Pops' Bucket
Friday, September 29, 2006
Vinny Delpino, Archetype For Generations
I want you all to know that I'm just like you. Sure, I've got a lot more going for me than most people--shocking good looks, practically unchartable IQ, a certain way with... whaddyacallem... words--but I think it's important that you remember that, even though I do something weird like stay home with my kids, I hate my job just like the rest of you working people do.

Also just like you, even though during work hours every single solitary day of the week I wish to God (and any other deity who might be listening and for whom blood sacrifices can be arranged... seriously, call me) I was anywhere else. It's not that my job is particularly hard or exceptionally unfulfilling, it's just that I'm a person; specifically, I'm an American person, which means that I work harder (in terms of man-hours spent on the job) than 90% of the world's population and I also do almost nothing else while I'm working besides complain about how much I have to work.

"But Pops," you're thinking, "here you are blogging, just as you do six days a week. If you have that kind of time, how hard could your job be?" To which I must tell you, it's not the job that makes it hard to blog. It's the drinking. Not only can binge alcohol abuse be hard on the ole hand-eye coordination, it's quite a time-suck once you factor in the blackouts.

Even though I hate my job, when talking to other people about it, I have to PRETEND at least that I'm interested in it. Maybe this is particular to people in my situation as most of you have no problem telling me how much it sucks to be a... whatever it is you are. As awful as potty training and the Wiggles can be, I know enough to realize my job sucks a hell of a lot less than your job, so I have to keep up the facade of warm fuzzy home-life happiness lest my wife catch on and sends me out with my history MA to get a job in... whatever it is I would be qualified for. I'm thinking either entry-level data entry or pool-hall whore.

So I spend a lot of time pretending to be interested in the "welfare of the children" the world over so that I project the right kind of persona that will keep me from performing hand-jobs in alleyways behind Mr. Cue's.

Really I'm not that interested in the welfare of your kids. I'm really not. I have enough to handle keeping my three from killing themselves or each other to spend a lot of time wondering if yours are being fed properly or if they have time to show their love for Jesus in public school. I really don't care.

But if I'm around other people and I come across a news story about child-rearing in any fashion, I've got a pre-scripted routine I have to run through like a chimp on a tricycle. There's a brow furrow, a tsk, a slow headshake and finally a resigned/concerned sigh. And then the chimp on the tricycle comes out and everyone forgets. Best $8,000 on the African wild animal black market I ever spent.

Like today when I read about the 13 year old kid who was starting college at UC Santa Barbara, my first, secret, natural reaction is "hahaha, fucking Doogie Howser nerd!"

But if anyone asks about it: brow, furrow, tsk, headshake, sigh... And if I'm out of the house, sans chimp, I have to make up something to say. "That poor boy," I'll have to improvise. "His parents must push him so hard. He'll never know the joys of being a regular kid. It's akin to child abuse." Sure, it's bullshit, but the scary thing is when I kind of start to believe it, especially as I consider the comparisons to my own bright, but non-frightening-genius kids. Then I start to seriously wonder about his homelife, like has he ever seen an episode of South Park? Is he allowed to eat processed foods? Does he have a best friend his own age who is a sounding-board for normal age-appropriate living and if so, is this friend sufficiently ethnic? Does he even have a 20 year old Apple II computer on which to type his daily diary of trite pabulum to wrap up thematically the events of his day?

Worrying about that kid, worrying about my own kids' academic acumen by comparison.. it's all very stressful. Until I read the genius kid says he's studying to become a "research scientist in biology." And then I was relieved that my kids aren't child geniuses, for one primary reason: child geniuses are boring.

Why doesn't he want to be a rock star like every other 13 year old boy? Maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe only the boring child geniuses make the paper. Maybe there are plenty of 13 year old geniuses who DID become rock stars, letting their genius atrophy from an insincere approach--if not active indifference--to intellectual self-improvement and existing in a culture where coherence of expression is neither prized nor even recognized. Oh, and also the constant soaking of their brains in a puddle of drugs and alcohol in barely-sub-lethal doses over a period of many years. Maybe there's more to Tommy Lee than tattoos, a giant, telegenic schwanz and a general air of child-molester creepiness.

Are the tattoos some kind of physical representation of patterns and intersecting lines that illustrate some fundamental principle of Zipf's Law? And if so, why does it all look like vaginas?

I don't know. It's a lot to consider in one day. All I know for sure is that I won't be posting Sunday night or Monday because of a bunch of shit I have to do at my kids' school. I guess that's the point. And also that although Catholic school is expensive, it's still cheaper than college, even a state school. So I guess I should be happy I have time to save up.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.5


Thursday, September 28, 2006
Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Tabitha Soren
I'm all for trying to get people involved politically, especially young people. I turned 18 in 1992, the first Clinton year and, coincidentally, also the first year of MTV's vaunted "Choose or Lose" campaign. I remember that year, being completely energized by the political process for the first time. When you turn 18, it seems like such a big deal, but really the only things you're newly eligible to do once you turn 18 is vote and get drafted into the military. You get to drive two years earlier and aren't legally able to buy beer for another three years, so that's pretty much it. So you can see why I was excited about voting when you consider the alternative.

Besides the positive comparison to forced conscription, we also had lots of very excitable people running around to every news outlet available to them at the time telling us how important it was. Just to give you an idea of how different the media landscape was, I think there were a total of five news organizations back then: ABC, NBC, CBS, public television and CNN. Looking back it all seems kind of quaint. As with any diachronic comparison, you can only shake your head and wonder how anyone survived witht he primitive technology available to them at the time. I mean, they didn't even have any flat-panel TV monitors to attach to trapezes and swing around studios with fancy digital "swoosh!" sound effects every time they transitioned from one story to another. Might as well have been smoke signals.

There was obviously no Fox News yet with its animated eagles shooting lazers out of their eyes over a backdrop of rippling American flags and sunrises to counterbalance the liberal media hegemony, so naturally I registered Democrat, just as I was told and all my thoughts were conflict-free, doubleplusgood.

Looking back, it's hard to say how politically plugged in I was or if I was just going through the motions in the hope that I could get Kurt Loder to notice me.

The campaign to raise awareness and encourage participation among young people set the stage for every election since then (all three of them!) where a great deal of money and time and media-projected man-hours have been spent trying to convince people under 25 that they should vote.

From what I understand, however, registration and active voting among the lowest age demographic of eligible voters has either remained flat or fallen well within the trends of older voters. Shocking, yes? Yes. Just about as shocking as the time I found out Steven Tyler only had Hepatitis C and not also tetanus, scurvy, rickets and maybe a tapeworm. Despite the results, however, there is this push to single out, to focus on the young in focused marketing campaigns to browbeat them into voting.

Just yesterday an announcement was made that myspace would be promoting a voter registration drive in order to convince young people to register.

If I were a cynic (which I'm NOT! All is benevolence and everyone says what they really mean! Wheee, medication!) I'd be pointing out that this is the same demographic primarily targeted by advertisers. There may or may not have been commercials during those "Choose or Lose" programs, I don't remember. I do remember sort of coming-to in the grocery store in those days saying things to myself like "Funyuns? Why am I buying Funyuns?" And then I would remember, oh yes! Democracy has been brought to me by Funyuns.

Of course the point of marketing to young people is not to separate them from their money directly as they--as a demographic segment--typically have the feeblest spending power of all the segments capable of growing pubic hair. Seriously, most of the people afflicted with alopecia universalis are broke as a joke, with the exception of that Rockefeller guy. But he's an exception as he made all his money in merkins.

The young are targeted because they haven't gotten all hung-up on brand-loyalty as yet. The Funyun people believe if you can get someone started eating Funyuns at 18, they'll be Funyun eaters for life. Of course the only flaw in that plan is the total inedibility of Funyuns, but otherwise the theory is sound. Old people who don't already eat Funyuns sure as fuck aren't going to start.

This myspace thing, then, I don't really get. Advertising and myspace don't really go together. There are banner ads, sure, but I'm so accustomed to automatically tuning them out, I honestly didn't even know they existed on myspace until this article told me they did and I went specifically looking for them.

So what could the motivation be for the myspace people if not to sell people stuff in between building a false sense of civic responsibility that will fade as soon as they click over to YouTube to post videos of themselves lip-synching with sunglasses on?

I can only think of one thing associated with voter registration that would benefit from adding all those names to the rolls and that's jury pools. Somehow the sinister forces of the US Jury Pool Building industry has infiltrated myspace and are using the network to try and steal your teenaged children to fill seats so they can text message their friends while adjudicating life-or-death questions of innocence and guilt in American jurisprudence.

Honestly, what else is voter registration good for? And don't say "voting" because we already know young people don't do that. Unless it's American Idol but the idea of text-messaging for President of the United States is a whole 'nother post.

When I think of all the young people being sucked in to the day-wasting process of jury duty, I can't help but think of how the American vigilante industry has really dropped the ball here. If we were out there randomly killing people we suspect are guilty of crimes, there would be fewer trials and no need to co-opt America's youth into the waiting rooms of America's courthouses. When I think of all the wasted teenager-hours that could be spent chatting in instant messenger or giving homeless old people money to buy them beer, well, I just... it's enough to make me want to break out the bat-suit again, court-order be damned.

