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Monday, April 23, 2012

Back in My Day, We Had to Post Our Blogs by hand-coded HTML! None of this fancy-schmancy autoposting crap!

A while back, I set up an email list for my mom's side of the family. Mostly it was to maintain a location that I could help keep everyone together so nobody felt like they were being left out of important conversations.

Inevitably, it was used for the "important conversations" for a while.

Then it degenerated into the standard email list that almost all email lists that aren't "business"-related tend to devolve into.

As a result a lot of the emails from the older generation (great-aunts who wistfully gaze upon the golden years of the 1950s as a time of great social awesomeness, uncles who post about how lucky we all are with our PSPs and fancy-schmancy cars and suchlike, and the occasional post from a cousin, niece or nephew about the change in email addresses) float through about how funny it is, living in the modern times.

I can count literally hundreds of emails mocking the current generation for not picking up baloney off the floor and serving it to your kid because that's how you rolled back in the day.

Weird thing is, I'm doing it RIGHT NOW. Myself. I even actually remember talking about this with a couple of friends a year or so back.

"Man, remember doing the wax layouts by hand and exacto knife?"
"Oh man, do you remember when you had to wait like 45m to compile a PDF?"
"Oh, and 600DPI was like CRAAAAAAAZY high resolution?"

This is while we were playing with a 24" Wacom Cintiq touchscreen and he drew a landscape using his finger, then added a sketch on the stylus in about five minutes.

Now I reminisce about playing Super Mario Brothers and working the Atari joystick on a CRT tube screen that at 20" was HUGE while seated in front of four LCD monitors at 24" each running six different apps, playing both music videos and audio files in a playlist with a small hard drive that contains 48,000 electronic books, a music collection that could run for six months, 24 hours a day, never playing the same song twice (45,000 audio files), a library of over 300 movies in full 1920x1080 resolution (higher than the cameras of 1980 in the cinema alone) and working on the production of manuals and software that would have taken, even six years ago, a team of eight six weeks to roll out simultaneously.

I can scan a 1,000 page, 8.5 x 11" document in about half an hour and have every word automatically converted into a searchable file - using an object no bigger than the first phone I remember my parents owning.

My first answering machine took up more space than my current one - an automated voice mail that bounces any phone call I get to a voicemail that sends the voice file to my email address as an MP3.

If I were to put it all back in the exact resolution and sound quality it used to be, my entire college collection of music and movies that I crated and shuffled from space to space fits in a 32GB microSD card that is no bigger than the fingernail on my ring finger.

My phone - which I use to make calls, surf the internet, take pictures of things with a flash camera, and read documents on the fly - has more processing power than my first actual computer owned in college.

Using that same phone, I pop open the Dropcam app, and instantly see, right now, whether my dog is in his crate or out on a walk with our dogwalker, since we can't get home at lunch to take him out for the hour he needs.

My phone tracks my personal movements via GPS so I can figure out the fastest way, most days, that I need to take to get home. It's my alarm clock and sometimes it's also my nightlight so I can find my way to bed without stumbling over things in the dark.

Now, I'm not saying this because I want to go "OMG SO MUCH BETTER" but because in 20 years, when my contact lenses directly interface with my eye movements, the cochineal implant that runs off of biometric energy and the subdermal mobile computer implant, I'll probably find some sort of video presentation about how back in the day I thought I was amazing because I had all of my music and video on a 32GB card the size of my fingernail.

Because there is one universal truth that is always passed forward from generation to generation, and that is that in the olden days, kids were polite, life was simpler, nobody thought as much about the obvious safety implications, and the ridiculousness of how overprotective and interconnected the modern world will always be shall be marvelled at by the older generation.

Even when we get jetpacks and bacterial stacks that eliminate the need to ingest food, one day, the parent or grandparent of a child borne in such a time will lean forward and say, "Huh! Bacterial stack for a stomach, eh? Why, in my day, we didn't need such a fancy thing to survive! We ate our concentrated food supplement pills and washed them down with electrolyte solution, and we LIKED it! Why, our exoskeletal musculature enhancements would act up and we'd put a fork through the dining room wall without warning, and we LIKED it that way! They sure don't make biological sustenance systems the way they used to!"

And the kids will STILL roll their eyes and go off somewhere else to get away from the grumpy old farts.

So to the grumpy old farts of today and tomorrow, I salute you.


And to the younger generation, all I have to say is one day you'll be trying to explain to your kids what a Netflix was, and why it was the coolest thing EVER to be able to see movies by logging into an account and watching them.

And then, out of the corner of your eye, you'll probably see them doing this with theirs:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

General Elections, 2011


I'm greatly amused that the general election in Washington State seems to boil down to Tim Eyman initiatives (which essentially equate to doing whatever he can to screw the entire state of Washington out of as much money as he can and getting it to flow directly to his campaign contributors - most of which simply funnel money to him in the hopes something he throws out to the wall will stick). And I'm also wondering why, of all things, we have to even vote this time around.

But here's the thing - even though I drive a SUV and live across the road from a liquor store, I still like the idea of this election having some merit. I like light rail and the concept of being able to use my Costco card to buy a fifth of Maker's Mark. It's kind of like my concealed carry permit - I don't actually own a gun, but I got the concealed carry permit to expedite the purchase of one if I wanted it. Because frankly the five-day waiting period is for people who test high on the "Don't Give That Idiot a Gun" scale, and if I DIDN'T have the carry permit, I'd have to fill out even more paperwork than I want.


So without further ado, my personal recommendations for voting in Seattle:


State Initiatives


Initiative Measure 1125
Vote HELL NO


Tim Eyman is a horse's ass. Straight up, no chaser. His entire political career has been focused on getting paid initiative petition signers to cheat, lie and game the system to thrust his personal political requirements into the spotlight. This time around, the Eyman initiative's full intention is to kill regional light rail for the Seattle metro area, and funded by Kemper Freeman, someone who spent a lot of time and energy trying like hell to make sure it doesn't happen. Eyman's initiative screws with the entire process, and in said process, manages to totally fuck up the state transportation system infrastructure. Which is pretty much what Eyman wants anyway. Well, that and getting paid to be a political jerk.


Vote no. If Eyman's attached, you can bet it has nothing good for anyone except Eyman's political puppetmasters and funding geniuses.


Initiative Measure 1163
Vote Yes


Elder care is one of the things we need more of, especially because the independence of older people in our state is, to my mind, vitally important. After several conversations with my parents about the requirements of old age, Mom finally looked at me and said, "It's not that I don't want to be a burden. I just don't want to live with you if it's not absolutely neccessary." Ouch. Zing. And yet true.


I voted yes on the initiative in 2008 that required basic training, certification, criminal background checks, etc, etc, etc on home health care workers that assist disabled seniors, but the dough for the program wasn't there. This measure funds those workers and requires the legislature to fork out the dough they promised for the initiative. No excuses.


