Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nothing can be said here

Rule #64: Epic fail
If you want President Obama to fail, you are a jackass. As much as I despised George W. Bush, I never wanted him to fail. I was pretty sure from Day 1 that he would, but that's not the same thing. Nothing would have made me happier than to have been completely wrong about Dubya's suitability for the job. I would have been as proud as anyone to see Bush's tax cuts help everyone; to see a better environment blossom as a result of the Kyoto rejection; to see Osama bin Laden brought to swift justice after 9/11; to see the Iraq war as a noble offensive to curb the threat of weapons of mass destruction held by a tyrant who used them on his own people; to see the PATRIOT Act and wiretapping have positive and worthwhile effects on domestic terrorist networks; to know that Dick Cheney's secrecy was in everyone's best interest; to be assured that limiting redresses against big corporations in court was for the best; to have government bailouts of airlines, banks and the Big Three help the economy; to watch what I say and have it matter; and to continue to struggle to find positives of these horrible, horrible policies.

But that didn't happen, and many of us knew it wouldn't. Rush Limbaugh has since huffed to clarify that he wants Obama's policies to fail, not the man himself. And maybe he's on to something; after all, Bush's policies really didn't fail so much as they served to benefit only the right people. But even then, you generally hope there's some common good in the end. Rush wants Obama to fail, and by extension the country, to prove a point about politics. To paraphrase John McCain, he'd rather lose a nation than be wrong about a war. But not even Rush can afford that.

Rule #65: It's all about meme meme meme
When filling out an Internet questionnaire about yourself, you are no longer allowed to say you love your spouse/significant other/children/cat. This is a waste of space where I could learn something new about you that isn't (hopefully) implied. And you can't say you have the best spouse/significant other/children/cat. You have the best one for you. Maybe. Either you're delusional or smug, and neither quality is going to help you once The Best One leaves you for someone more deserving of their perfection. So, really, do it for you.

Rule #66: Supply-snide economics
Let's finally accept that not everyone deserves everything bad that happens to them. Conversely, not everyone deserves the breaks they get in life. For too long, Americans have equated wealth and status with hard work, while blaming the problems of hard-luck cases on laziness. This makes it easy for society to dismiss real problems and ignore suffering, all the while handing more and more to the rich, because they're seen as more deserving. If there's one thing to learn from these trying times, it's that no one is immune from hardship. People are fond of saying this is a dog-eat-dog world, but that's what happens when you crash into an icy mountain slope with nothing to eat. We have lost sight of the fact that we are, in fact, a community, not a competition. It's long past time to stop applying business rules to society. Hell, let's stop applying business rules to business while we're at it; maybe then we won't have to resort to eating dogs anymore.

Rule #67: Stop loss
Check out a recent picture of Jessica Simpson, and compare it to one of Lindsay Lohan. Guess who looks better? If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then I commend you.

The other 63 rules

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kathleen Parker rips me off (and not a moment too soon)

Me, 4/8/08: "Enough with the Hussein! None of the people who love to play up Barack Obama's middle name seem to care that we had an ally named King Hussein in Jordan during the Gulf War, and no one held that against him."

Kathleen Parker, 1/26/09: "It has never been clear to less-fevered minds why the name's association with Iraq's Saddam was more compelling than with Jordan's royal family. King Hussein, now deceased, and his son King Abdullah II have been among our most valuable allies in the Middle East."

This is especially interesting, given that this rule of mine, "Asinine association," actually appeared in print as a sidebar item in a Missouri newspaper the day after I wrote it. So, journalistically speaking, I scooped Parker.

But why, oh why, did it take anyone important almost a full year to make this point?

A better beer parallel

Recently, I received an essay that's popular among conservative circles. Through Google, I see it's been around for a few years, but this is the first time I've ever encountered it. Even for my blog it's lengthy, so here's a link to the full text (That blogger isn't who sent it to me, but is one of the few links I can find to the text that doesn't veer off into pointless tangents). To sum up, the essay uses the history of beer to trace the evolution of conservatives and liberals into the Manly Men and Girlie Pansies they are, respectively. The sender touted it as "brilliant satire," but I think it makes Larry the Cable Guy jokes seem nuanced by comparison. So I've updated it to reflect both changing times and universal truth. Enjoy.

Beer: The Great Uniter and Divider

Beer. It’s brought people together since long before there were aluminum cans to recycle.

From the earliest days of humankind, intoxicating liquors made from wheat and fermented sugar have brought people together in a joyful spirit of community. We don’t know exactly how long ago, though, because even in our earliest days people were divided over whether they were evolved or creationed into existence. The first New Year’s Day party was the true beginning of humanity’s schism.

It all started with this drunken argument:

“Happy 1!”
“One?!! Happy 50,000 BC, douche bag!”
“Look over there! A dinosaur coexisting with us!”
“Where?!!” [Turns head]
“Nowhere, Neanderthal!” [Punches other guy in face]

And thus were born the Two Great Camps of Cliquishness: Conservatives and Liberals.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals, not just for food, but because the act itself was something of a fetish. Then they’d come home, mount the dismembered heads and have their women barbecue the rest to go with their beer. During dinner, these men would regale their company with greatly exaggerated stories of their hunting exploits. This was the beginning of what is known as the conservative movement.

