Vintage Stuff: Space, Aliens, and Going the Distance

Original publication date: January 2010 in BURRITO, Issue #11 under the title “2010: The Year We Make Another Movie About Making Contact”

Like most people, I saw the movie “Avatar” and drooled over the astonishing special effects. I marveled at the fact that a movie like that could even be made. But it just occurred to me that the forecast was not that in 2010 we would not be just watching movies about making contact but actually making contact. Hence the title of the film “2010: The Year We Make Contact.”

So why have we not made contact? I see three reasons:

  1. We don’t have adequate spaceships technology
  2. We don’t have enough fuel to propel the spaceships we don’t have the technology to build
  3. We don’t know where to look

Note: Some folks argue that we don’t have enough money to fund space travel. This is a silly notion. It’s not like money is some sort of scarce element that needs to be mined (“Avatar” reference). If an alien ship were to visit Earth and drop $100 trillion dollars out of the sky, it wouldn’t advance space travel research but would only screw up the value of the dollar (even more so!). But then, if an alien would do that, we would have essentially made contact and thus negate the need for money to do such. Ain’t that a rub.

For now, let’s just unpack the three reasons:

Reason #1: We don’t have adequate spaceship technology

We think that, as earthlings, we’re so intelligent that we want to find similar intelligent life to invite to dinner parties and collectively complain about the state of the universe and impress each other with stories of vacations to distant planets. But we’re not that intelligent. We can’t even go to other planets in our own solar system. This is a case of sociological survival of the fittest at the galactic level: if we can’t figure out how to get invited to the party, we don’t belong there. Also, we can’t borrow Dad’s car in this case so, oh well.

Reason #2: We don’t have enough fuel to propel the spaceships we don’t have the technology to build

Even if we had a spaceship that could make the flight, how is it powered? To haul enough rocket fuel to get us to another solar system would require a spacecraft too big to power it with mere rocket fuel. And we can’t use solar panels because we’d be flying away from the sun. We need something that can get us up to the speed of light and keep us there for years. Did somebody say “warp”? If we can’t even figure out how to build the ship, what makes us think that we can somehow figure out how to warp space and time? And if we could, how would we know our ship could handle it? One galactic “flat tire” and we’d be done for. Who would we call for help? There are no cell phone towers in space and I’m pretty sure AAA doesn’t service that sector.

Reason #3: We don’t know where to look

This is by far the most significant reason. Why build the ship to begin with if we don’t know where to point it? Space is big. It’s not like going to the mall to find a nice pair of pants, we can’t just browse around. And what if we found a planet with “intelligent” life on it? Think about how we find friends now. We don’t randomly knock on peoples’ doors in hopes that the guy who answers shares our particular hopes and dreams. He may be some psycho who’ll shoot us with his shotgun for being on his property. Imagine that at a planetary level.

Do I want to find intelligent life on other planets? Not really. There are intelligent beings on this planet I have yet to meet. And, to be honest, the movies about making contact are fun and fill that curious void. And also, if I’m being honest, I think alien life might smell like intergalactic B.O.

Is Keto Neato?

Original post: August 21, 2021

If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried going keto before. And, if you’re like me, it didn’t long. Sure, there are those folks who somehow do keto for life, I’m just not one of them. Maybe I love my carbs too much. Maybe we all do and I’m just not willing to give them up.

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (1 of 7)

In theory, keto seems so simple, but in practice, it’s a pain in the butt! First, there’s that keto flu. People will tell you it’s not a real thing – maybe it isn’t for them – but it was for me. After about a day without carbs, I start to feel as though I’m going to wither away into nothingness.

I get it. The body has to adjust to running on fat instead of carbs. That doesn’t change the fact that the adjustment phase sucks. I’ve done it several times and have endured it so it’s not like I’ve given up. I’m simply complaining about it. Just being real here.

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (2 of 7)

Keto is complicated and expensive. I recently tried the Carnivore Diet and it was so much simpler – just eat meat, butter, salt, and water. Not fun, but easy. With keto, you’re always counting carbs and reading labels. It’s exhausting.