Seattle Transportation Initiative No 1
VOTE NO


No. Sorry. I don't trust the city of Seattle to actually spend the money from car tabs on what they intend to spend it on. I'm not forking out another $120 for monorails in potentia. Screw that. You want money? Put a proposal together that shows me where that money is going. You want to charge me $60 more for car tabs for light rail, I'll pay for it. I won't pay for it to have a commission begin to discuss the concept of having a committee to work on possible future transportation projects in the city. Put light rail stations down on the map and tell me how you're going to make the buses in the city run on time instead of 30 minutes behind schedule, and I MIGHT pay more for car tabs. As it is, shut up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs: The Anti-Hero dies.

In the saga of "The World Has Lost a Genius" of the last two weeks, I feel compelled to point out that in dying, many people gloss over or ignore the flaws in a person's character.

In short, Steve Jobs died.





And Steve Jobs was, to put it nicely, one of the world's biggest assholes.

Sure, he made your phone, and commanded the design team that rebuilt Apple as a premium computer, and had an attitude of "We'll release it when it's perfect". He was a brilliant technological leader. He was a marketing and creative director without comparison in his time, and he was relentless in the pursuit of quality and function (not perfection - anyone who's tried to make Apple products play nice with other products on the market might reserve judgement).

But he also built slave labor factories in China.

He sent his critics rude, slimy emails, haranguing them into the ground, removing their access and ability to see Apple products if he didn't like what they said.

He didn't want to talk to his fans - at his own events. He blew people off who set up meetings years in advance. He routinely flipped people off when they made salient points in news conferences.

When he had a diagnosis of [X] months to live, he flooded transplant waiting lists and bumped people who'd been waiting years for theirs to get to the top of the list. He paid people off.

If he made it to an Apple meeting, he'd derail it, humiliate the presenter, and take center stage as to why it was a waste of his and everyone's time. Employees dreaded it. Conversations were recorded in the Apple cafeteria that referred to Jobs as "The Asshole".

He fired people who made simple mistakes - people whose entire careers had been pursued only to sit at the feet of the Master, to work for Jobs, to take pay cuts and do incredibly long hours just to be able to say "I work for Apple".

He routinely parked in handicapped spaces at Apple in his unplated (that's no license plate) Mercedes Benz - with no handicapped sticker, hanger, etc.

He did what could only be described as wanton, egregious cruelty and manipulation to the man who built Apple as a computer company - Steve Wozinak (and frankly, that guy is my personal geek-cred hero).

And at the end of his life the culture of Steve Jobs began to take a life of its own. For design and creative geeks who would fight to save fifty cents on a can of beans at the grocery store, he was the person who built the machine that said you were an individual. A rebel. To someone who compared the components of his computers, he was the man who knew how to spin the widespread hammerlocks on his company's technology into a badge of honor among his adherents, and took credit for the brilliant design of others' work.

Steve Jobs never designed the iPod. He didn't design the interfaces of the computers. He approved them. He browbeat his people into making perfection and being meticulous about the process. And then he sold their work.

By being the man who sold the work of his minions, he was credited with the wild success of the Apple products.

Steve Jobs was a complete asshole. He was a successful asshole, and so the world loved him, because success so often allows cover ups of the character flaws. But when the world speaks of Steve Jobs, they talk only about his miraculous success. Not that he was worse than most of the Evil People of Microsoft, that his entire fiscal policy revolved around himself, that he never gave away money, or that his entire career and life was built upon the destruction and manipulation of others. Had he been born five or six hundred years previously, he would fit beautifully along the manipulative, effective, cruel Borgia popes and slave-trading mercenaries of the Venetian nobility - not the Leonardo da Vincis, the Galileos, or Shakespeareans.

In essence, Steve Jobs was not a creative genius. He was not an icon of brilliance of design or simplicity. He was a cruel, ruthless, relentlessly perfectionist bastard who had an iron grip on his company and ran it in a culture of fear, reprisal, and retribution. He used people; he institutionalized top-down control over products and he routinely screwed people who wanted to work with him.

It wasn't likely that he'd step down or move on to other things, and so it is only with his death that Steve Jobs can longer run Apple like the Inquisition on crack.

When viewing Jobs as a professional, I cannot mourn his death. I look at his successes and I think that he made some contributions to the world, but he wasn't a genius. He wasn't a Great Man. He was a Great Flaming Asshole, and while he got some stuff done, in ten years' time his legacy shall only be that he got the world to plug in their headsets and listen to overpriced downloadable music.

I realize this isn't a popular take on his life and times, but I also think Steve Jobs knew what he was, what he was doing, and was content with that role in his life. He described the movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley as accurate and praised the actor portraying him. The actor - Noah Wylie - made him out to be a manipulative, scheming, explosively angry man who destroyed people on a whim.

In the end at our deaths we forgive many of the trespasses that we have made upon the world and those whom we have touched. It's possible that Jobs did this at his end, and for those he loved and who loved him, that may be enough. But to blind ourselves to the measure of the man who dies and to hide away the darkness of his character is to do ourselves and the person who dies a disservice.

To say this to his family and friends, and those still mourning his loss would be yet another act of an asshole, and so I can only say that I would never wish to injure his loved ones at a time of grief. I don't know if he played basketball with his kids or made ebleskivers every Sunday morning, or tucked them into bed at night, or as he lay dying wrote each of them a book about his life with them, or told them how much he loved them. That's their private grief, and nobody can share that with them.

But those who aren't grieving - who are merely commenting and lauding Steve Jobs because of the things he did - they should know better.

Jobs was an asshole, and he knew it. He was a magnificent asshole, but he is not someone whose passing is truly mourned. He was an icon - and as George Armstrong Custer and many other cultural fixtures are, will likely be viewed with rosy-tinted glasses for years to come.

But frankly, I saw the measure of the man when he was alive. And I for one do not mourn his passing as a professional. As someone who died far too young of cancer, yes, I can say his passing is sad. But those lauding him are not judging him based on his life as a man. They're judging him based on his life as a cultural icon. And believe me when I say we have much better men to look to as examples of how to both be a role model, an effective leader, and a person.

Nobody wants to speak ill of the dead, for fear that when they die, others will speak ill of them. And the sad truth is that even the most glorious, sanctified person on Earth will be vilified in the hearts of others. You can't live life without having people hate you, or love you, or ignore you. It is simply the way things are.

One line of of Joss Whedon's Firefly seems accurate - "Every man who had a statue put up of him was one kind of son of a bitch or the other." In Jobs' case, it seems to be (like many other things about him) truer than most. He may have been a great man of industry and may have had brilliant success hitting the target of design, usability, and marketing genius, but he was not a saint.

His passing is just that. The end of a life. Let's not pretend he was other than he was, and let's quiet down the Anti-Hero worship. He deserved nothing less.

Posted at: http://raincitywriter.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why yes, we SHOULD eschew pornography for football.Thank you, Mr. Hasselbeck!

Well, this is just awkward. I mean, nobody really wants to come right out and say it, but yes, Matt Hasselback, it is true. Porn is quite definitely the one thing we should NOT be watching this Super Bowl weekend.

Matt Hasselbeck, after a season of failing to perform the job he was hired to do (IE, throw footballs to people without dropping them) has turned his skills away from what he certainly couldn’t do and moved it to motivating people to avoid looking at naked people bumping their naughty bits.

The Seattle Seahawks’ star quarterback is joining with many, many other churches and saintly organizations out there to crusade against porn on Super Bowl Sunday.

And good on him, I say.

As someone who gladly and happily ignores societal messages, trends, and causality when it comes to damaging social issues, especially if it conflicts with my world view and/or assumptions that I’m personally, smugly right, I must agree wholeheartedly. Football is certainly less damaging than porn, when it comes to the overall effects on American society.

After all Super Bowl Sunday is a time when healthy, intelligent people abandon all sense of propriety and don the mask of the zealot, based on a two-color jersey (and/or city). This weekend, sports fans of all stripes and colors plant themselves in front of televisions across the American nation and leer at eleven men on a side running into each other like drunken goats, whistling and hooting at a sport that never, EVER created exploitative gender roles.

Truly, dedication to football and our football teams only mean we seek out and purchase harmless clothing / furniture / vehicle flags / license plates / dating circles / keychains / wastebaskets / season tickets / foam fingers / thong underwear / jerseys / stuffed animals / dedicated RVs. Certainly not an unhealthy, expensive addiction to paraphenalia dedicated to surrounding ourselves in a debauched world of consumer-related, nonessential fetishized objects that encourage our participation in deviant social behavior and enhance our ultimate, secretive fantasy lives.

Professional American football is an institution that’s been around since the extinction of the dinosaurs in the early 1870s, while pornography is as old as the carved stones. And as the Right Reverend Correct Groupthink Gospel of the American Church, Our Beloved FoxNews and Hasselback all agree, porn is still the most degrading, destructive force in America.

So why not switch to the sweet methodone of football, porn addicts of America?

What could be more American than football and apple pie? (Well, even though apple pie was technically an English culinary invention and subsequently brought to the US, it’s still a much better a metaphor than “football and Mrs. Wong’s chicken chow mein with ketchup” or “football and Mom’s Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cheese In a Can over tuna casserole with Triscuits”. Work with me here, you grammar nerd masquerading as Norman Rockwell.) Wholesome and truly uniquely American, it shares nothing with any other sport, (especially rugby, bok-bok, hockey, lacrosse or the game everyone outside of the US insists on calling football but is REALLY supposed to be called soccer). Professional American Football is our most hallowed tradition dating back to the time we figured out we could get eleven really bored guys to ram their heads together over a ball for our entertainment. (Look, if you had to listen to Woodrow Wilson talk about intelligent fiscal policy and moral American behavior, you'd invent a sport where you could bang your head into someone else's over a ball too.)

No sir, football is most definitively not as damaging as pornography is to our society, and definitely has no negative effects that last for any measurable length of time.

Not, say, the spike in violence after the Super Bowl, when more domestic violence calls occur through 911 dispatch boards than at any other time in the year.

Not, say, the football programs across American collegiate and high school programs that produce teenage man-children by the hundreds who cannot read, write, or do mathematics and science at anything resembling a literate level of the average third-grader then sent on to make complex decisions involving whether to retire after running a dogfighting ring or to just say the chihuahuas were just asking for it.

Not, say, the entitlement programs and good old boy networks that protect the darlings of the sport from their actions like sexual assault on campus, illicit fatherhood, fiscal irresponsibility, condoned narcotic and steroid abuse, and corruption in pay-for-play scandals.

Not, say, the "so-called" exploitative football gender dichotomies that place men in full-body pads and helmets and leave the only female participants of the sport clad in skirts, “spankies” and uselessly fluffy pom-poms doing acrobatics that flip skirts and show more skin than the average string bikini on a beach. That's just good old fashioned family fun! One can even buy six-year olds the same cheerleading outfits that their full-grown twenty-something blonde counterparts wear, making sure they can grow up to be splendid role models for other young women who might choose careers that don't involve flipping upside down while wearing a short skirt and looking vapidly perky. It just makes sure they too can participate in this wonderful sport, albeit by standing around looking pretty and making their boobs jiggle.

Not, say, a culture of permissiveness that encourages athletes to assume that they have rights and behaviors that trump those of other individuals, including the right of a woman to consent to sex, the right of an individual not to be run off the road, the right of an animal to keep its throat from being torn out, or the right of, say, a wife from getting cheated on by a string of unsuccessful strippers / cocktail hostesses looking for tabloid payouts.

Porn, on the other hand, is usually done with and by consenting adults who actively enjoy what they’re doing with people who happily do it with them for a living. Sure, they’re not pulling down $100,000 or more per performance, as the average football player does, nor is there a feeder economy that shoves performers into the spotlight repeatedly, over and over again, but that’s not important. What’s important is that filthy, filthy sex is happening. On film. Between -sluts-. And you're watching, you degenerate bastards. Want to know how teenage mothers happen? Porn. Not a lack of ethical guidance, or family planning education, sexual reproduction choices, or availability of reliable birth control methods.

Nope, it's porn. And according to our truly great nation’s churches intent on creating moralistic nanny-states for all of God’s Frozen People, Jesus says that’s some naughty behavior. So you better not do it.

Let's bypass, for the moment, the fact that the primary religious figure of the religion heartily advocated against using religion as a cash cow by beating the crap out of a series of money lenders in the primary temple of the old religion is completely irrelevant. As is the fact that most of the churches involved in this protest are sellling tickets (ahem; whoops, sorry, heavily encouraging $30-$35 per head donations) to see the Football Extravaganza in their Gathering Place of Worship on Jesus’ Very Large Big Screen TV.

No no, this weekend, the most important part of knowing your best options is to make sure that we value paying grown men ludicrous salaries to put on spandex, pads, helmets and groin protectors, then run onto a field and dry-hump each other in an attempt to get a leather-covered ball to one end of the field OVER watching two (or more) people make the beast with two backs / fronts / gaping orifices. (And much less arousing, unless you’re one of those dirty, sinful gays. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a dirty, sinful gay. Some of my best anti-homosexuality Republican crusader friends are so far in the closet they’re taking tea with Mr. Tumnus - lots of cream, no Sugars. Or Candys. Or Sinnamons. Totally lovely people. Excellent tennis partners, too.)

And for our sports heroes' moral falterings, like allowing the football player leniency in their personal behavior that would earn the average guy on the street four years in jail for sexual assault? Such things are simple judgements on behavior that should never be confused with the depravity of a pornographic website depicting consensual sex between of-age adults. Obviously, that football player, even though he may have torn asunder the safety and well-being of one or twenty young women, must have been forgiven by Jesus if he says so. Believe him! Especially if he promises very much not to get caught at it again, with a tearful apology and four-game suspension. After all, we replaced acting like realistic, real-life role models for our children with excessively paid athletes and media icons long ago.

