Entropy. Sweet, sweet entropy.

Steve MerrymanAttitude

road sign that says Entropy Ahead
road sign that says "Entropy Ahead"

A good friend once described me by using two adjectives. The first was "cynical". The second adjective I can't remember because the first one was "cynical".

I was shocked. But after thinking about it for a week or two, I decided he was right. In fact, during my personal and deeply meaningful journey of self-discovery (aka the couple minutes I spent looking in a dictionary and thesaurus) I  stumbled upon several words synonymous with cynicism with which I can also identify. They are:

  • Misanthropic.
  • Pessimistic.
  • Distrustful.
  • Skeptical.
  • Suspicious.
  • World-weary.
  • Disillusioned.
  • Disenchanted.
  • Sardonic.

Wow. The only word that better describes me is "bald" ("drunk" is runner-up).

So, yeah, I'm cynical. And you should be, too.

We should all be cynics. Not because it's easy. Far from it! Personally, I would love to live in a place where life is spent in a warm and fuzzy state of blind trust towards all of humanity with no fear or suspicion burdening my mind and the simple joy of being alive and curious motivating me to be happy and caring every single day. There's a word for such a place: Kindergarten, and I left it behind a long time ago (I do, however, miss the naps).

No, cynicism is hard, but rewarding in it's own way. Adopt cynical political views and the energy you spend trying to figure out a politician's true motives will be repaid tenfold in the end when your suspicions are confirmed.

Cynicism means always having to say "I told you so."

What makes a cynic like me? I think it started early on when I saw through the charade of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I hated that show. I was just a kid, but even then I knew enough to be suspicious of adults who played with toys and talked to puppets. His house was like a kid's playroom, which was ultra-creepy to me. I knew what an adult's room was supposed to look like: Where was the TV? Where were the car magazines sitting on top of the Playboys? Where was the liquor cabinet? The card table? Just what sort of sick game are you playing Mr. Rogers (if that is, in fact, your real name)? You want me to be your neighbor? Hell no. In fact, I'm gathering up my Hot Wheels and moving out of this neighborhood. I'm gonna move in next to Johnny Quest because he's got that big metal spider thingy, which is awesome.

I tried hard to be a shiny, happy person. I believed in Jesus for a couple decades. As a Catholic, I even considered becoming a priest until I realized that I would have to give up sex - even with myself. (Come to find out, at the time no one told me most priests considered the rules to be more like guidelines – to this day I consider that a bullet dodged.)

Really, what made me a cynic was entropy. And entropy is why I remain a cynic.

Everything descends into disorder. Life itself is only a temporary organization of mass and energy that eventually falls apart. That's not to say that life ain't amazing. It is, especially when you have cable. But it's not forever (sorry believers, I think you're great and we agree on a lot of stuff, but on this I think you're wrong).

Order fails. Chaos prevails. Once the reality of that fact sinks in, you begin to see it everywhere. Life is one big losing battle against entropy. Houses crumble. Mountains erode. Empires fall. I used to have hair.

Entropy is the root of cynicism. I see everything as a continuing process of decay. Sure, we have a victory now and then to fend off the inevitable: A fire is lit to keep the wolves at bay, but the wood only lasts so long. Soon the wolves will creep closer until the fire dies. We are experiencing this every moment in our lives, our nation, our culture, our civilization. Disorder is winning. On the longer timeline, the sun itself will burn out someday; the universe will grow cold and dark; and then nothing will ever happen. It will be just like soccer.

I see human nature constantly fighting against entropy but in the end only encouraging it more. The Law of Unintended Consequences is the governing principle of every effort to stave off the cold. Do you doubt me? How has the War on Poverty been going lately? How about the War on Drugs? Terror? Illiteracy? Dancing with the Stars? Seth Rogan? One can't forget Seth Rogan (I've tried. Lord knows I've tried).

My cynicism springs from the inevitability of chaos. Pessimism is the rational response to history. Disillusion is the natural byproduct when idealism encounters reality.

In the end, the only power I have is the power to mock; to point out the hilarity and absurdity of existence.

Death is the disease; Life is the symptom; laughter is the only medicine. There is no cure.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

Fires of Hell #1: Blair’s Sudden Death Sauce

Steve MerrymanAttitude

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Those who know me grow accustomed to my ways, and eventually don't even notice the odors. They also quickly discover that I love hot sauces. REALLY HOT sauces. That's what this series is about: my favorite hot sauces.

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This is my all-time favorite hot sauce. Each bottle comes in a casket-shaped box and includes a skull key-ring. My current count of skull key rings is, I think, nine. I like this sauce, Bigly. But be warned: It’s hot. It’s very hot.

It’s so hot that when I watched the lava flows from that volcano in Hawaii, the one that destroyed all those homes in fire and heat, I said with a yawn, “That’s impressive, Demonic Spawn of Earth’s Molten Core. Now hold my beer.” And I grabbed my bottle of Sudden Death and a handful of tortilla chips and showed that fiery cauldron a thing or two.

