Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Yawners!

Well, the Royal Wedding is under way today and I have to say I won't be watching it. Normally, the prospect of watching two unemployed inbreds get hitched is appealing to me for the sheer car-wrecky aspect of it, but here there's just something missing. And that something is "spontaneity".

See, the best thing about a wedding is the unexpected romps of drama that go with it. The fights, the drunken bridesmaids, the wedding cakes falling apart, the mothers-in-law who wander off during picture time--it's that sort of thing that makes it more than a boring ceremony. This royal wedding, being overly staged and choreographed--and with so much money at stake--promises to be a complete yawner.

What is the chance of an uninvited Sarah Ferguson getting into a row with Kate Middleton's estranged Uncle Femus, and knocking over the gift table? What is the chance of the bride's skirt getting ripped off, like something in that brilliant 1983 film "Zapped"? What is the chance of Queen Elizabeth doing a karaoke version of "Crazy Bitch" at the reception?

No chance at all. Watching a test pattern has more appeal. News flash, Brits--you'll get a lot more interest from foreigners if you did what the French and Russians did to their royals.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thugs Need a Beatdown of Their Own

Now the media is picking up on the rash of violent assaults taking place at fast food restaurants. It doesn't appear that such assaults are more frequent these days, but perhaps the videotaping of them is, so of course the media firestorm kicks up. One recent assault took place in Baltimore County (local motto--"please nuke this cesspool"), where a transgendered woman was severely beaten into a seizure by two female hoods (one 14, the other 18) at a McDonalds. The McDonalds staff basically was useless, one of them even taping the incident and laughing, and warning these animals that the cops were on their way. A few thoughts:

1) I don't care about the age of the perps, they need to be immediately removed from society. They are animals more deserving of cages than anything in the zoo, and have lost all privileges to be treated as people anymore. It's sickening that they have the advantages of living in this country and I would gladly trade them in for some foreigners who'd love to be here.

2) I think it's a shame that the victim wasn't well armed. The only thing that thugs can understand is having a kneecap shot off. Maybe this means it'll be harder for them to carry on their day job of beating people up, but maybe they can learn a new skill like telemarketing.

3) Unfortunately, fast food staff are not trained (and basically not allowed) to beat the piss out of misbehaving customers. That needs to change. When Brandoburgers opens (2021, keep fingers crossed!) all employees will be trained in kung fu or be former bouncers, and will be instructed that any customers get violent they're going to be quickly aquainted with the business end of a broomstick handle. Our motto won't be "have it your way", it'll be "you better watch it. Order, and get out."

4) While I'd love to see these thugs in jail, I'd prefer it to be a Mexican jail. Our jails are full enough and the Mexicans seem to know how to do things for less.

5) I don't, however, think that hate crimes should be treated any different than any other crime. When I first saw the video, I wasn't aware that the victim was transgendered, or that that was the motivation for the attack. And that shouldn't matter--anyone assaulting a defenseless person who was laying on the ground deserves the harshest penalties, whether they did it to get their wallet or because they're threatened by their alternate lifestyle.

6) Also sad were that a lot of the comments on the video reduced this to a racial thing (the thugs in question were black, the victim white). This is unfortunate, since racism shouldn't have a part in the disgust over the incident--thugs come in all colors, and this sort of thing should be condemned no matter the race of the perpetrator. Turning it racial just de-legitimizes the disgust over it.

Fortunately, the victim survived the attack. Unfortunately, the two thugs are likely going to go on doing things like this, and--shudder--likely will breed, as God doesn't see fit to make the worst among us sterile. I'm sure they'll be raising real pillars of the community too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birther Madness Finally Reaches Maximum Idiocity

Economists predict that China's GDP will surpass ours by 2016. We have an annual budget shortfall of over a trillion dollars. The housing market is in the tank, gas prices rising to new heights, and unemployment still around 9%. Plus, American soldiers are still deployed in various hot spots that have nothing to do with our immediate interests.

And yet, the nagging issue for Trump-tards is whether the president can prove he was born in this country. See, because if they can sow enough doubt, apparently that means Obama resigns (maybe taking Joe Biden with him?) and history can undo everything Obama has done since he took office. That's how it works, right?

Well, Obama finally released his long-form birth certificate, hopefully putting that stupid issue to rest. I fully expect to hear Donald Trump go on national TV to say that his suspicions turned out to be wrong, and he's sorry for raising such a pointless distraction.

Oh wait, nope, Trump now comes out saying he's proud to have achieved what "no one" has been able to, by getting the president to produce this record. What Trump has really achieved is a practical joke at the expense of the GOP and mainstream media that is actually taking him seriously. Consider--Trump has long been a donor for the Democrats, he's been a social liberal up until just now, and even his economic beliefs of ten years ago were to the left of Obama's. Do people really think he's seriously running as a hard right Republican? Are we that easily pranked???

Now the GOP is being ever marginalized as a party that takes seriously the looniest of conspiracy theories (even the Democrats steered away from 9/11 "truthers"), hostile to immigrants and "Muslims" (even when that "Muslim" is a churchgoing Christian), and welcoming to a brash and tacky plutocrat who gives plutocrats a bad name. (They already had the moron vote sewn up when they elevated Sarah Palin) Obama may not deserve re-election, but these clowns don't deserve to beat him either.

Kung-Fu You!

Apparently now they arrest people in Britain for offending others. A pub singer made the mistake of singing the 1974 smash hit "Kung Fu Fighting" as some Chinese were walking by, and they called the police and the pub singer now has an arrest record.

This is outrageous on a number of levels. First, Britain might want to do something about the chavs and yobs and wankers that infest their streets and subways (though over there they call them "undergrounds") where they eat their fish and chips and ponder how they went from controlling the world to having lost control of "Spice World" (an underwhelming film if there ever was one--and mind you, it's hard to garner up any expectations for a Spice Girls film). They have much more to worry about than some guy singing a song that's frankly not offensive.

