Now is the time of year when we can begin anew, and nothing needs renewal more than society itself. There are a ton of aspects of living in society that just plain suck, and I don’t just mean the usual suspects. I mean things which enable the usual suspects, or cause perfectly smart people to do stupid things, or the little things that can end up building up and building up until they break your back. Yeah, war and famine and economic inequality are all terrible things, but what I’m talking about are the little things that I’ve frequently – and inconsistently – referred to as the 17 less-deadly sins. The big problems are all necessary to wipe out, but it’s the small ones that keep getting up in our faces and driving us crazy. They’re the things we immediately think about and talk about whenever we go out for coffee with our friends, the ones that compose the bulk of our days, the ones we’re most likely to mention when we complain about our day, and, in some cases, they’re also the ones that can really cause the big ones when they’re compounded. So, without further ado, here’s the list of Things I Would Like to See go Extinct in 2015.
What’s this, now? I don’t want to watch some video you’ve embedded in some article you wrote, but it’s apparently so important that you’re forcing me to watch an inferior, shorter version of it without any sound? That’s basically what GIFs are. They have a bad habit of taking forever to load, slowing down your computer, and, gee, you know, not having any kind of option to shut it off. They’re annoying enough when there’s just one that you have to sit and wait for your computer fight with itself to load through, but worse than that, there are also a bunch of websites – Deadspin and Buzzfeed are particularly egregious offenders, with Whatculture and Cracked being occasional havens – that pack them into their articles at every possible opportunity. There’s no such thing as a video which is good enough that you have to outright remove the option of letting the reader not watch it. So just stop before I start loading up your email with spam, okay?
I was against these things before being against them was cool. Now, to everyone who thought I was crazy for questioning their purpose, I look like a damn visionary. The SATs were Common Core before Common Core became Common Core. Is there are particular purpose they serve? Not really. Maybe they’re there as some kind of excuse for people to insist that all the education in the United States is on equal footing, but if that truly is the case, they’ve been a spectacular failure because they prove once and for all that from the inner city just don’t have the resources to keep up with better-equipped schools in middle-class suburbs. I happen to think it’s a little unfair to make everyone take the same test, especially when your future is supposedly riding on it. And really, isn’t the very idea of a future riding on this one little test a little nonsensical anyway? We have regular school, complete with final exams, to decide progress. Despite the supposed importance of them, bad SAT scores don’t hold students back in grades or prevent them from graduating, and these days, colleges are starting to ignore them altogether.
Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts
I think we might have the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp to blame for making this look cute. Wrap up a cuddly little kitty or puppy in a nice Christmas package and offer it to a loved one as a gift. And if your loved one doesn’t actually like it, they can always return it to the pound for cash or store credit, right? Yeah, see, that’s exactly the problem. Every Christmas, there are far too many reports of animal shelters taking in new animals which were given away as gifts because they were treated exactly like gifts – as disposable items. A pet isn’t something you can just buy, give away, and throw away. Pets are major commitments. They’re going to need attention whether or not the person you’re giving the pet to is bored with them or not, and negligence of pets is (rightfully) a crime. So if you decide to give away a pet as a Christmas gift, make sure the person you’re giving it to is has the right mindset to know that. Also, don’t wrap it up in a package and give it away as a surprise – come Christmas, tell your friend the gift will be a pet, then choose a particular day and time to visit the shelter to find a pet that bonds well with your friend and pick up the equipment.
The worst of a bad bunch of professional sports leagues in the United States, I honestly don’t know how anyone can swear any kind of allegiance to an NFL team anymore. The NFL has mistaken itself for a moral authority and become hell-bent on wiping out everything remotely human that could possibly appear in a football game. I guess we could have seen it coming first with instant replay, which turned every play into a technicality of minutia. They’ve also raised ticket prices to such a level that most fans can’t afford them. Actually, between the injury scandals and recent incidents with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, it’s hard to believe the NFL cares about people at all. They make politics of hosting the Super Bowl, and in that regard, they’re nearly as bad as FIFA or the Olympics, which is really saying something. Then there are the constant threats: Fork over ten billion dollars in tax cash for a stadium which has to replace a decrepit bowl which was around for the last 15 years, or say bye bye to the local team while they move to Los Angeles, Toronto, or London. I’ll tell you what: The NFL wants to be in Los Angeles so badly, why don’t we wipe out any pretenses and ship every team to Hollywood, where they can all play in front of a live studio audience every Sunday. Just get it out of my sight and away from my money.
The Music Media
Yes, we’re all aware of the fact that maybe three artists went platinum in sales this year, and that one of them was Taylor Swift. We all know that U2 gave away their new album for free on iTunes after receiving a big payoff from Apple. The big problem is that I have not yet received a single good explanation as to why I should care. The music media seems sympathetic to a group of high-powered executives who made life difficult for fans who wanted to get ahold of non-mainstream artists, be able to go to an occasional concert, and jacked up the prices of CDs when there was barely anything put into them. Now, with indie artists getting more attention than they were before thanks to the internet, the music media is trying to convince us that the artists with the most exposure need handouts.
Is there any kind of pundit this planet wouldn’t be better off without? The job of a pundit isn’t to pass on new information – it’s to condense current information down into a ten-second sound bite, manipulated to be easily digested for people who don’t understand political nuance. Naturally, the job of a pundit creates an atmosphere of fear, false information, and mistrust. They call this the Information Age; it’s actually the Paranoid Age, or the Age Where You can Believe Anything You Want. I can’t help but feel like punditry is serving to dumb us all down. I’m not just talking about political pundits here; there are sports pundits – namely Skip Bayless – who try to step up as guardians and blow things up to humongous proportions, and entertainment pundits who basically do the same thing. (Really, the political pundits are the most honest about what exactly they do, and that’s pretty disturbing.)
Cheap TV Deaths
Done correctly, killing a beloved character on a popular TV show can be affecting. But it’s getting to be so common now that it’s turning into betting pool fodder. Take a pair of polar opposites that happened in the last year: The Simpsons used the death of “a beloved character” as an incentive to get people to watch. The character in question turned out to be Hyman Krustofski, Krusty the Clown’s pop. Even if you’ve spent the last decade tuning out from The Simpsons, you have to know Hyman Krustofski’s death isn’t going to alter the series. Rabbi Krustofski was introduced in a classic episode in an early season in which he was reunited with his son, and he appeared sporadically after that and was never a real factor in the show’s continuity. On the other side, there was the death of Tracy McConnell in How I Met Your Mother, which was written off as a wild fan conspiracy theory right up until it actually happened. This was a significant moment for a few reasons: First, Tracy was the show’s titular character. Her death was based on a gross miscalculation on the creators’ part; it brought out the worst aspects of the main character; and it retconned a ton of the show’s canon. Deaths on TV are a fine line to walk, but it looks like too many TV writers are just knocking characters off out of personal convenience or attempts to be bold.