Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I'm writing a novel now ... sheesh

I've officially entered into National Novel Writing Month, also known by its abbreviation, Nanny Nanny Boo Boo.

The goal of the event is to write a 50,000-word work of fiction by the end of November. The official website allows authors to upload their work, update word count, chat with other participants and professionals and plan meetups. If you accomplish the mission, you get a certificate (and, presumably, a big meal-ticket hunk of manuscript).

I've already got 1,000 words. I already feel like I'm going to fail.

But here's one taste:

Dynamic Communications Models, LLC was not the kind of place anyone worked to make a difference. People worked there because they had a lot of bills to pay, and wanted some cash left over to play golf or get mani-pedis for their pets. Initiatives came from the top and trickled down to everyone below. From an omniscient view, the cubicle farm on the middle floor seemed designed to catch those ideas like a stack of wine glasses arranged to catch rotgut. People came in, did their duty and left at 5 p.m. sharp to drink or pursue the spoils of affluence.

Craig didn't quite fit in with the DCM crowd, but that was OK with him. The office didn't really lend itself to camaraderie. Cubicle partitions walled up workplace neighbors, leading to the same benign isolation they no doubt preferred in their gated suburban communities. Punch in, punch out. As far as Craig was concerned, his life lay outside these walls. Whenever people asked him what he did, he told people he worked here only because it satisfied the query. In his mind, it didn't define him.

What he did like about the job is that, in his field at least, it held cachet. Meaning, he could put it on his résumé later and not have another gap to justify. Because there were already three of those. 

Also, it begins with a hostage situation. And it's funny. I hope.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fumbling around in red states

Permit me to play one of my least favorite weapons, the equivalency card. Sorry in advance.

The Obama campaign recently released a video spot featuring Lena Dunham of Girls comparing her first time voting to, well, tee hee.

Predictably, Republican leaders and pundits got their chastity belts in an iron knot over this, saying a presidential candidate put his name on such filthy insinuation.

But the Party of Reagan (or at least the Party of the Idea of Reagan) overlooked that Ronald Reagan himself made a similar (but more explicit) version of the same joke in 1980. Oops!

Come to think of it, the equivalency card doesn't apply here. Last I checked, Lena Dunham isn't running for president and this isn't three days before the election.

Though it is equivalent in the sense that I'm fine with it in both instances because I'm not a hypocritical prude.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paper bag hyperventilating

As of now, I'm officially turning in my New Orleans Saints fan card. At least for this season.

It's not because I hate the team (though its current bastardized form is in several literal and tangible respects the worst ever). It's because sports is supposed to be a release, and watching such subpar "football" only serves to make me depressed. And I'm already depressed. 

Depressed because the NFL has such a taint to it this year. It's bad enough as a Saints fan post-Bountygate; it's worse to see the Falcons be the best team in the league. It hurts to have snarling fans of other teams tell me things like, "Told you this would happen! You were naive to expect anything else." I never wanted the haters to be right. I wanted my increasingly selective optimism, not their smug pessimism, to rule the day.

Depressed because, on a more personal level, I'm struggling to get back on my feet. I've stayed busy and productive but have little to show for it. I'm not in the best place. It's mostly my fault, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Sadly, this isn't the first time I've been here and it may not be the last. I'm hopeful for the future, but for now it's still the future.

This year's Saints remind me of myself. For both of us, 2012 is a mulligan year seemingly destined from the outset to bring disaster due to past mistakes and the questionable handling thereof. There's always next year, but it's a question of getting through the remaining months first. The fuel that will guide us back to success is what we learn from the hardship.

I feel that pain every time I look in the mirror. I don't need to see it on TV too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

That ever-fickle poseur vote

I once knew a guy, a poli-sci major, with whom I had numerous political arguments. This was because I was a firebrand liberal and he was a cocky, Republican-leaning libertarian. Our clashes peaked around the dawn of the Iraq War, with all the fun that implies.

Sometimes, though, he'd ask me what "we" could do as liberals to have "our" message resonate again. (I found that approach cynical even before he suggested with a straight face that Alan Colmes should be the national voice of the Democratic Party due to his forcefulness.) Our next encounter would see him right back at the Republican table. It was all so strange.

But I've come to see in the years since that quite a few people do this — all right-wingers masquerading as liberals, apparently, because I can't think of an opposite example who isn't Stephen Colbert. And he's kidding.

Take Rob Taub. Please. He's as bad at this game as anyone. Let us count the ways:

1) He's blogging for Fox News. I mean, come on.

2) Taub, a Democrat, takes every opportunity to remind us of his Democratic leanings and that he, as a Democrat, and other Democrats just like him are jumping ship on Obama. And we should take notice, because he's a Democrat! Because that is what Democrats do when talking to other Democrats! Constantly say they're Democrats!

3) His stated disappointment with Obama is that the president hasn't done enough to fulfill his promises, and thus the logical solution is to elect Mitt Romney. Sure, OK. I'll take "Things no actual liberal ever says" for $800, Alex.

4) He blames Obama's failings on his desire to balance his family and political lives, because all successful Democrats love government and hate families, right? Yeah. That's what made JFK special, and why no one remembers his family.

5) Divisive. Class warfare. Deficit. Bloated. Reform. George Soros. I bet Taub wanted to mention ACORN or Solyndra so bad, but that would be too obvious.

6) His only two pieces for Fox News include this one and another one titled, "I'm a Democrat and may vote for Romney." In that one, he says he's disgusted with Obama because "I’m unhappy with out of control spending and incompetent bureaucrats who seem to have no concern or regard about how they spend my hard-earned money." In other words, it's actually worse. 

First rule of propaganda: it's got to be believable.

Second rule of propaganda: Don't get Rob Taub to write it.

Third rule of propaganda: if you need propaganda, you are losing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Found photo of the week

I'm starting a new, probably irregular feature called "Found Photo." I have thousands of photos both in my phone and in boxes. Sometimes I just want to share them for no particular reason and/or with no particular context. Just so you can scratch your head even more about my life. Happy Friday!

