Category Archives: culture

A word about why American politics are so f—-d up.

Warning: this post may be offensive to everyone on earth. Better to close it now and get it over with.
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, protests and riots have swept across the nation.  The new President has signed executive order after executive order, and the country is more polarized than ever.  The more I look at things, the more I can see the origins of a lot of these issues and it comes down to a saying by the late pro football coach Vince Lombardi:

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Somewhere along the way, both the left and the right decided that their way was the not only the right way, but the only way to run things.  Instead of being open to new ideas and practicing moderation, extremism took root, aided by the absolutism made fertile by talk radio hosts, many of whom have turned out to be, themselves, outright hypocrites.  Both left and right pointed the finger at each other, decrying the other’s way as “evil” and “corrupt,” tossing about buzzwords like “income redistribution,” “globalism,” “market freedom” and “indoctrination.”

In the end, both sides are guilty of fomenting national discord for the sake of their own ambitions and avarice.  Both extremes are akin to fans of opposing teams in the Super Bowl who use the exact same offensive and defensive strategies.  The only differences are the cities represented, team colors and the one massive variable:  personalities.

This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. New England’s Tom Brady is a person who draws absolute reactions.  You either love him or you hate him.  You either admire his guile for exploiting lax rules enforcement with “deflategate,” or he is a cheater.  For Atlanta, you either love Matt Ryan for his stoicness in games and his ability to heave the ball downfield with stunning accuracy, or you hate him for his occasional post game showboating and arrogance or the demands of owner Arthur Blank.  Long story short, team affiliation and cults of personalities determine the fan base.

America’s political landscape is much the same way anymore.  It’s no longer about “what’s right for America.”  Rather, many citizens have become so fed up with the demands of either side, their rhetoric, and the approach to life their supporters take, the “win at all costs” attitude has permeated American politics.  You either love Donald Trump and what he espouses, or you loved Hillary Clinton.  Anyone who isn’t on the side of an extreme allegiance is a gutless moderate, or an independent who is immediately picked apart for which side of the ideological aisle they most identify with, regardless of if their heart is good.

We are no longer a nation which compromises for the good of all; we are a country obsessed with winning and being “right,” even if being right means may the good of the nation be damned, so long as our side prevails.  We no longer see shades of gray, or the empty spaces in between the argument where facts get lost in the name of victory.  It is now black and white terms:  good and evil, order and chaos, life and death, left and right….and zero in between allowed.

Both sides are guilty on this one.  The far right has pushed gun rights, the far left gun restriction.  The far right pushes free market and free will as the answer to everything, while the far left pushes government as the solution.  Both sides point the finger at each other when something goes wrong.  A great idea is only a great idea of our side came up with it.  If one side comes up with a truly great idea, the other side will do everything they can to stop it, and vice versa.  Why?  Because it wasn’t their idea. They can’t take credit, so they want no part of it.

This is where our nation has been taken. Compromise is death.  Bipartisanship is evil.  The left will destroy the rights of all.  The right will destroy the rights of all.  They are both the same, but they are different.  The left wants people to be lifted up, but so does the right.  The only difference is the means it happens and who at the very top benefits.  It’s old money family rivalries on a global scale.  The same monster with two heads and the same master manipulating both heads, in this case the people are the brains inside the heads, to fight each other.

But why?

Did it not occur to anyone here that if a world leader with access to nuclear weapons gets into a pissing match with another world leader with nuclear weapons in this age of “pride before prudence,” things could end VERY VERY BADLY? This is not the old Cold War era where world leaders understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. In this era where all that matters is winning, regardless of the cost, MAD isn’t really so crazy anymore.  It’s considered “acceptable risk.”

That said, here’s something think about:  all the protests and guns on earth won’t mean shit if there’s nothing left to protest or no one to kill. Yes, people are angry at each other and there are powerful people making a ton of money off pitting us against each other, but do you really think any of them give a damn about YOU when the mushroom clouds start rising? They already planned for this years ago.  At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, anyone who thinks those in position of true power haven’t found some way to gain from a world atomic holocaust are sadly mistaken.  They get to rebuild the world, only the way they see fit.

