Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An unwelcome welcome to life

A couple of years ago, near the end of an overwhelming night at work, I found myself chatting with a co-worker from a different department. He had held his job for about 40 years, but had the enthusiasm of a newcomer. (He was also shorter than me, which I appreciated.) He asked if was I OK, because I looked haggard. I said I was fine, just tired from a hectic shift. We talked some shop, including an ongoing series of layoffs and furloughs. He then said something that stung like a slap:

“It used to be when you got tired of a job, you could just get another one. It’s not like that anymore.”

He said it ruefully, with a genuine sympathy I wouldn’t have expected from an older man who had held the same job for decades. I guess that’s why I paid attention. Usually, it’s in an accusatory tone of voice from someone asking us why we expected a college degree and/or hard work to get us anywhere in life.

Generation gaps are as old as childbirth itself. We all have our stories about how our parents didn’t get us, or how we didn’t get our parents. Some people understand that this is always how it is, and it isn’t really a sign that kids these days are getting worse or that a particular generation was superior. But in recent years, the gap has hit on more painful territory than culture or music. There’s a huge, sensitive disconnect between the economic realities of the baby boomers and the younger generations, and I wonder if either can understand the other’s viewpoint.

Much has been said about how my generation* is the first in American history to expect a lower standard of living than its predecessor. I believe it. My generation understands that the line we’ve been fed our whole lives about the link between hard work and success is sketchy at times.

(* - Being born in 1980, I’m in a gray generational era. Some lump me with Generation X; others with the Millennial/Y generation. I think I lean toward X, though I definitely share some characteristics of Y. Not that it really matters here.)

It wasn’t always that way. Adults always encouraged us to get an education. They also encouraged us to work and take up productive hobbies, because they instill a work ethic that serves you well in life. We’ve been told for generations that taking the right path will make you successful. Conversely, taking the wrong path will lead you to ruin.

They left out the part about ruin sometimes happening to good people. Or that some very wretched people never know hardship. Or that sometimes financial stability is a function of having a lot of money to begin with. Or that one day, the economy would crumble and they’d pretend they never imparted those lessons in the first place.

I get that economies rise and fall, and that some people have an easier entry-level ride than others. I get that people should work for and earn their place. I get that luck and connections play a major role for many. But I feel like my generation faces a unique obstacle that’s tragic in its preventability. And if it isn’t corrected, it’ll endanger several generations to come.

Before this week, I didn’t have a term or phrase to describe it. Now I do.

“Welcome to life.”

That mean, dismissive remark is how Arizona State Rep. Michelle Ugenti greeted protests to an education bill — one that would require nearly all public college students to pay at least $2,000 of their tuition, regardless of economic status. The bill is jaw-dropping on its face, as is the apparent reason behind it — Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Naturally) heard that nearly half of all students didn’t pay tuition in Arizona. Even if that figure is exaggerated, as the Board of Regents claims, it’s misleading. And it’s the latest manifestation of the insane argument that it’s more fair to saddle the poor with extra bills than it is to ask the rich to pay a fair share.

Welcome to life, indeed.

We’re living in incredibly selfish times. By that, I don’t mean my generation is being selfish by insisting their education and work lead to something. I mean that we as a nation aren’t doing everything we can to make education and hard work pay off. And we’re doing it on purpose.

Since at least the Reagan era, we’ve increasingly loathed the government and lionized the private sector. We’ve bought the line that the government is little more than an ATM for tax cuts, and that anyone employed by it is robbing taxpayers blind (except for the military, of course, which can spend all the money it wants with abandon). At the same time, the private sector has become a benevolent beacon of common sense and sanity — responsible to the people (or, more accurately, their dollars). Despite the two entities having completely different and largely irreconcilable purposes, we’re supposed to believe that free enterprise alone has all the answers. And has no self-interest to speak of.

And that’s where we’re wrong. Over the past few decades, lawmakers have dismantled government checks on the economy, including many established to prevent a second Great Depression. Corporations have flourished as a result, but that hasn’t translated into jobs. Mainly, it’s resulted in fatter bottom lines for CEOs who house them in tax shelters. At the same time, we’ve demonized government jobs as free rides, and we mock their very existence. Because apparently, even in these job-starved times, those don’t count. We’re voting against our own interests every step of the way, blaming those who question the wisdom of it and chiding the upcoming generation for feeling its effects.

What has allowed this to happen? Greed. Not corporate greed, our greed. We think that by giving the rich everything they want, we’re setting the stage for our turn. It’s our fault. We took a give-and-take relationship that floated all boats for decades and turned it into an extreme version of Major League Baseball — the Yankees against every other team combined. Don’t like getting beat all the time? Sign with the Yankees. If they deign to let you.

Welcome to life.

What has resulted is a job market, and a political climate, that favors unaccountable private employers. Sorry, "job creators." The smartest and most innovative people. They make the economy go round. There’s nary a burden we don’t want to lift off their shoulders, even if it clearly damages the balance that keeps both the private sector and our nation prosperous. And until we get to that financial point in our lives, we have no authority to want a better life now. Or, as it’s often euphemized, we must “pay our dues.” That hurts, whether it’s coming from a baby boomer who came up in more promising times and supported the policies that dried up that climate, or from a younger boss with less education.

Of course, we hear all kinds of criticism from our elders whenever we air these grievances. That we’re entitled. That we’re afraid of a little hard work. That we’re lazy. That we simply aren’t trying hard enough.

“What, are you too good for flipping burgers?” No, I’m not. But I did that while earning an education, so that I could move on to better things. And even if I was content to do it now, it doesn’t pay a living wage.

“What makes you think you deserve anything?” You’re right. We shouldn’t have worked hard our whole lives to better ourselves. How arrogant of us. But hey, you got yours!

I worry that future generations will feel this disconnect even worse, as they see their hardworking parents struggle, and decide that it isn’t worth it. They’ll be living in a society where higher education is not only too expensive, but holds no value. Where public schools are wastelands of gang activity and decrepit ceilings because we’ve accepted that. Where good jobs go to the well-connected with squeaky-clean (or scrubbed) online profiles. Where adults don’t pull a 180 on the value of hard work when you graduate, because the cynicism will begin much sooner. Is this supposed to cultivate the so-called elusive work ethic? It sounds to me like a recipe for disaster.

Tough times come and go. But it’s absolutely inexcusable that we as a nation aren’t using every avenue we can to make ourselves smarter and provide experience-appropriate jobs to those who want and earn them. We’re failing ourselves and we’re failing the future. Couldn’t we at least have held out for a higher asking price?

Thanks for the welcome, life.

The top 10 songs ever written about this blog

(With guidelines taken from Conservapedia’s top conservative songs)

Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
The lead singer’s name is Ian Curtis.

Bush Was Right - The Right Brothers
This blog frequently noted Bush was right-wing. Also, the band and I share the same level of musical talent.

