Friday, December 13, 2013

Make Deals, Not War

George Carlin had many unfunny pseudobits about "businesscriminals," but this one is probably the worst:

"They don't even trust each other. When a businessman sits down to negotiate a deal, the first thing he does is to automatically assume that the other guy is a complete lying prick who's trying to fuck him out of his money, so he's gotta do everything he can to fuck the other guy a little bit faster and a little bit harder."

I have heard rants with the same spirit from other comedians, and often when I'm at a party - especially post-credit crisis - someone corners me and stumbles his way through a feckless sermon on the evil world of negotiated transactions. Bargaining, negotiating, dealmaking, and guys in suits sporting briefcases have long been safe targets of scorn for artists and wannabe artists alike.

The alternative to bargaining is brute force. If you think the world is violent and unequal now, imagine a world where a 110-pound woman was not assumed to be able to negotiate with a 300-pound-man to get what she was after. She would lose every time. Thankfully, homo sapiens negotiate most of the time, or else the pipsqueaks among us would very quickly go extinct.

Speaking of preventing extinction, flirtation is negotiation. When you flirt, you are bargaining to get someone to give you her number, sleep with you, and so on. The alternative to this negotiation, clubbing her and dragging her back to your cave, seems uncouth in comparison. If we eliminated this form of negotiation, chivalry would be dead, along with a lot of women. We'd see commercials telling us: "Every six seconds a woman isn't negotiated with."

A handful of the countries that took brave stands against bargaining:

Soviet Union
North Korea
Red China
East Germany

You may have noticed their cups failed to overfloweth. Plenty of people died trying to sneak into West Germany. I don't recall too many West Germans trying to break into East Germany. Surprising, since in East Germany bargaining was eliminated and everything was free!!! Negotiationless North Korea also doesn't seem to have much of an illegal immigration problem. And I don't remember hordes of people defecting to the non-negotiation countenancing Soviet Union, but that's probably my bourgeois pig brain lying to me.

Desires and wants are bottomless. Everyone wants everything all the time. As we go to print, no one has yet invented a magic wand that can make whatever we want appear free of charge. If you're upset about this, email your complaints to Isaac Newton. Bargaining allows us to at least get some of the things we want without having to resort to outright banditry.

It is an extraordinary irony that many of these anti-negotiation "progressives" are also anti-"bullying." Negotiation, not bumper stickers denouncing bullying, is what keeps bullying from being the first resort in every human exchange. Without an expectation of negotiation, the Biggest and Baddest would simply stomp you and take everything you had. The big fish really would eat the little ones. Get rid of negotiation, and the only folks who will have food and shelter will be MMA fighters, NFL linebackers, and Ted Nugent.

Anti-negotiation hipster nerds certainly wouldn't do well in an all brute force world. Funny how everyone always assumes they'd be on the winning side of their fantasy revolutions (guess that's why they're called fantasies). But anyway, in the spirit of tolerance, we should give these crybabies a week of exposure to the No Negotiation World they want. This experiment would also serve their desire to "return to nature," as a week without negotiation would leave them naked, homeless, and starving.

Negotiate your way through my Tweets:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why saying "I do" makes you stop doing

A gripe that is familiar to many: "Our relationship was great until we got married."

Why does getting married change relationships for the worse?

During each of the steps leading up to marriage - traveling together, meeting the family, living together - you are on your best behavior. You're doing all those appealing things with the goal of being deemed a partner worthy of marriage. Then you get married, so you are no longer aiming for marriage. You cease to be on your best behavior; wearing your best clothes, going to the gym, going the extra mile in every way. You have crossed the finish line, so you stop running.

Before you tie the knot, the relationship benefits from constant oneupsmanship. Your partner jogs, so you start jogging. Your partner is generous in bed, so you try to be generous in bed. You are constantly trying to keep up with your partner so that she will remain interested. It is a romantic arms race...a bit like the Cold War, only in this case the end result IS World War III.

Once you're married, the tendency is to rest on your laurels, because in theory, marriage is permanent and you're no longer competing with half the species to win your partner's heart. You think you have a monopoly on her love, and predictably, you become a worse product. You let your hair down, and in doing so, let your spouse down.

Now with divorce being so common and cheating discussed so openly, maybe people will wake up to the fact that they absolutely must try to excel in every way, or else their ladyfriend will hastily find someone who hasn't yet achieved all his goals with her. It could be that the answer to divorce is high divorce rates.

My Twitter feed hasn't let itself go:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why bald people don't have chips on their shoulder (only lost hairs)

Bald people seem better adjusted than fat people; far less hung up on their cosmetic shortcoming. Toupees and hairplugs exist, but the bulging lack of confidence seen in fat people seriously outweighs that of your average bald man.

I think this is because when you're a kid - the time when you're the most vulnerable, the time when you're ridiculed the most, the time that seems to haunt people forever - you have hair. You aren't branded the bald kid in gym class, the bald kid on the bus, the bald kid standing alone in the corner during the prom. The enfeebling insults kids absorb during their school years don't include names like "baldie" because no one goes bald during their school years. The insults you endure at 25 don't twist your self-image the way they do at 15, and at 15, you still have hair.

And as you age, most of your peers go bald too, so there isn't the same bell curve for hair that there is for weight among school kids. Most of your peers also gain weight, but it is usually easy to distinguish between the people who were fat in school and got fatter in adulthood from the people who were thin in school and became fat as adults.

But all is not lost for our obese friends. You can lose weight as you enter adulthood and greatly upgrade your place in the cosmetic pecking order. But for bald guys, once those first few hairs abandon ship, you are officially past your prime. Better hope there are some big girls left for you to target.

My Twitter feed is still thin and sporting a pompadour:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Public Displays of Anger and Affection

Two things people don't like: stand-up comedy that is genuinely angry, and public displays of affection.

Plenty of comedians play angry. They throw on the angry comedian costume - leather jacket, Marlboro, imitation snarl - so the crowd knows they mean business! They really are mad about the twist-off caps on cough syrup bottles!

But it is all just a game, and the crowd knows it. That comic in the angry comic costume isn't truly angry any more than an impersonator in an Elvis costume is really Elvis. That is why they laugh; because they know the anger is all make-believe.

Comedy crowds can't handle real anger, so a comedian who shows too many flashes of the real thing usually bombs. Famously "angry" comics like Kinison found ways to codify their anger into signature moves that could signal "anger" without showcasing the authentic anger that kills the mood. Lesson from Comedy 101: Don't Callback in Anger.

People also can't stand public displays of affection. "Get a room!" is a typical taunt to couples who make their feelings too obvious. Yet those righteous "Get a room!" hecklers will pay to tearfully watch a syrupy romantic comedy about a Bedouin who falls in a sand dune and finds his true love hidden under the scorpions. But real affection offends them. They can't stand an unscripted romantic comedy happening before their eyes.