Like Jimmy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart said, “If my repentence is good enough for Jesus, it’s should be good enough for you.” Brett Favre should probably have been taking notes, and while it may not have worked out for Ben Roethlisberger, pre-brain injury, it seems to work out just fine for thousands of NFL and college football stars across the country.

Truly, watching two or more consenting adults do the horizontal (or, let’s face it, vertical, sideways, upside down, acrobatic, underwater, on-the-beach, or selfshot) mambo is much more destructive to our society than football. Football is about war. About victory. About struggle. And apple pie. Porn is about being a damned, dirty, filthy little sex monkey. And you perverts better not forget it.

While porn is about generating pleasure for both the filmed participants and the viewer themselves. Porn is obviously a dark, dangerous force for our society. Exploitative of women! Exploitative of men! Exploitative of YOU! How could you possibly watch people make dirty, dirty sexings without feeling a violent repulsion of shame for your own depravity?

And football is most certainly not that. Why, football is only a multi-billion dollar industry that requires each city that contains a team to contribute vast amounts of resources to host a stadium, a field, and up to eighty highly overpaid athletes while getting and giving little more than three hours of entertainment per week. In Seattle alone, the Highly Moral Sport still has incurred debts for the former Kingdome, with the privileged taxpayers still shelling out $124 per year in taxes to pay for the Seahawks’ demolished stadium. Small potatoes compared to the intensely damaging moral issues caused by porn.

Why, it’s outrageous the prices of a DVD - for $25,000, a four-hour pornographic film is made, actresses paid, actors furnished with pizza, promotions done, editing and soundtracks completed, and immediately released to the general public. So what if $25,000 would purchase 1/16th of a second of commercial time in the average football game, let alone a commerical event like the Super Bowl? There are much larger moral issues at stake than watching people play hide the salami(s).

Even the Stranger’s Hump! festival is a destructive, money-sucking orgy of consumnate immorality. Perhaps we should truly look at the books of Dan Savage and his minions at the Stranger and discover exactly how much those money-grubbing orgiastic enablers pull down out of their depraved amateur-filmed porno fest. Certainly, it must be vastly more profitable than, say, Seattle’s Mars Hill church, otherwise, why would they do it?

It certainly can’t be for their stated ideals - that pornography, rather than destroying the mental health of those who consume it, actually helps encourage healthy sexual expression, should be shared and made by all, and applauded for those who want to share their gifts with the rest of the world.

For one thing one of its primary proponents and organizers, Dan Savage is certainly Gay with a capital G. Therefore he MUST have a nefarious motive for helping host a pornography festival. Possibly the seduction of good, upright men who love Jesus and who don’t need porn to get off, thank you so much. Just a wife, daughter, or other domesticated, unopinionated female who would make him a sandwich without mayo. ONCE. FOR ONCE. PLEASE.

Ahem.

There are those who might point out that several of the sponsoring Christian churches advocate that women remain subservient to men, and repeat that marriages, regardless of their equality or physical abuse, remain intact. They might note the “spiritual push” of programs and “traditions” where daughters must “marry their fathers” to prevent sexual experience or experimentation prior to her being given to her husband. These naysayers might also point to the stance of these churches that spousal abuse can only be reconciled through religious teachings, and that women must always remain sexually available to their husbands, as well as providing the Christian Nation with many, many, many, many more children that their fertile little loins can produce as long as it’s not out of wedlock (you filthy, filthy, dirty, little girl /unwed mother/whore. Dirty, dirty little girl. Yeah. You like being called that, don't you? You dirty little unwed mother, you).

In short, while many of these detractors cite “implications” of these church organizations’ programs, teachings, and as being far more socially destructive to the welfare and status of women in American society, we must remind them that A) Jesus’ love outweighs any bukkake scene, and B) you MUST swallow the Heavenly Host at least once a week on Sunday to be worthy of Jesus’ love.

In point of fact, if we must respond to those individuals who continually decry the stance of these churches on matters like sex education, family planning, societal inclusion, tolerance of all, sexualities, political views, race, color, or creed, and insist on noting that more damage is done by forcing people to adhere to good old-fashioned antiquated values that have little or no relevancy to modern societal issues, the best response is always: LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO THE GREEN BAY PACKERS LOVE JESUS YAY. Certainly, pontification of relevant social issues that directly link to the issues at hand can always be ignored in favor of enough loud, repeated catchphrases instead of actually replying to the sinful, salient points.

And even if we don’t, we must all band together and remind ourselves of the value of Super Bowl Sunday - that even though as Americans and Christians all, we may have temptation in our hearts, no greater moral or spiritual value can be placed except in turning off the tranvestite midget webcam show, stopping the Clown Porn in mid paint-smear, and putting down the latest issue of “Hot Cheerleader Lesbians in Heat”.

Instead, pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated (and watch for that swimsuit edition!) Purchase thousands of dollars of electronics and team-related paraphernalia that’s made in China by workers pulling eighteen-hour shifts in massive factories. Don’t buy a Playboy - that’s most certainly pornographic (though morally less objectionable now that Hugh Hefner is making an honest woman of his 22-year old bride).

Instead pick up a Details, GQ, or do a run to Vegas. Throw some dollars down on a NFL pick’em pool. Eat your Doritos and watch this Super Bowl Sunday as millions of people just like you drop everything they’re doing and watch hyped-up masculine men in spandex smash into each other like sweaty, heaving, smooth-skinned and totally nonsexualized Greek and Roman gladiators with half-naked women cheering tastefully on the sidelines. Enjoy that commercial - it took Pepsi over eighteen months and three hundred million dollars to explain why Pepsi tastes really good using the latest female celebrity du jour and her barely adequate talents to mimic having a massive dopamine and physical reaction to consuming fizzy sugar water, instead of, say, thirty minutes alone with a Hitachi Magic Wand.

But no matter what, remember that while Jesus believes you will burn in Hell for all eternity for seeing Sasha Grey take it in the pooper, he definitely thinks you should buy that official NFL jersey for $150, and pay $25,000 for the privilege of sitting on an uncomfortable wooden seat instead of, say, funding a local afterschool program for a year, or donating $200 to literary programs for underprivileged inner city youth in America.

After all, this weekend, above all other weekends, we must always remember what Jesus Christ said about pornography, football, and making sure that everyone follows his exact moral teachings.

What did he say, you might ask? (After all, there might be some smartass liberal sex-positive jerkface sex columnist who actually can cite chapter and verse from the Bible to refute your arguments).

Not one goddamned thing, but certainly, we should never allow that to stop ourselves, and our deeply religious friends from espousing the very best in sheep-like rhetoric. Just remember - it's not about making sense, or adhering to the principles espoused by the founder of the religions we pretend to live our lives by.

It's about making sure Jesus and the Green Bay Packers get their win on.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You're in Bad Hands with Allstate

This email was sent via the feedback page at Allstate.com.

After a heavy heavy rainfall in November, Dane Johnson and Kathy Justin's house cracked and slid off its foundation in Burien. Hundreds of neighbors hand-carried their belongings from the waterfront Burien home to storage in a massive undertaking of neighborhood support.