"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes your mom in a baby carriage. But before all that, I gotta finish making the world safe for democracy."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What it takes to get elected in Louisiana

Quote of the Day, sponsored by Summer's Eve

"If your traffic sucks, it isn’t because your readers just don’t get your particular brand of genius, it’s that they have determined you aren’t worth reading. Period."John Cole

I must have missed the enormous spike in traffic from everyone in America checking out my blog and deciding it wasn't for them. You're a sly mother, Invisible Hand!

And here I thought the dip in my readership — which could never be described as "not scant" to begin with — had to do with years of shifting from blogs to social networking as a prime form of online communication. Or that I perpetrated an elaborate April Fool's joke in 2005 that worked too well in getting me dropped from blogrolls. Or that presidents and political climates have changed over the past 8 1/2 years. Or the simple fact that people lose interest both in me and in blogs in general.

Turns out, I'm just not worth reading. Bummer.

Neither is Cole, really.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

About that Donald Trump thing

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a "bombshell" some kind of alarming revelation? I don't think some stupid publicity-stunt offer qualifies.

I mean, I offered a girl $3 for a program at a football game Tuesday night, and I don't think anyone would consider that a bombshell. 

The fact that I had $3 in the first place, on the other hand, might count.

The worst thing about being poor

Being poor in America is, in some respects, like having full-blown AIDS.

When you have AIDS, the virus compromises your immune system to the point where the most pedestrian pathogen can kill you.

When you’re poor, you can’t afford to fix small problems, which can then turn into huge ones. A leaky faucet. A flat tire. Illness. The list goes on.

There’s also the uncertainty that accompanies being poor, much like with any terminal diagnosis. That’s probably the scariest part of all. You can’t be sure where you’ll be a few months down the road. All you know is that it won’t take much for you to potentially lose everything, and that event is all but inevitable. It’s terrifying and exasperating. It’s hard to maintain a healthy and productive attitude with those thoughts and feelings beating down on you.

Plenty of people will never know this anguish, at least financially. They are the ones who, through whatever channel, have sufficient security to ensure that they can rectify a small setback. More power to them, but I hope that their situation does not detach them from the realities of struggle among others.

I hope I won’t ever forget what it’s like to struggle, either through my own observations or through the struggles of others I know and love.

The economic crisis in America is a preventable condition, but so many of our politicians treat it like AIDS. Not in the sense of urgency to treat the victims of the epidemic, but rather that it’s worth stigmatizing and marginalizing. “Live by sin, die by sin. If you aren’t smart enough to avoid affliction, then that’s your problem.”


Romnesia, meet Obamfidence

Watch this video of President Obama giving a postmortem on the previous night's debate. On top of making great points, he does something at 4:02 that transcends his immediate remarks.

I jolted when I heard it. Maybe because I'm not used to politicians, even Obama, articulate a point that so badly needed articulating. It's like when someone in a group is being a jerk and everyone lets them get away with it to keep the peace, but then one day someone launches into them with one cutting statement and everyone's relieved. The build-up itself is something to behold, but the casual aside takes it to a new level. "There's a theme here — he keeps on loving stuff and then, wants to end it or cut it or not help it!" Even in the negative arena of politics, you rarely hear something that comes off so unmeasured in a non-gaffe sense (even if it was measured). 

But even more importantly is the manner in which Obama talks here. This is a man who is confident and playing offense. Even your most gifted orators can fake confidence only to a degree. For all of this media narrative about a horse race, the election reminds me more (as you might imagine) of Super Bowl XLIV. Obama is the Saints and Mitt Romney is the Colts — one team playing to win and another playing not to lose. One team that will chance the mid-game onside kick and one relying on a tried-and-true playbook that everyone's already read. It's close for a long time, everyone's nervous and it could theoretically come down to the last play — but the final score tells a different story. Let's hope.

I like confidence. And I love what's behind that confidence.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teen Wolf, the rewrite

I'm a big fan of The Editing Room, a site that features condensed parody scripts of real movies. I wanted in on the action, so I wrote a treatment for one of my favorite 1980s flicks, Teen Wolf.

Int. Gymnasium

Basketball game. The BEAVERS are losing 71-12. They SUCK.

You guys suck.

You’ve scored only 71 against us. Most teams score 300. You suck too.

Not going so well, is it, coach?

Well, Mr. Vice Principal, our team is every combination of short, fat, pale, awful and Michael J. Fox. And the other team has a black guy.

Maybe this dramatic buzzer-beater shot will make it 71-15!


Ext. Gymnasium


Michael, I’m in love with you. I’m sweet and cute and we’ve been best friends since we were infants, so I’d think you’d have picked up on it by now.
Picked up on what?

Never mind.

Why won’t Lorie Griffin say two words to me?

Because she’s a stuck-up, manipulative bitch with a psychotic boyfriend. You share nothing in common and she isn’t even as cute as me. She’s eighties-shampoo-commercial hot at best.

I know. I’m smitten!

Ext. Tony’s Liquor Store

MICHAEL J. FOX and JERRY LEVINE are trying to buy a keg of beer but they are UNDERAGE.

I’m zany enough to rip friends off for money, design obnoxious yet PG-rated T-shirts, surf on top of a moving van and concoct an elaborate plan to buy a keg of beer that almost worked, but I’m not clever enough to make myself a fake ID. Or to realize that this is a futile plan because any teenage house party is already drowning in beer.

Fortunately for us, I suddenly have red eyes and a growling voice for some reason. Be right back with that keg.

Int. House

A HOUSE PARTY rages, filled with PG-rated POT SMOKING and SEX ACTS.

Time to play Seven Minutes in Heaven!

I volunteer to make out with Michael.

I volunteer to make out with Lorie.

Get lost!

She said two words to you! Now get in here.

SUSAN and MICHAEL go in the closet. They MAKE OUT.

That was the greatest seven minutes of my life.

Mine too. I want Lorie more than ever.

Oddly enough, neither the fact that this happened nor your indifference over it will at all change the nature of our friendship. It’s as if this never happened.

