I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but let’s be real here for a minute. Casablanca. Yes, theCasablanca. The only film that everyone has both heard of and actually seen. The film hands-down most frequently cited as “The Greatest Film of All Time.” ThatCasablanca…
…is pretty okay. Yeah, it’s a good flick. The characters are memorable, the conflicts are compelling, the acting and production are solid. Especially for an old film, it does a pretty decent job of being more than just a “filmed play.” Unlike other films with an overblown reputation (coughCitizen Kanecough cough), it’s actually coherent and enjoyable.
But that’s all. It’s not remotely reasonable to even begin to think that it ranks among the greatest films of all time. That may have been a semi-rational fleeting thought to have had when it first came out in theatres, but today, with the benefit of 60 more years of cinematic history behind us, it’s inexcusable. This film isn’t even “Top 10” material let alone “All-Time Greatest.” It’s good, maybe even great, but greatest? Come on.
Casablanca is a mish-mash written by half a dozen different writers who only agreed on three things: that Nazis are bad, that patriotism consists of singing your national anthem louder than someone else’s national anthem in a country that doesn’t belong to either of you, and that rape is quaint when the French do it. And you’ve gotta be suspicious of whether people are even paying attention to their “favorite” film when the most famous, most quoted line is not actually in the film. Really, just consider that for a moment.
Oh, and you people-of-a-certain-philosophy who love that ruggedly independent Rick, didja miss his penultimate line about the “troubles of two people not being worth a hill of beans in this world?” Oh yeah, there’s a guy who really knows how to value romantic relationships. That line turns a film that could have been about two noble people facing an incredibly difficult decision between a powerful first love and an equally powerful rebound love, with a heroic man ultimately saving the love of his life from what he knows would be a mistake despite the cost to him, into a dramatic ode to self-sacrifice because “this guy might not write as many anti-Nazi books if you don’t keep sleeping with him.”
The universal over-praising of this film is the best example I can think of of ongoing mass hysteria. This happens all the time with chicks and their chick movies. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, anyone? Why are all women so obsessed with that film? Is it because the incredibly depressing story of a sexually abused child turned teen bride to a creepy old hick turned prostitute is so very relatable for us as a sex? Or is it because we are all secretly incredibly racist against Asians? Of course not.
The real reason we love this movie, aside from Audrey Hepburn’s 14-inch waist and that cat, is because every woman we’ve ever met has told us it’s her favorite movie. We’d be traitors to the clitoris if we admitted it is really just pretty okay. Ok, so women are followers. We know this. But men, what’s your excuse for rolling on your backs at the sight of Humphrey Bogart like a yearling before the alpha male?
It’s time to end the madness, people. It’s time to see clearly and evaluate independently. Or, if you can’t manage that, just repeat after me:
If I ever lose my mind and become an educator, I will absolutely without question implement this product in my classroom. The Reductio Reductio ad Hitlerum Education System is an educational tool designed to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of argumentum ad hominem in the United States. When utilized consistently throughout the education system, it can generate a rational culture in just two generations.
What do you get?
For four easy payments of $19.95 and one difficult payment of $13.22, you receive the entire Reductio Reductio ad Hitlerum Education System, suitable for use in a class of up to 25 students. Your RRaH kit includes:
-25 fun, engaging, and age-appropriate "Logic 101" textbooks
-1 Logic 101 teacher's edition textbook
-25 Logic 101 companion workbooks
-1 Logic 101 teacher's edition workbook
-26 copies of the official rules of parliamentary debate
-30 debate topics
-26 life-like masks of Adolf Hitler
How does it work?
The RRaH Education System works by inhibiting the effectiveness of ad hominem attacks. To apply the system in your own classroom, simply select two students, place a Hitler mask on each, randomly draw a debate topic, and enjoy a fun, productive, and logic-based parliamentary debate. Due to their natural human instinct to be douchebags, the students will eventually attempt to attack each other through vicious name-calling. When this inevitably occurs, simply remind them that they are both Hitler and had therefore better make a logically valid argument instead.
The RRaH Education System can also help eliminate other common problems like:
-Sexual harassment (no one wants to fondle that 'stache)
-Homophobia (you're all gay now!)
-Having to look at children
The total pointlessness of open letters notwithstanding, this is probably my best chance at reaching you guys, so I may as well give it a shot. There's something I've been wanting to tell you all for years now, but I didn't quite have the words. Well, now I do, and the words are these:
Please leave me alone.
I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to discuss the weather, or when the next bus might be arriving, or what I'm wearing. I don't want to say "hi" to you or answer your inquiries about where I'm going. I am certainly not going to tell you my name or where I live. Please, just don't talk to me.
I'm not sure why this has been such a problem. I could understand if I were just standing around looking bored, but I'm not. I'm reading, jogging, and talking on the phone. I'm listening to music, playing sudoku, and buying groceries. I'm on my laptop, writing, and drinking coffee. I am not wearing a giant "please come talk to me" sign whilst engaged in any of these activities.
I've tried to send you guys signals. Really, I have. I do my best to appear unapproachable, but if I frown, you tell me to smile. I try to look busy, but if I read, you ask me what I'm reading. Ok, here's your answer: nothing now that you interrupted me, asshole.
There was a time, not too long ago, when this kind of behavior might have been appropriate. Unexpectedly fruitful conversations with strangers helped me tolerate many an interminable transcontinental flight, back in the day. But that was the day before iPhones and personal seat-back entertainment systems and Kindles. That was before we had electrical outlets and wifi as well as snakes on planes. That was when I had already finished the one book I could squeeze into my carry-on and my walk-man had run out of batteries and I literally had nothing better to do than talk to you.
Modern technology has enabled us to be constantly either entertained or productive or both. It's allowed us to go through life literally paying attention to only the things we want to pay attention to. It's given us each our own, private universe to float around it, interacting with others only when we choose.
Random people: you are no longer needed. You are redundant. Unnecessary. Intrusive. You must go the way of the buggy whip maker. Structural unemployment's a bitch, but there you are.
Please, please, please leave me alone. I don't care if you have a really important petition you want me to sign. I don't care if you like my somethingorother. The headphones are in to keep you out. Unless I'm about to get hit by a bus, bugger off.
And just to be clear, emergencies are actual, life-or-property-threatening situations. Me sleeping on the floor at an airport is not an emergency. That is normal airport behavior. That situation does not require you to wake me up to ask if I am okay. Ditto if you find me crying in the bathroom. Are you my bff? No. So for what possible reason would I talk to you about whatever's troubling me? The whole point of coming in here is to be left alone. Why are these things so hard for you to understand, people in the South? Why won't you leave me alone?!
Please, I beg you, on behalf of personal bubbles everywhere: leave us alone.
Every once in a while, when I'm out without Sig. Other, people be like "Where's Sig. Other?", to which I reply with a most articulate shrug. Then I get this completely baffled sideways look like "Whaaa?" I can see the speculations flicker by. Did they have a fight? Is S.M. stepping out on S.O.? Is their marriage in trouble? Did I remember to let the dog out? Yes, I believe I did. Where was I? Oh yes, maybe they already broke up and S.O. moved out and they just don't want to say anything about it yet, and maybe S.M. is embarrassed because S.O. is going for a younger model and...
Right, ok: people, you are crazy. There is nothing (read my lips: n-o-t-h-i-n-g) wrong with couples doing things separately. Even social things like dancing, drinking, club-going, and traveling. To the contrary, it's actually been demonstrated to be one of the key factors in successful relationships (meaning relationships where neither partner ends up killing the other or, you know, breaking up.) So you can just take your judgey-mac-judge-judge face and shove it, savvy?
Now to all the fine ladies and gents out there who, thanks to their aforementioned fineness, have fine ladies and gents or gents/ladies of their own and are enjoying the delicious, delicious fruits of committed relationships, I'm here to tell you not to let all the single ladies get you down. First of all, the non-single ladies are the desirable ones, pretty much by definition. Secondly, just because there aren't a lot of songs that urge married folks to gesticulate in some particular way, doesn't mean your fun times are over. To the contrary, your times are funner than ever before. You can finally just relax and enjoy yourself because:
1. You *know* you're getting laid when you get home from the club.
2. You have an easy out with the creepers.
3. It completely doesn't matter what you look like, because someone is already stuck with you (see #1).
Congratulations: you just turned the most stressful experience known to man into a pleasant pastime. Maybe you can even enjoy going to the gym now. The possibilities really are limitless.
If you're still stressed because Judgement-Face over there is still giving you the fish-eye, here are some handy tips:
1. Buy your own drinks. It's really only fair. People only buy you drinks to get in your pants, so if your pants are not for sale, don't accept payment.
2. Wear your ring. People don't always look for them, but it should be there in case they do. You might consider wearing one even if you aren't actually married, just to simplify the communication.
3. Be honest. You don't have to tattoo "TAKEN" on your forehead, but until Facebook is holographically superimposed on top of real life, you will have to make an effort to communicate your relationship status appropriately.
