Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Improvements

I don't watch Oscar telecasts because (a) I'm not in the movie industry and (b) I haven't been lobotomized yet. Five solid hours of anything on television had better involve a car chase, Amazonian kung fu women, and Christopher Walken with a chainsaw. How anyone can sit through bland thank-you speeches, brief, out-of-context film clips, and endless fawning of one celebrity over another is not for me to guess. Apparently for the big awards, "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" did well, but "The King's Speech" cleaned up with both the Best Picture and Best Actor wins. As yet I have seen none of these films and was quite upset when "Vampires Suck" didn't even get nominated.

The win by "The King's Speech" makes sense, according to the tried-and-true formula of how to win at Oscars--British accents, a period piece, a plot of historical importance--this was practically child's play. Not to take away from the film--having not seen it yet, I hear it's good--but I can think of a few ways to improve the Academy Awards.

1) Don't televise it. These things should be privately held functions--just think of the mystique! We only find out how the thing went down the next day when the Academy releases its news to the world.

2) All nominations can only be for films released at least ten years ago. This makes it more like a Hall of Fame, but it ensures that the movies nominated have withstood the test of time. Just think--at the 2009 Academy Awards, they never would have nominated dreck like "Titanic" and "Shakespeare in Love". And a brilliant film like "Memento" would have a shot later as its director, Christopher Nolan, saw his star rise.

3) Combine overly specific categories. For example, "Best Original Screenplay" and "Best Adapted Screenplay" should be combined to "Best Writing". And, since foreign films can compete for Best Picture, there should be no "Best Foreign Film" category. After all, we don't have "Best Comedy Film Involving Pie Fights" or "Best Film Using Dinosaurs."

4) Include new categories such as "Best Scene" and "Best One-Liner" and "Best Ad Lib". Some films that aren't good enough to win Best Picture might still have one great scene or line.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Middle Eastern Unrestfullness

With the mounting upheavel across the middle east, there seem to be three likely scenarios for each country undergoing mass unrest:

1) The regime weathers the storm, by cracking down oppressively on the protesters or by co-opting them with reforms that take the wind from their sails. The U.S. maintains a status quo arrangement with this regime.

2) The regime topples, and is replaced by a more modernist, humane and/or democratic government that placates the populace and improves the society. Hooray, the U.S. now has new friends! And ones that aren't corrupt kingpins sitting on a simmering powder keg.


3) The regime topples, and is replaced by (a) long, painful civil war and chaos, a la Somalia or Algeria, or (b) a vile, radicalized regime that wants to offer its people the best that the tenth century had to offer. Uh oh, the U.S. now has an enemy much crazier and energetic than ever before!


What are policymakers to do? Pledge immediate support, moral, economic and military, for the protesters to try and ingratiate ourselves to them and help them win? Back the status quo regimes if they're friendly to us, even if that means going against our democratic values and backing thugs? We have a long history of backing the wrong horse (Vietnam, pre-Castro Cuba) and creating new headaches for ourselves. We have also sometimes encouraged revolutions that came back to haunt us (Iran in '79). Maybe the solution is the George Costanza solution--do the opposite of our instincts.


So how do we go against our instincts here? Invade Canada. No one will see it coming.


Sorry, Canada, we have nothing against you. We just want your sweet, sweet Molson.

Hookers at Risk

So shifty Senator Harry Reid--a man who only owes his job to the fact that his opponent in the last election was a raging nutjob--has now decided that the best way to improve Nevada's struggling economy is to outlaw prostitution. Normally I'd dismiss out of hand any economic opinions coming from an architect of the 2009 stimulus package (which did a whole lot of not much), but this counterintuitive argument deserves a closer look.

Nevada, as we know, is a state largely dependent on tourism. Tourism, as we know, has been about as profitable as trading in Confederate bonds during this recession, so arguably anything Nevada has going for it that other states don't will do some good towards helping this hurting industry. Would anyone bother with Nevada if it weren't for the gambling, which begets the stage shows, hotels, and related attractions? Would cities like Las Vegas be anything more than a gas station and a Dennys if not for gambling?

Well, related to gambling is the legal prositution existing in the smaller counties (not including Vegas' Clark County). I've never been able to understand why an activity that is otherwise completely legal is suddenly illegal simply because one party is being paid for it. (Bribery isn't an apt comparison because that has more to do with an abuse of power. Unless we decide that sex is power and women are being bribed into abusing their power by having sex with the briber? A very weak argument for outlawing prostitution) The plausible arguments against legal prostitution--that prostitution often involves coercion and abuse of the hookers--hold little bong-water when you consider that when something's legal it can be regulated and inspected. How many prostitutes are afraid to go to the police when they're abused out of concern they'll be arrested for plying their trade? Isn't transparency better?

