Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who says there's no reason for optimism?

The way there's this perception that contemporary public discourse, with people are talking past each other, where there's only the reinforcement of entrenched viewpoints, has been lamented by those who believe in the value of being open-minded as society really going downhill.

I'm not entirely sure when this halcyon age of people paying attention to the arguments of those with whom they disagree was, but I digress.

However, as one who does value that open-mindedness in principle, I prefer to think that there's still plenty of people who are listening; it's merely that those people are not the ones getting the attention. The blustering close-minded ones make for better spectacle, are what leave a more profound impression even if they are a distinct minority.

Of course, as a lazy person, I find the notion that no one will be persuaded anyway to be very liberating. It's easier to merely say what I have to say without feeling compelled to justify it.

It is a grand age either way you look at it, if you merely look at it correctly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bing and Facebook: the union of the uncool

The internet search—sorry, "decision" engine Bing has taken to touting how the search results it provides can reflect what one's Facebook "friends" have "liked."

This takes as its premise that one and one's friends (no quotes) are still (or ever were) actively using Facebook; further, conceding they are, that they have somehow been persuaded to click the Like button on pages for the sort of things for which one would be searching; further, it presumes that one's list of Facebook "friends" (which likely includes a number of mere acquaintances who were added without thinking) are the sort of people whose opinions should be trusted.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the first dance (prepping... or not... for your wedding day)

On this, our second wedding anniversary, I look back at the photos from the wedding and reception that the photographer had posted on her blog, which also eventually got mentioned on another blog, months after the fact, which alluded to our "choreographed" first dance. That made me chuckle.
Now, two years after that, I will reveal something: The reality is that we did not rehearse, practice, or even do a single run-through of our first dance prior to actually dancing it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Social media reveals our anti-social tendencies

On the blog of a nice person (who left a comment here on my blahg*) is this post where she pondered whether smart phones and text messaging and Facebook, etc., is creating loners who interact primarily through devices and don't call others or visit others in person.

I left a comment wherein I posited that this era of "social media" with the suggested incongruity of being "connected" but not connecting was not having a transformative effect. People who essentially forsake face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) contact and dwell on that touchscreen device are ones who likely would have been what would be considered "loners" in an earlier time, and people who want to visit or call will still visit or call. The technological advancements have merely enabled those who didn't necessarily care for the requirements of the old days.

Bear in mind: Some loners are genuine misanthropes, but some are merely people with busy schedules or who do not wish to spend time with those in their immediate vicinity (perhaps because they live in place where most others are not like them). Or maybe they're shy in person. There could be any number of reasons.

But people are whoever they are, irrespective of technology. New avenues offered by advancements therein only reveal what we secretly were before.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So, if we're going to start "nation-building at home," as the President noted in his televised address last night, will we first have to erect some statues of Saddam Hussein that can be toppled when we welcome our military as liberators?

Eh, if it gets us billions in foreign aid from the U.S., I say we do it...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ethical (fashion) dilemma

This morning while walking down the sidewalk I found myself many paces behind a woman in a blue dress. That, in and of itself, was utterly unremarkable. However, as I got closer and her shoulder-length hair swished to and fro across the back of the dress I noticed something white and rectangular peeking out from her hair along the neckline of the dress. Eventually I got close enough that I could make out that there was writing on the white rectangle. Numbers and letters.

It was, in fact, a price tag.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Echo chamber (echo chamber, echo chamber...)

Looking at the responses on various websites to Jon Stewart's appearance on Fox News over the weekend (see yesterday's post), it did seem like the general reaction could be classified thusly: Those who like him thought he did well, and those who clearly don't like him (which is to say, those who dislike what they perceive him to represent) thought he came across as condescending.

There is no listening. There is only hearing what one was inclined to hear.

C'est la vie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Missing Jon Stewart's point again

Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday morning for a 25-minute interview with Chris Wallace. I did not see the live show but watched the unedited interview later. Here it is:

Stewart offered an explanation for why ideologues—regardless of with which side they're aligned—wouldn't understand the distinction between what they do on The Daily Show and what they do on the 24-hour news networks. His reiterated thesis was that the mainstream media in general is not the liberal activist machine against which Fox News believes it is a balancing force, but is actually biased merely toward lazy sensationalism.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Useless reflections: Why I went to college

After finishing a Louis Menard piece in the New Yorker about why we go to college, where it posed that question, covered the history of college and its purpose (as a way of empirically determining the most intelligent, or to impart actual knowledge to anyone who seeks it, or preparation for professional careers), I found myself ruminating on why I went to college.

