A Trek through Costa Rica: Part IIIB: Turbulence in Turrialba, Continued

Turbulence in Turrialba, Continued…

bajo pacuare 23 8 08 (18)Down we go backward, the entire raft bucking and twisting, the left rear side ( my side) crunching vertically into the hole. Muddy spray washes over us, ripping my breath away. We struggle to stay upright, to keep our paddles out of the hole to prevent our arms being yanked from their sockets by the undertow, to lean in toward the middle of the raft to center our weight.

But for me, ill-prepared and half in the water already, it is no use. The river sandals I borrowed are too loose on my feet and the left one yanks completely free. Nothing now remains to stop that whole leg slipping out from under the seat beside me. I cling precariously to the side, muscles straining, to keep my leg in the boat. The stern of the boat and the rest of my companions are high up above me, huddled like frightened rats on the bucking on the lip of a massive, wicked-looking whirpool.

This stasis endure for several seconds, but it can’t last. The raft isn’t stable enough. It bucks up again, violently. Everyone else manages to cling to their sides. But my side is currently disappearing into the river. My head flies back and straight into the churn.


Now imagine a body bent backward over the side with his head stuck in the whitewater (photo: Wikipedia)

The roaring stops: the world becomes a totality of white and green and muffled sound. I hear my brother to my left, yelling, and feel his grip on my arm and leg. He’s trying to pull my upper body back up and in – something the guide had warned us not to do in a hole this huge, as it would simply cause everyone else to fall in.

With the raft at a 45 degree angle I don’t have the strength to pull my head back up out of the sucking whirpool. And I’m not about to drown here, bent backward over the edge of a raft, one leg straight up, one still stuck uselessly under the seat. That’s just not a dignified way to die.

I also don’t feel like being the cause of everyone else going over into the undertow with me. So I yank my right leg as hard as I can. The sandal rips free. My legs fly up. I somersault backward into the churning hole.

Chaos. Somehow I manage to right myself and thrust my head slightly out of the water, struggle to gasp a few breaths. Immediately I’m sucked downward into the whirpool, outward toward the rock ledge lining the bank of the river – spinning in a pressurized void of green and white. I try to swim against the undertow to no avail. How deep is this hole anyway?

My eyes fly open. The rock ledge. Getting pinned by the current under submerged rock ledges are how people drown, and the ledge is close. In only a few seconds the undertow will drag me under it. And I may not have the breath to fight back.

In a surge of pure adrenaline I heave my feet out from under my body and position them in front of me. I plant them firmly, flat against the edge of the rock wall and push mightily away from the ledge with all my remaining strength.

I shoot out back into the main current, out of the hole. Finally I surface, gasping raggedly, taking in as much spray as oxygen. But I’m not dead.

Safe out of the hole at least, now I just need to survive the remainder of this stretch of Class IV rapids without knocking myself out on a boulder. I struggle to get breath, get turned around with my feet in front of me like the guides have demonstrated so that none of my tender bits are smashed by the rocks and slabs.

My lungs cannot seem to get enough air. Endless moments pass during which I have no idea when I will take my next breath. As soon as I surface, I slide over a rock or plunge down another hole and am pulled down again. I drink a good portion of the previous night’s rainfall.

I could probably tell you to this day, if you served me up a glass of pure Pacuare river water, exactly which rapid it came from within a couple of river miles. (“Ah yes,” I would say, swilling the glass and smacking my lips. “The Mangler rapids. A fine vintage, I would know it anywhere…”)

Things are getting desperate. At the edges of my vision – eyes fixed wildly open in the rushing water, a churn of green and white foam and bubbles – dull black tendrils begin to creep.

I launch my head savagely toward the open air, gasp a long breath. Only now am I aware that my calves and bare feet are absorbing impact after impact from the stones and boulders I’m navigating.

A rock cracks against my tailbone. I careen down a mini-waterfall, my legs jolting as my feet hit the river bottom.


Sort of like me in the rapid, but with more rocks and less drowning. (photo: c. Wayne Hacker, warrenimages.com)

Suddenly, the blessed red safety kayak is there. I feel it gliding smoothly up against my right side. I grasp blindly out for the edge and cling to the front. “Hang on, amigo!”, the kayaker shouts.

As if I would do anything else. Um, no, amigo, that’s ok, I’m really enjoying my blind morning hurtle through this concealed boulder field, thanks anyway.

Rocks and branches fly past as my body is swiftly transported to the far end of the rapids. I’m deposited, dazed and heaving for breath, on a wide sandy shore fringed with reeds and stumpy banana trees. The kayaker sticks a goofy thumbs-up sign toward me, shoots downstream to look for more “swimmers”.

