In Defense Of Trolling

Once upon a time, the Internet world stayed on the Internet, real life stayed in disgusting meat space, and the two only met in rare and terrifying conjunctions of space/time. The two worlds had their own language, their own customs and practices. There was never any question where you were.  It was a happier time, and I’d go so far as to say a better time.

Things have changed. Words and concepts that once existed within subcultures of subcultures now run rampant. You can discuss memes (or you prefer, may-mays) without anyone batting an eye, even if only a tiny majority knows of memes beyond image macros with impact text superimposed over them.

And that’s kind of the problem. Meat space has appropriated Internet culture and terminology, but doesn’t really get it. This isn’t to say I am against appropriation (I love Thai food and vodka), but you should really get to know what it is you are talking about before you take it as your own.

Take trolling. Once a fishing term, it eventually became the single greatest way to spend time on the Internet, short of making money. I loved it. I did it a lot. And some of you now think I’m a terrible person. Which I am, but not because I’m an unrepentant troll. Allow me to explain, and you may just see the light. However, before I can get into why trolling is so great, we need to take some time to discuss what trolling isn’t. Like so many other words, trolling has been used to describe an array of activities so vast that the word itself has lost basically all meaning. It has become another “something I don’t like” along with words like hipster or inauthentic.

For starters, threats and harassment aren’t trolling. In most jurisdictions I believe these are criminal offenses. Bullying, insulting, and teasing are not trolling either. Having misinformed or unpopular opinions are not trolling. Being factually incorrect isn’t trolling.

Others may quibble, but for the purposes of this post I would describe trolling as follows: a deliberate and insincere statement, gesture, or entire conversation over the Internet meant to inflame or make a fool of a second party, for the purposes of entertainment.

I spent a good part of my teenage years slowly studying this most august craft, learning at the feet of the troll masters of video game forums. It was glorious. And here is why I think it was overall a worthwhile endeavor.

Trolling Is Psychology And Sociology 101

Much like how I assume good fishing happens, to successfully troll you have to know your target. What they like, what they respond to, what drives them absolutely nuts. You can pick up some good rules of thumbs through observation, but ultimately you have to get in and start setting your own traps. And you will fail at first. The ruses will be transparent. You’ll go after the wrong target. It may get messy. But you will learn. Even if you have to make every wrong choice first, eventually you’ll figure out the right answer. And then you’ll do it again, and again. And all the while you’ll learn more about your fellow man-boy or lady-girl than you ever could have by being nice.

Antagonism Is Good For Us And The World

What is the last good story you read without a villain, or even a rival? Some sort of something to overcome? There might be a few, but I’m having trouble thinking of any, and I don’t really need to to make my point so HA! All the good stories have someone or something that challenges the protagonist. No one wants to hear about the time you went to the grocery store and nothing happened. They do want to hear about the time you went to the grocery store and almost got ran over by a Mack truck. Opposition is the spice of life, and by trolling you give that precious gift to another. By the way, this may go without saying, but once you start trolling you will get trolled back, so your giving of yourself will quickly be rewarded with challenges of your own. Meanwhile, there is an entire third party audience who gets to watch you out on the highest form of intellectual entertainment the Internet has to offer.

Trolling Teaches Us Critical Thinking

Once you are successfully trolled, you’re going to want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. How do you do that? By looking for the clues, often hidden in plain sight. See, while a troll must conceal the trap from his prey, he must make it easily apparent to the audience, else they won’t realize what is even going on. Once you learn these telltale signs of a troll at work, it is easy to apply it to any number of other things; biased or misleading news, unraveling logical fallacies, what have you. The Internet becomes your oyster, which segues nicely into my final point.

Trolling Gives Us Real Life Skills

Critical thinking, storytelling tropes, understanding the human mind, what do these things have in common? They are just as useful in the horrid flesh universe as they are in the series of tubes. You’ve already conquered the Internet, you dangly-armed monster; conquering real life isn’t much more difficult, particularly if you are interested in a creative or human-oriented field. Satire to enact cultural change, sales, politics of questionable ethics. You have a educational foundation that most could only wish for. Russia is on line one, President Troll.

