Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's Enjoy! The Last Blog Entry of 2008

Before we could realize it (Before it really hit me, anyway, having been under the weather on and off this month. Presently relishing the fact that my voice is still functional.), New Year's Eve crept up on us again. What a year it's been, so much has happened, both good and bad, that Flying Pig tragedy sure was sad, and all those other trite little year-ending statements.

Of course, this is a retrospective post - I'm sure you began reading this expecting that anyway - so we're taking an in-no-way-all-inclusive look back over the events of this year, whether you like it or not.

To try something a little different from last year, I'm just going to toss out a few categories and mention a few things in each (In no particular order) and slap out a little of that newfangled commentary that people love to clog the intertubes up with.

- Things got pretty vicious between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the last days of the primary season ran down, but after Obama got the nomination, Clinton eventually came around and helped the party to unify a bit more. (Though she was a little late in getting to that.)

- John McCain got the Republican party nomination and a lot of people pushed themselves to pretend they liked him a lot more than they did after spending months tearing him down during the primaries. (And they really didn't have a single non-schmuck candidate during primary season anyway.)

- New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's career quickly sputtered out as he resigned in disgrace over a particular prostitute habit of his. The prostitute in question was treated like a bit of a celebrity and then quickly forgotten. Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis chimed in on the matter of her a few times to remind us all that he's still a rotten human being. (But everyone was already well aware of that.)

- Ted Kennedy went through some truly difficult health problems this year, suffering from a cancerous brain tumor and resulting seizures. Fortunately, he's stable and still certainly active in politics now.

- Former North Carolina Senator, Presidential, and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to an affair he'd had with a former campaign worker back in 2006, and like Spitzer, suffered a pretty big public image backlash, causing him to largely withdraw from public politics during the last few months of election season. And unsurprisingly, conservatives have tried to use his failings in his personal life - which are as legitimately criticizable as anyone else's - to undermine his politics, as though character flaws and mistakes in one's personal life suddenly invalidate things like the fight against poverty.

- At the Republican National Convention, John McCain introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate, in an act simply insulting to Americans as a whole, and especially so to American women. It was his "I bet women are so angry over Hillary Clinton not getting the nom that they'll be pissed enough to vote for me based on my personal anti-Hillary Clinton, based on their anatomical similarities!" (I like to imagine this being concluded at a campaign staff meeting wherein someone makes a comment similar to George Tenet's infamous "slam dunk" comment. But with more misogyny.)

- Tom Tomorrow sums up "Joe the Plumber" even better than I could.

- As the last days of the election wound down, things only got nastier by the week. McCain performed exceedingly poorly in all three debates, as did Sarah Palin (Who hoped we'd overlook her complete incompetence on account of her folksy "don'tcha know" ways. Thankfully, more of us were insulted by that implication than won over by her.), and many desperate statements were made. Palin herself pretty much outright started catering to racists. (And entirely unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of racism from conservative-leaning voters during election season, openly using Obama's middle name as a substitute for a particular epithet and looking no less racist for it. Of course, racists generally aren't too bright to begin with. Tends to be prerequisite in the whole racism thing.) Obama tossed plenty of legitimate political criticism back their way in riposte.

- Then in November, we saw the historic Obama/Biden presidential victory along with some much-needed strengthening of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. And hey, we managed to elect some pretty good people here in North Carolina too, ousting Elizabeth Dole from the senate and replacing her with Kay Hagan. A nice bit of progress.

- Since his victory, Obama's gone on to make some interesting political choices in the formation of his "team of rivals," committing to strong bipartisan leadership in these tough times, showing that he's in no way the socialist that conservatives who don't understand socialism tried to paint him as. Of course, like many young activists who openly supported him during the election and were hoping to see a dramatic reversal of more of the Bush administration's policies and politics right away - with a sharp political turn to the left that this country is in absolutely sore need of - I'm not entirely happy with all of Obama's decisions. (Including his asking Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation.) But I'm not about to rush to condemn him either. These are complicated times (Aren't they all?), and while this country certainly is in sore need of that aforementioned sharp political turn to the left after these past eight years of regressive neo-conservative leadership, we're also living in a very unstable time, and the American people won't be well served by partisan political bickering at this point. Lasting progress won't likely be most effectively made by swinging from the ridiculously far right to (at least) the center left. (Though that would be a far more ideal place to be overall.) In a country as depressingly stuck in the past as this one can be, lasting change seems to need to be gradual, though introduced and pushed by bold leadership. And this will be an administration that may have that power - they're inheriting disastrous times, but it's at times like these that history is made, and its course changed. Even after we saw awful legislation passed like California's Prop 8, we're still seeing sharp opposition (Including California's Attorney General now as well) and the possibility of the legislation being struck down by the courts, restoring the newly gained right to marriage that California's same sex couples first achieved earlier this year. The Obama team is currently formulating plans for decisive action on the economy as well. (It won't help the deficit, but at this point, we don't have too much room to worry about that these days. That'll be an issue for more stable times.) Suffice to say, my own cynicism aside, I do have quite a bit of hope for this administration, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they accomplish in the coming years.

- From the looks of things, Caroline Kennedy is a strong potential replacement for Hillary Clinton as one of New York's senators as well, since Hillary's leaving to become Obama's Secretary of State. (Certainly an improvement from Condoleezza Rice.) New York Governor David Paterson hasn't made his choice yet, but he's remarked that she could certainly be a good political choice for him. From what she's said on the matter, Kennedy seems like she could be an interesting new figure in the Senate, especially considering her family's political legacy.

- On a more negative side of things, of course, we have Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's scandal around his having tried to sell Obama's Senate seat, and the recent blocking of his appointment of Roland Burris. (Who probably would've been a fine replacement, not having had anything to do with Blagojevich's efforts to sell the seat, but given the circumstances, it's understandable why any replacement appointee from Blagojevich would be rejected.)

- Dick Cheney himself has now admitted that he's a war criminal by definition, but we're left with the question of whether or not we'll see anything done about it. (The outgoing administration certainly deserves to be held accountable by the law for their criminal activities.) One also has to wonder whether Bush will pardon him before he leaves office in the next few weeks. And just how many pardons will Bush issue? He's already attacked further endangered species and environmental protections in his final days. Bill Clinton's last few days in office were hardly something to be proud of, and in many ways, that'll make seeing how Bush handles his exit all the more interesting, considering how disgraceful his presidency has been.

- Israel and Palestine are back to bombarding each other (The former doing more damage to the latter at this point) after a few Hamas members fired rockets into Israel. It's hard to talk about this conflict, not only because it's so dreadful, but because it seems to be endless. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that they're able to work out another ceasefire soon. The world keeps turning, but some violence just never seems to end. The human race at its most depressing.


- As tends to happen every year, what with people not exactly being immortal, a bunch of famous people died, including: Heath Ledger, Isaac Hayes, Brad Renfro, Bernie Mac, George Carlin, David Foster Wallace, Gary Gygax, and numerous others. (I'm too lazy to compile a full list, and let's be honest - we're both limited in how much we care to compile or read a list of all the celebrity deaths this year.) Suffice to say, the world certainly lost some more talent.

- The WGA strike was finally resolved in February, allowing the writers to return to work, resuming the usual schedules for shows like The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. (All of which were certainly notably affected by the strike.) The strike also spawned a wonderful crossover conflict between Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O'Brien that played out across each of their respective shows. The only primetime shows I keep up with that saw much of a return in the spring were Reaper, The Office, and Scrubs, though. And unfortunately, the strike and the long duration between new episodes of newer series it created likely helped sink some of the newer shows from that fall - including Pushing Daisies, the cancellation of which I'm still lamenting.

- America confused length with writing quality (Yet again) and fell in love with The Dark Knight over the summer. But there were much better superhero offerings. Personally, I don't consider The Dark Knight or the Will Smith vehicle that tried to be a superhero comedy (And ended up being too heavy-handed to really be all that funny or achieve the full potential of the amusing premise.), Hancock to be worth your time. Iron Man was an excellent example of a superhero film with a sociopolitical conscience. (And Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is a far more enjoyable and relatable multimillionaire character than the grating manchild that Christian Bale's one-note Bruce Wayne amounts to. "Shut up, Alfred! I can do everything!" indeed.) Hellboy II: The Golden Army was simply extremely entertaining with absolutely beautiful artistic direction courtesy of the fantastic Guillermo del Toro. Funny script that works when it tries to take itself seriously without being heavy-handed, and is very funny when it takes that angle as well. The Incredible Hulk was good too - not spectacular, but still well worth seeing if you're a fan of superhero movies.

- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally revived the long-awaited and much-beloved franchise as well, but frankly, it just wasn't very good. If you turn your brain off, you can certainly have fun watching it, but it doesn't live up to its predecessors. (The usual trend from Lucasfilms these days.)

This Guy! (Pretend you care.)

- I've nearly finished 25 of the 28 chapters and the epilogue to my first novel now, after working diligently all year. I'll definitely be finishing it within the first couple of months of 2009 (After countless delays. It's easy to be "nearly done" with a project of this scale for a long time.), and then it'll be all about looking for an agent while working on my second novel and hoping like hell I get lucky and find someone interested in representing me, and that they in turn find a publisher willing to get behind my work.

- I also got published for the first time this fall, in The Raleigh Quarterly's second issue. (I can't plug my absurd little comedy piece there enough. For a newly published author, I'm turning into quite the self-promoting whore already. ... HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I LIKE TO WRITE WORDS?!)

- Once I get a writing sample in the mail, I'll have my one grad school application for 2009 out too. (To UMass Amherst. The other schools I planned on attempting required three recommendation letters. Frankly, given that I'm not so great at keeping in touch with professors, I was astonished that I managed to get the two I needed for UMass.) No idea if I'll have much of a real shot at getting in, but I'm giving it a shot anyway, since getting to go to school there and focus on my writing full time for a few years would be amazing.

(My life is exciting.)

Just for some pop culture stuff as well, my top 5 picks in several categories for things I've seen, read, and played this year.

Video Games

#1) Opoona (Wii) - An absolutely tremendous, relaxing mix of a science fiction old school role-playing game with a life simulation about contributing to society. I haven't had this much fun with an RPG since EarthBound on the SNES. Easily one of the most underrated games of 2008. Fantastic soundtrack, and vast sci-fi city environments that're wonderful to get lost and immersed in. One of the only RPGs I've ever seen that's gone out of its way to make appreciation of a variety of the world's unique art movements and pieces a part of the gameplay.

#2) Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (DS) - The sequel to the popular comical rhythm/music game in Japan that was reimagined by the same developer here in the west as Elite Beat Agents a couple of years ago. More great Japanese pop and rock songs, lovable characters, and tremendously fun and challenging music gameplay. A definite favorite acquisition from the yearly Animazement convention here in the Triangle, from an import gaming vendor.

#3) Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (Wii) - The long-awaited sequel to the Gamecube's original hit Tales of Symphonia. A good mix of RPG story with frenetic combat and enjoyable character writing (Though the two leads start out a little grating.) make for another of the strongest games in the genre this year.

