Monday, January 29, 2007

Ooh, that spell...

Before I get into this spiel, I should disclose that I am a champion (or, more accurately, near-champion) speller. In 6th grade, I placed second in my schoolwide spelling bee, beating several 8th graders; as a high school senior, I placed 2nd in division and 5th in state in the subject at Rally. I won journalism Rally the year before (and 2nd in state), hold journalism and English degrees and worked several years as a reporter and writer.

In other words, I'm probably way too overqualified-slash-dorky to complain about this. But I'm still going to do so. If your job involves, in any capacity, the need to persuade via communication, PLEASE LEARN HOW TO SPELL AND USE THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!

On Saturday, I went midnight bowling. Between bowls, I looked up at the score screen and was greeted by an ad that read something like this:

"Lot's of great deals available!"

I believe it was for a real-estate firm. You know, smart people who make nearly six figures and can hire top-notch advertising agencies? Yeah. And no, it did not appear to be a pun of any sort. So, of course, my visceral reaction was this: "THAT WORD SO DOES NOT HAVE AN APOSTROPHE!"

My friends looked at me in disbelief. Actually, no they didn't--they completely ignored the whole thing. Which immediately made me feel like a nerd. Then again, grammatical mistakes are so ubiquitous in this town--I've seen first-grade mistakes on restaurant signs, movie advertising and virtually every other medium of communication involving words--that perhaps they didn't think it was worth mentioning.

One major abuse here is to use quotation marks to emphasize a point. Thus, at Cajun Field, you have this sign: "Don't" be a tailgator! Granted, that last word is a pun (get it, waterboy?); but here's a word of advice for future ad agencies who hope to actually stop bad driving: "Learn" the language so you don't look "illiterate." You want to emphasize? CAPITALIZE!

Flashback to around 2002: while visiting some friends out of town for a barbecue, I went to the store to get the fire started. Strolling down the barbecue aisle, I found myself drawn to a particular bottle of lighter fluid made by a big-name company. The warning on the front screamed at me: "Caution: Combustable." Aargh! At least they got it right on the back: "This product is combustible." I bought it just so my friends would swoon at my eye for detail. They didn't.

And, of course, there are those who think every word that ends in "s" is possessive (except when it actually is): "Teds Car Shack is the best place to find car's of all make's and model's! Check out the new Cutlass's and Volk'swagen's! Its the best in it's class! So come talk to our owner, Ted Dugas'!"

But those are minor considerations compared to the blogs I read. I'm not going to single anyone out, though it does involve every part of the political spectrum. But yes, most of it comes from people who think English should be the only language used in America. You'd think they'd at least make the strongest case for doing so. But they don't. And some seem to take pride in that.

I'm not trying to be hoity-toity or go-getting or whatever other label is polite parlance for condescension. I'm also not expecting everyone to reach post-graduate levels of language use. But the bottom line here is this: if you're a lousy communicator, I'm going to assume that your product, service or idea is equally lousy.

Much has been said about the declining standards of intelligence in this country. The least we can do is ensure that our citizens aren't bombarded with careless mistakes by those whose business it is to know better.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hate New Orleans? Read this!

In his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23, George W. Bush made not one comment on the still-ongoing effort to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I noted this here yesterday, receiving the following comment in response:

I know!

Lets use taxpayer dollars to rebuild a s--thole that was built below sea level between a lake and a BIG F--KING OCEAN, which all honest observation should be a F--KING SWAMP except for the HUGE PUMPS that keep it dry.

That way, next time there is a hurricane, it can be destroyed again. This way, s--t in New Orleans will always be new.

Wait, I have a better idea. MOVE THE F--K OUT A--HOLE!!!!

As much as I'd like to dismiss that comment as mere heckling (coming as it does from someone who, I'm sad to say, is a regular reader), it unfortunately reflects the attitude that too many Americans have regarding the post-Katrina Big Easy. However these people choose to jeer New Orleanians, it boils down to this: Quit complaining, because you had it coming! After all, New Orleans is a diverse cultural and trading hub and one of America's most valuable resources. Why would anyone want to save that?

This is the United States of America. UNITED. Remember that word? The one everyone used with such abandon after 9/11? The feeling then was this: if one of us is down, then we're all down. Cultural and economic differences were suddenly insignificant, because in that moment we are all Americans. Allies. Friends. Family. Blood. And we knew then that helping our neighbors was the same as helping ourselves.

But New Orleans? That's different.

I don't ever recall a moment after 9/11 where anyone seriously thought New York City didn't deserve to rebuild. I never heard anyone say, "Well, it's their fault for being on the coast at a major port" or, "They had it coming with that giant voodoo statue in the harbor" or, "Maybe they shouldn't have built such a massive business district to attract terrorists in the first place." Can you imagine what the backlash from that would have been?

