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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Monthly Archives: December 2010

There are two types of things in the universe:

  1. Things that are milk
  2. Things that are not milk

For example, let’s say I have an item and I show this item to you and say, “Excuse me, attractive person, is this item milk?”  You might attractively reply, “Yes, I know what that thing is and that thing is milk!”  Or you might tell me, “No, I am sorry to handsomely report that is not milk.”

This is easy, right?

Right.

But also, as it turns out, wrong.  Very, very wrong.

It has recently come to my attention that we are apparently living in a society where items that clearly belong in category (2) (“Things that are not milk”) are being placed firmly and without question into category (1) (“Things that are milk”).

This is a problem.

How big of a problem will depend on your feelings about being completely and utterly doomed.

None of us would be surprised to learn that Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “milk” as:

a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young

Noncontroversial, yes?  (Except when done in public.)

That is without a doubt what milk is.

Secreted fluid.  Mammary glands.  Female.  Nourishment.

Got it.

But life would be too simple if we lived in a society where “milk” simply meant “milk.”   Far too simple.  Instead, we have created a universe where liquid made from almonds, soy, and rice are all classified as “milk.”

Almond milk?  Soy milk?  Rice milk?

You can find these products in the dairy section of your favorite grocery store right next to the milk, they are packaged as though they are milk, and it will even say “MILK” right there on the container!

But besides being advertised as milk, what do these liquids actually have in common with, you know, milk?

Secreted fluids?

No

From mammary glands?

Uhhhhh…

From a female?

Weird

Nourishing?

Debatable

Milk has evolved from “an actual thing” to a generic term for a cartoned or boxed (or bagged — I didn’t forget aboot you, Canadians!) white-ish liquid that you can pour over cereal without immediately throwing up.  This is how we know, for example, that orange juice is not milk.  Not yet anyway.

Basically, because marketers figured out that it’s possible to sell “milk replacement products” to consumers by storing them alongside actual milk in containers resembling milk containers, we have thoughtlessly relented and have begun calling a substance made by finely grinding almonds together with water“milk.”

It is not milk.

It is not even close to milk.

As a result of our shenanigans, Merriam-Webster now also defines “milk” like this:

a liquid resembling milk in appearance

Look what we hath wrought!

“Milk” now means “milk” and also “something that is by definition not milk.”  How many words do we need that are defined as themselves and also their opposite?

(Correct answer: zero.)

As a society, are we happy about this?  Our inability to declare loudly and confidently what constitutes “milk” — at the behest of our marketing and sales overlords — has led to a chain reaction culminating in our dictionaries codifying forever our disturbing passivity.

The word “milk” has been split in two and that is sad.

Or am I the only one crying over split milk? *

Spilt Milk Comic

* That totally happened

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While it is true that I have spent a not-insignificant amount of time constructing new potentially useful (though probably useless) words to add to our vocabulary (see: gendrification, fauxjectivity, punintentional),  I also fantasize about the day when I am officially and ceremoniously bestowed The Great Eraser, which I may righteously and unapologetically use to completely eliminate words from our culture’s collective memory.

(I’m looking at you, “webinar“!)

(Also, “The Grate Eraser” would be a great name for a faux grass lawn product.  “Hide those ugly sewer fixtures from view with new, totally made in the U-S-A, Grate Eraser!  Act now and we’ll throw in not one but two Staff-B-Gone flagpole-hiding systems!”)

(Woah, sorry.)

Ahem.

Today’s word is NetFlixtion.

NetFlixtion (net-flik-shuhn)
noun

a condition of great distress, pain, or emotional suffering endured as a direct result of an individual’s continued re-noticing of the existence of an unwatched, unopened NetFlix DVD; An affliction that stems  from the semi-frequent use of NetFlix.

For example: “I was so proud of myself when I put that copy of Citizen Kane in my queue, but ever since the DVD showed up three weeks ago, it’s been nothing but a NetFlixtion.  Every time I spot it out of the corner of my eye, I realize how little I care about the movie.  If only I wasn’t too proud to return the damn thing unwatched.”

You might be wondering why do we need another word that basically means “stressed.”

(We don’t.)

(However.)

To the extent that we do need a new word, the state of NetFlixtion is far more complex than your standard anxious moment.   It combines several influential stress forms into one streamlined package!

Economic Stress:

At the start of the year, NetFlix stock price was around $55/share.  Today it closed at over $178.  Clearly, they know how to make money (or investors have no idea what they are doing).  By ignoring that red envelope on your counter-top, you are letting them win. The only way to make sure that you are not the reason for their stockstravaganza (ed. note: fear not, “stockstravaganza” will never be a FWOTD*) is to watch as many DVD’s in as short an amount of time as possible.

In other words, in order for you to not be screwed by NetFlix, you must watch a movie every single moment of your life.  For every second that passes wherein you are not utilizing their services, NetFlix wins and you lose.  Tick tock.

