Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sanctuary, my extremity

What is the point of bringing guns to church? Isn't the whole idea of church that it's a place where God will provide and protect you?

In Kentucky, a pastor encouraged his flock to proudly sport their firearms while attending services this week. A gun raffle capped off the day. The pastor said that fears of an Obama planet compelled him to prove that people can carry their weapons and still be decent, law-abiding folk.

Do people really believe that President Obama is going to confiscate guns and/or repeal the Second Amendment? He's never even hinted at it, and most gun-control advocates aren't in favor of it either. Where does this irrational fear come from? Is it from the very real weakening of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments through the Patriot Act? Somehow, I doubt it. I can think of some superficial and prejudicial factors, but I'd rather think those are unfounded as well. But they probably aren't.

That part about being proving decency and law-abiding-ness, though, I can understand. After several recent church shootings and politically motivated killings, the burden's definitely on the gun crowd, particularly the right-leaning gun crowd, to prove that they can be trusted with their guns. Kind of like young kids with small-part-laden toys.

But, really, guns in church? This is why I don't go. Well, that, and the increasingly extremist (and illegal) political rhetoric.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My own Thriller

Michael Jackson is dead. Wow.

I had just arrived at work yesterday when I heard the news that Michael had been hospitalized. The newsroom buzzed like never before, partially because it was that rare Really Huge Story that doesn't seem to happen much anymore, but also because he'd had an impact on so many of us. And that's what made Michael so special; even in his oddest behavior and at the very nadir of his popularity, no one could deny that his music had been a soundtrack for our lives. He redefined music, stardom, spectacle and charity.

Within minutes of Michael's passing, my entire Facebook feed was about MJ. And not the "Wacko Jacko" jokes that had come to define him in his later years, but how profound an impact he had on my friends' lives. I really had no idea. His music has been in heavy rotation in my music library from the start. All of it, from "I Want You Back" to "You Rock My World." To me, Michael's work is consistently excellent - Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory are personal favorites of mine - and I have most of his albums. In fact, just this past Monday I bought the Jacksons' Victory LP (99 cents at a secondhand store - what a travesty for a near-mint record). In recent years, I felt like I was the only one who still cared. As sad as I am that he died, I'm happy to know that so many have been affected so deeply.

The thing about Michael's music isn't that he made it, but that it seemed inevitable that he would. If ever a pop song seemed natural to me, "Billie Jean" is it. I can't imagine that song not existing. The same is true with a lot of his compositions, almost as if the sonic genius was there, but Michael was the one talented enough to capture it for posterity.

In this age of extreme niche, it's unreal to fathom someone of Michael's scale coming along again. Check out any of the hottest musical acts today, and chances are they apply to a specific clientele, like Disney Channel aficionados or hip-hop dance clubs. Michael had everybody. He was everywhere, not strictly out of capitalism, but because people literally couldn't get enough of him. He was one of those beacons of world unity that are so lacking these days, in every respect. He was more than a musician - he advocated for children and the environment and electrified the world with dazzling showmanship that, for many behind the Iron Curtain, was their first taste of Western culture.

His Dangerous tour concert from Bucharest in 1992, aired on HBO and my VCR countless times, is an all-time classic of showmanship. The musical performances alone are top-notch, but the spectacle itself is unmatched. During one montage, a picture of Michael with AIDS victim Ryan White elicited huge cheers from the Romanian crowd. Not only did Michael befriend Ryan at a time when AIDS rendered you untouchable, but was probably the reason Romanians had even heard of Ryan White. That's really something.

One of my earliest memories is standing in my mom's kitchen through much of 1983-84 as she wore out her Thriller cassette on our silver Panasonic boombox. I remember being especially mesmerized by the spinning tape counter, and also by Michael's falsetto, which made me think he was a girl. When I got a CD copy for Christmas in 7th grade (1992), I did my best to wear that out too. I also had Dangerous and Bad in that time period, as well as the Jacksons' Triumph on LP. Can You Feel It? I did. Endlessly.

Not long after that, I began writing songs. Lots of them. Within the next two years, I wrote more than 150 songs. I became obsessed with creating my own Thriller, even going so far as to create my own band (Decibel) with my friends, though we never actually played - just wrote songs in anticipation of our big break. And though I eventually gave up on being a rock star - probably when my mom accurately called me "tone deaf" - I've never stopped writing lyrics or anything else. And I'm still working on my own Thriller.

Michael Jackson ranks right up there with my teachers and family as an original inspiration for my creative efforts. Without him, the world would be a much less interesting place in so many ways. And I wouldn't be who I am today. Thank you for raising the bar, Michael. You are missed. But you have left a legacy that will never die.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Rules (groaning over Bill Maher's New Rules)

Rule #119: True outrage over false outrage
If you hate Barack Obama, you have to just come out and say it. No more hiding behind the false outrage of the day, such as he's on TV too much, or he's taxing us enough already, blah blah blah.

I'm tired of the calls for Obama to get off TV and get to work. Who knew a Bill Maher monologue would (without irony) galvanize the very people Maher criticizes most? There seems to be this new equation that the opposite of work is being on TV. We're the most wired society in history; seeing more of the president shouldn't be a surprise. Especially since he's new, fresh and trying to put on a different face for America and the world after eight years of secrecy and global contempt.

Exposure used to be good for the president. I don't recall this trait being a liability for Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, nor for Fireside Chatter FDR. Calvin Coolidge was surly and silent, and neither of the Bush presidents were particularly adept at oratory. How's history treating those guys?

But now that Obama's all over TV, critics complain that he's wasting time. And that the networks are in cahoots with the government for giving him airtime. It's such transparent BS that it's barely worth rebutting.

I thought Obama was an evil socialist overlord working overtime to get every citizen and every business sucking the teat of government. Now he's off the job, just wasting time on TV? Does anyone put thought into these clashing arguments? Just admit you hate to see Obama on your TV and Internet screens and in your newspapers, because it reminds you that he's the president. Find some actual issues to debate, just as critics on the left have done, and make some concrete points that don't barely mask ideological contempt. It's work, yes, but it might help the cause more than blindly aligning with the Party of No.

Rule #120: Party of D'Oh!
As if it wasn't obvious enough already, the Republican Party no longer has any high ground on moral issues. The party is packed to the gills with adulterers, hypocrites and incompetents. Yes, Democrats have plenty of skeletons too, but they also don't claim to be the party of Jesus, family, apple pie and other concepts you'd have to be evil to oppose.

Short of that, Republicans have to at least be clever about their transgressions. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford cut off all contact for four days on Father's Day weekend with no contingency plan for the state. Then he said he went hiking (on Nude Hiking Day, no less!), before admitting that he had flown to Argentina to "do something exotic." Like, maybe, a married woman with two kids? Real smooth, sir. These sort of things don't just get found out - they get found out in the most entertaining way the universe allows. Forget lipstick on the collar - a questionable visa stamp in a passport is a far worse thing to explain away.

Bill Clinton slipped up too, but at least he had the foresight to invite the girl over to his place while Hillary and Chelsea were on diplomatic trips to Africa. Given how the Republicans hounded him endlessly over this and even had him impeached over it, they should have at least taken notes. The GOP can't even handle its scandals as well as the Democrats.

Barack Obama has every right to call out these losers on their hypocrisy, but he doesn't. Why? Because he'd rather lead by example. Solid husband, doting father, two well-adjusted children - Obama lives all of the family lip-service that conservatives claim to uphold. And it seems far more real from him than it does from those who make family a political issue.

Personally, I don't care that Mark Sanford has a lover. I don't think that should disqualify him to remain governor or even run for president. But that's a hole the Republicans dug a decade ago, and now they've discovered that dirt doesn't taste so good.

Rule #121: We Report Wrong, You Decide Wrong
Fox News must stop labeling Republicans as Democrats every time they get in trouble.


(See numerous other examples here.)

If Fox News wants to be taken seriously as a news station, it can't afford to make incredibly elementary errors like this. Fudging a party affiliation is one of those mistakes you almost have to make on purpose. If something like this made print, there would be hell to pay.

But, as a friend of mine pointed out, Fox News isn't really a news station as much as it is a misinformation tool. Fox News sees the propaganda value of consuming its channel as a steady diet, which many people do. Plant a few ideological seeds - right, wrong, what's the difference? - and it doesn't matter how many corrections you run, or if you don't run them at all. Who's going to do the two seconds of research to prove them wrong? Surely not the same people who let themselves believe all that hooey about Obama being a secret Muslim with no real birth certificate who was elected thanks to millions of fake ACORN voters. If viewers had done the two seconds of research to counter those charges, they would know these allegations weren't true.

Then again, if Fox viewers put that much effort into critical thinking, they wouldn't be Fox viewers in the first place.

Rules archive

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let's make a deal

If I promise to visit you, bing.com, will you promise to stop airing those obnoxious commercials?

Commercials. Television ads that air throughout the course of a show. Show. An entertainment program that can take many forms. TV. Stage. Screen. Screen. Can describe either a monitor, a long piece of sheeting or a wire cover intended to block insects and debris from entering airspace. Airspace. Where planes fly. Fly. Insect or slang for zipper. Zipper. A device that allows for the closing of a storage device or pants. Pants. An article of clothing that covers your ass. Ass. Kiss it.

What has search overload done to us? That.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Say cheese! Just don't smile when you say it

According to reports, Virginia, Indiana, Nevada and Arkansas are asking people not to smile in driver's license photos. (I've since tossed out the links I originally had on this entry, because Arkansas, Nevada and Indiana have clarified that smiling is permitted, as long as it isn't exaggerated. Apparently, USA Today got a lot of flak from officials for its report on this. But it's still much-discussed, so here we go.)

One rationale is that the photo has to match those of past licenses, as a way of ensuring that the right person is applying for the license. Because no one ever ages or changes their looks. I predict a lot of retro hairdos coming back for those who got their licenses in a past decade. Imagine that, beehives coming back! Hope you liked your braided goatee in 1999, because that's you from here on out, Fred.

Another line - and my favorite - is that a neutral, dull expression is required because toothy smiles trip up facial-recognition software. That's right, kids: we must do all we can to help Big Brother and its apparently blonde technology catch us in whatever illicit act we're going to inevitably commit! Just be sure to keep a straight face during your crime, to better to facilitate your capture.

On the bureaucratic front, the technology is supposed to match your new picture to your previous pictures, to ensure DMV clerks that someone isn't pretending to be you. Which has got to work, at least as long as you've been posing grim and nine-eleveny for all these years. I wonder what my experience will be like, considering I've smiled in every license photo I've ever had. If I don't smile, will I be accused of being an identity thief? Or if I do, will I be hauled to jail for being a terrorist sympathizer? Such a paradox! Maybe I'll avoid this altogether and never renew my license. Yeah, that's got to work!

In at least 31 states, these technologies reportedly work fine with smiles and, even when they don't, actual human beings can make the call. But what fun is that?

I like the rules against glasses and headgear, too, because people who wear glasses and headgear all the time shouldn't have that represented on their ID.

Advocates for the no-smiling rule compare it to the rigors needed to secure a passport. Like that's needed to travel around Podunk in your 1987 Chrysler. Anyway, smiling in passports is not completely banned yet.

I hope this idiotic crap doesn't catch on. Now is as good a time as any to break from the mind-set that citizens need to change to fit our omnipresent (yet flawed) security apparatus. Being grim and techno-paranoid hasn't made us any safer, but it has robbed us of much to smile about. But just try and stop me at the DMV.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not Right NFL Sunday (Non-Saints, June edition)

The new head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Todd Haley, is being described in the media as the no-nonsense antidote to the touchy-feely Herm Edwards. And by "no-nonsense," they mean Haley is brusque, demanding and abrasive. The Bill Parcells protege is (amazingly enough) well-known for barking at and berating his players, and for the being the exact antithesis of a "player's coach."

Not surprisingly, he's clashed with a lot of players in his career as an assistant coach, and several Chiefs players are demanding a trade. Among the ones staying, many have not attended voluntary workouts. Haley has been credited with compelling most players to slim down, but that's probably as much a function of them being too scared to eat as it is anything else. He's also told his players that football comes first in their lives, something I'm sure players' wives, children, gods and probation officers will accept without question.

I've always had a problem with the term "no-nonsense." It implies that anyone who doesn't act like Haley, Bill Belichick or Dick Cheney is full of nonsense. (Also, it's pantyhose.) Even if that's true, why do we praise this sort of thing? Is there an unbreakable connection between accomplishing things and being a raging and/or surly asshole? And that someone who maintains an even temper or otherwise doesn't treat their players like inferiors is automatically a pushover? Because no one told Tony Dungy.

What irritates me is that if the Chiefs do break out of their long impression of a slightly higher-grade Detroit Lions, everyone in Kansas City will credit it to their coach being a prick. And they'll say that the Chiefs players who left were just weaklings who lacked the will to win, instead of elite professionals who don't want to be treated like truants. They'll reduce the Chiefs' pitiful recent records to the personality traits of their previous coach. Which, by the way, would have been celebrated if he'd been a winner.

It'll be annoying. And just one more reason to yell at the screen during the Chiefs game I have to watch instead of a better Saints game.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who are the real bastards here?

In Iran, crowds are taking to the streets to protest an allegedly stolen presidential election. The impact of this could redefine the Middle Eastern nation, as well as the global political dynamic, for generations to come.

Here in America, though, we have much more superfluous crap to worry about.

In case you missed it, David Letterman wrote a Top Ten list about Sarah Palin. As he's done about a dozen times already. It involved the Palin family's recent excursion to New York. In one of the items, Dave said that A-Rod knocked up Palin's daughter during the 7th inning stretch.

I saw this segment long before any fuss erupted over it (and before Worldwide Pants removed it from YouTube). I liked it, because I like anything that makes fun of the vapidity and surreality of Sarah Palin. When the A-Rod impregnation joke came along, I (like everyone who doesn't have a false-outrage fetish) thought it was about 18-year-old Bristol.

Wait, let me correct that. It wasn't so much about Bristol as it was about the irony of a politician pushing for abstinence education, when her own daughter was proof that it didn't work (and said as much), and then parading said daughter across the campaign trail in a perverse family dynamic.

But, as our muckraking pals on the right reminded us, it was not Bristol but 14-year-old Willow Palin who was in New York at the time. Not only did most people not know that at the time, but even fewer associated teen pregnancy with a teen who has never been pregnant. But that's what makes Dave's joke all the more sinister. Too sinister, as it turns out, for Dave himself, who has since apologized for it.

Even NOW piggybacked on the incident, saying Dave's remark about Sarah looking like a slutty flight attendant was offensive. As opposed to Sarah herself, who sets feminism back 50 years? Oh, the irony. I'm all for feminism, but harrumphing at a not-so-fresh joke is hardly the stuff of justified gender equity. Anyway, Palin did exploit her flirtatious nature on the campaign trail, which makes it fair game as far as I'm concerned. The multitude of comics who made fun of her throughout 2008 apparently agreed, and no one seemed to object much then.

Still, when David Letterman apologizes for something, ice cubes form in Hell. So I had to take notice. Maybe I'm wrong, and that jokes about pregnant teens are out of line (even if the jokes aren't really about pregnant teens). Maybe in this time of hope and change, Dave's shtick is past its prime. No matter what our ideologies, we should try to respect each other rather than get a cheap laugh from our differences.

Then there was the protest. And I snapped back into reality.

Any apprehension I felt about the knocked-up joke evaporated like Paul Shaffer's hair when I saw this video of protesters demanding Dave's firing:



Seriously, these are the people Dave pissed off? No offense to Dave's admirable skill at offending, but it doesn't seem like a challenge with this motley crew. They strike me as the kind of people even the teabaggers would have told to go home. I, for one, would be ashamed to curry any favor with them. If they liked anything I ever did, I'd quit writing forever and get into insurance.

There is a certain type of person who gets joy from complaining. A lot of these people, to quote that Clearasil case in the video, only watch Fox News. There's a lot more wrong with them than there is wrong with David Letterman. It's not that they're outraged, but that they're so reliably and selectively outraged. I've watched enough Letterman over the decades to know that the Palin pregnancy joke doesn't even rank in his Top Ten of greatest line-crossing moments. Meaner jokes about the Palins have been spoken by the Palins, for God's sake.

Which only goes to show that this isn't so much about crossing the line as it is exploiting the very real problems of misogyny and statutory rape to attempt to censor someone whose comic sensibilities are rungs above theirs. Can we put "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" back on the air for these people? They need a hobby.

The only reason I even care about this is because it is a perfect example of what the right wing has become: a Mr. Fusion of outrage, powered by whatever garbage happens to be handy. Even in the face of Dave's multiple apologies, they continue to press on. It's almost as if the Palins - and their supporters - have something to gain from this continued attention. Frankly, I hope it's a 2012 GOP nomination. And I hope Dave's there to give it all the comic treatment such a thing deserves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fancy blog title

Rule #115: Straw poll
Just as finding a flaw in evolutionary theory doesn't make the Bible's account true, neither does disagreement with Barack Obama mean that one pines for a John McCain presidency. Do I agree with everything Obama's White House does? No. Did I think I would when I voted for him in November? No.

Obama supporters criticize the president when we feel it is necessary and appropriate. I would like to see him release the White House visitors records. He could probably stand to be more forceful on the health care issue, and I wish he'd come around on gay marriage. But I trust that he will. If he doesn't, then it will be time to consider someone else. In the meantime, let the man do his work. One of my favorite aspects of Obama - one that got my attention back in the crowded candidate field of 2007 - is his ability to sell his ideas to those who would resist most. This is often mistaken for capitulation, when in fact it is the exact opposite: it's getting under the skin. A means of bridging the ideology gulf without insisting people are fundamentally wrong. People tend to get defensive otherwise.

There is not one thing Obama has done that has caused me to regret my vote for even a second. Every day under an Obama administration is better than its counterpart in a McCain universe. So when critics (conservatives and liberals alike) bloviate about how this isn't change we can believe in, or that the Messiah is fallible after all, take such rants for what they are - straw men. We elected a human being into the highest office in the land to navigate the complex halls of politics and power. Why act surprised when the results turn out equally complex? And, most importantly, why even pretend that it was a mistake?

Rule #116: Also-rans in Iran
Anyone who still thinks Iran as a whole is a monstrous place need only look at the fallout of the recent presidential election. When even the supreme leader wants a recount, something is fishy. Looking at the photos of the protests, I see normal human beings, many of whom could just as easily be walking our own streets. Yes, there were riots, destruction and bloody clashes, but there were also dissenters aiding battered police officers. And worldwide speculation that a historic moment is on the brink. So, basically, it's like a Lakers celebration with a purpose. Power to the people!

Rule #117: Blindsight is 20/20
The good old days are overrated. This past weekend, I attended a car show, where I saw a 1934 Ford hot rod. A well-maintained, beautiful car. But you couldn't see jack out of the windows. And what little line of sight there was appeared to favor people over 6 feet tall. Sometimes, it's better to just pine for the now.

Rule #118: Catch my drift?
If you're at a crowded swimming pool, it's rude to engage your son in a pool-length game of catch. Especially when you're using what appears to be an actual baseball. The prospect of an errant toss smacking me in the back of the head while I'm swimming is enough to make me wet my pants - and that's a rain delay no one wants.

Rules archive

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bait

The first conservative or libertarian who wants to debate the issues here gets a cookie.

I'm out of cookies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How well do you know me?

1) Which if the following songs did I not dance to on July 3, 1988?
a) "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" by Herman's Hermits
b) "Rock This Town" by Stray Cats
c) "Mother-In-Law" by Ernie K-Doe
d) "Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby

2) Which movie did I not see in the theater?
a) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
b) Roxanne
c) Slumdog Millionaire
d) Reality Bites

3) Which of these favorite foods of mine did I hate until I was 11?
a) Pizza
b) Grapes
c) Chicken
d) Hamburgers

4) What hit movie featured a scene shot two blocks away from my childhood home, while I was still living there?
a) Steel Magnolias
b) Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
c) The Waterboy
d) The Apostle

5) What crazy event happened the day I moved to Springfield?
a) The New Orleans Saints got robbed of a Super Bowl appearance by a 17th-rate-but-lucky Chicago Bears team who would not have stood a chance were it not for the frozen tundra that is Soldier Field and Reggie Bush acting like a cocky child after a long TD, thus galvanizing the Bears into making it into the lamest Super Bowl ever
b) Anna Nicole Smith died
c) I got called to jury duty in Lafayette
d) Astronaut Lisa Nowak put on a diaper and drove from Houston to Orlando in an attempt to kidnap the girlfriend of her fellow astronaut lover

6) What day did I join Facebook?
a) July 1, 2004
b) September 15, 2006
c) May 8, 2007
d) June 5, 2005

7) What taken-for-granted instrument did my former truck lack?
a) Radio faceplate
b) Functioning high-beams
c) That soft piece on the cab ceiling that keeps rain from sounding like gunfire
d) All of the above, plus a wheel rim that I shredded and windows I moved up and down with suction cups

8) Where did I go on my very first date?
a) Dinner and a Movie... on TBS, because I was poor
b) Checkers
c) A very riveting custody trial
d) A matinee showing of Naked Gun 33 1/3, followed by a romantic interlude at the arcade to play Mortal Kombat

9) In sixth grade, I filled out a questionnaire for a teacher asking what I was going to do with my life. My response was, "Chances are 80 percent I'll..." what?
a) Be a blogger.
b) Open up McGibboney Chrysler-Pontiac-Saturn-Hummer.
c) Live a neurotic life where my wanderlust is so intense and my interests so varied that, even in the face of significant career success, I will never be truly satisfied.
d) Play Major League Baseball.

10) What did that teacher write in my Memories book at the end of the year?
a) "Oh, the Places You'll Go! Far, far away from this classroom."
b) "Have a great summer! I know I will!"
c) "You know that performance of 'Heart of Rock N Roll' you did for all the girls in the class? There will come a time when you will be too self-conscious to do that. Probably."
d) "Keep up your optimism. It's priceless."

11) Why did I refuse to field that easy grounder in tee-ball that one time?
a) It just looked that way because I was terrible at tee-ball
b) The grass! The pretty, pwetty gwass!
c) I seized up at the sight of the scout looking to shore up his U-7 Duck Duck Goose squad
d) I was mad that they put "Jan" on my jersey instead of "Ian"

12) What caused the scar on my chin?
a) I was saving a drowning infant nun being mugged in an alley when I got struck by a fistful of brass dollars
b) I accidentally twitched during my daily punch of awesome
c) One very tricky bowling stance
d) Ran the wrong route as a free safety at football practice and got clocked by the head of an offensive lineman who later went to Hollywood and appeared on The Drew Carey Show and Subway ads

13) Which of the following '80s celebrities e-mailed me and said my blog was hilarious?
a) Wil Wheaton of Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation
b) Victoria Jackson of SNL
c) Danny Wood of New Kids on the Block
d) Marty Ross of the New Monkees

14) Which of the following did I pledge to invent as a precocious child?
a) Digital animal crackers
b) A pacifier that lets you pacify with dignity
c) Computers that can fly!
d) Cable radio

15) How many languages do I speak and what are they?
a) Two - English and French
b) Three - English, French and Spanish
c) Four - English, French, Spanish and German
d) Eleven - English, Southern Redneck Boomhauer English, French, Cajun French, Nawlins Yat English, Pretentious Grad Student English, Midwest English, German Swears, Political BS, Football and Workplace

16) What smell do I associate with "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits?
a) The aroma from a microwave oven
b) The Freon-fresh smell of a new refrigerator
c) The new color-TV smell
d) Turpentine

17) When did my grandfather's last driver's license expire?
a) Jan. 17, 1963
b) Feb. 10, 1990
c) He never had one
d) Sept. 18, 2001

18) Whose portrait has my dad not painted?
a) My mom
b) My great aunt flipping the finger
c) Mel Gibson and him together in full Braveheart costume
d) Barack Obama in red, white and blue with "HOPE" underneath (Dammit!!)

19) Which of these jobs have I not had?
a) Peanuts guy at hockey games
b) Spot as a superhero in a TV commercial
c) Videographer for a semipro football team
d) DJ

20) How hard do you want to slap me after taking this quiz?
a) Hard
b) Very hard
c) Really, unbelievably freaking hard
d) It's not you, Ian. It's me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog fun for the day

- I've noticed something of an inconsistency in the conservative mind-set. Shocking, I know.

When discussing immigration, their refrain is, "They must follow the law; otherwise they are illegal." They will say they have no problem with anyone coming into this country who crosses all the right T's and dots all the right I's. "STAND IN LINE," conservatives chant, content in the knowledge that the legal immigration process is flawless. Any attempt to engage in debate about whether or not anything about it could change out of general human decency is moot. It's the law! Like it or not!

Of course, such adoring devotion to the rule of law gets thrown out like the baby with the bathwater when it comes to the murder of George Tiller. No matter how hard many conservatives stress that they don't condone Tiller's murder, they can't help but add that he was an abortion doctor. It's not hard to read between the lines that many conservatives feel at least some justice has been served here. That Tiller is no longer in a position to administer procedures they feel are barbaric and go against their personal religious teachings.

But abortion is legal, backed by a solid Supreme Court precedent, and heavily regulated. Funny how the law is such dandy gospel when it comes to immigration but how it's such an immoral outrage with abortion. It's the law! Like it or not! (Apparently, you can "like it" AND "not.")

- There's a wonderful group on Facebook called BOAS (Breakdown of America - Staff). Their logo is an American flag-colored left-turn arrow underneath a black circle with a slash. I think they're trying to say "no left turn," as in, "liberalism sucks," but the colors should really have been flipped. As it is, the logo seems to say, "We hate America."

The group's stated mission is to "share ideas, brainstorm, vent, and help each other as we try to educate the ignorant nation that elected our current president and at this point...would probably re-elect him tomorrow if given the chance!"

That's smart. Say you're out to educate Americans, and then call the majority of them ignorant right off the bat. Yeah, that'll work! Good luck with that. Maybe the logo isn't as wrong as I thought.

- A St. Louis Catholic organization had this to say about its monthly community breakfasts: "The monthly breakfasts, begun in Saginaw by Carlson's predecessor, include everyone 'from the public relations person at Dow Chemical to the fellow who owned the local car dealership,' whether or not they were Catholic, Carlson said."

This quote's concept of diversity is very curious. It's kind of like saying a sorority includes everyone from blue-eyed bleach-blondes to blue-eyed dirty blondes. If inclusion is truly the idea of these breakfasts, shouldn't they invite people who don't own businesses or make lots of money spinning chemical pollution? And how does the car dealer feel about being on the low end of this comparison, especially next to a PR flack? They must serve a lot of comfort food at these things.

- Early this morning, a popular daiquiri place in Lafayette was gutted by fire. No one was injured, but the building is likely to be declared a total loss. As it was happening, my live Facebook stream became a virtual shrine to the place. People were despairing about it as if they'd lost their best friend in the fire. It was a popular hangout, granted, and I'd been there a few times myself; but after reading so many horrified reactions, I'm wondering if the suicide rate in Lafayette isn't about to triple. It's a building, guys! No one died! They'll get insurance money, and build another one exactly like it. In the meantime, you'll have to console yourself at one of Lafayette's other 1,689 daiquiri places.

Maybe I should take the official Tiller tack, and be grateful this place burned down because it served drinks through a drive-thru. Seriously, they do this in Louisiana. But as much as I hated driving in Lafayette at 2 a.m. thanks to this astonishing legal loophole, I would never call for anyone to lose their livelihood or their lives over it. Of course, that's silly even to say; no one would have such a skewed perspective anyway, right?

"Why couldn't this be New Orleans Original Daiquiri?? I love Daq Supreme!"

Once again, I stand corrected.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Heard on the radio two seconds ago

White female DJ: "T-Pain has a new album coming out on Sept. 11."

White male DJ: "Awww, no. Aren't we over this? Don't release your album on Sept. 11."

"Especially a rap album."

"I don't feel like buying a CD on Sept. 11. Couldn't you have done it one day before? Or the day after? Why Sept. 11? That's not the right day."

Good grief!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

One of these guys is not like the others

There's an old saying that goes, "In the United States, anyone can become president."

This is often twisted into a joke with the punchline, "NOW I BELIEVE IT!"

I first heard this joke about Bill Clinton, but it's probably been around at least since Millard Fillmore. And, I have to concede, it was pretty funny back in 1992 if you thought the governor of Arkansas surging to the presidency was a bizarre prospect. (My grandfather had a beer-cozy with the joke that someone gave him at about that time, though as time went by I eventually found it crumpled and warped under his car seat.) I know I tossed the joke around once or twice as a way of coping with the 2000 election. Almost nine years after the fact, I still can't believe George W. Bush was ever president. Only in America.

The driving force behind this joke, of course, is that these presidents lacked a certain heft in class and/or the intellectual department, as seen through largely partisan filters. This usually shined through in the form of alleged sex/drug scandals (in Clinton's case) or in the reliable mangling of the English language (Bush). These redneck yahoos as president? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

But yesterday, I saw in a newspaper that someone had directed this joke toward Barack Obama. And I didn't get that at all.

It's not because I'm a mindless Obamabot, as I'm accused of being on almost an hourly basis; it's just that it doesn't really work. He was a U.S. Senator, a professor of constitutional law, a community organizer, a best-selling author and is a well-spoken and intellectually serious guy. He's cool in demeanor, has a strong but good-natured sense of humor and shoots a mean hoop. By all accounts, he is a happily married family man with no libidinal scandals. If anything, the joke about Obama was that he was hard to joke about.

As for the things that could disqualify Obama from being a qualified president, none are particularly funny and many are as untrue as they are vicious: he's too inexperienced. He reads from Teleprompters and says "uh" a lot. He went to a naughty church. He's a baby-killing socialist. His real birth certificate combusted from the Satanic fumes from which it came. What lame ways to demonize our first black president.

Oh. Got it now.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday rules

Rule #111: Be kind. I'm behind.
Stop acting so surprised that I don't own a DVR. It's still not that common, particularly among those who live modestly and don't watch all that much television. I have a VCR built into my TV, which perfectly serves my purposes when I need to tape something every couple of years or so. It even has a timer, so I don't have to be there for it to kick in!

We've entered an age where luxurious electronics have become a virtual necessity to many people. Cell phones. Laptops. BlackBerries. Bluetooth. iPhones. High-definition plasma TVs. DVRs. Yes, these are all very nice items, and highly useful in a lot of respects. But there is absolutely nothing in life that requires any of these things, and in fact their over-saturation can make life a lot harder and/or interminable for some.

I've got a bike, a TV that works and a laptop that shocks me only occasionally. And two cell phones I rotate when the other craps out. I get by. And even when I do eventually get a DVR (legally, I have to be the last person in America), chances are I still won't want to talk about that dumb reality show.

Rule #112: Trust me on the smokescreen
Graduation speeches cannot be censored for honesty. When Jem Lugo of Springstead High School in Spring Hill, Fla., wrote her valedictory address, she declared, "I'm not going to put on an act and tell you your future's going to be peachy. No, life is gonna suck sometimes." School officials rejected the speech, forcing her to go with a boilerplate, "You're on the threshold"-type of happy-making laudanum. Her original speech and its replacement received play in the St. Petersburg Times, which means students not only got the message anyway, but learned admirably early that authority is not always looking out for your best interest.

I've graduated three times. Here's what my school's speeches boiled down to:

High school, 1998: "You are on the threshold, yadda yadda yadda, and it's a great time to be going out in the real world because it's 1998 and you'll literally be injured by all of the opportunities being thrown at you."

Bachelor's degree, 2002: "Don't listen to those reports saying 2002 is the worst year ever to graduate. You all have bright futures. The class of 2005, for example, that's who will really have to worry."

Master's degree, 2005: [Couldn't hear speech, due to budget cuts on microphones, but I imagine it was encouraging.]

Why is it so wrong to acknowledge that times are tough? Would that put a damper on the happy day? Perhaps, but there's a difference between acknowledging reality and being depressing for its own sake. I, for one, would have loved a dose of honesty in school or in my speeches. It at least would have made me feel less alone when I struggled for a year to find a job, realizing that everything I was ever told about working hard and finishing school didn't mean jack in a rough, uncaring world. Maybe then I wouldn't have revisited every bit of praise or encouragement I ever got, injecting retroactive cynicism into each one of them. As sharp as I feel like I am, that disconnect made me wonder if I wasn't, in fact, crushingly naive. That's one lesson I never knew I had to study for.

At least in these difficult times, it's on the forefront of peoples' minds. It's the elephant in the auditorium - a red, white and blue elephant. Kids are smart, especially graduating kids. They know things aren't so great. And any effort to repress that is just going to reduce faith in education and authority all the more. They'll figure it out. Help them while you can.

Rule #113: Redo the undo
Blogger must change its platform so that an "undo" doesn't kick you two steps back. Yes, this rule is inspired by some difficulties I had in fixing a glitch on Rule 112.

Rule #114: Socialist studies 101
This endless parade of frustrated right-wingers calling Barack Obama a "socialist" or "communist" must heed the words of one of my friends: "I'm actually a socialist, and Obama disappoints me." Maybe instead of condemning Obama for being anything other than Bush, these critics should pick up a dictionary or actually talk to a socialist. If nothing else, they'd learn the difference between a "socialist" and a "national socialist," the latter of whom are much scarier (and are not my friends). And then they'd realize how much Obama does not fit the socialist mold, as doesn't the majority of the country who voted him in.

Rule #114.5: Remedial socialist studies
Someone will now be bound to say, "Oh, so Ian has socialist friends, huh? That says it all!" Well, not quite. Many of my friends and family members are very conservative. What's your point?

Other rules

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Suddenly, Michael Steele is that much closer to Denzel

In February, I posted this challenge to conservatives:

Republicans must create one good song. Do whatever it takes. Get a liberal to write one for you. Hell, I'll do it, and not ironically, either. I just feel sorry for you guys for having to pretend that "Bush Was Right" and "Raisin' McCain" are passable songs. After all, what's the point of even having a big tent if "Barack the Magic Negro" can clear it out within seconds? Take a cue from your party's sudden interest in black people and visit a gospel church. Check out a concert in an arty city. Watch will.i.am videos on YouTube and take notes. You saw the Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl halftime show! Get a sense of the lyrical innovation and spirited delivery that all good music shares. You may be forced to think and dance, but roll with it anyway. After soaking that all in, sit down, set your talking points to a funky beat and get the best musicians who will cooperate to cut a slammin' phat beat. Only then will you create a masterpiece worth getting its funding cut.

Well, it looks like somebody finally embraced my call. Meet The Young Cons, winner of the Most Apt Name award of 2009. And 2010-2018. And probably after that, too. Straight outta Dartmouth! Please, Tom "Hammer" DeLay, don't hurt 'em! The only drive-by is the media. Word to GOP Jesus and His Mutha! Put yo hands in the air, wave 'em like you hate welfare! And other Republican rap corruptions of that sort.



(SPOILER ALERT: The best part kicks in at 3:38. Moment of silence, perhaps?)

After seeing this...my offer still stands. I'm already working on it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Deep breath...

I originally started this blog yesterday, but deleted it because I was just too angry and all too willing to cover millions of people with the same gigantic blanket of condemnation. I'm still pretty pissed, and I doubt I ever won't be, over the murder of George Tiller.

I'll start off by saying, as diplomatically as I can, that shooting an adult human to death is perhaps not the best way to prove your commitment to life. Popping a man in a church lobby is not the best pitch either for looser gun laws or for moral superiority. Taking a political fight to the level of homicide is, essentially, domestic terrorism. These people are furious at the U.S. government, all the while showing exactly why we need it.

Like it or not, abortion is legal in this country. Like most pro-choicers, I would like to see fewer abortions, which is why I favor comprehensive sex education and greater social resources for needy mothers who do elect to carry their children. But if a woman feels that aborting a pregnancy is her only option for whatever reason, then she has a right to make that choice. It's hers and hers alone. I would love to see a bumper sticker that says, "Pro-choice means being able to CHOOSE LIFE!" Maybe this stupid myth about people being pro-abortion would finally cease. No one wants more abortions.

Tiller's practice, one of three of its kind in the country, involved specific and desperate cases. Late-term abortions have always been illegal, except to save the life of the mother or to terminate a fetus likely to die at birth. Tiller performed a very specific, private and delicate service for those in extreme need. And what did he get for it? Constant protests by extreme right-to-life groups. Harassment by the likes of Bill O'Reilly and other "journalists." Bullets in both arms in 1993. And now, a fatal shot. The backpedaling going on by many of these groups in the wake of the murder could power our police cars for a year.

Of course, rigid ideologies die harder than their victims. O'Reilly and Fr. Frank Pavone have both dispassionately condemned Tiller's killing, but go out of their way to remind us that the doctor was a high-volume abortionist. As if that justifies his death! Really? Such talk is proof positive that the "pro-life" position isn't about life so much as it is about politics above humanity. You know who else puts politics above humanity. That's not a question, by the way. You know.

As much I despised the Bush administration and still have no use for far-right politics and wannabe theocrats, I would never call for anyone's death. Murder over political differences is a terrorist tactic that brings us to the level of our enemies. I'm saddened, but honestly not all that shocked, by the lack of ringing condemnation from the "pro-life" camp over this. I've heard some, granted, but none with any real conviction. No one's said, "Wow. Let's get some perspective on this. The trick is to change the law, not kill those who follow it. How does that mesh in any way with what Jesus preached? We value ALL life, not just the unborn. People like Scott P. Roeder do not represent us. But it is our fault for what could be seen as conflating our politics with full-on domestic war. We will seek to reduce this in the future."

I'm not holding my breath.

Way to set back the "pro-life" movement 10,000 years, Scott. As if it wasn't in a different era already.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Old enough to go to school

Not Right About Anything is five years old today. Wow! I don't do anything for five years. Except this Anything, apparently.

Thanks for all your support and comments through the years. I'll keep it coming if you will (and even if you don't).