Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Some Consolation - This Won't Last Forever

Leonard Steinhorn writes in Salon that the cultural/moral values of baby boomers and their children are very different from the social conservatives who appear to be steering this country's policies. It is only a matter of time before these evangelicals and older Americans become woefully outnumbered anachronisms. He makes an interesting analogy:
And why do social conservatives loom so large in our politics today? The best historical parallel for them may be the Luddites who terrorized Britain two centuries ago, the workers who traveled around the country smashing machines for fear that the Industrial Revolution would destroy their jobs and way of life. They were loud, and their tenacity gave the impression that they represented more Britons than they actually did, when in fact they were merely acting out their despair and outrage at a world that was passing them by. Today's social conservatives are our cultural Luddites.
So as we watch the Bush administration take its mandate off the deep (right) end, the best we can hope is that America isn't destroyed (and I'm not talking about the terrorism bogeyman) before younger generations get a chance to put the nation back on track.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Will McCartney Do A Morrison?

The NFL has announced that Paul McCartney will be performing at halftime during the Super Bowl in February. No doubt he was chosen as a "safe bet" after the overblown Janet Jackson fiasco last year. I wouldn't really like to see it, but I would love for McCartney to do a Jim Morrison-esque show by dropping his trousers. It would be a hilarious slap in the face to the "family entertainment" NFL.

If John Lennon were still alive, I doubt that they would invite him to perform. In a time of war, I think he would have to make some sort of statement that would probably offend the pro-establishment NFL bigwigs.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Giving Thanks

Last night in an unusual fit of husbandly generosity, I offered to take my wife to the mall. My reasoning was clear: we would go to the mall a couple days before Thanksgiving because I won't go near one between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After half an hour, I wished I hadn't offered. I'm a high-speed power shopper, while my wife is a dawdler at best. In the stores she likes, I spend a long time twiddling my thumbs while she meanders back and forth past the same three shelves of items. In the stores I like, I case the joint in five minutes and spend the next ten trying to get her out the door. I rarely find anything worth buying, while she inevitably wants to buy overpriced, fragrant items. The only type of store we can visit together and enjoy is a bookstore, and I have a $209 receipt from Barnes & Noble last night to prove it (in our defense, half of that was for gifts).

Anyway, in the midst of this predictably painful experience, I found something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: the Internet. Without it, I'd have to spend more time at the malls.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Lesson For You Youngsters Out There

A public service announcement: "Why drinking is bad"

Before my last post, I had a glass of Scotch and let one of the dogs outside. Then I picked out my New Miserable Experience CD, took it upstairs to my office, and blogged as I listened to it. Forty-six minutes later, as the CD ended, I heard a dog bark. Oops. Sure enough, he was standing out on the porch waiting for me to let him in. So don't drink when you're taking care of dogs or children because you just might forget them outside. (And people wonder why I don't have kids.)

Ice Cream, Scotch, And Gin

I just ate some chocolate chip ice cream and chased it down with a glass of Scotch. Bad idea. A former co-worker said he didn't like Scotch because it tasted "too medicinal." Never is that more true than after ice cream. It's a combination so jolting to the body that you'll just have to try it yourself someday.

Right now I'm listening to one of my favorite drinking albums, the Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience. Of course, this is not an inspirational record--Doug Hopkins, who wrote half of the songs, was an alcoholic who got kicked out of the band before they hit it big. He committed suicide in 1993. Songs of his like "Lost Horizons," "Hey Jealousy," "Hold Me Down," "Found Out About You" and "Pieces Of The Night" speak of a certain sad, isolated, often intoxicated existence. It's anything but "happy" music, although readers have probably noticed that most of the music I like isn't happy (with Devo being a notable exception).

I first heard New Miserable Experience when my brother gave me his cassette. I think he said it wasn't "heavy enough." I upgraded to a CD around the time I moved out of the house (I always hated prerecorded cassettes--I went straight from LPs to CDs), so this album always reminds me of the first few months I lived in my apartment. While I never drank that much (thank God), I had similar luck in relationships, so it was an appropriate soundtrack (along with the Offspring's "Self Esteem"). A couple years ago, I bought a special 10th anniversary "Deluxe Edition" at a store closing sale. Unfortunately, the bonus disc is comprised of mostly weak material and live versions, plus a particularly lame "alternate" version of "Pieces Of The Night" with an unnecessary piano ending. The Deluxe Edition is on the right below.

By the way, the Gin Blossoms are one of very few rock acts to hail from Arizona. Alice Cooper and the Meat Puppets are a couple of others.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Tribune's Annoying Marketing Ploy

I got a phone call Sunday afternoon from a marketing company representing the Chicago Tribune. The caller informed me that I will now receive the Wednesday and Friday newspapers free in addition to my usual Sunday edition. There's one problem--I don't want two more days of newspapers cluttering up our house. Heck, sometimes it takes me until Wednesday to finish working through the Sunday paper. I get most of my news online, and all that paper is just a waste. We used to get those days, but we canceled because we never opened them. Those newspapers went straight from their clear plastic bags into a blue recycling bag.

