Sunday, July 31, 2005

Acts of headlining

--A funeral in Rio de Janeiro was interrupted July 27 by a hail of bullets from a nearby shootout, one of which hit the deceased. Though no one was injured at the wake, one victim was reported already dead.

--Almost 300 people at a Boy Scout function were treated for dehydration and other heat-related illnesses July 27 after George W. Bush failed to show up for a scheduled speech. Bush apologized for the missed appointment, saying that the Boy Scouts reminded him too much of the National Guard.

--NASA extended the flight of the space shuttle Discovery by one day so that astronauts at the space station can continue shuttle-repair drills. Boy, won't THAT be a sleepless night!

--A man reportedly attacked Saddam Hussein on July 28 while the deposed leader exited a courtroom in Jordan. The man's identity has not been released due to questions about whether the incident even happened. When informed of the disputed claim, George W. Bush declared war out of habit.

--Authorities in Nebraska prosecuted a 22-year-old man for sexual assault with his 13-year-old wife, whom he legally married in Kansas. If convicted, he faces 50 years in prison, where he'll learn firsthand just how much it sucks to be sexually assaulted.

--In license plate news, a Utah judge ruled that a woman can keep her vanity plate reading "GAYSROK." Even so, nobody believed the guy who claimed "BIGAMY" referred to his fat wife.

--A collision between roller coasters at Disneyland on July 29 resulted in 15 minor injuries. But the real pain in the neck was waiting in line for the ride.

--In other Disney disasters, a Disney World employee was arrested July 27 for allegedly exposing himself with a flashlight from his front window. Witnesses said that it really is a small world after all.

Parting words of wisdom: There are no atheists in foxholes, just as there are no homophobes in prison.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

How to give a damn

If there’s one thing that people of all political stripes can agree upon, it’s that not enough people care about big-picture issues. As fun and tempting as it is to devote the bulk of one’s mental energy to such TV shows as “Big Brother,” we must never forget that intricate political issues should also be foremost on every citizen’s mind. So why aren’t they? Probably because of such banal wording like, “intricate political issues should also be forefront on every citizen’s mind”—words like those barely register a blip on the passion meter. I have torn socks that are more interesting.

My theory is that people would care more if issues could be presented in more engaging ways. Republicans have already mastered this tactic, allowing for the rise of the current neoconservative philosophy in government. Come on now, do you really think that the majority of Americans think that their deepest religious beliefs should be the law of the land at the cost of freedom? Do most Americans approve of losing their privacy in the name of safety? Would most Americans be in favor of the war in Iraq had it been presented at face value? Probably not on all counts; yet all of these tenets are currently shaping our laws. Why? Because conservatives have been able to present them in ways that get people riled up. Affirmative Action? Call it “racial preference.” Reproductive rights? Call it “baby killing.” Opponents of the PATRIOT Act? Why, they’re unPATRIOTic! The GOP is skilled at shaping complex issues into “real-life” scenarios that give the average person only one “right” stance—their way is the American way, no exceptions.

Progressives must learn how to engage average Americans in the same way, but without resorting to my-way-or-the-highway conclusions. It’s easier than you might think. I offer two hot-button issues and how they could be explained to, say, your average politically apathetic college student:

Supply-side economics: Imagine going to a bar with a group of friends for a round of beers. Everyone pools their money and pays the bartender for the drinks. The only rub is that the bartender declares that all of the beers will go to the biggest and/or fattest person in the group, the principle being that the big person will want to give away the extra beers to his friends. Of course, there’s nothing requiring him to do so, and he’s more than free to just take those beers home and stash them in his refrigerator. Meanwhile, the other people in the group are left holding the bill and never get their drinks. Any wonder, then, why they nicknamed it, “trickle-down economics?”

Privatization of Social Security: Imagine if your parents had scrimped and saved money for your college tuition from the day you were born. Then one day, when you’re 17, they decide that you could handle the money better than they could. So in a grand gesture, your parents give you your entire college tuition in cash. Furthermore, they tell you that it is a good idea to spend a considerable portion of that tuition on a brand new car—after all, when in you’re in school you’re going to need some hot wheels! Never mind that you’ll probably wreck the car next week, and in their fervor your parents will forget to warn you of the necessity of insurance or of any other perils that lie ahead. If you were given unlimited access to your college fund, no strings attached, how would you spend it? Honestly. Even I would be tempted to go at least a little nuts with it. In any case, much of that expenditure is probably going where it will never be seen again. And I’m not talking about the bursar’s office.

Now I know that these examples are neither perfect nor thorough; however, I guarantee you that they will get people talking. And that’s the real purpose.

More examples to come...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I once wrote a conservative column

No, that is not a typo! I did once serve the minions of the right.

Allow me to explain: in the Spring of 2001, I was enrolled in a News Editing class. Our final project for the class was to create a publication. Though we had to satisfy certain requirements (such as the inclusion of a "mission statement" and the listing of a targeted demographic), we were left to our own devices otherwise. Other students did such projects as architecture journals, sports magazines and parental journals. You can just imagine what I did, can't you?

Note: All of the images you see below are poor reproductions of the full-color pages. I only have half of the finished product in print, and my files--including a never-seen second issue featuring Timothy McVeigh--were the victims of a hard-drive holocaust in 2002.

