Thursday, August 24, 2006

History Repeats Itself, First As Tragedy, Second As Farce

To pick up from the last post in which it was revealed that Turner Broadcasting would begin censoring thousands of hours of classic cartoons to placate the six people in the world who actually take umbrage at having to watch an animated bulldog smoke a stogie. Scott points out in a response (in which he never cursed even once) that this is not an isolated incident, and our country is dangerously doomed to repeat our mistakes because instead of attempting to learn from them, we close our eyes and wish that they never happened. So, here’s my own tangential response.

History, as Alex Haley has said, is written by the winners. Make perfect sense to me; why would the conquered people make notes on their own failures? They can try to spin it to their advantage, so they come out of the event looking less bruised, but the fact of the matter is, for example, both the Roman and Aztec Empires fell. And we know why the Aztec and the Roman civilizations fell, and there’s not much we can do about either one. We know that the South lost the Civil War, and it’s water under the bridge. We can either learn from the mistakes of the vanquished, or fall in step with their cycle of failure and doom ourselves in the process.

And of course, as Americans, we are doomed to repeat our history, perhaps as punishment for our hypocrisy: This country was founded by slave-owners who believed that all men were created equal. They wanted a place where they were free to practice their religion, so they founded a country that does not, any longer, respect their religion. They dreamt of a land full of opportunities for prosperity, yet today they tax to death the corporations that provide the jobs, forcing them to outsource to cheaper, foreign labor. We revel in our absolute freedom of speech, just so long as that speech is tame, politically correct, and doesn't offend the scores of "victims."

As Americans we're forced into acknowledging, celebrating, and even worshipping every minor achievement by every special interest group since the dawn of mankind, but the history of the Straight White European Christian, (you know, the people that founded the fucking country in the first place) is permitted and encouraged to fade away into obscurity. And you know who is letting it fade? We are. By not fighting back and defending our history.

Want an example? Why does America have a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. but not for Thomas Jefferson? Martin Luther King plagiarized his “I Have a Dream” speech from one given to the Republican convention in 1952 by an African-American preacher named Archibald Carey, Jr. Hell, his name wasn’t even “Martin”, it was “Michael.” Why are we so quick to assign holidays to identity-obscuring plagiarists, but not to one of the most important Founding Fathers of our country? The short answer: we are not celebrating history; people with an agenda are spinning the facts to weave a web of self-righteousness to placate voters.

Martin Luther King Day was the brainchild of John Conyers, a Democratic congressman from Michigan who, besides publically stating in Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11 that “congress don’t read most of the bills,” is a fervent Anti-Republican liberal, maintains an “impeach Bush” website, is a frequent contributor to Arriana Huffington’s (you know, the crazy woman who once said that driving an SUV was contributing to terrorism, yet owns a private jet) website and has been brought up on charges of misuse of federal funds by the House Ethics Committee in 2004. Does anyone honestly believe that this man is serving in the best interests of History, let alone the country? His agenda has been made perfectly clear; the reason behind his push for the holiday was to garner support from the Trade Unions. He didn’t care about King, or Civil Rights, or anything of that nature. He used King’s support of unionized workers as his platform to get Jimmy Carter elected, and wouldn’t you know it, Carter supported the King Day Bill. John Conyers used Martin Luther King, a man opposed to the Status Quo, to maintain his own personal Status Quo.

There are no true “Historians” being nurtured in the country’s universities anymore – there are only whitewashers of facts and guilty liberals seeking to right the wrongs of the past by changing the unchangeable. Plus, if you take a long-standing notion of history, and alter it, you get your fifteen minutes of fame. That’s where you get idiots like Bart Sibrel who is convinced that the Apollo moon landings were faked. He’s so sure of himself that even after he has been debunked by countless authorities, he continues to sell his DVD’s. There’s money to be made in reinventing the truth.

Want to hear a funny story? Of course you do. A few years ago, in grad school, I was taking a Computer Science class in lieu of an advanced mathematics course. The professor, a bored old man who spoke with a heavy German accent, was explaining how computers use multiple drive letters. While doing so, he remarked that some schools and companies in Los Angeles were no longer using the terms “Master” and “Slave” in reference to hard drive settings as they were deemed “offensive” to blacks, and L.A. County demanded that the industry change the way that they refer to those devices. (This is true, by the way, you can read about it here). Then he laughed. Then I laughed. Then the handful of black students in the class laughed. Only one woman did not laugh: a young, white girl in her early twenties with braids in her hair and a perpetual smug leer on her face. She told us that we have to be very careful with the words that we use because language is the “true oppressor.” An older black woman turned to face her and said, “I don’t care if L.A. calls their hard drives ‘niggers’ as long as they give me a job!”

I don’t know what History has to say on the subject, but I’m pretty sure that’s the only known occurrence of a graduate-level Computer Science class being dismissed early on account of simultaneous pants-wetting.

Want another example? A newly opened restaurant in Bombay was going to be called “Hitler’s Cross,” referring to the swastika symbol. The swastika was originally an ancient symbol first described in the epic Hindu poem Ramayana written in the 11th Century. It was referred to as svastika which translates roughly into "lucky charm” and it has been displayed all over India to bring good fortune. The symbol itself has been found (without explanation of course) on numerous pieces of ancient Bronze Age, Indus valley area pottery and artwork, in Zoroastrian Persia, and even appeared in the Vinca script, a set of writings dated to 4000 BC. Historically it had been used by the Bon faith of Tibet, as well as the Cao Dai of Vietnam and Falun Gong of China, and the Akan civilization of southwest Africa. The Hindu, however, are typically the only modern culture who continues to use the symbol in writings and festivals such as Diwali.

And yet, due to the pressure of an individual, one Elijah Jacob, the restaurant in Bombay was forced to change it name. Ok, ok, I’ll admit, the owner probably should have found a way to highlight the swastika without mentioning the name Hitler. But you know what, the symbol is representative of the owner’s culture, not to mention that it’s his restaurant, and he can do with it what he pleases.

There are about 5,500 Jews living in India, 4,500 of which live in Bombay. It is from this group that the complaint arose. There are 13 million non-Jews living in the city limits of Bombay, and an estimated 1.1 billion in all of India. That means, because of the overactive sensitivity of .03% of a city, or .004% of the entire country, one man should alter his business plan and abandon a symbol that has been part of his culture for millenia.

Do people like Elijah Jacob have nothing better to do with their time than calculate their current state of indignation? I suppose if you’re named after two separate biblical prophets you had better speak up for something, but whatever happened to turning the other cheek? And to Puneet Sablok, the owner of the restaurant, I say this: What exactly are you worried about? That .03% of the population is going to boycott your business? You should change your restaurant’s name to “If You Don’t Like It, Piss Off.”

So what’s the point of all of this? Aren’t we better off in a world where cartoon cats are not smoking, where Martin Luther King’s shortcomings are ignored for the sake of his life’s work, and all Swastikas are completely erased off the face of the planet? Shouldn’t we be glad to have our society portrayed as a clean, healthy, tolerant, egalitarian civilization that embraces justice and diversity?

And I submit, that no, we are not. Future civilizations will look back and regard us like a sorority girl wearing white on her wedding day. Perhaps they’ll smile politely, and perhaps whisper conspiratorially with their mates, but they won’t be as foolish as we are when we lie to ourselves. But History does not lie, does not deceive, does not pander. Only people are capable of such things. I think Percy Bysshe Shelly said it best: “Shit, I certainly have a lot of fucking Y’s in my name.” And then when it was pointed out that he was on the air, he cleared his throat and continued, “Fear not for the future, weep not for the past…” then he sort of just trailed off. But the point is, as long as we are honest with ourselves in the present, and stop trying to deny where we come from, then, and only then can we all sit down one day, shoulder to shoulder, harmoniously sharing a big old order of delicious Hitler Fries and laughing until the check comes…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bob's Your Uncle, Have A Fag

AOL / Time Warner / HBO / Cinemax / People Magazine / DC Comics / CNN / Turner Broadcasting decided this week that it was finished buying up every conceivable media outlet, and would instead concentrate on de-magnetizing the moral compass of the planet. Turner Broadcasting, who owns the rights to Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, has decided to hunt through more than over 1500 scenes of the classic cartoons and edit out any which “glamorized smoking.”

According to the original complaint, which was directed to a British media watchdog, Turner has “proposed editing any scenes or references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation.”

The spokesperson for Turner Europe, Yinka Akindele, was quoted as saying, “Our audience is children and we don’t want to be irresponsible.”

You don’t want to be irresponsible. So you will edit out scenes of a cartoon cat rolling a cigarette. Just in case a child decides to imitate his actions. But you will keep the scenes in which the same cartoon cat is repeatedly bashed over the head with a meat tenderizer, sliced in a guillotine, and then dropped off a 15 story building into a box of nails.

Right. Good thinking. There’s no danger of kids emulating violence using everyday items they might find around the house, butbut after watching Tom and Jerry, children have been known to rush out to Te-Amo and pick up a deck of Newports and a Macanudo.

Here’s some more insidious pictures of reprehensible individuals with their malevolent smoking apparatus:

Albert Einstein

JFK


Ol' Blue Eyes

I’m really eager for Turner Broadcasting to expurgate these images from the American consciousness, because I sure as hell don’t want my children growing up to be famous Statesmen, Artists or Scientists!

And here’s the best part of it all: This proposed blue-penciling of our history was brought about by one viewer who took “offense” at a Tom and Jerry cartoon being aired on a British television station. One man. Who isn’t even from the country that created the cartoon. Hey buddy, did anyone ever tell you that there are various switches and buttons on your remote control which allow you to choose the programs that you and your over-protected bastard spawn watch? Here's an idea: locate the "Power" button, switch off the telly for a few hours, go out of your flat and play some cricket in the loo or whatever it is the fuck you people do in England, and that way you won't have to worry about us Americans and our wacky animated rodents' nicotine addiction somehow influencing your idiot children.