But Nevada has this loophole, and while the legal prostitution business there is only a small part of their tourist trade, why go out of the way to put hookers and related servicepeople (legal pimps, managers, cleaning staff) out of work? Why force truckers and conventioneers to move from regulated brothels to dirty back alleys?

I am a compromising man, though--I'll consider an argument to outlaw prostitution in Nevada when a different form of prostitution is outlawed in D.C., where 535 hookers of Republican and Democratic origin ply their trade.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Libyan Libido

Ah, Libya--when they're not trying to kill Marty McFly at the Twin Pines mall before he goes back to the future, they're fixing to revolt against their maniac terrorist leader. Let's start with the initial problems with Khadaffi:

1) No one can spell his name. Quadaffi, Khadafi, Cuadaffei, Ghadaffy--apparently, any way you spell it is acceptable. And it's not just an Arab thing--apparenly no one spells "Arafat" as "Erefet" or "bin Laden" as "Ben Ludden" or whatnot. This leads me to believe Khadaffi is just plain difficult. Knock it off, Moammar!

2) He's only a Colonel. That means he doesn't even outrank Sanders. How can he even command his generals, when he's at a lower rank? No wonder his military sucks!

3) He expelled all the country's Italians 40 years ago. So next time you can't get a good slice of pizza in Tripoli, you know who to blame. Way to improve your country, fool!

4) He is guarded by a platoon of karate-trained female bodyguards. Ok, that is kind of neat. Sort of like he got his governing ideas from watching "Dolemite".

But now, we have reports that this nut has ordered armed mercenaries and supporters to open fire on protesters and up this incident to Tiannamen Square levels. (Not that T-Square ever hurt China any). His cabinet is abandoning him, and entire cities in the country are in the hands of rebels. This doesn't look like it will end well! A few thoughts:

1) Khadaffy will have to find somewhere to run to if he gets out of this alive. Saudi Arabia is a possibility, as that's where Idi Amin ran to, and rumors abound that Khadaffe's mother was Jewish and if true, he could go to Israel under their "right of return" laws which would be delicious irony. There's always France, which loves to house scoundrels from Trotsky to the Ayatollah.

2) What is it with former Italian colonies going completely to pot? Somalia, Libya--it's as though the Italians can only leave a legacy of chaos. It's like the French times ten.

3) It would be nice to see the President speak out forcefully to address these protests that are now sweeping the Arab world. Sure, we don't want to make it seem like the protesters are puppets of Uncle Sam, and also we want to be careful not to support uprisings that could lead to anti-American governments. But some general statement of principles could provide a morale boost for those who are putting their lives on the line to topple vile regimes right now.

Beatles Conspiracy Theory

Generally, conspiracy theories can be fun--they challenge an otherwise accepted fact, and as usual, the theorist will have an answer for anything. How do you explain the footage of the moon landing if the landing was faked? Soundstage. How did so many NASA engineers agree to the coverup? Payoffs. And why? Because the government needed a morale boost during Vietnam to show we're winning the Cold War.

Of course, some conspiracy theories border on the offensive, such as Holocaust denial (the Nazi one, I mean), or 9/11 truthers (these also lack adequate justification for WHY these conspiracies would take place--what would the masterminds of staging 9/11 gain that they couldn't have done with a much less risky scheme?). But then every now and again comes a conspiracy theory that is generally lighthearted. I'm talking about the long-running "Paul McCartney died in 1966" theory.

In a nutshell--during the Beatles mid-'60s heyday, Paul McCartney died in a car crash, and the British government was distraught due to the immense amount of tax revenue the Beatlemania industry was bringing in. They paid off everyone involved in the conspiracy--producer George Martin, manager Brian Epstein, the other three members of the Fab Four, Paul's family--and hired a convincing look-alike to fill in for Paul. The band survived a few more successful years before splitting into successful solo acts. The fact that they had pretty much stopped touring in 1966 lends credence to the theory.

And the clues--oh, the clues! In the link above, it points to several hints on album covers and in songs that the other members of the Beatles put out various clues that Paul had died. Perhaps the most well-known of the clues is the "Abbey Road" album cover--the Four respresenting key parts of a McCartney funeral: John dressed as a preacher, Ringo as undertaker, George as gravedigger, Paul in formal suit and shoeless as corpse (apparently corpses were buried barefoot?) and the car license plate reading "28 IF" meaning Paul would be 28 then if he were alive. It takes a sinister turn when the theory supposes that John Lennon was killed in 1980 by a man brainwashed by British intelligence because John was going to reveal the truth.

