One Quote Does Not Belong

I just found myself on a Facebook profile page of a random guy and when I scrolled to the Favorite Quotations section, screenshot below, I started laughing uncontrollably.

Quotesscreenshot

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Muscle weakening, to me, is a good litmus test for humor. At the present moment I do not know whether I will have the strength, for example, to move the mouse and press the "publish" button.

Recall the Jan Helfeld interview of Congressman Peter "Shut the Fuck Up or I'll Throw You Out the Window" Stark — after watching I was unable to open the disposable soap package in my hotel room, so intense was the humor-induced muscle weakening.

Short. Bursts. Of Advice. To Do Something.

Leo Babuta, on his very popular blog Zen Habits and in a post titled "Do Interesting Things," writes:

Do something.

Do something interesting.

Be a part of the conversation, and say something remarkable. Create something unique, new, beautiful. Build upon the works of others and transform it into your own.

How to do this?

Write a book. Or an ebook. Write poetry and publish it on the web. Create interesting, lovely or funny videos, put them on You Tube. Be passionate. Write a web app that will solve a problem in people’s lives. Become a watchdog to replace the faltering newspapers. Explore the world, and blog about it. Try something you’ve always been afraid to try, and put it on video. Be yourself, loudly. Start a new company, doing only one thing, but doing it very well. Start a business that does a service you’ve always wanted, or that you are frustrated with in other companies because the service sucks. Put your heart into something. Say something that no one else dares to say. Do something others are afraid to do. Help someone no one else cares to help. Make the lives of others better. Make music that makes others want to weep, to laugh, to create. Inspire others by being inspiring. Teach young people to do amazing things. Write a play, get others to act in it, record it. Empower others to do things they’ve never been able to do before. Read, and read, and then write. Love, and love, and then help others to love. Do something good and ask others to pass it on. Be profound. Find focus in a world without it. Become minimalist in a world of dizzying complexity. Reach out to those who are frustrated, depressed, angry, confused, sad, hurt. Be the voice for those without one. Learn, do, then teach. Meet new people, become fast friends. Dare to be wrong. Take lots and lots of pictures. Explore new cultures. Be different. Paint a huge mural. Create a web comic. Be a dork, but do it boldly. Interview people. Observe people. Create new clothes. Take old stuff and make new stuff from it. Read weird stuff. Study the greats, and emulate them. Be interested in others. Surprise people. Start a blog, write at least a little each day. Cook great food, and share it. Be open-minded. Help someone else start a small business. Focus on less but do it better. Help others achieve their dreams. Put a smile on someone’s face, every day. Start an open-source project. Make a podcast. Start a movement. Be brave. Be honest. Be hilarious. Get really, really good at something. Practice a lot. A lot. Start now. Try.

Ugh. I think we have enough of this type of advice. At its worst, it is short little sentences that are meant to be bursts of inspiration but more often turn out to be random, contradictory collections of shallow sayings. 

So in closing, do remember: Love yourself. Love others. Start now. Start! Drink lemonade. Eat peanut butter. Write. Listen to your heart. Be rational. Be emotional. Jump high. Jump low. Travel widely. Tell those you love that you love them. Cook. Walk. Run. See Spot Run. Listen to music. Close your eyes. Breathe. Focus on the breath. Eat organic. Blog. Blog some more. Blog till you fall asleep. Fuck planning, give me action, dammit! Help others. Be altruistic. Read Ayn Rand. Read Plato. Be the change you want to see in the world. For the raindrop, the joy is entering the water. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single sock.

Inspirational Video of the Day

Between watching this video on YouTube (embed below) and the all-time classic movie Wedding Crashers, I'm pretty stoked for my own wedding some day.

(hat tip Jon Bischke)

Quote of the Day

It's from the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs on the new Google operating system:

What the fuck is going on inside Google? How much more out of control and undisciplined can this place get? How many new goddamn operating systems are they going to create? They've already got Android, and nobody wants it. Now they're going to make yet another operating system, this time out of a browser that nobody wants. What's next? A Gmail-based operating system? A YouTube-based operating system? Honestly, Google, is there anyone in charge over there? Is there anyone who knows how to criticize anything in that fucked up little Montessori preschool of yours? I mean I guess it's nice that you all get to spend 20 percent of your time dreaming up useless shit, and I guess you have to use the Montessori method and tell everyone that whatever little piece of shit they've created is just so wonderful and perfect and beautiful — but really, as I've told Eric before, that doesn't mean you have to release everything these bozos dream up. There's a word for this. It's called "no." Have you heard of it? I mean, fine, let them fuck around with stuff. Engineers like to tinker. So let them tinker. Then when they bring you whatever it is they've made, first you say you're too busy to meet with them. Then you say you've changed your mind and you will meet with them after all. Then you wait until they're all in the conference room with everything set up, and you send Katie down to tell them that you're going to be a little bit late. You make them wait an hour. Then two hours. Then, at six in the afternoon, you send Katie down to tell them that you've changed your mind again and now you can't make it. Then, finally, you set up another appointment and this time you do meet with them — but before they can even speak you just look at whatever it is they've made and you say, I'm sorry, that's a piece of shit, and you walk out. Trust me, engineers love this. They're all masochists. That's why they became engineers in the first place.

