03 March 2011

The Study of Rational Debate

While there is a large segment of the population averse to any form of confrontation or conflict, healthy debate has an important place in the fabric of our society. Through arguing, we can form and refine our opinions on the world around us. Should our arguments come from a seat of truth and logic, we can expect to win others to our side, eventually shaping opinion on a much broader scope.

In order to find flaws in our own arguments, we must rationally examine others. We must pick apart their weaknesses and consider their strengths. Debate is like any other discipline. It takes practice and study in order to become a master of the craft. The best place to find critical arguments taking place is the website known as YouTube. Here, you will find many an individual expressing their viewpoints, usually within the context of a particular video. The conflicts are quick and electrifying, with each point/counterpoint enlightening not only the opponent, but also the observer. Let's examine one such example in depth.

Miley Cyrus, "Party in the U.S.A."

Recognizing that several comments on the page were disparaging Ms. Cyrus, an astute citizen of the world named Knowthyself24 reacts with this piece of cogent thought:

u fuckers r mean as fuck..............dam ironicallly she got more money than all of us on here........american is a place of trends truly

Knowthyself24's argument is layered so deeply that a single glance is not enough to capture the meaning behind it. Let's start with the opening volley, "u fuckers r mean as fuck". Knowthyself24 admirably dispenses with pleasantries and gets right to the heart of the matter. Not only does this do a nice job of setting up her argument, it sets her opponents off balance and weakens their eventual retort. Unfortunately, this argument is softened somewhat by the middle act, in which she makes an unwarranted assumption about both her audience and her opponents. There is no way for her to know precisely the net worth of everyone commenting on the video, and it's uncertain whether this use of "ironically" is appropriate for the situation. She does a nice job wrapping up her point, however, with her piercing observation that American is a place of trends.

Under normal circumstances, I would expect an argument of this caliber to go largely unchallenged. However, the rich tapestry of intelligence that is the YouTube comments section surprised me once again. Themjloverz came back almost instantly with this biting response:

this is gay ╭∩╮( º.º )╭∩╮ not a cyrus fan shane dawson fan

The mjloverz not only deconstructs the preceding argument, but he manages to drive a wedge into the very video itself. Rather than attacking any one commenter directly, he manages to dismiss the video and the artist by labeling them both as "gay". Does he mean that Miley Cyrus is a homosexual? Almost certainly not. He means it as a generic insult, which continues to thrive with power, particularly among teenage males, at whom his argument was directed. He goes on to use the medium of art to further his explanation and his feelings about the video. He finishes up by making sure his audience knows where his allegiances lie, an important aspect of presenting a clear and honest argument.

While it's important to realize how effortlessly brilliant arguments can result from blatantly contentious videos such as this one, you can use the above examples to bring life, fervor, and logic to your own debates, regardless of the topic. I hope this study will serve you well in your future arguments.

22 June 2010

The Chicken Wing Incident

Sometimes you just don't know when to stop.

Let me amend that. Sometimes I don't know when to stop. This happens most frequently when I'm presented with a buffet. Pizza, family-style, Swedish smorgasbord, it doesn't matter. I tend to eat until medical attention is required.

Such was the case today, on a trip to the local Chinese buffet. I already forget the name of it, and wouldn't include it even if I did remember as they have not purchased any advertising in my well read virtuapages. Nevertheless, I did as I always do when perusing the Chinese buffet for delicacies that will remind me of that far away, oriental, mystical, Eastern, Asian, Chinalytical taste that no other restaurant can replace: I headed straight for the fried chicken wings. I piled them high on my plate until I could barely see where I was going. Several waitresses eyed me with a look that suggested I was breaching the customs of their ancient land.

Quite aware that I was pushing my luck, I balanced my mountain of chicken wings in my right hand and attempted to carefully ladle a generous helping of pink sweet and sour sauce over my precious pyramid. In doing so, however, I accidentally put my hand in something labeled "trukey dressing". I recoiled instinctively and this reaction caused my plate of authentic Chinawings to escape my possession, teetering and tottering--particularly tottering--until they fell on the floor. 26 separate chicken wings, scattered all over the thin Asian carpet.

Several people gasped in horror. One of them, I'm quite certain, was me.

I noticed that one wing had not fallen to the floor, but instead had tumbled into what looked like brown mashed potatoes. That doesn't have anything to do with anything, but it was what I thought of later more than anything else. It just looked so...pathetic...lying there in that goop. Like, get a life, chicken wing.

