In honor of my upcoming Bard reunion, here’s a post about high-school reunions, which are like college reunions, except 6000 times worse! Link to the full discourse, courtesy of The Perpetual Post, is here.
My ten-year high school reunion is around the corner, and my feeling is, either I’m showing up with Hugh Jackman on one arm, pushing a stroller full of nonuplets with the other, or I’m not showing up at all.
A high school reunion is no time for subtlety. Trust me, nobody wants to hear about your new springer spaniel puppy or your job in publishing. They want to see whether you got fat or divorced or developed a nervous tic. They want to hear if you’ve saddled yourself with a whiny loser or had any kids, and if those kids are fat. They want to casually pretend not to recognize you, to show that they’re too cool to bother remembering once knowing you. Ninth grade habits die hard. Maybe things will be different in another ten years when you all feel like failures, but right now it’s still too soon. Your only defense against this kind of behavior is a good offense, and you only get one chance to make a dynamite first impression—to achieve that sweet moment of redemption that somehow erases an entire freshman year spent pretending that you had no friends on purpose. You better make it good.
But wait, put the monocle down, sparky. Don’t bother going if you’re going to look like you’re trying. You cannot walk back into the gym reeking of desperation. If you’re busy whiting out the word ‘Assistant’ on your business cards or thinking up ways to make it sound like you moved back in with your parents because they missed you, stay the hell home, and I’ll tell you why: Above all, the name of the game is to keep those bitches guessing, and sometimes, putting in a non-appearance is the flashiest way to do that. In the back of their minds, those people I spent four years love-hating are bound to have a brief moment of wondering, “Huh, and where is Molly? I was looking forward to pretending not to recognize her.”
Is she sitting at home watching The Wedding Date and eating raw Pillsbury Crescent Rolls from the can? Or out partying topless on the French Riviera with Kate Moss? Maybe I’m home polishing my Nobel Peace Prize or at a cocktail party chatting with Tom Wolfe and wearing a 24 karat gold pantsuit. No one really knows. And nobody really wins, either, but I also don’t have to nod with a frozen smile on my face as my former classmate tells me she just got back from spending the year in Machu Picchu, “just hanging out”. I don’t have to congratulate girls who used to make fun of my thrift store clothes for passing the Bar exam, or having babies, or headlining the World Organization Committee on Agricultural Transportation Banking Summit. So actually, someone does win: Me. Take that, Class of 1999!
Howard, Akie and I took on Kim Kardashian’s nuptials for this week’s Perpetual Post. Because we looooove her soooo much!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: As Tolstoy liked to say, “All happy families are alike, but unhappy families are much better for ratings.” Following this principle, I can’t imagine the Kardashian Klan ever reaching a point of tranquility, since they appear to favor publicity more than anything else. There’s constant drama and heartbreak and confusion—all very conveniently made public. If questionable levels of quasi-fame is what this family is after (and it apparently is), they’re handling things the right way! After all– a loving, stable household is extremely boring to everyone outside it. Not only that, but the public doesn’t want to hear about how happy celebrities are and how well their marriages and lives are going. For one thing, it gives the rest of us one more way in which we don’t measure up to them. Also, we like gossip! And finally, why should celebrities get to have everything? They already have money, fame and endless adulation from every corner. The least they can do is show us how miserable and divisive their personal lives are! It’s the price they pay for fame, right?
This is why I have a bad feeling about the inexplicably sudden marriage of Kim Kardashian to whats-his-head. (Even though I don’t really want to waste feelings on it). The whole situation smacks of a really kind of disgusting, self-aggrandizing, and shallow publicity stunt. And really, I’m a little confused as to why the marriage of woman of mediocre talents who is famous for being famous should mean anything to anyone. After all, now Kim Kardashian is married. Does this change anything for anyone? Have the tectonic plates shifted? Do we now know what love is?
