Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
In this week’s episode, Daryl has questions about philosophers, men’s magazines and churches. John Phipps can’t figure out what the point of Twitter is, and Lady Catherine thinks we oughta figure out fax machines before we worry about any of that. Finally, Rex is in exile and he is pretty pissed off about it!
Warning: it’s been a brutal week personally and professionally, and I am not feeling terrible whimsical, so this is probably a less humorous column that usual. If I had written it Wednesday afternoon, it would have been downright angry...
Submitted by: Daryl
Do you think Kant would have read “Maxim”?
First off, I don't like Kant for the sole reason that his name sounds way too much like the single worst word in the English language, and the only word I never use in any context. Sure, the F word is the king of the expletives, and the one with the broadest, most versatile usage, but I would argue that the C bomb is the word that is acceptable in the fewest social situations.
That is kind of unrelated, though. My guess is that he’d have probably babbled on about something or other related to the aesthetic appeal of boobs being related to the mind’s constructs of the human experience. Or, I dunno, maybe he was just a hornball who wanted to look at pictures of scantily clad, heavily photoshopped starlets. He was a dude, so he probably liked looking at hot chicks…but, well, there are some minor items in his biography that may cast some doubt on that.
He was very social, quite popular, a “fancy” dresser and of at least moderate wealth. There were women in his life, but it is not clear that he was ever romantically involved with anyone and he never married. He also maintained an extremely close lifelong friendship with English merchant Joseph Green, who likewise never married.
In other words, maybe Kant would have rather read Cosmo…
I am kind of surprised to find out that Maxim is still kicking around. I remember when it was a brand new magazine, and that it was kind of a big deal...it was like Playboy-lite: there were no nipples or landing strips (this the late 90’s, so pubic hair was still a thing), but it was much more socially acceptable to read in public. But then it, like both the entire print media industry AND the "subscription pictures of hot chicks" industry fell victim to the Internet and it kind of seems like they would have gone under by now. But lo and behold, they are still alive and still making a print edition (I think the UK version is digital only).
I did a little digging and found out some interesting facts. For one, nobody has been on the cover more than Jennifer Love Hewitt (four times), which seems to be kind of perfect. Just like the magazine, Hewitt remains objectively attractive, but her relevance definitely peaked sometime around the year 2000. While I am on the subject, don’t any of your ever badmouth Party of Five to me, cuz I will absolutely cut you.
Since 2000, Maxim has published a Hot 100, with the #1 slot essentially going to “The Hottest Woman Alive Today”, and in truly perfect form, that person has never been older than 31 years old (Eva Longoria in the second of her two successive wins in 2006). And only Longoria, Marisa Miller (2008) and Jennifer Garner (2002) have been over 25. Twenty-five!!!
Now I have mentioned Jennifer Garner and that has me thinking of Juno, which I absolutely adore for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is that Jennifer Garner is absolutely brilliant. Subtle, understated, alternately meek and incredibly strong and remarkably deep...you almost have to see it three or four times to really appreciate her. In at least some sense, she is the hero of the movie.
The other thing about that movie that gets me is the scene with Juno and her father (the also brilliant J.K. Simmons) in the hospital. It’s a heart-wrenching scene...she is tired and scared and sad and has no idea if she did the right thing or if she will ever forgive herself. And her father sits there with her and somehow manages to say something that recognizes the hurt, assuages her guilt and doesn’t seem forced or trite. He just very quietly tells her “Someday, you’ll be back here on your own terms.”
I mean, look...I’m not the most emotionally stable person you will ever find when it comes to things between fathers and daughters, but that fucking melts me. Shit, I am crying at my desk writing about it. Which means it’s time to move on...
Have you ever been to the Old North Church, Alex?
Yes, I have. It is still standing in the North End (now with the requisite gift shops and touristy stuff) although the steeple has been reconstructed twice because of storm damage. I am not what you would call a “church goer”, but I have been inside for a wedding and I have taken the tour as well. The wedding was lovely, and the tour is really cool. There are crypts under the church housing about 1,100 bodies that you can see, including a bunch of people who died at Bunker Hill.
Little known fact: the battle of Bunker Hill only peripherally took place on Bunker Hill. The bulk of the fighting was on nearby Breed’s Hill. This is one of at least three Hills in Boston that are often misnamed, including Parker Hill (which is in the Mission Hill neighborhood and therefore usually called Mission Hill) and one other Hill that goes by a whole different name…
The North End is kind of a mandatory stop on any trip to Boston, but honestly you can probably skip it. It seems to be most well known for the food, although a lot of it is pretty mediocre.. There are some really great restaurants, but an awful lot seem to get by on the massive flocks of tourists who ensure two hour waits at any open spot on Friday and Saturday nights. And while the whole place is a celebration of Italianess, the best restaurant you will find isn’t Italian at all...it’s Neptune Oyster. Write that down.
