November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Although it is Thursday (my normal blog day), I decided not to officially post a blog this week because of Thanksgiving. First of all, it's a holiday. Secondly, 90% of you will be traveling and with family, and you wouldn't read it anyway. And, lastly, it's difficult coming up with insightful, interesting, quasi-funny essays every week, so I deserve a break everyone once in a while, too! If you think this is a cop-out, you may be right. But get used to it... Christmas this year falls on a Thursday, too. See you next week and enjoy the turkey.

November 20, 2008

Hyphenation Alienation

I have a friend who recently got married and legally assumed a hyphenated last name. This wouldn't be a big surprise to me at all, if my friend wasn't a male. Yes, he is a guy who hyphenated his last name and, no, he did not marry another guy. I have never seen this before, have you?

I’m all for a woman hyphenating her last name or even keeping her maiden name. That is fine with me. In fact, I have a shitty last name, so I don’t blame any chick for wanting to avoid it. Believe me, I already present enough challenges for any girl who would want to marry me, so there’s no point in making it even worse with tagging her with an 11-letter last name. I've even jokingly said that I would consider switching my last name and taking HER name (assuming I ever got married), in order to lose a few syllables and put an end to years of misspellings on my credit cards. While I guess I would entertain changing my last name (if my parents were dead), the idea of hyphenating it has never occurred to me.

The invention of the hyphenated last name came from women who didn't want to completely switch their last name after getting married. Because of its origins, hyphenated last names have the appearance of being uniquely feminine and, therefore, unsuitable for a man. I’m guessing that this is the number one reason why no guy that I have ever know (except for one!) has ever taken on a hyphenated last name. I also imagine that it’s going to be a bit of a hassle for this guy, not so much because of the obvious jokes he might encounter (“Gee, John, I thought Nancy was the bride, not you!”), but you also probably have to explain it to a million people (for the rest of your life) when you're introduced to them, handing them your business card, etc. Thank goodness his first name is a typical man's name, otherwise I would assume there would be a lot of gender confusion by those who contact him sight unseen.

So why on earth adopt such a troublesome name? I’m assuming that his wife also hyphenated her last name, so maybe they wanted to pair themselves up properly. It's a little weird for the guy I know, because his name is hyphenated in the traditional female style of maiden name first, followed by the groom's name... his real last name isn't even listed first, which is odd. But, again, I’m sure it was done to match the couple up with the same last (hyphenated) name.

So why is it important to have a matched up last name? Someone suggested that it is for when they have kids. The kids would then have two parents with the same last name and the children would also share that same last name. In theory, this sounds sweet, until you think that the kid now has a last name that is double in traditional size, contains a character that is not in the alphabet, and is completely alien from any last name that any other kid has! I’m pretty sure that a hyphenated last name is going to get that kid’s ass kicked at least once on the playground. Also, you know it’s not going to fit on those Scantron forms used to take SATS, etc. I’m no psychologist, but I have to think that this will all result in some developmental setback for the kid. Is it really that alienating and weird for a family to have one last name (the man’s) and the mother can be hyphenated (which the kids will never really see, unless it’s on mail that’s delivered or something). I think that's something the kids can handle much better.

The hyphenation is also a pain in the ass for us adults who have to interact with these people. Before, if a woman hyphenated her last name, that was fine, but you were able to get away with calling them Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But now that they guy has gone and done something crazy with HIS last name, you have to call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Jones. The whole thing doesn't seem necessary.

If two gay guys got married, THEN I understand both of them hyphenating their last name. In that situation, you have two men, and traditionally the man retains his name.

Maybe the whole thing of having the woman assume someone else's last name is sexist. I mean, decades ago, it probably made more sense, but today women have established careers, and they may be reluctant to change their “brand” (i.e. last name) and start causing confusion with clients and co-workers. A hyphenation partly helps address that, but again, this decision falls on the shoulders of the female. Guys never even need to think about doing anything with their name to help comply with a newly unionized couple - it's probably sexist that men don't have to consider that. This is why I support a woman keeping her maiden name, or switching it, or even hyphenating it (although I will confess that I think hyphenation kind of reeks of indecision and is the surname equivalent of keeping one foot on either side of the fence). I just don’t know how I feel about a man doing it for all the reasons I have mentioned above.

