Monday, April 30, 2007

Caption Central

"Going, going, Gonzales!" edition

--"You may now kiss the excessive pride."
--Unlike with Putin, Bush had to squint to see any soul in Gonzales' eyes
--"Stop it, silly! That's my future-cushy-consultant-gig smile!"
--EIGHTIES REFERENCE: "I like yer hair! Is that Alberto Mousse?"
--"Show 'em that look, you know, the one that all the judges had to give ya to keep their jobs."
--"Stop that, Alberto! My God, if your teeth clench any tighter mine'll start chippin!"
--The Brokeback stare that broke the camera's back
--"No, Dubya, I'm Justice. I'm supposed to be the blind one."
--"Let's play house. I'll be church, you be state!"
--How Bush finally got the entire country to oppose gay marriage
--How the glasses didn't crack from that reflection we'll never know...
--Bush practices his "I don't know no Kenny Boy" stare, just in case
--If this photo weren't cropped, we'd probably understand why Bush is so loyal
--"You're my Sanjaya! No, wait..."
--"So, exactly how much shit did you have to eat to grin like that?"

Friday, April 27, 2007

The president has resigned!!

University of Louisiana President Ray Authement, that is, who has served in that capacity since 1974 and is only the fifth president in the history of the 108-year-old school. What makes that fact even more remarkable is that two of those five presidents served for fewer than three years each.

I met him once in a hallway. He told me hi.

Sorry. Any excuse to post that title.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lee Iacocca is my personal savior

If you aren't sure how the legendary Chrysler CEO feels about the Bush administration, just know that his new book is called Where Have All the Leaders Gone? In the excerpt linked below, Iacocca uses his well-known and well-tested leadership gauge to thoroughly excoriate George W. Bush and the government. This is kind of writing that's so vicious that it defies explanation, like when Andy Rooney or Bill Gates supposedly tells everyone that they need to buck up, shut up and fend for themselves. Except that Snopes assures us that this one is absolutely true!

Though Iacocca's essay deserves nothing as demeaning as an excerpt, here are a couple of tantalizing paragraphs anyway. If you are not fired up to consume this after these select sentences, you are not human. And you probably don't have a pulse.

On Bush: You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). ... That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to -- as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it is my patriotic duty.

On the Katrina mess: Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

On Congress: I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

This is the most blunt, yet most eloquent, essay I've read all year. And because it comes from one of America's most respected CEOs, no one can simply dismiss it. I can only hope to express myself this well someday.

The Gipper meets the Gypper

BBC: Senate passes Iraq-pullout bill; Bush pledges instant veto

Said Bush, "You know how I hate learning my times tables."

In a seemingly unrelated note, last night I watched "The Reagans," the miniseries that CBS lost the cojones to broadcast back in 2003 because Republicans complained that it didn't sufficiently worship the Gipper. What struck me most was how relatively benign Ronald Reagan came off, especially considering the magnitude of the GOP outcry and the fact that James Brolin played him. Most of Reagan's worst moments come in later scenes, as president. These range from his manipulation on the part of his handlers to his steadfastness on unfortunately disastrous issues. By the time the film hit 1987, I thought to myself, "This film could just as easily be about Bush!"

Years ago, I said that George W. Bush really is the new Reagan. I meant it sarcastically, coming as it did at a time when most Americans were saying it in earnest. As he finishes his second term, however, Bush's political fortunes are actually quite close to Reagan's at this point. Both reeled from scandals involving questionable foreign decisions; both took heat for their attempts to appoint ideologues to the judiciary; both claim no wrongdoing to the degree of pleading ignorance of illegal affairs. But the one characteristic that Bush and Reagan especially share is a fatal inability to bend once their minds are made up. And both have a particular talent for hasty decisions, those tending to be the ones most vociferously defended.

