Thursday, November 29, 2007

You only think as fast as you drive

The notion of speed limits sort of cracks me up, and I'm gonna tell you why. They're predicated on the notion that fast drivers cause accidents. That notion is probably partially correct, but it also ignores the extent to which slow drivers are a HUGE catalyst for car accidents. Let's look at some reasons why:

1. The slower you drive, the more cars there are, the more traffic there is, and the law of numbers comes into play.

2. Slow drivers are a major cause of road rage, which is probably right behind drunk teenagers as a major cause of accidents (although sometimes I feel like I'm getting drunk off the rage*). I know what you're thinking: take some responsibility, no one can MAKE you get angry. Thanks, 4th grade teacher. But I live in the real world.

* I think they have a word for people like that.

Here's a confession: slow drivers make me feel like a classist asshole. I haven't been particularly successful in my life yet, so I don't have a whole lot of legs to stand on, but whenever I'm stuck behind someone in a beat-up or otherwise lower-quality car, I think to myself, "Yep, this is why you're poor. Successful people are efficient [God I sound like Alexey Vayner], which means they can accomplish more tasks in the same amount of time allotted. If it takes you 25 minutes to do what it only takes me 15, I will be able to accomplish more than you per day."

What do I think when I'm stuck behind someone in a nice car? I just think they're stupid. Why did you buy an Audi A6 if you're not going to take advantage of its most distinguishing feature: the ability to go really fast? I've driven an Audi A6, and two days later I've driven in my Corolla, and let me tell you, it's the acceleration that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why My Friends Are Cooler Than Yours

Reason #3298 (What happened to 1-3297?): My friend Frank looks like a metrosexualized version of Ed from The West Wing:

Frank (He's the one on the left*):

* No, our left.

Dude Who Plays Ed:

ACTUAL SCREENSHOT of Dude Who Plays Ed on The West Wing:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Notes from the Workplace

Here are some of the things I've noticed about where I work:

1. I am truly shocked (flabbergasted? perturbed?) by the number of girls who wear stiletto boots to work. Maybe I'm a prude, but I consider the stiletto boot to be a very sexual piece of a woman's wardrobe, and really not appropriate for work attire. I believe any girl decked out in her stiletts should also be required to wear fishnets and tell me I've been a very bad boy.

2. People always say "confidence is sexy." I used to agree insofar as a lack of confidence is decidedly UNsexy, but boobs were always a little higher up on my list, personally. But some of the women I see walking around the office I find to be very sexy. They carry themselves with an air of professional confidence that I've never seen in college chicks before.

3. The dudes in my office take way too long to go to the bathroom. Something that takes me one minute seems to take them ten. What could possibly be going so wrong over there?

4. Riding the elevator = most awkward experience ever.

More to follow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heroes sucks balls

Okay, I was going to write about something completely different, but Heroes has just got me so pissed right now. What a lame, lame show. About the only thing lamer than Heroes right now is griping about its chronic lameness on your blog.

First of all, why has Monica been captured? She's a superhero, she can kick butt...and if she can't, her muscle-mimicking ass should have watched a Bruce Lee movie before sneaking into a house run by drug runners and gangstas.

Second of all, why are Peter and Hiro fighting? Couldn't they just have taken five minutes to use WORDS to explain their situation to each other? Would that really have been so difficult?

The reason this pisses me off is that Heroes could be such a great show, but is in fact a consistently terrible one due to the weaknesses of its writers. This, I suppose, will serve as a nice segue to something I've been thinking about for a while now, which is the Hollywood writers' strike. Blah blah blah, I understand what they're saying, but at the end of the day I'd feel a lot more sympathetic to the members of the WGA if they weren't so clearly mediocre at their jobs. It's ridiculous how replaceable these people are. I know about twenty people who would become TV writers in a second if the opportunity presented itself. And they probably wouldn't do a better job, but they certainly wouldn't, in the aggregate, do a worse one. As Ron Rifkin says in L.A. Confidential, "So what if some homo actor is dead? Boys, girls, ten of them step off the bus to L.A. every day."

