Monday, July 21, 2008

Why I've been away

Let me begin by saying that I've been totally neglecting this corner of the Internet that, if nothing else, is mine.

I wish I could say that I have been busy saving the world or inventing a cure for cancer (no, the two aren't even close to being the same thing). That, however, would be a lie.

It seems that my last few posts had even won be a following of about two people, but now that I've been silent for close to three months, they've probably gone away to read someone else's witty words. Sigh, I guess I'll have to try to interest someone else.

I'm well aware that you don't care what I've been doing, so I won't tell you directly. Instead, allow me to launch into a diatribe that's related to what I have been doing.

I hear lots of people bitch about how much their job sucks. And rightly so, there are a large numbers of shitty jobs out there that we just can't seem to import enough Mexicans to do.

I myself have held two or thee or six of those shitty jobs, and some of them I have been glad to have, if for no other reason than they allowed me to get drunk with co-workers and whine about how big an asshole the boss is.

Sometimes your boss is right their beside you with a pint in his or her hand and your complaints are directed at customers instead. This is usually the case when you work in retail or the "service" industry.

And yet, from another point of view it seems so childish. It's like complaining about how hard your classes are when you're in elementary school. Looking back, you may realize that what you're doing is really ridiculously easy and you should just get on with it and enjoy the parts that don't suck so horribly.

Now if there are any nuclear physicists or research chemists or structural engineers reading this, you may be thinking that your job IS hard. Well, fair enough, I wouldn't know and I'll allow that you're probably right. However, by taking a bit of a pay cut, you could have a shitty job doing insignificant work and get drunk more often.

Of course, all of this is a slap in the face of people who are currently unemployed. You never really realize how much you will miss your old job until you don't have it anymore. Getting a new job seems like it will be easy and quick, but then you spend a few months sifting through classified ads and realize that every job offering is looking for skills you don't have and even some creative resume work isn't going to help your situation.

You tell yourself things like "It's this economy" or "I just haven't discovered the right opportunity" but deep inside there is that little voice that says "You're a piece of shit and noone will hire you because your hair is too long and you smell like a donkey's taint." So you keep looking and all the while everything in your life seems like it's falling apart.

Then the day comes when you pass a guy on the sidewalk begging for change and realize that you're one bad arguement with your spouse or significant other away from being him.

Even in this day and age, a man is expected to be a capable provider, even if he isn't the only one in the family who is bringing home the bacon. So you even end up feeling like less of a man.

That's me these days. I'm bouncing around, picking up a temp job every few weeks. I barely make enough bother cashing the checks.

Anyway, I'll try to be back more often. It's not like I have shit else to do.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where did my McCain go?

There was once a vibrant and passionate politician who stood for something. He meticulously avoided shady dealings and always tried to do what he thought was right. People loved him for it, he was called a maverick and a straight-talker.

He stepped across party boundaries in an attempt to make the political process more balanced.

Nowadays you don’t hear much about that guy. Wait, did you think I was talking about Barack Obama? Obviously not since you can’t turn on a TV or radio without hearing his name.

I’m trying to figure out what the heck happened to John McCain.

Where once the American people loved his firey nature, they now seem to be chiding his temper. And while he once stood for fair election practices, he’s now caught up in a campaign financing debacle that seemed to threaten his whole campaign at one time.

It may be that this term is played out by now, but it really seems like McCain has sold out.

In 2000 it seemed like he offered a stark contrast to the Reagenesque spend and hope ideals of G. Bush Jr.

Now it seems as if his mesage is that he plans to continue the failed policies of that administration.

He talks about a gas tax holiday when what we really need to talk about is conservation–cutting back that is, not hugging trees.

This is a conservative who makes no bones about being pro-life while still supporting stem-cell research.

And maybe that’s the problem. While we love John McCain for his personal story as a war hero and independent man, we don’t necesarrily like his policies, or at least not all of them.

McCain is a politician for a group that really doesn’t exist. His political views are defined issue by issue rather than by a party line.