With Bush, the decision to immediately veto the withdrawal legislation proves once and for all that he will never compromise on Iraq. One bit. No matter how bad things get. For him, "staying the course" is a sign of strength. Reagan, too, took pride in ideological steadfastness. But Reagan had one quality that his wannabe protege cannot cultivate: the conviction that what he did what he genuinely felt was right. At this point, Bush comes all off with all the sincere veneer of a paid infomercial announcer. He has long transcended the label of "amiable dunce"; a more appropriate moniker now would be, "hardheaded dunce." Even Bush's hardcore supporters--all 28 percent of them--have to balk at the degree to which their hero, as Bush the elder might say,will not apologize, no matter what the facts are.

Finally, Reagan and Bush will share one last parallel: once Bush is out of office, his successor will quickly declare this a "kinder and gentler America." Which it will be, strictly by default. And again we will wonder why we let the president get away with as much as they did. With Reagan, it was because Americans liked him as a personality. What'll be our excuse for Bush?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just heard on the radio

"I just came back from a trip to Louisiana. They have a word there to describe a little something extra, LAN-YAP. And if you go to our station's Web site, you'll find lots of LAN-YAP!"

My screamed correction undoubtedly startled the weed-eating guy outside my window.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Paying attention is cheaper than paying with your life

Between the Virginia Tech shooting and the recent murder-suicide at NASA, many words have been spilled about the lifestyles and/or psychology of the killers. And while these glimpses have been compelling at times, one description of NASA killer William Phillips by the BBC stopped me in my tracks:

Nasa said Phillips, a contract engineer, had been employed for about 12 years, was unmarried, had no children and reportedly lived on his own.

What are they implying here? That steady employment and singlehood are the basic building blocks of a raging psychopath? That's what you always seem to hear about the creepy loners, isn't it?

"He was employed, was unmarried, had no children and lived alone at the end of an apartment complex on a dead-end street near the edge of town."

AAAH!! But enough about me! While these descriptions add drama to the stories of those who lose it, it's ultimately a cheap shot. An unnecessary angle to pile onto these losers.

Know what else is a cheap shot? The way some are attacking the media (including cannibalistic pundits) for highlighting the videos that Cho Seung-Hui made before his rampage. They say that these anger-laden diatribes will embolden future creepy loners into filming similar bids for attention before conducting similar tragedies.

Well, I can certainly understand that angle. After all, no one wants to foster a culture of disaffected emo kids earning their fifteen minutes of infamy with sweeping murder-suicides.

But these calls to tone down access to these videos overlook one small thing: no one insane enough to mow down their classmates with semiautomatic weapons needs any outside motivation! Something that drastic comes from a lifetime of taunting, teasing, frustration, extreme personal depression and other factors, possibly combined with severe mental illness and substance abuse. Once those common factors run uncommonly deep, nothing else matters. That's precisely why it happens among loners--because the driving forces emanate from within, with little intervention to temper these urges. YouTube has very little to do with it!

What this self-righteous call to suppress Cho's video tells me is that people are afraid that too many Americans will identify with the killer's words. "We don't want anyone to see this video and think that it's okay to express themselves this way." If this revenge-obsessed culture is indeed producing such huge numbers of budding slashers, then hell, let's give them all camcorders! Broadcast whatever ramblings result to a large viewership. Maybe they'd cool off if they felt that they could attract an audience for once. If nothing else, at least we'd know who to corral before they act out on their anger. Isn't that the idea in the first place?

I say, let anyone who wants to see the Cho video see it. Go. Get your ya-yas out. The best way to quell curiosity for this video is to lay eyes on it! That's disturbing stuff, and hard to watch. Justified or not, people do feel like this. Anyone who thinks videos encourage this behavior is confusing cause and effect. Maybe if more people saw this even one time, they wouldn't take for granted the depths to which human nature can plunge, even in our institutions of higher learning. Perhaps it would help them treat others better in their own lives.