However, the theory has some holes--why, if this were such an important, airtight conspiracy, would the Beatles risk giving it away by sending out clues? Surely if some fans could pick up the clues, there was a good risk that vigilant MI5 agents would as well--especially since the agents were looking specifically for any leaks. Also, wouldn't the British government know there's always a chance Beatlemania could fade, and the death of a beloved performer could if anything lead to more tribute concerts and album sales? If the other Beatles could go on recording with an imposter, surely they could go on as a trio (or with a new member). Also, to find a person who could look, act and SOUND exactly like Paul McCartney? Sort of improbable, particularly when fronting a band as well known and followed as the Beatles at the time. The "new" Paul would not just be filling in, after all, but performing key hits for the band for the next three years and embarking on a successful solo career.

So what of the clues? I think if there's any conspiracy, this was a conspiracy by the band or its management to give out a hint that there was a conspiracy, partly to have fun with their fans and partly to keep stoking public interest in the band. After all, the "Paul is Dead" theory has been a key part of Beatles lore since the late '60s and a playful joke with their most dilgent fans is certainly in the character of the Fab Four.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Birdemic!

I have reviewed a number of terrible films in my time--with one taking particular precedence over others in the scale of one to awful--but we have a new contender in the category of "worst ever". Last night, I had the pleasure of watching "Birdemic: Shock and Terror".

Now, when you first hear the word "Birdemic" you may be thinking that you're about to see an homage to Hitchcock, and with the improvements on special effects over the past fifty years it should be better than ever. You might expect some clever writing, competent acting, and direction that keeps you in the story and at the edge of your seat at the same time.

What you get instead is a disaster that appears to have cost about the same amount as some kid could make in a summer job delivering newspapers. The film takes about 45 minutes to get to the real story, instead building up this stalker-esque "romance" between the two leads, with dialogue that appears to have been read directly off of note cards on the very first take. While this couple meets, dates, and ends up in bed together fully clothed, there are cuts to a newscaster who appears to be working in a studio our of 1970s Russia, who constantly reports on effects of global warming. See, in case you're not very bright--and therefore the target audience for "Birdemic"--you might miss the subtle as a sledgehammer allusion to the fact that the impending bird attacks are caused by global warming. Why Al Gore left this film out of his own presentation is anyone's guess.

So just when you're about to shut off the TV due to really not giving a rat's ass about the lead couple, the birds begin attacking. How do you know they're attacking? Well, first you hear screeching in the distance, and then you see some cartoon birds superimposed on the film and the "actors" trying to react to these things. Here's some clips. Try not to be scared.

What could be scarier than being attacked by cartoon birds? Oh, I don't know, maybe ANYTHING??? What baffles me is that James Nguyen, the "director" (which somehow implies that he's responsible for this mess) tried to play this off as a straight horror film. He might have been better off just pretending that these were invisible birds, rather than hoping that animated birds were going to scare his audience. The only thing missing was a statement at the end of the film that says "no cartoon birds were hurt while making this picture".

Even scarier? There's apparently a sequel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Budget Nuttery

If there's one thing you're hearing about in the news right now--besides the upheaval across the Arab world and Michelle Obama trying to breast-feed Americans--it's the constant budget wars between the GOP and Democrats. If both sides are correct--and of course they should be!--this is because Republicans are trying to starve poor people and Democrats are busy trying to pay for a socialist state.

Of course, if you're not a meathead, then you'll recognize that our problems really can be boiled down into one sentence:

Americans want more government than they're willing to pay for.

That's really it. Years of Republicans in charge have shown us that no one will dare make serious spending cuts in the three sacred cows (defense, social security, medicare) and the Democrats for their part are scared to suggest significant tax increases--at most, they'll limit the higher taxes to the rich which won't raise enough revenue (and even then, with lopsided control of Congress and the White House, they couldn't even let the current tax rates lapse to the Clinton-era rates--which procedurally is MUCH easier to do than actually pass a tax increase, since they'd have to do nothing to accomplish this). In a way, you could say that both parties are representing the will of the people. After all, deficits are everyone and no one's problem, but a rise in your taxes or a cut in your benefits are your individual problem, and you'll be quite pissed if it happens.

Same thing at the state level. Wisconsin has evolved into a farce, with anti-GOP protesters forgetting the "new era of civility" in politics (it is once again acceptable to portray a politician with crosshairs over his face!), Democratic lawmakers skipping town to avoid the vote (great message that sends!) and Republicans unwilling to compromise over any of this. But you know what? Maybe this is all for the best. If they can't do anything useful, at least they can entertain.

