Wednesday, February 27, 2008

When Satire Comes True

These past eight years have been many things. Were people more verbose on average, I'd say that there's nearly as many ways to describe them as there are people. Unfortunately, for many, a more eclectic vocabulary is a secret fantasy at most. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that most people's descriptions of these years would involve a copious amount of foul language. Sometimes there's no other way to fuckin' say it.

Despite how terrible these years have been for most of the country and many parts of the world - in large part due to Walker, Texas President and his corrupt administration up there in D.C. - these years have been, in many regards, comedy goldmines. (Though granted, much of said comedy is relatively depressing when you look past the funny to what we've lost and what we've become. After all, torture isn't torture anymore if we say it's not. Think of it as a carnival dunking booth, except we make sure water gets in your lungs!)

Right around the time of George W. Bush's inauguration in January 2001, The Onion wrote a satirical piece that ended up being disturbingly accurate in its humorous look forward into his presidency.

They were dead-on in regards to virtually everything Bush has gone on to accomplish as president. He undid much of the good that Bill Clinton and his administration had for this country, and outright slashed as much funding as he could from as many domestic programs as possible. (This was epitomized in his proposed 2008 budget, in which he sought to effectively freeze every domestic program he could, while attempting to funnel virtually all of our tax dollars directly from our wallets into his war chest - and through that, the military industrial complex.) Likewise, the national debt and deficit have hit new all-time highs while he's made the main theme of his presidency warfare - deceptive warfare, at that. The September 11th attacks couldn't have occurred at a worse time, with this administration in power.

In domestic programs being slashed as much as possible, health care has become a privilege for the wealthy, as medical fees having continued to be the leading cause of bankruptcy. Insurance companies continue to excel at their jobs - to take your money and pay for as little of your medical care as they can justify, if not avoid paying entirely. It's a gamble, like all insurance, and more often than not, gamblers lose. In 2007, Michael Moore released his latest progressive documentary, Sicko, which focused on our nation's health care crisis and the dire need for meaningful reform. But while many saw the documentary and felt as depressed as you naturally would in learning indepth about this issue, many others - on the right, of course - went with their usual shtick in continuing to attack Moore for raising issues they didn't want addressed to common social consciousness. And of course, Hillary Clinton's proposed major health care overhaul has been written off as the evil socialized medicine so many on the right have come to fear. Health itself is a benefit for those who can afford it, after all. Why should a nation look to take care of its people when they could be focusing on the interests of the wealthy alone instead? Even if the character of a nation is best measured by how it treats its lowest citizens.

They were almost cautiously optimistic in suggesting that Bush would only be involving us in at least one Gulf War level conflict in the first four years of his presidency. (Though they were also optimistic in not outright assuming he was going to get reelected. Way to drop the ball there, America.) Now in his final year, we're well into two Middle Eastern conflicts. First off, we have the Afghanistan conflict, which we prefer not to talk about, since it was easier to drop a lot of bombs, drive the Taliban out, pretend everything was just peachy, then move on to bombing our next target. We don't want to acknowledge the current situation there, let alone how little responsibility we took for our actions after the fact. We whet our appetites for war - and aren't even bothering to go after bin Laden anymore - and went on to our second conflict in Iraq, Bush hellbent on finishing what his father started, against all facts, logic, reason, or humanity. Evidence was manufactured, a disturbingly massive number of lies were told, bombs were dropped, and countless people - innocents and otherwise - lost their lives. Our military's seeing overall fatigue like never before, we're desperately taking anyone we can get to throw over there with a gun, and cases of heinous military violence against incidents and sexual assault against women in the military are on the rise. We've seen stories like this in the news every year since the Iraq war began, with no trend of improvement - it's getting to the point at which if you're a woman in the military, chances are nearly fifty-fifty that someone will rape or otherwise violate you. War does awful things to people - and I'd argue that the psychological conditioning the military puts soldiers through could easily be detrimental in many ways as well, in seeing free thought discouraged as often as it is - and we don't like to look at that part of the picture either. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is only becoming a more daunting issue, and one we aren't seeing addressed well either, with so many of our veterans coming back changed people whose lives simply crumble around them as a result of their experiences. Mental health care is a tremendous issue this administration has ignored. In this, his final year, Bush has continued to push to start a third war in the Middle East with Iran - remember, diplomacy is for pussies - while Republican frontrunner John McCain has pushed to keep us in Iraq for, to paraphrase, "as long as it takes, even if that means another 100 years." We as a nation continue to overglorify and expand our military to a dangerous, frightening degree - we're seeing the backlash of an obsessive militaristic and paranoid culture, and demonstrating to the rest of the world that if there is a truly dangerous, unstable nation on this Earth, it is America. Whoever replaces Bush in the White House, whether Hillary or now more likely Obama, has their work cut out for them and then some, in working to repair the decades' worth of damage the Bush administration has done to this country and the world. With McCain, we wouldn't be seeing that - merely finally recognizing waterboarding as torture doesn't cut it.

Economically, all Bush did was give the richest of the rich tax cuts - increasing the tax burden on the rest of us - and watch as the economy collapsed into a recession. Eventually, the economy "corrected" itself, as those soulless buzzword-spouting TV economists'd probably put it, and we saw a "jobless recovery," as they put it. Of course, to most of us, this is scarcely a recovery at all, as the job market continued to remain terrible as more and more desirable jobs continued to be outsourced to save money - remember, corporate profits and big executive salaries are American values - and the only jobs we'd see created were more minimum wage jobs that didn't allow people much breathing room to go anywhere or accomplish anything in their lives, trapping and crushing them as many jobs do in today's modern world. (And it wasn't until after the Democrats took Congress back in November 2006 that we finally passed our first minimum wage increase in many years, which we were long overdue for. Even now, the new minimum wage could still stand another raise or two to truly reach living wage level again. People aren't worker drones, after all - we need money to survive.) And if you suggest the tax cuts shouldn't be made permanent - trickle down Reaganomics! They've never worked before, but if we pretend they do, it's okay! - you'd be looked at by the staunch Bushies as though you were just caught making out with Osama bin Laden on a street corner in San Francisco while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt and also happened to be an atheist. With the housing bubble having burst, the average American is in even more frighteningly awful economic shape than in decades, and the dollar continues to fall through the floor. All the while, what little "stimulus" the administration offers doesn't help the people at the bottom who really need it. Their economic policy? When all else fails, give the rich a little more. They just skip the "all else" part.

They were dead-on in regards to Bush's environmental policies as well, passing deceptively named legislation to loosen regulation on emissions and allow companies and factories to pollute more - after all, spending money on cleaning up your production methods and factories and seeking environmentally friendly approaches to things might hurt their bottom line a little. That money is far more important than the health of our planet. And oil drilling was a fairly big issue right out the door - wildlife be damned! There's oil in them thar refuges!

We've seen the mandated separation of church and state eroded even further as Bush pushed his "faith-based initiatives" with American tax dollars that would've been better used in more secular, widely beneficial measures. And he scared pretty much all of us capable of thinking for ourselves when he started claiming that god talks to him. When did we elect David Berkowitz!? And though he has little chance of getting the nomination, we get to enjoy candidates like Mike Huckabee so far on the religious right that he's hellbent on changing the very fabric of American law by striking down the separation of church and state and amending the Constitution "to god's law." Apparently, we're supposed to be some kind of Pat Robertson nation.

In the end, Bush has dealt an undeniable critical blow to American democracy - something which many will never be able to reconcile with, as of his coming in through a stolen, dirty election on day one. And that wasn't even the tip of the iceberg, in the end.

It's fun to look back at this article and laugh, and to laugh at shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report on a regular basis. But underneath the humor lies a tremendous amount of depressing damage this man and his cronies have inflicted upon America and the world.

In the very least, we haven't seen the Roe v. Wade overturning yet that they predicted, and let's keep our fingers crossed that they won't. Women have taken more than enough suffering from this administration as is, their rights and progress certainly not being something they even considered. And we've seen the anti-abortion crazies empowered to especially visible and vocal levels in these troubling times. If we turn the clock back on our society much further, it may yet simply break.

... Man, this one was kind of a downer.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let's Informing!

We're almost to the end of February already. Time flies, does it not? (I don't see what having fun has to do with it. Why would anybody say that?)