What won't work in preventing future tragedies of this type is to stigmatize groups such as single guys and introverted people. A quiet angry person deserves attention because they are angry, not because they are quiet. For their part, the talking heads do no service by saying we should censor the killers' pleas for attention. After all, lack of attention is probably the very thing that led them astray.

Friday, April 20, 2007

One good thing about the V-Tech shooting

We haven't heard any stories about the shooter hating on religion. Thus, we will be spared endless reiterations of the classic Columbine refrain:

"She died because she said she believed in God." (Untrue anyway.)

"If someone held a gun to your face and asked you if you believed in God, would you say no and live in shame? Or say yes and die standing up for God?" (I actually received this once in an e-mail forward.)

Personally, I would say whatever I thought wouldn't get me shot.

I mention this because a lot of people have, of late, taken the stance that they would have been the hero in these shootings. That they would have eagerly taken the sniper down with whatever weapons were at their disposal, assuming the New World Order hadn't taken away their right to pack heat in the classroom. Short of that, they would die proudly knowing that they stood up for what they believed in.

This talk gets so old. Because all it is, is talk. Talk from people who were not there and whose understanding of the reality is, at best, minimal. Not that my own concept is so great either; but at least I admit to it. I'm not making grand pretensions about what I would have done to stem this bloodbath. More than likely, I would have wet my pants, tried to escape or attempted to hide. Not exactly what I would do in principle, sure, but things are different with a gun to your head. Self-preservation kicks in heavily at that point, with steadfastness taking a stretch-limo-length back seat. And more people would subscribe to this reaction than would ever admit it.

We cannot let this (and similar tragedies) bring forth reactionary solutions. Much like with 9/11, the Virginia Tech shooting has put a gun to collective face of America. And the nation is being asked, "What do you believe?" Even some progressives tend to drop their principles at that point, saying that maybe what we need is a little more armor and a little less freedom. Which is exactly the sort of panicky thing one would say when staring down a barrel.

Events such as 9/11 and school shootings give the far right the ammo they need to justify their reactionary measures. Most Americans accept ideas such as the PATRIOT Act and concealed weapons only because they're scared. But ultimately, solutions borne of fear and passion are not effective, either in principle or in practice. The only thing they succeed in doing is further undermining the American ideal--the ideal that, no matter what crises bear down on us, we will continue to be a nation of laws and of general faith in the goodness of humankind.

America should never base its society on how it reacts with a gun to its head. While that may bring some immediate psychological comfort, it's no way to live in the long run. And it speaks poorly of most GOP-endorsed security measures that it takes something this serious for people to even consider them.

Just something to keep in mind at this vulnerable time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Triggering a frenzy for guns

By now, everyone knows about the Virginia Tech shooting that is being considered the worst massacre of its kind in American history.

What compels people to act out in such a destructive manner? I'm not sure sane people can even comprehend that. Sure, we all get angry sometimes--some more than others. But even the most short-fused among us generally has a mental check that keeps them from acting on their basest impulses. Such passionate shooting sprees are rarely the product of a clear mind. Charles Whitman, for example, knew he was crazy when he picked off 46 people from the bell tower at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. An autopsy revealed that he did, in fact, have a growth in his brain.

On the other hand, the Unabomber made plain and clear in his journal that he didn't want people to think he was insane and that his killings were anything less than a deliberative effort. And there's also the Columbine shootings, which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold set off with relative skill and all the indifference of recess. So it's safe to say that such causes are complex.

Either way, I'm not going to attempt to root out the causes of Cho Seung-Hui's spree. Yes, the killer was a South Korean with a student visa, which has somehow made this crime worse in some pundits' eyes. As if it would have been better if the sniper had been an NRA-lovin' American? Some of the vitriol that's being written on this topic makes me think that, yes, somehow that would have been preferable.

What I find remarkable (albeit unsurprising) is the assertion that such a tragedy could have been prevented if more students had access to firearms. This, of course, is false on its face in more ways than I have the patience to discuss.

So let's just assume that we've fulfilled this right-wing fantasy of every student carrying firearms. And let's pretend that every one of them is as highly trained to use them as any law-enforcement personnel (this being necessary to fulfill the self-defense requirement). Does it really stop anything? Well, let's take a hypothetical look:

--Alert student walking to class sees seething international student reach into his jacket.
--Alert student drops books, draws like an expert and fires.
--Seething international student drops immediately from barrage of bullets to the back.
--Several passers-by are witnesses to the commotion and begin firing as well.
--The first passer-by to fire immediately kills the alert student, who was seen opening fire on a college campus.
--The second passer-by, due to their angle, sees only the first passer-by shooting at an unseen target, and guns him down.
--Before long, every student within a 50-foot radius is shooting at someone else. Most pick off each other before anyone can figure out what's going on.
--The campus police get in on the action, and have to fire shots to quiet the crowd. Several officers are killed by random gunfire.
--Once the smoke clears, officers begin the body count. Among the dead: an international student with a campus map in his jacket.

I went to college for seven years. In that time, I saw thousands of faces come and go. And I can say with authority that I would have trusted maybe 17 of them to carry a concealed weapon. Even among my friends, I wouldn't trust most of them with a starter pistol. College should be about educating oneself in a relaxed and social environment. A gun-centric student body would take that away as much as the Virginia Tech shooter took that away from his victims.

I have known people who either carried a concealed weapon, or wanted to carry a concealed weapon. One told me years later that he had carried a gun every day that we were in high school. Almost to a person, these are the people I trust least to carry a weapon.

And thus lies the paradox: those who itch the most to pack heat are usually the least qualified to do so. Why do people wish to carry a gun in an everyday situation? To protect themselves? Fair enough. That's a sound argument when strolling Baghdad, or maybe 1776. But why would anyone clamor to carry in today's grocery stores, schools and churches? For whatever reason they give, I suspect that, deep down, they want to be a hero. They want to be able to avert a tragedy. They want to use the gun in the grocery store. The school. The church. And they'll always be looking for reasons to do so. Watch your jacket.

One of the reasons we've been so slow to solve problems in the last few years is that every violent event becomes an excuse to enforce some extremist, right-wing cause. We've already seen the sad results of this in the war on terror, the PATRIOT Act, the immigration fence, First Amendment zones and treatment of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Prejudice and fear do not solve problems. They are also no ways to live. This tragedy took at least 32 victims; we cannot let it take our sense of community as well.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Try not to resent any child that results from this...

Update: the Conservative Cajun has spawned an adorable little girl (though I imagine not in the way depicted in the above link). He and Cherie even named her after me! Kinda.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Biz bleach

I've decided I don't like business terms. "Bottom line," "focus group," "market space," all of those. They take the edge off things. While still in college, I asked a friend what she was doing for her internship:

"I serve as a liaison between the agency and the community, offering strategic solutions for clients to help realize their full potential. What do you do?"

"Uh...I'm a reporter for the newspaper. So, really, what do you do?"

It's not that I have anything against these jobs; I just wish I knew what the hell they were doing. After all, I don't tell people I facilitate content transition between concept engineers and the public by constructing attention-grabbing innovations. I write headlines. Simple and to the point. Why can't everyone else do the same thing?

Of course, the opposite is also just as annoying. For example, I have a cousin in the military. He's cool. But just try even casually asking him what he does, and he'll squint his eyes and say, "Oh, I can't tell you."

"At all?"
"At all."
"Chilling. Hey, want to play hide-and-seek?"
"Sure. But you'll never find me. And if you do, you'll know too much!"

Okay, so that last bit's a silly exaggeration. But if he's going to walk around in a military uniform, shouldn't he at least come up with a stock answer to fall back on? He must get asked about 300 times a day! He could simply say, "I create innovative solutions for realizing the full deployment potential of the vast resources of my company." That would satisfy most people, I think.

