Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Herman Cain memorial post

In the shopping center next to my apartment complex, there sits an oddity: a Godfather's Pizza joint that appears to be long defunct. Inside, there's little more than a bar and mere traces of what once was. Next door to that is a Cajun restaurant that is equally defunct and even harder to imagine ever having been open. So what makes that an oddity, you ask? Well, the Godfather's Pizza sign remains lit like a Christmas tree:

You know that neighbor who never takes down their Christmas lights? This is the storefront equivalent of that.
I can't imagine this sign being lit 24 hours a day, but if it isn't, that means someone is flipping it on every night. And that's even weirder. I wonder who's paying for it. And why they think it's smart to advertise a business that isn't open (especially a pizza place, which represents a particularly painful false hope). In any case, the lights are on but nobody's home.

I've often felt that way about former Godfather's CEO Herman Cain, who is apparently considering withdrawing from the presidential race. Not only do I think he should on account of the alleged sexual harassment charges that are pouring in, but I find it amazing that he ever was in the race in the first place. But that's in my mental vacuum. In the real world, I can see not only why he's in the race, but why he may not even quit. It seems a lot of people, including quite a few friends of mine, are still eager backers of Cain. Given all the recent scandals, that reflects some serious loyalty.

That loyalty puzzles me. Cain is a living embodiment of sheer political cynicism. He's a token, and a weak token at that. He seems to have some potential as a political leader (though that might now be dashed), but you don't generally start in public office with the presidency. And it certainly doesn't reflect well on Republicans who chided President Obama's short political career to turn around and support someone with literally no political experience — especially since his understanding of world events seems closer to Sarah Palin's than to Obama's.

We're supposed to like him just because he's black, is what I'm saying. He's the GOP's attempt to court Obama voters, minus the actual reasons people voted for Obama. We saw the same trick in 2008 with Sarah Palin's attempts to lure Hillary Clinton voters. And they wonder why they're so toxic to minorities, women and anyone else who judges people by the content of their character.

Speaking of content of character, if the multiple allegations are to be believed, Cain has at least one massive character flaw: a penchant for sexual harassment. Assuming this is true, then Cain clearly has a problem that he should be working to rectify rather than running for office. Sexual harassment is a particularly reprehensible offense, because even extramarital affairs (as bad as they are too) aren't predatory. Such behavior is a throwback to the good-ol-boy, grab-ass "Mad Men" era that might be a hoot on TV, but is justifiably passé in real life. Just like most of the meaner things for which today's GOP stands.

I'm not asking candidates to be perfect, because we're all human. But they should at least try. And they should be more than a snazzy sign advertising something that's long past its time. And it's up to us as voters to know when to stop paying for the tainted pizza. Metaphorically speaking.

A penny's worth of thoughts on nickel-and-diming

Yesterday on ESPN, I heard that the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars not only fired head coach Jack Del Rio, but also sold the team. The network’s analysts then went into a segment about everything that was wrong with the Jags (it’s a stretch to call it a segment, though, because it lasted roughly an hour). While they recounted the Jaguars’ rough year, one of the analysts said something like, “It all began when they cut David Garrard at the beginning of the season, but at least they saved millions of dollars.”

To paraphrase the Bible, I wept.

Garrard, for those of you unfamiliar with Jaguars football, was their starting quarterback. He was criticized for being inconsistent, but he showed flashes of greatness throughout his tenure. His firing was a surprise to many, because it seemed like trying to repair a junked car by breaking one of the last two functioning lights (the other bulb being Maurice Jones-Drew). Any sense that move made was more than canceled out by Garrard’s replacement, Blaine Gabbert, who is ... well, I’m sure he’s trying his best.

They suck and the front-office decisions aren’t helping, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, the analyst’s quote really got me to thinking about what we hold dear. And in these trying times, it seems that frugality, even at the expense of quality or common sense, trumps all. We want a good deal. And the definition of a good deal is money in our pockets. But since when is money the only thing with any value? I’m not just talking about sports, either; it’s true everywhere. Saving money is the only thing that matters anymore, even if it goes against common sense. I can understand the pressures to cut back on spending in these extraordinarily lean times, but this is ridiculous. Especially since it’s so selective — after all, many of the same Americans will blow all their dough on things they don’t need, just because of the perception that they’re getting a good deal.

Spending money to “save” money is ridiculous. Not spending available money when you need to spend money is equally ridiculous. No matter what kind of economic times we live in, we all have needs. And it should never be considered a victory to save money when not spending it is unconscionable or otherwise a miserly act. And that’s true on all levels — personal, athletic, government, etc.

Money is a valuable commodity and should be spent responsibly. But some assets are more important. After all, there’s a reason money has worth; it’s to buy things that are even more intrinsically vital. Just ask the Jaguars. I’m sure they’re bubbly from all the money they saved this season.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Updating conventional wisdom

Today's words of wisdom: "Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime."

Revised for 2011: Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. But he’ll get complacent and greedy, so don’t give him that fish. Instead, tell him that if he learns to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. If he asks you to teach him, tell him it’s not your responsibility. If he asks where he can take a class, tell him to find out for himself. If he asks where he can obtain a fishing pole, tell him to buy one, because you certainly aren’t going to subsidize it. If he says that budgets have been slashed for public fishing lessons, assure him that he can find a friend, charity or church to help him. If he has alienated all his friends, charities are underfunded and no church will touch him, that’s his problem. If he does somehow surmount the odds, learns to fish and begins to catch enough to get by, make sure that he isn’t cheating the system. After all, why should you, as a successful fisherman, assume the burden? What would your incentive to fish be then? It’s only fair. If he has a problem with it, maybe he should just become successful too instead of bothering with this hunger nonsense. Hunger is simply a crutch for screwups. If you help hungry people, what kind of lesson will they learn? Certainly not one that lasts a lifetime.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bowling point

One of my Facebook friends (who is from Lafayette) posted a status tonight celebrating LSU's clinching of a berth for the national college football title — "Don't hate just appreciate," he said. In it, he couldn't resist taking a swipe at the UL Ragin' Cajuns, who are also bowl bound. "Maybe they'll be headed to a National Title game in like 50 years," he said.

I'm not really sure why praise for LSU has to come wrapped in contempt for UL. But I've heard it before, and it pisses me off. Both teams have done staggeringly well this season. The difference is, one is a rich and storied program with consistent national success (including national titles in 2003 and 2007), and the other is a scrappy, shoestring program with a first-year head coach that no one ever expects to win anything. They went from three wins to the New Orleans Bowl in a single year. Both feats are impressive. And they have nothing to do with each other, which makes the swipe all the more baffling.

I don't like when UL people actively root for LSU to lose, either. I suspect a lot of that comes from the hate that some in the LSU community have for my alma mater. With the way Louisiana collegiate funding guarantees that no school will ever even approach LSU, that just seems like piling on. Again, though, UL's fortunes are not related to LSU.

Ultimately, we're all Louisianans. Let's enjoy both teams' success, OK?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blaxploitation

Black Friday is an odd animal.

The way I see it, it takes two qualities to camp out in front of a store or mall for days at a time: 1) lots of free time and 2) at least in theory, enough money to make those kinds of purchases. How those two things go hand in hand, I don't know. All I know is, I work all the time and expensive gadgets for every member of my family aren't exactly on the radar.

When I was a columnist for my college newspaper, which came out on Wednesdays, I'd often hit campus late on Tuesday nights — that's when they'd deliver the fresh issues. I always liked seeing my work in print. That's the extent of my experience waiting in long lines with eager nighttime crowds. Well, except for the whole line, crowd part.

I've never been a Black Friday Trekkie. And yet, by spending zero, I feel like I get the best bargains every year. And sleep to boot!

What sucks about Black Friday is discovering you need some essential item like soap or toothpaste, and having to go get it. There ought to be a store that refuses to cater to Black Friday shoppers. I'll bet that would appeal to a lot of people. And then it'd become very crowded, rendering the whole thing moot. Sheesh.

I'm glad I have toothpaste today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You're welcome

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Even as a kid, I often liked it more than Christmas. Here are some reasons Thanksgiving is awesome:

1) It's like Christmas without the gift obligations.

2) I really, really, really like turkey.

3) The pressure-free assurance that is Detroit Lions football.

