Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Social Issues Archive



November 2014



The Similarities of “Baby Got Back” and “All About that Bass”

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Social Issues

I had an interesting experience on my way to Dunkin Donuts yesterday. While flicking through the radio stations, I encountered Six Mix-a-Lot’s classic “Baby Got Back” (not Nicki Minaj’s painful “Anaconda” pseudo cover). After indulging in the perennial favorite of middle school mixers, I switched channels only to find Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass.” This bizarre coincidence got me thinking about the overall message of these two songs.

At first glance, we might call Trainor self-empowering and Mix-a-Lot misogynistic. Which sort of makes sense but you could also look at it a different way. Trainor says love your body and Mix-a-Lot says he loves your body. That’s kind of nice right?

Both songs address the issue of “skinny bitches” Mix-a-Lot opens his songs with a conversation between two condescending, presumably small butted, women criticizing the tushie of another girl, denounced as a prostitute until Mix-a-Lot jumps in to start the song. Trainor addresses them herself with “go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that,” with regards to her plans to bring booty back (it’s still somewhat unclear where it went in the first place). It wouldn’t be fair to Trainor to not mention that she says she just playing, though that phrase has been a major bone of contention against the song as people have accused her of “skinny shaming.”

We also see a similar love of genuine curves from both performers. Both take shots at the silicone Barbie look. Trainor “won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll,” expressing a concurring opinion to Mi¬x-a-Lot’s “silicone parts of made for toys.”

The difference in message deviates on the matters of romance as to be expected. Trainor is speaking from a personal standpoint. Mix-a-Lot is an observer and a fan. So whose message with regards to matters of the heart is better?


You might be shaking your head at this point. But look at what Trainor uses to address suitors. She says her mother has told her “boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” which is another rallying point for her critics. This one is perhaps more legitimate than the “skinny bitches” comment as she’s essentially using outside perception as a factor in determining her own self worth.

This is something that Mix-a-Lot has to do. He is an outside observer. This matters in terms of the context of the message itself. It’s harder to dismiss the commentary of a curvaceous woman speaking about being curvaceous than the words of a man who calls himself Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Which is actually unfair to Mix-a-Lot. The inspiration for this article came from a line in “Baby Got Back,” where he says “so Cosmo says your fat, well I ain’t down with that.” Couple that with his earlier assertions that he’d “rather stay and play,” and you get a picture of a man who’s not necessarily as misogynistic as one might think at first glance.

So what to take away from all of this? Both of these songs essentially preach the same message. Love your body. This is somewhat skewed in the case of Mix-a-Lot as the sexual innuendos tend to dissipate one’s desire to analyze his message. But Trainor’s isn’t exactly perfect either. These songs really aren’t all that different, which really just means you should love your body regardless of what a musician wants to tell you.

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October 2014



The Purple Penguins and the Art of Choosing One’s Words Wisely

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Quite a ruckus has been created over a school board in Lincoln Nebraska’s decision to embrace a gender neutral environment in its classrooms. The main bone of contention is the suggested shift from calling students “guys” or “boys and girls” to “purple penguins” or something of the sort. People are very angry that these words are being tossed out the window in favor of something you’re more likely to hear on Adventure Time than in real life. Which is where the problem lies.

The school board was likely unprepared for this to become a national news topic. Whose fault is that? The answer is simple.

The school board.

If you’re going to challenge something as common as “boys and girls,” it’s common sense not to put something as ridiculous as “purple penguins” in as the substitute on a school document. The argument can certainly be made that separating students by gender in a lunch line is something that can stand to go in the year 2014. But take it seriously. Purple penguins aren’t serious.

The school board is also kind of miffed that it has to deal with this mess. Good. You put something as stupid as “purple penguin” in a school document, you open yourself to criticism. These people are in charge of people’s children and they have a duty to answer questions regarding these penguins.

There are questions regarding the effectiveness of such an implementation, especially considering the scarcity of transgender people in the overall population. That doesn’t change the fact that children should be taught to be tolerant, inclusionary, and respectful to all their peers. Purple penguins or not, that’s a serious problem that extends far beyond Lincoln, Nebraska.

But is the outrage outrageous? We live in an era where people are held accountable for every word, tweet, Instagram comment, and carrier pigeon letter they speak or write. The fact that the school board was oblivious to the magnitude of their decisions is concerning. This is a sensitive issue that should be handled accordingly. It’s hard to do that when people are laughing over purple penguins.