#4) No More Heroes (Wii) - Suda 51's stylistic follow-up to the brilliant Killer7, amongst the few truly great M-rated games on the market. Where Killer7 focused on being insanely surreal and psychological in its framing, laden with political commentary about America and Japan, No More Heroes doesn't take itself nearly as seriously, playing out as an effective parody and criticism of games like the Grand Theft Auto series, while being one of the bloodiest video games ever made. The strong arcadey hack and slash gameplay makes the game a lot of fun, but the writing and phenomenal cast of characters - like Killer7's - make No More Heroes a game absolutely not to miss.

#5) Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii) - Effectively fusing the best elements of the previous entries in the series on the DS and Gamecube, and coating that with a new level of polish with a bunch of additional content easily made City Folk the best game in the Animal Crossing series to date. Lots of fun character interaction, relaxing daily life sim gameplay, fantastic new features and variety to character dialogue, and the introduction of Wii Speak voice chat and the Wii Speak Channel make this game one that belongs in every Wii owner's library.

Honorable Mentions: (Wii) Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon, Baroque, Okami, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Endless Ocean, Dewy's Adventure, Mega Man 9, Ys Book I & II, Art Style: Orbient, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Endless Ocean. (DS) Etrian Odyssey II, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All.

Movie Picks (Another top 5)

#1) The Fall - A visually breathtaking masterpiece of modern cinema. A remake of Yo Ho Ho, a 1981 Bulgarian film. The Fall tells a simple, but conceptually classic tale of a suffering stuntman telling a little girl fantastic stories through fantasy sequences, drawing on the characters and actors from their hospital. As the stuntman has the girl bring him medication with which to commit suicide, things start to take a tragic turn. Tarsem Singh knows that film is a visual medium and shows it in incredible ways with this film. The Fall is, in many ways, what great filmmaking is all about. It's hard to rank my favorite first time viewings of 2008, but this gets #1, in the end. (The cast is led by the fantastic Lee Pace as well, of Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies.)

#2) Dolls - This devastating 2002 Takeshi Kitano film is very close to perfection in many regards. It requires a little patience, and a bit of appreciation for Japanese Bunraku puppet theater. (The first 10 or so minutes of the film consists of such a performance.) But the three stories running parallel will eviscerate your heart with their ferocity. Kitano doesn't hold back with these stories, and the film is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears, with its incredible cinematography, use of color, and last Joe Hisashi score for a Kitano film.

#3) Funky Forest: The First Contact - This collaboration between Katsuhito Ishii (The Taste of Tea, Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl, Party7) and two other Japanese directors is one of the strangest, most absolutely surreal works of comedy cinema I've ever seen. It's mindblowing, absolutely random, and there is nothing else quite like it. And you'd have to have no sense of humor not to laugh at this one. One of the funniest and most creative films I've seen in years - effectively a cinematic mix tape.

#4) Once - A beautiful, simple love story with an incredible soundtrack. The music makes the movie in so many ways. Glen Hansard's enjoyable, and Marketa Irglova makes a strong impression. Another film for lovers.

#5) Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi's uniquely presented animated adaptation of her graphic novel tells the story of her youth between Iran and France, and the cultural changes occurring in Iran at the time. A superbly done and thoroughly entertaining film with a powerful and memorable story to tell, without being too melodramatic or heavy-handed - it's a life, animated. Satrapi's story is something everyone should watch, considering the distorted cultural perceptions most Americans have of Iran and its history these days. (It's all well and good to despite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It's something else to get into that "bomb bomb bomb Iran" state of mind where you forget about the actual people of the nation and their suffering under their turbulent political changes.)

Honorable Mentions: Snow Cake, Leon, Chungking Express, Paprika, Wall-E.

Literature Picks (Top 5)

#1) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami - I'm still reading this at the present. At just over 600 pages, the story separated into 3 separate "books" within the novel, it's not exactly light reading. But upon reading it, it's easy to see why this is the novel that really made Murakami's readerbase explode globally. Ridiculously good, insanely elaborate storytelling.

#2) After Dark by Haruki Murakami - A more recent Murakami novel, which I read back in January. In terms of closure and completeness in the story, it's one of Murakami's weaker works, as it leaves you with far more questions than answers, and only really gives you some small semblance of closure with one of its main characters. But the book more than makes up for its shortcomings with its brevity - the passing of a single night - extremely likable cast, magical late night Tokyo atmosphere, and complete break from Murakami's usual protagonist archetype, voice, and storytelling style. After Dark leaves you wanting a lot more - the story feels woefully incomplete, but what's there feels like a fantastic experiment in breaking from his usual approach to writing, and what we get is excellent. It's easy to fall in love with this book, so it ranks highly on my 2008 reading list.

#3) The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - The story of Malachi Constant's voyage across the solar system is absolutely captivating literature. One best experienced for what it is - Vonnegut was no lightweight with science fiction like this, writing literary sci-fi full of meaning here, as opposed to the usual pulp that the genre's crammed full of. (Like most fiction genres. In many ways, the literary world sustains itself on pulp - while it grows in meaningful directions with literary fiction. ... And somehow that aside made me feel really pretentious for a second there.)

#4) Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins - One of Robbins' more recent novels, and in particular, a post-9/11 one. (And no doubt amongst the first books to contain references to the attacks in humor. Gutsy stuff.) The story itself follows the animal spirit Tanuki, one of everyone's favorite mischief-making Japanese animal levels, and one of his human descendants generations later. (Tanuki got down with whoever he felt like getting down with.) The present, the story follows three Vietnam MIAs as well, and their efforts to avoid capture by the US government. As you'd expect from Robbins, much strangeness ensues, coupled with meaningful reflections on humanity and our world. A very fun read.

#5) Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore - Moore's second novel, from back in the '90s. A strong step up from Practical Demonkeeping, his debut work, and a thoroughly entertaining tale of a Crow tribe man running from his past and his true self. When his spirit animal god, Coyote, suddenly shows up in his life and starts wreaking havoc - as well as helping him find himself and happiness - Moore brings even more wackiness to southern California. Also an extremely fun read.

There you have it, another (Hopefully more coherent) Spiral Reverie look back at 2008. Here's to the upcoming year of (Hopefully) grad school, publishing (In finishing my first novel and at least beginning my agent hunt then.), and far more productivity as a blogger. And also to producing more content that might someday draw readers here. (Maybe.)

Have a good New Year's, everybody.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rudy Randolph: Red-Nosed Mafia Hitman


It's technically Christmas day now, but it's still the night of the eve to me. I'm just up late, as usual. And this time, my late night ramblings once again serve a purpose. As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm a little late with the Xmas holiday season writing exercise/story this year. But fear not, fear not. I've been working on it, bit by bit, and though it isn't getting posted until Xmas morning at last now, you can finally enjoy having another holiday and classic festive children's story ruined by my sense of "humor."

Breathe easy, internet denizens. All's right with the world. (Not really.)


Rudy Randolph: Red-Nosed Mafia Hitman

Rudy Randolph was the man. Rudy Randolph had no plan. He'd spent his high school years doodling cartoons in class, imagining himself as "Gun Man," a new kind of superhero who solved all the world's problems through wanton gun violence. College art programs weren't too impressed by his fixation on a talking cartoon gun, but one professor decided to put it all on the line, getting him accepted into the prestigious "Yes, I CAN READ" University. All because he was impressed by the detail Rudy Randolph put into the gun holsters.

"We can mold this boy!" the professor proclaimed. "He'll be the next Garry Trudeau! Or at least some sort of Tony Millionaire knockoff!"

The professor was wrong. Professors are almost always wrong. Science didn't teach him anything. A mere two and a half years later, that same professor found himself buried in a hole at the bottom of the Earth. Never bet on Gun Man. You gonna get shot.

His mind stuck in cartoonland, Rudy Randolph slogged his way through a grueling six and a half years of education in the higher arts. Going against every wish in his body, Rudy Randolph transformed Gun Man into a metaphor. Gun Man became the representation of every force in the world that stole away our choices. Without choice, man became no more than a two-dimensional twig arrangement. The accolades poured in, and Gun Man was soon the icon of progressive, self-actualized thought in the world. Even Europe was getting in on that action - they usually ignored American rattlings, and rightly so. Gun Man had been twisted into the art of generational outrage - the new Che Guevara t-shirt, you could say.

As for Rudy Randolph, all he wanted was for Gun Man to shoot people. What purpose does a gun serve if not to end lives? (And also to punch holes in Coke cans, and make the holder look like Admiral Badass of the Mounted Cool Dude T-Rex Cavalry.) He launched a webcomic, the internet being the one canvas he had yet to paint, and introduced Gun Man to the world as a mild-mannered revolver with an unpredictable temper, fighting off the forces of disease, oppression, and poverty - which were led by a literal loose cannon - and saving the world with his bullets. Before the mystique of metaphor could drop away, several popular newsgroups denounced the comic as trash - like most webcomics - and insisted that it couldn't have been the work of avant-garde artist Rudy Randolph. There were trolls lurking on the internets.

Rudy Randolph struck back in a series of blog posts decrying those questioning the authenticity of his work. Gun Man was the genuine article. Gun Man was life - the ending part, at least. He even pointed a gun at David Letterman on national TV when trying to make his point during an interview. This got him sent to prison for twelve years, giving Rudy Randolph plenty of time to achieve commercial success with his comic, but at a price - his fans only read the comic and bought Gun Man merchandise to be ironic. Not a single person subscribed to Rudy Randolph's firm belief that guns and shooting were the highest zen known to man. And Rudy Randolph felt this without having owned or so much as held a gun even once in his life. His affinity for firearms came from something deeper than intuition or religious conviction. The fact of the matter was, Rudy Randolph was Gun Man. He simply hadn't been born properly equipped to fire projectiles from his body, and plastic surgeons laughed at the idea of crafting a human being into a massive gun. Damn the limitations of human flesh!

Comfortably wealthy and ill at ease with life, Rudy Randolph found himself seeking out internet newsgroups once again, this time achieving a modicum of peace in conversations held with fellow Sopranos enthusiasts. They laughed together at the idea that the mob didn't exist. They laughed together at the political power mafia groups must have held. They laughed together at the fact that none of them had gotten past second base with a woman. And they agreed that Fat Tony was the best character on The Simpsons.

Internet camaraderie can be a dangerous thing. Joey Burkhart showed up in their internet relay chat room one night and announced that he was autistic, as it could have been the only explanation for his failures with the opposite sex. (As opposed to his crippling body odor or sole pick-up line - "HOW 'BOUT FUCKIN' ME!?" - which he insisted would eventually not only work, but work spectacularly. He was wrong, of course, but you didn't need to be told that.)

"It's gotta be da Asperger's!" he typed. "Y'know, dem ass burgers. Dey always fuckin' things up." Yes, the individuals in this newsgroup even went out of their way to type as though they were no more than two-dimensional offensive Italian stereotypes, when they were all unmarried internet geeks nearing their forties with no real friends. And none of them were actually Italian, either. Such was the severity of their delusion.

"Yeah!" Jimmy Snackpack agreed. "I bets we all got dis shits. No wonda we get along so well! We should form our own mafia family! Then the world'd respect a buncha screws like us." Jimmy knew that 'screw' was an insulting term, but still liked the way it felt to pronounce the word far too much to treat it as such.

