Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Predictions for 2012

1) A home beermaking machine--much more automated than current homebrewing apparatuses--will be brought to market next year and become the "must have" for the next holiday season.

2) The housing market nationally will improve steadily over the year, as the lack of building for the past five years will create a glut of demand.

3) Mitt Romney will seal up the GOP nomination by Super Tuesday, and go on to lose the general election to Obama. Conservatives will claim that a "true conservative" like Reagan would have won, and if only people had listened to them. Never mind that Reagan has been out of office for 22 years and dead for seven. Some conservatives--like Ted Nugent--will threaten to leave the country, as they can't live under socialism, but their promise will have been as empty as Alec Baldwin's back in 2004.

4) Dan Snyder will fire Mike Shanahan (Coach Number Ten?) because clearly the problem for the Redskins is a series of incompetent coaches rather than a truly awful owner who meddles and knows about as much about football as a cinderblock.

5) Occupy Wall Street will succeed in convincing the big financial firms to adopt more benevolent practices, paying their executives salaries in the low six figures, being more open about their dealings, and forgiving debts of Americans who can't find work. Ha ha ha! Just kidding!

6) The latest fashion trend for women will be some impractical type of overpriced clothing that will likely cause long term injuries to themselves and others. The latest fashion trend for men will be a new style of t-shirt.

7) Some new singing sensation will be so awful it will make today's tweens nostalgic for the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.

8) Hollywood will finally do a re-make of Smokey and the Bandit. It will be terrible.

9) Fidel Castro's corpse will finally be declared dead, allowing for Cuba to be opened up for American tourism and influence.

10) The world will not actually end in 2012 because the Mayans were a stone-age culture that had no special insight into telling the future of major cosmic events.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Year's Big Implosions

As 2011 comes to a close, it is time to rate the biggest implosions of this year:

1) Anthony Weiner. Hey here's a great idea--send photos of your junk around because nothing ever gets backtraced to you. This was such an implosion that after Weiner resigned, the most Jewish and Democratic congressional district in the country actually elected a Republican gentile to represent it. Hint--if your name is "Weiner", don't do anything strange with your penis! It just makes it too easy for the late night talk show hosts.

2) Herman Cain. Hey here's an idea--if you were accused of sexually harassing more women than you can count on one hand, it might be a good idea to not run for president--these things tend to get out. Of course, if the whole point is just to get better known so you can sell books and get on TV, then this only helps so maybe the joke's on all of us.

3) Gadaffi. For a guy who was in power for over forty years, you'd think he'd have learned from deposed tyrants who fell during that time, including Idi Amin, the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein and Ceaucescu. If things are looking dicey, have a nice country set up to escape to once things really fall apart. France is a good bet--they'll take anyone with cash!

4) The Euro. I like to think of the Germans as pretty smart, but somewhere along the way they got the idea that the key to long term success was tying their economic fortunes to comic relief countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. I mean, Italy was sort of the wisecracking sidekick of WWII--surely the Germans should have learned from experience?

5) Congress. This gang can't even vote on when to break for lunch without shutting down the whole system. What a dysfunctional bunch. The fact that any of these morons is paid more than the minimum wage for doing their "job" is really sick.

6) East Coast Earthquake. At least the fizzle that this one turned out to be was a good thing--jokes about lawn chairs tipping over and the owner's screaming "oh the humanity!" just illustrate that we were lucky to not have buildings and bridges demolished.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gift Giving

Gift giving helps you measure a number of things about yourself, including just how cheap you are and how much you just don't really understand about the person you're buying the gift for. But it also teaches you a great deal about your gift-giving target.

Case in point--some years back I was invited to a wedding for a close friend. Now, wedding registries have made wedding gift giving much easier, but this friend initially refused to set one up. And, since this friend is very wealthy, any amount of cash I could have afforded to give would have been an insult, sort of like a Bangladeshi rope farmer giving his annual wages of six dollars to me (an American who makes as much as several thousand rope farmers). Ultimately, they did set up a registry, but this illustrates one of the hardest types of people to shop for--the well-off person who buys themself what they want or need.

The best people to shop for?

1) Poor people. You'll find poor people--including children, or that guy from college who is sleeping on your couch "for just a few weeks"--have many things they need or want but just can't afford. Getting them one of these things is always appreciated.

2) Collectors. That friend of yours who collects rare Nepalese daggers or stuffed snakes is someone you know could always use one more addition to their collection. In this day of electronic media, though, rare records or books are hard to find and of less usefulness. So you need a more eccentric collector, and who wants to be friends with a weirdo anyway?

3) The self-deprived. Some people, no matter how rich, will just never buy themselves something they would most likely use if they had it. Think of the friend who still has a VCR, or heats their food with a candle because they never got around to buying a microwave.

4) The easily shamed. There are some things we all want but can't face buying for ourselves and can only accept these things if they're given as gifts. Tacky holiday sweaters, or that Cher CD, or that trip to the acupuncturist--maybe it'd feel funny to get it, but if someone else got it for you, you can always say "it was a gift so it's ok."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yes, Raising the Payroll Tax is Just Like Impaling the English

Much as I can't stand the Democrats, there are times when I'm reminded why the Republicans suck just as bad. The failure to pass a payroll tax cut extension in Congress is just the latest in a long stream of examples as to why all these jerks should be sent off to some other country where they can stop harming this one.

Now, there are good budgetary reasons to let the payroll tax cut expire--though these same reasons also apply to taxes and spending across the board, and one thing the Dems and GOPers seem to be in agreement on is that the only tough medicine should be taken by the other side. So for a while they've compromised on no real spending cuts and no tax increases. Hooray for everybody except the future of our country!

Then I read that while the House GOP was psyching themselves into voting to allow the average family to feel a $1000 a year pinch starting in the new year, because of course that's a great thing to do in middle of a recession, they decided to recall their favorite scenes from "Braveheart."

The Democrats may be craven, corrupt, and stupid, but the Republicans might actually be completely deranged to the point that they shouldn't be allowed within fifty feet of children let alone the engines of our government. Braveheart??? Really???

That stupid movie was not just historically inaccurate, overwrought, lacking in any complexity or real character development, and simplistic, it also served as an overlong opportunity for Mel Gibson to let out his inner id--a long-haired, skirt-wearing maniac who gets tortured to death. Mel is a very sick man and I feel sorry for him for his many, many inner demons, and to celebrate this cry for help that was the film "Braveheart" is pretty horrible. "Braveheart" is sort of the equivalent of watching a a crippled man in a slap-fight with a baboon--it may draw your attention, but the classy thing is to look away.

Not to say the Republicans have shown any class this past year. But their weird "Braveheart" fetish is just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brown Christmas

Whenever I hear anyone lament that we may not be getting a "white" Christmas, my immediate reaction is "I didn't realize you wanted old people to die and poor people to starve." Often they react in silent shock, at which point I say "happy holidays, Hitler" and leave them to their devices. Truth is, white Christmases suck for two reasons:

1) Snow causes more falling down and falling down is a leading cause of death for old people. And for young people, it's a leading cause of ruining your pants.

2) Snow on the ground reflects sunlight back into the atmosphere, meaning the ground absorbs less heat, causing colder temperatures, thus driving up the cost of heating oil which forces poor people to decide between warmth and food.

Ergo, loving snow means you're evil. Sorry, it's just basic logic.

Now, some people think snow is pretty--but in this day and age, surely we can just set up a webcam in some godforsaken place (let's say, Michigan, which God forsook a long time ago) where we can watch on TV the falling snow and sad Michiganders shovelling off their cars. Wouldn't that give us our snow fix? And as for skiiers, to them I say find a sport that doesn't suck.

Unlike Irving Berlin--who isn't even from Berlin!--I'm dreaming of a nice, brown Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Jerk Replaces the Old One

North Korea's batshit insane evil crazy bastard leader Kim Jong Il is officially dead. If there's a hell, he's surely being poked with tridents for eternity for his long legacy of inhuman cruelty. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He can now join his rotten father in hell too.

Now they're handing over power to his fat weirdo son. Is it fair to comment on the physical girth of another country's leader? Sure it is, particularly when the 24 million North Koreans are subsisting on a diet of dried grass and tree bark and this turd looks like he hasn't missed a meal. Unless he goes a complete 180 and liberalizes his country and cedes power, I'll be happy to see him meet an early demise. Little is known about this pork-boy, but it's hard to imagine the Kim clan producing a reformer.

One other thing to keep in mind is that if North Korea collapses, their neighbors to the South and North (South Korea and China, respectively) would be inundated with swarming, starving refugees, most of whom are so crazed and brainwashed that they're actually sobbing at the thought of their freak leader being dead. But better to deal with the humanitarian crisis by providing food and medicine to these unfortuante people than to let it go on another decade or two. Particularly when their country gets eager to try out their new missiles.

Lessons Learned from Dirty Harry

1) District Attorneys in 1971 were even more incompetent than they are today. Harry secured evidence from the killer without a warrant, so none of the evidence was admissible against the killer. However, the killer had already beaten Harry and shot at another cop--couldn't he have been charged with those crimes? No wonder Harry went fascist!

2) It's okay to be a bigot as long as you're bigoted against ALL other races and aren't just picking on one or two of them.

3) Police inspectors are allowed to carry .44 magnums as their service weapons. Apparently they weren't too worried about negligently putting a hole through their target and pretty much any bystander within 100 yards of it.

4) Next time some psycho commandeers your school bus and takes you and the other kids hostage, and he asks you to sing, just sing dammit.

5) If you got stabbed in the early '70s, bright red paint will come out of the wound. My theory is that blood back then flowed bright red due to all the LSD.