Of course, as Russel Crowe replies, "Now, I know you think you're the A-number one hotshot. Well, here's the juice: if I take you out, there'll be ten more lawyers to take your place tomorrow. They just won't come on the bus, that's all." I believe that qualifies as a zing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Forsake not an old friend, for a new one does not compare with him"

This weekend was Thanksgiving. I got to hang out with some high school people I haven’t seen in a while, which was cool. It was implicated by some that I would gripe on my blog about how the Organizer (who shall remain nameless) established the rendezvous for 8 pm and then failed to show up until 11, and normally I would, since 8 is a pretty lame time to meet at a bar. Except my posse called me at 7:30 and said, “Dude, we’re not doing anything right now anyway. Let’s just go.” Since all I was doing was kicking ass at West Wing trivia (more on this later) I wasn’t really in a position to disagree.

In the Organizer’s (again, still nameless) defense, he picked a better bar than other people wanted to go to. Apparently there was some behind-the-scenes dispute as to the quality of his selection, but I had no complaints. I certainly thought it was better than where we ended up. Some place called Martini? Manhattan? It was the Ann Arbor equivalent of a New York-style bar: funky lights, loud music, and (most important) poor beer selection. I don’t like the real thing in NYC, so the small town simulacrum did not fair much better in my opinion.

Here are some other fun things that happened:

1. We got a new puppy (although we don’t technically “get” him until my parents get back from some exotic location in mid-December). The breeder named him “Freddie,” so we spent much of the weekend trying to come up with a new name. We’d like to keep the “fr” theme so as to avoid his confusion. So far we’ve got Frito, Frodo, and Fredo, although I think the last sounds like a European pervert. My dad tastefully suggested we just rename him Boomer.

2. I tried to start preparing my mom psychologically for the possibility that I might have to stay in Minneapolis for Christmas due to work…an attempt she rebuffed (rebuffed, I tell you!). On the plus side, I also told her all I wanted for Christmas was money, so at least there won’t be many packages to ship…although I suggested she could divide up the amounts to make it seem more festive. Five dollars here, ten here, $50,000 over there.

3. I joined the “Addicted to West Wing” Facebook group, and am currently ranked 5th out of 700 people in West Wing trivia. I should be ranked higher, but some of the questions are poorly-worded. Example: How many grandchildren does the President have? The Question Writer thinks the answer is two, but at the end of season 7 Ellie is pregnant. Does this qualify as a grandchild? Clearly these people are neither professional test-writers nor, more importantly, lawyers.

4. Last, I introduced my mom to Facebook. She thought it was pretty neat, although she only seemed to grasp one of the three main features Facebook provides: (1) find/catch up with old friends, (2) plan events with your current friends, and (3) provide a platform for me to find pictures of girls I know to masturbate to. You might think that last one is really crude, but it’s the truth, and all my male friends agree. You girls must know it, too, else why would you post so many pictures of yourselves in bikinis kissing each other? Some of my friends have transformed Facebook into a virtual cornucopia of masturbatory material.

I didn’t discuss any of this with my mother, of course. I only discussed the first function, the ability to reconnect with friends from high and elementary school. And it is pretty neat for that. We often say about some of the relatives in my family that you could drive out to visit them, say hi, exchange hugs, and then turn back around and go home, because once you’re there there isn’t a whole lot of interaction. The same could be said of some of my high school peeps. This weekend reminded me that there are some people I actually want to talk to and hang out with, and others who I like to find out what they’re doing but don’t have any particular interest in engaging. Facebook (stalking) offers that ability.

