Monday, April 30, 2012

Observations About Las Vegas

1) Every single thing you try to do in Vegas requires walking through disorienting cavernous rooms where you have to pass at least twenty betting tables.  The idea here is you're saying to yourself "I really need to find the front desk to ask about oh screw it I'll plop down $20 on red."  It's particularly annoying trying to find something on the Strip when you don't gamble.

2) People will drag their toddlers around on the Strip after midnight.  Apparently this is a thing.

3) It's very thoughtful of all the young women who dress like hookers so that the vice cops won't be able to spot the actual hookers and hassle them.  (Of course, with prostitution legal outside of Vegas, one wonders if that competition makes it harder for Vegas hookers?)

4) You can still function in Las Vegas when you've been awake for 24 hours.  Not function well, but function nonetheless.

5) Despite a mind-boggling long line for taxis at the airport, they handle it with an efficiency and order that should be emulated at airports around the world.

6) Apparently it's acceptable for sidewalks to just end at a wall, requiring you to go up escalators into casinos, past several gambling tables, then back out again at the sidewalk on the other side of the street.  All this to try and fleece a few more gamblers?  What do you expect in a city founded by the Mafia?

7) The pools are pretty terrific and would have been more so if I were drinking beer.

8) Don't go there if you suffer from epilepsy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tips for Arguing Like an Idiot

It's never a good idea to debate politics on the Internet--this brilliant modern form of media is really best for sharing recipes and arguing about whether New York Pizza is better than Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (which is a trick question, because Chicago Style is really a pot pie and not a pizza at all).  But there's no better way of finding out that discussions over the issues of the day can lead to straw man arguments, ad hominems, and reducti ad absurdem.  Here are some examples of how the Internet Idiot will argue politics with you:

1) When my guy does it, it's okay, when your guy does it, it's bad because it's different even if it really isn't.  Obama doing something playful and silly (like "slow jamming" the news)?  He's either a down to earth guy with a good sense of humor or he's denigrating his office, depending on who you're asking.  And quite likely that same person will see it the opposite way if it were George Bush doing the equivalently silly thing.

2) You want government more involved in some aspect of the economy?  Why not move to Soviet Russia, if it still existed?  You want less government?  How about lawless Somalia?  You want the police to have more leeway?  Too bad you couldn't live in Nazi Germany!  Clearly, those extremes are all that exist in the world of the Internet Idiot!  Never mind that the difference between Democrats and Republicans these days are pretty minor by world historical standards.

3) If you're not a woman, you're not entitled to an opinion on women's issues (abortion, etc.).  If you haven't served in the military, anything you have to say about war is invalid.  If you don't run a business, your opinion on economic matters is clearly out of your depth.  Never mind that all of these issues affect society at large as well as all individuals living in it.  NOTE: this is not the same as pointing out that as "X" person you have firsthand perspective on something (a soldier who has experienced war, a woman who has gone through pregnancy) which merits added consideration.  My objection is to the idea of arguing with who someone IS rather than the actual argument they're making.

4) Related to 3), the old ad hominem--"you must think that because you're a racist/commie/richperson/parasite".  Reduce the person you're arguing with to a person unworthy of an arguing partner, and you'll never have to deal with the actual point they're making.

5) Lastly, the idea that someone could disagree with you and at the same time not be (a) rotten or (b) stupid should be discarded immediately.  The Internet Idiot is incapable of acknowledging that there may be other perspectives that while incorrect are not stupid or evil.  After all, none of the above can work if you actually respect the points that you're arguing with.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Selling Booze to Minors is a Serious Matter! Particularly if You're an Idiot.

If this story doesn't boil your potatoes, then you have no soul.  A clerk at a bodega (that's small corner shop for those of you squares!) was recently busted for selling Smirnoff Ice to a minor who happened to be an 18-year old auxiliary police officer.  (I'm guessing that's sort of like junior cops?)  The twist--the security camera shows that the clerk actually refused to sell the booze!  And of course the clerk, likely not the sort of moneybags who can afford a decent lawyer, pled guilty in order to avoid jail time.  There are many levels of outrage here:

1) Smirnoff Ice?  Really?  They still sell that crap?  If I were the clerk, I would have told the buyer to go home and hang his head in shame over such a purchase!  Or maybe suggest buying something less embarrassing, like a magazine for fans of tentacle porn.

2) A criminial justice system that goes ahead with convictions without checking things like oh I don't know SECURITY CAMERAS is a very broken system indeed.  We're not talking about expensive forensic analysis and expert witnesses here for crying out loud.

3) Why on earth are we wasting police resources trying to prosecute sales of booze to 18 year olds, who are old enough to go to war and be tried as adults?  An unjust and stupid law promulgated by the sort of morons who can't control their own kids so they want to make life difficult for everyone else, sure--but the cops really have nothing better to do?  I guess New York must have finally run out of murders and rapes.

I for one think a proper and measured response to this outrage would be to storm the courthouse with pitchforks and torches.  Of course, in the People's Republic of New York it's probably illegal to buy those too.

Good Lord This Thing Exists

At some point, a genius working at Pizza Hut Corporation was fretting over sagging sales numbers and went to drown their sorrows at the local Steak n' Shake.  While eating a delicious burger, there came the epiphany--why not combine one thing that's delicious (pizza) with another (cheeseburgers)? 

