Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hot Air



A new poll says that, while a majority of the public still believes global warming is a serious issue, an increasing number believe that it's exaggerated. I love public opinion on matters of a scientific nature. We live in a culture where the general population hardly reveres intelligence to any noticeable degree, taking pride in being referred to as "average" Americans. People say they want leaders who are "just like them" (which entirely negates the definition of "leader"), where nonsense like intelligent design gets intermittent footholds in public school systems, and one-third of Americans say they believe in the existence of angels. But when it comes to a consensus from the majority of the world's environmental experts that global warming is a very real and impending threat, the jury's suddenly out for lack of "evidence". I guess we'll just have to hope that our guardian angels are fireproof. And can swim.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Skiv Row

So much for the argument that poverty (and not religion) induces Islamic fanaticism. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man (with self-proclaimed ties to Yemeni Al-Qaida) accused of attempting to detonate an explosive device on a flight to Detroit, is the son of the former head of Nigeria's largest bank- just another rich kid with too much time on his hands and plenty of manufactured ennui. However, the attack is a splash of cold water; a reminder of just how hollow our post-9/11 cries of "everything has changed" have become. In fact, a cursory glance at the story is enough to make you remove large portions of your hair: A Nigerian Muslim whose name is on a U.S. list of suspects with terrorist connections was was allowed to board in Amsterdam- with no passport. I guess authorities there are too busy subjecting college students to body-cavity searches for fear that a nug of Black Lady kush might be hiding in their nether regions. I suspect no one with more than 4 oz of shampoo was allowed on the flight, either. Good thing the rest of the world is still keeping air travelers safe from the horrors of Prell and bugging the flight attendant for more Funyuns. In their race to the 70 virgins finish line, the disenfranchised Al-Qaida wannabes are usually too long on fanaticism and too short on brains, resulting in blowing themselves up in a Hamburg hotel room or lighting their lap on fire on a plane bound for Detroit. (Sorry, Umar. I doubt even virgins would go near your charred junk.) But Flight 253 might also be a warning. Not to get all Glenn Beck on you, but can we be so sure that things like this are merely rogue fuck-ups? Vigilance (you know, that thing we pretend to have?) requires that we entertain the notion that bigger and badder things are being planned for us. Then again, this guy was an engineering student who couldn't even make an underwear bomb work. Had he consulted with any of the passengers who subdued him, he would have learned that Motown already looks like the victim of a terrorist attack and his would have merely been the tinsel on their post-apocalyptic Christmas tree. Go ahead and flip a coin on the future of our security.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hate The Game

My return to the airwaves is somewhat bittersweet, now that my former boss and mentor, Jonathon Brandmeier is off the air. The still-undisputed king of the Chicago airwaves recently walked from his very lucrative contract at WLUP because he was rightfully fed up with the current "dash to slash" mentality pervasive in media outlets these days, along with the near-complete abandonment of high-value talent. JB is worth every penny and, as he does on the air, he speaks for a lot of people in his situation.

high

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Idiocracy

Getting prepped to go back on the air after being off for 17 months requires a great deal of digital ramp-up. I've been happy blogging and doing the Facebook thing, but now my online reach is increasing exponentially. I've avoided Twitter until now- being off the air, I didn't see the point. Media people are best served when they use it as a promotional tool or as a device to break the fourth wall. Otherwise, no one cares what an awesome chicken tetrazzini you just made. Now that I'm on Twitter, iTunes, and my own website that the station is setting up for me, I'm concerned that all of the time spent keeping up with those forms of interaction will make me further removed from actual communication- you know, the thing to which I'll be devoting four hours a day? A new study shows that technology is making us stupid. Probably true. Though, my stupidity isn't limited to ones and zeroes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mile High



I have friends in Denver and I think I may have a new incentive to visit. The Ganja Gourmet is a pot-laced boon to victims of various afflictions. You would think that getting a natural high from living that far above normal oxygen levels would suffice. But not in Colorado. Denverites (Denverians? Denverlings?) are so lucky that they actually have a "medical marijuana district"! Most cities of that size jump for joy if they get a Hard Rock.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's Get Nuts

Man, isn't this the truth? Life keeps changing. It's the simple pleasures you'll miss the most.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ham & Eggs

This is pretty rad. Dude even looks just like the guy from Jethro Tull. The only thing that would make this better is if he were actually sitting on a park bench. With snot running down his nose.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Piece Keeping Mission



I'm a proud liberal, yet one of my biggest regrets is that I never spent any time in the military. I guess it was slightly in the blood- my dad went through ROTC and served in the Army Corps of Engineers at Ft. Lee, Virginia (where I was born). In fact, it was my birth that kept him from going to Vietnam. He had gotten his papers to ship out, but because I had to be delivered by emergency C-section (major surgery in 1971), his orders were rescinded. As a teenager, I lamely tried to use that fact to my advantage: "Can I borrow the car, Dad? If it wasn't for me, you'd probably be down at least one limb." It never worked, for the record. When I was of age to serve, there was no pressing need to enlist; no call to arms for sacrifice overseas. I was in college when the Gulf War happened, and I had friends who were sent overseas. I recall there was widespread pants-crapping on campus, due to the rumor that Secretary of Defense (and multiple service-deferment beneficiary) Dick Cheney would reinstate the draft. Otherwise, as a student, I would only have served of my own volition. Nevertheless, there is a structure in the military from which I suspect I would have greatly benefitted. Left to my own devices, I'm a trainwreck. All of this leads me to a less convoluted point: irrespective of our political leanings, when it comes to men and women who choose to serve and possibly sacrifice their lives for us, let them have frigging tattoos wherever they want.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Front (Hug)

Love it or hate it, rap music in its truest form is the poetry of the underclass; a primal expression borne from the brutalities of life rarely seen in mainstream culture. That's why I've never understood the notion of Christian rap. Granted, middle-class white kids are like the locusts of pop culture- they'll grab anything that isn't nailed down and suck the life out of it- but when you can't even grab your crotch for fear of inciting "lustful feelings", your cred is going to be fundamentally lacking. (Furthermore, someone should have told this promise ring posse what "rough riders" actually means before they cribbed it from a DMX lyric sheet.) While most of your classic rap artistes extol the virtues of "bitches", "niggas", and "fuckin' tha po-lice", this crew is speaking out against the scourge of hugging (which evidently puts the pee-pees and hoo-hahs in dangerously close proximity). Which begs the question: what good are all of these "purity pledges" if they're never put to the test?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fug Shot

Ah, kids. They grow up so fast these days. Sadly, a large portion of them aren't getting any wiser as they get older. The latest contestants in the low-self-esteem pageant are two girls in Wisconsin who got busted for soliciting horny dudes on Craigslist, then robbing them. When caught, one of the teens rejected the "pimp" slap, instead referring to herself as a "skank agent" (a distinction you'll recall was first argued in the landmark State Of California v. Huggy Bear case). Leave it to the bored farm girls to get caught up in semantics while selling their coochies to unsuspecting cheeseheads.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Doll-ar Menu



