Yo BTB! (Bearded Tomato Bisque) 

00
Ingredients:
  • 7 tins Yogurt, in any flavor (Note: individually-wrapped tins of cottage cheese are also acceptable, but only if they have fruit on the bottom. For this meal, I used 4 yogurt, 3 cottage cheese.)
  • 1 can Campbell’s® Tomato Bisque
Instructions:
  1. Grow a beard.
  2. Eat 6 Yogurts.
  3. Remove lid from the Campbell’s® Tomato Bisque.
  4. Sip half the Campbell’s® Tomato Bisque.
  5. Eat the final Yogurt.
  6. Sip the rest of the Bisque.
  7. Fall asleep in your van.
001

Suffering as a self-improvement strategy?

Making the self suffer is a cornerstone of many successful philosophies:

I was prompted to consider this strategy by Conan O’Brien on his podcast with Stephen Colbert. Both Catholics, they described intentionally putting themselves through strife. “I did hairshirt behavior,” Colbert says (34:37).

Conan (36:27): “This is pain… where any normal person would tell you, any therapist would say, ‘This suffering is unnecessary. You achieved nothing with this suffering.”… I put myself through a lot of torture. And here’s the crazy thing: what happens when you do that and then magical things start to happen for you? You can’t see me because it’s a podcast, but Stephen just pointed his finger at me as if to say, ‘You nailed it.’”

Stephen, a few lines later: “It works.”

Conan: “What I hate, I hate… I hate thait it fucking works.”

Stephen: “And the magical thinking magically thinks that magical thinking worked.”

Conan: “It’s the biggest fight I’ve had over the last five years with therapists and friends.” … “Therapists have said, ‘You don’t need the suffering.’ and I 80% believe them and I’m 20% like, ‘what the fuck do you know?'”

Is making yourself suffer a strategy for improving? Does it work? Comments greatly appreciated.

Quotent Quotables, Volume 2

I’ve curated a list of recent quotes from my life, along with a challenge: Who said each quote? Me or Not-Me? (Answers at the end; track your responses to see how well you fare!)

  1. “You know that Carly Simon song? It’s about me.”
  2. “Sometimes I feel like I’m always rushing. Then I get some free time and it’s just the worst.”
  3. “When you eliminate the extraneous, all that’s left is you. When you eliminate the you, all that’s left is the Tao.”
  4. “Pickling is so great. They take cucumbers and make them edible!”
  5. “Nexterday. I mean tomorrow.”
  6. “I like spending time with people with low self-esteem—whenever we arrive at a problem, they’re too busy blaming themselves to blame me.”
  7. “I’m a coffee drinker, so cups of tea aren’t my cup of tea.”
  8. “You’re nervous. That’s okay. Just don’t be nervous about being nervous.”
  9. “My computer just told me it has an upgrade it wants to run. Let me guess: it’s going to make the computer run more slowly and not affect how I use it at all.”
  10. “The more I learn about how things work, the more I learn they’re stupid and poorly done.”
  11. “Avocado would be a great Halloween costume for a pregnant woman.”
  12. “With T-Mobile, you get free tacos on Tuesdays, but with Verizon you can make phone calls.”

To protect you from accidentally seeing the answers, please enjoy this anecdote: (Real! Real true! Real true funny!)

Context: A highschool couple eats dinner at Chick-Fil-A. The Girl has painted her face with such vigor that it lacks pores. The guy sports spiky hair, diamond hoop earrings, and flip-flops.

Girl: I don’t find comedy funny.

Guy: You don’t find comedy funny?

Girl: I find it cringe-y. It’s not natural funny. It’s like forced funny. I don’t like comedy movies because they’re not funny. I feel like the only comedy that I actually find funny is, like, White Chicks. Oh my god! We should watch White Chicks together!

 

(Scroll down for the answers)

 

(Keep scrolling)

 

(Who’s a good scroller? You are! Yes, you are!)

 

Those answers you’ve been waiting for:

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 are by Yours Truly

Your Score:

0: You know me incredibly well, but prefer self-sabotage.

1-3: Next time, try flipping a coin.

4-6: You did flip a coin.

7-9: Let’s be friends.

10-11: So close and yet so far. Was it the pickling? I bet it was the pickling.

12: Self… is that you? I mean me? Are you… me?

Paul Simon

We don’t see musical legends to hear music; we come to view the divine. Headphones are better for music. I saw Paul so I could think, “That’s the closest to God I’ve ever seen.”