Also, there is something about the liquor laws in the North End that leaves a huge number of restaurants with limited licenses that allow them to only serve beer, wine and cordials. I have no idea what the statute is, exactly, but it doesn’t apply elsewhere in the city and it is really, really common in the North End. If you want a cocktail, you are limited to Malibu or shitty flavored Vodkas that are less than 70 proof.
But the cannolis are worth the trip!
Submitted by: John Phipps
Dear Alex Why do We do twitter. Is it an indication of some Psychological negative?
Well I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m in it for the chicks, man!
I think we use Twitter because it is an easy way to connect and interact with like and unalike people, and to stay in touch with a broader conversation around issues and ideas that don’t always come up within your daily circle of contacts. I like Twitter because it lets me cut loose a little bit and be a slightly more whimsical, off-color version of myself.
But it does bring out the worst in (a lot of) people. It is too easy to be mean and smarmy without consequence. I use a pseudonym for a number of reasons (seriously...first time someone finds out my real name I am shutting down and you will never hear from me again!), but the anonymity that the Internet allows for also removes all of the social pressures to act like a normal, reasonable human being. The result, of course, is some truly vile interaction.
So, I don’t think the use of Twitter indicates any kind of psychological problem...it is a natural desire of humans to connect to one another. But Twitter is going to exacerbate any existing psychological or social problems that already exist. If someone has racist leanings, for example, it is really easy to dive right in and embrace that if you are removed from the consequence of being a detestable human being.
It is also possible that Twitter is a somewhat self-selecting platform. People don’t tweet unless they think highly enough of their opinion to think that other people want to hear it. So, the people who really, really use Twitter are all a little bit nuts to begin with (says the girl who has tweeted 66,000 times).
No, but seriously, send me your nudes.
Submitted by: Lady Catherine
Why do companies still use fax machines? Why won't the fax machine just retire already?
Because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! People get into habits and like to do things the way they have always done them and they do stupid shit - like use fax machines - forever as a result. We have a fax machine in our office...it has never, as long as I have been here, been used for anything other than to collect menus of local restaurants that still send their menus out by fax.
I had a conversation with a bank not terribly long ago where they told me that I couldn’t sign something, scan it and email it to them, but that I could print it out and fax it back. This was all in the name of “security”, although no one was able to tell me how a faxed signature is somehow more secure than a scanned and emailed image.
Because, quite obviously, it’s not. If anything, the quality of the image in a fax is lower than a scan, which makes it easier to copy or forge a signature. And the image is a black and white copy, not a color image, which also makes it easier to forge. Yada, yada, something about people hacking emails...but that is the entire point of requiring a signature, to demonstrate that it is a valid instruction. There isn’t even a reason to hack a fax machine, since nobody ever keeps track of what number sent them the fax.
Of course, then I had to give another instruction to a different financial services firm, and they told me they needed a signature...but that I could take a cell phone picture of the signed document and send that to them. Because sometimes people understand how technology works!!!
So really, there is no reason for a fax machine to exist. There is nothing you fax that wouldn’t be better off being scanned and sent through secure email, and there is nothing you receive by fax that you can’t receive via email, too. It is a completely obsolete technology.
It’s the carrot cake of office communications technology. (As me if you haven’t heard my carrot cake theory)
Submitted by: BoonaticRex
How do I call in a drone strike on mean gurlz who have nothing better to do than fuck with their betters on social media?
So...for those of you that missed it, Rex was suspended yesterday, and it’s not clear why. He’s been limited a couple of times in the past, but always for doing something that he kind of understood (harassing famous people or insulting the disadvantaged). But he was pretty quiet for the last few days and hadn’t really engaged in anything particularly contentious. There was a little gang-up of reporting him about a month ago (he is using the term “mean gurlz” in the progressive, gender-neutral sense here), but that doesn’t seem like it would be related...unless Twitter is just slow to respond.
But this is a part of a super annoying trend...rather than block or mute or just ignore people with whom we disagree, it has become trendy to report them and then to solicit help in “bulk reporting” simply to encourage the suspension of someone’s account. Sometimes the request is in response to legitimately abhorrent behavior (doxxing, spoofing, vile insults, harassment) but other times it is simply to punish someone we don’t like. And then taking open glee in having gotten an account suspended.
I think an actual drone strike would be kind of excessive (although, frankly, if I wanted one, I would probably ask you to point me in the right direction). The best revenge against trolls like this is to simply ignore them...they feed off of the attention and the reaction and engaging them only encourages them. That goes for spoof accounts, too (of which there have been a ton over the years and a bunch lately)...I get that it’s hard not to address publicly, and sometimes they can be really hurtful if they have somehow gotten ahold of private pictures, but the best way to deal with them is to ignore them and quietly report them, and maybe ask a couple of trusted friends to also report. But trying to tackle them publicly is just going to bring attention to them and encourage them to re-up the spoof when they are eventually suspended.
