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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Zombie Self-Help Files Part 1

28 Weeks Later is on TV tonight and...

What? You're not acquainted with one of the best Zombie movies of all times?

I'm not going to ruin it for you.

But there are valuable lessons we can all learn from our undead nemesis...

the Zombie.

Now there has been some confusion between Vampires and Zombies.

Similarities:

Both are undead (there is some variance in particular movies, but traditionally they are both categorized as the undead).

Both Zombies and Vampires mean you (the living) harm.

Lots of harm.

That's where the similarities end.

Some people may want to become a vampire. There are many benefits like: eternal undead-life, the opposite sex is really into you and you always get double coupons at the Shop 'n Carry.

OK, I made up the last one.

No one wants to be a Zombie.

Being a Zombie sucks.

Zombies don't think. Some people may think, "I really don't use that big gob on top of my shoulders anyway."

Wrong.

The next time the hypothetical Zombie-you wants a snack you won't even be able to figure out how to open a bag of chips. Worse still you won't want the chips. It'll be nothing but brains this and brains that.

Also...

Zombies aren't very hygienic.

No use of hand sanitizers.

No moisturizing... and undead skin gets dry really fast.

And

No use of teeth whiteners. Zombie teeth are notoriously ill kept.

Zombies are the perfect self-help metaphor for what you do NOT want to be.

You may say "What's so important about focusing on who I don't want to be? I'm full of positive sunshiny puppy dog rainbows. I just have to focus on my dreams."

Yeah. Right.

Welcome to the world where a lot of shit can go wrong.

In the past we had stories about witches in gingerbread houses and wolves devouring grandmothers.

Today we have Zombies.

I'll do a post every now and again about our undead frenemy and the life lessons they can teach us.

But the first rule is...

Don't be a Zombie.

Monday, December 28, 2009

About Janet Napalitano or Fuck Immanuel Kant

I can never be a beaurocrat or a high level politician.

A bureaucrat/politician (particularly a high level one) must be able to...

lie...

lie again...

and then if caught...

lie about having lied.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in lying. If I have to lie to save my life or someone who isn't some D-bag Joe Stalin type, I'm there.

Who doesn't believe in lying?

Immanuel Kant (the 18th century Critique of Pure Reason guy).

Kant believes in pure truth telling one hundred percent of the time.

Fuck Immanuel Kant.

Me? I really have no strict policy about lying rather I have noticed my behavior now and again regarding this moral hurdle.

I can only listen to so much bullshit.

After a short period of time the bullshit piles up...

higher

and higher

and I hit my tolerance and fall into a sort of apoplectic fit.

That's exactly what happened on Sunday morning.

I switching through the Sunday talk shows when I ran into Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano on ABC's "This Week" (I refer to this show as Not Meet The Press). She was glibly talking about how well the system worked on that Christmas Day when an incompetetent jihadi tried to blow himself up.

I reflected on how well the system worked...

How Umar's (the underwear jihadi) Dad, a president of a bank had warned the American consulate and several security organizations concerning is his son's worrisome behavior (So long Dad! I'm starting a brand spanking new Islamic life in the dreamy country of Yemen! Don't bother to write or try to contact me!) and he was still not on the Do Not Fly List. Don't worry, he was on a list!

That list just didn't matter.

I do applaud the new security protocol...

Have a foreign national (this time it was Dutch video director/producer Jasper Schuringa) to tackle the suspect, put out any flames with their bare hands and then stow the nutcase away until the plane lands.

This is GREAT!

Think of all the useless crap Congress can buy from the money they're now saving by getting rid of sky marshals.

And worst of all Janet (yes we're on a first name basis at this point) just looked...

dumb.

Like she knows what she's saying is bullshit (remember John McCain saying the economy was OK last year?).

And she said it anyway.

I couldn't stand it anymore.

I needed some TV that didn't insult my intelligence as much.

I switched over to MTV's "Jersey Shore" (more about this epic in another post).

Luckily there is some Quality Control in the Obama White House (either that or they saw the Republican attack ads with Janet's soundbite in it).

Janet had to say ooopsie on the Today Show.

Maybe everything didn't work exactly to plan.

Those comments about the system working well (the ones she made 24 hrs earlier) were symply taken out of context.

Of course they were.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Parenting in Purgatory II or The Best Part of Christmas

It was Saturday morning and a time for reflection.

The day after my children's orgy of capitalism.

If you were a casual observer in my house on Friday you would not have known we just had the largest economic downturn since The Great Depression. It had practically showered presents for my kids. As many of you can guess I white knuckled the event (much easier done when I'm drinking may I add).

I have a small room dedicated to recycling. I have three blue bins and a small wastebasket dedicated to not screwing up the planet anymore than it is.

It was empty on Thursday (except for the bins).

Now... you can't see the floor or the walls. The room is enemy territory taken over by packaging (known in the common-tongue as "crap"); packaging care of the People's Republic of China and their slave labor (Trotsky was a big fan of slave labor too).

