Pops' Bucket
Thursday, May 31, 2007
The Dreaded Placeholder
While I realize I owe you all a great deal after yesterday's post, familial obligations require me to punk out for today and possibly tomorrow. For now, I'm going to have to leave you in the comforting, Oriental, redeeming hands of Chinese Jesus.




Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Memorial Bucket Cheap Picture Blogging

[NOTE: I realize it's Wednesday and Memorial Day is now a memory fading with along with the symptoms of your sun-and-dehydration-aided alcohol poisoning, but it turns out that I totally missed a regular annual Bucket feature. That will now be rectified. If there's anything I'm known for, it's beating a premise to death in the name of space-filling. You are welcome.]

...if'n I stare at it long enough, I know I can move it with my mind. I seen it on that Star Wars special on Spike TV the other day. Real Obi-Wan Kenobi shit. Kenobi... is that a Jew name? It sounds like a Jew name. Plus just moving stuff with your mind seems kind of gay. Eye laser-beams would be way cooler. Like General Zod. But without the nancy-boy accent. Zod... that's a regular Christian name, I think. I can make eye-lasers. Just gotta concentrate. Think eye-laser thoughts. I'm the president, I can do anything I want. Eye-lasers... eye-lasers... almost... almost...

Speech time! Aw, hell. Sorry folks, I was busy... reflecting on the specialness that is Veteran's Day or whatever. Is it Memorial Day? I get them confused, but can you blame me? It's basically the same thing. You all get together here in Arlington and make me run through the exact same program twice a year with the flags and the wreath and the people crying and the old people in the funny McDonald's crew-member hats with all the writing and hardware on them. What are them called again? Where's Scotty? Hey Scotty, what are the old people in the hats called again? Oh yeah, "veterans". Creep me out, man.

Well, veterans, here we are at Arlington National Cemetary again. Just think, when you die, probably very soon, you could have a place here too. But if you want my advice, you'd better get on that dying train lickety-split because space is running low. Now this hallowed ground receives a new generation of heroes, men and women who gave their lives in places such as Kabul and Kandahar, Baghdad and Ramadi. That's right: my war dead. People can talk about "legacy" and whatever, but you just can't argue with raw numbers. When all is said and done, I plan on having put more people in this place than typhoid fever. Nobody forgets typhoid fever.

The danger is that the terrorists will try to distort the numbers after I'm done presidenting. I know as much as anyone that numbers can be made to say whatever you want them to say. Look at my polls. Sure, they seem like they say less than 30% of Americans approve of the job I'm doing and that nearly 60% want immediate or short-term plans for withdrawl from Iraq. The good news for me is that I'm the president. That's why I'm announcing now that I have signed this morning Executive Order #13435 whereby from herewith on out, All Poll Numbers Shall Be Deemed to Say the Oppsite of What They Seem.

Fight it if you want to people, but I'm already out there making it happen. It's the Executive Branch. You bring it to us, and we execute it.

Oh yeah, and I'm real sad about the sacrifices and the veterans and blah blah blah. Scotty, fire up the tape from last Veteran's Day. Y'all know I was going to give the same speech anyhow. I got some tech nerd over the White House to put it on DVD. It's got a real cool menu screen with my giant face and a fighter plane and a dragon. Totally bitchin'.

And last thing, I want you to know that I'm thinking about the lives of soldiers beyond just my term. Can't have Hillary or Barko Bama whatever guy passing up my Arlington numbers. Be aware that just before my remarks here, I was working on a new weapon that could give us immediate and total battlefield superiority and a significant deterrent factor that will assure our continued dominance as the world's only superpower. I can't say what it is as it's totally classified, but before I go, I will give you a hint: eye-lasers.

That's all I can say. God bless America!


Monday, May 28, 2007
There seems to have been some consensus in the comments at the end of last week that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was destined to underperform financially when compared to its predecessors and up against its immediate non-Disney-ride-themed competition.

Granted this is using a very small sample size, but I can say with complete scientific certainty that this will not be the case. Based on my experience of having BOTH showings of said movie completely SOLD OUT in the very small window of babysitting kid-freedom Mrs. Pops and I were awarded, underperformance will not be a problem.

We're talking about a 100% sales rate of seats in the early-mid afternoon showings at the Regal Riverside Plaza Stadium 16 this past Sunday. If we extrapolate that out based on the latest sample-modeling techniques, we can postulate a 100% rate of sale at all theaters worldwide.

This means all box office records of all time will be crushed in very short order. I predict good things.

I haven't bothered to look at the actual box office results from the long weekend as I assume it will include theoretical numbers expressed in orders of magnitude that are not only beyond my comprehension, but may cause me immediate mental and emotional harm in trying to understand them.

Bravo, Disney. And critics, never underestimate the drawing power of Johnny Depp, even with the gnarly dreads and that horrible accent. Plus: Chow Yun Fat! How could it miss?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.3



Friday, May 25, 2007
Movies I Have No Intention Of Seeing, #46


starring Ashley Judd, Some Guy, Harry Connick, Jr.

directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection... need I go on? Oh yeah, and Jade too... I guess I did)

I would almost feel like I'm piling on if I said anything to denigrate this film. The good people who made and distribute the film already have let us know that they also hate it. I know it seems almost counter-intuitive to say so, seeing as they are giving it a Memorial Day release, one of the few prestige Release Dates for films in the United States.

But this is not just any Memorial Day. Already we have had the biggest opening weekend for any film in history (Spider Man 3) and a direct rival to that prize just last week in Shrek the Third followed by what is arguably the most anticipated (financially anyway, not so much if you're like me and you can't stomach people with tooth-jewelry) release of the year in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

So versus the already-built audiences for Spidey and Shrek and directly in the way of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom's perty mouth and Kiera Knightley's visible vertebrae, the people at Lions Gate have thrown us Bug. It's like that scene in Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo hides from the Imperials in the Milennium Falcon by floating away disguised in a trash-dump.

Am I a dork for making the reference? Sure. But you totally followed it, so live with that, Fonzie.

It's as though they spent the time and money on filming, editing, advertising and then said to each other "You know what? This feels like a 4th-place film at best. When is the best time to release a film that has no shot to rise above #4 at the box office during the entire course of its run?"

That answer? Clearly Memorial Day. If you release a 4th-place film in February, it only makes $6 million. The fourth-place film this weekend will proabably be closer to $20-30 million. These are not stupid people.

Plus it's hard for me to be negative as I am a huge Ashley Judd fan. Let me be a little more specific: I am a big fan of the hotness of Ashley Judd. It's clear that, even though not twins, there was some kind of gene-hogging going on to her benefit and against her sister Wynnona, not unlike the premise of the Schwarzenegger/Devito dynamic in the film Twins.

Sadly, however, the genetic windfall that is Ashley's has not been translatable to career judgment. Her string of barely-disguised Lifetime Original Movies about chicks being chased by Big Scary Men has been well documented. The promise of Heat and Kiss the Girls has been, by now, well and fully squandered, I think.

