Saturday, May 28, 2011

Man-Crush Island

Some time ago I was trying to convince a girl to watch Fast and Furious 5, and I tried to woo her with the prospect of Paul Walker. She then accused me of having a man-crush on Mr. Walker. This is not remotely accurate. To the best of my abilities, I would estimate that Paul Walker is an attractive man. There are always flukes out there that girls seem to like that seem entirely unattractive (Jack Nicholson, manatees, Robert Pattinson) but generally at least, I can tell if a man is classically attractive. But I don't think that man-crushes have any relation to attractiveness. Generally a celebrity man-crush is attractive, because generally we don't want ugly celebrities, but that aesthetic criteria really doesn't carry any weight where man-crushes are concerned.

I have also been accused of having a man-crush on a certain individual, simply because I made an unsolicited biography of his life. Again, interest in an individual doesn't a man-crush make. You can have a legitimate, academic, ironic or self-centered interest in someone, and have it not relate at all to man-crushing on them.

Some time ago I had a feature on my blog called My Island. It involved picking 10 women from television with whom I'd like to be stuck on a desert island. I think it started by talking about Kate from Lost, or else I was just day dreaming about women and/or islands. The list ended up including:

1. Kristen Bell
2. Evangeline Lily
3. Tina Fey
4. Gillian Anderson
5. Olivia Wilde
6. Kristen Chenoweth
7. Jenna Fischer
8. Tricia Helfer
9. Jennifer Garner

As with many projects I start, I never finished it. And I'm not going to now. Instead I'm going to provide you with a list of men with whom I'd want to be stuck on a desert island. I think that's probably the easiest way to define a man-crush. It's someone that you would want to hang out with, especially if that association was forced to be exclusive (such as being stuck on a desert island together.) Ideally I'd get to hang out with these guys when and where I wished, and even more ideally, we could all hang out together. But the reason for that is mostly because it might attract some of the original 9 girls from My Island. And no matter how cool I think the following 10 men are, I'd pick any of the women to be stranded with first. Hos before bros. But here would be the bros:

1. Stephen Fry

These aren’t necessarily in any order, but it’s well possible that I’d pick Stephen as my first choice. There’s a good chance that you don’t know who Mr. Fry is, but he may be the world’s most likable man. Just watch any video of him; I’ve never seen him NOT being charming. He’s a polymath, a polyglot, and a paragon of curiosity. Who better to talk to until you both starve to death.

Runners up for Stephen’s spot: his partner on QI Alan Davies, and his partner on Fry & Laurie Hugh Laurie.

2. David Bowie

I promise that not everyone on this list will be British. But in all honesty, lots of them will be. Also, I promise not all will be homosexual, as Stephen Fry is, and David once claimed to be bisexual (though he has backed off that claim in recent years.) What David Bowie is, above all else, is cool. I most definitely have a man-crush on the Thin White Duke. Plus, it would probably help to have someone of his massive fame stranded on the island as it would make people look harder to find us.

Runners up for Mr. Bowie’s spot: Thom Yorke, Wayne Coyne, Beck and Damon Albarn.

3. Bill Murray

You may notice, that these people are all old. This is partially because I’m old. But even more importantly, young people are often dull. Who wants to hang out with Shia Labeouf? Maybe in 30 years, but I highly doubt it. Bill Murray on the other hand, is eight kinds of awesome. He’s so cool he probably wouldn’t hang out with me even on that desert island, but I’m going to give him a spot anyway, just in case.

Runners up for Bill’s spot: frequent collaborator Wes Anderson.

Stay tuned for the remaining 7 members of Man-Crush Island.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Emo Music Mondays

Don't worry, not actually emo. And sorry to be back on the topic of music already. Work is boring at the moment, socializing is in the process of being jumpstarted, and deep thoughts just aren't deep enough to warrant posting. So, we're back to music.

Here are 3 songs about/relating to emotion.

1. Hooverphonic - Anger Never Dies

Hooverphonic has a new lead singer since the last time I listened to them. But they have the same slow-burn symphonic grandeur, so I'll allow it.

2. Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing

Lykke Li has been on my to-listen-to list for probably a year. I finally did, and she's awesome. She has happier stuff, if that's your bag.

3. King Charles - Love Lust

Ignore the hair, and just enjoy the song. Or, alternatively, enjoy the hair.

As a bonus, here's Lykke again, performing Sadness is a Blessing live, which gives it a bit of a different feel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cross-sectional analysis of annual nativity congratulations

A couple months back it was my birthday. I decided to do a little study of my friend demographics via facebook. Which state likes me best? Which gender? Which socioeconomic class? Inclusion criteria: being on facebook and posting on my wall on 3/22/11 from 0000 to 2400. Exclusion criteria: If you said happy birthday to me in person, via phone or text. I can't process the variables of these different communication techniques. Only facebook posts will be counted.

