Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And the Iggy Goes to...

After a long hiatus, the Committee on Spectacular Achievements in Profound Ignorance has located a new Iggy Award winner. Unlike the Iggies before it, this one is not being bestowed upon an individual, but rather, a website and its accompanying billboard media buy. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you globalclimatescam.com.

(But I won't link to it.)

In bestowing the award, the Committee stated the following:

* * *

"Here you have an issue that is, at heart, as non-political as they come: A threat to the way of life of the entire human race is being caused, in part or in whole, by the human race itself. This threat is, by definition, the very essence of 'preventable.' Those who study the nuances of this issue every day (as opposed to those who spend their days figuring out creative ways to skirt Do Not Call lists, invent new bank fees or deny health insurance claims) have reached an intellectual consensus not seen since the endorsement of the Theory of Gravity.

"Of the various solutions to the problem, many would have immense residual benefits for America--including cleaner air, less toxic water, and the violent castration of socialist South American dictators and Middle Eastern regimes who directly fund Islamist terrorism.

"And yet, this brave group has emerged from the shadows of pocketbook victimhood to scream, 'Yes to failing crops! Yes to droughts that lead to Sudanese genocide! Yes to funding Wahhabi Islamist training camps! Down with farmers! To hell with innovation! Fuck oxygen! Enrich the petrostates!'

"Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is ignorance."

* * *

In recognizing the new Ignofascists, the Committee took the unusual step of speculating that based on the group's apparent level of respect for science, were it to hear from 99 doctors that it had brain cancer that required immediate radiation and chemotherapy, it would instead follow the advice of the one doctor, schooled in Jamaica, who demanded years of further study.

Congratulations, globalclimatescam.com! You've proven once again the BBS Axiom of Truthfulness:

A position's factuality is inversely proportional to the amount of money at stake in stating it. In other words: The biggest dollars fund the biggest lies.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why McCain Will Win

Ever since he became the Republican nominee, I've had a feeling that John McCain will be the next U.S. president. Even as the media spends all of its attention on the two candidates whom I would support in a general election against Sen. McCain, and Obama enjoys his well-documented rock star status, I know the Dems won't win. Here are a few of the reasons why:

- They're spending too much time making fun of McCain's age. I've warned about this before. Do NOT make someone into a victim when that person actually has been a victim. John McCain doesn't control his age any more than Obama controls his race or Hillary controls her gender. And McCain spent almost six years in the Hanoi Hilton. Six years. Think about that.

- If McCain runs against Hillary (whom I still think will somehow, some way, through some set of extraordinary circumstances, seize the nomination), he will have a billion dollars wired to his campaign coffers overnight. In the proverbial blink of an eye, Republicans will be once again more united than Democrats. Remember how that felt?

- Fear will make a comeback. Personally, I would be far more fearful with a President McCain than either a President Clinton or a President Obama, and he's not the man I want answering the phone at 3 a.m. But I'm in the minority. The Republicans won't resort to blatant homophobia this time around, but they will do everything in their power to make it feel like Sept. 12, 2001, leading up to the election.

- If McCain runs against Obama, the issue won't be race, or experience, or Rev. Wright, or the war in Iraq. True, it will instantly be dubbed "McCain vs. Hussein," but more important, the true deciding factor will be that when people look at Obama, all they'll see is this:

The man has big ears. And unfortunately, the electorate cares more about that than whether we can keep atmospheric carbon levels under 500 ppm over the next 100 years.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Son Is Not Normal

My son is four. My son has invented a language he calls Zae-Zae. My son occasionally talks and sings in this language. My son is obsessed with sports. My son has filled out his March Madness brackets and is convinced that UNLV will win it all. My son recently created something called the Jumping Bowl (like the Super Bowl), which consists of him running from one end of the house to the other, naked, and jumping. My son knows which teams have the best records in the NHL and NBA, and can tell you their records. For fun, my son draws the logos of said teams, and then makes up his own teams (e.g., the San Diego Monkeys) and draws his own logos. For fun, my son also draws states and marks and writes where their capital cities are. If you ask my son to add a field goal, minus a touchdown, minus an extra point, plus a three-pointer, he will tell you that the answer is "one under zero." My son is not normal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Difference #4

This is the fourth installment in an ongoing series in which I attempt, as diplomatically as possible, to shed light on the actual differences between liberals and conservatives. For previous "Differences," see below:

Difference #1
Difference #2
Difference #3

Introducing Difference #4:

Conservatives value loyalty. Liberals value conscience.

For conservatives, values are informed by beliefs that comprise, but are not limited to, externalities: God, The Family, America, and The Market, to name the biggest.

How conservatives define these externalities is a subject worthy of its own post. But the idea of loyalty to each, as defined, is critical. To question, redefine, criticize or add nuance is, on some level, perceived as an act of disloyalty. One cannot partially believe in God. One cannot redefine the family (or marriage). One cannot question American Exceptionalism. One cannot doubt the virtues of capitalism.

The idea of loyalty to nothing external is a dangerous concept. It's what leads to anarchy. This is why conservatives often view liberals as annoying critics with no morals or ideas of their own.

Liberals, on the other hand, are more internally focused. No matter what family or country one is born into, what organization employs him or what religion he subscribes to, his only true loyalty is to his own conscience. One can belong to a particular church, but disagree with some (or even most) of its teachings... or choose not to believe in God at all. One can be an American and still protest his country's foreign policy. One can work for a company and still disagree with its practices.

The idea of loyalty to anything other than one's own conscience is a dangerous concept. It's what leads to fascism. This is why liberals often view conservatives as soldiers of blind faith.

The best illustration of this Difference is to look at how each group views the corporate whistleblower. Liberals instantly identify with people given this label, automatically assuming that they are good and brave souls acting out of personal conscience. Conservatives, on the other hand, instantly shun whistleblowers as people with an agenda or personal axe to grind who are being disloyal to the organization that signs their paychecks and supports their families... people trying to have it both ways.

Trust authority. Question authority. Seek change from within. Love it or leave it. That's the difference.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Have I Mentioned How Much I Love Ray Davies?

I've been my once-a-year Kinks/Ray Davies phase again, prompted by Davies' second solo album in the last couple of years, Working Man's Cafe.

The song from Letterman below is the obvious melodic standout on the album, which is Ray's vintage blend of sincerity, melancholy, empathetic observation and subtext-free lyrics. I realized with this release that while The Kinks are usually referred to as the lesser-known members of the British Invasion, Ray Davies the solo artist is more in the Randy Newman camp. (My only quibble with this video: Paul Shaffer is a poor sidekick substitute for Dave Davies.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Do They Want to Get Caught?


What has astounded me about the recent Cock Ness Monster story is not that it happened. (I'm shocked... SHOCKED that a man cheated on his wife... and a politician no less!) Rather, it's the stupidity of the plan.

I mean, here you have a seasoned law enforcement official... a Spit Bull, if you will. Someone who has ticked off the deepest and angriest pockets on earth (Wall Street) with access to the fiercest lawyers. Someone who knows what can be tracked and what can't. Someone who knows the penalties for transporting anything unlawful across state lines. Someone who has risen to become governor of one of America's most populous states.

Yet, despite everything at stake, he is powerless to the Nookie Fairy. We should at least expect a brilliant plan. But what do we get? A reckless tryst on the day before Valentine's Day in which the man pays to Amtrak an "escort" from New York to D.C. using bank withdrawals easily large enough to raise every flag in the magenta spectrum.

It reminded me, of course, of Bill Clinton. Here you had a guy in the world's most powerful position, enjoying a popular second term, but with powerful and deep-pocketed forces gunning from every angle. And what did he do to protect this paradise of power and influence? Carry on a lowbrow affair in the Oval Office that was guaranteed to be discovered.

Morality issues aside, are these guys just plain stupid? Why does Larry Craig play footsie in a public bathroom? Why do professional athletes have their trainers stick their keysters with HGH? In most cases, it begs the question, with this many people doing it and getting caught, how many must be doing it and getting away with it to justify the risk?

But in the case of Eliot "Phone Whore" Spitzer, another thought came to mind. In Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, psychologist Paul Ekman claims that he can tell if someone is lying based solely on their expressions. In fact, he catalogued human expression into a series of hundreds of individual and combined meta-expressions that he found to be "universal." What does Ekman remember thinking the first time he ever laid eyes on Bill Clinton, on TV, with the sound off?

"Here is a man who wants to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar... and have us love him for it anyway."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Brief Commercial Message


The Conk Creative website is now live. As they say on the interwebs, click here (and crank the speakers).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Momentum Inertia

Much has already been said and written about how the 24-hour news cycle is destroying democracy and making us all dumber. I won't tread over that familiar ground, but in the wake of Hillary Clinton's somewhat surprising performance in yesterday's Democratic primaries, one Pundinista word is now firmly lodged in my linguistic craw.

"Momentum."

Momentum is the force or speed of movement, as in "the car gained momentum going downhill." To me, it's really just a better-sounding "acceleration." It implies something gaining velocity or intensity over a period of time--something whose pattern can only be disrupted or reversed by a dramatic intervention. 

In football, momentum can shift quickly via a big play... a fumble, sack, interception or goal-line stand, to name a few. So, too, can momentum shift quickly in politics. The analogy seems simple. Hillary's victories yesterday were the metaphorical "big play." So what the hell is my problem?

I don't know. I just think there's a difference in cause and effect. In football, momentum shifts usually because one or two players make "the big play" directly. In politics, the big play depends on the actions of voters. Hillary can't sack Obama without the voters voting for her. It's their big play, not hers. She can influence the play, but she can't make it herself.

So if Obama ever had "the momentum" going into yesterday, then voters wouldn't have picked Hillary. But they did. So either Hillary was actually the one who had the momentum going into Tuesday (by definition, because she won), or there's simply no such thing as momentum. Of course, now the residents of Inner Pundistan are claiming that "Hillary has the momentum." But what if Obama wins the next two primaries?

Message to the Media-ocracy: Let's agree to stop with the momentum inertia. Voters vote. Candidates win. Candidates lose. That's what happens. It doesn't make for great television, but it's closer to the truth.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Online River Is the Worst Company in the World


NOTE: This post is optimized for search engine results.

This logo is for a company called Online River. Online River is the worst company in the world.

Two months ago, I decided to start my own business. I decided to call it Conk Creative. I thought my logo should include a "CC" in a circle. Better yet, I would get a custom "c" hole punch. I could use this hole punch to punch the CC into everything I hand to clients... business cards, presentations, even invoices. It would be my Nike swoosh. It would be cool.

I went online to buy a custom "c" hole punch. I found one at Online River. What I didn't know is that Online River is the worst company in the world.

The note with my order said that shipping takes one week... "up to four weeks for custom orders." Is a c-punch a custom order? That seemed odd. I'm sure these punches are manufactured in China, and there are probably 500 pallets of them sitting on a dock in Long Beach. Still, I waited patiently to receive my custom "c" hole punch. Because I didn't yet realize that Online River is the worst company in the world.

I waited to design my logo, because I would need to know the exact font of the "c." I waited to have my business card designed, because I would have to test the actual hole punch to determine the size of the logo. I would also need the actual punch to help determine the right thickness and quality of the paper. I couldn't have any cracking. All of this delayed the development of my website. Because I didn't yet realize that Online River is the worst company in the world.

At the four week point, I called Online River, the worst company in the world. It was after hours, so I left a message for a sales representative. Online River said it would call back. No one called.

I called during regular hours and got a man whose voice sounded exactly like NBC weekend news anchor Lester Holt. He was friendly. He took my name, zip code and phone number. I waited for him to tell me when to expect my custom "c" hole punch. Instead, he said, "I'll give this information to the lady who normally handles these things."

The Lady Who Normally Handles These Things never called me. Because Online River is the worst company in the world.

I called again and got placed into Online River (the worst company in the world)'s hold machine. I listened to classical music. I think it was Verdi. Alternating male and female voices interrupted Verdi to tell me how important my phone call was to Online River, the worst company in the world. After five minutes, the music started to sputter in and out. Then the system hung up on me. A violin is soothing. A dial tone is not.

Online River is the worst company in the world. Or, to put it differently, Online River is the world's worst company. Have you ever wondered what the worst company in the world is? I'll tell you. It's Online River.

A day later, I called Online River again. After another 10 minutes of holding, I pressed "1" to leave a message. I considered mentioning my lawyer. Someone picked up. I think it was Lester again. He asked for my name, zip code and phone number. He never asked for my tracking number. He sounded like he was sitting in a room of three people in South Jersey. Lester put me on hold. I listened to classical music. I think it was Handel. I grew excited to finally receive some information on the whereabouts of my custom "c" hole punch.

Handel went away. I went straight into someone's voicemail. A woman's voicemail. Her last name was Furio. That's close to furious. I told Ms. Furio that I was furious. I told her that I've been waiting five weeks for one custom "c" hole punch. I told her that she has $75 of my money. I told her that I've called six times just to receive a status on my order. And that I have never received a status on my order.

It occurred to me later that I should have told Ms. Furio one more thing:

That Online River is the worst company in the world.

ADDENDUM TO THIS POST: Yesterday, I received my hole punch. It only took 10 weeks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Memory

There were no cars, so as I turned onto Longfellow Avenue, I stepped straight into the middle of the street. I looked at the leafless trees and imagined them to be the exposed roots of enormous elms on the other side of the Earth, in China. I stopped to look into a puddle and considered that maybe the reflection was a parallel universe, with a parallel me. Also seventeen, but different somehow—wiser, but perhaps evil. I walked through the puddle and rippled the illusion away. But I immediately detected something different in the air. As I looked up again at the empty street, I realized that something had changed. My place in the world was no longer the same. We were no longer the same. “It” was now pulled out of me, moving one step ahead of me. The world no longer held me; it had expelled me. And now that I could see it, I realized that it was faster than I was. More complex. Elusive. I would never again feel as though I could keep up with it, understand it, trust it. It walked ahead, out of my reach, out of my vision, down the middle of the street. I would have to find a different way to stay sane.