Yankee Book Reviews: Jeter’s Folly and Posada’s Journey Home

As a lover of many things literary and a watcher of any things baseball, I was excited to pick up two books at a local bookstore that were bestselling novels written by famous baseball players: Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.

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It was no surprise to me that athletes as talented as those two–Jeter is an all-time great, Posada is his well-ringed teammate–would try their hand at authorship. There is much crossover skill between being able to swing a bat and being able to write a compelling story. After all, Derek Jeter already had 3.465 hits, so what’s one more? From the author’s about page:

Derek Jeter is a true legend in professional sports, and a role model for young people on and off the field, and through his work in the community with his Turn 2 Foundation.” 

Imagine my surprise, then, that Posada’s book turned out to be the real gem, while Jeter’s left me a little disappointed. We’ll take a look at the former first:

The Journey Home, by Jorge Posada is a re-telling of the classic story The Odyssey as transposed to a modern day baseball setting*. The scenario works as follows: It is 2012; a winter hurricane (Sandy?) has damaged Yankee Stadium, which is undergoing repairs indefinitely, forcing Jorge Posada and his teammates to play all their games on the road. The legendary Derek Jeter is out with a knee injury and Alex Rodriguez, that greatest of villains, is suspended for the year for performance enhancing drugs. Thus while Posada and the rest of the Yankees are separated from the city he loves, the lascivious A-Rod attempts to woo Posada’s wife at her flat in the Bronx (he sends her a picture of himself as a centaur in the opening chapter).

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Dead Yankee legends play the role of the “Gods” in this Universe: Yogi Berra, God of wit and wisdom, is Posada’s protector, Babe Ruth corresponding roughly to Bacchus as the God of chili dogs and Ballantine beer, et al. The King of the Gods, (recently deceased) George Steinbrenner devises a difficult schedule for what he considers an inferior Yankee team.

The Yankees’ episodic journey back to New York cleverly mimics Odysseus’ travails in astonishingly clever ways. Some of the highlights:

  • A four-game battle against the San Francisco Giants and demigod Buster Posey stands in for an encounter with the Cyclops.
  • “Sea monsters” attack in the form of two wild arms for the Seattle Mariners, Antonio Scylla and Bruce Charybdis, who headhunt and aim for the ankles. Luckily Posada is wearing a knee brace already and so takes the HBP without casualty.
  • A kinky affair with Charlize Theron during a road series in Anaheim. She ties Posada up and refuses to let him leave the hotel room until Yogi Berra intervenes, with the help of the Players Union.
  • During an off weekend, Posada “descends into the underworld of Tampa” and plays an old-timers game with a bunch of retired Yankees, many of whom he played with in the great battles of 1998-2001.
  • Another series in Detroit takes them to the “Lotus Eaters”, as an opposing pitcher attempts to drug the lineup. Lou Gehrig, God of the “C”, makes it rain so they don’t have to play the next day.

Although their adventures don’t necessarily escalate in magnitude, as the season drags on and their playoff chances increasingly in doubt, we appreciate Posada’s plight, especially as he gradually becomes the lone elder statesmen on the team (most of the opening day roster is traded or injured or sent to the minors) and learns to mentor the rookies and newbs on playing like a “true Yankee.” We relate to his quest to find his place among the pantheon of baseball heroes, and when he does finally return to New York (spoiler alert!) he does so having developed a more profound sense of self, confidence which carries over to his bedroom prowess and rekindling of passion of his marriage (sorry, A-Rod!).

The book ends with the Yankee Gods taunting rookies in the bullpen on the last day of the regular season. It’s really hilarious.

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I wish I could say Jeter’s book, Change UP, is equally entertaining. I can definitely give him credit for trying to make a book that, unlike Posada’s, offers a meaningful guide for self-improvement. But he fails from a tragic onset of myopia, an ability to offer advice that is Universal in application, beyond baseball.

For example, Derek Jeter discusses chronic depression and sources a bunch of famous psychological studies to demonstrate an informed grasp of the issue. But when it comes to solutions, he offers a passage like the following:

It was August 3rd, and I wanted to quit. For the first time all season, my on-base-percentage dropped below .400. I was no longer the league leader in sacrifice hits. An article came out this morning saying that statistically, I was even less valuable than my teammate Joba Chamberlain, and nobody liked him. This cloud of despair hung over me the entire game. I went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Someone in the mezzanine level booed me. And I felt like I deserved it. 

With little concern for myself or my team, I lied and told the manager I had a bone spur in my elbow. They put me on the Disabled List and told me to get back in shape in time for the stretch run. Feeling lost and helpless and desperate, I called my ex-friend Alex Rodriguez, who was out for the season for taking steroids. Although I thought the dude was a total bitchface, he knew me too well and offered to lend me his yacht and 50 percent of his harem to boot, as long as I paid for fuel. Two hours later I was off to Aruba and by golly, that was all I needed. The sex and sunshine made me feel better and offered me the clarity of thought to return and be a happy, healthy member of the lineup. Sometimes all you need is to take comfort from life’s small pleasures to be able to deliver in the clutch.”

