Please let my generation be the first to be cool with the next

Photo: Micadew

Photo: Micadew

A WHILE BACK I SAW THIS HEADLINE from the A.V. Club in my Facebook feed: “Some dummy just paid $1.2 million dollars for Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ lyrics.” My first thought was: “Is the reason it’s stupid because you can find the lyrics pretty much anywhere on line? Or because he sings pretty intelligibly throughout the song?”

After reading the article, I discovered it’s because “American Pie” is stupid and people who like “American Pie” are stupid. The comments of the piece are mostly people agreeing about how “American Pie” is stupid and it’s because it’s a Baby Boomer song and Baby Boomers are stupid. I am happy I know that now, I had always rather liked it and didn’t realize it was because I was stupid. Life is going to be easier to navigate now that I know that I’m stupid. People operating under the delusion that they’re intelligent are the source of most of the world’s problems, and now I am no longer one of those people.

The comments read more or less like, “I hate Boomers because they ruined everything!” which is a refrain one hears a lot from Generations X & Y. A trending article on Salon a few weeks ago had the headline, “Boomer parents destroyed us: I needed rules and boundaries, not parents who want to be friends.” The article goes on to suggest that our Boomer parents hated rules and would rather — I’m not kidding — be “noodle dancing to Ravi Shankar into the wee hours of the night.”

I have never noodle danced and I do not particularly like the sitar as an instrument to noodle dance to (also, I call noodle dancing “Kermit the Frogging” and I only do it to Skrillex). This story does not resonate with me. And that’s because there are 76.4 million Baby Boomers, according to the US Census Bureau, which leaves a little space for variety.

The emerging anti-Boomerism is irritatingly similar to the hand-wringing Boomer articles about how Millennials are going to destroy everything, or to that obnoxious Aaron Sorkin assertion that Millennials are part of the “worst period generation period ever period.”

We get it. Generations don’t like each other. Boomers don’t like that modern kids wear skinny jeans and get tattoos (“YOU KNOW THAT WILL NEVER COME OFF, RIGHT?”) and kids don’t like that aging Boomers are still trying to dictate the direction of their lives. It’s not some great generational war. It’s just a parent-kid dynamic projected onto a fucking boring national stage. I appreciate having issues with your parents. But please, work it out between yourselves, not by proxy in some weird culture war.

What’s upsetting about reading all of this intergenerational sniping for me is the thought that I’m doomed to relive the same thing in 25 years when my kids are starting to assert their own independent direction. I’m doomed, somehow, to wring my hands as I watch them dismantle the world me and my peers built for them, leaving some of the good stuff, but tossing aside the stuff they decide is rubbish. “THAT’S NOT RUBBISH!” I’ll shout, “THAT REALLY CAME IN HANDY BACK IN THE DAY!”

Then, like my parents and grandparents generation, I’ll start worrying about “legacy,” and I’ll use my money to produce nostalgic movies about the “good ol’ days” when you could eat meat, drive a gas-fueld car, or discriminate against transgender people without feeling guilty about it. Ah, those were the days.

And then, as our kids break into the media, they’ll start writing long screeds about how we could’ve done more, or how we should’ve known to stop the NSA before it turned into a sentient nuclear death robot, or about how we squandered the early years of the internet on cats and porn rather than democracy, and how we tanked their economy and so on and so on. And their kids will do the same and then their kids will do the same on and on for eternity until we either die in a horrible global cataclysm or evolve into non-corporeal beings that can fully perceive the fourth dimension and thus no longer technically have temporally distinct “generations.”

It just… it just sounds fucking exhausting. So to my fellow millennials: please. Please. Please. Can we just not? When our kids get older, can we just let them go on their way, and allow them to build the world they want, and accept the fact that our legacy was never going to be eternal anyway? Can we just come to terms with our mortality like fucking adults and not try and build monuments to our greatness under the illusion they won’t be eroded down to mostly nothing within a few generations? Can we please just be fucking cool?

Featured photo by Micadew.

 

How Hulu taught me to hate

I fucking hate Goose Island IPA. I’ve never actually had Goose Island IPA (although, as an IPA-hater, I’m pretty sure I’d hate it), but I have watched shows on Hulu for the last couple of months. Hulu, for those of you who aren’t aware, is a streaming television service much like Netflix. You pay a similar amount and you get to watch a bunch of TV shows and movies on demand. The difference is that Hulu, unlike Netflix, does not put your money towards not showing you commercials. Instead, they have short commercial breaks.

