Friday, May 28, 2010

If You Name Your Kid Romeo, He's Going to Become A Moody Freak

Ah, can there be anything more precious than young love? Yes, there can--valuable minerals! Let me just point out to you that if your financial adviser tells you you should buy shares of young love, it's time to get a new financial adviser--and to stop answering ads in "Highlights for Children". Young love burns hot and fast, but it is aimless and destructive at the same time.

There is no better example than last night's film, "Romeo and Juliet" (the 1968 version, with no famous people unless you consider Michael York famous which I don't. Sorry, Logan's Run!). As it turns out, the film was actually based on an old play! (I guess everything's a remake these days!). You may know the story--two teenagers from warring families fall in love, their families try to tear them apart and they kill themselves at the end. (I should have said, "Spoiler Alert", whoops!) Rather than revel in the tragedy I'd like to point out that both Romeo and Juliet were morons and needed a good smack.

Let's start with the fact that they knew each other for a span of maybe a couple weeks (judging from the time frame of the film), and they were both barely out of puberty. Now think about whoever you "loved" or "had a crush on" or "was stalking in a creepy way" when you were 15. Do you think that that relationship should have worked out? Hell no! Frankly, the Capulets and Montagues (the families in the story) would have been better off telling their idiot kids to go ahead and shack up--once the initial crush phaze wore off, Romeo would be sitting on his couch in his underwear watching ladies' volleyball while Juliet (in curlers and eating iced cream from the box, of course) would have been nagging him about cleaning the gutters. Any romance at age 15 is practically guaranteed to fail! Let it run its course!

Instead, keeping in mind that these are Italians and that Italians are second only to the Irish when it comes to fighting over stupid crap for way too long, the families in the story did what they could to end the relationship and there were stabbings, forbiddings, and scoldings. And rather than Romeo saying "hey, too bad my folks aren't cool with Juliet, I guess I'll console myself with Verona's finest party girls" he gets all moody and emo, and Juliet of course goes all drama queen, and Romeo thinks she's dead for some reason and instead of checking her pulse he kills himself and then she finds out when she wakes up and she kills herself too.

When I have kids, it's going to be arranged marriages all the way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who Pays on First Date?

I'm a sucker for websites that contain posts about dating disasters, as they are like car wrecks but at least no one gets grievously injured unless of course they're dating R&B artist Chris Brown. (Yeah, I went there, Chris Brown! And you can't smack me because I'm not dating you) There seem to be a lot of recurring themes with dating disasters--guys getting too drunk on the date, guys with serious anger issues, mothers tagging along on dates--but one seems to stand out a lot. The money issue! This story is a good example of that (and also see the controversy in the comments thread below the post)

See, in these modern times there's a lot of back and forth as to who should pay for what and how it should be done. Guys wonder if it's considered paternalistic to insist on paying for everything, women wonder if it's a turnoff if they insist on paying part or all of it, and no one is really sure that the other party is okay with it. One of my female friends who I knew both in D.C. and in Portland--a good looking woman with a lot going for her--told me she always insisted on paying her share on first dates; most of my guy friends tell me they'll never allow the woman to pay for anything, no matter what. It'd be interesting to set her up with one of them and see who wins!

Seems to me though that there is a basic rule--on the first date, the guy should be prepared to pay for everything.* There are two complications: (1) What if the woman was the one who suggested the place or invited him out? (2) What if the woman makes as much or more than he does? It might seem unfair for a guy who works as a waiter while in school to be paying for a fancy dinner and show when the settings were suggested by the wealthy corporate attorney he is going on the date with.

My take on that is he should still plan to pay, as of course if he truly can't afford those costs for one evening then he needs to suggest instead plans that he can afford. (And if you're being treated to a meal? Then you DON'T BITCH ABOUT GOING TO CRACKER BARREL. YOU EAT YOUR CHICKEN FRITTERS AND ENJOY THEM!!! Nothing's more annoying than the woman who posted her worst date being the guy who took her to Burger King after the concert that he paid for. Lady, did you offer to treat for a nicer more "acceptable" place? No? Then kindly enjoy a glass of Shut The F__K UP).

Now, when the guy takes the bill or pulls out his wallet, the woman has a duty to reach for her own cash--suggesting that she pay for her share. This is important, because it signals that she doesn't feel entitled to be treated. However, the guy must politely insist on paying, at most suggesting she can get them drinks later, or pay just the tip, if she's insistent. But at that point the woman should relent. Otherwise you have a long discussion about who should pay, social conventions, and at the end of the day it's really not that much money. If you never see each other again, it's a minor thing. If you do see each other again, you'll have plenty of time to make things even.

*(Of course, once you're in a relationship it can become more equitable, since there are many opportunities for each person to treat, and it can be based on who has more to spend, who insists on fancier places, all that stuff. These rules are more about initial dates)

Kanye West Boycott?

Well, I'm torn here. Arizona has passed an illegal immigration law that I have some problems with and would like to see amended, but now I just found out that Kanye West--a noted ignoramus and dangerously ill closet case--is planning to boycott Arizona because they passed this law. The boycott also includes Michael Moore, a man who apparently felt that what liberals were lacking most was their very own Rush Limbaugh (and yes, I really think those two bombastic simpletons should have their own buddy-comedy show. I smell a sitcom!).

