Sunday, November 30, 2008

Repeal Day: Myths & Facts

Guess what day is quickly approaching? (Don't glance at the title of this post; it'll ruin the surprise.)

That's right, Repeal Day is the day which is quickly approaching! Also known as the Happiest Day of the Year Day!

All too sadly, though, many people aren't aware of the existence and/or meaning of this special day. Here, for your educational benefit, is the perfect primer for those who wish to learn more about Repeal Day, organized in a convenient Myths & Facts format.

Let's get right to it.

Myth: Repeal Day recognizes the expected repeal by President-elect Obama of the so-called Bush Tax Cuts.
Fact: Repeal Day celebrates the 21st Amendment to the United States' Constitution, an amendment whose sole purpose was to *repeal* a previous amendment to the United States' Constitution, namely, the 18th one, which had imposed a nationwide Prohibition of alcohol on an unsuspecting citizenry.

Myth: Repeal Day occurs on the day of the passage of the 21st Amendment, December 4th.
Fact: Repeal Day occurs on the day of the passage of the 21st Amendment, December 5th.

Myth: Repeal Day was invented by Dewar's, because their Repeal Day homepage is the first one to pop up after a google search of the words "repeal day."
Fact: Dewar's has done great work in spreading the word about this holiday, but Repeal Day was, in fact, invented by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a bartender/blogger (Can there be a more noble profession? No. There can not.) from Oregon. Mr. Morgenthaler also serves as possibly the most famous person to ever comment on The Daily Snowman.

Myth: There is one--and only one--way to celebrate Repeal Day.
Fact: Much like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, there is no wrong way to celebrate Repeal Day. The dominant trope of the day is freedom. The 21st Amendment returned to this nation an essential part of its freedom: it would be contrary to the spirit of the day to dictate the form your celebration should take. As Mr. Morgenthaler states in the blog post announcing this glorious day, "There are no outfits to buy, costumes to rent, rivers to dye green. Simply celebrate the day by stopping by your local bar, tavern, saloon, winery, distillery, or brewhouse and having a drink. Pick up a six-pack on your way home from work. Split a bottle of wine with a loved one. Buy a shot for a stranger. Just do it because you can."

Myth: Only United States citizens may celebrate Repeal Day, since their country was the one puritanical enough to actually enact Prohibition.
Fact: Repeal Day knows no boundaries. Let's say that a Canadian is living in the US on a student visa. Does he not benefit just as much from this constitutional freedom? Does a visiting European businesswoman not appreciate a cold beer after a long day of meetings? In short, anyone who can take advantage of the Great Repeal may--nay, should--celebrate the 21st Amendment.

Myth: Repeal Day is so important that even underage folks should celebrate.
Fact: Repeal Day is not about alcohol: it's about freedom. Alcohol still existed during Prohibition; what we celebrate on December 5th is the freedom to legally enjoy alcohol. Any Repeal Day action which violates the legality of alcohol tramples upon the very ideals which we now cherish. Similarly, Repeal Day is not a day to get fall-over drunk, leading to majorly stupid decisions. Although reenacting Prohibition isn't exactly on the bargaining table today, irresponsible consumption only aids the cause of our enemies. May they one day be shot out of town on a 200 year-old trebuchet.

Myth: There are no Repeal Day mottos.
Fact: There are tons of Repeal Day mottos. For example, the Dewar's Repeal Day site lists the following as suitable mottos/toasts: "To the Constitution!"; "To the 21st Amendment!"; "Stay Wet!"; "Remember the 5th of December!"; "To Carrie Nation!"; "Here's to the Repeal!"; "Happy Days are Here Again!" (For further Repeal Day celebration guidelines, explore the above linked-to Dewar's site.)