Every company is taking measures to increase their bottom line in a downturn. Even the porn industry (long thought to be recession-proof) has taken a hit, so much so that men are now forced to save money by actually fucking their wives and girlfriends. The Real Doll company (which has out-creeped the Japanese in lifelike sex simulacrums for over a decade) is the gold standard of detailed, custom, life-sized, latex companions. Granted, probably not a crowded field. But when it comes to recognizing economic woes, their marketing is genius. The "industry leader since 1996!" has the following banner on their website: "In these tough economic times, we now offer FREE SHIPPING on all orders". (Since the dolls start at $6,000, it's unclear how much of a financial enticement that really amounts to.) In a nod to their core audience of loveless nerds, the ordering process includes options such as elf ears, blue skin, and cyborg faceplate. And prospective lonely horndogs are offered a choice to further sweeten the deal: "Up to $500 off all your doll upgrades" (as the company fixes any parts of the doll that your vigorous, untested-in-the-real-world lovemaking grinds down to a nub. Ew.) or "a free additional face." (I'm on board with that one). It's not exactly the "3 MILF DVDs for $5" bin, but it's nice to know that the skin trade feels our financial pain, so that we can get back to feeling ourselves.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Subpar



Try this scenario on: you drive your car into a fire hydrant in the wee hours of the morning, hit a tree, get taken to the hospital for "facial lacerations", then avoid talking to the police, explaining that your crash is "a private matter". That would totally happen for you, right? Except that it wouldn't. Thus, the cloud of curiosity surrounding Tiger Woods's recent vehicular mishap. (Full disclosure: I despise golf; I couldn't give less than a rat's ass about what happened. He's never once asked me about my life and I'm fine with our dynamic, but he still seems like a nice enough chap.) The fact that he's treating what was probably a minor domestic dispute like he's Gene Hackman in No Way Out, makes me curious as to what America's Most Overachieving Cablanasian is trying to keep under wraps. Granted, he's not required by law to discuss the matter with the police- only to produce license and insurance, which he did. But, the wide berth he's giving the cops, while not surprising, is still a little puzzling. When you're pulling in $100 million a year in endorsements, bad PR can cost you a hell of a lot more than a few minutes of embarrassment with the Florida Highway Patrol. Dude, you married a model (a great idea until you actually do it) then knocked her up twice; of course, we're all going to understand when she goes apeshit on you for some undoubtedly minor infraction. And if it's determined that you've been playing through some other chick's fairway, you'll just have to cough up some dough (maybe for bail money). Then again, maybe not- his alleged paramour is denying anything inappropriate and 100 mil can buy a lot of silence. Or forgiveness. Either way, I'd consult Kobe. He's played this course before.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vatican't



I'm often asked why I'm so relentlessly critical of religion. On the air and on this page, it's a theme to which I return (not least because of the continuous fodder it provides). Like most Catholic school survivors, I've earned the right to scrutinize the dogma of my youth (as well as the purveyors of it) and my thoughts on the subject have become more critical and secular as I've gotten older. I have no problem with faith- it's a just and valuable element to anyone's life- but faith is an idea and when ideas become institutionalized, they become a business. Every business has its rules, the primary of which essentially being: do whatever is necessary to keep bringing in new business. I draw a parallel to the investment houses and mortgage brokers who bequeathed us this new great recession. Organized religion will leverage its very system of values to protect the institution, creating whatever reality it sees fit to circumvent culpability. Now comes a marketing push by dioceses around the country in the form of television commercials for "Catholics Come Home", an appeal to lapsed sheep to rejoin the flock. (The Holy See would have been wise to subtitle the campaign, "Let's Forget About All The Boy-Fingering", since the exodus of the faithful over the last decade has been due in no small part to that diabolical footnote). Initial response to the commercials has reportedly been positive, though any PR advances the church makes might be nullified by stories like this. Overall, it remains a zero-sum game; as institutions of all kinds falter, faith becomes a more powerful device, while our ancient forms of organizing it become increasingly irrelevant.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Too Much (Bullet) Time On Your Hands

I just watched The Matrix again for the first time in a long time. I forgot what a fantastic piece of cinema it is. This is pretty badass, too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-Racial Friday

While the day after Thanksgiving is considered the most lucrative of the holiday season, it's also one of the deadliest, with people around the country invariably getting trampled to death in reckless pursuit of holiday savings. It's hard to imagine a more undignified way to shuffle off this mortal coil than drawing one's last breath in a Wal-Mart, trying to grab a ten dollar DVD player at 5am. And, while the odds were even further stacked against the sane this year (Old Navy opened at 3am) most accounts show a relatively stampede-free first day of shopping. While economic pundits pore over arcane indicators in search of signs that things are getting better, the lack of death at the mall today implies smaller crowds- a clear sign that the economy remains in trouble.

Nevertheless, for any of you harboring suicidal thoughts- I'm a medium.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Put A Fork In Me



Goddamn. There are some days- my solemn wish for you is that they are few and far between- that test the very fabric of your soul. But when you have them, rather than allow your psyche to be drawn and quartered, I'd recommend you strapping The Daysleepers into your headphones and drifting off into your happy place. These crazy kids are truly doing the Lord's work. And from Buffalo, no less. Goddamn.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Captain Trips

The CDC is reporting that 22 million people have been sickened by the H1N1 virus, leading to 4,000 deaths. Compared to the fact that about 9,000 people a year die from food poisoning, I'd say a "pandemic" with a .0002% mortality rate isn't quite the Black Death redux. In related news, the Dept. of Health & Human Services estimates that by 2018, 43% of American adults will be obese. Granted, that's six years after the Mayan calendar kills all of us, so who cares? But, could there be a connection between increasingly compromised immune systems and being grossly overweight? Nah. The next step in human evolution won't be anything as dramatic as Terence McKenna or Timothy Leary had envisioned; there will be no super-race. The concept of survival of the fittest will be reduced to people who can see their feet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Black & Blues



Tracy Morgan was hit or miss on SNL (and drew a mixed reaction at Carnegie Hall) but he's the most consistently funny part of 30 Rock. This interview from NPR is a painfully candid discussion about his new book and is a direct contrast to the raw craziness of his on-camera persona.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Max Headroom

Consumer Reports is testing condoms now. Would it have killed them to get a hotter model? Something tells me the girl narrating this video isn't currently having any latex tested on her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Bravery



Attending Sunday mass with my parents this past weekend, I was pleased that the service didn't end without a nod to Veteran's Day. The priest asked all of the men and women of service to stand and be recognized for their sacrifice (and if you know a veteran, you know how allergic they are to accolades). The majority of those standing were WWII and Korean War vets, my father represented the Vietnam era, and I was seated next to two guys just back from Iraq- the absence of women among them was unfortunate. As military combat implies a patriarchal sensibility, so Veteran's Day often reflects that. But the story of Sgt. Kimberly Munley, a civilian officer who took down the man responsible for 13 deaths at Ft. Hood this week, reinforces the vital role of women in national security and should foster some changes in current military policy. The ban on women in combat is an outdated dictum, on par with "don't ask, don't tell". Both are illogical in theory and even more so in practice. As I looked with respect and admiration at the veterans standing on Sunday, it occurred to me that, even in a conservative parish like ours, not one of them would be afforded any less respect for their duty if they revealed that they were gay. They still sacrificed in ways that the rest of us have not.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Paper Chase