My magazine was called The Screaming Icon. I conceived it as a bitingly satirical magazine covering politics, entertainment and sports. Sections included "Constant Clinton Coverage," which detailed a trip to the bathroom ("Before leaving, he washed away all evidence of his stay."); "Discs of All Sorts" (in which I reviewed the covers of Britney Spears and N-SYNC albums); and "Retro Vision," in which I showcased an old picture and pretty much trashed any concept of "the good old days." A fake ad for "Cinema 1939" does the same thing, with management requesting that "negroes sit in the balcony." Click here to see one of my favorite fake ads, taken from the back cover.

But perhaps the most chillingly prophetic page in the magazine was a mock movie-poster for Gulf War Part Deux: Back in the Habit. Granted, even in early 2001 it didn't take a genius to figure out that Bush was going to start some static in Iraq somehow. But I can still say with hubris that I beat The Onion to it by a year (they did "Gulf War II: the Vengeance" on March 13, 2002).

I rounded out The Screaming Icon with "The Other Wing," a conservative column written by one Joseph Covington III (though that's obviously a nom de plume). Inspired by a recent debate on education, I decided to air my dirty laundry to show that I can think outside of the box.

The Miseducation of Capitol Hill

Greetings, fellow patriots!

Occasionally, in one of my many fits of flag-waving, I reflect upon the principles and people that made the United States of America the most magnificent nation in the universe. Whenever I fall into one of these spells, an Undeniable Truth always makes itself known first and foremost: without our emphasis on education of the masses, the miracle of America may never have materialized.

After all, a major tenet of the oppression of societies throughout history has been an illiterate, untrained populace. Caste-concentrated and slanted schooling leads to slavery and entire disaffected, impoverished regions; two aspects, I'm happy to declare, that have never blemished this great land!

Unfortunately, in the ever-evolving timeline of history, all once-promising ideas left to their own swell and wreak havoc like cancer. Government remains the perennial example of this. Government has become so toxic of late that everything it touches contracts fatal contagions. What was once our guiding vessel to enlightenment and success has become our most malignant tumor.

Public education, as any true red-blooded American will tell you, exists these days as little more than a government tool to perpetuate propaganda regarding who to like, how to think and what to believe. I say this sheep mentality must stop immediately! Public schools are instilling in their students pointless and irrational ways of life and that is why organized religion must reclaim the system at once!

One excellent method through which certain counties across the states are doing this is through a system euphemistically referred to as "vouchers." Frankly, I am puzzled as to why proponents continue to hide the theological ramifications of this scheme, when they should be bragging! Maybe if the true beneficiaries of our voucher dollars, religious schools, would be given a greater spotlight, then more citizens would support the transfer!

My hero and personal savior-on-Earth, the very Rev. Pat Robertson, claimed at a Christian Coalition conference in 1996 that vouchers would lead to the very collapse of the public-school system as we know it. "To which we say, 'so what?'" he unforgettably theorized to thunderous applause. Robertson said this at the very peak of the Dole-mania that swept the country that year, which was tragically cured by those evil liberal scientists before Election Day. Dole himself knew what we needed to do but, being products of government schools, a majority of the voters were apparently too ignorant to realize that!

So what would privatizing schools bring to the grand table of American prosperity? Well, for one thing, there would be no more of this individuality garbage. In recent years, millions of kids have killed their peers just so they can steal their prized fashions; trends such as "grudge," "hip-pop" and "casual Fridays" have not helped. Mandatory uniforms will immediately raise the conduct bar while getting all students to wear the same, expensive, 1950s-style frock clothing. And of course, the values of the 1950s should be the goal of any right-thinking American.

Additionally, uniforms eliminate the fashion hostilities that many kids face. Clothing styles come and go, but taunting is forever. We all know that kids are less worthy without the right clothes; the last thing they need is to receive constant reminders of this from their peers. With uniforms, students need only to worry about coats, shoes and jewelry. And as anyone can tell you, the margin of trendiness and cost difference in any of these items is negligible.

Looking beyond the everyday benefits to the bigger picture, let's not forget just who is currently in charge of our republic! For most of the 1990s, the United States suffered through a continuous and hedonistic orgy, the innocent mistress America herself seduced by the charms and raw sexual energy that was the Clinton administration, as Clinton's breath of prosperity wafted down the thin veil covering her ample bust, the veil eventually falling to the ground as she lowered herself to feed at his manly budget surplus...Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh...right! My point is that, because of Clinton's numerous sinful wrongdoings, people had no choice but to spend every moment enraptured in sex, sex, SEX! What does this have to do with education? Uh, well...there's sex education now, so I've heard. Travesty!

But have heart, fellow patriots! As the Great Elections of 2000 and 2004 proved, God runs this nation now. By the way, by God we mean the Almighty Fundamentalist Christian GOP God, for all of you heathens out there. All right, I know what you liberals are saying to wonkish selves: freedom of religion is the cornerstone of liberty, blah blah blah.

Just remember that our Founding Fathers never specifically mentioned Buddha, Moses, Mohammed or Kurt Cobain, so you should darn well know who they meant! Liberals, don't forget to look on your money the next time you buy the latest Al Franken book--"In God We Trust," it tells us! God is the glue that keeps this nation--and this world--together!

So when it comes to schooling, private religious academies are the way to go. Not just for those who truly believe, of course, but for everybody. Wait a minute, I hear you asking, won't this diminish the faith of those who choose to go of their own free will and accord? I say, who cares? Faith is not just for those who want to believe and who utilize it as a source of inner strength. It should be a requirement to get a job, a diploma or even a milkshake! Just like in the glory days of 17th-century England! America would do right to learn from that model of government.

