Archive for August, 2011

The Half-Life of Sanity

You guys, my girlfriend is so crazy.

No, really — she is!  It’s okay, though; she doesn’t mind me saying it, ’cause I call her “O Best Beloved” on the blog and drop lots of other oblique references to her favorite Kipling story (How the Camel Got His Hump).

HUMPH!

(Apologies to Linda Grimes, who does camels every Wednesday for “Hump Day” on her blog — I didn’t realize this was going to go up on Wednesday when I scheduled it.  But you should go look at her camels too.)

Anyway.  O Best Beloved, as I fondly call her here, is actually more of an O Stressed Beloved, on account of working hard at a very tiring and thankless sort of academic career that looks to my Iowan eyes an awful lot like being a farmer but she claims is actually extremely advanced population genetics.  And it makes her crazy.

Case in point:  twenty days into a string of unbroken work days (no weekends, no vacations; just twenty days of working in a cornfield collecting god-knows-what data) we had a pretty dramatic meltdown.  With the crying and the wailing and the not being happy until I bought her an enormous dead thing on a plate and a few gallons of craft beer and so on, which is totally fair ’cause I do that when I have a bad day too.

Anyway, that was twenty days in.  Ten days later there was a similar episode, and five days after that another.

This should be sounding familiar to you by now.

I guess I’m not actually surprised that O Best Beloved goes insane at logarithmic intervals (I also won’t be surprised if “logarithmic” is the wrong word and she corrects me).  I do know that I’m not looking forward to Thursday afternoon, when the 2.5-day mark rolls around.

But there’s a comfort here, and it is Zeno’s dichotomy paradox.  However frequent the fits of “God I hate this job” become, there will always be a sliver of sanity in between them so long as the gap continues closing by half each time. So that’s something.

Or so math tells me, anyway.

Now, me, I get out of bed at a reasonable hour, drink an early-morning beer, and sort of slip into work like a warm bath that stood a bit too long — not the most enjoyable thing in the world, but perfectly tolerable and something that really ought to get done.  So if there’s a half-life to my sanity it’s a very long one under the current circumstances.

And that’s why I’m a writer.  What about you?

CONTEST: What Can You Make out of Three Copies of “Infinite Jest”?

So one thing led to another and I’m reading Infinite Jest again.  But don’t let’s worry about the how or why — you want to get to the contest part.  Right?  Right.

Infinite Jest, for those of you unfamiliar, is a 1996 novel by David Foster Wallace.  It’s about families, substance abuse, American consumer culture, film theory, and eleven hundred pages long.

I realized rather close to when I was supposed to start reading it that I’d loaned my copy out.  Panicked, I put a hold in with the library, called all my friends, and shortly wound up with not one but three Infinite Jests sitting on my dining room table:

The quarters are for scale. Also for laundry.

Three Infinite Jests pack some heft, even with two in paperback.  The urge to start building primitive, Stonehenge-like structures set in quickly:

You can use it to tell Subsidized Time by the sun.

And then it occurred to me to ask — what else can you build out of nearly 3,500 pages of critically-acclaimed English?  Three very severe lower back supports?  The smartest doorstop in the world?  Cold fusion?

I have my own secret plan for Infinite Jest engineering, but I’m throwing the floor open to other suggestions as well.  Leave a comment here or e-mail me and tell me what you would build out of three Infinite Jests if you came into them suddenly.  Or even more than three, if you think you could get your hands on them — I am totally open to staggering towers of post-modern literature.  Get creative.

We’ll keep submissions open for two weeks, so through Tuesday 13 September. Leave a comment here or e-mail me (with pictures if you’re feeling inspired) at “geoffrey” ( dot ) cubbage [ at ] g ma il / dot / com.

Does that kind of formatting actually spam-proof you at all?  I have no idea.  But that’s where to send submissions if you don’t want to leave a comment here.

Prizes, let’s see.  How about a copy of Infinite Jest?  Or is that redundant1 for anyone participating?  Tell you what, I’ll make it a roll of quarters instead if you prefer.  Up to you.

Apologies to readers unfamiliar with the works of David Foster Wallace — we’ll be back with more content tomorrow (daily schedule; still exciting here), and only the occasional reference to the ongoing contest.  Send ‘em in!

1 Redundant:  Exceeding what is necessary or normal.  Synonym, superfluous.  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

Site Announcement: MA101 Goes Daily

MORE MISANTHROPOLOGY101 THAN EVER!

Misanthropology101 has stuck to a M-W-F update schedule since I started it (give or take the occasional vacation and/or computer crisis), a feat that I’m reasonably proud of.  Starting this week, we’re going to see whether it can cut it as a daily (weekdays) blog instead.  MA101 will update five days a week, Monday through Friday.  I still get weekends off!

Since I like giving unwanted advice disguised as helpful blogging tips, here are a few of the reasons for this decision:

  • Challenge.  Three days a week hasn’t been too tough to manage.  Five days a week will be a new and exciting chance to fail embarrassingly!
  • Readership.  From a cynical standpoint, people don’t like to have to think too much about what updates when.  A daily blog keeps people coming back much better than any other schedule.  It also helps keep you a constant radar blip for people who use feeds or reader software.
  • Content.  Three times a week puts a little bit of pressure on:  “You’ve had two/three days to work on this post; why isn’t it better?”  Daily lets me feel a little better about shorter, casual posts.
  • Voice.  Call me crazy, but I feel like a daily blog invites a more personal voice.  That might just be a me thing.  But I’ll feel a little less weird telling stories about cat butt poo painting and my bathroom habits when they’re bracketed by lots of other content.

