America's most pointless

23:58, Feb 14 2013

Why do men have nipples?

That's a bit of an odd and disconcerting lead, yes. But it's something I've been chewing over on a symbolic cultural level this week.

The answer is that male nipples are a genetic remainder and a harmless evolutionary quirk with no relevant purpose.

I found myself at various points of this week pondering certain similar pointless aspects of American life, things that might have once served a purpose but which the world has evolved past. These hang around, sometimes harmlessly, sometimes not, just imploring to be put down.

So today, to finish the week, I bring you my list of the five most pointless things about America.

Award shows


Mumford and Sons, maybe the worst band going around today that isn't named Nickelback, won the album of the year Grammy in the weekend. It was a travesty. That band and that album are the worst winner of the modern era, among a collection of increasingly terrible Grammy winners.

Sometimes, people still collectively respect an old tradition and keep referring to it as important, even though all possible relevance has been drained from the moment. Deep down it is because we fear change. The traditional recorded music is dead, splintered in too many ways for the Grammys to be representative of anything. This did not stop a bloated TV broadcast or a two-day Grammy-related news cycle. I for one do not care that Jennifer Lopez wore Angelina Jolie's leg-revealing dress.

I propose award shows get replaced by a yearly broadcast of celebrity's walking up and down a red-carpet as Ryan Seacrest asks them shallow questions about their personal life, before they all move into a hall and listen to a comedian make fun of them. It would serve the same purpose.

This awards delusion continues next weekend with the Oscars set to celebrate the 'best' movies of 2012. I was speaking to an American newspaper films editor recently, who was telling me that she has two Oscar's news stories commissioned and ready to go already. The only mystery is whether Argo or Lincoln wins Best Picture, she told me. Daniel Day Lewis will win best actor, Jennifer Lawrence best actress, Anne Hathaway and Tommy Lee Jones will win the supporting actor awards and Stephen Spielberg best director. The Oscars are so predictable that she's been doing this for years and wrong only once.

The penny

Pennies form an unwanted, unavoidable copper monstrosity that seeps everywhere in your life and you can't do anything about. I stuff them in my wallet. The change compartment becomes clogged by useless change. I empty my wallet and pennies start amassing in a bowl on top of my chest of drawers. It taunts me. It has the appearance of money, but it is not. Paying for anything in pennies gets you a pretty dirty look in return. I'd give them away to a homeless person, but they'd find them just as useless and I'd feel guilty that I was using someone less fortunate than me as a human rubbish bin.

State of the Union

For the first time this year, I actually detected some discussion about whether the State of the Union address should be scrapped (canning it would be constitutional), so maybe I'm on the same page as America here. The State of the Union is a predictable dance. The White House leaks the speech incrementally in the week beforehand. The president invites two-dozen or so heavily politicised guests to sit in his box for the camera to scan to at key moments. His supporters provide standing ovations while his detractors scowl in the sitting position. The media provides muted praise. Fellow Democrats approve. Republicans hate it and one of its hottest figures provides a rebuttal. If it were not for Senator Marco Rubio's panicked mid-speech dash for water in his response to President Obama, this year's event would be entirely without anything to mark it apart from any others. No one seems to be engaged or enthusiastic about the state of the union speech, but everyone still talks about it for a week before and after.


State's rights

You know how southern states protected Jim Crow laws and racial prejudice in the 1950s and 1960s? State's rights! How does New Hampshire, lax gun laws in all of their glory, defend itself when 100 or so weapons bought there turn up in violent crimes in neighbouring Massachusetts? State's rights! The federal government tries to pass a massive overhaul of the healthcare system and the new plan is thrown into a months long limbo while people tried to figure out if it violates state's rights. States have the "right" to pass bills legalising marijuana but the federal government still has the "right" to arrest people in those states if it pleases them to do so. While in a country as large as America the individual states need to have dominion and initiative, state's rights has become a confusing life raft for those who seek to put a handbrake on social progress. A government needs to be able to make laws and a population has the right to vote them out. Imagine if you had the Manawatu ignoring the directive of the Beehive, backed by 200 years of needless legal precedent. It is silly.


I get why tabloids sell. It's voyeurism, pure and simple; a slightly poisonous instinct in a lot of ways, but we all have our various forms of escapism we subscribe to. When I read an issue of US Magazine or People, it is without fail the most vacuously written thing I have ever put my hands on. It is a magazine that exists to be an empty vessel for people to look at celebrities. But you know, haven't people heard of the Internet? The Internet has devolved into a delivery system for celebrity blogs and cat pictures. If you had the time and the resilience, you could actually track your favourite celebrity's movements online. Why pay $4 for a magazine you can toss through in five minutes?

Do you disagree with anything I included? I'm sure there's something here to annoy you.

What would be on your list? 

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