Saturday, March 24, 2007

House Votes to Set Date to Stop Being Morons

A divided house of representatives narrowly approved a resolution Friday to end its nearly four-year-old policy of acting like idiots. “It was time,” said speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi. “We gave that policy (being morons) a shot, but we think sometime next year we should get back to making sense.” When asked when the American people could expect the new policy to take effect, Pelosi remarked “listen guys, if I had my way, we’d stop acting like idiots tomorrow.”

The legislation passed with all but two republicans opposing. The republican leadership had this to say about the dissenters: “I guess when fit hits the shan some people run and some people stay. Trust me, we’ll be acting like morons well into our next Vietnam.” The break-ranks were not available for comment.

Top Democratic officials hailed the new legislation as the first rational act congress has accomplished in years and promised to follow it up with other intelligent decisions once it takes effect. “I, for one, can’t wait to start doing reasonable things again,” said representative Charles Rangel of New York. “We tried it back in the nineties, and everything seemed to go pretty well.” The congressman then pulled a rubber chew toy from his crotch and stapled it to his face. “Gotta get it all out now, I guess.”

Later in the afternoon, President Bush accused the Democrats of “turning their backs on the will of the American people.” Arguing to a packed room of white house correspondents, the President made the case that if the American people wanted their government to do things that made sense, they never would have elected him in the first place. “Put that one to the old noodle,” said the president.

The vote came around eleven o’clock this morning, capping weeks of vigorous debate in which it was agreed that, keeping to the current policy, not a single rational thing would be said. “Maybe this bill is a good idea, and maybe it’s not,” said former speaker of the house Dennis Hastert, “but the governing principle of this debate has got to be the one that’s still in place. That means utter ineptitude, no matter how idiotic that sounds.”

But after all the empty rhetoric and pointless squabbling, after none of the sides had been considered and no interests had been addressed, the house came to a decision that all representatives could agree on. Representative Robert Wexler of Florida said it best: “Even if we’re not acting like idiots anymore, we still have the Senate.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

At Stake is No Less than the Future of Everything

Recently I have blogged about political pundits and about abortion, both of which came in response to blogs that CapeTown wrote earlier. Now I realize that posts bring more posts, often about the topics of those prior posts. Take for example Virginia's response to my earlier post, asking me to propose the actual laws setting the actual limits for things like guns and abortion. Well needless to say I'm not going to do that since I'm pretty sure it requires studying a lot of information that I have neither the access nor the time nor the inclincation to answer to. Instead I would like to call out Virginia to talk about some stuff and offer some opinions on this blog for the first time in what's it been, like a month? That's right, I'm lookin at you, fella.

If you're like me, sometimes you think to yourself: "when are these pundits going to shut the fuck up about abortion and gay marriage, and while they're at it, why are we talking so much about the environment and immigration and terrorism, and guns?" I'll tell you why. Because they're sexy.

Splendid! This calls for a sexy party!

That's right, it's because they're sexy. The news is in the entertainment business and it shows through the things that get put there and the things that people talk about day in and day out, over and (oh I fell) over again. Well I can tell you what isn't sexy and what I want to hear discussed here, despite the fact that I don't see it covered so much in the media. I think that Virginia will agree with my suggestion that education is quite possibly the single most important issue facing this or any country. I mean come on, it's so simple, you fucking idiots!

The importance of education is so obvious that I don't even feel the need to make a single statement explaining it. I mean seriously, if you are not angry at the infrequency to which this issue comes up in proportion to all of this other stupid shit people are talking about I think there is something the matter with you. However if you are like me, you are wondering, isn't anyone going to talk about education? Anyone?


This is why I put it to Virginia, an unsexy man in an unsexy world, to tell us about education. I would do it myself but I don't know as much as he does. Educate me!

