Smarty Pants Moustache Man


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Let Me Google That for You

"What did you you do to get answers to questions before the internet?", the boy asked on Reddit.
I had to think about it. What did we do before the answers to casual questions were available on our telephones and on the internets?
Sense memory recalls a shattering teen trauma as my entire family turned against me during a game of scattegories when i claimed "Ashanti" as a language that started with the letter "A".
"No such language! No points!", they shouted. My Dad was always the leader of these intellectual witch hunts. He has always been appallingly smug about what he considers to be cutting edge knowledge, and having smelled blood in the water, my brother and mother quickly went in for the kill. My dad made one of those jokes that only dads find amusing and are repeated throughout the years in the vain hope that the time has finally come for dad humor. "Armand Ashanti" was the Hi-larious joke my dad still proudly claims as having been forged in the furnaces of his wit, on the spot, as a win was ripped from my grasp. To his credit, and in defense of the LaMont family intellect, my dad has a keen eye for geopolitics and cultural affairs.  In 1997 my father identified the Taliban as the number one most serious issue facing the world. Untrue for the time, though eerily prophetic, i'll admit. Nonetheless, his dismissal of the charming Twi/Ashanti tongue would not stand.
I would have to turn to the crappy  Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia set my family depended on to validate my answer. I knew it was a sub-par source, but it was the only reference my family would buy into since my Mother has an inherent distrust of anything Anglo-Germanic, and the Encyclopedia Britannica fell squarely into that category. Had an Encyclopedia Hispanica or Franca been available, my mother would have enshrined it in our study. Such was the limit of fact finding in the otherwise literate household i grew up in. Niger-Congolese tribal languages of Ghana being deemed unimportant by Messrs. Funk and Wagnall, I suffered the "Armand Ashanti" joke in silent humiliation for YEARS, because the internet did not exist.
Equally traumatic is the memory of having recently emigrated to the US from Mexico and clinging to the nuggets of English language culture. Star Wars was of course spoken fluently in the LaMont household before we moved to the US, and Disney, surely.  The relatable pop culture references ended there since English language cartoons and programs in Mexico were a hodgepodge of syndicated  American, English, Canadian, and Australian shows along with reruns of long gone US sitcoms like the Love Boat, Dallas and Dukes of Hazzard.
I was greeted by the cruel taunts and disbeleif of dismissive 2nd graders as I brought up Skippy: The Bush Kangaroo , Rocket Robin Hood , and the unbeleivably strange Odisea Burbujas.  As the years passed, i would wonder whether my memories of these shows were even real, or if they were strange fever dreams of my childhood. It was the internet that restored my memories long after i had dismissed these actual shows as figments of my overactive imagination.
So to answer the lad's question, we lived in darkness. We lived in an uncertainty that could only be validated  through exhaustive research not immediately available. So many questions would go unanswered. So many arguments would remain unresolved.
Even today, the memory of the unknowing darkness is so present that perfectly reasonable people will ask questions while sitting at a desk, in front of , or while holding a powerful device with access to answers and details on that answer. People continue to purposely remain in the dark rather than take the simple step of  asking the handy device in front of them.
That is why THIS has become one of my favorite sites with which to respond to easily answerable questions.
A pointed, short, elegant and snarky way to remind people that we have the shared knowledge of humanity at our fingertips. No longer need we live in darkness, no longer need the Ashanti language be ignored and no longer will Odisea Burbujas exist in my nightmares.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cats: Help End a Vicious Interspecies Scam

