iHate iPlutocracy: Why My Kids Don't Need iCrap

Steve Jobs, wherever you are, if you can read this, please don't take offense; I really do appreciate all that cool stuff you've built. Actually, this has more to do with how we tend to turn popular consumer goods into symbols that proclaim our financial status.

It's nothing new, really. We've been doing it ever since the first Neanderthal bragged to his homo erectus co-workers about how his new iRock5 could spark fires when synced to his iRock Touch. It may have been just a lot of grunting, but everyone around the tar pit knew he thought of himself as being more evolved.

My issue, rather, is that owning the newest, coolest gadget does not elevate someone to a level where they're somehow better than everyone else. This is a concept I've been trying to instill in my children, despite the tidal wave of influences to the contrary.

The primary method for this is... (continue reading)


Glee: Kurt Can't Sing Coldplay and Puck's Really Not Stealing Lunch Money

So here’s what you missed on Glee: The New Directions competed at Sectionals, even though Brittany was at the hospital, Santana landed in jail, Artie’s had to pass his gang initiation, Finn’s got locked in the mop closet on his way to his MENSA entrance test, Rachel blew out her voice in a 48-hour sing-a-thon, Quinn failing and could get kicked out of show choir, Kurt rocks a chartreuse cashmere sweater, Mercedes and Tina are doing… something, Sue is planning something evil for Mr. Schuester, Mike got killed by a walk-by Slushy to the face, and Puck was stuck in detention for stealing kids’ lunch money; only he’s not taking lunch money, he’s tackling the issue of childhood hunger. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Opening scene: Kurt, Mercedes, and Tina are sitting together and talking at the school’s crowded outdoor cafeteria.

Tina: I can’t believe we actually won Sectionals.

Mercedes: Fu’realz. I didn’t know you could be disqualified for that thing that got them disqualified.

Kurt: Well, I don’t care. A win’s a win, and I’ll take it. Nobody said it had to be pretty.

Tina: Yeah, I guess. And speaking of pretty, that chartreuse sweater is definitely a win, Kurt.

Kurt: Oh, thank you, Tina. I don’t know why but it always makes me want to sing something by Coldplay.

A full band suddenly appears in the background and starts playing the first few measures to Viva La Vida. Kurt steps up on the cafeteria table and opens his mouth—.

Mercedes: Oh helz no. Ain’t nobody singin’ any Coldplay up in here. There’s gay, Kurt, and then there’s gay, gay. Besides, we gotta get to Glee practice.


Match cut to Glee Club practice room where Santana, and Brittany are waiting when Tina, Mercedes, and Kurt walk in.

Mercedes: So how was hard time in the big house, Santana?

Santana: Oh, please. I was in for like two hours. They couldn’t prove I did anything to that cat—Brittany ate all the evidence.

Brittany: Yeah, my spirit guide and I are now one.

At that moment, Mr. Schuester walks into the room. There are patches of hair missing from his head.

Mr. Schuester: Alright. Listen up. We dodged a bullet at Sectionals since that school get disqualified for doing that thing that they got disqualified for, so we— [looks around the room] Where is everyone?

Brittany: Mr. Schuester? Why do you have patches of hair missing? Did you eat a cat too?

Mr. Schuester [feeling top of head]: Because, …because Coach Sylvester switched my mousse with Nair. But that doesn’t matter right now. We need to focus on Regionals, so why isn’t everyone here?

Santana: My cousins said Artie got into M18—they’re using his wheelchair for drive-bys

Kurt: Finn was taking a test for MENSA. That was three days ago, and no one’s seen him since.

Mercedes: Rachel’s probably off by herself randomly singing some sappy show tune in the auditorium.

Match cut to auditorium where Rachel is looking around confused.

Rachel: Hello? …Is the anyone here from the school band?

Janitor [walking past]: Trig test. They said something about not repeating 10th grade again from missing too many classes.

Match cut back to rehearsal room

Mr. Schuster: What about Quinn and Mike?

Santana: Quinn’s academically ineligible—she failed the Planned Parenthood section of Home Ec.

Tina: And Mike’s right there. [points to doorway]

Mike waves, right before a football player throws a red slushy in his face . Mike’s head explodes and he drops onto the floor.