My mom thought it was great because you could use it to get in touch with old acquaintances who live in the same city, but I really haven’t used it for that. There are 4-5 people from my high and elementary schools who live in Minneapolis and who I have found on Facebook, but I’ve never bothered to hang out with any of them. Maybe once they’ve all moved I’ll feel different. When I was in college a girl from my high school lived 40 minutes away and I never visited her. But when she worked in Chicago for one summer I took a day off work and drove 4 hours to see a Justin Timberlake concert with her. I guess distance breeds something something.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A swarm of swindlers, or social Darwinism?

My blog has felt a little inane lately, insofar as I've been posting about urine tests and strip clubs while other blogs I've been reading have been commenting on current events and the political season. I had intended to post something on how deliciously ironic it was that President Bush was criticizing Musharraf for suspending democracy in the name of emergency, but I figured every other liberal on the planet could pick up on the irony without me pointing it out. As for politics, I've really got nothing to say except that it's time for me to man up, grow a pair, and make a decision as to whether I'll vote for Hillary or Barack in the Minnesota primary, because as the song goes, it's beginning to look a lot like February 5th.

However, this week there were a couple of good op-ed articles in the NYT that got my brain juices stirring. The first was Paul Krugman's article on Monday. I've got nothing to say about it, but I thought it was a really good read.

The other article was by Bob Herbert (aka "The Black One"). It was about a poor woman in Chicago who had been swindled by her mortgage company into signing a loan on her house they knew she couldn't afford to pay off. In usual lawyer fashion, I endured a mental tennis match over my ultimate opinion on the article.

My First Thought, and Bob's Probable Intended Reader Response: That's outrageous! Every 1L who's taken Contracts could see these mortgages constitute fraud and are not binding.

My Second Thought: Yeah, but it says here the woman is unemployed and living off Social Security. I'm really supposed to feel bad for people who don't work (at age 65), have no apparent retirement plans and/or savings, live entirely off the meager redistribution of my income taxes, and then are shocked they can't make end's meet?

My Third Thought: Obviously you're dealing with someone who didn't posses the savvy to save appropriately for retirement or understand the bullshit that comes with mortgage lending. You want to penalize someone for being too salt of the earth?

Mostly, I'm just glad Bob Herbert decided to write about something other than President Bush. Sometimes I'm afraid we spend too much time talking about how Bush is an idiot, rather than directing our energy towards addressing the domestic issues that are handicapping American progress in the 21st century.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Because without it then Americans would have to learn to read"

Aaron Sorkin used to say about The West Wing that it was written in the belief that the people who make television aren't any smarter than the people who watch television (a sentiment his elitist characters probably wouldn't have endorsed, but I guess that's beside the point). It was a noble belief, true, but I often wonder at its accuracy. And nothing has made me question said accuracy more than YouTube, and the videos people consistently rate as "worth watching.

A good example is that Brookers girl whose channel was once (still is?) all the rage. People used to love her videos, so much so that she supposedly got signed to Carson Daly's talent agency--which I know sounds like a faux organization from The Simpsons (The Carson Daly Talent Agency?), but apparently it does exist. But I would watch her videos and think they were the dumbest shit ever. They would be mildly funny if they were the kind of video you'd made with your friends when you were in middle school and then years later got drunk and watched together. But as an outsider looking in, it all feels pretty lame.

Another example, and the catalyst for this post, is this video:

I am sorry to say I have watched this over and over, but it's all been in a desperate attempt to figure out why people think this video is so funny. Because it's not. It's lame. It's a kid doing a mediocre job lip-syncing to a Will Ferrell bit. He's not even doing an impersonation of President Bush. He's doing an impersonation of Will Ferrell doing an impersonation of President Bush. Soooo lame.

But the YouTube community disagrees with me. They're praising it as brilliant and funny. "Dude, you've got talent." Seriously? You think this constitutes talent? I've got like ten friends from elementary school who used to do the exact same thing with Dana Carvey and Ross Perot, and now they're all...I don't even know, probably working as bike messengers or something. But particularly talented they were, and are, not.