It is also why, when you see a spoof, it’s not useful to interact, even if you think you are helping. The whole point of creating the spoof is to rile people up, both the spoofee and anyone else that it bothers, so showing any kind of anger is just validation to the perpetrator. If they set up the account, get no reaction from anyone and then get shut down, then it’s a total loss and they will move on. Nobody who makes a spoof account is a rational person with a whole lot going on outside of Twitter, so the anger is the currency they are seeking.
As for getting suspended, that comes in a variety of flavors. Like, if you are going to be a dick on social media, you have to expect that people will get pissed at you. There are “aspiring Twitter personalities” who want to be the next Redsteeze, snarking their way to 100,000 followers and slots on cable news and major digital print sites...and you can’t do that without offending some people. And yes, I get that Twitter is run by people in San Francisco who find conservatives to be more offensive than liberals. Life’s not fair, get used to it. I’d suggest that those people shut up and ignore you, but they aren’t all going to, they’re going to report you and there is a chance that you’ll be suspended
And if you are one of the offended, take my advice up above...shut up and ignore it. There is a growing victim culture on the right, and targeting someone is a great way to feed into that. There is nothing that an aspiring pundit wants more than to be deemed dangerous enough to drive the opposition to target them. People with follower counts in the six figures and legit jobs in the media don’t want to get suspended, Twitter is a big part of their livelihood. But by and large they won’t be suspended (there are exceptions)...those are the power users that Twitter relies on to drive traffic and keep users engaged. But some random chick with a couple thousand followers, a podcast and a desire to “build a brand”? Getting her suspended does nothing but help...you are making her more important than she is.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying to avoid calling in the drone strike. Some dipshit reported you, and they seem to have won. It sucks and it’s not fair and there is very little we can actually do about it except move on. If some mouth-breather wants to get a rise out of you, your best reaction is to deny them the satisfaction and appreciate the outpouring of support you have gotten from people since the suspension. That is a much more useful emotion than anger at the trolls:-)
Or we can just form our own Twitter gang and get them suspended...there is that option, too!
America has developed a fetish, and it isn’t one of the fun ones your wife secretly wants you to bring up because she read about it in 50 Shades of Grey. This particular fetish is problematic, has been developing for quite some time, and transcends political lines (although it does take different forms for different groups). As a nation and as a people, Americans have a First Amendment fetish, and many not only don’t care who knows about it, they demand you have it, too.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines fetish as an “excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.” It’s important to note that the fetishizing is not of the actual legal limits and/or ramifications of Constitutional law: not many people are out there citing Ward v. Rock Against Racism. Instead, Americans fetishize the popular definition of the First Amendment, which largely boils down to “where views I deem to be political (religion, race, any of the various and sundry-isms) are concerned, my freedom of speech (which also cover actions I believe to be protests) shall not be abridged by anyone.” Most people know logically that NFL team owners would probably be on solid legal ground in the cutting of a player for violating team rules by not standing for the National Anthem, but the people who agree with the reasons for the protest reflexively use the First Amendment argument in support of the player. This reflex is just as easily found when a private business (a hotel, for example) refuses to allow a speaker or convention group whose political views or affiliations it views as distasteful enough to be bad for business, nevermind that everyone complaining knows the Constitution expressly states that “CONGRESS shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech.”
The OED also describes a fetish as “an inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.” The popularized version of the First Amendment has become like some magical incantation the supplicants chant to protect themselves from the pyres their fellow villagers have built for them. Unfortunately for them, “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Speech” bewitches them to the point that they forget that ultimately the incantation only protects them if the local Ealdorman and his shire reeve are lighting the fires. So they chant louder and louder in the hope that the torches will extinguish, and sometimes they do, but in the meantime the King seized their land and sold off their kids into slavery.
There a few troubling things about this development. For one thing, it undermines the idea that men and women have to make choices and accept responsibilities in a free society: the belief that your private sector boss doesn’t have the right to expect you not to say certain things means you may never have to make a choice between your political beliefs and the job. The fetishizing also weakens the First Amendment: applying the idea of freedom of speech constantly to things you just happen to approve or disapprove of lessens the esteem in which we should hold the actual meaning of the First Amendment. Probably the most disturbing thing about the fetishizing of the First Amendment is that it’s an invitation for the federal government to insert itself even more into every aspect of American life: ask yourself what you really, truly think the odds are of the next generation of SCOTUS justices not applying “freedom of speech” to private businesses.
In a better world, presidents wouldn’t insert themselves into or comment on most of the things that recent presidents insert themselves into and comment on, for whatever reasons. But ultimately in our political system the impetus for change lies with the citizenry. All of us, of all political stripes, would be well served to realize that the divisions we face now are largely a result of just how intrusive the federal government has become in our lives, which leads to the need for our “side” to control it. One way to begin to combat the current rifts in this country is to begin to lessen the need for them, and one necessary step in doing that is to stop our “excessive and irrational devotion” to the First Amendment in instances when it is not truly applicable. Love the Constitution, admire the genius of it, extol its many virtues...but stop applying it to aspects of your life beyond its just and rightful scope. Let’s keep our fetishes where they belong: close to home.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.