For the avid reader, a trip to a bookstore is an embarrassment of riches. With endless titles on esoteric subjects (everything from Black Entrepreneur magazine to the 45th installment in the Twilight series) glassy-eyed bookworms pin ball between displays like a Roomba that needs its batteries replaced. However, as more people turn to digitalia for their visual stimulus, a horrifying new trend has emerged in publishing: books based on websites. Arguably, the first of the bunch made sense. PostSecret began as a pretty inventive indie art project, and though its popularity seems to have transformed it from a vehicle for genuine confession to one of competitive voyeurism, it was still compelling in book form. Now, publishers are simply pilfering web content for its cut-and-paste production costs, with mind-numbing results. Among them: Fuck You Penguin (a book of animal pictures with snarky commentary), Would You Rather? (for anyone still agonizing over the landmark "Cleveland Steamer v. Dog Snot" decision), and LOLCat. (By the way- enough with the goddamn LOLCats. It's a desperate attempt to make cat ownership seem less sad and it jumped the LOLShark a LOL time ago. Which reminds me- we need a new phrase to replace "jump the shark".) The blogs-to-books equation is such a transparently slimy boardroom decision, that it takes the quirky randomness out of the source material and makes the authors complicit in an old media/new media swindle. "Let's charge $14.95 for a book filled with pictures that are online for free!" Ugh. Hard copy publishing is supposed to be about gate keeping and I still cling to the faded notion that books are kinda sacred. Blogging is egalitarian because those of us who do it would never expect to get any of our junk published any other way. No one's bookcase is going to be improved with a copy of "NippleBlog" on the shelf.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Diversion 2.0

A British official was removed for Estimating Drug Harms, a "controversial" (read: inconveniently accurate) study on the top 20 most harmful substances. I have a strong hunch that our most prescribed/profitable FDA-approved drugs would show up left-of-center on this graph.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rearview Mirror



I hated studying history in high school. It was too tedious and too time-consuming, relative to the number of hours I felt I needed to teach myself the King Diamond discography on the drums. (Damn you and your infernal triplet fills, Mikkey Dee!) In college, taking a number of constitutional law classes forced me to warm up a bit to history class, though full disclosure dictates that I mention it was actually my instructor who was the unrequited target of my warmth. No small task, that. Try working Neville Chamberlain into your game and see how well it goes. After my formal education years had been wasted, I found I rather liked history on a purely recreational level. In fact, The History Channel is easily one of my top three go-to channels when I just want to plop on the couch, eat a bag of Swiss cheese slices, and paint my third eye black. I'm currently reading Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan's dense blueprint of how the leaders of the "Big Three" (U.S., France, Britain) met in Paris in hopes of ending World War I. Sexy stuff, I know. But comparing the glacial pace of travel and communication in the early 20th century to that of today, it's strange to realize: there will come a time in the next century when this current period of digital largesse will be regarded as being similarly slow. As Paris 1919 details a time when automobiles were in their infancy, dirigibles were still viable transportation, and steamships carried world leaders across the ocean, so future generations will regard our Twitter, Facebook, TiVo, and YouTube obsessions as quaint technologies of a bygone era. Of course, by then, we'll all be enslaved to The Matrix anyway. Swiss cheese for everyone!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That Explains "Bangkok Dangerous"



No wonder Nicolas Cage has been doing every piece of crap to come across his agent's desk: he's broke. Cage went on Anderson Cooper 360 (because, why not?) to talk about his financial troubles- to the tune of $6.7M in back taxes- which he chalked up to his scheming and untrustworthy business manager. He's putting homes in Vegas and New Orleans on the auction block, even going so far as to sell his Bavarian castle! If that last part raised a red flag for you, join the club. Contradicting his fiduciary victim story is an article that says Cage is more in Michael Jackson/ Elton John territory due to his outrageous spending habits. None of this comes as any surprise, once you remember that Cage married a 21-year-old waitress, now turned "fashion designer" (which is always easier when Big Daddy is footing the bill for bolts of Italian linen) so he knows from the jump that he's gotta keep little mama happy. But, reportedly blowing through $40M on houses, motorcycles, a jet, yachts, and vintage cars is insanity, even by Hollywood standards. When you have so much money that you're buying meteorites and dinosaur skulls, it's strange that he seemingly only spent $20 on whatever mongoose yarmulke is on his head these days. Cage should have used a chunk of that dough to reimburse his fans. All they got for their money was tripe like Next and The Wicker Man.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Devil You Know

You gotta feel sorry for organized religion. Having to continually foist centuries-old screeds onto modern audiences, tirelessly attempting to convince them that a belief system developed to keep primitives in line could still have any relevance in contemporary culture. As I come from generations of Irish Catholics, my frequent tirades on religion are filtered through that particular prism, but feel free to insert any other ancient system of deification; you'll see the same writing on the wall. To clarify, I always make the distinction between the indispensable lessons writ large of the Bible (cast not the first stone, love thy neighbor as thyself, etc.) and the anachronistic minutiae used as an excuse to avoid putting those lessons into practice. It's beyond incomprehensible to me that, almost one decade into a new millennium, we are still hung up on gay marriage. If you investigate yesterday's election results in states which had a gay rights referendum on the ballot, you'll notice that the Catholic Church spent a great deal of time and money upending efforts to pass such a referendum. Of course, that's their job. But, in doing so, they charge themselves with a burden of proof that can never be realized. If it's really their position that gay marriage is harmful to the traditional notion of "the family", then why not wield that considerable voting power to outlaw divorce? Does it still bear repeating that pedophilia (not long ago the scourge of the Church) is infinitely more harmful to the family than having loving parents of the same sex? For a power structure like the Church to be so rife with self-loathing gay men, it has to be a fresh hell for them to work against any kind of equality. Especially when the protagonist of our book was so big on the concept.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check Steve Buscemi's House



Watching Young Frankenstein for the umpteenth time over the Halloween weekend, I was reminded of the forgotten genius that was the late Marty Feldman. When I was 12, I remember seeing the brilliantly adolescent and largely overlooked In God We Trust. The movie (which cast Feldman as a rogue monk opposite the perpetually overrated Andy Kaufman) included lines as mediocre as "haul thy ass aboard", but it was Feldman's rubber mug and fourth-wall asides that sent me into paroxysms of laughter at every turn. Feldman's "magnificent hideousness" is the centerpiece of an article asking where has all the ugly gone?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Terror Alert

Fake tits have officially jumped the shark. Former singer/current human flypaper Amy Winehouse is sporting a new pair, the body mod equivalent of putting platinum rims on an 18th century oxcart. She reportedly spent $56,000 on the blokes, money that could have been put to better use hiring a team of dentists. I guess anything that draws attention away from her face is a welcome relief. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Freshen Your Drink, Skank?