Which brings me to my second point. I have heard the song "Kung Fu Fighting" far more times than I've heard our national anthem (largely because they don't play the anthem at parties or on oldies stations). The only way it can be considered offensive to the Chinese is if you take the song to mean that the Chinese are "funky" and live in "funky" places, occasionally engaging in fisticuffs of the kung-fu variety.

Now, this doesn't happen in D.C.'s Chinatown, largely because there's about four Chinese people in that part of town, but I can't imagine that no one in any Chinese neighborhood has ever been "funky" and fought another person using the kung-fu. Frankly, that's the sort of positive stereotype you'd be better off spreading--if nothing else, it gives muggers pause--who the hell wants to try and fight a funky Chinese man who knows kung-fu?

After all, it could get a little bit frightening. When he uses expert timing. And is fast as lightning.

Not this guy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yawn, Royal Wedding

What could be more interesting than the upcoming nuptials between Prince William Royalness and Kate Middleton? Two people who have, to my understanding, accomplished absolutely nothing with their lives to this point and are unlikely to ever do so? I don't know about you, but I'm riveted.

I can't really understand the fascination that a lot of Brits (and a number of Americans, as well) get for their royals. Things might have been different a few hundred years ago, when kings and queens had real power and whether one was a Protestant or Catholic actually affected the country's foreign policy. A key marriage meant an alliance with some other realm, and such occasions could be momentous. But those days are long gone--we now just have a glorified reality show that the British people spend a lot of money subsidizing and the press wastes precious ink covering.

And I have nothing against this couple--they seem pretty uninteresting, particularly when compared with their forebears, like the pro-Nazi Edward VIII, the cannibal Henry VIII, or Charles II who was known to fight crime under the alias "Ghostwatcher." But Bill and Kate haven't done anything horrible to anyone, which is more than I can say for previous members of their royal line. I just can't acquire any give-a-crap for this whole endeavor.

Still, I suppose the Brits (and others) have a certain something special here that even though I can't appreciate it I can understand it. This couple has a strong likelihood of eventually becoming Head of State, and their bloodline can be traced back to Heads of State through history. To them, they're witnessing their country's living history, and while not having the practical impact of a new constitution or declaration of independence it is still something that celebrates their Britishness.

Plus, they all get a day off.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ivan the Terrific

Last night's film was "Ivan the Terrible", the Stalin-era epic from Sergei Eisenstein. This chronicles the rise of the tsar, who conquered neighboring lands to make Russia into a super-state, crushed his domestic enemies who were always plotting against him for their own nefarious purposes, and consolidated and centralized power so he could do the best for the people.

Sound familiar? It's no wonder Stalin approved the film, it basically justifies the power-mad and cruel leader, despite the fact that the hero is a tsar--the very type of monarch the Communists replaced. Apparently, "terrible" translated in Russian is more akin to "terrifying" than "awful". And Ivan was nothing if not terrifying--tall and gaunt, with sloping eyebrows and pointy beard, he sort of looked like something from Tim Burton's nightmares.

The actor playing Ivan, Nikolai Cherka-something, is well made up to look a lot like the tsar's portraits, and his spooky voice makes his character one you don't want to be in a room with. The director made good use of shadow to give this a spectral presence, and build the character into an almost otherworldly spook.

The film got me thinking, though, why is it that we Americans gets leaders who are bumbling cornpones (Jimmy Carter, George W Bush), touchy feely creeps (Clinton), evil rich plutocrats (FDR) or stand-up comedians (Calvin Coolidge), and the Russians get leaders who are all insane psychopaths out of a Michael Bay movie? Peter the Great literally ripped beards off of people's faces, Stalin was a longtime train robber, and Putin--don't even get started on Putin! If as pacifists would like the wars of the world were fought by heads of state rather than soldiers, there's no doubt that Vladimir Putin would be right now clonking Obama and Sarkossy's heads together while bitch-slapping David Cameron with his bare foot.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fossils Reveal New Horrors

Researchers in China have found the largest fossil spider yet--proof yet again that Hell on Earth certainly existed at one time! Of course, reading the details it sounds like the legs were about 2.5 inches long and a body about an inch wide. Pretty damn big, but probably no bigger than a tarantula. Show me a spider the size of a dog--or wait, actually don't do that. If I saw a spider big enough to wrestle Fido my brain might explode in sheer horror. Now, some hippies will try to explain that spiders are needed to defend us against hordes of insects, which is sort of like saying we needed Stalin to defend us from Hitler. Technically true, but it doesn't make Stalin any less of a monster. I say, spread out some bug zappers and wipe out the Hitlers and Stalins together! And don't bring up that crap about how Hitler is good for the ecosystem because he spreads pollen and stuff. We can train birds to do that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Palin's Trig Story

I've previously argued that the "birther" theory--that Obama wasn't born in this country and his supporters conspired to fake his Hawaii birth certificate--is basically nonsense. Similarly, there is a far fetched theory about Sarah Palin floating around.

This theory goes that Sarah Palin is not actually the mother of Trig Palin, the Down Syndrome baby who is the youngest of the Palin brood (until her daughter Bristol gave birth to Trapp or Trick or Trazz or whatever stupid new name those idiots came up with). Trig, you'll remember, was carried around at the 2008 GOP convention and lauded as proof of Palin's pro-life bona fides--she chose not to abort the child, despite giving birth in her 40s to what she knew would be a special needs child, so unlike Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan (who presumably abort the hell out of anything they can) Sarah is the real deal. Under this conspiracy theory, though, Trig is actually not Sarah's child, but the first born son of her teenage daughter, Bristol--and Sarah faked being preggers and presented the child as hers in order to cover up a fambly embarrassment.

