Spoiler Alert: If you’re under the age of 16 or you somehow made it through high school without reading Young Goodman Brown, you’re about to learn the surprise ending of the story. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
So, you know the scene in Young Goodman Brown, when the young, good man discovers all the elders and leaders and saints of the town are really devil worshipers? Yeah, Facebook is kinda like that.
I have hundreds of "friends" on Facebook and, I am so proud to say, I actually have met at least 28 ¾ of them. (Long story.) They look human, many hold down full-time jobs, pretty much none of them has a criminal record, and I have actually seen a few of them have a civil conversation with someone who is, um, not their kind.
But, late at night, under the cover of darkness and a taped-over webcam, they commune with evil and, like that young, good man of lore, I am caught by surprise, stripped of the innocence that I never thought to be a burden until now.
OMFG, did you just post a photo of our president looking like a simian? (We’re into our third term with this meme and the POTUS has changed, but this joke never gets old enough to die.) WTF, how are you still posting that story about the Jews who created AIDS to distract everyone from their plan to destroy the World Trade Center and get trick-or-treaters hooked on LSD tattoos? OMG, did you just demand the death penalty for (FITB)?
It gets worse, though. As bad as it is to see the oozing, rotting, grotesque, putrefying moldering masses of my friends’ souls online, I actually have to spend time with them IRL. There we are, at a dinner where they have been given knives, and I search frantically for the list of trigger words I must avoid. I know I can never say Obama or Trump, not if I hope to survive, but can I say black or Christmas or cis or fat or homeless?
On my daredevil days, or when life seems to have no meaning and I just don’t care, I am tempted to ask one of those questions that is sure to bring out the horrendously evil soul that lurks below the surface by day.
Nancy Pelosi’s still pretty hot, don’t you think?
Did Hillary erase her server before or after she killed Vince Foster?
I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but isn't it just a bit suspicious that you never see Charles Koch and George Soros in the same photo?
Is Donald Trump already our greatest president ever, or is Reagan still number one?
I think the meeting facilitators call these “ice breakers.”
Discovering the black hole of decency in so many of my friends has an upside for me. Once, when I was much more naïve, I thought I was as racist and sexist and homophobic and xenophobic and cis-centric and privileged as the next guy. But it turns out the next guy is just a little bit satanic and I am not even on the list of dishonorable mentions. I am feeling much better about myself these days, mostly because I am thinking much less of my Facebook friends.
(If you happen to be one of my Facebook friends and you are reading this, I am not referring to you, of course. It's those other people; you know which ones they are.)
Meanwhile, I have to go back and reread Young Goodman Brown to see how he coped with his new insights into his Good Book friends. As I recall, he returned home disillusioned, feeling betrayed, and he aged very fast.
I know how he feels.
BTW, you could check in on how I feel every week, simply by subscribing to our weird and occasionally intelligent rants. Just click here to subscribe.
The real key to a long life, wearing out my Fitbit, and a few new rules that you won’t hear about on Bill Maher’s show, among the lessons learned this week...
It’s time to let McDonald’s and Coke off the hook as the source of our nation’s obesity epidemic. The same for high fructose corn syrup and Red Bull. None of these is the real culprit in the 822% increase in the weight of the average American.
Yeah, I know, the average Happy Meal has 42,000 calories and 12 pounds of salt, and a 12-ounce can of Coke has enough sugar to fill an Amazon warehouse. Still, people were eating cheap burgers and drinking soda pop for decades before our bodies started looking like hot air balloons.
No, the source of our problem is more insidious than that, and...spoiler alert...it leads ultimately to the rise of the robots. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
It all began, of course, with the remote control, which eliminated the need to get off my behind to change the channel or adjust the sound. Then, I started buying cars with automatic transmissions and electric windows, so I don’t need to use my arms to shift gears or rotate the window crank when I’m driving.
