It is that time of year again for the annual “Airing of the Grievances” blog, in celebration of Festivus. This is the sixth edition. Who knew that it would continue on this long. As always, we give thanks to Frank Constanza from the TV show Seinfeld, who introduced this beautiful holiday to us twenty-five years ago. As we celebrate this anniversary, while you put up your “Festivus pole” and prepare for the “Feats of Strength”, I will attempt to entertain you a little by sharing my thoughts/opinions in this space since the last time we were here.
If you have followed this blog in the past you know that I am here to blow off a little steam on a few topics of my choosing, that will likely have the potential to offend you. If you are new to this blog and are hyper sensitive, or easily trigged, I implore you to click out now and scroll to something softer and more touchy-feely. This is not it. If I am not offending everyone with something then I will have to try harder next year. I have a very wide range of differently opinionated friends so I just never know what will frustrate who, so I have to take wide swaths. Time to fill your snifter glass full of some Captain Morgan and get the fire place blazing while we will kick this thing off.
I have picked several bigger topics to cover and will follow with some miner annoyances and opinions before letting you go celebrate on your own. As always, I will try to stay away from politics (or at least try not to hit it head on). There are plenty of places you can go if you want to talk about inflation, crime, and climate change---just not here.
I like to have some good fun at the expense of Millennials and Generation Z folks from time to time. Instead of doing it all at once in once section, I have decided to highlight them throughout the post-- parenthetically. Spoiler alert, as we begin, Taylor Swift didn’t make my big list this year. I mean, I just didn’t know if the outrage of her fans, that bought a ticket to see her, that could have paid for a years’ worth (or two) of meals for one of those UNICEF kids you see on the commercials rose to the level of what it takes to make this blog. I mean you have to have your priorities. Plus, she has a history of hating “JB’s”, as is well documented with her spat with Bieber proved. As much as I would like to take some well-deserved shots at her, and “Swifty Nation” she will have to wait for another trip around the sun. My extensive legal counsel concurs, given times past of her retribution.
Batting leadoff this year and recently in the news, Crypto Currency steps up to the plate to begin our 2022 AOG blog. I mean what could really go wrong with this sort of thing. As you know I have a lot of feelings about money transactions. Apparently all you need is a computer to hook up to something called a “Block Chain” and you are off and running in the world of Crypto. Money out of thin air, or into thin air. Not to mention no real regulation or oversight to worry about at this point. Drug dealers love it. It is the new choice of Mafia to launder cash (as it is much easier than buying and utilizing car washes and bars for that purpose). In fact, I think they were trying to get a John Gotti hologram created in order to endorse it in one of those Super Bowl ads. It also allows young people to become billionaires overnight so they can dress up and pretend to be like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, while role playing the Great Gatsby before it all crashes.
That doesn’t even get into our sports and entertainment influencers peddling it like “bad crack” on a shady street corner. Let’s see how Kim Kardashian, Tom Brady, Grisel, and Matt Damon like the bright lights of the court room for putting their brand behind this house of cards. What happen to the good old days when you could count on the person pitching the product? Give me a fat guy like George Foreman schilling food products for food. I can turst that because you know it is real. Remember when you could count on Joe DiMaggio to let you know that it was ok to buy a “Mr. Coffee Maker” (for the young kids---he was one of the greatest baseball players of his generation and the Mr. Coffee maker was the Keurig of its time period back in the 70’s and 80’s---Google it if you don’t believe me—its education hour here at the AOG Blog)?
I remember when gold, and not digital air, was truly the Standard. Now I bet if we checked out Fort Knox the only thing we would find are the UFO’s they moved there from Roswell and Area 51 (They keep moving the goal posts for all us conspiracy theorist out here on that UFO stuff). I mean I thought it was bad enough when PayPal came into the world. Now that seams ancient in comparison to all the new and shiny technology apps available to us recently like Venmo, Cash App, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Nerd Wallet. I just can’t keep up, and I actually don’t want to. I used a check to pay for my bar tab and a tank of gas last night---and I thank God every day I live in a place that allows that to happen. Kids today will just never get that cool feeling anymore when Grandma and Grandpa sent you a $10 in your Birthday card, and it meant something. Their understanding of legal tender looks much different.
Recently I gave a $2 bill to the kid working the register across the counter at the store. He looked at me like I had three eyes. I can tell you the door guys at Caesars Palace remember you when you give them a couple of those bad boys (they are professionals). Not this kid though. He is calling the manager because he thought it was fake. Call me old fashion but I think these kids should at least have to learn what the basic denominations of bills are under $100 currently in circulation. Makes you wonder what would happen if you slipped them a $50 bill. Poor TJ (This is me trying to be cool for the Millennials and Gen Z group to let them know that it is Thomas Jefferson on the $2 bill) and Ulysses S. Grant ($50 bill for the kids at home) are getting no respect from todays youth.
At this point I would just be happy if they could make correct change. It is an ugly situation out there in the currency and cashier world right now. Don’t worry though, I think we are close to the whole damn system imploding so we can go back to trading garden vegetables and animal pelts (PETA will love that) to make our daily transactions. The lesson in all this is, if you don’t want to wind up looking like a wanna-be hippie in a rat-infested Bahamian prison, with no toilet, then don’t invest in Crypto or listen to asinine celebrity influencers who think it is a good idea to put real money it. At the North Pole, Santa will take your check, but your Bitcoin won’t even get you a lousy cup of hot chocolate, much less a sleigh ride or Christmas presents.
Repeat readers of this blog know that I love to pick on national and international sports governing bodies. I have had one on the list about every year since I started it. This year is no exception. I think it appropriate in the wake of the World Cup that I welcome FIFA to the group. Loosely it stands for Federation of International Football Association. Back here in the states, where we know what real football is, I like to call it the World Soccer Cartel. We all know how corrupt the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and NFL are. We also know how incompetent the NCAA continues to be in recent years. Enter FIFA---with the words “Hold my Beer”. This group makes all the others look like the Vienna Boys Choir when it comes to ethics and integrity.
FIFA basically sold its soul (and whatever other body parts it had available) to take that Big Qatar oil money so the 2022 World Cup could be hosted in sunny Doha this past fall. FIFA let them change the games regularly scheduled in the summer to Fall when Qatar backed up the Brinks truck to the FIFA Board members back doors. That money bought the all the deference needed for looking the other way on a country that makes Apple look like they actually care about Human Rights.
No one was immune to the “Hand of the Kingdom”. Budweiser was supposed to provide the Beer sales in the Stadium for all the Cup matches but were forced at the last minute by FIFA and the host country committee to put that on hold, as their latest victim in the old “bait and switch”, when it was suddenly banned. So much for a handshake and your word of honor. Good news for fans in Buenos Aires this week is that Budweiser is shipping all that product there to support the world’s greatest soccer party. Hope they are sober by Christmas morning. Felize Navidad.
Some more good news is that if you were wagering World Cup prop bets in Vegas and took the “under” on number of journalists that would die during the event, you can go to the window and get paid. We only lost two during the tournament. Let that sink in for a minute. Just click your heels three times and say “Nothing to see here” and you will feel better about all of it. FIFA is a disgrace. That soccer field in Hell that your Board members are going to be playing on is made of hot coals. Also, the Devil has banned the sale of Budweiser and other cold drinks, because he knew that is what you would do. Notably, for me, I was unable to watch one minute of the action because the Hallmark channel was doing a “Little House on the Prairie” marathon that I had to catch.
Let’s move on to talk about all the “Buzz Words” we have in the world of Higher Education. I have always tried to stay away from Higher Educations topics but, what the hell, it seems as good a time as any this year. I will first say the Higher Education is an incredible profession and filled with some of the smartest, most talented, and caring professionals as you will find anywhere. That said, we seem to have got carried away with ourselves with all our degrees and higher learning lately. It has manifested itself in such a way that has caused us to create an excessive amount of “buzz words”, phrases, and names for lots of things that really don’t need it, but apparently make us look smart. That is important for us Higher Ed folks because we need to “Fill out Buckets” often because it’s a hard knock life in the college bubble (almost as bad as it is for those folks working out in the elements everyday in blue collar jobs, keeping the infrastructure going, while being largely paid at or near minimum wage).
