Archive for March, 2008

24
Mar
08

Point of Grace! Thomas Kinkade! Keychains!

So, if you click here regularly, which is a very select few of you I’m sure, you’ve likely noticed I haven’t written in a while. That’s because I’ve had another baby project I’ve been putting my time into lately, and it’s being debuted here:

Stuff Christians Like

You’ve likely seen this site, “Stuff White People Like.” It’s currently the #2 blog in the world among all those created using the WordPress software that this very blog is built upon, second only to the CNN News Tracker. It makes fun of racial stereotypes in a friendly, non-offensive way as to make you examine yourself and think, “Golly, I DO fit white cultural stereotypes!!” So two friends of mine and I got together to create our site, which takes that idea and puts a Christian spin on it, as each of us have found ourselves quite adept in Christian culture. So please, if you poke around here, poke around there more. It’s likely posts here may become less frequent, just because more of my creative juices will go towards the new project, so that’s a good reason to check it out. Read it, bookmark it, link to it, tell your friends, email it, whatever. And if you’ve got any suggestions or feedback for us, we welcome it. So go look there now.

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11
Mar
08

Back when I was in school…

Disclaimer: I feel like I complain about American culture and the people that compose it often on this blog.  I realize this fact.  I love my country, and I love certain aspects of American culture, but I believe there’s a whole heck of a lot of people out there who have their priorities completely out of whack, and it makes me complain about them, which I acknowledge and for which I am now apologizing.  That being said, I’m still going to do it, so here goes:

Here’s two news articles I read today: number one and number two.  Read them if you like, I’d encourage it, but heck, I’d encourage you reading any news story.  If you don’t like, then here’s the gist of the two stories: the youth of America are going to Hell in a handbasket, drinkin’ and screwin’ the whole ride there.  Let’s examine each of these articles a little more closely:

Article One:  17% of American 6th graders have tried alcohol.  SIXTH graders.  That’s 11 and twelve year olds.  This means these kids will be drinking for five years before they’re ever in danger of drinking and driving, because they don’t even have their driver’s license yet.  And this doesn’t include the “when I was eight my mommy let me have a sip of her champagne glass at my uncle’s wedding just to try it.”  If you look closer at the article, you see that this 17% is of sixth graders who have had alcohol in the last year.  Also, according to the article, “Those students who’d started drinking were also more likely than their peers to have a range of problems, such as getting into fights, shoplifting or getting into trouble at school.”

You don’t say.

Article Two: One in four teenage girls has an STD.  ONE IN FOUR.  Those of you not good at quick math, that’s 25%.  This is mind boggling.  Using those statistics, let’s set up a little scenario:

Emma, Madison, McKenzie, and Brittney are in high school.  According to this statistic, one of them has an STD, let’s say it’s Emma, who got it from her boyfriend, Jared.  Jared gets frisky, and starts kissing Madison after the soccer game.  Emma sees this, breaks up with Jared, and goes running into the arms of Aiden, who she liked more anyway.  Both those relationships blossom, now Jared, Emma, Aiden, and Madison have all got the herp.  If Aiden and Madison decide they’re nothing more than a rebound relationship (or at least they think so, because that’s what they saw on One Tree Hill) and break up, then Aiden goes back to his ex, McKenzie…

Get the picture?  We weren’t at one in four ten years ago, and we are now.  How much longer will it take to get to one in three?  One in two?

***

So what are the solutions to these problems?  Better parenting?  Maybe, but that’s just a part of it.  There are plenty of kids out there with great parents who still allow their peers, hormones and favorite TV shows to make their decisions for them.  The way I see it, the idea that “I’m mature, I can handle it, I’m an independent thinker” has permeated down the age line a bit too far.  Kids are forgetting that they’re kids, and they want to grow up too fast.  There’s a long list of people you could try and blame it on, parents, teachers, Britney Spears, the president of MTV, whatever, but better that we try and solve the problem than just sit around pointing fingers.

There’s a theory that says morality in culture moves in a series of peaks and valleys.  That is, culture as a whole becomes terrifically immoral, then suddenly realizes it and begins a move back towards morality, then becomes more lax and goes immoral again, and the cycle continues.  So are we just at the bottom of a “morality valley”?  It’s likely, but the problem is that it doesn’t look like we’ll be making the move back up anytime soon.  Also, if you consider that the statistics are worse than they ever have been, it’s safe to say that over time, the valleys are getting deeper and the peaks aren’t quite as high as they once were.

Sheesh, it makes me afraid to have kids.  What do you think?

