Posts tagged ‘complaining’

June 11, 2019

#150) How not to complain #9: If you’re going to hit the one percent, you’d better kill the one percent

In Margaret Grace Myers’ article for the Cut, “I Babysit for the One Percent”, she has given herself an unenviable task: convincing the reader that her take on economic inequality is different from those of everyone else who has weighed in on the subject. Sadly, she does not pull it off. Like David Hopkins, who insulted non-nerds as he was telling us to be nice to nerds, Myers isn’t going to convert anyone to the other side. Her railings against the wealthy won’t start any conversations at parties in Park Avenue penthouses about how zillionaires can empathize with those less fortunate.

Stories about the rich tend to follow one of two directions: the shocking expose of what goes on behind closed doors of affluent homes or “I thought that the ______ family were going to be total assholes, but they’re just like me!” If you eschew either of those narratives, you may find yourself with shapeless, forgettable work, as Myers has done: a collection of vague grievances with no real evolution. Readers don’t always need Learn Something, but Myers is not an interesting enough writer or protagonist to abandon the framework of the familiar and still be effective.

Why doesn’t Myers get us emotionally invested in the disconnect between her lifestyle and those of her clients? Her examples of conspicuous consumption aren’t as outrageous as she thinks they are (a wall-mounted television screen! Think of all the children who could be fed!) Her comments on home furnishings leave you wondering why “sectionals in muted tones with one elegant blanket thrown just so” strike such a nerve with her.

Just as Myers doesn’t give us enough reason to hate the Goliaths that “hang big photographs of the ocean” on the walls and have “bottles of sparkling and still” (how European!) water in their fridges, her David doesn’t make us want to be more “woke.” Myers writes, “I am picky enough to only take jobs where I think the child or children will be asleep….to do the actual work of caring for children….is, frankly, not worth it for me.” When she says, “I know I am very lucky in the grand scheme of things money-wise”, it plays less as genuine gratitude and more like an attempt to convince us she is not being resentful. If Myers was doggedly struggling toward a goal – like Rudy sweating it out in the steel mill and at community college – we might buy into her story arc, but she doesn’t give us the sense (if she’s trying to) that her clients, simply by being wealthy, are preventing her from following her dreams. It apparently never occurs to her to try to use any of the 1% as role models for building a better life. Sure, some of them may have had advantages that Myers didn’t; some of them may have come into their wealth unethically. Myers doesn’t seem to think there’s any chance that any of the 1% may have actually earned it.

One anecdote does hit the mark: Myers describes waiting in a lobby for almost an hour, unable to connect with her client, a mom who “had forgotten her cell phone somewhere and didn’t have the intercom set up correctly.” Yes, we would all like to have the luxury of being absent-minded without consequences and one guesses that had the mom been the one kept waiting, she would not have handled it as diplomatically as Myers was forced to. More in-the-trenches examples of the reality of the income gap would have helped Myers make her points more convincingly.

Myers’ article concludes with an irony that is likely unintended. “I know that I spend much more time thinking about these people than they do about me,” she says as she describes a mother whom she had seen a few weeks earlier introducing herself as if for the first time. “I am just a being in their home…a body, a transaction.” While Myers apparently feels she deserves more than anonymity in the eyes of the one percent, she is fine with being a faceless voice in the chorus of the haters. 

February 4, 2019

#148) How not to complain #8: Sorry Jeff Pearlman, the Patriots are not the problem

Hey, Jeff, how’s it going. Fellow tribesman sports geek David Lockeretz here. Complaining is in our blood, but when you called Super Bowl LIII the worst ever, was your intent to show the NFL how it can improve or were you just upset that the Patriots won? I get that you’re a New Yorker and I’m a Bostonian, so there are certain sportsball issues on which we will not see eye to eye, but calling Super Bowl LIIII the worst ever is a charge that is hard to back up objectively.

Let’s start with the margin of victory. At 10 points, the margin in LIII was below the historical average of 13.9. Yes, it was the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever – but it was close, something that cannot be said for many Super Bowls. It was only the second Super Bowl ever (after XXXIX*) to enter the fourth quarter tied, keeping the David vs. Goliath storyline intact. No, the game wasn’t particularly elegant, but by your own admission, Super Bowl XV, the game that turned you into a fan, was “technically poor.”