We are going to take a “Deep Dive” into these buzz words. What is a “Deep Dive” and why do we need to do it? Did you half-ass the assignment the first time you were asked to research a subject and now need to actually do the (Deep Dive) work you should have done more thoroughly the first time when asked? I don’t know about you but I won’t be doing any “Deep Diving” anytime soon unless it’s with James Cameron, and he is giving me a first hand look at the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean (but that probably isn’t happening because he can’t pull himself away from these dumbass Avatar movies he is Directing). Let’s leave the “Deep Diving” to Private Investigators or rich Hollywood Directors. So, if you aren’t driving a red Ferrari in Hawaii with Tom Sellick or working with Leonardo DiCaprio on ship wreck movies then I am saying you should avoid the use of the word.
Let’s continue to “Unpack” this topic. I mean what the hell does “Unpack” something even mean? The only thing I am “Unpacking” any time soon is my overnight bag and a travel humidor somewhere with a casino and a bar close by--- You certainly will not catch me “Unpacking” anything in a board room or at a meeting on campus. Not sure what the rest of the profession thinks but it doesn’t even sound cool or intelligent to me. Please just help this one go away. People that actually utter this out loud sound pretentious and patronizing at best( maybe that’s what they want). If you are still using this word everyone is making fun of you. I promise. They are too nice to say it, but I am not, and it is happening. So just stop. Have some dignity.
I feel like I should be more “Transparent” about this subject. It has been on my mind for a long time and I am probably going to devote an entire podcast to Higher Ed buzz words after I retire. Hell, I could do this entire blog on the matter if I wanted. Transparency is one of Holy Grails of buzz words. By announcing your “transparency” does that mean you have not been up front about things before that point? Now you are declaring that you are finally sharing everything with us? Were you were holding somethings back and hiding things the first time? I just want to know? I am pretty sure this is the number one “Billboard Buzzword” of the twenty-first century on college campuses. It is more overplayed than a Debbie Gibson hit song in the late eighties (Google her millennials and Gen Z—You may actually like her).
Speaking of overused buzz words. This is one gets more abused than Ticket Master for a Taylor Swift concert (I couldn’t help myself). I give you “Authentic”. I have always thought I was a pretty “Authentic” person but in Higher Education it has now become a like brand and badge of honor to carry that moniker. I didn’t hate this word until Brene Brown co-opted it, fed it to the masses, and then cultivated it into the annoyance it has become today. I have nothing against Brene Brown. She is a great author with some excellent books and Ted Talks, but I will always be pissed at her for ruining this word for me. Also, have you ever noticed that everyone wants you to be authentic until you are actually authentic with them and then they don’t really want that authenticity so much.
One of the bigger abuses of it is when someone asks you to “Show up authentically”. In this day and age, I would just settle for someone showing up at all, much less “authentically”. Seriously, please show up. Also, if “authentic” is just being “Real” then stick me on the shelf with the old beaten up Velveteen Rabbit with my skinned knees and worn out fur and I will hang out with him for the day. A day on the shelf with beat up, worn out stuffed animal feels less slimy to me than identifying myself as authentic at every point and turn when given an opportunity in evert interaction or interview that I have. In the end, aren’t we all truly authentic by definition. If you answered no to that question there may be some excellent position openings available to you in the board rooms of FIFA, IOC, NFL, and NCAA. You can probably add Apple, Amazon, and Tesla to that list too. Just keep it real.
Let’s “Pivot” for a moment. Because that is what we do in Higher Education now. No matter how big or small the change is these days we always seem to be pivoting. In this particular case I am just changing paragraphs in the blog, but it is still important that I tell you I am “pivoting”. One can’t say it enough. Also, it makes me sound current on my vocabulary and vernacular. To be fair, Higher Ed (Especially Student Services) did some serious real life pivoting during the pandemic and we should be forever grateful for all those folks. Little did they know however, that they were giving birth to the latest buzz word that we now have to tamp down on a daily basis.
One of the more recent “buzz kill” phrases being bandied about is “Toxic Positivity”. Essentially, it is someone who projects happiness and positivity no matter what. I get it. I am as cynical as anyone reading this, but do we really need a name for that behavior. I already had one. It is called “annoying”. Don’t we have better things to do, and higher priorities, than making up words for things like this---much less giving them actual breath on a regular basis. Good news for me on this one is I am definitely “Marked Safe” from “Toxic Positivity”. God bless those folks that can be positive all the time but let’s refrain from giving them a name for their affliction.