On top of that, there are all the keto-friendly products. Those are great, yet they’re expensive and they too have carbs. Usually, the serving size is a spoonful. When I was doing keto, I quickly found myself eating all these fake foods that were chemical-laden and low in nutritional value. Not good.

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (3 of 7)

I ran into a problem with some chocolate made with Splenda. I ate a bunch of keto-friendly chocolate chips as a treat and spent more time on the porcelain throne than any human should.

On a positive note, it cleaned out my system. That said, it was unexpected and not fun.

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (4 of 7)

Very few people plan on doing keto their entire lives. That means that there will come a time when the keto thing is over. Ideally, it’s when one reaches their target weight and decides to mindfully return to healthy carbs in moderation. In reality, when the keto chains are off, it’s open season.

Sadly, at least for me, I’ll find myself eating more carbs after keto than before. I think it’s because, for whatever reason, I feel like I have to “catch up.” And catch up I do.

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (5 of 7)

I’ve done keto a few times in my life. Each time I’ve ended up heavier than before – after I end keto and go carb crazy. It’s a shame and, in some respects, a sham. Not that anyone is trying to fool us, but that there are no disclaimers anywhere about the unfortunate path the average dieter takes when embarking upon keto… or any other diet for that matter.

I’m finding that intermittent fasting is the only thing that works for me. I can eat the same foods, only during a small window of time. For me, that’s between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. It’s a short window, for sure, and it does take some willpower to avoid eating all day long; especially when people offer me donuts and snacks and such. But, when it’s time to eat, dinner tastes so good!

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (6 of 7)

What are your experiences with the keto diet? Feel free to share in the comments below. Have you had success? Did you have a similar experience as mine? Inquiring minds want to know!

Two Dogs in a Pub: “Keto” (7 of 7)click here or on the image to zoom

Vintage Stuff: Bowl-A-Rama

Back in 2003, I had an idea for a game called “Bowl-A-Rama.” In my mind, this was going to be a “fantasy ” fantasy game – like fantasy football, only there would be no actual human players. The players would be characters and their scores would be generated according to a simulated model.

Unfortunately, at the time, I had no idea how something like this would be done. Now, of course, I could have made an app – probably still can, but that’s not necessarily my goal in life nor a priority at the moment. Besides, there are a zillion apps and, after further thought, why would anyone play a fantasy version of bowling when they can simply play a bowling video game… or fantasy football or fantasy baseball?

Regardless, at the time, I was stoked about the idea. So much so that I created a bunch of characters. Granted, I’ve always been the type of artist who loves to build characters so it really didn’t matter what the idea was as long as it was a way to draw up some fun images.

Below are the characters that I drew up. To present them now, I placed them in a trading card format. Why not?

Oddballs #8

You are now unable to sing the “I Ain’t Got No Oddballs, Issue #8” blues. Because, of course, you now have issue #8 below! Please, stop singing. I do not want to have to issue a cease and desist letter.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the Oddballs email newsletter. You’ll get not one, not three, not forty-seven, but FIVE oddities in one email. Wowzers! Upgrade to become a paid supporter of my work and I’ll send you a hard copy of Oddballs directly to your snail mailbox. Double-wowzers!

And now, onto the show… or zine… whatever.

Vintage Stuff: Office Birthdays are a Piece of Cake

Published in “One Lump or Two,” January 2004 – Click here to view the PDF

Remember what you told yourself about eating better after the New Year during the holidays? Remember all that candy and fudge you allowed yourself to have to enjoy the season? Was it worth it? Sure it was. You may have to suffer a bit because of it, but it’s OK now that the holidays are over, right? Wrong. Odds are someone in your office had to go off and be born a few decades ago and it just so happens to fall in the all-too-crucial-to-my-diet month of January. Here comes the cake. I can already taste it.