Yes, there was a blown call in the Saints/Rams NFC championship game. Why weren’t the Saints able to put the game away after jumping out to a 13-0 lead? Why did Drew Brees throw an interception in overtime? If the NFL is scripted, wouldn’t the refs have done everything they could do stage a Brees/Brady Super Bowl? If The Rams Didn’t Belong In The Super Bowl Because The Refs Blew The Call, isn’t it karma that the Pats won? Sports will always have a human element and humans aren’t perfect.

Moving on to the half time show. I’m no Maroon 5 fan, but was their performance really the “lamest…in modern memory?” Jeff, were you on the edge of your seat for Coldplay? Did the Who’s 2010 performance make you beeline to the local record store to get “Tommy” on vinyl? Is it a Good Thing that “many musicians made it clear…that they would no longer support the league’s entertainment efforts”?

Which brings us to the issue of race. You write, “This is the NFL trying to convince us (via advertisements featuring Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches) that the whole Colin Kaepernick thing never happened; that — hey! — we love when blacks speak out, just as long as it doesn’t affect our image or our profits.” True perhaps – but would a 41-38 Kansas City win over New Orleans magically have made everyone suddenly see eye to eye on anthem protests and come together like the people in Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad? I’d bet a GE dishwasher that had African-American quarterback Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl for the Chiefs, the NFL brass would have found a way to make his moment about themselves and how much they love diversity. The Patriots’ successes and the NFL’s woes are independent.

I’m not asking you or anyone else to love that the Patriots won yet again. To borrow an adage that used to be said of the Yankees (*cough* before they started sucking *cough*), rooting for the Patriots is like rooting for Brad Pitt to get the girl or Bill Gates to win the lottery. But why make yourself just a generic voice in the Patriot haters crowd? Maybe you just need to blow off steam. Understandable. But if you’re looking for meaningful change in the NFL fan experience to come from your deconstruction of Super Bowl LIII, you will be as disappointed as everyone west of the New York state line.

*I decided to take the high road by not pointing out that XXXIX was another New England victory.

November 30, 2015

#101) How not to complain #3: Noah Henry

Dear Mr. Henry,

First things first: I’m on your team. As a musician myself I couldn’t agree more with the basic premise of your recent article on Mandatory, “11 Reasons Music Sucks Now Worse Than Ever”. As someone who has been complaining about virtually everything for longer than you’ve been alive, however, I have a few suggestions.

You see, as enjoyable an activity as complaining is, it’s all the more rewarding when you get some sort of result for your efforts. My goal is to take your inherent love of music and your disdain for today’s climate and help you turn these feelings into something that may inspire action for your readers.

CITATIONS NEEDED

Right off the bat, you claim that “it’s been…proven that repeated exposure to a song makes you like it more.” Where? In my experience, it’s been the exact opposite: 25 years ago I listened to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Hotel California” in complete reverence; now I instantly turn the station when I hear a single sixteenth note. I’d also like to see a link to the Scientific American article you quote at the end of your piece.

CHOOSE YOUR STATS WISELY

There’s no such thing as agenda-free statistics; numbers can always be curated to suit the purpose of the curator. Yours don’t really tell a story. For example, so what that Zeppelin hasn’t had a number one hit and Rihanna has had 13? Apples and oranges. Michael Jordan never threw a touchdown pass; Ghandi was never voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

DON’T PREACH TO THE CHOIR

If all you do is get people who already agree with you to continue agreeing with you, you haven’t gained any ground. Yes, “the Billboard 100 is full of idiots, morons and losers.” Yes, “focus groups rule the artist.” Yes, “Everything is safe and easily digestible like baby food.” The indie songwriter reading this on a laptop connected to the internet via the neighbor’s wifi feels you, but your audience will be limited unless you are willing to reach across enemy lines. Most Taylor Swift fans are going to check out of itemized rants about how much she sucks after the first bullet point.