And that’s how most of the book shakes out. Jeter loses his timing so he buys a multi-million dollar batting machine. Minka Kelly leaves him so he goes on tinder and has an orgy. He doesn’t win the MVP but he co-funds a celebrity golf outing with Donald Trump. An fashion company uses gay models to pimp out Jeter’s underwear line, which makes Jeter upset until he has them all fired and then has gay hate-sex with A-Rod, who he hates, and then gets his publicist to bury all the stories.

Basically, whatever Jeter does to “change up” his life is not applicable to anyone who does not play baseball at the highest level. And while I appreciate him for trying, the lack of realization or awareness does become disheartening. Especially since Jeter really does express progressive attitudes about the need to “change up” our diets, carbon-centric lifestyles, et al. And his ending mantra that “Everyone can become a Captain of their own soul’s, the MVP of their inner struggle” is upbeat but more becoming of a pinch-hitter than a legendary shortstop.

Overall Ratings:

Four balls and a bases loaded walk for Jorge Posada’s “The Journey Home”

and

Strike three and awarded first base on an errant throw for Derek Jeter’s “Change Up”

 

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*at least that’s how I imagine it, I didn’t actually read the book

**see: first comment

 

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Game of Thrones Ripped Off Thomas the Tank Engine (2016 Update)

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Author’s Note: Several years ago I wrote a post comparing the two classic British (accented) television shows. This is an updated version. 

I knew there was a reason why Game of Thrones felt so familiar. I experienced the same emotions, learned the same lessons, eye-rolled at the same gratuitous nudity, lived vicariously through the same characters twenty years ago. Except back then, I wasn’t following the front lines around the country of Westeros, I was rolling along the branch lines of the Isle of Sodor.

Game of Thrones is a blatant rip-off of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the British TV show which was filmed using narrow-gauge model trains and featured the sturdy yet subtle voice-over narration of Ringo Starr.

You won’t win this argument, but if you dare try, here are the clinching irrefutable facts:

ONE: Like Game of Thrones (abbreviated hence forth to GofT), Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (abbreviated hence forth to TtheTEandFbitchez) takes place on a fictional island that is vaguely meant to represent Great Britain. Yes, technically Sodor is meant to be between GB and the isle of Man but really its meant as a fictional fantasy-land copycat of the real place. And Sodor’s topography, geography, demographics, history, rail map, etc etc, is all inspired by the history of the British Isles. So forgive me if I’m not impressed that you know can point out King’s Landing out on a map. You don’t know shit if you can’t tell Culdee Fell from Ffarquhar.

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At least the great Rev W Awdry was from England. George RR Martin is just some dude from New Jersey.

TWO: I watch GofT for one reason and one reason alone: amazing special effects I want to know who is going to win the game! Who is going to get their head cut off? Who is going to mount an assault on the capital? Who is going to buy a slave army? The machinations of all these crazy houses and noble families is titillating to the maximum. It’s well written, sure, but it can get a little campy. A little gratuitous.

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And that’s also why I wanted to watch Thomas.  Like GofT, Thomas and Friends offers a decentralized world of industrious and ambitious engines fighting to maintain control of their various branch lines, often at the expense of one another. They are both soap operas at heart. The title character doesn’t even appear in most of the stories; it’s usually the big engines like Gordon or Henry who are fucking up and causing trouble and dumping on each other. And when these engines fuck up, it’s an awesome shit show. The best episodes are the ones where an engine does something stupid and gets derailed into a mine pit or the ocean or something.

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Okay, so the engines never “die” in “The Railway Series”, but characters come back to life in GofT too! There’s that priest character who’s been cut seven times. And all those zombies north of the wall who’ve been reanimated.

Update-And Jon Snow, who is “dead” but he’ll be back someday soon because if he isn’t, his lame narrative will be nothing but a “deconstruction” of the epic hero quest, which is to say it’s just a badly written character who was killed off to shock fans. But they won’t let that happen. So he’ll be back. 

In both universes, it is often difficult to discern some kind of overarching plot arc. Moves are simply behind made, wheels being turned, until winter comes or diesel power replaces steam power as the main source of locomotion.

George RR Martin is a true fan of history, and that’s where many of his storylines come from. Supposedly he based the battle of the Starks and the Lannisters after the fight between the Lancasters and the Whatevers in ye olde timey England. The good Reverend Awdry liked history too. And trains. He liked train history. Almost all the trains in his original stories are based on real trains, although the real ones don’t have faces or talk.

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March 2016 Update: It is fairly clear now that not only is George RR Martin pulling his storylines from the pages of “The Railway Series”, he’s also stealing characters as well. The sad saga of Stannis Baratheon is beat-for-beat the same as that of Henry the Green Engine, a noble 4-6-0 steam locomotive done in by cruel gods and tragic hubris.

