Monday, February 13, 2006


Workers of the world, Stop it.

OK, I'm pretty sure that the Great Conspirators Who Run Everything (GCWRE)have moved on to a new phase. Now, I'm no expert on the Secret History of the World, and I wouldn't know a black helicopter if one flew into my eye and I carry credit cards and $20 bills and hardly ever worry about satellites tracking me, so I won't pretend to be the last word here. Whether the GCWRE took over power as Phase I, and generated a media/ cultural/ journalistic/ consumer environment as Phase II, or whether it was the other way around, I have no idea. In fact, those may have been phases VIIa.3 and IXc.7 for all I know. No one ever asked me to run the world, though, obviously, they should. The point I am circling around and trying to eventually make is this: the GCWRE have moved on to the part of the master plan which is probably the greatest emotional payoff - more than money, power, love - the part where they make fun of the rest of us, and just laugh and laugh.

The clues start with recent business news. The fact that the "news" is as controlled an environment as any laboratory is documented truth from all points of the political spectrum, and I won't rehash it, but that starting point leads to certain odd conclusions. All news stories are publicized to generate an emotional reaction (the innocent explanation is that the big stories are big because people will care about them, basically switching the cause and effect). No big deal. Look at groups and pairs of news stories, however, and there is wierdness. For example, it was recently a big deal that, despite the post-holiday winter being a traditional lull in employment, the employment figures that came out last week were actually quite good. "Oh, that's great," I said to myself, "this means that there is lots of production now in a busy economy, and there will be lots of consumer spending later, when all these happy workers get their paychecks." WRONG! Congratulations, lj, you just had your passing grade in Econ 101 revoked. The correct answer was, "Oh, dear, with an increased demand for labor, the real wage may actually stop falling, and then we're doomed. DOOMED, I TELL YOU!" and it was all that Wall St. could do to prevent panic. Quick, outsource something! So, apparently I had the pre-programmed emotional response to that story, and I am exactly the Shaun of the Dead zombie that I am supposed to be. Zippity frickin' doo-dah. The fun actually starts a week or so later, when this little gem pops over the AP wire:

HOUSTON - Long before Enron Corp. drowned in scandal, its former chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling trumpeted the company's savvy in creating trading markets beyond energy. Now it turns out they are the subjects of futures contracts that allow investors to wager on whether they will be convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges....
Lawyers for the two men criticized such speculation on the future of their clients, who would face decades in prison if convicted. "I think it's abhorrent, betting on people's lives," Skilling lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said.

OK, then. A dead pool is creepy and tasteless, but I think abhorrent is a bit overboard. A dead pool, or wagering on whether Lay and Skilling's lawyers can get them off the hook for their crimes, has no effect on the lives in question whatsoever (except in that one Clint Eastwood movie, but I digress). So here are two guys who stole a ton of money (many, many tons, if it's in pennies) from virtually everyone in the country once they finished imploding the whole economy and walking home with my pension fund, and they are angry that we are going to make a few dollars back using their pathetic trial as a wager. But where are we supposed to make our money? We found out last week that it is immoral for us to be employed, so what else is there? I guess I should be selling crack to animals or something.
The moral of the stories, when you put them together: To be wealthy makes you a better person, worthy of civil treatment. To attempt to acquire wealth, whether by employment, gambling, or singing on American Idol, is morally wrong, even abhorrent. Do you hear the laughter? The GCWRE are having a collective chuckle, and probably placing bets on how we will deal with this conundrum, "Trading Places" style.

Do you need more proof that you are being laughed at? I know this is an obnoxiously long post, as they all have been, but shutting up has never been my strong suit.

Michelle "Way more important than you" Kwan is officially kicked off the Olympic team that she should never have been on in the first place because she is physically unable to compete. The spin on this has been that this is a bad thing, but really, people, give it up. I am not physically capable of competing in figure skating at the olympic level, and neither are my cats, but no one demands that we be allowed to skip the qualifying competition and just go because we are cool and could sell cereal and whatnot. If she is so keen to compete when she is not physically well and hasn't practiced for real in a few months, then let her join the Special Olympics. They are really cool about that kind of thing, they make all the competitors feel like winners, everyone gets a medal - it's perfect for her. So, whatever. How do you know that They are laughing at you? The TV STILL spent more time talking about non-olympian Michelle "Special Athlete" Kwan and how perfect she is than any other athlete, including the dork who one the Gold Medal in the Men's Snowboarding Halfpipe, who, even more amazing, did it without having been free of the effects of marijuana since 1998.

Do you still think the Olympics don't demonstrate that the folks in charge are completely laughing at you? The opening ceremony, a meaningful, serious event, will be forever remembered for the image at the top of this post.

Your Humblest and Most Devoted Servant,

Friday, February 10, 2006


Feeding and cuddling my pet peeve

If you spend 168 hours per week watching TV, like I do, you are bound to find a few faults with it. Like any relationship in the real world, the object of your affection has some habits which you wish you could more successfully ignore. People turn the heat up to ungodly temperatures, or leave toilet seats up, or fold down corners on your books, or whatever. Most of the time, you take a deep breath and move on, sometimes you have to spend some time with a friend fishing for sympathy, and occasionally you will seethe homicidally or yell a little. Healthy relationships survive this.

I don't know whether a relationship with television can be healthy, but I am certain that mine is not. I do a lot of yelling, swearing, making sarcastic remarks that are well across the line into the realm of hurtful, and generally being emotionally abusive. The television, being the codependent medium that it is, sits there passively and continues to do everything that I beg it to stop doing.

There are things that make me wish I still had the styrofoam toy rock that I used to keep next to the remote, for the purpose of symbolically stoning the TV. The news kills me. I want to know who is in charge of making certain that all stations broadcast exactly the same stories in exactly the same order, so I can transport him or her back in time to the USSR under Stalin and make him or her watch the one channel of TV all the time. I want to forge and circulate a memo that says the first snowstorm of winter is never "news" anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, unless it occurs in August, or 30 days earlier than the previous record, whichever comes first. Reality shows always do something lame at the end, because they are based on a group of people competing, and don't work as well when it gets down to two. This could be easily remedied, by just having the last two people fight to the death. Think of it - America's Next Top(less) Model, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice - they would all benefit from a "Thunderdome" approach to the finale. (Who runs Bartertown? Master Blaster runs Bartertown!)

Now I'm getting worked up, and we move to my favorite two peeves. The first is cheating. Most TV shows are now blatantly cheating me. Dramas, reality shows, daytime TV, the 20/48 Insider and ET types, all of them, are padding their content by having reruns during a new show. The show starts with "Previously, on XXXX," for a while, then the show goes on for a little bit, and some of them (like American Idol and 48 Hours and Entertainment Tonight) have teasers so the show staff can take off for their snacks or bathroom break before the commercials even start, and then at the end there's more filler in the form of "Next time, on XXXX." If you watch a show once, you have seen approximately 12 minutes of programming 4 times over with 12 minutes of commercials. Someone should come out with Tivo II, which will cut it all out, not just the ads, so you could watch the 12 minutes and be done with it. You could watch 4 times as many shows that way.

The last pet peeve is a sneaky little bastard. With all the others, I know they're coming, I can brace myself, but this one could get me at almost any time. It finds me in the movies now and then, too. You've seen it. The good guy gets hold of the blimp coverage of a football game, and scans the audience of 80,000 for the villain, and finds him, or maybe it's a satellite taking a picture of an entire city, or a blurry security video of a dark scene or something. In any case, they have a videotape. The camera and the tape, apparently, have infinite capacity - unlimited resolution, so some random tech guy can just zoom in, using the tape of a grainy image from a gazillion miles away, mind you. Either that, or they "enhance" the image, like adding data to the image is somehow going to turn out OK. They end up being able to read the time on the guy's watch. Just NO. No, no, no. That's not how pictures work. "Enhancing" pictures doesn't exist. You can make the left half of a face look like the right to eliminate shadows, you can take something blurry and add unblurry features, but they are a guess or a substitution, and will only be approximate, etc. In the television of my mind, the villain fails to attend the football game or whatever, so there is no surveillance video at all. Looking at the pictures without the villain, the hero says, "Enhance that, so we see him better." The techie gives him the look you aren't allowed to give your boss when she says something equally stupid, and tells him it can't be done. "Fine," our hero says, in the same tone you use at age 14 when you say "Fine, Mom." Then he slaps his own drivers license on the table and says, here's a photo, enhance that," and they scan it and enhance it and the mysterious computer enhancer lines generate a perfect photo of the villain, and I throw the styrofoam rock at the TV so hard the actor actually puts his hand up to his head and says, "OW! Dang!"

Whoo. Good to have that out of my system. Thanks.

Your humblest and most devoted servant,

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Defensive Driving

I am going to have a lot to say about driving, traffic, and related topics which have led me to unintentionally teach my daughter dozens of words which I now need to convince her not to repeat in front of her mother, teachers, Child Welfare agents, etc. As an easy starting point, I will start small, with the vehicle itself.

I was driving around in my Ford Entropy today, enjoying the only 11 minutes of sunshine expected this week, with a neat little buzz on from the Green Mountain Hazelnut flavored coffee (caution: may actually taste a little like coffee), hangover-free (come to think of it, no alcohol at all on a Friday night - I'm getting old!), after an extra few nights off of work so I wasn't half-bleary - all in all, the kind of satisfied, contented, zennish moment that always comes before some kind of catastrophe, and found myself stopped at a stop sign, waiting to turn left. Now, I freely admit that I had signaled for the left turn before even stopping, and was continuing to do so, which is not only illegal and unethical in Massachusetts, but also incredibly rude, but it is a surprisingly hard habit to break, having grown up and learned to drive elsewhere, so it is likely my own fault that a jolt of ultrafast karma smacked me upside the head. As I sat there, waiting for an opportunity to turn from Dinky St. onto State Rd., a little sedan came up next to me to turn right. I'm not sure what type of car it was, exactly, because they don't put the model name on top where I could have seen it. Maybe it was a Toyota Conceita, or a Hyundai Cheapata or something. They're all pretty much the same, with a four-cylinder half-engine, a horn that can barely squeak out "excuse me," and bumpers at about the level of the bottom of the Ford Entropy's hubcaps.
Anyway, the driver was to my right, and thought maybe he could turn, but he couldn't see around my SUV. No visibility whatsoever, except for a great view of the side of my truck. As I looked down into his car, I saw that there were children in the back. What is with that? It occurred to me that this is totally legal, but it baffles me. It is obvious that this man hates his children and wants them to die, or he wouldn't be driving them around in a car which doesn't allow him to see the road and which is essentially all crumple zone. Basic physics tells us that if this man and I are involved in a collision at anything over 2 mph, he and his children will die and likely only be identifiable by trace DNA evidence, while I will need a few minor paint touchups to the SUV. With all of the people in this country claiming to care about children and blah blah blah, it is still legal to drive them around in a Yugo. This is disgusting. More disgusting is the insistence people have on calling these vehicles "passenger cars." Oh, please. When you cram cattle into 3 cubic feet of space, and they can't move or breathe or avoid each other's perspiration, that is not a "passenger train," and these cars are not suitable for carrying anything but a deck of cards or a box of matches, even in the front. A minivan is for carrying passengers. A pickup with a crew cab is for carrying passengers. My wife's Ford Endanger, another fine SUV, carries passengers quite nicely, and child seats actually fit in the back, unlike in my cousin's Honda Entitle. A rule of thumb: if your child is small enough to sit comfortably in the back seat of a "passenger" car, he or she will only be safe in a child seat which does not fit there.
Now, it is bad enough that passenger cars are unsafe by nature, and probably cause tons of accidents because the drivers are too low to see, but they add insult to injury by being unpatriotic. Take the Mazda 666, for example (I know, I know, but this is a blog, not War and Stinking Peace, we'll have to address that another time). It gets, like, I don't know, probably 40 miles per gallon on its 4-cylinder modified lawnmower engine. I don't care how many yellow ribbons you stick on there, how many Murrican flags and "Support my troops" bumper stickers and whatnot you display, you are the worst kind of antipatriotic pig. Here we are, in the middle of a war which has shed the blood of thousands of this country's brave young men and women, has turned half the world against us, and has left the middle east (as impossible as it may seem) even more politically flammable than usual, all to safeguard the monopoly of American oil interests and freedom for all, and here's this jerk saying, "Oh, no thanks, no gasoline for me, I'm just using my little passenger car one last time to go buy recycled bicycle parts and solar panels and a windmill generator. I love terrorists." People died for your gasoline. Use it, or I swear I will burn down your house with it, pig!
Man, now I'm all wound up. I'm going to drive down the block to the mini-mart to buy some beer.
And I promise to put up some pictures soon.

