Friday, November 14, 2008

Worst-case scenario

I'm going to take a literal lesson from my friend Steve over at the Heart and Mind Blog and deconstruct a popular modern phrase which seems to have lost it's meaning through repetitive use. Today's victim:

PHRASE: "Worst-case scenario"

USAGE: Typically used by someone attempting to help another make a choice or decision; for example, taking a job or asking a girl out –

FORMAT: Stating the preferred choice, followed by the phrase "Worst-case scenario:____ then what the person perceives as the worst outcome, which usually ends up not being so bad, in an attempt to convince the other person to follow their advice.

EXAMPLE: "Dude, I think you should ask your sister's friend out, Worst-case scenario: she says no, no big deal!"

VARIATIONS: "Worse comes to worst", "What's the worst that can happen?"

Now I'm certainly guilty of using this particular phrase ad nauseum, as I am constantly trying to convince other people to see my point of view or take my advice. It's a good method of weighing the pros and cons of a particular decision; when the benefits seem to be equally balanced, the other alternative is to choose the 'lesser of two evils' as it were. But it always nagged at me whenever I said it, because deep down I knew almost certainly that what I was suggesting couldn't possibly be the WORST case scenario. Realistically, things can always get worse. 

Take the above example: Asking your sister's friend out. Is her just saying 'no' really the "worst" thing that can happen? Maybe she says no, slaps you, laughs in your face and stomps on your foot.... Maybe she says no, whips out a switchblade and starts wildly flailing about towards you, yelling "DIE, you disgusting pig!" Hell, maybe she says YES, you go out on a few dates, spend lots of money on dining out and movies, cuddling, kissing and canoodling every step of the way, and when it finally comes time to get your freak on, she gets undressed and you suddenly realize exactly what kind of 'operation' she's been going on about for the last few weeks.... You just never know.

Here's another example: You already gave your two weeks notice at work, and your boss is really ticking you off today. A co-worker may suggest that you go tell him off, the 'worst case scenario' being that he fires you... Har har. Well, yes, he may simply fire you on the spot, or he may dismiss you, then send assassins out to kill your entire family. He may choose to shrug it off, or he may grab you, beat the living crap out of you and push you out of the 12th story window his office just happens to be on. Or, he may just smile at you devilishly like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, fingering that button on his desk you always wondered about, finally realizing it's purpose... the quick release trap door to an underground alligator pit. With these alternatives possible, just firing you would seem to be the BEST case scenario, in my opinion.
But even those examples are not really the absolute WORST that can happen. You can ask the girl out, she says no, laughs in your face, and nuclear war breaks out and the entire earth is decimated and reduced to rubble. Sure, one event isn't actually related to the other, but you have to admit that's the worst it can get... or is it? Maybe you tell your boss off, he kicks you out of his office, and the world is attacked by hideously slimy diseased alien things that instantly enslave humanity, making us their sex toys; but since our puny little genitals aren't nearly enough for their 6 ft. tall vaginas, they need to use our entire BODIES to pleasure themselves. Within days every tall thin bald man is wiped out by suffocation, leaving the rest of us to suffer an excruciating life as human dildos. Now, you tell me.... does it get any worse than that? I think not.

So, rather than relaying this horrid tale every time we try to convince others to see things our way, maybe we should refrain from attempting to predict a future we obviously know nothing about. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The System Works

As I've stated in the past, I'm not a very politically-minded individual, and even when I do get worked up about who and what's going on I generally try to keep it off the blog, for fear of alienating a portion of my 5 readers. However, after watching the election coverage last night, my feelings can be summed up with this quote from the hit television series South Park; "Wow, I haven't seen a beating like that since Rodney King!" (And no, the irony of that quote is not lost on me...) After the last few so-called elections I all but lost complete faith in humanity, fearing some other "technicality" would allow the empire to retain it's grip on the American people. But people had enough, there was to be no more. And that is Mr. Bush's legacy; not being the shiny beacon of light in a post-911 world, not being the man who brought justice to the powers that would seek to destroy us; no, his legacy is the ruination of the Republican Party and becoming almost as universally loathed and hated across the planet as the man he calls our enemy. The numbers say it all… a 2 to 1 lead in electoral votes? People lined up in Times Square? Cities in other countries having election day parties?? It was nothing short of a controlled revolution, and the people prevailed.
It actually felt good to be an American this morning; driving in to work I felt an enormous sense of pride in having had a hand in the change that is to come. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, I swore I saw a technicolor sunrise washing unnaturally vibrant colors over the eastern sky while "What a Wonderful World" played on the radio; looking ahead I swerved to miss a dozen or so little-people dancing in the roads singing "Ding Dong, the witch is dead..." Smiling, I looked off to my right and noticed the stark red neon lines outlining the topography softly change to a more comforting light blue. Off in the distance I could see a tall, slender building supporting a giant eye frantically searching around, then exploding in a violent fireball. With slight trepidation I glanced over to my left, and there they were: Jubilant Ewoks singing their "Yub Nub" song, watching X-Wing fighters soar overhead through a dazzling display of fireworks. It truly was a wonderful world.

