The Isolation of Marriage?

I read a good article in the NY Time this week called Too Close for Comfort, and got to thinking more about how society treats marriage these days.

The article begins with stats from latest census bureau surveys which show that married-couple households are now a minority. The typical reaction to this was: What is happening to our relationships? This is a bad thing! But the article goes in the other direction, asking instead “is this really such a bad trend?” ….

It has only been in the last century that Americans have put all their emotional eggs in the basket of coupled love. Because of this change, many of us have found joys in marriage our great-great-grandparents never did. But we have also neglected our other relationships, placing too many burdens on a fragile institution and making social life poorer in the process.

There are some interesting facts pulled out of the study:

  • From 1985 to 2004 Americans reported a marked decline in the number of people with whom they discussed meaningful matters
  • People reported fewer close relationships with co-workers, extended family members, neighbors and friends (only close relationship where more people said they discussed important matters in 2004 than in 1985 was marriage)
  • The number of people who depended totally on a spouse for important conversations almost doubled, to 9.4 percent from 5 percent. Not surprisingly, the number of people saying they didn’t have anyone in whom they confided nearly tripled.

What is going on with the world? Apparently marriage is the only place where people can have close relationships. What a screw for the rest of us non-married folks. When discussing this with Toby, he raised a good point in that this is due to the lack of community. We no longer are in constant contact with others so it’s no wonder we don’t have strong connections with them. Without building these connections between brothers, sisters, parents and friends people are lost without good friends and confidants.

There’s one good place where we have strong community, where we are constantly surrounded by friends and live with them day to day. It’s called College and it’s no wonder that people look back on it as the best times of their lives.

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Why I like to blog

While reading Fred Wilson’s blog today about Live Blogging, he ended his post with this comment:

Blogging has a reputation as an ego centric activity for people who want to be heard. And that is certainly true and a big motivation for many people who do it. But blogging can be valuable in many other ways.

I often get in conversations with people as to why i blog.  To many it’s viewed as pure a vanity project.  I’ve found that putting my ideas and thoughts down for others to read is a great way to stimulate conversation and “talk” with friends but to do so by;

  1. allowing them to jump in at their leisure.  After they see the movie or read the book that i’ve written about or if they finally get a moment when they’re bored at work.
  2. not requiring them to participate.  They can read and process but unlike email they don’t have to respond unless they want to.  I’ve noticed that many of my friends will read my blog, never comment but will bring it up with me weeks or months later.  I love this.  We’re talking but in a turn-based way.  I’m just always making the first move
  3. making the conversation to be public – anyone can join.

I love it for these reasons. I don’t really care how many people read it or if anyone at all reads.  Sometimes i like to just get my thoughts down on paper so they’re organized and stated and i can forget them.

Why do you blog?  What do you like about it?

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Generation Me

I just finished reading a fascinating book called Generation Me. It’s a non-fiction book about the youngest generation. The book dives into all aspects of this generation. It’s major parts are worth repeating:

Generation Me doesn’t need you approval. They don’t care what anyone thinks. For them social rules are out the window. It’s all about individual needs and desires. Because of this many changes in society occur from increased swearing, more self-expression, lack of respect for other individuals and social conventions. The book states right in the beginning:

July 2005, when about half the members of the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team wore flip-flops during the White House visit

It’s all about self-esteem. Generation Me is raised to have very high self-esteem. By giving a gold star to everyone and removing the goals from the soccer field, kids are raised to think they are great – and they believe it. Because of this lots of Generation Me are narcissists. Narcissism is the darker side of the focus on the self, and is often confused with self-esteem. Self-esteem is often based on solid relationships with others, whereas narcissism comes from believing that you are special and more important than other people which is what happens when someone’s been told their entire life that they are great.

You can be anything you want to be. This is also shoved down their throats in movies, books and society. Because of this most of Generation Me thinks they’ll be famous. They all believe they’ll be an actor, artist or at least on TV.

Most people are not going to realize their dreams because most people do not dream of becoming accountants, social workers, or trash collectors…..In 2004 a national survey found that more college freshman said they wanted to be an “actor or entertainer” than wanted to be a veterinarian, a dentist, a member of the clergy, a social worker, an architect, or work in the sales department of a business

Because of this belief there is an advanced focus on appearance and materialism. However, achieving success is becoming harder and harder which leads to increase in anxiety and depression. More and more people have serious emotional problems. This is due to:

  • Economics: housing, education, health care and day care costs have far outstripped inflation. Most people spend over 40% of their income on housing instead of the typical 25%. The average home costs 37% of an average person’s pre-tax income.
  • Person-to-person interactions are at an all-time low. We’re malnourished from eating a junk-food diet of instant messages, email and phone calls instead of actually interacting. Relationships aren’t valued as highly. Increasingly, there’s a belief that there’s a fine line between love – and a waste of time
  • Higher expectations. As Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) says in Fight Club, “We were raised on TV to believe that we’d all be millionaires, movie gods, rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re starting to figure that out. And we’re very, very, pissed off.” All of society’s entertainment pieces show role models (read: celebrities) who are much more successful than the average person. From Cribs, Super Sweet 16 to Friends, to US Weekly.
  • Because of the focus on the self, when people are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, disappointment looms large because there is nothing else to focus on when it occurs.
  • Mobility stress. College admissions and jobs. They are both increasingly more selective and it’s harder and harder to standout in society as the number of people finishing both high school and college increase

After reading through the entire book, I found myself nodding my head again and again as things I see everyday start to make more and more sense. Similar to The Long Tail, Generation Me better articulates everyday patterns I’ve noticed and gives it some structure and theory. A good read – i recommend it.

When you are old

I read this passage on the plane this morning and it got me thinking…

When You Are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars
– William Butler Yeats

Here’s a woman looking back on her life thinking of herself and past loved ones. Did the woman reject love at one point or has it just passed her by?  I love the thought of Love fleeing and hiding its face amid a crowd of stars.  To me this is either because its a perfect love in an absolute sense or because its gone and now out of reach.  I like the former thought but i tend to think its written as the latter.  Anyone else with me?

10 ground rules for women when watching football

I was hanging out with some girls this weekend who were pretty clueless about the football games going on.  Thus, i thought it’d be a good time to replay an oldie but goodie. Here are The Sports Guy’s 10 Ground Rules for women when watching football with guys.  (i can’t find his link otherwise i’d like to it)

  1. No PDA.  If you’re allowed to watch with your boyfriend and his buddies, don’t rub his head, don’t kiss his neck, don’t scratch his back, don’t cuddle…don’t do any of that stuff.  By the way, the only thing that makes guys more uncomfortable than public affection is fighting, so if you feel the need to re-enact the limo scene from “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” do it on your own time
  2. There isn’t a single acceptable situation for the question “Is this game almost over yet?”  Not one.
  3. When you boyfriend’s buddy calls to discuss a game in progress, don’t shake your head and definitely don’t mutter spine-crumbling comments like “God, I hate your voice when you’re talking to your friends.”  Needless phone calls are a crucial part of the viewing experience.  They remind us we aren’t the only ones wasting our Sundays.  So leave us alone
  4. Don’t complain about incessant remote-control flipping on Sunday.  We know when to flip and we where we’re going.  In’s an innate gift.  And we do it for a reason: We’re trying to catch as much football as possible.  Consider yourself lucky to be along for the ride
  5. Laugh at our jokes.  Just pretend you’re the bandleader on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.  Guys are easy.  If someone’s laughing with us, we like having them around
  6. Don’t belittle our gambling or fantasy football.  Comments like “You have a bookie?,” or “I can’t believe you guys pick players and pretend you’re the coach,” or, my personal favorite, “You guys need to get a life” are all guaranteed to make us hate you
  7. We’re easily bribable, so bring something…even if it’s a bag of chips.  If you cook something, even better (Rice Krispies Treats are always a winner)
  8. Corollary: Whenever you get up, ask, “Can I get anyone anything?” Makes us feel like manly men. Plus, we don’t have to get up
  9. Know your stuff.  the moment you say something like, “Wait, I thought Drew Bledsoe was on the Patriots,” you might as well put a bag over your head. If you’re clueless, keep it rudimentary observations like “That was an unbelievable catch” or “This announcer is annoying.”  Never say, “Jon Gruden’s so cute. He looks just like my old high school boyfriend!” Save that for the next “American Idol.”
  10. Along those same lines, an understated approach may just win our eternal respect.  A few years ago, i was in Vermont with some friends.  On a Sunday afternoon, while the boys were watching the Steelers, the girls returned from the slopes with their adorable ski bunny friend (the one who caused us to jostle in our seats to sneak peeks when she wasn’t looking).  The ski bunny notices the game, sits down and asks, “What’s the score?” Typical girl question (right up there with “Who’s playing?”), but since she was cute, we threw her a bone and gave her the score.  Then, she drops this one on us: “How come Tomczak’s in the game? Did O’Donnell get hurt?”     Nobody said anything. We did a collective quadruple take, eyes bulging out of our heads like Marty Mornhinweg.  We were floored.  Finally i answered: “Yeah, he’s hurt.  By the way, my name’s Bill.  Will you marry me?”   Turned out she had a boyfriend.  The great ones always do

You make me touch your hands for stupid reasons

As someone who reads and receives lots of comments from young folks (i’m the person where feedback@qloud goes to), i’ve seen the worst of the worst when it comes to grammar. I was looking at some bad messages today when i was shown this letter (below).

This is a breakup letter from a 13 year old to another 13 year old. It’s pretty funny to read but even funnier to listen to. PLEASE click on the message image and listen to the audio (or click here). It is hysterical.


Wes Anderson's short film

The new Wes Anderson film, Dearjeeling, just hit the theaters and although i LOVE Rushmore, i’m starting to get sick of the same old kooky formula Wes keeps giving us. I’ll definitely go see the new movie, but i’m not expecting much as his films have gotten progressively worse. Bottle Rocket and Rushmore were great and i thought i was going to be a lifelong fan. Royal Tennebaums was good but it had too many characters with none of them being really developed and it didn’t have the heart of Rushmore. A Life Aquatic was just a mess and definitely the least original and entertaining. So, my expectations are low for Darjeeling.


One thing that i just watched is that a short film prequel to the upcoming movie. It’s called Hotel Chevalier and it takes takes place in a lavish Parisian hotel room filled with typical Andersonian colors and quirky details (and i hear the Marc Jacobs suitcase play a major role in Darjeeling). The film stars Jason Schwartzman (shocker) and Natalie Portman and watches them fumble through the end of an awkward relationship. I love Natalie and she definitely delivers. The short film is free on iTunes (click HERE) and worth checking out.

Independence Day

I was given the book Independence Day by Richard Ford to read by a friend of mine. It’s a great read and very well written and i liked it a lot. I do feel some odd similarities to the main character, Frank Branscombe. He has a pragmatism towards life and love that i can relate to. While of course we differ in a lot of ways – he being 45 and divorced with 2 children vs. me 30 and not ever been married – i was curious to see what he would do on every page to see if i would react in the same way. In some ways it reads like a guidebook about how to survive as a middle-aged man. On others it’s about the quest to achieve continuity and self-actualization in everyday life. Frank’s life has had its ups and downs but he’s non-apologetic and pretty agreeable as a character.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Sally (FB’s quasi-girlfriend): you just want everything to seem perfect and everybody to seem pleased. And you’re willing to let seem equal be. It makes pleasing anybody be an act of cowardice

This is a huge trait of FB in the book and is definitely MPL material. This is what i do. Interesting….

Sally: You’re too smooth from one thing to the next. I can’t keep up with you very well.FB: I think i’m just more at ease in the mainstream. It’s my version of the sublime.

Sally: And you’re also very cautious, you know. And you’re non-committal. You know that, don’t you? I’m sure that’s what you meant last night by being beyond affection. You’re smooth and you’re cautious and you’re noncommittal.

FB: My judgments aren’t very sound, so i just try not to cause too much trouble. But when i feel something strong, i guess i jump in.

