Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some Ideas For The NRA

The NRA's response to the deaths of 26 innocent people in Newtown, CT and elsewhere is to double down on guns.   More guns.  We need more instruments of death.   Since the NRA is incapable of truly doing any real thought on the issue, here are some ideas I'd love to have them consider?  

  1. Every gun purchased and accesory must be registered with a national database.   This would include the legal purchaser's name, address, and vital information.
  2. Gun owners will be responsible for updating registration information anytime they sell, giveaway, or transfer a gun.   They also will be responsible for reporting any weapon that is stolen.
  3. Gun owners who do not do this will be held liable for any crimes committed with their gun.  
  4. All medical and information pertaining to a shooting will be recorded, including all details of injuries, deaths, property destroyed, gun owner, gun used, clips used, ammo used, legality of a weapon, where all items were purchased, and more.  This will ensure that we have accurate data to use when discussing gun crimes.  
  5. All sales must now be reported and background checks be completed.
  6. Every gun owner must have a background check pulled and report guns owned once  a year. 
  7. Gun manufacturer and gun sellers will have all liability protections repealed.  Let the courts decide if gun manufacturers are liable for damages done with their product.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Quick Quiz.

Which politician, political figure, or pundit said the following?

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.
 If you answered Oklahoma City Bomber, Timothy McVeigh, you win an AR-15.   Just go to Walmart and pay for one.   

Does the quote above sound familiar?  Perhaps like the rhetoric of the far right that is convinced that Obama is a socialist who is coming for your guns and wants to control your life?   How about the view McVeigh had  that the UN was going to take over the US Government?   Wasn't it kind of like the argument used against supporting worldwide rights for people with disabilities.


The reality is that these are paranoid fantasies by people who are disillusioned with government, life, authority, and perhaps many other things.  Most of them have never encountered any real threat to their safety, but act as though their life is always one step away from imploding.  These people believe they understand history because the past two or three decades they've been fed a continual line of crap about guns and government by special interest groups who are simply interested in pumping up the sales figures for weapons, survivalist gear, and more.  

If you want to rant and rave about the Constitution, then you have to accept that the success of the document is not in the Second Amendment, but the ENTIRE DAMNED DOCUMENT.   The President can't become a dictator or infringe on our rights because of the entire document, not just the Second Amendment.    Every day is not some sort of homegrown Red Dawn where the US invades itself and takes our liberty.      Instead it's another day in which the system of checks and balances on government and our laws actually work both in accordance with the needs of today and the intent of the Founding Fathers.    By holding the Second Amendment up above all others, you're saying that none of the document REALLY works, and you've always got to have one eye looking over your shoulder for Big Brother.   

I'm constantly told that people own guns because they don't want to live in fear.  Let me suggest that if you're to the point that you've bought multiple guns with a high capacity for ammo to defend yourself against the Government, or even intruders, you ARE living in fear.




Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mike Huckabee -- God showed those public school students, parents, and teachers

So Mike Huckabee thinks the Newtown shooting happened because we've respected the first amendment call for the separation of church in state.   In his mind, God wasn't there because we rely on our parents to teach religion to public school students, not teachers. His statements are incredibly insensitive and horrific things to say in the wake of a tragedy with so many dead, including children. Its a heinous comment because it ignores that the parents who are grieving undoubtedly are people of faith. It also portrays God as not one who loves, but an egomaniac who lets evil happen to kids simply to send a message. Perhaps most importantly, it absolves people like Mike Huckabee from addressing their own role in the matter, placing second amendment rights above all others, including the reason most people came to America, the freedom to worship as you choose. Huckabee openly supported unfettered access to guns and has helped shape the notion that we need to arm ourselves to the teeth to protect ourselves from the government (you, know, people like the teachers, fire, ems, and police who had to deal with yesterday's horror). Nowhere in the New Testament can I find any reference to Jesus saying you should stockpile semi automatic weapons. Jesus would be appalled at stockpiling guns in his name. Mike Huckabee gives both politicians and those of us who are Christians a bad name.

As someone on Twitter so eloquently put it, "this shooting didn't happen because we took religion out of schools, Mike Huckabee happened because we took education out of schools."

My Thoughts on the Newtown Shootings

Over 11 years ago my daughter was a month away from being born on a beautiful September day when four planes were crashed by men with nothing but evil on their minds.  I remember being stunned, horrified, sad, and scared.    What kind of world was my daughter entering? 

Those feelings faded, and I can honestly say that nothing's really approached them since.  Even as the anniversaries of 9/11 came and went, it seemed more and more impersonal, like something that happened to someone else.  

Today was another normal day.  I went to work and as I was checking twitter for a laugh, I saw the reports of a school shooting.  An elementary school.   The morbid curiosity that such an event used to bring for a news junkie like me was replaced by immediate dread.   I found myself horribly hoping that it was at worst a domestic situation or perhaps just some misguided kid who brought a gun to school. 

And the early reports gave me hope.  "Gunman dead."   But the continual reports made it clear it was much worse.  

Twenty children, all younger than my own baby.   Twenty lives snuffed out in no time at all by a man with a gun.   I cried many times.   I had trouble focusing on work all day.   I got angry and I spoke out.  

I asked the question on other social media sites:  "Can we talk about guns now?" 

The responses from the most rabid gun lovers in my "social" circles made it clear the answer was no.   How dare I politicize this event while the tragedy was still unfolding. 

How dare I not? 

Spare me the "if they didn't have guns, they'd just find something else," argument.  That includes the 22 kids who were injured today (not killed as many kept saying) in China by a knife wielding maniac.   

No, I don't think you should ban knives, cars, drinking, or other items that you ridiculously equate with guns. 

I didn't even say you should ban guns.   

But those who chastised me didn't care about the discussion, they cared about the mention of the role of guns in this mass murder. 

"Guns don't kill people, people do," I was told. 
 
Here's the truth.   Guns help the people who do kill people do it quickly, easily, and in large numbers without any time for reflection or to get away.       

So spare me your NRA talking points.   Spare me the idea that discussion of guns and what we can do about gun violence equates to an evil government coming to collect all your guns.   Spare me your paranoia.

And hey, Mike Huckabee and AFA mouthpiece Bryan J. Fischer, spare me your belief that this is because of the separation of church and state and God decided he didn't want to be where he wasn't wanted.   It's not clear at this point what separates you and people like you from people like Westboro Baptist Church. 

If gun defenders are as brave as your rhetoric, back bumperstickers and Facebook posts, then be prepared to sit down and talk like adults about what we can do.  Nobody's going to kill you with their words, thoughts, ideas, or questions.  

Perhaps we might all make the world a better place.  

And figure out how we keep future generations from knowing what a mass shooting is. 

We owe it to my daughter, her friends, and all of the innocent children and grieving parents who were victims of today's senseless violence.  

Think about it.   And pray about it.   But know we can no longer do nothing about it.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Letter To My Senator on Newtown Shootings

Senator McConnell,

Several times today I wiped tears away hearing the story of children being killed by a gunman with a gun that made it very easy for him to do so.   We will hear from your colleagues and GOP pundits that we "shouldn't politicize" this tragedy by talking about guns and gun laws.  

My question is this.  If the deaths of twenty little kids isn't the time to talk about it, when is?  

Your record on guns indicates that you don't believe that the gun industry should be held liable for any violence on innocent people that results from use of their product and that support the bare minimum of restrictions on sales of firearms.  

I would love for you for once to step away from the protection of sympathetic radio and TV hosts and form letters that don't address what your constituents express to you and explain WHY you're beholden to the NRA, and why you don't think there needs to be a national discussion on gun violence.   I'd love to see you do this in an open exchange where you and others discuss the issue, and not simply make speeches.  

But really what I'd like you to do is think about my 11 year old daughter and the millions of children out there who could have been victims today or any day of people with legally obtained weapons that can do such horrific violence in such a short period of time. 

Yes, guns don't kill people.   But easy access to powerful and quickly fired guns makes sure the job can be done easily and quickly.

I implore you to put politics aside and become a leader on this issue.  Do it for my daughter.  Do it for the sons and daughters of your friends, family, and future generations. 

Thank you.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lock The Gate -- WTF With Marc Maron

When I began to look for podcasts to listen to, I remember iTunes recommending WTF with Marc Maron.   I assumed that the W stood for "who" because I couldn't place Marc Maron's name anywhere.  And that picture?  It looked like Robert Crumb suddenly got into police sketches and was assigned the Unibomber.

But I downloaded it. And listened.  What was this mess?  Multiple f-bombs before we'd even gotten one minute in?   Clearly this guy wasn't even clever.  How in the hell was he interviewing these big comics?   How did anyone even get past that first five minutes where he talks about crapping his pants and rambles on about nothing?   I don't know you, Marc, so why should I care about your self indulgent ramblings about your music collection?   