On Encouragement, Optimism, and Other Alien Things

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am not an optimist.

I figured this out pretty quickly in my childhood. Immediately after learning what optimists and pessimists were, I decided that optimists were a bunch of dummies. I found the very idea repulsive; at times it even made me angry. Positive thinking? WTFever. And while my understanding of a great many things has expanded dramatically in my adult years, my concept of optimism and pessimism had largely been settled.

Were this some Christian testimony, this is the point where I would say that becoming one opened up my eyes and let me see the beauty and possibility of reality. This is of course not one of those. While I could occasionally coax up enough faith to believe that something great would happen in my life, most of the time I felt the most I had to look forward to was the resurrection of the dead. This life had no real promise for me. My highest aspiration was to suffer through it as stoically as I could.

That hasn’t gone so well either.

All the while trying to keep my head barely above the surface of Absolute Despair Ocean, I found myself constantly bombarded by the most annoying things.

Compliments.

Encouragements.

Good ideas on how to make my life a little better.

I hated it all so much. At times I thought my friends were mocking me (and thus weren’t my friends at all). Then I decided they simply didn’t know what an awful hopeless person I was (and thus were too ignorant to be considered more than acquaintances). Sometimes I just sort of accepted it because I felt telling them off for daring to say such things about me, but not wanting to sound like some whiny guy fishing for yet more compliments.

In more recent years I got a little better at dealing with these foreign intrusions. I told myself “well, maybe they see something I don’t” or “well I guess I’m occasionally a pretty okay guy”. I was still resistant to it all, though.

Because if you are a hopeless loser and failure, then everything that happens in your life was just going to happen that way regardless; you can glide through life without ever trying, because trying won’t work. It’s very easy.

But if you aren’t hopeless, if you can succeed, then it is on you. You don’t have the excuse of “well it wouldn’t have worked anyways”, because it could have. You could strive harder, study the problem more thoroughly, and improve things.

That was not something I really wanted to deal with. Not in any big way. Sure, I could give a little extra at some smaller tasks and goals, but really applying myself? Acknowledging what I really wanted to do with my life and then going for it? That was just too scary. Drifting through life is sort of a dull ache, but failure hurts.

I think it is only in the last couple days that I’ve finally noticed what has been going on in my brain all this time. Well, maybe I’ve noticed it before, but now it is at the forefront, and impossible to ignore.

I saw this on Twitter earlier today.

The goofy little inspiring image wouldn’t have done much to me. I’ve seen thousands of those. They roll off my back like water or dodge balls. It’s what she said after. Because I am one of those cup half-empty goobers who likes to come up with an exception to every stupid little piece of encouragement and inspiration I come across.

And I couldn’t help but think about why this was. Why do little inspiring messages bother me so much? Why to compliments make me want to yell at my friends? How is it that I can be so unafraid of death yet so fearful of life?

I’m not quite sure I have an answer yet. Maybe it’s as simple as a weak faith, or my natural melancholy temperament and countless depressive episodes have just conditioned me against hoping for the best. This question and the answer to it aren’t really all that important, however, because there is a much better question that has a much more important answer.

What am I going to do about it?

And the answer is something. Lots of somethings. I’m going to write this blog post about it now instead of putting it off just because it’s late and I have to be up early in the morning. Whatever. I don’t sleep much anyways so what’s one more night? I’m going to sign up for a poetry class because for some reason I got it in my head that I want to be a poet and write good poetry because bad poetry is just the worst thing ever. I’m going to accept it as true when my friends say things like I’m witty and funny and personable and have grown a lot. I’m going to believe them so hard that I’m going to actually act like they are true. And I think in a sense that is the best way to react to a compliment: live up to it.

One of my friends said this to me today. “Don’t waste another day, Anthony. Your life and legacy are too precious and short.”

