Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“What Do You Like to Do for Fun?”

This is the single most stressful question in the world for me. Everyone seems to have a perfectly good response to it but I. Whenever I’m asked it, I become paralyzed with fear. Like if I lived in the Harry Potter universe and I were cleaning out a spooky mansion and came across a boggart, it would repeatedly assume the shape of a person I'd want to impress asking me what I do for fun, and I would instantly collapse in a heap and the boggart would feed on my tears for eternity.

When someone I want to impress asks me what I do for fun in the actual world, I respond a bit differently. At first I just don’t say anything at all, as if by keeping perfectly still and quiet, the questioner might simply forget they asked the question and move on. I call this the “T-Rex strategy” of social interaction (they can only see you if you move.)

When that doesn’t work, I panic, because I am immediately convinced that nothing I do could possibly be considered fun by this person who is obviously hip beyond imagining, who probably spends his or her weekends eating fire while hanging from a trapeze suspended over a pit of lions and juggling hedgehogs. I start to imagine all the impossible fun this person has in their spare time, and I become more and more convinced that nothing I do could possibly interest them.

At this point, my addled brain begins to realize that I have to say something and tries to compile a list of stuff I spend my time on. That process usually goes like this:

Me: Brain! Tell me quickly: what do I like to do?


Me: No, I mean for fun.


Me: I know, I know, I really do enjoy my work more than anything else, but normal people don’t feel that way. What do I like to do that’s normal?

Brain: [Long pause.] TV TV TV.

Me: I can’t say that, that’s embarrassing! I know I’m an active and discerning consumer of television shows and that I approach them in an intellectual and stimulating manner, but if my answer to “what do you do for fun?” is “TV,” I’ll sound like a total bum!


Me: Argh, same problem there. I guess I could talk about the films I’m making, but that just seems pretentious. Besides I haven’t actually completed a film yet, and it’s not the number one activity I spend my spare time on.


Me: NO. Fun stuff, brain. Fun stuff like what cool people do.


Me: Why not?


Me: Well, fuck.

At this point it’s a tossup between the honest answer (reading fiction or writing stupid blog posts about how I can’t deal with simple social situations) and a generic one that is always the exact opposite of what I should have said. Like if I’m talking to a couple of bros, I’ll say I like shopping and then cry as I watch the possibility of ever appearing interesting or intelligent in their eyes fade like something that fades extremely quickly. But if I’m talking to some girlie girl, shopping and fashion won’t even occur to me. All I’ll be able to think about are cars and guns and Tom Clancy novels and how much I hate Twilight.

The worst part is: I don’t even like cars and guns and Tom Clancy novels that much (or shopping, for that matter.) But I do fucking love to hate Twilight. I guess that’s just my contrarian nature screwing me over once again.

Actually, that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is the reason why I don’t just tell the truth in these situations: the question itself is fucking retarded.

No, I’m not saying that what a person does with their time is irrelevant, although the question almost always implies that what you spend your non-working time on is more important/essential/interesting than what you spend most of your waking hours doing. You know, that little thing you’ve dedicated your life to. That couldn’t possibly be worth talking about. No, no, we have to talk about hobbies, about the little things you come home to that make your 9 to 5 bearable. Well fuck you, I don’t have a “9 to 5.” I have a goddamn all-consuming passion that takes up 80% of my time. The rest of the time is for sex and sleep and that’s how I bloody well like it.

Okay, that’s one problem with the question. The other is that with recreation, like so many things, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. You could have the most impressive hobby in the world (“Me? Oh, I like to alligator-raft down Angel Falls with Stephen King on weekends. Yes, that’s when you stand on an alligator and use a pole to maneuver it like a gondola over the largest waterfall on Earth. It can get pretty intense. That’s why I bring Steve along, to keep it real.”), but if you’re a passive, intellectually-stunted bore about it, it becomes lame. Passivity is the main ingredient in lamesauce and baby, you are smothered.

If you’ve ever met a person who is training for a marathon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s a packet of instant lamesauce, right there. Same thing if you know someone who has a dog, does crossfit, likes football, does volunteer work, is totally into this beardcore band, or has children. Yet all of these will get you free admittance to Cool People Land at the “What do you do for fun?” Q&A session. Meanwhile I struggle to explain how I like to read books alone in my spare time because frankly the people in books are much more interesting than the ones you meet at parties who ask you what you like to do for fun instead of more substantive questions and then expect some pre-packaged, easy-to-digest answer and why am I trying to impress you anyway, I’ve got 60 IQ points on you, motherfucker, piss off.

And this is why I am such a hit at parties.

Screw you guys,

S. Misanthrope

Friday, August 19, 2011


Searching around for flights today, I discovered this:

Oh, what a wonderful world! It only costs $8 to fly from London to Paris! Why, I could go to Paris every day, just for breakfast even and - wait, what's that? $161 of taxes and fees? Nice one, Europe. Nice.

