Sunday, January 01, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are you?
I'm a rapidly-approaching-30 (when I first wrote this, it said, 20-something) white guy living in Cleveland. I went to high school here, college here, and graduate school here. That's right, the author of this blog has a Ph.D. He's also referring to himself in the third person. He's awesome. I have a wife and a daughter (born in June, 2009).

What is the Foreign Intelligence Files?
A collection of news stories and other things from around the web that make me wonder if intelligence is really a foreign concept for some people. Hence the name. And anything else that comes to my mind.

Where did FIF come from?
Back in 1999, I started doing a radio show at my school's college radio station. I had originally meant for it to be a comedy/variety show with some music thrown in, but found out that with classes, I didn't have enough time to write comedy bits like I wanted to. I had also planned to do a segment called "Views on the News" which was going to be quasi-political commentary with a sarcastic bent on the news stories of the day. The problem is that I find politics to be laughable, and I'd end up just reading the stories and laughing at them. In doing research for the show, I stumbled on the weird news sections that most news websites keep, as well as Chuck Shepherd's outstanding column "News of the Weird" and decided to incorporate odd news stories into my show. It turned out to be the most successful piece of the show. In fact, I briefly turned it into something of a primitive podcast at the end of 2000-beginning of 2001, with a weekly review of the week in weirdness, delivered via the microphone on my computer and posted on the now-unrecognizable

In 2002, when I signed off for the last time, FIF went into a bit of a hiatus, because I wasn't on the air any more. I went to graduate school and just didn't have the time any more. Fast forward to 2005, when I started teaching classes in the psychology department at DePaul. I realized that I needed something with which to start off my classes that would break the general nervousness the pervaded the room. So, I went back to what I knew best. I started looking up news stories from the old websites that I used to peruse for the radio show and reading them in class the same way I used to read them on the air. Not only did it work in the class, it got me back in the habit.

In the summer of 2006, my wife started her own blog to showcase her knitting accomplishments, and told me over and over that I should start my own blog. I told her that I didn't really have anything to talk about, but she still encouraged me. Since discovering actual podcasting, I had toyed with the idea of bringing back the FIF audio update, but decided against it because it would take too much time. Then, one day, the thought clicked that I could bring FIF back in a web format. I could link to the funny news, tell funny stories of my own, and explore various other funny things I knew from the web. Plus, during major events (and this was inspired by ESPN's fantastic Page 2 section), I could liveblog things like the MTV Video Music Awards.

The Foreign Intelligence Files blog was born. It also coincided nicely with the rise of YouTube which has quickly become the repository of cultural artifacts for the television generation. All at once, I was able to keep a small diary, resurrect FIF, and play pop culture critic all at once. In other words, it was a way to distract myself from the fact that I should have been working on my dissertation.

But sometimes life takes a turn. In 2007, I was recruited to work at Statistically Speaking, a Sabermetrics blog. If you don't know what Sabermetrics is, don't worry. As a result, I had no time to update the blog and it lay fallow. But in 2009, I decided to bring it back. If you're reading this now, you've seen the result.

Why do you call yourself the Pizza Cutter?
It was my radio handle back in college. I try to preserve some anonymity on the blog (although I suppose with all the info here, you could probably track me down if you really wanted to). The name Pizza Cutter comes from the fact that I used to open my radio show with the song "Pizza Cutter" by the band Letters to Cleo. It stuck.

Who is DJ Chia Pet?
My wife. She joined me as co-DJ on the radio show. That was her DJ name. Whenever I would say "The Foreign Intelligence Files", she would always

Why do you always reference her?
Well, I do spend the largest amount of my time with her. Plus, I married her because she's hilariously funny. She provides good material. That's the basis of any healthy relationship.

Who is Narlie?
Narlie is my daughter. When my wife was pregnant and before we knew whether we were having a boy or a girl, we had names picked out. For a girl, we'd picked Natalie. For a boy, Charles. Natalie + Charlie = Narlie. (Which if you pronounce out loud, it sounds like "gnarly") She was born in June 2009.

