Friday, July 31, 2009

Remember The Titans

My 20th high school reunion is tonight and I'm skipping it. I'll be MIA- mostly because this weekend's simply too busy- but also because technology has already acted as my proxy. I'm pretty sure Facebook and other social media sites have rendered traditional reunions obsolete. I have nothing against reunions in theory; I attended my 10-year and had a blast, catching up with old friends and finding previously absent common ground (read: tequila) with others. But in the last year, when another decade had passed and our reunion was on the horizon, everyone came out of the binary woodwork and the online friend requests were flying like bullets. People I barely knew suddenly wanted to connect (read: have a voyeuristic peek at their former classmates' lives) and see who did well and who probably peaked senior year. That's what reunions used to be for. Now, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. have killed the mystery of what the people you passed in the hallways have been doing with their lives. Sure, there are a few people I'd like to see in person, but I figure Google and LinkedIn will be able to put me in touch with them.

Cheers, Class of 1989. Have a drink on me and I'll see you at the 30.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Generation Why?

I'm a big fan of trivia and game shows, mostly because I'm a font of minutiae that is useful only in those circumstances. (Currently, my DVR is full of Cash Cab, where people answer questions and win money until they hit their destination.) However, I've noticed a trend in these shows that disturbs me quite a bit: people in their twenties seem to have slept through history class. I hated history when I had to study it, but I'm a bigger fan of it recreationally. The Aztecs are much more interesting when the History Channel is telling me about them. The thing is, I wonder if anyone under 30 is watching. Ask a quartet of 25-year-old girls about Manolo Blahniks and they could tell you the name of the Filipino sweat shop kid who inspected their pair. But quiz them on World War II and they'll look at you like a dog that's been shown a card trick. One of my pet peeves is when a time-specific query is answered with, "How would I know that? That was before my time."- as though nothing happened before the Reagan administration. You know what happened before my time? The moon landing, the signing of the Magna Carta, the Spanish Inquisition, and Velcro- but I'm familiar with all of it. I'm not sure if it's the result of a culture of immediacy, where anything that has passed is immediately rendered less relevant, or if it's merely laziness. Either way, you might want to know who the first man in space was. In case it ever comes up in a taxicab.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lazy Eye Of The Beholder

A new study from Helsinki says that women are physically getting hotter. With all due respect to my Finnish friends, I've seen too much evidence to the contrary. Anytime you're in a summertime crowd- amusement park, state fair, pro-life rally- play a little game with yourself and make a mental tally of the number of attractive people you pass. You'll be able to count them on the one hand of an unlucky shop teacher. For an avid people-watcher like myself, a tourist trap like Chicago's Navy Pier is ground zero for the freak show. My girl and I were there a few weeks ago, showing the sights to a friend of hers who was in from Seattle. While they were preoccupied with chatting, I had extra time to play the game. After passing hundreds of people and not having a single hit on the ol' hot-o-meter, I began to get anxious and angry. Good looking people put all of us in a better mood; they reaffirm the boundaries of the human lottery. And I don't have unattainable standards of beauty by any means (and it IS the midwest) but I got the sinking feeling that the results of the Helsinki study were confined to the babes of the Baltic Sea. And my girlfriend. And her friend.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Club Med (iocre)

The thing that strikes me the most about the "debate" over health care reform is this: the degree to which we are impacted by any government policy seems to be inversely proportional to the degree to which we have any say in the matter. If you're the one person buying a new car this year, you can get it in any color- including many not found in nature. Looking for new carpet? You'll spend hours looking for just the right swatch of shag. The Wrigley company makes twenty-five different kinds of Orbit gum (for those days when you're feeling positively pomegranate and spearmint is for suckers.) We've got infinite possibilities when it comes to the most mundane facets of our lives; as consumers, that's when we feel most in control. Despite being one of the uninsured millions, I'm ambivalent about health care. On one side, a more egalitarian way to collective well-being certainly seems to be worth our time and treasure. Our "greatest country in the world" rhetoric becomes even more tiresome when confronted with the reality of grave inequalities in a system bordering on immoral. On the other side, Americans take such piss-poor care of themselves, who knows which variable in the equation bears culpability? Eight in ten Americans say they want the system fixed (or at least simplified). But our representatives are so beholden to the deep pockets of insurance and pharma, they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to even pretend to discuss reform.

With all due props to Obama for running on a platform of change, there are some machines against which one's rage is futile.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Diamond Life

If you're among the unfortunate unemployed, it's difficult to be forced into re-evaluating the career you've worked so hard to build. I've spent 15 years on radio and television- two areas hit especially hard by the economic downturn- and assessing the next move is maddening. The difficulty and frustration come from the reality that a successful and lucrative body of work can be stopped in its tracks when times get tough, compounded by the fact that we all have skill sets limited to our lines of work. I've proven myself to be a reasonably intelligent and resourceful guy, but it's a bit of hard cheese to learn that broadcasting and performing is really all I know how to do. I'm certainly not above getting a "normal" job; I'm just not quite qualified for anything else. So it's nice to find out that you can still learn new tricks. My son is turning into a fantastic baseball player and working with him has made me improve my game, too. As much as I love baseball, I didn't have much acumen when I was his age; I swung a bat like a crazed ivory poacher machete'ing his way through the Amazon rainforest. But my kid's got a great arm and, as it turns out, I've actually been able to show him a thing or two to help him bring the heat.

