We Eat What We Like

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were patiently waiting in a long line to get something that hadn’t been readily available in that particular form in our city for a long long time. That something was a staple of the area in which we grew up, and the line itself had nearly a hundred other people willing to wait for the exact same thing. Sure, it was a boring wait, but there was excitement in the air. People discussing for hours on end which items they were most eager to get. And I’m not kidding when I say hours. We waited over 2 hours in this line. “What for” you ask? Well, we waited over 2 hours in a line for the only Dunkin Donuts location in the Los Angeles area. This was the Sunday after it opened, and throughout the week we were hearing of long, hour or two lines from our friends on social media. We still went. Because Dunkin’ hadn’t ever been in Los Angeles, at least not during the period in which we lived there.

Dunkin’ Donuts, like any other regional super-chain, has the kind of cultural following that a band may have. If you move to a new area and the don’t know about Dunkin’ – it becomes this amazing, mythical experience that one cannot simply comprehend unless they’re from there. The fact that it is something so prevalent in Boston and other east-coast or midwestern cities and so non-existent in LA made the fact that the company has finally started opening stores back in the Southern California area that much more exciting.

Now look, I know Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t realistically the best anything. Despite being in the company’s name, the donuts are average but tasty. The coffee is very sweet and has a wide variety of flavors, often expanding during the different seasons. My favorite, and most other people’s favorite product is their coffee, most likely their iced coffee – which in a country increasingly concerned about health and watching what one consumes, may be too sugary and sweet for many people’s tastes. Especially in a very heath-conscious town like Los Angeles. However, as an alternative to the perceived “high class-ness” of chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’ is an anti-everything version of the Starbucks style of coffee shop. It’s barely a coffee shop – more along the lines of a fast food place that provides great-tasting coffee and perfectly fine donuts. And also is probably the best culprit of that particular spelling of the word “doughnut.”

But Dunkin’ Donuts is just one of those things that reminds you of home, and when you move away from your home, especially 3,000 miles away, you seek out those homely comforts on a regular basis. I have been purchasing Dunkin’ ground coffee for home for 5 years, and I had literally just been back to Boston the week before and had a Dunkin coffee in Boston, and yet I still wanted to and had no problem with braving a 2+ hour line to get some in LA.

Some people can’t accept that. When we had waited 2 hours and were about to actually enter the store, when a woman stops by and asks us how long we’ve been waiting. After telling her the approximate among of time, she asks us if we’ve actually every had Dunkin’ Donuts. And before we even get a chance to answer her question, she simply walks away saying “…it’s not worth it.”

This irked me. I joked to the people behind me in line who she was also talking to, that this woman basically said, to our faces, “hey – you guys are all idiots and you’re wasting your time. I’m better than you because I’m not stupid enough to do that.” Who the hell is this woman to tell me how I should spend my time or what is “worth” my time? What is it to her how other people spend their time? Would she walk by the line to a concert or sporting event and be like “have you seen basketball? it’s not worth it.” If I were on a bike driving by her while she was walking down the street, I wouldn’t say – “you’re wasting your time, biking is much better and quicker!” Just keep walking lady, pay no attention to the hundreds of people clearly crazy enough to wait in a line for a thing. We’re not giving you any trouble or inconvenience. Why the hate?

Now, the internet has become a great place not only for long-winded personal rants like this one, but for anonymous critique and negative energy. “Outrage culture,” “trolling,” and all those other negative words that cause a simple event or concept, put a negative spin on it and make it “the worst thing in the world (today).” So it may just be more prevalent in society today for people to outwardly express their discontent on things that don’t necessarily concern them much, they just always feel the need to have an opinion on. But it’s ridiculous. Why does person B have to put down person A for liking a thing? Aren’t we all individuals with individual tastes? Sure, a single Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut you once had may have not wowed you, and you personally can’t imagine waiting more than 5 minutes for that item. So don’t do it. It was worth it to us hundred people that day, and the thousands that waited in line for similar lengths of time that opening week, and the weeks that followed. So why make a stink about it? Does it really make you feel superior to outwardly express your belief that a large group of people on a city block were wasting their time, and you were a better person for not wasting your time?

