Thursday, October 30, 2008

Science....fiction?

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!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shaq The Coward

I’ve never really been much of a Shaquille O’Neal fan. Okay, that’s an understatement. I think Shaq is an overrated assclown who thinks much too highly of himself. I’ve never liked him and I never will, so perhaps I’m a bit biased when Shaq opens up his big trap and starts spouting off, but so be it—the way I figure, any person that talks about himself in third person has invited all the contempt he gets.

So, it’s not a huge surprise, I suppose that as a basketball purest, I’m a little perturbed by Shaq’s recent comments aimed at San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. You see, for all of the things that Shaquille O’Neal does well, what he does not do well is shoot free throws. He’s horrible at it as a matter of fact. He’s also a “star player” though, so you can rest assured that he’s going to be in at the end of any game, or the tantrum he’ll throw will be monumental.

The problem with having him in a close game though, is that as time winds down, many coaches employ a strategy which has become known as the Hack-A-Shaq strategy. Simply put, anytime O’Neal touches the ball, he’s immediately fouled and forced to shoot free throws, which, as I’ve mentioned, he’s not very good at, so the end result is that the opposing team gets good opportunities to score every possession, while Shaq’s team is stuck with his poor free throw shooting as their only means of offense.

So, if you’re playing Shaq’s team and you’re losing, you employ Hack-A-Shack to help your team come back and if your team is winning, you employ it to expand that lead and keep the other team from coming back.

From a purely strategic point of view, it’s not only a great strategy, but one of the most long standing tactics in the game of basketball. Since the inception of the game, coaches have been using the foul as a means of making a comeback and the weakest free throw shooter on the other team has always been the favorite target.

Perhaps no player has been subjected to it more than O’Neal though. Not coincidentally though, this is because he’s probably the worst free throw shooter of any “superstar” the game has ever known.

For his part, Shaq has been whining about the strategy since it was first used against him. Recently, he called Popovich “cowardly” for using it in a playoff game in which his team was winning by 10 points. O’Neal also points out that the strategy makes the game less interesting for the fans.

And in a nutshell, this attitude is one of the reasons why I will never count O’Neal among the greatest big men to ever play the game. For someone who’s played the game so long, to not understand the importance of strategy over entertainment is a sad reflection on the state of the game at the professional level.

A coach is not and never will be a coward for exploiting the greatest weakness of the team opposing him. Poor baby Shaq can’t wrap his giant ego around the fact that the weakness is him. He is a liability to his team at the end of a game. About no other great of the game can this be said—which is why O’Neal cannot be a member of that club in my opinion.

If Shaq had his way, every game would be decided based on physicality and talent alone. Not surprising for someone whose only real talent is being bigger and stronger than everyone else, O’Neal has a certain disdain for the intellectual part of the game, especially when that intellect exposes him.

In fairness, Shaq goes on to say, “I just have to go to the line and hit [the free throws] and make them pay, and I will; I’m not worried.” Only he’s been saying the same thing for years now and his free throw shooting has never improved. And he’s never shy about speaking out against the strategy and even lobbied for a rule to be instituted against it.

I’ve taught grade school kids to shoot free throws at a higher percentage than Shaq makes them, though he is making millions of dollars to do it. Throughout a long career, he’s never seemingly made the effort to shore up this weakness in his game, he’s never eliminated this weakness from the teams he’s played on. He uses the fact that he’s bigger and stronger to bully defenders, but his skill lever is, and always has been suspect.

A little bit older and a little bit slower now, he’s far from the dominant player he once was and in a year or two, his career will be coming to an end. When it does, the talking heads will all discuss his place on the list of greatest big men of all time, and probably of the greatest players of all time. It’s sad that many of those talking heads will insist on giving him a status he does not deserve. He is not one of the best, either in the game or at his position. He is a fraud. He always has been. He always will be.

There is more to determining greatness than statistics and while Shaq’s stats may delude some into thinking he was greater than he was, it’s small things like these comments and these feelings that truly put him into the proper perspective. He is not a team player, though he plays a team sport. He is a strategic liability and weakness because of his lack of skill and practice. He is a brute force—nothing more, nothing less. If men of his height, weight and muscle were more common, if every team had one, Shaquille O’Neal would never have been more than average.

For my part, I enjoy watching O’Neal in the twilight of his career, no longer able to dominate a game. As his body wears down, he is paying the price of not having attained greater skill. He is no longer dominant. I can’t help but think back to the true greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, and how he seemed to get better with age, how his highlight film days were just a beginning, not the peak of his career. The same cannot be said of O’Neal. As his physical condition deteriorates, so does his game.

