Thursday, October 16, 2014

Girl's Clothing

A few weeks ago my wife wanted to stop by Old Navy to look for some yoga attire. As the designated retail pack-mule, I found myself standing by the women’s athletic gear killing time while my spouse decided between identical pairs of black stretchy pants. Glancing over the display, I noticed an interesting trend in the athletic tops: cringe-worthy idioms.

Are there that many women who want to show up at the gym wearing a tank top that says “Get It Girl” or “Free Your Mind”? Some even implied impulsiveness and possible promiscuity by featuring “WILD” or “FREE SPIRIT” across the chest. One just featured the word “SWAGGER” printed vertically. Are these meant to inspire the wearer or the people they come in contact with at the gym? Is the idea that you put this on, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I was going to binge-watch True Blood and eat fried chicken, but now I think I’ll dead-lift instead.”

Inspired by these items, I have created my own cringe-worthy screen-print series for Old Navy Women’s Athletics:

  • You Go (to the gym) Girl!
  • W.T.F.  (Why The Flab?)
  • Sugar-Baby in Training
  • Me – 1 / Excuses – 0
  • Don’t Cha? (need to avoid gluten)
  • Estrogen Warrior
  • I Physical Exertion

Another trend I noticed was that nearly every upper-torso mannequin modeling a top was posed with its hands behind its back. It was as if they wanted to show the consumer exactly how the blouse would look were they to be handcuffed wearing it. I realize that a woman puts much more thought into attire than a man, but are such scenarios really taken into account? I would love to have passed by a woman telling her friend, “The green top looks great when my arms are in a comfortable position, but what if I get caught with 2 kilos on St. Patrick’s Day?”

The clothing problems for girls apparently can begin in utero. My wife was explaining that she had pre-ordered an outfit so that we could get it on its day that it is released. Please allow that to sink in. Things have gotten so bad that children’s clothing now has a street date. I wonder if there are people standing outside a Gymboree the night before discussing rumors.

“My cousin heard that the new pastel rompers will feature an offset accent bow.”
“No way! I just saw a Facebook rumor that the fall line will reflect their corporate de-emphasis on ruching!”

I can only hope that this release date business has created a thriving black market scene. Hordes of desperate middle-class parents ducking into alleys and avoiding eye contact as they whisper, “Anybody got the 2015 smocked kitten pattern in a 2T?” as nonchalantly as possible. Their inquiries undoubtedly met with suspicion until some guy in a trench coat presented a hypothetical situation where he might know a guy who did time with the dock manager at Zulily. But just before the conversation can continue, a lookout shouts “five-0!” and the minivans scatter just as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pregnancy Nose

Pregnancy has endowed my wife with a superpower and as much as I would like to pretend it is the ability to weaponize biokinetic energy particles, the truth is that she can smell things. I do not mean in the routine I-think-someone-hit-a-skunk way or the do-I-detect-the-aroma-of-chamomile-tea way. This woman is one errant gamma-ray away from being able to smell fear.
Each time she walks into the house, I feel like a drug dealer that just had the misfortune of being stopped by a K9 unit. More often than not, her brow will furrow and she will rhetorically ask, “Do you smell that?” The answer, of course, is always no. It has to be no, otherwise I am admitting to consciously allowing our home to marinate in whatever offensive odor she detected upon entry. This is usually followed by an exchange similar to this:

Her- “You seriously don’t smell that!?”
Me – “Smell what?”
Her – “That tangy sweet & sour primate smell.”
Me – “I don’t even know what that means.”
Her – “We have to find it. It is definitely stronger by the couch….”
Me – “Are you just saying that because I am on the couch?”

I will then spend the next 20 minutes on an olfactory scavenger hunt that involves me presenting her with prospective sources of nasal offense and her rendering a verdict. To her credit, we will occasionally locate an errant sippy cup or a few contraband goldfish crackers; but more often than not she will simply become distracted by another odor.

