Monday, December 29, 2008

Day From Hell

Every once in a while, we all have days that make us so insane we want to fire a bazooka at traffic. If the Department of Homeland Security reads this blog, that was a joke.
It's just that I'm very pissed off today.
It wasn't any one major horrific thing that happened but a series of them, each rendering me senseless with their total crappiness.
First ,there's this issue of my apartment, I have a friend who wants to move in with me, and I sort of told her yes, but now I'm having second thoughts. It's not anything personal, but I have a bedroom I use as storage space. There are so many boxes in this room, stacked six feet high that it resembles the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. So if she moves in, I'd have to relocate the boxes elsewhere, meaning I'd have to pay to put them in storage or I'd have to pile them in my study, two options I don't want to do.
Secondly, a buddy of mine wrote a letter to the editor criticizing a story I wrote, basically calling it worthless mind candy. Now I can take criticism from your average douchebag on the street. People hurl venom at me all the time and it just washes off. But this dude was my friend. Friends aren't supposed to criticize each other in public, and the letter was just bad form, so that bothered me.
But the third and final thing which became the cherry on my shit sundae was a phone call I got from a guy who sounded like he was drunk or on crack. The guy wanted to speak to the editor, who wasn't in the office. I tried telling Dopey McCokehead that the editor wasn't there, but he babbled on about some councilman and the editorial cartoon and something about wearing tinfoil hats so the Illuminati can't read our surface thoughts or some crap. I kept telling him, nicely, that I didn't know where the editor was. He became belligerent and called me an asshole and hung up.
I know, I know. Crack is such an unforgiving drug.
Thing is, I didn't feel anything. I just was so numb because of this cavalcade of bullshit that I simply shut down.
There are times when I question my career choice. My grandmother once told me as long as I'm happy doing what I'm doing in life, I made the right choice. I'm really not so happy these days. Work is starting to be a monotonous freak show instead of something I'm happy doing.
Some insist I take my job too seriously and that I should lighten up and relax. These are the same idiots who go to Jimmy Buffet concerts and have mixed drinks with fruit in them. When they're not bopping to "Cheeseburger in Paradise," they're watching "American Idol" or some jejune reality show featuring a slice of the Midwest blended with everything that's vile and rotten from the East Coast.
My high school English teacher and mentor, Mr. LaVoie, once said that I don't suffer fools gladly. He was right about that. Yet with this job, that's all you do - suffer fools gladly. You have to be prepared to take abuse from anyone, from mayors to councilmen to guys on crack who sound like they're juggling ball bearings in their mouths.
There's little reward with a profession like this. You go into the office, transcribe your notes, make phone calls and spend time writing your stories. You try getting all the words and facts right, try making it halfway interesting, try to do better than you did the previous week.
I'm beginning to understand why journalists drink. It's not because drinking makes you happy; it's that drinking makes you forget all the bad shit, like promising an apartment to someone, having a friend criticize your work or being called an asshole by someone who sounds like Fat Albert's friend Mushmouth.
Oh, well. Tomorrow is another day...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Thing About Christmas

The thing about Christmas is its meaning changes the older you get.
When you're young, Christmas is that magical time of year you giddily yearn for, wide-eyed, anticipating Santa Claus and his traveling reindeer. Everything is cloaked in awe, wonder and miracles, from the tinsel-covered tree to the gigantic pile of wrapped presents. Christmases past always represented toys, gifts and playthings you ask for and hope Santa will deliver in the middle of the night, personally visiting your house and stumbling around your darkened living room to leave presents under an evergreen tree laden with shiny ornaments.
Then you get older and Christmas means something different. It's not a religious holiday marking the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace. It's now a commercial holiday to be sold cheaply from shop windows, a retailer's dream and the chance for shops to reap a profit before the year's end. But despite the endless loop of carols played ad nauseam in the malls and the letters you get from friends describing every ailment, misfortune and awkward moment from the past year along with a studio photograph of their kids, and the many gaudy and unnecessary things that are boxed and wrapped and sold, Christmas signifies something more the older you get.
On a fundamental level, Christmas is about family and friends and sharing good times together. It's celebrating your surviving another year, of forgetting all the hardship and misfortune. It's a comforting womb, a place where you share time with the people in your life who matter to you. This year I dreaded the hassle of getting in the car and driving to visit relatives. But as we devoured two giant meals - one on Christmas eve and the other on Christmas day - and as we played charades and exchanged presents, it wasn't the material gifts I cared about but the gifts of experiencing close comfort with family.
You can never choose your blood relatives, and not every family in the world are the Brady Bunch. Yet the pettiness, dysfunction and faults melt away when you're together at Christmas. The holiday has a way of disarming us and making us vulnerable. All the arguments lasting years can be diffused over an eggnog and a few pleasantries.
The older I get, the more I realize these people who I've known my whole life won't be around forever. This epiphany leads to a whole new way of perceiving things, especially Christmas. For all of our petty jealousies and imperfections, we can come together for a few days and experience the peace and goodwill, the sort of things bandied about by greeting card companies but seldom felt in today's cynical age. Christmas doesn't become just a slogan or brand name - its something real put into action. It's togetherness on a cold night, of laughing and playing games, of feasting and acting silly with the ones you love.
It's what we want all year long, but rarely manage it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ravaged Earth on The Game's The Thing

Ravaged Earth gets a mention from Sean Preston of Reality Blurs on The Game's The Thing, a podcast about tabletop gaming. The show's hosts, Ron and Veronica Blessing interviewed Sean about Iron Dynasty, Realms of Cthulhu and Ravaged Earth on the podcast.
Huzzah!


http://www.thegamesthething.com/index.php?post_id=413784

Saturday, December 13, 2008

To Bettie Page

Well, you're gone now, and the world has lost someone who defined the cheesecake pinups of the 1950s - the curvaceous figure and innocent girl next door look that reminded many men of their old high school sweethearts. And yet, you were more than a pretty face with bangs and red tarted-up lips. You were more than the light bondage pics you posed for when times were tough and New York was an alien world populated by strangers. You transcended all of that, and became iconic, like Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. You became a timeless beauty, yet inside there was a spiritual longing, a religious calling. There was substance and soul. There was a power in your photos, not just to arouse the appetites of males, but to satisfy a craving for art, in the most intelligent classical sense of the word. It's an American version of the Athenian beauty, a high iconic ideal art professors lecture about. You provided a sense of that ideal and trapped it in photographs, made it timeless and by that nature, preserved it and made it endure. Yes, because of you, I bought Bunny Yeager's photograph books. Yes, because of you, prefer brunettes. Yes, because of you, I laugh at the cheesy reconstructions of the Rocketeer's girlfriend in comics, who you're modeled after.
You became a part of pop culture, a winking, smiling embodiment of youth and beauty.
Goodbye, Miss Page. You shall be missed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Game Is Out








You know that scene at the end of "Back to the Future" where the cool George McFly gets his science fiction novel sent to him and the whole family basks in the warm glow of his literary accomplishment?
"If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything," he intones.
A parallel thing happened to me, sans the time travel.
My role-playing game, Ravaged Earth, the one that's been in development hell for years, was finally published. It's been a long road since I created the game as a series of documents and posted them on a web forum in 2003. A company bought the property, altered its name slightly, made me sign a non-disclosure agreement and started development in January 2005. Three years later, the project still chugged along, like a gasping locomotive, slowing down and inching towards completion. Earlier this year, the property reverted back to me, due to circumstances out of my control. But the Chinese have a saying about one door opening after another one closes (I think it was the Chinese) and Ravaged Earth found a home with Reality Blurs.
Sean Preston of Reality Blurs gave Ravaged Earth the royal treatment, editing and cleaning up the manuscript and putting the necessary "oomph" into the game. He turned the book into a stellar product, one that we can all be proud of.
If I may gush, like a proud parent gushes over their children, Ravaged Earth is a great pulp game. Set in an alternate 1936 almost 40 years after the War of the Worlds, Ravaged Earth allows players to create masked avengers, super heroes, magicians, gadgeteers, dashing aviators - really any stock pulp character. It's 140 pages of illustrated pulpy love.
Recently, Sean named me "line developer" for Ravaged Earth. I've been hard at work writing another sourcebook for the game, "Secrets of Aetherium", which is due out in 2009.
For now, I'm basking in the warm glow of fisticuffs, .45s and masked crusaders pummeling Nazis.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Redaction Action, What's Your Faction?

