Sunday, November 30, 2014

Life as an impulse purchase

(From Capitalist Letters)

A pressure cooker, an Abdominator, a leisure suit and The Best of Neil Diamond on cassette are stacked up in a closet.

Pressure cooker: (Yawn) "Good morning, all."

Abdominator: "Hey."

Best of Neil Diamond: "Mornin'."

Leisure suit: "TGIF!"

Pressure cooker: "Oh, is it Friday?"

Leisure suit: "I don't know. I lost track in 1983."

Best of Neil Diamond: "You were still being worn in 1983?"

Leisure suit: "I was only worn in 1983. That was the year Ken bought me."

Abdominator: "Ken was behind the times, huh?"

Leisure suit: "Yes. Yes he was. And still is."

Pressure cooker: "At least you got worn! I've never been taken out of my box. Just opened."

Best of Neil Diamond: "My shrink wrap is fully intact. I don't get it. Ken claimed he was a fan."

Abdominator: "You have good songs on you."

Best of Neil Diamond: "I know, right? I mean, at this point, who knows how hissy they sound. But Ken could still play me in his Cressida."

Pressure cooker: "The Cressida! Now there's something you never see in the closet."

Abdominator: "It must be so nice to get used that much. I got used three times, once by the dog. Does that count? If not, twice."

Leisure suit: "Looking at Ken, I'd say he could a few extra go-rounds on it. Then he could fit in me again."

Pressure cooker: "It'd take more times than that, I think."

Best of Neil Diamond: "If he put me in his Walkman, maybe he'd be inclined to jump around some more."

Walkman: "Nope, sorry, over here."

Abdominator: "Oh, shoot! Never thought you'd go out of style."

Walkman: "I blame compact discs. Since Ken changed out his collection three years ago, I've been tucked back here with corroding batteries."

Leisure suit: "How have we not seen you all this time?"

Walkman: "This bag of flip-phones has been in the way, and that smartphone just got thrown in here too."

Abdominator: "That's a pretty new smartphone. Still has a charge, even. What's it doing here?"

Smartphone: "Ken upgraded. My two years was up."

Walkman: "Two years? Man, they don't make things like they used to."

Leisure suit: "I think most of us would have taken two years of use."

Smartphone: "I still work perfectly. Ken only used five percent of my memory."

Leisure suit: "Huh?"

Abdominator: "So why did he dump you here?"

Smartphone: "Because the new version of me has a slightly better interface."

Leisure suit: "Well, welcome to the land of impulse buys."

Walkman: "And retired must-haves."

Smartphone. "Thanks. So what does that make me?"

Leisure suit: "Futuristic! Please, do tell us, what is life like outside the door? Is everyone getting along? Are cars flying yet?"

Smartphone: [Loses charge]

Abdominator: "Awww! I'll bet everything's going great out in the world."

Revised Saints prediction, part X


(Last week: 4-12)

I didn't watch one play of the Steelers game. I didn't even check the score until the Saints were up 35-16, which is when the Steelers did their too-little-too-late-but-just-barely dance. Also, just about every other team I wanted to win did today, including the Jaguars over the Giants, so clearly the world wants me writing instead of acknowledging that football exists.

I'm thinking now that the Saints aren't irrevocably bad, they just apparently completely flipped the script of home vs. road supremacy. Given that they have two road games left (both against beatable teams), I think they could manage 7-9 at this point, which could very well land them the division.


I'm really bad at this prognosticating business.

Well, I finally lost at something

This month, for the second time, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. In 2012, I reached the winning 50,000-word count with an incomplete draft of If That's What You Want.

This year ... I wasn't even close. Final count: 21,843.

I met the average one day. That isn't zero.
And of course that bums me out, because as I so often paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, I want to do unbelievable on the hearing test. I hate to lose or come up short on anything, especially when it's something I put my heart into.

But it's not all bad, because the novel I wrote this time, Capitalist Letters, would be a stretch at 50,000 words. It's a story (or several intertwining stories) told through short narrative chapters, magazine and newspaper articles and through the point of view of inanimate objects. There's a journalistic economy to it. I joke that I can say 50,000 words' worth of something in 20,000 words, and this story might be 20,000 words' worth when it's complete. At this stage it's more of an exercise than anything, and some of it is frankly fluff. So we'll see how it goes. If nothing else, it gives me something promising to work on at a future time when life isn't so hectic.

Anyway, here's another excerpt from Capitalist Letters:

Lisa goes to heaven for a little bit

Well, that was weird.

The last thing Lisa remembered, she was driving, then she wasn't. She had apparently been picked up like her mother had picked her up as a child when she wanted to see things. Except that she didn't want to see what she was seeing — herself being cut out of what used to be car, but was now a jagged black tuxedo of torture.

The jaws of life, they called the freakish device they were using. It's the kind of machine you never see until you're too horrified to see it.


That noise! That noise should ever be near a person!

That blood! That blood should never be on a person!

Am I alive? I sure don't look it.

"Follow the light," her mom told her as she embraced her. Mom looked a lot like some old picture Lisa had seen a million times. Anyway, wasn't Mom a lot older and nowhere near here? And didn't she typically not sound like she was not real?

"What light, Mom?" Lisa asked weakly, weaker than she was feeling, almost half-asleep.

Mom pointed up. "The light you see before you if you look for the light." Huh?

Then there was nothing. Darkness. And a bright white light in the middle of it, like a polka dot.

Lisa recalled that she'd read how the "light" was a human function, a misfire of the synapses, perhaps, that many people in the process of death or near-death mistook for the beacon to heaven.

Overanalytical even in the process of death.

"Follow the light!" A disembodied voice, maybe her late uncle's, echoed from somewhere indistinct.

"Follow the light!" Was that a Munchkin? Well, they were dead.

"Follow your nose!" Toucan Sam?!!

Light … light… light … light… echo … echo … echo …

Lisa didn't recall actually taking the advice, but there she was, suddenly in a gigantic, ornate lobby, not unlike one you'd see in an upscale urban hotel. Didn't Truman Echeverria own a hotel like this?

"Hello, dear," the receptionist called out to Lisa through a teeming crowd of people. There might as well have been everyone who'd ever died here, but the receptionist's eyes aimed at her like a laser in a room with a single object.

Lisa ambled her way to the desk, wondering if that really was Phil Hartman she'd just seen. And Gandhi!

"What happened?" Lisa asked the receptionist, again suddenly groggy.

"You are currently dead," the receptionist, whose name was Pam, replied too cheerfully.

"Currently dead?" Lisa asked in disbelief. "What on Earth does that mean?"

"Currently dead means you're not quite dead, but you're much of the way there."

"So there's hope?" Lisa asked hopefully, regaining her energy.

"Yes, there is, but why not stay here in heaven? It's the best place in the universe!"

"So heaven's real?"

"Yes, dear," Pam said. "I know you are a skeptic, but I'm here today to prove to you that not only is heaven real, but that you'll want to stay a loyal guest with us forever!"

"But … but … I have a life down there on Earth. A good one!"

"Really? A good one? Are you sure about that?" The receptionist asked with a skeptical scowl on her face. "Now, see, that's what I'm skeptical about. You're a computer programmer who's constantly badgered and belittled for being a woman. You're shy, and the world is built for extroverts. You're lonely."

"I have friends and family there," Lisa objected. "Friends and family who love me and don't want to see me dead! And I don't want to be dead either!"

"Come with me," Pam commanded, grabbing Lisa's reluctant arm. "I want to show you something."

The two walked into a sprawling ballroom that was oddly empty and quiet, considering the chaos of the lobby. Pam pressed a button and a giant screen lowered quietly from the rafters. The screen then displayed an image of Big Burger Picnic.

"Look at this fast-food restaurant. You know how much business we get from it? A ton. Literally. Tons and tons of people. They kill themselves eating here. They kill themselves working here. And for what? To keep a roof over their heads. So they can stay alive another day to go keep working at Big Burger Picnic. And to take care of their kids, whose chances are so shot from the outset that they'll be lucky in 15 years to go work at Big Burger Picnic. That's a good life? You think that's what a good life is?"

Lisa didn't know what to say. Whatever assertiveness she'd found in the car with Truman Echeverria had apparently died in it as well.

"That's not my life," she replied meekly. "I have a plum gig as a programmer. It's not without its faults, but it's my dream."

"But really, it's no different," Pam admonished. "You're at the bottom of the barrel, with very little chance to scrape to the top. They treat you like shit there …"

Lisa was surprised to hear the word "shit" in heaven.

"… And even in the best of situations, you still have to scrounge to survive every day just to have the privilege of breathing that polluted air, drinking that diseased water and eating the food that slowly drags you toward death's door. You. Truman. Nearly 7 billion others."

"Truman! Oh my God, where is he?"

"He's currently on hold with another representative."


"Yes. You see, we serve as brand ambassadors to ensure that you select a quality experience in the afterlife over the miserable meat-grinder that is life below. Here, you will never have to worry about death, pain, loss or grief. It's something you should really consider. You're a great and strong girl, Lisa. You deserve a great and strong afterlife experience to go with it. And what better name recognition than heaven? Trillions of souls can't be wrong!"

"This isn't, like, an eternity of strumming a harp while flying on clouds as angels, is it?" Lisa asked timidly.

"Oh, heavens, no, dear," Pam replied. "No pun intended. Ha ha ha! You quickly find your place here. With more than 8 million career opportunities, you'll find the vocation that's right for you!"

"So you have to work in heaven?"

"But of course, dear! A community as magnificent as heaven doesn't just come together! You have to earn your keep, pull yourself up by your own divine bootstraps. But look on the bright side — no 401(k) and no taxes! You get to work as long as you want, and keep all your money! For all eternity! Maybe one day you'll work hard enough to climb the heavenly ladder and meet the big CEO himself!"

Lisa hesitated. She wasn't sure this wasn't actually hell.

Heard on the Reno police scanner

"Is that an African or a European swallow?" 