In your letter to Steve Jobs, you seemed to say that nothing can change until more money is put in to raise teacher's salaries and that was really the only way to fix things. Is that, is that true? Will raising teachers salaries be a panacea, or at least the catalyst for change? What about other ways to get teachers to go and to stay at public schools? How do you feel about the quality of teachers and why is it the way that it is? What about the quality of administrations? I know how you feel about parents! Also I couldn't really tell whether you supported administrators being able to fire teachers at will, or whether you even consider that important. Also while we're at it, I didn't get where you said "either raise taxes or quit bitching about the public schools," since wouldn't most of the people that are bitching about the public schools also be in favor of making taxes? Isn't that like saying "put Arrested Development back on the air or quit bitching about shitty TV shows?" What do you think about this New York Times article that I read the other day saying that what we most desparately need are middle school teachers because nobody wants to teach middle school and because it is a vital stage in the social and intellectual development of children. What about all of those articles about how much better girls are doing than boys? Is it just testosterone getting boys into more trouble, or does it have something to do with how the schools are treating the genders? Regardless of my questions, what do you think are the questions we should be asking, and where are we to look for the answers?

Given the importance of this issue in regard to the future of this country and world, I think we're entitled to answers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Brooklynite's Daily Migration

I realized yesterday that my life moves in circles. I wake up everyday in Williamsburg to an apartment entirely empty but for a lazy and sometimes fractious Siamese cat. In these late-morning hours, I usually check my correspondence on the Interweb. Then I walk north-westerly to my own empty apartment in Greenpoint, where I have a late breakfast, check correspondence again, and then settle into my cozy armchair for a bout with Heidegger, or EB White, or whatever else I have on the docket. If things go well, the writings of a clear thinker will inspire me to some writing of my own; and if they don’t, I’ll listen to some public radio or perhaps play some music. Around 2pm, I’ll exit my apartment with a squash racquet and walk north, crossing the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. From there, I’ll catch the 7 train at Jackson Ave, which will travel west under the East River to Manhattan. On the Train, I’ll usually listen to Johnny Cash or Neil Young. I’ll detrain at Grand Central Station, that bloated, seething microcosm of our modern crisis, and walk north and west towards the 63rd street Y, where I’ll coach youths from Harlem at a wonderfully dizzying racquet sport someone once had the lopsided humor to name after an obscure gourd. When the spirited adolescents tire for the day and start their trek back to what one friend of mine (who lives there) calls “The Heights!”, I’ll spend thirty minutes climbing treadmill-stairs, traveling several miles without going an inch. I’ll shower, dress, and collect myself for my evening walk to the F train, usually in good humor, though sometimes my wet hair frustrates my efforts to comfortably wear an oversized pair of headphones. I’ll take the F train south, either straight to fourteenth street, where I’ll transfer to the L for the easterly trip home, or bypass fourteenth street entirely, en route to Manhattan’s lively and absorbing southern enclaves- East Village, Chinatown, or Lower East Side. Safely mired there for the evening, life becomes a simple matter of finding cheap and provocative entertainment to usher me through the early evening hours until such time as I’ve banked enough revelry to sustain me on the walk over the Williamsburg Bridge, or until the apartment in Williamsburg has been repopulated. Slow, lazy circles. Straight lines scare me these days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'd Like to Have a %#$@* Word with You about Our Man

So I just finished reading Capetown's post about Chris Matthews. In this fine post, Capetown praises Chris Matthews in light of Tim Russert's public dislike of the man. Now I don't really watch Hardball, so I decided to see what this guy was all about, so I went to YouTube and watched two excellent videos of Matthews talking to Don Imus. Judging from these videos there is no doubt in my mind that Matthews is one of the top journalists. His elevation of truth, honesty and substance above all else seems to set him apart from most of his peers. Of course, you should see for youself, so check out the videos I watched, highlighting Matthews' views on politicians and on the Iraq war.

Now I feel that some of Matthew's comments in the second link are pretty provocative, and I thought about writing a "Matthews v. Friedman" post defending Freidman and critisizing Matthew's emphasis on the importance of "instinct" (he critisizes other reporters for not having the instinct to see the true motives of the Bush administration, but wasn't the Bush administration, too, operating largely on instinct? Ehh Matthews?? So instinct can be cool I guess, except for when it happens to be the executives, wrong instinct), but I think that is a pretty complex issue that I don't feel like getting into in a blog post right now, and besides, I already got critisized by Virginia for using topics that are easy targets of debate. In any case, I find it interesting in light of Capetown's post on Matthews, and Capetown's and Brooklyn's posts about the use of language, in light of Matthews' invocation of the terms "instinct," "bullshit" and "fucking." Whoops, that just kinda slipped out, sorry.

Monday, March 19, 2007

When a Loaf of Bread Looks Like a Banquet...

