June 30, 2008

Latest Sign that John McCain's Campaign is in Disarray

I have read reports that John McCain's campaign is in disarray. And now I have proof. A few days ago I received this "Emergency Telegram" from the McCain campaign, asking me for money. Me?

Asking me for money for a Republican presidential candidate is like asking Guy Ritchie to pay for Madonna's divorce lawyer. I have been a registered Democrat for decades. I sign an average of at least one letter or petition per day against actions by George Bush and the Republicans on a plethora of issues, from Iraq to the environment to universal health care. The "Links" sidebar to this blog includes the Democratic National Committee, MoveOn.Org, and the Daily Kos.

So I am now convinced that the McCain campaign is in disarray, and probably in big trouble. I am forwarding McCain's campaign a list of like-minded friends who are also committed Democratic voters. I'm all for McCain wasting more of his money on us.


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June 26, 2008

I'm Full of Shirt

The picture above is of my collection of short-sleeved shirts. There are red shirts, yellow shirts, green shirts, white shirts. There are t-shirts, golf shirts, hiking shirts, biking shirts. I'm now up to 54 shirts, and I have hit the breaking point. The piles are so compressed that some shirts can no longer be seen, and others get pushed to the back and can no longer be found.

The problem is that I'm a saver, and I tend not to get rid of shirts, or other items of clothing, unless they either wear out or shrink too much to wear. But this creates a vicious cycle, as the more shirts I accumulate, the less I wear each one, and thus the longer it takes each shirt to wear out or shrink.

But today I'm doing something about it. I'm going to take a bunch of these old shirts and put them in a bag to give to Goodwill. I have to get the pile down to a manageable, non stress-inducing level.

Oh, and the shirts in the picture are just the ones that pull over. I have at least twelve more short-sleeve shirts with buttons, hanging in the closet.

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June 25, 2008

Oil Prices and the Paradigm of Stupid

The debate over oil drilling has exposed the stupidity divide in America. Tom Friedman touched on this in his New York Times op-ed piece last Sunday:

"Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was 'addicted to oil,' and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: 'Get more addicted to oil.'"

Predictably, the explosion in oil prices has led to the taking of sides. On one side are George Bush, the Republicans, and the oil companies, who argue for more oil drilling in environmentally sensitive places, such as off our coasts and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). On the other side are Democrats and environmentalists, who argue that we would not benefit from any such drilling for years, and that our potential oil supply is nowhere near enough to satisfy our demand in any event.

Why does every problem lead to such a binary response? Are there really always two sides to everything? Is it just human nature to divide into opposing camps? Or are entrenched money interests driving the binary paradigm? Are the cable television news networks, which thrive on such Right versus Left battles, partly to blame?

Instead of the Right/Left paradigm that seems to govern every problem and which invariably stifles common solutions, I would like to suggest a new paradigm: the paradigm of stupid. Under the paradigm of stupid, we look at our problems, and the proposed solutions thereto, by shedding our political beliefs just for a moment, and by asking a simple question: is the proposed solution stupid? If so, the solution, no matter who proposed it, should be rejected. Anyone who cannot do this should be suspected of having a financial or other bias.

The paradigm of stupid can be applied to the oil crisis by using mathematics. The math says that the U.S. has only three percent of the world's oil reserves but uses 25 percent of the world's energy sources. The math also says that the estimated amount of oil under ANWR and off our coasts is just a drop in the barrel compared to what we use, and thus it could not possibly meet our oil demand. Finally, the math shows that developing nations, especially China and India, are competing for more of the world's oil supply each day, so that the prognosis for the world's oil supply versus its demand isn't good. In short, the math dictates that approaching the problem of rising oil prices simply by calling for more oil drilling is stupid.

The non-stupid answer to our energy crisis isn't easy but it is obvious: we need to conserve more energy, and we need to develop alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydrogen, etc. Under this paradigm, many people who oppose more oil drilling off our coasts might support such drilling in the short term IF people on the other side would support a comprehensive, long-term plan to develop and switch to clean, renewable energy sources.

Anyone still caught up in the binary debate might do better to get rid of the stupid and figure out a way to get in on the vast fortunes that are inevitably made by those who solve America's big problems. That's not politics. It's just math.

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June 21, 2008

Hair Wars: DC vs. California

Of all the cultural differences between Washington, DC and Southern California, one of the most striking is guys' hair. I'm sure the women's hair is very different too, but their hairstyles vary so widely that I have not yet gotten a handle on them. For the guys, however, the hairstyle differences can more easily be gauged. Here's what I have found:

The most prevalent hairstyle for men in DC that I observed is the Republican "Family Values" look. Epitomized by well-known Washington Republicans such as columnist George Will

and former Senator (now lobbyist) Trent Lott,

nothing says "I hate Social Security," sidewalk wheelchair ramps and other forms of socialism more than this look, especially when it is accompanied by the ubiquitous striped repp tie. If a guy under the age of 30 sports this 'do, chances are he will retain it, along with his political beliefs, for life.

Ironically, the Republican hairstyle, parted on the side, with short sides, and longer, but perfectly-in-place top, seems to be a vestige of Democratic President John F. Kennedy.

But current Democrats would no more be caught dead sporting the Kennedy haircut than they would be caught voting for permanent tax cuts for the rich. Rather, the Democratic look is typically longer, more coiffed (often at a pricey salon rather than a Republican barber shop), and combed or brushed either forward or back, but not harshly to the side. Some well-known Democrats who sport this look are former President (and now campaign meltdown king) Bill Clinton,

and almost-President-if-not-for-voting-machine-cheating-in- Ohio-now-back-to-Senator John Kerry.

So much for Washington, DC. In Southern California, rather than politics, the key industry is show biz, a/k/a film and television entertainment. The people who work in this industry, other than the "suits" (lawyers, accountants, agents) are supposed to look creative. This means that, as far as men's hair, anything goes.

The most popular hairstyle I see in Southern California for guys aged 11 to 30 is the long "shag" parted on the side. It's popular among some actors, notably whiny-voiced funnyman and failed suicide Owen Wilson.

Another popular look for men in SoCal is the buzz cut. Soccer player David Beckham, newly arrived in L.A., is well-known for his buzz cut.

Also prevalent in Southern California is what I would call the Short Shag. Usually it's neat on the sides and messy on top. It's good for those windy days by the beach. Here's one of Brad Pitt with said look.

So, you may ask, which one of these haircuts do I have? Well, I tried to grow it long, but it ends up looking like the guitarist/lead singer for Wolfmother, a/k/a the Sixties Afro:

That works great if you're the guitarist/lead singer of Wolfmother, especially when paired with giant 60s "mutton chop" sideburns, but not so great for everyone else.

I guess the haircut I have currently is more like the short shag. Yeah, I now expect to get stopped on the street and mistaken for Brad Pitt.

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June 20, 2008

What Happened to Boxing?

The other night, on ESPN2, I caught the last few rounds of the 1990 Heavyweight Championship Boxing match in which Buster Douglas upset Mike Tyson with a mouthguard-launching knockout (pictured here). The fight is considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history. As soon as it was over, I tried to remember who the current heavyweight boxing champ is, or when was the last time there was even a heavyweight fight. I couldn't.

What on earth happened to professional boxing? Heavyweight boxing matches used to be global events, featuring larger-than-life megastars and exotic locales. Mohammed Ali. Joe Frazier. George Foreman. Mike Tyson (back when he was known for his uppercut rather than his overbite). Howard Cosell. Don King. The Thrilla in Manilla. The Rumble in the Jungle.

Does professional heavyweight boxing even exist anymore?

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June 12, 2008

Blogging Cliches, Time for You to Die

In December 2006, Gawker published a prescient post listing tired phrases used by bloggers, and seeping into the mainstream media. Last March, Gawker had to run an update listing even more such blogging cliches. Around the same time, a writer's group that I belong to had a similar discussion on our message board regarding "overused writing techniques that, er, must. stop. now."

Apparently, the bloggers have not been listening. Therefore, in the hope of spreading the anti-cliche message just a bit further (and having nothing to do with filling a blog quota without coming up with any new material), I have cobbled together some of the most offensive blogging cliches. Please ban these from your blogcabulary immediately:

1. "Best. [insert noun here]. Ever." And other one-word sentences. Trust me, this cliche is not the best anything ever.

2. Overuse of the word "so," as in "I am so over that," "That is so [fill in time frame] ago," and "That is so not happening." "So" should be reserved for productions of The Sound of Music and imperial vice presidents who don't care what the American people think.

3. Ghetto talk by people who are not from the ghetto, unless the writer is writing dialogue spoken by characters in this vernacular, a la Mark Twain or James Ellroy. "Oh snap." "Don’ be hatin’." "Help a brother out." "That's how I roll." "Fo' shizzle." You know the others.

4. LOLcat speak, especially the phrase "I can has" and the dyslexic spelling of the word "teh." People, it's no longer funny to write the way lipless cats would speak. It never was.

5. "Vajayjay." The claim to fame for this phrase is that Oprah said it. To quote Dick Cheney, "so?" Hopefully Oprah is not your role model for relationships or weight maintenance, so why make her your role model for speech?

6. "____ called. They want their ____ back." Thankfully, this phrase seems to be dying a natural death. Perhaps we can drive a stake through it.

7. Mashups of celebrity couple names, such as Brangelina, TomKat, and Bennifer. This one may be the fault of the tabloids more than the bloggers, but we're supposed to be better than they are, right?

8. "The Internets" plural. This one apparently originated with George W. Bush. Do we really want to take speech lessons from Bush, even for ironic effect?

9. Lists (except this one, of course). I'm kidding. Lists are important, since many bloggers no longer know how to read horizontally.

What is the problem with blogging cliches, you may ask? The problem is that they make bloggers look like stupid sheep, all marching in monolithic lockstep. People, have some originality. Have some style. If you need to, make up your own words and zorks (see, it's easy). Or be really original and write in plain English. After all, your goal is to communicate clearly, isn't it?

Help a blogga out.

(Bonus points to anyone who comes up with additional blogging cliches that should go the way of the duckbill platypus.)

(More bonus points to those who point out the cliches that I used in writing this piece. I'll swear that they were all used intentionally!)

(photo from absolutenow.com)

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June 08, 2008

Let's Hear it for the Boy

Here's a shout out to my newest blogroll member, Will at Betheboy.com. He's able to be funny, moving, and knowledgeable about music and popular culture, sometimes all at the same time. Check out his moving post about the food he had to eat (or not) during a poverty-stricken childhood. Will is also a generous blogger, regularly featuring blogs that he finds interesting, entertaining, or well-written. And, he blogs at Los Angeles Metblogs, under the name The 8 Track Kid. Good work, Will.

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June 04, 2008

I'm Wired!

Once again, I discover a television program when it's about to go off the air. Last time, it was "The Sopranos." This time, it's "The Wire." Granted, I don't have HBO, so I depend on Netflix. But, why didn't anyone introduce me to "The Wire" before this year? I guess I should read Slate more.

What really turns me on or off with a television show or movie is the script. I like them complicated. I like when I really have to pay attention. I like when I get lost momentarily, and have to rewind and play a scene over again. These are sometimes characteristics of critically acclaimed television programs with limited popularity. This describes "The Wire" exactly.

Right now I'm plowing through season one. Four more to go. All but season five, the final season, are available thus far on Netflix. BET is also airing the re-runs. In the meantime, for those relative few yet ardent fans who have seen all episodes of "The Wire," please don't tell me what happens.

(The Wire promotional art from Wikipedia.com)

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