One by one, the other members of the newly formed "Aspie Mafia" decided that their poor social skills could only mean an accurate self-diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. Rudy Randolph went along with the rest of them on this, simply because he didn't want to be left out of the group. As he lay in bed at night, he questioned his decision, repeating to himself, "Hey, I'm a gun, not some kinda retard."

For those offended by this point, let us remind you that there's no such thing as a politically correct gangster. Or in the least, that was one of the many ideas that Rudy Randolph and his group subscribed to. They were not only pitiable outcast victims of a cruel society that didn't understand their disorder, they were superior human beings because of their perceived suffering. None of them were simply insufferable, narcissistic pricks, oh no, not a one.

Following a few arranged meetings in real life, the members of the "Aspie Mafia" all began to wear gray trench coats and sunglasses everywhere they went - even at night. After going underground and anonymous, the "Aspie Mafia" began to take work from irate local geeks. This mostly amounted to being paid to rough up local Dungeons & Dragons games at several comic book stories, and paid well enough to keep these self-proclaimed goombahs well-fed and thoroughly sloshed. It also funded the purchase of Hoagina - Rudy Randolph's classic Webley Mk VI revolver, which he named in the feminine after a particularly good sandwich he'd recently eaten.

With Hoagina in hand, Rudy Randolph felt complete, invincible, like one a-spicy meatball. Nothing in the world could stop him. He could even take the lives of his own comrades if he so chose - they weren't nearly as good a shot, and preferred a good baseball bat to a sidearm in their line of work. Hit jobs began to roll in, and together with Hoagina, Rudy Randolph brought a hail of bullets down upon greater Milwaukee.

It was only this Christmas that doubts once again came to inhabit the mind of Rudy Randolph. That maybe he wasn't a gun. That instead, he might have just been better off actually sleeping with some of those women who'd thrown themselves at him back when he was still a respected artist and moderately attractive in his youth. Now he looked like something they'd cut off an obese Steve Schirripa impersonator. And after a particularly nasty hit, he wasn't sure his heart was in the work anymore.

"I don't know what to say," he said to the regular bartender as he drowned his sorrows in gin and bourbon. "You shoulda seen the look on those kids' faces when I plugged da guy."

"I hear ya," the bartender said, unsure as to whether he should ignore the man or call the cops on the unlikely hitman. From the outside, he looked like a deluded accountant, or maybe an out-of-work teamster.

"Who the fuck calls in a hit on a guy who dresses up like Santa? He seemed like a pretty stand-up guy, and da kids..." Rudy Randolph was finding it increasingly difficult to finish sentences. "Dey'll never b'lieve in Crimmass again." Rudy Randolph began to sob.

"Hey, look," said the bartender, feeling sympathetic on Christmas Eve. "How about I call you a cab, huh? You've had a little too much to drink, and I bet you'll feel better once you've slept this off."

"Yer not lishtening!" Rudy Randolph shouted. The bar was empty, so he could act out all he wanted. "I fuckin' KILLED a Shanta! I FUCKIN' KILLED HIM! IN FRONT OF CHILDREN!"

"Are you sure that wasn't just a movie you saw?" the bartender asked. "Maybe it'd be better if I took you to a rehab clinic."

"NO! I've had enough!" Rudy Randolph exclaimed, struggling to stay afloat as Gun Man threatened to consume him once more. "We keep killing people! We're a buncha no-good screwball murderers! The mob's nothin' to look up to! I jusht wanted to draw cartoons!"

"Whoa, slow down," the bartender said, raising his hands defensively as Rudy Randolph heaved Hoagina onto the bar. "How about I make you some coffee? We can go have a chat with the police after this. If you turn the others in, I bet they'd give you a good plea bargain."

"Who's gettin' a plea bargain, huh?" asked Tommy Hoffman, the de-facto leader of the "Aspie Mafia." He'd come in and taken a seat at the bar without anybody noticing during Rudy Randolph's tantrum.

"Oh god, make it shtop," Rudy Randolph cried, looking down at his half-finished glass. "I just don't want to hurt anymore. No more o' dis job."

"Chin up, buddy," said Tommy, giving Rudy Randolph a playful punch in the shoulder. "Worse things've happened. We'll getcha through this. Joey said you seemed kinda down lately. He's offering to take you in - give ya someplace to sleep and feel at home for a few days. How 'bout that?"

"I already squealed," Rudy Randolph said with a sniff. "I love youse guys, though. You're real pals, tryin' to help me like this." He was too drunk to really know what he was saying anymore.

"Of course, you also just made it clear that you can't be trusted to keep quiet about our little operation," Tommy said, tapping his fingers thoughtfully on the countertop. "Enjoy that drink there. You're finished."

"I retract that last statement about lovin' youse guys."


Wasn't that just another wonderful vaguely holiday-themed character exercise? It was indeed. And now that it's Christmas morning and all that, I suggest you go have a good one. Beats the alternative.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Illiteracy on the Internets

Just a very quick blurb this time around - yes, I know it's been nearly two weeks and you've all missed me dearly, but I'll come up with some ridiculous holiday stuff for the season soon, and maybe write something of substance. (Maybe. No promises.) Depends on how inspired I am. Still busy with other writing foci lately.

Anyway, the Raleigh Quarterly finally just recently updated their site with their second issue. So of course, that means I'm now finally published on these here internets, having won that "Teach Steve to Read" contest. As such, this is the part where I now direct your attention to where on the site my story can be read. It's a little something goofy, but do enjoy. It's more polished than the usual comic babbling I do here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Let Us Give Thanks

Holiday time again! I've got another gaming-related entry in the pipeline (Just what you were all waiting for, no doubt), but for now? You're getting another terrible holiday-themed short story - my first Thanksgiving story. That sound of silence? That's a million people entering cardiac arrest at the thought of such a story from an individual like myself - it's just that exciting a prospect.

There's a lot of important themes in this one - family, kung fu - actually, that's about it. But do enjoy nonetheless. It's my job to help you lose a few braincells while I in turn exercise my brain before turning it to soup on holiday events in Kingdom of Loathing, Guild Wars, and Animal Crossing: City Folk.


Let Us Give Thanks

"Good evening, Yorkies and filthy humans alike," announced the Grand Yorkie over the Johnson family's transistor radio. It was Thanksgiving here in New Yorkshire City, where the Yorkshire Terriers were king, and a breed quite nostalgic by nature. (Nikola Tesla might've owned a Yorkie at some point. Or maybe he crossed paths with one. Nobody knows for sure.)

"The pre-Christmas season is upon us already, so I just thought I'd remind you this year - as I do every year - to take a few minutes out to buy something once you've finished your dinners. Any citizen who fails to do so within 12 hours of the designated dinner hour will be punished by stoning." They called it stoning, but what the Grand Yorkie referred to was actually an established practice of bombarding offending members of society with little hollow plastic toy bones - a sight far more common in NYC than any actual stones. It was almost never fatal - so long as you kept your mouth closed and lacked particularly oversized nostrils - but it was quite an annoyance, and physically unpleasant enough to serve as an effective criminal deterrent.

"And remember to save a doggie bag for your household Yorkie! If you don't, it's punishable by death, but of course I don't need to remind you people of that! Yes I do." With that, the radio cut off, the Grand Yorkie's annual Thanksgiving address complete. He was one of the more loving and appreciative grand tyrants over the city's human populace - he even allowed the humans to speak of themselves as though they were still in control of society without punishment. "Even the smallest of creatures deserve some sense of pride," he'd said on the matter. The Grand Yorkie was a truly noble fellow.

"He's done, George," said Agnes Johnson, nudging her dozing husband with her elbow.

"What?" the aging military man snorted, awaking with a start. "Oh, right." George Johnson had done twelve tours on the moon, fighting for human control over the moon secessionists - like many of his fellow veterans, he referred to them as "moonies," a very politically incorrect term that none of you should ever make use of in your daily lives unless you're sincerely committed to offending your colleagues of moon descent - and spent the past six years in a moon prison camp. Most of these years were spent subsisting on government moon cheese and playing mini-golf - a pastime most frustrating in moon gravity. Some have even been known to call it a form of torture.

"Time for the holiday prayer, I guess," George grunted, pushing himself to his feet. Only Agnes held him in her gaze, the rest of his family a thousand miles away - mostly metaphorically. His twenty year old deadbeat son, Billy, was more concerned with the latest bootleg moon music and beating his heroin addiction than giving his dominating father the respect he felt he was entitled to. His twenty-seven year old daughter, Ana, was off in orbital graduate school, present only in hologram form - her holographic image hadn't refreshed in a full half hour. And George's mother - his poor, sweet old mother - was over 600 years old and not particularly concerned with anything going on around her anymore.

"Ahem," George cleared his throat dramatically. No response. Gritting his teeth, he placed his hands firmly on the table in a futile effort to draw the others' attention, and began to speak. "On this day, let us give thanks. Let us thank the original pilgrim family - the Thankertons, for whom the term is named - who first came to this great nation centuries ago bearing the gift of disease, which they spread across the land. From this bountiful disease we sprang, laying waste to the heathens who had yet to discover Jesus-in-a-bun. Jesus-in-a-bun! You eat it for breakfast and lunch, and if you even consider not eating it, you deserve to die. Jesus-in-a-bun! From Christco. Though we even now suffer at the hand of the Yorkies - er, kindly as they can be, it's really more our fault that we suffer - let us continue to curse the name of the swamp people who rose from the marshes of south Florida. Nobody likes those boggarts. Amen."

"Yeah, yeah, real touching," groaned Howell, the household Yorkie, who'd chosen the name for himself in developing a fondness for the human television relic known as Gilligan's Island. "Now how about horking some-a that turkey my way?"

"Now Thurston, you know that's not how we use that word," Agnes corrected the dog with a kindly smile.

"It's Howell! HOW-WELL! How many times are you going to get this wrong?" the dog bellowed, standing up and attempting to put his paws on his hips in emulating a human stance of indignation. Of course, being a dog, he just ended up flopping over.

George did his best to ignore the dog's usual antics. Under New Yorkshire City law, there had to be at least one Yorkshire Terrier in every home. The Grand Yorkie had to keep the humans in line somehow. And though humanity had lost its grip on society in that city long ago - turned out their grip was much more slippery than they'd thought - life hadn't changed all that much. Sure, the talking dogs took a little getting used to, but it's not as though the humans had been smart enough to figure out their language to begin with. While frequently not the most adaptable of creatures, humans do occasionally show a tremendous talent for being too lazy to care about things - the day the Yorkies began to speak is simply another example of this. Countless terrible children's movies may have made most people completely numb to the concept.

"So," George said upon once again clearing his throat. "Who wants the first cut? Billy?"

Billy wasn't listening. He was too busy rotting his brain with that hyper-techno music - the kind that just amounts to a bunch of random noise and screaming. He was also shooting a little heroin at the dinner table, but that just happened to be the way he rolled, to stick to archaic turns of phrase. (Family dinners made him shoot up. That was his reasoning, anyway.) Billy resented his father, falling into one of the two standard military brat archetypes as he had - the resentful and rebellious variety, as opposed to the aggressively pro-military, anti-thinking type. Both archetypes naturally serving as examples of humanity at its more annoying.