What this means to me is that if only every single state in the country passes the same law that Arizona did, WE COULD FINALLY DRIVE KANYE WEST OUT OF THE COUNTRY. Imagine! He could move to France, which has traditionally been the haven of demented lunatics (Roman Polanski, Lenin, the Ayatollah, Jerry Lewis). Of course, if someone reads him a newspaper article (yes I still believe Kanye is unable to read) he might learn that France has some rather severe immigration laws itself, and doesn't seem too inviting towards its Muslim minority. But by then he'd be someone else's problem.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ow, My Balls!

Every now and again there's another news article about today's youth that makes me understand why society's going to hell. Here's a case of a kid who lost a testicle due to some idiotic ritual of "sack tapping"--boys punching each other in the groin because what could be more hilarious than putting some unsuspecting kid in a lot of pain and perhaps irreversible damage?

When I was a kid (yes, get off my lawn, I was walking uphill both ways to school, you could buy a soda for a nickel), pranks played by one kid on another might consist of being shoved into the wrong bathroom, or having your books knocked out of your hands. I'd heard of (though never experienced, fortunately) "pantsing" and "wedgies" at that time. But it seemed that even the most lowbrow of schoolyard idiots knew that the groin was off limits. If you went for the groin, it had to be a life and death issue. Otherwise, you're likely making it a life and death issue right then and there!

Of course, we can partly blame TV and movies that make punches and kicks to the groin look hilarious, with the victim back up and running shortly after. Keep in mind though, TV and movies also make powerful blows to the head and even gunshot wounds to the outer limbs seem like something that can be shaken off (see, Kate from LOST).

So what does it mean that kids are getting stupider and more brutal? It means we adults really shouldn't count much on every having anyone cover our Social Security when we get old. We'll be lucky if they float us out to sea on an iceberg.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Damn Loud Kids, Get Off My Lawn!

Sunday's brunch would have been otherwise rather pleasant if not for the rambunctious tots at the next table. The two kids--toddlers, perhaps around age 3 or 4--had turned their table into a race track and were stampeding in an attempt to work off their breakfasts, which judging from their behavior must have consisted of cookies and Snickers bars. Their parents (and presumably grandmother) were doing their best to ignore the situation, as it was clear that this is something they deal with every day and figured it best to tune out the mayhem. So what if the kids are bothering nearby patrons and risking serious injury by tripping waitstaff? You can't judge a parent's choices until you've been a parent yourself.

That argument is, in a word, inane. That's like saying "you can't judge a military dictator's actions since you haven't been a military dictator yourself". This really comes down to basic common courtesy--if your kids can't behave in public, then keep them home until you can train them. Granted, if we were at a Chuck E Cheese or other kid-oriented environment, the standards are a bit lax--I wouldn't be aghast at hearing screaming and thudding of over-excited kids, nor would I be surprised if everything in the place was covered in boogers. But this was not Chuck E Cheese. THIS WAS NOT CHUCK E CHEESE!!!

Newsflash to parents--your kid isn't that damn special. Your kid isn't "imaginative". Your kid is poorly behaved and not yet ready for society. That's fine, they're young and may grow into it. But don't subject me to that growing period. I'm not the one who forgot to bring condoms that romantic night in the back of your Camaro.

There is a sense of entitlement among a lot of parents who think their precious little crotchfruit are oh so special and they have every right to be in public with them. Yes, you can go in public with them--but you have to be considerate of others. But I'm willing to make a deal. If your kids are quiet and behaved and sit still, then I will refrain from making obscene comments that they can overhear. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unresolved Questions from LOST

SPOILER WARNING--also, if you're not a fan of the show this is meaningless. Tune back in next time when I discuss the finer points of chocolate fried chicken or some other absurdity.

Anyway, as the show was winding down, we were left with a bunch of questions that I'd hoped would be resolved, but weren't. Or at least left themselves open to interpretation. These include:

1) What were the "rules" between Ben and Widmore? Clearly if the rules had anything to do with not killing one another, Ben violated that when he shot Widmore to death. Was there some loophole?

2) Did the nuclear weapon actually explode at the end of last season? I'd have to suppose not, since the island wasn't wiped clean and the characters survived. Instead, it appears there was some electromagnetic disturbance that caused one final time travel to 2007. The bomb had to be a dud.

3) What was the point of the numbers?

4) What was special about Walt?

5) What was the deal with mothers unable to give birth (or conceive?) on the island?

6) Jacob said he picked the candidates because they were "alone." Er, what about the Korean couple? He picked them at their wedding for cripes sake! They weren't actually "alone".

7) What was the rule about smoke monster not killing candidates? It seemed he could plant a bomb on the sub to do so. Unless you argue that the bomb wouldn't have worked if Sawyer hadn't pulled the wires.

8) How on earth does anyone think that jumbo jet would have been able to take off again? And then it works???

9) What was the point of the "Others" and were they serving Jacob or the smoke monster?

10) If the sideways world was a construct created in the heads of the survivors, why was the island underwater (rather than nonexistant?)?

11) How did the dog (Vincent) manage to stay alive from the year 1975 (when Rose and Bernard set up house in the woods) to 2007? A 32 year old dog?


After six seasons, the hit TV show "Lost" finally answered my questions, such as "will Kate continue to be a bitch?" and "will Jack remain all emo and needy?" and "can people really use a rifle only hours after suffering a gunshot would to their shoulder?" I warn you that there are spoilers ahead!

So it apparently turns out that the "flash sideways" world from this season was a form of purgatory, and the gang gets united at the end because they all die "eventually". For some reason Sayid reunites with Shannon even though she sucks and they only spent about five minutes together before she was mercifully killed off. (I think he had a more in-depth relationship with Ilana when she was posing as a hooker to trap him and bring him to the island. Why not reunite with her?). Ok, I'll buy the purgatory explanation.

