Wednesday, December 13, 2006

American Celebrations

The frequency dial on our radio is always fixed at 94.9 FM. So is the one in my car. The station plays soft rock, but lately it has been playing Christmas tunes only, since the day after Thanksgiving. It seems the trend is followed by most radio stations here, till Christmas, 24/7. Another American tradition.

Back home, we used to make fun of the kiasu (pronounced in the Hokkien dialect, literally meaning afraid to lose) bunch, that across the causeway included. The most common manifestation is jumping queues, if the sometimes amorphous blobs can be described as such. Then there are the more galling instances of scrambling for freebies, be they food give-aways or free textbooks, by overzealous patrons/parents chauffeured around in luxury cars. Those sights are a rarity here, orderliness being the order of the day (pardon the pun).

Then not too long ago I read of a somewhat similar phenomenon during the launch of the latest version of Xbox 360, a popular game console among the teens. A few days before the launch, interested buyers, most of them young, were already camping outside the retail outlets, staking their claims on landing the coveted entertainment juggernaut. Some came in groups, each taking turn to “man” the slot in the line. Some brought along portable TV to pass the time. Some sat on the reclining chair and dozed away. Except for some sporadic complaints of jostling for position, there was no melee, not unlike the scene for buying a concert or a football game ticket.

That prompted several newspaper editorials/readers’ comments that lamented the display of this ill-advised use of precious time, and decried the prevalence of hedonistic pursuits over productive endeavors. However, one also can view this as youthful exuberance that hopefully can be channeled to other more meaningful avenues in due course. Unlike the kiasu phenomenon, no deserving cases are deprived in the process. Also, since this kind of product launch is far and between, the preoccupation is likely to come to pass with time. The kiasu attitude, on the other hand, can become ingrained in the psyche, and subconsciously brought to bear on other issues of life. In a nutshell, both are undesirable tendencies/traits, but one seems to be the lesser evil and thus, is perhaps tacitly tolerated in an affluent society where consumerism reigns supreme.

But celebration is certainly the way of life here. Earlier in the year, we had the Gasparilla celebration in Tampa, which has been criticized for commemorating the coming of age of the swashbuckling pirates, a less than savory vocation by present-day standards.

Then the Gators won the National NCAA Basketball Championship, the whole town of Gainsville partook in the celebration.

Then the Bucs (the NFL team based in Tampa) won a close game, thanks to the heroic play by the kicker, a 60-yard field goal that ranks 2nd (I think) in the all-time list, in the dying seconds. And there was a city celebration, with the Mayor, Pam Iorio, declaring that day as the day of the kicker (Matt Bryant).

Then the Panthers won the State 4A High School Football trophy (see here). And on hand to celebrate with the team win on this Monday was none other than the Mayor again. This time, she declared Monday as the Plant Panthers Day. The image is a direct shot of the ABC ActionNews on Monday night, hence the fuzziness. But the joy of the one giving the plaque, Mayor Pam Iorio, and of the recipient, Coach Robert Weiner, is apparent. Yeah, the Panthers rule as per the image taken of a poster, courtesy of Ferman, a local automobile dealer, that was circulated with the Tampa Tribune.

Did I forget to mention that the Mayor is also a Panther parent? So is Jim Davis, the candidate who lost in the recent Florida Governor's race, according to my D, who happened to be in the same chartered bus on a recent trip to Miami during the Championship game. Otherwise, I thought it could be cool to have both the Mayor and the State Governor as fellow Panther parents. But then if he has won, likely the whole family will move to Tallahassee, the power base for the state. Oh well.

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