I once spent an hour tearing apart my son’s closet because she insisted that there must be an animal cadaver located therein. I never found anything. Maybe the smell abated on its own. Maybe there never was a smell at all. Maybe someone farted in their car as they drove by. I simply sprayed some Febreeze and we moved on with our lives.

The real victim in all of this has been the dog. Each time she re-enters the house after going outside to relieve herself we have to wipe her down with a dryer sheet. This serves to eliminate any “canine smell” while preventing static cling. It is costing us a fortune in dryer sheets, but it is easy to know when she is around because it feels like I am getting a creepin’ put on me by Snuggles the Bear.

Conveniently, this hyper-smell also makes it difficult for her to assist with dirty diapers when I am home. There have been many occasions where she has had to excuse herself to dry heave because she was overwhelmed by the odor. Not that I blame her, my son believes that any job worth doing is worth doing right.

Curiously enough, her other senses continue to operate at or below their normal levels. I have never heard someone claim their visual or audible acuity increased due to pregnancy so I am not sure if there is a biological reason for this or not. There is also the possibility that I am simply not talking to the right people and somewhere there is a woman at a maternity store telling the clerk, “I thought I needed Lasik and a hearing aid until I got pregnant with our first, but since then I’ve had perfect pitch and the Air Force won’t stop calling me!”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Objective Patriotism

For the past few weeks, I have been seeing stories about widespread protests in Denver. Apparently the flashpoint for all of this unrest was a resolution submitted by Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams. It sought to modify the AP History curriculum to promote "patriotism and ... the benefits of the free-enterprise system" while eliminating anything that would "encourage or condone civil disorder." Williams submitted the resolution after she heard that conservatives from around the country were upset about the new AP History curriculum.
Brennan Linsley/AP
The conservative pushback is being led by Larry Krieger, a retired New Jersey high school teacher who cites the omission of D-Day and several founding fathers as evidence of the courses anti-American bias. The sentiment was echoed recently by likely Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson who stated, “I mean I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to sign up for ISIS.” For her part, Williams insists that she simply wants history to be taught “complete” and “without bias.”

The proposal has ignited a firestorm in Colorado’s second largest school district. Hundreds of students have walked out in protest of the resolution and teachers at four high schools organized a “sick-out” to protest the school board’s actions. An online petition presented to the school board has garnered over 40,000 signatures. Ironically, the protestors also want AP history of be taught “completely” and “without bias.”

I suppose that the difficult thing about bias is that it is impossible to identify in an unbiased manner. Both sides claim to be historical purists but neither side can agree on what exactly that means. This is an AP course so there should be an emphasis on critical thinking and independent interpretation. By the same token, there are irrefutable, historical facts such as people, events, and dates that are integral to American history and should be included. What I have read of the curriculum emphasizes much broader conceptual thinking. Let me give you an actual example from the course:

Explain how activist groups and reform movements, such as antebellum reformers,
civil rights activists, and social conservatives, have caused changes to state institutions and
U.S. society

That is a broad objective. It certainly allows for diametrically opposed answers depending on how you interpret the people, events, and dates involved. An extremely conservative Republican might answer the question by arguing that the modern social conservative movement simply wishes to return America to the values it was founded upon while an extremely liberal Democrat might insist that the founding fathers wouldn’t even recognize the modern conservative movement.

Here is another:

Analyze the goals of U.S. policymakers in major international conflicts, such as
the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War, and explain how U.S.
involvement in these conflicts has altered the U.S. role in world affairs

Again, the objective is broad enough not to mention D-Day specifically, but is certainly conducive to its discussion within the framework of World War II. It does not appear to portray the role of the United States in foreign affairs as negative or positive, only to analyze it. If you analyzed our role in world affairs as a complete isolationist you would see it as one mistake after the other, while an interventionist might argue each as just cause for America’s involvement.

