An Untitled Online Dating Article

BurningLaptopI say every year around birthday time that I permit myself one post that actually relates to some aspect of my life.  This is a break from my usual, ironclad rule.  I think it’s incontrovertible fact that everyday people blogging about their lives is not only boring, but wildly narcissistic.

While I’m plenty boring, I lack the requisite narcissism to drone on about my uneventful life on a regular basis.

My one indulgence for 2016 is to discuss the observations I’ve amassed from over two years of immersing myself in the mildly distasteful world of online dating.

Lower your expectations.  I don’t have any crazy stories.  One, I’m a goody-goody (and boring—see above).  Two, I’m very selective.  Three, I’m actually pretty good on dates, especially first dates.  I don’t get nervous, and I don’t act weird hide my weirdness well.

All of that means that I’ve never had any dates that ended in acts of insanity or criminality by either party.  They’ve almost all been C+/B- experiences.  No complaints, but neither great enough nor bad enough to pass the tales down to future generations.  I don’t have an unkind word to say about any of the women I’ve dated.

As such, my observations are general, not personal.  I will say that a lot has changed in the last two-plus years.  As a naive and (VERY) reluctant newcomer to the world of online dating, I had a lot to learn.  Hell, back in 2013, I actually thought referencing an affinity for the Oxford comma in a profile summary was mildly clever.  Then I saw 500 other people do it, and it became less so.

Here’s a rundown . . .

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Time to Bury Academia?

The signs of the institutional terminal illness of the American university are increasingly plentiful.

MissouriNoMediaSafeSpaceThe stories out of Missouri and Yale and a half-dozen other places in recent months might be easily dismissed as the grumblings of an entitled generation—and they are that—but something far more insidious is entangled with this “movement.”

We got two instructive glimpses of it this week, courtesy of a pair of illuminating commentaries.  First, Duke graduate student Bennett Carpenter delivered an oblivious self-parody entitled “Free speech, Black lives, and white fragility” in the Duke Chronicle.

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Best of 2015

TheAxisOfEgoFacebookA move, the first full year of a new job, and increasingly demanding writing responsibilities further compromised my ability to generate content for this website on a regular basis.  However, I did managed to write 25 pieces.

This year also happened to be my “most-viewed” year.  By far.  Although, I acknowledge that a good portion of that success has to do with views of pieces I wrote in 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014.

There were still several things this year that I liked quite a bit and/or that struck a chord with people.  And not even one single piece about WWE made the list!  Imagine that.  In any event, here’s the Best of 2015, in chronological order:

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Distortion for the Greater Good

AntoninScalia2It’s as fascinating as it is frustrating to watch the media spin a story to suit its preferred narrative.

Our weekly example comes from the controversy surrounding oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court of the United States.

An MSNBC reporter named Irin Carmon—who also co-authored a laudatory biography of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg entitled The Notorious RBG—seized on a question raised by Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments. The question dealt with the assertion (raised by one of the briefs) that promising students from disadvantaged backgrounds might be better served by attending good-but-non-prestigious colleges, rather than attending elite schools via affirmative action programs.

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The Age of Totalitolerance

Much evil may be committed in the name of “justice” or “equality” or, ironically, “freedom.”

ThomasJeffersonStatueMissouriAll of us believe in some version of those precepts.  Thus, to oppose a strain of totalitarianism that gallops into town under a banner bearing the name of so noble an ideal would make one a monstrous bigot.

And, as we all know, being branded a bigot (or, worse, finding oneself on the dreaded “wrong side of history”) is a fate worse than death for any self-respecting progressive, much less for those weak-kneed souls who fear the wrath of social-media slacktivists.

Since “totalitarianism” is far too nonspecific to describe this precise phenomenon, let’s call it “totalitolerance.”

The news Monday that Missouri President Tim Wolfe had resigned, followed shortly by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s own resignation, marked another curious case of campus “justice.”

Wolfe’s hand was forced by a growing backlash over several reported racial incidents, the most striking and recent of which was the smearing of human feces in the shape of a swastika in a bathroom at a residence hall, an event I’m grateful took place long after I had settled on a fantasy football team name for 2015.

To be clear, Wolfe’s “fireable offense” was the unforgivable infraction of insufficient sensitivity.  A large number of students and many in the faculty felt that Wolfe had not been strong enough in his response to the racially-charged events of recent months, particularly in the context of the university’s history.

After all, as the Washington Post article on the racial tension at the school helpfully notes, Missouri “was a slave state.”

Although, to be fair, that probably wasn’t entirely Wolfe’s fault.

For his part, Loftin had condemned the racist acts.  That didn’t spare him the same fate that befell Wolfe.  He, too, was faced with the prospect of enormous pressure to leave his position.  Like Wolfe, he capitulated.

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Taylor Swift-Boating John Kasich

At a town-hall-style event at the University of Richmond last week, Ohio governor John Kasich noticed a female student who was enthusiastically trying to get his attention, reacting by saying, “I don’t have any tickets, for, you know, Taylor Swift,” adding a self-depricating “I know, you’re so excited.”  She then asked her question, which was about immigration, and Kasich provided his answer:

Whether you like his reply or not depends on your politics, but there’s no question that it was an answer intended to be serious.

