Day 188: Get a life coach.

What the hell does a life coach do?

According to the Wikipedia — or, more specifically, to a Wikipedia article with “multiple issues” — really, the thing is pretty unreadable, but you get that sometimes when anybody can edit a thing —— anyway, “life coaching is a practice that helps people identify and achieve personal goals,” and life coaches do this “using a variety of tools and techniques.”

Well, glad we cleared that up.

Life coaches aren’t therapists, they aren’t counselors, they aren’t psychologists or psychiatrists or psychoanalysts: they don’t bother with the past, apparently, only with the future — though how that’s possible I don’t know, since dealing with goals for the future has to take into account where one is in the present, and an (honest) assessment of one’s present has to involve looking at how one arrived where one is, which involves dealing with the fucking past.

Life coaches are bullshit artists, then: con men and snake oil salesmen, whose goal is to make people feel good about themselves without actually changing their lives — because actual change in the sucker’s client’s life might make the life coach obsolete — so that the people give the life coaches money.

Of course, I’m basing this less-than-flattering assessment on one section of a poorly-written Wikipedia article. Maybe I should see what some actual, professional life coaches have to say.

LifeCoach.com bills itself as “the way to effortless success” — and, as anyone who’s ever done anything worth doing knows, “effortless success” does not exist.

Bill Blalock promises an “ongoing partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives” (emphasis his) — that’s a sentence that doesn’t really say anything. He does acknowledge that the coaching process might initially be “discomforting and even painful,” and that it can be “difficult” to talk about one’s “issues.” On the other hand, before becoming a life coach, he “held management positions at Frito Lay, Inc., Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc, Ernst & Young LLP and Cadbury Schweppes” — and one should never trust middle management.

I cruised Tina Ferguson’s site for a few minutes — it’s pinker than I like — but I have no snarky comments to make, because I can’t make sense of anything she’s saying. Alright, I do have one snarky comment: what kind of successful life coach asks her readers to send her money to blow at Starbucks? I mean, if any of you want to send me money to spend on beer coffee, that would be awesome — but if I was already charging people to spout bullshit at them, asking for tips for the bullshit I gave away for free would be tacky.

So, I think I stand by my initial assessment. Life coaches: people who take your money and make you do stupid things that aren’t really going to do you any good.

Why would I want one? Isn’t that why I have this stupid Book?

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Day 182: Return to childhood.

Let me tell you what I was like as a child: I was a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, and misanthropic crotchety old man who read too much and played with Legos. That is: exactly the same as I am now.

Done and done: time for a drink.

No, not really. Not really done, I mean — it’s always time for a drink.

One of the other things I did as a child was watch movies: I probably saw the original Star Wars trilogy several hundred times before I was ten (and I’m on the way to seeing it a hundred more times before my son is ten). The difference is that suspension of disbelief used to be par for the course for me when watching a movie. If, as a child, I ever stopped to think how absolutely ridiculous it was for a giant worm — with teeth! — to be living in an asteroid, let alone how absurd it was for there to have been enough of an atmosphere in its intestine for Han and Leia to walk around in street clothes outside the Millennium Falcon —— I say, if such things occurred to me, I ignored them and went back to enjoying the movie. I tried to return to that — that simple, unquestioning, naive engagement with a film — as today’s task.

I went to see Cars 2.

You need to understand that I love Pixar’s movies, all of them — this could be a very long digression, but I’ll just say that I can’t watch the last twenty minutes of Toy Story 3 without someone chopping up onions — also I should say that I have crush on Mrs. Incredible — and Flik’s “I know it’s a rock! I’ve spent a lot of time around rocks!” line is funnier than it should be — you know, if I only had Pixar’s filmography and the films of the Coen brothers to watch, I’d be a happy man ——— anyway, I was saying that I love all of Pixar’s movies, except Cars.

Don’t get me wrong: Cars is better than a lot of other animated films, most of which are nothing more than dog shit run through a projector, but it’s still just okay in terms of the rest of Pixar’s canon. I also cannot — absolutely can not — suspend disbelief while watching it. The reasons why are numerous, but they boil down to cars don’t have opposable thumbs, for fuck’s sake.

And since sequels are usually worse than the films that spawned them — with notable exceptions, of course — I was anticipating having trouble with this task, especially since I’d been informed that Cars 2 was running 34% at Rotten Tomatoes.

I was pleasantly surprised. No, scratch that: I loved it. It’s visually stunning, which we expect — the fly-over shots of London were breathtakingly realistic, though — and Michael Caine was phenomenal, but what sold me was the fact that it’s a spoof of spy movies (just like Burn After Reading, another movie that I love but nobody else does). I’m sure it won’t hold up to repeated viewings, but it might surprise me, and it’ll definitely always be better than the first one — but I had fun, at a movie, which hasn’t happened since…

…well, since last November — since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I.

No, wait, I saw Super 8 last week, and it was fantastic. Fun, even, despite the fact that I wasn’t trying not to think about it.

I’m not sure where that leaves us. I guess movies are just more fun the first time, on a giant screen, and so loud we should all be wearing earplugs?

Probably so, yes. I guess I should go to the movies more often.


Day 147: Change someone’s mind today.

I’m standing in line at a Starbucks, one I don’t normally frequent. The dude in front of me is talking on his cellphone, only a little loudly and obnoxiously. I’m listening, because it’s difficult not to, but I’m not paying attention — not until he said that Janeway was a better captain than Picard.

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I objected, forcefully and profanely. Picard is clearly superior, in every way, I said. He thought for a moment, and then agreed — no discussion necessary, because I’m just that convincing.

…yeah, that didn’t happen. Nobody thinks Janeway was a better captain.

What really happened was this: the dude was complaining about some other dude not calling him back — or having to call some dude back himself? — it was hard to tell, because ever other word was “shit.”

Normally this wouldn’t bother me; I use ‘harsh language’ pretty frequently. In this instance, though, it was bothersome, because there were a fair amount of young, impressionable children around. I tapped the dude on the shoulder; he looked at me; I said to him — quietly, so the kids wouldn’t hear — “watch your fucking language.”

He told me to fuck off.

People don’t want their minds changed. They want to think what they’ve always thought — or, more accurately, cling to the same unfounded assumptions and blind prejudices that they were inculcated with at a young age. I have enough trouble changing my students’ minds, and they’re there — ostensibly, anyway — to have their minds changed. Everyone I know already agrees with me about everything. Strangers are a lost cause.

Not a single mind was changed today.


Day 140: Jam the line!

I’m supposed to call the “national headquarters” of the KKK repeatedly, hanging up each time, in some sort of primitive DoS attack.

Right. That’ll do something. I don’t think the Klan even has a national headquarters…

It seems absurd to me that the Klan still exists. Not because I think we’re living in some post-racial utopia – racism and bigotry of all sorts are alive and well – just look at Westboro Baptist, those people hate everyone, even the Swedes, and how can you hate the Swedes? —— no, the continued existence of the Klan seems ridiculous because they’re just so nineteenth-century.

Maybe being a club of aggressive racist drunks with a secret handshake and stupid ‘slang’ was enough back in the 1860s, or even the early 20th century, but now it just looks pathetic. I linked to one of the Westboro Baptist church’s websites above: despite the fact that all of the Phelpses and their lackeys are terrible, hateful people, they’ve got a decent set of websites. The content is incredibly offensive, but it’s well presented: there’s a bit of a Flash intro, but it’s fairly low-key; the layout is clean, not too cluttered, easy to navigate; there’s embedded video, even. These people are on Twitter, too, for fuck’s sake. That’s how you do bigotry in the 21st century.

But the way you combat this sort of 21st-century bigotry is not by engaging it, and certainly not online: never – NEVER – feed the trolls. You just have to out-troll them, like this.

