Guksu’s new album — it’s emo-tastic!

April 26, 2010

I recently started listening to “High and Dry” by Radiohead.  It’s a pretty catchy song, and since several friends in high school and undergrad had highly recommended Radiohead to me several times in the past, I decided that I would do some research and see if I could actually get into Radiohead’s music. I was thinking I could maybe find a “Greatest Hits” album at the library, listen to it in my car for a week or so, then maybe purchase some of their music if I liked it. In the really short run, iTunes seemed like the easiest way to check out little snippets of songs, and see if a greatest hits album even existed. I found that Radiohead does have a “Best Of” album, but the iTunes synopsis informed me that this would be a “perverse” way to experience the group, because Radiohead was “one of the few bands in the 1990’s and 2000’s to use the album as a cohesive artistic statement”. I decided to read on, and perused several of iTunes’s album synopses, and what followed was a steady stream of hyperbole and big words that made about as much sense to me as postmodern literary criticism. It is possible that I just haven’t listened to Radiohead’s music enough for such critiques to really sink in and make sense to me, but it’s also possible that such critiques are just artsy fluff that would be fun to berate and make fun of.  I would like to give my best effort at being a music critic, evaluating the new album by my family band, Guksu.  Here goes:

Guksu has finally burst on to the alternative music scene with their bold and inventive new album, “Paretto”. Their music is so spiritual, you might see God listening to it. It is so visceral, a girl could have her first orgasm listening to it. It’s so cerebral, it’ll have you feeling like Garry Kasparov  in Round 7 against Deep Blue. Equal parts melancolique, ennui, and joie de vivre, after listening to the album in its entirety, you may run out of stuffy French words to describe it. While the album boasts several  pop anthems such as “All Falls Apart” that stand alone as strong, histrionic singles, the grandiloquence of their album as a whole shows that the finished product is both greater and less than the sum of its parts. The subtle, soothing tones of Curtis’s tenor voice carry you to distant corners of your mind where images are Burton-esque, and melodies float by on the currents of his wistfulness. Claire’s violin is pure “dulce”, which happens to the title of track #7. Evan’s steady, rhythmic thrusting of bass notes into the mix build in strength and intensity until the songs burst in a climax of cathartic catastrophe. If you haven’t listened to “Paretto”, then you haven’t experiecned Guksu.

Maybe if this vet school thing doesn’t work out, I can make a supplemental living as a music critic. Tootles.

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Top 5 Ways to tell if You’re a Democrat

January 29, 2010

Republicans and Democrats both have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Both parties can be frustrating to the outside observer in their own ways. I personally take issue with Republican ideology, and Democratic tactics (or lack thereof). While I may not appreciate Republican political platforms, I can’t help but notice that Democratic leadership over the past year has not yielded noticeably superior results to those of their Republican predecessors. My views of the Republican and Democratic parties are perhaps best summarized by a moment in Team America: World Police where the protagonist compares the liberals and conservatives in our country to different parts of human anatomy (and for good measure, there’s a body part thrown in there for terrorists as well). It’s quite vulgar, so I won’t list it here, but it’s very pertinent to today’s political climate; I’m not sure it’s possible to make a more accurate yet hilarious allegorical comparison. If you haven’t seen Team America I would recommend it. Anyway, here are some common traits of Democrats that sometimes make life frustrating for a Democratic voter:

5.You often wax idealistic.

This is why so many of today’s Democrats get a reputation for being hippies (it also explains why many of them are unreliable voters). Part of this is an artifact of the age demographic that makes up a large part of the Democratic base (namely, young people).  The progression from liberal to conservative as we age is a logical phenomenon, if you look at it. At age 18, when we first have the right to vote, we are seniors in high school (possibly freshmen in college by the time we have the chance to vote in a meaningful election. We have big dreams of the career paths we are going to take, we have lofty visions of changing the world, and then we go off to college, where 90 percent of college professors are liberal, and fill our heads with ideas of ways we can change society for the better. You have faith in humanity, including the tired, the poor, and the infirm, and you want to make equality more than just a slogan or a pipe dream. Then you graduate college, and you start a career. In most cases, your career starts to break down your early ideals as you realize you have to work within the system to bring home a paycheck. As you begin to work with the system, and pay more and more taxes, you begin to move towards the middle or the right (do you really want to vote for the party that wants to take more of your hard earned paycheck from you?). You become less concerned with changing the world, and more concerned with supporting your family, paying your mortgage, and so on. By the time you hit retirement age, you probably look back on the past with serious nostalgia, and long for the “good old days” when things were easier, and if you want to effect any change, you want to move things back to how they used to be (the political term for this is “reactionary”). The conservativism of the elderly in our country has been magnified in recent years by the fact that the elderly are easier to scare than other age groups; a fact which has been well taken advantage of by Republicans through the color system of Homeland Security,  rumors of “death panels”, and the like.

The problem with having a young, idealistic political base is that they are completely unreliable. Yes, they want to change the world, but only if it doesn’t interfere with their schedule. They are busy with classes, figuring out what they want to do for a living, learning how to do their own laundry, pursuing love interests, or drinking until they vomit, and posting pictures of it on Facebook. Do they really have time to be politically informed, or stand in a three hour line to cast a vote? If they discuss politics with their friends, they may be viewed as “nerdy” or “uncool”, or they might be talking over the head of a really hot girl or guy that they are trying to score with and don’t want to alienate. Old people, on the other hand, have nothing better to do with their time. They have plenty of time between Matlock reruns and bridge to vote in every federal, state, and local election (TIVO has made this even easier). As far as I can tell, this is an advantage that the conservative party in our country will always have, as long as people continue to grow old. I have yet to hear a convincing argument to the contrary.

4. You sometimes have trouble making up your mind

This has more to do with party leadership than with the party’s voting base, because the Democratic voting base is a very diverse group (which has its own issues that I will outline in point #3). Many Democratic voters have strongly made up their minds about one or more issues, such as the environment, abortion rights, the Iraq War, etc, but they aren’t the ones actually pulling the trigger on any legislation. The Democrat that personifies this liberal indecision the best is Jon Kerry, and his subsequent reputation as a “waffler”. Liberal indecision likely comes from one of two places: 1) a lack of intestinal fortitude, or 2) an unfortunate side effect of intellectualism. Some Democrats certainly suffer from the former, but I think that the latter is also a significant contributor, which merits a little more explanation. There’s an old saying, “the more you know, the less you know”. A more eloquent way of putting this would be, “the more educated you are, the more ways you have of questioning the world around you, and the higher your degree of skepticism, thus lessening your degree of certainty”. I actually admired Jon Kerry for “waffling” about the Vietnam and Iraq wars. He served in Vietnam, and when he saw how terrible it was on the ground he came back and protested against it. He voted for the Iraq war when the country was unilaterally in support of it, and then when he found out that the Bush administration lied about Iraq’s WMD’s and ties to Al Qaeda, he changed his mind and became critical of the war. I would hope that the leader of our country would be able and willing to change his mind when new information comes into light disproving his original conception. Getting the correct answer in the end is more important that never changing your mind. On the other hand, though, pontificating and constantly changing your mind while you gather more and more information is completely unproductive. Waiting to have “all the information” can often come off as lack of confidence, which is an utterly undesirable trait in a political leader. One can see the weakness of Jon Kerry’s thinking style in his public speeches. He qualifies and hedges so many of the things he says that his sentences turn into run-ons. He lacks the charisma and force of argument that made Bill Clinton and Barack Obama such popular figureheads. While intellectuals may have thought that Kerry won the Bush-Kerry debates of 2004, the common American probably thought that Bush won them. Sometimes, talking and thinking can only take you so far, and you need to take bold action, which is something that the Democrats seem unable to do, and thus another area where Republicans seem to consistently have the political advantage.

3. You have trouble describing your party’s identity.

As previously mentioned, the Democratic party is made up of many different special interest groups. These include environmentalists, feminists, intellectuals, union members, the GLBT community, government employees, and minorities in favor of affirmative action, such as  blacks, and increasingly Latinos (they are conservative Christians for the most part, but the Republican party has alienated them over immigration reform). There is also certainly diversity within the Republican party, but not to the same degree. Diversity certainly has its advantages, but the major problem with this is that there is no easy way to unify all of the fragmented special interest groups under the umbrella of one political party with a singular vision. For example, many of the people who voted in the last election most likely voted for Democratic candidates for national and state offices simply because they wanted to vote for a candidate who was “not Bush” or “not Republican”. Bush’s approval rating at the time was somewhere near twenty percent. The Democratic party won near-record majorities as a result, and took from this that they had a mandate from the public to bring about change. However, when it came time to bring that change to pass, that mandate quickly disappeared. How can you expect the average person who simply voted “not Bush” to have an educated conception of what an improved healthcare system would look like? What if some of the “change” you want to bring about requires raising taxes? Democrats made the mistake of believing that, because they had popular candidates, their platforms were also widely popular. When some of their proposed reforms were revealed to be less popular than expected, it weakened their confidence and ability to act, and as we have seen, their confidence and propensity to act were already in short supply. Meanwhile, it is fairly easy to unify the Republican base around issues such as abortion, gun rights, and fear of socialism. This contributes to the situation that irritates me the most about today’s Democrats, which will be addressed below.

2. You hate, or strongly dislike, one or more of the following: Big Business, the Christian Right, unrestrained capitalism, Rush Limbaugh,  Anne Coulter, and most people on Fox News (particularly Glenn Beck).

One of the best ways Democrats can find to describe themselves is to delineate who they aren’t, and Democrats certainly aren’t any of the things listed above. There may be some liberals who are fiscally conservative and laissez-faire, who gravitate to the Democratic party for reasons of social liberalism. However, these are fairly few and far between, and I don’t think one could find any Democrats who believe that business and the market should be completely unregulated, or even significantly less regulated than it is today. Democratic identity is slowly just becoming defined as the second half of the bitter partisan divide that I described in my previous post. Tired of being labeled as “tree-hugging, flag-burning, frappuccino-drinking, unpatriotic, stuck up liberal elites”, Democrats have begun to rebel against the “war-mongering, greedy, bigoted, racist, sexist, creationist assholes” who were in power for the last 8 years. Fox News is beginning to see it’s liberal counterpart on networks like MSNBC, with pundits such as Keith Olbermann, who have decided that turning the “news” into a name-calling contest is an effective way to gain viewers (although,  this strategy is apparently not as effective for liberals yet, as evidenced by the fact that Fox News’s ratings still blow MSNBC’s completely out of the water). And, to be fair, as much as the Obama-Hitler comparisons bother me, the Democrats definitely started it when Bush was in office. Nazi comparisons are really just lazy insults, in my opinion. Yes, we all agree that the Nazis were bad, and that Hitler is one of the worst people in history that one could be compared to. But, does that mean whenever we think something is bad we need to rush to make the worst historical comparison we can think of, without any real basis for comparison? Neither Bush nor Obama is anti-Semitic, or attempted genocide of any kind. Bush technically invaded another country, but Iraq is hardly comparable to all of Europe, and the US forces stationed in Iraq are hardly the Gestapo. And, for as many things as Bush screwed up, he often takes an unfair rap from Democrats. Hurricane Katrina was not Bush’s fault,  even if we take issues with how rescue efforts were handled. It was the fault of the people who built inadequate levies decades ago. Bush made candid, semi-productive efforts to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine. Bush is not to blame for the bursting of the real estate bubble, so while he may be largely to blame for the current national deficit, he is not totally to blame for the economy that was passed on to Obama. And while Republicans often take unfair shots at Democratic leaders, Democrats certainly did the same while Bush was in office. Democrats should take advantage of their tenure in power to be the bigger men and try to put an end to the name-calling and mindless partisanship (although really the efforts should come from both sides). And, if an end to the bitter divide is not possible, Democrats should at least be able to take advantage of their majority to get things done. Which leads me to my final point…

1. You are unwilling or unable to take the fight to the enemy.

This is why the public was convinced that a Democratic president would be unable to keep us safe from terrorists. If the Democratic party is unable to stand up to 41 Republican Senators, how will they be able to stand up to people with weapons who want to blow them up? (I realize that the logic of this argument is flawed, because it is easier to stand up to someone with force if you’ve given up hope that you can reason with them, but this still illustrates the stunningly disappointing lack of political will that the Democrats are currently displaying).

Where did the Democrats get the idea that they are so powerless? Maybe they’ve been watching too much Fox News. Democrats have a 70 seat majority in the House and a 17 seat majority in the Senate, yet seem to be incapable of getting anything done. You don’t even half to look back too far to see leaders who were able to cope with much worse situations. They should take the examples of Bill Clinton (served half of his presidency with an opposing majority in Congress) or George W. Bush (ditto). I actually think that winning a super-majority in the election of 2008 was a bad thing for the Democrats. It became a kind of security blanket for Democratic congressmen, with the added negative effect of banding together all of the Republicans who found themselves in the small, weakened minority. Everything became a unified effort on the side of Republicans to stop the socialist leviathan bearing down upon them, and every political battle became a potential Waterloo for their Napoleonic liberal adversary (actually, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia would be a better analogy for a turning point at the height of a Monarch’s power, but then again, some Republicans liken Obama simultaneously to Hitler and Stalin, so the bar for their historical comparisons isn’t really set that high).

Fox News and Conservative pundits routinely criticize Obama and the Democratic Congress for dismantling our country, or bringing about radical socialist change that will cause the downfall of our markets, moral fabric, and so on, but when you look at it, what has this administration really accomplished? They passed the economic stimulus package, something that was fairly universally agreed upon on both sides of the political spectrum (suggestions of bailing out the banks came from federal economists, who tend to lean Republican). Obama won a Nobel Peace prize as a “thank you in advance for trying to bring an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” gesture, and in recognition of this gesture, he increased our troop presence in Afghanistan. He closed our military prison in Guantanamo (which, to be fair, may have also contributed to his peace prize), but then refused to prosecute anyone who ordered or carried out the torture of inmates. Healthcare reform is, at the moment, going nowhere fast. Where is the radical socialist change? Maybe one could argue that the “nationalization” of GM was radically liberal, but if anyone else invested billions of dollars into a company, they would be among the primary stockholders, wouldn’t they? And honestly, most liberals probably would have preferred the bailout money to be put directly into the hands of citizens or social welfare projects rather than the pockets of big business (although it is certainly debatable whether this strategy would have been more effective).

Really, criticisms of Obama should not center around how radical he is (his record seems to be fairly centrist at this point), but rather should focus on how a president who at the time of his election seemed to have endless popularity and political capital, has failed to further the agenda that he put forward on the campaign trail. Perhaps the Republican minority is putting forth more staunch opposition than we are giving them credit for; perhaps the culture of bitter partisan divide in the wake of George W. Bush would leave any majority party in a difficult situation of political gridlock. But more likely than either of these scenarios is that the Democratic leadership needs to man up and do their job, and stop complaining or worrying about their lack of a supermajority, or the prospect of a Republican filibuster.

I’m not sure if Democrats manning up would actually solve all of our country’s problems (particularly the bitter partisanship problem), but it would certainly make me feel better at the very least. Maybe we need to replace our two-party system (although the odds of that actually happening are even less than our chances of getting rid of the BCS). Bloggers for the Economist suggest that adopting the British parliamentary system would lessen gridlock and corporate influence, both of which I’m certainly for, but I would need to know more about how British Parliament works in order to give a final opinion on this. All I know is that Democrats showing some guts and fighting the good fight would certainly make me feel better about having elected them into office, and listening to them whine about their current majorities is like playing a game of Settlers when the winning player has 18 cards when their turn begins, and says things like, “This sucks, I just don’t know what to do with all of these cards. If I don’t spend them I might have to drop. Can anyone trade me an ore and a wheat for a sheep?” It mostly just makes you want to punch them. Tootles.

Top 5 Ways to tell if You’re a Republican

January 22, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Much of what follows is largely political criticism and stereotyping, so continue reading at your own peril. I will hopefully follow this post up with a Democrat counterpart in the coming weeks, so you may prefer to read that one. However, if you’ve ever read any of this blog before, you know my political leanings, so I can’t promise to bash everyone equally. Consider yourself warned.

When I was growing up, I had a certain conception of the Republican Party and what it stood for. It may have actually existed, or it may have been a product of my youth and naivete. Anyway, my perception was that the Democratic party existed as a fountain of idealism, that liberals were there to espouse taking care of everyone (the poor, the disenfranchised, the environment, etc.), and that the Republicans were there to bring the Democrats back to the realities of financial limitations and fiscal responsibility. Basically, Democrats wanted everyone to have healthcare, education, unemployments, and social security, and the Republicans were there to say, “Wait, this is what we can actually afford”. In this system, both sides have something to offer, and balance each other out in a way that benefits the country. Then came the transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush. A Democratic candidate passed record surpluses on to a Republican successor, who quickly turned them into record deficits. There were many reasons that this happened that the government had little or no control over, such as the bursting of the dot com and real estate bubbles. However, during the 2004 election I couldn’t help but notice how much more Howard Dean, a Democratic candidate, was concerned with fiscal responsibility and budget balancing than was Bush, the incumbent Republican. If we have reached a point Republicans are now the biggest proponents of deficit spending (a trend that began with Reagan if I am not mistaken), and we have to look to Democrats to be the budgetary voice of reason, what will become of our country? And what good are Republicans to us anymore? The identity of today’s Republican party seems to be composed of traits and patterns that I can identify, yet struggle to truly understand. For example, they seem to really like low taxes, no matter what the effect might be on the federal budget. This week’s top 5 is made up of Republican identifiers and values that are among the most troubling or confusing to me. So, without further ado, the Top 5 ways to tell if you’re a Republican:

5.You get your news from a source that’s “Fair and Balanced”.

Anyone who complains about the “liberal news media” is ignoring the fact that Fox News has been the top rated cable news channel for 86 consecutive months (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/179815-Cable_News_Ratings_Fox_News_Still_Tops.php)

As a non-conservative observer, I sometimes have great difficulty in labeling the product that Fox puts on the air as “News”. It seems to me to comprise primarily an op-ed channel that disguises itself as objective reporting, down to their slogan of “Fair and Balanced”. My blog, for example, is entirely my own opinion. I may make points that you find persuasive or valid, but I would never consider my blog to be a “news source”. Spending half an hour calling President Obama “Black Hitler”, “Barack the Magic Negro”, or “A Communist Nazi Fascist Muslim”, doesn’t qualify as news to me. There may be smatterings of facts dispersed throughout the anti-liberal tirades, but the majority of what is reported on Fox News is not fact, it is opinions and interpretations of the significance of the few facts that are actually presented. For example, if I present to you the following five sentences:

“Barack Obama voted today to bail out Hedge Fund X, with the conditions of increased government oversight of their dealings, and that they give no bonuses to their executives this fiscal quarter. Can you believe this guy? He’s like Mussolini, Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Hitler, and Malcom X all rolled into one. He wants to dismantle the capitalist structure and moral fabric one company at a time. I honestly think it arises from his deep-seeded hatred for white people”.

How many of those sentences would you actually consider “news”? Would you consider the whole paragraph to be news? I certainly hope not. This example was exaggerated, and there are certainly programs that exist on Fox News that report more objectively than others, but all in all, I would say that the network itself in much more a vehicle for opinions and editorials than it is for actual news. Then again, seeing your own opinions and values presented with heavy sarcasm and mocking very entertaining; that’s why I get a large portion of my daily “news” from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I realize these programs aren’t actually “news”; I just wish that people would realize the same thing about Fox News Network.

4. You covet or strongly defend one or more of the following: gun rights, strong anti-abortion legislation, and legislation protecting the traditional nuclear family.

I’m not actually going to tackle each of these issues individually, because that’s more controversy than I’d like to take on in one subset of a blog post. In some cases, I can actually understand the arguments rationalizing each of these issues. What surprises me more than anything is the number of people for whom these issues are the single deciding factor in an election. When Howard Dean came and spoke at my undergraduate college, he told us that for a large portion of the population, elections boil down to 3 things: God, Gays, and Guns. Not exactly the same as my list, and more concise, but it’s the same general idea. But this contributes to a large portion of poor people, who would directly benefit from social welfare programs and work projects that Democrats propose, voting for Republican candidates based solely on the issues of abortion or gay marriage. I suppose some would find it equally confusing that wealthy educated people would vote for Democrats who raise their taxes rather than keeping their money for themselves, but I think those people have a plan to make it financially in spite of the higher taxes. When destitute people who live in trailers vote for candidates who want to cut funding from their schools and prevent them from obtaining affordable health care because he says he drives a truck, owns a gun and hates abortion, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. I suppose it’s possible that these same financially-challenged citizens actually believe in the theories of trickle-down economics, functionalism, and privatization, but if that’s the case, they must be self-loathers, because they haven’t succeeded in private industry to any appreciable degree, and helped society to be more efficient. Maybe they’re also roped in by the promises of “lower taxes”, even though their tax bracket would likely change the least of any bracket under different Democratic or Republican proposals. I guess it’s each individual’s right to vote his morality or conscience, but I just wish that some individual’s consciences were a little better informed.

3. You say you hate “Big Government” in any form, but you’re okay with the expansion of the military and anything having to do with “National Security”.

This, in my opinion, was the greatest fallacy of the Bush administration. He campaigned for a party who’s general political platform has been laissez-faire, minimally-involved government, and he did exactly the opposite. Obviously, war is expensive, especially when it’s being fought in a country halfway around the world with no clear exit strategy. However, if we only consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are overlooking the fact that George Bush created an entirely new department of the federal government, complete with it’s own budget and political power. Is that really keeping government small? By whose definition? Also, Republicans and Democrats alike were willing to swallow the Patriot Act in the aftermath of September 11th, and I would argue that the Patriot Act substantially increased the government’s power to stick it’s hands into our business. This is a mentality that I struggle to comprehend. “Sure, you can build a new branch of government, and take away my civil liberties, and bankrupt the government with deficit spending, as long as I don’t have to pay any new taxes, or you don’t put any of that money toward welfare, health care, education, or any of that liberal hippie crap. The government can tap my phones and search my house without a warrant, as long as they keep their hands out of my social security and my health insurance.” Does that sound like a true opponent of Big Government to you? Me neither.

2. You’re okay with torture, as long as the government is only doing it to brown people, and under the assumption that it produces results similar to what you can see in an episode of “24”.

This is one issue that is sort of a hot button for me. There may be many Republicans out there who are against torture, but currently the party majority and party leadership all seem to be for it. I was appalled watching the Republican primary debates that led up to the 2008 election in which Jon McCain was the only candidate out of a field of ten or twelve who opposed government use of torture (in a related note, he was the only candidate to have ever been tortured). After Barack Obama was elected, ex-vice president Dick Cheney went on a media tour bemoaning the fact that our country is now less safe because we no longer waterboard. I would argue exactly the opposite. First of all, there has never been any proof put forward that shows that valuable information is reliably obtained from torture. Logically, one would assume that a torture victim would put forth any information that his torturers want in order to get them to stop torturing him, but who is to say with any certainty whether that information will be the truth? How many times, when you’re “telling someone what they want to hear”, are you actually telling them completely un-embellished truths? Why, then, do we assume that torture will always provide us with factual, valuable information that will save lives?

The other fallacy of torture enhancing our national security has to do with international perception. If we torture a prisoner, and he is released, is he more likely to want to immigrate to America and become a hard-working citizen, or run as quickly as he can to the Taliban in order to exact whatever measure of revenge that he can? If we torture someone’s friend or family member, are they likely to think, “I can understand why they did what they did. They probably got valuable information from him, and to be honest, he had it coming. Violence is the only language he truly understands.”? Or are they more likely to become a suicide bomber in order to avenge the loved one they lost at the hands of American torturers? The reality is, any time we do something that makes us the villain, we are adding fuel to the terrorist fires, adding credence to terrorist arguments, and most likely creating more terrorists in the process. We also make it harder to gain sympathy from other non-terrorists countries around the world. If we don’t want to be seen around the world as an “Evil Empire”, torturing is the last thing we should be doing. When was the last time you watched Star Wars? Can you recall, in “The Empire Strikes Back”, which of the battling sides employed torture as means to an end? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the Rebels.

Citing a popular film doesn’t actually prove anything about the morality or efficacy of torture, but it does prove that at one point a substantial part of our popular cultural conscious viewed torture as morally despicable. So what has happened since then? For one, we have had governments and leaders, such as Dick Cheney, who have strongly embraced torture and touted its values to the public. At the same time, many popular films, books, and television shows have mentally reinforced to us the efficacy, if not the moral acceptability of torture. “24” is the most commonly cited example (and is incidentally shown on FOX), but books such as The Camel Club by David Baldacci, and The Partner by Jon Grisham, and numerous films also portray torture in a similar fashion. In some cases, torture is being employed by villains, but in almost every case, the torturers get the information they need or want. The only film I have seen in the past few years in which torture yielded information that was false or unreliable was “Rendition”, which was a movie that was explicitly made to decry the injustices of torture.

Efficacious or not (and I believe not), torture is unconstitutional. If memory serves me correctly, I believe the 8th amendment explicitly prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment”. Many officials in our prior administration tried to argue that waterboarding was not in fact torture, but simply “simulated drowning”. Anyone who has voluntarily submitted themselves to waterboarding, (including ex-military members and shock radio dj’s) will tell you that waterboarding is indeed cruel and unusual punishment. Dick Cheney can drone on ad infinitum about the thousands of lives that waterboarding and other torture has saved with information that is “classified”, but he has yet to show any concrete proof that willfully inflicting extreme suffering on other human beings has actually produced anything of value, and even if he could, it would be irrelevant, because according to our Constitution, torture is still illegal. Yet Republicans still support candidates who want to “Double Guantanamo” and other ridiculous notions. A pro-torture stance is something I will never be able to understand, regardless of party affiliation.

1. You hate or strongly dislike many or all of the following groups: Muslims, Gays, Atheists, Liberals, Environmentalists, and Intellectuals.

This is not merely a Republican problem — bitter partisan divisions have become a serious problem in our country over the last ten years, and I’m sure that many Democrats have their own list of people they like to hate on, including Big Business, the Christian Right, NASCAR fans, Toby Keith, and pretty much the entire South (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little). As hatred gets flung back and forth, divisions between the “liberal hippie intellectual elites” and the “bigoted creationist conservative assholes” becomes deeper and deeper, to the point where congressmen are willing to stand up in the middle of a speech being made by the President and yell, “You Lie!!!!” Books by Anne Coulter entitled, How to Talk to a Liberal (if you must) and Laugh-a-Day calendars pointing out 365 misspeaks of President “Dubya” make their creators unprecedented amounts of money, and continue or even strengthen this social and cultural divide. There are clearly two sides to blame for this issue.

However, on the Republican side, I find the hatred a little more troubling, because it finds its way into legislation and policy. State constitutional amendments banning gay marriage were passed in a dozen states during the 2004 election (with more to follow), and racial profiling at airports and other security posts has increased to borderline offensive levels. This ties into my heading about torture, and it’s being acceptable as long as it is only done to “brown” people. You never hear any politicians advocating the torture of white, American prisoners. What about members of Christian fundamentalist groups who are arrested after bombing abortion clinics or murdering doctors? Why do we not torture these people to obtain the names of their co-conspirators or group members? Are these people not terrorists? Why the double standard? I believe that it is easier to hate people when you don’t have to deal with them face to face, or you don’t speak a common language. The Arabs in Guantanamo clearly don’t have the same basic needs and wants as we do, they are violent America haters who only understand force and violence, so it’s ok for us to torture them, right? It’s ok for the Westboro Baptist Church to applaud the murder of homosexuals like Matthew Shepard, and carry signs and create websites saying, “AIDS is God’s cure for fags”, because they’re exercising freedom of speech, which is an American right. But when Arabs say, “Death to the American infidels”, we clearly need to nuke them into oblivion, right? Why the double standard? If we want to take serious strides against terrorism and fundamentalism, we need to call a spade a spade, and tell the Gerry Fallwells and WBC’s of the world to go sell their hatred in another country where terrorism and “ideologies of hate” are more acceptable.

On that note, I’m done hating for now. I hope you don’t hate this post (although, if you did, I don’t know why you’re still reading). Stay tuned for when the Democrats get what’s coming to them. Tootles.

Top 5 Worst Ideas for a Love Song

October 1, 2009

So, I think I may have heard the worst love song of all time on the radio this week.  It’s Lady Gaga’s new song, entitled “Paparazzi”. To give you an idea of why I think it’s a bad love song,  here is a sampling of the words to the chorus:

I’m your biggest fan

I’ll follow you until you love me

Papa….paparazzi

Promise I’ll be kind, but I won’t stop until that boy is mine

Baby you’ll be famous, chase you down until you love me

Papa…paparazzi

Wow. That’s all I have to say. I can’t think of a worse metaphor to use if you wanted to tell someone you love them. Basically you’re saying, “I’m going to take pictures of you at all times of the day, not give you any privacy, chase you around whenever you drive or go anywhere in public, try to get naked pictures of you to put on the internet, and basically do all that I can to make you hate me and want to punch me in the face. If you’re really lucky, you’ll die in a car crash like Princess Diana trying to avoid my constant harassment. ” That’s just the kind of significant other I’m looking for.

Honestly, though, how many professions in our society are more despised than the paparazzi? I can’t think of too many. Telemarketers, maybe? Door-to-door solicitors? Used car salesmen? Possibly ambulance-chaser lawyers, or politicians, but  I think that the paparazzi actually sit atop most of these professions near the top of the “most hated” list. “Paparazzi” is maybe two or three steps below “rapist” or “serial killer” in the derisive vocabulary of our society. This song is basically like saying, “Love me baby, I can be your Dick Cheney. I’ll love you like Abu Grahib”.

The song is still becoming very popular, as evidenced that I’ve heard it 3 times in the last week. I think this mostly has to do with Lady Gaga’s established popularity, and the fact that you can dance to it. “Paparazzi” ‘s popularity got me thinking to what other songs could fit into this anti-love song niche, i.e. love songs that are about some of the least romantic things you can imagine. There are probably hundreds of good ideas out there, but I tried to keep my songs within the rhythm and cadence of “Paparazzi”. Here’s the list:

5. Biochemist

Breeding microbes in a petri dish

Until you love me

Bio…biochemist

4. Old Cat Lady

I love you almost as much

As the forty cats around me

Crazy…old cat lady

3. Politician

Promise Anything

I’ll tell you lies until you ****  me

Poli…Politician

2. Paparazzi

I honestly think it’s really hard to do worse than this.  In fact, I can only think of one….

1. Kobe Bryant

Chick in Colorado

Hold you down and make you love me

Kobe….Kobe Bryant.

I welcome any ideas that any of you have in the comments section. If I really like one, I will edit it into  the post as an honorable mention. Tootles.

Top 5 Pet Urine Stories

September 4, 2009

In my last 8 months working as a vet tech before coming to vet school, I accumulated a number of funny stories that I wanted to share with people, but I was always too busy to blog about them. You might not think that my first semester of Vet School would be an occasion that I would suddenly have more time, and you’re probably right. I can’t really justify it; let’s just say I’m learning to manage my time better. Anyway, here are the top 5 funniest stories from my tenure at Banfield that involve urinating animals:

5. R Kelly reincarnated

Now, I can’t even remember what breed this dog was, but I do remember that he was an intact (un-neutered) male, sized somewhere between a pit bull and a mastiff, dropped off for a comprehensive exam and vaccines. He seemed like he just wanted to pee on everyone. It didn’t seem like a submissive thing, because he never put his head down or his ears back, and he really didn’t have a very submissive personality. It may have been a territory marking thing, because he did lift his leg on the corner of the table at least once.  It certainly happened in response to restraint; when I held him for vaccines, he peed on my arm and my scrub bottoms. By the time he peed on his third petnurse, I couldn’t help but ask, “What’s up with R Kelly dog? He really seems to like peeing on people.” Multiple coworkers told me that I was being inappropriate, but they couldn’t help but laugh, because the dog was so ridiculous. For a visual interpretation of what the dog was like, consult the link below (you may have to copy and paste it into your address bar):

4. “I’ll show you, catheter….”

A rather friendly owner brought in a rather obese beagle, and told us he was concerned about said beagle’s continued weight gain, increased drinking and urination. The doctor explained that such symptoms could be brought on by several different causes, such as a UTI, thyroid issues, cushing’s disease, etc., and that we needed to do blood and urine work to rule these things out. The dog was not peeing on his own, so in the interest of time we decided to collect a sample with a urinary catheter. I held the dog, while another petnurse held back the prepuce (penis covering), and my boss, Michelle, fed the catheter. Once she got the catheter in, we noticed urine leaking around the sides of the catheter and onto Michelle’s hands. At first we asked,

“Did you not feed the catheter correctly?”

“Is there a leak somewhere on the catheter tubing?”

Then we realized almost simultaneously that the dog had decided that dog had decided to pee on his own after all, even if that meant peeing around the catheter. Fortunately, Michelle is always on her A-game, and when she withdrew the catheter, she was able to quickly grab a bowl and hold it under the resulting stream that came spewing off the table, collecting a more than adequate sample. I had always thought that having your pee siphoned out with a catheter must feel pretty strange, and honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t seen this kind of thing happen more often. However, this was the first and (so far) only time I’ve ever seen a dog pee around a catheter, and it was pretty amazing.

3. Lapdog Surprise

One morning I walked in to screen a room, and found young, newly married couple with a 1 year-old female Jack Russell terrier. They were very friendly, and after introducing themselves, invited me over to come meet their dog. The dog was beautiful, and I went over and rubbed her head while addressing her in my best puppy voice. This evoked a reaction not uncommon in young dogs — she put her ears back, wagged her tail vigorously, and peed a small puddle. I am used to dogs doing this when they come to see me at the vet’s office; going to the vet can be a scary experience for a dog, and I would much rather deal with a submissive urinator than a fearfully aggressive dog. The problem in this case was that the dog was still in her mom’s lap when she decided to let loose, and the somewhat sizeable puddle ended up all over the front of a nice pair of pants, which is a rather unfortunate place for a human to have urine stains. Think about it: how would you like to walk out of a Pet Smart with a big urine stain on the front of your pants, with your only excuse being, “I didn’t wet my pants — my dog did it!” Actually, there are probably pet owners out there who would completely understand. Anyway, the woman and her husband were actually very gracious about it, accepted my profuse apologies,  and thanked me for getting them paper towels to clean up the mess. The owners insisted that they had never seen that happen before, and that I was the first person who had ever brought out that side of their dog. Nonetheless, when they came back a few months later, they knew better and had the dog greet me on the floor of the exam room, where she proceeded pee as soon as my hand made contact with her head. Let this be a lesson to all of you who have lapdogs, that it is not always a good policy to keep the dog physically on your lap at all times.

2. Long Distance Kitty

So, for those of you who have a great deal of experience with animals, I would like to fill you in on a little secret: Cats, as a general rule, are completely intolerant of anything being forced upon them. If you are looking for a pet that will be obedient and submissive, a cat is probably not for you. As you can imagine, at a vet’s office, where cats are the recipients of shots, blood draws, ear cleanings, and rectal exams, their moods are somewhat less than amicable. I have had many a cat scratch me, bite me, and pee on me. I have fortunately avoided having anal glands expressed onto me up to this point, but I’m sure that will happen in time. Anyway, there is one cat that peed on me that sticks out in my memory, and this is his story. Let me begin by stating that I was neither restraining nor treating the cat in question; I was simply coming back from an exam room, and stopped to observe the cat being restrained on the table for a blood draw. My fellow petnurse Ramzie was scruffing and stretching the cat, and doing his very best not to get clawed or bitten. The doctor was doing his very best to get a quick blood sample, which was proving difficult, as the cat’s veins were both small and rapidly moving. The cat, for his part, was trying his hardest to thrash, bite and claw everyone in the immediate vicinity. Suddenly, the mowing, hissing, and thrashing stopped, and a yellow arc appeared in the air, coming to rest on my left shoe. I wasn’t mad — after all, I had already been peed on multiple times by pets, and the urine wiped easily enough off of my shoe. I was, however, quite impressed, because I was standing at least 6 or 7 feet away from the treatment table where the cat was being restrained. Imagine if you could urinate 6 times your body length! I seriously think this cat could win some sort of contest. I guess we’re all capable of amazing things when we’re properly motivated.

1. The Tom Hanks Golden Retriever

Whereas kitty earned a spot on this list for the distance he could urinate, the last pet on this list earned the top spot based on the volume and duration of his urination. Do you remember the scene in “A League of Their Own” when Tom Hanks walks into the locker room completely drunk, stumbles over to the toilet, and proceeds to pee for what seems like an eternity? The pee itself is probably under a minute long, but the fact that it lasts more than 20 or 30 seconds makes a brilliantly comically awkward moment for everyone watching the movie. Following in that tradition, we had an overweight Golden Retriever  come in for a comprehensive exam, and his owners had clearly not taken him out beforehand. When we brought him back to the treatment area, he submissively urinated two or three times upon meeting new petnurses. We put him briefly in a kennel while we attended to other pets, and when we brought him into the room for his physical exam, he squatted in the middle of the floor and started to go full stream. The doctor told us to get a towel to put under him, but his growing puddle quickly soaked through and around the towel. After he had been peeing for about 30 seconds, we started to ask each other, “How much pee can one dog have?” He continued to pee for almost a minute straight, and by the time he was finished, the entire area of flooring between the treatment tables had been flooded with urine. It took several towels and a mop to clean up the mess. The dog seemed very relieved,  and was very excited that he had made us all laugh. He wagged his tail and panted and had a wonderful time. Come to think about it, I had a pretty good time myself. These are the experiences that make it fun to work with animals.

I have some funny owner stories as well, hopefully I’ll get around to writing about them soon. See you then. Tootles.

Exploring the Worst Kind of Racism

June 19, 2009

I initially wrote this as a “page”. You can find my initial post in the “page” section, but basically I received and email forward of an article written by a man named Jonathan Rosenblum, and found it to be terribly slanted and racist. I suppose an alternate title for this post would be “Top 5 Reasons Never to Read Anything by Jonathan Rosenblum”, or “Top 5 Reasons why This is the Worst Thing I’ve Read Since The Secret“. The article he wrote can be found here (I found a link to it):

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/jonathan/rosenblum_evil.php3

And here is what I wrote as a rebuttal to said article (In top 5 format, of course):

5. His initial premise is flawed and unsupported.

The author delivers a broad premise in his title, that “sometimes it is more essential to define the nature of evil than good”. This is an interesting point of debate, from a moral standpoint. The problem is, he spends no time defining what good or evil actually are, or explaining why it is harder/less essential to define good than it is to define evil.  He seems to take for granted that people will agree with him that Hitler is evil incarnate (not an unreasonable assumption) and that modern Muslims are in the same category (much harder to swallow, particularly without significant support).

The way I see it, Good and Evil both lie on the same spectrum, and thus must be defined in relation to each other. There are many actions that are good, many that are evil, and many that lie somewhere in between. The problem with defining the West (US, Israel, etc.) as “Good” and Islam as “Evil”, is that it grossly oversimplifies the argument.  (Note: I know that Mr. Rosenblum does not claim to define any “good”, but the assertion of his article that Muslims are “Evil” implies that we are at the least “better”, if not “good”.) He hints at definitions of “Evil”, such as killing innocent women and children, but under that definition, almost any nation that has undertaken military action (including the US military presence currently stationed in Iraq) could be considered evil. I don’t think that is an argument that he is trying to make. Herein lies the problem of not actually defining what makes a group of people “good” or “evil”, when that is your stated premise.

Another interesting point: Mr Rosenblum talks about “radical Islam”, but he doesn’t take the time to define what he means by this, leaving it as a generalization. This is the rhetorical equivalent of defining the “Christian Right” as “people who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors”. This is yet another example of how “the definition of evil”, apparently the premise of the article, is markedly absent from the body of the work.

4. His article is riddled with hypocrisy

There are two sources of hypocrisy in this article, only one of which I will address here, because the other source of hypocrisy is actually my number one reason that Mr. Rosenblum is full of it. The first source of hypocrisy is not stated outright, but more subtly implied. Mr Rosenblem implies, by stating that the US need not get tripped up in defining what is “good”, that we do not always need to take good or honorable steps to fight terrorism — that sometimes we need to resort to things that we don’t consider good, such as waterboarding, and detention of prisoners without trial, or even sufficient evidence to press charges. This is hypocrisy on a national level that our government has indulged in for some time. The reason it is hypocritical is because these actions by our government spit in the face of our national identity. The founding fathers conceived of a nation in which citizens and individuals would be free from tyranny, which is why we have rights such as habeus corpus, and the right to a fair trial. The founding fathers would be appalled by legislation such as the Patriot Act that strips away these civil liberties, or the govnernment holding (and sometimes torturing) prisoners without charges or trial in offshore locations such as Guantanamo Bay. I know I am appalled. Maybe that’s hubris on my part, thinking that the Founding Fathers would think the way I do. However, they did seem to care enough about these ideas to put them in the Constitution….

3. He ignores significant developments in current events that contradict his point.

Iran, part of Bush’s (and apparently Mr. Rosenblum’s) Axis of Evil, recently had presidential elections. There has been somewhat of a controversy involving allegations that the Iranian government falsified the election results. These allegations rest on two major points:

-All major polls leading up to the elections showed Ahmedinejad’s rival to be leading by a significant margin, not trailing 66 to 33 percent as the final election tally reflected.

-The Iranian government announced the results an hour after the polls closed, even though there were over 35 million paper ballots to be counted.

This story has two sides. The first side is obviously outrage at the Iranian government for undermining their own democracy. If the government actually falsified the election results in order to stay in power, that is nothing less than tyranny. However, the other side of the story, the silver lining, is that if the allegations are true, then it seems that the majority of the Iranian people want to modernize and move toward a more western society! That is a very positive sign, and would show that Obama’s heightened rhetoric and extension of a friendly hand toward the Middle East is more forward thinking than it is naive. The elections in Lebanon, where the people actually elected a more progressive government, point toward the same conclusion. It would appear that not everyone in the Middle East is out to bomb the US or Israel after all.

2. He leaves out very important parts of the story.

As I recall, didn’t the Allies win World War II? Yes, appeasement was a mistake, and yes, the Allies (including England) were underprepared from a military standpoint. However, when the Allied Powers realized what was going on, they banded together to defeat the Nazis and liberate the nations (and peoples) that the Nazis were oppressing. The Bush administration tried to use Appeasement as an example of why we had to invade Iraq, a decision which most people will now admit was a mistake. Yes, Hitler was a terrible person. Yes, Hitler was worse than world leaders could realize at the time, which allowed him to become more powerful than he should have. But if we immediately assume that everyone who has conflicting interests with the United States or Israel is as bad as Hitler, then aren’t we bound to overreact fairly regularly? We overreacted in Iraq, and that has cost the lives of thousands of US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (plus trillions of dollars and an unprecedented government deficit). I, for one, am glad that Obama hasn’t over-reacted yet.

1. He is the worst kind of racist

The second type of hypocrisy that I hinted at earlier basically runs as follows: How is labelling an entire group of people (be it Muslims, Iranians, whomever Mr. Rosenblum is tirading against here) any better than how Hitler labeled the Jews back in the times of World War II? Bush, who coined the term “Axis of Evil”, also talked about the “ideology of hate” that Muslims have toward the West? How are the sweeping generalizations made by this type of article any different? If you label an entire group of people as “Evil”, you are dehumanizing them and breaking the common bond that we share as citizens of this planet. What happened to the Christian motto of “hate the sin, love the sinner?” Last time I checked, it wasn’t written anywhere as “hate the sin, hate the Muslims”. Yes, the people who attacked the US on September 11th were terrible people. So were the people who attacked the London subway, and any other examples of Muslim terrorist attacks that have happened in the last 10 years. But you know what? So are Timothy McVey and the Unabobmer. So are the people who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors. You can’t judge an entire group of people based on horrifically violent outliers. That’s just insane. You can level attacks at Ahmedinejad or the Iranian government for being tyrants, you can condemn the attacks and efforts of specific terrorist groups, but you cannot support this type of hate speech, or embrace racial profiling, or embrace any other type of dehumanizing generalizations against Muslims as a people. To try to convince people that Muslims are the definition of “evil incarnate” is worse than calling them towel heads, or sand *****’s, or any number of disrespectful epithets that we discourage people from using. It is the worst kind of racism there is, because it is the kind of racism that encourages people to take hateful action.

Well, it’s good to be back, and it feels good to get that off my chest. I welcome any comments, and I will try to get in the habit of writing semi-regularly again. Tootles.

Top 5 Politician/Celebrity “Dream Tickets”

May 29, 2008

Although I’m sure some beg to differ, we have now reached the point in the presidential primaries where presumptive nominees have essentially been chosen by each party, and the focus has shifted to who each candidate will choose as a vice presidential running mate. What was once thought of as a “Dream Ticket” of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama now seems like a longshot, given the harsh words and rifts between the two Democratic candidates. If that won’t happen, one has to wonder — are there other “Dream Tickets” out there that we haven’t even considered yet? I believe there are, and here are five (well, six) of them for your consideration:

Honorable Mention: Bill Clinton and Wilt Chamberlain

This combination is not really possible, because Bill Clinton is no longer eligible to run for president, and Wilt Chamberlain has been dead since 1999. Hence the honorable mention. But for sheer verility, sheer charm and machismo, for sheer manwhoreitude, I’m not sure this combination could be beaten. We have, in Bill and Wilt, two men who not only dominate their own career fields, but also play “the field” more than the vast majority of their contemporaries. We have all seen and heard about the infidelities and extra-marital wanderings that took place during Bill’s presidency (Lewinski, Jones, Flowers, etc.), but those are just the ones that are well-documented. I’m sure there are a score of others, and who knows how much tail he got before he was married. It is possible that Clinton is just your average, run-of-the-mill politician in this regard, and his reputation for being a Cassanova is simply a result of media hype, but I tend to think that he’s probably just a smooth operator, and his reputation is well-deserved.

Wilt the Stilt, however, undoubtedly puts Bill to shame. According to Wikipedia:

“In 1991, Chamberlain wrote his second autobiography, A View from Above. There, the lifelong bachelor claimed he had sex with 20,000 women. For this to be true, he would have had to had sex with 1.14 women per day from the age of 15 up until the day of his death, a rate of almost eight women a week. ”

This is clearly impossible, but even if Chamberlain achieved even half of the numbers which he claims, you still kinda have to be impressed (or disgusted, or both). Wikipedia’s article did also cite documented episodes where Wilt slept with 23 different women over the course of 10 days, so maybe his numbers are actually in the thousands (although I would imagine that number would have to include many women he had already slept with, and just didn’t remember). Anyway, my brother has a theory that Wilt Chamberlain would actually make Bill Clinton feel inadequate if they got together and shared stories; I only know that as running mates, they would have been an unstoppable sexual force.

5. Mike Huckabee and Stephen Colbert

I would enjoy this ticket simply for the entertainment value. Colbert and Huckabee are both extremely intelligent individuals, who don’t take themselves too seriously, and who are both adept at making light of both their competition and the greater process. Mind you, I could never actually bring myself to vote for a ticket with Huckabee on it, since I am diametrically opposed to his policies, but I do admire and respect the way he runs a campaign, and I enjoy watching him on television. Huckabee masterfully ridiculed Terry McAuliffe on MSNBC after McAuliffe predicted that Clinton’s West Virginia victory speech would be one of the greatest speeches in the history of the world. He envisioned Hillary descending Mount Sinai with two stone tablets, outlining the ten reasons she should be the Democratic nominee. I actually thought that Huckabee made a better correspondent that Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann. I would be anxious to see what kind of ridiculous Doritos sponsorships they would promote, and I would be happy to watch Colbert “nail” the opposing vice president in the VP debates. It it wrong to want a candidate to run, but not to win? I guess that would be like Republicans encouraging Ralph Nader to run again and again.

4. Barack Obama and LeBron James

After the Jeremiah Wright Controversy, I can understand how Barack Obama might not want to run with someone whose campaign slogan is “We Are All Witnesses”, but I would totally vote for this ticket. This ticket is all about complementing Obama’s foreign policy. Lebron James has already taken efforts to learn Mandarin to help the NBA go global, so he already knows more foreign languages than our current president, and I can guarantee he is a much more popular figure abroad than George W. Bush. In addition, LeBron regularly makes other grown men look like little boys on the basketball court, so his intimidating presence would undoubtedly help Obama negotiate with our enemies. I can see the headlines now: “Putin gets posterized by Lebron” or “King James shuts down Ahmedinejad with suffocating defense”. Plus, LeBron would also put to rest the complaints of any people who believe that Barack is “not black enough” (I know, this segment of the population is not nearly as significant as the people in the Appalachian mountains who believe that Barack is too black, but that’s why this ticket isn’t higher on the list.)

3. Ron Paul and Sean Paul

Let’s be honest — when it comes down to it, these two men are basically the same person. And as my friend Anna points out, the lyrics of Sean Paul’s music would make great campaign songs to fire up the American people. “Get Busy” would be a great song to motivate American workers to work harder, fueling our stumbling economy. “Temperature” would be a great song to tout Ron Paul’s potential solutions to global warming (“I’ve got the right temperature for shielding you from the storm…”). Finally “Give it Up to Me” would add sex appeal to the standard garnering of the people’s votes. Don’t we all want to see Ron Paul dancing to “Give it Up to Me” in front of a crowd of thousands of his supporters? I know I do.

2. John McCain and Dick Clark

These two men have the experience, the pedigree, and most importantly, the Oldness to lead our country. Seriously, what better way is there for John McCain to make himself look more young and spry than to choose a stroke victim as a running mate? I suppose he could choose Muhammad Ali, but that would forfeit his Whiteness advantage over Obama. He could run with Katharine Hepburn to try to show sensitivity to the gender issue, but I think she might actually be dead. Really, I think Dick Clark is a good choice. They could host “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” at the White House (honestly, I can’t think of two people who rock harder than Dick Clark and John McCain). The one weakness I see with this ticket is the fact that Dick Clark would inevitably be phased out and replaced by Ryan Seacrest, and I’m not sure anyone wants that guy as our vice president.

1. Barack Obama and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

So, I chose two dream tickets with Barack Obama, and none with Hillary Clinton. If that makes me sexist, then I’m sexist. I’m okay with that. Honestly, though, I don’t understand why Hillary doesn’t get more respect. Everyone wants her to drop out of the race, and she has consistently been the target of the most slanted, biased, viciously attacking media coverage the world has ever seen. She is dominating the primaries in the most important states in the country, nay, the world, and yet still no one believes her that she is the strongest democratic candidate the US has ever had. LEAVE HILLARY ALONE!!!! SHE’S A HUMAN!!!! SHE LOST HER AUNT, AND SHE WENT THROUGH A DIVORCE!!!!! HER HUSBAND TURNED OUT TO BE A CHEATER, AND ALL YOU GUYS CARE ABOUT IS TAKING PITCURES AND SELLING STORIES AND MAKING MONEY!!!!!! LEAVE HILLARY ALONE, RIGHT NOW!!!! IF ANY OF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HILLARY, YOU DEAL WITH ME, BECAUSE SHE’S NOT WELL RIGHT NOW!!!!

Anyway, moving on, I think that The Rock would make a great running mate for Obama. Obama already appeard on WWE, and asked The People, “Do you smell what Barack is cookin’?” Plus, is there anyone better than the Rock to help Obama garner the white tras…er, white “ethnic” vote in this country? I suppose he could run with a NASCAR driver, but in my opinion, The Rock is simply more presidential than Tony Stewart or Dale Jr. Plus, the fact that The Rock is half-black can serve as a reminder to white “ethnic” voters that at some point in their lives, they actually loved and supported someone darker than themselves. The Rock made has been a prominent figure in the last Republican National Convention or two, and so if Barack could manage to get him on his ticket, it would really show his ability to bring the opposing parties together, and break his image as a far-left liberal. Meanwhile, the Rock could campaign as “The People’s Vice President”, which could help garner support from Populist voters. The major problem with this plan is that hardcore WWE fans now dislike the Rock, because he is a movie star now, and they all think he’s a sellout, so he might not win as many white ethnic votes now as he would have 5 or 6 years ago. Maybe in that respect, Dale Jr. would be a better choice, or someone like Jon Cena (although Obama might have trouble trying to sell the people a platform of Thugganomics).

A Obama/Johnson vs. Huckabee/Colbert Election will probably never happen, but you have to admit, it would be more entertaining than the Democratic primary that is currently (and it seems, idefinitely) taking place, or any presidential election that is likely to be held this fall. In any case, I’m glad we have a candidate with the Oldness to make this election mildly amusing, no matter what happens. Tootles.

Top 5 Commercials I Don’t Understand

May 8, 2008

In my most recent post, while writing about an utterly nonsensical McDonald’s commercial, I realize that there are a good number of commercials I don’t understand. It’s not always that I don’t understand the premise of the commercials; normally what I don’t understand is something along the lines of “what is that line/image/gesture supposed to mean?” or “what were the advertising executives thinking when they approved this commercial?” To give an example, when Comedy Central shows commercials for a stand-up special, and they include 3 jokes that are appallingly unfunny, or they are promoting an event, and have Jon Stewart say something as wonderfully witty as “You know that big screen TV you were thinking of getting? GET IT.” I wonder to myself, “Who finds this funny? How is this supposed to make me want to watch their show?” These are five recent commercials that have left me boggled, for a number of reasons:

5. Alltell Commercials (Chad et. al)

I’m sure you’ve seen these. Basically it’s a group of nerdy guys, allegorical symbols for Alltell’s four competitors (Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T), stumbling through their plans to outdo Chad, the metrosexual representative of Alltell, to bring more customers to their companies. They always fail, of course, because they are bumbling idiots, and they sell an inferior product (obviously). The most recent ones feature a wizard that they summon off of the side of a van, which I guess reflects their nerdy Dungeons and Dragons affiliations. Anyway, the wizard inevitably takes Chad’s side, because Chad and Alltell are just that awesome.

What I don’t understand: Why anyone thought it was a good idea to turn this into a franchise of commercials. They even have TWO commercials with the Wizard! TWO! Really? The first wizard commercial was so good that it needed a sequel? They even had a clay-mation Christmas commercial with Chad and company. Is it really that fun to watch four guys being losers, and one other guy, who is marginally cooler at best, showing them up all the time? Throw in the annoying cover of “Come and Get Your Love” that they play at the end of every commercial, and you have a recipe for one of the worst recurring commercials ever. Who are the advertising executives willing to pay for this? Honestly, I don’t get it.

4. Yellow Book Commercial

This commercial features a young boy who comes home, discouraged that bullies have been picking on him (as evidenced by the fact that he says “Bullies…”, and his underwear is pulled halfway up his back). He uses Yellowbook.com to do research about martial arts so that he can defend himself, and boost his self-esteem. We never see him actually use this newfound martial arts knowledge to confront the bullies, because this would never work in a million years. But it’s a nice gesture, and a cute idea, and we get the point.

What I don’t understand: Why doesn’t the kid fix his wedgie? Throughout the entire commercial, as the child gets home, does research, and practices karate, you can see his wedgie riding up the back of his shirt. Couldn’t they have shown the wedgie, shown him fixing the wedgie, and moved on with the commercial? Does he like the wedgie? If so, aren’t the bullies really just doing him a favor? Maybe he was leaving the wedgie as a reminder to himself what he has to overcome. Or maybe this was simply a gross oversight by the people who were likely given a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a nationally broadcast television commercial. Personally, I like to go with the theory that the kid likes the wedgie.

3. Subway “5 Dollar Footlong” Commercial

This commercial is basically a bunch of random characters, from weather ladies to cops to Godzilla, holding up their hands in gestures that mime the lyrics of the song playing in the background, a song which goes a little something like this:

Five…

Five dollar…

Five dollar footlong…

Five….

Five dollar…

Five dollar footlong…

This could be catching on…

What I don’t understand: I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this song is so catchy. It haunts my dreams. At work, on the toilet, lying in bed at night, I find myself singing, “Five, five dollar, five dollar footlon…damn it!” And, on top of that, when I find myself singing it, it kinda makes me want to buy Subway. It reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons, when the cult members convince Homer to join the cult by singing “Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na LEADER!!!!” to the Batman theme music, which they had previously heard Homer singing when he was fishing. Am I getting dumber, or are Subway’s advertising people just so good that they’ve found a way to cut appeal to my baser instincts and brainwash me with catchy melodies? I haven’t asked any of my friends to see if it has the same effect on them, so it could be a Curtis-only phenomenon. Then again, it could be the most brilliantly catchy commercial ever…

What I don’t understand (part 2): If Subway had the power to make their commercials this catchy, why did they stick with Jared for so long? Seriously, it’s great that he lost a lot of weight, but does anyone really believe that Subway is the only reason he lost that weight? Five, Five Dollar, Five Dollar Foot…oh, there it goes again…so catchy…

2. Heineken Light Commercial

You’ve probably seen this commercial at some point. It’s basically a bunch of different people, in a bunch of different costumes, from a bunch of different countries, presumably, passing a bottle of Heineken Light from one to another, while some alternative band plays a song in the background that goes something like this “It’s love, it’s love, it’s love, it’s la la la la la la la love, it’s love, it’s love, it’s la la la la la la la love”, and at the end of the commercial, you see “Share the Good” it flowery handwriting.

What I don’t understand: Aside from the reason why the commercial is so long, the main thing I don’t understand about this commercial is what the message is supposed to be. They never show anyone drinking the beer (which I understand, because I think it’s not legal to show people actually drinking beer in commercials), but the effect is that it just looks like people are passing one bottle of beer around the world without ever actually drinking it. It seems like instead of “Share the Good”, the slogan at the end of the commercial should be “Heineken Light: the beer you’ll want to regift, over and over and over….”

1. McDonald’s Dollar Menunaire Commercial

I have already given a brief synopsis of the plot of this commercial and what I don’t understand about it in my last post. I will touch upon it once more, though, as a quick refresher. At the end of the commercial, after a McDonald’s Cheeseburger restored the faith of a bunch of office workers in the value of the dollar, one worker asks the worker with the McDonald’s food how he’s fixed for fries, and another worker who observes this question makes the astute observation “That’s cold, man, that’s cold.”

What I don’t understand: Aside from my previously stated lack of understanding about WHAT IN THE WORLD IS COLD ABOUT ASKING SOMEONE HOW THEY’RE FIXED FOR FRIES, I can’t understand who the target audience for this commercial is. It clearly isn’t me, otherwise I would probably understand their witty dialogue better than I currently do. But the commercial is the latest in a series of commercials set in a corporate office environment, which begs the question: Is McDonald’s trying to market their products to Corporate America? If not, what is their angle? Do they think that, buy showing corporate people eating McDonald’s food, they will somehow make their food more appealing to poor and/or blue collar people? Given the culture of anti-elitism in this country, I have trouble believing that such a strategy would ever work. Then again, I think that adding fast food to the stress of an office environment is a recipe for really fat, unhealthy people. Allow me to write is as a mathematical equation: Cortisol + Double Cheeseburger = Obesity. I guess it is fast and convenient, but a white-collar worker really should be able to afford something fast and convenient that’s healthier than McDonald’s. So really, I don’t get who McDonald’s is targeting with this line of commercials.

After reading this list, you might come to the conclusion that I watch too much television, but I would also like to think that this list is also proof that I think about the television that I’m watching, which has to count for something. It counts for something, right? Five….Five Dollar….Five Dollar Footlong…..

Damn it.

Tootles.

Three thoughts for the day

April 28, 2008

Three random thoughts that I considered blogworthy:

1. If the Rolling Stones’ tour plane crashed in the Andes, like the people from Alive, and Keith Richards was the first to die, and the rest were starving to death, would it even be worth it to eat him? If they did eat him, do you think they would have some kind of crazy buzz/trip/hallucination, or do you think that the metabolized drug residues would simply make him toxic? Of course, this is ignoring any other moral questions about cannibalism, but I would imagine that eating Keith Richards would rank somewhere between eating a pot brownie and a poison arrow frog.

2. Is there a word for what happens when you correct someone’s grammar or spelling, but your correction itself is wrong? For Example:

person 1: “Between you and me, I think we’re gonna lose this game”

person 2: “Don’t you mean, ‘between you and I’?”

or,

person 1: “There’s a lot less space here than in the other building.”

person 2: “I think you meant to say, ‘a lot fewer space’.”

What would you call what person 2 is doing? Miscorrecting? Incorrecting? You wouldn’t call it “wronging”, because that’s already a word. “Erroring” doesn’t flow very well. I think miscorrecting would be a good word, but as far as I know, it doesn’t exist (at least Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize it).

3. There is a McDonald’s commercial running right now that I don’t understand at all. Actually, I understand the main point of the commercial, but there’s a joke at the end that makes absolutely no sense to me. The commercial is basically a bunch of people standing around their desks at an office, talking about the value of the dollar. They begin the commercial making small talk about how weak the dollar is, then when one of their coworkers walks in with a double cheeseburger of the dollar menu, they start spouting a bunch of other crap about how strong the dollar seems. Then, at the end of the commercial, the following dialogue ensues:

Person 1: “Hey man, how are you fixed for fries?”

Person 2 (guy with McDonald’s stuff): “I’m good.”

Person 3: “That’s cold, man.”

I don’t understand it. What is so cold about asking someone how they’re fixed for fries? Does it have something to do with the value of the dollar? Does it have something with the wording of the question? Does it have something to do with the fries? Is it because no one else at the office has McDonald’s food? SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME. I don’t know if the advertising people are smarter than I am, dumber than I am , or just have a really weird sense of humor. Perhaps part of the commercial that made this make sense got edited out somehow.

If anyone has an answer to any of these questions, feel free to leave them as a comment. I know that they’re kind of rhetorical questions (with the exception of the McDonald’s thing), but I would still be grateful for any thoughts anyone wishes to contribute. Tootles.

Top 5 Books I’ve Read in the Last Year

March 13, 2008

Now, the title of this post might be a little misleading. I often give off the impression that I am someone who is well-read, and while I would like to think that this adjective fits me fairly well, I don’t want to give off the impression that I am someone like Jon Stewart, who reads the book of every single guest who comes on his show, or Tav, my Sociology professor at Dension who reads a book a day every summer. That’s right, I said a book a day. That kind of blazing reading speed just boggles my mind. I’m lucky if I get through a book a month. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not pulling this Top 5 from some huge number of books that I’ve read this year. In fact, the number of books that I’ve read in the last twelve months is….um….as far as I can remember….seven. Well, technically nine, but I bought the His Dark Materials trilogy in an omnibus form, with one cover, so I’m counting it as one 900-page book. I read it pretty much as a single book, and I’ll be discussing it as such. The thing is, almost every book that I’ve read this year has been pretty good, or at least worth discussing with people. I wish I could say the same for the movies I’ve seen over the last year. So if every book I’ve read is at least decent, I’m confident in my ability to rank them as a Top 5, and besides, there are two books on this list that I’ve read just recently that I’m itching to talk about. If I decided to include all of the books I’ve read in the last two years, some other real gems could be included, such as The Constant Gardner, The Partner, The Camel Club, and…wait for it…The Secret. However, it is hard enough for me to remember which books I’ve read over the last year, so I’m pretty sure the borders of the last two years would get kinda hazy, unless I just made the post “Top 5 Books I’ve read since college”. Besides, as I mentioned, touting the fact that I’ve read more than 5 books in a year makes me sound more well-read. Anyway, on to the list:

Spoiler Alert: Plot and/or ending details follow. I’ll try my best not to deliberately give away the best parts of any book discussed here, but it’s difficult for me to discuss the merits of a book without discussing the content, which in the case of fictional novels means plot details. If you come across a book you haven’t read, and feel like I might spoil it for you, by all means skip the paragraphs I write about it.

Honorable Mention: I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

As much as it pains me to leave this out of the top 5, I actually didn’t finish reading this book, so I can’t really justify placing it above any other book on this list. I really wanted to love this book. The title is hilarious. The book jacket is hilarious. The Colbert Report is possibly my favorite show on television right now. Colbert’s shameless plugging promotion of the book was a consistent source of humor on the show when it was released. I bought the book for my twin brother’s birthday, hoping he would let me borrow it, only to given a copy for my birthday by my mother. When I actually started to read the book, however, my enthusiasm waned. Don’t get me wrong — the book is funny; it just doesn’t live up to the TV show. The book kind of reads like an extended “The Word” segment from the show, only the fact that both Colbert’s words and the asides are written kind of ruins the effect. The book is kind of a testament to how funny Stephen Colbert is in person, and how important timing and delivery are to comedy. The little side pages and features were funny for the most part, but on the whole it was fewer laughs per minute than the show, and I wasn’t compelled to keep reading. I’ll probably finish it at some point, and I’m sure I’ll get some more laughs out of it. I’m just not expecting pure brilliance anymore.

5. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

This book is more of a conversation starter than an all-time great book. A friend lent me this book so that I could learn more about Buddhism, and I must say, mission accomplished. As far as books about Eastern thought are concerned, I prefer The Tao of Pooh,  but that’s probably because it’s more watered-down and catered to the Western reader, and it makes more heavy use of analogies, which are one of my favorite teaching/learning devices. Zen Mind  was transcribed from spoken lectures, which I’m sure were quite fascinating and informative. However, given the fact that it read like a practical study guide for meditation, I would have liked to be at the lectures in person. If I’m going to learn a practice, I would rather learn it in person, given that I am more of an auditory and kinetic learner than visual.  It did make me think a lot, though, and it gave me a new perspective on something that I didn’t know a lot about. So books like that are always worthwhile.

4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pulman

You might better know this trilogy by the name of its first book, The Golden Compass. I first became interested in this book (whenever I say book from this point, know that I mean trilogy) while reading Gregg Easterbrook’s “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” column on espn.com. He criticized the book for being too harshly anti-religious. Given that the trilogy is considered children’s literature, I figured it wouldn’t be like Neitzsche or anything, and given the fact that I often find atheist perspectives at least intriguing, if not refreshing, I began to wonder what the book had to say. I saw The Golden Compass at the cinema this winter, and I picked up on few anti-religious undertones, and got the feeling that the movie had been watered down for Hollywood’s sake. Although, I must say — kudos to the film for finally harnessing the evil potential of Nicole Kidman! Anyway, I bought the trilogy, and I just finished reading it yesterday. Its message was a fairly straightforward humanitarian message: if the idea of God/Heaven is a farce, then we must take it upon ourselves to create a Heaven here on Earth. Believing in a fictional God hampers our freedom and ability to reason, and thus detracts from our end goal of maximizing our earthly lives, because we follow irrational rules in preparation for a nonexistent afterlife, rather than focusing on making our present world the best it can be. The book also conveys the message that people as beings are neither Good nor Evil, but rather these labels should be reserved for our actions. On the level of message, I’m totally on board with this book. What I didn’t like about this book was the ending, and Pullman’s failure to create a self-contained, fully coherent and consistent universe. I had many unanswered questions at the end of the book. For example, if people were going to continue to worship God after his death, and if God as a character was not going to make any impact on the storyline, why include him at all? I guess the Kingdom’s forces needed a leader, but they had Metatron, so why include God? What did he add to the story? If the Subtle Knife created the Specters, and the Specters came from the abyss (a God-neutral zone), why did they join up with the forces of the Kingdom in the Final Battle? Shouldn’t they have been attacking parties from both sides, like the cliff ghasts? Also, where did the Land of the Dead come from? Didn’t that seem kind of like Hell? If someone (like the Authority) bothered to create a Hell, wouldn’t it be more logical and balanced to include a Heaven in the universe as well? Pullman makes dissolving into atoms and dispersing throughout the universe sound like the best possible outcome for dead people, but this only holds true because the Land of the Dead sucks so much. What about the people who become Angels when they die? Wouldn’t that be better than just dissolving? Why didn’t anyone in the book explain any of this? Does it make any sense to have the only two death alternatives be Punishment or Nothingness? I could understand if there was just Nothingness, but if there is going to be a Punishment afterlife, shouldn’t there also be a Reward afterlife? Also, it just seemed like Pullman was making up too many rules at the end about “the way things are”. For the book to claim that Lyra was going to put an end to Destiny, she didn’t seem to have much of a choice at the end. “Yes, you have put an end to the Authority, and now you are free to mold your own life as you choose, but if you make any of these choices, you will die and the Authority’s followers will win”. It’s kind of like the Matrix in a way. Neo was supposed to bring an end to the Matrix, and lead people into a new age of freedom, but by the end you found out it was all just one big stupid cycle, and everyone dies and it starts over again with a new group of people without anything actually changing. What was accomplished? That was the lingering feeling I had at the end of the book. Overall, though, I thought the book was a creative, entertaining read, with a message that is worthwhile, despite its shortcomings.

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book was the opposite of His Dark Materials. The end of this book made it great, rather than snatching it from the clutches of greatness. I spent the first 180 pages of this book wondering what everyone thought was so great about it. I was like, “Great, a story about a sniveling, cowardly protagonist who ruins not only his life, but the lives of his father and best friend because he’s too afraid to face his own fears and inner shame. Why does anyone like this book?” I felt like I was reading A Separate Peace all over again, only with Afghan boys instead of Americans. In both books, you can sort of empathize with the protagonist, you can say, “He’s had a tough life; I understand why he would be afraid/ashamed. What I can’t understand is why he thinks he can fix the situation by continuing to act like a giant douche.” Then, all of a sudden, Amir starts to grow up and improve as a character. First, he begins to work, and take care of his dad in America, and you get the feeling he might not be totally worthless after all. Then he goes to Afghanistan, and continues to do the right things, even if he complains unceasingly about it. Then he gets the ever-loving crap beaten out of him by Assef, and you feel like, “Wow, maybe now he’s repaid his debt and I can stop hating him so much.” By the end of the book, he’s a fully sympathetic character, and it’s wonderful to see how far he’s progressed. And Hosseini accomplishes this without even resorting to a Hollywood, storybook ending. While the ending isn’t a happy one per se, I was overjoyed that it didn’t have an ending like The Awakening, which I almost expected it to have after the first 180 pages. I was glad the author didn’t go the Chopin route of “See? People in Afghanistan have it rough. Their lives are so hard that they have free license to act like idiots, ruining the lives of everyone around them, just like my protagonist.” So why is this book number 3, and not higher on the list? Well, I probably would have put it at number 2, except for 2 reasons: 1)I still feel like the book is kind of overrated, because everyone who told me about the book before I read it just told me how amazing it was without giving me any warning of how painful the first 180 pages were. 2) When I enjoy a book, I normally either feel entertained, or like I’m learning something. While I was reading this book, I mostly felt depressed. It was probably the best written book on this list, but it just didn’t evoke the same reactions for me as the top 2 books on this list.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

I know, I know, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are thinking, “You like Harry Potter better than Kite Runner? You uncultured consumer whore!” And to be fair, I don’t think that book 7 was the best in the Harry Potter series (although I would probably rate it above book 1, and possibly book 2, and definitely above the angsty parts of book 5). I don’t want to make it seem like I’m giving Deathly Hallows a make-up award, like the Academy did in giving Return of the King best picture honors, even though it was clearly the worst of the 3 films. I actually would probably rate this book on an even par with Kite Runner, but my expectations of Kite Runner were so much higher I feel like I enjoyed it less, and Deathly Hallows was simply more entertaining and less depressing. The conclusion to Harry Potter tied up many more loose ends, and left the created universe much more coherent than His Dark Materials did, although I still had a few questions at the end, mostly pertaining to why Rowling decided to kill off the characters that she did. (I won’t list them here, in an effort not to consciously spoil, but let’s just say I don’t understand her preoccupation with creating orphans). And while Rowling didn’t pull anything that unexpected, I felt she ended the book the way she had to, and I respect that (she had kind of written herself into a corner once she killed off Dumbledore in book 6). My one other serious objection to the book, although I saw it coming, was the over-glorification of Snape. I’m still convinced that he’s a giant tool, no matter what anyone tells me.

Oh, and I’m discounting the epilogue as part of the book. The epilogue is garbage! And the editor that let it come out is garbage! THAT’S WHY I DON’T READ THE NEWSPAPER! If you include the epilogue as part of the story, then that would easily drop this book to third or fourth on this list, if not lower. What a freakin’ copout. Are you kidding me? Who’s the kid here? That’s all I’ve got to say. Makes me wanna puke….

side note: Why is Dumbledore gay? Why does his sexuality matter? I always thought that Dumbledore was kinda like an incredibly powerful Teletubby; he is a character designed to entertain children, so his sexuality is quite beside the point. In fact, none of the characters in any of the Harry Potter books have any significant degree of sexuality, aside from puppy love (kissing, holding hands, etc.) among the students of Hogwarts. Why complicate something that stands so well on its own as a work by trying to throw sex into the mix? I just think this was a publicity stunt by Rowling, because she was sad that the series is over now. Or maybe she regrets not writing more Wizard Sex into the books now. Fellatiorum! Cunilingulo! Intercoursus Canidae! Oh well, I’m sure there’s probably enough fan fiction out there already….

1. The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan

This book fits the second category of books that I enjoy — books that make me feel like I’m learning something. It was also entertaining, I suppose; the third of the book that was actually an autobiography had a storyline and plot that were interesting enough, or at least as interesting as I would expect a nonfiction book to be. Alan Greenspan has met and worked with some very interesting people in his lifetime, and it is fun and exciting to read his perspective and dirt on all of the presidents that he worked with. It’s kind of like People magazine, only it’s written by one of the greatest minds of a generation, and the gossip is about policies that have shaped a nation, rather than what clothes celebrities wore to an awards show. Then, of course, you get to the meat of the book; the final two thirds of the book read more like The Capitalist Manifesto than an autobiography. While I was reading it, I found myself wishing that I was still in school, so that I could go to class and have a pointed discussion about the book and the issues it raises. While I might not agree one hundred percent with everything he says in the book, there is no denying there is wisdom in Greenspan’s words. He supports all of his ideas with numerous real world examples, and the manner in which he constructs his arguments makes it clear that Greenspan is one of the most intelligent, pensive, and deliberate people on the face of this planet. His intellect seems on par with someone like a Richard Dawkins, but the subject matter that he works with is much more real-world, here-and-now than evolutionary biology. He brings together, in his economic analysis, fundamental questions not only of finance, trade, and governance, but also human nature and the perspective and the individual. He seems to see both the forest and the trees, and take them both into account when making judgments. He lets you know where his biases are, but is willing to temper them with exceptions according to his own reasoning. He labels himself a Republican, but he reports that he feels that Bill Clinton made better, more responsible economic decisions than the presidents Bush that preceded and succeeded him.  While he understates them, he seems to recognize the weaknesses of capitalism, which gives credibility to his argument. He states very clearly what capitalism does well, and where it falls short (although I would probably use a stronger word than “stress” if I were in his place). He notes that no system is perfect, but he also shows that free markets are the most efficient system that has been tried at present (as demonstrated in the last two centuries in developed and developing countries). He also has progressive ideas about things such as the energy crisis, taking into account that the best ideas are not always the most popular ones. For example, in his book, he proposes a $3 a gallon tax on gasoline, taking into account that expensive gasoline is a prerequisite for the infrastructural changes that need to take place if America wants to achieve the oil independence politicians claim that they want us to. Like hiking interest rates or income taxes, this is something no politician would ever espouse if he/she wanted to get elected, but if oil dependence and global warming are outcomes we wish to avoid, it might be necessary, especially given the fact that 1/7 of the world’s oil is consumed on America’s roads and highways. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the world, the economy, and some sides of America we can really be proud of (or improve).

Worpress is telling me that this post has surpassed 3300 words, which is like 11 pages, double-spaced. Anyway, I think I’ve typed enough for one day. Keep reading, check these books out if you haven’t, and I’ll see you for my next top 5. Tootles.