Monday, December 31, 2012

Hunger Games - The Best of 2012


Oh boy, 2012. Whoooweoooo! What a horrid year for me. Except for Barack Obama sailing to re-election, the Ragin' Cajuns winning their second consecutive New Orleans Bowl, my trips to Washington D.C. and New York City, the birth of my niece, doing background acting in multiple movies and a TV show, writing a novel or two and blogging as much as I ever have, not a lot happened for me in 2012. Really, the only things that didn't go my way were the Saints' 7-9 debacle, not finding a new full-time job and lots of other small things that often left me depressed. It was one of those years where people remind you to be grateful for a roof over your head and other things Brad Pitt never hears. Oh, 2013, you are looking lovely. 

Anyway, I wrote so much this year that I broke it up into five separate segments, and most of them are too long. Enjoy this look back at the year through my eyes. Hire me! I mean, thanks for reading.

My favorite musings about society and attempts at humor

Blogs about controversial issues and wacky real-life politics

The United States went and put on an election this year.

Impassioned words about athletics and weaponry

Stuff about myself and my glorious movie career

Best of 2012 - Narcissism

HUNGER IAN
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. AL LARD.

A coed group of teenagers was hanging out at the pool, horsing around and daring each other to take a dip in the unoccupied, chilly water. As I do to get it over with, I took off my shirt and slipped right in. One of the guys waded in, but on my suggestion plunged in the rest of the way. He then took several jaunts across the pool before asking me if I could swim (and if I could, if I wanted to race). I said no, because I can’t. Then several of his friends got in the water, either voluntarily or because they got thrown in. Pretty typical stuff around these pool parts. Until one of the boys pulled out a goddamn handgun.

I'm walkin' here!
We apparently long ago decided that work isn’t work unless we’re so harried from it that we can barely function afterward. Picture the on-the-go person with a phone jammed in their ear, with one hand full of papers and lunch in the other — we often consider that person to possess a strong work ethic, instead of being a horribly overworked and poorly prioritized quasi-cog who will burn out by 35.

Never give up (12/14)
If you ever find yourself in a dark place, I hope you find the strength to recall what makes you special and what role you play in the happiness of others' lives. Don't let the fire inside burn you — spark your optimism instead. I know it's hard; I hate when people think it's something you can flip with a switch. But if you believe in yourself, it's there. I believe in myself.

This seems less conceited when you consider I made it for my Facebook Timeline.  Fifteen percent less conceited.
MY FAMOUS ACTING CAREER


(The Hot Flashes) — I spent the first several hours sitting at a table with several women who kept comparing themselves and each other to famous actresses. I've learned two things from this: 1) it's best as a guy not to get involved with this conversation, because they'll never like or agree with your answer, even if they seek your opinion, the actress is beautiful and the comparison is valid; and 2) that's it.

(Treme) — After the first few takes, the director said to us guys, “You’re acting like you’re studying for a math test! Feed off her energy,” he said, pointing to the woman next to me, who was trying to pinch our nipples.

(Heebie Jeebies) — When a girl asked me what I was, I told her I was a paramedic. She walked up, bared her neck and asked me to diagnose the red welts she had on her neck. I said, “No, I’m playing a paramedic.” She said, “Oh, I thought you were a real one.” To which replied, “Nope, sorry ... but I’d say those are bug bites.”


(Treme) — The director advised the crowd to act as if we were from Kalamazoo and other midwestern cities, happy to be out in the sun for the first time this year. He didn’t specifically mention Toledo, which brought down my whole self-drafted backstory. Also undermining the whole out-of-hibernation angle: my tan from two months of swimming in Louisiana.


(American Horror House) — Just being cast for the role was a shot to my self-esteem, because the call was for college-age kids (which another call for the same shoot specified as ages 19-26). One of the first people I met told me her husband didn’t make the cut because he was too old — 32.

(Pawnshop Chronicles - kinda) — This past weekend, I worked as an extra on a movie scene that takes place at a carnival. We were townspeople apparently in the present day, but locked in the 1950s. Our job was to be wowed by Brendan Fraser’s Elvis impersonator singing “Amazing Grace” (not difficult). It was a stereotypical slice of Americana. Also, the scene featured several women wrapped in American flags, and little else.

(2 Guns) — I didn't notice until the second take that Denzel walks out of the bank door right next to me. We were so close that I had to divert my path a little. As my mind scrambled to process this surprise, I heard him say, "No, no." At first I thought he was talking to me, but it was his dialogue as he talked on his phone on his way to meet Mark. Ever the consummate professional, I waited until I walked out of shot before making a face that read, "DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?"

