What is it With Lists?

Is it me, or are lists becoming ever more prevalent? In just a lazy perusal of trending topics today, I came across:

  • 12 most iconic swimsuit moments.

  • 5 tips to get the most cool from your car air conditioning.

  • 25 makeup tips all older women should know.

  • The deadliest snakes ever found on the planet.

  • The full list of the 43 Kmart, Sears stores closing around the US.

  • Top 10 disturbing modern experiments.

  • 10 famous historic figures who suffered horrifying diseases.

  • 81 topic ideas for starting a blog that matters.

What is it with lists?

I get it. We’re all in a hurry these days. We want our information in bite-sized pieces. We want to be able to skim over the boring bits, or the parts that don’t seem relevant to us. But jeez…

I think lists also appeal to our desire to be right. “Top ten rock bands of all time? Oooh! I bet I know!”

And let’s face it: we’re becoming lazy. We want the work done for us. What used cars give you the most bang for your buck? I dunno. You tell me.

If I were more interested in upping the traffic to this blog, I would start posting more lists. Maybe I will do that occasionally. Hmmm. But first I should probably Google the top ten reasons why that’s important in life.

top 10

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You Are What You “Eat”

I totally get why this country is so divided. It is really easy to hang out in a news realm that confirms what you want to believe. For every Fox News, there’s a Huffington Post. For every Breitbart there’s a Natural News. If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, you might want to consider avoiding sources with such obvious agendas.

A longtime reader whom I now consider to be a friend (waving at Linda) pointed out to me that the term “You are what you eat” also applies to food of the mind. The information you take in, after all, can change who you are and the way you look at the world. If you are spoon-fed hate speech with your pablum, is it any wonder you grow up to become a skinhead?

This concept is known on a basic level by the majority of us. It’s why cults try to control their follower’s access to information. It’s why fundamentalists of every stripe want their children to only learn what they believe, regardless of whether it’s based on fact. It’s why the present Grand Poobah is trying to get us to distrust the press. Beware of those who try to prevent the spread of facts.

Our current political climate has overtaken us at a time when digital information flow is at its height. That’s a toxic intersection. It means that misinformation from both ends of the spectrum is also running rampant.

Be careful. Question everything. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Most of all, use your common sense.

Below is a handy chart that has been floating around Facebook that gives you an idea of some of the more popular media outlets and their individual biases. I am making a concerted effort to stick to that inner circle and its upper halo whenever I can. From here on out, I’m going to try to only share Facebook fodder from these sources as well. I encourage you to do the same.

That is, unless you enjoy being the human equivalent of a genetically modified organism…

news-quality

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A National Case of Foie Gras Syndrome

Being force fed has to be the most horrible, helpless feeling on earth. I can’t believe Foie Gras isn’t outlawed. I mean, they stick these ducks in cages and then violently stuff corn down their throats to fatten their livers. It’s unimaginable to me that I’d be able to enjoy eating something that comes from such a ghoulish origin.

But force feeding isn’t just for ducks anymore. It seems we humans are getting quite accustomed to it ourselves. This most recent election campaign was the stuff of nightmares, regardless of whether the person you voted for was the one who was elected. It was nasty, brutish and looooooong. I haven’t talked to a single person who wasn’t stressed out by the entire process. And yet we sat there and took it.

We also allow the media to stir us up about crises that don’t really exist, while they fail to report on things that we really need to know. And we’ve become so addicted to our social media that taking away someone’s device can send that person into a panic attack. (When I tell a millennial that I don’t use my cell phone while driving, that I simply wait until I get home, and that in fact I can’t access the internet on my phone, they look at me in horror.) It always amuses me when people think they can’t live without something that humanity has been living without for centuries.

Is this just me getting older and more intolerant? Or is it all becoming a bit too much? Am I alone in this? I’d go live in a cave somewhere, but then I wouldn’t have internet access even at home. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Oh, and if you eat foie gras, shame on you.

mulard_duck_being_force_fed_corn_in_order_to_fatten_its_liver_for_foie_gras_production

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Things I Couldn’t Care Less About

Is it me, or are some scandals not particularly scandalous? Maybe it’s because things seem to be moving faster than ever before on the information highway, but it seems as though the vast majority of news these days is filler. Empty calories. Not particularly beneficial to one’s wellbeing.

Here are just a few things I’m indifferent to, annoyed by, or am just sick of hearing about:

  • Donald Trump’s Hair.
  • Anything that emerges from Donald Trump’s pie hole.
  • Who wore what where.
  • The way I ought to look and what to do about it.
  • The way I ought to feel and what to do about it.
  • How someone behaved at a party, movie set, or on a red carpet.
  • All efforts to get the one percent to behave decently.
  • Who the president neglected to salute.
  • Every single solitary commercial, advertisement, junk mail or spam.
  • Benghazi.
  • Who someone chooses to love.
  • 15 signs that you’re ___________.
  • Why your religious beliefs are superior to someone else’s.
  • Actually, your religious beliefs, full stop.
  • Anything from Fox News or CNN.
  • Who has tweeted whom and said what.
  • Descriptions of the newest product that I’m not supposed to be able to live without.
  • Anything sports related.
  • Vampires.
  • The latest determination that some type of food is unhealthy.
  • Computer virus warnings.
  • The newest release from Apple.

Sorry. You seem to have caught me in a mood.

Can we please just... not?
Can we please just… not?