On the other hand, a veneer of secrecy is much cooler. And "cool" is the demographic that every market covets.

Parting thought: TV executives often talk about the significance of the 18-to-49 age market. I don't understand that. When I was 18, my dad was 49. That's not a demographic. That's a generation gap!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bait and switch

I just heard on the radio that the U.S. Army is going to extend deployments from 12 months to 15 months, though the trade-off is that soldiers will get their full year off between tours.

So let me get this straight: the Pentagon are screwing troops yet again, but are trying to justify it by promising what soldiers are supposed to have anyway?

It's as if gas companies announced a tripling in fuel prices, but made up for it by promising to remove the lead for real this time.

Good grief! What isn't wrong with this?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Can't spell 'bad' without 'ad'

If you watch TV (I don't), you've probably seen any of a series of public-service ads promoting (I have). Each one follows this basic template:

A star or ensemble cast from a hit show (or facsimiles thereof, for all I know) sit in some ultra-suburban WASP's nest. A parent sits with them and tells them how much they love their show, all the action, the adventure, the intrigue, etc.

"But--[waving in general direction of kids in next room]--you're too much for the kids, so I'm going to have to let you go." The characters sit there, smiling, as if nothing has just transpired. Cut to Web address and Ad Council logo.

These are the dumbest commercials in existence. A half-hour infomercial against file-sharing written by the most bigoted public-access rednecks and shot as a kinescope could not top this for sheer stupidity.

Who looks at these spots, nods their heads and says, "Gee, that was swell?" I know plenty of parents, many of whom are on the conservative side regarding the children, and very few of them are likely to give up their favorite TV shows just because they popped out babies. My parents watched whatever they wanted; if they chose for me not to see something, they'd tell me to leave the room. And I would, because jumping on the bed was more fun anyway. But, as was more often the case, we watched shows together. And R-rated movies. And played Atari games on the Montgomery-Ward brand TV. And, while the point is debatable, I think I turned out fine.

On the other hand, I've had friends in my life who had parents exactly like those in the commercials. It once led to a very absurd (and public) conversation in a Blockbuster:

Me: "Hey, this looks funny! I've been wanting to see it."
Her: "Um, I'm not sure. It's rated R."
Me: "You're 22 years old."
Her: "It's rated R!"
Me: "Hi, onlookers! My name's Embarrassed!"

But even if you do like these commercials, don't they imply a gleeful acceptance of censorship? I get the same feeling watching these spots as I did at high school orientation every year when the principal announced the latest rollback on student freedom. Or every time the Bush administration announces another idiotic measure that does nothing but give them power and us fewer choices. Who on Earth celebrates this sort of thing? And why should we cater to these people?

The irony of is that it preaches the message, "You are in control!", yet offers resources on the wonderful world of the V-chip--the one that we all have to live in, because a small fraction of parents lack the intuition and authority to turn off the television.

I hope someone with a voice (like me, except with an audience) lampoons these commercials. They could sit the commercials down in their breakfast nook and tell them that, while they provide some morbid entertainment, they need to go. After all, the person is trying to have kids and those spots are aural castration. Then, repeat the process with whoever in the government came up with this ridiculous idea. And then with the government in general. Yeah!

Monday, April 09, 2007

God! The radio! And diamonds!

--The creator of the comic strip B.C., Johnny Hart, died Saturday while working at his storyboard. Now I liked this strip, as I did his other strip, Wizard of Id. But B.C. became notorious for occasionally interspersing over-the-top Christian themes with its fat jokes and snake-bashing. This would especially occur during holidays; so it freaks me out that its creator died of a stroke on the day before Easter. In an even more cosmic twist, the Phelpses are still alive to picket his funeral. Almost enough to make you believe in a wrathful, vengeful God, huh?