Myth: Prohibition had no long-term effects on the beer industry in America.
Fact: We are just now overcoming the beer-based trauma induced by Prohibition. I'll let The Brew Site explain: "And while Prohibition applied to all forms of alcohol, the effect it had on the American beer industry was especially pronounced; the only breweries that were able to survive were the megabreweries and that was only by diversifying into other fields. This essentially set back the beer industry until the 1970s, when the homebrew and craft beer movements were revived. So crack open and enjoy a microbrew or homebrew for Repeal Day!"

Myth: It is impossible to know which states voted on the 21st Amendment.
Fact: Even wikipedia has this information. South Carolina voted against the 21st Amendment on December 4, 1933. Nebraska, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, North and South Dakota, and Georgia have not ratified this Amendment, but it doesn't really matter because the Amendment was already passed nationally. Utah, on that fateful December 5th, cast the deciding vote in favor of the Repeal. Who would've thought that Utah would be the state that put an end to Prohibition? I certainly would not. We should probably start a Repeal Day pilgrimage to Utah to celebrate. I'm sure Utahians would love that.

Myth: There is no appropriate The Simpsons episode to watch on Repeal Day.
Fact: There is always an appropriate The Simpsons episode for every occasion or life milestone. For Repeal Day, I'd recommend "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment," the eighteenth episode of the eighth season.

That makes 10 Myths and 10 Facts. That should be enough to get you started. Add your own Repeal Day Myths & Facts to the comments.

And remember: Celebrate the Freedom, the Freedom to Celebrate!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happiness Maximization Guide

If you're like me, no matter how much Veblen you read or how many Atget photos you eyeball, you still really like getting stuff. The new possession fills you with a feeling of accomplishment and self-worth not easily equaled in your busy work-a-day existence. The sensation--sadly--can be quite fleeting. But what is a mostly unemployed young person to do? Purchasing new items all of the time can quickly become an expensive habit.

It is for this reason that I present to you, dear reader, my newly created Happiness Maximization Guide. By following the precepts outlined in this free excerpt, you will streamline the productivity of your HQ (Happiness Quotient).

Here's a quick one to get you started.
Always shop on the Internet

Internet shopping effectively quadruples (at least) the happiness you accrue from each purchase. Normal shopping makes you happy only once, when you get home with your new HO (Happiness Object). But, through the magic of the internet, you can be happy when 1) you place your order, 2) when the delivery-person brings you your order, 3) when you don't have to go outside in the cold in order to visit an old-fashioned store, and 4) when you don't have to put on pants in order to go outside.

And, as an added bonus, nothing bad has ever happened to anyone who has entered his credit card information into the internet.

Solid advice like this makes my Happiness Maximization Guide the industry leader in happiness improvement.
Here's another, more extended excerpt to seal, as they say, the deal.
How to Read a Magazine

Magazines are almost perfect on their own, without any patented Snowman Happiness advice, because a subscriber gets a new one every week, assuming the subscriber is smart enough to order a weekly magazine. A weekly periodical constitutes the sweet spot of consumer satisfaction. A book only comes once, and then just sits on your bookshelf until the night before your midterm. Daily papers come way too frequently, causing you to leave your apartment more often to avoid elaborate old newspaper piles, thereby decreasing your overall happiness since said apartment leave-taking usually necessitates pants-wearing. Also, daily events don't feel as special as a weekly delivery. So weekly magazines are most definitely the way to go.

