Friday, December 28, 2007

President Bush's End of 2007 Remarks

My fellow Americans, 2007 is quickly coming to an end, and all I can say is 'thank you, Jesus.' It has been a long, and trying year for Laura and I. It seems like almost nothing has gone right. Why even on the way here to Crawford the presidential limo broke down and we had to get out and push. Laura mumbled something about 'typical' and I tried to improve her spirits with some of my unfounded optimism when I suddenly realized she was right. 2007 sucked. In-fact, the last five or six years have sucked. The presidency has been the worst time of my life. There, I've said it.

We were both glad to be here at the ranch, relaxing, and waiting out the final days of the year. I took the phone off the hook and we watched "Animal House." I cracked open an ice-old Coca-Cola when an aide busted into the room and said something about Benazir Butto being assassinated in Pakistan. Then, I was told I was going to have to give an address to the nation about it. The only peace and quiet I ever get is in the men's room, and even that has a phone in it. The only thing I'm looking forward to is getting out of the White House.

I started off 2007 cautiously optimistic about Iraq. I had appointed General Petraeus to head up my new victory plan, which the media nicknamed 'the surge.' I like that. Surge. It sounds like an energy drink. Anyway, now my very own advisors can't make heads or tails of what is going on in Iraq and I have tried to stop making sense of it all. Oh, and I'm done making rah-rah speeches about it too. Between you and me, I have no idea how things will turn out in Iraq. Nobody does. But 2007 was so bad in other ways that Iraq has almost fallen off the national conscious, and I suppose that is as much as I ever could have hoped for.

Last spring a madman killed 32 students at Virginia Tech because he had some kind of social anxiety disorder. I do too, but I'm not getting all violent about it. Then, of course, there is the looming mortgage crisis. I saw all of my land holdings in California, Florida, and Nevada lose money and I can see why the average American is losing faith in the economy. Oil prices are somewhere near $100 a barrel which isn't necessarily a bad thing for me, but Laura and I do get a lot of hate mail about it. A major bridge collapsed in Minnesota, the polar caps are melting, immigrants are running around undocumented all over the country, and even our children's toys are found to be covered in led paint. It's enough to make you want to hang up your hat and call it a day.

Do I see brighter things in 2008? Well, of course my speech writers came up with all kinds of hyperbole and rhetoric in a transparent and pathetic attempt to lift the American spirit, but you and I both know by now that it's just a bunch of crap. Anything I say to you now will be viewed with suspicion. 2007 became the year you folks really fell out of love with me. I can no longer fool you or even scare you like I used to. When I talk about Iran's nuclear program even members of the White House Press Corps, fine people who were all but on the executive payroll a few years ago, just roll their eyes and snicker. They don't pass on what I say sign unseen anymore. I tell you, dissenting misinformation isn't as easy as it was back in 2003. You guys aren't the fastest learners, but you do learn.

And so, my fellow Americans, I say to you: good game. We have had our little dance. And now, like jilted lovers, we joust and toss drinks on each other. We share stone-cold dinners with no conversation, the tension hanging thick in the air. Was it Osama that came between us? Was it the elite media? Or was it my own ineptitude? Let's agree to let historians sort it all out. We have one year left together before I recede into the background to write my memoirs and build my library. Let's make 2008 a year to remember, shall we? Before we leave this country to the liberals, let's vow to make the best of it. A bombing campaign in Iran, perhaps?

Surely you will grant me one last indulgence for the road, right? After all the memories I have given you? I promise, you wont see much of me in 2008. My work here, which was an exhausting amount, and will take years to unwind, is done. My domestic policy is in traction, and around the world democracy is in decline, but I have stocked the judiciary, stifled congress, and changed the presidency forever. And I couldn't have done it without your vote. So don't act all indignant now. Don't be so surprised. You knew what you were getting in 2004, and, out of sheer guilt, you'll give me 2008 and all that comes. And, what's more, you'll miss me when I'm gone.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Minnesota Resident Already Sick of Winter

Eagan, MN - Friends and family are reporting that Jerry Konstantin, a forty-three year old computer programmer living in Minnesota, has already started declaring that he is sick of winter. Jerry's mom, who now lives in Florida, reported getting a complaint filled e-mail at approximately 10:37 AM December 26, the day after Christmas.

"Jerry never really liked the cold weather," Mrs. Konstantin said. "I think he was a little jealous when I retired and moved to Florida a few years ago. But it seems like with each winter his comments start earlier and earlier. At first I thought he was just joking around, but I think he's serious."

In the past Jerry would begin complaining about winter sometime in mid-February. But with each successive year his complaints have began in earnest earlier and earlier.

"I suppose December 26 is about as soon as you can really begin to complain about a Minnesota winter," Mrs. Konstantin said. "The holidays will usually keep your spirits up until then. After that you really have to fortify yourself with a lot of hot chocolate."