The Best Jokes are Hardest to Recall

If you can't remember exactly how a joke goes, it is probably a winner. From the Sunday Times (UK):

Scientists have found that the most successful gags work by subverting the listener’s usual thought patterns, making them inherently less memorable. By contrast, clichéd jokes are easier to remember because their structure and punch line are so predictable.

Experts say this over and over: If you want to be funny, surprise the audience. The full article is good, as is a "related article" titled So a Gay, Blind Suicide Bomber Walks Into a Bar… in which the author says jokes about physical or mental disabilities "are the real howlers these days. And that’s because the disability lobby has become so preternaturally sensitive, so disposed towards pouncing on anything which might be construed as disablist."

A couple years ago I thought hard about humor in the business world — here are the notes from the Junto conversation we had on the topic. Everyone at the lunch agreed that the most effective executives deftly use humor to get ahead professionally. I am especially impressed when I see executives use humor to defuse tense situations.

Recently I've been contemplating how I can integrate more humor into my writing. In particular, on this blog.

My humor in-person tends to be kinesthetic, and strong on sarcasm, irony, feux-pretentiousness, storytelling, and exaggeration. These things are easier done when you have the advantage of body language and tone of voice. In writing, it's harder to do sarcasm effectively, for instance, because people can mis-interpret it or mis-understand your point.

A blog is especially hard because it can be read by anyone. Aren't you funnier when you're at a table with three other people rather than a dinner party with twenty? When audience grows, the chance you're going to offend someone or riffle some idiosyncratic feathers goes up. We're more risk averse.

This is why I'm especially envious when I read a blog that is consistently funny. So at the least, I'd like to make this blog more reflective of my in-person humor sensibilities, even if I am not a witty enough writer (a la Michael Kinsley or David Brooks) to pump out daily the subtle, wry humor that succeeds best in this medium.

Other random thoughts:

  • Recently a friend asked if I could send him my resume. To this point we were talking in serious tones. I replied, "Bitch, I ain't got no resume," in my best ghetto voice (AAU basketball will do it to you). It was funny because it was unexpected.
  • It's good to have a few go-to stories in your back pocket for in-person humor. I have a Chuck Norris story/joke that is a sure winner.
  • Think about your sources. So much of humor is taking other people's material and slightly iterating on it. My sources include my brothers (who send me stuff every day), Seinfeld, movies (Old School and Wedding Crashers, for example), The Onion, and talking to my funny friends as much as possible.
  • Here's my humor tag on delicious. It is my most popular tag with 280 items. Here are blog posts in the Humor category.

Damn It Feels Good to Be a Lefty

I am a lefty. I write, eat, and brush my teeth left handed.

About 90% of the adult population is right handed. I am a minority. I am oppressed.

I am an oppressed lefty. In school I struggled to write in notebooks with spirals on the lefthand side. And I could never use scissors very well.

Like many lefties, I am also somewhat ambidextous — I throw a baseball and shoot a basketball with my right hand. Lefties usually develop right-handed preferences to use tools (like scissors) or in response to parental instruction.

I may be oppressed, but I’m damn proud about who I am and where I came from. Consider the following facts about lefthandedness:

  • Left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers.
  • Left-handers’ brains are structured differently in a way that widens their range of abilities, and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centres of the brain.
  • In 2006, researchers at Lafayette College and Johns Hopkins University in a study found that left-handed men are 15 percent richer than right-handed men for those who attended college, and 26 percent richer if they graduated. The wage difference is still unexplainable and does not appear to apply to women.
  • Handedness researchers Coren and Clare Porac have shown that left-handed university students are more likely to major in visually-based, as opposed to language-based subjects. Another sample of 103 art students found an astounding 47 percent were left- or mixed-handed.
  • One out of seven left-handers processes language using both sides of the brain, compared with just one out of twenty in the general (predominantly right-handed) population, perhaps because of a relationship between dexterity and language. With both halves involved in language, this may lead to better verbal ability and an easier time processing complex concepts.

Political success and lefthandedness are also linked. Six out of the last twelve presidents of the United States have been lefties. All the major candidates the 1992, 1996, and 2008 presidential elections were lefties (H.W Bush, Clinton, Dole, Perot, McCain, Obama).