They often say love and hate are two sides of the same coin, and I say these two phenomena demonstrate that. What people find funny is an extremely intimate part of them, so maybe it makes sense they need play-acted comedy emotion the same way they need play-acted romantic emotion? At least the people on the subway who scoff at the smooching couple can say they didn't request a romantic show. What is the major malfunction of the paying comedy crowds who shrink when they catch a true glimpse of the hate side of the coin?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On "Decisive Elections"

The Obamacare controversy is lingering like a pre-existing condition. I've heard politicians and professional opiners say the 2012 Presidential election "settled" this controversy, meaning the discussion is over and we just have to live with whatever they give us.

Oh really? So because a politician wins, everything on his agenda should glide through unobstructed? Every election is an across the board referendum on every plan the winning politician has?

Why even have a Congress then? Why not just hold the Presidential election and let the winner unilaterally enact laws as he sees fit? If we're supposed to interpret elections this way there is no need for checks and balances.

To those now proclaiming the 2012 election "settled" Obamacare:

Would they have said the 2004 election "settled" the controversy about the Iraq War?

If the supposedly* pro-life W. Bush had outlawed abortion, would they have shrugged and said: "Oh well, I guess America has spoken! Looks like I'm carrying this one night stand souvenir to term."

Did the gay marriage advocates call it a day after Bush's "decisive" victory raised the prospect of a constitutional amendment to fortify the blockade against gay marriage? Are they giving up the fight in states where the governor has come out against it?

Keine Möglichkeit, Josef!

We have checks and balances to prevent Presidents from governing like dictators (not that it works). A presidential election is not supposed to be a rubber stamp on whatever the President feels like doing. But of course, both sides cherry pick which measures the voters "decided on." It is only a "decisive election" when there is a controversial measure you want to see become a reality.

Declaring it a "decisive election" to silence dissent sounds like a throwback to Nixon's "When
the President does it that means it is not illegal" defense. I don't even know why people are horrified by Nixon's statement. Both sides agree with it when the law is broken by the person they voted for.

It is only going to get worse. The federal government is more involved in our lives than ever, and each election raises more "issues" about our personal lives than ever before. Because we've acquiesced to this increased federal meddling, each election is going to be more shrill and "decisive." By 2020 the Presidential oath is going to be: "I do solemnly swear that I will bring a WINNER TAKE ALL approach to the Office of the President of the United States. After each of my whims becomes law I will perform end zone dances to the best of my ability. So help me Me."
*Republicans only talk the pro-life talk because they know there are millions of gullible single issue voters who will blindly support them so long as they pretend to be pro-life. The Republicans are just as hell-bent on keeping abortion legal as the Democrats, because the phony "fight against" abortion is what keeps the checks and votes coming in. Here's a bumper sticker for ya: "There is no fool like a voting social conservative fool."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Putting a businessperson in the White House won't give us a "CEO in Chief"

Wanna hear a joke?

Unemployment is high in America.

How high is it?

It's so high even the dishonest government measurement of unemployment clocks it above 7%. Oh, and yo' mama's so fat they count her as two unemployed people.

In a time of high unemployment and flagrant government oafishness like Obamacare, it isn't surprising to hear murmurings about how we "need a businessperson in office." He'll know how to get the economy going! Romney tried leaning on this, and for years Donald Trump had used it to generate publicity.

Businesspeople can't improve the government. Part of the reason businesspeople can achieve things is because they don't have to get votes. Businesspeople only have to provide products. They don't have to whisper sweet nothings in consumers' ears. You can be unlikable and still monumentally successful as long as people like your products. See Steve Jobs.

Politicians have to sugarcoat. They have to whisper sweet nothings. They have to appear likeable. Politicians themselves are the product. That means is they have to lie constantly. The "which candidate would you rather have a beer with" matters big time. In 2008, apart from the media's pornographic love affair with the symbolism of Barack, I think a big part of his prevailing is that every non-lesbian (and probably most lesbians) would rather drink with Barack than Hillary. Barack is probably an interesting enough guy to have a Guinness with. Hillary is lame enough to turn wine into seltzer.

Also, when a CEO promises a new iPhone, he actually has to deliver a new iPhone. He can't not provide one and then just claim he did. And he won't have a million propagandizing media subnormals working 'round the clock to convince the nation he provided this nonexistent iPhone. People will notice the lack of a new iPhone and punish him by buying his competitors' phones.

A politician can say he's going to do something like close Gitmo and then simply not do it. Almost nothing ever happens when a politician breaks a promise. People are trained to expect broken promises from politicians (or at least politicians who aren't members of "their" party). CEOs and businesspeople don't have this luxury. If anything, folks are trained to complain vociferously to businesspeople ("the customer is always right"). Therefore, businesspeople have to follow up to some extent on their promises, or else customers and activist shareholders will topple them. See JC Penney.

Once a politician is in office, he is there for at least two years. Unlike a CEO, you're stuck with him. Sometimes you're stuck with him for four or six years, so he can go right on lying for his entire reign, and there is nothing that can be done about it. A businessperson's approval rating results in immediate profits and losses, and he can be put out of business or fired from the CEO position in a matter of months, not years. Parties of all political persuasions are always complaining about voters' short attention spans. They're right. If a guy is in office six years there is plenty of time for each storm to blow over and be forgotten. In business, even a short term storm can topple someone in no time flat. If that businessperson could count on six years of tenure, chances are his sins would be forgotten the way they are for politicians.

CEOs and businesspeople almost never have the advantage of a monopoly. Government by its very definition is a monopoly. There is one DMV. There is one police force. You can only have two Senators in each state. There is no such thing as an upstart third, fourth, or fifth Senator who can suddenly appear and immediately start taking market share. There is no limit to how many different smartphone brands there can be, which is why CEOs and businesspeople must be nimble and responsive to customers if they are to survive. Government, and its mascots in the Congress and White House, is a monopoly, and it acts like one. A politician with the greatest business background still couldn't do anything to change the clumsy, unaccoutable nature of monopolies. The only thing he could do once in office is privatize everything, and forgetting for a moment that that is impossible under our current system, what politician is going to ride in and start diluting his own power by privatizing everything? The last President to use anti-government rhetoric was Reagan, and as we all know he greatly expanded the government.

By believing a businessperson is going to fix government, market-minded people are adopting the same defective mentality as the most anti-business egalitarian: assuming if we could just get the right person in there, things would be better. Wrong. The institution itself isn't fixable. Getting a different mascot to be its face won't render it fixable.

I've heard champions of the marketplace say it is the only real democracy, the only place where you truly have a voice. The reason that is so is because it is democracy without force. Government is nothing but monopoly and force. Government is democracy without the whole "having a voice" part.

My Twitter feed has a non-government monopoly on good tweets:

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Question on Sanctions

A big media topic of late has been "comprehensive immigration reform." Talking heads keep saying increased immigration means increased economic growth; more people=more potential consumers, etc.

That same media goes right along with any suggestion of sanctions and penalties for countries like Iran. OK...if more consumers means more economic growth, doesn't cutting off the potential consumers of Iran and Cuba and Burma from US output also limit economic growth?

You might retort that the average Iranian or Cuban consumer isn't particularly prosperous. The same is true of many of the immigrants who would arrive in the US via comprehensive immigration reform. It's not like the Statue of Liberty says: "Send us your posh, your one-percenters, your moneyed masses yearning to spend freely." Far from it. So if the media doesn't consider the poverty of those migrating here an impediment, the poverty of those potential consumers in Iran, Cuba, and Burma shouldn't be used as an excuse to cut them off from American markets.

Don't expect anyone on TV to raise this point. The establishment media is firmly in favor of all forms of belligerence against "rogue states," especially those containing Arabs and Persians. When it comes to Americans and the Middle East, economics takes a back seat, and practical foreign policy analysis gets thrown in the trunk.

My Twitter feed trades freely with Stalin's ghost:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Five Signs a Band is out of Ideas

You never know when a band is going to run out of gas, but if you pay attention it is easy to spot the warning signs.

"We're returning to our influences."

No one "returns to their influences" when they're breezily penning pop gems. What "returning to our influences" means is we've hit a wall, so we're going to release an album of lazy, tuneless flops with either a blues or jazz tinge. Deferring to blues and jazz is smart, because you have built-in excuses for uninspired music. You can always say: Hey man, blues is supposed to be simple. It's all about the feeling! or Hey man, jazz isn't about three-minute pop songs. It's about improvisation (read: unstructured messes).

WE GET IT, you're dad owned a Howlin' Wolf LP and you spun it once or twice yourself. That's no excuse for playing the same three notes over and over and adopting the blue singer technique of scrunching your face like you just got tear gassed. If I wanted to experience your inspirations, I'd buy a Muddy Waters album and an eight ball from your coke dealer. At least have the decency to name the album Writer's Block Blues.

Unnecessary Gospel Choir

Like your girlfriend telling you she "needs more space," a gospel choir means the end is near.

Here's what happens: You're working on your next single. You can't seem to write a catchy chorus. What do you do instead? Employ 73 fat women to gratuitously repeat a random phrase. Who needs a bridge when you're backed by enough musical girth to sink a cruise ship?

And like blues or jazz, you can cop out by saying "Hey man, I grew up listening to gospel, so I've always dreamed of doing a song with a gospel choir." Sorry, but I don't accept childhood nostalgia as a "GET OUT OF CREATIVITY FREE" card. Have that church choir pray for your talent to return from the dead.

Cover Albums

It seems almost any band that makes it past four albums tries some version of this; either a full cover album or a cover EP. It never goes well. Cover albums are always presented as a stopgap between real albums, usually released just in time for the Christmas shopping season. No band has ever done a cover album and then gone on to do their best work. You don't autopilot your way through a bunch Dylan covers when you've got a Sergeant Pepper inside you. I have purchased just one cover album: Guns N' Roses' The Spaghetti Incident? (all cover albums should have the word incident in the title). It was bad enough to scare me away from ever buying a cover album again. I should probably thank Axl for that lesson in tough love.

Covering a song that was already a big hit without really changing it

This warning sign is so blatant elaborating on it almost seems redundant. So you've got nothing in the tank and you need a hit. Quick, cover a song that is already market tested! Notice they never cover an obscure song. No, it is always the band's biggest hit. Limp Bizkit didn't cover a deep album cut from The Who. They went straight to "Behind Blue Eyes". Covering an established radio staple is a clever move, because through sheer habit fans will toss a few clams in your direction for reminding them of a song they liked much better the first time around. It is like picking up a woman at a bar simply because you remind her of an ex she wants to get back together with. Hopefully, he doesn't look like Fred Durst.

Going Country

Today going country seems the preferred method for an emergency grab at continued relevance. Once your regular fans start to realize the well has run dry you can always reel in some new suckers with a country duet.

Makes sense. The standards for a country hit are even lower than they are for rock hits, so people probably won't even notice how lackluster your "crossover" attempt is. It is akin to going from playing for the LA Lakers to playing for the LA Sparks. And unlike trying an acting career or a hip-hop duet, there is virtually no risk to your credibility. It is impossible to parody an artform that celebrates songs called "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy".

The best part is if your country crossover is a pair of twos, the country world is so siloed from the real world your fans will never know about your embarrassing excursion into the world of ten-gallon hats and tenth-grade reading levels.

My Twitter feed still has 3/4 of a tank:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More on Regifting (Food)

You get a last minute invite to a party. You're wondering what to bring. You think: "Oh, I've got that great bottle of...oh wait I can't bring it. It's already opened."

You are counseled not to show up to a party with "used food," be it an already test-driven bottle of rum or a coffee cake with an AWOL corner. To me, bringing "used" items seem perfectly reasonable, and in the future I will no longer bow to this perverse convention.

Have any of you ever stayed until the end of a party? There are always multiple tables sagging under the weight of uneaten quesadillas, still virginal pies, and neglected punch that's becoming less festive by the minute. And the fridge is so packed with barely touched treats you have to seal the door with a blow-torch. Is this really necessary?

No party - not even wedding receptions - ever has as many attendees as the host expects, so the food the host prepares himself is usually more than enough. Then the few stragglers who do show up bring their fully intact desserts, entrees, and libations, and thus every party results in enough wasted cake to reverse the French Revolution. Seems to me if everyone brought partly consumed but still delicious food and beverages, there would be far less food still loitering around after the last partier has found his way to the door.

I hope you like irony, because guess what happens after the party? There is a mad dash to give everything away before it spoils. You're pawning off pies on neighbors. You're hauling miles of brownie into work. Somehow, that's not considered inappropriate. Not only is it the only form of regifting that is acceptable, it makes you the office darling for a week. Regift a few cupcakes with time-stiffened frosting and even the HR folks will wink at you.

What is it about a party that makes it unacceptable to bring something "used?" And you're only busted on this if your bring a pie, a cake, or booze. If you bring six homemade cookies, no one assumes you baked a whole tray and only shared part of it. For all they know, you could have shotgunned the other 46 on the ride over. The problem with a partly eaten cake is that it is a smoking gun. Hard not to notice the slice-shaped chasm in the middle of your Bundt. I always explain the missing piece by saying I baked it in the shape of a Pac-Man.

By the way, no one likes parties anyway. People dread them. That's why everyone shows up late. People mainly hold parties to do a headcount of their friends, and people mainly attend them to curry favor with significant others, or to do some social climbing at work. Parties are either a roll-call or an especially awkward day at the office, so why inflict more pain by forcing everyone to make a trip to the store to find something "new" to bring?

Oh, I forgot tell you: I'm holding a party tonight. That 93% full bottle of rye you have? The one you've had so long it's now able to drink in bars without a fake ID? Don't bring it to my party where it might be appreciated and put to use. No sir! I demand you let it continue stewing as you sprint to the nearest wine shop in search of the cheapest non-cheap-looking Chardonnay you can find.

My Twitter feed wants to party all the time:

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Praise of Regifting

Christmas and Hanukkah are creeping up on us. Will there be any "regifting" in your future?

If you're caught regifting, you're forever branded a pre-conversion Scrooge. You're cheap, you're a bum, you're philanthropyphobic. The next time you participate in a popularity contest in Vietnam you'll lose to Henry Kissinger.