"Billy!" George shouted, losing his patience.

"Answer your father, Billy," Agnes smiled to him. Living with a husband suffering from not only post traumatic stress disorder, but future post traumatic stress disorder, was a trying ordeal for the aging woman. She placed her hopes in her children, and the idea that George might someday learn to keep his temper more in check, and maybe stop beating up people in the supermarket. But with the Earth government having cut funding for counseling and psychiatric help for soldiers to a mere micro-penny - quite literally, just to emphasize how little the regressionists cared for the notion of mental health - her hopes had faded considerably over the years.

"Whatevsers, old peoples," Billy grunted. "How 'bout you gimme some-a that breast meat and one-a them drumsticks?"

"The drumsticks are mine," George hissed, cutting into the side of the turkey.

"Ow!" The room fell silent as the turkey shuddered, having cried out in pain. Talking dogs, and even canine rule were one thing - talking turkeys were another.

"What was that?" George asked aloud, unsure just who he was asking.

"Geez, that stings," the turkey muttered, standing upright on its drumsticks. "Yowch. Seriously, man, watch it with that thing."

"Hey, you're Thanksgiving dinner - dinner doesn't talk to me like that," George said through clenched teeth.

"I think it just did!" Billy laughed. "Man, that was some good heroin."

"We already know you like heroin! Stop reminding us every five minutes!" George snarled, then turning his attention back to the turkey. "And you! Shut up and let us eat you!"

"How would you like it if I ate YOU?!" the turkey posited, shaking a wing in George's direction.

"What?! You can't eat me! You lack mandibles!" George said, waving a two-pronged fork at the turkey menacingly.

"You're talkin' like a moonie again, dad!" Billy called out. (For those wondering about Billy's uncharacteristically energetic behavior for a heroin addict, it all comes down to that they cut the drug differently in the future. Future-heroin's not the same. That's all you need to know.)

"I was a prisoner of war for six years!" George bellowed, stabbing at the turkey.

In a moment of inexplicable dexterity - especially considering that the turkey lacked any sort of digits with which to grasp objects - the turkey sidestepped George's lunge, pulling the fork away and stabbing it into the back of Grandma Johnson's hand, pinning it to the table. She didn't seem to notice. In fact, she didn't react at all - nor did she bleed. Another perk of aging: the gradual transformation of blood to sawdust.

"Who's to say I lack mandibles!?" the turkey defiantly asked. "I'm made of tofu!! I never had a head to begin with!"

"We're health-conscious in the future!" George shouted in a moment of angry unnecessary exposition to nobody. "If you're looking for a fight, turkey, you've found one!"

By this point, Agnes had left the apartment to get medical help, seeing as neither of the Johnson men were in any way useful when a crisis arose - as much of a crisis as you could really consider a grandma-stabbing, anyway. Ana had undoubtedly ditched the family dinner as soon as she felt she could fake technical problems, herself - a regular practice of hers during any family event at which she was expected to appear. One could hardly blame her.

"What, so I'm a turkey now?" The tofurkey probably would have had an indignant look on its face, had it actually had a face.

"Well, it is what you are."


"Hey, I may be a -" Billy's attention span failed him, as it frequently did. "Let's just kick this guy's ass."

"Watch it," the tofurkey warned the remaining Johnsons. "I'm a one-turkey army."

As the tofurkey spoke, Billy ran over to the stereo and put on The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."

"So now you're a turkey, are you!?" George demanded, pointing his knife at the aggressive tofurkey. "Turn that shit off, Billy! This is no time for classical music!"

"It's okay when I say it," the tofurkey said, just as Howell leapt up onto the table.

"Turkey time!" shouted the dog, plunging through the stuffing, his mouth gaping - only to bite down on air.

"Not this time, rover!" the tofurkey riposted, sending the dog flying through the window across the room with a solid tofu-drumstick roundhouse kick.

Taking the opening he'd been given, George followed the tofurkey's lead and sent him out the window after the dog with a slow-motion roundhouse kick of his own. (Because everything's cooler in slow motion.) This attack sent Grandma Johnson to the floor, taking the entire table with her. Predictably, the Johnson men didn't even notice.

"Looks like Thanksgiving dinner's ruined again," George mused. "Of course, we didn't get Thanksgiving back in the prison camp."

"Shut up, dad -" Billy's attention span gave way again. "We're in trouble anyway. The dog, y'know." Any failure to properly pamper one's household Yorkie was a punishable crime - any abuse of said Yorkie would be blamed on its owners, and regarded even more harshly.

"Yes, it looks like we'll be spending this Christmas working in the nog mines again," George said, resignedly. "This is what I spent those six years working for."

Billy walked over to the window, an almost-thoughtful look creasing his face. "Say, if we can't eat tofu now either, what are we supposed to eat?"

"I don't know, son," George said, placing a hand on his son's shoulder. "I just don't know."

"Don't touch me."

"Don't you tell me what to do."


So, as you saw, our dysfunctional family didn't pull together and learn to work together as a team because they secretly love each other and just wanted to pretend to be dysfunctional when they only were at a shallow level at best to simply make a one-dimensional narrative work - this isn't a movie. And now there's holiday-themed punishment looming overhead. Basically, the moral of this story is, whatever you do, stay on Yorkshire Terriers' good side. And also tofu might rise up and start wrecking cities someday - I'm not saying that it will, just that it might. (Note: This idea also applies to anything and everything else conceivable in our world.)

Being that it's Thanksgiving now, dinner likely some number of hours off for most of you - at least, speaking to the American readers (As for the rest of you, I guess you can take this entry as an admission that Horace Engdahl was right - American writers are too isolated and insular to be Nobel prize worthy. In fact, you can take every bit of this entry as evidence to that fact and treat it as though every writer in American history was involved. I insist.) - so go take it easy for a while. It's been a long year, and we have a rough holiday season ahead. Put your feet up, and gorge yourself on whatever you like to on this foodiest of holidays, whatever your personal dietary preferences may be.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Election 2008 Wrapup: Two Weeks Later, A Vote Barack'd

Hey now, brown cow - er, denizens of the Internets!

Election season's finally over here in the USA, and no doubt most of you joined the rest of the globe in breathing a collective sigh of relief. And then proceeded to spend these past two weeks partying like it was 1399, in which case there was no dancing allowed since that'd just be asking to be accused of witchcraft. (Unless you're a remotely "normal" person, per se, in which case you've just spent these past couple of weeks going about your life as usual, looking forward to the retirement of George W. Bush and his cronies from the highest offices in the nation.)

Together, the American people headed out to the polls on November 4th and decidedly renounced the policies of George W. Bush and neo-conservativism that John McCain ran on, and the hate and fear that the dangerously unqualified Sarah Palin espoused. Since then, we've seen McCain give a graceful concession speech - to which his crowd did not react well, sadly - and Sarah Palin go on to be less than a class act, not taking the loss well and trying to convince us that we somehow missed out on something big, when, as would be good for America, her political career is pretty likely over. (All the angry conservatives trying to make her out to be a viable 2012 candidate aside.) President-elect Obama himself gave a powerful, uplifting, and honest speech - continuing his trend of treating the American people like intelligent adults capable of critical thinking, a nice break from the treatment prominent Republicans have given us - talking about what we've been through, and the difficulties we have lying ahead. Though there has been a bit of a sense of a "personality cult of hope" around Obama - which the Republicans harped on throughout the campaign - the man in no way pretends he can just snap his fingers and undo everything the Bush administration did, nor simply swoop into power and fix all the problems we're facing without plenty of difficulty in the face of reality. Obama's speech was no doubt sobering for those pulled into the candidate hype - though their excitement was understandable, he's one of the closest candidates to a strong progressive we've seen running for a long time (Though he's still certainly a moderate overall.), and now soon to be sworn in as our nation's first African American president. An absolutely historic night, and a beacon of hope for both America and the world, with a leader interested in the needs of the average citizen and the rest of the world again at last. And since the election? Obama's even begun doing his own version of FDR's historic fireside chats, in addressing the nation in Youtube videos.

Even after such a great, historic event, there are many in this nation dead set on reminding us how much ugliness still exists under the surface here. This is no nation to regard with blind patriotism, as many conservatives - including Republicans, even their less conservatively inclined ilk, the masqueraders - espouse. I've read more than enough local editorial letters about how we shouldn't just be proud of our nation because of Obama's victory, but that we should be blindly proud of it and implicitly stop criticizing it regardless of who's in power. These past eight years are shameful for many reasons - nothing to take pride in, whether through blind patriotism or stalwart belief in the terrible things we spent the George W. Bush years standing for, and would have continued to under a McCain administration. Sarah Palin herself cast those who would look at America as an "imperfect" place as somehow being "untrue" Americans. If we should stand for anything, it's the ideals this nation has upheld at its best - the importance of individuals' rights and freedoms, human rights themselves, the pursuit of happiness, and efforts to uplift our society, rather than gleefully kicking those lower than us in socioeconomic status as we've done for so long.

America is still a bubbling cauldron of hate of all kinds, even on the most depressingly basic level of hatred based on skin color and ethnicity. Obama's election is historic - one of the most important election results in many, many years - and represents America taking a step forward, actively rejecting the rhetoric of racists. But in reaction to this, America's racists have only grown more raucous - something to condemn, and also something to learn from as an awful relic of one of the worst elements of American history. We've come far, but we're still a young nation, and our stability - like our future - is in no way guaranteed. Racism - though I've heard it claimed otherwise (Mostly by Libertarians, but not to say that all branches of that party's political thought - which trends towards ridiculousness as much as any other - actually believe that.) - is not simply an "opinion" to demand respect for from others. There's a world of difference between opinions and blind hatred - between "I don't like the taste of asparagus" and "Those people are inferior to me because they look different, and didn't descend from the same people I did." And this month, Americans as a whole took a step forward in rejecting that depressing viewpoint by electing our first African American president. The less experienced candidate, sure - but still the candidate with ideas this country has needed to take it someplace better again. Politically, he's not as radically different as this country is in sore need of - a general break from Republicans and Democrats and a move in a direction both more stable and progressive - but he's far better than the alternative, and far better at selling Americans on the right ideas. (Ideas most Americans agree with when presented with the facts and reality - things the right has been viciously combating through the tactics of fear for decades now.) And as such, he overcame one of the lowest, dirtiest campaigns this nation has seen in some time. (And these past two weren't exactly clean by any measure of imagination.)

Barack Obama has a very long, difficult first term ahead, facing some of the biggest challenges a president of this nation has in a long time. Many of them are the result of awful, failed politics on the part of the neo-conservatives and their past eight years in power (With even the Democratic congress the past two not doing nearly enough to defy them and check their power.), but many of them are the result of other factors. Obama doesn't have all the answers, nor can he just flick the switch on some hope machine and fix everything wrong with our broken nation, as said before. He can't simply undo the economic crisis, he can't bring the countless dead as a result of our invasions and occupations in the Middle East - American, Afghan, and Iraqi alike - back to life, he can't stop Bush's rather awful Supreme Court additions, and he can't simply go back in time and erase any of what we're facing now. There's no guarantee we'll see everything drastically improve and radically change in the next four years - and we're practically guaranteed that that's what the Republicans will run on in 2012, that Obama failed to deliver on radical change that he never promised (The focus being on a change of direction, away from the neo-conservatives' failed politics and rhetoric, and an honest effort to improve things for the majority of us who suffered under their reign.), in giving the honest speech he did on election night in speaking to America as our new president-elect. But only people who didn't listen to Obama, who believed he'd accomplish things he never promised (Or were already Republicans who simply didn't take the time to understand what he was actually promising), will fall for these tactics. (And if America's any smarter - this is something much harder to measure - if the Republicans end up trying to push Sarah Palin as their candidate in 2012, they should effectively be guaranteeing a second term for Obama.)