The only really good news about that is when the career starts to flag a bit, many hot actresses are willing to slum it in lesser material that includes extremes of violence and (oh yes!) nudity.

And this Bug? Rated R for some strong violence, sexuality, nudity, language and drug use. Sold!

Althogh I should point out that in this film as well, she is being chased by a Big Scary Man. Only in this instance, the obligatory abusive ex-husband is played by... Harry Connick, Jr.? Frankly they might as well have handed the role to a labrador puppy in a wicker basket full of soft fuzzy blankets. And still, more scary than Harry Connick, Jr.

Seriously, what's the Harry Connick threat? Past the very real possibility of be-boppin' or scattin' someone into submission or possibly drawling them into a state of hazy Southern comfort, I don't really see how you maintain realistic dramatic tension there. I'm only willing to suspend so much disbelief.

Despite the Connick factor, the reviews I've read say this is a highly competent, well acted, very effective thriller about a paranoid vet (played by Some Guy) who convinces Ashley Judd that scary government and/or alien sponsored bugs are in his body or after him or... something. Here's all you really need to know: two hours of people talking about bugs under their skin. Still in? Me neither.

Still, I wasn't kidding about the Judd thing. It's mostly people I don't know in a genre I hate, but come on. Nudity!

Two (out of three) on the Hot Babysitter Scale.

One for each Judd boobie.

Come get me, feminists! We can work out our differences in my home mud-wrasslin' pit.



Thursday, May 24, 2007
Somehow I Know David Crosby Is Involved
I generally try to stay off of the politically-themed posts two days in a row as contemplation of this stuff tends to tweak my gimpy bowel something fierce.

But there's a question now that's really bothering me and I just can't figure out what the answer is.

What do you think is more embarrassing to President Bush:

A) The birth of a healthy baby boy to Vice President Dick Cheney's TOTALLY LESBIAN unwed daughter and her TOTALLY LESBIAN unwed life-partner woman or

B) The announcement of a 10-foot-high statue of Bill Clinton to be placed in Kosovo, where he is celebrated as a liberator of the people for engaging in the limited, short, well-focused yet still controversial war he committed American troops to during his presidency.

Before you decide, keep in mind that with regard to A, that girl has be devotee of Sappho since Day 1 of the administration, so it's not like this is all a surprise AND just having her do this baby thing gives the Cheneys another opportunity to be dicks to Wolf Blitzer when he asks about it on CNN.

And with regard to B, remember that although a statue is going up, this is only in addition to the street that is named after Clinton and the giant 12-foot-high mural of him that also already exists. So again, no real surprises.

But still, both bits of news within a day of each other... that's gotta smart. It's driving me crazy not knowing the answer.

I guess I'll have to wait and see what he says in the impromptu, totally non-scripted news conference he has called today, presumably to answer this question directly for me.

And for that I thank him. Talk about a responsive government. I can't wait for the fresh, fresh bit of truth.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.1



Wednesday, May 23, 2007
You May Want To Sit Down
What exactly is the purpose of military intelligence?

I'm confused because I used to think that its primary function was to be collected, deciphered, collated and directed to the necessary decision-making people and/or departments that would then parse it, analyze it, make reasonable conclusions about what it said and then use those conclusions to justify bombing the shit out of other countries until they forcibly agree to become free democracies like us.

That's kind of what the Bush administration has used military intelligence for, but really kind of not. They seem to be under the impression that military intelligence has the war-justifying and democracy-making qualities described above, but that it can be approached in a more selective, less collective way. I get the projected time-saving benefits of pre-deciding what you're going to accept from the collected data and what you're going to reject. Generally, I applaud anyone in government who is able to streamline overwrought processes in the interest of time, manpower and budget savings.

I don't know that military intelligence is necessarily where you want to start cutting corners, however. Sure, it may seem like you're cutting way back on billable hours by issuing directives to only consider incoming information that supports, say at total random, the invasion of Iraq and its connection to al Qaeda and/or WMD. But cruise missiles are really expensive. Sure, you can cut some more corners by withholding body armor and Humvee outfitting and maybe at the back end by curbing the quality of post-war recovery health care and health care facilities for the soldiers returning, but all in all, in a strict cost/benefit analysis, I'd say you're better served putting the time and money into the initial intelligence analysis to the tune of several hundred billion dollars and one midterm election.

It's not like the Bush people don't know how to keep secrets or what the importance of secret information is. We still don't know what Dick Cheney said to those energy people* way back in the early days of the administration, which shows strength and foresight and an unshakable commitment to principle. Bullshit principle, but once you commit, you commit.

The problem isn't the keeping of the secrets. What troubles me is the way in which these secrets are let go. Probably the less said about the Valerie Plame thing the better, but it is a case in point.

Now in preparation for a major policy speech and PR push ahead of the Democratic Congress' Summer Shenanigans Tour, our irascible, benighted leadership has decided to publicly declassify a bunch of stuff about Iraq and al-Qaeda.

If you're like me, you're thinking: "$15 monthly or $150 for lifetime membership? I'll take the latter! Thank you, asstomouth.com!"

More specifically related to this, you're probably thinking as I did: "Finally! Something to illuminate the real rationale for this drain on our resources, our manpower, our families and our 24-cable-news time we could be devoting to nonstop Paris Hilton Prison Watch!"

The thing that bothers me isn't that the president seems to be OK with the declassification of information solely for the purpose of punching up some paragraphs in some political speech he's giving. Frankly at this point, I'd be more alarmed if he weren't doing something like that. What bothers me is the total lameness of the declassified intelligence.

Here's what we now know, based on the information the government until two days ago was protecting us from:

1) Al Qaeda has been operating in Iraq (or at least trying to) since after the invasion. So very nearly helpful to the administration. Except for the italicized word above.

2) Osama bin Laden has given people in his organization orders to attack places outside of Iraq, including RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA!

Wow. Turns out this bin Laden guy? No likey us. Wants to kill us and everything.

You know, for people who take every opportunity to remind us of 9/11, they sure don't seem to have gotten the general point of that event. I would write them a memo, but somehow I suspect I wouldn't get the proper reaction to that either.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.3


* = I can understand their reticence. I suspect it has something to do with not being able to find a good text form to describe a nine-man reach-around.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Exploding Man
So what we were able to learn from last night's much-anticipated season finale of Heroes?

1) Bad guys with a clutch of super-powers that render them near-omnipotent can be made to lower their guard and not defend themselves for up to 20 seconds if the attacker can manage unexpectedly to call them by name from behind. It's a little known super-villain weakness, but it exists, right up there with total-plan-divulging just before the end and leaving super-heroes alone whilst attached to a supposedly inescapable, overly elaborate execution apparatus. Lame I know, but if it weren't for these things, super-villains could not otherwise be defeated. It is, as I've said before, similar to the way dogs would rule the earth if only they were not vulnerable to the fake-stick-throw ruse. Life finds a way.

