Sunday, December 11, 2011

OPF (Original Pompous Fan)

Bill Hicks famously said: You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever.

When I was a young lad, green and pretentious, I seconded that notion. I thought: How dare Pete Townsend sell his songs for use in commercials?

Now that I’m older, I see that it is not so simple. Making money from music is a very rare thing (and getting rarer by the hour). Ever notice how few musicians DON’T have stories of embarrassment and disgrace? Ever wonder why so few bands are able to wear that stamp of so-called “integrity?”

When you’re one of those precious few like Springsteen who crashed the 1% party by selling albums and going on tour, you can pick your spots and “keep it real.” You can say no to commercials, no to scene-ruining cameos in movies, no to inhumane duets with younger, hipper acts. But remember, the Springsteen elite is a very tiny elite. Even lots of popular acts don’t get rich from their music due to unprofitable deals with their managers and labels.

Those acts that aren’t part of that precious elite have to find other ways to make money. The fact that you’ve chosen to be “an artist” doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your bills. Your landlord doesn’t care about your legacy.

This leaves you with two choices:

1) Try to make a living by touring long after your voice and body has given out, leaving your fans with the memory of the rickety, expired version of you trying to make some coin by flailing through the hits.

2) License your song for a Land Rover commercial.

At least when you let your songs become jingles, you’re not disappointing your fans in a direct, visceral way by subjecting them to a live show that could be mistaken for an open casket wake. Selling your songs for commercials is a much more passive (and dignified) way to disappoint.

Some might say: why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us? C’mon, you know better than that. What kind of job do you suddenly get when you stop being a full-time punk bassist at 38? What special skills do you list on your resume? Faking a British accent? Drilling Frankenstein Monster knobs into your neck? People with real resumes can’t even get jobs these days. I doubt prospective employers are going to be excited about your second stage blowout at Lollapalooza ‘97.

Next time you’re ready to mount your high horse about bands embarrassing themselves with commercials, THINK OF ALL THE EMBARRASSING THINGS YOU DO FOR MONEY IN YOUR JOB. Is selling a song to Suburu any worse than watching an HR sensitivity video and taking a multiple choice test about it afterwards? Is it worse than fetching coffee for a guy who misquotes Office Space without realizing it is about him?

You’re telling me you wouldn’t appear as a chipper chirping chicken in a KFC ad if it meant never having to see your boss again? Of course you would. Pete Townsend doesn’t even have to play a chicken. All he has to do to rake in the cash is let “Happy Jack” play while some thespian bites on a burger in a Jack in the Box ad. If you can’t understand why he might say yes to that…I CAN’T EXPLAIN it you…(yuck, yuck, yuck).

P.S. It probably isn’t a coincidence that the black and white, NO COMMERCIALS MAN! rant usually comes from young people. Young people usually don’t have grown-up bills. They usually don’t have kids. They usually don’t have mortgages (or even rent payments). They usually don’t have a body that cries out for pricey medical attention. When you’re 23, your only medical bill is that once every three years dentist appointment you make to get your girlfriend to shut up. It is easy to be pretentious about the tug-of-war between art and money when your problems fit in an Altoids box.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Heckled by a Prostitute

Once upon a time I was in Amsterdam, and like any sane man, I found my way to the Red Light District. Any guy who sneers at the Red Light District is a disingenuous sack of novelty dog plop (not even good enough to be the real thing). Even the ones who go there "for a laugh" are clearly being titillated in some way. It's not like they're just there to see another canal.

The Red Light District is a legal sex buffet where a bunch of attractive, half naked chicks stand around waiting to service you. Don't pretend that's not exciting. Next these guys will be telling us they go to Bourbon Street for the hush puppies...

So I journeyed to the RLD, but was undecided about what I was going to do. Of course I wanted to partake, but wasn't sure I could actually go through with it. Also, being a comedian, I identify with prostitutes. An open mic is only a hair away from open legs. Hookers should be asking me how I got trapped in that life.

As soon as I made my first turn down the Red Light, I was given the hard sell by a woman who looked like a slutty Famke Janssen (Bond Girl from Goldeneye). She was all smiles, and as I walked by, she opened the glass door they stand behind and said, "F*ck and suck. 50 euros. All the positions. I f*ck you good."

Much more appealing than the pitches I get from credit card companies.

I desperately wanted to accept, but sadly, couldn't muster the courage. I even tried giving myself a pep talk, which I should have known wouldn't work. If you're about to punch someone, you can always psych yourself up by shadowboxing. But when you're standing in the middle of the road shadowjerking, it typically doesn't end well.

I continued to browse the scene, but didn't find any girls as sexy as the one who cold called me. In fact, I probably passed her seven or eight times while making the rounds.

Two doors down from the Bond Girl (the doors are very close together) was a glamorous looking chick who was tall, dark, and handsome. Hot, but about three inches too tall for my indefensibly diminutive frame. She rapped her window at me a few times, but never said anything.

That is until I made maybe my eighth trip past. Mind you, I hadn't even made eye contact with her since my first glance, so I was quite shocked to hear a sultry, exotic voice say, "Hey, I ask you question."

I turned around and the woman shouted: "You. Come here!"

I am used to hot chicks aggressively soliciting me for sex, but they usually aren't already in their underwear. The Too Tall Chick continued:

Her: I ask you, why you walk by every two minutes? (It wasn't THAT frequently, but yeah, fair question)

Me: I'm a tourist.

Her: But I show you something.

Me: No, I don't think so.

Her: But I show you something.

Me: (Dying to say yes) No, sorry.

Her: But I show you something. (Hopefully where to find my manhood, which had obviously gone missing)

Me: No, just looking.

Her: Then go on back to your hotel, man! If you're tired, go back to your hotel!

As she said that, the slutty Famke Janssen who first approached me banged on her glass and yelled, "Yeah, go back to your hotel!"

And with that, they both threw their heads back in laughter.

Inexplicably, I still couldn't find the strength to have sex with them.

Even more inexplicably, I couldn't find the strength to throw myself in the canal.




Put on the Red Tweet! Put on the Red Tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Friday, November 25, 2011

No PC, No iPhone, No Service

For a long time, not having a television was seen as a sign of intelligence and sophistication. We’ve all known that scarf-draped prick that can’t wait to tell you he doesn’t own a TV (and he probably says “idiot box” like he invented the term).

In its early days, TV had to battle with the movies for respect. Then, maybe starting with The Sopranos, many shows became more cinematic (a more “respectable” medium), and TV finally seemed to lose some of its stigma...just in time for the Internet to come along and dilute television’s newfound relevance.

In my estimation, the Internet never suffered the kind of smirch that befell television. Why not?

Maybe because the Internet was announced as the important sounding “information superhighway,” whereas television was just another entertainment tool (just consider the tone of the nicknames: “information superhighway” vs. ”boob-tube” and “idiot box”).

Maybe because the Internet was something you had to tinker with to operate (meaning you needed some know-how to experience it), whereas early televisions were just something you plugged in like a radio (in the days before television, did folks without radios fancy themselves superior?)

Which brings us to today. Today, not having a TV is still viewed as a sign of intelligence. Not having the Internet (and its associated devices) is seen as a sign of being backward, even though everyone with the Internet complains it is a cesspool of porn and misinformation (and ironically, pirated shows from the boob-tube). While it has had its detractors, most of them are seen as dinosaurs, and the Internet very quickly shook off any stigma it might have had; unlike television, which took decades to attain any degree of respectability. You might say the rapidity of the ‘net’s rise to respectability is a sign of the frenzied pace of the Internet Age.

I’m Andy Rooney, for The Interesting Times Herald.



Follow me on Twitter, the new idiot box: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Last Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving week, so people are taking their seasonal interest in the homeless. Despite all the focus the homeless receive this time of year, all they end up receiving is one meal (on Thanksgiving). But the people who serve them that one meal act like it is the answer to all of their problems.

Homeless Guy: I have a big festering wound.

Soup Kitchen Guy: Pour some gravy on it!

Homeless Guy: My baby needs insulin.

Soup Kitchen Guy: Hope she likes taters!

And if one of the homeless should ask for some change while he is being served, suddenly it becomes like any other day of the year...

Homeless: Hey, can I get a dime?

Soup Kitchen Guy: Lazy bum, get a job. More stuffing?


Buck the trend and give some of your Black Friday slush fund to the homeless.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Empty money clips are the new black

For the last several years, hipsters have been slumming it fashion-wise; dressing like truckers, carpenters...very faux blue collar (ironic given their obsession with "calling out" scary blue-collar hill-people who live nowhere near them. Perhaps this is part of the overall irony package?).

Now that the banks are collapsing, you have to wonder: are hipsters going to start dressing like laid off investment bankers? Are we going to walk in The Gap and see tattered pin-striped suits with the pockets turned inside out?

Coming soon, the perfect accessory for fall…and winter…and spring…and summer: The Skinny Wallet!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I HATE MYSELF FOR BIRTHING YOU

Self-hate is a big problem for many people; so much so that the topic is now very much out in the open. What I find strange is when someone who struggles with self-hatred tries to remedy it by having children. Because what are your children? They’re just more of you. If you hate yourself, having kids is just expanding the problem.