Next time you're out, take a minute or two and strangle a criminal. Sure, it's an inconvenience, but you're doing it for the children and the children are America's future.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.1


Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Disregard The Clown At Your Peril
Why is it that no one takes me seriously? Is it because I use a pseudonym? Seriously, you can tell me. Does the use of the name "Pops" automatically guarantee that you won't see me as anything other than a token old-man African-American character from a '70s TV show? Because that's kind of the image I was going for, so that's OK.

But that doesn't mean that the things I say shouldn't be understood as important or serious. Sure, I package the serious points amongst the jokes about how I hate foreigners and my insatiable appetite for porn, but in the middle of all that, there is some truth among the satire. For instance, the threat from non-English-speaking brown people and my insatiable appetite for porn.

Sometimes you have to know that the things I tell you people are not only true, but are essential for you to note for the sake of not only your own survival, but for the sake of America, the world and all humankind. You're thinking "doesn't 'the world' already include all of humankind?" to which I must say, don't be so fucking cold-hearted. Just because we sent them off in government-built space-arks on a several-hundred-year mission to colonize other solar systems back in the 1890s doesn't mean they aren't part of humanity. I think about them often and only pray that they have enough coal.

Despite my penchant for the occasional flight of imagination or rhetorical flourish in order to make a point, points are being made. Don't believe me? Remember just a week ago how I warned you all that the parents who kidnapped their daughter and tried to take her to a neighboring state for a forced abortion would lead to a crack-down in the Republican Congress to circumvent the liberal agenda of Forced Abortions For All?

Well, looky who all of a sudden has passed a law that makes transporting kids across state lines for the purposes of getting an abortion a crime... Hmm, timing seems mite curious, no? I mean, it's not like anyone you know or whose blog you obsessively/regularly/occasionally/accidentally/court-orderedly read had predicted anything like this happening, right?

Come on. You have to give me some credit here. What other reason would they have for passing this "law"? I mean, they're saying it's illegal to take a person from one state where the thing sought to be done is legal to another state to do the same legal thing.

Also, the implication in this law in its specific identification of minors as its object is that they think it's OK for grown people to abort unwanted children, but that minors should be forced by law to carry a child to term and give birth. Which, I'm sorry, I know these are the same people who like as much tangy arsenic as possible in our drinking water, but this is just fucking nuts.

So we are clearly past logic here. And you're thinking "Duh, this is obviously an election-year tactic in order to create a wedge issue so Republicans can trap Democrats on the issue of abortion in Republican-held seats in order to boost incumbent chances."

My God, but you are a cynic. Why would they need to do something like that when the incumbent retention rate is already something like 98%? Once elected to Congress, it's virtually impossible to be unseated. I don't know how these same people have been serving since 1789, but we're talking 98% here people. We're clearly stuck with them, even though several of them clearly must be zombies.

If brain-eating and generally being undead isn't enough to dislodge an incumbent, there must be something else behind the passage of this law. I said it before and I said it again, this is a "message" move. They want us to know that they're on to our plan to seize the presidency in 2008 and start the caravans of forced interstate kidnappings and abortions. If we were wise, we'd adapt to survive, take a new tack, adjust to the new political reality. But we're Democrats. We've already bought the vans.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.0


Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Martin and Lewis. Bonnie and Clyde. Affleck and J-Lo. Peaches and Herb. All famous couplings eventually come to an end. The pressures of maintaining a relationship of any kind--working, romantic, killing spree companion--under the glare of the media spotlight can be daunting to the point of impossibility. I think it's telling that of the four couples cited, three of the four ended in gunplay. Miss you, Peaches.

In my estimation, then, it's something of a minor miracle that no shots have thus far been fired in the messy public divorce of Serbia and Montenegro, especially considering their history. It's an open secret that Serbia has been known to smack a bitch-province down.

Considering Montenegro was the last province left, I would have expected more of an invasion-y type scenario. There was plenty to fight about after Crazy Ole Grampa Joe died. Slovenia started staying out all hours, Macedonia's grades went right in the toilet, Bosnia started dating a Muslim and Croatia smuggled in weapons from Hungary and launched a war of independence that turned into an ethno-nationalist bloodbath resulting in hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced. Kids.

With Montenegro at the end, as is so often the case when all the kids have finished their last ethnic-cleansing reprisals and moved out, the fighting stops and the two left in that cold, empty, regional-political marriage of convenience just kind of drift apart.

What shocks me is the speed with which Montenegro has started seeing other people. Almost immediately they were seen sniffing around the international swinger's club that is NATO and were receiving shady visitors at all hours, including just today US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld was there to goose along Montenegro's commitment to the Global War on Terr [sic] as part of NATO. I can't help but feel as though Montenegro just fell in love with the shiny NATO model on the showroom floor with all its fancy gadgets--contractual mutual protection against invasion, guarantees of independence and border integrity, joint military operations that include the projection of power and military supremacy the world over, cup holders--and leapt into a purchase agreement. What they're finding out now that we have them in the windowless back-room "finance office" with the uncomfortable chairs and the guy who talks too fast to be understood is that when they initialled for what they thought was the extended warranty and roadside assistance, they also kind of agreed to send troops and provide material assistance to blowing up places of the United States' choosing.

Worse, they even bought the undercoating. What a bunch of saps.

If I were a Montenegroan... Montenegran... Montenegrino... whatever, I guess I'd feel OK. I mean, if you only really have a standing army of 2,500 people, what can they really ask you to do? I mean besides send every single one of them to Afghanistan because, well, we're kind of all occupied (hey-o!) with this Iraq thing.

Worst case scenario, they lose every single soldier. So? That would be barely 3% of their total national population. Demographically, a people should be able to absorb that level of loss, no problem.

What do they get in return? The eternal gratitude and friendship of the United States cemented by a visit and a handshake from Donald H. Rumsfeld.

And maybe more. The last people who did that only got a shiny new democracy out of it, that's all!

I applaud the US diplomatic initiative here. It's time for these Balkan nations to start arming up again and pulling their weight, getting involved militarily as much as possible in the international community. Frankly, we could use the help. Small nations doing their small part. What could possibly go wrong?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 2.8


Monday, September 25, 2006
Monday Lite: It's The Pictures That Got Small
Went kind of long Sunday night. Going very short today.

I'm going to post links to this video of Bill Clinton being interviewed on Fox News. For some reason I can only find it in parts, so there are two halves.

Bloggers on the left say it's Clinton "smacking down" partisan Fox News. Bloggers on the right say it's Clinton "wild-eyed, incoherent and crazed." Gosh, one of them has to be right, don't they?

Some of us just like to watch people yell at each other. It's what kept Will & Grace on TV all those years, isn't it? Well, that and the Gay Mafia that runs Hollywood trying to mainstream their homosexual agenda. But it's the yelling that draws us in.

Anyways, enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

UPDATED: Well, that was fast. Bastards at Fox made YouTube pull the video down. I'm leaving them up though because I like the stills, especially the second one. You can find the actual video over at super-proprietary Fox's website here. Don't be distracted by the clip that says "What lowers a woman's sex drive?" The stories are UNRELATED and the answer is definitely NOT "Constiutional expiration of term in office."

Ah, who am I kidding, I'm clicking that one too.


For something so goddamn popular, it sure is hard to find a copy of it that fucking runs. Thanks to Bucketeer the lovely and talented Vikkitikkitavi for this working YouTube link. I enjoy how Chris Wallace bases his question on the material in a single book just as Bill Clinton defends himself with Richard Clark's. Duelling literature! Good luck with it. I wash my hands of it.


Sunday, September 24, 2006
I Get My Television Fix Seated On My Crucifix
I wouldn't say I'm the type of son that goes out of his way to make his mom happy. First of all, she lives out of state, which is the universal offspring license to disregard a parent's happiness. Look, I didn't make her leave. I'm sorry she couldn't find work out here or maybe had trouble opening to doors after I had the locks changed, but once the state line is crossed, you might as well not exist. That might sound harsh when talking about the woman who bore me, but to be honest, I feel that way about EVERYONE who lives outside of California. It's not like she didn't know that going in.

I'm not totally heartless, though. The parent-child relationship is a complicated mess of bi-directional co-dependencies, patterns of passive-aggressive mental abuse and a whole nebulous network of comfortable mutually-perpetuated neuroses that make it almost impossible to enjoy the taste of roasted turkey. What that means is that almost involuntarily, I'm bound to do stuff that my mom would like me to do whether I mean to or not.

I did marry a nice girl with a good job. I'm raising decent kids (as far as I can tell) and I own a house. I'm a tolerable hand at lawn care and I regularly have the oil changed in my car. Every now and again I'll even eat a vegetable, though admittedly it's usually just when there's someone new on the burger assembly line at the Wendy's who no comprende "hold the lettuce."