I have a theory that the birthday cake is the culprit when it comes to our overweight epidemic. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the office environment. Coworkers come with birthdays. Birthdays come with cakes. Cakes come with sugar. Sugar is kryptonite to the dieter. Why? Because it would be rude to refuse a piece. Adam in accounting and Peggy in personnel both had a piece on your birthday. It’s the least you can do to have a piece on their special day. Maybe just a sliver…

Now you’ll feel guilty if you eat the cake and you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. We got us a good ol’ Mexican standoff. How does one remedy such a situation? There’s a simple solution but it’s going to take your participation.

The first thing you’re going to have to do is find out who’s next in line for a birthday. Once you’ve accomplished this, get close to your subject. Offer to bring the cake for them on their birthday. The day before the big event, break out your cupcake pans, about a pound and a half of ground beef, and a nice-sized block of mozzarella cheese. Line your cupcake pan with those little paper cup deals and stuff a good amount of ground beef in each. Bake your meat cakes at 375° for about 35-40 minutes. Shred your mozzarella cheese and melt it on top of your meat cakes. This will act as icing. Store them in your fridge to be reheated the next day or you can serve them cold. Not only is this a tasty birthday treat, but it’s also super low on carbs and sugar!

It is important to remember that you cannot let the fear of coworkers thinking you’re insane stop you from implementing your plan. I bet the originators of the birthday cake had similar issues to deal with. That didn’t stop them, did it? You may be seen as a pioneer. Who knows? Maybe they’ll make a plaque or something in your honor but don’t just do it for the notoriety, do it because you want to help with the fight against fat. Let them chide and laugh; just don’t let them ruin your diet. Maybe if this whole thing catches on, you might be reading yours truly in a brand new publication called One Meatcake or Two.

Are You Toxic?

The comic below is from “Oddballs” Issue 7 and gives you, dear reader, some insight into toxicity in our culture.

Other than a few psychopaths, no one wants to believe they are toxic. We all have this feeling that we’re doing the best with what we have; treating people in a just and fair way. Yet, that simply cannot be true.

Think about it: there is always a percentage of people above average and below average, with a few on the extreme ends. I made this handy little graph to help illustrate my point:

Your average person is not average

By definition, “average” would mean (“mean,” HA!) that there are equal amounts on each side of the apex of the curve, or something to that extent. And, since we know that only a few individuals are at the extreme ends, the majority of us are in the meaty center of the curve.

That said, half of ALL people would be sliding down the toxic curve! How do you know you’re not on that dreadful side of things? And, no, you can’t simply state that you and you alone are that sole average person.

Perk@Work: “Smarter Than Average”

Gauging your toxicity level

There exists no over-the-counter measuring strips to determine one’s level of social toxicity. Oh, if that were true! In lieu of such a product, we have to be introspective; and attempt to be objective in the process.

One way to determine whether you are toxic or not is to evaluate how many times people invite you out for coffee or such. If never, you may be toxic. Of course, you may live in the hills, surrounded by nature and two banjo-playing weirdos, but even then, you may still get an invite to a moonshine soirée down in the hollow.

Of course, there are many popular toxic people. Still, these folks usually have some value that others want to extract from them – people around the toxic person tolerate their toxicity because they get something from the interaction or relationship. You’ll see this with highly attractive women who are nasty but others still put up with them. In this equation, people are attracted to beauty, even if it comes with the sting of venom. Other examples of “value” are power, money, and influence. They may still get the moonshine party invite, but it’s not because of their happy social banter.

How to properly detox

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you happen to be toxic. Now, both you and I know that’s not the case, but bear with me here and play along. After all, playing along only proves you’re not toxic right? (See what I did there?)

Reducing your toxicity level is simple, yet difficult. It’s summed up in three words: humility, consideration, and patience. Now, dear reader, you may be thinking I bet Jason doesn’t exhibit these traits all the time! I agree. In fact, it’s a constant battle for me to be humble, considerate, and patient. It doesn’t come naturally to me nor to you nor to any human. That’s why all the sages throughout history have instructed us to practice these things in myriad texts and teachings. Few, if any, have achieved such Jesus-like status (with the exception of Jesus, of course).

Detoxing other people

As you can imagine, this is impossible. No one can change another person’s behavior. Yet, there are things that can be done. Remember, toxic behavior is, well, behavior. The person isn’t toxic, just their thoughts and actions… and those can change.