What I don't get is what really happened with the nuke detonated at the end of the previous season? What did that really do--if it was a real nuke wouldn't the gang have died there? And if Rose and Bernard and the dog were all living on the island since 1975, wouldn't the dog have been long dead? What exactly were the "rules" about who could kill who, and what made it all change at the end?

When Chest Hair McGee somehow took a crash landed jumbo jet out of the jungle and flew it without use of a real runway--really???--and flew a half dozen people out of there, how were they going to explain things wherever they eventually land? A lot of people are dead! And Richard has some explaining to do, what with being hundreds of years old. I sense an awkward sitcom moment!

Still, despite my disappointment with not getting to see Kate and Claire killed by falling rocks, it was a satisfying end to a pretty solid show. And now, Tuesday nights are free!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Relationship Advice for Beginners

1) When a woman says nothing's wrong, something's definitely wrong. When a woman says something's wrong, hide. And when a woman says "that's not funny" she's most likely wrong. Something's always funny.

2) Don't take a woman to McDonalds on your anniversary as a "test" to see if she can accept you in poverty as much as she can in wealth. But if you do take her there and she enjoys it, she's a keeper.

3) When you and a woman come up with a list of "freebies"--that is, random celebrities that you can each sleep with if you ever got the chance--and she picks Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and George Clooney, whatever you do don't tell her you picked her sister and that secretary at her office. She won't find it funny at all.

4) If a man tells you his game has only a minute and a half left, be ready for that game to end in about a half hour. Sports time is different.

5) Notice how your man will at least wear an undershirt and sweat pants when he's lounging around your living room? Don't get too used to that. After a month you'll be happy if he's wearing undershorts.

6) Women--always leave at least a bit of space in the fridge in case he comes in with a cold six pack. Otherwise you'll find random bottles stuffed into the butter container, vegetable crisper and your leftover Chinese.

7) When you're let into the passenger seat of the car first, you don't necessarily have to unlock the driver's side door before the driver gets in--but you have to at least reach.

8) Women--if you're making your man go to the Sex and the City movie, you are going to owe him three baseball games. Now, how does one two hour movie equate to about nine hours of baseball? The movie is just that bad.

9) Men--if she owns a cat, accept the fact that you rate somewhere between the level of her cat and the level of whatever is in the cat's litter box. Cat people are just different that way.

10) Women--if he owns a dog, accept the fact that you just can't have nice things.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul's Latest Flap

Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman, had the questionable taste to name his son "Rand" (seriously, if your name is "Rand Paul" you're going to have a rough time in the playgrounds growing up. Mostly because your name sounds like it's backwards. Just ask my friend Smith Mike.). Rand is a doctor, like his father, and is also apparently a true blue libertarian, now the Republican nominee for the Senate from Kentucky (the land of bourbon, horse racing, and delicious fried chicken). He's also currently under the microscope for making controversial comments about the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

First, let's get this out of the way--if you're stuck arguing about a law that has been enacted over 45 years ago and has been pretty much accepted in this country, you're already in a losing game. Why not start arguing about whether FDR had the authority when he went to war against Japan? This is the province of academics, not politicians.

Second, I understand where Paul's argument is coming from. I don't think the man is actually a racist. In the strict libertarian point of view, government should not be telling businesses who they should be associating with--they can't require a restaurant to serve people of any race any more than they can require you to racially integrate your next dinner party. It's equated with free speech rights--you can find someone's speech abhorrent while still defending their right to that speech. Paul is saying that racial discrimination by a private individual or business may be wrong, but it is their right to do so. The solution, he argues, is to let the free market decide, since racially discriminating businesses would lose the customers they are discriminating against (as well as customers who don't want to support a racist business) to businesses that have no such racist policy. This would make discriminating businesses either change their tune, fail, or remain irrelevent.

While the libertarian argument works in theory, it doesn't adequately address the problem that was actually faced in the time leading up to the passage of the Act--what to do if all the businesses in a geographic area had racist policies? Particularly if there was not adequate capital available for competing businesses that would not have such policies? Imagine a black family trying to take a cross country trip, and all the highway motels wouldn't serve blacks. Particularly if this discourages blacks from taking such trips, it is unrealistic to expect that someone will open up a motel that would serve them in order to benefit from such a small number of customers. The changing of racial attitudes may not be something feasible to wait for. Often, the market will simply not correct this problem on its own.

Granted, there were constitutional concerns about the CRA when it was debated--and again, I don't believe that all opponents of the bill were closet racists, though of course many were--as it gave Congress a great expansion of power and I would have preferred this power be granted properly under a Constitutional amendment--but I can understand that this was a necessary law to protect the rights of racial minorities that don't have the economic power or sheer numbers to affect the free markets. What Rand Paul needs to address--as any libertarian theorist must--is where the free markets fall short.

The Wind is Still Gone

Having read "Gone With the Wind" recently, I finally got around to viewing the epic length (four hours! That's like watching "Roller Boogie" three times!) film. It happens that the film swept the 1939 Oscars, is the all time highest grossing movie (in real dollars, so up yours, Avatar), and featured such a cavalier use of the word "Damn" that it got Americans all riled up to go fight Nazis. As a piece of art, it was an excellent film--the cinematography, the pacing, the performances--but as a piece of history, it certainly painted a skewed version of slavery and the Confederate "cause". (All slaves in the film seemed pretty happy to be slaves and were well treated for the most part) As I'd noted when reading the book, you could imagine that this was supposed to show the whitewashed perspective of the pro-Confederacy and pro-slavery side, but I imagine many viewers during the segregated 1930s probably saw the film as a vindication of their pro-slavery views.