Moreover, the freedom to choose the people with whom you associate is a God-given right of all Americans. Private schools would give students and their families the utmost choice in which ethnicities and classes of people with whom they choose to speak. Training for real life, that is!

As my gifted and superior mind has now enlightened you, private schools are the white, er, right choice!

(I made an A+ on the project.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

News you can abuse

--Residents of Teslin, Yukon are awaiting the results of a DNA test on hair they believe to be from Bigfoot. However, preliminary reports indicate that the tire tracks look more like that of a normal truck.

--James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek, died July 20 at the age of 85. William Shatner delivered his eulogy, saying, "Get a life, will ya?"

--Gerry Thomas, the inventor of the TV dinner, died July 18 at the age of 83. After his funeral, pallbearers poked holes on the top of his coffin and cremated him for 30 minutes as directed.

--Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France July 24. So many angles can be taken with this one:
POLITICAL: The White House is now lobbying to call it Tour de Freedom.
PUNNY: Lance Schwinns again!
BICYCLE: He says he's retiring, but he might backpedal on that one.
CANCER: Winning takes guts, not balls.
RETIREMENT: Lance now plans to spend his days driving to McDonald's.

--James Hoffa announced July 24 that the Teamsters and other labor organizations are severing ties with the AFL-CIO. They will now form their own league, the NFL-CIO. Get ready for Labor Bowl Sunday!

--New Line Cinema deleted a Purple-Heart printout from the "Wedding Crashers" Web site after Democratic Congressman John Salazar labeled it offensive to real-life Purple Heart recipients. Where the hell was this guy hiding during the presidential election?

--"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" shattered publishing records with its July 16 release, with millions of fans eager to find out just who kills Professor Snape. Oops!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mr. Holland all over again

School Board to cut useless English teachers

Sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad

Next year, there will be much ado about nothing, since the school will no longer be able to offer upper level electives like Shakespeare and mythology, black history or American government.

Lafayette High School is losing 10 teachers, and upper level electives will be harder for schools to offer, with the Lafayette Parish School District working to cut teaching staff to meet last year's staffing formula [...] With block scheduling, students take four classes a day for 90 minutes on alternating days.

Translation: the School Board messed with a class schedule that had worked for decades, and now everyone has to pay for their latest dumbass mistake.

The district is losing 19 elementary school teachers, and several high school and middle school teachers, with the numbers yet to be released by the district.

"I thought the reason we did block scheduling was to make sure we would have electives for kids," said Melinda Mangham, a teacher and president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators. "Now, we are told our seniors won't have their electives and they can just go home."

Melinda Mangham was my gifted-English teacher in 12th grade. She's not one to take anything sitting down. I didn't always appreciate that at the time. I do now.

Superintendent James Easton said every high school principal, except one, has said they can continue with block scheduling this year, despite the cuts. He did not identify the one school that would have problems.

Well gee, could it be Lafayette High, the school losing much of its English program? Shows you what kind of thinking controls our public schools here.

Of course, this does not at all surprise me. As long as I've been paying attention to the Lafayette Parish School Board (at least since high school), it has proven itself to be a deliberative body that will do everything in its power to lift itself up while doing absolutely nothing of any value to improve the schools. From this well has sprung such public-relations dreams as the "Yes, Ma'am, No Ma'am" Law (an idiocy mandating the use of "sir" and "ma'am" by students) and school uniforms (easily the biggest mound of bullshit in the history of education). Meanwhile, schools continue to crumble, standards continue to plummet and prospective teachers continue to be shoved away by an increasingly pointless bureaucratic system.

To hear the superintendent tell it, the problem is not with too few teachers; in fact, he blames the budget cuts on having too many teachers:

"Some schools were overstaffed," he said. "We are coming into compliance with this formula as approved by this board of education." Coming into compliance means the district will have up to 24 students per teacher in first through fourth grades and up to 26 students per teacher in fifth through 12th grades.

Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! Those ratios are terrible. The board is simply trying to sweep its lack of funding under the carpet. Otherwise, they'd do as they've done in the past and complain that the 1:26 ratio is inadequate. Whatever happened to smaller class sizes?

The Lafayette Parish School Board will hold a workshop at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 5 to discuss teacher staffing at area schools for the upcoming year and teacher pay. The meeting will be held in the board meeting room located at 113 Chaplin Drive.

Once again, another victory for those who think the only important subjects involve building things for Halliburton. And when our kids become completely bereft of the critical thinking and historical knowledge that are learned from literature and history, the board will probably respond with yet another disciplinary measure. Perhaps that measure will be mandatory spankings every morning for all students. In any case, I guarantee you it won't help.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Proof that fraternities are all the same

From the July 20 Vermilion [emphases mine]:

The Vermilion ran a picture (twice, unfortunately) of the Kappa Alpha house located on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Fraternity Row with a story about Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity in the July 6 issue. [...]

Kappa Alpha fraternity has been involved in no wrongdoings. Kappa Alpha Psi, the real focus of the story, is a different fraternity and has been suspended from campus activity beginning in the Fall 2005 semester because of hazing allegations. Kappa Alpha Psi has no campus house. [...]

The pictures run with the July 6 story should not have been run. They are wrong.