Jerry's disgust with the harsh Minnesota winters is often carefully concealed behind a thin veil of humor.

"It must be nice to live someplace warm," Jerry writes to his friends in California. "I suppose you don't even need a jacket most of the time! haha. It was 15 degrees here. What's the weather like there? No, wait, I don't want to know!"

Although he has lived in Minnesota his entire life, he says he's just damn tired of the cold winters.

"When I go out to shovel my driveway," Jerry writes, "It's like something out of the Space Program. I have to put on my parka, my moon boots, three layers of clothing. Then, when I open that garage door to go shovel, it's like opening the airlock from a remote moon base or something. What ever warm air remains in the garage rushes out into the cold, empty vacuum of Minnesota. And there I am, shovel in-hand, ready for my excursion."

Jerry has tried various activities to break the winter blues but nothing seems to work.

"I've tried snowmobiling but some winters you just don't get much snow," Jerry writes. "And besides, it's not really the snow that bothers me, it's the overcast skies, which last for months and months. It's the sun setting at 4:30, and the darkness, and wind which strips all the leaves from the trees and gets right down into the marrow of your bones, rattling your windows at night. Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by cold, bleak, nothingness. And it's at least twelve weeks before the ground will begin to thaw and I'll see flowers again."

After forty-three long, cold Minnesota winters, Jerry has resigned himself to his fate.

"This is my home, I guess," he writes. "All my friends are here and my wife's friends and family. I've made it through this many winters and I'll probably see as many more." Then he added, "Damnit."

This morning Jerry unearthed his driveway underneath a foot of snow. He then went inside to shower and change, and drove off to work.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Day in History: Simpsons Debut, 1989

On this day in 1989 The Simpsons made it's television debut. It has gone on to become the most popular animated TV shows in US history and has earned its spot in pop culture history through its parodies of the "Middle American" lifestyle. The show, created by Matt Groening, is a spin-off of a series of animated shorts originally aired on The Tracey Ullman Show. and is currently both the longest-running American sitcom and the longest-running American animated program. Since I've based my life on Krusty's teachings, here are my top 10 Simpsons episodes.

10. Rosebud.
Yearning for his lost youth and innocence, Mr. Burns searches for his beloved childhood teddy bear, Bobo, in Citizen Kane-like fashion. When Maggie comes across the bear, she claims it as her own. Mr. Burns tries to get his Bobo back by any means necessary.
Smithers: Here are several fine young men who I'm sure are gonna go far.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Ramones!
Burns: Ah, these minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves.
Ramone 1: I'd just like to say this gig sucks!
Ramone 2: Hey, up yours, Springfield.
Ramone 1: One, two, three, four!
[Abrasive guitar music begins]
Happy Birthday to you! (Happy Birthday!)
Happy Birthday to you! (Happy Birthday!)
Happy Birthday, Burnsey,
Happy Birthday to you!
Ramone 3: Go to hell, you old bastard.
[The curtain falls]
Ramone 4: Hey, I think they liked us!
Burns: [toward the Ramones] Have the Rolling Stones killed.
Smithers: Sir, those aren't --
Burns: Do as I say!

9. Cape Feare. An anonymous letter writer makes ominous threats to Bart. The Simpsons discover they were sent by Sideshow Bob who, when released from prison, harasses the Simpsons and then attempts to kill Bart with a machete. But Bob's vanity foils him yet again.

Agent: Tell you what, sir. From now on, you'll be, uh, Homer Thompson at Terror Lake. Let's just practice a bit, hmm? When I say, "Hello, Mr. Thompson," you'll say, "Hi."
Homer: Check.
Hello, Mr. Thompson.
Homer: [stares blankly]
Remember now, your name is Homer Thompson.
Homer: I gotcha.
Agent: Hello, Mr. Thompson.
Homer: [stares blankly]

[A long time later]
Agent: [sighs in frustration] Now, when I say, "Hello, Mr. Thompson,"
and press down on your foot, you smile and nod.
Homer: No problem.
Agent: Hello, Mr. Thompson! [stomps on Homer's foot a few times]
Homer: [stares blankly]
[to other agent] I think he's talking to you.

8. $pringfield. During a town meeting, Principal Skinner pitches the idea of opening a casino. Mr. Burns adopts this notion and builds the "Mr. Burns' Casino." Homer takes a job as a blackjack dealer and Marge takes up gambling. At home, Lisa is having difficulties with her school project and Bart opens a treehouse casino.

Sir, you haven't slept since the casino opened five days ago.
Burns: Yeah, well, I've discovered the perfect business: people swarm
in, empty their pockets, and scuttle off. Nothing can stop me now -- [paranoid] except microscopic germs. But we won't let that happen, will we, Smithers?
Smithers: Uh, no sir.