I dropped to my knees, avoiding the temptation to cry out in horror like that guy at the end of Platoon. I started picking up the wings, hoping they would be salvageable. I knew without a doubt I would not be permitted to refill my plate with fresh wings. Knowing this, I was aghast to find my chicken wings covered in dog fur. I looked around. The entire floor was covered in fine, white dog hairs. No dog was present; I could only assume he traveled the floor after hours.

I sighed and abandoned my chicken wings. I know a losing battle when I see one.

To make a long story short, my chicken wings could have easily been saved had the proprietors of this restaurant used the Petco Dog Hair Pick-Up Mitt.

It works like this: you put the mitt on your hand and then you get down on your knees and slowly rub it over your entire carpet. It picks up the dog fur like magic. One might even say it picks up the dog fur like oriental magic. You can also remove fur directly from the dog, rubbing and rubbing until he is naked. Get one today at Petco's website or at a Petco retailer near you! Don't let a chicken wing tragedy happen at your home.

15 June 2010

The Problem With Reading In Bed

A wise man once said--it might have been Spencer Pratt--"Reading in bed is one of life's supreme pleasures." Frankly, I couldn't have said it better myself. Unfortunately, reading in bed is not always what it ought to be. Sometimes...last night, for instance...it is misery.

My wife, Betsy-Ann, and I were propped up in bed, reading our respective choice of literature. For her, that meant some silly bit of fluff she found in the "chick-lit" section of the bookstore. For me, that meant the June issue of Highlights magazine. I was studying intently the Hidden Pictures game, wondering if it was a particularly difficult puzzle this month or if I was simply too tired to concentrate properly. I'd managed to find only 7 out of the 15 hidden objects, with the slice of pizza proving to be uncommonly elusive. I was busy searching through the picture when I heard the most distracting sound coming from my wife.

"Wususususususususususususususu. Wususususususususususususususususu."

I held my tongue as long as possible, but the constant low, whispering sound was preventing me from completing the puzzle.

"I'm sorry, honey," I said. "But could you please read to yourself?"

She turned her head to me, bits of Ritz cracker falling out of her beard. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was doing it. I'll try to stop."

"Thank you kindly."

I returned to the picture. With my hard-earned silence, I was able to quickly discover the pizza in the spokes of a bicycle. So very tricky. Still, if I'd been working with optimum focus, I should have been able to ferret it out long ago. The next missing picture was a comb, but I thought I might save the rest for the next day. I still wanted to read the letters page before turning in for the night.

"Wusususususususususu. Wususu. Wususu. Wusususususususususu."

I set the magazine aside. "For the love of all that is good and holy, will you please shut up? Will you shut up? Will you shut up? Will you? Will you shut up?"

"I didn't realize I was doing it! I'm soooo sorry I'm taking away your concentration. I know it's hard for you to follow along while reading a magazine meant for kindergarten students!"

I sat bolt upright in bed. "Have you ever read an issue of Highlights? The articles are written so they can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Adults and children alike! Why is that so hard for you to understand?"

"Don't you ever yell at me in this bed," Betsy-Ann said, tossing her book aside and turning to face me. "I can't help it that you're an emotionally stunted man-child. Don't take it out on me."

"Well," I said, fully regretting my choice of words before they had even left my mouth, "I guess this is what I get for marrying a talking goat!"

A moment of complete silence spun out as we both pondered what I had said. I wanted to take the words back, but they were out there and no apology would be good enough to make them disappear. After a moment, she pushed back the covers and leapt from the bed. Her hooves made a faint clip-clop sound on the hardwood floor as she left the bedroom. I heard her pause by the salt lick in the kitchen for a brief refreshment. Shortly after that, she was gone.

Wracked with sadness, I leaned over and buried my head into her pillow. It smelled like Tide and goat urine. It smelled like love.

10 June 2010

My Rejected Novel

Well, it's official. My novel, which took me three years to write and an additional three years to edit, has been rejected. No, not just rejected. Rejected soundly. I really never anticipated this day. I thought for sure it was destined for the NY Times Bestseller's List. Alas, it is not to be.

Longtime readers of The Shark Tank will not be surprised to learn that I've spent much of my adult life writing an intricate romance novel. While I put my heart and soul into the book, the editor at Harlequin was unimpressed. I've read the rejection letter nearly forty times now, and I get angrier with each pass. What do they want out of me? Here, read the letter and see what you think:

Ignoring for a moment the unnecessary vitriol, let's just take the points she makes in the second paragraph. She says my novel needs improvement in description, character development, dialogue and she apparently thinks the love scenes are horrible as well. I have to admit, after reading the letter, I began to have internal doubts. I went back and read my manuscript, thinking that freshly opened eyes would see the work differently. If anything, however, I thought the book was even stronger than I remembered. But I have to take into consideration my possible bias. That's why I'm turning to you, faithful readers. I encourage you to tell me the truth. I've posted excerpts from my book, each of them demonstrating the aspects of fiction Judith Esterman seems to think need so much improvement. Read them, form your own opinion, and let me know what you think.