At the same time that we like that in a man, it’s political suicide. People like predictability and consistency, they like someone who, once they know where he stands on the Iraq War, they know where he’ll stand on immigration and gay marriage–two issues where McCain has repeatedly refused to toe the party line.

With John McCain it’s something of a crap shoot. He’ll make up his own mind and damned be the consequences.

At least, that used to be the image he put forward. Now it seems like that one thing we like about him–that he wanted to end corruption and fight insider politics–is gone as he court the same political figures that he spurned in 2000.

It seems that he’s lived to learn from his lesson in 2000. Being a “maverick” isn’t enough to win the presidency. He needs the support of those party insiders to bolster his war chest.

His drop from headlines is obviously hurting him. Though they haven’t gone after him with any vigor yet, Democratic candidates have made off hand comments and worked through proxy to tarnish the 70-year-old’s image without him being able to snipe back.

The real test seems to be coming up in the general election. Will McCain resort to what many journalists refer to as the “Karl Rove playbook,” or will he keep it above the board and make this about the issues that we all want to know about.

I really hope it’s the second choice, because I don’t know how much more jaded I can get without going all rigid and green.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A big shit sandwich, want a bite?

There are alot of angry people on the left side of the American political spectrum this week. In a democratic race that has been contested from Iowa all the way to Pennsylvania, the two leading candidates were all set to debate last week.

But where was the debate? Where was the information on the topics that we all want to hear about? The American public has a knot in it's collective stomach about the economy and the lending crisis, but instead the moderators asked questions about the goddamn Weather Underground, a mildly violent group from the 1960s.

We wanted to hear about how the Iraq quagmire might be resolved sooner rather than later, but the moderators felt that a few questions about a former first lady's trip to Tuzla was more important than a current war.

To tell the truth, the YouTube debates which were a mockery themselves probably had more political substance than that reeking pool of festered cat urine that saw two hours of air-time last week.

Ignoring the very idea that a moderator may have gotten one of his questions directly from right-wing mouthpiece Sean Hannity, it seems clear to me that they weren't at all interested in trying to advance the public knowledge of the candidates' stances on issues. Rather they decided to shoot for the Pulitzer prize for moderating by asking such zingers as "What's the deal with that flg pin (or lack thereof)?" and "Didn't your pastor once make an off-color comment?"

I'm generally surprised they didn't ask Mrs. Clinton about how her period affects campaign strategy, or who Obama's favorite rapper is.

This is it. This is what political discourse has come to. Not only are television ads worthless in determining any sort of information about a candidate (not a new development), but debates are lowest-common-denominator. The moderators may as well have farted into their mics and had the candidates rate the tone, timbre and smell.

I have yet to decide which is worse, the debate, or the hordes of right-wing flunkies who are falling over themselves to call out the candidates for failing to acceptably answer "hardball" questions.

Let me pose a hypothetical question: If you take a ball of wet manure, stick a rock in the middle of it and then wrap it in a filthy gym sock before throwing it, does that count as a hard or soft ball?

I really don't know if the moderators (Stephanopolous and Gibson) are stupid or just ridiculously out of touch with the American people. Maybe in some high Ivory tower, it matters a lot weather Obama has lunch with a man who had ties to a radical group fourty years ago. Did we forget that Ayers (the man in question) was pardoned? Or that his group never killed anyone, taking great pains to warn the occupants of the buildings they intended to blow up?

Clinton jumped all over Obama and said that the Weather Underground killed innocent people with their bombs. That's either a lie or a misrepresentation of facts depending on how you look at it. The only people who died were members of the group who accidentally touched off an explosion while manufacturing bombs. It would seem then that they were hardly innocent.

I don't care who you support. That debate was a big garbage sandwich that we shouldn't have to swallow it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Golden Rule

Having money is no excuse for being a jerk.

It doesn’t matter if you have nine dollars or nine million, you will be expected to maintain, at the very least, an air of civility toward your fellow man.

During a trip to my favorite pub I got to witness a person violating this particular ethos.

Let me set this up by saying that the place was packed. I was lucky enough to have a seat by the bar having gotten their early to watch the final four basketball games – I picked Kansas to win.

This person, Jackhole #1, comes up behind me and reaches his arm over my shoulder to hold up a five dollar bill like it’s a flag for the bartender.

He then turns back to talk to his pack of compatriots without even looking at the bar. The bartender serves about three other people drinks before coming to find what this guy wants.

After being asked for a drink order three times, the guy finally turns around and orders a beer and a mojito. I can only assume that the mojito was for a girl, and considering how busy the bar was it was a ridiculous request.

While it may seem silly that any drink would be off limits in a bar, a mojito requires a bar tender to crush spearmint and lime together and dissolve granulated sugar in the drink. At a busy bar, any pint pourer worth his salt could serve six other people in the time it takes to make this one drink.

But Jackhole #1 wasn’t finished. He proceeded to give a five minute lecture to the tender about how he shouldn’t make regular customers weight.

I’m in that bar fairly often and have never seen this guy or any of his posse ever before.

Now, knowing the bartender, I’m surprised he didn’t just tear the guy’s money in half and hand it back to him.

Instead he very politely informed Jackhole #1 that there was no mint for the mojito, but he could make one with just lime.

Jackhole accepts this by grunting and nodding.

About 60 seconds later the bartender is back with the drinks and quotes the price as $7. Jackhole lays down his fiver and picks up the drinks to walk away.

What followed is what I can only describe as an escalating scene in which Jackhole #1 refused to pay full price for the mojito because of the flaw which he had accepted before it was made. In the meantime Jackholes #2-6 had joined in to loudly throw some very rude names across the bar.

I’d like to remind all the readers out there that this entire exchange was taking place over my head. I don’t like to eavesdrop, but when people have to literally converse around you it’s hard not to hear.

Eventually the manager came down and gave the group two options. Pay up or leave.

As the crew of complainers filed out the door, leaving the two half-consumed drinks behind, a smattering of applause went up from the crowd.

I shot a quizzical look at the owner who shrugged and pointed to a sign on the wall. It read: “Everyone who comes in here makes us smile. Some when they enter, others when they leave.

I ordered another beer and toasted the tender who was kind enough to pour it for me.

As an amusing side note, Jackhole #1 never bothered to pick up his five dollars before leaving. When this was pointed out to the bar tenders it was dropped into the tip jar.

I guess five dollars is a fair price for half of two drinks and alot of grief.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie quote Meme.

I've decided that I'm going to steal my friend James' meme, which he took from Paul Clark. Paul's list was really hard, James' was slightly easier, mine will probably be a cake walk for just about anyone.

Here's da rules.

1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess (use the comments, if you please).
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and post the answer along with who guessed it.
5. No Googling or using IMDb search functions. You're on your honor.
6. One movie guess at a time. Give people a chance to guess before you steal all of the glory

1) What kind of place is this? It's beautiful: Pigeons fly, women fall from the sky! I'm moving here! I think Paul C. is the only one still playing, but he recognized this quote as coming from what is possibly my favorite movie out there "Life is Beautiful." As he pointed out, this one is tough because the movie is in Italian with subtitles, so you don't actually hear what the characters say.

2)You Samoans are all the same. You have no faith in the essential decency of the white man's culture. Alex Power recognized this quote from 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Raoul Duke (Jonny Depp) often calls Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) a samoan, however, his country of origin is never revealed for certain.

3)Well that's just great. Either I have a monster in my kitchen or I'm completely crazy. Bonnie got this one just as I expected her to. It's from Dana Barret (Sigourney Weaver) in the first Ghostbusters. Spoken to Venkman (Bill Murray) as he checks out her apartment.

4)Yes, you can help me... Forget you ever knew me, and never come back here again. I never thought that this one would get people. It's from Gladiator, Maximus Desmus Meridius (Russel Crow) to be specific. I picked a quote that was a little bit obscure, but with esoteric titles like 5 and 6 I thought for sure this one would be snapped up before the rest.

5)The day I make someone sane, they're in trouble! Even though he claims to have never seen it, Paul C. got the hint and guessed "What the @#%# do we know?"

6)I'm not saying that you don't know what you're talking about, but I don't know what you're talking about. Paul C. got another one that I expected to be tough by identifying this quote from a pinball player in "Waking Life." He says it's one of his favorites and I agree. Also a good date movie assuming the girl (or guy) you're with isn't an airhead.

7)I've always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That's just my style. Paul C. knows that this line came from the titular character Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman). He even knew the line that follows it (see the comments). Well done Paul.

8)There is a time for daring and a time for caution, and a wise man knows which is called for. From Dead Poet's society, from the mouth of John Keating (Robin Williams).

9)I've SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener". James nailed this quote. It's kind of a gimme for him since he used the same movie in his version of this game. The line is from a very fast speech by Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary) in Demolition Man.

10)We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch. This one was from a relatively minor 2002 release called "Dog Soldiers" featuring a bunch of brits noone had heard from before or since. There were a number of really hilarious lines, but I really liked this one.

There's only one or two of these that I expect will be a bit tough to place. Have at it folks (all two of you), post answers in the comments section.

That's four down with six to go, I expect 1, 10 and perhap 6 to be the tough ones. A new post will be going up this week on the subject of underage drinking once I've found a way to make it a little bit more funny.

I suppose it's about time to offer some hints on the quotes that are left.

#4 is a movie that won five oscars and had some really kicking fight scenes.
#5 is a science type movie with a bleeped out word in the title
#6 is said by a character who is a teacher
#10 is from a movie that involves werewolves which caught some flak for not using CGI in its special effects

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Keeping the 'big issue' trend alive I go after Global Warming

Here we are in late March and outside my window snow is drifting down to lay in heavy piles.

A week ago I heard the local meteorologist describe the conditions outside as an “unrelenting winter.”

Even the groundhog went along with it and predicted six extra weeks of cold and white.

While the words “global warming” are on the lips of every politician and half of all environmental scientists, why is it that it’s taking so long here?

After a recent column I wrote espousing the tentative nature of arguments for and against gun control, I received a letter which asked about my take on other big issues such as global warming and ethanol.

I’ll leave ethanol for another time, as global warming is something that is on my mind right now in light of the cooling I continue to see outside.

That having been said, I don’t think that any snowstorm or hard winter is evidence which contradicts global warming theories.

Anecdotal evidence about how hard a winter has been is a local focus, while global warming is on a planet wide scale.

I’ve reviewed a lot of published work on the warming of the globe, but I have yet to find anything that has convinced me that the world is in a crisis.

About four years ago while I was studying at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis I took a course in geology to satisfy a science requirement.

The professor was a wise old man with a thick Indian accent and if you could learn to hear what he was saying he was a wellspring of information.

What it boils down to, in the end, is learning to think on a geological time scale.

First and foremost your have to understand that the earth is about 4.6 billion years old. I don’t have to tell you that that’s a lot. Now, life on earth didn’t start until circa 3.5 or 2.8 billion years ago.

Our early human ancestor’s Homo Erectus don’t show up on the timeline until 1.6 million years ago.

To put all of this in perspective, if the timeline of earth were the Empire State Building, human development and civilization would be a postage stamp at the top of the spire.

So that’s a lot of time and changes to this big ball of rock to make it to the point that we are at today. In all of that time two simple things have been happening.

The climate has been changing all the time. It periodically goes up and then back down. The reasons for this are subtle and complex, and best left to scientists with a solid background in ancient egyptian algebra.

The second thing that has been happening is that species have evolved to survive in one kind of world, only to have it change around them. They either die out or adapt to the new conditions.

Climate change obviously plays a large part in the roll of species survival. One of the competing theories for the great mystery of what killed all the dinosaurs is that massive climate change (cooling in this case) made the earth uninhabitable to giant lizards.

What I’m trying to say is that I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the climate of the earth is changing. There is good evidence to suggest that the earth is in the midst of a warming period.

I am much more skeptical of the connection drawn between the actions of mankind and global climate change.

Yes, the earth is warming, is that so bad?

There are two things that might happen. First, the trend reverses and scientists are suddenly scrambling for preventative measures to prevent global cooling. Second, it continues and there is a massive species die-off which wipes out all or most of the human race.

You’ll notice that even the second option didn’t involve the destruction of the planet. That’s because earth is more resilient than we sometimes give her credit for.

Whatever happens to us as a species, the world will go on turning until cockroaches achieve sentience, at which point global climate change will be debated by the new insect lords of earth.

More likely, a lot of people will someday die many will migrate toward the poles, Florida and Arizona will no longer be choice retirement destinations and the Canadian economy will boom.

There are a lot, possibly too many, people out there who want to tell you that “green” living is the way to save the planet.

If we only drove 20 fewer miles per day or washed our clothes with chlorine free detergent or bought only organic food then the warming trend is supposed to magically reverse itself.

Now, some of the “green” initiatives may have value, but I don’t think that they’re about to solve global warming one SUV at a time.

Burning less fossil fuels for example makes perfect sense, the pollutants that are put out by cars impact the environment in ways that can be directly seen. How many people remember what a fiasco leaded gas cause years ago?

Things like using less water or gas or almost anything are not only good for the environment, but for our wallets. Who doesn’t want to see a heating bill that is $30 to $40 less?

Global warming may be real, but it is far from the “crisis” that some would make it out to be.

I would put it about on par with the “crisis” that was the bird flu or west nile epidemics that keeps failing to materialize. Yes, it might kill you, but its more likely that you’ll be really worried about a slight cough until it goes away in a few days.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Humans are the animals that stress about stress

I often wonder if humans would be better off living simpler lives. Not just the kind of simple life we would lead if we had never invented television or the combustion engine, but rather the kind without medicine or the wheel.

What would it be like if we accepted that people have to die, and stopped using every little microbe as a method of staving of the inevitable encroachment of the Grim Reaper.

What would things be like if we had just our own two feet to get around.

I’ve spent some time at zoos watching monkeys play around, and they seem perfectly content even in a cage.

They also like to throw feces, but different strokes for different species, right?

There are some great things about being a monkey, you get a healthy mostly fruit diet, no one tells you where you can and can’t poop and your friends are only too willing to help you out when you’re infested with nits.

Somehow, I feel like monkeys have less stress than us sapiens. They don’t have jobs, marriages or mortgages. They can almost always find a babysitter even at the last minute.

I’ll bet that there isn’t a single monkey (other than those used to test medication) that has ever developed an ulcer.

I read a study about warring factions of chimps in the wild once, but that’s nothing compared to humans.

The very tool using skills that set us apart from our primate bretheren are our downfall as we constantly turn our genius against each other.

Even when our brains aren’t working to develop more deadly methods of species suicide, we’re developing deadly means of amusement.

Car racing, bungee jumping and lawn darts come immediately to mind, to say nothing of drugs or pretty much anything stamped with ‘product of China.’

Yet another bonus that is readily apparent anytime a person turns on the TV during an election year is that animals do not have politics, and hence no politicians.

In the animal kingdom there are leaders who survive based on their relative merits, and keep position only as long as they can remain fit and strong.

We humans who dwell in the region known as the United States like to pretend we have a similar system, but even when things start to fail, our elected officials continue along with a 70 percent incumbency rate.

Animals also don’t have to worry about the trading of money for goods and services. Life is simple for them. Find food or starve. Find water or dehydrate and die.

As the average life expectancy pushes its way past the 70 year mark, why does no one seem to be asking the fundamental question of ‘how long is long enough?’

In the quick scurry I’ve made though the first couple decades of my life, I haven’t really found a lot of things that make me think 10 extra years are worth a lot of joint pain, daily medication rituals and expensive surgery.

Of course you might be in a different position right now, and I could be as well by the time I reach 60 years old.

It seems sometimes that we really do believe that life is all about buying a bigger house or getting that next $300 bonus from work.

What is life about you ask?

I don’t really know, but I like to think it’s about finding the answer to that question.