Lewis Grizzard once claimed: "I haven't understood anything since 1962." This was, I suspect, a tad hyperbolic — Grizzard was only sixteen in 1962, and surely something made sense to him in the thirty-two years he had left — but just the same, I appreciate what he was trying to say, since there are a lot of things today that don't make a hell of a lot of sense to me. The following is a sample of such things.

Americans would rather have SUVs than station wagons.
The wagon market has just about dried up, yet we're buying more and more "crossovers," which seem to be reworkings of cars into vaguely SUV-like shapes. Crossovers have exactly one advantage over wagons: they're taller, which might be of some use if you're in the habit of looking down into other people's vehicles when you should be watching the goddamn road. And if there's one thing Americans hate worse than the wagon, it's the hatchback. I'm hoping Infiniti can change a few minds with the new EX. It's billed as a "luxury crossover," but they can't fool me: it's a hatchback, only slightly taller than the G sedan on which it's based. I'd buy one in a minute, had I $35k or so to spare.

"Dumbing-down" has reached the animal kingdom.
The obedience trial at a dog show is usually much more fun than the stuff that gets on television, because the critters actually have to perform standardized exercises. The American Kennel Club has long recognized three levels of competition: in increasing order of complexity, Novice, Open and Utility. However, local clubs, with AKC sanction, are offering something called Pre-Novice, which seems a trifle unintuitive if not actually redundant. Apparently all the exercises in Pre-Novice are performed on leash, which is not the case for the regular Novice classes, but still: WTF? Are the Novice exercises all that hard? And if they are, why are they being given to Novices?

Homeschooled children lack the "advantage" of socialization.
What advantage might that be? How exactly do children benefit from being plunked into a large, impersonal vat of ostensible peers, a certain percentage of whom can be expected to be incorrigible, antisocial, and otherwise unsuitable for personal acquaintance? I suspect this is the same phenomenon that motivates fans of racial preferences, once known as "affirmative action" and now billed as "diversity": absent any evidence that it improves classwork, they now argue that it benefits the non-minority students in some intangible form. All of us, we are told, would be better off if we could be forced into the Ed Biz concept of the melting pot, which has the same name as the one you learned in civics class but resembles it hardly at all. As the wise man says, when in doubt, follow the money.

The entire "Reality TV" genre.
In what universe is "Reality TV" not an oxymoron? Reality and Television have seldom been on speaking terms in the last seventy years, let alone the same page. In Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan identified television as a "cool" medium, which had nothing to do with its status and everything to do with its degree of audience involvement: you have to pay serious attention to television to get anything out of it, and once you do — well, look what you got out of it after all that investment. The only meaningful difference between Meet the Press and America's Next Top Model is that Tyra Banks is arguably prettier than Tim Russert.

Expect more of these at some other time.

The Vent

#573
  16 March 2008

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