We Didn’t Start the Fire - Billy Joel
It’s a song about the world, which the blog lives in. It didn’t start the fire either.

Albuquerque - “Weird Al” Yankovic
A rambling, nearly 12-minute song with no discernible point.

Sloop John B - The Beach Boys
The beach is a nice place to read this blog.

Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American) - Toby Keith
I am an American who is often angry.

Tik Tok - Ke$ha
This song isn’t in favor of letting religions decide whether or not to cover contraception in its health insurance plans.

I Think We’re Alone Now - Tiffany
I think and am alone a lot too.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday - Boyz II Men
These guys have never publicly expressed support for the tea party.

I Am America - Krista Branch
At no point does Krista sing, “liberals are the devil.” (Note before posting: double-check that.)

The field weighs in on Missouri

President Obama: "We must get out there and comfort the families, and do what we can to help repair the damage that has ravaged southwest Missouri."

Mitt Romney: "It's devastating to see good businesses wiped out by tornadoes. I pray they find every salvageable item that's still buried beneath the rubble."

Rick Santorum: "This is clearly a manifestation of God's anger over the contraception and abortion debate raging in ... uh ... Branson."

Newt Gingrich: "The trailers had it coming, sitting so provocatively like that."

Ron Paul: "Let the invisible hand work its magic. The other one this time."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mitt joke (?) of the day

Mitt Romney knows what the people of Detroit are going through. He has several friends who own cities.

A job ad we'll soon see

Dynamics Corp. is seeking a chemical engineer for its Philadelphia plant. At least five years of experience preferred. Snobbish level of education a must. 

No phone calls, please. Your voice will irritate us.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Show me the Romney

When I think of Mitt Romney, I'm reminded of a great line George Bush said to Ross Perot during the 1992 debates:

"If you can't stand the heat, why don't you buy an air-conditioning company?"

Romney, in my view, is the best candidate the Republicans have. He won't win, because he's barely winning GOP hearts. But that's why he's perfect. Because the party is not about heart; it's about cold-hearted capitalism. Romney's business success was in purchasing and liquidating ailing firms. 

The Republicans are running on the basis that America needs unfettered commerce to right its ship, and that a tested CEO needs to hold the reins. That won't make him popular with non-corporate types and he'll never command Obama levels of adoration, but that's fine. Those people are leeches anyway.

Mitt is the strain of rich person who has never needed to understand a common American's life, and never succeeds in pretending that he does. He should stop trying and embrace his pedigree, because the GOP's true target audience — other Mitts — would love that. And given that so much Republican support comes from struggling Americans who are dying to be in the 1 percent, Mitt should just highlight the contrast: "Hello, Average Joes. I do not pretend to understand you. But that's because I live in a completely different world. A world of SUCCESS! And you can be here too if you jump on board! It's neat! If elected, I promise a maid on every boat! Don't know what that means? You WILL! But only if you work harder and we end all taxes and overthrow the welfare queens who are keeping you down. Romney-Lynch 2012!"

I'm just saying, know your audience.

New Rule: Cafeteria Style

Rule #195: A bitter swill to swallow

If you complain about runaway government spending and/or support school vouchers, then you can't complain about the shoddy state of school lunches. In my hometown of Lafayette, some moms have posted online pictures of their children's cafeteria trays. I see the quality has dropped considerably since I was there. I'd guess the price for such a meal has risen, too. It's like anytime I pick up a magazine or newspaper for the first time in years and discover that it's thinner, poorly put together, pricier and composed mostly of fluff.

Though that pizza looks pretty good to me about now.
But a school cafeteria meal isn't subject to the market forces of a changing information landscape-slash-corporate cost-cutting — it's supposed to be something, like the public school system overall, that we make a priority. Why do we speak so much about our children but actively cheer the repeated budget-cutting of our schools? How are children supposed to learn if they're hungry? Why do we fret so much over cursing and nip-slips on television damaging our kids, and yet are A-OK with the kind of gutted educational system that would feed them brown corn?

Is this intended to make children say, "Gee, I'm not performing sufficiently enough to escape this. I should step up my game and hope I get into private school where I don't have to eat like I'm in a decrepit soup kitchen?" Are parents looking at this and thinking, "Yes, these meals, crumbling school and cracked highways are well worth my boss getting a tax cut?" Well, at least a couple of parents seem shocked at the content of their kids' lunches. Maybe this will serve as a clarion call against the evils-of-taxation argument. Maybe it will even spark opposition to Gov. Bobby Jindal's education "reform" that would guarantee that future lunches won't be this succulent.

But more likely, they'll blame Michelle Obama for her health initiatives and Barack for being a communist. 

I can't imagine how mad I'd be if I were actually a parent.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rant of a straight, angry white male

I wonder how different the Republican presidential race would be if we let the candidates spew all the racial and sexual slurs they want. I suspect a lot of the pretense would melt away very fast. It might be worth it.

Nearly every issue in today’s GOP platform has prejudice at its core, be it race-, sex- or orientation-based. That isn’t to say that all Republicans are racists or vice versa; far from it. Indeed, I know plenty in the party who are truly upset that its extremist elements have hijacked it, and wish it would go back to advocating for smaller government. I don’t blame them for despairing. I would too. Because it doesn’t bode well for the foreseeable future.

Look at the obsession with gay marriage. Why should the government care about the gender of two consenting adults wanting to enter into a civil contract? Church and state are separate, which is why we have divorces, men aren’t allowed to stone their wives to death and adultery is not a civil offense. The point being, we don’t let religious dogma dictate our laws. So why is gay marriage any different? It has everything to do with prejudice against homosexuals. Conservatives are convinced that such a lifestyle is unnatural, and belongs alongside bestiality. They say marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and spread the vicious lie that gays want to disrupt that. They talk about the threat to “our way of life” by “degenerates.” They don’t see gay marriage as a civil rights issue with practical applications, but as an attack on “traditional values.” Of course, they “love the sinner, but hate the sin,” meaning that gays can do what they want, as long as they don’t do what they want.

Same thing with the contraception/abortion issue; it’s just a way to keep women down. Why on Earth would anyone want to deny someone available medication? Because it’s sinful? Please! The government isn’t supposed to bother itself with arbitrary matters of sin. (Republicans have no problem with the tobacco lobby, for one.) Nope, their stance on reproductive issues aims to save “the unborn” from “infanticide” at the hands of “irresponsible” and “promiscuous” girls. They say access to birth control gives people ideas, I guess in the same way that access to Pepto-Bismol makes me want to drink 30 bottles of Tabasco. When it comes to safe sex, the GOP is the Party of No: no sex education, no birth control, no morning-after pill, no abortion, no help once the baby is born. They want women to pay dearly for having sex, even if it wasn’t their choice. It’s social revenge.

And I’m just getting started. Why would today’s GOP declare that liberals — half of America — are enemies of America? Their answer, most often, is that liberals want to destroy capitalism and set up a socialist utopia or a nanny state. That liberals want everyone dependent on government, which conservatives define almost entirely as AFDC (aka welfare), and never includes subsidies, corporate kickbacks, military boondoggles or other giveaways that cost far more than any social program. But man oh man, do those social programs ever get crucified! Given how relatively little they impact our budget, it’s not hard to see why conservatives hate them so much. It’s because they might help the kind of people they don’t like. The “poor.” The “lazy.” With their “sense of entitlement.” Taking money from those who “work hard.”

Such hatred drives education “reform” as well. Proponents of school vouchers have decided that public schools aren’t worth the effort to save. Because who wants their child to waste away in a failing school? I’d think every parent, but apparently not. These people won’t be happy until every “hard-working” kid is in a “safe and clean” private school, away from the “dangerous” and “crumbling” public schools that are mere “baby-sitters” for “troubled youth.” Before vouchers, the push was for “neighborhood schools,” which would serve as an antidote to controversial “busing.” It’s de facto segregation either way.

It’s not just about blacks, either. Our nation of immigrants has become the nation that hates immigrants. Oh, but only the “illegal” ones. The fact that many immigrants aren’t obeying formal immigration procedures really keeps these people up at night — the same way I can’t sleep because some people don’t renew their driver’s licenses on time. Of course, this hyper-focus doesn’t ever lay any blame on either our complex laws or the unscrupulous employers that attract immigrants in the first place. Nope, it’s simply an invasion of “illegal” people from “the border” who take jobs and space from “real Americans.” And they're never talking about Canada, either.

On a global scale, their Christian blitz seems less about morality than about politics — specifically, framing the world in good versus evil. The West vs. the Middle East. Christianity versus Islam. Civilization versus savages. A more secular form of this is the idea of “American exceptionalism” — that because the U.S. is No. 1, we can do no wrong. And because of that attitude, we’ve done a lot of wrong things to the wrong people over the past few decades. Mostly in Middle Eastern countries. Certain ones, anyway.

Conservative pundits are fond of claiming that Democrats get the vote of the poor and minorities because the party panders to them. Well, when one party aims to protect our safety net and pushes for racial, gender and sexual equality — and the other doubles down on halting all of those things — I’d say it’s a natural migration.

These stances are wrong on their faces, but they also practically guarantee political irrelevancy as generations grow more diverse and more tolerant. I like to think this platform is the last gasp of the old Republican guard. I can dream, can’t I?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A bit o' Mitt

It is fine! Everything is fine!

During the big health care debate, critics of President Obama — mainly Republicans — said things like, "Why are we worried about health care? We should be focusing on jobs and the economy!"

In fact, they pretty much say that about everything.

Well, the way the GOP is prattling on and on about abortion, Creationism, man-on-dog marriage and gay sex in the presidential debates, I guess all of that job-economy stuff righted itself.

Good job, Democrats! You have my vote in November.

This is what blogging is all about

So a young, autistic girl was looking forward to the Krewe of Muses parade. She had created a countdown calendar for her favorite parade and waited two hours at her perch beforehand. Before three floats could even pass by, a drunken douchebag had repeatedly hit her with his beer, nearly burned her head with a cigarette and called her a "retard." The girl and her mom left in tears, empty-handed. She later tore up her countdown calendar and said she'll never enjoy Mardi Gras again.

Mom blogs about the fiasco. New Orleans is livid, and then goes wild. The krewe sets up a parade just for her. Talk about bringing out the best in a community.

I think my favorite part of this story is that it shows the power of one person expressing injustice, and the compassion of others that results. We need more of this. A lot more.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Of hell and tits

During Mardi Gras, I found myself walking through a neighborhood in Lafayette where I used to take walks as a child. As I strolled through what was once the fraternity row at UL, I walked right over something that immediately provoked a long-dormant source of fear:

I pronounced it, "Titka."
Back in the 1980s, this now-empty lot was the frat house of Pi Kappa Alpha, popularly known as the Pikes. I frequently passed by this house when taking walks with my mom, and also on the bus ride to and from school each day. Like most frat houses, it was an oftentimes raucous place full of dudes and open doors and tall, colorful letters standing in the yard.

I thought it was a satanic cult. One that not only wanted to kidnap me, but had the powers to enslave me if I looked any of its members in the eyes. How else do you explain the horrible, mutated T, the weird name or Hell Week? It's funny now, but it bothered me for years. I'd beg my mom not to pass by, though I always stopped short of telling her why. Eventually, I stopped thinking about it without ever resolving the fear, which I guess is why it came up again.

Later, I'd learn what fraternities were, which gave me more accurate reasons to hate them.

Except for you, Pikes. You're OK. Please don't turn me evil.

Pizza on the ground

Lent condition

Lent is now upon us, and every year I wonder about it.

The Lenten season is the Catholic version of what many religions practice — fasting. I’m told by those who know better that the point of fasting is to sacrifice, hence people saying they will give something up for Lent.

For the devout, it’s things like meat-minus-fish, which leads to interesting circumstances, especially in south Louisiana. One of my local friends, who is a conservative and practicing Catholic, once raised an interesting question: If Lent is about sacrifice, why can he eat an elaborate seafood dish on Friday, but a bologna sandwich is forbidden? That’s a really good question. How can a Catholic vegetarian sacrifice during Lent? What if you’re a teetotaling, broke guy like me?

Really, I wonder about any sanctioned sacrifice. In some respects, it’s a luxury. You hear a lot about people and companies who give back, and they deserve credit for doing so. But they’re able to do so because they have the resources. And that brings up good questions: is sacrifice always noble? Is it always selfish not to sacrifice (such as, if you’re poor)?

Two years ago, I donated $150 to the Boys & Girls Club so I could attend a dinner honoring Drew Brees. That was the minimum price just to get in the door, but for me it was a substantial chunk — about two weeks’ worth of groceries. Conversely, others at the event were throwing around thousands of dollars, and threw down thousands more right in front of Drew so he’d take pictures with them and give them an autographed jersey. And while that makes sense on a bottom-line level, is it really a greater sacrifice for millionaires to give up $4,000 than someone who scrapes up $150 at a time when he’s one paycheck away from being a beneficiary himself?

What exactly giving up chocolate or your iPod or whatever for 40 days is supposed to accomplish, I’m not sure. But if that’s what you’re in a position to give up, more power to you. And if you give to the less fortunate for Lent, that goes double.

No matter who we are or what we believe, let’s all be better people. At least until Easter Sunday. Then, screw it.

Mardi Gripes

Dear Mardi Gras float riders, 

We love your spirit and enthusiasm. But can you do me one small favor?


I realize I was watching the Independent Parade in Lafayette, which is the final and most raucous one of the season. I realize you were all very drunk at this point (and probably not too bright to begin with). I realize that this will fall on deaf eyes because most (including cops) see this as coming with the territory. But getting pelted in the face with a massive cloud of very heavy beads from a float that’s already passed — while I was looking in the other direction — was as shocking as it was painful. It also wasn’t that terrific to be hit in the top of my head with broken beads that acted as a whip, while I was making sure the wheelchair-bound woman next to me wasn’t getting trampled. Later, I saw a young, tall guy checking on a child get blindsided from behind, which elicited “OOOH”s from the crowd. As he winced in pain, I asked him if he was OK. He laughed and said, “Yeah. It comes with the territory.”

But does it really? I’ve been going to Mardi Gras parades my entire life. I spent the first 19 years of my life living along Lafayette’s parade route. I’ve been to celebrations in several cities and towns, and I’ve also thrown beads in a number of parades over the years. Risks abound, I get it. But it seems to me like as the beads get spiffier, the throws get more intense. In New Orleans last year, a friend of mine got knocked out after someone plowed a bag of beads in her face (and got face-pummeled again while being treated by paramedics).

Even so, I don’t recall ever facing the barrage that was Tuesday’s Independent Parade. Never in my life have I tried to draw attention away from myself during a parade. After a point, I was so paranoid that even those toy footballs began to look like knives.

I have never before complained about bead-throwing at Mardi Gras. But this hyper-aggressive approach (made worse by the relatively tight size of the crowds) could really hurt somebody. (Who needs a full bag of beads anyway? The fun’s in catching, if you ask me, and those sting the hands.)

Believe or not, though, that isn’t my biggest complaint about the Independent Parade. That honor goes to the moron who ... well, let’s diagram his idiocy:

1) Entered a float that cautioned the crowd that it was being driven by the editor of The Independent Weekly, with side signs explaining that she had been busted for DWI in 2010;

2) Before the parade, when the editor’s 41-year-old stepdaughter expressed outrage over the float and tried to tear down a sign, punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious;

3) Not content enough that the incident was photographed by multiple witnesses, stood over her unconscious body and snapped a pic with his own cell phone;

4) Got back on the float and took part in the parade;

5) Did all this despite being a high-profile doctor and businessman, whose scrapes with local media were already well-known and documented.

When I first saw that float approach, I thought it was The Independent’s float and laughed. I was unaware of Cherry Fisher May’s DWI arrest until the side banner informed me of the infraction. At that point, the float officially became the saddest act of petty revenge I’d ever seen. (Somebody better mock this float next year. It’s begging for it!)

Quite the genius, that Glenn Stewart. I’m glad that blowhards such as himself are the exception rather than the rule in south Louisiana.

Other than that, I had a lot of fun this year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This is how you win

Many hawks might find the video below disturbing. It's an American military general apologizing to the people of Afghanistan for inappropriately disposing of Islamic holy materials. And he pronounces "Afghanistan" the way the natives do. It's like nothing you ever saw in the "bring 'em on" era. I haven't yet seen any backlash, but it's early. Give it time.

I appreciate Gen. Allen's apology. I'm glad we're realizing that superior firepower and arrogant provincialism don't win hearts and minds. It takes guts and strength to admit wrongs and apologize. And while that quality is no guarantee of success, it will at least make the U.S. a positive example for the world, which is a victory unto itself. Bravo.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yearning for dystopia

Living as I do in south Louisiana, I often hear what can politely be termed as “bluster.” Not that it’s at all confined to here. You know what I’m talking about:

“Man, if someone ever broke into my house, you bet I’d shoot the bastard!”

“I carry a concealed weapon because you never know when you’ll need to protect your family at the park/church/whatever.”

“We need to take our country back, by force if necessary.”

“Our schools are failing and our roads are crumbling. Are you scared? You should be!”

It’s occurred to me that things like this are driving a lot of conservative positions these days. They speak a lot of “personal liberty,” which they define as a vigilantic approach to most things. Or, as Cedric the Entertainer once put it, “I wish a motherfucker would.”

I have a hard time getting behind this, and not because I’m some nanny-stater. It’s just hard to imagine this version of America being anyplace I’d want to be, much less love. What kind of dystopia would we live in if everyone was armed to the teeth, terrified of each other and willing to let our infrastructure rot rather than admit the government is a worthwhile expense?

If a plane flying over mountains suddenly experienced some turbulence, these people would immediately start talking about who’s going to eat who. And when the captain announced that the turbulence was nothing to worry about and the flight was set to land ahead of schedule, the wingnuts would continue to size up the most succulent seatmates. You know, just in case.

Even if you’re solidly in the libertarian camp of individual liberty, why is that an appealing way to live? I think such an ideal comes only with a staggering lack of thought into just how deep societal conventions cut.

The only reason I care is because this cavalier attitude is at the forefront of many politicians’ thinking. That they feel the need to appeal to this is very unsettling to me. It’s like signing a football player who hates football. And who wants to keep a gun under the goalpost pad, just in case things get out of hand.

I’d rather they not get out of hand in the first place.

Emphasis on the "control"

Rick Santorum supporter and billionaire investor Foster Freiss recently “joked” to a mortified Andrea Mitchell that, in his day, women practiced birth control by sticking an aspirin between their knees. Here are some other proposals Republicans are touting as safe, cheap and moral alternatives to the Pill:

For women:

• Placing a single Excedrin on top of each foot

• Wearing an ankle-length dress made entirely of spikes

• Abstaining from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

• Saying no to Herbal Essences shampoo

• Creating an “Oh yes!” jar

• Looking at Newt Gingrich

• Krazy Glue: One drop prevents a bun!

• Carrying the Bible on your lap at all times

• Genetically engineering everyone to be female, Jurassic Park style

• Getting women into sewing so they can thread it shut

• Having to choose a man from the contraception hearings

• Mentally associating sex with Rick Santorum

• Not being a slut who likes sex

For men:

• Thinking about baseball

• The no-rhythm method

• Placing a zinc pill on your nightstand to remind you that a single human ejaculation requires a full day’s worth of zinc

• A penis tattoo quoting the Rev. Sun Myung Moon: “The sex organ is shaped like a snake. And like a snake, it is always looking for a hole.”

• Holding a condom between your knees until your body heat breaks it apart, like Jesus intended

• Balancing an aspirin on your member until you both lose interest

• Mentally associating sex with Rick Santorum

• Just kidding. Men can have all the sex they want.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lean Gras

Here's a weird fact about me: I have never, in my entire life, worked on Mardi Gras (the day) while living in Louisiana. In 2001, our college track team was out of the state all weekend until Tuesday morning, and I had to spend my one day interviewing people and writing a story about the parades for class, but that's as close as I've ever come.

Though I missed three straight years while living in Missouri, I managed to take off for the 2010 Lombardi Gras (mainly because my mom had major surgery two days after the Super Bowl). Last year, while between jobs, I went to the New Orleans revelry for the first time.

I thought this year would snap that streak, but alas, it was not meant to be. I'll have to wait at least another year before having the deal with the psychological hurdle of not being able to go to Mardi Gras when it's close by.

I think I can deal. That is, if it doesn't flood out first.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Over the Top?

Every piece of art has a story. That story deserves to be told.

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not that far away, Jesus and Satan roomed together at Niagara Falls. It wasn’t the most harmonious arrangement, because Jesus was a neat freak and Satan was a bit messy around the edges. You could say they were something of an odd couple.

One day, at the end of a particularly hectic spring semester, Jesus had had enough of Satan’s slobbish ways and confronted him.

“You haven’t cleaned for at least 40 days and 40 nights,” Jesus said angrily. “It smells like hell in here. I can’t even eat, I’m so nauseated.”

“Yeah? Well, you try working out as much as I do and never take a bath,” Satan countered. “You know how hard it is to take a hot bath when your entire body is covered in third-degree burns?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault you insist on active volcanoes and lava flows in the living room,” Jesus snarled. “When I told you to get the hot-water heater fixed, that’s not what I had in mind.”

“At least lava flows are relatively quiet,” Satan shot back. “All those birds you got flying around sing all day and all night. It’s a wonder you can even hear your Michael McDonald records.”

“I realize you need it to read your Harry Potter books at night, but can you please keep the lightning on your side of the room?” Jesus asked. “The tape is there for a reason.”

“Yeah, about the tape,” Satan said. “See, I’ve tried to respect the boundary as much as possible. But you have all the toothpaste on that side, so I’m about ready to crack.”

“This means war!” the Prince of Peace declared.

“Bring it on,” the Devil replied in his finest Texan drawl.

“To the rock!” they cried in unison.

“Get thee behind your side of the rock, Jesus,” Satan implored.

“Upon this rock, I shall build my church ... of PAIN,” Jesus spake.

“OK, let’s go over the rules,” Satan declared. “If I win, I get full dominion over the heavens and earth in our living room.”

“Agreed,” Jesus agreed. “If I win, everyone doesn’t automatically go to hell when they die. I’ll put their transgressions on my tab.”

“I appreciate that,” Satan said appreciatively. “I was getting overwhelmed at work. Hell, I just might let you win! It’d be nice for once to get home in time to watch the Real Housewives of Hades.”

“Oh, HELL NO,” Jesus said with an evil glint in his eyes. “I’m not about to be the road to salvation for the Real Housewives! I forfeit.”

“So you’re letting me win to keep the peace? That’s very Christ-like of you,” Satan said admiringly.

“Well, yeah,” Jesus said. “I’m Jesus.”

“And I’m the devil, so I have to do something devilish. I shall cook chili tonight. That’ll mess up your starched white robe!”

“Well, I’ve all the detergent on my side!”

“I’m going to mount your mom like a sermon.”

“My mullet outclasses your horns any day. For Christ’s sake, you look like Flea after a freebasing accident.”

Satan sighed. “You know, JC, we need each other. I would miss this if you weren’t here.”

“So would I, Luce. After a long, hard day of picketing Planned Parenthood, our banter is what keeps me walking on water with my head held high.”

“Friends forever?”

“As you would upon me.”

They clasped their hands in a show of solidarity.

“Always remember,” Jesus said. “Bros before souls.”


I want to move to New Orleans

I'm interested in relocating to ... well, you saw the title of this post.

I'm currently seeking a job in the New Orleans area. I've applied for one I'd really like to get, but I'm also exploring other options. I've long been interested in upgrading my status as a New Orleans blogger beyond the honorary level. If any of you out there know of anything, please let me know. I appreciate it. 

A nation of millions holding us back

In the occasional instance that you can get a conservative to talk about abortion, they'll often cite how many millions of times doctors have performed the procedure since Roe v. Wade in 1973. The number often varies, but one site apparently intent on co-opting Obama's typeface has it at 51 million. The exact number is less important here than the larger point.

Can you imagine 51 million more Americans than we have right now? All of them unwanted? That's one-sixth of the current U.S. population. If even a fraction of them were on public assistance, in prison or otherwise were wards of the state, we'd be in even worse shape than we are now. And that's saying something.

Frankly, the right's stance on abortion is so compartmentalized that it contradicts many of its other favorite bugaboos. We have no room for immigrants, but all the room in the world for babies. Mothers deserve glory for keeping their baby, but can forget about any support once it's born. Children are the future, but God help them if their school isn't deemed competitive enough to keep its meager funding. There's the option of adoption, but the demographics and numbers don't neatly add up. And so on.

So-called "pro-lifers" have a way to go before they can hold themselves up as the guardians of life. Maybe they can start with the millions who struggle now. I'll be over here holding my breath.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Extremely topical graphic

Numbers game

This past weekend, I received change in the form of sequential bills. For the fourth time.

At this point, I'm out of things to say about this. Seriously, it's like Forrest Gump meeting the President of the United States. Again. This might become its own blog at some point.

Serfin' USA

Like most people for whom Valentine’s Day is just another day, I spend a lot of time reading Internet comments. Some of my favorites involve a common, yet sad, argument:

“Why would a kid have the nerve to complain about their parents, who put a roof over their head and keep them well-fed?”

“Why would someone say something bad about/support tax hikes for/not support deep tax cuts for their employers, who give them jobs, money and a livelihood?”

“Why would someone criticize American foreign policy, when soldiers fight and die for their safety and right to free speech every day?”

In other words, no one should criticize anything, ever, unless it’s 100 percent universally evil. Like terrorism. Or liberals. It’s a convenient setup to pre-emptively suppress all criticism, under the guise that nothing with any positive points should ever warrant complaint.

This kind of argument’s been around probably forever, but it seems to me to have skyrocketed since 9/11. When George W. Bush was (arguably) elected president in 2000, we weren’t supposed to criticize him until he spent some time in office. When 9/11 hit, we weren’t supposed to criticize Bush because he was the president of a scarred country. When we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we weren’t supposed to criticize him out of respect for our troops.

Indeed, “the troops” has all but replaced Hitler as the go-to argument-killer. Had a bad day? The troops have it worse and they’re doing it for you. Mourning Whitney Houston? Several troops died on the same day; where’s their coverage? (And yes, we're not doing enough for the troops. I'm just saying we shouldn't use them, or any other singular thing, to avoid talking about anything else.) It’s a mostly conservative trope, in my experience. I don’t know of any liberals who say, “Now is not the time to criticize President Obama. We’re at war.” Probably because they’re criticizing him too.

It’s a logical extension of the idea that you could always have it worse, so be grateful. That in itself isn’t a bad notion, but it shouldn’t trivialize a genuine problem. I know some things are worse than the things that worry me, but this isn’t a race to the bottom. Last I checked, something doesn’t have to be the worst or the most important thing in the world to merit any consideration. But saying so does allow someone to conveniently nip it in the bud.