End of Part IIIA: To Be Continued…

A Trek through Costa Rica: Part IIIA: Turbulence in Turrialba


The slopes around Turrialba, Costa Rica (photo: bidstrup.com)

Our SUV has become stuck in mud on a narrow jungle road for the second time this morning.

A few hours before dawn – before we’ve trekked across the mountain village of Turrialba to the office of our rafting outfitter – a brief thunderstorm had sent sheets of heavy rain pouring onto the slopes of the mountains, reducing much of the earth to dribbling brown liquid.

As the guides work to free the back tires, we struggle groggily out of the truck to stretch our legs on a dry part of the road, snacking on Clif Bars and surveying the scene below.

To the south down the road lay the low shacks and bridges of Turrialba. To the west and about a thousand feet straight down from the ridge, the two main rivers tumbling out of Costa Rica’s central mountain ranges – the Rio Pacuare and the Rio Reventazon – crookedly intersect, wriggling like a couple of long lazy earthworms washed out of their burrows.

From these heights the rivers look motionless and two-dimensional as photos, shimmering through a haze of evaporating fog and mist, shot through with mottles of bright sunrise. It’s breathtaking. And slightly intimidating. After all, in a few minutes we are scheduled to be on one of those rivers – the Rio Pacuare, one of the top rafting rivers in the world –  and headed into our first major Class IV rapid.

Finally the back tires spin free and we’re on our way again, bumping and roaring up and down steep jungle hills scattered with deciduous and banana and palm and the occasional wild coffee bush.

It doesn’t look like we’ll make our put-in time.


The Rio Pacuare. (photo: livingincostaricatoday.com)

Finally at the put in, we unpack our gear as our main guide, a short and friendly Tico who looks no older than 18, explains the situation.

Normally, he explains, they would do a test-run in calm water so that inexperienced rafters can practice pulling others back into the boat, and the ones being pulled in can get used to being in the water. Also in normal circumstances we’d all practice floating a small section of rapids in only our life jackets.

But it’s late – we’re behind, there are several other groups behind us, so the guide skips all this. Instead they just show us how to stay in the boat (by jamming our river sandals under the seat in the center), tell us to paddle like hell and “avoid the big holes”, and throw us in.

You can probably guess this is a bad idea. With the exception of my then-girlfriend, we’ve all rafted before. But our experience has been limited to predictable rapids in high desert rivers of no more than Class II or at most Class III, with few swells and no huge holes or obstacles in our way. This river….well, let’s just say this river is an entirely different beast. An angry, homicidal beast.

There’s a period of calm as we launch out in the shallows from the pebbled banks. The guide, perched at the rear with the steering paddle, goes over our upcoming route. We’ll be covering 18 miles of the Pacuare, with one break in between for lunch. Safety kayakers will be stationed to the aft and to the rear of us as we go.

This all sounds reasonable, reassuring. Less so when, seconds later, we’re shooting down the river toward our first Class III (made a Class IV by the rainstorm and the rise in river level), and I’m barely able to remain seated atop the side. It feels like I’ll be launched into the river at any moment.

We bang on easily through the first Class III even while straining to discern the guide’s shouted commands from the rear.  After catching our breaths, we look around at each other. Jungle birds shriek and chitter above us, invisible in the dense foliage drooping down from the canyon walls.

Is it supposed to feel this precarious? Why can’t I get a solid perch on this side? Should it be necessary to correct my balance every two seconds to stay upright even in calm water? Should I have bought rafting sandals in my own size, rather than borrowing my stepdad’s, which are much too large and already slipping off my feet? Am I just being a paranoid noob?

Then – BAM! A giant wave rears up bronco-like directly in front of us, towering over the stern of the boat, and the time for thinking is over. We plow directly into it.

We are aloft for a split, terrifying second, disconnected from the river, from the raft even  – I see the bodies of my companions beginning to float helplessly up from their sides as if gravity had become unbolted – and then we slam back down into the water at an indescribable angle, so violently that the whole front of the raft folds like a check mark. My neck pops and the teeth of my upper jaw crush against my mandible.

The rear of the raft pops out backward as it straightens itself out, flinging the guide’s body aftward. How his back is not broken after this little flight I still don’t know.


This is like us, but with way more time IN the boat (photo: Wikipedia)

We have no time to catch our breaths or even to feel elated. A giant hole looms ahead. I blink, can’t quite believe what the visual information indicates, blink again. The river level drops at least 10 feet in directly in front of us. A long, flat ledge of rock marks the edge of the hole, and we’re only a few seconds away. Too close to do anything but hold on and plunge into it.

All higher thought disappears from my mind. Cold terror consumes me as I paddle. The guide screams behind us, jamming his steering oar as deep behind him as he can without losing grip on it – “Paddle! Paddle! Left side! Left side!”

Abstractly I think – dude, aren’t you the one who is supposed to be calm and keeping us together? He is clearly losing it.