(NOTE: The preceding was a dramatization and not a freaky drug-induced romp through cinema-land)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Go Fish

No, not the game. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that made me laugh. I didn't chuckle right away; it was only after I thought about it's message a little did the absurdity of it really kick in. It said, simply:

The idea, of course, is the driver is so extraordinarily good at fishing, the mere mention of his name (to fish) strikes fear into the hearts... of fish.

Here's what I found amusing about this particular statement: Of all the Game and Wildlife sports, fishing seems to me to be the most... I don't know, passive. Now I'm in no way putting down, making fun of or belittling fishing; I'm sure there's a certain amount of skill and knowledge involved in successfully catching fish, and if that's your outdoor sport of choice, then enjoy to the fullest. But let's face it, of all the sports which involve stalking, hunting and killing prey, a worm on a hook seems the most easily avoidable. Guy sits in boat, plunks down line, and waits for hungry fish to come to him. There's nothing to justify any fish fearing him... just simply avoid the bait! At least with hunting there's a real sense of, well... being HUNTED. The deer, rabbit or duck has a reason to fear the hunter.... they're actively being tracked, stalked, chased. No matter where the animal goes, the hunter could show up and BLAM! at any minute. That's a man to be feared; not the man whose line you happen to stumble upon and think looks yummy. If you're going to personify fish to the extent that they know a man's name when they hear it, then it's reasonable to assume they're intelligent enough to sidestep the hook and be on their way.
Think of it this way: Which man would you actually FEAR, the enemy with a sniper rifle who could pick you off at any moment, or the guy that lays the minefield? Sure both are deadly, but one's actively trying to kill you, while the other is passively hoping you just happen to step on one of his mines. I think the minelayer would get laughed out of the bunker if he went around claiming the enemy shakes at the sound of his name.

Of course, if the driver of the vehicle with the bumper sticker had a row of fishheads on spikes lining his bumper, well that's a different story... even I'D be scared of that guy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quotey Fingers

The other day I was writing an e-mail to a friend of mine, ribbing him about his new 'working at home' gig, and during my bashing I wrote something along of lines of "oh yeah, all that (quotey fingers) WORK that you do, doing all that (quotey fingers) WORKING." We all know what 'quotey fingers' means, it's that two fingered gesture one makes when stressing a point in a sarcastic tone. The late George Carlin even listed individuals using this gesture as "people he could do without." Anyway, I was trying to be funny by actually spelling out quotey fingers instead of just putting the text in quotes like normal people do, the humor being that not only was it an extra 17 characters of typing rather than just hitting ", but it forced the visual image of me actually making the finger gesture, while reading it in text form. It was only after thinking about the whole thing in greater detail (because, well... that's just what I do) that I realized the real absurdity of the whole quotey fingers phenomenon. Consider this:
If one wanted to determine the origin of using quotes to sarcastically stress a point (if one was, say, really really bored), then one could argue it started as a verbal method of slowing down and stressing a word or phrase to suggest an opposite meaning. "Oh, yeah, they went back to his place for CAWFFEEEEEE" suggests they were not, in fact, drinking coffee. This evolved into quotation marks when in written form in order to stress the point: "...and afterwards I'm sure they "went to sleep"" implies no sleep was had.
Then, not convinced the sarcastic tone of the spoken word was enough, people started supplementing the tone with using their fingers to mimic quotation marks above their heads, placing virtual punctuation around the phrase needing emphasis, hoping that will drive home the bitter sarcasm they were trying to get across. What resulted was essentially a redundant gesture, because it came from a written translation of a particular way of speaking. It's no different than asking a question (complete with raising the pitch on the last syllable, the tonal cue of a query) and squiggling your hand around in the shape of a question mark at the end. Yeah, we get it, it's a question, the fact that your pitched changed at the end gave it away, we didn't need the visual.

And that, my friends, is where my humor comes in. Writing "quotey fingers", the spelling out of a hand gesture derived from the written punctuation referring to a tonal difference of a spoken phrase meant to display sarcasm, is damned funny to me.