7. Simpson and Delilah. Homer lies on a medical insurance form to buy a "miracle" hair-restoring drug which also revitalizes his career. Bart decides to use the drug to grow a goa-t, spilling it all over the floor when Homer catches him in the act.

Homer: Okay, I'm not going to kill you, but I'm going to tell you three things that are gonna haunt you for the rest of your days. You've ruined your father, you've crippled your family, and baldness is hereditary!

6. You Only Move Twice. In the eight season opener, Homer's new job moves the Simpsons to an idyllic planned community. But his new, easygoing supervillian boss, Hank Scorpio (voice of Albert Brooks), has some trouble with the government.

Hank: Ingenious, isn't it, Mr. Bont?
Scorpio, you're totally mad.
Heh, I wouldn't point fingers, you jerk.
So, do you expect me to talk?
I don't expect anything from you except to die and be a very cheap


5. Homer the Great. Homer joins the ancient mystical order known as the Stonecutters. The group then discovers that he is actually the chosen one to lead them to glory.

Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do.

Who leaves the Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do! We do.

Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do! We do.
Who robs cave fish of their sight?

Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do! We do.

4. 22 Short Films about Springfield. Interconnecting vignettes in Pulp Fiction style depict various moments in the lives of Springfield residents, including Apu's partying activities; Smithers' allergic reaction to a bee sting; and Dr. Nick Riviera's appearance before a medical review board.

Dr. Nick: Hi everybody. Now, tell Dr. Nick where is the trouble.
Abe: I'm itchy! I've got ants in my pants! I'm discombobulated! Give me a calmative!
Dr. Nick: Slow down sir! You're going to give yourself skin failure!

3. Treehouse of Horror V. This one features three short episodes. The family becomes caretakers of an estate in the mountains owned by Mr. Burns, where he cuts the cable and takes out all beer, which leads Homer to insanity. Homer fixes a toaster and it becomes a time machine. Principal Skinner finds a solution to his overcrowding problem and the quality of meat in the cafeteria: eating the students.

Homer: Aah! OK, don't panic -- remember the advice your father gave you on your wedding day. [remembers dad, Abe, with hair and a tuxedo]
Abe: If you ever travel back in time, don't step on anything because
even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can't imagine.
Homer: Fine. As long as I stand perfectly still and don't touch
anything, I won't destroy the future.
[a mosquito flies in]

Stupid bug! You go squish now!
[swats it]

2. Kamp Krusty. The fourth-season opener finds Bart and Lisa headed for six fun-filled weeks at Kamp Krusty, the brochure having failed to mention counselor-thugs, imitation gruel, slave labor and no Krusty. The camp is run by the bland Mr. Black (who managed Euro-Disney until it blew up) and the real Krusty is replaced by a whino in a clown suit (who later chants with the kids 'We want Crunchy.'). The kids revolt and take over the camp in a-la Apocalypse Now. Krusty flies in and makes it up to the children by taking them to Tijuana.

Krusty: Kamp Krusty is built on an ancient Indian burial ground. We've got archery, wallet-making, the whole megillah! And for all you fat kids, my exclusive program of diet and ridicule will really get results!

1. Marge vs The Monorail. This gem, written by Conan O'Brien, features a fast-talking charmer (Phil Hartman) who sells Springfield a monorail of dubious necessity and, Marge learns, highly dubious quality. Homer quits his job to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a monorail driver (later saying, "I'm the best monothingy guy there ever was"). Leonard Nimoy, in a brilliant cameo, is aboard for the maiden trip, with Homer at the controls.

Nimoy: My job here is done.
Barney: What do you mean? You didn't do anything.
Nimoy: [chuckles] Didn't I? [gets "beamed" away, a la "Star Trek"]


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rocket Flame Out

Today is the day that the Mitchell Report gets released. The report is the exhaustive findings of George J. Mitchell's 20 month investigation into drug use in Major League Baseball. Let me tell you this thing has taken on a life of it's own. The internet tubes are popping and sizzling, buzzing with leaks and speculations, hints and allegations. It's sweeping across the sports blogs like a prairie fire. It's as if George Mitchell threw a party and everyone in baseball was invited. But the guest of honor seems to be none other than the mighty Roger Clemens whose lawyers are, at this very moment, no doubt trying to mitigate the damage being done by having their client fingered in the investigation.

Clemens, the surly, megalomaniacal, fire-balling New York Yankees pitcher, nicknamed "The Rocket," has been a singularly unlikeable figure for some time. One could start just about anywhere with him, from his churlish attitude to his penchant for throwing at batters and being labeled as a headhunter. But for me, his problem is he just wont go away. He retires after every season and then, around spring time, he begins his diva-like dance where he begins to murmur about coming out of retirement, causing a stir among teams. Picture Roger with a fruit basket on his head, shaking some maracas, and you'll have an idea of how distasteful this all is. He then fields offers and by May he is once again pitching for a contender. He always signs huge one-year deals so that he can do the dance again the next season. Plus, the deals he gets entitle him to special treatment. (For example, when pitching for the Houston Astros he did not have to travel with the team for road games.) Roger doesn't have to travel with the team. The other teams travel to him.

On the baseball field, Clemens trajectory seems to have mirrored Barry Bonds's in many ways. By 1996 his career was faltering, having gone 10-13 with the Boston Red Sox. Notoriously, Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said Clemens was in the "twilight of his career" following four consecutive seasons, 1993-96, in which the pitcher was a mediocre 40-39 with few of the eye-popping statistics that had become his norm.

Duquette traded the ailing Clemens to the Toronto Blue Jays and things magically turned around. Well, most of that "magic" came in the form of enhancing drugs which were injected into Clemen's ass via personal trainer Brian McNamee. Clemens career turned around from that point and he averaged 17 wins and 6 losses over the next ten seasons, capped off with a 2005 in-which he went 13-8 with a godlike 1.87 ERA, at the age of 42. Like Bonds, as Clemens got older he got better. But, like Bonds, he also got larger. Gone are the early days of his career when he clocked in at 190 lbs. Now he packs on 220 lbs and throws bats at people who upset him. He once threw at a batter during an All-Star game. And once threw at his son during a minor league game after his son homered off him in a previous at-bat.

Clemens has always loved the attention. From his awkward re-signings to his patented post season flame outs. Most recently, in the 2007 ALDS game three, he gave up two runs on four hits in the first two innings and by the third inning he pulled up lame and had to leave the game. Clemens put in similar post-season antics in 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1999, and got himself ejected in 1990. He's the Barbara Streisand of pitchers.

Well now Clemens will receive all the attention he desires. The Rocket was singled out in nearly nine pages of the Mitchell Report, with much of the information on the seven-time Cy Young Award winner coming from McNamee himself. More than a dozen Yankees, past and present, were among the 75-plus players identified.

"According to McNamee, from the time that McNamee injected Clemens with Winstrol through the end of the 1998 season, Clemens' performance showed remarkable improvement," the report said. "During this period of improved performance, Clemens told McNamee that the steroids 'had a pretty good effect' on him."

McNamee also told investigators that "during the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens made it clear that he was ready to use steroids again. During the latter part of the regular season, McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone from a bottle labeled either Sustanon 250 or Deca-Durabolin."

And, incredibly enough, ex-baseball player turned hatchet-man Jose Canseco was right all along. In his book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big Canseco alleges that Roger Clemens had expert knowledge about steroids and suggested that he probably used steroids, based on the improvement in his performance after leaving the Red Sox. While not addressing the allegations directly, Clemens was dismissive of Canseco stating "I could care less" and "I've talked to some friends of his and I've teased them that when you're under house arrest and have ankle bracelets on, you have a lot of time to write a book."

Good one, Roger.

Update: By the way I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't predict that Sport's Illustrated's steroids-in-baseball watchdog Tom Verducci is no-doubt currently churning the froth on his latest venom filled anti-doping article for the magazine. Verducci relentlessly dogged Barry Bonds for well over a year during his pursuit of Hank Arron's home run title. He seems to have turned a blind eye to the obvious in Roger Clemens of whom he wrote in 2003, "Clemens' feats in the late stage of his career are remarkable."

Almost magical, isn't it Tom? If you can stomach the whole article it's here.

Which brings me to this, an excellent piece by Jeff Pearlman of Slate, written in 2006.

Likewise, when I look at Roger Clemens, I wonder: Where's the investigative digging? Like Bonds, Clemens is a larger-than-life athletic specimen. Like Bonds, Clemens is producing at an age when most of his peers are knitting. Unlike Bonds, Clemens does not have journalists breathing down his neck. Instead, the hometown Houston Chronicle has covered his recent re-signing with the Astros as a time for unmitigated celebration. Forget combing through his garbage for vials—I just want the Chronicle to ask Clemens whether he's used. Is the Rocket cheating? Again, I don't know. But doesn't someone have to at least try and find out?

"A lot of baseball writers are drunks or cheat on their wives," says Jose de Jesus Ortiz, the Chronicle's Astros beat writer. "I would never question anybody unless I have evidence. It's unfair to feel that just because of Bonds now we're required to question everyone about their methods."

Is it unfair to pester individual athletes about steroids? Maybe. Is it the right thing to do journalistically? Without a doubt.
My sentiments exactly. Now all the writers, like Verducci, who butter their bread with anti-doping columns, who ridiculed Canseco and his book, can act stunned about the great Roger Clemens.