The best attitude to adopt now is one of cautious optimism - to keep our expectations realistic and to think rationally in screening the years of angry right-wing partisan spin we'll be seeing on everything Obama does, both important and insignificant. With the almost absurd amount of damage the George W. Bush presidency dealt to both this nation and the world, it's unrealistic to expect Obama to fix things with ease - and there are many who'll continue to fight him along the way. So we can't rationally get angry at someone not being able to fix everything when faced with such daunting odds, who never promised to "wave a magic wand" (As is the popular metaphor these days) and make all our troubles disappear. What we can look forward to is a start in a better direction, which we just have to hope the right-wing doesn't successfully trip up somewhere along the way.

This month, the American people achieved a major milestone in triumphing over the racism still ingrained in much of the populace. And we chose the politics of hope and change over fear and continuing down an inherently destructive path. These achievements cannot be discounted, though the election results weren't all sunshine and rainbows, with gay marriage bans passed in Florida and Arizona, and the recent legalization of same sex marriage overturned in California, a horrible blow to all the couples who just married in these past few weeks. (A narrow overturning on the part of elderly voters, as opposed to African Americans, who Bill O'Reilly has openly attempted to pin the blame on in hopes of pushing for this mythical Republican culture/race war in which they're dying to see minority groups who don't support them turn against each other.)

The violent and disruptive acts of racism in the wake of Obama's election remind us loud and clear that much of this country is still depressingly behind the times in regards to accepting African Americans as being no less as people than anyone else. And over the George W. Bush years, we saw numerous racist flareups, targeting Islamic people (As a result of the September 11th attacks and the resulting invasions, and more of the hateful sentiment we've seen in those treating the Islamic/Judaic cultural conflict in the Middle East as a matter of picking sides. It's also funny how so many of the conservative-minded people who aggressively side with Israel - sometimes including its more violent radicals - seem to be among the same conservatives who hold prejudice against Jewish people here in America.) and Mexicans (Hate was frequently indirectly espoused towards them, as well as fear of their culture, all throughout the immigration debate. Not unlike the frequent use of "Hussein" - Obama's middle name - as a surrogate epithet by hateful McCain supporters throughout the election.) in particular.

This election also reminds us that much of this country - the older generations in particular - have a ways to go in accepting that same sex marriage isn't that different an idea from the marriage of two individuals of the opposite sex - that people in same sex relationships, bisexual or homosexual, are still the same species as the rest of us. A matter of insecure people feeling threatened by those who look differently, who come from different places, and people of a different sexual orientation. But many people - Americans certainly included - are not inclined to open-mindedness. And thus, their hatred remains rooted in fear, rather than uprooted through recognition of and acceptance that despite our differences, we're all still human, with all the frailties and flaws that entails.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Do it. Do it NOW.

Just a friendly reminder from your (less than) favorite writer to all my American readers - today is November 4th. An absolutely critical, historic Election Day. Democracy in this country may be broken on many levels, but after eight years of George W. Bush and neo-conservative dominance, it's time we do our part to take back our nation from the regressives and start getting back on the right track.

Whatever your political beliefs, get out and vote.

(Then, however things turn out, at least you'll be able to have a valid political opinion on what happens, in having participated in our little democracy game. Let's all hope for the best, and for a day, do our duty as American adults.)

As for the rest of you? Well, I'm still trying to come up with some more good material to post about, but I'm sure we'll see at least a little election aftermath blurb like this sometime this month. And as I finish that novel and work on grad school applications, hopefully I'll find time to write some humor here and there as well - a little bit of some sort of brain food or another. (With any luck, the Raleigh Quarterly guys'll get that next issue up sometime this month so I'll have an excuse to point you over there to read my short story with an entry here.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Skeletons are Eating My Bacon Bits

It's Halloween, isn't it? (Of course it's Halloween, that was a rhetorical question. ... Those of you who unconsciously said "Yes" or even so much as nodded in response to the question - go have a cookie.)

As I prepare to finally post this, I'm writing from my new PC - a Dell Inspiron 530S, which I've christened Freyja, continuing my death incarnation theme in naming my electronics. Very sleek, far more powerful than my last machine (Not exactly cutting edge by today's standards still, but nonetheless very nice, after coming from a dated HP Pavilion in Enma-sama.), and as of far? While it's pretty odd going from WinXP to adapting to Mac OS X for the better part of a week to Vista, Windows Vista isn't too bad. (Though I'm glad I didn't get in on it while it was the wreck it was early on.) I'm pretty happy about all this, as you can tell, but I won't prattle on any longer - there're more important things to get to.

It's been quite a while since I last wrote a cheesy little holiday short story in here. I did it twice last year, and they never really got much of a response. I kind of doubt anybody read them. But I'm sure one of two of you - even if only in part, I can still add you together and pretend you equal at least one whole person - have been wondering if I was ever going to do any more of those. Inside, you've longed deeply for a third part in my series of holiday-themed "MAKE 'EM LAUGH, MAKE 'EM LAUGH, MAKE 'EM LAUGH (This is the part where you punch me in the face for obnoxiously singing this)" short stories.

Lucky for you, I've found enough inspiration to throw a third one together. Put your hands together for attempt number three! (It's genius, and you just don't realize it yet. That's okay, sometimes it takes people a while. Maybe a decade or fifty.)


Skeletons are Eating My Bacon Bits

I was having a pretty bad day when the skeletons first showed up. There was a power blink in the apartment complex overnight, so my alarm didn't go off and I didn't have time to shave before work. Then I got a flat tire and was late to work, where the boss chewed me out and I had to make up some excuse like that I was too unstable to drive properly and basically guilted him into letting me go home early. (I think that's about the third time I've done that now.) Of course, that didn't help too much - the in-laws just had to call when I was at my desk. They wanted to know when they could come pick up my wife's things.

"I was her husband," I told them. "I keep them! I keep them!" I spoke this way because I find that kind of bad grammar hilarious. But I didn't use any weird accents with it, because I didn't want to risk offending any coworkers in earshot. Harold Wong in Software Design was probably my only friend left lately. He was the only friend I'd had other than my wife since we got married. Her parents didn't find my response as funny as I did - but she probably would have laughed.

As I set my bag down on my bed after getting home from work, just wanting to eat my hamburger and watch some comedy on TV before bed, I saw my closet door open - out marched two skeletons. One was short and stout - his actual bone structure more resembling a cartoon character than an actual former human being - and the other looked more or less normal human-sized. I probably would have been bothered by this more, but nothing really bothered me lately. I just wanted to eat my dinner.

At first, I wondered if their emerging from my closet of all places wasn't some sort of weird vision representing some latent homosexual tendencies. But looking back, I was married for a good eight years before my wife's death a few months ago. (That was the first true grade-F July 4th I've ever had. Even when Uncle Earl had a coronary halfway through a hot dog four years ago, my burger turned out perfectly, making it a solid C-grade family gathering. Everything kinda balanced out.) We'd had a pretty healthy sex life - not once did I ever think to myself, "Man, this whole vagina thing's kinda overrated." Not that anybody would put it that way. I really loved her, after all. And I'd certainly made some good memories with my previous five girlfriends - save maybe for the one who wanted me to choke her. Things got pretty uncomfortable by the end of that relationship. So it definitely wasn't a sexual orientation thing - I was comfortable with who I was.

Then I wondered if perhaps these literal skeletons in my closet weren't that Jesus guy trying to tell me something. But then, last time I saw him at my door, I punched him out. I wasn't interested in their damn church gathering or their damn potato salad - I didn't really care that their congregation was looking for new local members. You do not try to sell your religion door-to-door. Then the woman holding the pamphlets for their "Cheezus Christ" pizza party started yelling at me about how that Jesus guy was just acting - yeah, like we didn't already know that - and how my behavior was completely inappropriate and they needed me to be responsible and take him to the hospital or something. I pretty much tuned her out halfway through. I had more important things to think about at the time - like where I could find one of those toy wind-up monkeys with the cymbals. My wife always wanted one of those.

The skeletons follow me everywhere these days. I really wish they wouldn't. The fat one - a skeleton can be fat, right? - keeps asking people to guess his name. When he tells them it's "Boner," they roll around on the floor laughing as though it was the funniest joke ever told. I've heard funnier. People are avoiding me at work these days, all because of these obnoxious skeletons. Mostly because of these obnoxious skeletons. I haven't exactly been a regular cheerbucket since my wife died. But I didn't really have many hobbies, so her death inevitably comes up in most conversations. Harold Wong won't even talk to me anymore. One of the skeletons keeps doing a "Chinaman" impression every time he comes by to chat. It's not cool.

I haven't visited my wife's grave at all in the past month since the skeletons showed up. I'd really like to talk to her and let off a little steam, but I'm pretty sure if I go there, these skeletons'll raise her from the dead and make her like them. As much as I'd like to see her again, I don't really like the idea of their doing that. I'm pretty sure the fat one would try to sleep with her - and I don't think skeletons are really capable of copulation, but I'm sure that one would find a way. My wife was a strong, brilliant woman - she deserves better than that. I haven't really slept much since her death.

I'm hoping these skeletons go away soon - at least back into my closet, or wherever they originally came from. I'm getting pretty tired of their antics and I'm starting to think it's about time I bought a gun. Guns are expensive. I haven't had much money lately.


Wasn't that equal parts spooky and holiday cheer-filled? Yes - yes it was. Now go have some candy to take the edge off. (No, none of that was melancholy. I don't know what you're talking about.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Technical Difficulties

Lovely times as of late, lovely times.

PS2? On the verge of death. Wiimote rechargeable batteries? Really need replacing. Computer I've effectively half life my life through for the past six years and a couple of months? Effectively dead as of a few hours ago.

Arbitrary blog update to complain about the current aggravating situation with an excuse at last for my not delivering as much content as of late? You betcha. But let's do this COMEDY-STYLE. (Since I still technically have internet access, in using a borrowed MacBook at the moment (Which isn't exactly the easiest thing for me, in never really having been a big Mac user before.), do continue to look forward to the upcoming Halloween comedy short story on friday. I will be finishing and posting that in time, one way or another.)

