Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Attack of the Knuckleheads

Where have we gone wrong in this society where it is generally accepted that a paying customer has the right to be rude, obnoxious, and hurtful?

From the frustrated shopper who mercilessly unloads on the minimum wage cashier at Home Depot, to the fan who purposely picks seats with a night of verbal harassment in mind, the leeway we have given because “the customer is always right” has gotten to be a bit too much; customers in America have been given so much power that they treat the hired help as something less than human.

Just look at the reactions to Friday’s NBA brawl. In a nutshell, most of the response has been: players bad, fans good. Certainly the players should not have gone into the stands to fight and deserve to be punished severely, but let’s have some consequences for the fans too. If I am the D.A. in that town I examine every available video tape and prosecute anyone who so much as threw a popcorn container that night.

And I must confess that I love how that knucklehead in the Pistons jersey got clocked--more than once--when he walked menacingly toward players on the court. I really think he got what he deserved. I am not advocating violence (I don’t think I’ve hit anyone since I was 12), but there is a measure of satisfaction in seeing knuckleheads getting their just desserts.

Sadly though, even this pummeling will be the highlight of the knucklehead’s life and he will wear it as a badge of honor. There will probably be a large cash settlement and tons of media attention thrown his way, while the players he goaded into defending themselves may be banned from the NBA for life. Years from now, Mr. Knucklehead will be showing that video to his knucklehead grand kids.

When I worked at Home Depot I always said that I wished I had a hidden camera to show the world how poorly customers actually treat people. Now we have a video on how the customers in Detroit acted, and all we hear about are the big bad thugs in the NBA--it’s just not right.

I say we hold people equally accountable for their actions, whether they make millions or they throw things at people who make millions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

If You Have an Erection for Over Four Hours...

Can someone please tell me what all the screaming and shouting is about over the Monday Night Football Promo? Since when is it out of the ordinary to feature sex on television?

Don't get me wrong. I would have been DIVING for that remote had my children been watching MNF with me last Monday night. It is ridiculous that we are constantly bombarded with the sleazy values of Hollywood. But as bad as it has become, I find it interesting that NOW someone is getting upset about it. Why is that?

There has been plenty to be upset about for a long time. One of my favorite (meaning I hate it the most) groping-for-the-remote-and-singing-loudly-moments are the many ads for Viagra, Cialis and other "erectile dysfunction/ enhancement" products. I am waiting for the moment when one of my younger kids ask me what it means when they say, "If you have an erection for more than four hours, seek immediate medical attention." Okay...

Anyway, my bottom line here is that there is way to much sex on TV. I am hoping that the outcry over the MNF promo will spill over to some of the other problems that normal (not thinking about sex 24/7) families face on the tube.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Does America Have a New Attitude?

The old adage, "Attitude is everything," seems to have taken on another meaning these days. The idea that you can achieve more success with a good attitude in life, work, and school has morphed into the newer idea that having a bad attitude is much more cool and useful.

And nowadays, having that edgy "attitude" is celebrated in many walks of life, from the world of music and entertainment, to the everyday folks who emulate those puffed up icons. Nice guys don't just finish last anymore, they don't even get noticed. If you're not in-your-face outrageous, rude, crude, and profane, then you'll have a hard time even registering on the radar of popular culture.

In a world where the adjective, "extreme," is attached for marketing purposes to a wide range of products and services, plain old "nice" just doesn't cut it anymore. Take the gym down the street that just reopened under the banner "Extreme Family Fitness." Or how about the fact that on any given day I can eat "ExtremeDude Beef Jerky," watch the video show "Max X" (for extreme), and even participate in extreme ironing? Even the technical, nerdy type has gotten in on the action as is evidenced by the multiple websites touting "extreme" programming. Nothing good can be normal, it's got to be normal with attitude--extreme normal.

And don't look now, but even the girl next door is a bitch--and that is one of her good points. Whether proclaiming it from her license plate frame or on the profile of her blog, sweetness and nice has now become anger and vice as the attitude of the fairer sex has had an extreme makeover. Just a quick surf around the blogosphere will reveal multiple women who revel in their bitchiness and wear the title with honor. What once was a term of derision, has now become a selling point in a world were attitude has taken a turn for the worse.

