A nation full of news junkies and CBS viewers mourned upon hearing that 60 Minutes commentator and syndicated malcontent Andy Rooney died on Friday from complications after a minor surgery.
Rooney left behind a decades-long legacy of wit and candor, entertaining us for a few minutes every Sunday night with the unique way in which he saw the world. Usually negative and sometimes silly, his knack for pointing out the absurdities of life made him America’s favorite curmudgeon for more than 33 years.
Some may call his weekly segments an overly-nostalgic brush of cynicism over the entire modern world, but to me his commentary brought a due skepticism of the changing world that’s lacking in other parts of the media.
In his honor, I’ve written about five topics important to me, presented as Rooney may have seen them:
The clock tower: Why doesn’t it have numbers on it?
The way I see it, a clock tower has one very simple job to do. I should be able to look up at it whenever I see it and immediately know what time it is whenever I’m downtown. Instead, I crane my neck all the way up and just see a bunch of black tick marks. Where are the numbers?
Did the designers of the tower decide that simple numerals — even just a few, to tell what I’m looking at — would take up too much space on the big white face of that thing? Or is it now just an architectural trend to make the clock towers as naked and unclear as they can be? Either way, I don’t like it. I’m tired of having to count the number of tick marks from the top one to see which one the hour hand is closest to.
There are lots of different clock towers out there: Some are huge, some just a few stories high, some have big bells that chime to let you know it’s the top of the hour or organs that play music. I don’t think I need any of that to know what time it is. Just give me a nice, simple clock face with big bold numbers on it, so my weak eyes can see the hour without having to study the darn thing, and I’ll be happy.
Laptops: What’s in a name?
It wasn’t too long ago that a computer was something big enough to fill a room, and only the world’s top scientists could use them. These days, computers can be as tiny as a sheet of paper and every young person in the country seems to have one with them. Somewhere along the line, some engineer decided to make a folding computer you can take with you anywhere, and he called it a “laptop.”
Clearly, it was marketed as something you could keep on your legs while you do your work. It struck me as a funny idea (if I tried to write with a typewriter resting on my thighs, I’m sure my legs would break clear off) but I generally understood the concept. That is, until the computer companies decided to stop calling them laptops.
After claims that the computers would overheat on people’s legs or cause sterility or testicular cancer in men, sales companies decided to start calling laptops “notebooks.” Now what sort of sense does that make? A notebook is something I keep in my back pocket and write on; it’s something simple and familiar to me. Not like some kind of processing machine people use to look up videos of dancing cats and their favorite movie stars. I wonder why they don’t just call them all computers, and leave it to the consumer to decide what to put it on top of.
Concerts: Why are they so loud these days?
I’ve been to all sorts of concerts, whether they be orchestral music or something a little more lively, but I was just a bit dismayed by last week’s A&O Blowout.
After waiting for nearly 45 minutes on some wooden bleachers in a basketball arena, the young music stars Matt & Kim ran out onto the stage and blared a full hour of what they call music. They sure seemed energetic, and they liked to swear a lot and stand on top of their instruments, but there was one problem: Their music was so loud, I could hardly hear anything.
Each song was a mess of synthetic keyboard tones and drum beats so deafening, I couldn’t tell what the words to the songs were…if there even were any words.
The next performer, Lupe Fiasco, ended up being more of the same: He jumped around a whole lot and sprayed water all over the first few rows of his fans (not sure what that was all about), but everything he yelled into his microphone was a garble of nonsense drowned out by the screaming guitar next to him and the lady singing behind him.
Is this really what today’s concerts look like? If so, I think I’d rather stay home with a nice Andrews Sisters record.
Daylight Savings Time: Why do we still do it?
Sometimes I look back into history and try to understand why the powers that be, or whoever it is that controls time, decided to institute a tradition so utterly ridiculous as daylight savings. Fine, so Benjamin Franklin thought it would be good for farmers to have another hour of light in the summertime, but for me all it means is re-tuning my biological clock and showing up an hour early or late for everything once every six months.
If you want an extra hour in the day to get things done, I suggest you do what I’ve been doing for years and just wake up an hour earlier. At least Franklin was right about some things.
Dining Halls: Why do they post nutritional information?
I have to say that nothing brightens my day so much as a trip to my nearest dining hall, where I can always find a nice slice of cantaloupe with cottage cheese or maybe a great big oatmeal raisin cookie.
But I’ve noticed that everything I get, be it from the vegan section or the sandwich bar, has a big fat label stuck over it presuming to tell me everything that’s in the food, down to the very last ingredient, and how many calories are in it. Well now, what’s the fun in indulging yourself with your favorite food if every time you get it, it reminds you how fat it will make you?
I do appreciate that someone out there wants me to know just how unhealthy my diet is, but I’d like them to know something too: I don’t follow you home and make you feel guilty about what you eat, so you should mind your own darn business.
There’s something to be said about the void that’s been left now that Rooney won’t be around anymore to express these kinds of opinions. I know I’ll miss them every time I’m finishing my Sunday night dinner or waiting for a late football game, and the clock from 60 Minutes makes its final tick without Rooney. And for every cynic who brushed off his commentaries as bitter rants, I know there are plenty of people out there who loved the man’s diatribes as much as I did.
Here’s to you, Andy. Don’t stop complaining in heaven.