My self-hatred is the reason I don’t want kids. The last thing I want is another me riding sidecar for 18 years.

If you hate yourself, there is a decent chance you hate your parents too. What better way to show your distaste for mom and dad then to discontinue your lineage. Refusing to procreate is a far deeper criticism of your parents than quitting law school to start a punk band.

Think about it; going childless means you are JUST SAYING NO to your bloodline. Picture all the folks who preceded you in your ancestry…people who battled through war, famine, floods, disease, poverty…all to help make you who you are. Telling them all “thanks for nothing” is more rebellious than an army of middle fingers (Army of Middle Fingers...not a bad name for that punk band).



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Saturday, November 5, 2011

THINK DIFFERENT, but act the same

Since Steve Jobs' death, there has been ample talk about his eccentricities and whether he was a "nice" guy.

Why is anyone surprised when someone who thinks in nontraditional ways behaves in nontraditional ways? He didn't get where he was by thinking like everyone else, so why should anyone expect him to act like everyone else?

Did you seriously expect Jobs to do exactly what everyone else does--overpay to attend an fourth-rate out-of-state college (thus gaining the debt of a brand name education without the brand name education), stay too long with his college sweetheart because he'd heard others say they regretted not marrying their college sweethearts, settle into a stultifying administrative job with a long title and a short salary, work to put enough cash away to qualify for a house he couldn't afford in a neighborhood he didn't like because it's "what you do," then one day just choose to start thinking out of the box? I don't think that's how it works. Rare is the individual who makes 30 years of mouse decisions and then one day wakes up a lion. Deep inspiration isn't a 9-to-5 task accomplished with 9-to-5 methods.

The hero-anointing masses often wish to believe their heroes are just like them. This is part of the reason biographies sometimes trigger such outcry. For instance, many sports fans couldn’t fathom that Michael Jordan, a man who maintained his lust for domination long after he’d become hugely rich and dominant, was a fanatical, pitiless competitor. For Jordan, there was an I in team, the same I that is in M-I-chael. That is part of what it takes to still care about winning after you have accomplished enough feats to last 23 lifetimes. Sorry if that makes you feel dirty about wearing his shoes. Ironically, if MJ lacked that unfaltering need for trophies, you wouldn't want to wear his shoes in the first place.

Also, famed innovators like Mr. Jobs are the folks the masses want to know more about, so it is inevitable that every nook and cranny of their personalities ends up under a microscope. The clerks who work in Apple stores have quirks too, but no one cares enough about them to chronicle their oddities.

None of this is to suggest that Mr. Jobs totally ignored the herds. He needed those herds to believe iPhones were in short supply so that they would rush out to buy them at full price. He then needed the rest of the herd to watch that first herd's antics so that they could rush out to copy them. And so on. Innovators and herds play cat-and-mouse. Or maybe it should be called lion-and-mouse.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I know why the married man leers

There is a common perception that married men are more respectful and respectable than single men. More polite. More courteous towards women. Having been around lots of married guys and having seen a few friends make the switch from bachelorhood to husbanddom, I respectfully disagree (which I wouldn't be able to pull off if I were married).

The most shocking and lecherous comments I have witnessed have come from the mouths of married men. This may seem counterintuitive. Isn’t marriage supposed to civilize the male libido?

I believe married men are more openly perverse because they don’t have to play the role of the merry, non-threatening guy women might like to go home with. Single men on the other hand are still on the prowl, so in order to seduce women they must carry themselves with a little more decorum. If you’re actively trying to pick up a gal, you can’t open by saying, “I want to bang you ‘til your hips break.”

Married men are (usually) out of the hunt, so they don’t have to pretend to be decent chaps, hence their tendency to ogle and grope.

Also, as every married man complains, once you leave the chapel, the sex you and your lady once had stays behind in said chapel. So being lecherous becomes your primary means of sexual expression.

But aren’t a lot of single guys equally celibate? Ja, si, and yes, but when you’re a single man, at least in your head there is always the possibility of sex. You don’t feel so cut off from the world of carnal release. Married guys get married thinking it is the best way to secure consistent sex, only to discover they’ve walled off their sexual options for nothing. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that sexual claustrophobia seldom leads to gentlemanly behavior.




Single or married, my tweets are golden: http://twitter.com/#​!/greatMikePayne

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Prenup, No Peace

Males, I am about to give you the most important retirement tip you will ever receive. Do not get married without a prenup. Ever. I'll say it again for the guys who like to feel strong and old-fashioned: Do not ever get married without a prenup.

I don't care if you are both on welfare. If you get divorced, she'll walk away with all your government cheese.

Even the male feminists who spend 23 hours a day regretting their testicles are vaguely aware that the alimony system is rigged against them. What they may not understand is why.

Alimony originated before women were routinely part of the workforce, so the system developed to subsidize women who wouldn't otherwise have an income. Of course that has changed, but the courts haven't caught up with the times. In fact, the alimony system has merely worsened as part of the overall American trend toward excessive, predatory litigation.

Now our old-fashioned friend Johnny Broad Shoulders is asking himself: "What does this have to do with me?"

Well Jonathan, you too are likely to end up divorced.

The divorce rate in America for first marriages isn't far from 50%, and statistically, that is your best shot at getting it right. After the first flop, each subsequent knot-tie becomes more and more precarious. Hear that gambling fiends? Next time a friend makes his second stumble down the aisle, blaze a trail to the nearest bookie and bet the farm on a nasty split. It is the surest bet you will ever make.

Now Johnny B. is muttering aloud: "Okay, so divorce is the rule, not the exception, and courts punish men disproportionately, but how does this fit into my retirement portfolio?"

Here's how. The days of traditional retirement are over. Social Security? CANNOT BE FIXED. Private sector pension plans? Might make a comeback about the same time as the Studebaker. Dollar-denominated assets? There’s a reason four of the faces on our currency are also on the side of a cliff.

In other words, the traditional paths to retirement have been pulverized, and there is no turning back the clock. What that means is the only form of retirement you can hope for is one financed by a nest egg of your own device.

Establishing that nest egg is becoming harder, as people are living longer and are therefore in need of a larger cash pool to pull them through their lengthened winter years. So Johnny Broad, when you hit 65 and are thinking it might be nice to cease being an Excel slave, you're going to need a fat pile of completely self-generated capital to undo the spreadsheet shackles. And guess what: if you have to start from scratch at 42 because the former Mrs. Broad Shoulders defoliated your bank account, YOU AREN'T GOING TO MAKE IT. YOU WILL WORK UNTIL YOU DIE. Any tax savings accrued from being married will be more than plundered by the long hard march through divorce.

Now J.B. Shoulders, Jr. thinks it over and says: "But isn't asking her to sign a prenup a signal I don't think it's going to last?"

Her not signing a prenup is a signal she doesn't think it is going to last. If she is so convinced you two are forever, why should she be gun-shy about signing something she'll never have to use? All you are doing is documenting that the marriage is based on love, not money, which is a true sign of romance. Get on one knee and have her sign it with a platinum pen.

Think it through, gentlemen. Is it worth losing most of your assets because some chick hates you for not transforming her into a fairy princess? Is it acceptable to work until you're 110 so your mom can see you in a tux for a few hours? Besides, men only get married for the sex, so what alimony amounts to is a tax on the male sex drive (yet another slap in the face to the Founding Fathers).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Sallie Mae

I find it funny that one of the most recited Occupy Wall Street demands is that all student loan debt should be forgiven. So basically, these anti-bailout protesters are demanding a bailout.

I don't want to bail out the banks either, but I also don't want to bail out some guy who majored in Origami History. Oh, you mean that folding paper thing didn't lead to six figures? Guess you focused on the wrong kind of paper shuffling...




Occupy Main Street via my tweets: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Anti-Bunker Mentality

We have all seen pictures of those Cold War bomb shelters, the nuclear fallout bunkers Americans were at least tacitly encouraged to have. Back then, bunker-folk were excused (commended?) for preparing intensely for disaster, because the disaster they were trying to protect themselves against was a threat from a foreign, authoritarian government (the Soviet Union).

Today, engaging in bunker-like preparations--stocking up on food, gold, and other supplies—gets you ridiculed as a paranoid kook…despite the fact that previously unthinkable disasters are occurring all around us. Multiple DEVELOPED WORLD governments are on the brink of collapse. Multiple “democratic” countries have people screaming in the streets. And when those "progressive," "economically advanced" governments go, they’re going to take multiple big banks down with them. But wait, there’s more: The US government is killing American citizens in plain view without due process. And with all that madness happening we’re supposed to mock someone for buying canned food?

The main difference between the bunker-folk of yesteryear and those of today: today’s bunker-builders are attempting to shield themselves against the failures and aggressions of supposedly “democratic” governments (including the USA). That is something worshippers of the modern nanny state just can’t stomach.



Stock up on my tweets: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Fortunate Departed

Whenever someone dies, observers go to great lengths to assure everyone "He's in a better place." Even the non-religious will offer statements like "Now the pain is over." So in effect they are saying the deceased is better off dead.

