Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let her cry? Make her cry!

A couple years ago I was in a used CD shop and came across a copy of Cracked Rear View by Hootie and the Blowfish. This album was all the rage back when I was in 8th grade. I remember my father bought me the cassette for Christmas, and it was all I ever listened to in my oversized 80s-style Walkman, over and over and over again. But I don’t know what ever became of it. I assume that, because it was even then fast becoming an archaic piece of music technology, I threw it out or otherwise lost it. So I bought the CD for a little nostalgia, 8th-grade style. It’s one of the CDs I always take with me when I go on road trips.

I was talking to a girl (which was itself eventful enough, right?), but I was talking to a girl about the song “Let Her Cry,” and she was saying it was such a great song because everybody could relate to it. Umm, I couldn’t. This is a pretty stupid reason not to be able to relate to a song, but at the time it came out I had a crush on a blond girl, so the line 30 seconds in that goes “I run my hands through her dark hair” sort of ended any ability on my part to relate to it. That’s wrong, Darius. She has blond hair. Blond, I tell you! I tried fixing the lyric in my head to correspond with reality (or rather, “reality”), but it just wasn’t cutting it. I simply lacked the intellectual acumen to make the appropriate adjustment. Sad for me.

But the real reason I couldn’t relate to this song was because I had no clue what it was about. Seriously. At the time I thought maybe it was because I was just a stupid 8th grader, but now with the benefit of 11 years of higher education (and, presumably, corresponding intellectual growth) I’m still fuzzy on what’s going on, exactly. “Let her cry, if the tears fall down like rain.” What if they don’t? Should I tell her to knock if off? “Let her sing, if it eases all her pain.” What it doesn’t? Should I tell her to shut up? Admittedly I am misreading these lyrics, interpreting them as ONLY IF it eases all her pain.

The lyric I have a real problem with is in the second verse: “I wanted to look for you / You walked in, I didn’t know what I should do / So I sat back down, and / Had a beer, and / Felt sorry for myself.” I don’t get that. That’s like saying, “I really wanted a Ferrari and my parents got me one, so I threw a pity-fest.” The other problem I have is how the audience changes. Sometimes he’s singing TO the girl (see above), sometimes he’s singing ABOUT the girl, and in the chorus he magically transforms into a personal relationship coach for me, the listener (ie, let her cry, let her leave). It’s the most schizophrenic song I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, if I applied the English major skillz I picked up in my 11 extra years of education, I’d take a stab and say the song is about being trapped in a bad relationship, or, more generally, wanting to be with someone even when the best thing you could do is let them go. And if that’s the case, I guess, yes, in fact, I can relate to that. But I wish it was more explicit. This is why I like boyband music. It’s simple. “Over and over I fall / When I hear you call / Without you in my life, baby / I just wouldn’t be living at all.” See, I get that. I know what JC’s singing about. Best of all, I don’t need a fucking decoder ring or the goddam Enigma to decipher it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Phrases I don't understand, Part 3

We end the “Phrases I don’t understand” series with one of my personal favorites: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Seriously? REM says: what a beautiful refrain! There are so many issues with this phrase, I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s begin.

One (You’re like a dream come true…). When people say judge not lest blah blah blah, they don’t really mean judge not lest blah blah blah. What they really mean is, “Judge not negatively lest ye be judged negatively.” When I say “She's a really pretty girl” (and she is) or “That kid has a really cool blog” (and he does), that’s a judgment. And we’re all cool with it. It’s only when I start putting them down that suddenly everyone has a problem.

Two (Just wanna be with you…). I’ll be perfectly honest here. I’m really pretty okay with other people judging me. Especially if it means I get to judge them, too! I guess that’s catty, but as a gay friend of mine once said, "The day isn’t complete until I’ve judged someone," and I want my day to be complete. I generally find that the people I like like me, so I’m really not too concerned what Other People think. You think I’m an arrogant prick? That’s cool. I think you smell bad. Ziiiinnnnngggg!

Three (‘Cause it’s plain to see…). Sort of related to #2 here. I guess the idea with this phrase is really to foster a utopia where nobody is judged. Isn’t that nice? “If I don’t judge people, maybe they won’t judge me!” It’s a little Gandhi for you.* But here’s my point. There are always going to be people in the world who judge others. There’s always going to be people who judge YOU, whether you judge them or not. So you might as well go ahead and judge them. You don’t want to be that one sucker who’s not judging anyone while they’re all out judging you. Get a couple of your own punches in. Atta boy.

* BARTLET: “You must be the change” - is that it? “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Sounds too much like Eastern philosophy.
WILL: Well, it was bound to, sir.
BARTLET: 'Cause Gandhi lived in India?
WILL: Yeah.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Phrases I don't understand, Part 2

I (over)heard this couple arguing the other day. How sweet. I feel like society-at-large spends so much time criticizing my singlehood without lamenting the negatives of relationships, ie, Stupid-Ass Arguments About Nothing. Anyway. I couldn't really hear what they were arguing about*, because I'm a good boy who minds his own business and tries his best to keep his nose out of others', but at one point I hear The Dude exclaim, "Now don't get me wrong!"

* Fun fact: I think it was Bo Schembechler's son and his wife who were arguing. It's a long story, and ultimately unverifiable.

I really don't get this turn-of-phrase. Now don't get me wrong. I understand it. But I find it a uniquely peculiar argumentative technique, employed largely when one has made an overly radical statement and is now attempting to "clarify" (aka "backpedal") so as not to seem quite so wacko. Example: "Black people are an inferior race. Now don't get me wrong. I don't support the KKK or anything. But I really don't think black people should be involved in higher education." Or what have you.

So. Congratulations. You've now said something you wish you hadn't. How are you now going to soften the blow and attempt to bring the other person over to your otherwise radical point of view? By giving them a command, of course! "Now don't get me wrong. Don't do it. Don't you dare fucking do it. By the power invested in me, I order you not to get me wrong." Too late. I've gotten you wrong. In fact, I'm sorry to say it's now surpassed my ability to get you right. Not the most persuasive technique you could have employed. You should have tried "That's a fair point, but..." instead. That one always works.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Phrases I don't understand, Part 1

Here’s a distinction that gets lost on me: "love" versus "in love." I know the rest of this conversation will be wasted pondering the realities of what is essentially a bullshit Break-up Line. Nevertheless. It seems that Other People place “in love” above “love” on the Positive Emotional Hierarchy. "It’s not that I don’t love you, baby*…it’s that I’m not in love with you." See, if it was me, I would do the opposite. Flip them. I’d put "love" above "in love." The Positive Emotional Hierarchy should look something like: like | crush | in love | love. Hmm. There should probably be some other stages in there, don't you think? Hey, I’m not exactly Emile Durkheim here, what do you want from me?

* "Don’t 'Hey, baby' me, you Machiavellian jerk!"

It is my proposition that "in love" is in fact the more candy-ass variant of the general love phenomenon. When you say you're "in love" you're implying your affection is for something other than the girl. The situation, perhaps? "Isn't this a lovely situation, to be dating this girl!" Or perhaps it's for only a personal caricature you've constructed of the person in your mind's eye, only partially based on her as she really is. I'm not saying you won't have a gay ole time when you're "in love" with someone. But it's only once you graduate to loving them that you achieve true nirvana.

Think of it this way. My parents always told me that the more names there are in your title, the less prestigious it is. So Manager > Regional Manager > Assistant Regional Manager > Assistant to the Regional Manager. And so forth. This rule isn't always true: Supreme Commander NATO Allied Forces is a rather boss title, though also a verbose one. Nevertheless, if (despite the exceptions) we accept the rule as true, then "love" is superior to "in love." Just as "in love" is superior to "sorta in love," and "sorta in love" is superior to "I think I'm in love." And so forth.

Anyway, the next time I break up with a girl, it won't be because I'm not in love with her, but rather because I just don't love her. Baby.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Clap your hands say cheese

You know that guy at parties and bars and on vacations who you ask to take a picture of you and acts like he's got no idea what he's doing? Who takes your camera and needs a moment to study this seemingly strange and bizarre new piece of technology you have just introduced him to? You know who I'm talking about. You probably think I'm about to make fun of that guy. I'm not. Why? Because I am that guy. Before you laugh at me, a couple points in my defense. A) I know it's not a competition, and I don't like to brag, but I have a Nikon D70, so there's a good chance that my camera is better than yours. Seriously, people think I'm a professional photographer with this thing.* And that's not surprising, when you consider my fancy camera and add it to the air of unbridled artistic professionalism I constantly exude. You might be thinking, "If your camera's so awesome, you should be even more qualified to use the little ditzy things we common folk use." Wrong. That's like expecting Jeff Gordon to excel at bumper cars. I'm used to the real thing, not the pussy versions. Now go eat your porridge, you photography peasant.

* At least, this one guy did this one time at the Minnesota AIDS Walk. But I think he was just trying to hit on me. You're a dude at an AIDS Walk, you're obviously gay...um...I mean...

But here's the real point. B) Taking a photo with a new camera is a lot like making love to your new beau for the first time. Sure, you may have taken pictures with other cameras, and you know where the shutter button is located, but don't think you'll just click-and-shoot and magically take a good picture. You need to put in the effort to ensure your photos are truly orgasmi-tastic. You need to study how the shape and weight of the camera fits in your hand, how it reacts to light, will there be a flash, what the shutter speed is set at, how well does it zoom, how hard you need to squeeze to take the picture...there's a lot going on here. There's groundwork to be laid (no pun intended). It's not just in-and-out. If a photo steals your soul, then taking someone's picture is a sacred responsibility. You should take the time to do it right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thank you for coming to my birthday!

Before I begin...as a follow-up to Sunday's post, I learned yesterday (thank you, Colbert Report) that Congress actually took the time to censure* MoveOn.Org for the "Petraeus/Betray Us" poster. Seriously? Seriously. Isn't that time that would have been better spent not withdrawing our troops? I thought the ad was oh-so-very not productive, but I didn't think it deserved Congressional floor time, either. It just supports my belief that MoveOn.Org does a better job of hindering the political process than promoting it (although their voter registration efforts in '04 deserve commendation). Seems to me all they did with this one was end up giving fuel for the Republican fire. I know what you're thinking. The Republicans are going to fuel their fire whether liberals give them fuel or not, so why not take the opportunity to feel morally superior? Meh. Sometimes I feel like our national agenda is being dictated by slightly-less mature versions of myself. That's not a good thing. I am, after all, only a bitter, smart-ass 25-year-old. Wait, did I say 25? Because...

Today is my birthday. Happy Birthday? Thanks! I turn 26 today. There's not much to say about it. Going to get some Indian food, open some presents. Maybe Marie Antoinette will let me eat cake. When I was in high school I had "planned" to get married by 27 and have kids by 30, and I sort of realized today that the initial goal probably isn't going to happen now (not with that attitude it isn't). Whatever. No biggie. What's the line from Pirates of the Caribbean? They were more like guidelines, anyway? In my defense, I wasn't really trying that hard. Is that really in my defense? "I didn't achieve a life goal, but in my defense, I was pretty lazy going about it." I can't worry about that right now. It's my birthday! And I just wanna celebrate...



* Behold the wonders of the Congressional censure, the most astounding piece of legislation known to (Wo)Man! How can something be both so remarkably powerful and yet so incredibly worthless at the same time, you may wonder? I'd argue it's more worthless than powerful, but it certainly plays a little bit for both teams.

What's that you say? Didn't West Wing do a bit on this? Funny you should ask. If you'll direct your attention to the front of the class...

JORDAN: It's a non-binding resolution. Do you know what that means?
LEO: No, could you tell me, 'cause I've really started to take an interest in government lately.
JORDAN: Do you know how much force and effect it has?
LEO: Jordan...
JORDAN: None. No force and effect. The following is a sampling of non-binding joint resolutions from the 106th Congress:
LEO:I have a meeting.
JORDAN: A resolution in support of Ohio's state motto. A resolution fostering friendship and cooperation with the people of Mongolia.
LEO: I have a meeting.
JORDAN: A resolution recognizing the contributions of Bristol, Tennessee, to the development of country music.
LEO: I'm sorry, I have a budget meeting.
JORDAN: A resolution in support of Little League baseball.
LEO: Jordan...
JORDAN: A resolution recognizing...
LEO: This isn't that! This is 535 Congressmen and Senators standing up and saying the
President lied and should be ashamed of himself. And this is us standing up and saying you're right. This would be the first time in history a President has been censured. Congress isn't talk radio. It's the seat of democracy, their opinion matters and their condemnation doesn't have to come with handcuffs to be devastating to this President. That is the force and effect and it's not going to happen because of me. I have a budget meeting, Jordan...
JORDAN: A resolution remembering the life of George Washington, 'cause there was a chance we were going to forget who he was.
LEO: Look...
JORDAN" "What's that tall thing at the end of the mall?" "I don't know, a monument to somebody? Where are we again? "
LEO: Jordan...
JORDAN: No. The opinion of Congress matters? Yes. And they're rattling it off every
day on television.

This birthday post was extra-long!

Monday, September 24, 2007

I want to be like this guy:

No. I don't want to be like him. I want to BE him.

My dog says...



"Bitch, make me a sandwich!"

I know the various reasons for it, but I find it sort of hypocritical that my dog expects me to share my dinner with her when she never offers to share hers with me. She just stares at me, whining incessantly. "I want some, I want some, I want some, I want some." She's like a variation of one of the seagulls in Finding Nemo. And you should see the stunned, absolutely incredulous look on her face when she realizes she's not getting any. You'd think I'd just told her the world was round.

Excuse me, Miss Woo? When it's YOUR dinnertime you don't slide over so I can get myself a mouthful of your kibble if I so desire. In fact, you try to box me out. So I don't really see why I should share my delicious KFC Honey BBQ chicken wings with you. How would that comport with notions of fair play and substantial justice, hmmm?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Clap your hands say yeah

Hillary Clinton did it. She really did it. To think, some said it couldn't be done. But let this be a lesson to the naysayers, because Hillary stepped up to the plate and hit one right out of the park. That's right. Today, on Meet the Press, she managed to say something that actually made me WANT to vote for her for President...or, at the least, managed to say something that DIDN'T make me NOT want to vote for her.

Don't get me wrong. I like Hillary. I do. Do I think she should win the Democratic nomination? Meh. But if she does, there's at least a 90% chance I'll be voting for her (although that Sam Brownback fellow is just so charming!). That being said, my affinity for her is based entirely on past goodwill. First Lady-ing and such. In fact, the Clinton campaign has been an astounding act of politicking, insofar as from the moment Hillary started running for President (whenever you define that moment to be) she has demonstrated a complete inability to say something that makes me want to vote for her.

Example: sometime in late 2004-early 2005 (or was it late 2005-early 2006? Doesn't matter) Hillary gave a speech before the NAACP in which she declared that the Republicans ran Congress "like a plantation." Now, I don't like Republicans, and I don't like plantations, but I don't really know what that means, either. All I know is, when you're talking to a group of black people, plantation = bad, and pandering = good. There are other examples (her various bouts with Barack I find particularly uncompelling) but suffice it to say that, as I mentioned early, Hillary has not said one thing since she started running for President that made me like her. If anything, I find everything that comes out of her mouth off-putting. She's sort of like Britney Spears: I liked her until she started talking. Y'all.

But today Hillary broke that trend. Tim Russert asked her about the "Petraeus or Betray Us" poster from MoveOn.Org, and Hillary did something I never thought she'd do: she criticized the tactics of the uber-left wing. Granted, she did it under the umbrella of criticizing all political angles which question patriotism, but she did it. She said it was wrong. She said it was inappropriate. And it was. There are certainly valid criticisms to be made concerning Dave's testimony. But to accuse one of our soldiers - to say nothing of one of the few commanders on the ground who ever really seemed to grasp the nature of counterinsurgency - of treachery because you're frustrated with his conclusions is pretty out-of-line, and certainly a far cry from productive. Way to once again sap Liberal America of mainstream credibility, MoveOn.Org.

So well done, Hillary Rodham Clinton. An intelligent woman! Now I've seen everything.*

Marge: "Jane Goodall Ape Sanctuary." Isn't that sweet, he named it after his wife!
Lisa: No, Mom, Dr. Goodall is a woman.
Marge: Well, now I've heard everything.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Who says football isn't homoerotic?

Bob Griese: Wow, that is one tight end.
Paul Maguire*: You like a good tight end, do you?
Bob Griese: I do, I really do. You got a good tight end, you gotta use it.

Wow. Seriously? Wow.

* Rumor has it Paul Maguire has a tight end...or was it that he played as tight end?...I can't remember.

Oedipus Sex

My mother said something sort of disturbing the other day. No, really disturbing. Are you ready for it? We were talking about a girl I had a crush on in high school, and my mom told me she had always thought the girl sort of looked like her. Wow. You need to stop talking. Now. Word of advice to all mothers who may or may not read my blog: never tell your child that his high school crush looks or ever did look like you. Nobody wants to here that. Keep that to yourself, even if it's true. Let me rephrase that. ESPECIALLY if it's true. Even if it's NOT true, you should probably keep that in the vault. If I had a fantasy about...I don't know...La Toya Jackson (who, if you don't know, looks very little like my mom) and my mom said, "You know, I think I look a little like La Toya Jackson, don't you?"...that's it. Game over. Fantasy ended.

The only person a guy wants to hear his girlfriend looks like is maybe a celebrity. "Oh, she looks so much like..." I don't know "...Maria Sharapova." Even then, it's probably not a good idea. Too much emotional baggage that comes along with certain celebrities. Hillary Duff. Ashlee Simpson. I could go on. Nobody wants to hear his girlfriend looks like Ashlee Simpson, even post-nose job. Nobody wants to date a no-talent hack.

On a completely unrelated note: does anyone else think it's sort of odd that there would be TWO terrible-looking romantic comedies in the same year with the name "Chuck" in the title? I do.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'm Blue, bada be bada bow...




I'm sure you've all seen this. Coors has started promoting this "feature" with their "beer" whereby the bottle turns blue when the beer gets to be THE PERFECT TEMPERATURE...which I assume is a more complicated way of just saying COLD. Was there really a demographic of people who needed this feature? Who couldn't figure out if their beer was cold? "Hooray, it's blue! Now I can drink it!" Before I continue, some fun facts:

1. Coors was the first beer I ever drank. I think I saved the bottle somewhere in my 3rd grade Memory Box.

2. In college we used to say that Coors was "a poor man's Amstel," which I think at the time we intended as a complement.

BUT this is the part of the conversation where I say that anyone stupid enough to drink Coors probably does need help figuring out if their beer is cold.

I actually blame this whole "blue bottle" thing on the War on Terror. The War on Terror has taught us that we need colors to know how to feel. Terror Alert Red = we're all gonna die! Terror Alert Yellow = not so bad. Beer Bottle White = leave it in a few more minutes. Beer Bottle Blue = Rocky Mountain cold.

Final point: Coors is claiming they brew "The World's Most Refreshing Beer." Do they have any sort of data to support that otherwise bizarre claim? How do you even measure something like that?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You mean you can use a tire iron for something OTHER than breaking someone’s knees?

Yesterday I drove past a woman who was having car trouble. I feel bad sometimes that I never pull over to help people with car trouble. But here’s my rationale. It’s not that I’m a bad person. Far from it. It’s just that I wouldn’t be very helpful to someone with car trouble. That’s not to say I’d be unhelpful. I’m just not particularly knowledgeable about cars. I possess an average level of car knowledgeability. And I really think they owe it to themselves to hold out for someone who possesses an above-average level. You can do better, girl. It’s not you, it’s me.

Like changing a tire. I know how to change a tire. I did it once sophomore year. But that was six years ago. It’s not like riding a bike or learning how to swim, it doesn’t stay with you. If I had to change someone’s tire, I could do it. But not efficiently. I’d need to bust out the manual. What that person really needs is a professional tire-changer. A tow-truck dude, or whatever. That’s not me. Ask me about an episode of West Wing. I can help you there. But not about car trouble.

It’s like when I shop at CompUSA. Lovely store, but the kids they got working there aren’t helpful for shit. “Excuse me, does this mp3 player do this? Does it do that?” “Hmm, I don’t know, let me check the box.” No, yeah, I can read the box. I assumed that because you worked here you possessed some sort of specialized knowledge. And it’s cool that you don’t. It’s cool. I’m not upset. Lord knows I’ve worked jobs – particularly in high school – in which I was no more qualified than the average consumer. But let’s drop the façade that you’re going to be of some aid in my decision-making process. You got the box for me from behind the counter, for which I thank you kindly. Now why don’t you get back to hitting on the girl who works the cash register…or should I say, why don’t you get back to TRYING to hit on the girl who’s TRYING to work the cash register?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Behold the power of Wikipedia

On a whim, I bothered looking up sandwich on Wikipedia, just to see what I could see...and lo!, I saw that it was good, for they've actually got a section on the origins and history of the sandwich (my interpretation, it seems, was a little off). Is there any question Wikipedia CAN'T answer?

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Pop? Wikipedia knows.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Oh, Wikipedia's got an answer.

Who's the man now, dog? Okay, they've got nothing on that.

"I say we put mustard on it!"




Today for lunch I made myself a sandwich. Turkey and cheese. I like sandwiches. No doubt. What a great invention. It really took some real out-of-the-box thinking to invent the sandwich. You and me, we've grown up with them our entire lives, so we take them for granted. But think about it. Back in the olden days, food didn't come sliced. There was no Jewish deli you could walk to. Bread came as a loaf; cheese came as a wheel, or possibly a wedge; meat came as a slab, or a hunk, or whatever. It took a guy to make the whole sliced food thing happen. Someone had to say, "You know, I like bread, and I like cheese, and I like meat. But what I'd really like is to eat them all...AT THE SAME TIME." No way, man. That's crazy talk. And it took another dude to say, "Well, what you could do is, you could stack them, one on top of the other, pretty maids all in a row, for a veritable taste explosion." Thus the sandwich was born. Same thing with peanut butter. Also delicious. But... "I really like peanuts...but I'd like them even more if they came as a paste. And with lard."


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nobody wants to come to your party

You know one thing I dislike? Themed parties. Western-themed parties. 80s-themed parties. I really don’t see the point of them. If you find parties so dull that you need to start coming up with gimmicks, maybe you’re going to too many of them. Maybe it’s time you found something else to occasionally occupy your Saturday night with. Me, I’ve taken up embroidery. Here are some themes I particularly dislike:

Gender Bender: Because it’s a stone-cold fact that there’s nothing funnier than a man dressed up like a woman.

Pimps and Hos: Because today’s modern woman doesn’t already get enough excuses to dress like a slut.

Foam Party: All the fun of contracting an STD, none of the intercourse.

The one exception is Halloween parties. Halloween parties are okay in my book. Granted, they meet some of the criteria complained about above (nothing funnier than a dude in woman's clothing, girls don't have enough excuses to dress like sluts). But come on! It's Halloween! Halloween parties are just the natural extension - the natural evolution - of your childhood. As a kid you trick-or-treated, as a high schooler you went to Halloween dances (or did you?), and as a 20-something you attend Halloween-themed house parties. I'm not sure what you do after that. Take your own kids trick-or-treating I guess, so the cycle can begin anew. Now there's something truly scary.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Classy

My parents are in Europe (again), so I've been house-sitting for them. At night the house makes weird noises. Random pops, etc. No wonder people in the 19th century believed in ghosts and haunted mansions. Their houses must have made the craziest sounds at night.

I say my parents are in Europe "again" because they go 3-4 times a year now. It's reached a point where my mother is electing NOT to go. My Dad is going back in November to speak at some conference in Stockholm and my mother has decided not to join him this time. "Going to Europe can be really exhausting," she says. You know you go to Europe way too often when you start describing it as "exhausting."

Don't feel too bad for her, though. Not only do my parents go to Europe 3-4 times a year, they go FIRST CLASS. My mother loves it. Oh, she'll bitch about it a little bit. "Northwest needs to figure out that the seats should go ALL THE WAY BACK." But she really loves it. When I dropped them off at the airport, I've never seen a woman so anxious to get on an airplane for eight hours. All she kept talking about was getting her mouth around some of that complementary champagne. Sure, we could just buy champagne and drink it at our house, but that wouldn't really be the same, would it?

I've ridden First Class a couple of times. Back in college Northwest had this glitch where if my dad made my flight reservation, I would get assigned his Platinum Elite status, so I got free First Class upgrades and all-around general aura of feeling very (undeservedly) busy and important. Wait in line at the security checkpoint? I do not think so! You want to randomly search my bag? That's outrageous! Do you know who I am? I'm Platinum. Platinum Elite!

But whenever I got a First Class bump, the flight attendants could totally tell I didn't belong. Sort of like when I walk into an Abercrombie store: all the sales people are totally judging me. They know I'm out of place. Same with First Class. They wouldn't offer to take my coat, they'd hand me the snack basket last. They saw through the facade. One way or another, 20-year-olds don't deserve to sit up front with the Important People.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Democracy Matters: A Revue





I recently read Democracy Matters by Cornel West. What a terrible book. I'll be honest, I've never been able to understand the level of academic success Cornel West has been able to achieve over the years. I read Race Matters as a senior in high school and found it to be a somewhat half-hearted and ultimately trite examination of what at times can be a very serious problem in our country - racial relations. Having had seven years of education since reading Race Matters I feel even more comfortable denouncing West as something of an intellectual hack. I consider myself at least partly a liberal, but I can honestly say I have never met an (in my opinion) intelligent liberal who has thought Cornel West has contributed anything truly worthwhile to the racial dialogue. This is not to say if you like his books you are an idiot. But I've always been concerned that West's writing resonates with the same demographic of liberalism that, for example, considers Al Sharpton to be a meaningful black leader.

West's writing to me always displays the worst of academia: using big words to paint broad concepts but never truly drawing any actual conclusions. In a book called "Democracy Matters," West never takes the time to explain or define what he really means by "democracy." Is it free speech and open dialogue? Elected government? Personal involvement in the political process? All of these? Without a more specific explanation, I had a difficult time understanding what precisely it was about democracy that mattered, since democracy is, after all, a complex concept with multiple variations and meanings. In the end I felt like I'd just read through 200-pages of a George Bush speech, which is to say: democracy = good.

Reading the book I was also struck by the extent to which Cornel West is essentially a racist - or "Afro-centrist," if you prefer the more patronizing term. I do not exaggerate when I say every other paragraph had a reference to either the hegemony imposed by white males over various demographics of American society or the manner in which black-specific contributions to American culture (ie, jazz or Toni Morrison) are the true reflection of democracy. I believe both that white men have exercised an oppressive dominance over American society and that black culture has offered much to the American experience, but neither to the extent West does. A good but benign example is when West refers to Tavis Smiley as the political voice of my generation. I respect Tavis Smiley very much, but it is pretty well accepted that it is in fact Jon Stewart, a mere white man, who is the political voice of my generation. In the end I found this overpromotion of black America off-putting and self-serving, distracting from what should otherwise have been an examination of the importance of "democracy" (however you define it to be).

I also found it to be incredibly self-serving on the part of West to dedicate a significant portion of one chapter - and I kid you not - to essentially gripe about how Lawrence Summers was mean to him at Harvard. Their famous exchange may have deserved an off-handed mention in a paragraph, possibly two, particularly to illuminate West's point about opening a racial dialogue in America through all mediums accessible (rap CDs, you see, are one such medium, while scholarly journals are not). But to dedicate page after page to the incident not only distracted from the true focus of the book, but also came off as childish.

I hope people will understand that this is intended to be an honest examination of the book and not an opportunity to put down Professor West. Despite having little respect for his intellectual acumen, I purchased and approached this book with my best effort at an open mind, hoping to be convinced that West's supposed brilliance would in fact be merited. But in the end I walked away with the conviction that my friends' appraisal of West is in fact the correct one, and that he is riding off the (undeserved) goodwill of liberal America, rather than any sort of meaningful continued contribution to the racial dialogue.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Vroooooooooooom

I have a love-hate relationship with my mom's car. I love it because it's one of the greatest driving experiences I've ever had. It's really the driving equivalent of sex. Faster...faster...FASTER...yes, Oh God, YES!

But I hate it because it's basically impossible not to speed in it. How am I supposed to go 35 mph in this thing? If these boots were made for walking, this car was made for speeding. It's particularly difficult in Ann Arbor, which, according to Speedtrap.org, has more speedtraps per person than any other city in America. You know what I like about speedtraps? They're essentially a place where everybody agrees the speed limit is too low, EXCEPT for the police. That's what they are. A significant percentage of people drive faster than the assigned speed, so much so that this becomes well-known. And yet The Powers That Be remain intransigent in their belief that 40 mph is too fast.

But the best part about my mom's car is it turns me into such an elitist prick. Whenever someone flicks me off I just smile and smugly think to myself, "Whatever, poor person. Maybe if you possessed a skill society deemed worthy of financial reward, I would give a shit what you think. But judging by the quality of your car, you don't. So why don't you just slink back to your hovel and eat your gruel before I pull over and kick you in the face?"

Friday, September 14, 2007

If Michael Scott was President, his name would be George Bush

President Bush interrupted an Office rerun last night to give a speech about the war in Iraq. I feel bad being annoyed by that, since it was really a pretty important speech - outlining his future strategy for the war. But I was annoyed nevertheless. I've really been a pretty bad citizen this week. I've barely been following the news. I didn't really read any of the coverage on Petraeus' testimony before Congress on the surge...but in my defense, I did see the "Meet the Press" pre-game on Sunday.

I'd like to draw attention to the end of his speech:

Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from the family of Army Specialist Brandon Stout of Michigan. Brandon volunteered for the National Guard and was killed while serving in Baghdad. His family has suffered greatly. Yet in their sorrow, they see larger purpose. His wife, Audrey, says that Brandon felt called to serve and knew what he was fighting for. And his parents, Tracy and Jeff, wrote me this: "We believe this is a war of good and evil and we must win even if it cost the life of our own son. Freedom is not free [thanks, 300!]."

That's cool. I just really hope Ann Coulter jumps on that. You know what I'm talking about. Remember last summer how she made all the media circuits bitching about the Defeatocrats being so sleazy for trumping around Bush-criticizing 9/11 widows as human shields to ensure against rebuttal? For all the crap she took for it, I actually thought it was a fair point.

But here we've got President Bush doing the same thing. A dead National Guard's family thinks the Iraq War is swell? Well zippity-do-da. Who gives a shit what they think? In what manner are these people qualified to speak on the Iraq War? Oh, I'm sorry, they lost a son in the war, so of course they're in a special position to advise the President on the longterm nuances and implications of his international security strategy.

Here's the real problem with the war in Iraq: we've reached a point - been there for a couple years now, really - where too many people's egos are wrapped up in it to permit any real solution. The Democrats need it to fail so they can say they were right. The Republicans need it to succeed so they can say they were right. My greatest concern is that if, somehow, we do in fact establish a flowering democracy in Iraq, conservatives will feel vindicated and declare the war a success. They'll overlook the lessons we (should have) learned from the war. They'll fail to grasp the fact that, fundamentally, invasion is the incorrect manner to combat terrorism.

Sure, if you stick with it long enough you can move a pile of sand with a pair of tweezers, one grit at a time. But a shovel does the job much better. And when you eventually succeed with the tweezers, you should view that success less as a testament to your endurance and resiliency and more as a testament to your stupidity.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nick Cage says: I want to take his face...off!

I found some of these old Guinness World Record clips on YouTube. Be amazed!

World Record For Person Missing Most of His Face:



World Record For Person Who Has Lived the Longest With Heart Outside His Body:



World Record For Hairiest Person:


These records seem more intent on disturbing than astounding.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'll Garden your Olive

I hate Olive Garden commercials. You know the ones. They always feature some clean-cut diners engaging in what can only be described as pretty banal conversation. Something like, "So what looks good?" "Everything!" Wow. What a crack team of writers. These commercials actually make me NOT want to go to Olive Garden, since apparently only boring people go there. I wanna be like Carrie Bradshaw. I wanna eat where all the hip, cool, "it" people eat. In other words, I want to be Eurotrash.

There was one commercial in particular I disliked, but I haven't seen it in a while. It basically boiled down to: "My cousin Vinnie came over from Sicily, so we took him to the Olive Garden for a taste of the Old Country." I've eaten at the Olive Garden, and I've eaten in the Old Country, and my recollection is the two experiences aren't particularly congruent.

The worst part of the Olive Garden commercials, however, is their motto: "When you're here, you're family." Really? My family doesn't charge me money whenever I eat at their place. They don't make me wait 15 minutes for a table. When I'm there, I'm family? Maybe an estranged one.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

O Wallace where art thou?

I had a really random dream last night. All these totally random guys from high school were in it. Not the guys I hung out with. Totally Random Guys. Andy Peggs was there. Chris Huey, too. And Matt Wallace. Oh, Matt Wallace! He was at the police station with his sister, turning himself in with the comment "It's impossible to live as an international traveler on only $15 a day!" by means of an explanation. What this nonsensical observation has to do with the authorities is unclear to me. But since it wasn't the real Matt Wallace, but rather my dream-Matt Wallace who said it, I suppose I can't really blame him.

For those of you who don't know, Matt Wallace was what passed, I suppose, for a John Tucker at my high school. He slept with a fair number of the hot girls at my school, and...well, I guess that was pretty much his only accomplishment. But, particularly in high school, it's still a pretty juicy one. I know girls who still Google-stalk him.

But Matt Wallace is more important to me personally because he was the first person I can remember encountering who was arrogantly confident in a conversation in which he was also completely wrong. Not like, I disagreed with his conclusion. COMPLETELY WRONG. On a basic, factual level. You know the kind of person I'm talking about. These days we call them "Republicans." Someone who is talking and you know they're wrong, but they say it with such bravado and so unyieldingly that you end up questioning your own knowledge, thinking they just might be right. It's what Kafka refers to as "confidence based solely on ignorance." Don't get me wrong, Matt Wallace was by-and-large a good guy. But there are two conversations I had with him in this manner that still stick with me today, both of which occurred in 8th grade. I summarize them below for your pleasure:

1. Words to the Michigan fight song. Everybody knows the Michigan fight song. Hail to the victors valiant (not so victorious anymore, tho), Hail to the conquering heroes, etc etc. Here's what you may not know: the fight song has two endings. One is Hail to Michigan, the Leaders and the Best. The other is Hail to Michigan, the Champions of the West. Certainly if your name is Matt Wallace and you are in 8th grade, you don't know that. Trust me. I know from experience.

I can remember vividly in Mrs. Gleason's science class trying to explain to Matt that, yes it didn't make any sense for a Midwest school to praise itself as the champion of the west, but yes, those were in fact the lyrics. I should know; I'd just come from attending a football game that weekend. But he would not be deterred in either his disbelief of my assertion or his mockery of me for promoting such seeming stupidity. Looking back on it, it was really pretty sad for him that a guy who'd lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 13 years didn't know the words to the Michigan fight song. But it's probably sadder for me that I can actually remember this conversation.

2. The Wallaroo. Before I moved to Ann Arbor I spent part of the summer visiting my uncle in Seattle. While there we attended the Seattle Zoo, where among the many menageries that astounded us there was that featuring the wallaroo, a cousin of both the kangaroo and the wallabie. Flash-forward to 8th grade:

Scene: The 8th-grade common area at Greenhills School.

ME: Matt, I love your name. It reminds me of the wallaroo.
MATT: You mean the wallabie?
ME: No, the wallaroo.
MATT: There's no such thing. You made that up.
ME: Um, no I didn't. It's like a small kangaroo.
MATT: No, that's the wallabie.
ME: No, yes, there is the wallabie, but also the wallaroo.
MATT: No.
ME: I'm telling you, I saw one at the zoo over summer break.
MATT: I will contract genital herpes in five years.

Okay, that last part didn't happen. But trust me, the wallaroo is real. It's not a ThunderCat; it's not some fucking mythological beast. It's real! Unfortunately, this was back in the days before Wikipedia, so I couldn't just wiki it up and prove it to him.

Anyway, I didn't know it at the time, but this experience would be oft-repeated in my adult life. The actors would change, the subjects vary, but the underlying theme would remain eternal: confidence based on ignorance. From the validity of Saddam Hussein's connection with 9/11 to the existence (or lack thereof) of valet parking at The Movable Feast, I have and will forever be hounded by people who don't know what they're talking about, but man do they do it with gusto. But Matt Wallace was my first. You always remember your first.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mike Hart is better than your kids

I'm reading a blurb in the Ann Arbor News about what a wonderful guy Mike Hart is. Mike Hart can outrun the Flash. Mike Hart cured cancer. Mike Hart freed the slaves. Mike Hart blah blah blah. No, it doesn't say any of that. Here's what it actually says:

The best runner in the Big Ten, the toughest competitor Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson has seen in nearly 30 years of coaching, didn't come back for this.

His family could have used the NFL money, sparing his mom the 4 1/2-hour drive to Connecticut every off-season weekend to work 32 hours over two days earning extra cash to see her son play.

The kid who nearly aced high school, who plows through non-fiction books for fun, who picked up the intricacies of Michigan's offense quickly enough to start as a true freshman, would have gotten his college degree soon enough regardless.

Golly gee whiz, that Mike Hart sure is an amazing human being. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Mike Hart's a nice guy, and he really is the best fucking running back I've ever fucking seen, but must we really bury our heads so completely up his ass? Must we so thoroughly brown-nose this black man? He reads (nay, plows!) through non-fiction books? For fun?!? Now I've heard everything. When left to his own devices he does seem a little more intent on talking up his Xbox skills, which sort of makes me question his true level of intellectual acumen.

But in the end it's neither here nor there. How about just this: Mike Hart plays football for the Michigan Wolverines, and he's really fucking good. That's the story. We don't need to build him up into more than he actually is. He's amazing enough on his own.

EDIT: Here's one thing Mike Hart CAN'T do: beat the fucking Oregon Ducks.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Precision bombing

I've been watching the US Open, and I have to say, I'm sort of disappointed in the performances of my countrymen. How is it the most powerful nation on earth can produce such terrible tennis players? Those players from Europe, they're real tennis players. It's what John McEnroe refers to as "precision"- they can put the ball pretty much anywhere on the court they feel like. No so the Americans. This is basically a demographic of people who are able to win tennis matches only because they can hit the ball really hard, really fast. Does it matter where it actually goes? Who cares! "Overpower my opponent" is the only strategy in the American tennis player's vocabulary. Yoda says: Control, they must learn control! My dad thinks the whole experience is a metaphor for the Iraq War: just bomb the fuckers.

I have to confess some disappointment in the American crowds as well. They were really pulling for the Americans to win. That's nice. So patriotic. But are/were they rooting for Blake and Roddick and Williams 1 and Williams 2 because they think they're good tennis players, or are they rooting for them simply because they're Americans and heck, so are we? That strikes me as a silly reason to root for someone. I'll admit, in the Olympics I root for the USA because it's the USA. (Of course, I generally don't know anything about the athletes competing in the Olympic sports, so it's hard to root for them based on style and performance.) But tennis is about individual performance. It's a game that transcends national boundaries. And it's a game where, ultimately, we could use more volleys and less aces.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just tribute to the Memory of Boomer, a Dog




Boomerang "Boomer" Ketka Baker: June 1993 - September 2007

Last weekend I had to drive home because my family had to euthanize our dog. Happy fucking Labor Day. There's actually a lot I could say about it, but I suppose there's little point. I've always felt law school was the worst three years of my life (which is probably a testament to how easy my life has been), and, sans some unforeseen disaster, always will be (which is probably a testament to how easy my life will always be). But the half-hour it took to euthanize my dog was thus far the worst moment in my life. It's a bizarre thing. At 12:29:03 he was sleeping soundly. At 12:30:15 he was gone.

What makes it such a terrible thing is that it was an unavoidable moment. My mother has been driving me a little crazy pondering all the ways we could have kept him alive longer--if we'd carried him up the stairs so his limp didn't get worse, if we'd gotten him X-rayed, etc. It sort of misses the point. This day would come no matter how many more months we'd manage to coax out of him. There was always going to be this terrible moment when we kissed our dog for the last time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

In a bizarre way, the best consolation is to focus on how miserable he seemed over the weekend. He could barely walk and spent the whole time lying by himself in awkward positions. We had to carry him outside every couple hours to let him go to the bathroom. I have some movie quote in my mind where a character says, "Poor [pet's name], no more pain where you are, boy." I don't know what it's from, but it's an oddly fitting sentiment.

I suppose I could keep writing about this, but there's very point. I'll just end with saying that, at the risk of ruining the image I'm sure everyone has of me as the embodiment of machoism, when the doctor came to kill my dog I cried over his body like a little girl. And yet...

"Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened." --Dr. Seuss