Still, it's the thought that counts. When I'm eating the lettuce I specifically did not order, I think it would please my mom to know that I'm thinking "Ah well, at least it's some roughage." Mom would want me to be regular.

When I left grad school after one year with my handy door-prize MA clutched tightly in my weary, weary fist, I immediately went out and got a job doing data entry from a temp agency. Not really mom's big plan when she sent me off to school. And it only got better when I stopped working altogether the day my first son was born. That was 1999. Education was a big deal to my mom. I think she'd be happy to know that all the time and money that went in to acquiring that education for me is currently being used to solve the tricky, tricky puzzles of Lego Star Wars II. Sometimes you have to push two different buttons!

To make mom happy, every once in a while, I'll try to put my master's-level education into practice to maintain the illusion that all that time and money wasn't wasted. OK, mostly just the money.

What American universities actually teach, other than any useable stuff that's worth knowing, like "facts," is really what's called "critical thinking." The idea is kind of vague and hard to grasp, but if it's any help, the first thing you find out when you learn "critical thinking" is that there are, in fact, no "facts." Everything is debatable, every point of view is suspect and the only things that are worth knowing are the things an academic press will agree to publish so that you can get tenure. You don't actually have to believe those things and it's probably better that you don't because someone is going to come along in short order and "prove" that every conclusion you reached was bullshit anyway and that you are secretly a misogynistic homophobic racist.

The only consolation there is that they probably just said that so the publisher would accept THEIR book and boy, won't you all have a good laugh at the next professional confab circle-jerk in Vegas.

The main way "critical thinking" is employed is to make sure that whatever it is you're talking about, you go out of your way to find something bad to say about it. This is called "being critical" in academic circles. If you're not clear on what that really means, in social terms, this is called "being an asshole." Except, you know, professionally.

So for my mom's sake, to show that I know how to do what I was trained to do, I'm going to take something that is mostly unabashedly positive and find something negative to say about it.

Today, having seen it for the first time, I choose ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Of course it would be easy to be critical of the original Extreme Makeover because that was a show about taking ugly girls and giving them to plastic surgeons to perform grisly experiments on, strap them into a dress three sizes too small and then film their parents crying tears of... happiness? Who can say, really?

The Home Edition one features a much lesser dose of human mutilation and is more about special-needs families identified by their community who have their house destroyed by cheerful people with bleached teeth only to have it replaced with a run-of-the-mill McMansion.

The one I saw was just today, Sunday. I missed the beginning so I didn't catch all the circumstances, but there were thirteen people living in a 900 square foot non-insulated hovel with holes in the ceiling. In Alaska.

The family is all packed up and sent on a week-long vacation to Disney-something (vertical integration is not a sin) while the cast of Rent and an army of conscripted contractors descend on the old house, destroy it and from it's ashes raise something new and powerful, Phoenix-like. Seriously, I hear they're razing all kinds of old neighborhoods in just this manner in Phoenix. Only with more eviction than so much Disney. The heat is not the only thing that is cruel in Arizona.

What can we find to be critical of in a show like this? Where can I fit the grad-school-honed thin edge of the wedge so that I might explode this operation in some dazzling and possibly publishable way?

I guess I could say that even though ostensibly the motivation of the show is altruistic, I could go so far as to point out that the existence of advertising breaks between segments of the edited bits of presentation (they have to edit some, you know... the show isn't actually seven days long) means that the primary motivation of the ABC/Disney people is not to help these people but rather to generate income for themselves. The cost of the new house and all its furnishings probably positively disappears next to the volume of income generated for ABC by selling primetime ad space for a well-watched television show. The more dire the family circumstances, the better as the dichotomy between project-start and project-end makes for a heightened sense of drama less for the sake of the family than to excite and entice the viewer, more of which mean programming schedule stability on Sunday nights and high, more regular rates for ad-space.

But the exploitation idea kind of goes out the window when you consider that these people actually do sort of get a new house...

But then, these are people who could only afford a 900 sqft house a couple hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. And now they are going to somehow be able to maintain a nearly 5,000 sqft replacement house. The TVs they put in the headrests on Pimp My Ride are pretty useless, but your car still only needs gas.

Again, though, I guess upkeep costs are something you can figure out seeing as you're not freezing to death anymore.

The best argument against this show I can think of is a social one. Look, if for instance you have a kid who is blind and deaf and has no arms or legs, sure, it's nice to have the Gay Mafia roll in and build you a ramp/conveyor belt contraption in front for access and a series of bite-able ceiling-mounted rings to swing from down the hallway, but come on. What does this teach people? What will this kid do when s/he's out in the real world and confronted by stairs? Or, you know, however it is someone communicates to someone in that condition the concept of stairs... the point is, the ramp/conveyor belt/swinging rings idea is just Big Brother coroporations coddling this poor child, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the obstacles of everyday life. I mean, you know, more ill equipped than an obviously angry God has already left them.

The reliance on handouts and help from those who can afford to give it can only mean trouble as we develop an entire society forcing us to adapt to the needs of those who have less. Today it's corporations, but how long before the big hearts and altruism of multinationals are affecting governments? Next thing you know there's going to be a law forcing us to build these confounded ramp contraptions in front of every public building. With all these ramps in the way, where will we stand outside to smoke?

I say no. I say make them hop/waddle/scramble like the rest of us do. Sure, for those of us unfortunate enough to be born with working sensory organs and a minimally requisite number of wither-free, full-sized limbs to allow unaided locomotion, it's metaphorical, but there's no giant corporation lining up to give us money out of the goodness of their hearts either. So it all evens out.

See, I knew I could do it. You're welcome, mom. No don't ask for anything else when birthday time rolls around.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.7


Friday, September 22, 2006
The Post That Wasn't
I just spent about an hour trying to write up something for the Movies I Have No Intention of Seeing series about Jackass: Number 2, but oh my God, did it ever get away from me. That post had characters and plotlines and a poem about trees and celebrity cameos all over the place, everyone from Paris Hilton to Run DMC to thirteenth President of the United States Millard Fillmore. There was a gameshow and carnival rides and giants and fairies and even a few straight people. It had themes and motifs and a strong mise-en-scène, a certain je ne sais quoi, a little tête-à-tête and several other Französische Wörter for your reading pleasure, just in case you forgot I was pretentious. I got so wrapped up in the composition of it, it was like I wasn't even writing it. Rather it was as though an angel descended from heaven and settled just over my shoulder, with me merely dictating as it whispered in my ear. Oh God, the filthy, degenerate things it whispered in my ear. I should have known what kind of angel it was when it giggled at the word "dictate."

But alas, the thing ended up being about 6 single-spaced pages long and by the end, I had completely forgotten the point. That has never stopped me from publishing before, but this is Friday. I know you all have paychecks to drink away.

With your busy schedules in mind, I have decided to spare you.

I killed it. It's dead. All the Buckety fun today is going to have to come from the comment section. Here, I'll start the conversation off: "Hey, fuck you people!"

Sorry if that came out harsh, but that's just how we start conversations in my house. Ah, Christmas.

As far as the movie goes, I simply invite you all to follow this link to a picture of the film's "director", calculate up your tolerance for watching other people vomit and/or shit themselves (possibly simultaneously), mash those together and then figure out for your goddamn selves if you want to see Jackass: Number 2.

What, do you want me to all your thinking for you?

Because I can. And I will. If only you'd let me.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0


Thursday, September 21, 2006
Of The People, By The People, For The People... And All Taxable
I think the first thing I'm going to buy is a pony. I don't know why, but I've always wanted one. I'm going to call him "Mister Chesterton Gerrymander the Fourth" and I will teach him prancing and trotting and that thing they do when they count with their hooves. Someone told me they can do that, but I don't really see what they do with figures higher than four.

I will feed him apples and hay and brush his shiny coat with a brush I would buy especially for that purpose. I will purchase an antique old-timey phonograph on which I will play for my pony Mahler and Brahms because ponies are known, despite their jolly appearance, to be hostile to modern digital recording techniques and given to melancholy that can only be soothed by 19th century high-class dirges. Nothing that gives so much happiness can retain much for itself.

I have no room for a pony on my property at the moment, so clearly, I will have to move. That's fine because as we know, money will be no object. I'll find a fine piece of bottom land with a meadow and a hill and a little creek running through it. The soil will be rich and dark and tended by people who don't speak English whom I pay less than minimum wage. From the good earth they will raise radishes and beets and carrots and potatoes and other types of underground-growing root vegetables so as not to exacerbate my shrubbery phobia. And I will pull these vegetables from the ground, I will taste them and I will remember that I hate radishes and beets and I will become unreasonable and arbitrary and all the garden staff will be fired. And the very next day I shall rehire them (at a slightly reduced rate) because rich people are given to fits of inexplicable pique and all those who work for their money are subject to the turbulence of our whims.

The servants shall have a servant's house with carpeting and air conditioning, but only basic cable. I will be saving them from themselves lest shows like Entourage corrupt them into wanting to become movie stars and make lots of money and not tend to my beet garden. And because the lord and master must live in a home at least 300% the size of the servant's quarters, I shall build for my family and myself a grand domicile with wings and a courtyard and a foyer all filled with fountains of statues of fat little boys peeing into things and we shall fill them with not water but with real urine from real fat little boys that we shall keep out back in our day camp we shall build specifically for that purpose. The boys shall be well treated and educated as much as we deem necessary. But really, how much algebra do you need to know to stay fat and pee into things? In my case, almost none.

And everyday I shall have chocolate and strawberries and fresh cream and barley and chestnuts and those little tiny grapes. And I shall have foie-gras and frog legs and calf's brains and caviar and I will reject them all as disgusting and loathesome, but no one will think me uncouth or vulgar because of it because you can only reasonably run the social risk of rejecting those things when you are filthy, stinking, unquestionably wealthy.

My state has sued all of the major automakers on my behalf because they are trying to kill me with global warming and pollution. Big fat check coming, you watch. Sure, we have to split the settlement 50,000,000+ ways, but we're talking car money here. These are the people who charge you $1,000 for an AM/FM cassette radio. A bottomless pit filled with cash. Well, you know, as much as you can fill something without a bottom.

I see what all those people got when they smoked for years and years and years and then got lung cancer and then sued Phillip-Morris. Pay day. They had to spend it fast, but still. Just in terms of scale, think of the number of people who a) drive and b) breathe. It's staggering. I can't wait.

And all these years I was so critical of the state and local governments for not spending a single meaningful dollar on public transportation of any kind. Now I know: it's Detroit's fault. Well done, California. Way to sucker them in with a total lack of vision or planning or even enough basic transportation infrastructure to sustain the population levels of 15 years ago, let alone the present. More cars on the road! I get it now. I see what you were doing. It all seemed so wrong until I finally realized I was inching closer to my lifelong pony dream.

Sue away. As long as I get my check, I'll totally vote for... whatever that state attorney general guy's name is.

Before any disagrees, I know I'm getting a check. I know it. Otherwise, what would be the point of the lawsuit if not to directly benefit those on whose behalf it is being ostensibly filed? Don't be so cynical. You'll lose your world-weary mistrust when I post the first pictures of Mister Chesterton Gerrymander the Fourth.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.8


Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Prince Of Whales
I never really thought about it before, but I think it's time I start considering a career change from child-rearing to wild-animal-wrestling. It doesn't sound very smart, but when I think about it, the two professions really aren't all that different. The thing about a wild bear is that, yes, it will bite your face off but it won't write with marker on my walls, put peanut butter in the toaster or ask you over and over and over and over and over again if it can bite your face off beforehand. The beauty of the wild bear is its inability to manipulate its vocal chords and tongue in order to form words. After that, teeth and claws and a thousand pounds of pure muscle are just details of a problem I'm willing to try and solve.

The best thing about wild-animal-wrestling is that it will guarantee you immortality. Well, OK, not actual immortality--quite the opposite in fact--but none of us are actually going to achieve that. The next best thing is to leave such an impression that they have to hold your funeral in a stadium and have it broadcast on every national television network. Will anyone forget Steve Irwin any time soon? I don't think so. I hear their planning to carve his face, Rushmore-like, into Ayers Rock. You might ask: but won't that profane something sacred to the aborigines? To which I must reply: Not any more than the existence on their continent of 30 million white people with in-born resistance to smallpox already does.

The funeral service for Steve Irwin included tributes from politicians and friends and family (including a robotic speech from his 8-year-old daughter which is either heartbreakingly apt or terrifying, I haven't decided which yet) and a compilation of grief-wishes and sad-face-making via videotape from lots of celebrities including Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Cameron Diaz.

Just in case I forget to mention it later, Kevin Costner is not allowed to speak at my funeral. Not even on video. Being dead will be indignity enough.

The voices of regret and mourning were totally unanimous... except one. Underwater nature dork and suspected Frenchman Jean-Michel Cousteau, while agreeing that people dying can be sad, pisses all over the idea of wild-animal-wrestling in general, like it's not something people should be doing.

First of all, let me point out that criticism of someone else's profession is coming from a guy whose job it is to take pictures of fish.

The full quote that's being bandied about the internets is that Cousteau says Irwin would "interfere with nature, jump on animals, grab them, hold them, and have this very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things. Of course, it goes very well on television. It sells, it appeals to a lot people, but I think it's very misleading. You don't touch nature, you just look at it. And that's why I'm still alive. I've been diving over 61 years — a lot many more years that he's been alive — and I don't mess with nature."

English is not his first language, so to clarify, I can sum it up. Cousteau says to Irwin's children: "Your dad had it coming."

I would like to say that I'm not surprised by Cousteau's objection to Irwin's tactics. What we have to remember is that he--Mr. Cousteau--is a Frenchman. These are not the most aggressive people in the history of humankind. I can see why what Steve Irwin did would be somewhat off-putting. Muscular, interventionist, interactive, pro-active, short pants... Steve Irwin never gave off much of a brie-and-toast-points kind of a vibe.

History has shown us how some of the French react when faced with danger. Jean-Michel's father, Jacques Cousteau, had a standing policy to make a preliminary offer to surrender Paris immediately when confronted with anything larger than a porpoise.

Even less well known is that from about the 11th century, the entire region of Gascony has been ruled by descendents of a particularly pushy breed of North Atlantic seals. Legends say they came ashore one day and the entire populace, mistaking them for Spaniards, spontaneously offered fealty under feudal law. Noble inbreeding being what it is, no noticeable change in the quality of governance was observed. In fact, the quality of life noticeably improved for many citizens once they realized any request could be granted so long as it was made with a throwable mackerel in hand. I will admit that political marriages with surrounding nobles became slightly more awkward. But only slightly.

I guess my main point is that before today, I'd never heard of Jean-Michel Cousteau. Meanwhile, a bill has been introduced in the Australian Parliament to rename Melbourne "Crocodilehunteropolis". Partially, yes, it's a celebration of Steve Irwin's life and a tribute to the lasting impression he made as a guy who would wrestle wild animals and handle poisonous snakes in a non-religious context. Mostly though I think it's Melbourne seeing a chance to boost their profile and draw tourists. They're still very bitter that Sydney got an Olympics. Very competitive, those two cities. It'll be war soon. Crikey.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.4


Tuesday, September 19, 2006
This Message Will Self-Destruct
I would like to use this space today to publicly chastise Nicholas and Lola Kampf, the Maine couple who kidnapped their own daughter, tied her up, threw her in the trunk of their car and tried to drive her to an out-of-state clinic for a forced abortion.

I want my outrage on the record. These people have acted selfishly and thoughtlessly. I could not be more livid about this. Now the right-wing revolutionaries, the little guys who hold up the blogosphere and Fox News, will be screaming about the inhumanity of abortion, the crazed... craziness of its adherents and clarifying for them the stark reality of a near-future dystopia where abortion is not an act of choice but forced upon young women by the arbitrary oversight of authority, in this case parental but by clear and obvious extension, one day, the United States government.

Way to go, Knopfs. You totally tipped them off to the plan.

We were still two years away from implementation and now it's all compromised because you couldn't just perform an abortion on your daughter at home while she was sleeping with the tools secretly provided you by Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton.

I mean, my God, you couldn't even let us get to Phase One of the plan first, the Democratic takeover of Congress in November. There is still so much groundwork to be laid before we even get to organizing the activist judges to fix the presidential election of 2008 to ensure a Democrat victory so we can get the power of the executive branch behind this forced abortion plan and now our hand has been tipped.

You know Karl Rove is watching. Your failure of composure has exposed us all to counter-stratagems that will involve awakening the irresistible power of Christian voters animated by the Holy Spirit and not being bitten by the snakes they're holding, rendering them able to vote us down in November and then where will we be?

Your daughter comes home and says she's knocked up by some guy in prison. Big deal. Standard operating procedure for Democrats like us, right? Sounds to me like a kid who is a prime candidate for future government assistance. Right up our alley.

So you freak out and throw her in the back of your Lexus and drive her off to... hang on... wait a second... something isn't right...


Oh my God. They're Republicans.

They're already on to us. It's a pre-emptive PR assault!

Total disaster! It's the forced-sodomy plan of 2004 all over again!

We have to... it's time to... hey, what's the word for immediately stopping a project in progress, after the conception stage but before it can be brought fully to term? Man, tip of my tongue... Oh yeah!

Abort! Abort! Burn all documents! Kill all questionable contacts! Smoke all the hydroponic weed! Condition critical! Codeword: Obama! Abort! Abort!

You never read this blogpost.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: [CENSORED]


Monday, September 18, 2006
Pope Offers Apology To World Muslims: "I'm Sorry You're All Muslim"
ROME- Following a firestorm of controversy ignited by a speech in which Pope Benedict XVI referred to Islam as "evil and inhuman," the pontiff has offered an unprecedented personal apology to the world's Muslims.

In a statement issued by the Pope's personal secretary, Benedict expressed regret at causing the furor in the first place, noting that the words used weren't his, but merely a citation from a medieval source he was quoting in a speech he gave. In his defense, it should be noted that the Vatican library only has two ancient non-Biblical texts from which to quote, the one he chose last week and an early-16th century manuscript of what would become The Da Vinci Code. Turns out the objection to the book and 2006 film were more of a copyright infringement thing.

Taking his cue from politicians who get caught being racist, the Pope in his statement expressed "regret if anyone was offended by [his] comments." When pressed about whether or not the limp wording actually constituted an apology, the Pope gave one of those Italian rude gestures where you flick your fingers off the underside of your chin, was heard to say "Ah, they're all going to hell anyway" and then strangled an altar-boy to death with his bare hands.

Further along in the official statement of "Apology" (their quotation marks), the Papal Office points out that "while it is true that martyrs to the Muslim cause are met by 72 virgins in the afterlife, it is important to note why these women are still virgins. Biblical research reveals that it is not because they did not want to have sexual intercourse, but merely that they have had their vaginas soldered shut by the white-hot tears of angels (Ecclesiastes 11:16-24). And everyone knows there's nothing an angel loves more than a good practical joke that torments the victim for all eternity."

The Pope expounded on that point, noting: "You think it's bad living with a woman who menstruates once a month, try living with one who gets her period with a sewn-up hoo-ha." Observers noted Benedict inclining his head and winking to nonverbally indicate his personal valet, Sister Mary Bernardine.

The strength of his apology notwithstanding, the admission of error, or even any statement to clarify a position, is almost entirely novel among pontiffs, who for centuries operated on the assumption of "Papal Infallibility." For instance, if a Pope had ever expressed the idea that all gays would be turned into pillars of salt at midnight, they would. Unless they didn't, in which case a commission would be empanelled that would be directed to find that the Pope had been speaking metaphorically and that no jokes should be made with the words "salt lick" in them.

The shift into the contrition business, usually reserved for worshippers among Catholics, is a reflection of the Vatican's sensitivity to new geo-political realities. In the old days, a Pope could say what he wanted about Islam, comfortable in the fact that there were several well-armed kingdoms between them and Mecca. In fact, a snap of his fingers and whole nations would march out on Crusade. This of course explains the disaster of 1920s pontiff Clement XXVII, the first jazz pope. Very quickly in his reign he learned to tap his foot to the beat instead.

Medieval Islamic armies, at the height of Muslim political expansion, made it as far as Vienna as recently as 1683 before they were turned back. In the age of horse transport, still a comfortable buffer distance from Rome. But in the days of individual suicide bombers and hijacked planes flying into buildings of cultural and political import, the Vatican seems to be taking a pro-active retroactive approach to this controversy which amounts to "That's not what I said, please don't blow us up." That seems cowardly until you consider that the Pope is only protected by a select few elite guards from Switzerland. You'd be sorry too if you relied on pacifists to do your fighting.


Sunday, September 17, 2006
Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

Slight technical Bucket difficulties as we upgrade to a larger, post-1997-size hard drive. Finally, somewhere to store my collection of vintage lesbian clown porn scans. I keep it in my iTunes folder in my "Hip-Hop Gospel" subdirectory.

If it makes you feel any better about being ditched for the evening/morning, know that there is much tedium and bother happening at this end as I shuffle and transfer and re-label. Frankly, I'd rather be cleaning out the fridge. At least that way there's the remote possibility that you will discover you've allowed a new species to evolve by keeping an old nectarine and leftover tuna salad too close together way in the back for, I don't know, 3-7 years. Only one tip: if you see the new living culture back there and say "Wow!" and it goes "Yeah, I know!" (or really any audible reply) slam the door shut and just fucking run.

If you still need to fill your regular time allotment you usually use reading the Bucket, here, watch this Norm MacDonald interview from The Daily Show. Most of it is very, very wrong.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've just discovered I had a copy of King's Quest III on my old harddrive. Transfer or trash? Well, the old one ran so well with it on there...


Friday, September 15, 2006
Social Experimentation, With Halftime
You see them on freeway offramps, at intersections, their cardboard signs out, toiling all day in the hot, hot sun soliciting your help and God's prayers upon you if you would only be so kind... And really, how could you not help someone out who can't manage to spell the word "bless"?

Hour after hour, week after week they stand there, only taking the rare break to answer their cell phone, check voice mail or run down to the McDonald's on their suspiciously nice looking mountain bike.

You know who they are. You pray for the light to stay green when you see them and then roll up the window if it doesn't. They're homeless people.

You remember them. Reagan made them all. Really, in that secret workspace a hundred miles below the White House, he formed them out of clay like golems, breathed the word of life into their ears, dressed them up in shabby clothes, decorated them with just the right musky scent of pickle brine, old beer and month-old brie and launched them onto American streets to hunt for communists, powered by the furnaces in their guts that burned the zinc from pennies.

In the long term, they would survive any nuclear attack, feeding on radiation and the heat from the explosions to make them harder, stronger, grow to giant size and rule the post-apocalypse world in the name of democracy, freedom and clay-monster rights. Was Reagan out of touch? Yes he was. But not because he was callous and unfeeling and half-way out of his Alzheimer's ravaged mind. It was because creating an army of street-roaming Soviet-proof automatons can be a time-consuming endeavor. He was busy ensuring America's survival.

Most of the golem-homeless are gone now, the victims of budget cuts at the end of the Cold War. What's left on the streets are the adherents they recruited, regular people, lost and simple, the type of a person who could be talked into something by a barely-animate object with no mouth.

In her campaign to raise public awareness of the plight of homeless people, Tipper Gore let us all in on the nasty secret that most of those who are on the streets are in some way clinically deranged. Her cold-blooded, heartless campaign single-handedly transformed the idea of the homeless from down-on-their-luck train-hopping hobo bon vivants to wild-eyed schizophrenics who only grow those long beards to hide rusty razors in so they can cut you if you got too close.

I used to give money to homeless people, comfortable in the knowledge that they were only going to spend it on booze or drugs or underage street prostitutes. Once I found out they were crazy, I stopped. No way was I getting myself into crazy-man rusty-razor arm's-length range. I could die or get tetanus. I could stand to lose a pound or two, but lockjaw really isn't the way I want to do it. Or worse, they could take my kindly offered money and spend it on affordable Canadian psychiatric drugs. I refuse to aid or abet treason.

Still, since they lost their golem overlords, they're out there, without guidance, exposed to the elements, our co-humans suffering and unloved. Every once in a while I will give. To a properly marketed third-party organization that assures me the money will be allocated to homeless relief. And then only if they send nubile, earnest co-eds to solicit at my door. But still, it's something.

What have you done for the homeless lately?

There's a company in the UK who organizes a whole soccer tournament for homeless people. Yes, there is a Homeless World Cup. I don't want to read the article in depth for fear it will ruin the image I have in my head of what the event entails. I like to think of it as something like Bumfights but with a ball. Like, for instance, you're allowed to cut a guy going for goal with the business end of a broken malt liquor bottle so long as you don't use your hands.

And at the end of it, the winning team gets a lopsided trophy of tin-foil around stacked cardboard toilet-paper tubes. Yeah, scoff if you want, but at least these people, these winners, can raise a glass of fine pruno, gaze at that trophy before them and think: "Finally, something to shit in."

Sure, maybe they could really use something to eat and a place to live, but a soccer tournament, well, it keeps them busy for a while. Long enough at least for the organizers to implant the foil-hat-proof mind-control chips and perform all the medical experimentation they can squeeze in. The homeless people give more to the world than most of us realize. After all, there are only so many organ transplants you can practice on dogs before you have to dress-rehearse on the real thing. You don't cut open employed tax-payers and start poking around just to see what stuff does. Think about that next time your liver fails, drunky.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 2.6


Thursday, September 14, 2006
The Hip Hop And The White Funk Just Blew Away My Puppy's Mind
Commercials I hear on the radio keep telling me that "sixty is the new forty," which I guess is good news for old people, but really bad news for those of us who are already not good at math. Reassigning values to numbers is clearly an attempt by the US adding machine industry ("Big Calculator") to force us all to trash our old standby 15-button solar-powered wallet calculators and upgrade to fancy new machines that can handle the new reckoning and will probably be powered by a 225-horsepower V8 gasoline engine.

"Sixty is the new forty" is supposed to relieve, I suppose, some of the existential panic radio listeners might feel as they edge uncomfortably close to the national life expectancy. And make them want to drink Sprite. After all, it is still just a commercial with something to sell. Right behind sex--and really, who doesn't notice sex from behind?--the next most popular bundle of ideas to wrap your product in is youth.

If sixty really is the new forty, then we're all getting retroactively younger. People are living longer and staying unseasonably spry well into late autumn.

I can already see the change in my kids. My oldest is seven, but he doesn't look a day over six and a half. That doesn't sound like much, but as a percentage, it's remarkable.

We're all supposed to be so young and able and ready to make decisions about where to spend our disposable income, but for me, at the relatively mid-summer age of 32, there are more and more aspects of modern youth culture that I am completely alienated from. Maybe I won't be "old" when I'm forty and barely getting there when I'm sixty, but that doesn't mean I won't give my kids ample reason to laugh at me. They already do of course, but really only because of my paralyzing stutter and club foot. But that's not generational, that's just because kids are assholes.

Although to be fair, what's funnier than an orthop-p-p-pedic sh-sh-shoe?

I think part of the problem is technology. The pace of change, innovation and the introduction of new products increases so that the stratification between generations is itself happening more quickly.

Technologically speaking, people my age (late GenX types) are tweeners. I grew up with the ubiquitous PC and digital music (in the form of compact discs) and cable TV and the internet. OK, not so much the internet as Prodigy, but it was still connectivity and the ability to tell people how much I thought Smashing Pumpkins sucked in bold anonymous text. The utter wired-ness (or, moving forward, wireless-ness) of the culture, however, hadn't quite taken hold. When I was in college a scant 10 years ago, there was no network connection in my dorm room. Luckily we did have a three-foot-wide ledge running outside our screenless windows, so we were able to send a guy out with some co-ax so we could play WarCraft II. Uphill. Both ways.

Like I said, this was only 10 years ago. Already the experience of college students and young people in general is fundamentally different, driven mostly by (though not entirely) technology.

There are already lots of things about the way those younger than myself live that are foreign to me.

Note we played WarCraft II and not the now-popular Worlds of WarCraft. We had no MMORPGs when I was growing up, so the concept of them, while interesting, is sort of foreign to me. Plus, as much as I like video games, I'm not really that excited about the opportunity to pay a monthly fee to play them. Also--and I think this is the clincher--I have at this point in my life had sexual contact with an actual living female. So I'm not even 100% sure I'd be allowed to play one of those type of games.

I have neither an iPod nor any other type of MP3 player. I'm comfortable with my desktop PC, so I do run iTunes and have a modest MP3 collection, so it's not as though I don't comprehend the technology. I guess the main stumbling block for me as far as the iPod goes is that I just don't need another goddamn thing to maintain. I elect to stick with what I know I will annoy me at predictable levels, like my PC. Sure, it's a little bulkier to carry when I'm on the go, but with a few harness attachments, it's not so bad. Once you solve the power-source problem it's actually quite handy. All the people on the bus are envious of my screen size.

My cellphone has no camera lens in it, nor do I want one. I guess in this respect I am just something of a fuddy-duddy. In my day we took badly lit, poorly focused, visually incomprehensible pictures using cameras devoted specifically to that purpose, dammit.

I've never had an energy drink. Part of this is probably because I don't drink coffee or any of its Starbucksian variants, so I don't have the stimulant-tolerance of an African bull elephant. I figure if I need anything more than I can get out of a Mountain Dew, well, that's why Jesus gave us meth.

My one concession to youth culture is that I do have a myspace presence. I don't actually use it or update it or... whatever it is you're supposed to do with a myspace page. I originally signed up just so I could creepily stalk other people I knew were myspace active. And to meet Tom. Both experiences I found to be deeply fulfilling and caused me to ask some serious personal questions about myself. But other than that, it hasn't brought me much. I really only keep it for the free porn solicitations.

When you get down to it, that's what technology is all about anyway, from the printing press to fiber optics: free porn solicitations. When you get there, you find out the porn itself isn't free, but just to be asked... well that's all we need to feel included, isn't it? I happily pass along my credit card number to the struggling actress degrading herself in front of her webcam because, dammit, she makes me feel like I'm part of the community. And I will not be left behind.

Plus... you know... her whole fist!

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.987


Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Hey, did I ever tell you guys the story about the time George Lucas came to my house and punched all my kids in the face? No?

Man, you would have thought that after having a blog for two years that might have come up. But I guess I've been too busy finding pictures of smoking children posing with chickens or making teh phunny out of the slangy double-entendre of our president's last name to get around to something like that. Unlike most bloggers, my problem is I just have too many ideas.

About six months ago I guess, it happened the first time. My three young boys and I, all gathered around the computer getting ready for some good quality family bonding time where we ignore each other as we play a video game, except for the parts where we scream and throw things at the other person because they are "doing it wrong" and "ruining our game." This kind of social development is just as important as any SAT to prepare them for college life, in my opinion. Although I did leave out the bong hits.

We had just purchased the fun-looking LEGO Star Wars video game, in which the stories of the three Star Wars prequels are re-made out of Lego blocks. Lots of explosions and death and dismemberment, but in a pleasant molded-plastic aesthetic that is only scary when your dad, for example, leans close to your ear behind you when you're playing and offers commentary. "Oh my God, he just cut off that guy's legs. How do you think that would feel? And now he's going to leave him to be burned alive. Oh Jesus, his skin is probably melting right on his bones... OK, bed time!"

We got to that eventually, but right out of the box... nothing. The computer wouldn't even recognize the CD-ROM, let alone install. There was much wailing and consternation among the sprogs that afternoon. To get them all worked up into that twitching, drooling, shaking level of barely-contained-explosion expectation reserved for kids and dogs and then to have all that energy go un-released. Let me tell you, it turns into something unspeakably horrible but just as intense in a hurry. Yeah, maybe they can't reach the control knobs, but it's still disturbing to find your five-year-old with his head in the oven.

We got the game several months after it initially came out. I looked online for help. Hey, turns out this is a known technical issue. All they accidentally did was ship over half of the copies of the games on non-functioning CD-ROMs. And look, there they still were, on the shelves at Best Buy waiting for me to buy so that I could emotionally injure my kids. That wasn't the time George Lucas punched my kids personally in the face, though. This was more like having George Lucas ring the doorbell, wait until we were in sight, dropping his pants, pressing his scrotum against the window and then running away.

The "fix" ended up being just calling Lucasarts, saying the words "Lego Star Wars" and having them take my information so they could send me a free replacement copy. No receipt, no proof of purchase. I desperately wish I still had that number handy so I could share it with you all and you could all get free copies of Lego Star Wars, whether you play it or not.

We got the game and it was actually lots of fun to play, very silly and slapstick, fun for all ages which was bad news for the kids because they cannot match me yet for physical strength.

As big a hit as it was in my house, we were waiting with volcanic expectation for Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy to come out. Same game, but with the story and characters from the first three movies. Release date: yesterday.

Of course we went out and bought it right after school. If nothing else, I want my kids to know the importance in American society of immediate gratification, susceptibility to hype, paying attention to advertising... all the things that make good Consumer-Americans. Take that, terrorists.

We brought the game home. I had to pry the box out of six grasping, trembling hands just to get it open. I was able to distract them for a few seconds by throwing an handful of fruit-snacks in the opposite direction. This worked long enough for me to get the CD-ROM into the computer. The auto-run sequence began and then...

BOOM! It was the front door. BOOM! BOOM! The whole doorframe gave way. In squeezes George Lucas, all 750 pounds of him, with his sad old Elvis pompadour and his weird skinny beard covering only one of what has to be at least a dozen chins. He's wild-eyed and pasty, his big meatball hands knotted into fists. First he goes for the baby and WHAP! punches the three year old right in the face. Then it's the middle boy, POW! He stays up because he's the middle child and knows from beatings, so POW! George lets him have it again. He goes down. Finally the oldest, just gaping in awe and Lucas lets him have it full force with that two-handed fist Captain Kirk used to make, CRACK! right across the skull. While he's down, George shakes him to see if any loose change or gold fillings might have come loose, and then, just as soon as he arrived, backs out again in no particular hurry.

Also: the game wouldn't load. "1330 Error" or something. It's one thing to buy a game that has some bugs in it as you play it, but this is the second straight time the thing wouldn't even install. And the walls of our home knew the sound of lamentation.

People have been posting FUNCTIONING work-arounds (one of which I found late last night) on the Lucasarts tech support fora, which of course Lucasarts immediately takes down.

The one I used works. The details of it I can share with anyone who requests it, via e-mail ( popsbucket@hotmail.com ).

Don't let George Lucas happen to you.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9 (immediately reduced to 0.1 if I help one other person fix this stupid problem)


PS- In defiance of Lucasarts, for the benefit of googlers, I present this text string: Lego Star Wars 2 Error 1330 workaround help. Dig me, I'm in violation of my end user license agreement for the game. And you are all accomplices now, so don't think about turning me in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I grew up poor (for the most part), underprivileged, probably underfed. That last one was mostly by choice. You'd elect not to eat if the only option was government cheese too. The schools I went to were in bad areas and underfunded. I was in 9th grade before I even knew what a cappuccino machine looked like. In America. Can you even imagine?

Plus, this was the era of the Moral Majority where all the bright lights of religious citizenship (Falwell, Swaggart, Bakker) told me day in and day out that to be good was to be godly and for three easy installments of $149.99, I too could go to heaven.

Poor, undereducated, surrounded by zealotry... how did I not become a suicide bomber?

I think the first problem was that the religious education I was suppoed to be getting was coming through the television. We didn't have cable, but still, there were the seven broadcast channels (and several UHF ones) to choose from. Like the short-sighted 8-year-old I was, I opted far too often for cartoons over Jesus. Too much He-Man, not enough PTL. And there's no way He-Man is going to turn you into a suicide bomber. Confused about your burgeoning sexual identity maybe, but not a suicide bomber.