So I stopped listening.   And later, I returned.  And I got it.   

See, Marc Maron IS juvenile and self-indulgent.  But he's also mature and caring. And he also has a genuine love and affection for his art form (comedy) and the people within it.  In almost every interview you can see him looking to connect with the people that have influenced him, the peers he's come up with, the new guys he's helped mentor, and even the people he has nothing in common with.  

And what's amazing is that for a guy who brings so much of himself to the table, he manages to use his own connections to the guests (either careerwise or in the parallels in his life to their life) to illuminate the guest, not simply reflect back on himself.   While Marc is a comedian and is very funny, WTF gives him the freedom to not be funny, but simply to talk about life, art, happiness, sadness, hatred, and the human condition with a group of people who either come from dark places or spend their lives searching them.    Marc's guests are mostly from the world of comedy and music, and Marc brings a true fan's appreciation of both.  His freewheeling conversations and the freedom from the conventions of talk shows have allowed Marc to get all sorts of revelations about his guests, from Todd Hanson talking about his suicide attempt to Todd Glass coming out.  And even with revelations like these,  WTF never feels exploitive because you know Marc Maron genuinely cares about his guests.   

In the end, I come back to WTF with Marc Maron because it's human.  I learn about an artform I love.  I get to hear about famous people who have the same stupid neurotic hang ups I have.   I get to know that there's another guy out there with a love/hate relationship with cats.   And most importantly, I get to laugh.    

And it's free.  So as Marc would say, "DO IT!"   

And Marc, I apologize for my first impressions.  Are we good?   


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Don't Define Me

I believe consenting adults should be able to marry the man or woman of their choosing.

I believe that your religion is your own choice and shouldn't be restricted, but it is not yours to force on anyone else.

I believe that welfare is an important safety net for all people that shouldn't be a permanent fixture in your life, but should be available for an adequate enough time to get your life back on track if necessary.

I believe that government is a vital and necessary piece of my life, and that our politicians should work so that it serves us in the most efficient and least intrusive way possible while maintaining protections on all Americans.

I believe business is important, but should be held accountable through smart regulations that keep it from damaging the environment, hurting its customers, or the public through illegal, negligent, or unethical behavior. 

I believe that birth control is a personal choice and should be readily available. 

I believe that abortion should be the choice of last resort, but that the choice is a personal one and removing it is dangerous and wrong.  

I believe that church and state should be separate, not as an attack on a religion, but to preserve everyone's freedom to worship or not to worship.  

I believe that providing a complete and rigorous public education where kids are exposed to new ideas and critical thinking skills is vital for the continued success and innovation in America.

I believe that those who work hard should be rewarded for and enjoy their success, and that asking them to pay a little more than those who are just getting by or are on their way to wealth is not socialism, but simply an equitable way of sharing the burden of running government services.

I believe that our Constitution is a vital document that represents our freedoms and was written with the foresight to allow flexibility as times have changed while maintaining protections on those freedoms.  

I believe that there are people in this world who are experts and their opinion on the subjects they are experts in should be valued more than those who are simply "skeptics". 

I believe that while there may be two or more sides to every story, not every opinion or statement carries equal weight when assessing them.

I know that climate change and evolution are not "beliefs" but rather good science based on extensive study by experts.   I believe that if you continue to embrace a contrarian viewpoint without any understanding of science, data, or facts, then you are simply an idiot.

I believe that illegal immigration can a problem, but also reflective of the fact that there are many jobs that people are unwilling to do in this country.  Many immigrants work hard, are law abiding, and add to our economy and our tax base.   There should be a path for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship and become legal and productive members of our society.  

I believe that access to affordable healthcare should be a concern to everyone and impacts people of every political stripe.  Obamacare is an imperfect solution, but I believe that building a better solution from it is what politicians should be working toward, not simply repealing it.

I believe that fraud or inefficiency in government isn't a sign that government is bad, but that those things should be dealt with and improved.

I don't believe that any of these beliefs makes me a radical, godless, socialist, communist, handout loving liberal wacko.  

Instead, I think I'm a moderate, a person who believes that one way of thinking shouldn't define anyone, and that discussion and searching for the best solutions to each problem should be how our government operates.    I don't think this defines me as a liberal, or a conservative, but rather a moderate, who believes that no one way necessarily defines what is correct.  

I don't think that the results of the election reflect the victory of liberals, but rather the victory of people who are tired of extreme beliefs and angry rhetoric defining our government.   There is still much work to be done, but I honestly think moderates won on November 6th.   And I'm happy to be one of them. 







Thursday, November 8, 2012

Revenge of the Animal House Voting Nerds Stand And Deliver At The Caddyshack

Yesterday was a good day, one which had me feeling happy in much the same way as the election of 2008 made me happy, but strangely, even more so.

In thinking about why, I realized that the entire night played out like some sort of election themed classic comedy from the 70s or 80s in which a group of seeming misfits triumphed against a bunch of blowhards who had all the breaks and were hellbent on keeping others down.    

In this case, the misfits were the disenfranchised, the historically put upon, the disgruntled, and the mocked, such as: 
  • The moderate who was tired of the lies of the right and the politics of hate
  • The liberal who was tired of feeling that they should be ashamed of being pro-choice, for gay marriage, and for a social safety net. 
  • The females who were sick of crimes like rape being used as a political football and their own reproductive decisions being made by men stuck in another century.  
  • The GBLT community that's tired of being treated like they're diseased individuals with no right to love, be happy, or be themselves.  
  • Minorities and immigrants who are sick of being looked at as freeloaders and invaders taking jobs, when they're actually job creators and an increasing part of the middle class.  
  • Smart people who are tired of being mocked for believing an education, thinking, science, and integrity in information are important.
  • Young people, tired of seeing a power structure that doesn't reflect them or their beliefs.   
  • The Republican who is tired of seeing his or her party moved further away from responsible government to a weird hybrid of religion and the belief that all government is bad.   
  • The non-Christian religious and those without religion who have seen their personal views attacked as unpatriotic and suspicious.   
These were the groups that came out in force that helped make Nate Silver's mocked prediction come true.   These were the people who, in the words that so many Republicans love to use, "took their country back."

Watching the election results on TV and following Twitter on Tuesday night, it was clear that what we saw was a rejection of the far right narrative that has been carefully built over time by the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and others.  Watching this narrative unravel with such completeness Tuesday night felt even more historic and "good" than Obama's win four years prior.     Seeing politician after politician who "misspoke" about rape getting rejected by the electorate was a reason to smile.    Seeing a defeated Fox News and a babbling Karl Rove looking like a deflated gas bag was like watching Delta House trash the parade or Ty Webb and Danny Noonan win the golf game in Caddyshack.     The likable underdogs won.  It felt great and made us laugh at the same time.

Here's hoping for many sequels.     


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Last Night Made Me Giddy


Obama won. 

Romney lost.   

John Yarmuth won.

Karl Rove publicly humiliated himself to the point where even Fox News basically told him to shut up.

Donald Trump's increasingly unhinged remarks reached such a fevered pitch that in seven days he completely destroyed himself.   Watching him tweet that Obama potentially winning the electoral race but not the popular vote was cause for a "revolution" and his complaints that we weren't a democracy showed he had less grasp on the US, its government, and its history than a sixth grade civics student.   

Several Congressional candidates that made truly offensive remarks regarding violence against women were defeated, even in races they were expected to win.  

Rush Limbaugh's offensive attacks on women finally led to a public backlash that neutered his voice.   

A pollster with a SCIENTIFIC approach to calling the race last night was dead on, proving that political pundits and "experts" are basically paid to offer no insight.  

Gay marriage passed in several state initiatives.   Actually, I'm not happy with this one because it now increases my odds of being invited to a wedding.    Note to gay friends and family: elope.    

Medical marijuana laws passed in more states.   Never smoked it and never plan to,  but this can only help my stock in Frito Lay.  

Facebook friends who hated the President with a passion and fury are now...... oh well, I shouldn't gloat.   

Monday, September 3, 2012

Forget Political Debates

Here's an idea for the future that will never go anywhere but a thought in my brain. 

Forget political debates.   They're worthless political theater where the politicians simply try to score points with talking points.   

Seriously.  Get rid of them. 

Instead, sit each candidate down for a two day, six hour interview with three (or however many) journalists and a panel of experts and fact checkers.  Then a follow up interview will be held the following week for fact checking. 

The three journalists will be tasked with asking the candidates tough questions about their policies, actions, words and deeds.   With any luck, the questions will be mostly "gotcha" questions in the sense that the questions catch issues with the candidate's thinking, hardline stance on an issue, or previous actions and deeds. 

As the candidate answers, the journalists will be listening for answers to their questions.   If none is given, the candidate will be pressed further until either he does answer, or he tells the journalist he's done answering.  The journalist will be allowed to comment on why they think the answer was a non-answer and allow the candidate time for a rebuttal if necessary.


The panel of experts in issues and fact checkers will be allowed to weigh in on any statement that the candidate makes about an issue immediately, or during the follow up interview a week later, which will address any lingering issues with the first two sessions.  

The reason for my idea is that I believe the media is complicit in the continued pushing of talking points over substantial discussion of issues in this country.   Because the media is worried about getting access to politicians, they seldom challenge any of them when questions aren't answered, lies are told, or facts are quoted out of context.   In the current debate structure, candidates are still allowed to lean heavy on talking points and there isn't much time for in depth analysis and criticism of a candidates position.  

We NEED people that are willing to take apart our political process and expose the lies, hypocrisy, stupid thinking, pandering, and flat out bad policies.    A no holds barred process of grilling our candidates is a great place to start.




Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hey Facebook friend, you suck!

My wife asked me the question last night, "Is it just my imagination, or are people getting angrier on Facebook?"

To my credit, I didn't say "Of course not, stupid head.  What kind of dumb question is that?"  Instead I thought about it.  And we talked.  And we discussed the past week I thought back and the troubling response to two of the most important news stories of the past year.  

One was the Aurora shooting, and the other Chick Fil A's founder coming out against gay marriage.  

Please know I'm not making light of the Aurora shooting, but I found it interesting that the two things that got my blood boiling were the death and injury of dozens on one hand, and a guy who makes chicken sandwiches telling me more than I really want to know about his opinion on a subject.  

For the record, I'm not anti-gun, but I do think there is a place for discussion of possible limits and or tighter regulation of certain types of firearms and ammo.   And I think Chick Fil A has well staffed friendly restaurants that serve a great product, but find Dan Cathy's misguided and sad, and Chick Fil A's reaction to them an exercise in horrid PR.  

Of course, these were not the kind of statements that wound up on Facebook.   The Aurora shootings sparked a series of e-cards, photos, and postings that drew lines in the sand on the gun control debate.    The Chick Fil A postings trashed Cathy, his company, and his religion in the basest of terms, or made it clear that eating a Chick Fil A sandwich was the clearest way to make a stand against "godless liberals."    

And so I posted posts of my own, and responded with anger to the posts of others.   And I felt good for about five minutes.  

But I also had thought the same thoughts as my wife.   Is the Internet getting angrier?   Am I getting angrier?   Why is that?   Some of my rantings were on the posts of friends that I've had for a long time.   These were people I like and respect, and with whom I've had wonderful conversations in the past.

I think I've figured it out.  

Facebook and other social media allows us a freedom most of us have never had.   It allows us to get our beliefs and thoughts out in their entirety when WE want to.   We feel safer in that we find others around us with the same beliefs and we enjoy the fact that we can say everything we possibly need to say without interruption.  

But when we do say these things, we forget that others don't necessarily want to hear them.   The topic is in their face whether they want it or not.   And our primitive instincts of fight or flight kick in.   We can ignore you, unfriend you, leave Facebook, or we can take you on.  

I suspect that the feeling that the Internet has become angrier is because those who are smart have taken flight.   Those of us who remain are the angry ones who just enjoy the fight.  

While there is nothing wrong with sharing your views, even strong ones, we lose the verbal and visual cues that serve us well during a conversation.    When we talk face to face about something, we can read a room before we introduce a topic into discussion, and we are forced to confront a very real reality that doesn't exist on the Internet, you have to shut up at some point.  

Think about it.  If you're talking about something controversial in person, eventually the other person(s) involved will get a word in and you'll have to listen.  If you shut up and listen, they'll likely punch you in the nose or walk away.  

You also are forced to see and hear the cues that reflect the conversation is offending someone, hurting someone's feelings, or is simply too heated.    You see the person in front of you, and realize that they're someone not much different from you, and not simply an anonymous entry in an online world of oversharing.  

I say all this knowing I've done my part to lower the bar in online conversations.   I know my anger has bled through into situations where I should have kept my mouth shut.  But I'm realizing that all of this anger and strong reactions really has no good impact.    People who love guns are not going to hear my side if I post a snippy picture.   Dan Cathy isn't going to suddenly embrace gay marriage if I grab another guy and kiss him in a Chick Fil A.     All any of this anger and conflict does is reinforce the idea that we're right and the angry guy across the computer screen is wrong.   And none of it is good for the blood pressure.  

So think about what your mom used to say, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

And if you don't agree with me than you're a jer......  Ummm.  That's okay too.  


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Job Creators"

One of the primary talking points of the past several years for the GOP has been that Democratic taxes and policies hurt the "job creators".    These people are apparently the wealthy among us, or at least the businessmen and business women who would be more than willing to hire everyone if only their taxes (or threat of taxes) weren't so high.  


But let's think about that for a second.    Think back to the 2000s.   Or even the 1990s.   


How often have you called or chatted with customer service for a company and been transferred to someone with a thick accent named "Eddie"?    When you do call, do you reach Eddie right away? Do you have to wade through an automated system?   Do you get encouraged to visit a website?  


How often have you visited a store and easily been able to find someone to help you?   Even in one of the country's biggest employers, Walmart. 


When was the last time you picked up a piece of clothing, electronics, appliance or housewares that said "Made in the USA" on it?   


People are an expense.    American people are a bigger expense.    They are a "cost center", not a "profit center."   While I don't doubt that there is a sense of patriotism in most American CEOs, the reality is that most look toward maximizing profits in ways that don't favor creating jobs in this country.     Even in the best of times corporate leaders are looking for ways to cut costs.   If they can move a job overseas or better yet, eliminate it altogether, they will.    Sure, there are always exceptions,  but in a day when the short term Wall Street health of a company overrides any sense of duty, or even long term sustainability, the people that the GOP likes to call "job creators" will always be "profit creators" first.  


   

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Leaning Tower of SCOTUS

I'm convinced that my civics class was bogus.  Back in the '80s when I was taking the class in Middle School, I distinctly remember that Supreme Court Justices were appointed for their tremendous judicial expertise to make rulings on court cases that make it to the highest court in the land.    These rulings were to weigh the laws and issues of the land against our constitution and legal precedent and to help better interpret these rules for society.   

I distinctly remember getting the impression that among these men (and later women) were some of the finest legal minds of our day.   They were chosen for life and were to bring an impartiality to the proceedings.      

Fast forward 30 years, and we're shocked, SHOCKED! that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States has decided in favor of the affordable care act because of our knowledge of his political leanings.     That great legal scholar Ted Nugent has called Chief Justice Roberts a "turncoat", while great defender of the constitution, Rand Paul has insisted "just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so."  

To me, the most shocked or surprising thing isn't how Chief Justice Roberts ruled, but that we're shocked by it at all.   

After all, what good is a Supreme Court if we can say with great certainty how certain justices might rule on an issue?   Is it the job of a member of the Supreme Court to have a rigid worldview that colors their decision based solely on their political leanings?  Do we benefit from a court that is essentially as stacked as our legislative bodies wind up being?    Should we be happy at the politicization of what is probably the most important check on the powers of our President and Congress?   Should we not hold the members of the court and the process that picks them up to a higher standard?   

Nobody can truly know the motives of John Roberts here except for John Roberts.  Is it possible that Roberts for once has put the duties of the court over the duties of his alleged political leanings?   Is there some sinister back door reason that he ruled this way?   And most importantly, wouldn't it be great if people from both sides of the aisle could respect a Supreme Court decision on the merits discussed within rather than weighing in based on how far left or right you believe a justice sits?   

I know I'm a dreamer, but I'd love to see our Presidents, Congress, and pundits and politicians start focusing for the need for integrity and deep thinking within the Supreme Court.    I'd love for my daughter to grow up in a world where the decision is much more important news than the political leanings of the justice that made it.   


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

People to Poke On Facebook (With a sharp object)

Facebook's initial public offering seems to have come just as people are realizing they really don't need Facebook.   Most of us have spent our lives without the need to know that somebody's cousin's mother's uncle's kitten is having hemorrhoid surgery, so why do we need to know it now?   As people leave, the annoying people they leave behind are becoming more apparent.    So how do you decide who to unfriend?    Look no further than my handy guide with my Unfriend Index, which marks the speed with which you should unfriend.

