The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Shocker

Michael Jackson's spokesman quit.

How about having that job?

It's gotta be like being Antarctica's Minister of Tourism. Or the president of the Young Republicans at some place like Swarthmore or Antioch. Or perhaps it's more like coaching the Arizona Cardinals most weeks.

I imagine it involves a lot of slapping one's forehead in frustration.

Monday, December 29, 2003

New Jersey

My rental car, a red sported-up version of a Dodge Stratus, is gone. It was a pretty sweet ride, and certain curving, scenic roads - Rock Creek Parkway in DC, Connecticut's Merritt Parkway, and Interstate 95 along the Delaware River in Philadelphia were more fun as a result.

But, oh, the traffic snarls... annoying toolbooths, and idiots spending lots of time rubbernecking at stopped cars even when there was nothing at all to see, and too many people wanting to use the same roads to go in the same direction as I did this holiday season.

And of course, there was New Jersey.

Twice in one week I waited about 45 minutes in line at a toll plaza at the end of the New Jersey Turnpike (the northern end last week, the southern end today.) And having E-Z Pass wouldn't have even helped that much, as E-Z Pass won't get you to the front of a line that stretches for a couple miles.

On the way north, it was already late at night and I was hoping the traffic had died down a bit and that I could drive through New York rather than going around. Bad idea. Not only was the Turnpike backed up something fierce at the final toll plaza, the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge was closed. I had to exit onto some random road and embark on a search for the Palisades Parkway, which meant facing the horrors of the construction on I-287.

On the way south, I figured it would be a bad idea to drive through Philadelphia and a waste of time to bypass it to the west, so I stayed on the Turnpike until the end. Bad idea. It became a worse idea when for some reason the entire stretch of road in Delaware was clogged, well before 5:00.

While we're on the subject, why isn't there an obvious, unambiguous road that connects New York City with Philadelphia? Note that I-95 disappears from the map in New Jersey - in the northern part of the state, the Turnpike is labelled as 95, but there is no direct connection between that road and the I-95 that later resurfaces in Pennsylvania.

Following "official" directions from signs suggests that the best routes to Philly from Jersey all involve driving on random surface streets, most of them in Camden. I think I speak for all drivers from all 50 states - including New Jersey itself - when I say "No thank you."

For some reason, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) connects with neither I-95 (the highways cross, but drivers are asked to drive into Philadelphia on Route 1 and use some other random road to connect to I-95 further down) nor I-295 (the "free" road that runs parallel to the Turnpike from Trenton until just before the Delaware Memorial Bridge.)

With the completion of NJ-29 through Trenton, there is a route that comes as close to replicating what I-95 should be as exists at the moment. (For the curious, that would be exiting the NJT at exit 7A and following I-195 West until it turns into NJ-29, and following 29 North into Trenton, then taking US-1 South (which is a limited access highway at that point) into Pennsylvania until it intersects with I-95. Although the alternative of picking up I-295 from I-195 and then connecting with either the Ben Franklin (I-676) or Walt Whitman (I-76) Bridges into Philadelphia exists.

It's easy to make fun of New Jersey, but at least when New Jersey charges you $5 to drive through the state, you're actually in the state for a while. Which is more than one can say for the Home of Tax-Free Shopping, where $5 is the price for driving 20 miles or so.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Another holiday come and gone.

Last year the Worcester area got a blizzard Christmas Day that dumped two feet of snow on the ground. This year the ground is snow-free, and it somehow doesn't feel like Christmas as much.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

If I were going to make a mix CD of Christmas songs...here's my Top 5 essentials...

Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas"
Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick"
U2, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
Joni Mitchell, "River"
John Lennon, "Merry XMas (War Is Over)"

Random Notes:
* Yeah, I like the U2 rendition of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" better - seems more immediate and direct than the Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" approach taken by the original.
* The Willie Nelson version of "Blue Christmas" works just fine too.
* "River" isn't entirely a Christmas song, but it makes numerous references to the holiday, and drops in a bar from "Jingle Bells."
* I usually cringe at covers of the Lennon song, particularly the Neil Diamond version.

And a few things I never need to hear again...
Paul McCartney/Wings, "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time"
Mariah Carey, "All I Want For Christmas," or, for that matter, anything else by Mariah Carey.
Those damn dogs singing "Jingle Bells."

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

OK, I have to admit that I'm sort of, in a vague sense, enjoying this.

There are very few people in this country who bear more responsibility for the dominance of the "lock em' up" philosophy when it comes to our government's general approcah to our national drug addiction problems than Rush Limbaugh. (Many of them probably only mean to lock up poor, dark-skinned people, or possibly the sort of rural "white trash" that populate reruns of "Cops.")

If this episode led to an outbreak of compassion, or, heck, even an outbreak of common sense among Limbaugh's listeners regarding this issue, the fact that he's likely going to get off easy wouldn't bother me. But I'm not exactly holding my breath.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Yeah, I know it's been a while.

I've been busy Christmas shopping, working, making plans for my imminent trip up north to see the family this week, and all that.

I've also been finalizing the field for the Second Annual Jukebox From Hell. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it's a "tournament" of 320 much-reviled pop songs in which we try to determine the Worst. [Hit] Song. Ever.

And we start the madness with the New Year. Be afraid. Be very afraid. [Cue maniacal cackling.]

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

It's that time of year again, as The Onion has unleashed it's Least Essential Albums of 2003 on an unsuspecting world.

The jokes come fast, furious, and more or less with no effort whatsoever on behalf of its writers, year in, year out. But it somehow doesn't matter since you can derive infinite laughs from this formula, even if it's easy to deconstruct. Every year it's pure comedy gold, even if this year's version is missing any references to Aaron Carter. Because you know that every year:

• One or more hack celebrities with no musical talent is going to try a mount a singing career (or at least attempt to cash in on his/her newfound fame) and fall flat on his/her face.
Bonus points if said celebrity is a professional athlete, or, like a pro wrestler, pretends to be a professional athlete. (Kobe Bryant? Randy "Macho Man" Savage?)

• One or more members of a once-loved but now half-forgotten group is going to release a widely ignored solo album.
Bonus points if the member in question wasn't even a key member of said group. (Danny Wood?)

• One or more acts who have clearly seen better days is going to release a new album that even people paying attention probably won't notice.
Bonus points if it's a band whose membership has changed significantly from its glory days. (Journey without Steve Perry?)

• One of more acts that most assuredly do not need the Greatest Hits treatment (or worst, the Box Set treatment) will release a Greatest Hits CD. (Well, actually, the record label is often the one truly at fault.)
Bonus points if said collection fails to include one of their biggest hits, particularly it's only truly notable hit. (A best of Tag Team that omits the original version of "Whoomp (There It Is)?")

• The dregs of someone's catalog are going to be raided by a third party to produce something that did not need to see the light of day.
Bonus points if this catalog belongs to Tupac Shakur, who, judging from how much of his product hits the market on a regular basis, is probably not dead.

• Several bloody awful "tribute" albums will be released.
Bonus points if the band or artist being paid tribute is a flavor of the month with nothing even resembling a track record. (Mudvayne?)

There you have it. No wonder the recording industry is struggling.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Fantasy football is weird.

It causes Pats fans to root for the Dolphins. And Randy McMichael in particular.

Sunday, December 14, 2003



Captured

In what must be viewed in Iraq, America, and the whole world as very good news, Saddam Hussein has been captured.

There are a few things that are immediately clear:

1. The Iraqi populace, and the rest of the world, need not worry about Saddam Hussein ever returning to power again.
2. Another unfortunate chapter in the history of the Middle East draws to a close. It would appear that the type of dictatorship represented by Saddam is on the wane.
3. There will be at least a short-term boost in the popularity of the war in America and elsewhere, since one of its main objectives has been accomplished. Poll numbers for the administration will go up for the next few news cycles.
4. That picture of Saddam Hussein – beard and all – now being shown en masse in the news media - will definitely take its place alongside those of Glen Campbell and Nick Nolte in the Ugly Mugshot Hall of Fame.