The purple penguins undermined a serious issue, which is unfortunate. It wasn’t exactly unforeseeable. Sensitive topics call for sensible discretion and it’s hard to do that with and image of a purple penguin involved.

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September 2014



Jeter’s Farewell Should End Season Long Retirement Tours

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With the 2014 regular season officially over, we bid farewell to Derek Jeter. The Captain supplied his fair share of memorable moments at the All Star Game, his final game at Yankee Stadium, and his final game at Fenway. The only thing missing is an October appearance, which of course won’t be happening.

The recent trend with retiring superstars is to announce one’s intentions in Spring Training, which leads to the “farewell tour,” a concept previously reserved for musicians like Cher and Kiss who typically don’t retire. It’s not surprising to see a desire throughout MLB to milk the teats of these cash cows one last time, but I fear the udders are being prodded a tad prematurely. The milk is supposed to be fresh in October but after a six-month goodbye tour, the milk seems a bit sour.

A season long affair leads to long over exaggerated pregame celebrations, where the opposing team showers the retiree with gifts before playing a game where the objective is to beat the team of the recipient of such presents. This is nice in theory and shows good sportsmanship. Teams like the Yankees and the Braves have nationwide fan bases all over the country, which gives fans who don’t live in the team’s city a chance to say goodbye.

But it’s still kind of weird. On his final visit to Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox “honored” Rivera with a tongue-in-cheek replay of Dave Roberts’ stolen base in game four of the 2004 ALCS, one of the greatest moments in Red Sox history. While that was followed up with a standing ovation for the fierce competitor, what are the other teams really supposed to do? Are the Kansas City Royals supposed to pay homage to all the times Jeter beat the team? Awkward.

While athletes announcing their retirements a full season ahead of time is odd, it’s hardly a new occurrence or one exclusive to baseball. There’s plenty of money to be made off of these tours and it’s somewhat concerning to see economics factor in to a decision. Jones and Rivera had excellent swan songs that showed they still had some gas in the tank. While I can respect the decision that both players made to go out on their own terms, it’s somewhat saddening to see that another season didn’t appear to ever be on the table. Maybe that’s for the best.

The biggest problem is that it makes people forget that an actual baseball season is going on. The All Star game was more about Jeter than it was about the actual stars on baseball in the year 2014. The Nike and Gatorade commercials are nice and all, but let’s not forget that there’s a current generation of stars who should be honored for what they did this year and not what happened in the late 90s.

September saw a host of anti-Jeter articles questioning the Captain’s declining numbers and the effect its had on the Yankees as a perennial contender. It’s unfair to put the blame on Jeter for the Yankees woes in 2014, but as much as I’d like to call the criticism inappropriate, it’s hard to. When you hear nothing but praise for a 40 year old shortstop who can’t man his position anymore, you need a little dose of reality to remember that the only sport Jeter is going to play in October is golf.

It appears as though we’ll get a reprieve from retirement tours next season as no notable stars appear ready to hang up the cleats. Big Papi’s probably the next one, though he’s gone on record as saying he wouldn’t announce it early in the season anyway. Chase Utley is another who could bow out in the not so distant future who could have a retirement tour of his own. MLB would certainly like that.

The best professional sports retirement announcement in recent memory belongs to Ray Lewis, who announced his retirement four days before the start of the playoffs. Now, history will look fondly on that as the Ravens went all the way but that’s not what’s important. Lewis at 37 and having suffered a torn triceps in the middle of the year, was not the same player he was once was. He wasn’t Ray Lewis anymore, but what he had to give was enough to get the job done.

What was missing was a “me, me, me” narrative that naturally follows a season long retirement tour. The Yankees were officially eliminated with only a few games left to play. All in all, this was a fairly good run for a team that was a fringe contender in the first place. But did that matter? No. Why? Because Jeter got the spotlight. Their playoff aspirations took a backseat to the Jeter festivities. Something isn’t right with that.
It means something that a man like Jeter commands the respect he’s earned by playing the game the right way. But is going out via a season long-fest when your numbers are abysmal and your team misses the playoffs really the right way? Jeter will be thanked and loved by the Yankees fans for the rest of his life. For now, I care about actual baseball. Jeter has left the building. Time to move on.

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August 2014



Is the Pumpkin Spice Latte Back Too Soon?