And so we have this

Future historians will try and determine exactly when the United States went from being an all-powerful empire that could defeat the forces of Fascism, outlast Colonialism and Communism, land on the first celestial body, and create great TV shows like Mannix, to descend into sad decadent filth.  We now need to make airplane seats bigger, larger cupholders for our cars, and motorized chairs that are not solely used by the injured or crippled.  There will be some choices as to where the turning point was:

1) The nomination of Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidency by a major poltiical party.

2) The launching of a television drama called "Supertrain" that is actually about a super train.

3) The invention of a pizza that is made of cheeseburgers.

Of course, this is just the latest revolution in fusion cuisine--the mix of "Italian" and "German" foods is not really weirder than going to a restaurant that combines Thai and Chinese.  However, if Pizza Hut makes cheeseburgers as well as they make pizza, I'll have to pass on this one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Things I'd Like to See in Time Travel Movies

1) The time traveler hears music from a different time period from the period in which he is traveling.  E.g., a time traveler lands in 1971 and the radio is playing oldies from the 1950s.

2) The time traveler goes back 500 years and quickly realizes that the English spoken back then was impossible to understand without a degree in Middle English.

3) The time traveler goes into the future and you know what, it's not some dark dystopia where everyone is hunting the poor for food.  Life is actually a lot better for most people than it is today, just like life today is a lot better for most people than it was 100 years ago.

4) The time traveler meets his great, great grandfather, and the man does not look like an exact replica of himself with a mustache and muttonchops, because that would be stupid.

5) The time traveler goes back to Victorian times, and gets all excited to score some fine old timey chicks, then realizes that the standard of beauty is completely different back then and he'll have to turn gay instead.

6) The time traveler gets all excited at the idea that his six dollars that he brought with him should be enough to buy a house back in 1860, until he realizes that no one will accept weird bank notes and if he doesn't stop trying to exchange them people will think he's a witch and burn him at the stake.

7) The time traveler goes back to 1920 to kill a young Hitler, but realizes Hitler knew ju-jitsu and this was left out of the history books because it really didn't fit with the flow of WWII.

8) The time traveler correctly accounted for the placement of the earth at the exact time of his arrival in his time travel, but did not account for a small bird flying in that exact spot so when he arrives he has half a bird stuck to his head and that becomes far more interesting than his ability to travel through time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A New Name for the Secret Service

This latest Secret Service scandal--something about using Colombian prostitutes and stealing taxpayer money in Vegas while beating Sarkozy in a runoff election, I don't know I was just skimming the paper--has me wondering.  Wondering, why do we keep calling the Secret Service the "Secret" service?

Face it--they're fairly conspicuous with their dark suits, earpieces, and sunglasses, and of course when protecting dignitaries and examining whether currency has been forged there's really no need to be undercover.  The James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" sort of has it right--secret servicefolk are supposed to be the spies and spooks that go sneaking around foreign countries, ordering whatever the native drinks are before unfolding evil plots involving lasers and eccentric henchmen.  (The fact that James Bond never wears a disguise, drinks his signature cocktail wherever he goes, gambles big and in the open, and introduces himself as "James Bond" to everyone he meets, is another discussion)

So why not change the name of the country's premier bodyguard service to something like the following:

1) The Order of the Shark.  Hey, I wouldn't try threatening the President if I had to deal with the Order of the Shark!

2) The Executive Guards.  Somehow, "Guards" just sounds formidable.  "We're guards!" they could say to one another while patrolling the White House lawns and picking up stray frisbees.

3) The Supreme Knights.  Admittedly, this sounds a bit Motown, as if there were a merger between Diana Ross and the Supremes and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

4) Swords of Vengeance.  Okay, now we're getting a bit off track here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Move Over, Rebecca Black

Since the caveman days, there's always been that one guy who wasn't quite as good at hunting mastadon or crafting weapons or growing crops, but he'd take his knack for creating sounds into melodies that all would enjoy (particularly the cave-chicks!) and lo, we as a people had invented music.

Modern popular music has gone through numerous evolutions, from the great rock n' roll acts of the 1950s, to the British Invasions, the Soul Infusions, to the Hard Rock Reactions. The music scene has also been subject to a number of cultural assaults, such as Bubble Gum in the late 1960s, the Disco Explosion of the late 1970s, the Punk Craptasticalla (yes it's a word) of that same period, to this thing they call Bieber. Throughout, the music has evolved and advanced and survived these many onslaughts of bad taste.

Until now.

From what I can make out in this video, the songstresses are informing the listening audience that (1) they're hot; (2) they have problems; and (3) they're just like the rest of us. This is helpful, because (1) I need to be told what is "hot"; (2) I assume that hot people don't have problems, which is probably not a safe assumption; and (3) because I assume hot people have no problems, I also figure they're not like the rest of us and therefore should be oppressed and subjugated to please our volcano gods.

But before we get too harsh on the creators of that video, let's ask ourselves--is it really any worse than the other crap the kids are listening to these days?

My lawn....they need to get off of it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sonic, Where Tomatoes Come With Extra Jail

When I visit my local fast food establishment, with cane, top hat and monocle, I expect a rewarding culinary experience. Generally, this means prompt service, hot food, and if I request something like "no pickles" then I will receive no pickles on the food. Usually this works out fine, and if the order is screwed up, I'll live with it unless it makes the food inedible (say, squeeze cheese covering the damn thing) in which case I'll ask them to replace it. At no time is either my dignity or the dignity of the eatery's staff at stake.