But New Orleans? That's different.

Football fans aren't off the hook either. Chicago fans had horribly bad press this week for their disgusting behavior at Sunday's Saints-Bears NFC Championship Game. Not only did Bears fans allegedly taunt and threaten visiting Saints fans, but they also sported tasteless signs. "Bears finishing what Katrina started?" "Ride your boat back to New Orleans, Katrina victims?" But, of course, that's just football. Whatever helps your team win, right? Well, consider this: in November, the Bears throttled both the Giants and the Jets at The Meadowlands. No reports ever surfaced of any signs reading, "Bears finishing what the terrorists started." See, that would have been bad taste. Crossing the line. Uncalled for.

But New Orleans? That's different.

California has earthquakes. Arizona has brush fires. Washington has Mt. St. Helens. Utah has nuclear mountains and windstorms that can rock your car off the road. Kansas has tornadoes. Missouri has freak ice storms. Iowa has dust. Hawaii is a volcano. The town of Calama, Chile, has never seen rain. In short, every square inch of the planet Earth has its potential environmental hazards. That does not stop people from living in and loving those places, nor does it earn a rebuke from outsiders whenever natural phenomena does hit. Human decency, you'd think, would never allow that under any circumstance.

But New Orleans? That's different.

Americans have always nurtured their neighbors in times of disaster. Think about the past 20 years: Texan baby fell down a well? Live national coverage. Major earthquake in San Francisco? Outpourings of sympathy. Oil spill in Alaska? Corporate accountability and environmental reform. Hurricane Hugo? Let's rebuild the east coast! Hurricane Andrew? Let's rebuild Florida! Iraq invades Kuwait? We're there! America attacked by Afghan terrorists? Back to Iraq! Whatever trouble we face, be it natural disaster at home or political disaster abroad, count on the United States to be there with a quickness.

So ask yourself: why is New Orleans any different?

(Cross-posted to Daily Kos)

A reasoned commentary on Bush's rebuilding plan for New Orleans, as outlined in the 2007 SOTU Address

Oh, wait....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The N-word, the F-word and the C-word

Observations on NFL Championship Sunday

--I said before the NFC Championship game that it was the Saints' to win or lose. I said that afterwards, too.

--My preparation for the game included wearing my Reggie Bush home jersey; loading up on Hot-and-Spicy Tabasco Cheez-Its; watching Saints highlight videos and pregame shows; reading every article on the Saints within grasp; lamenting my inability to find my 1987 vinyl pressing of Aaron Neville's anthem "Who Dat?"; propping up my Saints license plate and pennant in the spots that had guaranteed victory throughout the season; rearranging said license plate and pennant with every turnover; and, perhaps most ironically, hoisting several copies of this newly acquired sign:



This approach seemed to work, as the Saints and Bears traded off on one of the most thrilling three quarters of football either team had played all year. In a rare move, however, I quit watching the game early in the fourth quarter, immediately after Bernard Berrian's 33-yard touchdown catch. Not only did I a sense a blowout afoot, but I also remembered how Berrian caused a heartbreaking fantasy loss for me earlier in the season. And how he stole my name for half of his last name. Jerk. But I digress.

After calmly leaving the room, I grabbed my "We Believe" sign and--no longer believing--tore it to shreds. Then I tore the shreds to shreds. And then I tore those shreds into tiny pieces. Ah, therapy!

My dad, who has followed the Saints since 1967 and often makes me look reserved by comparison, told me to not be too depressed because the Saints have a great thing going and have reached new highs this season. And while I understand the optimism there, part of me also wanted to see the Saints win it all. Sometimes I wonder if heartbreak isn't stronger when you almost get there, especially when you're tasting it for the first time. But, rather than dwell on it, I turned my attention to other things for awhile. Well, okay, I tried.

Several hours later, facing a pile of confetti in need of a celebration, I did a little artwork. After all, the Saints deserve credit for having their best season ever, even if they did blow it on one quarter of the most uninspired play this side of the Washington Generals:



Because, really, you do. Besides, the Pro Bowl will feature the Saints-Chargers matchup that everyone deserves to see.

--Rex Grossman is the George W. Bush of the NFL: a man of debatably mediocre talent who, nevertheless, happened to be at the right place at the right time. And who has about the same effect on the people of New Orleans.

--Watching Devery Henderson beat Charles Tillman for a hard-fought reception early in the game made me rethink my stance on the whole UL-LSU rivalry.

