Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poseurs vs. bandwagoners

At lunch yesterday, my work amigos Nancy and Carolyn were discussing the fine difference between being a poseur and hopping on the bandwagon for something cool.

For example: My hatred of sports is well-known, yet I was gaga for the World Cup. Now that the U.S. lost to Ghana, I have returned to the land of not caring.

So am I a big fat poseur? According to Nancy and myself, the answer is no. A "poseur" insists he likes something popular when he does not, simply to be popular. He is deceitful. A bandwagoner is incredibly late to a cause, and is fickle about his dedication to it. The key difference is that he never professes to be a super fan, or to be knowledgeable at all. He just enjoys it, and rides this enjoyment out.

Now take Carolyn. She somehow has remained ignorant of that great cultural force The Daily Show. Now, in mid 2010, she realizes it's awesome and watches eagerly. So what is she? She's a bandwagoner if anything - just late to the party. That's no crime - that's just living under a rock. And hey - it's cool under there, after all. Especially when it's humid.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yes, this is a real ad

And from where? Fox News, of course. What a classy clientele they must have...

And here's the original page, too.

The brilliance of Seinfeld is that it shows anyone can be an asshole

Seinfeld appears to be the most stereotypical show ever. Jews, New Yorkers, the "batty" Yankees coaches, the off-the-wall art snobs like J. Peterman all get the cookie-cutter treatment. But I think the real significance is not these run-of-the-mill assholes, but showing that in life no race, minority or nationality is exempt from having jerks and assholes among them. It is simply human nature.

This is a rare thing, because in TV non-whites have traditionally been "tokens" - generally flat, flavorless, and consistently nice and cool.

But not in Seinfeld. Take Bubble Boy. He has an auto-immune illness and must live his life in a plastic bubble. People come over to visit and keep him company, because he's sick and has a miserable existence. But don't pity him, because he's a real asshole. He's aggressive, has an amazing temper and heaps abuse upon his parents and visitors.

Or the Armoire-thieving gay couple. They aren't happy-go-luck effeminates - they are basically muggers. No stereotypes there.

Babu isn't a cab driver - he runs unsuccessful businesses. The Soup Nazi isn't bringing the flavor of his native Eastern European homeland - he's a dick who makes great soup.

I find this liberating. It breaks down the nice little boxes we categorize people into. No longer are certain types of people "cute", "charming" or "exotic." They are all, generally, jerks like us. How nice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strangely enough, I love the World Cup

My disdain for sports has no bounds. It's a waste of money, time, promotes pointless tribalistic rivalries and generates ridiculous amounts of worthless merch.

And yet, I m transfixed by the World Cup matches.

I don't know if this is hypocrisy, or contradictory, or maybe early signs of dementia, but both are somehow true at the same time.

I watched the U.S-England game live under a 95 degree sun, surrounded by hundreds of rabid fans in the middle of Dupont Circle.

I watched the U.S.-Slovenia match at home by myself. I felt an incredible rage against the dipshit ref who disallowed our winning goal. I was transfixed, although watching alone certainly has a drama-diluting quality.

This week's match against Algeria happened right in the middle of my workday. I was unable to find any streaming video channels that weren't overloaded or that required registration, so I did the truly unthinkable - I listened to internet sports radio. I only have two experiences with sports radio: one is whenever I'd be driving around with Geo and some Celtics or Red Sox game would be on, and the second in when I drove to salvage a relationship with a girlfriend... during game 7 of the Red Sox-Yankees World Series (The Sox won. I lost).

But the World Cup ting still mystifies me. I don't care too much about the Olympics (correct me if I'm wrong, Dianna). I watch the Super Bowl occasionally and only for commercials. Stanley Cup is a yawn. But this global event, somehow the nationalism, the chants, the jerseys, the hero worship, the borderline fanatical obsession - I take it all in without qualms. It's like I don't recognize myself... over the sound of me shouting "USA! USA! USA!"

I honestly felt like these guys:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Does "eating fewer ingredients" make sense?

Some things are very persuasive. Like angry guys with guns, used car salesmen, and dental hygienists.