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Starbucks has announced that the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the coffee chain’s answer to the McRib, is returning on August 25th (also the day Five College Dialogues comes out). The beverage has quite the cult following and this early arrival will certainly please followers of the drink’s twitter account. But should we be excited that an autumn treat is coming back so soon?

It would be hard to argue that using strictly seasonal parameters. While summer doesn’t end until September 23rd, the end of August is an acceptable time to stop worrying about sunscreen, tan lines, and Mojitos. We get much of that time back on the front end with June so the semantics aren’t a big enough concern.

However, this year especially should remind us how valuable summer truly is. This winter was miserably cold and refused to end. As a result, we lost most of spring. We should not be so soon to forget that when the cold comes, it stays.

I find it hard to blame Starbucks for this ploy. The supermarkets have started selling fall themed beer already just as stores start to stock Christmas stuff right after Halloween. August 15th is also valued much differently with regards to summer than August 25th, when nearly all colleges and many schools are back in session. The PSL arrives at a time when most parents can enjoy it after dropping their kids off at school and that’s okay.

But I don’t think it’s something we should wait for with great anticipation. It’s a drink whose arrival signals the end of beach time. Sure that might help some people cushion the blow, but why celebrate the coming of the blow at all?

Shark Week is very much the same way. It’s a fun event that comes around at a time when summer starts to slow down. It’s great to have, but hopefully your Fourth of July celebrations aren’t impeded by Shark Week anticipation. Unless you’re a marine biologist.

Drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte on August 25th if you want to. But don’t forget that it’s still summer and when that isn’t the case, it will be cold. The PSL’s early arrival also puts it at risk for a burnout before October even starts. It would be a shame to miss August in October without being able to console yourself with a pumpkin treat because you’re sick of it before you should be. Live for today, not for August 25th. Unless you’re me and you have a book coming out.


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August 2014



The Ice Bucket Challenge and the Problems with Hashtag Activism

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve probably noticed a large number of videos featuring people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. Unlike last spring’s Polar plunge challenge, which had no altruistic motives attached to it despite also being linked to cold water, this social media craze aims to “strikeout” ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On the surface level, this all appears to be a clever way to raise awareness and more importantly, money, to battle a truly horrifying disease.

But is it all that clever? Maybe, depending on the results. Certain videos depicting the challenge come complete with links for donation websites, which satisfies the monetary portion of the awareness goal. Those videos embody the rational purpose of said challenge, which is to raise the funds required to research ALS.

The problem is that many of them don’t. It’s just “thanks for the nomination,” followed by a couple hashtags, a bucket of water, and a list of future nominees to lather, rinse, and repeat. Where does ALS fit in to any of this?

It doesn’t. As Kony 2012 showed us, Facebook likes don’t change the world. They supply brief moments of feel good glee that are whisked away often seconds after they’re received. But that’s okay because there’s always more. Social media never rests.

I wish there was a study to gauge the effectiveness of a hashtag activism campaign vs. a bake sale or a car wash. There are plenty of differences between the two modes of charitable work. The big one is that one is actual charitable work.

Doing good things for others feels good. That’s the whole point or we wouldn’t do them. Dumping ice on your head might feel good because you’re included in something, which was the whole point of the hashtag to begin with. But you’re feeling good for a different reason. It isn’t charity. It’s “look at me, look at me, I’ve got ice on my head. Your turn.” No.

If you’ve actually donated to an ALS charity, feel free to ignore my criticism levied. Please do, because it’s not directed at you. I donated so I feel like I can also participate in the battle to strike out ALS. But I don’t want ice on my head. I want tangible results from charitable campaigns. ALS shouldn’t be bastardized into viral videos in the same vein as the Harlem Shake. If you choose to dump ice on your head, throw a couple bucks toward the cause. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to show that you actually care. Filming a video doesn’t fulfill that requisite. If charity was that easy, we wouldn’t have any people left in need of it.

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August 2014



Cell Phone Abuse at Restaurants Endangers the State of Human Civility

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

A recent study was conducted by the Market Diner, a famous New York eatery in Hell’s Kitchen regarding the establishment’s diminished reviews on popular websites such as Yelp! Rather unsurprisingly, cell phones were blamed for much of the issues levied against the restaurant, namely slower service and increased waiting time. While a place like the Market Diner would experience more extreme results by virtue of its popularity, there’s certainly much to be taken from this study.

