Johnny Lawrence Thinks Cyber-Bullies are Pussies. He’s Right.

Just before moving I got a thirty-day trial subscription to YouTube Red so I could watch its new show, Cobra Kai, which is a drama series with lots of lighthearted humor that follows the lives of characters from the original three Karate Kid films starring Ralph Macchio. Centering on the bully from the first movie, Johnny Lawrence, the story takes place largely from his perspective as he seeks redemption and tries to rebuild the karate dojo of which he was a part more than thirty years ago. It’s surprisingly well written and although there’s a lot of nostalgia built into the series, it always takes care to respect the material.

One scene, wherein Johnny is informed by one of his new students that she is mercilessly teased online by the school bullies, shows his thoughts on the subject of cyber-bullying: he thinks it’s for pussies. As far as Johnny Lawrence is concerned, if you want to bully someone, you do it with honor by doing it to his or her face, not cowering behind a monitor under the perceived safety of anonymity.

There’s a sort of warped logic to that: although cyber-bullying is real and has real consequences, the fact remains that the only ones who engage in it are rank cowards who are so terrified of physical confrontation that they can’t even self-identify lest their victims learn who they are and put them in their proper place at the very bottom of the proverbial social pecking order.

Bullying in any form is the hallmark of cowards and wimps, scumbags who could never take on anyone who is their equal and certainly no one who is their superior, so they lash out at those they perceive as being weaker.

Looking back at my life, I realize that those who have relentlessly bullied me are and always were cowards, “spineless loseres” as William Zabka’s character puts it. They are and will always be nothing else, because they lack the courage to face their victims on equal terms and let the chips fall where they may. No, to do that would be to to take a risk, something no coward can ever do because he or she cannot be confident of outcomes that aren’t 100% guaranteed in his or her favor. That’s why the age of the Internet has been so good for bullies too scared of risking an ass-beating to do it face-to-face. The perceived safety of anonymity allows them to attack without risk, to operate under the cover of Mommy and Daddy’s Wi-Fi, free from ever having to face any consequences for their depravity.

There was a time when bullies had to take the risk of being stood up to and beaten by their victims because there was no other alternative. Now, however, they’re weaker and more cowardly than ever, and so they’ve had to shift tactics by waging psychological abuse—physical confrontation is just too much for them to handle.

If it weren’t for the ability of cyber-bullies to drive some of their victims to suicide, it would be a joke. In fact, it is a joke, albeit one that never was and never shall be even remotely funny. But once one realizes just how weak and stupid cyber-bullies really are, their power fades away and all that’s left for them is impotent whining on the Internet as people just stop paying them any attention.

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Aunt Mary

Yesterday I found out from one of my cousins that my Aunt Mary has liver disease and that absent a transplant, may not make it to Christmas. Worse, according to my cousin, she’s given up on life, just as Dad did in his final year.

Needless to say, this has me deeply saddened. Aunt Mary is one of the few family members who’s ever been truly good to me. The rest have been abusive, or simply too wrapped up in their own lives to be bothered being part of mine.

So, I’m going to try to spend as much time with her as I can, whatever happens. I don’t want to miss being there for her.

Yep. It’s Sprained.

I took the day off yesterday to go to the doctor and have my ankle examined. As I thought, it’s sprained. That’s been a thing ever since I broke it at age fifteen—twice.

There’s a comedy of errors in that bit of personal history.

It was the day after New Year’s, 1990. I was fifteen. Over the winter the family had taken in a black tom cat, whom the hag had decided to name ‘Buckwheat’, after the character from The Little Rascals. She was and still is horrendously racist, though like all bigots, she’ll deny it with all the false indignation bigots can muster.*

Anyway, David had taken a liking to the animal, in fact bonded with him. Buck (I’ll call him that from here on) was aggressive, tended to dominate all the other cats except for Bambi, our pride’s elderly tabby matriarch. Even as she approached the age of twenty, she could still put him in her place, and he respected that. But Buck was the only cat I’ve ever met who stomped rather than walked. You know how cats typically walk lightly on their feet, all silent like any predator worthy of the role? Not Buck. He stomped, made himself heard so you knew he was there. Assertive, kind of a bully, just like David. That’s why they got along so well. Bullies are drawn to one another in, not exactly friendship because they’re too antisocial to make real friends, but there’s a mutual understanding and sense of camaraderie.

