Archive Page 2

01
Apr
09

Deservitude

Do me a favor, and take four minutes to watch this clip:

What you just watched, if you took the time to do so, is the 80th-highest ranked video on all of YouTube.com.  That’s YouTube, where 15 hours of footage is added every minute of every day (63 hours of footage were added to the site in the time it took you to watch that clip).  YouTube, a site that currently consumes more bandwidth than was consumed by the entire Internet less than ten years ago.  It’s a whole lotta videos, folks, and somehow, this one fluttered up towards the top of a giant pile of babies doing funny things and handheld camera phone footage from the forty-seventh row of a Jonas Brothers concert.

Why?  As YouTube clips go, it seems tremendously average.  All it consists of is a semi-well-known comedian doing some shtick on an episode of Conan.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t scream “Charlie The Unicorn” to me.  It’s funny, but it’s probably not the funniest thing you’ve ever heard, and it’s not something that cries out, “share me!”  But what it does, and this I believe is why it’s rated so high, is it strikes a chord with a concept that is so inherent in our current collective mindset, and examines that concept in a new, unusual way.

I call that concept deservitude.  Louis CK, the comedian in the clip, calls it “everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.”  You might call it taking the privileges of this world for granted.  It’s the idea that once we acquire something, anything less than that thing is inadequate.  It is the rarely examined down side of progress and innovation, and it’s relatable, because we see it in those around us, and we see it in ourselves.

But I don’t think that’s the entire reason this video became so popular.  This appearance on Conan took place on October 1, 2008, yet it was the fourth-most watched video for this past month of March.  Why did it take five months to catch on?  To answer that question, I say look at the stock market.  On the first of October, when Louis CK was on Conan, the Dow Jones was at 10,831.  Today, and for most of the month of March, it’s dropped more than 30%, and that’s why I think this video has become so popular.  The correlation is obscure, but I promise you it’s there.

On the surface, the video simply says that we’re all spoiled, and we don’t recognize it.  It’s an observation that could be made any time, by any comedian, and might be worthy of a chuckle or two before moving on to the next joke.  But we’re watching it now, amidst news of forclosed houses, AIG bonuses, economic stimulus packages, and rising unemployment.  Every time we turn on the TV, we feel like our country is going to hell in a handbasket, and Louis CK is slapping us in the face and saying, “Chill out, no it’s not!”

Now admittedly, we are in a recession, and it has certainly hit home for a lot of people.  But the average person hasn’t lost a job or a house (at least not yet), and they likely still feel like the walls are crumbling down all around them.  I know, I’m one of them.  But the reason we see those walls as falling down has a lot more to do with this idea of deservitude than we might like to admit.  Louis CK is just asking us all to put things in perspective, and acknowledge that we aren’t in hell just yet, in fact, we’re far from it.

Consider this: as I previously mentioned, the Dow Jones is today around 7,600.  The very first time that number was ever crossed was only twelve years ago.  Twelve years ago we were rejoicing at 7,600, and now, it’s a sign of the apocalypse.  I’m sure if I were a banker or a financial analyst or had some other fancy “plays with money” job I’d have a different opinion, but could the reason we think this is so awful at least have something to do with the fact that we just got too comfortable with things when they were going well?

Need proof?  Look at this.  Turns out, some American women would rather see themselves objectified than try to find a more affordable apartment or switch off the cable TV.  Can’t we live without the little luxuries we’ve become so accustomed to, or do we really need to go to such painstakingly desperate measures?

Remember life before the iPod?  I do, barely.  I remember going on field trips and everyone wishing the bus wasn’t so bumpy, because all that skipping on our Walkmans was interrupting Billie Joe Armstrong’s latest angsty rant.  Then the first kid at my high school showed up one day with an iPod, which was about the size of a cinder block, and it was the coolest thing we had ever seen.  The original iPod, introduced in 2001, held 1,000 songs, which when it was first introduced by Steve Jobs was estimated as the size of the average person’s entire music collection.  Today, my current iPod (which is far smaller than the original version) has 10,500 songs on it, and that takes up about a third of its capacity.

