Monday, December 15, 2008

Four Words

I want to give you, gentle readers, some reasons to continue to love America. I mean that, maybe, in the sense that Jesus meant it when he said to love your enemies. Don't get me wrong, America is a great place to live. But it is so, because we do a lot of really shady things.  So because of that, sometimes it's hard to really get behind. So what follows are a few useful things to think about when you think that America is going down the shitter.

  • Thing 1: Blagojevich. This is some real, good old fashioned corruption. This is corruption you can really sink your teeth into. I mean, here's the kind of corruption that exists solely so you can actually know what's going on for once. One man conspires to sell a senate seat, gets caught on tape, and then he has the balls to stick it out. He doesn't even like his job, my friends. And yet he refuses to step down. Once he realizes that someone wants to take his job away, he, like a toddler, is going to hold onto it with all the tenacity of a rabid chihuahua! It's a work of art. It gives me those little jittery feelings down in the pit of my stomach. It makes me feel like I swallowed a live fish. It's one reason that we know that America can be redeemed, because this shit is clear cut. It means that not everyone in power is part of a grand conspiracy. It reminds us, dear friends, that some people are just assholes.
  • Thing 2: Bailout. The rules of capitalism, in theory, are few. But one of the ones that has historically been as firm as concrete is the one about how, in some Darwinian sense, the strong survive and the weak perish. Some really high percentage of creatures born die (one hundred). Some really high percentage of businesses fail (?). Eventually. But America has proven that even this rule, basically the only rule in capitalism, is worth throwing away. I guess what we've all really learned from this is that even if we stop buying things from corporations, they'll still find a way to take our money and we won't even get any cool new stuff. Perhaps the lesson our children will learn is that no matter how bad you fuck up, there's always a reset button.
  • Thing 3: Shoe. Bush gets not one, but two shoes thrown at him. They arrest the guy that threw the alleged size 10s. What do the Iraqi people do? They protest his arrest. By doing what? Throwing their shoes. This is a huge insult in the Arab world. But at least it isn't an IED. And that's the important thing. It sends a clear message, while remaining essentially non-violent. Though it does bring yet another meaning to the phrase: shoe on head.
  • Thing 4: Hope. I voted for Obama. There, I said it. I've got the election bug still up, and it shows clearly where I stood in this election, that is, with Kucinich, the only true liberal to actually call himself a democrat. I actually did, in fact, decide that this time, I would vote for the lesser of two evils. Yes, I'm implying that Obama is an evil.  Perhaps it would make more sense to call him the lesser of two bads, to keep the sort of metaphysical ramifications of "good and evil" away.  So why is Obama still bad? Because he's a moderate. Why are moderates a problem? Because they don't actually do or believe anything. Here's the thing: we all live in a constant state of hope. I hope that I will someday have gainful employment. Joe the Plumber hopes that Obama won't take his business away. The Lizard People hope for equal rights for their kind. But can Obama actually do all of the things that we want him to do? Of course not. We'll be super lucky if even a fraction of his promises are fulfilled. Because, when it comes down to it, he's just another democrat and he's only got four years, maybe eight. But! It's okay, because he gave us hope. And that's enough for us to convince ourselves that things are better than they actually are. Racism will continue. Gays will lose their rights. People will continue to lose their jobs. Our soldiers will die. But it won't be as bad as it was before. And maybe that's all we really deserve.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smoking, or Non?

So I was just standing outside the building where my office is located, smoking a cigarette. There's a little hybrid Buick SUV out there with a sign in the window that says, and I quote: "If you had quit smoking 10 years ago [I have, incidentally, been smoking for about 10 years], the money would have save could have bought yourself a brand new car." Of course, there is an implicit conclusion: Therefore, you should have quit smoking ten years ago, and are fucked now.

I'm not even going to go into the grammatical problems with the sign.

What the sign was trying to tell me was that if I had quit smoking a decade ago, I would, today, right now, be going out to buy that SUV, or one just like it, or already have that SUV, or one just like it. But it's a bullshit argument.

First of all, I haven't the slightest desire to own an SUV. Even a hybrid one.

