Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sustainable Seafood

I wanted to skewer this book today. I wanted to tear apart every stupid little sentence, I wanted to bury the characters in a shower of snub, I wanted to Endor Holocaust the happy ending.

And perhaps I still should. 

The Rosie Project cheapened Asperger's Syndrome. To call this book "Sheldon Cooper searches for a wife" would accurately summarize the plot the book. We watch an Australia Geneticist, (Shel)Don Tillman, try to circumvent the normal dating process by designing a questionnaire that matches on the basis of personality and weeds out all candidates.

We're supposed to laugh at this. Especially since Doctor (Shel)Don finds his true love in Rosie, a strong, independent woman. Rosie was disqualified at first: she can't cook, she smokes, and she's perenially late.

But instead, through magic, Don and Rosie fall in love!

You can imagine my disgust. The book follows the script of any Romantic Comedy, which is not surprising. The book was originally a movie script:

It began as a screenplay...
It was a drama with the occasional splash of light relief...The title, I’m embarrassed to recall, was The Face of God and I had ambitions that the reader would receive a gentle lesson in the wonders of the cosmos....
I came to realise that the best parts were the comedic moments, and re-worked it as a romantic comedy.... After a bit more re-writing it won the AWG/Inscription Award for best romantic comedy script in 2010, and attracted the interest of producers.
 So, yes, The Rosie Project hit all the traditional cliches.

But the more I dove into the ending, the more I realized Don is still meant as a protagonist. He's definitely an undiagnosed Asperger's case,  but he learns to dress and act quickly, and after a single weekend of digesting Hollywood Movies, emerges as something of a mild casanova.

One particular event that comes to mind is Don, dressed to the nines in new suit and tie, storms into a restaurant and finds Rosie after a fight. She's with another man, but Don barely acknowledges the skinny punk.  He instead addresses Rosie, and declares she will join him for dinner at the city's fanciest restaraunt that evening.

She's left speechless.

Don should devour Mystery Method instead, but Don's still clearly a hero, and an example of real self-improvement.

Rosie, the strong, independent woman, agrees to marry Don.


She first runs away from Don, because she's scared of commitment.  Luckily, Don has an ace up his sleeve. Claudia, who spent the book "coaching" Don, including packing him an extra dress shirt for his vacation, talks to Rosie.

Claudia remarks "maybe I've been focused on the wrong person the whole time."

Rosie is "fucked up." We know Don has a serious issue with Asperger's, which isn't really serious at all once Don knows how to correct for it. Rosie, though, is an undiagnosed "fucked up" that "has a lot of baggage she wishes she didn't."

Don thinks this diagnosis lacks specificity, especially for a graduate psychology student. It's almost like she has no knowledge about her own field. She certainly never mentions anything about psychology elsewhere.

We don't know what causes Rosie's problems, either. She had a fake Dad growing up, named Phil. Phil isn't her real Dad: her mom cheated on Phil at a party year's ago, and Rosie inherited her father's brown eyes, instead of the blue eyes of either Phil or her mother.

Phil was a bad Dad. Apparently, he promised to take Rosie to Disneyland, and he didn't.

He didn't take her to Disneyland.

This is apparently her abusive childhood.

This makes Rosie "fucked up."

Rosie is really ethical, though. She is a vegetarian.

Except for sustainable seafood. Apparently shoving her face with seafood doesn't violate her dietary rules, because it's sustainable. I presume most vegetarians eat vegetables for ethical concerns, but perhaps fish don't have feelings.

But she's ethical. And she doesn't act like other girls, because she's a feminist. That's why, when Don shows up with another woman, who DOES match his criteria, Rosie alludes to Don taking her up to his million-dollar-view balcony and eating lobster.

Because cat-fighting over a man is feminist, you see.

She also thinks nothing of stealing men's DNA to test if they are her father. But that's ethical, because her current "Dad" is a bad Dad, since he didn't take her to Disneyland.

Rosie does agree to get married, though. Don thinks she might not actually get married, because she's a new agey feminist, but Rosie disagrees and says she wants at least ONE thing that's traditional.

It's almost like Rosie is....full of shit? 

I'm not sure the author intended Rosie to understood this way, but Rosie reads as a full-of-shit character. She has nothing but trivial, minor complaints about life. She's catty and possessive, inconsiderate, has no discernible skills, and serves only as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl for Don.

I cannot really identify any other character trait she might have.

Oh, I forgot. She identifies as  "feminist."

And she, along with Don, reflect a great change in our culture.

Don? Geeks are in. Obviously, much like Don learns, uncontrolled nerdiness of the "let's talk about Star Trek all day" variety earns no rewards, but geeky interests can serve as status symbols to at least some women.

Mixed with some arousing attributes like good game, good dress, good cologne, good conversation, and geeks earn a higher place in society's pantheon than, say, plumbers.

Rosie, though, is supposed to be the normal, relatable every-girl. She's us. She laughs at Don's inability to recognize the "magic" the love. She lives her life unplanned, and laughs at Don's organized, OCD meal system. She laughs at his poor fashion choices, she laughs at, well, everything.

That's because she's normal, which means she's better. If you can't picture her, picture Penny from Big Bang Theory.

But she really has no ethical code: she still eats animals. She is in college, as a graduate student, but still knows nothing about her field. She cannot cook. She does not improve. She complains because her Dad did not take her to Disneyland.

And that's really us, isn't it? That's normal people in a nutshell?


I went to New York City for a friend's wedding. We had spare time, and my Wife's sister lives in New York City, so we let her take us for a tour.

At one point, we found a chocolate stand in one of the city's high-end office buildings. Apparently this is some sort of world renowned chocolate. True to the cultural zetgeist, they are a bean to bar manufacturer, which apparently means "quality" or some such because they own every step of the chocolate-making process.

