Hipster’s Advocate

I’ll start with the bad news.

If you were born in the 1980s, then congratulations — you are known currently, and for the rest of history, as a ‘Millenial.’  I apologize, but you are trapped, my friend.  We do not get to choose which generation we belong to nor what hideous name describes it.  If it is any consolation, I am sure that very few of our parents liked the term ‘Baby Boomer’ when they first heard it, or better yet, imagine how the 70s babies felt about being hamstrung by the label ‘Generation X,’ which still sounds so desperately anarchistic that you cannot help but pity its members. At least we didn’t end up being ‘Generation Y’ as originally suggested.

Now it’s time for the really bad news.

Generations, for whatever reason, are remembered for their counterculture.  So, for example, when I said Baby Boomers, you thought Hippie (thanks Woodstock!). When I said Generation X, you thought Grunge (thanks Nirvana!).  When they (i.e. our kids, historians, me … right now) speak of the Millenials, or rather, what characterized American culture in the early stages of the 21st century, they will have no choice but to imagine the Hipster (thanks Portlandia!).

And like I said, you are trapped, my friend.

The paradox, as I will EXPOUND upon, is that Hipsters are ostensibly everywhere these days, but I cannot find them anywhere. Part of this invisibility is central to their identity; they refuse to be part of a collective, therefore are rarely self-identified.  It’s a label someone else gives you.  I have called other people ‘Hipsters’ with unabashed contempt, but others have used that slur to describe me with similar vitriol. It is, like all things, relative, and no one wants to be identified by the extremes. Most Republicans want to distance themselves from the Tea Party.  Most practicing Muslims want you to know that they are not violent fundamentalists. Alternatively, you may be a Hipster, but there is always someone more Hipster than you.

The term ‘hipster,’ as a lowercase-h adjective, can serve a function. It can describe a bar, a neighborhood, a style, an attitude—it is even one of the ‘Ambience’ options on Yelp. But Hipster, as a capital-H noun, does not work very well, because few people satisfy the entire stereotype.  This is what I want to unpack today.

Once upon a time, Hipster just signified a certain fashion aesthetic. It meant embracing offbeat styles that were due to become trendy again (e.g. wearing thick-framed eyeglasses, having unruly facial hair, hipstermemewearing tight jeans and riding around on bicycles). And if it remained localized to fashion, it would have been harmless, but alas, it is too late. We have extrapolated and conflated the definition so haphazardly that Hipster ideology and Hipster culture has dug its talons into just about every aspect of daily life:  eating, drinking, transportation, lifestyle, politics, religion.  They even have a mission statement: Be different, and if you can’t manage that, at least just be better than the normal American.

Since the history of Hipsters (no, not once did I consider combining them to make Hipster-y) is largely unknown, and because I took the time to go through decades of microfiches, here is a brief Hipster-y lesson.

The term ‘Hipster’ first appeared in the 40s and 50s with middle-class white kids emulating the style of the black jazz musicians they idolized.  The next available documentation comes in the 60s and 70s, courtesy of creative giants like Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer, who often referenced ‘Hipsters’ in their work– this time, casting a much larger net, referring to people disenfranchised with the Cold War and just wanting to live a wandering, rootless life that had nothing to do with the American Dream.

Fast-forward to Brooklyn, 2003, for the version of the Hipster we will ultimately remember: that unlovable, snobby, PBR-swilling, localvore Hipster who just cannot help but be ironic about everything. Though to be fair, just like the Hipsters of yore, this 21st-century iteration probably also has a lot of Thelonious Monk vinyls and totally sweats The Beat Generation. 

JT wants his vision to get 'The 20/20 Experience'

JT wants his vision to get ‘The 20/20 Experience’

What happened in Brooklyn and areas like East Village in New York at the turn of the century is similar to what has happened at various times and places across history, which is a bunch of artistic types begin presenting themselves as Bohemian because the values and expectations of the mainstream became tiresome — I don’t know, maybe they just all saw R.E.N.T. once in the late-90s and surmised that there can be integrity in poverty, provided that you live in a big city and express yourself constantly.

And so, a community developed and new fashion followed, and soon some Brooklyn guy wrote a book in 2003 called The Hipster Handbook, which coined the term and even provided a rough sketch of the stereotype we know today. These were the humble (or more likely, arrogant) beginnings of the Hipster movement. It’s not until 2009 that we have evidence of major publications like TIME magazine referencing the emergence of Hipster communities in places like Brooklyn, but also Portland, Denver, Austin.  It was right around this time, 3-4 years ago, that I believe I first came in contact with the term ‘Hipster,’ although to my credit, I always hear about new and obscure labels way before the mainstream does.

Now, in 2013, a decade after The Hipster Handbook, the term ‘Hipster’ seems to be storming the walls of mass consumption; references to, and mostly jokes at the expense of, Hipsters are popping up on the covers of major magazines and on CBS sitcoms and in big summer movies like This Is The End. I am perversely confident that your parents will ask you this Thanksgiving what a Hipster is, and you will sigh deeply just as you did when they asked you about “Gangnam Style” last Christmas.

The indirect consequences of Hipster culture can even be found in current events:

  • A Jewish Orthodoxy school (in Brooklyn, of course) banned students from wearing thick frames
  • Geographically speaking, which also means politically speaking — the cities with the fastest rate of migration currently are (1) Washington DC (3) Denver (4) Portland (5) Austin (8) Seattle.  All are hives swarming with Hipsters. [TANGENT:  do Hipsters just flock to these cities or do these cities make people Hipsters?… sorry, it’s just one of the thoughts that keep me up at night]
  • Religious institutions, like the Catholic church, try to exploit the Hipster image to increase membership (see below)

Now that we are here, and Hipsters (or at least the idea of) are entering the public’s consciousness, it is a label destined to be misinterpreted. When a new word or term is coined and spread, especially one with a flimsy definition (e.g. ‘trolling’ …. or ‘literally’), the term itself seems to travel through the lexicon on a path parallel to, but definitely separate from, the path that contains what it originally described; language goes where it ends up going.

Whereas a few years ago the definition of Hipster used to be sparse–characterized by just a few features that mostly related to physical appearance–it has been fed more and more defining traits (while never losing any, mind you) until finally becoming, of late, irreversibly obese. And when a stereotype becomes this overstuffed and broad, it becomes a cartoon and characteristics start to overlap one another in unfair, and in some cases, completely contradictory ways.

To prove to myself that I’m not totally insane regarding this issue, I conducted a formal survey of 20 people I know, as preparation for this piece. These 20 people were selected specifically so I could make sure every demographic was represented in some way; equal numbers for male and female, an age range of 24 to 36, various income levels, and living situations both suburban and urban, ranging from Seattle to Miami to North Carolina to Las Vegas to Maryland to Los Angeles.  Granted, I’m an amateur, unlicensed sociologist, but I intuitively understand that you have to create your own randomness sometimes.

I asked these 20 people to do the following:  Give me 10 characteristics that would best describe Hipsters — these can relate to appearance, or preferences, or interests, or lifestyle, or attitude — no limits, basically. Act like I’m an alien that just got to Earth and you made some quip about Hipsters and I said, ‘what is a Hipster?’ and you had to tell me using 10 bullet points. 

Now, as you would expect, I had a lot of fun collating these results. I was recognizing patterns in repeat answers and began creating broad, umbrella categories that I could gather most answers beneath. It was not a perfect system, and I will defend the imperfections as I go through it, but a motherfucka’s gotta make certain choices when a motherfucka wants to make a bar graph, ya dig?

this is definitely the last bar graph I ever make

this is definitely the last bar graph I ever make

The above graph only shows the results in unreliable brushstrokes, just as a telescope can help you identify a star cluster but belie how much distance is actually between each star. Below are the specific details, which tell the better, imperfect story.

In other words:  the forest is good, but it has nothing on the trees.

[anything in quotes is a verbatim answer I received and anything in bold italics is me being a snarky asshole]


  • “conforming non-conformists”
  • “fitting in by standing out”
  • “very self-loathing because it used to be about not being ‘hip’ and now THAT’s hip”
  • “apathetic about being apathetic”
  • “effortless look that is actually quite efforted”
  •  “no make-up, silly haircuts”  [Translation:  trying sooooo hard to be ugly!]
  • “you can’t define a hipster because definitions are too mainstream”
  • “weird pets just because.. i.e. mini-pigs, ferrets, chinchillas”

[Look, sometimes ‘Miscellaneous’ wins, you know?  This category is full of vague paradoxes, but all of them somehow imply that Hipsters reject the mainstream on the sole basis of it being the mainstream. ]


  • microbrews
  • PBR
  • “belong to a whiskey club”
  • “mixologists”
  • “bourbon, bitters, beer”
  • “attend bars that specialize in one type of liquor” [isn’t that what a lot of restaurants do with food?]
  • “responsible for the return of speakeasy-themed bars”

[It’s crazy that their drinking habits are this high on the list. This must be because our run-ins with Hipsters usually occur in public spaces when we too are drinking and if you think you spot one, you can mutter to your friends ‘Fucking Hipsters.’ Still, the fact that many people associate Hipsters with both PBR and microbrews seems absurd; they basically want to spend either $2 or $6. I guess Miller Light just sucks.


  • “THRIFT STORE, THRIFT STORE, THRIFT STORE” [Oh, Macklemore. You ruined a great thing.]
  • “URBAN OUTFITTERS”  [in terms of contrived, pre-packaged irony, Urban Outfitters is the ‘Sharknado’ of clothes shopping]
  • “I HEAR THEY WEAR TWEED” [l love how this was phrased, as if people wearing tweed is a subject of gossip. We can’t confirm that they wear tweed, but it is far too juicy a rumor to dismiss entirely!]

[Real quickly, I’d like to vent, defensively, about the term ‘ironic t-shirt.’              (1) The term ‘ironic’ is often misappropriated and over-diagnosed, kind of like OCD and ADHD. (2) An insincere sensibility is the calling card of everyone born post-1970, not just Hipsters. It’s a cultural force that transcends multiple generations, so it feels a little reductive to just slap that label on Hipsters. (3) To dismiss certain fashion as ‘ironic’ implies that all other fashion is to be taken very seriously, which is strange. (4)  In summation, we are putting the term ‘Hipster’ on trial here, so making ‘ironic’ one of the key witnesses is unwise.]