Description: From Page 38

Eddie thought she was the picture of loveliness as she stepped out onto the balcony. She was wearing a dress that was almost the exact color green of his poop when he'd spent the last several days drinking grape NeHi. Her hair was a mixture of gold and silver and copper, all flowing at once like a mineshaft had exploded, except there was no sign of a dead canary. Her chin was restful and deep, like the thoughts of wise men from centuries past. He wanted to examine her more closely, smell her, see if there were any small bits of orange ear wax on her inner lobe.

Character Development: From Page 99

From the moment Gretchen met him, she knew he would be trouble. Though she had no way of knowing this, she suspected he had been involved in terrorism in his youth. Perhaps he had been born to Al-Qaeda parents, living on the east end of New York City. Maybe his father was called Abdul Shariik and his mother had been a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. All of these things, actually, she guessed correctly, as these were all true facts from his life and he was as evil as they come.

Dialogue: From Page 145

"Do you think our love will last forever?" asked Gretchen.

"It will last as long as the days, and even longer," said Eddie.

"Like 24 hours?" asked Gretchen.

"No, I meant like the end of time. So very long. You see, I was speaking metaphorically. Do you want some fish?"

Gretchen thought a moment. "Why couldn't you have just said, 'yes'? No I don't want any fucking fish, do I look like a Chinaman?"

"omg, you idiot, I meant to eat," Eddie said, running out of patience.

"Oh," she said, "then I guess so."

Love Scene: Page 390

They exchanged a knowing glance when they both reached for the last shrimp at the same time. He picked up the shrimp and dangled it above her wanting mouth. Gently caressed her cheek with the jumbo crustacean. She bit at it once, twice, and finally got it on the third try. Butter squirted out and stained Eddie's jeans.

"I guess I'll have to take these off," he murmured.

"Oooh, yes," she said, in between chewing her shrimp.

He took off his jeans and his underwear and approached her with his growing ding dong.

"Let me get the fly swatter," she said, and ran for the utility room. He sat down on the couch and waited, wondering idly if that guy he saw on the train that morning had really been his father. But no, his father had died many years before. It must have been an imposter.

"I'm baaack," Gretchen said. She had a fly swatter in her right hand and she had removed all of her clothing.

"You're naked," he said, giggling to himself.

"That's right," she said and smacked his wiener with the fly swatter until the local news came on.

Maybe I'll try sending it in to Simon & Schuster.

07 June 2010

Whatever Comes To Mind

A lot of people are rightfully concerned about this oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn't seem like anyone has any great ideas about how to stop it. But here's what I'm wondering. Why hasn't anyone asked Superman to help? He's proven his ability to stop oil leaks (see Superman III). I'm really not sure why I have to be the one to think of these things.


Every time I read something about the Punch-Out series on Nintendo, someone has to bring up the fact that it is a game of pattern recognition. But it's not. It's a game about boxing.


I like to buy and use Cottonelle toilet paper. It's just the right mixture of softness and rigidity. However, even if I didn't really like it, I would probably still buy it just for the dog on the packaging. That is a happy, cute dog. I wonder what he's thinking sometimes. Do you think he uses Cottonelle? Does he eat poop?


Is there anything more embarrasing than singing a song out loud and your friends have to correct you on the lyrics? The other day, I was singing Billy Joel's "Piano Man". I always thought the lyrics were "La la da, la do da", but it turns out it's actually, "La la la, de de da". If I could have found a way to disappear at that moment, trust me, I would have.


I was looking for something to do the other day, and I saw an advertisement for the Florida Air Museum. I don't care how bored I get, I'm not going to a museum about air.


Just once I want to watch a movie with someone and have them turn to me and say, "Yeah, well, that was a hell of a lot better than the book."


Why in every container of McDonald's french fries is there that one, crispy dark fry that looks like an infected toenail?


Now that's gaming.

04 June 2010

I Hate You, City Bus

Finding yourself caught in traffic behind a city bus is a special dimension of hell. Has this ever happened to you? The answer is no, because you would still be behind it right now. There's no getting around the bus. And if your town is anything like mine, there is a bus stop approximately every 3.4 feet. There's not even any space between the benches, they're just linked together like seats in a sporting arena. And should you be traveling behind one of these buses, you can rest assured that it will stop at every single one of these stops.

