Category Archives: Nonsense

Diatribes about nothing in particular

Conversations with a guy in a bar in Atascadero

An excerpt from a conversation I just had with the drunk guy sitting next to me:

Him: What are you doing?!
Me: What?
Him: What are you doing..? You know, why are you here?
Me: Oh! I’m staying here at the hotel for a wedding.
H: Erica’s wedding?
M: No, who’s Erica?
H: She’s Erica (points to the bartender)
M: Oh, she’s getting married tomorrow, too?
H: What? No, I don’t know when her wedding is.
M: I hardly know her, fuck, I don’t know her at all. I just ordered a drink with her. I’m not invited to her wedding.
H: No? Stranger things have happened.
M: Are you going to her wedding?
H: Fuck no! And to you the truth, I couldn’t fucking care less. And that’s the gods honest truth.

From there he went on a rant about how everyone at the bar was a pretentious douchebag, except for himself. I actually kind of agreed with him.

Nonsense makes you smarter?!

See, this is what I missed about the Google ‘ole diatribe. The ability to find a crazy ridiculous article and post a few good thoughts about it!

Ahh, it’s good to be back.

In case you missed it (and if you’ve seen my Facebook recently, you probably didn’t), there was a great article in Today’s NY Times about how Nonsense can actually make you more intelligent. I think this is extraordinary!

Being a gigantic fan of the absurd (and I’m sure my fellow diatribe cohorts would agree), I’m happy to learn that my absurdity (and the absurdity of my friends) is actually improving society at large. The next time I’m at a pizza joint, and I convince a guy to order a specific meat topping (just for the heck of it) or use olives for what they’re really intended for, I will know deep down, that I am helping out the human race.

So, the article talks about how after witnessing absurd behavior (or reading an absurd story in this case), people were more apt to identify patterns in chaos than those people who read a more traditional story.

In the most recent paper, published last month, Dr. Proulx and Dr. Heine described having 20 college students read an absurd short story based on “The Country Doctor,” by Franz Kafka. The doctor of the title has to make a house call on a boy with a terrible toothache. He makes the journey and finds that the boy has no teeth at all. The horses who have pulled his carriage begin to act up; the boy’s family becomes annoyed; then the doctor discovers the boy has teeth after all. And so on. The story is urgent, vivid and nonsensical — Kafkaesque.

After the story, the students studied a series of 45 strings of 6 to 9 letters, like “X, M, X, R, T, V.” They later took a test on the letter strings, choosing those they thought they had seen before from a list of 60 such strings. In fact the letters were related, in a very subtle way, with some more likely to appear before or after others….

But perform they did. They chose about 30 percent more of the letter strings, and were almost twice as accurate in their choices, than a comparison group of 20 students who had read a different short story, a coherent one.

I can definitely agree with this. I’m constantly looking for patterns in all sorts of stuff. Patterns on the wall. Patterns of a row of bikes. You name it! Maybe you do too, I don’t know.. I don’t live in your brain, but considering my general nonsense mindset — I think there’s something there.

So, you heard it here, folks.. now, go stand backwards in an elevator and make some people smarter.

Update: To prove my point, this post was filed in a category known as “Nonsense.” A category of which, this now becomes the 69th post (get your mind out of the gutter). The nonsense category is also the most posted category, followed closely by the Internet. But I mean, c’mon… where would The Diatribe be without these two things? I rest my case.

Hillary &!*$%# Clinton?

Way back when, I was a skinny high school track athlete and Hillary Clinton was a freshly minted First Lady.  I remember how she made news when she announced that she was, going forward, to be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Whoop-dee-doo!  I think she much more quietly dropped the Rodham, right?  Anyway, my old track coach liked to pit the runners versus the field events guys using various competitions, trivia, etc.  On one particular spring afternoon, as we all sat on the track and basked in the sun, I remember Coach G. announcing a trivia week of some sorts.  The first question was something like, “President Clinton’s wife, Hillary, just announced that she is using a middle name.  Does anyone know what her middle name is?”

And without missing a beat, one of my teammates gave me a comedy moment that I’ll never forget.  His loud answer was, “Bitch?!?”

Brilliant.  Classic.  Hilarious.  It was just so unexpected, especially from a 16 year-old inner-city kid.  And in my mind, he and Hillary are forever linked. 

Improv Everywhere

You may have seen these guys before — they’re a troupe known as that does improvisational randomness at fun public places. Some of their previous mischievous projects included: Installing a bathroom attendant in the Times Square McDonalds, invading Best Buy with hundreds of volunteers dressed in blue polo shirts and khakis (standard Best Buy Garb) to confuse the unsuspecting shoppers, among others.

I found this latest assignment particularly entertaining and wanted to share.. Enjoy the show.

Ping

Man, it’s been so quiet around here — you could hear a pin drop. Well, between traveling and getting a sick, everything outside of work has really taken a back seat.

Can’t wait for the weekend for some time to relax, catch up, run some personal errands, and get back to my life.

The Power of Persuasion

Several years ago, when my friend “Vandelay Industries” was still working in my office, we shared a cube wall for a while. I don’t know how we got any work done, because the days were filled with conversations, cracks, and office pranks. One day, I happened to make a comment about Hilary Swank and Vandelay just snapped. He made it clear that he did not find her attractive and could not stand to even hear her name. I had definitely tapped into something and I kept pressing. I would email him pictures of Ms. Swank and gush about how hot she is.

Note: I was not at all enamored with her at the time, but neither did I feel the distaste for her that Vandelay did. I merely felt that she was attractive, but had a overly toothy smile.

Over the last three years, I’ve made it a point to bring up Hilary Swank in conversation with Vandelay. It’s not as fun as it was then, because I can’t see his disgusted reaction in person. However, a couple of weeks ago, we were at a convenience store and I made a point of showing him Swank’s Esquire cover and the spicy pictorial inside. He just looked away.

Here’s the point, and this is an admission to Vandelay: I did not have nearly as high an opinion of Hilary Swank back then as I let on, but it was just too much of a comedy goldmine to let go. So I artificially amped up my love for Swank and it just grossed him out. The funny thing is, I ended up convincing myself that I think she’s mighty attractive (as long as she’s not smiling that giant toothy grin). I wasn’t sure when I would ever let Vandelay in on this gag, but this is as good a time as any. Why? you ask – because he emailed me a Howard Stern Show-induced admission a few days ago. I’ll save him the indignation of the exact quote, but let’s just say he’d have a date with Hilary.

So, the gag is kind of over, which is sad. But I feel that I’ve won a major victory. Happy Belated April Fools’ Day (for 2004-2007), Vandelay!

The Ducks

After listening to this week’s episode of on my iPod this morning, I can’t bear to see the AFLAC duck without bursting into laughter. I can’t bear to see any duck for that matter.

If you have 20 minutes, I’d highly recommend listening to Act I of this past week’s episode about Alex & Roman and their adventure in Jamaica Bay.

Where the hell are the singing cats?

I never knew much about the musical Cats.  I remember how it took Broadway by storm when I was a little kid and soon enough the Boston and Providence theater scenes each welcomed various Cats productions.  As a kid, it seemed strange to me, but so did all musicals.  As I grew up, I came to enjoy Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Phantom of the OperaCats always remained a mystery and when it bade farewell to Broadway a few years ago, I figured it was all for the best.  Fast forward to January of this year and Swedish Girl informed me that she bought tickets to see Cats.  It’s in Boston for just one week on its 25th anniversary tour.  I wouldn’t say I was excited at the news, but I thought it would be interesting.

That was an overstatement.  I thought it was horrible.  Actually, more frivolous and foolish, than horrible.  As I was crammed into my 1928 era balcony seat at the Boston Opera House before the show, I read the playbil and discovered that Cats is based on a book of poems by T.S. Eliot.  That was pretty cool, I thought.  It lends the musical instant credibility.  Well, by the time I saw nearly two dozen adults prancing around dressed as cats, all credibility was shot.  I haven’t done any research pre or post, so I have no idea what, if any, allegory Eliot was shooting for.  Who are the jellicles?  Who is Old Deuteronomy?  What is the deal with that cat ascending skyward in the deus ex machina?

It was all lost on me.  I honestly tried to pay close attention and look for the inner meaning, but all I could see was a group of silly adults licking themselves and dancing around.  It was torture.  Two college-aged ladies three rows in front of us (who had also been at the Hyatt Hotel bar, as we were, before the show) left halfway through Act 1.  Around that time, Swedish Girl asked me if I liked it.  I rejoiced because I thought this meant that she also hated it.  I was already thinking ahead to which bar we could visit while the rest of those suckers were languishing through Act 2. 

No dice.  She loved it.  She couldn’t find the allegory, either, but she loved the costumes, the music, and the lighting.  I pleaded my case and tried to get an early release for good behavior by asking if I could leave and head to a bar.  Nope.  I had to sit through Act 2.  The only reprieve I got was that Swedish Girl said I could take a nap.  But the half-pot of strong coffee I drank earlier was keeping me wide awake.  I flipped through the playbill and found some minor solace in the fact that Act 2 was one scene shorter than Act 1. 

Three parting shots:

(1) Why the hell does Old Deuteronomy just sit there on stage during the entire intermission?  Is this what was done in the London and New York productions, or did this actor just not have anything better to do?

(2) One thing that put a smile on my face during this debacle was the memory from David Letterman’s very first episode of his CBS Late Show in 1993.  The camera cut to Paul Newman in the audience and he angrily yelled out, “Where the hell are the singing cats?”  Classic TV moment.  I’ll have to look for it on youtube.  It’s almost 14 years later and that still cracks me up.

(3) Take my word for it and avoid Cats.  It may be coming to a city near you.  If it does, you’d be better off going to the cinema to see Road Hogs (which looks like it could surpass Gigli and Glitter as the worst film ever made).

With a Rebel yell

I saw a Confederate flag vanity plate on an enormous pickup truck the other day.  And this was in the greater-Boston area.  And, yes, I double-checked and the truck did have Massachusetts plates.  All in all, just an odd sighting.  Seeing the Confederate flag kind of freaks me out.  I mean, I love The Dukes of Hazzard (the TV show, not the movie) more than anyone, but something tells me that such displays of the ol’ stars ‘n bars are not examples of zealous Dukes fans.

I’m not up on my state capital goings-on, but we are all aware of the controversy surrounding the rich, old white coots in South Carolina who refused to take down the Confederate flag from the state house.  They played the tradition card and the ‘we must honor our fallen soldiers’ card, but we all know what they were celebrating.  I hate to generalize, but it’s thinking like that which pretty much assures me of not stepping foot in South Carolina or Texas (among others) anytime soon.  Just something on my mind, for what it’s worth.