Pavlovazon Prime

hijinks-ensue-january-2015-book-sale-2UPDATE: ONLY 2 WEEKS LEFT!!!

For the month of January 2015, both of my books are only $5 each. Buy 2 of them and I’ll give you a free mystery mini print. After January they are GONE FOREVER

I am selling them at or below cost so they can go to Fancy Bastards that will appreciate them, rather than a bonfire. Grab them HERE. 

HEY HEY HEY, did I mention that I have a Patreon? I do, and because my Fancy Patrons blew past the $1500 Milestone Goal, I was able to completely redesign the website. The comics are about 15-20% larger as well. So far I’ve uploaded embiggened versions of all the comics from 2014. BIG BIG thanks to Fancy Bastard Frank Fenton for helping me fix some of my CSS screw ups that were breaking the site on mobile browsers, and to Fancy Bastard Dan Herman for fixing the mobile alt-text button yet again.

I get upset… or rather upsettingly confused whenever anyone starts to talk about the “reason for the season” to the “ONE TRUE ONLY MEANING OF A CERTAIN TIME A YEAR!” when it concerns a hodgepodge set of rituals, superstitions and traditions appropriated from a dozen different cultures on 3 continents over 2000ish years and duct taped together into a Frankenstein’s monster of long forgotten reasons for doing things a certain way for a certain while. I celebrate Christmas because it’s fun for me and my family. I know it’s an arbitrary conglomeration of disparate traditions, but I like putting a tree in my house sometimes. The lights are pretty. The gifts are nice. It’s an excuse to have fun with and be nice to your friends and family.  I enjoy pie.

Santa is even weirder and more nonsensically cobbled together than Christmas. Geez, just Google that weird dude sometime. Read that jolly ol’ abomination’s Wiki page. Santa is like when ever studio makes a giant meteor movie the same year. It’s hard to say who did it first, and it’s debatable who did it better (Deep Impact was better), but all of the sudden we have like 4 meteor movies and they’re all pretty much the same. Somehow nearly every culture that ever got cold decided on their own that a weird guy with probably a beard and most likely a sled or a horse would go around some time toward the end of the Solar year and separate the child wheat from the child chaff, bestow gifts on one set and shun the other. A Millenia or two later, and we just have the one guy. In 1000 years are we just going to remember every meteor movie as ONE BIG meteor movie? Will is star Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis, or just Morguce Weeman?

I used to try to stay at least tangentially aware of things that didn’t particularly interest me enough to experience them directly. I watched a lot of stand up comedy as a kid, and through that I got a sort of crash course in “these are the things people know about in general.” It’s like hearing an impression so many times that it takes on it’s own life separate from the actual person who was being impersonated. I say “used to” because about a decade ago I stopped looking at or listening to things I didn’t specifically enjoy. I’ve basically entered a state of knowing the names of current pop stars or young celebrities, and MAYBE knowing what they are famous for without ever actually experiencing them or their work in any way. For instance, I do not know who Arianna Grande is or what she sings, but I know that she exists and THAT she sings. Does that make sense? It is through this lens of “meh” that I experience most of what young America considers pop culture. I got a lawn, get off of it, etc, etc.

We honestly never told our daughter about Santa. He just WAS. He permeated the social atmosphere of the world so effectively that we never had to tell her who he was supposed to be or what he was supposed to do. Because of this, we always took a “I don’t know, what do you think?” approach when she’d ask questions about his seemingly magical exploits in a decidedly non-magical word.

COMMENTERS: Of what things or people are you just casually culturally aware (enough to keep up a conversation at work*, but not enough to explore on your own time for your own enjoyment)? Any particular experience with faking knowledge about something all the kids are into these days, what with their hair and the clothes and something about the hips hops? Oh, and how great is it to come home on Amazon delivery day and just sit there like a puppy waiting for a treat until the doorbell rings? What a wholly satisfying human experience.

[*I just realized that the main reason I am able to divorce myself from things I don’t have any interest in is because I am not surrounded by coworkers every day. It’s easy to stay in a bubble of your own interests when there’s no one nearby to break it.]

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  1. Christmas is even weirder in the southern hemisphere. Everyone puts fake winter decorations everywhere, light some trees that I've never seen grow in the wild, and talk about the big dude in the fursuit arriving on a sled pulled by reindeer while it is too hot to stand in the sun without cooking. Anyone who actually dresses as Santa needs to either be somewhere with heavy aircon or have ice strapped to their body. And I have never seen a sled or reindeer ever. Every kid still believes the whole story (thanks American TV).

    I can fake my way through a sports talk at work for a good few minutes. Haven't kept track of anything for years.