Such cop-outs similarly happen with the boss and parent comments. Disagreements with both will happen. It’s part of life. And while there are times and places for both, it’s still a sad commentary on society that employers and parents are so above reproach — regardless of whether or not it’s warranted. I suspect fear drives a lot this: fear of keeping scarce jobs, fear of parental disapproval. It’s an easily manipulated fear, but that’s a whole different discussion.

Calling out bad parenting and destructive capitalism should never be equated with disrespect for good parenting and responsible business practices. It’s our civic duty as citizens to honor the good and call out the bad. We can’t be afraid to do that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston helped me find my contact lens

• One of my favorite songs of all time is “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew. It came out around the same time as Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” I remember the two songs going up against each other at the Grammy Awards*, and Whitney’s won. I remember my mom cheering, because that was one of her jams. But I was pissed, that childish level of overreactionary pissed that only comes out after Saints losses nowadays. For a long time afterward, I couldn’t hear those six distinctive bars without grumbling (and I liked the song).

(* - According to Wikipedia, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” won the Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female in 1988, which means I may have misremembered this. But I recall the moment so clearly that maybe it was a different awards show.)

• I was absolutely transfixed when Whitney belted out the National Anthem before Super Bowl XXV (also known as Scott Norwood’s favorite game ever). She would have been great in any year, but this was right as the Gulf War began, players began wearing American-flag decals on their helmets and I had yet to view patriotism through the prism of cynicism — so it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. (Later, Pro Set would make a football card out the moment titled, “Whitney wows ’em at Super Bowl.”)

The next morning at school, I talked football with my pals like we always did (one of my classmates’ dads had played for the Chicago Bears and later became a college football star in his own right). A friend (not that one) said to me, “Dude, did you see Whitney Houston sing the anthem?”

I replied, with awe, “Yeah!”


He was weird.

• One night, while I was in high school, I lost my contact lens when it dropped onto my bedroom carpet. Four things to understand: 1) these were hard lenses, which aren’t disposable, and bounce in impossible ways; 2) I needed to find it because I didn’t have a backup pair of glasses; 3) I had an orange shag carpet, which is about as close to a haystack as you can get indoors; 4) with vision as bad as mine, using one eye could be a headache, and thus it was mostly up to my fingertips to find the bastard. I’d have asked my mom to help me, but she was on an airplane. And my dad was on his way to pick her up.

So for more than an hour, I swept my hands with increasing futility through my orange shag carpet, cursing myself, physics and pretty much everything else. At one point, I stumbled upon a cassingle of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which was on the floor in a stack with other cassingles (hey, it was the mid-1990s). On the B-side of the cassingle was a rendition of “Jesus Loves Me.”

I put it on. Nothing else was working.

Just then, my parents got back from the airport. Mom was a little surprised at my choice of music, but she immediately bent down and helped me find my lens. And, almost as quickly, she found it. My mom has always been a wizard when it comes to locating stray contacts. I will always love her.

R.I.P., Whitney. May Jesus love you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dread crocks

Just today I was bemoaning the lack of hippie-feminist-themed collages attacking exaggerated and/or false liberal positions on the Internet. And then:

I thought this fine dissertation deserved a fact-check facelift:


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Daddy issues

Want to see a truly reprehensible human being? Look no further.

Chances are, you’ve at least heard about this video in the past couple of days. Most reports emphasize the fact that the father shot out his teenage daughter’s laptop, after he found a Facebook note she posted complaining about her parents.

But it’s so much more than that. SO MUCH MORE. And it’s my genuine hope that the people who are cheering this instance of fine parenting have not watched the whole video. Because this guy digs his own hole the entire way. Watch:

The short version: While the dad was installing some software on his daughter’s laptop, he discovered a hidden Facebook note from his daughter. In the note, she complains that her parents are running her ragged with chores. Pretty typical, benign even, teen stuff. He reads the note, then proceeds to rebut it with the equivalent of, “Shut up, you ungrateful leech.” Then he pulls out a gun and shoots up the laptop on which he spent hours and $130, dedicating one of the shots to her mother. He then insists she pay him back for both the laptop and the ammo. Then he announces he’s going to post the video on her Facebook wall so all her friends can see what a benevolent, loving father she is so unfairly maligning.

Along the way, he explains how when he was her age, he went to both high school and college, lived on his own, worked two jobs and was a volunteer firefighter. Gosh. Sounds like he had some terrific parenting! I wonder if he harbored any resentments toward them for making him do all that at 15? I guess we won’t know, since his generation had the good sense to have manners, respect and not Facebook. And he turned out fine! Kids these days.

If anything, the dad is the one acting like a teenager. She’s 15 going on 16. Girls that age are required by federal law to be drama queens. Being that way on Facebook is about as tame as it gets. He should be grateful she isn’t doing more grandiose things to get his attention. Hell, if anything, she was trying to spare his feelings by sharing that note with her friends, and not him. That’s not the most noble thing to do, but it’s certainly nothing worthy of this drastic overreaction. This is a petty (and unsettling) act of revenge by a blowhard father. If he really cared about her issues, he’d talk to her one-on-one instead of resorting to embarrassing and pointless theater, which he posted on Facebook too! So add hypocrisy to the mix. And irony. I mean, talk about proving his daughter’s point! He multiplied it too. When she was complaining about chores, was she even thinking about his loose policy regarding firearms?

He reminds me of those obnoxious parents who make a big production of disciplining their kids in the middle of a department store. Fewer things are more grating than a showoff parent, especially if their only mode of parenting is doling out punishment. Like that’s all being a parent is. It becomes a point of pride, regardless of how much it’s actually warranted. They act as if I should be impressed that they’re harsh to their children. I’m not.

(And don’t tell me I don’t understand because I’m not a parent. I don’t have to have kids to understand the basic emotions at play, nor do I need to reproduce to understand the dynamics of emotional abuse. That understanding isn’t handed out exclusively in the maternity ward. If you’re trying to sell me on having kids, implying that I’ll become a sourpuss disciplinarian isn’t the way to go about it.)

No one, parent or otherwise, should cheer a video like this. What this guy did isn’t good parenting, an act of sweet revenge or an effective cautionary tale. If anything, it will make things worse. Much worse. It shows a dangerously unstable man who thinks nothing of using anger, petulance and bullets to solve problems. And that reflects poorly not just on him, but on everyone who holds him up as a person worthy of raising youth. Far from being Father of the Year, he strikes me as a possible target of investigation.

I can’t wait to read his daughter’s follow-up note. Should be some real juicy tidbits in that one. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but I can understand why she’d complain about her father. I’m just surprised that she has the courage to do so.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Any deductible for wafers?

Regarding birth control coverage for religious organizations that oppose it:

If your religion forbids birth control, then it should be no problem to offer the coverage. After all, if no one’s buying it, then no money’s being spent on it, right? Morals remain intact and everyone’s still tenure-tracked to heaven.

OK, OK, I get it — offering birth control coverage would just give people ideas, in the same sense that acknowledging the existence of birth control makes teenagers horny. Well, Gandhi supposedly slept surrounded by nude women to test his temptation — maybe that’s what should try! God knows repressing every natural urge and/or sensible health care in the name of Jesus hasn’t worked.

Offer the option, churches. President Obama’s making sure anyone who wants it, gets it anyway. Maybe you don’t want to admit that a vast majority of your adherents are living in the 21st century, but they are. Anyway, it’s not like your money isn’t going to other things more specifically banned in the Bible — like clothing made up of two or more materials.

Think of the children!

More fish-barreling

Here's another thing garnering likes all over the Zuckernet:

Let's pretend, for the sake of discussion, that this comparison isn't patently ridiculous.

I'm going to start small by addressing pro athletes' salaries. With a few outlying exceptions, I don't think they're overpaid. When you break down a pro athlete's regimen, balance the physical and mental risks involved and consider the relatively short span of most careers, the money is really not that great for the average player. They do far, far more than "throw a ball" — if anything, the preparation they put into their jobs matches just about any other profession you can name. And they're doing it with intense public scrutiny and pressure. There's also the issue of where that money comes from — it comes from us. Tickets, concessions, merchandising, advertising, TV revenue ... that's your free market at work. The teams have money to spend because we give it to them.

It could be this way with our soldiers too. No, none of them are going to make millions, but there's enough money in America to at least pay them much better wages. The problem is that, just like with pro athletes, we don't seem to realize that we pay soldiers' salaries. But as taxpayers, we do. So those of you who scream, "AMEN!" when you see this graphic, point that finger at yourself. Do you insist on lower taxes? Do you want more of your money back so you can spend it on sports (or whatever) while infrastructure collapses all around you? If so, then you really shouldn't complain about how we're shafting our soldiers. That goes double if you support dubious wars of aggression charged on credit.

One of these days, we'll have to snap out of the notion that cutting tax revenue is the only virtuous course of action in America. We get more than what we pay for from our soldiers, but that shouldn't be a point of pride; we should pay them what they deserve. And we do that by shuffling our national priorities, not by dissing Eli Manning. 

What are Republicans always saying about punishing success and overprivileged government employees? Yeah, I thought so.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Ballad of Al Lard

If you met me when I was 5 years old, you didn’t know me — you knew Al.

Sometime between the end of my preschool years and kindergarten, I decided that I hated my name. In my mind, Ian was girly, Paul was plagiarized from my dad and McGibboney was some weird last name that everybody seemed to have. “Why must I suffer from that triple-whammy of indignity?” I thought, using easier words I knew at that age.

The answer was simple enough: I would come up with my own awesome name.


My adopted first name came from my grandfather, Henry. No, seriously. I idolized my grandfather. He wore eyeglasses and I wanted to be just like him. And for whatever reason, I thought he looked like a guy named Al. Hence, I was now Al. (And still sans glasses, but that wonderful gift would come about a year or so later.)

As for the last name Lard, it came from the cover of the book “Miss Nelson Is Back” (co-authored by Harry Allard), a popular book among my brother and I at the time. Either that, or from the ingredients on a can of bean dip (also popular among my brother and I at the time).

Whatever the true origin, I loved my new name and insisted on being introduced that way. If my parents introduced me as Ian, I’d gently correct them by shouting, “AAAAAL!”

I didn’t stop at my own name, either; I also gave my brother Colin his own moniker, Dec (pronounded “deck”) Leroy. The “Dec” came from one of the first license plates I ever owned, a Louisiana tag from 1974-75 that had a “DEC 31” expiration decal on it. It had come off my grandfather’s old car, and I treasured it until I accidentally left it sitting on his then-current car to fly away on the interstate. (Its number was 41I466, in case anyone ever found it.) Leroy was a friend of my brother’s.

At the time, my dad was a DJ for one of Baton Rouge’s biggest country-music stations. One night, he brought my brother and I into the broadcast booth. It blew our minds, especially the twin turntables! Dad let me push buttons that cued songs and commercials. In between songs, he put us on live and asked me what my name was. “AL LARD,” I proclaimed proudly. “No it’s not. You’re Ian!” he said, probably with a hint of exasperation. He then made the mistake of asking me my brother’s name. Staring at my license plate (yeah, I brought that), I said, “Dec Leroy!” That was officially the end of my radio career. I consider it a lost opportunity.

Al Lard pressed on for most of the summer of 1985. But then kindergarten beckoned, and I knew I had to give him up. It’s hard to be your alter ego when your real name’s pinned to your shirt and written in gigantic block letters everywhere you turn.

One of our first assignments was a worksheet where we had to color in balloons. Having been in school for a year and a half prior to kindergarten (and having mastered the color song I can still sing today), I felt like I had this one nailed. “I got this,” I would have said had it been 20 years later. Well, I didn’t. My teacher used one of two red stamps to hammer home her feelings: a happy face, and a sinister sad face that looked like the poison sticker. I filled in four of the 10 balloons with the wrong color, so guess which one I got? Quite a first impression there. (Though to my credit, I probably just felt like ignoring the rules, which has never really changed.) I remember feeling so sad over my first-ever bad grade. I’m surprised she didn’t give me a point off for getting my name wrong. That’s right — on the name blank, scrawled in green crayon, was AL LARD. My teacher had circled it in red pen and written, “Ian.” That’s when I realized how intrinsic Al had become to me — I hadn’t even remembered writing that name on the worksheet. It was sufficiently embarrassing enough to where I kept Al at home from there on out.

Officially, Al Lard died sometime in early 1986. High cholesterol.

"I know, Kermit, it's not easy being green. It's even harder to turn blue. Send a medic already!"
But occasionally he’ll leave the island he shares with Elvis and Tupac to be a punch line in a family joke. Just tonight, my mom texted me to ask how Al Lard was doing. Well, he hasn’t sabotaged my academic career in 27 years, so he must be doing fine. Colin also loves to laugh over Al, though Dec was DOA a long time ago.

I just hope wherever Al is, he’s not overdoing the bean dip.

Fetal position

How much overlap do you suppose there is between people who bristle over wardrobe malfunctions and middle fingers at the Super Bowl halftime show, and people who are outraged that Randall Terry wasn't allowed to run anti-abortion ads during the game?

I imagine it resembles less of a Venn diagram than the Comedy Central logo.

I just watched the banned ads. It's an amazing feat to be so prepared to see something so inappropriate, and yet still be absolutely floored afterward. 

Let's get one thing out of the way quickly: Randall Terry is in no way a serious presidential candidate. If he was, he'd be running as a Republican, not as a Democrat, on account of his obsession with abortion. (Even then, I suspect Buddy Roemer would smother him in the polls.) But instead, he has stated that his party choice is to throw a wrench into Barack Obama's campaign — which is the true mark of any legitimate run. So spare me the "subversion of free elections" talk. 