We paddle as instructed. The edge draws nearer like an executioner’s blade. It’s like fighting a bear, pulling against this current. But we slowly coax the raft to our right. We’re clearing it! We’re clearing it! I think wildly.

But relief is short-lived. In our haste, we’ve over-corrected and don’t have time to get straight. The back end sweeps around almost 180 degrees. The stern catches the flat edge of the rock.


A Trek Through Costa Rica: Part I: The Flight



Perry Farrell is on our plane from Portland to L.A.

In fact, we walk right alongside him and his two children and his very petite Asian wife all the way through the PDX International gate, and also the boarding tunnel (through which he carries his young, excitable child upon his shoulders while his wife carries a stroller) and into the plane, after which he and his brood settle into the first-class cabin and we are shuffled back to coach.

And then after we depart the plane in Los Angeles to await our connecting flight to Guatemala City, we can’t escape him. There he is in baggage claim next to us, horsing around and embracing his wife and chasing his kids and laughing the way one almost never does after an uneventful and surely routine flight. At which point my little brother Keifer (pretending he is taking a picture of my girlfriend) catches him on film, blurry in the background of his shot.

936full-perry-farrellMr. Farrell (image courtesy of listal.com

This is very cool of course. He is a celebrity. And personally vindicating to poor Keifer, as right off the bat, this event almost justifies the added trouble of the extra forty or so pounds of lenses, tripods and film that he has lugged along on this ostensibly stripped-down, month-long trek of Costa Rica. But it doesn’t stop the rest of his travelling companions (myself, my girlfriend Stacky, and my brother Chris) from  cruelly ribbing him about it.
Sometime during the following, interminable overnight flight from L.A. to Guatemala City and then to San Jose, a movie flickers into life on the monitors hanging above our seats. This movie is titled “Down with Love”, starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger.

Now, I cannot sleep on planes. Never have been able to. Maybe it’s just me, but something about having no control of whether I live or die – entrusting my life to a strange, exhausted pilot who is somehow maintaining 75 tons of airliner at an altitude of 35,000 feet above dark and jagged mountains – prevents me from drifting off into careless, baby-like slumber.

So, because it is the only activity to engage me in this dark tube of hurtling steel filled with lucky sleeping bastards, and because we have entered that peculiar suspension of time that occurs on long overnight flights and I need something with a definite running time to reassure me that this flight is progressing somehow,  I watch Messr. McGregor’s “Down with Love”.
The Best of Ewan McGregor - http://www.bestofewan.com/No. Down with THIS MOVIE. (image courtesy of fanpop.com)

After the credits roll, I mentally recite a short list of activities available to me that would have been preferable to sitting through “Down With Love”.  An abbreviated list follows:

1. Suffocating on the collected noxious emissions of the gastrically distressed fellow in front of me.
2. Punching a hole in the fuselage and being sucked out to free-fall gently into the Pacific.
3. You get the idea.

And I still cannot sleep.

Compared to the chaotic behemoth of L.A.X., the Guatemala City airport terminal, hunching low and blocky in the dim wilderness of 3 a.m Central America,  looks like a poorly lit gas station that we’ve pulled up to on an overnight bus trip.

We’ve landed in Guatemala City in the dead of night to pick up a few passengers and to let a sick and feverish man off the plane. The man slumped to the floor around halfway through the flight and the crew have been propping him up ever since. Through the dark filter of my sleepless delirium, the ordeal of the two flight attendants assigned to escort the poor man off the plane seems grim. They strain epically to drag the bulky fellow out of the side exit and finally manage to stumble down the stairs to the tarmac below.

With that bit of unpleasantness done, the crew passes around immigration and customs forms for everyone to sign as if nothing has happened. Then we sit in the dark on the tarmac for what feels like hours before taking off again. All I can do is stare out the window at the gas station lights.


Sleep has not come by the time dawn sees us flying over the Nicoya Peninsula. We immediately begin our descent. We have finally crossed the massive Lake Nicaragua (which is more like a sea) and passed rather dramatically into Costa Rica.

Now, intensely green forested mountains rise to the left of us, rolling down to deep shadowed valleys and impenetrable tree cover, while to the right, the Pacific glistens vast and green blue with white misty shores. It is breathtaking.view-costa-ricaI’m immediately cheered. Soon, I will sleep a long and needed sleep (I cast my red eyes upon my brothers and my girlfriend slumbering just next to and behind me – lucky bastards!) and then, my rest taken, it will be off to romp around this giant playground.


Greeschlyn Can’t Fail

words and photography (c) 2013 by Benjamin J Spencer

When will you move?

A new town is called for.

You have your neat grass,
Your dew drops (you reason).