Theories work the same way. And for some reason, I'm skeptical of the "eating foods with fewer ingredients in them is better for you theory. It's certainly popular enough to go into marketing strategies - there's Häagen-Dazs Five ice cream, which has only that many ingredients, or even Lay's Potato chips boats they have only three - potatoes, oil, and salt.

That one starts to expose the fallacy to me. I guess the rationale behind this whole thing is "anything man-made cannot be good to eat."

I just don't buy this, for lots of reasons:

1. "Man-made" is not a black and white issue. Most of the vegetables we eat today were radically altered from their original forms by centuries of hybridization and agricultural trends. Corn, carrots and other items were completely inedible in their original forms.

2. "Natural" doesn't mean healthy. Would you want to eat a Psilocybin mushroom pizza? Or drink a nightshade smoothie? "Natural" ice cream with whole milk is probably worse for you than lo-fat frozen yogurt.

3. "Man-made" is often unarguably healthy. Would it be awful to have retinol in your cereal? It shouldn't - because it's synthesized Vitamin A.

4. Arguably, "preservatives" are a moral imperative. Allowing food to spoil is basically wasting food. I'm sure a starving person (or me) would rather eat something with preservatives than something that's spoiled.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some seriously creepy shit

I find it amazing that literature can frighten us. That words on a page can create fear. It's as if prose is a spell that reacts when read, and unleashes it's intended and dormant effect of the unwitting reader.

I always get surprised when I get creeped out by literature. Recently, I'm seriously into some H.P. Lovecraft. I've written about the humorous side of his greatest horror creation, Cthulu. Now, here's the undiluted scary part:

In Lovecraft's world, human beings live in a delusion. They see themselves as the top of the biological food chain, and as masters and avid students of the true reality - science, through which they comfortably understand the order of things.

The truth, however, is, far more disturbing: Human beings are actually on the bottom of the evolutionary ladder. There are beings out in space (and on earth) who are old, incredibly powerful, and who are not held by science. They can move through space, melt matter, spontaneously regenerate and are often immortal. Their visages are terrible - huge balls of flesh covered in eyes, tentacled pools of rotting slime, or geometric, shifting crystal towers whose true form cannot be perceived by beings of the three dimensions. They warp space and time around them. In short, we are ants, and they are gods.

But it gets worse. These beings are so other-wordly, and so powerful, that sometimes they are what we would call evil, but othertimes are so beyond our understanding that they react with no clear motive at all. The most powerful are described as "blind and idiotic," giant and floating in deep space, waiting for a hapless demented worshiper to summon them to earth. These drooling gods are the top of the food chain. There is no heaven or hell, no cosmic order, no good to balance the evil. Just these awful things.

And that is the worst part of it all. When characters in Lovecraft's work witness these beings, they begin understand their actual part in the universe, and they go mad. Like, crazy. Sometimes fast, and sometimes slowly, but in the end all of the characters lose control of their faculties as they understand the true, chaotic meaning of the universe. The truth itself drives you crazy.

And that's pretty damn scary. Nightlights, anyone?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Who hates who - the 2010 edition

Future generations will always have difficulty in understanding past events, especially nuanced stuff like attitudes and relationships between folk. So, to help, here my helpful list.

In June, 2010:

  • The U.S. hates the ref who made bullshit calls against us in the World Cup U.S.-Slovenia match
  • The U.S. hates soccer less
  • The US hates BP
  • Pelicans hate BP
  • The US hates Iran (strangely, Iranians who aren't in power love the U.S.)
  • The world hates Israel (exception: America)
  • Israel hates Hamas, Iran, Fatah, etc.
  • French government hates hijabs
  • Liberals hate guns
  • Liberals hate Fox News
  • Liberals hate the Tea Party
  • Liberals somehow hate hate
  • Conservatives hate gay marriage
  • Conservatives hate Nancy Pelosi
  • Conservatives hate "Obamacare"
  • Conservatives hate abortion
  • Jews and Arabs hate each other (still)
  • Northern U.S. "elites" and Southern "rednecks" hate each other
  • Women hate their bodies
  • Everyone hates fat people for some reason
  • Most people hate smoking
  • Smokers hate non-smokers who get in the way of their cigs
  • Older people hate younger people obsessed with their phones / Blackberries
  • Younger people hate waiting for anything more than 2 seconds
  • Everyone hates advertisements that aren't awesome / viral, pop-up ads
  • People hate PETA (too self-righteous)
  • Most people hate Jersey Shore culture but love to watch it