Internet, world, take a knee. We need to have a real talk. This is one of those moments where we all have a breakthrough. Where we look at obstacles ahead and change the tide. This is that moment in Braveheart where Mel Gibson says that non antisemitic stuff and people cheer. This is that moment in Henry V where Lawrence Olivier says "We fyooo, we heppy fyoo". THIS is that moment in Independence Day when Bill Pullman inspires Randy Quaid to fly up the Alien Ship's butt and save mankind. This, by golly, is the moment we turn things around.
It has been obvious to scientists and those of us unaffected by the mind control virus, for quite some time. However, the recent surge online of puppy and dog related memes and videos is a heartening sign that the tide may be turning on the most vicious and long practiced example of intentional self infestation by a host of a vicious parasite.
I am, of course, referring to the destructive and cultish practice of cat ownership.
It is a well documented fact that cats pose a myriad of health threats. Cat owners know this. In their heart of hearts they know that every time they are emptying out the litter box, it is hastening their death. The brilliant Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr has documented thoroughly how the parasites emitted from cats infect our brain, causing risky behavior ranging from reckless driving to downright sluttiness, and even schizophrenia. Those of you already infected by Toxoplasma Gondii will surely scoff. You'll say "Not my cat!" and that is EXACTLY what the infection does! It forces risky behavior on behalf of cats! Infected mice find the smell of cats, sexually appealing, thereby putting them at the enormous risk of loving something that might end up killing them. SOUND FAMILIAR?! Add to this horrific notion the long known effects of cat scratches and their virulent bites, and you have, in your purring, beloved kitty, a biohazard worthy of an Al qaeda plot. Not a very effective plot, mind you, but certainly up there with the explosive underwear plot.

So you are not swayed by the health argument. Your devotion to your animal far outweighs the possible health hazards. Consider the entirety of your feline human relationship by removing the furry/cute aspect thusly:
You meet someone. A very special person who you connect with (possibly because they have infected you with a mind controlling parasite) and you absolutely love them. You move in together. They barely pay attention to you. They do not work. They are not always visible, and in fact, they sleep most of the day. Your affection is sometimes greeted by a return of affection, especially at mealtimes, and other times it is greeted by violent outbursts. This person goes through a phase where they decide that they hate your furniture. They destroy your furniture. You angrily discipline this person you love. They poop on your bed or in your shoe. You reach out to them, trying kindness and finally get through to them, at which point they kill something and put it in your shoe to remind you that they can kill effortlessly.
At this point, you would be calling the cops and evicting your "special someone" if they haven't already murdered you in your sleep. Owning a cat is the equivalent of allowing a self obsessed and violent psychotic into your home.
Super villains never sit in their chairs, deep in their island fortresses, and stroke a puppy. Witchcraft rarely requires a Basset Hound's presence, and having a Chocolate Lab cross your path means very little in folklore other than the possibility of being licked, and the Lab peeing on your shoe out of sheer excitement for having met you.
"Awww, my cat is JUST LIKE a dog!"
No it isn't! You poor, idiotic, cat-puppet! Cats exist in spite of humans. Dogs exist because of humans. There aren't any feral Pugs roaming the wild! They are bred to love! Cats do not understand the concept of love! It is a cat! It will suck the breath out of you and hand it to Satan if it hasn't already!
I digress.
Ultimately, what we have here is a human failure. A vicious interspecies scam has been perpetrated on us, and our own hubris from the successful domestication of other animals blinded us to the reality of how we were being used by these psychotic beasties. Now look at us. A new cat cult rivaling that of Bastet in Egypt has arisen online. We giggle daily as Nyan Cat and LOL cats distract us from our state and in the meantime, perfectly attractive women are ruining their chances to date me, by getting cats.
So what is the solution?
Education. The fight starts in your home. I'm not suggesting you rid yourselves of your cats. I'm not a barbarian. I understand the repercussions. What i do suggest, is that you help dissuade future cat owners. Inform your friends and family about the dangers of cat ownership, and emphasize the destruction of personal property and toxic poo if need be. As more and more adorable puppy videos permeate the internet and more people are made aware that there are options to allowing wild animals into your home, the demand for and breeding of cats will decline. Eventually, the remaining population of cats in the U.S. can be shipped off to somewhere where they are in need. Like, say, Australia, where they have a tendency towards bad choices anyway, and a horrific mouse problem to boot. Then, we can turn to our children's children and speak the words of the brave, turn of the century immigrants to this great land.
Further Reading:
Futurama: Cats from Thuban
Southpark: Faith Hilling

Friday, August 10, 2012

Reach out to Conservatives Before They Become Totally Insane at Their Convention.