4) When it comes to atmosphere, the Macy's parade beats a lava lamp any day.

5) Being a single and somewhat immature guy, I'm never asked to cook a Thanksgiving meal.

6) Back before I was old enough to truly appreciate it, we used to play street football.

7) My favorite thing about Thanksgiving night in Springfield was passing by the Toys 'R' Us on my way home from work and being grateful that I had better things to do ... like not that.

8) Cranberry sauce is pretty good too.

9) We'd often drive to my my grandmother's house in Baton Rouge, eat lunch there and then go back to my other grandparents' house (next door to mine) and join that party in progress.

10) "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is the best Thanksgiving movie ever made. And that would be true even if there were other Thanksgiving movies.

11) You can fall asleep while watching "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." Or while playing street football.

12) For most of my childhood, Thanksgiving was my only time in front of a camcorder, so that made my cameos all the more special. Also, at age 7, I drank a beer on camera.

13) Christmas music seems fresh again.

14) Pumpkin pie rules.

15) Fox News doesn't go on about the War on Thanksgiving, and how secular liberal killjoys want to call it Eat Day. Or Turkey Day. Or Detroit Lions Day. Or We Killed All the Indians Day.

16) I can't think of a 16th reason. And I don't have to, because it's a holiday, dammit! Happy Thanksgiving. Eat. Be merry. And make sure those are, in fact, pillows.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another quick thought

The harder you try to sound smart, the more you sound like you're trying to be smart. So the smart thing to do is to sound like you and not try.

Quick thought

Whenever I hear an older person complain about how standards have fallen, I think, "Well, whose fault is that?" I also don't agree, because I think it's a perspective thing.

I have way, way more to say about that. And I will.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Noel? Oh well...

We're nearing that magical time of year again — The War on Christmas! Ho, ho, hoo-ah and pass the ammunition! Tinsel Fi! All hands on deck to deck the decked halls! I'm sure I could make more puns if I knew more military terminology!

You know it's a good war when only the defense is fighting. As far as I can tell anyway, because I figure that any massive offensive comprising secular liberals fed up with over-commercialization and religious influence in politics would have at least sent me an invite or something. Alas, I guess I'll have to stick to celebrating Christmas with my family for the time being.

This poem I found on Facebook this morning encapsulates a lot of the malarkey we tend to hear about the Alleged War on Christmas (or AWOC, for you military acronym buffs):


With this in mind, I have a few questions for the Christmas Warriors among us:

1) Have Christians really stopped praying?
2) How much power does the "PC Police" have? I'm a Mac user; will they come for me next?
3) When have schools ever banned anything but forced, involuntary prayer? 
4) Who doesn't say Christmas when referring specifically to the Dec. 25 Christian holiday? 
5) Why has it taken you so long to notice the crass commercialization of Christmas when A Charlie Brown Christmas lamented the same thing in 1965?
6) I haven't seen any Ramadan or Kwanzaa displays at big-box stores, let alone read when retailers announced that said displays were middle-fingers to Christians. Do I need new contact lenses?
7) Jane Fonda is indisputably the face of Kwanzaa, so I'll let that one slide. But isn't Al Franken Jewish? As in, very much not Muslim?
8) Why do department stores hold so much sway in what you personally believe? And where did you get the idea that these stores are striking out Christmas references?

How dare...
retailers remove...
Christmas references...
and change... 
them to...
...forget it.
9) Why are your political references so old? And why does the Rev. Al Sharpton show up? Couldn't you at least replace him with Barack Obama?
10) Didn't the Senate bill to suppress Jesus talk die in the Urban Legend Subcommittee?
11) Where are these Christians who aren't saying a word? Are they being drowned out by all the Christians who won't stop crying wolf?
12) "Winter break?" "Dream tree?" Has someone been watching the Star Wars Christmas Special on a loop?
13) Could be it be that people make holiday references not to pooh-pooh Christianity, but because we live in an extremely diverse nation that celebrates a variety of holidays this time of year, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and many more, and we're keenly aware that not everyone celebrates the same one? And that we want to appeal to the holiday spirit in everyone, regardless of what they believe? And that absolutely no one wants to remove or secularize Christmas? Even non-religious people like me, who love it nonetheless and will be having fun that day and not be outraged at phantom threats like the so-called true believers?
14) Oh, and are you aware that Ramadan was in August this year?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Digging deep in the conservative closet

Back in the day, I used to mock right-wing merchandise a lot. I moved on, but apparently the stuff didn't. So here's some swag from the Conservative Humor Cafépress store. But only part of the first page. I didn't have all night.

