Saturday, June 16, 2007

old habits

For years, I spent every morning with a mug full of ridiculously strong coffee and the Modesto Bee. Like much of my life, this activity was deeply disturbing, relentlessly disappointing, and the cause of ever-growing resentment. One of the main reasons for this was the Bee's always awful opinion page, particularly the dreadful letters to the editor.

This morning, checking the Bee site for today's temperature forecast (95) and yesterday's high (104), out of curiosity I checked the opinion page. I still do this from time to time, mainly when I'm expecting them to print something particular - a letter I've sent them, something related to the CFA or the CSU, etc. Today it was for the sheer hell of it.

Someone had written a snarky letter suggesting that since creationists believe the earth is only 6000 years old, we must similarly be wrong about half-lives of radioactive isotopes, so nuclear power should be regarded as safe, and we shouldn't worry about nuclear waste. Store it, our intrepid author suggested, by the Creationism Museum in Kentucky.

Someone else had written about obnoxious parents leaving a local middle school graduation after their kids' names were called off the long list, sometimes bringing their brats with them. Apparently something similar happened at the school's athletic awards ceremony.

Wait, hold it right there. The middle school has both a graduation and an athletic awards ceremony? I started to have a Paula Poundstone moment: why the hell are there so many ceremonies and awards? Why are we congratulating ourselves so much for so little? (It gets worse, of course. Paula was complaining about grade school graduation.) This seems to be a national trend, too.

For instance, yer local TV nooz probably tells you it's won some kind of award. It might start with their theme song and then a pan in on the silhouetted figure of the nooz anchor, while lights come up to illuminate him. "Good evening. I'm Smarmy Middleagedman and this is the award-winning Channel 9 Action Nooz. Our first story tonight: Drugs in our schools. But first, here's Perky Dingbat..." etc. The "award" is most likely presented by the corporation who owns the station. It's supposed to give an aura of prestige.

Which is why I'm so proud to announce that I have been named the recipient of the 2007 Groovetastic Award for all-round grooviness. This makes me a double award-winner this year, since I have previously received the Samuel Pufendorf Prize for Teaching Like A Mo-Fo for 2007. I'll be adding these to my syllabi for fall, of course, and having them printed on business cards (did you know practically all academics have business cards now?). I recommend this to anyone. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that self-help and get-ahead type books already recommend it. I already feel more prestigious and deserving. It's good to feel entitled.

I graciously accept these awards and your applause. Thank you.

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