Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Whopper Virgins

Whenever I see some mega-corporation come out with an amazingly dumb advertising campaign, I can’t help but try to think of the meeting at which that campaign was pitched to them. I just can’t help but imagine all of these stuffy, old, white-haired, pasty guys sitting in a board room somewhere getting all excited about the stroke of genius the folks at the advertising company came up with.

I imagine awkward high-fives, smug smiles, handshakes, back pats and joviality in general. All the while, they have no idea that they just gave the green light to something so horrendously stupid that it defies all logic. Such has to have been the case at the Burger King headquarters when they were pitched the idea of, “The Whopper Virgins!”

In case you’re living under a rock, the Whopper Virgin commercials are a taste test between Burger King’s Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac as given to people who live in third world countries and have no access to either Burger King or McDonalds. These people are given the name of Whopper Virgins—though, presumably they are Big Mac Virgins too.

You can see how they thought this was a good idea. I mean, I always make my fast food purchasing decisions based on the recommendations of starving people in countries I’ve never heard of before. I’m sure most people do. We drive along, realize that we haven’t eaten in the past hour and half and start thinking to ourselves, wow, I’m famished. If I was a starving person in Nofoodistan who hadn’t eaten a full and decent meal in months, and I had to choose a fast food burger, which one would I choose? Don’t lie. We all have this very thought every time we get hungry and you know it!

In fact, I depend on the preferences of people in Third World countries for help in making many choices. Do I get the 3-ply or the 4-ply extra fluffy toilet paper? Well, I just think to myself, what would someone from Wipemyasswithdryleavesia do? Do I go with the Mountain Mist scented deodorant or the Unscented? Well, I just put myself in the shoes of someone from Dontevenhavesoaphereia and do what they would do. So it only makes sense that when it comes time to choose my artery clogging burger served with special sauce that includes some teenagers popped zit juice, that I consult someone who’s never tasted a burger before.

Oh, the joy those crusty old executives must have felt at the end of the presentation when this idea was pitched to them. The salesperson at the ad agency must have been very best salesperson---EVER. This is the kind of person who sells ocean-front property in Wisconsin and ice-making machines to Eskimos. They got the Burger King execs so riled up that they spent millions of dollars on the ad campaign and the result is this: We know that people who don’t eat burgers, prefer the Whopper. I’m sure this fact has convinced the masses. The great Burger Battle is coming to end and the King will finally knock the Clown down a peg.

Or, you know…maybe, just maybe, no one cares. Not even a little bit. And someone—probably a lot of someones who make a lot of money to make good decisions, actually thought this was brilliant. Ahh, nothing is quite so amazing as the staggering stupidity of some people. We can only hope that in this monkey-see, monkey-do world, that other companies follow the brave lead of Burger King, because I’d pay to see the Charmin Virgins commercial!

Monday, December 29, 2008

No More Love for Lovie

I’m not an extremist when it comes to firing coaches. It seems that the standard in sports today though, in the era of ESPN and non-stop talk radio and yes, message boards and blogs where every knuckle-dragging Neanderthal can spout off on any topic, that as soon as any team loses the talk begins about the removal of the coach. In most cases, it’s a foolish over-reaction by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

As someone who spent thirteen years as a coach, albeit on the very most amateur level, I know what a difficult and thankless job it can be. I’ve attended seminars given by some of the most respected coaching minds in sports today. I’ve put in the hours in the trenches as they may say, so when I speak out against a coach, it’s only after giving it a lot of thought and I assure you, it’s not an alarmist reaction.

That said, I think I may actually be in the minority in my opinion, which is this: The Chicago Bears need to fire head coach Lovie Smith post haste.

The reason is two-fold, one having to do with the fact that after having watched him for a few years now, I have come to the conclusion that he isn’t the right coach for this team. The second is because of the limited availability of a guy who would be. The second reason would be irrelevant without the first, of course, but because I believe it to be so, it’s something that comes into play.

Let’s start with why Lovie Smith isn’t the right guy for the job. And the answer is a simple one. There are two kinds of coaches in this world, real coaches and talent managers. I think that Lovie Smith is a fine talent manager, which means that when he has a team that is more talented than yours, he manages them in a way that keeps them from losing. He is player-friendly to the last, he never calls a specific player out in public, he never ruffles feathers, he is calm, collected, pensive and obtuse.

If the Bears did choose to fire him, which they most certainly will not, there wouldn’t be a single player who spoke a bad word about him. There would be outrage because just a couple years ago, he guided the Bears to an appearance in the Super Bowl, but I believe that to be a fallacy now. He didn’t guide them anywhere. He rode them to that Super Bowl. Simply put, his team was talented, so he was considered a good coach; it wasn’t a case where they were a good team because he was a good coach.

The sign of a good coach, a real coach, a coach worth keeping and paying is how his teams play and compete when they aren’t the most talented team. As the saying goes, he can take his’n and beat yours’n, and then take yours’n and beat his’n. A good coach’s team can overcome adversity, like injury to key players because he’s coached the backups to be ready to step in and fill the void. A good coach gets the most out his players. A well coached team will get better, not worse, as a year goes on. A good coach is all things—father, mother, brother, sister, friend, enemy, boss, peer, comrade, antagonist, psychologist and bus driver. A good coach is never universally liked, but is universally respected. A good coach is emotional, but never a slave to his emotions. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it in Lovie. In him, I see a guy who is excellent with the wind at his back, and useless when walking into the wind.

The Bears players do not ever improve. They are good or bad. They are as is merchandise. If you draft, trade or sign a player, what you see is what you get. There is no growth curve. I cannot name a single player who has been a shining example of being coached up during the Lovie Smith era—a player who has made vast improvements. They are either good or bad when they get here. There is never any growth. That is the indictment. That is the proof in the pudding. That is the basis for labeling Lovie Smith a talent manager instead of a real coach. Sadly, the Chicago Bears will rarely be the team that pays for the most talent, so is a talent manager really the best choice for our coach?

The most common opinion now is that Lovie deserves one more year, that the Super Bowl appearance in 2006 earns him one more chance and therein lies the biggest problem. Coaches are going to start getting the axe left and right today, with the regular season over and done. Every one of those teams is going to being pursuing the best man for the job out there, a real coach who has always gotten the most from his teams, Bill Cowher.

IF, the Bears let Smith go, they would immediately become the most attractive option for a coach like Cowher, who would relish the chance to coach one of the original franchises, steeped in history and tradition and to be part of that tradition. If the money was right, there wouldn’t be a more attractive destination out there for him. The fact of the matter is that while the cupboard isn’t full of talent, it’s far from devoid of it. Chicago is a great sports town with a great fan base. Simply put, it’s one of the best places to coach in all of football, if not professional sports as a whole. If the money was right, Cowher could be the next coach of the Bears. But he won’t be.

Lovie Smith was given a contract extension based on the Super Bowl run. The Misers of the Midway won’t dump him until the stench of the corpse rot is definitive. They won’t take the chance that he may yet be a good coach. They won’t take the chance that they were wrong to have given him more money. Muster up your best West Texas drawl and say it with me: Lovie Smith is our football coach.

It’s a shame, because Cowher and Chicago would have been an amazing fit. But it’s a pipe dream, it’s as likely as the country banding together to ask Obama to step aside and have George Bush run things for four more years.

So, are the Bears doomed to mediocrity or worse until Lovie finally does get fired? No. The dynamic that football has that offers hope is the amount of responsibility that the coordinators have in the running of the team. A team manager like Lovie Smith can be successful if his Offensive and Defensive Coordinators are real coaches—and good ones. As the staff stands now, that’s not the case. If Lovie must stay, then Turner and Babich must go. It’s time to get some new blood in those jobs. A D-Coordinator with some fire is a must. The team obviously responds to that, as they did for Ron Rivera when he held the job. And both on offense and defense, our coordinators should be innovators. They should be ahead of the curve, not always trying to catch up to it. The era of the Cover-2 is over, it must evolve or die. And Ron Turner has had the same playbook since Jim Miller was our quarterback. He’s more predictable than the winter snow in Chicago. His biggest innovation of the year was being the last coordinator in the league to try the new-fangled “wildcat” formation. Gee. How exciting.

It’s been a long time since the Bears have had a real coach. They seem to be enamored with this prototype, poker-faced, ultra-calm, unflappable kind of coach. When it was time for Dick Jauron to go, they hired Dick Jauron with a tan. Meanwhile, when you say the words coach and Bears together in the same sentence, every and any football fan out there immediately thinks back to Mike Ditka. Great coaches become legends in this town. We haven’t had a legend in a long time. Cowher could have been a legend. Twenty years from now, I could have enjoyed a steak at his steakhouse downtown, but I won’t. I’ll still be going to Ditka’s and re-living ’85. Sad, isn’t it?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jesus Christ the Kidnapped

I just finished a book by A.J. Jacobs entitled The Year of Living Biblically in which he sets out to spend an entire year living by the literal laws of the Bible. He finds out almost immediately that it’s an impossible task since the Bible contradicts itself in many places, and is just too massive to just jump into anyway. So, he immerses himself in manageable chunks, learning to live the Bible bits at a time.

It’s an excellent book and it documents his transformation from being purely secular and agnostic to something more—though not outright religious. To help keep the reader’s attention, he chronicles a few of the more interesting biblical laws that he follows, such as stoning adulterers, keeping the ends of his beard unshaved and wearing fringe at the ends of all of his garments. But the fun and whimsical don’t distract from a really well-written journey of the author as he struggles to find and understand God.

Jacobs comes from Jewish decent and though he tries to live the New Testament out in the final few chapters of his book, he definitely falls more in line with the teachings and traditions of his grandparent’s religion. That didn’t stop me from gleaning quite a bit from what he went through though and as I turned the last page after his own reflections, I immediately thought of another book I’d recently read.

In his book Slapstick, Kurt Vonnegut invents a religion he calls the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped. This religion is founded on the principle that the Second Coming has already started, but that upon coming back to the world, Jesus was kidnapped by nefarious forces. It is the most commonly practiced religion of the people in the apocalyptical world in which the book is set. The practitioners are easily noticed, because they continually turn their heads from side to side, searching for the kidnapped Christ.

While I’m pretty sure the Second Coming hasn’t occurred, the idea of the Kidnapped Jesus is one that really stuck with me. It really summed up how I feel about Christianity in general. I feel like a lot of high and mighty people, who live in glass houses have kidnapped Jesus and spend their time and energy bastardizing most of what he preached.

While they have the real Jesus, locked safely away somewhere, they substitute another Jesus who they use to fit their specific needs. The fake Jesus is very judgmental. He likes hypocrites a whole lot. He looks down on anyone who isn’t like his kidnappers. He considers himself and his kidnappers to be superior and he looks down on others. He is more concerned with fixing people who aren’t like he and his kidnappers than accepting them for who they are already.

Meanwhile, the Kidnapped Jesus is locked away in a room in some undisclosed location. All He ever really wanted was for us to love each other, accept each other, be kind to one and other and for us all to live in peace. He died so that we could all be free of sin, not so that we could use Him against each other.

The Kidnapped Jesus rolls his eyes when athletes point to Him after scoring touchdowns or hitting homeruns. He knows that isn’t about His glory but the athlete’s own. He cries when wars are fought in His name. He is despondent when His words are used as ammunition for people who are not accepting of others. He wanted His people to spread the good news, not to force it on others, but by loving them unconditionally, as He loves us, showing them that His truly is the truth, the way and the light.

He despised those who spawned hypocrisy in His Father’s name. The high and mighty of the world, those who worshipped money and fame and power were the ones He spoke out against. It was the poor and meek and to whom He promised the greatest rewards in Heaven.

It is possibly the greatest irony ever inspired by the Bible that modern day Christians, so high and mighty, so sure of right and wrong that they choose to judge instead of love, fail to see how similar they are to the very people of Biblical times that Jesus spoke out against.

I was raised Catholic and I still believe in all that I was taught. My faith in God is strong and unwavering. It’s my faith in people that is shattered. It is my faith in many—not all—who were taught the same things I was that troubles me. Sometimes, I think that maybe I read a different Bible; that I was taught a different religion than others who claim the same labels I always have, because I just don’t understand the things that they say and do.

So, I’ll borrow His words when I pray for those who have kidnapped Him: Forgive them, for they know not what they do. And I think that from now on, when anyone asks me what religion I practice, I’ll tell them that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped, a Christian who feels the Jesus that I know has been stolen from the world by those point to the sky after their own personal touchdowns. I don’t spend my time with my head on a swivel looking for Him though. He lives, as He always has, in my heart and in hearts of those who choose to love as He has loved us.

Jacobs concludes in his book that every and any person who looks to the Bible is in some way like a Cafeteria Christian, picking and choosing which parts of the Bible apply to them. If it weren’t so, no woman could ever speak in a church, no one could ever discuss the Tennessee Titans football team because merely saying the word Titan counts as idolatry. Sinners and blasphemers would be stoned on a daily basis. So, even the most hardcore Christians and Jews have to interpret and allow the words of the Bible or Torah to evolve along with us.

I agree with him. And that’s why religion is such a personal thing to me. I interpret what I learned when I was young and have learned as I’ve grown and apply it as best I can. I don’t expect others to see it exactly as I do and I’m put off by those who feel I should see it their way.

I just don’t see how the obsession with being right is, in any way, in accordance with the Bible and I’m appalled by the arrogance of those who think they have it all figured out. I wonder if most Christians are really the way they are portrayed, or if maybe they are just the squeaky wheel making noise, while the rest of us live our lives in much more Christian ways? I hope it’s the latter, but I’m not so sure.

I think that maybe Jesus has been kidnapped, in a figurative way and it’s a sad thing indeed. As Jacobs found out, it’s impossible to walk in the footsteps of our forbearers. We have to make the best of what we have, learning from the past and evolving to whatever comes next. It’s a personal journey, not one that’s meant to be taken en mass. Not that it’s wrong to celebrate what you believe with others—the opposite is actually true, just that it can’t be so sanctioned, so regimented and so predetermined, after all, our own free will is the bit of divine spark that was placed inside us all, and if we don’t exercise that gift and instead depend on the interpretations and the will of others, what greater sin could we commit?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Year In Review? Nah.

Well, Christmas has past and New Years is approaching and between now and then, tis the season to review the year. Everyone and their mother feel the need to rehash the past 12 months, as if we weren’t along for the ride. Every magazine I receive has it’s annual Year In Review issue out. Every blog is covering it. Every website out there is busy reviewing their year. Even Christmas cards come with amazingly annoying 3-page letters informing us of every single inane and mundane detail of Aunt Mildred’s life and the lives of her family, friends and, of course, her cats, Fluffy, Peepers and Hermione.

I’m just not sure I understand the need to re-chronicle every stupid thing that has happened this past year though. My memory is pretty good, I can still remember who won last year’s NCAA Championship, so my magazines aren’t doing me any favors. It’s hard enough reading most blogs as it is, but rereading them is simple torture. Reviewing poorly written ignorance is far beyond cruel and unusual. And I just don’t know of a single person who could even remotely care that Aunt Mildred’s newest kitty Hermione is the cleverist kitten ever.

Still, the year end reviews are unavoidable. If you read anything that isn’t a book over the next week or so, you’ll inevitably read some kind of yearly review. You’ll read about the best and worst of 2008 as decided by arbitrary people who probably aren’t qualified to decide which is which. What ever happened to letting old acquaintance being forgotten and never brought to mind? Whatever happened to the good that men do lying interred with their bones? What’s with the analysis of something that we just got through analyzing?

When the election was going on, we drubbed it to death. We wrote about every imaginable aspect of it. We know that Obama won and that Palin believes people and dinosaurs coexisted. We don’t need reminders. The same is true of every notable event from the past year and this new-fangled interweb allows us to easily access that information, so it’s not like we’re documenting for posterity. People won’t need to read a year in review to know that Joe the Plumber had his fifteen minutes of fame, that The Sopranos ended with a cut to black and that after decades of rumors and promotion, Guns ‘N Roses finally released Chinese Democracy in 2008, all they have to do is Google it.

Maybe there was a place for year end reviews in the past, but we have instant access to any little minute piece of information we want these days, and even if we didn’t—if we can’t retain the information for twelve whole months, it just couldn’t possibly have been important enough for us to remember in the first place. I guess the point is that the past is supposed to be prologue and if that’s the case then the parts of it we failed to commit to memory couldn’t have been all that important in the first place. The song has it right. Let the trivial bits of the past year fall away, look to the future and let the historians worry about the documentation.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Support Illiteracy--and you should too!


That was my answer. The question? Well it wasn’t really a question at all and that was the problem. It was a statement. For an extra dollar you can help support literacy in Illinois—and then she stared at me. And when I say that she stared at me, I mean to say that she gave me a look that said, only a complete asshole would refuse to give one little dollar to help people read.

Well color me a complete asshole, because my dollar stayed in my pocket and will likely go towards something off the value menu at a local fast food joint while people here in my home state continue to not be able to read—and I’m fine with that.

Now, it’s at this point that I feel it necessary to tell you that I am that guy. I’m the guy who can always be counted on to buy a candy bar from you so that your snot-nosed kid can get new soccer uniforms. I’m the guy who never misses a Salvation Army kettle. I’m the guy who buys tootsie rolls or paper carnations to support whatever disease is having it’s big day. I’m the guy who’s a mortal lock to pledge to your Walk-For-Whatever. The girl scouts all know I’m a sucker for their cookies. I’m a giving kind of guy.

And if you came up to me and asked me to help support literacy in my home state, I’d give to that cause too, but when you try to guilt me into it while I’m in line at the store, you can bet your sweet ass that my money is staying in my wallet, thank you very much!

Ask, and you shall receive. Try to guilt me into giving and I’ll be stubborn just for fun.

The whole idea that any organization would accost me and put me on the spot like this is insulting. If I want to walk by a bum on the street and not give him my spare change, all I have to say is—sorry buddy, I don’t have any, even if I have $0.97 jingling around in my pocket. If I want to walk past that Salvation Army kettle, I need only put my head down and ignore the bell ringer.

But when Little Miss Cashier Girl at the bookstore tells me that I can help people learn to read, she knows damn well that I have money. I just handed it to her. It just means that I get less change back. It means that one, itty-bitty little dollar isn’t going to make it back to my wallet.

So, she looks at me with those big doe eyes and says her line: For an extra dollar you can help support literacy in Illinois. She might as well be saying: For an extra dollar, you can save a bag full of puppies from being set on fire! Or, for an extra dollar, you can keep babies from being dunked in acid. That is the tone she says it with, that is the look she uses to accompany her request.

In her eyes, it is, of course, a moral imperative that I donate just one little dollar. Well I say no. I say no because I will not be bullied into giving. I say no because I’m offended that you try to hold my change hostage. I say no because I don’t care if some 17 year old girl working the register at Borders thinks I’m an asshole. I say no because you have a lot of nerve trying to hijack my dollar like this. If you want to station a person at the door who ASKS me for a donation, I’m all for helping you to end illiteracy. But as it is now, with your guerilla-warfare tactics, I am proud to say and shall scream from the mountaintops: I SUPPORT ILLITERACY IN ILLINOIS!!!!!

More books for me! Now, I won’t have to worry about someone coming in and taking that last copy of the book I want to get off the shelf, because that fool can’t read! Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Somewhere, in some board room, some asshole stood up in front of a bunch of people and presented them with this idea. He got a raise, a promotion and a pat on the back because I’m sure it’s wildly successful. Most people don’t give from the heart. Most people can be guilted into giving though. The change-jack is probably a very successful strategy. And all of those people in that office probably think it’s brilliant.

Well, I don’t think it’s brilliant. I think that when you stop relying on people’s good will and start relying on guile to achieve your means, you are no longer a worthy cause. If you are duplicitous in how you get your money, surely you will be duplicitous in how you spend it. You justify your means with the end. Well, I justify my lack of charity with your lack of scruples.

In all seriousness, illiteracy is no joke. But neither is my point—when not-for-profits start resorting to these kinds of methods, they lose all integrity. They lose any sense of trust I might have had in them, had they approached me in an honest way. Which is why, in the end, that dollar won’t really go to some item off the value menu at McDonalds, I’ll just add it to the dollar I wind up giving to the next bell ringer I see outside a grocery store, or the next guy at the red light who wants to give me a tootsie roll.

I’m happy to give. I just refuse to be taken.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I hate you Barry Manilow!!!!

Well, it’s December and Thanksgiving is behind us, the first snow of the year is outside my door waiting to be shoveled, so I suppose it’s officially the dreaded HOLIDAY SEASON. As much as I’d love to deny it, as much as I wish it weren’t so, there just doesn’t seem to be any way to put it off any longer.

This promises to be an especially dark Christmas. There is something out there, something so horrible and so frightening that I give pause to even mentioning it. I choose to do so only because you can’t possibly avoid hearing about it—and worse, hearing it.

Yes my friends, you guessed it. The Christmas Nightmare I’m referring to is The Greatest Songs of the 80’s---AS PERFORMED BY BARRY FREAKING MANILOW!!!!

Now, I am a child of the 80’s. And I love my 80’s music. Almost all of the ringtones on my phone are 80’s songs. My Sirius satellite radio is currently tuned into the 80’s station. I have several 80’s compilations CDs (as performed by their original artists, thank you very much). So, it’s safe to say that the music of the 80’s has a very special place in my heart.

Would you like to know who doesn’t have a very special place in my heart? Barry Freaking Manilow! And before any you crazy Fanilows try to get all up in my business about this issue, know that I will defend to my very death the contention that Manilow should be tarred, feathered, hung and shot for this dastardly deed!

This is just wrong! This is wrong like Britney Spears teaching a parenting class. This is wrong like cats and dogs making out. This is wrong like Rosie O’Donnell doing naked jumping jacks. It’s wrong I say!

It’s bad enough that Manilow is butchering songs from music’s greatest decade, but what’s potentially even more disturbing is that he has decided that he should choose the decade’s best songs! Some examples of what, in Manilow’s opinion are the greatest songs of this decade? Islands in the Stream, on which he duets with Reba McEntire is the first. Shame on you Reba! Dolly and Kenny are rolling over in their graves of irrelevance over this outrage!

Tired of being rickrolled? Well prepare to be barrolled because Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up is one of the best songs of the 80’s according to Barry. You may be surprised to find out that Stevie Wonder recorded one of the best songs of the 80’s with I Just Called To Say I Love You—even Stevie can see that has to be a mistake!

I can live with him butchering songs I don’t care about though. Obviously, they aren’t even in the conversation for best songs of the 80’s, but butcher away Manilow, I don’t care! But when you start butchering Open Arms by Journey and Against All Odds by Phil Collins we have an issue Barry! You can sing Right Here Waiting and knock off that no-talent assclown Richard Marx all you want, but you have no business touching Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time!

And it’s just so sad that you, Barry Manilow are the first straight guy to record the great Wham song, Careless Whisper. I don’t really care who else may have done it, but why God? Why couldn’t it have been a man who covers up his chest hair?

I’m distraught. I’m saddened beyond grief. Sure, you say that if I don’t want to be exposed to these songs, just don’t buy the CD right? Wrong! Barry Manilow is like a virus! When he puts out a CD, it is immediately piped into our malls and elevators, the lobbies of our doctor’s and dentist’s office will be infected for years to come. You cannot run from Barry Manilow and you cannot hide! He spreads like wildfire—the evil Fanilow’s will see to it! We will all be infected!!! There is no escape!!!!!

And for those of you who are children of the 90’s out there laughing at me, enjoy it while it lasts I say! The assured success of this CD will only embolden Barry! You’re next! Just wait until Smells Like Teen Spirit get covered by Manilow! Cobain will roll over in his grave! Dr. Dre will openly weep when Nuthin But A G Thang is covered and Snoop Dogg literally rip the braids from his head! Close your eyes my friends, now picture Manilow onstage rapping, “All right stop! Collaborate and Listen M-lows back with a brand new addition, something, grabs a hold of you tightly flows like a harpoon daily and nightly, will it ever stop, yo—I don’t know, turn off the light and I’ll glow, to the extreme I rock a mike like a vandal, light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle, Barry, Barry baby! Duh-dun-dun-dun-dada-dun-dun, Vanilla Barry, Barry baby!

The only thing that might be worse will be Manilow’s cover of Hanson’s Mmmbop!

So, bah freaking humbug, I say to you! My holiday has been ruined. Manilow has conspired to ruin Christmas! And he will ruin elevator rides and doctor’s visits for years to come. I will cringe with every playing of an 80’s classic by this no-talent loser! Go back to the 70’s where you belong Barry! Go back to your platform shoes and your butterfly collars! Your Fanilows will continue to buy your crappy CDs of songs from that decade. Stay the hell out of the 80’s!!!! And thanks for ruining my Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Literary Profiling

I just left Borders a few moments ago and I was the victim, once again, of Literary Profiling. It’s starting to piss me off. And I’ll state right here at the outset that I’ve received this treatment at Barnes & Noble as well, so its not a matter of the store I choose. It’s a matter of these book-Nazis assuming that certain types of people buy certain types of books.

I took a look in the mirror when I got home. I had pretty standard apparel on for me:

Navy Blue Baseball Hat, Duke University
Navy Blue Fleece Pullover
Navy Blue w/white side stripe Nike warm-up pants
Navy Blue Crocs, Chicago Cubs Logo
Various undergarments (none of which are Navy blue!)

Granted, I look more prepared for the gym than I do the bookstore, but that’s no excuse for Literary Profiling. But that’s exactly what happens when I walk into a book store. They see me walking through the new releases and tell me, very politely, that they have some great new books in the Sports section in back.

It’s almost like they don’t want the smart-looking people to see me browsing the books up front. Apparently, they think I’m some kind of smart-person scarecrow.

“Oh look, the Neanderthal wanna-be jock guy is looking at the jacket of that book, it must have pictures and small words! I won’t even bother picking it up.”

When I go into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, they assume I’ve gotten lost. Apparently, I don’t look like a guy who can appreciate a story about Elves and magic. And so:

“Excuse me Sir, can I help you find something? Are you looking for a gift?” Why must I be shopping for a gift? Why can’t I enjoy wizards and witches and magical swords? Huh?

Well, lately it’s been much, much worse for me. I’m not normally someone who reads the classics. I much prefer contemporary works to the oldies, but for the past few months, I’ve been on a Kurt Vonnegut kick. I’ve gone through almost his entire library of works, with only a few left to go.

Granted, it’s the beginning of Christmas shopping season now, so its not uncommon for the register person to ask I need a gift receipt, but this has been going on since this summer and they aren’t just asking if I need a gift receipt, they ASSUME I need one!

Here are some of the various things that have been said to me after plopping down one of Vonnegut’s books at the register:

“Oh, do you have a Vonnegut fan in your family?” Yes. Me.

“Are you buying this for a special someone?” Yes. Me.

“Oh, look, Siren’s of Titan, one of my favorites! You know it’s not your typical science fiction right?” Yes. I do.

“Breakfast of Champions! You know it’s not about the cereal!” [ha, ha, ha!] Really? I thought it was a recipe book!

Do I have the word DUH written on my forehead? Is it impossible for someone who dresses like I do to enjoy dark humor and scathing wit? And let’s face it folks, anyone who’s ever read Vonnegut knows that it’s not tough reading. A middle-school kid could get quite a bit of Vonnegut and would have no trouble reading him.

So, what’s with these elitist, book-nerds who don’t want to let me play in any reindeer games? I bet if I came in wearing a half-tucked shirt, dark-rimmed glasses and mismatched socks they’d be nice to me! Do I really have to nerd it up in order to have a peaceful shopping experience? Do I really need to dress the part so that I won’t be met with incredulity when I reach the cashier?

I’m a dork. I’m proud of the fact that I’m a dork, but I don’t have to dress like a dork do I? Aren’t the Cubs Crocs enough proof of my dorkdom? Do I really need to push the envelope farther than that in order to gain your respect bookstore people?

So, no. I don’t need help finding my way back to the Sports books section and I’m not interested in the new NASCAR picture book you recently got in for the Holidays. Yes, I’m actually buying this deep and intellectual book for me. Hooked on Phonics not only worked on me, but it created a miracle! Jesus hisownself, of water to wine and rising from the dead fame has nothing on athlete-wannabe guy who learned to enjoy books of substance!

I just want to do my book shopping in peace. I like being in bookstores. I like grabbing a cup of coffee and wandering aimlessly in my comfy clothes for an hour or two, just reading the jackets of various books and picking one or two to take home with me. I like being left alone while I wander through the Psychology section and the Writing section and the Classics section. It’s not a jungle. Navigation, even for a Neanderthal like me, isn’t that difficult. The HUGE signs hanging all over the place letting me know what section is where are extremely helpful and do a wonderful job all on their own.

So, in the future, book store people, just smile and assume I’m exactly where I want to be in your store. Assume that I’m buying these books for myself and that I’m a big boy who can understand all of the big words and big thoughts inside them. And please, just stop it with the Literary Profiling.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Open Letter to Interactive Polls

Dear Interactive Polls,

Go Away. I’m tired of you. Why must you inundate every live broadcast of anything, anywhere? Why must my college basketball game be interrupted by you? Why must you hijack every newscast? Why? Why? Why?