4. Set time limits. Spending a lot of time with one person generally indicates a serious interest. You can avoid awkwardness by mentioning that you aren't single early on, such as between the first and second dance.
5. Be fair. Sometimes people will do things for you and expect little in return, but usually they want to get some. As soon as a favor is offered, say something like "I'd love to accept, but you should first know that I'm not available."
Unlike my dating advice, I've actually put these ideas into practice, with really encouraging results. I've yet to run into a negative reaction. In fact, I've yet to run into anything but gratitude. About a quarter of men will thank you for the dance or whatever, then politely move on. Half will say it's cool, they just want to dance or whatever and will stick around a while. The last quarter are the pushy ones who say they're fine with there being no romantic or sexual prospect, but soon start asking where your partner is, and if he's not here, what's the harm of spending a little time together, maybe just a little kiss, eh?
This actually brings me to a broader topic which is that people are actually pretty okay, at least for short periods of time, so just give them a fucking chance, ok? Strange claim for a misanthrope to make, I know, but it's true. I simply do not understand the general objection of the female sex to cat calls, pickup lines, and the like. What kind of mind-body dichotomy crap is that? A guy passing you on the street can't asses your IQ or career success from looking at you. All he knows is: hot or not. And if the answer is hot, why wouldn't you want to know? Being hot certainly doesn't prohibit you from also being smart. In fact, statistically, the two are actually correlated. Yes, there are rude ways to let a girl know that you find her attractive, but there are plenty of polite ways as well. Why do they all seem to end up lumped in the same bucket?
Again, speaking from actual experience here. Number of times I've gratefully acknowledged unsolicited verbal male appreciation: um, dozens? Number of times a pleasant interaction has resulted: same. Number of times I've materially benefited from the exchange (i.e. gotten a favor like directions, recommendations, someone to carry heavy stuff, etc.): at least 15. Number of times I've been sexually assaulted: 0.
What was my point here? Oh right: people need to chill out and have fun whether or single or not.
Over the ZOMGHAPPYBIRTHDAYAMERICAFUCKYEAH!! weekend, I got hella sunburned, as we say in NorCal. That fact alone is enough to clue you in that I am "white as fuck" (the technical term, I believe.) But despite my Type 2 skin and Wonderbread upbringing, I like to fancy myself a reasonably streetwise, urban fellow these days.
Alas, any such illusions were cruelly shattered as I stood outside of a Target in Hicksville alongside my fellow victims of UVB, shamelessly rubbing recently-purchased aloe vera over our lobsterfied bodies in the middle of the public sidewalk. Aghast at my embarrassingly public display, but unwilling to stop, I remarked "God, I feel so ghetto." At that exact moment, two black women walked past us, and the first coolly responded:
"Y'all not ghetto."
It had been spoken. Ghetto we were not. My devastation knew no limit. The most ghetto moment in my life, visibly rubbing myself outside a discount shopping center in some random white trash town, just wasn't ghetto enough. Damn, so why did I suffer through 3 years living on the South Side? Why did I watch all that BET and learn the words to "99 Problems?" Why did I buy these sweet kicks?
Ok, so I don't actually have sweet kicks, but I think I deserve some cred for surviving a place where we not only heard gunfire at night, but actually found bullets (not casings, but bullets) in the street outside our apartment. Sure, I was enjoying high-priced coffee, eating sushi, wearing sweatshirts with shorts, and indulging in other stuff white people like at the same time, but living next door to active gang warfare has to count for something. Besides, I speak Mexican, bitches.
It's time we recognized that ghetto is not a skin color- it's a way of life.
I'm seriously considering deleting my prior post. As it turns out, it would be super, super illegal for me to have done anything other than what I did (which was nothing) in the face of that anti-gay nonsense at work, because it was *religious* anti-gay nonsense. Apparently no matter what kind of nonsense you spout, you are protected from any kind of negative consequences at work, as long as your nonsense is the special, protected type of nonsense.
So here I find myself in the middle of a PC pickle. This Neanderthal is protected in the name of religion, but homosexuals are offered similar protection. It's a hostile work environment to talk about hating gays, and it's a hostile work environment to talk about hating religious morons who hate gays. What the fuck, society?
Remember the Civil Rights movement, or any major cultural movement for that matter? Does anyone remember how things actually changed? It wasn't the government coming in and granting special protections (which doesn't even make any sense when the goal is *equal* protection). The government is always, always late to that kind of game. The real change happens when ordinary people challenge the corrupt legal and social order: when German kids swing dance in the 30s, when little old ladies refuse to go to the back of the bus in the 50s, when Iranians tweet their protests today.