I’LL SEE YOUR ANGRY YOUNG MAN AND RAISE YOU A GRUMPIER OLD ONE

Long all you like for the days of Everclear, Third Eye Blind, the Wallflowers and Sugar Ray and the other bands that represent your good ol’ days of music; to me, they’re really not that different from Fun, Maroon 5 and Coldplay. (Okay, I guess Coldplay really are in a class by themselves when it comes to suck.) Today’s young Turk is tomorrow’s “Kids these days…” guy; in 30 years, graying millenials will wonder what the hell mid 21st century young’ns see in whatever tops the 2045 Billboard Hot 100. It’s hard to control peoples’ opinions. Respecting theirs, however inane they may seem, is the best way to be heard yourself. Sometimes people just need time to outgrow stuff.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Like Lynn Shepherd, the author whose JK Rowling rant backfired, you don’t seem to have a clear result you’d like to see. For example, what are the bands we should be listening to instead of the truffle butter (see what I did) that’s out there? In fact you explicitly bypass the issue, working in a potshot at hipsters in the process (say what you will about them, at least they’re at every crafts fair from Silver Lake to Brooklyn supporting their favorite cajon, ukulele and didgeridoo dubstep trio). Should we boycott Justin Bieber? Burn Adele pictures in effigy? Send our local radio stations vinyl copies of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to play instead of the latest offering from Ke$ha?

I know you mean well; you obviously care about music and I appreciate that. I hope that you’re able to find ways to get your message across that are inspiring, actionable and maybe just a little humorous. (Your opening line about only slitting your wrists three times while listening to the new Selena Gomez album is a good start; you may want to check out Axis of Awesome’s “Four Chords” video for more ideas.) Nothing gets done if someone doesn’t kvetch about it and with a little fine tuning, I believe you will soon be complaining with the best of them.

All the best

David Lockeretz

 

April 5, 2012

#40) Learning from idiots, part 5/How not to complain, part 1: Samantha Brick

I don’t hate Samantha Brick because she’s beautiful.  I don’t hate her at all; in fact, I like this latest internet phenomenon, not because I agree or sympathize with her, but because she has provided some good life lessons.

For those of you who haven’t been online in a few days, Samantha Brick is a British woman who recently published an article about how tough it is to be beautiful.  She points out that she’s never been asked to be a bridesmaid because she’s more attractive than most of her friends; she’s lost out on promotions because of other female co-workers’ jealousy, and so forth.

Needless to say, there’s been quite a backlash, to say the least.  In fact, one might say that Brick’s fate is parallel to that of Alexandra “Asians in the Library” Wallace (remember her from last spring?) in that at best, she is ridiculed; at worst she is hated.  But unlike her American counterpart, Brick’s plight has some pretty good teachable moments.  The problem wasn’t entirely the point that she made: it was how she made it.

Right or wrong, Brick ‘s essay was based around an idea: sometimes, “having it all” isn’t as great as it seems.  In the right hands, perhaps it could have been developed into a piece that made readers open their eyes instead of roll them.  Brick’s problem wasn’t that she complained.  It was that she complained without any kind of humor, without taking any kind of responsibility, or without any kind of solution or elevation.

Humor is important, and you want the laughs to be with, not at you.  Brick doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about herself; she speaks resentfully of her husband’s suggesting that she “laugh off bitchy comments from other women.”

She also has a double-standard when it comes to responsibility.  Apart from the fact that she apparently has never heard the phrase “you take the good with the bad”, she bemoans being judged “harshly on what I look like”, even as she describes her clothes in detail and seems to take enjoyment in bartenders paying her tab or strangers picking up her cab fare.

The main problem, however, is that, at the end of the day, Brick is really just complaining.  Even if she was ugly as sin, throwing herself a pity party probably wouldn’t have gotten her much sympathy.  Sorry to break it to you, Sam, but you’re not the only person in the world who has problems.  If you want to play the “my life sucks” game, there will always be someone who can beat you at it.  Complaints about life do not a story make; it’s when someone transcends bad circumstances and betters their own life and the lives of others that something has truly been accomplished.  The closest thing to a solution that Brick presents is the clock: she concludes by saying that she as she enters her 40s, she welcomes the “wrinkles and gray hairs that will help her blend into the background.”

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.  I don’t wish Brick any ill will; she could be smoking hot or completely ugly, and my life would be the same.  However, I can’t help but speculate that, for whatever she may feel like she’s learned from the last few days, in the years to come Brick may experience some teachable moments of her own based on two of the world’s time-honored truths: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and be careful what you wish for.