--Speaking of a vengeful God, those lists that tell you to "add your name if you believe in God" have got to be a sign of the apocalypse. Forget traditional avenues of faith; this is how you show affection to God: a MySpace bulletin with 231 indistinguishable first names, with maybe three capital letters between them. Especially entertaining are comments some people leave with their names, such as:

143. your boy brandon Gross (man im likin dis its a great start the only thing is its its the first i saw it a min a go this is a great chain to pass a long. its not a guilt trip, or a threat its the God honest truth. its a chain worth passing along and i want my bulliton box filled wit the same thing. i got to see and experince a diffrent part of Gods earth this week. and while we were hicking and i was died trierd some one said 2 me i cant belive some people dont belive in God. well im not a acident nether is r world r U?)

81. Jean-Paul.....couldn't pass this one up.

73. J.L.B. - I am very proud to add my name! God Bless Everyone

Yes, when the apocalypse hits us, God is going to open up the BlackBerry of Life and say, "Welcome to heaven! You are truly a proud servant of My kingdom...uh...J.L.B.!"

These and other online petitions are flawed on their faces anyway, because they (to borrow a word from the heathens) evolve more and more with every sender. In other words, if you're name number 231 and you send it to 100 friends to get it signed, all 100 of them will be number 232 on separate lists. Well, more like all five who sign it, if you're lucky. The rest just straight up want to go to Hell.

--On the other hand, Alanis Morrissette has covered "My Humps." Maybe God has a sense of humor after all!

--The DJ on my local radio station just said that a song by "the greatest rock band in the world" is coming up. Well, just who is that? Seems like an awfully subjective thing to say on the radio. Anyway, I've never known them to play the Bay City Rollers. Guess there's a first time for everything...

--This station plays a lot of diamond commercials. They really play to men's senses of insecurity: "Show her you love her even more than on the day you were married," the announcer drawls as the world's most excited woman gasps in the background. Or is it asphyxiation? Which would accurately convey the sound of a suffocating 8-year-old diamond-mine slave in Africa.

Diamonds are the most overrated commodity in the world. They have no intrinsic value aside from being pretty and expensive. Their hard-wired popularity among women is a testament to the genius of marketing and the pressures of society. Their corrupt pricing system puts OPEC to shame, and their production methods aren't exactly union-approved.

But even before I knew most of that, I decided I would never seriously date or marry a woman who held them in such high regard. Why? Because, several years ago, I met a girl (who was maybe 20) who had recently become engaged. She said that her grandmother was against the marriage because--swear to God--the engagement ring was too small! "She said if he really loved me, he'd have bought me a bigger diamond," she said as she flashed a ring that could have dented RoboCop's armor. "And I'm starting to think she's right."

Wonder what their plans are for their sixth anniversary...assuming he hasn't killed her yet...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

An Easter Fable

Early this morning I went to a restaurant and didn't get waited on. Didn't get waited on!

This isn't some kind of long-dormant brat personality coming out in me, nor is it the ranting of someone who feels entitled to be waited upon hand-and-foot by the service industry. This is simply a case of walking into a 24-hour diner that was maybe half full, with waitstaff (in street clothes!) milling about everywhere, taking a very prominent seat and twiddling my thumbs for maybe 20 minutes while absolutely no one acknowledged my existence. All of this despite the fact that the waiter repeatedly serviced the booth next to mine and never turned in my general vicinity anytime between his arrival at that booth and his unjustified sprint towards the back as if he actually had other customers.

After an extended period of time sitting at this booth, looking more and more like a doofus with each passing second, I finally got up and left. As I did, I snaked through a small crowd of people who got service the second they walked in the door. Just like the people who came in directly before I did. Now grumbling as loudly as my stomach, I drove down the street to another 24-hour diner. I walk in and plunk down, only to be told by a passing waiter that they were closing down. Huh? Oh, yeah, Easter Sunday in the Bible Belt. Jesus! So God rested on the seventh day, eh? Well, he forgot to shut down my appetite! Christ...