Kids don't eat for free at this all-American family cookout! Goes great paired with the "Kiss the Cook's Ass" apron for libertarians.
Not that 1 percent, you're not. Maybe some other, less-flattering 1 percent.
This one looks great next to that Bush-Cheney 2004 sticker you never quite got around to taking off.
And just like that, this adorable plush plaything wrests the Cognitive Dissonance Award away from the Blackwater Teddy Bear.
Now available in trophy-wife fit.
As opposed to conservative babies, who are exactly the same way, but also cry all day and night, think they're the center of the universe, wear out the working adults tending to them, suck all the money out of the household for 18 years and hog all the good tax breaks. But that doesn't quite fit on a bib. Anyway, conservative babies don't wear bibs because that would just imply weakness in the eating area. 
If the government was the people like it's supposed to be, rather than a massive conglomeration of corporations, lobbyists, the wealthy and other elite interests, maybe this wouldn't be a problem. But why do I feel like that isn't where you're coming from at all?
And the award for Most Likely to Appear Next to a Focus on the Family Bumper Sticker and/or Truck Nutz goes to ...

Lafffffffffffffffffff

Last night, while grocery shopping, I came up with a joke. And I couldn’t stop laughing. I’m actually understating that; I was laughing as uncontrollably as my bronchitis had me coughing last week. People turned and stared, but I couldn’t help it. 

The joke was funny in a warmed-up-and-drunk-comedy-club-crowd kind of way. I was picturing myself as a stand-up comedian not being able to get to the punch line, which made me laugh even harder. Then I thought of other things that made me laugh, and they made me laugh too.

For what it’s worth, here’s the joke:

“I went to the store and bought some country-style orange juice. Turns out the country was Serbia.”

OK, so it loses probably 99.9 percent of its hilarity when read. I suspect that most comedy does. Even comedy as powerful as mine. Oh.

Stupid little jokelets like this pop up in my mind and crack me up all the time — as anyone who’s ever ridden on a bus or been to a funeral with me can attest. And I’m sure it’s annoying sometimes. But I’ve also noticed that it often makes other people smile or even laugh as well (and it sure works on me). Laughter is like a contagious yawn for good. It can make a crummy day better. Hopefully that’s what I, as a weird guy, did last night for somebody.

I like making people feel happy. I’m not always able to do that, so I really feel special when I can. Even if you don’t know what I’m thinking, I hope you can still feel the love.

Love is a taste everyone can enjoy. Just like Serbian orange juice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Profound quote

"If Christian churches truly lived Jesus' message, they'd all be holes in the wall." — Me

Sticky ticket

Not long after my concussion in early 2000, I received my first — and to this day, only — moving violation. I wish I could blame it on the head injury, but in truth I had done a rolling stop at a stop sign that had just been put up at a screwy intersection. I knew it was there, and even if I hadn’t, there was a sign before the sign warning of the sign. Really, I had no excuse. Though I felt like I did stop. And it was 7:01 a.m. And my taillights were intact. And the cop was in a pissy mood. Anyway.

After the pullover, I drove the rest of the half-block home (yep, this was on my own turf). I went inside, trotted into my bedroom and did what any sensible man with a traffic ticket and a lingering head injury does: I began to wail and jump up and down on the ticket. I stopped short of tearing it in half, but I did smear some of the writing and accidentally tore a small hole in the center. I very loudly cursed the woman officer and said, well, why don’t I just give you a better reason to arrest me? You know, the kind of stuff that would be absolutely stupid to do in any other circumstance.

This hubbub drew the attention of my dad, who walked into the room. After I explained to him that I got a ticket — ME, who doesn’t get tickets! — I got frustrated all over again. “Well, there goes my record,” I said with all the deflated fatalism of a True Love Waits believer who just gave it up. “I guess this is what everyone will know me for now.”