  • scooters
  • public transportation
  • bikes (usually fixed-gear, or “fixies”)
  • “hopefully vintage bike”

[As fair as this one may be, as nothing is more ‘trying to be better than the normal American’ than boycotting automobiles…. isn’t it strange to reprimand those that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint?  Aren’t we all supposed to be at least thinking about doing that? I know, I know. It’s because they’re just so ‘high and mighty about it.’ Let’s keep going. ]

4-T.  EARTHY  (10 VOTES)

  • localvores
  • “want to have their own garden and grow their own food but are too irresponsible to care for another living thing”
  • “wears TOMS shoes”  [I admit, this one may be a reach for this category
  • “they even think Whole Foods is too mainstream”
  • “work on organic farms”
  • “not Starbucks, only local coffees”

[These Hipsters!  You know, they (claim to) have watched all those documentaries about the food industry and the dangers of fracking, and they just want to support clean, local businesses instead of corporations, but how are they supposed to also maintain their trendiness?  I mean they can’t even go to Whole Foods anymore because it’s too popular. Which I think means Whole Foods is basically The Decemberists.]


[Some people just said ‘glasses’ and some said ‘unnecessary glasses’  I made them one category because, as we’ll discuss later, that distinction barely matters anymore. Seen from afar, we can just assume they serve no purpose.]


  • non name-brand clothing
  • bringing back plaid/flannel
  • “driving a Volvo as old as they are”  [so they DO own cars!]
  • “nostalgia for the 90’s”
  • “chuck taylors”

[Certainly one of the loosest categories.  There is a lot of overlap with ‘Ironic Fashion’ here, but this is more of a Buffalo Exchange vibe.]


  • general emphasis on ridiculous versions of the mustache, i.e. handlebar

[ I feel like the irony died awhile ago with Hipsters wearing mustaches. If anything, the mustache is worn most ironically in mainstream culture. Take ‘Movember’ — which yes, is on a different level because proceeds benefit charity, but let’s-get-real. It’s also an opportunity for many non-Hipster men to say, “Hey! Look at my upper lip!  Isn’t it funny? Isn’t it playful?”]


  • “they are artificially enlightened”  [because THAT phrasing doesn’t sound pretentious]
  • “claim to be well-read but haven’t read a book since college”
  • “they love foreign films and don’t own a television”
  • “obsessed with saying ‘you’ve probably never heard of…'” [caricature alert]
  • “believes their tastes in many areas (music, literature, film, comedy, etc.) are more-educated and far superior to the rest of society”

[I have a theory that ‘Hipster’ has become the new surrogate for ‘snob’ simply because the latter term was getting a little stale and people hate short words. It’s not a great theory. ]

10.   ARTSY  (7 VOTES)

  • “social scene dictated by interest in the arts”
  • “musicians and photographers, even though they work at Starbucks”  [hating corporate America does not mean avoiding it entirely]
  • “blogs blogs blogs”
  • “love to engage in witty banter”

[If this is true, and it probably is, that Hipsters tend to be artsy or creative individuals, doesn’t that at least help explain slash validate why they hate Top-40 music and prefer indie films?]


  • favors bands that are obscure or underground
  • “reverting to old country like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Loretta Lynn”
  • loves house music  [I mean, what fan of vintage country DOESN’T love house?]
  • “vinyls!”
  • “Indie Rock … like Arctic Monkeys or The Killers”  [so indie]
  • uses Pitchfork for all their music advice

[Obviously this could have been added to ‘Overall Snob,’ but it seemed too specific to ignore. In truth, the whole narrative about Hipsters being ‘snobs’ and ‘obsessed with obscurity’ has all of its roots in music more than anything else]


[While valid, I’ve never been able to figure out if this piece of hipster chic was ironic.  I mean, if their shirts are ironic, does that mean their bottom-half is a joke, too?  But on the other hand, it would seem like baggy jeans would be the nostalgic and ironic choice.  But baggy is the opposite of tight. I’m all turned around…. just…. stop wearing pants that vary in fit!  Not everything is a ‘statement’ you have to make!]


  • “Ambiguous employment status”
  • “they claim to not believe in money”  [are we talking Hipsters or socialists?]
  • “coffee shops”
  • “try to look poor even though they have the latest Mac product”
  • “always tired”  [which is saying something since they don’t work and are always properly caffeinated]

[Kerouac would be proud.]


  • “always ‘taking up causes'”
  • “Greenpeace, PETA”
  • “loves Obama”  [if they had the option, they would no doubt love a President that no one has ever heard of]
  • “loves NPR”

[If Hipsters ever seize the government, their first order of business will be commissioning a statue of Jon Stewart to be erected on the National Mall. Or is that too mainstream a reference? Mo Rocca?]


  • “suspenders”
  • “backpacks”   [really?]
  • “bow ties”
  • “scarves in the summer”
  • “Ray-Bans of several different colors”

[Anything to stand out amongst the masses.  The backpack-less masses.]


  • “pickling or juicing or infusing”
  • “bike repair”
  • “joining a chess club” [they sure do join a lot of clubs for wanting to stand out]
  • “knitting or just anything that your grandparents were into”

[This category is super boring.]

16-T.   URBAN  (5 VOTES)

  • “even though they live in a neighborhood suburb”
  • “always in the artsy and ‘up-and-coming’ neighborhood”
  • “they pave the way for gentrification”

[Hipsters living in cities has major chicken-or-the-egg potential! Is that why they ride bikes and lean liberal and attend bars that have mixologists?]


[Because nothing says ‘iconoclastic music snob’ more than joining 90,000 people to do some drugs and see The Black Keys play]


[Things get dicey here when talking about what socio-economic strata breed Hipsters, but I’m pretty sure the subtext here is ‘spoiled and aimless white people’]


[definitely could have been part of ‘EARTHY’ but again, seemed too specific to consolidate]

20-T.   SMOKERS  (3 VOTES)

  • “usually hand-rolled”
  • “American Spirits”

[even when they’re killing themselves, they do it pretentiously!]


[Sorry that we couldn’t ALL be high-school football stars, Dad!]


  • Worldly or open to other cultures (2 VOTES) ….  “Ethiopian food! How obscure!”
  • Androgynous appearance (2 VOTES) ….  “hipster couples look like siblings”
  • Overexposure of lower leg area (2 VOTES) ….  “always wearing cuffs”  [pretty surprised this wasn’t higher, actually]
  • Instagram  (2 VOTES) … “makes things instantly vintage!”  [uh oh! that means a lot of you!]
  • Bright Colors  (2 VOTES) …. “neon”
  • “Black tones on outfits”    [but wait, what happened to bright colors?]
  • “where are you brunching tomorrow?”  [so… women, then?]
  • “bangs … disclaimer: I’ve had them since childhood, before they were cool”
  • “Dresses like an extra in a Charlie Chaplin film” [so like one of those guys in a Chaplin film that doesn’t have any lines]
  • “Love talking about Marxism”  [putting this on my next dating profile]
  • “Travel and live in packs. Or is it called a herd?  Swarm? Gaggle?”
  • “RC Cola”  [it’s the PBR of soda, baby]
  • “read trendy books like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Twilight”  [hey as long as it’s wayyyy outside the mainstream, they are IN!]
  • “cocaine-loving”
  • “straight-edge xx”
  • “they hate their best friend”  [probably because their best friend looks like a Hipster and it becomes a mirror that begets self-loathing]
  • “Lana Del Rey”
  • “open-minded sexually … at least in my experience”

And that’s it. Just those 200 things that describe the quintessential Hipster. What an informative ride. I sincerely thank everyone who contributed.

The point of the survey was to prove that we can approximate the definition of what a Hipster is, but with every day that passes, it remains just a star cluster, appearing as one large, bright dot seen from a galactic distance, and not what it actually is: a collection of smaller dots that vary in location and luminosity.

I am not saying that the term ‘Hipster’ can refer to whatever you want it to, but only the following:

(1)  it is a pervasive and intensely pejorative label

(2)  the Hipster has become a caricature, and 74% of that is due to Portlandia 

Therefore, calling something or someone Hipster, is problematic.


So …. I have an awkward question….given some of those answers above …. are you a Hipster?

If you are young and live near a major city, and also voted for (gulp) Obama, you are screwed. You will be inevitably called a ‘Hipster’ at some point by someone who is less Hipster than you, and this will be based on some dicey, transitive property logic, meaning A = B, and B = C, therefore A = C. Because you started wearing glasses and have a vintage sense of style, and prefer neighborhood coffee shops to Starbucks, and have pickled something recently, that is more than enough evidence to convict you of being a Hipster, and thus everything else that being a Hipster allegedly entails. 

But do not fret, fellow contrarian beatnik, for there is a loophole here.  Just because you have Hipster tendencies, that does not mean you are a Hipster.  It just means you sympathize with them. You are not what makes the Hipster such a punchline.

Here are two jokes that I have heard recycled again and again:

  • How did the Hipster burn his mouth?  He ate his pizza before it was cool.
  • How many Hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  A number you probably have never even heard of.

[TANGENT:  For homework, feel free to write your own memes that have this same exhausted punchline! Let’s see…. ‘Knock, Knock’ structure is available … I’m sure there is a ‘tree falling in the woods’ set-up out there somewhere.]

The true Hipster (i.e. the villain, the cartoon, the one that no one ever admits to actually being) is the snobby, baseless kind.  Obsessed with obscurity for the sake of obscurity. Irony for the sake of irony. Alt for the sake of alt.

You can see this bias in almost all the answers I received. The winning category was not just ‘outside the mainstream’ … it was ‘calculated effort to eschew the mainstream.’ Hipsters don’t just wear thick eyeglasses — they wear them without prescriptions. They do not just ‘live in the up-and-coming area’ of a city — it is a lie and they merely claim to.  They brag about superior taste in literature and the arts but have not read a book since high school.  They pretend to be poor, but their Apple products suggests the opposite. They love ironic fashion and thrift stores, but still somehow ‘pay top dollar for it.’

