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.
Okay, so maybe I missed the boat just a little bit on this one.
When the girls were young, they loved the weeks after Thanksgiving when the Sunday papers were filled with “toy mazagines.”
They scoured the circulars like they were researchers at the Library of Congress, and the item they circled most often was Nintendo. Neither girl was big on Barbie or all that girly stuff like Little Miss Make-up and Junior Nail Salon, which saved me from joining in the fun for all ages and the blackmail-worthy photos that would follow.
What they did want, though, was a Nintendo console. Wanted, wanted, wanted, needed, needed, hadtohaveitbecauseitwasthemostimportantandbestestgameever. And I knew they would play it, because they loved to play Super Mario—or maybe they were just Mario Brothers then—at other kids' homes. You could take Stephanie to her cousins’ house, plop her down in front of the Nintendo and watch her get to level 847 within minutes. She wouldn’t get around to learning to read for another year or two, but learning Nintendo was worth the effort.
Dad, on the other hand, viewed video games as a waste of time and a missed opportunity for learning. Educational games, smart games, games like chess and that thing where you flipped the cards and had to remember where the matches were—those were the games for my girls.
So I decided to let the other kids rot out their minds while I gave my children the gift of a refined intellect, superior analytical skills and only a remote risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
I bought them (imagine a drum rolllllllllllll….) Socrates, the “educational video system” that “stimulates children’s minds” and “helps them become better students.” And all of it was true! Through Socrates, the girls learned some incredible lessons that have stayed with them and influenced their thinking to this day. Lessons like:
Ah, the lessons that last a lifetime.
Also, Socrates provided a lifetime of opportunities for the girls to remind their father that they were, um, disappointed by his choice. They capitalized on that opportunity relentlessly, telling strangers everywhere that they were cheated out of a normal childhood, condemned to solitary confinement with a Socrates console.
"Look, Lin-Manuel Miranda just won his 9,000th Tony Award. He must have had Socrates when he was a kid. Isn’t that right, dad?"
"Yes, Mr. cabdriver, I'm 27 years old and I can sing the entire ABC song because my dad got me Socrates. Aren't you so proud of me, dad?"
"I’m glad your surgery was a success, but getting new kidneys isn’t nearly as great a gift as when my dad bought me Socrates. Hey, dad, remember that year?"
I get it, kids. You’re being just a bit sarcastic, aren’t you?
I can’t say I regret the choice, though, because Socrates has been a running gag and a family story for a long time. Many years of therapy have relieved the girls of some of the post-traumatic disorders they developed without Nintendo. And my daughters are now so much more sensitive to the needs of others, mostly because I destroyed their dreams and hopes when they were tots.
A couple of years ago, the girls bought me a Socrates console they found on e-Bay or Craig’s List or somewhere. We couldn't play with it, of course, because it doesn't have a USB port or an HDMI cable any other connector that would work with a video screen today.
But connectivity isn't the real reason I haven't played with Socrates yet. Truth be told, I’m waiting for them to get me a Nintendo.
(While the kids are out shopping for my Nintendo console, you can give me another great gift by sharing this post with a friend or two and, by all means, subscribing to our occasional rants. Just click here to subscribe, and thanks much for reading.)
Thanksgiving’s coming up this month and a lot of guys are starting to stress out about their big moment in the spotlight.
Hah, only kidding. Guys don’t think about stuff in advance, unless it has brackets, a tee time, or a swimsuit issue. We like to think we thrive under pressure, so the last minute is plenty o' time. Most guys reading this will stop right here and make a mental note to revisit this post at 3:30 p.m. on the 22nd, except for Canadians, who are already too late. Moving on...
For manly men across America, the biggest moment to shine each year involves the super-macho expertise that everyone assumes we have and nobody ever teaches: carving the turkey. Yeah, I know, there are a million videos on YouTube, but real men don’t read instruction manuals and we certainly don’t need to watch some dude in a toque telling us how to use a knife. The last person to cut up our meat for us (Insert Lorena Bobbitt joke here.) was mommy, and we were two at the time.
