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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Category Archives: Society!

The good news is that the recent Faux Outrage hiatus is the result of a number of positive developments: I accepted a new job, reached one of those birthday milestones where folks start give you a hard time (and enjoyed the corresponding celebration), and am currently preparing to leave on a 10-day Europestravaganza.

In many ways, life is golden.

These are all positive developments and perfectly within my realm of reasonable expectations.  Despite the fact that my new job is (technically) in another state and casually traveling to Europe is only possible as a result of highly evolved transportation technologies, I grew up — and continue to live — in a culture that, above all, seems to encourage movement.

And for good reason.

There are plenty of upsides to a highly mobile populace.  For example, students are educated at institutions tailored to their specific interests, workers can fill labor voids created by the demands of industry, and similarly-minded individuals can form a community instead of living as individuals scattered throughout.  The (theoretical!) result of all of this are highly-functioning environments composed of (theoretically) self-selected persons who (theoretically) choose to live in a location based on where their skills are most valuable.

Perfectly efficient mobility positively impacts everyone, even those of us who choose at a given time to stand pat.  Incoming community members help static members of society by expanding our current knowledge.  And as times goes by, as these new persons become enveloped in our ever-expanding social networks, we draw on their knowledge and perspective to refine our understanding of the world around us.

On the other hand, there are downsides to all of this movin’ around.  The most obvious drawback is that our support networks are never complete and always in flux.  I grew up with the unsubtle expectation that I would become a high school graduate, then a college graduate, and then…who knows, but in all likelihood the result of all of these educational experiences would push me outside the friendly confines of home and to a place where my skills/interests could be effectively utilized (so far as I understood at the time).

The end result is that our ability to move to greener pastures means we will ultimately physically leave the support group that is our family, the friend groups that we developed during our adolescence and early adulthood, as well as the mentors who helped develop and cultivate our adult personalities.  Or in the alternative, the people that make up those groups are bound to leave us for any number of “reasonable” mobility-related reasons.

Ultimately, if you are like me and lucky enough to have had a life filled with opportunities, you spend your entire existence building up social networks and watching important people walk into — and out of — your life.  It is a blessing and a curse (though mostly a blessing) to make so many great connections over the years.  While it is nice to know that there are great people spread all over the country (and world) that count themselves among my best friends and confidants, the sad truth is that at any given moment, I am without a vast majority of the most important people in my life.

It’s just math.

This weekend, about the same time I check-in to my hotel in Prague, my life back home in DC will be forever changed, and not for the better.  I am losing a best friend to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, for all of the “right” reasons.  As much as I hate to admit it, I do recognize that this is not where she belongs.

She is an artist.

And despite the pain associated with her departure, I feel fortunate that we even crossed paths in the first place.  It is an accident of history that she moved to DC several years ago, an accident that we met, and in the end, an accident that she fell in love with clay.  And now, three years later, I spend my time wishing that I loved anything as much as she loves spinning mud on a wheel — even though that wheel is what is rolling her out of town.

She belongs in a pottery studio in the South, which is where she is going.

Mobility wins out.

The system works!

Yes, the system does work, but it is times like this when I wish it didn’t work quite so well.

Going to miss you, LeE.

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A emotional existence defined by negativity most often does not develop in one sudden rush.

Do not chase these.

Individual negative event particles (“NEP’s”), like microscopic frowny-faced ions (“MFFI’s”), drip-drop around a person’s soul until that individual is eventually pummeled by the now-formed waterfall of negativity (ironically, “WON”), which can culminate in the lashing out at a stranger who made the mistake of being in the same room as as our subject, now drowned in negativity, completely pissed off.

Unfortunately, this state of being “pissed off” is the downfall of many otherwise healthy relationships.

With that in mind, we also acknowledge that “it is better to be pissed off than pissed on,” and though I suppose that may technically be true, it is nonetheless a shockingly low bar.  Returning home from work and remarking, out loud, “At least no one literally urinated onto my person” should provide about as much emotional comfort as a teddy bear made of aluminium foil and day-old croutons.

The soft — and wet — bigotry of low expectations.