I considered carrying on toward my intended destination, the IHOP, only to realize that they were probably closed as well. So I make a decision on par with New Coke and self-immolation and drive back to the other restaurant. Hey, I'm all about second chances. Also, everything else is as dead as...well, there's no simile to accurately describe how dead this town gets at 2 a.m. on Saturday night. This time, just to make sure I'm noticed, I walk up to the front and grab a menu from behind the counter. Classy, I know. But I'm at least hoping that this action will set up the following exchange:

Guy: "We can get someone to bring you a menu."
Me: "That would be nice, because I am starving."

It works halfway; some guy at the counter does stare at me. But then he just shrugs and moves on to another customer. I sit at the same table where I was ignored before--did I mention it's in the exact geographical center of the joint?--and peruse the menu, which sparks a mental reel from "My Cousin Vinny":

"Ya tink?"

And then I'm reminded of another recent futile effort to get late-night food, which resulted in 10 minutes of waiting, a free voucher and probably spit in my sandwich. And I realize that, at this point, I am so brewing with steam that any human interaction is likely to be unpleasant. So I just got up, tossed the menu back behind the counter and went home to eat food from my freezer. I'm not one to hold grudges, but I can say with 100 percent certainty that I am never setting foot inside that place again. Ever. And what sucks about it is that they won't miss me at all. After all, they never even knew I was there.

It's tough going for a night worker such as myself to end a long day in a strange city with only one of two human-interaction possibilities: get treated rudely, or get no treatment at all due to a cultural indifference that is totally foreign to me. I can't decide which is worse. And this is coming from someone who values privacy and self-reliance, and who grew sick of a region inundated with in-your-face social politics. Make no mistake: I have zero problem with spending an entire day not talking to another human being. But sometimes, you just want to.

To feel like absolutely no one cares about your existence...even as a paying customer, much less as a friend...goddamn, that hurts.

So I ask anyone who reads this: regardless of your beliefs (or lack thereof), take this holiday to reach out to another person. Be good. Be polite. Just be there. Because being ignored is far worse than being hated. And you know how much I hate that!

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Musings on Dick, politics and colons

--Dick Cheney recently gave an interview with Rush Limbaugh. Somehow, the BBC thought this was worth quoting. My suggestion to the BBC is to hire a professional humorist if laughs are their aim.

--The online teaser for the above article was, "Cheney makes Iraq-al Qaeda link." My immediate thought was, "Took long enough!" But the actual headline was, "Cheney asserts Iraq-al Qaeda link." [Emphasis mine.] This reminds me of a BBC headline from about a week ago, "Bush attacks Iran over hostages." Note to the BBC: we have enough fear-mongering and linguistic double-takes in American commentary already. Feel no need to compete!

--A journalism magazine put out by my alma mater features an ad for a local talk-radio station. Said ad features prominent pictures of Moon Griffon ("The Voice of Louisiana"), Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. This can't possibly be helping the state's reputation.

--A tip for aspiring writers: judging by my most recent trip to the library, the easiest way to crack into publishing is to write a book about how the far right can secretly take over the United States and permanently implement its agenda. Extra filthy lucre can can be found by using the 2006 election as a pretext for why a conservative crackdown is more important than ever. In any case, make sure your flaps contain some combination of the phrase, "The book the Democrats / liberals / radical left / America-haters / latte drinkers / Prius drivers / terrorist-lovers don't want you to read." Finally, make sure your cover is black or blue and contains some combination of an eagle, a cross, camouflage, fire or blood. Voila! Instant bestseller. Pardon my French.

--Yesterday, a friend of mine (who is my age) sent out a message about a retro party, where she plans on dancing her "aging bones." I don't get it; I don't feel old. On the other hand, I've seen way too many people in their late 20s who look preternaturally 40. I guess you're only as old as you feel. Which is why I feel much younger and George W. Bush appears to age 10 years every six months.