Int. Michael’s house

MICHAEL J. FOX feels SICK. He staggers into the bathroom like he is DRUNK, but really he is turning into a WEREWOLF.

Son, are you being a werewolf in there?

How did you know?

Because I’m a werewolf too. Look.


Why didn’t you tell me?

Because sometimes it skips generations.

It still might be useful to know, you know, in case my kid ever got it and I was tempted to impale him with a stake.

I never thought of that.

Int. Gymnasium

The BEAVERS are playing basketball. They SUCK. They are losing to the ARMIES. Suddenly MICHAEL recovers a loose ball and turns into a WEREWOLF.

What the hell?

Yeah, what the hell?

I’m freaking out in a foreshadowy way here...

I’m not a real coach or a real actor, so why should I care what the hell’s happening?


What the hell just hap—mmm, Twinkie!

This turns me on for some reason.

No point in doing anything about this until I see his dunking skills.

The WEREWOLF is the BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER ever. He is not immediately thrown off the court for being a WEREWOLF or for playing like he used INSTANT STEROIDS. The BEAVERS win the game.

So being a werewolf makes you a better basketball player. Huh.

It makes you more popular too!

And great at acting!

I want to have sex with you now. And then discard you like a used tampon.

We’re winning all our games. I’d care more if I didn’t mastermind TV shows in real life.

All of my dreams are coming true!

You’re a one-man team and the rest of us resent that.

Whatever it takes to win and for me to be the star.

I like Michael, not the wolf.

I can live with that, best friend ever.

Be careful, son. With great power comes great responsibility.

Whatever, Dad.

Int. Gymnasium

It’s the school’s SPRING DANCE. Michael arrives as the WEREWOLF. The DJ puts on the song “BIG BAD WOLF” and everyone immediately DANCES in perfect unison.

You dance great like werewolves do. Can I have Michael for a minute? I want to make out and not have to pick hair out of my teeth afterward.

Sure. But let’s make sure they never show that process. Either my hair all falls into my suit and on the floor, or it draws painfully back into my follicles. Either way, no one wants to see that.

They leave the dance floor and MAKE OUT. Seven minutes later, they go back in googly-eyed and in love. MICHAEL makes eye contact with LORIE and forgets all about SUSAN.

Lorie’s mine!

It’s actually kind of hard to tell that.

By the way, I killed your mom a long time ago.

Eh, bygones.

Your girlfriend is a tramp.


MICHAEL WOLFS OUT and slashes off MARK’s shirt. Everyone LAUGHS for some reason.

You’re expelled, wolf freak.

Not so fast. Remember me? We used to be rivals years ago, conveniently enough.

Because I need a reason to hate the wolf other than that he's a popular mutant freak with mad b-ball skills and with his whole life ahead of him.


You would too. Come on!

Int. School hallway

I quit the basketball team to be in the school play with Lorie, except I’m not doing either the play or Lorie anymore.

You can’t quit! I still have zany hijinks left to do.

And I’m here being supportive for reasons I can’t explain. Even Ike Turner thinks I’m taking too much abuse.

Well, today is the championship game. I guess I should at least show up. But not until halftime. Coach will put me in then, because this is a movie and that’s how sports works in movies.

Int. Gymnasium

It’s the CHAMPIONSHIP BASKETBALL GAME. The BEAVER-WOLVES are playing the DRAGONS, the team with MARK. The BEAVER-WOLVES are LOSING, because they SUCK when their team consists only of HUMANS. Just before halftime, MICHAEL walks in. The entire gym goes instantly SILENT, because HOLLYWOOD.

Michael, glad you’re here. It’s like, the championship and stuff. Can you wolf out so we can win by 200 points or whatever?



It’s good to be loved for who I am. This is all I ever wanted. I will play as myself.


Whatever you want to do. I don’t, like, care.

The CLIMAX of the movie plays out without the title character. But the BEAVER-WOLVES win in the end as the song “WIN IN THE END” plays. They win by ONE POINT, because they SUCK. The CROWD parties on the court, with one extra EXPOSING HIMSELF, which won’t be caught until someone invents the INTERNET.

We won! 52-51!

We only scored 51 in the championship game?

That does seem artificially low, even for nine white guys.

Also, aren’t I like 20 years old and a convict in the movie? Why am I playing high school basketball in the first place? Or dating an underage girl? Or freely admitting to killing your mom? Man, I’m an awful guy. I BELONG in the slammer.


So, Lorie, will you say more than two words to me, finally?

Drop dead, Michael.

That was like, three words and stuff. Nice.

I love you, Susan!

I dysfunctionally love you too, Michael! And your dad!

Excuse me, guys. I gotta go film some future movie now and pretend that this gig never happened for the next 25 years.

Michael, I’m your zany new agent. I got you a film role in TEEN WOLF TOO!

Not a chance, Jerry. They can cast Jason Bateman as my cousin. And cast some other actor for your role who looks, sounds and acts nothing like you.

And rewrite the script! Just kidding. They won’t.


Conversation with an undecided voter

“I’m not sure who I’m voting for on Nov. 6.”

“You mean, in local and statewide races?”

“No, for president.”



“Interesting ... thinking of going third-party, huh?”

“No, it’s not that. I’m going to vote for either Obama or Romney; I just can’t decide which.”


“Yeah. Why, is that weird?”

“It’s just that I didn’t think people like you existed.”

“Why wouldn’t we?”

“It just seems like the two candidates are so different that they don’t open themselves up to a close choice.”

“Well, that’s just it. See, I like some of Obama’s positions, but I also like where Romney stands on others.”

“Like what?”

“I like that Obama is dedicated to health care reform, but I don’t like Obamacare.”

“So you like where Romney stands on health care reform?”

“Yes. I mean, I guess. I don’t really know what he’d do, but it’s got to be better than Obamacare.”

“What else?”

“I like how Obama’s been successful with getting Osama bin Laden, regime change in Libya and drawing down in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, Romney says we need to be strong. If we say we’re strong, the world will know it. That’s important.”


“Both say they want lower taxes. So that’s a wash.”