This permanent distrust regarding the Hipster’s authenticity is where the stereotype became a runaway truck without brakes or an off-ramp. More than fashion, more than political biases, more than eating and drinking and transportation habits — a Hipster is a pretentious phony. And that became the default definition, and it does not matter how many of these self-righteous snobs you have actually met. What matters is that they are presumably out there and that they are the adult version(s) of That Guy in high school who aspersed his peers as being ‘mindless sheep.’   And who doesn’t hate That Guy?  I was That Guy and I hate That Guy.

[TANGENT: I suspect Hipsters have won enough of the culture war at this point that most high schools right now are populated by Hipsters and Non-Hipsters at a 50/50 split]

Hipsters, apparently, called the rest of us ‘sheep’ and that pissed everyone off, rightfully so. But we are not fighting with dignity by dismissing all of their behavior as inauthentic. The Hipster says things like “oh, I don’t own a television” or “I am trying to only buy organic food” and our response is a heavy eye-roll and an exaggerated ‘Ugggggh.’  And that’s fine, because stereotypes are funny, and someone bragging about yoga or mentioning that they are on a ‘cleanse’ fills me with a giddy rage as well. But frankly, we are all being wildly presumptuous about the life the Hipster leads and the motivations therein.  

There is an implication here that one would only sidestep the mainstream in order to be noticed for doing so, which inaccurately suggests that there is some clear-cut, monolithic culture in America in 2013. Hipsters hate mainstream music, but what does that include? Like Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, and songs like “Ho Hey” and “Thrift Shop?”… Is there such a thing as network television anymore? There are 1000 different shows or clips you can watch, at any time, and all you need is an internet connection. And as far as fashion is concerned…I don’t know, are we really saying we prefer that everyone put on a polo shirt and khakis? There is just too much choice for anything to become that popular, or at least not to the scale that it used to [references in the survey to The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Game of Thrones, and Twilight certainly prove that we don’t even know what ‘indie’ means anymore].

That oughta show ’em, sign-on-the-inside-of-a-bus.

The ideals and attributes of Hipster culture reflect those of our generation as a whole. We are narcissistic and we don’t all work 9 to 5. We are having babies and starting careers at a later age than ever before. We are not, generally, accruing assets and buying houses or fuel-inefficient SUVs. And as far as living ironically, which is probably the biggest glass house of them all, Hipsters are not the only Americans who celebrate the 4th of July by pronouncing the name of this country as ‘A-murr-cah,’ or who attend ‘Awkward Sweater’ parties come Christmas.  We are all winking. We all bleed snark.

So sarcastic congratulations are in order, my friend, for you are a Millenial (yayyyyyyyy!!!!!). Your enemy out there today is a counterculture that has more similarities to you than differences.

If you are to vanquish this enemy, keep in mind two critical points:

(1) there is no definition of ‘Hipster’ (but you will probably know ’em when you see ’em)


(2) the greatest trick the Hipster ever played was convincing the world that the Hipster did not exist.

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying, and Love The Like Button

We’ve gathered here today to dissect one of nature’s most resilient new organisms: the Like Button on Facebook. The Like Button is, apparently, here to stay, regardless of how comfortable you are with its continued survival. Even though it presides over much of our daily lives, we don’t, as citizens of a democracy, get to vote on it or anything, just like I don’t remember ever casting a ballot with ‘Extreme, Devastating Weather Patterns’ or ‘Craig Ferguson’ checked off.

Given that it seems (temporarily) permanent and that we interact with it visually and emotionally on a daily basis, I have decided to conduct a long-overdue, informal survey of the Like Button in my own mind.

Conclusion:  Yeah. I love it.

Let me be forthright for a second. My profession (read: none) demands that I spend a lot of time actively contributing to the virtual society that is Facebook. It’s a society, similar to the Internet as a whole, that is unquestionably still under construction, but one where the bricks continue to be laid before our collective eyes. Which is perhaps what remains so surprising about the Like Button specifically; for a website so Protean and thus vexing throughout its evolution, Facebook doesn’t shape-shift when it comes to the Like Button. After three years of existence, it’s officially just a signature feature of the service offering.

So let’s hunker down and unpack everything we can about it!  First, a brief review.

  • The Like Button first appeared in February 2009, which, in Facebook years, can only be described as a ‘life ago’ (some perspective:  Facebook had 800 million fewer users at that point and Jesse Eisenberg was starring in Adventureland)
  • Was originally going to be an ‘Awesome’ button, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg vetoed that before release
  • Facebook once estimated the ‘Like’ global metrics at 31,250 clicks per any given second

[Here are Some Other Statistics I May Find Very Interesting If They’re True 

– On an AVERAGE day:

  • 26% of users Like something (that seems right)
  • 22% of users Comment on something (surprisingly neck-and-neck)
  • 15% of users update their own status (really? … I don’t believe it’s that high…)
  • 10% of users send a private Facebook message (that is ridiculous, c’mon)

– Women average 21 updates to their Facebook status per month, men average just 6

– The average user contributes 4 likes/comments for every 1 update of their own status (which makes sense; it’s harder to start a conversation than it is to chime in)

– On average, Facebook users get 7 new Facebook friends per month, initiating 3 requests and accepting 4 … 80% of friend requests are accepted

It is perverse how fascinating I find the above.]

First of all, we are not going to talk about the Like Button as a business or marketing tool and its percolations across all of the Internet or how the icon itself, the blue-sleeved Thumbs Up, is undeniably one of the 10 most recognizable images on the planet, up there with Santa Claus and Nike’s Swoosh.

For today, we will focus on the micro and discuss why it’s valuable on an individual level. I’m talking shared photos, videos, and links. I’m talking status updates.


1. It is simple, accessible, and your only choice 

I mean, it’s a Thumbs-Up. Nothing is lost in translation. As you read this, some Swedish guy traveling through Japan just rented a car using only Thumbs-Up language. For a company like Facebook, which has always succeeded because it is clean, visually-pleasing, and ostensibly safe, there is no better symbol.

And seriously, be glad it’s not something else entirely. Apparently, the Like Button took about two years for Facebook to develop and much of the 2007-2008 discussions included making it a simple +/-  icon, which would have been completely sterile, or a series of stars for users to rate, as in ‘Justin Tyrrell gives this status 3 stars out of 5,’ as in ‘Justin Tyrrell is a weird, pretentious loser.’

It also almost became the ‘Awesome’ button, as reviewed earlier, which would have probably set humanity back a decade or two. I imagine I’d click ‘Awesome’ and it would show my name next to a ‘high-five’ widget. And to be perfectly candid, outside of porn, high-fives have no right showing up on the Internet.

In an age of snark, a time when emoticons are used sparingly and teasingly, a time when many of us knowingly use ‘LOL’ despite its inherent flamboyance … it is pretty awesome haha lol that the thumbs-up just means what it means without having to mean anything about your choice(s) to use it.

2.  It is delightfully impersonal

It’s been probably said that technology creates laziness. To wit: clicking Like on your friend’s post is (literally) the least you could do today to let them know you care.

If actually making a Comment on someone’s post is the equivalent of talking to them at a big party, the Like Button is the sufficient head-nod from across the room. It’s the escape clause for the anti-social person in all of us; it offers respect and acknowledgement, thus maintaining vital human connection(s), but does so via very little effort. When you strictly Like something, you get to pop into a party and say ‘Hello’ without further entanglement or commitment. It’s the dream, in other words.

[Tangent: Whereas clicking Like lets you approve of a situation from a breathable distance, Commenting puts you in a ‘notification’ cage. For example, if I Like someone’s status that says “I just got engaged y’all!,” Facebook doesn’t alert me every 20 minutes because someone else clicked Like and had the same obvious reaction that I did. But if I chose to also post a ‘Congrats you two!’ comment, I will be bombarded by Comment notifications over the next 24 hours. It will be suffocating.]

Not only does just Liking a post keeps the conversation on your own terms, i.e. brief, but it somehow still makes you look good to that person (the Likee) for even acknowledging them at all. It’s genius, frankly. The Likee is humbled that you took time out from your busy, modern day to validate their existence, but it was really just one click you made while glumly scrolling. Which brings us to….

3. It allows for a range of interpretations

Clicking Like can convey agreement in a variety of forms. A Like can express the following:

(A) Polite, dismissive: e.g. “That’s neat.”

(B) Sincere, encouraging:  e.g.  “I’m glad, that’s great”

(C) Exuberant:  e.g.  “YES! I LOVE IT!”

That’s the general spectrum, but applicable to just about anything you may see. If somebody posts pictures from their recent vacation, my Like can mean:

(A)  “I like beaches, too … wish I could go on vacation  🙁  ”

(B)  “Woh! What is that mountain in the background? Great photo!”


Or, if somebody posts something intended as funny, my Like can mean:

(A)  Pity laugh. If this was texting, it’d be ‘Haha,’ meaning ‘cute joke!’

(B)  Real laugh. The kind that actually made a noise. Call it an ‘lol’ if you must.

(C)  Hysterics.  I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure (C) even exists- it’s Facebook, after all.

So why is this versatility so important on Facebook?  Because the receiver of the Like will never know the difference, you fool! And thanks to our ol’ grizzled, collective friend Insecurity, the receiver will always assume the best, or (C)!

For any non-human out there, I’ll explain: maintaining high self-esteem is a daily priority for most of us because society (virtual or otherwise) can be crowded and cruel, so when we do get that Like on something we posted ourselves, our brain tends to process that Like as an expression of love. After all, we want to, if possible, be happy, so it is psychologically useful to take an ambiguous gesture of agreement and extrapolate it to an exponential degree. I know that when I Like something, I generally just kind of like it, but when someone Likes what I posted, I think to myself, “oh man, they really liked it, they only clicked Like because ‘Fuckin Love’ wasn’t available.”

[Tangent: This positive interpretation bias rears its unsavory head in all modern communication. Texting, e-mail, social media–that Axis of Millenial Evil–continues to grow in popularity because it’s much safer for all of our egos to communicate that way. Since I can’t see the other person’s body language or over-analyze their tone of voice, I get to assume everything I just typed was greeted with warmth, laughter, and affection. This culture of constant, surface-level validation is why people born post-1990 are going to be such fascinating adults. I feel like it’s 50/50 that 100/0 of them turn out to be major head-cases.]