No, no, and no—and that’s going to be a problem. Kim’s played her ace with this over the top wedding stunt. The only way the Kardashians are going to stay in the spotlight is if they continue to manufacture drama, and Kim Kardashian the dull, happily married woman is not going to hold our interest for very long. There’s a reason Shakespeare’s plays tended to end with the big joyous weddings—nobody much cared what happened after that. The wedding is over—now for the irreconcilable differences.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I am concerned about the precedent set by the historic Female Employees vs. Walmart lawsuit, which was recently thrown out of court for being too big to move forward. You see, that lawsuit was but a fraction of the size of the countersuit that I am currently assembling: Pretty Much All of Us vs. Kim Kardashian.
To give you a little background, which you probably don’t need but wish you did: Kardashian is suing an actress who recently appeared in an Old Navy commercial because she believes the actress resembles her and is thus damaging her public image. I’ve watched the commercial and honestly, the actress does look a bit like Kim Kardashian—but nobody would ever confuse the two of them for more than a few seconds. And the resemblance is mostly because the actress is a dark-haired, dark-eyed, spoiled-looking girl in a tacky outfit. Perhaps the problem is that Kim Kardashian saw herself in the actress, didn’t like what she saw, and, rather than engaging in some deep self-reflection to confront the problem, she indulged in the Hollywood alternative to soul-searching: hiring a lawyer.
Now, I could argue that Kardashian’s public image has nowhere to go but up. I could also argue that the actress being sued has every right to sue Kardashian right back for implying a resemblance between the two of them, which has potentially derailed any chance she has at ever being taken seriously or liked. But instead, I’m gathering together a number of plaintiffs across the country (essentially the entire country) and we’re going to sue Kim Kardashian for existing—since by doing so she is causing every single one of us irreparable pain and suffering.
Think about it. How many times have you been forced to confront the terrifyingly nightmarish fact of Kim Kardashian? Against your will, even? How many magazine covers have thrown her overexposed visage into your unwilling gaze? How many websites have written exhaustively about her many uninteresting relationships and her many untalented siblings and their uninteresting relationships? How many evenings have you channel-surfed past one of her terrible reality shows and shuddered reflexively at being forced to acknowledge that the world contains her? How will you ever get those precious moments of your life back? Who will restore your damaged memories and soothe your troubled soul?
Kim, we’re out for blood. And there’s not a jury in the world that won’t order you to pay out an enormous settlement to every single one of us. The only problem is going to be recruiting jurors who aren’t already part of my lawsuit. Come to think of it, that might be impossible. You win this round, Kim Kardashian. And all of us continue to lose.
This week Dave Tomar, Matthew David Brozik and myself took on Netflix’s recent price hike in the Perpetual Post. My side is below. You can read the full piece here. Trust me, the fur flies!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Hey Netflix, don’t stream on my shoes and tell me it’s raining. Your new, higher, “a la carte” pricing for previously combined, low-cost services is just bad business.
You could have at least given your customers the courtesy of pretending as though you aren’t trying to wring every last cent out of them, the way cable and internet providers have been doing forever: Simply let your monthly pricing creep up gradually, month by month, year by year, so that I don’t even realize how much I’m actually spending until I’m taking out a second mortgage to pay for cable. It’s like giving me a soothing backrub as you steal my wallet. At least it shows you care enough to hide what you’re doing to me from me, instead of just hiking your prices right in my face and expecting me to smile wanly and fork over the extra cash.
And I don’t buy the argument that this new pricing is fair because the original price for these services was so cheap that we should just appreciate how great that was. You’re damn right, the original price was cheap, and I liked it that way! I like things that are cheap! And I don’t need a price hike to make me realize how cheap something formerly was. You know what really makes me appreciate the cheapness of something? Keeping it cheap! As an analogy, right at this moment, I also appreciate the fact that my big toe is not throbbing in terrible pain. Should I hit it with a hammer, then, so that I can remember even more clearly how great it felt before I did that?
