Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enough Already!

I generally look forward to the holidays every year; it’s a time of giving and sharing and friendship and family and usually nothing but good times. I don’t expect this year to be any different. However, I was reminded yesterday (yesterday, already!) that there are a couple things about the season that I’m dreading. You know the usual things—relatives invading your space for days on end, constantly having to keep the house clean for drop-ins, cooking for several thousand people, and the incessant, syrupy Christmas music.

On the subject of the latter, I think there ought to be a law that radio stations (and stores, too, for that matter) should be prohibited from playing Christmas music until at least the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t mind Christmas music, in fact, I quite enjoy it sometimes. But, damn, do I have to start listening to “Holly Jolly Christmas” before I’ve mowed my lawn for the last time? Likewise, stores should not be allowed to put out Christmas decorations until after Halloween. It’s just wrong that on one side of the seasonal aisle Santa is merrily cavorting with his reindeer, whilst on the other side of the aisle, gruesome, bloody rubber limbs are displayed next to giant hairy oozing rats.

But what drives me absolutely bat-shit from November until January has to do with Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky. “Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky?” you ask. Don’t play dumb. You know exactly what I’m talking about: the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.
I don’t even need to describe it—the same ubiquitous eighteen glockenspieled notes pop into everyone’s head (count ‘em if you don’t believe me), followed by some warm-voiced grandfatherly-sounding man encouraging you to buy vinyl siding or a subscription to Netflix or something else completely unrelated to Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s sound advertising…no eight seconds of music is more evocative of the holiday season. It instantly sets the mood. And it’s non-religious, not to mention part of the public domain, so no royalties need to be paid upon its use. But it’s gotten to the point that every time I hear even the first four or five notes, I want to puncture my eardrums with the top of the Chrysler Building. I want to burn every glockenspiel in existence. I want to dig up Tchaikovsky and kick him right in his shriveled nuts. But being that we have the kinds of laws a civilized society should, I settle for changing the radio station or TV channel. All I can say is, thank [insert the name of your deity here] for the ability to fast forward through the commercials on DVR’d shows.

So if anybody involved in advertising or marketing happens to come across my little corner of cyberspace, I beg you, please, kill the urge to use The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. Because if you don’t, I will find out who made the commercial, I will hunt you down, find you, and roast your chestnuts over an open glockenspiel fire.

P.S.: I want everybody to add a comment with every time you come across a different ad with that music in it! Let’s see how big of a list we can compile!

Friday, November 21, 2008

How typical

By Ken Thomas
Associated Press

UPDATED 11:50 a.m. WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Bush administration sharply criticized Democrats in Congress on Friday for taking a recess without approving a multibillion-dollar lifeline for the Big Three U.S. automakers.

“It is appalling that Congress decided to leave town without addressing a problem that they themselves said needed to be addressed,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

A bailout-shy Congress punted a $25 billion auto industry rescue bill on Thursday. Democratic leaders announced they wouldn’t help the beleaguered automakers until the companies presented them with a plan showing how they will use federal assistance to stabilize and reprogram their faltering business.

The preceding couple paragraphs from this morning's news indicates why we need change in Washington. I know some people are skeptical of the concept of "change" and what it actually means, but the statement from White House Flak Dana Perino that it's "appalling" that Congress refused to act is blatant posturing on behalf of an administration that is just as clueless as ever, and a sharp example of why Americans overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama's bid for president.

I understand that the administration wants a bailout for the automakers, so they can continue to make cars that burn lots and lots of gasoline, which makes lots and lots of money for the oil companies that are no doubt part of the only barely blind holdings for Bush, Cheney & Co. And everybody has finally been able to peek through to the man behind the curtain (and the two men controlling him) and find out what he's really been about for the past 7 4/5 years.

But what's "appalling" is that Perino (i.e., George W. Bush) wants to blame "Congress" (i.e., the Democrats, since they control Congress) for, gasp, wanting the automakers to actually have a plan on how they're going to use that $25 billion. The automakers have been dying for years; what's another six weeks to wait? They showed up in their private jets (they didn't even jetpool!) to ask for all this money, and had no idea what they were going to do with it. By one estimate I heard yesterday, GM (I believe) is losing 5 billion dollars a month. So what would that one-third of $25 Billion dollars have given them? Six weeks of break-even business. Big fucking deal. Because then what?

I don't know if the banks needed the money free and clear more than the automakers; it certainly seems so. It seems the point was for the banks get the money so they can lend it, to free up money to get the credit markets moving again. Perhaps that was why "Congress" elected so quickly to give the banks the money with no apparent strings attached. The bank crisis would have had much greater a ripple effect on the global economy than three buggy manufacturers going belly up.

I think the Big Three ought to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. That would nullify the bloated union contracts, and allow them to cut the dead wood from each of the three companies. They could then merge into 2 companies: one that makes a few trucks/SUV's, and one that makes smaller sedans and coupes. They could then use the bailout money to retool the remaining factories to produce the kinds of vehicles that are a) required for the US to be energy independent, b) better for the environment, and c) actually ones that Americans can/will afford and buy. They would also have to show a, gasp, plan that indicates how much they're going to invest on R&D for more efficient vehicles in the future.

But the point is this: it's just more of the same from an administration that has nothing but bitterness, failure, fear, divisiveness and pessimism left to offer. You know, kind of like the last 7 3/4 years.

And all I can say is, 12:00 EST on January 20, 2009 can't come soon enough. I'm not saying Barack Obama will solve this mess, but at least we can be fairly certain he won't have his clueless lackies spouting such transparent partisan, divisive garbage.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seen any good movies lately?

It's been a little while since I've posted, so I thought I'd throw something out there that's a little lighter, just for fun. Everything's been so serious lately, with the election, with Prop 8, with the economy and all the other junk going on in the world. We need a little fun, I think.

Please note, this list is not in any particular order. And this isn't a list of the "greatest movies of all time"--just my top ten. There are better movies and more important movies than the ones on this list. I haven't seen Citizen Kane or Schindler's List, for example, so they can't make my top ten. I have, however, seen The Godfather trilogy, and none of them made the list. As an aside, I want to do a stand-up comedy bit on The Godfather someday, because to me, The Godfather is a lot like my first marriage: too long, overrated, and no sex. Funny?

So here is my All-Time Top 10 Movie List:

1. The Incredibles

2. Casablanca

3. Rear Window

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

5. Star Wars

6. Patton

7. Saving Private Ryan

8. City Slickers

9. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

10. Glory

Just missing out: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut; Amadeus; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Stargate; My Cousin Vinny. There are others, but I don't want to steal anyone else's thunder. Post away!

Feel free to post your top ten, and any you think I'm wrong about.

Monday, November 10, 2008

With Apologies to XTC

Dear [insert the name of your deity here],

I want to thank you for answering not only my prayers, but the prayers of the billions of right-thinking folks in this country. You truly do hear us, and you heard us at a time when we needed you more than perhaps any time in our history. I’m speaking, of course, about the recent election.

The results could not have spoken louder. The will of the people is clear. We now have hope for the future. You see, if California can ban gay marriage, everybody else should be able to as well.
I, for one, am glad. Who wants people of the same sex to get married? It’s wrong. It shouldn’t be allowed anywhere. It’s just…icky.

I’d have to look at their rainbow flags and ‘gay pride’ bumper stickers, and those little window stick-ons that say trite things like ‘hate is not a family value.’ It would suddenly be all around me.

They’d have gay pride parades and dress in drag while raking their leaves—all on my good old, American street, where my family has lived since my grandparents came to this country in the 20’s.

I’d be forced to live next to gay couples and watch them do their gay things in their gay bedrooms of sin, through the gay glass walls they’re sure to erect. And, yes, that pun was intended.

The next thing you know, should gay marriage actually be allowed in California, the law everywhere else would have to change, right? And then, it would require me to get divorced and find some queer to take as my…wife. And that’s just wrong.

Churches would be forced to perform these perverse ceremonies, these…these unions. Even churches that are anti-homo would be required to marry them inside their hallowed walls.
And since they’re all child molesters, I’d have to accompany my kids everywhere they go, just to make sure they don’t get accosted by some out of control homo, drunk on his newly-gained power.

I really don’t care that all they want—besides professing their alleged love—is a chance to give each other medical coverage, insurance protection, tax benefits and such. It’s not my fault if some pole smoker’s father can get his will invalidated after he dies (probably of AIDS—they all have it!) because he says his son’s gayness indicates he was “mentally ill” and therefore the will isn’t legal and he can take everything away from his partner. (Partner…eww…what a gross term.) I shouldn’t have to put up with a change in a law that will effect me, a straight-as-an-arrow, [insert-the-name-of-your-deity-here]-fearing [insert your whack-job ultra-right-wing religion here] so profoundly on an everyday basis.

I can’t believe a Reagan-Republican Governor like Arnold Schwarzenegger actually supports gay marriage—he likens it to allowing blacks and whites to marry. I know that’s supposed to be okay these days, but doggone it, something about that just rubs me the wrong way, too.
I particularly thank you for motivating all those decent, yet peculiar folks from Utah, whose church suddenly and officially abandoned its political neutrality for time and all eternity by encouraging them to meddle in the affairs of a neighboring state. Without them, gay marriage in California might have passed, and then, there in Provo and Salt Lake City, where would have they been? Up Gay Creek, that’s where!