--The Colts' stunning, last-second victory in the AFC Championship was the most thrilling event of the evening. Not only did it break the so-called Manning curse, it also kept Super Bowl XLI from being the blandest and least-riveting game ever to fall in February. Not only would I have bypassed a Bears-Patriots matchup altogether, but I would probably have sought a job cleaning toilets just so I could suffer less that night.

--Not only is Super Bowl XLI the first to feature an African-American head coach, it'll actually feature two black coaches! This overdue racial progress bodes well for the campaign of Barack Obama, who'll need the extra votes now that everyone in New Orleans resents his support for the Bears.

--Linguistically speaking, it probably wasn't the smartest strategy to say, "Who Dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" to a team that calls itself "Da Bears."

So, congratulations to the Bears and the city of Chicago for making it to the Super Bowl once again. You have truly captured the nation's heart with your inspiring consistency and story of revitalization. It couldn't have happened to a more undeserving team.

Go Colts!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kicking football footage off the air

You know what makes me steaming mad? Every time a video gets removed from YouTube. Especially when that video involves the Saints.

Yeah, I know...I've complained about this before. Probably more than once. But it's something that never fails to renew anger in me each time it happens. It's not that I don't agree with copyright laws or the idea of intellectual property--obviously, as a writer, I do--but sometimes they take it too far.

Russell Zimmerman is an avid Saints fan and amateur filmmaker. He has made three of my favorite videos of the year: the imaginatively titled "SAINTS vs. COWBOYS," "SAINTS vs. GIANTS" and "SAINTS vs. EAGLES." Zimmerman's videos are brilliant cuts of Saints plays set to various adrenaline-fueled songs. I watched them several times each day, never failing to smile each time. In fact, just yesterday I signed up to YouTube just to tell Zimmerman how much I enjoyed his work. I always felt through his short takes like I was a real football fan. That's good, right?

But all three videos, among many others, have been taken off in the last 12 hours, due to an apparent complaint from the NFL about use of footage. In PR terms, that has to rank right up there with New Coke or Herb.

I fail to understand how these videos in any way damage the NFL or its bottom line. First off, the videos are free and no one likely makes any profit from them. Second, spectators tape game footage themselves all the time, and as far as I know that isn't illegal. Third, where would this censorship stop? Can fans no longer use team logos in pictures and other types of videos? Will fan tributes require generic uniforms like athletes wear in unlicensed endorsements?

Fan videos actually do the NFL a favor by enhancing the football experience; watching these tributes often compels me to go to the NFL's official site and watch the higher-quality (albeit limited) footage they offer. In any case, these types of remixes are available nowhere else. I never in my life thought that fan expression was a bad thing. I suppose the only footage we'll be seeing from now on is whatever the NFL and ESPN deign to let us see. What's next, an "excessive celebration" penalty against fans?

Again, the problem isn't that the NFL is trying to protect its property and its interests; the problem is the ridiculous extremes taken in doing so. Watching fan videos doesn't keep me from purchasing official league product; corporate obsession with censoring said videos, on the other hand, just might. This goes beyond sports. Check out my CD collection sometime, and see how many of them carry that huge, scary-looking anti-piracy warning. Not many. It's no coincidence that most of my CDs predate the Napster crackdown, because once I saw the degree of zest to which the RIAA chased down 12-year-old girls, I never wanted to even listen to music again. It's called, "voting with your pocketbook." Is a few cents in theoretical royalties worth the stifling of free speech that we're now seeing?

At least let us Saints fans know how to celebrate properly. Apparently there's a sanctioned way to do it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's cold and I'm lucky

BUFFALO, Mo. (AP)- Shoppers were reduced to picking up supplies by flashlight Tuesday in the few places open in this town of 2,800, as the death toll from a winter storm grew to 51 in nine states.

Three shelters in Buffalo — about 35 miles north of Springfield in hard-hit Missouri — housed nearly a tenth of its population Monday night, and officials said power might not be restored until next week.

The town lost all its power by Saturday. Water towers ran dry Sunday, and water service was restored only late Monday, after the National Guard hooked a generator up to a pumping station. [...]

In Missouri, the utility company Ameren said it would probably not have everyone’s lights back on until Wednesday night. As of Tuesday, about 210,000 homes and businesses still had no electricity.

The White House said Tuesday that 34 Missouri counties and St. Louis had been declared a major disaster area, making federal funding available. A similar federal disaster declaration was approved Sunday for Oklahoma.

From the Springfield News-Leader:

Gov. Matt Blunt asked residents to be patient, calling the situation "the largest mass (emergency)-care natural disaster (Missouri) has had to deal with."