In a Sunday opinion piece, "Cheapskate Billionaires" in the LA Times, Gregg Easterbrook contextualizes the much discussed discrepancy of wealth in America. We've heard a lot about the unfair tax cuts for the super rich, how "Income for the top 1% of Americans has more than doubled in the last quarter of a century, while that of the bottom fifth barely budged", but this focuses instead on the lack of noblesse oblige exhibited by the Fortune 400 (in which even #400 is a billionaire).

I recently went to one of Cape Town paradisaical beaches and found myself the focal point of one in a long line of anti-American discussions. The group of foreigners, some of whom ended up being South African Members of (the non-funkadelic) Parliament, remarked on how America's national debt keeps on keeping on at staggering rates in order to allow us to sustain our way of life. Not being equipped with facts and figures to justify this spending, I came to America's defense by positing that we do use some of this money to help the rest of the world. I don't know if you've found yourself in these circumstances -- if you have then you already know that my comments did not snuff out the international criticism. Turns out that we're a pretty miserly nation, relative to other first-world countries, and no better is our stinginess encapsulated than in our top 1% (also the title of a film that one of our buddies edited).

With just a quick glance at the Slate 60 (a list of America's top philanthropists), the lack of generosity -- with the exception of (the non-Jimmy) Buffett -- is evident. Also, some of the names on the list are priceless, and sort of sound made up:

T. Boone Pickens (colorful ranch hand) shelled out 171.5 Million
Mortimer Zuckerman (local butcher) handed out 100 Million
Jon L. Stryker (private investigator)

What struck me most about the Easterbrook article was the first sentence: "THERE ARE NOW hundreds of people in the United States with so much money that they will never be able to spend their net worth, no matter how many Picassos or mansions or personal jets they buy." I kept reading and kept returning to this sentence and the longing for my childhood, when life and riches were fathomable. My best friend and I used to come up with lists of what we would buy with all the money in the world. My reocurring picks were a (non-simian) Big Foot monster truck, a permanent hotel room in Disney World, and a house with a pool. In recent months I have tried to play this game with myself with depressing results. I can't think of anything to buy with my imaginary and vast fortunes. A house for my Mom, and then I run out of ideas. Maybe a trip or something, but I've already lived in Asia and Africa this year and it didn't take a million bucks.

The sad reality is that the super rich of society can't think of things to buy either and yet still decide to keep their fortunes. Maybe they're just waiting for that rainy day when a good idea pops into their heads. I just hope they bought their moms some nice houses.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Red Bull gives you nauseau

In general, my complaints about television commercials revolve around quality. I maintain the belief that if I were in advertising I'd make a mint, because I'd say things like "No, why don't we just cut Jared. Honestly, a hell of a lot of people hate him." I'm not the type of person who calls in to say that I was offended by the inappropriate nature of the commercial. In fact, I was furious when Aspercreme changed their recent ad campaign. It used to say "Can a cream that stops your pain really smell good? You bet your sweet Aspercreme!" Apparently some clowns complained and the new jingle is "You bet if it's Aspercreme." Great. All of the commercialism, none of the humor.

Recently, though, I've been seriously put off by an ad. This Red Bull advertisement strikes me as unbelievably tacky. Regardless of the poor animation and desperate attempt to appeal to hipsters, there's a nasty reference present. The Kitty Genovese case is a fairly popular reference used to highlight the callousness of mankind. I had a professor in college give a (wildly overrated) lecture each year in his philosophy class about the scenario, pointing out that humans had a responsibility to each other. A woman is stabbed and her neighbors hear her cries. They do nothing, ignoring her plight. The attacker leaves (possibly after being yelled at by someone) only to return later and stab her (again) multiple times and sexually assault her. She died that night.

Maybe if you don't know the story, the ad is less offensive. I'm not going to call Red Bull, but I will post a critical blog entry. Take that, Corporate America.

By the way, if you didn't check out the "some clowns" link before, you need to read this guy's blog. Straight up crazy. Oh, I see what you did there. You ripped off a mediocre comic to point out your conservatism. Brilliant.

Top Five Movies Of:

The Aviator
Life Aquatic
Motorcycle Diaries
Kill Bill 2

Brokeback Mountian
Squid and the Whale
Ballad of Jack and Rose
Constant Gardner
Walk the Line

The Queen
The Painted Veil
Half Nelson
Lil' Miss Sunshine
An Inconvenient Truth