The Tide Pod Challenge

eatingI’ve been away from my desk for a couple of weeks, so by the time I became aware of the Tide Pod Challenge, it was over.  No great loss: I’m not a big fan of eating soap!  Luckily, though, I’m still in time to catch all the yipping about what makes “normal” people suddenly go nuts and do stupid things — like eating soap.  According to the pundits, there any number of reasons — ranging from subliminal advertising and our sorry education system to the usual suspect: Donald Trump.  However, the biggest bogeyman, by far, is Social Media, that vague one-size-fits-all villain that does everything but plug toilets and murder people.  (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

Let me set the record straight.  Like our canine cousins, people run in packs, and they’ve been doing it for at least 100 millennia: long before Mark Zuckerberg figured out that the Internet could be manipulated to meet Harvard girls.  Humans naturally have a group mentality.  Social media didn’t invent that; it just makes it easier.

All you have to do is look at fashion.

There is nothing more useless than the necktie, yet men have been trying to lynch themselves with it for centuries.  Actually, the necktie was born when gunpowder swept the neighbourhood in Europe.  French soldiers tied scarves around their necks so they could use the loose ends to wipe the soot out of their eyes after they fired their muskets.  Everyone loves a man in uniform, so tons of guys (who’d probably never even seen a battlefield) adopted the style to add a little swagger around the ladies.  Apparently, it worked.

I have no personal experience with high heels, but I’ve rubbed enough female feet in my time to know Mother Nature never intended women to elevate themselves this way.  Actually, high heels are nothing more than a celebrity fashion trend that went “viral” — before viral was even a word.  Originally, high heels were worn by men to grip the stirrups on horseback.  Makes sense.  However, rumour has it that Catherine de’ Medici got so tired of stepping out of her carriage into the slime that ran in the streets of 16th century Paris that, one afternoon, she borrowed a pair of her husband, Henry II’s, high-heeled boots.  The Medici girls were uber-trendy before the Kardashians ever thought about it, and high heels have been de rigueur in high society ever since.

And it goes on and on:

In the 1920s, women wrapped their breasts to simulate a flat chest (that’s gotta hurt) and, in the 40s, men wore trousers baggy enough to share with a friend.

A little closer to home, remember the ubiquitous fanny packs?  They were everywhere until we all discovered they were the international symbol for Steal My Stuff.

Crocs!  (I’m not going to say another word because I know most of us have a secret pair stashed away somewhere.)

My point is, wasting time blaming Social Media for people eating soap is as ridiculous as my wife and I cussing out the French every time we have to go to a formal dinner.  Why bother?  So instead of asking ourselves, “Why are so many people eating soap?” we should be seriously looking at why our society produces soap eaters, in the first place.

2016 — BEGONE!

2016-begoneI know it’s nearly the end of January, and we’re firmly in the grasp of 2017.  I know you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube and that bitching about the past is about as effective as a blind man at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  And I know I’m not the only one fed up with hearing what an Anno Horribilis 2016 was.  BUT, 2016 was an Anno Horribilis  — a great big bad anno horribilis — and, dead horse or no, I’m not done kicking it.  Here are a few things that came out of 2016 that  I want to see shot in the head and buried in the backyard.

Pumpkin Spice — Way back in the day, when it was a once-a-year Starbuck’s flavour, pumpkin spice was cool.  Then it became the new Nutella, and now it’s everywhere like the culinary equivalent of The Walking Dead.

Water bottle flip — First of all, why is everybody carrying a water bottle as if they live on a dirt ranch in Death Valley?  And secondly, who did this flip thing the first time and thought it was an accomplishment?

Finger/mouth Selfies — The Duckface selfie might not have killed it, but the war continues as grown women are taking pictures of themselves sticking their fingers in their mouths like petulant children in a massive effort to destroy sexy forever.

Snapchat filters — When you were 12? … maybe.

Pokemon GO — Actually, I would have liked to see this one hang around for a while.

Mannequin Challenge — Unlike that cold water thing from 2014, nobody benefits from a bunch of folks standing around pretending they have a stick up their ass.

