Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump life

So, Trump happened. President Trump is a thing now, and I, like a lot of people, am kind of embarrassed that America has let itself go like this. I can say I’m embarrassed of America because I love America, and I can be embarrassed of something an still love it i.e. grandparents, relatives, certain songs by Justin Bieber.

There’s not much for me to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said and covered in the thousands of op-eds and think pieces published daily. All I really can do here is to make my position clear and talk about my own family’s experience.

When Trump got elected, my wife cried and cried and my five-year-old asked me, “Why is mommy crying?” and I was at a loss for words. How am I supposed to explain racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, antisemitism, classism and so on and so forth to his little innocent face? He still thinks Spider-Man is a real person.

What I want to say is: Son, Donald Trump represents the worst parts of America. It’s like America was sitting out on the counter at room temperature for a while and it started to separate and all this weird filmy stuff floated to the top and that filmy stuff is Donald Trump and his ilk.

I also want to say: Son, Donald Trump has repeatedly spoken out against people who look like you and your mother. He has enabled a whole unsavory host of hate-filled people to feel like they can do and say whatever awful thing they feel like. Your mother is likely crying because she is afraid for you and her family and all of the other people Donald Trump has threatened.

Some good has come out of the whole Trump thing: It has forced me to talk to my kids about these issues, which I should’ve been teaching them about all along.

So far here are some of the topics we’ve had to cover:
  • Talking about race is OK, saying racist things is bad, and how to know the difference. People need to be OK talking about it. This also applies to issues of gender, religion, sexuality, etc.
  • Hating people is bad. Most people, no matter how much we disagree with them, don’t deserve to be hated. I’m OK with hating ideologies but I am squeamish to say I hate a person. To say, “I hate that racist,” seems highly ironic to me. “I hate racism,” feels better. Demonizing people I disagree with is not good.
  • Other people have feelings too. Civil discourse is nice. Polite discussion is nice. Openness and honesty and a willingness to pause talking to listen are great.
  • Problems are complex and thus solutions to problems are also complex. If you look at an issue and your analysis is so simplistic as: “The problem is obviously brown people, so the solution is obviously to ban, deport, or wall out all varieties of brown people,” then your analysis is dumb, and you need to re-analyze the problem.
  • We are religious but we are NOT Republican. You can be liberal and religious. It’s allowed. A lot of religious, Christian people have somehow gotten the idea that they HAVE to be Republican and I promise that is not the case. If ever there was a time to break with the Republican party, it’s now.
  • Lying is bad. We need to place value on the truth and verifiable facts and hold our elected officials accountable for what they say.
Great, well, I’m sure this has changed a lot of people’s minds. The internet is great, isn’t it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Little Caesar's, living your best life, and who should pay on a date

Do you like observational humor? Here’s an observational joke for you: Have you ever noticed that Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready Pizzas and very frequently NOT ready?

Seinfeld is rolling in his grave*. When I thought of this joke I actually got up from where I was sitting, opened a drawer and got out a pen, went to a shelf and got out a notebook, and wrote that mess down. In hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had forgotten that joke.

But seriously: the other night I was at Little Caesar’s and they told me it would be a 10-15 minute wait for a Hot and Ready, without any trace of irony. I sat in the little plastic chairs and while I waited I started to write an angry tweet to Little Caesars. Before I sent the tweet I had the thought, “It’s probably a better use of my time to just kill myself,” because if you’re in a Little Caesar’s on a Friday night, angry tweeting about a $5 pizza, it’s not really about the pizza, is it? Something else has gone wrong in your life to bring you to this point. Furthermore, Little Caesar’s doesn’t care one bit about your customer service experience. They know that people who can afford to go elsewhere for pizza, do. They know you’re going to be hungry and broke again, and you’ll come crawling back.

While I waited, a good-looking couple came in. They looked like they were on a date and they ordered the Hot and Ready pizza. The young man asked the young woman, “Hey, can you get this?” Now, call me old-fashioned, but I feel like if you’re on a date and it’s a $5 pizza, the guy can pay.