AND YET...had that guy killed himself rather than wait for nature to take its course, those same observers would have stood around shaking their heads saying, "Why did he do it? Why did he do it?!"

Even as they acknowledge that the corpse is better off as a corpse, most people still can't fathom the idea of inflicting your own death. They can't fathom that someone would purposefully trigger the pain-relieving oblivion they acknowledge is for the best. If you concede that someone is better off dead, why are you shocked by the thought of that person AGREEING WITH YOU so wholeheartedly that he takes his own life?

I guess this explains why there are so few entrepreneurs in the world. Too few people understand the real value of DIY. They wait around for everything, including death, to come to them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why we keep going back to dystopian futures

Today I read an article in Wired about H.G. Wells and why "we keep coming back" to his dystopian visions. Putting aside the possibility that maybe his dystopian fiction was simply more compelling than his utopian fiction, let's remember why fiction exists in the first place...

Fiction is often called escapism, as in an escape from reality. No one tries to escape a world they like. Contentment doesn't lead to fiction being written or read. And if you hate the world as it is and want to see it wrecked, it isn't hard to see why dystopian fiction would appeal to you.

But couldn't this disposition also drive you to utopian fiction? Of course. But remember, when you're miserable, you don't necessarily want to dream of a better tomorrow. Much more satisfying to see everything destroyed so you can say "I told you so!" (H.G. Wells' epitaph: "I told you so, you damned fools.") Truly miserable people don't want a utopia that is going to deliver the whole human race, morons included. Utopia isn't any fun if your enemies get to enjoy it too.

And as the article points out, the darkest philosophical elements of Wells' visions are left out of the movies. The adaptations allude to these elements in the broadest sense, if at all. So perhaps we just keep "going back" because novels like War of the Worlds (dystopian or not) have become brand names that instantly get our attention. I would bet a big swath of the War of the Worlds film audience found Independence Day similarly entertaining.




The Tweets of the Gods can be found at http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Thursday, October 6, 2011

If you care about someone, never say "CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS?"

The other day a woman gave me the old “Let’s be friends” kiss off. Why do people still bother with the "friendship" alibi? Neither of us got into this looking for a friend. We got into this looking for romance, so why bother pretending either of us actually thinks friendship is a suitable compromise? It's not like we met on okpenpals.com.

Besides, I've already carved her name across my chest. We can't go back to being text buddies.

Instead of wasting time on the "Let's be friends" charade, why can’t people just say: "Nice meeting you, but there are other people I'd rather have sex with while I'm still hot enough to pull it off."

And believe me, she wouldn’t want to be my friend. I treat my friends like donated pillowcases. The only reason I was nice to her is because I wanted her to be my girlfriend. If she had been my friend, all that stuff I consoled her about would have had me rolling on the ground laughing.

Furthermore, she hasn't even met my friends. If she did, she'd quickly understand it isn't a club she'd want to be in.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Best Part of Waking Up

Insomnia has been with me from the start. As a kid, I was always the last one awake during sleepovers. [How awkward is that? One minute you're having an exciting conversation in the dark and the next you're alone in the gloom talking to yourself...perfect training for blogging...] I traded youthful rosy cheeks for chilly raccoon eyes.

As someone with insomnia, I detested mornings, and although I didn't go around saying "I'm not a morning person," I sympathized with those who did.

These days I prefer mornings. Morning is better because there is plenty of casual disorder to distract you from your angst. You're jumping out of bed, you're hitting the shower, you're shaving, you're brushing your teeth, you're searching for your iPhone, you're cursing your wife for living to see another day. Hardly a second to reflect on your failures.

"I'm not a morning person" is something people declare proudly. You rarely hear "I'm not an evening person." Puzzling when you consider how many songs, paintings, and stories there are about the oppressive texture of the night (including quite direct ones like "Help Me Make It Through the Night". There aren't many songs pleading, "Help Me Make It Through the Morning".

And you certainly aren't likely to hear a reference to the promise of the morning. As long as there is light there is day, and with that there is still hope of accomplishing something, and morning is where it all begins. Once night settles in, the race is over.

As evening comes the sadness of a day of letdowns wiggles in like a slug. Evening is the end of the light. Morning is the light at the end of the tunnel. I'll raise my morning cup of coffee to that.




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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pimpin' Ain't Constitutional

Governments are sometimes compared to prostitutes. I find the pimp analogy more fitting.

Like pimps, governments offer you "protection," yet constantly beat the hell out of you. And like pimps, governments take a giant cut of your income in exchange for this "protection."

Like pimps, governments batter and bruise you into forming a sick love for them, a twisted, Stockholm-syndrome-like sympathy for them that they expect you to demonstrate again and again. And like pimps, if you dare question why you should love your government, you just get hit harder.

I'm not suggesting there aren't similarities between prostitutes and governments. Both sell fantasies. But hiring a prostitute is a voluntary act. Governments force themselves on you. And prostitutes are gone the second the transaction is over. Governments never leave you alone.

If prostitutes took the government approach, instead of "Love you long time" you'd hear:

You are going to have sex with me, and you're going to pay a price that is way above what the market would charge for it. And you're going to pay for everyone else in the neighborhood to have sex with me. And if I want to I'll draft you to go shutdown competing brothels. And those diseases I'm going to give you...they're your problem.

What, you're not happy with this arrangement? Don't you know there are millions of people all over the world who would love to live under a whore as nice as me?




Watch me keep my pimp hand strong: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to prevent bad suicide prevention

When an adult expresses depressed or suicidal sentiments, a common reply is: “But look at what you have; a roof over your head, food in the fridge. Millions of people would love to switch places with you.”

This is a sub-useless response. Let’s talk it out:

So SUICIDE GUY has all his material needs met, putting him in a much better position than many others, yet despite this he is still stricken with a sadness profound enough to cancel his self-preservation instinct...soooo how is this an argument for his continuing to live? If having everything he needs to survive in the face of widespread famine and squalor ain’t enough to shock him into life-loving gratitude, what else could he reasonably expect will enter his life to make him feel better? And what happens if SUICIDE GUY loses that roof and well-stocked fridge? And since when does a guilt trip make someone feel better about himself?

When a teen expresses depressed or suicidal sentiments, a common reply is: “C’mon, these are the best years of your life.”

Hard to imagine a more pro-suicide retort. If these are the best years of DEPRESSED TEEN’s life, and these years have left him suicidal, how is that an incentive to keep living? Effectively what you’re saying is: These years that have driven you to consider self-murder are the best you’ll ever have, and when they end in a few short years, according to the stats you’re looking at at least 60 more years that will make you nostalgic for this period that has given you a deathwish.

I’m not a medical professional, but it seems to me that if you encounter someone who is depressed/suicidal, it is best to leave these canned answers on the shelf. They actually strengthen the suicide's case.



All is not lost if you follow me Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Monetary History of the European Union

When the smoke clears, here is what the “World Is Flat” droids will say about the failed European experiment…

It will be said that the European Union fell apart because we didn't have enough "political integration." That is, we had monetary union without fiscal union. In other words, this grand experiment in democracy failed because the individual nations had too much democracy.

They will blame Trichet for not easing soon enough or for not printing enough money. The collective wisdom will be that he made the same "mistakes" (insufficient money printing) the Fed made in the 1930s. They will say he gave in to the inflation hawks. They will blame Germany’s “irrational” memory of the Weimar hyperinflation for preventing Trichet from becoming Helicopter Trichet (should the Reichsbank President who oversaw that hyperinflation be nicknamed Dirigible Havenstein?).

Ireland, one of the darlings of the European experiment, is now among its worst off. That "Celtic Tiger" is now a paper tiger, paper as in debt. It has incurred unconscionable liabilities because it jumped headfirst into the modern blarney of “growth” through skyhigh leverage. Remember, modern economies run on paper shuffling and asset bubbles, and anyone who questions this just doesn’t “get it.” Well, those who expected to be made whole on Irish debt aren’t going to “get it” either.

For all their worship of progress through psychiatry, one thing these brain trusters don’t do is self-actualize.

The world is round. Greece isn't Germany. Technocratic global democracy is a scam.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shakespeare: Pompous Scribbler or Badass Editor?

Shakespeare is sometimes rejected by readers for being too flowery. Ironic, considering that the wide dispersion of his phrases saves us bundles of words whenever we use them.

It is often highlighted how embedded in our language the Bard's writings are. His words have become household words. Even the term "household words" comes from Shakespeare (Henry The Fifth). But using his lines shouldn't make you feel pretentious. His lines are often the shortest distance between two points.

Instead of saying, "Whatever he is feeling is obvious by the way he looks," you can say "He wears his heart on his sleeve" (Othello). 4 words saved.

Instead of: "Just because something looks good doesn't mean it is," you can say, "All that glitters is not gold" (The Merchant of Venice). 6 words saved.

Instead of: "The one guy I thought was on my side...he stabbed me in the back too! " you can say "Et tu, Brute?"(The Tragedy of Julius Caesar). 13 words saved.

You not only save words by quoting Willie Shakes; you do it with a veneer of refinement.

