Sci-Fi Mashup: One simply doesn’t yada yada yada

OPEN:

It is the year 2408 and the Federation is on the verge of all-out war with the Klingon Empire.  The USS Enterprise-F, Vanguard, Shran and Soval are all en route to a spatial distortion field reported by a Federation subspace beacon near the Klingon border.  Acting Captain Wesley Crusher commands the Enterprise-F, while Captain Miles O’Brien commands the Vanguard, and Captain Tuvok commands the Shran.  The Soval is commanded by newly minted Captain Data, whose primitive B-4 brain has been greatly enhanced using old notes left by his creator.

ENTERPRISE-F

HELMSMAN:  We’ve arrived at the spatial distortion field, Captain.

CRUSHER:  Hold position.  Commander Roshenko, any readings?

ROSHENKO:  None, Captain.  *klaxon* Wait, there is a vessel coming through the field.

(Suddenly, the Jackhammer from “Transformers Prime” comes through the distortion field, chased by several Cylon raiders, who are chased by the IAS Excalibur and the Millenium Falcon.)

CRUSHER:  What in the name of…*sudden impacts of torpedoes and particle cannons* report!

HELMSMAN:  Shields holding, but dropping steadily.  We’re caught in the crossfire.

CRUSHER:  Move us away from the field.  Crusher to fleet; move away from the field and give the unknown combatants room.

JACKHAMMER – Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus are badly injured.  Bulkhead and Knockout are operating the vessel.

BULKHEAD:  We’ve gotta get our guys to safety!  Knockout, what’s our heading?

KNOCKOUT:  I have no clue!  That distortion field scrambled everything *blast causes a panel to wing off Knockout’s shoulder, scratching his paint*  Scrap!  I just had that buffed!

BULKHEAD *tapping comm system*:  This is the Autobot Warship Jackhammer to unknown vessels.  We mean you no harm.  We’ve been chased by these strange craft through a wormhole and now it seems like we are somewhere else.

ENTERPRISE-F

CRUSHER:   Autobots?  Helm, verify their weapons status.

HELMSMAN:  Weapons are down.  They have minimal shields.  It appears the ship following them isn’t advanced.

CRUSHER:  Open a channel *signal open channel*  This is Captain Wesley Crusher of the Starship Enterprise.  We will assist you, Jackhammer.  Come about and to the aft of our ship.  Our fleet will offer protection.

*screech of Cylon raider*:  Do not resist.  We will destroy you!

CRUSHER:  Status of that fighter.  Anything that can hurt us.

HELMSMAN:  This is odd.  It showed two thermonuclear torpedoes.

CRUSHER:  Wait, did you just say “thermonuclear?”  Commander, confirm.

ROSHENKO:  Confirmed, sir.  Two megaton warheads.  Our shields can easily withstand the blast.

CRUSHER:  And our weapons?

ROSHENKO:  A single photon torpedo, sir, minimal yield.

CRUSHER:  Fire when ready.

ROSHENKO:  Aye, sir.

Enterprise-F locks onto the raider, and fires a single torpedo, destroying it.  The Millenium Falcon and Excalibur come to a dead stop in front of the fleet.

CRUSHER:  Anything?

ROSHENKO:  Negative, sir.  Both ships are holding relative to our position.  I read three life signs aboard the small ship, over 100 on the larger.

Aboard the Excalibur

SHOK’NA DAVID SHERIDAN:  What do you make of it, Commander?

COMMANDER SHELDON COOPER:  Hardly intriguing.  In fact, it would appear that we are in the middle of what would best be described as “Schrodingers Mexican Standoff.”

SHERIDAN:  Remind me again why the Anla’shok assigned you to my ship.

COOPER:  All the other ships said they were fully staffed.

SHERIDAN:  Allegedly.  *Thanks Mom, for instilling me with that stilted sense of egalitarianism*  Mr. Cooper, open a channel.

COOPER:  Sir, I hardly think that’s wise.  We don’t know the linguistic capabilities of these vessels.  For all we know, they could have squid heads and elephant bodies.

SHERIDAN:  Been talking to the Garibaldi girl again, I see.

COOPER *horrified*:  I am shocked, sir!  You know full well I am repulsed by human contact.

SHERIDAN:  And yet, you’re _here_

COOPER:  A minor oversight, but very well.  Channel open…don’t say I didn’t tell ya so.

SHERIDAN:  Duly noted.  This is Captain David Sheridan of the Excalibur.  We noticed you destroyed a renegade raider ship with one blast.  I would like to discuss a possible meeting to exchange tactical information.

(Crusher appears on the screen)

CRUSHER:  Captain Sheridan, one does not simply ask a Federation ship for its secrets.

COOPER:  You stole that from Lord of the Rings!  Thief!

CRUSHER:  Captain, kindly refrain your officer from speaking to me in that tone.

SHERIDAN:  If I could, I would.  Trust me!