They bought homeowners' insurance through Allstate, believing that the moniker "you're in good hands" rang true. That Allstate would in fact take care of them. They had paid insurance diligently, on time, every time. They were good homeowners. They knew their house's location placed them at a higher risk, and they paid higher premiums for it.

Now the couple's claim has been denied by their homeowner's insurance agency, Allstate.

Allstate is known for its commercials of "being safe from Mayhem" - a character that slams bricks into windshields, stomps on the brakes to cause rear-end collisions, drops branches and trees on cars, smashes trees into houses, and a host of other dastardly deeds. Allstate's new ad campaign, in essence, is precisely what Johnson and Justin went through.

On November 23rd, a freak stormsurge undercut the basement of Johnson and Justin's house. Allstate didn't send an adjuster until November 30th, and denied the claim almost immediately.

Allstate is denying Johnson and Justin's claim for their destroyed home. Johnson and Justin are core arts community advocates in the Puget Sound region - he works for KUOW, she's a sound and lighting engineer, and both were pivotal to the Burien Art Council formation.

Your company is denying two people who did the right thing, and trusted YOU to do the right thing. They believed you when you said, "You're in good hands with Allstate". They bought your insurance with that in mind. They believed their insurance agents were actually the good guys. They listened to Dennis Haybert calmly explain how Allstate does exactly the right thing, all the time.

And then Allstate denies their claim.

If this does not change, I will personally make it my mission to tell this story to every person I know. I will give this story to people who work for State Farm, for Farmer's Insurance, and GEICO. I will explain to my family and friends and coworkers exactly what Allstate did to people who played exactly by the rules, paid the extra dollars, and still got their claim denied by their insurance agency - who have said routinely that their job is to look out for their clients.

I won't ever buy Allstate insurance of any type; that's certain. However, I would greatly like to notify and report a positive resolution of this story to my contacts within various news agencies, including Lifehacker, Gawker, Gizmodo, the New York Times, CNet, The Seattle Times, The Seattle PI, LinkedIn.com, The LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, and local and national television news media. I'd also like to be able to report the resolution of this issue to my 35,000+ social and professional network.

At this moment in time, that is not going to happen. What -is- going to happen is a description of exactly what Allstate said they would do when selling an insurance policy, and what they did when that insurance policy was desperately needed during the holiday season.

For more information on the house and the incident, see:

http://www.nwcn.com/news/slideshows/House-Slipping-Toward-Sound-110268744.html

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coping with the TSA

The one thing that I've realized out of all of this TSA inspection crap is pretty simple.


Commercial aviation is a privilege, NOT a right.


And damn near everyone's acting like it is.


I must put forth that I used to fly a lot for work, most specifically right after 9/11, when I was working for a company building bullet-resistent cockpit doors and bulkheads. Oh, and the places I flew! I unconfiscated my cartons of American Spirits from the clutches of overzealous stewardesses after citing chapter and verse of the installation manuals of the lavatory smoke detectors, helpfully exploded lumbar support balloons that shoved business class passengers facefirst into the seats in front of them after failing to deflate, or rather, after failing to stop inflating by using a dual-government approved and jointly-issued icepick. I helped explain to a room of very well-dressed, very insistent men in long, flowing robes why the sultan could NOT have a hot tub on his personal 777 without a serious amount of work in the weight balance and hydrodynamic equipment departments, and knew the passcodes to most of the flight deck doors for at least three major domestic American airlines.


And I got dogged in Heathrow, patted down in Dubai, politely wanded in Tokyo and aggressively detained in Beijing (where I learned if you want to write a college article in 1995 about a repressive government smacking an ethnic minority down, it's best to not do it where PRC agents might copy and see it and add it to your permanent record). I even had an interesting conversation with a couple of Israeli security agents. The ones who point the big guns not -directly- at you, but close enough that it makes your toes curl up to avoid being blown off by cheerful 19-year old soldiers who are happy to in an airport and not, say, getting rocks hurled at their heads by Palestinian kids.


And this is with me carrying identification authorizing me to fiddle around with the innards of Very Important Federal Aircraft.


But that's all completely unrelated to the issues at hand. Because it doesn't matter. Flying is not a RIGHT. It's a privilege. A luxury. Like the ubiquitous iPod, something we've cheerfully adopted as part of our pack of Essentials.


While it's true that as a member of a privileged class of people (IE, people who can afford to plunk down a couple of hundred to travel at insane speed across the sky), I can also state that I've been on many, many, MANY flights where I was sitting smack dab in the minority of skin color and economic class. Think about an albino at the Apollo theater, or Bill Gates in the middle of South Central.


I don't exactly BLEND as an expertly unoppressed class-structure privileged 6'5" freckled white boy with giant knobby knees, and on my flights to and from Dubai, this was indeed the case. Air India was also a lesson in excitement and "WOW, you have FRECKLES!". Had I dropped in painted bright green and wearing alien horns, I might have made a slightly more impressive entrance. Having to stoop to avoid bonking my head on the cabin ceiling was probably enough.


It was pretty awesome for the first two hours. The next eighteen, not so much.


So please, let's not turn this into an elder version of "One of these things is not like the others!" Sesame Street song; in any class structure or system, yes, the poor will probably not be able to afford air travel, but then again the desperately poor are probably less concerned about flying and more about not losing their health benefits because Wal-Mart screwed them over again for the holidays. If the patriarch of the family of eight Dalits (whom I kept poking in the shoulder when he kept trying to explain why they were traditionally called "Untouchables") could afford to travel from London to Delhi for Holi every year, then Joe The Wal-Mart employee can shell out some savings for a flight. It's a matter of choices made.


Nobody is bloody ENTITLED to an iPod. Nobody is bloody entitled to a seat on a vehicle traveling at 650 mph, either.


If I can't afford to be in a bar, then who CARES if I don't have the dollars to get righteously shit-faced while not being able to smoke? I can't afford to smoke or to drink in bars, so is that the problem of the people who are affluent enough to both smoke and go to bars? Should I feel guilty as I drink my $3 PBR that someone out there can't afford to come in and drink crappy beer and smoke a fifty-cent cigarette with me while huddled 25 feet from the door? No, because hopefully that person's disposable income will be going to other things.


The point (or rather, an academic's relentlessly academic race/class/gender argumentative point about poor people and people of color historically not being able to have their rights infringed like everyone else being a major cause of Social Justice) has merit, and the concept is akin to the question of the 90s of "How many slums will be bulldozed to make way for the Information Superhighway?" (namely, that the impoverished will not be able to see the benefits or have the opportunity to have their personal freedom infringed upon because they can't afford to go to the airport to have their junk groped), is not only demonstratably false and misleading, it's also a complete red herring for the issue.


