What Happened At the Karaoke Competition?

I remember the feeling I had when I first learned that Russia had interfered in the karaoke competition, which I had so desired to win, like it was yesterday.  Because it was announced just yesterday.  But the more-than-a-week leading up to that moment was filled with trials and tribulations, which I had to come to terms with.

In the very moment that I lost the karaoke competition, I knew there was foul play afoot.  It was as if the entire bar asked at once, “Sam who?”  Even the karaoke DJ reaffirmed my suspicions of prejudice from the judges, though his ramblings about Russian accents in that moment didn’t register with me, because truthfully, I was hurt.

It’s not that I wanted the beer cooler with attached bottle opener.  Hell, I would have just given them the beer cooler if they really wanted it.  I just wanted to be number one at karaoke.  I mean, all the signs pointed to me winning, so you can imagine I was pretty devastated.  You see, this is now my third-consecutive time placing second in a karaoke competition.  These competitions only come around a few times a year, and I’ve been practicing songs almost every Thursday night, when Finny’s Pub hosts karaoke night.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to keep practicing and trying to earn that “number one at karaoke” title, which I so deserve.

Most of the week after losing the karaoke competition, I spent hiking in the dense woods of Pennsylvania.  I camped and backpacked when I had to, but mostly I just walked.  I felt like I had lost touch with reality and needed to realign myself.  I tried singing the songs I had sung the night of the competition, but I began to feel a sense of loathing toward those songs; I felt so naïve in thinking that song selection could win a karaoke competition.

By the end of the week, I had reintroduced myself into normal society and was ready to return to the karaoke stage.  My unnamed source inside Finny’s Pub continued to claim he had information about interference in the karaoke competition and what I immediately found strange was that the word Russia kept coming up.  Part of me wanted so badly for it to be true that I wasn’t responsible for my own loss, but addressed it with a grain of skepticism.  Within the next few hours, as the evidence began to pile up, I launched a full-throttle investigation into the potential of Russian interference in the karaoke competition.

That investigation continues and more and more revelations pour in everyday.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  You can read all about my personal accounts of Russian meddling in my upcoming tell-all book, What Happened At the Karaoke Competition?



Television Review: “Who Is America?”

(Photo: Showtime)

Sacha Baron Cohen returns with the interview-style, impersonation comedy, made famous by the socially extreme, satirical characters he portrays, such as Ali G, Borat, and Bruno.  In this series, he plays four new characters, all of which resemble a contemporary American ideology, which has been exaggerated to its most absurdly logical conclusion.

Like any prank show, the real entertainment comes from the response elicited by the prankster; as in, how far can a persona manipulate this unsuspecting person into saying or doing something they normally wouldn’t.  For this to work, the viewer’s suspense of disbelief is reliant upon Cohen’s target to fully believe that his persona is real.  I personally had a hard time believing that Bernie didn’t know it was some kind of prank show, which deflates the humor to a degree, because it’s less funny when someone knows they’re being pranked.  But for the most part, Cohen is able to maintain the illusion of sincerity and improvise, based on the interviewee’s response, to the scene’s maximum potential.  His greatest success in this matter is getting Republican politicians to publicly support training four-year-olds to use firearms against mass shooters in schools.

By honestly addressing society as personified extremity, Cohen reveals the satire that sits on the surface of what is considered “normal” political discourse.  In the Trump era, when politicians lie and spout Orwellian propaganda, many comedians have pointed out that it’s hard to make fun of these people when they are basically walking self-parodies.  Cohen doesn’t attempt to make fun of anyone; instead he allows his absurdity to reveal the absurdity in others; to expose them for the self-parodies that they are.

Anyone who is a fan of impressions should find something to love in Cohen’s performance.  His characters are believable because he doesn’t just perform them, he lives through them; his walk changes, the way he carries himself changes, his speech patterns change – he really is the master of disguise (despite the fact that the make-up is a little over-done at times).  His absurd characters work because he plays them with deft honesty.  He doesn’t just play an absurd point of view, instead he fully embodies the kind of person who would house such thoughts.

There is definitely a lot of potential to be squeezed from these four new characters, and I’m on board for the ride to see how far Cohen can take this, given how uniquely ridiculous he is willing to go.  However, now that people know of the kind of pranks he is pulling off, I wonder how successful he will be in the future in continuing to fool people of power.  His ability to get genuinely surprised and outrageous reactions in this manner may have a shelf life.

Venezuela: A Lesson for the United States

Shortage in Venezuela due to economical crisis
CARACAS, VENEZUELA (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If you talk to a conservative about Socialism, they’re favorite strawman is to bring up the economic crisis in Venezuela and suggest that any amount of Socialism will plummet our economy into the same over-inflated mess.  But there is actually a way that the United States could face the same consequences being felt in Venezuela, and one of those ways is to stay on the same course we are currently on.