Other men didn’t go for the hunting as much, instead preferring to fulfill other duties required by daily life. They appreciated the fruits of the hunters’ efforts, even if all the hunters ever did was ridicule them for being intellectuals. But the weapons they designed and engineered and the camouflage they invented aided the hunters in taking a fruitful bounty day after day. Some of these men were good at design and architecture, which led to a better and more pleasant standard of living. They also experimented and perfected the fermentation process that led to the beer everyone loved so much. This was the beginning of the liberal movement.

The liberals came to be represented by a donkey, also known as a jackass, which became a popular show on MTV. Conservatives were symbolized by the elephant, a majestic creature that leaves huge piles of shit for low-wage workers to scoop up.

In short order, the conservatives began to resent the liberals, because they felt the liberals weren’t contributing enough to the hunt. The conservatives tried to deny them food at the table, because they hadn’t been the ones to shoot it. While the liberals could have applied that same principle by denying the conservatives education, shelter and clothing, they chose not to, because liberals understood that everyone in a community must thrive for the people to succeed as a whole. Besides, it’s just wrong to do that to people.

Liberals were known - and predictably ridiculed - for their open-mindedness when it came to cuisine. Tired of eating wild boar for every meal every day of their lives, they experimented with other animals and plants. They learned through experimentation what to eat and what not to eat; how to cook, season and freeze food; and how to purify water. They applied these tricks to beer as well, resulting in countless varieties to suit anyone’s taste. They also figured out how to prevent or minimize unpleasant hangovers.

Conservatives, meanwhile, took pride in sticking with the same things they’d always known. They looked down on anyone who tried anything from anywhere else, saying that only effeminate pansies would do such a thing. With such a proudly limited palate, conservatives instead steered toward defining themselves by their careers. They took pride in being lumberjacks, construction workers, firefighters, police officers, athletes, soldiers, Marines, sailors and other professions epitomized by Village People.

They also assumed the helms of major beer corporations, running them into the ground in the name of greed. But because they got their cut (and everyone else’s as well), they didn’t care that others suffered for it. In fact, conservatives liked it, because it gave them license to say that the workers were too liberal and obsessed with beer to remain employed. They derided the liberals for having no work ethic, when in reality it was the liberals’ tireless and devoted production that fattened up the company’s bottom line before CEO and stockholder greed wrecked it to hell like a drunken driver.

In response, liberals created unions and governments. Conservatives hated these instantly, though that didn’t stop them from stumping real hard to get elected to lead them. What the conservatives never understood was that these institutions provided oversight and ensured that not only did liberals have a better life, but conservatives did as well. Liberals understood that if all the beer were concentrated in the hands of a few, the entire economy would destabilize. This would actually hurt conservatives the most, but they were virtually incapable of understanding that, even as the beer business continued to teeter near oblivion.

Instead, the beleaguered beer titans resorted to desperate measures. Conservatives slashed the price of their beer at their most upscale shops. To make up for the profit loss, they jacked up the price at every corner store and gas station in America's urban areas. At the same time, the brewery tripled its product output. Inevitably, the company found itself even closer to bankruptcy, because the rich weren't paying enough and the poor had to cut back. So, with no irony, the conservatives went to the government - the one they hate so much - and begged for billions upon billions of dollars, arguing that the nation needed its beer to get drunk as a means of coping with the coming economic apocalypse.

All the while, liberals used their intellectual savvy to create a recipe for hooch that anyone can make with common household items. It involves apples, sugar, bread, patience and a wicked hangover. But in tough times, it’s better than nothing. And, being who they are, liberals will gladly pass on that recipe to the conservatives to enjoy during their prison sentence for corporate malfeasance.

Bottoms up!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gee, thanks a lot, Obama!

You instantly dated Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, a movie that came out in 2008!

George W. Bush had to wait a few years before making Black Sheep into a period piece, what with its paper trails and all.

You know what your problem is, President Obama? You're ahead of your time. We just got into 2009, and already you've left the past in a huge cloud of dust. Well, cough cough, man! If you keep this up, America will have to get in shape just to keep up with you!

Thanks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obama era already has me reaching out

At about 1:15 this morning, I was taking a hot bath when I heard my neighbor's smoke alarm shriek and sirens wailing off in the distance. Being near a fire station, I'm used to the occasional siren. But the calamity was followed by the faint murmur of voices, which I never, ever hear, so I knew something was going down.

Quickly, I dried off, threw some clothes on and went outside. I learned that the apartment directly above me had filled with smoke and that the residents had heard crackling and saw something glowing red in the ceiling. The couple and their dog got out OK, and they didn't seem too fazed.

In no time, the fire department convoy burst into action, leaving several of us neighbors (who were, until now, strangers) huddled together in the wind and snow flurries. The victim couple joked around a bit with us as their Doberman-looking dog nipped hungrily at my hands. I learned that my neighbor two floors up just lost his job. The young woman next to him works in radio and just moved here two weeks ago. She and I were riffing on the things that media insiders (end sarcasm) riff upon, when the firefighters told us we were OK to go back inside, "unless, of course, you want to keep talking out here." Not a bad idea, actually. But the problem was ultimately minor and we all returned to our relative warmth. I say relative, because I had to refill my tub and at some point the hot water was shut off. But I was just happy everything was otherwise back to normal.

Well, now that I and my neighbors have reached out to each other, as well as seen firsthand how selflessly devoted our public servants can be, it really does seem like a new dawn in America.

Yeah, that sounds cheesy. And maybe it is. But when an elderly white woman mentions without provocation that she's excited about Inauguration Day because of the renewed hope she has, as she told me yesterday morning, then something's definitely happening. I heard variations of this sentiment all day on TV, in online/offline chats and elsewhere. Even my friends who don't necessarily support Obama are pulling and praying for him. It may sound bizarre to tie what happened this morning to politics, but to me the feelings are not that unrelated.

Whether it's your country, community or just your apartment building, it's time to feel like a part of something again. We need each other.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here I am playing football

Thanks to Chris Brewer and our friend Jessica, we have video footage of our Sunday football game at Brad Pitt's high school practice field. Larry Litle of Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind fame also came out and played alongside us. I told Chris we should film our games more often, as a way of preserving our good times for prosperity. Also, because I completely sucked in this game and had to leave at halftime to go to work, with my last play being an intercepted pass in the end zone, and I want a better legacy than that.

Also, I have to prove that I can run more like Michael Lewis and less like Michael Flatley. Damn back therapy.

As a reference point, I'm the one in the gray pullover, black long-johns and neon-blue shorts who quarterbacks on the very first play. Chris (the quarterback on the second play here) could've shown the next few plays, on which I connected several times. But nooo...he had to show only my first (and worst) play of the drive, because that would take YouTube time away from his own personal highlight reel. Nyuk nyuk.

Watch for me yelling "To the house!" at 1:40. You can close your eyes for a second or five after that.



In the play that begins at 2:17, I almost picked it off in the end zone. I had all 10 fingers on it and batted it, and I was pretty sure it was dead. Except the receiver made a ridiculous, way-too-good-for-this-league dive and saved it. On the conversion attempt, I threw myself in the receiver's face and missed the ball by centimeters. You can hear me yell, "O-for-two!" The footage doesn't do either play justice. Fortunately.

At 2:56, I make a decent block. For this game, anyway.

At 3:32, Pete shows us how to dance. He's a banker.

This video lacks the Tecmo Fives we generally give after touchdowns - essentially, we loft ourselves in the air and slap hands at the highest point, like the original Tecmo Bowl. Next time, Chris, we'll have to capture that as well. And you can add Tecmo Graphics with our names on them!



Despite the oddly inverse correlation between how well I play and how many people witness it, these games are often the highlight of my week. Chris did a great job editing the video (he is a pro, after all) and some awesome people come out to play each Sunday. If you're ever in the Springfield area on Sunday afternoons, come check us out at Kickapoo High School.

And don't cross my path. You'll get stomped, as the New Kids on the Block say.

Pre-inaugural rules

Rule #61: Hail Mary to the Chief
Barack Obama is not the messiah. We are fully aware, despite many conservatives' pathological projections, that the president-elect is just a man who isn't going to solve all of our problems overnight, or ever. Yes, Obama supporters find him to be intelligent, cool, charming and optimistic. But isn't that the point? Don't we want that in both the face and the brain of the United States? Is it wrong to put our good faith in Obama now that we've elected him president? Ten to one, the conservatives who bray the most about the "Obamessiah" are the very same ones who thought the election of 2000 was an act of divine intervention. After all, God wanted Dubya to be president. Isn't that what Bush himself said? So please spare us the messiah talk. After eight years of Bush, we could only be so lucky.

Rule #62: Two-Million Man March
During inaugural coverage, someone must point out that the estimated two million people expected in the National Mall represents two-thirds of the net jobs Bush created in eight years in office. Someone should note that, while that number represents an astounding turnout for an inauguration, it reflects the most pathetic job figures for any president since World War II. Someone could mention in passing that, in contrast, Jimmy Carter created 10.5 million jobs in four years. Or that the Bush figure doesn't count the half-million-plus jobs that evaporated in December 2008, defying even the most pessimistic forecast at the time. Fox News must entertain us all by citing the most dismal holiday shopping season since 1970 - that would be 2008 - and suggest that the U.S. meltdown is all our fault because we didn't shop enough like Bush told us to do. Finally, someone should mention that Bush's rankings in these categories actually reflect the worst ever recorded - leaving Sean Hannity with a window to suggest that Martin Van Buren could conceivably have notched a worse Black Friday. And that's what I'd call true Inauguration Day entertainment.

Rule #63: Decider's Decisions
Bush says history will ultimately judge him. Well, now he's history, and he looks pretty damn guilty.

More rules

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rulz

Rule #59: The air up there

God didn't save that plane; the pilot did. If God were in the picture, he would have saved the birds first. Then everyone would have gotten where they were going without multiple injuries they probably can't afford to treat. And there wouldn't have been massive internal-combustion engines leaking fossil fuel into the Hudson River. Are those passengers walking on water? No, they're walking on the wings of a machine designed and built by some of the best minds in the world, piloted by one of the best pilots in the world. And God bless them for it. In a manner of speaking.