I get this as a fan of Professional Wrestling a lot. Yes, I may not have publicly announced that on this site, but it’s all over my social media, and to my close friends and family it’s no secret. But Pro Wrestling fans get this automatic disdain all the time. “You know that stuff is fake, right?” is the common refrain. It’s not real sports, it’s pre-determined, so therefore it can’t be as exciting or entertaining as real sports, because you never know what’s going to happen. Sure, that’s a main draw of real sports – you never know the outcome. And that’s why I also love sports. There’s an excitement in witnessing something unfold before your eyes, and there can be surprises everywhere. That also applies to Pro Wrestling. Sure, SOMEONE knows the outcome, but as a fan viewing the product, I personally don’t know the outcome. So if tomorrow you found out that for the past 50 years, every single NFL game had been pre-determined and it was a huge rouse, would that take away from your prior enjoyment of football? For those fans who have been fortunate enough to see their team win a Superbowl, would that take away from the excitement and glee you felt when the final seconds of the clock wound down as your team secured victory? Of course not. Pro Wrestling at its best, can tap into that glee – when you have a favorite wrestler going through his trials and tribulations in getting to that World Championship. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a thing, because it’s manufactured to tap into that as a fan. The better parts of being a Pro wrestling fan is that you can also analyze the storytelling like a television show; which is also completely fabricated and a small group of people know the outcome in advance. Does that take away from your enjoyment of Breaking Bad? Of course not! That’s ridiculous. By the same token, when you get annoyed by a creative decision or direction of a favorite show, do you not talk to your friends about it and map out what you would have done? Don’t people also do that with sports? “We should have run the ball more, their defense was all over our receivers all game, that’s why we lost.” You as a fan have no control over what you’re watching and enjoying, you’re just along for the ride. Pro Wresting gives fans a chance to loudly voice their opinions about certain characters or storylines while in the arena. We don’t like a guy? “BOOOOOO!!! YOU SUCK!!” We love a guy? “DAN-IEL BRY-AN clap clap clapclapclap!” Pro Wrestling, since it is put on as live entertainment on a weekly basis, is made to cater to the audience in a way that sports can’t and television or other scripted entertainment can’t do directly. That’s the appeal. Sports-themed entertainment we can have a part in. Throughout the history of the industry, countless wrestlers have changed face (to sheepishly use some wrestling terminology) because fans have rejected the position or character being presented to them. You know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? You know how popular and awesome he is right now? When he debuted he was this cartoonish, smiley guy with jheri curls and streamers on his outfit. People did not like it, and eventually boo’ed him so much WWE (WWF at the time) decided to turn him into a bad guy, to fit what the fans thought of him. He eventually used that to create “The Rock” character, someone who fans could boo because they loved to boo, and he was too entertaining not to like.

Yes, that’s the future lead of Hercules.

That’s a very long-winded way of saying that it is awesome being a fan of a thing. I’ve been using the vague term “a thing” because it can apply to anything. You’re a dude and you like My Little Pony? Sure. You’re a die-hard Menudo fan? Why not. You never miss a performance of Shakespeare in the Park? Have at it. Entertainment exists so that the millions (and millions!) of people can find what they like and go enjoy it. I have been working for the past 4 years in Reality Television. I like some of shows and I don’t like other shows. There are people who LOVE every single reality show in existence. There are those who don’t. That’s totally fine. If you’re in the latter category, you don’t have to tell me your disdain for what has been paying my bills and keeping me not homeless for 4 years. Clearly some people like it, which is why it is successful and exists in the first place. You can watch something you like, and don’t worry about stuff you don’t like.