The results challenge the age old question of whether or not the customer is always right. It seems rather ridiculous to suggest that a customer wouldn’t be able to use a cell phone in a non disruptive fashion. Or does it?

The problem is that the lines are blurred. What exactly constitutes disruptive? If customers are taking longer as a direct result of cell phone usage, then the restaurant has a legitimate claim that the phone usage is undercutting revenue. In the case of the Market Diner, patrons were spending nearly an hour longer at the restaurant than they were ten years prior. That could amount to a serious loss of earnings.

And for what really? Food pictures or further affirmation from Yelp! as to what entrée to order? How much does that really matter? To some people, it matters quite a bit. Which is okay.

To an extant. It’s perfectly reasonable to treat dining out as an experience worthy of documenting. Foodie culture exists whether we like it or not. The problem is that it’s cutting into restaurant revenues in a manner that’s hardly universally acceptable.

There’s no real easily applicable solution either. Exclusive restaurants with month long waiting lists could get away with a cell phone ban, but your average establishment can’t get away with that. It would appear on Yelp! and that would send customers away in a similar fashion as the cell phones themselves.

Which makes the best solution a hard one. Self-policing. It’s not fair to expect a restaurant to tell its customers off for cell phone abuse. That ensures that said customers will not return. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a rude practice that should be addressed.

I was at a restaurant for lunch the other day when a woman at the table next to me started to play a video on her phone. The ambiance at the place was quiet enough that the video could be heard from a reasonable distance. Naturally, the woman did a quick look around to size up the scene, but she continued to play said video at a rude volume. We made eye contact, but that was it. I wasn’t going to cause a ruckus by calling her out, but I wouldn’t blame anyone else for choosing to.

That woman sucks. Plain and simple. Next time, she should bring an iPod speaker so that the whole place can hear her nonsense.

The Market Diner study also suggested that customers were asking waiters for their Wifi passwords. Drawing the line here seems reasonable. A food picture doesn’t require data. Looking something up on Yelp! doesn’t use much. Why should the customer be entitled to anything more. Would you bring dirty dishes to a restaurant to have washed in the sink? Do you bring your garbage there so your waiter can haul it off to the dumpster?

It’s laughable that we’ve reached a point in our nation’s history where the restaurant industry is suffering as a result of cell phone addiction. Using a phone at the table is hardly a crime, but it should never reach a point where you become oblivious to the world around you. That appears to be the case with the Market Diner.

I also worry that studies like these undercut another problem. Bad waiters are likely to blame for the loss of revenue. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of those around. But truly bad service is fine to complain about. One just needs to consider if the patron did anything to contribute to the diminished service.

Cell phones “bring us together,” but they also create barriers that block the immediate world around us. This needs to stop. Everyone should take a step back and honestly evaluate whether or not their usage of technology is having a negative impact on the world around them. If the answer to that is yes, a change should be made. Livelihoods are a stake.

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June 2014



Toronto Needs to Find a New Home for the Argonauts Soon

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It’s a good time to be a CFL fan. With the new collective bargaining agreement ratified, the notion of a strike is safely squashed. Preseason games have started and the Ottawa Redblacks play their first regular season game in just a few weeks. The vast majority of the league has seen new stadiums or renovations help modernize the sport. Things are going well.

Except for the Argos.

One of the first things I noticed when I visited Rogers Centre to see the Blue Jays play was that the rafters were devoid of any reference to the stadium’s cotenant. The gift shop also lacked any Argonauts merchandise. Given the scarcity of Argos’ memorabilia in the States as well as the city of Toronto as a whole, I was disappointed that Rogers is purging its association with the football team years before its lease is up.

The Argos find themselves in a precarious position with their stadium woes. Rogers Centre will be shifting to an all grass field to accommodate the Blue Jays in a few years. Given most baseball players’ disdain for turf fields, this move is certainly a smart one for baseball. It is however, unfortunate, that the move was not made in conjunction with a permanent location for the Argos, who will not be able to play on the grass field.

A deal with BMO Field, the home of MLS’ Toronto F.C., was expected to happen before the project hit a snag with funding. The proposed changes would expand BMO Field’s regular capacity by 5,000 seats for soccer and potentially 40,000 for football, concerts, and other noteworthy events. Given TFC’s popularity, this seemed like a win/win for everyone involved.

The project’s cancellation creates a big mess and one that doesn’t appear to have an answer. The BMO Field funding issue means that a separate stadium built exclusively for the Argos would be highly implausible. The University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium isn’t big enough to accommodate professional football. There aren’t really any spare stadiums lying around, especially now that Maple Leaf Gardens is a grocery store. BMO Field is pretty much the only option.

Canadian football is never going to be as popular in Toronto as it is in other cities. Toronto has plenty of other sporting/entertainment options to ensure that Argos fans will never get behind their team in quite the same fashion as Roughriders’ fans. And that’s okay.

What isn’t okay is the notion that the Argos might not have a home in Toronto in just a few years. While their lease with Rogers doesn’t expire until 2017, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with now. Construction isn’t exactly an easy thing to do.

The CFL doesn’t need the Argonauts to be the most popular team in the league, but a league with Canadian in its title shouldn’t have a team in the country’s most populous city as its black sheep either. The CFL should be embarrassed that a fan cannot find a single piece of Argos merchandise in the city of Toronto. The Argonauts are the only team in the league with a new stadium or a serious renovation in the past five years.

The Rogers Centre lease situation is nothing out of the blue and yet nothing has been fixed. The CFL, the Argos, and the city of Toronto should all be embarrassed about that as well. The league has dealt with threats to its prosperity admirably and it should treat the Argos stadium issue with the same level of importance as the player’s unrest over the collective bargaining. Keeping up appearances is important.

BMO Field is the solution. Ontario needs to iron out the problems in the funding for the expansion of the field. Finding $120 million is easier said than done, but an outdoor field would do wonders for the Argos and might actually elevate them to actual relevance in the city of Toronto. The CFL should do everything it can to keep Canadian football in Toronto.

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June 2014



Dunkin Donuts’ Blueberry Cobbler is Delicious, but Bad at Being a Donut

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Dunkin Donuts has made some questionable decisions over the past few years. It’s understandable that the company would want to expand into the sandwich market as there’s clearly a demand for it, but products like the Eggs Benedict Sandwich (complete will Hollandaise flavor) and the Tuna Salad on a Croissant don’t seem like the kind of things Fred the Baker would’ve gotten up extra early to make. The rapid fluctuating lunch menu suggests that there are some growing pains with that whole plan.

Dunkin still excels at their two main areas of interest. The coffee and donuts are consistently good provided you don’t order them at 11 o’clock at night. The donuts might be freeze-dried, but alas, these are things I simply cannot care about.

Every now and then, Dunks decides to tamper with its donut lineup. Most of the time, these new creations are about as short lived as AfterMASH, Qwikster, or a Kardashian marriage, but you’ve got to give them credit for trying. I’ll give them more credit for the new blueberry cobbler donut.

The blueberry cobbler donut is simply delicious. The filling to donut ratio is perfect, the frosting tastes like something you’d find on a birthday cake, and the cinnamon streusel topping is both decorative and flavorful. This donut does everything right. Problem is, something doesn’t feel right about the blueberry cobbler donut.

Donuts are versatile pastries. They can be breakfast, dessert, or a snack. The problem with the blueberry cobbler donut is that is tastes too good. It’s overloading and excessive, even though it’s a fine balance of donut, filling, frosting, and streusel. It won and yet it lost.

The blueberry cobbler donut should strictly be viewed as a dessert item for fear of inducing a food coma. You can’t possibly expect to be productive after consuming it. The same cannot be said for a chocolate frosted, glazed, or even a jelly donut. The donut sugar rush is supposed to aid you, but this isn’t a rush. It’s an avalanche.

Which presents the question, what good is this donut? It tastes great, but it’s a dessert served at a place you don’t go to for dessert. Going to Dunkin after dinner is a surefire way to get a subpar donut. If it was served at ice cream parlors, that’s one thing. But the blueberry cobbler donut is served at a coffee shop.

This donut is a treat without a function. It might taste better than the other donuts, but you wouldn’t pick it over them. Those other donuts know how to be donuts. The blueberry cobbler donut doesn’t.

A bakery might want to adapt this concept into a pastry people might bring to dinner parties. People don’t bring Dunkin Donuts to dinner parties though. Dunkin Donuts doesn’t serve cannolis, cakes, and pies for a reason. People don’t go to Dunks to be overwhelmed by pastries. Ambition doesn’t always lead to success, even if everything goes right. Such is the tragedy of the blueberry cobbler donut.


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