Friday links! Birthday edition


I never thought I would live to see it, but people all over the world can use an electronic network to view pictures of unsuccessful cakes. Today is my birthday. I am 36, which means my opinion is no longer valuable re: movies, popular music or men’s shaving products. I took my brother to the airport at five this morning and drove home with the dim light of the 18-35 year-old demographic growing brighter ahead of me. It was an imperfect analogy, frankly, and I felt the tendrils of despair. Then I remembered that, in the words of MC Lyte or possibly Da Brat, age ain’t nothing but a number. It’s just a number and a social arbiter and a quantifiable reminder of my inexorable progress toward death, but on the plus side, everyone has to do what I say. Today is Friday, so read my arbitrary opinions and marvel at how I made it this far.

First, the bad news: Remember when the president said that amid all the reports of NSA wiretapping and massive data gathering operations by the federal government, we weren’t hearing any stories of abuse? He implied it was because abuse wasn’t happening, which is weird, because an internal audit in May counted 2,776 instances of unauthorized collection, storage, distribution or access to protected communications in the preceding year. Meanwhile, the highest-ranking judge on the FISC courts told the Washington Post that he is “forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court.” That panel of judges that oversees what the executive branch does with its unprecedented domestic spying power? It only knows what the executive branch tells it. I see no way this system of check and balances could go wrong.

Sorry—I meant to type, “I forgot how this system could go wrong, because I just inhaled a lid of white widow.” I learned the word “lid” in narc school. I went to narc school in Seattle, where local police have announced plans to hand out Doritos at this weekend’s Hempfest. Marijuana is legal in Washington state now, as you would remember if you hadn’t bought that vaporizer. The bags of Doritos will come with a pamphletScreen Shot 2013-08-16 at 10.35.43 AM entitled “Marijwhatnow?” which, in addition to another unnecessary J,* includes a summary of how the new law works.

And here I’m stuck in Missoula, where it’s completely impossible to get marijuana even when it’s your birthday. I assume it is, anyway, now that I am over 35. The thought would depress me, but I burned out all my depression receptors looking at this Yahoo! Answers page explaining one of my favorite jokes from Huckleberry Finn. Willow O at least manages to convey why the joke is funny, albeit in a subliterate manner that becomes more alarming when you notice that she has answered 2,941 questions. The answer that most terrifies me comes from one DixielandDelight. “Mark Twain was a humorous man,” she informs us. “That is what that quote is about. Implying Jim isn’t the brightest of men.”

That’s all I really wanted for my birthday: bitter confirmation that everyone is getting dumber. And where else to find that but Google? The slow migration of “literally” to mean both “literally” and its opposite sped up a little with Google Dictionary’s addition of a second definition: “used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.” According to the world’s largest purveyor of information, “literally” now can mean “not literally.” If there are ethics in language, surely we have violated something.

Or we just pay too much attention to the usage habits of teenagers. But oh, to be young again, even if it meant being young and dumb. Now I am an old man, and even my recollections of youth emphasize how far I have traveled from it. They still rock, though:


Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get snack chips from a cop.

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