6) Paying off the killer at the very beginning would have saved three more lives plus about ten times more money in damages caused by Dirty Harry.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The War on Christmas

Every year, the same controversy seems to crop up--the "war on Christmas"! It seems some Christian pundits walked into a Wal-Mart and were greeted with "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" and so this is obviously the work of some secret cabal trying to destroy the Christian religion. To this I say, if there is a war against Christmas, Christmas is winning. After all, it's the only religious holiday that gets a federal day off.

Here's what more likely explains the use of the more generic "happy holidays" at the stores:

PR Exec: We want you to have everyone greeted when they come into Wal-Mart so they feel happy and buy more of our lead-covered dinner plates.

CEO: Okay! I like your thinking, Marty! (PR Execs are often named "Marty") Since it's close to Xmas, let's have them say "merry Christmas".

PR Exec: Well, we have a lot of non-Christians shopping at our stores, and we don't want to make them feel alienated.

CEO: Okay, how about "merry Christmas, happy Hannukah, sweet Kwanzaa, and happy federally mandated day off"? That should cover everyone.

PR Exec: Clearly you haven't been trained in public relations! That'd take so long we'd have to pay our greeters overtime. What if we cover everyone with "happy holidays"?

CEO: Brilliant! Now let's go roll around naked in some currency!

PR Exec: Sweet! I'm all oiled up!

Now, the Christmas conspiracists probably think the conversation is more like this:

PR Exec: One of our greeters at one of our Cleveland stores tried wishing someone a merry Christmas. I made sure she was fired right away.

CEO: Good work! After all, if our masters at the Tri-Lateral Commission found out we weren't doing our part in destroying Christmas, they might have us removed to special re-education camps! And I hated camp as a kid.

PR Exec: Nope, I made sure every greeter only says "happy holidays" so people eventually forget what Christmas is. Ha ha ha ha! Let's go trash a manger scene.

CEO: Sure thing! And offer our employees a thousand bucks for whoever brings me the head of Santa Claus by the next full moon.

That said, Christmas is alive and well--people still celebrate it either as a religous holiday or a family gathering, decorating and gift giving is at the usual high even in this economy, and the radio is still packed with holiday music. Also, the very notion of wishing someone a "happy holiday" still acknowledges Christmas, since this time of year isn't considered particularly special to atheists, Jews or Muslims (Hannukah, as any Jewish friend will tell you, is one of their more minor holidays, only really given much attention because it lands near Xmas). The fact that retailers are trying to be more inclusive isn't a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scrooge--The Unsung Hero of the Story

With the Yule season well under way, it is time to revisit a central bit of holiday lore--I'm talking about Charles Dickens' classic story, "A Christmas Carol." I remember as a kid seeing the Mister Magoo version of the story on TV, and not knowing it was not an original Magoo story, thinking: "Boy, Mister Magoo has gotten real deep all of a sudden!" But as enjoyable as the story (and its many adaptations) was, there are some serious problems with it.

First, Ebeneezer Scrooge is portrayed as an incredibly cheap miser who lives in a small, unadorned home despite being incredibly rich. Well boo-freaking-hoo! Who does that hurt, exactly? The diamond rocket pony industry??? I suppose we instead should be praising rap stars and Donald Trump for flaunting their opulent lifestyles and driving up the price of Bentleys. Scrooge is doing the world a favor, by not vastly increasing demand for luxury items. And modesty should be praised--clearly it'd make his neighbors uncomfortable if he flaunted his wealth.

Second, he's apparently a jerk because he doesn't care much for his idiot nephew, who seems to have nothing but time for partying and usual adolescent frivolities. And we discover that his resentment of the kid is due to the fact that Ebeneezer's sister died giving birth to the doofus. Perfectly understandable, even if unfair. So the nephew invites the grumpy uncle to his Xmas party, and the old man refuses--if anything, that's the right thing to do. Surely after years of being spurned by the old man, the nephew was only making this a nonvitation--inviting just to be nice but hoping the invite would be turned down.

Third, Scrooge and his old partner Marley are shown to buy out their old boss, after competing with and ruining the old man who apparently spent all his investment money on Xmas parties. Well, that sucks for the partygoers, but clearly Scrooge and Marley knew how to run a business better, so if they didn't take over then someone else would have. This is just the free market in action, people! Britain couldn't rule the world without good industry.

And finally, Scrooge is supposedly rotten because he pays his assistant, Bob Cratchet, very little and makes him work on Xmas (though he did relent after some mopey guilt-inducement) and is economical with the office coal supplies. But consider this--at no point does anyone seem to point out that Cratchet is a free man. If working conditions under Scrooge are so deplorable, why continue to work for him? London at that time should have been a fountain of opportunity for an educated bookkeeper like Cratchet. Clearly, Scrooge was the best employer he could find. Unless of course Cratchet was incompetent or embezzling money, in which case he should really be ashamed for not using his ill-gotten gains to buy an operation for Tiny Tim.

Tiny Tim, who, by the way, was not sick due to anything Scrooge ever did.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Airport Parking Problems

Flying in and out of BWI this weekend reminded me of why I prefer smaller airports. Unfortunately, the MARC train does not run on weekends (which is absurd, when you consider what this would mean not just for airport access but for tourism to Baltimore and reaching Ravens and Orioles games from DC) so I had to drive and park, meaning trying to beat the sunrise so that I wouldn't be forced to read highway signs with the eastern sun blaring in my rage-induced eyes. Did I find the airport? You bet I did. Did I make the turn for the "Daily Parking" lot? You bet I didn't.

After some frustrating u-turns and screeching, I did eventually make it to the lot--electing the more expensive Daily Parking lot since "Long Term Parking" lots tend to require taking long shuttle bus rides to the terminal which sucks and takes yet even more dignity from the flying experience--and sure enough it turns out that even the Daily Parking lot requires taking a shuttle to the terminal! Whose idea was it to build everything so far from the terminal? The shuttle's free, so no one is making any money on this.

Apparently the only parking structure next to the terminal is the "hourly parking" lot which makes little sense since no one can measure their trip by hours (unless you're one of those drug mules who flies in and out of your destination within one day). What this results in is a much longer trip to the airport, adding about a half hour of waiting for the parking shuttle, using one of those stupid machines that doesn't work to pay for your parking, then finally getting back on the road home. Forty minutes from touchdown to actually leaving the airport grounds--and without any checked baggage!

Give me Reagan airport any day!

Friday, December 9, 2011


When I think of the Midwest, I think of feuds and controversy. And no greater controversy has ever erupted in this country than the "Mitten Debate" going on as we speak.

Just in case you're preoccupied with petty things like whether Europe is going to go out of business or China is planning to invade India next year, let me fill you in--the states of Wisconsin and Michigan are currently sparring on which state looks more like a mitten on a map. I am not kidding. This is a real thing. And yes, I'm happy Florida didn't get involved in this considering what that state's shaped like.

Let's face it though--this is a hard call. Both states really are shaped like mittens, and there's so painfully little else to argue about in that part of the country, except whether Norwegian Americans are more pushy than Swedish Americans, or which state makes crappier pizza. Everyone knows they've long since given up on finding jobs out there. And do others around the world really fight over anything better? Catholics vs. Protestants? Who cares? I could have been attending the wrong church for years before I'd notice!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Yesterday's Game

Yesterday, I attended my first ever Washington Redskins game, out in the part of Washington that is located in Landover, Maryland. My friend and I rode the Blue Line out east, farther east than I've taken the Metro previously, and basically followed a sea of Jets and Redskins jerseys on the long pilgrimmage to Fed Ex Field. Once near the parking area, it becomes apparent that this is not a pedestrian-friendly stadium, what with its lack of sidewalks, but then, this is becasue Dan Snyder can't really charge you for walking while he can charge you for parking. (At least, so far he hasn't been able to find a way to charge you for walking. Once that technology is available, look out)

We joined our group--who were very nice and friendly despite rooting for Snyder's team--in the parking lot for some tailgating, as the weather was quite warm and sunny despite its Decemberness. Once in past the friskings (perhaps because many football fans have the same opinion of Dan Snyder that I do), we make our way up to our seats to enjoy the game. The stadium is really quite nice--great views around the sides, decent bathrooms and plenty of concession stands and nice seats. (Older stadiums seem to have seats built for a time when we as a people weren't quite so fat)

True to form, the Skins have a healthy but modest lead into the fourth quarter, only to blow it spectacularly with two turnovers and cause an early exodus from the stadium. But we had an enjoyable time, and it could hardly have been a better afternoon to spend outdoors watching football.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Back in Town

When you're a kid, a great birthday is a trip to the bowling alley with pizza and soda with your friends before you open up a collection of presents that your friends' mothers thought you might like. When you are in your twenties, a great birthday starts out with whiskey shots and generally resumes after your blackout when you wake in bed with a stranger. (That would also have been a great birthday in your teens, but likely you didn't live such a cool life at that time) When you're in your thirties, you settle for spending your birthday in an all-day deposition in South Carolina.

Fortunately, I was not the deponent, and fortunately I have found the city of Charleston to be very charming, even reminiscent of Portland but without the townies. (Charleston may have townies of their own, but they are likely in hibernation during the winter) While not exactly a celebration of my birthday, we (my co-counsels and me) found a nice seafood place on the water for dinner and beers, and the following day my pain-in-the-ass flight to BWI via Charlotte was delayed so I had to settle for a direct flight to Reagan instead. More convenient? You bet it was!

And while Friday is likely to be a catch-up day at work, it'll be nice to celebrate with my wife and friends when I get home, as this is what birthdays are all about. Another year, and still standing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Things to be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

1) I'll be thankful if I make it to NY and back in one piece considering the high volume of dangerously stupid drivers on the NJ Turnpike.

