Mike Kueber's Blog

March 3, 2014

Snobs on Facebook

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 6:20 pm
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Yesterday, a glamorous friend of a Facebook friend posted an interesting comment on her wall.  She began the post by noting that, with her active lifestyle, she meets lots of people.  The problem is that so many of them send her Facebook “friend” requests.  She doesn’t understand why, based on a single meeting, people would think they would be welcomed into her “clique.”  To her, they seemed so pathetic – desperate and over-reaching.

I wanted to respond to her post, but since I wasn’t a friend, I couldn’t.  I wanted to tell her that she should feel flattered that new acquaintances want to join her circle of glamorous friends.  Although many people have a relaxed attitude toward accepting “friend” requests, she is certainly entitled to limit her Facebook account to family and close friends.  But she shouldn’t be ridiculing those she is rejecting.

Ironically, shortly after posting her comment, this lovely lady posted from the Christian church she was attending.

March 1, 2014

More affirmative action?

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:21 am
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Earlier this week, President Obama announced an initiative called My Brother’s Keeper.  According to a White House website, the initiative is designed remedy a problem that has plagued America for decades – underperforming young men of color.    Although the media has generally focused on young black males as the problem, the White House suggests that Hispanics (but not Asians) should be included in the mix:

  • Data shows that boys and young men of color, regardless of socio-economic background, are disproportionately at risk throughout the journey from their youngest years to college and career.  For instance, large disparities remain in reading proficiency, with 86 percent of black boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys reading below proficiency levels by the fourth grade – compared to 58 percent of white boys reading below proficiency levels.  Additionally, the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic young men who are unemployed or involved in the criminal justice system alone is a perilous drag on state budgets, and undermines family and community stability.  These young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder as their white peers and account for almost half of the country’s murder victims each year.”

I am troubled by this initiative because America needs to get out of the business of treating people differently because of different skin color.  Such varying treatment will invariably do more harm than good.

Furthermore, the White House might summarily declare that black and Hispanic boys are failing “regardless of socio-economic background,” it conspicuously fails to provide any evidence to support this highly questionable statement.  Unless there is compelling evidence that there is a race-based problem in the black and Hispanic communities, I believe America will be better served by treating this as a socio-economic issue that can be addressed in a colorblind fashion.

February 27, 2014

Road rage

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Science — Mike Kueber @ 6:41 pm
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With various questionnaires, surveys, and profiles, I’ve admitted to having a problem with road rage.  But I also claimed that I’m making progress in controlling the rage.  Today, while returning home from the gym, I suffered a relapse.

I was driving about 70 mph in the left lane of Loop 1604, closely following another car going the same speed.  A pickup pulled slightly ahead of me in the right lane and suddenly turned on his blinkers and squeezed into the four or five car lengths between me and the car in front of me.  After his move, he was about one car-length behind the car in front of me and about two car lengths in front of me.

By necessity, I backed off to four or five car lengths again, and a minute or two later, another vehicle pulled the same maneuver.

When the first vehicle cut me off, my immediate instinctual reaction was consistent with “fight or flight,” and it wasn’t flight.  My blood pressure or adrenaline or something went through the roof, and I so felt like ramming the truck.  Instead I just blasted my horn for about 5 seconds.

Inexplicably, by the time the second vehicle did the same thing, I had calmed and controlled myself, and didn’t make a peep.

So, obviously, I still have a problem.  But as I continued my drive home, I wondered how most people would react if they were standing in line at a movie theater and some bully pushed him aside and jumped the line.  I think most men would immediately instinctually reclaim their position.

It’s in our DNA.

February 21, 2014

Bitches and a-holes and Facebook

Filed under: Culture,Media,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 2:58 pm
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A female friend Patrice recently posted on her Facebook wall a witticism from Sheryl Sandberg – “I want every little girl who is told she is bossy to be told she has leadership skills.”  Sandberg is Facebook’s COO and recently authored a book titled “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”  Sensing an opportunity to refute some misguided feminism, I commented as follows:

  • I actually think there is a difference between being bossy and showing leadership skills.”