(Yes, I did ruminate on what I learned in college in this previous post, but this will be about the motivation to go before I knew what I'd learn.)

The first thought that sprung to mind was that where I went to high school, if one got decent grades, going to college after graduation was merely a given; it's what one did.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making it out of a riot

Yesterday the news was abuzz about a photo of a couple apparently making out in the street during the post-Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver.
Rich Lamm, Getty Images
The Canadian media tracked down the couple, and then it was suggested the guy was apparently trying to break into acting and for a while some believed it may have been a ploy for him to get exposure.

Now that the whole story has been revealed, it was merely that woman was knocked down by the police and her boyfriend bent down to assist and comfort her, and that the photographer, preoccupied with the police in his face, merely happened to capture the instant when the man gave her a little kiss.

Although it proved to be another case of much-ado-about-nothing, I did come away from the speculated-but-ultimately-false scenario with something important.

Should I ever find myself in a riot, when there's cops with clubs coming to break up the rioters and me in their path, I now have a game plan for avoiding police beatings by proving to be as unthreatening as possible: find someone, drop to the ground and start making out; no matter how hideous a kisser that person might be, suffering that for a minute seems preferable to a truncheon to the skull.

(At least until that person sues me for sexual harassment...)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You don't need to be crazy to be happy, but it probably helps

On a This American Life episode from a few weeks ago, author Jon Ronson (whose latest book is The Psychopath Test also served as inspiration for this previous post) talked about interviewing a corporate CEO renown for firing people mercilessly, and who'd been alleged to be psychopathic. He went through the list of traits used in the determine psychopathy with the man, and although the man did exhibit many of those traits, Ronson could not conclude that the man scored way above the level of a "normal" empathetic person, the man did not score high enough to be clinically psychopathic.

At the end of the piece, Ronson had to admit that there was something about the man's lack of regret, the man's self-confidence, that was appealing; Ronson was a little envious, as not being plagued by neuroses (as the author admitted to being) would be nice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Palin email obsession = media desperation

The media dud that was the release of old Sarah Palin emails (that came out earlier this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request), where teams of journalists pored over the boxes of printed electronic correspondence (how green!) to try to find some juicy detail and came up with nothing interesting, and failing.

This may suggest the former governor was presciently savvy when it came to what she composed that she carefully eschewed including anything that could be used against her later, or it may suggest her folksy  persona is not an act, and she is really not that interesting.

But what it almost certainly proves: The mainstream media's fascination with these emails from her stems from a desperate need to prove they haven't been obsessed with someone who is not at all deserving of that level of attention from them; to prove they haven't been wasting everyone's time.

The lesson here: The best defense against public scrutiny is leading a dull life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whatever happened to Joey Bag-o-donuts?

In a Mike Birbiglia 2008 stand-up special called "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing" he told a story about how as a teenager he worked as a busboy in a restaurant where his older brother had worked the previous year. The gruff cooks asked him how he got the job, and he noted his older brother, Joe, had worked there previously. The cooks then exclaimed, "You're the brother of Joey Bag-o-donuts? We love that guy!" (Click here to watch the part in question.)

Upon getting home, Mike asked his older brother if "Bag-o-donuts" was his nickname, and the brother admits that was actually a different Joe—and was a guy who was awesome. The joke concludes with Mike admitting that for the rest of the summer he had to pretend to be the brother of "Bag-o-donuts," living in constant fear the real guy would come back and his ruse would be revealed.

What came to mind for me was the thought: This awesome "Bag-o-donuts" probably was that charismatic BMOC who had all the girls fawning over him, being effortlessly popular, leading that life that in our youth we believe we're supposed to want. He almost certainly went on to success, and perhaps even became a leader in some field.

And while he may be charming and witty, the one thing that's certain is "Bag-o-donuts" is not funny. He could never be a comedian.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preparing for future nostalgia parties

When someone throws a '70s-themed party, a go-to costume involves something like bell bottom pants, a fringed leather vest, and gold medallion necklace.

Given the penchant for this sort of throwback to get people to dress up, it stands to reason that in decades to come people will throw parties where the theme is the second decade of the 21st century. For that, the go-to costume will be decorated shirts and pants in the Ed Hardy style.