Not to pile on, but Kappa Alpha Psi is a black fraternity, while Kappa Alpha Order was founded by those who used to own blacks. The Vermilion regrets any confusion this might have caused (its staff). Believe it or not, I understand the newspaper's error. As a notorious non-frat myself, I never did grasp the subtle nuances between hundreds of groups whose names are seemingly random combinations of 24 letters. But that could be the GDI in me.

In the interest of preemptively quelling charges of anti-fraternity prejudice here at Not Right, I have solicited a rebuttal from local frat man Lawrence "Spliff" Petersen. The words that follow are his and his alone. They are reprinted in their entirety.

Frats RULE, beeyotch!

By Lawrence "Spliff" Petersen
Sigma Tau Delta
University of Louisiana

Dude, that was totally not fair! I resent those who attempt to broadly stereotype us Greeks. Let me tell y'all something; members of fraternities and sororities average higher grades, more school participation and more community-service hours than the student body at large. Plus, there's no model Greek! All types of people join for all kinds of reasons. Like beer! Everyone loves beer. Young or old, male or female, white or black...doesn't matter! What brings together Americans quite like the firewater? As fraternities, we are all about bondage of the human race, no matter how drunk we have to get to do it! WOOOOOO!!!!

And that diversity is exactly what drew me to the Greek life. Every fraternity has its own traditions and character. Hell, some are white and some are black! When you stop in at a Kappa Alpha Order function, you know immediately that you are not at a Kappa Alpha Psi step show. Completely opposite vibes, man. You can accuse us of a lot of things, but you can't call us homogenous. How boring would it be if every fraternity had a mix of races and genders? Then you really couldn't tell anyone apart!

And because it's so easy to be awash in a sea of new faces, some of us find the Greek community is an excellent way of making friends. Sure, enduring rush week was a much more tedious process than just simply finding friends on my own, but would those friends paddle you or bleed you dry through exorbitant fees? Hell naw, man! Only my brothers love me that much!

So let's check the scorecard so far: Panhellenic organizations promote brotherhood, gentlemanliness, scholarship, community involvement and drinking. That's a lot of big, important words. What pisses me off is people like Ian friggin' McGibbawhatever trying to undermine all of the good things that Greeks do. How the hell would he know about us, anyway? He never joined a fraternity in college! All he knows is what he sees, because he never went through the glorious ritual of rush. He doesn't have a clue as to our sacred initiation practices. Even if he did see us having our bare asses spanked by older guys through the window that night while he was driving down the road--and I'm not saying he did--he's still ignorant of WHY we deserved it! Has Ian ever leafed through a top-secret pledge book or had to memorize the Greek alphabet? Has he been driven out to a distant city in the middle of the night with only $5 to get home? No! Why? Because that's a privilege you have to EARN, buddy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go. Me and Rocky, Keg Gut, Firefly and Top Jimmy are going to stock up for our mixer with Tri-Theta tonight. They're "rushing" me out the door! Get it? Lata, peeps.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Stuff you already know, but with me saying it!

--This week, Mark Fuhrman hit the bestseller list with "Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death," a book blaming husband Michael Schiavo for negligence in Terri's collapse. But if Fuhrman's track record of making people look guilty is any indicator, then Michael has nothing to worry about.

--Retired U.S. General William Westmoreland, perhaps the best-known Vietnam commander, died Monday night at the age of 91. He is expected to immediately commence spinning in his grave.

--Karl Rove. The best argument yet against outing yourself.

--Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher announced today that he will discontinue the "smiling sun" license plate that many residents simply refused to put on their cars. The state is currently considering several redesigns, among them a banjo, a crate of moonshine or a smiling Colonel Sanders.

--In other license-plate news, legislators in New York are debating the issue of special license plates for DWI offenders. They're dented and the numbers appear crooked and double-stamped.

--Convicted Olympic bomber and anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph received a life sentence Monday. Just goes to show you how pro-life America really is: we're showing mercy to the man who is the best argument yet for abortion.

--The search for the missing teenager in Aruba continues, with investigators having found a piece of duct tape covered with blonde hair. The next phase of the operation? Finding her.

--This week marks the 80th anniversary of the infamous Scopes trial, which allowed the teaching of evolution in schools. Some still decry the decision today, which proves that we haven't evolved that much after all.

--And finally, sources tell me that former Saints quarterback Heath Shuler is running for Congress in South Carolina. He couldn't run in Louisiana, because we remember the last time Shuler tried to run something.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Caption Central

"Courtin', Southern style" edition

--This Supreme Court battle is going to be a bitch...
--Among the Supreme Court nominee pool? General Lee!
--Southerners picketed the "walk-on-the-rebel-flag" art exhibit
--Boy, that's one confusing litmus test
--The South will rise again, one step at a time!
--Stars, bars and Civil War whores
--"Wanna go to Denny's afterwards?"
--The people's KKKourt
--Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but Black Flag doesn't mean what you think it does
--"And then Will Smith and Martin Lawrence burst out of Klan robes, and cop the dudes for drug trafficking! It was so tight!"
--Their keynote speaker? Clarence Thomas! (Actually, that's probably true)
--Obscure: The flag was sown by Dred Scott's descendant, Thred (or was it Plessy Ross?)
--"Gee, Clem, how we gonna git the flag 'cross these columns?"
--Their penance for losing the war? They have to fold that thing
--Music provided by the Fiddle-De-Dees
--That flag required a Million Man Starch
--"Might I remind our critics that we have freedom of speech here in the glorious United States? So, uh, long live the Confederacy!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Can't spell "Jesus" without "E"

When I was working the register for Checkers in the summer of 2001 (back when jobs existed), I would often receive as much as I gave. Among the items handed to me by hungry customers were tips (shh), phone numbers (including one from an amorous middle-aged woman--thanks Lori!) and the occasional money for the order. Once or twice customers would try to hit me up for cigarettes (?!!), which in turn would lead to some hilarious shouting to said customer by my boss, who oddly enough was a smoker herself.

But just as often, I would be offered religious tracts. Despite a Checkers policy expressly forbidding solicitation, I would always take these tracts because I'm into that sort of thing. Most of the time, these came from well-dressed churchgoers grabbing a Big Buford on the way home from services. But the one you see above came from a guy about my age. He asked me if I liked to party (and I apparently said yes), then invited me to a "Praise Rave." He said it would be like a real rave (as if he knew), but with Christian music and good, clean holy-rollin' fun. The Praise Rave would live up to its name, having loud music in a dark locale, lit only by glow-sticks and the beatific glow of the light of Christ.

Even for a place like Lafayette, Louisiana, where local grocery stores sell shirts with sentiments like "Built LORD Tough" and church youth programs make "Saved!" look like a low-budget exercise, this is imaginative. I can only hope it did actually bring races and denominations together. I'm sure it did, probably in closer ways than its organizers intended.

I didn't go, of course, though now I consider it a missed opportunity. Hell, I could have invited Lori! I know I still have her number someplace...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A freelancer's answers

Here's a fun and infectious little thing going around. Got it from Viva Las VegASS, which is a good place to get lots of infections. But hey, it's legal over there!

This is a different deal from all of those personal quizzes we all just love to get and do. Here's the deal: I will create five personalized questions about you--all you have to do is ask. I will then post your questions in the comment section, and you answer them on your own site. Or mine. Do it however you wish.

Anyway, here are yournamehere's questions and my answers:

1. When eating a delicious pancake breakfast, do you place the breakfast meats on a separate plate or leave them to be drowned in maple syrup?

Trick question! So-called "breakfast meats" freak me out. Virtually every kind of breakfast meat strikes me as low-grade pork leftovers, as if it were left over from the higher-quality wieners and beef jerky. Sausage biscuits are an inexplicable exception.

So if I were given those on my plate, which would be by accident, I would take them off my plate and not let them drown in the strawberry, blueberry or boysenberry syrup in which I drown my pancakes (maple syrup is also on my non-grata list). On the other hand, I just might pour a bowl of maple syrup solely for the purpose of dunking my unwanted breakfast meats. Makes a nice centerpiece, and as my mom always says, "it's all going to the same place anyway!"

2. What's your favorite restaurant in Louisiana? Elaborate.

No, it's not Elaborate (though that sounds like a killer nightclub). It's this local joint called "Subway," which is a purveyor of submarine sandwiches. They offer most varieties of meat, veggies and breads, and they make your sandwich right there in front of you! Instead of fattening french fries, they offer an alternative called "chips." I hear that a man once lost almost 300 pounds by eating nothing but this food all day, so I have to make sure I don't wither away to nothing because I weigh much less than that.

This was a tough question, being that there are approximately 4,501 restaurants within a mile of my house. But given my dislike for rice, seafood, Cajun food and mayonnaise, that pretty much eliminates everything else.

3. One political question: Who gives the democrats the best chance to win back the presidency in '08? Not necessarily who you prefer, but who you think is most electable.

In my opinion, whoever finally wins the the presidency is going to be the one. This is a no-brainer. Mark my words!

4. If you could write for any magazine or newspaper in the world, which would it be and why?

In an ideal world, I would have my own media empire. Just like Rupert Murdoch, but without the whole forces-of-evil thing. I'm more into satire than real reporting these days, so I'd go with something like The Onion (but not the Onion, because I like credit for what I write). To be honest, I'd rather do Weekend Update-style stuff, where I can write it and give it a presentation. That seems to be my kick these days.

But if I did commit to print, it would probably be for some independent publication in a place yet to be determined and which I have yet to ever hear of.

5. When someone pisses you off (a friend, not a right-wing blogger), do you let them know right away or do you silently seethe?

First off, I'm more than slightly disturbed that this question came to mind when you thought of me! :) But to answer it [long and reflective pause], I find that I generally have control over a situation. I know much better, for example, than to lose my cool in a work situation or when it would profoundly affect the people around me. Unfortunately, my family thinks differently, mainly because I blow up in front of them more than I should (probably because I hold things in until I get home). I also occasionally jump into defensiveness when someone touches a nerve. It's a good thing only a few things piss me off--like bad drivers, politics, religion and society in general. Because ultimately, I'm a fairly laid-back and happy person who's currently in a phase (specifically, the Bush administration).

Thank you for probing me, yournamehere. I am now officially worried at the impression I give people :) But that's precisely what makes these things so much fun, right?

Why bloggers drive me nuts

Yesterday I went to "the public library" and "checked out some books." For you kids out there, checking out books is like file sharing, but with books. How the RIAA hasn't yet shut down these fiends is beyond me. I suppose they're working on it.

But anyway, one book that grabbed my attention (don't ask me why) was We've Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. The book is a compilation of essays on the blogging phenomenon, dating from 1998 to 2002, the year of the book's publication. Now granted, three years in blog time is an eon, and much has changed in the blogosphere since 2002. Still, much of We've Got Blog irritates me in many ways, highlighting the things that bug me the most about society in general.

