Friday, December 30, 2005

After death do we part?

If you marry someone, and they die years later, so you remarry, and then die years later, who do you wind up with in the afterlife (assuming there is one)? Would you get to choose? How would the loser feel? And would you really want either one?

At the end of Titanic, Rose (Kate) is shown meeting up with Jack (Leo) on the Titanic, presumably signifying a reunion in the afterlife. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. I wonder how Rose's late husband--the one with whom she spent decades building up a life and love--felt about losing to some snide ass whom she knew for maybe three days of her life. I'd be pretty pissed. In fact, I'd want to kill him. But I couldn't, you see, because we're already dead. All I could do was kick his ass endlessly, which would be fun too. Or maybe we'd both share her. I don't know. Seems skanky, even if venereal disease isn't an issue anymore.

The Mormons have it the worst: multiple wives...and eternal marriage! Good luck with that, Zacariah!

This is why I plan on never getting married. Or dying. Too many issues!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How about a buckle sandwich?

With only a week left in the year, another person I know has died. That makes three this year, which is still below average. But not any less tragic.

According to a report from Louisiana State Police Troop I, alcohol was a factor in the single car crash that claimed the life of Jerod P. Angelle, 25, early Monday morning.

Angelle was traveling east on La. 96 when his car ran off the road and into a ditch where it overturned and ejected him, the report stated. Angelle was not wearing his seat belt, the report said. (Daily Advertiser)

Jerod and I graduated from high school together. I last ran into him at Joe Thibodeaux's funeral in September 2004 (Thibodeaux, as most of you know, was another high-school classmate of mine who was killed in Iraq). I hadn't seen Jerod in years, but he was the first person I talked to when I arrived at the funeral home. He was nothing like the young kid who'd given me a hard time in P.E. class 10 years before. He was friendly, welcoming and compassionate. We talked for a good while over doughnuts and juice. Now I'm in disbelief once again. He's the second member of my high-school class to die in the past month or so (the other one having died of meningitis after a hard-knock life).

When Joe died, I took heat for using his death to spark a discussion on the futility of the war in Iraq. Well, guess what; I'm going to do it again! Because while we can argue forever about the merits of the war, there is no even REMOTELY plausible justification for drinking and driving, or for not wearing a seat belt. Ever. What makes Jerod's death so sad is that its root causes are 100 percent preventable.

Drinking and driving: a no-brainer (or, should I say, you need no brain to do it). Here in south Louisiana, where daiquiri shops have DRIVE-THRUS, it's nothing for someone who's had a few to get behind the wheel. Part of this is the deep roots that drinking has in the Cajun/Mardi Gras culture. The second is that, because so many Louisiana drivers are so horrifyingly incompetent to begin with, few people even notice the difference. It's at a point where I generally drive myself anywhere where drinking might happen, simply because I rarely drink and don't trust anyone else to drive me around. Short of that, I'll take someone else's keys. Usually isn't too difficult after a certain point.

Seat belt use (or lack thereof) is also a huge problem in Louisiana. For reasons I don't understand, most people here have to be seriously cajoled into using them. I'm talking frying pans. Personally, I feel naked when I'm sitting in a car unbuckled. But to some Louisianians, it's not nudity; it's the emperor's outfit! Can't you see it, you fool? This excerpt of a recent (and exceedingly long) letter to the Times of Acadiana says more than I possibly could about the prevalent mentality:

I've heard it said that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has put pressure upon the several states of these United States of America to pass seat belt laws, and if they did not enact the tyrannical law, their federal highway funds would be cut -- forcing every free American citizen to place a seat belt across their bodies, whether they like it or not.

When we the people are being forced to wear a seat belt across our own bodies, and if you don't, you are treated as a criminal, whereby no one was injured, America is no longer the Land of the Free.

If and unless someone can prove me wrong, God created man to be the master of the animals of this earth, he did not create man to be the master of men and those who believe that they should be masters of men, should be labeled as tyrants and anarchists and should be impeached for violating their oaths of office.

Has slavery really really been abolished in America? If it has, why in the hell am I being forced to put a safety device across my body against my will?

Russell John Myers
New Iberia

Wow. Does it get any more idiotically anti-government than that? "I'm against a government that insists I take care of myself for the purpose of the general welfare. Welfare is bad! I'm not going to wear my seat belt, just to spite you!!" Undying allegiance to indefensible principles; no wonder the South lost the Civil War. Perhaps if the belts were made of leather and had ornate buckles...

Don't get me wrong; a lot of government mandates can kiss my ass. But you know, traffic laws are fine with me, because they make sense. Red lights as guides? Sounds like a good 3 a.m.! When I'm in rush-hour traffic, I'd like to think that everyone navigating the streets adheres to the rules of the road so that we can have some semblance of order and safety. Unfortunately, we all know there's always going to be some prick who'll weave dangerously or run the red light two whole seconds after it's changed. And those are generally the same people who are uninsured and are not wearing their seat belts. In other words, the very people who compel the government to be so militant about the laws in the first place. Irony's a bitch, huh?

How effective are seat belts? When comedian Sam Kinison's car careened head-on with a runaway truck in 1992, both vehicles reportedly flew 12 feet in the air and spun, completely shearing off both front ends. Sam, who had seen the truck coming, had slowed down to 15 m.p.h. while the truck continued at highway speeds. Even so, only Sam died, and only because he was not wearing his seat belt. The drunken rednecks who ran into him, on the other hand, all escaped unhurt and even yelled at Sam for getting in "their" way.

And look at Dale Earnhardt. His son, Dale Jr., one of the few people to know the full details of his father's infamous 2001 race-car accident, has said that his father's injuries could have only been caused by a faulty seat belt. Stock cars are built to absorb 200 mph's worth of head-on damage without significant injury to the driver. That's how much seat belts matter.

And, contrary to popular belief, seat belts do not trap you. In fact, if you fall into water, they are more likely to keep you from smacking into something, thus rendering you unconscious.

So seat belts work, whereas not using them causes trauma not only to the victim, but to anyone who witnesses it or otherwise knows the victim. If I collide with someone who isn't wearing a seat belt and they die, that causes trauma to me as well. Why would anyone put themselves and others in that situation? WHY? So yes, it IS my problem when you don't buckle up.

I have a strict policy that anyone who rides in a vehicle that I'm driving must buckle up. I will not move until they do. They almost always complain. Some even try to make me feel like a nag for insisting upon it. But I'll take that chance, because I will not risk having someone's blood on my hands just because they're too cool to harness themselves.

Not using seat belts (especially after drinking) is the saddest way to die. Sadder than smoking, Russian Roulette and Iraq combined. While accidents often cannot be avoided, you owe it to yourself to do everything you can to reduce the damage. It's not a choice; it's a civic duty. Jerod, a good guy, made a bad decision; it's up to all of us to learn from it and all of the thousands of tragedies like it annually. At least then you'll be alive to complain about seat-belt laws.

American Gossip

--Officials at the FBI are investigating claims that the Bush administration authorized "erroneous renditions," in which terrorist suspects are deported to other countries. Evidence of this allegation seems thin, however, because Bush has no idea what "erroneous renditions" means.

--Dry brush fires swept across Oklahoma and Texas on Tuesday, causing Governor Rick Perry to declare Texas a disaster area. Oh, so that's what it takes!

--The NYC Transit Union approved a new contract for the city's public-transit drivers Tuesday night, which will net them a 10.9 percent pay raise over the next three years. It's all part of the GOP presidential platform for 2008: "We did TOO make the trains run on time!"

--Reynaldo Rapalo, the Florida rapist who had escaped from prison last week, was recaptured Monday night. Fellow inmates celebrated his return by raping him.

--A New Mexico judge lifted a restraining order filed against David Letterman by a woman who claims he harasses her through his show. Letterman responded to the charges by saying, "On the show tonight, Joaquin Phoenix and Trisha Yearwood!"

--Britney's babydaddy Kevin Federline has a new Web site. No wonder I couldn't purchase the domain,!

--January's GQ Magazine features Wafah Dufour, American-born niece of Osama bin Laden, who wants her fellow citizens not to judge her by her relatives. Interestingly enough, the magazine quotes former President George Bush as saying the same thing.

--In license-plate news, an Illinois alderman recently copped to lying about his military record in order to get Purple Heart tags. New legislation would require those who forge military documents to pay a $1,000 fine and run for president.

--And finally, George W. Bush said he hopes for a "better year" in 2006. Which reminds me of what he said for 2005: "I hope to celebrate the end of the Iraq War with a big party in New Orleans."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

They're REALLY yellow pages now

When my great-aunt died in 1992, I found among her possessions a phone book from 30 years earlier. Completely intact, the directory is a relic of its time; while not all that dissimilar from today's phone books (come on, Lafayette!), it does showcase everything good, bad and just plain weird about life before Beatlemania. Today, we look at a phone book that JFK himself could have conceivably held in the sweet and innocent month before the Cuban Missile Crisis (not that he did, of course; that's an idea too cool to be reality).

On another note, does anyone else find it ironic that the cover of the Yellow Pages is GREEN?

Whatever happened to this artist? It seems like every advertisement or book was illustrated in this manner from the 1940s to the early 1980s; I'll bet even the porn looked like this.

Well, what do you did! Cheeky devils.

The early 1960s were an age of innovations for the telecommunications industry, as evidenced by the increasing plethora of calling services available for customers. The one explained below allows you to reach a caller who isn't home. With this convenient service, you don't even have to stay at your phone! In fact, you'll want nothing more than to get away from it:

I can't imagine this was too popular, considering the wake-the-dead bells of classic telephones. Not to mention the poor hillbillies who had to take more steps than the combined tooth count of their families just to talk to Jethro in Beverly Hills.

Emergency calls were no less complicated in the age of the Rotating Dial:

One of the big hits of the Fall TV season in 1962 was Rescue CE-56411, starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner. A typical emergency recording went like this:

Dispatcher: "Hello! City Police."
Caller: "How do you do?"
Dispatcher: "How do you do?"
Caller: "Fine. Thank you."
Dispatcher: "Fine. Thank you."
Caller: "Now that we're acquantainces, I want to report a fire."
Dispatcher: "I'm terribly sorry, but this is the police line. If you want to report a fire, you must call the Fire Department. Consult your telephone directory, if it hasn't yet gone up in flames."
Caller: "Oh, darn. You're right. I apologize profusely for this unnecessary intrusion. Good day to you, madam!"
Dispatcher: "Good luck to you too, sir!"

But those were far from the only complicated arrangements back in the day. While 1962 was a sweet and innocent time, the powerlines of the day were anything but:

Shucks, that lying robot Al Gore didn't invent the Internet after all! Kennedy did!

I can only imagine how slow the connections in this setup had to have been; then again, 1962 was a slower age, so maybe it all worked out. Television-repair ads, on the other hand, tout their quickness, showcasing the high priority that TV once had in America:

Because you can really trust repairmen who handle your TV on a unicycle while getting shot at by a young George W. Bush, who is fiendishly blocking the stairs. Slow down, sir! Mike Douglas will be on again tomorrow night.

Artists certainly took their time, as we've already seen above. Witness also this ad for Keller's Bakery:

According to local folklore, this girl's fire-breath killed this artist. Birthday girl recently turned 47, which scared the hell out of everyone who stood around her cake. Amazingly, this bakery is still in business, at the same location. Their boxes even look the same. Eat THAT, Wal-Mart!

Pregnancy girdles? I thought it was coathangers in those days...

And just in case the stork dies en route:

Hey, those newfangled fast-food hamburgers weren't going to make themselves!

It is often said (by me, anyway) that one can tell a lot about a society by the name and nature of its night spots. This is certainly true for 1962. For a fun brainteaser, try to guess the atmosphere and demographic of each club listed below. Go ahead, I dare you!

And speaking of segregation...

But actually showing the "colored" people? Too risque for a family publication!

For those times when your home is invaded by hordes of black termites:

The point of all of this is, as Billy Joel once put it, "The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems." Then again, he was 13 back in 1962. Probably didn't even have a cell phone, that square!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Now wait just a second!

2005 to last EVEN LONGER?!!

WASHINGTON - Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scientists are delaying the start of 2006 by the first “leap second” in seven years, a timing tweak meant to make up for changes in the Earth’s rotation.

The adjustment will be carried out by sticking an extra second into atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight Coordinated Universal Time, the widely adopted international standard, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology said this week.

“Enjoy New Year’s Eve a second longer,” the institute said in an explanatory notice. “You can toot your horn an extra second this year.”

That's how evil 2005 has been: it doesn't even end when it's supposed to! It's like the temporal equivalent of the 2000 election. Except that at least 2000 had a better economy (even considering the dot-com bust) and no one then was publishing year-end editions on how it was the Worst Year Ever (Esquire did in 1998, but they were joking...or clueless).

This is the first year I've ever heard people say they can't wait another second for it to be over. This must be a really painful announcement for them. Like embarrassingly impotent sex, this year just goes on...and on...and on...and on...and on...

A leap second is added to keep uniform timekeeping within 0.9 second of the Earth’s rotational time, which can speed up or slow down because of many factors, including ocean tides.

So the Earth is slowing down? This is Battle of Jericho shit! Guess God really is a Republican after all. On second thought, perhaps we're being asked to contemplate a little on the mistakes that we've perpetrated and endured over the past year and how can prevent such actions in an enlightened future. Naah, God's Republican.

Can't we make up this extra second in a good year? I say we retroactively add it to 1999, along with the last leap second we had! Or hell, any other year besides this one. At this point, even 2001 is starting to look good.

In any case, experts agree that 2005 has to end as soon as possible. I second that notion.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Clean up that Act!

PATRIOT Act put on life-support; subject to surgery

The Senate vote Wednesday night marked a turnabout for GOP leaders, who had long insisted they would accept nothing less than a permanent renewal of the law.

Passage of a one-month extension means lawmakers will debate the issue early in 2006, and is certain to require concessions to the Senate critics who are seeking greater privacy protections.

Republicans who had pushed for legislation that would make most of the expiring provisions permanent said the agreement only postpones the ongoing arguments over the Patriot Act for six months. “We’ll be right back where we are right now,” said a clearly frustrated Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

The PATRIOT Act is definitely in trouble. You wouldn't renew an apartment lease for one month, unless you needed the time to figure out how best to flee the place. Though the purpose of the one-month renewal is to allow the act to continue while Congress is in recess, the fact that the Senate had previously proposed a six-month renewal speaks volumes about the state of the PATRIOT. If some serious changes weren't about to go down, they would have given the act longer life-support.

An analogy: earlier this year, I brought my truck in to get a brake job. While the garage had a banner advertising the repair for as low as $69, my wear was far more extensive and ran up to $700. Not being able to swing that bill, and thinking my truck was on its last wheels anyway, I asked the mechanic if I had any other options. He said that, for $400, they could add some shoe to my existing brakes, a procedure that would carry me for three or four months at most. That sounded iffy, so I took out a loan and went full-throttle (as it turned out, my truck seized almost exactly four months later, so in retrospect I could have settled for the jerry-rigging). But despite assuming that my truck had little life left, and being too poor to afford it, I went for the full repair. Why? Because you never know.

Which brings us back to the PATRIOT Act. With all the fear-mongering still going on in Washington, long-term renewal of the act should have been a slam dunk. Even with the problems the Senate faced regarding its provisions, the act would have been extended much further if they thought it was even close to being salvaged in its current form. Because you never know.

I guess sometimes you DO know.

We're all Rocket Men

Musician Elton John married his longtime lover David Furnish in England Wednesday, along with hundreds of other gay couples who have made similar commitments there. In light of this newly blessed union, certain amendments have already been made to the law. If you have not already done so, you must heed the following rules:

--All heterosexual married couples must immediately divorce;

--All U.S. citizens (regardless of previous marital status) must enter into marriage with someone of the same sex, preferably a child or an animal;

--A blood test is required, in case a partner doesn't have an STD;

--All Bibles must be torn up prior to the ceremony;

--Each ceremony must be performed by a hellbound Episcopalian pastor;

--All vows must end, "By the powers vested in me through NAMBLA, I now pronounce you husband and husband (or, "wife and wife"). You may fist the bride."

--The gay lobby requires a minimum of two witnesses, including (but not limited to) the following: young, impressionable children; the owner of the bathhouse where the couple met; Satan; and any monkey elders to whom the parties might be related.

These are the new rules, because that's clearly what Elton John had in mind when he married the man he loves.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush, Colts both losers Sunday

Bush addresses war; nation returns to sender

WASHINGTON - President Bush asserted Sunday night the United States is winning the war in Iraq and issued a plea to Americans divided by doubt: “Do not give in to despair and do not give up on this fight for freedom.”

Wow. He really sounds confident about our so-called winning! Can you see Bush as a football coach during a timeout? "Don't give in to the scoreboard; it lies. We're way ahead of them. So don't give up! It's not over yet."

In a prime-time address, Bush acknowledged setbacks and sacrifice and cautioned there would be more violence and death in the months ahead. “Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day,” he said.

"That's why I don't look. Looking is depressing."

The admissions were part of a White House effort to address complaints that Bush lacked a solid strategy for the war and has been oblivious to the violence that Americans plainly see on television.

And yes, I'd say that Dubya's little chat definitely addressed his disconnect!

Bush said last week’s voting for parliament will not bring an end to the violence in Iraq, where he has estimated that 30,000 civilians have died. But he said Iraq’s election, 6,000 miles away, “means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror.”

"Oh, wait, did I say, 'has an ally'? I lie! Ha ha! I meant, 'faces an insurgency.'"

His speech came amid an uproar in Congress over whether he exceeded his powers in conducting the war on terror with a secret eavesdropping program...

The real uproar should be over the fact that Bush wields any power at all regarding the war on terror, considering how not well he's handled it.

By the way...that "secret eavesdropping program"? Bush dismissed the allegation as a rumor spread by John Kerry and Harry Reid. At least that's what Bush heard them planning to do on the line that he tapped.

...and on a day that Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad and faced questions from U.S. soldiers about their mission.

Most common question: "Do we have a mission?"

“The last speech he gave, he used the word ‘victory’ 14 times. What does that mean?” asked Reid.

In George Orwell's 1984, "Victory" referred to a brand of cigarettes. Which makes sense, because the White House is clearly smoking something.

‘Act of reklessness’ (Clearly, the "S" in "MSNBC" does not stand for "spelling")

He said there were only two options for the United States — victory or defeat.

Actually, I think there's a third in between there someplace: something about a mate that's stale? Like that play in chess where nobody wins and no beneficial moves can be made?

“And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do..."

Wait, we're still talking about the war, right?

Bush spoke openly about about war doubts and the loss of American lives in Iraq. “This loss has caused sorrow for our whole nation and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving,” the president said.

Again, is he referring to the war itself? Even for Bush, this is a startlingly ambiguous speech. Quick, I need proof that this is, in fact, a Dubya speech! Perhaps a vapid talking point as an answer to the above rhetorical question?

He answered the question by saying that if the United States were not fighting the terrorists in Iraq, “they would be on the offense and headed our way.”

Ah, excellent! I thought for a second that someone had slain Bush and replaced him with someone .003 percent more open to criticism.

Bush said the grim news that Americans see on television about the violence and bloodshed “proves that the war is difficult. It does not mean that we are losing. Behind the images of chaos that terrorists create for the camers [sic], we are making steady gains with a clear objective in view.”

Astounding! The terrorists staging media events to alter perception of conditions in Iraq? Thank heavens that, here in the U.S. of A., we have a president who is above all that!

In sports, Manning report less perfect than usual

Poor Colts drop to 13-1 ((sniff!))

INDIANAPOLIS - Perfection is now a thing of the past for the Indianapolis Colts.

Looking ahead isn’t so grim, though — especially with the Super Bowl still in their sights.

“It’s tough to go 16-0. You have to play well every week,” coach Tony Dungy said after his team was beaten 26-17 by San Diego to end its 13-game winning streak.

Yeah, seems like grim times. Just terrible! Cry me a hurricane and a 3-11 record.

I'm very proud of the Chargers this season, and to me they're the absolute perfect team to finally break this streak. As I recall, Eli Manning told San Diego to get screwed when they drafted him, and immediately demanded a trade to the New York Giants. The Chargers clocked the Giants earlier this year, so I'm glad to see the team that wasn't good enough for the almighty Manning name exact a little karmic payback once again, against Peyton. It's at least some consolation in the likelihood that the Colts will still dominate the Super Bowl. With that in mind, all I can say is, GOOOO Indianapolis! I'm a fan now! Look out, Colts!

To paraphrase a line from the movie Poetic Justice, "This is poetic justice."

Friday, December 16, 2005


Jessica, Nick officially not legal anymore

This is what happens when marriage is your be-all, end-all of human existence. I remember interviews from Jessica's earliest days of fame (before she was even out of her teens) where she expressed a serious desire to get married; this despite the fact that (as far as I know) she was unattached at the time. That reflects the attitude of a lot of women I have known. It's one thing to say you can't wait to get married when you've been with a guy for years; it's another altogether to be 19 and saying it when you don't even have someone in mind!

For too many women (and even some men), marriage is seen an absolute necessity in life. And for all the wrong reasons, too: the pomp, the dress, the bridesmaids, the showers, and of course the rings (oh, the rings)! Way too many people get married to marriage itself rather than the person.

And though it's generally unspoken, I suspect that a lot of young wannabe newlyweds have been raised thinking that they need to be married to make love. Jessica definitely espoused that view throughout many early interviews. While I can understand the desire to remain pure, marrying for sex is a bad idea no matter how much it makes Jesus smile. When you marry young with the intention of having sex, you aren't being prudent; you're being immature. First off, you should already know how sexually compatible you are with your future spouse. Nothing will breed resentment in your marriage quite like not being able to consummate it properly. Try before you buy. Who knows, maybe you'll regain some rationality in the afterglow! Marriage is a big deal--even bigger than selecting the perfect clutch from Old Navy.

But before you make any moves, get some education. Learn about sex and protection, preferably from someone whose interests aren't vested in casting you in Hell for asking. Then ask yourself why you want to get married. Is it because you really love the person you're with? Because your mom wants you to start a family before you reach 23 and hit menopause? Because you can't stand not having sex? Or even because you simply want to move out the house? Unless it's the first question, you're an idiot.

The way I see it, marriage is one of those things in life that happens far more than it should. Instead of being a rare bonus in life, it's something that everyone does, and consciously so. Which is why I never say "congratulations" when someone gets engaged or married, even if I fully endorse the tying of a particular knot. Because it's a conscious decision!

I'm not saying that to be cynical (well, maybe a little), because this occurred to me years ago, at about the same time that most of my friends were graduating from high school. Why should I have congratulated them? Most of them were honor students at the very least, and they didn't have obstacles to overcome. When you add compulsory attendance to that, getting through isn't that hard. I myself thought very little of it when I graduated. But even so, completing school at any level requires more accomplishment than matrimony. You know what deserves congratulations? Overcoming a disability or extreme poverty. Graduating from college. Landing a dream job. Things you EARN.

What early, sex-based marriage leads to is usually divorce at around 25 which, according to Jessica, is almost your mid-twenties. And, more often than not, the young divorcees who believe so hard in marriage suffer severe disillusionment and self-loathing when it doesn't work out. And that's just in the cases when they aren't in deep denial that their marriage sucks.

On the other hand, some young marriages work. More power to them. But then, they're not generally the ones who are Jessicated about the institution. They found someone they loved and continue to love, and didn't adhere to rigid notions of what commitment entails.

So if I seem a bit crass about the Jessica-Nick split-up, it's because I knew it wasn't meant to be. And I don't mean I guessed that from watching Newlyweds (I never did); I knew it the first time I heard that she wanted to get hitched. I knew she wouldn't rest until she cast her Mr. Right, and that's always a bad idea. Don't shop when you're hungry, so to speak. Good things come to those who don't look for them.

My interview with Dick Cheney!

Author's note: I was going to save this for my Christmas surprise, but I just can't help it. As you regular readers know, vice president Dick Cheney visits my hometown of Lafayette on a relatively regular basis. I didn't mention it at the time (instead preferring to run this constructive critique of the visit), but I actually managed to finagle a couple of minutes with the big guy himself.

How did I do it? By donning my finest menswear, effectively exploiting an old press pass and exercising uncharacteristic chutzpah. Bringing along my Halliburton-employee friend also helped significantly. We rode to the function in his company car, which was allowed to glide unimpeded among the gridlock. I found the vice president to be affable, even friendly, especially while making his speech. I did my best to catch him on that emotional wave. So, without further ado, here's my interview with Dick Cheney:

Me: Mr. Vice President!

Dick: [Nothing]

Me: Um, Mr. Vice President?

Dick: [Not talking to me] You see, the oil refineries are our top priority...

Cute rookie reporter: Mr. Vice President!

Dick: What?

Cute rookie reporter: May we talk with you for a couple of seconds?

Dick: I suppose.

Cute rookie reporter: Oh, this is so exciting! My first interview with a celebrity! This is even better than when I ambushed Ralph Begnaud.

Dick: [smiles as much as his face allows]

Cute rookie reporter: The White House has been lambasted over the past year for allegedly falsifying its WMD reports in effort to accelerate the war in Iraq. Tell me, sir, how wrong are they?

Dick: Very wrong!

Cute rookie reporter: Did you hear that, guys? I feel so validated!

Me: Mr. Vice President, if I may...

Cute rookie reporter: Wait, are you crazy? I'm not going to waste this moment! May I ask a follow-up?

Dick: For $1,000. [Pauses] Sorry, that was a reflex! Of course.

Cute rookie reporter: Some would say that your trip here to Louisiana proves that you are preoccupied with fundraising for Republican candidates instead of helping run the country. But isn't the real reason because you think Louisiana is the best state in the world?

Dick: Of course Louisiana is the best state! It's got oil, a political system to envy and great hunting. It's the perfect place for a man of my stature.

Cute rookie reporter: Awesome! Well, I know you're a busy man, so I'll let you go. But I just want to let you know on a personal level that I am huge fan of yours and voted for you and President Bush enthusiastically in both 2000 and 2004. Heck, I would have voted for you several times if I had the chance!

Dick: We're working on that.

Cute rookie reporter: Oh my god, I will so treasure this interview for the rest of my life! Today, I am a full-fledged journalist. I have learned so much today, not just about the cooperation of the press, but about the approachability of our awesome leaders in general and--

Dick: Right, okay...Next!

Me: Mr. Vice President...

Dick: You that guy who came in with the Halliburton employee?

Me: Yes, sir. A very close friend. We trade drilling stories over venison.

Dick: Ah, yes. He asked for a raise last week, actually. Got it on good authority. If I were you I'd reconsider my association with such an agitator. [Squints eyes] Wait a minute...I know you! I thought the Secret Service took care of you!

Me: [Innocently] Moi?

Dick: You speak French? SECURITY!!

Me: [Boldly] Security? When have we ever had that with you guys in Washington?

All right, all right...I think you can definitely tell at this point that I'm kidding.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tight coverage all around the equator!

--Crips gang founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed Tuesday morning in California. Williams was a blue-state prisoner killed by a red-state policy, proving that the thug mentality is alive and well among our leaders.

--Iraqi expatriates around the world voted for their home country's parliament Tuesday, in advance of the domestic election on Thursday. The new government assumes office Dec. 31, guaranteeing a stable Iraqi government for at least the rest of 2005.

--An Associated Press study shows that the poor and uneducated are the most likely groups to be affected by polluted air. This, of course, is due to the poverty of intellect among those behind our clean-air policies.

--Former President Gerald Ford was released from a California hospital Tuesday night, where he underwent routine tests and was treated for a cold. In a related story, Vice President Dick Cheney has learned that his heart is, in fact, two sizes too small.

--This winter, natural gas prices have reached their highest rate ever. Pressed for comment, Glenn Frey said, "The Heat is (click click click click) Off!"

--"VIPER" teams, the ground equivalent of air marshals, will conduct a test patrol of mass-transit systems across the country this week. The VIPERs are trained to detect such warning signs as "high levels of stress or anxiety" among passengers. Because that's so unusual among holiday commuters!

--A woman in France received the world's first face transplant Nov. 27, and doctors are eager to bring the procedure to the United States. In a possibly related story, Republican insiders are banking on Newt W. Bush in 2008.

--In entertainment news, Bob Dylan will begin hosting a weekly show on XM Satellite Radio in March. His sidekick? "Coherent John."

--Faced with no more cemetery space, a town in Brazil has officially outlawed death. The penalty for offenders? Life!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Is the Catholic Church Pro-Strife?

Yesterday I stumbled upon a provocative column in Acadiana Catholic, the local diocesan newsletter. In the column, entitled "War, Peace and Catholicism, (Part I)," Father Mitchell Guidry makes the case for Catholic support of war. Though I'm not at all surprised in this day and age to see religious leaders attempt to reconcile the views of Jesus with those of our "morally steadfast" president, seeing it in this context particularly alerted me to a potential rift in Catholicism.