The reason Venezuela is having an economic crisis has nothing to do with the “ist” or “ism” attached to their economic model; it has to do with the fact that 96% of Venezuela’s exports and 40% of their GDP is petrol.  For a decades, Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in the region due to their massive reserves of petrol.  When the price of petrol drops, Venezuela’s economy will undoubtedly suffer.  Conservatives claim that if we adopt policies in America meant to serve the people, we will end up like Venezuela, but to compare their economy to the United State’s economy is where they will make their first mistake, because America’s economy is not reliant upon the price of petrol.

Their second mistake is to suggest that Venezuela is Socialist or Communist; 500 different U.S. corporations operate within Venezuela, so by definition, they are Capitalist.  Differentiating their petrol companies from American oil companies because they are “state-owned” is metaphorically slicing hairs.  In 2015 alone, the United States subsidized fossil fuels for a total of $600 billion.  Re-read that fact again a couple times and then tell me American fossil fuel companies are not “state-owned.”  America’s government is no less invested in its fossil fuel companies than Venezuela’s government is invested in theirs.

The reason that Venezuela has strong social protections is because they have five branches of government, as opposed to our three, one of which is the Citizen’s Branch; meaning that the people have more of a voice in which legislation is passed.  The consequence being that the state subsidizes products for their poorest citizens and takes a net loss, because they feel it’s worth it to take care of their most vulnerable citizens.  Of course, with that ideology (which comes from an inherently good place), comes more subsequent problems, such a black market for government-sold items, which become increasingly rare for those who need them.  But it should be emphasized, that this net loss suffered by the state has nothing to do with the current economic turmoil, which, again, has everything to do with the price of petrol dropping.

If conservatives were at all interested in understanding why the price of petrol is dropping, they might actually come closer to understanding the real reason why Venezuela’s economy is in crisis.  To do that, is to look at our own foreign and economic policies, in tandem to Saudi Arabia’s.  The main goal for Saudi Arabia is to create a global monopoly on oil by first destroying the markets of their main competitor’s, Russia and Iran.  Their strategy for doing so is to over-produce oil, so that the market is saturated and the price drops; their goal being that this price drop will hurt Russia and Iran.  At this point, the only countries that have actually been hurt by this change are those which rely on petrol for economic growth, such as Libya, Angola, Nigeria, and Venezuela.

So what is the real lesson the United States can learn from Venezuela, since we know the lesson is not that policies designed to help the poor will destroy our country.  To do that, we need to understand the other reason why the price of fossil fuels is dropping: The price of oil, as with any other commodity, is regulated through supply and demand. When there is an oil surplus, or a reduction in demand, the price will fall.  Saudi Arabia’s actions demonstrate what happens in an oil surplus, but what happens when there is a reduction of demand are very similar and the brunt impact of that could be faced by the United States.  This is what is called the “Carbon Bubble.”  (Hint: the word “Bubble” should be an indicator that it has potential to pop and cause havoc.)  Currently, China is leading the world in investments into renewable energy.  This trend will only increase around the world, as manufacturing renewable technology becomes cheaper than digging dinosaurs out of the ground.  Maybe now is a good time to revisit that number of $600 billion the United States taxpayers paid in 2015 to subsidize the fossil fuel industry.

We are investing billions of dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize pipelines sprawling across our country; trillions to secure global oil reserves for American corporations – what happens if we never see a return on that investment, because in 20 years the price of oil has halved because of China’s booming renewable industry.  The United States could be on the forefront of that new manufacturing industry, instead we are stuck in the past, digging in the dirt; trying to force everyone to watch VHS instead of leading the switch to DVD, or digital.  Right now there is a profit in ignoring the growing renewable market, but once that profit disappears, so will the investors, and so will a large portion of our economy.  Venezuela’s mistake was assuming petrol prices would remain high and our current mistake is the assumption that the price of fossil fuels will remain high.  With our current course of action, it is inevitable that the global demand of fossil fuels will continue to reduce until the Carbon Bubble pops, at which point, it will be far more accurate to compare the United States to Venezuela.

How to Convince People on the Internet That Your Opinion is Correct

When you’re scrolling through Facebook, often times you will stumble upon a comment in which someone is talking about their stupid political opinion.  There are many ways to tackle this situation, but if you actually want to convince them that they are wrong and you are right, there is a very specific set of instructions you must follow:

Step One: Listen to Their Position

And take notes of every stupid thing they say, you’ll need these notes later on.  This shouldn’t be hard since, at this point, you’re still just stalking the comment thread, waiting for the right moment to strike.  Now that you have thoughtfully considered their point of view, we can move on to Step Two.

Step Two: Call Them a Dumb Fuck.

On top of being a great icebreaker, calling someone a dumb fuck in the first sentence of your argument is sure to pacify and emasculate your opponent, publically humiliate them for their lack of knowledge, and put them in the perfect mind frame to accept a new worldview.

Step Three: Strawman Their Position

Don’t attack your opponent’s argument; that feeds into the illusion that their framing is correct.  Instead, build up an extreme version of their argument and attack that.  In most cases they will attempt to correct your strawman, but don’t back down, because best case scenario, they will accept your framing and argue from a weakened position.