And, finally, I dug this quote up from Hank Aaron himself. "A guy can take steroids, drugs, whatever. He still has to be able to hit that Roger Clemens 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Steroids don't help you hit that fastball."

No one imagined the fastball could be hopped up on 'roids too?

How to be like Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad Chuck Norris has never cried. Ever.

Chuck Norris hasn't made a real movie since 1990 and that movie was Delta Force 2: the Columbian Connection. His TV show Walker, Texas Ranger was canceled in 2001. And yet here he is today, a pop culture phenomenon. His legend has grown and now he has taken the form of an irate, all-powerful superbeing, a job which, no doubt, consumes at least a few hours of his leisure time. We all have to model ourselves after somebody, so why not make the world's greatest bad ass your own personal Jesus? Here's how.

1. Learn how to do a roundhouse kick. You never know when you're going to need to unleash this kind of fury. You may be trying to bust POWs out of Vietnam (Missing in Action), dealing with terrorists (The Delta Force), or trying to track down an ancient Aztec/Mayan/Egyptian/Apache horde of gold (Firewalker). It's also useful in social settings. Is your boss giving you a hard time? Stuck in traffic? Can't speak French? The roundhouse kick is a potent finishing move no matter what situation you're facing.

2. Grow lots of body hair. If you're one of those hairless Chihuahua types consider yourself out of luck. You may be on Chuck's list. In fact you may already be dead. Anyone wanting to be like Chuck Norris has to have needs a ton of body hair, including a full grown beard. If you can't grow a full beard like a real man you best model yourself after Jean-Claude Van Damme or some other European action star and then prepare thyself for Chuck.

3. Be able to divide by zero. It is now a commonly held fact that Chuck Norris can indeed divide by zero. Work on it.

4. Wear Stetson.

5. Create your own martial art form. Don't be a follower. Chuck Norris doesn't follow. The world follows him. He invented his own martial art, known as Chun Kuk Do, which includes forms of every martial art he knows. That means all of them, even the ones that haven't been created yet. What have you invented lately?

6. Join the military. Chuck Norris is the real deal and unlike so many other action heroes or leaders he actually does have bona-fide military experience. So, when he pulls a man's beating heart out of his chest you can bet your ass that comes with the official seal of approval from the U.S. government. Oh, and keep the change.

7. Get one of those big ten gallon hats. Wear it all over the place.

8. Get off your ass and avenge your defeats. Chuck Norris started his karate career with two tournament losses. He then found his resolve and started owning people, holding the Professional Middleweight Karate title for six consecutive years, and in 1969 was named "fighter of the year" (yes, "fighter of the year") by Black Belt Magazine. Along the way he went on to defeat all the opponents who defeated him.

9. Get on your own commercial with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

10. Decide who lives and who dies, and make it so. It's a well known fact that Chuck Norris doesn't believe in the theory of evolution. This is because there is no evolution, only a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live. Go and do likewise.

Do these things and you'll be well on your way to Norris-like stature which has been proven to help you in bar fights and defend the free world. And when in doubt, ask yourself: What Would Chuck Do? Maybe someday people will be writing "facts" about you. Until then, here is a list of my favorite Chuck Norris "facts" found on the web page Chuck Norris Facts.

  • Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.
  • Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.
  • Chuck Norris’ hand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
  • Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
  • Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
  • Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
  • When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Supreme Court Decides Bush v Gore (a tribute)

It did not escape my attention that today is the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to end Florida's state-wide ballot recount, which allowed George W. Bush to be certified as the winner of the 2000 election. Much has already been said about this historical event--the fact that Al Gore lost even though he won the popular vote, and the inability of Floridians to properly punch their voting cards leading to a confusing re-count. In my humble opinion all of this speaks to the fact that the Founding Fathers weren't that smart, and neither are we.

I've never been much of a conspiracy theorist. My belief that large entities are behind all of our current woes went the same way as my theism. (It turns out they had a lot in common.) I don't really believe that the Supreme Court "stole" the election for Bush. I don't really think there was a massive cover-up going on. I do think, however, that the electoral college is an antiquated idea whose time has come.

The electoral college was a necessity 200 years ago when people rode their horses to delegate meetings and cast their votes in secret rooms, signaling the victor with a plume of smoke from the chimney behind locked doors. Oh it was a high time at those gatherings, let me tell you, with all those delegates dressed up in colorful robes, burning incense and offering prayers to Artemis for light and wisdom. But those days went out with the Eisenhower administration.

First of all, direct election would give everyone's vote the same weight. What's the point of even voting Republican in a state like New York or California other than to exercise your right in a hallow gesture? Since most states operate on a winner-take-all system there's no reason to even pander to Texas or Georgia. It's a foregone conclusion those states will vote Republican anyway. Candidates know this and so they simply focus on a handful of swing states. If you're lucky enough to live in one of those states your vote counts a great deal. If not, get bent.

