Pops' Bucket
Sunday, October 31, 2004
...And I'm Spent
We bought 5 bags of candy in preparation for the night. Combination of light turnout for our dark little corner of the cul-de-sac and extraordinary activity by my two oldest boys in their collection efforts, I think we have actually came away with a net gain in household candy stores on the night.

Quite a feat.

Here's something: if you throw away the wrappers as you go there is no way humanly possible to track the number of snack-size Twix bars you eat. Could be 2, could be 115. Who's to say?

The long slow march toward type-2 diabetes has begun.

If we consider the sugar-intake-spike plus the fact that my kid has to do a presentation tomorrow morning... I've developed a case of the shakes.

Trying to sleep should be fun.

Goddamn time change doesn't help either.


Saturday, October 30, 2004
I'm The Real Slim Shady And I Approved This Message
My Sunday is going to be full, so I'm posting on a Saturday. Just a few more between now and Election Day and I thought it would negligent of me to send you, my loyal readers, out to the polls without as much of my guidance as possible. You are welcome.

With news breaking all over the place and things changing on a minute-by-minute basis, I thought it would be helpful to stop for a second and examine the news cycle as it is with one question:

Which new video will be more relevant on Tuesday, Osama bin Laden's or Eminem's?

One is a series of outrageous boasts and distortions by a petty thug drunk on his own overblown sense of self-importance. The other is by Osama bin Laden.

For comparison purposes, here's a link to the lyrics of Eminem's "Mosh". Feel free to check my work.

Which one will have more of a direct outcome on the results Tuesday? Let's go to the video tape!

Eminem says: "I give sight to the blind my insight through the mind/I exercise my right to express when I feel it's time/It's just all in your mind, what you interpret it as/I say to fight, you take it as I'mma whip someone's ass."

Bellicose and bragadocious.

Osama bin Laden says: "We fought with you because we are free, and we don't put up with transgressions. We want to reclaim our nation. As you spoil our security, we will do so to you."

This is a tough call. Bin Laden organized horrific deaths in the thousands to back up his words while the best Eminem can say is that he pulled a gun on a guy once in a parking lot and didn't even fire it. So when it comes to believing what they say, I'm tempted to give this one to Osama. But the Happy Sheik makes no effort to rhyme at all and thus loses on style-points. Maybe it sounds better in Arabic or maybe with a drum-and-bass beat behind it, but that's mere speculation and we're dealing with facts here.

Point to Eminem, 1-0.

Eminem says: "No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil/No more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal/If we don't serve our own country, we're patronizing a hero/Look in his eyes its all lies."

Bin Laden says: "But after the injustice was so much and we saw transgressions and the coalition between Americans and the Israelis against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it occurred to my mind that we deal with the towers. And these special events that directly and personally affected me go back to 1982 and what happened when America gave permission for Israel to invade Lebanon... And as I was looking at those towers that were destroyed in Lebanon, it occurred to me that we have to punish the transgressor with the same."

Osama is trying to sway us with his personal story, an old politician's trick used most recently by John Edwards and all his "son of a mill worker" stuff he drones on and on about. Bin Laden does get marks in his favor for revealing something experts in the highest levels of US intelligence have been wondering about--why the WTC specifically? It reminds me of that scene toward the end of Working Girl where Melanie Griffith is able to reconstruct her idea for getting Trask into radio, leaving that bitch Sigourney Weaver out to dry. Very inspiring and she got to run off with Harrison Ford. Bin Laden's position on Harrison Ford, alas, he leaves purposely obscure.

But again, Eminem is one step ahead. He gets the basic geopolitical question ("blood for oil") while Osama gets bogged down in details. Plus, that song is bumpin'.

Point to Eminem, 2-0.

I think I can see the writing on the wall, but let's press on, shall we?

Production value: Eminem's got light-shaded computer generated characters in black hooded sweatshirts marching in time to his music against a 3D CGI backdrop. Bin Laden... Isn't this guy supposed to be a multi-millionaire? Spring for a set designer, my God. One static camera pointed at a guy behind a desk who is dressed like he just got out of the shower. I kept waiting for him to throw it over to Carl with the Local Sports Report. Very poorly done.

Point to Eminem, 3-0.

Overall Rhetoric and Tone: Bin Laden goes for sarcastic mockery, bringing up points of cronyism, nepotism and the influence of the military-industrial complex. He's clearly seen Fahrenheit 9/11. The cumulative metaphorical message is "Fuck Bush!"

Eminem actually says "Fuck Bush!"

Again, Point to Eminem, 4-0.

Look, this is going really badly for Osama bin Laden. I was going to leave the decision up to the only democratic institution qualified to judge between the two--of course I'm talking about MTV's "TRL". But they don't even have bin Laden's new video as an option to vote for, while Eminem's is clearly featured.

The people have spoken.

I think bin Laden's work has really gone down hill. I remember his early videos. They were so dark, full of mystery and danger... visionary really. Gone are the dirt-floor huts, the AK-47s, the fawning sycophants, the backdrop of rugged mujahadeen-friendly terrain, the bikini-clad hotties hanging out the sunroof of a Bentley. Sure, sometimes it was hard to tell an OBL video from an SUV ad, but once the man started talking, you knew exactly where you stood. Blood in the streets, innumerable dead, unnumbered tears, etc. Almost incendiary in their artistic integrity.

Now, we know know how Mr. Mathers is going to vote, but what about Osama? He sounds all anti-Bush, but right at the end he says:

"Your security is not in the hands of [Democratic presidential nominee John] Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked."

What the hell is that? Has he gone all Undecided Voter on us suddenly? But then I thought ah, no. I see you working, Osama. Crazy like a jihadist fox you are.

Osama bin Laden says: Vote Nader.

In the interest of equal time, I give the last word to Mr. Shady:

"Someone's tryina tell us something,/Maybe this is god just sayin' we're responsible/For this monster, this coward,That we have empowered/This is Bin Laden, look at his head noddin'/How could we allow something like this without pumping our fists/Now this is our final hour."

I can't say it necessarily inspires me to rise up unless, perhaps, for the purposes of subsequently shaking my ass. I can be moved in that respect.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.8


Friday, October 29, 2004
Not Quite So. Less Than, In Fact. OK, The Exact Opposite.
I think maybe the worst movie ever is Perfect starring Jamie Lee Curtis and John Travolta from 1985.

Sure, I get a little bit of joy from the irony of the title, but other than that, it has almost nothing to offer at all.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I know there are movies that are far, far worse from a technical standpoint. But to be the worst movie ever really requires something more than mere failure or the lack of a budget. Something about it has to be transcendently offensive on both a high-art and basic human experience levels. I mean really stomach turning like sun-dried tomatoes or guacamole or David Schwimmer.

Many people when asked will say the worst movie ever was Plan 9 From Outer Space by the late Ed Wood, but really, that's just piling on. That movie never had anything going for it. It was made by an incompetent with no budget. It is what it is and it is so honestly. Don't get me wrong, it's still unwatchable, but what else could anyone expect?

Also, to be fair, I've never seen all of Perfect in one sitting. I see parts of it on HBO 7 from time to time in the breaks between the nightly soft-core Skinemax featurettes. I can say with confidence, though, that I have seen more than enough of it to judge.

It's most egregious crime is that it's a fad movie that either a) doesn't realize it's a fad movie or b) and this I think is more likely--is actively trying to make a fad movie that "says something".

Trying to outgrow it's concept is offensive to really good fad movies. The BMX fad movie Rad was really really terrible, but man if you loves your BMX, it gave you exactly what you were looking for. It had a lead character named "Cru" with a Chachi haircut and Adrian Balboa in a rare non-Rocky non-Godfather appearance. It was designed to suck.

Or consider the ultimate examples, break dancing fad movies Breakin' and it's notable, acclaimed sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Turbo and Ozone (shout out to Shabba Doo!) use break dancing to save the community center (probably... it's been a while). Also there was a white girl. I still can't for the life of me figure out why, but there she was. Full diet of poppin' and lockin', although the dialogue might have been a little... um... light.

The point is these films knew their places. Their awful, criminal places in the ranks of all-time film greatness.

Perfect is about the aerobicizing, leg-warmer-and-leotard-with-headband-wearing gym craze of the early-mid 1980s that made Jane Fonda extremely wealthy thus denying the world the Barbarella sequel it still so desperately needs.

First rate production values with (what was then) an A-list cast. For a fad movie. Add to that totured dialogue filled with endless self-contradictory pseudo-philosophizing about the dramatic and lasting cultural imporance of rich fat ladies all doing jumping jacks at the same time to pop music. And most of these words spoken by John Travolta, whose fame on any level as an actor has and always will perplex me to no end.

It tries to take the shallowest of baby boomer fad-lettes and pretend it has deep social and historical resonance. At one point, Travolta talks alot about Emerson and parallels the fitness fad with spiritual revival movements of previous centuries. Never mind that what they're actually discussing is the absolute triumph of corporate mass media (JLC's club is a corporate chain) mixed with no small part of advertising-induced and supported body shame and image construction that no amount of gym-going could ever satisfy or assuage for a wide majority of the population.