Lately though it seems violent moron thugs have ruined nice places like McDonalds and the latest is this incident at a Sonic Burger in Florida. At no time do any of these offenders say to themselves "hey, whatever my lot in life, my dignity is the one thing I never have to give up." Nope, I'd value the "dignity" of these morons at about a shiny nickel.

The recent incident at Sonic stemmed from the "patron" (though I think that term overdignifies this cave-dweller) receiving tomatoes on his meal, which he did not ask for, and then requesting a refund. The article indicates two sides of the story, the manager saying he'd given the man his refund and the perp saying the manager spit on his shoes so of course he slugged him. Because of course if someone spits on your shoe, the only way to maintain your social station is to slug them!

The article also helpfully points out that tomatoes are key ingredients in "tomato sauce and in bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches." Uh, thanks for the tip??? Did we really need to be told that? The article's author does not know what the customer ordered that had the tomato on it, but did state that Sonic normally serves burgers but also corn dogs, though "tomatoes are not a common corn dog condiment." Okay, why are we told this???

Ideas for the National Mall

Every year it seems there are discussions about whether to redesign the National Mall in order to better make use of its space, including adding ampitheaters, new types of landscaping, etc. The current use of the space--political rallies, pickup kickball games, frisbee for dudebros, kite festivals, and an ever-encroaching building of memorials to one thing or another--could certainly be improved. Allow me to run through some suggestions:

1) Turn the entire space into the world's largest farmer's market. Thousands upon thousands of booths where artists, butchers, craftsfolk, and farmers can sell their wares to yuppies and hipsters! The license fees alone would cut into our national debt. Downside--elderly drivers creating record number of fatalities crashing into the world's largest farmer's market.

2) Turn the entire space into a lake. Think of the low maintenance, the ice skating, the boating opportunities! Downside--the next giant rally for Americans for Redistricting Reform would require more rafts than they could afford.

3) Plant an insane number of blackberry bushes covering the entire mall. Tourists could gather from far and wide to come to the nation's capital to pick blackberries in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Downside--the mall will become overrun with deer, causing accidents on Independence and Constitution Avenues.

4) Cover the entire mall with sand. It'd be more like a national beach! Then we'd no longer have to drive for hours in heavy traffic to get to Ocean City. Downside--sandstorms.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are You in the 99%?

With the recent hoopla about "99 percenters" vs. the "1 percenters" I've often wondered why such an arbitrary distinction is reached. After all, if you're in the top 2 percent, you're pretty well off, and of course even among the 1 percent there's a big difference between someone making a million dollars a year and someone making a few billion a year. (The rest of us probably wouldn't notice the difference--to us, a certain model of brand-new Mercedes looks just as nice as any other model of brand-new Mercedes--but then again, among the truly poor, there seems no difference between someone who can shop at Whole Foods vs. someone who can shop at Trader Joes).

Also, why only count the 99 percent and 1 percent in the U.S.? To the Bangladeshi rope farmer, even lower middle-class Americans seem absurdly fortunate (and to be sure, just being an American in this day and age makes you very fortunate, compared with most other countries and all previous time periods, unless you like the idea of having no indoor plumbing and doctors using witchcraft to treat your kidney stones).

Finally, how are the 1 percent and 99 percent supposed to be measured? Income--as used in this handy online tool--is a good indicator, but it leaves out people with vast savings who have no actual income, and of course equal incomes in Manhattan and Dubuque will support very unequal lifestyles.

I need to know these things, so I can figure out whether I need to sharpen my pitchfork or go buy some pitchfork-resistant armor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Amazing Twist Endings That Would Have Improved the Movie

1) Titanic. Turns out at the end that the old lady telling the story was Jack, not Rose--Rose dies in the sinking, Jack survives, grows old and has a sex change. He assumes Rose's identity to steal her fambly fortune.

2) The Notebook. Turns out the old guy who reads to the old woman was not in fact her husband, just a creepy old derelict taking advantage of a woman with Alzheimers in order to sleep with her.

3) Blair Witch Project. Turns out the three film students were wandering around in Manhattan's Central Park the whole time, just going in really small circles.

4) Thelma and Louise. Turns out the cops chasing them were just trying to give them a fine for littering.

5) The Matrix. Turns out Neo and his pals are imagining the whole thing on some powerful drug, and just went around slaughtering a lot of innocent people.

6) The Excorcist. Turns out the kid was faking it the whole time just to get out of school.

7) The Towering Inferno. The skyscraper was never actually on fire, it was just some hillbilly couple on the 60th floor trying to fry chicken in a waffle iron and making way too much smoke.

8) Footloose. Ren, the city boy who brings fancy dance moves and rebellion to a repressed hick town, turns out to have been the drunk driver who got all the other kids killed years ago when they were driving back from a dance, causing the dancing ban in the first place. He uses dance now to forget his crimes.

9) Psycho. Turns out the killer is not Norman Bates or his mother, but rather--a bunch of birds all gathered under a housedress and wig!

10) Lethal Weapon. Riggs and Murtaugh aren't just a mismatched pair of cops, but rather an anti-Semitic religious nut and a Castro-sympathizing leftist moron.

11) King Kong. Turns out the ape is not a giant ape at all, just a normal sized gorilla that gets filmed in close-up. All the New Yorkers are just overdramatic about apes running wild.

12) Road House. Turns out that pain does, in fact, hurt.

Damn Yobs

I've always felt that local authorities should deal with yobs the same way an exterminator deals with a spider infestation--apply plenty of fire, and just when you think it's enough, add some more fire. Yobs--the British version of townie trash--are pretty much a blight on an otherwise charming country, and their general crappitude is illustrated by situations like this one.

Now, I'll admit it must suck to live in Manchester. Hell, even the American Manchester (in northern New Hampshire) is nothing to write home about, as though the British immigrants who founded it wanted the city to resemble the Manchester of their ancestral home, with boring strip malls and basically nothing fun to do. But for yobs to go and attack a McDonalds? How low do you have to be to do such a thing?

Now, attacking a police station, what with the tasers and attack dogs and all, that's some guts right there. But a McDonalds is a ripe target for those who prefer to remain untasered and unbitten. (Unless of course you're unfortunate enough to have picked the McDonalds where a certain Rayon McIntosh is working! In that case, you're likely to get a face full of pipe) McDonalds still does not condone its employees tossing hot grease on unruly tresspassers (thanks for nothing, Supreme Court!) so it remains low hanging fruit for yob attacks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nationals Stadium

Despite being back in the D.C. area for three years now, last Friday was the first time I ventured to a Washington Nationals baseball game. Here were my observations:

1) It's great having a local team that hasn't yet hit peak popularity. Unfortunate Yankee and Red Socks fans have to buy their tickets through secondary sources and at inflated prices, in advance, and sit in packed sections surrounded by wiseguys or townies, respectively. For us Nationals fans, we can still buy our tickets at the stadium, at original price, and sit with relative privacy in our sections. I would like to see our team do well, but not so well that the place gets regularly sold out and packed with screaming bastards from the suburbs.

2) It's also great living a fifteen minute (I timed it!) door-to-door walk to the stadium. In the old days, at Yankee Stadium and Fenway alike, there was always that sense near the end of the game that "crap, now we gotta deal with stadium traffic and be on the road for hours". It's liberating to know that you can be home minutes after exiting.

3) It's also a very nice stadium, with a great layout--though I wonder why the stands don't completely encircle the field at all levels? I'd think even some cheap seats can be sold at the top tier behind the outfield, for those days when the stadium does sell out. If it's a supply and demand issue, they can always block off those sections during the low demand games.

4) Concessions were, to be expected, marked up, but not in a ridiculous way. The hot dogs were pretty good, though I hadn't tried their other concessions.

5) Thirteen innings are an incredibly long time. But the Nats did win!

6) Screaming teenage girls? It gets old real quick! Nothing like people waiting for a stadium-screen to tell you when to cheer, you sheeple. I imagine this would have ruined the concert experience for Beatles fans back in the day, too.

7) It was very tempting to want a beer! Urge to kill, rising....

Rocky VII--Rocky Fights His Nurse for More Medication

The original "Rocky" film and its three sequels (I refuse to acknowledge that Rocky V happened) all follow a simple formula--we watch a mentally challenged man wander around his carefree life in Philadelphia, decide he needs to get into the ring against some new adversary, and then the climactic fight featuring more drama and powerful haymakers than you'll ever see in a real boxing match. His shrill, mousy love interest Adrian keeps trying to keep Rocky from fighting, as if she wasn't aware that he was a boxer before they met, his louse of a brother-in-law Paulie does some sort of low class buffoonery which Rocky never seems to mind, and the opponents gradually become more evil, from the trash-talking yet sympathetic Apollo Creed to the psychotic Clubber Lang to the let's-face-it-he's-Hitler Ivan Drago.

So finally watching the latest (and maybe last) of the series, "Rocky Balboa", I was pleasantly surprised. The film in many ways was arguably the best in the series--a bittersweet and thoughtful way to cap off the whole Rocky story.

The film finds our hero long-retired from boxing, running a restaurant in Philly and doing the Jake LaMotta thing of entertaining his patrons with stories from the old fighting days. His wife Adrian is dead, and Rocky has a strained relationship with his son. The film follows his mourning and coping, as he strikes up a relationship with a bartendress and her kid.

Meanwhile, the current heavyweight champ, Mason Dixon (who must have beaten a number of colorfully named opponents to get the crown, such as Cumberland Gap, Ohio River, and Radical Reconstruction) is struggling with an image problem, similar to Apollo Creed in the original film. Dixon has beaten a number of cream puffs to win the title and hasn't had a formidable opponent in quite some time (apparently, Cumberland had a glass jaw) and has to endure commentators comparing him unfavorably to Rocky Balboa in his prime. You sort of see where this is going--Dixon and Rocky agree to fight an exhibition match for charity, both helping Dixon's image and giving Rocky a chance to show he's got one last fight left in him. (Dixon's handlers understandably tell him it's "lose-lose" since beating Rocky wouldn't prove much, since the guy is in his 60s)

The fight itself was more realistic than the fights in the other films--the punches sounded more like real punches and less like a grenade exploding, for example--and the tragedy of Rocky's current existence as well as an opponent who didn't come with his own Snidely Whiplash mustache to twirl made the climax all the more compelling. When it ended, it capped off the series the best way it could.

That said, hopefully the dollar signs don't compel Stallone to make another sequel, such as "What if Rocky had to fight against Rambo?" or something stupid like that. "Rocky Balboa" brought things together on a perfect end note.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Our Rich People Are Less Out of Touch Than Your Rich People

Every now and then I say to myself "politics couldn't possibly get any stupider" and then bam, I'm forced to eat my words. The latest imbroglio was brought to you by pro-Obama Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen--I'm not sure why she's famous and I'm not bothering to Google her. Rosen was on the Anderson Cooper show--and don't get me started on this, but Anderson Cooper sort of proves my theory about people with a last name for a first name, as did Jackson Pollack--and commented about Mitt Romney's wife Ann having "never worked a day in her life."

Before we get into the issues of whether staying home and raising kids counts as "work", I'll note that I'm not particularly comfortable with a bunch of rich jerkwad pundits and politicians debating who has ever done "real work". I'm sure millions of Americans who spend the day in coal dust and come home sore and smelling of grease and covered in pig blood (let's hope no one has experienced ALL of this in the same job!) would get a kick out of anyone sitting at a desk all day talking about "real work." Face it--you're not going to be President or First Family if you're an "average" American--in recent years, the Obamas were the closest to that, and they were still pretty rich when they got in. Being a part of that elite necessarily means not having done "real work" except maybe in their distant youth.

But Rosen's comments were just politically stupid--the Romneys exploited them quickly, arguing that Ann had raised five kids and being a "stay at home mom" is indeed hard work. Obama and his team also acted quickly, disavowing what Rosen said just as they would if she had suggested opening Stalinist gulags in the Rockies and killing Freemasons for sport. While Rosen may have had a point--that being a "stay at home mom" when your husband brings home several million dollars each year is not the experience that most families go through when they have to watch the price of gas and decide whether they can afford beef for their dinners--she opened up a door for the "housewife vs. working woman" debate. 25 years after Melanie Griffith empowered women with the film "Working Girl" and we're still doing this???

Of course any liberals sneering about how crass the Romneys are to exploit this big nothing would have to admit that if a Romney supporter had made a similar comment about Michelle Obama they'd be pouncing just as ravenously. Meanwhile, the federal deficit is still frighteningly huge, tens of thousands of American troops are still deployed in battle zones, and unemployment is stubbornly high more than four years after the start of the recession. But let's talk about whether Ann Romney is a pampered rich woman or an innocent victim of a nasty smear.

This year's campaign promises to not just be nasty, but to reach a level of weapons grade stupid.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Deciphering Party Invitations

If you're a social butterfly like myself, you probably have seen or sent out your share of party invitations over the years. If you're a shut-in, sitting amongst your crumbs of Cheez Doodles and getting to the next level on your role-playing game, you probably receive party invitations and shreik out "egads, what is this strange thing I received in my inbox?"

Never fear, I shall explain how to properly decipher the most common elements of a party invitation so you can act like someone who receives these things ALL THE TIME:

1) "Starting at 7 PM." This means you'd better not show up before 8 PM. Otherwise you'll be sitting on the couch watching the hosts do prep work. But see 2a) below.

2) "Snacks/Light Hors D'Ouevres Served". Eat dinner ahead of time, unless you plan to sustain yourself on potato chips like some piggish party guest.

2a) "Full Dinner Served." Dinner parties are different--then you better show up exactly on time, and RSVP as soon as possible, because much more depends on your punctuality.

3) "Additional Drinks Welcome." You'd better plan to bring at least as much as you plan to drink, though you don't necessarily have to drink only what you brought. In fact, you should expect that what you bring goes into the communal drink pot, and you'll be drinking what others' brought, and vice-versa. It's bad form to be too possessive about what you brought. Caveat--if you brought fine Chimay Belgian beer and some tool brought Natural Light, it's total bulls*it for him to drink yours.

4) "If I've forgotten anyone on the invite, please let me know." Make sure you RSVP about bringing extra guests so we don't get 50 when we're planning for 15. And no rowdy Dudebros who will break stuff.

5) "Cocktail attire encouraged." If you show up in jeans and sneakers you're a toolbag. Have some social courtesy, freak! Just dress up for a change. If someone's going through all the trouble to put this on, it's not asking you too much. You can "fight the power" some other time.

6) "Parking is limited." Take the Metro or walk, you lazy bastard! You probably bitch about global warming, too, hypocrite! Besides, you're going to get trashed anyway, do you really need to run down some kids on your way home?

7) "Please RSVP by [DATE]." This means someone's trying to get a head count so they know how much to buy. Don't be a jerk and check the invite repeatedly to "see who else is going" or simply not reply at all--that's obnoxious and you're not fooling anyone into thinking you are just so damn popular that you can't commit to anything more than a few days in advance. It just makes you look like a flake.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Santorum, Out!

Well, it's official--Rick Santorum has acknowledged what everyone else in the world has known for months and finally aborted his presidential campaign before it could come to term.

Ah, Rick, we hardly knew ye! Where else will we go for the:

1) Long self-righteous lectures about the sanctity of human life, juxtaposed with calls for the annihilation of a country with 80 million people?