This is interesting for a couple reasons.  First, obviously, the growth in just eight years is tremendous.  But secondly, Apple has, along with increasing the capacity of its product, increased our capacity and our “need” for music.  Whereas in 2001 our entire music library was 1,000 songs, today it’s increased tenfold or more.  The current iPod on the market that holds 1,000 songs is the size of a AA battery, and is marketed as, essentially, the “workout iPod,” because nobody in their right mind would make that the only iPod they owned.  A thousand songs isn’t our entire library anymore, a thousand songs is the kind of number that delivers just enough variety for a three mile run on the treadmill.

All of that goes to say, maybe if we could remember the attitude we had when we first heard about the iPod, wide-eyed and amazed sitting around the lunch table or huddled in the break room, we wouldn’t be turning to porn just so we could maintain our 30,000 song lifestyles.

This isn’t an anti-progress statement, it’s a pro-gratitude statement.  Progress is great.  The fact that we can acheive such mind-boggling things through technology, innovation, and hard work is phenomenal, and it is a cornerstone of the American culture.  What we tend to be lacking, however, is genuine appreciation of that progress.  Rather than appreciating it, we tend to feel like we deserve it because we’ve become so used to growth and progress in our lifetime.  Don’t get me wrong, that is a good thing.  The problem is, when we reach a point in the story where that growth stops, or heaven forbid, declines, we end up taking it that much harder.

11
Mar
09

If Only We Had Known…

Inescapable.  That’s the word I think best describes the current economic crisis.  Not inescapable in the sense that no one will be able to financially survive it, but inescapable in the sense that news of it is everywhere. Phrases like “credit crunch,” “subprime mortgage crisis,” “bailout,” and “global meltdown ohmigodwe’reallgoingtodieafieryeconomicdeath” have become mainstays in the current American vocabulary, and I would bet you a dollar that even if you have no idea what those terms mean, you at least recognize them.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that in my opinion, the most honest, trustworthy, and just-plain-understandable source for not only surviving but truly comprehending the current economic situation is This American Life, specifically the episodes “Bad Bank,” “Another Frightening Show About the Economy,” and “The Giant Pool of Money.” (If you haven’t listened to them and you’re planning on doing so, which you should, listen to them in the chronological order in which they were produced, which is the inverse order I listed them here.)  These three episodes give what I believe is the most comprehensive and plain-language explanation of how we got to where we are in terms of the economy, as well as open minded analysis and potential solutions for getting us out of our current chaotic state.

It turns out, however, that back in early 2006, another source had a fail-safe solution that could have prevented this entire problem from arising, had we all paid attention to it.  Yes, the solution to this mind-bending problem that cable news networks have been endlessly analyzing and reporting around the clock can be boiled down to one two-minute-and-thirty-second video that we all ignored, and now, we’re paying the price. 

Go here to find out how paying attention to Saturday Night Live could have prevented the whole economic crisis in the first place.

18
Feb
09

The Rise of Captain Hopeandchange

There is a movie you probably haven’t seen called “Idiocracy” that you really don’t need to see, because I’m about to tell you all about it.  The premise of the movie is that a completely average guy from 2005 is cryogenically frozen, and wakes up 500 years later to discover that American society has become so dumbed down that he is the smartest man alive— by a long shot.  While the movie isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious, it features incredibly biting satire, and is probably the kind of movie I’d write, if I were the kind of guy who wrote movies.

In the future that “Idiocracy” sees, the secretary of state is “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.”, you can get your college degree at Costco, and the most popular thing on television is a channel devoted to looped clips of men getting hit in the crotch.  And in this future, the president of the United States is a former professional wrestler named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, who makes most of his public appearances at monster truck rallies.

You might expect from having read previous posts on this site that I’m now about to go into some long discussion on how we as a society are closer to this being truth than we think, and we need to blah blah blah before our brains turn into whatever, which doesn’t matter because you stopped caring three sentences ago.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  While I think the movie is witty, I don’t think society is on its way towards anything close to resembling that future.  That being said, I do think the character of President Camacho requires further examination.