2) I'll be thankful to not be a member of the military, forced to consider pay and benefit cuts because Congress seems pretty much agreed that neither taxpayers nor the heavily subsidized elderly should have to make any sacrifice whatsoever to pay for our massive deficits.

3) I'll be thankful not to be among the thousands of Americans convinced that sleeping over in public parks is somehow going to fix this nation's problems, since the squalor conditions in those tent cities are only going to get worse as the weather gets colder.

4) I'll be thankful to still have a job and healthy fambly.

5) I'll be thankful that everyone in attendance is too jaded to have heated political arguments, since political debate these days makes me yearn for the sober reasoning of the monkey cage at the zoo.

6) I'll be thankful that my parents haven't yet discovered the greatness of deep-fried turkey, since if they had we'd have ballooned up a long time ago.

7) I'll be thankful that I have no driving to do after dinner on Thanksgiving, since I'll likely be passed out ten minutes after dessert.

Friday, November 18, 2011

They Called Me Satan

Picture it--you're Russ Tamblyn, one of the two leads in the Oscar-winning and wildly popular 1961 film "West Side Story", and the world's your oyster. Things can only go up from there, and the 1960s would surely go on to be known as the "Russ Tamblyn Era". So where do you end up by 1969?

My friends, I bring you: "Satan's Sadists". This film stars Tamblyn as "Anchor", the leader of the "Satans", and if that doesn't scare you enough, then you're made of stone or something. The Satans are a feared biker gang, though they come across a bit hippie. The opening theme tune says it all:

"I was born mean, since I was three, they called me Satan...."

Now, in fairness, most three-year olds are quite the rapscallions. Satans, though? A bit harsh!

Anyway, the Satans terrorize a diner in the middle of the desert, taking hostages of an old couple, the diner owner, and a counter-girl who had a choice between spending her money on acting lessons or go-go boots and I think we can tell which choice she made. Oh, and one more hostage--a Marine back from 'NAM!!!

Anchor and his Satans prove their cruelty by letting the female member of their gang dance on the diner tables and ordering a dozen coffees. This causes trouble in predictable ways, and after much unpleasantness the Satans execute everyone except the Marine and the counter girl.

Unfortunately for these thugs, the Marine was trained in many things in Vietnam, such as surviving in Vietnam's vast deserts and killing a man by drowning his head in a toilet bowl. (The imdb page indicates this is the first film to show death by toilet bowl). A chase in the desert ensues, much killing is to be had (including tossing a rattlesnake onto someone), and there you have it. The 1960s officially ended with "Satan's Sadists".

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Thing With Two Heads! A Scientific Journey

Last night's film was "The Thing With Two Heads", the title which pretty much describes the plot. The film answered the question many of us have asked--what happens when the heads of a former NFL star and an acclaimed Oscar winner are grafted onto the same body? The answer, of course, is top notch hijinks.

Ray Milland stars as a bigoted but brilliant scientist who has created advances in the field of sticking extra heads on the bodies of primates. I wish I were making this up, because seeing that written out makes me realize just how complete nonsense this movie was. (Yes, it was an "American International Pictures" release, how did you know?) Milland is also dying, and so he arranges for the state of California to donate a death row inmate so that they can graft his (Milland's) head onto the inmate's body, then once the head is fully supportable on the body, the inmate's original head can be sawed off. Presto, new body for the scientist!

Well, imagine this bigoted scientist's shock when he realizes that his flunkies secured not a white inmate but a black death row inmate for the grafting! Yes, former NFL star Rosey Grier plays the hapless inmate who will now have to share his body with the head of an old white bigot. The two escape, go on a nonsensical chase involving motorcycles, and ultimately find Grier's girlfriend so she can help prove his innocence of the charges he was put on death row for. Milland, of course, just hates black people and wants to saw off Grier's head.

But in the end, the two have learned to overcome their differences, Milland learns that blacks are people too, and he grows as a person. No, wait, he pretty much stays bigoted and Grier manages to remove Milland's head and leave it in a bucket of ice, making clear to Milland and the audience that black people will just up and leave you for dead if it benefits them. This is a terrible lesson for audiences, even in 1972!

Amazingly, "Frogs" wasn't the stupidest film that Ray Milland was in that year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State Morons

Now, football is a great sport, probably the one I enjoy watching more than any other (baseball too slow, hockey too fast, basketball too repetitive). And at the school level, I can certainly understand the pride in having your students best another school's students in the sport (certainly helps when your recognize your classmates and have friends on the team).

It gets a little murkier in college, though--the players are a special elite, carefully recruited and coddled, given free rides and separated from the rest of us (unless your school has a weak program, in which case they are more likely to treat the players like regular students). It's less clear as to why the rank and file students at such schools get excited for the team that is basically sponsored by them--at least when "Joe's Pizza" sponsors a Little League team the players have to go eat the pizza their sponsor provides after the game (and maybe sneak a bit of beer as well--oops!). Why go nuts because you attend Altoona State, and Altoona State has a group of "students" who you never get to see and they go and win games? Simply because you get a discount on seeing those games, maybe?

So the confusion hits a level of disgust when we see the Penn State Football mess. Longtime and legendary coach Joe Paterno has been ousted as a result of his alleged coverup of a child sex scandal involving one of his former assistant coaches, as the school of course wants to be as far from this scandal as Rick Perry wants to be from a debate question. So after all this, the intelligent, thoughtful and well-bred students of Penn State did the natural thing--they expressed mournful shame and disappointment that their hero coach allowed and enabled such a foul occurrence by one of his assitant coaches, and applauded the school administration for handling this promptly.

Oh, wait no, they rioted because Paterno could do no wrong. Way to prove that all that education was wasted on you, dumbassses. (The extra "s" is for "sstupid". The second extra "s" was a typo).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Super Guide to Fine Dining

Now, you may have eaten out once or twice, but I eat out all the time. Oh, I'm not bragging--it's just a simple fact. When you're a slick wheeler-dealer like myself, you get used to reading quite a few restaurant menus in your day--and not just out of curiosity, either. Most of the time, it's to order food.

As an experienced restaurant patron, I've learned quite a bit that can be very useful when it comes to choosing whether to go ahead and eat something or to say "no thanks!" and order a Coke to go along with the sandwich you brought from home:

1) Don't bring a sandwich from home. There's nothing a restaurant frowns on more than you bringing your own food. Caveat--bringing your own booze is ok as long as your state doesn't have stupid Khmer Rouge-esque laws against bringing your own booze. (Yes I compared such restaurants to the Cambodian genocide. I feel a bit awful.)

2) If you do bring your own booze, it should really be a bottle of wine. Bringing your own case of National Bohemian, while it will bring you street cred, will certainly result in the wine waiter quitting his job on the spot. Same goes for plastic-bottle vodka.

3) Anything on the menu that says "reduction" as in "a raspberry reduction" will certainly result in a reduction to your net worth!

4) If the prices on the menu are in numbers without "$" signs or decimal points or fractions of dollars, it's going to be pricey. And if there are no prices at all, look out.

5) Any time you see "truffle oil" on the menu, here's what you need to decide--do you want to pay twice as much for something that you can't tell from ordinary grease?

6) If someone won't leave the table that you've reserved and the hostess obviously can't rudely tell them to GTFO, remember that you are not an employee of the restaurant and therefore you have free rein to start picking bits of leftover food off their plates. When they express astonishment at your effrontery, calmly say something like "oh, I'm so sorry! See I'm supposed to be dining at this table now, so I got a bit confused. Now saddle up and get out before I do something you won't want to witness with the centerpieces."

7) If the wait staff introduces themselves by name, whatever you do, don't use their name by trying to get their attention later. They don't actually expect anyone to get familiar.

8) If you're looking for the restroom and accidentally walk into the kitchen, don't stupidly admit that you couldn't follow the hostess' simple directions. Instead tell them you're from the Board of Health, and you are going to conduct a surprise inspection unless maybe they can convince you to sample some of their finer wines instead.

9) Make sure the restaurant actually has valet parking before you just start tossing your keys to any guy on the sidewalk in a windbreaker.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Protest Tips!

In the wake of the "Occupy Wall Street--Oakland Division" mess that's been going on this week, I have decided to offer all future protesters some useful tips in getting a good protest going:

1) No matter what your demands are, or how much effort you go through to control your rallies, they will get taken over by the insane/hateful/stupid. Because anyone who opposes you will know exactly who to interview for their news clips. When MSNBC covers a Tea Party rally, who are they going to get a quote from--the unemployed father of four who can't sell his house? Or the guy carrying the "Obama is Slavemaster!" sign?

2) If you're itching for a "fight" it's a good idea to remember that the police are well trained in crowd control and use some very uncomfortable tactics to deal with you. Pepper spray, tasers, and tear gas are not fun, and the standard for "resisting arrest" is pretty damn low. Not to mention the many jobs in your future that may do a criminal background check before hire.

3) If you're going to "occupy" any park in a northern city, springtime may be a good time to start. You catching hypothermia isn't going to make some Wall Street banker return their bonus. You may be giving jobs to lots of EMTs though.

4) If you're a white guy with dreadlocks, seriously stay home. You could have the most eloquent argument in favor of a complex plan to restructure education loan debt, but all anyone's going to see is a weirdo they'd never let get past their HR department.

5) Make sure you know your numbers. "99%" of this country happens to include a lot of millionaires, and a lot of the people responsible for the mess we're in. And surely some of the "1%", though wealthy, are part of the solution and not the problem. So why not better define what you're against?

6) Drum circles? Really? Are we going for the full Eric Cartman stereotype? At least the Tea Partiers didn't show up to rallies with their firearms . . . oh, right.

7) Anyone with a misspelled sign should be sent home with a copy of the dictionary. No exceptions.