It was then that my normally excitable dad said something I’ll never forget: “This could be a blessing in disguise.” My dad never says “blessing in disguise,” so I took note.

A term of the ticket was that I had to take a two-day defensive-driving course at a local driving school. At the beginning of the first class, we all had to say why we were there. I was one of the last people to share, by which point I wanted to embellish. One kid was there for drag racing. The instructor reacted by dropping his head in his hands. “That’s my son,” he said sheepishly. I couldn’t make that up.

As it turns out, I learned a lot in that class about defensive driving tactics — things I never had trouble with, but once put in practice made me a better, more proactive driver. I can think of specific times in the intervening years that I’ve avoided an accident or worse directly because of what I learned in that classroom. And it all happened because of one bad incident that I had brought upon myself.

Really bad experiences have a way of turning into positives if you let them. It’s just a matter of learning, and getting past that first, painful turn. Or, in my case, stop.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A bad sign for protesting?

Is protesting a thing of the past? In a way, I think it is.

I’m not saying that the impetus behind protests don’t matter; indeed, they do. Anyone scrappy enough to stand up for what they believe in will always form the cornerstone of American democracy. And registering disgust with the aim to effect lasting change is what we’ve historically done best.

I just think that the most effective methods for doing that are changing. And it’s important to recognize that.

Liberals, libertarians and tea partiers take to the streets with signs, costumes and a (to them) genuine sense of indignance. They shout, they chant, they march. They want to get their message out and the media is only too eager to help out (albeit usually with a sensationalist tilt).

Meanwhile, conservatives focus on assuming seats of local school boards and offices, taking the helm of businesses big and small and working to influence legislation at all levels through numbers, money and clout. The legislation, in turn, allows them unprecedented power and influence in all of our lives, often in ways that are apparent only in the long term.

Out of these four groups, who is most effective? I’d argue it works in this order: conservatives, liberals and a tie between libertarians and the tea party. Pretty much directly inverse to who’s protesting the most.

I’m not saying the Occupy protests are fruitless or a waste of time; if anything, they show the numbers and energy are there for lasting change if we know how to go about it. But that just makes it all the more frustrating that they’re out there wearing masks and occupying, when the nefarious people are doing.

I think street protests have outlived their usefulness. Not the spirit behind them, but the act of taking the streets. For several reasons:

1) Rarely are protests directed at point-blank range anymore. The sit-ins in southern diners in the 1960s sent a powerful message to local owners against segregation. It’s impossible to ignore or misread displeasure when someone you refuse to serve over their skin color won’t give up their seat. And forcibly removing them only furthered their cause. It’s an example of something that struck right at the heart of the problem and led to inevitable change. As mad as people are at Wall Street today, the fact is that it is a massive, corporate institution employing millions of people with a variety of viewpoints. It’s like screaming at some kid working in a Wal-Mart in Arizona and expecting Wal-Mart to change its predatory retail ways. Productive protesting is about direct confrontation with the power, not declaring political war on an idea. That doesn’t work any more than it does on an actual battlefield.

2) Media over-saturation ruins the message. This is an ironic one, but it’s true. With so many media outlets out there, everyone is looking for a different angle. And no one gets the full picture. At best, 24/7 media coverage dilutes the impact of the protest; there’s only so many ways a network can fill airtime with, “Yep, they’re still out there.” The more we see it, the more we start to wonder if it’s actually accomplishing anything. And that can defeat any impact it is making.

3) There aren’t enough real people putting their reputations on the line. The media paints a picture that is often not a flattering one — tea partiers with tri-corner hats and misspelled signs on one end, masses with Guy Fawkes masks on the other. Regardless of ideological stance, many people find that alienating. This perception problem was the complaint a lot of the tea partiers had (though that doesn’t take away from the fact that their ideology is based on empirical lies). The way I see it, if protesting is about active citizenry, then people should chuck the cuteness and commit to it. What I’d rather see are real faces, people not afraid to be seen standing up for their principles. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t wear a mask at a time when exposing your face could get you shot (and ultimately, he was). But that’s also why people remember him and why his protests effected lasting change. No one could dismiss him and his brethren. We knew who they were. And we could identify.

