks who don’t believe in the property rights of those wealthier than them, they sure do complain when their property rights get violated. When I read about how the “food committee” started separating the “professional homeless” from the rest of the occupiers and recommended they go to a local charity, the irony and hypocrisy levels of the movement reached immeasurable heights.

But neither irony nor hypocrisy are enough to invalidate this movement, nor the petty thefts, nor the sympathy of the Communist Part of the USA nor that of American Nazi Party. None of those, from a purely legal standpoint, have any weight as to why Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD have the obligation to do their jobs and disband this “organization” and its occupation once and for all.

Reports of multiple instances of rapes—not just sexual harassment—and even child abuse have started to come out. Occupiers in DC accosted a Conservative conference, preventing people from leaving a building. Occupy Oakland has marauding bands of goons shutting businesses and ports down/ We’re hearing of Occupiers fearing for their own safety from each other. Instead of turning in these offenders to the police, we hear “official” statements from Occupiers about how they have “dealt with” the issue “internally.” Zucotti Park is now, officially, a haven for rapists.  Those participating in the occupation are guilty of complicity in the violation of their own women and children.

Morally, this was an eventuality. Despite all the allusions to appealing to peoples’ better natures, the entire Occupy Wall Street movement was a protest grounded in the envy of success. As a matter of criminality and public safety, this is to be expected of any movement that involves camping out in protest for an extended period of time, but those who say so miss one very important point: those who already are aware of that eventuality won’t even dream of doing what OWS is doing.

How ironic, that increased coverage of this event—meant to attract coverage—will be its downfall. Once OWS becomes a political liability for the Left, it will be time for Bloomberg, other mayors in other cities and their respective police departments, to crack down. In the meantime, the rapists will always find a tent to hide in.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being American

I’ve lived in the United States for over ten years now, though my citizenship won’t be available for another three (long story; ask me sometime). I don’t stop to think about it too much; I know I’ll pass my naturalization exam with flying colors. What does come across my mind occasionally is the question: what does it mean to be American?

Certainly it doesn’t merely mean knowing the accidents of American history and existence. There are things you can ignore—fried butter, Harley-Davidson, Viet Nam era student protests—as white noise in the data, but there is still a there to being American. There’s a je ne sais quoi, some might say, but I disagree. The whole concept to being American is so simple, it’s frightening.

It’s about Liberty: the kind that allows you to do as your conscience tells you; the kind that makes you face the consequences of your actions; the kind that doesn’t protect you from your own mistakes.

There is, however, an even more powerful freedom that this Liberty offers all Americans, immigrants and natural-born alike. Here’s a clue, from Max Brooks’ World War Z in the words of a (thinly veiled) Howard Dean as he recounts his time as vice president under (an equally thinly veiled) Colin Powell:

I was pointing to them, shouting and gesturing with the passion I’m most famous for. “We need a stable government, fast!” I kept saying. “Elections are great in principle but this is no time for high ideals.”

The president was cool, a lot cooler than me. Maybe it was all that military training … he said to me, “This is the only time for high ideals because those ideals are all that we have. We aren’t just fighting for our physical survival, but for the survival of our civilization. We don’t have the luxury of old-world pillars. We don’t have a common heritage, we don’t have a millennia of history. All we have are the dreams and promises that bind us together. All we have … [struggling to remember] all we have is what we want to be.

American existence is freedom from ethnographic baggage, if you choose to do so. As in immigrant, this is an exhilarating opportunity, and I am not alone. Listen to our stories, but most of all, listen to us when we start telling you about how we wouldn’t be anywhere close to the horizontal and vertical mobility we enjoy in this country.

If I had stayed in the Philippines with my biology degree, my mother would’ve broken her back trying to fund med school. Or, she could’ve dropped dead from the strain of working 60 hours a week here and living a life of self-denial, such that I wouldn’t have been able to finish and, well, who knows what I would’ve done. How many immigrants would tell you today: “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere back home.”

