March 10, 2005

Your Turn (to Think of a Better Title)

Today's Musical Selection: "Midnight Star" by Weird Al Yankovic

Hello, everyone! Well, as promised (if a little late), today I address your latest round of comments. (At my recent rate of output, I wouldn't be surprised if you, The Reader, have written more of this blog than I have. C'est la vie.)

Loyal reader Frinklin is getting a tad impatient with my erratic schedule:

Dude... just because your childhood dream came true, and DC has a baseball team and you get to start up this hoity-toity fan club does not mean that you get to ignore your blog to this extent.

And really, how many "fans" can these mysterious "Nationals" even have?

Ehhh... I'm kidding, and more that a touch jealous. The only time my name is in the paper is when I'm falsely accused of some terrible crime.

It's completely ridiculous... for the first 26 years of my life, I lived in near-perfect obscurity, the quintessential face in the crowd. And now, all of a sudden, I'm everywhere. In the past month and a half, I've been on TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet, all more than once. Old friends call up and ask how I've been, and I say, "Well, I just interviewed with TV Tokyo and I've got a Post reporter coming tomorrow," and I can't help giggling. And if anybody tries to tell you that being in the media is a pain, they're lying. I personally am enjoying every minute of it. (Granted, I don't have photographers popping out of the bushes to take my picture at 6 in the morning.)

As for the blog.... I'd like to write more, but with what time? I've essentially got two full-time jobs now. Presumably the crush will ease up later on, but who knows for sure? If I have to give it up, though, I'll be sure to at least say goodbye.

Loyal reader Tripp also expounds on his theories of love and courtship:

I came across the following article from 1993 in Psychology Today. Maybe I read it when it came out - I don't know, but it certainly sums up my perceptions on courtship:

I won't hector you on this much more. Well, not for awhile - a day or two.

The article describes the behavior of courting animals and comments on the similarity between these moves in humans and those in other animals. The implication is that much of our courting and relationship behavior is hard-wired into us biologically.

I think there's a lot of truth to this, and I think a lot of the confusion and awkwardness surrounding love and sex in our culture has to do with the friction between our biological drives and our societally-mandated behaviors. Is it possible that much of our thinking on the subject constitutes parlysis by analysis? Perhaps.

On the other hand, a civilized society can't just shrug its shoulders and allow the ways of the animals to reign. Our evolving societal standards force re-evaluations of the ways we interact, flirt, date, marry and reproduce. I think that's at the heart of the forthcoming public debate over the proper form and role of marriage in society (and not just gay marriage, but marriage generally). Our current model of marriage doesn't seem particularly well-suited to the way our society is arranged, at least not if you judge by the number of people who fail at it. So it's time to ask what role marriage should serve in our society. Is it a sacred recognition of the union of man and woman? Is it primarily a legal contract between two people? Is it primarily to provide stable homes for children? Should it be considered a lifetime deal, or only a temporary arrangement until one or both parties get sick of it or find something better? Once we've decided what marriage should be, we can begin discussing ways to strengthen it. This deserves a post of its own, and if I ever find time to write it, I will.

(And to the charge that discussing love and sex in a detached academic way is the surest sign that you're not getting any, all I can say is: Sigh.)

My thoughts on the commercial exploitation of Black History Month and President's Day drew a number of comments. First, from loyal reader PG:

Somehow the President's Day ad doesn't bother me as much as the Black History-related ones. It might be knee-jerk PCness, or a more complicated form thereof.

I sort of feel like Washington and Jefferson are a very shared history of all Americans, and so it's less objectionable for anyone to use them than it is for a (presumably) non-African American-owned corporation to exploit Black History Month. After all, we get spoonfed Washington and Jefferson from nursery school, but how much do the people making these "Black History" ads actually know about black history, or contemporary black issues? Somehow with Black History Month, it feels more like theft and tokenism than a cheap invocation of our common history.

Then I thought about how I'd feel if someone used JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you" to sell something (other than public service such as joining the military/ Peace Corps/ etc.), and decided that there's more than the racial component to it, because that idea still bothered me more than the President's Day advert. Maybe I feel like Washington's "I cannot tell a lie" is such a trite (and inaccurate) bit of history that it's not really degrading it to use it for an advertisement, whereas something that I feel to be inspirational like Kennedy's speech is more sacred.

I was tempted to protest at the beginning, when PG asserted that Washington and Jefferson are fair game for exploitation because they're part of our shared history (and Martin Luther King, Jr. isn't?), but I like the conclusion she drew. To me, the Founding Fathers are, if not sacred, at least something deeply cherished for me, so it irks the hell out of me when Washington and Jefferson are hawking cars and mattresses. Similarly, I'd think the Hebrew National hot-dog commercials that feature God operating a diving hot-dog stand would be deeply offensive to people of religious faith (at least of a faith in which their God is the pitchman).

I think we all have things or people we hold sacred, and would resent commercial exploitation of them. But since we have no cultural consensus on what's off-limits, everything is subservient to the Marketing God.

Tripp expounds on this idea:

One outcome from my six month stay in England was that, in America, money is KING. Money rules everything. It is always about the money. Money decides everything.

"Back to School Liquor sale" is kind of funny. I like Thanksgiving because it hasn't really been commercialized. Besides the food there isn't much more we are expected to buy buy buy.

One of my favorite quotes is:

"By Grapthar's hammer . . . what a savings."

Good point about Thanksgiving... there's nothing especially sacred about it that can be trivialized, and the fact that it sneaks in between Halloween and Christmas also keeps the exploitation factor down, I think. The basic message of Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and eat a lot of food, things at which I'm rather proficient, so it works for me. Love the Grapthar quote (though I thought it was Grabthar).

PG then popped back in to provide me with some inspirational material:

Along with the general thread of bottom-line ideology, I think you'd concur with much of the sentiment in this.

