Trolling For Dollars: Topics For Impolite Conversation

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 18, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I miss the rules of polite conversation, wherein one avoids religion and other sensitive topics as a social grace. But I’ll gladly utilize their absence to generate page views or filter out people I won’t enjoy talking to.

Yeah, I’m A Troll. Throw
Me A Line Here, Will Ya?

I miss the good old days, when polite people had a silent agreement that there were certain things you just didn’t talk about except amongst close friends. The lists vary, but amongst the affluent, it was generally religion, income, and personal health. For hairdressers, it was religion and politics. For British friends of mine, the rule was no jokes about the Queen, the Pope, or Jesus. Well, ever since someone opened that whole can, I’ve given up and been gleefully pulling out more worms whenever I’m able, in the hope that the conversations will burn themselves up so we can get back to talking about fun stuff, like sports and movies and food and books. Or advanced lovemaking techniques. Or whatever. So prepare to be offended here. But a little preface, lest you think you have any insight into the details of my stance on various topics as a result of reading my capricious trolling. I love science, and I believe in a consciousness greater than the individual mind. And those frameworks are compatible in my world. But in spite of my confidence in science, I feel we should add it to the “off-limits” list, should we ever return to old-school conversational etiquette, because thanks to rabid creationists, a lot of atheist scientists were goaded outside their legitimate territory, and into trying to apply science to topics it knows nothing about. Like the origin of the universe. Or lots of other things that are more like philosophy than science. So. On with the trolling! First up: religion. I had a belly laugh yesterday when I read that the Pope said that religion was being marginalized around the world. Yes, Mr God’s Representative on Earth, it is. Maybe it would help if the cost of one of your papal robes weren’t equal to the GDP of many starving countries, or if you’d be a little more proactive about addressing that whole pedophile priest business. Apologies are nice, but many think that maybe you should look into your own church’s history for a more fitting punishment for your errant and perverted clerics. Because you really should have your terrestrial affairs in order before you start baptizing aliens, right? And Islam? Although I find myself defending you a lot lately, I’m not too fond of the bits where you stone people (this article blames the practice on the Torah), subjugate women in a nearly neanderthal fashion, and generally let your heavily paternal secular culture poison any hope of popular spiritual enlightenment. I hesitate to mention Judaism, because there’s danger of talking about Palestine, and to discuss this topic in certain circles will certainly lead down a really bad rabbit hole. Oops. I just did it. But did I leave anybody out? Of course I did, the “big three” are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. I’m too ignorant to talk about Hinduism, I only mentioned Judaism because in spite of comprising less than 1% of the world’s population, it gets a tremendous amount of press, and Buddhists not only by nature aren’t an organization, but their estimated number varies from 100 million to 1 billion, largely because political oppression in the countries that might be most Buddhist prevents accurate information gathering. So we don’t even know who the big three really are. I imagine if there were more oil where there are people of other faiths, we’d know all about them, so we could irrationally fear them. But there isn’t, so we don’t. So, on to science. I’ve been amused for a while about about the whole “Intelligent Design” debate. Somehow, modern people have taken one of the central mysteries of our existence – one that has little hope of being explained with absolute certainty with any system – and decided that one side or the other (i.e.: atheist scientists or religious creationists) has the answer. Which is why I’ve decided I’m a little at odds with both when it comes to the creation of the universe and evolution. I mean, face it. No one can say with certainty what was going on in the universe in early human history (say, ten thousand years ago), let alone FOURTEEN BILLION YEARS AGO. And all the fun and usefulness of Darwinian thought is shot to hell as soon as it becomes DOGMA. So for some real fun in these areas, one of my favorite points of view to toss into casual philosophical conversation is Geocentrism. Because in the anthropocentric universe in which we live, how could the Earth be anything BUT the center of the universe, right? Read some interesting (if a bit carelessly assembled) points of view here. One of my faves is the one in which astrophysicist George F. R. Ellis points out that science relies on philosophical criteria to select its models for astrophysics, which makes the arguments intrinsically undisprovable. Just ignore the vintage web design if you can. And Darwin? That’s like shootin’ fish in a barrel. Just start with the simple factual statement that IT’S ONLY A THEORY. That gives the creationists fodder, and puts the hardcore science types immediately on the defensive. If things get off to a slow start, just mention nuts who write stuff like The Origin of Specious Nonsense. My apologies in advance for that site if you visit it, but the guy’s material is excellent fodder. Just watch him talk about sperm for 5 minutes in the clip below if you have any doubts. So “what”, you may ask, “is the purpose of this trolling?” I find that in most social settings, this is the easiest way to ferret out the know-it-alls and extremists so I can have a good time with the normal people. Plus, it generates page views. Any suggestions of your own for trolling topics? Read the rest of this entry »

