Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Oktoberfest Diaries 2009 Part 2: The Worst Band That Ever There Was

Do you remember when you were a child and all the kids got picked for kickball? There was that one kid who always got picked last. Well, it's a little known fact that this is also how bands are formed. Every musician in the world goes into a pool and the band leaders, one by one, choose their bandmates. Those musicians that nobody wanted to pick formed The Remainders.

This band was so bad that people who had been drinking since noon left in droves to go downtown and escape the aural fisting being forced upon them. People were throwing themselves into the river. Jumping in front of trains. Converting to Mormonism. It was horrific.

I tried to take pictures and video, but my camera failed to work. The images wouldn't render. It's as though the band were made up of tone deaf vampires whose fingers were made of failure. They played barely recognizable covers using the unique method of skipping every other note. They downtuned their instruments to adjust for the limited vocal range of their singer, which makes perfect sense. But they weren't playing and singing in the same key. However, it wouldn't have made a difference if they were in key, since both singer and band changed keys mid-verse on several occasions. It's like they were playing a game of Follow The Leader where someone would randomly change keys and see how long it took everybody else to catch up.

And then there were the flat screens. The band had a couple of big flat screen monitors mounted on the stage to either side of them and a third, larger one mounted above the stage behind the drummer. I don't know if they found these lying on the side of the road or won them in some sort of contest or what, but they clearly didn't know what to do with them.

For the first couple of numbers, the screens just displayed some sort of meandering abstract art crawl that looked suspiciously like a Windows '95 screensaver. Later, during a rendition of a Cars tune that surely made Ric Ocasek shoot himself just so he could roll over in his grave, the screens showed a woman walking on a beach. It kind of looked like a Massengil commercial but we were laughing too hard to look for a logo. There was also a shot of a single white candle burning in front of a black background. Was this during a cover of Cheap Trick's The Flame? No, it was not. It was just a random shot. Come to think of it, I think it was a screensaver, the one where you point it to a directory of photos and it cycles through them. It was truly laughable, a painful blend of musical ineptitude, poor song choices and a 2nd grader's sense of stage production. I've expelled better entertainment from both ends of my body.

Eventually we joined the sensible masses and headed downtown to grab a drink and see if we could find better music, like some homeless people banging on garbage cans or a Sugarland concert. We eventually settled on a bar that had an open table and spent the next hour and a half pounding hard liquor (beer was not powerful enough to un-rape our eardrums) and talking about happier times, like when I was attacked by a pack of wolves.

As we left Friday night behind and welcomed Saturday morning, we started hitting different bars. I don't remember much after that, as my brain was so focused on maintaining my autonomic functions that it stopped imprinting engrams, but I do remember snapping this picture:

This would become a recurring theme. When that guy has to use the bathroom, he has to use it now. To the people of LaCrosse, whose fair city is a wee bit yellower today, I apologize.

Anyway, after that we headed back to the hotel, but Tim and I decided that we weren't really done drinking, so we found a dive bar about a block from the hotel. It was a hole in the wall and we distinctly heard someone at the bar ask the bartender if she knew who we were. That's always a good sign.

Anyway, my body at some point decided enough was enough. It always lets me know in novel ways when I'm standing on the precipice of irretrievably hammered. Tonight it simply hiccupped every time I tried to take a sip of my drink. I've learned to accept and heed these warnings so we called it a night.

When I'm this far into the happy zone I like to take pictures, so I snapped this one of the night clerk at the hotel desk on the way to the room:

He was not amused.

After this Tim and I hit the hay and worked on using all the beer, meat and sauerkraut we had ingested over the last ten hours to convert the oxygen in our hotel room into methane.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Scientifc Method

If you ask a religious person if the existence of God is a theory, you're going to get an emphatic "no" as an answer. You should: the existence of an omnipotent creator doesn't meet the criteria for a theory. A theory is an idea based on empirical data that attempts to explain what we see. There's a famous quip that says, "gravity: it's not just a theory, it's the law." Strictly speaking, though, gravity isn't a law. It's a theory. It's stood up for over four centuries now, but there are still a few nagging doubts that keep it from being "the law". As far as theories go, though, gravity is a good one.

Why is it a good theory? Because it fits closely with what we see in the universe. It's been tested and retested again and again. That's the essence of science: come up with a theory that fits what we know, then figure out ways to tear it down, prove it false. Tests are repeated again and again to either replicate the results or invalidate the experiment. The longer the theory survives, the closer to "law" it becomes.

This is why the realm of religion and belief in a creator isn't an exercise in science, but rather one of faith. There's no test to show that God doesn't exist. God isn't a theory; he's either a fact or a myth depending on which side of the question you fall.

Which brings me to my favorite secular religion: global warming climate change. Whoa, you say. There's hard science to prove that. It's way beyond theory. It's accepted scientific fact. I agree, now that we're calling it "climate change". The climate has changed, gotten warmer and colder, since the Earth was formed (though of course it was strictly cooling way back then). But what if I told you that the climate data used as the basis for the global warming climate change movement was not being made available?