Carving the turkey is a guy thing, as it has been since we were Neanderthals (Insert ‘You still are Neanderthals’ joke here.) living in caves. No matter how much time mom spends tying and basting and seasoning and schlepping the bird around the kitchen, dad gets the final shot at doing a Rambo on the finished product.
For some reason, people think it’s natural that men will carve the turkey. We’re the hunters in a world of hunters and gatherers. All the great knife people were men, like Jim Bowie and old MacHeath, babe, and Mr. Swiss Army…so women assume there must be something in our DNA that makes us great turkey carvers.
Except, of course, that we don’t really have a clue, and by “we,” I mean “I.” I never learned to whittle and I don’t even watch Top Chef for gawdsakes. If someone told me to go pack my knives, I’d need to stop at Williams Sonoma to buy some first.
Still, if you’re the oldest guy at Thanksgiving dinner and your parole allows you to handle sharp objects, someone is going to urge you to carve the turkey. When that happens, it’s important to approach the ritual with the aura of expertise and confidence that dads have been faking since the dawn of time.
So, guys, get yourselves some Botox injections to keep a straight face and follow these simple steps:
After everyone tells you that it’s certain to be fine and you really know how to carve a turkey, mumble some thanks and start passing the platter. And never, ever, ever bring up the subject again.
Having perfected the process of pretending to know what I’m doing—a true dadskill—I’ve succeeded in carving turkeys without any deaths* for over forty years. More recently, being a really generous guy, I’ve graciously allowed a son-in-law or nephew to do the honors. They’ve never really attained my level of expertise yet, but that’s probably because I haven’t sent them this post.
*By "deaths," I am referring to instances in which I was actually charged and convicted, so I am not counting the grease slide of 1997 or the 2003 wishbone impalement in my official record.
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Thank God the pressure is finally off and I can return to normal life. I’ve lost the lottery again.
We probably could have predicted this, and not simply because my odds of winning were roughly one in 250 bazillion. I live in Chicago and winners never buy their tickets in a big city. It’s always someplace like Escape, Arkansas or Ignore, Idaho, never Manhattan or Los Angeles or Boston or Miami. Or Chicago.
But a potential jackpot of $1.6 billion (slightly more than I earn in a week) beckoned and the guy behind the counter at the Qwik-E-Mart promised to sell me the winning ticket, so I took a shot. Almost immediately, my life fell apart. My days were consumed with research about tax rates and the relative benefits of Swiss banks versus gigantic cookie jars. At night, I’d mourn the death of my favorite excuse—“We can’t afford it,”—and dread the IOUs I’d written against that phrase.
My future looked even worse. After I won, which lawyer would I call to set up the LLC? I know a ton of lawyers, mostly a bunch of average Joes who couldn’t get a job after college, so they went to a graduate school that lets them call themselves esquires. I was guaranteed to sadden at least 40 of them and at least as many accountants, who are already sad because they don’t get to call themselves something cool like ESQUIRE. Of course, I could send each of them a million bucks to ease the pain, but it’s the principle of the thing.
Then I had to wrestle with the challenge of sharing with my family and friends, plus guys I met on the bus who would be expecting the new car I promised if/when I won the jackpot. I don’t remember who most of those people are, but I’ll bet they’d remember me after learning I was the big winner.
And whatever amount I give them wouldn’t be enough, cuz they’re all greedy, moneygrubbing, spoiled, avaricious parasites who will never be satisfied until they bleed me dry. Oh, did I say that out loud? Oops.
Everything in my life would change with that kind of money. I’d need to dump all my loser friends and find a much better class of people to alienate. I’d still be short and asthmatic, and my personality would be, um, an acquired taste, but an increasingly large number of people would somehow find a way to overlook those chasms. Money might not buy happiness, but it buys tons of toleration.
Hamburgers with fries would become a thing of the past as I switched to steak tartare with pomme frites. Of course, I wouldn’t have to buy any of my meals, because lawyers, accountants, stock brokers, real estate agents…pretty much everyone would be anxious to show me a good time.