Aboard the Jackhammer

BULKHEAD:  Is it just me, or does that one human sound like a really bad version of Starscream?

KNOCKOUT:  Primus forbid *hears Ultra Magnus groaning*  Sir, are you feeling better?

ULTRA MAGNUS:  I’m doing better, thank you soldier.  However, I strongly advise we go back through that distortion field.  It appears we are in an alternate reality with (looks at viewscreen and sees Commander Cooper) a very insolent life form.

BULKHEAD:  You _recognize_ him?

Wheeljack gets up and limps to the screen.

WHEELJACK:  Yeah, we do.  He’s one of the humans they call a “know it all.”  Real pain in the cylinder.  He’s like a fleshing version of Megatron, only more annoying and less spark-threatening.

(back aboard the Excalibur)

SHERIDAN:  Captain Crusher, I would be honored to share information with you aboard a neutral ship.

CRUSHER:  What do you suggest?

SHERIDAN:  How about the small vessel adjacent to us.

(Han Solo pops on the viewscreen)

SOLO:  Hey!  I never agreed to this!

C3PO:  Sir, might I suggest that your course of action is unwise.  Both of those ships could obliterate us several times over.

COOPER:  I like that robot!  He’s got the sort of unfeeling nervous callow attitude I find endearing.

SHERIDAN:  Would you like to join him?

COOPER:  Oh, heavens no!  I’m accustomed to my life here.

SHERIDAN:  Shit.

C3PO:  Sir, I would like to suggest we accommodate their request.

SOLO:  Like hell!  Chewie, power up the weapons.

COOPER:  My word!  They’re prepared to attack us.

SHERIDAN:  What, seriously?

CRUSHER:  They must be joking.

SHERIDAN AND CRUSHER:  Fire at will.

(both the Excalibur and Enterprise target the Millennium Falcon)

C3PO:  Sir, the odds of surviving this situation are 200 trillion to

SOLO:  Never tell me the….

(Flash of light as the Falcon is destroyed)

CRUSHER:  Ah, now where we?

SHERIDAN:  I believe we were (lights dim) what the hell?

(The Excalibur suddenly discharges its super quantum cannon at the Enterprise-F, striking its warp core directly, destroying the entire ship)

SHERIDAN:  What the hell?

COOPER (Looking smug):  You left me no choice, captain!  You both destroyed that delightful droid!

SHERIDAN (taps comm console);  Jackhammer, are you with me?

BULKHEAD:  We’re here!

SHERIDAN:  I’m about to eject something.  Feel free to use it for target practice!

(Two rangers subdue Commander Cooper, toss him in an Evac suit, and eject him through an airlock).

SHERIDAN:  He’s all yours!

KNOCKOUT:  Targeting that annoying little human!

ULTRA MAGNUS:  Optimus Prime wouldn’t approve of this!

COOPER:  You all are in my spot.

ULTRA MAGNUS:  That’s it (tapping the firing control) I can’t deal with this anymore!

(Jackhammer fires at Cooper, blowing his suit apart)

BULKHEAD:  Safe journeys, Excalibur

SHERIDAN:  You two, Jackhammer!  (looks at the crew) Okay, activate jump engines to…I don’t know…anywhere but this hellhole!

(Jackhammer and Excalibur both warp out, while Darth Sidous’ ship comes through the vortex and notices Cooper’s pieces)

SIDIOUS:  Get him onboard this vessel.  Quickly.

(Hours later, a slimmer looking version of Darth Vader emerges from the shadow, breathing.  He walks up to Darth Sidious).

SIDIOUS:  What is it, my student?

VADER:  You’re in my spot.

(Force chokes Sidious to death.)

VADER:  Mwah  Ha ha!

****END****

You’re a man who fell in love with his best female friend? Here’s a survival guide of sorts

These next two weeks, I will be posting about some problems afflicting males in their relationships and some insights on how we, as men, can address them with a pinch of sarcasm and a healthy heap of cynicism.  Yes, this is experience talking.  Ladies, chances are you’ll be offended by something, so enjoy the ride.

So it finally happened: you realized that female best bud, the one with whom you have shared so much, is the woman you’ve fallen hopelessly in love with.  Well that’s great; a lover is always great when they are your best friend.  But now comes a hitch.

She doesn’t feel the same way, or you suspect she doesn’t.

Ouch!  Short of having your testicles removed with a shrimp fork, there is nothing on this earth quite as burning as that feeling.  I’ve been there, and it sucks.  But fear not, for there are some ways for a friendship to survive the most dangerous of waters, those of unrequited love.

First, let me begin with an uncomfortable fact.  The notion of a “best friend love affair” is just a hair less remote than Peyton Manning becoming head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.  It might be hurtful to hear, but forget the “soulmate” stuff.  This is about protecting your heart and psyche from being crushed like a grape after a late season harvest.