Rule #60: Yank this
Conservatives must stop forwarding incredibly condescending and unfunny e-mails about liberals ending with, "If you're a liberal, we're just yankin' yer chains." Set aside the playground-bully aspect of this statement; after all, we're used to that by now, and anyway we have the presidency back. Instead, it begs another question: Are you serious or not? Either you're making a satirical point worth standing behind or you aren't. Don't be insecure. After all, you wouldn't want anyone to think you're an effete, French bread-eatin', wine-drinkin', tolerance-lovin', Larry-the-Cable-Guy-hatin' librul, do you? Ah, I'm just yankin' yer chain.

More rules

Saturday, January 17, 2009

25 things about me

Yes, I've done this before. And a few times before that. Sue me. I'm interesting. You do it too!

1) I almost never use spell-check, even at work. It's not because I'm cocky (I am, but that's not why), but because I never miss a misspelled word. My brain won't let me. The only errors I worry about are those it won't catch.

2) I subscribe to two music magazines - Rolling Stone and Blender - but I haven't bought new music in years.

3) The easiest and fastest way to piss me off is to say I'm a bad writer, especially if you're an admitted bad writer yourself. I was assaulted once as a teenager, and I harbor no grudge against those guys. But I could still rip that bad writer's fucking pretentious head off this very minute.

4) I can't swim. But I still try.

5) I could read before I could talk.

6) I made a C in driver's ed in high school. Not because I sucked at driving, but because our instructor only graded us once in the entire week of driving - and that was the one time I botched the parallel parking.

7) I don't at all mind speaking before a large crowd. But I hate talking on the phone.

8) I am probably the sorest loser who ever lived. Considering I'm a New Orleans Saints fan who voted for Al Gore and John Kerry, and was the worst player on every sports team I ever played for, it's astounding I have any hair left.

9) I drank beer and coffee as a very young kid, but not as an adult. I had one cup of coffee in seven years of college, as an experiment, and I got through one-third of it in about an hour.

10) My longest relationship was about eight months, and was not in this decade.

11) I got detention in 4th grade for the unspeakable crime of standing up to grab a tissue while the teacher was talking. She screamed at me, telling me I was rude and disrupting the class. Go figure.

12) I have never won a single writing-related award. The last time I tried, I paid $75 for the privilege of losing to an op-ed about squirrels. So I don't go for awards anymore.

13) I did, however, win third place in art contest in second grade that I didn't even enter. It was a self-portrait. The winner was blind.

14) As a kid, I ran in the Special Olympics. Long story. At least I won. The first race.

15) I have an iron but no ironing board. Ironic.

16) The sickest I've ever been was after volunteering to assist Hurricane Katrina evacuees. I threw up 20 times in two hours and thought I was going to die right there on the bathroom floor. But I'll never forget my experience helping those people.

17) I haven't had a job with normal hours in almost 10 years. I haven't had a reason to wake up in the morning (other than because I feel like it) in four years.

18) No girl I've dated has ever died, but several of my school bullies have.

19) I once got an offer to write for a weekly based on a letter I wrote them. Which either says something about me or something about them. I can't tell.

20) One of the New Monkees read my blog and e-mailed me to tell me he found it hilarious. He isn't the most famous person I've talked to or interviewed, but it's still my favorite celebrity anecdote.

21) I don't believe everything necessarily happens for a reason, or at least a good reason.

22) Two years after moving here, I'm still weirded out by Springfield.

23) I look forward to the future. I like when things change.

24) When I type a word wrong, I go all the way to the beginning and retype it even if the mistake is the last letter.

25) I can accurately gauge someone by what they think of my car.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rules about Bush and printers

Rule #56: A no-popularity contest
The idea of not compromising your principles for the sake of popularity is not noble when you're the goddamn president. Last I checked, presidents were charged specifically with representing the people of the United States. And while that certainly doesn't mean caving in to a majority-mob mentality, it also doesn't mean you do whatever you want because you know better than everyone else what's good for them (and for you). No president should ever take pride in being unpopular, especially when the so-called "principles" they defend at all costs are the sorriest, most recklessly vicious in recent history.

Rule #57: Credit crisis
If you insist on giving George W. Bush his due, at least find something deserving of due. The fact that he "held his ground" on various issues only shows that he is an inflexible hardhead. If everyone practiced that trait, no child would ever learn anything in school. Which, come to think of it, is how No Child Left Behind works.

The perceived success of the Bush administration is predicated entirely on the idea that the president must be a confrontational cowboy figure, the lead bully of a gang sporting red, white and blue bandannas, whose goal is to give the rest the world a swirlie in the Indian Ocean. Which is pathetic enough without the fact that Bush isn't even a competent bully.

Also unworthy of accolades: Bush's ability to piss off liberals; his guts/balls in invading Iraq; his courageous stand against global warming and stem-cell research; his courage of anything, convictions or otherwise; his refusal to read newspapers; his supposed similarity to any president who isn't Herbert Hoover or Warren G. Harding; his security prowess, owing to the fact that 9/11 happened only once under his watch; and, most importantly, his contempt for anyone who prizes intelligence.

We get it; among fearful narcissists who think Jesus cries when people ask questions, Bush is hands-down the best president ever. But, Georgie, when people like that are your greatest cheerleaders, it's time to give you an F.

Rule #58: Teching a crap
Technology has to throw the poor a bone once in a while. My printer will not let me print a simple black-text document, even though I have a brand-new black-ink cartridge. Why? Because the three color cartridges are dry. Sorry, jerk! But the "cannot print" window helpfully offers a button to go online and buy more color ink. How thoughtful of you, Epson! I was printing a letter telling you how much I enjoy your product, but now I'll have to address it to Kinko's instead.

Tip to businesses: Forcing me to buy more of your product to use what I just bought doesn't inspire brand loyalty; it makes you a dick and makes me want to tell everyone in America to avoid you, any of your subsidiaries and all businesses that employ your family members. And then they'll get canned and won't be able to find more work, because the only way for them to print their resumes is with your printer. Hah!

The other 55 rules

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ouch!

Nine years ago today, I suffered a Type III concussion while ice skating.

It's hard to believe it happened that long ago. To me, it feels like only eight years and 23 hours have passed.

I have been ice skating a couple of times since, which goes to show you just how dumb the accident made me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pocket parallel

I can't stand my next-door neighbor. The feeling is mutual.

As long as we've been neighbors, we've bickered continuously over boundary issues. It's frustrating because I recently moved back to the first place I ever lived. For years, my parents had promised that this place would be all mine someday. Over time, however, people died, economies changed and we moved away. We found ourselves in an unfamiliar and at times hostile, environment. We got by as best as we could, but we could never quite capture the security and comfort of our days in the old neighborhood. After a decade or so away, and trying and failing to establish roots in various regions, I recently moved back to where it all began for me. After so many years of uncertainty, peril and tragedy, I finally felt once again the almost mythical warm blanket of home.

From day one, however, my next-door neighbor has been anything but welcoming. The first night I was here, he shot firecrackers in my yard. The next day, he cornered me at my front door, warning me that he was angling hard for my home. He was a real dick about it, too. He said I had no right to the property. I tried to convince him otherwise, saying it was written in my scrapbooks and photo albums that I had been here and was destined to return. Much to my shock, that didn't sway him; in fact, it only made him angrier. He accused me of falsifying the house deed, an allegation that made me scoff. It's true that in order to get the house, I used my clout to have the previous residents evicted. But the deed is hardly falsified, at least not according to the local and state governments that officially recognize it.

Furthermore, in the time I've been here, I've established a house safe from the oppressive elements of its previous tenants. They blasted their music too loud and routinely tossed around potentially dangerous projectiles in their yards. Sometimes, when struck by wooden bats, these projectiles landed in neighbors' yards. The father was even known for telling the family, "This isn't a democracy." Seriously! But that's all over now. My work has drawn respect from the pillars of the community. They like that I have overcome adversity and have created a safe house in a rough neighborhood. They like it so much, in fact, that they don't mind turning a blind eye now that I've resorted to various acts of "defense."

But try telling that to the former tenants? Hah! Ever since I reclaimed the land chronicled in my scrapbooks of yore, the exiles have been very hostile towards me. Every time I walk out of the house, they glare at me from the tents they set up in the driveway next door. The thing is, they're not bad people; the children in particular are quite charming. But my neighbor has been a bad influence on them. He yells and rails, and is quick with the lash when someone gets out of line. The damage he is causing the children, both physically and psychologically, is liable to fester a lingering resentment that will last long after I've had children and given my house to them.

The final straw came last night, when my neighbor fired a hobby rocket through my roof. I saw him do it; everyone did. Looking at the hole in my roof, I decided that my ornery neighbor had such contempt for existing legal channels that I had to enact a swift and appropriate retribution. So, I took my grenade launcher and blew up several of the children.

After all, my neighbor is a very bad man. And I have to defend myself.

Jump shots for Jesus

Best sports headline ever: Falcons set to face Word of God

For whatever religious reasons Word of God Christian Academy adopted its name, it's a brilliant move in athletic terms. Who can possibly play Word of God without coming off like a heretic? Even other religious schools look bad by comparison, regardless of whether they win or lose.

Say, for instance, Springfield Catholic went head-to-dogmatic-head with Word of God. If the former wins, here's your headline:

"Catholic defies Word of God"

If Word of God wins, the headline reads thus:

"Catholic efforts trumped by Word of God"

Pretty slick, fellas. W! O! R-D! Up!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Well, there goes my goal of living to 200

Third-hand smoke can be harmful, research says

Toxic particles in cigarette smoke can remain on nearby surfaces, as well as the hair and clothing of the smoker, long after the cigarette has been put out, and small children are susceptible because they are likely to breathe in close proximity, or even lick and suck them.

Other studies have linked this exposure to learning problems in children.

Great, just great!

I figured it was bad enough that I lived among a pretty much steady stream of secondhand smoke well into my twenties. I knew before my teen years that a baby exposed to smoking in the first six months irrevocably loses measurable respiratory ability and athletic potential. I knew that babies born to smoking mothers tended to have low birth weight, even if I was actually the heaviest child among my siblings (I did have jaundice, though). As mentioned above, it's also been linked to mental difficulties in children, which will lead every friend of mine to utter in unison, "That explains a lot."