But even if I wanted the SUV, I would not have it today if I had never started smoking. Do you see non-smokers driving around in brand new cars all the time? Of course not. Why? Because non-smokers do not put the five dollars that they would have spent on cigarettes away in some special bank account every day. They just don't do that. That five dollars gets spent on something else. What? I can't say. It's in our nature to spend money. We do it compulsively and without joy.

Perhaps this is just the American Way. Most Americans don't save money at all. They almost always buy on credit and pay back later. This being the reason we're in the financial crisis we appear to be in. Perhaps the argument on the sign would hold true in Singapore. Or perhaps Germany. It seems to me that those are countries where they save money and don't buy on credit.

Now, if I had good credit--which I don't--I could go out and buy that SUV today and drive around in it, and smoke in it all I want and I would flip the bird at the smug asshole that parked his SUV on the lawn today to tell me I'll save money by not smoking.

The bottom line? People do not save money by not smoking. Oh, sure they might have a few more material things here and there, but not really. They'd probably spend that money on equally frivolous things. Like iPods. Blackberries. Incidentally, I own an iPod. And I'm a smoker.

What the sign might as well say is, "If you had quit smoking ten years ago, you would have saved enough money to buy yourself a ten-year supply of cigarettes."

At least that would make me laugh.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Sad Despot

Imagine for a moment that you are the most hated man in America. The people that still like you are degenerate southerners who are too wrapped up in God and homeschooling their children (to make sure they aren't exposed to evolution and secularism) and so-called "freedom" to give two shits about the mayhem that you have wrought.

Imagine for a moment that in just a few months it will all be over and you can retire with your wife to your estate in Texas and relax for a change. No more CIA reports. No more people constantly asking for your opinion. No more being the decider. No more having to think about it.

Imagine knowing, deep down inside, that it was you who cost your party the election, and not, as some might have it, the Beauty Queen.

Do you think that you'd be relieved right now? Do you think that after 8 years of slogging through hell with people constantly calling you names, questioning your intelligence, loyalty, qualification, grooming habits, that eventually it wouldn't get to you?

Maybe he was able to let things like that wash off him like a duck in a downpour, but I have my doubts. Everyone has doubts. Everyone doubts himself or herself every day. And if you were so arrogant to think that you truly deserved to be president, if you were so thoroughly deranged as to truly believe that God put you in the position that you were in--and not the American electorate, or, as the case may be, the Supreme Court--then you'd almost have to be labeled a megalomaniac and a crazy person. It is only with the utmost humility that anyone should accept the office of President of the United States because nobody is actually qualified for a job like that.

Personally, I think he put up a good front, but you can see how its worn at him. He's gotten old. He's sixty-two. He looks a lot older. In a strange way, it's kind of hard to hate him, for me. I mean, he's such a clown! You can't hate a man who got in over his head. You can be horrified that a monkey has that kind of power, but you can't hate the monkey. And if you do, then maybe you need to think of the mistakes that you might have made. He was--still is--a terrible president, but at the most you can just dislike his politics and bad decision making. Anything else would be irrational.

Things are supposedly going to change now. "Yes we can!" is a rallying cry for millions of Americans, but if you think for one second that, even if the new guy plays everything perfectly, it's not going to hurt, then you're out of your mind. He's going to ask us to tighten our belts. He's going to ask us to make sacrifices. The old guy never did that and The People re-elected him for it. He told us to just keep on as if nothing ever happened, even though he reminded us every five minutes. And The People didn't really get it until a couple years ago.

"Ask not...etc."

If shit gets tough, are you going to be responsible for voting him out for the beauty queen in 2012? If the new guy means you won't be able to buy the plumbing company you work for, are you going to feel slighted? If you are asked by the President of the United States of America not to buy that new TV or SUV, are you going to listen? Maybe it depends on how he phrases it.

He hinted at some of this in his acceptance speech. But they were just hints.

It's going to be a very interesting four years.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Former Governor Can Beat You Up

I live in Minnesota, as you might be able to surmise from my profile. The above portrait is the official portrait of Former Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Every governor of Minnesota (with the exception of the current incumbent--maybe they just haven't gotten around to putting Pawlenty's retarded mug on a canvas yet--maybe he's too busy being an asshole to sit in front of an artist for a few hours--back in 2005, he vetoed a bill that would have established a poet laureate position for Minnesota) has one of these. At the end of the post is the official portrait of Fmr Governor Arne Carlson for comparison.