Suffice to say, I'm busy as ever. The grad school application process is stressful, particularly when looking for Creative Writing MFA programs that haven't passed their admissions deadlines yet. This is what comes of spending the latter half of 2007 focused on finally graduating, rather than hammering away at grad school applications. Nose to the grindstone - soon to look hilarious or disfigured - possibly both. I'm not sure how many schools would offer January admissions either, frankly. But at this rate, I'm going to have to play the realist soon and face the likelihood of not escaping from here until 2009 already. Not a pleasant feeling, considering that my two main goals for 2008 have been to get out of here for grad school and to get my first novel published. At the rate I'm going, not even a quarter of the way into the year, I'm going to likely have to give up on the former already and see what I have a chance at next year - which I hope like hell doesn't mean not starting grad school till August 2009. I feel like a basket case even thinking about staying down here in the south that much longer, trapped as I'm used to feeling. And knowing my luck, I may not be able to accomplish the latter this year either, hellbent as I am on pulling it off, I have to be a realist at the same time. Just thinking about it is disheartening, and deeply depressing, the year already feeling like it could be a complete bust at the rate it's going. I'm certainly not holding my breath that this book'll somehow kill the unrequited part of my whole unrequited love situation anyway. I've never had that kind of luck. But enough of my personal prattling.

My life is lonely and depressing, and I'm just one man - at least, I was the last time I counted. In the grand scheme of things, like most, my existence is insignificant. But out there in the rest of the world? Big News is happening. Being your resident Internet Snarkmeister, it's my job to inform you of what's happened in recent weeks, and happening now - you know, in case you forgot. You do stay on top of the news, don't you?

Just a few days ago now, Fidel Castro stepped down as president of Cuba, ending many decades of rule by one of the few dictators in the world notably deserving of one particular point of praise - he had a legendary beard. Was it forged in the fires of Mt. Doom? Or perhaps bestowed upon him by some lady from some lake? We may never know. He's handed off power to his brother, Raul Castro, to effectively continue his policies and legacy, with all the good and bad they entail for the Cuban people. Though for a few minutes, Americans got their hopes up as Bush said he hoped Castro's retirement would lead to free and fair elections for the Cuban people. (An ironic statement both from Bush, and in Cuba's relatively close proximity to Florida, where Bush historically stole the 2000 election.) Will Raul live up to his brother's epic facial hair? Probably not. Will American foreign policy be given a more open-minded approach so that we may finally end this trade embargo - which failed to cripple the country like we hoped, and has only hurt the people, making us look like real asses again - and work with the Cuban people again? Probably not. Will we even stop trying to paint Cuba as a destitute hellhole when the rest of the world gives them some modicum of national dignity in the least? Probably not. Presto change-o, everything's the same.

Skylab Part II: Gone Hollywood
We all remember when everyone was afraid of being hit by falling chunks of Skylab back in the 1980s, right? Right. Let's pretend I'm not too young to remember that. In fact, let's say I was flattened by a piece of it - a space toilet or something. I need to be able to blame the bad jokes I make in here on something. Anyway, a US spy satellite - because we know that nothing improves foreign relations quite like openly spying on them, the voyeuristic nation we are - recently began a similar descent. And it carried a toxic fuel. (I can smell the Michael Bay movie deal already.) Naturally, we're now prepared for situations like this thanks to modern Hollywood "masterpieces" like Armageddon and Deep Impact, which told us deeply inspirational and valuable tales of going into space to solve all our problems through the use of explosives. Taking the all-important cue, Bush had the Navy shoot down said satellite with a missile. The debris hasn't landed yet, though it's been since confirmed to be a successful hit. But we all know that whenever that missile was fired, someone uttered a bad one-liner. This is something that should fill us all with a deep sense of national shame. Especially seeing as we don't really know whether blowing it up will prevent anyone from being hurt or killed anyway. But if we didn't blow that up, in proper American manner, we'd be looking for something else to blow up instead. (Probably the moon.) Without our explosions, we're nothing. As we are after our explosions. From nothing to nothing. So goes the American journey.

Those Independence Blues
Also just days ago, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. America has recognized their legitimacy as an independent nation, and is now dealing with the blowback from our support, including the torching of the US embassy in Belgrade. Serbia is opposing this move, while not threatening to use military force - Russia, on the other hand, is willing to use force if that's what it takes. Bosnia has said they would declare their independence as well, if Kosovo managed to pull this off. And this whole situation raises even further questions in regards to Palestine, Tibet, and Quebec. At this point, it's impossible to say what will happen and what would be the best outcome in the end - as world politics, especially in seeking the birth of new nations, are never a simple issue - but it's safe to say that this new imbroglio may be enough to successfully keep the Bush administration from lying their way into war with Iran, as they've been pushing for in the last year, just to leave the next administration with an even more daunting shitstorm on their hands, to put it eloquently as possible when it comes to war.

