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Max Antonucci

Journalist turned full-time coder, part-time ponderer.


Personal quips and nonsensical snippets

Sometimes I want to write things that can't work as a blog post, I don't want to lose amid Twitter, or don't make any sense. For all these streams of conscious, I have my Notes. They have lots of colors to match how across the board they can get.

Keep scrolling to read my notes in order.

Note posted on March 21, 2021

I didn't want to own a business until I learned about bookstore bars. It is now my new dream.

One idea I have is a rotating book and drink special. You get a discounted drink if you read them with a certain book. But the drinks and books in these specials rotate every day. This encourages people to try new things on both fronts!

One day you'll want a discounted red wine sangria - but it comes with a copy of "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind." Or you're curious about "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle - but you're also trying a Kentucky Mule for the first time. The possibilities make my head spin, as if I just drank a rum and coke with a book from the "Illuminae" series.

New Haven has many book cafes, but no book bars, and I am ashamed. We can be the change we wish to see in the world! Especially if that change is creating more drunk arguments about why the Big Little Lies book is better than the HBO series.

And before you ask, there will be no non-alcoholic options. Take that crap over to Barnes and Noble.

Note posted on March 17, 2021

Is there an official job title for people who make bad things sounds good, and vice versa? For example:

  • Naming a bill ramping up government surveillance on its own citizens the "Patriot Act."
  • Labelling states that broke up labor unions as "Right to Work." The remaining states "Forced Unionization" states.
  • Saying people who face consequences are mere "victims of snowflake cancel culture."
  • Calling a health care bill without even a public option the "Affordable Care Act." But another group reverses the spin by calling it the menacing-sounding "ObamaCare."

My first guess is the title is something vague and impressive-sounding. They could be "Marketing Consultant," "Public Relations Expert," or "Mental Systems Analyst." But if we're going to keep these highly-paid people around, their names should be more honest. My top choices are:

  • Mental Pinwheel Architect
  • Society Rationalization Czar
  • Brainwashing Euphorist
  • Brain Matter Putty Plastician
  • Super Bullshit Man (must wear a foul-smelling mask and cape)

...maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I now want the job for a mere chance to use some of those names.

Note posted on March 14, 2021

Hollywood makes lots of films about past steps we've taken for racial and gender equality. Off the top of my head, there's The Help, Hidden Figures, Selma, Iron Jawed Angels, Straight Outta Compton, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave. They're focused more on the past, and have a "pat on the back" appeal for many. We're reminded of our great progress and feel grateful for today's society.

The few movies I remember focusing more on the present are Dear White People and Get Out. A common theme was reminding white people they're still part of racist systems today. Those systems only adapted to society's last attempt to remove them, and we still need to change them. I'll admit that's a bitter message for many white people, even the liberal ones.

But what happens when you reinforce ideas that past generations did all the hard work? That all we need to do today is remember, be thankful, and get teary-eyed over it all? Who's going to think there's still lots of work for everyone to do today?

Convincing people there's nothing left to change is, after all, one of the best ways those mostly white men in power stay there.

Note posted on March 10, 2021

Give me a well-reasoned, logical, impassioned argument and I'll consider the points it makes. Give me that same argument, but with the speaker treating me like an idiot or a toddler, and I'll walk away before it's over.

It's a simple fact of communication: if you don't speak to me as a human worthy of basic respect and intelligence, I have no reason to listen to you as one.

If you treat someone like crap and expect them to listen without any pushback, most likely you are:

  1. Stupid
  2. Entitled
  3. A jerk
  4. Some combination of the above
  5. Working at a cable company

Being upset by this isn't being a "snowflake." It's being someone who can set healthy boundaries and won't put up with your nonsense. There's no reason to be ashamed about that.

Note posted on March 7, 2021

I like myself a good Nora Robert's romance from time to time. One I read a while back was "The Obsession" with this notable exchange.

“She’s drunk.”

“You know, like brilliance, I never find that a decent excuse for being an asshole.”

That made me wonder, are there decent excuses for being an asshole? I have a few ideas...

  1. Unavoidable pain. The excuse worked for Dr. House for five seasons, at least.
  2. It's for the greater good. Sometimes you need to be a jerk to avoid being a monster. But it's hard to objectively measure and prove it's the case. It should be fine as long as people don't use this argument in bad faith, which I'm sure never happens.
  3. You're a Disney villain. I doubt Cruella de Vil had much of a choice. Imagine someone with that name being nice.
  4. You're talking to someone wearing brass knuckles. By all means, keep being an asshole. I'll have my phone recording for...religious reasons.
  5. You're an actual asshole. It's an unpleasant job, but someone has to do it.

This isn't an exhaustive list, so more will follow!

Note posted on March 3, 2021

Here’s something you should know today: there's a shark called the Ghost Shark, and the male's forehead has retractable genitals.

You may ask why I'm writing about a shark with retractable forehead genitals. To that, I say, why aren't you writing about a shark with retractable forehead genitals. Indeed, why aren't you looking for as many reasons as possible to repeat the phrase "retractable forehead genitals?"

I am because I know how to embrace life!

Thank you for taking some time for the Ghost Shark with retractable forehead genitals. Please go about your day.

Note posted on February 27, 2021

Many themes in the book "Anxious People" had me feeling...anxious. But none more so than this quote.

Because the terrible thing about becoming an adult is being forced to realize that absolutely nobody cares about us, we have to deal with everything ourselves now, find out how the whole world works.

This is a routine source of anger and sadness for me most days. But in some ways, it's the most satisfying.

Every time I pay my bills, cook a meal, or schedule an appointment, I'm giving the finger to that voice telling me I'm a lousy adult. Each completed to-do list item is me saying "fuck you, being an adult is tough but I'm doing it" to the world.