Even that does nothing, though, except pointing out what everyone already knows: that these people are ridiculous. It’s not going to change any of their minds. Stupidity and bigotry and hate aren’t going anywhere, nor are idiots and bigots and hate-mongers. Ignoring them all is the path of least resistance – and the one I prefer, honestly – and arguing with them can be fun, but is ultimately unproductive. Ridicule is probably best, but it only makes them stronger, and the belief that persecution is the mark of rightness (and righteousness) in any and every case run centuries deep.

…fuck it, dudes, let’s go bowling. But if we run in to any WBC protesters, I’m going to wave my floppy dick at them.


Day 119: Sense-less day.

“Go through today without using your sense of hearing.”

I should have realized back on Day 51 that this was going to be a series of tasks, a day for every sense. While I think these are, in general, bullshit tasks, I am looking forward to having no taste

This was one of those logistically-challenging tasks: how do I simulate deafness for a day?

There’s the obvious solution: I could have worn earplugs all day, which would have muted everything, though not made the world around me completely silent. They get uncomfortable after a few hours, though, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s being uncomfortable. I could have shirked all of my responsibilities and hidden out somewhere where nobody would have spoken to me, and been very quiet all day. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t do this, actually – I’m sure my students would have appreciated a day off, especially considering only about half of them showed up for class.

Because there wasn’t a good (and reversible) way to go through the day without my sense of hearing, I just pretended to not be able to hear anything. People asked me questions, and I ignored them. This was especially fun during class, because the students (who actually showed up) had lots of questions about their final papers, which are due Monday … and I didn’t answer a single one, because I “couldn’t hear them.” Probably not going to help my evaluations at all, but I think it was worth it.

Honestly, though, I sometimes feel as if my students are the ones pretending not to hear anything: blank faces, empty stares, jaws slack, drool dribbling down their chins – they’re like lobotomy patients, but they’re doing it on purpose, the little bastards. I love asking questions and getting silence as a response: it’s annoying enough when my three-year-old does it, but I expect college students – who are practically adults, for fuck’s sake – to answer questions asked of them without an undue amount of prodding.

It’s never going to happen, though, is it?


[Day 30: Ignore today.]

Done.

I ignored today. I ignored it so thoroughly that I’m going to wake up tomorrow and think it’s Sunday. I ignored it so thoroughly that I kept forgetting where I was and what I was doing – and, right now, I’m not entirely sure how I got where I am, or where else I’ve been, or what I’ve been doing, or who I’ve seen – or, really, anything that’s happened today.

There’s a stack of bluebooks next to my computer – essays my students wrote in class. They’ve been graded (today? by me?) – which I know because they’re bleeding ink – but I remember nothing about what they say (though that might have been the case anyway – how memorable are student essays, after all?).

I ignored…

…wait, what am I ignoring, again?  ——Oh, look, bourbon!


Don’t let the car fool you…

Last week I was driving home from work when I saw a Lexus RX 350 (MSRP: $38,800 and up) with a bumper sticker that read: “Don’t let the car fool you, my real treasure is in Heaven.”

The amount of doublethink required to put that kind of bumper sticker on that kind of car is unfathomable to me, but it seems to be pretty common, as a simple googling of the phrase “don’t let the car fool you” will demonstrate (and it should be noted that the above photo is from a random flickr account). The verses being referenced are Matthew 6:19-21, which read as follows: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NKJV)

Now, if a forty thousand dollar car doesn’t fall under the category of ‘treasure’, I don’t really know what would. And referencing this statement of Jesus’ – of all the things he said – on an earthly treasure requires either total ignorance (not to say stupidity) or self-righteous arrogance. To make things worse, it’s only a few verses later that Jesus says that thing about serving two masters – God and money – and how it can’t be done.

I had mostly forgotten about the whole thing – it’s so typical of mainstream American Christianity as to be unremarkable – when I saw the same bumper sticker today on an old, beat up Isuzu pickup, with a mower in the bed and the number of the driver’s landscaping business on the rear window. I thought, on first seeing it, that it was an appropriate vehicle for such a sticker – not a treasure, but a tool. It’s still a weird thing to put on a car, though. Why broadcast the fact that you’re storing up treasure in heaven at all? One last verse, Matthew 6:2: “When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”