Saturday, June 30, 2007

Holy Crap!


I just found out that I'm a top 20 finalist in a screenwriting competition called Script P.I.M.P. I guess Deadbeat Boyfriends isn't dead after all. I'm invited to their awards ceremony in L.A. on July 26, where they announce the four winners.

Members of Think Tank Thursday, I guess I'll have to miss our next meeting!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Buyers vs. Users

I've been tossing my head around like a salt shaker, but I can't get this article out of my brain. It was a just a simple technology piece in a newspaper Business section, but its implications were profound. It was about how "buyers" are different than "users."

Human nature drives product developers to drink. Why? Because we're all two people. When we consider buying a product, we want to feel like we're getting as much as possible for the money. So product developers pack millions of features into a single device to persuade us to choose it over simpler products. On the other hand, when we bring that same product home and start using it, we want simplicity. We quickly get frustrated with all those annoying features, we despise the product, and we bring it back.

I can't help but think that this is a metaphor for something. I mean, imagine how the "buyer" vs. "user" principle plays out in relationships.

Introducing the new comedy from Judd Apatow. He's a successful product developer. She's a picky personal shopper. Can his product attract her attention? After she takes it for a spin, will she still like it, or will she take it back? See "Buyer's Remorse," in theaters Friday...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And the Iggy® Goes to...

Today, we're introducing a new feature on Bye Bye Shadowlands called the "Iggy" Awards, recognizing spectacular achievements in profound ignorance. Our first winner, according to the National Academy of Ignorance Studies, is Mike Kennedy of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Mr. Kennedy caught the Council's attention with a letter to the editor that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 26, in which he wrote:

So Brian Lambert thinks the debate over man-made global warming is over ("Global warming calls for truth, not `balance' game," June 22) and that no one who disagrees with this theory deserves to be heard because there is a "scientific consensus."I have a few questions. Didn't a "scientific consensus" believe the Earth was flat?


The panel has awarded the Iggy to Mr. Kennedy based on his impressively ignoramic achievements on three distinct levels of unreason:

1. Extrapolation--Mr. Kennedy's argument that one cannot trust "scientific consensus" on global warming because learned people once assumed the earth was flat extrapolates to the belief that because learned people turned out to be wrong about something half a millennium ago, one can never trust any form of "scientific consensus" (broadly defined) again. This, in turn, extrapolates logically to, "I don't believe in science," in which case Mr. Kennedy should wonder why his underwear drops to the floor instead of flying up toward his face.

2. Application of Personal Metaphor--Taking Mr. Kennedy's arguments to heart, if he were to visit the doctor complaining of fatigue and malaise, and the doctor were to say, "You have early signs of leukemia; we need to start you on chemo," the man would have no choice but to reply, "I'm sorry, but wasn't there scientific consensus centuries ago by people like yourself that the solution to any illness was bleeding with leeches? I therefore reject your current 'consensus' on my condition. Good day."

Which leads to the aspect of Mr. Kennedy's argument that the Council believed truly raised him to the level of Supreme Ignoramaniac:

3. Self-Negation--The true genius of Mr. Kennedy's sublime lack of reason is that his argument actually succeeds--cleverly and efficiently--in negating itself. He reasons that scientific consensus cannot be trusted because scientific consensus was once proven wrong. But what disproved the "scientific consensus" that the earth was flat? The scientific consensus that the earth was not flat. By acknowledging this, Mr. Kennedy recognizes that science is a progressive function whose accuracy improves as knowledge increases over time. Mr. Kennedy negates the concept of "scientific consensus" via the authority of "scientific consensus." But if he does not believe in scientific consensus as a concept, he has to disbelieve the consensus that the earth is round, which in turn means that he must believe the earth is flat. This "mirror upon mirror" display of utter hostility toward reason is, in the words of the panel, "a heretofore unseen and completely original expression of spectacular, mind-boggling and transcendent ignorance."

Congratulations, Mr. Kennedy. You may now take your place next to Ms. Bachmann.

P.S. I just realized that a different version of my reply to Mr. Kennedy was actually published in today's Star Tribune here (scroll down to the fifth letter).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Missing Chunks of Brain

A friend recently sent me a fascinating New Yorker article about an Illinois State professor's studies of a tribe whose language defies every accepted theory of linguistics. I've now decided that I want to become a linguistic anthropologist. There's only one problem: a chunk of my brain is missing.