Though the relationship between being pissed off and pissed on is good for a laugh, sometimes the connection being pissed off/on is actually quite literal.

For as long as indoor plumbing has existed, it can be safely assumed that women who cohabitate with men find themselves drawing a straight line from “pissed on” — the toilet seat, that is — to “pissed off.”  Of course, this idea is nothing new.  The notion that “men should put the toilet seat down” is as old as indoor plumbing.  In fact, by now, the concept is fairly described as equal parts cliche and uninteresting.  And because this proverbial horse has been beaten to death for so long that his glue has already dried, we have either become complacent about this subject or have unemotionally declared this fundamental male-female strain unserious.

But it is quite serious!

Now, because I am a solutions-oriented guy, and because I do not believe that women should be subject to live in a world where the left of one’s behind is subject to what is left of what was left behind, I am hereby embarking to remedy this rift.  And men, let us recognize that this is not necessarily a Women’s Rights issue in any real sense.  On this issue, Rosie the Riveter is nowhere to be found.  It is merely a practical issue that — when it is apparent — most often negatively impacts the female sect of the species.

But it may be possible to find a solution that benefits both parties.

We can do it!

And in any case, no one likes pee on the seat.

America, let it be known:  I have the solution.

Urinals!

Every home in America, every apartment, every bungalow, should be equipped with a urinal (or three).  The immediate benefit is obvious.

Imagine, ladies: no more pee on the seat!

Imagine, men: no more pesky seat to fiddle with and keep track of!

The Solution

Besides providing a boon to our sputtering economy — I’m sure the Porcelain Industry could use a boost — an increase in the number of urinals in this country would have a calming impact on domestic situations from coast to coast.  Because toilet seats will no longer be pissed on, women will no longer be pissed off.

The connection could not be more straightforward!

And lest we start believing that an explosion of urinals would serve to benefit only womankind, please also note that we men love them, too!  Urinals require almost no aim, can (usually) be peed into hands-free-for-the-most-part, and there is never any clean-up required — unless you are very, very drunk and/or are literally trying to mark your territory.

Folks may fairly argue that space is at a premium in most bathrooms, but you will never be able to convince me that a second sink is more valuable than an argument-suppressing urine catching device.  Couples who are interested in making it work will find a way to make it work.

Let’s make it happen, America.

A urinal in every home.

Support the two potty system!

It has been a little while since I’ve added to the fictionary.

My apologies.

This is the fourteenth FWOTD.

eccentrick (ik-sen-trik)
noun

an individual’s inherently narcissistic belief that by engaging in seemingly “contradictory” behaviors, he/she has an unusual, peculiar, or otherwise interesting personality.

In other words, a manufactured sense of eccentricity.

For example: “Isn’t it weird that on some Fridays, I like to party all night and other times I just like to sit in my pajamas and watch a movie?”

No, it isn’t weird.

I praised Alanis a few weeks ago for (unfortunately but) fundamentally changing our use of the word “irony,” so it might not be a big surprise that I am pinning eccentrick in part on another female singer/songwriter from the 90’s: Meredith Brooks.

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I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed

The song above (understandable titled “Bitch”), which peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts in 1997, tells the tale of a proud, fierce woman who, so far as I can tell, is completely normal.  Yet woven throughout the lyrics is the implication that by acting differently depending on the singer’s mood or circumstances, she is worthy of our attention.

This mentality is eccentrick.

Though Meredith Brooks may have helped popularize this particular brand of self-absorption, eccentrick behavior is most pervasive in the world of online dating.  The unattached are so frightened of scaring off a potential mate that they find it necessary to hedge any statement or claim that could be considered strong.

Rather than be thought of as a “girly girl,” someone might write, “I love buying shoes but also like to lounge around in flip-flops!”  Rather than be thought of as a workaholic, that same person might say, “I take my job seriously, but I also find time to go out and have fun.”  Instead of saying anything, this person has said nothing.

Though the (faux) definition of this term is couched in negative language, the fact is I believe we are all guilty of this kind of thinking in one way or another.  We seem to be more than capable of giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt — or even patting ourselves on the back — when we act in a way that is antithetical to what we know to be “usual.”