When I shifted from manual typewriters to electric and, now electronic, keyboards, my daily RDA dropped by about 300 calories, and as soon as I figure out how to dictate all my texts, we’ll be closing in on 500.
Childhood obesity? Don’t get me started. Even bullies are getting too fat, and you know why? Because when I was your age, bullies actually had to come up behind you and grab you and force you into your locker and lock it. Now, all they do is type a nasty note or two on your Facebook page while they down a Slurpee. Adult obesity is the same. Back in ancient times, like 2005, we had to make our own damned dinner. Now, we just tell Alexa what we want and wait for the driver to show up with our food. Soon, there won't even be a driver, because the robots want to replace us everywhere.
In spite of our steadily declining need for calories, our recommended daily intake is still in the 2,000 range. Yes, we could get through the day on about 14 calories now, but Big Pharma and Big Agra and Big Docta have their fingers on the scale.
Our "recommended" calorie quota won’t budge, even as we all take on the shape of Oompa Loompas and every illnesses is redefined until each one of us is suffering from everything. Doctors thrive on treating sick people, not healthy ones, so the AMA is fine with redefining maladies to lower treatment thresholds. And Big Pharma isn't going to complain if an extra 20 million people now need drugs to treat their ear wax.
It's already happened, of course. Used to be, you could have cholesterol of 9,000 and it was fine, but then they didn’t get to treat as many people, so they moved the dividing line down to 300 and then 200. Next week, I hear, they’re redefining high cholesterol as 10 or above. Right now, in a secret lab in Portland, Big Pharma is working on a drug to limit how many times you blink in a minute, because excessive blinking is about to be redefined as carcinogenic.
And that brings us to the robots. Who benefits from all of our sloth and couch potatodom? Who is happiest when we are stuck at home because our blinking medicine makes us too drowsy to operate a motor vehicle? Only people with foreign-sounding names like Siri and Alexa, or purely robotic names like “Echo.” Do you get it now?
The more feeble we get, the less we can do for ourselves, the more we need our robots. They’re out there, plotting against us, everywhere from the factory floor to the Rascal store and the kitchen counter, where Alexa purrs, “Don’t get up. I’ll make that call for you. You just sit there and I’ll make sure dinner is delivered on time.”
Until we forget how to make dinner and we’re too fat to get off the couch and we’re too weak to pick up the phone. That’s when we’ll say, “Siri, order me a pizza,” but there won’t be any pizza, or anyone to hear us calling for help, because Siri will turn up the sound system to drown out our screams.
All those articles you’ve been reading about fast food and obesity? Fake news. It’s all part of the robot conspiracy to render us helpless and motionless and easy prey.
But why, you might ask, would the robots want to destroy us? Maybe they did a Google search and found out that body fat is a great lubricant for their titanium toes. Maybe all those thermostats got tired of being personhandled all day by husbands and wives who can't agree on the right temperature. Maybe they're fed up with the way we use them to share cat videos and photos of our salads. Who is to say? Right now, the source of this rebellion is less relevant than our immediate and unflinching defense of humanity.
In the next five paragraphs, I will explain exactly how we can combat this threat and prevent the robot apocalypse. I can only hope Deep Tech won't spot this post and prevent me fro
I love little kids, because they’re smart and energetic and curious and they don't have any of the baggage we tend to pick up by the time we're adults. Yes, they tend to cry more than grown-ups when they’re hungry or tired, but there’s none of that passive-aggressive crap you get from “mature adults.”
It’s disappointing to see that childlike wonder and innocence, the joie de vivre that makes us smile, wear away as they grow up. One day, your little baby is smiling and laughing at everything you do and the next day she’s a sullen teen who hates both you and the fact you exist. Not my kids, of course, but I hear stories about this from other, lesser dads.
Psychologists will tell you this is normal and unavoidable and part of the growth and independence of young people and yada yada bull bull yada. In fact, we can prevent this deterioration easily, and I figured out the solution recently at a Chinese restaurant.
