A Teachable Moment

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My Facebook friends are usually a pretty brainy bunch.

Most of the people who follow me on social media are a cut above in the smarts departments.

A lot of them are in the hospitality industry, too, which gives my feeds (on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) a distinctly foodie feel, with comments that are invariably insightful and entertaining.

Just like those who read this website.

I generally do not seek out people to “friend” on Facebook, and I try to leave room (inside the allotted 5,000 friends limit) so that people curious about the Vegas food/restaurant scene can hop on board and enjoy the ride.

Occasionally, I will make an exception, and send someone a “friend request” if I know them and think it would be fun to hear their input — pro and con — on things I post about.  (I enjoy a good, spirited argument on all kinds of things, as long as some degree of respect and attention to logic and facts are invoked.)

In 9 years on FB, I’ve never refused to add a “friend,” and I’ve only un-friended one person: a local food blogger who holds a doctorate in unpleasantness, with post-graduate honors in practical assholiness.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost a decade of social media activity, it is that people love to weaponize taking offense at something they’ve read. It is no longer enough to simply disagree with someone, you must now personalize that disagreement, and turn your disaffection into something that diminishes them and makes you feel better about yourself.

So it was with a “friend request” I sent to a friend of a friend recently.

I had met this person more that once, and know our mutual friend rather well in a professional capacity.

Adding this person to my list of contacts seemed logical since we had run into each other, and no doubt would again.

So, I sent a “friend request.”

This is what I received in return:

Hi Mr. Curtis. I see you have thousands of FB friends, and perhaps weren’t expecting a dissertation on the matter of friend request etiquette, but, I won’t be adding you at this time. In a previous pic that (our mutual friend) had posted, you commented with a meme/gif that I found to be offensive and derogatory. While my initial inclination was to “go along with the joke” or simply ignore, seeing your friend request caused me to view this as a teachable moment. Even if a woman displays cleavage and/or sexy garments in photographs, it is not an open invitation for her body to be mocked and trivialized into an anime gif of a bouncing woman with large breasts. Thank you for taking the time to read. Have a nice day.

My response:

I have no idea what you’re talking about….but I will say this: any person (man or woman) who intentionally draws attention to a body part…such as cleavage, musculature, booty, whatever…is fair game for whatever reaction comes their way. And anyone in this day and age who gets offended by the trivialization of body parts is not living in the same century I am…….and for the record: I have no memory of posting any gifs of bouncing breasts…so if you know of any, please advise.

Their response:

Sad that even in a more enlightened time in history, the “you asked for it” mentality still prevails for you. Take care.

My response:

I still don’t know what you’re talking about…but yes, if you flash your ass at someone…you forfeit the right to complain about their reaction to said ass-flashing. I’m sorry you see things differently, but again, I have no idea what you’re talking about, vis a vis whatever “meme” or gif offended you.

And that was it. No further response.

Just to remind you: I’m the same guy who was accused of condoning sexual assault because I advised holding off on judging Mario Batali until all the facts were in. Fat slobs hate me because I have the temerity to call them such; and all kinds of people accused me of having horns and a pitchfork because I pointed out the impropriety of scantily-clad women who pass out drunk in shopping malls.

Now, I’m a bad guy if I post a gif of some woman’s bouncing breasts, as a bemused, humorous reaction to a FB posts. (FWIW: our mutual friend’s sense of humor often strays into Rabelaisian territory.)

This whole idea of, “I don’t like your reaction to something you saw on the internet and I’m going to use it as an excuse to (dislike, berate, condemn) you,” is actually quite comical.

It is also the mother’s milk of social media.

It’s at least understandable to despise someone for outright saying something that you didn’t like  — but are we now going to judge people based upon the gifs they post in response to other’s comments?

When did we get so far afield from normal behavior? When did the smallest pin prick of impropriety (as defined by others) give people license to chastise you?

If the above is true, we may have gone so off-the-rails that there is no turning back, as far as productive human discourse is concerned,

As with our political institutions, once this mindset takes hold, instead of hammering out differences like adults, everyone just runs back to their tiny mental comfort bungalows where nothing is challenged, and everyone agrees with you. Especially yourself.

I actually felt a little sorry for my almost-friend. The world has to be a tough place for anyone that sensitive.

But the encounter taught me a lesson. Social media is riven with individuals who are just looking to be affronted about something. And those somethings can be far more trivial than your social mores and political beliefs. Outrage can even be directed at the merest slight or hint of vulgarity. Which is pretty rich since, next to taking false umbrage, bad taste is the Internet’s stock in trade.)

Yes, in some people’s worlds, even something as innocuous and juvenile as this:

bouncing boobs GIF

…can cause one to clutch one’s pearls and think harshly of the person posting it.

Remember this lesson the next time you decide to show off your girlfriend’s tits on Facebook….or make fun of someone else who does.

 

Dim Sum Dilemma

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What should you do about mold on your food?

To complain or not complain? That is the question.

And does it matter whether you’re in a Chinese restaurant (where they may or may not speak English that well) or a less “foreign” one?

Allow me to explain.

Here’s the scenario:

You’re driving to Los Angeles.

Part of your tradition is always to stop in the San Gabriel Valley (Monterey Park, Alhambra, etc.) for some dim sum fun.

You’ve been doing this since 1991 — decades before Instagrammers and Yelpers discovered the place, and long before Jonathon Gold made it cool to go there.

In other words, you know what to expect: huge, open rooms, packed with Asian families of all stripes, and rolling carts (or menus) filled with a mind-blowing assortment of small bites, steamed, fried, and baked goodies straight from the Cantonese playbook.

You also know that kitchen hygiene can be a rather flexible concept in certain Asian restaurants. But no matter, the food is usually spectacular (especially compared with the meager dim sum offerings of Vegas), so you look past these shortcomings.

Every time you come to the SGV, you try to hit a new joint. On your last trip you made it to Sea Harbour and it was spectacular.

This time, you decide to try a place that’s received some buzz called Lunasia Dim Sum House.

You get up early so you can get there when it opens, because these places get nuts around lunch time, especially on weekends.

You’re super excited (and starving) when you drive up, especially when you score a parking spot right in front of it.

Right away, you see it checks all the boxes:

Giant crowded room full of Asians – check

Fish tanks brimming with crabs and other creatures of the sea – check

Smells like soy, steam, shrimp, and Shanghai – check

People scurrying about with trays full of delicious looking dumplings – check

Everyone smiling as they stuff their maw with har gow, shu mai, don tot, and char siu bao – check

Chopsticks flying across tables in a pitched battle for the last bite — check

All of this gets you very excited. But then, just to pee in your cornflakes, The Food Gal® — a clean freak but also someone with (slightly) bendable standards when it comes to certain, hyper-delicious Chinese food — notices the sign on the front door:

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“Are you sure you want to go here?” she asks. But you are undaunted — you wade right in, confident it was simply the kind of misdemeanor that would fade from consciousness as soon as your table was swamped by a tsunami of dim sum umami.

And it did, and for a while, it was.

For a while, you were transported by golf ball-sized sui-mai:

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Concupiscent spicy clams:

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Sticky/terrific/thick/sausage/turnip cake:

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…and delectable don tot:

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It wasn’t the best dim sum we’d had by a long shot. But it hit the spot, even if it fell short of Elite, Ocean Star or Sea Harbour excellence.

As you know, dim sum can be a willy-nilly eating experience. Everything shows up in random order, and you might find yourself slurping a beautiful almond milk-puff pastry sweet soup — or those warm-from-the-oven Macao-style custard cups — before you’re done with the savories. No matter, when it’s all good, it’s all good.

Right up until it isn’t.

Because of that delicious chaos, sometimes you circle back to a savory after a sweet. Which is what we did with these peppery stuffed peppers:

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They were hot — that innocuous-looking black pepper sauce was a scorcher — but they were also real good, so you want to tackle one more before pushing away from the table.

Big mistake.

One bite and you know something is wrong. Where before there was pillowy minced shrimp on bright green, herbaceous pepper, now there is an moldy, old, damp and musty taste in your mouth. The textures are still right, but the aftertaste is of dank cardboard — as if you’d just licked a fuzzy petri dish.

It turns out you had.

Tearing the top off of the pepper, there was the culprit: staring at you like a fungal funhouse of funky mold — the kind you grow in labs, the kind vegetables grow by themselves when they’re left too long to their own, organic devices:

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Is this a cardinal sin for a restaurant? Not really. But it shows a certain sloppiness. The kind that gets a “C” grade from the health inspector.

Does it give your wife a gigantic “I told you so”?

Of course it does. And she ain’t lettin’ you forget it for a long time to come.

Was it worth pointing it out to the management? Ah, there’s the rub and the dilemma.

Would it have resulted in them taking $7.88 off the bill? Maybe, but only after discussions, delays and sideways glances, and having to convince them you weren’t trying to get a free meal out of the ordeal.

There might also be debate over what it was. No restaurant is going to willingly admit it serves moldy food, so you’d have to be ready for an argument…an argument that could be won if they’d take a bite out of that musty-dusty pepper….which, most assuredly they would not.

Then you have to consider: will your complaint cause them to clean up their act?

Probably not. If the “C” grade didn’t do it, showing them some fungi fuzz tap dancing on their produce won’t.

So you pay the bill in silence….all $76.28 of it.

But you won’t be back, even though you were probably never going to go back anyway. And now your California food fantasies are a little less fanciful. There is no dim sum Santa Claus in San Gabriel, and you’ve learned no matter how rave-worthy some of it is, some of them are cutting the same corners as everyone else.

And it’ll be a cold day in hell before your wife lets you walk into another low-rated restaurant.

(Sigh)

The Worst Thing About Social Media

 

 

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Social media has afforded the world’s bravest cowards a flea market for their artistry – Mark Leibovich

Was thinking recently about the most destructive thing about social media, aka Twitter and Facebook. No doubt, the candidates for the worst side of it create a very crowded field. Narcissism and negativity are rampant, as are trolling and digging up people’s past…and deciding years later that you were deeply offended by something….in 2005.

For every good thing the interwebs have spawned (#metoo; heightened awareness of racism, world understanding), there’s been a counterbalance of empowerment of ideas and people that used to reside in the little holes where they belonged (conspiracy nutbags, truthers, chem trail hysterics, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, etc.)

But the thing that bothers me most are people who take offense at something, and then try to get someone fired from their job. (I’m not talking about Harvey Weinstein/Charlie Rose levels of predators that deserve their comeuppance.) I’m referring to the individual (and mob) mentality that empowers without hesitation, a person’s right to take some offense (a racist tweet, a salacious photo, a contrary opinion) and then run to a person’s employer with pitchfork in hand demanding that they know “the kind of person who is working for you.”

Of course, it goes much deeper than that. What they’re really trying to do is deeply hurt someone, literally where they live — Interfering with someone’s income for nothing more than taking offense at something a person wrote. No one actually DOES anything to these people — no dicks are whipped out; nothing happened face-to-face — it’s all because someone read something they disagreed with, be it relatively benign (“you and your opinions suck”) or something deeply anti-Semitic, pro-police, Beyoncé-critical, or simply that you made a lot of really bad jokes.

This came into focus for me recently when a couple of valued, smart FB friends — who have weighed in with opinions on some of my more controversial postings — told me that their employers received messages along the lines of “You’d should know what kind of (racist, sexist, insensitive, opinionated, asshole) ____ ____is.” All because this person made a comment on my Facebook page the offended party didn’t like.

This sort of behavior has become all too common over the past several years and has taken internet trolling to a new low.

When did this become okay? When did disagreeing with a person’s opinion become a license to try to make them lose their job? It’s elementary to the point of absurdity that the punishment sought (by the outraged person) has no relation to the crime.

So what if someone you work with thinks Harvey Weinstein is getting a raw deal? Or Mario Batali wasn’t doing what thousands of other less-famous chefs have done? Or Bill Cosby is innocent? (HE’S NOT!) I’m sure a significant % of people I’ve worked with in my life held some deeply racist or sexist opinions about certain things. But as long it didn’t interfere with their job, why give a shit? Who even cares if they belong to a “Ship All Brown People Back To Where They Belong” organization (aka Republicans), or a “All Women Are Simply Repositories For My Sperm” chatroom (aka college fraternities)?

Everyone knows the interwebs created a forum for assholes of all stripes to vent their twisted opinions, but acting like a jerk in some Reddit forum pales in comparison with going out of your way to get someone fired from their job.

I’ve had my own experiences with this. Two TV producers and networks got bombarded with negative info about me because someone didn’t like something I said on the internet. (A dust-up with a troll who called me an anti-Japanese racist, and trying to put the Batali thing in perspective, if you’re interested.) As did the City of Las Vegas — because the person who runs Eater Vegas (press-release regurgitator Susan Stapleton) didn’t like some tweets I sent out about how much it sucks. (IT DOES!) Think about it: they didn’t like something I said, so they went out of their way to get me tossed off some TV shows and fired from my day job — none which had anything to do with whatever I said.

Ten, twenty, fifty years ago no one acted this way. No one even thought of acting this way. Someone offended you, you ignored them, someone (a public figure perhaps) said something you disagreed with, you wrote a letter to the editor and griped to your neighbors. It’s one thing to vote someone out of office (politicians are fair game, after all), but private citizens, even in a public forum, have a right to express themselves without fear of financial repercussions.

“It’s just too easy to do it, now,” The Food Gal® says. And she’s right. The ease which allows women to band together to stop workplace misogyny also allows one or a dozen committed ax-grinders to take a hatchet (or carpet bomb) to a person’s reputation and income. And short of illegal harassment or libel, there are no rules, no morality judgments, or punishments for this behavior.

Besides the grotesque imbalance of power this dynamic has caused (a stranger being able to directly communicate with your boss about things that have nothing to do with your work), what this does in the long run is drive opinions back into the closet — the exact opposite of what the internet was supposed to foment through the broadening our horizons.

One of the reasons I think Trump support runs so rabid is because conservatives had/have been driven underground by all the liberal p.c. correctness, and opinion-shaming. They can’t express themselves freely anywhere but Fox News and Trump rallies for fear of being shouted down (or worse), so they clam up on social media and let themselves go wild when they have plenty of back up. But the point is, everyone should feel comfortable to express themselves, no matter how marginalized they may be, without fear that something they think, or say, no matter how wacky, is going to cost them their employment. The freedom of speech this country was founded upon demands it, and civilized behavior should require it.

Everyone should be able to speak without fear in America.

Except frat boys. Those dudes are fucking idiots.