I'm going to risk condemnation by the U.N. by announcing I support regifting. 4/5 of all gifts are totally unwelcomed (proof that no one really knows you). Everyone is always joking about having to pretend they're happy with what they received: "You shouldn't have" (no really, you shouldn't have). "Oh, it's a...juicer. We'll use a juicer, right honey?" (if upon opening your gift the recipient announces what you gave them or confirms what it is used for, you bought the wrong gift). And we all have a sweater we only wear when the sister-in-law responsible for it visits for Thanksgiving (no one is thankful for a pullover too hellish to be included in The Inferno).

Why not wrap up that unloved sweater and give it to someone else? You probably have a friend who has terrible taste in clothes. He LOVES turtlenecks that crush the larynx. What is so inappropriate about wrapping it up and giving it him? You're telling me it is better to let the unwanted gift accumulate dust in your basement? No wonder "Hoarders" has so many viewers.

Oh, but regifting means you didn't spend any money on the recipient! So what? How Christmassy is that accusation? Aren't we constantly hearing the season isn't about money (ironically the chorus usually starts around Black Friday)? If that's the case, by handing over an unwanted gift you're still capturing the sentiment of the season; bringing joy to others and thinking of someone other than yourself. If you were really selfish and money hungry you could have just as easily sold that juicer on eBay.

Everyone says the season isn't about money, but you're a pariah if you regift without parting with money. Everyone says we need to be more considerate about waste, but if you don't let bad gifts go to waste you're inconsiderate. And just when you thought every flaw in the regifting stigma had been explored: If you give away all your clothing after you've worn it for ten years, you're a hero! Those pants you'd keep wearing were it not for the Frisbee-sized hole in the crotch? Just drop them off at your local Salvation Army and suddenly that special needs lovechild you've ignored for 26 years becomes an afterthought. But if you dare give away that unused sweater someone gave you for Christmas, you'll probably have to enter the Witness Protection Program.

If we were honest about what we truly care about, we'd give each other receipts as gifts.

My Twitter feed is the regift that keeps on giving:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

If you teach a man to teach, he will keep begging you for fish

Since the housing crisis, we have heard much about predatory lending on Wall Street. Outside of Wall Street and housing, we are accustomed to hearing grandiose "investigative" reports about predatory companies selling faulty products. Yet somehow, the cartelization of the education industry has gone undetected. Where is the Bureau of Consumer Protection when it comes to faulty degrees at inflated prices? Why aren't professors and the colleges they work for ever called predatory? They lure students into accruing an unpayable amount of debt in exchange for useless liberal arts degrees. At least the subprime folks had a McMansion to party in for a few months.

What are these victims of predatory colleges supposed to do with their liberal arts degrees? The old answer was become a liberal arts teacher. Well, the growth of online academies threatens to dramatically reduce the need for teachers, and the constant talk of upgrading America's science/math footing makes liberal arts teaching the deadest of dead ends. Where do all these Women's Studies victims think they're going to teach?

SUNY Albany offers a degree in Puerto Rican studies. How many Puerto Rican Studies teaching positions open every year? Most years, the answer is probably cero.

Let's assume you don't want to teach; you want to be a business person in Puerto Rico. Doesn't it make far more sense to major in something practical like Spanish and then minor in something business-related like finance so you have some actual skills to bring to Puerto Rico? The Caribbean needs Caribbean Studies majors like they need another visit from Columbus.

While we're on the subject of language majors, what the hell is the point of going to college to learn a language? You can pay someone $30 an hour for individual instruction in a foreign language and save yourself tens of thousands. The predators behind language degrees are morally bankrupt, and the students who hold them become literally bankrupt.

Speaking of bankrupt degrees; journalism. Instead of "studying" your way to indentured servitude, start a blog (don't worry, blogs don't have math requirements either) and make your writing your resume. Paid journalism is even more of a pauper's graveyard than it used to be. Why permanently indebt yourself for an income that probably won't even cover the cost of your broadband?

Have you heard the one about the college that offered doctorates in Human Sexuality Studies? Oh wait, it's not a joke. Listen, you don't need years of schooling and $200,000 of debt to learn about human sexuality. Spend one ladies' night at a bar, hit a couple porn sites, and watch one episode of "Divorce Court". You'll be an expert in less than 24 hours.

Where are the muckrakers when it comes to predatory teaching? Ralph Nader needs to write a book about liberal arts degrees called Unemployable at Any Wage. Morgan Spurlock needs to make a documentary where he spends 30 days trying to get a job after majoring in Mayottian History. Lady Gaga needs to raise awareness by performing in a dress made out of Fine Arts diplomas.

The reason predatory education goes unnoticed is because humans have been trained* to shut up and blindly support anything with the word education, learning, college, or teacher attached to it (not unlike the brainwashing surrounding words like troops, soldier, veteran, and military). Predatory education has never been more blatant, though I'm not surprised there isn't major outcry about it. If people had critical thinking skills they wouldn't be majoring in Women's Studies in the first place.

Subprime loans and student loans have a lot in common. If you take out a student loan to pursue most of today's majors, you are bound to become a NINJA: no income, no job, no assets.

*"Women" and "children" are among the most common words of manipulation deployed by politicians and bureaucrats. Teachers have traditionally been women, and students are almost always children, so it ain't exactly hard to link education to the sacrosanct realms of women and children. No wonder predatory education gets a pass.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Education can't create the real high-skill of the future: imagination

Ancient languages reconstructed by computer program

A new tool has been developed that can reconstruct long-dead languages.

Researchers have created software that can rebuild protolanguages - the ancient tongues from which our modern languages evolved.

Currently language reconstructions are carried out by linguists - but the process is slow and labour-intensive.

Another esteemed profession, this time linguistics, is being made less esteemed by the advance of technology. Linguists have actual skill, so it makes sense they have traditionally been esteemed. Speaking of technology, today all we hear is that America needs to "invest in education" so that our countrymen can compete in the 21st Century. But increasingly, the workforce of the 21st Century doesn't involve our humans or anyone else's. Both low-skill AND high-skill jobs are feeling the bite of automation.

The journalism job market (another prestige profession) has been hemorrhaging for years thanks to the Internet revolution. How long can the education cartels hold off a similar onslaught from online academies? Of course no one will miss the thousands of malevolently worthless college professors made obsolete by technology; the tweedbots with elbow patches on their toupee who always sound like they're in the middle of a sneeze as they spew another hollow lecture on Applied Applications.

But it won't just hit the professors who teach twaddle. The fact that online classrooms can teach so many students at once (and at such a low cost, a trend that is going to be hard for the cartels to hide as tuition inflation continues attracting attention) also lessens the need for professors of real subjects like engineering.

Education is a cure-all word that everyone uses for every situation. What many don't grasp is that just because someone is educated doesn't mean he can synthetize info. If all he can do is memorize and regurgitate info., even high-skill info., he isn't going to be as secure as you might think. That's because we have computers (and robots) who can do that. Robotic humans - no matter how many degrees they have - are likely to be eminently replaceable.