“Actually, the candidates espouse very different proposals for which tax cuts to keep, with each saying the other’s plan would destabilize the economy.”

“Right. Like I said, they’re exactly the same.”

“Well, there’s also the way they compose themselves. That’s important in a world leader.”

“Obama is calm, cool and collected. That’s good, sometimes. Romney is aggressive, take-charge and tells everyone when it’s their turn to speak. That’s good, sometimes. They’re both good, sometimes. Not a dime. Not a dime.”

“How about abortion rights? Certainly you feel strongly about that.”

“Obama wants them legal and safe. Can’t argue with that. Romney is pro-life. Life is also a good thing. Both like good things. Tough call.”

“This is as exasperatingly hard to write as I imagine it would be to actually hold this conversation.”

“I know, right?”

“I’m not trying to sway your vote in either direction, but consider this — on every topic we’ve discussed, it’s Obama’s actions versus Romney’s vague rhetoric. Do you feel there’s an equivalency there?”

“What does ‘equivalency’ mean?”

“Never mind.”

“I guess I’ll vote for Romney. Maybe.”

“I see you’ve decided. Well, good for you. What finally sealed the deal?”

“My Facebook friend posted a LOLcat about how we needed to throw all the Washington fatcats out on their paws.”

“In other words, you’re a simpleton.”

“I do like to keep things simple, so yeah.”


To say nothing of the mutton-chop budget

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two out of three for the home team

The Narrow Church of Religion

I once had a conversation with a Christian friend about a church — the Universal Life Church — that would legally ordain anyone for a small fee. She asked me if the church was Christian, and I replied that I thought it was. She then asked if the church opposed abortion. To which I said, I doubt it.

“It can’t be a Christian church if it doesn’t make a priority of protecting the sanctity of life,” she said.

I’ve long been used to Christians of various stripes declaring that only people who believe exactly as they do (at least on political wedge issues) can count themselves as honest adherents of a religion 1 billion people claim. But there’s still something about it that gets me every time I hear it. Even when the questioning in question involves one of America’s fastest-decaying tropes, that Barack Obama is not a proper Christian.

First off, I don’t give the first damn what religion Obama is. I would be perfectly happy if he had no religion at all. I think it’s pathetic that he, and every other American politician, has to fall all over himself to prove he’s a churchgoing man. I know plenty of churchgoing people and plenty of amazingly moral people and the overlap is not identical. Whatever moral guidance Obama follows as a person, a family man and a leader, it seems to work. We should be content to leave it at that.

Still, I find it imperative to defend Christianity from many of its Christians. The arguments they make about who or who isn’t a good Christian — and of course, the accusers are always the good ones — relies on a provincialism that borders on ridiculous. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic area (and attending Catholic church on the rare occasion that my family bothered to go), my association of what church was gelled very early — big cathedral, bells, organs, priests, holy water, incense, communion, the rosary, etc. On some level I knew that there were other religions, but I guess I figured the differences were slight at best. The way the Catholics did church was church.

When I was eight years old, my parents got back together after years of separation. Never the most religious people, my parents nevertheless decided we’d try out some churches. So for several Sundays in the summer of 1988, we hopped between different churches in upscale neighborhoods I’d seen only fleetingly through the windows of my school bus. And each one was completely different — one featured a snooze-inducing sermon I remember only for a McDonald’s reference that briefly woke me up for half a second; another was a semicircle auditorium where a band played throughout the service. I’d later realize that these and other churches we attended in that span were all Protestant (mainly Baptist) churches. I remember asking my mom during the band services, “This is church?”

This phase didn’t last long, and we eventually reverted back to our normal routine of attending the Church of NFL Gameday. But the lesson I learned from these sojourns was that not everyone celebrates God in the same way. If Christians have such a wide spectrum of practice just among themselves, what else have I never considered about Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and everyone else? Even if those thoughts took a while to grasp, the seed still took root in my mind as early as that summer adventure.

I guess that’s why it’s so hard for me to accept that an adult, someone who has by definition spent decades living and learning, would be so ignorant about another’s beliefs. Saying Obama can’t be Christian because he doesn’t speak the language of “born again” is like me saying Americans who don’t celebrate Mardi Gras can’t party. (Maybe that’s a bad example. But you see my point, right?)

Everywhere I’ve ever lived was ground zero for one denomination or other, be it the Cajun Catholics, Assemblies of God or the Mormons. And in all of those places, someone said at some point, “I hope I’m doing the right thing so I don’t go to hell.” Every time, they were referring to some dogmatic practice of which I was only vaguely aware. And I always reply, “Well, if that’s all it takes to go hell, I’ll see you there. There’s better dancing there, anyway.” Sometimes they laugh; sometimes they don’t.

The point is, I think it’s stupid and hypocritically judgmental for Christians to insist President Obama isn’t a Christian, or otherwise isn’t the right kind of Christian. Those people need to step out of their comfy confines once in a while. Assuming that’s actually the issue, which it may not be. In that case, I’d have more respect if those people just admitted that they don’t like Obama’s policies. Or him, period.

It’s hard to claim the mantel of Jesus while not caring about the poor, coveting and lying.

I still say it's true

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An economic metaphor

Last week, I was downloading some movie footage onto my computer (for entirely legal purposes, I swear). Such a process usually goes smoothly, but this time kept interrupting itself. After about the fifth time this happened (and several movements into my anger dance), my laptop informed me that it was almost out of memory. Specifically, I had 191 megabytes left. Wow.

I write way too much, I thought. But then I remembered Neil DeGrasse Tyson's quote about how cuts to PBS would be like deleting text files to free up a 500 gigabyte hard drive (meaning they're light files), and searched for more likely memory-hogging culprits.

First went some unneeded photos from iPhoto. That was good for about another minute of movie.

Next, I jettisoned some iMovie footage, guaranteeing I'll have to re-download it (or reshoot it) if I need it again. That gave me another two minutes or so.

Then I uninstalled some innocent programs that I assume I will miss at some point. The difference was negligible.

Finally, exasperated, I erased a bunch of videos I've posted on YouTube, which I now have to watch on YouTube to see. That one bugged me the most. And it barely budged the needle.

