Going back through my Facebook timeline, I’ve noticed there are holes: swathes filled only by the colorless, drab blue permeating the background of every Facebook page. 2009 is heartbreakingly blank. The highlights of 2008 are a friend asking, “I didn’t know you were back on Facebook?” which is not a question, and “Life Events” telling me what I already know: I graduated college, I moved home, I started work. Why is this? Why such a superficial and untelling history? Those were the years I was off Facebook.
Sure, sure, there’s a chance I got more things done. I graduated school, got a job, wrote a play, wrote a feature, drove from DC to Albany and back numerous times, made Skype calls to my long-distance girlfriend, spent a good fourth of my life writing daily emails to her, another fourth painfully watching Bones episodes with her. No matter whether I was on Facebook or not, most of my time was occupied. I didn’t get more done. I simply did more things in private.
And here’s the problem with privacy: most of the time, you need someone to keep your life in check. Most people have friends for this, some people pay therapists. Some people use Facebook as this barometer. The problem with my life from late 2007-2010 is that I had no barometer. I had gone dark. I had lost friends, I had been telling no one what was happening, I had gotten off all social media besides LinkedIn. I understand why there are people out there not on Facebook because they don’t feel like they have time, or because they feel it takes up too much of their time, but I’d make a case for not risking it. When they look at their timeline, they won’t see huge blank spaces where their life should’ve been. If they stayed smart, they’ll see they had people who cared, places they went, conversations shared. Most place a lot of emphasis on not putting your whole life on the internet, but transparency can be an amazing tool. Looking at those lost years makes me realize that I shouldn’t have ignored it, and how important it is to be living in public.
Earlier this morning, my friend posted this on my wall:
I don't give credence to any signs like these unless they're written in Comic Sans.
As I bit into some GoLean Crunch! at my desk, I wondered about this picture half-heartedly. I chewed a little, and took another bite, then I let myself wonder whole-heartedly. Eventually, I finished the bowl. Here’s why:
How carcinogenic are those pesticides, really? A known carcinogen is red meat, and I still consume a fair amount of that, even if I’m not buying any red groceries. Cancer is serious, and I really shouldn’t have taken another bite even though at that point I was nearly done with the bowl. It’s certainly a first world problem to not be able to finish your bowl of cereal due to some vague health risks. You know what else is a first world problem? Getting cancer. Why I’d rather finish my bowl of cereal than have a lower risk of cancer is not so much a mystery to me.
Let’s look at the other item on the sign: hormone disruption. Which hormones? All of them? There’s a lot of soy protein in that cereal. Maybe the legions of estrogen being pumped into my body from the soy will instead run into a disruption and I’ll be able to carry on looking like a man, so perhaps this hormone disruption is a good thing. Then again, maybe not. I’m wearing pastel today.
The third reason I finished my cereal is after looking at sentences like “when the USDA tested the grains used there were found to be…” I know it’s probably not a good idea to base decisions about my health based on the quality of sentence syntax, but a guy can’t help himself, am I right guys? Hope I’m not being too passive-voice aggressive, here.
I wrote an article about cereal addiction here before. This is more of article about not being interrupted in the morning until you’ve had your coffee, which increases hypertension.
Today we flew back home to Maine, but first I saw a man naked. We were standing in the line at the airport and then I looked up and there was a man there without any clothes on! I repeat: no clothes at all. It was really scary because who goes to the airport without any clothes on? I didn’t know what else he might do. I started crying but I don’t know why.
My parents talked about the man the whole flight back, but maybe that’s because they knew I was crying about it. Like I just told you berfore, I don’t know why I was crying. Maybe it is because he was fat and old and when I think of a naked man I think its going to be Zac Efron, but now I will always think of old fat man. His butt was flabby and moved even when he was standing still, and I don’t really get that. Also but the worst part was his front side. That hair there was everywhere and looked like my grandmother’s head, and his pee pee was sticking out of there too. It was like a little wrinkly nose. When we were in Port Land we went to the Zoo, and there were these naked mole rats there and it looked like a naked mole rat. Not just because of the name naked though! Because it also was wrinkly and looked like a naked mole rat who couldn’t see anything and was really scary because it had these big teeth and the teeth were the first thing that knocked into each other when the mole rats scurried around in their tubes. The pee pee was like that it was frightening and always seemed like it went first before everything else like a mole rat biting its way into things with its tiny teeth.
Mom and Dad didn’t know I was listening but they said they heard the fat old man say he was “humiliated” when the security people felt him for bombs. I don’t know cause shouldn’t he be even more humiliated after he took his clothes off and was naked? I’m going to go to sleep now, but I can’t stop thinking of the naked mole rat and the teeth.
Using Google Maps and some slick design, the digital agency/design collective Doejo has created Map of the Dead, a zombie survival map, and has peered into my soul more poignantly than I have ever been able to, asking me what am I doing with my life. Using the map, one may find out whether he or she is living in a “zombie danger zone,” essentially a death sentence, marked by the color red. Most, if not all of L.A. is an ocean of red: death sentence. I look at the little street view man symbolizing the location of my harrowing descent into madness. He’s holding a rifle, but in real life, I don’t own a rifle. Hollywood magic.