Then again you also have your stinging flies

And your defeated people
who look into empty, empty

shop windows,

Rubbing their hands together.

this is why You must move to Greeschlyn.
Greeschlyn cannot fail.


Greeschlyn has the most artfully glass-strewn of warehouses.

Greeschlyn’s water is pure lysergic acid.

Greeschlyn is glazed with two centuries of baker’s flour and petroleum

Greeschlyn’s young are clinically insane
(And They find this instructive)

In Greeschlyn, you can fish for starlight in cold, salty puddles
And eat moonlight cake with shy pledge-drive orphan kids


You see

Possesses those things that can strum your nerves like a lyre

And peel the skirt right off your pelvis

Momentous things
Glinting things.



THE WRONG CHOICE – Tales of a Third-Grade Nothing, Part Two


OR, Tales of a Third Grade Nothing, Part Two:

* * * * * * * * * *

My friends and I all had our favorite classroom locations and attitudes.

For example, on this particular morning, Eric sat by the large windows, staring out into the green courtyard dividing the two low cement buildings comprising our elementary school. The grass in the courtyard sprouted long and fat and wild and choked with overgrown yellow dandelions. It had rained and the colors bled silently into the grey sky.

I had assumed my favorite position as well: head down, arms folded, staring at my desktop. My own plan for  massing a rebellion among the third-grade students against the evil tyranny of one Ms. G. Smith had not gone so well, mainly because I hadn’t acted on it.

But I did credit myself with helping to craft an anti-establishment mood. Indeed, in the first signs of non-violent struggle several students had abstained from doing the short homework lab on ice crystals assigned by Ms. G. Smith, although in retrospect I’m not sure if these students would have completed the lab either way.

Normally quite a conscientious student, I myself had done little assigned work since I decided I was at war with my teacher, and the work I completed was shoddy. My mother was mystified when informed of this at a parent-teacher conference. Perhaps she hoped my self-destructive rebellion would go away on its own, because she never confronted me about it.

I was staring down at my desk because I  had just returned to Ms. G. Smith’s fourth grade classroom after a one-day vacation away for a youth writing conference held at Linfield College in the nearby town of McMinnville, Oregon, and I had not fared so well at this conference.

Now, I wasn’t sure which of my former teachers had picked me to be the representative from my elementary school, but I had been glad for the day off. Unfortunately I had not mentally prepared for the amount of work I would be expected to do, and I was thrown off by the rigor of the workshops and the lectures.

The worst part had turned out to be the public reading of our original works. For the conference I had been required to assemble a portfolio of my work and prepare an original short piece, be it a poem or a story. I had never written a poem before, so the night before the conference I came up with an off-the-cuff one about a priest – or maybe a wizard? – riding a horse through a medieval town in the middle of the night, delivering medicine or milk or something.

I hastily finished this literary gem in the shuttle van from my school to Linfield College that morning, and I thought it wasn’t half bad for the amount of time I had invested in it. Besides, it was part of my new nonchalance about school. I might do it, I might not. Either way I wouldn’t stress out.

At that time, of course,  I was unaware I would have to publicly present it, having failed to read the information packet that the conference organizers had sent me.

Only when I stood up to deliver the poem to a packed room of professors, teachers and other students at the conference did I discover that the little poem I had hastily scribbled off was not, in fact, pretty good under any theoretical reading you subjected it to, but instead, probably the worst thing ever committed to paper. E.E. Cummings would have shat all over this  poem.

Even more ominously for me and my literary reputation, other students had evidently worked for days, possibly weeks, agonizing over every word and phrase, conducting research in their public libraries, taking oratory classes, directing their mothers to buy them little grey suits with bowties, and generally producing poems and stories that bounced and sang and, as a bonus, were about something. Furthermore, they had practiced.

I, on the other hand,  had to rifle frantically through my backpack right before the presentation just to find the pathetic crumpled little half-page I had written, and when I reached the microphone my voice quavered as if I were going to burst into tears and my hands shook so badly I was soon forced to put the paper down on the lectern.

Then, sadly, I couldn’t read the words anymore, because I had written them in my usual tiny scrunched handwriting and they just sort of ran down the page into a trickle of unintelligible ink until finally disappearing into a smeary blur, just beyond the focusing range of the human eye. So I tried to remember the rest of it off the top of my head.

I never looked at the crowd once. To them it must have appeared as if a disheveled little mentally ill kid had wandered onto the stage and, head down, muttered to himself for two minutes.

When I finally finished to a sort of baffled and sporadic clapping from the audience (ludicrously generous, considering what had just transpired in front of them), I stalked out the doors, the crowd a fuzzy gaggle to the side of me.

I tramped all over the pleasantly wooded campus, seriously considering trying to walk back home or at least hitch a ride, neither of which I was confident I could do at nine years of age. So Instead I sat under a fat leafy tree in the warm sun, rubbing two quarters together in my pocket.