I'm not sure if scientists have pinpointed this region as such, but I know exactly what it is: Linguamapaqua Lobus, the secret lobe that gives you the ability to understand foreign languages, not get lost, and swim.

I've recognized this handicap for quite some time, and it's time to admit the problem.

I failed swimming lessons thrice between the ages 8 and 18. Besides a stunning lack of natural buoyancy (which, when doing the crawl stroke, results in getting mouthful upon mouthful of clorinated water), I have a problem of veering off course, usually to the left. Eyes closed, face underwater, I am in a state of sensory deprivation. Nothing but H2O. No reference points. No idea where to go. If I were dropped into a large enough swimming pool and told to freestyle to the other side, I would swim in a circle until I drowned.

This condition, I am convinced, is somehow related to my general spatial incompetence. I can't think in three dimensions. I don't have the aerial view of the world that enables some people to never get lost. When driving, I always think I'm going north. After using the bathroom in a restaurant, I will always exit it to the right, sometimes into a kitchen or storage closet. I have no explanation for this.

I am convinced, however, that the aforementioned symptoms share the same root cause as my inability to learn foreign languages. I don't want to overstate this point. I got A's in Latin in high school, and I survived three total semesters of Italian and French in college without dipping below a B. But that was entirely based on my ability to read and write those tongues. When it came to understanding them spoken, and speaking them myself, I was an embarrassment to myself, my class, my instructors and my country.

The reason for my failure is this: When you hear a string of strange syllables spoken quickly and without pause, how does one know where one word ends and the next one begins? My brain cannot make this distinction. "Voulez vous couche avec moi" might as well be "voo layvook oosheyav ekmwa?"... which is quite unhelpful, especially in that situation.

This is merely the linguistic version of the disorientation I experience when being underwater or walking the streets of Rome (or a Minneapolis parking garage) for the first time. Nature holds more responsibility for this condition than nurture--I remember the relief I felt when discovering that my sister also assumes movement in a northerly direction--but that just adds to my feeling of helplessness.

Professor Everett in the New Yorker article can listen to a language he's never heard before, and in 20 minutes outline its basic grammar and structure. Oh, that I could do the same and fulfill my new dream of becoming the world's most famous linguistic anthropologist and living among the Piraha tribe of the Brazilian Amazon. Damn you, Linguamapaqua Lobus!

(Hey, I wonder if this lobe also regulates your ability to dunk a basketball...)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Want to Be Retired

I'm taking a mental health day today. After dropping off Seamus at day care, I felt compelled to see water. After foolishly entertaining the idea that I could drive to Duluth and back, I opted instead to drive around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet. I've ended up at the Dunn Brothers in Linden Hills, where I'm going to become one with this soft leather couch, drink full-city-roast coffee until I get the shakes, listen to whatever musical selections their eclectic sound system sends my way (currently "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth) and try to finally finish the journal of our trip to Mexico.

It's hard to gauge who exactly hangs out at a Linden Hills coffee shop on a summer Thursday. There might be people like me who are taking the day off or telecommuting. The occasional shriek gives away the stay-at-home mom. The intense typing of the woman by the window makes me think she's looking for work.

But when I first walked in, my eyes went right to a center table. It was the happiest table in the place. Four retirees, male and female. They weren't looking sternly into laptops. They weren't sitting along the window with iPod feeding tubes stuck in their ears. They were just drinking coffee, talking and laughing.

I want to be retired. Being retired means that even though your ultimate fate is right around the corner, you can actually determine your minute-to-minute fate like never before. Right now, most of my day is determined by other people. The window from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. is pretty much Freedom Time, and right now, Freedom seems to want to read Christopher Hitchens, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watch Jon Stewart.

The problem with wanting to be retired is that people who have the mentality of wanting to be retired are precisely the people who probably won't be able to--whereas the people who could retire, who should retire and have more than the financial means to retire, never retire, because they're addicted to whatever inspired them to acquire their retirement-enabling wealth in the first place.

The key to a good retirement is slowing down just the right amount. Right now, life is too chaotic. (Thus, the mental health day.) But I've heard and experienced too many examples of the other extreme. And there are few things more annoying than fixating on the mundane.

"Hmmm... postman hasn't come yet. Usually here by 2:30. It's almost 2:37. You don't suppose something happened to him, do you?"

I had a glimpse of retirement once. I was 22. I was semi-employed in Fredonia, New York. And I lived in a Lake Eerie trailer park. All I had to do was try to make it in my progressive alternative band and date a college junior. Sounds romantic now, but it was horribly depressing. Even though the only job I had was making donuts part-time at the Upper Crust Bakehouse, I couldn't bring myself to make the 40-minute drive to Buffalo to look for a better job ("I wonder what the Galleria Cinnabon is paying these days...").

I would wake up with plenty of ambition, but then the day would go roughly like this:

Hey, it's time for breakfast!

Breakfast is over, but I should be an informed citizen and read the paper. Let's learn more about Buffalo.

Hey, there's still a half a pot of coffee sitting their undrunk!

Hmmm... time to play some guitar. I'm here for music, after all. I should be writing a song. And what about drums? I want to teach myself how to play drums.

Ooops, lunchtime! What can I mix with the Raamen Noodles today? Yum.

Hey, aren't we practicing in three hours? That's not enough time to drive to Buffalo and back. Nap time!

That was a distant early warning. When I retire, I won't let it happen again. I'll be more mature and self-aware, I promise. I might still try to learn how to play drums, but I won't have the Raamen. I'll be productive, I swear. So... can I retire now?

(Oh my God, they're playing "Hungry Like the Wolf." I used to hate this song. Why is it suddenly sounding more melodic?)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hillary Finally Gets My Attention

I feel like the only person in America who doesn't have strong feelings about Hillary Clinton. "Ambivalent" is the word. Does she inspire me? No. From what I've seen so far, she's one of the yawniest public speakers in political history. But do I hate her? No, there isn't enough of a presence to either like or dislike. I've enjoyed asking both fans and haters to explain the reasoning behind their feelings, and they're never able to do it. Haters (especially women, ironically enough) resort to obvious sexist double standards in talking about her "coldness" or "ambition"... traits many of them admire in Dick Cheney.

But then I saw this, and I have to admit, it got me. You go... uh, girl.



P.S. I take it all back... the winning song is by Celine Dion. Okay, I still like Joe Biden way better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

LangAlert: "At the End of the Day"



Note: Anne has pointed out that "LingAlert" doesn't really makes sense without the "u" after the "g" (for LinguAlert). So I'm switching to LangAlert (and I've edited the logo based on one of the comments below).

Just as "on the same wavelength" has been usurped by "on the same page" over the last five years or so, I've noticed that "when all is said and done" has now been almost completely replaced by "at the end of the day." I'm sure you've heard it:

"That's a great point, Bill, but the reality of it is this: At the end of the day, do the American people want more money in their pockets or less?"

As with most of these lingoverthrows, mere logic fails to explain it. "At the end the day" is not a more efficient phrase. It has the same number of syllables as "when all is said and done." I think the real reason for its rise is that it's folksier and paints a prettier picture.

I go back to the day at West Publishing when I heard an executive pronounce, "Over the next three months, we will be sunsetting this product line." Doesn't that take you back to the cabin up north, the loons cooing, the August magenta sun gently dipping behind the aspens, below the cool indigo waters...

Until you realize you're out of a job?

Jessica Simpson Would Be More Attractive If...

...she didn't have Kirk Douglas' chin.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thank God for Sitcoms

It's hard to talk about my work life lately without sounding like a whining, whiny little whiner. That might might be an indication that I'm turning into a whining, whiny little whiner. But after being in the "agency" world for 10 years now, I'd like to think I have more, not less, perspective on it.

Talking about specifics, as in any industry, sounds too "inside baseball." The only analogy I can conjur is this: Imagine if you were a pilot in Minneapolis. It used to be that someone ran up to you and said, "I need to be in New York in three hours. Can you get me there?" You would cancel the flight you were scheduled to fly, keep your grumbling to yourself and do it with a smile... even if you had to follow their exact route (though you knew a better one), and the flight was unpaid in exchange for the promise of future flights.

Now, the person running up to you is saying, "I know it usually takes 20 hours to fly to Tokyo, but I need you to get me there in eight." Expectations have gone from "aggressive" to exceeding the limits of the time/space continuum. (Why? Because we kept doing those flights to New York...)

Yesterday, I was in the middle of agency chaos. Putting aside other projects with roaring deadlines, I was trying to help save another one that had blown up earlier in the week. The deadline was Tokyo-esque. The client was well-known and a big fish. The agency founder had confidently taken the reins from the previous project manager, but now he was in the hospital after experiencing severe chest pains while playing hockey in June. One by one, as I was trying to meet the next hour's deadline to meet the "end of the day deadline" to meet the final deadline, well-meaning colleagues kept charging into my office. In the course of 90 seconds, I got:

"We just found out the licensing on the 'Little House on the Prairie' music is twice as much."

"Hey, I know you're slammed, buy we need to respond to this 20-page RFP by next Wednesday."

"Do you have a second? I need you to look at something. Right now. No, you have to get up."

"Um, we can't find stock photography to make your concept work, and we have to show something to the client in three hours."

I sat back in my chair, numb, not knowing what to do next. My cell phone rang. It was Anne. I answered it.

"I was taking the pit out of an avocado and I just cut myself really badly and I'm with James and there's blood all over the kitchen and I don't know what to do."

After this little crisis bubble, when people saw me at the office and asked what was wrong, I reverted to the universal, "I feel like I'm in a sitcom."

Thank you, sitcoms. Thank you for those thousands of hours I wasted watching you in my youth. You provided me with a handy, efficient simile yesterday that allowed me to devote a few more seconds to writing voiceover scripts on the joys of sticking portable photo pockets inside high school yearbooks. But sitcoms, you're almost dead. And I fear the day when someone younger than I has a similar experience and says, "I feel like I'm in a reality show." That level of irony would pretty much signal the End of Days.

P.S. Anne is fine, and the offending avocado is in custody in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Last One on the Bandwagon

I've never been attracted to science fiction or fantasy. I was the only one of my grade school pals that didn't read The Chronicles of Narnia. I've never read J.R.R. Tolkien, nor to this day seen any of the "Lord of The Rings" movies. Dungeons and Dragons? Fuggedaboudit. Yes, I saw and liked the original three "Star Wars" Movies, but I have only a mild and passing appreciation of "Star Trek." I seem to be one of the only people on earth who gets more excited about a new Christopher Guest movie than a new "Spiderman." (One "Spiderman" grosses more in one weekend than Guest has netted cumulatively... I'm not kidding.)

Knowing this--and knowing that Anne is the same way--I gave her copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of her birthday presents back in December. It was a perfectly passive aggressive way to attack what I had decided was close-mindedness on my part. I could no longer ignore the fact that everyone I knew--from casual readers to literary snobs--loved these stories. And how could I criticize the woman in my MFA program who flatly told me "I don't read men" while I claimed "I don't read fantasy" without ever having picked up a Potter book?

Anne reluctantly completed the journey. Her verdict: interested, but ultimately unmoved. It was well done, but she didn't have that eagerness to resume reading each night after The King was put to bed. I took the book on the plane during our April trip to Mexico and felt the same way after the first 20 pages. I didn't get back to it until maybe a month later, and then a strange thing happened: I really started to like it.

Once the action moved to Hogwarts, I really did feel as though a new world opened up. Sure, the book recycles worn cliches about witches, wizards, trolls, dragons and broomsticks. But these elements are just the cost of doing business. Everything else Rowling creates struck me as quite original. And the way in which she makes Harry a truly sympathetic character--not just when he's the "oppressed stepchild," but even as he realizes who he is--is quite brilliant. The ending was a little Dan Brown, but that's forgiveable--this is actually a cross-genre mystery, after all.

So maybe there is something to this series. I'm thinking of renting the movie. Then, depending on how I feel, I might just get the next book. If I like that, the next movie, and then. Oh God, I'm hooked...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Movie Ramblings: "Once"

It's almost ridiculous how much the indie Irish film "Once" is made to appeal to people like Anne and me. It takes place in Ireland (where I studied one year, worked one summer, and proposed to Anne atop Europe's highest cliff). The main character is a guitar-playing busker who performs on Grafton Street (where I've done the same three or four times). The female protagonist (Marketa Irglova), like Anne, plays piano (though is rather shy about it). The movie is about love or music, depending on which one you believe is the conduit for the other. Oh, and the lead male, Glen Hansard, played the guitarist Outspan Foster in "The Commitments," one of the great underrated movies of all time, which we own.

Knowing most of this before we set foot in the Uptown Theater on Saturday night, I was ready for a letdown. In the film's first 10 minutes, I grew worried. In terms of production quality, "Once" is at least one rung below normal Uptown fare--akin, I suppose, to "The Brothers McMullen," but with even lower digital quality and audio difficulties exacerbated by the Irish and Czech accents.

But the film quickly redeemed itself. Once you accepted the lower-grade production (and to some extent, acting, since both characters are musicians first, actors second)--and the fact that it's structured more like a musical, with several full-length songs sung by the characters, it was truly a beautiful film. (Trailer below.)

Glen Hansard was interested in "Once" (written and directed by his former bandmate in The Frames, John Carney) because he was tired of every Irish film being about either The Troubles or the proverbial "man who won't sell his field." "Once" is modern. It confounds Irish stereotypes by not holding a single scene in a pub or a church. Only one character smokes. Dublin is a city of Eastern European and African immigrants (Ireland also has a growing Brazilian population, which apparently has greatly improved pub fare). Even shots of the Irish Sea are kept to a minimum, which only serves to make the scene in Howth, north of Dublin, even more powerful.

The movie also confounds virtually every convention of the Hollywood romance. I won't offer any spoilers. Suffice it to say that throughout the film, music is the medium of communication and intimacy. I realized only the next morning that the movie's seemingly missing love-making scene actually occurred when Hansard taught Irglova how to play one of his songs in a music store, and by the end they were soaring into harmonies on a gorgeous Frames song called "Falling Slowly." (There are many versions of this song on YouTube, but this one is worth the horrible camera work for Hansard's spoken intro.)

Given all this, I'm not sure if I can even be objective about "Once." All I know for sure is that despite its anti-romantic sets and structure, it managed to transport me back to all of the most romantic times in my life, reminding me that I've been away from Ireland, the guitar and this film's overall passion for far too long.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ugly Uniform, Ugly Results

Sports Illustrated has posted its Top 10 Ugliest College Football Uniforms, and checking in at number nine is Notre Dame's green and gold. I hope it's not blasphemy among the Irish faithful to greet this apparent dishonor with a hearty and sincere, "Well done, SI, and thank you."

The green and gold used to be something magical. In 1977, when I was eight, I was fortunate enough to attend the now-famous ND-USC game in South Bend (a shock, because my dad usually reserved family comps for Army or Navy... perhaps it was our elderly neighbor, Clara, who took me). This game remains my fondest sports memory. After USC took the field, home fans were greeted with a strange site--a Trojan horse being pulled through the tunnel. A door at the front of the horse opened, the Notre Dame players flooded out in green-and-gold jerseys and the crowd went wild. I didn't get the Trojan Horse reference back then, but it didn't matter. Joe Montana and Ken McAfee whipped Southern Cal 49-19 in what is now commonly referred to as "The Green Jersey Game."

Since then, the green and gold has fallen on hard times. There was the loss to Colorado in the '95 Fiesta Bowl, the loss to Georgia Tech in the '99 Gator Bowl, the loss to Boston College in Ty Willingham's first season (the last game I've seen in person), and to make the circle complete, the heartbreaking loss to USC, at home, in Charlie Weis' first season... when Reggie Bush illegally (but smartly) pushed Carson Palmer... or was it Matt Leinert... over the goal line. The green and gold has thus lost 99 percent of its lustre, and I'm sorry, but the green-clad victory at home over Army last season does not a redemption make.

A plea to Weis for the 2007 season: Relegate the green-and-gold jerseys to the ash heap of history. It is no longer an innovative motivation; it is a sign of desperation--a gimmick that exposes a shocking internal lack of confidence. And as an Irish fan, especially one who attended the mystical Green Jersey Game in that national championship year, I would not like to see that wonderfully concentrated childhood memory any further diluted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Does This Work on You?

There are moments when I actually think that maybe my 22 years of education do have relevance in my work life. After all, I spend most of my time writing. I've had the opportunity to use a liberal studies background to promote a liberal studies masters program. And lately, I've been able to play a poor man's Christopher Guest and produce mockumentary videos for clients.

But then I go to cnn.com and see the banner ad above, and all my thinking about the state of 21st century communication, the graphics on the evolution of "brand" that I throw out at meetings, my careful thoughts on how to keep the high school yearbook relevant in the era of Facebook... fly into the irrelevance void, because THIS is what actually works on people.

What I don't understood--and I remember starting to feel this way sometime in the 80s when Budweiser launched its Spuds McKenzie campaign--is how I can't seem to convince a drowning man to put on a life jacket, while apparently other people can sit in a meeting with people who make 10 times their annual salaries and blow them away with, "Okay, here it is... a man and woman with really big heads!"

Wait a minute, less than $1,498 a month?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

One of Those Uncomfortable Moments


Seeing this story about the highest-paid American athletes on si.com reminded me of a moment some five or six years ago.

I was at a dinner the day before a funeral, organized by the widow, who was a co-worker of mine. The deceased's father was there, and I sat across from him. Despite the fact that the event was for his son, who had committed suicide, the father was jovial and charismatic. I liked him instantly. He had the warmth of a natural salesman (which he was), and he had that effect of making you think that he was really interested in what you had to say, even though he had just met you.

I don't remember what we talked about exactly, but at some point--knowing that the guy was an avid golfer--someone at the table brought up Tiger Woods. To my surprise, his demeanor soured a little, and he started talking about the outrageous salaries that pro athletes earn. I think I said something like, "But if teams are willing to pay that much, I guess the athletes are worth it by definition, so what are you going to do?" He scoffed and said, "Yeah, but you know who's getting all that money... the blacks."

Friday, June 1, 2007

George W. Is a Moron (and I'm Not Talking About Bush)

I usually count on guys like George Will and David Brooks to offer salient conservative points of view... you know, the ones where you can say, "You make a good argument, but I disagree" and move on. But after today's Will column, I'm starting to think he's just a pseudo-intellectual version of Sean Hannity. I'll explain the caption later, but bear with me here.

Will writes:

"Today's political argument involves perennial themes that give it more seriousness than many participants understand. The argument, like Western political philosophy generally, is about the meaning of, and the proper adjustment of the tension between, two important political goals -- freedom and equality."

Nicely written, but... what? I guess I'd always assumed that freedom and equality were interdependent, not "in tension." Can you have freedom without equality? Equality without freedom? Weird. Okay, go on...

"Today, conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome."

Sounds intellectual, but... wait a minute, here's another false choice: "equality of opportunity" vs. "equality of outcome"? Again, aren't these two things correlative, not oppositional? Can you have equality of outcome without equality of opportunity? Now I'm starting to get a little irritated. I mean, liberals "insist" on "equality of opportunity"? Well, yeah asshole, the Declaration of Independence says, "All men are created equal," not "All men are entitled to equal outcomes." I mean, by this line of thinking, a free man could look at a slave, scratch his head and say, "I just can't figure out why you didn't arrive at the same outcome as me."

Ridiculous. Assinine, in fact. What else?

"Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism's goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market's role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government."

Oh, Lordie, here we go. I thought Will was above the old "liberals love government" thing, but apparently not.

George, listen. Do you remember "The Jerk"? Yeah, I love it, too. Remember that scene where the sniper is shooting at Navin (Steve Martin) while Navin is trying to fill his gas tank? And remember how the bullets keep missing Navin and hitting the oil cans instead, and Navin says, "Wow, this guy really hates cans!" This is the type of argument you're making.

The liberals you're talking about don't love government. Instead of childishly dividing the world into "good guys" and "bad guys" (like we live in some Marvel comic book), they tend more to think of every person as capable of good and evil. They think this because it's human nature, and it's true.

On the good side, capitalism, the profit motive and the quest for money and power inspire people to work harder, innovate and make life better for everybody. They earn rewards for their efforts. This is just. On the bad side, the same forces can inspire people to cheat, kill, enslave and make life worse for everybody but themselves. This is unjust.

When there is injustice, the only force that can correct it is one that is not centered on the quest for money and power, but on the administration of justice. That manifests itself in things like, oh... court systems, law enforcement, legislative bodies, and in extreme cases, the military. These are all "government" entities. The liberals I know love justice, not the government. It's connecting with that phrase "all men are created equal" that makes them misty-eyed when they read "To Kill a Mockingbird"... not because they love that Atticus Finch works for the government.

Look, there's an easier way to distinguish between liberals and conservatives. Several studies have found that when you send out identical resumes, except that one is from "Shaniqua Johnson" and the other is from "Ashley Johnson," Ashley is about twice as likely to get an interview. A liberal looks at this fact and says, "Okay, since most people in management are white, this proves that racial inequalities still exist. That's un-American. Let's do something about it." A conservative looks at the same study and says, "Shouldn't name your daughter Shaniqua."