Sunday, July 30, 2006

Monday morning musing

Back in middle school, I got picked on a lot. Whether it was having peas flicked at my face in the school cafeteria, being shoved into the mud, getting tripped during races at track practice, getting jostled while taking a leak, being toppled over the bleachers until I hyperventilated, being the recipient of a rubber ball to the eye that nearly shattered my new contact lens or having my beloved Brewers cap ripped off of my head in an impromptu game of "keep-away," I had my fair share of friction. I never handled this particularly well, which was probably why it continued to happen for so long.

One day, all of this came to a head. I had been enduring considerable ribbing that day, even higher than average ("average" being defined as "a lot anyway"). As I stood in the brutally long lunch line, sweating and starving, someone shoved me from behind. To this day, I still don't know who did it. What I do remember is my response: I instinctively punched the stomach of the guy right behind me. Cries of "Ooh!" filled the humid afternoon air, and for a brief glimmer of time I felt like punishment had been meted by the five justices of my Supreme Left Hand. It was a high that didn't last long.

My supposed assailant reacted to my swing in a way far different than I would have expected. After I socked him, he looked surprised, almost hurt. Nothing like the usual jerks who would make cursory attempts to slide away or (even worse) keep on shoving. The muffled giggles coming from behind him sealed it for me: I had just punched the wrong guy! His only crime was being slightly later to the lunch line than me.

"Well, he's guilty by association," I rationalized, not wanting to think I hit someone who hadn't deserved it. The guy was no stranger to me. In fact, he ran with the group of well-to-do kids who gave me the most trouble at that school. And while he never took direct part in any of their tormenting activities, nor did he make any visible effort to stop it. Maybe he'd caused some grief to me in the past--and would again in the future--but at that moment, he was innocent. And here I was, suffering an irrational fit of rage caused by my sustained failure to control the conflict that swirled around me.

Such is the current attitude in the War on Terror, on the parts of both America and Israel. Who attacked us? Short of that, who is the looming threat? We have an idea, but we can't quite decide which shifty enemy on which to focus. After awhile, they all start to look the same to us, and we resort to blindly punching whichever country they choose to hide behind. And what does that accomplish? Not much, besides wounded innocents and masterminds laughing behind our backs.

I wish current foreign policy would stop reminding me of how I acted in sixth grade. We should expect so much more of world leaders.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Aloha Utah!

I am returning to Louisiana, and your regularly scheduled blogging, tomorrow.

To make up for my absence, I'm writing a 955-word column. Watch for it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Nothing important

For those of you wondering where I am (and why I'm not addressing the pertinent issues of the day in my usual stunning manner), I am currently without consistent internet access. This will hopefully change in a day or two. In all likelihood, this will be my last week in Utah.

In the meantime, let's all wish Utah a happy birthday! Took me long enough to figure out why everyone was off today and going to parades.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Do I not know what "down" means?

This morning I was doing a New York Times crossword puzzle, and I came upon a clue that read, "With toast, in a diner." Four letters. I racked my brain on and off for almost an hour trying to figure out the answer. Finally, I flipped to the back of the book (something I absolutely hate to do) and discovered that the answer was DOWN. Can anyone tell me what the hell that means in relation to toast? The particular puzzle I was doing was difficult and riddled with New York-centric slang, so I'm assuming that might have been another one. Anybody?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Call for Louisiana licenses

I'm looking to amass an image collection of two things that I have yet to find in any compilation: Louisiana driver's licenses and inspection stickers.

This is often a futile endeavor, given that people aren't generally keen on offering up personal IDs or saving inspection stickers. At times even I've asked, "Who would care?" But judging from the rather high count of images I've found online of both items from other states, people do care. And I'm glad, because these items have been a pursuit of mine for decades.

I am an aficionado of anything relating to Louisiana automobiles. I've been collecting license plates since I was about five years old; to this day I can tell you just about anything about a Louisiana license plate on sight, including its year and month of issue and location. As a kid I was also drawn to Louisiana's colorful inspection stickers. I rediscovered that sense of awe about a year ago when I saw a car in a parking lot that still had a 1976 inspection sticker (and was still being driven!). I was one of those annoying kids who always dug in people's wallets and glove compartments. And unlike most people, I actually relish going to the DMV.

Currently, I have (or have seen online) LA driver's licenses from 1966, 1977, 1979, 1986, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003. I'm looking to see designs I've never seen before, so my wish list comprises the following eras:

--1946-65 (Prior to 1946, Louisiana issued driver's licenses only to truck drivers, chauffeurs and other motor professionals; those would also be cool to see)

--1967-1977 (I used to have two licenses I think were from 1972 and 1974; I accidentally threw them away, and now I hate myself for it)

--1980-1985 (also, I'd like to know at what point between 1986 and 1987 that Louisiana switched from the world's blandest design to the world's blandest design with a lipstick "Louisiana" across the top)

As for inspection stickers, I know they go back to at least 1964. I'm most interested in images from 1976-1988, though any year before 1993 will suffice (they've hardly changed since then).

I'd appreciate any help or referrals anyone could give me in this effort. If you have a scan of one of these items, please send it my way (ianmcgibboney at gmail). You can black out any information you choose; the idea here is to see the design, not to collect private information about people. Also note that this is just a matter of personal curiosity; I'm not secretly out to publish a book or database (unless there turns out to be a call for it). Such collections have surfaced for other states but I have yet to see anyone chronicle Louisiana. Sounds like something worthwhile.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Dubya Dubya III

Much has already been said about Newt Gingrich's now-infamous assertion that we should consider this World War III. But have we really seen the opening of the most talked-about sequel in decades?

The answer to that question can come only after considering other questions: What can be counted when considering a world war? Is it when several countries are engaged in simultaneous battles? Is it when the United States and associated countries decide to take their show on the road? Is it whenever the Middle East explodes yet again? If any of these questions are the standard, then we are indeed in a World War. Every second of every day.

Fortunately, we've managed to keep things in perspective. There's a reason why only two wars in the entire history of the world hold the moniker of World War, and that's because it's a term not to be taken lightly. But if certain Republicans have their way, then such a loaded term will be wielded with all the abandon of the PATRIOT Act. Indeed, some hawks are actually considering this World War IV or even V, having retroactively considered the Cold War as such. I suppose you could technically consider any war fought between differently hemisphered nations a world war; but what would that do besides cheapen the historical severity of past wars? For the sake of this discussion, let's assume that there were two bonafide World Wars, being that Cold War veterans are hard to come by.

With that in mind, I don't think we're in WWIII just yet. The previously designated World Wars involved clashes between large coalitions, such as the Allied Powers of both wars against the Central Powers and the Axis Powers of WWI and WWII, respectively. The magnitude of these wars can be seen by their participants: Britain, France, Russia and the United States versus Germany, Italy and Japan, in an age when literally any of them could have taken over the world? Now that's a global battle! The mess going on now can basically be described as the Coalition of the Willing (Britain, the GOP and Eritrea) against Mideast countries that may or may not harbor underground terrorist networks. And while that's nothing to sneeze at, neither does that put it in the same ranks as the Pacific and European Theaters.

As far as sequels go, this version of WWIII is more like Superman IV than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Which is ironic, because the former is about ending nuclear war and the latter is about Nazis in the 1930s. I guess war always makes for a better show.

Much of today's WWIII talk has been sparked by Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Supposedly, this is the latest chapter in an increasingly global (and increasingly dubious) war on terrorism. But that fact is exactly why this is not a true world war: terrorism is an idea, and tying every conflict to a broad idea makes a shaky case for unified battle. Pick any battle in WWII, and you can tie it into any other with specific strategies and ramifications. The only way you can do that with today's conflicts is to use the broad stroke of "terrorism." So far, that has been a very successful strategy in getting people behind questionable actions. This new nomenclatural upgrade is simply the next step to sell imperialism to an increasingly jaded American public.

Calling this WWIII will not serve to get people behind this action, as Newt claims. We are long past the age where Americans would stand united behind Rosie the Riveter and would ration steel, rubber and crops. Instead, we're living in a generation where the only metal earmarked for war is the amount needed on an SUV to house a magnetic ribbon. In today's society, an official WWIII would serve the same purpose as 9/11 did: give the far right an excuse to reinforce its prejudices and stifle dissent in the name of fear.