Too bad so many shy away from Shakespeare unabridged. The Bard was the ultimate abridger!




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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Atlas the Shrug

CEO performance is typically judged by the price of his company’s stock. Before the crisis, it was much easier to look capable or even “visionary” thanks to all those incessant (though nominal) new stock market highs. The broader market was papering over A LOT of executives' flaws.

Now with stocks dropping and stock juicing measures failing across the board, many of those “brilliant idea men,” who were praised for overpaying to acquire companies they didn’t understand, are set to be exposed. Turnover is bound to accelerate at the CEO level too.

Too many of these guys carry themselves like Kardashians in suspenders, so it will be nice to see the CEO-celeb bubble burst a bit. I have heard enough of their painfully generic statements about “looking global” while “keeping an eye on local trends.” I don't need to hear about how he learned his most important business lesson when he forget to wear sunblock on his first day selling peanuts at NOSTALGIA-EVOKING BALLPARK THAT NO LONGER EXISTS. Oh, and did you know that although his title says William he makes sure everyone calls him Bill? What else would you expect from this “CEO next door?”

Meanwhile this shareholder value wrecking machine has a mistress for every letter of the alphabet and would be 99% helpless without his Chief Risk Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Financial Officer (who only get to be famous when they screw up).

A lot of CEO reputations are going to plummet in tandem with their stock price, leaving them to pound the pavement like the rest of us. Regular jobseekers look for jobs on sites like careerbuilder.com. Where do useless “visionaries” with no detectable skill look for work? Companydestroyer.org?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

EVERYONE IS MICROMANAGED!!! Or are they?

Every man, woman, and child complains that his boss is a micromanager. If we were to take this at face value, we would have to believe that every single corporate authority figure is a bitchy Sasquatch with a sawed-off Blackberry. It is not that unambiguous.

As someone who has been micromanaged, I sympathize with the anguish it causes, but listening to people’s huffy homilies about micromanaging bosses is like listening to their huffy homilies about bad drivers. Everyone claims every driver but them is an incompetent maniac. Not true. Driving is an activity that begs for catastrophe, yet accidents are infrequent. It is simply not the case that every driver but you is unable to differentiate between the gas pedal and the brake.

It is more probable that many folks define themselves as great drivers and therefore must claim everyone who isn’t them is so useless behind the wheel they couldn’t even crash a bumper car. Just as it is impossible that every driver but you is a menace, it is impossible for every single boss to be a psychopathic micromanager. I don’t doubt that micromanaging is widespread, but I don’t think it happens to the extent the anecdotal reporting would indicate.

Here are some of what I think are the nuances of the micromanagement phenomenon:

Most people work in close quarters now; offices ("cubicle farms"). This means when you’re ordered to do something, it is right up close, so your sheer proximity to the order-giver makes you feel more micromanaged.

It also used to be much easier to fire people. When it was more of a “My way or the highway” world, you only had to tell someone to do something once, because if he didn’t comply, you could can him. Now that employees have much more leeway, you have to nag them to get them to perform their duties, which of course is interpreted as micromanagement.

And unlike the days when many people worked in factories and fields, today it is less obvious who is in charge. When you’re the team leader of an office as opposed to a factory foreman, it is less apparent what purpose you serve, so you must show yourself to be conspicuously in charge, which leads to constant authority-asserting emails and 386 word mission statements with 2 words of actual meaning.

Also, you can now send someone a command from anywhere. Before smartphones, if you were physically away from your computer, you couldn’t send or receive email. Neither could your boss. So if he went to lunch, no commands were issued for at least 30 minutes. If you went to lunch, no commands were received for at least 30 minutes. What this means is that in the old days, an email sent at 12:02 wasn’t read until you returned to your desk at 12:30. Now that 12:02 email reaches you while you’re on line at Chipotle, prompting you to scream: “Doesn’t he know I’m at lunch?!” Pre-smartphone or post, that email was sent at 12:02, but now that it reaches you wherever you are, it makes you feel he’s all over you.

Leaving aside technology, the old axiom still holds: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Every person thinks his way is the right way. If you’re a boss, your subordinates are never going to be exact clones of you, which means you will never get them to do things exactly as you would, which in your mind is the right way. So because they’re not you, in your mind everything they do is at least a little wrong, causing you to keep trying to correct them (it is after all your job to mold them to do things “right”). Hence micromanaging.

And because you the subordinate also think you know how everything should be done, you resent receiving any instruction on a task, because you believe you innately know the best method for the task (again, if you want something done right...). So any degree of instruction is going to make you feel micromanaged.

What is happening is the mechanisms required to be a boss in the modern white-collar world are colliding with the innate sense people have always had that they know best how to do things. I guess all we can do is update some old worker angst songs: “You load 16 GBs, whadda ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”




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Thursday, September 15, 2011

More phrases that need to be retired

Feel free to stop saying the following:

I didn’t ask to be born.

Actually, you kinda did. Who else made that frenzied journey to fertilize the egg? It wasn't your guidance counselor. Perhaps you weren’t classically sentient, but you certainly participated. You begged to be born, struggled for it even. Out of millions of sperm, you were the one that jumpstarted the egg. You succeeded in spite of the odds, something you probably haven’t done since.

And lest you think being a mere sperm lets you off the hook, remember: you were a part of your father before you became your own being, so you were part of the being who choose to engage in the procreationary behavior that originated your counterproductive existence. So at the very least you were an accessory to the crime.

The 70s were the golden age of porn.

This is one instance where the oldies were not goodies. 70s porn featured convoluted plots, bushes thick enough to be chastity belts, and sex so tame it is just a notch above abstinence. Nowadays all you have to do to see anatomic degeneracy is slow down a Disney film. I'll take a pass on "Debbie Sort Of Moans While Pretending To Do Dallas".

If women ran the world…

Recently named most flawed premise of all time by Car and Driver, the statement if women ran the world is usually followed by: “There'd be no war! There'd be no poverty!”

Putting aside the bloodthirsty horseplay of H. Clinton, C. Rice, and M. Albright, why don't we cut to the group most young grrrls cite as their heroes: The Amazons.

The Amazon women were so preoccupied with warmaking they chopped off their right breasts to enable arrow shooting and spear throwing (even Amazons knew that girls throw like girls). Their turn-ons included ritually slaughtering male children. Yet the same grrrls who tout matriarchies as the cure for Earth's troubles cling to these brutes like trophy wives at a Hollywood premiere.

So yes all you difference makers, things would be different if women ran the world...chicks would be barefoot and pregnant in the War Room.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Real Men Talk Behind People's Backs

Why is it considered a good thing to SAY IT TO SOMEONE'S FACE? People typically applaud non-violent conflict resolution, yet "saying it to someone's face," an action that greatly increases the odds of the conflict/disagreement becoming violent, is commended.

Talking behind people's backs is something we all do. We dislike many of the sorry bipeds we’re forced to compete with for attention and sustenance, and practical living doesn’t permit us to freely voice our thoughts on everyone else to everyone else. But the thoughts remain. So sometimes we engage in gossip. Sometimes that gossip evolves into outright badmouthing. We all say we hate it, but we always listen in (guiltily or not). What else is fiction but gossip about imaginary people? What else is reality TV but gossip with fancy editing?

Talking behind people’s backs releases steam and actually prevents a lot of simmering grudges from becoming five alarm fistfights. But we're told it is better to say it to someone's face. We're fed the message that it is wrong to engage in violence, but that it is right to behave in ways that lead to violence.

The behind-the-back smearers are usually not the ones who provoke altercations. It’s the bull in a China shop, I’LL SAY IT TO HIS FACE!-types who bring matters to a head. Every office, every medical staff, every platoon is loaded with covert mudslinging, yet most of these entities function in spite of it. Relations typically only break down when someone makes the “laudable” decision to say something to someone’s face.

And saying it to someone's face doesn't have to lead to violence to cause incurable damage. Verbal confrontations can permanently alter the chemistry of a team. Worse, actually hearing what someone else thinks of you can corrupt your confidence in ways from which it can't recover. On the whole, it is far more considerate to badmouth someone behind his back. If you can't say anything nice, say it when your target is out of the room.



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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Backhands and Compliments

Whenever a player is interviewed on-court at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the first sentence usually goes a little like this:

So great to be here in New York!

or

Really love it here in New York!

or

So happy to have the support of the fans here in New York!

And in the stands those big city cattle cowpie themselves each time New York is mentioned. Those jaded New Yorkers who have seen it all. Those wile New Yorkers you can't put anything past. Each time they fall for the oldest trick in the book; referencing the hometown.

No one does this kind of pandering at the other Grand Slams, which is weird when you consider that those tournaments also take place in grand locations.

The French Open is in Paris. The city of love. The city of lights. The city where newlyweds go to put a bow on their marriage. The city where oldieweds go looking for a way to tolerate each other for a few more years. The city where gals with terminal illness go to regret not running off with that waiter they thought loved them but who in reality forget their junk-riddled cabooses the second they left the cafe.

Paris is perhaps the most written about city on Earth, yet you never hear players say:

I really love playing on the red clay here is Paris! Red like my heart, 'cause I love this city!