No, I'm not going to take any political shots or make any jokes here. So why am I mentioning this? Because I left Springfield, Missouri, one day before the storm hit. If I'd stayed an extra day or had gone when I'd originally planned to do so, I'd still be stranded there. It was a stroke of luck that I was there in the first place--and just as much of one that I left when I did.

With that kind of personal luck, I feel good about the Saints. Let's just hope that Missouri has better luck with disaster relief than New Orleans did after Katrina. Has FEMA learned anything? Now's our chance to see.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bush on 60 Minutes: truly an OW-er

Last night, George W. Bush spoke with CBS anchor Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. In the uncharacteristically frank interview, Bush addressed criticism of his handling of Iraq; he also expressed his defiance of said criticism, pledging to commit more troops and resources to the mission. More than any other document in recent memory, the 60 Minutes segment gives us Bush at his most adamant and unwavering--an embattled leader facing the toughest trial of his (and the nation's) existence.

Alas, I haven't yet seen it. Sure, I have it on videotape; but after seeing the teasers and online analyses, I can't quite bring myself to push "play." If the secondhand quotes are any indicator, then 60 Minutes with Bush is an eternity.

Thank you! I'm here all week, folks.

While Bush continues to profess his resolve, pieces such as Sunday's interview increasingly reflect the futility of such resolve. The president's remarks suggest not only a staggering ignorance of separation of powers, but also how his need to be right overtakes any sense of rationality. And while those qualities may be news for the small fraction of Americans who are still not paying attention, it doesn't make for compelling viewing for the rest of us.

Few experiences are as metaphorically painful as watching Bush wax philosophical about the need for further escalation in Iraq; acknowledging past mistakes while denying the need for a new gameplan; calling himself a "war president," as if such a label renders him infallible; insisting that Iraqis should be grateful for the nightmare their country has become; and, despite the already overflowing plate of American military hegemony, talking up conflict with Iran. In TV terms, this is a rerun of a popular episode of a brainless show; you've seen it so many times that you know all the words, but there's no reason ever to see it again. In another sense, Bush's appearance is along the lines of Celebrity Boxing or The Surreal Life; the glory boy fallen from grace who'll do anything to show people that he's still alive.

Indeed, Bush seems intent on proving a lot more than his continued existence. His drive to send more troops to Iraq--regardless of Congressional rebukes--comes off more as an attempt to assert his own power than an attempt to resolve any military issues. Whether or not that is deliberate defiance is hard to say; however, it's worth noting that Bush claims to not use e-mail and says he can act even if Congress denies him the funds to do so. In isolating himself from naysayers, Bush has built himself a forcefield of delusion. In his quest to repel negativity, he has also repelled reality.

Hopefully, the 60 Minutes interview showcases the futility that is the Bush doctrine. And, hopefully, Bush will have seen it in full. Watching his internal ideological struggle may just be the spark Dubya needs to finally affect positive change.

Alas, Bush would probably find it as hard to watch as we did.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A modest demand for the people of New Orleans

Anyone who is lucky enough to be in the Superdome tomorrow is required by law to cheer so hard that the roof floats up like a hot-air balloon. By the fourth quarter, that stadium had better be open-air!

On second thought, I take that back. I like the mental picture of Tweety birds being locked in the cage with black-clad Sylvesters just ready to pounce.

New Orleans hasn't had any reason to be this electric and optimistic in a long time, if ever. This is the Big Easy's best chance to not only go where no Saints have gone before, but also to counter the lingering desperation and recent explosion in tragic homicides. It's past time for some good news and positive exposure.

Go Saints! And Go New Orleans!

Rock the house tonight.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I love to fly, but...

I've spent the past couple of days bouncing between Lafayette, Atlanta and Springfield, Missouri. Because I'm tired of buying new toothpaste, deodorant and eye drops everytime I make a stop, I have to ask:

If airline passengers are required to put their liquids in a one-quart resealable plastic bag, shouldn't airports at least have some available? Does the plastic cover that the easily available Hustler comes in make an appropriate substitute?

Yesterday at ATL, dozens of fully outfitted soldiers headed to various hometown destinations. Despite the round of applause they got, they still got searched just like everybody else. How dangerous can an airport at orange-alert level stacked with American soldiers possibly be? Ironic, isn't it?

Just asking.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Screen pass

For several years now, I've been trying to fragment together a comedy trilogy about football. Ther action centers around a semipro team, the Louisiana Mantises, who play in the Continental Football Conference (CFC) of the National League of American Football (NLAF). Because I am absolutely blocked on blogging at the moment, I now present a line of dialogue that's been in my head for days:

"Louisiana Mantises? Where did that name come from?"

"With our budget, we'll have to pray for victory."

"But why the Mantises? Louisiana isn't known for its praying mantis population."

"Well, we were gonna call it the 49ers, but Louisiana jumped up to 48th in prevention of teen pregnancy."

The rest of the movie practically writes itself.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Lafayette Show

Last night, I wrote an exhaustive entry on why Lafayette, Louisiana is the most conceited city I've ever seen. It was spurred by Thursday's Daily Advertiser editorial page, in which several editorials and letters spoke of said conceitedness. Halfway through the missive, however, my browser crashed and I lost the whole thing. But it boils down to this:

Lafayette lives up to its ambiguous motto: "The big city with small-town values." Despite the assumption that a culturally diverse city of 100,000+ residents with both a major university and a thriving petroleum industry would be wealthy and wise, Lafayette is neither. Half of the city is a sprawling shopping mall, and the other half is a mini-mall going out of business. And no one can get to either one, because the nihilist road system leads only to 1957. This poor planning might be attributed to the fact that otherwise bright people don't go to college because oil drilling promises more money than a degree ever will. And that half of the students actually in college can barely spell the word.

To be fair, though, Lafayette currently has a 2.5 percent unemployment rate. That's the best in the state of Louisiana; though I can't imagine they had much competition, considering New Orleans is only beginning to re-exist, Baton Rouge and Shreveport perpetually suck and the rest of the state is trees. Kudos to the Hub City for being sufficiently stingy with their unemployment benefits so that it looks like 97.5 percent of the populace are working their dream jobs, which is the impression you'd get by reading the local media. "Lafayette was voted Best Place on the Planet yet again! So why would you want to go anywhere else? Your plane might crash!" Yes, Truman Burbank would fit right in.

I had said it all more eloquently than that in the erased post; but that's the gist of it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2007: The Year in Review So Far



--George W. Bush is soon expected to announce a surge in U.S. troops to Baghdad in an attempt to contain Iraqi oil, er, turmoil.

--Democrat Nancy Pelosi makes feminist history today, ironically enough, by proving a woman's place is in the House.

--Iraqi officials announced that they arrested the person responsible for leaked cell-phone footage of Saddam Hussein's execution. So that's where Donald Rumsfeld's been!

--Former president Gerald Ford was laid to rest Wednesday. He is the second Ford of note to be buried in Michigan, after the Ford Motor Company.

--Wal-Mart has announced plans to restructure workers' schedules based on the number of shoppers, rather than on static shifts. The new system would require more flexibility from Wal-Mart employees, in accordance with their new motto: "Be ready to work. Always."

--A 14-year-old British boy became the youngest-ever person to sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Most 14-year-old boys are too busy sailing solo in other ways to even think about this.

--Jessica Simpson ushered in 2007 with musician John Mayer, with whom she was seen making out in New York City. Mayer later said that Jessica's kisses "tasted like chicken...or was it tuna?"

--Britney Spears reportedly fainted in Las Vegas shortly after ringing in the new year. Spears' publicists blamed exhaustion for her collapse, as if K-Fed, Paris Hilton and Crossroads had nothing to do with it.

--Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban announced Wednesday that he has left the NFL to lead the Alabama Crimson Tide. Under his new contract, Saban will receive $30 million over eight years; this makes him the highest-paid college coach ever, though it puts him only ninth among college players.

--A mysterious metallic rock tore through a house in Freehold Township, N.J. Tuesday night. Experts are baffled by the discovery, declaring it one of the least harmful things ever found in New Jersey air.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

First!

Welcome to a new year and a brand-new Not Right About Anything!

You may have noticed that I've posted only three times in the last 10 days. No, this does not mean I'm dead; I just had to clear some cobwebs from my head. I took a few days off to relax, juggle a few career-related opportunities and have fun with friends and family. I also spent numerous hours at my Day Job and un-cluttering my closet (literally and metaphorically). And because I've been meaning to do so for some time, I've totally redesigned my blog. Though I'm still working on numerous design bugs on this template, I'm confident that you'll like it. But just in case you don't, the archives remain in the older, vintage, Dark Ages style. And if you haven't already, check out The Outdated Almanac in the sidebar. It's a compilation of my favorite writings, graphics and cartoons from 2006. It's like a whole year in the palm of your hand!

Like most people I know, I feel very optimistic about 2007. For the first time in several years, all does not seem lost. I can't pin it on any particular event; but it's a feeling that I hope pervades this year and puts everyone where they want and deserve to be.

And, as always, I hope to be there bringing you the finest commentary, satire and debate that my brain will allow. Don't hesitate to plug in your two cents as well! Because two cents is all it takes to feed the brain of the sneering kid in my header. And do you really want to risk his wrath?