For her part, the student felt compelled to author this well-written op/ed in the school newspaper.  In it, she sharply criticizes Kasich for his mild, if slightly awkward attempt at humor.

She refers to Kasich’s earlier remarks on spirituality and drugs as “condescending,” but says that the real concern was what his pre-question comment revealed: Continue reading

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Trump’s Popularity: Real, or Wake-Up Call?

With another GOP debate imminent, poll leader Donald Trump will have several more opportunities to antagonize opponents, media members, and various segments of the public, as he has done repeatedly in recent months.

Thus far, it hasn’t hurt him.  At all.

The flurry of activity around the blessed return of football this past weekend knocked loose a few rocks in my head that led me to contemplate Donald Trump’s consistently strong polling numbers from a gridiron-centric perspective.

TrumpUSFLI’ll explain in a minute, but Trump’s popularity is a fascinating phenomenon that begs analysis in search of explanation.  To be sure, there are some who genuinely like Trump.  And I absolutely understand his visceral appeal and charisma.  Every other candidate, to some degree, projects a personality that ranges from “reserved” to “programmed-by-a-focus-group.”

Trump is many things, but he is neither shy nor bland.  He understands popular culture better than the other potential nominees because he has been an integral part of popular culture for the better part of three decades.  That appeals to a lot of people.  On top of that, his support is also fueled a layer of Tea-Party-esque frustration with the GOP’s inability to deliver the White House in two attempts against Barack Obama.  Trump, partially through his birtherism history, taps into and harnesses that frustration.

Yet, most Republicans—including many of Trump’s supporters—seem to hold views that clash with Trump’s, immigration excepted.  While his more skeptical conservative critics rightly question whether he even qualifies as a conservative at all, there is no doubt that he remains relatively popular with Republicans.

Granted, the inherently fractured nature of support for over a dozen GOP candidates makes Trump’s percentages seem more commanding than they are, but the fact remains that he’s been the front-runner for a while now.  And we’ve sailed past the point where his success can be explained entirely by name recognition.

With all of the obvious issues, like the lack of depth of foreign policy knowledge and the questionable conservative bona fides, why is he doing so well?

This is where football comes in.

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The Urge to Purge

HoopSkirtAs I’ve said before, the primitive desire to purge our society of anything that makes us feel bad—particularly things that relate to history—will continue, unabated, until people stand up and say “enough.”

Consider this opinion piece in the Washington Post, headlined “Remove the Southern belle from her inglorious perch.”  The author, Elizabeth Boyd, makes the case for banning the hoop skirt.  Yes, you read that correctly: The hoop skirt must be banned.  But that’s not all.

Boyd, a “research associate in American Studies at the University of Maryland,” predictably trots out Dylan Roof’s evil, murderous rampage as the rhetorical foot-in-the-door to advocate for the elimination of not only the Confederate flag, but a laundry list of cultural artifacts she connects to that evil—including vestiges of the “Southern belle.”

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The Mob Goes Trophy Hunting

CecilTheLion2I don’t hunt and — at the risk of losing my “Real American” bona fides — I also don’t own a firearm.  In fact, I have never pulled the trigger on anything more powerful than a pellet gun.  I can’t drive a stick, either, but that’s a different article.

I love animals and have no interest in killing them, but I am definitely not opposed to hunting, per se.  I agree that a distinction can be drawn between hunting animal populations that pose a threat when their numbers get too great, on the one hand, and hunting rare or exotic animals purely for sport on the other.

Even with no sympathies at all for trophy hunting, though, I found myself rushing to the defense of Cecil the Lion’s “murderer,” Dr. Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. Not because I agree with what he did.  Quite the opposite.  But because I disagree with what has happened to him as a result of the story going viral.

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30 Facts for Live Aid’s 30th Anniversary

Even though I was only seven years old, I could sense that Live Aid was important.

LiveAidCrowdWembleyThirty years ago today, the biggest musical acts in the world performed as part of a single, massive event, unprecedented in scope.  Everyone from Madonna to the Beach Boys to the Pretenders to Paul McCartney helped put on the biggest concert in the history of the planet, before or since.

The strange thing is that I realized just a few days ago that the 30th anniversary was coming up.  The relative lack of fanfare struck me as odd.  Rather than trying to write a comprehensive history about the event, or even an analysis of the concert itself, I thought I would string together 30 facts about Live Aid to commemorate the occasion.

1. Live Aid began as an offshoot of Band Aid, a group of mostly-UK artists who recorded a one-off charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  The song was so popular in late 1984 that organizer Bob Geldof decided to see if he could parlay that momentum into a mega-concert that would likewise raise funds to assist in combating African starvation, particularly in Ethiopia.  Several of the participants in Band-Aid (such as the members of U2) were suspicious about Geldof’s motives.

2. Band Aid also inspired USA for Africa, a similar effort in the United States that produced “We Are the World,” written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson.

3. Geldof was invited to the recording of “We Are the World” in Hollywood, but became enraged when he saw the $50,000, caviar-rich spread that had been donated by local, high-end restaurants.  He lectured the Americans present on the hypocrisy of enjoying the finest food while recording a record devoted to fighting famine.  Geldof stormed out, but producer Ken Kragen chased Geldof down and talked him into returning.  “We Are the World” went on to earn $45 million, or about four times as much as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

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