Time-Management Stress:

How long does it take to watch a two hour movie anyway?  (Answer: strangely, it takes approximately 2.2 hours.)  If you don’t have time to watch a movie — especially one that you’ve selected and presumably desire (at least at one point) — what in the world is your problem?  Are you really so important that you don’t have time to do something that will bring you joy?

Think of all of those hours you’ve wasted watching stupid videos online or pretending to look for a new job (where they will let you spin in your chair with impunity!).  Think of all of those hours!

You can stop thinking of them now.

Social Stress:

Half of the reason you watch any given movie is because you’re genuinely interested in the content.  The other half stems directly from the clear and present desire to belong. Your friend told you to watch the movie.  You heard from a coworker that you “have to see that one about he half-man-half-donkey.”  The thimble collectors documentary is going to give you an ‘in’ with that hipster on the bus in the morning.  There is some other motivation besides the frames of the movie themselves that drove you to your decision.

There is perhaps no motivation greater than your ability to prevent those around you from being able to say, “I can’t believe you haven’t seen Inglorious Basterds!  How do you live with yourself!?  How can you sleep at night!?  Do you have a comforter!?  Isn’t it so cold that you need a comforter!?  Do you pay for your heat or is it built into your rent!?  That’s cool mine’s not included!?  Tarantino’s a genius.”

So when you see the red envelope daintily dangling from the armrest of your couch, you are feeling much more than “stress.”

You are suffering from a NetFlixtion!

* unless I run out of ideas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, not Christmas.

Not Kwanzaa.

Not Chanukah (or Chanukkah or Hanukkah or Hanuka or…Channuka?).

Nothing to do with the holiday season.

I’m not even talking about bowl season.

No, I’m excited right now because we are smack dab in the middle of flu season!

Now, I don’t say this because I have any amount of love for the influenza virus (of the regular/piggy/avian variety), or flu shots (which are decidedly hurt-y and often times counter-productive), or enjoy finding out what my friends would sound like with a full jar peanut butter unapologetically crammed into their nasal cavity.

(Answer: hilarious.)

The reason I can’t wait for flu season every year is because I get to hear these three magical words…

I’m not contagious

Let me guess: someone has said this to you, too!

You’ve probably heard it from your friends, from your co-workers, and maybe even allowed these words to stumble across your very own lips a time or two.

Usually, “I’m not contagious” is prefaced with a “Don’t worry!” or “It’s okay!” or some other unconvincing form of passive-defensiveness. As in, “I may sound terrible and have Ecto Cooler gushing from all of my face-holes, but that is no reason to believe that in a few days you will also look and sound like a half-eaten zombie.”

I love the phrase because it conveys a crystal clear message — that is the exact opposite of the speaker’s intent.  When someone tells you that they are “not contagious,” they are trying to squash whatever (presumably rational) fears you may have about your being confined to the same space as a person who seems to be decomposing.

Does it ever calm those fears?

Are you ever completely (or at all) placated or think to yourself, “You know what, this person looks like a trained medical professional who has just come back from the lab and has years of training and certainly would not put me in any form of danger unless he/she was positive that I would not be harmed by their arrival at the workplace this morning and therefore I am confident in their assessment of their body’s ability to pass on a virus to a third party.”

No.

The same message could be communicated by wearing a sandwich board that says QUARANTINED FOR LIFE.

It is for this reason that I recommend that we all add “I’m not contagious” to our list of Not Exactly Convincing Phrases (“NECP’s”).  It should be placed alongside its eye-roll-inducing brethren “I’m going to be honest with you”, “It’s not you, it’s me”, and of course our old friend, “It happens to lots of guys.”

They won’t.

It’s you.

It doesn’t, unfortunately.

If you tell me you’re not contagious, I assume the following things to be true:

  1. You believe you are contagious
  2. You feel guilty about this belief
  3. You are scared that I can sense your guilt
  4. I can sense your guilt
  5. You are contagious
  6. I am in grave danger
  7. I hate you

Let’s just all agree that no one actually knows whether or not they are contagious and that it is in our best interest — socially and otherwise — to resist the urge to make any statements that suggest knowledge of molecular biology and the relationship between the flu virus and the spread of disease.

As Abraham Lincoln almost certainly would have said, “It is better to remain silent and thought of as severely contagious than to deny it and remove all doubt.  And also, I can’t think of anything that would ruin this play at Ford’s Theater!”

Last Thursday, The Powers That Be — through a man really actually truthfully honestly named Sepp Blatter — announced that the United States will not be hosting the World Cup in 2022 (assuming, of course, the world does not end in 2012).

Instead, the games have been awarded to Qatar, a country that the average American cannot…

(a) spell (no “u”)
(b) pronounce (somewhere between “cutter” and “gutter”)
(c) locate on a map (east of Saudi Arabia, west of Iran, north of the UAE)
(d) use in a game of Scrabble, unfortunately (proper noun)

If you interview an average American citizen and ask them to rank their level of disappointment when hearing this news, they will probably grind their teeth, clear their throat and eventually burp out a hearty, “World Cup of what exactly?”