Which I’m fine with. Honestly. Advertisements are evil and the advertising industry has swallowed the better creative minds of the last several generations in the name of selling Maxipads, but whatever. You gotta get your name out there. I get it.

Hulu, though, plays the same commercials. Over. And over. And over again. Like this Goose Island IPA commercial.

Let me break this down line-by-line.

“This is a brewery.”

Translation: You’re a fucking idiot.

“This is Goose IPA. We brew it with these hops.”

I don’t care. Oreos don’t insist I know where the creme filling comes from. And you know what? I don’t want to know. Because if they don’t tell me where it comes from, I can imagine that it comes from someplace delicious, like ground-up Leprechaun bones or Angel semen. In reality, the Oreo filling probably comes from something much sadder, like ground up baby harp seal bones. But me and Oreo have a tacit understanding: don’t ask. Don’t tell.

“But hops don’t grow in Chicago. So we go to Elk Mountain Farms. It’s beautiful. You won’t find a better place to grow hops. Or a better guy to grow them.”

I’m not looking for a better place to find hops. That’s your dumb job. I hope Elk Mountain turns out to be a dormant supervolcano and it destroys the world. Then you’ll feel like an asshole. And who’s the fuck’s the guy that grows them? He’s not mentioned for the rest of the commercial. This isn’t a goddamn Oscar speech. You can leave the thank-you’s out of the script.

“Great hops make a great IPA. Judges at the Great American beer festival agree.”

Really? Is that what they said in giving you your goddamn awards? “This beer was shit, but the hops were so good that the beer became good too! Thank god for those hops!”

“Goose IPA.”

Wait. Wait. What the fuck was that? Why did that guy just do a “How you doin'” face at a goddamn cat?

THAT. THAT. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?

“We don’t want to be the only beer you drink.”

I… uhh… were we all assuming that’s what this was about? That you were commanding us to drink your beer and only your beer for eternity? And now you’re conceding, “Hey, it’s okay! You can drink other things! We totally won’t murder you in your sleep after fucking your cat if you drink other beers than ours.

“We just want to be the best beer you drink.”

I’m sorry, the only way that would be possible is if you were also the only beer I drank.

“We are Goose Island.”

Ugh. I don’t care who you are.

I don’t want to single out Goose Island.1 But this is what happens when you play commercials over and over again, Hulu. It goes from, “Oh, that looks neat,” to “OH MY GOD HOW CAN I MURDER EVERYTHING SO THIS STOPS?”

So throw Goose Island’s dumb, weird, cat-rapey IPA on my list of “do not buy” products, right alongside Skyn condoms, Mountain Dew Kickstart, and Coke at McDonald’s.


1. I absolutely want to single out Goose Island.

Neato Burrito: Jesus and Satan are the Same Person!

Okay, so in order to get myself blogging more, I’m trying to set up weekly columns. The first of the weekly columns is this one, published on Wednesday, called the Neato Burrito, in which I try and serve up something delicious and possibly gas-inducing that you hopefully have never heard of or thought about before. 

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD OF THE MYTH OF PROMETHEUS. Prometheus was the Titan who, against the will of the Gods, brought fire to mankind. As a punishment, he was chained to a rock on a mountain where, every day, his liver would be eaten out by an eagle. The liver would then grow back every night and it would happen the next day.1 It’s the type of charming, weirdly specific punishment that the Gods love doling out.

Myths tend to repeat themselves throughout different cultures. This one — of the man who brings knowledge to mankind and is eternally punished for it — is a popular one. Weirdly, a “Prometheus” is usually thought of as a good person: someone who sacrificed his life to improve ours. But the other famous mythological figure who did the same is not as kindly thought of: Satan.

Satan’s story is literally the exact same story: The snake bestows forbidden knowledge on mankind, God is furious and punishes the snake for eternity. Even the name “Lucifer” is the same: it’s usually translated as “Light-bringer.”2

Ready for the kicker? Hint: you almost certainly know it because it’s in the title of the piece!

Jesus is also a mythological equivalent of Prometheus.

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Anyone who buys me this hat will be my best friend for life.

