Sage Advice 109: Not A Single Space Betwixt Us

Don’t put anything in that seat there. I’m sitting there. I know the rest of the theatre is scarcely occupied and it’s like eleven in the morning on a Thursday, but I don’t care, I’m sitting right there. Go ahead and act like it’s uncomfortable. You can even groan and wiggle, making every possible sign to indicate your desire for me to move down just one space short of simply asking me to move down just one space.

I need the warmth. Not literally. You’re not a radiator or anything, but it’s important to have someone to experience this with me in a close manner. That’s why we’re here. We’re absorbing this moment together because it’s better that way, and also you paid and I’m not passing on a perfectly free moment to absorb.

If I have a sudden quip about this experience that has to be projectile-word-vomited immediately, it’s best someone be there to hear it. And I’m not trying to get the entire room’s attention, so you need to be close enough for me to lean over only by inches and whisper, “Wasn’t that guy in that thing that we saw last year with that other guy?”

And even if you can’t understand me because I’m basically mumbling vague moments with which you have no reference, you better give a nod of approval. “Yes,” your skull and face and eyes and nose and the stuff that’s in/on/through/by that other stuff will all work together to say and give me the brief satisfying social cue I require for this experience to matter. “Yes. Even though I didn’t understand a single word you said, the answer is certainly yes.”

That stuff needs to be heard. If no one hears my drivel at the very second it leaves my head and becomes word-gush, then all those spontaneous thoughts and ideas go directly to the sound dumpster, which I assume is an invisible rectangular cube made out of vibrations in the air and all the words that no one hears go in there to be incinerated by invisible fires people have made but couldn’t share. No one wants my or your air vibrations getting set on fire. It’s just not productive.

So I’m sitting there, and don’t test me. If I feel like it, I’ll even raise those cup-holding arms on the side of the chair upward so that there’s no tiny piece of plastic indicating the necessary social boundaries I must take in order to make this outing of ours within the legal limits of awkwardness. After all, we’re in this together, and as such, it’s important that we stick together. Also, I put my feet up on the seats in front of me if they’re unoccupied, so prepare for that.

-Matthew Fugere

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Sage Advice 108: Matthew Fugere: Ex-Garbage Baby

It’s a big deal for people to have an understanding of their roots, from where they began. Sometimes it’s about where your ancestors settled, eventually leading all the way up to you. Other times it’s just about how your family started, perhaps how your parents met: the moments that directly led to your birth. For me, though, it’s always been about being thrown into the garbage.

That’s the earliest story about me anyone has to tell. You’ll rarely hear about my birth or the early days and weeks that followed it. If you ask just about anyone in my family, myself included, about the earliest version of me to make a mark on this world, you’re going to hear about the time my older brother threw an infant version of me into a garbage can.

The interesting thing is it’s not a shameful event of our family’s past; there’s nothing about this story that haunts my loved ones, forcing them to rethink their own humanity or place in the world. It’s a consistently told, incredibly open, almost proud tale of our early years as a family.

“Oh you never heard about that?” my mother or brother or sister might say after someone jokingly talks about dumpster babies and their connection to me. “When he was just a little baby—oh, maybe a week old or so—his older brother didn’t want ‘em around. So he picked his baby brother up, carried him to the garbage, and just tossed ‘em in.” It’s a short story, needing no more than a paragraph to get the details you need, yet it seemed like a defining moment in my early identity.

So here I am, an ex-garbage baby. Usually that’s a really sad thing. Garbage babies that is. You’ll hear a tragic story on the news about how a random woman—usually a very young girl in her teenage years—left an infant in a dumpster, unable to provide for her new child. Generally, we’re left knowing that the infant didn’t make it through the ordeal. Can you really expect such a helpless creature to endure a night alone, motherless and inside their soon-to-be metallic coffin filled with expired food and used healthcare products?

I survived my garbage days. One of the lucky ones, I suppose. Does that make me better than your average dumpster baby? I may be bold enough to bring up the question, but I don’t think I can rightly answer it. I will, however, respond by saying this: how many ex-garbage babies do you know?