So magazines are pretty good. Luckily for you, the Happiness Maximization Guide doesn't settle for pretty good. Follow these steps (using the Nov. 24 issue of The New Yorker as a practical case-study) to extend the utility of your periodical for the best magazine reading experience of your life.
  1. Never read anything longer than three sentences on your first time through the magazine. These short pieces will whet your appetite for future sit-downs with the periodical, but won't bog you down with long, unwieldy articles. (Relevant The NYer examples: any cartoons; those short little space-fillers they sometimes run after articles, such as "Block That Metaphor" or "Constabulary Notes From All Over;" the table of contents; the contributor biographies [Reading this section has the added benefit of letting you know that there is a real-live person in this universe--Fuchsia Dunlop--who has written three books on Chinese food. Which seems silly.])
  2. Open the magazine at random, and see whether the opened page seems interesting. Get distracted by the surrounding advertisements. Flush the toilet, thereby ending this reading session. (Note: This is how I learned about The Moth, the host organization of the best amateur storytelling competition in New York. From the advertisements; not the toilet.)
  3. Find the full-length article that you'd most like to talk about at a party or, more likely, link to on your blog, or mention on twitter. Read that article, noticing especially interesting points or pretty pictures. (Relevant The NYer examples: "By Meat Alone," an article about Texas barbecue; "A Better Brew," about extreme beer, focusing on the Dogfish Head Brewery.)
  4. Check your regularly visited blogs, and see if they were interested in any articles. Read those articles, because they must be good if your most trusted blogger liked it. (Relevant The NYer example: none from this issue.)
  5. After reading these longer articles, you deserve a break. Go back to the medium-sized pieces for a quick, breezy, and--most of all--fun read. (Relevant The NYer examples: "Bush's midnight rules," in which the outgoing president attempts to, among other things, "make it harder for the government to limit workers' exposure to toxins, eliminate environmental review from decisions affecting fisheries, and ease restrictions on companies that blow up mountains to get at the coal underneath them;" James Surowiecki on the food crisis.)
  6. By this point, a full week should have passed, and you are most probably the proud owner of a brand-new, pristine magazine. If your mailman stole your copy, or if shrinking ad revenues have forced your magazine to close up shop and cease production, then you're stuck with your old issue. If this occurs, go back and read whatever you have left. If it didn't appeal to you the first five times around, then it's probably not all that great. But what else do you have to lose? You already paid for this magazine, and you might as well wring every last drop of happiness out of your purchase. You'll thank me for it later. (Relevant The NYer example: any poetry that has ever appeared in the magazine.)
This has been an excerpt from the Happiness Maximization Guide: Shopping Happier Since Late November 2008.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are Sitcoms Going Postmodern?

A New York Times Magazine article comparing such stalwart televisual programs as The Simpsons, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development with the metafiction techniques of Postmodern literature of the 1960's and 1970's?

Yes, please.

Shows like “Arrested Development,” “Scrubs,” “Family Guy” and “30 Rock” have taken the experiment a step further, reconfiguring the methods with which comedy tells stories. Instead of using the typical sitcom narrative (six characters in the same four rooms enduring a humdrum, linear story line), these shows explore their situations through collage and a restless stream of consciousness.


Metafiction emerged from a group of self-aware writers who analyzed their own work like critics; and in the same way, today’s digressive sitcoms come from a generation of comedy writers (and viewers) who understand the ins and outs of the most popular format of 30-minute storytelling. Avant-garde literature gave America its first tradition of subverting narrative, but what was once a wild experiment in language has become an accepted counterpart to our Internet culture, where digressive Googling and link-clicking are a way of life. The dusty sitcom has caught up to the modern mind.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Incoming: SuperSize Edition

Recently on:
  • Best part of attending a The Daily Show taping: Watching Jon Stewart bust a gut during John Oliver's recorded segment.
  • It would be way awesomer if TNT wasn't taken away from our cable-less TV right when I started wanting it, i.e., the NBA season opener.
  • Hey, cool, I got a link on Deadspin, the second to last bullet point: I'm living the dream.
  • My "I <3>
  • I think I added spices to my zucchini soup too early.
  • Nope: the soup is awesome.
  • Just went for a yog.
  • Sunday Night Football Extra kinda sucks.
  • Day Man, a-whoa-oh.
  • Brinner!
  • Video Chat makes g-chatting from the bathroom more unpredictable.
  • There's a guy named Steve Sachs at my office. I hope Police Chief Wiggum doesn't arrest him, causing him to miss the big softball game.
  • I hate when my favorite blogs go extinct: