Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I Don't Understand

There are a number of things that I just don't understand:

1) Musical theater. I can enjoy music, and I can enjoy a play, but somehow these just don't go together. Partly because the realism of the play gets ruined when everyone breaks into song--folks, this just does not happen in real life! No matter how drunk you get you're just not going to start a big number with a backing orchestra with all your friends in tune. Doesn't happen! But also, the songs just aren't very good.

2) Ice cream cake. See 1), above. Ice cream--great! Cake--delicious! But put them together and it's all "eek!" because you bite into the cake and your teeth get cold. Forget it!

3) The concept of not enjoying a joke because it's offensive. The offensiveness is often what makes the joke funny--the taboo of laughing at something "wrong". Usually, the joke actually pokes fun at what is itself offensive (racism, irreverance toward religion, raunchy foul sex). Now, if the joke is just not funny, THAT'S inexcusable. But funny isn't trumped by offensive.

4) Orange tans. I get why a slight cream or mocha color on your skin is attractive--to the extent it's a natural look. But that glowing orange look? Who ever saw the Oompa Loompas on "Willy Wonka" and said "now, I gotta get me some of that!"?

5) Hair extensions. No explanation necessary.

6) Anything that "looked good" in the '80s. Jeans pulled way too high, bright white sneakers with everything, giant shoulder pads on women--how does a culture get together and say "hey, looking like crap will be the new hot!"?

7) Rock songs with saxaphone or synthesizer. People, this never improves a song! I know your buddy plays a mad sax and doesn't like the guys in the local jazz band because they're jerks, but that doesnt' mean he should get to join the rock band!

8) Super thick french fries. If I wanted a potato, I'd have ordered a potato!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Thoughts

1) Adding the word "salad" to something doesn't make it healthy. Otherwise, "fried chocolate salad" would be a great loophole for any diet.

2) Yes I will try and fry chocolate. Welcome to Coronary Country.

3) There is some inborn human instinct that requires us to speed up to go around any bus, truck or postal vehicle when one is ahead of us on the road. This is true even when the other vehicle is driving along at a good clip and not doing anything dangerous. It's as though we can picture getting smashed by one of these things and we don't trust professional drivers.

4) Considering sports team names that play on offensive ethnic stereotypes (Fighting Irish, Redskins, Vikings), an Italian-American friend and I were asked whether we'd root for a team named after an offensive Italian-American slur. We both agreed that we would, as at least that would be some recognition. We won't be up for any Image Awards any time soon.

5) If you wanted to watch music videos, you once had something called MTV. Then they decided "M" stands for "Bad Reality Shows" and the only option you had was VH1. VH1 then decided that shows mocking the '80s were what the music loving public wanted, and today the only way you can watch music videos is on, which used to be the premier place to see guys giving each other painful groin injuries while performing stunts. I predict in ten years NBC will become a music video channel when they realize no one is watching it for anything else.

6) James Bond always goes around without a disguise and literally introducing himself as "James Bond". This guy is a secret agent? With the bounties on his head from supervillains and jealous husbands alike, isn't he concerned some low-level flunky is just going to take a shot at him anytime he goes out in public?

7) Older generations used to look at the youth and say "you don't know how good you have it" and "you ingrates, you'll be driving much nicer cars and have cooler toys". We might be the first generation that looks at the youth and says "you're screwed. Sorry!"

8) The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was probably originally set up as "The Bureau to Keep An Eye on Cousin Enos".

9) I'd have no problem with a rich guy paying an extra $100 to get a DMV employee to do their licensing after hours so they don't have to wait on line with the hoi polloi. After all, the DMV employee is compensated for their time, the rich guy gets no-wait service, and us hoi polloi have one less person waiting on line with us. Why isn't this permissible?

10) Same thing about organ sales.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Bad News is Your Free Pony is Dead

Being an in-house counsel can have its ups and downs. On the bright side...okay, no bright side. But on the other side, you get to be the Mr. Downer of the company from time to time.

Case in point--our company is planning a picnic, where booze will be served and a host of fun activities (what will they be? Moon bounce? Zip lines? Drunken Segway rides?) will be available for all employees and their famblies. After the initial questions (such as, if we don't have kids of our own, can we hire midgets who can also serve as designated drivers? Answer: yes but the company will not be paying said midgets), it always comes to the inevitable--Legal has to weigh in on potential liability, risks, waivers, etc. You can almost hear the out of tune trumpet pipe in, reminding everyone what a good time we could all have if it weren't for Buzzkill, Esquire!

Yes, it comes with the job, and everyone knows it's necessary. But just once it'd be nice to be the bearer of great news! If this company ever gives away free ponies they should really let me be the one to announce it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ode to My Favorite Season

With autumn around the corner, many festivities are in the offing, from disemboweling pumpkins to the drinking of Beaujolais (or the "Boge" as it's called on the streets! Only the toughest street gangs with the most impeccable taste in red wine will drink the Boge). Yes, soak it up, autumnal fans! Because one day the pumpkins may rise up against their masters and clean out our skulls so they can put a candle in them and scare neighborhood kids. Don't think they wouldn't if they ever got the chance!

(As an aside--I don't get vegans. They're all about not hurting animals, and I just have to say, those animals would be more than happy to milk us (shudder!), force us to make honey somehow (yes I am no biologician) and even eat us if they had the chance. Do you really think appeasement will work? Do you really think that when the animals rise up against us they're going to show mercy on those who only ate veggies? I think not! Join us against our animal enemies!)

(Another aside--don't actually join us meat eaters. You vegans are helping us keep the cost of meat down, since you help lower demand. Go eat broccoli or cauliflower, since I have no interest in those vile weeds)

Yes, pumpkin carving, nature hikes, apple buying (picking is for yuppies! Just buy from the roadside stands, you can get cider there too and it tastes different from the stuff you get in stores since it has no preservatives, and if you leave it in your fridge long enough it goes alchoholic), electioneering, making of feasts--this is what makes it the greatest of seasons. You get that extra hour of sleep on that one day in October, and the cooler air means you can actually dress nice rather than practical. The crispier autumn ales come out, which makes you plausibly an afficionado of fine suds rather than a problem drinker who really needs help. And football games on the telly. Which are really an excuse to hang out with other afficionados of fine suds and chat for a few hours while pretending to watch the games.

Autumn--the only thing sucky about it is the winter that follows.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love, American Style

I've recently been catching up on some classic TV by way of Netflix, including the early '70s show "Love, American Style". This show featured a different set of guest stars--usually has-beens mixed with up-and-comers, sort of like a minor league baseball game--and three different story lines each episode. For some reason it seems that LAS was intended as a comedy, judging from the consistent use of the laugh track, but there don't seem to be any funny parts. Just a lot of mushy "love related" themes.

At least for the early episodes that I've seen so far, LAS seems to have stayed away from anything controversial--no homosexuality, violence, or black people. (I'm sure some later episodes will feature black folks, since television had discovered blacks by the early '70s, but so far the edgiest they got was a Jewish couple, complete with whiny mother. Oy vey!) In fact, the syrupy sweet plot devices and bland "humor" and avoidance of any topical or controversial subject--these plot lines could have been written in 1946 and remained unchanged except for bell bottoms and miniskirts--led me to believe that this show was part of the counter-counterculture. Nixon's Silent Majority must have loved this so they wouldn't have to watch anything "far out" or "groovy" like "F Troop". (Yes, the Indians represented urban turmoil, the Cavalrymen represented the Establishment, we get it!) The edgiest thing about "Love, American Style" is that the theme song is sung by radical hippie band the Cowsills.

Maybe the whole thing was a subtle satire? I'll check the credits to see if Abbie Hoffman was the producer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Palin's Influence

Well, Sarah Palin has done the impossible--she found a candidate who could make her look smart by comparison. Christine O'Donnell, a "conservative" activist who used to appear on Bill Maher's old show--and had the amazing ability to still be the dumbest panelist in a group that included Hollywood celebrities--now carries the banner for the GOP in the Delaware Senate race. A woman known not just for her airheaded appearances on an unserious chat show, but also for:

1) Campaigning against masturbation, with the argument that if a man masturbates then he doesn't need women. (Facepalm...)

2) Launching a frivolous sex discrimination suit against a former employer that had so little merit she couldn't find a lawyer to take it on contingency even though the suit was for over $6 million.

3) Having no real job.

Sadly, all of this only makes her somewhat less qualified than the average member of Congress, but REALLY--a woman like this holding any national office would be a new low. Of COURSE Sarah Palin endorsed her, what more can you expect from that moose-eating lunatic? But the GOP has really shown that it doesn't wish to be a serious party anymore. Which is unfortunate, because the Democrats have reached their own levels of awfulness lately. As I stated before, nowhere to turn.

Obviously, O'Donnell will lose (I'd really have to eat crow and cry for my country if I turn out to be wrong here) and all the sadder because Mike Castle, her opponent in the primary, wasn't just a slam dunk for the Republicans but he was also a longtime distinguished public servant who represented Republicans who may be conservatives but won't be beholden to the party line all the time. But what this says about Palin is more jarring.

I've noticed that Sarah Palin has picked winners in a number of key states--New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona--notice a pattern? These are all early presidential primary states. Having the GOP winner in each state can be a helpful boost when running for president. When Palin quit her governor job halfway through her term, I assumed she had given up on holding office and just wanted money and influence as a celebrity. Now, I'm not so sure she isn't planning a batshit insane campaign for the White House. Sadly, this current GOP may not end up laughing her out of the party.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FDR Sucked

Having just finished reading the book "A Question of Honor" I can now say that I actually despise Franklin Roosevelt more than I ever thought possible. Already I had written him off as a racist thug for having American citizens of Japanese ancestry rounded up and put into squalid camps for the duration of the Second World War. I had already considered him a jerk for giving unions unprecedented power to cripple the American economy and weaken the American worker. I had already considered him a ruffian for his roughshod treatment of the Supreme Court. But now THIS.

It's well documented that FDR (the D is for D**chebag) appeased Stalin throughout the war in a way that made Munich seem like a grand time for standing up to international bullies. But not as much attention has been given to the craven way he sold out the Poles, all the while keeping it secret so as not to hurt his chances with securing the Polish American vote.

The book chronicles the lives of a number of Polish Air Force veterans who fought valiantly but hopelessly against the Nazi onslaught of their country in 1939. These pilots were trained on shoddy planes, however, and this forced them to compensate with increased natural skills. Many managed to escape to Britain where they formed squadrons in the RAF and racked up an impressive record during the Battle of Britain. These pilots were instrumental in defeating the Luftwaffe, and along with large numbers of Polish ground troops they participated in many major actions against the Germans throughout the war. The Poles were well recognized by the British (and to lesser extent, the Americans) for their contributions to the fight--and it was acknowledged that the German invasion of Poland was the reason for Britain's declaration of war in the first place. The book also chronicles the Polish domestic resistance movement, which did far more to fight the Germans than that of any other conquered country (the French Resistance has an inflated reputation, while the Polish had numerous major uprisings against the Germans. This makes sense when you consider the level of cruelty the Germans inflicted on the Poles, who they considered their racial inferiors). Ultimately, if any country deserved the fruits of victory after the war, it was Poland.

But hark, along comes Stalin, the only man who could compete in an "evil-off" against Hitler. Stalin not only made the deal with Hitler than enabled the initial invasion of Poland in 1939, but he also committed mass atrocities against the Poles when he invaded that country from the east (shortly after the German attacks began, and dooming the Polish war effort). The Katyn massacre of Polish officers was a notorious example, and many other Poles were shipped off to Gulags. But of course Hitler then attacks Stalin, proves that his cronies made poor generals, and suddenly it's all "waah waah, save us, Britain and America! Send us stuff, you capitalist pigs!"

And instead of doing what any normal person would do--laugh in Stalin's face and say "eat it, turkey!"--we did the pragmatic thing. We send them supplies to help their war effort, and promised to open a second front against Hitler. Stalin, always the classy one, complained we didn't do enough and not soon enough--forgetting that his deal with Hitler got all this started in the first place. Fine. We have to tolerate him being a jerk. But here's where it gets stomach turning.

FDR wanted to do everything possible to keep Stalin happy, and keep him fighting even though basically Stalin had no choice--Hitler wasn't about to make a deal after the backstabbing. FDR believed he could charm the old Georgian, because who doesn't love FDR except for Japanese Americans and anyone who ever had to deal with a union? So he belittles Churchill in front of Stalin (how very high school!) and this only makes Stalin trust FDR less (after all, if this is how he treats his allies, who needs him?) and of course FDR's promises to let Stalin have a free rein in postwar Eastern Europe just makes the west look weak. Stalin insisted on getting land for Russia at Poland's expense, and the Allies didn't raise a peep. Never mind that the Poles fought valliantly throughout, and Stalin proved to be a manipulative cretin at every turn.

Ironically, the only person Stalin ever trusted was Hitler. And then he got betrayed! Would Stalin ever learn to trust again? FDR certainly hoped so, but alas.

I don't think FDR was a Soviet agent, but if he were a Soviet agent he couldn't have done more to advance Stalin's postwar agenda. He never took seriously the threat that Stalin proved to be early on. He was uninterested in the Purges, he couldn't care less that the man double-dealt with the Nazis (to his country's own detriment), and he kowtowed to him at every turn and asked for nothing in return, for the West or for free people anywhere. In the end, the Poles lost their country to a Soviet puppet regime. The Poles who fought bravely with the Allies were forced to become refugees, hoping for asylum in whatever western country would take them, while their families were punished under Soviet domination back home.

I did leave out the one thing FDR did ask of Stalin in return for giving him a free hand in Poland. He asked that such discussions not be publicized until after the 1944 election, as he didn't want to jeopardize the Polish American vote. What a class act.

And they built a memorial to this creep? I hope some pigeons do a lot of damage to it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over Air Conditioned

Among the other things that suck about summer (bugs, humidity, idiot weekend drivers) is the fact that just about everything is over-air conditioned. I understand where metro trains are concerned--after all, close quarters, people who may not bathe everyday? Why amp that up to full pungent?--and restaurants, as the servers and kitchen staff are moving around a lot and heat up fast so it's better for patrons to bring a sweatshirt than to have suffering servers. But my office is also about ten degrees cooler than it needs to be, and that means one of a few possibilities:

1) By keeping it colder we're less likely to doze off.

2) My bosses own stock in a freon company.

3) This place doubles as a meat locker in the evenings.

That said, it still beats the alternative. I remember at a previous job during the summer when the A/C wasn't working at all, and while waiting for it to be fixed I was sweating buckets and eating ice cubes. (No, the windows didn't open, probably to prevent suicides on days that the A/C wasn't working) And on the bright side, fall is right around the corner!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Film Idea

I have an idea for an epic war film that's also a political thriller. Picture it: a ragtag group of misfits lacking jobs or any real skills and espousing a hateful and irrational ideology manage to win an election in a large European country (let's call it "Grrrland"). Their leader is a school dropout who screams a lot, has a lot of depressingly awful things to say, and even did jail time. His gang soon gets rid of elections and rights and courts and stuff, and before you know it they start using the army to bully around their neighbors.

The democratic, peaceful nations in Europe get together to confront this guy (let's call him "Hans") but instead of telling him to knock it off or they'll knock it off for him, they actually agree to give him the extra land that he wants provided he promise not to do any more bullying! This of course just encourages him, and Hans is now ready to bully the next country. In a shocking twist, he makes an alliance with Ivan, the equally bloodthirsty leader Grrrland's ancient enemy country (let's call it "Slavistan")--and leader of an ideology that is the extreme enemy of Hans'--to carve up the country bordering them both. Hans invades, and his men are so unbelievably evil they actually wear black uniforms and do a stiff-legged march that resembles robots (just to make them sort of inhuman, in case the viewer can't tell they're the bad guys). They kill a lot of innocent people, including rounding up an ancient race of people that's just minding their own business and no real harm to anyone. Just to prove how fiendish Hans is!

The war rages on, and Hans and Grrrland have now conquered almost all of Europe, in fact they seem unstoppable. Then, just when victory is in their grasp, Hans turns on his recent ally, Ivan! This, despite having no rational reason to do so--Grrrland gets its resources from Slavistan, Slavistan has been peaceful regarding Grrrland and allowed Hans a free hand in Europe--Hans just does this to prove how nasty and conniving he is. (Though maybe this part gets unrealistic? I mean, really--it's like when a James Bond villain has Bond in his grasp, then does something inexplicable and lets the hero get away)

The invasion of Slavistan goes well at first, but then winter sets in, and Grrrland starts to lose big time. Troops dying, tanks blasted out, and Slavistan pissed. Meanwhile, Hans makes an alliance with a strong Asian country, despite being a hard core white supremacist. (I have Hans do this just to show that he's complex and unpredictable. Still not sure it's plausible) That Asian country of course starts a war with America, and then just to go even further in his "wildly unpredictable" ways, Hans declares war on America too. He's just that insane.

Of course, Hans now finds himself driven back into his own capital, hemmed in from all sides, and without any allies left. America and the European democracies, meanwhile, have made friends with Slavistan despite Ivan's rotten ideology and history of lying and duplicity that rivals that of Hans himself. I haven't figured out how to explain all that though.

Probably the film wouldn't sell. Just not believable.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday Political Thoughts

1) People complaining about gentrification of their neighborhoods seem to be missing the easiest solution. Fake a few muggings! Even get your friends in on it, so no one gets hurt. In fact, try to do it when the real estate agent is showing the house to the gentrifiers, and make it extra dramatic. The "victim" can shout about "oh no, the third time this week! What are the odds???" and the mugger can be like "I need money to buy drugs! Hurry up and pay me!"

2) Why do people complain about vote buying? We allow people to vote for politicians who promise to cut their taxes or increase their welfare payments. Isn't a direct payout simply cutting out the middleman?

3) When you're in the process of buying an ambassadorship, they should really put out a guide explaining how much each ambassadorship costs, and displaying an index of how nice the weather is in the country compared to how likely you and your embassy staff will be murdered by locals in one of their revolutions.

4) All State of the Union addresses should be done with guitar accompaniment. That way we can tell when the tension-filled parts of the speech are coming up.

5) Whenever you pull the lever in a voting booth, it should make a loud "flush" sound because it symbolizes how much we're flushing our country down the toilet. Am I right?

6) Every time there's an election, the media is able to project a winner with a tiny fraction of the votes counted--something like 3% of the returns being in, they can say for sure that they have a winner. Couldn't they do that with football, so that four minutes into the game they can say "well, Dallas made the first three completions, and got two first downs, we call them as the winner by an eventual score of 17-10." If they can't do that, is that a sign that political reporting is so good, or sports reporting is so bad?

7) I for one love hearing who my favorite celebrities endorse because if Kate Hudson or that guy from Supertramp think the president is doing a bad job, their years of expertise and accumulated wisdom should certainly trump mine.

8) I hear a lot of rich liberals talking about how much they don't need the tax cuts that the Republicans give to the rich, and a lot of rich conservatives talking about how social security should be means tested. But I dont' hear a lot of rich liberals paying the IRS more than they owe or rich conservatives returning social security checks that are mailed to them.

9) I read that the War of 1812 was a bit of a mess for the U.S. I wonder if that war inspired a lot of soul searching plays about the horrors of war, and how poorly we treated our 1812 veterans, or hippie protests (with whatever passed for hippies in those days) yelling about "no more 1812s!" Certainly the antiwar sentiment wasn't enough to keep us from invading Mexico, or fighting the Civil War later.

10) If I were president, and then retired and had a "Presidential Library" built for me, I'd totally stock it with Mad Libs books and Calvin and Hobbes collections. And if people were late in returning the books? We'd charge a lot more than a nickel for a late fee. I'd want a coffee shop put in there too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Three Awful Choices

Yesterday was primary day in a number of states (and the District!), and the Tea Party is on the rise. Yes, it looks like Tea Party candidates are winning GOP nominations all over the place, which means one thing--the Democrats are being handed easy victories in November.

Now, don't get me wrong--the Democrats suck and clearly deserve to lose and lose big, because they're completely clueless when it comes to the economy and pretty much everything else. Their "stimulus" bill was a joke, as were its component parts (cash for clunkers, cash for houses) that only ensured more debt for this country down the road and a more complicated tax system than ever before. When faced with a chance to genuinely reform and improve health care coverage, they passed this monstrosity that's only going to require serious reform later while it both drains the treasury and hampers businesses. And what they call "financial reform" is code word for "we really don't know what we're doing, stop us before we hurt ourselves and we're not allowed to use the sharp scissors". If there was one group that deserved to be tossed out of office, it's the Democrats and their "Nobel Prizewinner" arrogancy of a President.

But then, the Republicans--oh, Dear Lord, the Republicans. These aren't your grandfather's Republicans! The "balanced budget" and "moderate, responsible governance" Republicans. These corrupt jackals raided the treasury under Bush II in ways that would have made an Argentine colonel blush. And their craven pandering to the worst instincts on social issues was galling. Had they stayed in power much longer, they might have imposed a "religion test" as it was only the natural progression. The GOP of the past couple decades was no group that deserved another turn in power.

Then, there's the Tea Party. On its face, the Tea Party should be something worth supporting--a group of people pissed at the way the political class has run things, and a movement for reform. I know I'd like to throw the bums out! But then, when you look at the details of what this group is calling for--and what its candidates are proposing--and you realize they're no more serious than anyone else. No tax increases, no cuts to the popular programs (defense, social security, medicare), somehow finding the money to seal up our borders--you begin to wonder if they ever took power how quick it would take to run this country into the ground. To the extent they're just channeling anger, I suppose it's better that they do that peacefully with rallies than to start storming the local post offices. But they're not a serious alternative and these candidates just lose credibility when they let Sarah Palin get near them.

So what's left to do, besides petition the British to take us back as a colony and tell them we had a good run, but time to go back to living above their garage?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Observations on Sport Fandom

Thinking about my disgust for the Redskins and their infernal owner, Dan "I Couldn't Play Football in High School Because My Mom Made Me Take Modern Tap So I'm Going to Ruin the Sport for All Fans" Snyder, I got to thinking about what teams we love and hate and why. My friend Andy likes the Yankees for baseball and Jets for football because those are his dad's favorite teams (his dad grew up in Yankee-Bronx, and he hated the Giants since they tore up Yankee Stadium turf with their games back then, so became pro-Jet by default). My friend Mark and Chole root for the Patriots and Red Socks, because they're from Maine and that's the law there (the law passed by a four vote margin--the Republicans wanted a harsher law that proscribed the death penalty for Yankee fans). I root against the Redskins because of their racist name and horrible owner.

I suspect for many the choice of team has to do with locality--even if you can't afford to attend actual games (sadly, more true these days than a generation ago), your local media coverage will feature the same coach and players each week, and you develop fandom from that. The choice of local team is amplified by social connections, since Philadelphia bars will be packed with green-clad Eagles fans, Chicago bars will have Bears fans, etc.

For some, when you came of age with the sport will have something to do with it. Many 49er fans came about when Joe Montana was in his prime, for example. Long periods of dominance or cultural crossover appeal can also pick up fans outside of local markets--the Cowboys had a streak in the '70s and later in the '90s that found fans outside of Dallas, and the Yankees have had such a long string of championships over the past century that a Yankee cap hardly denotes a New York native. And this has helped the Red Socks too--anyone in the country hating a Yankee fan could show his attitude with a "B" on his cap. Winning isn't even required--in the early '90s when the L.A. Raiders sucked (yes, little has changed!), their silver and black merchandise sold well among suburban kids trying to look all "gangsta".

What then, you ask, is the best reason to root for a team? I go by my tried and true formula:

1) What team plays in the open, and on grass?
2) What team has a mascot that has at least something to do with the city/state it's in?
3) What team plays in a stadium actually located in the city it is named after?
4) What team plays in a stadium located convenient to several bars?
5) What team is not owned by Dan Snyder?

Friends, I am rooting for the Baltimore Ravens this year.

Horrible, Horrible Bugs

I often wondered whether if there really were some Cloverfield/Godzilla type monster coming from the depths of the ocean, it would spend more time being all "eek, air! Horrible horrible air!" than destroying stuff, since of course anything living in the ocean depths needs serious water pressure to survive. But as countless movies have proven, the monsters just go about their monstering business and wrecking cities and stomping hipsters. It's what they do.

Perhaps our insect friends feel the same about us, and dealt fine with ruining our picnics for centuries before we discovered bug spray and citronella, and those fiendish zappers. Of course, the bugs are probably watching awful films like "The Swarm" and being all "go, bees! Woot!" and "oh that's unrealistic, they have our attack patterns down all wrong!" and "man that Olivia de Havilland has really gotten hard up for work hasn't she?" And when you read terrible stories about kids in Africa being carried off by armies of ants, or that there are something like 1,000,000,000 insects for every human, it makes you think. It makes you think "cancel that trip to Africa!"

But even more frightening than that--what about the insects we don't know about? We know about bullet ants (named for a sting that feels like being shot) and Goliath Spiders (which aren't insects but far more horrible) and any God that can let such things exist clearly hates humans. We also discover something like ten new species every day. Even if nine of those ten are just cuddly new forms of wombat, that still leaves one new horror every day.

It'd be like Michael Bay getting an unlimited movie deal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Internet Habits That Need to be Broken

1) Writing out the word "Ummm..." Cute, but too cute by half.

2) Using the expression "too ____ by half".

3) The term "nonsense on stilts". Unless you're referring to a French mime playing a banjo while walking around on actual stilts, knock it off.

4) Expressions reduced to letters, like "ROFL" or "LMAO". Unless you actually write out "Rolling on the Floor Laughing" it's pretty safe to say you are not in fact on the floor, writhing in guffaws, attempting to type.

5) Referring to your opponent in an argument as a "basement dweller". We're cubicle dwellers, dammit!

6) Using the terms "Dimmocrat", "Rethuglican", "Teabagger", and "Nobama" to refer to your political opponents. Name calling? Are we not beyond that? And yes I know the other guys do it, but we should be beyond "they do it too!" as a counterargument.

7) Related to this, if you call someone a Nazi, they'd better actually be a disciple of Adolf Hitler. That guy trying to cut taxes on the rich or expand health care coverage for the poor is not a Nazi. Or hell, maybe he is, but not by virtue of those positions which are pretty mainstream.

8) Posting photos of your enemies with their worst facial expressions. Yes, that looks like Hillary was about to eat a live rat. But if someone followed you around with a camera all day, they'd get some choice shots of you as well.

9) Intentional misspellings do NOT have to go--"vodak" and "fambly" are still perfectly acceptable.

10) Posting video when text will do. Annoying dude!

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 Tomorrow

With the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coming up tomorrow, it's time to reflect back on what has developed in the struggle between fanatical nutjobs and our advanced way of life. Ossama and his gang were hoping to make a spectacular attack, inspiring the Muslim world to rise up against Westerners, and goad us into a reaction that would clearly divide a billion Muslims from a couple billion "infidels" (with the Chinese and Indians on the sidelines).

Of course, that hasn't quite happened. For one thing, the billion Muslims were hardly a monolithic group--racially varied from Indonesians to blacks to Arabs to whites, and with religious doctrines ranging from Wahabbi to Shiite to barely practicing party animals. Far more Muslims rejected bin Laden's call to arms than embraced it, and even among those opposed to the United States there was hardly agreement about what they wanted. The Al Quaeda cells proved to be more a scrappy group of semi-competents than an all powerful resistance force, and they're now reduced to running from Predator drones and native militias in almost every Muslim-majority country. Even in pariah-states like Iran, Al Quaeda has no where to feel safe, and they're reduced to recruiting morons like Richard Reid or that underwear bomber. Still, the bad guys only have to be lucky once for another 9/11 to occur.

Our reaction to the attack, we should remember, was not perfect--many "security" measures adopted (see, airports) are more geared to give the illusion of security than the reality of it. Many bigots in this country still mistrust anyone Arab or Muslim, as the 9/11 attacks confirmed what they already believed. But the country as a whole was remarkably reasonable--public officials made it clear that we mustn't lump all Muslims in with those who attacked us, and there was no widespread racial policy like that we imposed against Japanese-Americans--U.S. citizens, mind you--under that scumbag FDR during WWII. We didn't exactly fall into bid Laden's trap.

Even the controversial Iraq War seems to be on the right track, with violence reduced and far more of the governance and security being handled by Iraqis, who for the first time ever have real elections and a level of corruption down to about half a Chicago. Whether it was worth what we spent in blood and money, things appear to be improving there--and that country has for the most part rejected the Al Quaedists.

9/11 reminded us that anything horrible can happen to us, though it also reminded us that we can react with sobriety and reason. It also brought out heroism, from the passengers of the fourth flight who fought back, to the emergency services providers on the ground who kept the death toll amazingly low.

During tough economic times and political bickering, it's important to remember how a crisis can bring out what is great in us. That is what we should consider on 9/11.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Week's Attention Whore Award

The hardest thing about mob violence is the rock that hits you in the head. Mobs have brought us many awful things, like populist presidential candidates, communist revolutions, and the Sex and the City franchise (and at least populists and communists haven't pushed the $600 shoe craze). What great things have mobs of passionate people brought us? (Sound of crickets chirping)

That's why the latest planned bit of mob justice--the burning of Korans being organized by a church in Gainesville, Florida--is really not that surprising to me. Ask any individual member of a mob whether destroying a book considered holy by about a billion people worldwide is an appropriate measure to offend a small subset of that group which uses violence against us, and that individual would say "no, that would be absurd, sort of like beating up random Polish folks because you ate a bad keilbassa". But get a mob together and suddenly all reason and sense goes out the window.

And, just when Muslim mobs have a chance to show some reason and say "hey, that's in poor taste! How'd you like if we burned Bibles, jive fool?", a mob in Kabul, Afghansitan goes nuts and burns effigies of both the pastor leading the Koran-burning (Terry Jones, who I actually thought was a member of Monty Python so it's sad to see what he's doing in his post-comedy tour) as well as Barack Obama. The burning of Obama in effigy must be very confusing to the 45% of Americans who think our president is Muslim! How can a rabble in Kabul have more accurate information than so many Americans?

Of course, I'd suggest that Michael Palin (and his sister Sarah, for good measure), John Cleese and Eric Idle get together with their old comedy buddy and explain to him that perhaps instead of burning a bunch of Korans he burn some effigies of Ossama bin Laden. But then, Pastor Jones wouldn't make the nightly news and get his fifteen minutes of fame. For that, Terry Jones gets this week's "Attention Whore Award."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

V is for Vlizard People

Recently I watched a miniseries that I hadn't seen since childhood--"V". V, as you may recall if you were a kid in the early '80s, was a made for TV movie that featured an invasion of Earth by an advanced alien army, made up of lizard people with fake human skin covering up their lizardness to fool bigoted humans who wouldn't have been all friendly to lizard people if they'd known of their lizard qualities. The "visitors" as the aliens are called, pretend to be our friends but are really--SPOILER ALERT!--planning to steal all of our water and use humans for food. (Likely they had stopped at a space-Denny's on the way to Earth and decided anything had to be better than that). The visitors wore bright red uniforms that had an '80s look with shoulder pads, sunglasses (due to Earth being all bright and all), and blaster guns.

The fascist-style takeover by the aliens was supposedly an allegory for the Nazi takeover of Germany and Europe--and just in case subtlety sneaks by you easily, their symbol is based on the swastika (an alien historian might have considered redesigning that before going to Earth, but fortunately no one in 1980s America had read a history book) and they marched around in jackboots alot. Plus, just in case you were really dense, the aliens initially rounded up human "scientists" for extermination, forcing the scientist families to hide in neighbors' houses, all Anne Frank style, and just to hit you over the head with it they even had an old Jewish guy saying that he had to hide the scientist family in his pool house because the same thing happened to his people forty years earlier. TOO SUBTLE!

Anyway, the humans finally organize an underground resistance, find some aliens who dissent with their leaders and help the humans out, discover a bacteria that kills only the aliens and somehow has no negative effect on anything else on earth (holy Deus ex Machina, Batman!), yadda yadda yadda, humans win. A few observations:

1) The aliens were really good about looking like humans--the fake faces fooled everyone until a human (played by the Beastmaster, Marc Singer!) saw a lizard-man out of his skin on the alien mothership. They even got the '80s mullets down pat! However, one would think with alien advanced technology they'd also figure out how to make their voices sound normal, or even wear human civilian clothes so they could infiltrate the humans better. Being dressed in bright scarlet uniforms is rather poor camouflage, unless you're going to war in Elton John's living room.

2) Speaking of alien technology, what is the deal with sci fi films acting like blaster guns are the best weapon to have? They're single shot--unlike a fully automatic rifle--and they shoot a lit up projectile that allows the target to see exactly where the shot is coming from. WTF?

3) Doesn't the fact that it is somehow important to the humans to show everyone that the aliens are really lizard people actually indicate our own prejudices? It's not as though the lizardness proves that they're aliens--humans knew the visitors were aliens the minute the mother ships arrived. We were supposedly all cool with them because they "looked like us". Doesn't it say something that we're more okay with killing people when we know they're different?