A few blocks to the west lies the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which usually serves as an enchanting recreational area for the park-starved Los Angeles. Sigur Ros will be playing there next month. On the zombie survival map, however, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is nothing but a hazard. Zombie survival map doesn’t believe in forever.
Essentially, I am doomed. The only safe zones seem to be the Hollywood hills, miles away. In Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park exercise minions race up and down the hills as if on a track, mindlessly consuming a steady diet of smoothie brain food: strawberries, whey protein, flesh, They get stronger, faster. Zombie survival map tells me that “if I have the skills,” airports may hold a helicopter or airplane to aid my escape. And then, as if proving something I already knew, as if rubbing it in, it doesn’t list LAX. In any case, how could I get there? The cars crawl along the 10 like undead soldiers. There’s no way I could get there in time on any other Wednesday.
During the zombie apocalypse, at least people will start to walk again. The streets will fill up with people whom I used to see inside cars. No longer will they sing to themselves or conduct business over Blutooth, but at least there will be some commotion out there, some life scuffling across the sidewalk.
Here in Southern California, we are anticipating a catastrophic earthquake. The history books tell us it is time that we slide into the sea. What are we doing here still, then? We are doomed. Only masochism can explain why we haven’t moved. So what about when we no longer feel, when our skin turns green, when the night falls and the moon lets us know it is over? Zombie survival map makes me ponder the existential. Zombie survival map makes me think about my rifle.
“Non-Musical Silence” by Marilyn Manson (The album Antichrist Superstar consists, in addition to the regular tracks, of 72 tracks of silence, each four seconds long, followed by a song called “Untitled”)
“You Can Make Your Own Music” by Covenant (a 4 minute and 33 second silent track, in reference to John Cage’s song “4′33″)
Ever since they instated that you witness your own funeral on your 45th birthday, everyone had a much easier time being middle aged.
Excessive sports cars sales plummeted. Marriages went unadulterated. Thousands of children spared embarrassment.
It was hard not to pick out the flowers that I actually wanted, though. It was hard to put on a suit they picked out for me, one with pointed lapels, when I never liked pointed lapels.
My wife pulled me in close to her. “You were wonderful. You have a wonderful funeral.” I appreciated this, especially since nobody was supposed to talk to me, but I didn’t agree at all. The flowers were wrong, the suit was wrong, the guestlist was wrong.
This is why I realized that it’s not really the funeral that matters. It’s the afterparty to the funeral, when you can get drunk, when you don’t have to worry about the stupid little flowers, when you don’t have to worry about the stupid wrong suits. Sitting in the front row, though, looking at my imaginary self in the coffin, I shuddered and racked my brain:
A team of researchers in England wasted our time determining which is the catchiest song ever made.
After carrying out “under-cover data collection in night clubs across the North of England,” which is coincidentally what most of the scientists did on their weekends, the scientists “did a musical analysis of a large subset of songs regarding the vocal performance on the recording as well as the structure of the songs.”
After not curing cancer, they concluded that pop songs are catchiest when sung by a male singer, for historically, males led people into battle, so the male vocal register incites the same psychological reaction. Additionally, if he usees his “high chest voice, pronounces the consonants of the lyrics clearly and puts a lot of vocal effort into his performance,” even better. No one wants to try to sing along with someone who makes it look easy, because then who feels like the asshole? An example of a ‘high effort’ male singers included Jon Bon Jovi. The researchers actually determined that.
Miraculously, the scientists found that UK residents were likely to sing along “if it is late at night, if it is a weekend and if the song has been in high up in the UK charts at some point.” What these scientists might discover if applying their brilliance to another field, such as quantum physics or neuroscience, we can only fear.
“We hope that our study will inspire musicians of the future to crack the equation for the textbook tune,” opined musicology expert Dr Daniel Müllensiefen, who was probably really excited to use the phrase ‘textbook tune,’ a term he’d been hard at work refining for months (at night clubs across the North of England).
The Top Ten Catchiest Pop Songs (As Determined by Dr. Müllensiefen’s Team in England)
After staring at my computer screen for several seconds, I started to panic. I had just checked Gmail, then Facebook, then Twitter successively, with no further plan. To do so again in such a short amount of time would constitute madness, so to throw myself a curve ball and hopefully derail my inevitable typing of the letter “g” into my Firefox URL bar, I found myself Googling “I can’t stop eating cereal” instead. The results were surprising: all 4,910,000 of them.
This post contains a lot of links, only given to display the impressive number of these cereal addiction cases — so no need to click on all or any of them. Google came up with plenty of sources, but cited the UK and US versions of Answers.com as the top two results. There, I found myriads of concernedconsumers (consumers in the “I down a whole box in one sitting” sense of the word) who had feelings ranging from mild fear to overwhelming guilt about their breakfast cereal consumption and inability to stop. Most of the voted upon “answers” were of course overwhelmingly unhelpful, both the sympathetic (“When I was pregnant I ate like a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch every day!”) or the, well, assholes (“Well…. that stinks”). Thankfully, there is some actual advice given at more weight-loss oriented sites.