Sudden Death should be sold with a fire extinguisher equipped with plastic straws (not available in California). It should come with hemorrhoid cooling ointment and a toilet seat made out of Arctic ice, or a stainless steel pipe refrigerated on the interior with coils of freon and a cone-shaped rubber top for anal cooling via insertion.

Honestly, I wouldn’t use that last one, as I consider my colon a one-way street. I don’t even allow for prostate exams. My standard line is, “Sure, Doc, you can try sticking your finger up there, but my clench is so hard I could use it to bend re-bar. So go ahead and give it a shot; you’ve got ten fingers to break, and I’ve got the time.”

But enough about what I do on the weekends…

I have, in the past, used too much Sudden Death in chili. To me, doing so is like marriage: Once is enough.

I mistakenly poured a teaspoon of Sudden Death on a taco one night and learned that my eyeballs can sweat, but only in the back, next to my brain. I swear it’s true.

Website: ExtremeFood.com

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions.

I have a question…

Steve MerrymanCultural Rot

Is this what GamerGate was about?

As a Cranky Old Fart, my video game experience is mostly from the 1980's, but I gotta say, this Pac-Man is definitely a few Super Dots short of a Bonus Fruit.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

Lyle Thursday

Steve MerrymanDaily Notes

There's been a lot of chatter about the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside". Frankly, the chatter has been quite boring and predictable and not worth my time.

My only contribution to the narrative (if you can even call it that) is to say that, for my money, the very best version of the tune is this version by Lyle Lovett and Kat Edmondson:

I must confess, however, that I am a fan of everything Lyle Lovett does. I'm sure even his bowel movements deserve Grammy's (let's just take that one on faith, however).

One of the first things I usually do when I get settled into my office in the mornings, after giving the dogs their snacks, and pulling the starter cord on my ten year-old Mac Pro (don't forget the choke! Let it rev up for a minute til it's warm…), is set the music playlist for the day.

Normally I go with a mix from my wide selection of music, but today I started off with Baby, It's Cold Outside, because I hadn't heard Lyle and Kat's version in some time.

After that, I just let the Lyle Lovett set roll on all day on Shuffle. I've only got a paltry seven Lyle Lovett albums (gotta work on that collection) so there were a couple repeats.

It was a great day of music at SIGMA World Headquarters.

Tomorrow, I might go with an All John Hiatt Shuffle Day. I've got twelve of his albums.

UPDATE: It's Friday and I'm calling an audible and going with Van Morrison Shuffle Day because I've got seventeen albums (224 songs). There will be no repeats.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

Me Likey

Steve MerrymanAttitude

Wilder, Wealthy, Wise banner

There are blogs I visit every day because they are a running journal of the days events that keep me updated on politics, current events and to a lesser extent, pop culture (I believe, like John Derbyshire that "pop culture is filth". Still, it helps to be somewhat familiar with it, if only to inform one's efforts at mockery).

These sites keep me informed and (usually) pissed off, and even on their worst day, they are better than social media.

Then there are other sites that I visit because they make me smile. A recent find is the blog Wilder, Wealthy and Wise. The author is… well, I don't know who the author is, so let's call him Triple-W. But whatever his name, he's good, and funny, and smart.

You should read him.

Today's post was, frankly, one of those posts I wish I'd written. A short, thoughtful discourse on how our approach to each day makes a difference, What Does Your Ideal Day Look Like?

Read it. Then read it again in a week, a month, whatever it takes until it sinks in.

Well done, Triple-W!

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

King Beorn

Steve MerrymanArt

Every so often, it helps to forget everything you've learned and just start fresh.

That's what I did with this portrait of Beorn created for The Missus as a Christmas present. I went back to basics with a nice, high-contrast digital painting of King Beorn. It's a strong image, and sparse, with a great sense of depth. I love the shape created by the negative space that swoops into his chest from the left.

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Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

Unbelief, Life, and Death: A Christmas Eve Story

Steve MerrymanStories

The End of a Relationship, and Christmas

“I can’t do this anymore.”

We were sitting in our car after church. I had put the key in the ignition, but after a heavy sigh had pulled it back out and said to The Missus.

“I can’t be a part of this.”

It was the spring of 2002, the Catholic Church was experiencing a priest sex scandal. The one that particular year was big and, combined with the rising power and reach of the internet, spread like wildfire, growing in size to encompass nearly every diocese in the nation, despite desperate efforts by the Church to keep it quiet.

That morning, we and our neighbors sat in the pews listening to the monsignor urging us Faithful to not let shock and disgust at a few bad apples shake our faith in the good work done by the Church, and to prayerfully let our steady faith in our Mother (meaning The Church) guide us so that we may keep supporting Her financially.

It bothered me when I heard him say it, and it bothered me even more sitting in the car afterwards.

“They’re lying to us,” I said, turning to The Missus. “They want us to think it’s just a few bad priests. It’s much worse than that.”

“It usually is,” she agreed.

“These perverts have been shielded from the law by the Church. They’ve been shuffled around from parish to parish and scandal to scandal without repercussions. Victims have been paid off and sworn to secrecy. How? It’s so obvious! The only ones powerful enough to hide these sick freaks, shuffle them around, and pay off victims are the Bishops. The Bishops are the monsters! They’ve known all along and they’ve done nothing. They allowed lives to be ruined. They stood by as families have been destroyed. And children? Kids have been abused, brutalized, betrayed…”

“Yep.”

“…and all these bastards are worried about is money!” I said with disgust. “I promise, they’ll never get another cent out of me. NEVER. I’m done and I’m not coming back.”

“Good. I’m glad you said it. I’ve been thinking it for a while myself,” agreed The Missus.

That was the start of my journey away from the Catholic Church. It would lead me, eventually, into total non-belief.

I don’t believe in God or Jesus anymore.

The weird thing is, I love Christmas now even more.

I think perhaps it’s because I’m free to celebrate Christmas my way, without religious trappings, absurd sentimentality, or pressure to “feel” something spiritually enriching that is imposed on me from an institution that, in my experience, only wants my money.

That’s just me. You are obviously free to celebrate in whatever way you please.

The World Lightens Up.

One of my earliest memories of Christmas was when I was six. Dad strung some Christmas lights outside our house, and one of the strings wrapped around the window to my bedroom. They were the big, heavy, old-fashioned screw-in Christmas lights on a massive cord that everyone had in the sixties. They were big and bright. As I lay there snuggled in bed looking at the red, green, blue, orange and yellow lights, I didn’t have thoughts of Jesus or God, Mary, Bethlehem or angels.

For me, even at that young age, I knew: Christmas was about light.

I don’t need religious meanings to enjoy the darkest time of the year. I just need lights. The hope I feel is the certain hope of longer days, and the eventual coming of Spring (after a couple more brutal months). It’s a secular belief, and completely corroborated by events; no element of faith is required.

Jesus may be the “Reason for the Season” to many, but from a historical perspective, Christmas is really about the Winter Solstice. That’s what everyone in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated at this time long before anyone made it about God’s baby in a manger. Christianity is a brash upstart glued and stitched over the more ancient and more secular celebration of the Solstice and the coming of longer, warmer days. The Romans called it Solis Invicti for a reason; the Sun indeed will Conquer the darkness. It does so every year, whether or not you pray for it.

By celebrating the lengthening of days, I’m joining a more ancient and authentic celebration we as northerners have participated in as long as we could look into the sky and calculate.

I may no longer be Christian, but I’m certainly no pagan. I don’t dance naked in the snow on Solstice and pray to the fields for a good crop (but if that’s your thing, really, go crazy). I’m content to goof around with my astronomy software to watch the Sun reach its lowest declination, and slowly begin the turn. This year that moment occurred at December 21, 2:23 p.m. in my area.

By the way, did you know the Sun is actually closer to Earth this time of year than during Summer? It’s counter-intuitive, but the warmth we feel in Summer is largely due to our angle to the sun, not the distance. Interesting.

Life, and Death, Goes On

It was Christmas Eve, 2006. I remember The Missus and I had just returned from our Annual Christmas Eve Desperate Shopping Husband Count. The Rules are simple:

  1. Prior to entering, each contestant estimates the number of Desperate Shopping Husbands they think they will see.
  2. Contestants Walk the total length of the mall together once and back
  3. Contestants together count the number of men out desperately searching for Christmas gifts. Elderly mall-walkers are not counted.
  4. Extra points are awarded for each child in tow under the age of five.
  5. The Price Is Right rules apply in that the winner is whoever comes closest without going over.

It’s a fun game. We play it every year. Currently I am on a winning streak.

Anyway, back to my story…

Having returned from the mall on Christmas Eve, 2006, I had a phone message from my dad that said simply, “Call me.”

So I called Dad.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Dad! Merry Christmas! Did you get our packa…”

He cut me off, “Steve, I’ve got something important to tell you.”

“Oh. What’s up, Dad?”

Here’s the thing. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you have to tell someone their mother has died, then perhaps you know there’s no easy way to do it. Dad, having been a fireman for many years, knew that the best way is to say it like you’re ripping a Band-Aid off; quick and plain. There was no pre-amble. No “What I’m about to tell you is…” he didn’t even choke-up, and he was talking about the death of his wife, for crying out loud. That was Dad. He was all business. He just came out with it:

“You’re mother is dead.”