2) No price is too much to pay for a DVR or TiVo device that will let you record something whilst (that's two!) watching something else simultaneously. This has been made eminently clear to me since 24 began in earnest in January and I've been watching Heroes on Tuesday mornings (hence the later-ish hour of this post appearing) from the semi-comfort of my non-couch-like office chair in front of my computer with the grainy video and the occasional hiccups in streaming that imbue the dialogue with an extra layer of tension and drama as we wait for the buffering thing to buffer, mid-syllable. What's going to happen is I'm going to clear all the 24 episodes I have backlogged, order the dual-channel device from my TV provider and the old single-channel deal I'm using now will be introduced to my good, good friend Mr. Ball Peen Hammer. That's not me being cute about one of my tools, that's actually the guy's name. He's really good at breaking stuff. Generally he uses a mallet.

3) People can do good all the time and make the right choices and suffer and sacrifice and struggle every minute of every day to maintain a sense of order and morality in a troubling, soul-eating world, but it's the smarmy snake-oil salesman with the capped teeth who gets to be the "hero" at the end just because he has a prostitute's sense of staging right at the climax. And no, I'm not talking about Newt Gingrich. Yet.

What the end of Heroes means is that the end of what has possibly been the best year of television in my lifetime is finally drawing to a conclusions. There are still two episodes of The Sopranos left for us to find out what happens in the final showdown between our hero Fatty McBald and his archenemy, Eyebrows Johnson. After that... my God, what do we do? How am I supposed to spend time with my wife if we're not watching, discussing or flaming each other on the message boards regarding Lost?

Social interaction not mediated by popular culture? What kind of marriage do the networks think this is? Welcome to Awkward City, population 2.

How many days until the new Bionic Woman starts?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.4



Sunday, May 20, 2007
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
There are two principle reasons why I don't immediately run out and become a Jehovah's Witness.

The first, obviously, is the association with Michael Jackson. As a white man, I run the risk of being confused with him already. That's enough for me. The chances of us being mistaken for one another aren't huge seeing as I have a human nose and a chin that will not melt in temperatures over 80° Fahrenheit, but anything that increases those chances is enough to give me pause. Part of the unease is, yes, the pederasty business. Very nasty. But mostly I don't want any of his creditors coming after me by mistake. He's been spending time--and presumably borrowing money--from people in the Middle East. That's hand-severing country.

The second reason I don't run out and join the Jehovah's Witnesses is that, while I may seem to be a forthright, bold, even heroic figure here in anonymous print, in person I'm quite shy. Walking around knocking on the doors of people I don't know in an effort to talk them into something they most expressly do not want is not something I would relish. From experience I know that the dreaded knock of the Jehovah's Witness sometimes prompts otherwise well adjusted, socially adept people to dive behind their couches; the only worse, more personally offensive result is when they actually answer the door bearing something blunt and swingable.

I have no great desire to become a social pariah, either by association with the wrong people or out of a persistent, intrusive proselytization that presents deep-seated religious faith in the exact same mode as encyclopedias and home security systems.

Yes, I'm talking to you, annoying ADT representative for the Riverside area. I will not be worn down by your dogged pursuit of my patronage. If I'm not going to take the authentic Jesus, what makes you think I'm going to accept your free installation and reasonable monitoring fees?

But oh... Jehovah's Witnesses... after five children's birthday parties (including all three of my own) in the last six weeks, I am so nearly, nearly ready to join you, the Least Fun of All The Religions. No birthdays, no Thanksgiving, no pagan-ass Christmas. If it just weren't for those other things... I could envision a future of sleeping in and never, ever buying another Bionicle toy, but then I wonder: how soon do you make your people get up to go door-to-door-ing anyway? And with no birthdays nor any Christmas, wouldn't my kids just want Bionicles every single day of the year?

Nah, it's no good. I guess another option is to forsake organized religion altogether, but then I don't know if I'm comfortable with the position of not having a horse in the race, metaphysically speaking. I figure even if it's the Hindus that have it right, I have to get some credit for believing something and maybe I won't necessarily come back as a tapeworm.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.2



Friday, May 18, 2007
How Much Is That In Kroner?
Normally Friday is a day to rejoice as I roll out my endlessly popular and cuttingly acerbic Movies I Have No Intention Of Seeing series, but alas, this Friday, what we have is the release of the third Shrek movie and then a bunch of little piddly indy things as all the other total pussy major studios get out of Shrek's ogre way. And while I may not independently intend to see Shrek, as the father of three American children under the age of 9, it is my responsibility to expose them to as much advertising hidden within supposedly "artisitic" mass media as I can. To not do so borders on child abuse, frankly. I can't in good conscience contribute to the raising of children in this country at this time who aren't thoughtlessly dutiful consumers and who can reliably tell the difference between commercials and content. It would be like asking them to fail at life. Or become communists.

So I have no doubt that sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, this Shrek will be seen by me. It's not sadness you're registering, it's more the cold, rigid inevitability of familial expectation akin to the vacuous, unknowable blackness of death. But hey, that's what fathers do.

It is this kind of inescapable, doom-like burden of action that found me recently making the 90-or-so minute drive out to Carlsbad to take the family (as requested) to Legoland.

Normally, such requests would be dismissed, ignored or met with an appropriate level of fatherly violence. But as it turns out, I've already made the mistake of a) explaining the concept of "birthdays" to my children and further complicated the situation by b) letting them know when theirs are. Their day comes and they ask me to do things and, as a married person who sleeps, completely vulnerable, every night next to a woman who knows where we keep the scissors, I must make an honest attempt to appease these children.

Legoland, though, my God... I know we're spoiled in SoCal as far as theme parks go. We have the grandaddy of them all in Disneyland, we have one of the great roller coaster parks in the world at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm, Sea World, the Wild Animal Park, SexxxWorld... that last one isn't quite as well known as the other and, when pressed, I will admit it's more of a book-and-novelty-item shop in a strip-mall somewhere between here and Fontana, but "theme park" is a state of mind; you have to decide what is more exciting, a boat ride surrounded by singing animatronic pirates or a place where you can potentially rent someone who will call you "captain" and agree to be "keel-hauled"?

My main objections to Legoland are that it is, first of all, almost EXACTLY as expensive as Disneyland to get into. This is a crime. Disneyland I am willing to ridiculously overpay for because I know once I am inside, I will be force-fed carefully staged, focus-group-tested fun whether I want it or not.

Legoland is more of an unknown commodity to me, only having been there twice now in my whole life. When I go there, I go in cold, not knowing what to expect. If I were someone else, this could mean the giddy excitement of anticipation and the wonder of discovery. For me it just means I can't make a detailed list of Expected Fun on an Excel spreadsheet around which I can organize my day to the minute. Pass.

Secondly, Disneyland is American. Walt Disney, although descended from Canadians and therefore tainted and possibly a spy, is from America, made his name in America, built his multinational corporation in America. Lego, on the other hand, is a multinational corporation founded and operated from... Denmark. I know when I think of fun and excitement, the first thing I think about are the Danes.

