Greg’s intended topic? Tidying up and decluttering closets, continuing from last week’s #infomagical adventure and also borrowing from Marie Kando’s book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Are of Decluttering and Organizing. Jen’s not having it. None of it. Particularly not the “sparking joy” bits. In fact, she takes a hot, steaming dump all over Greg’s enthusiasm and Ms. Kando’s magical Japanese art of doing what apparently millions of people and books have already done…and it’s amusing. Eventually, across the socially precarious bridge of a protracted silence, Greg claims, “Sometimes you disappoint me.”
The conversation then shifts to geriatric gymtimidation, the scourge of resting cantankerous old-woman bitch face, and the fact that not all lunks are muscular dudes. Sometimes they’re old, feminine, and leathery…and visual darts from Bubbe are much more intimidating than anything some swole-up, orange-toned, full-tilt Ed Hardied guido might say or do.
And then there’s the lady on the treadmill in Daisy Dukes, puffy socks, and with her substantive, pendulous bosoms NOT nestled in particularly supportive undergarments. One could call them unbridled. (You might remember her from, “Of Gym Rats and Jackasses,” a very early D2D podcast.)
This is a fun ride.
We present to you, “Sometimes You Disappoint Me.”
Oh, and the music. We begin with the Ed Sheeran penned beauty, “Love Yourself,” performed with such skill, subtlety and soul by Justin Bieber. That’s right, folks, good old JB. And the video is outstanding and interesting as well. Then, at the end, the MetroGnome mix of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Good stuff. Really good stuff. Check it out.
Western Pennsylvania is cursed…nay, blessed with a unique dialect known here as, “Pittsburghese” but more widely as the Western Pennsylvania dialect (WPD). Many university-educated natives, implanted academics, and the burgeoning nouveau hipster class look down upon it, and those who use WPD unabashedly are largely derided as dummies, jagoffs, and yinzers. The origins of our dialect can be directly traced to the Scots-Irish and German farmers and whiskey producers who first populated this region, as well as later-arriving Slavic-speaking (e.g. Polish) immigrants. A “jagger” is any small, sharp-pointed object, and a jagger certainly can irritate the skin. So what’s a jagoff? (“You, Del Duca!”) True, sometimes I can be an irritating or annoying person. And what of “you ones,” or the second person plural personal pronoun? Well, we contract it and, utilizing our unique way of producing certain vowels, arrive at “Yinz.” And thus, a person from this neck of the woods can be justifiably referred to as a “yinzer.” A yinzer can be but isn’t necessarily a jagoff, but the term “jagoff” is unquestionably uttered by a yinzer.
Yinz got it?
What’s my point here?
Pittsburghese is a perfectly legitimate non-standard dialect of U.S. English. It includes unique phonology, or sounds (e.g. “dahn” for “down” and “warter” for “water”), vocabulary (e.g. “jagoff” and “nebby,” which is an adjective that equates to “nosey.” A “neb-nose” is a person given to prying in the affairs of others. The phrase, “Get ahtta here, ya nebby jagoff,” uttered with any sincerity in any old-school Pittsburgh neighborhood will incite violence), grammar (e.g. need/want/like + past-participle, which gives us: “The car needs washed,” or, when considering phonology, “The car needs warshed,” rather than the more standard, “The car needs to be washed”), as well as certain discourse and prosodic variations. (Prosody is the way language “sings” and includes cadence, intonation, pitch, stress, and rhythm.) I can hear the dialect quickly. I can name that Yinzer in just one word, and that’s largely because of prosody.
Pittsburghese, like any dialect, can be used completely, not at all, or somewhere along the continuum between those extremes. Some people, like my Mom, use many of the features of the Western Pennsylvania Dialect. Others, like me, use one or two. And folks who’ve either moved here for a spell or moved away will often land somewhere in the middle. Any dialect of any standard language expression exists on a continuum of: completely->very-> moderately->slightly->negligibly. (Why is it, then , that nearly every person in my family is a textbook Yinzer yet I end up using very few of the dialectal markers reflexively? There are a variety of personality traits including a pesky perfectionist streak and a desire to be liked/accepted, as well as experiential factors including my having lived away from Pittsburgh for many years of my life, become a professional speech/language pathologist, and also hobbied as a tour guide and a cappella singer.)