Always second fiddle to the biggest engine (Gordon), Henry’s lays claim to the turntable, which is similar to the iron throne, in that it is possibly made of iron as well. Unfortunately he is plagued by misfortune at every turn, including a dour personality which gets him stuck in a tunnel for months, a pessimistic outlook on his routine, and a bad coal box. In “Game of Thrones”, Stannis makes a terrible sacrifice to bring about favorable weather conditions, only to see his army abandon him. Henry makes a similar gambit by stealing another engine’s tenders (coal boxes), only to realize too late that they are filled with boiler sludge. And then he crashes spectacularly carrying a special freight load known as the “Flying Kipper.”

THREE: This is a man’s world. Both offer a complex and sometimes contradictory take on the role of women in their respective societies. GofT is a world full of wenches and whores and rich girls doing their hair, but it also has a dragon lady and a warrior woman and a wise cracking grandma. Some of the women get good lines and reflect on their plight in society, and yes sometimes the women have to do things to the men to get power but that’s just “the way things were back then.” And at the end of the day there are plenty of women pulling the strings in various parts of Westeros and the outlying lands. I think the character of “Margary” is my favorite since she so obviously is now pulling the strings on evil Joffrey (who is now dead).

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In “Thomas” there just aren’t many ladytrains. There is a caboose passenger coach named “Henrietta” that doesn’t have a face and doesn’t speak, but I’m assuming that might be a lady train too. New “Thomas” stories have added a “main character” named “Emily” to try to be more politically correct but that doesn’t count, since those stories were written after 1990.

The two that get story lines are both diesel engines, so by their very nature are more important and powerful than the other trains. Daisy the trolley diesel railcar is kind of like Cersei Lannister; she’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is and both characters got this major attitude/chip on her shoulder since they don’t want to be stereotyped as a “woman” but then they don’t assert themselves or transcend gender politics.

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Mavis the tram diesel is more like Danaerys; at first Mavis starts out as a dainty waif engine but gradually comes into her own as she learns to work with the other engines and become the most important train on Thomas’ branch line.

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Also you never hear any of the women in “Thomas” talk about “boys” or complaining about their periods or taking time out of scheduled journeys to “go shopping.” When a lady train is running on all cylinders, that lady train is judged on her own merits, same as the guy trains. Come to think of it all of the trains on Sodor are too busy with business to get down to any kinky business.

So both worlds are very obviously being told from a “male gaze”, but they at least half-ass an attempt at fully realized characters of both sexes.

FOUR: A well-established hierarchy and social order. Every engine knows his make and model and place in the world. Status is everything. In GofT are you a Lannister or a Karstark or a wilding or a whore or a butcher’s boy? In “Thomas”, better to be a tender engine (and by tender I mean the thing on the back with coal that couples to the rest of the train, not a gentle loving nature) than a tank or tram engine, or even worse…a freight truck! As GofT has its troublesome eunuch army, “Thomas” has its troublesome trucks who can’t even move on their own but almost universally resent their inferior anatomy. They are always just a bunch of assholes.

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I could go on about how some characters get “direwolves”, some trains get to pull the passenger coaches, some characters get henchman or guards, some trains get personal break vans, some characters get their own personal castle, some trains get their own branch lines, some characters are twins, some trains are twins, some characters who are twins have incestuous relationships…but I don’t need to go on. I think my point was very well made.

FIVE:  The looming threat of ultimate doom. The meta-narrative of “Game of Thrones” is that all the petty squabbles among houses and spouses is a dangerous distraction from the real enemy, the White Walkers. It’s a cool thread, and props to George RR…until you realize that like everything else in his universe, its cribbed again from “The Railway Series.” In the Rev WW Awdry’s epic saga, the narrow-minded gamesmanship of the engines to curry favor with the fickle God of the Rails, The Fat Controller, is all for naught when the diesel engines reach Sodor.

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The threat of built-in obsolescence is palpable among the engines of Sodor. The steam engines are no match for diesel power, they know it, and so do the diesels. Their only hope is to continuously appeal to the Fat Controller’s misguided sense of loyalty and nostalgia, despite the fact that all readers know eventually the laws of economics and progress will force his hand, and Thomas and Friends will either be scrapped or sold to China. But nine decades and hundreds of books in, this hasn’t happened yet.

4102641915_5ec6f7a9d7_zHowever, where “Game of Thrones” makes the Nights’ King a complete cipher (for now), in the “Railway Series”, the leader of the diesels, Diesel, is a real SOB. He’s smarmy and self-righteous and secretly (or not so secretly) ‘racist’ against the other engines who he begrudgingly works with, envisioning a time when the Diesels/Aryan master race with “rule” the tracks and all the steam-powered engines are lying in a scrap heap somewhere. He also has a nasty temper that he can’t control. He’s one of the few trains with a square face instead of a round one. That’s spooky. I used to have nightmares about this train running me over, or trying to.

SIX: Dragons

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SEVEN: George RR Martin wears a cap just like Mr. Conductor. (except really Martin is like GofT’s “Fat Controller” in terms of his ability to manipulate the narrative)

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FUN FACT: GofT was originally going to be called “Peter Dinklage the Sexy Dwarf and Friends” but they were worried about copyright infringement.

Nobody knows whether or not “Thomas the Tank Engine” was originally going to be called “A Trance of Trains” or “A Feast of Freight.”

2016 Candidates As Disney Princesses

There was a debate last night!