Father Mitchell begins the column with a recollection of a conference that he recently attended. One speaker particularly outraged him, because they alleged that the Christian view on war and peace had strayed over time:

The first speaker of the day...openly dissented from Church teaching charging that the theory of a just war as outlined by Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas (both Doctors of the Church) and taught by the Church was "baloney" and was puzzled as to why for the first three centuries of the Church her teachers were writing against Christian participation in war and all forms of violence then all of a sudden, She becomes a warrior Church...One could have left thinking the Church took up arms to placate kings and subjugate nations to become an institution of power and wealth despising the poor and weak. But what does the Catholic Church really believe about war and peace?

Mitchell initially answers the question by citing the typical Biblical passages extolling Jesus as a beacon of peace and purity (the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7; Matthew 26:52). But then Mitchell cites a very interesting chapter, Matthew 24, in which Jesus tells the apostles that wars mark the beginning of the glorious end. This leads to a very loaded conclusion on Mitchell's part:

Wars are terrible and awful occurrences, and Jesus acknowledges that. He does not condone war; he preaches that we are to strive for peace, to work for it, to be peaceful ourselves, but as a result of man's weakness due to original sin, wars are inevitable....

We may not be able to prevent war, but we are not obliged to participate in them. The Church teaches that all citizens and governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war and to do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. Although war is not good in and of itself, it can, although rarely, be a vehicle for peace when it is able to restore order with limited harm.

While war is a result of sin, we cannot say it is always sinful. In certain grave situations, under strict conditions and the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good, war can be justified. Public authorities have the right and duty to protect the good of those they serve by providing means of national defense against unjust aggression, but the Church's magisterium along has the right to declare what is moral and immoral.

All right, so let me get this straight: war is undesirable and wicked, and yet it happens anyway due to the fallibility of man, so we might as well tolerate extreme situations where circumstances deem it necessary. Does that not sound like another certain issue in which the Catholic Church takes the polar opposite stance?

As long as the Catholic Church bends over this far to accept war as a fact of life, they might as well stop speaking out against abortion, because clearly "pro-life" no longer applies. At least then, the view would be consistent because all you would have to do is substitute "abortion" for "war." This has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion and war; instead, I just wish to ask the Church (and all other institutions like it) a simple question: how can you justify bloodshed while claiming to support life?

No Opinion Left Behind

Often overlooked in the political arena are the opinions of young adults. Sure, a lot of older people might argue that what teenagers have to say isn't important, or it's ignorant or what--EVER! Like it or not, however, today's teenagers are tomorrow's leaders and taxpayers. The beliefs that will guide American society in the coming decades are currently being shaped by the events of today in young brains all over the nation. For that reason, popular attitudes must be prodded and explored. As a very enlightening compilation in the Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette Xtra shows, today's youth are already reflecting popular lines throughout the political spectrum. What they believe says a lot about the state of political debate (and divison) today.

For the article, Janesville-area teens were given this to consider: Our nation's leaders in Washington seem to be at a crossroads in the debate over keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Explain why you think we should pull out or continue the fight.

As the old saying (or at least as MY old saying goes), high schoolers often ape their parents' or friends' views on issues. In many cases, this leads to rhetoric like the following. Or at least, I hope that's why some of the respondents took these audacious stances:

Our troops should stay in Iraq. My father has been in the military since age 18 and has dealt with Iraq for 15 years. Saddam Hussein created peace through fear. Now that he's gone, we're keeping the peace. If U.S. troops withdraw, there is bound to be a civil war.

Saddam Hussein = "Peace through fear;" George W. Bush = "War through fear." Sounds like a bargain to me.

Now that we're in Iraq and started the job, we have to finish. We can't pull troops out in the middle and say "We're leaving halfway through; good luck." Now we have to stay, regardless of whether or not we should have gone in the first place.

"Well, I'm already addicted to crack. Might as well keep using!"

Leaving now could lead to a civil war in Iraq and a country far more dangerous than with Saddam Hussein.

Civil war? Unrest in Iraq? More dangerous than Saddam Hussein? Isn't that precisely what we have now?

We should stay in the war with Iraq. There are many people whose freedom we are fighting for, against terrorists and people who want to return to power or even tyranny. We are helping many people, and we should stay.

Edited from the end of the comment: "This is Fox News. We report, you decide." Apparently, she doesn't know when to stop aping what she hears on TV.

I think we almost have to continue to fight this war because if we were to pull out now, all of it would start over again.

True. No point in giving Bush any ideas.

If we pull the troops out now, all the money that we spent on the war would go to waste.

Because it's such a great investment now, right?

I feel that we shouldn't be in Iraq to begin with, but we cannot leave until the war we started is finished. Our reasons for being there may be cloudy, but our reasons to stay are clear: Stay the course until we are done.

Like you didn't see that one coming.

Some of those who supported continued action in Iraq largely did so, not out of the desire to meet ass with boot, but because they feel that we owed it to the Iraqis to fix the damage we have wrought. Granted, that doesn't make a lot of sense, but at least it's a start:

Our president went into Iraq under the false pretense that we were liberating the country; what he really wanted was oil. I think that now that we have already done so much damage, we have to stay.

Our reason for invading this country was based upon false information. Because of all the destruction we have caused in Iraq, I think that we need to stay and fix what we have done.

"Maybe if we shoot your leg an eighth time, the flesh'll pop back in the hole!"

If we were to pull out our troops, that means everything we've worked for would have been a waste of time and money. We would have lost everyone for no reason because we haven't won anything yet. We need to finish what we've started.

Because everyone deserves a sixth or seventh chance to get things right, especially if they keep doing the same thing!

If we pull the troops out now, then everything that we have accomplished so far would be for nothing. Also, all the soldiers who gave their lives for this war would have been dying in vain.

But what have we accomplished in Iraq? And when does the dying in vain stop?

Pulling out of the war will show the world that the United States made a mistake, like how people think about Vietnam.

Newsflash: the whole world already thinks we made a mistake! As do most Americans.

If we left Iraq now, then the Iraqis would be mad and come back at us; that wouldn't be good because that just means more people will die.

Well, you might have a point with that one, now that Iraq is a haven for terrorists because of our presence there.

In my opinion, we have not completed our task and we must rebuild before withdrawing. I also believe that we should use the resources such as oil of Iraq as long as we are present.

Hey, we're there and the oil's there! Love the one you're with, right?

We should stay in Iraq after causing them more pain than we have intended to...Because we have already caused enough destruction, we should stay and help them rebuild their country.

And if that works, let's release Mark Chapman and let him counsel Yoko Ono!

Like with any political debate, we have the well-intentioned but ill-defined remarks. Granted, they aren't that any more misguided than those of many adults:

I think we need to pull out of Iraq. All we are doing over there is creating more problems with insurgents attacking us and the Iraqi people getting angry at us. True, we would look weak, but think of how many lives we would be saving.

We wouldn't look weak; we'd look smart. There's a difference.

I think it is necessary to give Iraq the necessary support until it is able to function independently with its own militia.

Question: If even the U.S. military can't control Iraq, how the hell is a militia going to do it?

The war happened in result of the terrorism attacks in 2001...

No, that's just what they tried to tell us.

If we pulled out now, everything up to this point would pretty much be a lost cause and America would be frowned upon by other nations.