Strike While the Jokes are Stale!
On February 13th, the Writer's Guild of America finally ended their near three and a half month strike, upon reaching a deal with the companies. It wasn't exactly a 100% successful strike for labor activists to cheer on - writers still aren't getting a scaled cut of the profits on online content, though they will be given a nice sum for having their work used online, at least - but they didn't come away empty-handed either. And in the end, strikes tend to largely be a matter of compromise anyway, so it certainly didn't end in failure. Of course, many shows - like Heroes, Chuck, and Pushing Daisies - won't be back until this fall now. And it's hard to say if the Scrubs series finale will even get aired on NBC now, rather than simply going straight to DVD and syndication later this year. A shame, if that's the case. But now that the studios and companies are back to cracking the whip, it'll be interesting to observe the repercussions of the strike for the remainder of the year.

There's Nothing Funny About This One
So, how 'bout that US military, huh? Everyone serving in the military sure is a great military hero, am I right? In fact, donning that uniform makes you a better person than everybody else by default, and there's nothing unhealthy about the way we obsess over glorifying our crazy militarization in this country. The true heart of the US industry belongs - and should always lie - in the military industrial complex. Make love, not war, you say? What are you, some kinda commie? Yeah, there's no denying that I'm not a part of this national love affair we've been having with the military, soldiers, and warfare. We love to excessively glorify it all when we haven't taken part in a single war where we're strongly identifiable as the "good guys" since World War II, when we certainly committed our fair share of atrocities back then too. Our hands aren't clean. But rather than own up to our own mistakes - maybe even learning from them as so not to repeat them - we like to look back and whitewash our past. We were great heroes! Ignore what we did to Japan, the brutality of the firebombing and the longstanding cultural damage rooted in the nuclear bombs. Ignore Dresden too! We could've won in Vietnam - even though it wasn't our war to get involved in to begin with - if we'd just kept killing farmers and bombing Cambodia! There's nothing we can't solve with enough firepower! Yes, my problems with the military and our culture's happy obsession with it are numerous. But this time, I'm focusing on another simple story. We keep fucking up in Okinawa. For all the discipline we're supposed to be training our soldiers to have (And yes, it was a marine in this case, but it's more fun to refer to all who serve in the military as soldiers - which technically isn't inaccurate - since no amount of discipline keeps some people from getting snippy and self-righteous about which branch they serve in. Of course, this isn't all soldiers. Openly anti-military as I am, I don't think for a second that they're all awful people or anything of the sort - it's as far from black and white a matter as anything else.), we can't seem to stop causing trouble in Okinawa. We've watched our soldiers go to prison before for raping local girls - and in this case, it looks like yet another rape has occurred. I've got nothing but sympathy for the poor girl, her family, and the people of Okinawa in general. Looking back in the news, there's always been one string of troubling incidents after the next happening there over the decades, with some of our guys at the center. (And in this day and age, this shouldn't be overly surprising, considering the disturbingly high rate of incidence of sexual abuse our enlisted women experience these days. You'd think all the discipline of the military could stand to include respecting women by now.) In many regards though, it ultimately raises the question of how much longer the Japanese people are going to put up with this. Our relations with them tend to vary, and decades of incidents like these sure as hell aren't helping.

Not-So-Hip to be Conservative
To conclude on a more humorous note, with both parties narrowing their options, their frontrunners clear, the Republicans are facing particular difficulties in getting even basic support in widespread culture - making it further apparent that after 8 years of Bush, they don't really have a shot in hell in November, short of a rigged election. Previously, John "We'll stay in Iraq another 100 years if we have to!" McCain had been playing John Mellencamp's "Our Country" as his campaign song. Mellencamp, like most of America, is nowhere near on the same page as McCain politically, and had him stop using his song. Meanwhile, Mike "I will amend the Constitution to god's law" Huckabee has faced criticism from the Boston band leader for performing "More Than a Feeling" without permission. Ever the self-righteous ass, Huckabee has gone on to claim that he's helped Boston's record sales. (Which is a questionable statement at best - everyone knows that Huckabee's fundamentalist support base rejects anything even remotely melodic as the work of Beelzebub.) Then going back to McCain, he's not even hip enough to get ABBA on his side. (And he apparently had some trouble with the Rocky soundtrack as well.) In the end, if there's anything to be taken away from this, it's probably that if a musician or group has talent, it'd be a cold day in hell before they'd support the Republican party. ... So, I guess this means we can look forward to future campaigns with a John Ashcroft "Let the Eagle Soar" theme, huh?