In the meantime, we should all think about what countries we want to be citizens of when this one collapses.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Damn Spiders

Having been long a fighter in the war against spiders, I can appreciate this brilliant, eye-opening article. Spiders are our ancient mortal enemy, and it is only through evolutionary luck that we evolved to be bigger than them (though certain spiders in Brazil have been coming close. Which is proof of another theory I have, that Brazilians have to be completely bonkers to share a country with spiders big enough to eat birds). It is due to my understanding of the spider menace that I have established my "jungle rule"--actually, it's far too serious for a rule. It's more of a "jungle commandment". That is, I never enter a jungle without a working flamethrower just in case I see a spider the size of a dog.

As the article notes, many hippies have tried to convince us that spiders are our friends, since they kill lots of other pests. Sure, I guess, until you consider that ever since we invented bug zappers we don't need these eight-legged menaces. When's the last time you walked into a web weaved by a bug zapper? When's the last time a bug zapper tried crawling up your leg? Answer that one, hippies!

But don't just take my word for it--notice that every place where large spiders are part of the natural habitat leads to a higher increase of crazy people:

1) Brazil. The presence of giant spiders has turned Brazilians into a nation of soccer-loving forest-burners.

2) Rwanda. The giant spiders may not have directly caused their ethnic cleansing, but I'm sure they didn't help matters.

3) India. That poor country has enough other crap to deal with, giant spiders too? Unfair!

4) Texas. They're all crazier in Texas! Comes from having to stomp tarantulas all day long.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts on Language

1) I'm going to start using the expression "that depends on whose ox is being gored" all the time, regardless of context. Somehow the idea of a large draft animal being stabbed will make people overlook the silliness of my arguments.

2) I'm also going to start saying "for all intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents and purposes" just to see what sort of nerd will correct me. Then when they correct me I'll accuse them of stabbing Al Gore with an ox.

3) There's a clip from "Under Siege"--the Steven Seagal masterpiece--where Tommy Lee Jones tarnishes his Oscar-winning credibility (yes, he had won an Oscar before that) with the line "This is not the work of a cook." While Jones was questioning whether one of his cohorts could have been expertly murdered by a mere cook, I think that line would also work well every time you're in a restaurant and get a bad meal.

4) "This is not the work of a dry cleaner" would also work well if they screw up your shirts. Even more so if the dry cleaner messed up your shirts while killing some bad guys.

5) If someone tries to be clever by saying "What sort of person doesn't know what 'rhetorical' means?" then you should really go ahead and answer them just to ruin their clever moment.

6) It just occurred to me that if Al Gore got stabbed by an ox it would probably be tragic enough that no one would make some pun about whose Gore got oxed. But if Richard Gere was the owner of the ox, things would get even freakier.

7) Just once I'd like to see a football coach ask his players for 110% and then one of the players get all nerdy and say "110 percent? Not possible, can't compute!" and then go into a fake convulsion on the ground.

8) The insipid expression "don't hate the player, hate the game!" should really be taken from our vocabulary and shot. But, if you use that expression when you're caught embezzling, that should at least get a standing ovation from the jury.

9) The expression "you can't fix stupid!" takes on a whole different meaning when "Stupid" is the name of your dog, and you're trying to keep him from impregnating other dogs.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders, RIP

Sad but not unexpected news that longtime bookseller Borders is filing for bankruptcy. That's going to be one fewer place that I can go to the bathroom when I'm walking through town (good thing for the Eastern Market, and Smithsonian museums, neither of which makes you "ask for the key from the barista" before you use theirs). Borders--like its doppelganger, Barnes & Noble--also served a useful function as a place to peruse through books that you were going to end up buying on Amazon or check out from the library. None of these uses, however, translates into sales that help the bookseller.

One way to look at this is that like video stores, booksellers are victims of new technology. Four dollars to rent a movie for a couple nights seems a high price (and inconvenient!) compared to live streaming or the Netflix mail order model, and buying full price books at the store has the same flaw. Online purchases are usually cheaper and don't involve lugging books around--and of course the much cheaper used bookstores make it hard to justify paying many multiples of the used book price for brand new. (Yes, used book stores mean running into hippies, but once you get used to the smell of patchouli and Green Party activism they're fine people) I think the only time I ever shopped at major booksellers is when I'm buying a gift, and since my friends are mostly illiterates that doesn't amount to much.

But there's another reason to lament the end of the major bookstores--these places tend to anchor a neighborhood. What do you usually see near a bookstore? A coffee place, restaurant, gallery--the sort of places that stabilize a neighborhood and provide needed life during the day and weekends (banks generally do nothing for neighborhoods outside of the M-F 8AM-4PM hours, and pawn shops generally attract fencers of stolen goods). What will take the place of the large bookseller in the various neighborhoods?

Gunga Din

Last night's film was the 1939 classic "Gunga Din" with Douglas Fairbanks and Cary Grant, playing British soldiers in late-1800s India. The film was based on a Rudyard Kipling poem, so you could imagine it portrayed the colonizers as good guys and the rebels as villains. The title character (played by a Russian Jewish immigrant, Sam Jaffee) is an Indian who wants to become a soldier in the British army, and tags along with the troops and befriends them. There's a sub-plot about one of the soldiers wanting to leave the service and get married--ha, good luck, dude! Not while there's a rebellion going on!--but ultimately this hinges on Gunga Din sacrificing his life to save the British from a massive ambush.

While the film was well done, I was struck by how dated it was--and not because it was a period piece. Keep in mind, in 1939 India was still a British colony and Gandhi would have to wait a full 45 years to get his own motion picture. And while the white folks playing Indians manage to avoid the uglier stereotypes--yes I'm looking at you, Apu from the Simpsons!--there is still the simplicity of the roles of good and subservient and rotten and rebellious. Gunga Din is a good guy because he's loyal to his colonial masters, and the bad guys aren't just trying to unshackle colonial oppression but rather are looking to conquer India through fear and murder.

Could this film be re-made in 2011? Perhaps, though we'd see a lot more of the obligatory "British troops questioning why they're in India" and "Indians showing weariness with their colonial status" and "random dance numbers like Slumdog Millionaire". Here's how I think some modern directors would re-do Gunga Din:

1) Michael Bay would feature gratuitous explosions and big-breasted women running around to the extent the viewer will wonder "isn't this supposed to be the 1800s?"

2) Martin Scorcese would move the action to 1960s Brooklyn, with Gunga DiNapoli as a young tough who wants to join the Gambinos, and saves them from the cops at the last minute. "You're a better mook than this guy, Gunga DiNapoli" would be the immortal line.

3) Eli Roth would basically have the whole film focus on the torture scene.

4) Quentin Tarantino would have Gunga Din spend a good deal of time eating some baked dessert, while a seductress waggles her bare feet in his face and they have a long discussion about cereal that was popular in the early '70s and films that were popular in Germany.

5) Mel Brooks would give Gunga Din a Yiddish accent and work a pie fight into the film. Dom DeLuise footage would somehow find its way in as well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whoopi Is So Getting a Swirly

It's a pretty well-known fact that Whoopi Goldberg is a worthless idiot. But now, she has taken a shot at the Gray Lady herself (by which I mean the New York Times, not Dame Judi Densch, who by the way eats bits of Whoopi Goldberg in her cereal each morning because you DON'T SCREW WITH THE DENSCH!). Apparently, she got all mad that the Times wrote an article about black Oscar winners, and didn't mention Whoopi specifically.

Okay, first of all, far better black actors have won the Oscar--Denzel Washington won twice, and the only way he would have done a better job in "Training Day" would be if he were to have given Ethan Hawke a swirly. (Notably, Sidney Poitier managed to win the Oscar back in the '60s for giving Rod Steiger a swirly. Great acting coaches like Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler have taught us that there is no way to prove your acting prowess better than shoving someone's head in a toilet and flushing. And . . . scene.)

Second of all, really, Whoopi? You win an Oscar for playing a role reminiscent of Steppin Fetchit in the film "Ghost", and get the award because who knows why, and you think you deserve some special mention? If Sidney Poitier was alive today, he'd give you a swirly.

Note: Sidney Poitier is in fact alive. Whoopi had best steer clear of any toilets.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Obama is a Citizen.

This just in--Speaker of the House (and most powerful Republican in Washington) John Boehner has asserted that he believes President Obama is a U.S. Citizen. So it's finally come to a point that Boehner even has to address this question. Will that be enough to convince the birthers that this wasn't some elaborate cover-up concocted by Hawaiian officials?

Probably not. The birthers, simply, are nuts. Having my own criticisms of the President I have been sympathetic to many of his other critics--Tea Partiers, libertarians, that guy on the subway--even where we won't agree on other things. But any Obama critic with an ounce of sanity should stay far, far away from the birther nuts.

The birther theory goes like this--Barack Obama, who may or may not be a Muslim despite being a longtime member of a Christian church, was actually born overseas (maybe in Kenya, maybe in Indonesia, depending on which birther you ask). Because this would render him ineligible for the presidency, his poltiical allies in Hawaii faked a birth certificate to claim he was born there. Once the coverup is exposed, he would resign in disgrace and bring us to a bright wonderful world of President Joe Biden.

(As an aside, I wondered this during the Clinton impeachment of the late '90s--do Republicans in Congress really want to vote a lame-duck Bill Clinton out of office which would make Al Gore the President and give him a bigger edge in the 2000 election? Did anyone think this through???)

