The Internet was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, so of course we discussed this at The Perpetual Post and on our weekly radio podcast. Check them out!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I was more than a little skeptical upon learning of the Internet’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Really? The Internet? Was it nominated by the kind of person who thinks that a little gnome turns off the light in the refrigerator when you close the door? Did its nominators realize that the internet lacks not only a publicist and the ability to rent a limousine to take to the ceremony, but also a tuxedo size?
I also have to wonder exactly what new realm we are entering by nominating an inanimate object for such a prize. Where do we go from here? Should we nominate the Kindle for a prize in Literature? It’s certainly promoted the availability of books and other printed material. Can Diet Dr. Pepper be nominated for the chemistry prize? After all, it does taste just like regular Dr. Pepper. Now that non-sentient beings (besides Susan Lucci) can be expected to compete for prestigious awards, will that detract from the meaningfulness of the award for human participants? Or should they consider themselves lucky to share a nomination with something as popular as The Internet?
One important aspect to consider is intent. An inanimate object, no matter how useful it is, does not commit those useful acts intentionally. It is a tool, a resource created by actual beings to serve a specific purpose. You can argue that so was Mother Theresa, but I wouldn’t buy it. The Internet, lacking any kind of self-awareness or personality, is different from a scientist or a human rights activist, in that it did not promote peace on purpose. And this lack of intent, I believe, means that it cannot be held responsible for any actions it has performed, nor should it be rewarded for them. You may as well nominate the Fork for its work in helping to end world hunger. Certainly it may have played a role. But it was as a tool, designed and implemented by many others, who should themselves be thanked if anyone is.
Howard and I discussed this hot topic in this week’s Perpetual Post.
I don’t think that babies should be banned from bars; I’m not sure it’s possible to enforce a law like that anyway. In fact, the occasional quiet tot spending an hour or two in a corner booth with his parents is not a crime, nor does it generally disturb other customers. But such an occurrence should be the exception, and not the rule.
I believe that people should be more or less discouraged from bringing their babies with them to the bar, because otherwise things will inevitably start to get out of hand. The moment parents begin to feel that it is appropriate for them to forget about a babysitter for the evening and bring junior out on the town is when things will start to go downhill, fast.
Parents are notoriously oblivious when it comes to the effect of their children on others and the enjoyment of their children by others. Their ability to understand that not everyone is enthralled with their offspring is limited at best—and will be further impaired by alcohol.
Not only that– if the general consensus becomes that it is acceptable for a young child to accompany adults to a drinking establishment, I fear the time will come when you won’t be able to play a game of dirty Photo Hunt without a scandalized mother clapping a hand over her toddler’s eyes behind you. After a rough night or afternoon you may find yourself vomiting in a filthy bar bathroom while a disapproving parent in the next stall is reminding her child to flush.
We are used to modifying our behavior when in the presence of children in most other public situations—bars should remain one of the few places where it is more or less acceptable to swear, shout, jostle around, make out and generally enjoy being drunk in public.
Which brings me to another point—children, even very young babies, tend to be extremely observant. Would you rather your baby scrutinize other children in playgroup, or bunch of jeering frat boys? Would you prefer to find him imitating the behavior of his teenage babysitter or a slurring barfly?
God willing, your baby will have plenty of time to spend sitting on a grimy bar stool, nursing a drink and alternately weeping and soiling himself. Why not let him put it off for a few decades?
In closing, unless your toddler has the wit and wisdom of F. Scott Fitzgerald or regularly entertains bartenders and pub clientele alike with bawdy stories and drinking songs (“I’m a Little Teapot” does not count), leave him at home.
Akie, Howard and I discussed baby names over at this week’s Perpetual Post.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I figured it might be useful during this discussion to have a look at some of the most popular Baby Names of 2009. It is fascinating to see the naming trends being created and followed by new parents.
Popular Baby Names of 2009:
A minimalist, utilitarian name for either a boy or a girl, this modern moniker calls to mind the sexy bad boy Tyler Durden from the seminal film masterpiece ‘Fight Club’. Spelling variations include Tiler, Tielr, Ytileur & Tielyr.
Edgier parents are beginning to embrace the idea of naming their children using emoticons. This kind of baby name is not for the faint of heart, but it is actually less of a burden than it might seem; since people tend to communicate more frequently by texting, emailing and otherwise typing to each other than by actually speaking to each other, introducing yourself by this name is fairly easy. It is also quite easy to spell. Variations on this name include : D and :> .
