3

What Fresh Hell Can This Be: Stars

I haven’t been this inspired to write a blog post in a while, but here I am, and surprise, a rant. Well, more like a curiosity. Or a facepalm. You be the judge.

Last night, I was searching for some activities to use with my class today to teach the lesson of the day, humility. So, I do some Googling. Usually when I search for Thursday activities with ethical themes (truth, integrity, patience) I get homeschooling websites and blogs, almost always Christian. Sometimes, the activities are adaptable for a Jewish school, but if they include something from the New Testament, I click away. I came across this interesting website.

At first glance, it didn’t seem so bad. Then I scrolled down to read some of the details of the activity, and here’s an…interesting one.

Wear Humility: Cut a large star out of yellow or gold posterboard and tie yarn on it so it can be placed around a child’s neck. Explain that wearing the yellow star represents being prideful and place it around the child’s neck. Then, take off the yellow star and give the child a small star sticker to wear and explain that the smaller star represents being humble.

Image result for fran drescher

Ummmmmmmmmmm…yeah. About that.

Obviously, Stacy Zeiger, the author of this article, has either never taken a history course or has not spent enough time around Jews. For those of you who are unaware as to why this is a problem (and Ms. Zeiger, if you’re reading this), allow me to explain.

So, one time, there was this thing called World War II. During this time, the Holocaust occurred, and six million European Jews were killed. But before they were sent off to concentration camps, while they were still allowed to live in cities and towns, they were forced to wear identification in the form of a yellow star, usually saying Jude or Juif inside it, depending on the country and its language. They looked like this:

So, fast forward to now, where Stacy Zeiger is living in New Jersey and putting large yellow stars on children, as a negative symbol. If there ever was a time to clap back, it’s now.

Image result for oh no you didn't jewish

This ::clap:: does ::clap:: not ::clap:: fly ::clap::

Especially not in a Jewish school. I can only imagine this lesson being done in the classroom, and then Grandma coming to pick up little Sarah for a dentist appointment, only to see a room full of children wearing yellow stars symbolizing “excessive pride.” I think you’d need a paramedic before a dentist for that reaction.

I’m not saying that gold stars are bad. I have star stickers, some are yellow, and I use them sometimes. On papers, though. Not on humans. A yellow star on an essay says one thing; a yellow star on a person says quite another. I mean, seriously? Really? You thought this was a good idea to publish? On a website? For anyone to read?

I decided to look up a little more on this Stacy character, and I have to say, everything I’ve found is just. so. awful. Not in an evil way, but…she just sounds terrible. She lives in Bridgeton, New Jersey, even though she is originally from Ohio with degrees from Miami University and Ohio State. She’s a Christian, which goes without saying. According to her Twitter, she’s “Mother of the Year.” Her Amazon.com page is full of self-published books with crappily-designed covers.

Humility is an important lesson, but yeah, this is probably one of the dumbest ways anyone’s thought to go about it.

A gold star for you, Stacy.

Image result for fran drescher shade

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15

No, You Are Not

***This post was one I was planning a few days ago but ended up going to sleep before posting. Here, it appears in its entirety. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.***

I’ve posted about reality television before, and my love/hate relationship with it over time, but the current state of reality television is deplorable.

Reality TV used to be so cutting-edge, trendy. You had the community building shows of Survivor and The Real World.

And then, other things happened. I’d thought I’d seen the worst of it, from My Super Sweet 16 to The Anna Nicole Show to anything starring Paris Hilton, a Kardashian, or a Real Housewife.

But these were all just mile markers on the road to Hell. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but we’re getting close with MTV’s Are You The One? It’s a show where 20 young, pretty and serially single people (10 male, 10 female) are sent to a house in Hawaii. The prize money: one million dollars. The task: find their “true matches” among the group, decided by some combination of “personality tests, interviews with friends/family/exes, computer analyses, and matchmakers (and oh yeah, some producers).”

Normally, right about here and now I would post a picture of something pertaining to the show here, but I can’t even bear to look at it, so here’s Adam Levine with his thoughts on what I’m about to share with you:

Nearly everything about this show is wrong. Completely, categorically, ethically, morally, genuinely, physically, wrong.

Let’s not even start with the people; let’s just start with the concept and given circumstances.