You see, I don’t care about your results! The people who log on to the interwebs in the middle of watching a television program to vote on some idiotic question aren’t exactly the people whose opinions matter to me.

And what possible difference can you make? You ask us things like whether Joe the Plumber will effect our vote or if we’re in favor of moving the NCAA 3-point line back a foot or if we prefer ninjas or pirates and in the end, how can this possibly be important?

You ask us who we think will win the big game, but do you really think you tell us anything more than which team has more interweb geeks willing to log on and vote for their favorite team?

You are stupid. You are pointless. You really bother me and I want you gone! If you had any balls at all you would devote an entire day allowing only one of you and it would be with this question: Should we eliminate interactive polls from every broadcast of every program forever? YES or NO?

Oh, I’d take the time to log in if that poll ever crossed my television screen! I would vote early and often as we Chicagoans are wont to do. I would call my friends and email everyone I know and I would say to them: Please, please, please, for the love of God and tiny fuzzy baby ducks, please vote to ban interactive polls forever, because if I see just one more, I just might snap.

Let the people who love to vote on any little thing text their votes to American Idol and Dancing with the Stars so that I don’t need to be bothered with them if I don’t want to be! Stay away from politics and sports! I die a little every time I see one of you! Die you rotten, idiotic, mind-numbing bastard, die!!!!


Albert A. Riehle

p.s. I hate you!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Save the Whale Savers!

Gather round children
I’ll tell you a tale
Of some stupid-ass people
Saving the whales

I just don’t even know where to begin when trying to explain the idiocy I just witnessed. I’ve watched the commercials and have to admit, this show actually looked pretty good, but then I watched two back to back episodes and my mouth is hanging open wider than a panting dogs. The show is called Whale Wars and it’s on the channel Animal Planet. And you’ll have to excuse me, but this kind of idiocy, even in today’s world, is just really astonishing.

The show is about a misguided and foolish action nerd (if you don’t know what an action nerd is, you need to read the book Fluke, Or, I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore) who puts lives at risk with blatant disregard in order to protect whales in Antarctica. There was just so much idiocy I’m having trouble processing it, but let me try to summarize the first two episodes for you.

This guy named Paul Watson, one of the founding members of Greenpeace has an organization called Sea Shepherds because Greenpeace kicked him out (he seems very proud of this fact) for being absolutely batshit crazy. Sea Shepherds bypass diplomacy and peaceful tactics to stop whaling in favor of what can only be described as terrorist methods.

They fly a skull and crossbones pirate flag from the ship’s mast. The ship, coincidentally, is called the Steve Irwin and based in Australia. The widow Irwin helps dedicate the ship in the opening scenes, at which point you think these people are going to be reputable. You’re wrong for thinking that though.

Let the batshit crazy begin. So, the ship’s captain is Paul Watson. He has a crew of what seem to be a semi-competent two or three other people with experience at sea, and a bunch of green, impressionable kids who want to make the world a better place and have no idea what they are getting into. The idea of actively taking part in whale preservation is one thing. Being pressured to act like eco-terrorists is another.

As they introduce the crew, everyone seems to be a Quartermaster—which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The crew totals 35 and at least half of them are called Quartermasters. They eat all vegan meals cooked by a man named Potsy and all but 4 or 5 people are puking their guts out by day two because they have never been aboard a ship before.

But that’s tame compared to what happens from here. Instead of training the crew a bit, running them through their paces in the warm Australian waters, they decide to sail to Antarctica before doing any drilling. The first drill they do is to try to lower a crew on one of their Zodiac boats into the water. That would be the freezing water. The water you would die in if you were in it for more than a moment or two. They had just given a comical lecture to the crew about how spending any amount of time in that water is a death sentence when they tried to lower these poor untrained schmucks into the frigid water when, of course, a line snapped because one of the ships 1st mate—second in charge to only the Captain, didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Into the drink go four poor souls. By some miracle, none were injured in the fall and none of them drifted far from the upturned Zodiac boat, so they were all able to clamor atop. Of course, getting a line to them to tow them in, for a group of completely inexperienced and incompetent sailors was much like a horse trying to perform brain surgery. For the record, it’s really hard to hold a scalpel with a hoof.

By another act of God they get the line out to the popsicles and tow them in and no one has any major injuries, but during the clusterfuck Potsy the chef, who had since then been promoted to assistant of the helicopter pilot (his vegan cooking must have sucked) somehow managed to nick the blade of the tail rotor of the chopper. Apparently, that’s really, really, really bad.

The helicopter pilot tells this to Captain Watson, who mostly seems concerned with chastising the shitty vegan chef. In his second absolute boneheaded move that shows an absolute disregard for those under his command, he has the pilot do a test flight to see if there are any problems. Of course, if there are, the pilot crashes into that really cold water and dies. Fortunately, he didn’t, but decides that the helicopter is unsafe for further flight.

So, it’s a bit odd that they have the unrepaired helicopter up and searching for Japanese whaling ships the very next day, but not too odd considering that safety not only doesn’t come first on board the Steve Irwin, it doesn’t even come in last. Safety of the crew just doesn’t even make Captain Watson’s list. He seems almost eager to help the members of his crew become whale martyrs. So, when repeated radio requests to Greenpeace (who kicked Watson out for being batshit crazy) are met with disdain and a refusal to help the Sea Shepherds find Japanese whaling ships, up goes the helicopter once again.

But let me skip ahead a bit because if I cover every bit of idiocy I’ll fall over and die of carpel tunnel somewhere after page 746 of this report.

Captain Watson gathers the crew for a meeting. He wants two volunteers to board a Japanese whaling ship without permission with the express intent of having them held as “hostages” so that he can get their names in the press and force the Australian military to act on their behalf. When the green whale huggers all fail to volunteer, Captain Watson is pretty upset—after all, they all told him that they were willing to die to save the whales!

So, he uses guilt as a means of getting Potsy to go. After all, he ruined the helicopter. And then some English kid named Giles agrees to go too. Woo hoo! Human bait!

Of course, before they send these two kids to board the ship, they attack it first with stinkbombs and attempts at ruining the ship’s propeller. After this, Herr Captain feels it would be a good time to send in the clowns, so off goes the Zodiac containing the hopeful martyrs and to kill time while they are on the way to intercept, they have the only person aboard the Steve Irwin who speaks Japanese insult the people on board the whaling ship.

Surprise! Surprise! The Japanese sailors weren’t happy to see them when they got on board! Who could have seen that coming? When the helicopter pilot (you remember him right? He’s the one flying the helicopter with the nicked up tail rotor, miles from his own ship) radios to tell the command crew of the Steve Irwin that the Japanese are treating their guys roughly. All around good guy Paul Watson wants to know if their getting it all on video so they can send it to the press.

Now is probably a good time to talk about piracy. You see, when you board a vessel at sea without the permission of the captain and crew of the ship you’re boarding, you have just committed an act of piracy. If a pirate is apprehended, he is typically tried in the country of the ship he or she has attacked. Captain Watson neglected to mention that to the lads before he patted them on the back and sent them off.

None of this concerns the good Captain though. The returning helicopter brings back video of the apprehension of the two hostages/pirates (take your pick---really, it probably doesn’t matter unless you consider that they are aboard the ship and in the custody of people who think they are pirates). One particular photo has the crew high fiving! Potsy is in pain and being manhandled by the Japanese crew! Woo hoo! This will definitely make the papers! Nevermind that two kids are being held captive on board a Japanese whaling ship and likely to be kept there for three months until they return to Japan and be charged with acts of piracy on the high seas.

True fact: Some countries punish piracy by death.
True fact 2: The 9/11 attacks were technically, acts of piracy (air ships count the same as water ones)

Sadly, I was left off at this point. I have to wait until next Friday to find out the fate of the two dumb pirates and their idiot, uncaring captain. If history is any indicator, sheer dumb luck will save the crew and bespectacled female action nerds will gush over them when they are returned to the Steve Irwin, but we shall see. Idiocy like this is too engaging to pass up and I’m afraid I must watch next week to see what happens next.

I’ll admit, the only whale I’ve ever seen was at SeaWorld, but still, I can appreciate the plight of people who do their best to save them. I’m all for action nerds. This idiot captain takes it too far though. He rationalizes that violence must be met with violence. He lives by Hammurabi’s code, and sadly, he neglectfully and foolishly risks the lives of people who simply want to make a difference in the world. He seems all too eager to get someone killed for the publicity it would gain. He is dangerous and in my opinion, evil.

Watch the show. Save the whales. But don’t be fooled by this arrogant narcissist. There are lines that people of good intentions do not cross. And a Captain’s first responsibility should always be to the safety and well being of his crew. This man will get someone killed. And like a train wreck, I just can’t look away.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fingers and Thumbs

One of the things I’m looking forward to, now that Barack Obama has been elected President, is to see how the blame game changes. Now that the election is over and the lipstick bulldog and the senile old guy have been defeated, even those of us who voted for Obama can admit. The guy is severely under-qualified for this position!

I mean, seriously people, one term as a senator (incomplete) and community organizer. That’s hardly a resume made for Presidency. And that’s okay, that’s good in fact, we need someone who isn’t too caught up in the game to run the show for a while, but it also means that he is going to make mistakes, possibly huge ones.

Obviously, when he does, the right wing is going to try to put the blame directly on him. That’s not interesting though. Everyone knows that’s going to happen. What I’m curious about is how all these people who blame George W. Bush for every little thing are going to have to say.

Blaming W has become something of a sport. The Senate and House almost unanimously vote to go to war based on the evidence presented that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction, but when it’s proven that there aren’t, W was treated like a monarch who had made the call independently of everyone else. And that’s just one example. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming to the defense of President Bush. I truly believe he puts the Lame in Lame Duck President, but I’m really looking forward to the outpouring of hypocrisy that’s about to come down.

I also like, support and voted for Barack Obama, but screw ups are inevitable on the part of this young President. We live in a difficult and dangerous time. Mistakes will happen. And when they do, I can’t help but wonder if every time there is one, if the masses will take to the blogs and the message boards to holler at the moon about them?

I wonder if anything will be his fault? I wonder for how long people will be able to look back and blame W. From my perspective, the 9/11 tragedy can be pinned squarely on President William Jefferson Clinton and his foreign policy decisions, but I never hear anyone talking about that though. I do hear 9/11 being blamed on Bush though.

The thing is that George W. Bush is, was, and always will be an easy target. Even the politically ignorant can have a go at old Georgie boy. He’s the slow kid in the back of the class who almost seems to beg to be picked on. We’ve certainly obliged him. I read a lot of blogs and rarely does a week go by that someone isn’t trashing him—usually in an uninformed way.

This isn’t a defense of Bush or an attack on Obama. This is a simple question: Are we, as a nation, going to hold Obama to the same standard of perfection by which we now judge Bush? Let’s face it, a lot of the criticism Bush got and gets has been warranted, but we do not and never have lived in a monarchy. One man alone does not rule our country. While the President is certainly the figure head of our government, he does not have the power to act alone.

And moving forward, I wonder how this blame game will change? Certainly, Bush will be blamed for messes that arise long after he’s out of office—some justified, others not. Certainly, the Republicans will try to pin as many problems to Obama as they can in an effort to win in 2012. But what about, “We the People?” Who will we blame?

In a country where we are supposed to have a voice and rarely take one, we stood up and found that voice to elect Obama. His successes will surely be our own. We will extend thumbs, pointed back at ourselves and with a wink to tell anyone who will listen that we voted for him every single time he does something, in which we can take pride.

Who will get to own his mistakes though? We never use our thumbs to point out failure. At least we haven’t the past eight years. We’ll be using our index fingers when errors are made. At whom will we point them?

Friday, November 7, 2008

American Pride

As the old theme to the sitcom The Facts of Life used to state, You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life. So, I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked by a recurring theme I’ve been hearing since the election of Barack Obama on Tuesday, but there are certain times, like this one, when the bad seems to be no nonsensical that it’s almost beyond comprehension.

The thing I’ve been hearing that I’ve found so distressing is the sentiment amongst many younger Americans that this, meaning Obama’s election, is the first time in their lives that they have ever felt proud as Americans.

To put it into a jargon that audience will understand: *facepalm*

I just can’t adequately express my profound disappointment in the idea that someone could possibly have been born and raised under the umbrella of freedom in which we live and not feel some kind of pride in those who fought for that freedom. It was such a common sentiment and so frequently repeated over the past couple days that I’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about it. I came to realize that someone who is 18 today, was 10 when George W. Bush took office. Someone who is 24 now was only 16 at that time.

The point there is that one of the more egregious eras in American politics has been the focal point of the just budding political lives of this generation. Even so, I find it hard to believe that those who are just now feeling pride in our nation, failed to do so during the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks on the country. Only seven years ago, the twin towers fell and walls of the Pentagon were breached and it just completely astonishes me that regardless of what a person’s age may have been at that time, they not have been influenced by the wave of patriotism that followed.

I came into my own political awareness in the era when the Cold War ended, when the Berlin Wall crumpled, when the Soviet Union failed, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and we were compelled to help liberate the Kuwaiti people. I am the son of a Viet Nam veteran and the grandson of two World War II veterans.

It is with that background that I matured to an age where politics became important to me and I took an active part in our political system. Maybe it gave me a more solid background and allowed me to connect more closely to the major events of that time. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’ve always felt a tremendous sense of pride in being American. One of my vivid memories from childhood was a cute thing I used to say: “I’m a little bit Polish, a little bit Irish, a little bit German, but I’m ALL American!” And that’s how my generation grew up, we were proud of where we came from, but more proud of where we were.

I look around today and watch as people celebrate the various Independence days from their countries of origin, waving foreign flags, plastering them on the hoods of their cars and flying them from their windows. I don’t see those same people flying the American flag on July 4th, our own Independence Day. It astounds me. They come from all over the world, leaving those countries for the greater opportunity our country offers, but instead of celebrating that opportunity, earned through the blood, sweat and tears of our forbearers, they celebrate the places they left behind.

I watch as with each generation we seemingly take less pride in the freedoms we have as Americans. I watch as those freedoms are taken for granted. I hear opinions about how certain speech should not be allowed, about how certain rights that our ancestors fought for should be given up freely. I notice that not only do many people not appreciate the sacrifice of those who fought for and earned us those freedoms, but they don’t even understand the importance of them.

The apathy with which many regard the freedoms they enjoy in our country is astonishing. These people who are feeling pride in our country for the first time because of the election of a black man, ignore the many triumphs of those who came before him. Do these people not take pride in Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus? Do they not understand the weight of the Emancipation Proclamation? Do these people not acknowledge the dream of Martin Luther King that laid the foundation for this election?

How can you fully appreciate the weight of what has happened if you don’t appreciate the history of it? And if you know the history of it, how can you fail to have taken pride in the journey? How can you not be proud of the participation of our country in WWII, where we helped defeat Hitler who was exterminating Jews because he thought they were inferior? How can you not take pride in a country that expanded the world of science and put a man on the moon? How can you fail to take pride in 13 fledgling colonies, who demanded a voice in the government that taxed them and who, when they were refused, decided to declare their independence and create a nation based on freedom and democracy?

These past few days I’ve heard this sad refrain again and again. This is the first time I’ve ever been proud to be an American. Meanwhile, in China, a 12 year old girl wakes up before dawn and goes to work in a factory. She works hard all day long using a machine that is very dangerous. There are no safety catches on this machine, those catches are expensive, it is much cheaper to replace her should she lose a finger or a hand.

She works 16 hours straight with only a quick couple breaks for bathroom use and perhaps one for eating a small portion of rice. The factory in which she works wasn’t the one she chose to work in. It was the one she was commanded to report to. The ventilation is poor and her lungs get blacker by the day. She makes mere pennies a day, while the products she makes earn vast amounts of money for the country in which she lives.

She lives in poverty, with her family, who have all been brought up under the same oppressive rule. She is a machine. She is a number. Her opinions do not matter and she is not allowed to express them. No one cares what she thinks. She has no opportunity in life. She will not grow up to be the thing she dreams of at night. She will grow up and continue working in that same cold factory because that’s what her government demands. Her life is monotony and obedience.

And if she traded places with those of you who are only feeling pride in America for the first time because of the election of a black man as our President, it would not take her very long at all to take pride in our country and the freedom it would provide for her. She would understand why our country is so great immediately. She would not take freedom for granted.

We are not perfect here in America, but we have a say. We have the freedom to speak up when we feel things are not as they should be. We have choices. We have the power to bring on change. This freedom, our right to speak out, our choices, our power to change, these things were not free. They were earned. Lives have been sacrificed so that we could grow up in a place like this. Those lives lost and those ones that were devoted to earning the freedom you take for granted demand your respect and if you can’t take pride in their struggles and hardships, then you don’t deserve America.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Save it for the morning after

Well, it’s the morning after and now it’s time to reflect on all that was and all that can be. The election is now over and we have elected Barack Obama to be our next President. There’s just so much to talk about, so many thing I want to say and express, some of it serious, some of it funny, some of it potentially inflammatory. The point, I suppose is that there is just too much in my mind right now, so I’ll try to touch briefly on many subjects—though, as you may already have suspected, I have trouble with being brief. I’ll do my best though.

John McCain

After his concession speech, the first thing I said was: “I wonder what the election would have been like if that guy had been a part of it?” In defeat, McCain found the humility, integrity, eloquence and statesmanship that he always seemed to lack during the campaign. This is the John McCain that I’ve always known in the past. This is the man who I would have been completely comfortable voting for before his campaign started. He did this to himself. He allowed his campaign to become what it did. Still, Barack Obama’s win wasn’t the only reason I found myself being proud to be American last night. John McCain’s graciousness put a lump in my throat as well.

Anderson Cooper & Wolf Blitzer

Cooper: The number we’re looking at is 270, Wolf, what happens when we get there?

Wolf: [looking very confused] Ummm, we’ll report it Anderson.

Jon Stewart has nothing on this comedy team


It wasn’t only national pride that I was experiencing last night, there was a great bit of civic pride as well. Barack Obama is an adopted son of this city and he chose to address the nation from our very own Grant Park. A quarter million people went to go hear him speak and they did so peacefully, without incident. On a beautiful night, one of the most important nights in the history of our nation, the first black President stood before the beautiful backdrop of the incomparable skyline of our downtown area and began by saying, “Hello, Chicago!”

All night long, the crews from national news outlets were broadcasting live from Grant Park and the third largest city in our nation was the absolute focal point of the entire world. Chicago is fiercely proud of her own and President Elect Obama is one of us. You will be hard-pressed to find a city of people better than those you find here, and I am so proud to have been in the spotlight of the entire world for this history making night.

Campbell Brown

How you doin? No, seriously, I did a little research and found out that you have 2 kids and converted to Judaism for your second husband. If you ever want to switch back to Christianity, I’d be happy to be a daddy to your kids and to even put a few more buns in that oven.

Black & White

I hate giving my opinions on race sometimes, because people read what they want to read and the ignorant among you will pump your fists in agreement with me on this, but not in a healthy way.

What I have to say is this: You couldn’t have done it without us Black America. What I mean by that is that perhaps this is a time for reassessing what you think you know about your pasty co-inhabitants of this country. Obama didn’t play the so-called “race card.” He didn’t run as a black man, he ran as the best man for the job. And White America rallied to him and embraced him.

I’m not so naïve as to think that racism doesn’t exist. In fact, it was so evident in some of Sarah Palin’s hate speech and in some of the supporters of the McCain ticket that it is undeniably still a huge problem in our country. But, those racist bigots are not the majority of us.

Until today, the symbols of Black America have been the reverends, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are ambulance chasers who never pass up a chance to point out any instance when the slightest injustice has been done to any black man, woman or child. The perception of these men among whites is that they are racist as well, against whites. Because these men are the symbols of Black America, and those symbols are racist, by extension, White America fears allowing any bit of the balance of power to slip their way.

With the election of Obama, a new kind of man is the symbol of Black America. A smart, well spoken man with strong character who has preached nothing but a message of unity, he wants to unite red and blue states, Republicans and Democrats and yes, white and black people.

The point of all of this is that the election of Obama offers both whites and blacks—and every other ethnicity for that matter, a chance to come together. I think that Obama is going to have a tough love for the black community that will both benefit Black America and resound with White America. It will be the kind of tough love that was advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. whose dream came back to life last night, and will be carried brightly into the future. In any event, we helped elect him. Perhaps we’re all not as racist as the reverends would have you believe?

Erica Hill

Like your contemporary Campbell Brown, I’d like to say to you: How you doin? Sadly, you are also married with kids. What the hell? But seriously, if things don’t work out between Campbell and I, you should know that you are on deck young lady!

Anderson Cooper

I’ve been finding white hairs in my goatee lately. Not a lot, just every once in a while, one pops up. I suppose I just want to say thanks for making white hair look hip and fresh. It really makes me worry a whole lot less about the inevitability that someday, these white hairs poking through my beard will come not single spies, but in battalions.

Tim Russert

I wasn’t only watching CNN, I was switching back and forth between NBC and CNN, it’s just that NBC offered me much less to comment upon. One thing I can mention about the NBC coverage was Tom Brokaw’s toast to Tim Russert. I’ve always liked both Brokaw and Russert and Russert was sorely missed on this night.

Sarah Palin

They say you went “rogue” on John McCain. By that, they mean that when you figured out that he wasn’t going to win, you started using the spotlight to begin your own campaign for 2012. You’ve been fooled into thinking, by the racist, ignorant portion of our country that you have a chance to win in 2012, but what the Republican party is going to realize as they look back on what went wrong in this election is that you were a big part of the reason. Moderate Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike were all frightened by the prospect of you being a heartbeat away from the Presidency and while you may have galvanized the right wing, Christian conservative nut jobs, you lost more votes than you won.

The best description I’ve heard of the Palin-effect was that she was like a sugar rush. She brought a lot of life and energy to the campaign that just as quickly turned into a depressing malaise. When the repubs start figuring out how to take back the White House and congress from the Dems, they are going to realize that they have to start appealing more to the moderates and sorry toots, but moose-hunting pit bulls wearing lipstick need not apply.

Oprah, Will I Am & Spike Lee

Where the fuck was Denzel?



And to the People of the World

The United States of America is often self-described as a beacon on the hill. Perhaps we are a bit arrogant to think so, but then again, I think not. I often use this space to rail against the many problems we have in our country. It has allowed me to get in touch with people from all over the world and see our great nation through the eyes of the world around us.

Often, you have ridiculed the country I love so much and questioned how we could have ever elected George W. Bush not once, but twice. You have, at times, looked upon us with disdain and when it’s been so, I’ve always felt attacked.

There have been times that I have come to resent the world around me because though I may rail against our nation at times, I have never stopped believing that we are the greatest nation on the face of this earth and the disdain that I’ve felt from around the world has at times felt like it was mixed with a bit of glee over the state we Americans have put ourselves in.

Then, I noticed the reaction of the world to our election of Barack Obama. I noticed the pride the world took in what we did. I noticed the love and support we received from the world around us. I noticed how much our neighbors in the world truly cared about who we elected and how desperately they wanted Obama to win.

It was then that I realized that perhaps there is no reason to think that the beacon on the hill is an arrogant view of ourselves. We are the United States of America and the world is watching. When we stumble, the ripple of that stumble permeates throughout the world. When we fall, even more so. But when we shine, we are that beacon for the entire world to see, and our pride is theirs to share in, our success is theirs to enjoy, our triumphs are theirs to celebrate because we are that beacon on the hill. Perhaps though, we should look at the world around us and see that we are not the only beacon. We should see that there are many beacons on many hills and we should learn to take pride, enjoy successes and celebrate triumphs with them, as they so fervently do with us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Three Little Birds

Well, the time for mud-slinging, name calling, blatantly lying, misleading and scaring the public has come to an end. Oh yeah, and the whole running an actual campaign based on issues has come to an end for Obama. Now, it’s time to tally the vote and figure out where we, as a nation are going to go.

I do have a few things to say before the results are in though. There are a lot of people who seem to be under the impression that if McCain wins, it’s a complete disaster for the USA and for the entire world.

To those people, I’d just like to say, that even as a firm supporter of Barack Obama, the only concern I’d have with McCain as President is the fact that if he dies in office, Sarah Palin would take over. Aside from that, John McCain is a good man and loves our country very much. He is not George Bush revisited. He really and truly isn’t.

Allow me to explain a few things that you may not know about McCain and his campaign:

The first thing you should know is that although he ran a lousy campaign where he didn’t speak to the issues, there is a reason for this. Believe it or not, it’s a reason of integrity. Simply put, John McCain couldn’t run a campaign based on the issues because his views on the issues are not those of the hard-core, right wing, Christian conservatives. He also HAD to have that segment of our country turn out en mass in order for him to win the election, so he kept his mouth shut when it came to the issues.

This also is the explanation for his choice of Vice President. He doesn’t like Sarah Palin and he doesn’t agree with her on…just about anything. She is on the ticket because she appeals to the hard core right wing, Christian conservatives and because he hoped to gain Hilary Clinton supporters who were voting on the basis of gender alone. The problem is that if McCain dies in office, she is our President. It’s a big problem, but even if he wins, you can’t just assume he’s going to die. That’s an ageist attitude. We’ll just cross that bridge when it we come to it—if we come to it.

Because he couldn’t run a campaign on the issues, he ran a negative campaign against Obama. It’s a shame because John McCain is better than that. Without the issues though, he had to run a campaign of misdirection so that his core Republican voters could rally around him. Pointing out that Obama has a controversial minister, and served on a committee over 10 years ago with someone who is a blight on our country, linking him with terrorism and with Islamic Fundamentalists because of his name was the way he misdirected his constituency.

This is the first exposure for many people, especially those outside the US to John McCain and it’s been an ugly picture. What you’ve seen is a man who slings mud, what you’ve seen lacks substance, what you’ve seen is the product of the same machine that got George W. Bush elected twice. I know that. But I don’t believe you’ve seen John McCain.

I don’t think he’s going to win. I really hope he doesn’t win, but that hope comes from how strongly I feel about Barack Obama, not from worry about the kind of leader John McCain would be. If the polls are wrong and McCain somehow does win the White House, I think you’ll start to see a completely different man that you’ve seen during the election process.

I was surprised to find that McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time and I wonder if that percentage is somehow skewed because before this all began, I’ve always thought of McCain as someone who was one of the few Republicans who was willing and able to stand up to Bush. I thought of him as more of a moderate than a conservative. I thought of him as a man with a great deal of integrity, an intelligent man and a good leader.

So, if he does win, don’t think that it’s the end of the world. Don’t think that it’s four more years of Bush policies. I think that the John McCain we’ve been watching these past months is a fallacy, created so that he’d have the best chance he could have at winning. I think a post-election McCain will be more of the man that I used to think of him as being.

It’s a sad state of affairs that a candidate has to reinvent himself for an election and be someone he’s not in order to give himself a chance. It’s been sad watching McCain. He’s obviously been very uncomfortable in the skin he’s been wearing these past months. He’s been very unnatural, forced and even phony.

In short, if he wins, I don’t think it’ll be the end of the world. I think John McCain is a lousy actor, but a good man. I think that if he’d ran the campaign he really wanted to run, the right wing Republicans wouldn’t have bothered voting and he would have lost in a landslide. So, he’s done what he needed to do to make it competitive. I think he chose the big picture and chose a strategy that belies who and what he is all about.

I really hope Barack Obama wins tonight. But if he doesn’t, take a deep breath. Better days are ahead even if he isn’t.

Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, (this is my message to you-ou-ou:)
Singin: dont worry bout a thing,cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry (dont worry) bout a thing,cause every little thing gonna be all right!
-Bob Marley, Three Little Birds

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Palin Pranked

If you vote for McCain-Palin on Tuesday, and they win--then McCain dies in office, THIS, my friends, is YOUR President:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And I endorse...

Well, I think it’s time to officially endorse a candidate and I’m going to go ahead and endorse Barack Obama. Consider yourself endorsed by me Mr. Obama. And consider yourself special too, because this is the first time I’ve ever endorsed a Democrat candidate for President of the United States. That’s right. I’m one of those people. I voted for Bush, not once, but twice. I voted for Bob Dole and George Bush the elder as well. That said, I’m not a Republican. Actually, I’m a registered Democrat, but that’s because I live in Chicago and prefer that the pot holes in my neighborhood be repaired in a timely manner.

It’s easy to look back and cast ridicule at my voting record, but I’ve voted my conscience in every election and consider myself an informed voter. In my first foray into electing a President I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush, who I thought had been a pretty good President. Retrospectively, I wish he’d finished the job in Iraq—the mistake of not doing so really killed his son’s presidency. But, alas, Slick Billy Clinton won that election and like most presidents elected from the party of the mule, the economy thrived and the foreign relations and defense suffered.

Willy C ran for a second term against Mr. Viagra himself, Bob Dole, who was a nice enough guy and an honorable man—aside from pimping himself for erection meds, just wasn’t a match for the charisma of Clinton and in fairness to Bill, to say the economy was good under his presidency was an understatement of extreme proportions. Clinton made two big mistakes as it would turn out. The first was that he didn’t do enough to curb the rising threat of Islamic Fundamentalists. It was naïve, in retrospect, to assume that their anti-American hatred would never play itself out on our soil. They got more and more bold under Clinton’s presidency.

The second mistake was Al Gore. The party of the donkey could have forged a monopoly if Clinton had picked a Vice President who wasn’t equal parts robot, zombie and computer generated voice. Being a good leader is more than having a good policy, it’s inspiring others to follow. Al Gore is a smart man, but he couldn’t inspire a meth junkie to get high.

So, at the end of Clinton’s 8 years in the White House, after he worked wonders with the economy and stained a nice girl’s blue dress, I voted for Georgie the Moron. I didn’t like him as a candidate. I liked him better than Gore though. Al Gore just wasn’t a leader. Bush, like him or not, showed strength and leadership ability in that first election. It’s easy to ridicule a vote for Bush now. We know he’s a moron. That wasn’t always the perception of him though. To say so is revisionist history. In fact, after the attacks on 9/11, he was a strong, solid voice that calmed the nation and gave us resolve for what needed to be done in a brand new world.

His War on Terrorism was supported on both sides of the aisle. It’s important to remember that while he was the spearhead, on the whole, we as a country wanted to kick someone’s ass. That’s where things went awry for Georgie the Moron. Knowing that he was in over his head, he let people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld run the country. It turned out that Georgie wasn’t such a good leader after all. And worse, he’d picked really bad people to rely upon to help him. I still judge Georgie to be a good man, I really do. I think he’s a poor judge of character though. I think he listed to the wrong people and the deeper they dragged him into the mud, the more he had to depend on them to not let him go.

But I get ahead of myself. He was running for re-election in 2004 against John Kerry, who I still do not believe is a good man. The Donkey’s really screwed up by not offering up a candidate that the American people could get behind in this election. Had they trotted someone, anyone credible out, I would have voted for them. Once again, Bush was in a “lesser of two evils” election. The last time, I judged him to be the lesser of two those to evils, this time, I chose the evil I knew over the evil I didn’t. I firmly stand behind my vote, knowing full well what a mess Bush made of things, because I think Kerry would have made a worse mess of them.

It turned out that the final four years of Bush were a nightmare. His first term, was ridiculed for decisions he made based on bad intelligence. We invaded Iraq because we thought they had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The thing that people tend to forget is that the intelligence was real and widely believed, even if it was false. Cheney and Rumsfeld didn’t need much of an excuse to declare war and in this, they had it.

He also was ridiculed for not anticipating the amount of time it would take to withdraw from Iraq. But he wasn’t the only one. Again, it’s easy to point the finger at him, but a few things happened that—though they could have been foreseen, were not. First, the people of Iraq didn’t play their part. This left us with a mess because their failure to get organized quickly allowed our many enemies in the area to use Iraq, a country to which they held no particular loyalty or ownership, as the battleground on which to fight the USA.

When your “military” depends on hijacking planes for an air force and suicide bomb-laden zodiacs as a navy, and the enemy does you a favor setting up shop with their Army and Marines at your neighbor’s house, you lick your chops and go pick a fight.

They did. I still think this clusterfuck saved the citizens of our country another attack on U.S. soil. I would still rather engage the enemy on Iraqi soil than in New York and Washington D.C. I don’t think it was planned that way, but that’s what happened.

A few years ago, it was thought that the central focus of this election would be immediate withdrawal from Iraq. It’s not. The reason for that is that both parties know that removal for removal’s sake is a danger to our country, our allies and the entire Middle East region. Both parties know that immediate withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea. John Kerry planned to do just that. Four years later, it’s accepted that this strategy would have been a dangerous and disastrous one. People who criticize a second vote for Bush tend to overlook this fact.

You thought this was going to be an endorsement huh? Well, it is, but my reasons for voting for Obama are the result of the lessons I’ve learned from each of these previous elections in which I had the privilege to vote.

Here are few things I know about our government. It’s a bad idea for either party to be in charge for too long. More than 8 years of any party in charge is a dangerous thing. If the economy is great then there’s a good chance our foreign policy is messed up and vice versa. No matter how much prosperity we’ve had under an administration, giving either party more than eight years spells danger. It could be argued that more than four years is spells danger too.

I also think that more than 8 years of one party picking Supreme Court Justices is a bad thing. I think balance in that branch of government is essential. Those two reasons, of course, lead to a vote for the Democrat candidate in this election.

But those reasons, are really only tie breakers and I’d be lying if I said that it came down to tie breakers this time around. In this election, I don’t think it’s a battle of the lesser of two evils.

I’ve long admired John McCain, but I’m afraid that this campaign has painted an ugly portrait of him. Instead of running HIS campaign, he ran the campaign the elephant party wanted him to run. He’s been a puppet in much the same way that Bush has been. He hasn’t run the campaign of the “maverick” he has at times been throughout his political career. He’s made me think of him as a puppet and as dangerous. Still though, it may very well be that he’s running that campaign because the monetary support of the far right is the only way he stood a chance of getting elected. It may very well be that he chose Sarah Palin as a means of pandering to that money.

As much as I don’t want him to win, a part of me still thinks that once he had the presidency, he’d revert back to the John McCain I’d often admired throughout the years. But once again, I’m not casting this vote for the guy running against the guy I’m afraid of or worried about either. I don’t think the country will suffer from a McCain presidency. I’m not casting this vote out of fear of the candidate running against the one I support.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because while I’m not a fan of big government, I think that his plan for our country economically is the right one for us right now. The only place money trickled down under the rule of the elephant party was into the pockets of people who were already rich. It’s silly to assume that the giants of industry would do anything but be selfish. The distance between the rich and the middle class is vast, while the distance between the middle class and poor is much closer. It’s time for the bottom two thirds (and that’s not two thirds in terms of number of total people by the way) narrowed their respective gaps. That happens from the bottom up, not through trickling down.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because the state of health care in this country scares me. I think our neighbors to the north will tell you that universal health care, while having some advantages, is not the ideal either. Both candidates realize that a happy medium is needed. I tend to think Obama’s ideas favor someone of my age, income and social status.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because I’m tired of the elitist attitude of our foreign policy. I think the idea that we only sit down to talk with people that promise to do what we tell them to is the very antithesis of democratic. I think that the notion that sitting down with extremist leaders validates their cause is about as ludicrous as the idea that inviting a Santa Clause to the White House on Christmas validates his existence.

I think that the idea of John McCain’s about a League of Democracies does nothing but further separate the world instead of bringing it together. I think that you only pick sides before you play and in this case, play = war. I think that we have a body that’s supposed to bring the nations together and it’s called the United Nations. I think it’s corrupt, ineffectual and impotent. I think that has happened because of our reduced standing as a country in the eyes of the world. I think the world, as a whole, believes in the ability of Obama to make us respectable again.

I’m voting for Obama because I believe he listens to the people. I’m voting for him because I believe he is a leader. I’m voting for him because while he may be inexperienced, I think he can unite, galvanize and motivate our country. I’m voting for him because I judge him to be a good man, with common sense and integrity. I’m voting for him because I believe he is intelligent. I’m voting for him because he is well spoken and can effectively communicate, not only with his constituents, but with his peers in the governing of the world’s countries.

I’m voting for Obama because of a gut feeling that he is something special. I’m voting for him because I think he has a chance to be a once-in-a-lifetime type of leader, like Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Washington before him. I’m voting for him because when it’s all said and done, when all the facts are weighed, personalities taken into consideration, past lessons of my voting life accounted for the summation of facts completed, I believe Barack Obama is the overwhelming right choice for our country.

So, with all this said, I will cast my vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday. Time will tell if my decision was right or wrong, but I’ve never cast a vote I regretted because I’ve never voted without reason—whether you agree with those reasons or not. This is the first time though, in any election, that I have been so adamant in my support of a candidate. I am voting for Barack Obama for President of the United States, and I urge those readers who are able, to cast their vote the same way.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I’ve been reading a lot of Vonnegut lately, which has me in the frame of mind to start thinking about what aliens might make of this election if they were hanging out amongst us. I wonder what they’d make of some bald guy known as Joe the Plumber stalking the campaign trail for John McCain. I’d have to guess that taking a step back and observing things like that would lead to only one possible conclusion, the people of Earth, specifically these Americans who run the most powerful nation on this planet, are a bunch of freaking morons!

They wouldn’t be wrong.

We are a bunch of freaking morons. The media walks out in front of us, holding the standard of our people and we the sheep follow behind, a parade of fools, who are content to just go along for the ride.

I’m just trying to imagine this poor alien creature, hiding among us, observing our election—possibly the most important election in the past 20 years—and having to formulate a report to the alien commander about the state of this nation.

And so…

Report: Election for Earthling Leader of USA

To: Zargon, Imperial Overlord of the 7th Sector
From: Pibat, Senior Reconnaissance Officer of the Warsep Fleet

Report: The Earthling inhabitants of the nation called USA are, as we have always known, a curious lot. Their economy is in great peril, their health care system is chaotic, their educational system is lax and their leaders are largely corrupt and beholden to the businesses and corporations of their nation.

The humans of this nation seem to want to care about these issues, but like the creatures they call dogs and keep as pets, they are easily distracted by shiny objects and opportunities to fetch bouncing balls and of course, sticks.

One candidate has limited experience, but has detailed plans as to how he wishes to make the lives of the humans under his leadership better. The other candidate hasn’t mentioned very many specific things he would do to best run the country though.

It is curiously strange that he is able to compete in this election with that strategy. He obviously spends his allotted campaign money on shiny objects, bouncing balls and of course, sticks.