THE DYING EEYORE  


This is the humorless person who makes you feel like a meteor's going to strike you just for knowing them.   Every status update is a catalog of the woes that have befallen them that day.   On a good day their status update might tell you about throwing out their back while trying to go pick up their kid's dog who just crapped on the carpet because cancer's taken away his ability to go into the back yard.   On the way to the vet, their back goes into spasms and they crash their van into a police station connected to a daycare.   They're too proud to ask for bail money, but have conveniently posted their Paypal account.

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:  Looks like with all the stress my herpes is flaring up again.   I knew I shouldn't have invited my boyfriend back into the house after his conviction.

UNFRIEND INDEX:   6 -- Truthfully you want to unfriend them immediately because you're afraid the luck will rub off.   But then, what if karma comes after you for being heartless?

THE DISCIPLE 


This is the Facebook equivalent of a rapper winning an award.  Every status update and picture shared is a pound on the chest and a finger pointing skyward to let you know they're down with Jesus.  Because in Matthew 5 : McConaughey 4, Jesus says "Thou with the most likes shall be granted entry into the eternal Farmville."

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:   Share if You've Been Saved By Jesus.

UNFRIEND INDEX:  9 -- Hey, there's nothing wrong with sharing your faith, but even Jesus thinks maybe you need to get out more.

MYSTERIO


This person likes to provide cryptic status updates that could indicate they have 2 months to live or they just got a hangnail.

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:  OMG.   I can't believe what just happened.  Unbelievable.

UNFRIEND INDEX:  8 -- Truth is, if they actually tell you what is wrong,  rarely will you find out that Mysterio was attacked by a bear after having her life savings stolen by Bernie Madoff.    Typically the drama involves a coworker who burned popcorn.


FACEBOOK SHOPPING NETWORK 

A party girl.    Tupperware parties.   This person is constantly inviting her "friends" to buy candles, housewares, and other crap they don't want, and then vocally complains when nobody shows up.  

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:  "First ten people to my party get a free nose hair stretcher ($10 value) with a $50 purchase.

UNFRIEND INDEX:   If you have to ask, I've got some spare computer fonts I want to sell you.

STELLA TELENOVELA 


Everyone out there has done something to wrong this "friend" and everyone will hear about it.    She's got more drama than a week full of Lifetime movies, and you'll get to hear all about her friends, family and coworkers as though you've met them all personally.   Stay her friend long enough, and you'll feel like you have.

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:   "If that wench Trudy doesn't stop messing around with my cousin's husband,  I'm gonna force my lazy uncle Stuart to go out to her trailer and burn her F150 to the ground."

UNFRIEND INDEX:   3   -- You'll mock every update, but as soon as you unfriend them, you'll miss 'em.   Much better than reality TV.


THE MODEL WITH LONG ARMS

This person changes their profile picture more frequently than their underwear.  99% of these photos are self portraits taken with a cell phone held at arms length to capture their awkward seductive pose.  For some reason, 75% of THOSE photos are taken inside a car.    

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:  Jane Has Posted a Photo With Instagram

UNFRIEND INDEX:  8 -- Even if you think they're good looking, realize that these people are the same ones who take 30 seconds to realize the traffic light has turned green because they were playing Annie Leibovitz.

THE HUMBLEBRAGGART 

This person considers themselves blessed simply to be alive in a time when they exist.  Their status updates are filled with just enough activity and name dropping to make George Clooney feel inadequate.

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:  -- "Wow, what a beautiful day to sign my book contract and be invited to play in Stephen King's band.   It's such an honor that I hope he doesn't take offense I'm going to have to leave early to minister to the poor with the Pope."

UNFRIEND INDEX:   5   -- Every update is annoying, but you're curious how they'll top it.  

NARCISSUS JONES -- (AKA: THE HUMBLEBRAGGART MODEL WITH LONG ARMS)  

This person appears to have a family of 8.   The only reason you know this is because you've counted them in the background or cropped out of the side of her pictures, all of which are of him signing his book contract, playing in Stephen King's band, and ministering to the poor with the Pope.

TYPICAL STATUS UPDATE:   "How do I look?  The Pope let me try on his hat."  

UNFRIEND INDEX:  10 -- This person will never know.  Truth is, they've never read anyone else's status update.  



Monday, May 21, 2012

The Jackass Whisperer

I love politics, love sharing my opinion, and I spend a lot of time on social networks.   A couple of years ago, I filled my facebook page with articles and angry comments about conservative politicians I didn't like and shared my opinions on many hot button issues.  

I'd argue a point until I was blue in the face and keep going.   It took my wife to point out that perhaps this wasn't the most popular thing, especially among people who only knew me a little bit and could base a lot of their opinion of me on these screeds.    So I toned it WAY back, saving my comments only for things that affected me strongly, and then trying to word it in such a way that I offended as few people as possible.

I moved my posts to another forum in which people were deeply devoted to discussing politics.   There I was able to engage in my love of arguing and politics, pitting myself against people with polar opposite views from mine.    And that was fun for awhile, until I realized how much my blood pressure went up in dealing with those same people.

Then, a few weeks ago the subject of gay marriage came up back on facebook.  I have some strong opinions on the topic, primarily that I don't think two consenting adults of the same gender should be denied the rights my wife and I have.   I don't think that gay marriage ruins the sanctity of my or anyone else's marriage.

I posted a statement that stated these views without attacking others.     A few hours later a facebook friend posted something that attacked the people who were posting statements like mine as "trying to be cool".   Then, a few hours later, another facebook friend who I was close to in high school posted a comment that "yeah, it seems as though some people just want to show how enlightened and cool they are."

I'm sure I'm not the only person on facebook who has read comments like these and had the social network paranoia of "they're talking about me!"  And I was angry.    How could anyone doubt my sincerity?

Then a few hours later someone I've known FOREVER posted a comment "no wonder Obama's for gay marriage, he married a man".   And five or six people I know and like clicked "like".   I was so angry I wanted to do something serious, like unfriend them.

Even though all of this made me angry, I bit my tongue.  But then I read a post from a minister I had praised a few weeks earlier for not being divisive or judgmental in his posts.  This time HE was attacking gay marriage.   So I crafted him a message where I explained how hurtful it was when churches treated gay people like this.   And we're now engaged in a conversation in which he's so completely wrong and I just can't convince him.

And then.....

I saw the quote above on facebook.    "Do not try to win over the haters.  You are not the jackass whisperer."  

This caused me to step back and start looking at my own postings on social networks.   How much time had I spent in the past several on finely crafted arguments that would fall on deaf ears?   How much back and forth had gone on in the guise of defending a position that I would never convince someone of?    How much time had I spent getting angry at people who exist as "friends" only on a website, and not as a permanent part of my life?   And how much of that anger was really justified?   When was I the jackass whisperer, and when was I the jackass?

So slowly I'm trying to change my ways.   I cannot tell you how many times I've written a comment and deleted it immediately without posting, or immediately after posting.   I've tried to develop a rule not to comment more than twice on a single post defending my position, and not to respond to those trying to goad me into an argument.    I'm trying to be better about my desire to be right vs. my desire to understand how others feel.    I'm still not perfect, but at least I'm working on being less of a jackass and less of a jackass whisperer.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games -- Why I walked away feeling unfed

My wife, daughter, and I plowed through the first Hunger Games book a few weeks ago and were eager to see the movie.  Yesterday we finally got the chance.  Around halfway in, I found myself checking my watch, odd for a book based on an action filled thriller.    At the end, I found myself thinking "ho hum."   To be fair, we'd just seen the last two Harry Potter movies, which I thought were great.   Today, I was thinking more about it and reflecting on why I didn't like the movie.   Here are some reasons why I think the adaptation failed (warning, spoilers may lie ahead):

TOO MUCH TIME ON PREPARING FOR THE HUNGER GAMES

I realize that the preparation for the Hunger Games takes a large chunk of the book, and the movie decides to do the same.  Unfortunately, director Gary Ross takes these scenes and turns them into long, dry scenes of preparation in which he completely botches the "Girl On Fire" scene in a poorly staged reveal where she looks like a Girl on Sterno, turns the preparation into the world's most boring gymnastics compatition, and gives us little sense of any of the characters except Peeta and Katniss.   What was engaging on the page falls flat when staged as literally as possible.   


POORLY STAGED ACTION 

A lot of people said the book's violence couldn't be filmed and get a PG-13 rating.   Bull.   Plenty of movies full of gratuitous violence, including the very first PG-13 movie, Red Dawn, come to mind.    Unfortunately, Gary Ross seems to have taken these warnings to heart and decided to take the book's brutal games and turn them into an MTV video with all the emotional weight of a round of Call of Duty.    The game's opening scene in which competitors scramble for supplies goes by in a blur in which we really have no idea who is fighting, or even what's really happening.    We know people die, but it's less brutal than it is a way of making sure that there are fewer competitors left for the plot to deal with.    Even the final battle on top of the cornucopia is a jumble, with the horrifying final attack by beasts crafted to look like the fallen competitors turned into a blurry scramble away from some generic looking panthers.  

NO SUSPENSE, IDENTIFIABLE VILLAINS, OR THREATS

There are three books, so even those who have never read the first book have a pretty good idea that Katniss survives.   But so what?  We know Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and plenty of other heroes will be there at the end, but in a decent action flick, we fear for their safety and are left wondering how they're going to get out of the next scrape.   

In the Hunger Games, we have no sense that Katniss is ever in any real danger.   The threats are all faceless (the other competitors), or so distant from the action and Katniss (the President and Seneca) that there isn't any real dramatic connection among any of them.  And even when she does get into a scrape, the way out always seems too easily won, either by a well timed parachute, or a competitor stepping in to help.   


  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brain Dump on the Information Highway

I think I'm going to write a country song called "My Brain Jackknifed on the Information Superhighway."   It will detail the life of a lovable loser who finds that his mental capacities have been destroyed by information overload.  He crashes his Macbook, his iPad runs off with another user, and his robot dog runs away.  

I've been "online" for about 26 years and on the Internet for at least 17 of those years.   As someone who loves news and information, it's seemed like a godsend.  I can get news as it happens from multiple sources. I can find articles about almost everything and get lost streaming from one idea to the next by clicking from one section to the next.  

Even with all of this time spent online and the experience with it though, the one good thing was that I was always able to "get away".    I could grab a book or magazine, or simply fire up the TV and just enjoy, without giving the computer a second thought.  

So what's so different now?  

Three things.  "Smart' devices, Social Networking, and E-books.  

Smart devices put the Internet everywhere you are.  Every "boring" moment becomes an opportunity to plug back in, read tweets, follow news, check your e-mail.   Get in an elevator at any business.   That 30 second ride is full of people who can't remember what we all used to do before smartphones.  Instead of trying not to look at everyone else, they're catching up on the latest cat picture their friend send them.  

Social networking has come to the introverted and alleged writers among us and made us feel that we have to share our opinions with everyone at every time.   The insidious "like","retweet", and follow has made us feel validated.    A retweet or favorite from that favorite celebrity or writer is a bit like crack, making you feel like somehow you're one of them.    I'm still on cloud 9 that Steve Martin replied to one of my tweets with a compliment.     And it's turned almost every TV show into something that can't be watched and enjoyed, but something that must be commented about in "real" time on social networks.    While this can make shows like award shows a great communal experience, it can also suck your attention away from the shows you once loved.  

And e-books.   Oh e-books.   We throw you on devices that collect you on a "shelf" that gives you all equal weight and importance and taunts us with everything we have undone.   And when the book gets a little boring or difficult, you're never a button or two away from a diversion that instantly takes you out of whatever you were reading.  

In the end, the problems with all three of these is that they encourage us to "multitask", which is simply another word for doing a bunch of things within a period of time, none of them well.     While we can all do two or more things at once, it is seldom that we do them well.   If you like to write while listening to music, I can bet you that the song fades mentally into the background while you're writing, and that a good song might even squash that thought you had if your mind blinks for even a second.  

So what's the solution?   You're asking me, the guy who has been wired (and wireless) for over 20 years?  

Maybe keep that device in your pocket.    Use a pomodoro app and promise yourself that you won't do more than one thing and one thing only for those 25 minutes you set the timer for.    When you're sitting down to watch TV, pick up a cat or kid for you lap and not the PC.    Grab a paper copy of that book you want to read and read it away from other distractions.    If you're writing something (or reading something on an e-reader or iPad), disconnect your wireless connection to keep you from straying.  

I'm going to try it and see how my life gains or suffers because of it.   I'll let you know.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I'm 41 now, more than half a life away from my high school and college years. In those years, I was never what would be considered a very social person.   I never really got invited many places, and honestly wasn't sure what the heck I'd do if I was.   I enjoyed school, where I could learn AND be sociable, but outside, I always felt like a bit of an outcast.

The truth was, I was never quite sure what my fellow students did when they hung out.    I was pretty sure it involved sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but I never really got invited, so this was just a guess.  And honestly, had I been invited, I'm not sure what the heck I would have done.   Did anyone really care about my CD collection?    Or the computer games I played?  Or that I'd seen almost every SNL ever made?    I could tell you all about The Who or the Rolling Stones, but couldn't tell you five things about me you'd have cared to hear.  

What did my classmates talk about?  How did they "party" for hours when I ran out of small talk in about 30 seconds?    I won't say these were always in my mind every Friday and Saturday as I sat home alone watching TV, reading a book, or staring at a computer screen, but they were probably somewhere in the back of my head.   At times I felt like a loser.    And at times I felt alone.

Fast forward to college.   I enjoyed having deep philosophical questions about life, but again, when the party started, I simply wanted to be elsewhere.     I can remember long weekends working on student films and simply wanting to be anywhere but where I was.  I wanted to get away from people I liked, but was annoyed by.   All I could think was that my friends probably thought I was trying to avoid work.  Was I?  Why couldn't I just tough it out?  The truth was that I could spend two hours browsing the racks of Tower Records, but sometimes thirty minutes with a group would have me feeling awkward and looking for the exits.

Even as an adult in the work world, I found I had the same issues.   The constant crush of "team" work and having to put on a happy face and be sociable, as well as not having a real piece of real estate I could escape to tended to wear me down.

Why?  Perhaps it is because it was something I never realized I was, an introvert.

I just finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.   Susan's remarkable book deals with the way in which our American culture has turned being an introvert into a liability in many respects, as kids and adults are encouraged to be extroverted, even when their own personal makeup screams for the opposite.   As a result, many introverts find themselves underutilized, ignored, and emotionally drained.

As I read the book, I couldn't count the number of times I said "Hey, that's me."   It was eye opening to see that what for years I'd discounted as shyness or awkwardness, was partially just my own need and desire to live inside my head and not deal with all of the small talk and superficial contact that much of the day to day world brings.    All of the time I wondered what was wrong with me, the truth was actually that there really was NOTHING wrong with me.  I just wasn't like everyone else.  

So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed in a world of extroversion, I highly recommend picking up Quiet.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Over 780 hours

Three hours a day.   Five days a week.    Over the course of the year that equals 780 hours.   

780 hours to direct whatever you want to say toward an audience of 15 million.  You have control over the final word.  There will be no fact checking.    You can do or say anything.    And nobody will complain too loudly for too long.   

You want to make fun of people because they're female, African American, handicapped, Hispanic, or any other minority you deem unworthy?   Go ahead. Nobody's going to stop you.    Call them names.  

You want to imitate that beloved actor with his ridiculously exaggerated body tics that he claims are caused by Parkinson's.   Do it.  Especially when we all know that he was faking them.   And as a Hollywood liberal elite, he probably deserved them.   

And how about those kids that get free lunches at school.  Never mind that it may be the only decent meal they get that day.  You're a successful radio host who got fat through hard work.   Let them do the same.  They can dumpster dive.   Why not?  You do it figuratively every day.   

Or the black woman that somehow got through your phone screener (or perhaps you pushed through because you thought she was easily attacked).   Why not tell her to "take the bone out of her nose"?  If someone complains, you can always say it's absurd comedy.   After all, who wouldn't think that "America's truth detector" on their local news radio station was anything but a comedian? 

Or how about attacking the President simply because he is black.  After all, he graduated with honors from Harvard Law School simply because of affirmative action and not his efforts.   Besides, everyone knows that education is for academic elites.  If it was important, you yourself would have actually received a college degree.   

Or maybe, just maybe, you dismiss half of the population with claims they're "feminazis."   It's humorous to call women trying to get ahead in this world (or simply to maintain the rights they already have) by a demeaning name.   You don't even really need a justification.    In fact, when a woman starts talking about an issue that women know nothing about, like birth control pills, why not call her a prostitute and a slut for doing so.   After all, this medication is only useful for sex, just like women. (HEY!!! NEW JOKE!!! NEED TO USE THAT FOR PART OF YOUR 15 HOURS A WEEK).   

780 hours is a lot of time to fill.    And if you're going to fill it, why not talk like this?  Hate's simple.    Hate can get you 15 million listeners if you repeat it enough.  Hate is cheap, doesn't take much thought, and like meth, isn't tough to produce and sell to uneducated rednecks, even if sometimes it blows up in your face.  

But above all, hate is easy.   And in the end, if you're a minority of one fat, deaf, drug-addicted, Viagra popping, misogynist, racist, draft dodging, loser who can't keep a wife, isn't doing the easiest thing all that matters?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fitting In

I remember the point in my life where I suddenly realized I didn't fit in.   I was in the cafeteria in high school and "Fred", a friend I'd had since middle school and I were talking.   We'd been close and bonded over a love for "trading" video games (you'd call it pirating these days).   I don't remember if he was sitting with me, or he walked by and I stopped him to talk to him.   I asked him if he had any new games and he started laughing at me.   "I'm into girls these days.  Don't you have a life?"

The hurt stung.  I enjoyed games.  I also enjoyed girls... looking at them anyway.  Who had the nerve to talk to them?    Games were an escape from not thinking too much about girls I was convinced had no interest.  And of course, games were also a great reason girls would have no interest.   

My friend's reaction hurt me though.  When did he become cool?  And why was he leaving me behind?  If he wasn't interested in what I had to talk about, was anyone?   I didn't want to be a geek, but I had no idea how to be otherwise.  

In the 25 years since that day, the realization that I'm socially awkward has always been there. From my attempts to fit in and have a discussion with cool kids, to my attempts to speak to any girl that I considered to be someone I wanted to date.  And those that I could talk to, I was always convinced were humoring me.   

The odd thing is that there ultimately was something empowering about this view of life.   When you're not that close, you always desire an attachment that others have, but you also find that you have a bit more confidence in being alone than others do.   

Of course, none of that really matters in those times in your life when you feel like you just don't fit in anywhere.   

I have been reading a book recently called Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.   Susan talks about society's push toward promoting extroversion and in viewing introverted people as damaged goods somehow.   Reading the book has made me realize that perhaps my problem with people is my own introversion.   I get along swimmingly with myself.  It's others that begin to drain me after awhile. Small talk and talking on the phone gets on my nerves.  Communicating via e-mail and social networking where I can respond or wait is much easier to me.  

In fact, social networking has enabled me to be social for really the first time in my life.    Using Facebook I helped organize my 20 year reunion.   I had meaningful conversations (via chat) with people I couldn't say 1 word to in high school and developed friendships with people that 20 years ago I never would have imagined back then.   

I wonder how many of the people I felt awkward around felt the same way.   How many people that I encountered at parties in college were like me and content to sit and observe, looking for the best way to escape and get back to a book, or a great show you loved.  

The truth is that I am who I am and who I always was.  I wasn't meant to be the life of the party, and there are reasons why too much small talk makes me nervous.    Simply knowing that I'm okay and that there are others out there just like me is a great lesson, even if it took me 41 years to learn it.   

Now get off my blog.   I'm getting antsy.   

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart -- Why I'm Not Celebrating

If you're a liberal and on Twitter, chances are you read or reacted to something Andrew Breitbart said.  And maybe you commented.  And chances are you gave him all the bile you could muster.   And chances are, he deserved it.

But the funny thing about Andrew is that he seemed to have at least a bit of humor about the criticism hurled his way.  He didn't just retweet the ones written by the intellectually challenged, but the ones that were spot on funny against him.   For me, he was maddening, infuriating, but still in his own way, more respectable than those who wall themselves off from all criticism, including Rush Limbaugh, and even Keith Olbermann (who blocked me after I criticized him for daring to tell him his defense of Alec Baldwin criticizing a flight attendant was over the top).   And was his journalistic dishonesty any more odious than that of Michael Moore, whose politics may match mine, but whose approach makes me ill.  

What was upsetting to me today was seeing the glee with which many of my fellow liberals seemed to be celebrating his death.   His comments about Ted Kennedy were disgusting, to be sure.   But how much of it was part of the typical Republican theatrics?   It doesn't excuse it, but at the very least, shouldn't we aim to be better than those we dislike? 

And in the end, when I read that Andrew had four children, slamming him was that much harder.   Losing a parent at any age is tough.  Losing one when you're not even an adult destroys a part of you.   I don't know what kind of dad Andrew was.  I like to think that he kept his professional life separate from his family life, and I will hope that he was a great dad.  In the end, no matter what we thought of him, he had friends and family who knew a different side of him.  And he had kids who lost a dad. So I'll not participate in hurling more mud at the dead, even if he'd be hurling at me or someone I admire on their death.  

RIP Andrew.   And thanks for laughing at my tweet.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Easiest Way To Fix Oscar -- More Categories

The Oscars are full of tradition.   They're traditionally old, traditionally white, and traditionally boring.   Contrast this with the Golden Globes, a meaningless award given great stature because they're usually fun to watch.   

While the Oscar telecast is already too long, I think that the Academy Awards' easiest fix would be simply to break up the awards into Drama and Comedy.   How would this help?  

1)  It would honor actors, actresses, and films who typically get snubbed because they appear in comedies.   

2)  It would allow us to see more winners we want to see and open us up to the potential for funnier and more charming presenters and winners.  

3)  It would fill the time where ridiculous stuff normally winds up being shoved.   

4)  It would bring back viewers who might actually get to see a movie they've seen honored.

5) It would bring more interesting celebrities to the broadcast itself.   

6) It would lighten the mood.   

Does it cheapen the show to do this?   I'd argue it doesn't, especially given the fact that an actor can crush it in a comedy and still see their efforts ignored because someone pulled off a good accent or malady on screen.     The Academy could still have a overall "Best In Show" award in some or all categories.    

Or they could simply pump laughing gas into the Kodak Theater.  



Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars -- You Look Mahvelous....ly Dated

Watching Billy Crystal host this year's Oscars, I was reminded of two things.   The first was seeing Mike Myers and Dana Carvey reprise their Wayne's World bit on SNL a year ago (coincidentally, for that year's Oscars).    The other was my 20 year reunion a few years back.  What all three have in common were a cringe-worthy nostalgia that made me question the good times we used to have together.   All three captured a bit of the era in  which I loved them, but carried none of the magic into the present.

Certainly Billy Crystal had a thankless job.  And he wasn't helped much by having only three writers (Carol Liefer!!?!?!?!? Was that really you?), none of whom were coming up with stuff as funny as what you found on Twitter last night.    But Billy also brought the Billy that made his own star flame out, the smug and self satisfied Billy that seemed content to say "I'm a star" without the confidence to poke fun at it.

Indeed, Billy seemed stuck in a time warp.   Again he was stuck in a montage of movies, complete with George Clooney and Justin Bieber cameos.  But really, did anyone think watching Billy interact with these movies was surprising, or even that funny?   And was someone really clamoring for him to trot out his Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation from 25 years ago?   The less we say about his trotting out his "Oscar! Oscar!" song, the better.  It was one place where the terrible audio for the night came in handy.   

Watching Billy when he finally hit the stage, I was struck by another name.  Jay Leno.  Billy was telling jokes that he didn't seem to think were that funny, laughing at them, and giving the audience a facial expression like somehow it was there fault for not being in on it.    

Of course, almost everything last night fell flat, from the host to the endless montage of "Great Actors (and Adam Sandler) Like to Watch Movies" to the unnamed (Hey, is that Sheila E?) musicians auditioning in the rafters, to the audio that seemed to have been imported from a 1990 hair metal concert in a night club, to a Cirque du Soleil performance that I'm sure was impressive in the theater, but looked like Cirque Du Confused Director to the home viewer.   Maybe it's just impossible to produce a decent Oscars show, or to find a host who can strike the right balance between ass kissing and ass kicking. 

So, for next year, may I suggest that Billy Crystal be retired?  Bring back someone current who understands what we're laughing and talking about in this century.  Some suggestions include Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Chris Rock. Or perhaps J. Lo's wardrobe malfunction or Angelina Jolie's leg.   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm Declaring Cultural War (Part 1)


I did not realize until recently that my daughter, who we thought was going to Girl Scout meetings to learn about different skills and careers, is actually part of a radical feminist cult that is hell bent on creating contraceptive cookies and who won't be satisfied until all "Girl" Scouts are actually feminized boys. 

Or something like that.  I didn't really read that closely.  

It never dawned on me that so much of what I grew up believing was innocent was actually a devious plot by the lamestream, liberal, godless, boneless, stir-fried, elite, knicknack, paddywhack, out of control media feminazis to ruin our American way of life. 

Because let's face it people, the Pilgrims didn't come to this new world seeking their freedom from being told what to do about religion.   They came here because they got tired of people asking "why you wearin' your belt buckle on your hat?"  The reason was clear.    Anything below that belt line was off limits.   Not just to sex, but to independent thinking.  

And so, with the spirit of the Pilgrims in mind, I have a list of targets in my own Cultural War that it is time that we go after.   

American Idol

Yeah, it's called American Idol, but it's run by some British.   Those guys couldn't be content leaving us alone after the Revolutionary War, so they came back across the pond to spread Satan's Messages through the insidious vessel of sex and charisma that is Taylor Hicks.   And Paula Abdul was a mass of home grown talent before she took that show, and now look at her.   Thank God that MC Skat Kat got out unscathed.  

The Andy Griffith Show

Admit it.  You're whistling the theme song now.    It's written in 6/6 time with the same notes repeating 6 times.  666 ring a bell?  And Opie?  Red hair.   Oh sure, they covered it by filming in black and white, but you know Satan has red hair.    And don't get me started on the way they've attacked the American way of life with Barney Fife, who represents Hollywood's view of America as an incompetent mess, with its manhood so messed up that it has to keep its bullet (more symbolism) in its pocket. 

American Idol

Yeah, it's called American Idol, but it's run by some British blokes.   Those guys couldn't be content leaving us alone after the Revolutionary War, so they came back across the pond to spread Satan's Messages through the insidious vessel of sex and charisma that is Taylor Hicks.   And Paula Abdul was a mass of homegrown talent before she took that show, and now look at her.   Thank God that MC Skat Kat got out unscathed.  

Apple Pie

There's a reason that Warrant didn't name an album after you.   

Baseball

Yo Baseball, this ain't some high class joint like Mall of America, this is a ballpark.   So take your finely tossed pasta, crab cakes, gourmet French fries, and your sushi bars and send them over to the people who watch polo.   We're here to eat  hot dogs, drink beer,  and catch an exciting game of…..     Okay.   Perhaps I spoke too soon. 

Chevrolet

We bail your company out and the thanks we get is a car you need an extension cord for and one that you can use to bungee jump with that same extension cord?   You used to make fine American cars that got 3 gallons to the mile like the Hummer, and now you're making these sissy mobiles?     We should have bailed out American Motors.   Now there's a company that knew how to make a fine automobile.  

Hot Dogs

Turkey?  Tofu?   Beef??????   If I wanted to know what was in a hot dog, I wouldn't be eating it.   The American hot dog is where we Americans first practiced culinary feats that prepared us for reality TV.   And now you've ruined it with your gourmet hot dogs.    And don't get me started on whole wheat thin buns.     

Ketchup

Squeeze bottles?   Really?   Everyone knows that ketchup can only be eaten two ways.    The first is in packets that hold enough ketchup to cover the tip of your pinky, and the other is in a big glass bottle that you could shatter at any time as you pound the bottom of it.     It ain't ketchup if you haven't got either three droplets or the entire bottle on your plate after hitting it a few times.   

McDonalds

Two words.   Cof-fee.   Hey McDonalds, we used to come to your place for good fattening food and coffee so hot we could erase those unwanted love handles with just a spill.   If we wanted Starbucks, we'd have stripped Ronald McDonald naked and put a mermaid costume on him ourselves.     If you want to continue with this coffee nonsense, at least have the decency to put some pink slime in it.  

NASCAR

Two words… Danica Patrick.   All I can say is you boys better have a mirror on the visor and Bluetooth for the car because you just know she'll be on the phone the entire length of the trip and checking her makeup between calls.   If I wanted girls in NASCAR I'd be rooting for Jeff Gordon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rick Santorum Supports the Idea that Big Business is Undermining Families

In Rick Santorum’s book It Takes A Family, he said "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."   

When asked about this, according to the LA Times, Rick said his wife
"felt very much like society and those radical feminists that I was referring to were not affirming her choice.… All I'm saying is … we should affirm both choices.… That's what the book says, and I stand by what I said." 



So let's break this down, shall we?   


First, when Rick Santorum says "we should affirm both choices", he's framing the question of women working vs. staying at home as being an either/or proposition.  There's no discussion of what millions of men and women do every day, which is trying to balance career and family.   


Second, Rick now says that "society" pressured his wife, and not just "radical feminists".    This is interesting given how radically conservative Rick and his viewpoints are.  Why would a woman who has a husband like Rick and has been presumably been surrounded by men and women who share the viewpoint that staying at home is the most noble thing you can do truly feel ANY pressure from "radical feminists"?  Isn't the "society" that Rick's family lives in one based on these supposed family values?   What if the pressure that Rick's wife truly felt was her OWN desire to actually have her own career on top of family and not simply peer pressure?

Finally, the GOP has spent this and the last campaign cycle attacking the idea that the wealthy should pay more in taxes.  The underlying idea is that we are punishing their hard work by doing so.   So how does this fit in with  Rick Santorum's statement that the idea of "professional accomplishments are the key to happiness" is "undermining the traditional family"?   If the wealthiest among us are the hardest working and our "job creators", doesn't it stand to reason they've placed professional accomplishments first in their life?   And if they've done that, aren't THEY also "undermining the traditional family?"   Or is it different because so many of them are men?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston -- Unknowable

All weekend we've been hearing the voice of Whitney Houston from over 20 years ago as she powers through her hits.   There is no doubt that she had an amazing voice.  And there's no doubt she inspired numerous stars currently performing today.   But listening to those same songs 20 years later, I had the same feeling I had as a teenager.    Whitney always hit the notes, but she never hit me where it counted.    

Why?  Because when I hear Whitney Houston sing, all I ever hear is the notes.   I never hear the passion, soul, heart, or humanity of Whitney Houston, nor do I get the sense of why the song itself is important to her.   The lyrics never sounded like more than just words in her mouth to me. Every song was a "love" song, and deserved the same treatment,  regardless of what the words actually said or meant.   Maybe this is why the breakup song I Will Always Love You shows up at weddings.   And maybe that's why so many American Idol singers who bring only a voice to the table point to Whitney as an influence.    

This all hit me last night as I watched Jennifer Hudson and Adele perform at the Grammys.   In both last night I saw the humanity, soul, vulnerability, and even wit that Whitney never seemed to possess.   Perhaps it was context for Jennifer Hudson, but her rendition of I Will Always Love You crushed me in a way that Whitney's never did.  And Adele simply has crushed everyone not just with a voice, but by using it to convey the anger, vulnerability, and basic human emotions that go into failed relationships.     I walked away from both performances having connected with both Hudson and Adele in a way I never did with Houston.   A song from Hudson, Adele, or the greats like Aretha allows me into their world and to know them.   Sadly, Whitney Houston never seemed to let us in.    





Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Anti-Social Network -- Setting my "friends" straight

Dear "Friends"

We've spent a few years together on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (just kidding, I hate those people),  and perhaps even in real life.  

As the years have gone on, I've noticed a few of you have looked upon this virtual life and mistaken it for being the same as the real one.    It's time we set you straight on a few things.

1)  Most of us are human, and care about you on some level.   But your cryptic "OMG, I can't believe my life right now messages" no longer impact us.   Either tell us what's going on or post another picture of your cat.

2)  We're all different in what we believe politically, who we find attractive, what we like to eat, and whether we think fart jokes are the height of humor.   Don't be offended if we don't like what you've posted and vice versa.    And if all of your posts are trying to prove a point, don't be surprised if you find your audience dwindling.  

3)  Nobody gives a flying falafel about the petty drama in your life.   If you want to get back at someone or send them a message, do it on a piece of notebook paper in class like the rest of the 10th graders do.

4)  Profanity has a time and a place.  If you think that's every post, remember that George Carlin could be funny and prove a point without using  those seven words.

5)  There's a reason that biographies of famous people are at most a thousand or so pages long.   And nobody needs a minute by minute account of your life or what you're thinking of on the toilet.

6)  Spelink countz.  

7)  Yes, I laugh at those cat pictures.  But I'll never admit to it.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Reviews of the Super Bowl Ads

Ads are given a rating from 1 to 10 based on my mood at that minute. Budweiser continued their trend of pretending like they didn't have the best ads 15 years ago. A great Honda CR-V ad was ruined by being released prior to the game. An amusing Seinfeld ad was ruined by Jay Leno, and Coca Cola has one really good Polar Bear ad in the middle of two "meh" ads.


Perhaps the most moving and best ad was Chrysler's wonderful Clint Eastwood ad that sounded like a campaign speech. Made better by the fact we'll probably not see it again.


Once again, the game eclipsed the ads.


Bud Light Platinum -- 2

A well shot snore introducing Bud Light Platinum.    Who let this piece of crap open the night?    

Audi LED Headlights -- Vampires -- 7   

An amusing commercial that sells the primary selling point, that Audi now has really bright LED headlights. As bright as the sun. Which kills vampires. Let's use them to project the next Twilight movie.

Pepsi -- King Elton -- 6

Brilliant casting of Elton John as a petulant king who won’t let anyone have Pepsi unless they sing well for him, but the ending is obvious and not helped by a Flava Flav cameo.  