Focusing on education is all fine and dandy, but education does not equal imagination. The folks who will survive will be the ones whose real high skill is idea generation, because so far, AI hasn't perfected brainstorming robots (yet). Picasso's quote still holds true (for now). Many of today's well-educated, well-paid, high-skill, low-imagination workers could become tomorrow's secretaries (or temps). All the education in the world couldn't protect American engineers from the outsourcing revolution.

Thanks to the speedy advance of technology, it seems there is going to be less need for everyone. The anthem for computers and robots will be "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better". If there is to be any role for non-cyborg humans, it will be for those with imagination. So if you have kids, teach them to daydream.

My Twitter feed is still crafted with human hands:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The best slogan for future Republican candidates? "Hopeless."

The media spends 96.3% of its time fretting about the evils of old white men, so it is no surprise they are framing Republican problems as resulting from being too white, old, and evil.
The Republicans have certainly taken the bait. Last year's Republican Convention was so conspicuously diverse I'm surprised the keynote wasn't given by an AIDS quilt. Of course, these efforts did nothing to dent the "old white men" narrative. The old white men albatross, and its impending demise, was all the press talked about.

The Republican Party IS in major trouble, and part of the problem is old white men, but not for the reasons the media is highlighting.

The OLD part is a key issue. The country is getting older, and old people demand benefits. They will vote to secure benefits more often than they'll vote to preserve social mores. The press needn't fret: those old white men are going to vote for more Social Security and Medicare, regardless if the candidate promising to secure them is vowing to put a pink car in every garage and a transgender chicken in every pot.

So where does this leave Republicans? Let's examine their traditional hobby horses:
Religion: no longer the safe sell it once was. Prayer in school, "under God;" these topics have faded from view. The new religion is diversity (TV is now controlled by diversity televangelists). Being "God's party" no longer rings the cash register.

Culture war: Like being "God's party," "defense of marriage" posturing has become more of a liability than a vote getter. Many visible Republican pundits and pretty much all prominent Republicanish CEOs - are pro-gay marriage. Young people don't care about the "sanctity of marriage." Not even young Republicans are gung-ho.

Militarism: At least for now, blind support of every crank military adventure is on hold, so the relentless push to annihilate Persians and Arabs isn't the vote getter it was a few years back. Plus Obama is happily annihilating plenty of Third Worlders, so even if demand for this empire expansion returned, Republicans would have a harder time declaring that if they aren't in office America will suffer a Third World Civilian Murder Gap.
Second Amendment: All they have left are guns. As strongly felt as gun loyalty is, gun voters aren't evenly spread throughout the nation. Gun issues are a huge loser in key spots like New England, CA, Ill, NJ, and NY. Having that block of electoral votes in your pocket pretty much sews up the presidency for you, so no matter how loud the Second Amendment boosting becomes, the votes just aren't going to be there.

Second Amendment trumpeting is difficult at the national level, so all the Republican Party can put forth is fiscal austerity. It is the most politically correct Republican hobby horse remaining. Trouble is no one really likes fiscal austerity in practice. Young people demanding student loans don't love it. People receiving Medicare and Medicaid don't invite it to Thanksgiving. And when it comes to Social Security recipients, the only part of their life they aren't nostalgic for is the time before they started receiving Social Security. The weight of these demographics (especially the elderly part) portend a continued diminishment of the Republican Party.

But because fiscal austerity is the safest play left to them, it is now all the Republicans are talking about. They're doubling down on it. What they may not realize is that by talking about nothing else, they magnify their image as stingy, Granny starvers. Doesn't matter that they never follow through on any of their promises of fiscal conservatism (notice they said they wanted to "replace" ObamaCare. So we're supposed to believe RyanCare would be a budget saver?). So at a time when fiscal austerity is particularly unpopular, they are completely draping themselves in it. Doesn't make me want to run out and buy long-dated Republican options.

If you follow mainstream news, you continue to get the impression the Republican brand still matters. The mainstream needs the fake right-left template to concoct simplistic right-left narratives. And progressives still love the idea that they're right-thinking martyrs in a country full of cavemen (remember the political "analyst" who whined that Rick Perry was going to be President?), so they have no interest in letting the "bad guys" leave the stage. None of this coverage or commentary is accurate, but then, when has the news ever been accurate?
None of this matters anyway. America is effectively a one-party system. The "conservative" side is only there because, well, it's harder to continue robbing people if you don't give them imaginary choices.

My Twitter feed still beams with hope:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seven candies that are harming society

1) Candy corn

Candy corn is the only candy where the candied version is less of a treat than the actual vegetable. But if you get a pile of these non-treats, don't despair. They make for excellent earplugs.

2) Mounds

No one ever eats Mounds. Instead, they collect their Mounds and immediately try to barter with them on the secondary market. Trouble is, you can never get the other kids to trade you anything for a Mounds. Bitcoin gets fewer upturned noses. If you're lucky, there'll be a clueless foreign exchange student in your school you can trick into swapping a Mounds for something respectable. But be aware of the risk he reports you to the embassy.

3) Mallo Cups

Don't let the cup shape fool you into thinking you're about to experience candy bliss. Mallo Cups resemble black holes for a reason. Every Halloween there are warnings about dangerous candy stuffed with razor blades. Mallo Cups are actually much more dangerous to the giver, because if you give someone a Mallo Cup with a blade in it they'll probably use it to shiv you. Actually, a Mallo Cup with a switchblade center isn't so bad. At least if you cut your tongue off you never have to worry about reliving the horror of tasting Mallo Cups.

4) Bit-O-Honey

I don't understand how these things continue to survive. I never see them in stores. I never see anyone eating them. Yet every Halloween you're sure to get three or four in your pillowcase. They only seem to appear on Halloween. Sounds like a zombie movie. If only Bit-O-Honeys were as tasty as human brain.

5) Sugar Daddy

Delicious financial arrangement, disgusting candy.

6) Raisinets

How bad are Raisinets? You've heard that the natives sold Manhattan for $24. Well, the original offer was for $10 billion and a box of Raisinets. You can see why the natives renegotiated.

7) Mary Jane

The horrible name is just the beginning. Taffy in any form is a dealbreaker. No one craves taffy. Taffy is never served for dessert. You never visit a friend's house and find a candy bowl full of taffy on the coffee table. In an age where ice cream now contains every imaginable foodstuff ("I'll have the Pesticide Swirl with nightcrawler sprinkles, please."), you never see ice cream with taffy in it. So how could anyone be cruel enough to give these things to unsuspecting children? I guess barbarism lives. The only upside to these killjoys is that they're guaranteed to knock out a few teeth, so at least you'll have some tooth fairy money you can use to go buy some real candy.
7) Any candy that requires modification

How many times have you heard "Aw dude, ___ are so much better when you freeze them," or "Trust me, ____ are great if you dip them in peanut butter."

Yeah, of course it is better because then it's a totally different candy. It's like saying: "My wife is super hot, if you picture her with breast implants, full body lipo, and a face transplant from a model."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An Evening with John Densmore

I've written before about being a zealous, irritating Doors fan when I was a teenager:

I probably had that haircut.