At first I thought maybe people thought it was so funny because they didn't realize it was from a Will Ferrell bit, but some comments praise it as "funnier than the original." Which it isn't, by the way. The humor of the original bit is in the voice inflection and writing, not the stupid facial expressions. The kid even screws up on the best part ("Well what kind of science book would you suggest? One filled with facts, maybe?")

Anyway, if you find this funny, than the fact of the matter is that, yes, even though I am not in television, I am still smarter than you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You can (still) get this lap dance here for free

As a follow-up to the strip club post...I recently finished Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man, and the second chapter on sex generally and strip clubs particularly summarized what a lot of my friends have told me about the strip clubs they've been to; which is to say, they're more depressing than titillatting. Like a birthday party for the unpopular kid in school, they're too often a depressing mockery of the wonderland they're intended to convey. These women--who were once someone's little girl, who wore pigtails and dreamed about princesses--have been reduced to pretending they enjoy baring their pussy for single dollar bills. No, I don't think that's for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In Da (Gay) Club (or Thank heaven for homosexuals)

When I was in New York James wanted to give me a taste of the "New York experience" by taking me to a gay club. Dude, that's so gay. You might think I had a problem with the "gay" part, but it was really the "club" part of that phrase that I wasn't a fan of. I don't really mind the "gay" part. Gay dudes have actually played an important role in my sexual evolution. Because let's be serious, girls are terrible at giving compliments. For all the advice dating websites give about "Remember to compliment her on her appearance," girls apparently can't take their own hints. For years all I would get would be compliments like "You have really pretty eyes" or "You have nice hands." Boooooring. It wasn't until I started hanging around gay guys that I started feeling like somebody wanted to screw me the same way I want to screw girls. What's that? You'd love to bend me over and drill my asshole? Why, thank you! What a lovely thing to say! I'm actually gonna pass, but it's nice to feel desired.

James, apparently refusing to believe a human being could NOT enjoy clubbing, tried to entice me with the promise that "There'll be straight girls there, too" (because who doesn't want to hook up with beards and fag hags?). I guess his logic was that as the only straight guy there I'd have my pick of the female litter. I found this logic interesting because it reflected a fundamental flaw in the gay man-straight girl relationship. For all the close interpersonal interaction these two demographics share, they clearly don't understand each other on a fundamental level. Perhaps because straight girls aren't "the enemy," gay guys don't have to get into their heads like we do; but I had to explain to James that the primary reason straight girls go to dance at gay clubs is not because (as some gay people seem to believe) gay clubs are inherently more fabulous, but rather because it offers them an opportunity to dance without concerns that the guy will expect something at the end of the night. Ergo his logic was self-defeating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Milk, milk, lemonade...

Today I got a drug-urine test for work (as in, a urine test to see if I was taking drugs, not a test to see if I was taking a drug called "urine"). And I don't want to brag, because I know it's not a competition, but I filled that baby up perfectly at the line. No more; no less; no excess; 'cause that's just how I roll. Give me a test to do, and I'll do that shit perfectly. Multiple choice? The answer's always C. Essay? Here comes the bullshitter. Drug test? Let the fools have their urine.

I found the really weird part to be handing a cup of my delicious urine to the tech or whatever you call her after I was done. She takes me to the bathroom, I go in with the cup, do my sinful business, come out, and hand her the Final Product. And it wasn't quite like a college hookup, but something about watching this woman handle my urine...I felt we were sharing a level of intimacy that is just awkward between two strangers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

You can get this lap dance here for free

Last night Mike and I were discussing strip clubs. Basically, he was surprised I've never been to one. I just don't particularly care for them...although one night when I was drunk and stumbling through the streets of Minneapolis I think I came upon one called Dreamgirls (when the truth is There Can Be Only One). The opportunity has sprung up a couple times in my life: when I turned 18 my friends used to joke (suggest?) we should hit up the Vu (more appropriately known as Deja Vu, but who's got the time to pronounce all three syllables?); and a strip club was part of Initiation for my college track team, which I ended up ditching so I could finish a paper on Thomas Aquinas. But I've never been particularly enthralled with the notion of the strip club. Here are a couple of reasons why:

1. I really enjoy looking at naked women. I do. But as I explained to Mike last night, to me it's a personal experience that becomes a little awkward once you start adding other dudes to the equation. I was actually disappointed I had to explain this to Mike, since as a fan of The West Wing he should have been familiar with this scene:

DONNA: Are there going to be strippers?
JOSH: Nah.
DONNA: Really?
JOSH: Yeah.
DONNA: Tell me the truth.
JOSH: There aren’t going to be strippers there. Men don’t like that anymore.
DONNA: Men don’t like naked women anymore?
JOSH: No, we still like naked women a lot. It’s looking at them in a room full of your best friends that makes you feel a little...
DONNA: Sleazy?
JOSH: Uncomfortable.

2. I really enjoy looking at naked women. I do. But I have a hard time considering it an end in itself. To me the whole naked woman thing is really only a step in a hopefully longer and much more enjoyable journey. It's not the endgame. Even if pay extra to have her take me back to the VIP room and grind her thong-clad ass into my crotch, I still feel like we've got a couple of miles to go before we reach our final destination. We're definitely getting there, but I'm concerned about an imminent breakdown on Freeway 9. Basically, if I'm going to pay $$$ to be with a woman, I'm looking for a prostitute.

3. The first two reasons were bullshit. Here's the real reason:

1. Strip clubs that are affordable have crappy girls.
2. Strip clubs that have girls worth paying money for are too expensive.

There it is. That's the truth. If I'm gonna pay money to see naked women, I want to see something worth my time. I want to see a plastic, big-boobed, slim-waisted, perfect-assed version of what femininity is supposed to be. But to get into that quality of strip club, I have to start making friends with Benjamin Franklin. And I'd rather just spend that money on rufies.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The two sexes

I bought a book at Barnes and Noble today called The Average American Male, by Chad Kultgen. As the title indicates, it essentially chronicles the adventures of society's popular conception of the stereotypical man: a horny, superficial, judgmental asshole. It looks like a fun read. I just hope it's tongue-in-cheek and not intended as a serious presentation of how the average man actually operates, because I'm getting sort of sick of that stereotype.

Yahoo! Health yesterday had an article from Men's Health editor David Zinczenko about basically why he (and presumably the male posse that reinforces his behavior) can't stop himself from checking out random women when he's with his girlfriend. By itself this article wouldn't have bothered me (even if I don't entirely agree with it, because there's still a part of me that does), but then it links to what I presume is supposed to be a profound but honest examination in Men's Health of why men can't commit. It was so stupid I couldn't even finish it - both in terms of content and in craft - but try to read it if you can. The author (Hugh O'Neill) basically says he's got a friend who's found the perfect girl (my personal conclusion: he doesn't really find her all that perfect, if he can't bring himself to give up something important to him (in this case, random sex) to be with her; but we don't need to get into that again) but is reluctant to marry her because of all the high-quality tail he sees everyday on the corner of 48th and Madison.

Honestly, I am so sick of this David Zincwhatever dude and Men's Health generally. It's seriously a magazine by douchebags, for douchebags. They have the most superficial conception of what it means to be a man. Remember when I said everyone who I think is cool is a dork, and everyone else is boring? These guys totally reinforce that maxim. That's great that you always wear sportscoats with your jeans and Ricky Martin-ize your hair. I'm happy that you're obsessed with projecting an image of success with fast cars and plasma TVs to attract women. At any point are you going to start talking about trying to be an interesting person? Whenever I read this dude's column I feel like I'm reading something from my high school paper...which, rather than being a testament to the professionalism of the Greenhills' Alcove, is a slight to Mr. Zinczenko's writing acumen.