The Kindness Economy

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 12, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The new bestseller that you and I can write every day.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a short book based on the idea of The Kindness Economy. It started as a friendly joke with a few friends; we were comparing notes on how people seem to have slowly  become ruder and more self-centered with every passing day over the past couple decades. Our idea was that if you make a little investment in being kinder ever day – hold a door, let someone go  first, say excuse me – it would sort of make a deposit into the “Kindness Economy” that would help build up the “Kindess Supply”. This idea has helped me grow a little bit as a person, but it occurred to me after a while that maybe there was something to it. Over the past decade I’ve not only done a lot of work to try to improve myself as person, I’ve been learning a lot about how to and how not to run a business. One thing I noticed at some point was that there was a marked difference in the style of how business people of different ages seemed to approach running their business. At this point I’d put the marker around 55 years old and up, and it’s a simple difference: business people under that age right now are much more likely to be motivated more strictly by profit, and people over that age are much more likely to motivated by a deeper sense of value and community. I am of course speaking anecdotally and in broad strokes, but I’ve noticed that the “old school” model includes a lot more personal touches of “going the extra mile” by throwing in simple courtesies of service, and not treating customer care simply as a way of retaining disgruntled customers, but as a way of building new ones. It also includes the idea of building business that is of value not only to shareholders and investors, but also people like employees, customers, and the citizens of the community from which the business derives its revenue. I’m old enough myself to have watched the general sense of prosperity in America dwindle from a high point in the 60′s to the current sense of impending econopocalypse. Concurrent with this I’ve noticed this trend of people seeming less courteous as time passes, and I can’t help feeling that there’s some kind of connection. We could enter some broad sociological discourse at this point about how prosperity and courtesy in America were impacted by the Great Depression and the two World Wars, and how the generations of that era were forced into a sense of community and later thrived on the post war prosperity, but how about this time we skip the whole financial collapse and global conflict part, and just get back to being kinder for the sense of comfort and prosperity it brings all on its own? Read the rest of this entry »

Is “Modern Manners” An Oxymoron?

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on July 2, 2009 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Have any pet peeves about contemporary etiquette, or the lack thereof? We’d love to hear them.

I need your help. I recently wrote about Five Effective Habits Of Highly Annoying People, which reminded me that for a long time I’ve wanted to develop a new guide to etiquette, one that uses a little humor to address manners and how new technologies have evolved with no courtesy guidelines to go with them. A typical example being cell phone manners. One of my favorite books of all time on the topic of etiquette is probably P.J. O’Rourke’s Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People. With advice like “Guns are always the best method for private suicide. Drugs are too chancy. You might miscalculate the dosage and just have a good time” and “Never refuse wine. It is an odd but universally held opinion that anyone who doesn’t drink must be an alcoholic“, O’Rourke touched on a lot of issues of contemporary etiquette that weren’t being addressed anywhere else. Especially the “Taking Drugs” chapter, which includes this handy chart (also below) for proper social behavior under the influence of drugs. Although the book is still an hilarious read within certain circles, it has finally started to show its age; a lot of the humor is based on old money culture, and the typical nouveau riche bobo or fauxhemian just doesn’t have the class or sophistication to get it. So help me out. What are your biggest pet peeves about modern manners and courtesy, whether humorous or not?

Read the rest of this entry »

Five Effective Habits Of Highly Annoying People

[ 3 Comments ]Posted on April 14, 2009 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

You’re probably too busy to read this, but these are excerpts from a draft of one of two books I’m working on.

1.) Not Having Time

I’d love to! But I’m just buried
with these spreadsheets!

How many times a week does someone tell you how busy they are? I mean, you yourself are probably busy, right? Admit it. At least once in the last two weeks, when someone asked you if you want to have lunch or coffee, you’ve probably hesitated, and said something like “I’d love to, but I’m SO BUSY lately. Can I get back to you?” Well. Where the hell did you find time to read this crap I’m typing right now? I mean, I’M busy. I’m writing crap for YOU to read, so you can tell people you’re too busy to have coffee with them.

And what about the people telling you that THEY’RE too busy? Well, they’re lying. I caught them on Facebook. They really should ponder the fact that when they take a “What Kind Of Intestinal Microbe Am I?” quiz, it shows up Read the rest of this entry »