Sunday, April 27, 2008

Green and Greener

Here's one thing I've begun to more completely appreciate about the Internet: it can connect you to fellows with the same peculiarity. A bright shining example of that is the ROFL conference taking place at MIT this weekend. I can only assume they have spoken the whole time solely in LOL-cat. In anticipation of their coming, the Weekly Dig, one of Boston's alt weeklies, apparently published a whole issue with headlines and photo captions in the lousy-grammar new language.

I, however, want to talk about Sporcle. I love Sporcle. I now go there once a day at least to see what new tests they have created. If you're not familiar, it's a site,, that features games where one attempts to name everything on a list. Name all the Ivy League schools, name the Greek pantheon, name the James Bond movies. Go there at the risk of a few hours.

You may not realize what a draw this is for me. But all my life I've been a trivia dork and a great one at that. Plus, I've always had a weird neurosis of trying to name lists like this. Earlier this year I was attempting, while bored, to name all the clubs of the English Premier League. Now, that ridiculousness is mechanized at Sporcle. I was sucked in by the periodic table test, and besides a time-eater, it's actually helping. On my first try I named 53 elements. A few more attempts, a memory scheme and a little personal madness later, I've gotten up to 98. This may in truth not be a truly useful skill. But at least it makes you feel like you're accomplishing something while you twiddle away an hour, and if you're like me and feed off accomplishment or the feeling thereof, that's big.

For the record, I can ace the Presidents, all four pro sports leagues' memberships and several others. And I expect a cut of their ad money for raving so glowingly about it.

But back to what I'd wanted to talk about -- Earth Day. Now that it's gone, I've lost a lot of my anger. That's a problem for me. It's good in everyday life that I'm no good at holding grudges, I suppose. But it means that I need to write something angry right away.

Also, I've changed my mind. It had annoyed me how pop Earth Day had become, now that green is in. MIT and any other university has their slew of Earth Day activities, sometimes stretching over days, enough that we're now really celebrating Earth Week. Frats are green. Corporations are green. The commercial that really cracks me up in the Chevron ad in which they insist they can be part of the solution. I don't believe them, necessarily, but that's not what gets me. Their slogan is "Human Energy," which makes me think of Soylent Green or Sweeney Todd every time I hear it.

I had feared it become a kind of compressed Lent -- a time of year that you feel bad about something and try to act better. As Earth Day becomes institutionalized, I fear that it either becomes a nation-wide guilt trip or a chance to pat ourselves on the back for saving a few plastic bottles. Recycling and self-loathing just aren't enough. I have become increasingly convinced that only change on the broad national or international level of government policy will really make a dent in turning things around for the better. But perhaps Earth Day is good for that. Perhaps the hand-wringing, or at least the thought of greening, is helping to prime the public for the hard reality of sacrifice that might lay ahead. Personally, I don't observe Lent and I don't care for sacrifice. In my ideal world it's not necessary, we invent not slight better but rather far superior technology through vision and leadership and keep on living American life in the fast lane. And I hate guilt trips. A friend who will remain nameless jumped all over me the other day for going out the side door of our house, because instead of the double door at the front it's a single that lets out heat. The equal of the 60W light bulb, according to him. This condescension filled me with the urge to go take recycling containers and dump them in the trash. And I'm something of an environmentalist.

So I've changed my mind on Earth Day. There's nothing wrong with asking people to just do a little, as long as it's a primer for asking them to do a lot.

1 comment:

Chris said...

You bastard. I just correctly identified all six Rick Astley guarantees. And now I'll have the song in my head all day to boot.