I think George Carlin said it best: “If your kid has a role model, and you ain’t it, you’re fucked.”

England. A country that for half a century only had three television channels showing scantily-clad women being chased around a park bench by an overweight pervert in a sailor's hat is suddenly the de facto authority on ethics and decency in broadcasting.

Maybe I should write a letter to the BBC, expressing my moral outrage at the fact that the British consider items with names like “Bangers and Mash,” “Bubble and Squeek,” “Toad in the Hole,” and "Cock a Leekie Soup" to be food fit for human consumption. Think of the effects that a cooking show set in Manchester would have on the nation's impressionable youth! Televising such images may lead our most fragile and innocent citizens into thinking that it somehow glamorous to eat concoctions that sound like they were named after debauched sexual practices.

Utterly repugnant.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

In addition to large cutting weapons, empty scotch bottles, stuffed anteaters, and espresso spoons that I have stolen from various foreign locations, I am also an avid collector of information. And not just academic information, like the life-cycle of the Peruvian Red-Bellied Humming Turtle, but honest to goodness, completely pointless and trivial bits of esoterica. For instance, did you know that in America, 12 people a day die while sitting on the toilet? It’s true. Also, were you aware that the Christian holiday “Easter” is actually based on Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring whose feastday just so happens to correspond with the Vernal Equinox? Again, true! Additionally, Jackie Robinson was NOT the first black major league baseball player; that honor goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played center field for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. Robinson was the first black player of the modern age to sign a formal contract. Coincidentally, Jackie Robinson’s uniform number, 42, is the exact number of games that Moses Walker played in his career. Coincidence? Douglas Adams would think so.

In any case, besides useless facts, I am also fascinated by human motivation, specifically the question, “What is it about people that makes them do the things they do?” It’s a pretty complex query, and not one that I can answer here and still have time for my aforementioned hobbies, but the magic of the internet helps me satisfy some of my curiosity.

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page and you’ll see, assuming you squint, a single, center-justified white pixel. That little blot is the physical manifestation of my web tracking software, which provides me with a wealth of information about the people who visit my site. For example, with said tool I can derive simple information about site visitors such as time, date and location, as well as which of my posts have been read. But, lurking deep within the code is a far more nefarious utility, allowing me to see your IP number, your internet service provider, and the path which you took in order to get to my site. This last function is actually recording something known as “referrals”, and in addition to letting me know whether or not you clicked on a link in order to visit little ol’ me, it also tells me from where you were linked. It’s kind of like playing an Internet version of “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon.” Just even more dorky.

Alright, so web trackers aren’t all that mysterious; 80% of the bloggers that I know have them on their site. But what really amuses me is the “Search Engine Keyword Referral Tool,” which does exactly what it sounds like it does – it lets me know what search string was typed into Google or Yahoo that leads users to this page.

I’ll give you an example: Click this. As you can see, typing in the words “Pantheon Outcast” brings up a list of pages that contain that set of words, or “string.” According to Google, there are 75,600 pages on the Internet which contain the string “Pantheon” and “Outcast”, and my site, based on usage and my shameless promotion, is the first one listed.

However, people stumble across my site accidentally all the time, usually while looking for other innocuous topics, and my web tracking software lets me know just what sort of people are skulking around cyberspace at three in the morning. Below are some of my favorite search strings from the past two months that have led people from Google, Yahoo and other search engines into my decadent realm of whining about prescription medicine and immigration reform:

“Skateboarding in Gretna Louisiana” Yes, my absolute favorite half-hour show on ESPN2.

“New York Amusement Park Haunting” Apparently Art Bell’s site was down that day.

“Allium Collective” I'm not sure, but I think it’s a Chicago-based emo band that sings about garlic.

“$1000 to $10000 sneakers” If he’s really interested, I’ll be happy to sell this person my “collectible” Converse All-Stars for a mere five grand. Seriously, if I ever meet anyone who pays $10000 for a pair of shoes, I will not hesitate in removing him from the gene pool.

“Mswati interview quest” All hail the non sequitur! Or it could be Tucker Carlson's new show.

“seven year old needs hyphen” I really, really hope this wasn’t a dire emergency and in their haste, grossly misspelled “kidney”. I’m not going to have a child’s death on my conscience because someone either made a typographical error or severely misunderstood their pediatrician.

“hal morris is homosexual” I'll admit, it's a far more interesting statistic than his on base percentage with the 1995 Cincinnati Reds.

“jim bob earn a living” I’ve been saying that for years, Dag Nabbit!

“swazi king choose a wife” More commands and finger pointing. It's amazing how many people feel as if they can exert some sort of control over both the mating habits of indigenous African royalty AND the dismal unemployment situation surrounding southern American farmers.

"large numbers of stupid people" That about sums it up.

"thabit abdullah sabian" I'm pretty sure he was the guest host for the Mswati interview quest.

"espn2 puerto rican dominoes" Oooh, you missed it, the playoffs were on last night right after "Skateboarding in Gretna Louisiana." I think "Jose" won. Capicú, vato!

"rye gum" Allium Collective's debut album.

"the legend of sockman" I may as well make it worth this guy's while, considering the same person used this search string three times to get to my site: A special prize to the first person who can submit either an epic poem or folksong in D minor chronicling the Legend of Sockman.

“beethoven's mother a prostitute” I can’t tell if this person intended his search to be incredulous: (Beethoven’s mother? A prostitute?) or demonstrative: (Beethoven’s mother: A prostitute!). See how important punctuation is, kiddies?

I swear I’m not making this next one up:

“Moni Valannin” A pre-emptive "Ha Ha" to anyone who says "Sitting in a tree..."

“facts about emperor vespasiano” Selected by the New York Yankees in the 8th round of the 1986 amateur draft A lifetime .304 hitter, and currently holds the 5th highest rookie batting average (.340) in baseball history. Oh wait, that’s Hal Morris. Well, they’re both gay.

And my Personal Favorite:

“I’m going to eat Maddox”

You know, it pleases me greatly to know that in a month or so, I'll be the first site that pops up whenever anyone Googles "the Peruvian Red-Bellied Humming Turtle."

And I'll know where they live...

Friday, August 18, 2006

I Can't Put My Arms Down...

Welcome to the inaugural episode of The Pantheon Outcast’s Panoply of Science! We were going to call it “Science For The Brainwashed Masses,” but that title just didn’t play well in the Red States. In this week’s program we will examine a crippling disease that affects one in every ten adults who at some point during the day sit in chairs. Joining us today is the renowned German Physician, Doctor Friedrich Lügner, self-proclaimed expert on everything biological and recent recipient of the French Medallion D’or De L’Homme De Guerre.

First off, let me begin by saying that Americans are obsessed with “syndromes.” While attempting to watch the Home and Garden network for some informative tips on how to use candles in order to make my apartment look as homosexual as possible, I was forced to watch no less than 11 commercials for a drug called Requip. Apparently it is a groundbreaking new drug from GlaxoSmithKline, (the makers of Wellbutrin), to alleviate the crippling onset of a disease that they have completely invented. They call this onerous malady “Restless Leg Syndrome” or “RLS”, (because Americans are also obsessed with abbreviations and initials), which, according to the official restless leg website, affects 10% of all American adults. Ten percent. That means within 20 years, something like 26 million people will be taking Requip for a disease that does not, technically, exist. At $165 dollars per bottle, that represents a nice chunk of change for the suits at Glaxo.

According to restlesslegs.com, some of the symptoms of RLS include “compelling urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs.” This is compounded by the fact that, “the more restful the position and the longer the duration, the more likely it becomes that the symptoms will occur.”

I for one am astonished that Science has progressed to the point where doctors and pharmaceutical companies are able to determine that sitting in one place for long periods of time is uncomfortable. And to alleviate said problem, people merely have to take a simple pill! Wow, it’s like living in the age of the Jetsons! Where are the flying cars?

I’m sure at this point, you have many questions for Dr. Lügner, all of which he’ll be happy to answer with typical Teutonic efficiency and wit.

Just how serious is this RLS? Can it cripple / kill / emasculate me?

Oh, Ja, it’s very serious. Can you imagine being temporarily uncomfortable? Like when it’s too humid in your bathroom after a shower or there’s a piece of balled-up cotton in the toe of your sock? Well, that’s what it’s like living with RLS. Visualize having a momentary lack of anything short of total orgasmic bliss, and you can appreciate what the sufferers of RLS must endure. Luckily, there is an extensive network of people eager to capitalize on your pain.

I sometimes feel uncomfortable while sitting for hours at a time in meetings at my creativity-stifling job. Do I have RLS?

Well, it would not be ethical to diagnose a medical condition based on only vague descriptions of discomfort, but, yes. Yes you do. Ask your doctor about Requip immediately; he has boat payments to make.

But wait, Dr. Lügner, surely there must be some drawbacks to this revolutionary new panacea! Are there any serious side effects?

Mit Nichten! Requip is the product of years of development and millions of dollars of marketing, and pharmaceutical companies are just as concerned about your well-being as their bottom line. That being said, users of Requip will experience nothing but waves of indescribable relief! Well, relief and nausea, dizziness, somnolence, headaches, vomiting, syncope, fatigue, dyspepsia, viral infection, constipation, pain, increased sweating, asthenia, edema, abdominal pain, pharyngitis, confusion, urinary tract infections, abnormal vision and mild hallucinations. But that’s a small price to pay for being able to sit comfortably!

Will taking Requip interfere in my daily schedule?

Nein, not at all! Because the drug severely inhibits your ability to operate motor vehicles or focus your eyes, it is recommended that you take one pill immediately before going to bed! Everyday! For the rest of your life!

Couldn't I, you know, just get up and go for a walk or something every few hours?

Are you kidding? Walking around in your condition? Don't you know that you have a syndrome? Taking a walk while suffering the effects of RLS may lead to more debilitating situations like SYT (Stubbing Your Toe), FDTS (Falling Down The Stairs) or even MAITC (Missing An Important Television Commercial). Those are risks you just can't afford to take!

Speaking of not being able to afford something, I, like many other unemployed illegal immigrants, don’t have medical insurance. Is Requip expensive?

Can you put a price on happiness? A year’s supply of Requip is only $621.41! That means for the price of a daily cup of coffee and a bagel, you can sit around for hours on end without having to worry about whether or not your legs might get restless! Besides, those taking Requip are strongly advised against drinking caffeine.

Coffee and a bagel costs a lot more than $1.70, doctor.

Verpiss Dich!

What?

Well, that's about all the time we have today. Join us next week, or whenever the hell I feel like doing this again, for another stimulating episode of The Pantheon Outcast’s Panoply of Science! where we will closely examine the complications resultant from drinking 15 scotches over a period of seven hours like I was privileged enough to have done on Tuesday. And don't forget to buy Dr. Lügner's new book, "Boat Financing Made Easy!"

Friday, August 11, 2006

Rock and Roll, And A Little Bit Country

In response to yesterday’s post, Scott writes, (among other things):

…I read a Thomas Friedman article a long time ago that basically said to shut the borders to any Middle Eastern country until they've cleaned up the mess that is spilling over from their bastardized religion. I don't for a second believe that Islam is evil, but it is being used by bad men as an excuse to perform it, and to motivate impoverished and hopeless people to join ranks…

…This thwarted attack will be a boon to supporters of national security, and should turn the tides back toward Republican candidates.

Scott, you’ve just described all religions, my friend. Although, in the case of Christianity, replace “bad men” with “people in Kansas who bake pies.” And although I’m not familiar with the Friedman article, I am 100% behind his position. I know we’ve been conditioned to unquestioningly accept the world’s “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” however those statements 1) happen to be merely a poem, and not national policy and 2) were written in 1883, when the immigrants coming to this country were interested primarily in working hard and assimilating into American culture and not very interested in blowing us up. We’re supposed to be a Melting Pot, not a Powder Keg.

Furthermore, it is amazing to me (and by “amazing” I mean “friggin ridiculous”) that there are any people left in the country that could possibly politicize any aspect of our national security. If Kerry were president today, I think I'd live in constant fear. Ok, well, not really constant, but I sure as hell wouldn't get on a plane or a subway. Same goes for someone like Gore. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The President of the United States should not be worrying about what kind of car I drive or how warm it is outside. The President's only job is to provide safety and security to the American People.

For example, aside from the tired old anti-war sentiment, the only other piece of rhetoric I hear from the Democrat’s camp is: "Oh, but what is Bush doing about Health Care?" I don't know, listening in on the conversations of radical Islamic terrorists and thwarting multiple attacks is keeping me pretty healthy.

(Besides, only fifteen percent of this country has no health insurance. That's 45 million. The unemployment rate is around 4.8%; that's around 7.8 million. So actual number of people without health insurance is 37.2 million. If you break that down per major city, using New York City as an example, about 3% of the population of every major city in the US is without Health Insurance. Doesn't exactly sound like a problem that should be rectified at the expense of National Security. Furthermore, this country has not had national health coverage since its inception: why the hell do we choose now to worry about it? If FDR, the crown prince of social programs, didn't establish a Universal Health Care system, why would we expect Bush to?)

Color me Fascist, but I'm all for wire taps, the same way I don't mind if a cop looks in the trunk of my car; I'm not doing or carrying anything illegal, and as such, have nothing to hide. The people who vilify the Republicans for "taking away their civil rights" most likely are doing, or planning something unsavory that they do not wish the authorities to see. I don’t want to live in a police state, where jack-booted Stormtroopers kick in my door at 2 AM looking for unfiltered cigarettes or other contraband, but that’s the stuff of Orwellian cinema, and not reality. Want to hear a quick story? Of course you do.

Two summers ago, I had been playing softball in Central Park with some friends from work. At the conclusion of the game, we packed up our stuff, and walked east, hoping to stop in somewhere for a couple of cold ones. Near the exit (around the 80’s; I’m not exactly Magellan when it comes to Manhattan), we, and every other pedestrian were being stopped by a few members of the NYC police department, as well as large, plainclothed men with sunglasses. They wanted to look through our bags.

As an American who has been more than adequately educated as to his rights, I immediately asked why. And, in all fairness, one of the officers complied with my request and told me that some big important Jewish organization (possibly Dreamworks Studios) was holding a big important benefit concert and there had been concern over possible terrorist activities. Now, I’ve been pretty clear on my position regarding Israel for some time now – I could care less if both groups bomb themselves back to the time of King Solomon (where they’d probably be very happy). But since this was taking place on my country’s soil, and any violence could very well affect my fellow American Citizens, I felt that the police’s concerns, and subsequent actions, were 100% justified, and I dutifully obeyed.

Some of the people in our group grumbled, calling them “Nazis” (yes, I appreciate the irony), but in the end, everyone complied with the directive. They had no choice, really, as the presence of the impassive gabardine suits made impractical any other action. And you know what, I really didn’t care about the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars were being spent by NYC in securing a pro-Israel benefit, but not one penny was being spent on securing our softball game. Because indirectly, I WAS safe. In fact, the closer to Jewish people that I happen to be standing, the safer I feel. The last thing I want to do is hang around in a crowded arena filled with white, Midwestern tourists, because you know security there is going to be as overlooked as Paul Giamatti on Oscar night.

Speaking of missing the big prize, is there a rational person among us who thinks that the Democrat party will enjoy success in the next presidential election? Sure, the war in Iraq isn’t exactly going along swimmingly, but is that all the Dems are going to have on their plate? That and this Global Warming nonsense? I think the recent defeat of Sen. Lieberman in Connecticut’s State Primary shows just how fractionated the party, and its voters, actually are. I believe that, because of their infighting and almost complete lack of anything except a vague political platform, the Democrats will find themselves fighting against a strong, tenacious, and well-organized Republican force.

So thanks Scott, for your comments, and for the inspiration for this post. It's been getting a bit heavy in here lately; tomorrow I'll write something about, oh, I don't know, blenders. (I know there's at least one other person on the planet who might look forward to reading that).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Seeing Red

Keeping it brief because I have to go oil my firearms and buy some duct tape, British authorities report today that they have "foiled" a plot by suspected Al-Qaida terrorists to blow up as many as 10 US airliners. You can read the story here, or continue perusing my acerbic assessment of the situation.

Good choice. In any case, conspiracy theories aside, this looks, according to US sources, to be “the real deal”. At the core of this investigation was the discovery that terrorists were planning on using “liquid explosives” as they simultaneously detonated multiple aircraft originating from Heathrow Airport. In response, British officials have banned all personal electronics, hand carried luggage (good news, people from Uganda, you can still transport wicker baskets on your head, apparently), and all liquids from all flights for the foreseeable future.

Quite chilling, and my hat is off to law enforcement personnel here and across the pond for thwarting this attack.

But.

What are even more disturbing are the following statements, taken directly from the article:

Statement Number One:

The suspects were “homegrown,” though it was not immediately clear if they were all British citizens, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Police were working closely with the South Asian community, the official said.

I’m sorry, but that’s about as far from “homegrown” as you can possibly get. I don’t care what their passport says; South Asian Muslims are by no means British citizens. British people are. The biggest threat to Britain, and the world at large, is the rampant, unchecked migration of people (in this case, their humanity is severely in question) from Third World toilets and terrorist breeding grounds to the civilized world. Keep it homogeneous, and keep it safe.

Statement Number Two:

Laptop computers, mobile phones, iPods, and remote controls were among the items banned from being carried on board. Liquids, such as hair care products, were also barred on flights in both Britain and the U.S., raising the possibility that authorities were searching for a liquid explosive.

Huh. Instead of infringing upon the rights of civilized people everywhere, why not just strip search and / or ban Muslims? I know, I know, Islam is the religion of peace, gotcha. That’s funny, because I simply don’t see Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Hindus, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Shintos, Mormons, Amish, Russian Orthodox or Seventh Day Adventists plotting to blow up airplanes. Where I come from, if the dog shits in the corner of the room, you don’t beat the cat.

Statement Number Three:

Hannah Pillinger, 24, seemed less concerned by the announcement. “Eight hours without an iPod, that’s the most inconvenient thing,” she said, waiting at the Manchester airport.
Hmm.


You know what, on second thought, maybe a dozen or so 747’s simultaneously bursting into blazing fireballs is exactly what the white, Christian world needs to wake up out of the fog of self-possession that they have been operating under since, oh, I don’t know, 1969 or so. You’d think that September 11th , the Madrid train bombing, and the London Underground attacks would have shaken these people free of their shallowness and vanity. How quickly we forget. Here’s to you, Hannah, may you and your iPod be seated next to Achmed Bin Ramadan for eight hours when Britain finally lifts its travel restrictions. Let’s see if you recalibrate your definition of “inconvenience” then.

In the 11th Century, when the Saracens invaded the Holy Lands, Popes Gregory VII and Urban II struggled with the idea of launching an all out holy war, and their hesitation led to the fall of Jerusalem, Damascus, Tripoli, Acre, Constantinople and much of Spain. Where are our Milites Christi now? Our Knights Hospitaller? Our Khevsur warriors?

Right. Sitting in Starbucks, drinking $4.50 Venti Half-Caf Mocha Latte-chinos while text-messaging each other on their pink camera phones about how “inconvenient” it is to go without their iPods for 11 minutes.

You know, it’s hard to win a baseball game when your right fielder is picking his nose and your third baseman is examining the dandelions growing along the infield border. Just let me paint the Maltese Cross on the stock of my AR-15 and then put me in coach; I’m ready to play.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Money For Nothing And Your Kicks For Free

As I was tooling around the net today, checking real estate trends in Queens, NY, I stumbled upon this Co-op for sale in Jamaica Estates. Go ahead, take a look, and examine all of the pictures. I pride myself on my keen eye for details, and thus, I can tell the following things about the current owner evidence of this Co-op:

1) He’s a “minority” of some kind, most likely Black. Evidenced by the outrageously enormous painting of some Nubian queen hanging over the headboard. Plus the fact that the apartment is in Jamaica, a neighborhood consisting of a 25% Black, a 28% Hispanic and a 16% “other” population.

2) There is more than one adult person living in this apartment. Evidenced by the two toothbrushes and two robes hanging in the bathroom. To be fair, one of the toothbrushes looks a little smaller than the other, so it could just be one guy and one kid. But not likely.

3) These people have a child. Evidenced by the pictures, the teddy bear and the Hello Kitty cushion on the stool in the bedroom.

4) Despite having a child, the owner smokes dope. Evidenced by the water pipe on the TV in the living room. Don’t bother asking me how I know what this is.

5) This man has made some really stupid choices throughout his life. How do I know this last piece of information? Take a look at this picture here:




Notice what is stacked up against the north wall? Sneaker boxes. 68 sneaker boxes. I counted. Plus, there are three pairs of sneakers sans boxes perched on top. That means that this man, despite currently living in a 562 square foot studio apartment with a child owns at least 71 pairs of sneakers. And that’s how I know the owner is male, by the way.

Let’s see if I can break this down into financial terms:

Average price of a pair of hip, happening sneakers like Air Jordans: $130 + 8.25% Sales Tax = $140.72

Total sneaker expenditure, (not including the pair currently being worn or any not lucky enough to get into the picture): $9991.47 give or take.

$10,000. This man has spent $10,000 on sneakers (made in a sweatshop that pays its employees about $130 a month). For sake of argument, that comes out to $833 a month spent on sneakers.

The maintenance on this Co-op is $330 a month, and assuming a 30-year fixed mortgage at 6.625%, the monthly mortgage payments are $415. Every four weeks, in order to put a roof over his and his child’s head, this man must lay out $745 dollars, not including gas and electric which average about $60 a month in a space that size.

So, not even taking into account credit card, car, or insurance payments (something tells me that this guy isn’t burdened with having to pay back Sallie Mae), he has to spend approximately $800 a month just to live. His sneaker outlay on the other hand is $833.

Now, most likely he didn’t buy those sneakers all in one year; it’s not practical, or even economically viable. Even if he collected them over a period of say, 6 years, by setting aside a portion of his paycheck and purchasing one pair of sneakers a month. This makes sense: placing $35.18 in a piggy bank, or under the mattress, or inside an empty mayonnaise container in the fridge and saving up little by little until he could run out to footlocker and buy these these objets d’art.

Now, let’s instead hypothesize that instead of buying 71+ pairs of sneakers, our friend decided instead to open a Citibank e-Savings account with an APY of 5%. He then, hypothetically, places the same $35.18 per week into that account instead of buying yet another pair of shoes. After the same 6 years, instead of having a collection of hideously ugly footwear, he would have accumulated $13,065.30.

And that my friends, is what separates the rich from the poor. Not entitlement, not corporate thievery, not capitalist greed. Wealth is accumulated through simply studying the fundamentals of economics and using common sense to make them work for you. Chances are, this guy was never educated on the rudiments of fiduciary responsibility; no one living in a studio apartment with his child buys 71 sets of anything except maybe Spongebob videos. But he can’t be a complete and utter moron (unless that chessboard in the living room picture is merely ornamental), and think that sneakers are going to be the road to a better life for he and his progeny.

Why did I feel it necessary to mention that he’s a minority and quite possibly black? For the simple reason that minority groups (and guilty white liberals) are always going on about the “unfair distribution of wealth” in this country. You know, there’s a reason why wealthy white guys continue to stay wealthy: their forebears didn’t blow a bunch of cash on worthless consumer products. And there’s a difference between being “rich” and being “wealthy.” Wealth comes from making intelligent financial decisions over an extended period of time until assets are amassed. Rich is a result of guessing six numbers in a state lottery. I think Chris Rock put it best: “Shaquille O’Neal is rich. The guy that signs Shaq's check is wealthy.”

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who live in rat-infested shithole apartments in Washington Heights with three roommates, but own all the latest gizmos, gadgets and electronic diversions. I have a friend that couldn’t afford a car until he was 29 years old, but manages to have an Xbox, a 60 gig iPod, and a flat screen TV. And when he finally bought his car, a $1200 beater, he spent another $1000 on a car stereo so loud that you can actually see the lyrics of his awful Reggaeton music floating in the air over his trunk. Another person I am acquainted with (notice how I danced around the word “friend”), is 33 years old, has no savings account, but spends $1500 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, claiming she needs the extra space for her “studio.” I thought artists were supposed to be “starving,” not “stupid.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you had to make a big deal over this guy’s race, Valannin.” Sure it does. In the examples I have just presented, both people happen to be Hispanic. Or Latino. Or Boriqua. Or whatever the fuck they are calling themselves nowadays. The Caucasian friends that I have simply don’t do these things. Although they do watch poker on TV.

Point is, there is a disturbing trend going on, chiefly among minorities, (although white people are far from immune from my judgment), of people spending freely and above their means. As an enthusiast of both anthropology and psychology, I am significantly interested in human motivation, that is to say, the reasons why people have chosen to do what they do. Of course, I can only base my conclusions on observable data: I make inferences based on statistics that I have read and the actions of the people that I know. Not the most accurate sample, I’ll admit, but good enough to write an article and post it on a website that 11 people read.

So my question to you, loyal readers, is why? What makes people, particularly American minorities, spend thousands of dollars on periphery and playthings thereby sacrificing a secure financial future?

The reader with the most cogent argument gets a pair of these.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Shorter Of Breath And One Day Closer To Death

Just a quick shout out to the following people celebrating their birthday today, or, owing to the fact that they may be dead, are having people celebrate it for them:

Percy Bysshe Shelley: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Louis Armstrong: Satchmo, baby. I done forgot the words.

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (AKA Queen Elizabeth)

Knut Hamsun: When good befalls a man he calls it Providence, when evil, fate.

Richard Belzer: You know, Det. John Munch from SVU!

Hon. Alberto R. Gonzales: I bet more people know who John Munch is.

Roger "The Rocket" Clemens: 341-172 W-L record, 4502 Strikeouts, Lifetime ERA 3.12

Billy Bob Thornton: Not funny 'ha-ha', funny queer.

And of course, Yours Truly: Raconteur, Blackguard, Iconoclast. Lifetime ERA 3.99

In Lieu of cards, socks, and Precious Moments Figurines, please send cash.

If anyone would like to join in the festivities, I'll be at Croxley Ales in Rockville Center downing a few single malts.

Slainte!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Back Of My Neck Feelin' Dirty And Gritty

As I walked outside today to go shopping, I could swear that I dropped 11 pounds through water loss covering the distance from the front entrance of my building to my car. The asphalt in the store's parking lot had melted to the point that the shopping carts had sunk at least a half an inch into the macadam. The “frozen prepared entrees” case had become a haven of refuge for elderly people attempting to find some respite from the heat. By the time I made it back to my apartment, my clothes were dripping with sweat, and since it was too hot to cook, I ate a bowl of ice cream and two Sam Adams Summer Ales for dinner. It's hot. Damn hot. But you know what, it’s August and I expect that. I also expect it to be cold in February. That's how temperate climate zones work.

But you'd think this was a unique and mystifing phenomenon if you turn on the news. Every station, (cable or network), every newspaper, and every internet news site feels the need to devote an unrealistic percentage of their time, space and energy telling us how "dangerously hot" it is outside, and how we should "conserve power" and "drink plenty of fluids." Additionally, "senior citizens should stay inside," no one should "exert unnecessary energy," and instead everyone should find ways to "beat the heat." This of course is follwed by a warning that "opening fire hydrants is a felony and dangerous."

The next five minutes are devoted to informing us of every historical minute fluctuation in temperature since Lord Kelvin wow'ed them at the Royal Academy.

Pardon me, collection of news sources, but is the first time you've ever been to planet Earth? It gets hot EVERY summer and cold EVERY winter. It's not breaking news. It's not even a curiosity. What's next from these purveyors of the obvious?

"Stay tuned at eleven as Ashley McVapid informs our viewers on how they can prepare themseves for tomorrow's upcoming sunrise! Tips and tricks you won't want to miss!"

Fox News NY even went so far as to post this map on its website yesterday:



What is that, a chart of the geographical distribution of homosexuals in the tristate area? What are they trying to tell us? That every possible location in which people dwell is going to be a mix of fuchsia and terra cotta with a slight chance of vermilion in Trenton?

As I was struggling with my purchases in the elevator, a random tenant of the building, whom I did not know held the door for me. After I had selected my floor, he turns to me and makes the same inane comment that has been flowing freely off the lips of every idiot to the ears of complete strangers everywhere (under the guise of making small talk) ever since Paleolithic man evolved the capacity to speak:

"So, hot enough for ya?"

I coolly (ha!) responded, "Yeah, I feel as if Lucifer himself anally raped me with his infernal trident."

Blessed silence prevailed.

Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued Dark throughout the evening, with a hundred percent chance of Bright by morning.