Ken and Barbie are perfect.
Ken and Barbie are plastic.
Ken and Barbie are hollow.
I do not prefer them.
True friends are flawed in endearing ways. Quirky.
I’ll never forget the morning when I asked a roomful of newly arrived Wizard Academy students to tell a little about themselves. The last to stand was a tall, silver-haired patriarch who said, “As I sat and listened to you people, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Never in my life have I been surrounded by as many weirdos, misfits, mavericks and renegades.’”
The silence throbbed as the old gentleman slowly surveyed the room, meeting the eyes of every student, “It’s as if the Wizard sent out the mating call of the albino monkey, and this room contains the rag-tag rabble who answered.”
No one was breathing.
“I just can’t tell you what an honor it is to be counted here among you!”
The walls flexed outward from the shockwaves of spontaneous, thunderous applause.
That patrician gentleman was Keith Miller, the bestselling author of The Taste of New Wine, a revolution-triggering book that sold multiple millions of copies as it rocked religious America back in 1965.
Interesting people are nonconformists, swimming tirelessly against the flow of the cultural norm.
Only dead fish go with the current.
“We all know bad things are happening to our political and social universe; we know that business is colonizing ever larger chunks of American culture; and we know that advertising tells lies. We are all sick to death of the consumer culture. We all want to resist conformity. We all want to be our own dog.”
– Thomas Frank, Conglomerates and the Media, 1997
A few months ago, Pink wrote an anthem to nonconformity, a paean to society’s outcasts, weirdos, mavericks and renegades:
“Raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways, all my underdogs!”
Raise Your Glass rocketed to the top of the charts. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. Pink’s song recalls the original American anthem found at the foot of a statue that raises not a glass, but a torch. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
“We will never be, never be anything but loud and nitty-gritty, dirty little freaks.”
– Pink, Raise Your Glass, Oct. 2010
Have you done any traveling lately? During their 40-year reign as the king and queen of American culture, Ken and Barbie littered our nation with identical power centers hosting the same tenants in every village, town and city.
Come to Austin and we’ll proudly show you 6th Street, a few blocks in our city that are unique to our wonderful town. New Orleans has the French Quarter. Atlanta has Buckhead. Your town has its special district, too. You know where it is.
But outside these highly-prized districts where we enshrine the last shreds of our uniqueness, your town and mine have precisely the same stores and restaurants as every other; perfect, plastic, and hollow.
Does that make you angry? Do you want shake things up a little? Are you eager for your business to fire a shot that will be heard around the world?
[I’m whispering now.] Go to Wizard Academy. You’ve got people there.
Roy H. Williams