2) Harrangues against homosexuals, because if there's one problem facing the country right now, it's the constant specter of same-sex marriages?

3) Complete misreading of a speech on religious tolerance by the country's most famous Catholic politician?

4) Photos of you bowling that make me hope that no one ever gets a photo of me bowling, ever?

5) A guy who can somehow take the "Christian" mantle in the GOP race, while leaving out anything to do with tolerance, humility, or kindness towards one's fellow man?

We'll definitely miss this crazy guy, and hope to see more of his follies in four more years.

Proper Advice for Kids

In reference to my post yesterday, a friend suggested that there is actually no point in posting a rebuttal to John Derbyshire's article (in which he suggested, essentially, that his children basically avoid black people so as not to become victims of violent crime) because the article was clearly racist and any rebuttal would amount to nothing more than "racism is wrong"--a statement that is too obvious to make. I don't see it that way--the article speaks from the point of view of a parent "just looking out for" their child's well-being, and relies on assumptions that aren't merely offensive but also suffer from being wrong and would prove damaging in the long run to any child who takes heed to them. A more sensible version of this "advice" is called for. Not having kids of my own, below is the advice I would give:

1) Hopefully in your life you never become a victim of a violent crime. If it does happen, there's a higher likelihood it will be perpetrated by someone you know than a stranger. So choose wisely who you associate with. Particularly when you're a teenager.

2) It is also a higher likelihood that the person assaulting or robbing you will be of the same race as you.

3) Now, obviously I'm not suggesting you avoid people of the same race as you--that would be silly. But statistically speaking, you have more reason to fear someone who resembles you than someone who does not.

4) There's also a (small) chance you'll be a victim of crime caused by a stranger. You can't be 100% safe from all strangers unless you live in a cabin in the wilderness, but then you might get attacked by bears so that won't work.

5) That said, when you are dealing with strangers there are certain things you can do to protect yourself. These things include:

5a) Be aware of your surroundings. If you're lost, ask for directions. Try not to be drunk, alone, and lost--that often doesn't end well.

5b) It's fine to be a "Good Samaritan" if you see someone in distress, but keep your wits about you. If the situation doesn't seem right, leave and call 911 for help. It's unfortunate, but Good Samaritans can be victims too.

5c) Remember that on average, the people you're going to encounter--of any race or age--are not out to get you and would be willing to help you if you need directions, etc. You're better off reaching out than taking your chances wandering around.

6) When dealing with the police, the first thing you must do is ensure you don't seem like a threat. That means they have to see your hands at all times, and no sudden movements. They don't know that you're not armed and planning to shoot them, so don't give them a reason to use the taser, or worse. It also helps to not have actually broken the law in the first place, but don't compound your error.

7) Teenagers can be bad news, but more often they're just typical teenagers--trying to look tough so they don't get picked on by other teenagers. This is why they'll scowl, dress like thugs, and generally be surly. But if you don't bother them, they'll usually leave you alone.

8) If they don't leave you alone, remember you're better off getting away from them than you are sticking around to fight. You don't need a broken nose, and winning a fight against some idiot doesn't win you any medals. Only fight if your physical safety depends on it.

9) Some parts of town are more dangerous than others. Avoid places with lots of abandoned homes, junked cars, trash on the streets, and a complete lack of pedestrian traffic, particularly late at night. People who are up to no good prefer to have no witnesses and operate in the dark where it's harder to be identified.

10) And "people who are up to no good" can be any race, age, or gender. Don't let media hype scare you into thinking muggers are usually going to be black or Hispanic. I've seen some scary white neighborhoods in Portland.

11) All that said, there's no reason to avoid or fear new surroundings or people you're unfamiliar with. Don't mistake good judgment and avoidance of unnecessary risks keep you from experiencing life and what the world has to offer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Statement on Race

Over the past weekend, most Americans were either (1) celebrating God's cruel treatment towards the Egyptians, (2) celebrating God's cruel treatment towards his only Son, or (3) wondering why egg-shaped candy was prominently displayed in the supermarkets. Meanwhile, conservative magazine "National Review" was severing its relationship with longtime writer John Derbyshire. This was due to his authorship of a recent article that was basically racist, suggesting that parents of "nonblack" kids (Derbyshire's children are half-white and half-Chinese) have a heart-to-heart with their progeny, explaining that, for personal safety, one must be more careful around black people than nonblacks. For example, the article advises against being a Good Samaritan to a black person in apparent distress.

Understandably, the National Review didn't want to be associated with the writer of such an article (even though the article appeared in another online magazine) and of course any publication has the right to make that choice. However, I cannot help but feel that this isn't really the correct response to a controversial--even offensive--bit of speech.

The problem with simply denouncing the piece as racist and punishing the writer--who, it should be noted, has previously provided a diversity of opinions on the National Review's pages over the years, differing from the majority of the magazine's writers on issues such as war and religion--is that it does not serve to debunk the actual piece that was so offensive in the first place. Someone who would actually agree with what Derbyshire wrote would simply see this as an unpopular opinion being silenced--as in "see, Derb was willing to state an unpleasant truth and the P.C. brigade couldn't handle it!"