The great Alan Moore explains in his awesome comic book Promethea:

In Hebrew numerology, letters have number-values. The Biblical word for serpent, nechesh, adds up to 358, as does messiach, meaning “messiah,” another light-bringer. Usually, the fire-and-light bringer, be it Prometheus, Loki, or Jesus is bound or nailed somewhere in punishment, often with their side ravaged or pierced.

Numerology isn’t really worth looking at,3 but it is worth mentioning that the Messiah myth is also the same in it’s fundamentals: a greater being brings some new knowledge to the world, everyone benefits, and that person is tortured.

You can pick apart the differences (Jesus was only punished for three days, but Satan and Prometheus got punished for eternity), but what’s really interesting is the similarities in myth, and how we choose to see some of our light-bringers in a totally positive light, while others are our greatest villains.

Featured image by Esparta Palma.


1. If the horribly repetitive punishment sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Sisyphus, the man who was forced to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, only to see it roll back down to the bottom. Albert Camus wrote a famous existentialist essay on this punishment and says, at the end, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” You’ll notice that he was more comfortable saying this of the guy rolling stones around than of the guy getting his liver eaten out.
2. Also “Morningstar,” which is a fancier way of saying “light-bringer.”
3. There’s an amusing scene in War and Peace where the well-meaning but clueless hero, Pierre, uses numerology to figure out that “Napoleon” adds up to 666. Pierre then goes through great effort to prove that his own name also adds up to 666 (which it totally doesn’t unless you mess around with his name to the point where it’s more or less unrecognizable). When he finally succeeds, he’s convinced it means he’s destined to be the person to kill Napoleon. Spoiler: War and Peace is not an alternative history Inglourious Basterds style book. Pierre does not kill Napoleon. All of this is a long way of saying numerology is kind of ridiculous, and we should probably stick to math instead.

No, Duck Dynasty guy, “atheist” does not mean “amoral”

This week, audio came out of the Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson graphically detailing the murder, rape, and castration of an atheist family, and why that atheist family wouldn’t be able to be upset about it. Here’s a little peak at it from Talking Points Memo:

“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’”

Robertson kept going: “Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’”

“If it happened to them,” Robertson continued, “they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”

I’m sure the atheist community will be briefly up in arms and outraged about this statement (before moving on to something else), but I for one am not particularly annoyed — I’ve been an atheist for around 10 years now, and I’ve had this conversation (sometimes with just as violent language coming from the other side) countless times. It’s a major part of discussing my beliefs, and it’s actually kinda fun to constantly rip this type of thinking apart.

That’s not how any of this works

It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism is, and it’s something that, for whatever reason, a lot of non-atheists refuse to be corrected on. The misunderstanding is this:

Atheism is not a philosophy, and it is not a replacement for religion.

That’s it. That’s all. Atheism is non-belief in the existence of a God or Gods. And every atheist defines what they are differently. Some are agnostics (they aren’t sure). Some are anti-theists (they are fairly certain the God of a certain definition doesn’t exist, they think that conception of God is objectively bad for humanity, and they are willing to fight against that idea). Some are agnostic-atheists (they aren’t certain about anything, but tend to think a human-oriented idea of God probably doesn’t exist).

Atheism is a single belief, and you cannot formulate an entire philosophy from a single belief. I was recently talking to a friend who is a Catholic, and we got onto the subject of the current Pope. “I really like him,” I said. “I don’t agree with everything he’s said, but for the most part, his beliefs are stuff I can get on board with.”

My friend asked, “So why aren’t you still Catholic?”

That requires a much longer answer, but I just said, “I just don’t believe in God.”

The Venn Diagram of beliefs between the Pope and myself would probably have a lot of overlap. But belief in God is not in that overlap. Visually, it would be a little sliver of circle just near the edge, a sliver that basically only includes “No God,” “Birth control is okay,” “homosexuality is not an aberration,” and “it’s okay to not have kids.”

Atheist does not equal amoral

I’m not mad at Robertson. He just doesn’t have any real sort of point to make, because he doesn’t understand that atheism isn’t a philosophy, but is a single belief (or non-belief) in an entire constellation of beliefs and non-beliefs that have to make up a person’s personal philosophy. And the look of that constellation changes from person to person.

Some atheists are nihilists, but they are pretty rare. Some, to an extent, believe that in some cases, morality is relative. Others have extremely rigid moral viewpoints, or adhere to elaborate and complex philosophies like humanism. I have yet to meet an amoral atheist, though, or, for that matter, an amoral believer. Amorality, it turns out, is pretty damn rare.