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

I used to make it a point to stay informed about current events. I read newspapers, magazines, and watched the news. Then as finances got tighter and life became more hectic, I dropped my subscriptions. And at some point, probably during my billionth move in a two year period, I left my television sitting on the side of the road along with a lot of other stuff I got tired of lugging around.

And a funny thing happened. The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, my anxiety level dropped considerably. I was no longer being fed a steady diet of tragedies that I could do nothing about. And if something was urgent or actionable, somehow I always found out. Either I’d hear it on the radio or it would be trending on the internet or a friend would tell me.

Normally I would strongly discourage operating from a position of ignorance, and indeed, it’s important to be aware to a certain degree or the bad guys will win. But is it necessary to hear about panic-making theories that may or may not come to pass? Do I really care about celebrity scandals? How often do I need to be shown that the milk of human kindness seems to be drying up?

The media want you to be afraid. The more afraid you are, the more you want to know. The more you want to know, the more you seek them out. Sometimes I feel like a puppet on a string.

I’m getting older and I’m tired. I never thought I’d say this, but ignorance really is bliss. And I could use a bit more bliss.

[Image credit: fiveprime.org]
[Image credit: fiveprime.org]

Urban Legends, Falsehoods, Satire and Lies

Now that we’re all happily speeding along the cyber highway, word spreads more quickly than it ever has before. For the most part, that’s a plus. Unfortunately, just because it comes at you at a furious pace, that doesn’t guarantee that the quality of the information is high. It takes even more effort to wade through the B.S. than it used to. Sadly, not everyone makes that effort.

Here are some basic ways to weed out the stupidity before you post it on your Facebook page and look like a dope.

Consider the source. Ask yourself where this information originally came from. There are several humorous satire pages out there that report things with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks for the laugh factor. The Onion, which calls itself “America’s Finest News Source” is one of these. I actually love reading the Onion, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously. This article called Faux News will direct you to many other satire sites. Know them. Enjoy them. But don’t take them as fact.

Then there are other news sources that claim to be true and want desperately to be believed, but cannot be trusted because they’re pushing a warped agenda. If Fox News is the only one who is reporting on an issue, it’s most definitely suspect. CNN is getting to be just as bad. And I have absolutely nothing against religion, but I tend to seek outside verification for any news item from any religious news network source. There is a difference between fact and faith, and when a reporter does not know or refuses to acknowledge that difference, I find it rather scary.

Also, at the risk of incriminating myself, don’t quote blogs as fact without verification. Any fool can have a blog. I could tell you the moon is covered in a thick layer of cocaine, but I don’t recommend that you send your favorite drug mule there. He’d be pretty pissed off at you by the time he got back. (But then, he’d also have plenty of time to detox, which is a good thing.)

Another thing that should have you bobbing in a sea of red flags is any news that implies a major conspiracy. It’s human nature that a secret can’t be kept by more than two people. If a story is going around that an entire agency or organization or country has been sitting on a secret for decades, the odds are that this story is extremely exaggerated at best. For example, I used to know someone who genuinely believed that there are secret concentration camps all over America and that US Citizens are disappearing at an alarming rate. My response to that is, if so, why are no one’s friends, relatives and Facebook followers screaming bloody murder? Do you think in this day and age, when we are linked together in so many complex ways, a large number of adults could simply go poof and no one would be the wiser? Poppycock.

Also, it’s very irresponsible to pass on a product warning without being sure that it’s true. Before you go boycotting Brand XYZ, make sure it really deserves such treatment. While I’m not wild about corporate America, you have to remember that many people just like you and me depend on these companies for their livelihood, and if too many people mistakenly think there’s nuclear waste in their pie filling, it’s those everyday pie fillers who will be laid off. The corporation itself will grind happily on.

One excellent source for verification is Snopes.com. They often track down the sources of misinformation like no one else can. When all else fails, check Snopes.

Also, if you receive an e-mail full of capitalizations and spelling errors and exclamation points, warning you to do, or not do, something, such as “IF YOU GET A E-MAIL FROM XYZ, DONT OEPN IT!!!!” Don’t panic. Use your common sense. It’s stupid to open an e-mail from an unknown source under any circumstances.

If a story begins, “This is a true story,” it most likely isn’t a true story. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your inner voice. Be skeptical. Don’t pass things on without verifying them.

I just love The Onion!
I just love The Onion!

You Don’t Have to Understand

The media firestorm that’s surrounding Bruce Jenner’s gender identification is predictable. People love to scrutinize things that they don’t understand. Based on a lot of public commentary, many feel as though he’s a freak. For those people, focusing on him is the news equivalent of slowing down to check out a traffic accident. People want to know how unusual things happen, especially to public figures. They want to try to comprehend the situation, but they also secretly delight in the fact that they never will.

Here’s the thing, though. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) No one was put on this earth so that the rest of us can give him or her our seal of approval. How Bruce Jenner chooses to live life is entirely up to Bruce Jenner. (A friend of mine just pointed out that it sounds as if I believe Bruce is making a choice about being transgender. I do not mean that at all. I believe he was born the way he was born. But whether he chooses to go public or not is a choice, and, indeed, a right. ) No crimes are being committed. No one is being placed in any sort of physical danger. The pursuit of happiness is a basic human right. You don’t have to like it or approve of it or understand it.

If you find yourself obsessing over this situation, a good question to ask would be, “How is this any of my business?” If you can’t come up with an adequate response, perhaps it’s time to move on to the next news cycle. There are so many other things that need to be focused on in this world. Global warming, for example. Bruce Jenner in a dress sure isn’t going to melt the polar ice caps.

Bruce