Friday, June 18, 2010

My newest obsession

Go here:


Type in an email address. Turn on your speakers. Enjoy the melody. Here's an example of a great site, enhanced by this beautiful feature:


P.S. Go USA!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The most inappropriate gift I have ever received

It's a portable toilet. Like, a toilet you can fit in a backpack. You can put this thing over a garbage can and "make." And the craziest thing is, my friend Carolyn got this at a convention. It wasn't a shit convention, but it certainly came from a shitty booth.

No, I have no desire to use it. Any takers?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kids these days (circa 40 b.c.e.)

It is among the many blessings of getting older: hating the next generation. They are too selfish, disrespectful, loud and out of control. They are unfit to lead or follow. They, in the words of Chemical Romance, "scare the living shit out of me."

(P.S. Yes, I have written about this before, but I have a new tack. Trust me).

But if bitching about young people is an eternal maxim, doesn't that then mean that kids have always been ruffians, and we therefore, are overreacting? Here are some examples of adults chastising their young through history:

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

- Plato

"When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint."

- Hesiod, Eighth Century B.C.

"The world is passing through [troubled] times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as

if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress."

- Peter the Hermit, 1274

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

- Socrates

Friday, June 11, 2010


I almost ordered these (they are only $5) but shipping was $8, and I cannot accept that sort of price-gougery, even for such a cool item.
Guess I'll just have to grow my own.... mustache on my finger, that is.


Monday, June 7, 2010

My big fear: The big no

(This was inspired by Dianna's awesome blog about facing your fears)

It used to chafe me when people said I was "nice." For a guy, that usually meant "the guy who didn't get any action." Or, worse, I'd be the ineffective meek guy with glasses who was a pushover. My friend Geo helped me see that "niceness" is actually an asset. As he put it, "Maybe you don't realize that nice guys really aren't that common."

So yes, I am often optimistic and try to see the best in people. And I jump at the chance to help other people, whether it's carry a heavy suitcase, hold a door, help edit an assignment or give someone a ride. Sometimes I'm a little too zealous, like the time I sort of pushed Dianna aside to run to a woman who was on the floor of the subway. The woman on the floor was fine, but Dianna was rightly ticked off.

So sometimes I'm afraid of saying no to people. Some part of this fear is that I love to help people, but there is a selfish part of me that worries that if I say no, something bad will happen. I think that something changes based on the situation - maybe it's getting reprimanded, or being told off, or hurting a friendship or relationship. Or that it reflects bad on me as a person - I'm selfish and can't be bothered with other people.

I always always throw everything that's on my plate aside when other people ask something of me. Yes, there will usually be a nice feeling of accomplishment when I'm done, but sometimes I'll return to my tasks (or relaxation, if I'm not working) frazzled and maybe even a little bitter. This usually passes quickly, but that's not the point: Everyone should be entitled to say no once in a while. We always have demands on our time, and sometimes it's OK for our needs to come first.
This is a hard lesson for me, but I've been working on it. Some examples of this put into practice recently:
  • Returning home to RI is always fun but also stressful, as I want to see lots of people in a short amount of time. My mom is on the list, and always requests and expects me to show up. But that's not always possible. Sometimes her Shabbat observance can make it difficult, especially if I need to use electricity or get ready for a party. Or, sometimes I don't have 2.5 hours for a sit-down meal. So sometimes I need to tell my mom no. She doesn't like it, and she gets hurt a little. But I think it's better than promise to come and not make it. Even more, you can't please everyone. And I'll be sure to see her next time and give her the time she deserves.
  • In the same category is my main man Geo. I always try and see him, even for a bit, when I'm in town. But this weekend was spent 60% on the road, and 20% sleeping, and the remainder of the time was at a wedding. So I was hoping to see him after we left the wedding, but by 10 p.m. we were beat, and we were going to be on the road by 8:30 a.m. the next day. He was having a poker game at his house, so he couldn't leave, and it was just too much. So I said no. I know that he'll understand, if not now then when I talk to him, and that we're still cool.
  • At work, the "never say no" issue is always happening. Usually I can balance everything, but sometimes - hey, I'm human. So recently someone was asking me to help with a project. I liked the person and the work, and knew that it would be interesting. But I had just been assigned a new project that I really liked, and had been wanting for some time. So even though the person wanted me to help, and knew correctly that I could have been a big help, I said no. Per Dianna's excellent suggestion, I didn't offer my usual: "But if you have anything you need help on let me know." I just said no, and knew that I would see them around and that we would still have a good working relationship. And that I would be happy with my new assignment and that they would find a way to keep their project rolling.

