JHB

Gonna keep this one short.  A dear fried of mine passed away just yesterday morning.  He was 1 year younger than me, and died of Cancer.  Stage IV liver and lung, diagnosed 1 month after he got married.

Right now I’m a mixture of sad and angry.  I’m sad because I lost my friend, and I’m angry because life is fucking unfair.  Obviously, I already knew that.  We all know that shit.  But that doesn’t make it any less infuriating.  Even though we all know that life is a crapshoot… we still get super pissed when the unfairness of it all smacks us right in the face.  As if we expected our lives to be special.

So anyway I’m pretty angry about that.  But I’m also contemplative.  I’m thinking about what to do with myself.  I’m wondering if this blog was a good idea?  Writing frustrates me, even though I’m about to publish my first book on Amazon with another 2 on the way… I don’t just want to be a writer.  It’s a solitary, depressing existence.  I can do it for a couple hours a day.. but jeez, I mean… there’s gotta be more to life than sitting in front of a computer and expounding a bunch of bullshit, right?  RIGHT??

I’m thinking I should turn this blog into a v-log…  Do a more Daily Show / Bill Maher type of thing..?   That would mean more work on my part… MUCH more work.  But it would be more enjoyable and therefore seem like WAAAAYYY less work.  Do you what you enjoy and you’ll never work a day in your life, right?  That’s what I want to do in life.  My dream is to host a talk show and be an opinionated asshole on TV.  Just like Bill Maher.  That’s what I want for myself.  So fuck it I’m gonna go for it.

Next week I’m going to put up a video.  I don’t know what that means yet, but somehow I’m going to take what I would have written for this blog and turn it into a video that’s hopefully funny and the least bit entertaining.

Life is short, after all.  Gotta do what you enjoy most.

God bless you, JHB.

Batman vs. Supersmartman

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THE POP CULTURE

In case you missed it, this past Friday on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ Batman squared off against his greatest nemesis yet: A smart atheist.

Yup, Ben Affleck got into a heated exchange with neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, whose works criticize religion – all religion – but especially Islam, which Harris regards as “the motherlode of bad ideas.” Well it turns out Batman doesn’t much care for that characterization, and he let Harris know it on Bill Maher’s show (even though he was supposed to keep quiet and let Maher interview Harris. But hey, he’s Batman, so he gets a pass for being a dick).

Basically the argument boils down to this: Harris and Maher were saying that liberals need to chill the fuck out when it comes to criticizing Islam, and not scream ‘racism’ every time someone points out how large percentages of Muslims support things like subjugating women, imprisoning gays, killing apostates, and rioting over cartoon pictures of Allah. Of course in response to that, Batman… well, he screamed ‘racism.’

Actually what he said was: “That’s gross, it’s racist.  It’s like saying you’re a shifty Jew…”

Except it’s nothing like that, because Maher and Harris weren’t insulting people based on a stereotypical character trait, they were insulting people based on what those people actually believe and value and do. Kind of a huge difference there. People should be judged on their values and beliefs and actions, not on stereotypical character traits, right?

But more to the point, Harris and Maher weren’t just insulting the Muslim religion, they were pointing out how hypocritical some liberals are in their refusal to insult the Muslim religion. After all, liberals like Batman are willing to make fun of all those dumbasses in the Christian world who picket funerals, bomb abortion clinics, and spot Jesus in their chicken salad.  So why are all the dumbasses in the Muslim world exempt?

THE POP PSYCHOLOGY

You know how there are ten million memes and articles and posters and bumper stickers telling you not to worry about what other people think of you? Know why there are ten million of those? Because THAT IS WHAT WE ALL WORRY ABOUT!!

In psychology there are a whole bunch of terms like groupthink, herd mentality, bandwagon effect, and contingent self-esteem; all of which break down to the same basic principle: We care about what others think. Simple as that. Very very very few people actually go through life never caring what the world thinks of them; people like this guy or this chick or this gentleman here. The rest of us have to learn to deal with being judged.

That concern that we all share over what others might think of us can cause us to change our behavior. That is the point that Maher and Harris were making. Their argument is that liberals – who live and die by progressive values – are changing their behavior (in this case, their willingness to criticize religion), out of a very basic fear of how they will be judged.

Ironically, when Batman threw a level-5 hissy fit, he ended up making Maher’s and Harris’ point for them. If he had just acted more like the Michael Keaton Batman – you know, calm, thoughtful, intelligent – he could have made his point and engaged in a serious debate. Instead he acted like the Christian Bale Batman… well actually, he acted more like Christian Bale.  And in so doing, Batman proved Supersmartman’s point that all those liberals who defend Islam aren’t doing so out of a genuine belief that Islam is on par with every other religion when it comes to being socially regressive, they’re doing it out of a fear of being seen as… well, to use Batman’s own words… ‘gross’ and ‘racist’ (Even though Islam is a religion not a race. But hey, he’s Batman, so he gets a pass for being a douche).