There is hope that my children have not been seduced by the Dark Side of our out of control consumerism.

My youngest Ali (4) and I had a conversation a few days before X-mas.

Ali: Can I have a TV in my room?

Me: No.

Ali. Avery (her cousin) has a TV in her room.

Now Avery is a precocious three year old. Do I think having a TV in an child's room will rot their brain? No. But it ain't gonna help either.

Me: You can have a TV in your room when you can pay for it. (Pause) Of course you pay it with the discretionary 50% of the money that you are not saving.

I get the "look" and she scampers away.

Now I know I talk a lot of smack. That's what I do.

I don't expect my kids to pay attention. Most of my efforts I consider Sisyphean (see earlier post). I do what I feel is right not because it will do any good rather I do it for the sake of doing it. It's kinda like jogging (which I don't do, but I understand the basics... one foot in front of the other... without falling) it doesn't matter where you are going to as long as the act gets done.

So my boulder seemed to lighten the other day. At least there was some hope it wasn't in vain (that's all you can really hope for).

It was Christmas Eve and Ali was upstairs in her room with her cousin Avery. I was doing some menial task at the bottom of the stairs.

It's important to state I'm not making this up.

Avery: Where's the TV?

Ali: My Daddy said I can have a TV in my room when I can pay for it.

I'll be honest, there are not many circumstances that I have a non-qualified feeling of happiness. When something good happens I typically have the, "Wow, that didn't suck" response.

Not this time.

I had a pure unadulterated feeling of happiness.

I have to tell you this was my highpoint of my Christmas Season.

I knew that the Dark Side of capitalism would win the battle on Christmas Day, but I allowed myself to believe that I had the chance of winning the war.

Maybe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Too Many Monkeys Jumping On The Bed

Here I am sitting in the calm before the storm.

The Mother of all Holidays will soon be on us.

All other Holidays pale in comparison.

A Faustian pact between Christianity and Capitalism has us all in it's grip.

On that happy note allow me to reflect upon my day...

My morning started normally. Ali was doing her gymnastics class. She had graduated from the "Mom and Me" class (a name obviously designed to emasculate any foolish Dads who actually participate) last year.

Before I talk about today's journey in Purgatory I should relate how I really, really screwed up my ankle at at a Mom and Me class. Anyone who knows me well has at one time or another observed some of my... physical idiosyncrasies. The one relevant to this story are my razor thin ankles. I am a 41 year old, six foot tall guy and I have the ankles of a hummingbird (and a sickly one at that). Yes, this has caused many problems in the past. Icy sidewalks are a curse; uneven pavement my nemesis. Many of my long time friends have seen me in action. I'm walking down the street and BAM! SPLAT! on the ground. My solution to this problem is that I am hyper aware of where my feet are going.

Occasionally, I forget and start acting like a normal person who can walk without causing undue harm to themself. This was the problem that day. Ali was going through an obstacle course and I was spotting her on the lower of the uneven bars. Ali, who is a natural athlete (taking after her mother) completed the task and scampered away. I decided to hold onto the lower bar and swing my body under and follow her.

A tactical error.

In a second I was on my back with my right ankle (I have a tendency of spraining that one more) screaming in pain. Ali's head popped up and she asked if I was OK. At that moment I wasn't concerned about my injury. I was concerned if my pratfall/fuckup had been noticed by any of the super-hot Moms or gymnastic teachers that populated the landscape.

Somehow no one noticed.

I made a fateful decision.

To preserve my thin veneer of masculinity I decided to "walk it off".

This was a mistake.

By the end of the class my ankle had swollen so much I couldn't get my sneaker on.

It took a long, long time for that ankle to heal. I'm amazed I don't have arthritis.

Back to today's adventure...

I grabbed Ali after class along with Will (he had no school today) and made the fateful decision to do some shopping. Yep, Christmas is near and I decided the mall was the right place for me.

I drove over to the local Trader Joe's and the parking lot was packed (no surprise). A song from Ali's class echoed in my head, "No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed". You may not know this about me, but in stressful situations I sing. I sing silly and disturbing songs. Typically I change the words of a song to match whatever stressful situation I'm in.

Today's song was... Too Many Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

I'm not completely insane, I don't sing this in the store in front of people. But in the car on the way home in crazy traffic these lyrics came to me:

Too Many Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,
Daddy Grabbed the Bat and the Daddy said,
Too Many Monkeys I'm Gonna Hit You on the Head,
Soon I'll Be Done and You'll All be Dead...
No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

At this point Ali pointed out that those weren't the right lyrics. Will was obliviously reading a comic.

Maybe I shouldn't go out shopping with the kids this close to the Holiday Apocalypse...

Maybe I just have to remember not to sing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cassandra, Cassandra, Cassandra

I ran into the Cassandra of our times today.

I should qualify the who and then the where.

Who is this Cassandra I refer to? In Greek myth Cassandra was a woman blessed with the gift of prophecy but her curse was that no one would believe her predictions.