However…

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment when these things happen, to proclaim the lasting permanence of how some given event that just transpired somehow “changes everything,” whether, from one’s perspective, the change would be for better or for worse. (Which is the main reason I waited eight hours to start blogging my thoughts on the matter.)

The situation has undoubtedly changed, and for the better, for nearly everyone, but there are a lot of things that have not changed.

1. It will not, in the long run, make the occupation more popular in Iraq.
Consider this for a moment: Would even the most militant Free Republic denizens, during a Hillary Clinton presidency where liberals controlled all three branches of government, welcome an occupation force from, say, China? Of course that’s not a perfect metaphor, but how many foreign occupation forces have been welcome by the populace? Not many.
There are probably many Iraqis willing to express gratitude to the Americans today, that are, to put it mildly, less sanguine about the idea of foreign leaders hand-picking the next group of people who are going to run their country for them. And it’s not as if recent history of who America has blessed with support in this region would give those Iraqis much comfort.

2. It will not really change everyday conditions in Iraq.
If Ba’athist Saddam loyalists are a significant contributor to the Iraqi resistance, this capture would be a blow to that resistance, even though, given the nature of where Saddam was found, it’s highly unlikely he was coordinating any resistance or insurgency activities himself.
I remain unconvinced that many will lay down their arms simply because the dream of a triumphant return to power of Saddam Hussein is gone. I doubt there were that many who even harbored such a dream by the time he was captured.
Indeed, the very nature of the insurgency activities – most especially the use of suicide bombers – suggests the work of Islamist militants, not any group connected with Saddam
Hussein, whose rule rested not on fanatical devotion to any principle but on fear.
There may indeed be those not have been aiding the resistance up to now in part out of a fear that they would only be aiding Saddam by attacking the occupiers - particularly those may be many who disliked Saddam but still believe that a “strong leader” who is not a puppet of the West is needed in Iraq. With the prospect of a return to power by Saddam gone, who knows what will happen next?

3. It will not make America or the West in general safer from terrorist threats.
To the (very limited) extent that President Bush’s statement that Iraq is now “the central front in the War on Terror” is true, it’s because his administration helped make it that way. Iraq was not a country where terrorist cells had any significant room to operate, outside of some areas in north not controlled by Saddam.
And now there’s terrorist activity there. I know some people are thinking “better there than here,” but this line of thinking assumes that there are a finite number of terrorists and that when they are all vanquished, the threat will disappear. I have insisted from the beginning that this war will inspire more terrorist activity than it would prevent, and I see no reason to deviate from that opinion.
In the meantime, there are real things that the country could be doing to safeguard some of our most sensitive facilities – chemical plants, energy facilities, seaports – from terrorism that the country is not currently doing. And a big reason for the lack of attention to these sites is that the operators of these facilities have powerful friends in Congress, particularly in the majority party, and in the White House. One of the unfortunate consequences of the demise of Sen. Bob Graham’s presidential campaign is that less attention is being paid to these potential points of vulnerability.


4. It will not ensure George W. Bush’s re-election, or even affect it much one way or the other.
As I said above, things aren’t going to change much, though at first some people won’t notice that amidst all the cheering. This isn’t like beating the final boss in a video game.
There is one faction of people who feel like this President is exactly the leadership we need. There is another faction, of approximately the same size, convinced that this President is exactly the sort of leader we don’t need. The Saddam capture isn’t going to move many, if any, people from the second camp into the first. Just like there aren’t many things that would push people from the first camp into the ranks of the second.
This Iraq war is neither going so well that anyone who opposed it seems foolish, nor so poorly that it will poison anyone who gave it his or her blessing.
Either the economy will improve or it won’t. That will matter a lot more to that group of people still in the ranks of the undecided about who they’re supporting next year.
There will be lots of talk about how this is some huge coup, or how it happened too early, and such. I suggest taking it all with a big grain of salt.

I just have so many thoughts about what might come next, and my curiosity is somewhat overwhelmed.