10
Mar
08

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Next Thursday, March 20th, would have been the 80th birthday of a true American legend.  There aren’t many people left in the world like Mister Rogers,  who, aside from hosting his infamous program and talking to hand puppets, did some pretty amazing things as a person, including:

-Earned a B.A. in Music Composition from Dartmouth College

-Was a certified pilot, trained by his older adopted African brother George

-Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom

-Was the recipient of 40 honorary degrees from various universities

-Never smoked or drank

-Was a strict vegetarian, and swam laps every morning of his life

-Singlehandedly saved the VCR

Here’s the story on that one: after the introduction of a machine that could record television programming, the TV network bigwigs got their panties in a twist, because they considered the VCR a threat to their financial wellbeing (i.e. “Why would anyone watch a rerun of “Welcome Back Kotter” when we put it on TV if they can record every single one on tape and play it whenever they want?”)  So a case (Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.) went to the Supreme Court, where the decision was made to keep VCRs based on the testimony of one Fred Rogers, who said that he didn’t oppose families recording his program so they could all watch it together at a time that was convenient for all of them.  Here’s a snippet from his testimony:

“Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the ‘Neighborhood’ at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the ‘Neighborhood’ because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.”

Now that’s an incredible man.  Considering the garbage that’s on TV these days, it’s a shame that there aren’t more people out there like Mr. Rogers who are willing to utilize that branch of the media for a healthy, good purpose.

Obviously, I’m not the only person who thinks this way.  That’s why an organization in Pennsylvania, Mr. Rogers’ home state, has declared next Thursday, his 80th birthday, National Sweater Day.  So you too can honor the life of one of television’s greatest personalities by simply wearing a sweater, and telling people that you’re doing it in honor of a great man who touched a lot of lives.

By the way, there’s a Youtube video about Sweater Day here.

05
Mar
08

It was always more than just football…

He retired today.

When I was growing up, on the north side of my house was a stretch of lawn, a modest 10 yards wide and about 40 yards long. After school, two neighbor friends of mine and I would go out and toss a football around. We’d play this game we called Interception, where one person was the quarterback, one was the receiver, and one played corner and tried to intercept the pass. It had this elaborate scoring system, and it was difficult to keep track of your points, but still,we played it because it was a good game for three people, and it fit the size lawn I had. Mostly, though, we played it because it was fun.

During the game, you’d rotate positions so each person got a chance to play each spot against each other. I was never very good at corner, and I liked receiver but I wasn’t all that fast, so I lived for playing quarterback. With such a short field, long touchdown passes were a lot easier, and because we played so often, we all got in such a rhythm with each other that it seemed fluid– we knew where each route was going, how each pass would hit our hands. We played as long as we possibly could, continuing well after the sun had set and the ball was just a dark shape flying through the inky blue twilight. By the end of the evening, when our parents would call us in for dinner, we would be tired, and often sore, but above all we would be content.

Over the past decade-plus I spent watching Brett Favre play, I was often reminded of those moments I spent in my yard. Watching Favre play reminded you that football was a game, and that it was supposed to be fun. With the stage of sports currently darkening, and supposed “heroes” falling left and right to steroid scandals, paternity suits, misdemeanors and the like, we’re losing more than just a talented football player, we’re losing one of the last great role models in sports. Who now is left for young kids to look up to? Tom Brady? Perhaps, but his GQ-modeling, supermodel-dating lifestyle is less than realistic. Peyton Manning? Maybe, but how many more years does he have left in his tank? Favre’s retirement is not only the end of his career and the end of an era for the Packers, but it’s the end of an era for the NFL as a whole.

During the seventeen years he played, Favre led the NFL to become the most popular and most profitable sports league in America. It was his face that sold the sport, his games getting the best ratings on TV, his picture showing up in magazine advertisements left and right. He was iconic, and the NFL will look staggeringly different without him. In each sport, there are players who define their era, who stick out above the rest not only because of their talent, but because of the impact they had on their sport as well as the culture around them. Baseball has had Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Williams, Maris and Mantle, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Cal Ripkin Jr. The NBA had Wilt and Russell, then Kareem, then Bird, then Jordan. Now the NFL has Jim Brown, Unitas, Walter Payton, Marino, Montana, and now, Favre.

He’d never claim to be the best. He’s had his great moments, but he’s had bad ones, too. Most fans will tell you Montana was better, Marino was better, maybe even Elway was better, and they’ll tell you that it’s only a matter of time before Manning and Brady pass all the records he just set this season. But when it comes down to it, they’ll also say that given the chance, they’d likely want Favre leading their huddle down by six in the fourth quarter. He was fearless, he was talented, and he was the ultimate leader. Now, he’ll become an icon and a legend.