As it turns out, we don’t view our contradictions as problematic when we weave them into our definition.

Yet when we are witness to another acting outside the scope of “normal” behavior, we immediately judge the scenario based on an objective, static understanding of the world around us.  We would never do something like that.  We would never be so drunk, or so wrong-headed.

We would never wear those pants.

“There are rules that must be followed!” we might say.

But our own contradictions?  Of course we can be forgiven!

Our own failings?  You just have to understand where we’re coming from!

We are precious snowflakes!

No.

As it turns out — we are not.

That we are not as interesting as we tend to believe we are is both good news and bad news, and the good and bad news is the same news:

We humans are all pretty much the same.

We want to believe that our contradictions are what makes us us, but the reality is that they simply makes us human.

 

Not long ago, while walking from the grocery store back to my apartment, I passed a man who by all accounts — or at least one specific account, mine — was in dire straits.  My evidence?  The fact that he approached and asked me for some money.

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a detective.

Now, I’m not so obtuse as to believe that the mere fact a person asks/begs/pleads/juggles for money automatically means that he is homeless or “down on his luck” in a meaningful, dickensian way.  But I do know that whatever inspires a person to ask a stranger for money, whether it be desperation, depression, or any number of soul-crushing addictions, it is a behavior that I cannot (or perhaps choose not to) imagine exhibiting.

In that sense, if nothing else, it is fair to say that the person in this story is worse off than I can imagine.  That said, there are a couple of reasons why I felt it a tad strange — or at least a bit uninspired — that this particular man in this particular situation asked me for straight-up American currency.

Number one, I didn’t have a hand free to dig into my pockets (wherein the currency theoretically resides).  And number two, the reason I did not have a hand free to dig into my pockets was due to that fact that I was carrying two enormous bags of food.

Food, glorious food!

_
I’m a softie, though, so I said to the guy, “Honestly, I don’t have any change, but how about a peach?”

A pause.

“Nah.”

Yes, after quick consideration, this man — possibly homeless — sighed out a half-hearted nah.

Nah.

I was floored.

First of all, if you’re asking strangers for money, you should at least have the decency to pretend you’re interested in using that money for food.  Food like a peach!  If nothing else, this perception needs to be a part of any money-taking routine/charade:  You pretend that you’re not going to put my $0.60 toward a Steel Reserve tallboy later on, and I pretend not to know that very same fact.

That’s the deal.

But then, as I turned the corner and headed home, my anger rapidly faded into confusion.  The more I thought about the interaction, the more I realized that the awkwardness and indignity I felt ultimately had nothing to do with poverty, politeness, shame, gentrifier’s guilt, or any social science theory neatly explained in a Sociology 101 textbook.

Nah.

This is about peaches!

_
Who, no matter what his circumstances, turns down a free peach?

I don’t care if you’re looking for drug money, beer money, beer-laced-with-drugs money, or not looking for anything in particular.  When someone offers you a free peach, you take the free peach!

Peaches are wonderful.

Free peaches are manna from heaven.

As a general rule, I am intrigued by these getting-asked-for-change circumstances, but that intrigue is usually followed by a sharp, painful sort of guilt that I specifically associate with my interactions with the homeless (or “homeless” if you prefer).  Leading up to — and in the midst of — these interactions, my internal monologue shifts into detached academic mode.  I carefully weigh and consider the macro-socioeconomic issues that led to the interaction, thus diminishing the actual (“potential”) suffering taking place before me.  The ease with which I am able to quickly disassociate from a very real, upsetting interaction is an aspect of my personality that I am willing — but so far completely unable — to shake.

As a result, I’m a bit of a sucker.

I say “a bit of a sucker” as opposed to “a full-fledged sucker” because I never physically open my wallet.  When I have change — as in, physical, clangy coins in my pocket — I will give it away.  Even in the event the total amount of change surpasses $1, it is available to anyone who asks earnestly.  But I will never reach for paper bills.

The paper bills are mine.