I’d totally…Like…her…button. Sorry.

4.  It’s addictive

With Liking, once you get over the initial embarrassment of using it, you slowly develop a dependency on its function. You need to interject your approval every chance you get. I am positive I am not the only person who, in the past year or so, has gotten so used to hitting ‘Like’ to express instantaneous support on Facebook, found themselves laughing at something written in an e-mail, only to be disappointed that there was no ‘Like’ option underneath each paragraph. I felt short-handed, like a key social weapon was missing from my typical artillery.

How did the Like Button become so natural, so…part of our body? Well, whether you realized it or not at the time, in July 2010, 17 months after introducing the Like Button as a tool, users could now Like, or Thumbs-Up, a Comment on Facebook. It did not have to be someone’s post. It could just be a Comment. This was nothing short of brilliant. Not only did it feed the beast for people already hooked on Like, but it gave reactionary smart-asses the chance to finally be Liked on something. You see, even though they never post things themselves, they may now have a Comment here or there get Liked, which, by rules of Pay It Forward, mean they need to start Liking other people’s Comments and Statuses and voila… Facebook had a whole new generation of addicts.

There are certainly those out there that just never tried the drug and rarely Like anything, the ‘too cool for school’ crowd– a choice that I honestly sympathize with, but at the same time, I don’t know who they think they are. I am all for introversion, but a constant absence of altruism indirectly fosters an environment of negativity and division; as Costanza would exalt, “you know we’re living…in a SOCIETY!”

On the other pole, because every addictive substance has its abusers, is the Liker-Of-Everything persona in your Facebook universe. They pass out these Likes as if they have business cards they need to get rid of. Putting their name all over your Feed with ‘Justin Tyrrell likes this’ and ‘Justin Tyrrell likes this,’ which always ends up looking narcissistic and desperate. A Cal St. professor, Larry Rosen, has actually done research on this condition that is far more academic and clinical than my own findings. His conclusion is that people whom more frequently Like on Facebook tend to also exhibit symptoms of mania and compulsivity in their real life.
That aforementioned (A) thru (C) range of interpretation… it doesn’t apply to these people. It does not belong to their crackhead reality. They just Like everything, with no balance and no discretion, and consequently, no credibility. Which is really sad, because they might genuinely like your status update of ‘Best. Happy Hour. Ever.’, but you will never know, because clicking Like is not a special occasion for them, it’s just robotic.

[Full disclosure:  My biggest fear in life right now is that I’m becoming an Over-Liker. I don’t know where my standards went, but now that I’m comfortable with the machinery itself, I’ve losing sight of what I actually like and what I just want to be seen Liking.  These are actual excerpts from my internal monologue:

  • Look at that dog’s wittle face…Goddamn that IS cute. Like!
  • Whaddya got there, is that a baby, dressed in a tuxedo onesie? You only live YOLO once, I guess! Like!
  • Checking in at a Gotye concert? I’m a little skeptical of him, long-term, but hey, I support live music and I support drinking, which you’re probably doing… Like!
  • A status updates that mentions moustaches AND the Mayan apocalypse? I mean, I definitely didn’t laugh out loud, but you’re trying, and maybe you’re actually being ironic because you KNOW how cliché those references are…. Like!

What’s happening to me?  It’s like I’m drunk all the time. I’m just patting everyone on the back, singing ‘Let the good times roll!’ in the street to no one in particular. If you needed any more proof that I ‘have a problem,’ please realize that this 2500-carefully-chosen-word ESSAY is something I’ve written just to rationalize to myself what’s so goddamned phenomenal about the Like button. This isn’t a blog post, it’s a cry for help. TAKE THE NEEDLE OUT OF MY HAND.]

5. It forces optimism

This is certainly the most obvious selling point, but it’s the core basis for my support nonetheless. The Like button is an actualization of the ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ maxim, and as much as I hate to give traditional decorum credit, abiding by that rule has possibly, if only slightly, made me a happier person.

Should you wish to criticize someone’s post, you have to embrace that Debbie Downer role head-on and actually Comment, which means you have to essentially start a disagreement or a full-fledged argument, which is simply not socially desirable. Even though the rest of the Internet welcomes negative feedback, including when reviewing businesses (Yelp), products (Amazon), or media (YouTube), Facebook continues to prosper because it is so nurturing, because it respects the gray areas; there are not two cold absolutes like ‘Funny Or Die’ or ‘Hot Or Not.’

And for that idiot inside your brain that once said, “I wish there was a Dislike button”: No you don’t. You don’t know what you want, clearly, because if you think letting people spread their negative wings across Facebook’s pristine sky is a constructive idea, you’re just not a person that believes in world peace, what can I say? Zuckerberg has again and again vowed there never would be, and that’s because he’s a genius that didn’t need Harvard, and conversely, you’re definitely not.

Facebook, with the Like Button as its muscle, enforces a language of celebration.

[Tangent:  Speaking demographically, this language of celebration, this exclamatory ‘Spring BREAK!!!!!’ enthusiasm, traditionally befits a younger, and more feminine, population.

Data from Pew Research supports this! Yay! More metrics! Your gender and age affect your Facebook activity!

These results above are hardly surprising, but we still needed confirmation on a few of the subsequent take-aways:

  • Your father probably doesn’t post a lot.
  • The outliers for Liking several things a day are females (20%) and 18-22 year-olds across both genders (31%)
  • The outliers for never Liking things is males (28%) and M/F over the age of 65 (36%)
  • The older you are, the less you Like things. Except for those that reach retirement age, when positivity generally trends back upward, presumably because they have fewer commitments and can ‘finally relax’ and stop trying-to-control-every-little-thing-in-life, blah, blah, etc., etc.]

For me, though, the questions remain: am I a more positive person in real life because of the Like Button? If not, is it just a matter of time before I am? Will the inevitable, continued overlap of my ‘real life’ with my ‘Internet life’ be too much to even make a discrimination between the two?

If I had been so lucky as to take part in a longitudinal study this past half-decade, one that had my brain plugged in sporadically to check out how my dopamine receptors operate both within the conditions of Facebook and without, we may have some answers. But alas, that blessed opportunity never came my way.

On a conscious level, I do seem to be experiencing split-second rushes of joy and generosity when I Like a friend’s post on Facebook. However, on the flip side, as we all know, much of the Facebook experience is spent in long periods of intense disgust. So when you think about it, it may as well be ‘real’ life. There may be a few times a day, when not on the Internet, I express my fervent preference for something (usually it’s an aged cheese), but those moments barely undercut the fits of contempt I often feel for everything and everyone I see. Honestly, reconciling those extremes in life–love and hate, happiness and misery, good and evil–is hard, honest work.

Fortunately, when I log in to Facebook, that weight is off my shoulders. In there, the Haters gonna hate, but only through muffled screams while drowning in an ocean of Like.

One Way Or Another, John Malkovich Will Die In The Arms Of A Robot

If you are remotely familiar with science fiction over the past century, you already know that the premise

artificial intelligence will overwhelm Life on Earth as we once knew it

is science fact, not fiction. Moving forward in the argument, an amateur logician would also grant the following syllogism:

1.  All men are mortal.

2.  John Malkovich is man.

In conclusion, John Malkovich will die (probably later this summer), and by the looks of it, this death will be facilitated by a preternaturally-wise robot.

Having established that, let us now begin discussing the two frontrunners for how this happens.

Scenario #1 relates to a new ad for the iPhone (is it iPhone 4, is it iPhone 6, I’m not sure where we are in the series, I just know it’s still in ‘Police Academy movie’ range and that soon they’ll surely abandon the numbering system in favor of something more abstract like iPhone ‘Limitless’ or the iPhone ‘Singularity’… secondly, the notion that the iPhone even requires a marketing campaign at this point is the subject of a discussion we will never actually have, but could, quite easily, if we wanted to). These current television spots aim to highlight the advantages of its crown jewel, the voice-recognition feature ‘Siri,’ using actors and actresses as endorsers for a product that they do undoubtedly own.

[Tangent: this is, admittedly, a shrewd argument by Apple, that smart phones are truly the great equalizer in modern society; whereas the world’s affluent can afford lavish concept cars and multiple mansions and yachts and HIV vaccines, there is a definable ceiling for excessive cell phone spending; Steven Spielberg’s white 4S is probably just as advanced as your 14-year-old cousin’s.]

These TV spots already seem ubiquitous and thus intolerable; if American Pop Culture was imagined as a crowded subway car with no eventual destination that still makes sporadic stops where things get on and off, then these iPhone commercials would be that pair of noisy, awful teenagers in the rear, ostensibly riding all day for the sheer pleasure of non-supervision. And when a series of television commercials is annoying enough, it inspires actual professional parodies or at least serves as fodder for couch conversations in thousands of living rooms every night.

[Tangent: in our living room, I have gone on many-a-rant chastising Zooey Deschanel for organizing a delivery of tomato soup because she sees it’s raining out. You can make tomato soup for like 40 cents, Zooey, if you actually went food-shopping once in awhile. For a really decent bowl, I’ll bump it up to 90 cents (max!) if you want to involve milk, shredded cheese, Sriracha, maybe some pizza seasoning. But no, you’re so high-maintenance that you require tomato soup at that very moment, and realistically It’s going to cost like $7 to get it delivered, probably upwards of $15 total because you got to round up and you got to give that dude a decent tip for fighting L.A. traffic in an obvious rainstorm when all you ordered was a fucking single tomato soup. Zo, I’m sure your bangs can afford that, but it is still a RIDICULOUS financial decision. And in a day and age when I can’t go an unemployed day without hearing about the income gap in this country and the disappearance of the middle-class, it’s just, geez, Zooey, use your fucking head sometimes, ya know, you are not not encouraging the Occupy movement with this kind of public behavior.]

But more disturbing than the persona(s) of Zooey Deschanel and Samuel ‘Hot Spacho’ Jackson is the absolute-cry-for-help that is John Malkovich’s existence. The first commercial with Malkovich already demonstrated a creepy, intimate relationship between the forever-bald actor and Siri, his servant/soulmate.  But this new one below, entitled just “Life,” is simply baffling.