Although celebrities like Kim Kardashian carry the bloodline of American royalty, our cadre of nutty politicians are the next closest thing. With the help of the courageous media, our primary season has ‘exposed’ the Presidential field as a group of spoiled, pretty people. So why not compare them to our ideal fantasy of entitlement and royal virtue, the fairest of them all, the Disney princesses?

If you like Disney, and you like gotcha! politics, this is the clickable comparison for YOU:

Jeb! Bush- (Princess) Tinker Bell

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Poor Jeb!, no matter how loud he shrieks and sprinkles pixie dust on the electorate, nobody hears him. His presence in this election has been so tiny, so unnecessary, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Not that he deserves our attention; when you look closely at what he says, he’s really just kind of an obnoxious bitch.

I guess it’s true what they say: every time a GOP voter says “I don’t believe in Bushes”, there’s a little Jeb! somewhere that falls right down dead.

 

Ben Carson- Princess Aurora

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Otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty. That was easy.

Hilary Clinton- Princess Elsa

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Yeah, I think she’s a bit of an ice queen. That’s not all bad. Princess Clinton’s got impressive skills! She’s also gotten an unfair rap in the past from the kingdom at large, and she’s mostly taken it in stride. This election season Hilary’s been willing to “let it go” and freeze all of her would-be opponents with phantom debates on a Saturday night, and a strong sense of entitlement to boot. She’s played the cynical older sister to Bernie’s naive waif (more on that below), which is…well, it’s disappointing.

Chris Christie- The Red Queen

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A nasty bully who makes ridiculous threats. Sentence first, verdict afterward: Christie would blow up Russian planes before risking not starting World War III. We’re already in World War III! Paint all the states red! Not really a Disney princess, but then again, Christie is not really a Presidential candidate.

Ted Cruz- Princess Ariel, The Little Mermaid

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An extremely vain creature, Cruz longs to be human but something is missing. But he’s certainly the most theatrical of the Presidential candidates; everybody agrees his obnoxious voice is a…quality of some kind. Prone to temper tantrums, his cleverness is undermined by a radical solipsism (says the NYT) which has all of his sisters in the GOP leering with hatred (and jealousy). And I guess in this metaphor King Triton is…Mitch McConnell? Yuck.

Jim Gilmore- Princess Kidagakash
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Yup, that’s a real princess!

Jon Kasich- Princess Megara

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Kasich seems to have made a foolish Faustian bargain in his bid for the Presidency, begrudgingly adopting GOP policy points he probably doesn’t believe in (here he is waffling on climate change) and its made him bitter and cynical. He’s better than this and he knows it. But that won’t help him win. In this sense he is a tragic figure and that only makes him more beautiful.

Martin O’Malley- (Princess) Alice

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Just kind of an observer to the whole nutty affair.

Rand Paul- Princess Jasmine

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Rand Paul is NOT a prize to be won!…but only because not enough people like him. Feisty and combative on the debate stage, Randy Rand secretly longs for America to sweep him off his feet on a magic carpet ride to the White House. His father, who people consider a well-meaning libertarian sultan, nevertheless has a nefarious voice in his ear telling him stupid things about the Gold Standard and such. Also like his father, sometimes Princess Rand likes to dress up like a commoner and say agreeable things about foreign policy, enough that if you’re not paying attention, you might even fall in love.

Marco Rubio- Princess Leia in a slave bikini

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Marco Rubio was supposed to be the future of politics or something, but it turns out he’s just a slave of the corpulent 1%, chained to the slobbering menace of the Koch brothers and their ilk. However, you get the feeling that this pin-up candidate secretly likes playing the submissive, pouty eye-candy of the GOP. Reciting lame stump speeches and talking points suits him a little too well.

From the way they talk about Rubio and the “Gang of 8”, you’d think those guys blew up the Death Star. But, no, they just tried to legislate a path to citizenship. Carrie Fisher could do much better.

Bernie Sanders- Princess Ana

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Bernie is considered the lesser Princess of the Democrats because he doesn’t have superPAC powers like his crazy-face ‘sister’ in the race. But while Hilary warns of threats abroad, Bernie asks us if we want to build something. They say he’s naive, that the political coalition he hopes to marry into will turn their back on him. Is his liberal optimism beautiful or worthy of ridicule? Maybe we ‘need’ Princess Elsa, but we ‘want’ Princess Ana. Without Bernie, the Presidential race would feel a little soulless.

Rick Santorum- Princess Snow White

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An outdated, bleached and bland Princess of yesteryear who hangs around by virtue of being codified into the established royalty of the GOP. Not much personality, not much charisma, but he’s re-released for public consumption every election cycle to drum up some revenue and make people feel nostalgic.

Donald Trump- Princess Cinderella

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Donald Trump’s American Dream is a noise your fart makes.

