Archive for the Illiterate Category

…you think your instagram ‘art’ is special or unique.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends, Technology with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by oooranje

First off, Instagram is a fine app, it does fine things, it’s fun and nice and all of that. I have no beef with the app.

But I am sick to the point of bursting with tepid, uninspired and poorly-framed pictures of a) your room b) your food c) random boring everyday implements or d) sunsets.

The reality is two-fold: one, basic stuff like framing still matters a lot in making photographs interesting, appealing, or, dare I say it, worthwhile. This doesn’t mean you need a big complicated camera to take a good picture, it means you need to have a sense of perspective and an understanding of how the lens you’re using works to set up the shot you’re going for. You can’t just throw a lens up against something and call it art, no matter how many filters you apply. And no, setting something to black and white and colorizing one part of the picture is not art either, it’s kitsch at this point. Spielberg did it to great effect in ’94, Ikea has sold pictures based on it for decades, and now you are just Mr./Ms./Mrs./Mz. Original for coming up with it in 2013.

Second: iPhones have great cameras. Androids are pretty solid too. They do some really cool stuff, like, oh, expose for things like sunsets well. So hey, great, you no longer need to worry about exposure (as much) to take a picture that is more or less easily viewable and true to the way you perceived the setting. This does NOT suddenly make you the Ansel Adams of sunsets, and it for sure doesn’t mean that any shitty foreground with a decent sunset behind it is ‘art.’ Again, no matter what filter you put on it.

So whatever, share away, put your bland photos on your boring tumblr, it’s all good. I’d prefer you not take a dozen pictures of your shrimp scampi at the table next to me with the flash on while coming up with hashtags in your head, but it probably beats listening to you trying to make conversation, so I’ll tolerate that as well. But for the love of god, do not destroy things while you make your shitty art. It’s not ok, it’s not forgivable, and it’s neither relevant nor interesting. Oh, and one more thing. It’s not special.

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…you think America won the Second World War.

Posted in All, Dumb Catchphrases, Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by oooranje

This Cold War misconception is so laughable I barely want to spend time on it, but for the sake of setting the record straight, I will.

The United States entered the Second World War at the end of 1941 – nearly six months after Germany invaded Russia.  The United States did not fight a major battle until Midway, six months after that, and did not fight a major land battle until Guadalcanal, a year later, in November 1942.

In the meantime, Russia had absorbed the full brunt of the German advance, retreating deep into its country and losing millions of men.  The Siege of Leningrad started September 1941 (three months before Pearl Harbor), and was not lifted until the January 1944.  Stalingrad – the decisive battle of the war, and one of the most horrific episodes of bloodshed in human history – began in August of 1942 and raged on for six months until February of the next year.  When it ended, the Soviets had lost a million men – but captured or killed an entire Wehrmacht Army Group.

The war may not have been over just then, but Germany never recovered.  Yes, the Allies (not just America!) re-opened second and third fronts in Italy and Normandy, and yes, these clearly helped to hasten the end. But the reality is this – the Allied invasions only worked once Soviet Forces had neutralized a significant portion of the German forces, and weakened the defenders on the Western and Southern frontiers.

It is telling that England does not claim to have won the war.  As one of its first entrants, they would be in a unique position to claim the honor.  But, from their front-row view, it was only too clear who had turned the tide. My grandparents in Holland still fondly recall the playing of the Communist anthem, The Internationale, upon liberation, despite having a profound distaste for Stalinism and left-wing politics.

So, finally, let me state this one statistic: the Soviet Army under General Zhukov suffered nearly as many casualties in the three-day Battle of Berlin as the United States lost men in the entire war.  The scope of the two operations is barely comparable. And further, because I don’t think the history books are clear on this – the Soviets took Berlin alone, without allied help, taking on the full force of the remaining German defenders on their own. This is why West Berlin became an island of the West in the middle of East Germany – and why, later on, the Berlin Airlift became necessary.

If you want to claim that the United States won the Pacific Theater, you might have greater claim to that, but then you’d have to admit the atomic bomb saved lives and was in the end a relatively speaking humane end to the war.  As for Europe – thank the Russians / Soviets (I’m aware I’ve used the terms interchangeably here.  Oh well. Deal with it).

What the United States did do in Europe, however, is win the Peace by restructuring; the Marshall Plan remains one of the greatest achievements and policy decisions of the 20th century. But winning the peace doesn’t sound quite so sexy, does it?

…you don’t realize, or don’t care, that society is a conscious choice, not a system.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by oooranje

Don’t let the man hold you down, goes the cliche.  Fight the power, stand up to ‘the system‘, get your own however and whenever you can.  Lie, cheat, and loot when ‘Big Brother’ isn’t looking, and take every shortcut because the system is against you and you have to fight it.  

What an incredibly bitter, short-sighted worldview.  What an appallingly brutal, atavistic mindset.  It not only misses the point, but it punishes the very people who dedicate their lives to making things just a little better, not only for themselves and their families, but for those around them.  Consider: on any given street, on any given morning, shops only open because people come to work. You can only buy your coffee at Starbucks because the people in that store decided to do their jobs instead of going on welfare/unemployment and sitting on the couch, getting their own. You can only read a newspaper because someone wrote, edited, published and delivered it.  And so on down the line – every single last creature comfort came from the hard work that someone did, not from some faceless system or shadowy government agency dead-set on prying every last penny from your fingers. The fact that you have declared yourself entitled to those things and much, much more isn’t just silly and myopic, it’s brutally rude to those who have given up their time to make them possible.

Society, if you really boil it down, isn’t about what you deserve or don’t.  It’s not some grand scheme to hold you down and exploit you.  Society is about being part of something larger than yourself and giving your time and effort in little ways so that everyone’s life – yours included – can be better as result.

Take potholes. Potholes are often used as examples of the economic conundrum of the common good. A pothole on a road to ten houses inconveniences maybe thirty people. All it takes is one or two people to fill that pothole with gravel, and everyone benefits. In economic terms, the fact that two people work but thirty benefit is considered a disincentive, a reason for the people on that street not to act, because of course they will not be adequately compensated or even thanked for work they have, in essence, done for others.

In reality the opposite is true, and much more than you might think. I’m not talking about a dream world of altruism, but rather about the fact that people choose, most days, to live and work within a set of rules. The immediate benefit of not stealing rampantly isn’t immediately apparent: after all, if you can take a sandwich or an apple (or $5) off the counter unseen, you are obviously that much better off than you were.

But the reality is that, it everyone steals, everyone is impoverished. Why?  Because no one will put out merchandise, or if they do, they’ll have to hire added security to protect it, and charge you that much more. Look at the failed states of Africa, or the rampant corruption in certain parts of the near east. These are places where everyone looks out for him or herself, and what has it achieved?  Goods are shoddy and scarce, services several times more expensive than they would otherwise be, and the infrastructure literally crumbles all around. Society – what you angrily call a system – is a conscious choice and a juggling act; it takes effort to keep the balls in the air.

Now go back to the potholes. When you run riot, when you steal, when you demand rights and privileges that you have not earned nor paid for, you’re worse than someone ignoring a hole in the street. You are the ignorant cretin who digs up the work of others and picks at the hole. Little by little, literally and figuratively, the road is wearing away. Before you destroy things, try building them first.

…because your desire to win trumps reason, morals, or any consideration of the impact of your actions.

Posted in Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Sports, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by oooranje

Ordinarily, this would be about the Yankees and how George Steinbrenner’s extravagant spending basically destroyed the sport of baseball (yes, I know, Yankees fans, if he didn’t do it someone else might have blah blah championships blah blah Derek Jeter), but today, on the heels of news of John Calipari’s contract renewal, it’s about something else.

The reality, the unquestioned, unquestionable reality is that John Calipari has served as the leader of not one, but two programs whose performance reached new, unprecedented heights in near-record time, reached the Final Four, and then had to vacate entire seasons worth of wins – in both cases the most successful seasons in program history – due to a wide array of NCAA violations.  In fact, had it not been for Kansas’ miracle comeback, we’d be talking about a vacated National Championship (a regular occurrence in college football these days, sadly, but in basketball?).  That is unquestioned, unassailable reality.

Cut to 2011, in Cal’s second year at Kentucky.  A program that had been in the doldrums reaches heights it had not aspired to for almost a decade.  The turnaround is remarkable, especially given just how much difficulty Calipari’s squeaky-clean predecessor had winning at the same school.

Except that it isn’t.  I’m not saying that Calipari has cheated this time, and I’m not saying he hasn’t.  What I’m saying is that his blemished record makes it impossible not to consider the possibility that he has.  A collegiate basketball coach is hired not only to make the players on his team better, not only to recruit good, eligible players to his team, but also to serve as the front-line defense of the reputation of the university he coaches.  Therefore, a failure to ensure that one’s program is above the law is ultimately a failure to do one’s job.

Calipari has a history of recruiting athletes who, for whatever reason, commit NCAA violations.  To plead ignorance once – in the case of Marcus Camby in particular – may fly, but to twice have entire seasons vacated because of your inability to police your program or check out the validity of your recruits – that’s incompetence at best.  At worst, it’s complicit and concerted cheating.  Either way, it’s impossible to call John Calipari good at his job when this is the legacy he leaves programs.

Finally, when Jim Tressel’s athletes traded paraphernalia for tattoos – not even financial compensation – Tressel was ultimately fired because he knew about it and didn’t report it.  No seasons – let alone wins – were vacated as a result.  And a football team is 7 times the size of a basketball squad of 15.  Calipari has repeatedly demonstrated his inability – unwillingness? – to ensure that his teams consist of legal, valid, and eligible athletes.  He continues to recruit players (Enes Kanter, most recently) who exist in the grey areas of eligibility.  In short, his coaching style is unrepentant and unchanged despite the two near-death penalties which he has saddled former squads with.  The man does not care how his actions affect the sport.  And Kentucky, by hiring him, has shown that they do not either.

For their sake, and for the sake of college basketball, let’s hope the violations are over. Personally, I doubt it.

…you think the fact that you like Star Wars makes you a nerd.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Film & TV, Illiterate, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by oooranje

Once upon a time, being a ‘nerd’ was a bad thing. It meant wedgies, social exile, a dearth of party invites, and endless jokes about your intact virginity. Then, a funny thing happened. A couple self-avowed, undeniable nerds founded software companies, most notably Microsoft, and became extremely, extremely rich. So rich, in fact, that they passed the Justin Timberlake/Social Network test for ‘what’s cool’, several times over.

Suddenly, being a nerd became cool.

The trend then continued in film when comic books, long the province of acne-faced, minutiae-obsessed diehards, became the primary mine of blockbuster films. Cue pandemonium at Comic-Con, cue the Big Bang Theory, cue Gleeks and their absurd demands to be included under the nerd/geek banner (There is no world in which Glee belongs at Comic-Con in any form. Sorry).

And then the world writ large suddenly decided that the entrance requirements for nerd status had become significantly relaxed even as the social desirability of being a nerd increased. Any preference for anything vaguely brainy, scientific, or otherworldly was sufficient, never mind how spurious, ungrounded, or outright idiotic it was. Never mind that the movies now being used as evidence for nerd-dom were historically and continue to be giant, massive blockbusters. Anyone with a remotely snarky Star Wars t-shirt is now, apparently, a long-suffering nerd. Nerds unite!

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t make fun of people for decades for being passionate about their preferences in life, then claim to have been one of them all along when it apparently becomes cool to be in the club.

Moreover, being a nerd requires a certain amount of taste and specialization. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar were all massive, four-quadrant movies. They were made to appeal to everyone. Liking something that everyone else likes does not make you a nerd. It doesn’t even set you apart. Being a nerd means having strange, varied, and even unpopular taste. That means Firefly, that means Cowboy Bebop, that means World of Warcraft and a dozen other things you’ve never heard of. Why? Because you’re not a nerd.

…you’re Glee (aka because you make your brand of quirk a cult).

Posted in All, Film & TV, Illiterate, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , on May 19, 2010 by oooranje

There was a time when I tried to watch most new pilots that came out, just to have an idea what was on TV. It was unexpectedly fun, for the most part, and it’s why I got into shows like How I Met Your Mother, The Mentalist, or The Big Bang Theory, and it’s also why I was sad when relatively obscure shows like The Unusuals were cancelled. But after a while, my frustrations with recognizably rehashed story line and characters got the best of me, and I stopped. Just ran out of steam.

But then a new show surfaced on the horizon, something called Glee, and everyone raved about how great and different it was going to be, and I felt duty-bound to watch the first episode, in hopes that it would be all it was advertised as.

It wasn’t. Not even close. I found the storylines overly neurotic, more painful, stupid, and overwrought than funny (and I like Christopher Guest movies), and the songs, at best, gimmicky and annoying. Worse, for a show no doubt inspired and emboldened by the success of original musical episodes on shows ranging from Buffy to How I Met your Mother to Scrubs, to even Dr. Horrible, there wasn’t a new song in the bunch. Barely even new arrangements of the classic songs. In other words, it was a derivative, neurotic, and in the end, boring show that traded primarily on unplugged studio dubs of songs other people made famous. Big whoop. In fact, the only things separating glee from the High School Musical TV movies are the slightly more adult drama and the covered aka plagiarized songs (thoroughly bastardized by early 2000s-era a Capella too overproduced to even bear a resemblance to the charmingly annoying campus singing groups that are now ubiquitous).

Cut to act 2, in which everyone, critics included, went down on their knees for this show and haven’t come up for air since. And now, after the dozens upon dozens of ZOMG! status updates, over-eager watercooler discussions, and sickeningly sycophantic review articles I have had to suffer through, I have had a fairly decent time to consider what exactly it is that makes this show not special, and why I hate the fact that everyone who is not a straight male somehow thinks it is.

Glee is catchy because it is impossible to watch without getting some kind of bounce off of its energy, that much I will give it. But dissimilarly from everyone else, instead of finding that energy charming, I find it the opposite: annoying and childish. Instead of providing any sort of actual redeeming or original content, the show trades on an idea that is fundamentally unsound, namely that it can at once be arrogantly convinced of its own cuteness while remaining the neurotic underdog, obsessed with what everyone else is thinking and demanding their attention while shouting from the rooftops that it has no need of it. This is in fact the fundamental flaw in American thinking internationally: you cannot at once be a world leader and an underdog, Heavyweight fighter and towelboy, Goliath and David. Attempting to sell yourself as both is at once disingenuous and irresponsible, because it allows you to ignore your effect whenever you choose – after all, you are the victim here, what could you possibly have done wrong? Therefore: choose your part and play it.

But the show doesn’t stop there – like most depictions of high school before it, it cannot portray its world without sitting in judgment on it. This judgment – as evidenced by the famous L-finger posters – is part of what makes the show so attractive, because it is so petty, shallow, and in your face: we are all losers, is the message, up until the moment the whole football team joins us in song and dance, but the minute the music fades away everything returns to a distance safe enough to allow for wanton stereotyping and, yes, judgment. Glee wants to be both hard to like and yet liked by everyone. As such, it embodies American teen narcissism, a runaway train of self-gratification smeared over a toxic underbelly of self-loathing, stuck in a positive feedback loop deifying the obnoxious within ourselves while steadily and steadfastly removing approachability: the show wants to be pop culture, but only for the chosen few good enough to truly appreciate it.

In other words, as per the title of this post, the show, like many present college graduates who have yet to grow up, has coddled its own sense of superiority based on a quirky tone that has no substance to speak of except for the music of others, to the point of raising it to cult status. Shows that have covered the ground of misfit losers in a hostile world, and done much better, include: Freaks and Geeks, Buffy, My So-Called Life, The Big Bang Theory, and even House. Those shows were – and continue to be – special. Glee? Not so much.

…you don’t know the difference between ‘you’re’ and ‘your’.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Stupid Trends with tags , , , on March 4, 2010 by oooranje

At least the question of when to use, for instance, ‘my friend and I’ versus ‘my friend and me’ is a matter of a grammatical differentiation. We get it, you didn’t pay attention in English class and/or you loathe diagramming sentences. Fine. But if you can’t choose between ‘you are’ and ‘your’, I’m sorry, you’re an idiot. If you’re too lazy to put in the apostrophe, then indicate you know the difference and write ‘youre’ – it makes a difference. This is basic communication, and by writing both as ‘your’, you’re not just highlighting your stupidity, you’re also failing utterly to communicate. Never mind that your moron friends do the same thing; English – and languages in general – may be fluid and evolving, but that doesn’t by a long shot mean we need to engage in active devolution and wanton eradication of a clear semantic distinction between readily differentiable words.

Seriously.