Results: 53 people responded to facebook telling them it was my birthday. At the time I had about 390 friends (in theory I was sticking to my friend cap of 365, but in reality that limit had been irreparably damaged) meaning this represented about 14% of my friends. I think I'm on the cutting edge of facebook sociology, so I don't have anything to compare this turnout to.

Gender breakdown: 77% female responses, 23% male. This isn't very surprising. For one, I'm sure my friend list skews heavily female, as my actual friends skew female, and the people that I add on facebook skews heavily female. Even if my female: male ratio was 50/50, it would be surprising if the men said happy birthday at the same rate as the women. It's kind of a girly thing to do, commentating on someone's birthday.

Marriage breakdown: 34% married response, 66% single response. These numbers are a little fuzzy, but I ended up including engaged responses as single, unless they got married by the time the study was performed, ie, this morning. I often defriend married people, so the fact that I have any response from them at all is somewhat noteworthy. But at this point the vast majority of my contacts over the years are married, so they have numbers on their side. And those marrieds I still talk to are among my closest friends, so this result isn't too surprising.

Mormon breakdown: 87% LDS, 13% non-LDS. Clearly, I need to stop hanging out with so many Mormons. But this isn't a surprising result when you take into account the years at BYU, on a mission, family members and current social circle in Arizona.

Location breakdown: 11% New York, 13% Utah, 4% Idaho, 28% Ohio, 34% Arizona, 9% Other. This isn't where the people currently live, but where I met them. This was kind of an interesting one, because the percentages relate to how social I was, I popular I was, how long I lived there, how long ago it was, and how well I've long-distanced. For instance, I know a lot of people in NY, but I haven't been back in years and have done a horrible job keeping up contacts. In fact, I had zero contacts from my years in Virginia. I would've expected Utah to be higher, as that was a very social 4 years, but again, I haven't kept up contact well. And as I've cropped my friends over the years to stay under 365, my Utah peeps have been thoroughly thinned. Ohio is about where I'd expect it, but Arizona was higher. Work has kept me minimally social over the last year, but I guess my periodic appearances have been enough to keep me in the general consciousness of the state. Other is mostly family members, so I couldn't well quantify where I met them.

Family breakdown: 9% family, 91% non-family. Not surprising.

Age breakdown: 91% of responses are from individuals within 5 years of my age, 9% are significantly older or younger than me. I've always been pretty agist, so this wasn't too far out of whack.

Medical breakdown: 13% medical professionals, 87% non-medical professionals. I included doctors, nurses and pharmacists. I'm surprised the med numbers aren't higher, but I've generally kept a little distance between my work associates and friends.

So there you have it. I'll let you know how next year turns out, though that study will not be blinded like this one. I'll also let you know what major medical journal this study will be appearing in so you can rush out and buy a copy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grey Music

The world is grey. Or gray, if that’s your preference. But it’s not black and white. Or, it’s rarely black and white. The portions of the world which are either black or white pale in comparison to the portion grey.

You could argue that seeing things in grey is a sign of being jaded or compromising, and in some cases it is. I really can’t make any definitive statements here when my point is that almost nothing is definitive. But more often than being a sign of a loss of clarity, I think seeing that things are grey is due to increased clarity, and in fact of maturity.

As a youth, I would have labeled music as good or bad. Now admittedly, I would have been a bad judge of what is bad. I distinctly remember us taking a poll in elementary school of our favorite types of music and I listed mine as reggae. Which wasn’t even accurate, because I meant calypso. Which isn’t even accurate because I was stupid. But at some point I started listening to music of my own volition (approximately 1994) and started to decide what was good and what was bad. I knew Achy Breaky Heart was bad. I knew Elastica’s The Connection was good. Black and white. (Incidentally, Black and White was good.)

Now I know that music is grey. Bad music has good bits; it’s black with islands of white. And I don’t just mean ironically bad: Insane Clown Posse and Rebecca Black are so bad they’re entertaining. I’m not necessarily looking for redeeming qualities in them. But music doesn’t have to be sublime masterpieces of tonal elegance to be worth listening to. They can be deeply flawed, but entertaining. In August I’m going to a Katy Perry concert. Is it going to be a masterclass of class or music mastery? Not remotely. It’s going to be a cute girl dancing to dance music. But I certainly expect that it will be fun.