-Matthew Fugere

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Sage Advice 107: Lions And Sloths And Linguistic Associations! Oh My!

We human folk often try to find our understanding of attributes and traits in nature. If we have the concept of strength in our word-bank, we look into the natural world to find a example of it (for quite some time I believe the ox has been associated to strength, a branding that certainly begs for a modern update).

People do this with just about every descriptor available. It’s not just enough to have an understanding of an adjective in the human world; a certain kind of validation is felt when the word is connected to an aspect of nature.

You can see it all over our culture and language. We’re drawn to how we can connect ideas to nature, making the understanding of humanity outside of the human experience. The problem with this word-association tendency is how often people can get it so dreadfully wrong.

We’ve already mentioned the Ox. However, this is not a great example as the Ox is quite a strong animal—though certainly not the strongest. The intention is correct, but the degree is off by a smidge.

Let’s consider the lion instead.

Think about a lion. Specifically a male lion. Mane and all. Do you have that image in your head? What does it bring to mind? How would you describe it? There’s a good chance that you’re thinking about courage, pride, or honor—traits of an ideal king. Here’s the problem with that association: male lions are lazy, incompetent child-eating rapists. That’s not a statement of hyperbole. Male lions really do eat their cubs. It’s called infanticide and it proves that male lions are completely shitty in every way.

How does your childhood feel right now?

As if eating babies wasn’t enough, male lions continue to show how antithetical they are to the human attributes tied to them by being the laziest members of their pride. The female picks up the heavy lifting when it comes to hunting and surviving. Lionesses hunt, give birth, and provide for their insane, child-devouring husbands all the time. How does the male lion return the favor? By raping the shit out of the lioness whenever he feels like it.

A human who eats babies, rapes, and refuses to get a productive job or hobby isn’t considered a shining example of pride, courage, and honor. In fact, that human is usually confined in a padded room until society figures out a humane way to dispose of something truly inhumane. There is one positive note to the male lion getting these human words: they are words falsely connected to kingship. Turns out real lions have a lot in common with real kings; they both love to do nothing all day until it’s time to rape and eat babies.

History tends to forget about all the babies Henry VIII ate

Occasionally people get the whole word-animal-association game wrong in the opposite manner, giving a perfectly delightful animal a terrible reputation. The sloth is a shining example of such a farce. Sloths have had the misfortune of having an absolutely terrible and undeserved word attached to their existence.

For those of you who have never seen Se7en, allow me to explain what it means for something to be slothful. You know when you wake up in the morning and all you want to do is eat and then sleep some more and maybe eat a little bit more and not think about anything but the blissful pleasure-train you just created with a mountain of food and decadence? Imagine being that all the time and you get an idea as to what it means to be slothful.

Only cuteness is in the box… and some lady’s head, but mostly cuteness

Sloths, the animal not the lazy and shitty humans from which they are named, receive this name because of their incredibly slow pace. Sloths don’t move much, if at all, through their day-to-day. They spend most of their time hanging from trees, surely contemplating the sloth life-experience.

That may seem slothful, but really consider what they’re doing: hanging upside-down from a tree all day long. All day. And many sloths carry their offspring along with them. Essentially, baby sloths use their parents as branches as their parents hang from actual branches. What’s slothful about that?

Absolutely nothing

Go to your Facebook page. Go find the first person on your feed who is sharing tragically boring photos of their ugly children. How long do you think those over-sharing cunts can hang from a tree while their bastard babies grip their ribcages all day? I’d give the egg-headed jerks two minutes—tops—before they fall to the ground and get raped and eaten by a male lion.

Sloths aren’t slothful. There’s nothing slothful about being able to cling to a tree for survival day in and day out. Lions aren’t courageous.  There’s nothing courageous about eating children. We’re always going to channel our experiences through a medium that doesn’t experience or understand our experiences, but I think it’s about time we start putting a little more thought into our future—and past—cultural synapses.