For an American born and raised in America, this freedom is an unbearable lightness. The story of natural born Americans is the search for identity. In this context, one can view the caricatural search for self-esteem and self-actualization in a fairer light. Europeans sneer at how Americans of Irish descent (and of not) celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Cultural celebrations of Old World customs reach comical proportions, and there is a reductive quality to the way natural born Americans pick and choose cultural aspects of their heritage. On its face it seems disrespectful. What does a natural born American of Irish descent know about the Irish’s struggle for survival during the great potato famine? Should he bear the weight of IRA’s terrorism?

Consider the Stuff White People Like blog in this light. It’s been called a damning critique of yuppie hipsterism, but more than that, it is the story of how Americans try to find or build their identity. I want to tell my American friends: by all means, go to the country of your lineage. Visit it. Take it in, whether it’s Warsaw or Prague, but remember: being American means you don’t have to worry about what it means to be Polish, or Czech.

Where beauty and truth are neither

Take the time to read my friend William Newton’s post on marketing, how action figures have changed over the years, and how he’s concerned about the self image of today’s youths. Once you’re done, come back here. We’re going to talk a little about Madison Avenue.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, as I am wont to remind everyone. Many Filipinos in central Luzon—especially in the great rice plains of Pampanga, the ranchlands of Bulacan and the Metro Manila megalopolis—are of mixed descent over many generations, but an equally large population have features that are more provincial (rural) in nature. This is not just a question of fair skin as inherited from our Castillian colonists or the Chinese, but a matter of bone structure, of facial features and body types.

Humans crave the exotic, and there are anthropological bases of beauty grounded in signals for good health and symmetry that transcend cultures, but the sheer assault of Western—not just American but European—aesthetics upon other lineages has gotten ridiculous. And it’s not just Asians, but African Americans with their history of living with their White masters that serve as cautionary tales of how worship of the different can—when taken to extremes—be detrimental to the psyche not just of an individual but to that of an entire people.

Hair straightening in black people is not a new phenomenon; their girls in the slave era have been observed as trying to straighten their hair with everything from kitchen grease to tar. All to wash the stink of difference, to achieve a sense of sameness that may lead to the respect that comes with being equals. Tough shit, though the Afro hairdos as popularized in the disco era, along with creative ways to deal with the unruliness of curls, are making headway into the popular culture.

But what of my people? Culturally we have always been a melting pot, so I am in no mood to indict those among us who like to adopt the mannerisms of rap artists or gangbangers nor exclusive school preps or whatever catches their fancy. However, what of our standards of beauty? The Filipino male, given the proper diet, will tend towards a barrel chest and a mild paunchiness of the belly despite being generally low in body fat. We are shaped differently, and yet the media we consume—Stateside or back home—fills us with imagery of statuesque Caucasian men and svelte women. Perhaps Zainudin Maidin, then Information Minister of Malaysia, had a good idea striking Brad Pitt from a car advertisement airing in his home country.

Some of the best male physiques in tv and movies—Teddy Sears, Alexander Skasgaard, Paul Walker, Peter Facinelli, Ryan Gosling, Cam Gigandet—to name a few (of my favorites) all have shapes that are unachievable by anyone who isn’t white. I see this at the gym every day. We have a lot of non-white lifters in varying degrees of fitness, but despite being low in body fat (and skin taught enough over their muscles and whatnot) they do not come close to the sillhouettes of white paragons of physique.

And where did this contemporary standard come from anyway? Look no further than Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, a modern marvel of sports photography and cinematography. That’s right. That Leni Riefenstahl, whose art I have praised in this blog years before and still do so today for its technical merit, skill and craftsmanship. Despite that, we must recognize her role in reviving the popularity of Classical sillhouettes as the standard for beauty.