On a side note, the world “Toxic”, alone, has become more abused than an Emotional Support Animal policy on a college campus. I remember when we only brought it out for the big events like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl (Another Educational Google moment for those Gen Z and millennials still reading at this point). I could truly do this topic all day but I need to move on before my blood pressure rises, so I will just stick this on the AOG Blog on a rotating basis about every third year.
It wouldn’t be a true Festivus blog if I didn’t rip on some Christmas tradition that grinds my gears. The last big theme for this year is that annoying practice that has suddenly become a Christmas tradition. This one is probably going to get me in trouble, but as a non-parent outsider I am tired of this “Elf on the Shelf” sensation. For the unindoctrinated, basically, a little toy Elf comes from the North Pole to your house and your kids tell it what they want for Christmas as the Elf keeps track of who is naughty and nice while moving around the house each night several weeks before Christmas each year.
I don’t know what it is about this whole phenomenon that has caught on for families. You have this little “Chuckie” looking doll dressed like an Elf that you have to move around each night to either terrorize or intimidate your kids in the name of Christmas. One part, apparently, for parental control of behavior over their kids, and one-part sick, twisted revenge on kids that have driven them crazy all year. If we played the “Elf on the Shelf” drinking game for every time we saw one of these posts during the Christmas season we would all be in an alcohol induced coma by the first week of December. We may see more of these posts in one month than we see “Baby bump” pictures for the entire calendar year (Don't get me started).
Between social media posts, memes, and first-hand accounts of parents that I know, I am stunned this tradition continues to be perpetuated. First of all, it takes continuous work and creativity on the part of the parent. Like you don’t have enough to do already in December. Why are you killing yourself for this? Yet you continue to burden yourself with this adventure in absurdity. This doesn’t event get at the stress of competing with other parents that may have more time on their hands than you, which doubles down on the pressure.
You know the kids are talking about this whole thing with each other when they get together. Also, what about the little ones that don’t live in an “Elf on the Shelf” house (They are probably more well-adjusted in the end). They are like Sneetches without stars on their bellies. Pariahs of the elementary school ELF on the Shelf community. How do you explain to your son or daughter why the kid across the street starts getting Elf sightings right after Halloween (Even though you know his Mom is a Christmas Psycho but you can’t say that or your kid may repeat it) when the Elf in your house doesn’t come until about two weeks before Christmas?
Now you have to explore the whole game plan on where to hide this little urchin every evening after bedtime. Are you the parent that ties the elf to the ceiling fan with string or fishing wire and then turns the fan on high to have some laughs? This little maneuver has caused severe trauma to many a kid that can no longer bear to see the Elf because of the night terrors he/she now permanently suffers due to witnessing the flying phantom, in a red suit, swirling over his head that one night. I hope that therapy bill was worth you challenging your creative self.
When it’s dad’s night to hide the Elf and he is feeling a little lazy, he sets little “Buddy the Elf” on the light sconce, forgetting that these things are combustible. The kids wake up in the morning to witness the little elf with its private parts permanently burned off. There is screaming and crying. The shrieking and wailing are unbearable. As much as I am Pro Eunuch Elf, and support the Eunuch Elf lifestyle, I think it is a pretty disturbing image for a small kid to see. I think DCFS would agree with me. This is definitely NC-17 stuff taking place here.
Then there is the Saturday night where Mom and Dad drink too much and forget to move the elf. It creates that awkward next morning “walk of shame” moment to the kitchen, with a low-grade hangover, a bottle of Advil and Gatorade in hand, that causes you to have to make up a lie to the kid about why little Buddy liked his spot so much that he decided to stay their two nights in a row. Sort of makes you feel like the Grinch when he has to deceive poor little Cindy Lou Who after he is caught stealing her Christmas tree, doesn’t it? You suddenly come to the realization that you may be a dead-beat parent who is a failure and wonder why you have tortured yourself with this exercise in futility. The shame is real isn’t it?