Yes, I think I remember Emerson saying: "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. But three more reps on the ThighMaster and you could probably squeeze your fat ass into a fly pair of Jordache."*

Also there was some kind of political corruption scandal thing in the plot somewhere, but if I keep talking about this movie my soul will die for lack of nourishment.

Trying to be even handed, I'll think of something that was positive. Er... oh yeah! It featured Jamie Lee Curtis, who is crazy crazy hot. I know it's sexist and probably more enlightening of me rather than the awful, awful movie. But there is some cosmic justice to the fact that she is married to ordinary-looking genius comedy hermit Christopher Guest.

Not really a positive in terms of the movie, but it does let us know there is goodness and light, however small the spark, in a black, hopeless universe that produces movies like this one.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.1


*= my eternal apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson and all his descendents for that last line.

Thursday, October 28, 2004
One Door Closes, Another One Also Closes
Briefly, I'd like to offer my congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans. I don't want to get into alot of baseball, but I would like to point out that now without their kooky "curse" to define them, now they're just a big-ass baseball team with the second highest payroll in the Major Leagues behind the Yankees. Teams that win are infinitely less loveable.

I also think between the number of really really old people holding on to life exclusively to see the Red Sox win compared to the number of children conceived last night (really, if you couldn't get laid in Boston last night you should seriously consider whether or not you're cut out for all this "sex" business at all), I think the birth-death index in New England should come out a flat line. Good news for funeral directors and OB/GYNs.

One last thing: The FOX Network insisted on labeling cut-away shots of US troops watching the game in Iraq as "Multi-National Force" in the graphic they used. It looked like all Americans but I bet there was one Polish guy in the back somewhere trying to figure out why these Americans are getting so excited about a cricket match and, not related to that, why they won't let him leave.

So to John Kerry from Rupert Murdoch on Almost Election Eve: A big hearty "Fuck you!" I commend you on the subtlety of your dig, Rupe. Subtlety not really being your forté, I'd say you pulled it off well. Kudos to you, sir.

Speaking of things that are spirit-witheringly depressing...

In an unprecedented bending of time and space that should be impossible under all known laws of physics, the good people of Florida have already completely screwed up the 2004 presidential election. And it's still five days away!

Thousands and thousands of absentee ballots just vanish. Great. I guess we shouldn't worry, though. The US Postal Service is on the case. If there's any body known for it's thoroughness, care and profession expediency, it's the US Postal Service. Should be sorted out in no time.

I'm calling right now for a government sponsored cost-benefit analysis. What would the difference be between letting Florida participate in the election and the resulatant aftermath vs. hiring a couple of hundred bulldozers and earthmovers to dig a trench along the south borders of Georgia and Alabama and just cut Florida loose altogether?

Of course that's probably unfair. We should really give other states a chance to fuck this thing up as royally as Florida did. Looking at poll numbers, I'd say there are 4 or 5 potential Sites of Democracy's Complete Discreditation this year.

As we speak there are a multitude of efforts in several key states to actively suppress the vote by political operatives. If the media is to be believed, there are all sorts of political operations designed to affect voter turnout in one party's favor or the other, some of them legal and legitimate, some of them Republican.

In terms of failed-states, the favorite this year (besides Florida... remember, to become the champ you have to beat the champ) is Ohio where the man who "oversees the elections process" as well as "investigates election frauds and irregularities" as part of his official job description is J. Kenneth Blackwell, Secretary of State. He is (coincidentally) also Bush-Cheney '04 State Campaign Associate Chair. The conflict of interest alone is enough to give Floridians a faint glimmer of hope.

If the Red Sox could do it after 86 years, nothing is impossible. It's OK, Florida, dare to dream. It just may be possible that some other state will have to be America's Drunk Uncle for the next four years and we'll stop ignoring you at family gatherings and saying vicious, hateful things behind your back.

Well, the first one anyway. Come on, you can't get off completely scot-free. You're still responsible for Joe Scarborough.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.0


Wednesday, October 27, 2004
That Dude From The Matrix Has Nothing On Mrs. Pops
Nobody dodges bullets (in super-slo-mo bullet-time!) like my wife. She came home early yesterday because of our parent-teacher whatsit thingy we had to do. While home she checked her e-mail. Her manager said he'd received an e-mail from a VP telling him that my wife's group would not be affected by the layoffs.

The breath I've been holding for a week I was finally able to exhale.

I'm not sure how many rounds of layoffs we've survived now, but it has to be approaching double digits. If you ask Mrs. Pops it's all luck, but I think she must be doing something (or someone which would bother me alot more if I didn't know how much money she made... not spectacular, but enough) right.

Having dodged these bullets though (although I'll be alot more comfortable after the layoffs end completely and we know for sure), the news that they're discontinuing the lines of products my wife works on tells me it's only a matter of time before They (we all know "They", don't we?) reload. Best not to dwell on that.

So we've survived. The Bucket, though dented somewhat emotionally spent (as buckets go), remains upright and teeming with the same festering brown composted goo that fertilizes my sickly little thoughts and turns them into full-blown rambles. Bad luck for my close personal friend MPH, but seeing as this is the third time I've linked his blog in the last week, there's really nothing more I could do short of dropping dead and willing readers to him.

But as usual on this blog here, let's turn the discussion back to me (damn limelight hogging Mrs. Pops and her fancy layoff talk!), shall we?

We shall.

That said, I am going to do something unprecedented: I'm going to re-post a comment I received. This is from my new BFF Alison.

"Just so you know, Pops, I cited your blog yesterday in English class. I'm a classmate/friend of TooFrumpyfortheTeenagePopulation (I'm the Vegan Hippie, if you read any of the blogs she links to) and we were reading Joan Didion's "Los Angeles Notebook," which is a brief essay on the Santa Ana winds (and the foehn winds, and the hamsin winds, and the sirocco winds) and their effects on human behavior. It was a weather phenomenon that most of the class had never heard of, so Diana and I asked permission to read your September 22nd post "The Curse of Santa Anna" aloud to the class, minus one word. We also encouraged folks to read "Vegetative State" for further information on the Californian climate/flora.

So now your work has been studied in a high school English class. Sort of.

P.S. Good luck with the layoff situation. I hope your wife keeps her job."

I have no idea how to take this. The first, most obvious impression is that we've finally, at long last, reached the end of American education as we know it.

My second reaction was to say something snarky and disparaging about both vegans and hippies. It's a dark, ugly, deeply-ingrained reflex and took a great deal of sweat and effort to suppress. It has nothing to do with Alison personally. The fact that I have thus far been able to restrain myself speaks volumes about the level of good feelings I have toward Alison.

Reaction number three is that this is a complete vindication for the entire existence of blogs and their subsequent abuse by the lazy and the self-absorbed. It used to be that the prerequesites for having your work discussed (in any form) in high school English classes were that you had to be 1) coherent, 2) dead (not really a prerequisite, but it helps), 3) and this is the most important part--published in any sort of printed form.

By putting this ridiculous thing out for a mere three months I have skipped over all the messy nonsense of having my work having judged by any objective standard over time. Instead I have made a single leap into the realm of Shakespeare and Keats and Wordsworth and all the other boring shit they made us read in high school.

Dickens. Steinbeck. Pops.

Forget the transcendent and the sublime. High school English classes could do with more first-draft amateur political invective, recycled pop-culture refernces and jokes about palm trees and Vietnamese hookers.

For all the people out there in the world who said America would bring about the downfall of all high culture as we know it, let me be the first to say: You were right.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9


PS: Silliness aside, thanks to Alison. Quite flattered, me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
I'm Mr. Bright-side
Tuesdays are generally dull, according-to-script days, exactly the kinds of days I revel in. People generally tend to leave me alone and the day more or less takes care of itself. The biggest deal on a Tuesday is generally the publishing of a new edition of the Onion (last week's top headline was "U.S. Finishes A 'Strong Second' In Iraq War", which is still funny one week on).

But oh no, not this Tuesday. This Tuesday is a swirling torrent of unresolved/unresolvable shit all at once. For my high school and college age readers, I admit you have more melodrama on a day to day basis. As you are tossed into actual real life afterward, much of the melodrama subsides and is revealed as hopelessly shallow and insignificant (this revelation can only be achieved in hindsight, sorry). Your life becomes a long series of More Of The Same which is either fantastic (if The Same is good, as mine is) or Excruciating (if you're a Sad Miserable Bastard).

Either way you will from time to time encounter a cluster of events to navigate every once in a while just to keep you alert. I heard someone describe a soldier's life once as (I'm paraphrasing) hours and hours of sheer boredom punctuated by moments of terror and panic.

That sounds about right.

The minefield:

1. Layoffs are coming at Mrs. Pops' work. This is a company that has never turned a profit since being spun off, just to give you an idea the kind of financial geniuses we're dealing with. Layoffs start today and will end by Friday. Why they can't get it all done in less time just goes to show you that corporate America, usually described as coldly, ruthlessly bureaucratic, does have a sense of humor. A cruel, sadistic sense of humor.

So we twist in the wind for a few days. The really great news was that the entire product line my wife has just transferred over to work on is being cancelled. As in cancelled. We don't know if that means they're going to kill it all immediately or they will finish up the products already in development and simply suspend all future endeavors. If it's the latter she might have work in this area for the next 12-18 months. If not... um... it was nice knowin' y'all.