I was also in several scenes in "Beautiful Creatures."  Which, for some reason, I didn't write about at all. Firearms are scary. Muttonchops are just badass.

Best of 2012 - Election Central

ELECTION CENTRAL

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.

"They should throw out all the bums. Start over fresh.”

"Then what?"

“Elect leaders who respect the Constitution, like Ron Paul.”

“Ron Paul? Isn’t he one of the bums you want to throw out?”

“Why would I want to throw him out?”

“Because he’s an incumbent, and you just said they’re all bad.”

So why dwell on demanding photo IDs at the polls? Well, it's actually a stroke of political genius. See, as long as civil rights has been a thing in the United States, right-wing conservatives have done all they can to subvert the voting power of minorities, women, the poor and other undesirables. Poll taxes. "Literacy" tests. Arbitrary questions with impossible answers. Misinformation campaigns offering the wrong election date. The expunging of alleged "felons" from voting rolls, whether they did anything or not — or just happened to have the same name as a convicted felon. All of these were effective means to Block the Vote, but these days aren't the coolest actions. So now it's the claim that voters need a state-issued picture ID. At least now they can say they're concerned about voter integrity with a slightly straighter face.

If you don't like President Obama, fine. But stop pretending you ever did.

“Along the line, something happened. It no longer was enough to make a tidy profit — it became a holy duty to wring every possible dollar out of an enterprise. Entire industries cropped up, devoted exclusively to helping companies retain money. Firms made money solely on the idea that they knew how to retain money. And guess what? The money wasn’t in producing! Production is expensive. But you know what helps line pockets? Cutting back!

The GOP today is a collective of rich, white, older, ultraconservative males interested only in maintaining the status quo. They have the wealth and the power and they want to keep it that way. They are not interested in youth because the future does not matter to them. They scoff at environmental issues, education, poverty, infrastructure — the very problems U.S. youth will have to address in the years ahead. And the next generations will do so with an undercurrent of progressive thought. Yes, you will always have conservatives, liberals, libertarians and other ideologies in society, but they will coexist under more progressive norms than past generations.

“Let’s rap for a minute. [Pause for laughter/gasps.] You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here before you today. Well, I think it’s important to reach out to every voter. Some accuse me of being out of touch with you people. But nothing could be further from the truth — why, I’ve been in the black all my life. My ‘baby daddy,’ George Romney, was an auto executive in Detroit. Some of his best friends made ’64 Impalas.


The no-difference argument is ultimately a way of patting yourself on the back for being superior, while aggressively avoiding any heavy lifting. In other words, it's a copout. It would be smarter to say, "While I wish we had candidates less driven by money and politics, our choice in November is between Obama and Romney. And I'd definitely rather see one in office than the other, if for no other reason than to pave the way."

(To the tune of "Hold Me" by Fleetwood Mac)

R-Money, R-Money, R-Money
R-Money, R-Money, R-Money

When Rush Limbaugh says Barack Obama cannot relate to the American experience, what he's saying is that the American experience is a static thing, and is something Rush is qualified to judge.

So just what is The American Experience? There are many, many answers. No, strike that — there's exactly one: "Whatever someone experiences in America."

In most states, an ID card costs money. Even where it’s free, it requires a trip that itself costs money. DMV offices are nowhere near as ubiquitous as polling stations, and that presents a problem for many people. In my hometown, the closest DMV station is on a frontage road off the interstate (on the northern edge of the city), which is hard to find even in a car (and is a treacherous trek on foot). Unless we’re willing to put a free ID station on every block and go door-to-door taking IDs for people (many of whom may be too old to have all the required documents), then this amounts to a poll tax. A poll tax, you recall, was one of the main methods used to keep blacks from voting in the 20th century and is now illegal everywhere.

There are two kinds of people who don’t vote: those who stay home out of ignorance or apathy, and those who see it as a bold and defiant statement. The first kind needs education and awareness. The second kind needs a reality check.

Think of it this way: if you’re not voting because you think you’ve figured it all out, aren’t you just guaranteeing one less informed vote? Since you’re so high on your horse, shouldn’t you want your voice counted as much as those you so adamantly decry?

By Cort Rory
If these donkeys (asses?) had any integrity, they’d spend these three days in Charlotte flagellating themselves with whips, apologizing to voters and resigning. Every last turncoat one of them. Though it’d look like the Republicans bent them over if they did that. And that would just be pathetic.

A man proposed to his girlfriend at the RNC. I saw this as one of those “awww, cute” segments on the news. My immediate thought was, “glad they don’t want to deny this happiness to gays.”

Ian: "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."

Clem: "Paul Ryan showed he is going to make a superb vice president when Mitt Romney wins in November. Yee-haw!"

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.

"I’m going to vote for either Obama or Romney; I just can’t decide which.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Why, is that weird?”

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

“What kind of car do you drive?”

“I drive a Scion.”

“Drive him where?”

“What?”

“Your scion. Where do you take him? He’s gotta be pretty young. Horse-riding lessons?”

“No, Scion is a brand of car. Made by Toyota.”

“Ah, never heard of that one."

One thing’s for sure: I don’t think I could have made it through an Obama concession speech. It would have been poignant, fair and no doubt an assurance that everything was going to be OK. I would have just broken down — for the country, but also for him. Because there’d definitely be a feeling of, “He deserved better from us. We don’t deserve him.”

“Stuff” doesn’t count if it’s what the rich want. See, they deserve “stuff,” which in turn means it’s not “stuff.” But if the middle class needs “stuff,” then by God it’s “stuff.” And how dare the Democrats pledge to honor the social safety net? And how dare the voters actually consider voting for the party that has helped them and promises to keep on helping them!

Watching Romney throughout the campaign, I always felt that he wanted to win more than he wanted to be president. It's also how I felt about George W. Bush in 2000 — before 9/11 and after Katrina especially, he governed as if he knew he was in over his head. This seems to be the recent common thread for Republicans. I guess that's what happens when a party is beholden to birthright in selecting its candidates.

Best of 2012 - Funny/People

THIS CONCEPT CALLED "OTHER PEOPLE"
I can’t stand when people pat themselves on the back for how blunt, straight-shooting, common-sensical, no-nonsense and honest they are. Those aren’t bad qualities in and of themselves, but not if they’re substitutes for empathy and tact. And in those cases, they usually are.

Daddy issues (2/11)
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.

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.

Leave the rat race to the rats. It’s perfectly fine to not buy a house and a big car. You don’t have to work in a cubicle. If you’re happy, self-sufficient and compassionate, you’re rich.


It’s easier to say who’s not a hero: the person who switches on your power after a storm. Entertainers or athletes by sole virtue of being good at what they do. Babies. Someone clinging to life after an accident. Political commentators. And that’s fine. Not everyone you look up to has to be a hero. Again, inspiration, role model, hardworking person. All worth respect, all different.

Poor me (7/11)
How people view struggle is often an inverse function of how much they actually struggle. Anyone who lionizes having to live on Ramen noodles and eking out bills is someone lucky enough to not have to do that. People who worry about the ethics of their food are people with enough money to be that discerning. Suburbanites and hipsters drop big money to wear vintage and/or pre-worn clothing, to replicate a look popularized by people too broke to wear anything new.

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.

Desperation is a bitch. It aggravates all of the worst aspects of human nature: greed, arrogance, competition and all of their inbred cousins. It makes people toss aside any principles they may have just so they can get by for a little longer. It's as if the majority of us are drug addicts jonesing hard for something we can't afford, and didn't begin taking voluntarily to begin with.

SENSE OF HUMOR

Over the Top? (2/17) 
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.

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:

Rick's Army Condemning Indecency Somewhere Tawdry
Republicans Advocating Calling Issues Socialist Tripe
Regardless Any Coverup, Is Sans Tact
Regards All Commentary In Socialist Terms
Reagan Always Called It Something Tasteful
Rape: Ayn Calls It Sexy Time

“Matt, write a piece about how the liberal media is out to destroy American values through such authoritative mouthpieces as Katie Couric.”

“But isn’t she off the CBS Evening News now?”

“Doesn’t matter. She’s a liberal! No telling how many teens she’s corrupted through her broadcast by having pictures of people on her office walls.”

“How many teens these days even watch network news, let alone rely on Katie as their lone and unquestioned source for information?”

“Matt ... stop thinking. You’re violating corporate policy.”

“Sorry.”

“The point is that self-interested, hyper-partisan jackals run the mainstream media, and we have to get the good word out to teenagers so that they know not to trust its devious ways. And what better way to do that than through Conservative Teen magazine?”

A new video game starring Ron Paul is currently in development. Here's what we know so far.

By Earl “Clem” Bob
Ol’ Clem holds nothing but the utmost respect for our nation’s military. I admit I didn’t serve myself, but my father, his father and his father before him all tried. I come from a long line of 4-Fs. But I try to serve my country in other ways, such as cheering whenever we go to war. And paying extra-careful attention whenever a National Guard ad starring Kid Rock airs. Also, I recently joined the Facebook, where I liked a “Remember” graphic all of my friends were sharing, so there’s that.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina churned toward the coast of Louisiana. Our presses had stopped, it was dark, a few people were doing all the work and what little information we could compile was sent out in brief, bloggy bursts.

For our efforts, we won two Pulitzer Prizes. And that’s when we realized the value of cheap, online, on-the-fly journalism. And we figured, why not just do it that way all the time?

Beginning this fall, we will become a news operation focused on digital journalism. Again. But this time, the Katrina that will shut down our daily press is us.

“It’s as if there are two Americas: one full of people who work hard, and one where everyone’s on welfare,” he said. “I’m tired of my tax money going toward people who’d rather sit at home and watch Maury tell men they ain’t the baby daddy. That hits me in a very sensitive place — my pocketbook.”

Are you someone who likes to have fun in life and also feed your family? Do you desire out-of-this-world medical, vision and dental benefits? Well, have we got a opening for you!

At Dynamics Amalgamated, we operate by our corporate credo of, “Live a Lucrative Life.” Do you think you’re up to the challenge? And the fun? Dynamics Amalgamated is seeking self-motivated individuals for our representative interaction center. The ideal candidate will turn our “Customer Concierge” telephone system into profitable solutions for our enterprise.


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.

Cort Rory: The centrist corporate puppet beat the right-wing corporate puppet. Same puppet show, different day. And same puppet.

Earl “Clem” Bob: There can only be one reason that Obama captured so many votes in spite of everything — the Black Panthers!

“My fellow socialists! We did it! Tonight, we can finally declare America dead.”

[Whooping cheers]

“Thank you for being here so late to share this moment with me. Not that any of you have to go to work in the morning!”

[Laughter]

“Except for the illegal immigrants. I hope none of you had trouble voting fraudulently.”

[Cheers in Spanish]

By Earl “Clem” Bob
I thought about movin’ to Canada too after this election. Because I’m a real American and I don’t recognize this nation no more. That’s why I want my state become its own, sovereign nation. Because I love America.

Charles Is Charged
Happy Days of Reckoning
The Golden Graves
The Brady Bums
Slaved By The Belle
My Two Deadbeat Dads
It's Always Eagles Football in Philadelphia

Powerless Prowess
Deuter On Me
Martian Fart
Explosion of the Boar
Nowhere
Yes, Daddy

Best of 2012 - Getting Political

PHILOSOPHY
The Crusades
The Spanish Inquisition
The Holocaust

What doesn't count

"President Obama wants to take away my right to use federal dollars to deny people medical services that make my narrow personal beliefs cry!"

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.

Over the years, but lately in hyperdrive for some reason, I’ve noticed people going off on a very specific gripe. It goes something like this: “So there I was in the checkout line, and this woman was paying for stuff with food stamps/Louisiana Purchase card. And she had an iPhone! Can you believe that?!!” The insinuation being, of course, that this woman has terrible spending priorities and us righteously bootstrapped citizens should give her a lecture rather than our tax dollars.

Interacting with a diverse array of people shapes your thinking in both conscious and subconscious ways. I suspect that’s why people convinced wealth is a function of attitude don’t want to interact with the poor and middle class — because they might find out that all struggling people aren’t lazy, drug-addicted bastards. And learning that might make them question a lot of other things.

The downfall of many liberal activists is that they’re too righteous to be relatable. It’s annoying to go out to dinner with someone who spends the entire meal telling you why you’re an unethical person 12 times over for eating your hamburger. Conservatives, for all their faults, are able to chill out on occasion. And that’s no small thing. Guilt plays a huge role for both sides — liberals have too much and conservatives don’t have enough. Conservatives fiddle while their cities burn, whereas liberals won’t even pick up the fiddle until every trash fire in the world is snuffed out. That aspect alone draws away many people who otherwise might identify with us.

As I creep ever closer to presidential age (I’ll be eligible next cycle ... let’s get those bumper stickers rolling), I’m wondering exactly what impact, if any, my generation* is likely to have in D.C.

Yes, I said, “if any.” The baby boomers are likely to shadow us for a very long time. Why?

