Archive for August, 2010

The Dumbing Down of America

The other day I overheard a guy in the grocery store say, “I just can’t understand why Obama won’t tell people when and where he was born or that he is a Muslim.”  Huh?  This guy was buying some expensive wine and I happened to follow him out to the parking lot where he got into a brand new BMW.  So he seems to have money, but it goes to show that having money doesn’t necessarily mean people are well informed.

You should read Timothy Egan’s column in the New York Times titled “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings.” In it, Egan describes how many of us are victims of a lot of rhetoric based on half-truths and innuendo.  For example,  Rush Gasbag is an expert at questioning when and where Obama was born, and what his religion is. The Gasbag is always “questioning,” never asserting as fact.  So he can never be accused of prevaricating or making things up.  He is just “asking the question.”  Of course, his millions of listeners don’t go any further.  If Rush is questioning, then it must be so.

Come on, people.  Have you actually taken the time to find the facts yourself?  Just because somebody like the Gasbag has a radio show does not make him factual.  There are places you can go like to find out the facts about virtually everything being said by politicians from both sides of the aisle.  Do that.

It is troubling that the news media have walked away from objectivity.   It used to be that news was fact-based information.  More and more it has become a lot of talking heads giving their opinions about the news.   The networks and the cable folks have tons of “experts” and “consultants” and “analysts” who quack away with their opinions in self-important ways that would have us believe this is fact.  Viewers come away parroting the “expert consultant” as if the comments were fact.  It is not. (By the way, why is a person who comments called a commentator?  Shouldn’t it be commenter?  It’s sort  of like orientated versus oriented.  But I digress.)

There is such competition for eyeballs across the gazillions of blogs, websites and channels that viewership goes to the loudest, most polarizing, most sensational and sleaziest.   The word “good” is never in front of the word “news.”  It’s interesting that compared to the mid-20th century there are tons more places to get “news.”  But there is not more news.  Thus we get the Olbermanns and Becks trying to outshout each other with their polarizing rhetoric.

And what about those of us who view all this crap?   The “news”  takes louder and more extreme points of view to get somebody’s attention.  We have become a country of passive know-nothings who would rather watch reality shows than get the facts about the economy, political views or a presidential birthplace.  It is amazing that people believe Obama is a communist, a fascist, a socialist, a Muslim and a non-citizen.  Really folks?

I think we need a reality check.  And I don’t mean watching more reality television shows.  It’s a sad commentary  that a piece of garbage like Jersey Shore is getting amazing ratings.  And that one of its “stars” will earn close to $5 million for uh, demonstrating the joy of an uncluttered mind.   So, reality television thrives and the “news”  is hijacked by more and more gasbags.

It’s still  a wonderful country but getting dumber.


Saturday Shallow

Family Guy is simply brilliant.  And for proof you need to look no further than this , do I dare say,  rabid fan?  And he bears a striking resemblance to Brian. 

What They Don’t Know

Next month my older son enters college.  Yikes!  Those 19 (Happy Birthday Nick!)  years went by in about five minutes.  Because he is starting this new chapter, the annual Beloit College Mindset List seems very relevant.  This list is created each year to give professors an idea of what is and is not germane to entering freshmen so that the topics they discuss actually resonate with the kids. 

The list includes stuff like putting filn in a camera or actually going to a photo developing place.  Or how about the fact that there actually was a time when reality tv meant news or sports.  Or not knowing who is calling you on the phone. 

It made me think of other examples.  Like  teenagers today have very different feelings about the number 911 than when I entered college.    Neither of my teenagers has ever worn a watch.  In fact, once I asked them if they wanted one for Christmas and they looked at me like I was from Mars.  I do think they can understand a non-digital clock.  But I’m pretty sure they cannot count back change: when the cash register displays their change due, they assume it’s right.

Other little things are interesting too.  For example, when I say “Thank You,”  they say “No Problem.”  What happened to “You’re Welcome?”  They never use a land line… always their cell phones.  And when they answer the phone — like once a month — they usually say “‘Sup?” rather than ” Hello.”  They can’t go anywhere without their music and they rarely listen to the car radio.  They’d rather plug in their iPod music to the radio.  And nobody has anything other than an iPod.

They are actually pretty good drivers.  They Mapquest or Google directions if not using a GPS.  They never use a street map or an atlas.  Does anybody?  It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they get a flat tire.  I suppose they will just call me.  Maybe I should give them a lesson.

Nick and his brother may not know about rotary phones, vinyl records or typewriters but they know way more than I do about technology.  They don’t read the newspaper and barely watch the news.  They may not know everything but they are wise beyond their years.  Their friends are of every race and sexual orientation.  They care about the foods they eat and understand the value of being healthy.  They resent bigotry and judgmental people. 

To paraphrase the movie title:  I think the boys will be alright.

Friday Shallow

This should help ease you into the weekend.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was already pretty cool and now he shows just how natural a woman should feel.  Very cool.

Another Great American

Here’s another wonderful candidate for Congress.  It is reassuring to see that, if elected, Pamela Gordon will bring some gun-totin’ savvy to Washington D.C.  Are you feeling me Dale Peterson?

Red Light, Green Light

The other day I was slowing for a yellow light at an intersection.  Just as the light turned red I came to a stop and  a car in back of me laid on the horn.  I looked in the rear view mirror to see a red-faced guy gesturing at me and the very red light as if to say:  “You shoulda gone, we could have made it.”  

Red Light Camera

Putting aside the fact that he would most certainly have run a red light and that he was a jerk, it reminded me of the pending vote on red light cameras in Mukilteo.  Tim Ey (Not you) Man has proposed that the red light camera ordinance be put to a citizen vote.  In his words:  “This is not about safety, it’s about creating revenues for the city.” 

Well, let’s count the ways Ey (Not you) Man is wrong. 

1.  It is about safety.  A lot of accidents occur when people feel they MUST run that red light to get somewhere one minute sooner.  Since police can’t be at every intersection, voila, red light cameras.  What a concept: fining people for breaking the law.  Imagine that.

2.  It absolutely puts money into city coffers and that is a very good thing.    I’m sure you have read about all the revenue shortfalls of virtually every entity of government.  From the DOL to teacher layoffs to government office furloughs to reduction of police and fire employees.  So, why would we not generate money for cities from people breaking the law? 

3.  Of course there is a simple solution: don’t run the red light.  I would guess that the times I have run a red light in my life have saved me a total of about 20 minutes.  That is precious time that I could have spent eating more, drinking more, sleeping more and yes, driving more.   

Look, I’m just as concerned as the next person about all the government spending.  It’s pretty scary when you see the growing debt.  But even more scary is the declining tax revenues that are causing big budget cuts everywhere.  

I think red light cameras are a smart way to generate some badly needed revenues for cities.  If you agree, then drive on over to Tim’s house and let him know.  Just don’t run a red light.

Weekend Shallow

This is where I will be for the forseeable future.

My backyard and summer office