8) Just a thought--show up in your nicest clothes--business attire. A teeming mass of people dressed very nicely would definitely stand out from the dime-a-dozen rallies that go on every damn weekend (at least in D.C.). And I note the last time well-dressed protesters marched in this country we got Civil Rights legislation.

9) And before anyone goes "b-b-but Vietnam war demonstrators dressed like crap!" I'll point out that Vietnam war demonstrators achieved Nixon's election. Enough said.

Fried Chicken Controversies

Racism is one of those strange things that becomes hard to define once it falls into gray areas. For example, a statement along the lines of "I don't trust Kosovars because they are a naturally shifty people" is a racist statement, but something like "I don't do business with Kosovars because culturally they are opposed to signing written documents" wouldn't be. (Whether that statement is true or not is more the issue). What I don't get, though, is this idea that associating certain racial or ethnic groups with certain foods is racist.

Enter the latest controversy--fried chicken joints using Barack Obama's name in their title. Al Sharpton cries "racism", which is about as serious as Jessica Alba crying out "terrible actress!" so let's ignore his involvement in this. Is there anything inherently racist about associating a famous black person with fried chicken?

Fact--fried chicken is a staple of Southern cooking (believed to be imported by Scottish immigrants). Fact--most black Americans descend from the slave culture in the South, likely adopting many culinary traits from that region. (It's no coincidence that soul food and southern cuisine are very similar) Fact--fried chicken happens to be delicious and while obviously unhealthy there is simply nothing pejorative about associating blacks with a popular way to prepare chicken.

Think about it--calling an Italian a "pasta eater" happens to be true, and there's nothing negative there. (We do love our pasta! But don't put catsup on it or I'll accuse you of being from the Midwest) Calling a Mexican a taco eater might be less true (I think more Americans eat tacos than actual Mexicans), but it's hard to find the negativity in claiming they like that tasty snack.

Can something be racist if there's no negativity involved?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

School Loans

They say the mind is a terrible thing, and I couldn't agree more--particularly when it results in massive student loans! Back in the old days when you could make a living as a cobbler (maker of shoes, rather than the delicious kind) you just had to apprentice out for a few years until you learned the trade enough to do it yourself. No debt required! But these days, it's normal for people to enter the working world already in as much as six figures worth of student loan debt. And these loans are, for the most part, not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

A new poll shows that 66% of people oppose forgiveness of student loans. Now, I'd have to consider myself part of the 66%--forgiveness of the loans would mean substantial costs to the U.S. Treasury, which already is trying to decide just how much heating oil our Social Security recipients should be able to live with and just how few cops can be on the street before muggings turn into full blown riots. Plus, these are not unexpected hardships--when you sign the loan documents you know full well you have to pay them back, and you chose to take the loan out anyway. This isn't the same as the guy taking out a loan to pay for his wife's uninsured cancer treatments--this is adults signing up to pay for what is frankly way overpriced tuition with the hope that the degree they're going to get will pay off much more over their lifetimes.

I do sympathize with these borrowers though--the conventional wisdom thrown around for decades (by government, school administrators, the previous generation of parents) was that a degree was going to be worth all the money, even if it meant massive loans. The fact that the unemployment rate for college-educated people is and has been a lot lower than that for the non-degreed also weighs heavily. And I remember from my own experience of graduating with massive loans the fear that unless I made enough money out of school I would be crippled by financial hardship. At certain levels the monthly loan payments are greater than your rent payments.

I was fortunate in finding well paying work after graduation, but that's obviously not going to be the case for everyone. And so obviously a lot of people are going to default, and the lenders (and federal government) are going to have to work through that one way or another. It doesn't help that the loan infrastructure only encourages schools to keep increasing tuition way beyond annual inflation, and still offer courseloads that make the graduates uncompetitive.

I fear this will get worse before it gets better.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Costume Tips for Halloween Parties

1) Get a plain white t-shirt, and draw a big "euro" symbol on both sides of it. That way, when you get drunk at your Halloween party and have to collapse, you can go as "the collapse of the euro".

2) If you're a girl, wear plenty of makeup and then toss yourself down a flight of stairs. Now, you're Lindsay Lohan!

3) If you can't make it to the party, just tell everyone that you'll be showing up as "civility in politics". Then when you don't show up, they'll understand your point.

4) Wear a Sarah Palin mask and go as 2008.

5) Dress up as Amy Winehouse and go as "Too Soon."

6) Drink all the host's booze, grope several guests, and smash something, and tell everyone that you're going as yourself before rehab. Note--you might really want to go into rehab afterwards.

7) Dress like Richard Burton's character in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and then spend the rest of the evening explaining to people what you were going for and get pissed at them for not having any taste for the classics.

8) Attach containers of fish food to your sweater, and go as "Osama Bin Laden".

9) Go as an abstract concept such as "The Importance of Being Earnest" and then marvel at how many fewer friends you have by the enf of the evening.


We had guests in town this weekend, my sister and brother-in-law, as the latter was to run in the Marine Corps Marathon Sunday. Fortunately the weather cleared up on Sunday (Saturday of course was miserable! It's as though October stole one of December's weekends) and we were able to stroll over to the route on the Mall to see the runners go by. The sight of even wheelchair bound competitors going by on their hand-operated carts gave me a bit of shame, as I can't run a mile without gasping for air let alone 26. Am I taking my legs for granted? Sadly, yes.

The problem with running--opposed to walking--is you can't really do anything else while you're running. Too much effort and concentration has to be expended on (a) keeping your lungs working and (b) not smashing into things. You can't make phone calls, read restaurant menus, or eat an apple while you're running.

Now, if they'll just let me walk the 26 miles, then we're in business.

Fortunately, my brother in law finished the run in good time, and seemed remarkably upbeat afterwards as we celebrated with lunch before their train back. I was so inspired by his example that I went back to my couch to watch movies and read for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Haunted House Injuries? Eek!

You know what really boils my potatoes every Halloween? Stupid people. Somehow, holidays can always bring out the incredibly dumb moronic bump-tards in a way that ordinary weekends don't. The latest is this story about morons punching out people working in a haunted house.

Look--you're voluntarily entering a "haunted house" by which I mean a house that you know is being set up for pretending to be haunted. Meaning, it's NOT REAL GHOSTS AND MURDERERS but rather, teenaged kids dressed up to scare you. If you're like six years old, you get a pass because six year olds are obviously stupid anyway, but if you're big enough to punch and injure a haunted house worker, you should know better.

Yet again, another group of people I deem "Too Stupid to Exist And Yet We Let Them".

If I ran a haunted house, I'd make everyone entering sign a waiver agreeing that if they abuse the haunted house staff, they'll get beaten to death and then there'll be a real haunting. And yet, I'd somehow be the bad guy.

We live in an unjust world.

Candidates' Movie Picks Revealed!

You can tell a lot about what sort of president you're about to have by their favorite movies. For example, a president who loves "The Godfather" will be a patient person, who can take time for a slow buildup and a big payoff, and this person will also consider loyalty above all other qualities among their staff. A president whose favorite film is "Armageddon" is clearly a retard and should not be allowed near any nuclear weapons. A president who enjoys watching "Roller Boogie" is going to be worse than Hitler on steroids.

(Incidentally, Hitler on steroids likely would have been less dangerous than the "Emo Hitler" that the world ended up with. Imagine when the time came to invade Poland, a juiced-up Hitler would have gone "Hitler SMASH" and his generals would have done a coup d'etat right then and there. No war, no 50 million dead.)

Recently, the GOP presidential contenders were asked what their favorite movies were. Ron Paul surprised no one by not picking a favorite film, since of course films weren't part of what the original framers of the Constitution envisioned. Michele Bachmann picking Braveheart isn't surprising, since she's a moron who would probably love a ridiculously simplistic film that challenges the mind about as much as "Breakin 2 Electric Boogaloo". Rick Perry surprised me by picking "Immortal Beloved"--something about his rough rancher image doesn't seem to scream "movie about Beethoven!"

I have to give a lot of credit to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's pick--Dr. Zhivago. A sweeping epic with an anti-communist message, a compelling love story, and the great Omar Sharif and Julie Christie back when she was hot stuff. Too bad the guy doesn't have a chance in hell of getting the nomination.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black Fans Loving the Redskins?

Football fans pick their favorite teams for a variety of odd reasons: New Englanders love their Patriots because it's the only team in their region; white kids who think they're gangster rappers love the Raiders because they think the team's colors give them street cred; New Yorkers who like having their hearts broken naturally root for the Jets. But one thing that makes the least sense to me is the fact that black Washingtonians seem to love the Redskins to a greater degree than their white counterparts.

This, of course, despite the fact that the Skins were the last team to allow black players (which we can understand because black people are notoriously bad at sports). This despite the fact that the Redskins have a racially offensive team name (and mind you I'm fine with the Atlanta Braves). This despite the fact that owner Dan Snyder--aside from being a team owner of James Bond villain levels of rotten--is so white that Pat Boone goes to HIS concerts. This despite the fact that even attending a Skins game requires the average Washingtonian to shell out the equivalent of a mortgage payment.

I'd welcome any theories for this one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dog Scooping Controversy Abated

With all this talk of war and elections we often lose sight of the important things, such as laws governing where dogs are allowed to poop. A dogwalker in Fairfax County (motto--We Don't Really Know What We're Doing) was just exonerated by a jury after being accused of letter the dog she was caring for leave its surprise on the grounds of a condo development. Only the testimony of the dog's owner that the dog-leavings at issue were not consistent with those normally coming from such a small dog was enough to sway the jury. Revenge may be best served cold, but justice is often served in a steaming warm pile.