Step Four: Stalk Their Facebook Page

Keep in mind weak points to attack.  Are they ugly, overweight, have no friends, or post stupid things to their wall?  These are all great options of weaknesses to take note of, but be creative!  Sometimes it’s more effective to take something they view to be a positive thing and turn it into a negative thing.

Step Five: Attack Their Weaknesses

You’ve stocked your arsenal, heard their stupid opinions, scoured their stupid page, called them a dumb fuck, and now you’re ready to dress down this silly human and attack every crevice of their existence.   The key to being successful in Step Five is to utilize every previous step: 1) maintain and build upon your strawman and continually reference it.  This keeps them on the defense.  2) point out how shitty their personal life is and link it to how stupid their opinion is. 3) call them a dumb fuck again.

Step Six: “Haha” React Their Comments

On each of your opponent’s comments, hover over the “Like” button and select the “Haha” reaction.  This will make it look like you are laughing at how stupid their point of view is.  At the very least this will make them feel self conscious and reconsider whether they did actually say something stupid (they did!).

Step Seven: Success

The biggest mistake newcomers make in this process is that they don’t know when to fold and bail from the comment thread.  Your opponent is too full of pride and ego to actually admit that you convinced them.  Leaving a conversation demonstrates that you are far too intellectual to continue speaking.  At this point, you’ve demonstrated how much smarter than them you are and sometimes, all it takes is a seed of knowledge to grow into a big stupid tree.  It may not happen now, it may not happen tomorrow, but rest easy knowing that if you followed this strategy to the T, your opponent will fully change and adopt your worldview.


Man Starts Blog, World Response: “How Long Will That Last?”

DOYLESTOWN, PA.  Local writer, James Martin, set to the blogosphere earlier this month, when he created a personal blog.  “But really,” the world responded, “how long do you think that will fucking last?”  The world’s concerns deepened when Martin elaborated as to the nature of the posts he would be publishing: “It’s just, like, a place for me to write whatever is on my mind and just get it out into the world.”  The world collectively rolled their eyes, asking, “So you expect this to last about a month or two, then?”  Martin appeared determined to not shut down the blog just yet, claiming, “I feel like this could be a chance for me to gain a readership, which will help when I publish my novel.”  However, as of press time, there was still not a new blog posted for the weekend, to which the world responded, “Mmmhmmm.”

I Can’t Wait For Summer, So I Can Take a Break from Defunding Schools

Devos stares longingly out the window, while idly signing off on cuts to education.  (Photo by Getty Images)


There’s seriously only a month left of school and I can’t stop looking out the window of the Department of Education and daydreaming about going outside, instead of being stuck here, withering away the education budget.  It’s so boring here now that it’s getting warmer.  Who can even think about how to over-charge for an unaccredited, useless degree, now that spring flowers are blooming?

I feel an over-whelming sense of lethargy when it comes to defending sexual predators on campus, whereas I had more ambition to do so at the beginning of the year.  Likewise, when last semester started, letting for-profit colleges off the hook for defrauding students filled my life with purpose; now it’s just another tedious task in my endless schedule.

What no one told me about Washington D.C., is that there is a steep learning curve to politics around here.  But there aren’t enough available resources for me to learn how to effectively defund public education.  I mean, just the other day, I had to buy my own sharpie to cross out protections for disabled and trans students.  Don’t get me wrong, I love undercutting civil rights; it’s a difficult process, and I feel brighter and whiter for it.  I just need a break.  I know that come September, after a relaxing summer break in the Hamptons, I’ll be rejuvenated and ready to reform the Sciences to remove the part about science.

If the World Ends Before New Rick & Morty, I’ll Be So Pissed

Marcus Calloway sits down to discuss his trepidation about the end of the world.

[Opinion] Marcus Calloway, DENVER, CO 

If you’re like me, your life was nearly completed upon the announcement of 70 (seventy) new Rick & Morty episodes.  But of course, with my luck, they announce new Rick & Morty episodes on the eve of World War III.   Now I, like most of you, am totally open-minded toward the apocalypse.  In fact, if Season 4 of Rick & Morty had been cancelled, I’d be ready right now to end this fucking universe and start all over.

If Trump and Netanyahu wanted to start World War III last week, we all would have been totally cool with it – but now, it’s like, we finally have something to live for again, if only a few more years.  I swear, if the world ends before new Rick & Morty episodes come out, I’ll be so pissed.  I think we can all agree that an eternal afterlife with more than 100 episodes of Rick & Morty doesn’t sound so bad.  However, I personally, can’t even express how fuming mad I would be, if forced into an afterlife, in which 70 promised episodes of Rick & Morty had never come to pass.

I mean, c’mon, we’ve already made it a couple thousand years as a species, I think we can tolerate each other for just a fraction of that, until Rick & Morty is finally cancelled; at which point, let the bombs drop, ‘cause I’m done with this shit hole of a planet.