Recently I attended a book reading given by Doors drummer John Densmore. He was reading from his new book The Doors: Unhinged, which uses the story of his legal battles with Krieger and Manzarek to expound upon what he calls "the greed gene."

As I sat in the audience waiting, I began to feel foolish. What was I doing there? Was I another tragic dud fruitlessly chasing down the sensations of adolescence?
Before I could dash, leaving behind a dense cloud of self-hate, Densmore walked out. Looked younger than his age; quite an achievement for a lifelong rocker. He began to talk, and his readings and musings fishtailed across many subjects. Maybe this looseness was a tribute to his jazz drumming roots (don't worry I don't actually mean this sentence).

His central theme was "the greed gene." As he put it, he and the surviving Doors (and other wealthy musicians) already have nice houses and "some groovy cars." Why do they need more? Why risk tarnishing the sentiments fans attach to their songs by licensing them for commercials? He roasted Townsend a bit for taking the opposite stanceDensmore wasn't dogmatic. He said he could understand why young, struggling bands sell their songs to advertisers. But "once you have a toehold of success," how much do you really need?

I don't blame musicians for selling their songs to advertisers. Having said that, I definitely prefer not to hear songs I like converted to jingles. Hopefully in Densmore's position, I would do the same thing, but who knows?

The Doors evidently had the only democratic agreement in popular music history. Everyone got 25%, and everyone had veto power (both arrangements suggested by Morrison). Densmore shared the story of one very famous veto: the time Jim freaked out when the others didn't consult him before agreeing to let Buick use "Light My Fire" in a commercial. The chorus was to be: "C'mon Buick, Light My Fire." Jim contacted Buick and said if they used the song he'd go on television and smash a Buick with a sledgehammer. The Doors and Buick did not break on through to a deal. Jim's stance seems to have had a great impact on John.

Since Jim's death, many other offers for lucrative licensing have come in, and the reason they didn't come off was because John said no every time. Consequently, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek tried suing him for more money than the Doors have generated in total since their inception (an intimidation tactic, obviously). Densmore won, thanks to that unusual arrangement the Doors had. The others had no case, so as John put it, all they could do was try "character assassination."

He didn't sound bitter about it, though. In fact, John said he and Krieger were planning to play a cancer benefit sometime next year.

He was at his best during the Q&A at the end: totally unpretentious, and though he wasn't getting paid for the event, and though he is already rich and doesn't need to sell books, and though his legacy in rock is already secure, he still seemed excited about getting his point across (his new book is self-published, so he is putting his money where his mouth is). Not for a moment did he slide into self-congratulation or sanctimony. With respect to celebrity charity (and charity in general), Densmore pointed out that the word philanthropy has a Greek origin and is supposed to mean "loving mankind." Preening celebrities humble bragging about how charitable they are doesn't fit that definition.

Mr. Densmore seemed like a man who still has some hope. This struck me: The Doors' music is frequently morbid - This is the end, no one here gets out alive, before I sink into the big sleep, I promised I would drown myself in mysticated wine, all our lives we sweat and save building for a shallow grave, the human race was dyin' out no one left to scream and shout, people walking on the moon, smog will get you pretty soon - but never despondent. There is a sense of romanticism to The Doors' meditations on death. Sure, no one gets out alive, but why mope? Doors' songs are more about taking arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them, as opposed to suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I left the reading overflowing with self-hate, but not because I sat and listened to John Densmore.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why women can't "get lucky"

You know the Four Horsemen are just around the corner when women start using male sex slang and it isn't a scene in a bad comedy. The irony is gone, and the true substance of the slang has evaporated with it.

The worst example: women talking about "getting lucky." I used to hear women say this as a punchline (it was a simpler time). Now they say it like they invented it. The expression is annoying enough when men use it. Now it's gone co-ed, and when I hear a woman say it I am temporarily transformed into a eunuch.

Let's review this again: any woman under sixty can walk into any bar (or restaurant, or grocery store, or ice cream truck, or children's' hospital, or air traffic control center) and pick up a man whenever she wants. When a woman propositions a man, no matter what, he at least thinks about it (doesn't happen the other way around). She has almost as much power in this area as an old school sheikh. The world is her harem.

When you can do something effortlessly whenever you want, IT NO LONGER QUALIFIES AS GETTING LUCKY.

There is nothing lucky about a woman hooking up. In terms of sexual power, women get lucky by being born a woman. Women are born with the winning lotto numbers. The female body is a royal flush, 21, a 3-point shot, and checkmate rolled into one. Men aren't born with the sexual wind at their back. When men play the sexual numbers game, we usually come up snake eyes. This is why we feel so LUCKY when we're successful.

I have not yet heard women talk about "making it to first base" or "hitting a home run," but I am waiting with a sick, burning feeling in my stomach for this to emerge as a debilitating fact of life. Once again, such slang will be unnecessary, because there is no such thing as "rounding the bases" when you can start on home plate and stay there all nine innings.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter is getting lucky:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

McCain is more dangerous than Putin

In response to Putin's critical though unemotional NYT op-ed in which he questioned US exceptionalism, Senator McCain struck back hard with a shrill tirade in Pravda. He must have just seen You Got Served.

Putin vs. McCain: In practice, who has been the more dangerous politician?
McCain has a prominent and visible role in shaping the foreign policy of the largest military in world history. And unlike Russia (and most other countries run by putative supervillains), the US often does make good on its rhetoric (see most post-WWII US foreign policy), so McCain's words frequently become reality. This is less true of Putin. Because the US is an empire and has a military presence in something like 140 countries (to do any less would be isolationist), McCain has far more power than Putin to implement his foreign policy gimmicks. When Russia even talks of military action, the whole world throws a fuss. The US faces modest criticism (sometimes) when it begins military action.

McCain vociferously backed the invasion of Iraq (we'll stay "maybe 100" years!), the escalation in Afghanistan, the intervention in Libya, and strikes on Syria. As a Presidential candidate, he sang "Bomb Iran" at a campaign stop. Any time Putin or some other authoritarian makes an offhand remark about aggression, the international press talks about it like the troops are already landing in whatever country he was referring to. Well, if we're going to have such a standard, how about the Republican candidate for President promoting a bombing campaign, via karaoke, against a country that hadn't attacked the US? Imagine the reaction if Chavez or Putin had done something remotely similar.

McCain never met a hopeless conflict he didn't want to get involved in. Dr. Strangelove was less of a hawk. So ask yourself: who has contributed to more worldwide aggression, Putin or McCain? Oh, and he also backs NSA spying, in case any of my fellow Americans were feeling left out of McCain's long waltz of wrath.

Of course Putin is a terrible guy. He is a Head of State. You don't get that job without getting a lot of dirt under your nails (usually cemetery dirt). But ask yourself who has put more of his rhetoric into practice, leading to real deaths rather than just threats of death? I say John McCain.

Hopefully Putin won't kill me for my tweets:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

An author shouldn't always want to be quotable

***Spoiler for Chinatown appears below***

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune.

Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.