The theory is presumably supported by photos of Sarah during her "pregnancy" where she doesn't look all that pregnant, as well as an outlandish story about her water breaking while giving a speech in Texas, after which she took a twenty-hour journey by plane (with layover in Seattle) to Anchorage then by car to Wasilla to give birth in her home hospital.

(I have to say, though, the water breaking story if anything makes Sarah Palin look far worse as a human being than any cover-up to protect her daughter and fambly's reputation. After all, what's worse--lying to the public to protect a personal, fambly matter, or endangering yourself and your child by taking a ridiculously long trip, AFTER your water broke, when there are plenty of hospitals far closer to Dallas than Wasilla? For the sake of humanity, I'm HOPING that water breaking story is at least an exaggeration! Otherwise, call Child Services!)

Ultimately, this conspiracy theory simply doesn't hold up any more than the "birther" story. Too many people would have had to be in on the lie, and surely Bristol's boyfriend at the time--white trash townie doofus Levi Johnston--would have at least supported this story if it were true (he has no love for his ex-girlfriend's fambly and appears more than willing to do anything to get his 15 minutes of fame). And ultimately, what does this really prove? If anything, it makes Sarah look like a liar to the American Public, but it would make me have some sympathy for her if true.


Today being 4/20, it is apparently some sort of marijuana related holiday, which probably means stoners everywhere taking the day off and munching Cheetos. Sadly, the Cheeto supply here at work is insufficient!

I'm not a pot smoker myself, but have always taken the "why the hell is this so illegal?" approach to the stuff. After all, if it's a gateway drug, then so what? Does that make lava lamps a gateway appliance since you can only really appreciate the melted wax when you're baked? Does that mean that yelling insults should be prosecuted the same as assault, since insults are a gateway to punching? Is it the case that everyone in Congress is a low-functioning moron who would serve the country well by locking themselves in their own cars for the next few years???

Plus, pot has had a great effect on easing the pain of chemotherapy, as well as making people appreciate very marginal music. Legalizing and regulating the stuff would create a number of legitimate jobs, profits, and tax revenues in this country (and have a great effect on the Cheeto industry) and yet, some busybodies decide against it. Keep in mind our current and previous president were cokeheads. Who are they to oppose legalization of something far more benign?

It'd be nice to see these laws finally changed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passing Over

Today (or more accurately, sundown yesterday) marks Passover, where our Jewish friends celebrate with food and matzoh (which I don't count as food unless it's covered in chocolate. Same goes for tomatoes.) and commemorate the infamous evening when the Angel of Death passed over Egypt and killed the first born from every Egyptian household. To preserve the first borns of Jewish slaves in the region, lambs' blood was spread over the doors of their houses so that the Death Angel would "pass over" those houses and spare them.

Now, most of my friends know that my opinion of the Bible is that it is a complicated story of a power-mad tyrant with the attention span of a four year old (I'm talking about God here) and his constant abuse of both his Chosen Ones (the Israelites) and everyone they come into contact with. There is constant war, human sacrifice, incest, rape, genocide, and murder--and this is the stuff that God condones!

The Passover story always caused some questions for me:

1) Why have the plague hit every Egyptian in the realm? Surely not all of them were complicit in keeping the Jews enslaved. It seemed like the only one worth punishing was the Pharaoh.

2) After each plague, when the Pharaoh is ready to let the Jews go, God then "hardens his heart" and makes the Pharaoh renege and keep them put. Uh, WTF, God? Are you schizo? You're punishing the hell out of an entire country so they'll let your people go, and the minute the king is ready to do so you force him to change his mind? Maybe this mental illness of yours explains why you invented the platypus.

3) Lambs blood? If you're all powerful and all knowing, wouldn't you already know which families to spare?

4) Since the lambs blood thing was by household, what do you do if Jews are sharing a household with Egyptians? Do they then have to put the lambs blood over certain bedroom doorways? Heaven help it if the kids are doing a sleepover.

5) Surely there was at least some intermarriage at that time. Do the half-Jewish half Egyptian first borns just get a bad head cold?

6) Isn't there something inherently wrong with murdering innocent first borns simply for living under the realm of a tyrant that won't do your bidding (or will, except you keep hardening his heart, GOD)? Why, if a human political or military leader did this, would we bring them up on war crimes charges, and yet we're okay with a God that behaves this way?

Well, the Bible has a lot more tales that really make you wonder how it could inspire three religions the way that it did, but to the extent that Jews today can celebrate being free from enslavement and carrying on their traditions with loved ones, I wish a happy Passover!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ants, I Knew It'd Be the Ants!

Last week's film was "Ants", the 1977 version with Suzanne Sommers, not the recent family friendly fare. "Ants", in a word, was pieceofcrap (three words, technically, but can be combined into one). Story in a nutshell--an old lady in a wheelchair who is super nice to everyone is running a resort that everyone seems to be enthralled with even though it appears to be like any third rate motel, and an evil developer (you can tell he's evil because he yells at the help!) wants to buy it and turn it into a casino. Meanwhile, ants start coming up from the ground and attacking the guests and workers, none of whom seem capable of brushing them off. Hijinks ensue, a rescue team is called in, and the Carter-era malaise is in full effect.

Here's where the film was incredibly stupid:

1) The cook who seems to work completely alone in the kitchen (for a resort that has at least a few dozen guests!) is slapping away at the ants that are attacking his foot. He manages to do this without actually looking down, where had he done so he might have seen that thousands of the damn things were coming up from the floor's drainpipe. When's the last time you felt something biting and itching at your feet and you didn't bother to look?