Hip hip! Hey hey! It's only a week or so before we descend into the sweaty, Day-Quil nightmare, of a Tampa Florida Republican National Convention. Not sure if any of you remember the last one of these hoe downs but i'm fairly certain that it was a pretty cantankerous affair even without the swamp ass inducing climate. The only moment that really stands out in my head from the last RNC was the chant of "Drill Baby, Drill!" echoing through the hall as crowds were whipped into a frenzy by the appearance of recently betrothed teen parents, Bristol (TV) Palin and Levi (Johnson) Johnston, who still had the whiff of teen lust on them. After that it was just a series of horny seniors rambling and acting like the Bush-Era never happened. President W. Bush himself was "unable" to attend as hurricane Gustav threatened to remind people of Katrina, so in his stead they rolled out his lifelike lady Laura Bush and the sad clown, Joe Lieberman. It was tragic and awful in a Detroit Lions superfan sort of way.  Oddly though, the soporific broadcast was a HUGE contrast to the actual crowd at the Xcel center, where something akin to A Clockwork Orange style mental rehab descended on these darling old people in their silly hats. It was at this moment that the Republican party cemented itself as the "F**k You, I'm Eating" party. A fall from the halcyon days of being the "Hold my beer, watch this." party of Reagan. I fear that if this trend continues, the Republican party will have devolved into the party of "Grrr. Gay.", and not much else.

 There's no reason to think this is avoidable. I heard today that the pink and pudgy Newt Gingrich and the frothy Rick Santorum will be speaking at this thing and Donald Trump has threatened appear. Probably doing something awful and tacky because, hey, it's Donald Trump. The question is, can anything be done before this final descent into madness? Can we rescue any of our right-leaning friends and family before they become an episode of Honey Boo Boo on TLC?

 We must try. As the loser John Kerry said, "The high road is not always the easiest way, but it is the right way." Or something like that. So here are my humble suggestions for reaching out to people before the RepCon 2012 1860.

 1. Stop calling them names like "stupid" or "redneck".

Those terms are offensive to illiterate bumpkins and it lumps all wingnuts into the yokel demo, which we know isn't true. We must be mindful that the Republican party is a diverse group of crotchety white people. Heartless Bankers and Closeted Preachers hate to be called "Stupid Redneck" and calling them that is not at all constructive.

2. Find Common Ground. 

We can all agree that The Avengers was awesome, right? We can also all agree that sick people shouldn't be left to die because they are poor, right? Ok. Well, The Avengers was pretty awesome though.

3. Don't Mock Their Beliefs. 

"The world was created in 7 days" "There are still WMDs hidden in the sands of Iraq" "There's no such thing as global warming" All those things sound so incredibly stupid to us that it's mind boggling. I mean it's almost inconceivably dumb to believe those things. There are parasitic worms in the Amazon who know better than that. No matter how backwards or stupid their beliefs, it is not constructive to mock people for being purposely ignorant to actual facts.

4. Offer Them Gay Sex. 

Stay with me on this one. I know gays. I have often spoken to them and I watched The Birdcage the other night. Of the gays i know, none are as obsessed with gay sex as the Republicans seem to be. Actually, only one is, but only when he drinks. The logical conclusion to take from the gaysex fixation of the GOP is that they all want it desperately. They need it. So take a wide stance, and kindly offer. You needn't go out of your way to actually act on the offer, but you will probably have some good blackmail material.

5. Plead. 

Tell your conservo-pal them that you understand the importance of sticking to principle, that you understand their passion, you admire their ability to remain steadfast and you would welcome an honest debate. Remind them of the unseemly hoots and hollers of the republican primaries, the "You Lie" outbursts, and the ugly and racially tinged birthers. Point out that they are the party of Lincoln and that the obstructionist Tea Party crew in the house are doing them a disservice. Remind them they are better than all this garbage. Plead with them not to be a part of a party who is poised to nominate a man who stands for nothing other than being elected. Show them video of Mitt Romney saying anything and point out his uncomfortable demeanor and his dead eyes. At the very least, you'll get them to accept that Mitt Romney has no moral compass, and as we all know, acceptance is the first step to recovery.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Double Slit Experiment, Marshall McLuhan, and Social Media: Human Evolution in Action?