We can stop all this madness, but we need to focus on what we see happening, not the rhetoric being said or the memes being posted. Focus on what’s real instead of what is imagined. We still have a judicial system and civilian control of our military. I know people are saying we need to strike “just in case.” What is that going to accomplish? To all of you wanting a civil war to settle it all, do you really think that dying for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHECKBOOK is more important than the ideals espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, because I guarantee you that most of your radio and television pundits and commentators, liberal or conservative, couldn’t remember the Bill of Rights, much less which state first ratified the constitution.  They CAN, however, remember their bank account number and safe combination, easily.

Those want to die, or are okay with friends and loved ones dying, to impose their worldview of America on everyone else, are EXACTLY the sort of danger George Washington spoke of in his farewell address. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror as a nation, stop worrying about who is offended by who said what and what injustice was committed by people long dead, and instead focus on the injustices being committed right now, against us by each other. We need to look at our current immigrants who may not have gotten here legally, but are law abiding otherwise and a great source of tax revenue.  We need to look at our homeless and see how much of it is true laziness and how much of it is actually mental illness which, once treated effectively, can unlock the minds of potential geniuses.  We need to feed our hungry children so they can feel compassion and grow into compassionate adult instead of bitter children in adult bodies vying for the power they never knew in youth.  We need to help our veterans who our leaders have come to view as similar to sanitary napkins; something to absorb political blood in photo ops and rituals, but disposed of once they’ve outlived their usefulness.  We need to address the reality that racial tensions exist not so much as the result of what happened over a century ago, but the mistrust formed between races because of old fears turned into old wives tales, which have in turn become cultural norms.
Finally we need to remember and accept that assimilation does not mean elimination.  A people can become law abiding productive citizens without being forced to abandon their cultures and customs.  Immigrants should have to learn our language, history and abide by our laws but should not be required to abandon their heritage and culture in their own homes.  

Yes, there will always be those who wish to harm us, but we should never do the work for them, and our current political climate is doing just that.  We are truly doing our enemies’ dirty work.  We can, we must, learn to listen to the better angels of our nature.  That is what a “more perfect union” is about, after all.

Reboots:  reasons they don’t always work

Reboots are the rage these days.  Whether it is movies, such as Ghostbusters or Star Trek, or fashion, like acid wash jeans, recycling pop culture has become part of everyday life.  Yet there is something which seems to be missing from the reboot equation.

Success.

Just like the 1950s music craze of the 80s, the latter is seeing a renaissance of popularity today.  Of course, this being merely a trend, it is highly unlikely to continue.  There are, of course, other reasons entertainment reboots don’t last or work:

Great idea, but some TEENSY problems with this reboot concept.
  • Poor planning.  This is the most fundamental reason many reboots don’t work.  A badly planned repackaging or reimagining of something can backfire badly.  In the case of The A-Team, marketing was abysmal, despite a star-studded cast.  Movie goers simply found other options and the overall premise, despite some great jokes, didn’t resonate with millenials.  The box office money just wasn’t there.
  • Betraying the original premise.  In the case of 21 Jump Street which actually managed a sequel, the movie was a comedy but didn’t betray the original premise – it was gritty in some ways but funny in others.  On the flip side, Taxi never truly came close to the original premise, being a hybrid action-comedy.  Though it was high quality, it suffered the mistake of betraying the premise.
  • Political correctness.  One of the huge gripes about the Ghostbusters reboot was it being a near all-female core cast.  The screams of PC saturation from mostly 1980s males, in a hyperpartisan election season, doomed what was actually a rather entertaining movie.  
  • Not acknowledging the original.  This is where many reboots in recent years failed in huge fashion.  The universal barometer is one you wouldn’t expect:  Transformers.  When Michael Bay was approached about the live action reimagining of the series, he had one major condition – Peter Cullen was Optimus Prime, period.  Bay understood that a reboot required an icon to live legitimacy.  J.J. Abrams did the same with the “classic Spock” cameo in Star Trek.
  • Dumb gimmicks.  One of the biggest bombs in reboot history was Inspector Gadget.  The reason was simple; one bad gimmick atop another.  Reboots succeed when the original premise is honored but modernized and gimmicks are minimized and advance the story.  In Gadget, the Gadgetmobile was a gimmick-laden annoying scene stealer.
  • Dumb reboot ideas.  It’s one thing to reboot a movie or TV show and take a risk, but rebooting toys and appliances are high risk.  Most classic toys are classic for a reason – they are modernized but stay true to their core idea, such as the Easybake Over or Transformers.  Other ideas, such as the Ford Bronco, need some fine tuning but can work.  Still some ideas, such as punk rock ripped jeans and snakeskin mini skirts, are best left to the midlife crisis spitpile.
  • Great franchise, wrong source.  This one is a bit nitpicking but the it revolves around the human need for habits.  Star Wars  by Disney is an example; despite a great job, the franchise was kept under the Lucasfilm label.  A recent concept of “Pixar” style animated classic Star Trek, despite incredible character modeling, wouldn’t work because, for one, Paramount wouldn’t back and likely sue for copyright infringement (see also Axanar), also most of the voices are now deceased.  Zack Quinto’s Spock deserves Chris Pine’s Kirk.  It’s just that simple.
  • They just suck.  Music tends to fall into this category.  When Sixpence rebooted Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over, that was rough. A few more bad reboots like that will make 80s kids revolt.  However once a great while a good cover of an 80s song will take place, like the country version of Huey Lewis’ Workin for a Livin, but those are rare.

Can you think of a “crash and burn reboot?”  I’m curious to see what my readers come up with. 

Penalties offset, replay the election

Football season is in full swing, the World Series is nearly the final gun, and our elections are almost decided.  With that extremely mixed metaphor out of the way, it’s time to pull out the most non feared weapon in my writing arsenal, the Political and Cultural Penalty Flags.

You’ll put your eye out! Oh wait, wrong blog!

Unsportsmanlike Conduct:  Donald Trump for claiming a system is rigged and fixed before those who rig it have a chance to rig it.  Loss of quiet time with Melania, automatic media scrunity.

Illegal Procedure:  Hillary Clinton for multiple email server infractions.  Half the distance to Weiner, loss of credibility. 

Holding:  President Obama for not taking numerous opportunities to thank good police officers for their work.  Loss of legacy.

Pass Interference:  Bill Clinton.  You do the math.  Ten grope penalty loss of flirting privileges.

Unnecessary Roughness:  North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple for his treatment of native lands with the Standing Rock situation.  Loss of respect and ton of bad karma.

Holding:  Media for refusing to allow third party candidates in the presidential debates.  Five rating point penalty, still in business.

Roughing the quarterback:  Congress for overriding a veto.  Five seat penalty, automatic “Who cares?”

Intentional grounding:  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the whole “BridgeGate” mess.  Loss of respect from voters.  Automatic end of career.

Offensive pass interference:  Joe Biden for saying “oh GOD” about Anthony Weiner during a CNN interview.  Half the distance to the end of his term, fourth down.

Illegal formation:  Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for her role in Bernie Sanders defeat in the primary.  Donald Trumps questionable charities and donations to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.  Penalties offset, replay the bonehead moves.

Booth reviews:

  • Election machine issues in multiple states.
  • Dakota pipeline treaty violations.
  • Obamas legacy.
  • Hillary Clintons email server.

Illegal procedure:  Vladimir Putin for talking about our election.  Ten warhead penalty, loss of next guerilla war.

Face mask:  Anyone wearing a Suicide Squad or Deadpool costume this year.  Loss of action, turnover on downs.

Too many men on the field:  Game of Thrones.  Walking Dead.  Deadpool. Oh wait, that’s too many LIVE men on the field.

Encroachment:  This blog for ripping off too much of Dave Barry’s style.  By rule, this post is over.

My greatest fears for America realized, my greatest hope still possible

This is what I’ve feared ever since I left college in 1997.

We’ve reached a crescendo of anger and partisanship in our nation.  Those who we once believed were our best and brightest, offices which we once looked to for inspiration and hope, are now becoming synonymous with scandal and mistrust.  We have a media which is so steeped in ideology on both sides, common sense has vanished.  The notion of an America where anyone can become a success with hard work, a little luck, and some smarts is beyond endangered.  It’s been eviscerated.

Everyone is angry at everyone.  Family and friends are no longer speaking to each other, separated by ideology, preconceived notions, income disparity and occupation.  Ours was a nation once admired for its ability to take the best features of any culture, any religion, and race, and make it our own.  The ability to merge, to meld it all together into one made us the envy of the world.  Today, we have allowed those who wish to do us harm to claim the ultimate victory.  We’ve allowed them to drive us apart.

Worse still, we have allowed others to profit from our divisions.  We have embraced them and entrepreneurs and innovators instead of what they really are:  unpatriotic predators.

We are better than this.  We don’t need tolerance or safe zones now.  We don’t need gun control or fear mongering or opportunistic politicians.  We don’t need platitudes, slogans, investigations, accusations or organizations.  We don’t need moguls taking advantage of situations to enrich themselves.  What is needed is what we fear the most, the hardest possible thing we could ever do as a people.

We need to wake up and accept that fact we cannot live In the past anymore.

Progress happens.  Forward movement is part of life.  Change is reality.  Regression is what backwards societies such as North Korea and Iran have done.  It’s what ISIS wants. Regression, for a nation such as ours, is death.  The question for us is why we resist change so fervently.  Why are some changes so embraced, while some are so repellent, and the only thing I could think of was an analogy I once offered a longtime friend.  This man, who is an avid tea connoisseur, was asked a practical question; if your doctor told you that tea is lethal for you and that you must stop drinking it now and never touch it again, could you handle it?  He admitted it was a very disturbing idea. 

This is where we are now.  We are a people facing tough choices we don’t want to make because it upsets our lifestyles, our narratives, or our worldview.

We’ve gone from a society of reasonable people to a society of folks who have been told what they must do or can’t do.  We have a President who once told Americans we had to “eat our peas,” like a grouchy father scolding oppositional children.  We have a slew of pundits on talk radio accusing the party in power of everything short of killing puppies.  Whether it is true or not is irrelevant – the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is gone.  We have become a society governed by our passions, those passions fomented by those co-opting the message of well-meaning, passionate citizens, and twisting them to fit a very profitable narrative.  Rather than listen to the better angels of our nature, we are now embracing our greatest demons, both past and present.

Our Founders were skeptical of the People governing directly, and I can see why.  We are no longer a nation of individuals who have the greater good at heart.  Ours is no longer a nation which asks what we can do for our country, as President Kennedy once called upon every American to do.  Nor is it the nation which once saw morning dawning again, and President Reagan once declared.  We aren’t even a nation which only has to fear fear itself as FDR once declared our only enemy to be.  We are beyond a nation by the people, for the people, and we have allowed ourselves to become too involved in foreign entanglements.  We are no longer a nation of laws, but of men and women.  Ours is a people captivated by cults of personality, enthralled by fantasy, obsessed with scandal, and unable to move forward out of a desire for vengeance and bloodlust.  We no longer forgive; we retaliate. We are near nihilists, but accept everything told by so-called “leaders” as gospel.

We can come back, if we want.  We can focus on the good in our nation, if we would stop looking at each other with suspicion.  We can end the hatred if we stop wondering how we can “get over” on each other.  We can rebuild if we start focusing on rolling up our sleeves and working on repairs.  We can stop the insanity if we realize that our greatest strength is the very thing which many regard as our greatest weakness – our differences, our seeming inability to agree.  If our nation was to collectively awaken from its slumber and see just how badly we are being played for fools by both sides of the political aisle, the consequences would be as an earthquake destroying a major city.  Anyone who wonders the veracity of this assessment need simply read this quote…

“A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.”

That quote was not by any American, but by Admiral Yamamoto of Japan in 1942 as the war in the Pacific intensified.  Three years later, Japan would lay in ruins, and America would have displayed what the collective will of a truly free people, properly directed, can do.

My hope is that my fear is only short-lived.

Five shows well past their prime

Family Guy: once considered cutting edge and groundbreaking, Seth MacFarlands satirical animated comedy has begun to not only show signs of its age, but is also become less edgy and more formulaic by the season. The greatest single problem for FG now is predictability. It’s almost possible to do a drinking game based on the episodes. Fox does have a giant wheelbarrow of money contract with MacFarland but it’s a safe bet that contract will likely not be extended. When you’re doing Game of Thrones cutaways, time to retire. It’s time for Quahog for return to normal.

The Simpsons: even Matt Groening has admitted he’s really stunned the show is still going. James Brooks is going for the all time episode record and Fox execs recently confirmed reports the series may indeed wrap up after season 30 which would leave it with the all time longest running series in history. Even though the show has had its share of gaffes and flubs, it does still have reasonable fresh writing. Unfortunately it’s just not the same in this day and age.

Big Brother: after a while you start to wonder what sponsors are making big money? The entire series aside from a giant cat fight appears to be a product placement course. CBS needs to stop being cheap in the offseason and let this show pass away. If Idol can be cancelled, so can Big Brother.

Days of our lives: rumors swirled at NBC a few years back that Corday Productions was ready to pull the plug but for a fan letter and email campaign. There’s a saying about Days “Nobody is ever really dead on Days” well that went for the series itself. It’s time for that mythos to cease and Days hourglass to run out.

Jerry Springer: is there some sort of cult out there which has a ritual involving white supremacist lesbian jello fight weddings? That’s the only possible explanation why this show is still running!

Random thoughts over coffee – be afraid

men-in-black-1997-01-g
I could SOOOO use one of these right now!

I’m sitting at my computer drinking my highly caffeinated product, and I am just gonna let the brain flow.  Have a towel ready; this could get really messy…

  • The more I watch the previews for Deadpool, the more I actually want to see it.
  • Why do I feel like once I get my degree, the last 25 years of trying to finish college will suddenly seem like a really long time in a low-powered microwave?
  • “Manbuns” are just not cool.
  • Putting the mouthpiece end of the lid on the seam of a Starbucks cup should be grounds for immediate public flogging.
  • I owned an Iphone at one time. Lost my temper.  It got shattered.  No more Iphone.
  • Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow I will be buying Cheerwine and Crown Royal, and then I’ll be really merry.
  • I’m not that cheap a drunk, but I’m pretty freaking close. Ask anyone who seen me drinking Jack Daniels.
  • My ego is the cause of over half my problems with life, and 99.9999999999999 percent of problems with women. The remaining .0000000000001 (and yes, I fingered counted the 9’s) is the result of a congenital inability to relate to anything which produces mass quantities of estrogen.
  • I’m getting really tired of hearing “dude” in casual conversation.
  • George Martin died, not George R.R. Martin – important distinction. One helped produce the Beatles, the other helped produce yet another Sean Bean death.
  • If the catchiest presidential slogan we can cook up is about feeling some guy from Vermont, we are in really big trouble!
  • Memo to Americus, Georgia (best Denis Leary voice): quit putting shit in the election coffee!
  • I should be drunk but I’m writing. Actually, that’s a great reason to be drunk.
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World got shitcanned by Dos Equis. Well, I’m no longer thirsty for that beer.
  • Bold prediction – the next big medical growth industry will be direct-line liquid Viagra. I can’t wait to see who lines up for that gig!
  • Sure sign women truly rule the world – the rebooted Ghostbusters is on the way and the trailers all heavily feature Chris Hemsworth, who plays – wait for it – the secretary.
  • Advice to any guy looking to win a girl’s heart – don’t bother, they’re all to busy watching Chris Hemsworth! You’re better off taking a long walk, jumping in a cold pond, and fantasizing about Supergirl…or Zoey Daschanel.
  • Or Kat Denning.
  • And for the record, vampires don’t sparkle, Donald Trump is racist, and there’s no such thing as Men In Black.
  • There! I’m done.  Feel free to call me a jackass, idiot, moron, dickhead, putz, whatever tickles your fancy.