So, when the time comes and talking heads start to squawk about Shaq’s place in history, try to remember that no one ever mistook Pamela Anderson as one of the best actresses of all time, and don’t be fooling into thinking that O’Neal was anything more than an average talent in an amazing body.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The One Where I Fix America

It occurs to me that I’m always pointing my finger and rarely providing answers, so I thought I might take a few moments of time and go ahead and fix America. So, sit back, relax and enjoy ultimate solution to all of our problems.

Our problems aren’t really anything more than problems of perception. You see, we still think we’re a country that our founding fathers could take pride in, but the truth is that we haven’t been that in quite a long time. So, the first step in my solution is to give up the notion that we’re somehow above anything or anyone. We’re really not that good at all.

Problem number 1 is a problem of leadership and that is actually a fairly easy problem to solve. Al McGuire, the famous basketball coach once stated that world is run by C students and he’s absolutely right. The problem is that the pay for our leadership positions in this country can’t attract any of the really smart people. This is one of the perceptions you’ll have to overcome. The most intelligent of our countrymen are not making the noble sacrifice to spend their entire lives serving the better good. They’re busy making more money than they could ever use. We get stuck with leaders for whom the salary is one they aspire to earning.

Patriotism is a nice concept and all and sure, we all claim to be patriotic, but when just a miniscule portion of the population turns out to vote, that whole idea of patriotism goes out the window. We aren’t a country of patriots—unless you count a 2 week period of time after a war starts or a terrorist attack occurs. We’re a country of opportunists. Unless there is a specific benefit to us, we don’t do a damn thing.

So, the key is to pay our leaders such a ridiculous amount of money that the smartest among us would be crazy not to be involved in getting into politics. Let’s get rid of the C students we have running the country and get some damn scholars running the show! It seems kind of foolish to put someone only making $400,000 dollars a year in charge of a budget that’s in the billions. Let’s put someone who’s making millions of dollars a year in charge of things.

And not just the President, because you typically have to put in some time in the Senate or as a governor before you can become president, we should boost those salaries up too.

We can’t ignore that we’re a capitalist nation, and we can’t expect the kind of people who make millions of dollars a year to take a huge pay cut just so that our country can function properly. We’ve created this monster, now we have to pay it. That’s how things work around here. I’m not saying that capitalism is a bad thing, quite the opposite actually, but if we want to attract candidates who are actually intelligent, competent and motivated, we need to pay them their fair market value. And on top of a ridiculous salary, there should be an even more ridiculous bonus system in place. Reach a goal, keep a campaign promise, fix something that’s broken like health care and your salary just keeps going up, up, up.

Make the office of President one attractive to the people who really run the country, the captains of big business. Sure, they’ll have the interests of big business foremost in their minds, but this is another area where we have to give up our delusions because the fact of the matter is that our government already caters to big business more than it does to us. Let’s just stop pretending otherwise huh?

The other major change that needs to be made is that we have to make our government profitable. The only way we’ll ever see significant tax deductions and actually get to spend the money we earn is if the government—led now by A students—is able to earn it’s own money.

How will the government earn money you ask? Simple. Naming rights. We are nothing if not sheep that are easily manipulated by marketing and branding. Our stadiums, our sports teams, our television shows, it’s all brought to you by someone. The government is talked about on nightly news shows, on the internet, in the newspapers. The exposure of our government is huge! So why not make some money on that popularity?

Imagine the possibilities! Every time the president is mentioned, instead of just saying, President Washington, you’d have to say, President Washington, brought to you by Budweiser. Imagine the Coca-cola Senate and the Gillette House of Representatives. Imagine the revenue generated in war time if we changed the name of the Third Infantry Division to the Pepsi Infantry Division? The war would fund itself—and our soldiers could actually have the equipment they need!

And it doesn’t have to stop there! Think of all the federal holidays! Take a day off when General Electric presents Martin Luther King Jr Day! Take another day off when Chevy presents Christmas! Boeing presents Labor Day! Visa presents Independence Day! We have a ton of money available to us in advertising rights that we aren’t tapping into here! Sure, it’s true, it doesn’t look good when the politicians have corporate sponsorship, but again this is a matter of perception. They already have corporate sponsorship, we just choose not to acknowledge it and therefore we don’t get paid for it.

So, let’s stop pretending and start dressing our politicians like they’re NASCAR drivers! There’s money in it for us!

The way I figure it, once we have money and have smart people managing it, all the rest will fall into line. When the United States Marines as Presented by Blue Cross-Blue Shield invade some country, don’t fret over the rights and wrongs of war. Be happy that your country just made a mint that they can turn around and use to make healthcare affordable to everyone!

Look, the ideal isn’t to have a completely unethical nation, but to think that we’re anything other than that is just ignoring the obvious. So, let’s get off our high horse and truly embrace the way we’ve sold out. Let’s acknowledge that cash is king and put this country to work for ourselves. Here you go. This is a way to get smart people running the show and a way, to pay them and to make our government work without dipping into our own pockets.

It’s simple. It’s genius. You’re welcome. That is all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Great Debate

One of the most idiotic parts of the Presidential Debates, and let’s face it folks, there is a WHOLE LOT from which we can choose in this arena, is the post debate commentary.

Who won? Who lost? Who connected with the people? Who failed to make that connection? Who lied? Who told the truth? Which candidate advanced their platform the most?

The problem is that the news stations, in order to provide balanced coverage, bring in biased supporters of each candidate in equal numbers and after the debate they go to these talking heads who, very predictably tell us how their candidate won, the other lost and how it was a “clear cut win,” by their side.

The fact of the matter is that very rarely does anyone win a Presidential debate. It’s all just a joke (and it’s on you and I coincidentally). Each side ignores the questions asked, answers with their own rhetoric, buzz words and catch phrases on the subject they want to talk about and then claims victory.

Well I for one am tired of this, so I’d like to suggest a new format for all future debates. The debates will be held in three round competitions, there will be a scoring system and therefore an actual, clear cut winner and instead of respected news journalists moderating, we’ll get Ryan Seacrest to do host it and Randy, Simon and Paula to make commentary about the candidates after each round.

Round One is the Yay or Nay round. The candidates are strapped into chairs and asked questions to which they must provide YES or NO answers. For each failure to answer with either a direct YES or NO, the candidate will have a different soupy food item spilled on their head (a la Nickelodeon) and have points subtracted. The questions will be preselected and voted on by the American people as well. At the end of the round, the candidates get points based on how often their answers were in agreement with those of the people.

Round Two is the Truth or Dare round. The candidates (with any accumulated soupy food items still on them) are hooked up to a polygraph machine. Then they are asked the same questions as they were in round one only phrased differently. Instead of, “As President, will you raise taxes on the middle class?” as they’ll be asked in round one, in round two they’ll be asked, “In round one, you said you would never raise taxes on the middle class, were you just saying that to get elected?” At any time a candidate can refuse to answer a Truth or Dare question, but if he elects to not tell the Truth, he must perform a Dare of the other candidates choosing. One point will be awarded for every truthful answer as detected by the polygraph and one point for any successful dares completed.

Round Three is the Lightning Round. In this round, candidates will be asked a series of questions on their policies, stances and platform. The candidates will get exactly one minute per answer; going overtime will result in electroshock. What? You didn’t think the Lightning Round was all about fast answers did you? Electroshock will also be administered any time a candidate uses pre-formulated marketing phrases or buzz words, like “maverick” or “change,” as well. If, while answering the Lightning Round questions, a candidate chooses to shift the focus off of his answer by attacking his opponent, he will have a point subtracted and more gooey food dumped on him. Since there aren’t really “right or wrong” answers to opinion questions, points will be awarded for answers that a) actually pertain to the question asked, b) don’t involve an attack on the opponent, and c) don’t contain buzzwords and marketing slogans.

Essentially, this round isn’t about right and wrong as much as it is about succinct, intelligent, appropriate answers to the questions asked. This round will be especially shocking to the American people as no candidate has given an answer that qualifies in all three categories in the history of Presidential debates.

At the end of the three rounds, the scores will be tabulated, while the candidates are positioned in their bathing suits on the plank of a carnival dunk tank. Then Seacrest will look deeply into the camera and say, “The winner of this debate is…”

“…someone who’s name I’ll say after a word from our sponsors!” And he’ll cut to commercial for whichever corporate sponsor has bought our political system for the night, letting the candidates sweat it out. Then he’ll come back and make the announcement! The loser will be unceremoniously dumped into a tank full of sewer waste, while the winner will be hoisted from his dunk tank by an army of supermodels who give him a WWE-style championship belt. The song “Real American” will blare from the speakers and the debate winner will get 2 minutes of unfiltered trash talk, chest pounding and muscle posing before the debate is officially over.

It’s all so simple. The ratings would be through the roof. Interest would be piqued causing people to actually want to vote and once the elections were held, we’d have the President on tape giving specific answers to how he would handle things once in office and be able to call him on it if he didn’t.

I’m tired of tee-ball rule debates where “everybody wins.” I’m tired of debates filled with slander and rhetoric, buzzwords and catch phrases. I’m tired of the candidates attacking each other instead of answering questions. And I really miss seeing chocolate syrup dumped on people for giving wrong answers! And let’s face it, you can never go wrong with polygraph machines and electroshock!

It’s time to make our Presidential debates mean something again. It’s time for winners and losers, not posturing and primping. I have imparted my formula for the perfect debate on you America, do not waste it! That is all. God Bless America!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review and the truth of the matter is that I’ve read some good books, like The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, the Genesis of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks, Choke and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (as well as Snuff which wasn’t as good), but today I finished a book that I really enjoyed and have nothing better to write about, so book review time it is!

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff is simply excellent and if you have the chance, run—don’t walk—to your local library or book store and get this book at once! I’m not even sure where to begin in trying to describe this book, but Ruff does a nice job of sucking you in and keeping you interested in the narrative of his main character Jane Charlotte who is telling the story of her life to a disbelieving psychiatrist.

At an early age, Jane, an admitted hybrid between Nancy Drew and the spawn of satan, allows her penchant for trouble and her inquisitive nature to put her into the crosshairs of a lunatic serial killer. She survives with the aid of a secret organization that fights for the triumph of good over evil and is eventually recruited into this organization to help eliminate the “bad monkeys” of the world.

I’d do you an injustice if I told you much more than this, but trust me when I tell you that a twisty, turn-filled, action packed, fun ride ensues from there. If you’re paying very close attention from the outset, perhaps you’ll see the twists as their coming, but if you just let it soak you in, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you shaking your head.

It’s a contemporary fantasy, centered on an any-woman kind of character who gets caught up in a fantastical world that lies beneath the surface of our own world. A contemporary study of good versus evil that is clever, witty and robust, this book is well worth the read. If you don’t believe me, then look on the back cover—it’s endorsed by Christopher Moore for crying out loud! You just can’t go wrong if we both say its good, can you? I didn’t think so. Happy reading.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Waiting...

...until next year. Again.

please excuse me while I go cry myself to sleep.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Presidential Packaging

Perhaps nowhere is the absolute joke that American politics has become more evident than in the 90 minute spectacle of the presidential and vice presidential debates. And the part that’s most sad is how many people pay attention to these debates and take various “facts” from them.

Very simply put, I cannot remember a time during any debate I’ve ever watched where a straight answer was given to a question asked. Oh, it may seem at times like straight answers are being given. It may seem like a candidate has the facts and figures, charts and graphs to eloquently illustrate a point, but sadly, there are no rules against the heavily distorted truth or the unadulterated lie in the debate forum.

They each consistently bring up the other candidates voting record in an effort to vilify them, but you can’t really trust what you hear because while a particular candidate may have voted against something that seems like good old-fashioned common sense, it’s often because of some other stipulation in that particular case.

They each try to point out how the other is out to get you. That a politician is out to “get” any of us is the greatest fallacy in all of politics though. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re that important to them. You’re not. If bad things happen to us, it’s collateral damage—it’s not anyone’s goal in Washington to make our lives worse.

It is, however, their goal to look out for number one and let’s not be coy about it, number one is the person looking back at them in the mirror every morning. Not we the people, not their constituents, the number one job of any politician is keeping their job.

And that’s where these debates become truly sad. They tell their lies, thinly veiled as promises and reasons for hope in an effort to bamboozle us. And we are all too willing accomplices to their deceit. We would much rather be lied to and not have to work at it than to actually have to dig in, know and understand our own political system and make informed, intelligent choices. So, a politician isn’t really judged on what he or she does in office, but rather how their able to spin and market the things they’ve done to make themselves look good.

If serial killers had the kind of spin control and marketing teams that politicians have they’d be honored as population control executives. If the IRS had that kind of team in place we’d all be lining up begging to be first to donate on April 15th.

The simple fact is that politicians run unchecked because we allow them to do so. We buy into the marketed version of who these people are rather than the true version. Do you have a favorite candidate? Have you gotten into a discussion with someone about them? Have you used the terms “change” or “maverick” in your discourse? If you have, consider yourself affected, as these are the two principle key words in the marketing effort to get a president elected.

After watching last night’s debate, I’m now resolved to get a beautiful woman to precede me everywhere I go to tell people that I am a maverick, ad nausea. I think it’ll do my social life some good. People seem to be too na├»ve to understand that a real maverick doesn’t need to tell people about it. In fact, a real maverick’s reputation will always precede him. A real maverick would never need to tell anyone about it.

And as far as change goes, well change is something you do, not something you talk about. It’s a simple thing to say, but an amazingly difficult thing to do. And the word alone should not be a comfort or a reason for encouragement. Change alone is not progress, it’s intelligent change that makes the difference.

Which brings us back to the debates and the improv actors on stage who have been well-coached before hand on repeatedly using the party-approved key words whenever they are on shaky ground, whenever they feel trapped, when they need to make or counter a point. The groundwork has been laid, in the commercials, in the signage, in the rhetoric, in the editorials—so when in doubt, fall back on the marketing plan. Hit them with the key words and nothing can go wrong.

And the sheep watch without noticing. So used to marketing, from McDonald’s and Budweiser and lately from Microsoft, are we that we don’t even notice when we’re being bombarded by it anymore.

It’s not a campaign. If you think it is, you’re a fool. If you think you truly know either candidate, you’re sadly mistaken. American politics has become a battle of Super Bowl commercials. Bud Light versus Miller Lite, trading shots back and forth, trying to make their product look good and the other bad.

You’re not voting for a person. You’re voting for a product. It’s been packaged up nicely and depending on who you are and where you’re from, you’ve come to believe that your product is the only product worth having, but it’s really just the same beer in a different bottle.

Drink up America.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Too Much BS in TBS

I’m still reeling from the loss of my beloved Cubbies in game one in the best of 5 playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and don’t really want to talk about the game itself yet right now, so I’ll speak of the game itself only in the periphery. I actually knew what I was going to write about today while the Cubs were still winning the game though, and that is the God-awful job TBS is doing covering the divisional series.

TBS, the Turner Broadcasting System, is the home to the Atlanta Braves telecasts during the season, but big Teddy Turner bought the rights to divisional playoff baseball and now we’re stuck with him until the contract runs out.

The problem with a station like TBS getting the games is that they don’t really have a stable of competent announcers to cover the games. Take decrepit, old Dick Stockton for instance, perhaps no one puts more BS in TBS than he does.

Simply put, there is no worse baseball play-by-play man in the entire world than Dick Stockton. He’d made more mistakes before the first pitch than most broadcasters make in an entire season. You’d think a professional PBP man could, at very least, remember that Lou Pinella manages the Cubs and Joe Torre the Dodgers. Or that Ryan Dempster’s first name is, in fact, Ryan and not Brian.

To say that Dick Stockton is a bad announcer is truly an understudy! Oops, I mean an understatement. Yeah. Old Dickie got that wrong too, saying that, “to say this is a big series would be an understudy.” An understudy? Really Dick?

The bigger tragedy is that because the play by play man is so weak, so are the color commentators who are left to blab without direction. It’s horrible. Tony Gwynn and Ron Darling, the color commentators, flounder like goldfish on carpet without a strong lead to use them effectively.

And if the game announcers are bad, the in-studio show is painful. Memo to Dennis Eckersley: The 70’s are over. Please unfeather your hair and step away from the microphone. Cal Ripken, you are baseball’s Iron Man so how is it that your commentary is so incredibly anemic? And the idea of having a current player, in this case Curtis Granderson as one of the commentators is just plain stupid. How can you expect a guy to give an honest opinion about pitchers he knows he’s going to have to look out at again next season? You can bet your ass he’s not going to knock some guy who can stick a 94 mph fastball in his ear hole next spring!

From top to bottom, the TBS team was bush league. They may get away with this sort of thing for the NBA playoffs, but that’s because they host regular season games, have an in-studio team that has worked the entire season and play-by-play and color analysts who are already on staff—and actually work their sport for the entire season, not just the playoffs.

Fox and ESPN both have the resources to broadcast these games properly, but obviously were outbid by Turner for the games. Major League Baseball sold out to the highest bidder instead of ensuring that the integrity of the games was assured. And so, for the divisional series, we’re left with a rag-tag group of past their prime and never weres to broadcast the games and it’s truly painful to endure.

TBS may have the money to buy the games, but they obviously don’t have the resources to broadcast them well. They are fiercely ill-equipped to do these games justice. Every August, the Little League World Series has more professional coverage than the MLB Divisional Series is getting from TBS, and that’s no understudy.