Here's two good reasons why this very question should be dismissed:

1) The Secret Service does background checks before the President takes office. If there was anything inadequate in his eligibility to take office, they would have discovered it as they have better resources and access than the birthers do. I'll accept that the Secret Service--the George W Bush Secret Service--was not in on some Obama conspiracy.

2) Lest we forget, Obama won the Democratic nomination after a brutal, long, dragged out fight with Hillary Clinton who was well funded and well willing to dig up dirt to destroy Obama. Her camp initiated the "secret Muslim" theme and the "pals around with terrorists" theme. If there was anything solid in this "fake birth certificate" theory, Hillary and her team would have used it back then.

So if there's nothing to this "Obama not being a citizen" theory, what is left for disqualifying him from the presidency? There are still a few avenues left:

a) Obama is not actually 35 years old or older. Sure, we have the dates he graduated college and law school, but he easily could have entered at a young age, Doogie Howser style. And friends and family members who remember him being alive pre-1974 could easily have been duped with a "fake Barack" secret older brother!

b) Obama did not live in this country for 14 years. It can be demonstrated that during his years at Harvard he was actually commuting each day from the Kenyan consulate, where he rented a room, and that he flew to his jobs in Chicago from a cabin he got a great deal on. A cabin in Ontario! It had to be a hell of a great deal, since he needed to spend quite a bit on helicopter flights to work.

c) Hawaii was never actually ratified as a state or even a territory of the U.S., since the Congress at the time of ratification was not using their official gavel. So even with this birth certificate, it does Obama no good.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dating Without Drinking

Everyone knows that one of the two biggest reasons to drink alchohol is to meet people of the opposite sex. (The other reason is to dull the pain of finding out your kid is choosing to major in Art History at that college for which you're paying $25K a semester) Based on that, this article struck a chord--the author decided to give up drinking due to the excessive hangovers and found that it creates a lot more awkwardness while dating than he'd imagined. Clearly, two drunken adults pawing each other is one thing, but a sober guy picking up bar sluts has a certain predatory sound to it.

Of course, there's also the whole "nurse one drink over the night" strategy, but that's a good way to not enjoy your beer/wine/Wild Turkey. After all, nothing good should ever be chugged but nothing good should ever be left to go stale in your glass either.

Where should a single dude go if he wants to meet women sober? There are some basic rules:

1) The zoo. Anyone asking you where your drink is when you're at the zoo is definitely not your friend! In fact, such a person may have deep problems and be in serious need of help.

2) The bus. You know what women love? When a guy sitting next to them on the bus starts chatting her up so she can't escape easily. One person's "trapped" is another person's "cozy".

3) Laundromat. Wait, have you ever been to a laundromat? Scratch that one.

4) Bookstore. You can try this, but be careful not to have a giant cliche fall on you.

5) Coffee house. Just pretend your latte is already "Irished up". A good way to make this convincing is to not wear pants.

6) Street corners. Most people think women don't like being whistled at when they're on their way to their business. However, construction workers and day laborers keep on doing it. This leads to the conclusion that it must work sometimes.

7) The theatre. The risk here is that any woman you try to pick up at the theatre is going to make you her shopping buddy. Danger, Will Robinson!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt Burning

It's becoming pretty clear that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is going to resign soon, as the protests in Cairo don't seem to be letting up and no half measures will placate the crowds. Even ruthless dictators--and I suppose dictators didn't get their jobs by being all sweetness and sunshine, with the possible exception of President For Life Generalissimo Francois Sanchez Huggiepie who won control of Portugal for that brief crazy period in the '70s due to the effect of far too much disco music and cocaine in the country--will balk at having to mow down thousands of protesters to keep power, particularly where this will--surprise!--lead to more protests, more killing, and maybe a military unwilling to carry out such orders on their own people. Mubarak, it seems, is in an untenable position.

But then, is that really such a bad thing from his perspective? He's a longtime U.S. ally, so one could think that he could retire peacefully in fabulous wealth in Vegas or somewhere, being all wistful about losing power and trying to console himself with his billions of dollars and hookers and cocaine (as I imagine it went for the Shah before he got sick). Even if he weren't welcome in the U.S., there's always France which seems to have provided a haven for everyone ranging from Trotsky to the Ayatollah Khomeini to Jerry Lewis.

Mubarak might be genuinely concerned for his country--after all, even dictators often rationalize to themselves that they're holding power solely to prevent a worse outcome for their people, and if only everyone would do EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE TOLD then everything would be nice and sweet. Iran may have had it bad under the Shah, but the gang that replaced him proved far worse. Mubarak could be thinking that his leaving would put some gang of dangerous radicals in charge, who would do something stupid and start war with Israel (been there, done that, got asses kicked, FOUR times, thank you very much) or adopt an economic model akin to those GDP powerhouses, Syria and Pakistan. But then, there's really nothing Mubarak can do about that--if he wanted to manage a peaceful transition to stable, non-crazy rule, the time to have acted was a while ago. Now that he's leaving under duress, his best hope is getting his friends and loyalists out.