It’s easy to simply abandon the relationship and perhaps that division can be justified and warranted. Yet, there’s a problem with this. If you find that you’re cutting yourself off from everyone because they are toxic, you may actually be the toxic one; judgmental and/or obstinate. If I’m too sensitive or proud, I could perceive that others are toxic for simply stating the truth or giving constructive criticism. How dare they!

Now, if there’s a truly toxic person in your life and you feel as though you’re in danger, then distance yourself. No sense in cuddling up to a viper.

Toxic no more

It is impossible to avoid all toxic behavior in humans. We are humans and that crud comes with the territory; inside each of us. I’ll leave you with a great quote I heard recently. Share the quote and, if you’re so inclined, share this article too!

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

Found on GoodReads

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Vintage Stuff: MAD Magazine Editorial Internship Submission

Submission date: March 17, 2010

Back in 2010, I submitted the following application packet to become an Editorial Intern at MAD Magazine. It had always been my dream to be an “Idiot” at MAD. Sure, I was 35 at the time (possibly a bit old to be an intern), yet this had always been my dream and, at that time in my life, I felt that it was time to pursue it. Why, well, that’s a story for another time. For now, I wanted to share the packet I sent in.

I did, in fact, get the internship, and in 2010, I worked for six weeks in the MAD Magazine headquarters in the Warner Bros. tower in New York City, NY. I couldn’t believe it. Me? I was chosen?

Below are the things I sent in for my submission packet. I’ve formatted everything for a blog post to make it easier to read for you. In essence, they asked for a few ideas and a letter.

MAD Magazine Editorial Internship Article Ideas By Jason Salas

Article Idea 1: “Alien Reality Shows”

This is just like it sounds: reality shows with an alien twist. The attached rough sketch reflects a series of singe-panels (which may be rendered on different types of TV sets in various alien home environments). This idea could also be drawn out into a series of multi-panel strips.

The rough sketch shows a few possible shows. These, of course, could be expounded upon.

Article Idea 2: “Impulse Items vs. Repulse Items”

This article mocks impulse items at the check-out line in grocery stores. Basically, this is a questionnaire directed to the public to see how they feel about the various “fringe” items. It might be funny to see these items with the type of person who might actually purchase the item impulsively. If not, just showing the item in detail with attention to the packaging print could work.

Possible lead-in: Who has not spent an extra $79.00 on impulse items at the grocery store check-out line? How do they pick such wonderful items that you never thought you needed until you were buying toilet paper at 11:45 pm on a random Tuesday night at the 24-hour superstore? Questionnaires such as this let manufacturers know if their items are desirable or undesirable. You choose!

Article Idea 3: “The Tipping Point… of FASHION”

Here is a what-to-wear-what-not-to-wear parody of sorts. But this article pinpoints the exact level (The Tipping Point of No Return) at which it is no longer socially acceptable to don the featured look. An article like this would do well with lots of detail, especially on the last “No Return” panel (e.g., the nerd with 30 pens in his pocket). I think it would be fun to draw this out over two or three pages – think “The Leather Look,”“Inked Up,” or “Modest Apparel.”

Letter of Interest

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dave Croatto
MAD Magazine, Internship Program 1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Croatto,

Thank you for taking the time to review my submissions for the editorial internship. I appreciate your consideration.

MAD Magazine holds a special place in my heart. While the comment “I used to read MAD when I was a kid” is commonplace (and I am included in that commonplace), I would like to add that I have and still do admire your writers and artists. My current work reflects a combination of all the contributors that inspired me. Feel free to take a look at my work:

  • Perk at Work – This is a webcomic I write and illustrate and distribute even cheaper than MAD… FREE!
  • Attack Mimes – This is an online graphic novel that is written by my good friend Trevor Hodgkins and illustrated by me. My main contribution is goofy-looking character development.