So, if you like MA101, come back tomorrow, and every day this week!  (Except weekends.  I’m still not worrying about deadlines on weekends.)  We’ll have a contest for readers kicking off tomorrow (oooh, teaser — see what I did there?) and lots more about writing, blogging, the internet, and the critical — highly critical — study of humans and human culture.

Update: More Boobquakes in CA; Major News Outlets Start to Catch On

Well, in the good news column, I’m happy to say that some larger news outlets are finally covering the links between “Go Topless Day” and the Raelian movement.  Both the Huffington Post and our cousins across the pond at the Daily Mail managed to sniff out the Topless Day/Raelian connection (through the dedicated research work of scrolling down a bit on the www.GoTopless.org homepage).

However, they remain helpless at drawing the final connection — you’ll notice both of those articles are about a California demonstration of toplessness.  And what happened in California on that same Go Topless Day; the same Go Topless Day when the East Coast was rocked by earthquakes following topless demonstrations in New York?

That’s right:  another freakin’ earthquake.

Folks, we don’t want to believe, but we have to.  MA101 stands by its reporting from Tuesday.  Boobs are undeniably, and terrifyingly, a secret alien earthquake weapon.

We’ll return to regular content Monday, when the Boobquake thing has gotten old and the author feels a little better.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this diversion into the world of breaking news reports!

BREAKING NEWS: Alien Boob Weapons Cause East Coast Quake!

Ladies and gentlemen, Misanthropology101 is breaking this story.  We believe we are the first to connect all the dots, and we fully expect to be shut down by the authorities any second now.  For the love of God, help get the word out:  Women’s breasts are alien superweapons, and they are causing earthquakes RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Seriously.

This story goes back to April 26, 2010, when over 200,000 topless women — attempting to disprove Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi‘s claim that female immodesty causes earthquakes — gathered on the same day that a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit 150 miles off the coast of Taiwan.

"Boobquake" was our first warning.

Fast forward to today, when an earthquake in very similar scale struck the east coast of the United States.  As the excellent news team at www.gawker.com already reported, this may in fact have been another boobquake — today was, they pointed out, “National Go Topless Day,” with documented naked boobs out and about in Central Park.

Where Gawker failed was in neglecting to check out the sponsors of “Go Topless Day.”

The innocuous-sounding “GoTopless.org” are, according to their website,

“a U.S.-based organization founded in 2007 by spiritual leader Rael and we claim that women have the same constitutional right that men have to go bare-chested in public.”

The “spiritual leader Rael” is, of course, the same “Rael” of Raelian movement fame, self-proclaimed alien abductee and messenger between ourselves and our extraterrestrial creators.  And if he thinks ladies should be going topless — with all his advanced knowledge of our creation as a species and the secrets engineered into us by the aliens! — it can only be to serve their ends.

The aliens are returning.  They have told Rael to prepare the way with earthquakes.  Save humanity by buying turtlenecks for your girlfriend today!

Safe...for now.

The major news sites aren’t covering this story, but the information’s all out there — we can only assume the aliens already got to them, possibly with tiny, localized quakes caused by individual boobs acting alone.

We’ll keep the website up as long as we can, but the message is in your hands now.  Godspeed!

A Cat Butt Painting Kind of Day

Now, I’m no expert in veterinary medicine.  But apparently cats sometimes have trouble pooping?  Just like us, I guess, or at least like those of us who solve the problem by dragging our poopy butts around the floor like someone making a finger-painting that involves neither “fingers” nor “paint.”

Not Pictured: The actual horror of the thing.

Happily, this remains (so far) a “friend of a friend” kind of story for me; it was not my cat’s butt-painting that prompted this story.  A friend shared it with me via irate text about an hour after triumphantly tweeting that her kitchen floor was mopped sparkling clean at last.

Oh, sure, they LOOK cute.

I felt for her, of course.  No one wants to come back from putting the Scrubbin’ Bubbles in the closet to find a series of new swirls and smears that would do Van Gogh proud decorating the pristine tile.  But I couldn’t help but realize, with a pained sort of chuckle, that this has been the kind of week where O Best Beloved and I would curse for a moment or two and then step around the poo as we got back to work.

Yeah.  Some deadlines in the Cubbage/Best Beloved household this week.  But I’m starting it out with a new standard for being swamped:  when the cat butt painting is not the priority problem of the day.

Have you had a catt butt painting kind of day?  Or an actual cat butt painting?  I’m sorry…

PSA: We Won’t Know Why You’re Upset if Your Comments Are Illegible

I get it.

You’re upset.  Or maybe you’re happy; it doesn’t actually seem to make much difference.  Politics are divided now, right?  Zero-sum, winner-take-all, no-compromise electoral slugfests:  pick a team and fucking root for them, or get the hell out of the stadium and find a different game.

I can live with all that.  It’s not how I’d do things, but the internet is wide, and 4chan has taught me that people have many different approaches to life.

Oh boy has it ever.

But here is the problem; I still need to know what you’re talking about.  And written political discussion has, in some forums, devolved past that base standard of legibility.

Has anyone else had this problem?  Are you struggling to even understand the nature of people’s written complaints?  Do you find yourself double-taking while you try to figure out what “rapepugniKKKlans” or “dumbofags” are?

(The answers are “Republicans” and “Democrats,” but I won’t blame you if you didn’t put it together on your own.)

Please help do your part for our future generations’ hopes of intelligible communication:  if you know someone who likes to discuss politics on the internet, help them by linking to the posts on this or other blogs that explain the basics of written text!  More advanced students can be pointed to philosophers of language and discourse — but please, start small.  Remember that you are dealing with angry people.  Patience will be needed.

Intelligible meaning is non-partisan!  Free speech is a right, but that doesn’t mean you’re not doing it wrong.

I’m Geoffrey Cubbage and I approve of this message.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,917 other followers