But car maintenance doesn't count. No one can handle that well unless they're a mechanic. Prove me wrong, I dare you.

Note posted on February 23, 2021

I'm adding the phrase "it makes sense when you think about it" to my list of signs that someone is an ass. If someone drops this when talking with you, it sends the following messages:

  1. Some basic critical thinking will let you figure out this topic.
  2. I need to tell you this since you haven't given this topic any thought.
  3. I, unlike you, have thought about it and come to a logical conclusion.
  4. You should think next time and think more like me. Otherwise, you'll be wrong again.

It's an impressive, passive-aggressive way to call someone an unthinking idiot. It's even framed as offhand advice to give them plausible deniability.

My response to that is I have thought about it, but came to a different conclusion. We have different perspectives and sources of info, so that's not a surprise. But I am surprised this person's being such an ass about it.

Note posted on February 20, 2021

A common conservative catchphrase I've heard, and agree with, is "freedom isn't free."

For example, freedom to travel isn't free. It's why our taxes go to roads, sidewalks, and public transport. These are investments in many of our freedoms, like:

  • Walking to the store
  • Driving to the gym
  • Catch a bus home from the bar when we're too broke and/or plastered for a cab

During a pandemic, the same logic applies to public health measures. If we want to regain the freedom to visit restaurants, gyms, and each other, we need to pay for it. We pay with masks, tests, vaccines, and the infrastructure to deliver and use them right. I'd argue we also pay through hand-washing and social distancing guidelines to slow the spread.

None of these are easy and cheap. But hey, freedom isn't free. If we can't make those payments, we won't be free to leave our homes that much longer.

Note posted on February 18, 2021

There will always be folks, real or online, where engaging with them only leads to exhaustion. They could be too set in their ways, don't care about listening, or they simply want to exhaust you (known as sealioning).

An example of what ill-intentioned sealioning looks like on the topic of face and racism.

This may or may not be their intention. They could be good or bad people. I've probably been like that at different points in my life.

But the best solution is always walking away, for your own sake. This doesn't mean you don't keep learning and rethinking your position. But it's never because of the bad-faith arguers or the sealions.

Unless you're an emotional masochist. In which case, throw on that ball gag and head to the comments section.

Note posted on February 17, 2021

One of my rules is I never trust my future self with needless temptation. An example of this is my 16GB private manga collection.

Why? My reading goals go out of the window when every volume of Eyeshield 21 is right there, waiting for me to read them for the fourth time. Keeping those comics out of easy reach, like on my tablet, is a big reason I've made good progress on my 2021 goal of 50+ books.

The temptation to add them back is always there, each day. But I need to keep it at bay for any hope of finishing.

Sorry, Hiruma.

Note posted on February 14, 2021

After a serious discussion with my distinguished colleagues, we reached this conclusion: there must be a circle of Hell where you do Satan's chores.

These include cleaning his laundry, mopping blood off the hardwood floors, cooking meals of burnt flesh and hot sauce, and doing his taxes. At first, I wasn't sure if people did taxes in Hell. Then someone pointed out that there are arguably more taxes in Hell than Earth because taxes are Hell. If anything, Hell needs more people to handle everyone's taxes, including Satan's.

But one question remains: what circle of Hell does all this domestic labor happen? How far down the sinning scale is doing Satan's dusting or dropping off his library books?

More research is needed.

Note posted on February 10, 2021

You'd think America would be in a constant uproar of outrage and grief knowing that thousands of painful yet preventable deaths had been hitting us for months. According to this article, the fact we aren't is a sign we're in collapse.

People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

Does this mean we, as individuals, aren't allowed to enjoy ourselves in a time of crisis?

Maybe it depends on how our enjoyment lines up with the crisis itself. In a pandemic, that's getting joy from overcrowded parties and in-person gatherings. It's clinging to normal in ways that sustain, or even worsen, the misery of those who are sick, unemployed, isolated, or in grief.

If a majority of Americans are using their privilege and status to act like nothing is wrong and this will "resolve itself" without any sacrifice on their part, then I'd agree with this article. Our society has already collapsed.

The still-increasing winter spike of deaths and cases, due to people gathering when they were told not to, seems to confirm it is.

Note posted on February 7, 2021

A while back, I read something shocking: prisons use statistical data on third-grade reading levels to predict how many prison beds they need.

It seemed like one of those facts that's shocking due to not being well-known and revealing an ugly truth. Turns out I was wrong on both counts: it's a common political talking point, and it isn't true. But the article points out there's still a large connection between being able to read and dropping out or ending up in jail. So reading's importance can't just be ignored.

I write this both as a bookworm and as a cynic. As the latter, I know people will say "that specific connection is false, so we can ignore reading and education altogether!" It's using language that sounds critical to disguise support of inequality and privilege.

Language can be a bitch that way. It can slip by so many people yet drive society in so many different directions.

Note posted on February 4, 2021

One book I'm reading looked at the myth of meritocracy. It pointed out one of its flaws that stuck with me: the idea that someone who believes they got their high status through a meritocracy feels justified in any further action. Even if it's harmful.

Let's put aside if meritocracy is a true part of America or something used to justify inequality. Instead, let's say someone who believes they rose on merit is willing to abuse their power. For example, they stack the deck in favor of their friends and family with things like access to influential networks, higher education, and specialized tutors. Isn't this willingness to abuse their merit a sign they lack the merit itself?

America's main response seems to be "no." If so, meritocracy would only apply to peoples' skills, not what they do with them. Only talent and power matter, even if someone uses them to set the world aflame.

That's institutional terror right there.