Because we're looking so high and mighty in other nations' eyes as it is!

I think we should pull out our troops in Iraq. George spent all his time trying to find Bin Laden and capture him. Thousands of our troops have been killed because of that. I don't agree with a lot of George Bush's ways.

Yeah, Bush has some strange ways, to be sure. Like looking for bin Laden in Iraq, a country he detested (and just happens to have oil and a leader with a history of agonizing the Bush family).

We should pull out of Iraq. George Bush went into Iraq because he thought they had weapons of mass destruction.

He didn't exactly think it, though I suppose his wishing they were there counts for something.

We should stay there because we've already lost more than 2,000 troops and wasted a lot of money. So why pull out now? If we were to pull out now, the Iraqis would take it over again and we would have wasted that money and lost those troops for nothing.

If that isn't the journalistic equivalent of a money shot, I don't know what is!

On the other hand, some of the students were impressively lucid about the effects of the war on our troops, Iraq and conditions at home:

I think innocent lives shouldn't be taken to change a country that is afraid of change. They teach us history so we don't repeat mistakes that are being repeated now.

In school we have a thing called "Christmas in Iraq," and we are supposed to donate things such as toothpaste and food for the soldiers, but some people in the United States need that kind of stuff.

Our president cannot give us a decent explanation as to why these soldiers have made this sacrifice. We had no business being in Iraq in the first place.

It was an arrogant move to attempt to reform the citizens of Iraq and turn it into a Middle-Eastern version of the United States.

I think that we should not keep the troops in Iraq because we already caught, in my opinion, the biggest threat, Saddam Hussein.

The government should really worry about things in our own country, such as the GM plant in Janesville. They should worry more about crime and homeless people in the United States.

If President Bush wants to keep trying to look good, he should go over to Iraq and fight himself. Every day we stay there, more people die. We should negotiate, and if that fails, we should try negotiating again and again.

In the past couple years, Iraq hasn't shown any sign of nuclear weaponry; so what is the point of being halfway across the world, killing innocent people, if there is no danger over there?

Even if we stay longer, after we do finally pull out of Iraq, the government would still probably be taken over by a dictator like after we left Vietnam.

Continuing the war would be a waste of innocent lives and a mockery of all that democracy tries to represent.

The weapons of mass destruction were just a cover-up for more oil control. I wouldn't want my loved ones being killed for WMDs that haven't even been found.

I believe that we should pull out of Iraq and the Middle East because the money we are spending on the war is ridiculous and our $477 billion deficit might already be too large to overcome.

The United States has too many problems of its own that need taken care of before we help a country that doesn't even want our help. But I support our troops out there and hope they come home safely for the holidays.

Adults often dismiss teenagers offhand due to some implied notion of ignorance, and I've certainly talked to enough teenagers who prove that theory. But these students, by and large, seem to have paid at least some attention. So I ask the teenager-haters this: is anything said above any worse than this?

"KA-BLAOW! This is America, and We the People kick other people's asses when they cross the line. If you didn't already know this then you have either been living in Osama bin Laden's cave and are obstructing a worldwide search or you have been living in a different country. If you knew this and don't like it, move!"

"Y does Generation Y seem to be against war? Y does Generation Y seem to be less patriotic than previous generations? Y does Generation Y seem to be uneducated in matters of public concern and national security?"

"We would not go to so many other countries, for war or just for peacekeeping, if it wasn't for the bleeding hearts of America who cannot stand to see people in other countries oppressed.... Before you voice your opinion, please look at all the facts and also understand that we, as American citizens, are not getting all of the information because it is a matter of national security."

"Perhaps it is correct that there is no DIRECT link between Saddam and al-Qaeda [sic], but then where is the direct link between Israeli-Palestinian conflict and blanket anti-Americanism?"

"I am sorry to say, but there will be some innocent lives lost in this war....there will be rejoicing in the streets of Baghdad."

"You are only allowed to protest as long as the government will tolerate it...You also don't need to be the wrench in the gears for things you don't agree with."

These quotes all appeared in the University of Louisiana Vermilion between February and April 2003, during the early days of the Iraq War. The first four were written by editors (no joke!), and our pal Nick is responsible for the next-to-last line. The last one was written by someone who never wrote to the paper again, supposedly because he was later hit in the head with a giant wrench.

The war in Iraq was a hot topic on our campus for a long time. A Sounding Off! from the Sept. 25, 2002 issue shows the diversity of thought (and lack thereof) long before the war commenced (I especially like the fourth response).

I'll round off this look at Iraq by displaying what has to be one of my favorite responses concerning regime change in Iraq. From April 9, 2003:

If nothing else, the next generation of Americans look to be as diverse in their views and as entertaining as the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers currently at the forefront. Whether or not that's a good thing is left to be seen.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Man calls number, has good time

SARASOTA, FL--Local fast-food chef Ben Moseley had a good time Thursday night, after calling a phone number he found scrawled on a men's-room wall.

According to reports, Moseley stopped at a local Shell gas station after finishing his shift at the nearby Denny's. Just before purchasing $15 worth of gas and a six-pack of beer, he went into the men's restroom.

"As I was handling my business, a block of writing on the wall caught my eye," Moseley recalled. "It read, 'For a good time, call Shirley at 556-9905.' Well, I'm the kind of guy who's always looking for a good time, so it only seemed natural for me to take down the number."

Upon returning to his car, Moseley immediately dialed the number on his cell phone and asked for Shirley in what he called his best "ladies-man voice."

"We hit it off right away," he said afterward. "I won't go into the specifics of the call, but I can guarantee you that a good time really did happen!"

Moseley spent approximately 30 minutes on the phone before hurrying back in the store for more good-time supplies and driving off.

"Yeah, that dude just kept talking and talking and never once shut up," said eyewitness Jack Farley. "He probably would've stayed there even longer if I hadn't bumped the back of his car and demanded he finally move his ass from the pump. Jesus!

"Of course, I can't really talk," Farley added. "Cause I did the same thing last week. Some dirty girl named Shirley."

The subject of the good-time giving, Shirley Lopez, expressed delight upon meeting her new paramour. "Ben is such a sweet guy," she said after hanging up. "These days, it's so hard to find a man who's interested in a good time. But Ben's so different than those aggravatingly civilized gentlemen I'd met before. I'm so glad that someone was kind enough to share my phone number on such a marvelous public forum."

The happy couple plans to meet deep in Lovers' Woods at midnight.

"Finally, a man I can trust," Lopez sighed. "I fully intend on giving him a good time."

News Brieves
--Family solves problem in half-hour
--Kid's face freezes after parental warning
--Poll: 11 percent of Americans don't understand percentages
--Satanist parents picket Relient K concert
--True love waits, but true lust doesn't: what they're not telling you
--In business: Prostitution still popular after 10,000 years
--Billions remain dead
--Man's life saved by table manners: "If I had picked up the salad fork, I wouldn't be here today"

Friday Fun Top Ten

10) Africa --Toto
9) S and M --Jay-Z
8) Love Stinks--Jessica Simpson
7) Eurasia--Toto
6) Everybody Big Pun Tonight --Wu-Tang Chung
5) Open for Business --Hilary Duff
4) That Island Next to India --Toto
3) A-P-R-I-C-O-T(-S) --Gwen Stefani
2) Toto --Asia
1) Imagine (Mark Chapman Aborted) --John Lennon

Laffy Taffy
Which Family Guy character is President Bush's favorite?