4) The Internet is the street now, whereas the street is a mall. We know what everyone is thinking all the time. And it’s turning out to be a terrific avenue for expression and change. That’s important as cities see increasing gentrification. It’s also why I’m confident that true, lasting change will eventually happen all over the world. We’ve got it in us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Penn State says about our state

(What I say here assumes that commonly held assumptions are correct. Everyone deserves a fair trial. I say this upfront because it bears a lot on my points here.)

The Penn State scandal is shocking and sad. And frustrating, stupefying, infuriating, bizarre, image-shattering and era-defining. And irrevocably tragic.

This is one of those times where there’s more than enough ugliness to go around. Not just for those who perpetrated the molestation of young boys, but for those who misdirect their anger over it. And, yes, there’s a lot of that going on.

I hope it goes without saying that any decent human being is dead set against child molestation. Just the idea that a trusted authority figure would rape young boys, and that others knew about it but didn’t take appropriate action, is enough to get anyone with a pulse to go red and rapid. As often happens in these situations, I think that obvious fact gets lost. Because to hear many of people’s kneejerk reaction to the situation, anyone who is not completely black-and-white on the issue is a monster. And by “issue,” I don’t mean the molestation (that is black and white) — I’m referring to the aftermath.

In response to Penn State students taking to the streets in defense of fired head coach Joe Paterno, many said, “How dare these jerks put winning football games above heinous crimes!” And yes, that would be awful — if that’s what they were doing. But I’d prefer to think that not one member of that march felt any need to defend Jerry Sandusky, or otherwise would ever apologize for child rape. But then again, “How dare these jerks put a beloved figure, mentor and friend above murky allegations of guilt by association” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

It’s hard for me not to feel at least a twinge of pity for Paterno. Because if it turns out that he somehow isn’t complicit in all this, he really got a bad deal. Maybe an inevitable one, but still something I’d hate to contemplate in his shoes. And if he did get a bad deal, it’s because we as a mob demand heads. After 61 years at Penn State, Paterno left in disgrace. But at this point at least, it’s hard to tell whose disgrace it is.

Paterno is the lightning rod because people know who he is. And because he has farther to fall. A friend of mine described his firing as “a drop in the bucket,” and I agree. At worst, there was a concerted effort to suppress these incidents. If that’s true, it doesn’t start or end with one person. If Paterno was culpable, he certainly deserves firing and punishment. But so would lots of other people alongside him. And we’d better get the right ones, not only to justify the roundup, but so that the truly bad apples are out of position to foster that environment from here on out. That, not vengeance, should be the point of any firing and of any punishment meted out.

What bothers me about the backlash is that it often ignores the real issues and becomes about something else. I’ve written numerous times about how a lot of tragic events become excuses for people to engage in their prejudices. Instead of addressing the problems and coming together to put a stop to them, we get further circling of the respective wagons and a competition to see who can be the most self-righteously reactionary. It becomes more about punishment than about helping the victims.

Among the worst offenders:

People who issue blanket condemnation. This diminishes the true heinousness of the crimes. Sandusky is the real heel here. Paterno deserves no slack either if he knew about it and did nothing or not enough. But to hold the two in equal contempt is doing Sandusky a favor he doesn’t deserve. Assuming what we’ve heard is true, then both men deserve our scorn for different reasons. And as I’ve said, any scorn due to Paterno is equally due to numerous others.

Penn State partisans. On the flip side, these are the people who will never believe Paterno did anything wrong, even if evidence shows that he did cover it up. These are the people who critics complain hold football and prestige above all else. They do exist, though I doubt their numbers approach anything near the number of sane, rational, caring human beings in the Penn State community. I worry that the adamance of the “my school right or wrong” crowd will make assigning accurate blame all that much harder.

Those who cite this as proof that college athletics should be de-emphasized or eradicated. Why do I suspect that everyone who says this has always wanted to do that?