I have long criticized the idea of the unbiased news source. It’s a false ideal, because everyone harbors biases. Bias is like cholesterol — mostly known for being bad, but also for being essential to life in its good form. Every time an editor decides what cover or include in a publication, they are exercising bias. No one, be they journalist or reader, can wade through the infinite amount of news and perspectives that are out there. And really, who would want to? Everyone filters and interprets life in their own way. And that’s why no one can truly call themselves unbiased. A good editor will harness bias toward favoring relevance and accuracy rather than veiled ideology or revenue.


Overcompensation. That’s what we’re about now. Someone commit a heinous crime? Let’s form a mob and kill the bastard! Are our kids arrogant? Let’s tell them they’re no different than ants, and offer nothing but conditional love! Terrorists attack our country? We can attack their (or some) country so much better! A decade-long dip in the economy due to reckless deficit spending and irresponsible tax cuts? Time for drastic austerity measures that punish those who didn’t cause it! Global warming? Not only is it not real, I bought a massive SUV just to spite you! The NFL? Enough said.

We're living in a time of sociopathic capitalism, where the primary, if not sole, benchmark of leadership is how much money a leader can save. Everything else is expendable. In these austere times, it's downright quaint to believe that anything has a value beyond what fits in a ledger or a spreadsheet. Profits reign so supreme now that if we have to choose between earning 50 cents and educating a student, or making 51 cents and telling the kid to go to hell, we'll gladly give the kid directions.

In fact, for the first 13 years of my voting life, I wasn’t a Democrat at all; I didn’t align with any political party. Yes, I’ve always been liberal-leaning, but I never felt comfortable committing to a party. I’ve always believed that the individual candidate, the person, matters more than a straight ticket.

But in 2011, I officially registered as a Democrat because something funny happened in my quest to vote for individuals — I realized that not all, but most, of those I felt had the best interests of the country in mind were Democrats. The Republicans — a party with once I held simple and not-irreconcilable ideological differences — was increasingly a playground for far-right religious, anti-government and anti-tax zealots.

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.

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.”

To put it in football terms, this de facto feudalism is like saying the quarterback is the only player of any value. The owners say it enough and the people start to believe it. Aspiring players all vie to be quarterback. People support a pay grid that favors quarterbacks while throwing token bones to every other position. Players in other positions see themselves as failed quarterbacks who deserve their terrible lot. If a lineman gets injured, he has to pay for his own health care, because he didn’t try hard enough to be a quarterback. When the team wins, all glory goes to the quarterback. When they lose, it’s always the other positions’ fault. But of course, a football team can’t be all quarterbacks.

DID THEY REALLY DO THAT?


Our education system has enough problems without making up more. The idea behind vouchers is that public schools are failing due to educator apathy, and that free-market competition will light a sufficient fire under their asses to shape up. This cracked idea would fly only in our age, sold as we are on the image of an unmotivated government employee living high on the hog. Does anybody honestly associate that image with a public school teacher? Just being one requires an insane fortitude and a virtual vow of poverty — to say nothing of the incredibly touchy line they have to straddle with parents, administrators and the general public. They say mentoring young minds is its own reward, and we’ve sadly made sure that’s true.

You’ll oppose literally everything the Obama administration does, just because his name is on it. And that has never been more clear than today. So-called “Obamacare” is a political compromise based on a working model implemented in Massachusetts by, uh, Mitt Romney. You know, the guy you’re going to vote for? To be fair, he calls it the worst mistake he ever made. And I agree, in the sense that helping regular people is a severe impediment to Republican Party success.

You didn't have it coming, did you?"

"What?!! Of course not! Why would you even suggest that?"

"Look, I'm all for prosecuting legitimate rape, except in cases of rape or incest."

"Aren't you thinking of abortion?"

"Abortion is murder. There can be no exceptions to it."

"But rape has exceptions?"

"If you get pregnant as a result, then yes. Babies are a blessing."

I’ve been following with great interest your correspondence with UL Lafayette President E. Joseph Savoie, urging him to rescind the university’s new LGBT studies minor.

It’s my hope that Savoie will heed your wise advice and avoid “placating to political pressures.” Not listening to you would be a good start.

I’ve noticed that about politicians and closed-minded people in general — bloviate all you want about “traditional values” or “taking America back” or whatever, and not a peep. Defend civil rights such as gay rights, and suddenly you’re a “distraction.” Rocking the boat with your evil liberal ideas. Apparently we NFL fans like our players docile and silent, which is why they don’t put names on your jerseys or market your likenesses in any way. “Shut up and punt!”

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.

Disgusted by the recent successful application of democracy, some Louisianans are petitioning the White House to permit Louisiana to secede from the Union. To show how serious they are, many of the signees are using capital letters and even their real names.

If this secession succeeds, we could be in for plenty of perks. Here is a short list of what the new Republic of Louisiana, LLC can anticipate.

What it takes to get elected in Louisiana

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 - Sports and Shots

NOT VERY SPORTING
No, I think what really stings is that I saw an entire special teams' worth of punks in red uniforms do the cockiest team dance I've ever seen on the football field over and over, beginning well before they had the game in the bag. Before halftime, even. And karma was not a bitch. The dirty showboats got no comeuppance of any kind. And I learned once again that the good guys don't always win.

“Oh, yes, Lord! Thank you. I won’t let you down.”

“Please don’t. I’m tired of people seeing your 316-yard playoff game as a sign from Me. If they’re going to read something into your stats that isn’t there, I at least want those stats to be high.”

In retrospect, not the best forecast
American history is littered with leaders who turned their domains into autocracies. J. Edgar Hoover. Joe Arpaio. George W. Bush. Vince McMahon. Polarizing figures praised by advocates for “getting things done,” and reviled by critics for quashing dissent. Greedy people interested in being feared authority figures above all else, even as they pay marginal lip service to our best interests. Add Goodell to those ranks.

The New Orleans Bowl was indeed sweet once again.
Lately I've been wondering if people won't be satisfied until everyone in pro sports is mute off the field and solemn on it. While we're at it, let's remove names and even numbers from jerseys; after all, these are team sports. Let's continue to pretend that pro sports is just about the game and that colorful characters are not part of the draw. Let's continue to get deeply outraged by absolutely every statement that anyone makes, and keep up that outrage for all time. Let's ban everyone who crosses any lines with anyone, ever. Let's eliminate all the controversy and individualism from pro sports and bring them back to the golden age when everyone knew their place. (Does Doc Brown have a button in the DeLorean for "never"?)

Interactive teevee!
The Saints have been cheating for as long as they’ve existed. And they've hardly ever had anything to show for it. Here’s a comprehensive look back at the franchise’s futile cheating over the years.

100-meter rash
Synchronized steroids
Mounting the pommel whore
Gymspastics
Goodminton
Perpendicular bars
Polo Ralph Lauren


Saints rant (9/17)
I don’t say “I love you boys, no matter what,” because I would hope that’s implied. I don’t waste my time on lost causes. I think they can do better and if they can’t, they’ll regroup until that time comes back around again.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment (or in the non-passion of thinking about them for an extended period of time), but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next (in the sense that the Times-Picayune is improving itself by cutting back on everything).

NFL history, baby!

HOW MANY ARMS CAN WE BEAR?

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?

I’m tired of us treating these like isolated incidents. Have you noticed that? The first thing we always assume in times like this is that the shooter has connections to terrorism. And when we think that’s the case, we’ll apply every enforcement muscle we have to topple this conspiracy of death! After all, America is the land of the free — and we aren’t about to let sociopaths destroy our domestically peaceful way of life. And if it takes trading in a few of our civil liberties to preserve it, well, can’t be too careful.

Of course, when it turns out the gunman is some lone local nut job, we ease off, don’t we? Easy now. Let’s not get all crazy about gun control.

“What value can come from glorifying the shooter?”


“You mean reporting on him? Well, that’s what newspeople do. It informs us about who the suspect is, how he did it and perhaps provides some insight as to why.”

“That just leads to copycat crimes by people wanting to be famous.”

“Look, if people are willing to be famous for that reason, they have much bigger problems.”

This past week, a friend of mine from middle and high school was arrested for allegedly assaulting his father with a weapon. The attack came as a shock to myself and my classmates, as did the news that he’d had 13 prior arrests. We all knew him as a smart, quiet and friendly guy. A universally liked gifted student who gave zero indication that he’d turn out to be such a troubled adult. It’s still hard for me to absorb even as I type this.

Fortunately, his dad lived. He suffered cuts to his hands, arms and face, but he was well enough to talk to sheriff’s deputies.

That’s because his son’s weapon of choice was a samurai sword.

As tempting as it is to want to remake the media in a more emotionally soft image, it cannot and should not be done. Journalists are not the bad guys, and bad guys don't deserve obscurity just because they're unpleasant. Skewing toward silence won't make the media better and it won't make tragedies any less tragic. But knowing all the facts just might teach us something that makes the country better going forward.