I'll also admit that every time the white guilt argument comes out, I get a wee cranky, because White Guilt is sloppily applied at best and reminiscent of growing up Catholic at worst. It's the more educated cousin of "There's starving children in Africa, so you should eat your lentils", which I could figure out at the age of six to be an utter load of shite. For one thing, if those starving Children In Africa were really THAT hungry I'd happily ship my lentils to them, but I was pretty sure they wouldn't want to eat the damn things either, especially after two weeks of transportation.


But hey, it was a good straw man argument to help muddle up the argument which, namely, was "I hate lentils and don't want to eat them. And frankly, I don't give a shit about those starving kids in Africa, because at least if they die, then they wouldn't have to eat the lentils. If it were a choice between styrofoam packing peanuts covered in sea urchin entrail sauce and lentils, I'll take the sea urchin-styrofoam*."


This is a similar situation, which is, "I hate people touching my junk and seeing me naked. Seeing me NEKKID is completely different, but I can't run through the TSA counters with a rubber glove on my head and nothing else screaming, "Look! Look! I'm a SQUID**!" without getting arrested, and so I am thusly righteously AROUSED FOR MY RIGHTS."


And the reply here seems to be, "Yeah, but think about all those non-flying poor people! They can't afford to fly! Think about all the starving non-flying children in Africa! THINK OF THE HUNGRY PEOPLE!"


My reply: "No shit. I had a $8 latte and a $20 donut. I'm surprised they don't have a bankruptcy court next to the Hudson News counters."


This is very much like the people crying out that the pat-downs bring back memories of childhood trauma, molestation, WTO protest arrests, PTSD, the shingles, and that one time the Cubbies really almost made the World Series but didn't because that douchewad caught the ball instead of the outfielder. (I'm kidding about the last two. Most Cubs fans have more emotional resilience than a sub-Saharan AIDS orphanage hospice doctor. It's damn near a prerequisite.)


Thus, the cries for social justice have NOTHING to do with the matter at hand. It's just another issue thrown in to protest wildly that it's NOT OKAY AND YOU ARE NOT STANDING FOR THIS!


That's fine! There is a solution to all these problems, and they don't include stripping off in public, having hysterical breakdowns, or flexing your nuts at the TSA agents for "infringing upon your rights" when they're getting paid $13 per hour to deal with irate people who at best tolerate them and at worst want to rip their faces off with their teeth.


It's called "Get out of line, go back outside, hail another taxi, drive home, and unpack your bags."


Which brings me back to my primary point.


Flight is a privilege, not a right. It's like driving. You don't have a RIGHT to a driver's license. You have an opportunity, but if you don't pass the test, have crap vision, consider the rules of the road to be more "suggestion" than actual rules, prefer to drive tipsy and fast, consider insurance a tool of the Illuminati and oil changes to be so much frippery, then you might not get to drive. You are not guaranteed a Ford Focus as a right of being a citizen of the United States.


Likewise, flight is a private enterprise, and most certainly not included in the Constitution of the United State of America. There are NO public airplane transportation services in America. (Nope, as much as American Airlines likes to front, they are not the American airline. Air China, however, most definitively IS a government-owned airline. So a few points for autocracy there. But surprisingly they don't seem to care too much whether they're invading your personal space when they give you a pat-down.)


Airplanes are tubes of hyperpressurized air that are propelled by giant engines fueled by the fossilized remains of dinosaurs with over a quarter of a million moving, straining, expanding, and exploding parts. Any one of those systems can go wrong at any moment. If strict maintenance schedules are not adhered to, then those tubes slowly disintegrate. Making sure you do not have anything in your bag that would interfere with the miracle of shoving that tube of hyperpressurized air from Seattle to Los Angeles (a distance of over fifteen hundred miles in less time than it takes to watch a back-to-back episode of CSI: Miami) and forcing you to spend another fifteen minutes patiently waiting to get checked out seems to be a bit overblown. Hundreds of thousands of people do this every day, and it is so unremarkable that now different airlines advertise on how much suck other airlines have compared to their own experience, when ultimately, the experience remains the same - packing at least a hundred people into an aluminum tube with giant engines strapped to thin pieces of aluminum and hurling it with insane precision across the sky.


Air travel is standardized insanity, straight up, served on a platter of physical impossibility broken apart by science, physics, and a lot of dead guys in jumpsuits.


So pardon my cavalier attitude towards getting my junk checked out before I fly.


Quite possibly, my lack of modesty has something to do with this, but anyone who has to look their doctor in the eye after hearing him say "Turn your head and cough" should probably not worry overmuch about the shame of someone seeing you on a body scanner. Nobody accuses their gynecologist of enjoying their work; why the hell are we putting THAT drama on all of the TSA agents? Sure, there's a whole bunch of troglodytic TSA employees out there who get off on the petty power of making people with more money and mobility than they do go through a song-and-dance and cop a random feel, but after the first four hundred lawsuits the processes are going to get highly refined, and those douchemonkeys will get kicked to the curb, preferably with a black mark on a federal job record, a hefty fine, and a gross misdemeanor.


For the rest of them, it's like working at a strip club, a bank, a brewery or a porn store - after a while all of the stuff you're working with just becomes stuff. Yeah yeah, that's a naked chick. Yeah, yeah, that's a 60-year old bottle of scotch. Woo. Fucking. Hoo, four hundred thousand dollars. Can I get back to work now?


As for the people who decry how invasive the new process is, and point to the egregious examples of inspection: I'm positive that the guy whose urine bag broke and soaked him had a rough time of it, but come ON, people, ever hear of the Boy Scouts? If you've got a bag of pee attached to your hip, who DOESN'T carry wet wipes, a bag of spare medical kit, a spare pair of pants and a couple of gallon-sized ziploc bag with them? Hell, I took care of my cousin with severe cerebral palsy in a wheelchair for a month. After a while, you simply don't leave the house without certain things, including a spare innertube for the wheelchair and lots of baby wipes.


People, most of us air travelers are NOT on the Amazing Race. Ten more minutes to get through the line means you have ten more minutes to think about whatever you think about when you're standing in line. It does not mean the Communists have invaded, it most definitely does not mean the Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves, and a few swipes around the groinal region from someone else who would really rather not be doing what they're doing isn't a massive infringement on your "rights".


Because, as stated previously, air travel is not a "right". It is a privilege. It's our OWN personal responsibilities and choices to fly or NOT to fly, to take a cab or to drive, to ride a train, a bus, or take a ship.


Cheap and efficient air travel has become so ubiquitous (like iPods) that it's all too easy to believe that because you happen to be living in a society that has made it so easy and cheap to book a 20 hour flight halfway around the world that not a century ago would have taken a full month of travel ($781 one-way to Tokyo's Naruta airport leaving at 11PM tonight, found in about the same amount of time it took you to read this entire SENTENCE) we are somehow entitled to the convenience, and bitch relentlessly when our travel times are extended by an hour or more due to a problem found in the hydraulic system of the aircraft.


And, in some cases, to cry out, "Think of all the flightless children in Africa!" Or "Think of all the pee-bag carriers!" Or, "Think of all the people who have to conquer their personal demons in order just to be able to get on the plane!"


Really? Really. Personal demons, huh?


I'm fucking terrified of flying. Each time I step on a plane I nearly crap my pants in terror.


Surprised? So was my nearly-wife when I nearly crushed her hand on our first flight together. It's a testament to her gentle nature, good will, and grace that after the cast came off and she allowed me to buy her a metal-framed brace to squeeze, she still continued to both A) date me and B) fly seated next to me. Before flying with her, I tended to go through a lot of scotch, anti-anxiety medication and warm milk in airports and marked a LOT of airplane seat hand rests. Now I just hold her hand and tremble. Being schnockered helped press down the sheer panic to the point where my former passport collected enough stamps to raise eyebrows at the immigration counter, but it did lend a certain aroma to my clothing and person while in flight. Small children would be moved two seats back due to the possibility of getting intoxication merely by proximity. (And may explain why I kept poking my friend Tim from North London in the shoulder every time he said "Untouchable".)


So my response to the TSA bruhahaha, therefore, is usually "Learn. To. Fucking. Cope." There's a lot scarier things in the world than a bored government official running their hands around your body and looking at an anonymized image of you on a computer screen, and the rules are in place to make those scary things not happen.


Believe me, having an aggressively intent German shepherd nosing your crotch with two paramilitary guys with clean British public school accents holding automatic weapons pointed near your feet while you are politely but firmly requested not to move until he finishes his inspection, because we're afraid, really, old chap, that he smells plastic explosives in your tighty-whiteys, and you fit the profile of most American-based IRA supporters tends to color all of your future flight inspections in a different light. Not only because you don't want to move, AT ALL, but also because you have to wonder at the utter lack of perspicacity of someone who would carry plastic explosives that close to the bangers and mash, with the codicil that THESE guys, the ones with the hefty, fully-loaded automatic weapons with the safety off and the really big scary dog with sharp pointy teeth nosing around in your nether regions, have actually dealt with those people, and are probably not at home to clever jokes about how we saved their asses in World War II or the one about Queen Vicky and the donkey in Tijuana.


If you got all the way down to the end here, here's the short version: If you want to fly without getting a pat down, go buy a Cessna and learn how to fly it, pay for the gas, get your pilot's license, and use that to fly yourself around. If, however, you want to fly on a commercial airline, shut up and follow the rules, regardless of how intrusive you find the inspections. They're not there for your personal comfort and joy; they're there to keep your bitchy ass from getting blown up. If you don't like it, don't buy a ticket, and DON'T make a spectacle out of yourself to prove that you're not a fan of the new regulations. It's ultimately pointless and does nothing but keep people from doing what they are legally required to do (and legally means "by law" - IE, if they don't do their job, they can get arrested.)


The other one thing I find immensely bemusing and amusing, is that so many people don't realize that they have at least one other option. Prior to 1939, people did it all the time.


Ride the train. No pat-downs and you can move about the cabin all you like.


*Mom still doesn't understand why I like sushi.

**More fun than it sounds like. Trust me on this one; you'll probably get arrested otherwise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

On being "rude"

Rudeness is one of those things you're taught about as an early child. Don't interrupt others when they're talking. Try to be polite. Ask nicely. Say things like, "please" and "thank you". These are habits ingrained in us from early childhood. It's not hard to extend courtesy to anyone.

But somewhere along the way "rudeness" and "disagreement" got jumbled up together. Even worse, now the idea of calling someone out for their behavior or statements is considered "rude".

Take my trip off to lunch today, for example. Since my break is relatively short (I prefer to eat at my desk and do a bit more writing) I usually scarper off to a local takeaway joint and get some food. To do this, you have to find a parking spot. Enter Clueless "Disabled" Guy in a BMW. For some inexplicable reason, as cars are stacking up behind us as he pulls halfway out of his handicapped spot, he decides to look down at his phone and do some jotting or texting. This would not have been a problem had six cars NOT been waiting for him to move. So I honked.

I do love my new car's horn - it's loud, and goes into harmonics if you keep it pressed. Two tones, then three. but this was a short one, just a "hey, dude. Wake up" toot that was meant to say, "People are waiting, let's get rollin' here." He rolls down his window and yells out, "You rude son of a bitch!"

My look of bafflement must have made his day, but the two cars that honked right back at him from behind me probably didn't. As I got out, shrugging and walking off, I heard him screaming at the other people who were telling him he was blocking traffic. Words like, "Veteran" and "disabled" were getting bandied about, and the argument that I heard went something along the lines of the salient, yet earthy points of: Just because you have a vet sticker and license plate, happen to be gray-haired and sporting a blue hanging placard, you are not entitled to drive and act like a douchemonkey.

This is also true for people with "Baby on Board" placards. I don't care if you have a baby on board. I have a puppy on board most days, and I still drive carefully. Somehow the idea that a sign notifying people of the cargo you're carrying will earn you special privileges while weaving back and forth in your lane got implanted into the parental collective mind, like the idea that Dilbert cartoons stuck to your cubicle wall indicates in any way that you have a sense of humor about your workplace. You must, because you have Dilbert cartoons on your wall. Right? RIGHT? RIIIIIGHT????

But this is the trend. One cannot state the obvious without being considered "rude". If I tell someone their political beliefs are complete crap and their entire foundation is based on utter lies and bullshit, I'm not cited for being accurate, I'm told I'm rude, or overbearing, or just not understanding of the situation.

Look, in some circumstances, telling someone they're wrong is not rude. For instance, when the younger Palin daughters begin attacking people by calling them "faggots" on Facebook, and saying that behavior is wrong, I'm definitely not being rude. I'm being accurate. When Boehner broadly says that he's getting rid of Obamacare because it doesn't do X, Y, and Z, and someone points out that he's being a moron and will be forcing expensive changes upon the industry and the people of America, that person is not being -rude-, they are being factual.

Somehow telling people they are wrong has become a social no-no.

That's going to suck for me, because I have no qualms about telling someone they're full of it.

This is a behavior that's coming due on a lot of levels. Having been a member of multiple online forums and arenas, I've found that discord and disagreement are no longer considered acceptable; even if someone's stated behavior happens to indicate a criminal activity, you can't out and out say, "Look, I'm sure you know your children and everything, but have you considered the fact that when you allowed your son's friend to sit with your daughter for a full hour in a bedroom put her in danger, and quite potentially a dangerous social situation where she had no escape, recourse, or ability to say "no"?" Nope, I'm being rude if I say that, and censured.

If I note that a particular individual has shown abberrant, destructive behavior, the new tendency of the social strata is not to discourage the destructive behavior, but rather to punish those who'd dare point out that the person happens to be manipulating and controlling, and is getting away with extraordinarily bad behavior in a community.

The most egregious examples? Billy Ray Cyrus throwing a hissy fit when asked about his extremely public divorce on a country western radio station interview and calling the interviewer "rude". And yet the rudest people - those who thrust themselves into prominence by being the loudest, most obnoxious, heaviest in-your-face individuals of celebrity and popularity have the thinnest skins. Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh never permit themselves an audience that can talk back at them; the Dittoheads are their favorite constituency.