That’s a pretty hardcore thing to live up to. It actually left me for a loss of words for a minute or two (which is a problem when you’re supposed to be a writer).

So thanks, you weird people who said nice things about me and posted a bunch of dumb motivational messages. I will go live a better life! And if by some chance were lying, well, then I get to prove your smug jerk self wrong. So that’s fun too.

#amwriting

Fresh Off The Boat, Or How I Single-Handedly Saved Television For Asian Americans

I haven’t watched a lot of television in the past five years. I haven’t even owned a television in the past four, so what I do see mostly consists of being at other people’s houses, or once in a great while a show comes along that I simply must go out of my way to watch online.

I certainly hear a lot about TV shows, because everyone I know seems to watch them, and from their conversations and the one or two episodes I do see I can generally piece together what they are supposed to be about. How I Met Your Mother is about a guy who took like a decade to answer a simple question, Modern Family is actually about three families (one of them is gay), and Arrested Development is Michael Cera’s autobiography. So on and so forth. The last show I actually watched all the way through was Breaking Bad, which ironically is about creating so much bad that everyone’s life ends up ruined or ended.

When I started seeing ads and buzz for Fresh Off The Boat, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve been very critical of sitcoms ever since The Simpsons started to suck, and I think that was like a decade ago. Asian family sitcom. Woo. Right?

Wrong.

As the premier approached, one of my friends, Rebecca Sun, became very enthusiastic about it. When I commented on it, I got this as a reply.

youre our only hope

It hit me like a beam of Caucasian light: this wasn’t just some TV sitcom. This was a calling. I had to watch this show.

So a little over a week later when it finally came up for viewing on ABC.com. I suffered through repetitive commercials about curly hair, but I would not be deterred.

When I finally got to start watching the show, it was like nothing I expected. I’m not sure what I did expect, actually. I guess I just thought the mom and dad were the main characters, based on that one ad I kept seeing in the subway.

Fresh Off the Boat Key Art embed

That’s the one. You know I didn’t even notice that kid in the window? Turns out the story is really from his perspective. Yay advertising.

Anyways, the show itself is actually really funny, and not just in a “white people lol” way. Or even a “Asian people lol” way. It’s really more of a “people in unfamiliar terroritory lol” kind of funny, and I think anyone who has actually moved to a new place to start a new life can relate to it. If you’ve never really moved maybe you won’t get this show? I don’t know, but if you have never moved I do think you’re kind of a freak.

So I would recommend this show. But even if you don’t watch it, I can rest assured that my work is done. For by watching the first episode, and each subsequent episode as they come available, I know that I am doing what no one else can: I am giving this show the coveted 18-35 white male demographic view.

You’re welcome, Asian America.

50 Better Alternatives To Seeing “50 Shades Of Grey” on Valentine’s Day

Disclaimer: I have only tried some of these

Author’s Note: I had to Google the name to make sure it was grey and not gray.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some people are thinking that seeing a film adaptation of fan-fiction is a good idea. Allow me to disagree! And also allow me to suggest a few alternatives.

