Hulk Hogan’s Insurance Lawsuit

It’s not everyday that an insurance case is interesting, but today, I was able to cover one that was: Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against his insurer Wells Fargo Insurance Services Southeast, which the wrestler says should have told him to get better insurance, considering his kids had recently become of driving age.

Unfortunately, Hogan’s son Nick Bollea got into a disastrous car accident in 2007 that left his friend in the passenger seat, John Graziano, in a severe coma. Hogan recently paid a settlement toward Graziano’s medical expenses, which are expected to include 24-hour a day medical care for the rest of his life. (Graziano is currently in his early 20s). The wrestler said he would have owed a lot less if he had an insurance package that covered such incidents. (I assure you, Hulk, your insurer would have fought your claim first).

In my research for the story, I was struck by the recriminations coming from all sides. Hogan’s toward his insurance company, which he said breached its fiduciary duty by not recommending more insurance to cover the wrestler’s $30 million net worth; Graziano’s family toward Hogan and their absolute defense of their son (who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt). They also tried to say he wasn’t good friends with Nick Bollea.

(Added: In fairness to Hulk Hogan, one insurance lawyer says it is Florida law to advise someone to get an umbrella policy. What I wonder is whether Wells Fargo did this and Hulk turned them down. Gotta find that sort of thing out in discovery…)

I don’t claim to know who is right in this particular case, but it just struck me how much blame-seeking goes on in our society. Some of it is deserved and necessary, especially when a lot of money is on the line, as with issues surrounding the 2008 bailouts. But some of it seems like futile efforts to divine a villain when an event is simply tragic.

This is why you’re obsessed with food

Because you’re inundated with non-fat, sugar-free, no-carb disgusting-ness.

(My response to the ubiquitously-linked website this is why you’re fat).

This stuff is just as pernicious as bacon.

My contribution to ‘stuff white people like’

I had to do it.  I e-mailed Stuff White People Like with a couple of suggestions:

Heard Christian Lander on NPR, and started telling my white friends about how great this segement I heard on NPR was!
I have a couple of suggestions for the blog that may well have been sent to you already.
White people like
(1) Helping Africans and Latin Americans. Despite that there are plenty of poor, uneducated, unhealthy families residing in the backyards of white people (SE DC, Appalachia, Camden, NJ), they love to travel across the globe to help people deemed even poorer: Latin Americans and Africans. In particular, white people find that the best way to help these populations is by taking photos of them as freelance photographers and educating other white people about how bad these populations have it. (This goes along with the white penchant for “Awareness” illustrated earlier). When asked to explain their passion for this type of “work,” white people will rattle off about “human rights,” “social justice,” “global community,” and “interdependence.”
Fortunately for white people concerned with the size of their carbon footprint, there has not been enough “awareness” shed on the dent that footprint makes each time a white person flies to South Africa, yet.
(2) Learning non-”Western” languages. At a certain point, learning French went from being romantically intellectual to being a sign of white cultural ignorance, unless that French is to be applied in one of the Francophone countries in Africa. These days, white people are learning Farsi, Hindi, Chinese, and Arabic. Spanish is still okay, but only if you have plans to use it for social justice purposes.
Hope these aren’t too repetitive. Keep up the great work. As I’m sure you’ve heard, I recognize so many people (including myself) in your blog posts.
Cheers (a sign-off that white people like),
Elaine Meyer
Of course, this is not to knock people who learn languages, especially those who are incredibly disciplined about it.  I wish I knew an Eastern language myself.  I am more knocking the fact that learning these languages has become a trendy and fleeting endeavor for many.  (One of my favorite readers is a shining example of how important studiousness and committment is to learning languages, especially those of a totally different structure than the Romance and Germanic with which English speakers are familiar).

White people like to talk

I’m pretty envious of the mastermind behind the new blog sensation Stuff White People Like–a blog that paints, by example, the culture of the yuppy–because I cannot tell you how  many times I have thought what s/he puts to paper.  With entries from co-ed sports to Michel Gondry, the list gives a thorough rundown of the beloved “stuff” of all white privileged sub-cultures from the fratty yuppy to the effortful hipster.  While I’m not a big fan of excessive self-hating on one’s race, culture, etc., (as in those white people who call other white people “soo white”), I think this blog illlustrates something beyond that, which is how germane know-it-allness is to this brand of white culture. 

Those of us who smile at our familiarity with this blog’s critiques have probably been in one too many conversations where a white person bragged about going to the most preserved, un-corrupted-by-tourists part of a foreign country, or wrang their hands at the dearth of really authentic Mexican food in their locality, or talked about their marathon-training regimen.  I’m always amazed at the need for some people to exhibit their pedantic knowledge on the most useless of things, assured that their rendering of say Buddhism or yoga or computers is right (and that other people care).   

For instance, those self-congratulatory people who are always saying how healthy they feel because they are training for a marathon fail to entertain the possibility that maybe what they think is good for them actually is not.  In the whirlwind bytes of information that are hurled at us every day, we tend to seize on those that confirm what we desire to believe.  This is why, when a white person talks of something self-assuredly, I always have to question what underlies that certainty beside a sort of blind faith (similar to some forms of religious belief, which white people often criticize, unless–a nod to Stuff White People Like– it’s an Eastern religion). 

The other thing this blog points to is how these white sub-cultures are so bent on finding the best of everything: the best wine, the best coffee, the best sushi.  As the writer often says, “a lot of cultures love [insert universal item here]…but white people love [it] on an entirely different level.”  ‘Tis the curse of riches and leisure time, I guess.

Considering the importance of lyrics

I was recently going through the Pitchfork Media top 100 tracks of the year, and I was a little disappointed with how decisive lyrics factored into their choices for top tracks.  Take their choice number one track, LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.”  Writer Mark Pytlik declares that its “opening line is worthy of a great novel.”  Here is the opening line of “All My Friend”:

That’s how it starts.
We go back to your house.
We check the charts,
And start to figure it out.

Seriously? That line is worthy of the opening of a great novel?

I see some futility in looking to music for quality of lyrics.  I seek good, meaningful writing in other media.  From music, I like to enjoy the sound.  This is not to discount good lyrics but just to say that it seems a combination of pretension and barking up the wrong tree to seek brilliance from song writers, especially those, as Pytlik says of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, “who take perverse pleasure in making up lyrics on the spot.”

Incidentally, I was listening to “Since I Lost My Baby” by the Temptations today, and I think the lyrics, with a nice rhyming scheme, fit its melody very well:

The sun is shining, there’s plenty of light (oh yeah)
A new day is dawning, sunny and bright (oh yeah)
But after I’ve been crying all night
The sun is cold, and the new day seems old

This is certainly not brilliant, but what is brilliance really, especially when compacted for brilliance’s sake into a five-minute song?

As an aside, here are some songs that I am streaming/YouTubing:

Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack

Skeleton Man” by the New Evangelicals

Since I Lost my Baby” by the Temptations

More on the music debate

David Brooks has joined in on the music debate that I (and many others) highlighted a few weeks ago when the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones criticized indie music for being too white and Slate’s Carl Wilson responded that it is too upper-middle class.

Brooks expresses a similar sentiment, one that can be boiled down to that musical influences are not available through a central media, an authoritative cultural arbiter like “The Ed Sullivan Show.” 

On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles played on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Or as Steven Van Zandt remembers the moment: “It was the beginning of my life.”

Van Zandt fell for the Beatles and discovered the blues and early rock music that inspired them.

Brooks attributes today’s lack of Van Zandts to our modern, “segmented society,” not a unique observation.  (I can link to a paper I wrote about this subject for my sophomore year American Cultural History class, but I will spare you).

However, Brooks de-emphasizes the mechanical reasons  in his explanation for why rock has broken into multiple sub-genres that are increasingly less related to each other.  For one, there is no equivalent to “Ed Sullivan” today because of cable TV and niche marketing.  Anyone who laments this void needs to put the blame as much at the feet of focus group-oriented marketers and the receptive cable television programmers who find that it is more profitable to slice up and target demographics than to encourage programming that appeals to broad swaths of people.

Furthermore, and very obviously, the format of the Internet–increasingly the primary distribution channel of music–facilitates segmentation, because, as we know, cultural products are not coming from a few central sources as they do on TV and radio.  This is not totally a bad thing.

Brooks instead opts for the more exciting cultural critique:

But other causes flow from the temper of the times. It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles.

I have no idea where he got that.  He continues,

And there’s the rise of the mass educated class.

People who have built up cultural capital and pride themselves on their superior discernment are naturally going to cultivate ever more obscure musical tastes. I’m not sure they enjoy music more than the throngs who sat around listening to Led Zeppelin, but they can certainly feel more individualistic and special.

There may be some truth to this.  One thing I find interesting about the musical scene to which Brooks refers–the indie scene–is that bands do not seem to endure the way the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did.  (As someone who has a tepid opinion of the Rolling Stones, I have no inclination to romanticize their endurance). 

I also wonder whether Brooks has listened to the music he is criticizing (maybe he has, but he does write about it in broad strokes), but I will say that I agree with him that the impulse to find obscure music is a kind of hobby of an educated class.  (I also believe that it values novelty for its own sake.  Always eager to find the next new thing, obscurity-hunters can seem attention-deficient when it comes to developing a depth of taste.  This is not to say that all indie fans or even most are like this).

Brooks concludes with this lament:

We live in an age in which the technological and commercial momentum drives fragmentation. It’s going to be necessary to set up countervailing forces — institutions that span social, class and ethnic lines.

Music used to do this. Not so much anymore.

If “institutions that span social, class and ethnic lines” refer to network TV and the radio during the 1940s-70s, it is important to note that such formations were themselves phenomena which had their own unique drawbacks. 

O’Reilly absurdity

Since yesterday, I have developed a newfound appreciation of Bill O’Reilly. I never really realized before how funny he is, especially when he interviews absurd people. For instance, he once pitted an elementary school principal against rapper Cam’ron and rap producer Damon Dash to look at the impact of rap videos on children, a favorite topic of his. O’Reilly seems to particularly enjoy these cultural pieces where he can make the easy point that rap videos show depraved activity and could set a bad example for children. Plus, he gets ridiculous response from his guests, like this one from Cam’ron, who’s trying to justify what he does:

What I do is I write what goes on in the ghetto, I’m not a liar, so what I tell you goes on in my album, that’s what goes on in the streets of Harlem . Now, I’m like a reporter. you look at the news; you don’t get mad at the person reporting the news.

O’Reilly goes on to confront Cam’ron about what kind of example he sets. The response, from Dash and Cam’ron is hilarious and proves that you haven’t made it as a rapper until you have your own scent.

Damon Dash: If an 11-year-old were to imitate Cam’ron, what they would be doing is they becoming a CEO of their own company, controlling their own destiny, taking a bad situation and making it good. Um, he has a record company, he sold a lot of records, he’s acted in movies,

Cam’ron: I have a cologne also.

Damon Dash: He has cologne. He’s an entrepreneur by his own right.

In addition, O’Reilly gets to describe, with Church Lady-esque pleasure, the activities that he finds harmful for children to see:

What if he uses four-letter words, and he develops a lifestyle based upon the street? He gets tatooed, he gets all this–

Plus, O’Reilly apparently thinks that The Terminator is a cartoon.

The Darjeeling Limited: yuck

This is precisely why I have so little desire to see the Darjeeling Limited (aside from the fact that I generally cannot stand formulaic, quirky for quirky’s sake Wes Anderson movies):

Beware of any film in which an entire race and culture is turned into therapeutic scenery.

From the Beatles’ 1968 hang with the Maharishi to the recent “Imagine India” flower show at Macy’s, South Asia has long been a hotspot in the American and European orientalist imagination. But for a director as willfully idiosyncratic as Anderson, it’s surprising how many white-doofuses-seeking-redemption-in-the-brown-skinned-world clichés Darjeeling Limited inhabits.

I have encountered this tendency enough from people who treat their experiences abroad as revelations about which the rest of us Americans are living in ignorance to want to see it in a movie, but that’s for another blog.

I didn’t have a problem with Lost in Translation, which is also noted for setting off arguments about the writer/director’s latent racism, because it came off as a genuine enough–though hardly perfect–portrayal of people displaced from their culture.  Darjeeling Limited at least looks self-conscious and contrived.

Word to the Dane Cook mystification

From Freakonomics Blog:

Can anyone explain Dane Cook to me?

That’s really all I have to say. The rest is commentary — i.e., yours.

OMFG, WORD. That’s all I have to say.

Nostalgia for its own sake

Susan Damato in the Washington Post is upset that models are not unique or memorable anymore.

Sasha, Natasha, Milana, Magdalena: Could anyone other than a bookings editor tell the difference between these women? Yes, I know about Agness Deyn and Chanel Iman. And of course, superstar models a la Linda, Kate and Christy don’t pop up every season (or decade, even). But where are the Karen Mulders and Yasmeen Ghauris — those girls who were hardly household names, but who nevertheless managed to make the clothes their own?

The purpose of a fashion model is to display how clothing looks on a body. Few models have proven that they have much interesting to say or do besides look nice, so it seems a little illogical to expect that they be distinct personalities. This isn’t to say that I endorse the fashion industry’s revolving door of Eastern Europen models who starve themselves to get underpaid by the designers. Maybe if models were still valued as individuals, this practice would go extinct, but I cannot help but think that it is silly to miss the days when models used to get attention for being insane.

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