The outrage and grief that this scandal has brought forth is very real, and the irreparable harm done to the victims very tragic. The last thing it needs is the boilerplate responses it triggers from all the usual suspects. That may be human nature, but compassion is also part of human nature. And compassion for the victims, not a mob mentality one way or the other, should always be first and foremost.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Rules

Rule #178: Allen Dredgery

If your TV show is centered around pretentious assholes, at least make sure that, at some point, they get their comeuppance. I’m not going to point fingers here, but there is at least one group of oversaturated actors and filmmakers that keeps taking potentially brilliant setups and frustratingly squanders them every chance they get. And I get the feeling they do it on purpose, because they think unchecked verbal abuse of easy targets is funny. As are stereotypes of gays as evangelical, predatory monsters. And rapid-fire, pseudo-witty, douchebag dialogue.

If you’re going to be that way, at least have some laughs in there. I laughed more at “Bob’s Burgers,” and watching that show to me was like eating a flavorless piece of candy.

Rule #178-B: Animation Abomination

Maybe the Occupy protests should spread to the apparently 1 percent of people making our entertainment these days. I feel like Seth MacFarlane is in everything. Seth is one of my absolute favorites, but if he makes even one more show, Fox will explode like microwave popcorn. The problem with giving one person so much airtime is that, eventually, you forget why you wanted so much of this person in the first place.

I would probably feel embarrassed if MSNBC devoted an entire evening to talk shows starring me. Just mulling the idea makes me sick. Absolutely sick.

Rule #178-C: Flick Clique

At least give us time to get sick of Seth Rogen before giving us Jonah Hill to get sick of.

Rule #179: Gee, O P!

I don’t really care that Herman Cain is allegedly a serial sexual harasser or that Rick Perry lost his bearings on live TV. First off, neither one of those qualities has ever kept a Republican from political success. Also, neither one will ever be president.

Rule #179-B: Texas Toast

“Perry’s Third Thing” would be an awesome name for a band. Or a horror flick.

Rule #180: Banner manners


There has to be something that can’t be sponsored.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Drill, maybe, drill

Yesterday, one of my friends posted this as his Facebook status: 

“Against drilling? Park it and walk.”

Well, you got me there. I don’t support limitless drilling for oil, so I am a hypocrite for driving a car. And for riding a bike that requires lubrication. And presumably for walking on a sidewalk made with petroleum products. Huh. That was easy.

It’s just like when tea party types assemble on public streets to call for an end to taxes. Well, no. That’s actually hypocritical. It directly addresses an unwitting irony that shows exactly how insipid that position is. The drilling quote is more like those false-dichotomy statements that Bush supporters assaulted us with back in 2003: “You’re against the war in Iraq? Why do you support terrorism?”

The problem with statements like these is that they misrepresent the issue. I would guess most people are not against oil drilling. Maybe they’re against new oil drilling, or drilling in protected environments, or unchecked drilling when it’s a dangerous proposition. Those are hardly dastardly stances. Of those who do oppose drilling, I’d guess all of them are in favor of alternative energy. It seems stupid to point that out, but some really seem to think that some are calling for an end to energy as we know it.

This ties into the dubious notion that fossil fuels are the only viable form of energy we have. It’s true that, right now, they are the most viable. But that’s mainly through a combination of inertia and undersupported research. As long as we have a financially and politically dominant petrochemical industry in the U.S., alternative energy will always face an uphill climb. It’s ignorant to pretend that merits alone are driving this debate.

I, for one, would love to drive a car that doesn’t run on gas or other fossil fuels. The problem is, there currently aren’t any cars like that. Electric cars suffer from short range, lack of infrastructure and often require energy from coal-fired power plants. Even hybrids use gas, and they’re out of my price range anyway. Until we have an abundance of physically feasible and affordable alternative-energy cars, people like me will continue to have to employ vehicles for which power sources are less than ideal. (And that goes equally for public-transportation users; buses and trains still require fuel.)

In the real world, life’s like that. You have to compromise every single day. Compromise doesn’t make you unprincipled; it means you’re able to adapt to life’s realities. And that’s something that conservatives should really try sometime. It’s got to beat twisting reality into bizarre shapes all the time.

Park that!

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This is pretty much the first moment November has let up on me. And even here, at 3:54 a.m., I'm battling a sore throat and runny nose that I've had for more than a week now.

