Precarious Moments

Appearing in Oddballs #9

If you’re not as old as me (I was born in 1974), you may not be familiar with Precious Moments. They’re not dolls nor are they action figures – as a young boy, one finds that out really quick. They are what your mom would call “pretties,” which translates to “Don’t you dare touch them because you’ll break them, you barbarian!” And, to every mom’s credit, they’re right.

Precious Moments figurines ca. 1980s

As a kid, I didn’t understand why anyone would have figurines that might break if you made them fight each other in a Wrestlemania match. I mean, that’s what one does with action figures – WWF or otherwise. In fact, it was always best to pit an actual WWF guy against someone from another toy universe (e.g., Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man, etc.).

Such mash-up bash-ups were legendary! And, if I’m honest, necessary since I usually only had one figure from each universe and it was the one that my dear Mom (God rest her soul) was able to afford – meaning we got it from the bargain bin at Thrifty. Needless to say, I never had the official wrestling rink, but who did? Toys like that were for Richie Rich or that “Silver Spoons” kid.

A collection like this as a kid would have made you king among your peers.

Remember how you could twist G.I. Joe action figures at the waist, tightening the rubber band inside, then upon release their upper body would spin in a deathly double roundhouse punch? That’s what one does with such toys. Precious Moments do none of that and, if attempted, it is frowned upon.

As far as I can tell, they still sell Precious Moments. That said, I haven’t seen one in anyone’s house… not that I go into peoples’ houses. That kinda stopped with COVID. Plus, the only reason I was ever in a house that had Precious Moments was because my dear Mom took me with her as a kid. Those precious moments are long gone.

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?

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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Portrait of an AI as a Young Technology

Perk@Work | “Robot Cook” | Published January 28, 2009

There’s a lot of chatter these days about AI. How much of that talk is generated by AI itself is unknown. After all, the percentage of internet users that are bots is growing. Soon, there will be more bots than humans online. And you thought the rise of the robots was a conspiracy theory.

I’ve seen these AI programs that create art: paintings, drawings, music, etc. Specifically, I’ve noticed folks using AI to make a snazzy portrait of themselves for their social media profile pic. In all honesty, I like what I see. Yet, wouldn’t it be just like the robots to hit us where we’re vulnerable: our own faces? It’s like the robots read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and used those tactics against us to build some sort of artificial rapport; making us open to the idea of using their services.

ChatGPT seems to be all the rage, though I haven’t dabbled in it. I didn’t include a link to it since I don’t want ED-209 to come to my house and pellet me with bullets. Although come to think of it, he may do that because I neglected to add the link. You’re damned if you do…

I believe it was in the book “1984” that there were novel-writing machines. Seemed so outlandish at the time of publishing (even in 1984), but here we are in the future doing exactly that. The author of the book “Alice and Sparkle” used AI to flesh out [shutter] his idea. There’s even a whole website for comics with AI-generated art. This is clearly bad for artists… right?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Yes, I want artists to be paid for their talents and work. Yet, as a creator with a job and a family, I don’t have the time or money to produce my ideas. AI could be my creative team and get my ideas out into the world. Then again, I don’t want to take work away from a human. Then again, I don’t have the money to hire a human to do the work. Grrrrr!

There’s an even darker side to all this (aside from the robot uprising). The mindset of wanting someone else to do the heavy lifting – with little to no compensation – then taking that product, calling it your own, and profiting off of it is akin to… shall I say the word?

Here’s a workaround: AI should come at a price; twice as much as hiring a comparable artist. Call it a “Tech Tax” if you like. This Tech Tax would act as a deterrent to using AI and an incentive to hire a human. Look, I’m not big on taxes, but there has to be some way to keep this under control. If we lose our human artists for the sake of saving money, we lose more than what we’ve saved.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” I would swap “art” for “artists.” Robots have no soul. They can mimic art styles and such, but they cannot breathe life into any creation.

Have we crossed the Rubicon? Can we go back to life without AI? Does that make me a Luddite or Amish? Would this message be better presented on paper and sent via pigeon? What do you think?

A Question About Leg Hair

Perk@Work: “Winter Coat” | Published February 1, 2021

Two questions boggle me:

  1. Why do we have leg hair?
  2. Why do women shave their legs?

I’m sure you have pondered these questions as well. I will now answer these two insightful questions without any research whatsoever. From what I can see on social media, that seems the best way to put forth ideas.

Why do we have leg hair?

There are those who say that humans derived from apes. They point to the legs of apes and the legs of humans and say, “Look! Both have leg hair!” Now, I’m not here to debate whether humans evolved from apes, but one would have to wonder, wherever you are on the evolution debate, where did leg hair come from in the first place? And, furthermore, where did hair come from?

We know that reptiles don’t have hair. We also know that birds don’t have hair. We know that mammals have hair. Is hair a form of feathers? Does evolution work like that? If so, what is the progression from feathers to hair? Or is hair just hair to begin with? I find it weird that mammals all had hair all over their bodies from the get-go. Wouldn’t the first mammals be hairless and get more hair instead of getting less (à la, humans)?

If we go the route of creation, why did God give us leg hair? It’s not enough to be considered fur, let alone to insulate us from the cold. It’s not necessarily aesthetic… is it? I mean, no one has ever looked at hairy legs and said, “Wow! How gorgeous!” When you think about it (and I’ve given it over 37 seconds of thought), the only reason we have leg hair is as an additional differentiator between men and women – men usually have more leg hair. Naturally (no pun intended), this brings us to the second question:

Why do women shave their legs?

Would I be off by saying that women shave their leg hair to be more womanly? If having hair legs is associated with being a guy, women who don’t want to look like a guy may shave their legs. At some primal level, this may help guys distinguish between a potential mate and their other guy friends. Of course, a guy noticing that a woman shaves her legs doesn’t automatically make that woman want to mate with the guy. Trust me on this one. Yet, the woman may want to attract as many potential mates as possible so that she can choose the best of the pack.

Some women may disagree with that conclusion. Yet, if you ask them why they themselves shave their legs, you may get a response like, “Oh, it just looks better” or “It’s just something everyone does.” None of these are solid reasons to endure the constant maintenance and potential injury of shaving one’s limbs. Furthermore, both responses go back to my initial theory. If it looks better, it would be to be more attractive to men. If it’s just something everyone does, it’s to keep up with other women who are doing it to look better to, you guessed it, attract men.

Perhaps there is another reason why women shave their legs. There’s always the trite answer, “I just like it better,” but that begs the question, “Why?” Then there are those who don’t answer but ask this question as a retort: “Why do men shave their faces?” That’s simple. It’s either because a guy can’t grow a good-looking beard (I’m in that category), or because it’s cleaner. Not all guys are capable of eating without dribbling food out of their mouths (I’m also in this category as well).

Do you have better answers? I’d love to know. Please place them in the comments below. If there are no comments, that means that I am 100% correct and everyone in the world agrees with me. If not, well then I don’t have a shaved leg to stand on.

Merry Whatever

(Comic: “Happy Holidays” | December 22, 2008)

Is the phrase “Merry Christmas” offensive and, dare I say it, triggering? To some, no. To others, yes. To many, they couldn’t care less. Does it matter? In a way, it might matter more than you could ever imagine. Get ready because I’m about to ring your jingle bell!

Right-Wingers and Leftists

Your average right-winger deems leftists as triggered snowflakes. Meanwhile, your average leftist pegs right-wingers as heartless bastards. Notice a problem? These are generalizations to be sure (outliers notwithstanding), but generalizations are such for a reason. What’s going on here?

First off, to condemn an entire group of people with seemingly contrasting beliefs than yours is lazy at best. Yet, should you walk on eggshells all day long, hiding your views so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings regardless of which camp you are in? Yes and no.

Live and life or death happen

Our human brains tend to operate on a binary basis: on or off, in or out, up or down, etc. This isn’t bad, per se. We needed this method of thinking to survive eons of life on this dangerous planet. We needed to know if people were potential mates (i.e., opposite gender), if animals were docile or deadly, if the food was edible or poisonous, and so on. Erroring on the side of a perceived spectrum usually ended up in the ultimate fail… death.

We don’t live in that life-or-death world any longer. That said, we’ll always be navigating a terrain in one way or another. In our day and age, it’s a social minefield; a softer battle but still as precarious. We operate on social capital, whether we like it or not. Railroading people with our beliefs reduce our social capital. Is saying “Merry Christmas” railroading people? I don’t think so, but they may. And there’s the rub.

How to navigate the unknown

So what do you do? Listen.

When you meet someone, pay attention to what they say. Usually, people will tell you all you need to know about themselves in a few sentences. If you’re perceptive, you’ll figure out how to respond. If someone says, “I still haven’t bought all my gifts,” chances are they celebrate Christmas. If they say, “I’m getting ready for eight crazy nights,” they may be Jewish. If they say, “The origins of Christmas are nefarious and deeply disturbing. What’s more disturbing is the blatant commercialization and saccharine platitudes that veil our true human desires and insecurities…” You get the idea.

You don’t have to be generic in your well-wishes, yet you simply can no longer assume a common outlook. Take a moment to understand the other person in front of you before shoving a Santa hat on their head and wishing them “Merry Christmas!” They may love that, but it doesn’t hurt to gauge their holiday inclinations first.

May your interactions be merry and bright

In the comic above, Mr. Argyle is sensitive to differing beliefs. Yet, his approach is generic and robotic. What if he got to know his employees and asked them what days they observe if any? He could then tailor his cards appropriately. It’s a bit more work, but it’s more thoughtful than, “Here’s your generic card.”

I’m doing my best to respect the beliefs of others. Sure, it would be easier if everybody celebrated the same way, but that’s not the case. Heck, even I went from observing Christmas to opposing it and back to observing. I’ve been blessed with people who were patient and understanding of my journey. I’d like to pay that forward.

The best gift we can give to another person is the gift of understanding. That gift involves our time, effort, thought, and care. Do that and witness some holiday glow. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

Bark & Grill: Internet Cord

This particular comic is a collaborative effort with the amazingly talented J. Lopez. He’s an illustrator and photographer and one of my best friends. I asked him if he was willing to work on this comic with me. Obviously, he said “yes,” much to my delight. Thank you, J.!

I drew the comic and thought it could use something more. J. is big on tech and gadgets and I thought he would like the subject matter. I sent him a pic of my quickly-drawn comic below:

J. asked me if I was married to the characters and if they could be different types of dogs. That wasn’t an issue. I told him to knock himself out. What he came up with was hilarious, innovative, and super fun!

The dogs in his comic are J’s family members’ pets. How he got them to model so appropriately, I have no idea. In any case, when I saw it, I laughed out loud; not so much because of the gag, but because I did not expect real dogs! So creative!