I have no doubt that Julie Williams was well-intentioned, but I must say that the idea of discouraging “civil disorder” might be the most un-American concept to arise from the entire discussion. One could argue that our entire history as a nation is predicated upon our willingness to participate in acts of civil disobedience and disorder. Contextually, everything from the Boston Tea Party to Dr. King’s March on Washington falls into that category. As far as the “joining ISIS” comment is concerned, I will give Dr. Carson the benefit of the doubt and assume he was intoxicated.  

That is not to say there are not legitimate flaws in the revised AP course material. Like any curriculum with broad academic latitude, the tone of material is greatly susceptible to viewpoint of the instructor so their bias would be the most destructive of all. Personally, I would find it difficult to impartially grade such expansive concepts. If the student does not come to the same conclusion as you, does that mean the student did not complete the objective? Is it possible for two people to interpret the same set of data differently while still learning?   

In either case, I believe that the education system works best when it teaches participants how to think and not what to think. Certainly we have a responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the facts presented in our historical textbooks, but we cannot control the lens through which those facts will be interpreted. We are a nation founded, governed, and populated by the flawed; therefore I find it unnecessary to abridge America’s faults in order to promote its virtues. I am thankful that I live and hold citizenship in the greatest country on Earth, but I am equally as thankful that I have the freedom to discuss and ponder its mistakes.  

You can read a list of the course objectives here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Random Thoughts Part 6

  • While traveling, I found myself behind a car with an interesting bumper sticker. It read as follows, “I Support Breast Cancer.” Taken at its word, this vehicular accoutrement would seem to indicate that the driver was pro-cancer and passionately so when that cancer affected the mammary glands. To be fair, there was a small pink ribbon in the corner but I would argue that clip-art is no substitute for coherent phrasing.
  • Why does it seem like the least sanitary public bathrooms are the ones that prominently display a “This Restroom Has Been Cleaned and Inspected” sign-in sheet? Invariably, these sanitation logs are adorned with a solitary initial entry when optimism was at an all-time high and phallic graffiti was at an all-time low. If you need paperwork to convince patrons that you clean the men’s room, you aren’t doing it often enough.
  • Does anyone else have mixed emotions concerning Chick-Fil-A’s use of the term “my pleasure”? I realize it is intended to convey the employee’s overwhelming desire to put the customer first, but depending on the inflection of the person’s voice it can come across as anything from there’s-no-place-I-would- rather-be chipper  to 50-shades-of-waffle-fries suggestive. Just give me the correct order in a timely fashion without any hostility and I will place that visit in the “win” column.
  • Can we all just agree that “Convert or Die” is the worst motto ever? It is just as unhelpful when applied to religion as it would be applied to the metric system. If your worldview requires violent coercion to gain popularity, there is probably a reason.
  • There must be a solution to the problem of innocent children being left in sweltering cars while their parents run errands. Perhaps car-seats could come with a sensor that detected both the presence of a child and the ambient temperature so that when certain conditions were met (child in seat, temp > 80 degrees) the roof is blown off the vehicle, the child is ejected, and floats safely back to Earth courtesy of a parachute featuring the words “I Was Too Inconvenient To Take Inside.”
  • Why do the proprietors of erotic novelty stores along the Interstate continue to refer to their establishments as “Adult Bookstores”? Are a large number of truckers wandering in to peruse the selection of thematically-advanced literature?  Just once I would like to wander in, feign confusion, and then ask the clerk where the Cormac McCarthy novels were located.  
  • I once walked into a restaurant and requested a table for “two and a high chair.” This was met with a look of consternation on the part of the hostess who replied, “So three people?” I patiently explained that there were two adults and a 15 month old child who would need a high chair. She responded that their policy was to consider toddlers “people” and therefore I would be placed on the list as a party of three. Unsure why my appeal for a table had transformed into a debate on personhood, I countered that I did not intend to diminish my child’s value as a human being I just wished to convey that we would need a high chair because he is the size of an Oompa-Loompa and tended to wander. She instructed me that next time I could save myself considerable time by just requesting a table for three. If I see her again, I will tell her that I need a table for two adults and one quasi-humanoid.