2) When a dying construction worker--who was also beset by ants--is brought to the hospital, the doctor has absolutely no idea why the man is suffering heart failure and nervous system damage. Er, maybe try looking at the guy's body which should be covered with ant bites? I find it hard to believe someone could be attacked by ants with no outward signs of this. Even in 1977!

3) At no point does it occur to anyone that they could defeat the ants with a broom. Seriously, these are normal sized, normal speed ants. They have to crawl to you, and just stomping them and sweeping them away could do a pretty good job of holding them back until they get tired and go looking for a leaf or something.

4) Of course, the health department guy who (correctly) surmises that this could be an ant attack decides that this is due to the humans using so many chemicals and pesticides on the ants, and the ants getting stronger and fighting back. TOO SUBTLE!

5) Have you ever complained that Brian Dennehy portrays characters who are just two understated and nuanced? Well, after watching "Ants", complain no more!

6) I think this same movie could have been told from the ant point of view. It could have been titled "The Day Our Ant Heroes Rose Up Against Hideously Clothed Giants Engaged in Tortured Dialogue".

Beer-a-Thon Concluded

Saturday we had our first annual Beer-a-Thon for charity, and it was a raging pile of successmanship. It helped that the weather was lousy, so no one felt inclined to go outside and do anything wholesome. So if we're going to drink beer all day, may as well do it for a good cause.

Our sponsors were very generous, several of them sponsoring more than one competitor, and several guests also brought snacks, extra beer, and our hostess made delicious chicken chilli to help counteract the effect of drinking all day. What I found was that a good way to avoid hangovers and passing out was to maintain the pacing of one beer per hour while adding water between drinks.

Guests continued to filter in and out of the apartment, but my friend Jay and I had managed to start at noon and go fourteen hours. Of course, I later found out that when he got home, he continued his beer-a-thoning but with vodak! Eek!

Keeping us busy through the competition was also the Wii Fit, which got more use out of it than I would have expected from a bunch of marathon drinkers. Ultimately, it worked out pretty well, good fun was had, and a nice donation for cancer research was raised by all involved.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Height Bigotry?

It's a fact that women generally prefer to date men taller than them. This blog post goes so far as to call this a form of bigotry, which I suppose it could be--after all, height is a natural part of a person that they cannot control, like race, and if an office manager told the HR team to "only hire people over 6 feet" for any job that doesn't involve stocking high shelves, we'd call that bigotry. Is a woman who says she can only date men taller than her any different than a woman who says she'll only date a man with lighter skin than her, or someone with less Asian ancestry than her? This gets us into a sticky area--first, is bigotry really defined more by whether the trait being discriminated against is one that can be changed? For example, height can't be really changed, but someone could gain or lose weight--and surely, preferring large or petite women doesn't make one a bigot, does it? On the other side of the coin, while no one would defend bigotry on the basis of religion at the workplace (e.g., not hiring Muslims at your business), we tend to tolerate that in dating (e.g., only dating someone who shares your religious values), and religion is something that can be changed at any time. I suppose the bigotry is really best measured by whether the discrimination can be rationalized--that is, arguably a person's religion can make a difference when you are considering a long term mate, but their race shouldn't matter. So where does height fit in?

Congress Still Stupid, News At Eleven

I think it's no coincidence that our political masters have moved the tax filing deadline to mid-April--as far away as possible from Election Day. This is because the last thing these jerks want is for us to be thinking about how much their stupid proposals cost us!

Take this almost ten year project in Afghanistan, which has benefitted our taxpayers to the tune of about nothing. Or the "stimulus" plan of 2009, which "stimulated" me into a fiery rage over nearly a trillion dollars spent just so Congressional clods can go back to their districts and brag about the federal largesse they're spreading around. (Even craven Republicans who voted against the damn thing went home to take credit for the money they steered there!) Take unreformed (and unlikely to ever be reformed) entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, which now pay wealthy seniors out of the tax dollars of the working poor (the payroll tax, unlike the income taxes, hits all incomes equally). But of course the cashier at Wal Mart who's trying to decide whether her family gets heat or new sneakers this year should have to continue to subsidize Aunt Franny's trip to Europe! Don't worry about that changing, the Florida delegation will keep that constant, and you can bet a weasel like Obama will never take a stand on that mess.

The fact is, it's a myth that most Americans object to the amount they pay in taxes each year. When questioned, you see that it isn't so much the percentage of their income that they object to, but rather it's the fact that they don't feel the money's being well spent. Liberals will (rightly) complain about overspending on war and defense, and conservatives will (rightly) complain about domestic spending being out of control. Defense, Social Security and Medicare are collectively a majority of the federal budget, and these are also the sacred cows that no snivelling politician will ever touch. Instead, they promise to eliminate "waste", as if "waste" were an actual line item on the budget (making you wonder why previous Congresses kept voting for "waste"!).

There is, actually, "waste" in the aforementioned sacred cows (apologies to any Hindu readers, but it is an apt metaphor). If our military's scope was more carefully defined, if we weren't maintaining operations overseas at the drop of a hat, if Social Security and Medicare were reformed to provide more a safety net with greater incentives towards thrift, much of the waste in the system would be wrung out.

