Monthly Archives: August 2016

Interview with the Guy Fieri lookalike

This is a follow-up to my blog post from February last year where I talked about Guy Fieri lookalikes. In that post, I wrote about how I found these people fascinating and wanted to know everything possible about them. I even got in touch with one and had a little chat.

Since then, one of the other guys (Guys) that I featured got in touch. He also offered to share his experiences with me. So, here’s what Guy Fieri lookalike Ken Brodman has to say.

Tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living?
My name is Kenneth E Brodman. I live in Altoona PA. I was born in Reading PA. I grew up in foster homes from the age of six months old till the age of 16, not a very easy life. But all that is in the past, where I would like to leave it. I have always had a interest in cooking – it was a way that i could be creative. I work for a drug and alcohol rehab. I have been there for many years. 
 
How long have you identified as a Guy Fieri lookalike?
The funny thing is that I never really set out to look like Guy Fieri, it happened by accident. My job takes me all over the state of PA. So the very first day I started looking like him, I had maybe ten people tell me “hey you look like that guy!” Well of course it made me feel good, but then it started happening everywhere I went. I would have fifteen to twenty people telling me that I looked like him and asking to take my picture with them or “hey can I get your picture to send to my wife, daughter, husband etc.”
And then of course you have the people that are too scared to approach me. I would hear them whisper ‘hey isn’t that the guy from dinners drive-inns and dives?’ I would just smile and give them a hello.
I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t like the attention. It helps me with the fears of not being accepted as a child. Besides, Guy is a perfect role model. So I would say that I have been a Guy Fieri look a like for about five years now. 
 
Are you often mistaken for the actual Guy?
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have at least five to ten people approach me, and even pictures on a daily basis.
 
Are you in contact with other Guy Fieri lookalikes?
I do have contact with another Guy Fieri lookalike. I believe you spoke with him. His name is Vinny Prescott. Real nice guy. We both got to meet the real Guy Fieri at Mt Airy casino. It was the best experience I have ever had. 
 
Most importantly, how’s your cooking?
I still love to cook and be creative. Everyone that knows me loves my cooking. I also do 90% of the cooking in my home on a daily basis. I have never done it as a profession only as a hobby.

I’m so pleased that Ken shared his story with me. It’s a fascinating insight into a life that, at first, seems quite strange. Guy Fieri himself is a truly surreal figure, and my thinking was always that people choosing to actually look like him must be pretty crazy themselves.
But Ken’s clearly a great guy. I’m genuinely glad that it’s bringing him such daily happiness. Turns out, looking like Guy Fieri isn’t the burden that I assumed it might be. It can actually help you feel accepted by those who might not otherwise give you the time of day. It might actually be a blessing.
Just ask Paul Hollywood. He clearly knows the score.
CrLhmCDWEAEK_-Q

My stupidly over-organised online life

I believe in better living through technology. Machines make our lives better. If it wasn’t for the internet you wouldn’t be reading this blog. You’d just be staring at a monitor with nothing on it like a goddam idiot. If it wasn’t for advances in medical technology you’d probably be dead too. Imagine being dead and not being able to read my blog. That’s your life without technology. So you should be grateful for it.

I know I am. Because I’ve inadvertently let it take over my entire life.

Case in point, I noticed that I was always starting books and never finishing them. Or someone would recommend a great book to me and I’d forget about it. That right there is a problem that needs fixing. How can you keep track of everything you’re reading, and maintain an ever-growing backlog of recommendations from other people? Simple: the internet.

I use Goodreads to manage my life in books. I have books categorised into three sections: TO READ, CURRENTLY READING, and READ. It’s so simple it’s stupid. And it’s addictive. Start a new book? Add it to Currently Reading. Got a recommendation? Add it to To Read.

The only problem is that dreaded backlog. You can check out my To Read shelf here, and there’s probably two things you’ll notice.

  1. The list is super long. 252 books long. According to my Read shelf, that’s like twice as many books as I’ve ever read (I’m counting all the books I’ve read ‘offline’ too). So yeah, the end is not in sight. (But should it be, really?)
  2. Some of the books were added to ‘To Read’ years ago. The earliest was added way back in 2012. That’s a bigger issue. It takes longer to read books than to add them to my collection, so the backlog is only growing larger. But maybe that’s fine too. (As long as I don’t mind behind possibly 4/5 years behind the times).

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But anyway, I now consider my book life forever sorted. As long Goodreads stays active (please don’t introduce subscriptions please don’t introduce subscriptions) I’ll forever have another book to read. And that’s great.

Having considered this an unequivocal success, I realised that many other things in my life could be fixed in the same way. And that’s where Trello comes in.

