Friday, January 23, 2009

National Shave Your Mustache Because You Look Like a Douchebag Day

Activists for the proposed senate bill that calls for a new national holiday mandating the shaving of mustaches were met with very pleasing news today. Tom Selleck, the only man on the planet who actually can, quote "pull off a cool looking stache" agreed to be the spokesman at a formal protest on Capitol Hill. Selleck is believed to share the sentiment of those who are for the bill, that most men look like complete idiots with mustaches.

The bill itself will create a move where barbers are required to give free shavings in an effort to clean up the faces of America's would be hypster youth. The title of the holiday, while indeed a bit long, would be: "National Shave Your Mustache Because You Look Like a Douchebag Day." But couldn't you imagine the cheer that would spread though the country when people pat each other on the back and look into a face clear of any psychological connection between stereotyped child molesters, then to say "Hey, Happy Shave Your Mustache Because You Look Like a Douchebag Day! Now see isn't life better!"

Punching Frozen Meat, a Decent Past Time

It was glorified in the Rocky movies. It never became much of a trend. But now it's on the the rebound. You guessed it, punching frozen meat. While initially the idea of smashing your fist against a rock hard side of beef isn't all that appealing, it turns out it has amazing psychological benefits. Dr. Kroger of Smith's Academy in Plympton, Massachusetts had this to say:

"Many of my patients suffer from anxiety, stress, and bouts of depression. I used to prescribe medication and talk therapy, but last weekend I was watching Rocky, and I stumbled upon a new idea. Instead of trying to alter their dopamine levels with drugs, I could let them regenerate themselves through violence. When I saw Rocky punching that meat I thought, 'Perfect, this is a match made in heaven.'"

Although Kroger's new treatment is highly experimental, it has already been hailed by some as a miracle cure. One of his more serious cases, involving a patient who asked not to be named, praised Kroger's meat punching tactics saying, 

"I used to have horrible daydreams of pink elephants sitting on my head. They would do it for hours and I could only flail my legs and arms in anguish, but now I pretend that the frozen meat is the pink elephant. I can see his cheeky little smile, but he can't sit on me now. Sure, I've broken a few bones in my hand, but hey, no more elephants are sitting on my head."

Stories like this are not uncommon. Apparently punching frozen meat allows the stressed patient to release in a way that in the past was thought only possible with chemical alteration. It has brought a new hope to many.

Dr. Al Murphy, of Sarasota Springs, Florida, had this to say:

"I have tried to find the perfect substrate for my patients to punch out their anger and stress for years now, but I've never been quite satisfied. Pillows didn't give back enough. Concrete gave back to much. Abusing small rodents never felt right. But punching frozen meat, it's like a revelation. I've prescribed punching frozen meat to almost half of my clientele. 

Whether or not the treatment will remain effective for long periods of time is hard to say, but for right now, there's a new hope. You may want to buy your frozen meat to punch before the big rush. Prices are still reasonable with the economic funk the US is in, but as the crisis deepens, demand promises to be higher.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Phone Tag and Rediscovering Your Inner Child

From the days of our early childhood to maybe even last week (for some of you), we have been brought up with social games. There is duck-duck-goose, "pin the tail on the donkey," "truth or dare," and the classic, and my personal favorite, tag (not to be confused with Mitt Romney's son Tagg). For those of you reading this in Pakistan or Singapore, tag is a game where there is a group of people, with one designated as "it," and thereby endowed with the prerogative, power, and responsibility to tag everyone else. The last person to get tagged wins.
(This man is enjoying a nice game of tag with a polar bear)
Tag quite often devolves into arguments among children. One says, "I got you," with the other saying, "No you didn't," or, "That was my jacket, it doesn't count." But, petty bickering aside, it's a pretty wholesome activity. And, I'm not about to make it into some metaphor for life or root out your inner demons by psychoanalyzing your success or lack thereof while playing the game as a child. However I do want to talk about the more relevant form of tag for adults, or more sophisticated adolescents. This derivation is called 'phone tag.'

I myself am a master at phone tag. You might think it hubris on my part, and, perhaps you're right, but I have proof. First off, let me start by explaining the ins and outs of phone tag and by which criteria you can go by to find out if you've got skills. Phone tag, (the structured form) involves two people. One person calls the other, for whatever reason does not reach the person, then the other calls back in hopes of getting a hold of the person who called. The game only continues if they never get in touch. When someone finally does, the game is over. Either the caller or the called wins, and that depends on the context of the game (and, if you really want to talk to the person, I guess everybody wins, but I'm not espousing Marxist dogma).