What should the U.S. do about this? How about, for a change, NOTHING?? Not everything in the world has to be our business. If some new gang in Egypt tries attacking Israel, they'll learn quick what the business end of a Galil assault rifle looks like. If they go so far as try to hatch terrorist plots against us, we can go to town on them. But maybe right now it'd be nice not to be seen as responsible for every regime that comes and goes over there, and taking along with it the blame for all of it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Redrawing State Lines

I've often complained that the various states in this country have been poorly divided up. Clearly there's no need for both a North and South Dakota, and Rochester, New York has no business being in the same state as Brooklyn. But how best to solve this connundrum, which is clearly the most pressing issue of our time?

1) New England needs to be melded into one state--New New England. The mix of husky Mainers, granola hippie Vermonters, New Hampshire anarchists, Massholian dilletantes, slick Rhode Islanders and Connecticut bluebloods can get along well enough to share one state government. I even have their new state motto: "How you like them apples?" Sadly that'll be the most well known New New England quote a few decades from now.

2) The state of New York should consist of current NYC, plus half of Long Island, northern half of Jersey, and all of current New York state south of Albany. I'm basing this on where you can get good pizza and genuine rudeness. The rest of Long Island can be a territory like Samoa.

3) The remainder of Jersey can join Delaware and eastern Maryland as well as Philadelphia and its suburbs, to make a cheesesteak and crabcake filled neighbor called Fuggetaboutit.

4) Upstate New York joins the rest of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and all of Ohio to form a sports-crazed community of hunters who don't care a damn what people in NYC or New New England think. This state will be called "Steel Coal Gunsland."

5) Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee and southern Virginia will all be one state, called "South Gunsland." They will have a friendly rivalry with Steel Coal Gunsland over college football teams and who has more accidental gun deaths per square mile. Both of course will be closely contested by Republicans and greatly feared by Democrats. The rest of Florida will be a territory like Samoa and Long Island.

6) Chicago will be its own state, called "Corruption." Congress will bribe the state legislature of Corruption every year in order to get them to keep that name. Technically this isn't irony, but pretty neat.

7) Indiana, the rest of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas and Minnesota will merge to form "West Flyover." There is no East Flyover, but we lived with a West Virginia for a long time without an East Virginia (or an "Old Jersey" for that matter) so this should be fine.

8) Michigan we will try and give back to Canada, hoping they don't realize that they never had Michigan in the first place. Shhh...

9) The Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado will form "Rocky" because of the Rocky Mountains. The state legislature of Rocky will spend most of its time sending the National Guard to disarm various illegal militias sprouting up everywhere, and kicking Hollywood pinkos out of Aspen.

10) Nevada, Utah, and Arizona will merge to form Rocky II.

11) Texas swallows up Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico because that's just the sort of thing the biggest kid on the block will do. They'll still be called Texas, but they'll be even crazier.

12) California will merge with Oregon and Washington to form "Pacific Cannabisland." My hope is that all those hippies on the West Coast unite and put down their bongos long enough to fully legalize pot. Sadly they will probably also tax themselves out of existence.

13) Alaska and Hawaii will go back to becoming territories. We gave them a chance and they blew it.

14) You probably noticed that Kentucky has been left alone. They know what they did.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lessons Learned From Bachelor Party Weekend

1) Whether you suffer a bad hangover is very closely correlated with the quality of the booze you drink.

2) Airlines are relentless in their ability to find new ways to take any dignity out of air travel.

3) In a group that is mostly pale skinned, it is almost blinding to see them at the pool.

4) There is nothing a guy with a young child enjoys more than a couple days break from that child.

5) It is only when you get to the airport with two hours to spare that you will breeze through security.

6) It is only a matter of so many drinks before various members of the group will start coming up with business ideas. Another couple days and we would have had to draw up contracts.

7) Bourbon is really one of those things that should never come in "black cherry" flavor.