She's taking Friday off for a function at my kid's school, so we should know by Thursday. Ideally. It's 9 am on Tuesday and I haven't heard anything yet, so so far so good.

2. Speaking of school, we have our first ever parent-teacher conference this afternoon. I'm concerned by the possibility that my child may be the devil. They send weekly status reports, very short numerical reports in a series of categories. Last week he got a drop of one point and a little tiny note in the Plays Well With Others box. The note said "kicking".

And that was all. Kicking. The mind reels. Is he indiscriminately kicking other kids? Kicking holes in walls and/or furniture? Kicking holes in other kids? No, if it were the last one I'm sure I would have heard more about it by now. Probably on the news.

A tangential point related to this is the realization that I am officially, at the tender age of 30, past it. I can no longer pass myself as young. Not only have I slipped completely out of the 18-25 demographic to the point that I can no longer even see it in my rear-view mirror, but now I'm the type of a person who goes to parent-teacher meetings. I'm (and it sickens me to say this) a member of the community. The only consolation I take is in knowing that I am not a respected member of the community. I am confident that once the community gets to know me I can put off "respected" almost indefinitely. That's the sort of thing they put in obituaries.

3. Lastly for today, it is exactly one week to the day until Election 2004.

Aaaaaand... cue bin Laden!

We have the option of voting early out here and probably will do today. I was totally going to vote for Bush until this whole 400 tons of missing explosives thing. Well, that and the fact that he is arguably the worst president in the last 75 years, if not the history of the United States. That kind of dampened my enthusiasm for the man.

The good news is after the election, we'll have the equivalent of four or five Florida 2000s to keep us all in good blog material for months and months to come.

Well, the rest of you will anyway. Me, I'm probably going to have to get a job or something in order to pay for the extra expense of internet access. Apparently there are people who actually have to pay for this stuff. The time I spend working (important stuff... french fries do not make themselves, people) will, of course, cut into my blog time so I'll have internet access, but no time to write anything. O Cruel Irony!

If this is my last post, I leave you all in the capable, freakishly large hands of my close personal friend MPH. Sure he's funnier than me, but you'll have to do with posts that are concise and easy to follow and without the paragraphs and paragraphs of wasted set-up material.

Do the best you can.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.8


Monday, October 25, 2004
God Says Quite Clearly That You Should... Um... Er... We'll Have To Get Back To You On That
I go to church every week. It's not so much the devotion as we've already paid for my kid's Sunday school classes through May and we'd hate to see the money go to waste.

For those who aren't up to speed on the form of the Catholic Mass, it goes like this:

1. Stand up. Singing singing as priest enters. Mumble prayers in unison and on cue en masse.

2. Sit. Scripture reading. Very important: do not fall asleep. Someone is bound to notice.

3. Stand. Gospel reading. That Jesus was one witty bastard.

4. Sit. Homily. Some sort of clever weaving together of the Gospel with earlier readings that you did not sleep through. Probably also some underlying message about how I am a worthless human being, but God loves me anyway.

5. Stand. Mumble more prayers. More singing. Kneel. Very serious non-sleeping. Stand. More singing, make awkward contact with people around you. Get snack (same crackers every week). Leave.

The only variable is the Homily. This is as it should be since the point is to bring across 2,000 years worth of storied ritual with deep meaning stretching all the way back to the beginnings of mankind. Not Mankind the Wrestler either, I mean the actual human race.

As you may or may not know, it is not easy for the Catholic Church in America to draw young, unmarried men to forswear Budweiser and naked chicks in favor of cheap wine and buggery.

Whoops, pretend I didn't say that. No buggery. We cleared that all up. The wine they use is pretty cheap, though.

This, I think, is the primary root of the church's opposition to contraception, the idea being the more kids you have, the more likely you would be to force one into the priesthood instead of, say, paying for them to go to college or having them live with you indefinitely until the lazy bastard "finds his way". With 1-3 kids these days--as opposed to the 12 my grandparents had--the urge to force someone to consider giving themselves to Christ isn't quite so pressing.

The answer for the Church has been to recruit from around the world, bringing new priests out of all manner of overpopulated (coincidence?) Third World countries to tend to the American flock. I've been mystified by homilies delivered in incomprehensible accents from Nigeria, the Philippines, nearly every Latin American nation, Haiti and--most commonly--Ireland.

The Irish priests tend to be older, staunchly conservative and still bitter about being the eighth of nine children, having been made to watch their older siblings go on to fabulous secular careers as Assistant Dung Separators or Pub Stool Occupiers while they were stuck with Jesus, some dusty books and handsy seminary teachers.

Over the last few weeks, all the talk in the homilies (it all strings together, I swear) has been of politics and voting.

We do have one young American priest in our parish. Priests alternate which Masses they work, so two weeks ago we got the young American and last week it was the Bitter Old Irishman. A sampling of the differences:

1. Young American Priest: It is against the law for us to tell you whom to vote for specifically. The church has strong positions on a range of issues. Just because we voice certain opinions louder than others doesn't mean you should weigh that one issue more heavily than others. You have to make decisions based on the whole record of a candidate, not just his or her stance on one single issue. To do otherwise is a violation of the Godly exhortation to be a good, responsible citizen which is part and parcel of exemplary moral conduct.

2. Old Irish Priest: Election... stem-cells... frozen embryos... Abortion! Abortion abortion abortion abortion. Abortion abortion abortion. And don't forget about abortion. There are 8 billion abortions every second in America. If you make a vote one particular way, this will immediately stop. Abortion abortion. Abortion. Oh yes, don't forget abortion.

So you see, even week to week in one parish, there is more than one face of the Catholic church.

Oh yes, there was a really, really good segment on Hardball about this issue last week. I can't remember the day it was so I don't have the link to the transcript, but it was basically Catholic Chris Matthews trying to figure out how you enforce an abortion ban legally should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned and basically coming away with no viable answer at all. It's something "pro-life" people (and I think Chris basically would fall into that camp) never talk about.

It was probably fascinating in its entirety, but the commercial over on FOX ended and baseball came back, so I had to bail out on the end of it. Priorities.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.7


Sunday, October 24, 2004
This Post Has Nothing To Do With Vietnamese Hookers
For the all-encompassing, depthless, hopeless narcissist who has already given in to the temptation of blogging, Sitemeter is the tool for you. Nothing fills your empty time like obsessing over original visits and page-views on an hourly/daily/weekly/monthly/etc. basis.

My favorite part of Sitemeter (after the ego stroke, of course) is the By Referrals part where you can see where people are coming from. I think that's what it tells you. If it's not, disregard the rest of this.

Most of these are blog addresses, which makes sense and is fine, allowing me to reciprocate contact, but the really fun ones are the Google, Yahoo! or any other kind of engine search that randomly turns up Pops' Bucket.

You never know who might accidentally wander in looking for something else entirely.

Nosing through my latest collection of unfortunate wandering souls, I was only slightly disturbed when I found this link amongst the Referrals page.

I didn't come up until #51 on the list of site matches, but still, anytime someone associates you with Vietnamese Hookers it's a big day for your blog.

I realize that I just associated my blog yet again with that word. Maybe I have a shot to move up from 51. Here's hoping.

My own mention of Vietnamese hookers (third time lucky) was, of course, a throwaway line in a drawn out, self-defeating joke, just like all the other throwaway, drawn out, self-defeating joke, the absence of which would negate the very existence of this blog.

The unwitting drawing of new eyeballs into the Bucket here cuts both ways--increased traffic, but the potential attached stigma of being associated with Indochina's booming sexual tourism industry.

The power of words blithely and recklessly printed here is also made readily apparent. Anything I say, however random and out-of-context for potential Googlers, will potentially become keywords and draw me into search results.

Keeping that in mind, some lists concerning my experiences thus far with my blog and internet searches:

Other distasteful/random things I have been associated with completely by accident: scrotum weights, Philo T. Farnsworth, a song entitled "Throw The Jew Down The Well", Michelle Malkin.

Other things I realize I will be associated with since I've recently blogged them: poetry, flu vaccine, The Brothers Karamazov, "Bullet With Butterfly Wings", Tucker Carlson

Other things I would like to be associated with and will now become so by including the follwing key words in this post: world peace, cold fusion, key lime pie recipes, holistic antifungal remedies.

Random things I will now insert to fuck with search engine users: Bush twins nude! Ann Coulter nude! Mary Cheney nude!

So if you've found this blog looking for Vietnamese hookers or Women Associated With Conservative Politics In Various States Of Undress, I say "Welcome, Confused and Misguided Pervs!"

Now fuck off. What is the matter with you? Sick bastards.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.3


Saturday, October 23, 2004
The Great Potential For Disaster
Important note for all who derive some kind of pleasure from reading this blog.

It occurs to me that should my wife find herself dis-employed on Monday, this blog may be going on forced hiatus.

Her company pays for our DSL setup and has done for a great long time. There's no telling when they would cancel the service, so I'm posting this now just in case Pops ceases to be in the next few days and I'm stuck being my regular old real-life self for a while.

Needless to say getting a new service in order for me to further my exploits here is not going to be Priority One should the worst-case-scenario come to pass.

Again, we aren't counting on Mrs. Pops getting laid off, but you never know. Consider yourselves informed.


Friday, October 22, 2004
The Sickness Unto Death
Out of a sense of both guilt and blogger responsibility, I feel it is incumbent upon me to write something shorter and less deadly dull than my last post to tide you over, my loyal Bucketeers, for the long, desolate, post-less days of the coming weekend.

First of all, I'm taking my youngest boy in today to get his flu shot. In light of the current crisis involving the availability of the vaccine and the genuine health risks to the population, I'd like to take a minute to say: Ha ha! Suffer, beotches! When all of you are covered over in festering boils, bleeding from your eyes, being eaten alive from the inside out by ravenous virus my boy will be resting comfortably, protected by the sweet, sweet embrace of attenuated viral therapy. Survival is for the strong. I would feel bad if I didn't know for a fact that the human gene pool will be infinitely better off with robust young Pops offspring running around. God help the rest of you.

No seriously, I never got flu shots when I was a kid. Never. Maybe that was because we were broke, but we did have some kind of really crappy government (state? I don't remember) health care, so it wasn't out of the question. But if you watch the news, it's as though everyone really old or really young who doesn't get inoculated is absolutely certain to die.

Remember back in the summer before 9/11 when we were all going to be eaten by sharks? Even if you lived a thousand miles from the closest salt-water source? Even though the flu virus is slightly more mobile over land than sharks, something tells me that maybe--just maybe--there is some kind of media complicity in all the hair-pulling and tooth-gnashing over this.

Unless it really is George Bush's fault, in which case I'm suddenly not feeling too well. Stupid president...

WARNING: Incongruous Subject Change In Progress. Processing. Stand by...

Lots of blogs are written by writers, Failed (like me) and Otherwise. Some of these are poets, the most insidious, loathsome and despicable subset of an already insidious, loathsome and despicable group.

Inspired by one of many comments over on SJ's blog the other day, I gritted my teeth and dug up my old doc files from back when I was still mentally damaged enough to partake in the writing of "poetry" such as it is.

This was high school and early college days, back when I took myself seriously enough to be a complete social cripple, which meant lots of sitting alone in dark rooms on rainy days, the perfect environment for the creation of poetry. It is also, incidentally, the perfect environment for the spontaneous cultivation of several strains of molds and fungi.

As I read my old poems (there are just over two dozen), I came to a realization: it's possible to be completely humiliated while sitting all by yourself.

The only good thing I take from them is that the magazines and journals I had submitted to all had the good sense to reject them so there is no public record of their existence.

In all the stinking piles of florid verbosity, there are only two little blurbs that are worth reproducing in any fashion. They come from longer poems which in all other ways, if they had heads, would deserve to be taken out and shot.

The first one is embarrassing in its earnest awkwardness (look for the pun!), but I liked the image.

My wearied gait swings open and I stumble through manicured gardens with fatal-looking berry-bushes aching to be tasted

Oh lord, the pain.

The second is a quatrain from my "Rhyming Period", which lasted from Spring quarter of 1995 until Winter quarter of 1996. The rhyme itself is embarrassing, but at least it's less cheese-ball gung-ho than the last one.

From this view I envy you
To see unlovely faces
Imagine what I'm privy to
Beneath six heavy paces

Yes, I'd done the obligatory poem from the point of view of a dead guy. It's just something you do.

So there, I've done my penance for subjecting the world to my Brothers Karamazov summation. I accept your mockery. I deserve it. Come and get me.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 0.6 (the closest I'll ever get to pure public service)


Book Report. Or: I've Come A Long Way From Charlotte's Web
A couple of quick notes before I dive into what I'm going to dive in to here. Savor these tidbits as the rest is going to be largely undigestable junk.

First, the rumor is that they're planning layoffs (again) at Mrs. Pops' place of employ. Figures range from 15-35% of the workforce, but that's rumors for you. We're feeling a little exposed. Mrs. Pops recently made a lateral transfer with the promise of lots of work. Then both of the projects she was in line for went away due to budgetary constraints. So now she's not actively attached to anything and low-woman on the totem-pole in her group since she newly transferred in. A little freaky, to be honest.

Second, yay baseball. Any time the Yankees are humiliated is a good day for all Americans. Red Sox-Cardinals and people (besides just me) seem to care again.

Now the meat of the post and the bad news: I've decided since it's Friday and blog traffic is way down on weekends (thanks Sitemeter for the wisdom you bring), I am going to get this out of the way with minimal annoyance to my regular audience.

I'm going to write about Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. It's 1,000 pages of 19th-century Russian in block text with virtually no paragraph breaks. I want to write about it completely for my own benefit. I am not operating under the delusion that anyone else should be interested in what I have to say about it. I simply know that if I don't write it here, I won't write it anywhere (the pull of ego on the part of the brain in charge of motivation is powerful) and if I don't write it anywhere, all the information currently residing in my brain will leak out my ears while I sleep over the next few weeks until I forget every single thing about it.

Wow. Even the warning was long and boring. This should be fun. For me, anyway. If you're still reading, God help you.

First, let me say that I don't know nearly enough about 19th century literature to discuss this in any kind of proper context, which is troubling, but can't be helped. If anyone happens on this piece and does know something about it, then I apologize for my abject ignorance. Wait a second, no I don't. This is my blog. Fuck off, Judgey McJudgment, I'm writing here.

About the text itself, the most obvious observation is the complete, 100% absence of any semblance of a plot. If I were Roger Ebert reviewing the latest Hillary Duff movie, this would be withering criticism, but here Dostoyevsky has 1,000 pages to cover for that small omission. He fills it up, let me tell you.

There is one event in the book, one central, crucial event, but the fact that it occurs is always--always--less important than the ramifications of it with regard to the deeply, deeply, deeply analyzed and constructed psychologies of all the characters involved.

Most of the time I felt like I was hopelessly lost in Subplot Hell.

The central event is a murder, but it's almost beside the point. The "mystery" of it only lasts for about 200-250 pages and even then it's secondary. When it is spelled out, it's done matter of factly and completely in service to the larger themes rather than driving the story itself, as it would do in a modern novel.

Speaking of themes, Dostoyevsky's central idea has to do with this complicated matrix of guilt and morality, especially as informed by religion--very forcefully, particularly Russian Orthodox Christian religion--versus European positivist, socialist-ic, anthrocentric "new thinking". Guilt as Dostoyevsky explores it, blooms and spreads like a drop of blood in a water glass; the focus is less on establishing and proving direct blame for specific acts but rather on complicity in a practical sense, yes, but also (and more importantly) in a moral and metaphysical way, extending into a character's responsibility to his family, friends and neighbors but also--more abstractly--as a member of a morally-accountable society where the rash act of an individual creates a cascade effect of consequences that is devastating, touching vast swaths of the population.

Conversely, while acting outside the bounds of basic Christian morality has causes catastrophic social harm, for Dostoyevsky the greatest act of healing is to assume the guilt of others onto oneself. The obvious, un-subtle exemplar is Christ himself, vaguely alluded to once or twice throughout, who selflessly assumed all of the sins of all mankind, throwing open the doors of heaven or whatever.

This example is taken up directly twice in the story with vastly different results.

The first is in the case of the Elder Father Zosima, a secondary character who nevertheless dominates the first half of the book. He is the monk who mentors the youngest Karamazov, Alyosha (more on him later). Like every single other character, Dostoyevsky reconstructs the entire psychological life of this character in painstaking detail, page after page after page, in order to show us how the great epiphany of assuming the guilt of others (something he first realizes when suggested by someone he acknowledges later to be totally batshit insane) in the name and service of the Orthodox version of God leads to a life of inner peace, great wisdom and insight, unfathomably deep reserves of personal calm and the general acclaim of everyone you meet. It's no guarantee against your corpse stinking up the whole town as it decomposes, however (that's actually in the book... it's a whole chapter, I swear).

The second is in the case of Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, the middle of the three Karamazov brothers. Ivan is Dostoyevsky's paragon of New Thinking, the godless intellectual who views religion with not only disdain but open hostility. In the course of the story he is hammered over the head with the revelation that his father (the murder victim) was killed as a direct result of something he said to the murderer. Even though he himself was not actively involved, his unwitting complicity in the central-event parricide--and without the aid of religion to soften the blow--completely annihilates him to the point of total insanity and (it is hinted at the end) fever and death. It is no accident that agnostic Ivan's delirious hallucinations as he realizes and marinates in his perceived guilt take the form of the Devil, a personfication goaded into existence by what Dostoyevsky sees as the basic truth of the religious position with respect to crime, guilt and punishment.

In direct disputation with Ivan in the very beginning of the book, Zosima say "if Christ's Church did not exist at present there would be nothing to restrain the criminal from his wrongdoing, nor even any punishment to follow it... genuine punishment, the only effective kind, that deters and pacifies... is conained in an awareness of of one's own conscience." (this is page 87 of the David McDuff translation for Penguin Classics) Flogging, incarceration, mutilation, torture, execution... no punishment meted out by a secular State has any chance (or even intention) of reforming the criminal and pales to the point of disappearance next to the tiny, cramped, unescapable cell of the human conscience informed by religious morality expressed concretely in the form of guilt.

Those are the two most dramatic examples, but every character--all of them--is a slave to the ravages of conscience in all matters petty and grand.