"I don't know that!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's possible to care about more than one thing

On my previous post, which was about football, I received this comment:

People are rioting in the streets demanding justice. Children are hungry and homeless this Thanksgiving. We just bombed Syria....again. But this. Yes. Priorities. Good to have in your 30's.

Of course, I have no idea who wrote this. I don't know if it's one of the many trolls I've attracted over the years, or an all-new troll, or someone I know who feels like I needed to read this without confronting me directly. In any case, it's a pretty hostile dig.

But that isn't what bothers me about it. The attitude behind it does, and has for years.

Many people — most of whom I wouldn't argue with in principle — operate under a notion that if you're not talking at every moment about the gravest ill in society, then you are foolish and part of the problem. That because a person can care only about one thing (apparently), it had better be the Most Important One at all times.

They seem to think every problem in the world would vanish if people would just step away from the sports for a few minutes — or any other distraction created by puppetmasters solely for the purpose of enslaving people or whatever such self-righteous nonsense.

These people hijack all sorts of posts and conversations, purportedly making a point about someone's sense of perspective but mainly saying, "Look at me, I see more clearly than you do."

(I suppose we'd call this "righteousjacking" if that weren't such an unwieldy term.) 

The perspective argument has its time and place, but it too requires perspective. If someone is forever dwelling on welfare, for example, it's right to set them straight about what really gobbles the most governmental spending. Priorities, as the above commenter would say.

Random zero-sum scolding such as, "You should care about world hunger, not Sons of Anarchy," on the other hand, accomplishes nothing.

A blog post about the Saints — part of a weekly series I've been writing all season long, no less — is not evidence I don't care about more pressing issues. I think the 10 1/2 years I've been writing this blog is pretty clear proof of that. That fact is even more evident offline, where my sister saw me watching MSNBC last year and asked, "Do you ever watch anything fun?" (And she works in the U.S. Congress, arguably not a hotbed of wackiness.) Of course I do. In fact, I'm a pretty silly person most of the time. Not because I haven't seen or been through any hardship in my life, but because I have. Every time I joke about something, or get irrationally passionate about trivial things, it's a way of coping with the real problems out there that would be overwhelming to try to shoulder.

There's nothing noble about being miserable every moment, nor does such an outlook facilitate lasting change. That hyperserious perspective isn't any less skewed than being blasé about everything. It certainly doesn't make anyone pleasant to be around.

I lived in Missouri for years, so I've seen its particular strain of racial tension firsthand. (Indeed, I recently unfriended a Missouri acquaintance on Facebook because she referred to a man as "colored." She's 22.) So when the grand jury's decision in Ferguson was announced, I cried. In the middle of a shitty Saints game, I suddenly cared a lot less about the shitty Saints game. I didn't tweet or write much about Ferguson for a variety of reasons. But the main ones were that 1) it was simply too sad in a real way and 2) I had nothing profound to add to the conversation. It's a terrible situation all around with no winners or positive outcome even in the best scenario. That seems to me too obvious to express with much more than quiet tears. (In other cases, conversation or good works do the trick. One size of expression does not fit all issues.)

At times, I've been exactly the kind of person I'm decrying here; I own up to that. But over time, I've learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. Deep down, I believe most people have a sharp sense of empathy and a desire for justice to be done. So I don't judge them harshly for caring about something superfluous, be it sports or the Kardashians. Because we all have that level of something, whether or not we admit it. That doesn't keep me from trying to be a better person every day and refusing to put up with ignorance wherever it rears its head in my presence.

While driving to work on Tuesday afternoon, I tuned to a sports-talk jock who said something to the effect of, "If you're upset that your football team isn't doing as well as you thought it would despite its talent, if that's what you're mad about, then you're doing pretty good. Because it's ultimately something that isn't important." 

Words of wisdom.

I keep that perspective in mind, even when it reads like I don't. Don't mistake that for apathy where it counts. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Revised Saints prediction, part IX


(Last week: 6-10)

Once again, I'm writing this before the game is over. Because, really, it's all over.

This Saints team won't win another game this year. With everything that's happened to them, I almost believe it's divine intervention at the hand of a particularly cruel deity.

Even with the astounding amount of injuries, I thought they had a shot against the Ravens. After all, Drew Brees had a chance to beat the last team he hasn't beaten, and it was Monday Night Football, and milestones and prime time are two of his best motivators. Alas, Baltimore had them beat in every phase, in a way that infuriated me. It's always infuriating to see the ones you support completely dominated, especially when it's by swaggering jerks.

To say nothing of the Saints' ineptitude in general. And don't even get me started on the bent officiating. Or that the terrible Ferguson decision was issued during the game. What a miserable night. Not that the two events are even remotely equivalent, but my faith in just about everything died a little more tonight. 

The worst part, football-wise, is that there are several weeks left in the season. After three straight losses at home, I don't think there's anything the Saints can do right. Like I said early in the season, there's something wrong with this team that's deeper than what's happening on the field. I'm not sure what the answer is, apart from a lot of turnover in the offseason.

It's only through the bizarre ineptitude of the entire NFC South that the Saints weren't eliminated from playoff contention long ago. But they will be soon enough. There's nothing left. 

What a shame. What a waste.

Other NFL divisions

NFC Midwest

The perennial winner? Casserole.

AFC Deep South

Blames the NFC Deep South for all of its problems.

NFC Pacific Northwest

The uniforms are breathtaking, but the play is depressing.

AFC New England

Its teams came over on Mayflower trucks.

NFC New York

It’s proud to kick your division’s ass, at least theoretically.

AFC North Dakota

Work is work.

NFC South Carolina

Flies a Redskins flag specifically to offend.

AFC Least

Gives other teams teams to beat.

NFC West Coast

Where games don’t start way too early, ahem!

AFC Middle East

Still a less-hazardous locale than any football field.

NFC Siberia

Every game is rescheduled to Detroit every week.

AFC Insufferable

Consists of the respective fan bases of the Patriots, the Cowboys, the Eagles and the Seahawks (the latter subbing in until the Raiders stop being sad).

NFC Hipster

Insists the NFL hasn’t been cool since facemasks became a thing.

AFC Obama

Mocked relentlessly by the NFC No.

NFC More Butts

Winner of the “Fan names a division” contest on Twitter.

AFC Extra Crispy

It’s only a matter of time before the league gets this corporate.

North & South on AMC

A classic miniseries starring Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trailer review: Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas stars Kirk Cameron as Kirk Cameron, and also stars a man named Christian (Darren Doane), who isn’t sure he likes what Christmas has become. While hosting a party in his massive, mall-like mansion, Christian decries the materialism of Christmas and all the holiday trappings that everyone is having the time of their lives enjoying.

“This ... is not ... what Christmas is all about,” Christian laments to Kirk Cameron, after both have retired to Christian’s car, because apparently that’s more Christmas.

Christian then rattles off several true facts about the pagan origins of many Christmas symbols, and why those facts bum him out so much.

“Newsflash! Not in the Bible!” he says, either about his car or about Christmas trees.

Kirk Cameron then sets Christian straight — not on how cool it is that all major religions and nonreligions have observances during the winter solstice, so maybe we’re all one and the same after all, but on how all of that is garbage and everything is all Christianity, even if it doesn't seem like it and isn't.

A slow-motion vignette about the nativity follows, where nothing gets said and baby Jesus is represented by a cloth, and it totally works, you guys. Christian is SO rapturously convinced that he immediately becomes the life of the party, happy to see his family, friends, tree, presents and (presumably) peppermint bark through the aperture of Kirk Cameron's Jesus. A montage of dancing follows. Christmas has been saved. All in two minutes and three seconds. A holiday miracle for our times.

The trailer hints at a longer movie, raising the possibility that the trailer didn’t spoil it entirely. Perhaps what we see in the preview is the first act, and that the real conflict arises when Christian wakes up on Christmas morning realizing that everything Kirk Cameron told him is not only razor-flimsy, but also kind of awful. Maybe Christian comes to terms with the cultural melding that is Christmas, accepting the fact that people celebrate it in many different, personal ways, and that’s OK. Perhaps Christian thinks it over for the next 12 days, and on Jan. 6, has his epiphany. Talk about saving Christmas!

But, more likely, the longer film is simply the preview’s story arc with a lot more Kirk Cameron proselytizing and Christian dad-dancing. You might come away from this trailer thinking you want two minutes of your life back, but you’ll have to see the full movie to want 80 minutes of your life back.

Unrated; 2 minutes, 3 seconds; now playing on the Internet.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Helter wed-her

Charles Manson is getting hitched, and there is much rejoicing by defenders of traditional marriage.

I've already seen several unmarried friends joke (?) that even Charles Manson is married and they aren't. Which is funny (?) but also a flawed premise.

Lots of terrible people get married all the time. Charles Manson has been married at least twice before. It's an easy contract to enter into and is irrespective of personal worth.

Conversely, lots of awesome people marry later in life or not at all.

So if anyone is so bold as to tell me, "Charles Manson is married and you aren't," I shall respond, "Yes, but I'm not Charles Manson."

There's at least as much merit to not being Charles Manson as there is to being in a good marriage.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Revised Saints prediction, part VIII


(Last week: 8-8)

I'm writing this with most of the fourth quarter left and right after Kenny Stills' touchdown, but my mind's made up. 

These Saints have quit. Mentally, which is the worst way. 

I know the feeling. The year I played high school football, we started 4-0, tying for first place in one of Louisiana's largest districts. Then we dropped four in a row. Then we won the homecoming game against a winless team, a game so lopsided that I played in it. Our finale was at home against a team against which we were even. I think we still had a chance to make the playoffs at that point, but it was remote. We fell behind early and never caught up. By halftime, all the energy was gone. We had nothing to play for and even pride seemed out of reach. We knew we blew the season. At that point, it's not even resignation anymore — it's damn close to apathy. A feeling that it's so clear your time isn't now, that all you can do is wait for the planets to line up again before you even get a shot.

I'd know that feeling again in 2005-06, when I applied for dream job after dream job and got closer and closer every time, until at one point in later interviews they were telling me (winkingly, of course) to get ready to work. Then I was rejected. It hurt a lot every time, but after a while I grew numb to it, as if nothing would ever work out until a different year agreed with me. All I could do at that point was ride out however long it took until mojo bothered to pay a visit. In between, I took a minimum-wage job and tried to make the best of it. This is the point in this season that the Saints and their fans are going through, and it's a grinder.

The sad thing is that, at least until today, the Saints had no reason to quit. They were still alive, and might still be. But with the Falcons stepping up today, that seems all but impossible now. All those close-shave losses just kick that much more wind out of you in that case. There's a certain amount of heart you never get back when you have a long stretch left to play for nothing.

I envision possible wins against Carolina and Tampa Bay, but that's a best-case scenario. The Superdome is no longer an advantage, the fans have checked out and the players aren't clicking (even considering injuries and similar chip-falling factors, it's awful). I figured we'd all forget the 2014 season the moment Week 17 ended, but it's a shame that the team seems to have forgotten it already.

It didn't have to be this way.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Should be a neutral issue

Is there any argument against Net neutrality other than:

"I am the CEO of Comcast"

or, "Big government free market word salad?"

Otherwise, this seems like one of the most settled issues of our time.

A simple request

No matter what your political, religious or cultural views are, please don't let them rationalize you into liking subpar crap — be it movies, TV shows, cable channels, music, people, etc. — just because said crap tells you what you want to hear.

This post brought to you by Kirk Cameron movies and many other things.

Monday, November 10, 2014

20 reasons this video is very wrong

Recently, I blogged about the video where a woman walks in New York City for 10 hours and records the cat-calls and other come-ons she gets. I figured that, inevitably, some guy would record a tone-deaf parody insisting that it's the woman's fault for being so sensitive. I assumed that such a video would contain not a single correct equivalency and that the guy would be completely self-unaware.

I wasn't disappointed. Meaning, I was.

This guy used to be on Fox News. He is not Don Draper's age. I'll let both of those facts speak for themselves.

I should let the video speak for itself, too, but I can't help not doing that. Here is a (possibly incomplete) list of everything that's wrong with this video:

• His tone of voice is reminiscent of Glenn Beck's "kill with a shovel" radio days.

• He apparently thinks a random guy saying "have a nice day" and the like to a woman is based on an earnest interest that she have a nice day, and not on his desire to have a nice day.

• He mocks the woman's concerns with a fake shriek, which is real mature.

• Far from "scraping the bottom of the barrel," the "have a nice day" cat-calls are actually worth the most examination, because of the veneer of politeness. It offers the guy an alibi — "I was just trying to be friendly" — which is far more insidious than a desperate whistle. It suggests that, on some level, the guy knows his intentions are indefensible and feels he must dress it up. So who knows what else he's thought out?

• "It's a compliment! HurrEYYYYEROLLLLLL!!" With that, he's effectively set up his premise that men aren't creepy narcissists but rather specially attuned to women's wants and needs.

• "But is this representative of all women, even most women, even a teeny sliver of women?" Completely wrong question. But to answer it: Yes.

• "I took a hidden camera to the local mall to find out." A woman employing a hidden camera to show how much she's leered at while minding her own business is one thing. A man taking one out to a mall to aggressively hit on women is not at all equivalent and in fact proves the original video's point in hi-def 3-D surround sound.

• The mall scene opens with a montage of his unsolicited compliments. It's choppily edited, so we don't see much context or reaction. The point seems to be that he isn't cat-calling, but simply issuing appropriate observations. But somehow, this montage — the one that's on his own video — makes him sound even creepier.

• Many, maybe most, of the women to whom he issues compliments are store employees. The thing about retail is, you're generally supposed to put up with anything with a smile, or at least with politeness. Unless someone is especially rude, aggressive or threatening, you're supposed to brush it off to help the sale. The customer is always right, after all. If the interaction is friendly and the context is right, maybe a compliment even is in order. But the roll-with-it reaction of a retailer isn't exactly concrete proof that women enjoy random "compliments" from strangers. 

• "Is your birthday December? It'd be the perfect stone for your eyes," he tells the jeweler who could not be less interested in acknowledging him. Considering the points of his video are 1) that men's unsolicited comments about women's beauty are not pick-up lines and 2) women love them, this clip should have been cut, placed in an ashtray and incinerated.

• "Not ONE WOMAN was offended or mad!" To your face, bro.

• "In fact, when I apologized ..." Oh, just keep digging.

• "I thought only pretty girls worked here. ... Not that you're not attractive." Nice attempt to show that you compliment men too. We know you don't. Again, alibis. 

• The jeweler eventually opens up, but only after she's opened up her case. Most of the women in the video — again, that he shot and edited — look like they're tolerating his wiles at best.

• "IT MADE HER DAY!" Meaning, of course, that because one woman said that, women aren't subject to male predators on a constant basis.

• "She then started RUBBING LOTION ON MY HANDS!" Because that is her job. His attempt to make that into a sex joke makes me ashamed of my Y chromosome.

• "I felt like I was being sexually exploited!" Glad he takes that issue seriously.

• "What does this prove to us at the end of the day? Not a ton, namely that anyone can make and edit a YouTube video." No argument there.

• "Also, that feminists suck." This video is the reason everyone should be feminists.

• I will admit, though, that some portions of this video are genuinely hard-hitting — namely, the clips cribbed from the original video. The mocking screams that follow hammer home how much she is right, and he is wrong.

The next time he gets the urge to stare into a camera, Steven Crowder should look in a mirror instead.

Revised Saints prediction, part VII


(Last week: 10-6)

OK, it's been nearly 24 hours. I think I got most of my rage out.

The 49ers game was just about as perfect a microcosm of the Saints' 2014 season as we ever need to see. A bafflingly bad start; opponents suddenly excelling at things they couldn't do in practice before; the feeling that it was over for the Saints at the half; a sudden resurgence of stunning greatness that made you think everything would be all right; and, of course, an inability to close so spectacular that it would be edited out of a fiction novel for being too preposterous.

Every loss burns, of course. But the 49ers game had every negative emotion there is for Saints fans: anger, sadness, heartbreak, denial, confusion, frustration, resignation. The Saints had that game won about four times, but lost it the time it finally counted. I don't know if that's worse than a blowout, but it's at least equally lousy.

That Hail Mary. Oh man, that Hail Mary. The rush of winning a game in the most thrilling way possible, even if just for a split-second, is hard to come down from. I'm willing to concede that Jimmy Graham pushed off, which pretty much directly led to his ability to catch that ball (though maybe not, which is worse). But one thing that will stay with me about this game, and will take me longer to get over than the outcome itself, is this:

Even if Graham did push, Perrish Cox flopped like a shady soccer player. He didn't have to do that, but he did. Which tells me that he was determined to affect the outcome of the game whether or not he was in the right. BOO. That burned me every second of overtime. Again, overtime most likely should have happened. But I'm disappointed that Graham wasn't able to score the winning TD reception in OT as Cox flopped helplessly to the Superdome turf for real, taking some loose pieces home to remind himself evermore that they don't hand out Oscars in the NFL.

Also, Drew Brees is getting better at taking a sack, in the sense that he did it once or twice, but should have done it more times than that (though his refusal to swallow his pride led to some awesome plays Sunday, so who knows?). Or, short of that, get an O-line that works so that he doesn't have to make that decision six times a game. Something.

As much as I hated this game and its home-streak-ending properties, I don't think it says as much about the Saints as the previous two games. The 49ers have obnoxious elements from top to bottom, but (like the Saints) they're better than their record suggests. They had to win to stay alive in the NFC more than the Saints did. And even then, they barely got it done after squandering a commanding lead.

All this game really proved for the Saints is that they can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and we already knew that.

They'll still probably win the division.

Bonus picture from my desk drawer in Colin Kaepernick country:

You might be surprised to learn that this is an old newspaper.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Excerpt from a thing I'm writing

I wasn't sure I had it in me, but my novel for National Novel Writing Month is rolling along. Its working title: Capitalist Letters. Last night at a write-in, I wrote an entire plot thread from scratch about an introverted and maligned female coder who is tasked with picking up a client, one of the world's most famous CEOs, from the airport. Already intimidated by the errand, she is given a lengthy rider about how to (not) interact with him, and is told to arrive three hours early because the CEO hates to wait for even a minute. She's further urged to rent an expensive car because her new Acura would be too gauche for him. 

This is barely edited.

Picking up a CEO 

Lisa had gotten to the airport in no time, with little traffic. The car rental had gone smoothly, though she wondered if the fancy Mercedes she wound up with would be acceptable. It was, frankly, a ridiculous piece of conspicuous consumption, something that deserved every egg that could conceivably be thrown at it. But still, after all she heard about Truman Echeverria, she wouldn't feel secure about anything until the moment of truth.

She waited patiently in the lobby, holding up the sign that her passenger's rider had mandated. After a few minutes of feeling awkward and somewhat stupid, she jokingly twirled it a bit, just as she had during her first job in high school, when she would flail a giant arrow on the street promoting a pizza place. But she stopped the silliness when she realized that wasn't becoming of a chauffeur of her stature.

At some point, she realized that she was completely alone. No one else was holding any signs. Did they even do that anymore? Wasn't that something that cellphones and other technologies had rendered nearly defunct? Who knew?

All Lisa knew was, she wanted this to be done with already. Vomit dread, she called it, where the anticipation is worse than the action. She remembered a similar feeling of dread from her schooling, when the nuns would come down on her hard with the ruler, or sometimes not at all. Either way, it was a terrifying punishment for (usually) not praying in the correct posture. To this day, it was part of her spiritual OCD, even if she didn't believe anymore. God may or may not be a fluid concept of dubious reality, but the punishment authority figures could inflict was very, very real.

Just then, clamor. The terminal came alive with activity. A flight had apparently landed. Passengers are arriving. Many of them looked very important. This could be a flight that Truman Echeverria would be on.

The pack of photographers moving in unison out of nowhere was also a pretty strong cue.

The next few moments for Lisa were a blur. She suspected later that she had moved closer to the scrum, because it was over before she knew it.

