Friday, September 23, 2011

Photo Bomb

A photo is going around the Internet, one of President Obama with a group of dignitaries at the United Nations. Obama is waving to the camera, and in so doing his hand blocks the face of Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj. Remember when President Bush tried leaving through a locked door after a press conference in China? Or when President Ford lost his balance like a three-legged schnauzer and fell? The press is always looking for that one awkward photo to make our leaders seem, well, goofy. This photo might be Obama's photographic Waterloo. That is, until the photo of him in the Lincoln Bedroom kneeling toward Mecca is found.

Use the following captions with the photo.

"'Talk to the hand, Mongol boy!'"

"Whoever has had a gay experience, raise their hand."

"No, Barry; you cannot use the bathroom now."

"Any socialists in the room?"

"Let someone else in class answer the question, Barry."

"'Kiss my ring, Tsakhia!'"

"Show of hands, who has the worst national economic clusterfuck?"

"Anyone want to see Snooki naked?"

"'I will pimp slap that smile off your Mongol face!'"

"Who wants fried okra?"

"Does anyone know Ricky Martin's phone number?"

"Who just farted?"

"Ooooh! Call on me! Me! I know! I know! Call on me, teacher! Please! I know! Call on me!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

On September 1, 2001, terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and killed 3,000 people.

The world hasn't been the same ever since.

A decade has gone by, and here we are.

The event, memorialized in the date, is commonly referred to as 9/11.

Back then, smoke, debris and tears filled Lower Manhattan as the World Trade Center fell like a house made of burning playing cards.

Another airplane smashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., killing our best and brightest.

In a field in rural Pennsylvania, another airplane crashed, brought down by passengers who courageously fought back.

Today, ceremonies remembered and mourned the dead, those who perished in the worst terrorist attacks in history.
With great aplomb, solemn pageantry and fluttering American flags we remember them. We honor their memory because they were Americans and English and French and German and Indian and from countries that aren't familiar to the average American.

They were our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children.

Ordinary folks who went to work not knowing history, like an unforgiving, dispassionate juggernaut, would crush them and consume them.

They would be the ashes of burning skyscrapers, flaming gasoline from airplane fuselages and photographs left behind.

Incidentally, 9/11 occurred on the United Nations International Day of Peace. That's one factoid the news doesn't relate much.

Where were you on 9/11?

I was a 31-year old numbskull cleaning the garage in the morning, putting clutter in cardboard boxes, sweeping the floor and rolling out a cheap rug I bought somewhere. As I tidied up, I had no idea the momentous things happening north of me in New York City, until my then-wife called and told me something big had occurred.

I switched on the TV just in time to see the United Airlines Flight 175 slam into the south side of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I remember talking to my father on the phone about the attack. He later told me he went to high school with someone who died in the World Trade Center.

The day was chaos, confusion, sadness and anger. Felled low by an unseen enemy, we were wounded, but not defeated. That night, as I did my night shift work for a daily newspaper I was working for at the time, the newsroom watched on TV as President Bush spoke of resolve in the face of evil, for Al-Qaeda was truly evil.

We witnessed acts of heroism and a new appreciation and reverence for firemen, policemen and rescue workers who died in the World Trade Center collapse and were buried in the smoldering rubble.

We flew our American flags and didn't question the wisdom of our leaders, who stood on the steps of the Capitol and sung "God Bless America."

Trembling, we watched history unfold, and shed bitter tears, yet we slowly went through the motions of getting our lives back in this new, horrible world of international terrorism.

Ten years later, what have we wrought in this new reality of paranoia and madness?

A war grinding on in Iraq and Afghanistan, an erosion of our U.S. Constitution, an entrenched Congress filled with political rancor, and a political climate where gridlock and bickering rules. We saw the election of a black president and the rise of the Tea Party who views that black president as a foreign Muslim spy. We have the politics of hate, a fractured economy and massive unemployment.

Our military operations have killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, as well as his foot soldiers and confidants. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was likewise killed following the U.S. invasion of that country, and the Taliban was yanked from power in Afghanistan.

We became bombastic, headstrong and swaggering, which alienated many who sympathized with us. But despite the volatile rhetoric about this country, despite every blunder and misstep, despite the hue and cry, ten years after 9/11, we are still here.
Our indomitable spirit and sense that we're the good guys, never tarnished.

We didn't allow ourselves to be bullied, cajoled or intimidated by terror. We relinquished a little sense of privacy, submitted to body searches at the airport, removes our shoes and belts and had everything scanned. We allowed our phones to be tapped, our personal information scrutinized and our personal beliefs held under a microscope for Big Brother at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

We became this dystopian, science fictiony, alternate universe America, ruled by a gang of thuggish idiots who waved the flag and told us to choose our criticisms wisely. Yet those tactics ultimately failed. The mighty government who would muzzle the people found themselves turned out of power by the people.

Now we're inhabitants of a science fictiony country where the political leaders are engorged vegetables fighting and breeding with each other.

Despite the fact most leaders and elected representatives in Washington are ready to destroy each other in grisly bloodsports, we could set our differences aside for one day and remember a time ten years ago when America was a more innocent, optimistic place; a nation where elected officials didn't e-mail shots of their penises to mistresses; a nation where the Jersey Shore was a vacation destination and not a show about Italian retards; a place where the Twin Towers stood tall above the Manhattan skyline.

We should not dwell upon the horror, but gaze forward with hope.

Those terrorists may have destroyed buildings and murdered innocent lives, but they didn't kill our hope.

America is an idea, and an idea like America is too big. You can't murder such an ideas like of freedom, equality and justice.

Those ideas define us, they encompass our grandparents and parents and children.

We are America and we are still here.

May we learn the wisdom from 9/11 and never forget the sacrifices made, that in our darkest hour, Americans responded and triumphed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Angry Reporter's Creed

We are the bastard children of H.L. Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson, Dorothy Parker, Nellie Bly and countless others who create words like a chef does a fine meal.
We subsist on a steady diet of cigarettes, coffee, alcohol and curiosity.
Hunched over keyboards, our fingers engage in a complex tango as we form stories from the ether.
Thirsting for knowledge, for justice, for a sense of the little guy needs to become informed.
Missionaries bringing Scripture to the ignorant savages, the diving light of Truth.
Pulling back the curtain and exposing things as they really are, revealing the wonderment as well as the hideous and malformed.
Corralling the privileged and mighty from their powerful perches into a space on the page.
In black and white, for the world to see, for the people to judge.
We are not martyrs but outcasts, paupers with low salaries toiling away for some grandiose cause larger than ourselves.
No pensions or creature comforts await the reporter, merely a deluge of words, ink-stained hands and the glut of pixels on a screen.
Crucify us as we crucify you, you pot-bellied, morally bankrupt fiends.
You slayers of hope, supping on corruption and convenience, thinking the party will never end because the great unwashed masses are stupid in their apathy.
Yet you didn't count on us, did you?
You didn't realize we would be paying attention, jotting notes and recording everything.
We are the nuclear lightsaber wielded by a teflon Jedi warrior monk, and we've honed in on you.
We, the fucking reporters, the dirty journalists, the media whores, will expose you because the public, in their lethargic Hollywood comas, have a right to know all of the shit you've done.
You've been naughty little monkeys and the people will be told.
We'll carve your specified sins on your forehead with a red hot stylus, then chronicle your misdeeds in your own blood.
You can threaten us, you can protest, you can cajole and even blackmail us.
Yet that shows what titanic scum you are, what a heap of ridiculous misery you've become.
Because people like you always need someone to blame: the poor, the foreigners, the blacks, the liberals, the Jews.
With your money and influence, you may even try to muzzle us, to discredit us, to shut us down.
But here's the kicker you haven't foreseen: You can't keep us out forever.
You can't bury the Truth.
It has a way of popping out of the grave like a score of zombies in a George A. Romero movie.
And these zombies aren't the slow-witted shambling kind.
They're the ravenous, sprinting, never-get-tired-and-never-give-up kind.
Putting it bluntly, you're as fucked as a drunken bead-wearing whore during Mardi Gras and nothing, not your money, your lawyers or your sterling reputation will help against the truth.
Call it karma with a byline.
Your recklessness and disdain for the very values you purport to defend, and the morality you truck out in the public square are merely convenient facades you employ for the masses, who so desperately believe the bullshit you propagate.
By our wrath shall you know us and with every word shall we will vivisect you on the page.
You will be held accountable to the public and your misdeeds made a matter of record.
There are journalists in this country who aren't corporate controlled cyborgs, aren't cynical to the point of useless and aren't fixated on television like an infant with a shiny plastic toy.
To those reporters, scribes, full-time journos and part-time freelancers who believe the First Amendment isn't something you only trot out during a political rally, rise up.
Hear me, you newshounds, newshawks and bloggers who realize the only way to stop corruption and improve life in the zoo we call planet Earth is to make the zookeepers realize they're mistreating the animals.
In today's age of technological wonders, we are as disconnected and an embittered as ever before.
The multi-armed hydra points fingers and ascribes blame effortlessly without pointing a digit at itself.
The hydra is scared because ascribing self-blame is bad for business, and after all, a hydra can do no wrong.
It's incumbent upon every journalist with a conscience to grab a pen and kill that fucking hydra.
Pulverize them into a fine powder and snort it like a coke fiend from Studio 54, using a $100 bill on a tacky velvet picture of Jesus Christ.
Mutilate those hijacking the culture, those with deep pockets and no souls, those flagrantly violating the law because they see us as insignificant and can get away with it.
Ask the tough questions, make those bastards sweat it out like a police interrogation in a Cambodian jail.
These conniving hucksters will give you no quarter and may lash out like enraged pitbulls, yet never give up.
Only through digging deeper, through persistence, can you triumph.
We need to triumph.
This blasted world needs heroes, good people who do the right thing not out of promised financial compensation or public glory but because it's the right thing to do.
There are very few people like that left.
Be a messenger of Truth, a bringer of swift justice, a person of ideas and words.
Take up your pen, your keyboard, your high-speed Internet connection.
Go forth and do great things with your career.
Make them respect you.
Make them fear you.
Make them loathe you.
Loathe them in return.
And curse their names over a sweaty glass of whiskey.