  1. Stay in bed.
  2. Eat lots of vanilla pudding.
  3. Go to the zoo to see the animals.
  4. Go to the zoo to see the human animals.
  5. Go to the zoo to liberate the human animals.
  6. Eat a plain bagel.
  7. Play Candy Land with a four-year old who cheats.
  8. Play Candy Land alone.
  9. Play Candy Land alone and still cheat.
  10. Get a fake ID that says you are 20, get denied alcohol.
  11. Get a fake ID that says you are 20, find out where they serve minors.
  12. Read the Wikipedia entry on Existentialism.
  13. Read the Wikipedia entry on Dadaism.
  14. Read the Wikipedia entry on Candy Land.
  15. Choose random Wikipedia entry: replace all nouns with John Goodman.
  16. State the case for a one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
  17. State the case for a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict; both Jewish states.
  18. Give a homeless man money.
  19. Give a homeless man firecrackers.
  20. Cocktail party with your stuffed animals.
  21. Cocktail party alone.
  22. Drink heavily with the lights off while your 80s breakup playlist loops.
  23. Get your name legally changed.
  24. Donate blood.
  25. Donate sweat.
  26. Search your first name on Facebook: friend request every result.
  27. Search your last name on Facebook: unfriend every result.
  28. Go to the train museum.
  29. Go to the plane museum: pretend it is the train museum.
  30. Go to the boat museum: touch displays until you are asked to leave.
  31. Learn the Thriller dance.
  32. Play World of Warcraft.
  33. Play Dungeons & Dragons.
  34. Complain about Dungeons & Dragons without playing it.
  35. Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  36. Re-enact the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  37. Start an herb garden.
  38. Start an organic herb garden, sell herbs, invest profit into Monsanto.
  39. Interrupt “show time” to announce the end of the world.
  40. Start a doll collection.
  41. Start a Dole collection.
  42. Write an essay explaining why all Taylor Swift songs are actually about tyranny.
  43. Talk to Greenpeace people on the street: explain your undying affection for the lumber industry.
  44. Eat paste.
  45. Name your boy Sue.
  46. Walk the line.
  47. Fall into a ring of fire.
  48. Shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
  49. Write a much better bondage fan fiction.
  50. Go on a normal date you’ll actually enjoy.

Stuff I Learned From 2014

If there is ever an appropriate time to sit down and over think the past, I figure the designated last day of the year is as close as it gets. And away we go!

In no particular order, I learned:

1. just how difficult it is to supervise and train an uncooperative employee.

2. you can deny Jesus 70-something times in a single day and still feel pretty okay about yourself.

3. that New York City hurricanes probably won’t be a regular thing.

4. how to pass a New York State Driving Exam. My ability to drive is up for debate.

5. that ignorance is not bliss. Having the wrong idea about things can mess you up hard.

6. horror movies are still awesome.

7. that roller coasters are still the best thing ever.

8. that sometimes you just have to force someone to pick up a crucifix.

9. like a single Tango move. Or maybe it was Salsa?

10. Twitter is a fun place to visit, but don’t live there.

11. that photography is easy. Good photography, however, is an actual skill.

12. a vacation in summer is really no more weather-proof than a vacation at any other time of the year.

13. what a wonderful thing coffee really is.

14. that soda is not actually my friend, and has been hurting me for a long time.

15. life is bonkers and there is very little we can do about it. No but seriously it is.

16. that isolation will destroy anyone.

17. that sometimes playing dolls just means holding a doll and talking.

18. Salvation Army will let you donate pretty much anything and give you a receipt for it.

19. I have some really amazing friends. More than I thought I did.

20. that I might just have a future worth looking forward to.

Here’s hoping I don’t need to relearn any of the non-fun lessons. Happy* New Years.

*Your mileage may vary.

4 Fun New Holiday Traditions For The Young And Adventurous

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the shameless embrace of age-old customs and rituals that marked our childhoods. Whether it is little things like getting to open a single present on Christmas Eve or singing carols at old people, or more elaborate celebrations like setting your seven backyard towers ablaze for Hanukkah, there is a comfort and joy to be found in the good old ways.

For many younger people, particularly those starting new families of their own, however, the old way of doing things can be onerous and impractical, or dredge up unpleasant memories of dead reindeer (why doesn’t blood ever wash out?), and so one might be tempted to forego such pageantry altogether. While understandable, I defy such logic. We are young, and the dismal future the baby boomers have left for us is still ours to craft.It is with this unquenchable spirit that I offer to you 5 ideas for adding a new and personal touch to the holidays and make them your own.

1. Candle Fight

This is one for you people who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and perhaps any weirdos who would light candles for Christmas (seriously?). Traditionally, one lights one candle after another in celebration of whatever it is Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrate, but for a young person with a taste for wicked good fun and asbestos-laced clothing, nothing can compare to the simple pleasure of throwing the candles at one another. The best part is that lit candles means you can play this fun game at any time or place, even in the middle of the night! Watch out, it’s gonna get you!