There are many things that are remarkable about the above painting (especially when juxtaposed with the banality of ol' Arne). But let me point out a few. Firstly, look at how he's dressed. The tie with the stars and stripes. The pins might mean something, but I'm not sure what. He's holding a cigar.

He's not looking at the viewer. His eyes are fixed on some point ahead. Some point above. He's looking maybe to the future. His expression is stern, composed, thoughtful.

But let's look closer. His right hand rests on the shoulder of Le Penseur, The Thinker. This calls up memories of his adopted moniker, "The Mind." But since The Thinker sits behind, there is a suggestion that he is pushing it back. That he stands ahead of, and perhaps is superior to, mere thought. He's done thinking. He's a man of action.

Look at the horrifying landscape that spreads out behind him. The roiling clouds. The capitol building overgrown in the forest. Is that an aqueduct? What can it all mean?

It is my contention that this painting is proof positive that Jesse Ventura was, not only a theatrical sort, but also a highly insightful person. And he had balls. Arne? Look at this pandering laugh factory. He looks like he's trying to actually "be" Minnesota. Jesse is trying to be something more.

Maybe it doesn't mean anything. All I can say is, though Ventura did some incredibly unproductive things with his all-too brief tenure as my governor, he did some very good things as well, and goddammit, he did it with some fucking style.

I just wish politics was fun again...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brake Lines Fail

I'm going to be serious for five minutes. I have a story to tell you.

I'm currently looking for a job. My situation is so desperate, that I absolutely needed to go out and turn in some job apps today. I'm trying to get in shape, so I took my bike. Okay, I probably would have used my car today, since it's raining, but my car is obstinately trying to scare me into letting it retire. A wish, I'm this close to granting.

I ran around, did all my errands, bought some new ear buds at K-Mart, and then was on my way home in all this rain, out of breath from fighting a fairly brisk head-wind.

I was passing a car dealership when I saw an SUV (don't ask me what make and model, I honestly don't care) pulling up to the main drag and getting ready to enter traffic.

Here is roughly the logic that went through my head. Bear in mind that the decision was made in less than a second: SUV coming up. Driver probably sees me. It's raining so it'll let me continue on before it merges. It can't merge anyway because there's a lot of traffic. I'll keep going.

I made one crucial tactical error. I forgot that people in SUVs (and probably cars in general) don't see bikes. They have a mental block about them because bikes make them feel bad--rampant apologies.

Regardless of why the driver didn't see me, the fact remains that I was utterly invisible. It became more and more obvious that the SUV was not going to stop and by the time I was directly in front of it, the bumper had made contact with my lower leg and the hood had made contact with my shoulder.

Somehow, I ended up on my feet in the middle the road with my bike at my feet. My first move was a quick assessment of injuries: slight soreness. Maybe an abrasion. I can walk. I can probably ride. Next move: grab bike and get on the sidewalk.

I looked at the bumper. Utterly undamaged. My bike was fine as well.

My new earbuds were in and I was listening to The Pillows. So as the lady in the SUV was rolling down her window, I couldn't hear a word she was saying. I just said, "I'm cool. I'm fine. It's cool." I kept repeating words like that while I ran back out into the street to get the saddle bag that had come off my bike's rack.

As I was reattaching said saddle bag, I looked back at her. I studied her for a split second. Pretty gal. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Perm. Dwarfed by her obviously brand new SUV. I like to think that this was the first time she'd ever driven it--she was, after all, driving it out of the parking lot of a car dealership.

She said something. I didn't hear it over my music and the rain hitting the hood of my windbreaker. I thought for a second and decided it was okay to poke a little fun. I said, "No, it's fine. It's not a big deal. I was just hit by an SUV, that's all."

She made a girl pout. One of those carefully calculated facial gestures that are designed to make you feel bad for them. I was just about ready to take off again, and I turned back to her and said, "By the way, you should probably get a more fuel-efficient vehicle."

And then I jumped on my pedals and didn't look back.

I don't know her side of the story. All I can do is speculate.

Like I said, if this was her first time driving the SUV, that could have some serious ramifications for her future driving habits. What was a woman like this purchasing one for anyway? Doesn't she know about peak oil? Maybe it doesn't matter.