As for how Madison Avenue has messed up the self images of women, with the unrealistic goals of unhealthy emaciation, let us cite the insightful Nora Vincent, in her book Self Made Man:

[…] A lot of women have asked themselves why so many men are so fond of modern porn stars and centerfolds, women who aren’t real women, whose breasts are fake, whose hair is bleached into straw or perversely depilated, whose faces are painted thick, and whose bodies have ben otherwise altered by surgery or diet to conform with doll-like exactitude to something that isn’t found in nature. Why, I had so often wondered, didn’t men want real women? Was it misogyny, a kind of collective repressed homosexuality or perhaps pedophilia that really wanted a body type that more resembled a man’s or a child’s, fatless and smooth?

For some, this is no doubt true, or why would magazines like Barely Legal, full of pre- and parapubescent girls, sell so well? Why would the fashion industry, long dominated by gay men, demand that women starve themselves until their bodies, hipless and breastless, look like the bodies of adolescent boys?

I’m going to let the gay-as-a-pedophile stereotype pass for now. Not in the mood. But Madison Avenue—such a beautiful metonym for such a vicious industry—is not in the habit of creating beauty; it used to be, but now it’s been reduced to assaulting one’s self-image, convincing a person to hate himself enough to just want their product as in insufficient salve against the sense of deficiency that they inflict upon their customers. Advertising hasn’t always been like this. Advertising shouldn’t stay like this.

The Bother from the Other: Oct 26, 2011

While we’re on the topic of class warfare…

My friend, David Jones makes an excellent point about voters’ myopia when approving of programs with unintended and unforeseen consequences. Make sure you read the comments, wherein a rant and rail against AARP’s terrible and just the way marketers sell to the elderly. A teaser: “Not that anyone should be telling them what to do, but what happened to ads where gramps is talking to his grandson about such things like The War, or just growing up in harder times? What if the sunset of one’s life were not—as Madison Avenue is selling—about catching up on the better aspects of a second childhood, but to impart as one best could, the lessons of a life long lived?”

Via Ken Brown, a Democrat in Ohio was voted out of office and he was suffering so terribly in the polls that the DSCC pulled financial support. What does he do? He sues the Susan B. Anthony List for contributing to his loss of livelihood. Now, this case should’ve been laughed out of court, but the circuit judge let it through. I wonder who Obama will sue when he finally gets voted out.

Kevin Holtsberry on student debt as a symptom of economic illiteracy: in which he asks, and answers: “But I want to ask a higher level question: is universal college education really the universal good we make it out to be and is subsidization by the federal government really good policy? I would answer a no to both of those.”

Cf., with this Rutgers “economic historian” who sets out to prove his conclusion—consumer debt and government spending are they keys to economic growth—by sampling only the past hundred years of economic activity. To his credit, some Liberals think that history started when Obama won office; he chose a hundred years ago. Never mind that the Medicis, who invented banking and investment as we know it, lived roughly six hundred years ago.

Aaron Gardner, a friend and fellow before-day-one Perry supporter, with an appeal to reason:

I understand that people were disappointed with Gov. Perry’s debut in the debates. I can also understand people having a difference of opinion on issues like In-State tuition rates and, to a degree, mandatory vaccinations for cancer causing STDs.

What I can’t understand is the desire of some to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, maybe even the great. I doubt anyone could honestly make a case for any other candidate having a more conservative record of governance, a greater depth of experience, or a better record of winning elections, than Gov. Perry.

If only this Republican primary has been a matter of reason (not necessarily reasonability but rationality). Also consider Melissa Clouthier’s warning to anyone who’s having way too much fun with the Republican debates: they don’t exist to serve Republicans.

As I posted on Google plus: Everyone likes to talk about how you never know how good you’ve got things until you get a taste of the bad, but man oh man oh man. You never know how bad things are for you until you get a taste of how much better things could be.

The Bother from the Other: Oct 25, 2011

I had a very productive weekend, one which included: yard work, basement cleanup, gym, personal time with family and friends, design work and consulting work. So: no Bother yesterday and today’s rather slimmer.