Where I was is even more interesting. I decided to go down to the only decent pub in Whitman. This pub had just opened and the last time I was there I almost got into a bar fight. Since this is the second time I referred to this incident in a post I figure I should give a quick synopsis.

I had spent the day moving my kids' bedrooms upstairs and my own bedroom into my boy's old bedroom (got that?). Suffice to say it was a long day. Now my friend Cosmo who happens to be my "hide the body friend" and drinking buddy aided in the move. We made our way down to the establishment early. I consider myself a marathon drinker of sorts. I like to start early so that I can maximize the amount of smack I utter and more importantly get a decent seat. At 5:30 we walked in. The place had a bar and a half wall separating it from the dining room. The bar area was small. Luckily we found stools by the half wall. This meant one of us had to stumble over to the bar throughout the night to get drinks.

We started drinking.

And continued...

When we had started our marathon the bar was filled with older (unfortunately my age or older and fairly lame) patrons. By 10 pm the bar had filled with a much younger crowd and it was packed. Cosmo went to the head and suddenly I realised my beer was empty. I addled over (remember I had been drinking for 4+ hours) and ordered two more pints. In my defense I want to stress that I am a happy drunk. I have always been a happy drunk. Well, I walked back to my stool (I had my coat on it and by the Geneva convention I owned that piece of real estate).

There in front of me is what can only be called an irritating twenty-something. He was dressed in black, black pants, black turtleneck, black scarf that he was wearing indoors and black "I'm better and smarter than you" glasses. He had pushed my stool under the ledge and hang'n in the space. Our eyes met. He didn't move. The arrogant look on his face didn't change either.

Let me review a common fact about testosterone. It kicks in when one (me in this case) believes someone is screwing with you. Under normal, not-drunk circumstances I have the testosterone monkey well in it's cage.

I was not not-drunk.

I had been busting ass all day.

And some wannabe is in my space and not ready to move.

I used the voice on him.

The voice of command.

The voice I use on my dog or when there is a crisis situation at work.

"Move."

One word.

And he moved. I sat back down.

I heard him whine to some people in his crew (a small group) about how rude I was. At this point I pulled out my Blackberry and tried to FB about whiny kids but I had no signal. Cosmo returned and asked what I was doing and I mentioned (within ear shot of wannabe) I was trying to facebook about whiners. My new friend asked me to repeat myself.

Now if I really wanted to fight (I hadn't gotten into a fight since the fifth grade... muggings and getting held up at gunpoint do not count) I would had said "I'm trying to post about little whiny bitches". Instead I simply repeated my previous statement knowing he wouldn't escalate the situation.

And he didn't. He walked away.

That's where I was today at 11:30 this morning. A few stools away from me was the town Fool/Drunk easily recognizable by the lack of teeth and being (not surprisingly) on his way to getting drunk.

Then he walked in.

The guy who had seen it coming.

The guy who tried to warn us of disaster.

The guy no one listened to until it was too late.

Harry Markopolos.

Who?

Harry Markopolos works for a private fraud investigator (people make illegal business dealings and Harry comes in and blows the whistle to the SEC) and Mr. Markopolos had been trying to bust Bernie Madoff (Mr. Ponzi himself!) for...

not two years,

not five years,

for ten years.

For ten years Harry Markopolos had worked to prove Bernie Madoff was working a Ponzi scheme. He had sent a 21 page email to the SEC titled, "The World's Largest Hedgefund Is A Fraud" complete with numbers and facts.

The SEC launched an investigation (of sorts). Bernie gave them falsified documents and the SEC didn't subpoena him (to guarantee the legitimacy of his numbers).

Why was the SEC so, so...

stupid?

Bernie was an insider.

Bernie was once the Chairman of Nasdaq.

Bernie was one of them.

So there he was Harry Markopolos the Cassandra of our time sitting a few stools away from me.

He's a geek celebrity.

The man should have a bronze statue in the town square.

And I was at a loss for words.

What was I going to say, "Good work, better luck next time?"

I was stuck. I didn't want to bother him and come off like some geeky fanboy (which I totally am).

So I paid my tab and walked out the door.

As I was driving away I figured something out.

Next time, if there is a next time the least I can do is buy the guy lunch and a pint.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Raising an Atheist

You know I've gotten two solid blogs from setting up the Xmas tree.

But first...

When I say Xmas I am not undermining the Christian ideal of
Christmas (I let Wal-Mart and Costco do my dirty business). Rather I am referring to the Greek letter chi (X) which turns out to be the first letter of Christ. More interestingly, chi (X) has been used since mid-16th century as an abbreviation for Christ (thank you Wikipedia, Answers.com, and Oxford English Dictionary).

Allow me to continue...

I had completed several tasks earlier in the day (torturing myself at the gym, grocery shopping, taking my boy to our monthly pilgrimage to New England Comics) and had just finished perusing through the latest saga in the Marvelverse. I got the comic because it was heavy on Dr. Doom and...

What? You didn't know Dr. Doom was the biggest bad ass out there?

Top three reasons why Dr. Doom totally kicks ass:

1. He rules his own country, Latveria.

2. He is master of majik AND science (he's got that cool armor).

3. DOOMBOTS! Deadly robots that look just like the good Dr. and do his evil bidding.

Nuf said.

So having fully digested aforementioned literature I happily walked into the living room and saw my gleeful children putting the last decorations on the tree. A Christmas CD was on playing...

(This leads us to why Atheists have to play defense.)

happy Christmas songs like: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, and other religious songs. Don't get me wrong I like those songs. I grew up with those songs. I love Handel's Messiah. But to me, I could just be easily be singing about Superman, Batman, or the Hulk (each character has their own moralistic lessons to tell) if the music was right.

My children are different.

My children don't know better.

At some point someone will tell them the "real" story of Christmas (and no not the pre-Christian origin of the Winter Solstice celebration). I want Will (my oldest) to at least understand the current mythological underpinning of this gift-giving holiday. Ali is four. At this age Ali is the perfect consumer: all she wants out of Christmas are Dora toys (as reported to Santa today). I took Will aside.

Me: Will you know about God?

Will: Yes Dad (did he just role his eyes at me?). He's the imaginary guy.

Me: Right and...

Will: Don't tell anybody he doesn't exist.

Me: Why?

Will: They will get mad.

Me: Right. There's something else.

Will: (whining) What?

(At this point I have never broached the topic of Jesus. Will knows more about Superman than Jesus.)

Me: A lot of people think God had a son named Jesus and he was born on Christmas.

Will wasn't expecting that.

He looks at me funny.

That's when Karen walks in and gives me the "look".

My response: He might as well hear it from me than on the playground.

Will, sensing a chance to escape... escapes.

Ultimately I know Will is going to choose whatever he is going to choose in terms of faith.

What I don't want is that decision to be made in ignorance. In time he will get the arguments (moral and logical) against the Western/Middle Eastern God (is that enough ambiguity for me not to get hurt?) and against superstition in general.

Right now it's a question of inoculating him against the superstitions that permeate this holiday.

Merry Xmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Call Me Sisyphus

If there was to be a Patron Saint of the Middle Class my vote would be for Sisyphus.

Sisyphus you may or may not know is from Greek mythology. He was sentenced to Tartarus (Hell) and roll a boulder up a hill. When he approached the top the boulder would roll back down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat... you get the idea.

Now I realize I do not have one challenge to do but several Sisyphean tasks.

1. My son's piano lessons. No, it isn't bringing Will to his weekly lesson. That's easy. The hard part is trying to get the lad to develop a sense of time. That consists of me saying one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three or it's variant one-and-two-and-three-and... on and on and on.

2. Dishes. Just today I've done four sink fulls of dishes. Why? The ancient dishwasher that came with the house broke five years ago. Why haven't I got it fixed? This leads us to...

3. Running just to stay in place. I'm not saying it is a conspiracy, but it's a conspiracy. How else does the dryer know that I have some extra money in the checking account and this is just the perfect time to break?

4. Leaves. You may say, "How can leaves be so bad?" This year I did 88 thirty gallon bags of leaves. Not only do I rake/bag repeat, but I have to bring them to the dump (no curbside pickup here) in my compact car. For a moment, I thought I'd actually complete the job. No. Not gonna happen. That hope was cancelled by weather and menial tasks like work and feeding my kids.

And of course...

5. Screenwriting. This is a simple flowchart: Idea-Develop-Write-Edit-Send Out (Many Times)-Rejected (Many Times). At some point you get a new idea and start the cycle over.

Of course there are other candidates for the Patron Saint of the Middle Class such as: St. Jude (Patron Saint of Lost Causes), Bugs Bunny, and Homer Simpson.

You may call me old school, but my heart is with Sisyphus.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Modest Proposal


I put up my Christmas tree the other day. I was basking in its gentle light when my wife asked me about the "War On Christmas" that's been flitting around the zeitgeist. For those of you lucky enough not to know what it is, the War On Christmas is a term certain Christian groups use to talk about the secularization and commercialization of Christmas. They feel that Christ's birth is lost in the shuffle.

I couldn't agree more

Many of you who know me (and read this blog) understand that I am an atheist. What you may not know is that I am just as strong in the "I can't stand the rampant materialism that is killing our country" camp. I have always disliked the larger gas guzzling, uber-greenhouse gas emitting SUVs. McMansions suck. People working jobs they hate to buy shit they don't need (to quote Tyler Durden) is insane. This materialistic fetish has put us and many future generations in a pit of national debt.

So yeah, Christmas irritates me.

I dislike the religious stuff.

I dislike the materialistic stuff.

I think I'm the perfect moderator between the Materialists (what the Christians call Secularists) and the Christians.

My way out of this problem: A quick and efficient divorce.

This (unlike real divorce) is a win-win situation.

Think about it.

For the Materialists:

Guilt free gift-giving! There is really no need to think about your fellow man. I say make this Materialistic Holiday really materialistic. Give only to yourself. Screw the kids. If they really want something have them save their allowance... or sell apples on the street. Everybody likes red, shiny apples.

The Christians have a lot to gain but it's a bit more complicated for them.

First, you gotta move your religious holiday. Most of us know that Jesus really wasn't born on Dec. 25th so it isn't a sin to move your strictly religious holiday. I know this is "your" holiday but I've seen (as have we all) the Holiday-Industrial Complex. They ain't giving up December 25th. Consider this a tactical retreat so that you can win your war...

Which brings me to my second point for the Christians. You get what you want! A strictly religious holiday unadulterated by giving gifts (and all those nasty pagan symbols like the Christmas tree and wreaths). If you are serious about your faith you don't need to give each other gifts for your holiday to work. A better idea would be to only give to charity. Better yet donate your time to a worthy cause.

I think J.C. would approve.

I suggest moving your holiday to February. February sucks. Putting a holiday there would make it suck less (for you guys at least).

However, both groups may doubt my motives.

What do I get out of this deal?

I get what I always aim for: Making my life less miserable.

My theory is that by dividing this irritating, hypocritical holiday in two my agitation on December 25th will be cut in half (and I won't drink as much that day). When the February Christian holiday comes around it should only be half as bothersome as our current Christmas. It will be two easy to digest pieces.

Everybody wins

And yes I did rip off Johnathan Swift when I named this post.

Sue me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yes... Too Much Happiness Does Cause Stupidity

The happiest states in the Union were listed today on Yahoo News as well as major newspapers. Let's look at the top 5.

1 Louisiana (yes the raw data was pre-Katrina)
2 Hawaii
3 Florida
4 Tennessee
5 Arizona

Now some of those (not all) the states listed above struck me as... not cranking out rocket scientists. I have always conjectured that people who were super happy had something wrong with them (lingering psychosis, drinking the Kool-Aid, or just not bright enough to realize the world of shit we are all in). I understand that there are really happy people out there without mental illness but they are outliers and in the minority.

I then Googled State Statistics and came to a site named StateMaster.com. It's a storehouse of all kinds of information. Just for kicks I checked out the Best Educated Index. This index is based on Morgan Quitno's annual reference book and covers the quality of public schools. It focuses on 21 factors such as: test scores, personal attention from teachers and not on things like cash per pupil spent.

Hmmm...

Let's see how our happy states did!

Louisiana first in happiness, but 45th in terms of public education.
Hawaii is number... 42.
Florida is 36.
Tennessee is 41.
Arizona is the top of the bottom at 50.

The average of our happy states is 42.8 in a field of 50 (of course).

Now correlation does not mean causation, but the trend is evident.

My suggestion to the people of the happy states: Stop Being Happy.

Being happy isn't helping you and by the way your elected officials are acting in Washington it isn't helping the rest of us else either.

PS: I want to apologize to Hawaii I believe their elected representatives are doing fine.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parenting in Purgatory

I am going to start by rationalizing my decision.

I was the good father for most of the day. I took my 4 year old to swimming lessons. I put the Christmas tree up (Karen has allergies so we went artificial last year) and I attended the 2nd grade Holiday Concert at Will's school.

What? You expected to write something snarky about being crammed into a cafeteria with other parents?

You expected me to comment on the mom who had so aggressively snapped pictures she may have been mistaken for a member of the Paparazzi?

No.

This is about me (you are not surprised about that).

After school on Thursdays I normally take Will to a math study/geek session at our YMCA and the class starts at 5:45. This is part of my ongoing plan not to have my son turned into a typical slack-jawed American (more on that in future posts). Tonight was different. Gentle reader, if you live in this area you may have noticed it was cold and excuse me if I use the term "balls cold". During dinner I looked out the window and it was dark. My decision was clear. I wanted out. I wanted to bail. I did not want to leave the house again this evening.

I looked at my boy. He was happily eating his meal.

Me: "It looks cold outside."

Will: "I have a really warm coat."

This is true. He has a better coat than I do.

Me: "It looks reeeeaallly cold. You don't really want to go to math tonight do you?"

Will: "I love math!"

At least the system was working.

Me: "Let's make a deal."

Will looked at me not knowing what to think. I liken my parenting style to the running of a Gulag. OK maybe not that bad but Will was not used to actively negotiating with me.

Me: "What can I do so that we can stay in tonight?"

Will thought and looked at the sweet potato I had just started to eat. Will likes sweet potatoes.

Will: "I want a sweet potato."

Me: "Deal"

Now I had other sweet potatoes already cooked. I got up and gave him one.

He looked and it and then he looked at me.

This is where I made my mistake.

I smiled.

His little monkey brain figured out that if I was really happy with the deal then he must be getting played.

Will: "No deal."

Me: "Huh? Well... what else do you want?"

It was his turn to smile.

Will: "I wanna watch a show."

I weighed my options and figured out he hadn't watched a lot of TV today and another half hour show will not give him permanent brain damage (though it won't help).

We shook hands.

Me: "Deal"

I got up and started to wash the dishes. I turned around and Will was still smiling.

Did I just get played by a 7 year old?

Quotes From The Week

"The questions of this Street will not be solved through diplomacy, but by Iron and Blood."
- Oscar von Grouch concerning the unification of peoples on Sesame Street. (You get super bonus geek points if you get this historical reference!)

"Ha! Another sign of the Apocalypse!"
- Satan upon hearing about Sarah Palin's second book deal.

"God save me from my friends, my enemies I can deal with on my own."
- Obama's prayer concerning the Democrats and health care.

"He's still alive?"
- God upon hearing John McCain is running for re-election.

"That'll teach'em!"
- Head Priest at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School regarding the expulsion of a preschooler with gay parents. (This is a true story, the quote is not!)

"Thank God the Catholics have a group to pick a fight with! Otherwise we may remember that they support and protect pedophiles!"
- Andrew Hall in response to Catholic Charities in Washington DC dropping health care benefits for spouses of all employees rather than pay for spousal benefits of gay workers. (Actual quote and a real story!)

"See, slave labor works."
- Head A-hole of China about his country's projected GDP growth of 8% this year.(Real story... the quote is true, but made up.)

"Recon... Reconstriction... Reconstitutionary... What?"
- Bush the Younger in response to the charge by Great Britain's Prime Minister that the U.S. is to blame for the horrible job at reconstruction efforts in Iraq. (Real story and who knows? Maybe W has trouble with that word too!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Republican Master Plan Revealed

Anyone who is religious should disregard this post.


*FLASH!*

I have just discerned the Super Secret Plan of the Republican Party!

I was browsing Yahoo News when I stumbled upon it.

I have to hand it to the Republicans; they are clever! Their plan is hidden in plain sight!

The article states, "New Date When Whites Will Be In The Minority". My curiosity piqued I opened the article.

It was all there in black and white (I'm not sorry for the pun). It seems the projected date for when Whites become a minority has been pushed back eight years to... (drum roll please) 2050! It seems the Great Recession and having tougher immigration laws have pushed back the Apocalypse.

I immediately thought hey it's only 8 years, but then I realized to the Republicans the Rapture could occur during that time and they wouldn't be around for the race war that will certainly occur Jan. 1st, 2050.

Like a thunderbolt it struck! That's why the Bush Jr. and his crew wrecked the economy. Make this country so unattractive to poverty stricken foreigners so that they don't want to come. And for the ones so foolish enough to make an effort we're gonna have a nifty fence (virtual or otherwise) on our Southern Border to keep'em out.

It's even bigger than that though...

The current Republican resistance to Health Care Reform. Yep, part of the Master Plan. It's to prevent any skilled workers coming in from Europe. They may be white, but they're all Socialists anyway. Europeans Go Home!

And the Religious Right's War On Science? Big Smarty Lefties who live in the God fearing USA will flee to Godless prosperous countries. Good riddance! Who needs your science, innovation and reason?

Ultimately who will be left?

All the Sarah Palin supporters.

And the people who can't get out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Huck Finn's Folly or Undergraduate Purgatory

I am rather upset/angry (I'm sorry... being a guy means a lot of emotions get shaken and stirred then turned into anger). Ergo, I've decided to write about a classic experience I had in Purgatory Central: Huck Finn's Folly.

Before starting I would like to apologize for all the Dopey White Kids in my Philosophy 101 Class.

I would also like to apologize for all the parents of the aforementioned Dopey White Kids for raising their children into Dopey White Kids.

After high school I did not go directly to college. I worked at a variety of menial jobs and then backpacked in Britain and did some travelling around this country. By the time I was an undergraduate I had some "wear on the tires".

I went to Bridgewater State College and most of the students were fresh faced kids directly out of high school. Many of them had let's say sheltered lives. As most people know the first two years of a liberal arts education are filled with required courses designed to make good citizens. There are many who scoff at such an idea. That these General Requirements are a waste of time. This story proves that at the very least Philosophy 101 is a vital piece to any one's schooling.

I was a philosophy geek (hard to imagine eh?) and sat in the front of the class. The required readings consisted of small pieces from literary works that illustrate a particular moral question or principle. The reading for that particular day was an excerpt from Huck Finn. Huck had just ran away and was rafting down the river. With him was Jim an escaped slave. Another raft came beside him. It was manned by men looking for Jim to bring him back to bondage. Huck had a choice: give Jim up or keep him hidden. Huck decides to keep Jim hidden and the Slavers move on. Huck feels very badly about his decision. He believes he will go to Hell because everyone knows slavery is ordained by God. It's important for modern readers to really understand that Huck was committing a grievous act for his time and place and he was aware of the consequences (eternity in Hell).