Irritation One: Age before beauty--Several essays in this collection take the stance that, no matter how high-quality or otherwise perfect your blog might be, it will never be anything more than a pale imitation of the classic original weblogs. Put more succinctly, if your blog was made in any year with a "0" in it, it's a completely derivative piece of shit. After all, anyone with half a brain knows that the new generation of bloggers is just trying to ride the coattails of the original hardcore hackers.

Horseshit. Frankly, I think a lot of top blogs rest too much on their laurels. The reason they're popular is because, well, they're popular and they've been around for a long time. I myself don't read a lot of the big blogs, partially because some don't actually offer that much (unless you consider 500 comments of "Me too!" and "Ha ha!" to be substance) and partially because of bitterness (one blog everyone loves got praise in a major publication for its "write your own caption" feature, as if she invented the concept or actually wrote captions of her own).

Irritation Two: Taking oneself way too seriously--This is the precise reason I am friends with so few artists. Pretentiousness abounds in We've Got Blog in forms that, had I read them before taking up blogging, probably would have scared me out of it.

Regarding commenting etiquette: "Don't be a wise ass. Also, a good point to remember is that webloggers are not [just?] some Internet junkies. They are highly respected individuals in this elite community, such as Internet pioneers, inventors, professors, excellent designers, programmers, etc. They know what they are doing and they are damn good at what they do."

Precisely the types of people who are thin-skinned and not open to criticism of any kind.

Irritation Three: Celebration of strict protocol in the guise of "tradition"--Come on now! I understand that etiquette is appropriate, be it when eating in public or respecting the boundaries of intellectual property. But let's face it: blogging barely existed in any real sense before 1997. In terms of tradition, Changing of the Guard it isn't. I find it more fun to just blaze my own trail, just as the founders did, uh, do. Because they're all still blogging. Because blogging isn't that old.

Irritation Four: Trying too hard to define the meaning of blog--This irritation is compounded by the consensus that a blog exists exclusively to aggregate links or otherwise keep description and commentary to a minimum:

Maybe I don't want wanna see fantastic design from a designer or fantastic writing from a writer every single day... So leave yer 3000+ words at the door, buddy, because it doesn't work for this medium...It ain't gonna give it one ounce of blog cred.

Defining my own blog was too much of a burden to handle. Thanks for saving me the trouble, Neale Talbot. Remind me to look up to you.

Irritation Five: Taking oneself WAY too seriously, again--While several writers in We've Got Blog point out otherwise, a prevailing attitude here is that blogs are meant more for readers than writers. Such a stance is the reason why so much popular culture sucks: because it's made for focus groups and a broad audience instead of from artistic vision. It can't help but feel forced.

Ultimately, I have to agree with an idea espoused repeatedly throught the book: "Fuck traffic, fuck hits, fuck ratings. It's all hogwash. Many of the best sites out there are under-read, under-rated or undiscovered." Rock on.

Which brings me to the pinnacle of these irritations: Chris Pirillo's Libera Manifesto. Written in 2001, Pirillo's piece attempts to encapsulate the sacred tenets of unpaid bloggers, and appears as a chapter in this book. Fittingly, you can read the whole thing on a blog. This list--most of which I agree with in theory, if not in presentation--might be a good thing, if it didn't reek of an "We do this for you, goddamnit!" attitude.

1) Our time is worth something, too.
2) There is such a thing as a free lunch, but don't forget to tip your waiter.
6) All take and no give only works for a little while.
8) Don't expect us to ask for nothing in return.
13) If you can help, please do.
15) We love you.
25) We don't whine, we ask politely.
26) Bandwidth is not free.
32) We still love you. [My personal favorite. Because he feels quite justifiably that he has to remind us that he loves us.]

Perhaps Pirillo should read the rest of We've Got Blog; then he'd notice some of the best words of wisdom the book has to offer:

"[Blogs are] nothing new, they're not changing the world with their content, they're not going to make anyone huge amounts of money, but they are a form of self-expression and community which others enjoy reading." --Brigitte F. Eaton

For my money (or lack thereof), Eaton represents the spirit of blogging far better than do Pirillo's pleas. Quality blogs (and quality bloggers) are true to themselves first, which makes their stuff much more interesting to read. And, in turn, they never have to ask for support, because they'll already have it in spades.

Monday, July 11, 2005

In Louisiana, they'd be Apple IIs

This MSNBC headline actually scared me at first:

Arizona schools won't use textbooks

It gave me visions of disclaimer stickers and Jesus horses. Fortunately, Arizona--who once elected Evan "But They Like Being Called Niggers!" Mecham as governor--has a better plan in mind:

TUCSON, Ariz. - A high school in Vail will become the state's first all-wireless, all-laptop public school this fall. The 350 students at the school will not have traditional textbooks. Instead, they will use electronic and online articles as part of more traditional teacher lesson plans.

Calvin Baker, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, said the move to electronic materials gets teachers away from the habit of simply marching through a textbook each year.

Several years ago, I recall seeing a commercial that showed a montage of the future. In one vignette, a teacher in an all-American classroom says to her students, "Please open up your computers." It was so CUTE! I think the Simpsons satirized it.

MSNBC reports that one happy side-effect of Empire High's configuration will be a shift away from that prehistorically cumbersome medium of paper. Because if there's one tangible result of the computer age, it's been the paperless society we've all come to enjoy.