Bud Light Platinum -- They Say  -- 3

Nice bottle, horrible commercial.

M&M’s Naked -- 9

A female M&M who happens to be colored brown has everyone thinking she’s naked, causing the Red M&M to follow suit.   Cute.  

Best Buy -- Innovators -- 5

A nice commercial showing different innovators that added to the functionality of cell phones topped off with the Best Buy crew saying that’s where you can get all of those innovation.   Good geeky commercial, but not Super Bowl Good.   

Coca Cola -- Cold Polar Bear -- 6

A polar bear with his arms stuck together needs a straw to drink.   Well done, but slight.  

Chevy -- Looks Like We Made It  --  8  

A well made play on the 2012 apocalypse with Chevy Trucks and Twinkies being the only thing to survive.   Not sure the frogs falling from the sky will win over the PETA crowd, though.  

Bridgestone Curving Football -- 4

Bridestone makes footballs like their tires, able to take curves with ease.   A potentially amusing idea poorly executed.   

GoDaddy.co -- 4

Well, for once the GoDaddy commercial isn’t inanely gross and crass, only crass.   Progress?  No.  

Lexus GS -- Breakout   -- 2

A Lexus breaks out of a metal container, but sadly not out of the car commercial cliches.  SNOOZE!

Battleship Movie Commercial -- 5

To put it in the words of my daughter, “That sounds stupid.”   I agree.  A movie based on a game where people say a letter and a number?   How about a movie based on Solitaire?  Some interesting effects, but nothing we haven’t seen before.   

Budweiser Clydesdales Prohibition -- 4

A bunch of people get drunk on cheap bear at the end of prohibition.   Horses show up.  Yay.  

Doritos -- Missing Cat --  8

A man gardening sees his dog burying a cat’s ID tag.   The dog’s owner catches on, but agrees to say nothing for the price of a bag of Doritos.   Funny.  

Camaro -- College Gift -- 9

A very funny commercial in which a graduating senior sees his parent’s gift (a refrigerator) and promptly ignores it, thinking they gave him a Camaro.   Over the top in a good way.

GE Turbine -- 3

Nice shots of a  turbine.   Boring spot that turns into a Budweiser ad.  

John Carter -- 2

Another meathead epic from Disney.   Yawn

Tax Act -- Peeing in the Pool -- 7

A little boy does his best not to pee in the pool as he runs through the house contemplating all the places he can go.   A nice ending with a revenge twist.  But what does this have to do with taxes? Oh yeah, piss on 'em.

The Lorax -- 6

Looks cute, but it’s a movie promo, nothing special.   

VW Beetle -- The Workout  -- 7

Cute commercial in which a dog works out so he can fit through the pet door and chase the new Beetle.   The Star Wars ending is pointless.  

H&M -- David Beckham -- 2

One for the ladies. Or gay men.    Meh. (Just jealous! I hear you shouting.)

Coca Cola -- Polar Bear Football -- 9


A potential classic as a tossed bottle of Coke turns a polar bear into an unwitting football participant.   Unfolds beautifully with a well done ending.  

Chevy Sonic -- Let’s Do This   --  7

The Chevy Sonic is put into several stunts that might be done by Generation Y(Z)?   A nice commercial with a huge budget, I’m sure.    Good promotional video.   

Star Wars Episode 1 -- 5

Seen it.   Hated it.   Don’t want to see it again because of the Commercial.  The shots of A New Hope are a mean tease.    

Avengers -- 7

The best movie commercial of the night, if only because it plays up the all star cast of stars and Superheroes.    

Teleflora -- Give and You Shall Receive -- 6

A hot woman gets dressed for a Valentine’s day date to drive home that if you give, you will receive.    This one’s for guys.   I approve.  

Sketchers -- Go Run Dog Shoes -- 7

A bulldog wearing Sketchers competes in a dog race, and wins with time to do a celebratory dance.     Very funny.   

NFL Play 60 -- Whole Body Highlights -- 3

Typical NFL promo.  Nothing special.   

Cars.com -- 3

A guy’s confidence (a second head that pops out of his back) sings that he wants a car.  Lame.   

Doritos -- Bungie Baby -- 6

A baby gets taunted by a kid with Doritos, but gets hsi revenge.   Predictable, but the images of the flying baby are priceless.   

E-Trade -- New Dad -- 5

The E-Trade baby talks to a new dad as they stare into a nursery full of babies.   With the exception of the last line, nothing that amusing here.   

GI Joe -- 3

Another boring action movie preview.   

Camry -- The Camry Effect  -- 3  

We get to hear about people’s life events that happen in a Camry.   What? No virginity stories?     Snore.  

HuluPlus -- 3

Will Arnett does the standard Hulu ad about getting the shows into your brain.   Funnier when Seth McFarlane did it.  

Bud Light -- HalfTime -- LMFAO  -- 6

The boys show up to a bar called Halftime.   Would have been funnier if they hadn’t shown up at the real event.  

Chrysler -- Halftime America -- 9

Clint Eastwood narrates a rousing appeal for America that sounds like a campaign ad, but is actually a commercial for Chrylser.   Well done.   Just don’t let anyone know who owns Chrysler.    


Fiat 500 Abarth --  3  

A guy spots a sexy foreign girl and goes to kiss her, only to notice he’s kissing a Fiat.    Are they really trying to push the sexiness of a glorified Smart Car?  

Pepsi Max -- 2

Pepsi goes to the Coke driver liking Pepsi well for the 100023th time during the Super Bowl.    Lousy.   

Toyota -- Reinvented -- 3

Toyota goes to some special effects and sex jokes to show how they’ve reinvented things like the couch.   Why not show me your reinvented designless cars.    Bad.  

Coca Cola -- Polar Bear -- Anger  -- 6

A polar bear goes outside to scream about the big game.    Cute, but odd if you don’t recognize the situation.   

Oikos -- Headbutt -- 5

John Stamos and a girl share some Oikos yogurt.  He teases her with it until she headbutts him and steals it back.  Stamos?   Is he still a thing?   And the sudden violence joke was funnier 10 Super Bowls ago.

Acura -- Seinfeld -- 7

Jerry Seinfeld tries to get the first new model Acura in America , but another guy is first in line.  He offers him everything, including an Area 51 alien, but a surprise guest steals the car away. Subtracting 2 because Jay Leno is the surprise guest.  

GE Appliance Park -- 4  

GE highlights my local plant in its commercial, which is a nice spot for GE as an American company,but a snore for the Super Bowl.  

NFL Evolution -- 9

A great commercial in which the field is a timeline that shows the evolution of the game through special effects of one continuous play.  Well done.    

Century 21 -- 2  

Deon Sanders, Donald Trump, and Apollo Anton Ohno show up in a pointless commercial for the real estate company.   

Budwiser -- History -- 3

We get it.  We have a history of liking bad beer throughout the ages.  Lots of shots of historical events with people drinking.  Well made, but a snooze.

Bridgestone --  Quiet Basketball -- 4

Bridestone creates a basketball that’s quiet.    Their tires are quiet.   Three million is wasted.     

CR-V -- Matthew Broderick’s Day Off -- 9

Docked a point for being completely ripped off from the movie and being leaked a week before. This commercial displays the vehicle’s high points well while paying homage to the charm of the movie.    

Act Of Valor --  4

Another action movie ad.  Yawn.

Met Life -- Cartoons   --  6

Snoopy and the gang are joined by an assortment of animated icons to show Met Life is for everyone.    Cute, but could have done so much more.  

Hyundai Genesis -- CPR -- 6

A guy uses his Hyundai Genesis to perform CPR on an elderly coworker.   So dumb, it didn’t have time to be tasteless.   


Bud Light -- Here Weego -- 3

Bud Light combines dogs and beer in a spot that makes me hate both.   The shout out to rescue dogs at the end is tacked on and makes me question if they consider fetching beer a valuable service a dog can perform.

KIA Optima -- Kickstart My Heart -- 4

An ad in which Motley Crue’s Kickstart My Heart drives lots of images of the Kia Optima.  Not a great ad, but some really nice shots of the car.   

Career Builder -- Monkeys -- 2

Enough already with the monkeys.    Was funny back in Super Bowl III, not anymore.

Samsung -- Galaxy Note -- 4

Samsung turns their phone into a party with their rockin’ camera and pen that allows you to be Perez Hilton on your photos.   

Cadillac ATS -- Green Hell  --- 3  

Another snoozer of a car ad.   

Swamp People -- History Channel -- 1

3 Million dollars spent to promote a show that costs 50 cents to make.   YAY!     

GoDaddy -- Internet Cloud  -- 2  

Ad asks “is this heaven” and proves GoDaddy is trapped in hell.