No, wait, hold on. I'm confusing "fun" with hopeless existential angst and the smell of cod oil. That's what I think about when I think of the Danes.

But oh, you have to try Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling" Tilt-A-Whirl. It isn't any fun, but at the end of it, you will have a deeper insight into the ultimate meaninglessness of existence. And you will kind of want to kill yourself. Mostly from the motion-sickness.

The main problem with Legoland is the forgettable generic-ness of the place. There's a pirate area and a castle area and a science-y kind of area, blah blah blah. One section is actually called "Fun Land". Not a single one of their rides has been crammed down my throat as a feature film or a video game or a Happy Meal or anything. It's like they never heard of corporate synergy or vertical integration. The underlying subliminal message is subtle but frighteningly clear. They might as well call it Chairman Mao's Playhouse.

Already my kids want to go back, but I am reluctant. If I'm going to be gouged, I want to know that my money is going straight into the pockets of Hollywood Jews, where the money of all good Californians eventually belongs. Legoland cannot offer me that kind of patriotic assurance.

My kids don't like roller coasters, but at least if we went to Magic Mountain, I could promise them a front row seat to a murderous fight between authentic Los Angeles gangs. No gangsters go to Carlsbad.

You offer me nothing, Legoland, except the opportunity to be separated from my money at unreasonable rates and to be heartsick disappointed at what I get in return.

If I want that, all I have to do is fill my minivan up with gas.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.45



Thursday, May 17, 2007
Valerie Bertinelli In A Muumuu
I don't really like to brag about stuff, mostly because I think that the gifts I have make themselves so readily apparent, just exposing them to you in any way is practically bragging in and of itself. Also, as I've said before, I'm a very humble person. Probably the humblest motherfucker you've ever met. I kick everyone else's ass when it comes to humility and self-deprecation.

I also don't really like to talk about anything that is actually true about my real life. Sure, I tell you people that I have no job and I have three kids and a wife and that I'm a hetero male, but really, are you sure any of that is true? It's easy to believe what people tell you publicly, but when the autopsy comes back and we learn that "Jerry Falwell" is and always has been a woman, well, you'll know anything is possible.

All that said, it's with some reluctance that I tell you all: I'm worth quite a bit of money.

Now, before you all head for Riverside with a car trunk full of shovels, chloroform, some sturdy rope and a bucket of lye, I would like to point out a couple of things: A) it would be stupid to kill me outright because then you'd never get at my money. Better to torture me first so you can get my ATM card PIN out of me. Whatever you do, I ask you, do NOT tie me naked, face down over a barrel and then lash me with a cat-o'-nine-tails whilst asking me where my biology homework is. I would TOTALLY hate that.

And B) All the money I'm actually worth is pretend real-estate money.

Mrs. Pops and I bought our first house back in '99, which means all this housing madness has occurred while we were part of the market, watching our equity balloon and balloon, like Kirstie Alley every year since Cheers went off the air.

Like Kirstie Alley, however, as nice as it might be to have a little extra junk in the trunk, it doesn't mean very much (for us: financially; for Kirstie: hygiene-wise) if you can't get to it. My wife and I like to discuss what we'd do with our big fat wad of equity, but we know capital gains would kill us if we tried to take it out and we'd need every single penny of it if we ever wanted to move again within SoCal. So it isn't actually any kind of money that's worth murdering me over. But don't let me discourage you from the torture thing. It's worth a try.

The problem is, that fake though or enormous wealth might be, like Kirstie Alley again, it's now on some kind of bullshit diet that we think frankly it's undertaken just for the publicity. See, it's already all over the news how for the first time in 12 years the average house price actually fell last month. If our pretend equity fortune shows up on Oprah in a bikini, we're totally fucked. And I mean I-guess-we-have-to-move-to-Texas fucked.

Believe me, nobody wants to move to Texas. George H. W. Bush took his family there from Connecticut and look how that worked out for the rest of us. Do you think anyone would have voted for his son if he'd been from Connecticut? A New England Jesus-freak Republican? I don't think it's possible on a quantum level for such a creature to even exist, let alone win an election. But this is the kind of dire consequences I face should the real-estate market continue to deteriorate. The entire geopolitical state of the world may very well depend on my kids growing up unremarkably anonymous and godless California liberals.

With an eye toward a difficult future, belts are being tightened around the Bucket household. We've already downgraded from 12 HBO channels to 10. The days of our dog's regular monthly champagne enemas? Over. Goodbye deep-fried fois gras sticks for my kid's lunch, hello chicken fingers.

We make these sacrifices, because my wife and I realize it's all up to us. There's no use sitting around waiting for our public officials to help us out. We're Americans, after all. We're all supposed to do it ourselves.

Proud as I am of our country's long history of ignoring those who need help, I will say I sometimes envy a more corporatist, collective approach to social well-being as is practiced in Europe. Public servants there expect a certain level of involvement and interference with the slow slide down the social ladder that afflicts an expected percentage of the citizenship and are quick to react. For instance in Italy, specific economic realities are prompting a certain segment of the hostess and hospitality industry to offer their services, gratis, to alleviate some of the roiling, pent-up economic pressure that afflicts a population.

Sure, I could use a free handy every now and again, but as I said, I'm an American. Not only do I have a certain amount of built-in overdeveloped individualist pride, but the hostess-and-hospitality industry over here works somewhat differently. Italy enjoys a proud tradition of sophisticated concubinage, a mantle currently taken up and probably upheld by a wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa nudged into the profession by indentured servitude or organized crime. Over here we have a bunch of skeevy, scabby meth-heads.

That said, for the sake of my family, I'd totally take a run at Kirstie Alley. I hear she's swimming in Jenny Craig money.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.9



Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I have heard it explained more than once that the definition of genius is the ability to embrace simultaneously two completely contradictory ideas. This explains Albert Einstein's shocking and still-celebrated ability to appreciate all the beneficial aspects of Lite Beer.

It is also proof-positive that America has lost one of its brightest lights when Jerry Falwell was extinguished yesterday. After all, this was a man who devoted his entire life to the works and teachings of Jesus Christ--exemplar of charity and mercy and compassion and (above all) care for the least among us--and also owned a helicopter. Talk about your contradictory ideas. I have to say, I've had the "What Would Jesus Do?" question put to me many, many times and not once have I come up with "horde enough money to buy, fuel and maintain a helicopter". The level of genius required to reconcile those two positions must have been staggering.

AND Jerry was a big giant fat guy. Again, not so Jesus-y, if we're talking about general concepts.

Look, any idiot could have been St. Francis of Assisi. Jesus says: give up everything you have, spread my message, minister to the destitute and the sick and the lame, put aside earthly rewards and you will reap untold riches in the Kingdom of Heaven. And then what does Francis of Assisi do? Just that. Walks around all poor and barefoot, begging and scraping and tending to those on the suffering margins, exactly as Jesus said. What a tool. No imagination, that guy. He's like a Jesus robot: input instructions, follow instructions, no deviation, no originality, no genius.