Read this, and try to imagine Newton saying this when contemporaries wanted to see his notes on gravity:

“We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

That's the response an Australian scientist got when he asked for the climate data gathered by Drs. Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, the authors of the first history of surface temperature, which served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Using this data, the IPCC declared human action had a significant impact on climate change.

Since that request, several other scientists from around the world have asked for the data and been refused. Think about that. The authors don't want anyone to try and replicate their work. That's pretty much the opposite of the scientific method.

I don't doubt that the climate is changing. I'm open to the idea that humans have a measurable effect on the climate. I remain skeptical though (ed. note: like a scientist? Yes, exactly.) For global warming climate change (and humankind's contribution) to become scientific law, it first has to pay its dues as a theory. That means scientists dispassionately trying to tear it down. When and if it stands the test of time it gets to start flirting with the honorific "law". As of now, its in its infancy as a theory. How it's presented is as fact or myth depending on which side of the question you're on, which makes it more like religion than science.

The Oktoberfest Diaries 2009 Part 1: There's A Growth On The Toilet

I'm finally back in Fargo having survived Oktoberfest one more time. It was, as usual, a good time. Here's what you missed:

There's a rythym to the weekend. We usually roll into LaCrosse about 3:30 and head straight to the fest grounds to get a beer and check out the lay of the land. They do the beer ticket thing, which probably still fools the college kids but not an old man young, vibrant gentleman like myself. Eight tickets for $20 comes out to $2.50 each. A can of Leinie's is one ticket. A cup of good beer is two tickets. Cheap beer it is! After five of those we headed over to check in at the hotel. I called Donna like a good boyfriend and let her know my progress.

Here comes trouble.

Getting rooms can be tough come Oktoberfest time. We usually go for economy over luxury. Enter the LaCrosse Super 8. It's always an adventure because the rooms aren't all equipped the same. This year, Mitch and Dustin's room had a refrigerator. Tim's and my room didn't. Ours did have this though:

This would not come off.

After sending off a sample from the toilet seat to the Mayo clinic for testing, we headed back to the festgrounds to have the first of what would be many meals in the form of a cylinder(dogs and brats, mostly). And more beer, of course.

The first band was playing in the pavilion. They were pretty good, though they played Whole Lotta Love as a dirge, kind of like if Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin got into a car accident and everybody except Ozzy lost both their arms so he had to play all the instruments. They also caused people to do this:

However, my scorn for this band is tempered in hindsight. For there was soon to be an abomination inflicted upon us that goes beyond words. They called themselves The Remainders, and they are evil.

Monday, September 28, 2009

'The Funniest Movie Ever' Usually Sucks

I love movies of all kinds. I especially love horror movies, though most of them are terrible. Alien, The Ring, and Halloween (the original) are notable exceptions. A special place in my heart exists for movies that defy conventional genre labels. Donnie Darko. Fight Club. Memento.

But comedy is the bread and butter. Who doesn't like to laugh? It's the one genre that everybody likes, even though one person's hilarious knee-slapper is another person's why-are-we-watching-this-again whipping boy.

Which brings me belatedly to the subject of this post. If I had a dime for every time someone told me," you've got to see __________. It's the funniest movie I've ever seen!" I'd have, like, a pack of Juicy Fruit, because that's all you can expect for $1.10.

The thing is, I have yet to like any movie used to fill in that blank. Here's a partial list of movies that have been presented to me as The Funniest Movie Ever. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few, but whatever. You're not paying for this content:
  1. There's Something About Mary -- There sure is, but that something isn't comedy.

  2. O Brother Where Art Thou? -- I actually liked this movie, but it wasn't very funny.

  3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- One thing I don't have to worry about with Donna is her ever using this or any movie like it in that blank. God, she's awesome.

  4. Napolean Dynamite -- I got tired of Jon Heder in like eight seconds. The only thing I liked about this movie was the White Stripes song playing over the opening credits.

  5. Superbad -- At least its title had honesty going for it.

  6. American Pie -- This movie bored me and it was full of boobs for God's sake.

  7. Scary Movie -- I don't remember anything about this one. That can't be good, right?

  8. The Big Lebowski -- I know this one is dripping with cult cachet and all that, and to be honest I didn't see the whole thing. That's because what I saw didn't make me laugh.

  9. Tommy Boy -- Should have been rated 'U'. For ugh.

  10. Wedding Crashers -- I'm too depressed now to go on. Thanks, usually-reliable Vince Vaughn.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Oktoberfest

Right now I am trying to perform the drinking maneuver called "the Ant". It's when you drink 50 times your own body weight in beer. I have also by now probably had the La Crosse Oktoberfest's world famous gyro. Each bite is like having you back rubbed by an orgasm.