In the film, Americans love professional wrestling, and Americans are stupid, so Americans vote a vastly unqualified professional wrestler to be their president, just because they can.  In real life, anyone who saw this on a t-shirt last October knows that while it’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, voting someone into political office on account of their celebrity isn’t so much of an outrageous thought these days.

And that brings us to this, this, and this.  Yes, our current president, whether he intended to or not (and I tend to think he didn’t), has blurred the lines between politician and celebrity even moreso than Ronald Reagan, who need I remind you was an actual celebrity.

(A wee disclaimer: the remainder of this post will be about everyone’s favorite new president, Captain Hopeandchange.  However, this will be a discussion on Obama the celebrity, not Obama the politician.  There’s a difference.  Keep that in mind should you decide to comment.)

I’m not about to suggest that President Obama and President Camacho have all that much in common.  The character of Camacho is, obviously, the extreme.  What I’ve been pondering is whether or not Obama is a step towards that extreme, and a lot of that, I believe, is up to the man himself and how he deals with the fame that has been thrust upon him.

Most people will point to his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as the moment when his fame began to rise, and I wouldn’t argue that point.  In order for him to become president, 2004 Obama needed to tenderly cultivate that fame, fertilizing it with equal dashes of political opinion, general handsomeness, and yes— hope, until he had grown into the massive cultural icon (and oh yeah, president) he is today.

And whether or not you choose to believe it, at least a handful of the people who voted for our president did so not because of his ideology, but because of the massive cultural icon he became.  In simpler terms, he was the cool kid in the student council contest.  Many voters (especially those in my generation) may have convinced themselves they were voting Obama instead of McCain, but what they were really voting for was Dr. Pepper instead of Mr. Thunder.  They were choosing a brand, not a president, and quite frankly, anyone who worked on Obama’s campaign is totally okay with that (Don’t worry, though… I’m not talking about you.  You voted for him for the right reasons).

There’s a reason many pundits called Obama’s campaign the greatest in the history of politics, and there’s a reason voter turnout was at its highest in 40 years, and while not all of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity, a lot of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity.  In a perfect world, every four years we’d vote into office the person whose views best aligned with the majority of Americans regardless of what they look like or the quality of their jump shot, and while that certainly is the intention of the electoral process, it has, in today’s culture, become a far too idealistic thought.  Last year, 148.3 million people watched the Super Bowl and we spent north of $530 million dollars on tickets to a movie about Batman, and while that sort of thing shouldn’t have anything to do with our choice for president, it certainly says a lot about what we think is important.  Obama realized what captures America’s attention, and he became just that, or rather, he allowed himself to become that.

That’s an important point to note— Obama didn’t necessarily seek out the fame he has; rather it seemed to be thrust upon him, and he just rode it all the way to the Oval Office.  Now, though, I would argue that if he knows what’s good for him, Obama needs to prune that fame back a bit.  To be a successful candidate, you need to be the first person everyone thinks of when they think “president.”  And now that he has attained that title, he needs to switch gears from gaining popularity to properly representing those that gave him his popularity.

In the most basic terms, I’d say for the first hundred days (at least) of his presidency, he needs to do just one thing: his job.  That means get busy workin’– no appearances on The Colbert Report, no surprise visits to high school basketball practices, just sign bills and do all the things that go with acting presidenty.  Let us see your hard work, not your crossover dribble.

So far, he hasn’t done half bad, and whether you agree or disagree with the work he’s done, you can’t deny he’s been working.  And that’s a good thing.  His road to the presidency, as successful as it was, will most assuredly be emulated in the coming elections.  He’s now set the new standard for campaigning, let’s just hope he also sets the new standard for funneling campaign success into effective governing, rather than just continued celebrity.  Just like Kennedy was the first “television” president, Obama will be known as the first “Facebook” president and the first “YouTube” president, and the last thing he needs is for that exposure to affect his actual presidency.

07
Feb
09

An Obligatory Glance at My Staggering Mediocrity.

It’s over.  Now we must suffer the seven month punishment that is the NFL offseason.  Careful readers will recall that at the beginning of this most surprising NFL season, I made twenty-four bold predictions about what was to happen, and promised to revisit them at the end of the season and prove myself horribly wrong.  Here, for your enjoyment, is that line-by-line revisitation, each with its own analysis, and a running score:

1. Tom Brady will not lead the league in touchdown passes, nor will the New England Patriots have the top-ranked offense in the league in scoring or total yards.