The concept of the show is simple: it’s basically like Concentration, only with human beings instead of cards. There are potentially 1000 (don’t quote me) combinations of housemates. More on that later. But what is MTV trying to prove? There is absolutely no reference to any sort of independent verification that these “couples” are anything other than arbitrary – for all we know, they could be changing them every week just to screw them over and confuse them – no statisticians, no named advisers, no Pat from Ernst & Young with the results envelope. It’s as shady, opaque, and nonsensical as a television show concept can get. This concept might be meant to give viewers at home the impression that “hey, anyone can find love!” but it comes off more as “these attractive people can find love because we picked them to spend every waking moment together for the next few weeks during which they will pair off, sooner rather than later!” Like many other dating shows, it engages in what I’d like to term single-shaming. What I mean by that is that it gives off the message that 1) being single is not okay, 2) if you are single, there is something wrong with you, 3) everyone’s first priority should be to hook up with someone, 4) that someone is worth more if he/she is attractive, 5) hooking up is more important than getting to know someone and 6) if you are sexually promiscuous, you merit one million dollars.

As most MTV shows are, it’s a tropical location in Hawaii, in which most of us can’t even fathom living. And of course, there doesn’t seem to be any food in the house, but more alcohol than a frat party. The above two facts are pretty much staples, but what takes the cake is the bedroom situation. There is only one, gigantic bed for 20 people. Granted, there is a private room with a bed for two, but that’s clearly meant for something else, something that is probably going to happen in the other bed. It’s a tossup as to what MTV is glorifying more in this setup: a bordello or an orgy. Basically, MTV is begging these people to have sex with one another when the whole show is about finding one’s perfect match. If you knew your perfect match was there, would you want to know that he/she has done every other member of the opposite sex in the house? That’s just a setup for major disappointment, pretty much ensuring that none of these relationships will last.

Then, there’s the people.

To start with a positive note, there is plenty of diversity among the group, which is a good thing; only about half of the cast is white. The rest are a mix, however, in true MTV fashion, no Asian males are represented, and the only Asian female could just about pass for white. On the negative side, look at their bodies. All the women are shorter than the men, skinny, toned, and with long hair. All the white girls except one are blonde. All the men are built like athletes, and I believe that all but one or two has tattoos. Not one person on the show is overweight, underweight, has body hair, has any sort of physical disability, and aspires to be anything other than a model/actor/musician/DJ/dancer/singer. Nor are there any homosexuals, when statistically, there should be at least two. And none of them have an ounce of self-respect.

How they’re playing the game is completely wrong. What is more important, getting drunk and having sex on MTV’s dime (which will eventually go away, and soon) or trying to beat MTV at their own game and win the million dollars (which will last longer and have a much bigger impact on their lives, either as couples or as individuals? Obviously, the second, but nobody here is using their brains. They get several chances to discover who the couples are with the “truth booth” and the moonlight ceremony-thing, but it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to get a pen and paper, make a chart, and plot their guesses rather than taking shots in the dark. Seriously, people? Prioritize.

The “competitions” are the height of lameness and laziness. The first competition did nothing but promote flaunting one’s body, by taking selfies of any part of their body (some of whom merit TV blurs); an activity that is rewarded here, but is seen as shameful in the outside world. Ogling over each other’s pictures and guessing which body part belongs to whom is an exercise in one thing: physical beauty is the only thing that matters.

There is not one iota of truth in any of the interactions or confessionals shown on TV. Usually, on shows like this, sometimes genuine emotions slip in, and sometimes the editors are smooth enough to fool the viewers. Here, nobody’s fooling anyone. Every single thing looks manufactured. One of the episode’s subplots involved two girls fighting over a bed, encountering drama at every turn and involving every single person in the house, regardless of where they were at the time and if they had a stake in – or even knowledge of – the actual problem. When another girl steps in to “help,” you can almost hear the producer whispering in her ear, “hey, go follow her, talk to her, and when she starts to talk, don’t stop and listen, just get louder, and if she won’t stop, just clap your hands at her.” Another subplot was the theft of one of the guys’ personal diaries. It seemed like everyone in the house except for the victim knew where the diary was and who took it. In fact, in one of the confessionals, a girl even says to the camera who did it, thereby killing any sort of suspense. Then, they switch over to the guy who did it, whose reason for doing it is so lame and rehearsed that even a first-grader could make up a better answer. Of course, the diary is found when the camera scrolls to the love seat in which it’s hidden, and the incident completely disappears from the rest of the episode. Oh, and then there’s the fact that the night vision cameras in the “private bedroom” have put things on TV that wouldn’t even appear on the Spice Channel…

I can’t even. I just can’t even. I can’t believe I actually watched this crap. It made me feel dead inside. Screw you, MTV, I want those two hours of my life back.