It wasn’t a surprise. She had experienced a stroke six months earlier and had been going downhill ever since. A couple days prior to Christmas Eve she had evidently decided she’d had enough and stopped taking her medication. Dad couldn’t get her to take any pills. They’d been married forty-nine years, so he knew to respect her decision.

On the morning of Christmas Eve she was in bed, suffered a seizure and fell to the floor. She hit the floor stone-cold dead.

We had Christmas events that day, which we attended, but we kept the news to ourselves. It wasn’t a day to bring everyone down.

Over time, I did what I could for Dad. But what can a son do? I had my own grief to deal with.

It was Christmas. Solus Invicti (The Unconquered Sun). But where was the Invincible Sun on that day?

I didn’t believe in God. But I believed in light. And I think Dad, after caring for Mom all-day, every-day for six long months, was exhausted nearly beyond mending. She saw that, I’m sure. So her last Christmas gift to him was a lifting of the burden she had become.

Dad was struggling in darkness, tired, alone, and Mom gave him back the Light. And like the light here in December, it took a few months to come back, but come back it did, though with Mom gone, his light shone a little dimmer the rest of his life.

So that’s my Christmas Eve Story for this year. It’s not a saccharine-sweet Hallmark Movie Channel story. It's not even very good, or uplifting. There’s no magical Santa at the end shooting presents out of his butt making things better (not sure I'd want to see that movie anyway). Not even a Red-Rider BB-gun or “Yer gonna poke yer eye out!” But life is like that. Our Christmas stories are not all filled with happy-endings, even if we wish they could be.

I think that makes our family stories important. They tell us, "life is… random, so be strong."

Thanks for reading. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a bright and sunny 2019.

And, on a lighter note:

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Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

They Say They Want A Revolution

Steve MerrymanCultural Rot

Recently the local Democratic Socialists (but I repeat myself) issued a letter of demands on behalf of bums, junkies and hobos… er, I mean The Homeless®. And one of the BumLeaders threatened “revolution” if Spokane didn’t jump forthwith to his tune and “fix” the homeless problem.

Well, okay then.

There wasn’t much in the way of specifics in his presentation. But I’m an intrepid internet reporter, so I used my vast experience in deep research and my connections to The Street by flashing a few fivers and trolling an open bottle of Colt 45 Malt Liquor with a string attached. It took a few minutes of haggling (two more Colt 45’s and fifth of Jager), but I now know exactly what the The Homeless® are demanding:

Unfortunately, The Homeless® and socialists are never happy with just one shrubbery, or even two. In fact, if you chop down the mightiest tree in the forest using a herring, I guarantee there would be another demand right on the heels of that ("We want PEZ! The Elvis version!").

There are certainly genuine homeless people who have fallen on hard times and deserve help, but bums, junkies, and socialists aren't among them. There are also people suffering from mental problems, and we should do what we can for them. I'm not talking about those people. I'm talking about the vast majority (in my opinion) of those who choose to live on the streets because they like it. They deserve nothing from us (other than a kick in the ass and a hearty shove out of town).

Bums, junkies and especially socialists don't want to end homelessness. They want to make us feel guilty for the comfort we've worked hard to achieve. They want free shit. They want to make homelessness not only acceptable, but celebrated, like it's some kind of virtue. These demonstrations, protests and homeless encampments are a racket that's playing out in many cities across the country, and it's all bullshit.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

SIGMA Christmas Card 2018

Steve MerrymanArt

Our annual Christmas cards have been sent and most have arrived at their destinations, so I think it's now safe to reveal the 2018 SIGMA Christmas Card to the rest of the world.

Looking back over the years, it's clear our designs tend to swerve between acceptably nice, to disturbingly naughty.

This year's card clearly falls into the latter category.

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In case that text at the bottom is hard to read, it says, "SIGMA and the Merryman family wish you a very Merry Christmas… no matter which list you're on."

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

Fuck The Bureaucracy!

Steve MerrymanGovernment Evil

Ever heard of The Administrative State? It's the greatest threat to American freedom since… ever.

The United States is largely now a "government of the bureaucracy, by the bureaucracy, and for the bureaucracy." Unelected bureaucrats rule our nation and our lives.

Few things piss me off more than a fat-ass bureaucrat fluffing the Administrative State and sticking it's shit-smelly fingers into every facet of our lives. Seriously. FUCK THE BUREAUCRACY.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!

The U.S. is NOT the leader in mass shootings.

Steve MerrymanMedia Lies

Much of the media coverage of mass shootings includes the claim that the U.S. has the most mass shootings of any advanced nation in the world.

The video below shows that claim to be false.

Me

Steve Merryman is a cranky old fart. He writes about things that make him tick, and things that tick him off. You may object to his views; you may think he's a moron; and you might wish to tell him so. In return he would remind you that his lack of concern for your feelings is only exceeded by his indifference to your opinions. Good day, Sir!