Tom Terrific gets injured, I start out with a correct prediction.  Tommy’s knee explosion wasn’t what I was predicting, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  Score: 1

2. The Patriots will rank outside the top 12 in pass defense, but will still win at least 11 games.

Pats win 11 games, rank eleventh in pass defense.  So close.  Score: 1.5

3. Donovan McNabb will start 16 games this season for the Eagles.  Asante Samuel will not.

Correct, and correct.  Also interesting to note: when Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, the Eagles go to the NFC Championship game.  Unfortunately, when McNabb starts the NFC Championship game, he loses.  Score: 2.5

4. The New York Jets, who ranked 26th last year, will rank in the top 15 in total offense this year.  Thomas Jones will have 1,300 yards, and the Jets will be in the playoff race until the last two weeks of the season.  Brett Favre will start all 16 games, and come back for the 2009 season.

Had the Jets not taken an enormous turd for the last four games of the season, this would’ve been spot on.  With that turd, they ended up 16th.  So close again.  However, Jones had 1,312 yards, the Jets could have made the playoffs, and Favre started all 16.  Will he come back?  Even if he doesn’t, I’m still 2-for-4 on this prediction.  Score: 3

5. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will win at least 9 games, and sweep the Bears for the first time since 2003.

Whoops. Score: 3

6. Marion Barber will make Dallas Cowboy fans forget how excited they were about Felix Jones.  Jones will finish with under 500 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Again, when injuries help my predictions come true, I don’t complain. Score: 4

7. Matt Ryan will do exactly what every other rookie starting quarterback does: struggle.  Michael Turner will have about three games where he looks superhuman, and thirteen games where he looks average.  The Falcons win no more than four games.

Whoops again. Score: 4

8. Chad Pennington will improve the Miami Dolphins threefold.  Meaning they’ll win three games instead of one.

Man, this predicting stuff is hard.  A side note, however.  After the Dolphins drastic turnaround in 2008, come this August, every NFL talking head on the block is going to be writing some article predicting who’s going to turn it around in 2009, and here, I’ll predict that prediction: The Kansas City Chiefs.  Mark my words.  I’m not saying they’ll turn it around, I’m just saying it’ll be trendy to say they will.  Score: 4

9.  The Minnesota Vikings will be .500 at best, and miss the playoffs. (Shocked?  Think about this: Remember who the trendy preseason playoff pick was from last year?  Anyone?  The San Francisco 49ers.  Everyone said Patrick Willis was a beast, and the Niners would surprise everyone.  They went 5-11.)

Okay, I’m contending this one.  Due to the mediocrity of the NFC North, the Vikings made the playoffs by default.  The only reason the Packers didn’t wipe the floor with everyone was their defense disappeared in the fourth quarter.  I’m still not right, but I don’t necessarily think I’m wrong.  Score: 4

10. The Patriots will lose the first playoff game they play.

This is technically correct.  The Patriots played a playoff game against the NFL’s playoff seeding system, and lost.  Winning 11 games loses to winning 8 games.  That’s a playoff loss.  Score: 5

11.  Jason Campbell will pass for over 3,000 yards, and still be ignored.

Zing!  A winner!  3,245 yards, and anyone who lives more than 15 miles from DC probably couldn’t name the Redskins QB.  The trend continues next season.  Score: 6

12. The Cincinnati Bengals will finish at .500 and miss the playoffs only because of the difficulty of their division.  Chad Javon Ocho Cinco will have a career year while wearing a shoulder brace all season long.

In this case, an injury bit me in the ass.  Would Carson Palmer have led the ’08 Bengals to a .500 record?  In this case, it just doesn’t matter.  Score: 6

13. The Dallas Cowboys will NOT be in the Super Bowl.  Wade Phillips will be fired, and Jason Garrett will be the coach of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys, who will also miss the Super Bowl.

