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!