And what did Francis of Assisi get for his trouble? Probably really smelly, first of all. And some kind of disgusting eye disease, I heard. And then, finally, he got made a saint. But only after he was dead. But then he was a Catholic, so the spiritual joke is probably on him as he rots in hell with all the surprised suicide bombers, Jews, gays and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

Jerry Falwell took this Jesus thing and turned it into something new, something exciting, something different. Like Newton when the apple fell on his head, sparking in him the flame of revealed truth in the form of all modern physics (and the idea that one should be more careful about where you sit), Jerry Falwell sat under the Jesus tree and was struck on the head by a giant bag full of money and then probably some kind of pot pie.

Like Francis of Assisi, Jerry did give, however. He gave us the gay Teletubby and the irrefutable evidence that Bill Clinton was both a cocaine drug lord and a murderer. Big stuff. Much more socially important than aid and succor to lepers and widows, or at least it is when you factor in 24-hour cable news channels. Who wants to see pictures of lepers? Gross.

And after all this, a life of service, he is stolen from us too soon at the age of 73. This has to be someone's fault. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen.

So, you know, thanks for nothing, abortionists. Way to fuck up America. Again.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 2.1



Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Blame Game
I get that it probably isn't the easiest thing in the world to run a war. I know a lot more goes into it than we really give our elected officials credit for.

First there's the identification of a sufficiently menacing yet eminently beatable enemy. It seems simple enough for the most powerful military nation in the history of the world, but finding the right crackpot dictator in the right part of the world (can't have too many twitchy neighbors who might not take kindly to puppet governments next door) whom we can topple fairly quickly and whom we are certain--certain--has no Weapons of Mass Destruction to employ either in their own defense against our invading troops or (worse) in any kind of long-range retaliatory strike against American civilian populations. Collateral damage is something that happens to other countries in the wars we start. Imagine the PR fallout from having to deal with actual fallout. This is why we don't invade Canada. Sure, we could beat them down, but they could conceivably reach us with... something. Well, that and the Canadian Prime Minister simply doesn't have the right kind of mustache to be a credible international villain.

After the enemy is identified, then you have to beat them. And not just regular ole our-army-totally-kicked-your-army's-ass kind of stuff, which is also necessary, don't get me wrong; the other country must be completely and totally humiliated in a series of eminently photographable engagements covered by reporters right there on the front lines whose very survival depends on the successful outcome on behalf of those with whom they travel. You see, if a reporter is "embedded" and thus relies on the military for protection, transportation, food, shelter, camaraderie, military-grade contraception for the victory after-party, they tend to build in an ever-so-slight slant in favor of their lords and masters in their coverage. Sure, they'll cover it if things go badly, but odds are they won't be covering it for long. Yes, it's possible to win a Pulitzer posthumously, but what's the point if you can't go back to DC and enjoy it over daquiries with Bob Woodward and Wonkette at the National Press Club mixer?

Thirdly, I think of the logistical and financial outlay required to coordinate the carrier-deck-landing "Mission Accomplished" phase and I'm just exhausted already. The banner printing costs alone after we've already paid for the "active phase" of the war... When you think about it, that's a $100 billion banner. AND you have to find someone willing to go way up there to hang it. Yeah, it looked cool, but how many Seaman-Third-Classes did we lose in the attempt(s) to hang it? The responsibility behind ordering such a thing is really beyond my capability to comprehend.

What we're finding out now is that the invasion phase can go just fine, with a minimal loss of life compared to other total-conquest-and-seizure-of-nations operations historically and then all the rest of it goes to shit. This is bad news if you're operating a war entirely for the benefit of 24-hour cable news. They're not embedded anymore, so you know they're going to go with the pictures of people with their faces blown off. I get that "people in Baghdad go shopping" is also a story worth telling, but what's the picture you put with it? Where's the sizzle? With the bomb pictures, you get lots of sizzle. Lots of actual sizzle after the explosion but before the burnt shrapnel cools all the way down. Good stuff TV wise.

Taking this all under consideration, I understand and I tolerate the occasional bullshit "good news" story about how we killed the al Qaeda and/or Taliban "Number Three Man" again. We do it every 3-6 months or so, depending on what the presidential approval rating is at.

I get the impulse, like I said, but I'm sorry, the suspension of disbelief is starting to wear thin. I can tell the people in the Bullshit PR Plot Development department of the Pentagon (it's in "C" Ring, right between the Satellite Lasers department and the enormous Sexual Harrassment Response arm of the Judge Advocate General's Corps) are starting to run out of ideas. Like the James Bond people when they got to that last Pierce Brosnan one where he was windsurfing on a tidal wave and Halle Berry was "dangerous". Please.

The latest thing we're supposed to celebrate is that we've apparently killed yet another Taliban "Number Three Guy". This one's name? Mullah Dadullah.

It's like they're not even trying.

Mullah Dadullah. Somebody over there really needs a vacation. That isn't a person's name, that's what Bill Murray's character said the Dalai Lama said to him in lieu of a tip in Caddyshack. It's embarrassing for me, as an American because I can totally tell that "banana-fana" goes in between "Mullah" and "Dadullah". If I can see your process of creation so easily, your writing is lazy, Department of Defense.

What's worse? Here's the picture they released of him:

We fired Rumsfeld finally and this is the effort we get in his place.

At least Rummy I was scared of. And in the final analysis, isn't that a SecDef's main job? Not this "Mullah Dadullah" bullshit. Please. Just stop.

Go out there and get us riled about imminent nuclear annihilation from Iran or North Korea. Or mix it up and convince us someone new is about to kill us all, like Poland or Swaziland. I'm sure someone in Swaziland has to have the right kind of mustache.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.5



Sunday, May 13, 2007
So's Your Mother
I know you're dying to know just how we celebrated this latest Mother's Day here at the Bucket household. Frankly, there's very little to tell. First we all get up and my wife is treated to not having to serve me breakfast in bed. We let her off with light kitchen duty, just some eggs and maybe some kind of pork product, no pancakes or waffles or anything like that.

Then my three boys and I will hang out, play some Nintendo Wii, maybe watch some NBA playoff basketball while my wife is allowed to not sit and watch and pretend to be interested. Usually she will go upstairs alone and weep softly into a pillow, which sounds bad, but that's only because you don't fully appreciate how much she hates NBA basketball. Trust me, she would WAY rather be doing the solitary weeping thing than Bulls-Pistons Game 4 on the Superstation.

And then, because we love her so, we will find something else she really hates to do and then the four of us--my boys and I--will go and do it together and specifically not invite her. This year it was miniature golf. Her look of abject gratitude is very similar to her look of wounded betrayal, so it's hard to say exactly how that part went over. But she hadn't moved out by the time we got back, so I assume it was OK.