So Wade Phillips didn’t get fired.  But he didn’t get fired because everyone assumed he would be fired, and Jerry Jones didn’t want to look like he took his business decisions from the fans, even though in this case, he should’ve.  I’m giving myself the point here, because with the mess this team is in, there’s no way they go further than the divisional round next year, and that’s being generous.  Score: 7

14. J.T. O’Sullivan will be no better a quarterback than Alex Smith.  After this season, (if they don’t already) Niner fans will be wishing their team had used their number one pick on Aaron Rodgers.

Correctamundo!  J.T. was replaced far before the season was over, and A-Rod proved he could fill the shoes of Brett Whatshisname, even in winning only 6 games.  Score: 8

15. The NFC West will not be decided until the week seventeen game between Seattle and Arizona, and Arizona will win.

Again, this isn’t necessarily wrong.  I was predicting a Cardinals playoff appearance, not a Seahawks collapse.  Let’s go halvsies.  Score: 8.5

16. Matt Leinart will not start a single game for the Arizona Cardinals.

Another winner.  Who knew Warner would have the season he had?  That’s right, I knew.  Score: 9.5

17. The worst record in the AFC South will be 8-8. Again.

Okay, so it’s wrong.  8-8 was the best record in the AFC West, though.  Not that that means anything, but it’s interesting, in a pathetic way.  Score: 9.5

18. The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will end the season dead last in the NFC East.

Did I say dead last?  …he he, I meant, first place, which they’d have locked up by week 15!  It’s a simple misunderstanding, right?  Score: 9.5

19.  The Oakland Raiders, despite Al Davis’ best efforts and ridiculous spending, still won’t break 5 wins.

Correct.  Replace the words ‘ridiculous spending’ with ‘new puppet coach,’ and you’ve got a legitimate 2009 prediction.  Score: 10.5

20. During the regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will lose twice to the Indianapolis Colts, then will reach the AFC title game, where they will lose to them again.

Wrong, wrong, wrongeddy wrong wrong. Score: 10.5

21.  Darren McFadden will not win the Rookie of the Year award.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.  Thank you, Matty Ice.  Score: 11.5

22.  Adrian Peterson will not win the league MVP award.

Yeeee-haw!  This is where I start my late-season prediction push!  Score: 12.5

23.  Peyton Manning will.

Sadly, MVP awards don’t always make for Super Bowl appearances.  Score: 13.5

24.  The universe will return to normal, and an AFC team will win the Super Bowl.  More specifically, the Indianapolis Colts will win, and this, not Super Bowl XLI, will be Peyton Manning’s career-defining performance.

Yikes.  Well, I got the AFC part right, even if everything else about this prediction was as wrong as a brown belt and black shoes.  This one’s a wash.  Score: 13.5

…so there it is.  Thirteen-and-a-half out of twenty-four.  That’s good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC and NFC West.  And should I remind you what happened to the winner of the NFC West?  That’s right, they lost the Super Bowl.  Oh well.

04
Dec
08

Plaxico Burress and the Culture of Celebrity

I committed a cardinal sin of manhood today.  I, in a bout of frustration and disappointment, turned off SportsCenter.  This, to the stereotype that has come to constitute “man” in America, is unacceptable.  The American man, if he watches no other program on television, still watches SportsCenter religiously.  I typically fall into this demographic, but as of recently, I’ve started to become put off by the way in which sports is presented in today’s culture.

A friend of mine used to be a sports reporter for a local sports radio station here in Denver.  He had a press pass to the locker room for every home Rockies game and Broncos game, and would spend his days at work hanging out with professional athletes and coaches talking sports, and getting paid.  This, to the stereotype I previously described, is the ideal career.  But when I pressed my friend to tell me more, he said something to me that has changed the way I view the sports media:

“Honestly, Andy, I got tired of it really fast,” he said to me. “Covering sports, when it’s all said and done, is really only about one thing: criticism.  These guys go out and lay everything they have on the line every day, they’ve been playing this game since they were little kids, they’re living out their wildest dream, and now I go in there and pick at all the things they do wrong?  That’s not something I want to do as a career, and that wears on you, physically and emotionally.”