Better would have been to challenge the statements in the article itself, perhaps publishing a rebuttal. The rebuttal can address the shortfalls of stereotyping, of mistaken assumptions based on race, and of course the awful example it would set for children to teach them to fear and avoid those that are different. The rebuttal can suggest that a better lesson for children is that while they should always keep their wits about them and avoid becoming an easy target for violent crime, it would be a shame to live in fear and mistrust. It can even state that on average, they have a better chance of becoming a victim of a crime caused by someone of the same race than by someone of another race.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to Class Up Your Restaurant

Let's say you run a restaurant, and you are finding yourself squeezed by a penny-pinching public and increased costs of doing business. The obvious answer is to stop catering to cheapos and start bringing in the sort of free-spending crowd that gets into caviar fights and sets fire to fifties and hundreds just to see which will burn faster. But how to go from a fambly-friendly eatery to the sort of upscale place where fancy foodies will drop their platinums? Here are some easy tips to jacking up your prices:

1) Get rid of the "$" sign and decimal places on your menu. A price of "$15.99" will not do for a chicken sandwich--the customer will go elsewhere, like Dennys, where he might get respect and be allowed to keep his John Deere cap on while he dines! But a price of "16" in fancy script? You better believe Fancypants McGillicuddy will happy throw down his company card for the glorified McChicken.

2) Use the word "artisinal" liberally on your menu. Fun fact--no one actually knows what "artisinal" means! Foodies somehow think that some artistic specialist is out there actually mixing the curds for "artisinal cheese" when you clearly just unwrapped some cheddar from Whole Foods.

3) Why serve "beer" when you can serve "craft" beer? I'd gladly pay an extra couple bucks a glass for "craft brewed"! It already sounds tastier! Even though there's no special standard to make a beer "craft" brewed.

4) This also works with "aged", even though even letting something sit for five minutes can make it "aged", going by a strict definition of the term. "Aged beef", "aged cheese", hell even "aged chocolate" is going to upscale your menu! This doesn't work with "aged vegetables" though.

5) Change up your round plates for square plates. I can't tell you how many times I've said "Twenty bucks for McNuggets? They better come out on a square plate, that's for damn sure!"

6) If possible, make the food stand up vertically on the plate. The more vertical, the more pricey!

7) You want to really class it up? Cut your appetizers in half, and call them "tastes". You know who doesn't offer "tastes"? Cracker Barrel, that's who!

8) Make sure the silverware is extra heavy. I don't know why this equates to higher priced dining, but it somehow does.

9) Whatever you do, make sure the restaurant website is more of a discoteque experience than a helpful way to find the location, menu, and phone number of the place. Use plenty of flash animation and pulsing music. Fancy diners want a bit of a show before they call to make a reservation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Replace Marion Barry With A Houseplant--It's Not as Dumb as it Sounds

Another day, another addition to "Marion Barry's Greatest Hits". Just nominated Tuesday for the Democratic Party nod for yet another term to represent Ward 8 in the D.C. City Council, Barry decided to take to Twitter and make a series of racist remarks targeting Asian-American businessfolk who have the nerve to try and do business in his poverty-stricken part of the city. Curse those small entrepreneurs, daring to provide goods and services at agreed-upon prices for the community and help improve the tax base at the same time!

But enough has been said about how Barry is a vile bigot--no need to waste additional pixels on that. It's quite obvious to anyone who isn't an idiot (sorry, Ward 8 voters, but you'd have to collectively solve cold fusion before anyone's going to give you the benefit of the doubt on not being morons from here on out) that Barry needs to be retired. Every day he sits there representing his ward, he gives ammunition to the anti-D.C. Statehood forces who say "if that's the sort of trash you put in office, maybe you're not ready to govern yourself!" (Yes, I realize that Rod Blagojevich and Eliot Spitzer are good counterarguments to this--and of course every state should have the right to make their own bad decisions by electing scumbags--but Barry still doesn't help any cause for self-determination). Plus, it might be nice for the poorest part of the city to have a competent person representing them, who might actually be able to do some good for the community. An ignorant thug who ridiculously blames nonblack businesspeople for the community's ills is only part of the problem.

But keep this in mind--Barry has not been reelected yet; he only won the Democratic nomination. Who says the Ward can't redeem itself by electing an Independent in November? At this point, putting a houseplant in Barry's current seat would be a step up. And we'd just have to water the damn thing a couple times a week.

Happy Toys Means Happy Trouble!

I remember once as a kid wanting to go to McDonalds and get fries and burgers and soda and all the fun stuff a six-year old thrills for, and my mother saying "nope, it's unhealthy, and I have milk and fruit and bland crap at home for you to eat." How did this impasse get resolved? Well of course I got my fast food Happy Meal, right? Wrong! I was six! I had about as much leverage as Luxembourg did when Nazi Germany wanted to get all Hitlery on them.

So this lawsuit definitely falls in the assinine column. A mother suing McDonalds for including toys in Happy Meals, because that makes the kids want unhealthy Happy Meals more? Unless these little rapscallions have part time jobs and go into McDonalds by themselves and buy their own meals, it's immaterial whether the Happy Toy appeals to them. THE PARENT STILL IS THE ONE DECIDING TO BUY THE DAMN MEAL. How on earth is it easier to file suit against McDonalds to force them to stop including the toy in their meals compared to just telling your little monster they cant' have the damn thing???