Would taxes have to go up too? Probably, and definitely if the spending could not be brought down to a low enough level to meet our revenues. But Americans could probably stomach a tax increase a lot more if they had more faith in the clowns handling their tax dollars.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Unsurprising Development in the Duke Lacrosse Case

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Crystal Magnum, the "you'll be asking for your money back" stripper who falsely accused the Duke Lacrosse players of gang rape, ends up accused of murdering some guy. Apparently it's a slippery slope from falsely accusing others of felonies to committing one yourself. My question is why wasn't this woman put in jail for her false accusations in the first place? And where is the apology from the pundits, the prosecutor, and the various Duke faculty members who rushed to judgment on those accusations (yes, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, you shameless race hucksters, that includes you)? Those lacrosse players may have been cads and jerks, but a false rape accusation is abhorrent. No one deserves to risk prison and have their reputation smeared forever simply because some crackhead decides she doesn't like them. And every false claim of rape only makes the public ever more skeptical of the genuine accusations. I'm just surprised this waste of life hasn't accused the Duke water polo team of this latest murder, to be followed by a rush to judgment on the part of racist trash like Sharpton.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Civil Disobediently

Another day, another arrest of a D.C. mayor...of course, this time no crack was involved! (Marion Barry, we hardly knew ye!) Our new mayor, Vince Gray, was arrested during an act of civil disobedience relating to the new budget deal worked out by Congress and the President (with no representation by any D.C. officials, of course) which among other things stripped D.C. of funding that could arguably be used to help pay for abortions. The argument is a fair one--we get no vote in Congress, and now Congress is yet again taking a stab at our local autonomy. Insult, meet injury! More than the lack of Congressional representation--to me, that's less of an issue, because having been represented in Congress when I lived in New York, Virginia and Maine I can say all those crooks are worthless and only care about their big donors anyway--is the fact that we D.C. taxpayers don't get any say in how our tax money gets spent. Whatever you think of abortion, you can agree that it's our business to decide how our tax money funds or doesn't fund it. Why should Delaware get more of a say? No one even lives there! (And don't bring up Joe Biden because he's clearly just a carved wooden log). Still, I don't think having our mayor arrested will make any difference. D.C. residents will only get their voices heard when we start mugging more Congressmen. Don't hurt 'em, though--we're not animals! Just slap 'em around a bit.

What I've Learned From Various Movies

1) From "Road House" I've learned that no one ever wins a fight. Or at least that's what you say to get some lady to sleep with you, because in fact the person who wins the fight is the person who doesn't have their throat ripped out.

2) From "Goldfinger" I've learned that if your enemy is planning to have your ass sawn in half with a laser, it's better to have him present so you can trick him into thinking you know something valuable. Otherwise, his Korean henchmen might not speak English and just go ahead with the lasering.

3) From "Star Wars" I've learned that if the only woman in the universe is related to you, you'd better develop an attraction to Wookies.

4) From "The Godfather" I've learned that if you're an all-powerful mob boss, send someone else out to pick up your goddam oranges.

5) From "Smokey and the Bandit" I've learned that the South has a lot of highways and absolutely no traffic jams. The D.C. area version of that film would have required Bandit and Snowman to drive from Landover to Fairfax and back during rush hour traffic in just three hours. Never happen, Bandit!

6) From "Jaws" I've learned that you're better off sticking with a swimming pool.

7) From "Black Hawk Down" I've learned that had we stayed in Somalia an extra month they would have run out of Somalians.

8) From "300" I've learned that if a hunchback tells you that there's a way around your strong position where the enemy can sneak behind you, you should try to secure that route, or at the very least don't shun the hunchback so he goes and tells your enemy about it. Was Leonidas a total moron???

9) From the "Sixth Sense" I've learned that it's possible to live several months without anyone acknowledging your existence except a ten year old boy and you'll not even notice anything's wrong.

10) From "Full Metal Jacket" I've learned that if the fat guy wants a doughnut, let him have the damned doughnut.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Traffic Madness

The problem with having DC plates on your car is you can't really use the excuse "I'm not from around here" when you get lost on the crazed winding roads of the DC area. Part of the region's road problems stem from the Civil War. See, both the Union and Confederate Armies tended to get a bit invadey around here, so locals responded in the most passive-aggressive way possible--make the road system completely confusing so that no invading armies could find their way anywhere. This is why Arlington Boulevard becomes Fairfax Boulevard, coupled with Lee Highway, and also called Route 50--and WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE SAME ROAD. This is also why West Ox Road exits from said Route 50 are marked "North" and "South" when they clearly run east and west. This is the bitter legacy of the war between the states. Yesterday's commute home was exacerbated by this as well as the fact that nothing is clearly marked. I'm taking the 110 from I-66 towards 395 North, so as to take the 14th street bridge, and for the first time I can remember the 110 is completely jammed (and the I-phone indicates it wills stay jammed, as pure red is all the way to the bridge). I decide to take the first exit, which is Columbia Pike, hoping to find another way to one of the four bridges that cross the Potomac (I don't count the Wilson Bridge because that's bullcrap). Somehow, I end up on Washington Boulevard, and see that I'm approaching Memorial Bridge. Successmanship! Ok, so I cross the bridge, and remember that Constitution is a total mess for the next month or so due to construction and tourons, so I figure head to the right at the Lincoln Memorial and I should be good for Independence Avenue. Or so I thought! Of course, there is no real sign saying where Indy is, and I mistakenly take the first right, onto Rock Creek Parkway going northwest! Eek! I'm about to head into the fancypants part of town, where traffic is the worst! Somehow, I manage to get off of that and back to the circle around the Lincoln, but can't go all the way around and yes goddammit I'm back on Memorial Bridge--heading back to Virginia. Grrrr! Fortunately, bridge traffic was light, and I manage the circle at the other end by the Cemetary, and am back over the bridge towards DC again. This time, manage to get onto Indy, which was done entirely by feel because of course it's not marked at all. A few burst blood vessels later and I'm home. This awful marking of roads and confusing setups makes little sense for a longtime DC person (who admittedly stuck to very basic routes over the years), but how the hell are tourons expected to find their way around?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Money Never Sleeps! It Just Takes Naps.