• I am somewhat interested in what Saddam would have to say, about the nature of Iraq’s weapons program, about the support he once enjoyed from America, about what he might say if asked to defend himself and his regime. I doubt what he would have to say would shed much light on anything, but I’m curious how he would conduct himself if he found himself at a trial or a tribunal.

• Also, this administration is famously disdainful of the United Nations, and of the International Criminal Court, and yet this case seems uniquely designed for some sort of multinational body. Anything run exclusively at the behest of the United States would be seen as illegitimate by many. In particular, if Saddam were, as he almost assuredly deserves, executed for his innumerable crimes, there is a substantial risk that America would essentially be making a martyr out of him, a risk lessened somewhat by the inclusion of nations that did not support the war effort.

• The specific soldiers in charge of the capture have to commended for taking Saddam alive, without firing a shot. I retain the highest confidence the military forces of the United States can do whatever is asked of them by our command structure, though I am worried that a long term commitment of this size may ultimately impact readiness, particularly in terms of the reserve system.

• I remain convinced that we will ultimately find that this war, successful insofar as the removal of Saddam Hussein was a goal, was not worth the costs incurred, namely, American and Iraqi lives, American and international resources, and the resources and lives that will be spent cleaning up the problems that will arise as a consequence of the creation of a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. The only thing that could have justified such costs, human and financial, of this invasion, would be an imminent threat to vital interests, did not exist; further, the American public and the world at large were deliberately misled as to both that threat’s existence and possible magnitude. America’s credibility regarding future threats to the world has been tarnished, and its claim of the right to wage pre-emptive wars in this fashion, when inevitably echoed by other regional and world powers, will prove an unwelcome and destabilizing force.

There. Now I can sleep more soundly now that I got all that off my chest.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just did some serious budget-busting Christmas shopping.

On the way out of World Market at Pentagon Row, I saw a "Tom DeLay for Congress" bumpersticker.

Although I had been vaguely aware that there were most likely people who were willing to voice their support for The Prince of Darkness on a bumper sticker - probably somewhere near Houston, Texas - DeLay supporters were in that category of things, along with neutron stars, head-hunting tribes in Borneo, and peppers hotter than the habanero, that I never really had to worry about confronting up close.

No longer.

Uh, Oh...

Don't get me wrong...I'm happy for Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin and all.

I'm just afraid of what comes next.

Billy Joel put out "An Innocent Man," which consisted primarily of lame imitations of '50s and early '60s music, following his marriage to Christie Brinkley.

Bruce Springsteen landed model Julianne Phillips in 1985, and there's been something missing in his material ever since.

John...and Yoko. Paul...and Linda. Need I say more there?

I am reminded of one of the funniest things about "This Is Spinal Tap," when David St. Hubbins' girlfriend comes in, starts managing the band, and drives a wedge between him and Nigel Tufnel. Very much a "funny 'cause it's true" moment.

If Coldplay's third album sucks, or even descends into mediocrity, we'll know why.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Digging A Hole

I'm guessing that the mere mention of the fact that my blog mentions "Abercrombie & Fitch" on here will cause the links to A&F to become stronger.

But I still can't resist pointing it out.

I think this instinct is going to get me in trouble someday. It probably already has.

The Children's Hour (Part Two)

One of my favorite 50-cent words is "kleptocracy."

We can't fund the No Child Left Behind Act, but, hey, it's not like the federal government is going to miss a little old $61,000,000, right?

It's not like we're going to have to pay for that at any rate. We'll leave that to our children.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Children's Hour

Remember when the Republicans said in the aftermath of the election debacle of 2000, that after eight years of Clinton, that the adults were in charge?

Nyah nyah, France. Nyah, nyah, Germany. Nyah, nyah, Russia. Nyah nyah, Canada. You can't rebuild Iraq. Nyah, nyah.

Calpundit has it right here, and beat me to the punch. How many of these contracts were going to go to French, Germans, or Russians anyway, even without this order? Was there any reason for Paul Wolfowitz to trumpet this declaration? Other than yet another middle finger aimed squarely at the rest of the world?