They sat down with me (their pizza wasn’t ready, of course) and while we waited a woman came in to order a Hot and Ready. She was an overweight woman, and I can say that since I am also overweight, so she is my people and we are bonded together by carbohydrates. She proceeded to get super upset that the Hot and Readies weren’t ready. She yelled at the-16 year-old disinterested cashier and demanded to see the manager, who was also 16, also disinterested, and also unable to help.

I had crazy respect for this lady, because, as an overweight person, I never want to seem too overeager to eat, especially when it’s something as nutritionally bankrupt as a Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pizza. I don’t want to be judged, like, “We get it fatty: you’re fat. We’ll get you your pizza as fast as we can and then you can cram it down your gullet as fast as you can.” But this lady didn’t care about any of that.

She was the hero of my evening, a role model, and she got her Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready before all the rest of us. I think she earned it.

*Seinfeld is obviously alive. This is, like, a joke within a joke. I invented it, I'm sure.

This post is adapted from a standup set I did a few nights ago. Like when a comedian writes a book that is just their standup bits in collected essay form (i.e. Dad is Fat). Not sure if the adaptation worked. You be the judge. I might do more of these in the future.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Critical of critics

I know Waldorf and Statler are technically hecklers, but they also have a lot in common with critics.
On March 15, 2008, one of my favorite bands, The Matches, released their third album, A Band In Hope. It was a watershed record for the band, and it was even more experimental than their previous album.

And the critics didn’t get it.

Or at least one critic in particular didn’t, and he sticks out in my memory. He gave the album two and a half stars and I was furious. One year later, The Matches called it quits and I blamed this critic, and all his ilk, for killing my beloved band. I would bet this reviewer didn't play an instrument, and had never written a song in his life. My question at the time was, “If you're so smart, why aren't you out there making the most perfect five star album of all time?” Furthermore, what gives this guy the right to critique this band, and why am I listening to him?

This same issue arises with critics of all stripes: “If you know so much about X, why aren’t you out creating the best X ever instead of sitting there typing snarky little witticisms that don’t really contribute anything?” I’ve realized that with creative endeavors: those who can, do, and those who can’t, become critics. It’s simple: If you are not good enough at something to do it professionally, make a job out of talking trash on those who are.

Here are some other problems I have with critics:
  • Bandwagon effect. Doesn’t it seem like once a few critics like something then there gets to be a critical mass of critics and then all of a sudden everyone loves something? That seems weird to me.
  • Time delay. Some works are initially panned but over time people warm up, and vice versa, so can we really trust critics?
  • Critics are out of touch. Take Superman vs Batman. I didn’t like it, and a lot of critics didn’t like it, but people in general seemed to love it.
  • Critics have questionable taste. Take Game Of Thrones. This show is rapey as hell, and misogynist to boot, but it is a critical darling and lavished with awards. Why?
  • Sometimes critics confuse “transgressive” with “good.” I’m not advocating censorship or being prudish, but I am saying that just because something breaks a taboo, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or revolutionary or even noteworthy.

And now, maybe you are asking: “Hey, man! Don’t you ‘review’ pop songs on here sometimes?” My answer: Yes, and I am a hypocrite. But those reviews clearly aren’t serious, and no one reads them anyway, so I’m only a half-hypocrite.

Maybe you are asking: “If you are critiquing critics, then aren’t you a critic critic? Perhaps criticism is in itself an artform and by critiquing it you should hate yourself by the criteria you have established here.” And to you I say: Fair point, but we will never be friends because you are clearly the worst.

Maybe you are also asking: “Is it possible that in the Information Age there is so much content flying at our faces that critics serve as a type of ‘gatekeeper,’ helping us filter out the good content from the bad and saving us time?” To that I say: Maybe, but is it worth putting up with critics? I’d rather just search blindly for my next Netflix show.

The moral of the story is: critics are off-puttingly smug and don’t take them too seriously.