But certainly America has always loved its rebels--Frank Sinatra, James Dean, and the Fonz come to mind--but there has always been a place for the polite, the sweet, the innocent, the cuddly, and the cute--until now. Suddenly the only people who are "suspect" are the ones not considered police suspects. Our culture loves to distrust the goody two-shoes of the world and celebrate the bad and the ugly.

Who, for instance, is more detested than all-around clean-cut good guy Jeff Gordon of NASCAR fame? Whoops, not any more, it looks like he is more marketable and accepted now that he's screwed up and been involved in a messy divorce. And of course we hate Martha Stewart for her lack of tattoos and her pretty table settings--boy, are we glad she got what she had coming to her.

It seems that while the behavior of the truly outrageous is ignored with a "judge not lest you be judged" attitude, gleeful ambulance chasers line up 'round the block for a chance to find flaws in the previously flawless, or to bring down somebody's hero.

And without saying that TV was ever a force for good in the world, it is hard to not notice that "The Waltons" and "The Brady Bunch" have become "The Simpsons" and "South Park." At least in simpler days the idiot box just wasted our brains, now the same medium regularly turns them to toxic waste.

And speaking of inspiration, we've all seen in the school room or the board room the professional-looking poster with the solitary drop of water making ring after ring of ripples in pretty blue water that reads, "Attitude: A small thing that makes a big difference."

Maybe an updated version should be a close-up of a gnarly face, tongue stuck out with a tiny, shiny circle piercing the pure pinkness and reading, "Attitude: A small ring that makes a big difference."

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Difference Between Elephants and Donkeys

What do you tell people who want to know the difference between the parties? Are you of the opinion that there is no difference worth mentioning, or could you stand on your soap box for hours on this topic? Personally, I think there are many profound differences between Republicans and Democrats, but they are not always easy to explain in stark, clear-cut terms.

I ask because last week before the election my students asked me what the difference was. At the time I refused to comment because it was not part of my lesson plan and they were just trying to get out of the work they were supposed to be doing. What would you tell junior high students if you had but one shot to make the differences very clear to them?

Here’s my example to get us started:

When the Administration approved a rebate of $600 for many working families in the Summer of 2003, Democrats were upset because low income families who paid no taxes would not get a refund on the taxes they didn’t pay.

I often struggle to hit the bull's-eye of my students’ understanding zone, but I did not have to point out to them the bizarreness of wanting to refund money to people who paid no money in the first place.

Anyway, that is my example of the difference between the parties. I am very interested in hearing examples from people on both sides of the aisle as each of us will probably be made to look silly for different reasons. In an effort to be more balanced, if I think of an example that makes Republicans look silly I certainly will post it. I know such things exist.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Saddest Thing About this Election

By far the most amazing thing about the recently completed Battle Royal that we call a national election is that seemingly scads of people based their ultimate pick on a very dubious source--"Fahrenheit 9/11."

That I personally spoke with many people who punched a ballot based on Michael Moore's "monsterpiece" is just mind boggling to me. People can (and will) argue until the next election about the film, but reasonable people have got to admit (but won't) that this mass-marketed celluloid rumor had little basis in truth. Heck, one would do just as well to consult "The Weekly World News" for reliable information!

But wait. People do actually believe the libelous tabloids for their facts and that is what Michael Moore and the democrats who pretend to believe the film were counting on. People who were voting for Kerry because they believe in the policies of the Democratic Party didn't need a faux documentary to make their decision. People who have no clue about what goes on in this world will believe anything, especially if it is released on a limited edition DVD.

What might Tuesday's result have been had this film not been available for free on the internet the day before the election and shown on various cable networks to get one last good mass brain-washing before the big date?

There is no shame in voting for your party and its principles; shame abounds if you have no idea what either party stands for, but vote anyway based on a clever marketing campaign masked as a documentary. Extra shame for you if you know deep down that the source is dubious, but choose to cite it anyway hoping to fool the foolish.