What the heck is Sabermetrics?
Advanced statistical analysis applied to the game of baseball. It's my hobby.

Where do you find these stories?
The news stories I generally find at one of three places:
Yahoo's Odd News Section
British provider Ananova's quirkies section
Snopes collection of weird news stories

Wait a minute, I just saw a reference to the Bible/your church/God. Are you some sort of religious nut?
Nuts is in the eye of the beholder. My degree is in clinical psychologist though, so I get to decide who is nuts and who is not. However, I am an Orthodox Christian. When they talk about "those people" who go to church 2-3 times per week, that's me (Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and occasionally Saturday nights.) I'm not a perfect man, just a forgiven man. My goal is to live each day in awe of the blessings I (and the rest of the world) have been given by God and with a sense of humor over how badly we have messed it up.

Do you know about _______?

The Onion? Yes, I know about the Onion, and I love it. But, it's all fake satire news. I prefer to deal in the real.

News of the Weird? Yes, although I've never met Chuck Shepherd, I would love to. He inspired a lot of what you see here. Plus, he has a weekly column that's syndicated in 250 news papers. FIF is probably only read by my friends! Always tip the cap to the people who inspire you. That's Chuck Shepherd.

The Darwin Awards? Yeah, I have. They are filled with stupid people finding stupid ways to die. I've already pointed out that I won't do death-related stories.

What does _____ mean in your blog?

Federline Award: An award, usually given to a celebrity, but it could be to anyone, for outstanding achievement in the field of stupidity. Named in honor of Kevin Federline.

Salve stultus/stulta! Popozao!: The standard salute to a Federline Award winner. In Latin, Salve Stultus means, "Hail, idiot!". (Thus, the Onion's motto "Tu stultus es" translates as "You are an idiot.") Popozao! was an unfortunate episode in American history. So was the entirety of the Kevin Federline experiment.

William Shatner Award: Given to a person who whores themself out for the least amount of money and the greatest loss of personal dignity. Named after the greatest practitioner of such feats, William Shatner.

Where's Waldo Checklist: Every once in a while, I come across something that is disturbing in so many little ways, I need to point all of them out. If you don't remember Where's Waldo, here's a reference. If you don't understand after that point, it'll take too long to explain.

Walgreens Theory of the Apocalypse: There's a Walgreens up the street from FIF's World Hindquarters (aka, our apartment). We go up there a lot because it's convenient and it has everything we need. It's just that every time I go into Walgreens, I see or hear something that makes me wonder if the apocalypse truly is nigh. Maybe it's just the fact that I don't really get out much, but it always seems to happen at Walgreens.

Why are you _________?

...Obsessed with Star Trek?: Because the show is awesome.

...So proud of being a nerd?: Why not? In balance, I've lived a wonderful life so far (and with any luck, I've got another 100 years to go). I'm proud of who I am. A quote that I like, pulled from Wikpedia's article on nerds:

"My idea is to present an image to children that it is good to be intellectual, and not to care about the peer pressures to be anti-intellectual. I want every child to turn into a nerd - where that means someone who prefers studying and learning to competing for social dominance, which can unfortunately cause the downward spiral into social rejection." —Gerald Sussman, quoted by Katie Hafner, The New York Times, 29 August 1994 obsessed with Kevin Federline?: He's perhaps the finest example of someone who is unintentionally funny that I've ever seen. He... just... doesn't... get it

What's with all the parenthetical comments?:
I write that way for some reason. I like to go on little mini-tangents, and that seems to be the best way to encapsulate them.

The formatting of the stories, with a linked headline and a parenthetical below, I frankly thought just looked cool.

I just saw the coolest thing that you might like to include on your blog. What should I do?
Leave it in a comment. I'll look at it.

No comments: