It’s Ladies Night at Augusta

The media was abuzz today as Augusta National admitted its first two female members in the golf club’s seventy-nine year history. Women everywhere should take notice, but not of the achievement, rather the troubling duration of their exclusion by the private organization. Personally, if I’m not allowed into a place for nearly eight decades the only proper gesture upon my acceptance is a proudly erect middle finger. However high-profile women have been gracing ESPN throughout the day to discuss the greater implications of Augusta’s brave decision. I suspect from their language and inflated praise that they’re all eying future membership.

Augusta National Golf Club is a despicable group of wealthy men. I’m sure they’re mostly lovely people to talk to at a barbecue or a wedding, but as a whole the organization has fought to keep Augusta as pale and virile as possible. Its first black member was not admitted until 1990. No women had been invited until today. And like any prestigious community of one-percenters membership is by invitation only. Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were today’s invitees, each an appropriate representation of the everyday woman.

Augusta’s class of 1984.

So yes, let’s make this an issue about equality. We could look at it through the prism of gender, or race, yet social class seems to be the most appropriate considering the tenor of the times. Golf has always been a sport for those with greater means. A set of quality, adjusted clubs can cost as much as a used car. Initial fees for Membership at Augusta plus the annual due is equivalent to purchasing a brand new Cadillac. I presume there’s a life size portrait of Mitt Romney outside of the clubhouse with a sign that reads, “You must be this rich and important to join.”

We are used to these kinds of divides in this beautiful country of ours. Rich men build expensive golf courses and allow only other rich men to roam their fairways in pursuit of leisure. One might notice they’re all men. I happen to notice they’re all wealthy. Membership at Augusta is one of the rarest tokens of success; a social marker befitting an American king.

If you’re not a CEO or former Secretary of State, then according to the Augusta National Constitution, you’re only 3/5 of a person. Good luck getting a tee time at Pebble Beach, peasant.

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5 Reasons to Get a Smartphone for College

Your mother has been telling you, “Your college years will be the best of your life,” ever since you can remember. Although she’s probably just expressing her own discontent with her life ever since, this little nugget happens to be a universal truth of the adolescent experience. You’ll meet interesting people, make great friends, and learn to see the world through the prism of newly formed maturity, so don’t be afraid to prove your mother right. If you’re preparing to embark as an undergraduate into the landscape of higher education, it’s important to first contemplate the things you will need to be successful in your social and academic life. Your experience as a student can be greatly enriched by arming yourself with the power of modern technology. Smartphones are essential in this age of connectivity, and these are five reasons I’d recommend a smartphone to any college-bound youth.

“Can you hear me now?”

1. Playing games when Professor Whatever is going on about whatever

For four years you will listen to many intelligent professors astound you with their wealth of wisdom and knowledge. They will engage and confront you with the educated world, with the beauty of intellectualism and the growth and maturation that can happen when you’re open to new ideas. But even Tiger Woods has his bad rounds. On the days your professor rants and meanders off on tangents about his or her private life, find solace in a classic video game, which is easily downloadable on any smartphone. Is she seriously working her husband into a lecture about Palestine? Who cares! Grand Theft Auto III is only five bucks… Time to jack some rides.

2. It’s a camera, too

“I think you might have ruined my phone when you made me that camera-phone… and my camera.”

Not only does this wonderful piece of technology give you access to the internet at all times, everywhere, it also takes high quality photos that can be shared easily by many different means. Pictures are an integral part of socializing for college-aged adults, so a smartphone will serve several essential functions. Many potential partners will attempt to court you via sext, and because of the camera your smartphone will offer the best possible channel for such exchanges. So make sure to take lots of pics, and when your friend Rich is begging you not to upload that video you took of him doing karaoke at McDonald’s at 3 a.m. last night, remain steadfast and committed to sharing his rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer with the world. Gone forever are the days of having to carry multiple digital devices in order to have a good time. “Is that a camera AND a phone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

3. Finding grub

And by “grub,” I don’t mean McDonald’s…

As an undergraduate, many nights will be spent intoxicated and hungry and roaming the streets of your college town. In past generations, young adults would have actually known the places to eat. Thanks to the new media revolution, your phone knows for you. There are applications that will literally pinpoint your location using the smartphone’s GPS and tell you the best places in your area for any kind of food at any price range you desire. Aren’t even sure what you want? Don’t worry, the app can decide for you. Rumor has it the next version of Urbanspoon will even be able to chew and swallow. I, however, won’t be impressed till my smartphone poops for me, too.

4. Cramming for an exam ten minutes before it’s given

Crammed.

Sure, you were going to prepare for your English lit exam weeks ago. You were going to pick up Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and read every word of it. You were going to make notes and reread chapters, go to the library and digest scholarly articles discussing the novel’s subtext and its greater implications for the modern canon. But then you started dating this guy with curly hair, and then you went with a group of friends to Six Flags and there was absolutely no way you were going to miss football over the weekend, and so you simply decided that you were going to cram the night before using SparkNotes. And there you are, cramming. You’ve made it three chapters into the book when you suddenly realize that you’ve actually fallen asleep, and you didn’t set an alarm before passing out. You wake from your sleep abruptly. Class is starting in thirty minutes; panic takes over. You throw on your Uggs and sprint across campus to the lecture hall. You bump into an elderly woman and knock a stack of papers from her hands.  You scream your apologies to her from a distance: there’s no time to help her gather her things and make sure she’s okay. You fail to brush your teeth or comb your hair, which allows you to make it to your seat with ten minutes to spare. If you’re a sucker that’s stuck living at the turn of the century, you pull out your book and start blowing past pages, attempting to grab hold of some brief passage that might help you BS your way through this thing—God, if you’re listening, give me the strength and inspiration to muster a B+ on this exam and I’ll read every book from now on, I swear! I’ll even read The Bible—If you have a smart phone, getting to SparkNotes or Wikipedia is easily done in under twenty seconds. Even faster if you’ve already downloaded the apps. When time is of the essence, a smart phone will allow you start gobbling up those plot points and characters and turning them into well crafted arguments about how the fate of the Satis House represents the old ruins of the imperial, British Empire. Cramming so close before an exam has never been easier with the worldwide web in the palm of your hand, and unlike your computer, a smart phone doesn’t take three minutes to boot up. When you only have ten minutes to read one of the great works in English literature, who has time to wait for the hourglass icon to go away?

Junk pile.

5. Fitting in

The important thing to remember about having the best college experience is you have to appear to be the kind of person with whom people want to hang out. Unless you’ve found that niche group on campus of struggling artists that see modern technology as a form of oppression, this usually means having something expensive and cool to show the world, like a small, pocket-sized, electronic representation of your personality and flare. Of course you didn’t design or invent the smartphone, you merely picked out the color. But when you have nice things people think you are, in fact, a nice thing. So when Sandra from your physics class goes to punch her number into your slick smartphone, don’t make her second guess when you instead whip out your unlocked Nokia that you bought for less than you spent on fast food last month. It’s time for an upgrade.

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United We Stand, Divided We Eat Mor Chikin

Even in America, I’ve never seen a drive-thru line wrap around the building twice. Tonight I went to Chick-fil-A with a couple of friends for a post-basketball calorie intake. Not for any reason in particular. We were just in the mood, so we drove the extra mile to enjoy a couple nuggets and a sandwich, only to find that the fast food joint had suddenly become the epicenter of a culture battle. Apparently gay America is fighting for the right to get married, and God-loving, straight people are fighting to stop this from happening: This is all news to me.

I’ve always been a big fan of Chick-fil-A. You know a good business when you see one, and the growing chain is one of the more admirable practices around. The young adults and managers behind the counter seem happy enough, and the food is well worth the higher price. Sure, I could get more chow at Burger King for a little less money. But I’ve had enough BK employees stand on my lettuce over the years to know that there’s something wrong in the kingdom of grease ball burgers and stale onion rings. Chick-fil-A is the antithesis of these dying brands, and I gladly welcome the changing tides of fast food America.

It’s common knowledge to those areas of the country familiar with Chick-fil-A that the chain has strong ties to the Christian faith, and thus any attentive student of American culture should be able to guess the beliefs of those that have molded the restaurant into a regional icon. I, for one, have never cared what CEO, White-Guy McBaldy thinks about Gay rights. He runs a good company and makes a lot of money, good for him. He can give that money to anyone he pleases, this is an American tradition. And so is snickering at him when you read his self-aggrandizing quotes plastered in your newspaper. His opinions are worth about as much as his chicken sandwiches when you’re finished eating them.

Like most people, the last thing on my mind when enjoying a sandwich is politics. Although I don’t consider gay marriage to be a political issue (civil rights have always transcended such things), I understand that people in this country don’t agree with me. I am also not a gay American; I can only acknowledge the paramount nature of their struggle from a third-party perspective. Perhaps if I was, the chain’s affiliation with anti-gay marriage advocates would bother me more. I’ve always felt strongly about gay equality, but I just don’t want to think about real, tangible, impactful issues when I’m looking to score grub. Partisanship has its limits. After all, we need to be able to agree on something.

The crowd at Chick-fil-A tonight was not as quiet or complacent during dinner as I was. Patrons gladly gloated that they in fact agreed with the CEO’s stance, and that’s precisely why they were there tonight, to support his anti-gay marriage stance and rally against gay America’s misguided approach of vilifying such a respected brand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the American people, it’s that you never attack their favorite foods. You can hurt their wallet, take away their home, even kill their son in a war, but damn’t you better keep your hands off their artery-destroying cravings. More people ordered a number-four with a sweet tea tonight than attended any protest against government spending, Wall Street, or the wars in the Middle East. This was Real America’s Woodstock.

I felt dirty visiting my nearest Chick-fil-A location tonight. I appreciate the brand, but really? We’re going to flock and throw our money at the place because some idiot with a big checkbook wants to make this battle his own? People showed up in record numbers to stuff their faces in protest, and many seemed downright pleased to oppose the civil rights of their fellow Americans. It seemed to me to be just another one of the many nights that someday in the near future, will live in infamy in the conscience of our beautiful country. I presume there are many places in our nation that don’t care. But in Maryland, at the center of a red county in the middle of a blue state where Chick-fil-A’s are plentiful, I witnessed the front lines of a culture war that still shows no signs of ending, and suddenly this war is being fought in the drive-thru lines of our fast food restaurants—how distinctly American.

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I’m Speaking In Generalities, Of Course

Clearly, I’m talking about sex. Can’t you tell from this free stock photo?

I love perusing the Divorce section of the Huffington Post. Having had a long-term relationship recently come to an end (20 months ago is recent enough, right?) I suppose I find some solace in the misery of others. It makes me feel less alone.

I’ve especially come to like the bits about men and their cheating ways. As a member of said sex it is curious that I found myself happily monogamous after 4 ½ years with my partner. It would seem abnormal from the sheer frequency that these testimonials of infidelity are published on the section’s front page. Apparently the penis is a Socialist appendage. Mine must be akin to Ronald Regan.

Today’s featured article, Life After Divorce: Casual Sex. Is it healthy to move on from a serious relationship with “casual” sexual encounters? Unfortunately I haven’t found my answer on account of my being been negated from the speaker’s target audience. Men have beer commercials; women have divorce advice.

I’ve learned a lot about the female race from the fifty-something year old women that write for the Huffington Post. Their newest nugget of wisdom: “Women are emotional and men are analytical.” She’s speaking in generalities, of course. I like to think of it like this, if you’re writing an article for an audience of thousands it’s best to try and connect with the most amount of people’s experience. Though I’ve never made it a life goal to argue with a Coldplay song, this would seem to compromise the integrity of the writer on the subject. The only reason the experiences of your readers might define the thing that you’re trying to say is so you can sell adspace to Weight Watchers.

If most people already see the battle of the sexes through the fragmented perspective of this black and white kaleidoscope, does that make it any truer than the gray shades of complexity that define human relationships? I assert it isn’t because such a blanket statement about so many people across so many cultures is impossible to substantiate.

Most men make you a vampire during intercourse.”

Generalities like this would go unnoticed if so many people didn’t make major life decisions based upon them. Online relationship experts seem to frequently fall back on stereotypes as a universal truth and grounds for willy-nilly advice. I suspect they do this because it fills up a lot of space without having to do much of the thinking or research necessary to make the claim.

The author writes, “Since women are emotional, everything they do depends on how they think it will make them feel.” This is contrary to men, whom do things dependent on how it will make them fat. I’ve come to this conclusion after my latest trip to Golden Coral.

“When a woman has sex with someone,” she continues. “She usually assumes that whatever relationship she has with the guy is about to become a lot more serious.” I’ve never been a proponent of the universal “she” when talking about the intricacies of sexuality. Doing this often leads to established norms that alienate those that don’t fit neatly into this category of women. Why do we still believe in seeing the world this way? Sure, sometimes women might want a more “serious” relationship with a guy. And sometimes, they might not. I think it all depends on the kind of person they are. Like my Kindergarten teacher always used to, “We’re all snowflakes, Jack.”

The HuffPo piece goes on to say about my gender, “Men are simple; they like sex.” True, over the years I’ve come to learn that sex can be very enjoyable, but my sexuality is probably a little more nuanced than this woman has described it and her audience perceives it. I am, in fact, a man, yet I wouldn’t have that define what I should feel or the decisions I will make.

“After divorce,” she says. “A man will likely be just as distraught as a woman, but he will, in most cases, be able to differentiate between emotion and pleasure… He will most likely want to experience different types of sex with different women after the split.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he won’t.

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The Tides of Sports Media

Yesterday, you were the worst. In the second quarter tonight, the best. By the time the game had ended, by the awful grace of God, you were the goat again.

This is life for Russell Westbrook and high-profile athletes that find themselves in the ire of a 24/7 sports media’s relentless narrative. It can’t be that LeBron James is simply at the peak of his powers and any team in his way is destined to lose. Granted the Miami Heat still have one more game to win, but the theme of this postseason, if such a thing need exist in sports, is James’ magnificent play. He is facilitating both offense and defense at a historic pace, and despite a remarkable performance by Westbrook where he was  unstoppable for long stretches of the game, eventually scoring 43, the Thunder still fell short.

A late mistake has columnists painting Westbrook as an inexperienced, explosive talent whose unawareness inevitably will cost the Thunder. Never mind the 47 minutes that preceded his decision to foul Chalmers in the final seconds. In a season where the Oklahoma City Thunder has played 85 games, the journey is negated—what have you done for me lately, Westbrook? Made a costly mistake, that’s what.

In his postgame press conference it was nice to hear Russell say he didn’t care what the sports media was saying. It’s now become a necessary skill for today’s modern athlete. James Harden is learning this. LeBron James has known it for years. And it’s remarkable the age at which it’s fair game to attack these young men. Westbrook is just 23, yet a few million people are questioning his intelligence and resolve in the wake of his masterful display of ability. He is facing scrutiny on a national scale when most at his age are simply trying to master the art of the entry-level interview. I messed my last one up by telling my potential employer that in five years I didn’t necessarily see myself with their company: a rookie mistake.

At the neighborhood playground the men warming up for the next pickup game like to talk basketball. “He shoots too much,” one of them says. “He’s not on Tony Parker’s level,” another utters. Yet the Thunder are three wins away from a championship title. He’s great enough to get them there, but flawed enough to have led them so close to a finals defeat. The media has convinced every amateur basketball connoisseur that Kevin Durant has led this team to such incredible success all on his own, and Westbrook is somehow standing between Durant and his ring. At just 23 like Westbrook, Durant’s time will come, and Westbrook is the caliber of player that can only help his chances in this new era of NBA.

OKC swag.

This is just another example of how in NBA commentary the old-timers always prevail. A point guard is supposed to play a certain kind of way, and every team has one go-to-guy that you go to till the end, win or lose. Many seem unwilling to accept the prospect that Westbrook is one of the best guards in the league, yet he’s proven it time and time again this season. He pushes the ball up the court with such power and ferociousness, his intensity is an incredible thing to behold.

Durant is a great player, of course, and Westbrook is nothing short of astonishing when he’s on his game. He’s a worthy compliment to Durant and in many ways, directly responsible for the sheer output of Durant’s scoring. He penetrates with explosive quickness and kicks the ball to the perimeter giving Durant look after look at three-point field goals. Westbrook’s constant attacking of the defense opens up lanes in their spacing, it has to, he’s just too fast for any team not to collapse toward the basket in a desperate attempt to help, and Durant feeds off of this. Durant, a reigning MVP-runner up and inevitable winner of the top individual prize, owes his success in large part to Westbrook’s abilities, and he has always been the first to say this.

As the two gain experience their joint scoring is becoming more regular. The two complement each other so nicely; their future, and the present for that matter, is undoubtedly a bright one. This simply seems to be the Heat’s year to win the title. And it will have been won, not given to them.

A seasoned Westbrook and Durant could run the Western Conference for years to come, but for now they might have to settle for second place in the finals, and it’s really not the sensational failure that the media will make it out to be. It is a success to have made it to the big show, especially for a team so young. Oklahoma City should start filling up those empty rafters soon enough.

0 and 35 are going to be hanging next to a lot of banners someday.

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Coke or Pepsi? “Whichever Obama Doesn’t Drink!”

Now our partisanship has gone too far.

I’ve always thought it was merely a coincidence that political affiliations seem to fall along soft drink lines. Democrats just seem more willing to enjoy a Pepsi than their Republican counterparts. I’ve never done the sociological research it would take to assert such a thing was true, so I simply smile when I notice it or laugh it off as a stretch to presume it a reality. It’s just a harmless observation I’ve made over the years that’s fodder for a weak Jerry Seinfeld bit, and I suppose that’s why I’ve never heard it pop up in his act.

My family is mostly Republican, and coincidentally enough, have strong emotional ties to Coca-Cola. Maybe that’s where I got the notion. Let’s just say that the Diet Coke brand has made quite a lot of money off my family tree. I myself subscribe to the “whatever ya got” approach to soda consumption, because at the end of the day I know that they both leave my body the same way. I’d be lying if I said members of my family didn’t take the choice more personal. Every time my mother hears that a restaurant we’re dining at serves Pepsi, she groans out of sheer disappointment. My gram-gram does the same and her reaction is even more visceral. She claims it’s a part of her upbringing, her heritage even. And yes, I still call my grandma “gram-gram.”

Coke has a profound presence in the south, and my grandmother studied at Georgia Tech back in the day. She’d consider ordering Pepsi at an Atlanta Waffle House treasonous. I find her stance more humorous than I take it serious, but sometimes a person says a thing so much that you start to think he or she actually means it.

The joy of Pepsi.

At a recent family dinner a relative said to me, “This is my first Pepsi since I found out Obama drinks it.” My response was silence, as I’ve mostly grown tired of discussing political matters with the family. It usually leads to somebody getting more upset than the other, and then Christmas ends early with a quiet room filled with high blood pressure and too many helpings of dessert. I suspect he was kidding with his comment, yet apparently he cared enough about Obama’s preference of soft drink to take note of it, and ultimately it’s affected the way he views the brands. Then again there really isn’t much else to go on besides which color you prefer, red or blue.

Personally when I drink a Pepsi, Barack Obama is the last thing on my mind. In fact, I like to think about all those sexy pop stars that the company used in their advertising campaigns at the turn of the century. There was Beyonce and Shakira, and they’d dance around and sing and shake up that bottle till it erupted with epic explosions of sweet, soda pop. I still don’t know what those ads had to do with the product, but I do know why I was supposed to buy a Pepsi. Britney Spears could sell me anything in the summer of 2001.

My brother’s always been a big fan of Christina Aguilera, though. He only drinks a Coke.

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Why Can’t I Stop Killing People?

Good thing there’s respawn.

It’s been eight months of this, staring at my screen for ten minutes at a time, unflinching, unblinking, shouting curse words as my enemy beats me to the draw. Nearly 10,000 souls have perished by my hand, yet I’m hungry for more carnage as though I were Drew Barrymore starring in a film titled, “Fifty First Kills.” I have accrued almost double as many deaths, but still strive for efficiency at the start of every new match. My efforts are futile on account of my putrid ability. My chronically poor performance makes me more appreciative of the season that LeBron James has had. I tend more towards Kobe though, I’m disappointed when I have to settle for an assist.

I don’t really believe they have souls, the soldiers in my video game, yet as I play I think about the real men and women around the globe that actually do this sort of thing for a living. They don’t just start blindly shooting at every shadow, of course, but bullets and bombs are a part of their work, and it makes me uncomfortable to think about how realistic the game must be. Not so much the look of it, but the sound: a burst of gunfire and a grunt of pain, and then silence. Around certain corners you can hear the buzzing of flies.

My PlayStation informs me that I’ve played online multiplayer for a total of 6 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes, and 3 seconds. I don’t know why it records down to the second, but I’m glad someone is keeping track. That comes out to an average of 1 kill for every 58.7 seconds. In that same total time I could drive to San Francisco and back with minutes to spare. Instead I’ve spent it shooting the population of my zip code.

And it’s so fun. What a sick people we’ve become. At Thanksgiving I was playing MW3 as extended family looked on. They were horrified to see me, a member of an African militia, shooting white Americans in the head with a sniper-rifle. My cousin and I laughed as their bodies twitched in the high grass; it started an argument. Perhaps our joy was exaggerated on account of my family’s disgust. What can I say, we were feeling confrontational.

The quiet halls of Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant.”

When indulging in first-person shooter games I often think about Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film, “Elephant.” At one point during the film’s shooting spree, we see the victims from the viewpoint of a gunman staring down the barrel of his weapon. Modern Warfare’s gameplay could be loosely inspired by this.

I don’t agree with the premise that video games cause violence, but I can easily see why some might. At the very least they desensitize us. I think I realized this just about the time that I killed the same opposing player four straight times with a knife attack, and gleefully turned to my cousin and slapped hands. I proudly told him how exciting I found it because I’d never done it before.

“You only live once,” he said, and laughed when I got shot from behind.

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