I never picked up the habit, but probably no one I ever sat next to at school ever knew it. Anyone who ever heard me wheeze while running or heard me cough constantly at an early age probably knew it too. That's what happens when you grow up in a socially active environment where nearly everyone smoked in an enclosed space. To this day, I do everything I can in my daily life to avoid secondhand smoke at all costs. Cancer runs in my family, as does stroke, heart attack and psoriasis. I'm taking every measure in my life to make sure stress kills me first.

The news that even smoke-tinged articles present a danger beyond their fragrant repulsiveness is disheartening. And not just because it gives me a 53rd reason to worry about my long-term health. Mostly, it's because of this simple, aggravating fact:

There are still hordes of smokers who somehow think secondhand smoke is harmless. Seriously. As if the same poison they're inhaling loses its chemical properties when it burns off the other end of the cigarette! As if smokers themselves don't crack the windows of their cars to let out all of that harmless smoke. When people like this have children, they're the most likely to exercise little caution when smoking around them.

How do you convince negligent parents that third-hand smoke is a danger when they aren't even sold on secondhand smoke?

This isn't a jab at my parents. After all, I was born at the peak of disco; some of my friends born around that time got acid in the womb, and I'm not talking about folic. And once my parents realized how much it bothered me, they took measures to curb my exposure (and so did I). And only in the past 25 years or so have the dangers of secondhand smoke really burned into the public consciousness.

But this is 2009, and there is no longer any excuse not to understand the dangers of smoking on others. When the affected parties cannot choose to get away from the exposure, such as young children, those dangers are especially relevant.

Oh, and it stinks, too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sarah Palin: Conservative of the Year!

Yes, apparently Ann Coulter and I agree on something; Sarah Palin was indeed the Conservative of the Year for 2008. She exemplifies everything horrible about today's GOP, whether in the form of its empty Christian rhetoric, its obsession with appearances or the contempt for intelligence that both the party and its followers share. This weekend, I saw my first "Palin 2012" bumper sticker. My immediate reaction was, "Ewww." My second reaction was, "Where can I get one?"

I generally ignore Ann Coulter's rhetorical gonorrhea. After all, her entire shtick (both in print and on the air) is to bully people rather than than lap-dance within a city block of a fact. But I couldn't ignore this pro-Palin screed, because it's just that good at being bad. And also because it's completely revealing of the current conservative mind-set.

In short, Sarah Palin is the future of the Republican Party because:

1) She drives liberals crazy. Just like Ann Coulter!

2) By questioning Palin's religion, the media exposed themselves as hypocrites. Why couldn't they have held Barack Obama to the same level of intense religious scrutiny?

3) The Maverick Nominee was a bad choice, so the antidote was another maverick. Picked by the Maverick Nominee who everyone saw as a bad choice. Or something.

4) Palin's lack of support among feminists, pro-choicers, environmentalists and women in general shows how sexist they all are.

5) Yes, Palin didn't have a passport until 2007. But that's 'cause she's one of us, and we've got all the malls we need right here in Murrika!

6) She's got guns! That's hot.

7) And so is she! Unlike your garden-variety ugly, prissy Democrat woman, Sarah Palin is attractive. And so are her children. And the media hated this, as evidenced by their love for the Obama family.

8) Despite all of this, Palin did run too soon. She is not ready, but we knew she and John McCain wouldn't win anyway. Despite everything we said at the time. And just now.

9) Still, Palin gave the failing GOP ticket a chance. At least until it failed.

For a party so sure of its own moral certainty, the GOP sure likes to base its candidates on how much they irritate the opposition (and perceived opposition, such as the corporate media) rather than on any actual issues. For that, they deserve to lose. And badly.

Palin 2012!

"I talk to families who die"

The kind of person George W. Bush is:

-- He's ruthlessly on time and is intolerant of others who aren't. He learned that in the Alabama National Guard.

-- When he's hungry, you'd better have some food for him. Among his favorites are peanut butter and grilled-cheese sandwiches; the latter must be served with a side of French's mustard, or else! Did he demand Freedom's mustard in 2003?

--He requires formal dress in the White House. Because the adults are back in charge. Meanwhile, Dubya's in Crawford, clearing brush in jeans on his ranch.

-- His relentless word-mangling hides a secret intellectual. I don't believe this one bit. But even if it were true, he seems intent on hiding it, which is itself more contemptible than being dumb in the first place.

-- He wants you to get to the point, but will tell you the same anecdotes repeatedly. Probably because you want to talk about 2009, and he's more interested in 2001.

-- He'll give you a nickname as a way of breaking the ice. You know, because the adults are in charge.

-- In his own words, he's "a nester." As if his provincialism wasn't obvious enough every second he's been in the public spotlight, Bush goes and literally proves he's in bed with the oil industry by "nesting" in Dallas' most wealthy neighborhood.

-- He's a picky eater and rabid about exercise. Shit. We have that in common.