Everything about this war Iraq was designed for instant gratification, like an impulse buy at a toy store. This shiny new war will cost next to nothing. It will make us safer from terrorism. It will make the Middle East grateful to us. It will slice. It will dice. It will julienne (whatever that is.)

Unfortunately, there's no money back guarantee, and the warranty is expiring as we speak.

The adults are in charge. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Fashion

Well, Abercrombie & Fitch killed its catalog. Which might lead to guys spending slightly less time "trying on clothes" in the fitting rooms.

As you all know, I'm no Bible-thumper, but every time I looked at the thing it made me a bit queasy.

Of course, I spent a lot of that time thinking to myself "I thought the point of models was to show off the clothes. These models look mostly unclothed to me. Any article of clothing, whether from A&F or Wal-Mart, would look good crumpled up next to my bed, having just been removed from the body of one of these really attractive models. What value could Abercrombie clothing possibly add to this scene? What difference does it truly make?"

Or perhaps I'm just weird, because I wonder what exactly it is about most of these beer commercials that makes me want to drink more lousy domestic beer.

And I'm not exactly the target audience for either A&F or, say, Coors Light.

Anyway, I have some A&F clothing that dates from the brief period of time that my younger sibling worked there, mostly as gifts from him. The Employee Discount knocked the price of these items down to a semi-reasonable level, and it was sort of nice to have a few articles of clothing that made it easy to blend in with the college undergrads who surrounded me at quiz bowl tournaments. (As much as a law student who put up 60+ points/game could truly "blend in.")

But there were quite a few things I didn't know back then.

One thing my younger sibling left behind when he moved away from home was a copy of the Employee Manual.

My thought throught reading it was "Good Lord, these people are just asking for a racial discrimination lawsuit." For attorneys, this thing would rate highly on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Sure enough, the lawsuits came fast and furious.

And that was before they came up with a line of T-shirts with hurtful racial caricatures from the turn of the last century.

And even before that, management there treated my brother like crap.

Wearing A&F clothing for me now is sort of embarassing.

A Dime's Worth Of Difference

I still consider Rep. James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) my Representative in Congress. It seems like he always does me proud.

He's now the leading voice in Congress standing up to the Reagan hagiography crowd, who now want to memorialize the still-living former President on the dime.

They can't even wait until his heart stops bleeding to give him the sort of treatment that might even make Stalin or Mao blush.

They won't stop until everything they can find is named for Ronald Reagan. The freeway in California, the aircraft carrier, the huge office building at 14th and Pennsylvania...fine with me. (Especially considering how perfect a metaphor for the Reagan presidency the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center is, being ostentatious, bloated, and way over budget, a massive waste of taxpayer money.)

For me a line in the sand was crossed with the airport renaming. It was unnecessary and foolish.

Now they want memorials. In every state. And who knows what else? Before long I might have to move to Maryland or Virginia just so I don't have to live in a city called "Reagan."

While this whole thing is ultimately somewhat trivial - probably not even in the top 100 reasons why the current right-wing crowd has to be stopped - it's just one more item on the list.

Otherwise, when I'm old and grey, I'll have to explain to young whippersnappers why so many things are named for one of our worst presidents. And that will get really tiresome and make me cranky before my time.

And that's not even the worst part of all this. It's not so much that Reagan doesn't deserve to be memorialized in some fashion as it is that the hagiographers are opening a Pandora's Box with regards to bitter partisan fights over namings and historical memorials. These things have never been the subject of partisan struggle before - is there anything to stop Democrats from "purging" Reagan's name from, say, National Airport if/when they get the power/votes to do so? Not anymore.

Monday, December 08, 2003

BCS Stands For...

Man, what an easy acronym to ridicule.
Bull**** Computer Standings.
Bogus Calculation System.
Bonehead Comparison Statistic.

I could go on....except, well, since you've got three teams with comprable claims of legitimacy, no matter what the BCS came up with, somebody could write something taking them to task.

Leave out Oklahoma? The team that blasted its way through the toughest conference in football, rolling over the likes of Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma State? Because of one fluke loss to a tough Kansas State team? Why should the timing of the loss matter so much that you throw their accomplishments away?
Especially considering it was K-State and not an also-ran like, say, California?

Leave out LSU? The hottest team in the nation? A team whose only loss was way back in early October, to Florida, a loss that doesn't look half as bad in hindsight as it did at the time, given what the Gators did this season? They beat Ole Miss and beat Georgia twice, the second time convincingly. No one beat them 35-7, and no .500 beat them either.

Leave out Southern Cal? Number 1 in both polls, and arguably even hotter than LSU? A team whose only loss all season came in triple overtime, way back in September? The Pac-10 (and Notre Dame) had a down year, but apart from one mistake, dominated everyone they played, including Washington State.

There's no really good answer here. (And Michigan have to be kicking themselves - winning either the Oregon game or the Iowa game would give them at least as strong a case as any of the above for the national title.)

But I come down on the side that says the computers made the wrong call. I say Oklahoma played their way out of the title game Saturday night.

In a development that is sure to shock everyone who knows both of us, Matt doesn't agree with me.

First off, Oklahoma didn't win their conference. When the universe of contenders is this small, that's a hard fact to overlook.

But, in light of what the Sooners have accomplished this year, as compared to the somewhat lighter loads borne by the Tigers and Trojans this season, I'd even be willing to look past that. Except that not only did Oklahoma not win the game, but they got spanked, 35-7. Neither USC nor LSU took this kind of beating from any team at any point in the season.

When you're talking about which losses should matter the most, you have to give at least a little weight to having the conference final count more. I understand what Matt is saying - it's easy to overvalue later games, and this might encourage unwelcome scheduling changes - but is too much to ask of a top-ranked team to at least put up a respectable showing in a final game, if we're talking about more than two one-loss teams?

If this loss were, say, 24-21, it'd be a different story. You'd have to consider it the least damaging loss regardless of when it occured, because it would have been a close loss to a high-ranked team. Then I'd feel fine about keeping USC out based on losing to the weakest opponent.

But it looks like we may be heading for a disputed national title again. Not that this bugs me that much.

The current half-assed methodology is a bit silly. Either we should go back to the old system, where people argued about national champs endlessly on bleak January nights anyway, or they should do what Division 1-AA has been doing for a while now, go whole hog and play a 4-team or 8-team tournament in December and/or January. I'm sure there's a way to work something like this into the bowl game system.


I've now seen "Donnie Darko"> seven times, four since getting the DVD.

In a way few films do, it captures a whole range of emotional responses; some scenes are uproariously funny, while others provoke fairly intense sadness.

I can see why, however, it did poorly at the box office. While the theatrical trailer was pretty good, the promotional spots were horrible - some of them suggested it was some sort of slasher-type flick. In reality, it's nearly impossible to categorize. It's not a horror movie, it's not a suspense thriller, and it's not a comedy, though it has elements of all of those. You could call it a science fiction movie or a coming-of-age drama and not be inaccurate. I imagine some viewers are critics thought it tried to be too many things at once.

The DVD commentary makes repeated references to how this film made no money, which struck me as a bit out of date, since as most people who read this know, it has developed a sizable cult following: a local theater has been doing midnight showings of "Donnie Darko" every week for almost a year, and it already makes lists of top cult films only two years after its release. Heck, as of now, it's #90 on the IMDB's All-Time Top 250.

In any event, I can't think of a movie that speaks to me quite as much as this one does.

For one thing, it's set in the year 1988, and from what I can gather the title character is supposed to be more or less the same age I was that year. Sometimes I had urges to do the sorts of things Donnie does in the film, but never acted on them. (And, as far as I know, I never sleepwalked.) Like Donnie, I was a bright and yet really messed up kid.

I imagine most people might think these things contradict, or are at least in tension.

I've tended to find the opposite - the more in awe I was of someone's intellect, the harder he or she seemed to find fitting in with his or her surroundings.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

The first time I saw an ad that proclaimed "Enjoy Better Sex!" at a Metrobus stop, I was sort of amused. I was further puzzled when below that declaration was the phrase "Legalize and Tax Marijuana." I thought it was a shade goofy, but it definitely got my attention.

I also wondered when someone was going to raise a stink about it.

The Washington Post has a story about an effort by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Oklahoma) to punish Metro $92,000 for accepting the ad from the non-profit Change The Climate Inc. (The Post article also furnishes a miniature version of the offending ad.)

Now I've seen plenty of "public service" ads on Metro that I've taken to be a slight affront to my value system, such as it is:
* An ad seen in Metrorail stations proclaiming that gay men and lesibians can be "cured" if they so "choose," with the help of some "ex-gay" "foundation" affiliated with some religious organization.
* An ad from an organization affiliated in some way with the Catholic church that claims "Women deserve better than abortion." (My view: Well, women do generally deserve better than abortion, but that's not a decision I feel comfortable making for them.) Now maybe this is simply a plea to get women considering abortion to reconsider, but at some level this is also an attempt to persuade the larger public that abortion should be outlawed.
* Any propaganda put out by a certain cult that calls itself a "church," bases its unintentionally hilarious teachings on the writings of a certain dead hack science fiction author, and is mostly about brainwashing rich people, particularly celebrities, into giving them money.

And yet I was able to restrain myself from demanding these ads be removed from view. Of course, I'm also not a Congress critter.

If I were, hopefully, I'd have something better to do than try to micromanage the advertising policies of a transit authority in a city where I don't really live. Even if I were inclined to engage in said micromanagement, I would hopefully have some familiarity with the scrutiny given to content-based restrictions of public speech, and the possible litigation exposure that may result from such restrictions on speech. I would also hopefully know the difference between advocating for a change in the law and advocating illegal behavior.

But here in the District of Columbia, power over our governance is given to people we never elected, who either don't know or don't care about these things, and frequently don't feel they have better things to do with their time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I finally found a use for that el cheapo bottle of vodka in my liquor cabinet - and it's not as the active ingedient in my fifth strong screwdriver of the night, at which time I'd be hard pressed to distinguish it from Stoli. (The brand is Zelko, not the infamous Bowman's Virginia Vodka, and it emanates from Baltimore rather than Virginia, but it's got a plastic bottle all the same.)

My dry erase board is now clean.

In other food and drink news, I've now finished all my leftover food from last week's Thanksgiving feast, with the exception of one piece of Tricia's excellent apple strudel, which she had left over from her family Thanksgiving feast. Yum!

And the idiot catering at work had to bring in a sandwich spread Monday morning that consisted primary of - you guessed it - turkey sandwiches. As if it's been so long since any of us ate turkey.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback is back. Which, for those of us who are football fans, is a good thing.

Now I only hope he can avoid writing ill-advised columns where he sounds like a conspiracy monger or an apologist for date rape.

Pseudo-Electric Streams Of Pleasure

The British magazine Literary Review gives out a dubious prize every year - the Bad Sex in Fiction award. The winner of this year's award will be announced in a presentation ceremony hosted by Sting, after all the offending passages are recited.

Wow, John Updike and Paul Theroux are nominees.

As bad as the passages in that article are, I bet I could do worse.

The saddest thing about all this is that, after reading a few posts to alt.sex.stories freshman year, I decided to write a piece of bad erotica, just to prove that I could. It turned out way too self-aware/self-conscious, and I was never able to decide whether I wanted to write true stroke lit or simply satirize the easily satirizable genre. (Is "satirizable" a word?)

The essay was written two computers ago, and I can't track it down on any medium. Which, all things considered, might be a good thing.

I remember the plot, such as it was, involved a man named Doug, who was teaching English in China, being seduced by one of his students, who was named Suzi. To say it was awful would be generous. It had ludicrous code words for genitalia. It had all the hallmarks of bad "Asian fetish" porn. There was even bad symbolism as I attempted to compare the illicit sexual affair with warming relations between East and West in the early post-Cold War days. It was laughably bad, which was either entirely beside the point or really was the whole point.