Think about when the kids with hyphenated names grow up and marry someone. If it was only the mother who hyphenated her name, then the ever-expanding last name stops with her. But if you burden your kids with your hyphenated last name, then we have to be prepared for the idea that those kids will grow up and marry someone. If it’s a daughter, will they take on a triple hyphenation after marriage to someone?? If it’s a son, will his bride hyphenate her last name to come up with her own triple-last-name cocktail? (The son will probably adopt that same triple hyphenation himself, because you beat it into him that mommy and daddy's last names were SO important that they had to combine them when they got married - someone raised in that environment isn't going shorter with a last name, they're going to go longer at any opportunity.) God forbid one hyphenated kid meets and marries another hyphenated kid (they’ll probably meet one another in a Last Name Support Group or something). What happens when these two kids get married?... a QUADRUPLE hyphenated last name?! For god’s sake, we’re setting up a system that will produce humans that sound more like law firms than kids.

And what happens if the parents of a hyphenated kid end up getting a divorce? I’m willing to bet that both the mom and dad will revert back to their original (and single) last name... but the kid stays hyphenated, right? Well, there goes your happy family of “one last name” concept that was seemed to be so critically important. And now the kid has a constant reminder of the failed marriage... it’s right there on his name tag. Hyphenation seems like dangerous territory to me!

November 13, 2008

Cell Phone Earpiece Annoyance

Cell phones are the ultimate in convenience, and I can’t even recall what life was like without them. How did we ever contact one another? How did we find one another when we got separated at the ball game? How did we ever let someone know when we “got there”?

As technology advanced, earpieces were developed for our cell phones. First there was that “talking wire" thing that dangles down someone's chest. That one always really bugged me – there was no way to tell that they were on the phone – they were just talking out loud and murmuring to themselves like homeless people. Of course, you always thought they were talking to you, until you started to ask them, "What?" and then noticed the stupid wire. There is never an actual cell phone in sight. It's amazing that the wire works at all, because it doesn't look like something that would be able to pick up your voice. Of course, not everyone trusts the wire, do they? You always see those people who hold up that little black knot in the wire up to their mouths as they walk around and talk. If that is what you need to do, then just hold up your cell phone to your mouth – don't even bother with the wire, right?

After the invention of the dangling wire, they developed wireless earpieces. I own one of these, and it works really well. But I only put it in my ear when I am making or receiving a call. If I am out in public, I always hold my cell phone out in front of me, so people understand that I am on the phone, and not talking to them. I kind of feel like that is the appropriate cell-phone-earpiece etiquette.

One thing that really bothers me about the wireless earpieces are the people who wear them CONSTANTLY. What's up with that? They are always these big shiny Star Trek looking things. Do you really need to wear it ALL THE TIME? Why? Are you a telephone operator or something? Are you really getting THAT MANY calls that you need to have your cell phone permanently glued to your face? I tend to think that people who walk around constantly wearing the earpiece are really just trying to show off that they own one. At least where I live, this trend or fashion seems to be adopted mostly by one particular race. I guess, in some people's minds, it counts as extra "bling".

I've also noticed that it is mostly guys who constantly wear the earpiece – girls don't really seem to do it much (probably because they are smart enough to know it looks stupid and it isn't a pretty "accessory"). I guess guys use it to show off that they: (1) can afford it; and (2) are so important that they need to be able to be reached at all times (but by who?... believe me, there isn't anyone important trying to call them).

Aside from it being completely unnecessary and stupid-looking (and, therefore, annoying to me), it also is tends to screw up the rest of us. After being fooled for years by the talking wire people, we have learned that when we see the earpiece on someone, everything they are saying is not directed at us – it's directed to the person on the other end of the earpiece. But now we have these guys walking around with earpieces on who aren't actually on a phone call! They come up and talk to us or say something, and then we have to try to guess whether they are REALLY talking to us, or if they are on a phone call. And none of us want to risk being "tricked again" by responding to this person who may or may not be actually talking to us... so we wait it out to see if you say something to us again or maybe we can figure out if you're on a call or not. Screw all that!... we seriously have better things to do! And I have enough stress in my life that I don't need the added anxiety of trying to deal with your earpiece fake out. And I have to ask... doesn't constantly wearing that earpiece eventually start to hurt your ear?? I fucking hate those things. Take it off, stupid.

November 9, 2008

1,000 Hits

Yay! Today the Minister of Common Sense blog has elipsed 1,000 hits! Thanks for your support, and keep spreading the word to your friends!

November 6, 2008

Did "24" Help Obama?