Those are two quotes from the novels of the oft quoted William Faulkner. I could list juicy tidbits from the man from Mississippi all day. I could not however spend a day reading the novels themselves. They are tedious, partly because they are crammed with quotable moments.

Often, the novels with the best quotes aren't the best novels, because the author forces in lots of great quotes at the expense of the story. It is even more grating when these perfectly formed lyricisms and insights are presented as dialogue. No authentic human sits around unleashing proverbs that outdo the King James Bible, yet authors create characters like this all the time. I get it, these writers want to be quoted 100 years after they're dead, so they inject mini-essays into their novels whether they belong or not, ignoring that essays and novels are different things.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is full of amazing quotes, most of them uttered by the character Henry Wotton. The first half is largely a showcase for Wotton's witticisms and worldview, and this hurts the novel. Apart from the fact that even the world's greatest conversationalist isn't a gushing fount of future Bartlett's familiar quotations, having a character essay rather than speak to show how he influences another character (Dorian) is a bit too on-the-nose. The novel is still entertaining, simply because Wilde was the greatest inventor of quips to write in English.

I know it isn't a novel, but the film Chinatown is an example of creating cumulative effect without dozens of florid, standalone quotes. The last line: "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown" isn't so impactful by itself. But it is the perfect culmination of the film's story and tone, and is devastating thanks to the film's cumulative effect; its feel. If Jake Gittes spent the whole time unleashing Socratic monologues, neither the last line nor the film would have worked as well.

Some writers who knew about cumulative effect: Camus, Graham Greene, Orwell, Kafka, Flannery O'Connor. Orwell could be didactic, but his work is referenced - Newspeak, doublethink, memory hole, Thought Police - far more often than it is quoted. And when his novels are quoted, it is often explicit political slogans from them - Some animals are more equal than others, WAR IS PEACE -; not quips clumsily inserted to remind the reader what the book is about. Thanks to the cumulative effect and feel of Animal Farm, you can simply describe something as being like Animal Farm, and everyone knows what you mean. Not so true of the quote-filled The Sound and the Fury.

The better novels are the ones that achieve a cumulative effect, and because their insights and tones aren't explicitly stated, snipped passages from them don't stand out the way the great quotes from the lesser novels do. See, I just spelled everything out rather than let this rant have a cumulative effect!

Watch me outquip Oscar Wilde:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Attila the Hun never had trouble getting laid

It is no secret that women prefer bad boys, and it is no secret they are surprised every time when bad boys let them down. Stop me if this sounds familiar: "I know he's a jerk, but he really rings my bell!" I'll let you fill in the rest.

Women pretend to prefer sweethearts to ruffians in the rough, which helps to explain why many guys make the mistake of pretending they're nice* (usually after all else fails) as a way of attracting women. Unless you're a great looking guy - in which case any approach will succeed - the nice guy act is almost certain to blow up on the launchpad. The kind of woman you want is exactly the type who won't go for a nice guy, and the chances of your nice guy act working with the general populace aren't high either. I weep for all the unsuspecting males who are poisoned by the disingenuous counsel of mothers and sisters on the virtues of being nice. Is it any wonder that prostitution is the only bubble market that never pops?

What few women get is that every functioning male has a sizable part of him that is nasty and animalistic, and it isn't difficult to tap into. All you have to do is offer mild encouragement, and some of that depravity will rise from the cellar to the penthouse. The question then becomes: are you Dr. Frankenstein enough to keep The Monster in check?

Women love to think they can change a man, meanwhile the only area where they can change him - nudging him toward scumbaggery - is the only change they don't believe is possible! Absurdity meet irony--and don't pretend you're nice or it won't work out.

Both men and women are more depraved than they let on, yet the parameters of the traditional courtship process still fence people in. Every trend in society - constant divorce, polyamory, the ubiquity of porn and its influence on contemporary sex - is a screaming red alert that the old ways are out of style - at least for now - but there is still a reluctance to admit "a guy I can introduce to my father" isn't what most women really want. At all.

If you are one of the few authentic nice guys, just adopt the bad boy trappings of the demographic of woman you desire - chains and sleeve tattoo, Mad Men overstyling, South Bronx urban get up, nerd gear (in which case you'll also have to gain twenty pounds around your midsection. Hey, not my rules!) - and ignore her texts one day a week without explaining why. Your life will change forever.

*Just as some women pretend to be demure in a scheme to attract men, though I suspect the percentage of genuinely demure women is higher than the percentage of genuinely nice men.

I'm such a bad boy I have the Twitter feed of a Hell's Angel with chainsaws for hands:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Turn that smile upside down!

It could be worse is an expression used to nullify complaints. If you're grumbling about something and someone tells you "It could be worse," what he is really telling you is to shut up.

People say "It could be worse" like it is an automatic checkmate. I wonder if they realize this same tactic - making everything relative - could also be used to nullify triumphs...


SCENE I. Authentic generic Irish bar.



I thought life had no purpose until I met her. Now, for the first time in years, I can smell the flowers, I can feel the sunshine, I can ignore all the jackoffs in this bar I used to dream about killing.


Hey man, it could be better! You think you're in love? That couple over there is even more in love than you are. What right do you have to be so happy about your love?


All the familiar "It could be worse" platitudes can be flipped over and used to put a ceiling on any expression of happiness.

What makes you think your triumphs are so important?

Who are you to be happy in a world where so many people are doing so much better than you?

Your triumphs pale in comparison to the triumphs of a lot of other people in the world. Don't be so self-centered.

Oh, you're happy about owning a Volkswagen? Tell that to the guy in the Maserati.

Someone is always doing better than you, and someone is always doing worse than you. If other people's relative joy or misery held that much sway over our feelings, all of us would forever be in emotional purgatory; never up or down, never victorious or defeated. Our entire life would be an ordeal of nonstop measurements. I would hate to have to become The Count to determine if I should be happier or sadder than the Joneses.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

15 Famed Literature Titles Taken from Other Artists

Over the years I have heard complaints about contemporary art/entertainment being lazily drenched with references to previous works of art. I have heard this complaint come from my own mouth. The formula for book titles now is to take a famous title and change one word in it; usually in an ironic way. So much TV comedy relies on parodies of famous film and TV references. Maybe this started with the archival/repetitive nature of TV - seeing the same episodes, commercials, and movies rising again and again from the TV Netherworld - and accelerated with the resurrection of everything via the Internet. You're headbutted with the same clips so many times your mind can't help but think of a reference before conjuring something more original.

It is a tendency that is often odious, but we should remember how many classic works of art used references unironically. Think of all the book titles taken from Shakespeare:
Brave New World
Pale Fire
Remembrance of Things Past (not Proust's preferred title, evidently).
The Sound and the Fury

Or the Bible:

House of Mirth
The Sun Also Rises
The Violent Bear It Away

The Bible isn't the only religious text used for inspiration:

The Razor's Edge: The Katha Upanishad

Poetry has also given us plenty of fodder for book titles:

Tender Is the Night: Keats

Look Homeward, Angel: Milton
As I Lay Dying: Homer

Things Fall Apart: Yeats

And some poems reference other poems:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Dunbar

Some more random sources of inspiration:

The Grapes of Wrath: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

All the King's Men: Humpty Dumpty
Previously, artists referenced previous works word for word, with gravitas as the goal. Today, artists typically reference a previous work with irony in mind. Maybe the real problem isn't references in and of themselves, but rather irony overload. I'll drink to that.