2. Stocking Race

We know all about hanging up our stockings upon the chimney with care, even if we don’t have a chimney, or haven’t neglected to renew our restraining order against Santa Claus, but what a waste of good socks! They hang there for perhaps a full month, only to be filled with things from the dollar store on Christmas Eve. Instead of hanging the stockings right away, make a fun tradition that your kids will look forward to year after year! Each kid will stick both feet into their stocking and hop the finish line while we all cheer for them. The winner gets to have their presents, and the losers get a compelling motivation to try harder next year.

3. Write A Holiday Song

Here is one for you artistic types! Nothing says “new traditions” like having a song of your very own to sing and play! I humbly submit a few titles to get the creative juices flowing.

Christmas Time, Yet Again

Mom Can’t Visit Anymore

Where’s My F****ing Candles!?

Randolph The Last Reindeer

Shopping Helps The Economy

Christmas, But For Minorities

4. Burn Last Year’s Gifts

In many ways New Year’s Day marks the end of the holiday season; those who would dare extend it to Valentine’s Day are in desperate need of therapy, do NOT feed their delusions. With all the wonderful gifts and useless garbage you’ve no doubt received over the Christmases and Hannukahs one can begin to feel overwhelmed with consumerist burden, their very soul crushed under the burden of matter. But New Year’s is a time of new beginnings, after all, and what better way to mark the start of your next few weeks of a gym membership or trying to read books than burning all the wonderful things you received in the previous year? There is no better way to warm your heart and your hearth than with the discarded debris of the holidays of yesteryear.

Practical Ways To Respond To The Eric Garner Case

In the wake of the latest failure to indict a police officer involved in the death of a black male, there has been a lot of think pieces, protests, memes, and backlash. In light of these, a few things come to mind that I think would further propel this momentum into making lasting changes. This list isn’t exhaustive, nor do I necessarily think all of them are equally useful or necessary, but you may want to consider them.

1) Educate Yourself

Following the herd because it is there is the worst idea no matter what the herd is saying. We are human beings, and no matter how social we are naturally we still have the capacity to think for ourselves, and every time we don’t we fail ourselves and those around us. No matter how clear cut these issues may seem, there is always a lot of information that simply won’t be widely reported, either because the media prefers a specific spin on the events or they simply don’t see a particular piece of data as relevant. Knowing as much as possible, both about the pivotal events themselves as well as the various factors that led to them happening is vital if you have any intention of making an intelligent judgement of the events.

2) Protest

A large mass of people yelling about things always gets attention. Make sure you did #1 first, however, or you may find yourself protesting something that really shouldn’t be protested, or you may find yourself advocating for changes that wouldn’t actually address the things you are protesting.

3) Write Your Elected Officials

This is vital. It is also vital that you get as many people to do this as possible. If you don’t like how things are done, you need to let them know in no uncertain terms that you want to see changes. And do not stop there. Threaten their elections. Telling a city counselor or DA you are upset is all well and good, but ten thousand people telling them that they have no intention of voting for someone who is comfortable with the status quo will get their attention. Do you think cops are accountable to no one and accusations against them need to be investigated by an unaffiliated party? Tell them that. Think we have way too many stupid laws and that the police shouldn’t be violent enforcers of cigarette taxes? Let them know. I personally believe that the overwhelming majority of problems we face as a nation can be traced to our lackadaisical approach to our elected officials. We let them do whatever they want, and the simple fact is people with power will tend to do whatever they can get away with. If every American citizen held the government accountable to the people instead of special interest groups or absolutely no one, we’d be living in a much better country.

4) Make Some New Friends

Your perspective changes when things affect people you know. I’ve read articles claiming things like 3/4 of white people don’t have any non-white friends, and while I question some of these statistics, it never hurts to have a more diverse set of friends, with varying viewpoints (even viewpoints you may find disagreeable or abhorrent). But maybe you have a lot of minority friends already. In that case, consider making friends with a police officer or someone who works in a DA’s office.