Even as a schoolkid, I always thought the idea of giving each student a computer was farfetched. Granted, much of my stance had to do with the mental picture of us lugging Macintosh Performas in our mesh backpacks; however, it also had to do with the simple realities of childhood. Let's face it: most kids cannot be trusted with five dollars, let alone a cutting-edge laptop! I know I couldn't.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I made editor-in-chief of my school newspaper. I finagled one of the school's PowerMacs for home use, presumably so I could learn layout and other functions. When the hard drive burned out halfway through the year, I was given another one to take home. Were it not for my teacher coming to my house to pick it up at the end of the year, I would never have let the school see it again. That computer was freaking cool. And I'm one of the more honest, scrupulous people on the planet! Can you imagine the shit that would go down if the kids straight out of "Dangerous Minds" decided that the school wasn't getting its computer back? Would you want to be THAT educator?

"You won't pass into the next grade until you return your laptop, okay, Toecutter? What do you mean, you pawned it? Well, that IS a tight car radio..."

But even Joe Clark couldn't handle the other potential pitfalls with this plan. What are they again? Hmmmm...oh yes:

But the move to laptops is not cheap. The laptops cost $850 each, and the district will hand them to 350 Empire High School students for the entire year. The fast-growing district hopes to have 750 students at the new high school eventually. A set of textbooks runs about $500 to $600, Baker said.

I can just see this in a state like Louisiana, a state so poor we have fundraisers just to buy M&Ms for our fundraisers. Many of our schools barely have computer labs, ferchrissakes! Or enough books to go around. At least with books, you can photocopy the pages in a pinch. But I doubt that issuing Dell ads would be a suitable substitute.

More unresolved questions: Are the kids going to keep the computers throughout their school career? Would Bill "Upgrade Daily" Gates allow this? If one breaks, do they just get another one? Will they have wireless Internet access? If so, wouldn't that make cheating so much easier? Not to mention note passing!

Flustered teacher: "Care to share it with the rest of the class?"
Guilty, but guiltless, student: "I already sent it to them! And to you!"

Bottom line? I think that every student in the United States deserves computer access in the classroom. But as long as tripe like No Child Left Behind exists, as well as our ironic disdain for funding education, Empire High will continue to be Novelty High.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Like the Sunday Comics, but with news!

TOP STORY:Just one day after London won the Olympics in 2012, terrorists bombed four hubs of that city's public-transportation system, killing more than 50 and wounding hundreds. I join the rest of the world in offering sympathy and best wishes for the victims and their families in this and all similar incidents. I'd also like to praise our leaders for retiring the line about "taking the fight to the terrorists" and also for not replacing it with talk about "home-field advantage." The media also deserves points for exercising dignity and not referring to the incident as "G8-Gate."

Hurricane Dennis is set to strike the Gulf Coast, and is reportedly strong enough to hit as far north as Indianapolis. But in order for the windbag to take the midwestern states, it must first win the south. What doesn't have to win the south these days?

With the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor from the Supreme Court and other departures rumored to be imminent, George W. Bush is currently weighing options for new nominees. I sure hope nobody told him him that, technically, SCOTUS justices don't even have to be lawyers. Whoops, did I type that or did I just think it?

Lawyers reached a plea deal in the case of a Montana man who had threatened to kidnap David Letterman's son. Under the agreement, the man will keep his list of Top Ten demands to himself.

Crews at Mount Rushmore on Thursday began cleaning the presidential faces for the first time in 65 years. George Washington, in particular, was looking more like George Wash-me-ton (rimshot)! In good news for Republicans, Rushmore officials said that they are now more open to adding Ronald Reagan's face. His visage, they said, would be too dirty to ever have to waste time cleaning.

Friday, July 08, 2005

0-132 since 2001, yet still I try...

As most of you know, a while back I entered a column contest put on by the National Society for Newspaper Columnists (NSNC).

It wasn't even close.

Though the NSNC site does not make the columns available for public perusal, it does tease us with judges' comments on the columns that made it. So here's a list of what beat me in the humor category (under 100,000 circulation), based on those thin descriptions:

1st place--Squirrels

2nd place--A call for a "Dissident Zapper" to "reprogram disbelievers"

3rd place--"Latent bestiality"

Honorable mention #1-- A backyard

Honorable mention #2-- Something "outrageous, irreverent and obscene"

Between this and a disturbingly gleeful rejection slip I recently received from a major publisher, I can't help but laugh maniacally at the irony of life. Of course rejection happens to everyone, so I'm told as I read books by people like Ann Coulter, Ben Ferguson and Michael Savage.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to buy a bullet and rent a gun. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I can't afford to do either.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Last week's news, TODAY!

Scientists in Pittsburgh announced that they were able to resurrect dead dogs after three hours by embalming them with a saline solution and then replenishing their blood. When informed of the news, Mel Gibson immediately began work on a new sequel, The Passion of the Bichon Frise.

The Supreme Court split votes on two separate Ten-Commandment cases this week. Under the rulings, the commandments against other gods, graven images and dishonoring thy mother and father will be permitted display, while the commandments against lying, cheating and coveting are no-nos.

Another Supreme Court decision ruled that cities now have the right to grant corporations eminent domain over private property, if the city feels that the transfer will help the economy. That's right: your friendly neighborhood Applebee's can now own your friendly neighborhood.