Then, at the end of the night, Mrs. Pops and I uphold a longstanding family tradition on Mother's Day by engaging in spiritually dissatisfying but procreatively efficient acts of personal intimacy. I figure: what better way to celebrate Mother's Day than to expose my wife and mate once again to the possibility of fertilization? After all, it's not specifically "Mrs. Pops Day", it's Mother's Day. As in celebrating the wonders of motherhood, which is a very specific thing, biologically speaking. She cries every day afterward until she gets her visit from Aunt Flo, which is difficult emotionally, but like I said, it's family tradition. I never asked directly, but I assume that's how my mother's parents celebrated the day every year. Like good Catholics, they had 12 children. As rough as the intervening 28 (or so) days annually are, in the end we are always happy and grateful that while I was blessed with ole Grandpa's hairline, paunch and distrust for anyone with skin darker than mochaccino, I didn't quite get all of his legendary procreative potency.

And that, in the end, is for my wife, the greatest gift of all.

I am (quite literally) a motherfucker.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0



Friday, May 11, 2007
Movies I Have No Intention Of Seeing, #45

Delta Farce

starring Dan "Larry the Cable Guy" Whitney, Bill Engvall, DJ Qualls

directed by C.B. Harding (The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, other things that are stupid)

I don't have a great deal to say about this film other than the studio declined to screen it for critics before its release, which is always a sign of greatness.

I would also like to say that, just from a conceptual standpoint, I don't know that America is ready for a blatant rip-off modern-day update of ¡Three Amigos!, emotionally speaking, especially if you're not going to include the classic "My Little Buttercup" scene. Bring it all or don't bother, is what I say.

Lastly, I would like to point out that this movie has producers, a budget, a full crew, actors, extras, craft services, professionally trained sound designers and film editors and (this is the most disturbing part) credited writers. I mean, I've only seen the trailers, but you know the entire pitch was "Larry the Cable Guy in the Army". Ho ho ha ha ho ho! Can't miss with the extra-chromosome set! Throw some ole dialogue in there to carry the thing along to 70 minutes of running time, tack a gag-reel on the end credits to stretch it feature length and viola! Yes, that's what those people say, they say "viola". Because "voila" is French and therefore terrorist-loving and gay.

Writers got paid money to cobble this shit together. And here I am, me and a thousand other more qualified people, laboring away in blog anonymity. I'm not saying that if I were put in charge of a Larry the Cable Guy in the Army movie that I'd necessarily do a whole lot better (consider the source material!), I'm just saying I wouldn't mind the option of selling out what meager ability I might have in exchage for some good ole fashion filthy Hollywood lucre. How hard could it be? Fart joke, gay joke, Mexican joke, repeat forty times, the end. My soul is negotiable too.

I don't know what's more depressing, that people greenlit this film at all or that I was not allowed to be part of it. I guess I should just thank my lucky stars and move on.

Motivated by a heady mixture of apathy, jealousy and a base-level cognitive ability to reason, I must rate this one with the dreaded:


Which everyone knows by now means ZERO.

When someone pitches "Larry the Cable Guy as a social worker" movie, I had better get a call or I'll be forced to abuse my tastemaking powers here once again. All I'm saying.



Thursday, May 10, 2007
A Note From Management
From the erratic posting times to the great shrinking of post-lengths to the long absences and more frequent days off, I guess it's probably clear to most of you by now: I've lost a bit of my blog mojo.

Between my extended internet woes of a couple weeks ago and then my long, stupid illness, I've been off my regular blog game for the better part of a month. And now that I'm back here, mostly healthy, all connected up and able to resume my old schedule of posting and commenting, keeping the internets lithe, massaged and well oiled with the vanilla-scented edible lubricant of which the Bucket is an overflowing font, I find that... I really don't want to.

In the time I spent away from this thing, I realized what a rich and wonderful world exists out there in the hour or so I spend (start to finish) cobbling this crap together out of bits of news and a few scraps of regular ole personal idiocy on my part. I can get errands done, maintain my house, pay bills, visit people (actual people!), take the one son I have left not yet in school to parks and plays and story time at the bookstore. Or I can spend time on myself, reading, seeing movies I've never seen, honing my burgeoning Wii skills for use one day on the pro Wii circuit, model building, celebrity wax figure sculpting... there are literally thousands of other ways I could legitimately get carpal tunnel without having to sit in front of the screen every day and do this nonsense.

And honestly, if you think about it, do you really care any more? When was the last time you read something really great here? It's not that I don't think I'm capable, it's just that when I start phoning it in, I don't really think I'm fooling anyone. I have tried to cultivate a demanding, self-aware, sophisticated readership. OK, not all of you are there really (I'll e-mail you if I think you are, so check those e-mail boxes!), but many of you are just what I was looking for when I started this thing. And for that I am truly grateful.

So what's all this leading up to? Well, it's been nearly three years here. That's a pretty good run for any blog. The ones that last past this usually end up finding advertising, bringing in a staff of co-writers, raising the content to a more professional level, buying a more serious minded and permanent-sounding domain name and selling out. I have no plans nor any desire to do that. Just like I eventually had no plans or any desire to date Jenny Carlisle back in high school right around the time we graduated and I realized she had no idea who I was.

All that considered, I think the only real option for me is to take off the training wheels and see what else I can do. This has always been halfway between a tool and a crutch for me, helping me focus my writing energies while not really being a positive outlet likely propel me to anything larger. I enjoy the feedback, but unless one of you is secretly a writer's agent or a magazine editor or a book publisher (anyone? anyone?), there's a cap on advancement, blog-wise.

So I've made a pretty important decision. I am announcing to all of you today that I have once and for all decided... to keep going. To keep blogging. Every day, like usual. No real change.

All the rest of that stuff I said is logical and valid, but you know what? It's May in Riverside. It was like 100-degrees outside yesterday. My house is air-conditioned. My leather chair at my desk is pretty comfy. And like I said, I'm going to get carpal tunnel anyway. Might as well be for something I KNOW I suck at rather than trying to suck at whole new things.

Thanks for reading.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0



Wednesday, May 09, 2007
They Always Said Donald Was The Angry One
What does it take to outrage an American? Of course I can speak only for myself when I say that despite a 7 year effort to inspire me to action, the ravages of news cycle after news cycle, frankly, haven't really done much to get me out of my La-Z-Boy.

Controversial election in 2000, no WMDs, Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News... all egregious affronts to our national psyche and still, I can't even find patriotic arousal to fire of a sternly worded letter. Sure, they're all corrosive to my sense of self and my ability to feel happiness, but half a bottle of whatever's closest and I usually can't remember my name and everything's really funny.

You know what, though? Attack America all you want, Enemies of Freedom, but now I have to put my foot down. A country is one thing. But you don't assault the intellectual property rights of giant multinational diversified media conglomerates and get away with it.

I know by now you all must feel the same way having heard about the the dastardly tale of the Hamas Mickey Mouse.

I know things are rough in the Palestinian territories, but in the civilized world, we have something called copyright law. You don't just go infringing on it, willy nilly, and not expect to get (here) served with a cease and desist order or (there) probably invaded. It's a basic human freedom we take so seriously over here that we even allow corporations to propose, write and buy votes to secure passage of legislation protecting it. And if anyone knows anything about America, it's that we're only totally arbitrary about the things we think are the most important.

