The Modern Day Tower of Babel, Perhaps (The Internet and Online Social Networks)

If twenty years ago someone had tried to describe to us what the Internet was and how drastically it would change our lives, we would be as lost someone trying to watch LOST for the first time starting with Season 4. In 1993, Time magazine did a cover story about predictions of future technology involving the way people would share information. Vaguely, they were seeing a glimpse of the World Wide Web. But the way they presented it was more like a form of cable TV that would have at least 500 channels.

Instead, a year later in 1994 my 8th grade science teacher Bill Martin showed our class this weird way he could use the classroom phone line and his computer to talk to other scientists across the country, instantly. That was my introduction to the Internet. Three years later, the Internet became less of a weird thing that I could only observe from a distance, as some of my friends with Internet let me aimlessly wander through thousands of websites at their house. By 2000, I had my own hotmail account and my own daily access to the Internet.

But even ten years ago, the Internet was much more primal. For casual users like me, all I really did was catch up with distant family and friends through e-mail and use MSN’s search to look at websites that had trivia about the ‘80’s. And I didn’t know any better; I thought it was awesome.

Now in 2010, life on the Internet is completely different. More concise. When I need a good picture, I’ve got Google Images. When I need knowledge on any subject, I’ve got Wikipedia. When I need a video clip, I’ve got YouTube. And to keep in daily contact with family, friends, and people I had one class with in college and barely remember, there is facebook. Those four websites ARE the Internet to me.

The building of the Tower of Babel has for some reason always interested me: After Noah and his immediate family survived the world-wide flood, and waited almost a year inside the ark for the water to recede from the land, they were told by God to “fill the Earth” and for the first time ever, to kill and eat animals (the first ten generations of people were vegetarians). In other words, move to a new land and have large families to repopulate the world (Genesis 9).

Instead, within a few hundred years most of these people were still living in the same area they started in. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Then, in an act that reminds me of myself as a 10 year-old boy dragging a rake through a giant ant bed, God decided to “confuse” the language of the people (Genesis 11). From there, it appears to me that the people of each of the same language regrouped and moved to a new land, eventually forming new countries, as God originally wanted to them to do.

Several thousands of years later, mankind has successfully filled the Earth. We now have almost 7,000 different languages, while English is arguably the most universal. But with the capabilities and practicality of the Internet, we have formed an abstract, intangible form of the Tower of Babel. Technically. Sort of. Maybe. It’s at least got me thinking.

Every time I’ve seen any sort of worldwide system of anything in the Bible, it’s always been a bad thing. When mankind finds a way to harness too much knowledge and/or power, God doesn’t like it- as people tend to depend more on each other and themselves. From Adam and Eve’s eyes being opened to the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, to the end of the world involving the mysterious “mark of the beast” (some sort of universal personal ID providing a way for people to pay for goods and services) in Revelation.

Then again, what better way for the fortunate to bless the less fortunate then by using the communication of the Internet to give and set up help for the needy.

Maybe I’m the stoic eccentric man holding the sign with the phrase “THE END IS NEAR”. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. But I still love technology.

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The Glory of Eating Out: Entertainment, Activity, and Ignorance of Calories

Eating food can easily become entertainment, in of itself.

This Saturday, my wife will finish her final class for her Master’s program.  We’ve been anticipating this day for a year and a half- specifically, we’ve been planning to go somewhere nice for dinner to celebrate.  Though we’ve had our sights set for months on Stony River for a good steak dinner, we remembered recently that we don’t really like steak.  So we instead have discovered a quaint “only in Nashville” sort of place that looks to be more our speed: http://www.12southtaproom.com/

Something I’ve been realizing now more than ever is why eating out is fun.  There are obvious reasons for this, like not having to cook, set the table, or clean the dishes.  And the fact that when you eat dinner out, you have many choices of what you will eat.  All valid reasons.  Yet very obvious.

Here are more subtle reasons:

Environment: Whether or not you truly are a “people person”, or are one and just don’t realize it (People Watching 101), part of the allure of going out to eat is to be around people you don’t know, who serve as background noise and sometimes accidently, as entertainment.

