Archive for September, 2020

The Second War of the Flies

In the morning I go to the kitchen and I smile. I’m at the age that a clean kitchen in the morning makes me happy. Since I spend my early mornings there working, it makes me extra happy. N between these times, I often wonder what disappointment my twenty-year-old self would regard me with.

The table is clean. The counter is clean. I rub my finger along the stainless-steel stovetop and find embarrassing happiness at the cleanly squeak it makes. I click the coffee maker. It’s when I turn on the tap that something disconcerting happens.

Something takes off. From the sink. Correction: somethings.

Fruit flies.

I’ve dealt with these guys before.

It was 2016 when I first dealt with fruit flies. Not really, but 2016 was the first time I cared that I had fruit flies. In the two decades before that, I acknowledged fruit flies as annoying little roommates that moved in during the summer and died in the fall. They didn’t pay rent and they only ate stuff off the counter, but I didn’t like them. They were flying around like shrapnel. Also they were judgmental. The way they flew around and made jokes about my cleaning ability in the voice of the third-grade nun.

In 2016 I waged a war of cleaning products and internet hacks.

I begin a similar campaign in 2020.

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The Social Dilemma Dilemma

Last Sunday, Burke had won TV rights and so I was cleaning the bathroom while grumbling. When Burke has the TV, it usually means true crime or 90 Day Fiancée. History has shown that while I grumble about these shows, if I end up in front of the TV, I will instantly get involved. Who’s that? Wait, he’s with her? Oh, she’s a bi-atch. That guy has no neck!

I understand that this makes me something of a goldfish, but it is what it is.

On Sunday I made the mistake of walking in the room while Burke watched a docudrama called The Social Dilemma. Wait, who’s that? I asked. And it was over.

The brief: The Social Dilemma is about just how bad social media is for our mental health, for our productivity, and how extraordinarily addictive it is. Additionally, it points out how disturbingly intelligent the apps work to get you on the site and to stay on the site. It further went into how social media tailors information just for us and that it’s enormously manipulative. It was disturbing.

So disturbing that I had Burke pause it so I could get popcorn.

I related to every single point they made. Not since I fudged my answers to an Are you an Alcoholic? questionnaire in college have I been this freaked out. (NB: it didn’t matter. Are You an Alcoholic? 20 questions. If you answered 1 yes, you were an alcoholic. I didn’t help that the questionnaire made me feel a definite need to have a drink).

While I related to every aspect, there were two things that stood out to me.

First, whenever a task became the slightest bit difficult, the scrolling and capturing information of social media was right there waiting to offer me solace. This beats productivity and deep and critical thinking to death with a virtual shovel. In a two-virtual-birds-two-virtual-stones manner, it also creates a pattern of behavior – task gets hard, Momma Facebook is there to comfort.  

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On Blaming Mike Tyson and Pants

I should have stuck to sweats

My arms are little limp noodles at this moment. My elbows hurt, I mean the actual bone. One is never more keenly aware of their shoulders then when the simple act of opening a door sends searing pains along them. I have spent the last hour trying to pick my nose.

A couple of things led to my current state.

Saturday. I was sitting quite happily on my couch in a pair of sweats and a T shirt that I could use to safely parachute off my roof. Modern Family was on the Netflix. Saturday is Cheat Day, so for four hours my hand was engaged with sandwiches of differing meats, cheeses, and fillers. Namely, I was in heaven.

And then I had what could only have been a severe stroke, because I decided it was a great idea to get up from this paradise of carbs and comfy clothes and try on pants. Six pairs. I stacked the pants on the bed and I stood in front of the full-length mirror I was somehow convinced into including in our bedroom. If you want a word of advice, don’t have a full-length mirror in the room where you crawl out of bed in the morning with no pants on. It does nothing to offer one hope enough to get into the shower. A room, by the way, with another mirror and where we stand naked. (beginning to think there’s a conspiracy afoot).

I took off my sweats, sucked in my gut in lots of ways until it was acceptable, and took in a deep breath.

OK, here’s the thing. Like many of you, I gained a bit of weight that we can all blame on the pending end of days. I wasn’t allowed to walk anywhere, so my daily step count went from the high thousands to about 16. We didn’t eat too well during the worst period of self-isolation. Since things have let up in June, I have made sure that my day includes a long walk. We have improved our diet and we are back to one Cheat Day a week as opposed to six. Despite a lingering foot injury sidelined me from walking a few weeks ago, I kept up working out, and I have noticed miniature gains in terms of shrinkage. I still have a butt that one could land a toy helicopter on, but it’s OK, because I felt good. Yes, I was going to try on pants!

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The first mindfuck of the week was the word mindfuck. Of course, we know this term in a common use in English, but this was being used in a Czech article.

Téma: 10 filmových mindfucků, které možná neznáte

(theme: 10 mindfuck films you might not know)

Languages are absolutely filled with “loanwords,” which are words and phrases that we simply take from other languages and use as our own. We all (languages, that is) do it. So there’s no real penalty for appropriating language. We nabbed yoga from Sanskrit, klutz from Yiddish, and woodchuck from the Cree. It would take the rest of the year to list them all. We are linguistic thieves and it’s great.

Alongside content words, we have also snagged metaphors that we don’t change from the original. We use schadenfreude for pricks who like others’ misfortunate and je ne sais quoi to comment on someone who’s hot in a way that we can’t quite explain (ahem).

Some etymological sources put mindfuck in use back in the fifties and linked to brainwashing during the Korean War. But for most of us, the phrase gained meaning in the 2000s with the rise of the listicle and the new, surprising information about old things that can be conveyed. Now our minds are fucked by unusual history, film, and animal facts.

What makes the Czech use of mindfuck such a mindfuck is that mindfuck is a loan idiom. Sure, they have lots of loanwords as the internet, Facebook, globalization, western influence, and Quentin Tarantino  make “international” words far more in use here. Sorry, Paj, Komin (come in), are all seen now around Prague. Last month I walked past a restaurant which boasted Apel Paj and Snickers Paj spelled out in phonetic Czenglish. But mindfuck is the first idiom loanword I have really noticed. Perhaps in twenty years Czech will be a vastly different language.  

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