How Easily We’re Taken In

If you’ve got a website, you must be legit, right? Hmph. Anyone can have a website. What apparently is much harder to acquire is critical thinking.

Case in point, The Shed at Dulwich. For a few weeks, it was London’s number one ranked restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. It was the place to be. Their phones were ringing off the hook, but it was a wasted effort on hungry diners’ parts, because they were so exclusive, they were booked for weeks in advance.

The food on the website looked delicious. Their meals were mood themed. My favorite one is “Comfort”. It consisted of “Yorkshire blue Macaroni and Cheese seasoned with bacon shavings and served in a 600TC Egyptian cotton bowl. Comes with a side of sourdough bread.”

And even that didn’t raise eyebrows? I guess the thread count was high enough to give it authenticity. No pilly-sheeted bowls for their patrons!

Here’s the thing, though. The Shed was, literally, a shed. In someone’s back yard. No address, as it was “by appointment only”. No food to be had, unless you wanted to share the resident’s TV dinner. The food in the pictures was actually made of shaving cream and urinal cakes and even, in one case, the author’s foot. It was a huge hoax. It was all just an experiment to see if he could punk TripAdvisor, and wow, did he ever.

Before you say you’d have never fallen for it, ask yourself how many times you’ve bought something that was completely unnecessary simply because it was popular. Can you deny that you’ve ever regretted an impulse buy? Have you ever stood in line for the latest iPhone when the one you have is perfectly functional? Who among us doesn’t look at pictures of ourselves from 35 years ago and think, “What the devil was I thinking when I bought that shirt?”

Let’s admit what the advertising industry has known all along: Humans will follow trends even if it takes them over the edge of a cliff. Even the Russians know this. It’s why we have a buffoon in the White House.

This destructive tendency is even more acute now that we have the internet. Now we can have our misinformation more quickly and act upon it with even less thought. How lucky are we?

We need to teach ourselves and future generations to ask questions and check sources and listen to that little doubtful voice inside our heads. We need to value education and actually apply that learning to our daily lives. Otherwise we will plunge off that cliff to our urinal-caked doom.

Urinal Cake
Urinal Cake, anyone?

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Nature Doesn’t Clash

I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)

Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.

While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?

Painted Hills Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon

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Heartfelt Hyperbole

It’s been proven time and again in this blog that I’m several years behind trends. Don’t feel sorry for me. I get to luxuriate in that fresh, new, exciting, trendy feeling even years later, simply because, while my discovery may not be new to you, it’s still new to me. Just pretend I’m in a different time zone; one of my own making.

If you have to feel sorry for someone, feel sorry for yourself, dear reader, because you get to hear me rave about something that you’re most likely already over. Think of it as the penance you do to read my other, more current stuff. Am I asking too much, here?


This discovery came about because I was massaging my own ego. I was honored to hear that four copies of my book are now in the King County Library System, scattered in branches all around the Seattle area. Holy cow! I have a call number! Just call me 814.6 ABE.

So I couldn’t resist. I had to see what authors I was sharing my shelf with.


Omigod. Calvin Trillin? Rebecca Solnit? Seriously? I wanted to shout, right there in the library. But I resisted the urge. (I did tell the librarian at the checkout counter, but she seemed unimpressed by the enormity of it all. Buzz kill.)

But I thought that the best way to honor the event was to choose a book on my shelf (my shelf!!!) to read. So I chose Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. (Hence, the unsatisfying encounter with the checkout librarian.)

So here goes trendy me, discovering the most amazing book from 2013. I mean seriously, if you are as out of the loop as I am and you haven’t read it, do so. Right this minute. You can finish it in one sitting if you’re motivated. You’ll thank me.

Allie Brosh has the most amazing literary voice. I constantly found myself laughing in sympathy. I understand her. I suspect a lot more people do than would care to admit it. She has humorous angst down to a science.

Her spot-on description of chronic depression and how people react to it is quite the revelation. She talks about feeling nothing as if feelings are dead fish. And people are trying to help her by saying they’ll help her look for them. But she knows where they are. They’re right here. They’re just dead.

I get that. I have felt that way on and off for much of my life. Trying to help someone “snap out of it” doesn’t work. Trying to cheer someone up doesn’t work. But after reading Allie’s description of depression, I know what I will say to the next depressed friend I have.

I get it. I’ve been there. It feels like nothing matters. It feels blank. You don’t care, even though you want to. But here’s the thing: somewhere, deep down, underneath that wet wool blanket of utter despair, you still care just enough to stay alive in that bleak, painful wasteland that you find yourself in. You care enough about the people who love you to not want to hurt them by taking yourself out. That’s something. That’s huge, actually. It’s heroic. Hang on to that.

Hang on.

Since publishing this amazing book, Allie Brosh has dropped off the radar, depriving us of her amazing talent. But that’s her prerogative. If she wants to be left alone, so be it. But Allie, I hope you’ll hang on. I think you are a wonderful addition to this planet. Just sayin’.

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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The Bumblebee Shirt

I am convinced that some people should not be allowed to dress themselves. You know the ones. You pass them on the street and the first thing that crosses your mind is, “What the hell were you thinking this morning?”

I must admit I’m not exactly a fashion plate myself. Comfort matters much more to me than brand names or the latest trend. But I try not to clash. I try to avoid spandex. I try to be age appropriate. And as a general rule I try not to look ridiculous.

I used to date a guy who liked to wear a golf shirt that consisted of wide alternating stripes of olive drab and mustard yellow, which was horrible, but tolerable, until you added in the fact that it had a large powder blue coat of arms stitched on the upper left side. I used to call it the bumblebee shirt. The thing was awful. And it didn’t help that he was a redhead. People would stare at him with a look of pity when he wore it.

I have to admit that I teased him about this shirt. This was before I realized that he hadn’t matured past the age of 12 and that teasing actually emotionally lacerated this guy. You couldn’t even get into water fights while washing the car with him, because he’d take it personally and actually get tears in his eyes. This made it awfully hard to have fun with him.

When we broke up, I discovered that what I intended as good-natured teasing and maybe a little bit of advice came off as bullying to him. He never had the backbone to speak up at the time, and eventually he got rid of the shirt. But now I feel kind of bad about it. Maybe it would have been better to let him be laughed at by the whole world. I was genuinely trying to protect him from that. But he was notorious for not picking up on blatantly obvious social cues, and ignorance is, after all, bliss.

bumblebee shirt

He actually wore all of this stuff except the tank top.