But the episode just served to remind me why I can't own a dog. There's something about picking up after another creature's droppings that just screams lack of dignity. (Sure, like this dog's owner, you can hire someone to do it, but by extension that still makes you lower than the dog since your agent has to complete this unpleasant task). And cleaning up after your dog's outdoor excretions is only what happens if you're LUCKY--it means you're not trying to reduce the mess on your carpet, or couch.

Let's face it, dog ownership is just a massive affront to your dignity any way you cut it. I'd make an exception, though, for true country living or if the dog is trained to get you nice things from the fridge.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Open Letter to D.C. Transportation Authorities

Dear D.C. Transportation Authorities:

Imagine my pleasant surprise--it's a typical day like any other, driving from Rte. 50 eastbound towards the Memorial Bridge, expecting a short hop on the GW Parkway to get to the bridge ramp as I often do. Of course, yesterday it was completely backed up, so I figure I'll cross the Roosevelt instead and hop on Independence Avenue from there. As a frequent commuter in this region, I recall a sign on the bridge indicating the far right lane takes you to "Independence Avenue." So like any non-crazy person, I surmise that this exit will in fact take me to "Independence Avenue".

Sure enough, the sign is still there as I cross Roosevelt, so I get into the far right lane and pass under the sign for "Independence Avenue." Years of driving on roads make me believe that if for any reason this would not permit me to get onto "Independence Avenue" there would be some sign on the bridge indicating that this could not happen. So imagine my next surprise as I get off the ramp--exit blocked for Independence Avenue! I now have the choice of going to Kennedy Center or up north on Rock Creek Parkway during rush hour. I elect the former, get onto Virginia Avenue, creep down 23rd to Constitution Avenue, which by the way is still under construction for the seventh consecutive month because why get a mile of road paved in less time than it took to perfect the Manhattan Project after all--and then turn down 17th to cross the Mall and finally get to Independence Avenue.

So technically, your brilliantly marked exit for "Independence Avenue" did in fact eventually get me to "Independence Avenue" though I wonder how many tourists have gotten completely flimshammed by your fraud of an exit.

Now maybe this is your silent protest against Virginians because you don't have representation in Congress or something. But as a D.C. resident, I see no reason why I should be collateral damage in your hopeless battle.

Please quit your job. You will do society a lot less damage collecting government assistance.


A D.C. Area Commuter

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tarantino at it Again

Part of the problem with the major movie industry is that everyone involved is completely stupid and worthless. Much has already been written about how basically every big release is either a sequel, a reboot, or an adaptation of a TV show, comic book, or foreign film. Of course they're remaking "The Birds", even though the remake of "Psycho" flopped. Of course they're remaking "Footloose", even though the original was a turd sandwich. Hollywood does only what it knows to do, and can do no other. Part of it is because the studios have a better bet financially by backing film fare that already has a built-in audience (and merchandising opportunity) therefore justifying the dreck they put out.

(I'd always wondered why Hollywood always makes profitable corporations look cartoonishly evil in all their films, until I figured this must be because the only corporations they actually deal with--Paramount, Tri-Star, Universal, etc.--are actually cartoonishly evil. Louis B. Mayer notoriously tried to invade Mexico just for kicks, until he realized that MGM didn't have a paramilitary division)

So it's even sadder when one of the industry's more original filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino, stoops to putting out exploitationist drivel like his latest project, "Django Unchained" (a story of a former slave who goes out to get revenge on slaveowners). Let's start with the fact that he's naming his black hero "Django". What, was "Sambo" taken??? Why not add an Italian organ grinder for comic relief, naming him Beppo Pastafazooli??? Interestingly, there actually was a late '60s Italian western called "Django" so who knows, maybe this is some kind of homage.

But while I've seen every Tarantino film released so far, I will likely skip this one for a few reasons. First, rape--I don't care to see it in a film and knowing the director it's likely to be graphic and gratuitous. If I want to be disturbed by a film I'll just watch "Footloose" again. Second, what message are we supposed to get from a simple revenge film? Bad guys do bad thing, hero goes and revenges. But a good revenge film will show additional elements, and make one consider a deeper message--say, that revenge leads to emptyness. Or that in the midst of righteous goals (such as fighting the Nazis) we often do morally indefensible things (like firebombing Dresden). It's one reason the best western films had a good character arc like that, in say "The Searchers" or "For a few dollars more".

But it's hard to imagine Django in this case having moral qualms about what he's doing--after all, what sort of movie will make the slaveowner's point of view sympathetic, or question the motives of a man avenging his servitude? Tarantino could have tried for something more daring--maybe a Vietnam War film from the standpoint of Viet Cong troops, or Jaws retold from the shark's standpoint (which would be "why the hell won't these people just let me eat??"). A slave having his wife raped and unleashing his fury isn't really a story--it's just cheap thrills for an audience's basest instincts.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Everyone seems to be talking about Herman Cain's "9-9-9" tax plan as if it has some chance of ever becoming law, forgetting that (a) Herman Cain is simply never going to be president and (b) even if somehow Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were discovered to both be secretly women having a lesbian affair and Barack Obama admitted to being in love with both of them and dropped out of the race and the Democrats were dumb enough to go with Dennis Kucinich, meaning Herman Cain wins the presidency, the fact of the matter is this 9-9-9 tax plan will simply never be passed by Congress.

In fact, the 9-9-9 plan has less chance of becoming law than the tree frogs have a chance of rising up against their human masters and taking over and instituting their own tax plan. This "tree frog overlord tax plan" has a better chance of becoming law than the 9-9-9 plan. So instead we should be talking about the tree frog plan, but we're not because the media is full of idiots.

So, let's recap--the 9-9-9 plan means replacing the current federal income tax with (a) a flat 9% rate on all individuals, plus (b) a 9% rate on all corporations and (c) a 9% federal sales tax. All deductions except charity would be eliminated. Liberals are already complaining that this would raise taxes on all the low earners who currently don't pay income taxes because they're too poor but I'm certain that an exemption for the tax would be granted for such tax filers and why am I even discussing this stupid plan?

The biggest flaw, I see--and why it'd never see the light of day--is not that this plan would raise taxes on anyone but that the taxes collected under such a plan would be so comically low that our government would have to function a lot less like it does now and a lot more like it did in 1840. Cuts necessary would include reducing our military to a weekend volunteer militia, reducing our police force to one sheriff per county with any deputies he can scrounge up, no more funding for roads, airports, farm subsidies, social security, medicare, and requiring everyone to find a way to home school. Forget food inspection--we'd all just have to do the sniff test. While I agree with the need for serious budget cutting, there's just no way the budget can be cut as deeply and quickly as this 9-9-9 plan would require without sending this country into a chaotic tailspin.

Add to that the sales tax hike, which would basically drive prices up on all goods and likely depress consumer spending, and we have a formula for competing with Zimbabwe for World's National Equivalent of Lindsay Lohan. So why would a seemingly smart man like Herman Cain push this plan?

The answer is obvious--Cain is a salesman, and his entire campaign is geared towards becoming a paid celebrity. He can sell books and get a show on cable, with big money and a national platform, as a result of this presidential run. Sarah Palin sort of showed the way for nonserious candidates. This whole thing deserves the degree of scrutiny that Donald Trump's "campaign" did--that is, very little. All the reporters (or his primary opponents) should be saying to him about the 9-9-9 plan is "okay, we get the joke--can we move on to something else?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Deep Dish v. Traditional

Longtime Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia recently weighed in on one of the more pressing controversies facing our times--whether Chicago-style "deep dish" pizza can be properly called "pizza". As a man who hails from the New York area (famed for its traditional, thin crust pizza) but taught at University of Chicago, Scalia should have adequate experience with both pizza cultures and should be a good authority on the subject. Let's examine:

1) A literalist interpretation would argue that having the three key ingredients--baked dough, topped with tomato and cheese--should qualify Chicago-style as actual pizza. However, you can see how this would open the door for calzones, bagels and even some sandwiches to fall into this overbroad category. From there, it's a slippery slope and anything can become a pizza.

2) Precedent would dictate that Chicago pizza can still be called pizza, because that's what everyone--including its detractors like myself--have been calling it forever. However, as the Court determined in "Brown v. Board of Education", precedent can and should be overturned when it is not constitutionally sound. And don't get me started on whether we should call potato chips "crisps".

3) Original intent of the founders. The Neapolitans who invented pizza clearly intended a thin crust, in fact the earliest pizzas did not even use tomato.

I for one would have to agree with Scalia, in that Chicago "deep dish" is really just a tomato pie of some sort. My reasoning? A slice of pizza is something you should be able to grab n' go, fold up and eat while on the run, which is one reason for its popularity. Those deep dish pies will simply spill out all over your pants.

Let's hope this ruling doesn't get overturned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Delegitimizing Protests

One positive from all the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) coverage is that it gives right wing hacks and left wing hacks the chance to completely trade talking points from the time of the hoopla over the Tea Party rallies. At this point we have seen:

1) Right wingers pointing out that in surveys taken among the demonstrators, OWSers by and large don't seem to know much about the economy or politics. It seems like just yesterday left wingers were pointing out surveys showing the same ignorance among Tea Partiers. The only thing this really proves though is that most people really don't know what the hell they're talking about most of the time.

2) Right wingers pointing out anti-Semitic OWS attendees in order to tar the whole movement (despite large numbers of Jews participating in the rallies themselves), while left wingers point out that a few nuts showing up at a rally shouldn't taint everyone else. Where did I hear something similar? Oh yes, some borderline racist (or blatantly racist) Tea Party attendees being touted by the left as emblematic of the whole, while the right points out that the Tea Party now seems to be enamored with Herman Cain.

3) Right wingers pointing out that the typcial OWSer is actually employed, and relatively privileged (educated, middle class) just as left wingers pointed out that Tea Partiers tended to be more well-off than most of the country.

4) Right wingers pointing out the hypocrisy of OWSers bleating about corporations while using iPhones, wearing designer clothes, and drinking Starbucks coffee. It wasn't that long ago that left wingers gleefully pointed out that Tea Partiers railed against government while rallying in public parks (like the Mall) and using the (publicly funded and run) Metro to get to their rallies.

Even better is the willingness of each side to argue that theirs is noble while the other side's demonstrations are just idiots/haters whose complaints are illegitimate and they don't have any good ideas.

But let's consider this fairly--aren't these two groups--Tea Partiers and OWSers--really more similar than anyone gives them credit for? After all:

1) They're all privileged compared to the average American (and certainly compared to the average human, when you toss in the Third World), but both groups are legitimately anxious about the direction of their futures. Tea Partiers are watching their retirement funds vanish, their house values drop, and the prospect of entitlements (Medicare and Social Security) run out of funding before long. OWSers are watching their job and salary prospects dwindle while their school loans are likely to be with them for decades and default could wreck their futures. This is a real prospect of loss, and it explains the anger.

2) The targets of their anger--government and big business that seem pretty good at granting favors to one another in ways that if not illegal are certainly slimy--are largely complicit in the mess we fell into years ago and are still in. (Yes, it's not as simple as "government and Wall Street screwed this all up" but they certainly deserve a good chunk of the blame)

3) There are certainly hate filled morons at both rallies, but I refuse to believe the majority at either rally condones such nonsense--if only because IT'S NOT HELPING.

4) At both rallies, there's always the overly simplistic message that can be reduced to a sign--"Zero taxes!" or "End all corporations!"--but I'd gather that most Tea Partiers want smaller, not nonexistent government, and most OWSers want corporate reform, not an end to the corporation as an entity. If there is an invididual absolutist though, that rides the metro while arguing that there should be no government at all, or enjoys his iPad while arguing that business profits should not exist period, then yes these are genuine hypocrites. Though it's the extremism of their positions and not the hypocrisy itself that should be reason to ignore them.

5) Sadly, neither the OWS or Tea Party crowds seem to have workable answers. Taxing just the very rich isn't going to close our deficits (not to mention the severe effects on the economy of doing such a thing) and neither will cutting government "waste". And of course neither of these things will create "jobs". The problem now is an overarching fear of risk that's keeping spending and investing down for everyone from the average consumer to big businesses--and until that changes we can expect a lot more rallies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Racial Crap

With campaign season in full swing--sadly, over a year before the election--the stupid and the vile come shooting out of every side. The latest outrage (I sure do have a lot of outrages!) is from some of Barack Obama's supporters, chastising black voters for being too critical of the first black president. Because if there's one thing we learned from history, it's that black people need to think with one mind and should place racial loyalty above everything, including whether Obama has been doing a decent job as president.

Let's get the Al Sharpton quote out of the way, since the man is a rotten sack of human waste and has added nothing positive to society except keeping makers of XXL track suits in business. He's a great boon to conservative pundits, because he can stand in for everything that's ever been wrong with black activists--the same way Fred Phelps has been for those trying to point out that religious leaders are all nuts. These days, it seems adding "Reverend" in front of your name is about the equivalent of adding "Retard" in front of your name, considering the famous company you're keeping. But enough about Retard Al Sharpton.

If the lack of enthusiasm among black voters (at least compared to 2008) is a problem for Obama's supporters, then maybe they should stick to explaining what a great job he's done, and how he's going to continue to do a great job if elected, compared to the alternative. But why target black voters, as though they have some special responsibility here that white voters don't have? Should chubby-chasing perverts have had more responsibility to back Bill Clinton?

The big pitch for Obama in 2008 was that he appealed beyond race, and that his African blood should not be a reason to vote for--or against--him. Is he a bright, moderate pragmatist who can navigate the rough waters our country is currently floating on? Or is he a cowardly, corrupt deal-cutter who acts out of weakness and accomplishes nothing towards fixing the country's problems? That's up to white and black voters alike to decide, and should have nothing to do with his race. After all, if the guy accidentally nukes California, it won't matter.

How to Make a Great '80s Action Movie

The key to any great '80s action movie is to understand that the 1980s were a cultural wasteland, which is to be expected for any period that connects disco to grunge. Films of that era were no exception--this was the time after Godfather but before Goodfellas, and Michael Bay was just beginning to learn how to do explosions. Any great action movie from that period needed some key elements:

1) Synthesizers. Remember in the '70s when no one could chase someone else, in foot or in a car, without the sound of rapid bongo music? Well, someone finally decided that bongo music didn't make sense so they replaced it with cheesy synthesizer music. Because nothing brings out the tension as well as feeling like a 7th grader just got a Casio for his birthday.

2) Very "meh" love interest. Women in the '80s were hot in a way that you'd say "ok, if she was dressed better and changed the hair, she'd probably be hot". In the lower budget films, you'd be saying "she's not hot, but I can see how a guy in a mullet would like her". So you sort of wonder why anyone is risking his life fighting the big bad guy for her.

3) Top notch dialogue. Even while in a desperate car chase, the hero can't say "we got company!" without his sidekick responding with "better get out the good silverware!" because some screenwriter's girlfriend thought that was hilarious.

4) Horrible, horrible jeans. Extremely high waisted, tight, and stonewashed, with white sneakers. And these are the men I'm talking about!

5) The cars even looked awful back then when they were relatively new. Remember evil bad guy Brad Wesley's LeBaron in "Road House"? Wasn't he supposed to be super-rich or something? What rich guy ever goes to the dealer and says "get me a LeBaron, and I'm super rich so make sure it's bright red!"?

6) Plots completely lacking in nuance. No coincidence that this is around the time Mel Gibson's star began to rise. Mel Gibson is to complex plots what "Beast With a Gun" is to subtlety.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Public Shaming and Tipping

Tipping is one of those issues that brings up more controversy than almost any other, even while it seems relatively minor. Children starving in Africa, women traded as slaves, insane dictators getting nukes--there's not much room for debate there. (At least, I have yet to see the pro-starvation pro-slavery pro-armageddon contingent on Internet message boards--but then, I haven't checked Home and Garden Online lately) Tipping, though, really brings out the emotions.

In one corner we have the "serving is a grueling job and servers are underpaid below even minimum wage usually and they deserve the tips". And in the other corner we have the "tipping is voluntary so I'm only going to tip if you do something special" contingent. And when the two groups cross, we get a mess like this one.

A bartender in Seattle allegedly was stiffed on her tip by some pompous patron who left a "tip" of another sort at the bottom of the receipt, suggesting the bartendress "lose a few pounds". She retaliated by posting the receipt online, finding the patron on Facebook, and (with the help of her friends) publicly shaming him to the point that the mess got picked up on other websites. Justice served, right? Except then of course it turns out they found the wrong guy, and a different "Andrew Meyer" (wasn't that also the name of the "don't tase me, bro!" guy? Why yes it was!) was subjected to this public humiliation. The barlady admitted to "having bad eyesight" and getting the wrong guy, and also when interviewed she claimed that she'd witnessed the offending patron actually emptying out the tip jar into his pockets which now makes me question her entire story because if a patron was caught committing theft then why not call over the manager and have the jerk arrested?

But even if some rude non-tipper did exist, the publicizing of their signed receipt is just the sort of idiotic overkill that crosses the line from "serves the jerk right" to "invasion of privacy that can easily get the bar sued and the barmaid fired as a result". If someone doesn't tip--and you think it's unjustified, I'm looking at you who take smoke breaks while your customers are anxiously waiting a half hour for their bill--then you don't serve that person again, or subject them to the cold shoulder if you encounter them in the future. Making a bad situation worse for you and your employer isn't the key to successmanship.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Different Flavor of Tea

I find it rather amusing when people get indignant about comparisons that are made about the Tea Partiers and the Occupy Wall Streeters (OWSers). Conservatives are quick to argue that Tea Partiers are regular hard working folks who protest peacefully, while OWSers are unbathed nose-ringed unemployables that destroy property and get into fights with the cops. Liberals are quick to argue that OWSers are legitimately aggrieved progressive types, while Tea Partiers are angry racists with unrealistic goals. But let's consider the following:

1) Both groups have their embarrassing fringe elements present at their rallies. Tea Party rallies do feature nuts with signs referring to Hitler and thinking it's a good idea to bring their legally-owned firearms to a peaceful protest because that's totally a good idea. OWS has its share of dreadlocked professional agitators who are ironically part of organizations with the word "Workers" in their title, despite a lack of ever doing anything that can be called "work". But both rallies also feature a large number of regular folks who are pissed enough to come out in big numbers--the nuts alone aren't enough to fill those rallies.

2) The majority of those protesting are angry for good reason. A serious recession that won't quit, a government that spends far more than it takes in, a tax system that is a complete joke, and political parties in charge that really have no sense of how to fix anything wrong. Tea partiers (who tend to be older) are angry about watching their retirement savings and house values disappear, and OWSers are angry about their massive student loan debt and poor job prospects. It's easy to sympathise with all of them.

3) Both Tea Partiers and OWSers don't really have solutions to their problems that will actually fix the problems that they're protesting about. Platforms involving cutting government spending (except on social security, medicare, and defense) and leaving taxes at current levels will not ever see the light of day, let alone help our economy getting moving, and plans to "soak the rich" by taxing "the top 1%" are just as unlikely to fix our economy (and any wholesale loan forgiveness is only going to wreck the financial sector even more, having a nice ripple effect on the economy).

4) Both groups tend to be largely white and middle class. All stupid accusations of racism aside, there's a good reason for this--through history, the most "revolutionary" classes tend not to be the most downtrodden but rather those who had more to lose and felt in danger of losing it. (Think the urban proletariat instead of the peasantry in 1917 Russia, as an example)

5) Both groups are summarily dismissed by the other side of the political spectrum, which focuses only on the nutjobs and the incoherent political demands, rather than the justifiable anger of the regular folks in those masses.

While some of what the Tea Party and the OWSers call for are at odds (one wanting less taxes, the other wanting more taxes, at least for Americans who aren't them), the degree of overlap for these two groups is significant--anger at the elites, anger at the "crony capitalism" of government being in bed with business, and a failure of the financial system--and one wonders what would happen if the two groups ever joined forces. Perhaps it's best for the powers that be if such a thing never were to happen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Legal Drams!

Having seen the 1982 Paul Newman film "The Verdict" it makes me realize just how far off Hollywood is when it comes to portraying the legal profession. Sure, no movie is going to focus on the endless nuts and bolts--long depositions, hours of research, endless motions that get batted back and forth--and the movie will stick to the more dramatic aspects of contentious litigation. (And of course no one will ever focus on the non-litigation side of legal work, because a lawyer researching and drafting a legal opinion for a client is hideously boring to watch onscreen, even if the lawyer is drunk at the time. I'm looking at you, Kentucky Bar Association!) But sometimes you see something so unbelievably wrong that you can't believe the screenwriters didn't have a lawyer on hand to tell them to fix the scene.

Namely, I'm talking about the part where Newman's character is offered a sizable settlement for his client, and turns it down. Now, maybe ethics rules were vastly different in 1982, but any lawyer today that does not even communicate the fact of a settlement offer to their client is going to be a good candidate for disbarment. And it is clear that Newman never told his client before turning it down, because the client later encounters him and punches him in the nose for this. Hell, if it hadn't been onscreen, I'd have punched him in the nose myself.

What other unrealistic events occur in legal dramas?

1) Surprise witnesses. Lawyers are always required to get permission of the court and notify the opposing lawyer before introducing a witness. While witnesses can often be added mid-trial, this should never be a surprise to the opposing counsel, let alone the judge.

2) Judges telling a lawyer he should accept a settlement offer. A judge doing something like this in their own case is likely to not be a judge much longer.

3) The opposing lawyers are always both really good at what they do. There are really a lot of bad lawyers out there practicing. And while the bar exams and qualifications do test one's knowledge of the basic tenets of the law, they don't test one's ability to apply it or even understand procedure. Unless you're taken in by an experienced mentor, you're going to enter litigation with what you remember in first year Civ Pro.

4) Judges making rulings on issues that are not put forth in a motion by one of the attorneys. The judge is just that, a judge--and not an independent finder of fact. (The jury makes findings of fact, while the judge rules on issues of the law--without going into the distinction the point is that in all instances this has to be in response to one side's motion)

5) Jurors making their own independent investigations of the facts. The worst example of this was in "12 Angry Men" when Hank Fonda even brought a friggin' switchblade to the jurors' chamber. Can you say "mistrial"???

6) Navy prosecutors who can't handle the truth. I'm pretty sure they have excellent truth-handling ability.

The Remaining GOP Field

The news that Sarah Palin is not running for the presidency does not surprise me--after all, the minute she dropped out of the governorship of Alaska without finishing her only term this signalled that she had no real interest in serving in public office. Keeping speculation going as long as reasonably possible was also a smart move, since it got her plenty of attention for a while and this woman thrives on attention. In fact, actually jumping in the ring might have popped her bubble early--once she sank in the polls as Republicans reject her, as they surely would, that would close the chapter on the Palins and her strongest supporters would lose the ability to speculate that she might have won it all. The decision not to run was the best one for her and ultimately the Republican Party.

Now, as I predict, Mitt Romney is going to go ahead and take the nomination, even while a lot of Republicans arent' thrilled with him. For that, there's a good reason and a bad reason for the GOP to reject the former Massachusetts governor--the good reason being that in his heart of hearts Romney is no hard right winger. He is very much the son of his father George, who was an automotive executive and moderate Michigan governor (and one wonders how history may have been different if he'd run better in the '68 primary and beat Nixon), and looks to have the temperament more of the elder President Bush than that of Bush the Younger. While this makes him more "electable", the Tea Party wing doesn't want "electable". They want red meat! Whether or not it is wise for the right to reject him, it's at least a valid reason.

The bad reason of course is his Mormonism. And if the GOP rejects Romney for that then they frankly deserve another four years of the Democrats holding the White House.

Romney has been playing it safe in the race so far, not making big errors as his opponents seem to be, but he is missing some good opportunities to put them away and set himself up for the general election. While he may be wary to have a "reverse-Sister Souljah moment"--that is, when he rejects his own party's extreme to signal his own stance in the political middle, as Bill Clinton did in the '92 Democratic primary by rebuffing Jesse "Where's My Money?" Jackson--he should be able to do this safely now and still not drive away the party's base. Here are some missed opportunities:

1) Shameful moment in the debates. During the most recent GOP debate, a gay soldier serving overseas asked a question to Rick "Why am I here?" Santorum regarding gays serving in the military, and some clown in the audience booed the servicemember. This would have been a prime moment for Romney--as the "grown up" in the race--to simply point out that whatever one thinks of gays serving in the military, no one who is serving this country and putting their life on the line should be booed, and whoever did that ought to be ashamed. That would have been easy points.

2) Easy put-downs of the other candidates. He could just go down the line: "Mr. Cain--I tried Godfather's Pizza. If I were you, I'd take that off your resume. Gov. Perry--Shouldn't you be electrocuting some innocent people right now? Mr. Santorum--Have you tried googling your name right now? Gingrich--if I promise to buy a copy of your book will you just go home? Bachmann--if you say anymore nonsense about vaccinations I will slap you silly. Or in your case, slap you more silly. Ron Paul--the 1890s called and they want their political platform back." Doing that would end the primary in minutes.

That said, I still think Romney's going to take the nomination, because ultimately the GOP wants one thing over all--to get the White House back, and they don't care which horse they have to ride in on.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Sometimes, the stupid, it burns! This time, the issue at hand is a serial rapist attacking women in NYC, and the cops issued a warning to women in the area to not wear skirts as such clothing might give the rapist the idea that he had "easy access". Similar warnings in Toronto have given rise to the recent "slutwalk" movement, where self-styled feminists have taken to marching in drag-queen getup to protest against a cop's warning that dressing in a certain way is likely to provoke a sexual attack. Now, a few points have to be made:

1) The indignation among the protesters seems to amount to "how dare you shame the victim here!" While I'm inclined to disagree with the police statements in both cases, this indignant response is just plain stupidity. NO ONE is blaming the victim here, any more than a policeman reminding you to lock your car doors is blaming you when someone steals your car. The cops believe that certain types of clothing will attract attackers, much the same way wearing flashy jewelry will attract a mugger. So drop the cloak of victimhood, sister!

2) I'm not aware of any evidence that rapists are any more likely to attack a woman based on the way she's dressed. Of course, dressing a certain way will draw attention--desired or otherwise--and women who aren't morons will know that this will draw attention even from men (or gay women) who aren't the intended targets. But unwanted attention is a far cry from a criminal act, and unless the link is really there then the advice from the cops serves only to support the baggy sweatpants industry.

3) That said, I can think of more useful advice in terms of how a person is dressed and rape prevention. If the cops were to say "avoid wearing flip flops or open-toed high heels because then you can't run or defend yourself from an attacker" then this argument is hard to dispute. And really, people shouldn't be going out on the town in flip flops anyway.

4) In sum, the protest against the police statements should be boiled down to a far more reasonable "we get what you're saying, but there's no reason to believe dressing slutty will make you more likely to be raped" rather than "damn you for blaming the victim!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rough Choices

While there is no shortage of half-baked solutions for our trouble economy out there, I should add a few to the mix:

1) Identify the bad mortgage loans currently on bank books, and offer a deal to the current holders of the loans--the Federal government will pay off a third of each loan, provided that the borrower pay off a third and the lender writes down the final third. Pros: this helps spread the pain among the three parties, and also enables the bad loans to be done away with freeing up the borrower and lender. This would be the least bad of all existing alternatives, allowing the housing recovery to come a bit sooner and helps out down on their luck borrowers and wobbly lenders. Cons: the government is already running massive deficits and paying off a third of the bad mortgages would still be expensive. This also wouldn't make banks more likely to lend down the road, having taken a loss on these loans. There's also the moral hazard of subsidizing banks and borrowers who took these risks that didn't pay off.

2) Tear down unsold inventory in overbuilt areas. Pro: this clears up the glut in supply, allowing natural market forces to reach a higher price floor. Plus, the unsold empty houses will become health hazards and public nuisances if left idle too long. Better to take them down so housing can recover. Con: this still costs a lot of money, and seems like a waste of otherwise useful housing that could be put on the market for renters or bargain hunters.

3) Create a financial regulatory oversight board to regulate every sort of financial transaction and entity involved in the lending or investing of money. Pros: a single regulatory body with a broad mission can identify predatory practices, frauds, and excessively risky ventures and prevent the industry from repeating the mistakes made in recent decades that culminated in the financial collapse. Cons: one thing our financial industry suffers from is not a lack of regulators. There are currently five different agencies that regulate banks at the federal level, and of course every state has a bank regulator. The problem instead was the fact that so much financial leverage was based on a widely-held assumption that real estate could never crash in a big way. This is why everyone--from government regulators, to lenders, to borrowers, to consumer advocates--favored increased lending in this area. This is always the way with bubbles, and you can't regulate away irrational decisionmaking.

4) Completely replace our current tax code with a simpler code with lower rates, few deductions, etc. Pros: this would reduce inefficient or counterproductive behavior by high earners (taking losses, business expenses) and lower earners (taking out a mortgage when rent is cheaper), also making the tax code easier to follow and enforce, and prevent the perverse result of very rich people paying very low percentages of their income in taxes. Cons: the code is complicated for a reason. Income is defined in many different ways, and deductions and exemptions are in place because certain behavior is to be encouraged (investing in capital, buying municipal bonds, paying for a child's education). As for "fairness", the truly wealthy will be able to find a way to legally shield their income from taxation one way or another, as they have done so even during times of much higher tax rates. It's worth it to them to find a way around the code.

5) Big cuts in spending. Pros: a government spending less means reducing the deficit, which is good for the bond market, decreases our government's own borrowing costs, and better prepares us for emergencies down the road. It also prevents the need to raise taxes, which would stifle any economic recovery. Cons: while some government spending is more "important" than others, there's not much that can be cut that won't have a severe impact on the economy. Infrastructure spending enables the free flow of commerce, farm spending helps keep our agricultural sector strong and stable so we can have abundant cheap food, and defense spending keeps our military better than any other. While entitlement spending is enormous, even modest cuts will mean pain for a lot of individuals as well as a reduction in their consumer spending. Any way you cut it, there's going to be a negative effect on the country with these cuts.

So, not a lot of great choices out there. But unfortunately this can't all be reduced to a bumper sticker.


My general feelings on protests and rallies are that the people involved in them are generally idiots up to no good. There are exceptions of course--notably the protests sweeping the Middle East earlier this year, and the protests that achieved the passage of Civil Rights laws in the '60s. But by and large, protests fall easily into the trap of giving the most visibility to the crazies and ultimately alienating most observers.

A good example is the anti-Vietnam war protests, which rather than bringing an early end to the war instead resulted in getting Nixon elected (twice) and dragging the war on for long past when the protests were over and the college kids went on to having wife-swapping parties and macrame lessons. The anti-Iraq War protests if anything helped Bush get re-elected, and even our Nobel winner-in-chief still has us fighting over there 8 years later. And the Tea Party protests of the past two years are (I believe) ultimately going to result in far greater economic ruin for this country as people like Michele Bachmann get treated as serious contenders for the presidency, lowering the bar for crazy.

In any of the above cases, I think it would have done the protesters some good to better organize their forces into providing a coherent argument and weed out the nuttier among their followers. Having a sign comparing Bush to Hitler or waving the flag of the Viet Cong or telling people that Obama is a slaveowner and taxpayers are slaves just makes anyone watching TV--who might otherwise agree that a war is a bad idea or government is hopelessly bloated--just say "ok, you lost me" and go back to watching Two and a Half Men.

The latest protest-movement-gone-wrong is the parade of hipsters and freaks camping out on Wall Street. In a world beset by serious financial panic--the Euro looking to collapse, the U.S. economy in a slump and a government in serious need of painful cuts--it's understandable to be angry at those who seem to be taking massive profits while the majority are suffering stagnant wages and high unemployment. But how to fix it is no simple matter--if a certain set of policies could fire up the economy with certainty, those policies would have been pursued, by Bush or Obama already. And what the government has already tried--from spending and tax cut stimulus to pumping cash into the economy via the Federal Reserve--hasn't worked. Stripping down executive compensation from highly profitable financial firms might make a few people happy, but for the life of me I can't see how this is going to help regular folks.

I note that a lot of the protesters are debt-ridden college graduates and current students, many that were interviewed owed upwards of six figures on their school loans and had no job prospects. While I certainly sympathize (having carried a high debt load myself when I graduated) I cannot understand the anger being directed at Wall Street--presumably, as the lenders behind these school loans. It is the colleges that consider it acceptable to charge over $40K a year for tuition, the lenders are just enabling you to pay for it on credit. Shouldn't the protest be taking place at the campus?

Friday, September 30, 2011

I've Said it Before, Democracy Just Doesn't Work

I can't blame the media for covering Sarah Palin, because it's understandable to follow this train wreck around since she's just so darn entertaining for most Americans. Jon Huntsman may be a serious candidate for president, but he just can't provide the bombastic lunatic idiocy that Queen Sarah can dish out regularly. Sorry, Jon, you'll have to mispronounce a lot more words if you're going to start getting Palin-level coverage.

The latest imbroglio is over a new book out about Palin called "The Rogue" by Joe McGinniss, which makes a number of claims that paint this woman as cartoonishly evil. Such as sending her oldest son off to war just so it'll make the fambly look good, or firing all the non-white government workers in Wasilla (yes, both of them!), and snorting coke off an oil drum (okay, that part is actually pretty cool). She denies all this, of course, but it doesn't make a difference. Palin-haters will believe it all, Palin-lovers will consider it all made up, and anyone in between either will think there's some truth there but mostly won't give a crap since she'll never be elected dogcatcher. Which leads me to think--does anyone actually elect dogcatchers anymore? Why do I never see "dogcatcher" on the ballot? Maybe it is on the ballot, but they go by a fancy title now, like "District Judge" or something.

But try to imagine a scenario where your town dogcatcher was actually Sarah Palin. First, she'd quit halfway after chasing her first dog. Then, she'd use Twitter and Facebook to go around talking smack about other dogcatchers, and blame Muslims for all the extra dogs running around. The local papers would run wild with "will she or won't she" speculation about her entering the next race for school board, and meantime the dog problem runs rampant.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Get Rid of Leap Year!

One thing everyone seems to be arguing about lately is our 365 and 1/4 day calendar. It seems we have perfectly aligned our time measures to the trip our planet takes around the sun, except we haven't been very exact about it. Of course, what other options do we have? The Jewish calendar is all based on fasting so no one wants to adopt that--hell, even most Jewish people I know prefer the western calendar and will tell you it's 2011 rather than 5772. And don't get me started on the Chinese calendar, with their tigers and monkeys and rats oh my. So it's really just a matter of figuring out how to improve our own.

See, that extra 1/4 day each year means having to invent a whole new day--February 29--every four years. The way to remember which year gets the extra day is that it lands on Summer Olympics and U.S. presidential elections, but if you hate sports and aren't an American you're out of luck. But who wants that extra day in February, anyway? It'll be cold and mucky and make spring just a day further!

I propose instead we take that extra 24 hours and break it up to 6 hours for each of the four years it applies to. Then, break the 6 hours down into 30 minutes each month of each year, and for each of these months we can 7 minutes and thirty seconds to each of that month's four Mondays, to be used as extra snooze time when waking up because Mondays are such hard days to wake up to after a long weekend. Everyone will be happier with the extra minutes of sleep each Monday, and then we'll have more brotherhood, fewer wars, and maybe better rested scientists who can cure global hunger.

And don't start giving me crap about how some months don't have four Mondays. We're solving global hunger here, people.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tales of the Loaner Car

So while the car is being serviced I'm using a loaner for a couple days, and it is quickly apparent that the loaner is a much newer model than my own car. It has some improvements--such as keyless ignition for those of us who can't get enough of push buttons--and some drawbacks, such as lack of a door-rest for my left elbow that I had taken for granted over the years. But this morning's drive taught me of a new space-age feature that still has me scratching my head.

Picture it, I-66 west, 7 AM, and a dark heavy cloud is ahead in the feeble dawn light. Figuring "hey maybe I'll make it to work before the rain starts" I soon see I have no such luck, and the monsoon comes down hard like Lindsay Lohan's career. Though at first, it hits in small dribbles, and I flick on the first level intermittent wipers. That's when it went all Space Oddity on me.

As the rain increased, the wiper speed adjusted accordingly.

I am marvelling at this development, seeing as I never changed the wiper speed from intermittent, but it was as though the wipers just knew the rain was increasing. Were there sensors on the windshield? Was there a radio control attached to weather reports? Was this loaner car about to become sentient, and eventually grow to loathe me for my human frailties?

Let's just hope I can return it--or him, or her--to the dealership before it takes out its sweet automotive revenge.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Arbitrarily Become a Fan

Football watching for me is more an excuse to eat chilli and drink beer with friends while a game happens to be on than it is an actual interest in the game itself. That said, it always brings me joy to read about a defeat for the Washington Redskins. The only NFL team with a blatantly racist name, a team that has been priced out of the range of any middle class fan that is not an idiot willing to forgo health insurance in order to be able to afford to attend games, a team that has been inconveniently moved to Landover, making them now harder to reach for Washingtonians than Baltimore's stadium, a team owned by a completely irredeemable piece of garbage--yep, you can count on some satisfaction when I see them lose.

But football--even for a chilli-beer-buddies fan--should be about more than just rooting against one team. After all, despite the abysmal stewardship of Dan Snyder, who is to professional football what Casey Anthony was to motherhood, it is possible that the stars will align and the sun will go black like sackcloth and the Redskins may reach the Super Bowl one day. And when that day comes, I'll need a team to root for in order to beat them and make Snyder cry like the blubbering mess that he really is. What team to root for? I have some criteria:

1) The team can't play on an artificial field (or worse, a dome). If God meant for us to play football inside, he would have called it Houseball.

2) The team needs cheerleaders. There's something about underpaid grown women being ogled that brings some tradition to the game.

3) The team needs a cool helmet design. The Browns helmet is too cutesy, what with no logo. The Bengals aren't fooling anybody, we know you're not a tiger! The Vikings helmet is a giant fail, since the "horns" aren't literally protruding from the helmet in a way that allows for impaling the foe.

4) The owner's douchebaggery should not be nationally known.

That leaves some strong contenders! I have it down to Broncos, Ravens, Cardinals, and Buccaneers. Stay tuned! One of those four will be really good this year.