I don't know if it is the style of 19th century Russian literature to have their characters be so over-the-top dramatic in every conversation they have, but the spikes and prickling of conscience drive everyone to speak and behave erratically. Emotionally everyone is all over the map when speaking, steaming out their ears one second, laughing maniacally the next, tearing up with love in the next. Maybe the instance of dialogue were so few and far between amongst the giant 100-page blocks of backstory and profiling for every single character that Dostoyevsky just wanted to get as much emotional resonance in as possible in every exchange. The result is that everyone comes across as half cracked.

Speaking of that, another thing I noticed is that people tend to go quite insane very easily in Dostoyevsky's Russia. Two people crack up completely in the course of the story, another is crazy from introduction and a score of others have their sanity temporarily set aside for the purpose of melodramatic effect.

The one exception is the maddeningly even-tempered Alyosha, the youngest brother. As a student of a monk, he's all charged up with unassailable truths about life and the universe, even though he is the youngest and least worldly of all the characters. He's a Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith in a land overflowing with Infinite Resignation. I once heard Dennis Miller describe the kinds of roles he used to get when he still did movies: he said he always played the "expositional eunuch", the guy who came in to drop some information, move the story along and never got laid. Frustratingly, this is the central role of the central character Alyosha. He personally does almost nothing. He doesn't have to. He walks into a room and people vomit out the deepest darkest secrets from way down in the heels of their souls and thus handily move the story (such as it is) along. In a work that is structured more as a gradual collecting of information than a linear progression of events, I suppose this is necessary. But it sure makes for one dull character.

By far my favorite part of the book was the rampant anti-Catholicism. I had read the excerpted chapter The Grand Inquisitor in a college philosophy class many, many moons ago, so I saw it coming, but man, it's full-on, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners anti-Catholic. Not only do we as Catholics reject "true" religion, not only are we in league with the Devil, we actually worship the Devil. We draw believers in with cheap miracles, physical protection and the promise of a crust of bread. People flock to us because those are things they want and they're lemmings who really don't know any better. So we build this huge worldly apparatus of the Catholic Church to serve our un-Godly purposes and subjugate all of mankind, filling his belly while starving his soul. Not only that, but if Christ were to come back visit Catholics (the premise of The Grand Inquisitor mini-story) the clergy would plan to burn him at the stake as a heretic since his very presence would challenge established Church-supported truths and the crowds would cheer. It's really an electric piece of reading in a sea of heavy exposition, but I really have no other analysis of it than to say Damn, Dostoyevsky don't fuck around, does he?

That's it. For being long winded, it's a shallow examination of some of the bits and pieces of an enormous work of a great, disciplined mind. The consistency of thought and theme over such a large space is what holds the giant piles of information together into a cohesive whole, a monumentally impressive achievement, especially as translated from Russian.

As physically taxing as the whole thing was, finishing it was immensely rewarding. It's a lighter read than I think I've made it out to be, but anything this size requires effort. I think the book is about 5 pounds heavier than when I started for all the red-ink notes and underlining.


If you've read this far, you're a disgusting masochist whose time would be better spent putting cigarettes out in the palm of your hand or something.

But there, it's done and it needn't be done again.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0 (second time in a week! But I did warn you...)


Thursday, October 21, 2004
Sing It If You Know It
I'm absolutley fascinated by the idea of artists selling out. It's a morbid fascination, I admit. Something about dropping the vail of "integrity" (a dubious idea anyway, in some media more than others) as they partner up with corporations to sell Pepsi or hamburgers or computer operating systems or something.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I greeted my first viewing of the new Apple iPod commercial featuring Irish world-saving crusader band U2. So that's what Bono is doing when he's not lobbying the UN to forgive third-world debt; he's shilling for multi-billion dollar global corporations.

Don't get the wrong idea from this post, I actually like U2. Not as much as Mrs. Pops, but as megalomaniacal/sanctimonious Irish people go, they're all right. About 3 years ago we drove through a horrendous rainstorm to see them live at the Staples Center in downtown LA (about 40 miles northwest of here). Local novelty act No Doubt opened for them that night. It was such a good show it almost justified the $20 parking fee.

Anyway, the Apple iPod spot features U2's new song "Vertigo". It starts with four words in Spanish.

Uno... dos... tres... catorce!

Now, I don't speak Spanish, but living in California, I am armed with a cobbled-together Cali pidgin Spanglish we all get by on. I can ask where the library is on any street corner from here to Buenos Aires. My competencies established, I will translate the U2 line:

One... two... three... fourteen!

I'll say that again.

One... two... three... fourteen.

Fourteen? Really?

I'm sure there's some arcane, inside-hipster reason for jumping 4 through 13, but for the life of me I will never know what it is.

For the edification of my Southerners, Midwesterners and For'ners reading this who may not know, the Spanish word for "four" is chupacabras. Tell your friends you learned something today.

About that song "Vertigo", though, I have a question: why does it sound exactly like Madonna's "Ray of Light"? And why is there a U2 song--any U2 song--that is inferior to a Madonna song? Any Madonna song, not just the one it rips off?

I'm not much of a Madonna fan. Most of her songs are stupid and tuneless, bland music over cheerless lyrics meant primarily to titillate or shock (is "Like A Virgin" the worst song ever? It just might be). She did put out one pretty good album though, the best song of which U2 has chosen to steal. So at least they exercised some discernment when plagiarizing.

When we saw U2 live that one time, it occured to me that all their songs start exactly the same way. "The Edge" (what's wrong with the name Dave Evans, I ask you) breaks out with that modulating electric guitar jangle. As you hear the songs played in random order from all across the band's body of work, you find yourself waiting for a chorus before you can discern "I Will Follow" from "New Years Day".

Other bands where all their songs sound the same: Social Distorition, The Cult, INXS. Sometimes I can listen to an entire INXS song and still not be sure which one I just heard. I don't know if that has anything to do with why their lead singer killed himself, but you have to wonder.

And for the record (har har), the actual Worst Song Ever is "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" by Smashing Pumpkins. I had to Google the lyrics to get the title and now that I know it's something so faux-poetically pretentious, I hate it even more. Billy Corgan has the most disgusting voice ever.

It's even worse than that horrid "proud to be an American" song from the first Gulf War. The whole soundtrack from that war sucked ass. Now Vietnam, that was a war well served by its music.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.6


Wednesday, October 20, 2004
When You Think About It, 'Pope' And 'Pops' Are Only Different By One Letter
The world has gone completely crazy. I was sort of joking about the coming Apocalypse a few days ago, but now I'm not so sure.

First of all, I had turned off the Yankees-Red Sox game (Game 6) last night to put the kids to bed. I came back in the room a few minutes later to find Mrs. Pops had not only turned the TV back on but was watching baseball all by herself.

The highest rated show on TV all last night was baseball. Crazy.

Also, in political news, some key endorsements were announced. The New York Times endorsed John Kerry. No surprise.

Slightly more surprising, Iran endorsed Bush. Axis of Evil Iran. They want George W. Bush to be re-elected. Sure, there are complicated geopolitical reasons for this, but just the very fact they endorsed him is enough to cave my skull in. If this isn't the banner headline over at the John Kerry website, they should just pull the thing down and stop trying.

Apart from the coming Apocalypse, the other thing that caught my was a plot by some religious conservatives to try to fake-out the Vatican. The idea is to get John Kerry excommunicated and thus turn Catholic voters against him.

First of all, as a Catholic, let me say how hysterically funny this story is, not from the religious aspect, but just as an observer of politically motivated behavior by campaign operatives.

Now, it's not that hard to fool the Vatican. I mean, look how hard they fell for that whole Resurrection thing. I think there's something to the etymological linkage between the words credo and "credulous". If we'll fall for that Messiah stuff, we'll fall for anything.

Add that to the crushing weight of 2,000 year-old bureaucracy and it's just about possible to get anything past the Vatican. Just so long as you're not gay and looking to get married.

So this guy (who is Catholic, just like me... OK, not exactly like me) takes it upon himself--no help from the Bush campaign, no, and how dare you suggest it--to write a letter asking a question about a nameless hypothetical believer (using their own prejudiced language to characterize) who loves loves loves abortion. Shouldn't that person be excommunicated?

And the letter gets shuffled down the ladder to someone who has time to answer it and they say "Yeah, I guess so", to which the original inquisitor responds by screaming as loudly as he can "Look! The Vatican hates John Kerry!"

It's a cheap, badly executed trick, but let me give you two reasons for being amused/irritated by this, both on the theme that it was/is assumed that any such decision would make a difference among Catholic voters.

First: I am a Catholic voter. Popular anti-Catholicism has a long history in this country, imported honestly from Europe from both post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment positions. When Kennedy ran in 1960 he had to face the question that as a Catholic he would make some decisions based on the bidding of the Pope. By squashing those preconceptions with elegance and style (banging secretaries two at a time also doesn't hurt when trying to distance yourself from a stridently religious stance), Kennedy did a great deal to finally kill off the most rampant remnants of anti-Catholicism.

But still, one lingering after effect is the persistent perception that we as Catholics do things en masse and will do as we're told, especially if it's from a religious figure. Now, this is not unique to us as a voting bloc, as it is generally assumed in the media that blacks, Latinos, gays and (most absurdly considering they make up over 50% of the voting population) women are generally motivated/moved by the same things.

The fact that this trick was perpetuated by a Catholic and meant to work on Catholics only makes it worse.

Second: There really is more to Catholic belief than anti-abortionism. There's the whole homophobia angle not to mention good old fashioned misogyny. We have alot to offer.

No, what I mean is that among non-Catholics, Catholics themselves, even priests, there tends to be a persistent, annoying drumbeat of abortion abortion abortion. That's supposed to be the great test of a person's worth, what they think of abortion.

No mention at all of the death penalty, for example. Everyone wants to talk about Kerry's nuanced pro-choice position (one that closely echoes my own) but why isn't anyone all twisted in knots about Bush's record as the Most Executin'-est Governor In American History? Isn't the death penalty as much a part of a "culture of life" (the Pope's phrase that Bush not-so-subtly used in the debates) as abortion?

OK, so this turned out to be less funny than I'd hoped.

But just so you all know, as a Catholic, there's more to my political outlook than abortion. I'm also interested in basic competence, economic factors, national security, education, social programs, Renaissance art, cherry ice cream, long slow walks on the beach and men who aren't afraid to cry.

Those last few don't really reflect how I choose for whom I vote, I just thought I'd share.

And apologies to my close personal friend c'lam for posting more US politics junk. It could have been worse, though. I could have made the whole thing about baseball.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.0


Tuesday, October 19, 2004
He's Not The Messiah. He's A Very Naughty Boy
The blogosphere has been abuzz over the last several days about The Daily Show's Jon Stewart appearing on CNN's Crossfire "program".

As part of my ongoing effort to keep my readers abreast of 3-4 day old news (there's a Janet Jackson joke in there somewhere, I know it), I have decided to write about it. Other blogs have posted links transcripts of the exchange between Jon and Tucker Carlson, the only grown man outside the Nation of Islam to wear a bowtie in the last 75 years. To make up for my tardiness, I have chosen to reproduce the transcript here for your perusal.


JON STEWART: Oh look, this isn't an argument.


JS: No it isn't. It's just contradiction.

TC: No it isn't.

JS: It is!

TC: It is not.

JS: Look, you just contradicted me.

TC: I did not.

JS: Oh you did!!

TC: No, no, no.

JS: You did just then.

TC: Nonsense!

JS: Oh, this is futile!

TC: No it isn't.

JS: I came here for a good argument.

TC: No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.

JS: An argument isn't just contradiction.

TC: It can be.

JS: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

TC: No it isn't.

JS: Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.

TC: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

JS: Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'

TC: Yes it is!

JS: No it isn't! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.

(short pause)

TC: No it isn't.

JS: It is.

TC: Not at all.

JS: Now look.

TC: (Rings bell) Good Morning.

JS: What?

TC: That's it. Good morning.

JS: I was just getting interested.

TC: Sorry, the five minutes is up.


OK, so that wasn't really the transcript. In fact, that's a 30-year old satire piece that is probably copyrighted material reprinted and altered without permission. If this blog suddenly disappears, you'll know why.

In case you're one of the four people who don't know, Jon called Tucker "a dick" after Tucker said Jon was John Kerry's "butt boy". I always thought a "butt boy" was the guy aging actors bring in when they have to do a shower scene to stand in for their own sagging posteriors, so I'm not sure how Tucker's epithet was meant to insult. As far as I can tell, he was saying Jon had a really nice ass... or at least an appreciably nicer ass than John Kerry which, if I am allowed to say, is no small compliment.

But really, it's scary how close the Python sketch comes to the point Jon was trying to make to the Crossfire people, not only Republican Jackass Carlson, but also Democrat Jackass Paul Begala concerning the ironic pointlessness of a debate show that eschews actual debate in favor of "the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes."

Of course neither of them got it and Crossfire rolls on. And if either of them had "gotten it", I'm confident they would have immediately been fired and replaced with someone who doesn't.

In all honesty though, I am somewhat disappointed in Jon Stewart. On the one hand he did get to do what many, many people have wanted to do, which is to go on one of those shows and ask--just ask--What the hell are you people doing?

But on the other hand, Jon went on a show with a guy whose job it is to bait people and Jon got baited.

Yes, Tucker Carlson is a dick, but now his dick-ness has become the point rather than the utter uselessness of crosstalk television, which (I think) was the point Jon was trying to make.

So... there it is. I watch The Daily Show on a one-day delay (the next day at 4 pm on my otherwise useless Dish Network), so I haven't seen his response yet although my close personal friend MPH assures me that he had one.

There MPH, are you happy? You got a mention and a link. I'll get you again on Thursday.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.0


Monday, October 18, 2004
Leonard Bernstein!
This is late. My oldest had the day off from school today and Mrs. Pops took the day off, so we've been busy. But I'm here now, so everyone remain calm.

I've got some news that may strike some of you as something of a downer: The Apocalypse Is Upon Us.


Can you believe it?

No seriously, this time I have proof. Two items of proof, actually. Two proofs. Prooves? Proofses? I don't know. There are two of them.

First, it is raining in southern California. And it's only mid-October! When the mystery substance began to fall from the sky--wet, clear, odorless, tasteless--my first reaction was that it was probably ricin, VX nerve agent or possibly angels' tears. All were more likely candidates than rain. The "rainy season" in southern CA is about four days long, usually in early February. It will rain long enough to turn normally dry creek beds into Raging Torrents of Darwinism In Action. A few very very stupid people will invariably try to cross the roiling whitewater in their cars, become stuck and then die just before the rescue team can reach them. It sounds sad, but it thins the herd, which is more necessary out here than in most places.

But just in case I wasn't confused or agitated enough about the strange turn of meteorology, my local TV news came up with some really neat graphics and bombastic intro music to lead into their reporting of STORM WATCH 2004. It's an annual ritual out here that when the first drop hits the ground, TV satellite trucks mobilize, sending junior reporters out to hilltops and potential mudslide zones, soaked and chattering as they "report" something along the lines of "Yes, it is in fact raining. Back to you in the studio", trying to look as grown up as possible as the rain washes away what's left of their dignity.

It's two weeks until the most important election of my--and probably your--lifetime and the lead-in story is Killer Water Dropping From Sky.

So that's the first clue to the oncoming Apocalypse.

The second is more cosmic and harder to quantify. By that I mean weird.

Just today (or it may have been yesterday, I forget) I've closed my first Blogosphere Incidental Acquaintance Loop and it's freaking me out. My close personal friend Killy made an offhand comment about a weird name she came across while assisting in her school's search for a new history professor. I recognized the unusual (and for'n) name and asked (providing some details) if it was the same person, and goddamn if it wasn't. And Killy's all the way on the Wrong Coast completely across this beautiful country of ours.

Here's the connection: I went to grad school at UC Irvine for a grand total of one year. There was a guy there named Mike who started the same year as me. First rate dude. Anyway, Mike was married to a German girl named Wiebke (whom I've never actually met) who also studied history and started at UCI the year after I left. And now that same woman is applying for the job Killy is helping out with at the school she goes to. Isn't that completely insane?

Well, no, not when you consider how cruelly, criminally tight the job market is for history PhDs at universities nationwide. I wouldn't be surprised if any and all my classmates from UCI weren't on her Applied list.

But flimsy or not, I say it's just kooky enough to convince me the End of the World is at hand. Stock up on all the canned food and bottled water you want, they won't do you any good. What part of End of the World is unclear to you people?

Now if the Red Sox come back and beat the Yankees, that'll be all the proof we need. The Universe folding in on itself won't be far behind if that happens.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.3


Sunday, October 17, 2004
Our Lazy, Lazy Century
This is my one-hundredth post on this monstrosity. There are lots of ways I could have gone in order to commemorate the occasion.

For instance, I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov and had intended to write a very boring thematic analysis of it. I thought for sure that would be the best way to drive off any lingering "readers" of this blog.

I still may do it if only as an exercise to crystallize some impressions I have of the thing before they are pushed out by re-runs of Benny Hill or whatever other sensory input I find demands space inside my already crowded head.

I have also been toying with some ideas about how capitalist competition leads inevitibly to stratification, segregation, delineation and elitism, undermining basic fundamental concepts of democratic meritocracy that are crucial for capitalism to thrive, grow--survive even.

But then I thought, Jesus, I've just managed to bore even myself. Why would anyone want to read that?

But then I re-thought again, this is my goddamn blog and I can write anything I want and people who don't want to read it can just leave.

OK, no, sorry, I didn't mean that.

I'm cranky as I'm having some mixed feelings about reaching 100 posts so quickly.

As part of my ongoing, lifelong endeavor to make a failed writer of myself (a slow, agonizing process of procrastination, self-doubt and lots of Grand Theft Auto), having written 100 (non-paying) posts in a relatively short span of time is something of a dubious distinction.

There are plenty of people who crank out posts more quickly than I do, but very few (as far as I've seen yet) who match output with length-per-post. This double-whammy makes me doubly grateful for the people who slog through this mess on a semi-regular basis.

But being 100% honest with myself, writing here is really one more way out of making a good-faith attempt at writing anything else.

(Important note: none of this is a plea for pity or rah-rah pats on the back. I hate that shit. Really, it's just more narcissistic self-analysis from a bemused, critical place. Really. Really. Shut up.)

The other side of it is that I'm writing for an audience without waiting for the approval of some editor or editorial board. So you people get this without the benefit of objective analysis or proper creative input offered by grown-ups who generally know what they're talking about.

You lucky, lucky bastards you.

Keep reading, strangers. Who knows, maybe some day I'll accidentally discover a government plot to poison the nation's drinking water with a substance that turns political radicals into some kind of fish (like a sea bass or a red snapper, maybe) and I'll be forced to go on the run (with a nubile young ingenue in tow) in search of the one person (identity undetermined but who will be played by an aging English stage actor making his last stab at celluloid success) who can save my life and expose the nefarious government plot all at the same time and you'll actually have something thrilling to read past palm tree humor.

It could happen. Hold your breath.

And because I think masochism is fun, I'll share my last proper rejection letter with you guys. It's form-standard, but that's what makes it sting! It's from Glimmer Train Press magazine. I could post their url, but fuck 'em.

Here it is:

Dear [Pops],
Although we won't be publishing this particular piece, we do thank you for sending "In Lieu of Flowers". It was a good read. We're not able to give specific feedback, but please take a look at Editors' Input for some ideas. Again, we appreciate the opportunity to read your work!

Ah well. The title's still good, though it's probably been used before. It does make me feel good that they took so much sincere pleasure in the "opportunity" to reject my work. But then, I'm a giver by nature.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0 (third time in history! Again, I apologize)


Friday, October 15, 2004
Vegetative State
Every region has something unique about it. The Pacific Northwest has rain and coffee and suicidal depressives. The Midwest is notable for its humidity, NASCAR office pools and marked lack of topographical variety. The South is known for grits, moonshine, not wearing shoes, hating the black man and mosquitoes large enough to carry off your young. We all have things to set us apart.

In southern California we have earthquakes, smog, traffic, really good Mexican food, urban/suburban sprawl and every decade or so we put on a first-class race riot. We know how to have a good time.

But for some reason whenever people will visit out here, the first thing they notice are the palm trees. Palm trees. Oooh, palm trees. Look at the palm trees, wow, they're PALM TREES. Oh my God, is that another palm tree?! How many palm trees do you have out here anyway? Ooh, another one! Is this Hollywood? Hollywood has palm trees. Can you see the Hollywood Sign from here? It's hard to see through all these palm trees... and the smog. You know that orange smog-colored sunset is really striking as a background to all these palm trees. Here, take my picture next to this palm tree.

Frankly, I can't get my head around the fascination. I know I'm desensitized, being surrounded by the infernal things all the goddamn time, but really, what is so special? I would have thought that the national interest would have died out with Magnum, P.I. I'm still talking about palm trees, not Tom Selleck. Although...

They're not as big around as I am. They're infinitely tall and utterly straight, so there's no climbing potential. They bear no fruit that I know of. They provide no shade unless bunched together in the thousands. They shed no leaves in fall. In fact, they have no leaves to shed. The fronds they do have are the same dusty gray-green color year round. When the Santa Ana Winds blow they will drop dead fronds. Don't get the wrong idea about palm fronds, though. In their natural state, we're talking about 3-6 foot long sections of brown, dead tree falling from a great height, usually propelled by gale-force winds. They peel off whole sections at a time, kind of like a better-tasting artichoke (OK, I haven't actually tasted palm tree, but could anything taste worse than artichoke?).

And dead, falling palm tree is the hardest substance known to man. They would use it to make un-pierceable body arm, but the technology has not been invented yet to bend and mold this stuff so that humans can use it.

Not only is it really hard and really heavy, but just as a bonus the edges are serrated for some reason. Every year at Santa Ana time (like right now for instance) we have to watch for two things: 1) Wildfires and 2) Death From Above in the form of falling chainsaw palm fronds.

Confession time: this never makes the news, but thousands and thousands of people are killed or maimed by falling palm tree parts every year. They keep it hush-hush because they don't want to drive the housing market down, the last thing artificially propping up our enfeebled economy. The housing market and illegal immigration; without real estate speculation and human labor exploitation no one in California would have made a cent in the last 5 years.

If the palms trees are so dangerous, you're asking yourself, then why stay, Pops?

They won't let us leave.

Not the government, I mean the palm trees. They watch us every minute of every day, silent sentinels waiting to rain destruction upon us at the first sign of skittishness. They have been known to obliterate eastbound U-Haul trucks in under six seconds.

Ubiquitous, clichéd, obvious and useless. Sure, every once in a while you'll get a nice picture, but most of the time you just get bitched out for interrupting their "private lunch" with friends. Well you know what, if it's such a "private" lunch, don't have it in a public place. And look, I didn't make you a public figure, you did that when you decided to enter The Business. You can't treat your fans that way. We made you, we can ruin you.

That time I was talking about Tom Selleck.

Palm trees suck too.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.6


Thursday, October 14, 2004
Is This The Line For The Debate Rebate?
First of all, USA 6, Panama 0. Lovely. I know, only I care. Moving on...

I don't know if any of you have ever been to Tempe or to Arizona in general. I lived in Phoenix briefly around 1980-81 and have been back once or twice as an adult. I'm trying to think of the best way to describe the area for you and I keep coming back to two words: flat and brown.

Flat. Brown. Two words that could just as easily describe the last presidential debate last night from Tempe, AZ. Flat. Brown. No notable color, no discernable depth. Lots of stuff we've heard before.

When the information becomes redundant, we turn to the points of style and overall strategy. Of course that's a rationalization because we do that anyway, focusing all on body-language and delivery more than anything either of them have to say. It's like the Miss America pageant really. Who gives a shit what the girls think about world peace in the "interview" competition or whether they can balance spinning plates in the "talent" competition (although plate spinning is awesome)? We want to see the swimsuits! Bring out the swimsuits!

Keeping that in mind, I will try to keep my debate summary as content-free as possible.

Shouldn't be much of a challenge.

The first impression I got was that when Karl Rove was loading up his Commodore 64 with information to feed into the firewire port in the president's back, he apparently had some kind of system crash or file corruption or something because the only thing Bush was able to talk about was education. Bad economy? Education. No jobs? Education. Outsourcing? Education. Racism? Education.

Either that or they just figured "Look, he's got us dead to rights on this jobs thing and we know we can't fall back on this Iraq business, so what do we have? I guess it's education. We've got nothing to show for it really, but we do have the catchy slogan. Yeah. Let's run with that."

So the Secret Service put W on a furniture dolly, wheeled him out there and hoped for the best. You could see that mechanical brain--a wonder of atomic-age science--accessing its hard-drive like crazy. That's what the mad blinking is for, just in case you were wondering. They thought it would be less conspicuous than an LED in the middle of his forehead.

But I would be remiss if I only made fun of one of the incredibly dull candidates.

If you go back and watch, Kerry starts every answer--every one--with the phrase "This administration." As in: "This administration is the first to lose jobs..." "This administration has seen health care costs rise..." "This administration fucked up that Iraq thing real good..."

I wanted Bob Schieffer to throw in a curveball just to see how Kerry would answer it. Something like "Senator Kerry, Boxers or briefs?" to which he would answer "This administration... Boxers, Bob. The boys need to breathe."

Attack, attack, attack. I know that's what you're supposed to do when you're a challenger, but really, it's depressing after a while. They both tried to be upbeat in their closing statements, but Kerry sounded tired and Bush almost crying when he talked about his wife seemed to sap all the life out of him. He mumbled and rushed through what sounded like could have been his most affecting moment of the whole campaign. It was something to do with a painting i'm pretty sure.

Now we come to it: Who won?

There can only be one answer: John McCain. Have you ever seen one politician not in the race get so much goddamn air-time? I like John McCain too, but Jesus. He only gets one vote, fellas. I know Bush has got some bad karma to work off from the 2000 South Carolina primary, but Kerry is just all over the guy's ass. It's enough to make you wonder if McCain might just know which Vietnamese hookers John Kerry got syphilis from and where to find them on short notice or something.

But if there is a winner, there has to be a loser and that is equally clear. The biggest loser of this debate and of the whole campaign is Sen. John Kyl, the other senator from Arizona.

I know, you're thinking to yourself "Who? Wha?" but think about it. McCain is a war hero whose body is a physical testament to his character and courage; he's got the national media and both political parties eating right out of his war-damaged hands. Kerry and Bush spend several minutes of a national presidential debate arguing over who McCain likes better.

I meant to add my own rules of the Debate Drinking Game to my last post when previewing this event. It would have gone like this: If they mention John McCain, take a drink. If they mention John Kyl, snort up a 2-pound bag of cocaine cut with powdered glass. And everyone would have survived.

If I'm John Kyl I'm thinking: Hey, I'm here too. Can't both Arizona's senators be important? Who does a guy have to blow to get a shout-out around here? Y'all know I'm up for re-election in '06, right?

But you, dear reader, along with Yours Truly have no idea who John Kyl is or what he looks like or sounds like, nor do we even care, truth be told. Talk about being a junior senator.

I don't even know how to pronounce his name. Is it like "kyle" as in Showgirls star Kyle MacLachlan or is it "kill" as in "If I were to kill myself right now, the only thing the media would give a damn about was how 'strong' John McCain was as he comforted my widow and orphaned children"?