He opened with America, which stabs my chest with recollections of love for someone who disappears for months at a time. Then came hit after hit that even your kids would know.

He didn’t sing Bridge over Troubled Water or Mrs. Robinson – both #1s. “Maybe he doesn’t want to sing them without Garfunkel.” But he sang The Sound of Silence, and that was a Garfunkel song. (And anyway, it’s not about the music).

His solo pieces strip the man down to emotional expression. His body drops away and Paul becomes a voice, guitar, and poetry.

Can we substitute in a bad rendition of those two #1s instead of the string-backed songs he played that no one knew? Does he care about my opinion? Should he?

There goes a man who achieved his purpose. He lived a satisfying, accomplished life. What more is there?

How can my writing impact as many lives as his did, and still provide the high of thousands making pilgrimage en masse to realize I’m not God?

The band Bastille acts like a stripper

The band Bastille acts like a stripper

or

“Why you up there dancing for cash? I guess a whole lot’s changed since I’ve seen you last.”

An Open Letter to Bastille, Regarding Their Version of This Song

 

Bastille,

“What would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on the bedroom floor because he’s hungry… for an emotional range and your song destroys any chance for change?”

When you make this song poppier, more direct, and clearer, why do you also eliminate the whole point of its existence? The original is impactful. It’s an empowering parable. It says the suffering of single motherhood is beatable. You cut that part. Why?

  • Do you think an audience can only process one emotion per song?
  • Would you rather have memorable repetition than impact your listeners?
  • Is empowerment off-brand?

These cuts are a cop-out. They’re the bad version of selling out—not the “selling out” that just means “making money,” but the one that means making directly harmful art. Specifically, here’s what I’m talking about:

 

The original version of the song’s bridge, as written by City High:

(What would you do?)

Get up on my feet and let go of every excuse

’Cause I wouldn’t want my baby to go through what I went through.

(What would you do?)

Get up on my feet and stop making tired excuses

Girl, I know if my mother can do it, baby you can do it.

 

Bastille’s cover version:

(What would you do?)

Get up off my feet and stop making tired excuses

Get up off my feet and stop making tired excuses

(What would you do?)

Get up off my feet and stop making tired excuses

Get up off my feet.

 

Sure, this is a small change, but it’s the whole point of the song. As Wikipedia describes:

“The song, along with the accompanying music video, is a motivational anthem for single parents dealing with poverty and especially acknowledging all the single mothers who feel forced into prostitution due to the need to support their children.[4] It encourages them to keep strong, and keep going on for the sake of their loved ones, and passes no judgment on their profession.”

 

It’s a motivational anthem. To motivate someone, you have to change their emotional state. All you’ve changed is the song, from empowering to wallowing.

… And what about “Get up OFF my feet?” Your new line doesn’t make sense! The original line is “Get up ON my feet”—as in “get up and make a change.” Do you really mean to tell the stripper, “Relax! Take a load off?” Did you cover the song without first understanding it?

Without these changes, I’d prefer your version over City High’s, but you cut the only part that made me cry. I hope this is welcome commentary–if I made such a misstep (and I believe it’s a misstep, not just a matter of taste), I’d want someone to tell me. You might have cut the track to make it more digestible or easier to play on the radio. But even through the corporate lens, if a song has no effect, why listen again?

I listen to City High’s version on repeat to feel better. It moves me. It makes me want more than their one released album. When I hear your version, I feel angry at the state of stripped-down, repetitive, surface-level mass media that would rather profit from suffering than improve lives. If you could re-record it, Bastille, what would you do? 

I had a feeling I could be someone.

You’ll only feel me by listening

to the same song,

fifty versions,

but none better than the downtown boy

with hair like Dylan

accepted to Yale when I was

but dropped out

and now plays to a Farmers’ market audience–

an empty picnic blanket and me.

 

At 24 years old,

he looks more like twelve

and sings folk like a wizened bluesman.

Will he go anywhere

or stay in Fairfax forever,

wearing the same uncool shoes

as the classmate I bullied in 4th grade.

 

If America’s misfits come to San Francisco

and SF’s go to Oakland,

where go Oakland’s?

We’re only fifteen miles north of The City,

but you can believe astrology

and we’ll still believe in you.

 

If you move too quick,

you hit the speed of loneliness

like a too-fast car,

breaking the sound barrier,

collapsing personality,

emptying you out.