Online dating site OKCupid.com has done a study of how to minimize gaffes on a first date. Among the findings: when trying to work your game, calling a woman "pretty" will increase your chances of getting rejected.

Remember, guys- she wants to be respected for her mind, not her looks. Clearly, that's why she's dressed like a porn star.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Easy Writer

Among the myriad languages spoken around the world, Japanese, Gaelic, and English are said to be among the toughest for foreigners to master. Linguistically, the stereotype of the American is typified by the fact that most of us aren't fluent in a foreign tongue (indeed, we have no shortage of ways to mangle the native one) while other citizens of the world often speak a few languages out of necessity. Even my French is rusty, not having flexed those muscles in any real capacity for twenty years. Occasionally, un petit francais will work its way into the boudoir (comme ca!) when Gwen and I are playing "Victor Hugo and The Lusty Chambermaid", but rarely otherwise. As the reach of technology more rapidly exceeds our grasp, I wonder how long it will take for texting shorthand to become an unofficial addendum to the ESL curriculum. Between all the LOL's, IMHO's, ROTFL's, and WTFDYJCSOTPIOTTFAH's- the already grammatically-challenged might be further vexed. Personally, I won't write in text shorthand; despite the obvious economy of doing so, I'm way too much of a word nerd to send texts that resemble vanity license plate numbers. Nevertheless, even those of us steeped in language have yet to master all of its modern abbreviations, which might lead to starkly different messages than those intended. Case in point: until recently, my father (a generally tech-savvy cat) believed "LOL" signified "lots of love". Since my siblings and I didn't realize this, we wondered why every text he sent us seemed so snarky- "Hope you're having a great time. Mom and I miss you. LOL." I've heard of empty nesters happy to have some peace and quiet, but why the mockery? Once we figured it out, we got quite the chuckle (though not before a strangely quiet Easter dinner.) Language is fickle and subject to the whims of cultural evolution. Sometimes, it seems the less we communicate in person, the more forms we have with which to do it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chronic Irony



The silver lining to our nation having fallen on desperate times is that scenarios that would have been dismissed out of hand in a healthier economy end up on the table (necessity being the mother of invention, and all). Former Clinton White House COS (and current Obama advisor) John Podesta suggests that perhaps taxing marijuana could help pay for universal health care. The blush of stigma has largely fallen off the pot rose (and it's already part of many a senior and cancer patient's pain management program) so we're long overdue to literally put our money where our cotton mouth is. If we're truly concerned with buying American, let's stop outsourcing our ganja production to Mexico and Paraguay, and start up a real green economy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reflecting Tool



"September the 4th, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. It's a day I will never forget."- President George W. Bush

The natural trajectory for politicians or captains of industry after retiring from "public service" is to write a book or pimp themselves out in the motivational speaker racket. It's of little consequence how unsuccessful said speaker's tenure was because people will still pay top dollar to glean their thoughts on getting ahead in the (usually corporate) world. Today, President Bush is appearing as the headline speaker in the Get Motivated seminar program- specifically, "How To Master The Art Of Effective Leadership". Given the regularity with which Dubya mangles the king's in public (as well as his proven unfamiliarity with the topic) the event seems strangely miscast, like choosing Russell Brand as your NA sponsor. Stacking the deck in Bush's favor, the series is confined to cities in Texas and also includes Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and a dude from Microsoft. In fairness, anyone doubting the Gee Dub's credentials in this arena would be wise to remember that he did motivate millions of people to vote Democrat last November. Eat your oversized heart out, Tony Robbins.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Breakfast Of Champions



L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn has an outstanding new book called "Corn Flakes With John Lennon (And Other Tales From A Rock 'N Roll Life)", about his relationship with the legend after the breakup of The Beatles. The title of the book is reflective of a conversation about what a treat Corn Flakes were during Lennon's childhood, due to the rationing of milk during wartime. In a time when sacrifices of all kinds (including basic staples) were accepted as part of one's duty to country, I have a hard time relating that story to the way we largely view American life today. The concept of sacrifice in any capacity has largely been reintroduced into our lives out of necessity, rather than as a concept that bears merit in general. Then again, he was the walrus.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saline Away

Since breast implants are the crabgrass of the reality TV lawn, this was bound to happen. The girl should sue her plastic surgeon, by the way. I thought the point of getting implants was so that your tits weren't in your lap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Live And/Or Let Die



A 39-year-old unemployed man joins the Army to get medical benefits for his cancer-stricken wife. I guess he found a public option. Meanwhile, China announced at the beginning of this year that it will institute universal health care for its citizens within three years. China. A country of over a billion people, governed by a regime with a consistent record of human rights violations is devoting more resources to the health of their citizens, while our citizens are risking death to maintain coverage. It's irony bordering on shameful. With China emerging as the next superpower, our days of claiming to hold the moral high ground are evaporating.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feel Good Hit Of The Summer

After hearing the story of an acquaintance whose engagement disintegrated into a nightmare, it reaffirms my belief that our capacity to be cruel to one another is boundless. Anytime you feel as though you've been party to an unpardonable offense, you can be sure there is someone else with a story that will make yours read like Dude, Where's My Car? It's a reason why, slowly but surely, people are migrating en masse from organized religion. Our desire to stay connected to something beyond ourselves ("spiritual but not religious", in modern parlance) may be hard-wired into us; a by-product of being the only animal that is sure of its own mortality, yet unsure of what (if anything) follows. As technology increases our ability to indulge, we realize that ancient archetypes of good and evil are no longer relevant because the dichotomy burns and seethes inside each of us. There is no need for devils and demons anymore. They were created to personify consequence to primitive people who could wrap their heads around eternal hellfire, but were millenia away from the complex evils we cultivate now. Like Stairway To Heaven at a high school prom, we still have the oldies-but-goodies like rape and murder, but we've given them free-market competition from the defter hands of emotional abuse, identity theft, cyberterrorism, and a thousand other insidious afflictions. It's not hard to understand why millions of people still cling to superstition- in a world of utter chaos, it orders one's existence. But man is the angel that fell from heaven. Compared to us, the red-horned dude with the pitchfork is a buffoon who simply can't compete.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Outside The Box

Richard Heene is outed as a pathetic, fame-hungry hoaxster. To me, this entire debacle was indicative of how any story involving kids makes us take leave of our senses and drop rational thought at the door. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of introductory physics would have suspected from the jump that a mylar balloon like Heene's "hovercraft" would never reach the altitude it did with a six-year-old boy (on average, fifty extra pounds) inside. No wonder the guy couldn't cut it as an actor- his press conferences didn't even fool viewers who believe The Hills is real. Using your children in a naked bid for fame and fortune is nothing new (the beauty pageant system is based on it) but to be so blinded by it that you don't realize your kindergartener might spill the beans on national television is a fatal miscalculation. However, let's take the kid out of the story for a minute. A disconcerting aside is how quickly the media derides any attempts at invention outside the norm as potentially harmful. There are plenty of people living off the grid who are trying to create things that may affect a positive change in our lives. I realize our culture usually fails to prove its alleged reverence of individualism, but it's dangerous to the pioneer spirit to imply that anything not coming out of Abbott Labs, General Electric, or NASA is suspect. It's a good thing cable news didn't cover Oppenheimer, Einstein, or Edison- they would have been branded as lunatics before their first experiment. Evidently, unless you're a monosyllabic, moose-wrangling Alaskan governor/fashion plate, our message is: keep your "maverick" to yourself. Sure, Heene turned out to be a vainglorious kook, but his foibles in this matter didn't stem from a pile of schematics. His story is painfully mundane- he wanted to be famous. Now that he is, he's discovering that the old axiom, "no such thing as bad press", is as much a crock as the story he foisted on America. Let's hope there's no jail time in his future. That's a version of Wife Swap he'd be wise to avoid at all costs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Case For Bulimia

