Not that this particular dead horse needs any more beating, but I’m still amazed by the amount of reverence people have/had for a college football coach.  Forget about the rioters and the students who crashed the Board of Trustees’ press conference to protest the firing of “Joe Pa.”  I’m talking about the middle-aged dudes who call into sports talk radio shows in utter disbelief that such a tragedy could have befallen such a “great man.”  The other day, a caller asked a host if he thought they’d be able to honor Paterno in some kind of public ceremony at some point in Paterno’s lifetime.  The host said that he doubted it, seeing as how Paterno is already 80-some years old and it’s going to take more than a few years for a scandal involving the rape of 10-year-olds to blow over.  The caller sounded downright disillusioned as he conceded the point.  How did this happen?  How did the legacy of a fucking college football coach become so damn important?  I mean, what did the man do besides turn an average state college into a wildly popular destination for white suburban kids who like the idea of going to a school with a winning football team and a top-notch party program?

It wouldn’t hurt you to smile a little bit

Leave it to NPR to fixate on the dated wallpaper in the master bedroom while completely ignoring that the house is infested with termites and the foundation is sinking.  Surely one of the more noteworthy problems with corporate America is the dearth of Asians in upper management.  Just like the problem with the U.S. government is a lack of [insert minority of your choice] in prominent positions.  Because, as having our first black president has shown…well, okay, nevermind.  As I was saying, we’ve really got to do something about this bamboo ceiling thing.

The apparent reason for this critical shortage is that a lot of Asians aren’t properly acculturated.  For instance, they’re unaware that in America you don’t get ahead by doing your job well, but by kissing the boss’s ass.  There’s also something called the “Asian poker face.”  This refers to the tendency among many Asians to refrain from smiling for no reason, a habit that seems to unnerve the whitefolk, who were raised to believe that it’s normal to go around with a blank expression of joy on your face at all times.

This last bit really gets me.  I’m not Asian, but I’ve had that exact experience countless times in my life.  More people than I care to remember have told me that I need to smile more, that I’m too serious, too quiet, too whatever, as if these were diseases that needed to be cured.  I’ve had people tell me, after getting to know me, that they had thought that I had no personality, or that I was an asshole, or, in some cases, both.  I must have gotten the wrong message from this, though, because it never occurred to me that I needed to be coached in the art of smiling on command.  Instead, I came to the conclusion that these “all-American” types are either insecure children who need the constant reassurance of a smiling face, or else they’re petty authoritarians who’ve taken it upon themselves to police what they consider to be aberrant behavior, and, either way, that they weren’t worth wasting my time trying to impress.  Besides, they shouldn’t be encouraged.  The last thing we need are more hucksters trying to dazzle us with the whiteness of their teeth.

The Painter of Confections

I really see no point in bashing Thomas Kinkade—or talking about him at all, really.  Suffice to say, I don’t understand the attraction, or why anybody would want to “go into where that is and be part of it.”  Being inside a Kinkade painting strikes me as a particularly cruel form of punishment, a department in hell reserved for the most heinous offenders where you’re killed slowly, over and over again, by infusions of soft yellow light and faux-cheerfulness.  Still, this quote, from the story linked to above, struck me as one of those more-revealing-than-it-was-meant-to-be type statements:

Ami Davis, who teaches art at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote her master’s thesis on Kinkade. “I’ve heard [about] almost quasi-religious experiences with some of these paintings,” Davis says.

How fitting: almost quasi-religious experiences from looking at almost quasi-works of art.  Seems like something that could be worked into a motto for our times.

Also, there’s a kind of satisfying poetic justice in the fact that he’s being sued for fraud, even if it’s in a different sense.  The DUI arrest just gilds the lily.

Role Players

Frank Deford on the inanity of holding sports players up as role models.  Pretty refreshing after all the bullshit about how Tiger Woods “let us down” by cheating on his wife.  Aside from a handful of rubes who think this charade actually has something to do with morality, does anybody really care about who Tiger Woods is fucking?  Of course not.  The PGA (or NFL or NBA, etc.), along with its corporate sponsors, pretends publicly to be shocked, shocked by such immoral behavior while privately worrying only about when they can get back to making money.  And Tiger Woods puts on a public display of penitence, in order to appease the PGA and its corporate sponsors, along with his own corporate sponsors, so he can get back to playing golf and making money (and probably screwing more porn stars).  And the media, dutifully performing its role as PR flack for whoever happens to be running whatever show they’re reporting on, just parrots this nonsense.

But anyhow, back to Deford and role models.  He asks a pretty good question that nobody ever seems to consider:

But why? Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel? It is politicians and clergy and those maestros of finance on Wall Street who ought to be held to a higher standard. Why aren’t they ever called “role models?” Why can’t some tearful little impressionable tyke sob, “Say it ain’t so, Goldman Sachs, say it ain’t so” — and thus change the pecking order in our cultural mythology?

(Could it be that these other people are considered to be so thoroughly corrupt that even the most impressionable nitwit would laugh out loud at the suggestion of making them paragons of good behavior?)

Or, as that great critic of American cultural stupidity, George Carlin, put it:

“If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.”