There are various theories about why lefties outperform. Some have to do with dexterity and the brain. Others have to do with the resilience that’s accumulated when lefties grow up in a society that’s built for righties.

What made me look up these data?

The other week the great, eminent economist Tyler Cowen watched me sign a piece of paper. “Are you left-handed?” he asked. I said yes. I asked if he was too, and he said yes. Seth Roberts, the great, eminent psychologist, walked up and joined the conversation and noted that he as well was left-handed, and he remarked upon the above-cited studies. There was a pause. I stared deeply into each of their eyes. The air was pregnant with a felt understanding that there was at that very moment a connection. A divine connection. A transcendent connection. Our childhood discrimination — the scissors, the notebooks, people next to us at dinner tables hitting us with their elbows — had more than been made up by our adult super-powered-hybrid-equipped-right-brain-left-brain cognitive fireworks. We may be supremely confident in our abilities at present, I told them in not so many words, but we can never forget where we came from. Tyler whispered something very softly, something I shall not repeat on this blog, and the three of us finished our conversation with a simultaneous left eye-wink.

Bottom Line: My left-handed brothers and sisters: We got to stick together. Strength in numbers. Pound it up. Come in for the real thing.

Email of the Day, Youth Sports Edition

A girls soccer coach in Massachusetts was recently forced to resign after emailing the parents of his 7 and 8 year-old players that he expects them to "kick ass." Here's the entire email. Below is an excerpt. When you read "kids" remember it's 7 and 8 year old girls.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people. The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)? And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.

Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?

Go Green Death!

(hat tip to Andy McKenzie for the pointer)

Rep. Peter Stark: An Exemplary Public Servant

Congressman Peter Stark (D – California) represents all that is great about American politicians: humility, wide-ranging and mature vocabulary, and a genuine warm-heartedness towards those interested in political issues.

Take his must-watch interview with libertarian Socratic Dialogue devotee Jan Helfeld discussing the national debt. Congressman Stark, tripped up after saying that a country's wealth increases as its national debt increases, tells the interviewer to "shut up." He then tries to end the interview by telling Helfeld to "get the fuck out of here or I'll throw you out the window." See the clip below.

Stark has quite a record. In a 2001 debate, he falsely stated that all of the children of Congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma were "born out of wedlock." In another debate, he called Congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut a "whore for the insurance industry" and suggested that her knowledge of health care came solely from "pillow talk" with her husband, a physician.

Elsewhere on the web, here are the Top 10 Most Disastrous David Letterman interviews ever. #10 is Joaquin Phoenix. The Madonna one is pretty funny. Here is a news release about heroic efforts to create braille pornography for blind people.

I thank Andy McKenzie, David Lee, and Chris Yeh for sending the above links. I'm sitting in this Hilton hotel room in South Carolina laughing my ass off, by the way. You know when you're laughing so hard that your muscles become weak? That's me. I can't get the damn bar of soap out of the little hotel package due to muscle weakness.

Larry King’s Son Wants to Be Black

With guests Tavis Smiley and Bob Woodward discussing the historic nature of an Obama presidency, Larry King revealed the other day that his 8 year-old son "wants to be black" because "black is in."

Since when did white kids not want to be black? Since when have white males not wallowed in lonely, lonely identity crises?!

Bottom Line: Black is the new black.

How to Get the Other Person to Pay for a Meal

Rob and I had just finished a long, expensive lunch. The bill came and sat in the middle of the table. Neither of us looked at it. Our conversation was clearly over but we kept stalling to see who would reach for the bill. Rob said something about the economy really taking a toll on his net worth.

I ignored the implication and pushed the rectangular, black tray holding the tab towards him, and smiled assertively.

Rob said: "Hey, look Ben, I got a wife and family and…"

I interrupted him. "You got a dick," I said.

"What?

"I said you got a dick. You do have a dick, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"Ok, the dick lines up straight like that right? To the right of it and to the left of it are pockets, right?" I said.

"Yeah," he said.

"In those pockets are money. Look in either one of 'em – pay the bill," I said.

For a moment, Rob looked stunned. When he proceeded to pull out his wallet, I got up from the table. An older, black man was sitting in the corner with what looked like his grandson. They had been watching us the whole time. The older man leaned over to the wide-eyed teenager, pointed in my direction, and whispered, "True playa."

I nodded knowingly at the elder, then the youngin', and exited through the side door of the restaurant.


The above is a fictionalized story inspired by a scene from the movie Training Day, hat tip to Massimo for pointing it out to me when we were in Prague last May. About time I tried writing a short story!