If this (admittedly fascinating) piece was intended to humanize Bush, it did the exact opposite. These qualities are more indicative of a spoiled child or narcissistic good ol' boy than someone tasked with leading the world's most powerful nation. I hope to never understand how people ever thought in their right minds that this arrogant, authoritarian idiot was worthy of two presidential terms. I can only hope Barack Obama's election and presidency marks a definite end to this eight-year mistake. At this point, even Bush has got to be going, "Please let me go to Dallas now! I just want to go home and be catered to endlessly instead of having to deal with the rabble any longer."

Just go, Mr. Bush. Please, just go.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Prediction

Cal Thomas will write a column comparing Hamas to Hitler. He will also chide Israel for being too peaceful. Instead, he will say, Israel should adopt a "peace-through-strength" policy wherein the country takes a tough stance against terrorism. That stance will be defined as dropping even more bombs on Palestinian refugee camps.

It will be a radical departure from conventional thinking and not horribly hawkish in the slightest.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

This day in DUH

Now here's a stupid idea if ever I heard one. And I'm a blogger in the Dubya administration, so I've trafficked in stupid ideas for many years now.

Oregon, among other states, claims it is losing highway revenue to the point that it will soon no longer be able to keep up with road-maintenance costs. There are presumably numerous reasons for this, among them the constant yo-yoing of gas prices, rising asphalt costs, solid-gold Steve Prefontaine statues, etc. Typically, legislators address this sort of thing with an increase in fuel taxes. But in this age of soaring gas prices of, um, $3 less per gallon than a few months ago, working families can't afford such a tax hike. And the federal government can't afford to make up the difference, given that the cause of the shortfall isn't incredibly crass corporate greed.

So what are Oregon officials promoting? They want each person to pay an individual tax based on how many miles they drive. Well, that's fair. After all, my insurance company bases my coverage on an estimated yearly mileage, and -

Oh, wait. They want to install Big Brother devices in every car that track your mileage and adjust prices accordingly when you drive up to the pump. And God forbid you fill up during rush hour, which (where I live) is apparently every daytime hour. Officials - and keep in mind, this is Oregon, where I would be Rush Limbaugh - blame fuel-efficient vehicles for the shortfall, saying that better cars just don't burn enough gas to make the enterprise worthwhile.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the people who suffer most from this approach are those with green vehicles. Screw the environment, screw penalizing those who burn the most fossil fuel, screw privacy - if anyone's not pulling their weight around here, it's those damn dirty hippies with their expensive hybrids and hypermiling and recycling and whatnot!

When I was in college, we paid $25 each semester for a parking space on top of tuition. That is, if we wanted it. I liked this approach, because for the first few semesters, I either didn't have a vehicle or rode my bike to school. After a few years, however, people began complaining en masse that our shuttle-bus system just wasn't doing it for them. And I didn't blame them for saying that. But they began demanding a five-story parking garage on campus, along a two-lane road that was already clogged, just so they didn't have to mingle among the rabble or otherwise deviate from their activity-free lifestyle in any way. Fittingly, the thing was built on a field where we often played pick-up softball and football games. Years after anyone who demanded it could ever possibly use it.

Funding for this behemoth came from a mandatory levy of $25 on every student per semester. At the same time, they rescinded parking permits for the shuttle parking lot, to make it seem awesome: "You don't need permits anymore! Yay!" As I put it at the time, "You also bought a $25 parking space, even if you have no car, driver’s license or eyesight." This Oregon mileage proposal reminds me very much of that.

It's a testament to these not-over-enough times that we're still seeking solutions to every problem that penalize diligence and conservation in the name of excess and profits. Typical retarded, amoral supply-side logic.

I particularly like this quote from the story:

Lynda Williams, also of Portland, was not immediately sold on the idea but said it was worth consideration.

"We all have to be open-minded," she said. "Our current system just isn't working."

Yes, we all have to be open-minded. That's what they told us in high school when they started making us wear our IDs on our shirts. They never tell you that when it comes to racial and gender equity or making sure all Americans have decent health care. Or when it comes to not wasting precious resources in a time of economic crisis.

I think my next car will be my bicycle. That is, assuming they don't start taxing air at 50 cents per square inch.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Exhuming old skeletons (and flames)

I think I may have missed something big last year.

When I was in second grade, in the 1987-88 school year, Woodvale Elementary School in Lafayette, Louisiana turned 20 years old. They made a big deal of this milestone, as did we (I pictured hippies riding to school in cars with giant fins...goo goo goo joob). As part of the 20th-anniversary celebration, each student wrote down who they were in 1988 and what they were going to have done by the Magical Mystery Year of 2008.

One girl in the class, Shaana Perkins, had a huge crush on me. She passed me love notes and pictures of us kissing, and told everyone we were boyfriend-girlfriend. On her future forecast, she wrote, "My husband is Ian McGibboney." When she read it aloud to the class, everyone went, "Oooooo!" like an early episode of "Full House." Shaana was the cutest girl in the class, sort of a cross between Uma Thurman and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Oh, how she disgusted me. Circle, circle, dot, dot, I've got the germ shot!

As for my paper, I don't really remember what I wrote, but it was along the lines of this:

"My name is Ian McGibboney. In 2008 I will be 28 years old [probably needed some help with that calculation]. I will be a famous auto mechanic, gymnast, golfer, professional tee-ball player and Transformer. I will also own a toy company. My wife is not Shaana Perkins."