4) Freddy Krueger playing a kind hearted yet mentally challenged alien was a nice touch.

5) Michael Ironsides really couldn't hide his Canadian accent in this miniseries. I half expected him to pull up a dish of poutine and a Molsons and challenge Beastmaster to a game of hockey.

6) As the series progressed and the visitor troops became easy cannon fodder, the suspense dropped to about the same level of suspense I have over whether James Bond will survive one of his films.

7) For an advanced alien race, the visitors have a mother ship that's not even as well guarded as a suburban shopping mall. Apparently, no security cameras, safety doors, or even anyone at the landing bay checking IDs. I half expected to see rowdy teenagers hanging out spray painting in the access halls.

8) The Nazi allegory missed perhaps the key point about the Nazis--that the Nazis were altogether too human, just like us--not some alien race. Also, the Nazis didn't go around promising friendship and scientific advances. They basically announced themselves as forces of destruction! A more telling parallel might have been if the aliens were approaching, and humans became fearful and surrendered their rights for "security" against the common enemy, squashed dissent, and established fascism voluntarily on Earth.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DC Area Drivers!

There's something about the movie "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" that makes me believe that the people running Hollywood studios truly despise the moviegoing public. So I won't even go into trying to review the film. Let's just say it was an insult to Asians, blacks, women, and rocks. How does one insult rocks? Well, if there was a Rock Anti-Defamation League around back in the '90s that movie would have been stopped in its tracks.

On the plus side, I've learned that the D.C. area has the nation's worst drivers. Why is this a good thing, you ask? Well at first I thought I was being too fragile after dealing with years of calmer, less numerous Maine drivers. But no--D.C. area drivers are violently stupid and devoid of any humanity. Just this morning I was driving in the middle lane behind a minivan (minivans are the Hitlers of road vehicles. Yes, if you drive a minivan, you suck.) on Rte. 50 heading west. A school bus is in the right lane, slightly ahead of the minivan. Clearly, Minivan needed to take a right off of the road and was faced with the possibility of missing their exit. A smarter person might have slowed down significantly, which might have irritated me briefly, and then gotten into the right lane behind the bus. But no! Not this renegade, nope Mister (or Ms.) Midlife Crisis decides to zip ahead of the bus, and shoot across the bus driver's bow and off the exit, perhaps missing a collision by about two feet. Bravo, Minivan, Bravo.

Yet, this is just the kind of driving that has become the norm here. Why are DC drivers so horrible?

1) Diplomats. Fact--lots of foreign diplomats are heavy drinkers. Fact--hard drinking foreign diplomats love driving drunk, because back in Tashkent or Bratislava that's what they were allowed to do. Fact--knowing you have diplomatic immunity from traffic laws makes you less likely to drive with caution. Fact--young kids have very little natural resistance to a ton of steel and glass hurtling at them while Boris decides to go joyriding.

2) Transient population. With a high percentage of drivers being new to the area, there's a lot more lost drivers out their trying to read GPS or scan for street signs rather than watching for traffic.

3) Road patters designed by cretins.

4) Soulless Automatons Cruising Around. It's a known fact that government contractors, federal employees, and lawyers are dead on the inside. With death wishes, they drive with much more careless abandon.

5) The Confederate States of America. Virginia designed its roads to change names every few miles (see, Lee Jackson Highway, Fairfax Blvd., Arlington Blvd., Lee Highway, all being one road) to confuse the invading Yankees. Well, the Yankees won anyway and the roads are still confusing. So now we have a bunch of confused Yankees wandering the roads for eternity.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weather Drinks

Looks like Hurricane Earl is losing its power as it makes landfall (though must suck to be a shark out that way! Here you are doing your own shark business and suddenly "whammo" a freaking hurricane decides to grab you and toss you into Gomer's back yard). That means no point in drinking the famous New Orleans beverage, the "Hurricane" which looks a lot like Kool-Aid but isn't. DC isn't really in hurricane-alley, so it might be necessary to invent some drinks appropriate to DC's weather:

1) The Heat Wave. Lemonade, 7-Up, and vodka with a wedge of lime. Helps refresh you on those 100-plus degree days in our fair city!

2) The Freakish Snowstorm. When the city proves unable to handle snow in any capacity and shuts everything down, you're stranded man! Make some hot cocoa with a dollop of vanilla iced cream and top with Bailey's Irish Cream and a splash of vodka.

3) The Allergy Nightmare. In spring, when you're choking on pollen, you need something strong to get through it. This drink is basically bourbon on the rocks with a few sprigs of mint and crushed cherries.

4) The Rainstorm. When your lovely weekend plans get dashed by heavy, steady rain, and you have to sit inside the whole time, drink lots of beer. Any beer. And that is your Rainstorm.