In the 21st century, this is actually a bit of a problem if you goal is to get currency in the hands of those who request/need it.  I am still perfectly willing to give away my change, but the fact is I don’t use cash much these days.  Every transaction that I can complete using a credit card will be carried out in that manner.  Basically, I only have coins in my pocket when I am returning from a Cash Only (“tax evading”) establishment.  As a result, with each passing year — though my standard for money-distribution has not changed — the amount of cash I distribute consistently diminishes.

Presumably, I am not the only one with the “change in pocket” standard for giving money to homeless people.  My guess is that there are thousands of people who are in the same boat as me: they would give more money than they do, but because they are tied to using their credit card, they are not often provided the opportunity to do so.  In the end, the pool of “available” money for the needy shrinks as credit card usage increases.

But could this be a good thing?  Perhaps, as a result of the ever-diminishing pool of money, asking people for spare change will no longer be a functional way to raise money for your food/drugs/food-drugs.  Perhaps, to the extent that us change-givers are enabling a lifestyle that ultimately should be altered, there is a net benefit to our not having any pennies, quarters, nickles, and dimes in our pockets.

Wouldn’t that be peachy?

Meek, "Keep Your Coins I Want Change"

Dearest Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is time to move on!  

It is time we recognize that some of us continue to engage in completely inefficient, illogical behavior.  It is time we recognize that we should not expect the present to resemble the past, and that our future should not — and will not! — resemble the present. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to move on.

Let’s stop leaving voicemail messages.  Forever.

It is not often suggested that society should take cues from tweens, teenagers, tweenagers, or whatever we are currently calling Our Nation’s Most Insufferable Generation (side note: do not forget that you used to be exactly like them except your clothes were somehow even stupider).

Conventional wisdom suggests that unless you’re looking for the a comprehensive list of talentless pop stars or morbidly curious what it is like to speak with someone born after Y2K, it is probably best to leave these kids alone and hope that they won’t defund medicare and social security when they grow up.

But I recommend that we actually look to them, at least with regard to voicemail.  Simply put: kids don’t get voicemails.  They understand voicemails, sure, but that is precisely why they do not get them.

The next generation knows better.

To be clear, when I say “voicemail,” I’m referring to the voicemail tied to our cell phones.  Though there are plenty of landlines still functioning all over the world, the vast majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis depend primarily on their cell phones.

Every aspect of our voice mailbox is predicated on the technology that preceded it: the answering machine.  We all know that the original purpose of the answering machine was to provide a method for a caller to convey information to a telephone owner without actually speaking to him/her.  The answering machine benefited both the caller, who did not have to call back to convey certain information, and the owner, who did not have to be there to receive it.

The answering machine was a godsend.

Amazingly, though the technology has been around since there was a wall divided East from West Germany, our cell phone voice mailboxes contain the precisely the same instructions that we’ve been boring our friends and family with since the 1980’s.  “You’ve reached the voice mailbox of Soandso.  At the ‘beep,’ please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  I think as a people, we should be beyond this by now.  There are those who do think we have it all figured out, the ones who use their message to record a simple, “You know what to do!”

Apparently, we do not.

Thankfully, understanding the magic of the answering machine is not passed onto the next generation through DNA.  “Kids these days” — the ones who did not grow up relying on this particular technology — are able to view the machine’s usefulness through an objective lens.

And that is a good thing.

So what does the next generation understand that some of us clearly do not? Simple: they understand that the most efficient, effective way to communicate with someone who is not answering their phone is to send that person a text message.

There are those who will deem this practice “impersonal,” but I think that criticism ignores the fact that impersonality is the very essence of the original answering machine: as a rule, you are talking to nobody.  What could be more impersonal than that?  