You can fool some of the people all of the time; people figured a trashy celeb sweeping up the garbage ratings of reality TV wouldn’t be taken seriously as anything other than a bad SNL sketch, but before you can say “bippity boppity boob”, he’s a Presidential Princess! Before the clock strikes midnight on November 8, enough people might continue to see a tough Alpha male who speaks his mind and gets things done. Just don’t forget to ask him how he’s doing in the polls. So this is love. The rats who run his campaign are counting on a wave of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant fervor to seize the silent majority. You can already see the cracks forming on those glass slippers; he gets irritable.  Judging by his toupe, he really doesn’t have far to go to turn back into a pumpkin. Any minute now. Any minute………

AND DON’T FORGET:

Sarah Palin- Fairy Godmother

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She makes stupid feel like magic.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

Nobody is Belle. Which is a shame since Belle in her golden gown is the prettiest princess. But if I had to pick someone (and I kind of hate myself for this…)

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Social Media: The Fast Food of the Internet

I haven’t been very satisfied with the internet these days. Actually, I haven’t been satisfied in general–why is there a bowl filled with Windex in my kitchen?–but the internet certainly hasn’t helped. Between bad advice, stupid comments in the comments section, and a steady, exhausting bombardment of celebrity news and Valentine’s Days advertisements, the internet seems less like a tool or a crutch and more just like an infinite cyber-trash heap, filling up our time with excess junk, similar to the way plastic is filling up our ocean. The culprit is not just cat pictures, or massive dicks but also the incredible and awful ways that the internet is replacing media in the real world with something far tackier and false.

“They” told us that the internet was going to revolutionize communication, and it did! Social media has exploded in a way that nobody could have predicted even a few years ago (or 20 years ago? when was the first hashtag?). When I worked for a newspaper in 2009, our connection to the internet consisted of uploading the articles onto the website and occasionally, as in once every month or so, posting web-only content such as videos. Now, blog posts and articles have become near simultaneous, articles must be accompanied by viral hash-tags or search terms, and everything must be glossed over with a false veneer of “clickability”; every news item, no matter how banal (“Taylor Swift has a Belly Button”), or perhaps simply obtuse (“Mets Relief Pitchers Projected to Lead League in Opponents’ Batting Average”) must compete in an insane online popularity contest.

In the end, while the internet has opened up new opportunities for news-gathering and understanding the world around us, mostly it has just tricked people. Social media is to print media as Fast Food is to Food; it’s easier to digest but it isn’t actually as good as the real thing. The internet hasn’t replaced traditional media with something better; it’s displaced it with something worse.

However, this being the internet, I’ll play by the house rules, so instead of continuing on a vague and self-righteous tirade, I’ve made a fancy “listicle.” According to social media “experts” (basically people over 40 who don’t quite understand technology), humans like lists, and they also like metaphors, so here is a list of metaphors comparing social media sites to their appropriate fast food counterpart.

  • Upworthy- The Whopper BK-whopper           The most famous burger in the world! “MAN BITES INTO A WHOPPER AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” they might say. But all that advertising and history and hoopla is just used to disguise what is ultimately just a very plain, normal burger, with only the most obvious fixings. Like, what, not even a secret sauce? Consumers of Upworthy may enjoy it compulsively but your most common reaction to a video is most likely to be…”that’s all there is?” And when does exaggeration cross the line into becoming a…well, you know.
  • Twitter- Ketchup Pouches condi-pkt               “It’s a vegetable!” you cry defensively. “It’s an essential ingredient in our daily diet!” “Brevity is the soul of wit!”  Twitter is the media condiment bar, ‘spicing’ up our consumption. After all, its only 120 characters, it won’t go to your thighs right? But you can never take just one, can you? You have to follow them all. Soon your time and your pockets are loading with this shit. And then pretty soon let’s face it: you’ve developed a dependency on something that can be generously described as liquid processed sugar.
  • Buzzfeed- Cheesy Gordita Crunch taco-bell-cheesy-gordita-cr                                        TEN SIGNS ITS NOT ACTUALLY THINKING OUTSIDE THE BUN 1. It’s a list, not an article. 2. These facts are not facts at all. In fact, you might be horrified to discover that the facts are actually made with only 10% real information. The rest is some kind of empty filler which smells suspiciously of cardboard. 3. What is a “listicle” anyway? You are as likely to find a listicle in the New York Times as you are to find a “gordita” in Ciudad Juarez. 4. Butbutbutbut it’s something for everyone! Cheesy! Crunchy! Punchy! Fun! Informative! Please go viral pleaaaaaaaaaase! 5. I promised ten ingredients, so you will get ten ingredients, whether or not those ingredients actually go together. 6. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 7. True story: I have never eaten a cheesy gordita crunch. I have not eaten Taco Bell since I was eight years old. 8. My dog, Nutsie, died in December and it was really upsetting because I’d never lost a pet before. 9. Do people even read through to number nine? If you’re reading this… 10. You might as well read this line too, in which I reiterate my hatred of Buzzfeed.
  • Pinterest/Flickr/Vine/those guys- Happy Meal Fries 8246802_orig                                                            There’s no pretense here. Just superficial savory morsels, and that’s fine right? Gotta have some fun every now and then. But buyer beware: there’s more in these than meets the eye. The originals have been heavily altered. Think those fries are naturally that thin? Think that nice golden tan is really meant to last thirty years? What is lost when we opt for the cheaper, tackier version of fried potatoes or a coffee table book?
  • Tinder- Dominoe’s Brownie Bites da91c1d3                                      Yummy yummy in the tummy. Skip the gross ones that got squished on their journey to you and take the ones that still smell like chocolate. More fun for you than the brownies; the brownies won’t ever know they’ve been rejected…they’re brownies! These stopped being so popular once people began feeling embarrassed about being seen with them in public. And ask yourself this: are you really going to find a happy ending with DOMINOE’S?!?! If you are, then, can I be honest? You’re either really shallow or you don’t expect a lot out of life.
  • MySpace- Roy Rogers’ Roast Beef Sandwich roy-rogers-roast-beef.jpeg                                                             Is there an explanation necessary? Maybe just this: there are still 1 million users of myspace. And also, chances are if you’ve ever ridden from New York to Washington DC along the Jersey turnpike and I-95, there’s probably a Roy Rogers’ sandwich from 2003 lost somewhere under your car seat. But you don’t want to go back there. Ever.
  • Facebook- Starbucks Caramel Macchiato CPM Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  What is this even doing here? Isn’t it better than fast food? Doesn’t it provide, like, a usable service for the good of mankind? How many people at work have been able to get through the date without it? It’s changed our lives. For the better? Who knows, why place a value judgement on it?                                  Because, at the end of the day, something more sinister is going on here. Some people are using it just for the status. Riding the wave of the future, the explosive wave of popularity? Some people might even have an addiction, whether they admit to it or not. By turning to the same old brand, how many millions or billions of people now think they are doing something culturally or personally significant when really they’re just being lazy? Here is the most important thing to remember: A caramel macchiato is not actually a macchiato. You want a macchiato? You still have to do it the old fashioned way; going out into the real world. And research has been inconclusive as to whether or not getting Starbucks to sell your music has actually boosted your profile. Not that any of us are going to stop using these things any time soon. But a little self-awareness is good every now and then.