Of course, the main focus is seeing things from the point of view of the two principal characters--Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, who was immortalized as the selfish, small minded, yet determined and tough as nails Southern Belle, and Rhett Butler, the charming, cynical rogue who loves her despite himself. I can imagine the story told from the point of view of the other characters:

1) Prissy, the slave girl who famously yelled "I don't know about birthin' babies!"--"Ok, here I am, about ten years old and I'm told we're free and yet here I am sticking around with this crazy mean lady for some reason. So her pal--who I don't work for, by the way--is about to give birth, and I'm thinking, hey Prissy, this is your time to shine! So I tell Scarlett I can totally birth a baby, figuring maybe the doctor will show up and I won't have my bluff called. But then, the doctor is all not there, and I'm like, crap! So I tell Scarlett I can't birth a baby, and she goes and slaps me. I'm totally going to mess up her coffee tomorrow."

2) Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, Scarlett's unknowing romantic rival--"It's so nice of Scarlett to pay so much attention to my husband Ashley, constantly sucking the snake poison out of various parts of his body. And stripping him out of his clothes. I'm sure there's some medical reason for that. She's just so considerate."

3) The Yankee soldier who unluckily strays into the O'Hara plantation while Scarlett is armed--"So I'm thinking, hey, I could totally use some food because Sherman ain't feeding us much. I make it into this house, and the lady of the plantation is standing on the stairs, and I'm thinking hey maybe this chick will give some food to a starving man. Then the crazy bitch up and shoots me in the face. Southern hospitality my ass!"

4) Wilkerson, the O'Hara caretaker who was fired for impregnating a "white trash" woman and came back after the war to buy up the plantation--"So here I am, finally making some good money after losing my job, trying to help out freed blacks and rebuild the South. I assume people will be cool with it, but it's been the cold shoulder for quite some time! So I head back to Tara, knowing that the plantation is about to go under as basically the only staff they have to run it is two former house slaves, three dainty women, and a foppish dandy who seems to be more interested in Rhett Butler than the chicks they have running around there. I figure I can make a fair offer, and I tell Scarlett that, and she tosses dirt at me for some reason, and her crazy old mick father chases after me on his horse and falls off and dies. What a screwy family. I should have gotten hazard pay for working there when I did."

5) Ashley Wilkes, Melanie's husband and the love interest of Scarlett--"So I'm basically a good guy, right? I was right about the war being a bad idea, but I fought anyway, like some earlier version of John Kerry. I opposed slavery, and would have freed my family's slaves once I inherited them if the war hadn't done it first. All I really want is to move to New York and read books and stuff, and now this crazy Scarlett chick who's been after my junk for over a decade is getting all stalkerish now, trying to ruin my marriage and force me and my wife and kid to stay in Atlanta and work at her lumber mill so she can sexually harass me. Too bad the sex harassment laws aren't going to be around for a hundred years."

6) The horse that Rhett, Scarlett, Prissy, Melanie and the baby rode from a burning Atlanta to Tara during a dramatic night--"This sucks. I'm sitting around, doing awesome horse stuff, and suddenly the city is on fire. I'm like, great, I'm outtie, and then suddenly this dude with huge ears grabs me and hitches me to a carriage. Okay, not so bad, we're still leaving dude! Then he stops and picks up like four more people! Not cool, dude! Especially since one of them is all whiny, and it isn't the ten year old slave girl or the lady who just gave birth, no it's this entitled chick who is really not helping matters. We not only have to ride around a burning city and fend off bandits trying to steal me, we then have an all night journey through a battle zone before we finally get to their goddam plantation. You'd think they'd at least have some oats or something for me when we got there. But no."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bristol Palin's Speaking Fee

Picture the scenario--some organization wants to hold a conference or seminar of some sort, and they're given a budget to do so. Let's say the budget is a nice round number, like $30,054.32. (Assume for this scenario that they were granted $30K by their Treasurer, and then found the $54.32 under all their seat cushions. Don't judge, some people just aren't as regular about cleaning as you are).

So the organization decides to spend the $54.32 on snacks, chairs, AV equipment and a venue, and blow the $30K on scoring that brilliant, proven speaker, Bristol Palin. All I can say to that is ARE YOU F'ING KIDDING ME??? What brain dead simpleton would think for a second that someone who is only famous for being the easily-played-by-a-white-trash-tool-and-knocked-up-by-said-tool daughter of a failed vice presidential candidate has anything worthwhile to impart to any organization whatsoever? Certainly, $30,000.00 worth???

Let's forget for a minute that Sarah Palin is a caricature of everything wrong with today's Republican party--a disdain for intelligence and complex thinking, a closed minded intolerance and divisiveness towards "others" who happen to be a majority of this country, a willingness to wear ignorance like a badge of honor, an unwillingness to take any responsibility for anything at all--and in fact let's assume that Sarah Palin was someone that she's not--a successful, brilliant politician. Even if that were the case, what qualifications can her 19 year old daughter possibly have--simply by virtue of being a famous daughter??? For the record, it'd be just as stupid if someone wanted to pay $30,000 to hear Barack Obama's pre-teen daughter speak. Perhaps it might be worth the money to see Bristol give a speech titled "Help Me I'm Living With A Crazy Woman Who Likes to Strafe Wolves From Helicopters And If I Eat One More Mooseburger I'm Going to Join A Hippie Commune".

This is America, and of course you can spend your own money in any dumb way you see fit. But it doesn't mean I won't mock you for it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Your Kid May Be On The Honor Roll, But He's Still An Idiot

Children are our most precious natural resource, after coal, oil, lumber, grain, iron ore, water, sunlight, wind, livestock, and shiny rocks. And yet, I worry a lot about the future of our country when I see that students are providing answers like this on the Advanced Placement History exam. Mind you, these are not regular history students--these are supposedly the elites of high schools around the country.

According to these dullards:

1) Jews were victims of "antisentimentalism".

2) Eisenhower came through Ellis Island during WWII.

3) Republicans opposed George Washington which was why he was assassinated.

4) The economy was strong in the 1840s due to the auto industry.

5) Trancendentalists were the supporters of the "intercontinental railroad".

Well, they might have been right about the last one--after all, if we're going to have a railroad system that connects various continents, it's probably a good idea to do some serious meditation about it!

What it certainly tells me is that we are clearly going to be owned by the Chinese by the time these kids are done running our country into the ground. How do you say "pizza and beer" in Chinese?

School Buses Are Destroying America

Let's start with why I hate schoolbuses. I hated riding them as a kid (they were the only way it could take you 40 minutes to get to school which was only ten minutes away. But then, driving a car doesn't involve ambling down every side road and stopping to pick up slow moving kids and making stops every half mile so the driver can yell at us to stop being such little monsters). I hate driving near them as an adult (no one ever says "ah, I'm behind a bus, this is my sweet spot! Be jealous, other drivers!"). And that brings us to my point.

Why do we even have school buses? Every kid should go to a school close enough to walk to. Wait, you say--what about those kids who live too far from any school to be able to walk? To that I say, pish posh! Learn to cultivate the land, farmer boy! School buses are just making you weak. And by extension, our country has gotten weak.

Consider--the first generation to be raised in school buses is the post-WWII generation (the Baby Boomers). As it happens, the Baby Boomers have also caused the decline of America (ballooning regular deficits, wars we somehow can't seem to win, and some terrible, terrible fashion choices). Coincidence? You decide!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up

The whirlwind weekend began Friday, with a crazed frenzy to get meetings concluded in time to leave work early, then race up to NYC to begin a fine spring weekend of celebrating a friend's birthday and a belated Mothers Day. The Greenwich Village festival was timed for ideal weather, and despite the crowds we managed to snag some tables for our crew and parked ourselves for the whole day. Wine, cheese, fancy meats, beer--it was a lot of exercise eating and drinking all of that. There were also some neat knicknacks at the festival--including a WWI trench helmet which would be awesome for not banging my head on stuff--but at this stage I'm trying to reduce my possessions, not increase them.

The following morning it was a mad dash up to Westchester to celebrate a belated Mothers Day and wedding anniversary with the parents, which was quite nice but an extremely close shave--by about twenty seconds--to catch the train back to the city in time for the 3:30 bus back to DC. Managed to make it, and then voyaged back down the highways and byways to our fair Capital.

Exhausted? And how! But now to catch up on another week and hopefully a quiet weekend to come.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

1) The expression "be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it" is pretty stupid. After all, if I wish for a million bucks, and then I get it, is that supposed to be "oh cruel irony!" time? More accurate would be to say "make sure you don't wish for anything idiotic like a talking dog because that'll mess you up."

2) If you can fit your political opinion on a topic onto a bumper sticker, then your opinion is probably dogmatic and poorly thought out.

3) Same goes for those "my kid is on the honor roll" bumper stickers--you might as well say "please beat up my pretentious kid".

4) If I were in the Army and my patrol was going through some dangerous jungle, and the commanding officer said "boys, just do what we learned from watching that movie Footloose..." I think I'd try to join another patrol instead.

5) In prison, if I got propositioned by one of the bigger thugs, I'd say something clever like "mister, you can't afford me!" and hopefully he'd laugh and pat me on the shoulder and say "you're all right!" If he instead beats me to death then I'd just have to be happy with those last words.

6) They could probably prevent hijackings if they gave everyone on the plane a handgun. Then, when the hijackers pull out their guns everyone would be like "hey, big deal dude, we all have guns, stop blocking the movie". We'd need to use special bullets that don't go through fuselages.

7) I'm not sure how vodka got invented. Someone had to drink the foul tasting stuff at one point, not knowing that it would do wonderful things like make everyone's jokes sound funnier and make him feel more attractive. They must have just known.

8) We can usually tell if a person is possessed by a demon. But I don't think we'd ever know if a typical appliance was possessed. What more could a blender do that it hasnt' done already?

9) I always find it amusing when foreign dictators wear military uniforms with all the ribbons. I mean, no one is actually convinced that these guys are amazing war heroes. Why not just go with a comfortable T-shirt and cargo shorts? They're not fooling anybody otherwise.

Reduction in Beer Tax

Ordinarily, I don't much care for John Kerry--his Mister Howell style rich-man's voice, his dumb expensive haircut, his wooden manner and his complete ability to lose one of the most winnable presidential races in history--but I have to admit he's doing the right thing here. He's sponsoring a bill to reduce the per-barrel tax rate on small brewers, which is music to my ears since I'm not only a microbrew enthusiast (read: sophisticated drunk!) but see this as a good source of job creation in a lot of parts of the country that are hurting. I also like that senators from Maine and Oregon--two states with strong microbrew presence--are behind this.

It wasn't long ago that American beermaking was basically the mass production of light and largely flavorless pilseners, and those who wanted something more varied and refined would have to stick with imports (which were not just more expensive, but harder to find in stores). Now, America has such a large number of small breweries that it's becoming one of the world's leaders in beer variety. This competition has even led the big breweries like Bud and Michelob to produce it's own "craft" beers (admittedly, I haven't tried them, but whether they're any good or not, it's a sign that they recognize a growing market for variety). And at a time when it seems almost everything that the U.S. used to produce for itself seems to now come from overseas, it's great to see an industry that is still going strong here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


There's a lot wrong with the movie "Footloose" but let's start with the fact that a small rural town has a tragedy where some drunk driving teenagers on their way to or from some dancing with rock and roll end up getting into an accident and get killed. In most towns, the locals would get together and after mourning the tragedy (or the Darwinism, if you're less charitable) and then enact some strict anti-drunk driving and anti-speeding laws, and perhaps set up some sort of "saferides" system to enable drunk kids to get home safely. But not the small town of Footloose! The town that seems to be run by Reverend John Lithgow decides instead to ban rock and roll music. What do they NOT ban?

1) Straddling two moving cars on a two lane road.

2) Sarah Jessica Parker.

3) A David Bowie-style haircut on Kevin Bacon that went out of style in the early '70s.

4) Games of chicken played with tractors.

See, it's my theory that the only problem with Kenny Loggins (who of course sang the theme song for the movie) is that if you let him sing for too long you end up with some "Highway to the Danger Zone" going on and suddenly Tom Cruise interrupts his homoerotic tryst with Val Kilmer and leaves the Top Gun training school long enough to start a shooting war with the Russians. (However, Loggins also sang the theme to Caddyshack so it's also equally likely that it could lead to all sorts of golf course hijinks and Rodney Dangerfield so let's give some credit where credit's due!).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Supreme Court....of Crapulence!

The nomination of Elena Kagan doesn't spark my interest in any great way, since this isn't likely to result in any shift in the Supreme Court--Kagan is replacing Justice John Paul Stevens (who in turn replaced George Ringo Johnson thirty five years ago), who has long been one of the Court's most liberal voting members. For this reason, I'd be surprised if the Republicans in the Senate did much to halt the nomination beyond a bit of posturing for their base. That is, unless Kagan is found to have sold poisoned milk to schoolchildren or something like that.

It's been speculated that Kagan might be a closeted lesbian, which earns a great big "who cares?" from me since frankly there isn't a single Supreme Court Justice in history that I'd even want to think about in terms of their sex lives (with the exception of that saucy Sandra Day O'Connor!). Yawn to that!

Also, it's been noted that if confirmed, this would be the first time ever that not a single member of the Supreme Court is a Protestant (there'd be 3 Jews, 6 Catholics). But let's face it, Anthony Kennedy just plain looks Protestant, so that should count.

You want diversity? How about the fact that every single Justice on the Court attended either Harvard or Yale Law schools? I note that perhaps our greatest jurist in our country's history, John Marshall, never even attended law school. How about at least one or two spots going to other top tier schools? Or even, God forbid, a non-lawyer? In any event, I don't mean to pick on Kagan as it seems her qualifications for the bench are strong and her (light) paper trail doesn't seem to have anything odious in it.

But there is something that unsettles me, and that's not the choice of Kagan herself but rather the timing of Court retirements. It's taken for a given that O'Connor retired in 2005 because there was a Republican in the White House to nominate her replacement, and Souter and Stevens (both appointed by Republicans themselves, but liberals ideologically) both waited until a Democrat was in the White House to announce their own resignations. Likewise, it's expected that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia aren't likely to quit voluntarily until a Republican is back in the White House. The fact that this sort of pattern is completely unremarked on is really a reflection that we take it for a given that the Justices themselves acknowledge that they are ideological warriors on the Court, rather than impartial arbiters of the law who need to be beyond ideology. Perhaps it's naive to expect it to be any other way, but it's sad if the Supreme Court is just a glorified version of Congress.

St. Tickle Me Elmo's Fire

I have come to a realization after finally watching "St. Elmo's Fire", the 1985 Brat Pack movie starring a whole bunch of people who were famous for a few years then disappeared except for Mare Winningham who just plain disappeared--culturally, the 1980s were a wasteland. The haircuts for both men and women were in a crappy middle ground between 1970s feathered disco look and 1990s "who cares about my hair when I have all this angst" grungy look. Styles were terrible, between guys wearing long coats and slacks with sneakers and skinny ties, and women wearing skirts that were way too long and prudish tops. (I'm excluding the one outlet for animal smuttiness, which was the heavy metal scene, but I remember enough from that era to know that wasn't the norm).

The music? Well, admittedly some '80s music was good--but even good songs were ruined by the two greatest scourges of rockin' tunes--the saxaphone and the synthesizer. I curse the day Theodore W. Synthesizer created that terrible invention. Fortunately, it has gone the way of the dodo and the new wave haircut.

And the movies of the '80s, by and large, were terrible. Red Dawn? Ugh! News flash, if a movie makes me root for the Communists to win, then it's doing a poor job! The earliest sign that George Lucas was a hack came out with 1983's Return of the Jedi, and he confirmed it with that stupid duck movie.

How was St. Elmo's Fire as a film, though? Well, picture a film about seven people going through the tough times of the mid-'80s right after graduating from a prestigious university, and the whole time you're rooting for the meteor that you are hoping will wipe them out. (Spoiler alert--there's no meteor!) Demi Moore plays a cokehead, which I'm sure was a stretch, and you can't get it out of your head that while this movie was in theaters her future husband wouldn't be able to buy a ticket to see it because he was only 7 years old at the time. Emilio Estevez plays a creepy stalker of Andie MacDowell's med student, and Andrew McCarthy plays the same type of character he always does--needy! Round it out with Judd Nelson, being whinier and less cool than his Breakfast Club character, and Rob Lowe being admittedly more pretty and feminine than any of the female leads in the film, and you got yourself yet another film where I'm rooting for the Communists.

But it did have a neat theme song.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Zulu? Yes, I do

Last night's film was 1964's "Zulu", featuring a young Michael Caine and no one else I could recognize. This movie is a war classic, telling the true story of the Battle of Roark's drift in South Africa's Natal Province in 1879. There, a few hundred British soldiers at a remote outpost were surrounded and attacked by thousands of Zulu warriors over a couple days. There was no hope of reinforcement, and ammunition and supplies were limited. All the British really had going for them was their stiff upper lips and brilliantly scarlet uniforms. Oh, and a lot of rifles.

Now, we all know that in the same situation I would have been the first to suggest getting into cow costumes and trying to sneak out of the fort, but the British commander in this case would simply not accept the overwhelming odds facing him--the troops stuck to their disciplined drills, fighting off each attack by the Zulus even as their numbers dwindled and the outpost caught fire.

The film does a good job ramping up the tension between battle scenes and delivering with bursts of violence. But what made this a more respectable film than most war films was that the Zulus were not portrayed as mindless savages but as clever adversaries, using feints and probing assaults to measure and strike their enemy. For their part, it appeared that each side respected the fighting prowess of the other, and while I won't spoil the ending I'll say it was a worthy climax that confirms this.

Friday, May 7, 2010

This is Nothing Like HMS Pinafore

Well, let's just say if me and my merry band of musical pirates decide to try and take over a ship, we'll make sure it's not a Russian vessel! Not only do the Russians kill the pirates after apprehending them, but they go ahead and tell the media that the pirates were "released". Yep, released into the fiery bowels of hell!

This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the Russians. They have suffered countless cruelties over their history, and have been sure to pass on that cruelty to any other group they encounter. They adopted communism because the absolutist monarchy that preceded it wasn't oppressive enough. Terrorists going after Russians seem to always wind up dead, even if it means a lot of hostages get killed in the fallout. Message received--you don't screw with Ivan.

Clearly, these Somali pirates--who probably knew a thing or two about inhuman cruelty themselves, considering the Horn of Africa is like Disneyland for thugs--made a terrible mistake and confused the Russian flag on the ship with that of some more kind and generous country, like Mongolia or Tartarus. But frankly, it's hard to feel sympathetic--piracy isn't exactly one of those victimless crimes, like smoking pot or gambling or punching a mime. Nope, you play in a rough game and you're going to face some pretty bleak ends.


Well, Greece is a shambles now. I've been watching this unfold a bit lately, as the debt crisis is affecting the stock market in general and this is just what the world doesn't need as it tries to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s. Thanks a lot, Greece! We can now blame you for yet another atrocity against history, up there with:

1) War crimes against Troy. (The city, not the Dallas quarterback. So far his claims against the Greeks are unverified)
2) Destroying the Persian culture. Gotta admit, Persian food beats Greek any time.
3) Inventing democracy over two thousand years ago, and then completely abandoning it until 1974.
4) Making it so no one can say "I really want to get some sheep on my property" without getting a bunch of childish giggles.
5) That underwhelming Nia Vardalos movie.

Apparently, the Greek social welfare system is overly generous, especially considering their tax system is chock full of holes and hopelessly corrupt. They earned up some massive debt, and now are likely to default without major bailouts (or even with major bailouts, their situation's pretty bad and the olive and feta industry just isn't going to cut it). And when their government takes action to try and fix it (and not bring down the entire EU in the process, thank you very much) the more vile citizens decide to riot and some people even get killed. Lovely.

The fact is, peaceful protests are just fine, if often tacky and stupid. No one gets hurt when you walk around with a sign or even wear a crazy costume. Hey, some chicks are into costume play (or so the Internets tell me!). But the minute you get violent is the minute I get all law and order about it and root for the cops to deliver a case of whoop-ass all over your thuggish head. Because you know what it does then? It gives justification to every quasi-fascist regime that cracks down on peaceful gatherings.

One would think the so-called inventors of democracy would know this.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alligators are Cool, Crocodiles Suck

Often, people wonder why I hate nature and all things that make up nature. This is a good example of why. A woman is snorkeling off the coast of India, and gets killed by a massive saltwater crocodile. If those goddam mini-dinosaurs aren't endangered, then I suggest we go and endanger 'em!

It also proves my point that India is one serious f-ed up country, between sectarian violence, extreme poverty, disease, 130 degree heat, and horrible, horrible creatures that do nothing except kill people. Up yours, crocodiles! There's no way I'm going into any jungle (or seashore, apparently) without a team of trained marksmen armed with hand-cannons. We may get taken down, but we'll take as many of you down with us as we can! And if I get swallowed whole I'm going to make sure I have grenades so I can go in epic fashion.

Now, some of you who know me may wonder "hey Brando, you always seemed fond of alligators, why the crocodile hate?" To me, they're very distinct animals:

1) Alligators are smaller, less aggressive, shorter and rounder snouts, and make great pets if you really get tired of damn neighbor kids on your lawn.