Wimbledon--the most coveted Grand Slam--is in London. The home of the Crown. The nerve center of what not so long ago was the most far-reaching empire in human history. Sam Johnson once remarked that, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life." Can you imagine a Wimbledon player saying:

So happy to be here under these grimy gray skies in front of you sour snot fans. But hey, that's London for ya! (raises pint glass)

You may laugh at these examples, but are they that much more ridiculous than the spectacle of watching players who travel the world beg for the approval of fans in New York, many of whom are from out of town?

The Australian Open is held in Melbourne. Melbourne, the city of...well, three out of four ain't bad.

If players at the Australian Open bothered to reference Melbourne, it would be something like:

I hate Melbourne. You hate Melbourne. And if it weren't so far away from everywhere else we all know you'd leave.



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Monday, September 5, 2011

Pandora's Box

I was sitting in a hotel lobby, resting uncomfortably, when my eyes fell on a discarded newspaper. The article in view discussed the increasing popularity of surgical techniques aimed at “labia beautification.” You read that right. Labia beautification. Labiaplasty if you’re nasty.

These procedures were previously unknown to me, mainly because the caliber of woman I pull has no need for such improvements.

How did we reach a point where lacking labias became enough of an issue to spawn a labia-makeover racket? Excuse me while I put on my detective hat:

Before shaving/waxing became widespread, most women, and certainly most men, were unaware of how the female nether regions were supposed to look. I doubt even the randiest salon discussions delved into much detail. Then shaving became the norm for female porn stars, causing men to expect well-trimmed women, causing many women to start shaving; leaving them more exposed and more likely to evaluate themselves more closely; causing them to start fretting about the appearance of their naughty bits.

Say goodbye to sex-positivism and hello to gyno-irony! Turns out something designed to make you feel sexier can also give you something new to feel self-conscious about.

So-called repression is not necessarily a patriarchal-Christian-bourgeois-capitalist conspiracy to keep everyone unfulfilled. In fact, “repression” sometimes saves us from ourselves. No one ever achieves fulfillment or completion or contentment. They’re just carrots we dangle in front of ourselves; words to describe the unattainable state we’re all chasing. So the more things we leave unrepressed and out in the open, the more things there are for us to feel unfulfilled about. I doubt labia aesthetics were a major concern in the bad old days of repression. Now there are people paying shrinks and plastic surgeons thousands to help them with their labia dysmorphia (if that isn’t already a widely used term, it will be soon).

Given current trends, I see no reason why this should change. Repression doesn’t seem positioned to remerge, and better technology and smaller families (childbirth now exists mainly to provide edible afterbirth to drooling foodies) means Western women have more free time than ever to scrutinize every inch of themselves. Soon fallopian beautification will be just an app away.

A little bit of repression can go a long way. Just as some stones are best left unturned, perhaps some hairs are best left unplucked.



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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Two quick predictions: The media will be accused of overhyping Hurricane Irene (at least in NYC), and any soft patch in consumer spending/back-to-school sales will be blamed on Irene (overhyped or not).



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Friday, August 19, 2011

Why This Economic Dip Will Be Even Worse

Many financial commentators are assuring me that despite all the bad economic news, the US economy should not double-dip, and that we will not see a replay of 2008. I agree that it won't be a replay, because I think it is going to be worse.

A few reasons:

Last time the crisis was in the banks, who ultimately wound up getting backstopped by governments. Now those government "safe havens" are the cause of the crisis. Who is going to backstop the backstops?

Going into 2008, the decoupling story was still a bright spot for the bulls. Many thought that while the developed world might slow down, emerging markets like India, China, and Brazil were going to boom enough to keep the rest of the world sputtering along. Now India and China are dealing with serious inflation hazards, and EM stock markets like Brazil's are performing much worse than those in the developed world. Unless "To the moon, Alice" suddenly becomes a viable export model, there aren't going to be any markets frothy enough to tug the rest of the world into prosperity.

In 2008 there was still room for interest rate cuts, and central banks all sliced with abandon. Have you seen today's interest rates? There ain't much to cut.

What about "quantitative easing?" There may be less appetite for it now, but that doesn't mean central bankers are suddenly going to abandon their diet of counterproductive actions. We probably will see more QE measures, but all they will do is further stoke the corosive inflation that already has people wincing. That extra inflation will leave folks with even less money to spend on, well, anything.

And let's not ignore the psychological component. In 2008, many were caught flat-footed because events they had previously thought to be impossible (US home prices falling, major banks going under) happened again and again. 2008 wasn't that long ago, so those "impossible" shocks are still fresh in people's minds. Consequently, they will act much more urgently to avoid getting buried in the collateral damage of the impossible. This means capital will flee more rapidly at early signs of trouble, making the shockwaves even worse. This might explain why European stock markets have sold off so brutally at every fresh bearish peep out of Greece, Spain, and the like.

Perhaps it is time to coin a new investment phrase: The end is your friend!



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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gag me with a stress ball

I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely no interest in S&M. The way I see it: isn’t everyday life already painful enough? I don’t need bondage to be uncomfortable.

After I’m done going to work, doing my job, coming home from work, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, running errands, answering email…man, I just don’t have the energy to get whipped.

If I were to go to a dominatrix, I’d be like, “Please Madame, may I have a nap?”

Ironically, you have to be a go-getter to enjoy being put in restraints.



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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Why Obama Will Be Reelected

Things are looking woeful for Mr. Obama. The economy has people gagging. The country’s credit rating was just reduced to AA. Jimmy Carter references are in the air. So why don’t I think the President is vulnerable?

All a Republican candidate can bring to the table is the promise of fiscal austerity. Couldn’t be a worse time for such a platform. Unemployment is high. Do you really think a majority of voters is going to get psyched about someone they think might snip their unemployment benefits?

The insolvency of Social Security/Medicare is finally being examined openly. Seniors are a serious voting bloc. Do you honestly expect those cash-strapped seniors, who don’t have a job market to fall back on, to come out in force for someone promising to “make the tough choices” on entitlements?

Sure, the recent Republican momentum has been built on the promise of smaller government. Trying to make that translate at the Executive level is a quick campaign bus ride to defeat. It wasn’t even effective enough to lock up the Senate.

Yes you say, but the debt downgrade has made everyone aware that we need fiscal austerity. Won't that be attractive to voters? No. Since when are voters rational? These adjustments have been needed for decades, yet Americans have continued voting for promises that can't be kept. What is going to make them forward-thinking now? Nothing. It is not "different this time."

Of course government is out of control. It always is. That doesn’t mean small government is going to capture voters’ imaginations. The average voter has never heard of Henry Hazlitt. He isn’t familiar with the idea of the public sector crowding out the private one. Even if he is and is concerned about it, if he thinks he is one missed unemployment check away from the Grapes of Wrath, he isn’t going to buckle down and vote for the long term. In the worst job market since World War II, talk of “boot straps” and “rugged individualism” is going to nudge more than enough people to the blue side of the aisle.

The other usual Republican plank is foreign policy. The country isn’t too excited about war these days. Even the attempts to incite people against Iran are being drowned out by the horrible economic headlines. And now that America's banana republic budgets are being discussed around dinner tables across the nation, highlighting the cost of war is no longer taboo, so if it becomes a choice between someone promising to spend on war or someone promising to spend on Medicare, war guy loses. The only foreign bogeyman that might be suitable for tricking voters is China, because the China bogeyman would be easy to scapegoat for America's rotting economy. I don’t see the Republican nominee pushing that one too far however, because unlike Afghanistan or Iran, China can actually fight back.

You ask: Why couldn’t a Republican just run on a more “moderate” platform? Because if he did, then he would be too similar to Obama, so who would rally behind him? No one. “Moderate” Republicans fail every time. Romney, who inspires no one, is being groomed for the nomination. The American electoral system is a zero sum game where turnout is king, and no one stampedes to vote for centrists. Someone like Michele Bachmann might alienate more people, but she would at least generate a high turnout. The same can’t be said of Romney (am I the only one who thinks Mitt is doing a Frank Drebin impression?).

Speaking of turnout, in '08 the young went for Obama in a big way. They might be less gaga for him this time, but c'mon, are they suddenly going to become zealots for Romney?

Obviously, not one promise made by either candidate is going to be kept. That has nothing to do with this discussion. We’re talking about whose lies are going to be the most persuasive.

Someone might ask me, “Okay then, who are you going to vote for?”

I don’t believe in voting.

Oh no, don’t tell me you’re one of those people!

I feel the same way about you.



http://twitter.com/#!/greatmikepayne

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blind dating with my eyes open

I have started Internet dating again (back by popular demand). It continues to be a misadventure, mainly because the women I like spend the whole date planning their exit and the ones I don’t care about come back for more.

When it comes to first dates, it has reached the point where as soon as I start to like a woman, I have to repress grim chuckles, because I know in a few weeks I’m going to be walking down the street, my head tilted slightly, wondering how I bungled it…

Right now I am nursing one of those glum bits of reflection.

Recently I arranged a date I had a good feeling about, and by good I actually mean bad, because I kept thinking if I like this woman and it goes poorly…how am I going to pick myself up for the 10 millionth time?