The Professor went over the basics of the story...

(I know this is redundant, but it's really important to stress that I didn't make this up)

and he asked by a raise of hands who thought Huck made the wrong decision (that is Huck should of handed Jim over to the Slavers).

I first noticed the person to my left raise their hand.

I turned in dismay and the person to my right was raising their hand too.

Oh my God! I was sandwiched between two goose-stepping poster children for the Hitler Youth.

Then I turned.

Fuck me.

Ninety-Five percent of the class had their hands raised... up high... like Sieg Heil high.

OK, OK, maybe they didn't understand the question.

The Professor cleared his throat uncomfortably and picked one of the hand raisers.

"Why did Huck do the wrong thing?"

The student replied full of earnest earnestiness, "His parents had taught him that it was wrong."

Another student chimed in, "The law said it was wrong, too."

Nods of agreement from his peers.

A vein in my head was going to explode and my last thought would be of these knuckleheads/fascists.

I then remembered to breathe and composed myself. I raised my hand politely and stated, "Does this mean every law is moral? Can a person really be property?...What kind of..."

The professor saw I was losing my shit pretty fast and stepped in. He had a sad look on his face as if this drama had played itself out before, many times before.

"Those are good questions. Let's think about it..." and then he went on and gave a basic tutorial on how to be a decent human being.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Live From Purgatory

I had a lot of stuff to write about.

I moved several rooms around within my house (hilarity ensued) this weekend.

I got really, really drunk that night and almost got into a bar fight.

But no, I hit a rich vein in Purgatory; it's beyond all expectation.

What is it?

An Amateur Night poetry reading at the Borders Bookstore knee-deep in suburbia.

Yep, I walked into the bookstore and there they were: a gaggle of mostly unattractive folk with an unstoppable desire to publicly disclose their most intimate intimacies.

Yuk.

How yucky? The last unattractive middle-aged woman recited (from memory) about her fixation with the pool-boy (with ripped jeans and bronze skin of course).

Yep. This is not a fun place to be and difficult to be funny. There is a stench of failed literary dreams and desperation. The last place I felt this non funny was at the Burren in Davis Square during my buddy's folk-music set. When he was finished I asked him if folk music lost a lot of fans because the newest generation of antidepressant medication proved so effective. He laughed.

There are a lot of women here but there are some guys. Here is a guy reading a bunch of haiku. Yes, he did say they were kinda-haiku which I kinda guess he doesn't need to follow the 5-7-5-syllable structure. I am not making this up. Pray for me.

Here is another sensitive guy in a Santa's hat. He got beaten up a lot when he was a kid. There is something I just dislike about the effusive sensitive guy types. I call it the Rob Thomas syndrome. For those of you not addicted to pop-culture Rob Thomas is a pop/rock singer and he sings about love, puppy dogs, and deeply, deeply felt emotions. OK he wrote a song about the end of the world but even that was brimming over in estrogen. My point is that the Rob Thomas's of the world want you to believe that are beyond the curse of testosterone (with all of the delectable sex and violence that the curse brings with it). Pffffft! Late at night Rob Thomas is watching cable switching channels between Playboy TV and Ultimate Fighting.

The show is over and I'm hoping to go back to doing something vaguely productive...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Personal Inventory

It's that time of year again.

No, I'm not talking about Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanuka.

I'm talking about it's time to take my Personal Inventory. I do this twice a year. For those not acquainted with the term a Personal Inventory is a check-up of how one is doing in all aspects of life. I discovered that a Personal Inventory happens whether I like it or not around my birthday (which happens to be in June). It manifests in all kinds of pleasant ways: general anxiety, the need to drink... a lot... a lot more than usual, and the feeling like I really haven't met whatever nebulous goals I might of set for myself.

During my thirties I found that doing the Inventory once a year on my birthday was enough. I was able to keep in balance that unstable system that is my psyche. Now that I am in my forties (I know it's hard to believe. How many times have I mentioned that I got carded twice last year?) the Annual Inventory just doesn't cut it. I'm hoping to parse the anxiety into two easy-to-handle chunks as against the previous "Titanic hitting the iceberg yearly" model.

Some areas of concern:

Have I Damaged My Children Beyond All Repair?
No. Though Ali (age 4) does seem to have a fixation on Cage Fighting. Will's fixation on superheroes and his penis (more on that in a future post) I blame on genetics.

Have I Critically Damaged Myself?
Probably Not. Being a homeowner in the suburbs comes with certain risks. The obvious include ladders and power tools (No laughing! I have an electric hedge trimmer and a rusty power drill). The less obvious include the "ides": pesticides, herbicides and any other deadly "ides" I may have forgotten.

Is My Wife Still Tolerating Me?
Surprisingly so. You should send her some kind of card commemorating her courage in this area.

Is My House Falling Down Around Me?
No, but it really has little to do with me.

Have I Driven My Ship-Of-State Into Poverty?
Same answer as above.

So that's a thumbnail sketch of my Bi-Annual Personal Inventory.

I feel sooo much better now.

Kinda.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chili Recipe or I Need Some Milk - Now!

I'm sitting in my kitchen on a Thursday afternoon. There is a smell in the air. It's a meaty spicy, lovely aroma. Chili.

Will (my son - age 7) is going to a Christmas Party at his karate studio on Saturday. It's not a Holiday Party. You see I live in the suburbs where diversity consists of what Christian sect you belong to. Yes I am an Atheist, but ask most local folk and they would consider Atheism more of a misdemeanor rather than a legitimate way of looking at the world. Regardless, it's a potluck kinda of party and I signed up to make my chili. I say this with all humility and as a plain statement of fact: My chili doesn't suck.

Chili, you may say, is a fairly simple food so I shouldn't feel so proud. I say nay to the nay-sayers. Many people can golf, but few do it well. All (almost all) have fornicated at one time or another, but there are those who do it better then all the rest. It isn't just the voices in my head saying these things I have been told by many the chili is good.

Chili not just a food. It is a doorway to acceptance among men. Men, by and large, love chili. I can't talk football so I am out of any conversation about "the game" I refrain from talking about my job (I work with men who have brain injuries) because it really is buzz-kill at a party. But making a great chili elevates my otherwise feeble, flaccid status amongst men to being a god, a god of chili.

Here is the recipe I am using for this batch.

2 lbs of hamburger
1lb of sweet sausage
1 pound of bison

1 can (28 oz) of crushed tomato
1 can (15.5 oz) of dark kidney beans
1 can (15.5 oz) of small red beans
1 can (15.5 oz) of pink beans

4 dried chiles (from 1 package of dried chili peppers that you can find these in the produce section of your supermarket)

4 onions
a bit of olive oil to cook the onions and peppers in.

paprika
4 garlic cloves
cayenne pepper
ground cumin
chipoltle chile pepper
3 tbspns of brown sugar

In general the perfect ratio of meat is 2-1-1.
Two pounds of hamburger to one pound of sweet sausage to one pound of bison.

1. Rehydrate the chili's in hot water. The directions should be on the container. I usually let them sit for half an hour. Afterwards, I drain, slice them open and take the seeds out. I then dice.

2. Dice up the onions.

3. Saute the peppers and onions with the olive oil in a pot.

4. Add the hamburger and bison to the pot.

5. Take the sausage out of their jackets (casings). Break them up into small bite-size pieces and add them to the pot.

6. This is a good time to add the spices. Now, I don't measure what I use. I can tell you I gave a liberal dose of chipotle chili pepper to the mix and I used a shake or two of the cumin. The garlic is on the money. I used my garlic press and shot the cloves right in. I gave a good shake with the paprika and I was careful with the cayenne pepper. Put in the brown sugar. Always remember you can always add later, but you can't take away.

7. Let the meat absorb the goodness and cook up the proto-chili for a while (maybe 45 mins on med-low). Once the meat is completely cooked it's OK to take a sample. At this point you will know if you are on the right path.

8. Open up the can of crushed tomatoes and add.

9. Open up the cans of beans, drain and add.

10. Slow cook on low for a reasonable length of time. This batch has been on the burner for 2 hours.

The final product should be spicy, sweet and meatilicous!

Be aware that milk counteracts the chemical Capsaicin that makes chiles hot.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Message Board

On my quest to overcome middle class mediocrity I have been investing. So far I've done OK. Every once in a while I go on Yahoo Finance and check out how a particular stock is doing. For each stock there is a message board. Now, a lot of the people on the message boards are fairly intelligent and informed investors who have interesting insights. Others, however, do not. I was checking out the ETRADE board (yes, I still think it's gonna get sold) when a topic caught my eye, "Why Do Africans Kill Each Other?"

Hmmmmmm... usually I don't have the time or inclination to discuss politics online, but I had a guess that this would be fun. The post stated:

"Mass exterminations, genocide on a horrific scale. Why don't Chinese or Japanese do this on the same scale? Granted there are killings but like this?"

There is a nexus point where racism and ignorance meet. In such situations I recognize that there is a fair amount of ignorance (and I don't mean to use the word synonymously with stupid) and maybe pointing out the facts may help everyone out. My reply:

"The Japanese were very good at killing Chinese (the rape of Nanking in WW2 the Japanese killed 300,000 people). If you take a look at European history (WW1 and WW2) you will find we were particularly good at killing each other."

My new best friend replied:

"Yea but dat was Japs trashen Chins. Dat not like black on black."


Hmmm... a masterful counterpoint. What could I say? Aha!

"Well... Europeans killing each other was kinda like dat."

I'm not going to bore you with the complete back and forth, but others did chime in on this engrossing topic and I got some support (go figure) from a guy in Boston.

I would write more, but it's already past 9PM and I still have some of my houseb*tch work to do before bed.

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