Recent research suggests that parents raising kids without God are doing just as well as parents who raise their kids to believe. For those of us who are atheists, this isn’t surprising: we’ve known for a while that compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and being fucking rad aren’t moral principles that require the existence of a God to make sense. So please, to Mr. Robertson and everyone else, let’s focus on what we have in common and not on the one tiny little thing we disagree on.

Featured photo by Gage Skidmore

Dressgate Sends Blogger to Brink of Despair

LATELY I’VE BEEN READING some pretty bleak shit: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti, (which was the philosophical basis behind the incredibly misanthropic, pessimistic character of Rustin Cohle in True Detective), and a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, the nihilistic writer who created the Cthulhu Mythos, a literary universe which focuses on humanity’s cosmic insignificance (True Detective arguably is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, both in terms of its tone and in its references to staples of Lovecraft’s universe like the city of Carcosa and the so-called “King in Yellow”).

Point is, the shit is bleak, and it has one particularly annoying side-effect: it makes it difficult to be an internet writer. The internet runs on memes — brief, passing trends that the internet collectively picks up, examines, analyzes, jokes about, and then tosses aside — and for an internet writer, an attunement to these memes is essential. Good internet writers are able to take these memes and use them to address the broader themes of their work: it’s why that Kim Kardashian butt pic was able to turn into a discussion of racial politics.

It’s a classic bait and switch: while a million people are looking at something, you try and get them to look at this other, tangential thing. It’s why the news site Mic constantly uses the headline, “This one Tweet perfectly sums up [why vaxxers will inevitably cause the spread of the zombie virus/America’s prejudice against people with bunions/Obama].” It’s like snapping your fingers and waving around a Beanie Baby next to the camera lens to get the crying child to look in the right goddamn direction so you can have at least one fucking decent family picture.

The Goddamn Dress

As a writer, though, this can get exhausting, especially when your interests are super broad. “Okay,” you say, “What sociopolitical lesson can I extract from this white and gold/blue and black dress?”

Ah, the dress. If you’re reading this and it’s not Friday, February 27th, you’ve already forgotten about it. It’s a dress that someone took a picture of, and apparently it’s black and blue, but in the picture it looks white and gold. Optics!

Slate’s coverage was the most comprehensive, but Buzzfeed really made it take off after the dress got some traction on Tumblr. People had debates! #TeamWhiteAndGold was trending! So was #TeamBlackAndBlue! Listicles formed! Quizzes formed! Science sites broke down the optics behind the dress and why it was one while appearing to be the other!

When it hit last night, I was dicking around on my computer playing Civilization V. I usually play it for like, two hours straight. When I closed the game, my Facebook feed was entirely about the dress. I looked at it. It looked white and gold to me. “What can I do with this?” I thought, “What deeper message about humanity does this debate have to tell me?”

Photo by KAZ Vorpal

Photo by KAZ Vorpal

If I hadn’t just been reading The Call of Cthulhu a few hours earlier, I might’ve said what my friend Cory said, that it was a good thing that people were actually questioning how they perceive things. But I had been reading The Call of Cthulhu earlier, and so the lesson I took was this:

Rather than coming to terms with the horrors of the universe and our ultimate impermanence — both as individuals and as a species — in it, the world had decided to distract itself from it’s oncoming destruction and annihilation with endless debate about the color of a dress. But, I then thought, if the color of this dress is a meaningless debate and is just trying to distract us from our inevitable oblivion, then isn’t every other debate we’re having equally meaningless? Are our meager attempts to forestall climate change simply an act of prolonging the inevitable? Are our furious, angry ideological debates really just smokescreens for the bleak, angry nothingness that awaits us just beyond the moment of our death?

It’s at this point, as I sit in my easy chair and rant to Steph about the meaninglessness of everything, that she patiently walks over, kisses my forehead, and says, “Well, we love each other, and that means something.”

Well… fine. Okay. Fair point. The dress looks white and gold to me. It’s good to be reminded to question my perceptions. I can probably get a blog post out of that.

The Tragedy of Penn State and the Dickishness of Olbermann

I went to Penn State from 2005 to 2009, so I had left before the Sandusky sex abuse scandal was a thing that most Penn Staters knew about. I was never that gung-ho about Penn State in comparison to most of my classmates, so when it came out that Joe Paterno had been negligent in reporting Sandusky to the police (and possibly complicit if not active in a cover-up), I was in favor of his firing.