Neoconservatives want this to be World War III--not because it would shock people into reality, but precisely because it would shock them out of reality. Just as they did with 9/11, the Republicans want a strong catch-all moniker to equate everything they do with America itself. After all, which packs more of a punch:

"You're either with us or against us in the war on terror" or,
"You're either with us or against us in WORLD WAR III"?

Words just might be the most dangerous weapons of all.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Caption central

"Bang bang!" edition

[Sorry. I had to image-cheat on this one, and they took it down. Figures. I'll find it eventually. In the meantime, maybe you can read the captions and take a trip to the wonderful nation of Imagination!]

--Worst. Robber. Ever.
--Bush unveils his new version of the peace sign
--Or is it his new foreign policy?
--The emperor has no walkie-talkie
--Bush points to the head with the higher IQ
--"We are now thisclose to total world hatred"
--"Well, this is above-average length for the GOP"
--"You want ME, Uncle Sam? Ha ha ha!!"
--"What do you mean, there's blood on my tie?"
--Like his chair, Bush is stuck in the fifties
--Hard to tell where Bush ends and Pat Robertson begins
--Bush points to the only person he never blames for anything
--Even when Bush points fingers, he's two-faced
--When Gary Busey finally lets go
--"Who's the biggest goddamn moron in the world?"

Sunday two-sided single

Very few people know this, but I once considered myself a songwriter (mainly between the ages of 12 and 16). I have revived that aspect of myself with two new songs. The first one has a jazzy, horn-laden rhythm, while the second has a more rockish feel. I have no musical talent, so I can only imagine how they sound in my mind. If you like them, feel free to use them...provided you pay me heavy royalties, that is :)

Driving in Louisiana

The signs all point to the same old view
Miles upon miles of the same old stew
Roll into the place where the water runs through
Wet like a blade of grass saturated with dew

Where are you? Where are you?
Did the spinning wind take you away too?
Where's the road? Where's the road?
The pavement's clear but the people are snowed

Everybody likes to take the same few roads
It kinda makes the whole thing seem really slow
Horns, middle fingers and assorted goads
As we all creep past like Mardi Gras floats

Do we need boats? Do we need boats?
The bridge up ahead barely covers the moat
The cars pile up, they fill in the gaps
And here seat belts are just meddlesome straps

It's a chaotic scene and we've taken flap
Cause about this place we never shut our yap
Corruption, incompetence, the same old crap
The road to hell is paved with tourist traps

Where are you? Where are you?
Did the spinning wind take you away too?
Take the wheel, take the wheel
The engine's flooded but the car's a steal

Get More

I want more
Than what I'm getting
So I'm going
To get more

I want to stop
All of my crying
So I'm trying
To get more (get more)

So get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
I should find a better life so
I'll get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
I should find a better life so
I'll get more (get more)

I want out
Of this rejection
So I'm expecting
To get more (get more)

I despise
Hitting a dead end
So I'm determined
To get more (get more)

I'll get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
I should find a new place where I
Can get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
Can somebody tell me where I
Can get more?

Don't tell me
That's all there is
Cause I'll get pissed
I want more!

It's not so hard
When you think about it
You think your life is good
Then it stops working out
Depression ensues
You think you're gonna die
Then you open your eyes
Start living a new life

So get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
I should find a lover who wants
To get more (get more)
Get more (get more)
I should find a new life so I
Can get more...

(c) 2006 Ian McGibboney

Friday, July 14, 2006

Di's death divulged

Royal family urges boycott of trauma footage; I don't

BBC--UK magazine distributors are being urged not to import copies of an Italian magazine featuring a photograph of Princess Diana as she lay dying.

British newspapers have condemned Italian magazine Chi's publication of the photo, which was taken at the scene of her car crash in 1997.

And Mohamed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi was also killed in the crash, condemned the "vile publication" of the picture.

This issue brings to mind the eternal journalistic question: how much is too much?

Diana fans and family argue that the photos are pure exploitation and that they debase the memory of the late princess. And it could perhaps be argued that an equivalent snap of a private citizen would not have garnered the same coverage. On the other hand, Diana was one of the most adored and insatiable public figures in history, and hardly the first to be photographed in the throes of death. Frankly, I'm surprised that the entire cleanup and autopsy processes weren't covered in the Sun; I'm sure it would have sold out nine press runs. The paparazzi didn't chase her so ravenously for their personal collections, folks. They just give the public what it wants, even if the public vehemently denies it.

I can't buy the argument that we must suppress pictures because they are unpleasant. The Diana death was a wake-up call that celebrity had spiraled too far out of control. Perhaps if the real consequences could be seen firsthand--at viewer's discretion, of course--then it would shock people back into reality. It's the same tactic used by driver's-ed classes to show the effects of drunk driving, and by the press to show the real victims of the Iraq War (okay, bad example). As much as most people would like to stick to "Candle in the Wind"-type memories, having access to the wreck footage (and the effects it had on Princess Di) paints a more serious picture of the perils of public life, the press and of drunk, reckless driving. And while I can't necessarily vouch for Chi Magazine's honest intentions regarding this publication, I don't doubt that some good can come out of it.

Finally, the photo isn't even that bad. How do I know? Chi's editor described it as "touching...tender" and as resembling a sleeping princess. Oh, and has hosted the picture for quite some time now.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Missiles for missionaries

Something very strange happened to me yesterday: someone threw something at my face. Yeah, I know that happens all the time. What's strange is why they did it.

Riding a bicycle in Utah in the middle of a summer day can be a deadly proposition. On a good day, riding uphill will get you. Before coming to Utah, I fancied myself to be someone who is in pretty good shape and an expert in terms of cycling terrain. I knew the elevation was different; still, I had no idea that simply trundling up the street where I'm staying would leave me more winded than a chain-smoking prostitute. Still, I got used to it. You have to, when you're stuck in a strange city with no car and every potential ride is at work. Also, it's fun!

Yesterday (as often happens with me at least once a week) I got hungry. So I decided to brave the blacktop and go to the grocery store. Before I took off, I decided to don a white, button-down, short-sleeve shirt. In retrospect, this was a major mistake that not even green denim shorts, sneakers or the blue stripes on the shirt could rectify. Also not helping appearances: my diligently worn helmet and backpack. Did I mention I'm also clean-shaven?

Clad in my accidental missionary costume, I headed off to the Salt Lake suburban roadways. As I mentioned before, pedaling uphill and against the wind allows for a speed that could be best identified as "touring." In other words, it incites a certain fear in the residents whose houses you are passing, as if you might dismount at any moment and say, "And how are you feeling today, neighbor? I'm feeling great! Want to know why?" It's scary stuff.

Like Lafayette, Salt Lake's suburbs have bike lanes. Unlike Lafayette, Salt Lake's suburbs have decent bike lanes. At least on the side of the road opposite of where I needed to be. So there I am, generating as much speed as the ragged shoulder will allow, trying not to get killed by all of the friendly Utah drivers, on the very same roads where Brigham Young himself probably dodged Dodges.

And then it happened.

I'm not sure what kind of car it was. But it was the kind that freshly minted high-school drivers proudly screech into the parking lot every August, the type of vehicle once referred to as a hot rod. Except now it's a 1995 Toyota Celica with a missing rearview mirror and mismatched tires, which even Archie would find uncool. Some disembodied hand rolled down the window, and before you could say "frat boy," that hand clocked forth a giant styrofoam projectile. "Yo!" it seemed to say as it hurled past my face.

"And how are you feeling today, drink?" I could have said. "I'm feeling great! Want to know why?" Too bad this prick had such lousy aim that his drink sailed over me by about 10 feet; otherwise, I could have had a Latter-Day Smoothie. Or, at least, a mark on my face that would have made me yell, "Jesus Christ!" Either way, you know...