Also, being a poor kid in America isn't really so bad if you don't know what the alternative is. Eating lots of ramen sounds like a sad way to grow up, but when you're a kid, you get to boil water and then drop a brick of undulating dried noodles into it, then watch it disintigrate into wormy chicken-flavored goodness. Sure, you'd get rickets every once in a while, but didn't all kids? I had no idea. The only thing more fun than ramen are metal leg braces. Why would you want to blow yourself up if you're already half way to being bionic?

No, there just isn't any scenario I can fashion that makes the suicide bomber thought matrix accessbile. Maybe there would be 72 virgins waiting for me on the other side, but honestly, I'd be a little more preoccupied with the blast concussion, the fireball and the Pops-shrapnel I'd have to become in the transition.

Being completely honest with myself, I just don't know if a suicide bombing would even be logistically feasible for someone like me. I'm not that detail-oriented. I'd end up the most half-assed suicide bomber there ever was. I'd be like those dudes who tried to blow up the US embassy in Syria. You shave off all your body hair, you put passages from the Koran in your pocket, you make the suicide video tape with the AK-47 and the fetching green bandana, strap detonators to gas cans, drive up and... did you bring the detonator trigger? I thought YOU were bringing the detonator trigger. No, I brought the map and the beef jerky. So what, do you want to just rush the compound with these guns? We can't do that, we'd be killed. Ahahaha, very funny. OK, let's go.

I barely have the heart to point out that they were a day late.

Do you still get into paradise if you don't take out any infidels? See, these are the kinds of questions that would pre-occupy me to the point of preclusion. Well, that and the fact that I'm Catholic.


In the president's speech yesterday, he did go out of his way to say that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. But then the whole point of his speech was about the war in Iraq. And he gave it on 9/11. Mixed message? I wonder if he even thinks so...

If you ever get confused, just do what I do and look at the following:

I'd never make it as a suicide bomber, but my head explodes just a little bit every time I watch that.

OK, enough with the explodey-death. Tomorrow's post will be 9/11-free. Maybe something about pastry.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.11


Monday, September 11, 2006
A Proclamation (With Amendations)
What follows is the president's annual order naming today, September 11th, "Patriot Day." I offer it for you with some slight additions and clarifications of my own. See if you can spot the changes!

If you are boring, not that smart and/or hate things that are fun, then you can always go here so you can cheat. Cheater.


Patriot Day, 2006
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Remembering 9/11

On the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we recall the fire and horror at the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. America will always remember the thousands of innocent lives taken by the enemies of freedom that morning. It is not possible to forget as the images and news-feeds from that day have been pre-empting all broadcasts in every form of media. Those of you without televisions, computers or radios or just lacking in the inclination to remember what exactly Soledad O'Brien said at 11:38 that morning or how exactly Aaron Brown phrased his "Oh my God"s can expect a visit from your local Department of Justice case handler. Yes, you have one. Because you are a patriot.

In the face of these unspeakable attacks, we were reminded that the great strength of America is found in the hearts and souls of our citizens. And in our sculpted backs and thighs and buttocks. In our tricpes and deltoids and in our well-developed core regions. We witnessed firefighters, police officers, other public safety officials, and ordinary Americans demonstrate extraordinary courage, risking their lives to save innocent victims. We saw our country united in compassion as Americans came together to buy SUVs and re-join the armed forces by order and under threat of arrest after their terms of service had long since lapsed. May God bless them.

Today, America is fighting a war that is testing our Nation's resolve. That was my idea. Good job, so far. We are once again answering history's call with confidence, and we know that freedom will prevail. Our brave men and women in uniform have stepped forward to fight our enemies abroad so that we do not have to face them here at home, and we are grateful for the courageous individuals bringing terrorists to justice around the world. You might laugh, but let me ask you: when was the last time you saw an Iraqi Republican Guard tank battallion in your hometown? You can't argue with results.

We are also confronting the extremists in the great ideological struggle of the 21st century. You thought I forgot, didn't you? Yeah, OK, so they're #2 on my list, but at least they're on my list. Did you see that movie on ABC? Clinton didn't care about this stuff at all. Also, he was fat. September the 11th made clear that, in the long run, the only way to secure our Nation is to advance liberty and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. By working together with our friends and allies, we are helping conflate unrelated geopolitical incidents, laying the foundations of peace for generations to come.

The events of September 11, 2001, will always be a defining moment in our history. Whatever you do, don't think about Katrina and New Orleans. Focus on this. I can't bomb a hurricane. We hold the victims and their families in our hearts, and we lift them up in our prayers.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day." We're embarrassed by the name now as we thought the New England NFL team would still be dominant as it was in 2002, but I guess we're stuck with it now. I want it noted for the record that from Day 1, I thought "Steeler Day" sounded a lot more bad-ass.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PRESIDENT OF AMERICA GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2006, using the power afforded me as President, as Patriot Day. I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (really, Puerto Rico?), as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half staff on Patriot Day on pain of excommunication and deportation. You know who you are, Schwarzenegger and Granholm. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services, to display the flag at half staff from their homes on that day, to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and to vote Republican in the upcoming midterm elections. If the pictures of me hugging fatherless children on TV isn't enough to sway you, remember: this is a presidential order. I have tanks.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first, one thousand seven hundred and twenty six days since 9/11/01. There are 481 jellybeans in this jar. You can't see it, but there are. I can do math. I can.


Sunday, September 10, 2006
Pre-Game Ritual
I've learned a lot of things directly from maintaining this blog over 2+ years:

  • People who blog under their own names almost always regret it.

  • Proofreading is the soul-crushing exercise in near-death tedium I'd always imagined it to be.

  • The totally free Blogger service only annihilates and casts into the void of cyber oblivion the posts that take the longest to write and are the most objectively brilliant (also known as the "you should have seen the size of the fish I almost caught" principle).

  • While blogging is one of life's few pursuits that is truly pants-optional, it should not be construed as encouragement to make "pants-optional" a lifestyle choice, especially in communities with strictly enforced and frankly puritanical/draconian public indecency statutes.

  • When stuck for material, by all means, list.

    Amazingly enough, even though I've been doing this for such a good long time, I still learn things to this day.

    Just tonight I learned that if you run what is ostensibly a humor-based blog, it is not always a good idea to watch long documentaries about the effects of 9/11 on a particular fire-house in lower Manhattan just before you're about to post. On my Sunday "to-do" list, I have such things as Wake Up, Sit For Nine Hours Without Moving While Football Is On and then, right at the very end, I have "Make With The Funny." That one's for you people. If that list ended with "Kill Self," then the 9/11 documentary might have been a little more productive a venture. As it is, it's sort of all I can do not to amend the end of my list to make it line up better.

    So in the place of an actual post, to cheer us all up, I present to you a picture of a boy smoking a cigarette while seated next to a chicken.

    Is it real? Is it fake? Is it child abuse? Is it chicken abuse? I don't know. It probably would have been more appropriate to post a picture that was more in the vein of 9/11 tribute, but those are all twin tower silhouettes with smoke coming out that forms up in the clouds to the face of a screaming eagle or something with the sun's rays in the background forming the stripes on the American flag all over the slogan "We Shall Never Forget" or thereabouts. You know Americans are serious when we break into the olde-timey English for stuff like "shall." But I'm already depressed about being reminded over and over again about 9/11 without having to be further pushed into melancholy by my country's utter lack of imagination in the field of mass-market graphic design.

    There's only so much I can take.

    So enjoy it. The picture may not have any slogans or towers, but there is the potential for smoke and a bird, so it's not all THAT dissimilar.

    I'll see you people tomorrow. Holla.

    This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.7


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    Friday, September 08, 2006
    All We Are Is Dust In The Wind, Dude
    I never really understood the cop-out phrase "like comparing apples to oranges." The idea is that you can't talk about the two things being discussed in any sort of critically analytical way because they are, like apples and oranges, just too different. Which is crap. To me, I accept the invocation of "apples and oranges" as a de facto surrender. It says "I cannot think of anything directly to dispute what you say, so I will conjure instead images of fruits to confuse you as I make my escape through this unlocked window." Plus, the eagerness use of fruit in this case as an analogy, I think, is also a marker of latent homosexuality. We all know what "fruit" is slang for. As a straight American Christian, it is my duty--when confronted with possible gayness--to first punch you in the face and then systematically to deny you several basic human rights while still happily collecting your tax money. Just be prepared.

    Besides, it's actually pretty easy to compare apples to oranges. Oranges come from southeast Asia (communist), flourished in the Middle East (terrorist) and have been a magnet for foreigners to come to places like California and Florida for hundreds of years (illegals). Politically, I find the existence of the orange unconscionable. Plus they're kind of soggy and messy and hard to peel with the seeds just floating around, random and chaotic, inside.

