Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?

*Disclaimer, this post has nothing to do with "My Fair Lady" nor does it actually suggest women should be like men, in fact it kinds suggests the opposite, but it seemed like a great title."
I was watching a commercial yesterday during a football game. It was a commercial for I think a high-end SUV, certainly a high-end, sporty type of car. It said that most women decide on a car based upon the cup holders rather and horsepower or leather trim seats or a the beautiful finish. The commercial implied that maybe they should have asked different women. Maybe I am making an assumption but given that this was a commercial during a football game, the real sense I got was that women care about cup holders and men care about things like horsepower. The message of the commercial was that there are women out there who do not fit the cup holder stereotype. I am glad that a commercial acknowledges that there are differences in preference amongst people of the same gender. However I actually kinda wish that more men chose there cars like women, at least if the stereotypes are correct. The location of cup holders is a highly practical question. I have had car with no cup holders, which was really annoying and now I have car with four of them, which is handy even normally I do not have more than one passenger with me. Practicality is a great reason to choose a car. Whether or not a car has fancy leather seats or the highest horse-power imaginable or available seems a lot less important. I do not think we should base so many decisions on the superficial parts of the car and instead should focus more on the practical issues.

Maybe the real question is why are more commercials not targeting the practical things as a good thing. Why don't we see more commercials about where the cup holders are in a car? Why is there an attempt by marketers to make us buy things based on the superficial rather than the real in-depth stuff? Does superficial marketing really work? Or like negative campaign ads it often does not help but with an absence of real information it can seem to be effective. Anyway, I think in the end I am just disgusted that now the push of marketing is to acknowledge the differences between and within genders and yet still push people towards what I would say is the worst of both worlds, the superficial.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Sidebar

So as of last night my plan on what to talk about in my blog this week was to continue to explore my experiences with running the marathon because I feel there are a lot of interesting insights to be gained from it. However late last night and this morning something has come up that has intrigued me even more. Like a lot of Minnesotans, I am a Vikings fan, and so like many others I sat down yesterday to watch the game and this morning I got up, went online and read the Star Tribune to see what the local sportswriters were saying about the game. I tend to find the Strib writers to generally be negative and today proved to be no exception. What was remarkable to me was the level of anger and frustration expressed not just by the writers but by almost everyone who commented online about the articles. This reminded me of something I learned in seminary, it is never really about the color of the carpet. A classic case of church pettiness and in-fighting that often comes up is the examples of when churches have been torn apart about what color to make the new carpet in the sanctuary or if the church even needs a new carpet. What we are taught in serminary is that often conflicts like this are not really about carpets, they are about larger issues that cannot be expressed easily or are deliberately repressed but come out in other ways, such as feuds over colors and patterns.

The level of animousity expressed on the message boards for ever article makes me think that the Vikings are another such example of this. As I mentioned, I watched the game and I cannot say that I was overly impressed with the performance of the players and coaches on the Vikings team. I feel that there were numerous miscues at a variety of levels, however at the end of the game, the Vikings were ahead, they had won. Yes they beat a team by 2 points that had not won all year and was being outscore by about 20 pts in every other game, but they won. What is so striking to me is that immediately following the Vikings game, FOX cut away to another game in progress, and I watched as the previously win-less Rams kicked a last second field goal to beat a theoretically strong Redskins team, a team that is generally considered much better than the Vikings. The Rams, like the Lions have the distinction of having previously lost by on average baout 20 points. So do we as fans of the Vikings have a right to be upset and concerned by our teams poor performance, yes, but should we also be glad that unlike the Redskins we came away with a win, and a share of first place, yes. The aggression and negativity expressed by the "fans" is highlighted even more when in some of the articles there were numerous quotes from players expressing support for their coach and also commenting that the booing and negativity of the fans was far from helpful. Rather than simply be the sign of diehard fans who are sick of having a "sub-par" team, or fair weather fans who are seeing a few too many clouds for their liking, I think there is another cause for all the anger: the economy. At a time where people are losing homes, watching their house values plummet at the same time that stocks do and seeing economic leaders around the world scrambling for answers, it is easy to see why people would be worried. Maybe this really is all about a football team playing well under their potential, but far more likely I think it is that people need a place to vent, a place to express the hurt in their lives, and that football is a safe place to do it. We are powerless to save the stock market, and many people are powerless to even save their own mortgages, but we can log on and vent our anger into cyberspace. After 9/11, people used baseball and football as a way to come together in the midst of grief, now maybe we need to use football and baseball as ways to express our frustration, because venting about a sports team is a lot healthier than bottling it up, drinking it away, or something worse. I am not sure what the church can do to help people with their powerlessness in a time like this, but at very least maybe we can help people remember that deep down it is not about the carpets.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Marathon Thoughts

So I have several different interesting posts I might want to do based on my experiences running the Twin Cities Marathon, four plus hours of running gives you plenty of time to think of things. What I wanted to comment on today was actually my energy level yesterday, the day AFTER the marathon. Sore does not begin to describe how I felt or really how I walked yesterday. Despite how I was feeling and how I was moving when I got back from the Cities yesterday I looked up my times for the marathon and looked over the course. I then began to think about how I could have done things better, trained harder, lost a few more pounds, or just run better during the actual race. After doing this for a bit I got my shoes back on and went out for a somewhat limited two mile run. I did this because one of the things that I had read was that running the day after a marathon is important to help in flushing out a lot of the bad stuff that builds up in the muscles and creates soreness to begin with. While I did not set any world records with my time I was at least out there and moving again. Later in the evening when I was stretching and continuing to think about where I go next with running I realized something, I did the exact same thing with fencing in college. Every other weekend or so I would drive to a tournament, fence until I could not move and then head back to school. Monday morning would dawn and I would limit and hobble to class but by Monday evening I was in the gym fencing again and thinking about what I needed to do to fence better next tournament. The Monday after competition in some ways was the time I was most focused and determined. My question and connection to the church that comes from all of this is why does the same not apply to our faith? I have been a part of some powerful worship services and I know others have commented at times how meaningful or energizing a service was. Do we take that energy with us into Monday? Do we ever take that measure of the Spirit we find on Sunday and use it to fuel our actions on Monday? While I understand how Sunday is easily the climax of a week, especially for clergy, I think we need to work more and more on making Monday, not as a day to drag our feet into work, but a day in which we take the energy and the Spirit we experience on Sunday and use it to make a difference, use it to fuel us in all our work before next weekend and our next powerful experience of God in worship.