4

Take Your Toddler Off the Table

One time, I was having a perfectly lovely dinner in Houston with my friend, and her friends, who are a young couple with an adorable baby girl who sat and cooed in her stroller the whole time. What happened after dinner absolutely grossed me out. It wasn’t at a particularly fancy place, but it was gross nonetheless.

They put their baby daughter on the table.

On. The. Table.

I don’t know what possessed them to do that, but they did it anyway. And not only did they put her on the table, they picked her up and put her on her feet on the table as if she was dancing. Dancing. In her shoes. Only slightly less gross than if she were in her socks, or barefoot.

I just don’t get it.

If I put my own feet on the table at any point during the meal, you’d be disgusted. Same goes for anyone putting their foot on any dining table while it is being used thusly. You don’t know what’s on the bottom of that person’s shoes, or if their shoes look nice but their feet are dust mops.

Speaking of complete slobs, I knew a girl in Amherst who was one. Well, at least on the outside. She looked like she never showered or brushed her hair, always wore grungy looking outfits which were usually baggy, monotone, and polyester, and had gigantic, oddly-shaped glasses. But appearances aren’t everything, personality is important too…and personality she had. Of a dirty dish towel. She wasn’t an awful human being, just a dull one. I tried to find something redeeming about her, so I tried to grasp at straws. She was usually barefoot, and her feet weren’t grotesque-looking at first glance, but then, I saw her sit down and put her feet up, and on the bottoms? Let’s just say that she possessed a pretty dark and disgusting sole, times two. That is the image I have in mind whenever anyone’s feet, including an adorable little girl’s, go anywhere near where I’m eating or have eaten. Then there’s the whole issue of parents thinking that everything their children do is cute, but that merits a whole different blog entry.

So don’t put your children on the table and especially his/her feet. Or your own feet for that matter. Ever.

Except if the meal is completely finished, and the table has an inset lazy Susan.

Then, it’s adorable, as seen by Figure A (just imagine the record player inset within the table):

0

B-A-N-A-N-A-S

This morning’s grocery shopping trip was for fresh food: eggs, vegetables, fruit, et cetera. All told, I got $40 worth of delicious healthy eats. I get in my car at about noon, hit up a few more stores, get home in time to grab coffee with Vincent, head over to the department to do some stuff, stop at the post office, and then head back home to take the groceries out of the car. It’s about 4 PM – a fact I remember since my building manager was just leaving for the day and I said hey to her as we crossed paths and I pick up my mail. Ooh, yay, a book.

I get upstairs, and unload my groceries. The eggs survived the trip. The spices smell great. The strawberries look so good that I wash one and eat it immediately, reveling in the goodness. The last thing out of the bag are one of the best sources of fuel and potassium, and…

All. Brown.

They were NOT like that when I bought them. If there was ever a food-related conspiracy, it would be bananas. I just paid for them and they couldn’t even make it home before turning on me. What gives? I thought we had a deal, ‘nan? So there’s money thrown away.

Just for fun though, I open the brownest one…and it’s not even ripe inside. NOT. EVEN. RIPE.

I can’t even.

So now I have a bunch of sad, brown bananas that need to ripen.

Yellow Fruit: 6, Me: 0.

There are some battles in life that you just can’t win.

 

0

Surely You Joust

No weekend is ever complete around my parents’ house without the local Jewish periodical, which in Baltimore is bears the ever-so-creative title of The Jewish Times. Technically, it’s Baltimore Jewish Times, and around here, it’s known as the BJT, for short. And speaking of short, is it ever these days; the economy has administered a beating to print publications, and what used to be a thick volume is now smaller than some of the folders I got when I was apartment hunting.

