Tag Archives: #Colbert Report

The Rally to Restore Sanity: Yawn

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was, of all things, boring.  From a Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally I expected something more.  I really didn’t know what — what is a rally to restore sanity anyway?  What is a rally to keep fear alive?  And what in the hell is a rally to do both?  I think that nobody knows even now, including Stewart and Colbert.  But given that the two of them were hosting the show, the least I expected was great comedy.

Instead we started off with an hour of music and party games.  The band – Roots, joined at some point by John Legend — was good and funky, though not what I had traveled from New York City for.  After them the hosts of the TV show Mythbusters took over and played around with having the absolutely giant crowd do the wave, then all jump at the same time – essentially some exercises to demonstrate that the crowd was absolutely giant.  Sadly they threw in some kindergarten-level Simon Says-type exercises that just made me sad.  They themselves said this was by far the largest audience they had ever had, yet the most creative they could get was to have everyone “laugh politely” or “cry” on cue.  Dog obedience school is probably more stimulating.

All that took up a whole hour before we saw hide or hair of either of our hosts.  And once Stewart and Colbert finally showed I sort of wished they hadn’t.  I wanted to laugh for them instead of feel uncomfortable for them, but they did not make it easy.  Colbert was no more than the court jester, a role far beneath both the man and the character.  On the Colbert Report he doesn’t just act the clown – he makes incisive commentary, and he points out when the right gets something right.  At the rally he just cavorted in silly costumes and played the fool.  The tone was set when he made his entrance from beneath the stage in a painfully slow reenactment of the Chilean miners’ rescue.  Not funny.

Stewart and Colbert tried so hard to so little effect that it was almost a relief when they brought on one musical act after another.  I had no idea I was going to a concert, but it felt like there was more music than there was anything else, mostly by people I had never heard of.  There was one great comedic musical moment, when Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens, then as Yusuf Islam – and he was the musical representative of sanity) and Ozzy Osbourne (representing fear – somehow once the entire nation has witnessed him shuffling around in his bathrobe it’s hard to make that association) dueled with “Peace Train” and “Crazy Train.”

The funniest bit didn’t involve either Stewart or Colbert.  It was Father Guido Sarducci who came to the rescue with a “benediction” that was more like a friendly, one-to-one tiff with God.  He badgered God to give us all a sign which religion was right, with the apparent result that none of them is.  It had nothing to do with sanity or fear and he didn’t have a band, so it was a refreshing break in addition to being really funny (look it up on YouTube – it must be there by now).  Sam Waterston also scored with a dramatic recitation of a poem that Colbert claimed he wrote the night before.  After that it was back downhill.

Only at the very end did Jon Stewart really attempt to explain the rally in a speech censuring political extremists and ripping the media a new one for abandoning its critical role of educating the public in a democracy.  He got some good lines in and set the stage nicely for the rally.  Too late.

(Kudos to the crowd on the fantastic signs, e.g. “The people behind this sign can’t see”; “Save Jon Stewart! He’s our most important Jew!”; “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Voldemort”; and best of all, “Puppies Now, Puppies Tomorrow, Puppies Forever!,” which made as much sense as anything else.)

Stephen & Jon, I love you guys, but I want my train fare back.

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Women: What Is So Bad About Your Names?

Why do women change their last names when they get married?  Setting aside the fact that it is the conventional thing to do, the reasons women change their names aren’t overly persuasive.  Many of the female friends and relatives who are dearest to me have changed their last names, and they are intelligent, thoughtful individuals who probably considered the following arguments, so I hope that they and other women like them will submit comments about why they disagree.

The custom of married women changing to their husband’s last name is a relic of the times when wives were the legal property of their husbands.  The modern parlance of “taking” one’s husband’s name makes it sound like the wife’s independent choice, but it looks different when viewed in the context of history.  It’s like engagement rings, which are effectively a down payment.  (I have one myself, but only because when I got engaged people kept asking where my ring was, plus they are just so pretty and sparkly.)

Nowadays some women say they change their names because it is “easier” – when they call their children’s school or doctor, there is less explaining to do.  But really, how hard is it to say “my name is Smith, but my kids’ last name is Jones”?  As a person with an unusual first name (though it seems to be gaining popularity), I have spent maybe an extra 15 seconds each on many phone calls spelling out my name.  As a wife with a different last name from my husband, I have spent maybe 45 seconds on the phone explaining that while my name is Hoffman, I’m calling about my husband, whose name is Roth.  Granted, telephone customer service is a hassle, but I doubt that going to the lengths of getting a new driver’s license and passport is going to make it any more pleasant.

For those who feel strongly about this “same name as the kids” issue, I admire the solution a friend adopted: she kept her last name and gave it to her children.  Because she is the primary caretaker she is more likely to be calling the school or the doctor or whoever, so by sharing her own last name with her children she avoids whatever hassle she might face if her name were different from theirs.  (Like my friend, her husband kept his own last name.  But I suppose that goes without saying.)

Another reason some women offer for changing their last names is that they don’t want to feel left out of their families as the only member with a different last name.  This suggests that they understand names to be important signifiers of identity; it follows that by giving up their own last names, they are burying or even repudiating their pre-marriage identities, including their membership in the families who raised them (sometimes dropping the original “nuclear” family’s name is the most alluring reason to change one’s last name, but surely that’s true for men too).  But wives don’t have to choose between their childhood family and their married family: both spouses can hyphenate their names and give the same hyphenated last name to their children.  (What those children choose to do when they get married is their problem.)

A couple who feels strongly that their family should share the same last name has another option: choosing a new last name that combines the wife’s and husband’s name, or a name that is entirely new and expresses something about their marriage and the identity of their new family.  Both partners then share equally in the formation of their new identities and in symbolically moving away from their old ones, but also in considering and shaping their identity or character as a new family.  Plus this option opens up exciting new possibilities: want to be a Kennedy?  Or better yet, a Colbert?  Go right ahead!

Some women change their last names because it is important to their husbands.  But if a man is already dictating what his wife’s very name will be just as they are starting out in life together, it does not bode well for his respect of her independence in other matters.  (If he is willing to trade for things that are important to the woman, however, she might as well explore the opportunities for profitable bartering.)

Of course these are generalizations and each woman’s experience is unique, but the phenomenon of women changing their last names to their husbands’ is the norm, and it is troubling.  Would you all please explain why you keep doing it?

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