This is not a common or popular opinion amongst alumni, but a mere 10 years earlier, I had been an unenthusiastic Catholic, and had seen the exact same scandal happen within my church. So I knew that any defense of those at fault was more about self-preservation than justice, and that this self-preservation instinct would ultimately backfire on the people who loved Penn State, just as it did with the Church. In both cases, it gave me an excuse to sever myself from a culture that I didn’t connect with in a particularly meaningful way. But I’m still sympathetic to my friends who have remained Catholics and/or Penn State fans. It’s tough to deal with fallen Gods.

Paterno, the Tragic Hero

I’m not being flip, by the way, by referring to Joe Paterno as a “fallen god.” Penn State culture is largely built around the football program, and it has all the trappings of a religion: chants, songs, rituals, myths, and a moral code. The moral code is especially prevalent in Penn State football, more than in other teams I’ve been a fan of: Penn State has always put an emphasis on the integrity of the brand, and Joe Paterno was the cornerstone of that ethos. He was one of the first college coaches to place an emphasis on the “student” of “student-athlete,” and he was known for being both generous to his community and for having a moral code. He was like an old, Italian, Omar Little.

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Unfortunately, what was hidden behind the moral code, the integrity, and the generosity was an obsession with legacy. He liked being so well-respected and revered, so when a possible blemish to that legacy — the sexual abuse of children under his care by one of his coaches — came out, he didn’t do what he should have. His pride was his downfall.

Yeah. There’s nothing remotely religious about that story at all.

The story of the fallen god is a common one, but less told is what happens to the god’s worshippers after the fall. Penn State’s response feels pretty similar to the Catholic response: long-term denial, scapegoating of certain figures who “had it out” for Paterno, the “few bad apples” speeches, and a willful obliviousness to the systemic nature of the problem. There were even riots when Paterno got fired.

From the outside, this response looks delusional, but if you, like me, have a foot in and a foot out of the culture, you can see what it really is: a desperate scramble to salvage something that has become immensely important in your life. There’s a lack of self-awareness to the response, yes, but this reaction happens whenever a worldview collapses.

Keith Olbermann wins the righteousness Olympics

Keith Olbermann, as everyone knows, is a strident commentator who seems to enjoy feeling morally righteous. One of the easiest ways to feel morally righteous is to position yourself against the sexual abuse of children. No one’s going to fight you on that. But on Monday, when a Penn State alum Tweeted an article at Olberman, he responded thus:

The correct response to “We Are!” in PSU world is “Penn State!” and the students had just raised $13 million for cancer research — which is what the woman had been cheering. She was baiting Olbermann, who has gotten his righteousness jollies from Penn State in the past, and Olbermann made the mistake of not clicking on the link, or of just being a dick.

Olbermann said he was targeting Penn State students in general, not kids with cancer, but as the AV Club put it in their coverage, “let’s face it, if you have to clarify that you’re not insulting kids with cancer, the conversation’s gotten away from you.”

So yeah. Olbermann’s a dick. We knew that already.

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Incidentally, though, THON is just as much a part of the Penn State culture that produced the football program. Like football, the culture around THON cannibalized the time and resources of other on-campus organizations. While at Penn State, I was the president of the campus’s chapter of Amnesty International, and there were many times that potential new members would skip our group because of a lack of involvement in THON. “Fighting cancer in children is a great cause,” I would tell them, “It’s just not particularly relevant to human rights. Unless you consider healthcare to be a human right, in which case we should be organizing politically to get the government to fund this research rather than doing it ourselves…” at which point the conversation usually ended.

Blaming the Culture

Student activism in any real sense was not encouraged under Graham Spanier (the President who would eventually be fired during the Sandusky scandal for his involvement in the cover-up). Spanier also liked to complain publicly about the lack of student activism, while simultaneously refusing to meet with student activists and, eventually, having them arrested. One of the ways of sucking energy away from groups that Spanier and the administration didn’t like was putting all of the emphasis on THON. And it’s really hard to argue against a cause that’s donating to child cancer research, even if it takes the form of a 48-hour pep rally that is mostly put together by the frats and sororities. So while Olbermann’s an asshole for painting the entire Penn State campus as Sandusky and Paterno apologists, he wouldn’t be totally wrong if he was seeing in THON some of the same culture that gave us Penn State football.

