— Settling a Bar Room Argument —
Ten Years Ago


I hate Google. I consider it an arch nemesis; a kill joy. Google is the dork in the back of a class, who –just as everyone is enjoying themselves– reminds the teacher that a quiz is scheduled. Google is a teacher’s pet.

Why do I hate Google so much?- well, in a way, I am a victim of habit destruction. Google has invaded bars. Now, when a man runs his mouth at a bar (as I love to do), some vanilla with an iPhone immediately disproves him: “ah, no Sean, I’ve just googled it and ‘Ben Hur’ did not cost more to film than all five space shuttles cost”.

They are bringing google into bars! We already work (as near drones) in a world of facts and forms, and dates and exact names- now they want to make bars that way. Bars –the last place where we can still have brassy, exaggerated conversations; even lie to each other– are under threat. Swagger is going the way of the dodo bird.

It was not, of course, always like this. Twenty years ago, every bar had a couple of men who were completely comfortable lying about their role in a war; drunks proposed solutions to the gas crisis based on half-memories of grade school physics; old men flat-out invented baseball stories- placing hitters inside stadiums that never existed during their career, hitting home runs that are impossible. And, best of all, disproving them was a social event.

Back then, the entire bar would join together –much like how the Amish build a house– to disprove a loud mouth. Almanacs were passed around; people introduced themselves after overhearing the argument; the bartender would even phone the library, for answers. You met people. You worked it out socially, spending the time laughing, talking. Now, some one types a dozen keys into a phone and shuts down the entire discussion, before it even started.

But, THERE IS HOPE. Just as the coyote now prospers (after changing its eating habits when its original habitat was lost), I too have adapted. I have moved beyond the world of exact dates and dollar figures, of country names and treaties, of public records and statistics, in my arguments. I have moved into the world of ungoogleable. I now combine real technologies, with unreal uses; I talk in quantities that are too big (or too small) to have been calculated; I put extinct animals into the present day, and current civilizations into the very far past. In short, I only argue –at bars– about things that can not easily be put into a a single google query.

I argue in the margins and shadows- where google can not find me. This blog chronicles that effort. One man’s journey, to argue in a world with google:


My Mind is Playing Anger Tricks on Me


During the Holidays, I constantly found myself wondering if
I hated random strangers. After a few days, I realized it was because, when people
said “Happy Holidays”, I was replying “same to you” and, instinctively, my body thought
it was in a fight. Normally speaking,
I say “same to you” after a person wishes for me to choke to death or hopes
my brakes fail. Before Holiday shopping with my son, I had never used it sincerely
thus my brain was confused, like it had just seen a turtle fly.


Just as the brain ‘tricks’ the mind into seeing motions that
are not actually real in order to help it quickly process common events, I think it
also assigns irony to certain phrases –phrases that are rarely used sincerely– in order to
help the mind understand that it is actually being mocked or screamed at right now.

I’ve assembled a list of what I think are the three phrases that are most consistently
auto-labeled as insincere by your brain *:

  • same to you” (see above)
  • nice blinker” (I have only seen this stated non-ironically once: in 1996, when
    a friend saw a blinker on the side view mirror of a Mercedes for the first time).

  • I’ll leave you two love birds alone” (used as a lame exit after
    the only other two people in a room just fought; also the preferred phrase of movie villains, when
    they are saying goodbye to the hero, but leaving their head body guard behind to kill him).

* NOTE: this is a list of the three most consistently insincere phrases, not
the three most common insincere phrases. They are not the insincere
phrases that you are most likely to hear on a given day (that would probably be some thing
like “no shit” or a snarky “great fucking job, pal!”), but, instead, they are most likely to
be insincere when you do hear them. For example, you some times hear “no shit” genuinely (like
when you surprise a buddy with some fact), but you will NEVER hear some one genuinely
compliment your blinker.

Pound for Pound

Has any one else noticed that Discovery Channel adds the phrase “stronger than steel, pound for pound” on every special? They say it for everything: hair, spider webs, teeth, grass, plastic. I have a difficult time believing that hair –which we have a free, inexhaustible supply of– is stronger than steel, yet we just throw it out.

The phrase, “pound for pound” is an immediate red flag. It means the speaker fully expected his argument to be defeated, thus he added an irrelevant condition to murky the waters:

“Spud Webb is the greatest basketball player of all time”.

“He’s not better than Michael Jordan”.

“Pound for pound he is.”

“What does that mean? Do I divide points by pounds? …Actually, did Jordan even weigh more?”

CONFESSION: because “pound for pound” is such an effective diversion, this author uses it to mask many of his weak-to-obviously-wrong points. Past examples include, “pound for pound, this is the best bacon I’ve ever had”; “pound for pound, Huey Lewis is better than Springsteen”; and “pound for pound, a sprained ankle is the worse injury you can get”.