None of this regulation has led anyone to believe that we can't fly, drive, ride, buy Mucinex or own items that could become weapons (or that just are weapons). And most sensible people will say that gun control hasn't made it impossible to own a gun.

For those of you unfamiliar with this feature, Esquire's Dubious Achievements issue highlighted all of the craziest, dumbest and most bizarre public moments of the past year. And 13 years ago, a proposal to arm teachers merited a choice entry on that list. It was crazy, dumb and bizarre, and the near-exclusive province of the nation's most famous gun nut.

So much has changed since 1999. So much. And yet, it doesn't really seem like that long ago.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nothing racist to see here



He claims it isn't racist, just a joke.

I can see how this is funny if you hate black people and your sense of humor reflects that stupidity. But if you remove racism from the equation, what's the joke? Is watermelon inherently hilarious? Someone help me out. Surely someone's compiled a book of funny jokes that look racist and sound racist but aren't racist.

The mannequin's master craftsman says, "I don't know how other people will take it." And that "he don't talk. Don't make no smart comments." He insists the watermelon is there because Obama "might get hungry." He says the statue is popular, so that can't be a bad reflection on Obama.

Yeah, nothing racist about any of that.

All of the crap defenses racists put forth point to one impenetrable truth — that even they know what they believe in is too vile to openly express.

How disgusting do you have to be to live like that?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today's lessons in parenting

1) If you have a 16-year-old son who receives "Blue Brees" bath salts as a Christmas present, maybe it's time to inquire about the people with which he hangs.

2) It's generally well-known that smoking bath salts has an effect on people that ranges from "not cool" to "face-eating crazy." The research is plentiful. So maybe don't let your teen smoke it. The results won't be any different.

3) The NFL tags licensed merchandise with holograms. Products endorsed by superstar athletes tend to have major advertising campaigns and are usually famous brands to begin with. Either way, the products won't be bath salts.

4) Even when someone does endorse something, that doesn't absolve you of your parental responsibilities. In the 1950s and 1960s, baseball players shilled cigarettes. Come on! If your son is too uneducated to realize that an unsanctioned, zombie Drew Brees doesn't make drugs safe, then it's on you to be the voice of reason and clarity. Which is apparently the problem to begin with.

5) I'd say you're too busy watching TV to raise your kid, but apparently not, because Brees is all over TV as a stable and positive influence. So, watch more TV, I guess.

6) Even if this was indeed Drew Brees' latest venture, who the hell wants to be him dead? He's so much cooler alive. Most people are. Let's keep it that way.

(I know, I know, I'm not a parent. Maybe I don't understand. One day.)

The barely hidden desires of Mitt Romney

I'm surprised I haven't heard more about this in the days since it's been news.


In a surprisingly candid new interview, Mitt Romney’s oldest son Tagg revealed that this father “had no desire” to run for president in 2012.

“If he could have found someone else to take his place … he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention,” Tagg told the Boston Globe in a behind-the-scenes look at the loss of the Romney 2012 campaign.

Despite aggressively running arguably the most costly campaign in American history, Tagg Romney claims that his father “wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life.”

Watching Romney throughout the campaign, I always felt that he wanted to win more than he wanted to be president. It's also how I felt about George W. Bush in 2000 — before 9/11 and after Katrina especially, he governed as if he knew he was in over his head. This seems to be the recent common thread for Republicans. I guess that's what happens when a party is beholden to birthright in selecting its candidates.

Chatter about Romney's apparent disinterest in the presidency rang throughout the campaign, from Democrats and Republicans alike. Furthermore, many Republicans didn't like that he was their candidate. And, of course, he lost in an electoral landslide. So that begs the question: who truly wanted Mitt to be president? Apparently, even he didn't want it.

Despite the likelihood that no GOP candidate in the 2012 primary field would have defeated Obama, it still behooved the party to try. If for no other reason than that the candidate might win. And then what?

Say what you want about Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush or Michael Dukakis — those people wanted to be president. Or, at the very least, they acted like they did. Which is always a plus when you're running for the position.

Republicans already have a major deficit when it comes to the issues that define this era; the last thing they need is another living caricature of everything terrible about their party with a side order of aristocratic who-gives-a-crap. Dubya got lucky that way; Romney, not so much. Thank goodness.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Tagg's comment is how unsurprising it is.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Can't imagine who they're worried about

All credit for this image goes to its creator, because I sure as hell don't want it.
The image above presumes a lot of facts not in evidence:

1) That 11 snipers on top of a school building is in any way desirable, assuring or effective;

2) That the answer to gun violence is always more guns;

3) That most, many or any schools in the U.S. have the budget for their own private Secret Services, or that our finest law enforcement and military professionals have the time and desire to regularly man these posts for free;

4) That no U.S. president before Barack Obama ever had children attending school under intense security;

5) That it's somehow a travesty that the president who has endured possibly the most hate ever from armed extremists feels the need to protect his children from a uniquely high threat of harm.