Though they’ve had some good stories over the years, they’re not exactly known for their editing process. Growing up, it was a Friday-evening post-dinner game, “find the errors in The Jewish Times.” Usually, there were only a few, and sometimes they were funny. But sometimes, completely wrong. For example, when my family’s synagogue hired a new rabbi a few years back, someone wrote a lovely article about him and congratulated him on his new position as rabbi of Ner Israel. Except…the synagogue’s name is Ner Tamid. Ner Israel is a school, specifically a yeshiva, that is just as well respected as Ner Tamid, but is not at all related despite having a somewhat similar name. Anyone who’s Jewish and from Baltimore could tell you that. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just once – everyone makes mistakes – however, it was sprinkled throughout the whole article. Whoops. Sometimes the most interesting things in there are the letters to the editor pointing out the flaws and mistakes. Those are always fun.

Anyway, this week, I opened up to this article, entitled “Maryland’s State Sport Takes to the Holy Land,” by Simone Ellin.

“Wonderful!” I thought, as I prepared to read a lovely piece about our illustrious and unique state sport.

But there were no foils or fillies to be found: it was about lacrosse.

WHAT?

Our state sport is not lacrosse, it is jousting. Every fourth-grader in Maryland knows that. Even my mother, who in all her years of teaching never made it past the third grade, knew that’s what our state sport was. That’s one of the few things that we have that makes us cool. Sure, we have an awesome flag, great shellfish (from what I’ve been told), and daytime talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, but jousting is what gives us the edge; it makes up for our boring license plates, our crappily-designed state quarter, and the fact that there is no clear consensus on how to even pronounce the name of our state. Unlike most major sports, however, jousting never really took off recreationally. None of our schools have jousting teams. Dick’s and other fine sporting goods retailers do not carry lances in their stock. And, sadly, even though equestrian events have a place at the Olympics, jousting has never been one of them.

This led me to wonder: what would it be like if we took our state sport as seriously as our state bird, the Baltimore Oriole? The Baltimore Oriole has not only lent its colorful wings but its name to our sports community, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the state who isn’t aware that our state’s baseball team = our state bird. We’ve already got the horse entertainment market partially covered with the Preakness Stakes, so expanding our horizons to jousting can’t be that much of a stretch. What would our state’s jousting team name be? The Maryland Marauders? And of course, there would need to be a commissioned league or something, so we could lord over (no pun intended) the New York Knicker-Knights (pun…intended?). Schools would need more green space in order to keep the horses. There would be jousting scholarships. There could be all sorts of medieval merchandise sold at games, like big turkey legs, and you’d have to dress up in period attire to attend, because that is what you do, obviously. And of course, there’d be the first thrust, done by some famous celebrity associated with horses, like…Benedict Cumberbatch from War Horse. Kids could join in the fun too; we’d have Little Leagues for aspiring knights in shining armor. In these times of equal opportunity, the sport would be open to women and girls as well. Reruns of The Saddle Club would have ratings that went through the roof. All disputes would be settled on horseback. Instead of voting for mayor or governor, there would be a duel. Somehow, I think Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could totally hold her own.

Back in the real world, I glazed through the article and then decided to look up Ms. Ellin. According to her Facebook, she’s not even a born and bred Marylander, she’s from – you guessed it – New York. And yes, that did need both highlight and underlining because this explains a lot. Apparently she’s lived here since 1997, but she’s clearly still got a lot to learn. What she definitely needs is a fourth-grade teacher – or a fourth-grader – to look over her work.

Although, to be fair, later that night my dad and I looked it up and though jousting has been our official sport since 1962, lacrosse has been our official team sport since 2003, by which point I was already a sophomore in high school and therefore past the point in my life where I was taught such information. Even though Ms. Ellin squeaks by on a technicality the title is still incorrect, it should say “Maryland’s State Team Sport Takes To The Holy Land.” That would solve the problem aptly even if it did destroy the flow of the title or cost the JT an extra eighty-five cents in color printing per issue. However, this doesn’t address the overarching problem with this situation.

I still want to see an article about Israel’s next Ivanhoe.