This rant was in part sparked by wrestling fan and popular radio personality, Sam Roberts, in his recent podcast rant about Apple people vs. Not Apple People. As an Apple Person myself, I tend to agree with NotSam. I like Apple and have liked Apple products my whole life because there’s very little complications to them. Things just work and are convenient and easy. I’ve made my consumer decision, so I will stick with that ecosystem for as long as they’ll shell stuff out for me. I like their products, I like the user experience, it’s comfortable and uncomplicated. I don’t think about “the competition.” But the competition seems like all they do is think about Apple. I get that it’s business and consumer products that live or die by competition, however for a non-Apple user to perpetually hate on any and all Apple users for simply being an Apple user is the same principle of that lady telling us that waiting 2 hours in line for something we love isn’t worth it. Of course it’s worth it if you like it. Look at how many people wait for way longer than 2 hours for the launch of the new iPhones last week! Sure we’re all literally buying into a culture of die-hard fandom for products instead of entertainment like sports or wrestling, but if we as humans are inclined to geek-out over something that makes you happy, why discourage that? In the end, it’s all a luxury we’re all too complacent with. We should be thankful we have such “first-world problems” like being able to choose which awesome, amazing, incredibly advanced mini-computer we want to use on a daily basis for communication and entertainment. So let’s just high-five those people waiting in line at Apple Stores across the country, celebrate them expressing their excitement over one of their loves. Let’s flip channels, stop at Monday Night Raw, and instead of roll our eyes at how ridiculous and “fake” the product in the ring looks, and instead appreciate how happy those people in the arena are to just be there. Let’s give kudos to those sports fans who during the World Cup or Olympics, woke up at 4am just to watch their team play live from across the globe. We’re an advanced civilization and fellow humans invented or created all these incredible things we’re going crazy over. That’s something amazing. Just enjoy it.

And just try Dunkin’s iced coffee, even if you prefer Starbucks. I don’t need you to get it, I just need you to try it without judgement. Thanks.

Thinking Different: My Thoughts on Steve Jobs

Yes, those are all my Apple devices, in one big family

It’s not often that a huge news story affects so many people. And it’s not often when that news story is about one person’s passing. AND it’s definitely not often when that person is a CEO of one of the most successful companies of the past 25 years. Today, a very rare occurrence happened, when we all learned that Steve Jobs had passed away at the age of 56.

A friend asked earlier, “when was the last time such a phenomenal CEO passed away?” I took it further – when was the last time such an influential CEO passed away? When was the last time ANY CEO’s passing made front page headlines? When was the last time a CEO’s passing deeply affected this many people, this quickly?

Regardless of your stance on the company itself, everyone I know has been affected by Steve Jobs’ vision in some way. Be it as little as using iTunes to listen to your music, or as big as standing in line outside an Apple Retail Store a week before the new iPhone comes out. Whether or not you were actively thinking about Mr. Jobs when doing these tasks, his influence was there.

I personally have been using Apple products my whole life – my dad has a Macintosh Classic that I used to play an early disk-based RPG program called “Spelunx” on. It was on this computer where I first was exposed to the Mac OS, back in version 6 or 7. We then upgraded to a bigger desktop, the Performa. Being part of the generation that essentially grew up with the first “modern” desktops, this computer took a huge part in my formative years. I learned how to type on it, wrote early school papers on it, and it provided me with my first glimpse of this new-spangled thing called the “INTERNET.” In fact, we were one of the few families that tried out Apple’s failed online service, “E-World.” Some of these names and programs may be foreign to you reading this, and I totally understand. This was all pre-iMac, when Apple first began its ascent into uber-success.

We had a Bondi Green iMac, and it was amazing. I remember being wowed by the concept of getting to see INSIDE the computer. Not to mention the first “why?” moment in realizing this computer did away with the floppy drives. Apple has always been a company who SETS the trends, rather then waiting for them to pop up. Floppy disks are a memory now, a punchline. Back in 1998, people were outraged by this “oversight” on Apple’s part. All programs were installed via floppy. People’s backups and storage were on floppys. How dare a computer company that was near-floundering in the industry make such a bold move? Obviously this was the first of many similar decisions that at first were umpopular, but in retrospect turned out to be genius moves, headed by the genius at the head of the company.