I thought about this as I turned off the television today during hour 122 of the great Plaxico Burress watch.  This saga, in case you aren’t familiar with it, involves a scenario in which a star wide receiver from the New York Giants took an unregistered and thus illegal weapon into a nightclub and proceeded to accidentally shoot himself in the leg with it, ending his playing season in both the physical and legal sense.

This, admittedly, is news.  It also is news that pertains specifically to the sports world, which makes it the perfect fodder for the number one sports news program in the country.  So why was I upset enough by the perfectly logical covering of this news to turn it off?  Well, quite simply, I don’t care.  I couldn’t care less about Plaxico Burress’ legal troubles.  And when you put something on television that I don’t care about, chances are I’m not going to watch it.

Please don’t misunderstand my apathy.  This doesn’t mean I don’t care about Plaxico Burress all together, it just means that I don’t care about this particular aspect of his life.  To put it quite simply, Plaxico Burress provides a service for me, that service being that he catches a ball on television while I watch and am entertained.  My interest in his life both begins and ends there.  What he does outside of that is of little to no interest to me, because that is all I pay him to do (and yes, I pay Plaxico Burress.  I pay my cable bill, and part of that money goes to the various networks that broadcast the NFL.  Those networks pay the NFL for the rights to those games, and the NFL takes that money and pays its players, ergo, Plaxico Burress is, in a convoluted way, providing a paid service for me).  I wouldn’t want to hear about my dentist’s custody battle, I just want him to clean my teeth, tell me to floss more, and send me on my merry way.  Now, if I have a relationship with my dentist, something that extends beyond him putting a metal hook in my mouth and me paying him for it, then I might be interested in hearing about his legal and family troubles.  But I do not have a relationship with Plaxico Burress, so quite frankly, his life is his business, and I don’t care to hear about it.

And herein lies one of the greatest conundrums in American culture, that being the question of why we care about celebrities beyond the roles that they play in movies, or music, or sports.  I spent a great portion of one summer in college picking up and putting away stray magazines in a bookstore, and that summer, just from reading magazine covers I could tell you more than I’m comfortable to admit about what celebrities were dating, cheating, having babies, getting married, getting divorced, shaving their heads, or anything else.  Following the everyday lives of famous people is a multi-billion dollar industry, and yet the people who primarily pay for this news, who buy the magazines and read the gossip columns and watch Entertainment Tonight, have never met the people they seemingly admire (or despise).  It says a lot about me (and arguably, about the culture in which I live, but that’s passing the blame) that I know the name of Tom Cruise’s baby, but I don’t know the name of the guy who lives downstairs from me.

The somewhat fascinating part is that I didn’t actively seek out any information about Tom Cruise’s baby, I just gained it by participating in everyday American life, by standing in line at the supermarket or by reading the newspaper.  Logic and free market economics tell us that no product is going to exist if there isn’t a market for it, so the question that I have is about the existence of that market, and the people that allow it to flourish.  Grocery stores exist because people need food to survive, the post office exists because of the need people have to mail things.  Every industry fills a need, so what need does the gossip industry meet?  Why does ESPN think it’s a good idea to spend hours and hours talking about Plaxico Burress’ personal life?

There’s a number of possible answers, but none really satisfy me.  The first is that the average person needs an escape from their actual life, that they don’t see their own life as thrilling, but they see the life of Plaxico Burress, or Britney Spears, or whoever else as exciting, and thus they somehow attempt to live vicariously through those people by following their lives.  Another possibility is pure schadenfreude— that somehow people are better able to deal with the stress in their lives by watching the lives of those who are far more stressed than they are, i.e. gun-toting wide receivers with impending court dates.  It this twisted yet plausible scenario, people somehow take joy from watching other people (people they specifically do not know personally) fail.

Both of these may be explanations, but to me, they aren’t logical or sensible explanations.  If I have two apples, and someone gives me three apples, it makes sense that I now have five apples, which is more apples than I started with.  But if I am feeling stressed or depressed about my life, and I look at pictures of celebrities in unflattering swimwear, or watch three hours of Plaxico Burress walking to a courthouse, nothing about that equation should sensibly equal me feeling better about my life.  Nothing in my life has changed, other than the fact that I have less time left in my day.