Truman Echeverria. In the flesh. Looking like an important human being, but also like a human being. Before Lisa could decide whether or not to approach him, he grinned, tapped her shoulder and headed off with her. A big guy, presumably a handler, fended off everyone else. Suddenly, silence. It was over that fast. Or maybe she was just numb, who knew?

Not that the screaming in Lisa's head stopped. Truman had yet to say a word. In the early calamity, that made sense, but now it was just getting weird. Lisa picked up on his friendly cues, his smiles and nods, but even then she still didn't feel comfortable going against her orders not to speak until spoken to.

Truman, the famous blowhard, had picked a hell of a time to be quiet.

They arrived at their car, which caused Lisa's stomach to tighten, because this was one major checkpoint of anxiety. She braced for what she assume would be a strong reaction.

Instead, he continued to say nothing. She had unlocked the door, and with that he'd opened his door and climbed into the front seat. The front seat! Are you kidding me? Had he read his own rider?

Looking desperately for an in, she looked for his luggage, but all he had was his carry-on. He seemed confident about his cargo, which suggested to her that he hadn't simply overlooked his checked baggage. Maybe that's where his handler was, she thought. And overthought.

Lisa stood outside her driver's-side door for a moment, trying desperately to calibrate her thought. Was it time to go now? Wait for the guy who might be the handler? How could she figure it out? After all, she was told not to speak to him first. She never spoke to anyone first. She had once taken medication for that sort of thing.

In the end, she decided to cop out — to buckle in, start the car and see what happened. She did. Nothing happened.

She was silent, but in her head she was screaming.

Say something.

Say something.


Then, Truman Echeverria, the titan of business, football and reality TV, did.

"You're awfully quiet!"

Pocket analysis of the 2014 midterms

• No one can truly be surprised over the voter turnout. Midterms historically draw meager numbers and older voters overwhelmingly, which helps the GOP. It's a scaled-down version of U.S. election trends in general.

• Historically, midterms don't favor the incumbent party, so that's no surprise either.

• Republicans seem to be finally diverging from the tea party and are embracing (conceding?) leftward tilts on some social issues. This might not necessarily endear them to center-left or younger voters, but it upgrades them from untouchable.

• Democrats, on the other hand, want party purity and perfection, and it's costing them. They seem as convinced as their most bitter enemies that Barack Obama is a disastrous president, so they largely distanced themselves from him. They failed to sell the accomplishments they've made in the past few years and lowballed the role of Republican obstructionism in their inability to do more. Voter cynicism in the party seems to be at a peak as well. 

• Now that the Republicans run the Senate, it's likely the next two years will see even more intensified legislative gridlock. That might hurt the president's legacy, but it potentially sets the stage in 2016 for another pendulum swing. If the GOP wants to keep its majority for more than this cycle, it will have to provide alternatives and not just obstruction. If the Democrats want to win in two years, they'll have to sell themselves better.

• It took me three tries to find my voting precinct yesterday. The grocery store where I previously participated in early voting is on my daily bike route, so I rode there, only to find that they only conduct early voting. Because my registration card helpfully didn't list the address of my polling place, I had to guess where it was from any of the several schools in my neighborhood (as suggested by people I asked in the grocery line). 

I pedaled to the nearby high school, where the voter signs seemed to point to nothing. I wound up wandering into an empty locker room, getting confused looks from the school employees in the hallway. When I finally found the building where the ballots actually were, it turned out I wasn't registered to vote there, but at the middle school, which was a couple of miles away (closer to my apartment, but at the end of my six-mile bike ride).

After finishing an abbreviated version of my bike loop, I headed to the middle school. The high school students were off that day, but for some reason the middle schoolers weren't, and they were dismissing just as I got there. Just like at the high school, I had trouble following the signs (for whatever reason, the polls all seem to be in obscure places in these buildings, and the outflux of students didn't help). Once I got there, all I had to do to confirm my identity was say my name (and spell it five times), recite my date of birth and match my signature to the one the state had on file. I think that's fair.

On my way home, I took this selfie. You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Monday, November 03, 2014

Move it or ... well, don't

This article comes to us from Elite Daily, so I’m not surprised that two of the article’s five reasons involve a dramatic romantic arc.

Technically, I’ve moved six times now (two of those were temporary moves back in with my parents, so really it’s four). I’ve had five addresses in four cities in three states. So I feel qualified to weigh in on this.

I absolutely recommend moving away, because it’s a learning experience that not only educates you about how others live, but will also teach you much about yourself.

If you want to.

Because it’s not for everyone. If you’re fully ingrained in your hometown, living a life rich with family, friends, experiences and stability, then you won’t gain much from uprooting. Moving is expensive and is physically and emotionally draining. It needs a purpose. If nothing is missing, some abstract concept of “experience” will land with a thud. To paraphrase the old parable, “So I can make money to do whatever I want, huh? I was doing that before you bothered me.”

However, for those who don’t fit in where they are or otherwise feel like something’s missing, moving can be a most refreshing life change. No, it won’t solve all your problems; most issues can’t be solved by running away. But making a change closer to what you want in life can help your outlook tremendously.