You know you've had an intense week when you find yourself staring at the score of the Sunday night NFL game, and you can't comprehend either what the score is or who's playing. And this happens like five times in a row.

Time to sleep, I guess. I don't know. I'm too tired to decide.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

This conversation happened

(A deep, dark place, August 2011)

"It appears that Ian set up a utilities account with us a month ago."

"What? That's not right!"

"Yep. It appears we sent him a letter with his name and account number and everything."

"Well, what shall we do?"

"Close it out, of course!"

"Shall we notify him?"

"He'll become aware of it in three months when we shut off his power in the middle of the afternoon."

"That doesn't seem fair."

"Oh, but of course we will notify him first. We'll send him notices. Several a week, in fact. They will absolutely pile up in his mailbox and later on his kitchen island, and then in the return-to-sender box and on the desk of his apartment manager. They will grow like kudzu."

"What if he's the responsible sort and nips it in the bud?"

"We thought of that, which is why we're flipping the account back to the name of the previous tenant, Clarissa."

"So we're going to send him mail addressed to the apartment's previous tenant, and expect him to open it, let alone pay it?"

"Hey, a bill's a bill."

"Fair enough. But is Clarissa in fact the previous tenant?"

"Hell if I know! But with the amount of mail Ian gets every day addressed to a list of previous tenants that seems to grow with every passing month, he probably won't notice one way or the other."

"I heard there were some names even the apartment manager didn't recognize."

"That was probably one of the big banks. Their mail machine just randomly generates names now. Why didn't we think of that?"

"I'll tell you what the banks didn't think of: Charging Ian for a second connection fee for something that wasn't his fault and never, ever happens to anyone else, ever."

"Well, to be fair, Ian apparently didn't find it suspicious that he hadn't paid a bill in two months."

"Though when confronted, he'll probably just say that he had a letter that said he had a credit for overpayment in August. And also that he thought he had set up a debit plan with us. And also that his power never went off. And also that he is still adjusting to a new city and new work/waking hours, let alone scrutinize his bank statement for bills he just assumes are coming out automatically each month. Or that at some point, he figures somebody's going to approach him and ask why he's being such a deadbeat. You know, just to let him know he's delinquent if nothing else. Kind of like every other service does."

"But we will. He's just won't be opening them. That's his fault."

"How is it his fault if the letters aren't even addressed to him?"

"He could still open them, if only to figure out why he keeps getting them."

"Isn't opening someone else's mail a federal offense?"

"Who would complain if someone else pays their bill?"

"Why would he pay someone else's bill? After all, it's not like she bothered to change her address on anything else."

"But it's his bill, just with her name on it!"

"Not following the logic here."

"People pay other peoples' bills all the time. Married couples, for example."

"They've never met."

"Doesn't matter. He knows he lives there and she doesn't. The name doesn't matter, the apartment number does."

"But...we already switched it over to his name. Have you forgotten that? We're switching it back to hers? That never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER happens! He is absolutely not going to follow that train of thought, because it's totally insane!"

"Well, I guess we'll have to switch to plan B."

"Which is?"

"When he figures out his power is dead, all his refrigerated food has perished and he can't see in his bathroom, he will call us. And we'll tell him his power has been shut down for lack of payment. And that he can only get it back on if he sprints to our office across town before it shuts down for the evening in half an hour."

"What if he hangs up and tries again?"

"Then we'll tell him it's not his fault, that the apartment complex actually switched it over to their name."

"What if he talks to his neighbors and finds out that none of them had that happen to them, and he calls back a third time?"

"Then we'll tell him we don't know what's going on, but we can put in an order to have it turned back on within a couple of days, as long as he pays $300."

"What if he checks with the apartment management, who tell him that no such thing should ever happen?"

"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, they'll probably comp him by letting him spend the night in their show apartment, which is much bigger than his and has an opulent bed and bathtub, and also very good wi-fi."

"And how will that make his life appropriately miserable?"

"He'll realize only in the middle of the night that the opulent show bed has no sheets under the comforter, and that he has to use his button-down shirt as a rudimentary cover."

"Ha! By the way, what does Ian do for a living?"

"I don't know. But I know for sure he isn't a writer or anything like that, who'd ever mine this for material."

"Eeeexcellent."