-Dakota

50 Shades of Dakota

A contract for my next secret lover. 

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I have a confession to make. I’m tired of being alone. For months now, I’ve sat in my basement at my computer, starting at pictures of Taylor Swift’s bellybutton or Kendall Jenner’s pimple, wondering why nobody loves me the way I deserve to be loved. It hasn’t been easy living in a word this unfair and incorrect about the way things ought to be. But after browsing through the first floor bookshelf for my roommate’s hidden stash of cocaine, I found, of all things, a book to read, and three hours into “50 Shades of Grey” I discovered why I’ve been in living in DC without so much as a booty call:

I hadn’t written a proper sadomasochistic sex contract.

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Duh!

What am embarrassing error. That is, it was an embarrassing error. But good news, ladies, you may be wondering what’s in those pants pockets, and yes, I am happy to see you, but that bulge is actually ten pages of legal documents that I am hoping to offer for signatures in the near future with the goal of securing some dirty kinky fun during those times when I am bored with school, or until I leave this awful city in June.

In case any of this is too confusing, I refer you here, chapter-11.html, in which Anastasia Steele fishes through an envelope she has received and discovers an opportunity for the “Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits and her wellbeing.”

Translation: PLEASURE BALLS!!!!!

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So faster than you can say the safe word, I set out to complete a binding agreement with myself, the Dominant, and “you”, the Submissive, which could be “you” the reader, I suppose, but also is most likely the pejorative “you”, since I’m open to just about anyone and anything.

A complete version of my own personal safety contract will soon be available in PDF format for $7.95 (bitcoins accepted), but for now I will agree to share with you the highlights so you get a better idea of the kinds of expectations I have with a future partner.

Are you ready? Okay: Mr. Dunlap McKee will see you now.

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1.Obedience: The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree without hesitation to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant without hesitation excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2, please read without hesitation). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.

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2. Sleep: The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant. When she is with the Dominant, the Submissive will ensure HE achieves a minimum of 12 hours of sleep a night, during which the Submissive can do whatever the fuck she wants.

3. Food: The Submissive shall agree to eat cake no more than once every three weeks and agree to participate in Meatless Mondays (tm?) since the Dominant feels excessive meat production in this country is harmful for the environment.

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4. Clothes: The Submissive will agree only to wear clothing provided by the Submissive since the Dominant does not shop for clothing. The Submissive will agree to shop for clothing for the Dominant. The Submissive will agree to never shop for clothing at Abercrombie and Fitch since the owner of that store is a douchebag. The Submissive shall wear adornments as required by the Dominant in the presence of the Dominant or at any other time, which may or may not include the following items:

  • Handcuffs
  • Cufflinks
  • Handcuff Earings
  • Handcuffed Cufflinks
  • Button-down Shoes
  • Leather Socks
  • Sequin Pink Knitted Winter Hats
  • Silk Scarves
  • Pajamas
  • Strapless bras
  • Comfortably fitting thongs made out of synthetic but eco-friendly materials
  • Wrist bracelets and Diamond Jewelry (accepting for a budget of less than $10,000)
  • Sexy Sunglasses
  • Dresses that are titillating but never monochromatic 
  • Kinky shit we will find when shopping at Target
  • (the list goes on in the actual contract)

The Submissive will accept and agree to acknowledge without hesitation the fact that the Dominant does not know much about acceptably demeaning except for what he read in Chapter 11 of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

5. Exercise: The Submissive shall agree to go to the gym every day and also coerce and cajole the Dominant into going with her since the Dominant hates going to the gym.