Blake Gober on the GOP field. His money is on Romney. Mine is on Perry. Either are acceptable to me. However, I’d like to see the rest stick around until after Iowa and New Hampshire and Florida before anyone drops out.

On the social contract:

Our friend, moronette Dagny, said last week, “The social contract exists so that everyone doesn’t have to squat in the dust holding a spear to protect his woman and his meat all day every day. It does not exist so that the government can take your spear, your meat, and your woman because it knows better what to do with them.”


I have been fascinated by this series of posts on the history of Arial from Paul Shaw. He’s been trying (hard) to trace its history and the intent with which it was created.

Reading that has led me to Nick Shinn’s indictment of Helvetica, and the entire modernist, humanist, completely outdated family of sans serif typefaces. (PDF)

Prayers and Petitions
Elizabeth Scalia’s son’s fiancee is having a CAT scan. Details are scant, but may they find what ails her, and may she recover from it fully.

Deepest of condolences to Sarah Smith, for the passing of her dear friend John Corckran, who passed away at the tender age of 35.

The Bother from the Other: Oct 21, 2011

Muammar el-Qaddafi is dead. Judging by the two videos shown yesterday, he was found alive by Libyan rebels and in a later video, shown dead with a bullet hole in his temple. I have little patience for those calling this an illegal execution, and judging the rebels as lawless barbarians who have to respect for due process. I disagree.

There comes a point in a nation’s history when, under the heavy weight of an oppressor such as Gaddhafi—especially one as Gaddhafi, who ruled for forty-two years—the “rule of law” is the rule of the victorious rebels. This is not an excuse for further hunting and killing of  Gaddhafi loyalists; they will have to be brought to justice in an orderly manner once the new Libyan government (which has been formed, might I remind everyone) officially takes power.

Or not, and the elements of anarchy will turn on them an impose something worse the Gaddhafi. We don’t just know right now. But we will, soon enough.

While the Monday Morning Quarterbacking from everyone and their mother was annoying, the level of crazy goes to new heights with this praise of Gaddhafi as some national hero who freed his country from the yoke of some central bank or the other. Or something.


Niall Ferguson on the geniuses we’ll never know. It’s a lot about Steve Jobs, but it’s a lot more about how America is a great incubator for talent. This is the land of opportunity after all, which we should contrast to those who protest the fact that there are unequal outcomes in this nation. Forget the income-equality gap (a concept which makes me sick); let’s start with the opportunity-outcome intellectual gap and make it wider, enough to let people know that the concepts are distinct. (Link credit: Ken Gardner on Twitter.)

Contrast Ferguson’s article about the plentiful opportunities of the USA with this young man. He’s eighteen years old, can’t afford the third year of his forty-thousand dollars per year bachelor of arts in sociology. He is one of the 99%. And he does it in style, what with his Abercrombie And Fitch v-neck shirt. But that’s, as we tend to say when we’re running out of words, the thing with these people. The sheer lack of self-awareness, the total obliviousness to irony and hypocrisy, are just annoying. The young man is rather fetching. Most of the submissions on that tumblr account have resorted to prostitution. He should be glad he’s not there yet.

Maybe he should read Sarah Bowman’s advice: occupy a job. Or he should listen to @kimberlyhaney (proud mother that she is) describe her son on Twitter thusly: “My 18 y/o works 30 hours a week, goes to school full time & buys his own clothes & gas. Buys his own books, owns his car. He wears Polo, because he shops at the outlet malls & asks for nice clothes for birthdays & Christmas. He also buys silver.” Scandalous bastard that I am, did respond by telling her to vet whoever the lucky lady he decides to bring home. He is a prime target for gold-digging women, and even the young ones have sharp hooks that sink deep.