THE POPCORN

Contingent self-esteem, or self-esteem that is contingent on external factors (like success, looks, money, what others think of us), will always be with us.  You’re never going to live a life 100% free of contingent self-esteem.  But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing!  We all need external barometers to help judge the quality of our lives.  But problems arise when we grow so concerned about those barometers that we allow them to govern how we think and act.  In other words, it’s okay to worry about what others think of you, just not to the point where you compromise your integrity.  That’s the point that Batman failed to spot.  He was so focused on the super-villain of Racism, that he forgot all about the superhero of being Anti-religion.

PS — I highly recommend checking out Sam Harris’ brilliant recap of all this, which includes a clip of the epic battle itself.

Apple + U2 = Major Public Freakout

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            THE POP CULTURE

Just when you thought the music industry was deader than that guy Aaron Hernandez shot, it goes and gets itself mouth-to-mouth resuscitated by Tim Cook. For those of you who don’t know who Tim Cook is, he’s Steve Jobs’ replacement at Apple, which means he’s stuck in the shadow of one of the most innovative minds in modern history (played by Ashton Kutcher in the movie. Thanks, Hollywood). So can you really blame Cook for taking a chance on a highly original, albeit radically invasive marketing strategy?

Of course you can. You’re the internet. Spew away…

Just to be clear, these people are engaging in some hardcore outrage porn simply because a company – Apple – gave them a free U2 album without their consent.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that U2 isn’t exactly the most modern band Apple could have chosen, but they’re not Hootie and the Blowfish either. I mean, who doesn’t at least mildly enjoy a U2 song? Sure, Bono can be a little preachy— okay a lot preachy— okay he’s kind of a dick, but most of his songs are catchy and upbeat, which is more than I can say for basically every other band in existence.

So why all the hate? Is it because people don’t like U2? Is it because we resent having our iTunes playlists tampered with (even if the tampering is done by the very company that gave us the playlist in the first place)? Or could it be that all this invasive technology reminds us a bit too much of The Terminator and The Matrix and 1984? (For those of you who don’t read, 1984 is a book by George Orwell. It’s actually one of the best books ever written—ah Christ, never mind).

The answer is, it’s none of those things. Those are all the superficial arguments people make in 140 characters or less. To find out the real source of the problem, we have to dig a little deeper…

            THE POP PSYCHOLOGY

Here’s something I bet you already know: Lots of people are control freaks.   There’s even a term in psychology called Control Theory, because shrinks need to have terminology for everything, right? Basically, Control Theory says that people need to have a sense of control and order in their lives, and if that sense of control is violated, the person will respond negatively. Sort of like how your roommate gets pissed when you take a dump in her bathroom. It’s not the fact that you used all her toilet paper or didn’t flush properly that bothers her – even if those are the surface arguments she makes to you while you’re trying to watch football – the real reason she’s angry is because you invaded her private space without her consent. In other words, you violated her sense of control (and you stank up the place).

If only little Timmy Cook had understood Control Theory prior to his “biggest album release ever in history” (douche), he just might have saved himself a massive PR headache. All Apple had to do was give its customers THE OPTION to download the U2 album. Imagine that. Imagine if everyone woke up one day to find a little message on their iTunes that said ‘click here if you’d like to download the latest U2 album free of charge. Just a little gift from your friends at Apple. Happy Ramadan!’

Okay that last line is unnecessary. But the point is, had Apple used this delivery method, its customers wouldn’t have felt so violated on such a deeply personal level. But instead Apple went ahead and downloaded the album onto everyone’s iTunes without their permission. And to a lot of folks, that’s the hi-tech equivalent of Freddy Kruger ass-raping their grandmother with the lights on.

In other words, it’s disturbing.

            THE POPCORN

Half a billion people got the U2 album. I’m willing to bet most of their reactions were somewhere along the lines of: “Oh look, a U2 album. Okay. Whatever.”   But a very vocal minority went into full-on I’ve just been touched in the naughty place mode. It’s temping to dismiss such people as a bunch of hypersensitive d-wads (which of course, they are), but if we do that we risk losing sight of an important principle – one that states that if you violate the average person’s sense of control, regardless of your intentions, that person is going to resent you for it.  

You might want to remember that the next time you borrow your friend’s car without asking, or cheat on your girlfriend, or take a dump in your female roommate’s bathroom while she’s out having Sunday brunch with her friends (who are all very attractive by the way, and now think of you as a total creep). You might even think you’re doing someone a favor – like, say, gifting them a free U2 album – but if you don’t find some way to safeguard the fragile sense of control that most people desperately cling to in this world, they might just end up posting shit like this about you on Twitter: