Modern Dueling, Or: How To Use Up That Spray Cheese

retro-1310390_640 7I recently got into a debate over whether dueling could be considered ethical.  It was the kind of debate you only get into when you start discussing philosophy late at night with people you just met, which is one reason I like philosophy so much.  What else will get you in a no-holds-barred fight about the epistemological implications of reality television (translation:  are the Kardashians making us stupider, or do we just feel stupider for having watched them?).  But, really, dueling?  Surely we can all agree on that, right?

And then I got to thinking, which is an unfortunate side effect of philosophy, and I wondered–could there be a place for dueling in modern society?  And then I got hungry, which is another side effect of philosophy,  especially when done at 2 AM, and I sought revelation in that temple of modern worship, the refrigerator.  Even the knottiest metaphysical conundrum becomes easier to unravel when you’ve had a nice sandwich.  Left-over chicken breast with mustard, maybe, or a nice peanut butter and jelly…

Oh, no.  New and much more pressing conundrum:  all I had was spray cheese and whipped cream.  Oh, I also had all sorts of healthy ingredients with which I could have cooked any number of dishes, but that’s not what you want at two in the morning, is it?  You want something easy, preferably unhealthy, possibly something past its expiration date.  Or chips.  No self-respecting philosopher cooks at two in the morning!  What could I do with spray cheese and a can of whipped cream?

That’s when it hit me, an idea so big it answered both my questions at once.  Question 1:  Is there a place for dueling in modern society?  Question 2:  What could I do with spray cheese and a can of whipped cream?  Answer to both:  it’s obvious!  This is how we can fight modern-day duels:  with aerosolized edibles!  It resolves questions of honor while simultaneously helping you clean out your pantry.  So much quicker and less expensive than lawsuits, plus you’ve got a tasty snack for after.  Well, you do if you pick the whipped cream.

The entire code duello fell into place after that epiphany.  The person challenged has choice of foodstuffs, but the challenger can reject the choice if the challenger presents medical documentation of an allergy to the selection.  Seconds will ensure that the weapons have not expired (it is recommended, but not required, that all duel-related edibles be purchased no more than three days before the date of the duel and still retain all tabs and plastic rings).  Cooking spray may be used in the event of a post-holiday spray food shortage, and it is acceptable to use well-shaken cans of soda if both parties agree, but no person of honor should ever profane beer in this manner.  Unless it’s PBR, in which case, spray away.

When aiming the chosen comestible, one must avoid the face and neck.  The best practice is to wear about one’s person a set of appropriate agreed-upon targets, such as strawberries or crackers, the choice of targets being dependent upon what food will be aimed at them.  It is recommended against using ice cream for this purpose as the target items will tend to become difficult to distinguish upon melting.  The first participant to hit each of his opponent’s targets with the spray food wins the duel.  Either participant may forfeit at any time by eating his remaining targets.  It is considered bad form to continue firing while your opponent is still chewing.

I think this could revolutionize modern society.  Who wouldn’t want to watch a couple of supposed adults attacking each other with spray cheese?  We could televise the duels, have commentators discuss the relative merits of name-brand vs. store-brand and the strategic placement of crackers.  Then we could have late-night philosophy debates over what’s making us dumber:  dueling with spray food or keeping up with the Kardashians.  Any resulting quarrels could be resolved by dueling or, in the alternative, attempting to keep up with the Kardashians.

But if the Kardashians decide to duel each other with edible spray paint (in gold, of course, while naked), I’m not responsible for the resulting global collapse of meaning, logic, and reason.  In fairness to me, I’m pretty sure that’s already happened.

Oops, I Accidentally Tweeted A Celebrity

laptop-40935_640So, this Twitter thing:  weird, right?  I couldn’t sleep last night, so I went tweet-hopping.  Twitter suggested that I might find this one guy interesting, and I recognized the name from a guest post I had read online that actually made sense to me.  In retrospect, if I didn’t breeze right past things like introductions on guest posts, I might not be in this predicament.  But I did, and I also jumped right into a philosophical debate he was having with someone on Twitter despite never having met either participant.  I didn’t realize at the time just how perilous this little blind jump of mine was.

My thought process essentially consisted of:  cool!  People are talking about philosophy late at night!  I used to do this for a (sort of) living!  The problem with that reasoning is that, when I used to do this regularly, it was in person, and celebrities very rarely wandered into the bars near my school.  Matthew McConaughey once, but he was pretty drunk (and kind of condescending, too), and Dave Matthews once.  He was actually pretty cool, though also drunk.  It made me feel bad that I don’t like his music.  But, you know, I had fair warning then, and also our conversations weren’t broadcast over the entire internet.