All this talk of the American Dream reminds me of a different time in my life. I had a dream once. I could’ve been, if everything happened according to plan, a Ph.D. in a biology field. I could’ve written tons of academic papers, or done corporate research for a biotech firm, or I could’ve chosen a more Spartan lifestyle in marine biology. But I was dealt a different hand due to some unfortunate circumstances back in 2001. I could’ve despaired and wallowed in self pity, but thankfully my mother taught me well and taught me right. I learned to design websites instead. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for the events that brought me here and by God I swear, I am very happy to have different dreams and different goals now.

Finally, let’s remember the dreams that were snuffed before they could even begin. Melissa Clouthier on “choice:” “The majority of women say that parents, boyfriends, and worst of all, husbands forced the woman to abort the baby. The trauma is devastating and long lasting.” I would never know the horror of having to make this choice, and heaven help me on the day I pressure a woman into aborting a baby.

Prayers and Petitions

Deepest of condolences to Fingers Malloy on the passing of his mother. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him at CPAC and Right Online this year and he is an upstanding gentleman.

May the victims of Gaddhafi’s long reign finally rest in peace.

The Bother from the Other: Oct 20, 2011

My friend Tommy posted on Facebook with a reminder about barking up the wrong tree:

While I oppose Occupy Wall Street 100%, I think “I am the 53%” is a political loser and messaging at its worst. We need to look at who the 47% are. Some of those people simply don’t make enough enough money to have federal tax liability. While I think everyone should pay something in the way of federal taxes, this sends a bad message as it appears to vilify those who don’t make enough, while leaving out they still may pay state, local, sales, Social Security, and property taxes. Also, some of these people still have taxes taken out their check, they just get it back – after the govt uses it as an interest free loan. I think if we wish to call out President Obama for his pathetic use of class warfare, we should be careful we don’t head down that same road.

Occupy events across the nation are resembling the Arab Spring in embarassing ways: sexual harrassment and assault. The other day we were treated to the reports of Nan Terrie and her $5500 laptop, whose value she overestimated, as she has her self worth. I’ve tried my damned hardest to not comment on the Occupy Movement until I could get a handle on the very nature of the effort, but I give up. Not on commentary, but on figuring them out. They can’t be.

Megan McArdle on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan: says more about her assessment of the candidate than the plan itself, which, as most policy wonks have agreed on is dead in the water, politically and economically.

Ace of Spades on Herman Cain’s foreign policy know-nothingness. And here’s the sad thing about all this Herman Cain bashing (on this first edition of my new daily edition, no less!): I think he’s a great guy, someone who means well and has ideas that would fix the ills of this country. He’s no Ike Eisenhower, and the critique that he’s never held elected office is an important one. The Presidency is not the same as being a CEO: Congress says “no” more often than a Board of Directors does. I would support a candidate who understands the inherent roadblocks built into our system of government as set in place by the Founding Fathers.


William Newton on the role of art in how we Catholics worship: This should shine a light for anyone who considers us idolaters; though if you’re going to hold that opinion about Catholics, then a reasoned explanation would hardly move you anwyay.

Bad Catholic (a young man of a mere 18 years) on the cure for pornography: It involves the use of actually more naked women, but by expressing beauty and truth. He quotes John Paul II: “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

Only 3% of Ford buyers choose “trend [colors],” like ochre or pink. They’re not trends; they’re freaks. (Side note: Joe Clark is one of my favorite authors; he’s Canadian and is wont to fix the spelling of material he quotes to fit his country’s orthography. Turnabout is fair play.)

Passive-aggressive “Help Wanted” note. We should look on Tumblr to see if the former employee has posted her “We are the 99% note.”

Prayers and petitions:

Elisha Krauss, former Sean Hannity radio show producer, has a friend named David who was in a parachuting accident. He’s conscious and is able to answer questions, but is in need of spinal surgery. May the Lord guide his surgeons’ hands and may he recover as much as God wills it.

Safe travels to Ryan Gilbert, who is on a road trip from Enid, OK to San Diego, CA. He’s in his hometown of Ogden, UT right now and will get back on the road after the weekend. I have had the pleasure of meeting him in my recent trip to OKC. May his tires stay inflated the rest of the way.

Deepest of condolences to John Brodigan on the passing of his father.

Damages, Season 4. On the season so far.

The fourth and current season of Damages is the first to show on DirecTV instead of FX. Despite the lower budget and the smaller audience, it’s still one of the best shows on TV. Ellen Parsons is heading a wrongful death suit against a Blackwater-style private security firm operating in Afghanistan. Her lover, Chris, is her key witness and the bigwig is played by none other than John Goodman.

The season has the hallmarks of the past three: retroactive continuity, timelines that run back to front against each other, and gradual, but significant, revelations that leave viewers waiting eagerly for the next episode. There are some things that seem different about this new season. For one, it’s set three years after the events of the last one; Patty Hewes is the de facto parent to her granddaughter, and she’s lost that sharp edge. She’s distracted and looking for her son. By the fifth episode, you get this feeling that her son isn’t well off, and the writers have planted the seeds of worry (not that he is a sympathetic character, no, but he’s one character out of a very small cast) over his fate.

Highstar—the “Blackwater” of the series—is a very different Big Bad from previous seasons. There’s more depth to the organization, and there is an elegance to the dynamic between Jerry Boorman (played by Dylan Baker), a Machiavellian and amoral loyalist to Highstar, and Howard Erickson (John Goodman), the CEO who’s a study in contradictions.

Despite the differences from previous seasons, the show remains highly entertaining and intriguing while following a deliberate pace that doesn’t bore. And if you’d like to see how much detail and how many twists get into the show, here’s Fast Rapper Watsky to get you all caught up:

The Undefeated: a review

I saw a rough cut of The Undefeated, the much-discussed “Palin documentary,” at RightOnline last month. I skipped the first part—I was socializing!—with the montage of insults. When I walked into the screening they were already talking about her early days in the Alaska state government.

If you’ve read Going Rogue, you would already know most of the facts presented in the show. If you get your news from the “Lamestream Media,” you would hear the facts presented with what you would think is “spin.” If you get your news from The Daily Show, you probably won’t be interested in seeing this movie anyway, and you would probably have a fixed, firm belief about Mrs. Palin and this movie probably won’t do it for you (unless you want to do a “Daily Show Viewer goes to the zoo” feature, then I hate to burst your bubble but that’s been done by The Atlantic).

What I like about the film: it’s a fair treatment of Mrs. Palin’s record in the Alaska state government, in that it cuts through the negative spin added by the media’s coverage of her time back then. She’s been spun as a vindictive, spitful betch—it’s “bitch,” but you just have to inflect and pronounce it a certain way to empasize the frivolty of those saying so—who uses bipartisan methods to “get back” at her “enemies.” Or maybe she was just doing her job and doing what she believed she was elected for. You know? Because that’s what government officials do. (Heck, consider our president now, who continues to believe he has a mandate despite the results of the 2010 elections, which in his mind doesn’t even seem to be a signal for him to change course.) It skips over a lot of details that we’d consider “recent memory,” such as the 2008 election.

The participation of Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce, Mark Levin and Sonnie Johnson added a very passionate, spirited presentation in addition to the voice over narration.

What I dislike about the film: man, is the pacing languid. A viewer’s time on film is currency, and this one spends it like Obama does our money. I have heard that the theatrical release has addressed this isssue, so I won’t beat it up for that.

The tone of correcting the record in the first two thirds of the film gives way to a  bit of “woe is me” in the final acts. This was unncessary. This was the documentarian’s chance to end on a high note; and the title may be The Undefeated but the wrapup made me feel just a little beaten down.

The participation of Andrew Breitbart, Tammy Bruce, Mark Levin and Sonnie Johnson had one drawback. With the exception of Sonnie Johnson, whose testimonial style was relaxed and steadfast, the other three seemed a little too wound up for camera. I understand that this is serious business and that yes, we should be wound up with the way the media has treated Palin, but, the problem with having people do this on screen for you is that you no longer feel the need to.

In the film, A Time To Kill, Matthew McConaughey’s character definitely won his defense case by placing the jurors in the shoes of Samuel L. Jackson’s character. It roused the attention of everyone in the courtroom in what was considered a hopeless case. Without the lawyer preaching to the jury how they should feel and decide, he gave them every reason to decide in his client’s favor, and they did.

It’s an odd, odd cinematic paradox: if the characters you are watching are already feeling an emotion on your behalf, you no longer feel emotions for them or whoever it is you’re supposed to feel for.

Takeaways: this isn’t “propaganda” so much as it is “my side of the story.” It will correct the record for viewers who think they know about Palin, but for those who believe they already know everything there is to know, well. There’s no shaking that.

Finally, while I support the filmmaker’s commercial efforts, if they want this message out to as many people as possible, they need to be far more lax with copyright enforcement. I don’t know if any segments have been leaked yet, much less the whole movie, but Conservative treatment of the media has to be through disintermediation and circumvention. Perhaps after a while, maybe the documentarian himself should release this in 10-minute segments, for free, on YouTube. Maybe 30-minute chunks on Vimeo. Maybe seed this film across multiple torrent trackers. I don’t know. I know it’s sold out in Texas, but what about everywhere else, where there aren’t that many supporters but perhaps enough open minds to make a difference?

And lastly, The Undefeated should serve as a warning to all Conservatives. We can not let the media dictate the narrative. Many players bungled her rollout, even she herself. But we know better now. I am not a fan of cultish defenses of a candidate, but neither do I believe that we should merely let the media present “facts” about someone, unchallenged.

Collected thoughts

Quick bites on today’s highlights:

Today was Atlantis’s last launch. I never got over the Columbia space shuttle disaster so I stopped watching. I tried a few times. I would hold my breath, waiting for it to just explode and of course they wouldn’t. So I stopped, because I still couldn’t get the idea out of my minds. Columbia was a reminder of just how helpless we are over many things beyond our control. I’m glad Atlantis left safe. I wish a safe return for them. And what a sad, sad day it’s been for America.

Betty Ford, widow of former president Gerald Ford, has died. She’s contributed much to help a lot of people with addiction problems, and her name will always be held in high regard. I have a tendency for the grim and morose, and so I wonder: what could Nancy Reagan, who recently had her birthday, or Maggie Thatcher, could be thinking? Have they made peace with their mortality? It is my fear that I will grow old and watch all my contemporaries die before I do, or that I wouldn’t even be ready to pass away when I do.

Paul Ryan paid $350 for a bottle of wine. With his own money, and apparently so that he could avoid the ethical issue of having drank a glass of the wine with dinner. He paid his share of the check and tipped the waiter $80, too. The Liberal site, Talking Points Memo, is trying to make this an issue and is failing miserably. Joshua Green of The Atlantic, is also trying to rally his Jacobin cohort. This is such a pathetic symptom of the Left’s lack of ideas.

First, they attack him on grounds of hypocrisy. How dare he enjoy luxury when he demands austerity of the government? Is this even a point worth arguing against? I feel dumb trying to even parse this line of emoting. I suppose they want us to “practice what we preach,” which means to these anti-intellectual demagogues they would never rest until anyone who pushes austerity for the government would live in personal poverty.

The absurdity is that because our President believes in a big-spending government, he spends plenty of our taxpayer money with these regal events, these galas and private concerts, a vacation in Spain for his wife, and numerous counts of golf. But he is living true to himself, you see. He is acting according to principle, which makes this good. What a twisted, messed up concept of “good” these people have.

Our jobs numbers are terrible. Which is not a surprise to anyone familiar with this President’s mistaken choice of economic ideology. I can’t say he’s stupid and naive; he certainly is smart enough to have gone through college and write something. I can’t say he’s malevolently undermining the country; I am not one of those people. I think he’s read from a different set of books, one that unfortunately teaches the wrongest of wrong lessons. But, oh well.