But I digress. Buck was never an indoor cat, and as long as he lived we could never keep him in the house. He’d always get out despite our best efforts to block his escape. See, the hag didn’t like our cats getting outside; too much chance they’d get run over by a passing car or tormented by a neighbor’s child, or taken, or killed by a stray or loose dog. It was a paranoia, to be sure, but had at least some basis in experience.

So, in those early days before we largely gave up trying to keep Buck indoors, he’d frequently try to escape and it was typically up to me to retrieve him. This is when that fateful day arrived that I broke my ankle. The day after New Year’s of 1990, Buck had once again run out the door, and I hurried to catch him and bring him back inside. Of course, it being winter and plenty of ice on the ground, I slipped, twisted my ankle, and felt the pain of bone snapping.

A trip to the emergency room (Dad took me, as always, because the hag could never be bothered) confirmed a zig-zag fracture of the growth plate in my ankle. I was put in a leg cast below the knee, given a set of crutches, and sent on my way. After the first cast came off, the doctors and nurses at MetroHealth Orthopedic Center sent me home, having failed to take any x-rays.

Note that I said “first cast.”

For a week I continued to hobble around on crutches because I was unable to put any weight on my ankle without stabbing pain shooting up my leg. On the sixth day after getting the cast off, I was walking into class when my foot caught on the metal strip in the doorway that is found on the floor in public buildings. I don’t know why these strips were thought of as a good idea. Anyway, that sent me to the nurse’s office in agony, and after some minutes’ rest I was sent home, picked up by Dad to finish the remainder of the day with my ankle elevated.

The next morning it was raining heavily. Dad dropped me off at school. As I walked to the elevator to go to home room, either the rubber tips of the crutches slipped on the wet floor or, as some told me later, some dweeb with nothing better to do than get his laughs at the expense of others kicked them out from under me. I never did find out which scenario was actually true. At any rate, I was down on the floor, in familiar agony, my ankle having been twisted again. I knew it was re-broken. A trip with Dad back to the emergency room confirmed that the fracture had been done anew, though thankfully there was no new damage.

But I learned an irritating fact at the hospital: the imbeciles at Metro had sent me home that first time with an ankle that wasn’t fully healed. Had they taken x-rays at the time the first cast was removed, they could have seen that and applied a walking cast then and there, and maybe I wouldn’t have suffered a re-break. So, this time they gave me a walking cast, toe-sock, and post-operation shoe. I still used the crutches, though, not trusting the doctors to have done a proper job. This was MetroHealth in the 1990s, after all, and back then they didn’t have a good reputation for doing much right. They still don’t.

Since that year, my ankle has been weaker than it otherwise would be (the general lack of adequate calcium in my diet hasn’t exactly helped me maintain good bone density, either). I’m prone to spraining. In 2004, I was working at that time at Boston Market. One day in the summer of that year I woke to find my ankle swollen and stiff, and in pain—not as much as if it had been broken, but I had a lot of difficulty walking on it. A trip to Fairview Hospital revealed a sprain. The thing is, though, that I hadn’t fallen or done anything that could feasibly have injured it. As it turns out, though, excessive walking and standing on a weak ankle can actually result in spontaneous spraining, and I do a lot of both. Lifting heavy objects can push the strained ligaments past the tearing point, and that’s what happened.

This past weekend, it happened again. Had the truck on loan from work come with a dolly, I might have avoided this latest sprain, but alas, there wasn’t one included, so I had to lift all those boxes and tubs and furniture. I had help, yes, but still, the strain on my ankle was there and it gave out as it was going to. This is why jobs that require much walking, standing, and heavy lifting are increasingly beyond me as I get older.

So there you have it, my trip down the bone-break memory lane. There’s another one to be had, but that’s for another time.

*: I have another story about bigots taking offense to being called out, that took place over this last weekend. I’ll get to that soon.

Four Moves in Seven years

All this moving around for one reason or another takes its toll, and in more ways than one.

The instability in housing is definitely a factor, as pointed out in my previous entry, but the strain on my body is getting worse. I sprained my ankle lifting heavy boxes and furniture, and that is slowing down organization of all my belongings as I have to stop every few minutes to rest my ankle. My neck injury was also aggravated, leading to reduced strength in my arms as the nerves became pinched.

And then, of course, because my luck can’t ever seem to change for the better, there’s the neighborhood.

Yesterday I was sitting on the front porch trying to rest my ankle for a few minutes before hauling stuff to the basement, and was approached by a drug dealer trying to sell me yellow and orange pills. I turned him down, having no interest in drugs, but this has me concerned for my safety as I now know it is an area with dealers and/or addicts.

So, I don’t think I’ll be staying in this place long. As always, it’s temporary housing that I know I can’t keep because of one thing or another. And it sucks on so many levels because I can’t put down roots or get any stability until I do.

EVICTED: POVERTY AND PROFIT IN THE AMERICAN CITY

Recently I added to my reading list the excellent book, EVICTED: POVERTY AND PROFIT IN THE AMERICAN CITY by Matthew Desmond. It’s eye-opening for a number of reasons, and I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to understand the devastating effects of the housing crisis, especially on the nation’s poorest.

I found, not surprisingly, many parallels with my own situation. Housing instability is as much a cause of poverty as it is a consequence. Since 2011, I have had to move no fewer than four times, although the second two instances were voluntary: once to escape horrid conditions in the unit, and the latest because the owner is selling the house and I can’t stay. But four moves in seven years…it takes its toll. Rents keep going up, but incomes remain stagnant, putting stable, affordable housing out of reach for more and more people.

Here in the Greater Cleveland area, many landlords refuse to lease units to applicants who aren’t making at least three times the amount of rent—after taxes, utilities, food, and other expenses. Slumlords, such as those described in Desmond’s book, are much more flexible in that particular area, but the trade-off is providing substandard, often dangerously dilapidated housing that ultimately eats up so much of a tenant’s meager income that little or nothing remains for anything else, including food and utilities. This in turn forces people who otherwise wouldn’t need to go on public assistance end up depending on it just to survive—and when those benefits are slashed or eliminated altogether, tenants must then make the painful decision of whether to pay rent or feed their children; go homeless or go without badly needed medicine; freeze and risk frostbite or death inside the unit, or face the same fate out on the streets. When emergencies crop up, as they invariably do, impoverished tenants almost always find themselves falling behind and end up evicted because they cannot pay their rent.

I’ve thought back to the situations I’ve been in, that reflect what Desmond writes about. The last unit I dwelt in was infested with bedbugs and pantry moths, the electricity was substandard, my landlord-roommate kept the heat turned off most of the time, which actually did cause me to get frostbite on the tips of several toes (fortunately, the small black spots scabbed over and healed) and contributed to the pipes bursting on more than one occasion. But when I and other tenants in the building tried to get the homeowner to take action, we were ignored and given unrealistic quick-fixes such as turning on the kitchen stove and leaving it open while the furnace was broken down. Not even my roommate-landlord was keen on that.

If I hadn’t been in school and able to take advantage of student loans, I shudder to think how things might have ended up.

But these same sick scenarios are playing out all across the country, with no end in sight. Housing instability also leads to job instability, with eviction increasing the likelihood of a layoff by upwards of twenty-five percent. Under such circumstances, the loss of both home and job so often leads to the streets and the homeless shelters. Many are never able to recover.

Put someone in affordable, stable, permanent housing, however, and the changes cannot be ignored. People return to school to get degrees with which they can obtain decent-paying work. Depression fades away. Health improves as more income can go toward adequate food and drink. The entire outlook on life goes from pessimism to optimism.

Desmond suggests that a universal voucher system, which would cost a fraction of the federal budget at around twenty billion U.S. dollars annually, could eliminate homelessness by making housing affordable once again. I think that’s only part of the equation of what’s really needed. In addition to a massive green infrastructure providing education and jobs, caps must be placed on rents and utilities to bring the cost of living back down to reasonable levels. A universal voucher system as cure-all for housing instability sounds nice on paper, but without caps limiting how much landlords and utility providers can charge consumers, in tandem with a massive jobs program, it would be dismissed as just another handout and political will would not materialize.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the book. I highly recommend it in order to gain a wider understanding of the crisis.

Wet Shaving Community

Alright, so, in 2016 I got into wet shaving, that is, using a soap puck and brush to generate lather for shaving, as opposed to using shaving foam or gel from a can. Last year, I bought a Van Der Hagen safety razor kit from Target, being curious and deciding to give it a try. Cartridge razor heads ultimately cost upwards of two hundred dollars or more annually, whereas safety blades can cost as little as ten dollars for a 100-count pack, for a nearly two-year supply. Evaluating the cost, who could argue against it (except maybe the squeamish)?

I later learned that Van Der Hagen simply re-brands and sells the Weishi 9606c and its long-handled variants, but they’re still a good, inexpensive Chinese razor modeled on the old Gillette Super Speeds.

Anyway, I joined a couple of shaving forums and entered into a pleasant community of wet shavers. It turns out that they’re a generous lot, and very often forums will have what’s called a PIF (Pay It Forward) section wherein members give away unwanted/used items that are still good but just taking up space in the home, in a sort of lottery system. It’s an excellent way for people to trade back and forth, and as a result I’ve been privileged to receive several really nice items including Galileo K-1000 35mm film camera from one PIF, and also managed to give away items I no longer use. Presently I am offering up a Faber Castell fountain pen with pear wood handle. It’s an extra that I simply don’t use as it’s a bit messier trying to load than I like, but since someone else undoubtedly will get a kick out of using it, why not give it a home where it will be put to use?

But the biggest perk of being part of this community is the sheer knowledge I’ve gained from learning about the art of shaving and, especially, how blades are crafted and the variety of materials that go into different brands. Being a sword enthusiast and loving the art of metallurgy that goes into making them, this is a natural extension of that field of study. (Note: Gillette tends to buy up a lot of brands and move production to its famous plant in St. Petersburg, which has excellent quality control. But there are enough competing brands that have good reputations, and shavers pick their favorites according to whisker types and how well a particular blade performs against sensitive skin.)

Another thing I’ve noticed is the sense of community that comes from a shared hobby or ritual. Discussion of religion and politics on these forums is nonexistent—no sense in destroying that with such divisive topics—but for everything else, it’s civil, neighborly, and quite pleasant. I’ve found some forums are much stricter than others, with one banning people arbitrarily for inadvertently violating some obscure rule, but others are more relaxed and tend to keep few rules in place but ensuring they are consistently enforced. One learns to ask moderators before posting links to items sold on eBay.

Overall, it’s been a good experience so far. I’m meeting people with shared interests and learning new things every day.

More on Projection Pathology

My previous post about the phenomenon of projection pathology got me thinking more on the subject, so I’ve done some more research into the topic.

I find that the most common types of persons who engage in projection pathology fall into the categories of psychopathy, sociopathy, and narcissistic personality disorder.

There is a lot of overlap among these forms of mental derangement, so it’s not surprising that symptoms are so similar. But all seem to have in common the tendency to project their own faults, failings, and deficiencies onto others, probably because they cannot deal with them and so are compelled to externalize them as a way to confront them without having to acknowledge the flaws in themselves.

In short, psychotic assholes project because they’re too chickenshit to deal with their own mental issues.

Sigmund Freud would probably have a field day with this, if he were alive today.