I most certainly do agree with it, not least because it sounds a lot like some of the discussion on Wal-Mart and its ilk that I hosted on this very blog last year. The column is written by former labor secretary Robert Reich, and it hold that if we don't like what Wal-Mart is doing to the retail industry, we have only ourselves to blame:

To claim that people shouldn't have access to Wal-Mart or to cut-rate airfares or services from India or to Internet shopping, because these somehow reduce their quality of life, is paternalistic tripe. No one is a better judge of what people want than they themselves.

The problem is, the choices we make in the market don't fully reflect our values as workers or as citizens. I didn't want our community bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., to close (as it did last fall) yet I still bought lots of books from In addition, we may not see the larger bargain when our own job or community isn't directly at stake. I don't like what's happening to airline workers, but I still try for the cheapest fare I can get.

Reich suggests laws and regulations to make the "social cost" of goods paramount over the personal cost to the consumer. He suggests a minimum-wage increase and stronger labor standards, among other ideas. Even if you don't agree with his ideas, he's at least accurately identified the problem: The rational choices we make as consumers is detrimental to our long-term future as workers and citizens. As it stands, it's too easy for people not to make the connection between the cheap paper towels they get at Wal-Mart and the declining living standards of the lower middle class. Reich is right to call for a national dialogue on this.

My ode to NyQuil produced this reminder from loyal reader Ensie:

Only take NyQuil at night. That's why they call it NyQuil. It is not meant to be used in the upright position.

Ok, technically it should probably then be called NiQuil or even NighQuil if you preferred, but it still mean take it once your head is firmly attached to a pillow. That's my experience. Hope you are feeling 100% soon.! :)

I'm plesed to report that I feel fine now, more or less, and that I've stayed away from NyQuil since. I'm aware of the connection between NyQuil and night use, and had I simply lost my evening to the wonder drug, I'd have been fine. My problem is that I was woozy and loopy for all of the next day, and for that matter was still a little foggy on Monday. There's a difference in my mind between a "nighttime drug" and a "hibernation aid." Call me picky.

Loyal reader Brett seems like he's not quite sure what to make of the piece:

One of the most interesting (for lack of better terms) things I've read in quite awhile.

Always nice to be warned of such things though.

Feel better soon.

Forgive me for not making sense while I was still in my narcoleptic fog. Mind-altered writing is not my forte. Perhaps with more experience at brain abuse, I can get better at it. Not that I have any immediate plans for additional stabs at brain abuse.

Tripp seems to have been a little more atuned to my wavelength:

I'm pretty sure I also had the "real" flu, or at least the cold from Hell. It lasted a good ten days.

I usually steer away from Nyquil and the other conglomerations of "everything but the kitchen sink." Isn't the secret ingredient in Nyquil OH - alcohol? That could explain the drowsiness.

Hmmm... I just pulled out the box to check this, and the label makes no mention of alcohol. Perhaps they just didn't mention it, but you'd think they would have to, wouldn't you? Either way, makes me wonder what the upper in DayQuil is. Cocaine, perhaps?

My most recent post, about this and that, drew a couple contrasting reviews of the ESPN Zone. First, from Ensie:

I'm glad you had such a great time at the ESPN Zone. Myself, not being a very big traditional sports fan, HATED the ESPN Zone. We went to dinner there (fulfilling a fantasy of Frinklin's) while in Aneheim last September. The food was nasty, the service bit, and the noise was unbelieveable. I suppose I shouldn't complain, as it is a sports bar.

Next, from Tripp:

I think I went to an ESPN Zone in Baltimore once. It was during the afternoon and I played video games . I liked it. I spent a lot of money.

The thing is, I think they're both right. The degree to which you will enjoy ESPN is direcetly related to the degree to which you think the Ultimate Sports Bar is a great idea. If you like sports bars, ESPN Zone has all the good qualities magnified a hundred-fold: the TVs, the video games, the seating, the atmosphere. On the other hand, if you hate sports bars, ESPN also has all their worst qualities magnified a hundred-fold: the dodgy food, the bad service, the noise, the high prices. So take note if you're thinking about visiting one.

Tripp also offered a pat on the back for my chatting up Nick Johnson's girlfriend:

But, dude, good job with the woman! You are going places, man. It was good practice. You know that simply chatting with her made you more attractive to any other women in the place, right?

Keep on getting out there and good things are coming your way!

Thank you, Tripp! I did feel good about it afterward, and I think I've generally been better around women since. As you say, I just need to keep practicing and getting out there, which I'm working on.

And my random encounter with neighbor Ben also received a couple comments. From Ensie:

That's cool that you ran into your random neighbor again. The story comes full circle...or something...

And Brett:

[I]nteresting to run into your old friend. Maybe meeting him in that situation was less intimidating than him showing up at your house at the middle of the night.

It did sort of feel like coming full circle, having seen him in the summer and again in the winter. And being able to see that he is indeed a good guy was also gratifying.

As for the middle-of-the-night factor... I think that defnitely played a role; I don't really relish the idea of anyone showing up at my house in the middle of the night, much less a stranger. But it should also be noted that the attire matters. When he showed up at night back in the summer, he was sporting the wife-beater and gold neck chains, and in my experience growing up, guys who dressed that way were usually bad news. But fleece jacket and jeans? He just looked like an average guy.

At any rate, that about kicks it in the head for today. Something else tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at March 10, 2005 05:10 PM

"At any rate, that about kicks it in the head for today. Something else tomorrow!"

Something I've been seeing alot of recently.

(As I read the same posts over and over, anxiously awaiting the new post)

But at the same time it's nice that you're keeping yourself busy. Hope things are going good for you.

Posted by: Brett at March 14, 2005 11:09 PM
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