Day-to-day I’m a sour, saggy guy, so perking up for first dates is a full cardio workout. First dates demand even more pizzazz than job interviews. You can't be a grouchy vegetable and expect another shot. This puts overwhelming pressure on a killjoy like me. Normally, if I smile more than five times in an evening, I have to go home and ice my cheeks.

When my date entered the bar, I couldn't keep from blurt laughing. I knew I was going to like her. I think I even muttered, “Not gonna go well.”

But it did go well, and I wound up liking her even more than I expected to. I could have spoken to her all night. And for my part, I was absolutely on fire. No crabbiness, no ill-timed sighs. Somehow I kept matching her crackling energy. I was fighting above my weight class, but I never clinched. I was like Billy Conn in his first 12 rounds against Joe Louis.

When we said goodnight, my first thought was, "That is as well as I will ever be able to sell myself. If that wasn’t enough, it just ain't gonna happen.”

Of course it wasn’t enough. She didn’t buy what I was selling. Not even the unusually upbeat and spicy version of me she was treated to was sufficiently intoxicating.

If I were younger, I could reassure myself by saying: "At least I know I gave it my best." Too bad I'm old enough to know better. It is far more comforting to fail when you didn't rise to the occasion, because then you have this trusty excuse: "If only I'd given it my best...it would have worked out."

When you deliver the goods and still flop, you are forced to endure the cruel fact that your best still wasn't good enough.

Another youthful rationalization is the classic line: "Hey, it's a learning experience!" Sorry, but after a while your failures stop bringing you new wisdom. No one ever erred their way into Mensa. “You mean I made exactly the wrong decision yet again? Cool, now I can take that job teaching particle physics.”

At some point you need some victories to round out your knowledge base.

Just as nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. Eventually compound interest takes over and every little misfire wounds you down to your marrow.

I have no further need for “learning experiences.” I have learned quite enough from failure. I have fallen on my face more times than a drunken kangaroo. I need some wins, because I am all out of rationalization juice.

I'm still here though, so I must have rationalized it somehow, right? Would you like to read that rationalization? You just did.



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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Funnyman in the Mirror

One sign of intelligence is being able to recognize your own image in a mirror. Dolphins' ability to recognize their own reflection is one reason they are considered one of the smarter human-inferiors.

On the Homo sapien front, having a sense of humor about yourself requires a certain knowledge of your own mannerisms, inflections, behaviors. Humorless people lack this knowledge. When a mirror (of sorts) is held up to them in the form of a joke, they do not recognize their own image.

So while having a sense of humor about yourself may not be associated with how intelligence is traditionally measured, if there is anything to "emotional intelligence," perhaps it has implications there. We'll get Oprah on the case.



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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Taking the hard line

I don't have to tell you that in recent years pharmaceutical companies have blessed the market with impotence drugs; Viagra, Cialis. In response to this, some have tried to sound smart by saying, "They cured impotence before they cured cancer? Definitely a world run by men!"

You know what else they cured before cancer? Polio. Yet I don't hear these "socially aware" suckers whining: "They cured polio before they cured cancer? Definitely a world run by people who want to keep walking."

Most importantly: men also get cancer. Most old guys wish their tumors were less erect.

How far are they going to take this? "They cured impotence before they cured death. Definitely a world run by people who don't want to live forever."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Will the Express Lanes Run Red?

I recently watched this clip of stampeding Black Friday shoppers. Its Armageddonish voiceover warns of the "complete madness of the populace of our lost society." The voiceover also laments the "wanton lustful commercialism" on display.

Timing is everything. Had the clip circulated pre-credit bust, the shoppers' madness would have been blamed on the fake wealth effect caused by easy credit. Because it circulated post-credit bust, the madness can instead be blamed on the hardship created by the bust and on the change in mentality--consumers' presumption of entitlement--created by the preceding credit boom. Not the first time such patterns have been dissected. Economic thinkers like Mises were analyzing them long before there were Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, or Buyer's Remorse Saturdays.

The voiceover says the avarice-adorned shoppers exhibit "No outrage over the bankers raping them."

Outrage abounded over the bailouts. There was a noisy campaign against them as they were occuring. Not surprisingly, that outrage made all the difference of earmuffs in a nuclear winter. The outraged were ignored and the bailouts prevailed. But the outrage was widespread and widely broadcast. Maybe some were too busy reading the Mayan calendar to notice.

People like to riot, in good times and bad. They riot at sporting events. They riot at concerts. They riot because they have no bread. They riot because they have too much bread. There were riots at the beginning of America, when government was slimmer. There will be riots at the end of America, when government gulps us whole. And with each riot in our history, there have been commentators warning us that the end is near. In a sense, they're right. The time period in which these commentators commentate and the sensibilities they define as "the present" are always nearing an end. Every era is fleeting. This is one of the inevitabilities of the Human Predicament, whether there are Festivus Day sales or not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Greatest Misses of the '80s...

All over America, people are going to '80s nights. Every restaurant and bar seems to have one. Surprisingly, people show up without having to be drafted.

They don't even play the good music from the '80s. Because that would mean playing the same three songs over and over. Let's be serious: Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran...these were dark days.

When you ask '80s nights fans why they go, they often say, "I grew up on that music, it's the music of my childhood...I grew up on it!"

You know what else you did growing up? You ate bugs and played in traffic. You stopped doing these things for a reason. No need to celebrate bad memories.

'80s nights should be more like group therapy sessions. Each night the DJ should stand up and say, "All right everyone, show us where Cyndi Lauper touched you!"




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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Look what the shrink dragged in

I have a lot to say about the psychiatry industry, but today I just don’t have the juice to say much of it (pass the Adderall). In the interests of conserving energy, I will say a little:

As traditional religion has been crowded out by self-help and psychotherapy, deep personal introspection is probably more talked about and accepted than ever. Many view this as a sign of progress. They think that more people asking themselves more questions will solve many of the problems of the past. Instead of seeking counsel from some superstitious religious figure, modern man will instead find long lasting peace through the cool, rational science of the psychiatrist.

All of this assumes that self-reflection is an unmitigated good. It isn’t. Not everyone has the constitution for reflection. Why? is the most remorseless question of them all. Asking why doesn’t always lead to progress and breakthroughs. Why? can just as easily lead one down the path to unrelenting nihilism.

Many just don’t have what it takes to be “self-aware” in the modern sense. Remember, Wile E. Coyote didn't plunge until he looked down. Many of us are better off running in mid-air for as long as we can.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hedging about hedges

When the press writes about gold buyers, they often include a subtle jab like, "Investors buy gold as a hedge against inflation and the collapse of civilization."

WTF?

Civilization doesn't have to collapse for an investor to make money in gold, any more than a country has to collapse for an investor to make money in credit default swaps. The direction of your bet just has to go in your favor. No one says you have to ride your investment all the way to Armageddon.

Example: If you bought gold at $800 and sold at $1,6000, you made a nice gain. Yet there is still food on the shelves, judges in the courts, and gasoline at the pumps. There are also no roving bandits motorcyling about.

Plenty of investors buy 30-year Treasuries. No one expects them all to actually hold them for the full 30 years. Not even close. It's a trade, not a buy and hold to infinity.

Gold is like insurance, and buying insurance is seen as prudent. Yet gold, man's longest running form of insurance, is often viewed as a foolhardy investment (in fairness to gold's critics, insurance buyers are rarely the harebrained Quasimodos you sometimes see buying gold).

Friday, July 15, 2011

CANON FODDER

Remember when you were in math class and would complain, "When are we ever going to use this?" Remember how adults would spaz out like you were asking a stupid question? Remember the last time you used any of that math? It was in math class. You were right to complain. Outside a few highly specialized professions, most of the math you learned never surfaces again at any point in your life. Your teenage gripes were spot on.

Do you feel guilty that you havén't used it since? No, you don't. You don't even think about it.

So it is curious to me that so many adults express guilt over not having read much classic literature, the type of stuff that like trigonometry, they were forced to study in high school and college. They will even struggle repeatedly to endure classic works of literature they don't understand or enjoy. Why?

You don't force yourself to read the great math books. You don't make a New Year's resolution to finally finish that stack of peer-reviewed scientific journals that has been sitting on your shelf for ages. So why sweat War and Peace?

My guess is that it is because verbal intellectualism is so much easier to fake than mathematical intellectualism. Most folks can't fake math smarts, and don't want to accept or admit they are average, so they try to immerse themselves in the trappings of word nerddom, which means reading lots of Russian tomes that mean nothing to them.

OBVIOUSLY there are people, myself included, who derive great joy from reading the BIG IMPORTANT BOOKS. Some people actually enjoy Naked Lunch. Some people also like having diarrhea. There is no accounting for taste. I on the other hand wish Mr. Burroughs had used that cut-up method to cut up his own work and throw it in the garbage. To each his own.