Nor do I understand the logic that since the price hike is only $6-7 bucks a month for the average household, it’s not such a big deal. Sure, that’s not a large amount. But when I consider the fact my monthly bill of $9.99 is going to increase by about 60%, to $15.98, and for the exact same services I’ve been getting for $9.99, I feel very indignant. No, the extra $6 is not all that stands between me and starvation. I can afford it. But is that a valid defense? That most of your customers can afford the price hike? Most of my friends can afford to give me $5 a month for the exact same level of friendship I have been providing them for years for free. But is fair for me to ask for it?
And if this price hike is because the cost of streaming is higher than Netflix originally forecast, well maybe they should have done their homework on that when they were originally designing their pricing model. That’s part of their job; to price services in a way that is both profitable for the company, and reasonable for the customer. Now I’m supposed to pay an extra $70+ bucks a year because someone in accounting forgot to carry the one?
All over the internet, Netflix customers are muttering angrily that thanks to this price hike, they have canceled their accounts, or are strongly considering canceling them. And perhaps Netflix was even counting on this. Perhaps they did the cold hard math and realized that if 40% of their customers desert them over this astronomical price hike, they’ll still be making more money than they ever were before, thanks to the revenue brought in by said price hike. But the problem is, it’s not just about the money, and you would think Netflix would know this. A big part of staying in business relies on customer loyalty. For whatever reason, Netflix customers have long tended to be extremely loyal. Perhaps it’s Netflix’s legendary customer service or their keen ability to understand the utter depths of our laziness. Everything about using Netflix IS ridiculously laid-back and easy. And those little red envelopes are so cheerful. But there is only so far these things can go, in the face of such cruel pricing practices. And customer loyalty, so gradually attained, is extremely hard to win back after a gaffe like this.
Those customers who don’t desert Netflix in droves; the ones who hang on and swallow their pride and pay the increased pricing—they won’t have the same love in their hearts for Netflix anymore. They’ll stay, but they’ll be watching the horizon for the dawn of the Next Big Lazy Movie-Watcher Service Provider. And they probably won’t have to wait long. It feels like every time you turn around, there’s a new, even easier way to rent or stream TV shows and movies.
I’m convinced that this is going to be your ‘Let them eat cake’ moment, Netflix. You should have continued to offer cheaper cake.
Me, Jessica, Howard & Akie had a Seasonal Show-down during this week’s Perpetual Post. My side is below; read the full post here.
I can’t say exactly why Fall is my favorite season, but that almost seems appropriate. Sometimes the things you love the most defy explanation. Sure, I can name many, many reasons why Fall is a wonderful season, but most of those reasons are bittersweet, and tinged with melancholy. Kind of like Fall!
The colors of Fall are beautiful, for one thing—a bright, festive explosion of autumnal splendor. Granted, leaves do turn dazzling right before they die, so that’s a bit of a downer. But they’ll be back. In the meantime, you can console yourself by going apple-picking and drinking cider. Biting into a crisp Fall apple right off the tree in the height of the season? There’s nothing like it.
Then there’s the rest of the Fall palette. October Fest beer comes onto the scene, and pumpkin-flavored beer and pumpkin spice coffee. And if you don’t love pumpkin-flavored things, how do you feel about sweaters? Sweaters are great! And so is wearing cozy socks, and jackets, and leaving the windows open in late afternoon even as the chill in the air gradually becomes more pronounced. Oh, and let’s not forget soup. And hot tea! Suddenly baking becomes fun again, too, which is a relief after spending an entire summer leaving the oven off because it will heat up the house, which is already a sauna. And did I mention chili? Eating warming foods is silly during Spring and Summer, and often not helpful enough in Winter. But in Fall? It’s the perfect amount of comfort.
