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17 posts from August 2006

AITNF (Awkward Is the New Funny) Bulletin

Check out this US Weekly blog post/poll and tell me I'm not on to something here.  Excerpts (with my emphasis added):

The Emmy Awards began on an awkward note on the day of the deadliest American air flight in recent years, which killed 49 in Kentucky. Host Conan O’Brien’s opening skit found the host visiting the sets of several highly rated shows, including 24, House and Lost.

The prerecorded opening skit began with O’Brien boarding a private plane to Los Angeles. Asked by a stewardess if he was nervous about hosting the show, O’Brien answered, “Nervous? What could possibly go wrong?” The plane then crashed, with O’Brien later washing up on the set of Lost.

Us followed up with a poll asking, "You tell Us. Was Conan’s opening skit in poor taste or was it funny?"  The results thus far?  66% of those surveyed have ruled that unintentionally cringeworthy plane crash jokes are . . . FUNNY

Now, perhaps I shouldn't go around taking US Weekly poll results as Gospel quite yet, but I do feel justified in pointing out that this information aligns well with my new theory that Awkward Is the New Funny.  I mean, don't they say that three times officially makes it a trend?  We could be on the edge of something very big here, people.

Awkward is the New Funny?

Now, it could just be coincidence, and it might just be that I am too deliriously tired from the week from hell, and, yeah, it may just be that I want to drag everyone down into my pit of awkwardness with me, but I'm starting to wonder if awkward could be turning into the new funny.

I'm not saying this is a great thing (in fact, it makes me a bit uncomfortable), but it's definitely an emerging trend.  It all started with Stephen Colbert's now-infamous speech at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner--he received a lot of praise for this, but frankly it was one of the most awkward things I have ever seen and I could barely watch it. 

Now, just days ago, Dane Cook created some similarly awkward moments when hosting the Teen Choice Awards.  It started to bring back suppressed Colbert memories that had I had almost finally forgotten.  In all, it's not nearly as uncomfortable to watch as the White House speech, but Dane's interaction with Mischa Barton 55 seconds in is right up there with Stephen Colbert looking at Bush and saying they both live in a "no-fact zone."

Watch, cringe, comment: are jokes designed to make your audience uncomfortable a great new trend, or does it make a mockery of those of us out here who don't have the luxury of channeling our own awkwardness into profit and fame?   Because let's face it: we've all been in that situation before when someone sneezes and you say "Bless you," and then they sneeze again a full minute later and you wonder if you should say "Bless you" again, or if it's too soon and that will make you look too pressed, or if keeping quiet is actually rude and will make the person wonder what they did in the past minute to make you no longer empathize with his/her sneezing?  And when the awkward moment finally passed, there were no cult followers to adore us and blog about us; there was just a slightly uncomfortable person with an itch in the nose.  Isn't this the way it should be?  Or am I just an Awkwardness Purist who's going to get left in the dust by these brazen new kids on the block?

Depressing Fact: It Actually Took Me About Twice As Long to Find the Picture of the President of Iceland Than It Did to Find Those Disturbingly Similar Images of Bush and the Monkey

"A survey of 32 European countries, the US and Japan has revealed that only Turkey is less willing than the US to accept evolution as fact." (Source )


This graph from shows the full lineup; you might notice that first-place Iceland is kicking our ass.  I'd also created this graphic as LMNOP's contribution to the scientific dialogue:


Unfortunately, America's stance on evolution doesn't really surprise me at all.  Why?  Little known fact: my elementary/middle school taught intelligent design.  I distinctly remember a teacher at my parochial middle school telling the class that there is nothing wrong with believing that humans evolved from apes, as long as you believed that such an evolution was guided by the hand of God as part of his master plan.  I suppose this explanation was supposed to assuage any mental anguish we felt at the prospect of reconciling seemingly disparate scientific views with religious doctrine; however, it only served to confuse me more.  What kind of F-ed up "master" plan involved God making us monkeys and then slowly turning us into humans?  If that's an intelligent design, then I'll eat my own ass.  Far be it for me to criticize the Master Plan, but wouldn't it be more intelligent to just skip the thousands of years of us flinging poo at each other and cut right to our current state of perfection in which we are at least 75% less likely to fling poo at each other?

Creationists always do get the last laugh, though:

"The percentage of people in the country who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005." ( Source)

I mean, if you think about it, that's about the best argument against evolution that I've seen in a while.