Now craftsman, I like. One of my good friends is a master chef, as in, he cooked for Gordon Rasmey. I can listen to him talk for hours when he mentions how to properly cook a steak.

I have a mathematician friend who can solve a Rubix cube in 10 seconds. He's interested in computer security: I never understand what he says, but dammit I love to listen.

Several of my friends brew beer: I help out when I can, even if it's cleaning crap, because I love hearing them argue the merits of different yeasts.

My Dad installed windows for years, and knows a thing or two about carpentry: I love hearing him talk about renovation ideas for the house. He mocks me a bit, because I'm a cubicle-farm ant, but it's all in good fun.

So I like to talk to men discuss their crafts.

Bean-to-bar chocolate? Sure!

My Wife and Sister-In-Law fashion themselves chocolate coinosserous. So they talked to the salesman, and asked deep questions like....

"Do you like dark chocolate?"
"So is dark chocolate better?"
"What about anti-oxidants?"

I tuned out as this continued for 15 minutes. The salesman refused to sell us chocolate at first, saying we wouldn't enjoy it properly. See, we did not plan to eat the chocolate then and there, but would carry the chocolate around for a brief while.

That would melt the chocolate!

What an arrogant asshole, I thought. Although something struck me ass off...he had bulging muscles and a bunch of tattoos. Not the typical chocolate sommelier.

The women promised to eat the choocolate after lunch, and he handed them the bag.

"No dawdling!" he said, after a long instruction on how to properly care for the chocolate in the 5 minute walk in 65 degree heat.

I spoke to the guy afterwards.

Turns out, he knows nothing about chocolate. He's never seen the chocolate made, at all. He doesn't like chocolate. He's eaten only a few pieces of the chocolate and finds it gross: He only eats the Hershey's stuff.

Oh, and he's just a Navy Veteran who couldn't find any other jobs when came back, so a family friend set him up for this gig.

"Marketing is bullshit" isn't a new theme. Hell, perhaps one could fairly ascribe a Caulfield Complex to me.

Everyone is a great big phony!

 Our cities overflow with arrogant yuppies with only a pretend sense of taste, no doubt: I spent last weekend tipping back god-awful "mojito" mix in an "authentic" "Industrial Chic" Cuban cafe, which I no doubt guarantee would inspire Hemmingway to have dropped the whole novel thing and move entirely into burning down "Cuban" cafes.

Rosie of "The Rosie Project" just mirrors that.


This does not describe our society, or our cities, or our yuppies. How deeply can you criticize the taste of a culture that brings you this?

We're living in a Golden Age of Television. We're also living in a Golden Age of Craft Beer. We're living in a Golden Age of Whiskey. We're living in a Golden Age of damn near everything if you merely look around. The average consumer procures quality items of his choosing with ease, from clothing, to food, to entertainment.

Can't really whine at anyone other than yourself if you're not getting what you want.

A lot of the yuppies around me take up plenty of useful, interesting hobbies. We have a couple of incredible cooks, some excellent brewers, and plenty of green thumbs and knitters on the girl's side. This whole Pinterest thing sometimes gives girls some pretty cool craft ideas that look damn awesome, if they ever bother to get up off their asses.

I love Tyler Cowen and I love his book "Average is Over". Here's how he sees the economic future:
Cowen forecasts that modern economies are delaminating into two groups: a small minority of highly educated and capable of working collaboratively with automated systems will become a wealthy aristocracy; the vast majority will earn little or nothing, surviving on low-priced goods created by the first group, living in shantytowns working with highly automated production systems
 Hence, Average is Over. There will be no more middle class because the economic niche describing the middle class will be gone. Computers slowly automate away most middle-IQ jobs and the few people who can figure out how to make the computers .5% better will reap enormous rewards.

There's a big divide in the kind of people who thrive and who don't, and part of that is cultural. The kind of people who program, who automate their lives, who use their computers and phones for connectivity and information, are people who will thrive.

The kind of people who stare at their screen waiting for the next Instagram like might struggle a little bit.

I bring this up because Rosie and Don are perfect examples. Rosie is an attractive young women with a father who loves her, who goes to one of the best schools in the world, deep into her education.

But she's still pissed because her Dad won't take her to Disneyland and her self-reflection, despite years of psychology education, cannot describe dysfunctions with any greater accuracy than "fucked up."

Don, on the other hand, utilizes the free knowledge of the internet to make his life better, at the drop of a hat. He learns to dance in a week or so from online dance instruction. He memorizes thousands of cocktail recipes to blend in at a party. He even learns how to hit on women from freakin' Hollywood movies, for Christ's sake!

Average is Over, and the forces of economic and social ruin slowly will catch up to the Rosie's of the world, and leave the Don's intact.

We rarely hear about the bright side, but that's something I felt needed a big freakin' flood light. It's why Don actually improves his standing and gets a new job and more friends and a wife, and Rosie just lucked out.

Progress is slowwwwwww. Our bank accounts are back in healthy condition at the Beta household, and we're saving money again.

The waist-line fell a bit. We're down to 178 today, and I was tipping the scales at 180-181 pretty reliably as of a few weeks ago. Down from 192 this time last year.

No new job. But I'll keep applying.

I am learning to grow vegetables. My buddies and I are going to make our own drip irrigation system. Peppers and tomatoes in the summer: maybe we'll try some zucchini squash, but that's more challenging, because they need to be manually pollinated.

If I get .5% better every day, I'm getting better at an astronomical rate. Compound interest and all that.

Oh, Rosie, Rosie, if you only knew how grand life could be, if only you got up off your ass and did something. And maybe eat a damn steak, rather than whining about being a vegetarian AND eating sustainable seafood.

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