Trello is an online project management tool that essentially mimics a kanban board. In other words, you put tasks into columns representing different stages of a production process. In its simplest form, this can be: TO DO, DOING, DONE. You might have various rules about how you prioritise TO DO, or how many things can be in DOING at any time – but that’s all extras. This is all about getting really frickin’ organised.

Goodreads is essentially the same system, but dressed up with fancy things like ‘shelves.’ And that fanciness isn’t really necessary. Case in point: Television.

With TV, there’s always stuff you wanna watch. But there’s usually more to watch than you can handle. BOOM, make a trello board: TO WATCH, WATCHING, WATCHED. Well, in real life mine is actually a hell of a lot more complicated…

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Lemme talk you through it. To Watch and Watching are pretty self-explanatory. I try to keep Watching as slim as possible, or it gets messy. But y’know, you might be watching a particular show with someone, which means going at a different pace. So right now I’ve got a couple in there. Watched 2016 Watched <2016 are just my way of going back over what I’ve actually completed. It helps me feel good about myself and pouring so much time and effort into this. Look, I’ve got results! Blocked is interesting, that’s my column for when I’m waiting on shows to make a new season, or get onto Netflix or something. It’s a holding area before stuff goes over to To Watch.

Phew. Did ya get all that? And once you’ve done it for TV, doing it for video games is the logical next step.

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Though obviously you need a separate one for HANDHELD video games, right?

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It’s not just fun and games though, I’ve worked boring ol’ household chores into this mix too. Cycling through them in this way keeps everything nice and fresh (I reckon).

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It helps financially too. Here’s one I made for my ‘saving goals’ – things I want, where the next thing I save for is whatever is top of the Things column currently.

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BUT WAIT THERE IS EVEN MORE OF THIS NONSENSE.

Not every film ever is on Netflix. So I’m subscribed to LoveFiLM (possibly their only customer at this point), who supply me with a weekly physical DVD picked at random from a huge list I’ve put together.

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Yup, there’s a backlog there of 343 films. Imagine what I could accomplish if I didn’t watch them and did something useful instead.

OH DID SOMEONE SAY BACKLOG.

By far my worst backlog is on Steam. Here’s a sneak peek at my ‘unplayed’ category there.

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PAHAHA THIS IS ONLY GOING UP TO ‘C’ LOLS.

To get around this, I’ve had to make a sub-category of games I want to play next.

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(And don’t even get me STARTED on my Spotify backlog…)

OMG. FOOD?!

I get weekly delivery of SNACKS to the office from Graze, who randomly pick bits and pieces from me from an online list I’ve curated.

I get monthly boxes of MEALS to cook at home from SimplyCook. YUP, RANDOMLY SELECTED FROM A LIST WHY AM I SO ADDICTED TO DOING THIS TO MYSELF

I EVEN USE EVERNOTE TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I’LL BE WRITING IN THIS VERY BLOG. THE ONE YOU ARE READING WRITE NOW. IT’S BEEN IN MY BLOG BACKLOG FOR MONTHS AHAHAHHAAAHAHAA

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Guys this is all great and not at all a crazy thing to do.

I’m so organised and you’re just all jealous.

Good luck organising your life without meticulous over-planning lol.

I’M GONNA LIVE FOREVERRRR

Katie Hopkins, Hate Bait, and Free Speech

An easy way to get clicks to a website is with something controversial. Content that is sick, offensive, distasteful, or outright horrible is always appealing to certain people. The sick, the maladjusted, the plain ol’ curious. And it’s for this reason that we saw an interesting trend in online journalism recently: the rise of hate-bait.

Hate-bait is a form of trolling. It’s posting deliberately sensational things of a negative nature in order to get clicks. Like if I wrote a blog post saying KILL ALL FAT PEOPLE. I don’t believe fat people should be killed. But people would come and read my blog anyway (reckon I could get away with it?). “How could he think such an awful thing?” they might think. Or perhaps they’d whisper secretly to themselves “I actually do believe this, I’d love to read someone else confirming my beliefs.”

One way to do this without exposing yourself to the backlash of liberal online retribution is to couch your headlines in fuzzy language. As per Betteridge’s law of headlines,  “any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” So my headline above might be carefully worded as SHOULD ALL FAT PEOPLE BE KILLED? I don’t have to defend that proposition in the article, I can even dismiss it outright and argue passionately against it. But you’ve put the question out there, you’ve sparked the interest, you’ve got the click.

Another strategy is to write about yourself and your own life, but in such a way that people will be outraged by it. A stronger form of the humble brag, this ‘aggro-brag’ is designed to generate sensation via posturing and feigned ignorance about why your opinions are annoying. Applied to our headline, we might see something like I DON’T LET MY KIDS PLAY WITH FAT CHILDREN BECAUSE I’M A GOOD MOTHER. The best ever example of this is Samantha ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful’ Brick.