We all know about Eleanor Maccoby about the divisions between Two Sexes, but sometimes I feel like there is a fundamental psychological division within the male sex as well, and that one tends to overshadow the other. Maybe there really are guys like Mr. O'Neill's friends for whom porking random babes really is just too important. But I can't relate to that, and I wish they'd stop perpetuating the stereotype that all men think that way. Clearly a sizable portion of us don't, even if we've been cowed into silence. We refer to those guys who have priorities that may include, but are certainly not limited to, getting laid as geeks and nerds, and even though I don't think Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering is an acceptable substitute for interpersonal female interaction, I nevertheless salute their desire to fill their lives with more than the solitary concern for sex.

I hope women who read Men's Health for insights into the reptilian brain know not to take it too seriously, because if I was a woman and read this, I'd probably despair. There really are guys in the world who don't feel this way (certainly not this strongly), and if you've settled for one who does, I just feel bad that you set your expectations so low. But I guess it serves you right for paying more attention to the fast cars and plasma TVs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jean Grey

I’m currently in the process of buying a new pair of jeans. This is a more difficult process than you’d think…or than it should be, really. Anybody who read my old blog knows that about two years ago I was in the market for new jeans. Well, I managed to finally find a couple pairs I liked at Gap…but of course Gap doesn’t sell either that style or those washes anymore. Why would they? It would make my life too easy, and then there wouldn’t any reason to perpetually hire new designers to produce shit nobody likes. I often feel like the fashion industry is a unique trade insofar as it seems to exist to please itself, not its customers. I feel like fashion designers are more intent on creating a product they find challenging and interesting than creating a product that meets the desires of the buying public at large.

Anyway, like I said, anybody who read my old blog knows that about two years ago I was in the market for new jeans. At the time I actually thought I wanted slim-fit jeans, and lo and behold! two years later slim-fit jeans are all the rage. Everybody sells them now. It turns out I actually don’t like them; I guess I was a fool for thinking the fashion companies would design slim-fit jeans for men that DIDN’T completely crush my testicles, but that’s my punishment for being hung like a jackhammer (?). A similar problem actually happened to me when I was jean-shopping five years ago: relaxed fit and bootcut were all the rage, when all I wanted were some straight-fit jeans, and once again, lo and behold! everybody has straight-fit jeans now. Basically, I’ve learned that whatever I’m looking for in a jean will become the popular item 1-2 years later.

Given the above premise, you’re probably wondering what will be the future of jeans 1-2 years from now. I can tell you, because I’m endowed with that power.

Light-Fade Jeans: I kid you not, I have been to every major clothes outlet (Abercrombie, Gap, Banana Republic, J Crew, American Eagle) and none of them sell light-fade jeans anymore. Gap even had the audacity to post a sign that said something to the effect that dark-wash jeans were the only fashion now. "Get in the fashion! Stock up on your dark-wash jeans!" Do I like dark jeans? Not really. I certainly don’t like them enough to buy them at the complete exclusion of all other colors.

Button-fly: I have a whole rant in my head about the button-fly I’m just gonna skip. Suffice it to say I truly don’t understand this phenomenon, and I can’t wait for it to go away. I accept neither the cons of the zipper fly nor the pros of the button fly as sufficient justification for the massive inconvenience the button-fly imposes upon me at the urinal. I found a poll on the Internet where 60% of respondent said they prefer zipper, while only 15% preferred button (the remaining 25% were normal people who didn’t give a crap (aka "undecided")). Clearly the button-fly is an unwanted imposition from the fashion bourgeoisie.

So keep your eyes open for these changing developments in the jean market.

Monday, November 05, 2007

P-A-R-T-Y? 'Cause we got to!