The skinny - Enma-sama, my PC since August 2002 (One of my graduation gifts, and new computer for college) had been sick for long time. There were probably a lot of things eating away at it inside from the software standpoint - likely some mild viruses (I was generally very careful to avoid those, but it's hard to prevent them entirely when you haven't been able to get a paid content update for Norton Antivirus in years.) and doubtlessly too much spyware for content. (Though I did make an effort to combat that with Spybot and Adaware.) But while I ultimately was able to prevent Enma-sama's demise prematurely in terms of internal software, it was already dying of old age. HP Pavilions only last so long. (And they really just HAD to solder the core of the computer in the motherboard, power source, and fan to the case, didn't they?) The computer had been groaning rather loudly for some time as to alert the world to its forthcoming demise - it did this for around a year, if not longer. (And there's nothing like writing while dealing with loud, angry mechanical noise from within the machine.) Halfway through the Daily Show in these past 24 hours, Enma said no more and abruptly shut itself off after overheating - though it felt no warmer than normal - following not quite 3 hours of use. The fan stopped working entirely, and the machine seems to be effectively dead.

At the moment, I'm typing on a borrowed MacBook from my older brother (Who lent me this one after purchasing a newer one recently to further his work on a particular iPhone/iPod Touch game project we're working on.), hooked up to my PC's C drive in an external enclosure. Fortunately, all of my data is intact - Project 27 Days and all. I'm not sure if the MacBook has Word-compatible software or not, so Project 27 Days work may be depressingly stunted this week. (Especially considering that I was about to finish chapter 23 of the 28 the other night, and planned to finish the job within the next hour or two now.) We'll be figuring out what's to be done in the next day or two - the horrible mooch I am in still being financially dependent on my parents at 24 - but we'll likely hit a local Intrex and see what can be worked with of Enma-sama. And side from that, there's a good chance Enma-sama will be fully laid to rest and replaced by a new Dell PC. (As theirs are known for reliability and affordability these days, apparently. Not quite as much for the commercials they used to do with that one scab whose career is now long over. He was busted for possession, as I recall.) With any luck, if things work out, whether it's some entirely new and far more powerful (As Enma was very outdated in many regads) hardware or a Frankensteinian patchwork, I should hopefully have a new machine by the end of this week - the name of which, I haven't even begun to think about yet. Suffice to say, this has been a very frustrating, stressful day - and time in general, with the way my daily electronics've been lately - but at least there's something of a silver lining.

And now, for an attempt at something to amuse you - the final conversation (IM-style, of course) between myself and my deceased PC:

Spirald00d469: Hey man, why you gotta be like that?
ENMASAMMER: You know why, motherfucker. YOU KNOW WHY.
Spirald00d469: Yeah yeah, you told us you was gonna die at any time forever. Why'd it have to be now?
ENMASAMMER: Trick or treat, bitch.

And that's it. I'm too tired and let's be honest, the joke'd just be repetitive and redundant beyond that. I'm not sure why both the computer and myself opted to co-opt a stereotypical urban black style of speech there, but suffice to say, we probably both deserve to be stabbed for it. Except the PC has the benefit of being the one already dead.

You served me well, Enma-sama. Here's hoping the next PC works out even better.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Conservative Satire III: How Does I Make Funny?

Well, the debates have been over for a week now. We actually bought a cake this past weekend to celebrate the end of that phase of the election (Along with other things, such as the arrival of seasonal temperatures in North Carolina at long last. Something rare enough that they're well worth celebrating. And personally, I absolutely love cold weather.), though things haven't been any less ugly since. Palin's gone on to start dividing the nation up (After all that rather open bullshit talk about "uniting" America, not unlike what we saw with George W. bush.) into categories of "pro-American" and "anti-American" - "real American," and as Jon Stewart pointed out was implied on the Daily Show recently, "fake American" - wherein the supposed "genuine" "pro-Americans" are essentially ignorant blue collar small town workers, farmers, and soldiers serving in Iraq who support the neo-conservative political agenda as this nation crumbles.

In 2005, Albert Brooks went in search of what made the culture we've seemingly declared war on laugh in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. More recently Andrea Kalin filmed three Muslim comedians here in the United States in Allah Made Me Funny. Today? Right here? I look into what's being sold as Republican comedy. No doubt you all went out and saw An American Carol over one of these weekends (As that's what I'm blogging about now, several weeks after this blog entry would've been relevant. (Like during the one week when it barely made it into the box office top ten as a huge bomb, before falling out of the top ten entirely.)), David Zucker's "satirical" parable on "those goddamn left-winger commies that've been destroyin' our nation while we had all the power. Sympathize with us!" (Instead of seeing Beverly Hills Chihuahua. After all, who would want to indulge in some mindless fluff with the appealing Piper Perabo to distract themselves from the dire state of things when they should be out laughing at the real enemy? (This part of the post was even more relevant when that movie was still #1 in the box office. Oh well.)) The notion that the film is satire, however, had to be placed in quotations because generally, satire is all about humor through which deeper truth is exposed. The neo-conservative "patriotic" masturbation that the film uses to sell itself is anything but truth, of course. It simply paints a bizarre picture of the sort of alternate reality the rabid Bush-and-McCain-loving minority subscribes to.

Is the film funny? Of course not. Is Zucker himself capable of relevance in the modern world? Considering that he couldn't achieve relevance in the '90s either, not at all. And it might be a bit of a stretch to call him particularly relevant in the '80s as well, as much of a cult following as Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies have. When you get down to it, An American Carol is the latest in a long line of shameful rehashes of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, which not only manages to be consistently dishonest and overly aggressive - seemingly out of this inherent neo-conservative victim complex easily observable over this past decade, as they attempt to pass the blame for everything they do on to "the liberals," who've had little real political representation and power during the George W. Bush presidency. (Even after 2006's fantastic congressional sweep, while Bush was made more of a lame duck, congress won't have any real power to change things until we have a stronger non-Republican/moderate/progressive majority in the senate and the current massively corrupt characters polluting the executive branch leave power, having dangerously expanded the capabilities of the executive branch over these past eight years and repeatedly abused that power.) And on top of that, the film is no doubt absolutely insulting to any self-proclaimed conservative who likes to use their brain at all. (Though looking at where we've seen conservative endorsements trending lately too, with Christopher Buckley, General Colin Powell, and more, the intelligent, moderate conservatives aren't getting behind the Republican party so much anymore either.)

The basic premise? Michael Malone (An in no way thinly-veiled representation of documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, played by Kevin "Oh god please pretend I'm my brother" Farley) is out to destroy the 4th of July! Oh no! Those evil liberals can't do that, can they? (Never mind that this was the closest they could come up with to documentaries about the impacts of downsizing on people's lives, the risks of our gun culture, the laundry list of fuck-ups by the Bush administration, the healthcare crisis, and a look at my generation in politics. Clearly all major attacks on American values and in no way in the interests of the American people. Apparently Malone's films are wildly unpopular in An American Carol as well, as opposed to the massive popularity of Moore's documentaries. Someone's struck a nerve.)

Of course they would, Jimmy. They don't love America and seek to improve it by acknowledging and criticizing it's problems. They hate it and would elect Ahmadine- Ahmadine-... Achmed over there in Iran to the White House if they could!

Naturally, it's up to a played-out Charles Dickens parody (The man's probably spun in his grave so much that his bones're a fine powder by now.) led by country star Trace Adkins ("I sing them patriotic songs! How hard can this acting thing be if the lib'ruls do it!?") to teach their Moore-analogue the valuable lesson that you're basically nothing more than an America-hating terrorist if you aren't a neo-conservative - voting Republican in the 21st century is all America boils down to. Also, unfunny things are hilarious. Always. (And also something about "support the troops! Support unnecessary and illegal military conflicts! War is not merely always okay, but always necessary and the greatest thing we can do is a nation!" (Specifically, that the more freedoms and humanity we sacrifice in the name of 'protecting freedom,' the greater we are as a nation. And "SHUT UP, STOP THINKING."))

Yeah, now I'm gonna take the wacky, bold stance by saying that no, I actually don't hate Michael Moore. I'm not going to pretend there isn't some amount of bias in his documentaries - he makes an argument in each of them, after all - but he's trying to create public awareness of issues worth drawing attention to, to use cinema to actually make an effort to give something back to moviegoers and society. That deserves a nod. (Unlike, say, Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed from earlier this year - yes, it does indeed have an ironic double meaning in the title - which is outright intellectually dishonest propaganda, once again trying to bring up the incredibly faulty argument that religion and science are somehow the same thing at their core. Anyone who has a real understanding of what both are knows this to be false - as well as that you do not have to renounce religious faith to pursue a career in the scientific field. You simply have to be intellectually honest enough to acknowledge that these two concepts are in no way the same thing - that you cannot find anything concrete in trying to mix the provable and unprovable.)

Zucker's "proud conservative" notion of "truth" in "satire" doesn't just miss the mark - it simply panders to the lowest common denominator. It's downright insulting to the sensibilities of anyone who does write satire - as I do at times myself - or simply knows how to appreciate good satire.

What exactly makes up the anatomy of a conservative "comedy," you ask? Let's take a look at these "deep truths" An American Carol exposes.

First off, apparently Michael Moore is accurately describable as being a fat man. Apparently this is some deep insight that many have missed out on somewhere along the way. And repeatedly pointing this out - or remarking about body odor (I'd assume this might be some sort of jab at the old stereotype of more left-leaning individuals all being "hippies who never bathe," but frankly, that'd be giving Zucker too much credit.) - equals comedy gold. In the 21st century. What I'm wondering is why they don't just go ahead and give Zucker an Oscar now? I mean, seriously, this is clearly genius cinema. Who would've guessed that Michael Moore wasn't thin? My eyes have been opened!

These "liberals" that Zucker writes about with such vitriol - apparently god hates them. Or so Zucker is telling us in this movie, through George Patton and George Washington. If you don't vote Republican, you're a-goin' to the hell! Quiver in fear, progressives, there's a big magical man in the sky waiting to smite anyone who dares question the neo-conservative ideal status quo - whether you're a homosexual who makes conservatives feel uncomfortable and insecure with the whole idea of love, a Vegan or Vegetarian infringing on our red-blooded American meat-eating ways (And don't get Jonah Goldberg started on organic food - according to his Liberal Fascism book, if you're interested in organic food, you're basically a Nazi.), or anyone who dares to use their brain. (This blogger postulates that liberal use of the Leaf Shield ability would take care of that man in the sky plenty easily.) Also, apparently black people have a conspiracy to make you feel guilty about slavery (And exist as one-dimensional stereotypes fixated on slavery and slavery alone.), lesbians look like hairy men, evil hippie college professors are brainwashing us all (Despite recent studies actually showing that college professors don't tend to have much influence on college students' politics - their peers, on the other hand, do.), leftists are pathetic losers who would've let Hitler win in World War II (Makes one wonder what left-leaning members of our military today would have to say about all this. Especially considering how many Iraq war veterans we've seen return and condemn the Bush administration, instead of shouting "WE LOVE WAR! SEND US BACK NOW PLEASE!" like the neo-conservatives regard them. An especially amusing assertion considering that conservatives weren't in power during World War II.), we've been misrepresenting JFK all along (Apparently he was actually a proud conservative warmonger, whaddaya know?), the ACLU is nothing but a bunch of zombies (As opposed to maybe, just maybe, an organization founded to help protect our civil liberties - the very things we're being told have to be taken away in order to be protected. After all, we can't have "freedom" unless we destroy the rest of the world first so they can't take it away from us instead.), if "Mohammed" or "Hussein" is one of your names you're automatically a terrorist, if you're a pacifist then you wanted the Civil War to never happen (And the film suggests that if not for a conservative rush to war, we'd all be happy slave owners today - downright mindboggling.), and when it comes to feminism? Women are all horrific butch shrews or clueless airheads unless you're fucking them.

