Saturday, April 1, 2017

Legit points on American 'culture'

Go to Netflix ASAP, and binge watch "Legit" with Jim Jefferies. The two — and only — seasons of the show will be on Netflix until April 7, so this is time sensitive.

Oh, Lordy, this is just a hilarious show, and I can't think of a show I've liked more since "The Office."

"Legit" starts with Jim Jefferies helping a friend's brother follow his dream — be with a hooker in Las Vegas. The only wrinkle is that the friend is in a wheelchair, and so that adds a funny yet human element. As the show progresses, the characters develop, and it turns out to be absolutely hilarious but with substance, too. The show was embraced by the disabled community and critics as well and is an absolute diamond in the rough. The show is legit!

As I pondered why the show is so good, I came to an odd realization, which I should have figured out years ago. American pop culture ain't hardly anything unless you add a foreign influence.

Jefferies — he's the star of the show, and he's Australian. Even the last show I liked, "The Office," was a spinoff from the original British show.

I happen to be reading "Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica" to have unity with one of my students in our two-person reading club. Metallica, well, there's an American band. Not really. The driving force behind 'Lica is Lars Ulrich, who is Danish.

Then, think of the best bands ever to be heard in America. We got the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin — damn, all British!
Well, let's think of the greatest artistic achievements possible. What randomly comes to my mind are Shakespeare, Picasso, Aristotle, Socrates, Mozart, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Brahms, Beethoven. ... Will an American ever crack the list?

Look, I'm not saying America never brought anything to the table in terms of art. We got jazz, of course, the Harlem Renaissance, Elvis, the blues, Motley Crue, Ted Danson and Emo Philips. But let's get real, by my definition of culture, America ain't no cultural center of anything (unless maybe we count my beloved Cleveland as the rock 'n' roll capital of the world!).

How could I not have realized this until now?

I'm certainly not trying to be anti-American, but when you put the constraints of our harsh economic system around us, how often do we get kids who aspire to be artists? My freshmen in high school students believe they're doing the right thing by eschewing art for business internships, but are they really?

In a page-turning frenzy, I just read "Born on Third Base" by Chuck Collins. He examines the United States' economic state today as 1 percent of the country has 99 percent of the wealth. This book was not only an education in the reality of our economic system today, but it made me again realize that art, creativity, dance and innovation are not rewarded in the U.S. Sadly, if you do that stuff, you better get a day job.

And back to "Legit" with Jim Jefferies. Why in the world were there only two seasons of that show? Despite incredible critical acclaim, it was apparently mishandled with Fox and never truly got to its proper audience. Also, it's ratings were stagnant on an odd network called "FXX." Well, you know how it works in America, if it doesn't sell, it ain't worth anything.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Millennial males: In crisis

Millennials have been renamed "The Screen Generation," the Snooze Button Generation (TM) announced today.

In related news, Snooze Button Generation founder/CEO Joe Stevens clarified the names of the past three generations.

The Screen Generation (1986-2004) — often referred to as millennials.

The Snooze Button Generation (TM) (1966-1985) — often referred to as Generation X.

The Television Generation (1946-1965) — often referred to as Baby Boomers.

With the development of The Screen Generation (TM pending), the title "The Snooze Button Generation" makes even more sense. As technology and population increase so rapidly, it is important to have an element of technology in the title of a generation. In retrospect, the Snooze Button Generation title is even more apropos because we are a part of an extremely transient generation when it comes to technology — especially personal technology.

Of course, maybe these names don't mean too much, and many stereotypes abound with entire generations, especially with millennials, AKA the Screen Generation.

Not all millennials are phone-addicted, self-absorbed kids with a gross sense of entitlement. However, elements of that stereotype exist. Shifting industries, developing technology and some hidden truths in the United States have made it tough for millennials — particularly males.
Chew on these statistics: 20.5 million students enrolled in college this past fall. That is up from 15.3 million in college in 2000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yowsers, that's a wild increase. I would argue that America is the most formally educated it has ever been, but it is perhaps the least informally educated as it has ever been. Yes, folks are piling up degrees, but how worldly are they? Could they switch occupations easily? Could they hold a conversation with "strangers"?

But here is the statistic that truly supports something I have long thought for the past few years: 11.7 million students in college are female, and only 8.8 are male (57 percent to 43 percent is significant to me!)

I have long thought that younger males are in crisis — just by what I see in my classroom. It's not outrageous behavior, really. It's just a stunted maturity that pales in comparison to girls. Now, some people might say it's always been that way, and I'm just noticing now. But I'm thinking this issue is becoming larger, and it's hardly addressed.

Males — millennial males, really — are in crisis. This is not some sort of sexist, "Make America Great," more power to the white male statement. This is a mere observation.

What does it mean to be male? What does it mean to be masculine?

A girl in one of my classes a few years back made this statement: "Masculinity is fragile."

That is truer now, more than ever. We often see stereotypical images of what "being a man" means. Many of the images of pop culture males — think Kanye, think Trump, think Tom Brady, think McConaughey — are more than slightly ridiculous.

Most of my male students are thoroughly confused. They remain confused when I give them this simple advice: "Be Yourself."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Travel ban should band us together

I just saw a couple Tom Hanks movies — "Sully" and "Bridge of Spies." Apparently, the actor is cornering the market on American hero rules.

In "Bridge of Spies," when Hanks character is pushed by a CIA agent named Hoffman to break his attorney-client privilege, he brings up the American "rule book."

"My name's Donovan. Irish, both sides. Mother and father. I'm Irish, and you're German. But what makes us both Americans? Just one thing. One. Only one. The rule book. We call it the Constitution, and we agree to the rules. And that's what makes us Americans. That's all that makes us Americans. So don't tell me there's no rule book, and don't nod at me like that you son of a bitch."

Let's do another quote: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the retched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

That second famous quote is from "The New Colossus," the 1883 sonnet written by Emma Lazarus that is inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Like most reasonable Americans, I am outraged with the racist, immoral and ignorant travel ban of visitors from Muslim-rich countries by President Donald Trump. Are you kidding me? This is happening? Trump does not know that this does not work because of 1) American ideals and history, 2) Ramifications within the world and 3) Ramifications within the United States.

Here is what Trump and anyone not condemning this stupidity needs to know: There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world (of 7.4 billion people). There are 319 million Americans. By population, perhaps we can make this statement: The Muslim world is more powerful than the United States.

Of the 1.6 billion Muslims, the estimated number of Muslims affiliated with terrorist organizations is 100,000, according to the U.S. government and many statistical computations and groups that study this subject. That mathematically computes to .006625 percent of the Muslim population.

So Trump signed an executive order to immediately ban all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for four months until he gets more information. Say what?
Obviously, I have never supported Donald Trump for president for an assortment of reasons. The racist/sexist platforms he espoused while getting elected was the top reason. The second reason was an overall air of ignorance with the actual problems facing our country, and third reason was zero experience in public office. There were at least another dozen reasons, but those were the top three.

Now, I am wondering this: If we do not speak up or protest this ridiculous travel ban, are we complying in an immoral, un-American and criminal act? ... Well, yes, we are.

This travel ban should bring all sides together — Democrat, Republican, ignorant or not ignorant. We all know this is unacceptable. We cannot accept it, and we all can be united in rejecting this goofy and sick "President" Trump.