Monday, October 31, 2011

A Culture War field guide to Halloween

Republican Halloween

A rich kid dressed as Iron Man and a poor kid dressed like a bum knock on the door and scream, “TRICK OR TREAT!” The homeowner eyes the kid with the expensive costume and gives him all the candy. Then the homeowner reaches into the bum’s bag, takes out half of what he got from the other houses and pours it in Iron Man’s bag. When the bum objects, the homeowner accuses him of class warfare and insists he get a job. At the end of the night, the homeowner will bequeath a huge bowl of candy to their own children, but most of it will rot because it’s more candy than they could eat in 10 lifetimes.

Democrat Halloween

Halloween doesn’t happen because even though the kids want candy and the neighbors want to give it to them, everyone involved is too shy to ask for what they really want. Also, the children beat each other up.

Libertarian Halloween

The homeowner demands all trick-or-treaters get the hell off their property right this minute! Either that, or they give out cigarettes.

Tea Party Halloween

One kid will be dressed in blackface but insist it’s not racist. Another will have a Superman outfit with a misspelled logo (probably with a C). Yet another will be dressed as Thomas Paine, but only because they forgot to change out of their normal clothes.

Louisiana Politician Halloween

At first they’re committed to not participating, but they turn on their porch light halfway through the night because that’s what everyone else is doing. And the only candy they have is circus peanuts.

Tim Tebow Halloween

Everybody in the neighborhood can’t stop talking about you, but it takes you forever to get around because the Tebowing pose isn’t conducive to canvassing streets. By the time you arrive, you’re over. Which is just fine with you, because you probably think Halloween is the devil or something.

Bush Family Halloween

Dubya will dress as a member of the Texas Rangers and think he hit a triple.

Westboro Baptist Church Halloween

They dress as hippies and espouse a philosophy of love, peace and tolerance. It frightens the hell out of everybody.

Las Vegas Brothel Halloween

Lots of Mounds and Almond Joy.

Indianapolis Colts Halloween

Lots of Butterfingers.

New Orleans Saints Halloween

It can’t be any scarier than what happened yesterday.

NBA Halloween

They’re all sitting at home. Go!

Jersey Shore Halloween

Don’t take the trick or the treat. Either way, it itches.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The fan is broken

I was going to post a blog about the Saints' disastrous loss to the worst team in football's backups, but I've been told that the statue of limitations for being pissed has already passed. And apparently there's something wrong with me for not immediately forgetting about it and/or being as bubbly as ever about next week.

So, on to the next thing, just as soon as I figure out what that is.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Things that shouldn't exist

If this gets just one person to change their minds about this ... well, I really want to meet this person.

Wear out a welcome this Halloween!

The genuises at National Review Online have come up with Halloween costume ideas to annoy liberals. In the spirit of fair balancedness, here are some costume ideas for liberals to fright back (get it?!!):


These are for if you’re a liberal and you trick-or-treat in a neighborhood with a name like Whispering Rivers, Thousand Island Ranch Bend or Oakstone. You’ll need to camouflage yourself. Actual camouflage is a good start, but getting a really good haul of candy requires a nice slab of red meat. In this situation, consider dressing up as:

A Teleprompter 
Make sure it says “Change” or “ACORN” or “Moran” or something. Also acceptable: “Looking for candy, not a handout.” Bad idea: “I am the 99%.” Too scary.

P.W. Botha 
You kids might not know who this guy was. He was the inspiration for the bad guy in “Lethal Weapon 2,” except that the screenwriters dialed back his cartoon villainy. Botha was to South African apartheid what the First Amendment is to freedom of speech. A guaranteed hit in neighborhoods with lots of lawn jockeys.

A firearm 
You’ll find you can stretch out trick-or-treating to any place and time of year this way. What’s more American than that? Going to jail, that’s what!

Trans fat 
This is America, Lord dammit! We don’t need the government telling us what’s in our food, even if it’s a horrifying, man-made, cholesterol-spiking, artery-clogging substance that the FDA says has no safe consumption amount. So what does trans fat look like? An onion ring is a good start. Or you, probably.

A wall 
Whether it’s the street or along the border, wealthy people love walls.

A long-form birth certificate 
Be careful with this one. You’re likely to get one of two reactions on this one: either heart-attack-inducing fright or be ignored completely. Either way, your candy bounty will suffer.


Or, if inciting fear is more your speed, drop the camouflage and don an orange vest. Check out these ideas for costumes that will make any modern conservative flip:

A book 
Any non-Tim Tebow athlete you’ve ever heard speak 
The HPV vaccine 
A correctly spelled word 
A person with a heart 
A tax 
Anyone who thinks Halloween is not an affront to all that is decent and holy 
Something that isn’t meant to be intentionally annoying or outrageous, because they get off on that


The best choice for thrifty and/or unimaginative types. These aren’t even really costumes, because chances are you fall into one of these categories already. If anyone asks, just say you’re one of the following:

Some armchair quarterback wearing a jersey 
You’re not going as Drew Brees — you’re going as some guy who owns a Drew Brees jersey. How very meta.

A sexy whatever 
In an age where the “sexy watermelon” costume is a thing, attractive people can throw any outfit on and call it a sexy night. I plan on giving my sexy jeans and sexy Pitfall T-shirt a go this year.