Secondly, it has now happened four times that the winner of the popular vote did not receive election. You would be inclined to believe that once the electoral college's efficiency trumps the will of the people its value should be questioned. But still we cling to it like an old blanket. Arguments for the continuation of the electoral college usually focus around crusty ideals like the "continuation of the federal character of the nation" or "national stability through a two party system." Yawn. I don't know about you, but I don't find these to be particularly compelling.

Maybe the saddest thing about the 2000 recount is that so many people couldn't figure out how to punch their ballot cards, and the term "hanging chad" was introduced into the lexicon. Maybe this is a microcosm of our problems? Listen, people, punching a hole in your card isn't that hard, is it? And if it is, shouldn't your vote then be negated? Seriously. We're electing the leader of the executive branch, exercising the ancient human right of freedom and representation, in the most powerful country in the world. Your collective wisdom decides the fate of so many innocent people around the world. And all the gods ask is that you follow simple voting instructions.

This is why I think issues like stem cell research and gay marriage should be left off the ballot. Haven't we proven unequivocally that we have no idea what we're doing? Not only did someone like George W. Bush slip through the cracks to take the helm of our great nation, but the man was re-elected after beaching it on a sandbar. The same group of people who opted for that guy should also weigh in on when life begins, and whom can legally marry whom? That sounds like trouble. Maybe we should have less responsibility and not more. Then, if we thought less about what was going on in other people's bedrooms, we'd have more energy to devote to punching that voting card properly. Just a thought.

But I'm not unsympathetic. I can see how all of this gets confusing. The average person has a ton of stuff to think about. I mean mundane stuff like is Bobby catching a cold? And don't forget to pick up the milk after work. That, plus the piles of responsibility we each have at work trying to stay one step ahead of unemployment or outsourcing while engaging in continuing education and re-branding. It's exhausting isn't it? How am I supposed to know about stem cells? How am I supposed to know how to vote? Can't we just leave it all up to those high-powered, super-intellectual commissions that form every time our elected leaders are found in dereliction of duty? Back when delegates road horses to super-secret meetings to elect the President such governmental oversights weren't even a wild dream. That shows how far we've come in seven years. Yes, it does.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MST3K Resurfaces as Cinematic Titanic

It was sometime around 1989 and I was about fourteen. My mom and sister had discovered this nutty show where a guy and his robot friends watch and riff on really bad movies for two hours. The show was "Mystery Science Theater 3000." I watched as my mom and sister never missed an episode and even made their pilgrimages to Minneapolis for MST3K conventions. One year my sister dressed up as a giant leech. Another year my mom went as the brain that wouldn't die. It's funny to think back on those days when a campy TV show brought the whole family together. (Well, except my dad who was usually out in the garage.)

For fans, MST3K was more than a show, it provided a family identity. Like the Partridge Family, except with no Susan Dey, no music, just a crapload of terrible B-movies. What was really enjoyable about the show was its low production values, and one-take skits. It had a very immersive quality. It didn't try to please everyone, and that was why the people who liked it loved it so much.

It turns out a lot of other people felt the same way my mom and sister did. The fans became known affectionately as "MSties," MST3K turned into a cult classic, and Time Magazine later named it one of the 100 greatest TV shows ever. Even after it's cancellation in 1999 an underground following remained. Revived by the DVD format, fans can now get old episodes through NetFlix and other outlets.

But now it looks like the original spirit is back. MST3K creator Joel Hodgson has launched a new internet-based project called "Cinematic Titanic" which he describes as "a new movie-riffing delivery system." Along with Joel will be the original writers from MSTK: Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein. They will, as in the original show, riff on terrible movies, and the end product will be available via download, web stream, or DVD delivery on a monthly basis.

I received word of this when my sister alerted me (of course). When she explained to me the premise I said, "Wait, isn't Mike Nelson doing something similar with "RiffTrax?"

"This is different," she said. And then, in a voice like Dave from 2010, in full MST3K mode she said, "It's something wonderful."

Here's a link to the Cinematic Titanic homepage where you can join their newsletter and get alerts on new movies coming out.'

And, if you have no idea what MST3K is all about, here:

And, if you think I'm crazy, here's the word on the street:

SFist: MST3K Returns!
Slashdot: Joel and Original Cast of MST3K Riding the Cinematic Titanic
Wired: Cinematic Titanic Steams Into Mystery Science Theater Waters

Friday, December 07, 2007

Honey Calms Children's Coughs, Tastes Ohh So Good

According to a new report, honey, that sweet, delicious substance produced by honey bees, seems to calm children's coughs and help them sleep better.

The AP writes:

For the study, researchers recruited 105 children with upper respiratory infections from a clinic in Pennsylvania. Parents were given a paper bag with a dosing device inside. Some were empty. Some contained an age-appropriate dose of honey-flavored cough medicine containing dextromethorphan. And some contained a similar dose of honey.