Works Cited:

Ellin, Simone. “Maryland’s State Sport [sic] Takes To The Holy Land.” 2 January 2014. Baltimore Jewish Times. <http://jewishtimes.com/marylands-state-sport-takes-to-the-holy-land/#.UsjgGPRDs_Y>

0

Platinum Child

You’ve heard of the Golden Child, right? All-American, popular, wealthy, straight As in high school, perfect attendance, grade point average, teeth, and hair?

And that phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth?” As in, the top 1%?

Well, this series of interconnected memories is about a person I went to high school with who was neither one of these.

He was worse.

Meet…The Platinum Child.

Disclaimer: For fear of being sued, I’ll just call him Platinum. If you happened to have gone to high school with me or are slightly older or younger, you may or may not know who I’m talking about.

Platinum showed up in my high school in 7th grade. He came equipped with a laptop. He said he had a “learning disability,” but it was basically to show off that he was loaded and not shy about it. Also, that his parents would get for him everything that he wanted and more. His parents also must have given generously to the school, because his behavior was tolerated by just about every teacher. This was in the time before laptops, so everyone was naturally jealous of how we’d be taking notes in history and he’d be playing around with his webcam.

The first time I knew something really wasn’t kosher here was in 8th grade. By this point, we all had laptops and since it was the golden age of AOL Instant Messenger (long before Facebook!), we were constantly chatting on it. So constantly, in fact, that the school completely blocked anything having to do with AIM or AOL. Fair enough, given that five years later, the rest of the world would too, so I guess they were ahead of the curve. For me and most of my other classmates, it was like “well played, school. It was fun while it lasted,” and went back to taking our notes and writing our papers. Platinum and I were in the same science class, and as the teacher was walking around the room while talking about something having to do with physiology, Platinum’s screen caught her eye. His Yahoo! was open (a no-no), and the search term? She helpfully enlightened the rest of us. “AOL Firewall Hacking Technology.” BUSTED. Infuriated, she stopped class and called the principal over the intercom. Well, actually the vice-principal. He came down and took Platinum out of the class for about 90 seconds, and sent him back into the room, saying “we talked about it, and he won’t do it again.” Okay, maaaaybe a first strike, but had it been me? Who knows.

Next stop: 10th grade. Same science class together, same teacher, same room even. It’s first period, and we’re taking a chemistry test. I’m not the best science student, but by this point in my high school career, I’ve figured out what to study and how to take this teacher’s test so that I will get an A (aka, the normal high school student thing). Writing, writing, writing, la dee da…then a tap on my shoulder. It’s the science teacher, and she takes my test away and leads me outside the classroom. I am about to pee in my pants, wondering what I did wrong, when she sits me in a desk, saying “Platinum was sitting behind you copying your answers, so for the rest of the semester, you can take your exams in the hallway so nobody will copy you.”

WTF?

I didn’t really care that much at the time, I was just happy that I wasn’t really in any trouble (even though it sure felt like it!) and what do you know, I did well on the test and got to have my own little bubble while taking it. Later on, I realized that I’d been completely scapegoated by Ms. Science Teacher. For one thing, HE was the one cheating, so shouldn’t HE have been excused from the room, the class, the school? As far as I know, nothing happened to Platty.

And every science test until the end of 10th grade, I had to sit in the hall like a naughty puppy. And it doesn’t even stop there.

Fast forward to 11th grade. By then, Platinum’s got cheating down to an art. His strategy? Whenever we had a test in any period before lunch, he would say something to the teacher along the lines of “I don’t feel ready to take the test, can I take it in the library during lunch?” Of course, the teachers would say yes, and of course, before lunch, he’d have a cheat sheet ready, or an old copy of the same test. The librarian (read: barbarian) was supposed to “watch” student test-takers in this situation, but she usually had better things to do. No, not tequila, but usually harassing all the students, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, Platinum’s cheating was a known fact among the students by this point, and for one guy in our grade, it ground his gears so much that he set up a sting operation. Camera phones were not too common by this point in time, at least not among us high school students, but he had one – no word on whether it was his or his parents’.

I’ll call him Cam.