Now, I don’t want to get in the habit of nitpicking television commercials in this space, as ultimately, that seems about as difficult as teasing an obese student at recess, but when I first saw this, the only reaction appropriate seemed to be “is Apple just fucking with us now?’ Malkovich, who appears to always be caught in some perpetual, inexplicable pattern of woe, does his worst 17th-century-philosopher impersonation here, stating the very generic “Life” to an expectant Siri, who responds:


[How simple it all is! Thanks for the pearls, Seer!  I think I will start reading more, as you suggest, but I’m not gonna just give up fast-food or bigotry overnight. That’d be a prettttty messy withdrawal period.]

How Siri chose to handicap our human condition does not bother me here. That dismal hermit Malkovich, on the other hand, gives me pause. If this is his reality– putting on a full suit-with-slippers ensemble to waste the day away on his smart phone in a dimly-lit living room full of ominous furniture– then his portrayal of Cyrus the Virus in Con Air barely scratched the surface of what seems to be a much more troubling, actual psychosis the actor copes with on the daily.

While I am sure Apple’s marketing department is great at casting and they could have just as easily hired famous-for-being-eccentric Christopher Walken for these spots, reducing his demeanor to just ‘Malkovich-being-Malkovich,’ is a diversion from what is actually going on. What I see is a man who has completely lost touch with the world around him; the only scripts he has to read are for iPhone commercials and those just get directly e-mailed to him on his iPhone, which has inadvertently created some dysfunctional and sad feedback loop where he never leaves his house or communicates with a breathing human. I see an actor whose own personal identity was borrowed for questions of a philosophical nature in Being John Malkovich, who journeyed down a Kaufman hall-of-mirrors and never fully recovered, slowly treading water in some dark, solipsistic ocean ever since. And any day now, he’s going to drown in that abyss and Siri had better fucking have a game-plan for when that happens, because simple Confucian wisdom is not going to be as constructive for his state-of-mind as much as a phone number to, say, a suicide hotline would be.

At this point, I please ask that you watch the commercial above a second time, or if you were in a rush the first go-round, actually take the 30 seconds this time to indulge.

I have watched this over a dozen times now (a sign of my own mental instability and paranoia perhaps, but while we’re on it, yeah, I do worry that I am flying too close to the sun on this one and maybe rattling too many cages and I’m going to definitely uncover something they don’t want me to), but I cannot be alone in feeling discomfort watching this dynamic play itself out. Something undeniably deviant is transpiring at chez Malkovich, but what is it?  Part of me briefly, and quite seriously, considered the possibility of a non-consensual romantic tension. Hear me out: John, no doubt half-drunk at this point of the afternoon, says “you are very eloquent” to Siri in a very predatory way. Accustomed to these tiny affections from John, Siri resists the advances with the safe “Thank you…that is nice of you to say” as if he was some kind of persistent, molesting uncle she regularly avoids at family gatherings.

While it is clear that Malkovich is just fucking out there right now, in his own orbit, we cannot say with any certainty that he will perish as a result of this specific tailspin. If he does survive, if he does manage to turn the corner on this thing, that still only postpones the inevitable (i.e. a machine presiding over his death).

This brings us to Scenario #2, which could be many years from now, and which could be a fate that awaits us all.

Scenario #2 is derived from a story tossed around the internet this past month, one whose headline piques the interest immediately. It involves the Master’s thesis of artist/engineer Dan Chen at the Rhode Island School of Design. Chen, in an attempt to take the machines-as-a-human-surrogate exercise to its extreme, built a robot that would comfort the dying during their last, lonely breaths. If that sounds completely ridiculous, well, video always helps.


Once the ‘end of life is detected,’ which is a physical state surprisingly easy to pinpoint, the bedside droid uses its padded limbs to caress the patient’s forearm, then says, every time without deviation:


Suffice it to say, we are navigating through muddy, Agent-Smith-in-TheMatrix waters here. Before your soul sounds the same alarm mine did, that is, the my-god-we’re-finally-here apocalyptic panic you should feel when you see that machines may soon take over the Hospice industry of all trades… we should qualify that Chen’s creation is not at all for commercial use, nor will it soon be in mass production. By all accounts, it is a triumph of performance art, an intentionally grim display of where we could-be-headed if we don’t take the time as a species to consider issues of what it means to be human. Chen seems to have made the robot’s appearance be as cold as possible to hammer home his project’s leading, central question of ‘what is intimacy without humanity?’

Good intentions and press releases notwithstanding, this is a Thing now, even if there is just one hypothetical prototype out there. And so because it’s a Thing, because Chen now improbably and unexpectedly has the attention of numerous media outlets covering his freaking school project, you can’t completely write off what he may do with it down the road. It would be libel to suggest any scenario including, or related to, him eventually captaining some kind of highly-developed Grim Reaper Robot Army in thirty years (well after his notoriety and fortune have dissipated, driven to the outskirts of society by that terrible fame-and-then-no-fame rollercoaster, bent on some irrational desire for revenge against ALL humankind) but it is a possibility worth mentioning. Look, at this point, all I am saying is that the dude is in the ‘business’ of making robots, okay? That’s all. Just stating the obvious.

Based on the response to his work, Chen has to be at least half-considering the mass development of Last Moment Robots. A lot of people out there, either in direct interaction with him or via Huffington Post surveys, have suggested that “I would prefer this robot being there at my time of death to the prospect of being completely alone.”

While Chen’s objective may have been to strike some nerve in us, to at least elicit feelings of ‘you can’t write a code for compassion!’ or promote slogans of ‘love is what makes us ultimately human!’ … I find myself moving further and further into the opposite side of the spectrum. For the sake of morbid argument, let’s consider that I am there, alone, at your deathbed. I think I’d probably be worse in that situation than the Last Moment Robot. Sure, my human face goes a long way because I, after all, am going to suffer the same fate one day as you are now, but my actual bedside manner and final words of counsel would probably be much clumsier and panicked than a device specifically designed for the situation.

My guess is, and this is best-case scenario, I too would think to caress your arm a little bit, and I could be coherent and articulate enough to feed you similar lines to ‘you are not alone’ and ‘your family loves you.’ But even if I managed to stay calm enough to be there for you, wouldn’t I really just be regurgitating what I thought I should do at a moment like that?  Would my speech come from a sincere, spontaneous place, or would I just be carrying out learned, (this is where it circles back) programmed deathbed codes? And if the latter is true, and my brain is essentially downloading a ‘Show Empathy’ app when presented with this problem, and that really the lot of us do not know what the hell we are doing half the time, that we mostly just say and do what we have been socialized to at things like weddings, divorces, birthdays, funerals… then how am I any less of a simulation than the Last Moment Robot?

Forgive me, Malkovich has been right this whole time; these are all questions I should be asking Siri.

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The Computer Newspaper Asks Their Dads!

The Computer Newspaper co-founders T. Robert Lindner and J. Robert Tyrrell may come across as though they have the world all figured out, this could not be further from the truth. Desperate for wisdom and a good laugh, this week they e-mailed their Dads (Bob and Willy) three questions to see what kind of sage insights they could garner. 

Question 1:  Watch this Sleigh Bells performance on Saturday Night Live.  What are your impressions?

Bob Tyrrell:  I did enjoy the Sony commercial in the SNL Sleigh Bells video. I also admire the hot pants (sorry for the 1960’s reference) the young lady wore. She reminded me so of Cher, I kept waiting for Sonny to come on stage and sing “I Got You, Babe.”  Well, even though he didn’t, I sang it. After watching the video 17 times, I have concluded my enjoyment would have been enhanced if there were more rear shots and if there were subtitles.

Willy Lindner:  The Computer Newspaper’s dad – this one, at any rate – is a dirty old man who didn’t mind at all being forced to watch someone whom he’d never 
heard of before (apparently named Nicki Minaj) with luscious red lips, dark enticing eyes, and silky, lustrous black hair; an exotic curve to her nose implying a visage usually suggestively concealed behind a veil. (Who says those folks on the subcontinent don’t know what they’re doing?)  In fact, this Computer Newspaper dad – who rejects the “dirty old man” appellation, by the way, having learned in life that a DOM is simply a man who isn’t dead yet – followed a link or two, and would suggest that anyone interested check out this link, which is kind of provocative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmFgejWZjtg&feature=relmfu.
However, surmounting these base thoughts (or attempting to), the Computer dad is mystified at just what the hell is going on in the performance in question. Why those inane, quasi-“dance” moves, the arms rotating like the fluted wheel on a paddleboat? How much are those shitty guitar players getting paid? This dad’s bias is to love music that’s about the music. Not saying that performers should impersonate statues. Stephane Grappelli, Itzhak Perlman, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, my freakin’ brother Banjo Dan… these dudes and dudettes were and are good to watch because they’re moved by their music when they’re playing it, and their connection is infectious. The minute I see guitar and bass players walking backward and forward to try to impart some intensity to their power chords and nondescript “melodies,” and singers, temporarily idled during an instrumental solo, enacting clumsy, physical replications of being “into it,” I am convinced of the opposite. And this includes you, too, Lady GooGoo, Grace Potter, and – dare I say it? I do dare say it – Mick Jagger.
Editor’s Note: That is not Nicki Minaj.

Question 2:  Is it okay to lie someone, even if nobody gets hurt?

Willy Lindner: It’s mandatory.

No, really: Is this a trick question? Am I being pressed into the uncomfortable role of providing wisdom and moral guidance to The Computer Newspaper sons and their readers? Sheer panic sets in. Am I going to be judged by the legion of TCN followers on my response (Check here for Beacon of Light___; Check here for douchebag___)?

Cornered though I am, I shall attempt a response. (I wish I knew where I’d put my bible. Oh, that’s right; I don’t have a bible. My scotch, then.)

Another take on the subject is that one might contend that it’s okay to lie to someone if the lie prevents someone from getting hurt. I had a friend, married, who kissed another woman, went home and told his wife about it because his moral standard was TO BE HONEST ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE.  It broke her heart and their marriage fell apart. It was pointless. The kiss, as I understood it, was a little passing thing that in the scheme of things was a little passing thing.  But the wife was striken. If the guy had real issues going on, he could have taken a little time to look deeply within, to examine… and if there were things that needed to be brought to the surface, difficult things, then that could have been the next step. Or he could have decided there were not, and that this was a lesson to him in what was important. But to be truer to a principle (“honesty is the best policy”) than to a friend or lover, who might have been spared needless pain, is a misplacement of priorities, in this Computer Newspaper dad’s view.