Very few people in their everyday lives use Standard American English, or SAE. National newscasters generally do. Politicians used to, but now try to sound “folksy” and local to whatever demographic they’re trying to capture. They “code-switch” to make the people around them believe something like, “Oh s/he’s one of us! I’ll vote for him/her.” Actually, almost all of us will code-switch to a more standard English dialect when we’re in the presence of authority, professionals, or an interviewer.
A person is neither less intelligent because s/he uses a non-standard dialect nor more intelligent because s/he uses the standard variation.
Go ahead, read that line up there again.
Verbal intelligence and the ability to communicate with depth and complexity is not determined by the dialect a person uses.
Let it sink in.
It’s also true.
Unfortunately, and I’d argue unethically if not amorally, all of our tests of intelligence, achievement, and acceptance are presented in…Standard American English. As a country, we’ve made the decision that “standard” equates to “best,” and furthermore that “standard” equates to “indicative of ability, cognition, and social worth.”
I want to start this conversation, particularly with my personal experience using the non-standard dialect of my family and ancestors, so that I can springboard into a related conversation about the non-standard dialect of another population in the U.S., a population that has been historically enslaved, oppressed, and devalued.
Next week, we talk about African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
In this episode, we falsely claim that Troeg’s Brewing was acquired by one of the brewing world’s big guns, but this is not true. Not at all Here’s the story. This makes me incredibly happy, even though I wasn’t initially super stoked by the label-art redesigns. They are beautiful, though. (If you’re ever in/near Hershey, it’s absolutely worth your time to stop at the brewery, eat at the exceptional and amazing “snack bar,” which is an understatement of epic proportions, and take the tour.) Sometimes I’m a crotchety old traditionalist, though…particularly when it comes to big things that I used to know and love when they were considerably smaller. So, Troeg’s. We had Nugget Nectar tonight (7.5 ABV, 93ish IBU). We did this post Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and Imperial Pils, which is becoming a bit of a tradition for us. Get buzzed on the Lagunitas, hit record, and bring that buzz to a drunk with a new brew.
So, what is the topic today?
We talk about absurd Twitter battles (…I know, the word “absurd” is entirely unnecessary and is implied by the following two words…) and misinformed bro-beefs.
Really. It wasn’t a joke. I mean, it’s a fucking joke…but it wasn’t to B.o.B. (His Twitter profile leads me to believe that he also believes the moon landing was faked. Perhaps by Stanley Kubrick. Yikes.)
This is a real thing that just happened. A fairly popular hip hop and pop music artist, that being B.o.B., claims that there is NOT irrefutable evidence that the earth is round; that, in fact, there is much conspiracy-theorist-nut-job-driven data pointing in the direction of human beliefs circa 300 BC. An actual scientist and also popular culture icon, that being deGrasse Tyson, argued with him. And the fall out includes several songs. Here’s B.o.B.’s. Here’s Tyson’s. I don’t know, maybe we should prepare for the Armageddon.
Next, we try to interpret the Wiz Khalifa/Kanye West Twitter battle. Think about that. A friggin’ Twitter battle. Not a physical fight. Not a drive-by shooting. Not even a verbal confrontation. Just two dudes, presumably of average intelligence, arguing with each other over a social media platform. About…really, it’s entirely unclear; or at least not worth any additional cognitive energy to explain here. Is this what we’ve become? When hip-hop hatred needs to be modified and telegraphed to fit the character constraints of an application? I guess.
And through this entire thing, Jen ends up becoming a fan of B.o.B.’s flow and the producers with whom he works.