-Matthew Fugere

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Sage Advice 106: Who Or That

My understanding of the difference between who and that has always been wrapped around the idea as to whether something is human. So Matt is a who while table is a that. It’s an easy way to make your everyday speech sound credible, but I think there’s a strange sense of entitlement that comes with people and who.

Sure, we can say all things that are people get to be whos, but at what point can we say that we lose our rights to whodom? When we’re dead, our lifeless bodies resting in the earth or in other people or in ashes, are we still whos? Perhaps people consider the conscious who and the body that. That’s strange to me. If that’s the case, you can’t be a who without a that, thus who is completely dependent on the idea of that. If anything, who is created out of that, maybe even constructed by leftover pieces of all the thats.

Some whos may not even deserve their whoness. After all, if you’re a who and Hitler was a who and so was that kid who called you that kindergarten insult equivalent of that, then does it really matter if you get to be a who? If whos are so readily handed out to any one thing that got lucky enough to exist as a human, does being a who really even matter?

And when you really break down what we’re all made of, it’s basically all the same stuff, so can’t we all be whos? There isn’t a significant difference between the who you are and the that a table is when you consider the scale and quantity of things that make your whoness and the table’s thatness. You and a table, despite having the grammatical conflict of who and that against your relationship, have a vast amount in common when you consider the rest of every other that and who in the universe. The fact that your who and its that even get to exist side-by-side should indicate that.

Going the opposite direction, what if some humans really don’t deserve whodom? Babies, for example, are barely people. They don’t talk or move or think or care about anything. Babies and tables have about the same degree of humanity. However, every time I use that when I’m talking about that baby that is right there, its parents get offended, informing me that it isn’t a that or an it.

But why not? What’s so bad about thatism? Is being a that rather than a who really such a horrible thing? Is all measurable humanity stricken when you’re placed in column “that”? I don’t think it really matters. Being a who is nice, sure, but being a that can’t have that much of a negative impact on your identity or daily life. If anything, you should appreciate the possibility of being a that. Plenty of amazing things are labeled with that rather than who: rockets ships, the moon, Conan O’Brien’s hair, a half dozen package of eggs, nineteen, door knobs, toenails (unless they’re attached to your whole whoness), and computers just to name a few. Being that or who shouldn’t matter. All that matters is that you get to be a that or a who. Simply being.

-Matthew Fugere

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Sage Advice 105: Smelly Smells

Though I certainly adore each of my media to the physical world, my sense of smell is one with which I have a complimented relationship. I like whiff things that I know for fact are foul to smell. I can’t help it; I like smelly smells. And I really do enjoy these smells. I pursue them, searching the perfect places to find these smelly smells all around my world.

I stick my head in between couch cushions often. Breathe deep. Smile. I love that smell. Its source is from a combination of dirt, dead skin cells, dog and person sweat, and lost coins (so copper, I guess). Each smell on its own has no character or would sting the nostrils. All together, however, and you get smelling-magic. I like to think it’s the smell of dying air. Not dead air. Air that is on its way out the door. Air that is about to kick the bucket. Air that is writing its last will and testimony. Dying air.

If you’ve never had the privilege of having a dog that birthed a litter of puppies, then you’ve probably missed out on what I consider one of the greatest smelly smells in the known universe: puppy breath. Puppies yawn a lot due to the huge amount of energy they exert while being cute enough to make the coldest of hearts melt into a childlike manner of being. When they yawn, they shoot out tiny particles of that cute that fill your nostrils with the most adorably addictive aroma. I don’t know what makes up a puppies’ breath as all they put in their mouth is dog milk and air, but something amazing happens when those little buckets of cute open their mouths.

Maybe this has more to do with temperature and touch than smell, but the inside of any kind of freezer is absolutely amazing. Walking freezers are nice, but there’s something about sticking your head in your home-freezer and taking a giant whiff that is blissful. It reminds me of popsicles. Old popsicles. Maybe dead popsicles. Freezers smell like dead popsicles, yet it also smells like fresh air—a spring breeze. Freezers smell like dead popsicles being carried by a spring breeze through a grassy meadow.