So here’s what happened:

Platinum did his normal lunch-test-taking thing. As he entered the library, Cam was already there, just hanging out at a computer nonchalantly, doing his thing. Platinum pulled into a study carrel, took out several pieces of paper, and started with the dirty deed. While he was setting up shop, Cam had pulled a book out of a nearby bookshelf a short distance away, and was pretending to read, but instead focused his camera on Platinum and acquired the incriminating evidence. That night, he uploaded them onto his computer, enlarged them, cropped them, and made them black-and-white to really bring out the contrast. The pictures clearly showed Platinum with his test on the desk, a pencil in his right hand, and another piece of paper marked with a big bold A across the top. It’s almost like Platty wasn’t even trying to hide it. The next day, Cam brings in the pictures and shows them to a few students along with an anonymously written letter addressed to our principal (who was a complete moron) explaining exactly what was going on in the pictures, as if it wasn’t evident enough. Between classes, he pulled aside some students, showed them everything, and asked them to sign along the bottom, so Cam could maintain his identity should the plan backfire. As head of the high school photography staff, I was impressed with the results, and this combined with my complete dislike of Platinum made me grab the first writing utensil I saw (it was a black pen, I remember) and sign my name in the boldest letters I could. By the end of the day, he’d gotten a bunch of signatures from students, and at least one teacher, who all promised to keep his secret. He slipped the items into a blank manila envelope and under the door of our principal’s office. Mission complete.

The result?

Well, the next day, we went to school. It was a normal day, and then…

…we went home.

Nothing happened.

Nothing.

Granted, we don’t know if he’d had some sort of parent-teacher conference, or had an out-of-school requirement, but as far as we could see, nothing, nada, zip.

And that’s not even the worst part.

Here we are, first semester, senior year. Platinum and I are in the same second period class taught by Rabbi Awfulbaum. Rabbi Awfulbaum was probably not a horrible person, but he also had a pulpit that semester, therefore rendering his unable to teach 75% of his classes. So, it was basically either study hall or take a quiz on the homework and readings under the “watchful” eye of a sub.

So, one day, Rabbi Awfulbaum is out on official rabbi business (big shocker) and we’re given a quiz, overseen by today’s patsy, Rabbi Naiveman. The quiz is relatively short. Among the first to finish are Platinum and a friend of his. He goes to turn in his paper, and asks if he and his friend can go get a drink. “Sure,” says Rabbi Naiveman (spoiler alert: bad move). The rest of us keep working.

Time ticks by, and most of us are done with the quiz and are either doing homework or just sitting and talking. Rabbi Naiveman realizes he hasn’t seen either of the boys since the first ten minutes of the ninety-minute period, and he’s starting to wonder how getting a drink could take so long. Another student leaves the room for the same purpose and comes back a few minutes later, upon which Rabbi Naiveman asks him if he’s seen the two of them, to which the student says no. He asks one or two of the boys in class if they could go find Platinum and Friend, who are probably just roaming the halls or making trouble. They return after a walk around the school, and like the guy before, they haven’t seen them. It’s been an hour at this point, and Rabbi Naiveman is getting nervous. He intercoms the main office, asking them to make an announcement for Platinum and Friend to return to the main office. He lets us out a few minutes early so he can go to the main office and explain that two students left class and didn’t come back.

Third period happens, then lunch, then fourth period. Several more announcements go over the intercom. The two students are officially missing. Fifth period comes and goes, and no one can say that they’ve seen them either in or out of school, and nobody knows where they went.

I don’t actually know exactly how things unfolded after that. I believe that the police came, or at least a call was made. Students and teachers were genuinely worried. School ended, and we all went home, wondering what became of Platinum and Friend. Rabbi Naiveman was probably crying off in a corner somewhere, or at least redoing his resume and looking at the want ads.

The next day, I went to school, and still knew nothing, but that they weren’t there. As usual, the school did a crappy job of covering up what actually happened, but word got around that they’d been found, at a 7-11. Just hanging out, or whatever it is that scummy 18-year-olds do when they cut school and nearly give the administration a heart attack.

Here are two versions of what I heard happened:

1) Someone (a parent, or a student who’d left early that day) had seen them at the 7-11, and either called in a tip or came to school to give them the news, whereupon one of their parents or someone from the school went out to said 7-11, found them there, and took them home. And then spanked them and sent them to bed without supper.

2) They actually came back to school after the school day had ended but before everyone had left, and walked in as if nothing happened, got busted, and sent straight home to get spanked and sent to bed without supper.

