Tuesday, March 29, 2011
|Well, I bet E-harmony worked for these two.|
It seems that since the rise of the internet and cell phone, the world is a busier place. Busy not in the sense that we have more to do, but the level of information has grown tenfold, providing us with more content that we have to process on a daily basis. To counteract the possible chaos, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to hone my organizational skills and, whether I realize it or not, prioritizing has become a necessity in my daily life. Now, this could coincide with my transfer into fulltime adulthood, but I suspect that daily lives, as well as social lives (due to entities like Facebook) are busier in general, even if you aren’t actually going out as much. And while this prioritization comes in handy when dealing with practical needs, the advent of online dating has probably unintentionally tapped into this new way of thinking, causing the, what I term, commodification of love.
I don’t mean this in the sense of dating sites seeking profit off providing a service, but, instead, in the organized, functional fashion they force us to look at something that, at one point, was more spontaneous and chaotic. Though I am no expert in the history of relationships and love, it is common knowledge that, over the course of time, marriage has had a functional value, as did having children. After all, if you needed help plowing the fields or whatever the family business required, having children was an answer. This has gone by the wayside in modern society and has been replaced by an emotional need. And online dating somehow melds the two into a Frankensteinian monster of emotion, need, and societal expectation.
But how do we view each other as commodities? Think of your run of the mill marketplace site like Amazon.com. If you need a book on gardening, you probably type gardening in the Amazon search engine and compare/contrast different titles based on your needs, cost, entertainment value, etc. Similarly, if you decide that you want to enter the dating pool and are looking for a mate, you may go on match.com, fill out a few questions regarding what you seek in a mate, and are provided a list of choices or profiles that actually dehumanize (for lack of the better word) a person, assigning them a personal value to your needs based on looks, interests, etc. Essentially, they become a product that has right of refusal. You compare their value to other similar profiles (or products), make your decision on who to contact, and hope you get the response you desire. It’s essentially a buffet: some of the food may satiate your taste, while others may give you explosive diarrhea.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to earn a response, many dating sites actually provide suggestions on how to correspond to best serve the future of the potential couple. If these rules are followed, and you decide to meet for a “date,” congratulations, you essentially just signed up for an interview to see if you’re “compatible” in the same way you may try some crappy ab machine you bought off an infomercial but have the right to return in sixty days. Though one can make an argument that any first date may unfold in a similar fashion, a non-online one, in my experience, seems less regimented (more organic) and less like a quid pro quo business transaction since both of you shopped your interest like buying/selling a used car. In fact, in my experience, these “dates” usually started with a handshake followed by a conversation about likes and dislikes. They feature no foundation of commonality like a random meeting probably provides or even a set up organized by a mutual friend. Not many feel comfortable answering the question “so why did you sign up for match.com” like they would “how long have you known Earl?” or “it was crazy meeting you in the antacid aisle at Ralphs, how long have you had issues with heartburn?”
I do know my hypothesis is, at least, partially true as I have friends that will corral 3 or 4 potential online mates at a time while comparing and contrasting their strengths and weaknesses in the categories of potential sexual compatibility, future relationship possibility, among other things they’ve thought entirely too much about. Perhaps this has something to do with supply and demand of the site, and I do feel there is comfort in the knowledge that if none of the potential suitors work out, they can easily re-enter the website’s vast dating pool to try again.
Perhaps I’m personally jaded to the world of online dating, but is there romance in an online date? The premeditated nature of the entire thing causes it to seem like a job interview to see if your possible future significant other has the potential to be the “perfect mate,” as if such a thing is a necessity in life on a functional level. Perhaps the online dating site is just a conduit to the eventual romance, but spontaneity and people’s obsession with the relationship of love and fate certainly do not apply to this world. What would Shakespeare say about this relatively new form of connection?
So, is online dating just a sign of the times? Are people just afraid of each other and prefer to communicate behind the internet wall? Or have we come to view relationships differently? Maybe it’s just easier? Anyone have any thoughts on online dating in general? Would love to hear from you on this one!
Monday, March 28, 2011
This morning, Yglesias linked to a column about a cost cutting measure that could lead to the end of the dollar bill. Apparently the country could save up to 5.5 billion dollars over the next thirty years if the single note was phased out in favor of the Sacajawea coin, citing durability issues of the paper dollar. I have no issue with this personally, as singles take up too much real estate in my already small wallet, though the strip club lobby may have a gripe or two.
But I’d like to take this time as an excuse to talk about the red headed step child of American currency: the penny.
American society is obsessed with money. Greed over extra dollars influences many of our personal day to day decisions, let alone the government’s. Social classes, a direct result of monetary compensation, dictate government policy, racial and economic biases, neighborhoods, and pretty much everything that fits under the sociological sun. People horde and save money as if their lives depended on it and, in some cases, it actually does. Now, last time I checked, the penny was a component of this said currency, but if you go into any ordinary 7-11 convenience store, there’s probably a small tray adjacent to the cash register full of pennies for ordinary customers to create exact change.
And these errant pennies…are NEVER stolen.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The third most common personal question I get, after ones regarding my running shoes (yes, I wear them to run. Yes, they are comfortable. Yes, really.) and what I do for a living (because in LA people generally ask you this before your name), is probably about my political beliefs. And since this blog sometimes wades in the shallow end of the political pool, I figured it might be useful to explain why I take the stances I do beyond simply saying I’m a democrat, a socialist democrat, or whatever other name you can think of. Now, I will aim to keep this post as short as possible, as to not completely bore you, while trying to best articulate the gist of my thought process.
The nucleus of pretty much any political argument I may make comes back to one word:
Every morning I wake up in a bed that I did not build, in an apartment building I had no hand in constructing. I brush my teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste I did not create, I dress myself in clothing I did not sew. I travel to work in a vehicle that works in ways I cannot comprehend; using a gasoline mixture I can’t begin to fathom how to make. I eat food for breakfast that I did not cultivate (or even prepare most of the time) and drink water I took no part in filtering while in a café which, of course, I did not build. OK, you see where I am going with this: Pretty much every single thing I do and own was made possible by, at least, one other person and, in most cases, several.
We live in an overly complicated world that, because of the production of the community, has been made significantly easier through both innovation and companionship. In fact, I know I rely on the community to such an extent that if it were to disappear tomorrow, along with everything the community created; I’d probably be dead by the end of the week. No exaggeration. We’ve built entire towns, villages, and cities that function symbiotically in a way where most every citizen contributes to the greater good in some fashion. And we’ve become so accustomed to our joint lifestyle that, judging by recent political rhetoric among the public, we don’t even realize how often we ask for help from our fellow citizens, even if the help is paid for in the form of currency.
Think of society like a Xerox machine. Filled with hundreds of both moving and stabilizing parts. Sure, some parts are more important to the process of copying and printing than others, but as anyone who ever worked in an office knows, if even a screw comes loose, the entire system shuts down. Similarly, if you eliminate key parts of society that don’t seem like they are vital, for example waiters/waitresses, you’ll be rudely awakened any time you decide not to cook. Everyone really does have their role in the functionalization of a first class society, thus everyone should be taken care of.
So you’re probably now rolling your eyes and telling me how not everyone can be equal and communism is a pipe dream. And I agree with you. I do not begrudge someone a decent living of course, but I do wonder why people seem to forget that the community is the one that allows for wealth growth. If you start a business, the community buys that product (supplying your profit), and it is also the entity aiding you in the production of it (whether they actually work for you as an employee, or you purchase raw materials from another company). It’s really a cycle. That said, it makes sense that the wealthy give back to the same people who allowed them to enjoy the fruitful life they live, to ensure the steady flow of give and take (and the continued viability of the product). Again, this is not to say they should give up their entire fortune in the name of equality, but a pretty high tax rate to help support social programs for the middle/lower class, the vast majority of this country (and, by far, the ones who account for the most moving parts in the machine) is sufficient. Trust me: no one needs six houses, five sports cars, a stable, and a private island. This type of accumulation is a burden. And if you equate happiness with your bank account and your possessions, you are misguided and need to realize happiness is a state of mind and not something you buy. Simply put, if first prize in the game of life is to be happy, there’s plenty of ways to skin that cat.
Now, on the subject of high tax rates (like we had in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s and like they have all over Europe), I often hear the argument that high taxes stifle innovation. In other words, why would someone spend time creating something if they have zero chance to earn a bazillionmillion dollars? Simply, this is baseless bullshit. There is zero evidence that this actually occurs and it’s not like Europe doesn’t invent plenty of useful products (Hey, they gave us Angry Birds! Thanks Finland!). In fact, the only workers that I think are 100 percent truly motivated by money are the ones who call Wall St home, and look where these geniuses have lead us.
All creation is art. Whether it is mechanical, a painting, or an idea: it’s all art. For example, I am a writer who has made a little money off this craft, but certainly not enough to ever call me rich. And sure, I do write some pieces with the thought that I might sell them and earn a better living. But I do not write specifically to be rich. I write because it fulfills some need I cannot explain. I write as a form of expression that helps me figure out my thoughts and allows me to live a clearer, more fulfilling life. And that is the true force behind any innovation. True innovators do not create for money; they innovate because the emotional fulfillment behind creation is a powerful force.
Make sense? OK, moving on …
Another major aspect behind my thinking is the fact that we are not all provided with an equal upbringing. As mentioned in another post, the social democracies of Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark) actually have more social mobility than America. The easiest way to make money in America is to be born with it, and the more money you have, the more chances you are provided. The American dream is over. If you don’t have proper societal resources (and many don’t) your chances of making something out of yourself from nothing are slim to none, and really pale in comparison to someone born into wealth. Essentially, if you’re born in a poor area, you probably don’t have access to adequate healthcare, education, and general societal services that someone in a wealthy area could enjoy. So before people claim “all rich people earned their money,” know that’s not exactly true. Luck and circumstance play equal (if not greater) roles than talent. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about how luck and circumstance is vital in efforts to acquire success and wealth. (It’s a good read, check it out).
But let’s step back from idealistic terms and talk about practical application. I want to provide you with some stats that I’m lifting (well paraphrasing) from Bob Herbert’s latest (and last, we will miss you Bob!) column: The Economic Policy Institute reported the richest 10 percent of Americans have received 100 percent (!) of the average income growth from 2000-2007. During WW2, income distribution was certainly more equal as the 10 ten percent accounted for 1/3 of the average income growth, while the bottom 90 percent received 2/3’s. Also, in 2009, the richest five percent of Americans accounted for 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 80 percent (EIGHT PERCENT) accumulated only 12.8 percent of the entire nation’s wealth. That’s a lot of fucking people splitting a tiny pie. Are we really to believe that the top five percent work that much harder than the bottom eighty? Or is the game seriously rigged?
America wasn’t always this way. Before Reagan ushered in the era of supply side economics, taxes on the rich were higher, allowing for a more equal income distribution, and as a result, a strong middle class (or spending class) that kept the economy running smoothly without the roller coaster effect that it has today (obviously, with today’s global economy it’s more complicated, but that’s another can of worms). I believe every American citizen deserves a foundation, much like they are given in European socialist democracies. We have the money and resources to provide universal healthcare, childcare, free college (among other perks), though it would take a complete 180 in American thinking. But if all of our citizens had greater access to the above necessities, just think of how much opportunity it would create for millions of people…millions of people that will one day contribute to the American cause.
But, unfortunately, we have become a nation of the entitled. A nation of “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” while completely ignoring the fact that we 100 percent, completely need each other in order to both ensure our lifestyles and survival. It’s not the individual that can save us; Superman isn’t around the corner. We need to reinvest in each other and work together towards the greater good. After all, wasn’t this one of the first lessons we learned as children? I remember the first thing I was taught in kindergarten was the value of sharing. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of this incredibly simple concept.
But where do we stand today?
The concentration of wealth in the top five percent, along with the crumbling of the middle class has already created tremors in American society, and if the downward trend continues, there will be even more people out of work or living in sub-standard conditions. This kind of existence generally leads to two dangerous emotions: desperation and anger. And those two words could one day, sooner than we think, inspire an even more dangerous one:
And, unfortunately, we’ll probably do nothing to stop this dangerous force.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Any time my cell phone rings, the caller ID earns a curious look along with the vocalized “what the hell does (insert name here) want” while I wait for it to go to voicemail. Then, if someone leaves a VM, I thank God that I have an iPhone so I don’t have to bother going through 50 million prompts to check it (like I do at work. Seriously, want a quick way to piss me off? Leave me a work VM that just says “call me.”). Also, nine times out of ten, I answer the person’s voicemail with a text because, well, I just don’t want to talk on the phone. Sure, there are occasions when I don’t feel like typing a text or an email and will make a call in its place, but this has definitely become the exception to the rule.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
It’s often strange what events spawn fear in the general public and even more perplexing to try to understand why. The New York Times Opinion page ran a column today regarding safety concerns within nuclear power plants and regulatory measures going forward, but briefly touches upon a point that always interested me and that I’d like to expand upon: human fear. The article mentions that the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986, the world’s most devastating nuclear plant disaster, will ultimately kill around 10,000 people, mostly from cancer. If you compare that with the fact that the effects of coal plants kill 10,000 Americans A YEAR, it makes you wonder why no one really speaks to the dangers of coal during their mad sprints to the drug store in search of Potassium Iodine. Similarly, the most famous nuclear leak on American soil, the Three Mile Island incident, also had limited effects on Pennsylvania citizens. In fact, cancer rates among the people who live around the plant were no different from the rest of Pennsylvania’s inhabitants. Can I give you one more statistic? Great! In 2005, guess how many people died in the United States from car accidents? 39,000! And studies show that there’s been an upward trend in this statistic with each passing year (I couldn’t find the 2009-2010 number and well, I'm lazy, and I don’t need it to prove my point). So the question is: if coal is a bigger killer than nuke power and both pale in comparison to the dangers of driving, why do we freak out about the consequences of nuclear power, but the others barely enter the daily conversation?
For whatever reason, perhaps slow brain evolution as my brother often suggests, the human is unnecessarily afraid of certain low probability DISASTERS while ignoring statistically relevant fears (such as the car accident). The obvious assumption is that people are afraid of things they cannot control, which would explain why simple Earthquakes and plane crashes receive so much media attention, though for the most part, they are infrequent and the damages, in the grand scheme, are generally minimal. I always found it funny that my mother, in New York, may hear about a 5.0 California earthquake even though said “disaster” didn’t even warrant one single hospital visit. Even stranger are people who are afraid of being injured in a terrorist attack. Let’s not forget the hordes of Midwesterners afraid for their local Wall-marts after 9/11, or those who may alter their travel plans because they heard through the grapevine that terrorists may be planning a strike(even if it’s untrue). Though this may be irrational, I can understand the fear behind a mass disaster because of the possible widespread panic and sudden demise it may cause (even if unlikely). It is, after all, a scary thought.
But this is why the fear over nuclear power puzzles me. Chances are, during a nuclear meltdown, you’re not going to be immediately effected unless you live pretty close to the reactor. Sure, it may be cause for an evacuation, but chances are your skin won’t melt off your face. In fact, it seems like most even understand that it’s the after effects that may harm them. But even though there may be an increased chance of cancer twenty years down the road, people often dismiss similar consequences or, at least, do not panic over them. After all, consider how many Americans either smoke or drink while ignoring the obvious risks associated with those two activities. Obviously, smoking and drinking are recreational activities, and dancing in a radiation cloud isn’t, but the end results may be similar. But health risks are hardly the only ones we take without the future in mind. How many times have you bought something on a credit card with the inability to pay up front? Most of us just figure we’ll worry about it later. There is some kind of natural disconnect with our thinking in the present and our thoughts towards the distant future.
So why such a panic over nuclear radiation? Is it because we don’t have enough information about what to do during a nuclear crisis? Or is it because the images most associated with nuclear disaster are the mushroom cloud and Hiroshima/Nagasaki in August of 1945? Was it born from our Cold War fear and the promise that nuclear war could end the world? After all, these are all scary thoughts and are the first things that pop into my mind when I think about the word ‘nuclear,’ but as said, most do see the difference between a nuclear power plant and a nuclear weapon.
So why the extreme fear?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I’ve noticed an unintentional theme of this blog has been the value of the human relationship whether in a political, economical, social, or emotional context; though this may have been inevitable as society is an extremely interconnected web in which we all rely on one another for…well pretty much everything.
The people who know me best may consider me overnostalgic. I often try to place mystical meaning on either successful or unsuccessful relationships and friendships as if my life and existence was a messy collage of faces and experiences with the more important ones larger or more colorful than the rest (though all holding value). Obviously, this is a futile exercise because the sum of the experiences and friendships don’t really amount to a finite answer. Sure all of them have influenced both me and my direction in life in some, way, shape or form, but to assign it a specific overall meaning is probably a gigantic waste of time since the effects and variables are infinite. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like to try.
A friendship is something that really beats the odds. If you think about all the people you’ve met in your life, whether in passing, school, work, wherever and compare that number to the number of even semi-meaningful friendships you’ve had in the same lifetime, its probably a pretty small percentage. As mentioned in an earlier post, humans are incredibly complex beings that are often volatile and, well, hard to understand. So anytime two completely different humans enter a functional, symbiotic relationship (whether romantic, platonic, or otherwise) it’s, for lack of a better term, a beautiful, unlikely thing. For it to grow into a close relationship where trust is paramount is nearly impossible and should be held in such regard.
In my earlier post on how we view athletes, I mentioned how humans often view people they don’t know as virtually a statistic. Or they whittle someone down to a basic thought before they really get to know them: for example perhaps you simply identify someone by a physical feature, an obvious personality quirk, or as an asshole because they cut you off on the highway. Before we get to know someone, we define them by this simple characteristic and compartmentalize them into small sections of our thought process until the “mystery” is unfolded during subsequent experiences and conversations.
I love thinking back to the first time I met a close (or not so close) friend and placing myself back in the mindset the day I categorized them as “cute,” “cool,” or “annoying.” And I often wonder how I would have reacted if someone told me the day I had to escort the new redheaded kid in my fifth grade class to the nurse’s office that, twenty years later, I’d be the best man at his wedding. Or if someone told me six years ago the girl I was about to go on a Hollywood networking drinks appointment with would, six years later, be someone I talked to every single day, all day, about anything and everything (and, believe you me, she rues the day!) It’s funny that I once thought of these two people simply as a weird ginger head kid in a Miami Dolphins jersey and a blond girl with aspirations to move to India. And now I know them inside and out and both hold power to effect me in some kind of emotional fashion. (It's especially strange to think about a significant other in such simplistic terms as well because, well, there's nothing even remotely simple about a romantic relationship...but I digress)
The genesis of a relationship or friendship is a small, fragile seed that has potential to evolve into a strong, hulking tree. And when one becomes apparent, I wonder what decisions I made along the way to foster it. On the flipside, I sometimes consider people who have dropped out of my life and wonder where wrong turns were made and how my life may be different if alternate experiences occurred (yes, I can REALLY overanalyze a break-up!). But careers come and go, money doesn’t hold much of a conversation, and personal hobbies only give you so much peace. But a human connection is the thing that challenges us, helps us grow, and causes us to learn more about the world. A relationship is a mirror of not only how we view society, but also ourselves (for better or worse).
To overanalyze this may be a complete waste of time, and even in some cases detrimental, but it’s also why I’ll never forget your first day as an intern at work, that first little league practice (I figured you would be the best player on the team, but you sucked), that first day of Hum class in college, the day I met you on the bus to our first day of kindergarten, the day you were introduced as the new kid in our third grade class and held that hot air balloon trapper keeper, the day I laughed when the hot chocolate machine at 7-11 blew up all over your shirt, the day I sat next to you in Earth Science (and the day you pushed me out of that same seat), the day I thought you were Michelle Williams, the time we put art on the fridge, that table in the Astor Place Starbucks, that high school radio show with all the curse words, the first time I sat next to you in that cramped desk in that cramped Tribeca office, the day one of my best friends introduced me to you as his significant other (and later his wife), those days writing in the K-cafe, the time you handed in your stolen Portuguese paper in Spanish class, the day I watched a Broncos game with you in that crappy bar by my house, the day I met you in that internet chat room, the time we shared the last water at that Portland concert, the time I froze your Falcons hat, the time I froze your underwear, the fiction section of the Barnes and Noble, backstage at some rock show of some band I can’t remember, the day you were just my good friend’s annoying little brother, that cold street outside the Blues Xplosion show, the day you vomited on my shoes, the first day we worked together for that horrible woman, the day you answered the Craig’s List ad about the free room in my apartment, the first time I saw you waiting by the window at the Atlanta airport, the day I met you at that crazy bar in Stockholm, the time I tracked you down on the way to LAX baggage claim, talking sports at work, the day my friend introduced you as his weird college roommate, and the day we decided to get lunch as two boring temps with nothing better to do.
It’s incredible how people come in and out of life to shape you. And I love you all for making everyday a little more interesting than the one before.
The blogosphere (as well as the New York Times) has been (once again) buzzing today on the topic of income inequality and, most notably, why there isn’t more uproar among the American public. You can read the Times conversation, but in short, some contributors suggest that people of similar economic background spend the majority of their time with each other and aren’t actually faced with the signs of inequality (true). Others offer that even though there is obvious income disparity, most still feel “wealthy” as they still have access to modern conveniences like HDTV, air conditioning, and the occasional night out (also true). Still others make valid points regarding the American use of debt as a supplementary income. It’s obviously easy to buy luxury items if someone else is footing a bill you intend to pay at some point before you die. The one argument I really don’t buy is that most Americans assume they are more socially mobile than they appear to actually be. I don’t have any evidence, but I do not believe people support lower tax rates on the top percentile because they one day dream to be one of them. I know, personally, I would love to give away lots of money in taxes if it means I have…well…lots of money! I think it’s more of a comfort with the status quo, which is a symptom of the greater issue of American Exceptionalism.
American Exceptionalism cannot be ignored in the economic disparity debate because I believe it’s the reason most Americans strongly assume we will bounce back from our current economic conditions to the point where both rich and poor can have their cake and eat it too. Since the 1980’s and the introduction of supply-side economics, our economy has definitely been on a thirty year roller coaster, but has always bounced back (even if only artificially in bubbles). In that time, though many have lost their homes, jobs, etc, most of Americans were never asked to make a country wide sacrifice in the way other countries have had to. Plus, remember what we were asked to do during 9/11? While many other governments (even past American ones) might use a disaster as an opportunity, Americans were asked to go shopping and not sacrifice a thing (like we were previously forced to do during previous wars.) And even though the normal bankrupt person will not be “bailed out” by the federal government, I believe many Americans assume, if even subconsciously, that there is a safety net that will save our country from extreme peril (much like how the government handled the banking crisis of 08). Essentially, during the past thirty years, the national conscious in regards to all things economic has been in kind of a cruise control (or a malaise). That’s not to say there aren’t outbursts of dissent (the Tea Party for example is, at least, partially fueled by economic anger…though its severely misguided), but we have been taught by our government and media that the rules of the world do not apply to us. We’re told that yes, we had a financial crisis, but no we are not Japan (who experienced a similar crisis in the 90’s). We constantly hear our president refer to us as the best country in the world, essentially reminding us that even though things aren’t necessarily on course, they will be OK soon. Essentially, we’ve produced entire lazy generations who just assume Dad will figure it out.
But the fact is, Americans live in the past. The American dream and the social mobility that comes along with it are long dead. Hell, even Scandinavian countries and their highly taxed social democracies feature more social mobility than America currently does. We may rest on our laurels, perhaps we just don’t read the news, but the truth is that our empire will not last forever (in fact, China should have a bigger economy than the US in the next 10 years). And by 2050, who even knows if we will be the world’s predominant superpower. But until that happens, until Americans realize that our country is fallible and that a safety net may not exist, we probably won’t get too bent out of shape about economic inequality.
After all, we have video games, TV, and Charlie Sheen to distract us anyway.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Dear Tom McCarthy,
And I mean that.
Lately it seems that every time I go to the theater I just open my mouth and the screen shovels in pounds of bullshit while I reluctantly smile and, for some reason, ask for more. Kind of the same way I devour ice cream, earn an excruciating headache, only to continue eating the frozen treat that put me in agony in the first place. I’ve recently seen ordinary soldiers defeat a superior alien race, a love story overrun by mystical angels wearing 1960’s garb, and even a good movie with a bright shiny object…the one about the psychotic ballerina falling apart in that seemingly peaceful section of theater. And then here you come with your third movie about ordinary people, your third movie where you easily span the human condition with delicate humor, drama, and emotion in a way anyone with a brain and heart can relate to.
It’s because you understand what every great storyteller understands: That the power of humanity isn’t found necessarily in war, superpowers, or science fiction. It’s found in emotional pain. In emotional distress. And, most of all, each other. And Win Win successfully accomplishes what your last two movies did as well: regular lost souls just trying to find their way in the world, and realizing that happiness is in emotional bonds and love…not in some magic pill that gives you a superbrain (or whatever that new Bradley Cooper movie is.) Your movies contain no bright shiny objects (unless you want to consider Bobby Cannavale’s humor one), they have no frills. They aren’t particularly gritty, nor are they depressing. They don’t feature gimmicky dialogue nor do they force us into some secret underworld. They don’t pander to any particular audience nor do they aim to meet any expectations of what moviemakers often think an audience craves. They just are.
I don’t know how long you work on your flicks, but you have made what I have tried to do for the past 12 years seem effortless.
So, yeah, FU.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
|Not Kelly Slater. I don't think.|
I recently came across this New York Times article about surfing legend Kelly Slater (who I know little about, but apparently he’s pretty good) and the seeming twilight of his illustrious career. It appears that Mr. Slater has dominated the sport of surfing for the past two decades, winning every kind of tournament conceivable while performing effortlessly as is the modus operandi of most superstars.