Kurt: Oh my GAWD! They killed Mikey! You bastards!.

Mr. Schuster: Okay, and Puck’s in detention for stealing lunch money. Great.

Just then Puck steps over Mike’s body and enters the rehearsal room.

Puck: No I’m not Mr. Schu. I keep telling you, I’m helping ConAgra and Feeding America in their efforts to End Child Hunger.

Mr. Schuster: Suuuure, Puck. Whatever you say.

Puck: I’m not kidding, Mr. Shu. Childhood hunger is a serious issue, and the people I’m working with don’t really like that we’re doing all these parodies even though it’s getting people’s attention.

Santana: Okay, Puck, let’s just say you are some sorta spokesperson for this. Prove it to us.

Puck: You want proof? Did you know that poverty in the suburbs is worse now than in the inner city? And did you also know that 21 million kids are dependent on school meals because they don’t have food at home. And did you also know that nearly 1 in 5 kids doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Kurt: I gotta admit, that was a pretty convincing use of facts.

Brittany: Now I feel bad being part of a group called the Cheer-i-os now.

Mecedes: So what can we do?

Puck: The first thing is to get your school signed up. And then there’s all kinds of other stuff—your school can start a garden or food pantry. You can volunteer at local hunger outreach programs, raise funds, collect UPC codes from select ConAgra products, and you can start a hunger awareness program. Did you know that the number of kids in Houston who don’t know where their next meal is coming from is 27.2%! And when you sign your school up, it’s eligible for a $10,000 grant to be used for a school fieldtrip!

Mr. Schuster: Wow. Childhood hunger is something we don’t really think enough about. I don’t know why you’re telling us about Houston, but you’re energy’s great, Puck. Guys, we could learn a thing or two from Puck’s enthusiasm as we go to Regionals next week. [Turns back to Puck]. And Puck, you’ve been warned once, stop stealing lunch money from other kids. Now grab that guitar and sing us a solo.

Editor’s Note: Although the above content is a parody of the TV show Glee, (in which Mark Salling, the campaign’s spokesman, plays Puck), the intent is to keep readers engaged as opposed to hearing a public service announcement. Child hunger in a America is much more serious than people realize, and you can help ConAgra, Feeding America, and Schools Fight Hunger simply by asking your school to sign up. We hope that will. Thanks.

Disclaimer: I am being compensated for my efforts with ConAgra as part of this campaign


Are Dad Bloggers Attacking Father Stereotypes or Windmills?

Editorial note: This is how I stir up crap right before Blog World in a few weeks.

Remember Don Quixote, the middle-aged country gentlemen who lost touch with reality and charged off to fight what he thought were giants, but what were really windmills? (Do schools even teach this anymore?) Sometimes I wonder if us dad bloggers aren’t like Don Quixote when we get all up in arms about stereotyped fathers in the media. Are we mistaking a windmill for a giant?

Dopes Are Tropes

Am I implying the “dumb dad” shtick and other negative stereotypes don’t exists? Not at all. However, pointing to the demigod-like fathers of the 50’s as the gold standard for pop culture paternity is a poor argument for demanding a modern reboot. In a sense, these depictions of infallible fathers were the least realistic of them all. Furthermore, to say that TV dads have only declined since is a faulty assumption too because for every bad dad shown over the ensuing decades, a good one can be found to counter it. Even today, for every Tony... continue reading


Occupy Wall Street & Reaction to The Gilded Age

Saint Bradley-Martin
In February of 1897, rich New York socialites, Bradley and Cornilia Martin, hosted an over-the-top costume ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. What's the significance behind this? For starters, the United States had been suffering through a major economic depression (later referred to as The Long Depression) that had begun in 1873 and included two bank panics (1873 and 1893). Contrasted against the country's current condition, the Bradley-Martin Ball was more than just ill-timed; it was a slap in the face to the American populace which had been bearing the brunt of economic hardships for what would eventually span over two decades.

It's interesting to note that the Long Depression wasn't just endemic to the United States, but was in fact, a major global economic crisis plaguing all of Europe and Russia as well. (It's likely that the rest of the globe was affected, but financial record keeping in these regions was sketchy to non-existent.)