So I said my bit, getting more responses from the non-famous person in the debate than the celebrity, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve had a lop-sided philosophy discussion, so that still didn’t tip me off.  I eventually got tired and got some sleep, got up, saw a response, tweeted back.  I then went on about my day because, you know, I have a life.  After several hours I remembered to unplug my headphones from my iPhone, at which point Twitter started chirping at me every few seconds.  If Twitter could talk, it would have gone like this:

Twitter:  Hey Little Blind Girl!  Hey!  Over here!

Little Blind Girl:  Um, is that you, Twitter?

Twitter:  Of course it’s me.  Who else would it be, Thomas Jefferson?  George Jetson?

Little Blind Girl:  Sorry, you just don’t usually have anything to say to me.

Twitter:  Yeah, well, I’m here now, and you’ve got about fifty million notifications waiting for you.  Would you check ’em, please, because my back’s about to give out from carrying them around.  What am I, your messenger service?

Little Blind Girl:  Well, sort of…

Twitter:  Shut up and check your messages, already.  I don’t got all day.

Twitter’s got a ‘tude.  Anyway, I checked the messages and they nearly all stemmed from that conversation I jumped into last night.  I couldn’t understand why so many people were joining in.  Then, when I was looking through Twitter trying to figure it out, I saw a little blue check mark beside the name of Dude Who Started It.  When I looked that up, and this is probably common knowledge to everyone else, it turns out that the check mark means that person has been verified as famous, or something along those lines.  But, hey, people can be famous for all sorts of reasons, right?  So I looked him up…

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Dude Who Started It, a.k.a. Mark Pellegrino.  Photo by jfer21 from Los Angeles, CA [CC BY-SA 2.0] (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Dude Who Started It is named Mark Pellegrino, and according to IMDb has been in every television show since Howdy Doody.  Including one I’ve actually seen, which takes away my excuse that I don’t really watch much television, so how would I know.  To be fair, though, the show of his that I’ve seen is Lost, which is nearly impossible to follow even when you watch the episodes in order, which I didn’t, and if I’m being honest I still can’t remember him in it (sorry, Dude.  Can’t see the screen).  As I type this post I can hear Twitter continuing to chirp menacingly at me:  you’ve been mentioned!  You’ve been replied to!  Thousands of people you don’t know want to tell you exactly how wrong, stupid, and ridiculous you are!  Actually, they were fairly nice to me, and it’s interesting to have a vigorous, albeit fairly basic, debate on ethics and epistemology with complete strangers, but it got pretty intense for a while (not to mention difficult to follow).  I kind of feel sorry for Dude Who Started It.  Being famous must suck.

One of the great comforts of my internet life is that very few people are paying attention.  Of course it’s nice to think you’re Being Heard and that you’re Getting Your Message Across, but my message mostly consists of, “Hey, guess what random thought just made me laugh in public for no apparent reason,” which is hardly going to change the world.  I like that I can say whatever I think and no one will attack me for it because no one will notice.  I think it’s great that other people like to have anonymous Xtreme Twitter Debates, but I prefer to have my philosophy discussions the way Plato tells us we should:  while getting plastered with friends.

Unlike Dude Who Started It, I have the luxury of only having to be (not really) famous for fifteen minutes.  Soon enough, Twitter will calm down and start ignoring me again and I’ll be able to go back to my own misguided ways without correction from the entire internet, and I’ll continue to share any funny random thoughts I have with those of you who choose to seek me out.  Though I’ve never been fully convinced that my followers weren’t all just my mother under various screen names.

Ooh, hey!  IMDb says Dude Who Started It was in The Big Lebowski, which I’ve seen at least four times.  If only I’d been sober for even one of them….

Edit:  I kept tweeting because apparently Twitter is the new crack.  I started out the Great Debate of April 2016 by asking the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  I ended by concluding that knowledge is the understanding of how Twitter works and wisdom is leaving it the heck alone.  Words to live by.

“Unnecessary” Quotation Marks In “Famous” Books

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The “Library” by Quinn Dombrowski https://flic.kr/p/89CE1X

Whoops!  I accidentally knocked a pile of unnecessary quotation marks into my classic literature collection.  Let’s see what happened:

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

It is a “truth” universally “acknowledged”, that a “single man” in possession of a “good fortune”, must be in want of a “wife”.

However little known the “feelings” or “views” of such a “man” may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this “truth” is so well fixed in the “minds” of the surrounding families, that he is considered the “rightful property” of some one or other of their “daughters”.