As I glanced back at the car and the spent missile, I reflexively yelled, "Aren't you late for class?" But then I realized that I was no longer in college, and I was being targeted for the wrong reason for once, not because I was Ian McGibboney. That actually hurt my ego a little. I mean, I can understand being heckled as a writer, but not because people think I'm a missionary. Dammit, if you're going to throw down, then throw down for the right reason!

Moral: never make assumptions about anyone. That goes double for you teenaged hooligans, who peel out all day in Daddy's car, thinking that girls find the ability to push down an accelerator pedal at high speeds very sexy, and who wear Pacific Sunwear clothes even though you spend most of your day sitting in your empty bedroom playing "Doom 35" while drinking Jolt Cola and staring at your poster of Christina Aguilera from 1999, wondering if she would find it funny that you ironically throw fast-food drinks at unsuspecting non-Mormons. So, yeah, stop assuming, dickweeds! Judge not, lest ye be judged and all that crap.

Also, it's not nice to throw things at people.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So much for stereotypes!

Lafayette, LA--A vibrant cultural epicenter mingling generations of Cajuns, Creoles and virtually every other ethnic group. A city with year-round festivals and regular revelry in the streets.

Salt Lake City, UT--A heavily Republican city with a lot of Mormons.

One of these cities has a diverse press with several competing media outlets and a wide range of represented opinions, while the other settles for a feel-good, corporate-monopolized media more interested in buck-raking than muckraking.

Can you guess which has which?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A composite conversation I had in Salt Lake City

"So, how do you know our host?"

"My friend works with him. I helped her move up here."

"Where are you from?"


"Really? You don't talk funny at all!"

"Well, that's just a stereotype that applies to 90 percent of the population."

[Cell phone rings in the melody of "Take On Me" by a-ha]

"Wow, that's an awesome ring tone! I love the eighties!"

"Me too! So you have '80s music back in Louisiana?"

"Yeah, and the '90s albums are set to hit stores next week."

"So how do you like Salt Lake?"

"I love it! The mountains are gorgeous and the weather is pleasant. And everything's so clean and well-funded."

"I heard Louisiana's not doing so well since Hurricane Katrina. Did it hit you badly?"

"Not where I live, no. Rita clipped us pretty badly, though. But we were lucky both times where I live. It was a tragic mess for so many people. I talked to lots of them firsthand, after they evacuated to our arenas."

"How's the rebuilding coming?"

"It's not. Entire sections of New Orleans and southwest Louisiana still look the same as they did the morning after the storms. And what rebuilding is going on is being marred by politics and incompetence."

"Really? I had no idea. It was in the news for awhile, but then it was gone. We don't hear about it at all anymore."

"Yeah, and that's pretty sad. But the newspapers and blogs in Louisiana are keeping the flame alive."

"Well I certainly hope it gets better. That's gotta be terrible."

"Indeed it is. It's cost thousands of lives and devastated our already-bad economy. Which is partly why I'm here; the job market is so much better."

"Come on, are you really from Louisiana?"

"Yes. Can you tell me where I can get something to drink?"

"How polite! You're so cute. The rum punch is over there, and the non-alcoholic punch is across the table."

"What's non-alcoholic punch?"

"Oh must be from Louisiana."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Vexing logic about the flag

The only thing stupider than burning the flag is siding with those who want to put a stop to it.

As far as political statements go, flag-burning is lame. It's reactionary and it accomplishes nothing. It's also overdone, which is saying something considering that there are fewer than 20 documented incidents of American flag burning in the past decade. Among most intelligent activists, flag-burning ranks somewhere between "pancake benefit" and "Sean Penn" in terms of efficacy. Progressive Americans, the generally accepted stereotype for banner-burners, have much better ways of exercising their freedoms, thankyaverymuch.

So, clearly, flag-burning is not that beloved by either side of the aisle. So why should anyone care about the proposed flag-desecration amendment that just lapsed into its latest coma? Because, ultimately, the amendment has nothing to do with the flag.

As the government of a country gets more paranoid and incompetent, it will try to distract people from pressing issues with abstract concepts such as patriotism. Put more succinctly, politicians will hide behind the flag. They will attempt, just as they have done successfully for decades, to equate the symbol with what it represents. But never forget that the American flag is but a visual representation of all that we have put together over the past 230 years. This country and its freedoms would exist even without the flag, whereas it would not without the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the two documents that the anti-desecration amendment threatens the most.