A victim of the economic crunch 
A truly versatile outfit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pump it forward

A few days ago, I made a routine trip to a gas station to top off the air in my tires. I say routine, because my tires (which came with the car) are on their last legs/treads.

For the first three tires, all was going as it typically does — popping in 50 cents, fumbling with the hose, squeezing my right ring fingertip repeatedly with the handle and pumping in the air to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. But somewhere between the third and fourth tire, the pressure gauge stopped working. And that was really unfortunate, because with tires, there’s a fine line between pumping air in and sucking it out. And I was sucking.

I knew this because I have custom valve caps that use a color-coded system to signal pressure status. And when I put it back on the fourth tire, it was as red as Louisiana’s politics (whoever decided radial tires needed to look full even when they’re not, well, suck it). So I screwed off the cap to pump some more air, and I dropped the cap into the hubcap. Great. I’d have to take off the hubcap to access it.

If you’ve ever seen the 2006-era Scion xB, you probably think of the sleek spoke alloy wheels straight out of a “Fast and the Furious” flick. I don’t have those. I have the standard rims and the cheapest, default plastic hubcaps the manufacturer makes. You don’t even need a lever to remove them; you can literally pop them off with a single bare hand. Well, you can if you aren’t me. Because I’m a weakling. I did do it once, a few years ago, but I was younger, hungrier and had the manual in my hand when I did it.

This time, the hubcap was on good and tight, possibly a byproduct of a recent professional rotation (there’s your lesson on maintenance, kids). And I, having already spent about 20 minutes and $2 at the pump, was facing the triple-whammy of having an underinflated tire, an elusive valve cap and a stubborn hubcap.

Before long, a pickup truck with a riding mower in the bed pulled up to the pump. Two men got out and asked me if I was done with the hose. “It was working for the first three tires and then the gauge stopped working and now I’m trying to pry off my hubcap to get a cap that’s trapped in there because it’s a custom cap and it was expensive, so yeah, you can use it,” I overexplained, being me.

As soon as one of the guys picked up the hose, the head fell off. “That might be what’s wrong with it,” he said. He screwed it back on and gave it to the other guy, who began pumping up his mower tire. “Nope, the gauge is still broken,” he added. As he pumped, the other guy went to work on my hubcap. He had trouble and looked inside their truck for a tool. “Man, you’re not gonna find a hubcap tool in there,” the pumper shouted. “Wait up.” He then stopped pumping, walked toward my hubcap and, in one sweeping movement, yanked it off. “There you go,” he said. “Thanks,” I said as I grabbed the errant cap and screwed it back on the valve stem. I then attempted to pop the hubcap back on. “Need help?” the guy said. “I got it,” I said as it kept slipping off. “You look like you need help,” the other guy said. “Make sure you find the hole for the valve and put it in the right place. Here, I’ll hold it. Just don’t be so nervous. Now beat it with your fist, get it on there tight.” As I did so, I felt it necessary to say, “I’ve done this before. Seriously.”

Still talking about hubcaps and tires here. Do focus.

Anyway, I finally got the hubcap back on and one of the guys even pumped my last tire with his leftover pump time. I asked them if they wanted any change, because we’d spent about $16 at this point between us. “For what?” he laughed. “Listen, man, you and I, we help each other out. If people did that more often, this world would be a better place.” They then got in their truck and drove off.

I really like people like that. I’m voting for them in 2012.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ah, Missouri, where my vote sometimes mattered

After voting in Louisiana for the first time in five years yesterday, I think I understand how third-party types feel now. 

It's not just that the governor's race and many others were so imbalanced that they compare with many Third World nations on the healthy-democracy scale;

It's not just that what opposed races are out there tend to be between Republican and Tea Party Republican;

It's not just that half the Republicans are Democrats who turned GOP because that's what everyone's wearing this fall;

It's not just because we have a nationally ridiculed primary system that actually has "jungle" as a descriptor;

It's not just because Louisiana is home to some of the most creative, personal, vicious smear campaigns in the U.S.;

Hell, everything I could list just wouldn't be enough.

Everybody here jokes about Louisiana's model of political bizarreness, but it took me several years of voting in Missouri to truly grasp the magnitude of it. In Missouri, you don't register by party; they have open primaries where you choose a ballot (Democrat, Republican, third-party). In general elections, you fill out a Scantron-style card and slide it through a scanner. But most importantly, there's still a healthy give-and-take between parties there. It's a conservative state, but both parties represent well. You don't see incumbents switching parties as a blatant vote grab. Extremism on either side is tempered because the electorate — sit down — won't stand for it. There's none of the presumption that everyone is right or far right like there is in Louisiana. And that's what made every vote I ever cast there feel worthwhile, even when my people lost.

I didn't feel that way yesterday. Granted, I've never aligned myself with the prevailing ideologies in Louisiana; but in the past, I at least felt like I could try to check it. But it looks like Louisiana's finally finished its swing from one one-party system to another. That brief two-party interlude was fun while it lasted.