I politely told the marketer that I did not want the Wednesday and Friday newspapers. He replied, "You're already getting them. We signed you up for this free gift as a thank-you..." But I don't want them, I replied angrily. "You'll have to call 1-800-TRIBUNE to cancel it." Why can't you cancel it? "You'll have to call 1-800-TRIBUNE."

What kind of customer service is that? Why should I have to take the initiative to stop getting something I didn't ask for and don't want?

This isn't the first time the Tribune Company has used the unwanted free newspaper tactic. They gave us RedEye, a silly paper not even thick enough to use for bird cage liner (not that we have a bird anyway), for several weeks. That was a little different, though. It was a brand new paper, we only got it for a short time, and no intrusive telemarketer called to tell us all about our "free gift."

If it wasn't for the ads and coupons in the Sunday paper, I would cancel my entire subscription just to spite them. I suppose I should give the Tribune Co. a little credit, though. At least they are trying to increase ad revenue by giving away free papers, as opposed to the rival Sun-Times, which scandalously overstated its circulation instead.

Update 11/17/04: I e-mailed Tribune customer service, and they said that my account has no record of those days that the telemarketer said I was already signed up for.

Update 12/05/04: As I expected, I started getting the unwanted newspapers the week after I contacted customer service. I e-mailed them again, and they stopped delivering those days. I also had them remove me from their marketing lists.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Preying On The Handicapped

My wife's grandmother called this morning to tell us that someone broke her car window and stole her handicapped parking plaquard. Just in time for Christmas--now some lazy, thieving bastard gets to park close to the stores to do his shopping. I hope he has a heart attack from lack of exercise. Then again, a**holes are the cockroaches of humanity--they'll outlive us all.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Movies I Just Don't Understand

I don't watch many movies. In fact, my wife and I have seen only three movies in theaters since we met in 1997. Every so often she rents a movie or two, and after much arm-twisting, she gets me to sit and watch them with her. Last Tuesday she rented two of the supposedly best movies of last year, Lost In Translation and Mystic River. We finally watched them last night.

Lost In Translation was just goofy. Sure, the slices of Japanese culture were amusing, and Bill Murray was funny sometimes. On the other hand, it was just a sad and pathetic picture about unhappy people. If I wanted to see unhappy people, I would have taken a picture of myself on Wednesday morning. I won't complain about all the scenes of Scarlett Johansson in her underwear, though--I'll give it at least two stars for that and the cool song that was playing in the "gentleman's club" scene. Anyway, the worst part was the end. Without giving anything away, I'll say that Murray whispers something. We rewound the tape twice (no point having a DVD player to watch a dozen flicks a year), but we still couldn't figure it out. Perhaps more frustratingly, I could figure out the first few words and the last few words, but obviously the "meat" of his statement was the part in between. That was the icing on this absurd cake. It wasn't a bad movie, but I just didn't "get" it.

After a break to watch some depressing news on TV, it was time for Mystic River. When that movie was over, all I could say was, "Man, that's f***ed up!" I'll grant that the movie was shot well, and the characters were believable and well-developed. There were a number of interesting twists, although I figured out "whodunnit" long before my wife (which may not bode well for her chances of being a detective someday, but that's another story). Mystic River was "a tragedy of errors"--there were so many times when I expected a character to say something that would have cleared everything up, but those lines were never spoken. There were also some holes in the movie, places where I could have written the screenplay better. While I predicted the end result of the film, well, it was just f***ed up. It left me with a lot of questions and difficulty falling asleep.

I told my wife she should rent Mystic Pizza next time.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Suspicious Timing

Today the Iraqi government declared a state of emergency in most of the country... for the next 60 days. Gosh, things were just fine only five days ago. You don't suppose they delayed this troubling announcement so that it wouldn't hurt Bush's bid for re-election, do you? How could you not? That's what puppet governments are for.

The Bush administration might tell you it's only because of increased violence over the past few days. Then why was an emergency declared for the next two months? A couple days of unrest do not merit such a long-term expectation of trouble. Clearly things have been going badly for some time. Besides, the latest violence is likely in part a reaction to Bush's re-election, so they can't spin their way out of it. They either suppressed it, delayed it, or caused it.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Blue City, Red State

I took some small consolation on Tuesday that at least I live in a blue state, one that stands for civil rights, peace, fiscal responsibility, and economic opportunity for all, as opposed to the red sea of people that oppose those traditional American values.

Then I looked at the county-by-county tallies from CNN. Cook County was the only county in the state to come out "strong Kerry," with 70% of the vote going to the Democrat. Kerry got 1,389,631 votes to Bush's 583,774, a margin of 805,857 votes. Kerry won Illinois by 513,342 votes. That means that if not for Cook County, Bush would have won with over 54% of the vote. I don't live in a blue state; I live in a blue city. No wonder my dad and others view Illinois politics as Chicago versus the rest of the state.

The only thing most of us could all agree on was that Obama would be a better senator than that nutcase Alan Keyes. However, CNN's county map shows that Keyes actually won a cluster of counties in southeastern Illinois, including Clay (57%), Edwards (60%), Effingham (57%). Jasper (55%), Wabash (54%), and Wayne (57%). Is there something in the water down there? He also won upstate Iroquois County with 51%. Nonetheless, Obama set a record for margin of victory in a U.S. Senate race in Illinois, with 70% to Keyes' 27% for a margin of 43%. Not bad for a non-incumbent, eh?

Bad Branding

1.) There is a brand of cheese called "The Laughing Cow." Am I the only one who associates laughing with insanity, as in Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage/Eclipse" from Dark Side Of The Moon? A synonym for insanity is madness which, of course, leads us to mad cow disease. Hmm, maybe I don't want my cheese from a laughing cow, however cute the happy cow character may be.

2.) The Balance Bar company has a new line of bars called "Balance Carb Well." Lots of food manufacturers are bringing out low carb products these days, but isn't there something wrong with this? The company's products are based on the nutritional theory that the proper caloric balance of nutrients is 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. A low carb product undermines the company's entire premise. While they may regain some former Balance Bar consumers who have gone low carb, they may confuse a lot of potential customers, too.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A Loss For America, A Loss For Common Sense

For the past couple days, I have been wrestling with what to say about the election. I am disappointed with the narrow majority of Americans who kept President Bush in office. I just cannot believe so many people have been hoodwinked by the Republican spin machine. I admit that Karl Rove and company are tactical masters, but I also think Americans don't know how to think for themselves anymore--they simply adopt whatever position the people on TV or radio tell them. Consequently, we have a second term for a president who should never have been elected in the first place. Maybe it is appropriate that the nation has re-elected a man who has little intellectual curiosity, since that trait obviously reflects a national flaw. In the Internet age, it doesn't take much effort to learn both sides of a story. It disgusts me that so few voters care enough to do so.

Kerry may not have been the greatest candidate, but Bush clearly has so many problems, both in character and as a leader, that I cannot fathom how anyone could vote for him. It would be redundant for me to give reasons today. That's what this blog's archives are for, in case you are more intellectually curious than our commander in chief. I just fear that in four years, it will be painfully obvious why he shouldn't have been re-elected. Maybe even the red states will get the message by then.

The only good thing about this result is that now the Repugnicans can't blame Democrats when the war in Iraq drags on for years. Of course, it isn't in their nature to blame themselves, either. Heck, Dubya won't even admit he made a single mistake in the past four years. With Republicans in control of every branch of government, it should be interesting to see who does get the blame. I suppose they'll have to scapegoat one of their own.


So where do we go from here as a country? Bush seems to view his victory as a mandate, which means he has not learned from the past. After eking out a win in 2000 by the skin of his teeth, he ruled as if everyone supported him. That only enraged and polarized the opposition. Bush's "uniter not a divider" shtick proved to be so wrong that he couldn't even say it during the 2004 campaign, at least not without snickering. While he won clearly this time, 51% is not an overwhelming majority. Also, an LA Times exit poll shows how strongly people feel on both sides. For example, 79% of Bush voters think his economic policies have made the country better off, while 90% of Kerry voters think they have made us worse off. The numbers are similar in regard to Iraq and Bush's overall performance. Very few voters were doing eeny-meeny-miny-mo in the booths on Tuesday. This nation is still divided from the wounds of the 2000 election and the war with Iraq, and those wounds have festered instead of healing. Quite frankly, a large portion of the populace hates him and all he stands for.

There should be riots in the streets, and maybe someday soon there will be. I'll keep my shoes by the door.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Tension

When my wife left for work this evening, I told her I was going to sit in front of the TV with a bottle of Scotch and watch the election results. I've had a bad feeling about Kerry's chances today (I did my part, of course), so I added that she'd probably come home at 2 AM to find me wallowing in a puddle of urine and vomit. Not a pretty picture, but this hasn't been a pretty campaign, either.

Instead of watching TV, I decided to track the results online as I worked on other things. Multi-tasking helped me keep my sanity. I made it to 12:30 AM before I had to open the liquor cabinet. With Bush frighteningly close to re-election, I cracked. I didn't even use a snifter; I just picked out the least favorite single malt in my collection (Tomatin--never buy whisky based on the unique shape of the bottle) and drank a healthy serving from a plain glass. This wasn't about savoring a fine malt--it was all about dulling my senses. I chased it with half a shot of 12-year Highland Park just for good measure. It worked. I'm ready for the next few hours, as long as I don't fall asleep. I just hope I don't have to do this for the next four years.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

This Is It... VOTE FOR CHANGE

John Kerry may not be perfect, but George W. Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents. A vote for Bush is blood on your hands. Either Al Qaeda will strike us for our imperialist policies, or our soldiers will die for our imperialist policies. The Bush-Cheney regime has put the United States into a no-win situation, and too many Americans have been fooled. Don't be one of them. Vote your conscience, and remember that our president has no conscience.