Why wait until your little girl is all grown up for her to realize that she is beautiful and hot? Children need to learn how to have self-esteem, with a name like Sexy, their confidence in themselves is built right in! Parents also enjoy the fact that their child’s name will already be embroidered in rhinestones on numerous items of clothing and track suits. Alternate spellings include Sexxy, Sexi, Sexxxy and Sessi.
This name brings to mind a very specific time and place, but mostly a place. It’s experienced a renaissance in the last few months, ever since the state unveiled a brand new motto: “Connecticut: Name Your Baby after it and Win a $50 Target Gift Card”. Nicknames include Connie and CT.
This name’s popularity can be traced back to a Facebook Group called “Wouldn’t it be Awesome to Name Your Baby Sassafrass?” which was begun in late 2008. A related Facebook group is expected to form in around 2020 entitled “Sassafrasses United in the Fight to be Legally Emancipated from Their Parents”.
The origins of this name are mysterious, but it is believed to be of Dutch ancestry from the root word ‘snoogi’ which means “to keep the hands free”.
Personal Trainers are the topic du jour for Wednesday’s issue of the Perpetual Post.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I have become increasingly suspicious of personal trainers in general, particularly since I took my new gym up on its offer of a free session with a personal trainer for new members.
The personal trainer who provided the free session seemed like a nice enough terrifyingly enormous muscle-bound man, but it was not long before I realized that we were at cross-purposes. You see, at the time I signed up for the free session, I was in fairly decent shape. Ok, I’ll level with you: I was in the best shape of my life. I had begun training to run a half-marathon. I was working out nearly every day, eating healthy meals and drinking lots of water. I had a confident spring in my step. All my pants fit. I was disgusting. I don’t know what I really expected the personal trainer to do when I swaggered into the gym for my free session. Perhaps I was hoping he would look me up and down and say, “There’s nothing for me to do here. Run along now, I don’t want to ruin a masterpiece.”
In any event, he did not do that. He suggested that I could stand to lose a few pounds. When I let him know that I did not in fact want to lose any weight, he changed tactics and told me that I could bring my BMI down by a few points in order to be healthier. When I shrugged, he took me out onto the weight room floor and had me do a few exercises. Possibly ‘a few’ is not the correct word; that man had me doing endless squats, repetitive arm exercises with heavy weights, and a multitude of sit-ups, all of which I accomplished with a certain amount of aplomb.
“I am doing pretty well!” I thought smugly in my head. “I don’t need a personal trainer!”
At the end of the session I received another Hard Sell. Personal training would help me achieve my fitness goals and enable me to attain the best possible physical shape. I should invest in at least one session a week for three months in order to see visible results, I owed it to myself to seek professional assistance in this area, etc. etc. I nodded and smiled and then skipped out of the gym, whistling.
The next morning, I ached ALL OVER. I felt like a punching bag. But I also felt duped.
“That guy WANTED me to wake up feeling like a ton of bricks,” I thought to myself. “Maybe he figured that if I woke up feeling like crap after just one personal training session, I would realize that I owed it to myself to seek professional assistance in this area.”
Well, his plan failed. In fact, it backfired, because I spent the day grumbling about how lousy I felt all because of that damned personal training session. “That guy thought he could show me I needed a personal trainer,” I thought. “Well, I’ll show him. I’m going to gradually lose focus and interest in working out, slack on my training and start eating badly. He’ll be sorry he ever tangled with me.”
And this is where I find myself today; bloated from excess salt intake, constantly forgetting my gym clothes at home on purpose, my pants once again too tight and my arms weak and noodly. Thanks for nothing, personal training.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: The consequences of an internet-driven meteoric rise to overnight celebrity are still unclear. It’s only in the last few years that more people have begun achieving international fame and recognition almost overnight thanks to the power of the internet, so as of yet there is no way to project the effects of such an event on an individual ten or twenty years down the line. The seven year old from the overwhelmingly popular YouTube video ‘David After Dentist’ seems to be doing all right, but he could be one of the lucky ones.
Anyway, forget him. Now we have Tavi, and she’s adorable! She’s a good writer! She loves fashion and has cute hair and a messy room! She’s everyone’s favorite fresh new voice in the blogging world, an overnight sensation who spent fashion week attending coveted shows in New York City. And she’s thirteen years old.