Either way, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although Platinum’s Friend rejoined us for the remainder of the year, claiming “it wasn’t his idea,” and getting to graduate with us but not attend graduation, this was the end for Platinum. He was finally gone. Kicked out. Expelled. Game over.

I didn’t shed one tear for him, but I did wonder what would happen to his life now that his permanent record included getting kicked out of a private high school, where he lied, cheated, and broke the rules constantly. Plus, he had a horrible personality. And he was not nice, either. I wondered if I’d see him serving me pizza, or bagging groceries down at the store.

Well…I was wrong.

In 2005, Facebook happened. As college freshmen, all of us added each other as friends. I searched Platinum’s name…and learned that he was indeed attending college, a private university somewhere in New York.

An actual university.

WHAT THE HELL?

He wasn’t the Devil Incarnate, but you tell me: if you or I pulled all the crap that he did, where would we be right now? Probably in prison, or working at a K-Mart somewhere.

And all because his mommy and daddy had enough money to get his record expunged, or at least the connections to get him into a university.

I don’t like to use the word “hate” anymore, but I’m at about one level separated from using the word. I dislike this. I dislike him. I dislike him. This is just plain wrong.

Am I just jealous? No, not in the least. I had my own issues in high school, but managed to get myself together enough to survive without much carnage. Am I bitter? Not really, no. Yeah, I was made to feel like a dog, but since high school, I’ve gotten to go to university, graduate with honors, spend a year overseas, and be awarded things based on merit, talent, and hard work, rather than a trust fund. So, how do I feel? Other than disgusted at him, his family, our school, and the system that rewards people who behave badly if they can afford to pony up the green, I kind of feel sorry for him. I wonder if he’s reflected on anything he’s done, anything he’s done. I wonder if he wished he’d done things differently, and regretted. I wonder if he’s found fulfillment in something, and if he’s become a better person.

And then I usually think of something else. Crap, it’s 1 AM, I’m still on the couch in my sweats and I need to shower and get into bed so I can get some reading done or something.

The last time I ever saw him was at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. My dad and I were driving from Amherst to Baltimore during a break, and while stuck in a horrible clog of traffic, my bladder decided to turn into the Hindenburg, so we drove illegally on a shoulder until we got to a rest stop, whereupon I ran through the building, clutching my stomach, to the nearest toilet. While I was running, he was walking in the other direction and I’m sure he didn’t notice me but I immediately recognized him. Only now he was much taller, thicker in the chest and arms, had a little more facial hair, and clad in a standard scumbag-possibly-still-living-in-the-90s ensemble: oversized white wife beater, baggy jeans, cap turned to the side, and a Jewish star on a chain around his neck, walking with the swagger of someone who used the word swagger in daily conversation. It was just a brief glimpse, but it told me all I needed to know about who Platinum was today.

Anyway. I made it to the bathroom on time, and had such a relieving post-urination afterglow that I forgot all about what I just saw.

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Foodies? What?

First of all, I’d like to dedicate today’s post to my friend Joann, a loyal reader of my blog, so happy birthday, Joann!

The rest of this post has absolutely nothing to do with you at all though.

Ranting is not a hobby of mine – I try not to let little things bother me too much anymore, but sometimes things frustrate me because I don’t quite understand them. So don’t take this as a complaint, but rather as something that I find puzzling, pretentious, and overall, just odd.

Foodie.

So I’ve heard this term being thrown around for awhile, and don’t quite know what it means, but it makes absolutely no sense to me. All of us are humans, and all of us need to eat food to survive. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lobster dinner or a cup of beans – food is food. Sustenance, nourishment, fuel for your brain and body. As far as I know, most people like eating at least one type of food. Even finicky four-year-olds will eventually break down and eat something. Unless you’re allergic to every food in the world, are on a feeding tube,or are on hunger strike, chances are, you’re consuming food at some point during your day. Lately I’ve been eating tiny bits and pieces of things when I get around to it, but yeah, I eat, hopefully at least a few times a day. Simply put, everyone likes food.

What I don’t get is, why people call themselves foodies. What is a foodie? What does it mean? Someone who likes to eat food? I eat food. You eat food. Former teen pop star Deborah Gibson eats food. So…doesn’t that make all of us foodies? Which destroys the purpose of the specialized term?

