Come Up With the Ultimate Thomas Friedman Porn Title

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Thomas L. Friedman

Is Friedman's column in yesterday's 'New York Times' his worst ever?

Yesterday I was clicking my way through the Times editorial page when I hit upon Tom Friedman's column, ominously entitled, "It's a 401(k) World." When I see headlines like that on Tom's pieces I have to make sure my airways are clear of food or drink before proceeding – there is real medical danger of power-laughing your way into a choking episode if you try eating and Friedman-reading simultaneously.

But lunch was over: airways clear. I gathered myself, took a deep breath, and read:

It's hard to have a conversation today with any worker, teacher, student or boss who doesn't tell you some version of this: More things seem to be changing in my world than ever before, but I can't quite put my finger on it, let alone know how to adapt.

Nothing like a lede sentence that offers no information and requires another lede sentence. Standard Friedman so far, chuckle level, safe to proceed:

So let me try to put my finger on it: We now live in a 401(k) world — a world of defined contributions, not defined benefits — where everyone needs to pass the bar exam and no one can escape the most e-mailed list.

What does he mean by defined contributions, defined benefits, passing the bar exam and escaping the most e-mailed list? Let's hold those four or five thoughts while we plow ahead, four or five life-preservers in hand(s), to try to rescue this reading experience:

Here is what I mean: Something really big happened in the world's wiring in the last decade, but it was obscured by the financial crisis and post-9/11. We went from a connected world to a hyperconnected world. I'm always struck that Facebook, Twitter, 4G, iPhones, iPads, high-speech broadband, ubiquitous wireless and Web-enabled cellphones, the cloud, Big Data, cellphone apps and Skype did not exist or were in their infancy a decade ago when I wrote a book called The World Is Flat . . .

Airway alert! Was it possible? Friedman wrote another "The world is increasingly hyperconnected" column!

Racing to Google, I entered GAWKER FRIEDMAN HYPERCONNECTED and called up a piece from, yes, just a few months ago (January 29, 2013 to be exact), in which the king-snark site rolled its eyes over Friedman's last "The world is increasingly hyperconnected" column ("It's P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q.") which contained the following passage:

What do I mean by the Great Inflection? I mean something very big happened in the last decade. The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school . . .

Gawker went on to painstakingly document the elaborate history of such columns, finding the source of the Nile at January 8, 2004 in a piece called "War of Ideas, Part I," which contained the line, "Trust is built into . . . every interaction in our increasingly hyperconnected world." They then went on to find fifteen more columns over the next eight years built on or around the same concept.

Many of them are virtually word for word the same column as this past January's or this week's column, which incidentally is the seventeenth such column according to their count. Anyway, check the list out if you have a few minutes (which Friedman, apparently, hasn't). It's outstanding.  

As for "401(k) World," it's solid stuff, really top-drawer. As Rob Zombie would say, it's more Friedman than Friedman.

In fact, it was such a meta-performance that I wondered if Friedman has been using the brilliant www.thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com automatic Thomas-Friedman-column-making machine. It really is becoming hard to tell the difference. Go ahead, I dare you pick out the human-penned lede:

Last week's events were truly historic, although we may not know for years or even decades what their final meaning is. It is impossible not to be tantalized by the potential of these events to change the course of history.

It's hard to have a conversation today with any worker, teacher, student or boss who doesn't tell you some version of this: More things seem to be changing in my world than ever before, but I can't quite put my finger on it, let alone know how to adapt.

Imagine if grassroots activists sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our transportation crisis.

Uncanny, right? I tweeted something out about this yesterday, asking if it was possible that Friedman was actually using the machine to save time. This led to a lot of back and forth, until finally I tripped on one of the repeat lines in yesterday's "401(k) World" piece and tweeted:

Okay, contest time. What would a Tom Friedman porn film be called? I nominate "Something Really Big Is Happening."

Which led to an explosion of responses, many of them aneurysm-level funny. It's a testament to Friedman's unique reach around . . . um, his unique connection with audiences around the world that thousands of people across different states and countries (and languages, even) were ready to instantly pounce here, and many people had multiple solid ideas ready within seconds.

How did we not see that Friedman's whole career has been a series of porn titles? From The Golden Straitjacket to In Three Holes to My Special Sauce to The External Midwife to Hot, Flat and Crowded and, most obviously, Suck On This (which, as many readers noted, is a real porn movie), it's almost like Friedman has been using his New York Times columns to send, across decades, coded battlefield commands to the worldwide army of porn producers. Which is just about the funniest thing imaginable.