After going Independence Day on my creative files, I realized that I had two massive film files I'd compiled as a gift for my dad — one hour each of home videos from his childhood that I'd put on DVD. I'd erased it in iMovie, but still had the raw footage lurking around. The two files alone occupied about 20 gigs of space. If I'd bumped that first, I would have been able to keep everything else, with enough memory left over to download virtually the entire movie if I'd wanted it.

Though, no doubt, some might have objected to the trashing of the heavy clips. They were the best part, they'd say. The most sentimental. The ones that made iMovie worth using in the first place. And their storage would be worth every smaller entity taking a hit for the team.

What I'm saying is, the wealthy need to burn a DVD already.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moody swings

Several thoughts immediately sprung to mind after I read Daniel Ellsberg's call for progressives in swing states to vote Obama (no matter how traumatic that might be):

• Political utopians of any stripe, no matter how much they've helped America over the years, can be so insufferable. They're so proud of voting against people that it's amazing they stand for anything.

• A lot of progressives apparently lament living in a state where their presidential vote matters. Any of you want to trade? There are plenty of deaf ears for your third-party statement vote to fall upon here in the South!

• The only way a president could ever appease these people is to never have to compromise or otherwise wait out the political/logistical process. For that to happen, the president would have to be a dictator, which is sort of the opposite of a president.

• Obama doesn't endorse everything he has yet to stop. These murky comparisons to Bush say more about the argumentative nature of those pushing them than about the president.

Still, Ellsberg makes a good point, if not exactly one that should ever have to be said — Don't vote for Romney or a spoiler strictly out of spite. Spite is always a stupid reason to vote, but is so especially in this cycle. (If the backlash is this bad for Obama, can you imagine the backlash Kucinich or Paul would get during their second cycles? "We had such HIGH HOPES!" Where will they go from there? Maher-Leary 2024?)

Crap. I just probably gave them an idea they'll take seriously.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dennis Miller's endorsement of Mitt Romney

By Dennis Miller
(Not really)

I’ve been scrutinizing the 2012 campaign like an airport security guard giving a thrice-over to Hayden Panettiere’s full-body scan. And I’ve gotta tell you, Mitt Romney is the round, throbbing peg we need to fill America’s rapidly expanding sinkhole.

Now I don’t mean to go off on a rant here, but Romney is America: white, corporate and graying at the temples. He’s the love child of Donald Trump and John Wayne’s portrayal of Genghis Khan, which gives him the experience and authority to ban gay love (and contraceptives). Mitt’s a Latter-day Saint, and like the Saints, his team’s likely to get one win in the debates. But do the debates really matter? After all, Rutherford B. Hayes had a particularly memorable barnburner back in 1876, and he still pulled a proto-Carter.

One thing I like about Romney is his name, Mitt. That’s a nickname for a glove, as in baseball. As in, Field of Dreams. As in, national pastime. As in, apple pie. As in, America! Also, vagina.

(Let’s not even get into what Barack’s name sounds like. Orly Taitz already has enough knots in her lederhosen.)

Speaking of vagina, feminism has given Uncle Sam a vasectomy that Obamacare won’t cover, and us taxpayers are footing the bill. Romney will ensure that it’s January in America again. Look at January Jones. She makes me a Mad Man in a happy way. Not like those feminazis with the Klingon Joker faces they got from headbanging against the glass ceiling 18 million times. Mitt knows a woman’s place is in the house, not the Senate getting slut pills on demand from Sandra Fluke’s marijuana dispensary. He’ll turn off the Vagina Monologues stereotypes faster than you can say Lilith Fair.

Also, Mitt’s going to get the economy back on Ayn Rand’s railroad track. Right now, the IRS is Tron, and we’re the Red Guy. Romney will slash everyone’s tax rate like he’s emo and taxes are his pale wrists. He’ll also slip a LiveStrong bracelet onto that wrist, which constitutes his health care plan.

What we’re dealing with here in 2012 is Othello vs. the Game of Life. What’s the best that can happen in Othello? It’s just a bunch of black and white pieces. You outflank your opponent enough times and when you win, you pack up the game and go home. It takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master. A lifetime is a lot longer than four more years! Obama is also Othello in the Shakespearean sense (though if you went to public school, I’ll bet dollars to vouchers that reference is as useless to you as Extenze is to Milton Berle).

On the other hand, if you win in the Game of Life, you’re awash in luxury — giant mansions, lots of cash, insurance up the hemorrhoids, cars with round sunroofs for your wife and five blue pegs — and you can turn that giant Wheel of Fortune dial to your heart’s content. Mitt Romney is the Game of Life. Take a spin! And enjoy this promissory note while you’re at it.

Perhaps most importantly, we need a D.C. Cab to pick up Mitt Romney because it’ll be like 2000 again. Remember that glorious era? I do. I was still at the top of my game. But, as they say, everything changed after 9/11. And things need to change again. Because change didn’t work out the first time. Which is why all I have is change in my pocket. Call me Chad, because I’m dangling by a Kate Moss-thin thread. That reference is as fresh as a loaf of bread from 2000, which is all I have to eat, because Fox News pays like Bain Capital owns it. I’m going to pull myself up by my bootstraps, but I need your help! Vote Romney-Ryan in 2012!

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be in the 1 percent.

You need to stop saying...

“Can we get this election over with already?”

I’m sorry, is politics boring you? Is it making you uncomfortable? Do you find it irrelevant? Maybe you’ve been approaching it the wrong way. Think of it this way: the election determines the leader of the free world. And in most parts of the country, that’s the least it will do. So maybe you should at least see what the hoopla is all about. This goes double if you’ve talked about any reality show this year as if the stars are friends of yours. You want to feel like part of something? This is it!

“They’re both the same anyway.”

Yeah, in the sense that a paper airplane and a 747 are both planes. What you’re really saying is that any broad comparison is sufficient grounds for dismissing both candidates. And what I hear is that you’ll take any excuse to not have to pick a side, because picking a side is for unhip sheep. Or something.

“They should have let other candidates in the debate.”

Because the debates are about letting principled people speak, rather than who has a legit shot at winning the election, right? I know it’s a travesty they didn’t allow the Contrarian Turd Party on stage, but if they let everyone on who had an opinion, not a lot would get said. Or is that the idea?

“Why can’t the candidates be more civilized?”

For the same reason most shows and stories involve fights, crime, backstabbing, explosions and/or something missing — because conflict sells. And any political campaign involving two opposing philosophies is, by definition, conflict. There can be too much conflict, sure, but there can also be too little. A campaign where the candidates are civilized and never clash would be the most boring thing ever. It’s hard enough to get people to pay attention when it’s interesting, so who’s to say that would be better?

“The latest polls say...”

Let me tell you about polls. A pollster can ask you, “Did Mitt Romney exceed expectations at this debate?” You can be a dedicated Obama voter and say yes to that. That same voter could also agree with the statement, “Obama did not give me confidence in his first debate.” So, keep that in mind when you read the latest poll. (Also, polls can be partisan and/or unscientific, just like people.)

“Mitt Romney won the second debate.”

Only if he already won you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Remember this about "incentive"

Despite all of the talk you hear about higher taxes shutting down incentive and productivity, or any of the numerous related arguments about how we must coddle the rich lest they go Galt and tank the economy, consider this:

No one will ever stop trying to accumulate wealth. No capitalist game-player will trade their aspirations to be poor for any reason, up to and including everything they claim makes "lucky duckies" of poor people. Even if the top tax rate was in the high 90s, those people would still choose to make as much money as possible to stay in that bracket.

How do I know? Because, for one, we used to have a tax rate of 94 percent, at a time of historic American prosperity — and the 1950s and 1960s weren't exactly known for mass Galt-going. 

Second, the same people oppose any kind of support for the poor. They allege that poor people won't have any incentive to lift themselves up if we provide basic necessities. It's a staggering double standard.

Third, again, no one wants to be poor. At least, no one who would otherwise have had the drive to be rich if tax policies were in their favor. Anyone who is that touchy has problems that go a lot deeper than dislike of taxes.

On the other hand, higher taxes on the rich would give us badly needed government revenue while not hurting their bank accounts all that badly.

Just something to consider.

And neither is lunch

So a house in my neighborhood has this sign in their front yard, next to their Romney-Ryan placard:

Now, I've never been much for the slogan, "Freedom isn't free." Though true in principle, the phrase — as is the case with so many like it — has been hijacked by hawkish conservatives as justification for endless war and, ironically enough, erosion of freedoms. For them, America is a nightclub where the cover charge is your civil liberties in exchange for security. Proper dress and ID required.

Freedom isn't free. But according to this household, it used to be. Which means that prior to whatever point God needed to step in to save the country, these people said with confidence, "Why yes, freedom is free." Then one day, it became not free anymore.

I can only imagine what day that was. Gee, golly.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Making my movie debut tonight. Bring your barf bag.

Remember that fake acting career I had going for a few months? Well, it begins paying off tonight.

American Horror House debuts at 8 p.m. Central on SyFy Network. Catch the trailer below, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing (if you can digest nickels, you're on the right track). It's gross, is what I'm saying. But it's also totally worth it, because you get to see me!

Look for me in the trailer above at 0:09 and 0:10, near the middle, and at the bottom right in the death scene at 1:11. I'm wearing my Lafayette High football jersey.

Where's Waldo? When you find him, I'm at his right.
When Morgan Fairchild says "kill her" at 1:04, she is staring into my lifeless eyes.

Check that off my bucket list.

I hope my vomit close-up made the final cut.

Read my blog about the shoot. And sweet dreams!

The debate debate

Biden unleashed factual fury and won on all fronts

By Ian McGibboney
Cub Blogger
Not Right About Anything

Going into the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured, at least in principle, that it was Biden’s to lose. Ryan is a darling of the far right, but expectations seemed otherwise low for him tonight. Biden, in my view, had the truth on his side. But we all know how he runs his mouth, which has a way of overshadowing his considerable intelligence and sharpness. To say nothing of the long, weird shadow cast by the recent presidential debate, which analysts largely agree was a game-changer.

The sit-down, dialogue format of the debate worked very well, and Martha Raddatz did an admirable job as moderator. To their credit, both Biden and Ryan respected their boundaries, but Raddatz was equally assertive in steering the discussion.

To put it simply, Biden killed. Instead of fulfilling my prediction that he’d unleash at least one gaffe for the ages, the vice president channeled his inner Bill Clinton — mixing cutting wit with an assured command of facts and figures. He not only canceled out Ryan’s untruths and talking points as fast as the challenger spouted them, but he did so with a brash assertiveness that was aggressive without veering into Romney-esque rudeness or Biden-esque facepalms. Biden as Clinton? I couldn’t have been happier if Drew Brees became Sean Payton.

I was hoping for Biden to pull a Lloyd Bentsen-type “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment; when he did, it was more literal than I imagined. Indeed, Biden got in plenty of jabs about Ryan’s “malarkey,” with all the evidence he needed to avoid sounding like a he-said demagogue.

Biden did sound petulant near the end when he lamented about having only 15 seconds to Ryan’s 40 — after all, Biden said far more of substance in any given 15-second period than Ryan did all night long. And maybe Biden should work on his poker face a little more; but with rejoinders aplenty in the pipeline, he had much to smile about. As do those of us who are grateful this man is in office. As far as downsides go, I’ll take these any day.

By contrast, Ryan seemed overly polished, repetitive, insincere and repetitive. He recited talking points on several occasions, oftentimes after Biden pre-emptively neutered them, giving the impression that Ryan was ill-prepared to go off-script (and with Biden repeatedly rebutting his points, he needed to veer). His closing appeal to the camera had all the warmth of a rookie TV anchor; I kept waiting for him to throw it to Brick Tamland for the weather.

Also, we learned Ryan’s weakness: the word “specifics.” Apparently, ’tis the word the Knight Who Says Rom-Nee cannot hear.

There’s no question about it — Biden won on all fronts.