What is going on here? Have we fully regressed? Has our culture’s increasingly absurd youth-worship reached a fever-pitch? What does a thirteen year old girl have to teach us, or the fashion industry, and why has she become so well-known and in such high demand in such a short amount of time? Why are fashion insiders patronizingly acting as though they are her peers? What does this say about them? And why does the whole thing make me feel so icky?
Part of it is the sudden and inexplicable embrace of a young woman who still has so much ahead of her. Yes, at thirteen Tavi is a talented writer and has intelligent opinions and a fresh voice. But like all young teenagers, she’s only beginning down the path to figuring out who she is as a person and who she would like to be. I’m not saying that path is fun, but it’s something we all go through as we discover more about ourselves and grow into adults. But maybe not. As she grows, will Tavi discover that her early fame has frozen her in time, arresting her development as a teenager by pinning her in the spotlight as a precocious thirteen year old?
Now that the adult fashion world has embraced her as one of their own, does it mean Tavi is an adult? Where can she possibly go from here, now that, as Stylecaster.com observes regarding her trip to Tokyo, “Our favorite little fashion blogger…is finally getting her dream come true.” Never mind the ridiculous use of the word ‘finally’ in reference to someone who is thirteen years old. Has she reached the highest point in her career at this premature stage?
What if Tavi starts breaking out and gaining weight as she moves into adolescence? Dating boys, craving privacy, defying her parents? Being a normal teenager? Can she do this, and maintain the persona that has been created for her by her fans and promoters in the fashion industry? Will she feel that she is moving forward if she matures and changes and grows? Or will she feel that she is instead moving further and further away from the Tavi that her fans know and love? Look at the models on the runway and tell me that the world of fashion is flexible and embraces change, growth, and maturity. As a thin, pretty, charming and very young woman, Tavi currently represents an ideal that many fashion designers worship. But will they give her room to grow?
Like everyone else, we at the Perpetual Post mused about the infamous ‘Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad’ before it aired. It’s since been revealed to be pretty anticlimactic, but our musings were interesting anyway. Read Jeff Morrow’s side here.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: The already-infamous ‘Tim Tebow Anti-Abortion’ Superbowl ad hasn’t even aired yet, but it’s already stirred up plenty of controversy.
The ad purportedly involves Tebow’s mother telling the story of how she became ill while she was pregnant with him and was urged by doctors to have an abortion for her own safety. As the legend goes, she chose not to listen to their recommendations, and gave birth to a baby who grew up to be named Florida’s Mr. Football, which is every mother’s dream.
The subtext of this ad demonstrates a relatively new approach for the anti-abortion set, and I have to say I’m impressed. Their normal tactics are usually about as subtle as a slap in the uterus. But the premise of this Mother Tebow ad appears to dig a little deeper, at least on the surface. Its view is a bit more nuanced; more thoughtful. It shows the consequences of an enormous and difficult life decision, and demonstrates one situation in which a woman’s choice to go through with a pregnancy results in a positive outcome. At least, if your definition of a positive outcome involves the existence of Tim Tebow. I’m on the fence there.
It should be noted that Tim Tebow’s mother ostensibly wanted to give birth so badly that she was willing to risk her life to carry her pregnancy to term. This places her apart from a majority of women who seek to terminate their pregnancies because they did not plan them and either can’t afford or do not want to have a child. It should also be noted that Mrs. Tebow already had four children when she was pregnant with Tim. It is unlikely that the ad focuses on the fact that she would have left four children motherless if she had died as a result of her commitment to bringing Tim Tebow into the world and thus into the Florida Gators.
No, the brilliant part of this ad is not what it glosses over, but that it targets with laser precision a dread that I have come to believe lurks in the reptilian brain of every anti-abortionist, and even some who are pro-choice: the irrational fear that if their mothers had had the option to choose not to give birth to them, they wouldn’t be alive today. Scary, right? Makes you think? Not really.
I personally am a very analytical person. I tend to over-think everything, from what I should do with my career to what I should have for lunch. But I do not now, nor have I ever, nor WILL I ever wonder what the world would have been like if my mother had aborted me. Because really, what’s the point? Obviously I was born. That’s that. Why pursue such vague and disturbing and ultimately useless what-ifs? Either you’re born, or you’re not, and if one happened, there’s no way to know what it would have been like if the other had happened instead, so why waste your time thinking about it?