04
Mar
08

A Case of the Mondays

I admit it. I was tired this morning. In fact, I was tired until noon. Upon reaching work, it was evident my coworkers felt the same way, likely just because it was the start of a new week. But no matter how tired I felt, there was one thing I refused to do, and I still refuse to do. You see, working in an office there’s a sort of vocabulary that’s pretty much universally adopted, the kind of vocabulary that’s mocked by movies like “Office Space” and shows like “The Office.” One particular aspect of this vocabulary has stuck out to me, and frankly kind of bothered me, and I’m here to hopefully dispel that vocabulary as much as I can.

The thing about working in an office is that you’re surrounded by people for an entire day that, unless you are in charge of hiring, you did not choose to be surrounded by. They’re just people who applied for a job just like you, and now simply because you both like the idea of a paycheck, you have to spend a large portion of the day with them. Because it’s polite, most people will be cordial enough, make small talk, and sort of half-assedly converse their way through the day with each other, and that’s were my beef comes. See, people who have been doing this long enough have a cookie cutter answer to every single question that they could possibly be asked, and they give it, no matter how they feel or whether or not it actually applies to them at the moment.

Most folks, I’ve found, have taken to answering the question “How are you?” (or any other question of personal morale, for that matter) by simply identifying the day of the week, like so:

Andy: “Good day, coworker. How are you this morn?”

Coworker: (groans) “Well, it’s Monday.”

-or-

Andy: “Good morrow, friend. How goes it this day?”

Coworker: (gleefully, with large grin) “It’s FRIDAY!!!”

I’ve got a problem with this. First of all, because it really doesn’t answer my question. I’ve got a calendar on my desk, thanks, I don’t need you to tell me what day of the week it is. Maybe if each new day you came along with a different Dilbert comic strip, sudoku puzzle, or piece of sports trivia, I might consider you useful. But until then, you’re just boring. (You’ll have to excuse my harsh and frank tone. It is Monday, after all.)

Secondly, it’s kind of rude, in a sort of unintentional backwards way. I take the time to show concern about your wellbeing as a person, and you can’t even answer the simple question? Ridiculous. It’s a cop out. It tells me, “I don’t think highly enough of you to give you genuine conversation.”

Anyway, if you’re out there and you’ve experienced this conversational phenomenon and you don’t really understand it, here’s my day-by-day guide to what your coworkers really mean when you ask them how they’re doing, and they tell you the day of the week:

“Ugh. It’s Monday.” means:

“I won’t tell you outright, but I hate my job. I wish I wasn’t here more than anything else on this planet. The fact that I have to work at all disgusts me, and the fact that I have to work here is even worse. Also, it’s quite possible that I have a hangover, or feel like I have one. God First.”

“It’s Tuesday!” means:

“Here at APU, faculty and staff are provided free drinks and donuts on Tuesday! Hooray! I can use excessive sugar and glaze to distract me from the fact that I hate being here! Also, even though it will take me a half hour tops to go up to Heritage, get a donut, and eat it, I will likely make it take a full hour. Minimum.”

“It’s Wednesday.” means:

“By the end of today, I will be closer to this weekend than last. That means if I can suffer through the exact amount of hell I’ve already been through this week over again, I can likely make it to the weekend again. Also, I’m getting pretty good at Minesweeper.”

“At least it’s Thursday.” means:

“Is it Friday yet?!? Is it? Is it? Isitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisitisit? I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“Iiiiiit’s FRIDAY!!!” means:

“I’m about to have a terribly unproductive day today while I count down the seconds until I can forget about this place for two days. Today is the closest thing to a weekly birthday that a person can experience. I will spend today doodling, surfing the internet, and fantasizing about not coming back next Monday.”

Sad, isn’t it? And let me clarify- these are not my personal thoughts. When people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them. I don’t give them an obvious, arbitrary fact like what day of the week it is or what color my shirt is (Q: “How are you, Andy?”  A: “My shirt is blue!!”). The worst thing is that I can see this sort of conversation creeping up on me. You run into someone in the hall who asks “What’s up?” and you reply, “fine, thanks.” It’s only a matter of time before you become the boring cookie cutter person just by being surrounded by cookie cutter personalities.

I feel like I could gripe about this for pages, but I’ll spare you. You don’t need to hear it, I don’t need to do it, and heck, I’ll be feeling better about it within the next hour or so.

It’ll be Tuesday by then.