That being said, unless you are so secure in yourself that not even a coordinated hack attack by both Russia and ISIS can take you down, you can never reveal this.  This should be the “Friendship Prime Directive.”. The goal is to preserve the friendship, and if you aren’t secure in yourself and are rejected, the friendship must be ended. Period.

Now if you were able to successfully profess your love for this person to this person and survived the dreaded “I’d rather just be friends” answer, here are some protocols to follow, without exception.

1.  Never, ever, ever, ever talk about sex.  This will drive you insane with jealousy, especially if you are in a bad marriage or lousy relationship.

2.  If she calls a significant other or said person drops by, duck out gracefully.  This will save you a lot of grief and embarrassment.

3.  If she suggests a double date, politely decline while thinking “are you mad, woman?”

4.  Never be around her when she’s drunk.  This a rule which absolutely cannot be broken.  You don’t want to do something idiotic in the midst of a drunken stupor. No matter how bad your heart or loins may ache for her.

5.  Find a hobby and pour your heart into it.  Cars, sports, writing, art, carpentry…you get the idea.  Hell, build a freaking house!!!!  Just find a mental distraction.

6.  If married, NEVER TELL YOUR SPOUSE.  This should be self explanatory, though a few of you will ask “why?” (Idiots.)

And the last rule to follow…

7.  Always say your okay in front of her.  I don’t give a flying fuck what experts say.  A woman does not want to see her best man friend turn into a blubbering idiot.  Play it cool, be graceful, then go home and find something fragile you don’t need and smash it to pieces.

Hope this helps…coming next, the dumbest reasons to get married.

Best Star Trek Captain of the Enterprise: Kirk, Picard or Archer???

There have been a great many articles, memes and debate threads in our world centered around the greatest entertainment question of our time.  Namely, which Star Trek captain was better, Kirk or Picard?

Let’s go outside the warp bubble for a moment and go a little off the beaten heading, if you will.  It’s time for a critical examination and comparison of Captains James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, and Jonathan Archer.  Yes, I include Captain Archer of Star Trek: Enterprise because not only is he deserving of consideration for best captain, he also survived the “greatness” that is Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, et al.

I shall refrain from a critical analysis of role portrayal by the actors and simply attack this as a look at the captain’s ability to lead, manage, make decisions, etc.  Let’s start with the elder statesmen.

Captain Kirk.

Yes ladies, it is I, the "T" standings for "Totally Awesome!"
Yes ladies, it is I, James T. Kirk.  By the way, the “T” stands for “Totally Awesome!”

As we all know, James T. Kirk grew up in Iowa and, depending on the canon you subscribe to, he was either the son of a decorated Starfleet officer who went on to see him assume command of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), or whose father died ramming the USS Kelvin into the ship commanded by the Romulan miner, Nero, and saved Earth from a singularity-infused death.  For the purposes of this writing, we will keep it with Original Series (TOS) canon, and stick with the William Shatner version.  Sorry, ladies.

Kirk ended up becoming Captain of the USS Enterprise after Christopher Pike’s appearance in the TOS Pilot “The Cage.”  While TOS had a remarkably short television run versus its movie incarnations, Kirk cemented himself into Trek lore with a variety of gags, humors, and straight-up over-the-top behaviors. He was quite the ladies man, preferred to keep his phaser on “kill’ rather than “stun,” and was quick to whip out the phasers and photon torpedoes.  He also had a knack for getting into seriously stupid fights with a variety of enemies, ranging from the

This remains the gold-standard for over-the-top rage fits!
This remains the gold-standard for over-the-top rage fits!

Romulans, to the Klingons, and later with Klingons with a misguided sense of destiny (“Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock”).  He also was reknowned for undermining his successors authority (“Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan”), even if strictly by force of personality (“Star Trek:  Generations”).  However, Kirk makes up for this with sheer guile, bravery (though often wreckless), and an unrelenting desire to do right by his friends and those under his command.

Have you hugged YOUR Gorn today?  Wait, does ANYONE want to hug a GORN?
Have you hugged YOUR Gorn today? Wait, when does ANYONE want to HUG a GORN?

One area many Trek fans tend to overlook is Kirk’s deep-seated insecurity with regard to his aging and mortality. Though he does not believe in the “no win scenario” and has proven a willingness, and actual ability, to cheat death, when faced with his own mortality, he has proven to be quite sensitive (“Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan”), even deflective of said mortality (“Star Trek:  Generations”) but, in the end, faced his death on his terms, even if, in the end, he was literally trapped like a rat.  At the end of the day, Kirk even displayed a quasi-Shakespearean fatalism with regards to his sense of duty (“Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country”).  Overall, James T. Kirk’s performance as Captain of the Enterprise was not entirely horrific, but rather brave and colorful, though always approached with a strange sense of fatalistic moral relativism.

Jean-Luc Picard

The next person who makes the damned "Make it Sew" joke is going to get shoved into a warp-coolant tank!
The next person who makes the damned “Make it Sew” joke is going to get shoved into a warp-coolant tank!

Captain Picard presented himself to Trekdom as a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  He was full of contradictions:  a man with a deep sense of duty, who accepted command of the newly-christened Federation flagship, (NCC-1701D), yet chafed at the notion of having to deal with children on a ship filled with families.  Stoic to the last, he displayed an affinity for fine art, good food, and mature women (“Star Trek:  Insurrection”).  Unlike Kirk, Picard was far more a thinking-man’s captain, focusing on the analytical and diplomatic, and delegating the tactical and defensive to his command staff.  True to form, his heart wasn’t entirely organic, but instead a little on the cybernetic side, thanks to a Nausican’s blade bisecting the bottom of it.  This would seem near self-prophetic with the dreaded Borg chose him to be transformed into their Emissary, Locutus (“Best of Both Worlds, 1&2”).

Tell me the Doctor, where are we going this time?
Tell me the Doctor, where are we going this time?

Picard’s captaincy of the Enterprise-D had its highs and lows.  Where Kirk relaxed in the company of a woman’s touch whenever possible, Picard could often be found curling up with a good book or, better still, acting out those scenes on the holodeck.  A Dixon Hill fanatic, Picard’s affinity for the gumshoe actually served him when the Borg took over the Enterprise and Picard was forced to remove the holodeck safeties as a means of killing Borg drones to obtain valuable memory chip information (“Star Trek:  First Contact”)  Moreover, while Kirk was not exactly known for his diplomatic tact, Picard was rather adroit in dealing with both enemies such as Romulans, tenuous Klingon allies, unpredictable wildcards such as the Sheliac, and first contact situations with indecipherable language sets.

Is this the 2250s, or 2399?  Yes, I get it, very bad joke!
Is this the 2250s, or 2399? Yes, I get it, very bad joke!

His bravery is beyond question, as he has not only cheated death, but also been killed, assimilated, maimed, and brought between continuums.  It is the rare Starfleet captain who can claim to have gone toe-to-toe with an omnipotent, omniscient being and so beguiled said quasi-deity as to win, at the very least, his fondness for humanity.  Picard, overall, demonstrates leadership at a high level, courage at its best, and a rather idealistic sense of morality, with just a hint of realism mixed in to keep him looking, well, human.  At the very least, he proved a genuine embracing of his mortality, as well as the fact that others who are seemingly immortal can go before him in the blink of an eye.  (“Star Trek:  Nemesis”)

Jonathan Archer

Forget bad hair days, you ever have a bad FOREHEAD day!
Forget bad hair days, you ever have a bad FOREHEAD day!

If Kirk is the man of action, and Picard is the man of thought, then Archer is the man of wonder.  Bravery is a prerequisite when taking a starship (NX-01 Enterprise) into uncharted space without the backup of a multi-planetary fleet, few weapons, and little more than electroplated armor.  Add to that a highly not-so-universal translator which requires a linguistic genius with a fear of bugs, tight spaces, etc. and the mission just seems all that more daunting.  Jonathan Archer, son of Warp 5 Engine creator Henry Archer, is one part George Washington, one part Abraham Lincoln, and ten parts Dwight D. Eisenhower.  He proved his mettle as a commanding officer shuttling a wounded Klingon scout to Q’uonos (or Kronos, depending on the version), battling shape-shifting, genetically altered beings who were evolved far beyond their time as the result of a neo-Cold War fought by factions battling over Best Practices for Time Travel (a rather silly plot device which seemed a lazy writers way out of a billion continuity questions).  He also proved that having a sex-kitten Vulcan for an First Officer was the surely way to keep his eyes at, well, eye level.  Then again, Archer did have a solid taste in ladies, evidenced by his romantic interests towards a fellow captain.

I saw T'Pol topless, and lived to talk about it!!!!!
I saw T’Pol topless, and lived to talk about it!!!!!

Where Archer shined as a commanding officer was his willing to do the dirty work.  Kirk and Picard likely both took lessons from Archer’s log entries, though the events behind those entries were likely well diluted for the interest of historical interpretation.  Archer’s own desire to exact revenge on the Xindi for their assault on Earth soon turned to a matter of diplomacy when he realized the species was being played for fools, though it did take some intervention from the aforementioned Temporal Cold War combatants to demonstrate this.  Fortunately, Archer demonstrated an extremely healthy skepticism about this matter until confronted with indisputable evidence.  Yet, it was Archer’s own subordinates and those he demonstrated the most distaste for or disagreement with who brought out his highest qualities.

Nothing to see here folks, just an exfoliation...that's right, a very AGGRESSIVE exfoliation.
Nothing to see here folks, just an exfoliation…that’s right, a very AGGRESSIVE exfoliation.

Whether it was assuming the Katra of Vulcan messianic leader Surak, the desire to achieve a non-murderous solution to an Andorian blood code with Shran, or his no-holds-barred work to save the lives of Hoshi Sato and, later, Tripp Tucker, Archer is literally the most complicated Captain to ever grace the Trek stage.

FINAL ANALYSIS (yeah, right!!!!)

Dean Stockwell ended up on Battlestar Galactica, Bakula ended up on NCIS:  New Orleans.  Well, we know who made the RIGHT leap ;)!
Dean Stockwell ended up on Battlestar Galactica, Bakula ended up on NCIS: New Orleans. Well, we know who made the RIGHT leap ;)!

Kirk, Picard and Archer all bring something special to the table.  Kirk’s own sense of adventure, willingness to fight, and desire to explore counterbalances Picard’s moral honor code and near-religious adherence to the Prime Directive, while Archer’s own self-guided self of purpose and principle, combined with the valuable lessons of first-time experience, outweighs the contributions of either.  In the end, it comes down to a question of who was the better leader.  For my money, and considering the real-world and Trek-world challenges faced, Captain Archer, though greatly undercelebrated, is my choice for the top pick.  As the saying goes, the first is often the best, and Archer is, by far, the best captain Starfleet ever produced, if for no other reason than he was the first and had to literally write the book on Starfleet protocols.

An Open Letter to the Pre-K teacher of Zayde Sands, student at Oakes (OK) Elementary School

To the teacher at Oakes Elementary School Teacher for the situation involving Zayde Sands:

I am writing this letter to you, as well the administration of Oakes Elementary School in Okemah, Oklahoma, as a left-handed adult who stands in solidarity with young Master Sands.  For the record, my salutation of this boy as “Master” instead of “Mister” is correct from both a grammatical and etiquette standpoint.  Does that mean I am evil because I am left-handed, or because I’m more tuned in to salutation etiquette?

You told this boy, who wishes to learn, and create, and do everything youths his age wish to engage in, that using his left hand for his work is “evil” and “sinister.”  Now, there are always two sides to every story, but I cannot help that feel your ability to say this is, at the very least, an indirect result of a climate of reactionary political thought in the State of Oklahoma.  Having met and known many highly intelligent Oklahomans over the years, I trust that you are in the minority of folks who embrace this notion, which is rooted mainly in superstition, and supported by outdated interpretations of scripture.

That being said, where on earth is your sense of humanity?  Do you not realize this is 2015, not 1015?  Granted, we are going through a bout of hyper-conservatism with regards to education in this country, but even the most religious individuals I know would never compel a student use their right hand when it is their left which is dominant.  There is also no more correlation between left-hand dominance and dishonesty, criminal behavior, and antisocial behavior than there is between eye color and intelligence.  Any sort of alleged “evidence” has been proven to be based on junk science and superstitious nonsense.

Of course, there are some things which left-handers are associated with which are considered “out of the ordinary” to many.  We lefties tend to be more artistic, more creative, more charismatic and far more adaptive than our right-handed brethren.  This has been associated, through extensive research in the field of neuroscience, with right-brain function.  Left-brain dominance is responsible for problem solving, logic and more traditional methods of thinking, where right-brain dominance is responsible for creativity and artistic talent.  Yes, left-handers use the right hemisphere of the brain, whereas right-handers use the left hemisphere.  Of course, based on your superstitious, medieval postulation, that would mean that while left-handers commit the evil, it is right-handers, who are dominant in the left-hemisphere, who actually conceive of the evil.  After all, if it is the hand which commits, isn’t it the mind which conceives?  As a teacher, I do hope you see where I’m going with this.

My mother is a leftie, and proud of it.  Of all the things which my mother is devout in from a religious standpoint, she was not foolish enough to fall for this breed of ignorance.  She actually insisted I promise to tell her the moment anyone attempted to force me to write with my right hand.  Indeed, going to Catholic school in my early teens, I had heard of some nuns who had actually espoused this belief and used the “rap the knuckles” technique to end what they saw as “intellectual possession.”  I was fortunate to never run across such idiocy in my days in school, though I had heard stories of attempts to “correct” left hand dominance.  I am grateful I never witnessed any such incident.

As an aspiring educator myself, it is good to know that such foolishness as yours still exists in this world so I can be aware of it and help to eliminate it. This young man deserves the opportunity to grow up with wonderful memories of learning, not early memories of being equated to the spawn of Satan.  It would behoove you to learn more about the real world of left-handedness, the challenges we face as a genetic group, and the triumphs which so many of us have achieved.  Did you know that President George W. Bush, considered the political standard bearer for the Evangelical Christian movement, is left-handed?  So was the late Ronald Reagan!  You wouldn’t associate the man considered responsible for ending the “Evil Empire” of the Soviet Union with “evil,” would you?  Of course not!

Please, I implore you to think about what you said to this young man and, at the very least, apologize for your words to him.  If you are unable to do so, I strongly recommend you consider a life outside the realm of public education in the United States, as this mentality is the sort of thing one would associate with the Salem Witch Trials, not the United States of America of the 21st Century.

Thank you for your time and attention.  This left-hander appreciates your ear.

Sincerely,

John E. Guzzardo

Left-Handed Author, Writer, Worker, and American

Martin Shkreli’s Daraprim decision sounds a lot like a case of capitalist entitlement

This week’s outcry and outrage over Martin Shkreli’s announcement that his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, was purchasing the rights to Daraprim and raising the price to stratospheric levels lit the internet and social media in a way unseen since the race riots in Ferguson.  Even Donald Trump’s ill-advised comments about immigration and fellow candidates didn’t illuminate things to this degree.  That being said, it’s time for a rather “tell it like it is” look at Shkreli’s decision.

First off, let’s get straight to the point of contention; Daraprim, a medication used to combat malaria, as well as toxoplasmosis and AIDS, had been sitting on the “rights shelf” for over 60 years.  Up until Shkreli’s announcement, this medicine sold for $13.50 per pill, hardly a bargain by any stretch.   Yet it was his decision and announcement to increase the price to $750 overnight which is what secured him the image of being a hero to hardcore libertarians and uber-capitalists, and a villain to, well, most of planet Earth.

His choice wasn’t entirely off the wall, though he own personality and presentation of reason, which combined hubris with a sense of venture-capitalist entitlement (more on that term later), is what makes Shkreli appear just a half-rung off John D. Rockefeller for the not-so-coveted prize of Satan’s economic advisor.  Looking objectively at this matter, it’s actually pretty difficult to tell if Shkreli is the product of his own foolish pride, or if this is a matter of an agenda-driven media assault on a CEO. 

Upon examine of the medication’s application, it really isn’t a “big player” in the world of modern medical practice.  Daraprim accounts for a minuscule level of commerce in the pharmaceutical world, and its applications are fairly limited.  That being said, the fact that it was jacked up in price by over 5000 percent (yes, the math is sound) after having sat at its current price point (adjusted mainly for inflation) for over 60 years does strikes as a case of opportunistic price gouging.

One of the issues raised following Shkreli’s announcement, and especially his defensive reaction afterwards, was the increasing impression that many venture-capitalists, or capitalists in general, have veered towards possessing attitudes of entitlement with regards to how their decisions should be received.  Much like professional sports owners who demand millions in tax breaks for stadiums from communities which can ill-afford them, those of Shkreli’s ilk have been putting off an attitude of quasi-royalty, displaying a apparent disdain for those who have not been quite a fortunate in their lives.  Whether this is fair or not is immaterial – this sort of entitlement mentality is no better than that which is displayed by those who refuse (not those who are disabled or otherwise unemployable) to exit government benefit rolls.  It’s the same attitude, only in a gold-foiled package.

I can’t help but get the sense that Shkreli’s announcement was less about the money and more about his flexing his proverbial executive muscles for all to see.  This is a guy who, when you look him up on social media, seems to get a serious charge out of looking outrageous, ridiculously rebellious, and ready to ingratiate himself to whatever pleasures befall him.  That is not a moral judgment; it is a self-evident statement based entirely on the images this man chooses to present to the world.  In his interviews, he appears overconfident, highly arrogant, and willing to essentially tell the world what to do with itself.  If there was a modern-day John Galt wannabe, Shkreli appears to be playing that role to the hilt, and loving every single damned second of it.  If he wants to do that, it’s his choice, but he needs to accept, rather than defend against, the backlash against him.  That defensiveness is what I mean when I speak of a capitalist entitlement mentality.

Let’s face facts; Turing Pharmaceuticals owns the rights to this medication, and can now do with it, short of a collective multi-governmental effort, as it pleases.  Anyone who understands the world of biological research and disease control/prevention knows that research and development are not cheap.  The amount of time it takes for discovery, research, clinical trials, patenting and ultimate approvals of various government agencies more than justifies the steep price of many cutting-edge medications and treatments.  It is when a medicine which has been around for over a half-century is suddenly deemed worthy of further development and sees a subsequent price hike in the thousands of percent range that one has to be skeptical of not only the intent for research, but the ultimate reason an executive would dare to so blatantly, and confidently, announce and justify said decision.  This would have been akin to a pharmaceutical firm being able to buy the rights to Penicillin, cranking up the price to unheard-of rates, and rolling out “rebooted versions” of Amoxicillin and other such products.

Shkreli may not be the most likable executive to ever grace media, but he’s made a buzz.  He appears to have studied at the altar of Ayn Randian economic thought, and secured a fellowship from the Donald Trump school of Machiavellianism.  I’m certain his friends and family will defend him to the last, but I can’t help but feel that this announcement wasn’t about economics, shareholder return, class warfare, or any sort of sinister plot to harm billions.  Instead, this appears to come down to the most classic, and Freudian sort of executive behavior one could possibly theorize – Shkreli is whipping out his figurative wanker for all to see and screaming “look how big an executive I am!”