So to my case study. Myself. I make plenty of outbound calls and receive plenty of inbound calls, but I am meticulous in calling people back if they call me. So, you might say I am naturally inclined to end phone tag quickly. But you would be wrong. Whether it happens to be divine providence or luck, I seem to get embroiled in regular bouts of phone tag. It starts off simply enough with me calling someone and leaving a message. Then the person calls back, but for some reason they catch me during the .5% of the day I don't have the phone with me. This might be while I'm taking a shower, making a sandwich, at the gym, or circling the earth in a satellite (that happens more than I'd like to admit). Then, I call them back and magically get the voice mail box again. If it carries on I either leave random or ridiculous tag messages. For instance, I might claim to be a towing service, or prize patrol, or an angry Chinese man, but always I end with "Tag, you're it" even if it is unintelligible in a thick Chinese accent.
So I suppose the moral, if there must be one, is to keep your inner child alive through adaptations of children's games like phone tag. If you can find a way to play duck-duck-goose with phones, texting, or skype, you're my hero.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tribalism: Does Obama mean to dissolve the Indian Tribes?

During Obama's inauguration speech on tuesday he said, "the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve." While this line perhaps flowed nicely with the topic of unity, it struck a chord with certain Amerindian tribes in North America. The Pogotopin tribe of New Jersey was one of the more concerned. Chief Joseph Forbin had this to say:

"I am worried about this Obama. First the white man comes and takes our lands and leaves us on this reservation, now black man says he's gonna dissolve our tribe. Nothing seems to change."
The Pogotopin tribe was not alone in their concern. Tribes from New England to the Southwest are wary. Some of the security guards at the famous resort and casino in Connecticut, Foxwoods, have been armed with anti-aircraft missile launchers and grenades. Navajo shepherds in Arizona are also packing heat and even strapping explosive vests and weapons on some of their animals.
"We are gonna be ready for them when they come. We are practicing ambush tactics like our ancestors did in the 19th century. I'm excited about the prospect of using some of the old tomahawks and slings. My wife has been making jewelry and chaps for all the boys," said Todd Gunter, member of the Bonahoshi tribe in New Mexico.
While many tribes see conflict as inevitable, some see hope. Lilla Magshoot, also of the Bonahoshi tribe, had this to say:

"I visit the petroglyphs and old paintings by the edge of our village every day. They show a time in the near future when there will be inner peace in the midst of great physical affliction. While I think Obama's going to take us out, I believe we will be strong."

The Manly Man vs. The Goober

There are many different kinds of men in this world. There are manly men, nerds, geeks, and goobers to name a few. Of course there is a lot of cross over at times, but they can, and are quite often distinct. This post will talk about the sharp distinctions between the goober and the manly man, and how unwittingly woman are beguiled by the former.
A goober as I referred to in a prior post, "is a person who is socially inept, awkward, goofy, or strange. A goober is born this way and cannot be changed. While what they do and how they interact with people may be funny, it is rarely their intention to be funny. They make themselves the butt of jokes not by choice, but by just being themselves."
A manly man, as I referred to in this post, is far deeper and complete. He is full of confidence and poise. He is patient and understands the concepts of justice and sacrifice. He is not a mere technician who settles for a piece when he can have the whole. A manly man is an alpha-male.

The goober may be nice, and even have some special hidden talent with which he woos women, and for a time, that may be all he needs. Let's say he can play the guitar. But, beyond that guitar is nothingness. He may have memorized how to cook one meal from a foreign country even, but beyond that all he's got are stupid human tricks. Now, as nice as super human tricks are ladies, if you are confronted with a bear, a robber, or a gang of would be rapists, which would you prefer:

a) A man who can cross his eyes, rub his belly, and whistle yankee doodle - or -
b) A man who can break bad guys necks with the snap of his finger?

I won't answer that. I think you know the answer.

Now let's take a look at the profundity of the manly man.

A manly man knows when to be charming and articulate, and when to be quiet and deadly. He can talk about philosophy and love, and turn around and stare down a rabid wolf. He is self-assured, and deep. He can in fact say more without words than a goober can stuttering off hours of inane platitudes. He does not satisfy himself with superficial tricks, but learns instead to plumb the depths of his talents and inner-most self. He might for instance play a more obscure, but more beautiful instrument than the guitar, like perhaps the piano, or the violin. And, when he plays, his soul sings through the music.

In other words, this difference of depth between the goober and the manly man comes down to confidence. The manly man understands his innate self-worth and does not seek public praise or approval to validate himself. The goober on the other hand, doubts himself. He does not know who he is or where he is going.

However, initially it is easy to be fooled. Superficial charm and calculated witticisms can look an awful lot like the real thing. So, perhaps some of you entertain the prospect of the goober, because he could be a manly man if you give it time. No. A manly man is subtle and nuanced in his approach to romance. He is not over the top because he doesn't need to be. He doesn't need to shake his plumage to announce himself, because it is in plain sight. That's who he is.