    Of course I also miss things. The first time I heard about Justin Bieber was when he had a concert or something that was so packed and energetic that lots of people fainted and it made the news. Then I had to look up who he was and it turns out he was one of the most popular musicians in the world.

    • I thought that in Australia, Santa's sleigh was pulled by white male kangaroos (called "Boomers"). Six white boomers. Snow-white boomers. Pulling Santa Claus through the blazing sun. Learned a song about it in Kindergarten and everything (and performed it at the school's Christmas concert, and I still remember the chorus).

      (also Firefox says it doesn't recognize "Santa's" and is wondering if I meant to say "Satan's" instead? So cute, trying to be all metal and cool…)

    • I was first introduced to "The Biebs" through the "Quit ragging on the girl" jokes and memes that were everywhere, that I didn't quite get out of context. I thought he was a trans girl for the longest time.

  2. "It’s like hearing an impression so many times that it takes on it’s own life separate from the actual person who was being impersonated."

    That literally happened with my friends and I. They started doing impressions of our college professors, which they then started recording, which then turned into an entire plotline and characters that had little to nothing to do with the actual personalities of our professors.

    • This is how a lot of the Cyanide & Happiness short get written. We do characters at conventions and create running gags to keep ourselves sane, then eventually it becomes a cartoon and no one remembers how it started in the first place.

  3. So wait, Taylor Swift isn't real either? Then who was that at the mall singing Shake it Off with all those people in elf costumes last month?

  4. Most kids pick up the whole Santa thing just by cultural osmosis. I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, and they don't celebrate Christmas (or any other holidays), so Santa wasn't something that came up at home. However, he was all over the TV in December, and all my friends in kindergarten were talking about him, so I pretty much got the 411 on Santa despite him being verboten in my home.

    • I would assume your TV viewing habits were restricted as well? Though Santa is literally on EVERYTHING ON TV from November through December.

  5. Going back to college makes me feel even older and out-of-the-loop-er. A classmate was talking to me about how geeked she was for Tron: Legacy and how she got advance tickets and camped out and went to the midnight show and all. Then she contextualizes it with, "But I was like twelve, so." And my brain goes GODDAMMIT the first time I was here they still had an arcade in the student union that featured the original game. How am I in the same position as someone who was still going through puberty when both my kids were already born?

  6. I am actually like this with Star Wars & Star Trek. I didn't actually put together the word "Klingons" to those specific aliens until about 8 years ago. I hang out with nerds, so I know all the references, but I've only ever seen the stupid whale Trek movie & bits of various episodes. When I think of Star Wars, my brain says, "Luke was so whiny, and ugh the sexism!" That's all I retain, really…

    • I have this same relation with pretty much every movie made before 1980. I've seen a few of the BIG BIG classic, but most I've just absorbed through conversation, parody and constant references being tossed out in the ether. Jaws is one. I need to sit down and finally watch that.

      • I think that you will find that JAWS is one of the finest B-movies ever crafted with loving hands. Certainly the finest "monster" movie in its class.

  7. When I worked in a music store, people would come in and ask for things. I usually had no idea what they were asking for until the third person asked. Even though it was usually the most popular thing that week. I just did not listen to pop.

    • I always had this when I worked in phone sale or support. People ALWAYS just assumed I knew whatever sports thing was happening or had just happened. They actually taught us to Google the customer's home town and check the recent sports scores. I never did that. I found when I said, "I don't follow football," the person would react really negatively like I had just admitted to puppy BDSM. I finally started just echoing whatever they said or saying somehting like "OH DON'T GET ME STARTED ON ___INSERT TEAM____!" We'd share a hollow laugh and each leave a little sadder, knowing that the time we wasted on that exchange can never be reclaimed. Can never be made important.

      Or maybe just I felt that way.

  8. My work isn't really the kind of place where pop culture is discussed, and to the degree that it is, I'm the one by far most keyed into the wider culture. This is weird, and contrary to literally every other time in my life; I was reading books on Quantum Physics in grade 5, and the first I heard about Coldplay was in High School when suddenly one morning everyone had been to their concert the previous night. (Sidenote, I still think their one song is alright, but I'm confused as to why they kept releasing it as a single for many years afterwards. Can't quite remember the name, The Yellow Scientist or something like that?)

    Everyone at my work is very nerdy, and some are so nerdy that they're oblivious to geek culture as well, like the new programmer who was baffled as to what "mythology" one of the testers' computers was named from. The computer was named "Cthulhu" and when we said "like, Lovecraft, you know?" he remained completely baffled. As long as I keep The A.V. Club, The Verge, and Techdirt in my RSS feeds I figure I'm at no danger of coworkers talking about pop culture that's beyond my knowledge. Now, the latest updates to the C++ standard, that's another story . . .

