Hate of the Day: Dollar Coins

Most of the new US dollar coins are doing absolutely nothing right now. The modern ones, the large, gold-looking coins in production today? They’re sitting in federal vaults, collecting dust. A billion of them. Why? Because NOBODY USES THEM. And yet we still manufacture them at ridiculous rates. Planet Money says so, which makes it true. (If you’re not listening to Planet Money’s work, or that of other NPR contributors, you’re missing out.)
Let’s put aside the number of Susan B. Anthonys I’ve mistaken for quarters (I could likely ballpark that around 3-5; it’s not like anyone uses those things either), dollar coins have proven virtually useless in my existence. Aside from the novelty of the first Sacajawea I put in a Pepsi machine (which I now consider wasted; Coke is infinitely better), dollar coins have served to simply inconvenience me ever since. Anyone remember this unsightly Sacajawea-era joke?

Person A: “Excuse me, do you have change for a dollar?”
Person B: “Why certainly I do!|
Person A: “Sweet.” ::pulls out a dollar bill and gives it to Person B::
Person B: ::hands over a dollar coin:: “See? Change! For a dollar! It’s funny because it’s a coin, but it’s a whole dollar!” ::laughs:: I’m so funny! ::laughs harder:: God, I mean, that’s just so…hilarious… ::convulses and passes out from laughter::

So now the government has decided that, in order to attempt the increase of circulation of dollar coins, they want to run a series of the faces of the presidents, like they did with the state quarters. What they failed to realize is that people collected the state quarters because THEY WERE ALREADY USING QUARTERS. State quarters were not a case of tons of people looking for a hobby to replace the Pok√©mon cards they used to collect. And now our government has committed itself to running an entire presidential circulation of the damned things (you’d know that if you listened to the article; shame on you if you didn’t. Here’s another link. Go do yourself a favor and use 3-and-a-half minutes and listen to it).
What bothers me more than the failed attempt to get those coins into circulation is how dogmatic the government seems to be about making more of the things. They’re not in anyone’s pockets right now, they’re not going to gain ground in an increasingly pay-with-plastic world, and you’re burning taxpayer dollars making nonsense. Maybe instead of standing by old legislation that was formed on the basis that dollar coins would become popular, the government should, oh, I don’t know, stop making dollar coins. Maybe my Hate of the Day should be our uncompromising, fiscally irresponsible government?

Eh, that can be another day’s Hate. Still hating dollar coins today.

Crimes of Ambition

I’m pretty awesome at saying I’ll do something. Seriously, if you want someone to tell you something and convince you rather wholeheartedly the first time that the job’ll get done, leave it to me. I am awesome at that. And why am I so good, you may ask? Because I genuinely believe that I can get the job done.

Then complications happen, or maybe just time happens. I hang out with friends, I pick up other projects, I help people with things…maybe I just sit around and play video games or read a book. Sure enough, as time flows I find myself doing other things…hell, I started this post around 12:00. It’s now 12:13, and I’ve successfully configured my computer and XBox to stream music. Did that involve finishing the blog I’d already started on? Nope. I feel like I’m really great at not getting things finished.

Reading my past writing is like delving through an archive of misguided ambition. I start large projects, and I always have a genuine intent to follow through on them. When the stimulus package was announced, I downloaded the entire bill to a Palm Pilot with the intention of reading it over and highlighting its errors and whatnot, then sending my findings to the White House. Sure enough, that project fell to other priorities…classwork, social times with friends, nights spent at Stix and Marty’s and other places around C-town. Great ambition, terrible follow-through.

So now I’ve been back in Rockford since mid-April, all with the intention of finally doing something big with my life, starting my own businesses…and I’ve not done much. Hell, this is the first update this blog has gotten in weeks. And I’ve done plenty of things worth blogging about: visited Virginia, applied for jobs, done interviews, seen friends, met small business owners. And yet I’ve not done much with that information, not written about those experiences. I’d say that if I have any focus, it’s certainly a broad one…much too broad.

In high school I wrote a paper about…something English related, I don’t know what. My teacher’s TA made various comments on the paper, but what I remember most is the drawing she put on the back. She drew a small forest at the bottom of the paper, some clouds way above the trees, and then me WAAYYY above the clouds. She told me that a lot of people make their gaze too narrow, can’t see the forest because of the trees. I, on the other hand, had no idea there were individual trees. She told me to tighten my gaze, narrow my focus. I needed to do it then, and I still need to do it now.

So, my goal is to stop committing so many crimes of ambition, to focus on fewer things and get those things right. Tomorrow’s project is to finally, finally start my other blog, Weekly Resolution, and use that blog as a motivation to tighten my gaze each week, hold myself accountable for my crimes. I imagine many criminals dream of reform, but perhaps I’ll just end up a repeat offender.

-Josh

Hate of the Day: Hallmark’s Mahogany Label

Hallmark Mahogany Cards

I shopped for wedding cards this morning. I’m going a wedding with a friend of mine this Saturday, and she asked me to pick up a card while she was at work. I strolled into the Hallmark store, a place I haven’t been in quite some time, and was instantly lambasted by messages of hope, caring, and otherwise sappy sentiments. All well and good, since that’s what Hallmark makes its money from, but as I kept looking around I saw a label I’d almost forgotten about: Mahogany cards.

I can still remember when I first saw Mahogany cards. Most of them seemed to be decked in kente cloth patterns, as if the Kwanzaa section of the cards had a small, year-round baby. Still, I thought it was nice to see more cards with black people on them. Today I went into the store and saw much of the same, but I was bothered by it instead.

Some reasons:

  1. The formula. Fancy poetry-esque prose + artsy typeface + God reference (close to optional, but frequent) + pictures of black people = Mahogany card.
  2. Black people, now featured exclusively on Mahogany! I felt like the whole time I looked around the store, the only time I saw any black people on the cards were on cards labeled for Mahogany sales. Just seemed a little…segregated?
  3. Interracial marriage? Uhm, wait for the “Swirls” label coming next month. One particular card I read was branded Mahogany, though I couldn’t tell until I looked REALLY closely why it was a Mahogany card at all. Everything about the card, including the message inside, looked like a “normal” Hallmark card…when I looked really closely, I saw that the couple on the front of the card was black. That was the only real difference. There’s a label for Spanish/Hispanic cards now; will there be labels for Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Jamaican cards?

Through all this, I couldn’t help but get the overwhelming sense that I was being sorted on card selection based on race. Heaven forbid the couple would be mixed…what card would I pick then? One with white people, one with black people? Maybe I’d just get a card with no people on it and dodge the bullet entirely?

I don’t mean to talk up something that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s not Hallmark’s marketing campaign this post is really about, even though the title would lead you to believe that; Hallmark is just giving us as a society what we want. I just think that as a society we create an interesting paradox when it comes to race. Walk into churches all around the world, and you’ll see the faces of venerable figures like Jesus Christ¬† morph from culture to culture, regardless of the fact that if he lived in Jerusalem, he likely only had a couple options to choose from.

When it comes to the ideas that we take to heart, ideas that shape ourselves, it seems that we usually choose the ones that mirror us best. Even in our greeting cards, we have to make sure we’re getting an accurate reflection of ourselves in the sentiments of happiness, faith, love, or grief, otherwise we’re discontented. Perhaps this narcissism travels through to other mentalities sometimes, ideas of politics or how to help those around us. We think that our idea is best all the time, forgetting that others may have experiences or ideas to contribute that could help the whole. Maybe sometimes we just need a little reminder that there are other people out there with equally valid points of view and ideas to share.

Or perhaps all that is a bit of a reach. Guess that’s why I just stuck with the “normal” card.