Somebody asked me recently why I dislike parties. Let me start off by saying that I feel bad that I dislike parties. I do. All my friends seem to like parties/bars/clubs/et al, and I feel like I’m missing out on something. Like I’m missing out on an essential part of being a 20-something and having a social life. But I’m like Mike with sports: I feel socially obligated to attend them, rather than derive any actual personal enjoyment, and I learned from after-school specials that peer pressure isn't a good reason to do something. Let’s delve deeper:

PRO: Parties are the best place to meet a new potential beau. Theoretically, at least. My party-going friends have tried to entice me to attend more of these crowd-based social functions under the premise that I’ll meet some amazing girl. There are various reason for which I don’t buy the premise, some of which I’ll go until later, but I won’t deny that parties are probably the best place to hit on girls, if only because they’re one of the few social functions at which such behavior is expected.

I’ve watched a couple dating shows that have been coaching single women in picking up men, and I think they give terrible advice. For one, they tell women to approach men in the stupidest places. The book store. The golf course. Home Depot. Yo, when I’m at the ‘pot or getting my book selection on, I’m there to get shit done. This is an agenda item on my to-do list, and I really don’t feel like engaging pretty girls in conversation about…whatever. Theoretically we might have such a magical conversation over the course of five minutes that I will ask for her number, but experience has indicated that likelihood is slim. I was talking to Liz about how I bet yoga sessions are actually a goldmine for picking up women, but I don’t know how receptive a woman would be to getting hit on during her moment of Zen.

One doesn’t have this problem at a party. People at parties expect to get hit on, lonely souls hope to connect. This, however, brings us to the con.

CON: I find girls at parties to be boring. And I’m not even saying that they’re boring. This isn’t a character flaw on their part. It’s a character flaw on my part. I find them boring. I find myself boring. I listen to myself and think, “My goodness, I am so fucking dull right now. Why don’t I just shut up?” Because then it would just be awkward, that’s why.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a real conversation at a party. We’re not exchanging important information, and we’re not enwrapped in the banter and rhythm that renders an otherwise inane conversation enjoyable. We’re just two people talking. For the sake of talking. We are, as my friend Pat refers to it, just a couple of birds chirping.

My biggest consolation is that my favorite celebrities claim, at least, that they don't party much, either. Natalie Portman. Michael Cera. Masi Oka. I guess I'll include Scarlet Johanson. And Kirsten Dunst. You won't catch Mary Jane at a rave.

Party over here:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's the religion, stupid!

Last week a photo came out of a new “Bigfoot” sighting (I couldn’t find the article again online, but trust me, it happened). Sometimes I feel kind of sad we live in a time without any real contemporary mythology. I guess that’s the nature of living in an era where mankind has conquered in one form or another most of the unknowns of the world (probably why science fiction has come to replace sword-and-sorcery as modern fantasy). But it’s nice to see with the Bigfoot phenom that some people at least are still attempting to insert something of the mythic into their everyday lives. I often feel that it’s not so much people actually believe in Bigfoot as that they want to believe in Bigfoot.

That paragraph was really boring and poorly written. But it serves as a segue to talk about something that I’ve actually wanted to talk about for a while now: why I dislike religion. Sure, there are lots of reasons. The hypocrisy. The incessant need of some believers to institutionalize and impose various tenets of their religion onto the population en masse. Any basic sociohistoric examination which would demonstrate that it’s far more likely this is a man-made phenomenon than anything grounded in Truth.

But my dislike for religion actually goes deeper than that, to a fundamental level. For a long time I didn’t know why, and I was sort of afraid I’d essentially morphed into a Chris Hitchens and was simply yet utterly bigoted against religion. It’s only been within the past year that I’ve come to intellectually understand why I dislike religion on a basic level.

Religion is essentially a belief based on a lack of evidence…or, at best, insufficient evidence. In a religious debate a believer once told me that he actually saw evidence of God’s existence in several places. But he didn’t specify, so I’m not exactly sure to what he was referring. The smile of every baby? The various statues of the Virgin Mary in that have “cried” tears in Latin America? The realization that tropical fish and the human eye* are too complex to be the product of anything other than an intelligent creator?