They might have had a case if we were talking about deceptive marketing to adults, or if the Happy Toys contained heroin or something like that. But I just don't see the situation where a parent has their little crotchfruit screaming that they want the damn toy so they have to go to McDonalds and the parent says "ok, you win this round, kid! After all, you do so much to make my own life easier." It's more likely the case that the parent says "I'm going to start counting. If I reach 'four' you're going to end up just like your brother Timmy." and the kid says "but Mom, I don't have a brother Timmy." and the parent says "Exactly."

Fortunately, the suit was dismissed, but what's not so fortunate is that time and money had to be wasted on such crap. We're really making a mockery of our legal system with stuff like this.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New German Words

It seems the German language has a long word for just about anything, even complex ideas that we English-users would never have thought of. The classic example is "schadenfreude" (sp?) meaning "the pleasure taken from another's misfortune". Now, the Germans are known for one thing--efficiently invading other countries and brewing top notch beer. But they're also known for welcoming new words into their already complicated language. So I have proposed the following new German words:

1) "Rootencrappen": this is when you root for your favorite team to lose a lot so that tickets to their games don't get sold out too early.

2) "Sneezenwhatsis": the strange feeling of pain in your arms when you have a particularly violent sneeze.

3) "Overpreachinstein": the idea that if something is true, then it doesn't need to be said, such as "I'm a nice person" or "I'm speaking truth to power" or "I love my country".

4) "Puffenwistburg": that strange feeling of nostalgia you get for cigarette smoke at bars even though you never smoked in bars back when it was permissible.

5) "Thankengrumblering": when someone does you a favor, which you appreciate, but at the same time you wish they didn't do you the favor because the favor made things more difficult for you (such as picking you up at the airport, but being very late so you would have been better off grabbing a cab)

6) "Nonstalkenwalkerung": when you're following someone on the street going at the same pace and making the same turns, and they probably think you're stalking them even though you're just going in the same direction at the same speed.

7) "Pissinmacher": when you are at a public urinal, and a guy walks in and decides to use the one right next to yours even though there were others available, and it makes it hard for you to finish your business and you wonder if that makes you weird even though every other guy would have the same issue and why couldn't he just use one of the other urinals?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Titanic? More like Craptanic!

With this year marking one hundred years since the sinking of the Titanic, it's time we showed a bit of sympathy for the innocent ice berg that was minding its own business in the North Atlantic sea lanes when some big old boat--which had the entire freaking ocean to travel in--decided to go ahead and ram it.

But the tragic loss of all that noble ice is not the only atrocity to result from the human folly of that day. The other, greater tragedy, was the release of one of the worst films to ever become a blockbuster. James Cameron's "Titanic"!

While the title of that film easily could have fooled viewers into thinking they were seeing a movie about Cameron's ego, it turns out that instead they were being tricked into seeing a film with a twist ending that everyone could see coming. A true twist, of course, would have had the captain quickly steer the boat out of the way of the ice, say "whew, close one! Imagine hitting that thing!" and then Rose and Jack could have lived on in poverty until he decided to pimp her out. No, we had to see a titanic of cliches, with a tragic love that could not be, a noble impoverished yet artistic and sensitive hero (in 1912, no less! Sensitivity was not invented until 1965) drowning so he could save the independent-minded heroine.

Now, this maudlin crap somehow managed to make gazillions at the box office and win a Best Picture Oscar (proof if there ever was that the Oscar is just a paperweight), and launched DiCapriomania. I've got nothing against DiCaprio and actually liked him in a lot of movies--and thought he and Kate Winslet were good together in "Revolutionary Road". But "Titanic" was a titanic piece of crap and the giggly teenage girls who made it a smash should all be deeply ashamed of themselves. They could have instead been spending their allowances on burlap sacks to put over their heads so they'd never have to see such awful cinema.

But the real monster in all of this was the director, James Cameron. He had a massive studio budget and a concept that could have been great, and as noted above, actors who could have pulled off something good. Something like a Terminator and Aliens emerging from an Abyss with the help of Avatar technology to take over the boat, or something.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stadium Naming Rights

Taking a walk around the Nationals' stadium yesterday, I was struck by something other than the nice improvements around that section of town. (Had I taken the walk ten years ago, I would likely have been struck by a broken bottle) Despite being a relatively new ballpark smack dab in the middle of a large and prosperous metropolitan area, the stadium has not been named for some corporate behemoth.

Stadiums all around the country have taken the names of sponsoring overlords--Progressive Field, 3 Comm Park, FedEx Field (no surprise that a whore like Dan Snyder would sell off naming rights to the Redskins stadium as soon as he could). Sometimes this proves an embarrassment, such as with Enron Field, which has all the forsightedness of Saddam Hussein Stadium or the Nazi Bowl. Other times the corporate name gets replaced when someone else buys out the rights.

What makes it "acceptable" to name the playing arena after a sponsor, but not do the same for the team name? We could be seeing the New York Citigroups playing against the Seattle Microsofts, hoping to make it to the TidyBowl Bowl (formerly the Super Bowl) on the first Sunday in Hertzruary. Clearly that's the direction things are going. Why not just make everything for sale, and stop trying to pretend we have any class left? And don't pretend any of this keeps ticket prices down. The team owners might laugh so hard they'll choke on their endangered quail eggs and caviar.

Fortunately, there are some holdouts still, such as Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and with luck the Nationals will either keep their stadium name or name it after a Civil War hero or something.