Anyone know? Anyone?

The poor insignificant bastard.

Oh, if I have to pick one of the people actually running, I would say Kerry "won". I know, predictable, but I'll tell you why: he directly addressed the pay disparity between men and women. $0.76 on the dollar. Forget tax cuts or health care, fix that and you'll have pampered, no-job-having, wife-relying layabouts like me purring like little kittens.

Goddamn patriarchy.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.9


Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Event Horizon
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm nervous. It's here. Today's the day. The Showdown.

Of course this isn't the end, but it's going to go a long way toward determining what the end looks like. The reverberations will be felt all over the hemisphere, if not the world, and especially right there in Washington.

The atmosphere is going to be crazy. The support on both sides is vociferous (to quote the president) and rabid. The house should be rockin'.

That's right, it's just a few hours away.

Tonight the US men's soccer team plays Panama in a World Cup qualifier semi-final round match at RFK Stadium in DC with a chance to advance to the final round with a win (enough clauses in there for you? Good). Or a loss by Jamaica. I think. Or maybe Jamaica has to tie. I forget.

Anyway, if they win, they advance. 4:30 Pacific/7:30 eastern. Set your TiVo now.

Oh, hang on, did you think I was talking about... oh yeah oh yeah, that debate thing.

Yeah, that's tonight too.

The topic tonight is domestic policy, in Tempe, Arizona.

Here's a preview:

BUSH: Man, it's October, for chrissakes. Should it really be this hot still? Jesus.

KERRY: I don't know what the president is talking about. I love Arizona. It's a dry heat. Plus it's where John McCain is from. I love that man. And he loves me.

BUSH: Fuck you, Frankenstein, he loves me. You all saw that picture of him hugging me. Totally spontaneous, that was.

KERRY: With all due respect, Mr. President, everyone knows John--excuse me, Senator McCain--thinks you're a total ass-hat. He secretly told me that he hopes I win.

BUSH: Yeah, him and all the anonymous "world leaders" are pulling for you.

KERRY: You shut up about that. I said that like eight months ago, you retard.

BOB SCHIEFFER, MODERATOR: Gentlemen please. Can we stick to the subject?

BUSH: Right Charlie, sorry. Look, the economy is doing really really well. Vote for me.

KERRY: No it isn't. Vote for me.

And, scene.

Well, it'd be funnier that way anyway.

Gotta go. House full of sick people, not including myself (yet). Much tending and chicken-soup-microwaving to be done.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.1


Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Addendum to the Post Below This One
My close personal friend SJ noted this in the comments to the last posting, but I thought it deserved a more public airing.

It turns out the Sinclair people aren't just motivated by blind partisanship. It's an older story than that: it's good old fashioned greed. Political favors in exchange for cash in the form of big fat government contracts. There's a word for that. Let me think... tip of my tongue...

Oh yeah. Kickbacks. And douche-baggery. And corruption.

But these kinds of things mean nothing to people with no shame.

Sorry to sound so strident, but I'm actually pissed off now.

The Final Hurdle
O Happy Day! Here at last, it's here at last!

Finally, finally, someone--one brave little billion-dollar multinational corporation--has had the courage to abandon Janus-like two-faced hypocrisy and come right out to declare their political agenda.

Most mega-corporations are too busy mealy-mouthing, keeping their mouths shut while they funnel vasts amounts of cash to support candidates/parties/causes that reflect their own best interests, ethics be damned. The really deplorable ones will give money to both sides in order to hedge their bets.

Thank God, then, for the Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland, owners of 62 broadcast (not cable, broadcast) television stations. Undeterred by such old-fashioned ideas as stewarding the public trust that is television or maintaining a sense of professional dignity for the greater good of all your audience (not just the saps who happen to already agree with you), the Sinclair Group is ordering its stations to pre-empt programming next week in order to show an anti-Kerry "documentary".

At long last, the final wall is about to be broken down. No more waiting for political programming and content to crop up in its proper place in an election cycle in the form of debates, campaign ads or political talk shows; that old predictable, avoidable way is so 2000. We're on our way, people. This is the first step into a new world where naked political partisanship seeps into your consciousness at all hours in all forms of media based entirely on a corporate whim. The availability of what you want to watch is immaterial. You will watch this.

Now that Sinclair has taken the step to overrun your expected Joan of Arcadia viewing time with a howling visual screed, the next logical step, of course, is to figure out a way to physically force people to watch this stuff.

That's something I expect Rupert Murdoch and the good people at Fox News to have worked out in time for 2008.

Big long heavy sigh.

Some conservatives will say "Oh yeah, but what about Michael Moore?" to which I will reply: his movies are shown in theaters. You can view them in exchange for money, which you are not required to pay. I myself have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11 yet, nor have I happened across it by accident while trying to watch re-runs of Matlock. It isn't being piped into my home on top of something else in prime time as extra-ordinary programming so that a corporate giant can flex its political muscle and affect the outcome of an election.

If the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission don't both come down on Sinclair like a one-ton burlap bag of shit, then both bodies should be disbanded as completely irrelevant.

Sinclair says they invited John Kerry to come on their stations and rebut the documentary and therefore they meet the equal-time requirement and can't be cited for violating any number of FCC or FEC statutes and restrictions.

But is that really the test? If I want to broadcast a documentary that features a guy who says he's George Bush's current coke-dealer/dungeon-master/gay sex partner, all I have to do is invite GWB to talk about it. If he (shockingly!) says no, ah well, I tried. On with the show.

But these are the Sinclair people, the same ones who refused to air Nightline the night they broadcast the names (no commentary, just the names) of those who had died to that point in Iraq because it was, in their words, "contrary to the public interest."

Now this broadcast, to do with Kerry's post-Vietnam anti-war activity and... something about with POWs. Apparently the POWs, behind the starvation, exposure, isolation, filthiness, beatings and torture, were really really bummed out by John Kerry opposing the war.

Hmm, so US POWs 30 years ago in Vietnam, vitally important to the immediate public interest while dead US soldiers right now, not so much. Fascinating.

Here's Sinclair's defense: "This is a powerful story... The networks are acting like Holocaust deniers and pretending [the POWs] don't exist. It would be irresponsible to ignore them."

Opposing anti-Kerry propaganda is the same thing as denying the Holocaust.

Wait a second, did I miss something? Is John Kerry responsible for the Holocaust? That bastard!

He'd have to be to get me to vote for Bush.

And to the good people at Sinclair: Fuck you very much. Enjoy the federal investigation.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.7


Monday, October 11, 2004
Word Association
John Kerry is a "liberal". This is Bush's newest line of attack. Kerry had a good rejoinder in the debate about this when he mocked Bush's self-imposed "compassionate conservative" label, something I've been waiting for someone to say to GWB's face for a long time (the "0-for-2" line, if you remember).

Apparently Junior, when everything else is failing and every poll is showing a 15-point swing in Kerry's favor since the end of the Republican convention (remember when Bush was up by 10+ points? Yeah, me neither) has decided that since this campaign isn't working very well for him, he's decided to run his father's 1988 campaign instead. He's running against another Massachusetts Democrat just like Ole Dad did way back when. The old weapons worked last time, so why not bust 'em out, shapen 'em up and have another go with them?

If only they can figure out how to get John Kerry into a tank wearing an oversize helmet and attach him to some kind of crazy prisoner furlough program that leads to the rape-murder of at least one person, they'll be set.

They're also forgetting that this is not Reagan's America as it was in 1988. Non-conservatives are no longer cowed or afraid of name-calling. In fact, it has been the dunderheaded incompetence of this president that has given bleeding-hearts like me something to really grab on to and run with in the absence of raw Clintonian (political) sex appeal.

It's interesting to note, though, that both Kerry and Bush are using essentially the same central strategic message.

John Kerry: "I am not George Bush."

George Bush: "John Kerry is not me."

Which one has wider appeal?

We shall see.

Bush is betting on whipping up the conservative base that will cover the 500,00 vote-gap he found himself on the wrong end of in 2000. Essentially he's running to 50% of the country. He wants to be president of the Red States, where words like "liberal" might just scare people disillusioned by Bush away from voting for Kerry. Those of us in the Blue States would never vote for him anyway and can essentially go fuck ourselves.

Of course Kerry is running for County Board of Supervisors in every vulnerable county in every undecided state. But he has to do it with a larger message that keeps us cosmopolitan, whiny Democrats all on one side while also drawing the disaffected out of their homes to do what they would never otherwise do: vote for a Democrat.

I'm working on my brother-in-law. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who hates George Bush's ass (don't get me started on what he feels about Bush's other body parts... strong feelings all around), but will probably never vote for Kerry. I have 3 weeks to work my magic.

OK, non sequitur time:

And is it "publicly" or "publically"? My dictionary (American Heritage Second College Edition... I know, it's a sad little one) says the former, but I know if you do an internet search using the word "publically", the use of that form is pretty common. Of course I know having a word come up on the internet is hardly proof of proper use. There are whole groups of kids who think the proper way to spell "any" is "ne".

Someone with a more comprehensive dictionary help me out. Is "publically" an acceptable alternate spelling or just me being wrong? Thanks.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.2



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