I publish a local zine named “BURRITO.” This zine contains my comic strips, pages from the graphic novel, a humor column, poetry if I feel so inclined, and other stuff that I may just want to toss in. In the spirit of disclosure, I must admit that, if I do not get the internship, I will submit material to MAD and freely publish all that you reject in my own zine. Everybody wins! (Except for the reader, of course.)

Since you’ve gotten this far without chucking the letter in the trash, I will now tell you more about myself. I am currently employed at a property management company where I work closely with real estate investors and their investment capital (I hound people for rent). Believe it or not, many of my professional interactions are in the same vein as this letter. After many varied positions in diverse fields, I came to the realization that I’m not built for the strictly business world and decided to get back to what makes me happy: writing and drawing silly stuff that makes people laugh and possibly think. I believe I have the talent and skill. I allow my work to back up my claims and let the readers be the judge.

I’m running out of room so I’ll stop.

Thank you,

Jason Salas

When I submitted this packet, I thought to myself, “Just try.” It worked out for me.

Is there anything you have always wanted to do yet didn’t think was possible? It may be within your reach. Give it a shot! What do you have to lose?

Oddballs #7

Issue #7 of Oddballs has officially crawled out of that hole in your wall and is now eating your cheese!

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the Oddballs email newsletter. You’ll get not one, not three, not forty-seven, but FIVE oddities in one email. Wowzers! Upgrade to become a paid supporter of my work and I’ll send you a hard copy of Oddballs directly to your snail mailbox. Double-wowzers!

And now, onto the show… or zine… whatever.

Laziness: From Caveman to You

Published on SubStack, December 2, 2022

Laziness is the sum of hundreds, if not thousands of “shortcut” decisions. It’s a habit rather than a personality trait. Now, before you beat yourself up (or someone else for that matter), remember that we’re all human, and, as such, laziness is a part of our nature.

Your brain does a lot of work keeping you alive. Naturally, it doesn’t want to exhaust itself by doing things that are unnecessary. It’ll choose the easiest path with the least amount of effort in order to keep on chugging along. That was a good thing when times were tough. These days… well, if you have indoor plumbing and a smartphone, you’re a far cry from our caveman ancestors.

How do we overcome laziness when it’s embedded in our DNA? I’ve developed a quick trick and I’ll share it with you in a moment. But first, let’s understand laziness a little better.

Blame the caveman

When we humans lived as hunter-gathers, energy was vital. After all, by description, we spent most of our days hunting and gathering food to fuel the next day of hunting and gathering. It was hard work and our ancestors burned a ton of calories. Basically, it was like driving a Hummer and hoping you made it to the next gas station without running out of gas.

The human brain is smart. The only way we could survive as a species was if we figured out ways not to run out of fuel. If we didn’t need to exhaust energy, we wouldn’t. After eons of this sort of lifestyle, we became highly efficient lazy creatures. It took a lot of work to get this lazy!

Bread and circuses, Grubhub, and Netflix

Fast forward to modern times in first-world cultures and sustaining life isn’t so precarious. Food readily available. Heck, nowadays, with the push of a button, a courier will pick up your ordered food and deliver it to your door. There’s absolutely no hunting or gathering on your part.

Along with overcoming that whole not-starving-to-death problem, we looked for ways to fill the time we would normally be hunting and gathering. Enter entertainment. In its heyday, Rome entered into a time of “panem et circenses” (i.e., bread and circuses). If all roads lead to Rome, then it’s no wonder we’re at the same point.

A quick and easy way to beat laziness… kinda

If laziness came from thousands of “shortcut” decisions, overcoming it will take thousands of “not-so-shortcut” decisions. Here’s my trick for hacking laziness:

When tempted to take a shortcut on any given task, spend an additional 10-30 seconds doing it properly.

For the most part, laziness is simply avoidance. Facing a small task and doing it right will have a ripple effect. Your brain will still want to do things the lazy way, but your spirit will override it.

Get started

Speaking of spirit, in the movie “Spirited,” Ryan Renolds’s character sings the line, “People are lazy.” True. Yet, you are not “people,” but your own person. Trimming laziness out of your life one small task at a time will eventually have a huge impact. Start today and see where you’re at in a year.