Most of us, and I thoroughly include myself on this, are completely in the dark about the insanity that is Quantum Mechanics. The entirety of my knowledge coming for easily accessible books on string theory like The Elegant Universe, or from oddly new-agey films like What the Bleep Do We Know? So when I revisited the double slit experiment last night, I was already slightly aware of the implications of it in a theoretical sense but i failed to see practical implications.

I'm jumping ahead of myself.

Instead of boring you to death with a written description of THE classic quantum physics experiment, I beg your indulgence with this video that explains it in cartoon form:

So this is what i correctly or maybe incorrectly gathered from that. Matter is capable of existing in two places at once, positing the potential of an "Alternate Reality" or a separate plane inhabited by the same particles.

I know. Mind = blown. It gets crazier.

If at a quantum and very basic level, matter can exist in multiple states, then all things can also theoretically possess the same qualities. Furthermore, that existence is affected by either an observer or measuring device, hinting at the possibility that our perception helps shape our reality.

Positing this, and I'm aware it is a huge and fanciful leap, reality may very well be a shared experience subject to our physical ability to comprehend the vastness of the universe. If this reality is an agreed upon or physically imposed limit, it stands to reason that reality may be influenced by People's agreement on a matter. Everyone agrees a fork is for eating, most people agree we should not kill our neighbors and so we do not. But does it change people?

For most of human existence only leaders, Kings, Queens, Popes and so on were subjected to public scrutiny. The masses would give them almost godlike attributes and in turn, they would exhibit those attributes themselves. One hardly needs to read many biographies to see the change that leaders undergo to become icons. Washington the blundering social climber becomes "Father of our country", Elizabeth I the bastard daughter becomes "Gloriana", and so forth.

Newspapers and Hollywood, would make the next round of subject of mass scrutiny and possible influence. How glamorous was Norma Jean until the public needed a Marilyn? When Britney had her kids with that doofus, did our shared repulsion affect and instigate that downward slide? I know people who feel a sense of shame and guilt for what happened to Anna Nicole, and were we not in a way responsible for it by encouraging her to live up to the preconceived mess ? Is the public scrutiny in a very physical sense potentially responsible for the outcome?

I fear the subject choices may detract from my wild jumps, so let's get back to something that is affecting us all.

Marshall McLuhan has famously stated that the "The Medium is the Message", that it doesn't matter precisely what we are saying, but rather how we are saying it. That our ability to communicate faster and at a more intimate level is forcing an evolutionary path where we are being forced to become more aware of the world around us and of each other.

McLuhan died before the internet, but his ideas are more true now than ever. As we have become more connected online, it has become increasingly obvious to many that there is a change in our behavior and how we interact. For better or worse our behavior is being projected at the very least to our immediate circles and at the most, to the world entire.

Does influencing the perception of you, eventually change who you are? Is the Internet, through connectivity, contextualizing everything and placing them in an agreed upon order? Are we evolving into a better ability to control what we perceive as real?

Deep stuff, but take the Arab Spring as an example. Can an oppressive government that doesn't control the flow of information exist is this day and age? There was a consensus among the people that this could no longer stand and suddenly, it didn't. How far will this go? Can we will ourselves into a better society? Is this the road to our ultimate destiny as a species?

Incredible times we live in.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Trap of Reciprocal Following on Twitter: How following your followers can hurt your message

Let me begin by saying that my choice to not have our brand follow all our followers has assuredly cost me numbers. It's been a long struggle and something I've questioned about our social media strategy from the very start as well as something I've had to defend from peers, casual critics, and social media pros alike.

The first of the two main arguments for reciprocal following is that it makes your followers feel like you are interested in them as well, and willing to be part of their conversation.

We all know the fallacy of that argument. We do not, in fact, give a rat's ass about what our followers had for dinner, nor do they EXPECT us to give a rat's ass. They care that we interact and opine on things they choose to interact with us about, but it would be weird and almost intrusive for The Comedy Store to comment on all our follower's tweets. Even if a random interaction is healthy and fun (Which they are.) they can be achieved without reciprocal following.