The parents were asked about their children's sleep and cough symptoms, once before the bedtime treatment and once after. They rated the symptoms on a seven-point scale.

All of the children got better, but honey consistently scored best in parents' rating of their children's cough symptoms.
It looks like honey, that luscious, gooey substance derived from the nectar of flowers, has dealt a major blow to the pediatrics field. The study, funded by the National Honey Board, comes after an expert panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called for a complete ban on all over-the-counter remedies aimed at children under the age of 6. And many leading doctors agree that if used incorrectly, the cough syrups have the potential to do serious harm.

"This is a huge victory for honey and honey lovers everywhere," said Ed Reed, spokesman for the National Honey Board. "It turns out your grandma was right all along."

Honey is a rich source of antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds that may aid healing. Lead researcher Ian Paul of Pennsylvania State University in Hershey also suspects much of the benefit might come from the "soothing effect of the thick, syrup-like liquid [honey] on the back of the throat." It seems to "calm the irritation that leads to cough."

While scientists and researchers were surprised at the findings, lovers of honey, that irresistibly wonderful nectar of the gods, relished their long over-due vindication.

"Everyone always called me crazy," said Winnie-the-Pooh from his home in the Hundred Acre Wood. "Who's laughing now?"

In other news a tractor-trailer carrying honey buns overturned on I-77 in Charlotte Thursday morning. The truck collided with another vehicle but no one was seriously hurt. Investigators say the sweet, chewy honey buns deployed on impact creating a soft, almost air-like cushion around the vehicles. The driver of the big rig was taken to the hospital with non life threatening injuries.

Honey, is there anything it can't do?

Happy Pearl Harbor Day

Today, on December 7th, a day that would live in infamy, we remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the movies which made it famous.

Sixty-six years ago (my God, has it been that long??) the dastardly Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a United States Naval base in Hawaii. At the time Hawaii was just a far flung American colonial interest. But the Japanese, eying the pristine and halcyon islands as a possible vacationing spot for weary troops, sailors, and airmen, attacked on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941.

The attack which caught the sunbathing, surfing, and beach-lovemaking Americans unawares destroyed two battleships, two destroyers, 188 aircraft, along with 2,333 killed and 1,139 wounded. The attack also forever ruined the torrid love-affair between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr (meow!) as seen in the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity.

The only thing which prevented the complete destruction of America's entire Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor was the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Nimitz from the year 1980, captained by Kirk Douglas, as seen in the classic film The Final Countdown.

A monster cast, including Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, John Voight, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dan Ackroyd, and Jennifer Garner all joined with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, to help stave off the Japanese attack, documented accurately in their 2001 summer blockbuster film Pearl Habor.

The movie boasted a production budget of 132 million dollars, far more than the actual Japanese cost to attack Pearl Harbor. "We're going to do it right this time," Bay announced.

Although they were ultimately successful, critic Roger Ebert called the affair "a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle." He then added, "The filmmakers seem to have aimed the film at an audience that may not have heard of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps even of World War Two." Bay, incensed at the criticism, which he called the worst of his career, had Ebert's house bombed into the ground with dramatic flair.

The film did go on to win one academy award, and also was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Actor (Affleck), Worst Remake of a Sequel (of "Tora, Tora, Tora"); but lost to Tom Green's truly awful "Freddy Got Fingered" on all cards.

The spirit of the movie was later immortalized in the Team America World Police song "The End of an Act."

I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark
When he made Pearl Harbor

I miss you more than that movie missed the point
And that’s an awful lot
And now, now you've gone away

And all I'm trying to say

Is Pearl Harbor sucked and I miss you

The successful attack lulled the Japanese Empire into a sense of self confidence and soon it turned its power towards making giant-monster-movies. America seized the initiative and struck back. In less than four years the Pacific had been re-secured and the war culminated in Bay-like flair with the total incineration of two Japanese cities by the A-bomb.

And that's the story of how the good ol' US-of-A won World War Two. The Big One. W-W-I-I. Even after being sucker-punched America went on to become the richest, most powerful country in the world, with the movies to prove it. And today Japan provides her with cars, cell phones, and robotic vacuum cleaners, in a tight-knight symbiotic relationship. But it all started with Pearl Harbor.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Hanukkah from President Bush

I send greetings to all those celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

Hanukkah commemorates a victory for freedom and the courage and faith that made it possible. More than 2,000 years ago, the land of ancient Israel was conquered, its sacred Temple was desecrated, and the Jewish people were forbidden to practice their faith. A patriot named Judah Maccabee and his followers rose up against their oppressors to take back Jerusalem.