(And then, if stereotypes of Americans are to be believed, they will ferociously snap the notebook from your hand, slather it in taco-flavored ketchup (dibs on this idea, btw), and hyperventilatingly gulp it down like an expecting baby chickadee before stabbing you in the leg with an American flag.)

The World Cup of Soccer, by the way.

Wikipedia explains to us that Soccer is “played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball.” This is the sport that has rejected us.

We have been rejected by soccer.

And yet, it is difficult — though of course not impossible (See: Seattle) — to find sports fans in this country who give a hoot, let alone give a full-fledged vuvuzela. I’m talking about a “Write An Article With The Headline FIFA are rotten to the core! I feel like a shower after this crawling, venal game” level of caring that our friends in the United Kingdom are so effortlessly able to embrace.

On this side of The Pond, we have the New York Times — in its predictably understated way — yawning out this headline: U.S. Should Know There’s No Sulking in Soccer. But do we really know that about soccer? Do we really know anything at all about soccer? Should we ever even print “United States” and “should know” and “soccer” in the same rhetorical statement (besides this one)?

And to the extent that we do actually consider the prevalence of sulking in the world’s most popular sport (besides corruption), wouldn’t a supermajority of casual soccer-viewing American fans declare with calm confidence that if there is one thing that we know for certain about the sport with fewer goals than a high school methamphetamine addict, it is that sulking, whining and general cry-babyishness are the three food groups of communication on the soccer field — excuse me — football pitch (which is, by the way, a term composed words strongly associated in the United States with sports wholly unrelated to soccer: American football and baseball, respectively)?

And yet, there is a cycle in the American media that repeats itself every few years. Like clockwork, as we approach an internationally-relevant soccer event like the World Cup or the Olympics, newspapers, magazines, and televised editorialists coast-to-coast all pose the same question in unison:

“Are Americans About To Embrace Soccer?”

It is with great regret that I demand we stop asking this question.

Why?

Because the answer is “No” no matter how many times the question is (or will be) asked.

And until we accept soccer’s already-sealed fate, our domestic sports (and to some extent, national) media will continue taking on the personae of sleep-deprived kids in the back seat of their parents’ Ford Taurus en route to Universal Studios longingly pleading, “Are We There Yet?” because they know at some point the answer will be “Yes, we are there! Yes, Americans have once and for all embraced the world’s game!”

But we are not there yet. We will never be there.

On a personal note, I quite like the sport. Some of my earliest and most prominent memories take place on the grass-dirt-pothole fields a short bike ride from my childhood home. I played through sophomore year of high school (I was a striker/winger), until my being reasonably fast and willing to slide-tackle anyone (for any reason) no longer sufficiently masked my complete inability to strike the ball with my left foot (or with any accuracy with my right).

The fact is, my positive relationship with soccer isn’t that much different than the millions of folks in America who are in a prime position to consume and care about the sport — if they were so inclined. We all played it when we were kids. We all generally understand the rules (ball in goal, hands to self). But we all also tend to find ourselves either leaving the sporting life behind, or primarily focus our athletic energies on one or more of the major domestic sports: football, baseball, basketball, and Justin Bieber.

Which is, sadly, why the word reject — one of the most simple yet harsh words available in the English language — is the fairest and most descriptive of our relationship with the game that Israelis and Palestinians have no problem agreeing on. We have experienced soccer, we have experienced alternatives to it, and we have chosen those other things.

Our relationship with soccer can be differentiated from a sports like cricket, which has not been “rejected” in the same way. Yes, we all assume that it is terribly boring and not worth our time (that we could spend eating nachos), but when confronted about our distaste, we ultimately end up hiding behind our ignorance of wickets and beamers and bouncers. Therefore, to say that we have “rejected” cricket seems a bit strong.

We’ve ignored cricket, but we certainly haven’t rejected it.

We have rejected soccer, though.

Sorry, soccer.

But here’s the thing: It’s okay.

It’s okay that Americans will not ever entirely embrace the sport with the same passion of our neighbors to the north, south, east, and west.

It’s okay that the United States will never be overrun by scarf-wearing hooligans because it’s ultimately not very important, especially for those of us who are able appreciate the grace and beauty of a well-struck header off a corner kick. The inherent value of the game is unchanging, even in the face of a skeptical public. Viewing our culture’s rejection of fútbol as some kind of fundamental social or intellectual failing, or as having any sort of deeper meaning, is to create a tension where there is none.

It’s okay that. on the whole, Americans are more likely to associate the term “yellow card” with that time they got drunk and dropped their Visa in the toilet.

It’s okay that as a society, we stand atop our soap box pooh-poohing the flopping, shin-grabbing and all-around fakery that goes on in the Premier League and embrace “King of Flops” Vlade Divac.

We have been rejected by soccer, and soccer has been rejected by us.

And that is okay.

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