Text messages provide several benefits over voicemail messages:

  1. Caller is able to communicate ideas quickly
  2. Caller is able to communicate ideas discretely
  3. Receiver instantly receives communication
  4. Receiver is able to quickly read/respond
  5. Receiver is able to discretely read/respond

For example, let’s take a look at this classic Seinfeld clip:

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While it may be a little bit depressing that almost every single telephone-based joke in the Seinfeld clip above would be lost on a member of Generation Text, it is emblematic of the transition that is taking place.  Since the popularization of cell phones, the following situations depicted in the clip no longer resonate:

  1. George is able to listen to an answering machine message as it is being recorded
  2. George picks up the phone in the middle of a message recording
  3. George pretends he does not know that he has been contacted by Allison
  4. George plausibly calls the wrong number in order to avoid communication

The main concern that George has with regard to being “found out” is his not wanting to go to the coffee shop because Allison might spot him there.  Can any of us still imagine a world where our being physically located by chance is the only concern we have if we do not wish to be contacted by an acquaintance or have a plausible excuse for not having received their communications?

George was living in simpler time: simply ignore the answering machine and lay low.

Today, our cell phones give us great power to contact anyone in a moment’s notice, but on the contrary as well.  None of us are ever more than a touchscreen away.  Yet, despite the fact that 21st century technology and society does not resemble this particular Seinfeld episode, many of us pretend that we still live in George Costanza’s world.  

Count yourself among this illustrious group if the piles of cassette tapes stacked behind George and Jerry’s pre-iMac computer did not register as laughably dated.  Etch your name in stone if you also recognized the song being parodied in George’s answering machine message.

Let’s all agree to send text messages instead of leaving voicemails.

Who is with me?

The next generation of Americans may not know much, but they do know the best way to get in touch with each other.  Even if you can bet what they end up talking about won’t make any sense.

In any case, you can stop pretending like this isn’t good news: you hate what your voice sounds like anyway.

Warning! This is another grocery store post.

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A lot of folks are upset about this Dr. Pepper 10 commercial because the product is being advertised to men in a gender-negative way that is at best alienating and at worst insulting to women.  I’m annoyed by Dr. Pepper 10, too, but my frustration stems not from the question of whether it is socially acceptable to market a product to 49% of the world’s population by cinematically flicking off the other 51%.

Quite frankly, I’m not concerned about how Dr. Pepper 10 is being marketed.

I resent that it exists at all.

There are any number of cliched reasons to be anti-soda/pop/coke.

Most of us agree that, as a rule, these carbonated comfort drinks contain zero nutrition, unapologetically destroy our teeth (with fun bubbles!), and are so inexpensive that there is a serious economic incentive to fill our bodies — and our children’s bodies — with fizzy stuff instead of any liquid that resembles actual food intended for human consumption (like juice)!

And yet, none of these reasons are the root of why I believe we — men and women! — should know better than to purchase Dr. Pepper 10.

Put simply, Dr. Pepper 10 is barely a unique product.

Here are the other products in the non-“flavored” Dr. Pepper family:

  1. Dr. Pepper / 100 calories, caffeine
  2. Dr. Pepper (Diet) / 0 calories, caffeine
  3. Dr. Pepper (Caffeine Free) / 100 calories, 0 caffeine
  4. Dr. Pepper (Diet, Caffeine Free) / 0 calories, 0 caffeine

So far as I can tell, those four products match the four “desire states” that lead to purchasing Dr. Pepper-based liquid.

  1. I like the flavor (Dr. Pepper)
  2. I like the flavor, but not the calories (Dr. Pepper-Diet)
  3. I like the flavor, but not the caffeine (Dr. Pepper-Caffeine Free)
  4. I like the flavor, but not the calories nor caffeine (Dr. Pepper-Diet, Caffeine Free)

This “new” product is merely a 10 calorie version of Dr. Pepper.  In other words, Dr. Pepper 10 is Diet Dr. Pepper plus ten calories.

Ten.

Of course it’s true that 10 calories is infinitely larger than zero calories, but it’s still fair to ask: What brand of consumer is turned off by a zero calorie version of Dr. Pepper (Diet Dr. Pepper) but would instead be compelled to purchase a ten calorie drink (Dr. Pepper 10) who is not purchasing Dr. Pepper?  The commercials plainly state that Dr. Pepper 10 is being marketed towards men, but “men” is not the group that buys it.

So which consumer group is it?

The Indecisive, of course.