He has employed the following strategies:

Appointing, as his potential second in command, a female of the species who speaks and acts like she may, in fact, possess male genitals, but looks curiously like one of the 50 most attractive of their species as documented in a periodical called People. Strangely, the celebrity this potential #2 looks like does not like her political look-a-like.

Overuse, to the point of wanting to disintegrate one of your 17 brains, of the word “maverick.” Maverick was a popular television show and later a movie starring the same man who made the silly movie about aliens who were destroyed by water (the same movie that spent 57 weeks as the number one comedy on our planet). Maverick was also the nickname of a pilot in another movie about the pilot of one of the primitive earthling flying machines. This “maverick” had a best friend named Goose, who died. Goose went on to become a doctor while Maverick jumped on the couch of a woman screaming about a woman he brainwashed into thinking that she is infected by alien spirits that come from a volcano—and that every time she poops, she gets closer to being pure. I have tried to understand why such allusions are beneficial, but in this instance, I am simply unable to understand how the humans can possibly think these comparisons are good ones.

The use of a mascot named Joe the Plumber. By all accounts, this human who repairs the tunnels through which human wastes flow is not one of the brightest of their species. When recently asked to qualify one of his opinions, he suggested that those interested in knowing why he believed that a vote for the other candidate would be the end of another country called Israel, he answered that those interested in knowing why he believed this should look it up on the human information system known at the internet. To this observer, it appeared that he knew he was supposed to think what he did, but was unsure of why he should think it. His puppeteer must have forgotten to tell him.

Perhaps the most prevalent tactic employed is the association of the other candidate to people the Earthlings have never heard of before, but whom they are assured, are bad people. It seems that the humans are easily swayed by associations. It has come to the attention of this operative that the most shocking of these allegations is to be unveiled only 3 days before the election in an attempt at an endgame strategy. It will be announced, with a wealth of evidence to support it that the opposition candidate’s mother’s counsin’s step-father once engaged in a homosexual act with the son of a man who loaned an undisclosed amount of money to evil dictator Adolph Hitler when he was a starving artist. It is expected that this information will swing the vote away from the frontrunner, who will then lose in a landslide.

The final shiny object employed is misinformation about the opposition’s religious beliefs, ethnicity and ties to what the humans call terrorists. It seems the perpetrators of the infamous attacks on World Trade Center buildings (see my report filed on earth date 9/12/01) have names that sound similar to the front running candidate. The attackers were Islamic Fundamentalists, which is a bastardization of the religion known as Islam. The candidate with an Islamic-sounding name has been associated with this bastardization, even though he believes in the same God as the other candidate. It is unfathomable as to how the humans can be fooled into thinking this candidate is an Islamic Fundamentalist, or even a peaceful member of the religion of Islam, because earlier in the election, this same candidate was tied to a minister of a Christian faith who preached controversial views. Supporters of the candidate flashing this particular shiny object seem completely oblivious that the two ideas contradict each other.

It is the conclusion of this officer that as we had previously suspected, the above evidence can only support the theory that the human race is going through a de-evolution (oh shit, remind me to tell you what the one candidate’s prospective second in command believes about evolution—we’ll have a great laugh!) process and within the next 5 decades, the entire species, led by the humans in this country, will revert to being apes. This officer believes therefore that the need to overthrow the planet by force is unnecessary as it’s inhabitants will be flinging poo at each other in less than a century. Plans should be made immediately for the evacuation of our planet for relocation to Earth.

I will keep you posted as to the result of the election and the further apeification of the human race.

All Hail Gartex the Magnificent!

SRO Ufiness Pibat, Warsep Fleet
Earth, USA

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On Notice: Old People

Don’t get me wrong, I think ageism is a horrible thing, as are almost all isms when you come down to it, but sometimes these geezers get the reputation they deserve and no one ever seems to call them on it.

Rest assured, my friends, that I will allow that travesty to continue no longer! It’s time someone stood up to the “Greatest Generation,” and since I have nothing better to do…

For the most part, I like old people, and even the ones I don’t like, I try to respect. I’ve gone on record before about getting caught in marathon conversations lectures from lonely geriatrics, and the seeming shock and awe I’ve conjured by holding doors and performing other acts of politeness, but I’ve got news for you old people, you may have put in more hours here on earth, but that doesn’t make the planet yours!

I found myself in a situation I’ve not been in for quite some time this past week. I was in a grocery store at around 9:30 a.m. If you ever want an example of how old people think they own the world, this is where you’ll want to make your observations.

Shopping carts must have some fountain of youth-like properties because, if you give a senior citizen a cart, all of the sudden their like a 22 year old kid in a bar with beer balls. I swear they go bumping into people just because they can. And after your ankle gets rolled by one of these hard ass geriatrics and you turn around to give them the look of death, you find them starring back at you with a look that can only be interpreted as: “Oh yeah, what are you going to do about it?”

And if the cart pushers are bad, the motorized wheelchair carts are twice as much so! Apparently, having one of those motorized carts is akin to being a double-0 operative in the service of Her Majesty, you get a license to kill. I had the audacity to pull my cart over to the side of the aisle so I could load a couple cases of Diet-Rite into it when one of these kamikaze grannies, whose sides spilled so far over the sides of the seat that they looked like actual saddle bags, actually rammed me.

Is there some law about keeping those things in the right hand lane? I mean, the left hand side was blocked as well, but the center of the aisle was wide open. Not good enough for this lady though, she wanted to travel down the aisle via the space I was occupying so she literally rammed my cart back into me.

I looked up to stare her down and she did it again, raising her eyebrows as if asking me if I wanted a fresh one? Well, I have my limits and rammed her back, before loading another case of pop on board. She was kind enough to not ram me again, but still refused to go around, using the ample space there was to continue on her way. She chose, instead, to stare me down in a manner than any witness may have come to the conclusion that I’d just impaled her cat on a parking lot bollard. Her eyebrows almost broke through her mile-high hair helmet and if I’d taken any more time they just may have made it!

Not a single word was exchanged.

And what’s with the sense of entitlement these old biddies seem to have when it comes to right of way in the aisles? Everywhere I went, it seemed I was intruding upon some old-timer’s preferred path and in every instance, they certainly felt entitled to it.

Did I mention that this entire trip to the store happened in less than 20 minutes? I can only imagine the beating I would have taken had I needed to do some real shopping! Fortunately, I was able to escape right before I lost all patience and had to hit someone’s granny.

Sadly though, I never really recovered from being on the brink of granicide and so this very morning, when I went to Dunkin Donuts for a nice hot cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich and saw a car literally parked in the very center of two parking places with a bumper sticker that read: My Grandson is an Honor Student at Lincoln Jr. High, I felt the proverbial camel’s back snap.

Sure, I could have parked in one of the many other spots available on the other side of the building, but I chose to park sideways right behind this lady, effectively blocking her in.

I was in line for only a few moments, and boy was I happy they had a long line there today, when lil granny two-spot came back inside and asked in a highly annoyed voice, “Who’s black car is that blocking me in?”

I drive a Jeep, not a car, so I was certain she wasn’t talking to me and ignored her. She then said, in a slightly more agitated voice, “Excuse me, who’s black truck is that out there?”

Well, it’s not a truck, as you and I both know, but what the hell, I knew she was talking to me, so I replied, “You mean the black Jeep?”

Normally, I don’t care if you call it a Jeep, a truck, a car or a rolling spaceship, but I felt snobbish, so what the hell right? She skipped the lesson in automobile identification completely though and told me that she was in a hurry and that I needed to move it so she could get out.

If she hadn’t been directly in the center of two spots, I may have been a little nicer about it and moved it for her once I’d inconvenienced her by making her come back in, but she was blatantly owning the world with the way she parked and I’m a big believer that you can, in fact, teach old dogs new tricks, so I told her that I’d be out as soon as I got my coffee.

She protested. When I say she protested, what I suppose I really mean is that she got beet red and explained to me in no uncertain terms that she was in a hurry and I needed to move my Jeep NOW!

Her mistake, of course, was calling it a Jeep. Having already proven to myself that this particular old dog was capable of learning new tricks, I was resolved to teach her, as Mr. Rogers once taught me, that sharing is fun—especially parking spaces!

So, when I explained to her that, I too was in a rush and couldn’t afford to get out of line and then have to wait at the back of the line when I got back inside. She, of course, felt implied that I should have thought about that before blocking her in—and honestly, I truly do love it when a plan comes together, because that’s when I got to say this to her:

“Well if you’d only taken up one parking place, instead of two, I’d have had room to park beside you and not block you in at all, but since you took up two, I had no choice—I’m in a hurry!”

With no apparent reply, she stalked out to the parking lot and laid on her horn until I emerged with my coffee. I have to say, no one actually said anything to me, but you just couldn’t mistake the looks of admiration and gratitude the adoring fans I’d made amongst the patrons and proprietors. I was truly surprised that I was asked to pay, if I’m being honest.

I, being the polite young man my mother raised, smiled brightly at the honking lunatic lady in her 78 Buick as I took my sweet time getting in and arranging myself comfortably before pulling out of the lot.

Of course, I don’t think all old people are rude, but I don’t think it would hurt to have television shows that taught senior citizens valuable lessons, like how to share, how to have good manners and the value of being polite!

And it should start with the erasure of the “citizen” part of their name. Why do they get to be citizens when I’m just a middle-aged guy? I mean, if there were teen citizens and young adult citizens, then I’d be okay with it, but the seniors have stolen citizenship in much the same way that Africans, Asians and Mexicans have stolen the title of Americans. Where’s my title of citizenship or Americanism huh?

Well no more. Until they start acting their age, I’m advocating that we simply call them “old-timers.” Titles should be earned and walking around under the assumption that you own every bit of public thoroughfare is just cause for having your title revoked!

Consider yourself warned old-timers! Straighten up your act or we’re going to start pushing you out to sea on rickety old rafts and actually getting our fair share of the social security we’ve been paying for all of our mid-length lives!

You’ve been warned!!!