6.Roles For the purposes of role playing the Submissive shall become familiar with all the films in the oeuvre of Lars Von Trier as well as some by Peter Jackson since he’s made good ones too. Dominant shall take responsibility for the well-being, proper training, and guidance of the Submissive through rigorous sessions divining tarot fortunes. He shall decide the nature of such training (probably flash cards), guidance (I’ll download some PDFs), and discipline and the time and place of its administration, subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above.

6A. More on Roles The Submissive shall agree to at certain times swap roles, becoming the Dominant and hurting and humiliating the Dominant who is now the Submissive with horse whips and steel tipped boots, and also agreeing on a mutual safe word in case the Dominant is no longer comfortable being the submissive or the Submissive is no longer comfortable being the Dominant.

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7. Diseases The Dominant and the Submissive each warrant that they suffer from no sexual, serious, infectious or life-threatening illnesses including but not limited to HIV, Herpes and Hepatitis and then also scabies or syphilis or HPV and genital warts neither nor Mucopurulent Cervicitis and especially nothing near lymphogranuloma venereum, admitting that this last one is pretty uncommon.

…………..

157-2. Action Verbs The Submissive shall accept whippings, creamings, floggings, spankings, wankings, thankings, bankings, baseball games, caning, canoeing, paddling, snuggling, cuddling, canoodling, fornicating, vegan baking and/or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, enquiry or complaint. Even and especially home karaoke sessions.

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……

4,372-15A. Safeword  In such circumstances related to (section 87-R/C24), the Submissive may make use of a safeword (“The Safeword (s)”). Two Safewords will be invoked depending on the severity of the demands:

The Safeword “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive is close to her limit of endurance.

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The Safeword(s) “A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And maybe they’d be happy for a while But February made me shiver With every paper I’d deliver Bad news on the doorstep I couldn’t take one more step I can’t remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside The day the music died So bye-bye, Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey in Rye Singin’ “This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die” Did you write the book of love And do you have faith in God above If the Bible tells you so? Now do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul, And can you teach me how to dance real slow?” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive cannot tolerate any further demands. When these words are said the Dominant’s action will cease completely with immediate effect. And the Submissive will be thankful the Dominant did not demand the entire song.

CONCLUSION

We the undersigned have read and understood fully the provisions of this contract. We freely accept the terms of this contract and have acknowledged this by our signatures below. Daddie’s hungry (and if that last line is too much, let me point out that it is very likely my father is hungry right now and wants to eat at least a dessert snack, and that you were reading way too much into it).

SIGNED DAKOTA DUNLAP MCKEE

020

 

Game of Thrones and Thomas the Tank Engine: THE SAME EXACT SHOW

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I knew there was a reason why Game of Thrones felt so familiar. I experienced the same emotions, learned the same lessons, eye-rolled at the gratuitous nudity, lived vicariously through the same characters twenty years ago. Except back then, I wasn’t following the front lines around the country of Westeros, I was rolling along the branch lines of the Isle of Sodor. That’s right, Game of Thrones is a blatant rip-off of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the British TV show which was filmed using narrow-gauge model trains and featured the sturdy yet subtle voice-over narration of Ringo Starr.

You won’t win this argument, but if you dare try, here are the clinching irrefutable facts:

ONE: Like Game of Thrones (abbreviated hence forth to GofT), Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (abbreviated hence forth to TtheTEandFbitchez) takes place on a fictional island that is vaguely meant to respresent Great Britain. Yes, technically Sodor is meant to be between GB and the isle of Man but really its meant as a fictional fantasy-land copycat of the real place. And Sodor’s topography, geography, demographics, history, rail map, etc etc, has all been real thought out. Yeah, so forgive me if I’m not impressed that you know can point out King’s Landing out on a map. You don’t know shit if you can’t tell Culdee Fell from Ffarquhar.

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At least the Rev W Awdry was from England. George RR Martin is just some dude from New Jersey.

TWO: I watch GofT for one reason and one reason alone: amazing special effects I want to know who is going to win the game! Who is going to get their head cut off? Who is going to mount an assault on the capital? Who is going to buy a slave army? The machinations of all these crazy houses and noble families is titilating to the maximum. It’s well written, sure, but it can get a little campy. A little gratuitous.

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And that’s also why I wanted to watch Thomas.  Like GofT, Thomas and Friends offers a decentralized world of industrious and ambitious engines fighting to maintain control of their various rail lines, often at the expense of one another. The title character in fact doesn’t even appear in most of the stories, it’s usually the big engines like Gordon or Henry who are fucking up and causing trouble and dumping on each other. And when these engines fuck up, it’s an awesome shit show. The best episodes are the ones where an engine does something stupid and gets derailed into a mine pit or the ocean or something.