Yeah, sometimes even I worry about myself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Judge Giachettica: The Waiting Room incident

Wow, where has the time gone? I can't believe it's been almost 3 months since my last post; I blame it all solely on my bathroom project. Alright, I'm sure there were other factors as well, but it's just easier to say that lately all my time and money has been spent painting, flooring, caulking, nailing, and more painting in my bathroom. But it's almost done, the dust is beginning to settle, and I can finally get my head out of the glue and paint fumes and resume my duties as blogmaster. Today's entry deals with an encounter I had the other day in the waiting room of my allergist.

I consider myself a fair and just person. Occasionally I can let my emotions cloud my judgement and react without thinking through a scenario, but I believe fundamentally I have a good sense as to what's right and wrong. I was even almost... ALMOST... sad that I didn't get picked for jury duty when I got called in last month. As I grow older I've come to understand that resolving conflicts are almost never as simple as "he's right/he's wrong", but more about determining who's MORE right and/or MORE wrong. And the hardest conflicts to deal with, of course, are the ones where fair and just people look at both sides and say, "well, they BOTH have equally valid points, neither is more right or wrong than the other." Hence my little internal dilemma when the following example played out.
NOTE: The following descriptions are meant to paint a picture of the people and events that transpired, and are not meant to lead readers to prejudge or support either side.

A few weeks back, I was sitting in the waiting room of my allergist waiting to be called in for my weekly shots. There were a few other people in the room waiting for their turn as well; among them was a man appearing to be in his late 50's, with long white hair, beard and wearing I believe a leather vest, or something that looked like biker-wear. (we'll call him 'hippy biker' for lack of a better term) and a somewhat heavy-set black man in his early 40's talking on his cell phone (designated 'phone guy'). Now phone guy was talking away, but not particularly loud, and not at all offensively, but he was talking, despite the sign on the front door of the office that requested cell phones not be used. I didn't particularly care, having tuned him out and gone off into my own little world. Hippy biker, however, was not as passive, and asked in a not-so-completely-innocuous tone, "Excuse me, could you take your call outside?" My ears perked up... spidey senses tingling, I felt a sudden rise in tension. Phone guy just kind of stared at him for a moment, obviously dumfounded by the request. He asked again, "Could you take your call outside, it's very annoying". Phone guy stared some more, then simply replied, "You go outside." Hippy biker went on to explain how rude it was for people to talk on their cell phones in public (I assume he meant in close quarters, like buses, waiting rooms, etc.), phone guy responded by saying he didn't care, which was met by a very sarcastic "You're very considerate, thanks, very considerate." Some more words were exchanged, including phone guy addressing Hippy biker as "boy", then he was called in for his appointment. Now I really don't like confrontation and usually don't get myself involved, but my body was all stiffened up with adrenaline, because halfway through I decided if this escalated to blows I might need to intervene, and it looked like it might. With the danger now passed, I was left with several thoughts and questions in my head. Who did I think was right and wrong here? How would I have reacted had it been me on the phone? Would my knee-jerk reaction have been the same as a more thought-out analysis of the situation? As an exercise I'd like you to form your own opinion before reading on to my judgement. I'll wait.

OK, as I see it, on the one side you have hippy biker, who has his own opinions and ideals, and one of them is talking on a cell phone so everyone hears a one-sided conversation is rude and obnoxious. OK, I can see that. He has a right to speak up about something that is really bothering him, and I kind of admire someone who would stand up for himself and/or others. It IS kind of annoying to hear someone chatting to an unheard party, and technically he IS in the right, since there was a sign on the door asking people to refrain from phone use. One the other hand you have phone guy simply talking on the phone, not really bothering anyone (not me anyway, I can't speak for the others in the waiting room), and minding his own business. So who's right? It always gets a little sticky when you're talking about people's rights, because the term 'rights' is so broad and covers so much terrain, they're bound to intersect and conflict. Let's quickly take another example, smokers vs. non-smokers. Smokers have a right to poison their own body, and enjoy whatever vices they want; and non-smokers have a right to breathe clean air, and not have their environment stink of smoke. But it's a bit easier to decide right and wrong in this argument because of health concerns and quality of life issues, and the government seems to agree, siding with the non-smokers more often than not (which is perfectly fine by me). In the cell phone case, it's more abstract; yes it could still be considered a quality of life issue, but it's alot more subjective. I can just as easily say that two people talking in the waiting room annoys me, but should they stop? What makes ME more entitled to my rights than they to theirs? And I think that was the struggle I was having with this confrontation; to say either one of them is right is to admit that they have more of a right to their opinion than the other guy; that somehow they're better or more important. And I have a real problem with people thinking they're better than others, or worse yet acting on it. So if you're ready, here is my final verdict.

Society has deemed using a cell phone in public the 21st century equivalent of walking into a restaurant with no shirt and no shoes; if you're talking on a cell phone, you're considered rude and inconsiderate to those around you. Personally I find it mildly annoying, but nothing to make a big deal about, and certainly not something to cause a scene over. In my opinion it was much more rude to bother someone who's on the phone and request that he take his conversation outside, where he may miss his name being called for the doctor. From my perspective it certainly was much more annoying. Cell phones are part of life; they're here and not going away. While it would have been nice if phone guy initially made his call outside, I don't think Hippie Biker had more of a right to ask him to leave, especially since he was not being offensive or loud. I therefore rule in favor of Phone guy. Court adjourned.

Addendum: I'm starting to believe this tendency to bash, criticize and mock cell phone users is getting more annoying than the actual deed, especially when it comes from hippocrites. Between starting and finishing this entry I found myself in a pizza shop waiting for my food, and as I waited I spotted a sign next to the counter, "We'll be happy to help you once you're off your cell phone!" This by itself I thought was incredibly arrogant, as if being on the phone was akin to changing a baby's diaper on the counter. But what really got me was after reading the sign, I immediately looked over at the guy behind the counter (who I happen to know is the owner) and lo and behold, he's on his goddamned phone! I actually witnessed him take no less than three orders while on the phone; now granted he had one of those robotic bluetooth earpiece thingies, but what the hell?? How is it the guy who's taking my order, giving me change and preparing my food feels it's ok to be distracted and talk in front of his customers, but holy HELL is it wrong to make him wait a half a second to decide whether I want extra cheese because I'm asking my friend on the phone! I almost wished Hippie Biker was there to rip the sign off the wall and shove it down his throat...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oh, Please sign my book.....

OK, this may not exactly be real blogworthy material, but in case my readers don't scrutinize every square inch of my blog site every time they log on, I'd like to announce that to the right over there, under the "About this Blog" blurb, is a link to my newly formed guestbook. The reason for creating this section is simple: Newbies to the Wonderful World of Paul's Mind may not feel comfortable leaving comments on any of the specific topics posted here, or may not have a strong opinion on the most recent entry. In fact, it's pretty apparent they don't. This allows a place for visitors who, either by accident or intentionally, find my blog in their travels through the World Wide Web to comment on the overall experience of reading through my entries, or to simply stop in and say hi. I often joke about my loyal readers numbering in the single digits, that nobody else would read dreck like this, but in reality I've always been curious about how many people actually DO find the site and stop in to read. Hopefully this will give me a better idea of who and where my readers are.
Of course, to me this "Guestbook" idea always seemed like a throwback to the 'ol days of graduation, where throngs of students spend the last remaining days of their school career running around getting friends and people they barely know to sign their yearbooks, all in an attempt to look cool and feel good about themselves by having every page covered in signatures. Believe me, my creating this guestbook for total strangers to sign is in no way a sad attempt to relive that era and make up for the virtually unmarked yearbook I came out of high school with..... really. This apparent need to solicit every man, woman and child on the internet to sign my humble little guestbook does NOT stem from a feeling of inadequacy, low self esteem, and unpopularity... Honestly!

Now PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just sign the damn book!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Bring Me Elmo's Head on a Platter!"

WARNING: GRUESOME CONTENT - For those with a weak stomach, click off this blog now. I cannot be responsible for any nightmares or breakdowns in mental stability that may ensue.

Unless your child is sadistic enough to demand this for their birthday, I strongly urge you to reconsider bringing them to Waldbaums to choose a cake for his/her next party. Strolling through the aisles of the supermarket while shopping (yes, I DO shop, and no, that's not the gruesome part), I unexpectedly happened across this hideous scene in the bakery department, a display more suitable for a Halloween wax museum or Horrorfest than a grocery store. I was appalled; Young children, innocently holding on to their mother's hand without a care in the world, should never have to be exposed to such horrors. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Marie Antoinette suffered a similar fate when suggesting cake.

What would possess any parent to purchase this abomination for their child? Forgetting the whole "it's freaking Elmo's HEAD on a platter" thing, it's not even a close resemblance of the muppet; in fact, it really does look like a decomposing head! Scary by any means. And of course we all know the birthday traditions about the birthday boy/girl and the cake.... "Hey, let's traumatize Jimmy some more by forcing him to make the first incision into Elmo's skull!"

I implore you, do not put your child through such agony. You'll pay for it in therapy for years.