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Do you remember Twitter on the day that ‘the brick’ dropped? It was anarchy. An early example of a Tweetstorm. Basically everyone hated this awful lady for writing about how pretty she thinks she is, and how life is hard for her because of it. (I don’t mean to pick women for my examples, there are also plenty of men who engage in similar hate bait behaviour: Jeremy Clarkson, Piers Morgan, and Rod Liddle have all made careers out of this). I don’t really think Brick was desperately burning to tell her story, that the injustices she’d suffered needed to be told to the world, because that would be insane if true. The only rational explanation (assuming everyone involved is a rational agent…) is that either she or the Mail thought it’d be a good way to generate some page views. It worked.

Katie Hopkins is a journalist who never needed to resort to such tactics. Her realm is that of the unobfuscated hate bait, the purest form where even the headline is wrought with bile and dripping with offence. But who is Katie Hopkins and where did she come from?

I first heard about KH as a contestant on The Apprentice. Remember The Apprentice? I think it’s still on TV, but we all stopped watching it ages ago didn’t we? Katie was on it around the time it was already starting to unceremoniously slide from being a sort-of good business show, to horrible sell-out reality TV garbage, of which Hopkins was undoubtedly a harbinger. What she later did for online journalism, she arguably was a kingpin of for The Apprentice.

She made it through to the final but turned down a place in order to look after her kids, an issue which later caused a bit of a legal fracas between her and Lord Sugar. On her time on the show, she was notable for making controversial remarks about fellow contestants and generally people she didn’t like in society.

Then she went away for a while.

I first recall her coming back when she made an appearance on This Morning, moaning about people who give their children silly names.

It was a weird argument to be making, like it’s anybody’s business what anyone else calls their children. Weirder still was Hopkins’ annoyance with parents who name their children after places (eg. Brooklyn Beckham), when Hopkins’ own daughter was named India. In this cavalcade of noise and bluster, thus began her reign of terror.

She then became a bit of a regular angry woman on the circuit, popping up on This Morning, Loose Women, and all over the papers. She did a really weird thing where she got really fat to prove to fat people that it was actually really easy to lose weight and fat people were just lazy. It felt a lot like an Alan Partridge breakdown.

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fat alan

Then she just kinda moved on to regular Twitter trolling. I followed her for a little while, out of that car crash curiosity, but it eventually got a bit too much. At time of writing, her most recent tweet is a conspiracy-style venn diagram accusing the BBC of inventing a story about racial abuse towards a previous GBBO winner in order to drum up attention to the show.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE

Now she has a LBC show where she just broadcasts her opinions out to the world. She’s pretty well suited to talk radio, which is a format basically supported by argument. If everybody agreed, there’d be no show and no listeners. So she’s found a perfect little home for herself.

But what’s her role in society? Her purpose? A gentle court jester, prodding at our fears and securities? I’d imagine that she likes to think so. But I see her more as a professional troll. It’s pretty clear she’s a right-wing Tory in real life, but her career has been made into packaging her views into efficient formats. Hate gets great SEO.

So what should we do with Katie Hopkins? They say don’t feed the trolls, but they also say fight fire with fire. She’s got a platform, and a fervent following of people who support her for saying it ‘as it is.’ She’s a figurehead for the anti-PC brigade, and that alone rules out viewing her as an idle threat.

I’d turn to the greatest work on political freedom ever written: On Liberty, by JS Mill. In this, Mill offers a passionate defence of many forms of liberty – particularly of speech and thought. It’s been a while since I actually read the thing, but I recall the defence of all opinions basically proceeding as follows:

  1. There are three types of views that can be expressed: all true, all false, and a mix of truth and falsity.
  2. True beliefs ought to be allowed as the truth promotes good/utility.
  3. True beliefs should also be questioned, as in questioning them we get a greater sense of them.
  4. False beliefs ought to be allowed in order to allow us the opportunity to see them proved false.
  5. And we’re not so infallible as to always be able to tell the difference between a true and false belief. So we should allow even the beliefs we hold to be true to be held up to new scrutiny.
  6. For beliefs that are a mix of truth and falsity, we should allow them in order that the truth will out.

So basically, you should always allow people to speak their mind – irrespective of whether you agree with them or not. If you do agree with them, great, that’s an opportunity to reaffirm yourself of your beliefs. If you don’t, even better – that’s a chance to change their mind, or have your own beliefs challenged, or together uncover some previously unknown piece of knowledge. So yeah, open debate is great and should be celebrated.