I finished watching the first season of "24" on DVD recently (I know, I know... I'm like the last person in the world to have finally seen it. Whatever.). It's a pretty good show, and the black guy running for president seems like a very strong and determined character... good presidential material. It got me to thinking and it made me wonder whether the TV show "24" had any impact on helping Obama get elected this week.

I'm assuming the black guy in "24" got elected in Season Two, but did the strength of the character and the popularity of the TV show help open America's minds to the possibility of a black president? I'd like to think that we are so evolved that we don't harbor any prejudices, but that isn't true. In fact, I have argued that if you can simply notice that someone is from of a different race, then there is some minute, theoretical discrimination going on inside you (with the definition of discrimination being "the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently"). Doesn't mean you're a bad person or that you are racist - it just means that you may respond fractionally different to a person of a different race, which is just natural... it's just that there are just varying degrees of "responding differently".

However, familiarity will generally reduce that inherent level of "responding differently" (or discrimination) to the point where, hopefully, it's imperceivable. When you meet someone from a different race for the first time, you will likely have a standard reaction (regardless of race), plus an added degree of a different reaction (based on race). That different reaction might range from hatred (real racism) to wondering if their English is any good (ignorance) to wondering if they play basketball (stereotyping) to wondering about the dot on their head (just plain noticing a physical/cultural difference). But then, after three years, perhaps that same person is now your best friend. Any different initial reaction you may have had to them based on their race or culture, has probably melted down to absolutely nothing, or something so minute, it's imperceivable. Perhaps it was almost nothing to begin with, but now it really is nothing - your mind doesn't even register that they are a different race, because you are so familiar with them.

So did the black presidential candidate on "24" help build some familiarity in the voting population to allowed us to view Barack as a normal candidate and evaluate his platform based on its own merits, instead of viewing him as a "black candidate"? Or was the inclusion of a black candidate as a character in the television show a reflection of society's pre-existing belief that we would accept a black president in this day an age? Or does "24" and Obama have absolutely nothing to do with one another? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

There have been a lot of examples in TV where there have been "firsts" that have gone on to shape views in society. If you're old enough, you might remember Hill Street Blues when they showed bare ass on network TV for the first time. That was big deal, and today, you can get away with showing girls in thongs all the time. Also, Ellen coming out of the closet was a big deal, and today gay and lesbian couples enjoy far more freedom and less prejudice than ever before. So I wonder if "24" is one of those steps that helped society evolve a bit.

I won't rant too long on this, because everyone has already beat it to death... but what a horrible, horrible decision McCain made in selecting Palin to be his running mate. Anyone with any kind of brain could have figured out this was going to be disaster. It was very gutsy and actually proved to be very positive for the campaign for about 12 minutes, but even if you were the evil genius who foresaw that, wouldn't you also be smart enough to know that it couldn't possibly last long enough to carry you through to the election? Barack might have beaten McCain under any circumstance, but McCain definitely lost it with that decision to add Palin to the ticket.

There can't possibly be a rationale person in America with an I.Q. over 110 that can honestly say they think Palin is qualified to be Vice President. I'm pretty sure that if you got Palin alone in a room, she would tell you herself that she isn't qualified. None of this is her fault. If McCain or Obama picked me to be their running mate, heck, I would go for it! But I'm going to get destroyed and laughed at - even though I'm highly educated, a good orator, very intelligent and successful - but I'm not qualified to be Vice President. With enough time, I could GET qualified, but I'm not qualified right now. Despite that, if I got the nod from Obama or McCain, I would still give it a try, right? So you can't blame Palin for existing. The mistake wasn't Palin herself; it was the decision to select her. I would pay a lot of money to hear the real true story of how she actually got picked by the Republicans. How did that conversation go? I'm dying to know how they came to the conclusion that Palin actually gave them the best chance to win.

So, like it or not, Obama is our new president. We are in some shitty times right now - my 401(k) is destroyed, I have lots of friends out of work, a have a friend shipping off to Iraq, and this blog is looking more and more like it could my new full-time job. Let's hope for the best over the next four years and give all our support to the new guy in charge, because it's all we got. Even if you don't like the election of Obama, you still have to admit it's a pretty amazing testament to our country... there are people who, in their lifetime, have seen separate water fountains for black people and now a black person as president. I think we can now truly say that you can achieve anything you set your mind to - which is probably a good thing for all of us.