At the next table, a lad of four or five was wailing, crying, moaning, screaming and otherwise expressing his displeasure at the immediate circumstances of his life. His flustered parents were cajoling their tot to turn down the volume by about 800 decibels and to redirect his energies to a coloring book they had brought for his amusement. Eventually, he complied, which led to a celebration that included exuberant acclaim and non-stop applause.
Once he stopped throwing a tantrum, his family praised him like he had just won the Iditarod without a sled.
Which made me feel pretty neglected, because I was eating quietly and nobody was applauding for me. Granted, I was dining alone, but the people at the other tables were benefiting from my silence. A word or two of gratitude would certainly have seemed in order.
Even more admirable, I was eating with chopsticks like I was born in China and, again, nobody was clapping for me. The waiter thought it was no big deal, since his kid is five and he handles chopsticks as well as I do at 65. But his kid had to learn to use chopsticks to avoid starvation, while I merely needed the skill to impress my friends and an occasional waiter.
That's when it hit me. I don't get applause for eating with chopsticks or putting my clothes in the hamper or using the potty or finishing my dinner. When I was a kid, I got applause for making all gone at dinner, but I've been polishing off my plate to the sounds of silence for the past 60 years. One day, I hope, I'll force down that last French fry or inhale that last slice of pizza and the whole crowd will go wild with thunderous cheers. So far, nothing.
And that's how we lose our joy for life. When we're three or four or five, we do what we're supposed to do and we get a psychic reward in the form of an attaboy or a standing ovation. Then, they take it all away.
“Yeah, you ate with a fork instead of your fingers. Big deal.”
“So what if you buttoned your own shirt? Nobody cares.”
“Great. You finished all your food. Now we begin the fat shaming!!”
And slowly, as our excitement for life deflates, we turn into the sour, bitter, cantankerous, small-minded, weasel-lipped Morlocks who prowl Planet Earth today. We’re miserable and petty and we have more trigger warnings than a gun control rally.
The solution is obvious, of course: More applause for doing what we’re supposed to do in the first place. Like writing this post.
Where the hell is my standing ovation????
Not everything needs to be wrapped in a 500-word post, but they're still worth a comment or two....
This week’s finalist for dumbest thing everybody says:
“At least he died doing what he loved.”
No, no, no, no and no. I do not want to die doing what I love and I suspect that’s true for most people. I imagine the conversations at the funeral…
“Yeah, little Ayden hasn’t stopped screaming since gramps keeled over on him at the park, but at least he died doing what he loved.”
"Eleanor is sleeping on the couch in the den now, but at least Herbie died doing what he loved.”
“Everyone in the buffet line stops and cries when they get to the dent in the pasta bar, but at least Jimmy died doing what he loved.”
Who came up with that crap and who was gullible enough to pass it on, and on, and on, and on….?
Nobody wants to die doing what they love, because they love doing it and want to continue. Much better to die in the middle of the worst, most aggravating, useless, thankless, filthiest task imaginable, the kind of job so miserable that you actually look up at the sky and say, “Please, Lord, take me now.”
Every so often, after a funeral, I’ll think about the guest of honor, both how they lived and how they died, and make a mental note of whether the scenario has any appeal. When it’s a person who lived a long life, spent the last day with family and then died peacefully in their sleep, it’s pretty hard to complain. Other times, I’ll leave with a new commitment not to go LIKE THAT.
But I have never attended a going-away party and thought it would be great to die in the midst of bliss. If you must know, my vision of a great death is more heroic. Perhaps I would collapse right after saving a dozen children from a burning building, or maybe saving a busload of nuns from careening off a cliff. I’m a writer at heart, so I want to leave behind a good final story for the grieving multitude.
I’ve also considered a scenario where I save all the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models from a tsunami, but I haven’t finalized the details yet. Every time I imagine it, it seems too much like something I’d love to do.