"You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists," Hamas Mickey tells kids. "We will return the Islamic community to its former greatness, and liberate Jerusalem, God willing, liberate Iraq, God willing, and liberate all the countries of the Muslims invaded by the murderers."

Ha, but nothing about the importance of eating vegetables, so the joke's on them. Let see them push out the crusaders and zionists without the cartoon-mandated nutrition we all enjoy.

As disheartening as this kind of an assault can be, this is not the first time a beloved character has been co-opted for less-than-savory ends.

We're all familiar with this bastardization, of course:

Slightly less well known is the neo-Nazi character Kermitler, the Wetlands Anti-Semite.

Or NAMBLA's insidious incarnation of Snuggles, the Narcoleptic Bottom

All of which pale in comparison to the most famous beloved children's character stolen for nefarious ends:

And to this day, memorabilia from Uncle Joe's Cartoon Collective is almost impossible to find.

Don't let them do it to Mickey, too. Rise up! Somebody, rise up! I'd volunteer, but I'm pretty sure Israel is going to get to those people first, for that reason or something else.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.5



Tuesday, May 08, 2007
College Girls
I'm perfectly content with my alma mater's small-time reputation. It did what it was supposed to do for me: got me out of mom's house, introduced me to the idea of crushing personal debt and provided me with all the educational and life-building tools I would need later in life to flourish in my career as a person who drives kids around in a minivan and also sometimes blogs. And the funny thing is: that wasn't even my major!

I don't really spend a lot of time bragging on my school because, really, what would I say? Unless we're talking about ethnic diversity or soil science, there really isn't a lot to point to, nationally speaking. And even if I did know what "soil science" was, I'm not 100% sure anyone would want to hear me talk about dirt in any sort of depth. Please don't hesitate to e-mail me if you feel differently than I presume.

One of the things we did have was a rare and wonderful thing: one of the nation's very few semi-hot chancellors. Supermodel? No, but this is a hotness scale comparative to other Top University Administrative Officials. If we could get her to throw a phone, she'd be Naomi Campbell.

And now? Now she's run off all the way to... Purdue.

I understand, I guess. It's a much larger undertaking in terms of the size of the institution, the national recognition, blah blah blah. But still, it's in Indiana, for Christ's sake. I'm not going to pretend that doesn't sting just a little bit. And when the UC Board of Regents finally convenes and locates the inevitable Old White Dude with all the looks and personality you'd expect from someone who has devoted his life to both academics AND bureaucracy, that will just be the last bit of salt in the wound.

I know that's how it will go, though. Decent looking chicks might sneak into positions of importance every now and again, but western civilization just isn't comfortable with it, long term. I mean, look at what they just passed up in those recent presidential elections in France. I mean, honestly. And this was France. If they can't make it happen, what hope do the rest of us have? Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton? It's like God doesn't want us male submissives to ever be happy.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.0



Monday, May 07, 2007
Everybody Else Is Overwhelmed By Indifference And The Promise Of An Early Bed
As I was out last night with my family, in one of those restaurants with the mid-level music in the background (you know, not so loud you can't talk over it, but just enough to so you won't be disturbed by the guy at the next table choking to death on his ¡Ay, Caliente! Boneless Buffalo Nacho Fries), surrounded by enough TV monitors to show every single thing on DirecTV that second, I looked at my family at the table around me and I remember thinking quite clearly: laying in bed with a 101-degree temperature for four days doesn't seem too bad in retrospect.

My wife excluded from that last bit of snideness, of course. I spend a lot of time in tacky chain restaurants because they're the only places I can take my kids where if they decide they need to throw themselves on the floor and scream at the top of their lungs, the staff there is mostly OK with that. And unlike fast food places, they'll even make an effort to step over them.

It was the first time I'd been out of the house since about mid-day Wednesday and I was feeling kind of tetchy. I was the one who suggested we get out of there, if only to escape the chiggers and silverfish spontaneously generating in my bed as I wallowed in the accumulated detritus of pestilential convalescence.

Free though I was, the omens were not good. Gas prices had jumped over $3.50/gallon down the street from me. Roger Clemens signed with the Yankees. Most gruesomely and disturbingly, a calf had been born with six legs, a full complement of BOTH gender sex organs and NO RECTUM. You know God is unhappy with something somewhere when you have to surgically build your cows an ass.

The story doesn't say if Sexopus the Heifer can talk or not, but if s/he could, I'm sure the message wouldn't have been any more clear than that which is broadcast by its very existence: Science has got nothing on nature in the genetic freak department.

Also: Beware the destruction of your idols!

It was mostly the second portent I took to heart, and it all made sense when, on a commercial break on the monitor on which was showing (and this is true) a 15-year-old beach volleyball match, I saw this.

Elvis Costello, Lexus salesman.

The only thing that saved me from committing immediate seppuku with my celery garnish was that I could not hear what he was saying. From what I've read, he's not asked to get all "rich Corinthian leather" and that sort of thing, but come on. And I know we can't be Angry Young Men forever, but Lexus? If he was going to break the endorsement cherry, I would have hoped it would have been something far less staid, middle-of-the-road, yuppietastic. Like Mountain Dew. Or Skechers. Or... hey!

How about Pops' Bucket? Sure, he's been my musical hero forever and it crushes me to see him pander to a mass audience in this country that has by and large ignored everything he's done since 1989, but hey, now that I know he's for sale, I might as well put it to my benefit.

Everyone check your couch cushions for spare change and send it in. We're going to buy us a local cable spot.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.7



Friday, May 04, 2007
I Am Not Well
The following is a true story:

Scene: I am laying in bed, flu-ravaged, in and out of fitful, fevered sleep. In walks my eldest boy, Jacahabraden.

BOY: Hi Dad.

ME: ...eyeeearrrg...

BOY: How are you feeling?

ME: How am I feeling? Can't you tell? This is my normal I'm-totally-well pose with the deep hacking cough, the slow writhing in undeserved fluish body wracking pain and the heat you feel on your face the emanates from my slightly swollen, feverish body as though you were standing too close to a small star. Super-duper, kiddo. I just had a ninety minute conversation with my grandmother who, by the way, has been dead for eleven years. That was very comforting. So I'm good.

BOY: I brought you this in case you got hungry.

Boy produces a Quaker Chewy Granola Bar, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavored.

ME to self: What the hell? Doing something nice? Either he's killed someone or... no, I get it. The little punk read yesterday's blogpost where I blamed him and his other school-age brother for getting me sick and now this is his passive-aggressive attempt to make me feel guilty by being nice and trying to take care of me. No sir. Not in my house.

ME to Boy: Wow, thanks so much son. There's nothing a person suffering under the crushing weight of gut-splitting two-day nausea needs more than a little nosh, especially one with no nutritional value whatsoever. Here, let me go ahead and eat it right now.

I cram the entire granola bar into my mouth, hold until it becomes good and pasty and then spit it violently back in his sabotaging face. He runs out crying.

ME calling after him: That's right, leave me here, all alone. If I die from this, you won't see a penny. Not one penny, you sneaky little viper! You stay out of here from now on! Stay out unless I call you, and then you had better come running! Until then, you leave me alone, all alone up here to die in peace, unloved!

And then, alone, I wept bitterly from the bounteous sorrow of my stricken heart.

Yet another victory!

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9



Thursday, May 03, 2007
Late, I Know...
...but I have a good reason.

I love my kids and all and I'm glad they're out there in the world being properly socialized by wet-willies and dodgeball at school, but there's a limit. Sure, I want them to eventually go to college and get good jobs so that when they refuse to support me in my old age, it's a conscious choice and not just because they can't afford it. If they're going to get their generational revenge, I want it to mean something, I do.

But this school thing where they associate with a wide range of kids from a bunch of different households, all of which apparently are rife with disease, is not working out for me.

I went for a period of about 3-4 years without getting sicker than the occasional cold or the odd run-in with the clap, as boys will. Then my kids started school and I have since unwittingly lent my sinuses and digestive tract out to be a holding-ground and dispensary for every endemic nuisance known to man.

Like today for instance...

I'm tired of being sick. The only clear alternative is to home-school my kids... in one of those plastic rooms they kept John Travolta in in that one movie. No, not Staying Alive, the other one. But then I'd have to spend even MORE time with my kids, which I don't think my insurance carrier would approve. At a certain point, there are only so many anti-depressants they'll pay for.

Until then: hack hack, cough cough, oh God please let me just die.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007
How Can I Provide You With Excellent Service Today?
While I enjoyed the mimosas and crab-cakes-eggs-benedict mornings on the days in which my interwebs were tangled, I know in my heart of hearts that I missed out on some really great stuff being blog-incommunicado. I missed the lively, restrained, dignified debates sparked off by the Don Imus thing that finally--FINALLY!--settled for us definitively the questions of race, political correctness and free speech.

I mean, my God, Imus AND Sharpton. Two of the world's best examples of surviving mullets still alive in captivity and I missed it; the Great Hair-Off '07 and I was down with a pulled digital hammy. I don't think I will ever be able to forgive myself.

No, you know what, I should know by now that I shouldn't underestimate my capacity for self-forgiveness. I find in general that it isn't all that difficult to convince me to see my side of the story.

Really mostly it was the people at AT&T who fucked everything up for me in the short term.

OK that really wasn't fair. I would like to offer a public apology to the people at AT&T Broadband who stayed on the phone with me patiently, over a dozen times, expending many many man-hours in order to eventually not fix my problem. For that I'm sorry, AT&T. I'm very sorry you are not very good and don't really provide a lot of the services you promise. Also, a lot of your people are kind of dicks.

That said, I did get a few laughs out of talking to "Antonio" with the Peoria-by-way-of-Gujarat accent. Or "Mary" who, bless 'er, couldn't manage to not soft-trill her Rs or replicate a flattened Midwestern American-neutral nasaly O sound for the life of her.

And for those of you who would find racism in the above sentence, listen, it's not the fact that they're clearly South Asian or their accents in particular that amuse me. It's just the pretense of trying have them play at being American as if a) they could or would even desire to pull it off in the first place or b) we would be fooled into happy consumer complacency by it is the most comically wrongheaded corporate misadventure since the last time the Cuyahoga River caught on fire.

But enjoy it while you can, America, because if I know anything, it's that even if it's 50 years too late, corporations eventually see the errors of their ways and take all the fun out of their being socially and ethically retarded. What do the people in Cleveland have now? Clean river, clean lake, water that when a match is dropped into it, unremarkably extinguishes said match. And all that took was thirty years of government oversight and strict enforcement of existing environmental laws. So see, eventually companies "get it".

AT&T Broadband Tech Support will "get it" one day too and that will be a sad day. One day "Mary" will be free to go back to being Rupinder or Saraswati... and be out of work, supplanted by a new generation of Indian tech-support desk-slaves reared under a more forward-looking AT&T policy emphasizing truth-in-advertising where Indian parents sell their children's naming rights away at birth. "Mary" might still have the accent, but by Jove, she will really be a Mary. Beautiful little Mary Catherine Lo-Cost Hi-Speed DSL Service GoldenPalace.com Singh, lover of poetry and ponies and fancy dress parties and providing you with the same quality substandard service in exchange for a handful of rupees and all the ethernet cable she can eat.

Corporations today are like Columbus in 1492, except instead of Jesus and smallpox, they bring skilled-labor training and a reasonable reduction in overhead. I hope it all works out for them as well as the first thing worked out for Spain.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.6


PS- Click on link: I did not write this. The Onion's access to mind-reading technology, however, frightens me a little.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007
There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself. The first blow dealt to the French monarchy proceeded from the nobility, not from the peasants. The Indian revolt does not commence with the ryots, tortured, dishonoured and stripped naked by the British, but with the sepoys, clad, fed and petted, fatted and pampered by them.

Karl Marx, in an article written for the New York Daily Tribune, September 16, 1857

See, the point ole Uncle Karl was trying to make is that flaws in the system can be fatal flaws, but if they are of the system, they are likely forged by the system itself; not a by-product or an accidental side-effect, but something honest and crucial, without which the system does not perpetuate--or even cannot exist. And further, the promises built into the system that are then ignored, delayed or frankly unrealistic then become the trigger for that system's ultimate destruction. In this way, for example, the modern bourgeoisie seeped in and themselves enjoying easily mouthed ideals of democracy, freedom, equality and meritocracy in practice benefit greatly from the denial of all these things in full or in part to the wide majority of workers whose labor serves to enrich the owners of the means of production (the bourgeois themselves) at the expense of those at the bottom without whom the system of capitalist expansion is impossible and to whom all roads to a well-earned improvement of their station are not only so narrow, so treacherous but also well guarded and better hid.

This is the impetus for small actions that swell into ever-increasing larger ones that will eventually result in the inevitable, calamitous reconciliation of a paradox, a contradiction, a dialect of unmatchable--in both color and type--threads woven into the fabric of our culture and our society that can only mean the certain unraveling of the whole.

Or at least that's what it meant last year when millions of people took to the streets on May 1 to cry out for the rights and the needs of the alienated, alien forgotten and then went for some barbacoa.

But this year, even goat-meat tacos, I guess, weren't enough to keep the perpetual bus of inevitable revolution running. People are still coming out--there will always be a certain percentage of America's young people who will protest anything so long as there are math tests that can be missed--but in fractional amounts compared to last year.

I despair for ole Uncle Karl and his insisted-upon can't-miss revolution. I mean, he's been dead for almost 125 years and still the only places that really tried it weren't even really capitalist bourgeois democracies in the first place. Communism is in serious danger of becoming the Tony Mandarich of political philosophy. The only reason we shouldn't feel bad for Communism is because utopian theocracy will always be it's Ryan Leaf.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.0




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