The second argument is a bit more undeniable. Choosing not to follow back affects the numbers of people who remain your followers. To that, I say "good riddance". Social media needs to cure itself of the "Thanks for the add" and number collecting mentality that helped drive Myspace into the ground. Reciprocal following only encourages number collecting in others and spammers who depend on that mentality to inflict their awfulness on the general population. Your content should be reason enough for your numbers. Your retweets and your interaction should be driving your numbers, not some sort of false feeling of inclusion and certainly not something sketchy like an algorithm.

Keeping the accounts you follow low and relevant allow you to further expand on what your brand stands for and what is important to you and your followers. The Comedy Store follows Scientists, Art Museums, Writers, Politicians, Local Businesses, as well as The Comedians who perform here and Comedians we WISH would perform here. Retweeting those people, and interacting with them is just as important for your brand management especially if you plan on expanding your sphere of influence to include content curation, a lifestyle blog and eventually the Holy Grail of online marketing, which is quality original content.

At the end of the day, the question for your brand must be whether its a simple numbers game or if you are preparing your followers for the expansion of your brand and cultivating a sense of ownership in something greater than just a company or a twitter account.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Citysearch at Rorke's Drift

Its an amazing thing to watch a company shoot itself in the foot. You'd think that there would be some sense of perspective inside a company that gathers opinions like Citysearch does, but when the promises of social media don't save your ass entirely, you feel like placing the blame somewhere and the hippies writing tweets and creating "community" seem like the perfect place to clean house. It seems to be a trend for companies to cut out their heart in an effort to save the body. The highest profile example of this was MySpace as they tried to be more like facebook and twitter, they slashed their music and comedy staff, the ONLY parts of MySpace that were actually working for them. Comix, the comedy club in NY, is in a similar boat having rid itself of the innovative Ochi's Lounge and holding "Club Nights" in the space in order to make ends meet. Who knows if that will work? My guess is that half a nightclub and half a comedy club make for a whole mess. Pabst Blue Ribbon after being bought by Los Angeles businessmen, is going through a similar rehashing where their Social Media reps are being slashed and community outreach is being curtailed in lieu of more traditional advertising. Ballsy, considering that PBR's success has been largely in part to its grass roots, divey, image. Now, Citysearch is getting rid of its editorial staff. Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and outreach are at a standstill.

The thing that all of these companies have in common, aside from their clumsy willingness to do away with the things that define them as unique, is the ominous and crushing competitor that looms over their very existence. MySpace had facebook biting at its heels, Comix has 3 more established Comedy Clubs in NY hoping for its demise, PBR has actual beer to compete with, and Citysearch has the behemoth known as Yelp.

All of this reminds me of on of my favorite movies- ZULU!

When faced with overwhelming odds (Ten thousand Zulu Warriors Vs. your 150) , you button up the top button your tunic, straighten up your pith helmet, and do what you do best. You are, after all, you. No one is a better "You" than you are, so you become the best "you" that you can be.

So who is Citysearch if not their content? They are no Yelp. Yelp's user generated content is a fearful and vengeful beast compared to the insightful tips generated by Citysearch's staff. Yelp is so big, that an attempt to compete rather than finding your niche and growing there, could result in the utter ruin of your brand by playing catch up where there is no need in a playground that's too big. This of course is assuming that competition with Yelp is behind the seemingly suicidal moves at Citysearch. Even if there is a just a tech readjustment, the personality crisis will probably be too much. Who wants to reimagine Citysearch as Citygrid when you can just "Yelp it"? All of this smacks of the manic "Changes" at Myspace before it settled into its current and smaller role. Unfortunately with the loss of E-Vite (Yes guys, e-vite is done, just admit it.) can "Citygrid" get any smaller before disappearing? Again, this is just assuming that it might be some sort of misguided rebranding. It could be, most horribly, a vicious cost cutting of full time professionals for cheaper part time labor which is illegal in places like France.

Whatever the case, I'm sure that this decision was not come to suddenly, and I'm sure the powers that be are well aware that they are risking a lot by switching gears rather than by reinforcing the strong points.

The lesson from this, I suppose, is yet to be seen. Rather than buckling down and relying on what works for them, like the men at Rorke's drift, Citysearch has doubled down that reinforcements and a new strategy will win the day, much like another heroic stand at a mission.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

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