But like so many retrospective sports articles, the writer veers off course and manages to make it about himself. And, in this case, Matt Warshaw, trotted out the tired argument that superstar athletes should retire early because “going out on top” brings more value to their overall brand; completely forgetting that Kelly Slater is a living, breathing human being and not a stock sold on the NYSE. But Warshaw’s opinion is hardly unique as we heard the same during the end of Jordan, Elway, and Montana’s (etc) careers. But the question is: Why are fans so insistent that their sports heroes “go out on top” to serve them instead of satisfying their own interests? And it speaks to a larger issue: A human’s inability to see outside oneself.
Stop and think about yourself for a second: Your constant thoughts. Your tendencies. Your fears. Your emotions. Your pains. Your happiness. It’s fucking exhausting being a human being. We are such complex individuals we often have trouble figuring out ourselves even though we are with ourselves 24/7. Hell, therapists have made an entire industry predicated on helping us come to even a slightly greater understanding of why we do what we do. And though this may seem like a really simplistic thought, if we as a people realized that every single one of us (all 7 billion) go through the same exact process, perhaps we could view life from a wider prism.
To suggest that Kelly Slater retire early simply because his skills may start deteriorating is an incredibly selfish request as the only reason its requested is because the fan doesn’t want to see the demise of it’s hero. In a world of fallibility, the idea of the perfect athlete is appealing to the casual fan because he represents something that defies the odds. But though the fans may spend tons of time studying Slater’s technique and career success, he’s always seen as an ideal statistic instead of what he really is: a human being. The article never questions why Kelly Slater surfs and completely misses the point that it’s probably his favorite thing in the world. Though I know little about Slater’s career (I actually do remember his arc on Baywatch back in the day, well done) I can only imagine he’s been surfing competitively since the sperm that formed him surfed past all the others to the egg. Essentially, professional surfing, surfing competitions are all he knows. And if he’s continuing to do it after all these years, my guess is that he truly enjoys it. So why should he stop doing the thing he loves most? Because FANS need a hero to distract themselves from their fault filled lives? It’s absurd. If I was him, and I liked surfing, I’d prefer to do it till the last possible second. If he “goes out on top” now, it’s not like he’ll be able to pick it up again in a few years when his body will have officially betrayed him.
We’re often very dismissive of each other; look no further than the homeless population that is routinely ignored by the general public. People view them as if they were just generated moments ago and will fade into the distance once out of eyesight, completely forgetting that that homeless person had a childhood, a family, emotional distress, and pain just like the rest of us. If a human could really see outside it’s own mind, we probably wouldn’t be so quick to fight, to criticize, and understand that we all should do our best to create a peaceful environment for one another.
But, judging from history, I suppose that is too much to ask. And, unfortunately, Kelly Slater won’t be the last athlete we ask to quit early in the name of our own bullshit.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
On the subject of the media encouraging the choosing of sides in the NFL negotiations, I’ve long wondered what role the transmission of the news plays into politics and the general zeitgeist of the American public. Though hardly a new phenomenon, it seems much of the public (especially the ones who affiliate with the right wing) will vote/support causes against their own interests. This certainly has manifested itself in two recent political debates: the union protests in Wisconsin and the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Bill).
Though I haven’t been alive for hundreds of years, the current American political climate shows that we have never been more divided as a country. It seems that if the Democratic members of the House and/or Senate voted for the appreciation of sunny days, Republican leadership would be in lockstep opposition with rhetoric regarding the dangers of skin cancer. In fact, the healthcare bill they so desperately despise and want to repeal doesn’t look all that dissimilar from the one they proposed in 1994 or the one Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts when he was Governor (which is still popular to this day). And media outlets have followed suit as FoxNews has cornered the market on conservative talk while MSNBC has become a liberal hub with their nighttime programming. With 24/7 news coverage, and the constant chatter of who is right and wrong, these media outlets, along with the many talking heads who the media then quotes (think Palin) have stood their ground and deepened the political divide. But how has this effect public opinion?
Let’s face it, the majority of the general public does not follow politics closely, and especially does not understand much about the healthcare law. This may be all well and good, save for the fact that this same majority has strong political opinions, and these generally follow the party line. The genesis of their political affiliation may come from their parents, neighborhood, racial and religious issues (who knows), but regardless of what the opinion of the political party is, the public defaults to whatever their party believes, which is exacerbated by modern media.
For example, the healthcare bill, according to polls, remains fairly unpopular, but when individual parts of the healthcare bill are polled, they actually poll really well. Why? Well, simply put, most people have no fucking clue what’s in the bill, but if they support the Republican Party, they hear the party line that the whole thing is bad. Plus, Americans don’t like conflict in government. Polls have shown that if both parties agree on a bill, the bill is popular and I have no doubt that if Republicans supported the healthcare bill, majority of the nation would follow suit even though not one single piece of the policy will have changed.
The Wisconsin union protests suffer from the same phenomenon. It’s incredible how many poor, small towns are against unions even though the existence of unions would help these people most. The sole purpose of a union is to create a balance with the powers that employ them to ensure fair pay and basic rights. Without unions, and I’ve personally been victim of this, the employers can play with your wages and healthcare as they see fit by declaring they are “losing money” or whatever the excuse may be in the name of profit. This is not to say a union can’t spin out of control with unreasonable demands, but it shouldn’t demonize the idea of a union as a whole.