Ask yourself who is the Elf thing for anyway? Is it for the kids or the parents? Are you trying to boost your social media presence trying to get some parent “Street Cred” for all your efforts? Or are you just trying to keep up with the neighbors? Is it really that much of a behavioral incentive for the kids during the holiday season? Either way I can’t get into it. Time to get back to some old fashion Christmas traditions and end these shenanigans. Make them watch the classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, or a “Christmas Carol”. It is time to get back to the basics. It is just not worth the risk/reward in this deal to keep up the charade. Don’t wait too long, otherwise your family dog may take matters into his own paws and turn “Buddy the Elf” into a chew toy, at which point you are going to have a lot “splaining” to do to the kids about how they just watched a real-life Elf homicide. That should make for a fun Christmas morning. We all know your trying and doing your best, but don’t be that parent. Remember, DCSFS is watching through the Elf’s eyes.
Some final thoughts as we close. I looked back at some past blogs and am pleased to report that my former frustrations I expressed with Saturday Night Live looks like it is about to come to the end as they enter “Entertainment Hospice” this year. I don’t think we will have them to kick around by the next time we meet. Awards ceremonies like the Oscars, Golden Globes etc.…. have never been more irrelevant despite their continued self-indulgence.
I remain stunned by kids that can’t do cursive handwriting or tell time on a clock that has actual hands. If this isn’t the sign of the apocalypse then I am not sure what is at this point. We should all be worried (but don’t worry too much—Taylor Swift will save us). I am also concerned about these electric scooters/bikes you can ride around in public areas. I am not a fan and you won’t see me on one. Not a good combination for the kid TikToking while riding the scooter. I think it is going to get really ugly out there with these things but that is a topic for another day.
Since last we met Betty White went to her great reward. Perhaps one of the biggest grievances of the year. A real kick in the nuts. We couldn’t quite get her to her 100th Birthday. She was one of a kind and will be missed. They don’t make them like her anymore. We also recently lost College Football Coaching legend Mike Leach. Though a lot lesser known than Betty White, I bring it up because it reminds me of something that has been heavily on my mind lately and bothers me greatly. He was an American original, like Betty. He was unapologetic, brilliant, fearless, and unconventional. He was also very different and controversial (when he was alive) because of it.
I fear the world is becoming too damn sanitized. We want everything to be bland, plain and ordinary, because that seems to make things easier and smoother on a daily basis. No one is offended, hurt, or pissed off that way. For my money the world is a worse place without these blessed eccentrics, who make things just a little more interesting because they ride that line. Sure, they are going to cross it sometimes and make some errors in judgement. I would rather they do that and learn from the experience than to never push the envelope at all. We are losing more and more of these folks in, both, our celebrity, and everyday life. Some are dying and some are having their light covered by a bushel basket while they are still living, tired of fighting a culture that has forgotten the importance of a little bumpiness in life’s crazy ride.
We have to figure this out collectively. We are all the time, as a society, talking about patience, grace, and forgiveness, but somehow it feels like judgement and outrage continue to be winning. Winning at the expense of a well lived life full of adventure, chaos, love, loss, and messiness. Life is messy and we have to acknowledge that fact. Oscar Wilde said: “To live is the rarest thing in the world, most people exist, that is all”. I think we better get busy living before we get busy dying. Let’s quit holding each other back from truly living and look into people’s true hearts and intentions rather than highlighting, and holding hostage, their missteps and mistakes. Let us actually be patient and give some grace and forgiveness as we go into the new year. We need more Betty’s and Coach Leaches. It is the curious, rule breakers and outsiders that change the world. It is the only thing that ever will.
I wish you all a restful holiday full of family, friends, fellowship, fun, and food. Do a Random Act of Kindness this week for a stranger (or someone you know). Makes someone’s day. Even if it’s a kind word. I bet they need it more than you might imagine. It is good to be back to a more normal year-- so we can be grateful for that this holiday season. Remember that Santa likes a good Cuban cigar and brown liquor (donuts too). It keeps him warm at night on that long sleigh ride. May your “Leg Lamp” be bright and shiny this season.
Good luck in your “Feats of Strength” competition and remember in the words of Frank Costanza, which I concur with: “I HAVE A LOT OF PROBEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE AND NOW YOU ARE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT” ----Happy Festivus.