Pictured: Five separate bus stops

I found myself trapped behind one of these mechanical tortoises the other day. I didn't really catch on to my own predicament until the bus had made three consecutive pickups, all within the span of a single Safelite Auto Glass commercial. I watched as a man I wouldn't have suspected would have the money for bus fare shambled on to the bus, leaving a trail of dust behind him.

With every bench the bus stopped at, I grew more and more frustrated, all of my increasing anger directed at the riders, none of whom were in any hurry to get on the bus. And when I get angry in traffic, I start calling people names, some of which make little to no sense in hindsight.

Bus Stop #1
"Oh come on. We don't have all day, Dirty Wellerbee."

Bus Stop #2
"For the love of Baby Jesus, will you get on the bus already, Crackerjack Cowboob?"

Bus Stop #3
"Here we go. Prince Abdul ShitAss of the turtle fucking tribe of East Pedoville, Ohio is going to take his sweet time getting on the bus."

I could feel my blood pressure soaring to previously unexplored heights as the bus made stop after stop and my attempts to pass in the other lane were consistently thwarted by what could only be a choreographed effort from other asshole drivers. I'm not exaggerating when I say that literally everyone on the road was able to pass except for me. In fact, I'm pretty sure people saw the scene from their houses and stopped whatever they were doing just so they could rush out, get in their cars, and contribute to the campaign to keep me awash in black exhaust for the rest of my life.

"Dude, get over to Brower Street. We've got this dumbass trapped behind the bus. It's awesome!"

I looked at the clock on the dashboard and realized that if I never passed this bus, my arrival home would coincide with the next appearance of Haley's Comet. I had to make a decision. Passing on the left was an impossibility, and there were no side streets coming up for the foreseeable future. I decided to take my chances and simply pass on the right. I thought that with a little luck I would only have to drive through three private residential yards before returning to the road, successfully having thwarted the bus and securing my name in the annals of the Highway Hall of Fame.

I went for it.

One yard, two yards, shit I just ran over a little kid's 3 wheeler, three yards, and...damn.

There was a cop directly in front of the bus. He did not hesitate to flash on his lights and pull me over (which actually consisted of me pulling back into the road in this instance). I watched helplessly as he took my driver's license and cut it in two pieces right in front of me. My irritation at this turn of events grew even greater when I noticed the ease with which the bus was able to pass both of us.

So now, I'm forced to take the bus myself. I try to get up from the bench and climb into my public chariot as quickly as possible, but I've noticed more than a few apoplectic drivers doubtlessly calling me names that would get you thrown off network television. I want to tell them to calm down. Everything's going to be okay. You can't fight City Hall, and you can't fight the city bus.

02 June 2010

Prizes Found in Generic Cereal

The manufacturers of kids cereal have known the name of the game for some time. Not only do they wisely put their colorful boxes of sugary breakfast candy right at a child's eye level in the supermarket, they make sure and put some kind of prize in there, in case the lure of cartoon characters and fruity rings aren't enough to get the job done. Of course, for every Froot Loops, there is the generic equivalent. In order to have a fighting chance, they have had to rise to the level of their giant sized competition. Well, maybe not quite to that level.

31 May 2010

Monday Movie Reviews

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2010)
This unnecessary remake follows the original almost beat for beat, but suffers by using terrible CGI and entirely too many instances of the word, "bushwhacked". The plot is much the same, following the adventures of beleaguered champion of Halloween Jack Skellington as he terrorizes the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio by appearing in their dreams. The movie is mostly inoffensive until the bizarre third act when (SPOILER ALERT) it is revealed that the happenings of the film are set in the reality of "Dateline NBC". Best viewed at night with someone who doesn't have long to live. Starring Hippopotamus Johnson and The Three Stooges. 9 stars out of a possible 3,211.

Gladiator (1992)
A charming tale of love and longing set against the background of the 1986 Challenger disaster. Russell Crowe stars as an airline pilot named Maximus whose dream it is to one day go aboard a space shuttle. His dreams are shattered when the disaster happens and he is forced to fight for his own job when an airline stewardess accuses him of masturbating in the cockpit. Starring Russell Crowe and Meredith Baxter Birney. 44 stars out of a possible 50.

Space Jam (1921)
One of the earliest successful combinations of animation and live action, Space Jam tells the story of a young scientist obsessed with becoming the next emperor of the galaxy. With a little help from his animated friends Shoebox Forrester and his sidekick The Ice Train, he learns that power isn't everything, but friendship is. Starring Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln. 8 stars out of a possible 13.