Put another way, the flag does not deserved to be burned, precisely because we have the right to burn it! Free speech hurts sometimes, but it's better than feeling nothing at all.

Beyond the obvious Constitutional crisis that would erupt from this amendment's passage, consider also the staggering lack of thought put into it. U.S. Flag Code specifically states when a flag MUST be burned. That's right--MUST be burned! Even the Boy Scouts agree with me on that. I realize that a lot of you view a worn-out flag as some kind of sage symbol, as if a faded banner with separating stripes flagellating from your SUV's cell-phone antenna is a sign of resolve. But what you're really saying is, "I'm a true patriot who won't let the events of 9/11 sway me from my proud ignorance of vexillological protocol!" Assuming you know what "vexillology" even means. Look it up.

But I digress. The flag-burning amendment does everything that no proposed amendment ever should: it directly contradicts established and uncontested American law; its success will result in diminished freedom; and its premise is entirely emotional rather than logical. And that is not what anyone should want the American flag to represent.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rule the day

Rule #28: Let sleeping dogs Lay

Stop respecting the dead if they really don't deserve it. Some conservative bloggers are giving lip to their progressive counterparts over coverage of the death of Kenneth Lay. They accuse the left of attacking a defenseless person, and/or of relishing the death thereof. It's the same argument many Ronald Reagan defenders used in the final years if his life: "It's not fair to attack Reagan! He's too ill to defend himself." I've actually been told this, as if criticizing Reagan's conscious decisions as president is the same as mocking him on his deathbed.

Public figures understand that everything they do will resonate long into the future. In fact, virtually all of them are concerned about their legacy in some form or another. People dissed Bill Clinton for doing so, as if every person on the planet doesn't worry about their legacy at some point in their lives. I do it all the time, and I'm nobody! In any case, most people (famous or otherwise) hope that they leave something behind for others to build upon. They want people to remember them after they've passed.

But here's the deal: if I don't respect someone in life, I'm not likely to respect them in death. This goes double if the person spent their lives steeped in corruption or otherwise made life miserable for others. Like scads of other progressives, I have long decried Kenneth Lay's policies; am I supposed to just ignore all of that now that he's dead? I don't think so. The Enron collapse hurt a lot of people, and its repercussions linger large even now.

The facts about a person's deeds in life do not go away when they die. This is why we keep the people we love in our hearts and learn from the mistakes of those we don't. Everything we know about life comes from the cumulative experience of everyone who has lived or died over time. And I think everyone knows this, which is why it seems so stupid when conservatives try to use death as an excuse to shut the door on their more unsavory characters.

Indeed, death is often the best time to step away and assess someone's legacy. And I absolutely believe that everyone should take time to think about how people would remember them if it all ended today. Maybe then, the world wouldn't be such a hostile place. And we just might have a batch of departed people we could respect unconditionally.

Rule #29: Interstate Communism?

America needs a free system of domestic travel. I can personally attest to the health benefits of going to distant places, and I suspect that it would help the overall morale of U.S. residents if more of us were able to do it on a regular basis. Sometimes all a person needs is a change of locale to clear their heads and rediscover their purpose in life. Moreover, I believe that if more people transferred locales once in a while, the nation (and the world) would be more informed and better off as a whole. Sadly, too many people in dire need of such a vacation cannot afford it, which only makes the funk worse.

I'm not sure how we could ever pull off such a thing (though trains would probably be involved); but I have a feeling that we'd feel better as a nation just knowing that a travel release is just a hop away. Of course, this will never happen--not because it would probably wind up as a magnet for the nation's bums, con-artists and fugitives, but because the trains would be packed with "regular" people, and we'd see just how dissatisfied most Americans are with their lives. And we can't have that, can we?

Rule archive

Kenneth Lay penalized with death

Ousted Enron CEO dies of heartless attack

ASPEN--Kenneth Lay, the former Enron chief executive and chairman convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges, has died.