Quick piece of non-fiction: A friend recommended Melville's Bartelby, the Scrivener. I'd never read Melville, and Bartleby was a hoot, so I felt compelled to work through a bundle of Melville's other short works. They should have come with alarm clocks, because they were all whale-sized snores. I cannot believe I resisted the quite logical urge to stop causing myself the boredom sparked by reading them. Thankfully I stopped after the short works. I will get through life just fine without having read Moby Dick. So will you (I am not discouraging those who enjoy Melville). If you don't like a classic, it is impractical to force feed it to yourself.

Some will protest: Being a good conversationalist has all kinds of practical applications, and being able to discuss literature is part of being a good conversationalist.

Yes, being able to credibly reference classic literature can help you posture as worldly during job interviews. And yes, you can often gain a sense of someone's worldview from whether he prefers Ayn Rand or Upton Sinclair, so it is useful to have an idea of what those authors were about. But none of this means you have to scorch your eyes with endless dreary reading.

Unless you plan to be a writing/English teacher (in which case, get in line and don't delete that temp agency from your cell phone contacts), having actually read the classics will probably not assist you much in your career. If you work in a field in which classic literature often appears in conversation--law, for instance--, read the Wikipedia synopsis for whichever classic works are mentioned most often, Google a few of the related keywords (Naturalism, Existentialism) and work them into your sentences in a vague enough way so that there is really nothing for anyone to challenge. Don't worry; the person you are talking to probably hasn't read War and Peace either and therefore is in no danger of exposing you.

As for having enough knowledge to be able to debate literature, this seldom happens at work. These arguments are much more likely to occur on dates or at parties, so the stakes are much lower. And certainly these debates can bring zest to a dull evening. But you should try to find your way to the people who have read what you like so you can have an actual discussion. This isn't as hard as it sounds. Dating profiles and Facebook pages provide long lists of people's favorite authors. And don't feel bad if you're at a party and someone smirks at you for not having read some entry from THE CANON. If all that person is looking for is a literature stand-off (WHAT??!! YOU HAVEN'T READ FILL IN THE BLANK?!?!?!?), chances are he is the kind of zero you shouldn't be wasting your time on anyway.

There is also no reason to feel ashamed about reading a novel again. You're not competing with anyone and there are no term papers to write (remember, you are reading for pleasure), so it does not matter if you have made it through a large chunk of THE CANON or not (nothing matters, haven't you read Sartre?!?!?!?!?). Part of what makes novels such a great form of entertainment is that almost no one can remember an entire novel, so a few years later you can return to it and find "new" surprises; not to mention the nuances you'll only notice the second, third, fourth time around. I just went through a phase of rereading Kafka and was delighted by how "new" much of it seemed. Better to revisit entertaining works as opposed to burying myself in the tedium of some jackass Beat writer.

It is perfectly fine as well to only read an author's slimmer works. I enjoy Dostoyevsky, but will probably never attempt Crime and Punishment. I'm pleased to say I think I have finally parted with the idiotic guilt I used to feel when I wasn't constantly seeking out new classic authors or assigning myself their longest volumes.

Once you're an adult you have very, very little time for personal leisure. You wake up early and spend time getting ready for work. Then you spend time getting to work. Then you work at least 8 or 9 hours. Then you spend time getting home from work. Then you spend time in the evening running errands. And because you have to get up early, you can't be up too late, so once you're settled in for the night, there isn't much time left for recreation (this assumes you don't have kids or more work to do at home, in which case forget about it). And while you're trying to engage in recreation you still think about work, so even that time isn't entirely yours. With that as a backdrop, to do something as insane as giving yourself homework probably means that syphilis you thought was cured is now eating through your brain like Pac-Man. You are going to die one day. There is no such thing as spare time. Don't read the classics unless you enjoy them.

Speaking of, thank you very, very much for devoting some of your priceless time to reading this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Flavor Country Nursing Home. Welcome!

Young tobacco smokers often justify their habit with comments like, “Who cares if it kills me? Old age sucks anyway!”

You do not have to become old. You can commit hara-kiri well before the descent into antiquing and baby food begins. In the meantime, all smoking does is ensure that you feel elderly and withered long before you actually should. It is like a role-playing game you can’t turn off:

Here’s what it’s like to climb stairs when you’re 70…only you’re 25.

Here’s what food tastes like when your taste buds are deactivated. How sad. This is the one time in your life when desserts won’t make you instantly gain 20 pounds.

Here’s what it’s like to have yellow skin…before your liver calls it a day.


Smokers are simply guaranteeing that they spend their entire lives feeling elderly, rather than just their actual elderly years. You’re not ducking old age. You’re accelerating it. I don’t plan on wearing adult diapers either. But until I start browsing that euthanasia gift shop, I try to avoid activities that permanently dull my sensations and vigor.

So if you’re smoking because it makes you seem older, you’re on the right track. Smoking gives you grown up problems when you’re still just a kid.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Scabby Underbelly of Comforting Phrases

1) Virtue is its own reward.

Everything we do in this life we do to get noticed, and real virtue is seldom noticed, so we soothe ourselves by saying virtue is intrinsically good because it usually fails to deliver the recognition we crave.

Even more depressing is watching someone vulgarly draw attention to their virtue, which contaminates that virtue with the vice of pride. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so if you aren’t a virtue whore, your virtue will be overlooked and your only recourse will be the sour delusion that your virtue is rewarding in and of itself (it isn’t).

2) Living well is the best revenge.

Actually, the best revenge is direct, immediate retaliation. In cases of infidelity, the best revenge is immediately shacking up with someone hotter and rubbing it in the face of the villain who cheated on you. Seducing someone hotter doesn’t bring nearly as much satisfaction if the person you are trying to hurt never knows about it.

Alas, anti-assault laws and the universe’s lack of benevolence keep us from attaining the honey-soaked bliss of physical/romantic vengeance, so we search for relief in the notion of avenging our wounds by “living well.” But living well is a crappy consolation prize. It is the dinette set on “The Price is Right.”

Moving on to a better job doesn’t unlaugh all the fake chuckles you coughed up when your former boss tried to be funny. It doesn’t restore the enamel you lost from grinding your teeth each time he forced "vis-à-vis" into a sentence in a poor attempt to sound smart. Those humiliations are forever, and leave your soul hunchbacked long before old age turns your spine into a krazy straw.

As for romantic vengeance, while it is nice to think that finding someone hotter will ease the pain of being cheated on, if it takes 5 years to find that person, those lips can’t help but taste like sour grapes. Why would it take so long? Because the devastation of being cheated on leaves you looking so haggard not even reunited hair bands will throw you a bone.

Living well is a poor stand-in for real revenge, but as it is the only realistic form of vengeance available, we call it "the best." The honest among you would do well to start saying: Living well is the only revenge.

3 The grass is always greener.

As we age (decay), life brings us diminishing returns. We get less and less of a kick from the pleasure-seeking rituals we once counted on, so we need to spin our wheels in new directions to divert our focus from the familiar agonies of existence. This means pining for new cities, new jobs, new wives, new kids...

But there is no escape. Your lawn could look like it was imported from the Emerald City and it still wouldn’t be as green as your eyes when you gaze upon your neighbor’s glistening, dew-weighted blades. And perfection is no solution either. The proof? Someone cheated on the perfect looking Elizabeth Hurley (but I'm sure she was content to know she was living well).

We are the lone inhabitants of an otherwise barren galaxy, and it still isn't enough to fill us up. What makes you think a move across the county is going to help?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A short trip to nowhere

A lot of people say they do drugs to "expand their mind." They say things like, "Doing drugs shows you there is more than one way to see reality."

Fine. But all you had to do to figure out that there is more than one way to see reality is read about another culture. Example: in some cultures, cows are sacred. In America, they're hamburgers. All you had to do was Google it. No need to kill brain cells. If you're going to do drugs to expand your mind, you should at least consider cutting up your coke with a library card.

The main thing you learn from doing drugs is not to do drugs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How I could just kill a man

I began stand-up comedy before I could legally drink, so there were occasions when comedy clubs kept me out. Being underage also hindered me when I was allowed in comedy rooms, as most of my joke-telling mates wanted to hit bars when the show ended. One night I was allowed inside a comedy club and a bar, and it was in that bar I came close to killing a man.

My friends and I were seated by the bar, discussing our favorite songs. I wasn’t drinking.

I was in the middle of a sentence--probably giving all within earshot the business on “Riders on the Storm”--when a stranger to my right sprayed me in the face with a squirt gun. I quickly turned and saw the Shooter scrambling to put the squirt gun away. He was at the corner of the bar, with two friends beside him. All three were staring off in the distance, trying not to laugh. None was doing a good job.

I had consumed no alcohol, and nothing unusual had occurred that night. Yet this minor offense, being sprayed by a squirt gun, completely scrubbed off my tendencies toward reason. I immediately puffed up with homicide-strength rage.

A little backstory: In addition to the regular angry young man testosterone one has at that age, I think I was a bit obsessed with the way frat-boy-types behaved in public. I literally could not understand their impulses to yell out during comedy shows, randomly accelerate in parking lots, stampede at concerts, bully waiters, etc. My friends and I spent HOURS analyzing the possible motivations behind these sick behaviors.