I think this qualifies as an eating disorder, no? (And, I think comedian Jim Gaffigan came up with this first. As a joke.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reality Bites

When will we collectively get over referring to America as "the greatest nation on Earth"? Given the evidence to the contrary, it's time to graduate to something more meaningful. Let's take the health care debate, a major cause of righteous indignation all along the ideological spectrum. According to the WHO, the U.S. spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance. Not horrible, but not the greatest. Out of 194 countries ranked by obesity rates, we came in ninth. How about the military? Obama has been equivocal about his promise to repeal the childish "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Dozens of countries support gays in the military, while the U.S.- equal opportunity when it comes to cannon fodder- still indulges petty prejudices rooted in religious superstition. Israel allows gays to serve openly and they're more hung up on God than we are. Howzabout education? Most empirical data shows us firmly in the middle of the pack; a global C student. In spending, we're behind Jamaica, where the kids have learned the best side on which to properly pass the dutchie. So where do we derive all our aforementioned greatness? Bacon flavored chocolate? Neon license plate frames? Kim Kardashian? (Actually, strike that one. She's a stone cold fox.)

These are not criticisms for their own sake; they're facts, and you only criticize something you love. Wrapping ourselves in the Snuggie that is the American flag and nodding off to sleep muttering, "we're Number One" is an immature anachronism that allows us to detach from actual engagement; we're pandering to ourselves. We live in a fantastic country, but we should be less concerned with being "the greatest" and figure out how to just be better in the ways that count.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coming In Number Two



Sorry, runners- this negates whatever bragging rights you get for doing 26 miles. The Chicago Marathon was this past weekend (yes, a Kenyan dude won again) and I've had friends run it, but this year was the first I had heard about runners who succumb to the green apple splatters along the route. Long-distance runners are a cultish bunch who buy into the whole "pushing yourself mentally and physically" thing, and it is an impressive feat. But I don't see any spiritual transcendence or triumph of the will going on here. What other sport accepts loss of bodily functions as a given? Lance Armstrong doesn't pinch one off while he rolls up to the Champs-Elysees. Derek Anderson doesn't take the Browns to the Super Bowl while waiting for the snap (the only time you'll see "Browns" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence, I might add.) If Jordan had dropped a deuce at center court of a Bulls playoff game, he would have been sent to a psychiatrist, not handed a cup of Gatorade. Then again, it looks like a cup would have come in handy for this guy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Carpet



Marge Simpson will be the cover model for Playboy's November issue, and also be featured in a traditional centerfold layout. Really? I guess after 20 seasons, The Simpsons had to jump the shark at some point. Playboy says it's an attempt to lure a "younger, 20-something" audience to the magazine. Set aside the fact that The Simpsons is largely a Gen-X phenomenon, does Playboy really think that dudes raised on PPV HD POV porn are gonna pop a greg over a naked cartoon character?

On the plus side, Marge will be the most lifelike model they've had in that magazine in years (though I'd still rather rub one out to Lois Griffin.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus H8



Slate's Hanna Rosin makes a compelling case for why Jon Gosselin might score lower on the douche-o-meter than we thought.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jackin' The Vox



The Japanese have developed a humanoid robot that can sing using electronic voice technology. It seems only fair since American pop and hip-hop stars have been sounding like robots for the past five years. Who knows? Without auto-tune, Lil Wayne might sound like Kathy Griffin. On a side note, why are the Japanese so hell-bent on phasing out humans in favor of robots that will do everything from pole-dance to dry clean your suit? Blade Runner was pretty badass, but not exactly a vision of utopia.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Head Meets Ass

On Friday, I wrote about Chicago's failure to be voted host city for the 2016 Olympics. Responding to the utter disbelief at the decision among Chicagoans, I said, "the fact that we were 'shocked' to be eliminated illustrates how clueless we continue to be about the world's perception of us." Now comes this. As with any poll, what is true today may be false tomorrow. But for the moment, an amendment to one of my pricklier posts.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Redo-Teronomy



Turns out The Bible is guilty of too much "liberal bias". You know- socialist hippie shit like, "love thy neighbor", "the last shall be first", caring for the poor, etc. The Conservative Bible Project plans to return Scripture to its right-wing roots (who knew Jerusalem was a red state?) One of the things fundamentalism breeds is lack of irony and it's too bad, because there's plenty here. For example, the group seeks to discontinue "dumbing down" the intellectual force of the Bible's teachings- unsympathetic to the common belief that the word of God began in the oral tradition because most people at the time of Jesus couldn't read. They also prefer "conciseness" over liberal wordiness, because why would anyone assume that a Supreme Being had a few things to get off his chest that wouldn't fit on a fortune cookie? Don't get me wrong- the liberal "Green Bible" (which places environmental "green references" within the text) is just as kooky. It never ceases to amaze that the people most convinced of the divine infallibility of The Bible seem to have the least trouble manipulating the language to suit their purposes. I wonder if they'll remove that radical liberal "Jesus Christ" guy?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kama Sutra Burn



Bad news for horndogs: Love makes you creative; sex, not so much. I guess it depends on whether or not your significant other is down with trying the "rusty bike pump".

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Worldwide Pants Down

David Letterman stunned his audience Thursday night by admitting to sexual affairs with female staffers on the show, while detailing an extortion plot against him by a CBS news producer. The studio audience laughed nervously and reaction from fans has been mixed, running the gamut from support to disgust. Letterman's revelation is hardly a shocking one- 99% of relationships are based on proximity and dipping one's pen in company ink is never advisable, but it's predictable. The cliches of celebrity and talk of "power issues in the workplace" aside, I'm more bummed that Dave will now become a punchline similar to the celebutantes and politicians that he's jabbed for the past two decades. I've always admired Letterman for his candor and his willingness to be unliked in the service of a comedic point of view. Post confession, his image may take on the pall of the pervy boss, overshadowing the cranky iconoclast we've come to appreciate. On the other hand, he may be holding onto a very provocative kind of Top Ten list and who among us isn't curious to know what was in "the box"?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Brazilian Whacks

Despite an unprecedented effort by President Obama, his wife, Oprah, et al to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago, it was the first candidate city knocked out of contention by the IOC today. (I'm guessing that a week of high-school kids being beat to death on YouTube may not have screamed "host city".) The pro-lympics contingent contended that the games would have been a boon to the local economy in the form of construction jobs and increased revenue from global tourism to our fair city. However, the civic pride that we would have felt now would have completely dissipated by the time 2016 rolled around and hard reality had set in. Chicago is a city whose infrastructure is already under immense financial strain and the Olympics are historically known for plunging host cities into colossal debt, to say nothing of the attendant graft and corruption. Mayor Daley's usual shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to city government thankfully met with greater resistance on the global stage, a clear sign that President Obama is not a silver bullet rendering anti-American sentiment inert. We're already hosting an unpopular war on multiple fronts and our financial institutions are being blamed for leading the world to the brink of financial ruin; there was no way that an international committee would see fit to entrust us with those colored rings. The fact that we were "shocked" to be eliminated illustrates how clueless we continue to be about the world's perception of us. Besides- with thousands of bikini-clad Brazilian girls in attendance, I may actually watch the Olympics for once.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Army Of Snarkness



It remains the natural order that when an original concept reaches a certain level of popularity, it will be replicated ad nauseam. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in television, where imitation remains the most dubious (and cost-effective) form of flattery. Currently, this creative photocopy is happening with The Soup, a goofy compendium of inane clips from other television shows, expertly narrated and parodied by comedian Joel McHale. The show began in the early nineties as Talk Soup, with the format confined to mocking clips from the fertile crescent of daytime talk shows. Greg Kinnear, John Henson, Aisha Tyler, and Hal Sparks all launched their careers by hosting but the subsequent tsunami of reality television has made the show most prominent in its current incarnation. With production values hovering above zero (green screen + video clips + pithy jokes= a show you can shoot in a supply closet), it's no surprise that the format is being relentlessly copied, albeit with dull hosts on channels no one watches. Among the replicants: Sports Soup on Versus (where jokes about pro athletes seem redundant), Web Soup on G4 (kind of a Tosh.0 for nerds), and The Dish on Style Network (where jokes about models seem redundant). Ironically, it seems the only cable channel to not have a Soup rip-off is the Food Network, since they already have shows about actual soup.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Krypto

In addition to being "the Windy City", it seems we're also the home of the exploding soft drink and the levitating hamburger bun. Furthermore, according to the evidence at hand, these scientific anomalies are our "favorites". I'd argue if I could.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aural Fixation



Prong- Beg To Differ (1990)

While the love child of punk and metal known as grunge was still a few years away, a CBGB soundman named Tommy Victor began a band whose sound would unwittingly pave the way for subsequent artists' to enjoy a mainstream success that would elude him. Considered to be before its time, Prong's second release quietly became the raw template for politically-minded bands looking to span the chasm between the hardcore aesthetic and the linear crunch of metal. Prong stayed largely under the radar- they were primarily associated with the early theme to MTV's "Headbanger's Ball"- but Beg To Differ remains a vastly underrated collection of statements in the last days before the age of Nirvana.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Down With The Sickness



I took this pic at a rest stop in Chesterton, IN- "syrup shot" buttons on the soda fountain bank. You know, for the person who finds Mountain Dew to be not sweet enough.

In the midst of all the mindless yammering about health care (which seems mostly about proving that the President is a direct descendant of Hitler), the elephant in the room is that WE have made ourselves sick by filling our bodies with shit. True, government has no duty to dictate our diet, but the "personal responsibility" folks can't cry foul when an insurance company won't cover their Dorito-dust-covered kindergartener because he tips the scale at a deuce. In 20 years, it is predicted that 80% of all health care will be directed at treating forms of diabetes. It's an expensive disease because it is the catalyst for so many smaller illnesses, yet it's largely avoidable through preventative health care. Granted, taking care of ourselves is neither expedient nor inexpensive, but whatever costs we choose to avoid now will literally cripple us financially and physically later on- and we won't be able to blame Obama or an insurance company.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Natural High

Sign at the Kalamazoo, MI Air Zoo that warns drug and alcohol abusers against riding the flight simulator.

"The floor of this shuttle is trying to eat me, man!! Get these spiders offa me!!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mind Over Manner

Everything old is new again- hence last night's premiere of The Jay Leno Show. After weeks of hype- so ubiquitous that Leno himself reassured the audience that "this is the actual show, not just another promo"- and best bud Jerry Seinfeld as his first guest, the show billed as "brand new comedy" fell flat on the Funny-O-Meter. (Full disclosure: As a comedian, I'm an ardent Leno defender. I was never a fan of his dumbed-down "Tonight Show", but off television he remains one of the funniest and sharpest comedians working.) Kanye West (front-page news after his latest outburst onstage at the long-past-relevant MTV Video Music Awards) was already booked as Leno's musical guest, but forfeited his performance on the mic last night for one in Leno's cushy guest chair. Coincidence? Probably not. I cheekily suggested that NBC picked up Kanye's Henny & Coke tab at the VMA's in hopes of really tilting the scale in Leno's favor, but that's just the crazy Alex Jones in me. It's not Kanye being "Kanye" that's so boorish and egregious; I'd be upset if he actually stayed put in his seat. It's the subsequent "confessional" that makes me gag. The guy never met a camera he didn't like and has the unbridled id to make it work. But he knew he was doing Leno the next night and Jay probably fell to his knees in silent thanks when he saw the front page of Variety yesterday morning. Kanye is my hometown boy and one of the best rappers in the game. My concern is not over his calculated outbursts or "bad manners", but that they will begin to represent the best he has to offer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reservoir Tip



A new study says that contraception could be very helpful in combating climate change. Latex is one of the more bio-unfriendly substances out there, but I encourage you to lovingly craft your own "reducing emissions" joke.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Air To The Throne



Yesterday, Michael Jordan was finally inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame (though I suspect he may have to sit tight a few more years to get Cooperstown's kudos for his brief tenure with the Birmingham Barons). Aside from a few rare missteps- Space Jam, Michael Jordan's restaurant (where the hamburgers tasted like something left over from the Nike stockroom)- the man continues to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world. I remember the night the Bulls won the NBA Championships for the first three-peat. I was in a taxi downtown, heading home to the far north side. The streets were lined with red and white clad revelers, freaking out as though they had won the lottery. There were people setting garbage fires and trying to overturn unattended CPD squad cars (two expressions of joy that I've never quite understood). My cab was even bumped along the way; it was like Detroit on devil's night, with the color commentary provided by my driver, who was cursing in Farsi at the pedestrians blocking traffic. Watching Jordan make gravity his bitch was something that people traveled from all over the world to see. Watching the fans that night was even better. Congrats, MJ.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Depth Perception



Every generation has its national tragedies. Our grandparents had World War II; their children had the Kennedy assassination. "I remember exactly where I was when it happened", I recall my mother saying whenever JFK was mentioned. No generation can lay claim to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, yet everyone knows exactly where they were. I was living in Pittsburgh and had just flown back from doing my show in NYC two days prior. I was awakened around 8:30 am by a friend who said, "can you believe this??" When she told me to turn on my TV, I asked what channel and she replied, "any of them". Like everyone else, I watched transfixed as the towers crumbled, nerves frayed and unable to process what was unfolding. The phone rang nonstop- calls from my family, worried by initial reports that a third plane had crashed in Pittsburgh.

It seems a natural human reaction to take unfathomable events and distill them down to easily quantifiable symbols- yellow ribbon stickers, flag pins, etc. Eight years later, those symbols (once painfully burned into our collective psyche) are largely absent-their emotional impact dulled by the passage of time, assimilated into the tedium of daily life, and replaced by more recent burdens. The wars spawned by 9/11 still rage worldwide, as a constant reminder of the detritus of unanswerable questions. Turn on a television today and a continuous loop of footage from that morning will once again give voice to those ghosts, a necessary and visceral return to the day that fractured our national identity by forcing us to either unite or divide.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charity Begins Somewhere



$200 whole dollars. I guess sometimes a child does get left behind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doing A Load By Hand



As it turns out, "erectile" isn't the only dysfunction in the bedroom. According to a new book with the none-too-subtle title, Why Women Have Sex, gettin' jiggy is supposedly the last thing actually on their minds. This study of 1,000 women cited things like boredom, "it's easier than fighting", and getting their guy to do chores as reasons for hittin' it. And women wonder why we watch porn.

Evidently, they left the word "married" out of the book's title.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Smart Bomb



Today is the first day back to school for most kids across the country and President Obama is set to address them this morning. A number of schools around the country (including Chicago) are opting out of showing the speech, under fire from parents who are worried that Obama will "push his agenda" on their kids. It's a valid complaint, since we all know how kindergarteners' eyes light up when a grown-up starts talking about health care and insurance reform! The relationship between American parents and American schools has long been a tenuous one. On the one hand, parents have never been less involved in their children's education than they are today. On the other, the instances in which they do get involved are usually over the most petty and trivial issues. (Hummus on the healthy lunch menu?? That's treasonous!) The Presidential school address is traditional- Clinton and both Bushes did it- so the notion that the children who start their day with a "stay in school" message from Obama will end it raiding the library for dog-eared copies of Das Kapital is laughable. It's an idea that speaks much more to the ideological prejudices of the parents than the President's. Just imagine the inner-city black kids who will (for the first time) be watching a President who looks like them, telling them that education is supremely vital and that their achievements can mirror his own. I think that's worth hearing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day



The Labor Day holiday seems a little less important to those of us who also have the other 364 days off. Nevertheless, we should never waste a reason to brush up on our history. The tendency for social movements to become political ones is regrettable and avoidable.

But if you're firing up the grill, I'm a sucker for BBQ brisket.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What's Mayan Is Yours



Nowhere is the phrase "misery loves company" more apparent than in our willingness to allow pop culture to guide our common interests, to the exclusion of concrete problems. Witness the current hullabaloo over the year 2012. Evidently, as members of a nation that never met an illogical superstition it didn't like, we've extracted our latest from the Mayan and Aztec calendars- both of which point to the aforementioned year as the one in which we'll all grease up and grab ankle. However, the form that this doomsday scenario will take remains predictably unclear. Could it be the killer meteor that some astrophysicists say is barreling toward us? If so, enjoy the forthcoming John Cusack doomsday movie (cleverly called 2012 and not to be confused with the other Cusack doomsday movie, Say Anything). The History Channel is devoting hours of programming to the ancient soothsayers and their portents of war, starvation, and doom. A recent article in Playboy chronicles how the survivalist movement is preparing. (Hint: If you don't like garbanzo beans, death can't come quickly enough). All this nonsense would be good fun if it weren't so disturbing that some people seem to be taking it seriously. I find it mildly ironic that the same people who question the notion of evolution- product of the 19th century!- seem to have no qualms with looking to the Mayans and Aztecs for help with their dayplanner. Mayans and Aztecs- two civilizations who thought the sun could eat them. You'll excuse me if I stick with NASA's website when I start stocking up on chili and batteries.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dopes To Infinity



The girl cutting my hair yesterday was telling me about a friend of hers who recently graduated with a degree in finance and got an interview with the CIA. She marveled at the depth and breadth of the agency's background check- they knew the high school pranks he had pulled, produced a spreadsheet of every porn site the guy had visited, blah, blah, blah- obviously wanting to let him know that they don't fuck around. However, most potential employers don't need to have degrees in diagramming algorithms to dig up the dumb stuff people do, because people put it on a silver platter by posting that dumb stuff online. 80% of companies now say that one of the first ways they check on a potential hire is by examining their Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Talk about leading the canary to the cat. The generation raised on social networking sites is just entering the workforce and it's always hilarious when they discover that all the zeroes and ones they willingly added to the ether can easily come back to bite them in their drunken and barely-covered asses.

To wit: A couple of enterprising cats have aggregated this glorious lack of self-awareness into a new page called Lamebook. (As a smug wordsmith, I'm especially partial to the TypOH!s category.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Next Of (Nap)kin



The health care/ insurance reform debate boiled down to its essence. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Motorhead Case



As a teen of the eighties, I was a big fan of MTV's Headbanger's Ball. I still occasionally watch it- the occasion being when I'm hammered on a Saturday night and accidentally find it while channel-surfing. Long gone are the Aqua-Netted bands of my horny teen years, replaced by the screaming Hot Topic bands du jour of my horny adult years. Sure, they still throw up a respectful nod to the show's history with the occasional Iron Maiden or Pantera track, but most of the 21st century metallurgists- who grew up memorizing the riffs of those aforementioned bands- are melding styles that seem more schizophrenic than groundbreaking. Spending a few minutes with the show this past weekend yielded me a video from The Devil Wears Prada, an Ohio band straddling the line between metal and "screamo". Now, I know inspiration can come from anywhere and every artist is influenced by something- but, really? The Devil Wears Prada? If your musical worldview can be summed up by appropriating the name of a shitty Meryl Streep movie, I've already tuned out. (What, another band had already taken Sophie's Choice?) I stuck around for the song, which was emblematic of a band trying to mix too many styles, without wholly understanding any of them. As genres go, metalheads like their music pretty simple. Deicide and New Order never went on tour together, so why any band would think that sounding like both of them would be a winning combination is a mystery. At the risk of being cranky, I'll take the lunkhead simplicity of Judas Priest over the uninspired machine gun nonsense of Kramer vs. Kramer...or whatever that band was called.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beagle & Cream Cheese



South Korea has announced plans to open a major dog-cloning center, to focus on pets and endangered species. Sure. Given the number of people trying to cross the border and escape a hellish existence in North Korea, it's more likely about stocking the pantry.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Challah Back Girls



What do you get for the kid who has everything? Apparently, a shiny new knob. Word around the prep school scene is that an increasing number of Jewish girls are giving blowjobs as bar mitzvah presents. Jewish parents are unsettled to discover that their daughters are just as sexually desensitized as their Gentile counterparts. Oral sex has long been on par with a handshake in Catholic school, but it seems our Talmudic daughters are closing the gap (if not their mouths).