Past living experience often factors into this decision. Army brats and others who moved a lot early in life often want nothing more than to keep a permanent address as an adult. The opposite was true of me — I spent my first 19 years in one house, then 7 1/2 in another, both in my hometown. I was mostly content there, but always felt deep down like an outsider. I got used to that feeling. But as I got older, my desire to try something radically new grew. I didn’t want to be the outsider anymore, and I knew there were other cities where I could fit in better — or, at least, try out some weather that wasn’t oppressively muggy.

Most of all, I knew whatever decision I made would be mine and I could carve out the life I wanted. That power gave me a new lease on life. So it was the right thing to do, and there never was any doubt or regret.

You have to do it for the right reasons. Unless you’re married or are in a committed and steady relationship with someone, moving for another person is generally a dicey prospect. As is moving with no workable plan or purpose. You need to be practical and seriously consider your motives.

Many people have to move out of necessity, but would rather have stayed in their hometown. While they’re away, they’re simply biding their time until they move back. When they do, they usually come away thinking there’s no place like home. Those people learn a lot, but is moving something they should be encouraged to do five times? Probably not.

One wrongheaded motive, albeit one I’m sure is nearly nonexistent, is one article writer Lauren Miller pushes: Escaping your comfort zone. You should want to move for a change of scenery and/or because it helps you improve your lot in life. It should be something you want to do, not feel compelled to do solely because it brings you some pain to work through.

(I think that, in general, we’re overly obsessed with escaping our comfort zones. We’ve moved past the sensible sentiment behind that phrase into fetishizing the idea that we need to feel fire all the time. But that’s a subject for another day.)

For me, moving was not an exercise in getting out of my comfort zone, because I hadn’t felt comfortable in my hometown for a while. There was nothing there I wanted to do, workwise or recreationally. I felt like I’d outgrown it. I’ve been lauded for my “courage” many times, but it wasn’t a courageous decision. It was an imperative. Those who seek to move will understand that impulse. Those who don’t are probably better off where they are.

So, yeah, I’d encourage people to expand their horizons as much as they can and feel like. But one rule does not fit all.

One primary benefit of moving can be experienced by everyone, anywhere: renewal. Whether you’re a bird or a nester, you should always be looking for something new to refresh your life. It can be as major as moving across the country or world, or as minor as picking up a new book. And there’s so much in between. So make a move, if only in your mind.

Carrie can carry on

And that message is...

"If you don't like it, change the channel."

Uh, boom?

This one isn't her fault, but rather the tone of that site's imagined persecution and gauge of value by how much something allegedly offends those with whom they disagree.

I know lots of non-Christians, and I doubt any of them has devoted a single second of thought, much less anger, to the fact that Carrie Underwood released a Christian song. Nor were their feathers particularly ruffled when she had a smash hit with "Jesus Take the Wheel" nine years ago. Everybody knows Underwood is a devout Christian, and everybody accepts it. Even those who have opinions different from hers. That's what a big country like the United States is all about. 

I'm not into country music, but I don't begrudge others for liking it. I don't lie awake at night harrumphing that another country song came out. On the other hand, some entertainment I do like is picketed and targeted for banning by people who think their narrow personal beliefs should override the First Amendment — but when it comes to what they like, suddenly it's, "If you don't like it, change the channel."

Underwood's advice is great. Let's all heed it.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Scary stories in five words

I looked in my wallet.

Cam's view of Saints defense.

"Hand In My Pocket." Looped.

"I am the future." — Quayle

For sale. My shoes. Worn.

Michael Jackson dancing Thriller. Tonight.

We actually are the world.

Contact on the eye. Where?

Halloween is your calmest day.

Your Internet grammar permanent record.

My ability to remember everything.

Mandatory Honey Boo Boo marathon.

Everything has turned into mayonnaise.

A world without Weird Al.

What if aspirin never happened?

"We need to talk" — Anyone

You must pick a poison.

Sentence: Car insurance commercials. Forever.

Black Friday. You're the doors.

Buried alive. Oxygen. Cellphone. Busey.

You feel all the bites.

You're dead and everyone's overjoyed.

You will never stop itching.

You only think you're loved.

Every bug you killed returns.

Edward Scissorhands is your doctor.

Your computer can judge you.

Your bullies: right after all.

Everyone is suddenly broken bicycles.

Flowers shoot fire when seen.

Sweet nothings all in AutoTune.

28th Amendment: Nonstop apocalyptic pontificating.

Puts on helmet. Feels NAILS!

Whiskers growing inside your skin.

Shyamalan's up to another twist.

Me, never stopping this topic.

It didn't stay in Vegas.

Vegetarians crash in a meat field.

Your LDL exceeds your I.Q.

People who think they're funny.

A veteran athlete's collective sweat.

Hours and hours of glowers.

Childhood favorite. Doesn't hold up.

That spam email: Legit. Imminent.

You can't ever touch pizza.

You peaked in high school.

Creditors are long past caring.

The hospice stocked plastic bags.

The weather never got better.

All too often, real life.