Some people are adept at drowning out meatheads. I'm not. I more or less swore off concerts at 19 because I couldn’t enjoy live music while surrounded by the scrapple of humanity.

I was also working in a deli at the time, and each day was shocked anew by the kind of aggressive and demeaning things people would say right to my face, as though I was a robot servant rather than a fellow human with feelings. It never seemed to dawn on them that I could retaliate. After all, I was holding A KNIFE. What did they think I was cutting their bread with? The idea that it might not be safe to shriek at a knife-wielding minimum wage earner over the number of olives on their turkey club didn’t appear to cross their mind. I was only a few feet away with blade in hand. I could have easily wounded them (or worse) before anyone realized what was happening.

I believe it was these factors, as well as the culprits’ poor attempt to hide themselves, that triggered something barbarous in me. My lateral orbitofrontal cortex professed that not only could I and the Shooter not share the same bar; we couldn’t share the same planet.

I believe I spent a few seconds growling to myself and staring at the Shooter before walking outside.

The weather was warm, so the bar had been opened out onto the sidewalk. This meant the only barrier between my enemies and I was my desire to remain a card-carrying non-murderer.

The Shooter and his friends had their backs to me, so I figured the element of surprise was on my side.

I kept pacing and muttering like a zombie looking for his car keys. How was I going to attack?

Then, like a scene from a bad western, I spotted an empty liquor bottle on the ground. Eureka. I would smash the bottle against a tree (I should have mentioned the bottle was under a tree), creep into the bar, and use the broken bottle to slash the Shooter’s jugular.

One of my friends, we'll call him Mr. Pseudonym, came outside and asked what I was doing. I calmly explained my plans. My recollection is that he just kept saying, “What are you doing? You’re not gonna do that. What are you doing?”

Some of my other pals came outside and watched my little war with myself. They also conveyed how senseless my intentions were, but I feel it was the rapid fire questions of Mr. Pseudonym that pulled me from my fog of fury. I also remember having visions of the great future in comedy I would be destroying if I cut up the Shooter. I dropped the bottle and returned to reality.

I’m not sure that is the angriest I have ever been, but it is certainly as close as I have come to primal, no turning back violence. Every so often my mind revisits that night, and at times I have been ambivalent about my decision not to attack. I often return to the notion that seeing their friend mauled would have traumatized the Shooter’s pals into behaving more civilly.

I am also reminded of that evening when I read about crimes of passion that actually have been carried out. Not even counting road rage, I would guess a sizable number of otherwise lucid individuals have a near-homicide in their past. I am not violent or tough, so I have to imagine that folks who are violent and tough have multiple near-homicides in their closet.

In 2008 I became severely ill, and multiple doctors speculated that my condition might be terminal. When it hit me that I might be facing the Big Adios, I had an unusual list of regrets. I didn’t dwell much on the women I wasn’t cool enough for or the countries I failed to visit. I did think A LOT about my decision not to slice the Shooter’s neck. The main reason for not attacking was my belief that I was headed for great things in comedy. By the time I became sick, that idea had been soundly debunked. So there I was, infirm and despondent, nursing a regret about an act of vengeance not taken.

The Shooter is lucky I had delusions of grandeur when I was a young man. Had I had any inkling that my future would turn out to be a big wet firecracker, it is quite possible he wouldn’t have heard me coming until it was too late.

Civilization is thinner than the frosting on a Pop-Tart. Every time you raise your voice to another person (let alone physically challenge them in some way, even if it is with a squirt gun), you are taking your life in your hands. The fact that the person you are humiliating is a waiter, cab driver, or hotel clerk changes nothing. Telling yourself you’re "fighting the good fight” is also 100% irrelevant to your potential safety. Unless you are attacked IN A POLICE STATION, the cops won’t get there in time. Chances are, no one will be able to save you. You could very well spend the rest of your righteous life in a coma, dreaming of the extra ketchup packets you felt entitled to demand.



Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/greatmikepayne

Friday, June 24, 2011

40C-Love

At every tennis Major (save the still chaste Wimbledon), at some point some female player wears an outfit so skimpy it gets commentators asking: "Is this outfit too skimpy?"

But are today's skimpy outfits really any more revealing than the tighty-whitey short-shorts the men used to wear? If Connors's and McEnroe's shorts had been any more revealing they would have qualified as x-rays.



I'm sure those questioning today's outfits would argue that the revealing attire of the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova are made to pique the "prurient interest," whereas Connors and McEnroe were just wearing utilitarian garb (as though men can't play up sex appeal). From there the complaints would fall along familiar battle lines; conservatives griping about the women no longer being ladies and progressives griping about the women being objectifed.

For the conversatives who say these outfits are a sign of modern decay, remember that in ancient Greece, the Olympians competed naked.

For the progressives; sex appeal is the only edge female athletes have on men. Sports are about competition, and sex is the only way women can compete with male athletes for attention. Forget about retiring jerseys. Start retiring sports bras.

What the controversy comes down to is that these scantilly clad players are women, and women showing skin always brings out the Keystone Skin Cops. The men could string their rackets with their small intestines and no one would blink.

At least the women wearing the least clothing are among the most dominant. If the critics had their way, these heroines would dress more demurely and risk being overshadowed by the Anna Kournikovas of the world. Progressives especially should champion the minimal clothing, because the outfits of the Williams and Sharapova increase their star power; meaning they will be seen by more little girls who will then be inspired to pick up tennis rackets themselves. You want fewer girls playing with Barbie? Let Serena, Venus, and Maria compete tennis-wise and looks-wise and living Barbies who can't hit with the big girls (Kournikova) won't steal the entire spotlight (when Kournikova played, they may as well have hung the net between two stripper poles).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tattoo Who

I do not have tattoos. They're not a turn-on, and more importantly, I don't like the evidence they leave behind. Because when you get a tattoo, what you're doing is timestamping your body with a statement of who you were at a certain period in your life.

Craziness.

When I'm 40, I don't want people to know what I was like when I was 20, because then I won't be able to lie about how cool I was. I want to be able to tell whoppers like:

When I was 20, I was making money in stocks, I was making money in real estate...I was so loaded the government labeled me too big to fail.

Meanwhile my forearm will say "Food $tamps 4 Life!"

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cave Rain Man?

I just watched my first full length 3-D film: Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary about the Chauvet Cave, which is a cave in France containing the oldest cave paintings yet discovered. Far from sloppy blobs, the drawings offer quite detailed portraits of horses, birds, bears, etc.

Some of these drawings are estimated to be 32,000 years old, more than twice as old as any previously known drawings. Some are quite detailed. For instance, there is a striking portrait of a rhino that seems to be running, as evidenced by the flipbook-like style of the artwork.

When these drawings were produced (and they weren’t produced all at once; there is speculation that some were done 5,000 years apart), daily life was torturous enough to make waterboarding seem like an episode of Double Dare. Europe was covered in glaciers. Freezing to death was a constant threat. Bows and arrows weren’t around, so in order to eat, man had to grapple with formidable beasts at fairly close range. Yet despite these hardships, MAN still felt the need to express himself. Procuring meals that were only modestly rancid and minimizing his frostbite wasn’t enough. He had to contextualize his existence through art. He had to say something about being here.

Mostly, these expressions were just straightforward depictions of what he observed; realistic treatments of the animals he encountered. The artists apparently felt no need to identify themselves. We see no signatures on the artwork. We see no cigarette holders left behind by snooty cave art critics. It is kind of refreshing.

And we see no drawings of humans. Not exactly. There does appear to one humanoid-animal drawing with religious overtones, one that seems to chime with the ancient fertility cults. And most significant to me, there are lots of handprints, all evidently done by one guy. We know it was one guy, because this gentleman had a crooked little finger that seems to recur in all of the handprints. He of the Crooked Pinky made several impressions of his hand on different walls.

So at a time when simply remaining alive from dawn until dusk was a grand achievement, when obtaining even the most basic components of sustenance was a risky and complicated endeavor, The Crooked Pinkied Artiste still thought it was worth his time to record his handprint again and again and again. As Cave of Forgotten Dreams makes clear, the Chauvet Cave offers us MAN’S oldest known attempts to capture his surroundings, as well as some of his early gropes at religion. And in the handprints of this single crooked-fingered doodler, I see the world’s oldest recorded neurotic.



My handprints can be found all over Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/greatMikePayne

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Um waiter, the fly in my soup isn't a tsetse!

I have decided that food snobs are the most obnoxious snobs of all. Food snobs—FOODIES—are fast becoming the new metrosexuals.

When did food snobbery become a national pastime? People used to bond over awful food experiences, like eating Ramen Noodles in college. Now they bond over their hatred of people who don’t “get” flatbread.

And foodies always become the giddiest over the silliest dishes, like toast. "Okay, my perfect recipe for toast? Here goes: pita bread, with pesto, butternut squash, vegan bacon, and horseradish made from Secretariat!"

Yeah, that's no longer toast...

Foodies also won't just accept that you don't like what they like. If you tell them you don't like falafel, get ready to hear: "You don't like falafel?! Oh, that's because you just don’t know how to fix it!" or "You're just not going to the right restaurants!"

What are you, the hummus whisperer?