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.


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.

5 Awful Christmas Songs

Christmas time is here (happiness and cheer), and that means half the radio stations in America are churning out Christmas songs instead of Top 40 hits for reasons I don’t fully understand. Not that I mind, I love Christmas music, and there is something special about having a specific time of year to listen to some of my favorite songs. Not all songs are created equal, however, and along with classics like O Holy Night and that one song that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays we are also stuck listening to garbage; worthless slime music that plays over and over because no one has the good sense to set them to flame and scatter the ashes. Here are some of the worst offenders.

1. Feliz Navidad

To ease you into the charred hatred, we’ll start with this little number. You may object to it even being on the list. You think it is charming, and has a nice message to it. You probably also loved it when the Teletubbies watched children do asinine activities and then shouted “AGAIN!” so you could watch the exact same video clip a second time. This song is repetitive in ways that would make a clock blush. Genetically identical clones have more variation. It is literally one verse and one chorus. Over and over. But as bad as it that is, the verse and chorus are saying the SAME DAMNED THING. “Prospero año y felicidad” is the closest thing this song has to a unique line, and it too is endlessly repeated like the chanting of brainwashed cultists.

2. Wonderful Christmas Time

Paul McCartney is a gifted songwriter, but he’s possibly even better at churning out mindless pop hits for money. So I can understand why this song exists, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it. The jist of this song is “well it’s Christmas, so I guess we’re supposed to be having fun right now” and it has all of the emotional thrill to match. His voice stays at an even pitch just high enough to grate on your nerves but not quite enough to drive dogs wild and actually make something fun happen. And I don’t know what is making the instrumental music, but it ought to be declared a war crime.

3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

I would be remiss to miss this little gem. In addition to being an awful song in general, it is without a doubt the single most horrifying song about Santa Claus. Most of them are about him dropping off carefully-picked presents, or offering mutant reindeer a useful task, but the only purpose of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is to scare children into submission. He can see you at ALL TIMES, and just a single misstep is enough to get you on the naughty list. Which he checks twice, by the way. And what are these terrible crimes that’ll get you naughty-listed? Shouting, crying, pouting. We’re talking about children here. So the lesson here is to bottle up all emotions and don’t speak above a whisper or the omniscient master of the North will despise you. Bang up job there, carolers.

4. Happy Xmas

Yes I looked it up, this is apparently how the name of the song is written. Couldn’t even be bothered to write out the word “Christmas”, John Lennon? Probably just as well, because this isn’t even a song about Christmas. This is yet another limp-wristed war protest song (there are in fact war protest songs that aren’t limp-wristed). Now there is nothing wrong with being against war in general principle, because only the most vile person would actually enjoy war, but many times it is simply not an option. When someone confronts your family/clan/tribe/nation with violence, protesting against conflict only helps the people who want to hurt you. But never mind all that; you can have a good song that just happens to be wrong. Most love songs have no idea what love is but still manage to be enjoyable. This is a droning mess with an obnoxious children’s choir, and I think Yoko Ono is also singing which is never a good idea. Unless your only metric for good songs is “did John Lennon write it” this song falls short by any measure.

5. Last Christmas

Oh, this song. Of all the atrocities inflicted upon us this Christmas season, there is perhaps none worse than this one song. This is the black ice on your sleigh ride, the anthrax hidden in your chestnuts roasting on an open fire. If you took every bit of pointless self-absorbed bitching about the holidays and crammed it into a pressure cooker, you would have the first part of this song. Completing it requires harvesting an entire year’s worth of misery, and that just so happens to be what the song is all about. The moron singing this gave their heart away to someone who in turn tossed it aside on Boxing Day. Did moron learn their lesson about being haphazard with their feelings? Well, they declared an intention to give their heart to someone “special” this time around, to save themselves from tears. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Except what do you think they did last Christmas? Gave their heart to someone special. And what do you think they’ll do a few years from now? Give their heart to some other “special” person. Here’s an idea, maybe being drunk on eggnog at a Christmas party after months of stressing out about holiday shopping and your desperate lonliness isn’t exactly the best condition for finding true love, hmm? Just a thought.