2) Crocodiles are vile, evil creatures that must be wiped out pronto. Don't agree? Then ask yourself, if the crocodiles were running the world, would they be agonizing over the deaths of humans and talking about preserving us as a species? Nope, they wouldn't? Then stop asking.

It must be awful for this woman's family to hear this freaky news. But believe me if I had a daughter and she was all "hey I'm going snorkelling in India!" I think I'd handcuff her to a radiator for a few years.

Point/Counterpointless--Gun Control

In today's installment of "Point/Counterpointless" we're going to examine the tricky subject of gun control. As you may be aware, Virginia allows anyone to own and carry a firearm so long as they have a heartbeat. The District, on the other hand, only allows you to own a firearm if you keep in locked in a room three floors from where you sleep and it must be kept in a safe guarded by a troll who will make you answer his questions three before he'll give you the key. You also have to have a breathalyzer attachment for it so you can't do neat stuff like get drunk and see if you can still hit your mailbox from your bedroom window.

Point: Gun control is a vital way to stem the flow of weaponry to our streets and into the hands of criminals. Gun violence can be curbed by reducing the number of guns in circulation and ensuring that only responsible, lawful citizens have access to them, and that this access be limited.

Counterpoint: You're forgetting that guns are just plain awesome. Have you ever held one of those things? They're cool looking and can do neat stuff too!

Point: The Second Amendment guarantees the right to own guns, but it contemplates a "well regulated militia"--this is taken to mean a National Guard, and in any event clearly doesn't mean that there can be no regulation of firearms. Gun control is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment.

Counterpoint: Second Amendment? Easy there, nerd alert! Everyone knows that the Second Amendment is really about one thing--how cool it is that we had guns to kill the British with. They still had a "post-revolution" high when they passed the Constitution.

Point: Many European countries that have strict gun control laws have had historically much lower murder rates than we have in the U.S. Clearly, gun control can reduce violence.

Counterpoint: Many European countries suffer from not being as AWESOME as us! Ask yourself this, Poindexter! Could you even imagine a Dutch or French version of Rambo? He'd be too busy swishing Chardonnay to go back to win Vietnam for us.

Point: The slight burden of a five day waiting period and background check is outweighed by the greater good of ensuring that some guns won't get into the wrong hands. Isn't society better served this way?

Counterpoint: All your talk about "society" seems to ignore one major issue. If I have to wait five days for my gun, when what do you propose I use for shooting rats at the town dump during that five day period? Because I'm not going back to the crossbow, I can tell you that.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Patrick, Part Two!

May 5th is that magical day that comes only once a year (or twice a year, if you use a faulty French calendar--true fact, the French call "May" "Le May"), and is widely celebrated in Mexican themed bars across the country (the U.S., not Mexico--in Mexico they call today "Wednesday". Yes, they speak only English in Mexico. But the liberal media won't tell you that!). Did you know that Cinco de Mayo (as American frat boys call it) was invented in 1976 by the Coors Brewing Company to sell beer during the post-St. Patrick's Day slow period?

According to legend (or Coors executives, at least), May 5th was the date that a French army was defeated at the Battle of Pueblo by Mexican forces in the 1860s. We Americans were too busy fighting each other to get involved, or else we surely would have invaded France. (The Germans would take care of that a few years later, though). The Mexicans were proud that just like the Romans, Moors, Spaniards, English, Prussians, Haitians, Russians, Austrians, and Swiss before them, they got a chance to beat the French in battle. Therefore, Americans will celebrate the holiday for them. Or some reason.

Of course, my friends each year found a way to beat the crowds, by celebrating Cinco de Patrick, which means spending March 17th at a Mexican establishment with margaritas and tacos, and spending May 5th at an Irish bar with Guinness and stew. It is fairly certain that the Irish bars in town will be largely deserted, and their staffs will be more than happy to serve some Cinco de Patrick revellers. It's what those brave Coors executives would have wanted.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Buffet Rules

I'm not a man known for loving rules, or steenking badges, for that matter. But it's a fact of life that rules often come about to address some behavior that was happening in the past. Cities with tall buildings need elevator codes, for instance, while a town with no buildings more than two stories isn't likely to need such rules. And when you find out that Indiana has laws against dressing up a duck and taking it to church with you, then you know that was a pretty widespread practice until "The Man" had to step in and ruin the fun.

It was with this in mind that I read the rules posted at the buffet at lunch today. Rules such as:

1) Buffet for Dine-in Only

2) Two hour limit at Buffet

3) No outside containers

4) Use tongs and serving implements

5) No dipping your head in the trays and eating like a filthy mule you sick bastard

Okay, I made up item 3). But it's sort of sad that people can't be trusted to follow certain basic buffet behavior, such as "take what you want, but don't be a cheapskate pig" and "be hygienic, you degenerate". Unfortunately there are enough people out there who ruin it for the proper gentleman who would like to eat his beans and fried chicken buffet style. And that is why we have the rules.

Time Travellin'

Watching the movie "The Time Traveler's Wife" (shut up--it's time travel I'm into, not weepy romantidramas) it got me to realize a few key things:

1) If I want Eric Bana to play me in the movie about my life, I'd better start living an interesting life pronto before he gets too old to do it. I shall begin by leading a successful revolution in a Central American country that rhymes with "Dickaragua".

2) Rachel McAdams is still the best looking Canadian woman ever since Shania Twain got all beatnik.

3) Next time some kid bothers me on the Metro I'm going to tell him that I'm him in the future, and travelling back in time to warn him that he's going to grow up to look like me. I'll also mess with him by telling him that whatever he does, stay away from anyone from Chicago.