My friend responded, “As a male, you wouldn’t understand.”  And one of her female friends Carol piled on – “It is merely referring to empowerment, and I like it.”

Two guys came to my defense.  First my brother Kelly said, “It’s over my head, too; like being bossy is a good thing.”  And Aneta friend Eddie added – “I have a 6 year old granddaughter that is real bossy, she tells me do it now, don’t wait.  I tell her she will make somebody a good wife one day.  From now on I will tell her she has leadership skills.

I thought I applied the coup de grace to Carol as follows:

  • Empowered to boss others around?  Some people claim this issue is sexist because boys/men are taught to feel perfectly fine when they impose their will on others.  I disagree, at least as applied to growing up in ND.  Yes, bossy women are sometimes labeled as a b—-, but there is a term for bossy men, too, and it is a–hole.  Both are arrogant and self-centered and disliked.”

My friend Patrice decided I needed enlightening – “Mike Kueber, let me enlighten you. Often, when women lead, others denigrate her by calling her bossy. As in, ‘Why should I listen to that bossy bitch?’ Well, maybe because she IS your boss, or is in a position of leadership. As I said, you are the wrong gender to understand this. A woman can be a leader without being called names. Or so we hope.”

Brother Kelly – “Well maybe they are bossy!”

Patrice – “Go watch your Mad Men reruns.”

Patrice’s sister Denise joins the fray – “Michael and Kelly – get a life.”

I couldn’t let Patrice’s Mad Men reference go without whacking it out of the park (I thought):

  • Patrice, I just finished binge-viewing Mad Men on Netflix.  If your personal philosophy is informed by a TV show about Madison Avenue advertising people in the early 60s, that explains a lot.  Most reasonable people would agree that the sexual and racial views depicted in that show no longer exist.  Getting back to your original post, it does not refer to a woman who is your boss or in a leadership position (and I agree your concerns are valid there).  Rather, it refers to a little girl who is bossy.  We can agree to disagree whether that is a trait that should be encouraged in the little girl.”

Patrice decided to close her case by circling back to an argument she has used before when we debated abortion:

  • As I said originally, Mike Kueber, as a male, you can’t possibly understand. The end. No hard feelings.”

Refusing to give Patrice the last word, I responded amicably:

  • Incidentally, they say that parenting (and spending) decisions are at the root of most marital breakups. These are things that most of us feel pretty passionate about. Not only am I a male, but I never had the opportunity to parent a girl.”

Carol also rejoined the fray by taking a conciliatory stance:

  • Michael…as I said way back there…I agree…not necessarily to teaching our little girls to be bossy, but teach them to be strong….some may interpret it to be bossy, others may say it is merely a form of strength…That was all that I meant by my comment…everyone has an opinion and that is mine! I have a daughter…she is a strong woman…which I am very proud of!”

I responded:

  • Carol Bland, we agree completely. Coincidentally, I’m just starting on a book titled “Compelling People, the hidden qualities that make us influential.” According to the book jacket, the exceedingly rare combination that makes us influential is “strength (the root of respect) and warmth (the root of affection).” It sounds like your daughter is on the right path.”

Another female friend from Aneta, Elsie, joined to take a humorous tack, much like Eddie, except from a female perspective:

  • A team effort is a lot of people doing what I say.  My motto.  Oh and did I tell you, my girls call me ‘Bossy Elsie’? How else will things get done the way I want it done?”

I responded, “Elsie Sandeen Davidson, seems like you have captured that elusive mix of strength and warmth. Incidentally, my aforementioned book defines strength as the capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will. Warmth is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests, and view of the world.”

Gotta love Facebook chats, but I wonder why Patrice said “no hard feelings.”  That should go without saying.

February 19, 2014

50,000 watts of common thread

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Mike Kueber @ 11:55 am
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I recently bought Rosanne Cash’s wonderful new album, The River and the Thread.  As I was listening to one of the catchiest tunes, I heard her sing, “50,000 watts of common thread.”  What an interesting insight!  I assumed she was referring to the bond created by millions of listeners hearing country music or talk radio on one of America’s legendary 50,000-watt radio stations.

I’ve given some thought lately to the things that bind America together.  Of course, the most important ties are our nation’s history of achievement and our shared values.  But some of those shared values seem to be getting diluted, and I wonder if TV is partially responsible.  Because of cable TV, Americans no longer watch the same TV shows.  Further, the shows that are on TV are designed to attract narrow niches instead of the broad mainstream.

Other ties, however, remain strong, and an example of that is the English language.  Although multiple languages are beneficial to society, it is also great to have a single language that we all share (albeit with region-influenced dialects).  I think it is especially neat when a person of color speaks American without any trace of being an immigrant.  That reflects a country that is the ultimate melting pot.

Because I’m not good at hearing lyrics, I eventually read the Cash album jacket to learn a bit more about what Rosanne was writing.  Boy, was I surprised to learn the song is titled, “50,000 watts of Common Prayer.”  Oh, well, it was food for thought.

February 18, 2014

Gold diggers and the conventional wisdom

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 8:48 pm
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While lounging at my apartment pool yesterday, one of my older friends started talking about his young ex-girlfriend.  She had stopped by his place the night before for a brief visit, and they adjourned to Perry’s for a martini before eventually deciding to have dinner and a bottle of wine.  Easily $200 for a casual encounter.

My friend is in his 60s and his ex-girlfriend is still in her 20s.  Also, she is not only young, but she also has the four traits most guys are looking for – attractive, smart, personable, and warm.  So what does she see in him?  Sure, the $200 evening was nice.  Plus, they have done a lot of traveling together – domestic and international.  What’s not to like?

Of course, most people will disparage the woman as a gold digger – i.e., someone who goes out with a rich guy for his money.  I’m not sure why that is a bad thing.  Why is it considered more appropriate for a woman to go out with someone who has the ability to be funny (or dance well), and less appropriate to go out with someone who has the ability to take her to an expensive resort?  Perhaps the woman enjoys a fine resort more than witty repartee.

Personally, I like people who do their own thinking instead of following the conventional wisdom.

February 13, 2014

Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 7:38 pm
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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Historically, it’s been a day for romance, but like Christmas it has been overwhelmed in modern times by commercialization.  Mostly women, but men too have been indoctrinated into thinking that strong romantic feelings are best shown by spending lots of money on someone.  Candy, card, and flowers are barely enough to get you in the game.  If you throw in dinner at a fine restaurant, then that will probably suffice.  Jewelry will be a clincher.  But best of all is a romantic get-away.

Yesterday, I was talking to a young housewife at yoga practice about her plans for Valentine’s Day.  She and her husband weren’t planning anything special, so she told him that she might go to a special yoga practice on Friday at 5:30, which was to be followed by wine and chocolate.  He told her that he would feel weird being home alone on Valentine’s Day night, so she’s going to stay home and spend some quality time with him.  They sound like there is still romance in their life.

s Day gifts from one year to the next to discern whether the relationship is progressing.  t call that progress.

I’ll go with the free thinker.

February 12, 2014

Michael Sam

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 7:40 pm
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While the Winter Olympics is in full swing in Russia, the sports world is being distracted by two issues that are literally “outside the lines”:

  1. An NFL prospect, Michael Sam, comes out of the closet, and everyone wonders if the NFL is ready to accept a homosexual.
  2. An NBA prospect, Marcus Smart, shoves a middle-aged fan who heckled him, and everyone wonders why the fan didn’t act his age.

Initially, the Sam issue generated little heat because most people felt that homosexuality, like same-sex marriage, had become mainstream in America.  The Smart matter, however, created some discussion because, even with irresistible provocation, there was something troubling about 6’4”, 220-pound athlete going into the stands to shove a fat, middle-aged air controller who disparaged him.

But the Sam issue had more legs because of two developments.  First, there was an MMQB article reporting that several anonymous NFL GMs believed Sam’s draft status would be hurt significantly by his disclosure.  Although this was no surprise, the politically correct took the opportunity to act outraged.  For example, the NFL players’ association director DeMaurice Smith declared:

  • So my first reaction has nothing to do with Michael Sam. My reaction is to call those GMs for what they are — they’re gutless.  “If a young man has the courage to stand up and put his name and his face to talk about what he thinks is important, I would expect that a grown man can do exactly the same thing. But apparently they can’t.”

Huh?  Why would any GM make public comments about the stock of any draft prospect?  His job is not to create distractions for his franchise by becoming a lightning rod for those with social agendas.

The second development was an article in the NY Times in which Sam’s dad expressed his misgivings:

  • Last Tuesday, Michael Sam Sr. was at a Denny’s near his home outside Dallas to celebrate his birthday when his son sent him a text message.  Dad, I’m gay, he wrote.  The party stopped cold. “I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” Sam Sr. said. “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment.  “I’m old school,” he added. “I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.” As evidence, he pointed out that he had taken an older son to Mexico to lose his virginity.

Both of these developments seem to have obscured a related issue that surfaced last week, when NO Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma expressed his discomfort in showering with a homosexual:

  • “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?”

I’ve seen very little discussion of the Vilma issue, with the politically correct seeming to assume that this thinking is tantamount to homophobia.  I disagree.  In San Antonio, we had a similar problem when an Equality Ordinance created the possibility of transgender men using the women’s bathroom.  The proponents of the ordinance attempted to pooh-pooh this because any meaningful discussion was bound to increase the “no” vote.

But the question remains – i.e., how to treat transgender men?  Do they go in the men’s bathroom/shower or the women’s?  And is the situation analogous for homosexuals?  Obviously, America is not ready for men and women to be assigned to the same bathrooms and showers, and until that happens, I suspect the Jonathan Vilmas of the world will need to tolerate the sideways glances from the Michael Sams of the world.

February 11, 2014

Music and me

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 8:03 pm
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My friend Kent Cochran recently purchased The Beatles in Mono – a boxed set of 13 vinyl discs that goes for about $170.  According to Amazon, this set is “a special interest package for the hard-core fan.”  You think?

Nothing Kent enjoys more than sitting in a perfect position in front of his elaborate sound system and being surrounded by the fabulous mono sound that the Fab Four actually created.  Me?  Not so much.

I’ve already written about my lack of dancing aptitude and a close cousin to that would be my lack of musical aptitude.  Simply stated – music does not move me like it does many other people.  Ever since attended a Grand Funk Railroad concert as a kid, I realized that simply listening to a band play some music is not enough to occupy my senses or satisfy me.  I get bored merely listening to music, and my mind drifts somewhere else to fill the void.  Music best serves me when it provides a background for conversation or thoughtful reflection.  It never works as the main course.

This past Sunday there was a special show on CBS celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles playing on The Ed Sullivan Show, something I enjoyed watching back then and again this week.  An article in the Express-News on Sunday by public editor Robert Seltzer provided an excellent analysis of what that show 50 years ago meant to America.  Two of his paragraphs were especially meaningful to me:

  1. America appeared stuck in the ’50s, both musically and socially. It was the kind of world depicted in the popular AMC series “Mad Men,” rigid, boring, button-down — a world of crew cuts, skinny ties and instant coffee.  A year earlier, “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “My Favorite Martian” drew top ratings on TV, while “The Nutty Professor” and “Fun in Acapulco” — the latest dreadful Elvis movie (were there any other kind of Elvis movies?) — attracted huge audiences to theaters. The wasteland seemed even starker on the radio, with hits that included “Blue Velvet,” “Hey, Paula” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was a dreary, enervating landscape, and it begged for a change, a revolution.
  2. Then, on the night of Feb. 9, 1964, a quartet from Liverpool appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”  “Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”  With those five words, Ed Sullivan launched the rebirth of the music that had ignited the nation 10 years earlier. And nothing symbolized the revolution more dramatically than the contrast between the host and his guests. There was Sullivan, stiff and awkward, as stern as an undertaker. And there were the Beatles, vibrant and subversive, their music as daring as their haircuts.

When I read the first paragraph, I responded under my breath to Seltzer that I enjoyed “Blue Velvet,” “Hey, Paula,” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.”  When I read the second paragraph, I wondered whether I hadn’t been as vibrant or as daring as I thought I was in the 60s.

Seltzer prompted some reflection with a couple of questions – “John, Paul, George and Ringo were part of the upheaval — musically, culturally, socially. But did they trigger it? Or were they caught in the same social current that was sweeping everyone else along, a current as irresistible as the music, leading us to a generation that seemed hooked on pot, protests and psychedelia?”

I think The Beatles were the most visible symbol of the upheaval, but they neither triggered it nor led it.  Similarly, music might reflect what is going on, but I don’t consider it to be an important building block in advancing toward an actualized life.  At least, it isn’t for me.

January 30, 2014

The Tiger Mom comes under attack by a politically correct Indian-American

Filed under: Book reviews,Culture — Mike Kueber @ 2:43 am
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A few weeks ago I blogged about a new book by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld.  The book is titled Triple Package, and argues that eight ethnic groups – Chinese, Indians, Cubans, Jews, Nigerians, Mormons, Iranians, and Lebanese – are thriving in America because they share three character traits:

  1. A superiority complex,
  2. Insecurity, and
  3. Impulse control.

This week’s issue of Time magazine contains an article by Suketu Mehta, an Indian-American who attacks the Tiger Mom thesis and suggests:

  • “[A] new strain of racial, ethnic and cultural reductivism has crept into the American psyche.  Whereas making sweeping observations about, say, African-American or Hispanic culture, flattering or unflattering – remain unthinkable in polite company, it has become relatively normal in the past 10 years to comment on the supposed cultural superiority of various ‘model minorities.’  I call it the new racism – and I take it rather personally.”

Mehta seems to have contracted an especially virulent and pernicious strain of political correctness.  Like an ostrich, he chooses to bury his head in the sand and ignore facts that are patently obvious to anyone looking.  To refute the Triple Package analysis, Mehta points out to his two kids a version of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” argument:

  • We worked hard, yes….  But we also benefited from numerous advantages – from cultural capital built up over generations to affirmative action to an established network of connections in our new country – none of which had anything to do with racial, ethnic or cultural superiority.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Cultural capital and a network of connections has everything to do with cultural superiority, and there is very little affirmative action in favor of the eight “model minorities.”

Mehta also asks, if Indian culture is so great, why is India “such a sorry mess, with the largest population of poor, sick and illiterate people in the world, its economy diving, its politics abysmally corrupt.”  His suggested answer is that the emigration process self-selects the best of its people for emigration to America, and he wonders what American would think about Indian immigrants if America shared a border with India and poor Indians were able to illegally enter by the millions like Mexicans.  Or, as another expert suggests, “If Mexicans threw out the top 10% of their population into America, you’d be singing a different tune about Mexicans.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Just because America doesn’t receive a cross-section of the Indian population, that doesn’t defeat Chua’s argument that Indian-American immigrants have three defining traits that bode well for success in America.  And with respect to Mexico’s top 10%, we have experience with them (legal Mexican nationals) in Texas, and we are singing a different tune about them.  Most Americans welcome them to our country as welcome additions to our society.  How does that contradict the Chua argument?

Mehta accuses Chua and Rosenfeld of ignoring “the realities of American history to make their half-baked theories stick.”  I think Mehta is guilty of making a feeble case in defense of political correctness.

 

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