And can we talk about Fall holidays? Even if you don’t get Columbus Day off (and I’m not saying anything either way about the validity of lauding Columbus, but I really love that holiday Monday), many jobs inexplicably give employees Thanksgiving Day AND The Day After Thanksgiving off. And Thanksgiving itself is a lovely holiday, given that its main focus is getting together with friends and family, cooking all day and then eating lots more food than you really should. And to top it off, there’s Halloween! The main focus of which is dressing up and eating candy!
Plus, if you’re something of a pessimist like me, you appreciate the sweet sadness of Fall. The sky never looks more brilliantly blue than it does in Fall. The days are still fairly long, and the sun still heats things up in the middle of the day, but when the wind blows it brings with it the faint, troubled scent of winter’s approach. I love that smell! The smell of lower temperatures to come; the feeling that Winter is inexorably approaching. Fall is a long, beautiful, resigned shrug. A knowing look in the form of a season. You and Fall both know that harder times are on the way. But that knowledge only makes Autumn’s brief beauty that much more brilliant.
Akie, Jeff, Dave & I discussed Google’s penchant for stealing user’s data while taking Street View photographs in Thursday’s Perpetual Post.
Right now a debate rages as to whether Google grossly overstepped its bounds by collecting and saving the data of users on wireless unencrypted networks for around 3 years. Frankly, I don’t see how there is any way that Google’s actions are defensible. Even if, as the company’s management claims, higher-ups were actually unaware that this data was being gathered, then the issue is still concerning, because it means that Google has some huge issues as far as supervising its employees or even being aware of what they are doing.
And ultimately, I find their sing-song “we didn’t know it was going on,” defense to be pretty unbelievable. Really, Google? For 3 years, mountains of private citizens’ data was being recorded and stored by your company, and none of the employees who were recording it ever said, ‘Hey, is this thing on? ’ In 3 years? Nobody ever came across the saved files and said, ‘Huh, what is this information and why are we collecting and storing it?’ I suppose this is why Google’s company motto isn’t “Don’t Be Willfully Ignorant”. If the company’s claims are true, and they really had no idea that this data collection was happening, then at the very least it would mean that Google operates pretty much like any other bumbling, corporate bureaucracy. It’s kind of like finding out that there’s no Santa, or that his elves, with or without his knowledge, save and store the records of which children have been naughty or nice for some unknown purpose.
In fact, Google’s famous ‘Don’t Be Evil’ company motto is receiving further scrutiny these days. Upon first blush it seems very hip and fun, the way Google itself seems, with its primary-colored logo and its funny name. ‘We’re like you, except in a billion dollar company!’ it seems to say. ‘Who likes evil? Not us!’ Still, when you think about it, evil is not always easy to define. There are a lot of grey areas, and what’s evil to me might be considered normal and necessary to, perhaps, a huge oil company or, say, a West Virginia coal mine.
It is also unclear at whom the phrase is actually being directed. Now that I think about it, the motto very well could be Google’s way of telling consumers not to be evil, and by ‘evil’ they mean, ‘concerned with their own privacy’ or maybe ‘questioning of Google’s motives’. Man. We should probably stop being so evil.
I am disturbed by the arguments of those who defend Google’s actions by stating that people who use unencrypted wireless networks are essentially asking for their data and information to be recorded by others. Perhaps their surfing habits are not password protected, but does this make them public knowledge? The last time I checked, the data of the kind Google was accused of collecting is not exactly left lying around on a park bench somewhere. Picking it up is not as easy as picking up someone’s dropped shopping list or reading their open diary. And even if it were, would that make it right? Just because my data is not locked up, does that mean it is no longer mine? Is it up for grabs? Is it morally right for someone else to snatch it up without my permission or knowledge? If I leave my diary out, and you read it, sure it’s partly my fault. But it’s your fault too!
The Supreme Court’s recent momentous (or monstrous, depending on your definition of ‘evil’) verdict declaring that corporations have the same rights as people as far as making donations to political candidates has raised an interesting issue as far as Google’s current quandary is concerned. If a corporation is to be treated like a person, then shouldn’t it be held to the same moral standards as a person? Especially when it’s a corporate person who preaches to us about evilness.