The legal restrictions we've placed on employers not to discriminate based on this or that merely serves to retard our progress as a culture. Gay rights activists in San Francisco in the 70s would publish lists of anti-gay businesses in the city so that those who opposed such bigotry could avoid patronizing such businesses. This created an economic incentive to actually change points of view. Now that the law simply prohibits anti-gay discrimination, we have no clue who the bad guys are. The bigots haven't gone away; they've just been silenced- for now.
Thus, for the first time ever, I am considering self-censorship. What matters more to me- my job or my job on my terms? The reality is, I can't have my job on my terms at all, not completely, so I guess that answers that.
Here's to hopefully getting what you need, if not what you want,
After my crazy push last month-end to avoid having the lightest-posting month in my history, I dropped the ball for June. But that's okay; I'm calling June a "research and reconnaissance" month. Every once in a while, I need to spend some time out in the real world so I can find more ridiculous things to complain about. The last few weeks have certainly provided some precious fodder in that respect. Here's one example:
I recently attended an intra-company conference a.k.a. massive forced networking event. Being so positive on humanity generally, as you all know I am, I anticipated meeting dozens of really awesome people who are totally worth my time. Haha, jk. But actually it turned out to be pretty okay. A couple of days of fun, frivolous conversation and professional education left me feeling pretty good about the caliber of the associates at my firm.
So we get down to the very last day. The conference is technically over, and I'm chattering away with "Bob" from the "Somewhere in the South" office, passing the time, chewing the cud, etc., waiting for our respective transportation to arrive. Being incurably hard-wired to bring up controversial subjects if left in conversation for more than two minutes, I end up sort of indirectly ranting about religion. Not in the "here are 5,000 reasons off the top of my head why religion is totally retarded" kind of way; more like "and this one time, at church camp, the minister gave a sermon about Lord of the Rings." Strictly lighthearted, amusing, non-offensive stuff.
When I eventually come up for air, it's "Bob's" turn to amuse me. He begins talking about the highly evangelical, "in your face" Christians and why he thinks they have it wrong. Then, in a completely off-hand aside, he casually mentions that he considers homosexuality "a sin against God."
About 50 thoughts hit me simultaneously. Oh my god, I've been living out West too long, I forgot some people actually think this stuff, but then with Prop 8, maybe there are more of them out West than I think, is this what having a global company means, all these offices with different cultures and some of them are going to think God hates the gays, and am I going to have to deal with this for as long as I work here, are there people in my own office who think this shit and I don't even know, and what do I do, do I call him an idiot and walk away or do I have to be polite since he didn't bat an eye at my atheism, would it be a violation of company policy to give my unfettered opinion or would it just be career suicide, I wonder how many of the other people I met have similar ideas, thank god there wasn't time for more deep conversations this week, oh my god, he's still talking, what do I do?
At this point, someone interrupted us, and I simply walked away, resolved to never speak to "Bob" again.But what if we hadn't been interrupted? What if this had happened on day one of the conference? What if it had happened with someone in my own office? I don't even know what I'm allowed by my company to say, let alone what I should say.
Believe me, I am used to being at odds with everyone around me. It comes with the territory when you hate babies and trees, think selfishness is a virtue, and oppose corporate charity. I disagree with 90% of people about 90% of things, but there are relatively few disagreements that will make me want to have nothing to do with a person. So what happens when one of those few interjects itself at work?
I know that people are responsible for what they think. I know that I am responsible for judging people for their choices, which in part means not letting them get away with being fucking morons. I know that homosexuality and morality is a personally significant issue for me, second only to children's rights in my hierarchy. I know that changing the culture has to begin somewhere and that refusing to do business with racists, sexists, and homophobes is a contribution each of us is capable of making in our own lives.
I also know that most people don't take ideas that seriously and don't think that well. I know that most people say one thing and act another. I know that my career is incredibly precious to me, probably worth more than one minor stand, even on a major issue. I know that many of my coworkers already think I'm going to Hell for being atheist, well before consideration of my sexual behaviors. Does one more stupid belief matter, especially one so prevalent as to be virtually inescapable?
Thanks to Facebook, I now know that out of my handful of new coworker-friends, four are Christian, one with an "About Me" section that talks exclusively about praising God and another with Mother Teresa quotations (the only thing worse than the Dalai Lama), and, by far worst of all, one lists her political views as a completely unacceptable "moderate." Work is not where I get my close friends, and that's completely fine. But how do I work every day with someone who is my active enemy politically and culturally?