We gathered these capsules of clairvoyance and assembled as a school to place them in a time capsule. I was chosen, God knows how, to represent my class. As a VHS camcorder rolled, I marched up to the box and placed our manuscripts within. A bunch of stuff I don't remember also happened; all I recall is watching the tape later and consequently vowing to invent digital video.

We were told that this time capsule would be extracted in 2008, and we'd all be invited back to watch and reminisce and (presumably) be disappointed that we wound up being middle managers instead of fairy princess astronauts. I intermittently thought about this over the years, hoping I'd have another chance to show off my slightly improved kickball skills. But, as far I know, 2008 came and went without fanfare. Did anyone else hear about this? Maybe I'm the only one who remembers. Or maybe the whole thing was an elaborate diversion to keep me from yet another heated game of Red Rover. They knew what carnage resulted when Ian came over.

Assuming it didn't transpire, I guess I'll have to go back to Lafayette and start digging. If for no other reason than to revise my paper, so I can have it predict "blogger," and just blow everyone's fricking minds once they finally pull it up.

Call me, Shaana.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

It seems like only 10 years ago, I took my last math class

After getting home at exactly the stroke of midnight (literally - I was throwing the car into park when the clock hit 12:00), I flipped the TV onto NBC's New Year's celebration. I usually catch Dick Clark's special, but my mom noted it was hard to watch because of his slurring. But Ryan Seacrest really sealed the lid on that one by existing.

Deciding that I wanted to ring in the new year with a classier TV host than Ryan Seacrest (it's all I can do because all my friends, like Chris Brewer, probably go to bed at 8), I settled on Carson Daly. The first thing I see is some random metrosexual being asked about his New Year's resolution.

"I'm gonna try not to watch so many reality shows," he said. Either that, or "I'm gonna watch more reality shows." I can't recall exactly. But he followed it with a carefree giggle that suggested he could light his citronella candles with my medical bills. I pondered how awesome it must be to have your stuff so much together that this is the kind of resolution that immediately crops up when pressed on live national TV. But then, I guess it isn't any less nauseating than those douchey proposals and/or midnight kisses that make you wonder if the people involved do, in fact, know each other at all.

I turned off the TV and read a magazine instead. No, a real magazine.

The magazine in question was a Rolling Stone from earlier this year, when Mitt Romney was still shaking Matt Taibbi's - and, by extension, our - boots. And that got me thinking to the 2008 year-in-review articles we've been running in our newspaper for the past couple of days. Wrap your mind around that: 2008 in review. Is it me, or was 2008 a year that you not only want to leave in the rearview mirror, but yank off the mirror too just to make sure?

In the aftermath of 9/11, patriotic Americans said that we cannot afford to look back. Well, we finally did this year. And they were right; we couldn't afford it at all.

Of course, the news wasn't all bad. Barack Obama got elected. Even if you didn't vote for him and still think he's the anti-Christ - and if you do, click here - you have to concede it was great to see millions of people cheering for something positive. I enjoyed it so much that I didn't even mind working from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. on election night and then at 4 p.m. later that day. Wheee!

But enough about 2008. I'm looking forward to 2009, if for no other reason than that I like years ending in nine. There's a certain coolness to that, as in, hey, we made it. Also, it's not 2008 anymore. Wheee!

As always, I'll soon have my Best of 2008 collection up here. It's in development, as they say in Hollywood (about absolutely everything). It shouldn't take too long, given the relatively small pile of material I have to work with. Which brings me to my New Year's Resolutions:

Blog more. This may seem in direct contradiction to my second resolution, which is to get outside more. But there's plenty of time for both. I didn't do as much of the things that sustain me as I should have last year (which may come as a surprise for those who think those two things are all I ever do). We could all stand to do to create and/or go outside. In the Internet age, a lot of us our unnecessarily hooked to our computers and BlackBerries, doing time-killing things that add nothing to our psyches. Combined with increasing work pressures, most of us wonder just where the time goes. Meanwhile, we look in the mirror and see what the mileage has done to us, having forgotten how good an oil change would feel if we could just muster up the energy to go to the mechanic. Yes, I'm being metaphorical. But if taking it literally is your bag, go for it.

Be nicer. In tough times, my innate bitterness tends to override my better personality traits, especially around those I care for most. I'm going to make a concerted effort to stop this. On the side, I will continue my intensive studies on what makes Midwesterners so aloof. No, not all of you, but enough for me to notice. When I'm almost begging for someone to meddle into my life at a crosswalk like the good old days, that isn't good. OK, the niceness begins...now.

Dance more. But preferably where no one can see, because I dance exactly like the white guy I am. A very pretty woman I once danced with all night said I was an awesome dancer. And, yes, she was sober. But we were also in the dark and in a huge club crowd. But was she wrong? No. The energy and fun was the most important thing. Speaking of...

Have more fun. Don't know how I'll do that yet, but it will happen. It's also a convenient catch-all for all the dubious, inappropriate, intriguing, subversive and downright sexy things I intend to do this year. Shouldn't everyone have a resolution like this?

Happy New Year. Change!