Of course aside from the strangers we like dining near (not with), there also is something soothing/weird in looking at the random memorabilia hanging on the walls- whether it’s old pictures of sad, creepy looking people from the 1920’s, a goofy moose head, or a canary yellow guitar that Tom Petty used to record his Wildflowers album in 1994.  Ultimately, whatever it is, it’s something else to look at.

Activity: Eating good food that we enjoy is more than just about “getting full” or about nutrition.  It’s simply a fun activity.  Yes, we could make the same menu items on our own (with enough Internet research for recipes) and they may taste similar.  But aside from the fact that we’re not cooking it, there is something fun about having someone else serve you.  When someone else waits on you, it gives a sense of “I deserve this” (Password).

Ignorance to calories: Yes, we are overaware that fast food is a killer.  But we turn a blind eye to the nutritional facts at nicer restaurants, essentially all of them.  Even when the meal is low-fat, and even more difficult to pull off, low-sugar, it is still almost guaranteed to be high in sodium- which is linked to heart disease and hardened arteries.  But no matter how nice the restaurant it is, it’s pretty much given that there’s at least 75% of your daily sodium in the meal, at best.

And of course, the serving portions are typically at least twice to three times what a meal should be.  But turning a blind eye to all these nutritional facts makes it much more fun.

So go now, and celebrate, with strange wall decorations, quirky people sitting at the table next to you, and a meal prepared by the salt gods.

How to Wear Dress Pants, If You’re a Guy: Don’t Wear Them With Sneakers and Avoid Khakis

Despite what you heard, don’t wear khakis.  Just because these men’s pants are classic, it doesn’t mean they’re timeless.  In fact, they’re starting to represent a dull and generic image for men’s attire.

Some articles of clothing go with anything, like Chuck Taylor’s.  Then there are specimens like Hawaiian shirts, that arguably go with anything simply because they clash with everything, technically meaning they go with everything.  And then there are khaki pants, which truly look good with anything they’re paired with, in theory.

But not for me.  I’m very particular when it comes to wearing khakis:

1)     They’re the same color as my legs, so I kinda feel like I’m not wearing pants at all.

2)     Because of their good reputation (“you can’t go wrong with khaki’s”) and popularity, they are a bit boring by now.  It’s assumed that a man automatically looks better because he’s wearing tan pants.  I say, not creative enough.  Deduct one point unless worn in moderation.

3)     Despite popular belief, they don’t truly look good with anything.

What has put these thoughts in my head?  Surely just random observances over the last twelve years:

1)     In high school, every Friday the football coach had all the football players wear khaki pants, a white dress shirt, and preferably a tie.  But  many of them wore running shoes.  It came across as predictable and forced to me (which it indeed was).  You want to look nice?  At least change the shoes.

2)     In the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin, Andy (the lead character played by Steve Carell) wears khaki pants in almost every seen.  His attire is most noticeably awful when he first goes to the night club wearing a yellow polo and khakis.  Nerdy, man.  Nerdy.  Same thing in Sideways with Miles (played by Paul Giamatti).

3)     In the past 15 years, khakis and polo shirts have become the official uniform for employees of places like Best Buy.  So now khakis are starting to represent a dull, generic work uniform.

Instead of khakis, try this. Note: Black shoes with black pants. Not brown shoes.

Khakis have become part of a stereotyped outfit of an outdated man from the year 2000: Khaki pants, faded polo shirt, cell phone holder on belt.

Noted, there is a difference between what a man wears to work and what he wears to every other public events.  I know for myself, I don’t care that much what my coworkers see my wearing as long as I don’t look like a slouch.  So yes, I do resort to polo shirts and once every week or two, I’ll wear khakis.

But for many, work isn’t as a professional environment as we often pretend for it to be.  I don’t take as good of care on the clothes I wear day in and day out to work.  Who cares if they’re faded or a little wrinkled?

Bottom line: For a man to truly dress nicely, and appear to be modern yet not trying too hard, he should simply try doing so sans khaki pants.

How?  Charcoal colored pants.  Dark brown pants.  Slate (very dark blue/gray) pants.  But not tan.  Heck, even dark jeans can look better than khakis when done right.