But conservative leadership, and especially the conservative media, seems to have made “union” a curse word, much in the same way they have made the word “liberal” or “socialist” one. So when the Republican base hears these words, their visceral reaction is to be against it, even if the only reason they are Republican in the first place is because they don’t want gays to marry or they are pro-life (and have no economic opinion period). But the media has also done a disservice by demonizing pretty much everything the opposite party does. For example, today President Obama publicly filled out his NCAA bracket on ESPN and, of course, Republican media questioned if this was distracting him from the important issues of the day. To be fair, left wing media did the same to Bush during his tenure.
But the result of this is that any disagreement the two parties have moves quickly to the extremes. It seems that any Obama supported legislation is immediately viewed as “socialist” with the promise that he’ll knock on your door to take your guns. How can we have productive discourse when the media consistently widens the divide? The answer is, we can’t. And it’s absolutely killing this country.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
For better or worse, NFL football is something I hold near and dear, so the recent CBA negotiations that are threatening the upcoming 2011 NFL season are of particular interest to me (and many of you). Just as intriguing is the media war that has commenced between the NFL owners and the NFLPA (players organization) that has encouraged media members and fans alike to choose sides. Though it seems silly to actually do so considering we are talking about a disagreement between millionaires and billionaires, I’ve been shocked to see much of both the media and the fanbase actually side with the owners.
And here’s why (and a bit of history):
The factionalism began immediately after the Collective Bargaining extension agreement (CBA) in 2006. With then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the final years of his tenure, most owners believed he cut a “sweetheart deal” with then union head Gene Upshaw to ensure that football games would be played the following season. But included in the CBA was an opt out clause for the owners in 2008 which would signal an official end to the agreement before the 2011 season (thus putting this season in jeopardy). Now, the NFL gets the majority of its income (both players and owners alike) from TV contracts and, under the current deal, the league (owners) negotiate the contract on behalf of both the league and the NFLPA. But during the last negotiation, the owners, clearly with a 2011 season lockout in mind, negotiated a deal in which ONLY the owners get paid 4 billion dollars even if no games are played in the 2011 season. Pretty sweet for them.
The NFL is a 9 billion dollar business and under the current deal the owners take a billion off the top before splitting the rest with the NFLPA. Claiming they are not making enough profit for their investment, the owners proposed to take an extra billion before splitting the rest. In addition, they proposed to increase the schedule to 18 games a year (which the players are vehemently against, last year’s season ended with 300+ players on injured reserve), but refusing to pay the players more, essentially asking them to take a ten percent pay cut. The players, obviously against this, asked for more benefits for retirees and agreed to have a rookie salary cap (since rookie salaries were getting out of control.) Though both sides did agree to the rookie salary cap and the retention of the original 16 game schedule, they remain far apart on the overall revenue. But, essentially, the players were more or less fine with the status quo with, from what I understand, the money being saved from the rookie salary cap pool funneled into a veteran retirement fund.
Now, once the conclusion of the 2010 occurred, owners appeared lockstep in lockout knowing they still had the 4 billion dollars from the television contracts for expenses, but something unexpected happened. Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL did not negotiate those contracts with the players in mind, therefore claimed they were not entitled to that sum. Most then thought the NFL would come to the table with a fair offer, but when the players asked the owners to open their books to prove the teams weren’t money making ventures as thought, the owners would only go so far. Once the negotiating deadline hit and there was no deal to be made, the players union decertified so the individual players could sue the league in an anti-trust suit. Since then, Commissioner Roger Goodell and many of the owners have blitzed the media with tales that they tried to meet the players union halfway and that the union was being uncooperative. Halfway from what, I’m not sure.
One of the perils of being an NFL player, other than the obvious dangerous nature of the game, is that they’ve prepared their entire lives for this one job and they have no alternative but to play in the National Football League. If they don’t like their contracts or playing conditions, they have nowhere else to go to ply their trade. Also, the average NFL player only plays three seasons and often is left with debilitating injuries that require a lifetime of rehabilitation. Now, it’s easy to say “no one has to play football,” but that’s really here nor there. The fact is people tune in to watch the players bang heads, they don’t watch football to see a bunch of wrinkly old white men count their money.
So, in a nutshell, the NFL owners did not negotiate the television deal in good faith, full well expecting to lockout the players with their upper hand. They asked the players to play MORE games, when the rate of injury under the current amount is too high, and on top of that, asked them to take a pay cut. The players, happy in the current deal when EVERYONE is making money and the sport is at the height of its popularity (the last two Superbowls were the two highest rated TV programs of all time), merely are asking for the status quo, but are obviously willing to compromise (a little) for the good of the league…they just want proof the owners are losing profit, which of course, the owners will not fully provide.
In addition to this, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, during a negotiation, assume the richer guy is trying to put one over on the poorer (I’m sorry if this is unfair). But, simply speaking, the reality is even under the current deal the owners are making a pretty profit. While each NFL team may not make its full potential profit due to revenue sharing (the NFL works, more or less, as a cartel), I don’t think any of these owners are starving. If they can’t buy a 20th mansion because of money they are “losing” under the current agreement, I’m sorry to hear that.
Its mind boggling that a bunch of rich people can’t decide how to split 9 billion dollars in revenue, and I agree that both sides are responsible for the impasse. But to put the blame on the players union and to imply they are greedier than the owners? You must be crazy.
Monday, March 14, 2011
I have nothing all that meaningful to add regarding Japan's nuclear crisis, but have long been conflicted about the use of nuclear power as a viable alternative because of exactly what is happening now. While 8.9 earthquakes are quite uncommon and maybe future construction can learn from the events in Japan, are the benefits of nuclear power worth the risk of future meltdown?
