Thursday, September 30, 2004

Why Democracy Sucks, Part 412

Memo to America's "Undecided Voters": YOU ARE DUMB.
What is your fucking problem? The news keeps telling me you're all waiting until after tonight's debate to make up your minds. Here, let me give you a preview of what you'll learn from the debates. First, JACK. Second, SHIT.
Here's an easy prediction. Nothing new will be said tnnight. NOTHING. Every single thing said during the 90 minute debate tonight will be something a candidate or their surrogates have said before. Which means you're not undecided, you're just LAZY. Pay attention, and you'll get to make your mind up that much sooner.
Or maybe you're not waiting for new information. Maybe you're waiting on the Jib Factor. You want to watch the candidates on live television to see which cut of whose jib you like better. Who sweats. Who has nicer hair. Who doesn't come off as "too snooty". If so, you are part of the problem and should stay home on Election Day, along with your shallow, gut-instinct, irrational candidate selection technique. Fuck off.
How difficult IS this decision? Either way? I don't care where you actually stand, politically. The last four years have very clearly and distinctly defined who Dubya is, what he is about, and what he has done and will do. Ambivalence about this is NOT A FUCKING OPTION. You either love it along with your fellow rich white suburbanites, frat-boy jingoists, and religious nutters, or you don't, along with your tree-hugging, America-hating, Michael-Moore-watching brethren.
Despite all the half-assed obfuscation about "compassionate conservatism", the country is being run by rabid ideologues with such a blatant and deliberate agenda that it SHOULD be physically impossible to be "undecided" about. It shouldn't even matter who the Democrats ran. If you're on board with what's been happening, then you won't be voting for anybody but Bush, and if you're NOT on board, then it could be Kerry/Edwards, Dean/Kucinich, or Eggplant/Toaster for all I care. As long as the opposition candidate isn't fucking puppies on live television, you either want four more years of this, or anything but.
If you're on the fence with just over a month to spare, how do you even make it out of the house in the morning? The existential dilemma of sock color must leave you paralyzed. Heaven forbit you stand in line at your local fast-food establishment, perusing the five different varieties of chicken sandwich in slack-jawed amazement, both excited and horrified by the strange new world that has such variety in it.
But you wanna watch the debates to see who you think comes out on top? Stop kidding yourself, and the rest of us while you're at it. We know what you're really waiting for. You're waiting to be told who won the debate by America's honest, unbiased observers in the pundit hot-seats of our many cable news channels. If you're incapable of evaluating the President based on four years of current events, including two wars, then 90 minutes tonight isn't going to provide you with your epiphany. So you'll be told who to vote for by the post-debate pundits, and you'll tell everyone you know that it was the debates that made up your mind. But we all know better.
Look, I've been an undecided voter before. In 1998 and 2000, I walked into the booth not knowing if, when push came to shove, I'd be able to vote for the bland, unappealing Democrat or the interesting but doomed third-party candidate. Both times, I was pretty damn sure that the bland Democrat would do fine without my help, and the bland Republican was only a few shades off of true in the other direction. Once, I helped put a wrestler in charge of a state*, and once, I was dead-on and the bland Democrat won my state.
But this President has spent the past four years engaging in fundamentally polarizing actions. He's like a giant, smirking magnet. You should either be attracted or repelled, not some inert lump of plastic sitting and dithering. If you haven't made up your mind by the time the debate starts tonight, you should commit to joining the rest of the non-voting half of the country come November. Unless Bush or Kerry fucks a puppy on stage. Then I'll grant you an exemption.
*Which I'm actually quite happy with, as Jesse did, roughly, an average politician's worth of damage to the state, while providing ten times the entertainment value.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pants, The Final Frontier

Memo to Richard Branson: YOU GO, CRAZY RICH MAN.
No sarcasm there. There really isn't a traditional "target" for today's column. For those who miss the excessively political tone of the last three weeks, allow me to point out that George W. Bush is a doodyhead. But on the subject of space tourism, there is no DUMB, except that I'm convinced that only two people have really seen the true potential for Richard Branson's new venture - Richard Branson, and me.
Here's the way it's officially going to work, on paper. Dick Rutan, who's currently trying to win the X-Prize with Spaceship One, is going to provide Richard Branson of the Virgin empire with a half-dozen ships based on the SS1 design. Branson would then offer, for about two hundred grand, a 90 minute suborbital trip into near-space, including four-minutes of microgravity, and a stunning view of the curved horizon of Earth.
Space tourism. It brings to mind the noble pursuit of flight, the pioneering spirit, the astonishing futures promised to us since the fifties by science fiction writers. The common man being able to go into space has been a lifelong dream of science nerds and space geeks for decades. But as far as I'm concerned, Richard Branson's "Virgin Galactic" is a bold new step forward in the arena of space-fucking.
The zero-G hump. Subject of late night horny nerd-speculation at SF conventions since the first horny nerds stayed up late at SF conventions. There's no way it hasn't already happened, of course. With 40 years of space travel, 20 of them including women, under our belts (as it were), plus the neutral buoyancy simulator at NASA, you gotta figure folks have made the alien with two backs more than once. But Richard Branson is poised to put the knocking of the moon-boots within the reach of the rest of us. Well, OK, the rest of us who happen to be wealthy bastards.
And I think he knows it, too. The clues are all there. First of all, he named his company "Virgin" in a bit of classic misdirection. I really don't think an insanely wealthy mogul who spends most of his time trying to cross oceans in balloons is an uptight prude, so it must be called "Virgin" to create a false sense of wholesomeness and purity for the eventual day when he'd be able to make the Mile High Club look like two middle-aged fundamentalists in their monthly go at the missionary position.
Look at the proposed flight plan. Ninety minute flight, four minutes of weightlessness. That means 43 minutes on the way up for Space Foreplay and Jumpsuit Removal, four minutes for the Three-Axis Mambo, and 43 minutes for drinks, smokes, apologies, wiping down the bulkheads, and regaining your composure for when you walk down the exit ramp and have to lie to everyone about the exhilaration of flight and the beauty of the Earth from space.
I know what you're all thinking. Four minutes doesn't exactly sound like a sexual marathon. But first of all, you're doin' it IN SPACE. If people get all kinds of bonus jollies from cars, elevators, or park bushes, I think having sex in SPACE ought to speed things along enough that four minutes for the actual act will be plenty.
Second of all, you're doin' it IN SPACE. Which means it's like fugu. It doesn't HAVE to be great, because it's IN SPACE. And from that point on, you can tell people you did it IN SPACE. Fugu is, from what I've heard, some seriously bland fish. But it can get away with it, because you RISKED DEATH by eating it. Once you've risked death for a meal, that meal tastes fabulous, no matter what it's actual flavor is. Same with the space-fuck.
And third, and most importantly, four minutes isn't anywhere NEAR enough time to exhaust the potential of the Tropospheric Tango. Which means plenty of incentive to scrape up another two hundred grand and try again.
That's the other thing. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Sure, it's like the early CD players, which cost a thousand bucks and had just the two buttons. You spend that much on a trip into space, you're going to want to get more out of it than you could manage with a harness, an HDTV, and a DVD from the local science museum. For two hundred grand, you're gonna want to get yourself a piece of asteroid.
But for the clincher, we're going to have to turn to Mr. Branson himself. ACTUAL SPACEFUCKING QUOTE TIME!
"We hope to create thousands of astronauts over the next few years and bring alive their dream of seeing the majestic beauty of our planet from above, the stars in all their glory and the amazing sensation of weightlessness." - Richard Branson.
He's gonna "create" thousands of astronauts? Yeah, by conceiving them in orbit! And let's face it, the "stars in all their glory"? The "amazing sensation of weightlessness"? The only reason he can get away with these euphemisms is that the AP reporter at the press conference didn't hear the Official Porn Guitar playing behind the curtain.
And on the off chance you're STILL unconvinced... he's naming the first one the V.S.S. Enterprise. Come ON! Do I have to draw you a map? Enterprise? Kirk? Spacefucking? If there isn't a video on the Internet within seven days of the maiden voyage, then what tiny faith I have in human nature I'll have left at that point will vanish forever.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Having Actually MET Life...