For the last few years, Google has built up a reputation as the Fun internet company. It’s young, it’s hip; everyone wants to be seen hanging out with it. But just because we’ve all been out with having a few beers and a few laughs with Google doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say anything when it rifles through our belongings while we’re in the can. You might be our friend, Google, but if you cross the line, we’ll still call you out on it and cut you down to size. We have to make sure you know what our boundaries are and that they need to be respected—otherwise, you might grow bolder, and who knows what you might do next.
Akie, Howard and I discussed calling after a first date in this week’s Perpetual Post.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Lately it seems as though a lot of women I love and respect have been prefacing statements with, “I’m not a feminist, but—“. This tends to make me mad, because the statements they’ve prefacing are usually about how women deserve to be treated equally, which, to me, is what feminism is essentially about. And yet they don’t want to be labeled as feminists, which I guess I understand, except I don’t. I am unequivocally a feminist, and I see nothing wrong with telling anyone who asks as much, because I don’t think there is any reason to not want to be seen as a feminist.
But I digress. There are still certain scenarios when my entire feminist perspective gets thrown out the window, where it is charged more at the dry cleaners and forced to do equal work for less pay. One example of such a scenario is when a friend of mine asks for advice after a first date. Generally, she’ll say something like, “We had a great time! He hasn’t called yet though. Should I call him?” To my astonishment and shame, I always find myself saying, “Hmm… better not.”
Why is this? At this point men and women take turns staying home with the kids, we achieve the same levels of education, we are both allowed to be doctors and nurses and flight attendants. Equality between the sexes is not there yet, but things are moving closer. And yet, when it comes to courtship, to a certain extent we may as well be back in the turn of the century, when a woman who wanted to snare a man had best not let him know of her interest until he couldn’t stand her avoiding him anymore and proposed marriage.
Much of it is the chase; I know it is. We still think that men want to chase us, and I guess a lot of them do, or think they do. But the problem is that technology has rendered the chase mostly obsolete. At this point it often consists of pressing the ‘Send’ button on a cell phone, or typing out a text message, or an email, or submitting an online friend request …basically, it’s almost harder NOT to be constantly in touch with other people. The chase is pretty sad these days. So if the chase has been lost, why are the other old customs still in place, like the one that says A Women Can Never Call a Man After a First Date, He Must Call Her (And if He Doesn’t, Oh Well, She’s Clearly Better Off)?
I think that part of this is due to tradition that is difficult to move past, and a lot of it is fear. A first date is such a tricky situation to begin with; you both bumble around, sweating, trying to be suave and to impress each other. At the end of the night, you are each pretty sure that the other had a good time, but at the same time you wouldn’t be surprised if they hate your guts. So it’s easiest for both parties to simply fall into the roles that are expected of them. It means neither has to rock the boat, which, if the date was a good one and each party is hoping for a second date, is comforting and provides some structure. Why not follow the rules, if that’s usually the way these things work? After all, if you don’t this time, what if you screw everything up? For a less stellar date, there might be more room for experimentation—a woman might feel more comfortable just picking up the phone to say hey if the date was just so-so—but in that case, why would she even bother?
The problem with tradition is, as 99.99% of us can attest from personal experience, waiting around for someone to call puts you in a foul mood. It is in fact Hell. So why does this have to be the woman’s job? Why does the man get the power to decide whether a second date is in the cards or not?
I don’t have an answer to this. And, as I’ve stated before, although I consider myself to be a feminist, when I first met my fiancé, I NEVER EVER called him. Even months after we’d been dating fairly seriously, I always waited for him to call me. So don’t look to me for answers, because I’m clearly screwed up. Still, let’s at least start to think about these gender roles and expectations, because if we don’t, centuries from now our great-great-great granddaughters will be sitting there after a good first date, waiting impatiently by the hologram machine. Let’s help them avoid that, shall we?