    Apples on the other hand come from Europe (democracy, white people) and are closely associated in several ways with the United States and its greatness--apple pie, Johnny Appleseed, alcohol you can get sorority girls to drink, etc. Organizationally speaking, we're talking about a thin, edible peel, firm pure-white flesh around a core of well-behaved seeds bundled around a strong, authoritarian center so well organized they even make a pretty star shape when cut the right way.

    In a pinch, you can chuck an apple at someone and expect to do a reasonable amount of damage. With oranges you pretty much have to put seven or eight of them in a sock and get up close to hit someone with it. What's more un-American than that? When it comes to combat, we're clearly more of a missile-culture, although the oranges get credit for inflicting pain without leaving too many marks. But that's just us using the terrorists' own fruit against them.

    The next time someone says to you "that's like comparing apples to oranges" you can just say to them "I agree, it's no fucking contest, you commie terrorist homo" and then stab them with something sharply poetic like an apple corer.

    I think if we need to compare two things that are kind of similar but really have very little in common, I like to say "no, you can't compare those two things, that's like comparing gravy and frosting."

    I think you'll find the analogy is more than apt.

    Gravy and frosting, when you think about it, really provide the exact same function: they go on top of stuff in order to make them taste better. Neither is really suited to be an independent hand-food. You can eat gravy or frosting out of a jar or can, but would you grab a handful with you on the way out the door in the morning to eat on the subway? Of course not. Seepage can be a real problem. One is generally savory and the other sweet but really, that's where the similarities end.

    Gravy acts as a lubricant for otherwise dry or pasty foodstuffs, but also as a bonding agent to bring disparate parts of your meal together in one harmonious family of saucy, saucy gluttony. What would green beans and meatloaf have to say to one another without the commonality of a giant pool of gravy? I ask you.

    Plus, gravy is necessary. Someone brings you mashed potatoes. Question #1: Gravy? I'm not eating this giant mound of cementy, carb-y goodness without something to slick it up a bit and fool me into thinking I'm eating meat, thanks very much.

    Frosting, on the other hand, merely sits on top of what it is added to. It adds a layer of stratification. It is by definition a separator, a marker and enforcer of layers. Frosting is all straight-lines and segregation.

    Frosting is also, unlike gravy, totally optional. Cake without frosting? Not ideal, but surely edible. You're going to drink a big fat glass of milk with it either way, so I'm sure you can force your way through it.

    What I don't get is why frosting and gravy are treated so similarly linguistically. Think of this sentence: "I'll learn the drums and Mikey will learn the guitar and Barry is fat, so he can play the bass. We'll get really good, write a couple of songs, get some gigs and go on tour. Groupies will want to bang us and people will totally give us beer and pot for free. Hey, if we make any money at it along the way, that will just be _______."

    We could go with "gravy" in that blank. Or just as easily "icing on the cake." Which is just so wrong. It's that kind of linguistic inexactitude that brought down the Roman Empire. Anyone who's ever taken a Latin class knows what I'm talking about. Five hundred year debates about the proper use of gerunds and the next thing you know, Visigoths are raping your sisters and burning your city to the ground.

    I realize that this cause is mostly a lost one, however. The effects of blogs on society are clearly more limited than they get credit for. There are thousands and thousands of people who wander around, posting comments only to be pain-in-the-ass nitpickers about apostrophes in its/it's or the proper employment of there/they're/their and yet still 90% of what is written online looks like it was typed by especially stupid monkeys. With hammers. We are, sadly, but single voices and the world, alas, is just too large. Trying to change the way language works in this manner--however correct we are--would be like... uh... like... um...

    You know what, I'm not really that good with metaphors.

    This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.2


    Thursday, September 07, 2006
    Hot Bush
    So I'm at home yesterday. The kids are off playing or taking turns jumping off the roof or whatever it is they do when they're not bothering me and I find myself alone for those scant few minutes between homework and dinner, just me and my TV. Checking to make sure the kids weren't on their way downstairs, I started flipping around the channels looking for some light afternoon titillation. Nothing pornographic, just something to inspire a few impure thoughts, a little flush about the cheek, maybe a light patina of perspiration.

    As usual when this mood strikes me, I found myself on C-SPAN. I know, cliché, right? But come on, is there anything more chastely sexy than a four-hour block of programming covering every single second (including sound check, intermissions and the custodial staff suggestively stacking chairs afterward) of an 8-member panel in a hotel conference room discussing trade policy and/or yet another book about Aaron Burr? I don't think so. I'm getting a little flustered just typing it.

    Imagine my chagrin, then, when C-SPAN's regular programming was pre-empted by some speech from the president. Suffice it to say, it wasn't really what I was looking for. But then I saw the speech was going to happen in that room with the red carpet and the row of flags on either side and I got sort of excited, though in a totally different, slow-down-to-see-the-car-accident kind of a way. This is the room presidents do press conferences from. Excellent.

    Bush is announced and he strolls up to the podium to... wild, sustained applause? What the fuck, press corps? They can't all be Fox News. Bush starts with the welcomes and the introductions and my day just gets worse: no questions, no press, just a regular speech.

    But then he started talking and man... that dude was pissed off about something. In my observations, there are two modes the president has when he's giving a speech. One is the Dear-God-Just-Let-Me-Get-Through-This-So-I-Can-Get-The-Fuck-Out-Of-Here mode; George W at his punch-card worst. The other mode is the one he was in last night, the Hey-This-Stuff-My-Staff-Just-Tole-Me-To-Read-Is-Some-Badass-Shit mode with lots of two-handed podium grabbing, leaning in for emphasis on the points he thinks are most necessary for us to understand with regard to his administration's awesomeness (e.g. "terrorism is bad") and the classic Bushian punctuation-by-overenunciation. When he's really exercised and engaged, it's like he's talking to a third-grade remedial reading workshop. That was his mode last night. Bush was on.

    For those of you who missed all the vital information from last night, I will provide for you a rundown of the criticals with some interspersed mood commentary.

  • We shouldn't worry about the torture of prisoners in US custody because there is ample oversight from both the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency.

  • "Khalid Sheik Mohammed" is a really long name. You could almost hear his staffers at the run-through going "Fuck, just say KSM if you can't fucking get it!" And then being immediately shipped off to Gitmo. Also: Bush gives nicknames even to people he hates. Ain't that folksy!

  • At one point, some prankster on his staff managed to slip in about seven pages from a Tom Clancy novel, which Bush whisked through without skipping a beat. And not one of the good early ones either, I mean one of the later Tom Clancy novels where he's less focused on character than he is in being paid by the word.

  • Terrorist plots to get hold of biological weapons foiled. What I want to know is where were the CIA and DOJ ten years ago when a stealth campaign to spread an infectious agent amongst an unknowing public was being perpetrated in my dorm wing? Damn you, Janine Shepholder. Chlamydia might not be deadly, but giving it to six different guys has to be some kind of war-crime. I hope you're rotting in a CIA prison as we speak.

  • When Constitutional checks and balances work, the terrorists win. The Supreme Court found fault with the unilateral secret detention of people and the subsequent organization of a kangaroo court to try them. Now Bush has got to go to Congress--to Congress!--to try and get something done he and Dick Cheney and Jesus should have been able to implement without reference to anyone or anything else. This will teach W to tell people about stuff. Also: Supreme Court probably all communists.

  • Dangerous terrorists to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay. And everyone in the room claps. Send the bad people where we can't torture them and you clap? Why does the whole audience hate America?

  • OK, the CIA prisons were rough, but Gitmo is a picture of incarceratorial perfection. There's a rubberized indoor all-weather running track (around which prisoners are chased by unclean non-halal wild boars), a cherry-wood steam room (in which prisoners can be locked for days at a time) and an Olympic sized swimming pool (you know, for the waterboarding). Even one foreign inspector said the prison there was better than any prison in his own country. Unfortunately that was the delegate from 12th century Turkey. And he was being sarcastic.

  • The president was happy to announce that there are currently no terrorists currently left in CIA custody. A single tear rolled down his cheek.

  • We try and we try to comply with the Geneva convention... did he just roll his eyes? I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was a contact lens thing.

  • International rules against torture are too vague. If it doesn't specifically say we can't sew a live ferret into someone's abdominal cavity, is it fair game? We just don't have enough information.

  • Congress will have to draft a law outlining what constitutes torture. My guess is they will measure the angle at which John McCain can lift his arms. Any injury that results in an extension-angle equal to or lesser than that degree is torture. We have to be careful lest all the terrorists become senators.

  • Protect our interrogators from lawsuits against the detained terrorists. What about wrongfully detained non-terrorists? Oh yes, presumption of innocence is a quaint Enlightenment notion.

  • At the end, the non-press clap and Angry George melts into a smile. It seems weird because of the subject matter of the speech, but at this point the smirk is involuntary. The first 40 years of his life, he only got applause for his remarkable keg-stand abilities. You'd smirk too.

    I watched the whole thing. What did I learn? The Lindsay Lohan thing from yesterday was a total fraud. I didn't learn that from the speech, but it was a more compelling and enlightening truth, I thought. It's what the president would want you to know. It's something you're allowed to know because you are not a terrorist.

    This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.5


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