Memo to "Pharmacists For Life": YOU ARE DUMB.
Reason Why Atheists Are Better Than Fundamentalists, #97 of 4,800 (collect them all!): Atheists happily work in our nation's bookstores, freely and happily dispensing Bibles, Korans, Chicken Soup For The Christian Soul, and Left Behind books, despite our profound belief that these books are full of shit and will destroy the nascent, child-like intellect residing in the skull. We keep our yaps shut, and perform the job we were hired for, taking your money and handing you the items you ask for without comment or hindrance.
Pity the same can't be said for fundamentalist pharmacist assholes, who have made headlines repeatedly over the past few years for refusing to dispense birth control pills, emergency contraception doses, and RU-486 because these pills conflict morally with both their deeply held religious beliefs and their inexplicable ignorance of science.
I mean, the RU-486 thing is just the run of the mill embryo fetishism that drives the modern pro-life movement. At least RU-486 does the thing that the people opposing it dislike. It's still dumb, but it's a familiar kind of dumb. Some people believe that an embryo is the single most important thing in the entire universe, and others of us believe that abortion should be legal through roughly the 90th trimester. But if you take a job as a pharmacist, you know going in you're going to be dispensing pills you wouldn't take yourself. That's part of the job description. If your beliefs don't allow you to do that, then you should be selling teddy bears holding crosses to Jesus-freaks at the strip-mall "inspirational store", not next door at Walgreens adding "the peril of your immortal soul" to the list of potential side-effects.
Gone are the days when pharmacists were practically small-town doctors in their own right. The days of the knowledgeable old man who'd wink at you slyly as you fearfully asked him for your first box of rubbers are long gone, and thank fuck for that. These days, to be a "pharmacists", you need to know three things - how to tell the difference between Cialis and Viagra; how to count to 50, and how to use the electronic time-card system at the Target that pays you seven bucks an hour to do things one and two. Just because you're behind a glass wall doesn't give you the right to pass judgment, and just because you wear a lab coat, that doesn't make you a fucking scientist.
Which explains the assault on emergency contraception and birth-control pills. In the latest instance, of which there have been many, a pharmacist in New Hampshire refused to issue emergency contraception to someone with a valid prescription because of his psychotic pro-life views. In addition, he refused to refer her to another pharmacy that -could- fill the prescription. Since the moron in question, Todd Sklencar, is hiding out and refusing to talk to people, we'll have to rely on the testimony of his victim, who was unable to fill the prescription within the 72 hours required for emergency contraception to be effective. Yes, it's ACTUAL QUOTING A QUOTE TIME!
"He said something like, 'I believe this will end the fertilization of the egg and this conception was your choice,'"
- Laconia resident Suzanne Richards.
Of course it will end the fertilization of the egg. It's CONTRACEPTION, you-maple syrup-snorting, backwoods fuck! This goes way beyond blastula-worship. Now the pro-lifers are calling the LACK OF FERTILIZATION the ending of a life. "Sorry, lady, the spoims gotta do what the spoims gotta do, and I'm morally obligated to do everything in my power to force you to have a baby."
Pharmacist organizations do have "conscience clauses" supporting this kind of rampant bullshit, but at least that same code of conduct requires any busybodies in their profession to help the patient fill the prescription somewhere else. That, of course, is completely unreasonable and "stupid", according to the president of Pharmacists for Life International, Karen Brauer, who really, really shouldn't be bandying about words like "stupid" after saying things like:
"If we're not going to kill a human being, we're not going to help the customer go do it somewhere else."
For the last time, a bunch of sperm that may or may not be viable heading toward an egg that may or may not be THERE is NOT a human life. I don't care if you believe that it is, you do not get to put yourself in a position of power and ruin other people's lives just because you're INSANE. I may believe, in my heart of hearts, that dog shit tastes like sweet, sweet candy, but if I ran down the street shoving dog shit into people's mouths, I'd be sent somewhere quiet and alone for a very long time indeed. Yet "pharmacists for life" somehow get a pass from society.
Tolerating the crazy people does not mean we should let them set policy.

Monday, September 27, 2004

And Not A Single Joke About "Hot Air"

Memo to the Iraqi people: SORRY! SEE YA LATER!
I know I've been talking more than even I want to about politics and world events of late, but over the past week, I've noticed something interesting, and what it boils down to is that Iraq is screwed. I mean, yeah, it's bad now, but all signs are currently pointing to the very last rationale for the invasion of Iraq, the liberation of the Iraqi people, is about to get tossed aside to the heap next to WMD's and Terrorist Ties.
In a sure sign of a desperate administration, the Bush camp let loose more balloons than they did during the convention. Trial balloons, that is. Trial balloons are when someone in, or allied with, the administration says something completely fucking ridiculous and then checks the media to see if anyone noticed, and if so, how the press took it.
I'd have phrased that as "how the people took it", but since how the press reacts IS, for all practical intents and purposes, how the people react, if a fucking ridiculous idea doesn't cause a huge outrage in the press, then they know they can get away with a toned down, spun, and nuanced version of the same thing.
You may have noticed everyone in the administration saying different things about Iraq over the next week. Bush says it's getting better. Powell says it's getting worse. Allawi says we could have safe, secure elections today. Powell says we'd like to have safe, secure elections in January. Rumsfeld says the elections may have to be limited.
Despite what many believe, this isn't a fracturing. It isn't even a herald of the much-talked-about-by-wonks-with-bow-ties infighting between the State and Defense departments. They just want to know what kind of elections they can get away with, because the elections in January, much like the handover of sovereignty in June, is an important milestone in the fucking-over of the Iraqi people.
Did you know that the elections in January are for a new INTERIM government? I didn't, and I try to keep up with this shit. The big January elections that have been talked up by this administration for months now won't be forming a new, final Iraqi government. That's another year down the road. But you don't hear that, because once those polls are closed in January (whether it's with a key or a truck bomb), I guarantee you that Dubya (assuming he gets re-elected) will proclaim Iraq a free democracy and get the hell out.
And I put it about 80-20 that Kerry will do the same thing. He'll just have the excuse that he's cleaning up after Bush's mess.
The two most important trial ballons in the past week concerned the pulling out of US troops. Sure, our leader has said we won't leave until the job is done, but that promise depends entirely on the definitions of both "job" and "done". People think it's incompetence that leads to people going into a war without a "clearly defined mission" or an "exit strategy", but politically, it makes perfect sense. Why define those things ahead of time and bind your hands? Better to define "a job well done" at the end, when you have a much better idea of which endgame makes you look good.
The first of these balloons came from Robert Novak, Douchebag of Liberty*. Bob took precious time out from compromising secret agents and lying to discuss what he believes are plans for the Bush administration (pending their re-election, of course), to ditch Iraq as soon as Al-Jazeera has called a winner in the election. If past history has shown us anything, it's that when the Bush administration says "jump", Bob Novak pens 500 words on maximum aerial elevation. IT IS BALLOON!
And this past weekend, Rumsfeld said "Any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and US forces would obviously be, I think, unwise because it has never been peaceful and perfect, and it isn't likely to be." At this point, we're like three balloons away from an Around The World In 80 Days fan convention. Iraq doesn't have to be "peaceful and perfect" for us to pull out, so really, we can pull out whenever we want! Any problems that happen after we give them a democratically elected government in January are the fault of all those swarthy people who just can't get along, you see. We've done our job. Mission accomplished!
Operation Fuck Up Iraq will be a complete success.
*That appelation comes, of course, from The Daily Show. I use it here not to steal their joke, but because I think that permanently associating the phrase "Douchebag of Liberty" with Bob Novak is such a noble goal. It should enter the lexicon along with "Tricky Dick" Nixon, Jim "The Lizard King" Morrison, and Dan Savage's alternate meaning for "santorum", which, if you don't know it, don't Google it up from work. Or while you're eating. But it's still really funny.

Friday, September 24, 2004

And To The Retardos, For Which It Stands

Memo to 247 members of the House of Representatives: YOU ARE DUMB.
The Capitol Building is not your fucking elementary school playground, and the law of the land is not "TAG! NO TAGBACKS!". Every last one of you who voted for the law that says the courts can't rule on the Pledge of Allegience ought to be impeached and thrown out of office for either ignorance or deliberate ignoring of how the government you are a part of works.
Yes, tired of those pesky courts, full of "activist judges" getting in the way of the legislative branch doing whatever the hell it wants to, the House passed a bill, 247 to 173, that would prohibit any federal court, including the Supreme Court, from ruling that the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are unconstitutional.
That means that two hundred and forty seven of our elected representatives are whining babies who are either malicious, stupid, or both. Hell, calling them whining babies is an insult to whining babies, who at least have an excuse for their squalling. You cannot overturn a fundamental power granted to a branch of gorvenment by our Constitution, a system that has served us for 228 years, by passing a LAW. The system doesn't work that way. And if you don't understand that, you shouldn't be in office, and if you do understand that and don't care, then you REALLY shouldn't be in office.
And if you're going to vote to overthrow the government, which is essentially what you're doing, could you find a better reason to do it than over the goddamn, doghumping, irrelevant, meaningless, insipid, annoying, thrice-forsaken PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE?! What is wrong with you people? Missouri representative Todd Akin, the short-bus General Patton of the 247th Fuckwit Division, said that if "under God" were to vanish from the pledge, it would have "emasculated the very heart of what America has always been about".
Get this man a copy of Gray's Anatomy and a history book, STAT. First of all, Captain Akin of the S.S. Mixed Metaphor, hearts do not have cocks. Hearts cannot be "emasculated", and by assuming that either the biological organ "heart" or the metaphorical "heart of America" is a well-hung man, swinging free in the land of the brave, you reveal much more about your own inner, repressed, Republican psyche than any of us wanted to know. You can't emasculate a heart. You can't emasculate a skull either, which is a shame, 'cause I'd pay for the surgery myself if it meant we had 247 fewer dickheads in the House of Representatives.
And if "under God" is the very heart of what America has always been about, then why, if you'll pardon me covering the same ground I had to cover the last time this issue came up, has it only been in the pledge for FIFTY YEARS? Boy, it's a good thing all those enlightened, jingoistic, 1950's fucks realized what all those stupid Founding Fathers hadn't noticed, and put that "under God" into the pledge. If they hadn't, the heart of what America has always been about would still be wandering around, dickless and embarassed.
And on top of all that, last time I checked, the Supreme Court was busy dodging the issue and letting "under God" STAY IN THE PLEDGE. Yeah, it stayed in on a technicality, but do you really think that if those activist Supremes wanted to rule against it, the technicality would have stopped them? They certainly didn't let technicalities stop them in 2000, that's for damn sure.
Really, there's only one positive thing I can say about this bill passing in the House. It was not, inexplicably, the single most retarded thing to come out of Washington yesterday. Thanks to Dubya, that bar has been set even lower. Our President actually tried to scare us by saying that if we pull out of Iraq, all of the insurgents who are trying to get us out of Iraq will follow us to America and fight us here. After a brief sabbatical to recharge its batteries and soak up some sun, it's ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
"If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations." - The Mental Midget Ostensibly Running Things
That's such a boneheaded sentiment it almost deserves its own column. The "terrorists", who are mostly insurgents and mostly targeting the military are not attacking soldiers because they hate our uniforms.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Have I Mentioned We're Safer?

Memo to America: YOU ARE SAFER.
Your government is protecting you. I know I've harshed on the War on Terror in the past, but three incidents of recent diligence by America's airlines and Homeland Security forces have convinced me that... AMERICA IS SAFER.
America is safer, because middle-aged special ed teachers with bookmarks are prevented from flying.
Yes, Kathryn Harrington, a 52-year-old special education teacher from Florida, was handcuffed, placed in a holding cell, charged with posession of a banned weapon, and faced up to a $10,000 fine before the charges were, after several weeks, dropped. All because she brought a bookmark with her. A fabric, weighted bookmark. That she'd flown with before. Several times. Through the same airport.
You see, in our new, safer America, a "prohibited item" is defined as any item on a list of items not allowed on planes, plus any other item that any other minimum-wage baggage screener decides is dangerous. To keep America safe, we must prevent people who didn't realize they were terrorists from bringing items they didn't know were prohibited on planes they didn't know were incredibly vulnerable to attack by bookmarks.
As Transportation Security Agency spokesperson Lauren Stover explained, "They probably felt that this item looked fairly dangerous. It looked like a bludgeoning type of weapon that could potentially harm someone." I would like to thank Ms. Stover for clarifying what I mistakenly thought was a vague policy that could treat any item not made specifically of Nerf as a potential terrorist threat, but I see now that they've thought this through, and as a result, AMERICA IS SAFER.
America is safer, because prayers are no longer tolerated on America's airplanes.
Well, at least if they're written in a language that looks like Arabic. A Midwest Airlines flight from Milwaukee to San Francisco was grounded on Sunday because a passenger found some Arabic-looking writing in an in-flight magazine. And I'm very glad that this passenger, and the in-flight crew, were alert and on the ball, because it's a common terrorist tactic to leave little notes in obscure places on objects they plan to blow up. It's like a party game, really. Makes the terrorism seem a bit more fun, like a scavenger hunt.
The passenger, who reports say was probably not Anne "Eek! There's A Terrorist On Your Shoulder!" Jacobsen, discovered the writing as the plane pulled away from the gate. Unable to confirm through DNA sampling that everyone on the plane was, in fact, white, the trip was cancelled, and passengers were delayed by a day. The message, which was written in Farsi, which is a different language than Arabic, said... well, we don't know. Something innocuous. It was reported in the press as "something like a prayer", and "something of a contemplative nature"*. That's OK. It's not like what the message actually said was important to the story. What's important is the terrorists were stopped, and AMERICA IS SAFER.
America is safer because Cat Stevens is not allowed in this country.
You think it's bad when a contemplative Islamic message is found in an in-flight magazine? Imagine how unsafe America would be if contemplative Islamic messengers were allowed to HOLD in-flight magazines? We'd all die in a nuclear holocaust accompanied by the gentle strumming of a guitar. Yes, Yusuf "Cat Stevens" Islam, the singer and songwriter who caused a big ruckus about ten years ago when everyone thought he said things about Salman Rushdie that he didn't actually say, was flying to Washington when his plane from London was diverted to Maine, where Islam was deported and returned to Britain "because of concerns about activities that could potentially be related to terrorism." This administration is really on top of the whole "people who might have wanted to do things" problem.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Muslim convert folk singers are so dangerous, they must not be allowed into the country, except for brief stopovers in Bangor, Maine, where a bunch of fucking hippies live in anyway, so when Islam nee Stevens blows himself up with an improvised nuclear device, as so many folk singers have done before him, he won't take out anything important.
AMERICA IS SAFER. We have learned the lessons of the past, we are alert and aware, and if those crazy Muslims want to attack us, they're going to have to find something better than bookmarks, pens, and folk singers to do it with. WE'RE ON TO YOU, TERRORISTS! Watch out!
*In my own more contemplative moments, I like to think that this description could describe the phrase "Oh God, this seat makes my balls itch, but if I get up to go to the bathroom to scratch them, Anne Jacobsen will tackle me in the aisle and beat me to death with her bookmark."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Rather Annoyed

How ridiculous is this going to get? CBS is duped by a fake memo, people are discrediting the entire story the memo supports despite claims that the memos were factually accurate and a mound of other supporting evidence, and everyone's pointing at Dan Rather like he's some kind of Satan-spawned minion of evil. This is the most trouble a journalist's been in since Robert Novak did the administration's evil bidding and exposed a CIA operative.
Oh, wait, that's right. Robert Novak NEVER GOT IN TROUBLE for doing the administration's evil bidding and exposing a CIA operative. Forget I said anything.
It's bad enough that CBS got duped by the forged memo. Despite what the right-wing bloggers would have you believe, it wasn't actually as simple as "hey, I can do this in Word!", as evidenced by the nearly two weeks people argued about it. The memos were fishy as hell, of course, because even the Freepers picked up on it quickly, but they were within the realm of possibility, and assuming CBS did its job, they'd know whether to trust them or not.
That's the problem, though. The hallowed halls where Walter Cronkite walked, where 60 Minutes brought down the mighty, are currently populated by modern-day journalists. And like any modern-day journalists, they have modern tools that replace asking questions, finding facts, and THINKING. They asked the guy who gave 'em the memos if they were real. He said he didn't know, but the person who gave them to HIM said they were real. And thus, CBS's job is complete.
Of course, it's not particularly fair to single out CBS for believing what they're told and repeating it. 95% of current journalists are doing that. The only difference is, CBS got caught. Well, actually, the only difference is, CBS got caught by the right-wing machine that can make something like this snowball with the help of a cowed press all too willing to turn on one of its own if it makes them look better to the administration. The administration that controls their access to repeat verbatim what the President says when he says it, a much-too-vital commodity in the current news market.
And now, of course, they're "probing" the "ties" between CBS and the Kerry campaign, which consisted of the guy with the memos asking the guys at CBS to have the guys at Kerry's campaign call him. I suppose we won't know for sure if there was a connection until, say, a campaign staffer and Kerry's lawyer have to resign over their connections to the people who lied. Then they'll REALLY be in trouble.
Oh, wait, that's right. It was the BUSH campaign that lost a campaign staffer and lawyer because of their connections to the people who lied, and beyond that, nobody really got in trouble. I don't know how I keep making these mistakes. It's almost as if my brain were struggling to resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by double standards so huge they trap small planetoids in their gravitational field.
Not to excuse CBS being retarded, of course. It would be better if CBS were not, in fact, frickin' idiots. What I love, though, are the suggestions that CBS was deliberately trying to help the Kerry campaign by lying about Bush. Man, do I hope that's not true. Because if it is, I'm never asking CBS to help me move. They'll break into my neighbor's apartment, take four of his things, break them, and deposit the pieces in the front yard of my new place. Then setting fire to three random buildings in my new neighborhood. That's the kind of "help" CBS offered the Kerry campaign.
Especially since, if a corporate news organization that's been kissing Bush's ass for the past three and a half FUCKING YEARS were to suddenly decide to actively help the Kerry campaign, all they'd have to do to accomplish it would be their JOBS. You wanna help the Kerry campaign? Then don't push forged memos onto 60 Minutes. Just report what's actually HAPPENING. That's damning enough.
But that doesn't happen, because we have apparently reached a point where reporting something negative about a Republican is, innately, a biased, political act, whether or not the negative thing is true. So if you report a negative thing, you have to have friends of whoever fucked up on the air right afterward to explain how this fuckup was actually a pretty flower. And don't think it'll get any better if Ol' Zombiehead gets in in November. The Democrats have seen how effective the Bush press manipulation tactics have been, and they're all set to use them when it's their turn.
So, what have we learned? Let's see. Bush was a pussy who couldn't even manage a few stinking years of cushy, stateside Guard service, and had to get out of about a third of his committment. But that doesn't matter, because someone typed up a fake document that said true things, and since CBS said it was real when it wasn't, Dan Rather is a pinko Commie who should be stabbed in the eyes with knitting needles. Also, we need to stop arguing about the Vietnam War, and who lied about it as recently as last week, and concentrate on more important issues, like how many different news outlets can use the "Oops, I Did It Again" joke for Britney Spears' second wedding.
Luckily, once CBS is investigated, gutted, and its staff sent to Guantanamo and replaced with vat-grown clones of Tucker Carlson, we'll all be safe from journalistic incompetence... forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What If I Don't Wanna Find It?

Memo to Marc Forster: YOU ARE DUMB.
Like Schroedinger, I am faced with a pair of equally distasteful possibilities. Either I have a dead cat in a box, or I have a live cat in a box who is seriously pissed off at being stuck in a box just so I can look all smart and philosophical and crap. Either I'm about to dig a hole in the backyard, or I'm about to get between seven and ten claws in my eyeball.
Which, in grand comedic segue style, would be preferable to sitting through the fucking Finding Neverland trailer again.
By the way, I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Trailer Selection Meetings. Let's see. We've got a movie about airplanes, blimps, giant robots, and eyepatches. Let's hit that target audience with trailers for slapstick comedies, the awful-looking Lemony Snicket flicket, and wanktastic "period pieces". That's a brilliant idea. Even as an attempt to make The Incredibles look extra bonus awesome by comparison, it was an epic marketing clusterfuck.
That is, of course, in part because the trailer for "Finding Neverland" is a soul-destroying two minutes of celluloid hell. Which brings me back to the dead cat in a box. See, either the trailer is accurate, and "Finding Neverland" is actually MORE HATABLE than "Catwoman"*, or the director of "Finding Neverland", the abovementioned Marc Forster, hired a wilted cabbage to put the trailer together.
Assuming, for the moment, that the trailer is an accurate representation of the final product, it's safe to say that "Finding Neverland" is the punishment meted out by an angry, vindictive God on a population that embraced "Forrest Gump", "A Beautiful Mind", "Good Will Hunting", and "Shakespeare In Love". If you enjoyed three or more of the aforementioned movies, "Finding Neverland" is your fucking fault. If you only liked two of them, you are off the hook. This time. Unless one of the two was "Forrest Gump". Or one of the two was "A Beautiful Mind". Then it's still your fucking fault. If it was both of them, just walk away while seethe over here for a bit.
See, it's one of those Merchant Ivory type period pieces, where everyone rides around in carriages and takes walks through scenery because nobody's invented cable yet. Only it's made by people who've only seen 20 minutes of one other Merchant Ivory movie. On a weekend afternoon spent channel-flipping because they don't have to walk through scenery anymore. So they looked around, tried to figure out what oldey-timey book hadn't been optioned yet, and stumbled across something about the life story of the guy who wrote "Peter Pan", James Barrie.
In "Finding Neverland", Mr. Barrie is revealed to be an... wait for it... wait for it... an ECCENTRIC MAN-CHILD WHO NEVER REALLY GREW UP. A revelation so blatant and trite that it cannot possibly be true. And the trailer can't even bring itself to make the claim with a straight face. Instead of the already debased whore that is "Based On A True Story", the people behind FN have decided the movie doesn't even meet THAT standard of accuracy, and have settled on "Inspired by True Events". It was, in fact, inspired by three true events: the birth of James Barrie, the writing of Peter Pan, and the pulling of the rest of the movie out of the writers' collective asses.
All the derivative plot points are there - the uncomnsummated, borderline-adulterous friendship between Barrie and a struggling widow with four children; the tortured artist, the dresses with Kate Winslet in them (because when you have a movie with dresses in it, it's a rule, you stick Kate Winslet into one of them), and worst of all, the fucking Gumpian aphorisms about never forgetting yoru dreams and how magic can happen if you just imagine it hard enough. The kind of thing that makes film critics with repressed memories of abuse call the movie "WONDROUS!"
And on top of all that, just when you think it can't get any worse, you find out what startlingly original choice they got to portray the eccentric man-child who never really grew up. No, not Jim Carrey. He was much too busy getting a few million to phone it in under prosthetics in the Lemony Snicket movie. Plus, this thing requires a vaguely British accent, which leaves only one man for the job: JOHNNY DEPP. Yes, the universal lust-object of 1990's proto-goth Burtonite community. Once again, the elaborate focus-grouping and trend-predicting machine that is Hollywood has produced a movie tailor-made to incur my wrath.
But let's not be too hasty. Maybe it's just a bad trailer. What else has Marc Forster done for us? A quick check of IMDB reveals only one cinematic accomplishment of note - "Monster's Ball". Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Halle Berry's Oscar is Marc Forster's fault.
I rest my case.
* Note I didn't say worse. Just more hatable, which is a separate yet still important metric.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Fun With Poll-Sucking

Memo, once again, to the general political audience and the means by which they receive information: 48% of you are DUMB, another 46% of you are DUMB, and six percent of you are undecided, but PROBABLY FUCKING DUMB.
Do we need eight polls a day? No, we do not. Do we need even ONE poll a day? Probably not. Do we need polls at all? Maybe. They were definitely useful at one point, but the hideous, misshapen monster they've become should probably be put out of its misery. Either by the army, or, barring that, angry villagers with pitchforks and torches.
It's not really the fault of the concept of polling, which is grounded in scientific research, has grown along with the development of statistics, and meticulously carried out by professionals with education and a deep understanding of what it is they're doing. A finely crafted poll is like an intricate detailed, hand-painted vase. The artistry is undeniably impeccable. The only problem is, the vase is made out of hardened shit and it's handed over to a caveman who proceeds to beat people over the head with his new shit-vase.
Polls are a service. Like any service in our capitalist society, polling is paid for. Therefore, polling must have a perceived value. So, to keep the money rolling in, that perceived value must be maintained. So the polling companies don't really like to let on the fact that, oh, their surveys don't include the opinions of people unwilling to waste half an hour of their lives answering questions over the phone. Which is an increasingly large percentage of the number of people they call.
Which means that if there's a significant difference between the opinions of people willing to provide their opinions, and the people unwilling to provide them, the polls are fucked. And since we'll never know what the opinions of non-opinion-givers ARE...
Then there's the hoops they have to go to to try to prove that the 500 people they called are representative of the population as a whole, which in the first place is fucking iffy at best, and in the second place, not the kind of thing you want the people selling you the poll to be determining. "Why yes, our poll is totally representative! Trust us!" Uh huh.
But let's assume, just for one moment, that everyone involved in a national political poll, from the person who first decides to have a poll, to the person that sells you the newspaper in which the results are printed, is a fucking saint on toast, with nothing but the purest of intentions and the kindest of hearts.
The pollsters take pains not only to make the best poll they can, but explain, in excruciating detail, all the various ways in which their poll's results could deviate from reality. The reporter writing the story does an excellent job of boiling down the salient points and explaining them simply to an audience unfamiliar with statistics. The editor of the paper positions the story appropriately given those caveats, and includes a tasteful, non-sensationalistic headline describing the latest poll. And the clerk at the SuperAmerica doesn't see the headline, point, and start chanting "FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!" He just takes your money and lets you leave.
At that point, the newspaper will STILL be opened by John Q. Fuckwit, he'll skim the article, see "Latest poll has incumbent ahead by 3%, well-inside the five percent margin of error", walk to work, stand near the water-cooler or water-cooler equivalent, and say to his co-worker, "Man, did you see the paper today? The challenger is FUCKED.
At which point the co-worker, hearing that the challenger is fucked, decides that he probably has better things to do on November 2nd than to stand in line in some stinky apartment building lobby waiting for his chance to touch-screen vote (sans paper trail), and it doesn't matter anyway because there's no way Challenger can beat Incumbent, and then, that night, when he's called by another polling company trying to work up TOMORROW'S poll and sell it to the media, he hangs up on them, or tells them he's not gonna vote, or tells them he's "undecided".
Used to be that polls measured opinions, and those opinions were formed by things that WEREN'T OTHER POLLS. There were only a couple of polls, and a couple of pollsters, and a couple of networks, and there weren't three different top-of-the-hour stories on three different polls on three different 24-hour news channels. Now, the whole thing is the classic snake-biting-itself-on-the-ass scenario. Half-ass polls are trumpeted by an incompetent media which feeds them to an ignorant public who accepts them as holy, incontrovertible writ and uses them to make sure that come November 2nd, they can say they didn't vote for a LOSER. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Three Dumb Words! Three Dumb Words!

I'd like to take this moment to talk to America's ardent Bush supporters. You know who you are. You go to rallies and events. You have shirts and stickers and signs. And YOU ARE DUMB.
Not because you openly and ardently support Dubya, although fuck knows that case could be made. No, today you're dumb because you're part of what appears to be a new, disturbing trend amongst crowds. So I really must point out to you that "four more years" is not an argument.
It's not some magical, "tubulcain"-esque* phrase that will make all the badness go away. It's not a rhetorical judo throw that turns the argument on its ear. It's not anything, really. It's just stupid. "Four more years! Four more years!" I mean, "We love Bush" would have more semantic weight, were it not for the unfortunate entendre issue. "Four More Years" just kind of sits there. It's "We're reasonably contented with the status quo" boiled down to three syllables, at least two of which most Bush supporters know the meaning of.
But the phrase seems to be turning into the Swiss Army Knife of political debate. It can mean "I do not agree with all the policies of the man behind the podium", it can mean "I do not like the dress of the wife of the candidate", heck, it can even mean "I'm sorry for your terrible loss, and I empathize with your pain, but we are attempting to hold a political rally here so that more sons can have their heads blown off, so would you mind please leaving with these nice men in uniforms?"
Yes, when Laura Bush spoke in New Jersey this week, Sue Niederer, whose son was one of the thousand-plus who died turning Iraq into the safe, happy, and free democracy it is today, spoke out in protest. Wearing a shirt saying "President Bush Killed My Son", she was escorted out by security, and drowned out by chants of, you guessed it, "Four More Years".
Probably for the best, really, considering that one Bush supporter yelled "Your son chose to die in that war!" at her, which I think really goes to the heart of what compassionate conservatism is. And then it rips the still-beating-albeit-weakly heart of compassionate conservativism out of its chest all Mola Ram style**, and takes a big juicy bite out of it, throwing the remains to the assembled masses who descend upon it in an orgy of blood and feasting. Still, imagine how much worse it would be if Bush hadn't succeeding in "changing the tone" like he promised!
At Penn State, it was used to mean "Um, there are only 40 of us out here, but if we shout loud enough, people will think there are more of us". According to college Republican Rich Pastena, one of the 40 people who were yelling while 4,000 other people listened to a speech: "As soon as we found out that Mrs. Heinz Kerry was coming here, we decided we wanted to be vocal. It shows there is a lot of support for Bush on this campus." In fact, using the vaunted mathematical prowess I can only assume is possessed by Penn State college Republicans, 40 people chanting "four more years" translates into an unprecendented 160 years of the George W. Bush presidency. Certain advances in cryonics and changes to the Constitution will be necessary, of course, but think about how low our taxes will be!
It's happening with alarming frequency. In Michigan, protesters were "countered" by the Four More Years chant. Which I think was a poor choice of words by WXMI, but that's just me. "Four More Years" really only "counters" other time-based chants. Most news organizations have settled on the verb "drowned out", which is much more accurate. The things said weren't countered, they were just shouted over by a mob with a calendar.
Bush being protested? Four more years. Bush opponent speaking? Four more years. Intelligence community reports that Iraq is going to complete hell in a fucking handbasket? Four more years. No matter what issue, or what the protest is about - jobs, economy, war, death, environment, ability to speak, or just the more generalized fuckuppery that has become the trademark of the current administration, the response is always the same. "Four More Years". That is what they've got. No "why". No reason. Just straght-line inertia propelled by blind loyalty and Cheney-induced fear of being nuked on November 3.
I just hope any Republicans reading this column can't come up with some pithy, three-word, easily chantable phrase to use against me. Especially one based around an arbitrary period of time. I don't know what I would do.
*As a dues-paying member of the Obscure Reference Council, I am required by their bylaws to inform you that this is a reference to an episode fo NewsRadio featuring a code word for a secret society that will get you out of being convicted in court.
**As a dues-paying member of the Obscure Reference Counci, I am required by ther bylaws to inform you that if you don't recognize this one, you can fucking well look it up.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

That Other Four-Letter F-Word

Memo to Disingenuous Amenders: YOU ARE DUMB.
Let's see. The death rate and casualty rate in Iraq are at their highest points, well, ever, actually. The insurgency is spreading so wildly, the administration wants to take billions of dollars we were supposed to be spending on rebuilding the country, and put it into desperately trying to keep it from getting even more broken. Economy's still in the shitter. Poverty rate's skyrocketing. Obviously, it's time for the Republicans in Congress to perform their most sacred of duties.
That, of course, would be to schedule a potentially politically embarassing vote on motherfucking FLAG-BURNING. Yes, the right's classic is back again, the constitutional amendment to outlaw desecration of the American flag. Also known as "the amendment that makes the gay marriage one seem almost rational by comparison".
Of course, it's all a ploy to get Kerry and/or Edwards to eithe rmiss the vote, or vote against it, because flag-burning is a huge issue amongst the largest group of voters in the country - the shit-for-brains.
You know what happens when an American flag is burned? NOTHING. Neither jack, nor shit. A small amount of fabric is combined with oxygen to release chemical energy, leaving behind smoke and ash. That is IT. You are not injured. You are not hurt. You shouldn't even be offended, but apparently you are. Offending people is not a crime. If it were, I'd be typing this from prison. OK, technically, there's one less American flag in the world, bringing the total number down to about three billion.
And it's not as if flags are even burned all that often. I could maybe sort of kind of not really understand this when it came up after a couple of high-profile flag burnings, but I went and looked. Flags ain't burned all that often if Google News is to be believed.
Here's an interesting exercise. Search Google on "'American flag' burned". You know what makes up the entirety of the first eleven pages? Stories about three rogue Americans who went to Afghanistan, wearing khakis emblazoned with American flags, and tortured people. By, amongst other things, BURNING THEM. Yet there seems to be no push for new laws, or even stepped-up prosecution, for people who set fire to foreigners.
The most recent actual, protesty, burning of an American flag I can find was this past weekend, in which an anti-war dude sort of set fire to a really tiny flag on a stick at a 9/11 memorial. Which is admittedly tacky, but perhaps isn't the kind of thing we should be FUCKING WITH THE CONSTITUTION to try and stop. The memorial went on, the horrible blah blah of that tragic blah blah were blah blahed, and everyone went on with their lives.
That was it, for the past month, and I had to look for it. Oh, there was one other flag burned, but that was in Greece, where all we could do about it is bomb them for being vaguely swarthy. Since it was during the Olympics, we didn't. This time.
Anyone remember the last time you heard about a flag being burned? How about an epidemic of flag desecration? Unless I can't get to work in the morning because all the burning flags are blocking traffic, I think maybe Congress should leave well enough alone. Of course, it's not really about stopping the rampant flag-burning that's taking place roughly ten times an hour in every city on the planet. No, it's about forcing people with some fucking SENSE in their heads to use that sense, vote down the appointment, and then be portrayed in ads as "supporting flag-burning".
You know why they do this? Because it WORKS. And you know why it works? Because we're a nation of fucking retarded rednecks who believe whatever we're told and react in the most cave-man, fratboy way possible.
"Well, shit, I've got no job, my son's legs got left in Tikrit, my daughter's pregnant because her pharmacist insists The Pill kills babies, and my life sucks. Maybe I oughta do something about it this November... What's that, mister gravely-voiced man on my teevee? John Kerry burns flags in his backyard? I can't vote for him! He's a flag-flamer! A flip-flopping flag-flamer! And he supports civil unions? He's a flip-flopping, fag-favoring flag-flamer! I'm voting for Bush!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm proud to live in a democracy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My Guardian Angel Will Kick You In The Nuts

Memo to positive thinkers: YOU ARE DUMB.
Allow me to clarify. I don't have anything against positive thoughts as such, even if they really aren't my stock in trade. But people can't have ordinary positive thoughts anymore. The middle ground between enlightened, bitter cynicism and that which would make a My Little Pony vomit pink, chunky foam has been obliterated, demolished by a flood of guardian angels, sparkles, and general ugliness.
Case in point and primary example,, a website I stumbled across in my travels. It carries within its virtual walls a degree of horrifying kitsch that would make a Cracker Barrel decorator go goth. It takes taste, subtlety, and design, cuts their throats, mutilates their corpses, and has sex with their pets, before filling the air with rainbows and sparkles made from the bones of its victims.
It's pretty fuckin' awful. Take my word for it. Don't go see for yourselves. You don't want to know. Allow me to explain, instead.
The site allows you to download a free "Angel Bar", an IE toolbar that lets you send sites to your friends! And I'm sure, like all free toolbars available on the Internet, it's attractive, functional, easily uninstalled if you don't like it, and contains no malicious code of any kind. Plus, you know. Angels.
Angels are big in the modern, fluffy, Positive Thoughts crowd. Angels are always saving children from horrible car crashies that leave them orphans, or helping people find their keys, or other acts of dubious theological provenance. On the website in question, they also animate and play little violins and waggle their little wings. If I were an angel, which I know is a huge fucking stretch, but bear with me. If I were an angel, and had, over the course of two centuries, gone from being portrayed in great works of sculpture and paint by the world's artistic masters all the way down to showing up super-deformed in animated GIF files, I would check the stockroom to see just how lax the security on the flaming swords was. Some fuckers would need to burn, is all I'm saying.
The site features cards, stories, and something called "FunPages", around the themes of friendship, Christianity, and Inspirational. We will not, in deference to our religious brethren, openly mock the dogmatically iffy "Christian" section today, except to mention that the item marked "Repetition of Sin" is CLEARLY mislabeled, as it involves neither repetition, nor sin. It should more accurately be titled "Iterations of Crappy Metaphor", but that would require a level of honest evaluation that is completely at odds with THINKING POSITIVELY.
In the other sections, we have such poorly-formatted gems as "Recipe from Heaven", which allows you to call your friend a joy-glazed hug-cookie that's received generous loving. On a background composed of thousands of red, purple, and pink hearts. You may think I am joking or exaggerating, but I implore you to take these words at their face value.
Then there's the disappointingly-titled "Know Yourself" Flash animation, in which a picture of a river moves up the screen, leaving faded afterimages of itself in the background. Overlaid on these faded afterimages are two Lao Tzu quotes in white text that vanishes on the background. I don't know why it's a Flash animation at all, because all that moves is the picture, and all it does is move up a bit, but there you go. Know yourself.
If you truly hate yourself, and have done something heartless and cruel, and wish to atone, you may visit the site yourself and select the "Tater People" page. It's too long to sum up effectively here, but be warned. I'm not talking about atoning for forgetting to take out the trash here. I'm talking "If you feel bad about annexing Poland that one time" kind of guilt. Tater People will flagellate you appropriately.
And then there's "Guardian Angels", which, like many items, appears to violate the strict separation between the "Christian", "Friendship", and "Inspirational" sections. On this page, we are informed that the guardian angels of life sometimes fly so high* as to be beyond our sight**, but they are always looking down upon us. What do they mean, "sometimes"? "Sometimes" implies occasionally. Less than half the time. Semantically, it's the opposite of "most of the time". Are most of the guardian angels flying around at street level in plain view? Am I the guy that's always looking the wrong way when one swoops past to save a fundie from dropping her ice cream on the sidewalk? And will my guardian angel really help me win a PS2 as indicated by the flashing box below the aphorism?
It's obvious that when they say "Positive Thoughts", there's a distinct emphasis on the positive at the expense of the thought.
At which point we are interrupted with a picture of either a floating halo or a cock ring. I'm not sure which would be worse. I mean, a cock ring is just a cock ring, but a disembodied halo implies that your guardian angel got sucked through the engine of a 747.
** At which point we are interrupted with a horrific, 3D-shaded picture of what I assume is an angel bobbing up and down, but it's difficult to tell. It could also be a man in a bowler hat and a dress giving a blowjob to a swan. I cannot stress strongly enough to the purveyors of religious clip art the importance of clarity in your design.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ch-Ch-Chain Of Fools

Memo to Applebee's: YOU ARE DUMB.
Who the fuck do you think you are? Did the Nobel Prize add a "shitty chain restaurant" division? Did you decide Habitat for Humanity was getting too much of the good press that rightfully go to America's #1 provider of barbeque riblets? You have forgotten your fucking place, and you need, collectively, to be slapped upside your flair until you go back to doing what you're supposed to, which is providing me and my fellow countrymen with mediocre burgers and fries and hanging football jerseys on your wall. That is your role, Know it. Stick to it.
It was bad enough when your ads featured brightly-colored, lively rooms, full of happy, smiling people, enjoying tasty food prepared with care. That falls just barely within the acceptable limits of advertising bullshittery, because it's merely an idealized version of what it is you're supposed to be doing in the first place.
But now, I beg of you, stop showing me images of your sub-minimum-wage employees performing acts of holy altruism in their spare time. I don't care if your entire organization is run by clones harvested from the cell cultures of Jimmy Carter and Mother Theresa's public image, some waitress making three dollars an hour plus tips is not going to bring a doggie bag of mesquite chicken wraps to a lonely old lady after her shift. And if she did, the old woman, who's been watching nothing but the Lifetime network for the past six years, would stab the employee in the leg with a kitchen knife and call 911. In words immortalized by the Hitchhiker's Guide TV series, THIS NEVER HAPPENS.
Not only does it never happen, it fucking well shouldn't. Despite my general hatred of the Applebee's experience on a purely abstract basis, I have some sympathy for those forced to do it. The fake cheer, the crappy food, the sub-par pay, having to deal with people for whom eating at Applebee's is a rare treat, or worse, a regular haunt... these are the activities that would try the hardiest soul. Chain-restaurant service puts very specific, spirit-crushing demands on these people, and many of them, as far as I can tell, have broken under the weight. These are not the people I would ask even more of. They've done enough. Plus, with the assault weapons ban gone, we really shouldn't be overburdening ANY of our support industries these days.
In the other commercial I've seen, an entire night crew at Applebee's, having done all the cleaning up, shutting down, money-counting, etc. required before locking the front door, are confronted by some late-night diners with some form of sympathy-inducing community role. It's probably a sports team, although my memory is a bit fuzzy for some reason, and there's a head-shaped dent in my wall. So anyway, in an I Am Spartacus, Band of Brothers moment, the intrepid Applebee's employees, one by one, agree to re-open everything, warm up the deep-frier, and by God provide these weary travelers with the chicken fingers and sizzling fajita-platters they deserve.
It's a stirring, heartwarming moment... or it would be, were it not for the despair-inducing retardation it represents. Because I guarantee you, if there is a single Applebee's in this country that is NOT five minutes or less away from an open-all-night Perkins, then the locals, well-aware of the precarious state of their existence, have stocked their larders with frozen french fries, bags of French onion soup, and bread formed into the shape of bowls to prepare for just such an occasion. They are hardy folk, and do not need to rely on some magical, Santa-possessed Applebee's crew for their needs, because as they know all too well, playing those odds leads to starvation and cannibalism.
I've never worked in a chain restaurant, but I've worked enough retail and fast food in my life to know that the shit you do at the end of the night carries with it the kind of finality, the fundamentally irrevocable nature, of jumping off a bridge. There is no turning back once the register has been balanced. There is no do-over once the trash bins have been emptied. Everyone knows it, and any assistant manager who tried to talk the rest of the crew into heading back into the Alamo would find himself throat-deep in a dumpster full of discarded jalapeno poppers. It is the way of things.
Applebee's would like you to think that The Way Of Things doesn't apply ot them. That they're different. That they care. That they go above and beyond the call of duty just to simplify your already too-easy, pampered life. That they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for your dining pleasure. They are lying sacks of popcorn-shrimp-laced shit, and, like Icarus, should be punished for their hubris by crashing and burning. Or at least shutting the FUCK up and getting me my burger.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Giving Up The Ghost