Now, I’m not going to fall into the trap of ANGRY ONLINE MAN and go on some kind of free speech crusade. Liberty has another dimension, the freedom to live without hindrance. Mill himself has a principle of restricting action that does harm (which he doesn’t really apply to speech, which I think is interesting). But what I mean is that we should be free to block people who send us abuse online. If we feel threatened or intimidated by someone, our concern for our own liberty trumps their freedom to speech in some cases (without us becoming all oversensitive and coddled, of course).

I could write a whole blog on this subject and specifically about blocking speakers from coming to talk at universities, but I won’t. I’ll just say that going to uni to learn new things and challenge your beliefs, but preventing those beliefs from being aired when you don’t like them feels somewhat hypocritical.

So, with Hopkins, it seems like the best thing is for her to be able to air her opinions, and for us all to air ours in response. The theatre of public ridicule is the best place for her inaccurate beliefs to be shot down, but also for her to have the opportunity to question some of ours. You don’t have to follow her on Twitter, you can even block her if you like. But trying to stop her from having a voice entirely isn’t the way forward.

ok i promise i won’t have any more opinions about online discourse for a while now. thanks for reading.

Tony the Tiger has the strangest Twitter page imaginable.

Tony the Tiger is a cultural icon. His raw animal ferocity exceeds the confines of the cereal box he appears on. His presence transcends mere association with the sugared corn flakes of which he was conceived.tony-the-tiger

More accessible than Shere Khan. More renowned than The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Less annoying than Tigger. Sure, he’s looked different over the years, but he’s always been there for us, with his can-do attitude towards eating Frosties (Frosted Flakes in the US). Tony is the Tiger we deserve.

So of course he has a Twitter account.

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Tony the Tiger in the age of Twitter is a strange CGI creature who loves to play sports and eat cereals. Its content is a weird mix of healthy living advice and smashing back as many Frosties as possible at all times. But the account itself is decent: a solid following-followers ratio, frequent tweets, he’s even verified. Yup, Twitter itself has given TtT a ringing endorsement: this tiger is the real deal.

Here’s a recent tweet:

Ah, cleverly getting around IOC guidelines in advertising by saying “Summer Games” in place of “Olympics.” Tony, you savvy social marketer you. Prima facie, it appears that Tony is doing everything right.

What a shame that Tony has an absolutely bizarre online following. Yup, we’re talking about frickin’ furries.

Yup, furries. People who dress up as big furry creatures. The kind of people who went to go see Zootopia about ten times, even though they’re in their thirties. The kind of people who go to conventions with names like ANTHROCON and FURFEST. The kind of people who still go on DeviantArt.

I don’t want to be too harsh about them though. It’s just a lifestyle choice. To them, my heteronormative non-fursuit-centric exploits are probably some kind of freakish nightmare. We’re all just different. Only, I don’t sexualise a CGI tiger that sells cereal.

You see, as detailed in gruelling detail by Gawker (RIP) in this article, furries have a strange attraction to Tony, sending him lurid messages on Twitter than can only be described as… NSFW. I really don’t want to put any of them in this blog, just go check out the @realtonytiger replies on Twitter if you really must see, but for illustrative purposes here’s one from the last 24 hours.

It has all the main features of a typical @realtonytiger reply:

  • An invitation to engage in a sexual act, usually where Tony is the dominant agent
  • ‘Raw’ language (ie: ass).
  • A reference to TtT as ‘daddy’

I repeat, this is one of the cleaner ones I could find. Some of them are just horrific. Being the account manager for the account must be a simultaneously fascinating and forever-life-scarring experience.

Anyway, things got so bad that Tony the Tiger had to put out a statement asking people to please please please oh god please stop tweeting NSFW things at him.

I kinda admire the fact that they did this in character, even slipping in a “gr-r-reat.” Tony the Tiger: always on-brand no matter what. Naturally, this only incited the furry fandom. Tony also started blocking users, which is a pretty surreal experience if you think about it – a cereal mascot from your childhood actively prevently you from engaging with them. The lines between fantasy and reality start to become blurred at this point, like some kind of IRL Jumanji.

(Just another example of a weird reply. Nothing to do with me).

What does this tell us about the cultural zeitgeist right now? Well, there’s something weird going on with jungle animals, it seems. Didn’t they just remake the Jungle Book? And isn’t a dead ape currently the most popular figure on Twitter right now? And isn’t that same dead ape currently polling at 5% in the US Presidential race?

Just what the hell is going on?

In any case, I’m glad the @realtonytiger Twitter account exists. It’s a reminder that in an infinite universe, anything that can happen will eventually happen, and that even the most mundane thing like a box of cereal can tell us surreal and magical stories.

I just hope and pray that the furries never find out about Sooty.

Sooty2011