With all those free meals, I’d regain all the weight I’ve lost from working with my trainer for the past couple of years, but that’s not a problem for the grotesquely wealthy. I’d just hire some guy with 6% body fat to do my workouts for me. Finally, with enough money, I would learn how to delegate.
I’d need to learn new skills, like complaining about the taxes I owe on money I didn’t earn, and keeping a straight face when I tell people I really miss the simpler time when I had to make do without a Lamborghini. (Sorry, two Lamborghinis, because one is always in the shop.)
And we’d need to move, of course, because the condo board would get so many complaints about the paparazzi they’d insist we vacate the building. I was thinking of settling down in some rural spot in South Carolina, but it looks like that’s where the winning ticket was sold. After getting such a big break by avoiding the jackpot this week, I’d hate to press my luck where people actually win this thing.
My fame is global and my reputation is impeccable, if my inbox is any indicator. Each day, lonely women plead with me to meet them and make their lives complete. Former ministers of distant lands beg for my aid in reconnecting them to their fortunes. Brokers offer me unique investment opportunities guaranteed to deliver 100,000,000,000,000% returns.
And drugs. All kinds of drugs. Drugs for arthritis, ear warts, toe cancer, knuckle nodules, and the always popular erectile dysfunction. It's amazing that Walgreens is still in business when all this top-quality product is available for nearly $zero on the internet.
And every time I read one of these e-mails, the same question comes to mind. Who ARE these people? I’m not asking about the people sending the e-mails. I’m talking about the idiots who respond to this stuff.
All this spam would disappear if it didn't make money for someone. Which means, of course, that somebody just got a message with the headline, "Hapy Birtday from a Freind," and opened the email to find an offer for low-cost V*I*A*G*A*R*A*. And this same somebody said to himself:
"Hah, look at that. It's not a birthday card after all. They tricked me into looking at this ad for medicines they can't even spell......But, wow, look at those prices. Where's my Visa????"
Before there was an internet, I received 2-3 handwritten letters each year, on onionskin paper, via international air mail, with a return address of.....yep, Nigeria. The sender was the former minister of mining or a widow whose husband was killed by an evil cabal or...didn't matter, really. They were all the same.
They were desperate to reclaim their lost fortunes and, of all the millions of people in the United States, I was the one they were counting on to rescue them. If only I would show them I was truly trutwothy, sinsere and finacialy reponsible. It was quite a burden for me to shoulder, but that's why they knew I was the only one for the job.
"I am the former mining director/ exiled president/secretary of the ministry/Yasser Arafat’s widow (really) and I must call upon you in a mater of grate urgency and discreetion...."
Ah, classic literature. Decades go by, but the text is eternal, along with the misspellings. Are the misspellings a part of the plan, placed intentionally to seem more sincere? Perhaps they want to target people who see the errors and assume the senders are not very bright, or maybe they’re targeting people who won’t catch the typos at all.
So who is it that thinks Yasser Arafat's widow is really searching the globe and landing on them? Yeah, Columbus made a wrong turn, too, but let's get real. If this had ever happened, ever, we would have heard about it by now.
As it is, I’ve never even heard an urban myth about it. You know, the urban myth where a friend of a friend of mine has a $50 million house he bought with his share of the Nigerian gold mine money. Most urban myths concern events that never really happened. If there isn’t even an urban myth, then it really, really never happened.
And yet, the emails keep pouring in to my spam folder. Somebody must be responding to these scams, but who are these idiots?
(P.S.: If you’re reading this and you have actually fallen for one of these come-ons, I apologize for calling you an idiot. I would like to make it up to you by letting you in on a unique investment opportunity designed specifically for you. It's guaranteed to deliver 100,000,000,000,000% on your money, as soon as we can get it out of Azkaban.)
Why a $5 bottle of water is worth it, the new biggest lie in business, and a fail-safe trick for turning your book into a best seller, among other tidbits for the week ahead…