May 2009


While someone is telling a story, pull out your clearly not ringing cell phone. Say “I have to take this.” Don’t push any buttons at all but pretend to talk into the phone. Say “Hello? Yeah, hey. No, just boring. Yeah, he’s telling a really boring story.”

WARNING: The last time I did this I was tackled into a wall and punched (a bit).

INT. EBX IN THE BASEMENT OF THE PACIFIC PLACE MALL IN JANUARY 2001 – DAY

YUPPIE GUY enters the store

YUPPIE GUY:
Hey, do you know where I can
get a leather jacket around here?
 
ME:
Honestly, I’ve only worked here
for about a month, I think-

 
FIVE YUPPIES IN LEATHER JACKETS walk up behind YUPPIE GUY. The tallest of them speaks.

TALLEST YUPPIE:
Come on, there’s a Brookstone
on the second floor!

 
FIVE YUPPIES IN LEATHER JACKETS leave.

YUPPIE GUY:
Oh, nevermind.

YUPPIE GUY leaves.

When someone asks me why I care so very much about language and words and meaning, I always use The Bitch Example, because it’s very convincing. It very clearly shows that being deeply aware of what we’re saying can tell us things about our culture and our ideas. Then there’s The Chair Example. Not nearly as direct, and more esoteric, it means a lot to me.

WARNING: THIS ALL SOUNDS LIKE STUFF STONED PEOPLE TALK ABOUT

People, generally speaking, think they know what the word chair signifies. It’s a platform with four legs, a seat, something to rest your back against, and it’s for one person. Except, if I show you this
function
you’d tell me it was a chair, because, you know, it works like a chair. It does chair things.

And if I then showed you this
form
you’d agree that, again, I’ve showed you a chair. That is, clearly, a chair.

The thing is, these are totally different things. They don’t look alike, they don’t work alike, and yet we use the same word for both of them. Really understanding this, that these two things which are clearly, when you look at them as objects in space, totally different, are the same thing to us simply because we use the same verbal sign to describe them, is really mindblowing for me. We really do create the world we are in with words to an incredible degree. Being aware of that, and making a conscious effort to consider it can be a really important part of understanding and overcoming prejudices and biases you didn’t even know you had.