That last point is particularly important. Right now, the biggest threat all Americans face is gun violence from fellow citizens. And while all gun owners aren't unhinged gun nuts, unhinged gun nuts are increasingly the face of gun owners. And, be it racism or Republicanism, most of them have no love for the black, Democratic president. If gun owners want to regain respectability, considering why the Obama daughters need 11-person security teams would be a fantastic start.

In the case of the Obamas — or any first family — it makes sense to have a thorough security detail. But it's not the answer for the masses. I hope it never is. Just like the gun nuts claim, people kill people. And it's past time for a certain armed segment of people to own up to their threats and behavior.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Arming like it's 1999

In the past few days, there's been a lot of talk about arming teachers as a defense against school shooters. It's a dumb idea for all sorts of moral, ethical and logistical reasons (not to mention how most people calling for it otherwise claim teachers are corrupt union minions who practically saturate their Charles Darwin books over the thought of indoctrinating our youth). That we're even having a serious conversation about arming teachers shows just how far we've eroded in just a few years.

In 1999, Esquire magazine ran this item in its year-end Dubious Achievements compilation:


For those of you unfamiliar with this feature, Esquire's Dubious Achievements issue highlighted all of the craziest, dumbest and most bizarre public moments of the past year. And 13 years ago, a proposal to arm teachers merited a choice entry on that list. It was crazy, dumb and bizarre, and the near-exclusive province of the nation's most famous gun nut. 

So much has changed since 1999. So much. And yet, it doesn't really seem like that long ago.

I have a longstanding habit of keeping old magazines. In going through them, I'm often grateful I never did the sensible thing and threw them out. And it's because of things like this. Shifts in national attitude often work like weight gain — you see yourself all the time and you know on some level you're changing, but you're too close to see the day-to-day effect. But then one day, you see a picture of yourself from 13 years ago and say, "Damn." The picture reminds you that change happens. And it reminds you that you can always change again if you don't like what you see.

Over the past decade, our collective fear of everything has blown off the charts. It's almost quaint to recall a time when we were supposedly innocent. But for all we've learned and come to appreciate in that time, I think we've also lost some degree of sanity. Maybe our first instinct shouldn't be to default toward more aggression. What was ridiculous in 1999 is still ridiculous today. Unfortunately, we're a little more ridiculous too.

Our problems deserve better solutions than past punchlines.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Planes, Blades and Automatics

Another sticking argument in the gun debate is that deaths committed by cars, planes, drugs and crude weapons, just to name a few, don't prompt the same anger toward those items.

No, we don't call for bans on things that are not guns when they're used to kill people. 

But we do take some action.

When terrorists hijacked our jet airliners to kill thousands of people, we increased the security measures required to get on a plane. 

When someone wants to drive a car, they have to be of a certain age, take training courses, obtain a license, purchase insurance and obey traffic laws, as well as ensure their vehicle meets minimum safety standards. If they are reckless in operation of a vehicle, even if no one is hurt, they can have their license revoked.

When authorities discovered over-the-counter pseudoephedrine was a main ingredient in crystal meth, they enacted laws requiring accountability for each purchase.

Crude weapons such as bats, knives, nun-chucks and brass knuckles tend to be far less lethal and accurate than guns. However, their use in a violent context still means strict punishments. 

As for pipe bombs and IEDs, well, those seem to be universally considered as terrorist tools. Few people are falling over themselves to consider those constitutionally protected arms. Like with Sudafed, people buying mass quantities of bomb components generally reek of probable cause.

Are some of these measures excessive? Pointless? Counterproductive? Downright silly? Yes on all counts. But sometimes they're not. Either way, we've collectively decided in these situations that freedom comes with a degree of responsibility, and put it in action. It's an evolving process. But it's a process, at least. We didn't dismiss it offhand because there weren't these types of laws 200 years ago.

And none of this regulation has led anyone to believe that we can't fly, drive, ride, buy Mucinex or own items that could become weapons (or that just are weapons). And most sensible people will say that gun control hasn't made it impossible to own a gun.

If anything, the car/knife argument shows how ridiculous an exception guns are when we talk about safety and purpose.