This dad is not sure he answered the right question. Mostly, we shouldn’t lie to each other, because it’s a bad habit and is disrespectful to the liar (being degrading behavior) as well as to the lie-ee. We steal
something away from someone when we lie to him or her.


Bob Tyrrell:  It is never right to lie, whether it doesn’t hurt anyone or whether the truth hurts. I really thought I raised you better than that. Honesty is always, repeat always, the best policy, and complies with the commandment that thou shall honor thy father. On the other hand, it is never right to hurt anyone, even with the truth. When faced with such an uncomfortable and irreconcilable situation, it is best for one to either feign dementia or recluse oneself and hurriedly go underground.


Question 3:  Where do you see the Yankees and Red Sox finishing in the AL East this season?


Bob Tyrrell, Yankees fan:  The Yankees and Red Sox will finish the season in an
historic five-way tie for the AL East with the Rays, Blue Jays, and O’s. Home field advantage throughout the Round Robin playoffs will be determined by the Roger Clemens’ jury since he played for three of those teams. At the end of the day (er year, actually), though, Mariano Rivera will have recovered sufficiently to record his 43rd, 44th, 45th, and 46th postseason saves and the New York Baseball Yankees will win their 28th world championship (yes, incredibly, a 28th professional title!) and baseball will have rightfully re-claimed its place as the National Pastime and Field of Dreams. On a sad note, the Red Sox, after yet another disgraceful season of clubhouse drinking during games, will be thrown into bankruptcy due to the exorbitant salaries of their players, and acquired by speculators who will try to resurrect the sorry franchise in the Class C Developmental League.


Willy Lindner, Red Sox fan:

Now, in most seasons this ould indeed be a riveting topic, a debate to which I would bring statistics, trends, analyses of the ravages of cumulative age upon team’s composition, and quite possibly one of those clubs that look like a crude, misshapen bat with nails sticking out of it. This season, though, the question presupposes that I give a rat’s ass where the New York Yankees will finish. As always, I hope they’ll finish in the cellar or hell, whichever is lower; but hopes and predictions are different animals. I would like to see that smug, sneering, arrogant collection of privileged pricks concluding the season in some form of off-brown, gaseous state (though not you, Curtis Granderson, whom I like and admire, and not you Mariano Rivera, a truly classy guy, humble and kind when it would be so easy for him, the greatest, to be otherwise, and who so ill-deserves the awful trick fate recently played on him while he was shagging flies).

(An aside: I want to shag flies. I would die happy if I could shag flies for 45 minutes – real flies, hit by a Major League coach with a potbelly, not weenie flies hit by my sexagenarian brother.)

If the Yankees cannot become gaseous and blow away this season, then I really don’t care what happens to them. And the reason is that I am totally absorbed in the act of making of voodoo dolls of Theo Epstein and sticking pins in them. Sox fans this season are too consumed by feelings of anger and betrayal, given their team’s shameful ending of the 2011 season and the train-wreck of a start to this season. There are those who argue (in the Globe every day, because that’s what devotees of the Crimson Hose are reduced to) that it’s the players’ fault and they should man up. I do not disagree. But who assembled this cast of players? Theo Epstein. It was Epstein who, inconceivably, imagined value in John Lackey, who has always stunk as a pitcher and whose odious personality outdoes his athletic disqualifications. It is Epstein who, perhaps mystified by the Mysterious Orient, overpaid for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who in turn seems mystified about how to pitch to the assortment of Caucasians, Latinos, African-Americans, fellow Asians, and the occasional Aussie (Caucasians with funny accents) who make up the American League. It was Epstein who chose the wrong Adrian – buying the placid Gonzalez rather than the fiery Beltre, whom he could have had and who sparkled in his one year with Red Sox.

It was Epstein who left the gift that keeps on giving – multitudes of mediocre players making millions in mullah on long-term deals that likely will make them untradeable, several of them (Lackey, Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford) on the long-term disabled list, eating up resources that a more clairvoyant general manager would have reserved for future needs, and contributing nothing (which in Lackey’s case is nothing new). Epstein, too, who foisted upon us players whom we finally weathered but were lousy, costly choices – your JD Drew (whose real initials, interestingly, are DJ Drew); your Julio Lugo. Julio Lugo? Are you kidding me?

I also blame Epstein for the malaise among the starting pitchers – at least the Big Three: Josh Becket, John Lester, and Clay Buchholz. Why do I blame Epstein for these? Because I can. Becket and Lester turned in good performances this week, but we jaded fans need more than the flash of a little leg to get excited. Talk to me in mid-September, Becket and Lester.

The season will progress. Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) will come back, and they tell us Carl Crawford (elbow and wrist) and Andrew Bailey (thumb – thumb!!!) will as well. The Kevin Youkilis-Will Middlebrooks dilemma will be solved, gracefully, one hopes, with Kevin getting a big wet smoosh on the lips and then dispatched to the Phillies. But where will this team end up? Fourth place, ahead of somebody but I don’t know who.

And where will Epstein, whose conscience didn’t tell him he should stick around and clean up his mess, end up? Somewhere where it’s hot and they have pitchforks.

P.S.: Current favorite quote from a baseball player:

“I think for us, we came here and I was told that we don’t have to be anything you’re not’’ (Daniel Nava, Red Sox outfielder)

A Grammar Note by Willy Lindner:

If I’ve told The Computer Newspaper once, I’ve told The Computer Newspaper a thousand times: The Computer Newspaper is an “it,” like that filing cabinet over my left shoulder is an “it,” or like that bottle of Dogfish Head 60-Minute Ale just inches from my right hand is an “it” – which, I now notice with alarm, has only about an inch of liquid left in it, heralding the approach of a moral decision for me. I’m not good at moral decisions.

People who think an entity is a “they” or a “them” just because two or more individuals are involved in its production or operation are closet Romney supporters (“Corporations are people, my friend”). Corporations aren’t people, my friend. If they were people they would, for example, fart – a slightly different phenomenon from, say, belching toxic fumes from a smokestack. They would get married, not merge. They would have their hair cut and their cuticles… whatever it is that people at small desks wearing masks do to cuticles. They would eat, sleep, and die.

They would pay taxes. (Ooooh… a little close to home, Romney?)

So entities controlled by people, even entities controlled by two fellows named Robert, are not, themselves, people. Thus, “The Computer Newspaper Asks Their Dads” – the title of this assignment from the lads – is a misnomer. It should be, “The Computer Newspaper Asks Its Dads.” Admittedly, though, this wording, in this era of blended and untraditional families, conjures uncomfortable images for men of a certain age (that certain age being their sixties – a matter only made worse by the term for that generation of people: sexagenarians; I would like to state for the record that I’ve never met The Computer Newspaper’s other dad).

The point is that, like global climate change, proper grammar is an inconvenient truth. The Computer Newspaper wouldn’t want to be one of those grammar-hoax conspiracy theorists, would it?

Editor’s Note: Uh, we guess not.

The Google Instant Game

The premise behind Google Instant is simple and not altogether innovative as it was offered, in some capacity, on other search engines before Google introduced it in September of 2010.  By offering suggested results as the user types their word or phrase into the search bar, Google estimates that it saves users 2 to 5 seconds in every search,  which adds up to a collective 11 million seconds per hour.  There’s been a great deal of discussion about what people plan to do with all the time they save through all these emerging technological time-savers, but we’re not all that interested in that; we’ve got things to do.  What’s more interesting to us, at The Computer Newspaper, is the insight this feature provides into the peculiarities of our collective curiosities.

Up until Google Instant, our search and browser histories were mercifully, a private affair.  Three years ago, if certain members of the 1548 Cook Street household (more specifically, all four members) spent thirty minutes searching the internet for a full-frontal of Michael Fassbender to see what sort of girth might inspire George Clooney to reference it at the Golden Globes, we could just erase our browser history and not worry about holding our breath when a friend asks to check her email on our computer.  Now, when you type in “Michael Fassb” into the search bar, the second suggestion Google offers is “Michael Fassbender Frontal.” Should we take consolation in knowing there is community in our most bizarre curiosities? Maybe so, but that comfort shrinks when you find curiosities that you don’t share.  When you ask Google “Is it wrong to sl…,” Google encourages you to find out if it’s wrong to sleep with your mother, cousin or dog.  My initial validation to this discovery was that Google, which is a young, clever company, is fucking with us.  Surely there aren’t enough people seeking affirmation for potential exploits of incest and bestiality to warrant such a quick recommendation from the world’s most popular search engine, and even if that is the case, does Google really want to save them the 2-5 seconds it takes to type their query out, or should we cross our fingers and hope that spelling the phrase out might give them second thoughts.  Judgment aside, if Google Instant is simply intended to expedite our queries, then are the recommendations it offers a true representation of our peculiar, and often perverse nature? The disturbing truth is well, kind of.

The Google Autocomplete feature is a complex algorithm that filters its suggestions through a series of user, content, and region specific qualifiers.  The first couple of suggestions may be drawn from previous searches on that individual computer (on my computer, when I type in “Co” the first suggestion is “Conor Oberst,” on Justin’s the first couple of suggestions are “Costco” and “Cool Math Games”).   Even though nearly 40% of all the content on the internet is pornography, Google Instant blocks all suggestions that are considered adult-only (if you type “tittie” into the search bar, Google feigns ignorance and refuses to provide that extra “s”), based on the Google Blacklist, which I’ll get to later. Not surprisingly, Google also provides suggestions that are both culturally relevant at the moment – type in “tra” and Trayvon Martin is one of the first things that will pop up, and regionally significant – if you manually change the location on your computer, you’ll get slightly different results.   Mostly though, the suggestions are drawn from the most popular searches in our collective Google history, which is a baffling proposition when you take a closer look.