So maybe the anti-drug slogans had at least something right after all - "Just say no." To this I'd add a rider: "...Just not all the time."

Is Helen Thomas a racist?

Here's the story: Helen Thomas, super-important White House reporter for about a billion years, thought her clout allowed her to make some arguably distasteful comments about that hotbed of hummus (and controversy) - Israel.

She was asked, “Any comments on Israel?”

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she responded.

The interviewer then asked “Any better comments on Israel?” To which Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German’s. It’s not Poland’s.”

Thomas was then asked where the Jews in Israel should go and what they should do? Thomas responded, “They should go home” which the White House reporter identified as “Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else.”

Now, Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary, and others say Thomas is now that easy-to-toss-but-hard-to-prove term, an anti-Semite. The evidence, as delivered by Lanny Davis, White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton:

“Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot,” said Davis. “This is not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.”

Davis added, “If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials - much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Aha. So that's the question. Is saying Jews need to leave Israel and "go back where they came from" the same as saying that Blacks should leave the U.S. and go "back to Africa?" Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Questionable charity: Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief

One thing I noticed is missing from all the reporting about Israel's blundered handling of the aid boat is: Just exactly who is this sea-faring charity
headed illegally to Gaza? I had to go to Fox News of all places to learn the name - the Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief, part of the "Free Gaza Movement."

The term "Human Rights" is almost always synonymous with the political left. And the global left is generally pro-Palestinian, too. Therefore,
I was immediately skeptical of the"purely humanitarian" aims of the flotilla - running the blockade was obviously a political and PR stunt. The ships contained minimal supplies, and, with all the weapons on board - they were prepared for, or planning for, a fight.

These are not fired up college kids on this boat. I know enough about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to know that when it comes to non-profits neither side is always what it seems: Jewish / Israeli human rights groups are frequently run by conservatives, while the Pro-Palestinian groups are as left as they come. Sometimes this left-wing liberalism ventures into odd places, like radical Muslim extremism (a.k.a. conservatives). Both left-wing Muslims and right-wing Muslims can agree on one thing - they hate Israel, as in HATE. So the boat could have contained both political "activists" as well as religious fundamentalists.

I know from my protesting days that "activist" is a loose term. All it really means is someone that spends a lot of unpaid time fighting for a cause. I was a center-left activist, and I met anarcho-socialist activists whom I had nothing in common with. I wanted to raise awareness on issues, and they wanted to abolish the banking system. Yikes.

So back to the Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief. Here's what we know about them:

Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief
1. Founded in 1995 as a Turkish Islamic charity
2. Some have linked them with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad network (Has not been proven, however)
3. They provide aid to Muslim countries globally. So, despite their generic "helping everyone" name, they have a fairly narrow focus - i.e. themselves. I understand this - the Jewish Federation system works the same way, but we don't hide the "Jewish" part.
4. Their Facebook page is thinly veiled pro-Palestine / anti-Israel group. One of their mission statements is: "We aim at taking any actions to fight violation of anyone’s basic liberties and human rights, and to counter any policy and practice that make people dependent on aid. "
5. Here is their website translated from Turkish into English. The translation is poor, but there is talk of religious "martyrs," and the typical black-and-white thinking of any idealogical group.

My initial thoughts are that this group is somewhat similar to Hamas, although obviously less violent. Hamas has a legitimate side as a social service provider to extremely poor people, but it also has a political / violent side as well. People tend to put these groups in one category - "humanitarian activists" or "terrorists / terrorist sympathizers," when the reality is more complicated.