Ryan just won the presidency for Romney

By Earl “Clem” Bob
Tea Party Contributor 
Not Right About Anything

I gotta tell you, I’ve never felt as sure about the outcome of this election as I do now after watching the debate tonight. Paul Ryan showed he is going to make a superb vice president when Mitt Romney wins in November. Yee-haw!

Romney showed us in the last debate that he don’t take no guff from anyone, especially not some wonky PBS nerd. Seeing Mitt talk over that government liberal-media leech and President Obama made my heart swell with American pride. He’ll be way better than that turd Obama, what with his sleepyheadedness and decorum and whatnot. We need a president and vice president who ain’t pushovers and who ain’t afraid to FIGHT!

By being snide, loud and testy to both Ryan and that poor moderator from ABC, Biden proved just how unfit he is to keep his job. He fights too much! We don’t need that in the White House.

Ryan held his own, though. I thought he nailed it. In fact, I’d say he did as well as anyone ever has in the VP debate. He showed class and never got steamed. His easygoing vibe and command of the facts is exactly the calming influence we need in Washington.

I liked the debate format. Having the candidates sit down made the event seem more relaxed. And because the candidates could talk to each other, Ryan had a chance to counter all the lies Biden spewed his way.

I didn’t like the debate format. Sitting down isn’t vice-presidential. Also, Biden shouldn’t have been allowed to rudely interrupt Ryan like he did all those times.

And maybe next time they’ll get a better moderator than some liberal hack from the Alinsky Bolshevik Channel. I hated her obvious bias against Ryan, though she did do well when putting Biden in his place. She was born in Salt Lake City, so she must be Mormon. That ain’t Christian. Thank God Ryan’s Catholic. So is Biden. We don’t need papists in power. They ain't Christian. Good thing Romney’s Mormon.

I made sure to watch the debate on Fox News, because they had the most fair and balanced live feed.

All in all, the night was an undisputed triumph for Ryan. So much so, that I’ve revised my electoral forecast from 483-55 Romney (durn California) to 538-0 Romney. Maybe even 600-0! And after that, a minimum eight-peat for the GOP.

I mean it. Ryan won this thing for Romney tonight. He proved that a young man from the tea party can overcome the liberal tendencies of a country that’s fed up with both parties, especially the Democrats, and convince them to rise above the partisan fray to put Republicans back in the White House so they can serve with morality in the federal government that we all hate and gut social welfare programs in the name of Christ, amen.

“Satan ... be ... [Barack Obama]” — Holy Bible, King James Version (Matthew 16:23)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is October scary for Obama? Yes. A surprise? No.

Last night, my sister and I watched one of our favorite shows, Key & Peele. In our favorite sketch of the episode, which lampoons increasingly ridiculous athlete names, one of Key’s characters says he goes to California University of Pennsylvania. It’s a real school, but it’s still chuckle fuel.

She and I are both into politics, though her pedigree has far surpassed mine (I’m a 32-year-old amateur pundit; she’s a 22-year-old veteran of Capitol Hill). Also, she’s a Republican. Yeah. See? Indoctrination my buttock.

What we share is a passion for intelligent political conversation (though my mom would argue as to how intelligent it remains at times). The slightest reference will get us going. And last night, that reference was Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania’s a swing state,” she said.

“What? I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Romney’s ahead in the polls there right now.”

“I haven’t seen any polls suggesting that, but I’ll look.”

Normally I don’t pay attention to polls. (I do keep an eye on long-term electoral analysis, but even scientific polls are generally too subjective for my taste.) But I had to see for myself if she was right. If she was, that’s pretty big news. To my understanding, Pennsylvania is a solid blue state. According to Nate Silver, it still is. But Nate’s latest blog entry gave me an extra chill — that Obama’s post-convention bounce has erased in recent days.

I didn’t expect Obama to pull away from Romney as decisively as he did following the conventions, nor did I expect that divide to last. In a way, it’s impressive that it happened and that it lasted as long as it did. (Also, I realize the media needs a horse race.) Still, I went to bed troubled.

“What killed such a huge lead so fast?” I wondered. “Was Romney THAT on the ball at the debate? No way.” That train of thought led to, “Who are all these people suddenly latching onto Romney? What about this man is suddenly attractive to people?”

Then I drifted off to sleep, dreaming that I had to move cross-country on my bicycle.

This morning, another writer I know and respect, who leans center-right, posted an endorsement on Facebook. He said that Obama, despite criticism, is one of the most decent men ever to hold the presidency. He added that he dislikes Romney. But he’s going to vote for Romney. Because though Obama nabbed Osama bin Laden, he’s been ineffective across the board and is a Carter-esque bust. Which to me is like saying Lincoln was a terrible president, except for keeping the nation together. The cognitive dissonance blew my mind.

But it (and some of the comments that followed) also sort of answered my question.

I see more and more people I know coming out in favor of Romney, especially since the first debate. They’re expressing enthusiastic support, putting signs in their yards, bumper stickers on their cars and sharing the campaign’s status updates on social networks. In 100 percent of cases where these previously undecided voters planted their flag on Mount Mitt, I have never been surprised. I always felt like they could vote for Romney, but for whatever reason they weren’t comfortable with saying so. I’ve written before that I have yet to hear a decisively liberal voter (even the annoying contrarian ones) jump to Romney, and that’s still true.

So I think that this newfound Romney momentum is due, at least in part, to conservative voters making it official. Republicans previously embarrassed by an opportunist and/or insufficiently extreme candidate are getting on board as November nears, emboldened perhaps by a debate performance that gave Glimmer One of hope. Naturally, the polls would reflect that sentiment as more people commit to Romney. That’s not great news, but neither is it a referendum on Obama’s viability. It’s the GOP falling in line.

I still think Romney has a long, uphill climb. I think he’s a terrible candidate who exhibits none of the integrity that the presidency requires. And I still think the race won’t be as close as the pundits predict. But it’s not decided until the ballots are in. And this uptick for Romney is a reminder of that. 

We needed it.