Yet many do. The fact that their mothers held incredible power over their lives and could have made a choice not to bring them into this world haunts them. It keeps them up at night. They may not even realize it, but by picketing planned parenthood clinics and harassing young pregnant women and creating pro-life propaganda, they aren’t only fighting to save unborn babies they know nothing about; they’re fighting, in some strange way, to save themselves, and to take away the choice that every mother should have to carry a child to term or not, so that they can rest assured that their lives never hung in the balance, the way Tim Tebow’s could have (but ultimately didn’t).
The flip side of the coin of course is that for every Mrs. Tebow there was also a Mrs. Dahmer. It’s hard to argue that the world is a better place because Tim Tebow is in it, without also reflecting that the world would have also been a better place if Pol Pot’s mother had had second thoughts during her first trimester. This pointless line of thinking; this attribution of some greater design to past incidents which relied heavily on chance and circumstance, leads to murkiness, not clarity.
I’ll be curious to see reactions to this ad once it finally airs. Although I find every argument against allowing women the freedom to choose to be unconvincing, I’ve got to give this ad credit for tapping into an inexplicable and profound dread of the anti-abortionist movement. Tim Tebow, not only did you grace the September 2008 cover of Men’s Fitness magazine, but you’re also about to become the poster child of our deepest fears. Do your mama proud!
We took on the Super Bowl over at the Perpetual Post this week. Find other view points here! (But mine is the rightest one).
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I tend to forget about the ‘Super Bowl’ part of Super Bowl Parties until I walk in the door, and by then it’s too late; I’ve got a beer in each hand and my face in a bowl of bean dip and it would be too awkward to back out the door again. So every year, someone I know invites me to a Super Bowl Party, and like a Peanuts character, all I hear is “I’m having a wuh-wah-wuh Party this weekend, you should come!” So I always do, and I always suffer.
Part of the problem is that Super Bowl Parties are deceptively titled. The ‘Super Bowl’ part of the phrase is a tarted-up euphemism for watching football that is easily glossed-over. If people instead invited me to, ‘Come over to my place and watch some football,” as they do sometimes, I would do what I usually do and laugh in their faces. I don’t do “watch football”. Football bores me to tears. Any time I ‘watch football’, what I’m actually doing is marveling briefly at the glint of shiny spandex on giant undulating male buttocks and thighs, and then sinking into a coma. Watching football crushes my gentle spirit, scores a touchdown on my will to live and does a victory dance in the barren end zone of my soul.
But the thing is, I LOVE parties. And I understand that they come in many shapes and sizes, although as a rule, most of them involve snacks and drinks. I personally am fairly liberal when it comes to my definition of what constitutes a party. In fact, you could invite me to your “Watch Me Do My Taxes Party”, and as long as you promise nachos, I will probably show up with a noisemaker. But a Super Bowl Party is a nationally-recognized event that does not meet even my generous requirements of a party, and that is a tragic thing indeed. In this way, the Super Bowl Party is my Trojan horse. It betrays me on a yearly basis.
True, Super Bowl parties usually deliver on the food and booze. That is one thing they have going for them. They also have lots of yelling, which is sometimes fun. But they almost always lack sparkling conversation. Most conversations I have at Super Bowl Parties go something like this:
Me: “So what do you do for fun?”
Person sitting to my left: “Well, sometimes I like to EEUUEUAARRRGGGHH GO GO GO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! RUNNNN!!!”
Me: “Oh…sorry. Let me wait until commercials are on.”
Me, Later: “So, what kind of dip is th—“
Everyone around me: “Shhhhh! Commercials!”
Me: “This party sucks.”
May I add, that any party whose highlight for some involves watching commercials is frankly a sad affair.
Sometimes I wonder if I am not the only one out there who is suckered year after year into spending four hours of my Sunday night drinking Miller Lite and stealthily picking the peanuts out of the Chex Party Mix. When I look around at most Super Bowl Parties, I like to imagine that not everyone there is swooning over field goals and eagerly anticipating the half-time show. There must be others like me—maybe there are even quite a few of us. A covert army of nonbelievers hovering over the Doritos and masking our yawns with suspiciously ill-timed and half-hearted cheers. If only there were some way we could band together and create our own celebrations, far from the mind-numbing infographics and repetitive trumpety theme music of the blaring, omnipotent football game.