I'm a math person, so let's crunch some numbers here. That's more than a two-thousand percent markup for taxes and fees. The actual cost of flying is 4.73% of the total cost of the ticket. For every dollar you spend on actual travel, you spend over $21 on bureaucracy. What. The fuck.

I'm too lazy to research exactly what's going on here, so I don't want to go all foamy at the mouth about goddamn fascist governments ruining everything ever. Both Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle are privately owned airports after all. For all I know, those fees are unrelated to burdensome regulation. Maybe the $161 is really what it costs per passenger to run an airport, I guess. It's not as if European air travel regulators have a history of doing stupid things that cost airlines $200 million of revenue a day for almost a week.

Oh, wait.

Commencing mouth foaming now.

FUCK YOU, global regulators. I mock you from my private island.

Peace and love,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Google+ Will Win

I joined Facebook when it first started. When it was still something like an actual face book. When it wasn't weird to be friended by people you went to high school with because I was actually in high school. Before news feeds and laughably ineffective security settings and Farmville. Facebook has had access to ten years of information about me, information that should enable targeted marketing the likes of which Don Draper couldn't even dream of. 

And, as of 10AM PST today, here is what Facebook has done with all that information:

Facebook gains access to ten years of snarky posts about non-visible art, debates over whether the works of Van Gogh would be better used as toilet paper or kindling, and the exact phrase "abstract art is invalid and I poop on it" repeated at least a dozen times, and they say "Hey, I bet this girl would really love some 'design objects.' Let's send her an ad for a vaguely elephant-shaped white globular structure with no apparent purpose. Yeah, the more it looks like an origami footstool made from a leukocyte, the better."

I'm pretty sure Facebook's ad generating algorithm looks something like this:

Girl or Boy?

Girl                                                                                    Boy

Gay or Straight?                                                                 Gay or Straight?

Gay                           Straight                                       Gay                           Straight

Send ads for:

Sales on anything        Sales on anything           Sales / dating services       Dating services

Advertisers, you are incompetently sexist mutherfuckers.

On the flip side, I joined Google+ exactly one day ago, and it already has the wherewithal to read my Facebook feed to recommend I check out specific restaurants when I get to Bora Bora. Booyah.

Smooch smooch,

S. Misanthrope

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stupid of the Week #10: Non-Visible Art

So, this really happened.

In case you're too lazy to read the article (read it!), here's a quotation:

"The Museum of Non-Visible Art is a project endorsed by actor James Franco that promotes artwork that is imagined by the artist. So, when new media producer Aimee Davison recently shelled out $10,000 for a piece of non-visible artwork, what she was really getting was a card to hang on her wall that describes the invisible, non-existent piece of art."

Here follows my hilarious, witty and insightful non-visible blog post titled "I am so fucking thrilled that I can now get paid thousands of dollars for literally nothing" making fun of this stupid idea. Enjoy!

Invisibly yours,

S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Earn Respect at Work

Me: [walking into Jim's office] Hey, Jim.

Jim: Hi, S.

Me: You know Eddie Izzard's giraffe walk?

Jim: What?

Me: You know, the one that goes like this. [Mimes Eddie Izzard miming a giraffe]

Jim: Oh. Yes. I saw that bit. Once.

Me: Well, there's something about this hallway that makes me want to do the giraffe walk every time I go down it. Maybe just to see if anyone would notice.

Jim: [Silence]

Me: You know?

Jim: Not really.

Me: Oh.

[More silence]

Jim: By the way, I haven't done that thing you asked me to do yet.

Me: Why not? Do I need to be meaner? Do you not take me seriously?

Jim: You just came into my office and told me that you feel compelled to walk like a giraffe.

Me: Oh. Yeah, I guess I see your point. Bye, then.

Jim: Bye.

Me: [giraffe-walks out the door]

The End.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Point Is Not the Point

It’s a medical and cosmetological fact that you should wash your hair as rarely as possible. So why do I scorn the multitude of wannabe cave-dwellers currently beating their chests and grunting in favor of going “no-poo”? For the same reason why I oppose all things “paleo” despite generally approving of low-carb eating: we only agree by accident.

If I could choose one idea to have surgically implanted into the brains of every person in my Facebook feed, it would be this: two people who arrive at the same conclusion but employ disparate chains of reasoning are not in meaningful agreement. Carefully ponder this sentence, if you would. I plan to spend the better part of this month on this issue and all the ways that failing to grasp it annoys me.