Ian's anti-rules of writing

• What does it take to be a writer? Something to say. That’s it. It’s amazing what anyone can piece together if they’re motivated enough to put it down.

• Writing is like an exercise regimen — tough to get into, but even harder to shake once it’s a habit. And you’ll be sexier for the effort.

• It’s also like therapy. Whether you want to tell the whole world how you feel, keep it in a private journal or tear it up and toss it forever, writing is a surprisingly effective release of high emotions far less likely than other releases to harm you or land you in jail.

• Being a writer is like having a third eye, a second mouth, six extra fingers and 12-pack abs in your head — people may look at you funny, but you have superpowers.

• No one is a writer all of the time, but everyone is some of the time. This is why writing is so wonderfully infinite, but also why “writer” is the least impressive job title ever.

• Writing is like sex or pooping — a powerful, persistent urge that isn’t likely to define you unless you’re legendary at it. And just like with groin-based adventures, inspiration often strikes in the middle of the night and you have to be ready to take matters into your own hands.

• The worst writers make it a point to be a writer. Writing is a mechanical thing. You aren’t going to be interesting if all you ever do is sit at the keyboard. Live, or at least invent, a life worth writing about.

• Writer’s block is exaggerated. If you’re able to turn away from the blank page before you and have a conversation with someone, then you aren’t blocked; you just have to shift your focus a little. Many times, I’ve started something, stalled and then observed some tiny, unrelated thing that inspired 1,000 words. Hell, I’ve even written extensively about writer’s block itself.

• Try not to confuse writer’s block with writer’s constipation. Having too much to say can hinder you as much as having nothing to say. Take it one thought at a time and you should be all right.

• Sitting in a coffeehouse with a laptop doesn’t make you a writer. But if it gets you writing, do it! Or anything else that arouses your muse. I promise not to judge.

• Write like your audience is a million people. And they’re all adoring fans.

• They won’t all be fans, though. Not if you’re any good.

• Only a fraction of critics will be worth your time — the ones who come from a place of respect. They’ll want to help you make your work better, even if you don’t always agree with them. If someone just calls you a hack or some other juvenile name, what they’re really saying is, “I lack the talent and courage to create anything of my own, so I’m going to reach into third grade and spew the first insult that comes out.”

• Also, ignore the pretentious critic who insists the problem with your work is that it doesn’t sound enough like they wrote it. They can write their own stuff if they want to marry it so much.

• Some of the most amateur feedback I ever received was from professionals. Just like you, they’re human beings sometimes on their A-game and sometimes knee-deep in snarky indifference. You can generally feel out the difference and go from there.

• That said, if someone commissions writing from you, work with them. You’re among the lucky ones.

• If someone spends months and years trolling you, put that on your résumé. That person isn’t an enemy; they’re a reference! No one expends that much energy hating something that sucks.

• Your mom will like your work because she’s your mom. Which is why if she hates it, you should burn it right away.

• One of the worst (and clichéd) traits of a writer is to try to sound smart — true intelligence isn’t forced. Smart people can weave 1-cent words into gold. Faux-smart people use 50-cent words to hide that they’re short of a dollar. (Actually, that’s true of life in general. Spread the word.)

• Don’t be afraid to play with language and style. Most rules of writing assume you’re a fifth-grader doing a group assignment. If you aren’t, forget the rules. And about half of the fifth-graders can forget it too.

• Still, spelling and grammar are important. Using them properly reflects well upon you. So does deliberately using them improperly. Just don’t be wrong.

• Read a lot — it’s the literary equivalent of a cheat code. It’ll boost your writing skills so much that it teeters on being unfair.

• Understand that everything you write won’t be gold nuggets — a lot of it will be mine dirt. The Beatles, Saturday Night Live and the Bible all have heaps of irrelevant gibberish. Anything or anyone with memorable lines does.

• Readers may interpret your work differently than you intend. Accept it. Hell, embrace it.

• Stop reading this and go do your thing. That’s most important.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A debatable point

Why don’t people like to talk politics?

I mean, I sort of get why. It’s a controversial and touchy subject, and tends to lead either to unproductive choir-preaching or to hurt feelings.

Still, it’s a bit ironic — the people most likely to shy away from politics are those who actually might have something productive to say. They may insist they want to keep their feelings from themselves, or that they don’t feel enough like an expert to have an opinion. That’s cool, if true. Big if, though. Because plenty of people who SHOULD feel that way don’t at all. Some of the biggest loudmouths of any political persuasion are the least informed. They don’t care if all evidence suggests that President Obama is in fact not a Muslim extremist, or that Mitt Romney is a political opportunist — they’ll believe it anyway, and will evangelize the hell out of it until you’re donning a blindfold and earplugs.

And it’s this staggeringly ignorant noise that leads normal people of sensible political persuasions to avoid expressing their views. Because politics is too ridiculous. Too far gone. Not worth their time and energy. They’re all identical stooges anyway. Shrug.

Instead, the quiet people expend their mental energy and emotions on things that carry much less weight than the direction of the free world. Things that also lead to debate, arguments and the occasional hard feelings, but somehow are different.

“How about this Iraq War, huh?”

“I’d rather not talk about it. Politics is such a touchy subject. But how about this American Idol, huh?”

“I like Ruben Studdard.”

“You like him just because he’s black!”

“No, he’s better suited for the top prize.”

“Clay looks like an American Idol.”

“Oh, I hear that dog whistle!”

“All I’m saying is that the American Idol should be American, and Ruben was born in Germany.”

“Well, Clay Aiken’s real name is Clayton Holmes Grissom! Do you really want that name holding our precious Idoldom?”

“America didn’t fight the Germans in World War II to have one of their own win AMERICAN Idol and be fat and black and all that.”

“Yeah, well, Clay Aiken is gay and worked for the Y-M-C-A!”

“He can’t be gay! I never saw him choose that.”

“You’re a closed-minded, racist, xenophobic homophobe.”

“You’re an affirmative-action-loving treason fetishist.”

“So how about that Iraq War?”

“I don’t talk about politics. Too divisive.”

I don’t know. I just think that’s weird.