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Okay, so the engines never “die” in TtheTEandFbitchez, but SPOILER ALERT characters come back to life in GofT too! There’s that priest character who’s been cut seven times. And all those zombies north of the wall who’ve been reanimated.

In both universes, it is often difficult to discern some kind of overarching plot arc. Moves are simply behind made, wheels being turned, until winter comes or diesel power replaces steam power as the main source of locomotion.

George RR Martin is a true fan of history, and that’s where many of his storylines come from. Supposedly he based the battle of the Starks and the Lannisters after the fight between the Lancasters and the Whatevers in olde England. The good Reverend Awdry liked history too. And trains. He liked train history. Almost all the trains in his original stories are based on real trains, although the real ones don’t have faces or talk.

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THREE: Both worlds offer a complex and sometimes contradictory take on the role of women in their respective societies. GofT is a world full of wenches and whores and rich girls doing their hair, but it also has a dragon lady and a warrior woman and a wise cracking grandma. Some of the women get good lines and reflect on their plight in society, and yes sometimes the women have to do things to the men to get power but that’s just “the way things were back then.” And at the end of the day there are plenty of women pulling the strings in various parts of Westeros and the outlying lands. I think the character of “Margary” is my favorite since she so obviously is now pulling the strings on evil Joffrey (more on him later).

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In “Thomas” there just aren’t any lady trains. Off the top of my head I can think of two (although for some reason I always feminized Bertie the bus, I think Bertie might have been bicurious at the very least). There is a caboose named “Henrietta” that doesn’t have a face and doesn’t speak, but I’m assuming that might be a lady train too. New “Thomas” stories have added a “main character” named “Emily” to try to be more politically correct but that doesn’t count, since those stories were written after 1990.

However, the two lady trains are like a big deal. They are both diesel engines, so by their very nature are more important and powerful than the other trains. Daisy the trolley is kind of like Cersei Lannister; she’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is and both characters got this major attitude/chip on her shoulder since they don’t want to be stereotyped as a “woman” but then they don’t assert themselves or transcend gender politics.

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Mavis the tram diesel is more like Danaerys; at first Mavis starts out as a dainty waif engine but gradually comes into her own as she learns to work with the other engines and become the most important train on Thomas’ branch line.

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Also you never hear ANY of the women in “Thomas” talk about “boys” or complaining about their periods or taking time out of scheduled journeys to “go shopping.” When a lady train is running on all cylinders, that lady train is judged on her own merits, same as the guy trains. Come to think of it all of the trains on Sodor are too busy with business to get down to any kinky business.

So both worlds are very obviously being told from a “male gaze”, but they at least half-ass an attempt at fully realized characters of both sexes.

FOUR: A well-established hierarchal social order. Every engine knows his make and model and place in the world. Status is everything. In GofT are you a Lannister or a Karstark or a wilding or a whore or a butcher’s boy? In “Thomas”, better to be a tender engine (and by tender I mean the thing on the back with coal that couples to the rest of the train, not a gentle loving nature) than a tank or tram engine, or even worse…a freight truck! As GofT has its troublesome eunuch army, “Thomas” has its troublesome trucks who can’t even move on their own but almost universally resent their inferior anatomy. They are always just a bunch of assholes.

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I could go on about how some characters get “direwolves”, some trains get to pull the passenger coaches, some characters get henchman or guards, some trains get personal break vans, some characters get their own personal castle, some trains get their own branch lines, some characters are twins, some trains are twins, some characters who are twins have incestuous relationships…but I don’t need to go on. I think my point was very well made.

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FIVE: A great villain. You gotta give little King Joffrey his due. Somehow he has been able to go beyond the “rich spoiled prince” archetype to basically be the richest, most spoiled, most sadistic evil little creep on television. He steals every scene with his wicked temper tantrums and/or torture-driven orgasms. You want him to die a horrible death, but that would mean he wouldn’t be on the show anymore. He’s a scary guy.

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And yet he can only hope to match Diesel. Diesel is a real SOB. He’s smarmy and self-righteous and secretly (or not so secretly) ‘racist’ against the other engines who he begrudgingly works with, envisioning a time when the Diesels/Aryan master race with “rule” the tracks and all the steam-powered engines are lying in a scrap heap somewhere. He also has a nasty temper that he can’t control. For what it’s worth, he’s one of the few trains with a square face instead of a round one. That’s scary. I used to have nightmares about this train running me over, or trying to. He even has really creepy theme music. With the exception of him, every other engine on Sodor has a redeeming quality or wants what is best for the rail lines. Not Diesel. He’s in it for himself. Just ask “Duck”.

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SIX: Dragons

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SEVEN: George RR Martin wears a cap just like Mr. Conductor. (except really Martin is like GofT’s “Fat Controller” in terms of his ability to manipulate the narrative)

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FUN FACT: GofT was originally going to be called “Peter Dinklage the Sexy Dwarf and Friends” but they were worried about copyright infringement.

Nobody knows whether or not “Thomas the Tank Engine” was originally going to be called “A Trance of Trains” or “A Feast of Freight.”