This is why I say this question will baffle me the rest of my life.  There is simply no logical explanation for anyone to watch or discuss the personal life of someone they do not personally know, and yet there is no doubt in my mind that the trend will continue, and grow exponentially, as it has over the past few decades, with absolutely no sensible explanation.  As long as there are famous people, there will be non-famous people who care too much about them, and I will remain confused.

04
Nov
08

November 4, 2008

Realize something:

No matter what you believe, no matter who you voted for, or what you think about the future of America, know this: you have witnessed history.  The election of Barack Obama is perhaps the most significant and important presidential election in American history since the very first one.  Whether or not his presidency becomes one of the most significant in American history remains to be seen, and with the expectations placed in front of him he certainly has an uphill climb, but the mere fact that he was elected provides a crucial, definable moment in United States history, a moment that decades from now, history teachers will point to and inform their students that it was on this day in this year that a dramatic shift took place in the collective American mindset.  History lives in those moments, and you just lived through one.  It was on this day that the culture began to shift.

At about this point you’re probably starting to think that I’m overreacting.  I don’t believe I am.  People who know me and have read this blog know that I frown upon the fact that my generation is devaluing our language by overusing superlatives and lacking true sincerity in the things that we say.  That is not the case for me in writing that previous paragraph.  Electing a black president, whether or not you agree with him, is something this nation needed desperately.  Now, more than ever, we can unify as a nation, should we take advantage of that opportunity, and I certainly hope we will.

Please don’t misinterpret that last sentence.  I don’t mean that we unify under the beliefs of a Democrat or a Republican, or that we become unified under any political belief at all.  In fact, I would ask that you please, please, please, look at this day, this moment, this election through eyes that are not clouded by any political belief.  We all have political tenets that we hold to, and while they are important and help us define the people we are, it is all too easy to interpret history through the tunnel vision those beliefs create for us, whether our beliefs be Democratic, Republican, or otherwise.  What I would ask is that you take a step back.  Look at what this election has done for the people of this nation, not for the Republicans or the Democrats of this nation.  Barack Obama is a politician, yes, but tonight he became a symbol, and I believe it is possible he will be remembered more for that than any decision he makes in the next four or eight years.

Now, more than ever, we are all Americans, we are not white Americans or black Americans or Hispanic Americans or any other kind of American.  We are just Americans, and though it has already become cliché to say it, any one of us can become president.  Equality has reached a new level tonight, and I sincerely hope it continues down this path.  If we are to genuinely agree that all men are truly created equal, then we should applaud the election of Barack Obama no matter what we think politically, because it takes a crucial step towards making that statement all the more true.

As for the next four years?  Well, feel free to make your own speculations about what will happen to America with Obama at the helm.  If you staunchly disagree with all the decisions you assume he will make in the next four years, well, there’s always 2012 for you.  But I believe that what happened tonight couldn’t wait another four years.  I believe it needed to happen now.

And it’s nice to get some color in there anyway, don’t you think?

25
Oct
08

Rocky Mountain Honesty

Since my recent move to everyone’s favorite square state (sorry Wyoming), people often ask me what I think is the biggest difference between my new home and my previous home of southern California.  The answer is this:

Yesterday, when I was working at the ol’ bookstore, my manager got on the P.A. system and made this announcement to the entire store:

“Attention Barnes & Noble customers, there is a black Nissan Altima, license plate number JBY402 parked in the handicap spot out front, and it is currently running.  If the owner of that car is in the store, please be informed that your car is running.  Thank you.”

Here’s the difference: in my old neck of the woods, that announcement would translate thusly:

“Attention, potential car thieves: put down that copy of DUB Magazine you’re currently leafing through, ’cause I got a gimme for you.  There’s a black Nissan in the parking lot, and it’s up for grabs.  I repeat: FREE CAR.  The keys are in the ignition, and there ain’t nobody in it.  Blue book value on this one’s probably around seven or eight thou, minimum.  Plus it’s in a handicap spot, so if you’ve got two decent legs, chances are you can beat out whoever it is that actually owns it.  So ready, set, have at it.

…and thanks for shopping at Barnes & Noble.”