Sally: Or you seem to anyway

The book is also just about FB and his thoughts about life. Some random passages:

  • About renting vs. owning: I felt owning was enough different from renting (except that you couldn’t leave). In my mind a sense of contingency and the possibility of imminent change in status underlay everything, though we stayed for more than a decade, and i stayed longer. It always seemed to me enough just to know what someone loved you and would go on loving you forever and that the mise-en-scene for love only that and not a character in the play itself
  • About the 4th of July: It is an odd holiday, to be sure – one a man or woman could easily grow abstracted about, its practical importance to the task of holding back wild and dark misrule never altogether clear or provable; as though independence were only private and too crucial to celebrate with others; as though we should all just get on with being independent, given that it is after all the normal, commonsensical human condition, to be taken for granted unless opposed or thwarted , in which case unreserved, even absurd measures should be taken to restore or reimagine it. Best maybe just to pass the day as the original signers did and as i prefer to do, in a country-like setting near to home, alone with your thoughts, your fears, your hopes, your “moments of reason” for what new world lies fearsomely ahead.
  • Better to follow old Davy Crockett’s motto (amended for use by adults): Be sure you’re not completely wrong, then go ahead.
  • From RB as he’s falling asleep: Suddenly my heart again goes bangety-bang, bangety-bangety-bang, as if i myself were about to exit life in a hurry. And if i could, i would spring up, switch on the light, dial someone and shout right down into the hard little receiver, “It’s okay. I got away. It was goddamned close, I’ll tell ya. It didn’t get me, though. I smelled its breath, saw its red eyes in the dark, shining. A clammy hand touched mine. But i made it. I survived. Wait for me. Wait for me. Not that much is left to do” Only there’s no one. No one here or anywhere near to say any of this to. And i’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

What's Going On this Weekend? Let's Talk About What Going In!

Why go out tonight? How about 25 reasons why….

  1. If you don’t drink that booze, someone else will – now get off your ass
  2. Bad ass nicknames like “Chuggybear,” “The Alabama Hamma,” “Pukey McPukerson” are not awarded to people who stay home to do laundry (ahem: kmr)
  3. This is the one and only night your soul mate will wander into the bar. Seriously.
  4. Word on the street is the booze has been trash talking you all day.
  5. It’s far better to have a good time you won’t remember than a dull one you will.
  6. Remember your English high school teacher that you used to call “Mr. McTightass?” You are starting to remind me of him.
  7. How the hell can you walk around sober when you’re an insignificant speck in an infinite and uncaring universe?
  8. Churchill and FDR got drunk, Hitler didn’t. Need i say more?
  9. If you don’t you’ll wake up in the morning all bright eyed and bushy tailed, and who the hell wants to go through life acting like a goddamn squirrel?
  10. Your friends can’t have a good time without you.
  11. Or, even worse – your friends might have a great time without you.
  12. There is a 1000 percent better chance you will land a starring role in the upcoming Paris Hilton video Vegas Orgy.
  13. Your lawn is so much more comfortable when you’re loaded.
  14. That feisty barmaid might finally, you know, pick up on what you’re laying down.
  15. Are we down on this little place we call earth to have a good time or watch other people have a good time on TV?
  16. Your girlfriend has rented a bunch of chick flicks you can snuggle to – including Legally Blonde 3.
  17. If you don’t hunt the booze, the booze will surely hunt you.
  18. When you write your memoirs you won’t have to go through the hassle of making up a bunch of decadent adventures.
  19. Modern life is a shit storm and booze is the only umbrella without any holes in it.
  20. You did your goddamn monkey dance for the Man and now you get your monkey treat.
  21. The day will come when you will have to single-handedly face death, and there isn’t a person alive who can tell you what will happen next.
  22. Hemingway shot himself after being sober for two months.
  23. When your coworkers ask “What did you get up to last night?” you can smile all cool like and say “Maaaaaan, you don’t wanna know,” instead of chirping “I alphabetized my DVD collection and found out I have two copies of The Truth About Cats and Dogs! Two!”
  24. Remember your childhood dream of meeting a brewery heiress and jet-setting around the world on her dime? You think that’s going to happen while sitting in your goddamn apartment watching Planet Earth’s Shallow Seas?
  25. It’s so much easier to call up those your ex and explain exactly where they went wrong.