My guess is he was just being a dick, though.

The interesting thing is that if Olbermann wants to blame Penn State students and culture — as I believe he justifiably could — as providing an environment where Sandusky’s abuse and the subsequent cover-up could happen, then he would also have to place some of the blame on his network, ESPN, which has played no small role in making college football into such a massive money-making institution that, in the mind of people like Spanier and Paterno, would have been too big to fail. If you want to blame a culture, you have to blame the whole culture: the institutions that support it, the values it prioritizes, and the economy that guides it.

It’s important to point out that Penn State is barely the only school with this culture. Any other school could have been unlucky enough to have a predatory pedophile on staff, and could have had the confluence of factors (a too-mighty football program, unscrupulous administrators, cowardly coaches) that led to Penn State’s downfall. I grew up in Ohio, and I know that Ohio State’s football culture is similarly fanatical. It could just as easily have happened somewhere else.

But it happened to Penn State, and the people who knew nothing about the scandal when the events that caused it were actually happening became the ones scrambling to pick up the pieces of their culture after the scandal had blown through.

Blaming a culture for a crime usually seems unfair — this is why people tend to put so much emphasis on personal responsibility — but cultures set the conditions for crimes. Jack the Ripper, for example, was ultimately the man who eviscerated London’s prostitutes in 1888, but he would not have gotten as far as he did if Victorian England hadn’t had such extreme poverty that the entire East End of London was basically a brothel where misogynistic exploitation and violence could thrive.

Similarly, a sporting culture that values profit and apolitical coverage above all else is going to eventually to brush pedophiles, abusive husbands, and serial cheaters under the rug. Penn State’s culture is America’s sporting culture, and if Keith Olbermann wants to condemn one, he has to condemn both, or else be a bit of a hypocrite.

And a dick. Did I mention he’s a dick?

The “Penn State Experience”

When my friends would come to visit me at Penn State, my roommate would always try and give them the “Penn State Experience.” This involved football, lots of drinking, lots of parties, cheap pizza, high-quality ice cream, and a tour of the beautiful campus. His tours were always suffused with pride: pride at belonging to such a fun, happy community, pride at going to a pretty great educational institution, and pride at being able to show it off to friends from outside.

The cracks were already there, just beneath the surface, so when the cracks finally turned into chasms, it was easy for chronic non-believers and pessimists such as myself to sigh knowingly and to move on. But for my roommates, for my friends, and for my classmates, the collapse of their King was incomprehensible.

We’re used to the story of fallen Gods. But we’re used to the story from a distance: we’re used to the collapsed pedestal of Ozymandias buried in sand centuries later. We can see the collapse through the perspective of the God as he falls, undone, off of his pedestal.

But we cannot imagine the view from among the adoring crowd as they watch, horrified, as their god falls. Penn State is more than its football. It’s more than the Sandusky scandal. But Penn State culture is too busy trying to recover from its collapse to fully appreciate the former, and obtuse outrage junkies like Olbermann are too busy shouting to acknowledge the latter.

#LikeAGirl is Sweet, But it’s Still Just Trying to Sell Maxipads

I was watching the Super Bowl from NBC’s live streaming last night, and they lied to me. They told me the live stream included the commercials, which is around 70% of the reason I watch the game, and it didn’t. It only included like, four of the commercials. So I had to follow the commercials on Twitter. When everyone got all worked up about Nationwide killing a 9-year-old boy, I had to YouTube it. When everyone got all touched by the Always #LikeAGirl commercial, I had to YouTube it.

Maybe it was because I was grumpy at missing out and watching all the fun vicariously through Twitter, but the response to the Always commercial kind of annoyed me. The commercial itself didn’t bother me — it’s got a great message, and it’s far preferable to the shitty sexist ads that all the other brands used to do (and which Carl’s Jr. still does) — what bothered me was all the praise being heaped on Always.

Always, which you wouldn’t know from the commercial, sells maxipads. They’re a necessary hygienic product, so there’s nothing wrong with what they sell nor, as far as I know, is there anything unethical about their work or product, but they don’t deserve credit for airing a progressive commercial. Because at the end of the day, what their ad department does not care about is improving the self esteem of young girls. They care about selling maxipads. Progressive commercials are just a means to that end.