What is former FEMA director Michael Brown's favorite dish?
Cooked goose.

Why did Barney cheat on Baby Bop?
He wanted a BJ.

Why did the Young Republican cross the road?
To get to the other side of the recruiting station, because he was too chicken to enlist.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ticking off the headlines

--Bush: "Iraq"

--Susan Powter suddenly thought about

--Efficiency not all that efficient

--Cat adorable

--LiveJournal user is fire

--Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio's career die in mutual pact

--Recruiting woes: will "Army of Fun" campaign save the day?

--The Lennon assassination, 25 years later: Chapman still a dick

--Spam e-mail promises "更好的架设在30 天"

--Cruise buys Holmes chemotherapy equipment to offset sonogram effects

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Not "military," just "drill"



Salary: $80,000 (tax free) income potential with competitive benefits package.

I expect big returns from this ad, being that we have Iraq under control and all...

Working Conditions: Extreme danger, stress, physical hardships and possible field living conditions associated with this position within a desert camp complex. Ability to function during an extended assignment at a foreign, in-country facility exposed to seasonal temperature extremes. Ability to cope with shared cafeteria, bath and sleeping quarters. Additionally, a small possibility exists of being killed and lynched on worldwide television or having to rationalize your role in Iraq for the rest of your life to wounded veterans. But hey, it's $80,000, tax-free! Come on, weigh it!

U.S. passport will be required.


Why can't we pay this kind of money to our soldiers who are doing similar, if not far riskier work? Just asking...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tis the season to be folly!

The midnight temperature in Lafayette, Louisiana is currently 38 degrees, which can only mean one thing: it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! At least on the windows of the department stores.

Oops, did I say "Christmas?" I'm not supposed to say that anymore! At least that's what the Jesus Police claims. All of this hoopla about "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" could have happened ONLY in 2005. Well, okay, it's been around for quite some time, but this year it's taken on unprecedented proportions. And it's all because of the God Squad.

Yes, religious right, it's all YOUR fault! Why? For making this perennial non-issue into a big national deal. There wouldn't be such a rush to change things or to be inclusive in the first place if it weren't for your self-righteous hijacking of the Christian religion. The people who wish to genericize holiday greetings are only trying to bring people together. There are so many holidays around this time of year that it only seems appropriate (particularly in mixed company) to say "Happy Holidays" instead of rifling off anything and everything that might be appropriate. So the pro-holiday crowd only wants to bridge the wide chasm that has opened between Christians and those of other faiths. This chasm has widened mainly because YOUR narrow neocon mindset insists on being so obnoxious about your supposed Christianity (which is very different than the one I know) that you turn any reference to Jesus into a nauseating reminder of everything that's wrong with this country at the moment.

Jesus was about peace and good will toward man, not about being a "foot soldier," "prayer warrior" or whatever other execrable term you people use to justify hate and war in the name of God and George W. Bush.

The reason so many liberals are sick of the flag and the pledge of allegiance isn't because they hate America; it's because we hate what those symbols have come to represent. Politicians wave the flag and out "under-God" each other to the point where our national symbols have all the patrotic value of a Happy Meal. While no political party or ideology is entirely innocent of this, the neocons of the 21st century have brought it up to an absurd level. Such is the case with "Merry Christmas." Come on, guys! No one's fighting for Christmas (or any other, uh, holiday) to be stricken from the public memory; it's just that, in this day and age, religious identification has become an even touchier issue than in the recent past. All "Happy Holidays" does is acknowledge that people celebrate life in slightly different ways. If anything, we're remembering Christmas just as much, along with everything else that might be special to people. What's wrong with that? Say whatever you like. Likewise, so will we.

If anything, the measures you decry as taking hold are ridiculous enough to make anyone revert back to tradition. Is "holiday tree" stupid? Yes; saying that is every bit as dumb as saying, "holiday menorah" or "the month of Haladan." We know what these things are and what they represent. Even I say "Christmas tree," because that's what it is.

All of this is a moot point anyway, because only a complete idiot would argue that "holiday" is a secular word in the first place. "Holiday" means HOLY DAY, for Christ's sake! If anyone really is trying to remove religious significance from the multitude of celebrations that center around the winter solstice, they could at least take a cue from the reworking of "womyn" and change the offending letter. Might I suggest, "Joliday"? How perfectly generic!

Happy Jolidays! Does that sound dumb? Well, not any dumber than this whole debate in the first place.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Caption Central

Starring New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin!

--"The idiot's out west, in Crawford."
--Vin Diesel told the casting directors to take a hike, noting that the real-life FEMA response was anything BUT fast or furious
--"Thanks to your wonderful levee construction, guys, this map now looks like my shirt."
--Good thing this is about flood control and not about hair care
--"Men, this is that political wall I keep talking about."
--If that map is anything like Bush's map for peace in the Middle East, then we'll be some lost bastards
--"If you make any more cracks about my 'Super Chrome Dome,' you're outta here!"
--The map was not to scale due to FEMA's lack of a moral compass
--But the real shitstorm's out in D.C.
--Seems a shame to waste it: "Me Morial!"
--"If we had Bush's brain for a levee, we'd be sitting pretty right now"
--"Glad you guys could come. Tell your boss to get the rest of our boys back!"
--"Nice map...just like FEMA to think the world's flat!"
--"That water's like a reflective pool that makes us all look really bad"
--"Let's make like this wall and get plastered."
--Mayor Nagin points out the general direction of FEMA's priorities
--"Bush made a gesture like this to me. I think he's been watching Gladiator again."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Do I look like processed meat in a can?

Fellow bloggers:

Apparently Blogger's comment-verification feature has a serious glitch. Regardless of site or thread, my "word" is always "smenita," and it is never correct. I suspect it is stuck. It's irritating me because I had a lot to say this afternoon, and I can't get through to anyone with the feature. Too much security...a metaphor for our country as a whole?

Anyway, I've turned off my protection temporarily so you can tell me if this is happening to you as well. Or if you have an exciting offer written in broken English that I just can't pass up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vega-ly speaking

If you haven't already seen it, MSNBC has a great gallery of automotive turkeys. The companion article employs reader anecdotes to crown the 1970-74 Chevrolet Vega as the worst car of all time:

The 1972 Chevrolet Vega was by far the worst car ever made. Unfortunately, it was my first car, and I was so proud of it ... for about 6 months.

After 20,000 miles of gentle driving, it needed a valve job, and possibly a new engine, a new clutch, a new transmission sync gear and new tires. The Vega was incredibly slow, loud, and stuffy (the air circulation was awful). The gear spacing was all wrong. And the handling was horrendous — even dangerous, especially on wet roads. What was good about the car? My hatchback looked great...

—Bob Eicholz, Hollywood, Calif.

In preparing this post, I asked my mom about her first car. She said she was thrilled to have it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. So, what did you drive, Mom?

Icandigit hecandigit shecandigit wecandigit theycandigit youcandigit...oh, let's dig it! Can you dig it bay-bay? I couldn't make this up if I tried...

The car was a gift from my grandfather, who offered Mom a choice between the Vega and another car, of which she picked the former. I asked my mom if she ever had any trouble with her Vega. She said not really, except that she once tried to open the passenger door:

Just kidding! Actually, she got hit, as this photo (dated August 1978) plainly shows. I should probably have asked her how she managed to drive this car for five years. In any case, she followed this car a few years later with a secondhand 1980 Dodge Mirada, an experience for which driving a Vega was great practice. I distinctly remember that the paneling around the Mirada's brake lights sort of disintegrated over time and that, toward the end, Mom had to click the blinkers manually. Good times.