Berkeley Breathed once said that Steve Dallas, the philandering, no-morals, no-ethics, chain-smoking personal defense attorney/band manager/creepy sunglassed character started out as a buffoon in the college paper, a parody of every entitled preppy out there, and suddenly men began emulating the behavior. Breathed's most memorable quote regarding Steve Dallas: "This was not my intent."

We're living in a culture where rudeness is cultivated, and if you disagree with anyone's personal or political point of view, offer a different perspective, or want to note that frankly, you could care less about Lindsey Lohan's latest yeast infection / alcoholism detox commitment as opposed to the discovery of a new element, you're considered to be standoffish or rude.

I'm neither, I simply don't give a rat's patootey what Barack Obama had for dinner last night, or what the Real Housewives of DC thought of each other. I have my own personal fantasies and a rich, happy inner world without dealing with the enforced personal issues of people who aren't even terribly good actors. I do not enjoy celebrity for celebrity's sake; I think Jimmy Kimmel to be a moron and Jimmy Fallon a genius precisely for those reasons. I find Keith Olbermann to be an overbearing blowhard, but a necessary one in a day and age when politicos place pressure upon the media to keep mum about the mistakes, the lies, the coverups, and the intentionally misleading statements.

The whistleblower is truly becoming the villain of any scenario.

And I can't talk about my discomfiture with some family members, either, because rather than keeping the respectful notification that two sides have different perspectives that are approached differently, I see a trending towards the "you disagree with me, therefore you are rude / totally lame". It's in the "that's so gay" phrasing of homophobic teenagers, it's in the inability of any political pundit to engage in something remotely approaching discourse. The craziest people with the loudest voices are being paid attention to, and the intelligent, quiet, rational people are getting left behind.

I've always said that the secret of my success is crap humor and a loud voice. T is almost the mirror opposite - she's far funnier than I am, but she never booms it out loud. And that's gaining traction in the media. It's not about who has the right message, it's about who has the reality show, who has the TLC channel following them around, who has the best sound bites, who has the most drama.

I don't -like- drama. I don't like dramatic personae. I don't like having to get emotionally involved with someone else's life whom I have no contact with, at all. What I want from my politicians is intelligent, straightforward discourse and people who are willing to put personal ambition aside for the purpose of the public good.

But that's not who we're getting. We are getting the Donald Trumps, the Sarah Palins, the Billy Ray Cyruses, the Paris Hiltons, the Wrestling Federation Superstars, the cult of Celebrity fed and puppeteered. Our political figures are no longer the Russ Feingolds, Ted Kennedys, Robert Byrds or the Ronald Reagans, Bush Senior or the deeply thoughtful men of a generation ago. Now it's who tweets fastest and who has the most followers.

To wit, if Bristol Palin had not had her mother's deeply rabid fanbase, she would have been cut from "Dancing With the Stars" long before anyone else. How else could we explain how the teenaged single mother of a former Alaska township mayor not only managed to stay on the show, but also wound up becoming a media celebrity? There is no reason we should know anything about these people. There is no CAUSE for me to know or care a bit about who these people are outside of the ability of the woman who is active in politics.

And yet Palin is simply the most egregious example of celebrity as qualification for a position she's woefully inadequate. There's a hint: Jesse The Body Ventura did not transition well into politics. His entire political career was based around being different, but ultimately, he had no idea how to govern or lead. Now he hosts a show about how the government hates you - and he's "back" - albeit on a poorly-rated cable TV channel.

But back to the chap who, absorbed in his own little world of the telephone, refused to see how his actions impacted those around him today. He aggravated half a dozen people simply because he was intentionally unaware of how he impacted others. It mattered little what other people were doing or needing. It's the lack of a turn signal to let someone know you're going left, instead of right. It's honking because someone can't move over to let you through. It's demanding that you be served even though you have eighty items in the express lane because you're "in a very important hurry, young man." It's yelling at a cop or fireman, "I pay your salary, you will pay attention to me!"

A digression: I adore people who scream this out at someone, because due to my ability with mathmatics, statistics, and the tracking software of my brilliantly awesome job, I can in fact figure out exactly how much someone has paid as a percentage of someone's salary. Categorizing a salary means that you can take the percentile of most people who pay taxes, find the percentage of taxes they pay to the state, federal, or city government, then estimate by 10% (generous, but quibbling isn't the issue here) what that amount of money is, divide that by the average number of taxpaying citizens in the state, and pro-rate it per year. Usually, for a single police officer, clerk, or other individual, the rate comes down to something like $0.27 US, so that argument is ALWAYS fun to see in action because if I don't have $0.27 on me, I will give the person a dollar and say, "There you go. Now you have what you paid for his salary this year back, and you can kindly shut the fuck up. You're not entitled to jack or shit just because you happened to pay taxes, you stupid lobotomized llamafucker."

The reason we obey traffic laws and don't stop in the middle of the freeway is because we are expected to behave in a similar manner. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of people who choosing reactionaryism over rationalism means that entitled asshats in BMWs shall continue to pull halfway out of a parking spot; that people with more personality than talent shall get the lions' share of the attention and validation, and that for the foreseeable future, bad behavior shall be rewarded, while people who blow the whistle, or choose to walk away, will be villified for their actions.

I don't want to be "rude". But I'm going to be rude if that's what it takes to let someone know what they're doing is not okay. I'll point out that John Boehner is an opportunistic, power-hungry jackhole interested more in scoring points than actual leadership, that the Tea Party seems to be comprised of people who only want to chant along with Glenn Beck, and that the "movements" of this part of the early century are almost entirely comprised of people who have no real idea of what they're doing.

I pick on the WingNut NeoCons purposefully as well. It is as easy and intelligent to point at PETA protesters, at any left-wing elements of society, at the people who smoke Gauloise cigarettes in university college towns and rant and rave about how we must change the dominant paradigm without knowing A) what the dominant paradigm actually IS, B) what a paradigm might be, or C) whether it's actually capable of donning a corset, fishnets, and a mask of former Senator Larry Craig. That doesn't mean that they are in any way, shape or form more correct or less right than I am; it merely means that the FoxNews and Glenn Beckians have taken the art form of playing aggressively wounded victim to a whole new artistic level. One cannot attack without opening themselves up for dire criticism - and frankly, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Olbermann, and many, many of our loud, obnoxious voices in the media need to be backhanded with rationalism and veracity more than a few times.

We need a return to truth, not true enough or truthiness. We need media who don't shape the message, but simply present facts and information as they happen, to provide pure and undiluted information in its best and clearest form. We need truth; we do not need the circus that has become what our media has decided it should be.

Edward R. Murrow is quite possibly the best example of someone who, under intense, violent scrutiny, was what could be best described as "rude". However, we have no Edward R. Murrow. We only have Joel McHale, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert - none of whom do more than mock those who choose to attack with a hammer and defend with a thin skin.

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