I think I attempted to post it to USENET - more proof that freshmen in college should not be allowed anywhere near the Internet, ever. I don't think it worked, since I looked on every archive I could think of for the phrase that forms the title of this rambling, which is more or less the only chunk of prose that I remember from the whole story.

Apparently I'm the only person in history (at least the only person in history with internet access) ever to have thought of the phrase "pseudo-electric streams of pleasure."

Which is just as well, really.

Never mind that I had no idea how exactly one would experience "pseudo-electric streams of pleasure." I'm still not quite sure what that phrase means, but it sounded good at the time.

Of course, unlike earlier this evening, anyone who googles "Pseudo-Electric Streams Of Pleasure" will come up with at least one result.

Oh, yeah, now I have to do my part. The administration of George W. Bush is a miserable failure.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Courtesy of Atrios...

Try this Google search and see what comes up.

You'd think someone would have done something about this by now...

When I first read the words "Lingerie Bowl," I figured it was just another one of those second- or third-tier college football post-season events, along with the Continental Tire Bowl or the Insight.com Bowl or the late and apparently unlamented (yet forever immortalized by Bill Simmons) Galleryfurniture.com Bowl.

I mean, after the "Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl" and the aforementioned bowl games, I didn't think "Lingerie Bowl" was that much of a stretch.

So, for a brief moment, visions of two teams of college guys competing in the "Lingerie Bowl" danced in my head. (No...they were not actually wearing lingerie, at least not on the outside anyway - who knows what was under all that padding though?) The rest of the sports world would make fun of them, but, well, what college guy wouldn't want to be in close proximity to whatever that halftime show would be? I mean, it'd have to involve scantily clad women, wouldn't it? Would the cheerleaders be wearing only a bra and panties? Could this be on a cooler day when the nipples would show through? Enquiring minds want to know.

But, after clicking on this link, I realized that it was in fact a Super Bowl halftime event that would involve women in lingerie playing football. Tackle football.

Just when I was looking forward to the trashy fun of it all, I read that it was a pay-per-view event that would set me back $30.

There might be guys (or gals) willing to pay that much to watch lingerie-clad models play tackle football on television, but I am not one of them.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Free Man In Paris

Shortly before the debut of her new reality television show, sordid sex tapes featuring Paris Hilton and her ex-boyfriend show up. Hmmm....

This cannot be a coincidence. These days, just about any press is good press. (Besides, I've heard second hand that the hotel heiress is a dirty little girl, of the sort that every straight boy - whether they admit it or not - would like to have in the sack at least once or twice in his life.)

I have to admit that the name Paris Hilton - doesn't that even sound like the name of a adult film star? - barely registered with me before the scandal. I had an understanding she was some sort of "professional partier" - damn, I want that job - with way too much money on her hands.
When I first heard the name, I was like, "You mean someone in the Hilton family actually named their kid Paris? Does she have a brother named London? I just hope no one in the family got stuck with the first name Hanoi."

At least something constructive came from the tapes, besides the free publicity for Fox's latest stupid reality show: sex advice columnist Dan Savage pointed to the infamous "Paris Hilton sex tape" as evidence that it's perfectly fine, and in fact a good thing, for a guy to masturbate himself whenever his member isn't being directly tended to for some reason. As proof, he cites, Rick Solomon's..um..."performance" during the little peep show.

I haven't seen the Paris Hilton sex tape myself, so I can't really agree or disagree with Savage's use of the tape as a positive example.

As for the TV show, I probably won't watch. I don't like contrived "reality" programming. Here in Washington, I don't need footage of vapid celebrities (or wanna-be vapid celebrities - or is that vapid wanna-be celebrities?) making fools of themselves to make me feel superior; I get enough of that watching the federal and D.C. governments.

The whole time I was thinking to myself "That other girl is Lionel Richie's daughter? She looks kinda pale - I know Lionel is pretty light skinned and all, but she looks as whitebread as I do. Or maybe Lionel married an Icelandic woman or something."

Maybe it was the television.

OK, OK, I confess...this entry is an experiment to see how much of a traffic boost I get from making repeated references to the Paris Hilton sex tape.

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