8) It is a weekend like this that reminds you of how fortunate it is to have a great group of friends.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snyder.....Damn Snyder

Just in case you didn't already think Dan Snyder is a tool, he's now filed suit against Washington City Paper for damaging his reputation with an article from several months ago, and is threatening to "go the distance" in the litigation and even has gone as far as accusing the paper of anti-Semitism for depicting him with devil horns in their photo. Snyder is apparently Jewish, which a lot of people probably aren't aware of because most Jews aren't about to go around claiming him as one of theirs the way they will with Paul Newman, Wynona Ryder, and that chick from Veruca Salt. Snyder falls into the category of "oh geez, let's hope people don't realize he's one of us Jews", sort of like Bernie Madoff, the Son of Sam, or the NBC president that fired Conan O'Brien. (We Italians are sympathetic--we'd love to be able to disclaim the Jersey Shore gang)

First, this is nonsense--really, if modern anti-Semitism has been reduced to a silly "devil-horns" photo of a person who happens to be Jewish, then I guess we've come a long way from the days of pogroms. Snyder's team should be ashamed to throw around swill like that--it's an insult to those who actually do suffer vitriolic attacks based on their ethnicity.

Second, again, what a tool. The City Paper article--you can see it here--was from November, and didn't get much press. (City Paper, for those of you outside of DC, is like Village Voice--sort of underground-ish, good readership but not exactly CNN) Now, by filing suit against an alternative weekly, Snyder is (a) providing more press for the original article, which is now linked via Washington Post among other far more widely read media outlets, and (b) doing far further damage to his reputation as a rich, thin-skinned bully than the article possibly could have done.

This guy also apparently has a public relations team. If they're working for free, they're overpaid.

Super Bowled

Well, the Super Bowl is only a few days away, and legions of fans in the greater Pittsburgh area (which interestingly includes D.C., which apparently has no football team of its own) and the greater Chicago area are ready to face off in a test of wills. Does steel trump stockyards? We shall see! But no grudge match is complete without making it interesting--I'm talking about bets! Here's my picks:

1) First stupid thing said by a TV commentator--I'm going to go with someone pointing out the fact that this is the first Super Bowl where neither team has cheerleaders. Extra points if this leads to an in depth discussion of sexism in the NFL.

2) Best commercial of the evening--It'll have to be a commercial for Pepsi. They're just due.

3) Most talked about commercial that doesn't actually help sell the product--remember the GoDaddy ads with the girl who had a nipple slip? I think this year it'll be an ad that features Sarah Palin shooting a congresswoman in the head. What will they be selling? Does it really matter?

4) Biggest example of some disaster that we all should have seen coming--Troy Polamalu having his long dreadlocks ripped off by an opposing player. I don't remember anyone ripping off Johnny Unitas' dreadlocks. In my day, onion in my belt, uphill both ways, get off my lawn...

5) Final Score--the Steelers will collectively walk away with $40 million in celebrity endorsements, and the Bears will wind up with about $15 million.

6) Most annoying person at the Super Bowl Party--the one who complains that we're missing the Get Smart marathon on TBS.

7) Greatest hero at the Super Bowl--the guy who stays sober long enough to pick up more ice and some goldfish crackers since we're running low.

8) Reason this will be the best Super Bowl ever--because I'll be watching it with the gang in Miami.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Exorcise This

Watching a bunch of exorcism movies has taught me a great deal--namely, that the film that started the craze back in 1973--"The Exorcist"--was pretty much the best of the bunch and none of the others would be able to hold a candle to it. I also learned that demons prefer young women, they have foul mouths, and they spend an unnatural amount of time vomiting. In short, demons are basically teenage boys.

While the exorcists of the films have not thought to fight the demon with distracting video games and beer, I think I'd make a pretty good exorcist for the following reasons:

1) I have a much fouler tongue than any demon. Think you can faze me with that dirty talk, you young punk? I used to hang around gas stations--you're not ready for my level of profanity.

2) Once restrained to the bedposts, the girl that the demon possesses is basically confined to the room and unable to do much except maybe raise the bed a bit. Ooh, scary, the demon can basically do what a coin-operated vibrator bed can do in the cheaper motels. Yawn!

3) I can wear a smock in case of projectile vomit. In fact, I might just suprise the demon by barfing on it myself! Then I'd be like "sorry dude, but the sight of vomit makes me sick, and I just had a LOT of chilli..."

4) I'd use the opportunity to ask some pressing questions, such as what will be the final score in the Super Bowl? If the devil is stuck in some girl, how can he be out causing floods and stuff? Is God really all that cool, or is he sort of hyped?

5) When reciting the various prayers and incantations, I'd slip in some dirty jokes to see if the devil can pick up on that.

6) I'm very empathetic, and maybe the devil just needs a friendly ear. We might even have a psychological breakthrough, where he realizes that all along, we was only possessing....himself.

7) I can try and trick the devil into getting into an empty bottle because "there's totally awesome souls in there that he's gotta check out" and once he gets in there just cork it up. Then put a label on the bottle reading "devil inside, literally, do not try to drink or open you jive fool" and put it on a shelf where I can only assume no one will ever get curious and open the damn thing.

8) I can do that thing where everything the devil says I repeat back. It gets annoying real quick and I'll bet the devil is no exception.