  9. I faked my way so far through English grad school with knowing nods, furrowed brows, and the occasionally well-timed, unanswerable question. I don't really like literature.

    Now as far as social atmosphere permeation, we are trying our damnedest to keep our daughter oblivious to Frozen, but it's EVERYWHERE. Today, at a doctor's appointment, the nurse flipped on the in-room TV and there it was. My wife just held our daughter close, started rocking back and forth, and muttered "Oh no, no no no, oh no no no…"

  10. Culturally, I maintained this sort of cynical optimism with regards to what I absorbed as "likes and dislikes", so I developed this wild smattering of genres and cultural pedestals on which I placed my rather awkward points of view. Being traded and bounced around constantly between three different countries throughout my formative years, and attending college classes while I was still technically in junior high, by the time I got to full-time college and art school, I was this weird smelting pot of pop-culture and social references from places most of my friends had never seen before with huge gaps in my geek resume. Even nowadays I still catch myself making (in my own head, at least) a clever pun, getting nothing but blank stares, and then thinking, "Oh right, none of these folks are from across the pond. Sod it, they probably consider Ohio foreign territory…" Yet on the flip side, I'll still miss something entirely obvious that gets a room of applause for regular Americans or Brits and I'll be left with the singular thought of "I bet that was hilarious. Way to drop the ball, stupid." Culturally, I process stuff like Johnny Five: childish and charmingly ignorant about obvious things, but find me a niche and I'll recycle the hell out of it. Also lasers.

    I am amazed, however, by the cultural lexicon of video games that my younger cousins are somehow pulling out of their arses nowadays. They're young enough to treat the PS3 and motion-control as their generation's "legacy", but every now and again they'll ask about some game from the N64 or Dreamcast era, I'll dig out my consoles from storage or boot up an emulator for them, and sure enough by next Christmas, their parents are beating down my door and hounding me on Skype looking for help on buying a Sega 32X off eBay. I don't know if it's an example of someone teaching the younglings about where they come from or something, but overhearing young children in my family talk about original Sonic & Knuckles or an arcade cabinet version of Smashing Drive makes me take pause and wonder what year I'm actually in. I still have no clue where they get their information from, but I do know that my N64 now gets more mileage than anything else thanks to them.

  11. As a long-term resident of Japan but not deeply immersed in the culture there's all kinds of stuff I just know but don't really know. Take J-Pop for just one example. Yeah I "know" SMAP, AKB48, E-girls, ad nauseum, but do I listen to their music or watch their videos? Not really. Plus I'm an old fart.

  12. As for stuff I'm tangentially aware of but really have no clue… pretty much any organized team sport. I nod and can throw out a name of a player or two, pretty much any conversation can have "They need to improve their defence though" and I'm good for another week.

  13. I actually think it's really cool how we arrived at Santa as we know him today, even though he has really nothing to do with Christmas at this point. But basically, Santa is Odin. The Vikings (and Viking invaded countries like England) celebrated the festival of Yule around the time of the winter solstice, and Odin was the one who led the Wild Hunt, which came to an end late December. Children would leave out stockings full of hay for Slepnir, Odin's eight legged battle horse, and in return Odin would leave "toys" (probably weapons). When Christians began conquering Viking lands, they attempted to stamp out Yule, but instead of getting rid of it entirely, they just slapped a Christian face on it. Christmas, which was already celebrated around that time but very differently, became December 25 and Odin got renamed to St Nicholas (a real Saint known for gift giving who's holiday is also in December). Then in the 1940's good ole St Nick was forcefed Coca Cola until he became the jolly fat man we know today.

  14. These days my skills may have atrophied, since I now no longer feel a need for that kind of self-esteem boost, but back when It felt important to me to maintain my reputation as "the smart kid" at school, I was very good at appearing to know enough about most things to at least hold a conversation.

    This was done by combining actually being reasonably smart and well-read for my age, the reputation due to me doing super well academically, the general nerd habit of gathering trivia from various sources, listening a lot more than speaking, repeating what I was just told in a reworded manner, indicating agreement to whatever the person who actually knew the subject said, and vague statements that said person could interpret as whatever was appropriate for the subject at hand.

    I don't recall anyone ever calling me out on faking knowledge.

    It kind surprises me that I was able to manipulate people in that specific manner, considering for the most part I was also the introverted kid with poor social skills and relatively little "emotional intelligence"

  15. Late to party… but many of us who order, say, high-performance auto parts from various distant retailers refer to UPS as "Brown Santa".

    Because they are.

  16. Sweden didnt originally have Santa Claus, we had the Christmas Goat instead. He was this weird composite of Santa and Krampus who went from house to house, giving gifts to good children and sticks to the parents of bad children so they could beat them. There was a lot of focus on child beatings back in those days.

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