Mr Lay suffered a heart attack at his holiday home near Aspen, Colorado. He was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after 0300 local time on Wednesday.

He and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty in May in connection with Enron's collapse. [...] He had posted a $5m bond to avoid custody until October when he would have been sentenced - to up to 45 years behind bars.

I'm always sad to hear about people dying, be it through natural causes, violence or genocide. But Lay's death is sad for additional reasons:

--He will never have to face the music for the corporate fraud that put 4,000 people out of work and ushered in an era of unprecedented corporate corruption.

--Though he proclaimed his innocence, claimed that the Enron collapse was the most gut-wrenching thing he'd ever gone through and faced a 45-year prison term, Lay nevertheless died in his Aspen vacation home. In that sense, he beat the rap and preserved his legacy of wealth-based insulation.

--The Bush administration will have to put in years of training and funds to cultivate another titan of swindle-stry whom they can deny knowing years later.

--But mainly, he will never have to face the music for the corporate fraud that put 4,000 people out of work and ushered in an era of unprecedented corporate corruption.

You see, this is why I'm against the death penalty.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mountain: the neglected time zone

Today is that most American of holidays, Independence Day. And to me, nothing is more American than exploring the massive expanse that is this country. So today, I share with you my notes from the road:

--Most outsiders don't know this, but north Louisiana is very different from south Louisiana. South Louisiana envelops New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Cajun country, from which most perceptions of Louisiana originate. North Louisiana, on the other hand, is more sparsely populated and has a lot more trees and Baptist churches. For this reason, north Louisiana is often referred to as South Arkansas. Except that Bill Clinton would never get elected there.

--Texas has a lot of country-music stations. Who knew?

--Note to Dallas: yeah, we know you had that hit show in the 1980s and that you have that football stadium with a glass ceiling. We can understand your fame and the relishing thereof. But that doesn't mean you can't help the rest of us out by offering a road system that doesn't rhyme with "fustercluck," okay? Dallas makes Houston look like Hazzard County.

--Part of my trek involved crossing the border of New Mexico. Despite all the recent hoopla about immigration and border safety, I still found this to be very easy.

--Driving a groaning four-cylinder Ford Escort through the mountains of Colorado can make even the most hardcore fuel-economist consider buying the largest Hummer in the world.

--Ted Kaczynski's view at the Federal Supermax in Florence, Colorado, is really breathtaking. So if you ever decide to commit a crime, make it a big one. It's totally worth it!

--Highways in Utah and Colorado have posted speed limits of 75. At first glance, this would seem to rock. However, each state has its own catch attached to it: in Colorado, for instance, you're lucky to hit 50 on the steep canyon highways. Utah is better in that regard, though the speed-limit-75 signs stand side-by-side with speed-limit-30 signs. This is because certain highways are prone to something called "dust storms," which apparently are frightening. The wind itself occasionally gets strong enough to rock your car, which makes the plethora of hard-rockin' FM-radio stations redundant.

--Utah is a very conservative state. After I crossed the border, all of my DVDs were mysteriously edited.

--Brigham Young University lies aside majestic mountaintops. On one of these mountaintops lies a giant "Y". It's a lot like the Hollywood sign, albeit without the "Holl-wood." And the cultural filth.

--The streets of the Salt Lake suburbs are very safe. This allows for children to line the sidewalks and shoot firecrackers. Ironically, the pops and screams that result make the safe Salt Lake suburbs sound like Compton.

--Cycling is a very popular pastime here in Salt Lake City. However, a lot of local cyclists forego biking gear for shirts and ties. These men refer to themselves as "brother," which is the Caucasian equivalent of "brother."

--Whereas Louisiana nights are accompanied by the constant chirps of crickets and cicadas, Utah nights are quiet. You see, the insect life here is moral and gainfully employed, and thus has better things to do than stay up all night carousing.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I tawt I taw Utah!

I apologize for the extended hiatus (at least by my obsessive-compulsive standards). I just completed a heartwarming journey through the American southwest, from Louisiana to the Texas panhandle, then New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. I am currently typing this from Salt Lake City, where I know I'll be much beloved during my stay here.

Much more to follow in the coming days.