--Last night, for only the second time in about two years, I was forced to shop at Wal-Mart. While waiting an excruciatingly long time in the express-lane line, I noticed a memo next to an empty register. It said, in part, "Do not throw away or take loose Wal-Mart bags. Bags are the company's number-one expense." Well, it certainly isn't the payroll.

--The Battlefield Mall...imagine the headlines if a shootout ever happened there...

--Sorry, let me try that again. The Battlefield Mall in Springfield is currently hosting a cancer-awareness event involving a giant inflatable colon. I wanted to walk through it, but too many people were doing so at the time I was there. I guess you could say the colon was constipated. Oh! [Rim-shot] From the back, it looked like a pumpkin with herpes. I hope the attraction didn't traumatize any of the kids who waited in line nearby to take pictures with the Easter Bunny.

--I had a dream last night that I captured Osama bin Laden. Which seems as likely a way for it to happen as anything else at this point.

--A riddle to clear your head: if a Hindu man calls his wife a cow, would that be a compliment?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Today's Thing to Believe

No negotiation made in British hostage release

They were released "without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature," [Tony Blair] said.

Your assignment: go to the store and pick up some bananas. Then try to carry them out "without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature." You can't do it. Why? Because everything has its price.

One can only imagine what's printed on the receipt for this one.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Some chemotherapy for the cancer

I think a good word to describe George W. Bush would be "petulant." His style of leadership can be boiled down to thus:

"I am the president and the decider. America is addicted to oil. We must stay the course in Iraq. And I resent anyone trying to open up dialogue with another country. That's my job, and I won't do it because it is counterproductive to my goals. If you disagree with me, you enable the terrorists and don't support the troops. After all, God wanted me to be president."

Bush is like a bad caricature of the mustache-twirling villain. Has anyone ever seen a president so unbending, yet so wrong? And have so many people ever suffered for such hubris? Granted, I'm young; I was born when Jimmy Carter was president, so my firsthand experience with presidents is relatively limited. But I have studied history, and I have yet to come up with an American president who based his policies and governance on such distrust of dissent and, by extension, the views of the majority of those he supposedly represents. And while some commanders-in-chief have taken drastic measures in times of war, none have actively sought out opportunities to do so, nor have they hidden behind the mantle of fear with such fervor. On top of all that, he isn't even smart. In fact, his decisions and his personality share an earnest stupidity. Bush calls it being folksy; I call it a willing celebration of simplistic ignorance. He tries to compensate for this by surrounding himself with smarter people; unfortunately, those people are hawkishly hellbent on world hegemony. Just how evil is their agenda? When Bush is the least threatening face you have to put forward, that's a good clue.

Regardless of who ultimately earns the presidency in 2008, I hope that they sincerely reverse the disastrous hard-line that has steered the American course toward disaster and tragedy. I hope that the next president is truly a uniter, not a divider. Someone who will be open to discussion and will do what's best for America and the world, not what's best for their corporate contributors. Someone who will not take into office a sense of aristocratic birthright and a veneer of divine invincibility. Someone who will not attempt to suppress the rights of citizens who disagree with him (or her). Basically, the polar opposite of the bratus quo.

Part of me wishes Bush could run for president again just to get trounced this time around. But then again, that never stopped him before.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Proof that not only is it a small world after all, it's an infinitesimally microscopic particle

Kansas City Royals fans are atwitter over their team's triumphant 7-1 Opening Day home-stand blowout of the Boston Red Sox. The game received front-sports-page coverage here in Springfield, as did the standing ovation given to the Royals' new starting pitcher, who recently signed a team-record $55 million contract. That pitcher is Gil Meche, who is from a place called Lafayette, Louisiana.

This is almost as weird as that time I ran into a family from Lafayette while shopping at a Navajo gift-shop tent in the middle of nowhere, Arizona. And they recognized me. Because I had taken their daughter to the 8th-grade prom.