How did that whole mess get started? Funny you should ask. I'll skip the finer details, but basically it boiled down to inflationary investing in Germany following the Franco-Prussian War while here in the United States, the cause stemmed from over-building by the railroad companies as well as rampant corporate and congressional fraud, best personified by the the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal in 1872 (congressmen were taking bribes from the Crédit Mobilier of America Construction company.)

Starting to sound familiar? Oh, but wait, it gets better!

Following sharp declines in the construction, railroad, and manufacturing industries, the situation started to unravel pretty quickly. In one year, foreign investors sold off tens of millions worth of American securities in anticipation of us dropping the gold standard. 11 major New York banks and over 100 state banks collapsed, defaulting on over 32 million dollars in debt. Unemployment soared to 7.5% nationally, and over 13% in the Northeast where the United States's industrial base was located. And even when the Long Depression was technically "over," conditions didn't exactly get better as the country still experienced economic uncertainty off and on again for a period totaling nine and a half years! Awesome!

So, with this as the backdrop, Mrs. Bradley-Martin, as the story goes, got up one morning and commented over breakfast that, "Gee golly, things kinda seem a bit down out there. Maybe we should have a concert or something to raise a little money--ooo wait! Better idea--costume ball! That will get the economy going! Now, where's the butler with my eggs Benedict?"

I paraphrased that somewhat, but her line errant logic wasn't an exaggeration. Bradley-Martin, god's honest truth, reasoned that with all the costumes, decorations, food, etc. needed for her ball, paying for all that stuff should be enough to get people back to work and recharge the railroads, the steel factories, and the banks. Today, Mrs. Bradley-Martin would deemed the Patron Saint of Job Creators by FOX News with Ann Coulter kneeling to kiss her holiness's feet.

"You sure do gotta pretty set a tights!"
And how did the residents of New York, 25% of whom were unemployed, react to Saint Bradly-Martin's noble offer? A fairly angry crowd tried to burn down the Waldorf a few days prior to the event. I'm sure Bradley-Martin and other members of the "New York 400" were quite miffed on the night of the ball as they dodged the ungrateful crowd that the Assistant Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Bully!) and his lads were trying to keep under control outside of the hotel.

In spite of the rabble's ingratitude, poor Mrs. Bradley-Martin had done the best she could to get America back on its feet by spending $400,000 ($9.4 million today) of her own hard-earned cash, plus another $100,000 ($2.5 mill) on the diamonds wore with her blinged-out Martha Washington get up. Incidentally, these figures don't include what the guests spent on their costumes. New York Congressman Oliver Belmont, for example, showed up in a full suite of gold-inlaid armor that he could barley walk in worth over $250,000 in today's currency. Sweeeet!

John Jacob Astor as Henry IV
According to the news media of the day, the party was a smashing success, but then again, when has the popular "news" media ever really gotten it right? Smashing success though it might have been by socialite standards,the real world didn't see it as such. The backlash over the gawdy display was severe enough that the Bradley-Martins took off to their other home in England where they stayed for quite a long, long time. Oh, right, and the New York Tax Authority doubled the Bradley-Martin's (and a few other attendees) property tax almost immediately after the festivities. Huh, well, whaddaya know. It is said, that Mrs. Bradley-Martin was sincerely baffled by the negative reactions. Her little party, though, marked the end of The Gilded Age, a term coined by Mart Twain as a satirical reference to gilding an object with a thin layer of superficial gold. Spot on, Mr. Twain.

What does this have to do with today? My first thought would be a lot, considering that from 2007 to 2009 Wall Street profits were up 720% while unemployment also rose 102% and home equities dropped 35%, or that the median net worth of an American family is around $120,000 while the median net worth of a member of Congress in $912,000 (citation). So, then, should it be surprising that crowds of average citizens are coordinating to Occupy Wall Street and other cities? Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner.

People are angry and frustrated, and I'm one of them. We live in a period beset with greed, excess, and plain silliness enabled by an impotent government that's further convoluted by corporate self-interest. And it will stay that way if we let it. Am I advocating that we "burn down the Waldorf?" Well, not literally, but I have to admit, if the Kardashian throw another wedding, I swear, I might just walk into a SEARS and torch their entire gilded clothing line.

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