Except…Sunday evening is kind of a terrible time to bother having a competing party. Maybe next year they’ll hold the Super Bowl at a more convenient time. Let’s wait and see. And in the meantime, I’ll console myself with beer and maybe a few more hot wings. I guess things could be worse.
Jillian Lovejoy Lowery and I took on the decision by Whole Foods’s CEO to offer increased store discounts to employees based on their overall health. Her side is available at the Perpetual Post’s main site.
I would like to applaud Whole Foods CEO Steve Mackey for introducing a plan that offers his employees a larger store discount based on their overall physical health and fitness. No longer just a patronizing corporation with a moral-superiority complex, Whole Foods is showing that it cares enough about its employees to do what it can to lower its company healthcare costs.
All company employees currently enjoy an impressive 20% store discount, which serves to make Whole Foods products only approximately twice as expensive as the products carried in other supermarkets. However, beginning in January of 2010, employees who meet certain health criteria, including low blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and no nicotine use, will be entitled to enjoy a further discount of up to 30%.
Upon learning this news, the blood-pressure of many Whole Foods employees temporarily rendered them ineligible for participation in the program.
Still, many agree that it’s about time the obese are punished financially, and not just from health problems and discrimination from their peers and society in general. It’s also fitting that those who are physically fit be monetarily rewarded for being so, as they enjoy few other privileges from being healthy and in shape.
The goal of the program is likely aesthetic as well as cost-conscious. After all, how inspired would you be to purchase a $7 box of organic Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal that has been laboriously stocked by an obese, heavy-breathing Team Member with a pack of Parliaments sticking out of his back pocket?
Mackey’s letter to employees introducing the program, which was leaked to the media by an employee who was interested in sharing the news of their CEO’s generosity with the rest of the world, states that “we believe this is a win-win program that will help both our Team members and our shareholders.”
The next step on this road will likely be for Mackey to encourage healthy behavior in his shareholders by offering them increased stock options based on their smoking habits and weights. I’m sure that this program will be rolling out very shortly, and I plan to keep an eye out for that memo.
Jeff Morrow and I took on Corporations in this week’s Perpetual Post. His side is much better than mine. Read it here!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I don’t understand why everyone is so concerned about the fact that corporations are now free to donate massive sums of money to promote the political candidates of their choosing.
Corporations are an enormous and hallowed part of American life! We spend our lives wrapped tightly in the warm embrace of a colorful range of different companies. They feed us, entertain us, teach our children what is important, tell us what to drive and how to dress and where to shop. I ask you, where would we be without the guidance and leadership we enjoy thanks to enormous conglomerates and their hundreds of faithful CEOs, boards of directors, advertising executives and other employees? What would we do without them?
Why this sudden indignation at the idea of giving corporations the same freedoms and rights as people, anyway? Corporations already have personalities which we all know and love! You know as well as I do that Disney is the amiable, heartwarming and child-friendly but still evil one. PepsiCo is the dark horse with the evil heart of gold. Frito-Lay is its cheerful, friendly subsidiary that makes evil snacks. Fox is the sneaky evil conservative one. Kraft Foods is the gross one. And on and on! Please—we KNOW these corporations! They are like family to us! Why not give them a seat at the table when it comes to the leaders and issues who shape the rest of our lives?
Corporations already know how to advertise—it’s what they DO! Why stand in their way? I’m sure they’re going to be able to create some extremely compelling political advertisements! It will be a welcome change from the drab, amateurish quality of most commercials we see now a days that are financed by wussy little candidate support groups. How can we lose by letting Philip Morris inject some mystique into a politician’s ad, or allowing a little of GE’s maudlin sensitivity tug at our heartstrings as it convinces us that clean coal is the future?
Finally, I don’t see how we can say no to the desire of corporations to help us out in the political arena. It isn’t as though we’ve been doing a great job choosing leaders ourselves lately! Why not give our corporate friends the chance to get in there and help us make decisions about our leadership? ExxonMobil knows how much we like to drive– maybe they can remind us that we need to support a candidate who can make sure we continue to obtain as much oil as we can from wherever we can get it. Wal-Mart already knows how much we like cheaply made goods at rock-bottom prices; maybe they can help steer us toward a politician who is going to relax restrictions on child-labor laws to keep down the prices of imports. Now we’re talking! If we can help corporations, they’ll help us! Just like they’re doing now, only even more so.