P.S.  If you must resort to wearing khaki pants in an attempt to look nice, do not be temped to wear a navy blazer or jacket with it.  That’s for CEO’s who are 61 years old and don’t realize that it’s no longer cool.  Wearing a navy jacket with khaki pants is for guys still wearing Levi’s jeans similar to Jerry Seinfeld in 1994.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on pants, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Jenny Slate Will Not Be Fired from SNL for F-Word Accident

That may not be official yet. It’s just my educated prediction.

I am a black-and-white kind of person. Either it is or it isn’t. That’s why the idea of censorship on national TV intrigues me. Because the rules of the game aren’t always in black-and-white. After all, there are actually no official guidelines regarding which words can and can not be used on TV- instead each network sets its own limits in an effort not to lose sponsors.

In a faux pas that wins the prize for irony, last night on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live there was a skit about “biker chicks” that made fun of them for having potty mouths, as the actors used the word “frickin'” as a form of self-censorship. New girl and Jewish comedian Jenny Slate, very early on in the skit, slipped the real word by mistake, puffing up her cheeks immediately after, as a sign of recognition of her accidental crime.

Instantly I was shocked by what I had just heard. Not offended, since the movies I choose to watch are loaded with “f-bombs”. Just very surprised, like a 2nd grader hearing the bully say a Bad Word, gasping that the Rule was just broken, wondering if anyone will “tell on” him to the teacher.

Knowing pretty well she said what I thought she said, this was confirmed right before the credits rolled at the end of the episode as fellow actor Seth Myers hugged her in a fashion that expressed, “Hey don’t worry about it- it was an accident. You’ll be fine.”

My favorite song my 8th grade year was “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” by REM. While a line of the chorus is “I never understood the frequency”, sang several times throughout the song, at the very end of the song for the final chorus the line changes to “I never understood, don’t f— with me.” I think I was the only person that caught it when in 1994 REM performed the song on Saturday Night Live. It went uncensored. The funny thing is, Comedy Central continues to air it as a rerun, still not editing it out.

Right now every article that has popped up on the Internet about this recent incident is going on to tell that in 1981 SNL actor Johnny Rocket was the first person to say the F-Word (unapologetically the moment he did it) on national television and that he was fired for it. And now the question is if  Jewish comedienne Jenny Slate will have the same fate. I have an answer.

No.

Last season SNL did a hilarious skit called “Sofa King”. That pushed the envelope for F-Word censorship more than anything they’ve done in the past. The skit was a fake commercial for a furniture store called Sofa King, in which the characters used the name of their store to describe how great everything is there. It took most people, including the audience, a minute or two to realize why the skit was even funny.

And once it clicked, it was genius. The actors were saying “sofa king” as a huge logo with the phrase popped up on the screen, but it phonetically sounds exactly like something else. It was a clever way to get around the censors while still saying the F-word multiple times. They totally got away with it. And what they did was completely intentional. And it wasn’t an issue with the censors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NqXSbh5Ns

So to fire the new girl for an obvious accident during late night hours would simply gain too much negative publicity for NBC. Being that they are the #4 network, if anything this will improve ratings for SNL and the network itself. More people will be tuning in to find out who this Jenny Slate girl is, hoping she will slip up again.

Obviously, as hundreds of people right now are Googling and YouTubing the incident, they are clearly not offended by what happened. If they were, like so many were with the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson Super Bowl Fiasco, then it would be a different story.

While most people don’t approve of the word or use it on a regular basis, everyone slips at certain times. I know I have. Even if no one was around to hear it. Or even if I wasn’t on a live show on national TV.

This will turn out to be a fortunate accident for her. An instant transformation from New Girl to Jenny Slate, a name we now all know and recognize.

The Slip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJOvVdl0DXU

The Hug http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoSmGfJCEAo

sofaking

Destructive Thoughts Vs. Actual Actions

Last summer as my wife and I were strolling down the streets of Stonington, Connecticut, we walked by this telephone pole that oddly had a fire alarm attached to it.  I had never seen one outside before.  It made me think how easy it would be for any punk kid to pull it as a prank, being that this particular street didn’t have heavy traffic or security video cameras.   But I am also fully aware that I at one time was a punk kid who threw stink bombs in the locker areas during break in Junior High and never got caught.  That punk kid from 1994 still tries to give me sneaky/bad ideas sometimes.  Fortunately, I usually don’t listen.


Like today when I was at Starbucks I saw an untouched, colorful cake with the words “Good luck Jared” on it, sitting on a table with napkins, plates, and a knife.  I stepped towards the table in order to cut the first piece, then realized, “Wait, you don’t know that cake is for you to enjoy and even if it is you can’t assume that they’re cool with you taking the inaugural slice.”  Moments later, one of the workers came by, picked up the cake and utensils, and took it to the “employees only” area.  Good thing I didn’t follow my first instinct.

 


People who ride bicycles on the road alongside cars annoy me.  They have way too much confidence, assuming that most drivers truly are treating them with caution and will cater to them.  I support their love of physical exercise, but they just rub me the wrong way.  Every time I’m driving my car alongside a cyclist, I have to consciously stop myself from wanting to veer over near him.  Not to actually hit him.  Just scare him and shake things up for him.  Then I remember, “Wait, you can’t do that!  That’s mean.  Funny, but mean.”


But these surreal temptations don’t always involve me hurting other people, sometimes they involve me hurting myself.  When I was about 12 years old, I was pouring gasoline through a funnel into the lawn mower.  The heavy fumes hit me.  I remember thinking, “What would happen if I drank some of this?”  I was in a daze for a few minutes.  When I snapped out of hit, I was convinced I really did drink gasoline.  After 30 minutes, I realized I probably didn’t actually drink it because I didn’t feel sick.

 


I always have the same dangerous thought when I am at the mall walking next to the 4 foot tall glass balcony on the 2nd floor.  When I look down and see those annoying middle-of-the-isle tent booths selling sunglasses, cell phone jackets, and jewelry cleaners down on the floor below, I am tempted to jump on top of the tent, knowing that surely I can’t be hurt too badly from the semi-cushioned fall.  And knowing I would be doing the general public a favor by eliminating one more potentially obnoxious vendor.

 


There is a thick line between thinking a destructive thought and actually doing it.


What if our secret, private thoughts constantly popped up on everyone’s computers like the “live feed” on facebook?  We often have such evil, corrupt ideas going through our heads.  But they are kept safe from leaking out into the world, depending on how much common sense we have.

 



 


Stuck in Back in Time Like Ned Flanders, Dwight Schrute, and Austin Powers

 

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt…

Like a good bottle of Pepsi Clear or a box of Pop-Tart Minis, every person has an expiration date. Of culture, that is. There comes a certain year in a person’s life where they no longer continue moving forward concerning the way they dress, wear their hair, speak, and use technology. I’m not talking about a 16 year old kid who buys all his clothes at Goodwill, proudly showing off his 1985 Huey Lewis & the News t-shirt, and fashions his hairstyle after Ashton Kutcher in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”. Being retro on purpose doesn’t count.

For me it’s most obvious when I’m at Wal-Mart and the cashier lady’s hairdo consists of teased bangs brushed back into a permed Brillo pad of a mullet: 1984.

Or the retired farmer who is still wearing his Dwight Schrute style glasses and refuses to use a cell phone or the Internet: 1979.

Sometimes it’s less obvious- maybe that co-worker with a thick goatee, wearing a cell phone belt clip, still saying quotes from Austin Powers like “Yeah, baby, yeah!”, and whose cell phone ringtone is “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed: 2000.

This concept became obvious to me when I was accompanying my wife as she shopped for clothes on a Saturday afternoon. I walked into a Van Heusen outlet and realized that while they did have some good deals, if I actually attempted to buy anything from the store, my wife probably wouldn’t let me wear it. Why? Because everything available in a Van Heusen store is designed for men who are stuck in 1994.

It amazed me that a whole company would purposely make outdated clothes. But the executives at that company know their audience. If these outdated clothing stores suddenly stopped making pleated light khaki pants, their abandoned customers would just pledge their allegiance to another outdated store instead. Customers who still say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. And the t-shirt they are referring to is a Big Dogs shirt with the quote “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch!” Yes, because that’s still cool.

Even though I am well aware that every person at some point in their lifetime freezes in the culture of a certain year, my awareness does not exclude me from the inevitable. I admit that whether it’s when I start having kids, or maybe not until I retire, still I will definitely get stuck one year, not even realizing it until it’s too late and I’m either too stubborn or apathetic to change.