I thank you for your bounty and your wisdom, and for the peace I have knowing that none of my children will ever grow up gay. I know that fact simply because we pray, and because gayness is a sickening, deviant choice that we would never even allow to enter their precious, fragile little minds. I know that parents who end up with gay kids—even if they express disapproval—will join them in hell one day, because it was probably some failure of theirs in the child-rearing process.

Good night, [insert the name of your deity here] Bless America, and Amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

I sit here wishing I could think more about the events of the night before I posted, but I feel a need to chronicle the moment as it happens--for my own personal record, as much as anything.

I saw at precisely 10:00 Central Standard Time the graphic on CNN's wall:


I felt like a great, giant weight had been lifted from my chest, like some great darkness passed from the sky, and the sun was finally able to warm my face again. And the tears came.

It was not so much a dislike of John McCain, but it was a fruition of hope; it was a realization of a belief. It was the promise of better days ahead. It was about leaving the last administration in the rear view mirror...quickly.

I saw the crowds cheering in Grant Park in Chicago, in New York City, in Los Angeles, in Atlanta, in Kenya, at the White House and other places around the country and around the world. And I thought to myself, when was the last time, if ever, crowds that large and diverse cheered anything besides a sports championship, let alone an elected official in America?

The crowds featured white Baby Boomers cheering, but were energized thoroughly by the younger set. It was beautiful to see so many younger people that excited about politics and government, likely for the first time ever. Whites and blacks, probably strangers, hugged and exchanged high fives. Jesse Jackson, whom I'm no fan of, who stood on that balcony in Memphis in 1968 as Martin Luther King was gunned down, wept. American flags--not Obama/Biden signs--waved by the thousands. A million people--a million people--are expected in Grant Park tonight.

And then I watched John McCain deliver his concession speech. He confirmed what many have said about him all along, and what I suspected as well: that there is no greater patriot alive. John McCain would have made a great president, of that I have no doubt. Sure, I didn't like his campaign, and I didn't like his running mate, but there can be no question as to the man's love for his country and his desire to do right by it. I hope President-elect Obama takes Senator McCain up on his offer to help in whatever capacity he's able. And I hope that McCain's supporters--not the fucking tools who booed when he mentioned Obama during his speech--and those who voted for him will echo his call to offer their hands as well. I thank John McCain for his service to his country and wish him well in the future, and I sincerely hope he continues to act as an advocate for honest, straight talk in government.

The next president is about to speak. I will wrap up for now.

Election Day

Wow. It's finally here. After all the campaigning, all the excitement on both sides, all the negativity, too--it's finally time to make our decision.

What a great day it is to be an American. We didn't invent this system, and other countries have followed suit, but you know what? We perfected it. Sure, there are flaws, but this is about as good as it gets.

Both candidates campaigned for change. I just hope either one can follow through. And I hope there's none of the vitriolic, bile-spewing hate that has surfaced among bar-stool voters on opposite sides of the fence that there was both times W was elected. I'm not just talking about the bumper stickers in 2004 that joked "Re-Elect Gore." I'm talking about the people who were saying things like "George W. Bush is not my president--I didn't vote for him." Guess what...he was, and still is for ten more weeks, your president. A president isn't just president of the people who voted for him, and he's not just president of only the people that agree with him. I didn't like W when he was handed the election over Gore, and I liked him even less when he beat Kerry. But he was my president.

It's easier for me to encourage people to accept the new president because it looks like the horse I'm backing is going to win, if you believe the polls. But if he doesn't, I'd like to think I can give the other guy a chance before I write him off. As I've written before, I believe they're both good, decent men who care deeply about this country and the need to do things differently. I just wish McCain hadn't listened to whomever he did while running his campaign--I think he would have done just as well, perhaps even better--if it weren't so negative. And I think our country would have been better for it.

One last note--did you see the ad the RNC started running last night? It really slammed Obama on Rev. Wright. Fine, that's a valid issue (I guess). But, my goodness--that was about the most horrifying ad I've ever seen. It hit on Obama and how his whole life he's associated himself with extremist radicals, and, oh my Gosh, he must be a closet radical, too. However, if you look at the subtext of the ad, it's not saying Obama is a radical. It's saying, "Don't vote for him--he's black!" If you think it's saying anything else, I'm sorry, but you need to look around for the turnip truck you just fell off of. That's the kind of bullshit I wish would disappear from politics. You see that kind of crap in local races all over the country (there's one in the Peoria area between Jehan Gordon and some other lady that's completely off the damn hook!), but that really should stay out of the national conversation. We're too good for that. I'm not saying there's no place for negative ads--hell, it wins elections--and I'm not saying Obama didn't run any negatives. But the Rev. Wright ad was shameful, especially on the eve of what will be such an historic day, regardless of who wins.