This campaign could very easily have been put together by a misogynist like Don Draper who has his finger on the pulse of the internet’s feminist blogosphere, and on the increasing trend in American culture towards treating women like equals and not like subordinates. It was probably thought of by more of a Peggy type, but that’s beside the point: advertisements for corporations that double as PSA’s are still advertisements first. They chose to air that commercial because they believed it would connect with their target audience. And they were totally right.

Instead of giving Always praise they don’t deserve for creating a feel-good commercial that virtually anyone who isn’t a piece of shit can get behind, give it to the people who created a culture where feminism can finally be a marketable ideology.

Give credit to internet personalities like Lindy West and Anita Sarkeesian who are outspoken about feminism and, as a result, expose themselves to rape threats and attacks by internet trolls literally every day of the week. Give credit to sports stars like Martina Navratilova or Billie Jean King who had to endure tons of sexist abuse (not to mention homophobic abuse) while being better than their male counterparts. Give credit to Gloria Steinem, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth or literally any other feminist ever before you give it to an ad for capitalizing on the world they created.

The Biggest Impediment to Your Physical Fitness is Bottomless Despair

Did you know there are toxins inside you? You get them when you eat stuff that contains toxins and then they’re inside you, and you can only get rid of the toxins through yoga or pooping. Yoga and pooping are the two main elements in a “detox” diet (there’s an occasional third element called “kale,” which is a type of grass that tastes like a Communion wafer rubbed with lawn mower clippings) and if you do a detox diet, not only will you lose weight, but you’ll no longer have toxins inside you. That’s what science said until two days ago, when the Guardian pointed out that “detox” diets are a myth. It’s upsetting for those of us who have been wasting time on yoga and pooping for years now.

The Detox diets – also called “cleanses” by people who don’t associate that word with Serbia circa 1994 – are the latest “fad diet” to become a thing. And now, like the Atkins Diet, the Caveman Diet, the Milksteak Diet, and the Traumatic Blood Loss Diet before it, Detox Diets are becoming a thing of the past.

I’ve always had trouble with fad diets. I haven’t trusted any sort of fad since the Pog bubble burst back in ’94 and my $900-value portfolio of slammers depreciated to a net worth of about 46¢ in the course of a single recess. The bubble burst because Mrs. Metzger said that Pogs were a type of gambling, and because gambling was un-Christian. I don’t know if Mrs. Metzger’s still alive, but seaweed enemas strike me as un-Christian, and I wouldn’t put it past her to ban them and pop the detox bubble as well.

This, of course, has meant that I’ve never totally learned how to gain or lose weight. The process is baffling to me. I’ve heard “eat less and exercise,” but both of those things sound terrible. I’d do those terrible things if I was guaranteed a long and happy life in exchange, but as far as I can make out, certain death lurks around every corner. Global warming is going to flood my lovely Jersey Shore town, and I’m going to drown because of tsunamis and acidified seas. Or maybe New York gets hit with a nerve gas attack just as a Nor’easter is hitting, and the nerve gas blows down to Asbury Park and kills me.

Maybe I’ll be killed by a drunk driver or a sudden brain aneurysm. Maybe after the economic collapse of 2018 I’ll be cooked rotisserie-style by bands of roving cannibals. Maybe my slowly-dying Christmas tree will catch on fire and I’ll die of smoke inhalation. Maybe a comet will be about to hit earth and Ben Affleck will be too busy on the next Batman movie to save us. Maybe Cthulhu awakes from his eternal slumber and sends the world spiraling into a new age of madness and despair.

All of this is totally within the realm of possibility. And it makes it really hard for me to justify working out. On top of this, what if there really is no such thing as God? What if right and wrong don’t exist on an individual level? If that’s the case, isn’t the only true “right” whatever makes me happy? And how do I balance the happiness of eating a pizza and watching old episodes of Always Sunny now with the hypothetical happiness I’ll feel if I survive to the age of 96?

The only thing I’m trying to say is that it’s really hard to pick a proper health regimen when a) there’s so much conflicting information out there, and b) I’m paralyzed by my own insignificance. Now if you’ll excuse me, now that I know toxins aren’t real, I’m going to go have a glass of scotch.

Photo by Pete Kraynak

Do They Know It’s Not Christmastime At All?

Band Aid has released another version of the Kony 2012 of Christmas Carols, “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?”