While looking at the following examples, it’s important to know that there are plenty of Google Instant suggestions that make no sense and do not warrant deeper consideration.  People are strange, but not strange enough that a significant amount of us wonder whether midgets have night vision.  I hope.  If Peter Dinklage (from Game of Thrones) has taught us anything, it’s that Small People possess supernatural acting abilities and maybe the power of manipulation, but it’s a stretch to assume they can see like cats just because they’re similarly sized.  Still, I would assert that there is plenty to be learned from Google Instant – about the nature of people, technology, and what is a surprisingly peculiar list of censored words and phrases by one of the world’s biggest companies.

I’ve separated them into three categories: Absurd, Scary/Surprising, and The Blacklist.


I have a hard time believing anyone would actually ask this.

I assumed this was an anomaly until I actually googled “can I eat my period.” I suggest you don’t take this particular Google Suggestion.


This might be my favorite one.  Is it surprising that people have turned to Google seeking out the answer to the central question of our existence?  Not especially.  The entire purpose of a search engine is to find what you’re looking for, and lots of people are looking for God.  Still, I love the idea of some pimpled thirteen year old opening a tab next to his Facebook, Twitter, and Four Square to briefly unearth the Truth between gulps of Mountain Dew Code Red. More interesting, perhaps, is that if you Google the word “God” (not “the word of God”) four of the first six suggestions that come up are about God of War walkthroughs (a video game). The other two are lyrics to a Blake Shelton song.  If you Google “The Devil,” all ten suggestions that Google provides are movie titles.  It seems as if people are searching for the truth about the existence of His Majesty, but not all that many people are interested in reading about Him.

How fascinating is that? The prompt here was simply the word “is,’ and four of the top ten responses are about whether a celebrity is gay.

A survey recently conducted by Gallup estimates that 61% of adult Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in nearly all situations.  This example suggests that a lot of people oppose the concept of abortion, but might react differently if they were personally confronted by an unplanned or forced pregnancy.

The Blacklist:

This is where it gets really interesting.  Because such an overwhelming amount of the content on the internet is either pornographic or (considered) violent and inappropriate, Google Instant created a list a words and phrases that it will not suggest.  Google’s Johanna Wright said these restrictions are in place to protect children, which is a necessary step for a company that is as widely used as Google is.  What’s interesting about the Blacklist, is what Google has deemed appropriate, and what is considered inappropriate.  To be clear (and consistent with The Computer Newspaper’s policy of Using Disclaimers to Avoid Ever Actually Taking a Side), this piece – and section specifically, is not intended to admonish Google for their censorship strategy.  When the Hacker Zine 2600 released the Google Blacklist in 2010, Google received flak for some of the words that made the list and others that were left off.  There were a lot of people who were upset when it was discovered that both “lesbian” and “bisexual” were blocked by Autocomplete, but “gay” was not (Google has since unblocked “lesbian,” though “bisexual remains censored).  Though I can understand the knee-jerk response, it’s important to remember the type of internet content one would find if they googled “bisexual” compared to “gay.” The internet feeds every pervy hunger pang we might have and I shudder to think what Google Instant might suggest if it operated entirely on what is actually googled most often.  A prompt as harmless as “Bisexual” might bring up “Bisexual teenage art dealers jerkin’ crotchety old salmon slingers.” It’s foolish to think that Google has an agenda outside of making as few people mad as possible, and while some omissions are certainly curious, it’s important to remember that this is an evolving list, and changes daily.  This is a statement Wright released regarding Google’s censorship policy:

“There are a number of reasons you may not be seeing search queries for a particular topic. Among other things, we apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, and hate speech. It’s important to note that removing queries from Autocomplete is a hard problem and not as simple as blacklisting particular terms and phrases… This system is neither perfect nor instantaneous, and we will continue to work to make it better.”

Most of the words and phrases that Google will not suggest are sexual and pornographic prompts.  Those seeking to save 2 to 5 seconds while searching for Cleveland Steamers will be disappointed, but it’s not as if Google has blocked people from actually searching for it, they simply won’t suggest it.  One of the most interesting additions to the Google Blacklist is “Pamela Anderson.” Google Instant will suggest Pamela Adlon, Abrams, and Austin, but not Pamela Anderson, presumably because of her sex tape with Tommy Lee.  The Blacklist blocks searches for all the famous porn stars, but Pamela Anderson is just a celebrity who had a sex tape that was leaked, not unlike Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, both of whom are not blocked by Autocomplete.  Interestingly, “Consensual Intercourse” is also blocked by Google Instant.

Aside from the sexual content, most of the remaining blacklisted words and phrases are about hate.  Google won’t suggest “White Power,” “Faggot,” or any of the racial slurs I could think of.  They do, however, suggest some really bizarre stereotyping:


Google has become a powerful tool to better understand how our country (and world, really) work.  Political strategists have found that they can accurately predict how many of the primaries and caucuses will unfold based on the nature of search trends in that area. Google and Facebook have made amateur sociologists out of all of us, allowing us to peek in on the lives and thought processes of people we have no real investment or interest in, which can be alternatively funny and horrifying.  This might seem hypocritical 2,000 words into this article, but Google Instant is a relatively small idea that a lot of people didn’t even notice when it was initiated in 2010.  It’s designed to be intuitive, which means that its only real weakness is that it forces us to acknowledge how splintered our world is.  It may be alarming to you and me that there are a lot of people googling “blacks are out of control,” but it’s a good reminder that ignorance and stupidity persist even if we aren’t confronted by it by the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

For the full Blacklist, you can click on the following link:




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London Appalling

This is beating a horse corpse (I did actually check–it is a band name), but I really need to talk about the big news of last month.

In case you live under an effing rock, here goes the back story: a new poll shows that 35 percent of British adults still sleep with a teddy bear  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2104641/Travelodge-survey-reveals-35-cent-British-adults-teddy-bed-them.html).

First off, are you fucking kidding me, England?

Apologies for speaking so coarsely, I know it’s oh-so-dreadful to butcher the Queen’s tongue like that. Also, I do not want this to come off as another ‘Anti-Anglo’ piece because I truly do appreciate the people and the culture; between Adele’s Grammy glory and the impending summer Olympics, 2012 should be a banner year for the UK.

Having said that, this shit cray.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, I’m in London and fancy a pint at the local pub where 30 locals are drinking. Statistically, 10 of them will stumble home that night, re-heat a scone, watch an episode of “Top Gear,” and eventually resolve, ‘i need to go spoon a toddler’s toy in bed.’ This scenario is being played out in Great Britain, with little deviation, every single night. Also, not to belabor how significant a figure 35% of ADULTS is, but this survey related strictly to teddy bears. I think we can safely add another 5% to include furry bedmates of several different species: frogs, owls, birds, I don’t know; there is no telling what the Brits won’t stuff-and-hug.

Harry Harlow, an American, famously conducted a series of primate experiments in the 1960s where he gave infant monkeys a choice between a wire-frame mother that dispensed milk and a cloth mother that did not. In the subsequent scenarios, most subjects preferred the contact comfort of the cloth mother to the sustenance of the wire-frame version. That is all I remember from freshman Psych, but I think it had a lot to do with maternal attachment issues. Food for thought, but back to British people.

dude probably loves F1 racing and Premier League too

Some may consider these recent teddy findings unrepresentative, or perhaps, if one does accept it as at least a fair ballpark figure (35-40%, I repeat), some may brush it off as an adorable little quirk for a country that is traditionally, well, traditional. From Winnie-the-Pooh to Paddington, England has long had a (nobody would dare say perverted) literary fascination with creating precocious, gluttonous l’il bear characters. Which is all cute and allowable, but please let’s not forgive them just yet.

If you go to the BBC’s website, you’ll find that this story is being completely hidden from their headlines. Yet, I need not go very far in my BBC browsing to find editorials declaring the U.S. as a fallen empire with a heavily-divided electorate, its people obese and xenophobic. Admittedly, this is me paraphrasing liberally, but take just one look in their royal, scheming eyes, and you’ll know damn well that they believe all of the above about the ‘States.’

And you know what, England? Touché. We are fat. Our children are some of the worst academic performers in the developed world. We do seem to have a cultural identity crisis that does not promise to resolve itself anytime soon. But at the end of each day, our president is still black and we still strive to sleep next to naked women, not wittle stuffed animals.

Plus…. we invented the teddy bear!  For those of you ignorant like I was ten minutes ago, the concept of the teddy bear is in fact named after Rough Rider (not Ruff Ryder) and Mount Rushmore face Teddy Roosevelt. While president in 1902, Roosevelt was hunting with some other statesman and refused to shoot a black bear while it was tied up, calling it ‘unsportsmanlike.’  Soon after, a political cartoon was released satirizing Roosevelt, who is still our most connected-to-nature elected executive to date.  It would behoove me to omit, at this time, the sheer fact that a century later, vice prez Cheney not only was willing to shoot a black bear in cold blood, but actually the most dangerous game–a human being. Presumably because it was ‘unsportsmanlike’ not to.

Digressions aside, that was the birth of the teddy bear. Soon, the little fuckers were being mass produced and England freakin’ loved it, big surprise.  They eventually set up the first Teddy Bear Museum, in 1984, proving yet again they are not above taking credit for our finest contributions to international culture (e.g.  Madonna’s speaking voice, little show called ThOffice).

To tell you the truth, I feel bad for the British, it’s an awfully embarrassing revelation for the world to learn. I can just imagine what it will be like for their dignitaries at the next G-8 or G-20 summit. Prime Minister David Cameron will be trying to make some important speech regarding the re-valuation of the British Pound given the financial collapse(s) in Continental Europe, then he will look down at the crowd and see the Indian Minister of Finance miming a ‘baby sucking his thumb’ gesture, the Japanese and Brazilian delegates will be nearby, cackling hysterically.

You want my advice, England? Okay, here goes: at the next United Nations sleepover, just pack the essentials. I know, I know, it’s hard. I know you want to bring that cuddly, precious bear with you, clinging to it pathetically through the night like it’s the concept-of-a-monarchy-in-the-21st-century. I know that you have nightmares, I know they can be scary. I know that you toss and turn thinking about how it has been decades since an Englishman won Wimbledon, but trust me when I tell you that Paddington cannot protect you from that fate.  Trust me when I tell you that suggesting tea every half-hour will only invite more ridicule. You follow my guidelines and I think in 10, maybe 15 years, the international community will have completely forgotten about this mess, it will be time for you to re-build your reputation.