I hope, in my heart of hearts, that she was offended by what I said. Hitting a human with a car is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. And then to have that human, sodden, riding a bike, out of breath, possibly seriously injured, lambaste you for owning an SUV. That's gotta be something.

Maybe I did sustain injuries and tomorrow I will feel them. But for now I feel fine. But she doesn't know that. She'll always wonder if I was seriously hurt. She'll feel guilty. Maybe she'll change her ways.

I hope not. I hope she gets pissed off at me and decides to waste even more oil. "How dare he make me feel bad about my spending habits?" Something like that. It would be way more poetic. I giver her my personal permission to keep on polluting as my way of apologizing for making her feel bad about herself.

Part of me really wants to know her side of the story. If only for completeness sake. But for my purposes, this will have to be enough. Good luck, lady. I hope you survive the apocalypse.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Main Event

I'm not exactly sure what the criteria are that define a city. The place I live is apparently a city. It has a population within "city" limits of about 12,000 frustrated souls.

Today, I accidentally attended a back-patting party for all the big wigs of town. There were free hot dogs and Dilly Bars ™. The president of the university, the mayor, and our local representative for the state council, along with their respective spouses and supporters. All told, there were about fifty people stuffing their faces with meat and milk byproducts. It was a glorious affair.

What were they patting themselves on the back about? This. My "city" is planning on building an event center at incredible expense.

I think it's a great idea.

Why? Because what better time is there to build an event center? Think of it. We're spending millions of dollars during a slumping economy, as gas prices, material costs, and unemployment all skyrocket--I myself am currently unemployed...and apparently unemployable. I think it's great that the city is so willing to throw money into a bonfire for democracy.

What is the center good for? Well, we get to keep our Division 1 hockey team at the University. Huzzah! A dozen semi-retarded, toothless jocks get to keep wasting valuable resources for a sport. I'm for that. For obvious reasons.

The place is also supposed to be a sort of venue for all sorts of other stuff...conventions and the like. Yeah, of course. Ducks Unlimited is going to go apeshit over this. Concerts maybe, too. Only it's not going to happen. They've managed to convince people that this is a good idea because it will bring revenue to the city. This coming from the same people who thought that Wal-Mart would revitalize the downtown area. I am so in awe of the brilliant tactics that our city's officials have used in order to bleed us dry and send us to bankrupt land.

The beautiful part of it all is, the university gets to keep its hockey team and they get to play at the event center, and they are stuck with none of the responsibility for paying for the damned thing when the whole plan falls apart. It's pure genius.

It's going to cost way more than projected (because material costs are not fixed and are only going to go up as gas prices do) and it's going to make way less than projected. It's interesting that this thing is supposed to attract people to come to the city for various events. But as gas prices continue to rise (and they will continue to rise), people will be less and less inclined to come to this facility for anything but the most important events. Maybe a championship game...but that's about it.

The rhetoric about it is really super, too. It's about our "heritage" and "future" and such nonsense. Their whole campaign is not about logic at all, but at getting people to think that we deserve an event center, and therefore ought to build one.

I wonder if they'll follow my advice and paint a huge mural on the roof of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Bird. A big fuck you, visible on Google Earth.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Remembering Dolores Haze...Or not.

The image is of Peter Sellers from the 1962 Kubrick film, Lolita. I show you the magnificent Sellers merely as a visual aide that has only a passing relevance to the discussion that that is about to commence.

It seems like far too often that I write about some article that I found on Reuters. However, their "Oddly Enough" section seems to find some real winner stories. I found this shocking story the other day.

My first instinct was to laugh. Indeed, I did. But then I got to thinking. How is it that people don't know about things like Lolita? The book or the movie? How did not one person at the furniture manufacturer, or the outlet remain ignorant throughout their entire adult life of the story of Humbert Humbert and his paramour?

It's one of the single most controversial books of all time!

Culture being what it is is a pretty localized thing. I mean, people can go through their lives, here and there, and never touch anything but certain isolated bubbles of culture. These guys had to look it up on Wikipedia!