George W. Bush made a speech last week concerning the progress made in Iraq. If you're looking for the joke in that sentence, reread the last five words.

Live 8, an all-star concert, rocked out this week in such diverse locales as Rome, Moscow, Johannesburg and Tokyo. The fundraiser will benefit Africa, but ironically enough does not feature Toto.

On July 1, soul legend Luther Vandross died. I was devastated by that day's sad news, because we lost someone great whose shoes would not be appropriately filled anytime soon. But enough about Sandra Day O'Connor. Luther will also be sorely missed.

An athiest in Plattsmouth, Nebraska is fearing for his life after a newspaper published his name, picture, personal info and license-plate number. My question is, why worry? O.J. Simpson and his white Bronco have been all over the news for years, and everyone leaves him alone!

Rapper Lil' Kim was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison for lying about her role in a 2001 Manhattan shootout. Good thing she didn't also expose her breast--then they would've had to get tough.

A federal judge declared a mistrial in the Notorious B.I.G. murder case Wednesday, citing the recent discovery of critical documents hidden in an LAPD desk drawer. Even in death, Biggie's still being hated on by the West Coast, yo! Among the missing documents: new suspects, new angles of alleged corruption and three more unreleased Tupac albums.

A 15-year-old London girl was rescued June 25 after she climbed up a 130-foot-high crane in her sleep. What part of "do not climb ladder when tired" didn't she understand? Then again, climbing a crane is probably the safest thing a teenage girl can do in her sleep.

In other London news, that city has officially been selected as the site for the 2012 Olympics. Other cities hoping for the bid included Paris (which was hoping to rid itself of the Hilton stigma) and New York, though the IOC figured the United States would already have enough flag-waving corruption with its presidential election.

Finally, Angelina Jolie announced this week that she is adopting an Ethiopian girl. It's part of a plan to get the kid to love Ethiopia.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

At last, I am an answer!

Last night, Nick Pittman of The Times of Acadiana (a one-time classmate of mine and a great writer) solicited my opinion on the ongoing fiber debate raging here. What's going on is, our local public utility system (LUS) wants to wire a network of fiber optics directly into Lafayette homes and businesses. Currently, few businesses and no homes in Lafayette have a direct fiber-optic connection. This initiative, which would cost nothing in new tax dollars (it's financed via loan), would break up the virtual monopoly Cox Communications has on cable/internet services here. At last, a choice in service providers!

Alas, a lot of people are freaking out, because this new service is being offered by the dastardly government! At least, that's the main reason the loudest voices are giving. Much to the chagrin of those who wanted the issue to never even be brought up, a referendum will be held on July 16. Can you imagine if we had to vote every time a new business wanted to set up shop? But that's Louisiana for you.

For what it's worth, here's my response to Nick's question:


I am fully in favor of allowing LUS to get into fiber.

LUS stands to wire every home and business with fiber optics, which nobody--Cox or anyone else--has brought to Lafayette homes. And if I read correctly, no tax money is going to be used on this project; it is expected to pay for itself. As far as government services go, one could do far worse. If LUS getting involved with fiber is what it takes to bolster the quality of telecommunications in Lafayette Parish, then why not do it? Given the pro-business climate here, you'd think they would roll out the red carpet for a newer, faster communications service.

I suspect a lot of people are nervous about this only because it involves the government, thinking that such pursuits should be left to private business. The anti-LUS position consists mainly of the mentality that anything government does is automatically suspect. I don't doubt, however, that you could find the same amount of people with gripes against the private companies.

Many people rarely bat an eye over private boondoggles that have far-costlier tax implications (honestly, do we really need another Superdome?); but when it involves the government, far-better deals suddenly have a stigma. They'd rather see a private business run unabated over the people than to give a government service a chance at offering a decent alternative.

Allowing LUS to get into fiber isn't necessarily a jab against Cox; like with anything else, consumers will have a choice. And ultimately, that's what it's all about. If you like Cox, stay with them. But why not allow those who want options to have them? The fiber initiative can only make quality of service better for everyone involved.

Check out some great pro-fiber PSAs made by friends of friends here. Probably the best use of a toilet I've ever seen on a commercial!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Look at me, trying to be Billy Joel!

One song that best combines my love for history with my love for Billy Joel is his 1989 hit "We Didn't Start the Fire." The song combines three elements that generally define what I like most in a song: 1) it's supremely catchy; 2) it has a historical and political depth that makes me want to revisit it; and 3) it made Blender's list of 100 worst songs ever.

With that in mind, I want to perpetuate the song's relevance with an updated verse of my own, spanning 1990-2005. I first tried this around 1998, though I don't remember what I wrote back then. I'm guessing, though, that it was considerably lighter in content than a 2005 verse would be.

(Note to musicians and purists: I'm obviously not Billy Joel, who undoubtedly has a better grasp of musical meter than I do. But I managed to make my lyrics work to the beat, and I must say this isn't bad for a hour or so of research and writing. It's just for fun anyway, right?)

Desert Storm, Rodney King, Soviets collapsing,
Clinton, Simpsons, Waco, Quayle misspells potato

Mark McGwire, black church fires, Springer, Kenneth Starr,
Whitewater, Hutu slaughter, hip-hop coastal war

O.J., Tim McVeigh, Brady Bill, Rabin killed
Susan Smith, Gingrich, Y2K is not a glitch

Deadbeat dads, hanging chads, George Bush, Al Gore
9/11, Iraq War, haven't we been here before?