Personally, I'm always happy when stereotypes get broken. Back in the day, Jewish girls wouldn't eat any kind of pork.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Renegades Of Junk



The core of democracy is messy, even in the best of times. When the republic isn't teetering on the brink, our government is still a perfect storm of informed voters, willfully ignorant citizens, and the ambivalent officials who represent them- all eager to have their say. This greasy threesome is currently on display in the health care "town hall" meetings taking place around the country, which more closely resemble fist-slinging sessions of Japanese parliament than meaningful political discourse. It's no shocker to discover that many of these screaming "grassroots" movements are planted by right-wing groups with a vested interest in the status quo. When a guy in a "Git 'Er Done" cap waxes eloquent on the intentions of the Constitutional Convention, Obama's not the only one guilty of being prompted. The shocking part comes from the mindset of the actual grassroots members- voters who have been easily seduced by the lure of remedial talking points: the mentally flatlined "I'm scared of Obama" folks, the people who want to return to "the America I grew up in" (who wouldn't pine for the romance of coat-hanger abortions?!), and the thinly-veiled racism of the "birther" movement. Next time you hear someone parrot the cries of "Socialism!", ask them to actually explain its tenets. I'd bet a long night's worth of pints that most of them would revert to dead-eyed stuttering about the Bible or Ronald Reagan.

So far, neither side of the debate has properly articulated the fiscal implications of health care reform. What's puzzling is why some people are freaking out over the possibility of choice.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

He Also Reported "Feeling Goofy"



A Pennsylvania man is charged with groping Minnie Mouse at Disney World. Keystone State represent!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Just The Tip...See How It Feels



I'm a great tipper; it's the result of years of waiting tables. If you know someone who isn't- that dude who always leaves five percent- you can bet your ass they've never done the job. The code of conduct has always dictated that tips are never mentioned to the customer, but there seems to be a trend to the contrary. Recently, my girlfriend and I had dinner with some friends. Before we were able to settle the tip situation on our separate checks, the waitress snatched them up. She returned within a few minutes with the manager to ask why the tip wasn't bigger. My girlfriend (spitfire that she is) asked the manager if it was customary to question tips, to which the manager responded, "we're used to getting 18%". Somehow, I doubt it. The restaurant's sushi is too good to write them off permanently, but we were stunned by the collective balls of their employees. Is it a lost-in-translation thing? It's a Japanese restaurant staffed by people who can barely speak english, but I expect them to at least nail the math. Maybe it's an economic thing- has the recession hit the service industry so hard that they've thrown decorum to the wind and are brazenly squeezing us for every penny? I'm prone to believe the former; when we got delivery from the same place a week later, the driver asked about my tip. For a culture steeped in the concept of shame, this place has definitely gotten over theirs.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Generation Ex



The pop culture landmarks we use to denote important times in our life vary greatly. Sometimes we configure memories around meaningful songs, other times it's a book, movie, porn, or anything else of sentimental artistic value. In the summer of 1986, I distinctly remember watching John Hughes's Weird Science or Ferris Bueller's Day Off at least once a day; after 23 years, I can still recite both films verbatim. As a high school kid, it was good to have someone making movies that illustrated our ambivalence about graduating into responsible adults. As an Illinois kid, it was cool that they were set in or around Chicago. Plus, I had a giant crush on Mia Sara. Hughes died this week at 59 after suffering a heart attack on a Manhattan street. Still young himself, it's a terribly inauspicious end to a life that was creatively leveraged on genuine affection for youth. The clothes were hilarious, the hair was huge, and the music introduced Brit pop to the States- but John Hughes probably represented us better than anyone. If anyone needs me, I'll be wearing a bra on my head in his honor. It's ceremonial.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Much For Just The Taffy Pull?

Service station in Flint, MI. Looks like the automotive industry's woes have hit the prostitution sector.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

D.O.B.



Tagged as a socialist by the right-wing mouth breathers. 27 million Americans on antidepressants. 1 in 4 women can misread a pregnancy test. Fake grassroots health reform "protesters" bussed in by conservative PAC groups, so they can shout down town hall meetings. New HIV strain discovered in Africa. Arrested Development still off the air. Rising oil prices further threaten global economy. Iran and Israel in potential nuclear standoff. Pizza Hut simply going by "The Hut". Top cybersecurity official in the White House resigns. MC Hammer has a TV show. Earthquake rocks California. JFK blown away. What else do I have to say?

Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Partners In Grime



My girlfriend and I finished the Illinois Muddy Buddy 2009 on Sunday. For the uninitiated, it's a 6 mile race (touring multiple cities) on a treacherous farm course where teams of two alternate between biking and running, culminating in a crawl through a long, foot-deep mud pit. Neither one of us have competed in anything like it and we trained ahead of time, for fear that race day would come and we'd be dead last. Among 1700 teams, we completed the course in an hour and 12 minutes. Not bad for our first time. Given the kind of year many people have had, where opportunities for accomplishment may be few and far between, I'd recommend doing something like this. Hit the trails, run a 10K, train for a marathon, whatever. You may end up bloody and/or muddy, but you'll be damn glad you did it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Remember The Titans



My 20th high school reunion is tonight and I'm skipping it. I'll be MIA- mostly because this weekend's simply too busy- but also because technology has already acted as my proxy. I'm pretty sure Facebook and other social media sites have rendered traditional reunions obsolete. I have nothing against reunions in theory; I attended my 10-year and had a blast, catching up with old friends and finding previously absent common ground (read: tequila) with others. But in the last year, when another decade had passed and our reunion was on the horizon, everyone came out of the binary woodwork and the online friend requests were flying like bullets. People I barely knew suddenly wanted to connect (read: have a voyeuristic peek at their former classmates' lives) and see who did well and who probably peaked senior year. That's what reunions used to be for. Now, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. have killed the mystery of what the people you passed in the hallways have been doing with their lives. Sure, there are a few people I'd like to see in person, but I figure Google and LinkedIn will be able to put me in touch with them.

Cheers, Class of 1989. Have a drink on me and I'll see you at the 30.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Generation Why?



I'm a big fan of trivia and game shows, mostly because I'm a font of minutiae that is useful only in those circumstances. (Currently, my DVR is full of Cash Cab, where people answer questions and win money until they hit their destination.) However, I've noticed a trend in these shows that disturbs me quite a bit: people in their twenties seem to have slept through history class. I hated history when I had to study it, but I'm a bigger fan of it recreationally. The Aztecs are much more interesting when the History Channel is telling me about them. The thing is, I wonder if anyone under 30 is watching. Ask a quartet of 25-year-old girls about Manolo Blahniks and they could tell you the name of the Filipino sweat shop kid who inspected their pair. But quiz them on World War II and they'll look at you like a dog that's been shown a card trick. One of my pet peeves is when a time-specific query is answered with, "How would I know that? That was before my time."- as though nothing happened before the Reagan administration. You know what happened before my time? The moon landing, the signing of the Magna Carta, the Spanish Inquisition, and Velcro- but I'm familiar with all of it. I'm not sure if it's the result of a culture of immediacy, where anything that has passed is immediately rendered less relevant, or if it's merely laziness. Either way, you might want to know who the first man in space was. In case it ever comes up in a taxicab.