I debated over whether I would still go to the workshop scheduled for me across the campus. Could I simply blow it off? Why not? After all, I had never wanted to come to this thing in the first place. Somebody, I surmised (probably my old first grade and third grade teachers who loved me) had simply picked me as the student to go, and I knew that whatever my abilities, it was a bad choice.

Somewhere back in the pre-dawn of my life, I supposed, God had struck lightning into a tablet and decreed that I would be a writer, and the adults in my life did their best to help execute that decree. The only cog in the plan was that part of me that felt corralled, stifled. I did not want to feel obliged to participate anymore in someone else’s enthusiasm about my abilities, and I felt somehow resentful at being set apart from my classmates for the “honor” of attending this conference. Though my conscience whispered vaguely that I should feel grateful, I did not in the slightest. I felt pushed and pulled by others, encouraged and helped to the point of exhaustion. I wanted to be completely independent of their expectations, however well-meaning.

At the same time, though, it felt dangerously lonely to be out here in the quiet on the practically empty campus. I watched from my tree, an outsider, as the other kids dutifully shuffled back and forth from building to building.

Why couldn’t I be happy with my choice? After all, all these other kids were trying painfully to free-write and listen to lecturers tell them that it wasn’t too early to plan for college. I was free, out in nature. Why couldn’t I just live with my choice, be strong and decided about it?

I left the lawn with its huge trees and began pacing the path around the building – my building, the one I was supposed to be in at that moment. Moments later, I found myself at the entrance, and then inside the darkened lobby.

Still I could not bring myself to abandon my dream of independence quite yet. I stopped in front of a glowing red soda vending machine and stood there staring at it. The machine hummed warmly. The Cokes only cost a quarter! A barely glimpsed new world opened up before me; I thought about how fine it would be to buy one of those Cokes right then and there, with my own quarters that lay in my pocket.It was only a quarter, but it was mine. And so would the soda.

I bought two Cokes right there. Rejuvenated, I strode into the workshop Cokes in hand, gloriously late, and sat as far in the back as possible, trying to make the whole thing look as if I had planned it.

Of course, nobody cared or noticed. But I did. I felt as though a burden of responsibility had been lifted from my shoulders. I had failed! Henceforth, I would be utterly free to fail whenever and wherever I liked if it suited me. Still basking, I bought two more Cokes before the ride home.

But now, in a few moments, while I waited with my head down, I knew that I was meant to deliver a report about what I had learned.

The little Formica-slab desktop was heavily traumatized, scarred, and chipped into. Out of the dim I discerned words, etched deep in the white plastic during some other class, years before, while some other teacher besides mine, perhaps wearing bell-bottoms and earnest round John Lennon spectacles, attempted to seize the attention of 21 nine-year-olds. When particularly bored in class I read all of the words over and over again: F-U-C-K, one said, in jagged, evil death-metal letters dug right down through the laminate and into the wood.

I raised my head a little off the desk, lowered it again, slowly. The jagged letters swam out of focus.

I wonder a lot about the kid who carved that word there. Mostly I wonder about his motives: what could have been the all-consuming importance of this F-U-C-K to the one who labored to produce it under threat of expulsion? What unthinkable rebellions fomented in his brain? And: under what demonic influence had he dared to pass his innermost blasphemy on to future generations, and for what purpose? Was it simply for the joy of rebelling against some unwritten standard?

Suddenly I was standing in front of the class. I hadn’t anticipated that I would be required to speak about my experience, and bitterly I sensed it as a personal attack from Ms. G. Smith.

The lowness of it! So I stood there for a moment, struggling against the urge to say something nasty to the teacher, to all of them staring at me. The truth was that I had all but checked out of the writer’s conference after the poem presentation debacle, but I didn’t want to go into all that. So I produced one of the few experiences I could remember that was untainted by discomfort.

“It was really cool.” I told the class. “There were these Coke machines and they had Cokes for a quarter. I drank four of ‘em.”

The students all laughed. After a second, I joined in. We were nine years old, after all.

But Ms. G. Smith did not laugh.

“Is that all you can tell us about it, Mr. Spencer?”

A small part of my conscience recoiled as if slapped. No, of course not. There were workshops and speakers (and humiliations) I could go on all day about. But instead I just shrugged – a gesture fast becoming my favorite response to any question from a teacher.

Ms. G. Smith’s eyes hardened, but did not blaze. She only appeared thoughtful.

“Perhaps, then, I should have picked some other student to go to the conference.”

Now, I didn’t like Ms. G. Smith. I think that is well established by now. But still, her disappointment stabbed into me.

I shrugged nonchalantly again, but my face flushed. As quickly as the shame had come, anger – anger at myself for being ashamed, anger at the world that would place kids into such situations- replaced it.

What did I care?  I didn’t choose to go, and I hadn’t chosen to stand up and tell the class! And anyway, I hated Ms. G. Smith! Why should I ever care about her opinion?

For some reason I did care, though, and my shame had proved it. Suddenly I found I had no more heart for defiance.

I returned to my seat and brooded over my unfinished ice crystal lab. I imagined that I would barely pass the third grade.

* * * * * * * * * *

The 20 Funniest HumbleBrags on Twitter

(DISCLAIMER: The concept behind collecting Humblebrag Tweets, ranking, and responding to them is not mine. It was created by Harris Wittels, a writer for NBC’s Parks and Recreation and a regular Grantland contributor. I just thought his @Humblebrags Twitter feed and his Grantland monthly rankings were horrifying/funny, so I thought I’d write some of my own. They are similar to his, only I’ve been informed that mine are “meaner”. To which I reply: whatever. P.S. Originally I wrote these for TruTV.com, but they weren’t published. So here they are for your enjoyment)

The 20 Funniest “HumbleBrags” (my version)

An argument could be made that celebrities have a duty to entertain and horrify us with their Tweeted boasts: after all, if they’re not livin’ the dream, then what do us poor schmoes have to aspire to? Plus, they are famous, after all, and vast numbers of otherwise reasonable people – professional people who contribute to society in many important ways – inexplicably fall all over each other to validate their uninformed opinions.

But what of those lesser celebrities, those who only have the capacity to offend a comparatively small circle of followers at best, or at worst just a finger-wagging from their moms back in Wisconsin?

For those minor stars, and even for some larger ones, we have the relatively new phenomenon of the Humblebrag – a promotional tactic for those who desperately want to brag about their accomplishments/awards nominations/swag/celebrity connections, but just as desperately want to pretend they are not, with oft-times hilariously false humility.

But lest anyone be fooled by this fancy-pants tweeting, trust me: every one of them think they are great.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. In this world – where so many thousands of creative people toil, mostly anonymously, for any scrap of publicity – for the sake of their own careers, they should lionize their accomplishments. Just go ahead and brag!

And I say just maybe, children, there will come a day, not far off, when every one of these celebrities will rest proudly atop the clouds of supreme confidence that right now, perhaps only Mr. Kanye West occupies.  And yea, they will own their boasts.

But for now, let us be entertained by their tortured HumbleBrags.

1. Blake Shelton (country singer) – @blakeshelton

Still can’t believe I’m up for The People’s Choice Awards!! I mean who are the people?!! And why do they like me?!!

At the risk of interrupting your existential crisis, Blake, I’d say you’re just going to have to accept it. They like you! They reeeeally like you!

2. Rebecca Black (teen YouTube sensation, singer of Friday) @MsRebeccaBlack

 …that awkward moment when you’re watching the AMA’s and BAM there you are.

BAM. A classic Humblebrag, Ms. Black.

3. David Spade (actor and comedian) – @DavidSpade

At @redcross breakfast getting an award for some reason. Honored to be w all these actual heroes http://yfrog.com/occmfdyj

But let’s see, you’re receiving an award from these heroes. Which makes you the hero-iest hero in the room! Just in case you didn’t think of it that way.

 4.  Justin Ching (author, Google ad exec) @Justin_Ching

just took one of the more epic naps ever, I’m sooo glad I don’t have to jetset for a living. Not as glamourous as advertised

For a fun little exercise, take out every word in this Tweet but “epic”, “jetset”, and “glamorous”. What do you have left? Yeah, you’re getting the picture.

5. Sia Furler (Grammy-nominated musician) @siamusic

How weird is it when your watching a rerun of friends over cereal when your ex boyfriend jogs onto the show? It’s weird! #friendsforever

I don’t remember this episode. Oh wait wait….now I remember. It’s The One Where Sia’s Famous Ex-Boyfriend Tricks Her into Humblebragging. All right, Sia. Fess up. Was it Joey? Chandler? It better not be Ross – Rachel’s gonna OWN your ass.


6. Neil Patrick Harris (actor, Doogie Howser) @ActuallyNPH

  love the new H&K Xmas movie. It’s rad. Talking about myself in 4 minute interviews for 7 straight hours? Not as rad. #mushybrain

Yet somehow, he still found the inner strength to Humblebrag to his Twitter followers. Whatta champ!

7.  Beardyman (hip-hop artist) @beardyman

Saw will.i.am tonight. Reminisced about the time me him and Wyclef played an improvised jam in front of al gore. My life is fucking weird.

Ah, Beardyman. Beardyman, Beardyman. Bless you for your world-weary insights. But Wyclef? Al Gore? Even a philosophizer such as yourself has gotta admit: It’s kinda fucking weirdly awesome though, right?