Pay the Turtle

Dear University of Maryland,

Well, let's start off with an acknowledgement: I am indeed very proud of the degree you gave me last year, and I had a lot of fun at your school.  That time we won the National Championship was particularly great, and I liked the way the city of College Park was a dynamic and bustling hub with ample opportunities for young coeds to hang out and eat sandwiches.

With that in mind though, I must also tell you something else: stop calling me.  Stop sending me postcards.  Stop e-mailing me about "fun" opportunities to participate in golf tournaments, silent auctions, and other thinly-veiled facades for what is essentially you trying to get my money.

That's right, I've figured out your scam, and so have all of your other alumni, probably because it's the oldest trick in the book: give someone something (in this case an education, and one that my parents paid for anyway), and then later remind them that you gave it to them when you need something from them (in this case, my money via attendance at some lame "networking social" or "tailgating party").

Maryland, you started hitting me with requests for cash before I even walked out the door--honestly,  my graduation ceremony sounded more like an NPR pledge drive--and now I'm just starting to resent you.  I want to save our relationship though, so I'm offering you a chance to get your act together.  The following list contains a set of guiding assumptions and principles that I want you to operate on, starting right now, until I give you further notice.  Read them carefully.

1. I haven't done anything with my life yet.   So you can stop with the messages asking me to give back to the institution that has brought me where I am today, because where I am today is a year out of college with barely enough money to cover the cost of TV and Kit Kats.  And that's fine; that's normal--it's how 23-year olds should be.  Which is making you even more annoying right now, because these messages are making me second guess myself and wonder if maybe I should be a millionaire by now.  So, thanks.

2. If/when I do in fact become successful, should I feel the need to reward you, I will know where to find you. So you can stop assuming that the reason I'm not sending you money all the time is just for lack of receiving postcards reminding me to become a Platinum Super Special Whatevermasaurus.

3. I need more incentive to become a contributor to your university anyway.  After all, the only examples I've seen of how philanthropists' contributions are regarded at Maryland are: a) that statue you built for Jim Henson that people sit on when they're drunk, and b) all those buildings named after people who contributed a gajillion dollars only to have their names cursed 20000 times a day for all eternity by students saying, "Ugh, and then I have to walk all the way to f*cking Tydings Hall."  Thanks, but I'd rather spend my money on a yak farm or something.

4. Stop with the 'friendly reminders' to 'renew' my subscription to the alumni magazine.
  You know as well as I do that I never even subscribed in the first place, you just automatically send a one-year subscription to every graduate.  Stop reminding me to renew something I never even asked for.

5. I guess I just can't stress this point enough: leave me alone.
Every great philosopher from Jesus to Christina Aguilera to Cake has understood that if you love something, you have to let it go.  So let me go, Maryland, and who knows--maybe someday I will strike it rich and think of you.  Maybe not.  But I guarantee you by then you will have saved a lot of paper.


Lauren McMahon, B.A. '05

LMNOP Science Update: Get Those Pizzas While Your Very Elegant Mother Is Still Serving Them

This article on CNN. com, "Pluto on the Chopping Block," excites me.  We've been hearing for a while about the debate over whether or not Pluto is legitimately a planet, but I wasn't aware that a decision was on the horizon. But:

Nearly 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries gathered in Prague Monday to come up with a universal definition of what qualifies as a planet and possibly decide whether Pluto should keep its planet status . . . . Among the possibilities at the 12-day meeting of the International Astronomical Union in the Czech Republic capital: Subtract Pluto or christen one more planet, and possibly dozens more.

Do you realize what an impact this decision will have on our world?  It's huge!  And, lest you think I'm exaggerating, I've compiled a list of the people and things that stand to reap everything from major devastation to great windfall from this decision.

AFFECTED PARTY: Anyone who has completed school

Pluto1_copy As someone who recently completed college and is already sensitive to things that make me feel old, I can't imagine how much of a fogey I will feel like some day when my kids are learning about the solar system and the planets are completely different.  Can you imagine if there are 53 planets by then (the article says it's possible), and you're coming at your kid with, "When I was your age, there were only nine of them!"  I mean, come on.  How old are you gonna seem when you've been part of the public consciousness longer than certain celestial bodies have?  I'm telling you now: you're gonna feel super old.  At the very least, if they cut Pluto and we're down to eight, they're still gonna think you are old for being alive back when people were dumb enough to think Pluto was a planet.  They'll probably assume you thought the world was flat too.