If you think about it, which no one does, there are countless examples of this principle at work. Like, say, if Jane really likes dogs and Kevin really likes dogs, but Jane likes dogs because they can be trained to kill other dogs in fights while Kevin likes dogs because you can style their fur like in Edward Scissorhands, well, then, Kevin and Jane don’t really have much in common at all, do they? When it comes time to pick a movie, one will want to watch Oliver and Company and the other Kujo.

The entire point of this example was to give me an excuse to post this picture.
This whole concept should sound very familiar to a certain group out there: it's the exact reason why O'ists and libertarians are at odds. Well, ok, in reality, that fight is usually just people trying to act like good members of their respective groups, but the original, valid dispute centered on the fact that wanting the same particular outcomes is not all there is to it when it comes to political (or any) ideology.

Someone agreeing with you, but for bad reasons is not helpful. In fact it's the opposite of helpful. Say you adamantly believe in breast feeding over formula feeding. If some woman gets up on national television and tells everyone that she's in favor of breast feeding too, because Cthulhu came to her in a vision and told her that all formula is poison that will turn the children of the earth into reptile-like creatures with night vision, that woman is not helping your cause. She's making you and all who agree with you look fucking insane.

As I said, we’ll explore this topic in more detail soon, but meanwhile, try to remember that the point is not the point; how you get there is the point. Take your pick of sappy metaphors about journeys versus destinations or whatever it takes, just please install this idea firmly in your head.


S. Misanthrope

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stupid of the Week #9: "No-Poo"

I wasn’t kidding when I said that the paleo diet craze would end with barefoot people running around, pretending to hunt mastodons, refusing to shower and living in caves, and the paleo community isn’t kidding either when they now do all of these things. Of course being paleo is not just about, you know, being paleo. It’s also about endlessly proselytizing. It’s not enough to just go about your business doing what you think is best for your life and health personally; you have to get your friends to follow you, too. Otherwise you might look stupid when wearing these.

How does one accomplish this? Nothing attracts followers like a vast conspiracy. It allows you to simultaneously lament your group’s persecution and feel superior to all the poor sods on the outside still being duped by the system. Sometimes you get the added bonus of the conspiracy actually being real, as with the extensive government interference in our food choices. Want to drink raw milk? Hope you enjoy hoop-jumping. God help you if you want to sell it, unless of course you like being held at gun point.

Then we have the vast majority of vast conspiracies, the ones that basically consist of someone creating and marketing a product and leaving it up to the consumer to determine whether the product is right for them. The Great Shampoo Conspiracy falls in this category. A quick skim of the anti-shampoo articles out there is enough to make you think there’s some kind of massive hair-washing secret agency, complete with Suave-armed agents wiping hard drives that contain evidence that the Holocaust was really perpetrated by the hair products industry. Fear for your lives (and your follicles)!

When I first heard about the No-Poo “movement” (if it can be called that), I was intrigued, but that was because I thought it was a reference to the constipation-inducing candy sold by the Weasley twins in Harry Potter. When I realized it was really about not washing your hair, I made a mental note to mock it at some point and otherwise forgot about it.

Fast-forward to me looking for something to bitch about and reading these articles ranting about how evil shampoo companies spread lies and residue and dry scalps and how not washing your hair makes it so much shinier and manageable. Well, who wouldn’t love shiny, manageable hair? I start to hope the dirty hippies are actually right just this once so I, too, can experience a hair rebirth. I scan down to the “how to go no-poo” section of the article.

That’s when I discover that what they actually mean by “not washing your hair” is this:

1. Shampoo your hair once a week or less.
2. Rinse and condition your hair between shampoos and always condition when you shampoo.
3. Use sulfate-free shampoos.

Okay, my readers may not all have the benefit of 25 year’s experience maintaining long, gorgeous hair, so let me explain. This list is in no way different from what any hairdresser would advise you to do, certainly any hairdresser in the last twenty years and probably longer. Although some mild shampoos have advertised that you could use them every day, no one has ever seriously recommended such a practice.

You don’t have to try very hard to learn that shampooing damages hair and should be done as infrequently as possible. In fact you can just think about it. Like, with your brain.

All cleaners are bad for the material they clean, they’re just worse for the stain. They’re like chemo for fabric. For Pete’s sake, even water is destructive to any organic compound. All you have to do is think about the concept “dissolve” to realize this. You know wool, that fabric that always says “dry clean only” on the label? Know what it is? Sheep. Hair. The hair of a sheep, a farm animal that spends most of its life being exposed to the elements, is so damaged by water that it’s better to soak it in kerosene and gasoline than water. And you seriously need some anti-Panteen website to tell you this?

There’s something extra stupid about a movement that not only misstates its opponent’s positions, but its own as well, all to create the illusion of some dramatic contrast, to make an unoriginal idea seem revolutionary. One might call such a practice deceptive, or even dishonest. Hey, it might even be a conspiracy! Someone should start a website.

Peace out,

S. Misanthrope