Thursday, March 16, 2017

But being rude is DOA

Quartz: It’s okay to be too busy

This is No. 99,357 in a series of internet articles that make an agreeable point in an awful way. Collect them all!

The Quartz article is in response to a Wall Street Journal article titled, “You’re not busy, you’re just rude.” And in rebutting how it’s not rude to schedule people when you deign to do so, the author is, well, rude.

I’m sure she sincerely thinks she isn’t rude. And by DC standards, she probably isn’t. But anyone who schedules hangout time as rigorously as she does for someone she “really want(s) to see” (as shown in her text message) surely comes off that way.

If someone would do this to me, I wouldn’t think they were fitting me into their busy schedule — I would assume they were actively weaseling out of our hangout time. Especially if said person is aware of my schedule and makes no effort to find a time that’s beneficial to both of us. (And I will further assume that the overscheduler will flake out of their future commitment at the last minute. Probably by citing all-new busyness that just came up.)

Again, it’s not as if I don’t understand. Like her, I am discretionary with my time. Whenever I visit my hometown, for example, I don’t tell everyone I’m going. Back when I used to announce it, I’d get several dozen invitations to hang out — and I’d feel crappy about each one I rejected. These days, I’m more covert about my travels, because I’m lucky to make time for three people outside of my immediate family. Even when I’m operating from my home base, I have to choose my company carefully. Without sufficient charging time, I’ll likely doze off even if I’m mid-dance. So as far as making time for yourself in a busy world, I’m down with that.

What mars her otherwise fine point is that, in the attempt to keep everyone else from controlling her life, she pulls a 180 and takes no one else’s needs and feelings into account at all. That’s where the rudeness comes in — the assumption that she, and she alone, is busy.

Friendship is a two-way street. It’s important to pay attention to both lanes.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Growing into a compliment

Yesterday, I got a haircut. The stylist said:

"What are you, almost 30?"

How sweet.

Though I used to be mistaken for 18 in my mid-20s, and 25 a few years ago, so that compliment is still a reminder that I'm getting old. But at least people think it's slower than reality, so that's good.

Anyway, better to hear this now than 15 years ago, right?

A DULL blog

Upon reading the VICE Guide to Turning 30 for Men, I immediately noticed two things:

1) It's just British enough to be conspicuous.
2) It's DULL.

DULL is an acronym I just made up for the Dichotomy Underlying the Lectures of Life — a tidy term for an untidy-to-explain notion that I keep seeing again and again. It's the idea that every adult in life is either achieving picket-fence bliss or partying their guts out. Most discussions society has about life choices assume one of the two. I find that dichotomy overly simplistic and useless when applied to my own life.

As unusual as I am in many respects, my life situation actually isn't that abnormal. Plenty of single people in their mid-30s live relatively normal and productive lives that stand out on their own. They aren't temporarily unmarried people, or pathetically past-their-prime keg ragers, or anything else that implies their lives are the equivalent of an improperly microwaved Hot Pocket — frozen in all the wrong spots even after the appropriate cooking time.

I've taken roads in life that many people don't understand and which have even invited inexplicable pity. All the time I've been guided by a curiosity that I knew wouldn't be sated by settling down young. That same curiosity leads me to seek out many an article offering perceptions on what people should be doing at certain ages — mainly to hate-read, because of the DULL.

That isn't to say VICE's advice isn't good. It is, and not just for blokes turning 30. In fact, at times I thought to myself, "This could be a guide to turning 20 for Southern Men"* or, "This could be a guide to turning mature at any age." 

*-Most specifically the "Weddings seem to be happening a lot" part, because I attended 327 weddings in my 20s and have been to all of two in my 30s.

Any sensible advice this article (and others like it) have stand on their own in any life context. The whole "You have to do this at this age," mentality, on the other hand, is crap. This article gets bogged down in the DULL, as if everyone reading it is going to spend their 30th birthday vomiting at their college dive bar and then buying a house the next day. A lot of people might indeed be doing that and need this advice. But there's already so much of it out there. 

Maybe the rest of us don't need a guide? Hah.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fairweather fan of the flames

Unlike most Saints fans, I really wanted the Falcons to win Super Bowl LI.

Why? Because I have a simple formula when it comes to current team support:

Saints>everyone else>Cowboys>Falcons>Patriots>Seahawks

Which is why I didn't go for the common refrain of, "Saints fans never pull for the Dirty Birds. Ever."

I understand that sentiment. I have been a practitioner in the past. I adored seeing the Falcons lose 34-19 to the Denver Broncos back in 1999 (I still remember the score, even). I can't think of a time in the past that I've ever pulled for them. During the regular season in particular, every Falcons win is a Saints liability. I remember drawing up a satirical Falcons catalog in French class in 1992 the week after they got bumped out of the playoffs after knocking out the NFC West-winning Saints. ("Chris Miller crying towel" was one item I remember.) I got a dartboard for Christmas in 1991, and four days later I cut Jerry Glanville's picture out of the newspaper and taped it to the bull's-eye. I'm no Falcons fan in any sense.

BUT ... I can become a mercenary fan when the situation calls for it. Yes, even for the Falcons. And, for that matter, the Patriots.

When the Patriots were an unproven commodity with the newly minted Tom Brady at the controls against the red-hot Kurt Warner Rams in 2002, I became the biggest Pats fan ever. Even more so than the genuine Patriots fan I watched with who bemoaned, "Tom Brady? No, never Tom Brady. He will never be Drew Bledsoe." (Though I guess, technically, he's right.) And two years ago when Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson to seal the deal for the Patriots against the Seahawks, I leapt in the air and whooped so hard that my windows rattled. (My mom is a witness, as she was on the phone with me at the time and nearly needed ear surgery.) 