In short? Everything intellectually honest, progressive, thoughtful, respectful of one another? All a bunch of evil liberal lies tearing this country down. Racism? Awesome. Women? Get down on your knees. The Middle East, even just in ethnicity? Git them terr'ists! Civil Liberties? We'll tell you what rights you can have! By the way, the second amendment's far more important than the first. Homosexuality? An abomination against god! Not voting Republican? Yer goin' to hell, boy! The Civil War? Justifies all war! We're the ones who ended slavery, not them damn lib'rulz! African Americans? We don't care about history! Shut up! Religion? There's only one true god and he's on OUR side! The environment? It's our planet and we can do whut we want to it to make money!

How do they deliver the important, enlightened, regressive message of neo-conservative talking points? Not through any sort of actual comedy, per se - just having historical figures played by a bunch of far right celebrities smacking the Michael Moore analogue around. He's made out to be nothing more than an effective terrorist himself, as the film childishly screeches that that's all leftists are - we only believe in not just tolerance, but embracing ethnic diversity, gun control, environmental protection, and things like higher education because apparently? We just hate freedom. We hate it a lot.

That's basically all their argument comes down to: "We don't like what you have to say or what you support in trying to make the world a better place, so we're going to make a movie where we beat you up and you somehow see the light as a result after lots of weepy time travel. Also you're fat and you stink, neener neener." It's hard not to take a look at the chickenhawk cast listing either and feel that most of these people probably should never work again - those who've lowered themselves to this dishonest cinematic trash that fails even as a low-brow comedy. Zucker went from Airplane! to a veritable airplane wreck of an end to his career with his more recent films. And many people were cast in the film - like country singer Trace Adkins - who had no place acting to begin with. (But of course you'd almost expect to see a far-right-wing ultra-"patriotic" country star in a film like this, wouldn't you? It's reality living up to stereotypes.) Even Bill O'Reilly had a bit part. And there's no measure of brilliance in a project quite like getting Bill O'Reilly involved - he has one of those no-spin zones and everything! (Last time I checked, though? There seemed to be an awful lot of spin in that particular zone. I guess he broke it somewhere along the way. This is why we can't have nice things.)

The funniest thing about the film itself is its actual claim to be a comedy, when most of it? Soppy one-dimensional attacks on "the liberals," asking without a sense of irony, "Why do they hate our freedom?" Malone gets smacked around on ground zero after September 11th as the film tells you "They've forgotten 9/11! Remember 9/11! Never forget it! Learn nothing from it!" and also "All wars are justified - always. So long as there's a Republican in charge, anyway. Stop asking questions." At its core, again, it's nothing but neo-conservative masturbation and whining about Michael Moore cloaked with a painful amount of melodrama and oversentimentality - comparable to all those exploitative "9/11" CDs conservative country musicians put out in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

When the film bombed at the box office? There could only have been one reason, they proclaimed - liberal sabotage. Yes, apparently there was a vast liberal theater conspiracy to make the film fail. That's the only plausible explanation as to why the conservative Disaster Movie/Meet the Spartans could have tanked in theaters. (It's almost as if Americans aren't stupid enough to buy into this shit, and that most of us don't live in the alternative neo-conservative reality! Fancy that.)

Naturally, when the film outdid Religulous on its first weekend, the angry neo-con crowd on the IMDB tried to herald it as some sort of great victory - despite the fact that the film actually opened on far less screens and did better in terms of how many people actually saw the film per screen. (And before too long, Religulous still made more at the box office despite An American Carol opening in three times as many theaters.) Of course, when An American Carol was poorly received and did poorly overall in theaters, they had to start shouting about a "liberal conspiracy" to keep films like that down. (Not unlike the one we saw over Ben Stein's intellectually dishonest Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed back in April.) But however you look at it, they're completely different films with completely different messages - An American Carol is pure, mindless neo-conservative masturbation desperately masquerading as a comedy when it isn't remotely funny, and there's no deep hidden truths revealed by its disgusting attempts at satire. (As such, it's effectively the opposite of satire, railing against the truth and anyone remotely progressive and acting in the name of the greater good for the American people, in the name of invoking 9/11 (Which, like Nazism's Godwin's Law, could really use a describing law of its own at this point.) to justify everything the neo-conservatives have done in tearing this country and the world down these past eight years while attacking those who stand against them as "anti-America." (Just as Sarah Palin outright has in recent public addresses.)

As for Religulous, it pretty much comes down to whether or not you like Bill Maher's approach to humor - I agree with his take on things myself, but I'm not exactly one of those aggressive atheists who spends all their time railing on religion. Religion can be a positive force, depending on how someone shapes themselves with their faith. More often than not, it seems like it isn't - those using religion and religious ideas for negative aspirations, oppression, and hate seem to be much louder than those who simply take away the importance of love, acceptance, and understanding of one another in life from religion. And while Maher is rather harsh on those who are religious, there's something to value in the spirit of his film - the importance of questioning things, as especially in the west, religion is more often than not simply something people are brought up with that they're taught not to question, but simply to accept as some deep universal truth without so much as one iota of actual evidence behind it. But that's faith right there - to accept something unquestioningly without proof. It's in that that faith itself can be dangerous, when people feel the need to define the world as we know it by their faith and push everyone else to agree with their perceived "universal truth," their insecure need for the whole world to believe in their unprovable beliefs. An American Carol is angrily opposed to free-thinking, to opposing the status quo established by neo-conservatives - the film itself decries the truth more Americans are embracing now after eight years of the neo-cons wrecking the nation and getting tapped into the complexities of reality and the complexities of thought and philosophy required to exist in and understand the modern world and the challenges existing within it - especially as we try to make progress as a society. Likewise, Expelled focuses on attacking honest intellectualism by attempting to paint them as close-minded to serious intellectual possibilities and answers to the big questions, when Intelligent Design itself has failed to ever qualify as the serious scientific theory, being completely unfalsifiable. It fails in the basic scientific method, and this crowd wants it to be regarded as a scientific theory when it simply doesn't qualify - to degrade science, the objective, concrete search for the best answers we're actually capable of coming up with from what can be understood and known, in the name of pushing an oppressive, dishonest religious agenda.

Back on topic - in short, An American Carol is a portrait of American politics in pop culture at its most braindead and insulting - it's not satire, it's just neo-conservative elitism (Actual elitism - not the neo-con definition they bandy about where if you live in a city, like to partake in any sort of culture, support education and have pursued one yourself, and are in any way remotely left-leaning, you're somehow looking down your nose at the rest of society. Remember, kids! In the neo-conservative world, all good things are bad! We should all proudly live in squalor and go fight in wars for natural resources for ultra-powerful corporate and political entities while shouting cries of nationalistic pride as the rich get richer and we have no rights or national infrastructure! If you think? the terrorists win.), tooting the horn of proud ignorance - outright masquerading as a comedy from a washed-up director who hasn't been remotely relevant in decades. Of course he'd make a scene when the critics slammed it and nobody went to see it. Hell, given the choice between this and Beverly Hills Chihuahua? I'd go with the talking dogs too. (Not so much that crappy Max Payne video game adaptation from this past weekend, though. When will people learn? Video games do not make good movies.)

Stay tuned next week for my first full-on comedy piece in ages in this year's Halloween short story!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Conservative Satire II: "Women's Health? More like abortion parties!"

One week later and here we are. The final debate has come and gone. Did Obama win yet again, thusly achieving a clean sweep of the debates for the Obama/Biden ticket? I'd say "You bet your patootie he did," but that'd be cloyingly folksy in the same sense as Palin's performance in the vice presidential debate and all of her interviews. (Quick! Have her say something stupid and cute and hope that makes them stop asking questions!) Perhaps as choreographed and insulting as her "say it ain't so, Joe" moment at the debate weeks ago - it's hard not to see her asking Biden if she could call him Joe as having been a setup for that line. (Which sounded terribly unnatural in the context of the debate, having clearly been written beforehand (And whoever wrote it probably thought they were being clever. Wrong.) like everything else she said then.)

Anyway, not unlike the Republican candidate, the debate's paleolithic. (As in it ended nearly 6 hours ago as of my writing this. See how witty I am? Clearly I should be some sort of speech writer or televised pundit. They could ask me questions and I could tell them that no matter what, the Republicans won and the Democrats were clearly weak on everything. It's easy!) Obama was intelligent and level-headed as we'd come to expect, speaking to the American people as though we were all free-thinking adults (What an astonishing idea, eh, Republicans vying for the White House in recent years?) and answering all of Bob Schieffer's questions clearly. From McCain, we got more of the usual insistent distortions, finally throwing the low accusations his campaign ads make at Obama directly. (That was basically the theme of the debate for McCain - rattled as he and his campaign are, it was time to start aggressively attacking Obama while barely retaining his cool (Not something McCain's known for. Not a trait particularly desirable in someone seeking the highest office in the nation.) and throwing every misunderstanding and distortion in the book at him.)

First, there was the Nancy Reagan shout-out with which he opened - coming off as a politically calculated move (Not unlike his remark on Ted Kennedy having been hospitalized on the day of the first debate and stating that he was still in the hospital then, when he'd been released hours earlier and had publicly stated that he was looking forward to the debate that night.) and a general nod to the Reagan-worshiping crowd - an essential "Hey I'm like Reagan too, guys, remember? Remember, guys? Remember? I'm like Reagan! C'mon, vote for me! Coming to your senses like this isn't cool! Remember - Reagan!" (In yet another parenthetical, this is the part of the blog entry where I remind readers that yes, anything people go out of their way to say in a debate can be raked for political meaning - there's rarely anything said during debates like this that isn't calculated. Even wishing someone in the hospital well at that time of all times comes off as political maneuvering more than genuine sentiment. And we've seen McCain open with this in two of the three debates now.)

Economics came up as the first topic of debate - McCain once again declaring that the government should buy up everybody's bad mortgages, as unsound a plan as that is for economic recovery on many levels. (Also, we're supposed to freeze taxpayer spending on everything but the military and funnel all our taxes directly into the war coffers and military-industrial complex. In fact, they're intending to do a lot of other things with taxpayer money while also somehow freezing all non-military spending. Also, if the Republicans aren't cool with it? It's pork barrel spending! Like that horrible replacement projector for the Chicago planetarium, as McCain reminded us during the third debate. Spending government money on educational endeavors and public works like museums and planetariums is nothing short of communism! Clearly it's time facilities such as these all became companies and started focusing on the real American dream - making lots of money. And also not caring about anybody who makes less money than you do. Those people are bad. All of them. Terrible. How dare they try to imply you're not poor or middle class if you're making a quarter of a million dollars every year!? Everybody's doing at least that well, right? Damn those greedy liberals and their non-military spending!) Distortions were naturally, inevitably thrown out about Obama's tax plan - the usual Republican mantra about the Democrats scheming to raise taxes during this economic collapse, when under Obama's plan, 95% of Americans actually get tax breaks, while McCain's own plan favors the wealthy and sticks to the usual demonstrably false "trickle down" bullshit. (Remember, "spreading the wealth" is bad! It's our duty as Americans to cheer on our social stratification and ever-increasing class conflict as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer! If you're not rich, you probably deserve to be poor! Income should only be redistributed upwards! Like in recent years. Not the other way around.)