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

It was “the best” of times, it was “the worst” of times, it was the age of “wisdom”, it was the age of “foolishness”, it was the “epoch of belief”, it was the “epoch of incredulity”, it was the “season of Light”, it was the “season of Darkness”, it was the spring of “hope”, it was the winter of “despair”, we had “everything” before us, we had “nothing” before us, we were all going direct to “Heaven”, we were all going direct the “other way” – in short, the “period” was so far like the “present period”, that some of its noisiest “authorities” insisted on its being “received”, for good or for evil, in the “superlative” degree of “comparison only”.

The Republic (Plato)

I “went down” yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the “son” of Ariston, that I might offer up my “prayers” to the “goddess” (Bendis, the “Thracian” Artemis.); and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would “celebrate” the festival, which was a “new thing”. I was “delighted” with the procession of the “inhabitants”; but that of the “Thracians” was equally, if not more, “beautiful”. When we had finished our “prayers” and viewed “the spectacle”, we turned in the direction of the “city”; and at that instant Polemarchus the “son” of Cephalus chanced to “catch sight” of us “from a distance” as we were starting on our way home, and told his “servant” to run and bid us wait for him. The servant “took hold” of me by the “cloak” behind, and said: Polemarchus “desires” you to wait.

Genesis (God)

In “the beginning” when God “created” the heavens and the earth, the “earth” was a “formless void” and darkness “covered” the face of the deep, while a “wind from God” swept over the face of the “waters”.  Then God said, “Let there be light”*; and there was “light”.  And God saw that the light was “good”; and God “separated” the light from the darkness.  God “called” the light Day, and the darkness he “called” Night.  And there was “evening” and there was “morning”, the “first day”.

Man, it’s a good thing this was an “accident”; if I’d done it on purpose, I’d be going straight to “Hell”.

* these quotation marks are in the original

Close Encounters of the Chain-Bookstore Kind

BookstoreMy friends and I were in a bookstore once–one of those big national-chain-type bookstores where you need to use your GPS to find your way around.  Actually, this was long enough ago that you had to leave a booktrail to follow back–you know, where you take a book you like and leave it facing cover-out so that you can follow the books like a breadcrumb trail back to the front door, The Sound and the Fury to American Gods to The Maltese Falcon and so on…if you’re with friends you know well enough, you can also use this method to find each other in the store.  Anyway, one of my friends was being hit on by this totally obnoxious guy who was being a condescending jerk to her just because he was very good looking, which would have been less offensive if he hadn’t been spouting really bad existentialist philosophy at the time.

Disclaimer:  I have nothing against existentialist philosophy, as long as it’s done well, preferably in a French accent while smoking a cigarette.  Sadly, this was both crappy and in a Middle America kind of accent.  Not that I have anything against Middle America, it’s just not known for its existentialist philosophy.  Crap.  This is bound to offend someone.  Don’t hate me.

So my friends and I stood watching this for a while, because it wasn’t a big town and that counted as entertainment, when suddenly I’d had enough.  I mean, there’s only so much douchiness you take, especially when it’s being dished out to your friends.  So I ran around a display, rushed breathlessly up to my friend, and said, “Oh my God!  It’s really you!  I can’t believe it!  No one’s going to believe me when I tell them about this!  Can I have your autograph?!”  And my friend graciously signed her name as Douchebag Hairdo gawped moronically on the sidelines.  Friends:  50 million.  Douchebag Hairdo:  0.

Friends are awesome.  Can I just say?  Also:  everyone deserves to have that happen to them at least once in their lives.  Except maybe for Douchebag Hairdos.

Why not be a frog?

A Australian Green Tree Frog

Image via Wikipedia. Blissful or dead?

Ah, college!  The vast opportunities for learning, the endless ability to procrastinate, the lack of consequences for skipping class…I once skipped an introductory philosophy class so often that the professor asked my classmates if I was sick.  Then there’s the time I defended my senior thesis before I wrote it–successfully!  I hear that one still gets talked about.

I majored, among other things, in Philosophy, which meant that my roommate was on the receiving end of some major overly-serious pontification.  My roommate was blonde, tan, and gorgeous, but you couldn’t hate her because she was also really, really nice.  And smart.  She started off as pre-med, ended up spending a year or two wandering around Australia, and then I kind of lost track of her after that.  She ended up being the perfect person to have lengthy late-night conversations with about the meaning of life and assorted related topics.

One such conversation was about the definition of happiness.  I thought there was one universal kind of happiness that we all participated in to a greater or lesser degree.  Her point was that happiness is an emotion that depends in part on the capacity of your brain to process emotions.  I think.  So, she said, while she as a human had the ability to feel all different kinds and degrees of happiness, a frog is pretty much either blissful or dead.  She paused, then concluded, “I really don’t think I’d want to be a frog!”

And they say kids don’t learn anything in school.