Last night's film was the original "Wall Street" starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, a corporate maven who is just trying to make companies more efficient and durable. Of course, he gets viciously double-crossed by a conniving sneak named Bud Fox (played by Charlie "Winning!" Sheen, who does his best to not snort an 8-ball while punching the female castmembers). Fox brings Gekko all sorts of ill-gotten information, while kissing up to Gekko, and Gekko mistakenly uses this info to make some terrific stock transactions. This is all during the 1980s when people actually could make money on the market! Gekko of course runs afoul of his protege when he tries to buy out a failing airline so that its assets and employees can be bought up at a premium by its competitors. (In other words, win-win! This is what you're supposed to do with failing companies that can't be turned around) In one laughable scene, the representatives of the various labor entities at the airline actually seem to favor 20% across the board pay cuts in order to keep the airline afloat! Clearly the director, Oliver Stone, has never heard of the Teamsters. Of course, learning that Gekko is planning to break up the dying company instead of wasting millions of investors' cash trying to fruitlessly save it, Fox uses his contacts to drive up the price through rumor, getting Gekko to blow lots of cash trying to buy the stock, then using rumor again to drive the price down, forcing Gekko to sell at a loss to a "white night" investor who agrees to keep the dying company intact. (Let's dispense with the logical problems here. 1) Why would any smart businessman agree to buy the company and keep it intact and lose money down the road, just to get back at Gekko? Emotion is one thing, but if he was an intelligent investor he'd never touch the deal--especially on Bud Fox's suggestion, knowing Fox was a weasel anyway. 2) It never really explains how Fox's rumor mill is able to drive the price up and down so quickly, but let's assume for the sake of the story that he can. 3) Wouldn't some lawyers have a problem with the conflict of interest in that Fox is behind the initial buyout and his father is one of the union reps?) Clearly, we all learn a valuable lesson here: don't trust a sneaky little weasel! Oh, and if you hire your girlfriend to be your interior decorator then your place will look like crap.

Friday, April 8, 2011

All Hail Our Baboon Overlords

I recently read a biography about Lewis "Chesty" Puller, one of the most decorated Marines in U.S. history. It was an inspiring read--and I have to say if I'd read this back in high school there's little doubt I would have gone into the Corps either right before or right after college. The guy was at his natural element in a fight, seeing action in Haiti, Nicaragua, the Pacific in WWII and the Korean War, rising to the ranks of Brigadier General. The guy was the total badass--his best quote was upon learning that his regiment was surrounded during the Korean War: "Terrific--those bastards have us just where we want 'em! Now we can attack in any direction." The guy was an inspiration. But now we live in a 2011 America that is about to see a government shut-down caused by nothing more than each party thinking a shutdown can be better blamed on the other. This shutdown means federal workers--including soldiers--missing paychecks. It means the city of D.C. not getting garbage pickup, or DMV services (as D.C.'s budget is still controlled by Congress, despite the tax dollars all being from D.C. residents' income taxes). Of course, it doesn't mean Congressmen missing any pay, thank heavens. Times like this I think the America that produced a legend like Chesty Puller (who fought a good deal of the war against the Japanese while having chunks of shrapnel stuck in his leg) and beat two superpowers at the same time, and stared down a third right after, and ended slavery in the most violent way possible, and decided it would put some of its people on the moon just to prove it could be done--is that the same America that elected the current boobs? I'm ready to go ahead and replace all 536 of them (House + Senate + President) with a pack of baboons (and I can't stand baboons). It'd accomplish about the same, and probably make less mess.

Friday Thoughts

1) I've noticed when I'm on the elevator with one other person, and then they get off on their floor, and I have the elevator to myself, I automatically move out to the middle of the car as though staking out territory. Even in modern elevators the instincts of animal days take over. Fortunately I don't also try and mark my territory, since our building only has so many elevator cars and I'll have to ride in them again. 2) What is it about buses? We always try and avoid them at all costs on the highway, and god forbid you get stuck behind one in traffic. Of course, this could be because all buses are driven by the insane. 3) You know what word people rarely use anymore? Nonplussed. Probably because no one knows what it means. I'm very plussed about that issue. 4) Has anybody wondered what happened to Bob Dole these days? Or is it just me wondering that? I'm sure he's up to something, that rascal! 5) I'd probably be really good at writing an advice column. Not because I'm good at writing advice, but because I'd answer all questions with directions for how to make delicious sandwiches. Then, the readers might think they wrote in to the wrong column, but at least would be like "I really should try that sandwich" and then they'd have that. 6) I wonder if in China on a cold night they decide to "order in some Chinese" but instead have to just say "let's order in some of our nation's cuisine". Or do they order in some American, and complain about how you're not hungry again for several hours? 7) With the looming government shutdown, it's sad to see all my liberal friends blaming just the Republicans and my conservative friends blaming just the Democrats, as though we shouldn't be holding our own sides to a level of adulthood. It'd be nice to see every voter vow to vote independent next time around but that's just not gonig to happen.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Congress Is Yet Again a Bunch of Creeps

In the face of a possible government shutdown this Friday, it looks like all "nonessential" government functions would be shut down until Congress agrees to pass a budget or continuing resolution allocating funds. This makes sense--after all, the essential jobs should stay running during the interim, where minor things could halt for a while without major impact, like national parks, museums, paying our soldiers . . . Wait, WTF??? So our soldiers, the guys and ladies who are out there hauling muck and carrying weapons to serve what the geniuses Obama and Bush have decided are critical national security goals, because of course otherwise Afghanistan and Libya will team up and send their own Marines to take over the East Coast, you're telling me our FREAKING SOLDIERS might have their pay interrupted because 536 people can't act like adults and pass a stupid budget so things can run while they debate the bigger issues over the coming months??? But hey, it's not all bad! The very members of Congress who are currently screeching like spoiled children and shutting down our government will still be getting paid. After all, this is important since they have to make ends meet (only earning a paltry $174K a year--I'm sure soldiers make TONS more than that), and of course Congressmen are "essential" government workers. Just to remind you how "essential" government workers are, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head three months ago, hospitalized and unable to get to work, vote on legislation, or attend to constituent matters since that time. Notice that not only has no one called for her to resign on the grounds that she cannot perform her job, but she's even being touted for the Senate. Something tells me that a job can't be that "essential" if you can be effectively absent from it for a calendar quarter without anything grinding to a halt. (Not a knock on Giffords, of course, but just an illustration of how much of a joke the job of a politician really is) Well, I for one hope that if this does go down, every soldier and their families remember it well when they vote in November 2012.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Snakes on a Train, for Real This Time!