Chintzy cars are a classic piece of Americana in at least one sense: as a motorist, you really get to know your car. When the fear of parts falling off is constant, your car instills in you a keen sense of hyperawareness. Some call it paranoia; I call it, preparedanoia. I knew my recently departed Chevy pickup down to its tiniest parts; Donald Trump, on the other hand, probably couldn't locate his gas tank (and in New Jersey, wouldn't have to, because pumping your own gas is illegal there). It's a metaphor for life, really.

So be proud, go out and proudly drive your piece of crap. Just don't drive like crap.

Crap that bothers me (2005 edition)

--The holiday season bothers me in any year, but this year even that is not immune to the latest dumbass attack by the religious right: "Leftists want to get rid of 'Merry Christmas!'" Yep, they've even managed to demonize "Happy Holidays." That's too bad, because I really like the expression. Virtually every religion throughout history has had a celebration to mark the Winter Solstice; that's an ass-load of holidays to acknowledge, and not even the oh-so-clever "Chrismukkah" from The OC covers it all (how am I not writing a major network show?).

Tell me, Jerry, in what way does "Happy Holidays" in any way make people hate Jesus? But of course, I expect such shortsightedness from the religious right. They've spent decades decrying "Xmas," which they claim is an attempt to cross out "Christ" from Christmas, when in reality "X" is a Greek abbreviation for the name Christ, and was chosen for its resemblance to the holy cross. So Happy Holidays, and pray/hope that the fake-religion types who currently run things finally get brains for Christmas. I would also wish for Dick Cheney to get coal in his stocking, but he probably likes that sort of thing.

--I think too literally for my own good. Popular usage is a peculiar thing. Among my numerous hobbies are cycling, running, swimming and just being outside. Yet, strictly speaking, I am not an outdoorsman. An outdoorsman hunts, fishes and gathers.

Me: I love the outdoors!
Someone else: I didn't know you like to hunt and fish.
Me: I don't. I just like being outside.
Someone else: Ah, but you aren't outdoorsy.
Me: I like to ride my bike and go swimming.
Someone else: But those aren't outdoor activities.
Me: Of course they are.
Someone else: No, that's just being outside. Not outdoors.

Louisiana is touted as the "sportsman's paradise," yet one would be hard-pressed to find a viable bike-trail here. Or places to take bona fide hikes. Or enough sports teams beyond the scholastic level. It's also too hot and humid most of the time for any sustained outdoor activity. Basically, the state motto boils down to the region's plethora of opportunities to extract dead animals from our wild areas.

But back to thinking literally. Several years ago I ate at a restaurant in the French Quarter, where I ordered a hamburger po-boy. The exchange with my waiter went something like this:

Me: I would like a hamburger po-boy, no mayo.
Waiter: Of course. Which bun would you like?
Me: White's good.
Waiter: And how would you like that cooked?
Me: Uh, lightly toasted.
Waiter: No, I mean the beef patty.
Me: Oh. Um, well-done.
My family [for the next seven years]: Lightly toasted, Ian? Ahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Another example: I was recently accused of burning out the A/C on my parents' vehicle because I ran it on the warmest setting. "You're not supposed to run the air conditioner on hot!" But the way I see it, can't "air conditioning" also mean you're conditioning the air to be warm? Apparently I'm the only person I know who has ever had this thought cross their mind.

Same thing with Congress. Isn't Congress a bicameral body, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives? Why, then, do we refer only to House members as Congresspeople? "He's a Congressman, not a Senator." I probably could have passed many more governmental quizzes in school if that actually made sense. But then again, that wouldn't be government, would it?

I suppose this language is called "popular usage" for the same reason that we call it "popular music": it appeals to the lowest common denominator. Well, I never was good at math.

--Louisiana is a strange place anyway, at least in my experience. By most Louisianians' logic, I am both too odd for the area and unfit for anywhere else:

Me: I was born and raised in Lafayette.
Louisianian: You're kidding! Really?
Me: I know, it's strange.
Louisianian: Are you of Cajun heritage?
Me: Not really.
Louisianian: Are you Catholic?
Me: Nope.
Louisianian: Can you make a roux?
Me: Not at all.
Louisianian: You're a freak, you know that?
Me: Yes, I do. I'm thinking of moving elsewhere, perhaps Chicago.
Louisianian: Oh, no! You'd never fit in there. You belong here, among your own people.

--One thing that's disappearing rapidly is (are you listening?) attention spans. For example, I have a friend who will change the subject of conversation in the middle of a sentence--her own sentence:

Her: Our skank friend had to go to the clinic again.
Me: Really? That's disturbing.
Her: Yeah, apparently he spread it around too. My cat is so cute!
Me: Um, yeah. How'd their visit to the clinic go?
Her: I need to do my homework. For some reason, I can't seem to concentrate.

I'd say more, but that cat over there is too adorable! I think I left the oven on.

--Why aren't cheerleaders considered athletes? It seems to me that potentially dangerous flips, choreographed dancing and sustained vocal accompaniment require a pretty good exercise regimen. If we're going to consider race-car drivers, golfers, bowlers, fishermen, professional wrestlers and (these days) poker players athletes, then the least we can do is bump up cheerleading. At the very least, most cheerleaders I've seen have firmer bodies than many "real" athletes.

--Is anyone else bothered by the increasing presence of computers in newer cars? I barely trust my computer with text documents, let alone my brakes! Then again, I was once nearly killed at a crowded intersection because of a computer-relay problem (undiagnosed by six mechanics) that caused our engine to die at bad times, often in full-speed highway traffic. So perhaps I'm biased. I'm also biased because I'm cheap. My attitude is, if you can't unscrew it, it shouldn't be in an automobile engine. This is why I like bicycles, at least until some jerk at Huffy decides that hand brakes should be programmed with Shimano XP. "Sorry, incorrect password!"

And how about this GPS technology? I'm sure it's great if you're lost. But what if you just want to get away for a while, say, from the police? Will Mr. T tell you to "turn right, foo', the A-Team's gonna get you?" Actually, I'd drive a getaway car just to hear him say that.

Also, new cars these days are ugly. With every passing year, they really are looking more and more like those pod-cars that we always envisioned in the future. Come to think of it, pretty much any 20th-century conception of the future is frightening. Do we really want flying cars? I sure don't! We have yet to master the road-based ones. And last I checked, a lot of cars leak oil and A/C condensation. Do we really want a shower of that forever dripping on us? I mean, even more than we have now? I don't even want to think about how this would affect low-riders.

--Politics. But you already knew that.

--Newspapers with dumbass typos. But you knew that too.

--Days when the writing just doesn't come out quite right ((cough))

--Blogs (or, more specifically, blog fans). I am really not impressed by most famous blogs. Most add nothing to the links they cite, and are popular by sheer virtue of their longevity and the fact that every post is followed by 500 comments of "Ha ha!" and "Me too!" In my experience, a great blog is like an unusual magazine that you find at someone's house: something new and compelling, without beginning or end, read with the feeling that you have made a new friend. That's something that 25 links per post and 500 cat pictures will never net you. Unless you're into cats. Which I'm not.