The weirdest smelly smell I like is me. Not fresh out of the shower, all spiffed up for the day me. Smelly me. Sweat and dirt covered me. I know for a fact that this version of me in absolutely unbearable to the nose. I know because people other than me who have witnessed it let me know how unbearable it can be. There’s something about it though. It’s not delightful per se. It’s not pleasant either, but I like it. It’s comforting in a disgusting kind of way.

I’m always looking for new smells to smell. Even terrible ones. Each smell is a new experience—a new smelly story to tell. I’ll keep sticking my head in places it shouldn’t be and breathing deep, sucking in all the molecules that combine to create that particular stench, looking for a new fragrant to wrap around my nose.

-Matthew Fugere

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Sage Advice 104: How Do You Guys Feel About Your Bodies This Time?

Because they’re actually quite brilliant. Some people are going to convince you that your body is a disgusting, smelly chunk of decaying flesh and your job as a human is to deal with it until your inevitable death. It’s a lovely incentive for existing, but it isn’t quite true when you really consider what your body does.

Sure, on a large enough time-scale, it’s a decaying chunk of blood and flesh. While it’s hurdling for that final moment of decay though, it spends an enormous amount of time growing and creating. Your body is an amazing little machine, running off only what surrounds it and you put in it. It makes a vast number of tiny calculations over which you have no conscious control. Those little calculations are brilliant in terms of their independence and effectiveness.

Your mind is rarely completely distracted by your body. Sure, you get the occasional ache and pain, but all the little beating and wurring sounds that perpetually keep your everything operating go largely ignored during your day-to-day.

People are afraid of the body, though. We’ve been trained to understand it as the vilest part of our existence. Everyone has been taught that even mentioning the functional use of the body in regular conversation is off-beat and off-putting; such talk should be reserved for bathrooms, bedrooms, medical procedures, and alcohol influenced conversations.

Really concentrate on your body for a minute. It just did a thousand different things to keep you living and you didn’t even have to ask it. That kind of competency should be admired, not shunned. If you actually had to control your body, how quickly do you think you would mess up? If your conscious was suddenly transferred to every splitting cell, beating heart, and churning organ, do you really think you’d make it past a few seconds? Most people can’t walk and text without getting hit by a car, so control down to a cellular level would be catastrophic.

For all the pain and misery that seems to be attributed to it, the body is certainly capable of creating equal measures of pleasure and not being dead. That’s the most important part, you know, the not being dead part. Love it or hate it, that body you think is so terrible and disgusting and smelly keeps you from not being dead—the entire point of existence.

-Matthew Fugere 

And remember to go read me contradicting myself

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Sage Advice 103: What’s Up With Ducks?

I have a hard time understanding a comfortable life for the micro. I’m well aware it’s possible; there are plenty of tiny things that exist all around me. I don’t have a hard time understanding the opposite either: the macro. I understand, or at the very least appreciate, the scale of the world and the solar system and the galaxy and the universe. That concept is something I’m able to grasp, even if at an elementary level.

I actually don’t have a hard time understanding the really tiny, though. Quarks, cells, atoms, everything being broken down into molecules. I get that. I can have that thought in my head at the same time as the macro thought. I get that something can be infinitely expansive and infinitely microscopic. Infinitely reaching zero or infinitely reaching everything.

I guess what I don’t understand—when I really break down the conflict in thought I’m having—are these ducklings. Holy shit, have you seen this video of these ducklings getting thrown around by wind?

Seriously, ducklings? You can’t stand against wind? Wind is by far the easiest thing to not get your shit completely handed to you by. Oh, you want to avoid wind embarrassment? Gain mass. Ducklings, and other tiny creatures like them, frighten me because I’m absolutely terrified for their wellbeing. I often lay awake thinking of the many life-ending possibilities tiny animals likes squirrels, ducklings, scorpions, and puppies have to endure on a daily basis.

Guys. Seriously. Get some mass. Either become denser or move to a place where wind isn’t a factor like the moon or underground. I don’t want to have to tell you guys this again. Ducklings, you have your orders.  

-Matthew Fugere

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