8. Josh Horowitz (MTV presenter/interviewer) – @joshuahorowitz

Hey whoever just screamed “I love you” from a cab, right back at you. My stunned confusion = gratitude. #ThatsANewOne

Josh, did you just arrive in New York City? Awww! Okay, let me clue you in: they were drunk and high. You could have been literally anyone. But I’ll shut up and let you have your moment.

9 Dane Cook (comedian/actor) – @danecook

Being famous and having a fenderbender is weird. You want to be upset but the other drivers just thrilled & giddy that it’s you.

Uh….yeah. Weird. But is it really thrilled giddiness, Dane? Or are they just in life-threatening shock from whiplash? Well, when you get through strenuously high-fiving yourself, buddy, I think he might have just passed out.

10. Brett Davern (star of MTV’s Awkward as Jake) –  @BDavv

Getting recognized at the grocery store while wearing the same T-shirt you wore at the VMA’s #awkward

Wow, another double-Humblebrag. So far these up and coming Tweeters are really out-douching their elders.

11. Greta Van Susteren (Fox News personality) – @gretawire

Ugh. I just pocket dialed spokesperson for Pentagon.

Greta? Greta? Can I call you back, I’m kinda in the middle of someth…..oh SHIT. There goes the Eastern seaboard. Double Ugh.

12. Maggie Q (actress/fashion model – @MaggieQ

I AM featured in People’s “Most Beautiful” (what can I say, they all make mistakes) BUT did the shoot w no makeup and I have to say…SCARY!

The only scary thing is how tremendously you are twisting yourself in order to avoid making this sound like the blatant boast that it is. Careful! You might give yourself a hernia.

13. Adam Levine (singer, Maroon5) – @adamlevine

Wow. We got mobbed at the airport. I think they thought we were @justinbieber

That must be it. What a shameful waste of journalistic resources. You must stop this travesty and immediately alert them that it’s only you guys, White Soul.

14. Joe Jonas (singer/guitarist, The Jonas Brothers) – @joejonas

Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport from the flashes of the cameras…Go me

Yeah, go you!…No, really. Just go.

15. Anna Kendrick (movie actress, Scott Pilgrim vs the World)

I am in an LCD Soundsystem video. Who knew?

Why, if no one else, you knew. And now – oh dear! – everyone else does too. That couldn’t have been why you just Tweeted it, though, right?

16. Karey Dornetto (comedian, writer, Community and Portlandia) @kareydornetto

ugh, community may top all the best of ’10 lists but we’re last place in xmas gifts that fit me. new years res: gain weight, u waify bitch.

Woah, two – almost three! – Humblebrags in one post. Add to that what may have been the least sincere “ugh” of all time. You know, they should really create a new fattening-up reality show just for “u waify bitches”: The Biggest Humblebragger.

17. Khloe Kardashian (actress/model/reality TV star):

I still can’t believe I have a Cosmo cover! #RandomTweet

Oh yes, you can. You definitely can. Unless Cosmo’s editors jumped you in an alley, kidnapped you, smuggled you to their studio in a windowless van, and then blackmailed you into posing for the cover photo. In that case, you have my sincere apologies.

18. Patton Oswalt (stand-up comedian/actor) @pattonoswalt

I have got to stop saying yes to every interview request. 9 minutes that felt like a week.

It’s a heavy, heavy burden being in such demand. But…curse your big heart!… you feel bad for them and their families. What would they do without you?


19.  Sam Halliday (singer/guitarist, Two Door Cinema Club) @SamTDCC

What? How are we up for this MTV thing…that’s just silly… Someone is humouring us up there. Very good.

You said it, not me. But now that you mention it, it is rather silly, no? With all the great live acts out there, MTV picked a paste-faced indie-rock outfit with little stage presence or charisma as one of their Top Live Performances of 2011? Well, maybe it will score you guys a guest spot on 16 and Pregnant.

20.  Jemmye Carroll (reality T.V. star/MTV’s Real World: New Orleans) @JustJem24

Omg these two chicks are googling me as I sit next to them.. #awkward. I can see the computer screen you fools..

Yeah…those two chicks? Like the rest of America, they think they might recognize you from somewhere, but have no idea who you are. Except now, all America is aware that you compulsively spy on complete strangers’ personal computer screens for mentions of yourself. Wow! You’re fast becoming the most popular lunch mate in the cafeteria.

12.16.2011 – Could These be the Dumbest Holiday Songs Ever? (Multimedia for TruTV.com Dumb as a Blog)

10 dumb songs that will make you hate the holidays

by Benjamin J Spencer
December 16, 2011 12:02 PM

SantaThe holidays are the season for giving.

Unfortunately, they are also the season for taking into your earholes those most stubborn of modern social engineering tools: Christmas songs.