Until the last one, that is. Once the last bite is taken, a weight like a brick crashes into your bowel. Your digestive tract misfires continuously for the next 48 hours. Once that 48 hours is over, you begin counting down until the next chance you have to get one. The meat is supposed to be lamb, of course. I'm not convinced. I have a sneaking suspicion that the meat is actually Greek homeless people. Because of this, we Festgoers refer to it as "soylent greek". God, it's good.

Anyway, I wanted to bring a bit of Oktoberfest to you, the reader. In that spirit, please to enjoy these easily obtained YouTube clips.

First up is Strange Brew, the greatest Oktoberfest-related movie ever:

Next up, an oompa-band member who decided his horn would make a great funnel (warning: video contains strong language):

And finally, the reason I need to go to Oktoberfest in the first place. No beer and no TV make me something something:

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Much Beer Can I Drink. I'm Betting On 'A Lot'.

I am heading out this morning to the Twin Cities to meet up with my good friend Tim for our annual pilgrimmage to La Crosse, Wisconsin for Oktoberfest. It involves about what you'd expect considering it's Wisconsin: lots of beer, drunk people, fried food, music that consists of oompa-music and bands you've never heard of.

They may look lame, but they do a very credible Slayer.

It's always fun to see the different crowds on the different nights. Fridays are for the old hands. Saturdays see the festgrounds get flooded with college kids looking to party. Sunday is for people over 50. Monday is for alcoholics. And so on.

Anyway, it's going to be fun, as always. I look forward to that first beer. It tastes like victory. Also, like crappy beer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here's Why You Should Oppose Congressional Healthcare Bills

Read this article then see if I caught all the ways anyone (pro-government healthcare or con) should be outraged at the way Congress is handling this and so oppose the current bills.

Senate Finance Committee Democrats have rejected a GOP amendment that would have required a health overhaul bill to be available online for 72 hours before the committee votes.

Wouldn't want to commoners seeing it before it goes to the President. In 2009, 72 hours is more than enough time for determined individuals to highlight the problems with the bill, organize protests and engage the media. In other words, enough time to shred any lingering public support.

Democrats said [posting the bill] was a delay tactic that could have postponed a vote for weeks.

This could only be true if:
  1. The bill(s) is/are so long as to require weeks of scanning to create electronic copies.
  2. Congresspeople are too out of touch to know how to post a document to the internet.

Either way, this is not an argument in favor of either bill or those who wrote it.

Baucus is aiming to get the bill through his committee by the end of the week and ultimately he's expected to succeed.

So the bill, which, as far as I've been able to determine, has been read in its entirety by no one in Congress (much less had all its implications explored) and is possibly so large that it would take weeks to post online, is targeted to be passed in the next 24-36 hours.

...several committee Democrats called for increasing the rebates that drug companies must pay the government for certain low-income patients. That would breach an agreement among the White House, Baucus and drug makers...

Said agreement appears to have involved trading caps on the money health insurers would pay to the government in exchange for pro-reform ads. This point is made here, and involves questions of bribery and ethics that I won't reiterate here. Suffice to say, it doesn't look good. (link via Instapundit.)

Baucus kept his mouth shut through the debate on drug costs but postponed a vote on the amendment until Wednesday. The amendment's author, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the change would raise some $86 billion which he would use to protect seniors enrolled in private insurance plans under Medicare from any changes under the legislation.

Wait. I thought no one would lose their private coverage under "the plan" (which is really several bills floating around, from both sides). What changes is Senator Nelson worried about? These changes, apparently:

Despite Obama's repeated claims that Medicare benefits will not be cut, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf told senators Tuesday that the elderly in the private Medicare Advantage plans could see reduced benefits under Baucus' bill.

Ah, I see. The public face of this plan (via news stories, press conferences, speeches, etc.) is different from what the bill actually says. Got it.

Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine had concerns about whether it did enough to make insurance affordable for people who will face a new requirement to buy it.

What if I don't want health insurance? I'll be fined (don't call it a tax, even though that's what it is). What if I want it but still can't afford it? I don't know. I can't read the bill and this point isn't being addressed, at least where I can read it.

So, what did I miss? Why is this a bill too important not to pass, but not important enough to read? Why is this bill so good that only racists and obstructionists should oppose it, but not so good that the people whose lives will be affected by it should actually get to read it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Is What Happened, A Postscript

(ed. note: read parts 1, 2, 3)

Okay, so none of that really happened. Duh. The truth was, not a lot was going on, and I vowed long ago not to post some boring tripe just to post something. Had I not made that infinitely honorable vow, posts from that time would have looked something like this:

Sunday: I watched the Falcons game on ESPN gamecast.
Monday: I went to work. I made dinner. I watched TV.
Tuesday: See Monday.
Wednesday: See Tuesday.
Thursday: Soccer practice.
Friday: See Wednesday.
Saturday: Soccer game. Macy didn't do anything of particular note. It was hot.
Sunday: See last Sunday. Oh, and I cleaned my truck and the bathroom.

See? Nobody wants that. So I didn't post. All this boringness coincided with a lack of interest in doing any political stuff. I also did a little writing, but it wasn't for the blog. It inspired me to dash off the little story in three parts you saw this week though. Hopefully the writing I did last week was of a little better quality, as the blog story was honestly just made up on the fly (like you couldn't tell) with the idea that incoherency would be its strong point.

Anyway, posting will be more regular now, with all the nonsense and ranting you've come to expect, sprinkled with reports from Macy's life. In other words, same old crap.

This Is What Happened, Part 3: The End Of The End

(ed. note: read part 2 here)

Once, when I a kid, I was told by some Baptist kids that I was going to hell. The reason, I was told, was that I was Catholic. According to the Baptist religion, at least as interpreted by elementary school practitioners, that was enough to condemn me to eternal hellfire. I found this very disconcerting. Not nearly as disconcerting, however, as being confronted by sasquatch worshippers.

They were a ragged-looking group of mostly middle-aged people dressed in a mashup of styles, including hiking boots, twill shorts, hemp shirts and J. Crew backpacks. It looked like they couldn't decide if they were on their way to a summer camp for rich kids or an organic farming convention.

"You know, that's not a sasquatch. It's just a dirty old man. I mean, a filthy old man, not like a pedophile or something. Or maybe he's a pedophile, I don't know. Anyway, he's not, you know, Bigfoot." I was babbling.

I was met with gasps of disbelief, as if I had just admitted to something evil, like garotting a baby or voting Republican. Murmurs of "you lie", "it's not true", and, more disturbingly, a single "kill the unbelievers" washed over me like a wave of ignorance and patchouli.

The apparent leader (the tall, thin man who had spoken earlier) replied, "He is the bringer of knowledge and the teacher of a simpler life; one of smaller ambitions, lighter burdens and greater rewards. We follow him utterly."

He continued in that vein, but I wasn't able to focus on his words, as he was leading me away from the others by the elbow as he talked. Lowering his voice, he said, "Of course he isn't a sasquatch. He's some nut who runs around the forest with no pants eating pine cones. He doesn't hurt anybody and he gets me laid, because these people do believe he's a god. (louder) PRAISE BE YUCCATINGO!" That last was met with a hearty chorus of "WAGGA-WAGGA!"

"So this whole thing is a scam to get with hippie chicks?" I said, lowering my voice at his frantic hand waving.

"Yes, and I'd appreciate it if you'd not blow it for me. Take your little friend and hit the road."

"Seriously? I mean, these women?" I said, looking dubiously at the eight decidedly unattractive granola gobblers among the sasquatch worshippers.

"YES! Now go away!"

"Really? These women here? Because --"


"Okay, okay, we're going! Come on Tony."

We headed back to Tony's Subaru. It was just as well, as we were out of beer and beef jerky and needed to get back to our stash in Tony's back seat. We drove back to civilization and didn't speak a word the entire way.

A week later, the whole thing seems hard to believe. But now you know the story of why I didn't post for a week. My adventure, and the trauma it inflicted on my body and psyche, rendered me unable to write. It was horrific, truly.

The lessons to be drawn from this are several: don't wander into the Minnesota woods unprepared. Bring a backpack big enough to carry all your beer and all your beef jerky. Don't give up on finding that perfect ten woman; otherwise you might end up inventing a religion and living in the woods just for a chance at a three, four at best. If you're a man and you have to choose, wear pants and skip the shirt, not the other way around.

Anyway, posting should be back to normal now, though I am getting ready for another trip. This one will involve beer but hopefully no de-panted men or religion of any kind. I'll prepare some things to post automatically while I'm gone.

Till then, wagga-wagga.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This Is What Happened, Part 2: 'Baptist' Is No Longer The Scariest Religion

(ed note: see part 1 here)

So there we were, traipsing through the woods of Minnesota, slightly high on Coors Lite, munching beef jerky and wishing that these were porn trees instead of the kind with needles and leaves. We hadn't seen any sign of Bigfoot, but my beer buzz made me not care so much. Then we heard it.

A rustling from a small cluster of trees and brush. "It's him," Tony hissed, guzzling the last of his beer and raising his shotgun. I had time only to swallow the last bite of Slim Jim before the brush parted and out came a sasquatch!

At least, if you were panicking, screaming, and your fight-or-flight gauge was pegged firmly on "run like hell". In that case you'd only have seen a shaggy man-shaped blur rushing at you, making "wagga-wagga" sounds and clutching at you with yellowed claws that looked like tortilla chips rather than proper nails. That's exactly what Tony saw, as he was tearing back the way we'd come, the shotgun lying forgotten in some dandelions.

However, upon closer inspection, it was apparent that this was no sasquatch. For one thing, sasquatchs are supposed to be tall. Like somewhere around nine feet or so. This thing was 5' 6" and only because it appeared to be running on its tiptoes. Also, in all the bigfoot recreations I've ever seen on the Discovery Channel, the sasquatch never wore a filthy t-shirt with a pine tree on it that read "Perennials Do It All Year Round". They also never wore pants, although this guy had that part down. I can call him a guy now (as opposed to a thing) because, without the pants, it was obvious he was a man. Also, I think he was Jewish.

Upon seeing me not running, he stopped. He was maybe twelve feet away. He looked at me with eyes that weren't quite all there. Then he spun around and with a half-hearted "wagga-wagga" fled back into the woods.

I picked up the shotgun, noticed it wasn't loaded, then headed off to find Tony. Ten minutes later we were reunited. He was sitting under a tree drinking another beer and hyperventilating. Three empty cans lay strewn around him like a border fence.

I got him calmed down and presented my evidence for this not being an actual Bigfoot encounter. It seemed to penetrate his fear, though the beer probably helped. "It's just some old hermit running around in the woods. Come on, let's go home," I said, and Tony nodded. Then I noticed we weren't alone.

A group of twelve people had surrounded us in a loose circle. They didn't look particularly threatening, but they also tightened their loop when we tried to leave. "Who are you," Tony blurted out.

"We are the children of Yuccatingo," a tall, thin man replied. "We follow the great sasquatch, Yuccatingo, and drink from his knowledge."

"Yuccatingo?" I asked. "That half-naked guy?"

"Correct," the man answered.

"Wagga-wagga?" I asked, incredulous.

"Wagga-wagga", the twelve echoed in a booming chorus.

"Oh crap," I sighed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Is What Happened, Part 1: A Sasquatch Tried To Eat My Friend

I know it's been over a week since I posted. This sort of layoff is usually the first sign that a blogger is tired of blogging. The output sputters, tails off and eventually the blog becomes barren and unproductive, like a male-to-female transgender's womb or a Ron Paul campaign headquarters.

Let me assure you, that is not the case here. The reason I have not been posting for a week is that I have been on a most amazing journey. I am going to tell you about it, but first, a warning: you aren't going to want to believe what you read here. Some of it will be disturbing and some will simply be too incredible for you to parse. It's all true, though.

It began with a sasquatch. Specifically, a phone call I received from an old friend claiming to have seen one in the wilds of west central Minnesota. This friend (let's call him Tony) is not given to crazy stories or pulling pranks. He sounded sincere, and frankly, a little scared. So, against my better judgement, I headed out in the trusty F-150 to meet Tony in a little town called Eventyr. It's tiny; about 120 people. It's got a bar, a church, a gas station and road signs. That's it. That's the town.

So Tony and I sit down in a dusty corner of the town bar and, over a couple of Grain Belts, he tells me his story.

He's out hiking one afternoon and senses he's not alone. In a copse of trees off to one side he sees movement. A shaggy figure bursts out from between two pines and with a mighty "wagga-wagga" hurls himself at my friend. Terrified, Tony sprints blindly away, and the creature chases him. He doesn't remember how long he ran, only that he made it back to his Outback. As he drove away he looked back but didn't see any sign of the creature.

Now, the search for Bigfoot has been going on for decades. There have been some laughably bad hoaxes in that time. So, you can probably understand my reluctance to take this seriously. But in light of our long friendship, as well as the fact that he was buying the beers, I agreed to go with him into the surrounding hills to take a look.

We packed Tony's Outback with all the usual Sasquatch-hunting paraphenelia: camera, GPS, map, beef jerky, beer, and a 12-gauge shotgun. We got to the scene of Tony's earlier encounter about 2:30 in the afternoon. It was a cool but sunny day. We cracked open a couple of Coors Lights and headed into the woods.

I have to say I felt an odd sense of freedom and excitement. While this couldn't be real (could it?), I had a feeling we were going to find something out there. The trees beckoned us like a promise of great things to come: magic, maybe, or perhaps free porn.

The truth turned out to be far weirder and less hairy than a sasquatch. And there was no porn to be found.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Soccer Season Opens With A Bang

Macy started the fall soccer season on a high note today. Playing at the new Moorhead Soccer Complex she helped her new team, the Dynamo, to a 13-3 win. It's rec league and we don't keep score officially, but you better believe the girls do.

I don't encourage them to keep score, but I think deep down they know they're playing a competitive sport and they want to win. I know when I was playing in youth leagues I wanted to win too, so I don't discourage the girls from keeping score, either. I don't know exactly when youth leagues stopped doing it, but the kids never got the memo.

Anyway, Macy scored a goal, assisted on two others, and stopped some point-blank shots on goal. She played like a champ. They all did, really.

Although the rosters are randomly generated, I think I ended up with a pretty loaded team. I've got four girls who can score every time they touch the ball, and I've even got three who prefer to play defense and know how to take the ball away. Both my goalies have been with me for three seasons now, so life is good in soccer coach land.

No pictures or video, because I was coaching and Donna is out of town until tonight. Next week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Real Lesson of Joe Wilson's Outburst

When Joe Wilson yelled, "you lie!" during President Obama's healthcare speech the other night, he got uniformly blasted in the blogosphere on both the left and the right (undoubtedly he had some supporters, but the coverage I read was overwhelmingly negative). And deservedly so. Outbursts like that show disrespect, both for the President and the traditions of the U.S. Congress. Frankly, it looked like the British Parliament, and nobody wants that.

Even if he was right, that sort of behavior is wrong and should be frowned upon. But lost in all the hoopla over one overzealous/unspeakably rude congressman, was another statement the President made that the opposition party objected to.

The President alluded in the speech (and in many other addresses in the past) to the belief that Republicans only obstruct; they have no ideas of their own. It seems several senators and representatives anticipated this jibe and came prepared.

Rather than shout, however, these congressmen waved copies of the thirty bills Republicans have introduced in the House and Senate to address healthcare reform. I'm not going to make any claims about the efficacy or practicability of these bills; the point is that when the President says the GOP don't have any solutions, only complaints, he is being less than honest with the American people.

Notice, however, that for all Joe Wilson's impropriety, the policy to which he objected got addressed: lawmakers are now scrambling to close all the loopholes that Wilson derided.

Until you read it here, you most likely had no idea that the Republicans have been introducing healthcare legislation for a long time now. Which says a lot about how this debate is being run. When dealing with a bully pulpit one sometimes has to act like a brat to get to the truth, which is unfortunate.

Falcons vs. Dolphins (9/13/2009)

Ah, week one of the NFL season. The time when everybody's team has a shot at the title, last year's performance be damned. When your 0-4 preseason record can be safely forgotten and your 4-0 preseason record can be trumpeted as the harbinger of greatness. The calm before the storm that will smash your (pro football-related) hopes and dreams on the shoals of mediocrity.

Going into 2008, the Falcons were expected to lose just about every game, including some scrimmages against Georgia high schools. They went 11-5, made the playoffs and had the coach and offensive rookie of the year. You know what that means: over-inflated expectations. Cap'n! Iceberg right ahead!

The Falcons have a brutal schedule this season. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I believe every team they play won the Super Bowl last year.

Their defense is young. The right cornerback can't buy beer yet. The middle linebacker gets excited when the happy meal toy changes. Don't get me wrong; I think they're on the right track and they are going to be good sooner rather than later. But "sooner" means week 7 or so, which is too late to do anything meaningful playoff-wise. Next year, watch out.

First up is the Dolphins, the leagues other cinderella from last year. They're also fairly young and talented. Defensively they're ahead of Atlanta. Offensively they're solid, but not in the same league (ugh, pun alert) as the Falcons. Here's how I see it going down:

Atlanta starts fast, putting up 10 points in the first couple of possessions. The defense starts well, all hopped up on, uh, adrenaline. Falcons up by 10 early. Then the wheels come off the defense's little red plastic wagon. By the time the crying jag is over, the Dolphins are up 14-10.

Matt Ryan sees the writing on the wall, even if the young defense wrote it in crayon: the offense needs to win a shoot-out. They initially rise to the occasion and things seesaw. We go into the 4th quarter with a score of 27 -24, uh Falcons why not.

Then Tony Sparano[*] breaks out his new weapon. Known last year for the Wildcat, where multiple pass/run threats are in the backfield and the quarterback lines up in crazy places (at wideout, the press box, etc.), Miami now has a defensive counterpart: the Cougar.

Miami takes the lead 31-27 and then after the ensuing kickoff the defense consists entirely of hot, over-35 women with more plastic than most shoulderpads. They surround Matt Ryan on every play, thrusting room keys, phone numbers and measurements at him, completely disrupting his rythym. Dolphins win.

[*] Their were no where near enough Tony Soprano jokes made last year about Miami's head coach. Shouldn't he dress like a don? Smoke cigars and wear a pinkie ring? Feed some ducks in a pond outside the stadium?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Should I Be For Halloween?

Halloween is not far away, and I am already looking forward to getting dressed up, hitting a bar, and going out to the haunted farm. Donna and I did this last year with some friends and I had a great time. As I got a lot of "wow -- that was way more fun than I was expecting; we should do it again next year!", I hope to entice more people to give it a try.

That said, I'm not sure what to go as this year? Anybody got a good idea? I prefer something in one of three categories: funny; scary with a bit of funny; flat out scary. Here is what I looked like last year (I'm on the right):

Pinhead and I come to an understanding about balancing the need
to live a christian life with the drive to rip the flesh off teenagers
with rusty hooks.

So what should I be? I'm open to all suggestions; just put them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tips For Dealing With Solicitors: Sign My Petition Guy

Note: this is one of a series of posts to help you deal with that most annoying of household pests: the solicitor.

Sign My Petition Guy: The people who show up on my doorstep wanting me to sign petitions are my favorite. They aren't trekking though my neighborhood trying to make a few bucks. They're true believers. They have a cause, dammit. They want to tell you about the rain forest or the whales or global warming or illiteracy among the sasquatch population. Their devotion to the cause is so pure as to overwhelm any bourgeoise hangups about personal hygeine or wearing laundered clothes.

They can't fathom that every person on earth doesn't share their belief that we need national healthcare now, or harbor the same level of outrage over the slow extinction of the velvet-winged oat warbler. Saying "I'm not interested" seems to enrage them, and they seek your reassurance that you did indeed not just say you don't care that Wal-Mart wants to open a superstore fifteen miles away.

How To Deal: These people don't always want to take 'no' for an answer. They don't even like to take 'here's $5, go take a bath and buy some deodorant' for an answer. The best thing to do is let your pit bull, who by now is clawing a small hole though the front door, out. But if you don't have a pit bull, or your morals won't let you turn a hippie into a beggin' strip, try this:

Take whatever the dreadlocked intruder is pitching and voice your utter disdain for it. Millions of people are uninsured? Great! Shorter lines for me. The velvet-winged oat warbler is dying out? It's probably because they make the best hot wings. Our drinking water contains lead? That should take care of those pesky velvet-winged oat warblers that live in my back yard. The Earth is dying because of man's inhumanity? I hate this planet. What's it ever done for me?

While they stand there, too stunned to move, close the door. After a few hours they'll snap to and realize they haven't smoked a joint in a while.

Next in the series: Jesus Is Your Friend Guy

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why 'But They Did It Too' Doesn't Work For Me

The big furor over President Obama's speech to our nation's tiny future voters strikes me as a big zero all the way around. First of all, the speech seems to have little to do with indoctrination or politicking. It's a bit heavy on the 'Is', 'mes' and 'myselfs', but that's par for the course for our president. He seems like a pretty self-absorbed inwardly-focused individual, so I've come to expect a lot first person narrative.

The initial uproar was over some teaching materials to be handed out as a complement to the speech. These materials supposedly called on our nation's school children to don berets and become Marxists or something. I don't know -- not being a teacher I didn't see the materials in question. Let's say the charges are true (I doubt they are, but bear with me): the materials were pulled and never distributed, so our kids are safe.

Today though, I saw a piece (via Instapundit) that reminded me about how Democrats went cuckoo for outrage puffs back in 1991 when then-President George H. W. Bush made an address to schools. Congressional Democrats threw a hissy fit, the Washington Post tut-tutted about propaganda being forced on our kids. There were Congressional hearings and everything.

I get the allure of "but they did it too". It's easy. You get to drag up stupid things the other side did and play the hypocrite card. The problem I have is that it buries the fact that the behavior was wrong in the first place under an avalanche of righteous indignation [*].

When someone yells "but they did it too", what they're really saying is, "it was wrong when your side did it, but it's okay that our side does it now because we're evening the score." What they're really doing is performing an act (or repeating a meme, whatever) that they believe is wrong. It is, at heart, a logic error.

Of course, the same conservatives who complain about Obama now will not have a problem when the next Republican president speaks to the nation's schoolchildren. The same liberals who defend the Obama school speech now will condemn the next Republican administration's address. And the cycle repeats.

It's an amateur argument. Either you believe an act is wrong or you don't. Defending an action on your side, then condemning the other side for the same action using the justification that "they were against it before" is hypocrisy. It doesn't bring anything to the greater debate. All it does is prove you stand for party, not for prinicples.

[*] The best kind of indignation!

Tips For Dealing With Solicitors: Switch To Satellite Guy

My doorbell has been getting quite a workout over the last six months, what with the country exploding all around us and all. Between people wanting to sell me cable, satellite television, home protection systems, newspaper subscriptions, and religion, I haven't had much time to slam doors in the face of the smelly hippie-types that want me to sign a petition for government healthcare, clean water initiatives or support for a hemp-based economy.

I assume the rise in incidents of me having to get off the couch and pause season 3 of Dexter is due to a couple of factors: hard economic times bring out the scammers, and caller ID. I don't answer the phone if I don't already know who it is.

With that in mind, here is a handy guide to handling these unwanted visitors. If, to you, these visitors are actually welcome, feel free to disregard this guide. Also, I'm sorry. You must be very lonely. First up is...

The Switch To Satellite Guy: this is usually a young, preppy looking guy, clean cut, who wants to extol the virtue of switching to DirecTV and away from cable. He is armed with a vast array of tools for getting you to sign a piece of paper authorizing his employers to sign you up for satellite service. If you don't have it already, he's ready to tell you how much money you are wiping your butt with, setting on fire, and peeing on that you could be using to put your kids though college.

If you already have the service he is peddling, it's no problem; he has a special offer for you (and only you, because you look like an honest guy) that will reduce the amount you're paying without giving up any channels. Did your bullshit detector go off? It should.

How To Deal: Invite him into the house, sit him down, and make him watch the Hallmark Channel until he begs you to just kill him already. The tale will spread and you won't be bothered again. That the solicitor will spend the rest of his days in a straitjacket babbling incoherently about "Love's Sweet Promise", "Love's Enduring Power" and "Love's Neverending Spray Of Vomit" is a bonus.

Next in the series: Sign My Petition Guy

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Think The President Hates Me And I Deserve It

I didn't vote for Barack Obama. The reasons are myriad, but to condense it into a single bullet point: I didn't believe him. I didn't believe he was a moderate. I didn't believe he would "usher in a new era of bipartisanship". I didn't believe he would be a friend to small business. I didn't believe he would only raise taxes for the rich (not that I thought that was a good thing anyway).

I also didn't believe he would pull all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. That was actually a plus, because I think a total and immediate pullout would have been a mistake. But it was very different from what he let people think. Did he ever say he would institute a pullout immediately upon taking office? He did not. He did call for a rethinking of the entire mideast strategy. He then announced timetables for withdrawal that matched up nicely with what the Bush administration had already announced.

Despite all this, I respect the office of the President of the United States. You won't see me show disrespect for that office in this space or anywhere else. As long as Barack Obama holds that office, I will show repect for him as well. He's the president of the United States and he deserves respect.

I have to admit however that I have gotten the feeling almost constantly that the administration, and, by extension, the Democratic Party don't have a lot of respect for me. How could they? After all, I am apparently:

Considering all my faults, is it any wonder the president doesn't want to have a beer with me?

It Worked For Aerosmith

Aerosmith was playing in dive bars in the mid 1980's. Their career had sunk to the point of playing in front of drunken slobs to scratch together enough money to buy another round of... well, whatever they were using at the time.

Then, through the particular brand of magic that only existed in the '80's, somebody had the monster idea of putting these washed-up has-beens in a recording studio with Run DMC. The result, a version of Walk This Way all hopped up on hip hop, brought the band back to prominence. A string of very successful and very uninspired albums followed. Seriously -- what happened to the blues influence so obvious in Train Kept A Rollin' and Chip Away At The Stone?

Anyway, that formula has been tried with limited success since that magical pairing. It is in the spirit of those less successful mash-ups that I present the following, in which Macy and her friend Bella channel DMC and Pete Townshend of The Who. Were they trying a remix of Won't Get Fooled Again? Baba Yaga? I don't know. It's probably best not to ask too many questions. I warn you: turn the volume down to a manageable level; little girls can hit notes that will make your pancreas howl at the moon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rights I Just Made Up: The Right To Go To A Grocery Store Without My Child Seeing People Drink Wine

Seriously. I mean, the author of the bill put it just that way:

"And you know my feeling was if parents decide that they want to go to a wine tasting in a specialty store and they have a two-year-old or infant in a stroller, that's their choice, it's their children, you know? But when families go into grocery stores and they don't want their children exposed to that they have a right to that too, and so that's what we were trying to do." (emphasis mine)

I don't want my child exposed to smelly guys in wifebeaters buying Cheetos and Mountain Dew, carts that squeak like they're being tortured, or bleu cheese dressing. Do I have the right to go into a grocery store and not have my delicate flower of a child exposed to these things?

I want less of the first, more of the second at my local grocery store.

Of course, the law referenced in the story has the added feature of not being what the author intended at all, but, oops, so sorry, it can't be fixed until the next legislative session. In the meantime, sorry for the inconvenience!

Here in the midwest, people don't realize the exquisite convenience of being able to pick up a bottle of cabernet or a six-pack of beer while shopping for groceries. Don't worry though; at least my fellow North Dakotans don't have to bear the horrible risk of exposing their children to a wine tasting.

(Link via Overlawyered)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Haiku Review: Twilight

angsty angst angst angst,
angst angst angsty angsty angst
angst angst angsty angst

Bonus Commentary: We watched the bonus features on the dvd, and it was quite funny how, when describing the characters, their motivations, and how the actors went about developing them, every synonym for the word angst was uttered, but never the word itself. I made a joke early in the movie about all the angst dripping from every frame, then ran that joke into the ground for the next two-plus hours. Every piece of dialog, every glance -- jam-packed with angst. It's like there was a sale at the angst store and everything must go. A typical scene went like this:

Pale Vampire Guy: "I no longer possess the strength to stay away from you." (stares angstily)

Pale Human Chick: (stares angstily, swoons)

PHC's Father: "The pot roast is ready!" (looks angstily between his daughter and the kitchen, glares angstily at PVG)

The damage this movie has done to Macy is immeasureable. It's going to take me years to make her understand that teenage boys don't want to just lay on the grass and stare into her eyes for hours. They don't play melancholy pieces in a room with nothing in it but a piano. And they certainly don't drive roller skate-sized electric cars.

Best/Worst Moment: When the pale vampire guy explained how his family didn't drink from humans, but only from wild animals by saying, "it's like being a vegetarian". My reply: "no, drinking the blood of vegetables would be like a vegetarian. I don't think real vegetarians would agree with you."

Fatal Logic Error: Pale vampire guy is over a hundred years old. He's graduated from about 70 different high schools. He has an adult mind trapped in a seventeen year old body. But he's still attracted to high school girls. Creepy, dude. Creepy.