Your humblest and most devoted servant,

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Happy Holidays!

Well, I am just giddy with holiday spirit, let me tell you. With the smoke barely cleared from the War on Christmas (there was no formal cease-fire, no treaty, no surrender - where's my closure?) We have the rapid succession of the beginning of the year of the Dog, and Groundhog Day. Wow, and I thought having Hanukkah and Christmas at the same time was a bloodbath. Dogs and Groundhogs, living together... mass hysteria! Interestingly, although there was no mention of Groundhog Day at my daughter's school today, the Animist Left is not raising a ruckus about the "War on G-day". Their restraint is admirable. I, myself, am fuming. Another piece of uniquely American culture fades quietly away, just because there is no marketing/shopping tie-in. Meanwhile, get ready for Valentine's Day, Secretary's Day, Buy More Stuff At Chain Stores Day, Mass Market Zombies Day, and the beginning of the Retail Christmas Season, which begins this year the day after Easter. Martha "I crocheted my own ankle beacon" Stewart will show us how to melt down unused easter chocolate to make chocolate Santas which can be used to bribe minimum-security guards, or something.
So I'm in something of a mood, apparently (yeah, everyone is so shocked), and I think I know why. I got the date for the Chinese New Year wrong, so that night I had a small meal, with short noodles, and an over-ripe banana for dessert. In addition to being unsatisfying as a culinary experience, I count 3 ways that I have brought upon myself a short lifespan. I'll probably be dead by Sunday. That, and the rest of the meal probably symbolized sexual inadequacy or something. That's what cultural illiteracy gets you. Gah.
Anyway, the groundhog saw Bill Murray's shadow, so there will be "six more weeks of winter." Right. That makes a ton of sense. Well, it does, as an average. This is the problem with using old Punxatawney Phil for the whole nation's G-day festivities. As a service to the galaxy, I will put the prediction in context for some selected areas.

Boston, MA: Eight more weeks of winter, maybe nine, and they will be real winter, no more of this 50 degrees and sunny nonsense.
Buffalo, NY: Spring will start the same time it always does, on May 10th, about 2 weeks after the winter's last good blizzard.
Orlando, FL: Hasn't had spring since the last ice age, and won't see one for the forseeable future. Will go straight from the mild season to the so-hot-even-the-alligators-are-uncomfortable season
Bozeman, MT: even the best groundhogs have no idea. Most likely, micro-spring will happen 5 or 6 times between now and April, but in a town where it snows in July, spring is less a season and more an abbreviation for "the roads are muddy."

There, now that I've been helpful, I'll just go pat myself on the back while my cat finds new and moister ways to make a nuisance of himself. GET DOWN! EW!

Your Humblest and Most Devoted Servant,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?