Will my vote ever count again?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'Footloose' is rare non-sucky remake

I went to see the remake of Footloose this week mostly out of fascination. I'll stop short of calling it "morbid" fascination, though that had a lot to do with it — I'm a huge fan of the 1984 original, I heard this one was supposed to be more a musical version and I dislike remakes in general. But I also heard word from several friends that Kenny Wormald, who plays the lead Ren, bears more than a passing resemblance to me.

WOW! I went with this comparison because any more recent picture would be redundant.
First, let me get the film's flaws out of the way. The new Footloose does not star myself. Also, it can't decide whether it wants to be an update or a tribute. Scenes veer from entirely new to verbatim clones of the original and back again; I could recite half the lines while I watched. Which makes it puzzling that one of Kevin Bacon's best scenes received a half-assed makeover — the one where Ren regales Willard about his night making Ginger pop, where Willard offers an awed, "Really?" and Ren says, "No!" The punchline this time is that the Russian girl (not Ginger) squealed the Russian word for "bullshit." It works as a standalone, but the original was much punchier. Speaking of Ren talking, his Boston accent (he's from there this time) seems to chime in only about an hour into the movie and makes only cameo appearances after that. Also, the "yearbook" scene seems a bit forced, considering the remake discards the book-censorship subplot altogether and that the Internet exists these days.

Otherwise, the new Footloose is as a good a remake as I've ever seen. Frankly, I was expecting either an identical movie with cruddier music, or a High School Musical-type campfest. This flick is neither. Much of its strength comes from its depiction of the town in question, Bomont, which moves south from Illinois to Georgia. The town is both less gritty and less of a caricature than the original; like any burg anywhere, it's not in ideological lockstep. Though Rev. Shaw Moore still has a long arm here, it's still 2011, and there's a lot to like about both him and Bomont. 

Indeed, Dennis Quaid's reverend is one of the best things about the film. Instead of being driven by religious repression and politics (which could have to led to some serious shark-jumping), his crusade against public dancing is motivated by the deaths of his son and four friends in a car accident, which we see this time in graphic, fiery detail. It's a genuine tragedy that leads to fear and repression, which anyone living in post-9/11 America has seen firsthand. It's not any more justified, but it's real.

Another improvement (plot-wise) is that Ren's single mother recently died of leukemia, which gives him motivation both to make a difference and to identify with the grief the town has felt in the three years after the accident. The relatives who have taken him in, unlike in Bacon's version, are supportive. One of my favorite new lines comes from Ren's uncle [paraphrasing]: "Sunday is the Lord's day. If you want to drink on the Lord's Day, you have to buy the beer on Beerday." And later, he tells Rev. Moore during a confrontation something like, "You think Ren isn't good enough for your daughter. I think maybe it's the other way around."

Speaking of Rev. Moore's daughter ... Julianne Hough. Wow. Lori Singer did a better dramatic job as Ariel, but Hough is a better fit for this Ariel in this time. And as the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time and a season for everything under heaven.

You should make time for the new Footloose. I might go see it again. Not bad for something I originally watched intending to pan it. To paraphrase the immortal words of Chuck Cranston, it'll treat you decent.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Help is weakness making your body hurt

Sorry to be so reactive lately. I blame Facebook. Its new sharing system has spiked the rate people share pictures by 70,000 percent. And as you might expect, I have a lot of opinionated friends. And tonight, one of them is passing this on to all his liberal buddies, like me:

I'm not sure who this guy is, but he looks like what he's saying.
I've heard the sentiment a lot, mostly from libertarians, that all good things are strictly voluntary. Which means they consider taxes, social programs, health care reform and anything else like those things to be forms of coercion.

Personally, I think a better example of coercion is rape. I'd say it's horribly wrong to equate rape with taxes, but given that Ayn Rand is a libertarian heroine, and she thought rape was fine and dandy, I'm not sure it's necessary.

Anyway, back to the quote. This is usually where I'd say that the quote is well-intentioned — but in this case, I don't think it is. This is a statement about compassion from someone who has none and doesn't want to have any. What he's saying is, "I'd help the poor and suffering if I thought they were deserving of my help. But they aren't. Is there an IRS agent in that bush? Duck!!"

Yeah, I'm sure that in this guy's ideal world, everyone gets the help they need through the benevolence of the most fortunate. Because that's totally how the world works. Wasn't it Gordon Gekko who said that? Hey, maybe if that definition of "moral credit" was a real thing in this world, the big bad government might never have to step in. But it isn't, so it does.

We all have to pay our taxes and sometimes that money goes to things that help others. That's how society works. If you disagree, get off our roads, schools, parks, Internet networks and anything else funded by or supplemented with tax dollars. Until you do, you're a beneficiary of compassion. Deal with it, just like I have to deal with my tax money aiding those who think the best way to fix government is to elect people who want to destroy it. But again, that's the price of living in society. 

Nothing's free.

Another one ripe for bust

Here in Second Amendment Land, we love our guns. We love them so much that we apply different standards to them than to anything else. No one ever says, "Drugs don't kill people; taking drugs kills people," "Unsafe toys don't kill kids; kids kill themselves" or, "Nuclear weapons don't kill people; people kill people." Nope, in a nation of childproof caps, 10-minute pre-flight safety spiels and advisements of viewer discretion, loaded firearms are the benevolent and angelic exceptions. It's us, you see! We're the problem! We make guns dangerous! Maybe the guns should control us!

Funny thing is, guns only do one thing: shoot holes into stuff. Couch it all you want in defense, protection, target practice, liberty, badassery, whatever — the ultimate end purpose of a weapon is to inflict damage. Which is what separates guns from forks, pencils and cars.

You can stab someone with a fork. Or you can eat healthy food with it.

You can make a shank out of a pencil. Or you can write a check to charity with it.

You can kill someone with a car while driving drunk. Or you can give a child a ride to school.

You can shoot with a gun. 

There's the difference.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going off script

It’s weird how some things happen. On my drive home today, I randomly thought back to the short era of my life when I wrote in cursive. And then an online pal of mine pointed out that cursive writing could be dying. Noooooooo! (Go back and picture that last interjection in cursive. It's like the letters are holding hands!)

From the time I first heard about cursive writing through my older brother (or, as I called it, “script”), I thought it was a very strange concept. I still do, in a way. Think about it: you spend the first several of your most formative years learning exactly what letters are and how to write them. You even have to buy special tablets with dotted lines to make sure you get those capital A’s exactly right so children in China don’t starve or something. And while I had relatively little trouble learning my letters in school — my bigger issue was writing sufficienly large letters to look right in those massive rules — I still looked at my brother’s cursive workbook and went, “Wha?”

I mean, come on! New letters? They don’t do this for numbers! For all the brainpower I was going to have waste on this, I might as well have learned Chinese. Or maybe ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because I knew one thing: come third grade, I wasn’t about to get the word “hieroglyphics” right, no matter how I wrote it.

But when third grade rolled around and they passed out the workbooks (which were titled “HANDWRITING” and featured kids running out on the field with a soccer ball from a schoolhouse I imagined was in Denmark (side note: no school book should ever feature something you’d rather be doing than studying)) — I was more than ready to get started in my first-ever second language. It may have been because it took time away from language arts, a subject I (incredibly enough) struggled with mightily in those days, but still.

Like with most things in my life, my enthusiasm for the subject far outweighed my skill. I remember struggling mightily with most capital letters, especially the utterly unnatural G and Q, and feeling relief when we had to learn the lowercase P. That felt like a day off. But I got better, and by the end of third grade, I was a full-on convert to the big C. My third-grade teachers required us to write that way, something I will die never understanding. Nevertheless, I continued to do so voluntarily for some time afterward.

If there were an Ian Almanac*, it would say that I wrote cursive from 1988 to 1992. It was a very distinct style, to put it delicately. I think I did it as much due to inertia as anything else. But the whole time I did, I never understood the point of writing in script. It never occurred to me that cursive writing was intended as a faster version of shorthand; indeed, my weird lettering didn’t always reflect that notion. I never found writing that way particularly convenient, which is what probably led me to abandon the practice in the middle of English class one day near the end of sixth grade. I still remember the exact moment I did it; it was literally in the middle of taking notes. I decided I had enough with cursive, and instead quickly adopted a bastardized print — it was like print, but with some of the letters connected for convenience.

That’s when it clicked with me that cursive was supposed to be like that in the first place. But that bastardized hybrid, like most people’s cursive, was unpleasant and largely illegible. So not long after, I switched to a very neat print, which I still employ to this day.

The way I see it, cursive writing is diminished by the way it’s taught. It’s meant to be a more natural and fluid form of writing, and yet it’s drilled into you. And you’re often penalized if the letters don’t come naturally to you. And no matter what happens, people wind up writing exactly how they feel most comfortable, and it gets worse and worse as you get older.

Case in point: In middle school, a friend of mine realized he hadn’t done his French homework, which the teacher checked visually before class. So he scribbled a bunch of illegible gibberish in his notebook, and passed the inspection. In ninth grade, our geography teacher did the same thing. My friend pulled out his notebook, which was laced with completely unreadable writing, and I asked, “Did you do that gibberish thing again?” He replied, “Um, no. I actually did the homework. This is my handwriting.”

This is why I type in print now.

(Fun postscript: My late grandmother used to do crossword puzzles in a very neat script. I laughed at first, but then I realized that that takes a certain degree of confidence in your answers. Well played, Maw Maw.)

* - Just gauging interest. Cough.

Giving credit where it's due

Here's another gem that's floating around the Facebook today:

I'm not going to get into the argument that running a government is nothing like managing a household budget. Not only because I've done that many times before, but because I think there's a better pearl in this shell, and I thank whoever assembled this for setting me up to put it in these terms.

The point of this infographic, presumably, is to show that the government must live within its means, just like households have to do. What this leaves out is, to me, the most interesting point:

Conservatives have spent the past 30 years, and especially the past two and a half, arguing that raising taxes is an abominable course of action in any scenario. They tell us we have to cut, cut, cut, and nothing else. They tell us the problem is not revenue, but that we're living beyond our means, and we have to make do with what we have. Raising taxes, they say, is not the answer. And it never is.

Now look back at that annual income, which this chart equates to the U.S. tax revenue. This, I think, is a damning association for conservatives. Right now, Congress is busy killing legislation that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to 1990s levels; this chokes off new revenue for a government in dire need of it.

Following the family comparison, conservatives would also be in favor of never allowing the household's wage to rise, instead preferring to punish them for spending what they did. If this is indeed a family trying to survive on $21,700 a year, living on credit is a given (I doubt I could make it on $21K, and I'm a single guy with no debt). And given the sharp decrease in federal revenue in recent years due to massive tax cuts, it's only fair to assume the household in question also once enjoyed a much more livable wage. So in making this right-leaning economic point, the infographic inadvertently points out the choke job that conservative economic policies have done not only to the federal government's pocketbook, but also to those of struggling households.

I seriously doubt that's the point the author of this infographic was trying to make, but for me it's the most important one. Well played!

Want to see me acting stupid for once?

The University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajun football team is 6-1 for the first time since 1776. I went to school there for seven years and attended nearly every home game, and I think I saw maybe six wins in that span. So Geaux Cajuns!

This past Saturday, I went to the Homecoming game at Mercedes-Benz Cajun Field with my brother, his girlfriend and her family. The game nearly set a record for attendance (and actually did for a Sun Belt Conference game). Aside from some poor guy near us falling, hitting his head and having to be wheeled out on a stretcher before the game, the evening was fantastic. Here's a picture of me making what I'm told is a Paul Newman face:

This picture actually lowballs how stupid I was acting.
Oh, and the Cajuns beat North Texas 30-10. And it was watchable. And the first-down cheer that we started while I was there has evolved nicely.

They also did a pre-game tribute to me and my generous legacy as a Vermilion columnist. I missed it, though. Traffic. Sheesh.

A stupid blog

I can't decide what's worse: Someone who straight up admits they're racist, or someone who goes out of their way to say they aren't racist but says a lot of racist things.

I've run into plenty of people, all of whom are white and most of whom are otherwise intelligent, caring people, who apparently think it's funny to throw around the N-word with abandon like they're Dave Chappelle. Except Chappelle is black and was at least usually making an intelligent joke about it. Whether or not they can admit it to themselves, most white people use the N-word the way a 3-year-old uses a newly learned curse word. And that's the better of the two possibilities.

To me, white people using the N-word is right up there with bad spelling, loose facts and a contempt for reading as a sign of ignorance. Especially if I know the person isn't racist.

Same goes for "gay" or "retarded" as a putdown. I can think of better, funnier, less hateful synonyms for  "stupid," such as "dumb," "poo" or "tea" (I just made up that last one). And of course, there's always "stupid." Those aren't the hardest two syllables in the English language.

I used to say "retarded" a lot, I'll admit. Never the other two. But I decided that if I was going to call others on hateful slang, I myself should drop the term I was using. I hope any of you out there using these terms will consider the same thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You too can barely make it if you try!

So I see this is making the Internet rounds today:

If the tea party could articulate this well, Sarah Palin would already be on her third term.
I guess it's supposed to be inspirational. But I'm here to absolutely knock it to pieces (and apparently to mix metaphors):

• So you're a college senior, eh? Graduating debt-free? Neat! I've been there. Feels pretty good. I'm proud of you.

• Good for you again. It's wonderful that you're busting your ass just to stay afloat. There's nothing more American than that.

• And you saved money for school starting at 17! That's a hell of a job you had. Did you wait tables or own the restaurant?

• Ah, two scholarships covering 90 percent of your tuition. Well, that diminishes your bootstrap story a bit, but go on...

• A 3.8 GPA. Well done. Better than I ever did in college. I blame this blog. And my work ethic, which is clearly inferior to yours.

• Well, I lived with my parents all seven years I was in college (like you, on scholarship), and only got the modest apartment when I was 26. I drove a beater then, just paid off my current car, was given an iPhone only because my old phone was literally cracking at the seams and still don't have a credit card. So I win! Oops, promised myself I wouldn't play that game. Sorry.

• Just like you, even if I was in debt, I wouldn't blame Wall Street for my financial decisions. The thing is, I do blame the big banks, encouraged by years of federal economic deregulation, for gambling with this country's kitty to the point where we have one of the biggest wealth stratifications and weakest economies in American history. See, as it turns out, you can't really run a country like you run your household, nor can you even remotely compare the two. And no one who knows what's going on would ever seriously do that.

• I live below my means because I never know what the future will bring, but chances are it will suck, being that I am not a have-slash-billionaire.

• I don't expect anything to be handed to me either. But I'd like to be handed what I'm worth. And I'd like everyone who works hard to also be handed what they're worth. Working your at-dollar-sign-dollar-sign off is commendable, but it doesn't change the fact that you see yourself as someone who deserves to scrape for peanuts and is not worth a living wage in a country that could afford it if it didn't worship self-destructive greed. 

• Oh, I almost forgot: you go to a public university. Let me guess: taxes are an affront to your sovereignty?

• Certainly someone of your political ilk has heard the line, "You'll see when you get into the real world"?

• And you will. Let's see how debt-free you remain when you're working the graveyard shift at Wal-Mart with the other college graduates, exchanging mutual shocked glances at the consequences of basing your votes on talk radio.

All snark aside, a lot of these characteristics above actually applied to me. I have financial acumen that even the staunchest economic conservative would praise (not that I have much choice, but still). And yet, I will never pretend that I did it all on my own; I had a ton of help from family, friends and the government along the way. And there isn't a damn thing wrong with that. What is wrong is insisting that everyone can do it entirely on their own, that the only two kinds of people in America are John Galts and welfare leeches. Also wrong: conflating very real Wall Street issues with personal responsibility. There's no need to be haughty, Mystery Hands — I'm not aware of anyone blaming their reckless personal spending habits on Wall Street. Who's to say the protesters are all in deep debt anyway? I think there may be a different kind of anger raging there.

And yes, I get it, the whole 99 percent, Occupy Everywhere protest is a bit cloying at times. I myself have never been a protester; I think there are better ways of getting a message across in most cases. But kudos to the protesters for doing it. They're expressing their speech and harming no one. And that's what freedom should be about — not about bragging the hardest about being an island (when you're a peninsula at best).

I should have written this blog on paper in neat handwriting like yours, Mystery Hands. But that would have required production values that I can't afford at the moment. After all, I can't have everything I want. And I'm perfectly OK with that. Right?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You’re doing it wrong

Yesterday, I received an e-mail that said this: 


I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog

I read the first post "Herman Cain and the race card card" and then I spent another hour on your blog by reading your posts with pleasure :) Every article is interesting and easy to read. I really like the "Tribute to a true winner". 

Now, I’ve received real e-mails like this before, as well as obvious spam. I can usually tell the difference because the former tends to come from actual human beings calling me Ian, while the latter tends to address me by “McGibboney” or “you.” (Also, no one can spend only an hour at this blog. Seriously?) 

This letter was a tougher call than usual. But what really got me with this one was simple logistics — if someone really spent an hour at my blog, I’m sure they could have found something better to cite than what were, at the time, the two most recent blogs. It’s like all those book reports I wrote in school when I’d faked reading the book: “The first two chapters were my favorite.” 

Anyway, let’s continue: 

My job is to persuade bloggers to link to our site. 

OK, that really appeals to my sense of...something or other.

I really love my job! We have a friendly team and good management, but unfortunately I have no idea how to convince a blogger to link to us, I'm afraid I might lose my job because of it :( 

How could you not love a job that hinges entirely on your ability to convince Ian McGibboney to link to you? Given that I’m so bad at keeping my links to friends’ blogs current and I never link to commercial sites, maybe I’m responsible for the recession. I should really step up my game for the good of the country, what with this economic powerhouse I apparently possess. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention his site!

Eating their own Kool-Aid

George Clooney defended President Obama from Democrat-leaning haters in a recent interview

“I’m disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama, quite honestly, I am,” ABC news quoted him as saying. 

Further articulating his thoughts, he said, “Democrats eat their own.” 

“Democrats find singular issues and go, ‘Well, I didn’t get everything I wanted.’ I’m a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected,” he added. “If he was a Republican running, because Republicans are better at this,” Clooney continued, “they’d be selling him as the guy who stopped 400,000 jobs a month from leaving the country. They’d be selling him as the guy who saved the auto-industry. If they had the beliefs, they’d be selling him as the guy who got rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ who got Osama bin Laden. You could be selling this as a very successful three years.” 

I’m surprised Clooney is saying this, but I can’t complain. He’s absolutely right. Comb Democratic Underground or talk to most progressives these days, and the refrain generally is, “Obama has disappointed me for not living up to expectations.” The expectation, of course, being that Obama pledged to lead like Dennis Kucinich in a vacuum. Conservatives, as it turns out, aren’t the only ones who project. 

I still believe in Obama as much as I did back in 2008 — probably because I had more tempered expectations than most people. He inspired me just like he inspired everyone else. But apparently most of his supporters missed the part where he would have to compromise, just like any leader/person ever. So for me, the claims of disappointment ring hollow. Not because they have no merit — indeed, some of them do — but because many progressives suffer from a weird mix of idealism and contrarianism that hurts us in ways even the far right can’t pull off. Munch, munch, munch. 

Congress isn’t much better. The Senate’s vote on Obama’s jobs bill on Tuesday proves it. Not one Republican broke ranks in voting against it, but several Democrats did. Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are always good for that. Now that’s disappointing. 

In the America that we have in 2011, Obama is probably the best president we could have. It’s actually quite amazing what he’s helped pull off, especially given his brutal opposition (and sometimes his own party), and Clooney summed up many of those accomplishments quite well. I hope there’s an age in the near future when we can look back on Obama as a necessary step toward a more progressive U.S. But for now, I can’t complain. It’s important to remember the big picture. 

And the big picture is that we’re actually a lot better off than we’re willing to admit. We’re not 100 percent there, but we never will be as long as we’re the giant nation that we are. The sooner we acknowledge that, the happier we’ll all be. And we’ll be all that more attuned to the good things that are going on.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Herman Cain and the race card card

A real gem from Huffington Post

During an interview that aired on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain suggested that members of the African American community "have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view."

“Open-minded” is an interesting way to put it. Cain seems to be saying the Republican Party is doing everything it can to ally itself with minorities, if only said minorities wouldn’t be so prejudiced. OK, then. 

I suspect that wholesale black rejection of the GOP has less to do with open-mindedness and more with the fact that the party has absolutely nothing to offer blacks or any other minority. 

The prevailing conservative line is that racism is over, and that anyone who insists otherwise is using it as a crutch or as an excuse. Allegations of racist undertones to the tea party, for example, result in the playing of the race card card. (That’s not a typo. The race card is itself a card, used to deflect the issue in the same way that its players accuse others of deflection.) Whatever racism does manifest itself, Cain and his ideological brethren say, comes not from racist people or policy, but from those who complain about it. It’s those people, they insist, who are stalling true racial reform in this country. 

The idea that racism is finished in America allows for a convenient ancillary truth: that everyone is now equipped with identical bootstraps, and thus we have no more need for affirmative action, many social programs and other forms of assistance upon which minorities often rely. At least, that would be the case if they could just convince embattled minorities that racial inequality truly is over. And that’s where the tough love comes in. 

Conservatives profess that the best way you help someone is to not help them. That’s most obvious in their oft-repeated assertions that Democrats want to coddle the poor with more welfare, that social programs are a hammock for the lazy, that affirmative action sacrifices competence and merit for forced diversity. Cain et al. see the U.S. safety net (and government in general) as a drug that kills ambition, and that it’s incumbent upon them to provide the cold turkey that will help the addicts come around. 

(This tough love never applies to the wealthy, because tax cuts and lax regulations are the only things keeping their ever-flagging motivation intact. But that’s apples and oranges, apparently.) 

Trivializing racial issues also means Republicans can run a black man with virtually no cultural or ideological difference from his white counterparts, and trumpet that as embracing diversity. And “trumpet” is the correct word, because we’re reminded of it at every juncture. Like most non-white-male Republicans, Herman Cain is an ironic, shining example of the party’s own racial claims at work. In 2008, critics often blasted supporters of Barack Obama for liking him just because he was black. As I said then, if that were the case, then we would have had President Jesse Jackson back in 1984. A lot was made of Obama being our first black president, but that’s inevitable because it’s so visible. But Obama won over Hillary Clinton and John McCain because he brought so much more to the table: he is a riveting speaker, balances idealism and experience and possesses the intangibles we look for in a world leader in a time of crisis. He was what the electorate wanted, a competent candidate. 

Cain, as with Sarah Palin before him, is someone we’re supposed to support because of what he is, not necessarily who he is. Both were cases of the GOP saying, “See? We have candidates who look like that too!” 

Once Obama had won the nomination in 2008, one Wisconsin GOP spot attempted to lure female primary voters to vote for McCain-Palin. The idea behind the ad was that if you like Hillary, you’ll like Sarah too. Because, like Hillary, she’s also a woman. And you are a woman. Which, of course, totally misses the point. People weren’t voting for Hillary Clinton because they thought it would be nifty for a woman to be in the Oval Office; they supported her because she’s a dynamic, experienced political figure. The same cannot be said for either Palin or Cain. 

If you strip away Cain’s race, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend him as a presidential front-runner. And yet, many of the same people who grumbled that Obama was only the junior senator of Illinois are excited about a man who has considerably less political experience. Because he is a black man in a party that knows it has a seriously negative race perception. 

I’m not saying Herman Cain doesn’t have what it takes to run for office — in fact, I think he does, even if I don’t care for his platform. But I am saying that his rapid ascendance to the presidential field is proof that race can still be relevant for all the wrong reasons. 

Only a closed-minded person would fall for such a ruse.

Tribute to a true winner

I’ve never met Steve Gleason. But he seems like the kind of guy anyone would want to meet. And should strive to be like.

His recently disclosed battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and what he’s doing to raise awareness of the disease is part of that. But just a part in the ultimate scheme of things. 

First there was his run with the Saints. He’s known most memorably for blocking Michael Koenen’s punt on the fourth play from scrimmage in the Saints’ first game in the Superdome since Katrina, allowing Curtis Deloatch to scoop up the ball for a fast touchdown. I love that play. I’ve probably watched it more times than I’ve watched half of my favorite childhood movies. I’m serious — after seeing it live, I must have watched it with Jim Henderson’s call on every day for a year (I can recite Jim's excited call verbatim). And even now I often watch it there or on YouTube if I need a boost of inspiration. The Saints are coming. No matter how hard you try, you realize there’s no reply. 

But Saints fans knew him before that play as well. In his playing days, I was struck by how much he didn’t look like a football player and, more importantly, how that didn’t matter. That was important to me because, in this world, we’re often told we have to have certain superficial or unattainable attributes to succeed. Steve seemed like a regular guy who made his dream come true through skill and heart. And isn’t that what we all want of ourselves? 

At one point in Steve’s career, I read that he drove a vehicle powered by grease and was an active environmentalist. I mentioned that to friends every chance I got, even the ones who weren’t staunch environmentalists; after all, who doesn’t think a car that saves gas and probably smells like french fries is awesome? A few months ago, I chatted online with an old friend who lives in New Orleans, and we got to talking about Steve. The friend said he saw firsthand Steve’s influence in the community and in his charitable pursuits, and that he was literally a saint. Before that, I thought Steve was a cool guy, but hearing that firsthand account cemented him in my mind as someone I should try harder to be like — respected, charitable, thoughtful and greater than the sum of his career statistics. 

Steve has adopted New Orleans as his home. He settled in after his playing days, married a local girl and often talks about why he loves the city and how it’s made him a better person. He’s certainly made New Orleans a better place, which is saying something, considering The Big Easy is already one of the greatest cities in the world. And that, more than anything else, may be why Steve Gleason is an inspiration to me. Who wouldn’t want him as a neighbor and as a friend? 

As Steve battles ALS, that brutal adversary of many fine human beings, I wish him well. And I hope he continues to be the person that he is for a long time to come.

Visit Team Gleason

Saturday, October 08, 2011


So I was just sitting here thinking of something of write. I was also thinking of going to the grocery store because I'm pretty much out of everything. I opened my bedroom blinds to let the sunshine in, and right then a gorgeous woman in workout tights strutted by. As she flitted past below, I said to myself, "Hi, neighbor!"

Then I immediately thought of Hi Nabor, a supermarket down the street. And how I could totally see that being a really bad commercial, where that segues into the store specials for a few seconds, and then the girl and I meet in the checkout line. "Hi, neighbor!" "Hello!"

As if there wasn't enough gratingly catchy advertising out there, my subconscious had to go and literally make its own. Great. Behold, the future! 

Remind me not to open the window anymore.

Friday, October 07, 2011

NLCS...oh, you'll just have to wait...

So I see that the NLCS will be a repeat of the 1982 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals bested the Milwaukee Brewers. I was a huge Brewers fan as a child for reasons I'll never understand (it was the hat). The idea that they would ever defect to the NL would have made me cry even more than I was already crying from having my hat always stolen then.

This is not Hipstamatic-ized. This is really the photo.
On the other hand, I also lived in Missouri for four years. I even visited the St. Louis Arch back in 2009. I did not wear my Brewers cap that day.

This photo has never before been published. Because I think I look like crap in it.
Busch Stadium, as seen from the Gateway Arch. How can you root against the Cards after you see that?
So I guess you could call me evenly divided on the NLCS rivalry. As long as either wins, I'm happy. And given that they won't have to play the Yankees in either case, I'm even happier.

Who Dat!

Jobs for President

It's too bad Steve Jobs didn't live long enough to run for president. That would have been a hell of a sign.

I want to be him when I grow up. The guy was a fountain of inspiration.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Another reason this sucks

If there's ever another hurricane, that Superdome logo's going to be ironic. Poignant, even.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Dome and Gloom

Pitiful money pits and bar smoke

So I was reading this article about what it means to be a success, but then I gave up. I’m sure if I hadn’t given up, it would have told me to never give up. But I couldn’t get past this sentence:

Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that’s for prekindergarten.

Really? That’s just exorbitant. Even taking into account the fact that these are New York sophisticates with too much money and too little common sense.

Forgive me for not identifying. I tend to roll my eyes at people who buy birthday presents for their pets, let alone spend nearly three times the price of my car so their kid can maybe learn to count to five.

I went to Head Start for a year and a half. It theoretically served a purpose for me, because I had been (mis)diagnosed as a slow learner. I spent my days with a small crew of students with various learning and/or physical disabilities. We sang songs, said our names, drew pictures, played extremely simple games, read words from flash cards, sang a song about colors that I still know to this day, learned about food, cars and careers and occasionally pretended we were animals. And slept on blue cots. And drank water as a class. You get the idea. It was important for our development. Most of the class would struggle with these lessons well into adolescence and beyond. They needed to be there, and were fortunate to have the program available.

Even then, I doubt we cost the taxpayers $35 large a pop. These people are willing to blow far more than I’ve ever made in a year not because their kids need the help, but so they can scrawl it on their resumes in crayon. (And hopefully stay inside the lines while doing it.) For that price, I hope they give the little brats Evian and privacy curtains for their cots/waterbeds.

After reading this, I thought back to a Facebook debate I entered into this weekend. One of the usual suspects decried a Louisiana group’s current effort to ban secondhand smoke in the workplace; the group argues, as I often have, that it’s a workplace safety issue and not some dastardly affront to freedom. My friend’s take on the issue is that businesses should be allowed to do whatever they want and if employees/nonsmokers don’t like it, then they can quit/not patronize the establishment. To my impressed surprise, a couple of other people had my back on that one, saying that the whole work-it-or-leave-it attitude is especially inappropriate in this rough economy. For the most part, though, the participants in the thread argued that any job is worth a little cancer risk. At least at the service level.

I understand both of these issues equally, which is to say, not at all. Why do we have such a class disparity in this country that the rich can sweat over the pedigree of their preschoolers, while even the middle class among us don’t care enough to fight for the safety of an entire work sector? Why is a private, $35,000 pre-K a thing? Why is a universal smoke-free workplace not a thing? I’m not sure of the answers, but I suspect that a society getting its needs met doesn’t factor into either. When you’re rich, you’ll do anything to keep up; when you’re not rich, you think the need for more “freedom” is what’s holding you back, safety or sanity be damned.

I wish I understood the thinking behind either issue. On second thought, I’m glad I don’t.