I guess it makes sense in a certain light. I have students who are completely ignorant of the existence of Oscar Wilde, his exploits, and even his most famous plays. Perhaps I'm the one who's culturally aberrant. Most of the people with whom I associate are more than usually well-educated, either college or self-taught. It didn't occur to me what a small collective of people are actually educated. If something like Lolita can slip through the cracks for so many people, then it must be the case that they haven't heard of a very good deal of other literature. And I suppose the Kubrick film is old enough that they may not have seen it. However, how could they have never heard of Kubrick? I mean, Eyes Wide Shut isn't that old, and that was pretty controversial.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it boggles my mind, and yet perhaps the reason that my confusion--indeed, my incredulity--is so extreme, is that I've realized that I am so shocked. I should know by now that most people don't enjoy art for art's sake. People don't openly seek literature. People watch movies because they're easy, not because they're hard. And Lolita is not an easy film.

There's really nothing that we can do about this, certainly. Perhaps there isn't anything that we ought to do, even. At any rate, the will of the people have spoken. As far as most people are concerned, Nabokov might as well never have existed. I for one, am glad he did.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where did all the Whoppers go?

Dear friends and readers, I just had a disturbing realization. The Burger King corporation has brought some very frightening information to light. As it turns out, if the Whopper were ever to be removed from the Burger King menu, it would cause such a disturbance, that the backlash would very likely tear America apart.

The Whopper Freakout, in much the same way that the Emergency Broadcast System protects us from natural disasters and nuclear bombs, has alerted us to the very real threat of running out of Whoppers.

Someone needs to do something as soon as possible to prevent a real shortage of Whoppers. I think the government needs to step in and do something. Emergency Whopper Legislation (EWL) is quickly becoming necessary. If something isn't done soon, Burger King, being the anarchic America-haters they are, might do something drastic.

I don't know if you saw it in the subtext of the add, but the Whopper Freakout is a threat. They're using the American dependence on the Whopper as leverage in some sort of bid for power, maybe in an attempt to topple the Big Mac from its reign as most popular burger ever.

So you, sitting in your desk chair, reading this post, need to go to Wikipedia, look up the ingredients for a Whopper. That done, you can make these sandwiches at home and release America from Burger King's stranglehold on our stomachs.

Let's, a bun, lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup, pickles...onion...what the fuck? This is just a fucking hamburger! There's nothing special about this damned thing at all! Fuck this! This won't stand!

Make your own damned hamburgers America!

And that done, once we all learn how to cook a fucking hamburger again, we need to carefully lobby the United States Government to take the Whopper trademark away from BK Corporation and release the patent to ALL fastfood restaurants, so that any earth-shattering Whopper shortages will never happen again.

Oh god...I can't even do this anymore. This is stupid. The Whopper Freakout is the most fucking retarded ad campaign since the Order of the Serpentine. Grow the fuck up America.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weekend at Bernies sucked

I didn't have an appropriate image for this post, so I just decided to go with Conan. He's a good fall-back plan if there's nothing better to use.

That said, I want to talk about this. I've always thought that the film Weekend at Bernie's was a fucking terrible movie. That is, however, until I realized, that there actually are people in this world stupid enough to try and pass a corpse off as a living person.

I was trying to think of what sort of a situation I would need to be in to pull a stunt like this. It would probably have to be more than a $355 check. Maybe $10,000? A cool million, certainly. Are criminal charges worth it? Okay, so these two yokels tried to commit fraud, but hey, the guy was dead. Who's the victim? The government? Nobody cares about the government except the government.

Okay, I just re-read the article, and I realized that I might have misinterpreted the text. I have this image now in my brain of these two oldsters pushing their dead friend around in an office chair with wheels. Something gaudy and covered in leather. At first I assumed that they would use a wheelchair. I mean, that's just obvious.

I mean...I would use a wheelchair. But that's just me.

Looking at it from these guys perspective, I guess I can't really hold it against them. They probably needed the money, or they wouldn't have pulled this stunt for such a small amount of money. People can be pushed to resort to pretty extreme measures when the need is there.

Another question: Why did these two guys even have the corpse? Were they roomies? Had the death not even been reported? Wouldn't the old folks' home keep tabs on that shit?

I guess there's not enough info in the Reuter's story to really put together what actually happened, but there's more than enough information to make up your own stories about what actually happened.

I'm open to interpretations. An award goes to the person who comes up with the best interpretation. Leave all suggestions in the comments section.