Things could, actually, be worse. Take Germany for instance. http://www.thelocal.de/society/20120221-40873.html.

Insert New Jersey joke here.

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Heredity Borrowed

I am not an avid reader, but when I do crack open a book, I try to ensure it’s a piece of literature that will imprint 3 or 4 lasting ideas in my brain.  That may be a modest goal, but it’s one that I have resigned to accept after years of forgetting everything I have ever learned.  Also, and this is true for any of us, I find that repeating these 3 or 4 ideas to other members of society later in life is, assuming they are said with a confident, bordering-on-arrogant tone, enough to make people assume that you know what you’re talking about.  I guess most people are the same type of intellectual nomad, casually absorbing information in a variety of subjects with mild interest, doomed to remember just a few concepts; we are all masters of bullshit.

(WARNING: if you happen to find yourself in a pseudo-intellectual conversation with an expert on an academic topic, having that type of moment where you realize it was only ‘pseudo’ on your end, I don’t recommend panicking. Just realize that they’re a nerd and throw in an excuse like ‘it’s been so long since I’ve looked at it, I don’t know’ or my personal preference, switch the subject matter to something you are well-versed in, like ‘can you name the bench for the ’97 Bulls’ or ‘Spankwire vs. Pornhub: go!’)

I am currently reading Genome, a non-fiction bestseller from 1999 by Matt Ridley, which breaks down a lot of stuff that a bunch of scientists seem to have figured out about human genetics. It is written for the layman, and I think was fairly popular when it came out, so I can only assume it must have done for genetics what the “Planet Earth” mini-series did for biology, or what The Bible did for paganism. Ridley goes on and on about chromosomes, genes, proteins, RNA, DNA, how important and neat it is that we are all outfitted with a specific, indeterminate genetic recipe that required years of research to decrypt and hinges on different social triggers to even reveal itself … Look, if I had any background in science, I am sure these 300 pages would get my rocks off. I would be able zoom through it in a matter of days and marvel at the different studies that debate nature over nurture, that prove my personality is nothing more than inherited brain chemistry, and that evolution is a thing.

Unfortunately, my academic background is not in science, it is in bad romantic comedies.

Last night, I (intentionally and excitedly) watched “Something Borrowed” for the third time, the two previous viewings having been on an airplane. Please note that I do not mean to make excuses for why I watched this film a third time. In truth, I believe  “Something Borrowed” to be the best kind of romantic comedy.  Three reasons off the top of my head:

  1. It stars two women that I can see myself with sexually: Kate Hudson (romcom Hall-of-Famer) and Ginnifer Goodwin (typecast as the ‘cute, but not hot’ girl-next-door seen most famously as Justin Long’s love interest in “He’s Just Not That Into You”)
  2. It is written by a woman, therefore it is unclear what portions are intended to be comedic
  3. It has a delightful musical number, in this case, a dance routine set to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” by the pajama’d main characters

As you can see, there is a lot to like.  As far as the plot goes, here is what you need to know:  Hudson and Goodwin are best friends since birth— Hudson (the blonde) is not as smart but sure is purty and knows how to have fun (read: alcohol). Goodwin (the brunette) is more serious, responsible, and according to movie synopses I researched online, a “talented attorney at a top New York law firm.”  (Tangent: there are no scenes/allusions in the actual movie that display or mention Goodwin’s job performance, so calling her ‘talented’ or saying she is at a ‘top firm’ is so superfluous, I am stunned. The film is exactly the same if she is an average attorney at an average firm, but thanks anyway, movies.) 

Years back, Goodwin became law school best friends with a hunky douche known as ‘Dex’ (who we will refer to by character name only because the actor’s performance warrants no specificity).  Dex and Goodwin keep their moronic feelings for one another a secret while in school, leaving the door open for Hudson to Hot-Girl-Venus-Fly-Trap him as her new beau, and subsequent fiancé.  And so our love triangle is set!

The romance between Less-Obviously-Attractive Goodwin and Hot-Accomplished-Guy-Dex starts finally coming to fruition just as he is set to marry her best friend, Hot-Girl-Hudson.  How will our ne’er-gets-what-she-wants main character Goodwin ever balance her feelings for Dex with her loyalty to her best friend?  And what could ‘Something Borrowed’ symbolize as a title? Oh, wait, that one I finally get. I’m no expert on wedding tradition, but I don’t think the groom is what is supposed to be borrowed, Ms. Goodwin!

Last mentionable subplots: oh, okay, Jim from The Office is in it, playing a ‘writer’
who also grew up with these two ladies and is (maybe) around for comic relief and to be Goodwin’s closest confidante.  Also, Hudson is pushing hard for her straight-edged Goodwin to have sex or maybe even babies with Dex’s family friend Marcus, who loves women, pizza, partying, and has the type of short ponytail you would expect from a lacrosse player in college.

Deeeeep breath, you still with me?  Awesome. I knew you would be, Mom.

Today, I took another stab at getting through Genome, and it all. suddenly. made. sense.  Seen through the context of “Something Borrowed,” this book, chock full of polysyllables, started speaking a language I understood! Every sentence popped off the page and was sucked into my bloodstream. Had I taken Bradley Cooper’s pill from “Limitless?”  Or more relevantly, did I always have this comprehension inside of me, buried within some nonsensical string of DNA code, just waiting for this movie to come along and trigger its onset, much like how asthmatics have the ORMDL3 gene in their bloodstream but won’t develop the disorder until a specific allergic response is elicited?

  • Page 163  “Dopamine is perhaps the brain’s motivation chemical. Too little and the person lacks initiative and motivation. Too much and the person is easily bored and frequently seeks new adventures.”

I cannot tell you how helpful this was to finally understanding the volatile dichotomy separating Goodwin and Hudson’s characters.  I mean, when is Goodwin going to finally start standing up for herself and tell Dex that he is making a predictable error by marrying Hudson?  (editor’s note: about 100 minutes in)  If our heroine understood neurotransmitters, she would realize that she is genetically pre-disposed to submitting to other people’s will, and that Hudson, clearly pushing the legal limit when it comes to dopamine, is inevitably going to cheat on Dex (which she does!) and seek a mate for pro-creation as fun-loving and vapid as she is (ponytail-Marcus, come on down!).

Frankly, I just don’t get it. I mean, Goodwin cannot be said to have a complete absence of motivation — she did make it through countless years of NYU Law School, after all. But when it comes to her love-life, she is perfectly copacetic with selling herself short as a potential mate for Dex, choosing to defer to the bleach-blonde, amazing-ass’d Hudson.

  • Page 149  “Cortisol is used in virtually every system in the body, a hormone that literally integrates the body and the mind by altering the configuration of the brain. Cortisol interferes with the immune system, changes the sensitivity of the ears, nose and eyes, and alters various bodily functions.  When you have a lot of cortisol coursing through your veins, you are–by definition–under stress.”

After the initial tryst between Goodwin and Dex, the two forbidden lovebirds cannot seem to get a moment alone to discuss the sex-sesh that happened and where to go from there, instead resorting to eye-locks across the table and several missed calls Dex makes to her house phone, because you know, it takes place in 2010 and everyone uses those.  Eventually, they decide to spend July 4th weekend together, letting all their friends (not to mention the rest of the city) vacate Manhattan for the Hamptons. Left in a deserted New York City, Dex and Goodwin start their weekend alone by going for a walk together.  He even turns off his cellular telephone out of respect for this opportunity to speak to her sans fiancé, sans technology, sans ‘life’ as it were.  Though only a few seconds in, Dex proclaims “this is already the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.”

Well duh, Dex! It’s because your cortisol levels are probably much lower than normal. You’re not thinking about work, or the wedding you’re planning, or the typical NYC hustle-bustle– you’re just focusing on banging that Maid of Honor again. With a lowered stress level, every sensory detail is that much more vivid; the innocent, understated beige of Goodwin’s sundress, the misty, floral odor of her stride– these things come alive (!) when you are just strolling through Manhattan on an apparently non-humid, July afternoon. Goodwin and Dex can finally let their guard (cortisol) down, and talk about the good ‘ol days in law school, or about how they are going to have sex on her roof later.

  • Page 75  “You had better get used to such indeterminacy. The more we delve into the genome the less fatalistic it will seem. Grey indeterminacy, variable causality and vague predisposition are the hallmarks of the system… simplicity piled upon simplicity creates complexity.”

Boy, you just said a mouthful, Ridley. And that’s the thing, I truly don’t believe Goodwin had any malicious intentions. No home-wrecker can be innocent if you ask me, but it’s not like she set out to sleep with Dex and start this chain reaction and ultimately extinguish her friendship with Hudson. She is a girl of typically responsible morality, who usually has her wits, but we all know it’s hard to keep your closed-toe lawyer shoes on the ground when you are being swept off your feet!  And the more she hides this from Hudson, including the Bachelorette Party sleepover (where Dex tries to visit at 3 a.m. to see Goodwin and NOT Hudson), the worse and worse it gets for her. She has to make up a story about sleeping with their mutual friend Ethan, a.k.a. Jim from The Office. Up to this point in the film, Ethan has spent the movie avoiding the romantic advances of a different bridesmaid, but thennn decides to drop an atomic bomb on us near the end by saying that he has always been in love with Goodwin, too!  God, I’m out of breath. Truly, simplicity upon simplicity does indeed yield complexity.

Without equivocation, the sexual web that these 5 or 6 white people weave throughout “Something Borrowed” has enough misdirection and misunderstanding to give any geneticist vertigo.  I can only hope that Mr. Ridley has an ending for Genome that leaves me as on the edge of my seat as the movie does.  I’m satiated, sure, I mean why wouldn’t I be, now that who-should-be-together is now together?  But how much time will pass before Hudson and Goodwin can be best friends again?  Are there some wounds too deep to heal?  Will Dex be able to maintain that tight abdomen, or that chest, as hairless as it is defiant?

Love, it seems to me, can be as messy to explain and explore as the human genome. Both have an obstacle course of variables in front of them, whether that be the environment they inhabit, the disease that can be triggered, (a.k.a. heartbreak), and of course the greatest x-factor of them all:  fate.

I think I can finally put this book down.  I got what I needed from it.

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