“But wait, Jacob, I have refined tastes in food.”

Um, doesn’t everyone? Just because you enjoy sushi, iced caramel macchiatos, and pigs-in-a-blanket does mean that someone else, somewhere else in the world (who doesn’t call themselves a foodie) doesn’t? I think that everyone appreciates well-cooked food. It’s not like you go to a restaurant and say, “yeah, I’ll have the uncooked meat, with the inedible slop sauce on the side, and something that’s so burnt that you can’t tell if it’s food or a decomposing animal? Oh, and a Mountain Dew.” People like eating food. Most people, when given the chance to eat exotic, expensive, or delicious food, wouldn’t be so picky or turn it down. They’d eat it. They’d either enjoy it, or not enjoy it, but either way, they’d shut up about it. Besides, not all foods are inherently better tasting than others – everyone possesses a different palate. I’ve eaten pizza and hamburgers that were out of this world, and had cute, tiny, and ultimately tasteless salads and fancy desserts that were beautiful but dry, or spongy, or if I was on that episode of Friends, filled with meat, but, that doesn’t make any sort of food more valuable than any other. Just because the food costs more or requires more effort to make, that doesn’t put you above or below anyone else. It all comes out of you the same way anyway.

“But what about professional food critics/wine critics?”

Okay…now that’s a profession, not a quality of a person. That person may be paid to write reviews of places like Olive Garden (if you haven’t read the review of the first Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota, you are missing out on one of the simplest joys of life, no joke), they aren’t necessarily always eating high-end haute-cuisine every night. Food critics probably eat some meals much like the rest of us – hurriedly and with our fingers – and some may even enjoy Burger King or Subway, any day of the week. And chances are, if you’re reading this and you call yourself a foodie, you’re probably not a food or wine critic in your daily life – you’re just a person with preferences for certain types of food.

So, I went to Professor Wikipedia, where I found this definition:

foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicure can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude. (Wikipedia.org)

Hmmm. Sometimes I like to go out to new restaurants and try new foods. That’s how most people decide what they like and what they don’t like. It’s called using your right of choice to select what you put in your mouth. And that last sentence, about gourmet and epicure falling out of favor? Please. Those words actually sound like you know what you’re talking about when it comes to how you like your food. And the word foodie? Not a bit less “stodgy or snobbish.”

Also on the Wikipedia page, it had a link, under a section entitled “Criticism of the word.” So apparently, I’m not alone. This link led me to a blog post by James Norton on Salon.com called “Chow Down, Dude”. In it, Norton interviews a guy named Chris Onstad, who apparently writes a comic strip about food, and cute animals, which I will read one day and spend several hours ignoring all other responsibilities. In the interview, this exchange happened:

NORTON: Speaking personally as a blogger who once invoked the word “foodie” when writing about your strip, I’m now painfully aware that this is not a term you care for. What’s your distaste for the word “foodie”?

ONSTAD: The first time I ever heard a friend say it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, my gut twisted, and I felt angry for some reason. Why do we need this fake new word? There are so many words that already describe the concept of people who like food, or enjoy cooking, or enjoy knowing about cooking. “Foodie”: It’s like the infantile diminutive — you put a “y” on the end of everything to make it childlike. We don’t need it. It’s embarrassing. “I’m a foodie.” Oh my God (Norton).

Chris Onstad, I don’t know you, but THANK YOU. “Oh my God” kind of says it all. I’m all for hipster-ness, but it is indeed embarrassing in its pretentiousness. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, it actually makes you sound like kind of a jerk, almost implying that you’re so special that you don’t eat normal-people food but instead you eat sparkly-unicorn-magic food that flies out of a giant kitchen in the sky staffed by angels and served to you by Jesus onto a tiny little snowflake-shaped seven-grain “artisan” cracker. No. That is not true. You eat food, and then you go on with your life. Simple as that. Get over yourself, people.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a hot, steaming plate of boiled inedibles, with an exquisite creme brulee for dessert.

Mmm, creme brulee.

Works Cited

Norton, James. “Chow Down, Dude.” Salon.com10 April 2007. <http://www.salon.com/2007/04/10/onstad_qa/>.