So, yeah, I'm a situational ethics kind of guy. See my formula, above.

There was no reason for me to root against the Falcons tonight. That wouldn't put the Saints in the playoffs, nor was the Falcons' appearance therein the product of a heartbreaking division battle. The Saints had all kinds of bad breaks in 2016 and got swept by Atlanta. It wasn't even close for the majority of the season. I wasn't feeling the bad blood as I have in the past and likely will in the future.

Still, I would have smiled like the Cheshire Cat had the Falcons lost the way they did tonight to any other AFC team. But the Patriots. Man. Mostly joyless winners who win all the time and invite the occasional scandal along with said wins. Also, there's all the "you gotta admit, greatest evah" comments. And I feel like many of these guys would have thrown me in a locker in school on their way up to receive All-State honors before a cheering crowd and I would have been told to stop asking for it. Maybe this is the ever-longer distance between me and Louisiana, but that resonated with me far more than the NFC South squabble.

Anyway, it was three quarters of awesome football for me and a thrilling, historic fourth quarter and OT for everyone else. So, we all won a little.

Except the Falcons. And the forces of parity.

Your loyalty guide to Super Bowl LI

Why you should pull for the Patriots:

• You are dazzled by the unprecedented dominance of a team that always wins or loses the Super Bowl by 3-4 points.
• You just think it would be so special for that nice young man Tom Brady to catch a break for once.
• You’re a Saints fan and can’t stand to root for the Dirty Birds because the family squabble is inexplicably stronger than the wider existential threat. Seriously, go watch Independence Day.
• You think maybe this is the year Bill Belichick finally cracks his first-ever grin.
• You absolutely hate the letter R.
• You’re looking forward to a Lombardi Trophy celebration that’s mostly content grunts.
• Your favorite aspect of the Harlem Globetrotters is the level playing field.
• You pull for the rich bullies in '80s movies.

Why you should pull for the Falcons:

• You like Super Bowls to occasionally have unique results.
• You’re a John Elway fan and you’re looking for something to do today.
• You want to see the Belichick-Brady Patriots lose the Super Bowl for once for the third time.
• You don’t think Will Hunting is really all that good.
• You’re happy to see the Falcons finally make a Super Bowl run that isn’t the subplot in another team’s O. Henry story.
• You don’t question why Atlanta used the chant “RISE UP” when that clearly should have been a Phoenix thing.
• You feel like a third bird is overdue to win the Lombardi.
• You just should, OK?

Why you should pull for halftime:

• Houston’s famed lack of zoning laws means there’s no telling what kind of sharks will dance behind Lady Gaga.
• The Patriots can’t cheat then.
• The Falcons won’t let you down then.
• Someone’s wardrobe could fall down then.
• Eventually Roger Goodell will figure out how to take the fun out of this too.

Why you should pull for the commercials:

• At least half of them will assure you that everything is all right.
• You want to share in the collective joy of discovering a witty new spot that people with YouTube access watched last week.
• You’re in suspense over which particular new context Dad is going to get his crotch smacked this year.
• No matter who wins today’s Super Bowl, the real champion is capitalism.
• Because this is the Super Bowl we’re cursed with this year.

Monday, January 16, 2017

No tolerance for the intolerable

I’ve probably written this word-for-word before, but I’ll write it again. If it’s too long for you, then skip to the last line.

A common debate tactic against tolerant* people is to say, “YOU’RE NOT REALLY TOLERANT,” whenever said alleged tolerator voices an opinion against something. This is meant to be a damning revelation of hypocrisy, but really it’s just stupid.
(*-I personally dislike the term “tolerant,” as it implies that other groups of people are meant to be endured rather than embraced, but nevertheless the broad consensus is that “tolerant” is a positive term, so here it is.)

Why is it stupid?

For one thing, pointing out hypocrisy is the most overused and desperate argument in politics today. It can be a legitimately powerful hand to play when, say, a “family-values” politician engages in the behavior they publicly abhor. But most of the time, it’s a lazy argument intended to discredit someone without addressing what they say (usually by comparing unmatching, irrelevant and/or made-up things). If you have to be an acrobat to make your point, your point probably sucks.

Second — and most importantly — “YOU’RE NOT REALLY TOLERANT” is a meaningless statement in a world that has standards of decency.*
(*-Assuming we’re still there. I don’t know anything anymore.)

Those who push that sentiment claim that the “hypocrite” is tolerant only of ideas that suit their beliefs — whereas the critic is an open-minded advocate of a wider marketplace of ideas.

Let’s talk about that marketplace of ideas.

That metaphor makes sense if you’re talking about an issue and you differ merely on specifics. For example, if you’re debating education reform, it’s fair and reasonable to duke out varying proposals. Some might work better than others, and others might not work at all — but the discussion is useful. Attempts by anyone to suppress talk of one side of the issue deserve to be decried. Let the issues stand and fall on merit. Thumbs up.

However, just as a supermarket tends not to stock rotten food, the marketplace of ideas has its limits. I like to think that we frown upon murder, rape, child molestation, arson, theft and other affronts to functional society. It’s rare even in the most polarized clashes for someone to ask, “How about giving rape a fair shake?” No one does that because rape is a horrible crime. Likewise, no one accuses a critic of arson of being unfair to arson.

It used to be like that for bigotry, too. Even if some among us still held those toxic views, we all agreed for a little glorious while that they didn’t belong in the marketplace. Nowadays, though, there’s a strange notion that discrimination deserves a space at the table like any other idea. So arguing that groups of people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of what they are is grounds to have your “tolerance” questioned. It’s a tactic that’s simultaneously brilliant and stupid. Brilliant because it works. Stupid because it’s wrong.

So as I’ve said countless times both in type and in person:

No one has to be tolerant of intolerance.