He starts football in the fall and I'm stoked to add "tackle dummy" to my resume.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Skip" The Formalities

Obama puts his size 12 Rockport tonsil-deep over the Henry Louis Gates arrest. While white people will never be able to identify with the black community's deep and hard-earned mistrust of police, the hair trigger with which the race card is often fired does a far greater disservice to minorities than even the most misguided profiling.

The best line of the day came this morning on Dennis Miller's radio show- "If this had happened in California, Gates could have just told the police he was an illegal immigrant and they would never have asked for any ID."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jesus Built My Hotrod

Chicago's status as the nation's most bike-friendly city has reached annoying proportions. Now, I love bike riding in the city; it's a classic win/win: great exercise and environmentally-speaking, anytime you can ride a bike, you should. That being said, I also understand the bicycle's place in the highway hierarchy- second to motor vehicles. Cars still own the road; they merely tolerate anyone on two wheels. To the Lance Armstrong doppelganger slowing down the lane by riding directly in front of my car- get off to the side. I don't need a teardrop helmet and blue spandex nuthugger shorts in my field of vision.

And, while we're at it, pedestrians need to stop holding me up by strolling through intersections on my green light. I'm trying to get somewhere for a reason; if you were going anywhere important, you wouldn't be walking there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Penalty For Withdrawl

Automatic tellers in South Africa are using pepper spray to discourage tampering and theft. If it catches on in other countries, the world may finally put an end to the scourge of ATM rape.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Way It Was

Broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite has died at the age of 92. While this means very little to anyone who considers Perez Hilton a "journalist", Cronkite was the gold standard for broadcast journalism- synonymous with the assassination of JFK, the first moon landing, and Nixon's resignation. In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, television news has been reduced to empty promo phrases like "asking the tough questions" (utterly useless without appropriate answers). Cronkite was long regarded the most trusted man in America, as his nightly national audience topped 25 million viewers. Those of us old enough to have remembered Cronkite on their parents' TV every night understand the impact and influence that he had on the media. Those of us actually in the media appreciate the model that he represented and lament the fact that the model has changed irrevocably, and the mold broken.

Walter Cronkite Dies.

Let. It. Go.

Why all of the Michael Jackson conspiracy theories about his death being murder? This guy was in the death pool for years and now that he becomes the (melted) face of the self-fulfilling prophecy, his fans are becoming suspicious? He was in such fantastic shape, that his death under these circumstances is inconceivable? His heart attack was the result of years of drug use, botched plastic surgery, and nonexistent dietary habits. There is no question mark in this denouement; dying was the most natural thing MJ had done in a long time. I've heard people say that he was killed for his money. The guy was $400 million in the hole- was anybody pining to grab his bad debt to Neverland janitors, corrupt doctors, and monkey-rental facilities? Doubtful. Though, come to think of it- maybe the Federal Government killed him. Those numbers sound right up their alley. We can all buy groceries with Thriller royalty IOUs.

Was Michael Jackson's Death Murder?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fish Hat

It was hot today and I heard Sean Paul on the radio, which reminded me of this.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

America's High-Five

I'm a city guy, more comfortable surrounded by concrete, mumbling homeless, and car alarms than anywhere else. Still, there is something unmistakably necessary about periodically escaping that collective din. My girlfriend and I spent the 4th of July holiday at her family's cabins on Higgins Lake, in northern Michigan. (I'm no stranger to the Wolverine State, as I started my radio career in Kalamazoo.) A week of bonfires, beach reading, kayaking, hold-em, euchre, boating, fireworks, and a Batman birthday party was the perfect mental counterbalance to what has been a tough year and a limp summer. Sometimes, all your soul needs is to see some stars and roast some marshmallows.

Ah, Michigan. I guess they saw me coming.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

App That Ass

Apple has pulled their BeautyMeter- some "Hot Or Not" iPhone app that has teenagers sending naked pics to each other, something they've already been doing since picture texting was invented. Apple has become the latest scapegoat in the battle for the nation's youth gone wild and it's fun to watch all the pointless clamoring. The teen years are ground zero for phenomenally unwise behavior and technology has ushered in hilarious new ways to potentially humiliate oneself. Somewhere along the way, female "empowerment" has been transformed by the ability to turn your BlackBerry into a portable strip club. This is hardly technology's fault. The same 15-year-old girl who sends naked pics over her phone, Twitpic, or Facebook is the same one who would have given the Munson boy an etching of her "lady flower", had she been born 300 years earlier. It's continually vexing that the children of the digital age- the ones who are allegedly the most tech-savvy- are the ones who seem least aware of the permanence of bad decisions. Crazy kids.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Doppler Effect

President Obama's tone is changing, and with good reason. His approval ratings are down, as even his staunchest supporters are unconvinced that he is making good on his promises in a timely fashion. Despite the articles sounding the death knell- and the collective bleating of Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Malkin, et al- it's unreasonable to expect the fallout from the worst economic crisis in half a century to be rectified in the first five months of a new administration. But there should be some signs of something happening, of which there seem to be none. After billions upon billions in stimulus money spent, unemployment is still rising, consumer confidence is still falling, and the recipients of most of the TARP dollars seem no better for it. Still, birth is always painful and the status quo must be shifted. What happens now-from taxes to the deficit to health care and beyond- will re-define our nation, one way or another.

Barry definitely picked the wrong time to stop smoking.