In 1995, Alan Keyes' campaign booth was shut down at Ross Perot's United We Stand America conference because it featured a video of an abortion procedure. So on top of everything else, this isn't even a new idea. Nor is it a good one. Like most anti-abortion propaganda, it completely misses the point as to why people have abortions and why those people deserve a safe and legal avenue for it. 

The ads operate under the premise that pro-abortion-rights people (or "pro-death Satanists," depending on your viewpoint) simply aren't aware that abortion is an exceedingly graphic and emotional procedure. Well, here's your lesson, heathens! Maybe now you'll think twice before consider an abortion ... or a hysterectomy, an appendix removal or anything else that's gross. I imagine that President Terry would promote good nutrition by depicting the sausage-making process circa 1906. "Christians who eat sausage have blood on their hands. Literally. Heaven will judge you, along with all the dead human digits you're eating."

I could get into the stupefying slams at President Obama, or the failure to distinguish between early- and late-term abortions, or the unwarranted Holocaust comparisons, or the potentially doctored footage, or the fallacy of running for president with only one issue that the chief executive can't directly affect anyway. But all of that matters less than Terry's strong desire to make this Super Bowl material. To think that even hardcore abortion opponents want to see such offensive and exploitative material during the telecast is the height of arrogance and zealotry. TV stations generally frown on Super Bowl advocacy ads in the first place, and even then they're usually referring to much milder stuff.

Fortunately, most of the nation rightfully views Terry as a fanatic whose graphic spots say far more about him than about anyone or anything else. Far from hurting Obama, Terry is probably the best thing that can happen to him; hell, he even makes Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Also-Rands look palatable. Which is a word that will never describe where the Randall Terrys of the world want to take us.


Monday, February 06, 2012

New Rules

Rule #191: Viral Outbreak

YouTube does not get to preface my 1980s song video with a loud commercial for the new Ke$ha atrocity. If I wanted to buy it, I would get on iTunes or go to a music store. If I wanted to hear it for free, I'd be on a different YouTube page. Either way, the ad is pointless. Anyway, aren't music videos already ads?

Rule #192: He's driving to Disneyland

The Super Bowl MVP no longer gets a new car. He can take his bonus (or, for that matter, dollar bills lodged in his couch) and buy it himself. But if the league absolutely must bust an Oprah on Eli Manning, at least don't do it on the field. It's a recession, for the love of Pete Rozelle! Even in the go-go 1980s, celebrities appearing on game shows donated prizes rather than kept them. All this transaction does is remind us how much it pays off to be rich. As if we need to be reminded. You know who could really use a fast car? The slowest running back.

Rule #193: Like a virgin, touchdown for the very first time

The Super Bowl halftime show is not a babysitter, a role model, a parent, coach, clergyman or anything else holding any authority over your child. It's a live musical event watched by billions, featuring anywhere from dozens to hundreds of performers — at least one of whom is going to get a kick out of doing the forbidden. Our culture has a huge problem, and it isn't immorality; it's that we're collectively three years old, and we like saying "doody." We're so Puritan that we've made words, gestures and tits into salacious things, while at the same time creating the largest possible stage for all those uncouth things to drop. And we've decided that it must be "family-friendly," the family apparently being the namesake of the American Family Association. The sum of all this is that someone, somewhere, said on Sunday night, "Did I just see a middle finger? But I thought this Madonna show was family friendly!" I'm only two years older than Madonna's career, but even I remember when she was the most controversial thing going. Mark my words — in 15 years, Snoop Dogg and Cee-Lo Green will duet on "Fuck You," and no one will bat an eye ... until Snoop says that pot hasn't killed him yet. Then, look out!

Rule #194: Go ahead, make my play

All Super Bowl ads should be this awesome. Strike that. ALL ads.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tales of a First Grade Pointless

While looking for something I didn't find today, I stumbled upon my 1st-grade report card.

It was only downhill from here.
From top to bottom, the subjects are: reading; language; handwriting; spelling; social living; mathematics; music, arts and crafts; and P.E. Why can't those always be what we learned?

My conduct that year was sterling as well, also something that didn't become a tradition. By 4th grade, I was winning awards for "Most Improved Attitude," which is about as backhanded as awards get.

The whiteout is the best part here.
Speaking of "AAAAAAA," I was saying that a lot that year, because I suffered from a long, painful bout with bronchitis. I remember getting my report card after that six-weeks period and wondering how in the hell I missed only seven days.

But notice that I didn't miss class even when I split my head open in September. Considering it happened in class, maybe that wasn't for the best.
I had yet to be picked on in first grade, though I was aggressively working my way toward it. I made nearly straight A's, often earned perfect attendance and killed at "Heads Up 7-Up." I also earned a promotion to Reading Group 3, which to this day remains a source of professional pride. I conquered both a severe illness and a head injury, and played for the Yankees tee-ball team. 

I also peed in my pants frequently in class. 

You never have it all.

Live-blogging Super Bowl XLVI

• Rush Limbaugh apparently said this past week that he wouldn't disclose who he voted for in the Florida Republican primary because "it would destroy my objectivity as a journalist." I'm starting to think more and more that maybe Rush really is just an avant-garde performance artist. I've suspected that for years.

A new study claims that a lower IQ in childhood makes someone more likely to be conservative and/or hold prejudicial beliefs as an adult. It's just one study, and I'm sure a lot of variables could be called into question, but it makes sense to me. Those with limited intellect tend to have limited curiosity, which often leads to fear/disdain of anything different. So it makes sense that they'd adopt a political philosophy that celebrates provincialism. People who are educated and travel tend not to be backwoods. That doesn't indict every conservative as stupid, or vice versa, but it's definitely a train of thought I can follow.

• I've just spent the last 20 minutes watching Faces of Death videos on YouTube. Not sure what that says about me.

And now for some actual game-related thoughts:

• This is the second Patriots-Giants Super Bowl that I missed part of because I was out doing better things.

• It's a shame such a great Super Bowl logo is wasted on this game. It might be time to reconsider the whole division/conference thing after this.

• Madonna and friends actually put on a decent halftime show. Color me shocked.

• Speaking of Rush, apparently he's in the Patriots' owner's box. That isn't helping.

• These have to be the most bandwagon fans ever to attend a Super Bowl. They cheer everything and boo everything, with the occasional "CRUUUUUUUZ."

• After deliberately not watching it online, I apparently missed the Ferris Bueller ad. Amazing, considering that I was sitting down at the same time people were live-tweeting that it was on.

• The game itself is pretty good, or at least close. That hurt to say.

• This game might come down to a blatant pass-interference call the Patriots deserved but didn't get. If it does, it'll cap possibly the most bent postseason ever.

• Maybe not. Wes Welker missed an easy catch. Karma rebalanced?

• OK, I'm into it now. These last two minutes will be epic.

• Wow. Eli Manning is a credit to overshadowed little brothers everywhere. This year's Giants are a true testament to parity. Now THAT hurt to say. Terrific finish, though. Hard to beat.

• Who Dat!