The iMac was a success for Apple fans and helped put the company back on the map, but the upward spike in popularity really came with the introduction of the first real consumer MP3 player, the iPod. This started Apple’s trend of creating a new device or technology that everyone would want. With the easy of use of iTunes already becoming a success on the Mac OS, the iPod followed suit with a portable version of your entire music library. I remember the day when I first got my iPod – I sat eagerly waiting for it to charge so I could sync it up to my ever-growing library of songs. No longer would i have to choose what CD I wanted to bring to school to listen to in study hall on a particular day. I could have ALL my CDs with me in one, card-deck-shaped device. It was brilliant. Steve’s vision was brilliant.

During these days, when Apple was finally gaining some ground in the Mac vs. PC wars, Apple pride was rampant with Mac users. In fact, if you scoured the internet during those days, you might commonly find an image saying “Made on a Mac,” kind of a “See what I can do?” fist in the face to PC users who commonly shrugged off Macs as viable computing machines. I certainly represented my Apple Pride on my old personal website. Apple users would defend their hearts out on their beloved machines, I remember trying to convince my PC-using cousin of the merits of the iMac.  Apple later mirrored this sentiment when they came out with the “Switch to Mac” ads. In fact, all of their modern ads to date, especially the Justin Long vs. John Hodgman “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads, showcased Apple’s intent on appearing “cooler,” and easier to use when compared to their rival PCs. With their new slew of sleek-looking, high-functioning computers and iPods, the success started coming.

I went to a communications school in college, meaning there were a lot of what we like to call “creative types.” Typically, at least for the bulk of my generation, that meant Macs had an extremely strong presence in the hallways and classrooms of Boston University’s School of Communications building. Walk through a dorm hallway and count how many iBooks/ Powerbooks  and later MacBooks you see in each room. Even if someone didn’t have a Mac laptop, I BET you they had some form of iPod. I know freshman year we all took advantage of the dorm-network sharing options provided by BU in being able to view and listen to our floormates’ iTunes libraries. This was around the time when social networks like Facebook were really starting to blossom into the lives of students my age.

Even now, as a working 20-something in the entertainment industry, Apple provides a huge influence over my day-to-day life. Not only do I work on a MacPro using Final Cut Pro and Apple’s XSAN Servers, but half of the company I work at has iPhones. Occasionally we’ll get requests to compress a video so it can be watched on an iPad. Sometimes, more often recently, we have some fun complaining about and making fun of the shortcomings of Final Cut X. I come home from work and jump on my MacBook Pro, as I am doing right now, sitting in bed. I might also have Final Cut open on my own MacPro, with an Apple Magic Mouse wirelessly linked to either computer. I’m sitting here preparing to pre-order the new iPhone on Friday. I may not think about Steve Jobs every time I open up Final Cut or turn on my computer, but I certainly know I’ve been on board with his vision for 15 years.

In thinking about Steve Jobs’ death today, and in collecting my thoughts for this post, I couldn’t help but be surprised at my own emotional reaction to the news. I was legitimately sad about this. I almost teared up when I saw the CNN headlines when I was at the gym earlier – just seeing the words on television was still unbelievable. It’s such a strange thing, trying to justify why I’m so upset about someone I’ve never met passing. I think the best explanation is that Steve Jobs is one of those rare examples of a CEO truly putting his heart and soul into his company. Steve Jobs IS synonymous with Apple. That’s why you don’t have to consciously think of him when you use an Apple product. That Apple product IS him. Everything the company does IS his vision, like it or not.

The questions arose a couple months ago when he stepped down as CEO – will Apple be the same without him at the top? CAN Apple be the same without Steve Jobs? I personally feel that if anyone could impose his vision on an entire company, it would be Steve Jobs. That’s why I am not worried as an Apple user, stock-holder and straight-out fan, about the company’s future. Steve’s vision will still be seen in future products, the people he left in charge have been a part of the “Think Different” machine for a long time. But despite this, losing someone at this level, there has to be some drop off. Something will always feel different about Apple without Steve and his black turtleneck explaining how simple their new product is – “it just works,” sounds different coming out of Tim Cook’s mouth, despite seeing how something “just works” still looks the same.

I’ll sign off with a popular quote from Steve, from his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, that many are quoting today, explaining Steve’s thoughts and advice on facing death:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

For a man who’s life was his company and his company was his life, I think he could look at himself in the mirror every day and answer “Yes.”

Made on a Mac