Gourmet Toast — Oh, for God’s sake! It’s called leftover pizza, and it’s been around for years.

Hipster Food Presentation — Serving food in a jar, wrapped in burlap or on the hubcaps of a ’64 Ford is a good way to ruin a meal — and an appetite — at the same time.

Zucchini Noodles — Some things are just wrong.

Chokers – A 19th century fashion statement that swept the neighbourhood in the 1990s.  Now, it’s back, and whiplash has become fashionable again.

Ripped Jeans — Another throwback fashion.  I can’t wait to see what happens when these millionaire celebrities finally realize their designer jeans are being ripped by children in the sweatshops of Bangladesh.  There’s some irony there.

Old Testament Beards on Athletes — I’m surprised more defensive linemen don’t just grab a handful and pull.

And finally:

Politics — I and 7 billion other people on this planet are so totally pissed off with the infantile “I did not/you did so” brand of discourse from 2016 that we never want to hear this bullshit again.  So, everybody, just shut up and let’s get on with it!


hipster 1My fascination with Hipsters has resulted in a stunning tour de force of binge-watching Hipster movies (you can read about it here) and I ended up with a Pepsi hangover and an amazing conclusion.  Unlike every other social trend in human history, the Hipster phenom is driven, almost exclusively, by women.

First, some background.

Every era has had its own fiction.  Contemporary fiction (of whatever age) is always that exaggerated funhouse mirror the reflects the time in which it was written.  For example, Shakespeare can’t escape Elizabethan England, and it appears in every one of his plays.  F. Scott Fitzgerald showed us The Jazz Age; Ginsburg and Kerouac, The Beats; and Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson took so many liberties with nonfiction that people still don’t know where the truth of the 60s ends and the fiction begins.  Our contemporary society, however, is rapidly moving beyond the book and becoming Post Literate.  Therefore. to understand GenerationText, we must look at its visual literature — the movies.

Like any archetypical fiction, Hipster movies are basically all the same.  (Believe me, after 48 hours, I was accurately writing the dialogue for some scenes as they were happening.)

Anyway, all Hipster movies are based on The Useless Boob.  This boob is always male.  He’s always drowning in his own sensitivity.  He’s normally consumed by angst and he’s always awkward and ineffectual.  This is supposed to indicate there’s a deep ennui-ed soul down there somewhere.  Unfortunately, it just comes off as too many emotional steroids.  The unique thing about the useless boob, though, is that, unlike every other stereotype in literature (hero, lover, rebel, villain, etc.) the useless boob is actually useless.  His function is to provide an empty venue for the female to fill.  That’s it!  Harry the Penguin could do it if a director could teach him how to talk and look constipated.

The real story in any Hipster movie is always about The Quirky Female.

Juno – Juno (Ellen Page) is a quirky, intelligent, uncertain female, trying to find her adolescent place in an adult world.  Paulie (Michael Cera) is the sperm donor.

Garden State – Maybe it’s the meds, but Andrew (Zach Braff) spends 99% of the movie swimming in emotional treacle.  On the other hand, Sam (Natalie Portman) and her attempts to redefine herself are way more interesting.

Her – Does Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) do anything in this movie?  No.  The guy’s so emotionally stagnant even his computer leaves him.  It’s Sam (Scarlett Johansson) the quirkiest of all female Hipsters, who’s searching for emotional and intellectual growth.

Francis Ha – Some would say the quintessential Hipster movie and the main character Francis (Greta Gerwig) doesn’t even have a male counterpart — unless you count Benji (Michael Zegen) who’s inconsequential even at the very end.

500 Days of Summer – Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is depressed — big surprise.  He’s emotionally and physically stuck with a life he doesn’t like — another big surprise.  He decides that Summer (Zooey Deschanel) can fix it for him but doesn’t lift an emotional finger to help himself.  Summer leaves his sorry ass and gets on with her life.

And it goes on and on.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

So, what have we learned — two things.  Even though a person can actually live on Doritos and Pepsi it’s not healthy to go nuts with Netflix.  And, hipsters are indeed just pompous asses in plaid shirts, but the girls are fascinating.