He did this because this is what patriots do. They rise up against tyranny and oppression where ever it may be found, no matter what form it takes. We fight our war on terror because we're patriots, patriots who have been desecrated. Desecrated patriots who have come to kick ass and spin the dradle, and we're all out of dradles.

I just got a dradle the other day. I thought I should practice a little bit since I'm wishing so many a Happy Hanukkah. Spinning the dradle is a game. The dradle is a four sided toy. On each side is a letter which correspond to instructions. You spin it and it tells you what to do.

I have a litle dradle
I made it out of clay
And when its dry and ready
With dradle i shall play

You see? It's a lot like how I make decisions here in the Oval Office. Sometimes I flip a coin. Sometimes I play rock-paper-scissors. Sometimes I consult the Magic 8 ball. Most of the time I just ask Cheney. heh-heh-heh.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, when the Maccabees returned to reclaim and purify their Holy Temple, the oil used for dedication should have lasted only one day but burned for eight. Every year since then, Jews have celebrated this victory of light over darkness and given thanks for the presence of a just and loving God.

You see, oil was important even way back then. It's just as important today. That's why we're in Iraq. No, not for the oil, to preserve freedom. But did you really want all of that oil in Saddam's hands? I figured while we were there introducing democracy we should at least secure the oil. I know through extensive data mining and NSA wiretapping that most of my supporters drive big, beefy Texas sized SUVs. Well now your oil is in safe hands and it will burn for a thousand years or more at least. By then American automakers should have some of those newfangled Lithium-Ion powered cars for sale. And maybe in a thousand years those cars will fly. Flying cars. That's crazy.

Anyway, as Jewish Americans prepare to light the Hanukkah candles, we are reminded of the many blessings in our lives. The candles' glow has the power to lift our souls, put hope in our hearts, and make our Nation a more compassionable and peaceful place. We pray that those who still live in the darkness of tyranny will someday see the light of freedom. We're certainly going to do all we can to bring that light to you. Have you ever seen a cruise missile drop down a ventilation shaft from 200 miles out after being launched from an AEGIS destroyer? That's the light I'm talking about. We're ready to bring that kind of light to our friends over in Iran if they don't come clean. That will put a nice glow into their night sky. The rubble burns for days.

We ask for God's continued guidance and boundless love and His protection of all those in need during this holiday season.

Laura and I wish all people of the Jewish faith a Happy Hanukkah. And for the rest of you, be patient, Christmas is coming.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Repeal Day

Today, December 5, is known as Repeal Day in drinking circles. On this day lovers of alcohol toast the anniversary of the Twenty-first Amendment's ratification in 1933, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment's prohibition on alcohol.

Prohibition began in 1920 and quickly sank the country into a pit of sin and debauchery. Awakened, America never looked back. Prohibition lasted for thirteen years and is widely seen as a failed social and political experiment and an example of what happens when the government attempts to legislate private behavior. But, in fairness, how much can you really expect from a movement that had the enthusiastic backing of the Klu Klux Klan?

Society in the 1920s was divided up into two camps: dries and wets. Dries would march home after work, tense and stressed out, while wets would stumble out of speakeasies after a night of jazz music and dancing. Word got around. Soon even the dries were begging to get wet, screaming at FDR to repeal the damned Eighteenth amendment. Meanwhile, gangsters such as Al Capone, lived in opulence above the law, presiding over a complex distributing network, laying the foundations for modern day organized crime.

The main problem with Prohibition was that it was extremely hard to enforce in the private lives of people. The desire to have a drink was never addressed, and suppliers found a way to meet it. In the end hard working citizens grew tired of having to sneak around for a a nip here and there. But the movement was not without it's positives. Had we never attempted to outlaw drinking we never would have had the Roaring Twenties, the rise of gangsters, rum running, hooch making, and, of course, the super cool speakeasy.

Speakeasies were underground bars that discreetly served patrons liquor, along with food and music. The term speakeasy originated from bartenders telling patrons to “speak easy” when ordering so as not to be overheard. Speakeasies were often unmarked establishments. Sometimes they were behind or underneath other businesses. Often the only way you could get in the door was with a secret password. How cool is that? On top of this, speakeasies were often funded by organized crime and could be very elaborate and upscale. By the end of the 1920s Al Capone controlled every speakeasy in Chicago.

Prohibition was repealed with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. The amendment clearly stated that 1) the Eighteenth Amendment was hereby repealed and 2) happy hour hereby begins at 5:00 and runs until 8:00, closing time will be 2:00 am and not 2:05.

Today Repeal Day is gaining popularity among the drinking public, not just as a celebration of the right to drink but as a toast to freedom. Those who don't like it can just stay home. Soon Repeal Day will take its rightful place among other great American drinking days: St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Halloween. So, if you'll be out tonight, toast one for Repeal Day and freedom of choice.

Stay wet, people!