Yes, the Indecisive!  You know, the folks who buy 1% milk instead of 2% or skim, neapolitan ice cream instead of a real flavor, and prefer “low fat” to “no fat.”  They buy paper plates made from recycled materials and prefer their ranch dressing “on the side.”  They like medium “hot” sauce, don’t eat meat (except chicken), and just want a couple bites of your dessert.

And of course, they invented the spork.

Dr. Pepper 10 gives these indecisive consumers an opportunity to “choose” between products that are barely discernible (Diet Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper 10).  Grocery patrons that specialize in baby-splitting can show their off their (non-)decision-making prowess by grabbing the thing in the “middle” (10 calories vs. 0 or 100 calories).

And though doing so feels like a choice, the reality is that when you buy Dr. Pepper 10, what you’re buying is not an exciting new product — and barely a new product at all — but a tangible representation of your inability to show any kind of commitment or decision-making skills.

So while it’s true that Dr. Pepper 10 commercials exclusively directed at men are insulting to one of the genders, it might not be the one that you think.

The fact that we are allowing ourselves to manipulate the English language in order to engage in an incorruptible crusade against the barometer does not concern most people.  Although, truth be told, most things do not concern most people.  And if what follows seems unnecessarily overprotective of a piece of equipment more familiar to a 6th grade student taking a course in Earth Science than a college educated professional, it is because I believe it is our duty to advocate on behalf of those that cannot advocate on behalf of themselves.

Even if those things are barometers.

The issue with barometers — which is not about barometers so much as “barometers” — will probably remind you of the devolution of language I wrote about a year ago, otherwise known as literally the worst problem in the world.

And away we go!

——

A simple question: What is a barometer?

If you look in a dictionary (which you probably would not do for two related reasons: first, you probably do not own an actual dictionary; and second, we tend nowadays to look “at” dictionaries — on a computer screen — as opposed to “in” physical, paper-based dictionaries), you will find two basic definitions for barometer:

  1. A scientific tool that indicates change in atmospheric pressure
  2. A thing that indicates change in something

toothpastefordinner.com

In other words, there are two separate (but unequal!) ways to use the word.  Examples:

  1. Definition 1: A good barometer of weather will accurately measure air pressure.
  2. Definition 2 (example 1): A good barometer of weather are the clothes you see people wearing outside.
  3. Definition 1 & 2: This discussion of barometers is a barometer of whether you would describe me as insufferable.

This dual definition is completely unfair to the lowly barometer.  The fact that the word means both “a device that measures something very specific” and “a device that measures anything in particular” is an uncaring slap in the barometer’s faceplate.  In the same way that we primarily use the word “ton” to mean “a lot” and very rarely use it the way the word was originally intended (“a weight measure equal to 2000 pounds”), we are taking efficient, hyper-specific language and muddying the waters by using it in a way that unfortunately removes the specificity.

Besides, don’t we want to give special reverence to the device that allows weatherpersons throughout the land to forecast temperatures with pinpoint accuracy?

We do.

Thought Experiment Time!

Imagine that you had a friend named John Doe.  There should be no doubt that you would feel copious amounts of empathy for this person because their name refers to them, but also, in theory, anyone else.  And if you cared deeply for your friend John Doe — and if you had the power to make this kind of change — you would without question make sure that the name “John Doe” would no longer be used to describe any miscellaneous person.

It’s just not fair.

And just as the actual John Doe’s of the world should be allowed to live a life where their name refers only to the person who embodies it, so too should the barometer.  Though we may be inclined to ignore the device, especially in favor of its cousin the thermometer, we should carelessly not dilute the value of its name.

“Baro” and “meter” roughly translate from their Greek origin to mean “weight measure,” so the generic framing of the word does actually make linguistic sense; but it still seems fair that the air pressure device be given primary access to the only word that we have to describe it.  Or you can go on with your life, completely unsympathetic to the plight of the barometer.  I can’t make you do anything, so no pressure.

But if you do feel pressure — and I am sorry if that is the case — you can confirm your hypothesis with one of those trusty, underappreciated barometers.

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