Another celebrity washes up on shore

Whitney Houston died this past weekend, because apparently she hadn’t died already. The news that she was dead was startling to me only because I had forgotten she was alive. Her timing – only a day before the Grammy awards – was apropos.

I can’t be the only person cynical enough to wonder if the has-been diva wanted to co-opt the music award show with her (un)timely passing, knowing she had blown her last appearance there and was unlikely to ever blow any audience away again. As a performer she was done, but with her passing she was just getting started as a legend. And what better kick off for the creation of your posthumous legacy than a Grammy show?

Semi-directed demise or unexpected but inevitable end aside, it’s still frustrating to see the way our society lauds its drug-addled failures. A druggie with extraordinary talent is a “troubled soul”; a druggie who can only claim mediocrity at best is just a druggie. A druggie with extraordinary talent that never made it? Also just a druggie. Fame exempts an addict from the tarnish of social scorn, and then we are surprised when so many of the famous are addicts?

It’s sad to see talent waste itself in a spiral of self-destruction. It’s even more sad to see a society waste its adulation and reward ungrateful individuals who will turn around and throw their talent away. I realize that sounds harsh. But I also realize that a singer-turned-crack-addict was given an opportunity millions wish for, and surely there were at least dozens in the world so gifted they deserved it every bit as much as she did. She was not irreplaceable; she was the right voice in the right place at the right time, and that’s why the whole world knows Whitney and nobody knows about a middle-aged diner waitress somewhere who has a big voice and used to have even bigger dreams.

I fear that as long as celebrities know that at least the world will mourn them as a treasure taken too soon, they will have no true ultimatum to get their shit together. Maybe it’s time to stop coddling our beloved cautionary tales.

Londonstan calling

Now I almost feel bad for ranting about the comparatively sedate mob scenes in Philly. London clearly has us beat when it comes to the nihilistic rioting of youths! But perhaps this is all just a conspiracy hatched by the baseball bat manufacturing cabal?

Not unlike current events stateside, the politically correct establishment across the pond is quick to dismiss any too harsh indictment of the unruly mob and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of “society” for the creation of a “disenfranchised class.” We might pause and consider our seminal achievement as a society where our “disenfranchised” enjoy free or subsidized housing, food, education, and health care, with apparently enough left over to keep up with the latest technology and street fashion. In fact, one might say that it’s precisely this careful tending of the disenfranchised that has made the social democracies of the West, which increasingly includes the US, a shining beacon for the fast-breeding and underfed. You can coexist with rats on a ship, but enough of them and the boat will sink. And certainly, going out of your way to ensure that the rats are sustained and preserved is nothing but an invitation for disease and eventual demise.

Or to put it another way:

If you teach a man to fish, he’ll leave you alone and decide he can do better for himself on the open ocean. If you give a man a fish, he’ll come back the next day asking for a bigger one. And if you fail to deliver, he’ll break all your fishing rods and set your house on fire.

Lettuce take a moment and reflect on unemployment

During this afternoon’s monsoon, I decided to duck into the cafe next door and grab a salad instead of going to the gym and getting thoroughly drenched. Well, it’s not so much a cafe as a regional chain restaurant that specializes in pseudo-fast food. When I’ve got a craving for an $8 salad consisting of over-saturated wilted romaine with too many ribs, this is my go-to place.

I had missed the lunch rush, and there was no one in line ahead of me. That was a good omen; maybe I’d be able to get back to my desk and start hacking at that hydra of an email thread from morning. The emptiness of the establishment belied its efficiency; it was a scene I had come to expect here just as much as soggy lettuce in a plastic bowl. I would order and pay for my salad, take a number, and stand to the side near the open food prep area. Then I would continue to stand there, waiting in plain sight, watching as the 3 or 4 employees whose job it was to assemble the pseudo-fast food did things other than assemble my food.

They chatted, maybe threw up some jokes judging by the bursts of laughter. They’d make a pretense of sweeping part of the floor, or wipe some corner of the counter aimlessly over and over while exchanging a story with a coworker. They’d take a 3 second task of emptying a tin of tomatoes and turn it into a 3 minute orchestration. When they weren’t blatantly blowing off the fact that they were employees of the establishment on the clock, they were making routine manual labor seem as onerous as brain surgery.

Eventually, a manager from the depths of the back would emerge and spot my lone ticket hanging in the window. Suddenly, reluctantly, one employee would step forward to pull together my caesar salad in the space of two minutes. A miraculous feat based on their demonstrated capability in the previous moments.

I have worked in comparable places myself, so I have more than the usual amount of patience when it comes to service and retail; I have been the person that other people were waiting on to get what they needed and get out the door. And when I was that person, I hustled. I showed my employer, and their customers, that I took my job seriously. And I was not making even $7 an hour. I busted my ass, because that’s what it means to work, regardless of the task at hand.

I appreciate that many good, hard-working people are having trouble finding jobs. But there are a lot of lazy fucks with jobs that clearly wish to be relieved of them. And what do people think they can lay claim to in terms of employment when they can’t even respond to the requirements of the relatively menial? There seems to be a mentality that you are entitled to a CEO’s compensation for showing up and putting on an apron, and if you actually want me to do something? That’ll be extra.

I know a lot of people are hiring. I know a lot of those people are sorting though hundreds of resumes for the “good” jobs they need to fill, and they’re lucky if they can find 3 candidates who followed the application instructions. That’s not 3 candidates who are actually qualified, mind you. Those are just the ones who read the directions.

Woe is us that there are no jobs in the US? No, woe is us that there are no people who still believe that to have a job, any job, is to have a responsibility and a duty to perform that job to the best of their ability. Woe is us that there are no people who are willing to assemble lettuce with such damn conviction that they set themselves on a path to being a hiring manager in a few years. Woe is us that people who aren’t willing to assemble lettuce and can’t fill out a form correctly believe they should be paid 60k a year and are set on collecting unemployment for 99 weeks unless that happens.

The good news for the US economy is that the jobs, in fact, are there. The bad news is that there is no one willing or able to take them.