Let's begin with the fact that this woman thought it was a good idea to bring her pet snake on the subway. Then add a dash of "whoops" and you can imagine what happens next. The Boston transit folks manage to track down the animal (a 3-footer) and return it, but it requires cleanup costs and of course they want to have the owner pay for it--in part, because bringing a motherf--king snake on a motherf--king train is against their motherf--king policy. This hipster (only a hipster would own a snake in a city, it's the rule), who is on "disability" claims she won't pay for the cleanup costs because the transit authorities didn't show her "respect". Let's get a few things out of the way--how come every news article I read about someone on "disability" features a total faker? This gives people on real disability a bad name! I say the disabled rise up (er, pardon the pun) and smash these fakers with their crutches. Second, respect? Lady, you have blue hair and you brought a snake on a train. Your respect quota ran out the minute you thought either of those were good ideas. Third, when I get on a subway I am used to a number of indignities. Loud teenagers, thugs, cell phone talkers, obese seat-fillers--but one thing that would freak my head out would be encountering a large reptile there. And did this goon ever consider that her beloved pet might gin up its natural instincts and strangle a passenger? Someone call the animal shelter...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Duce

As a World War Two buff, I had to watch a documentary last night on Italian Fascism and was struck by how completely pointless was Italy's entry into the war. While most combatants had some logical (if unjustified) reason for going to war--Germany wanting land back that they lost after the first war, Japan having their oil cut off amidst their invasion of China, every other country being in it because they were attacked by one of the first two--it seemed Italy had nothing even approaching a plausible reason to go to war. Mussolini's best argument was that Hitler was going to beat the corrupt democracies, and Italy needed her share of the spoils--even if Italy wasn't strong enough to do much in the war, you couldn't get a seat at the peace table without some war dead. But even if you accept this callous attitude towards your own troops, it's defied by the very reason the Fascists took power in the first place. Italy had entered the First World War (for also very poor reasons--to try and get a bit of land from Austria in the Tyrol region) and performed terribly, losing half a million men and needing to be bailed out by the British and French. As a result, they got a bit of Tyrol, but not nearly as much spoils as they thought they'd deserved after all that sacrifice. This anger and desire for national honor helped fuel the rise of Fascism after that war was over. So, what on earth made Mussolini think he'd somehow get a better deal after the second war--even if Hitler won? Plus, what was Italy hoping to gain--a bit of the Balkans, more of Africa? Was that worth the risk of going to war when you're not ready? And the choices of battlefields made no sense either. Immediately after declaring war in 1940, Mussolini attacks southern France, and despite the French surrendering in record time to the Germans, they still put up enough resistance to the Italians that little was gained. Despite this ominous sign, Italy then sends an ill-equipped army from Libya into Egypt to attack the British. Strike two, they get pummelled! In the middle of this, just for the hell of it, they then attack Greece for no reason. (Seriously, there is no reason for this--no age old quarrel with Greece, no threat from them, not even any natural resources to gain). Even this--Greece, for crying out loud--goes disastrously, and in each case the Germans need to bail out the Italians. And, just in case it wasn't clear enough that his army wasn't ready for prime time, Mussolini sends hundreds of thousands of his troops to Russia to support the Nazi effort there. Because if you can't beat the French, British or even Greeks, surely the Soviets--same guys who were the first to pummel the Wehrmacht--should be an easy mark. And this went as well as you could expect. The tragic aspect of this--aside from the hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers and civilians killed needlessly in the war, not to mention the thousands of Africans killed in the Fascists' colonial efforts--also highlighted the plight of Italian Jews. Unlike the case in Germany, Jews in Italy were more often than not enthusiastic supporters of the Fascists. (Something like one in three Italian Jews was a member of the party) The reason for this was the association of Italian nationalism with the closing of the ghettos and citizenship rights for Jews, as well as the fact that unlike German Nazism, the ideals of Italian Fascism were non-race based and even Mussolini originally rejected Nazi notions of racial superiority. The documentary focused on an Italian Jewish banker from Turin who'd been an early and ardent supporter of the Fascist Party, and stuck by Mussolini up until the partnership with Hitler led Il Duce to pass anti-Semitic laws expelling him (among others) from the party--and when the Germans eventually invaded the northern half of the country, twenty thousand Italian Jews (including this banker) were rounded up and executed by the Nazis. It was pointed out that Mussolini did nothing to stop this--though ultimately one shouldn't expect honor from a notorious thug like that. One does wonder, though, that if Italy had smartly stayed out of the war and kept its distance from Hitler how things might have changed the war itself. Italy, for one, likely would have remained Fascist for a while longer (as Spain did) and would not have lost its colonies for at least a couple decades. Perhaps Gadaffi wouldn't have emerged as he did in the late-'60s, though who knows what might have been the case there. Hitler's troops probably never would have been involved in North Africa or even the Balkans, meaning his timetable for invading Russia might have been several weeks earlier than the June 1941 date, meaning the Germans might have taken Moscow before the autumn rains set in, knocking out Stalin and facing the West with greater strength. But you never know--history's full of just the sort of improbable circumstances that keep you guessing.

Infernal Inferno

Viewing the film "The Towering Inferno" is sort of like being set on fire but without all the laughter. This 1974 epic was typical of the '70s "disaster movie" genre, where a cast of dozens of well-known celebrities are thrust into a story with overwrought plot-lines, and they all have to overcome some sort of major disaster. In the "Poseidon Adventure" Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine have to escape an ocean liner that has capsized. In "Earthquake", Charlton Heston and Victoria Principal have to survive (you guessed it) an earthquake. The "Airport" series involved famous casts on a plane in danger, and finally "The Swarm" involved a killer bee attack. I'm still waiting for a film about an earthquake that capsizes a boat that gets hit by an airplane that caught on fire after being attacked by bees. Fingers crossed! "Inferno" featured a tower built in San Francisco that was supposedly the world's tallest, and a big party in the top floor lounge for all the notables of San Francisco. William Holden is the rich industrialist who built it, Richard Chamberlain is his unscrupulous son-in-law who installed cheap wiring to save a buck, Paul Newman is the architect, Steve McQueen is the fire chief, and several other celebrities make cameos in this. Little do they know, cheap wiring causes fires, and a massive conflagration breaks out on the lower floors! Eek! Hilariously, when the rich industrialist hosting the top-floor party is told of the fire below, he remarks that this really isn't a big deal because it's so many stories below them. See, he's not aware that fire tends to rise. Surely the fire will burn itself out by the time the party is over! And that's not all--everyone, including the rescue workers, continuously take the elevator throughout the fire! Fire safety during the Nixon years just wasn't what it is now. Did I mention O.J. Simpson plays a heroic security guard who dies saving children from the fire? His lawyers could have shown that clip during his murder trial, there would have been not a dry eye in the jury chamber after that! Of course if you watch the scene carefully you see him slash and slash his way through the fire. Fortunately his ill-fitting gloves helped him save a child before his demise. Of course, at the very end of the film--after losing plenty of people and helicopters to the fire and to hilariously ill-conceived rescue attempts--the heroes decide to put the fire out by opening the big water tanks that are on the roof of the building. Er, wait, you mean they had big water tanks up there the whole time and they only wait until the fire has reached the top floor to use them? Did any of these people go to genius school? Because they could have learned a few lessons! Finally, a comment. As in all movies of this type, it's the corporate cost-cutters that are to blame for the disaster. Always putting profits over other people's lives--even if something as simple as using wiring that's up to code would not just prevent a major fire but something as likely as failing an inspection and getting a massive fine. Why do movie producers think that corporations are so cartoonishly evil that they defy the common sense that is better for the corporation in the long run? The reason is simple--the movies are made by people who deal with corporations that produce Hollywood films--the same people who won't bother with original scripts when there's a buck to be made on Transformers 3.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lazy Weekend

The past weekend has been one of creativity and errands, which was just about right considering (a) it was cold out and (b) a lot of stuff needed gettin' done! Friday started at our favorite fancy seafood restaurant, where we sampled all the fine treats de mer (that's French for "we surrender, take what you want") and filled up before dessert could be happening. Back at home, the special lady went through what we had left in our fridge and invented an impromptu "Summer Cocktail" (despite the brisk weather) which consisted of vodak, white cranberry juice, and grenadine. It was glorious! (The next night, we'd improve on this slightly by adding frozen berries, which have both an ice cube and flavoring effect). Fortunately, this caused no hangover because the next morning we had to be at the bank to open our joint checking account in which to deposit the wedding checks, and begin our saving for a house. I'm also sort of counting on DC area homes dropping in value by about 75% to where they might become affordable. Fingers crossed! Shan's attempt to cut back on caffeine had consequences, though, and she needed a serious nap during whcih I finished Band of Brothers and then got the apartment in order. We had a dinner of antipasta, and then started watching "The Towering Inferno" (look to my film review on a later date) which let's just say required several "Summer Coolers" and some bourbon to get through. We were joined mid-way by our Viking friend who was just back from Seattle, so she kept us entertained where the film fell short. In middle of this, we saw the Cherry Blossom fireworks from our balcony. Sunday, of course, was blunch day--the first of our "hosted blunch series" that we hope becomes a trend (since waiting on line at blunch places when you're hungry and hung over? Not fun!) and our friend Jenny hosted this one. We learned to make waffle batter from scratch, and omelets (I'd never done that before), and Shan made cheese grits. And all this just in time to go home for buffalo chilli that was made in the new programmable crock pot out pals got us. Overall, a relaxing, pleasant weekend. Just what was needed before a long week ahead...

Friday, April 1, 2011

That Creep Trump

One of my favorite blogs to read is the incomparable "Barrow Bits", which offers insight about the latest political happenings as well as stock tips. This most recent post addresses a certain "creep" we all know named Donald Trump. Now, Trump is all but announcing he's running for president, because if there's one thing this country needs right now it's a president who went bankrupt in the casino business, is known for ill-advised statements and serial marriages, and has absolutely no political experience whatsoever. Better yet, Trump has come out as a "birther", challenging Obama's citizenship. Really, folks? We're still doing this in 2011? Clearly though the Trump "candidacy" shouldn't be taken seriously. The one thing Trump has been very good at is self-publicity, and making money off his fame. How is this anything more than another stunt to keep up his brand? He's not about to spend two years running around local party meetings in the mid-west, eating corn dogs at the Iowa state fair, attending endless debates with the various also-rans running for the GOP nomination--all just to try and win a lower-paying job, live in worse quarters than he's used to, and have to constantly watch what he says and does since he'd be the leader of the free world. It's just not worth taking seriously. But let's add Trump to the list of underwhelming challengers on the GOP side--Palin, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum--frankly, if this is what the GOP produces in candidates we can pretty much expect another four years of Obama, no matter what happens with the economy.