Perhaps some of your have gone out with a goober and then come to the realization later, and wished you hadn't. Perhaps you are satisfied with goobers. I can't say. But, as they say, patience is a virtue, and it is one virtue that the goober does not have. The manly man on the other hand lives his life by that virtue. He understands what's important in life. He can wait, but will you?

For more interesting information check out this article.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Address

Here is Obama's Inaugural Address:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

The speech used a lot of clever imagery and tugged at emotions. When he referred to ancestors and forbears and bringing back the old and true, his words resonated. That is due in part to the fact that the speech followed and old blueprint first used in Pericles' Funeral oration and later in Lincoln's Gettysburg address. Remembering the fallen and their sacrifice and paying homage to the nation's heritage are easy to see parallels.

His speech painted an America covered by clouds in the midst of a storm in order to galvanize public support, similar to what Bush did after 9/11, and FDR did during the Great Depression. While I agree that America is in trouble on a number of fronts, he perhaps stretched it a bit. But, that was to be expected. He also spoke of unity and tolerance, generally good things. And, as far as I know he is the first president to recognize atheists in a speech. He called for "end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics," and hopefully he means it. But, in many places during the speech he tacked forward and back. On one hand calling for unity and then saying things like, "we have chosen hope over fear," referring to the other party as the one supposedly cornering the market on fear. Then there are slightly veiled to explicit phrases saying that limited government is not needed like this one: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." And then there was the point where he said, "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost." This is a partisan line that implies that science has been eschewed and that it must reclaim its place, and sounds in my mind as if he is making it a new religion, while promoting universal healthcare, ie: socialized medicine.

On a positive note, although he referred to his audience as "fellow citizens" rather than Americans, in attempts to extend his brand appeal and make it clear that he is a citizen of the world first, American second, he also took a hard line 'us against them' mentality with terrorists and our enemies abroad who blame the US for all of their problems. It was probably my favorite part of the speech when he said, "We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

So all in all it was a good speech. He called for multilateralism while still saying that America is still the most powerful nation on earth. He said we need to return to the old and true, but adapt to new problems. He said we need to get over partisanship while still maintaining our ideologies. The tight rope walk was interesting, and now we must just watch and see what happens.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Unimportant Role in a Short Film

Today I played an unimportant role in a short film. I was a piano mover. And, as realistic as it probably looked with me wearing a Ralph Lauren sweater and boat shoes with a splint on my hand, the real genius in my part was that they never saw my face. My co-unimportant actor/piano mover friend Brian was on the back end of the piano and I faced him as we moved it onto an elevator. 

All we were supposed to do was get in between this guy who was desperately trying to talk to a girl in the elevator, but we hammed it up. We took several takes and each time we changed either the accent, the language, or the dialogue. On the last take I spoke Cantonese saying, "Thanks trash," and "I love you," while Brian stared longingly into the eyes of the main character. On another two takes we both spoke portuguese and talked about football and the sexuality of the main character. In another take Brian started talking with a cockney accent and I was speaking in French. He said, "So what did you think of her then?" To which I said in French, "Excuse me madam, I am cheese." And on another take I said in a South London accent, "Pardon me love," to the elevator girl and then talked about the English Premier League.

All in all it was good fun and I hope we provided the film makers with some stuff that won't get them kicked out of their film class. I also suggested that they enter it into an international film festival. Then the world could get to see the back of my head in Hong Kong, France, the UK, and in Brazil. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Inauguration B-list

As many of you already know, Obama's inauguration on tuesday is supposed to be a big deal. I do not dispute that. It will be. And, with a price tag more than twice any previous inauguration it better be a big deal. But, I thought it might  be fun to dig a little deeper. We all know that Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma will be there for the celebration, but what about all of those b-list celebs and other interesting people who no one seems to want to talk about? 

I have compiled  a list of possibly forgotten people who are sure to make this inauguration a memorable one:

Billy Blanks (the Tae Bo guy)

Eleanor Rigby (Of the Beatles song)

Falco (Austrian rap/pop/rock star from the 80s who made the song 'Rock Me Amadeus')

Richard Simmons (Flamboyant aerobics instructor)

Marty McFly (Character played by Michael J. Fox in 'Back to the Future')

Bruce Campbell (famous b-list actor who starred in 'Brisco County Junior' and 'Bubba Ho-tep')

Magnus Ver Magnusson (Icelandic Powerlifter who won Met-Rx World's Strongest man in '91, '94, '95, and '96)

Wilson (The volleyball who Tom Hanks' character befriended in the movie castaway)

Miles Standish Monument (a local South Shore Rock band named after a statue in Duxbury, MA)

Splinter (Famous Rodent Sensei of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

And there you have it. Those are some notables that have not been reported in the mainstream media. Honestly, I do not know why they would not get a shout out. It would be an honor to meet any of them. If you are going to the inauguration be sure to keep your eyes out, and try to refrain from hitting around beach balls, because, it could be Wilson.