We're already in the decade of the douchebag.

I imagine there'll be plenty such clothing available in the Goodwill stores at the time, so dressing appropriately for these future parties won't be difficult.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The burden of "Photographer"

Over the weekend my wife and I attended a dance recital featuring the young daughter of one of her co-workers. The co-worker has brought the daughter in many times, and as the little girl is so sweet and charming that my wife couldn't help but bond with her. And I'm dorky enough and old enough that I can watch a bunch of young children perform various dances and find it both adorable and often unintentionally funny, even if none of those children are mine.

At the end of the festivities, as everyone was shuffling out of the auditorium, the girl wanted to pose on stage with her dance teacher for a picture. And the co-worker pulled out a little point-n-shoot digital camera to take the photo, but then someone said, "Oh, wait. Doug's a photographer," and next thing I know the camera is in my hand.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A message for Anthony Weiner

So Anthony Weiner finally admitted that he sent the photo of his wiener in his undies and made up a story about his Twitter account being hacked to try to cover it. Last week in interviews he had denied sending the photo but when asked directly if the photo was of him he used the now infamous line about not being able to say with "certitude" it was not, and thus left open the proverbial door about the veracity of his assertion even among those who would be on his side. But when another photo of Weiner shirtless came out, his hand was forced and he had to come clean.

He tried to soften his misdeeds by admitting that although he had engaged in "inappropriate" conversations with women in tweets or on Facebook or in emails or phone calls, at no point had he met them or had any physical relationships (as though that would make it better—or at least less bad).

And on behalf of (we'll say) the American public, I'll say this to Representative Weiner: You were right when you said you made a mistake, but it wasn't the one you thought it was.

Monday, June 06, 2011

At the zoo

(Yeah, this was an unfortunate shot of the gorillas.)

Some of the more entertaining aspects of visiting the San Diego Zoo (as my wife and I did a little over a month ago--and from which there are photos now posted over on the photo site; see below) are not found in watching the animals featured in the various enclosures throughout the grounds but from observing the animals on outside the cages—in other words, the people who paid to gain entry.

Presumably by virtue of the San Diego Zoological Society putting together one of the most renown zoos in the world it becomes more of a tourist attraction to those who would not otherwise be inclined to visit a zoo, but for whatever reason there are no shortage of people whose lack of study makes them more worthy of being studied.

They probably should be tagged and their reproductive activities tracked so scientists can learn about how they pass along their stupidity to the next generation, but that's another story.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


An obvious observation about entertainment media: Of the four major formats (?)—movies, TV, music, and books—the first two are clearly the easiest for one to be a fan of the medium in general; there's only so many theaters, only so many channels, and thus it's not as daunting a task to keep up with all the noteworthy releases/shows.

With music and books, there's more that come out than would be really feasible to keep up with short of focusing on particular genres (or sub-genres).

Movies and TV are the populist media not merely because they're more passive forms of entertainment, but because there's intrinsic ways of limiting how much there is of them.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Getting nowhere fast

People who jaywalk by crossing the street at an intersection against the traffic light but stroll lazily as they do so prove a fascinating contradiction; their action suggests an urgency that cannot wait for the light to change, but their gait clearly indicates they're not in any real hurry to get somewhere.

They seem to forget there used to be contraption on the front of locomotives called cow catchers that were specifically intended to push the slow-moving bovines off the tracks without the train having to slow down. And that interaction was not particularly beneficial for the cows.


Having been critical of certain pedestrians, let's turn this around and point the spotlight on certain motorists.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The revolution will not be DVRed

On the KTLA morning news program Wednesday the "tech guy" Rich DeMuro (the second person they've had in that slot) did a story about a family who records so many shows that they need three DVRs. (The specific mention during the piece of "our friends at AT&T U-verse" revealed it to be a not-really-veiled promo.) The tone seemed to be, Wow, look at this mother and daughter who really like watching TV, rather than, Egad, check out these freaks who haven't figured out how to delete programs from the queue after watching them.

My wife and I have had two DVRs for several years (one for the TV in the living room, one for the TV in the bedroom). (I wrote about the glory of DVRs in this post over a year and a half ago.) Much of that time both were generally over 75% full (and occasionally over 90% full)—and each held 100 hours worth—because of all the shows and movies recorded. When we got a HD flat-screen TV last November we also got a new HD DVR unit and that one got filled within months.