Monthly Archives: November 2018

I want to help, but: Giving Tuesday is hard to take.

I ran across our provost in the supermarket on Sunday in the cereal aisle. I probably looked tired and mildly overwhelmed.
 
“So many options,” he said perceptively, as I scanned the shelves with my face likely sporting a touch of bewilderment. I replied that I’m sure there’s research to this effect, not thinking fast enough to cite Hick’s Law on how the increasing number of choices can reduce one’s likelihood of making a decision.
 
And in a way, that’s the formula that has made Giving Tuesday almost more than I can take.
 
The idea behind Giving Tuesday is wonderful. I want to feel into it. But instead I feel overwhelmed.


Day after day

I suspect it seemed like a natural progression when it started: You had Black Friday where people stampeded poor associates and other shoppers for bargains. Then they could go online and act tech-savvy and dignified with Cyber Monday. After all that, helping a good cause on Giving Tuesday could assuage any guilt for conspicuous consumption.

But even in the “good old days,” there was an economic construct that could deter Giving Tuesday success: Money is a finite resource. Yes, you might have “saved” $10 or $20 or whatever on Black Friday deals, but if you spent $100 or $200, that’s the only concrete figure on the balance sheet. Although most of that went on credit cards, so one could say paying later can enable doing some good while feeling good about one’s savings.

But this year I just feel like I’ve been overrun without walking into a shopping center on Friday. I feel digitally displaced without even clicking a Buy button on Monday. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken over the month of November, and it’s not cool.

Too much

I don’t even remember when the first pre-pre-pre-Black Friday marketing email descended upon my inbox, and I’ve lost track of how many retailers have “generously” expanded Cyber Monday into Cyber Week (the emails feel more like an army of Cybermen deleting my sanity). To say that I received hundreds of emails from marketers in the past week related to shopping would not be an exaggeration, and that’s despite unsubscribing from several.

And don’t even get me started on retailers using “Giving Tuesday” as a pitch line, because that stuff’s in bad taste.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen so many great causes promoted by friends and colleagues and various institutions of higher learning. Part of me wants to support all of them. But …

… they are indeed all worthy. So I’m finding it difficult to find the time, let alone have the money, to support all the ones I want. A lot of fundraising happens in November anyway: In the past few weeks, I’ve already donated to multiple causes and am coordinating our building’s SEFA/United Way food drive. And that’s not counting all the stories, social media posts and other content worked on to help a range of charities.

I say this not to congratulate myself but to try to convince myself I’m not an awful person for not getting into the spirit of Giving Tuesday. If you have and supported causes important to you, that’s wonderful. If you’re a fundraiser and your efforts have influenced others to make a difference, fantastic!

I don’t want to give up on Giving Tuesday, but please forgive me if my will gives out until I can regain the holiday spirit.

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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a kind of magic

Queen on stage as portrayed in Bohemian Rhapsody

(Twenty-First Century Fox promotional photo)

Going into “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I knew to expect great music — Queen is one of the best bands ever, after all — but ultimately the story and the performances make this a movie that will rock you.

In retrospect, the ascension of a bunch of musical misfits who created norms-defying songs and led by a strange-looking frontman really is an underdog story. So many of us either caught Queen’s ascension at the time or afterwards that going back to the beginning and realizing/remembering just how unusual this band and its music was becomes instructive.

The talk of Rami Malik deserving an Oscar nomination as Freddie Mercury is legit. Since I don’t pay much attention to entertainment news, it really did take me half the movie to realize it was the same guy from “Mr. Robot.” Malik is asked to show us a Freddie who is at turns confident and lonely, hot and cold, and coming to grasp with his sexuality and its place in a more constrained society, and he delivers magnificently.

But I was additionally pleased the movie didn’t make this all about Mercury and sell short the contributions of his bandmates. The rest of the band, who look strikingly like their real-world selves (especially Gwilym Lee as Brian May, but also Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joe Mazello as John Deacon), show a range of emotion and real chemistry to bring us even further into the tale. That the movie includes May’s vision for the stomp-clap of “We Will Rock You” and Deacon presenting his disco-influenced bass riff that became “Another One Bites the Dust” are fabulous bits that really flesh out the band’s collaborative talents — and makes the times when a misguided Mercury pushes back on the band’s family feeling even more compelling.

Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin has both some heartbreaking scenes as Mercury’s wife who realizes he is gay well before he accepts it but also heartwarming parts as somebody who sticks by him even as his life strays the wrong direction under manipulative manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech). Even seemingly smaller roles like Mercury’s family and his eventual partner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) allow the performers to show genuine humanity and decency many such movies wouldn’t bother to provide.

One could quibble with the historical accuracy, or lack thereof, of parts of the film. From the formation of the band through when Mercury actually received his AIDS diagnosis, the filmmakers take some liberties with facts and timelines. This should probably bother me (and my history degree) more than it does, but a biopic is not a documentary. The reworking parts of the backstory come in service to creating a more powerful story, and the film is such a fun ride that I won’t get hung up on it. This is a Hollywood tale, after all, which is both based on a real band and a wonderful bit of escapism.

If you’re a Queen fan, it goes without saying you should see this movie. But even if you aren’t, the music and the story and the performances are all so engrossing, enjoyable and entertaining that it’s likely you’ll leave the theater as a Queen fan. It really is a kind of magic.

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