In Thailand I’d sometimes watch MTV-Asia. Partly this was because it was the only channel in English, and partly because it was novel to see music videos on MTV. Now they did spend a lot of time playing Katy and Lady Gaga (one night they actually played Born This Way on repeat for an hour) but they did throw in some actual Asians every once in a while. The only one which I remembered enough to download when I got home was this:

There is no way anyone could describe this as a good song. Unless you speak Korean, you don’t understand the lyrics, but trust me, they don’t matter. There’s something refreshing about this manufactured pop nothingness. Somehow J-pop and K-pop and whatever other pops Asia makes seem even faker than ours. You just know that the groups are put together based on pictures of the members, not audition tracks. And the goofy little dance (how is it that they never jump in a song called Jumping?) is almost more of the video than the song. And while the popping and shaking was enough to grab my attention and lodge itself in my memory, it in and of itself is pretty inane; these girls don’t have the curves to be doing dance moves emphasizing their curves. But does the fact that this song is bad, and the video is bad, and really the whole industry producing this song is bad mean it can’t be enjoyed? No. I bet the song is already tunneled into your brain.

If someone told me that Jumping was their favorite song, I’d be sad for them. I’d probably also be talking to a 14 year old Korean girl. But if they told me they liked this song: great. So do I. It’s a fun piece of fluff. In the murky greyness of the musical spectrum, it’s on the whitish end.

Originally I’d intended to present further examples of grey people, situations etc, but I’m done. Extrapolate on your own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My friend wanted to make this video for her mother. I helped her. Here it is. I think it turned out pretty well.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Well unread

I have been surprised by the strong response to my last poll. Everyone seems quite concerned about which Union Jack may or may not grace the walls of my home.

A previous poll concerned what I should read while in Thailand. Suggestions included:

The New York Singles Regional Mormon Halloween Dance
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Hunger Games
Imperial Life in the Emerald City
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour - Salinger
Moonwalking with Einstein
The Year of Living Biblically
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Why Men Love B*****s
The God of Small Things

It likely surprises none of you that I ignored all your suggestions with reckless abandon. My actual trip reading list was:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Larsson
Invisible Monsters - Chuck Palahniuk
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

My point here isn’t to review these books (they were varying degrees of excellent) but just to point out my lack of faith in democracy. Also, to publically state that I need to read more.

In the past I was a voracious reader. I often blame med school/preparing for med school/recovering from med school as the reason I no longer read recreationally. It is very true that reading so much in a working capacity seems to tarnish the shine of reading recreationally. But it’s also true that I’m focusing too much on alternatives to reading. In an attempt to stay up to date with the cultural zeitgeist, I watch an obscene number of television programs and movies. Less obscene these days with my work schedule, but still, if you ask me about a television program, there is a good chance that I’ve at least previewed an episode or two.

Reading, so say the studies, is good for you. I should do more of it. I’m not going to make a resolution about a book a month. I’m not going to add one of those bars on the side of my page about what I’m currently reading. I’m just going to have a book, in my home, that I’m currently reading. And I’m going to have an actual list of books that are on my to-read list. And the books that are going to start off my to-read list are the following:

The Terror – Dan Simmons
The Wise Man’s Fear – Rothfuss
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
Fry: A Memoir
The Blank Slate – Pinker
Catch 22
Gravity’s Rainbow – Pynchon
The Grapes of Wrath
Portnoy’s Complaint – Roth
Ubik – Dick
Catcher in the Rye
Moonwalking with Einstein
The Book of General Ignorance – Mitchinson
More Information Than You Require - Hodgman
Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Feel free to keep recommending things, and I’ll at least read the Wikipedia article and call it good.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Freak Flag Fly

Like most heterosexual males, I receive a weekly newsletter from Bed Bath and Beyond. Recently in that newsletter I saw an add for a wall mural depicting a half dozen scenes from the United Kingdom. Doubledecker buses, bulldogs, Union Jacks etc. Self, I thought to myself, don't I need this?

The answer is no, I don't. To a large extent decorating in a guy's apartment is pretty counterproductive. I hardly notice the decorations that I buy, so they're not really attaining much value. And although the argument could be made that girls would notice the decorations and raise their esteem of the flat's occupant(s) I don't really believe that.

In my particular case, I doubly didn't need the mural because I have a bunch of South African stuff that I have never hung up; it's just sitting in my closet. And I have a lot of Japanese/Chinese stuff that I have previously hung up, but is currently sitting in my closet. Adding British stuff to the mix, that will almost certainly spend some, if not all, its time in my closet, just isn't cost effective.

YET, I decided I wanted it. So of course, it went out of stock. Which then led me on a search for new British paraphenalia that I could put in my closet. The top contenders are included below. Vote for one, or more importantly, vote that I be sensible and not buy one.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C