Memo to Donald Rumsfeld and the CIA: GOOD THING WE'RE DUMB.
Back in the 80's, in Central America, there was a term. This term described people snatched by the government, taken prisoner, and never seen again. No lawyers, no family, no official acknowledgement from the government that they were in custody. They were "the disappeared". This was the tool of brutal dictators with no regard for human rights.
Today, we have a new word. "ghost detainees". We've discussed this here before. It's when someone is snatched by the government, taken prisoner, never seen again, denied access to lawyers and family, and there's no official acknowledgement that they were ever taken. The difference between "the disappeared" and "ghost detainees" is that the latter is apparently the tool of First World republics, not Third World dictatorships.
Actually, now that I think about it, there's a second difference. When people were "disappeared", it was widely considered a deplorable thing to do, and was roundly denounced by all civilized people. Groups like Amnesty International were listened to by the press and public. Whereas the United States can freely admit to having held up to 100 "ghost detainees" in custody, hiding them from the Red Cross, and the media and public are still fucking around with swift boats and poring over PDF'ed memos with a fine-toothed comb.
The United States has admitted to war crimes and human rights violations numbering in the triple digits, and everyone who should be giving a fuck is farting around trying to determine which models of IBM typewriter could make superscripts. The CIA is mimicking the worst aspects of the fucking KGB! There was a time when this would have been considered, oh, I don't know, IMPORTANT when it was revealed to the public. But not now, apparently.
I mean, I distinctly remember a month or two ago, commenting on how obscene and ridiculous it was when it was ONE ghost detainee, and how I could not believe that people were getting away with it. Little did I know what they were getting away with And continue to get away with. This came out, by the way, as part of the Abu Ghraib investigation. You remember that, right? That thing that was just "a few bad apples" and some "fraternity pranks" according to the right-wing echobox, that in fact was the whole fucking barrel, the guys who loaded the barrel, the quys who built the barrel, the guys who ordered the barrel to be built... and that's just what the military said after investigating ITSELF.
Luckily for us, the Rumsfeld Doctrine is pioneering new ground in moral relativism. According to the Rumsfield Doctrine, as long as something anywhere is even slightly worse, there's no need to get too worked up about a few electrocuted genitals, disappeared brown people, or murders.
"Has it been harmful to our country? Yes. Is it something that has to be corrected? Yes,'' he said. ''Does it rank up there with chopping off someone's head off on television? It doesn't. It doesn't." Rumsfield, explaining his Doctrine to the docile sheep of the United States press corps, who dutifully reported the statements verbatim to a nation full of sessile fucksponges who soaked it up and felt better about themselves because they didn't cut anyone's head off on live television today.
Set aside the polls for a second. Forget Vietnam. Forget lying about Vietnam, even. There are real, actual reasons to hate the fuckers that are running things, and real, actual reasons to at the very least be deeply disappointed in the people running against them who are also saying nothing. We have disappeared 100 people, and not only is there no uproar, no apology, or even more than a half-hearted COVERUP, it's not even a fucking campaign issue.
I swear, I'm starting to think we DESERVE four more years of this. Well, not me. And obviously not most of the readers of this space. But the country in general. Maybe, with another term in office, people can stop following POLITICS long enough to notice what the actual GOVERNMENT is up to. Discard their blind party loyalties and the yammering of right-center versus far-right for long enough to notice what we are becoming. The only thing that keeps me from adopting this worldview wholeheartedly is the sinking suspicion that it would not work, and after four extra years of war crimes and bullshit and a ruling class with complete contempt for 95% of the population they're allegedly accountable to, we'd still be on our asses, the polls would still be 50/50, and three quarters of us would still be sitting November out. Because we're deeply, deeply, DEEPLY fucking dumb.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Back To Normal

The games giveth, and the games taketh away.
Oh, sure, everything seemed bright and shiny yesterday, at least what I can remember of it. I got a fruit basket from George Lucas by FedEx today, so I hope I didn't have sex with him. Partly because it'd be embarassing, but mostly because I know he's going to go back and edit the footage to mess with which of us shot first.
But a scant 24 hours later, the games industry was more than willing to provide the antidote for my all-encompassing euphoria brought on by the games industry. Because for every heartbreaking work of mind-staggering genius like Burnout 3, there are a dozen hateful fuckups to bring one back down to earth. Having safely regained my grounded, comfortable bile-rage for everything and everyone, I would like to dish out a hearty round of Fuck Yous to the industry I both hate and love so very much:
Electronic Arts: Don't think I don't appreciate you buying up Burnout 3 so that it didn't get left in limbo when those asses at Acclaim drove their company into the ground, because I do. That said, other than "continuing to exist", all you appear to have brought to the Burnout table are a double-handful of awful songs and, more importantly, a bunch of lopsided hamster-wheels masquerading as online game servers. It's not like you didn't notice the positive press you were getting, it's plastered all over your web site, but somehow, despite two-plus decades in the game-making business, you failed to realize that people would actually want to play your fabulous new game against each other. I know Burnout 3 is famous for its spectacular crashes, but you didn't have to take that literally.
I understand why you wouldn't want to overcommit. After all, you've got an underground bunker, cooled to superconducting temperatures with liquid nitrogen, housing a series of supercomputers you outbid NASA* for, run by a staff of 1,000 you signed to lifetime contracts, all so the three people playing "The Sims Online" can trade lamps all fucking day. But still, you bitched for two years about not wanting to be a part of XBox Live, and you finally sign on in some form of half-assed hybrid, and it doesn't work. I'm not the biggest Microsoft booster in the world, but every once in a while, they do behave as if they know what the fuck they're doing.
Plus, the fuckers are putting out "Ty The Tasmanian Tiger 2". This, of course, is a sequel to "Ty, The Tasmanian Tiger", famous for being 2003's most mediocre game. It featured a wacky Australian mammal who ran around collecting things, jumping, and fighting enemies. If this sounds vaguely familiar to you, it's probably because the game was completely fucking unoriginal. It was also famous for going on clearance faster than any other 2003 holiday game, according to an informal survey of Internet columnists who, when wandering through Best Buy in January 2004, made remarks to the effect of "holy shit, that fucking Tazmanian Tiger game is twenty bucks already?"
Still, the game was in fact released, which is more than I can say for the Infinium Phantom, which will accomplish the heretofore-thought impossible task of making the Jaguar CD and the Virtual Boy look like stunning successes. The Phantom, you see, is a new videogame console. Or it will be. Or it -would- have been. Essentially, it's a stripped-down PC in a console-sized box that you plug into your TV. You then "rent" games by downloading them over a high-speed Net connection. Admittedly, a few key details have been left out of the product's promotion, like what it will look like, how much it will cost, and when you can buy it, but as the Internet boom showed us, the magical world of venture capital rarely sees these as "problems". Up to a point.
That point appears to be right around now, when the company that doesn't make it yet is already in hock for about three million, and has... a hundred grand in the bank. And that's without a single product on shelves, nothing to sell to anyone, and Christmas fast approaching. Oops. Plus, we can't even blame their impending doom on the Bush economy. Disappointment piled atop an already heaping pile of other disappointment.
Forcing them, apparently, to put parachutes on things that then require the parachutes to be caught on a helicopter. Which is, admittedly, a bold and exciting technique, albeit not terribly elegant.