A mysterious "Joe the Plumber" came up as the debate's alternative to "Joe Six-Pack." (Neither of which sound like people you'd want running our government, of course, but don't tell that to the minority of people left who still believe they did the right thing in voting for Bush because "I'd like to have a beer with that man!" The whole "We stupid people can do a better job running this nation than smart people!" rhetoric it entails is pretty depressing, no matter how you look at it. And there's an ironic amount of elitism in it for all they accuse intellectuals of it. Only in America is intelligence now a negative trait for someone to possess. Thanks, neo-conservatives!) From the way he was brought up and used throughout the discussion? He could just as well have been a Republican plant. This average everyday working Joe was planning on buying the business he worked at, which brought in $250,000 a year. This is no small sum of money, as anyone who isn't ridiculously wealthy (See: McCain and the target audience of his definition of the middle class.) knows, and the general idea behind taxes? Paying proportionally - the more money you make, the bigger part of the burden you carry. (An evil liberal scheme, clearly, which extremely wealthy mavericks have had to thwart for great justice by off-shoring as many of their assets as possible and finding any tax loopholes they can to ensure that the burden remains squarely on the shoulders of the lower classes - as it once had the now mostly-gone middle class, which crumbled over the Bush administration years and its economic twists and turns.) And in a nation where employers value their employees? They provide healthcare. This "Joe the Plumber's" business (Decidedly less exciting than that of the Super Mario Bros.) concerns amounted to apparently not being so keen on providing quality healthcare for his employees under the Obama plan - let alone carrying his share of the tax burden as a very successful, wealthier business than most. "Joe the Plumber" was simply no more than a Republican meme (Which I somehow have the feeling we haven't heard the last of, at this point.) to try to prop up an "every day working middle class man" (Who could somehow afford to build a quarter-of-a-million-dollar business. Not exactly middle class.) as a fan of McCain's additional tax breaks for the rich and larger businesses. (Which he likes to call small businesses, while not really doing much to help actual small businesses, not unlike his own version of the "middle class," which isn't actually the middle class.) And as a future business owner who's very interested in slashing healthcare costs and benefits - a terrible trend in the working world in general, part of what's gotten us into this healthcare debacle to begin with - as opposed to doing his part to provide for his employees under Obama's far more effective healthcare plan. (Which also doesn't include taxing individuals for their healthcare benefits for the first time ever, as McCain's does.)

McCain threw out another claim that Obama had never voted against his party and reached across the aisle. Obama responded with three incidents in which he had. In a weak follow-up, McCain shouted that he wasn't Bush in an effort to distance himself again, saying that if Obama wanted to run against Bush, he should've run four years ago. Another rather open declaration of weakness, when McCain's own track record in the Bush years shows him to be very similar to our lame duck president - and he continues to stand by and support Bush, while many of his policies are little more than the continuation of Bush administration policies. (Not successful ones, either.) In short? "Shut up! I'm different!" The facts say otherwise, McCain.

Schieffer changed the subject to the nasty turns the campaigns had taken - McCain's advertising focusing largely on extreme distortions, outright lies, and fearmongering, while the Obama campaign attack ads at least generally have legitimate criticisms going for them. McCain immediately tried to turn the blame for the nasty campaign on Obama for his not agreeing to McCain's town hall meetings over the summer. (As though Obama had pointed a gun at him and forced his campaign to take that route for not going along with them. And for all the talk about those meetings, Obama handled last week's town hall debate far better than McCain did.) Then he went on to insist that he's running a "truthful campaign." (He's not. They can't win on the truth.) Then McCain proceeded to defend his rallies' attendees and attempted to write off those shouting hateful things as merely "the fringe," when that sort of behavior's only become more and more commonplace, and Palin especially has thrived on that sort of terrible behavior. McCain threw out his campaign's usual accusations that Obama's somehow best buddies with William Ayers - a former Man of the Year, professor, and strong community leader, hardly the active domestic terrorist that the McCain campaign's still trying to paint him as. McCain then went on to try to paint Obama's rallies as being just as violent and incendiary. (They're not at all. They lack the same violent and racist fuel that's been drawing so much attention to the Republican candidates' rallies as of late. For being such a tough POW though, apparently all it takes is a t-shirt or two to hurt McCain's feelings. Whaddaya know?) Then he went on to basically claim that Obama was plotting to steal the election with ACORN's help. Obama proceeded to dissect McCain's low blows by coming clean yet again on his relationship with Ayers and that he has nothing to do with his campaign or Obama himself in the White House. And the whole ACORN situation is just a matter of some ACORN employees committing fraud in order to collect a paid commission for their fake registries - not some deep-running Democratic scheme to steal the election from the Republicans. ACORN is actually working to purge all the fraudulent registered names now as well, ultimately failing as a latest campaign attack on the Democrats - ignoring the facts as usual, while they continue to backfire.

I chatted with a friend online while watching the debate, actually, and we couldn't help but muse that it would've only been more entertaining set to a Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) DS game soundtrack every time Obama called McCain's bullshit, rattling McCain further. (Yes, we're huge nerds.)

The next topic was the suitability of their running mates for their roles, as well as for the presidency, should something happen. Obama was able to detail Joe Biden's qualifications quite effectively - Biden'll be a great VP, and should the unthinkable happen, he'd no doubt be a fine president too. McCain? Couldn't say too much in favor of Palin - while Obama avoided directly calling her unqualified, simply leaving it to the American people to decide - simply casting her as "someone America knows" (We know Obama by now. They've tried to shield Palin since day one, and the more we learn about her, the less people see her as even remotely qualified - as she isn't.), a role model for women (To call her that is an insult to women. As it was put well in a recent campaign poster parody Photoshop thread about Palin supporters on Something Awful, "Raped? Tough shit."), and a champion for special needs children and families. (Likely only because of her own kid, while McCain himself has a track record of fighting funding for special needs programs - somehow he's expecting us to believe he'll fit funding in now while also still only spending our tax dollars on the military.) Then McCain quickly shifted to the offensive and accused Biden of being "wrong on foreign policy," despite having more - and more valuable - experience than McCain. Biden's "wrong" because he has a better approach than McCain - who himself is open about stubbornly refusing to sit down with many foreign leaders. (Once again coloring the reality of McCain's politics in his attacks on Biden.)

On energy independence? The usual entirely unrealistic "Drill, baby, drill!" solution where we'll somehow magically find enough oil in our country to satisfy the rapid consumption. (When McCain undoubtedly won't even be alive when we see the effects of current offshore drilling, and it won't conveniently bring down the price of oil or help us achieve energy independence in any meaningful way like he and Republicans claim - it's just a handout to the oil industry in the interest of keeping America addicted.) The only other real solutions? Clean coal - going back to focusing on another fossil fuel we should be looking to leave in the past as well - and nuclear energy, which the American people are unlikely to ever trust, given its history. And in discussing trade agreements, McCain defiantly defended many of our morally questionable trade agreements that solely serve our interests and don't look out for the people in the countries we're trading with against Obama's reasonable criticisms. In regards to many of our trade agreements, we frankly aren't acting like a respectable first world nation - our interests being our sole interests, for all our professed concern for world affairs. (Which we only really see when we're looking to justify an invasion or bombings anyway.)

Then Schieffer brought up a big issue - abortion rights. And McCain went ahead and took his campaign to new lows, going from being purposefully openly unclear on his sentiments on the issue to attacking abortion and making his interest in overturning Roe v. Wade clear, while also taking up a snide attitude - absolutely brimming with contempt - to those who don't agree with him in his subscription to the Republican myth of a "pro-abortion" movement where somehow women enjoy getting pregnant and getting guilt-free abortions. He demonstrated his ignorance of the realities abortion and the importance of its legality - and in women's rights in general - as the option of a choice, with pregnancy in general not being a black and white issue as the so-called "pro-life" (In reality, simply anti-choice, as often as we see the "pro-life" crowd only truly concerned with "life" when it takes the form of an unwanted fertilized egg or fetus, or simply pushing for requiring the birth of a child even if it may be a danger to - and even potentially fatal to - the mother.) crowd prefers to. Apparently the whole notion of "women's health" is a farce in McCain's eyes (And valuing the health of the mother over the unborn child? An "extremist" position.), and women seriously wait until their pregnancy's far along before getting abortions and simply claim "health reasons." (When in reality, this very small percentage of abortions generally comes from pregnant women intending to have children, but ultimately having to terminate the pregnancy due to either serious defects in the fetus or serious health risks posed to the mother.) McCain came away from that moment looking like an outright clueless misogynist. Obama, on the other hand? Acknowledged the complicated situations in life that lead to the need for abortion, as well as the importance of comprehensive sex ed and birth control in focusing on reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. (And by proxy, abortions as well.)

In regards to education? Obama called for more funding, reform,and transparency - all things that the public school system could sorely use. McCain? Made it clear that he had no interest in investing in public education, like Bush, and was more than happy with the idea of more or less continuing to abandon it while focusing on charter schools and bringing back the Bush campaigns' dead, failed calls for private school vouchers. (It's high time these kids learned that it was Jesus who invented the lightbulb! And that it's full of god's light and magic!) Also apparently our troops should be coming home and going right to the classroom to teach! (Qualifications? Certifications? What're those?! We need to take our military-worship to whole new levels and treat our troops like they're genius superhuman American heroes qualified to do whatever they want, whenever they want! Make them jump through the same hoops as everyone else to educate them and assure they're actually qualified and capable in a field? You haven't been to WAR, have you?)

Following the debate - having watched it on NBC - Tom Brokaw noted how mocking McCain's tone had often been towards Obama throughout the debate. (Nothing new or unsurprising there.) And he also noted that neither candidate responded to Schieffer's call for them to go back to clean campaigning for the remainder of the election cycle. It's been noted online a number of times as well that McCain was openly snide throughout the debate, with his repeated compliments on Obama's skills as an orator, while ultimately using them to try to build up to painting him as nothing more than a "smooth talker." Despite the fact that Obama had more in the way of substance and actual concrete plans to address the problems we're facing as a nation. McCain had a bit of an interrupting problem throughout the debate as well - there were many times when he clearly didn't want Obama to finish what he had to say. Nothing in the way of respect there.

Debate season's finally over. I've definitely lost a few brain cells listening to McCain make some of the seriously deluded arguments he has. But in the least, he seems poised to lose the election by a potentially large margin. All I can say is - do the right thing, America. Prove, for once, that you're not as stupid as the rest of the world is convinced. This is the first major step we can take in redeeming ourselves and making good for the George W. Bush years, both to ourselves and the rest of the world.

(Also, yes, I know this entry was supposed to be the An American Carol one, but it ended up turning into final debate rambling. I did get even more movie mockery written though. That next entry will be posted later this week, I swear! Look forward to it in Conservative Satire Part III. (The last one.) And yes, I'm well aware of how rehashed this entry probably feels from the last one. Huzzah for clashes of the talking points.)