Sometimes we capture snapshots with our words. Tweets, Facebook posts, blog paragraphs, poems, and other short writing can even paint pictures. If we’re intentional, practiced, skilled, and, truth be told, fortunate enough, sometimes we create movies…living, breathing worlds that matter…with language. My goal here is to describe five to ten seconds. A verbal vine, as it were, or graphemic gif (…perhaps a Jurassic gif, depending on which side of the phonemic fence you phall…) that encapsulates an experience I’m sure each of us has encountered at least once. As an adult, it absolutely tears my heart to shreds when I see it. It is that moment (and the following seconds) in childhood when utter, pervasive, absolutely immediate elation turns to equally perfect, instantaneous, and unambiguous misery. An emotional trap-door.
So, if it pleases the reader, we shall travel back in time, my hope that these words will carry you to my youth like Ebenezer Scrooge clutching the robes of the Spirit of Christmases Past…
It’s Summer in Pittsburgh, early 1980’s, approaching dusk. I’m on a city street, cars parked on either side. Tall-narrow houses nestled together in a double-sided block-wide row of various fading colors and states of decay. The neighborhood kids are playing football in the middle of the street. Flag? No. Tag? Presumably, but not actually. (How we never broke bones or concussed ourselves to complete confusion is a not insignificant miracle.)
In the distance, the ubiquitous, acclimated sounds of constant traffic, barking dogs, and city-living are punctuated with the sound of music. The hills WERE alive, with the sound of music amplified over an old, tinny public announcement system. I now know the tune as Scott Joplin’s, “The Entertainer.” Classic ragtime. But then? In 1981 it meant one thing.
The ice cream man was coming.
One person shouted, “Ice cream man!” The rest of us stopped, mid…whatever. A one-second pause confirmed that, indeed, it was time to break like the wind to our respective stoops and collect the requisite change from our Moms, Dads, Grandparents, or whoever had the money.
For me, it was my Mom and soon-to-be Step-Father. On this particular night, like most others, I’m certain I was asked to bring back something for each of them. And the change.
I grabbed the money and sprinted as fast as my chubby ass would carry me. Assuredly, the truck would come to our block. Eventually. But part of the fun was chasing it down, and that we did.
I booked up 42nd Street…unpaved, uneven, and cobbled…to the source of Mr. Joplin’s greatest hit.
Out of breath, pupils dilated, I scanned the side of the truck as I took my place in line.
I ordered whatever my parents requested, likely got myself a King Cone, and backed away from the truck to open that conical piece of sweet, frozen heaven.
And here, as a young fat-faced Gregory Del Duca made his way hastily back down the uneven surfaces of his urban Shangri-la, is where his roller coaster of emotional bliss peaked. There is no more sublimely happy being than a child of the 80’s walking away from the ice cream man, cone in dominant hand, change and parents’ treats nestled oppositely, the Summer sun sliding down the western side of wherever.
Pause that moment…because in less than one second everything will change.
You see, when a young, healthy man is walking with determination and concentration on an even surface with both hands free, and said individual trips and falls…reflexes ensure that only the palms and the ego emerge bruised.
But, when a fat boy focused entirely on a free ice cream cone is awkwardly, albeit blissfully, speed-walking/skipping down a decaying concrete sidewalk clutching money and several additional items in the other hand trips and falls…well, let’s press the pause button on this story and see what happens.
“The Entertainer” Dopplers in the increasing distance.
An uneven, contrarily upward sloping slab intercepts the tip of the right shoe.
The bliss-centers of the brain ensure just enough of a lag in the arms-out survival reflex to cause dollars, dimes, and desserts to fly forward as the chin, teeth, nose, forehead, knees, and elbows all receive some percentage of the forward, downward trajectory.
3 and 2 and 1…
…and here, with blood and skin and dirt and sugary saliva and snot and tears, “friends” from behind now laughing, Mommy far ahead still unaware and thus unable to intervene, we find our flabby friend now, mere seconds from we could easily deem “ the most joy,” at the point of…the least joy.
(I’m welling up just writing this. I find this emotional trap-door context to be among the saddest and empathy-driving in the known universe.)
It’s not just the loss of ice cream, the coin-flip of happy/sad. It’s also the fear, the pain, the embarrassment, the utter universal unfairness of the whole thing.
And there it is. The vine. On repeat in my head, seeing my 7-year-old self euphorically licking the cone, pratfalling forward, slamming limb-joints and face on the concrete and sliding a few feet forward to add insult AND injury to injury, then the soul-bruised wail.
The approach of the ice cream man never brought the same joy ever again.
As you may know, I discovered the podcast, “Note to Self,” in the midst of their #infomagical challenge week. I did it, and it was exceptionally helpful for me from several perspectives including mindfulness, relationships, anxiety, and worry. Specifically, and respectively: more, better, minimal, and negligible.
So, Jen and sat with beer. She with Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA (ABV: 7.5/IBU: 87), which likely sits upon the Mt. Rushmore of American IPAs…even with all of the wonderfulness from the west coast; and I with a gifted Dogfish Head Higher Math (ABV: 17/ IBU: 35) which is literally like drinking 3-4 regular beers. Notably, this is the first time I’ve had a huge beer and actually enjoyed it from first to final sip…so Huzzah! to the brewers in Delaware.
I fairly recently learned about the “Note to Self” podcast from Stephen J. Dubner, whose own podcast, “Freakonomics Radio,” is generally exceptional, particularly if you care about the impact and application of social-science and behavioral economics to a variety of life-applicable questions, memes, myths, and challenges. This is what the “Note to Self” website has to say about itself:
Is your phone watching you? Can texting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything.
Last week, while listening to another “WNYC Studios” podcast and perhaps the most consistently profound and mind-blowing bit of digital media, “Radiolab,” I heard an advertisement for a “Note to Self” episode and larger endeavor titled, “The Case for Infomagical.” After that 30-minute episode, which ran on a Friday, the producers planned five shorter (10 – 15 minutes each) episodes each titled “Infomagical Challenge” with a specific subtitles for each day of the work week: Magical Day, Magical Phone, Magical Brain, Magical Connection, Magical Life.
So what the hell is the “Infomagical” experiment? Here, again, is what the “Note to Self” folks have to say:
Here at Note to Self, we endorse using technology mindfully, thoughtfully, and not necessarily all the time. That said, we’re more concerned with another sentiment you probably know all too well: the “yeah, putting down my phone is nice and all, but I have a life to live. A job to do. A conversation to hold. A cat video to send to my mother.”
With that in mind, today is the day we launch Infomagical, a collective FOMO course correction. This time it’s not about your gadgets per se, it’s about all the stuff on them, and all the stuff coming out of them. Our plan is to turn all of your information portals into overload-fighting machines. Starting with this introductory episode (listen above), we’re going to make your devices more useful through a big follow-up to Bored and Brilliant – our 2015 project inviting people to rethink their relationships with their phone and become more creative in the process.
Why? Because you’ve told us how much you need this. In a survey of nearly 2,000 Note to Self listeners:
60 percent said they feel like the amount of effort they must exert to stay up-to-date on a daily basis is “taxing.” Another 15 percent said it’s downright “impossible.”
4 out of 5 said information overload affects their ability to learn.
1 out of 3 said information overload was affecting their close relationships.
We’ve talked with neuroscientists, social psychologists, business professors, anthropologists, software designers, and many, many listeners as we’ve designed this project. We’re going to give you the tools you’ll need to do this right.
It’s intriguing right?
That first episode, to which I listened last Friday, made the case for me to engage in a personal experiment related to the state of “information overload” in which most of us exist…sometimes swimming, often treading water, and occasionally drowning. Smartphones, Laptops, insistent buzzing and dinging applications, a 24-hour news cycle, Netflix, politics, internet memes, etc. How do we organize our lives and achieve personal goals with so…much…freaking…stuff to organize, consume, and, ultimately, battle?
Each of the shorter episodes has challenged me to modify my life and interactions with technology in very specific ways to achieve a self-set goal. My goal this week has been, “Be more creative.” And so I embarked on a journey of feeling and becoming more creative through taking control of the tsunami of information constantly nipping at my frontal cortex’s heels.
During the first day, Monday, or the “Magical Day,” I received a simple, instructional email, a text, and then listened to the short podcast. The challenge? To “single-task.” Most of us intimately know the sanity-sucking and joy-draining nature of “multi-tasking,” but the goal here was to do one…thing…at…a…time. To completion. Then move on. No toggling, no rapid, frenetic focus shifting, one tab at a time on the computer, one task at a time in the car. Even something as simple as: Eat…then read. Having practiced yoga, mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, and other forms of “be here now” therapies, I entered this challenge with a solid template and experience set for single-tasking. So, although it was a wonderful, productive, anxiety-minimized day…there was no profound insight or revelation.
Day two…blew my mind. The challenge: a “magical phone.” I learned ways to “tidy up” and organize my phone and computer. First, I deleted all applications that I don’t use, that don’t generally bring me joy, and that don’t promote creativity. (I looked at each app icon. I asked, “Do I use/need it?” If, “No,” it was gone. Then, “Does this app bring me joy or create creativity?” Again, if “No,” I uninstalled. If the answer was “yes” to either question, it stayed.) Then, I moved all remaining applications into one non-distracting spot. I took a screenshot of my phone…clean.
I ended up sending a message to the Note to Self folks. Here it is:
I feel like today’s endeavor was a revelation of sorts. I cleared my screen entirely and turned off all notifications except for text and voicemail. I basically made my phone a phone and direct social communication device. Then I placed a beautiful, complex fractal design to remind me of my creativity-bolstering goal AND bring me peace and joy. For the first time perhaps ever as an adult, I was in control of my phone and not vice versa. When I wanted to check Facebook or send a tweet or whatever, I’d use the search function. I actively found what I needed, completed a task, then returned to a mind-expanding geometric fractal. Furthermore, I felt like having the phone clean helped me to better accomplish yesterday’s endeavor, which was “single-tasking.” I think that my frequent focus shifting occurs primarily because of my smartphone…the incessant buzzing, beeping, and all manner of interupting notification. Even having that little flashing light gone was a relief. The various buzz patterns indicating specific social-media applications. It’s…well, overwhelming. I didn’t expect this to be so powerful…but, in fact, it has been. I’m leaving the phone screen clean from now on. Thanks for that. I would have never thought to do this otherwise.
The additive power of Day 1, single-tasking, plus Day 2, techology spring-cleaning, was exceptional.
And then came Day 3, “Magical Brain.” The challenge today (…yep, I’m just three days in and swimming confidently in this sea…nay, lake of more manageable and goal-driven information…) was to, essentially, avoid memes. Steer clear of what “everybody’s talking about.” Consume only digital information that facilitates my goal of being more creative. That includes Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, television, books, music, etc. I’m trying to make everything that I consume count. Additionally, this day has helped me to redefine and embrace the word “judgement.” Not “glaring accusingly out of the window” judgment. Rather, the “looking honestly and gently in the mirror” variety. I’m judging what I want coming into my brain, what I want influencing my emotions and cognitive functioning, what I think will stoke creativity and bring joy. I’m even trying to move away from negative language; saying things like, “I must avoid…,” “You shouldn’t…,” or “Don’t…” Rather, I’m simply asking the question, “Is this contributing to my joy and creativity?” If so, I consume it. If not, I let it go.
And think about this…
I haven’t even gotten to “Magical Connection” or “Magical Life,” and I feel like I’ve been given the keys to whatever the hell I want regarding increased creativity, happiness, and growth. Just by controlling and managing my technology, my task-completion choices, and the information that I consume through said technology and choices.
These podcasts are available for free, as are related resources, at the infomagical site. “Note to Self” will only be interacting simultaneously with listeners completing the infomagical experiment between January 29th and February 12th, 2016. However, it’s not necessary to have the aligning correspondence…though it is helpful to feel like a part of a larger group and it’s always nice to receive encouragement, occasional reminders, and praise. Praise it good. There’s another lesson that all of us should remember. And practice. The power of praise. Instead of consistently correcting and pointing out the negative, why not shift to praising the positive. My wife is smiling right here, because this is one of my greatest challenges as a father and, at times, husband and friend. As a professional, I totally get it, do it, and live it. But as a man, a husband, a friend, and a father…not so consistently.
So yeah. I believe the first is related to the fact that I’ve had an interesting relationship with alcohol and the buzzed feeling of the second drink since my monumental hangover last Sunday. The second, “Horace and Pete,” which is a brilliant, wonderful, amazing, soulful on-line play/show that Louie C.K. created and then put out for $5. You should do it. And the last thing, well…that’s obviously what I drank.
Last week’s post, “I feel old,” obviously wasn’t quite enough for me to expunge the specter of my mortality writ large across my consciousness. It remained, and the following thoughts spilled forth just minutes after I’d finalized and reread the aforementioned essay.
A recent technology-based post, “Global Consciousness and the Internet,” has apparently also been haunting my waxing lunacy.
So, without further ado, I present: Generation Vexed, or…I still feel old.
My first gaming system was an Atari 2600. I received it in 1985.
The joystick had one red button and a plastic stick covered in black rubber that would inevitably break from even moderate play.
The next gaming system I owned was a Wii. I purchased it in 2010. Right now, it serves as the Netflix transmitter for my step-daughter’s television.
In high school, I used a Brother word processor…a cumbersome, glorified typewriter that allowed me to type multiple lines at a time before it hacked them out. It had a correction tape as well, which worked approximately 50% of the time and jammed at least once per typing session. The thing became so frustrating that I fell back to hand-writing all of my papers.
I met my very first desktop computer as a work-study student at Pitt. 1992. I made it through only with guidance from an elaborate “cheat sheet” that bracketed the function keys. No mouse. Daisy wheel printer.
Use of the internet was limited. Dial up modems were the only option. Email was magical but cumbersome.
I want to tell everyone under 30, “Shut up about how slow your connection is. You have no idea that there was a time when connections, at best, shaved minutes off of lives by infuriating even the gentlest of souls.” I imagine Mother Teresa shouting, “God Dammit!” and tossing a keyboard across a room filled with crucifixes and incense as she waited for a picture to download.
Throughout my time as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, 1992 – 1996, the way to secure obscure information was to call Telefact. Quite literally, I would call them, ask my question, then hang up as a team of other undergraduates scoured libraries and other paper-based, wire-bound sources to find my answer. Then they’d call back. Telefact was our Google Search through the 90’s. We thought it was kind-of magical.
The copy shop mattered, because even the most compact machines were the size of deep freezers. Kinkos meant something, and the smell of drying ink was ever-present.
Computer technology, infinitesimally small microprocessors, and wireless interconnectedness created a world of cheap, disposable, pocket-sized information across just my teens and twenties.
I’m a young person…but, I’m an old man.
I’m not a baby boomer, and I’m not a millennial…and although I’d be considered a Gen Xer, I’m not quite that either. At 41, I find myself somehow a little bit of all of those things, but ultimately…none of them.
“Oh stop it, Del Duca! You are Gen-X to the core both historically and behaviorally,” you might say, but of course I’ve spent most of my life placing everyone in boxes while fighting any boxes into which you, or they, might place me. I want to be utterly unique. I want to march to the beat of my own, esoteric drummer. But then, I need all of you to approve that, and like me, and tell me that I’m awesome. I need you. Fuck off. But I need you.
But really, fuck off.
When I Google searched, “What are Generation X Characteristics,” this is what I got:
Generation X: Declaring their Independence. The 51 million members ofGeneration X, born between 1965 and 1976, grew up in a very different world than previous generations. Divorce and working moms created “latchkey” kids out of many in this generation. This led to traits of independence, resilience and adaptability.
So yeah. I guess.
Maybe I’m just fighting “old.”
And definitely I’m still figuring it all out. Who I am? What I am? Why I am?
I want, sometimes like crazy, to not care what people think.
But mostly, their opinions impact me indelibly.
And, undoubtedly, I’m often vexing.
I just want to turn it all around before it’s too late.
Memoirs and musings of an anxious, sometimes inebriated, truth-seeker.