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a man who handed me some documents containing 13 copies of applications he obtained through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
The State of New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues permits for non-profit organizations, allowing them to conduct events where alcohol is served. The applications must provide the name and purpose of their non-profit organization, where the event will be held and the kinds of alcohol served at the event.
Since Ocean City is a dry town, where the production and sale of alcohol is illegal, these permits serve a purpose for non-profits to legally temporarily serve alcohol. Civic, religious or educational organizations must pay $100 per day to the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control with their applications. All other non-profit groups must pay $150 per day with their applications.
The man said he didn’t want his identity known because he conducts business with various people in town. I respected the confidentiality of my source, and he showed me the permits he obtained from the city.
He said he asked for the permits and told the city clerk to include information about the names of the non-profits and the location and dates of the events where alcohol would be served.
Yet what the man received from the city were documents that looked like something out of the Pentagon Papers: information redacted with thick black lines, blotting 11 of the 14 fields of information applicants provided in the 13 applications.
When the man questioned why the applications, which were public documents, had more black lines through them than the JFK assassination files, he was told the city administration redacted the information.
Flustered, the man contacted the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and, through OPRA, received the applications with all of the information intact.
The story I wrote was about the man’s experience in receiving redacted documents from the city and unexpurgated applications from the state. I talked to the city clerk, who said she redacted the information because the man only asked for the name, place and date of the events. I also talked to a councilman who supported the city clerk’s decision.
But the real shit storm came from a reproduction of the two documents side by side on the front page. We chose a document at random to give a visual representation of an un-redacted document next to a redacted one. The documents were reproduced in their entirety, including the address and phone number of the non-profit organization’s contact person.
When we were editing the paper, I asked if we should reproduce this person’s contact information and I was told the unexpurgated application was a public document, obtained from the state through OPRA.
So we run the story and, predictably, the contact stormed into the newspaper office and expressed her rage at her information on the front page. She said the story “made it seem” like she was being singled out, which she wasn’t. In fact, her group was mentioned in the story as an example of what was redacted and not redacted from the documents. I also mentioned the names of the other non-profits and groups whose information was redacted.
She wanted to know who the anonymous citizen was who dared to make OPRA requests and dig up the applications, and after making a request at city hall she found out. So now my source’s name is known publicly.
I called him today and explained the situation. He wasn’t angry, but preferred his identity remained unknown because of his business dealings.
The story was newsworthy because local municipalities shouldn’t redact information from public documents. Period. Save that shit for countries with the words “People's Republic of” in their names. This wasn’t about who specifically requested the documents; it was that a citizen requested public documents and someone in the city chose to censor them. The citizen only found what he was looking for when the state provided the unaltered documents.
The state didn’t see a need to redact anything from the applications – the city did.
It's the Open Public Records Act, not the Open At Our Discretion Records Act.
As for reproducing the contact’s name, address and phone number, that was not intentional, but the information was on a public document. We Googled the contact’s name and found her address and map to her house, plus how much she donated to Barack Obama’s campaign. Our personal contact information is out there, whether we like it or not.
Another issue is dealing with anonymous sources. I don’t like them, but I don’t reject them, either. I take my job as a journalist very seriously and won’t reveal my sources if they choose to remain anonymous. I respect that. Reporters have been jailed for not revealing their sources. It’s a dicey game, but any serious reporter shouldn’t sell out their sources. Trust and integrity are important and if you don’t have that, nobody will ever talk to you. Imagine if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had screwed Mark Felt by outing him as Deep Throat.
Sadly, journalism ethics are lacking everywhere, especially when the reporter has friends they don’t want to embarrass, or an agenda they want to promote over objectivity. You don’t get Woodward and Bernstein today. You get the douchebag who exposed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. You get whiny commentators whose journalistic credentials are microscopic to nonexistent, who’d be comfortable hosting Entertainment Tonight and talking about style over substance, asking the president what brand of suit he wore when he signed the wiretapping legislation.
George Orwell wrote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Maybe people don’t want to hear their city is censoring information from innocuous public documents.
So what?
Journalists dispense news. Whether it’s uncomfortable news or pleasant news is irrelevant. If you want to inform the public, become a journalist. If you want to keep people in the dark and dispense pabulum, go into public relations.
My lot is with the journalist.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Facebook Life

Social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook revolutionized communication by connecting people worldwide, organizing many specialized groups and affiliations like a massive community bulletin board that can be viewed by subscribers.
When I took a comedy class in 2006, the instructor touted MySpace as a great way for budding comics to network and alert other comics and potential fans about upcoming shows and appearances. Yet besides imbedding videos and customizing your page and increasing your friend list, it really felt limiting for me.
At my high school reunion last week, people were telling me I should get on Facebook, that it would be a great way to keep in touch with old friends. Little did they realize in that innocuous, innocent suggestion would turn into a new mania for me.
What MySpace lacked, Facebook had in abundance. It had a cleaner look, a more adult feel and resembled a networking site. You don’t go on Facebook to dazzle people with your wallpapers or imbedded tunes – you’re there to connect with others.
I joined Facebook last September, but rarely used it. The account just sat empty, unused and receiving no love.
That is until two days after the reunion, when I took the plunge and returned to Facebook. I found a few high school buddies and requested their friendship. Instant success! I posted a note on one of my friend’s message boards, something Facebook calls your “Wall”. Twenty-four hours later I had over 50 friends and was completely obsessed with Facebook for all the wrong reasons.
For the first few days, I started amassing Facebook friends. Don’t get me wrong; I want to keep in touch with my friends, but adding them to my Facebook friend’s list is only the icing on the networking cake.
The night I reconnected with Facebook, I reached out to everyone I knew, searching for their names and hoping they were members. To my surprise, many of the names I requested were already Facebook devotees, so requesting their friend status was only a mouse click away. One of the oddest things about Facebook is a verification process when you’re adding friends. Unlike Myspace, which only requires you to confirm an invite, Facebook forces you to type in two randomly generated words or numbers as a security check. Some of the combinations are bizarre like “calculation” and “Ennis” or Ferrabini” and “spelled” or “97” and “feeding”.
So there I was, adding more names every time I logged in.
Hours later, a sprinking of friends joined. I thought of more people I could add, and looked them up. People from my science fiction group, my gaming group, my co-workers at the newspaper, friends of friends and people I met only a few times. Success! After more requests, a few more joined and my friend totals edged upwards.
When I received my first few friend request, I felt honored. The more people I added, the more other people wanted my in their Facebook lives.
Sometimes you think you’d like to add someone, but they don’t want to be your friend. Facebook lets you confirm or reject them, and as with everything, rejection hurts, even if it’s from total strangers. One woman sent me a private message to my inbox that simply said, “do i even know you???”
That’s what people don’t get about Facebook: it’s a networking tool. You can use it to meet people, to chat and get to know them. I thought I knew this person when I requested her as a Facebook friend, but it turns out we were complete strangers.
Facebook users can fill out an information section that lets others know your preference for movies, interests, music, books, TV shows, where you went to school and work and whether you’re single or married or just looking for friends.
After a few days, I had over 70 friends and the total keeps climbing. I update my status, knowing all who care that I’m at work, or chilling out or going to bed. Whether they care to know this or not, Facebook provides a way to tell them.
That brings me to this final point: There’s something really quaint about Facebook. I’m connecting with people I haven’t seen or heard from since high school. Just seeing their photos and reading their stories and exchanging notes and messages is comforting, in a way. Without Facebook’s many individual pages, groups and networks, I might not know what became of them.
While not the greatest technological marvel of our age, it does allow us to reach out across the void and connect in a very human way, and there's something to be said about that. It's not a sterile, impersonal, automaton-like way technology is integrated into our lives.
It's fulfilling the human need to connect with each other, while at the same time allowing us to exchange photos of our pets.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

High School Reunion


Cherry Hill High School East Class of 1988. Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.


Went to my 20th high school reunion last night for the Cherry Hill High School East Class of 1988.
The feeling of walking into the Crowne Plaza Hotel ballroom and seeing people I haven’t seen in two decades was surreal, like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone where you look into a funhouse mirror and see an older version of yourself and your friends. Yet it wasn’t some oddball illusion. It was really us, 20 years later and a little greyer, more jaded and grounded.
I never really understood the fascination with high school reunions until I attended mine. Talking to people about their life experiences, jobs, families and where they settled down made me reflect upon my own choices and framed things clearer for me.
There we were, one of the last graduating classes of the Reagan era, 20 years later, awkwardly milling about and asking each other what we’ve been up to. Conversations touched on family, occupations and reflections about high school and life.
Common misperceptions about high school reunions are plentiful: the jocks get fat, the ugly girls get beautiful and the hot girls are now homely and have 17 kids. Another misperception about reunions is that only the successful people attend because they’re not embarrassed to brag about their lives. Not true, because the people who attended my reunion weren’t boastful at all; they were curious about other people than focused on touting their resumes and trotting out the trophy wives/husbands.
The night resembled Desperate Housewives meets The O.C. meets Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Many of the women were extremely thin and dolled up, while the men who kept their hair were still a bit gray but distinguished and professional. All in all, we looked fabulous.
I learned my classmates weren’t the Gen X slackers the media branded us in the 1990s. We’ve been extremely busy in our chosen vocations.
I lost touch with my classmates after graduation, so I wanted to catch up. I spoke to an engineer with Lockheed Martin, an electrical designer, court stenographer, owner of a cleaning business, a software engineer, a medical writer, a university golf instructor, a former television weatherman, a nurse, an employee with the Environmental Protection Agency, a sports magazine publisher and a member of the U.S. Army who works at the Pentagon. Add to the list several others who toil and work in private practice, governmental positions and regular nine to five jobs.
The whole experience reminded me of the song The Class of ’57 by The Statler Brothers:

Tommy's selling used cars, Nancy's fixing hair,
Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn't care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte's on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob'ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack's in lab research,
And Peggy plays organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of '57 had its dreams,
We all thought we'd change the world with our great works and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of '57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy's on an insane ward and Mary's on welfare.
Charlie took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie's wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody's bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of '57 had its dreams,
But living life day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of '57 had its dreams.
Oh, the class of '57 had its dreams.


So here we are, Gen X: married, divorced, with kids or without, paying mortgages, living our dreams or doing the best we can.
The hired DJ cranked up the nostalgia factor and played pop music from the 1980s. Pop music then was like the songs from the 1950s: meaningless, repetitive but fun ear candy. We heard Duran Duran, the Thompson Twins, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Eurythmics. And just when you thought we’d drown in the sullen youth-driven lyrics of Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark or the synthesized assaults by A Flock Of Seagulls, the DJ played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song that came out in 1991 and signaled the dawn of Generation X’s angst-ridden malaise against everything corporate and stupid. It was then, as Kurt Cobain’s voice blared about the idiocy of pop entertainment and the guitar solo that signaled mosh pit after endless mosh pit blared, did I look around the room and realized how far we as a generation have come.
For the teens of the 1980s were raised under the Cold War and bullshit of Reagan and corporate America. We liked the cotton candy feel-good music as teenagers, but in our twenties, we changed. The Soviet Union fell apart, the United States started swaggering and by the early 1990s, we left home and saw the world for what it really was: an eye-opening horrific jungle where it’s eat or be eaten.
Someone at the reunion said, “Why couldn’t we be this nice to each other when we were in high school?”
I think it’s because once we got out into the real world, away from the confinement of school and parental protection and cliques, life bitch slapped us. We matured with experience and suddenly cliques, popularity or our peers’ opinions were irrelevant. What mattered was raw, primitive survival, and with it happiness and personal satisfaction based upon finding something we wanted to do. Our regimented lives gave way to freedom, and with it opportunities. This led to humility.
It’s been said you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. While I don’t usually subscribe to that fortune cookie wisdom, I think it applies here. What the reunion forced me to do was reflect on the past 20 years and where I’ve been and how I’ve grown. It’s been a wild ride from the awkward teenager who roamed the halls of Cherry Hill High School East and wrote for the student newspaper. Now I’m an award-winning journalist with over 15 years of experience. I dug in, never let go and rode the sucker like a bucking bronco high on speed.
After the reunion, an old high school friend and I went to a nearby bar and had a drink. We talked about absent friends, people we knew who didn’t show up to the reunion and about our lives in general. At the bar we met a few more alumni and talked about life.
The people I connected with turned out okay, which didn’t surprise me. My fellow high school students had the drive and ambition to do anything and I’m proud of my graduating class. Some would dismiss high school reunions as nostalgic reflection and a chance to re-connect with a past reality that no longer exists. Yet there was an energy in that room, a buzzing cacophony of dozens of conversations. Old friendships rekindled and new ones bloomed. The chance for us to put our lives on pause and hit the rewind button for a few hours and remember, perhaps with longing, when we were all in the same boat together.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Life Movie

Your result for The Director Who Films Your Life Test...

Woody Allen

Your film will be 60% romantic, 42% comedy, 19% complex plot, and a $ 25 million budget.


Be prepared to have your life story shot entirely in New York City -- though lately Woody's been loving shooting in London. Also, your music soundtrack is all jazz from before 1949. Filmography: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Everyone Says I Love You, Match Point, Scoop, etc. Woody has released one film per year consistently for the past 35 years. For the past 15 years he's been trying to make films like his older, funnier ones, just like characters in his Stardust Memories film suggest throughout. Scarlett Johansson will star.


Take The Director Who Films Your Life Test
at HelloQuizzy



Really? I take a test and it comes up Woody Allen. Guess that makes sense. I am a fan...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Philcon 2008

Went to Philcon this weekend at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. Attendance was down this year, mostly I think due to the economy but also a new location - way outside Philly. Armed with a copy of Ravaged Earth, I was ready to talk about the game, only to discover that the gaming track, which the con held for many years - was cancelled. Thanks to a nice guy named Michael Ryan, and some lobbying on my part, we held an informal gaming panel on Saturday.
I attended a reading by science fiction author Keith R. A. DeCandido, who read his comic book scripts from Farscape and Star Trek. I also snagged a copy of Keith's book Dragon Precinct and had him autograph it.
Panels I attended included Science Fiction and Romance, a LiveJournal Meetup, Multi-Genre Erotica, and a Meet The Editors panel.
My only panel, about the popularity of Robert E. Howard, was on Sunday. Howard was a literary genius who died too young, but left behind a treasure trove of amazing work.
I also went to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America party and talked to some really great people in the industry. All in all, a pretty good Philcon experience.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marketing Mediocrity



Imagine my utter astonishment when I was shopping and discovered High School Musical Cereal.
I repeat: Kellogg's made High School Musical Cereal.
What the fuck?
This is what our civilization has produced? A breakfast cereal named after an annoying show developed for tweens?
Listen, America. We need to talk. I understand capitalism is the lifeblood of our system. I know making money through hard work and effort is a glorious testament to life. I get this. What I don't get is how low corporations will sink to market and sell a movie as merchandise, as food and as a theme park.
Now I've never seen High School Musical, probably because I'm not 15, don't have kids or am not a pedophile, so my exposure to this drek masquerading as wholesome family entertainment is limited.
But, seriously; a cereal? Is that the best you could do? I know there are cereals based on movies and cartoon characters, but come on! High School Musical?!
Kellogg's, what's going on? Are Frosted Flakes sales that poor that you have to whore yourself out to Disney, or did Disney steal your souls, too?
And what is High School Musical cereal? Does it have marshmallows shaped like teenage dancers? Is it so sugary sweet it could kill a diabetic if they look at a bowl? Is there a free nude photo of Vanessa Hudgens in every box?
Things like this exist for one reason: to get kids to ask their parents to spend money on it. There's no artistic value to this at all, and much like most of American culture, it is just a hollow indicator of how low we've sunk.
What's next? High School Musical disposable enema kit? High School Musical tampons? High School Musical ribbed condoms?
I want the executives who dreamt up this nightmare to eat box after box of this cereal until they puke a rainbow of mediocrity.
Then they could market that as High School Musical Barf In A Bucket.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back Story

About a month ago I had this really bad backache, with pain radiating down my right leg. I mean thermonuclear red hot knives hurting like Hell pain. I went to the emergency room and they prescribed Vicodin, and was told I had sciatica. After a visit to the doctor, an X-ray and an MRI of my back, I learned I am the owner of two herniated discs in my spine that has bulged through and touched the nerve in my back causing the sciatica. I really hate growing old.
Yesterday I had my first session of physical therapy. I haven't felt the kind of pain I felt in October, but I'm not out of the woods yet by any stretch.
Basically, I have to monitor any discomfort in my leg and back and continue with the physical therapy.
So I won't be running in any marathons in the foreseeable future.
I've had intermittent back pain throughout my life, but nothing this serious. What I don't want is back surgery or anything like that, but I was advised to talk to a neurologist if the pain returns.
Guess my dream of being an Olympic weight lifter is over.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

44


Barack Obama is now the president-elect, proving the system works.
I've read posts from conservative bloggers dismissive about last night's election results. They claim the voters were duped, that Obama squeaked by and that he doesn't have a mandate.
To which I say to them:
What fucking election were you watching?
Because not only did Obama clearly have a mandate last night, garnering 52 percent (62,419,768) to McCain's 47 percent (55,363,122), but he captured 349 electoral votes compared to McCain's 163 with 26 electoral votes remaining as of this morning. Obama won Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Indiana - states that were heavily contested. Voter turnout was the highest in this nation's history. This was a watershed election; one with great significance to many Americans.
For Democrats, it was the Super Bowl and World Series and Olympics rolled into one. Not only did they capture the presidency, but the House and Senate, with 252 in the House and 56 in the Senate, giving them a clear majority.
Now I know this might make many Republicans bristle, but change was needed.
The American people, after eight years of muddled policies and indifference from the Bush administration chose someone so out of the mainstream, so unlikely to be president, that Hollywood screenwriters couldn't have dreamed this plot up.
And that's what makes America great. We can finally be proud and say that it doesn't matter the color of your skin or family background, but if you work hard and persevere, that you can do anything in America.
Four years ago Democrats were slitting their wrists and reaching for the sleeping pills. Last night was a vindication of their hard work in re-energizing their party and reaching out to independents and conservatives.
It's an end of the politics of old and stated, of cunning sophistry and mired partisan inaction. Last night the voters spoke clearly and loudly that they didn't want the same policies.
Is it a risk? Is America gambling with its future?
Yeah, but that's the great thing about the American people - they'll surprise you. If change is needed, they'll risk everything and work for it, and labor to make their country better. They know it's time for America to mutate and evolve.
Last night was also a bittersweet moment for American blacks. There was much invoking of MLK, of the struggles and inequality blacks faced in this country. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey openly cried in that Chicago crowd, which consisted of people of all races - together - cheering for Obama. And you know what? I teared up, too. I got a tad emotional because here we were, in the early 21st century and a black man was elected president of the United States with a clear majority. For months I skeptically thought Americans were closeted racists, that the disparity between black and whites in this country was a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon, that there's no way Obama could win. How happy I was to be proven wrong. What a hopeful revelation that is, that the voters transcended race and background and put Obama over the top.
The nasty sniping of the McCain campaign, the choice of Sarah Palin as veep and the rudderless direction of the Republican Party contributed to McCain's downfall. Now their grumbling is all sour grapes. The racist threats, the pronouncements of Obama's middle name, the doomsday scenarios that he's a socialist all now are static in the background, mere discontent from the groundlings.
Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Like Rosa Parks, MLK and others that have gone before him, he's a pioneer. He's an inspiration. Americans made history, not just electing a black man president, but by electing such an inclusive and unifying person to lead us for the next four years. It's an immense responsibility, but we're given the right leaders at the right time for a reason.
Now it's Barack Obama's time.
It's his mandate.
And in America, things just got a lot brighter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often



From my cell phone, inside the voting booth, seconds from voting. Feel the excitement...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Unfathomable Juggernaut of Patriotic Destiny

The election is nigh. The stars are aligned. The maniacs are out in full force, boots stomping and signs waving. Soon it will all be over. Soon, my beloved, we shall rest peacefully.
The chaotic zoo of the 2008 presidential election will be cast in stone and etched in history in a few days. Everything we've heard, from the idiot talking head pundits to the partisan toadies to the polished candidates themselves and bullshit rhetoric will all be a memory. The seething and venom and frothing at the mouth will be replaced by a concrete reality - one where a candidate and a mandate will shape the destiny of the country for the next four years. All the dumb comedy bits, burned-out hippie terrorists and Joe the Plumbers won't change shit.
The nation would have crossed its Rubicon and cast its lot with either John McCain or Barack Obama.
And for the foreseeable future, America will still endure.
Because, boys and girls, nothing that's happened in this election really matters. What matters is what will happen after Nov. 4. The rancor and insults at Sarah Palin rallies, the hucksterism of Obama, the lunacy of McCain during the debates is only prologue. Now descends the time of decision, a time when the voters invest in the country's future.
The online tirades, e-mails and doomsday scenarios if either Obama or McCain are elected are just parlor game, childish pastimes forged by the hysterical and indignant.
And the slogans - those blessed wonderful slogans - from "Drill Baby, Drill" to "Yes We Can" to the universally accepted mantra both camps are chanting now: "Change".
The accusations - that Obama is a terrorist, that he pals around with terrorists, that he's a socialist, a communist, a Muslim, un-American and foreign - and that McCain has a violent temper, is an adulterer, is as old as Methuselah and is as crazy as a shithouse rat.
And punditry, taken to new levels of shame and histrionics: the dramatic hissy fit Keith Olbermann had after the creepy fear-laced video about 9/11 shown at the Republican National Convention and testy Sean Hannity crucifying Obama and Palin not being able to name a single newspaper she reads. All of it theater - dramatic, insane and meaningless.
The media proved it is the Democrat's bitch on a leash, with more negative news skewing towards McCain than Obama. Did the mainstream media fear it might get the boot from Obama's airplane? Is this bias the reason why McCain didn't grant many interviews? Could the media have covered the election better, with more focus on the issues instead of personalities?
The vengeful attack ads, the psychopathic partisans, the flame wars online. Tina Fey's Palin impersonation, a prank call with Montreal disc jockeys and Obama dancing on Oprah. Politics transcended the realm of stoic lawmakers and entered popular culture and mass consumption. Now they become the idiots on the idiot box, singing and dancing for public attention. In the age of cable TV and 24-hour news cycles, it's the current way to campaign.
But all of this will be trivial after the election.
Because after Nov. 4, we enter another phase before Inauguration Day - the blame game, the Monday morning quarterbacking and the woulda-coulda-shouldas.
And so it has come to pass. The voters will set the tone.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Endorse and Die

My paper, The Ocean City Sentinel, endorsed Barack Obama for president.
As a result, a few people cancelled their subscriptions, citing the editorial "offended" them and that newspapers shouldn't endorse candidates. One letter writer said Obama's liberal positions would clash with conservative Ocean City and that newspapers should report the news objectively and that there were plenty of other sources she could go to and didn't need a subscription to our paper any longer.
Never mind the fact that the week before, we endorsed the Republican candidate for county sheriff. We didn't get letters from Republicans praising us for that endorsement.
Most of the people upset when newspapers endorse political candidates don't agree with the endorsed candidate. That's patently transparent.
Partisans love giving it to the "liberal" media for endorsing Democrats, but where are these media critics when newspapers endorse Republicans?
As to whether newspapers should endorse candidates, I think that's up to the individual newspapers when they set their editorial policies. According to the First Amendment, the press is free, and this right shouldn't be abridged or deleted in any way. If individuals don't agree, they should have their say, but ultimately the decision on endorsing candidates belongs to the newspapers.
And as for Obama...yeah, I think the guy will change things for the better. After eight years of fumbling around in the dark, it's time someone turned on the lights.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kingdom of the Blind

“I have a man crush on Barack Obama,” a Democrat friend of mine said.
So it begins, the adulation and praising of Obama as the infallible Prince of Politics and soon-to-be-crowned Democratic Demigod of the Empire on the Potomac.
With journalists and editors falling for his Rasputin-like gaze and the plebeians hypnotized by his rhetoric and promises of a golden American utopia, the Age of Obama is all but inaugurated. With a week to go before the election, Obama is the unquestionable ruler, a charismatic unifier and messiah for the masses.
For the Democrats, a party that all but four years ago had written off any chances of maintaining power, Obama became a godsend, a figure they badly needed to end the Age of Clinton and be the torchbearer for the future.
Except it’s all bullshit.
The Democrats want to screw you just as badly as the Republicans do, except the Democrats will convince you that getting screwed is good for you.
The Democratic Party is like Big Brother with a smile. They seek ultimate control while playing the underdog. They ask you to give them power, all the while telling you they’ll safeguard your interests, but once they’re in power, they forget about your interests and deny ever knowing you. It’s like a chick who flirts with you all night and then when you finally fuck her, she gives you herpes.
Democrats are no more interested in making the world a better place than Republicans are in supporting science and education.
Liberals gleefully howl at how backward and stupid John McCain’s followers are, while ignoring the partisan stupidity of their own supporters.
Democrats aren’t the fluffy-wuffy reformers they paint themselves to be. They’re just as corrupt as Alaska Senator Ted Stevens or California Rep. Randy Cunningham or a score of perverts and degenerates in the GOP.
The Democrats have no problem with taking money from lobbyists or contributors. Just look at Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, who this summer denied Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in financial trouble. In early September, the firms were in trouble and the federal government took them over.
Dodd blamed the Bush administration for the subprime mortgage crisis. The Bush administration wanted to create an independent federal authority that would oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Bank. The Democrats, including Dodd, criticized it.
Dodd received thousands of dollars in contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 1989 to 2008. He had a vested interest. He was bought and paid for.
Obama also received contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac since 2004. That’s something you don’t read or hear about in the national media.
Democrats pin everything bad on Bush, just like the Republicans pin everything bad on Clinton. After all, scapegoating is the American pastime.
Clinton and the Democrats caused economic crisis in 1999 by making it easy for people with bad credit to acquire loans, all for political reasons. Owning a house was the American dream to Democrats, so they allowed Joe Deadbeat and Sally Douchebag to get mortgages, even if they didn’t qualify.
Then the Democrats are surprised ten years later when foreclosures happen and loans remain unpaid.
Democrats claim to be a party of unity and open-mindedness. Yet on the day the House voted on a $700 billion economic bailout package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched into a diatribe about how the policies of the Bush administration weakened the economy. It’s like you’re offering an olive branch to your opponents, but you cover the branch in shit.
How can you claim to be the bulwarks for change, when you benefit from a system that hasn’t changed in decades?
I’d like to think Obama is sincere about what he wants to do. I’m hoping his message for change is heartfelt and not just another meaningless slogan like “country first.”
The reason Obama is surging in the polls is because he’s kept his message constant. The McCain camp change their message every week, and in doing so, appear desperate and unhinged. The Republicans are like the Hindenburg with McCain at the controls – crashing and burning atop the mooring mast.
Oh, the humanity.
The Democrats have to watch that they don’t put party over principle. Right now, they’re proving that Congress is a joke, and that a presidential campaign is more about charisma and flash than substance.
Desiderius Erasmus, the 15th century Dutch humanist once wrote, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
America has become the kingdom of the blind and Obama is the only one offering a vision, albeit a hazy one. Whether all of the praise is deserved remains to be seen. For now, the groupies with their Obama crushes line up seduced, led by promises of a better America, an obedient news media and a cult of personality.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joe the Journalist

While America was falling in love with the salty everyman small town capitalist Joe the Plumber, another Joe made news, although not nationally.
Joe Killian, a reporter with the News-Record in Greensboro, NC, recently covered a Sarah Palin rally at Elon University. Some Barack Obama supporters tried crashing the event, which pissed off the Republicans. One McCain supporter told Killian “Ain’t nothing to look at and don’t write about it,” when he craned his neck to look at the Obama cheerleaders.
After the rally, which included Hank Williams Jr. singing “McCain-Palin Tradition” and the theme to the Dukes of Hazzard, Killian interviewed some McCain supporters, then went to interview an Obama supporter.
As Killian tried interviewing the Obama supporter, a large bearded man wearing GOP paraphernalia came up to them and yelled at the Obama guy. The bearded man made a comment about how Killian was naturally interviewing the Obama supporter, when suddenly students began blaring a pro-Obama rap song. This made Killian chuckle.
That’s when the shit hit the fan.
Killian relates what happened next in his blog:

“Oh, you think that’s funny?!” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that’s real funny…” he said.
And then he kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.
From my position there I saw the bottoms of a number of feet almost accidentally stomping me to death as the two political camps screamed back and forth, the music continued to blare and some of the Obama crowd moved the large bearded man and his friends away. When I was helped to my feet the bearded man was walking away quickly.


McCain-Palin rallies have become hatefests targeting intellectuals, liberals and journalists. Reporters from every media outlet, including those non-affiliated from the national corporate Mainstream Media, are fair game to the Republicans, who view them in league with Democrats.
The McCain-Palin supporters lambast journalists, with acerbic digs at their phantom allegiance to the DNC, Obama and the big city liberals, who, according to them, are using the media to broadcast communism, godlessness and sex for pleasure and not reproduction.
Snarky comments by conservatives against reporters is one thing, but when you physically harm anyone, that’s fucking criminal. That crosses the line. Grizzly Adams broke the law when he kicked Joe Killian.
So much for compassionate conservatism.
Now it’s kicking reporters and blaming the media for your candidate’s abysmal poll numbers.
Maybe the Republican Party should collectively get its shit together and decide what kind of political party it wants to be. Is it the party of Lincoln, the party of Reagan, or something more sinister, more devious? Are they a Christian party that practices violence instead of peace? Are they an open tent or a restricted golf club closed to everyone who isn’t a billionaire or trailer park trash? Do they stand for inclusion or division?
I’ve said it in other posts, but gone are the days of conservative intellectuals. Welcome the days of fascist strong-arm tactics the brownshirts would admire.
When your politics reeks of desperation, you scapegoat others. You blame the big cities, the Eastern intellectuals, the latte liberals and the media. You do this because it’s easy to assign blame to large groups of people rather than individuals. Groups are easier to hate and they’re easier to stereotype. You narrowly define them and hate them because they are what they are, not what they do.
So it was easy for that bearded loser to kick Joe Killian, because Killian was an evil liberal journalist. He was going to smear Sarah Palin.
Funny thing, because Killian’s story was very objective and didn’t mention his altercation with the McCain supporter.
Reporting elections is a thankless endeavor. Everyone thinks you're biased. They’re skeptical and second-guess your abilities, always expecting the worst. Years of experience has told me to rise above this and ignore the sniveling partisan toadies. Cursed with tunnel vision, the partisan cannot view things objectively, and sinks into the mire of personal attacks and assigning blame with those they feel are allied with their enemies.
Which brings us back to Joe the journalist, nursing his bruised leg. The worst thing about that day wasn't that a bumpkin kicked Joe. It was that Joe couldn't find the bumpkin to prosecute him.
The Republican partisans who croon about how great America is should try acting like they live in America. Threatening and assaulting reporters might be great for South Africa and Saudi Arabia, but it's not what Americans who value freedom of speech and the press are accustomed to.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Joe the Plumber of Toledo, Ohio won the last presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.
Joe Wurzelbacher, 34, an exact clone of actor Michael Chiklis from The Shield, was the all-American everyman, a scrappy worker and oft-referred to symbol of the common voter.
But who is Joe the Plumber and why did McCain and Obama mention him repeatedly during the debate? What Svengali-like powers does Joe the Plumber wield over the presidential candidates to have them say his name (or in McCain’s case, almost mention his name)?
What makes Joe the Plumber so damn special? Why not mention Bob the Baker, or Jane the Accountant or Steve the Gynecologist?
Wurzelbacher has a dream. He wants to buy the small plumbing business he works for, one with revenues up to $250,000. Wurzelbacher met Obama at an Ohio rally and the two talked.
At the debate, Obama and McCain used Joe the Plumber as an example of the working guy whose dreams could be dashed because Obama plans to increase the tax rate from 36 percent to 39 percent for people earning more than $250,000.
Our hero Joe the Plumber would be screwed if he tried buying the plumbing business under Obama’s plan.
Thus the epic battle between McCain and Obama for Joe the Plumber’s vote.
The ordinary Joe – literally a man named Joe – became a focal point for explaining the different tax policies between the two candidates.
After the first ten mentions of Joe the Plumber, reporters scrambled to contact the reclusive political mastermind to glean what the Machiavellian tactician thought of all the national attention.
In an interview with the uber-conservative familysecuritymatters.org, published before the debate, Wurzelbacher equivocates Obama’s plan of “redistributing the wealth” to socialism. Yet he’s extremely pragmatic and down to earth in his way of thinking: if you work, you should be able to keep what you earn.
“Me personally, my American Dream was to have a house, a dog, a couple rifles, a bass boat. I believe in living life easy and simple. I don’t have grand designs. I don’t want much. I just wanna be able to take care of my family and do things with them outdoors and that’s about it, really. I don’t have a “grand scheme” thing. My American Dream is just more personal to me as far as working, making a good living and being able to provide for my family, college for my son. Things like that – simple things in life, that’s really what it comes down to for me. That’s my dream,” Wurzelbacher said.
Asked if he wanted McCain to cover the issues of taxes for small businesses in Wednesday’s debate, Wurzelbacher said: “There’s a lot of things I wish McCain would say. As far as this, yes, I would like him to speak. Not so much about small businesses, but just people in general that make this money. It’s not up to them to help America, I mean – let me rephrase that. It’s not – they shouldn’t be taxed more because they’ve succeeded. That’s envy and jealousy. Get off your butt and go work. Don’t sit there and expect the government to give it to you.”
Maybe Joe the Plumber is not so much a salt-of-the-earth everyman but just a guy who wants the simple pleasures of life. Maybe he’s not so much a celebrity but a barometer for working people who want to succeed. And own guns and a bass boat and other redneck shit like that.
The criticism with Democrats is that they want to punish people for doing well and making money. So what’s the alternative? Living a sluggish, sloth-like existence and not working? The Republicans give the wealthiest citizens tax breaks – rewarding those who succeeded. It’s almost like the Republicans are treating taxpayers like school kids: those who do well in class receive good grades and get to go on the field trip, while those who slack off and fail get left behind another grade. If Democrats ran the school, the Honors students would be reprimanded and left behind while all of the poor students pass their classes and get to visit the ice cream factory.
But what does any of this mean to Joe the Plumber, the new political diva?
Joe, you’re pretty much fucked. If your plumbing business comes up a little short, you get taxed if McCain wins. If Obama wins and your business makes over $250,000, you’ll still get taxed.
Your best bet is to leave the plumbing business altogether and run for office. Joe the Ohio State Representative might not have a snappy ring to it, but at least you’ll be doing the screwing instead of getting screwed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Led Zimmerlin


No, this isn’t Mister Rogers. It’s New Jersey Senate candidate Dick Zimmer, a Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.
New Jersey’s Senate race has been overshadowed by the presidential race, so what news or talking points coming from both Senate candidates has been eclipsed by John McCain and Barack Obama.
That being said, the Zimmer camp released an ad on Zimmer’s website entitled “Ramble On”. This has got to be one of the weirdest political ads I’ve seen, namely for the choice of music. Apparently, someone at the advertising firm Zimmer hired is a big Led Zeppelin fan. The gist of the ad is Lautenberg, who is about 109 years old, has spent a good portion of his Senate career utterly senile.
The ad begins with Jimmy Page’s melodic guitar refrain and a quote from the Bergen Record: “New Jersey now gets less back from every $1 sent to Washington than any other state.”
That’s followed up with footage from a Lautenberg press conference where he is less than eloquent.
Then we see the words: “In 1982, Frank Lautenberg ran for Senate saying that New Jersey shouldn’t be 45th in “return on investment.” And “26 years later, New Jersey is DEAD LAST. No. 1 New Mexico: $2.01 for every dollar sent to DC, No. 50 New Jersey: $0.61 for every dollar sent to DC.”
We hear Robert Plant crooning “Aw, sometimes I grow so tired. But I know I’ve got one thing I’ve got to do…Ramble On…” Just when Plant sings “Ramble On”, we get a still photo of Lautenberg at a press conference and more footage of him having a really long senior moment.
This is followed by the on-screen pronouncement: “Frank Lautenberg had his chance and failed. He has not fixed New Jersey’s problems.”
Yeah! How dare grandpa not fix all of the state’s problems! I mean, he’s only been in office since the Industrial Revolution.
But the strangest part of the commercial is a mock-up of the Led Zeppelin II album cover. Instead of the band’s name, we get, in the same style-font “Zimmer” and under that, “Dick Zimmer will bring the change we need.”
This really was an incredible ad. Incredible because I don’t know that many Republicans who actually listen to Led Zeppelin. Maybe if there were Lawrence Welk references here or there, his base would get it. But the choice of “Ramble On” was meant to play on Lautenberg’s incoherent statements at press conferences.
You know, maybe if someone on Zimmer’s staff heard more of the song, they’d realize it contained blatant references to Lord of the Rings. The song isn’t about a senior politician fumbling or making missteps. It’s about the epic struggle in Middle Earth, something Zimmer’s base wouldn’t understand because I don’t think the average Zimmer voter has read anything that wasn’t less than 100 pages long.
Here are some of the Tolkien inspired lyrics to “Ramble On”:

“Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,
My freedom I hold dear;
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air,
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.”

If Zimmer wanted to borrow from Led Zeppelin II, he might have chose other tunes, like the jamming “Whole Lotta Love”, the bittersweet “Thank You” or the double entendre-filled “The Lemon Song” with lyrics like:

“Squeeze me, babe, until the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon
I’m gonna fall right outta bed”

Dick Zimmer has ruined Led Zeppelin for everyone. He’s like the square dad who thinks he’s cool and tries singing the latest pop tunes, only to tarnish them forever and alienate the youth around him. Maybe I’m wrong about Zimmer. Maybe back in the day he was a long-haired stoner kid who cruised around in a van with an airbrushed mystical wizard on the side, one resembling Gandalf. Maybe the young Zimmer would pick up girls at a record store and together with his buddies all get high in the back on his van listening to an 8-track tape of Led Zeppelin II. Maybe teenage Zimmer wasn’t an uptight nerd he’d later become but a rebel, a guy who wanted to escape the affluent hellhole of Glen Ridge, New Jersey and become a Congressman and then make a run for Senate. Maybe the Gollum he fought was an elder Senator and the golden ring of power was the coveted Senate seat. And, like the ring in Tolkien’s tale, the Senate seat will corrupt and drive one mad.
Maybe I’m over-thinking this.
Maybe it just comes down to something as simple as exploiting a well-loved classic rock song for political gain.
On that alone, Zimmer’s campaign staff should be publicly flogged by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Miss Republicans

Reports of McCain-Palin rallies turning vicious are really disheartening. Frenzied crowds are yelling ugly threats against Barack Obama, Joe Biden and anyone else who believes the Earth wasn’t created in seven days. When Sarah Palin mentioned William Ayres, someone shouted “kill him!” When Obama’s name is mentioned, someone yells “terrorist!” or “socialist!”
It hasn’t been easy for reporters covering the McCain campaign. All of a sudden journalists are viewed as the enemy by a faction who believes Obama is getting treated with kid gloves by the mainstream media. Name-calling and insults are hurled at reporters covering the rallies. It used to be the politicians insulted the reporters. Now the supporters are joining in.
I’ve thought about the ugliness of this campaign, particularly by the GOP. Say what you want about the goofy Democrats, but when you go to their rallies, nobody threatens to kill anyone. There isn’t this visceral hatred that you see at a McCain-Palin rally. Even in the dark days of the primary when Hillary Clinton was a factor, Obama's supporters remained upbeat.
Which leads me to this thought:
I miss Republicans. Real Republicans. Real Barry Goldwater, country club, cardigan sweater-wearing, tight with money Republicans. I miss the old-fashioned, character-driven, thrifty-but-will-help-his-neighbors-out-in-a-pinch Republicans. I miss the civic-minded, America-is-a-big-tent, work-hard-and-prosper, Yankee Doodle Republicans.
Those Republicans are dead. They died suffocated by the neo-cons, the Christian fundamentalists, and the big business lobbyists. They sold their party out to Pat Robertson, pro-lifers and the military industrial complex. They used Ronald Reagan as an iconic figure, a golden calf they worshipped for the New Right, and in the process of re-branding themselves as America's Party, became something totally un-American. They’re the Heritage Foundation, the Project for the New American Century and every other neo-conservative think tank that spewed out positions and policies that became the bitter poison America has choked down for over 20 years.
The days of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater are over. The “thinking conservative” is extinct. Now we have George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Instead of cool-headed Ivy League northeastern intellectuals like William F. Buckley Jr. we have rednecks and shit-kickers who articulate like flustered fourth graders.
The rallies prove this point. They’re just a gage of how desperate and vile the McCain-Palin campaign has sunk. They’re like the Nazis at the end of World War II – hidden in their bunkers, eking out the end of days, bitter and enraged that the war didn’t go their way and blaming the Jews and socialists for the ruination of the Reich. They’re rats backed in the corner of the cage, clawing at anyone who threatens them.
Patriotism to them is a commodity, something to be worn on the sleeve and shown as a litmus test for purity. The American flag is a totem symbol taking almost religious significance. And religion itself is something they flaunt as easily as they wave the flag.
Yet the taunts and threats of violence erase any seriousness that these partisans should be given another chance to lead anything.
And that’s really what they are – partisans. The rallying call from the McCain-Palin ticket has been “country first”. That’s bullshit. Everything the GOP’s obnoxious, jeering peanut gallery is about has nothing to do with putting the country first but putting their party first. It’s about supporting an agenda that really is not about freedom but the suppression of it. It's not about uniting - its about dividing us up and selling us fear. It’s not about leading America out of darkness and into the light, but about keeping everyone in the dark of ignorance and obedience.
What the Republicans have done with this election is smother the last visage of what their party really stood for and replace it with robots and sycophants who angrily scapegoat others for the country’s ills and threaten a “final solution”-like remedy for it.
If a Democrat at an Obama rally screamed for the killing of McCain or Palin, then Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and a plethora of conservative pundits would call for that Democrat’s incarceration and execution. Yet at a Republican rally supporters are free to boo, cajole and threaten any way they see fit, with the candidate’s joking support.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Haters Beware

Attention all Haters:
I am in a foul mood and my back hurts, so I'm going to be brief.
This world, the huge ball of rock in which we live, is totally going to shit. Mankind has turned out not to be the enlightened beings we thought we were in the 18th and 19th centuries. We're parasites feeding off natural resources. We're cannibals devouring each other, consuming the gamey flesh of humanity out of selfishness and greed. We're apt practitioners of wholesale slaughter based on the belief that one mythology is more superior than another. We're sacrificing our children on a bonfire of mediocrity, training them for jobs in the robot workforce and stealing imagination, creativity and the very spark of what makes us human: the desire to dream.
So listen up, you Haters of the good, you self-righteous goosesteppers and ignorant fundamentalist lackeys. I've got a little surprise for you. See, while you're busy rattling around in that isolation chamber you call a life, I've been doing some thinking. I've realized that no matter what you do, no matter who you hate or what reactionary agenda you push, you'll fail. Everything you believe in will crumble.
See, I've got history on my side, Haters. It's proved that any civilization that gets too big for its britches will be mowed down for the good of the herd. The Romans thought they were the big kids on the block until they grew too fat, bloated and decadent to continue. The Visigoths took care of them. The British Empire encircled the globe, and a lot of pissed off natives and colonial uprisings sent them packing. And now the United States will be outdone by its own expansionist dreams and financial collapse.
While you're convinced that might makes right, drill baby drill, mavericks rule, God is on our side, and country first they're just empty slogans like yes we can and hope and change.
Politics is nothing more than factions vying for power and reshuffling the pecking order of a civilization.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Obama Will Enslave You

If elected president, Barack Obama will enslave all white people.
That’s one concern I heard recently from a scared woman who thinks the first black president will settle a score and correct an injustice by making all white people slaves.
In this age of terrorism and our faltering economy, do you think the first thing Obama would do would be to repeal the 13th Amendment?
The white slavery angle is handcrafted bullshit slung by Obama’s opponents in a presidential race that’s gotten uglier than Amy Winehouse at a rave.
Not willing to stick to the issues and crush Obama for his liberal stances on, well, everything, the Republicans are turning to their standard playbook of slinging mud and hoping something sticks.
Not that Obama’s camp hasn’t been slogging in the gutter with their attacks against John McCain’s technological ineptitude. Wow! The old fart can’t use a computer! What a scandal!
Personally, I don’t want my Commander-in-Chief to sit on his ass surfing the Internet. I want him to run the country. Knowing how to add a bookmark to your browser is insignificant compared to getting out of Iraq and making sure more American jobs aren’t shipped over to Taiwan.
Since the first presidential debate was a tie and the vice presidential debate was a clear win for Joe Biden, the Republicans are getting desperate. With one month to go before the election, they’re orchestrating an October surprise.
Now the Republicans are making hay out of Obama’s contact with William Ayres, a 1960s radical and one of the founders of the Weathermen, a terrorist group responsible for a number of bombings.
Sarah Palin referred to Obama’s contact with Ayres recently: “Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.”
Ayres served with Obama for three years on an anti-poverty foundation beginning in 1993. Ayres donated money to Obama’s 2001 state senate campaign.
A spokesperson for the Obama campaign said the last time Obama had contact with Ayres was in 2007, when they saw each other while Obama went biking through the neighborhood.
Linking Obama with a domestic terrorist radical is a good move if you want undecided voters to question Obama’s loyalties.
Also having Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, espouse anti-American views is also helpful if you want to question Obama’s patriotism.
Wright was Obama’s pastor for years before Obama discontinued their association after tapes of Wright’s sermons surfaced during the Democratic primary. In addressing the treatment of indigenous people and Africans during American history, Wright said: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, not God Bless America. God damn America — that's in the Bible — for killing innocent people. God damn America, for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America, as long as she tries to act like she is God, and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent..”
Wright’s comments proved too controversial for Obama and he terminated his association with Wright’s church.
Obama befriends a radical black preacher and a radical domestic terrorist, the Republicans claim. John McCain would never associate with anyone like Bill Ayres or Jeremiah Wright. Would he?
Before John McCain produces campaign ads blasting Obama for his radical buddies, maybe he should look to John Hagee, founder of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.
Hagee endorsed John McCain. He also believes Hurricane Katrina was punishment from God and that the Roman Catholic Church was the “great whore” and a “false cult system”.
Here’s what Hagee said about Hurricane Katrina: "All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that."
McCain eventually denounced Hagee’s endorsement.
Unlike Ayres and Wright, who were polarizing figures, Hagee did not speak against America, a big red flag when it comes to turning the electorate against your candidate.
First, Obama’s refusal to wear a silly American flag lapel pin caused an uproar among conservatives who believe those little pins are tiny totem objects of cultural significance. Then, it was Obama’s connection with Wright and now it’s his association with Ayres, the domestic terrorist American-hating radical.
What’s next? Saying Obama will enslave all white people?
Republicans should take a time out and look at their own candidates and their penchant for using fear to persuade. John McCain lost his party’s nomination in 2000 because George Bush’s camp spread a rumor in South Carolina that McCain had a black baby. Totally untrue. He adopted a girl from Bangladesh. Still, the redneck branch of the Republican party were suitably offended and voted for Bush, whose father became president in 1988 running on an ad criticizing Democrat Michael Dukakis’s support for a weekend furlough program for prisoners. The ad showed a mugshot of Willie Horton, a black man, who was given a furlough from prison. The ad’s announcer explained how Horton kidnapped a young couple, stabbed the man and raped the woman all while he used his weekend pass. It was the only time the word “raping” was used in a political ad, and it was fucking disturbing for a number of reasons. Dukakis supported putting murderers on the streets? Yikes! Even though the prisoner furlough program began in the 1970s, it was the association between Dukakis' support and Horton's case that made the ad powerful. Guilt by association. What a tactic.
So why stick to the facts and the issues and outline your vision of America?
Why not just link your opponent to unpopular positions, unpopular associations and outright bullshit and rumors?
Here’s what I think the next McCain-Palin ad will be:

Sinister music plays. Still photo of BARACK OBAMA wearing a keffiyeh and holding a sub-machinegun.

ANNOUNCER: Barack Hussein Obama. He wants to be president of the United States. But how can he be? He’s not one of us.

Footage of African natives in loincloths holding spears and dancing in their village.

ANNOUNCER: His father was from Kenya.

Footage from D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” showing a slave manhandling a white woman.

ANNOUNCER: His mother was a prostitute.

A montage of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Twin Towers falling down and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

ANNOUNCER: Obama is friends with William Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, two radicals who want to destroy America.

Footage of Osama bin Laden with Obama superimposed Forrest Gump-style beside him.

ANNOUNCER: Obama not only wants to talk to rouge nations, but to befriend terrorists – the very enemies who attacked us.

Footage of a white family in chains laboring on a farm while Obama whips them and smiles.

ANNOUNCER: Obama not only will raise your taxes, but will make your family slaves. He’ll also keep your wives and daughters in his harem.

Footage of Obama with vampire fangs and a menacing stare. He looks at the camera as if he’s draining our souls.

ANNOUNCER: Barack Hussein Obama is not American. He’s evil to the core. Paid for by John McCain for President.

MCCAIN (VO): I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

RE Released

Ravaged Earth: The World of High Powered Pulp is now for sale in PDF form! The files include both the original and printer friendly versions.
A printed (softcover) book will hit the shelves soon, but I'm excited that the game is currently available for Internet distribution. Thanks to Sean Preston at Reality Blurs and everyone else who made this possible.

Here's the blurb:

Ravaged Earth: The World of High Powered Pulp

In 1898, the Martians came. They devastated our lands, they ravaged our earth. They slew without mercy and they died without tears when our germs struck them down and toppled their metal machines over the course of the longest weeks in the history of our world. However, from their corpses we found a gift, the present of Aetherium, which has forever changed the course of our destiny. Our burnt fields have grown lush new grasses in the decades that have passed, hiding the scars our planet has suffered. Our buildings have been rebuilt far better than they ever were before, but humanity has been forever changed and our wounds run far deeper than we could ever imagine. Some question whether Aetherium is a blessing or a curse. Certainly advances have come with this secret knowledge, but so has war. Great good has come, but so has great evil. People have changed in ways that go unnoticed by the naked eye in many cases, but if some have changed, is it not possible that all have changed? These powers that have poured over our planet must certainly be unnatural and our world, our poor dear world is now, and forever more, a Ravaged Earth.

Fast Forward: 1936. You are one of the Ravaged, a person altered by the mysterious powers of Aetherium. How that came about is up to you. No one knows how many Ravaged exist. Most try to keep a low profile. Most try to get by. You, on the other hand, have long felt a greater purpose, a greater destiny, was in store for you. That destiny begins today.
Using the award winning Savage Worlds engine, Ravaged Earth is a pulp setting both eerily familiar and uniquely its own.

Example archetypes let you leap into the action right away!

Rattle and Hum, an introductory adventure is included!

Includes both original and printer friendly versions!


You can purchase Ravaged Earth for download from these fine online establishments.

Studio2 Publishing
http://www.studio2publishing.com/shop/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=40&products_id=2514

RPGNow
http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=58343&src=FrontPage

DriveThruRPG
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=58343&src=FrontPage

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So It Goes...

I am:
Kurt Vonnegut
For years, this unique creator of absurd and haunting tales denied that he had anything to do with science fiction.


Which science fiction writer are you?




It was a pleasant surprise to be Vonnegut, quite unexpected, actually. I guess my style is so much like his because my worldview is similar.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Buddy, Can You Spare $700 Billion?

You know the old phrase, “spending money like drunken sailors?”
That describes perfectly the borrow and spend culture of the past decade.
Well, now the drunken sailors are coming home to roost, or more appropriately, people borrowing money beyond their means and financial institutions lending money to drunken sailors to spend like drunken sailors and a housing market that’s about as stable as a straw hut in a Category 4 hurricane caused the current subprime mortgage crisis or as I fondly call it, the Economic Clusterfuck of 2008.
Greedy banks, now free to lend money to anyone thanks to a weakening of regulations in the late 1990s, did just that.
Low interest rates make it easier to get credit and flushed with cash, people bought bigger houses, cars and spent money on that cool plasma screen TV. You know. The one you had to have.
But the housing market that homeowners thought would increase in a boom eight years ago began taking a sharp downturn around 2005. Suddenly, homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages who wanted to refinance their homes, now couldn’t because the value of their homes decreased as rapidly as the Seattle Mariners’ chances of winning the World Series.
Compounding the problem was a housing market oversaturated with homes from a building boom that happened at the turn of the century. Housing prices plummeted, homeowners defaulted on their loans and properties were foreclosed.
Wait. It gets better.
Investors purchasing mortgage-based securities now found their investments drying up. The banks that bought and sold these securities couldn’t sell them.
As a result of this nut-filled shitlog of an economic crisis, prestigious financial firms collapsed.
The Federal Housing Finance Authority placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the largest lending institutions in the United States, under conservatorship, and the $12 trillion in mortgages they have.
The Federal Reserve Bank bailed out the American International Group, Inc. to the tune of $85 billion, in exchange for 79 percent of equity stake.
Refusing the government’s bailout, Lehman Brothers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Washington Mutual declared bankruptcy, prompting the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision to seize the bank and sell most of its assets to JP Morgan Chase.
President Bush’s bailout plan would have the federal government pony up $700 billion to purchase so-called “toxic assets” that are clogging the pipes of America’s economy, like a disgusting gunk-covered hairy thing. The president’s proposal would be like drain cleaner, purging the gross stuff and allowing the economy to flow unobstructed once again.
Yes, I used a plumbing metaphor to describe the bailout plan.
Fears that the government would control your credit card debt, your mortgage and your car payments is enough to scare anyone. Would it mean you’d be beholden to the government is a socialist fiefdom-serfdom situation?
White House spokesmodel Dana Perino said we’re facing a “once-in-a-century crisis.”
That’s a relief, because as far as crises go, I’d rather experience one every 100 years.
“Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And, ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession,” President Bush said this week.
A dire forecast, to be sure. Who could help us solve this problem? Is there at least one man who could turn this mess around and get the gears of Wall Street turning again?
Wait! What's that on the horizon? Limping towards Washington with determination and grit?
It's... Senator John McCain!
McCain suspended his campaign this week to use his superpowers to avert the impending economic crisis. Thank God for John McCain. Is there nothing a maverick POW with a war fixation can’t accomplish? When he gets done solving America’s financial morass, maybe he can work on that peace in the Middle East thing they’ve been tinkering with for the last 50 years.
Economically, this country is fucked. We’re so fucked. We’re as fucked as Jennifer Connelly was during the final scene of Requiem for a Dream; a dildo-grinding, sodomizing, degradation, except in the movie the drunk guys were throwing money at her instead of taking money from her.
Some think this bailout plan is a covert way of infusing socialism in our lives, with Big Brother controlling us, this time by the pocket book.
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s plan will give him control with little oversight, making him responsible, but not accountable:

Section 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Carte blanche to do anything he wants with no review. I think I chose the wrong career path as a journalist.
Some Republicans and Democrats aren’t tolerating the bailout plan and thus the wrangling begins. This crisis will be with us for some time, and I look forward to the day when it will be over. Of course by then, mankind will dwell in the undercity scavenging sewer rats for food and cobbling together old copies of Us Weekly to use as currency.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Propaganda As A Campaign Tool

Advertising and political campaigning are both about psychological manipulation. Persuading your target market - whether directly or indirectly - to purchase a product or support a candidate can be either a subliminal mindfuck or as blatant as hitting them over the head with a sledgehammer.
Political candidates pump millions into research firms and spinmasters to develop ads for their campaigns. Most of the techniques used are as sinister as Soviet-era brainwashing experiments.
Through the ads, the voters aren’t informed, nor do they view the issues or candidates with clear, na├»ve eyes. The voters are treated like Pavlovian dogs waiting to salivate at the next bell.
These ads don’t outline a candidate’s positions or qualifications: they’re a kick-you-in-the-balls grudgefest and a schoolyard fight complete with hair-pulling and Indian burns. Most brilliantly, the ads do it with an absolute certainty that the candidate speaking to the voters is an omnipotent Titan with total competence and infallibility.
It’s all bullshit, of course, meant to fluster or aggravate the viewers, who, reaching for their fourth can of Budwiser, yell at the screen and curse the goddamn liberals or goddamn Republicans.
Televised political ads are the ultimate manipulators: stealthily-crafted miniature dramas of good versus evil, right conquering wrong or dire portents of dread on the horizon. The ads use various techniques to communicate their messages, and these subtle techniques play on the viewer’s sense of outrage or uncomfortable cultural biases or primal fears.
Take the GOP ad criticizing attacks on Sarah Palin. The ad cites an article in the Sept. 9 issue of The Wall Street Journal that says Obama “…air-dropped an army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers” in Alaska to dig up dirt on Palin. The screen shows a pack of wolves, open-jawed and bearing sharp fangs.
While I’d be the first to lump lawyers with wolves, I think the sudden appearance of the wolves in the ad was purposefully jarring, especially coupled with the low, threatening music in the background.
The Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004 used a similar ad, portraying a dark forest and stalking wolves. The ad plays on primal fears of the forest and the wolves, reducing everything to symbolism and archetypes, which for Bush and Cheney, worked. The ad was about the threat of terrorism and Bush would save America from the dangerous threats lurking in the darkness.
Fear is a big theme of political ads. Draw the curtains, turn out the lights and give them a good, old-fashioned scaring. Make the voters afraid of something, of someone, of some idea or concept. A black candidate with an Islamic name? A woman governor with a light resume on foreign issues? Gay marriage? Religious fundamentalists? The list goes on and on.
Another theme is absolute distortion; taking a partial truth or omitting certain details or facts.
A McCain ad chastises Joe Biden’s remark that it would be a patriotic act for richer Americans to pay more taxes. Except in the ad, it didn’t mention “richer Americans” like Biden said, but all Americans: “Joe Biden calls paying higher taxes a patriotic act,” the announcer says. “Obama and Biden voted to raise taxes on working Americans making just $42,000 a year.”
So the ad went from Biden calling on wealthier Americans to pay more taxes to him wanting everyone to cough up more dough for Uncle Sam. The GOP is telling us through the ad, subtly, that if Obama and Biden get elected, we’ll all be living in cardboard Hoovervilles by 2010. In reality, Obama is saying he’ll cut taxes for middle class Americans, not making them pay more.
An Obama ad goes after McCain for not knowing how many houses he owns: “When asked how many houses he owns, McCain lost track. He couldn’t remember.” The ad shows slow-motion video of McCain talking, making it look like he has peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth. A doleful piano sounds in the background. While meant to provoke outrage and disbelief that the old fogy doesn’t know how much real estate he has, you can’t end up but feeling sad. If you reach 72, could you even find your way home?
There are ads I call “cinematic,” with high production values including sweeping musical scores and dramatic elements. Take the Obama ad that came out before the Iowa Caucus where he’s speaking to a crowd, telling them it is a defining moment in America’s history. “Our nation is at war. The planet is in peril. The dream that so many generations fought for feels that it is slowly slipping away.” The Aaron Sorkin-like ad shows Obama on stage looking presidential, then cuts to concerned middle aged white people in the audience. The ad ends with uplifting quotes about Obama from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Time Magazine, the Concord Monitor and Newsweek.
Cedar Rapids Gazette? Wouldn’t you lead with the quotes from Time magazine or Newsweek?
Another cinematic, emotional tug-at-your-heartstrings ad for McCain describes his time as a POW in Vietnam, showing footage of him lying in a Hanoi hospital. Cut to McCain and Ronald Reagan together while swelling orchestra music plays and an announcer says “As a prisoner of war, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan.” McCain’s voice over: “I enlisted as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.”
The ad later shows a split-screen, with McCain talking at a podium on one side and a montage of still images of American troops in Iraq. The announcer continues: “The leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working.”
Linking images of McCain with the current troops is like saying McCain is supporting the troops. Saying the surge is working is detracting from critics of the surge. We proclaim it, so it must be so. The ad combines a lot of strong, positive elements of warriors and Reagan, which appeals to the Republican base.
Repetition is another form of conditioning. An Obama ad blasts McCain on the economy. McCain made a statement on Sept. 15, “Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” The ad plays the McCain clip, then flashes the question: “The Fundamentals of Our Economy Are Strong?” as a jab, before playing the McCain clip again. And again, just in case you didn’t get it the first time.
One of the most notorious ads thus far was McCain’s “Celebrity” ad, attacking Obama for his so-called celebrity status and popularity with the media.
The ad begins with a long-shot of a crowd in Berlin. Obama makes his way to a stage accompanied by the sound of a clicking camera shutter. Still images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton flash on the screen. The female announcer says: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?”
The ad subliminally or unintentionally shows the Berlin Victory Column and the Washington Monument, two phallic symbols. Now I’m not into Freudian theories, but who show these two cock symbols coupled with images of Britney and Paris? Read into that what you will, but an ad showing a crowd of supporters cheering “Obama”, depicting two powerful phallic symbols and pretty girls isn’t that bad. In fact, it could work for Obama. The Republicans want to make it look like Obama is a hotdog, a flash-in-the-pan bubbleheaded celebrity. Yet the ad shows he’s charismatic, attracting an audience, and pretty girls ad sex appeal and the phallic symbols as virility and strength. Taken on a subliminal level, if you turned the sound off and saw just the beginning of the ad, it would be like something Obama’s camp approved.
Comparing the candidate with something unpopular is another tack: the old guilt by association trick. Consider this McCain ad that links Obama to high gas prices. A woman’s voice, like someone’s disappointed mother, says: “Gas prices, $4, $5, no end in sight, because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America. No to independence for foreign oil. Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?” Then an image of Obama floats next to an image of a gas pump. Is Obama to blame for high gas prices? No, but according to the ad he is.
On the opposite end, Obama’s camp is running an ad featuring images of McCain and President Bush, linking the unpopular president with the Republican candidate. A jaunty, Danny Elfman-esque score is playing while the announcer says: “They share the same out of touch attitude, the same failure to understand the economy, the same tax cuts for huge corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent, the same plan to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq when we should be rebuilding America.” Then the zinger: a clip of McCain stating he voted with Bush over 90 percent of the time.
Whether these ads actually work is another matter. For now, millions are poured into both campaigns to streamline and define the brand and to develop marketing strategies for the Republicans and Democrats. Who ultimately prevails in the presidential ad war of 2008 will be decided November 4.
Or, if it’s like 2000, sometime in December.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blame the Media...Please!

I've been a journalist for 14 years and never before have I noticed the utter stupidity filtering through certain national media outlets as I've witnessed in the last few months. Lipstick on a pig, anyone? I remember when election coverage focused on the issues, with a few spasms of bullshit that were usually purged naturally thanks to the 24 hour news cycle.
When I write a political story, I focus on substance and not on gimmicks. I'm not a magician using slight of hand to fool the crowd. Yet political reporting has melded with entertainment. I don't know if I'm reading The Onion or a serious newspaper, and that's fucked up.
Here are some real stories that are just too dumb to be believed:

* Kawasaki is having trouble keeping up orders from people who want the same style glasses as Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Really? Are you shitting me? Talk about a nation of sheep.

* Caroline Baum of Bloomberg News uses the phrase "she has tits" live on the air at 'Fox & Friends.'

Jesse Jackson muttered that he wanted to cut Barrack Obama's "nuts out" into a live microphone. Peggy Noonan, referring to the GOP's choice of Palin, said "I think they went for this political bullshit about narratives" into a live microphone. Does anybody really care who says what into a live mic?

* Michelle Obama tells voters not to vote for a candidate because "I like that guy" or that "she's cute." Asked if she was talking about Palin, Michelle Obama replied "I was talking about me."

I actually got stupider reading this drek.

* A Colorado delegate to the Republican National Convention said he took a woman back to his hotel room in Minneapolis and she drugged and robbed him of $50,000.

What? A Republican hooked up with a woman? Actually, this story made me chuckle. Not because of the whole scheudenfraude thing, but because it happened to a Republican lawyer. Karma is a bitch.

* A Denver college professor assigns his students to write an essay critical of Sarah Palin.

Stories like this provoke outrage at the "liberal educators". Who says our colleges foster healthy debate and disagreement? Colleges are depressing robot factories where the robots get drunk to dull the pain of being taught by snotty assholes.

* Hackers break into Palin's e-mail account and the e-mails are leaked to the Associated Press. The Secret Service asks the AP to turn over the e-mails, but the news agency doesn't comply.

Another story meant to frustrate those who perceive the media as being obstructionists in a federal investigation. If I called the shots at the AP, I'd ask the Secret Service for something in return, like dinner at Delmonico's or a blowjob or possibly both.

* Obama mocks McCain while campaigning in Nevada.

Really? You mean candidates aren't civil towards each other? This is kind of like reporting the very obvious.

* Donald Trump endorses McCain on Larry King.

Do readers really care who The Donald supports? He goes on a talk show only octogenarians watch and espouses his political leanings. Thank God they ran this story. I'd hate to go into the voting booth Nov. 4 and scratch my chin, wondering "Now who does Donald Trump support again?"

* The canine star of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" was discovered in a shelter.

The fact that there's even a movie called "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and the dog is voiced by George Lopez proves without a shadow of a doubt that there is no God and we are alone in a dark and uncaring universe.