Is it a little condescending and ethnocentric to suggest that the lack of snow and/or Christmas in Africa is somehow a sign of poverty? Sure. (Though actually, it’s East Africa in this rendition, and among the worst side-effects of Ebola are the inability to hear sleigh bells and a deep apathy about the concept of Santa Claus, so fair enough, Bob Geldof). But the tune is catchy, so I’ll be singing “Feed the world!” for the next month and a half, which is at least mildly annoying because, for the first two weeks of the song’s release, it won’t be Christmastime at all.

Presumably, Band Aid released the latest version of the song because they wanted to get ahead of the Christmas song rush. Christmas songs, unlike other pop songs, aren’t released on regular radio. There’s no Swiftian, ad nauseum repetition of Christmas tunes on basic radio (and yes, I just used the word “Swiftian” to refer to Taylor and not Jonathan, so feel free to take that as a sign of the apocalypse), so people who want to get their shitty Christmas Carols on the top of the charts must get them played in retail stores.

Retail stores which are, because of Black Friday hype, starting to play Christmas tunes the day after Halloween.

If Vegas put odds on things like this, they’d give Black Friday the best odds for being the day of the year that Western Civilization will start to collapse. It’s certainly the day in which we, as a society, make the most blood sacrifices: Someone is almost certainly going to die at a Walmart this year. Let that sink in for a minute. Someone is going to die from stab wounds next to an XBox display in the saddest place on the planet, and their death is going to be witnessed only by underpayed, pensionless, geriatric Walmart employees who had to miss what was probably one of their final Thanksgivings with their families so they could be at the Walmart’s opening at 6 p.m. on Thursday to start their 14-hour shift.

It’s been made into a holiday, but we’ve never even tried to pretend it’s anything but evil. In Christendom, the day that Jesus Christ, our God, was murdered is called Good Friday. Black Friday, then, must be considerably worse than deicide. After all, only three people died on the cross the day Our Lord and Savior died – last year, 7 people were killed on Black Friday, and 90 were injured.

So yeah, this Black Friday might be a rough day for those kids living in Ebola-stricken East Africa, but hey, at least they don’t know it’s Christmastime at all.

This Week in Butt News: Butts! In! Space!

This week, Kim Kardashian posted a picture of her butt on the internet, saying that it would “break the internet.” This has naturally caused a bit of internet uproar – yes, there is already an article on the racial politics of Kim Kardashian’s butt – because sometimes, when there’s nothing else to talk about, we need a good butt uproar. A “buttroar,” if you will.

As far as I know, nothing on the internet was “broken,” as the internet already has quite a few pictures of butts already, many of which are the same butt as Kim Kardashian’s butt. But I’m glad the 21st Century’s best philosopher is keeping it relevant in 2014.


As is internet protocol, part of the uproar (buttroar) about the Kim Kardashian picture is whether or not we should be talking about Kim Kardashian’s butt picture. But these people miss the point. Because yesterday, we – and by “we” I mean “humanity” – landed a spacecraft on a comet. On a motherfucking comet. We didn’t even need to redirect its course away from the earth, we were just like, “Hey look, bro, there’s a comet, let’s go chill on it,” and then it was all like “Comet me, Bro!”  and then we did.

Irrelevant to the butt news, you say? Not at all.

Alan Moore, the great comic book writer, wrote a great book called From Hell, which focused on the Jack the Ripper murders. What he was interested in was less who Jack the Ripper was, and more in how everything that made up Victorian society could have produced a murderer like Jack. How did the art, the politics, the architecture, even the layout of the city of London contribute to the Ripper murders?

His answer, basically, was that all of it played a role. And to an extent, this is true of everything. Without putting any more weight on one thing over the other, the society that has produced the ability for us to land a spacecraft on a motherfucking comet is the same society that has made Kim Kardashian’s butt a piece of relevant news. Who knows, if we removed one element, if we would still have the other? Could space travel still be a thing without Kim Kardashian’s butt? Could the forces that brought us her butt have been inextricably linked with the forces that have allowed us to travel into the stars? At the very least, we must say that no spacecraft ever landed on a comet before this picture of Kim Kardashian’s butt.

The answer is almost certainly yes. So behold, at the other end of this link, the very NSFW butt that has allowed us to escape bonds of gravity and make our way, with no help from Bruce Willis, onto the natural phenomena that our ancestors once believed to be omens of great upheaval and change. What wonders, what upheaval, what change, will Kim Kardashian’s butt bring us tomorrow?

Photo courtesy of Chris Wall