Shakespeare got his lines from my Twitter feed:

Monday, September 2, 2013

You Can't Go Home with Her Again

Watching women as they walk by is one of about four things that keeps me from sticking my head into a self-made guillotine (though when it comes to guillotines, DIY isn't a good idea. Do yourself a favor and splurge on the Ferrari head remover. You're worth it.). When you're in a bar enjoying this life-affirming pastime, it is common to hear a married man say: "Man, I wish I was single again..."

Married men believe going back to bachelorhood automatically means the swinging, single life. They have forgotten all the years of going home at 3:00 AM drunk, disappointed, and sans senorita. They have forgotten the thou$ands they spent spinning their wheels with women who never had the tiniest intention of pleasing them in any way. One reason many men get married is because they are sick of the chase and want to assure themselves easy access to a woman.

We forget the failures and place halos over the successes. But even if the successes were plentiful, what many married men forget is...

...they aren't 22 any more. Those young, attractive women walking by? Unless you're eye-spanking them as a married Rob Lowe, your chances are slim.

An older married men assumes the only barrier between him and nubile, uninhibited women is that he's married. Tragically, the only thing that makes an older man attractive is that he's married; i.e., responsible. Once that illusion plummets down the elevator shaft, he is just a regular 38-year-old, complete with receding hairline, billowing gut, and jokes that were old when he was young.

You must remember that although your preference for young, hot women hasn't changed, your body has. So even if you became single again, you'd be stuck with women your own age (who usually resemble the wife you're dying to escape from), the occasional loony young woman in search of a daddy, and women older than you. Unfortunately, the Mrs. Robinson scenario loses its appeal when bedding a woman twenty years your senior means dragging home a woman who remembers the telegraph.

Trust me, your second bachelorhood would be a tarnished brass version of the golden dream you're imagining. If you're a married man who wants to play the field, stay married and get a mistress. Someday I'll have a daytime talk show where I can dispense this indispensable advice.

My Twitter feed is able to juggle a harem and mistresses of every shade:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The near future of New York will be a trip to the past

Is New York the Next Detroit?

New York City Mayor Bloomberg is on his way out, and as sometimes happens when a politician heads for the exit, he let leak some molecules of truth...

“Avoiding the hard choices is how Detroit went bankrupt,” he said in a speech Tuesday, according to the New York Post. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, thinks that his successor as mayor will have a unique window to act, because all the major public sector unions are currently operating without a contract.

Mr. Bloomberg is talking about his successor in hypothetical terms. If a successor were to come in and act like a grown up for a day or two, New York City's fortunes might be marginally improved. Of course this isn't going to happen.

You probably aren't following the New York City mayoral race (or the comptroller race where the maniacal Eliot Spitzer has a real shot at being able to torture us again), and there is no reason why you should be. Every candidate is running to see who can best combine the worst aspects of David Dinkins ('90s disaster) and John Lindsay ('70s disaster). The only difference between the current candidates is weight and gender.

New York has been red hot for many years. Its economy didn't shatter as much in the crisis and has recovered better than much of the world. And New York City is now a hot place to work and live. No longer is it a commuter city full of Long Island and Connecticut residents. Brooklyn, once known for its pedigree and streetwise rap stars and street-hardened boxers, has become a white hot place full of families and couples intending to start families. You heard me right. People are setting down roots in Brooklyn with the intention of raising families there. In the old days young couples frolicked in New York for a few years, then moved to the suburbs when it was time for kids. Things have changed.

New York's crime rate has had a 20-year decline. When you cruise the sidewalks, your path is not constantly blocked by homeless people and scam artists. No one is carrying designated pick-pocket money to appease potential muggers.

I'm thinking that's going to change. Although Guiliani (especially) and Bloomberg are both horrible human beings, at least their initiatives occasionally overlapped with reality. New Yorkers are about to discover that 10% reality, 90% fantasy is far better than 100% fantasy.

What I think is coming is the most cynical breed of populist policing mixed with the most cynical breed of populist economics. In other words, higher taxes, higher crime rates, more public debt, and much worse public services. And don't think that the higher crimes rates will be because of fewer laws. There will be more asinine laws passed to generate revenue raising fines. And when it comes to crime, you can bet tax paying residents caught in wispy misdemeanors will be shamelessly inconvenienced and milked, while those benefiting from their taxes will be told they're the ones being ripped off. Yeah...that's going to cause some friction. Should crime rates spike, expect the next mayoral administration to issue lots of calls for "understanding." Muggings will probably be renamed "cultural exchanges."

We are going to see a wonky, liberal arts curriculum approach to governance, which will push much of New York's celebrated "creative class" (and its tax base) to flee. It will be an early '90s flashback. The younger people who have only lived here during the prosperity have no idea what the old New York was like, and given the mushy world they grew up in, they are the least prepared to handle it. Well-practiced criminals are not intimidated by anti-bullying slogans. They do not drop their weapons upon hearing ironic comments. And your Superman tattoos? Not scary to a dude with his strangled cell-mate's name carved into his neck. It brings to mind the younger Wall Street traders who had never seen a bear market before and had no idea what to do when 2008 struck.

Instead of the "hard choices" Bloomberg referenced, there will simply be a greater distribution of hardship to the net taxpayers of New York. This is how it always goes down. But having said all that, I still don't plan to leave. It is better to die in a place you enjoy than live long and prosper in Squaresville.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pouvez-vous chanter?

How much more powerful and far-reaching is music than other art forms? Music can explode in popularity around the world without being translated. Novels have to be translated. Movies need the help of subtitles. But music, whether it is opera or popular music, can move people to tears in a language completely alien to them. They will even learn to say the words (without necessarily understanding them) simply to chant them back at the singer in frenzied ecstasy.

Origami doesn't seem to have this effect.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It Ain't a Small World at All

Doesn't take much for folks to proclaim: "It's a small world!" I'm not sure who originated this expression, but his legacy is a pox on all our tongues.

Any little encounter that has any connection to us in any way makes us think that even with 7 billion Earthlings, our planet is really just a snow globe. Sorry to spoil it for the romantics out there, but it isn't that neat and clean. Odd connections from far flung places do occur. What you forget is that five years went by before your stepcousin met that person who grew up four counties away from that summer camp you went to for half an August. During those five years, you encountered thousands of people who had no connection to you whatsoever. But you didn't count them or the amount of time that passed. Mentally, you hit pause as you waited for the next "small world" encounter, and responded as though it came right on the heels of the last one. Our brains seem to have a cryogenics lab that preserves these contrived patterns and chronologies, and it fools us regularly.

But don't despair, you can still take your kids on the It's A Small World ride. Just make sure you tell them it's a lie (like everything at Disneyland).