His move is not unlike someone sending an unsolicited sex selfie – highly offensive to most who saw it, not very well strategized, and has already blown up in his face.  Still, I get this distinct feeling he doesn’t really care.

Atlanta traffic, “Uptown Funk” style

cropped-atlanta.jpgI’m going to have some fun with some lyrics.  This parody of “Uptown Funk” is actually a biting commentary on the state of Atlanta traffic!  Anyone who chooses to set this ditty to music, please comment with a link to the music so I can watch it!  Thanks, and enjoy!

This is a song for that jam on the connector
This one’s for those backups, those gridlocks, straight cluster*beep*
Sittin’, idlin’, rising with those tempers.
Gonna’ blow up, or blow out, can’t cry so we all whimper.

 

Say what?  Traffic jam!
Call the police unit and HERO man!
Say what?  Traffic jam!
Collisions all over the place.

Say what?  Traffic jam!
The Perimeter and I-20.
Say what?  Traffic jam!
Four hundreds screwed again!

 

Traffic folks goin crazy!
Traffic folks goin crazy!
Traffic folks goin crazy!
Cause At-Lan-ta traffic’s crazy now
At-Lan-ta traffic’s crazy now
All lanes blocked, it’s gridlocked!
Atlanta traffic just sucks!!!

 

Atlanta traffic just sucks!!!

 

Whoa, whoa whoa now….STOP!
Wait a minute! Pull over, it’s a HERO unit!
Wait sec, there’s a wreck, here’s the folks with the stretch!
Wrecks in Austell, Cumberland, Ashford-Dunwoody,
If you drive it, gonna get stuck.
As soon as you hit that freeway!

 

Say what?  Accident!
Call the police and HERO man!
Say what?  Accident!
Jammed everything up to its limit.
Say what?  Accident!
Got the traffic folks going bonkers again.
Say what?  Accident!
Soundin red alerts again!  Here we go…

 

Traffic folks goin crazy!
Traffic folks goin crazy!
Traffic folks goin crazy!
Cause At-Lan-ta traffic’s crazy now
At-Lan-ta traffic’s crazy now
All lanes blocked, it’s gridlocked!
Atlanta traffic just sucks!!!

 

Before you go…
Let me share a little somethin
Atlanta traffic sucks, Atlanta traffic sucks.
Atlanta traffic sucks, Atlanta traffic sucks.
Atlanta traffic sucks, Atlanta traffic sucks.
Atlanta traffic sucks, Atlanta traffic sucks.

 

Don’t…jump on it…you’re better off on MARTA
Aint worth bein stuck there an hour.
You’ll save gas just parkin
Don’t…jump on it…you’re better off on MARTA
All lanes are blocked, it’s gridlocked
Atlanta traffic just sucks.

 

Atlanta traffic just sucks. (repeat to the end)

Some songs which should be retired from the cover circuit

Pen writing on paperThere are plenty of songs which have been covered over the years, some far more than others.  In fact, Mental Floss actually published a 2009 list of The 10 Most Covered Songs.  Of course, that list has changed over the last six years, but this list remains reasonably reliable.  In the interest of preserving the collective sanity of the people of Earth, I alone shall assume the mantle of Ultimate Hubris and determine which should be forever banned from being covered again *tongue shoved quite deeply in cheek*.

Yesterday, the Beatles.

Mental Floss says:  “It has been covered more than 3,000 times, including by Joan Baez, Liberace, Sinatra, Elvis, Daffy Duck, En Vogue and Boyz II Men.”

My Verdict:  Covering a song over 3,000 is like driving a car for so long, the driver and any passengers smell exactly like everything which has ever been in said vehicle (most of you understand this!)  When Daffy Duck covers a song, it’s time to send it to the South Pacific for a long, peaceful retirement.  For the love of every deity in all the various dimensional planes, I beg the music gods to shove this into a filing cabinet somewhere, lock it up, and throw away the key!

Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles.

Mental Floss says: “A somewhat surprising choice, I think, but it’s been covered 131 times by artists such as Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Aretha, Kansas and Swedish industrial metal band Pain.”

My Verdict:  Upon hearing this song, I was actually pretty impressed with it.  It’s not overdone and the covers are (mostly) not bad.  It may stay.

Cry Me a River, Julie London.

Mental Floss says: “This jazzy number from 1955 has been covered by a huge range of people ““ Barbra Streisand, Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, Rick Astley, Bjork, Merle Haggard, and Olivia Newton John (the new Justin Timberlake Cry My a River is not a cover).”

My Verdict:  The fact that Olivia Newton John, Merle Haggard, and Rick Astley managed to do decent covers of this (okay, Rick Astley is a stretch), keeps it safe.

And I Love Her, the Beatles.

Mental Floss says: “Covered by Bob Marley, Smokey Robinson, Sarah Vaughan, Barry Manilow and Vince Gill, among numerous others. I think this is one of the most gorgeous Beatles songs there is, so while I can’t really blame people for trying, I doubt anyone can top the original.”

My Verdict:  Does someone at Mental Floss have a serious boner for The Beatles?  I mean, really.  That said, this one is pretty good for a cover.  Still, once a song is covered in every conceivable genre (Bob Marley kinda clinched this one), it’s time for the shelf.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones.

Mental Floss says:  “I bet most of us remember Britney’s rendition at the 2000 MTV video music awards ““ during the song, she ripped off her black suit, stripper-style. Then, in the nude-colored outfit underneath, she transitioned into Oops! I Did it Again. But it’s also been covered by Jimi Hendrix, Cat Power and Vanilla Ice.”

My Verdict:  GAHHHH!!!!  If I could beam this song into space, shove it into a black hole, pull it out in another dimension and run it through a “New Kids” machine wash, it still wouldn’t erase the image I have of Mick Jagger in nut-huggers at the Super Bowl halftime show.  Good-fraggin-BYE!!!

Imagine, John Lennon.

Mental Floss says: “Joan Baez’s cover of this is no surprise, nor is Ray Charles or Elton Johns. Some more unconventional versions have been done by Avril Lavigne, Dolly Parton and Queen.”

My Verdict:  This John Lennon classic is a great song on its own merits.  I’ve heard several horrendous covers, but also some great ones.  This is a good song for acoustic troubadours to cut their teeth on.  Keep it.

Summertime, Abbie Mitchell.

Mental Floss says: “She’s the one who originally sang it, anyway, in the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The Janis Joplin cover is probably the most well-known, but Sonny and Cher did a version as well, and so did REM.”

My Verdict:  I’ve heard it a few times, and it was actually not bad.  As a cover, I’ve heard way worse, so it’s worth keeping.

Blackbird, The Beatles.

Mental Floss says: “Another one of the prettiest Beatles songs, in my opinion, and another one of the most-covered. I’d love to hear the Dave Grohl version, myself, but there’s also Phish, Jesse McCartney (hmm), Bobby McFerrin, Eddie Vedder (I bet that one is really good) and Elliott Smith.”

My Verdict:  This song is the LAST Beatles song on the Mental Floss list (breathing a sigh of relief), but it’s pretty damned good.  For a cover, it really is versatile, which is surprising since some of the Beatles songs are rather stylistic (especially the latter ones which feature heavy sitar influence). As a result, their covers are either really good, or really, really awful!  Let’s keep it…for now.

Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland.

Mental Floss Says:  “This one makes me wonder if there is a correlation between the most-covered songs ever and the songs most-frequently performed on American Idol auditions. Non-Idol cover versions include Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, Eva Cassidy, Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, Tori Amos and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. That last version is the Hawaiian rendition that’s mixed with What a Wonderful World that has gotten a lot of play in the last few years.”

My Verdict:  True Story – I once heard Martina McBride cover this song at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida and that performance was dynamite.  That said, this song is considered a “standard bearer” among covers.  Judy Garland’s original rendition remains the best, but there are many worthy renditions over the years.  Something this good deserves to stay.

The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield.

Mental Floss says: “Written by Burt Bacharach and originally sung by Dusty for the first Casino Royale soundtrack in 1967, it’s been covered a lot. Just a few include The Zombies, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Shirley Bassey and Diana Krall.”

My Verdict:  Any song which can be successfully covered by The Zombies, Gladys Knight and Shirley Bassey deserves to stay on this list.  Besides, it’s from a non-canon Bond movie, so it can’t be all that bad.

WORTH A MENTION…

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac):  This 1975 hit remains a definitive work for Stevie Nicks.  Though only covered a few times, the most overplayed was the one done by the Dixie Chicks, and that rendition was highly overplayed.  Smashing Pumpkins and the cast of Glee did right by it, It’s time to give the right of first play back to Stevie, and retire this tune from coverdom.

Drift Away (John Henry Kurts):  This song has seen so many reboots, you’d think it was part of a bad Windows 10 update (rim shot).  One of the most recent, by Uncle Kracker and Dobie Gray, was average, at best and badly overplayed.  Time for it to take a breather.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell):  The aforementioned dynamic duo of Motown Records fame brought this track to life, and Diana Ross later sealed it into pop immortality with her cover, but American Idol quickly relegated this particular song to the title of Most Insufferable Title in Cover History.  Granted, this song tests the range of even the most talented singer, but seeing a dozen starry-eyed, naive contestants sing this repeatedly got so old, so fast, I prayed Marvin Gaye would actually pee on Simon Cowell’s head while they sang it.

Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett):  This song hasn’t been covered on radio that I am aware of, but it has been covered by tribute bands and awful lounge singers so much, I’m really surprised Buffett hasn’t sent out a mass cease-and-desist order!  While there are some great tribute renditions, far more are simply the product of bad singers or (worse) karaoke competitors who really wouldn’t know a flat from a sharp.