Wasn’t It Only Yesterday?

The now nearly invisible Harry Potter. Photo from Warner Bros.

I recently came across a headline that gave me the frowns. It was a week or so ago, but in the midst of my “why don’t people get their history correct” rant, Part One. So consider this Part Two. The caption was:

Why so much Obama-era pop culture feels so cringe now: How Hamilton, Parks and Recreation, and Harry Potter lost cultural cachet.

Constance Grady, Vox.com

Much of this is a calculated irritant. The headline was recommended by a browser algorithm that is the technological equivalent of supermarket tabloid stands. It’s designed to be a wet fish slap. Obama somehow seems to share in the blame. At least in the supermarket, you can also contemplate the Snickers bars. On the Internet, it’s just you and this headline and the other stories cum ads about the “Last Bed/Pizza-Kit/Migraine Remedy You’ll Every Buy.”

It’s clickbait. It’s written by people whose profession is to tell you what to think and how to live. Those folks in the ancient days were the rule-making priests, then the culture-stamping bosses; now they are self-appointed influencers. (I was going to add barely-known bloggers, but then I’m a barely-known blogger, so never mind).

We all shouldn’t care so much. And yet…so many questions spring to mind.

Who decided Hamilton, Harry Potter, and Parks and Rec are completely out of favor? Who decided these were Popular in the first place? How is Harry Potter even “Obama-era,” when all of the book were published before Obama? I dispute the premise, and I dispute the facts. And it’s worth spending a few minutes on this because we should not stir together opinions about politics, art, and facts as if they are interchangeable. When we do that, it becomes much easier to dismiss videos from January 6th as “that’s your opinion.”

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Whither Bacon?

Bacon Shortage? see Grist.com…from 2013

Coffee, then gas, paint, cars, toilet paper, artificial sweetener–my Diet Vanilla Coke!! my Starbuck’s Lite Bottled Frappaccinos, my Diet Mountain Dewwwwwwww— and, now, BACON?!?!?

Have we reached the end of civilization? Will this bacon shortage finally break our collective will?

I have news for all of us. While the pandemic has created and intensified shortages–supply and demand fluctuations–in some of our favorite products, a good chunk of the news around the Current Bacon Terror is manufactured. How do I know? Because we’ve been here before. Price spikes and shortages aren’t always related to the actual resource in demand.

Britain’s Gas Crisis, Explained! shouts The New York Times

However Will I Drive to the Grand Canyon?

Chances are, you’ve seen or heard about gas lines at some point in your lifetime. The first one I recall was way back in 1973, and, ever since then, gas shortages crop up with regularity in some part of the world, such as when hurricanes are forecast. This, despite gasoline consumption per person being down some 20-40% since the 1980s. We use less gas; gas costs more; temporary shortages cost spikes.

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The Five Whys of Renaming a Middle School

We are about to go down a rabbit hole, or three or four, so I will give you the punch-line, the spoiler ending, up front. Juan Crespí Middle School, which sits on the northeastern edge of San Francisco Bay, was formally renamed Betty Reid Soskin Middle School Wednesday, on Soskin’s 100th birthday. And there was much rejoicing.

But Why? I asked. Not Why choose Soskin. That’s easy. She’s a badass social justice warrior, as I’ve said before in my pre-pandemic 2019 blog, Betty Reid Soskin: Social Justice Ninja Warrior.

Why was the school named for Crespí in the first place? Who was the dude? How did he get picked for the naming? Why did they decide to rename it now? I had questions. Of course, each question led to more questions. In my previous work life, we were trained to uncover the root cause of problems by asking Five Whys. When you do that on the Internet, suddenly, the morning disappears. There’s always more than meets the eye. But it’s all good.

So, if you want some answers and to learn a little about the history of the Spanish New World expeditions, missions, epidemiology, and the politics of nomenclature, then settle in for a few minutes. The Internet beckons. La madriguera de coneja–the rabbit hole–beckons.

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