While the issues in Japan are incomparable with the ones from Chernobyl, the fact that either happened at all is reason for pause. I know wind and solar infrastructure is expensive, but if a wind turbine breaks, it won’t exactly lead to lingering, generational health problems.
Anyone have any thoughts on it?
I have a message for Michele Bachmann:
You’re a twat. First class.
No, I'm not above insults.
|I crazy..but at least I'[m looking into the camera this time|
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I admittedly can be a movie snob. In fact, I find 70 percent of the crap I’m subjected to completely unwatchable and, often times, flat out insulting. That said, I do love disaster movies, no matter how dumb they are (and they often are). I don’t care if it’s an angry volcano or extra terrestrial intruders hellbent on havoc, if it involves blowing shit up to the brink of complete extermination, count me in. So, naturally this weekend, I took in the latest invasion flick that continues the theme of having an advanced alien race, superior in virtually every way, outsmarted by the average American: Battle:LA. Have you noticed this trend? Sure, in Armageddon they gave some crazy Russian drunk some due (though he never bothered to watch Star Wars), but he was clearly more of a dolt than a savior and, if anything, slowed down the rescue mission (not to mention, the Russian space station from which he came featured faulty technology that almost submarined the entire thing before it started.) Someone may want to tell Michael Bay the Cold War ended a while ago and we no longer need propaganda. After all, even Rocky Balboa told a Russian audience “if I can change, and you can change, we call can change!” Apparently the Armageddon braintrust never changed. That said, if any movie studio wants to pay me to write a flick about some Russian commie saving the world from complete destruction, I’ve got time.
But I digress.
While watching Battle:LA I was reminded that in all of these movies, the filmmakers don’t just ask the audience to take a basic leap in logic (the idea of an alien attack is hard enough), but they continue the theme of being illogical at every other turn as well…you know, for symmetry I suppose.
So I figured we’d take a look back at one of my favorite alien invasion films and discuss the top five (in no particular order) small leaps in logic featured in the 1996 smash hit INDEPENDENCE DAY!
1) Thank God Jeff Goldblum is a genius! He has the answer! Goldblum’s character, David Levinson, figures the only way to defeat the alien race is to fly an old flying saucer found in the 1960’s up to the mother ship (hovering somewhere in space), and infecting their computer system with a virus administered using his Mac laptop. He figures that all communication runs through the mothership (logical), so if their entire system were compromised, it would limit forcefield use and communication with the ships currently attacking Earth (brilliant!). So, essentially, it’s suggested the fate of humanity lays on the fact that alien technology can sink through a USB cord (fine, I’m with you even though my Mac can’t run Microsoft Office designed for a PC). Then, once the virus is planted, they’d fire off a nuke and explode the entire alien base (you know, just a tiny detail.) Which begs the question: WHY NOT JUST DO THAT LAST PART! Why do you need to temporarily disable the alien technology for five minutes with some dumb computer virus when you can just flat obliterate it forever? If the “mothercomputer” didn’t EXIST, wouldn’t that have the same effect as simply disabling it? Movie could have saved 20 minutes right there and Goldblum could have saved himself some stress.
2) Aliens can travel light years with amazingly superior technology, yet they cant tell a black guy and a Jew has infiltrated one of their little fighter ships that, for some reason, flew directly back to the mothership instead of one of the many large satellite ships below, where one would assume it’s originally stored. My guess is that this isn’t a common occurrence and their little air traffic control guy may want to investigate the insides of this rogue saucer upon entrance into the mothership (in fact, you can blame the entire lost war on that air traffic control worker). Plus if the mothership were so important, you’d think they’d have some kind of gate checkpoint where they can flash a badge before permitted entrance. Hell, I even have to do this when I go to work every morning, and my guess is the world would continue to survive if my office building exploded.
3) President Bill Pullman tries to negotiate an impromptu peace treaty with the foot soldier Will Smith captures and brings to Area 51. I wonder if Roosevelt ever did the same with German foot soldiers in WW2? Not to mention, despite very sophisticated armor, this alien was knocked unconscious by one Will Smith punch. Sounds like a pussy to me.
4) At the beginning of the film, Randy Quaid’s character is teased by peers because he claims to have been once abducted by aliens. Yet, at the end of the movie, when all his claims now seem plausible, people still think he’s full of shit. Perhaps they should give pause and consider his story now that they spent the last two days dodging laser bullets from the weapons of aliens trying to commit human genocide.
5) The same Randy Quaid saves the day when he bravely flies his aircraft in the middle of the alien ship’s “primary weapon,” causing the power weapon to backfire, thus sending a debilitating explosion throughout the enemy ship. But here’s the thing: Randy Quaid was actually the air fleet’s last hope or, in other words, the American Air Force (the most powerful in the world) was a hair away from losing the battle forever. Now, the enemy’s primary weapon isn’t visible, it actually extends from inside the ship (like a big mechanical wiener) and powers once open. So why not just wait while your tiny ships dogfight the fighter pilots (a fight they were clearly winning) and clear the air before you level the ground beneath with the apparent vulnerable phallic weapon (plus, if there are any physics majors out there, what are the chances a weapon that powerful would backfire due to impact with an F-14?). For such an advanced civilization, these aliens sure are tactically stupid.
I’m sure there are many others. Who has some!