* This is an example of the glass half-full or half "the other thing." When I hear creationists talking about how the eye is proof of God because it’s too complex and amazing to have occurred randomly, all I can think to myself is, “Are you kidding me? The eye is terribly designed. It’s easily damaged, it doesn’t repair itself, it’s effectiveness deteriorates over time, it can only see within a limited distance, within a limited spectrum of light, within a limited range.” Maybe needing corrective lenses gives me a different perspective on how amazing the eye actually is.

Regardless, it seems to me that that many religious tenets would agree their belief is founded ultimately on a lack of sufficient evidence; hence the phenomenon they praise as “faith.” Christianity, at least, seems to assert that its belief is in fact that much more special and sacred because it is, admittedly, based on insufficient proof. Faith is, after all, the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”...or, as my father more derisively refers to it, “believing in something you know just ain’t so.”

So here’s why I don’t respect religious people. You’ve made a decision about a fundamental aspect of the world in which you live (the existence of God) based on admittedly insufficient evidence. What else in your life do you make critical decisions on despite insufficient evidence? Because I think this all bleeds over into the political sphere. It’s what Stephen Colbert has so effectively mocked Bill O’Reilly for: truthiness. “I don’t like facts; they get in the way of having opinions.” Indeed.

The quintessential example, once again, is the war in Iraq. Fiasco documents pretty well how the Bush Administration made a decision early on that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had connections with al Qaeda. They just decided it. And any evidence that refuted that belief was ignored (and sometimes those analysts who pushed it were punished); any evidence that supported it was puffed up…when an objective analysis of the data available would have shown that the likelihood of Saddam having WMDs was actually fairly slim.

Another example is global warming. I truly don’t understand this demographic of society that has just decided they won’t believe in global warming, no matter how much evidence comes out to support it. I find it very bizarre. This is the undisputed consensus of the international scientific community, yet some still refuse to believe. I don’t get it. I mean, I get why the boys at Shell Oil don’t believe in global warming (or rather, “don’t believe in global warming”). But the common folk, the Everyman. Why don’t you believe the scientists on this? You believe the scientists on lots of other stuff. Gravity. Astronomy. Electricity. Nuclear power. You get on airplanes, you use cellphones and personal computers. So why do you so adamantly believe that, on this one issue, all these scientists have so forcefully lodged their heads up their asses? It’s all very bizarre.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spartans, tomorrow we dine in hell!

Tomorrow is Michigan v. Michigan State. Normally this is the part of the conversation where I'd start taking smack about MSU and how their players might enjoy their Saturday better if they all lined up and licked my balls instead, because they're gonna get killed... Or some other such nonsense. However, I don't really feel like doing that. True, I'll be surprised if Michigan loses tomorrow. But after their dismal couple first games this season, it's too difficult to take yourself seriously as a Michigan fan whilst speaking in a smack-like fashion.

I wish I was more pumped for tomorrow's game. Basically, I think I need new friends, because none of my friends since high school have cared particularly about sports. You know how they say it's good to be surrounded by smart people because their smartness aids your own intellectual development? It's the same for sports. Being the only person in this zip code who gives a rodent's hairy posterior about the Rose Bowl or March Madness makes it difficult to get yourself real excited. Here are some examples of how lame my friends are:

Liz: Last year Liz was rooting for Georgetown in the Final Four. Was it because she liked watching the seven-foot powerhouse that is (was?) Roy Hibbert? Was it because she liked watching a young Patrick Ewing Jr? Don't be silly. It was because her brother would be going to med school there, silly!

James: Hello, my name is James. In college I always complained about how so many gay people conform to the stereotype that the queers love working out but hate sports. But I liked to talk about how I broke that mold by watching football. So what did I do during last year's Rose Bowl? Did I watch the Ugly Betty marathon* instead? Yeah, you know it.

* I hear they're making an Ugly Betty movie. They're calling it The Devil Wears Prada. Zing.