These jaunty dirges are hammered into our brain every December, and they mostly sound like a civilization dying. The only way to escape them is to sequester yourself for a couple of months in a nuclear bunker.

We’re not talking about Ye Olde Yuletide Carols of yore. At the very least, those are at least still good for guzzling mead and cracking greedy old miser’s hard hearts.

No, we’re talking about a commercial trend crafted by 20th century record companies and their songwriting cronies to make some scratch off of a public increasingly desperate for a little holiday joy.

But the following 10 holiday classics go beyond cynical and enter the realm of the truly dumb.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? –
Band Aid

Could this be the dumbest holiday song ever? Let’s consult our “Earnest 1980s Charity Song” checklist. Lurid, bash-you-over-the-head lyrics? Check. The vocal talents of Boy George and Phil Collins? Got it. Deafening wash of tubular bells and synthesized drums? Done. This 1984 single was meant to highlight hunger in Ethiopia – where the lyrics claim “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” – and happily it raised over $100 million for famine relief there. But to today’s ears the lyrics represent heights of pampered rock star cluelessness only eclipsed by Band Aid’s next hit single: We are the World.

2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
– Elmo & Patsy

It’s time to permanently retire this novelty one-off about a terrible family tragedy. Unless you think there’s something inherently hilarious about a lonely alcoholic grandmother, neglected by her family on Christmas Eve, stumbling off alone into the woods only to be fatally mowed down by a hundred tons of venison on the hoof. Dear old Grandpa then celebrates her death on his recliner while the family contemplates raiding her gifts. Good old-fashioned fun, this “holiday classic”.

3. A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings

The only explanation for what is surely the laziest, most dispirited, and ugliest-sounding Christmas song ever committed to tape: Sir Paul must have lost a bet with Ringo. Now the world should rise up and demand an explanation for why every soft-rock station in the country plays this joyless piece of crap at least once an hour throughout December.

4. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

The holidays are here.  So just kick back by the fire with a flagon of eggnog, forget your troubles, flip on the old stereo – and treat yourself to an insufferably whiny, self-righteous political diatribe masquerading as a Christmas song. As if the finger-pointing at all us consumerist saps (and the onslaught of Moog synthesizers) weren’t enough, we also get Floyd-ish dark sarcasm and blood-curdling images of war and death.  Merry Christmas, baby-killers!

5. The Chipmunk Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks

This unaccountably popular holiday ditty was originally performed in 1958 by a pre-teen rodent boy band who were being exploited by a wily producer. Can you say animal abuse? But sell records – and “h-u-u-u-la  h-o-o-o-ps” – it surely did. A pop-punk update, featured on the recent Chipmunks animated movie, is even more annoying than the original, if possible.

6. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

The cheery holiday message of this song: forget about all that spirit of giving stuff and appreciating the company of friends and family. Instead, wallow in self-pity and mope about the girl who ran out on you. I can’t imagine why she’d want to leave such a bundle of joy.

7. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh

This Nativity song for the New Age crowd re-imagines the angel Gabriel as a wise alien from another world who appears to Mary and her saintly tot on an interstellar mission of peace. In de Burgh’s version, which he supposedly penned after reading Erich Von Daniken’s UFO- religion staple Chariots of the Gods?, the star of Bethlehem is actually the alien’s ship hovering above the manger.  ‘Nuff said. De Burgh would go on to achieve 1980’s junior prom immortality with his top 40 Billboard hit Lady in Red.

8. Any and all recordings where dogs/cats meow/bark along to “Jingle Bells

This abomination needs to end, once and for all. If Congress is forced to amend the Bill of Rights to allow an exception to free speech protections, so be it.  Until that glorious day, please: I am begging you. Stop sampling dogs and cats and inserting their pitched yowls into Christmas songs.  You may think it is “cute.” You may even think it is “clever”. You are unequivocally wrong.

9. Santa, Baby – Eartha Kitt

As much fun as it is to watch Ms. Kitt growl these lyrics, let’s all remember that she is purring about Santa.  This nauseatingly graphic come-on to everyone’s favorite fat jolly old elf is possibly the creepiest, most lecherous popular Christmas song ever, reinforced by the original Catwoman’s coy vocals. Let’s just hope the narrator never got her claws into dear Santa – where is Mrs. Claus anyway? – and that she got some help for her sex addiction.

10. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver

The late, great John Denver must have been (Rocky Mountain) high when he dropped this miserable honky-tonk track lamenting alcoholic dysfunction at the holidays. Of course, the golden-voiced Denver couldn’t have sounded melancholic if he tried, so the whole affair ends up a queasy mismatch between his sunny, swelling vocals and the unimaginably dark material. Nonetheless, the song inspired even more spirit-crushing covers by the likes of Alan Jackson and the Decemberists.