Truth is, like any addiction, the best way to overcome it is to not give yourself the option of relapsing. Do not buy yourself cereal. Do not have milk in the house. If you think that may be too harsh, you can try keeping only one kind of cereal in the house. The lack of variety will help you from going back to it again and again. A third option would be to restrict any sort of eating after a certain time, say, 10pm, or only allow one bowl a day. The more black and white the rules, the easier it will be to follow them. The only danger is yo-yoing. I’ve gone without cereal for a few days only to bring home a box of Cheerios and down 5 in a day.
Yo-yoing can be used for good effect, however, if you are trying to build muscle or doing intense exercise. If you plan on cutting carbs one day, and know that an inevitable flood of CTC (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) will be soon entering your mouth the next, try to plan those bowls after your workout.
Let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Cereal is so amazing. The reason why it’s easy to keep eating is because a) there is huge variety. Sure, it’s basically made from the same stuff, and it all tastes like cereal, but as long as there are puffs, flakes, grains, crunch, pebbles, Charms, wheats, oats, bran, and O’s, there will always be something craveable for the next meal. b) It’s easy. No cooking required, and nothing to heat. c) Few people still believe that cereal is good for you, despite the Lucky Charms boxes that blare “Whole Grains” at you in bright blue, but the truth is, it’s not bad enough that eating it constantly will cause disease. Depending on your poison of choice, there is enough fiber, fortified (artificially added) vitamins, and sometimes protein to poorly mimic a balanced diet. The problem is that excessive use will inhibit any chance at weight loss — the sugar will cause insulin spikes and the carbs may leave you lethargic and increase cravings and hunger later on in the day.
All this aside, I will never stop eating cereal. I will try, I will fail. I will stop trying.
Writing this article has made me hungry. There is a box of Corn Flakes in the cupboard, a half gallon left of skim milk in the fridge, and I went to the gym today. I’ll be in the kitchen.
The square-jawed office manager looks at the red, blue, yellow and green squares between his fingers. Elbows planted on his desk, he peers through his rectangle glasses at the Rubik’s Cube. The air is still in his office. Four live ficusses sit in each corner, doing their best fake plant impersonations.
John knocks on the door. “Hey Phil, you busy?” Phil blinks hard at the cube, then sets it down. His eyes adjust at John, something large and blurry standing in the doorway.
“What do you need?”
“Just wondering if we can turn up the A/C in this place.” His left hand twitches, and it catches Phil’s eye. John’s nervous, though his eyes stay fixated.
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll take care of that in a bit.” Phil leans forward over the desk, and lifts up the Rubik’s Cube. John backs out of the doorway.
John catches Gary’s eye as he walks down the hallway past the rest of the cubicles. He shakes his head no at Gary, sighs, and walks back to his desk.
Gary turns around. “I don’t get it.” He throws a dart at the picture of Richard Simmons he has pinned up to the felt side of his cubicle. “What does that guy do all day?” Sheila, sitting at the neighboring desk, grunts, then checks Facebook. “I mean,” he says, “This office is going to hell. The plants are dying, it’s way too hot in here. I don’t know why we’re sitting near each other. We don’t even work together.”
“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, you’re right about that.” Gary continues.
“And all that guy does is sit there at his desk, thinking he can do anything he likes because he has his own room. He’s probably drinking beer in there. He’s probably drunk.”
“I wish I was drunk,” says Sheila. “It would make your complaining a little more bearable.”
Gary ignores her, or never heard her. “I think I’ve had it. How many times have you put in a request to move desks away from me? It’s time you’ve said something.” Sheila gets up to use the copier without looking at him. He taps on his desk a couple times, looks around his cube. “I’m going to say something.”
Phil furrows his brow at the cube. He just can’t twist it right. Each column connects to another. The entire array falls apart for one desire to fall into place. There’s the part you brace yourself for, and then there’s the part you never saw coming.
He hears a knock. “Phil,” says Gary. “Stop playing with your damn cube. There are real problems here. How many times have we asked for you to move us. And all you do is sit there.”
“I’m trying,” says Phil.
“Bullshit. Get up. Get up off of your desk. I’ve got to eat a sandwich before I do anything stupid, but when I get back here in fifteen or an hour, you better not be here. There better be some changes in this office. Things have better be different.” Gary would’ve slammed the door if the door wasn’t always open.
Phil stays absolutely still, listening to his own uneven breath, until the sound Gary’s footsteps diminish completely, and he can think. Phil lets out his breath, and brings the cube up to his eyeglasses. He closes his eyes, and thinks about a perfect world. Twist. Sheila’s desk slides twenty feet toward the far wall. Twist. Gary’s cubicle moves into her place. Twist. John’s cubicle rumbles up to Gary, where the air moves more freely.
He doesn’t let a drop of sweat distract him. People will always need, and the cube never fits neat.