AFFECTED PARTY: My very elegant mother
Pluto2 As far as mnemonic devices go, "My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" has been a benchmark, but if Pluto is cut, it's going to take a big hit--'Pizzas' will be gone!  It's still salvageable, I guess (My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nothing? Nuggets? Nachos?), but there's no denying that an era will have ended.

And that's the best-case scenario.  If a bunch of other planets get named, we're gonna need to rethink things completely.  A simple mnemonic may not even suffice anymore; we might be looking at a whole new monster to rival the Periodic Table of Elements!  The universe will no longer be one of those friendly neighborhoods where you know the name of everyone on your street; no, it will be one of those gigantic hyper-planned urban mega-communities where you have to look at the directory to know the name of the person in 408 whose mail you keep getting. But it's even worse, because in this case their name is, like, Planet X4-HG59 Omega.

POTENTIAL IMPACT:  Positive, Major

Pluto3 We all know who the real winner's gonna be on this one: the textbook companies.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Houghton and Mifflin are paying the scientific community a little bit of money under the table to keep this upheaval coming.  After all, schools aren't going to be able to use their science books from the '80s anymore.  Pluto will become the new USSR (as in "that encyclopedia's so old, it's still got the USSR in it!") as the new laughingstock of the textbook and reference book world.  Well I got news for you, book companies: I wasn't done with making fun of the USSR yet.  I'm not too pleased about my time being cut short.


Pluto4 While the Scholastic Press corporate offices are using their windfall to build a new extension with a gym, pool, and cafeteria for their staff, schools everywhere are going to be suffering even more financial setbacks as they must spend even more money on updating textbooks. Even science books bought at the beginning of this year will be rendered obsolete, and that just ain't fair.

Of course, that's not to say that every school will be updating its books.  You can bet that a lot of them will get creative, crossing out certain sections with black hi-liter, or ripping pages out and Scotch-taping in entire new chapters.  That's probably actually their wisest bet, because how can they insure that as soon as they buy new books, even more planets won't be named.  However, that doesn't make it OK.  Kids already have enough things to make fun of at school, and this would just be handing them even more ammo.  Can you imagine all the new spin-offs on age-old complaints this will generate?

  • "I don't see why we're learning about the planets if they might just change again anyway."
  • "This isn't important!  When my mom was in school, they were teaching them lies about outer space, but she still got a job!"
  • My brother only had to learn 9 planets, and I have to learn 30?  It's not FAIIRRRrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  We shouldn't have to do more work because we were born later."

AFFECTED PARTY: Pluto (the planet)
POTENTIAL IMPACT: Ranges from catastrophic excommunication to a mild case of middle child syndrome.

Pluto5 We know how hard rejection can be, and Pluto's facing a big one.  If it gets canned, it'll be lucky if it can muster up as much respect in the future as Puerto Rico or Guam.  I wouldn't count on it though--the little planet that couldn't seems to be up for an eternity of loneliness and isolation with its lame moon Charon.

And if Pluto does manage to get saved, it's not going to be all gravy.  At the very least, from what I understand, by updating the definition of "planet" to permanently incorporate Pluto, scientists may also have to at least add young upstart planet candidate Xena as well:

Some argue that if Pluto kept its crown, Xena should be the 10th planet by default -- it is, after all, bigger. Purists maintain that there are only eight traditional planets, and insist Pluto and Xena are poseurs.

So we'd be keeping Pluto in the family, sure, but with all the commotion surrounding baby Xena, Pluto's going to feel neglected, and sometimes that can be an even bigger bitch than rejection.

AFFECTED PARTY: Pluto (the dog)

Pluto6 I'd say the big wild card in all this is the Disney character Pluto.  It's likely that he'll just keep his name and nothing exciting will happen, but you know how reactionary and weird Disney can be.  After all, when people are dying on your rides you can't really afford to be associated with anything out-of-date and old.  Maybe they'll change his name, or maybe he will end up getting "accidentally" run over by a parade float, silently sucked underground by one of those fabled trash chutes, and then cheerfully eulogized by a mind washed PR rep with a story about his being on a farm somewhere in Iowa.  I don't know for sure.  We'll have to wait and see.