Anyway, a small sampling of the best responses:

• Fred Simmons at @fsimmons was one of many to go with some variation on the theme of The Next Six Inches Are Critical. For those who don't know, Friedman's mania for writing that the next six months of the Iraq war would be critical – he did it an awe-inspiring 14 times over a period of two and a half years – led to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting establishing the so-called "Friedman Unit," which became shorthand for any six-month period. Which in turn led, yesterday, to @ogamble, @bobbybaird, @Casual_Obs, @douglasstruth, @dpinsen, and @chris_labarthe all suggesting The Friedman Unit as their porn title.

• There were lots of excellent naturally-double-entendred Bangalore-themed submissions, like @hortonia's Bangalore Babez, @bhavkp's Bangalore Bangers (which, as he noted, was an actual show), @DavidMizner's elegant Gang Bangalore, and @hot2sandy's rich Maxxxed Metawhores Gone Bangalore. "Dunno about a name," commented @andyferris, "but filming should be split between a taxi and a Bangalore golf course." I totally agreed and replied that I thought the first scene should actually be Friedman and Nandan Nilekani roasting a caddy on a Bangalore putting green. Separately, @Voodoo_Ben was thinking along the same lines: his submission was Your Pussy Reminds Me Of An Anecdote My Indian Caddy Told Me On A Golf Course Overlooking A Pizza Hut Billboard.

• There were probably two hundred or so submissions that were simple but powerful variations of Tom's actual book titles. My two favorites here were probably @rollotomasi3030's Longitudes and Shat-on-Dudes and @raouldukeinLA's The Lexus in Miss Jones, but there were many other strong contenders, like @maizedandconfused's The World is Flaccid, @phillipspasha's unpleasant Hot, Flat and Shrouded, @JayReed13's Trite, Fat and Pounded, @ursus_marit's The World Is Flat, But She Isn't and, lastly, @sousibrown's simple, probably female-perspectived Hot, Flat and Over.

• Brilliant: @salamibaloni's B Anal.

• Many contenders worked with the "Debbie Does Dallas" concept, among them @WordsofVikram's boilerplate Friedman Does Dallas and @youseemfine's more elaborate Devi Does Dallas Cheaper and Harder, Saving Companies Money and Allowing Debbie and Her Pals to Get New, Better Jobs – Everyone Wins. Multiple entrants, including @nomoremister, found what I think is the true theme here, Debbie Does Davos.  

• Bonus points to @mr_mxyplyzyk for his cleverly irrelevant entry, Inside Lydia's Ass. Dinner at Dorsia?

• Finally, with relevance to yesterday's historic 17th "hyperconnected" column, we had multiple enties: @amags30's Hyperconnect to Dat Azz, @snowbankbb's Hypercocknected, @bighiller's Hypercocked and many, many others. My favorite, however, was probably @bermanshaker's Hyperconnected – To Your Vagina.

There are so many more, but I don't have the space to get into all of them here. However, I am ultimately going to give a prize to the best entry – my first idea was this Seventies-porn-stache-themed mug, but some readers have said this is a poor reward. I'm willing to spend a little if someone has a better prize idea. In the meantime, I'm definitely looking for feedback and new entires. Winner announced next week . . .

Porn Star Mo Bro Mug by Gift House International
Porn Star Mo Bro Mug by Gift House International (Photo: Courtesy of Gift House International)

Incidentally, there were many hilarious footnotes to yesterday's Friedmania traffic on Twitter, but I just had to point out one. I couldn't help but notice that self-help guru Tony Robbins (who should definitely be in the cast of B Anal – maybe a green room scene backstage at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Megachurch) read Friedman's "401(k) World" column and, naturally, loved it. From his i-seat at @TonyRobbins, he tweeted:

Why self education & self direction are a necessity & the Ultimate Edge today society! Thomas Friedman is Brilliant! http://t.co/dt4pRvp3Hw

If you open the ensuing conversation, one of Robbins's revolting self-help cohorts, Tom Corley – author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals – piled on approvingly. From his bold Twitter perch @RICHHABITS (successful people keep their Twitter addresses in all caps!) he wrote, irrelevantly but characteristically:

New research: 88% of millionaires read self-help books. Only 2% of poor people do this. http://t.co/4433yfQXBH

To which someone – it's since been deleted – replied, "Thanks for nothing, cuntface." And then people just piled the hell on from there, calling Corley a "narcissistic whoredog marketing shitmeister," among other things. Which had nothing to do with Friedman, but somehow felt like the perfect conclusion to the whole conversation.

Anyway – see you next week!

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