Feeling more informed? What do you mean you're worried you have a brain tumor now?



That growth looks benign. I don't care if it has a face and it's punctuating our exchange with amazing wisecracks. This was a good entry, dammit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water, Water Nowhere, Still Not a Drop to Drink

Looks like that teeth-rotting lovey-dovey part of February's behind us now. Whew. "Eff that," even, as people too lazy to pronounce entire curse words might say. "Eff that in the em-effin' ey." Those people are weird.

I'll have some longer ramblings for you later this week - just as you've all no doubt been dying for more of - but today? Environment talk and another meme! Put down that baseball bat - you're thrilled, damn it.

I wrote about this last fall, but I figured I'd post an update, just so we can all bask in the glory of what continued climate change is doing to the American southeast. (Unless you're surrounded by water like Florida. I'll get you yet, Florida, you and your awesome manatees.)

To recap, for a long time, we've been caught in this ongoing cycle - every summer we enter drought conditions, and every autumn, we get enough rain to take care of that and leave us in comfortable condition, in regards to our water resources. As of 2007, this is no longer the case. We had a much worse summer than usual, with minimal rain. By the end, we were facing one of the worst droughts in a long time - and certainly the worst we've seen in the 13+ years we've lived here. We saw little rain over the fall, and winter hasn't changed that either. The situation? It is not looking so good.

Last fall, the state began passing restrictions on water use and emphasizing that each and every one of us should begin doing what we can to conserve. In following their instructions, my family and I became much more conscious of our water use, taking shorter showers, making sure to never leave water running, and so forth. We successfully lowered our water bill a decent bit. The majority of North Carolinians? They ignored the governor and continued to use water as though we weren't going through anything out of the ordinary. A-hyuck, if this here faucet-thinger still works, there must not be a prob'lem! Gub'mint's just tryin' to screw with us again! (Because yes, we're all backwater hicks. I'm simply an exception from the north, living in their midst and learning their ways. Sort of like a male Jane Goodall. Except stupid enough to rely on bad southern stereotypes for this routine when redneck jokes have never been funny.)

The wealthy, as mentioned in the past, continue to see watering their precious immaculate green lawns (Covered with lots of all-important pesticides to ensure that everyone knows how superior they are by the quantity of dead squirrels around their property.) as a guaranteed right, rather than the superficial bullshit it is. They haven't helped the water issue at all. And with few taking the situation seriously, we've had to curb our water usage even more.

As you can imagine, this includes some fairly unsavory sacrifices. Like no longer flushing the toilet as often. That's not exactly a pleasant sacrifice to make. We're also going to be placing one-liter plastic bottles in the back compartments of all our toilets to reduce water usage when flushing by close to that one liter, at least, which should help a smidgen. And in using the dishwasher even less, we've switched to using paper plates more often so we can simply toss them, while doing what dishes we need to in the sink. All inconvenient, but ultimately decent ways to reduce water use.

The question, however, still remains - will North Carolinians wake up to what we're dealing with before it's too late? At the rate things are going, we're going to end up in a state of emergency by early-mid summer unless people start conserving water more and we get some real rain in the coming months. Will it take losing our drinking water and the ability to practice regular, proper hygiene for people to open their eyes? I sure as hell hope not. Proper hydration, cleanliness, and clean teeth are not things I'd like to see become rare privileges. And I sure as hell don't see this administration doing much if and when we end up in a state of emergency here. They've sat on their hands and claimed they were helping while doing little when worse has occurred, after all, Hurricane Katrina in particular coming to mind, while the right likes to blindly sit back and say that New Orleans has made a full recovery, when in reality, no matter how you look at it, it hasn't. And at the rate things are going, it'll never be the same city it once was again.

This whole situation makes me hope all the more that I manage to make it into one of the grad schools I'm applying to - for either this August or next January - the sooner I can get up north and into an area where water is more plentiful again, the better.

With that thoroughly rambled about, onward to part two! Hye tagged me with this "Rules of Four" meme, so in the interest of helping you to Get to Know Your Blogger better, in pretending you're actually interested, here's my responses:

4 Jobs I have had:
Technically, I haven't had an actual paying job yet - and yes, I do realize how sad that is when I'm turning 24 in a couple of months. Granted, I am a "Blogger," with these eccentric ramblings of mine, or whatever they're worth, and I do have a minimum of advertising I'm not expecting to ever really make any money on in the end, but still, blogging is something, experience-wise. I also work as a reviewer over at Anime Dream, a geeky Japanese animation news and review site I've been a part of since summer 2002, though I haven't done much work there in a while. We take things at our own pace though, and I've got more stuff coming in the pipeline there yet. I also spent 7 months last year working as a Teaching Assistant at the North Carolina State University Japan Center, pretty much from as soon as I got home from my final semester of courses at Charlotte in May until a couple of weeks before Xmas. It wasn't for pay, but to fulfill some international experience requirements for graduation, and it was a worthwhile experience, meeting a lot of interesting people and getting to assist in low level Japanese language instruction. That's three, anyway. I don't have anything I can really put down as a 4th yet, but if I'm lucky, I'll be a published novelist by the end of 2008, so that should hopefully take care of that.

4 Movies I watched over and over:
There's a number of movies that qualify for this. The most frequent four though are definitely Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Last Life in the Universe. All wonderful movies, all highly recommended.

4 Shows I watch:
I watch a lot of shows, so these are tough picks. Going with two of my favorites in primetime, I'd have to say Pushing Daisies and Chuck. (Though The Office is way up there too.) And going with two of the three shows I watch nearly daily, The Daily Show and Colbert Report. (Though I watch Late Night with Conan O'Brien all the time too. The fake feud the three hosts orchestrated a little while back as an opportunity to kill time on all three of their shows before the strike ended last week was pretty hilarious.)

4 Places I have been:
I haven't been outside of the USA yet, so nowhere foreign, but I've been all over the east coast. I went to New York City on a 6th grade string orchestra trip back in the mid-'90s, and have wanted to return ever since. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland - though we left shortly afterwards - and back in summer 2002, after graduating from high school, I went on a weekend "returning to roots" trip of sorts up there with my father, and really enjoyed that city too. Definitely far more my kind of place than the south. Because I've had a lot of family down there, we used to go to Tampa, Florida every summer when I was a kid, so I've spent a good time in that part of the country. Florida's nice, but way too hot for my tastes. Fun to visit, but I couldn't live there. And that pretty much does it for vacation places, but I did spend the first decade of my life growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I still consider that to be my hometown, despite having lived in the south longer - this just isn't my place. (And if that doesn't count, I also went to Indianapolis, Indiana for an aunt's wedding when I was pretty young, though I don't remember much about it.)

4 People who email me:
I don't tend to get much in the way of personal email, but I occasionally get pictures and such in the mail from friends, particularly a good friend who's abroad, working in China now, after he was in Japan for a year not too long ago. He always has amusing stuff to share. Then I get messages from Facebook and livejournal on there, just for various notifications of things. And I get email from a few mailing lists I'm on - Robert Wexler's mailing list in working to check the Bush administration's power, Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac daily poetry and history mailing list, and the Human Rights Campaign mailing list, being a member of that as well.

4 Favorite Things to Eat:
This is a tough one. I love lots of different kinds of food, so picking a few favorites isn't easy. To take a stab at it, though, I love nikujaga - it's a wonderful Japanese stew of sorts that's hard to stop eating. I'm also quite fond of good, fresh sashimi - I love sushi in general, but biting into some well-prepared fresh raw tuna or salmon is pretty incredible. I'm also quite fond of Japanese gyoza dumplings (As well as Chinese shumai dumplings.), though I usually only have the frozen kind. And to throw something more western in there, I love cheese ravioli with a good tomato sauce - Italian sausage in it is always a nice plus, too.

4 Places I would rather be:
I haven't traveled enough to easily throw a list like this together. I'd love to see Japan and what I can of Asia in general, though. Same goes for Europe and Canada. And visiting South America - especially Brazil - would no doubt be a fantastic experience. Though at this point, my main geographical focus in my life right now is more in the New England area.

4 Things I look forward to this year:
Hopefully watching the Republicans suffer a crushing defeat in the November election so we can get a serious start on repairing the decades' worth of damage the Bush administration has done to this country and world, for one. I'd also really like to get into a grad school and finally get out of the south. I'm also looking forward to hopefully getting my first novel published, if things actually go well at all after finishing it, though I'm not exactly counting on a response from the woman I'm writing it for this year - not that I'm holding my breath for it to be a positive response I get from her anyway, rejection being what's to be realistically expected. And in and of hoping to get my first book published this year, I'm looking forward to hopefully getting my first paycheck then as well. (And not so much the part where if I do indeed get into grad school, I end up buried up to my neck in debt for the next several years at least.)

Well, that's that. I'm no good at the tagging part of these things, so hey, if you're looking to tell your readers more about yourself, feel free to consider yourself tagged by me and have at it! Hopefully all that random information didn't bore you too much.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Love For You Is Like A Truck

At last, the day you've been waiting for has arrived - Show Your Partner You Care Through Simple Consumer Economics Day! (Sponsored by Hallmark and Stover - because any other brand of chocolate may as well be full of arsenic, you worthwhile pile of human garbage!) Er, that is to say, "Valentine's Day." But that just doesn't have much of a ring to it these days, does it?

Of course, as you all know well by now, I am something of a "love guru," you could say. (Some have even described me as a "luru." I put a stop to that.) And you, the varied internet masses of numerous levels of consistent hygiene, have once again turned to me for advice on the matter.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but no, no. Just for you, because I'm a glutton for punishment, here's three ideas for a successful, overwhelmingly romantic Valentine's Day. Remember, if you "score" (I'm not entirely sure what this means. It seems to be something sports-related, and as we all know, I know nothing of those matters.), you have me to thank for it. And you can thank me with money - $12,000, specifically. I'm kind of in a little trouble - made some bad investments in hobo bonds.

1) No Matter What It Is, Say It With Flowers - That was close to some sort of slogan, wasn't it? If not, let's play along. Who knows what love is better than corporate entities, after all? Love is to be bought, neither earned nor freely given - so the free market has dictated it. Hey, get away from the keyboard, Ron Paul! Your kind isn't welcome around here! Sorry about that. Freaky. Anyway, flowers - the Valentine's season is huge for the flower business - especially roses, because it's too much effort to be original in your romantic expressions. This year, why not kick this up a notch? Don't just send your lover flowers - or send them to yourself and pretend someone else had like 8 million Americans do every year. And scattering rose petals up to and around your bed? What rock have you been living under? Instead of that tired old crap, you should find a different flower, one that says something about your relationship - I got you this Venus Flytrap because I secretly want to flay you alive and eat your flesh! Happy Valentine's Day! - or maybe just a general cheap flower, better yet, maybe steal some from a public garden. (This would show that you're willing to commit petty crimes for your love. And who doesn't love a mediocre outlaw for their love?) If you go the cheap/stolen flower route, throw them everywhere - and I do mean everywhere - and even serve them for dinner, regardless of whether or not they're edible. (Hint: They're probably not.) If you're feeling especially kinky, hide petals in your orifices or superglue them to your naked body to give your lover an extra special surprise in the bedroom! Why merely go through the motions on the holiday when you could traumatize your significant other, ensuring that they'll never be able to forget you if you ever break up? (No matter how hard they try. There are some things in this world no amount of alcohol can erase.)

2) Chocolate from the Heart - Yes, Valentine's Day is a chocolate holiday. (Apparently in a different sense from New Orleans being a chocolate city. If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask an adult.) Whether it acts as an aphrodisiac or you simply "enjoy the flavor," nary a V-Day passes without mass consumptions of chocolate. (Which lead to eventual arguments about perceived weight game and messy cycles of break-ups and reconciliations, completing the messy fractal that is the diagram of modern love.) Once again, though, why be uncreative? Cheesy cartoon heart-shaped boxes of mystery chocolates - half of which are full of garbage, anyway - are pretty dated. It's the 21st century - and who cares if you can't cook - show your love by making your own homemade scale model of a human heart entirely out of bitter baker's chocolate. You get bonus sexy points if you can successfully simulate your significant other's mitral valve prolapse that threatens to ruin your sex lives forever if things don't improve.

3) A Little Game of Pretend - You've probably been together a while now, huh? (If not, let's just pretend. Even if it means pretending in regards to an already-imaginary significant other.) Things're probably pretty lukewarm in the bedroom at best - that Alf puppet fetish just makes everything awkward. This year, why not spice things up with a little role-playing? Specifically, spend several weeks beforehand mastering another tone of voice - but only when your beloved isn't around, you can't be ruining the surprise, can you? - then buy a heavy coat, ski mask, and handgun. (In a pinch, a model gun that looks relatively close to the real thing can work as well. It's a February evening, still dark out enough that they won't be able to tell.) From there, you rent a car, stalk them outside of their workplace, and the moment they're alone, angrily, violently accost them and shove them into the back of your rental. (A windowless van would be most ideal - bonus points if there are visible bloodstains in the back.) Blindfold them and bind their hands and feet - it's getting pretty hot now, huh? - then drive off, handling the car aggressively enough to ensure that they'll get knocked around quite a bit back there. Spend the next several days driving aimlessly from shantytown to shantytown - ideally crossing at least several states' lines. (Bonus points in this case if the kidnapping is caught on surveillance and you end up on the run from Johnny Law. Why not make it a trip to Cleveland?) Once you've traveled far enough, pull into an empty, poorly lit Stuckey's parking lot (If need be, substitute the parking lot of a similar establishment.), get in the back of that van, remove your partner's blindfold, and then your ski mask. They'll be so relieved to see you that all you'll have to do then is get ready for love-making like you've never experienced before! (Or the most horrific relationship conflict you'll ever face. This is an as of yet unproven method and may still need some ironing out. Also, try to make sure your significant other doesn't die over the course of the post-abduction road trip - this cannot be emphasized enough.)

I bet you're feeling pretty romantically inclined now - are you?


Don't give me that look.

Man, all I did was try to help. Fine. Be a living cliche. I'm gonna go spend my Valentine's Day alone again, probably playing video games. Like cool people do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Science of Smooching

The "season of love" continues. (Hey, wait, wasn't that supposed to be spring?) Has anyone come up to you on the street and waved a knife at you, threatening to "put their love inside you" yet? No? Nobody? Good. You had me worried for a second there. Man, what a bad viral marketing campaign that'd be.

Of course, by now, you're probably already making plans for Thursday night with your significant other. Romantic plans. Some bad French accents might be used to enhance the mood, maybe a seductive handshake or two. (What the hell are those, anyway?) Why, you might even "get" some of that "down" thing I've heard so much about. (It isn't related to that Down's Syndrome, is it? I couldn't see that being too romantic - maybe inwardly depressing, and fodder for an overly sentimental Hollywood cash-in.) Naturally, you might even kiss each other - on the mouth. Risque! I haven't kissed a woman in over seven years now. I'm honest, I can admit it. Sure, my attempts at something romantic with my novel are probably futile, knowing my luck, but at least I'm trying, eh?

Anyway, that's the big subject of the first V-Day entry this week - lacking more romantically-inclined inspiration at the moment. (I'll save that kind of glorious love-bitterness for Thursday morning.) And what'd put you in more of a kissing mood than discussion of science!? Why would you want to think of anything else when kissing but how your brains were responding, after all? They call the brain the love muscle for a reason, after all.

What do you mean they don't?

The scientific community has, apparently, more or less avoided tackling the matter of the science of tonsil-hockey - perhaps because they wanted to be able to continue enjoying it themselves. Lousy selfish scientists. In fact, science still hasn't unraveled and pinpointed everything that makes love what it is yet - and when they do, won't it be glorious realizing how little our emotions suddenly mean in the grand scheme of things, because they're just cerebral chemical impulses and hormonal urges? Maybe that's why everything was boring and white in all those '70s science fiction movies - everyone was too dead inside to care. Plus, we couldn't have anybody illegally stimulating their brain with anything - or anyone, for that matter. It's where we're headed if we keep trying to legislate morality and dumb it down to a black and white issue, anyway.

Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher presented her findings on kissing in the October issue of Evolutionary Psychology - light tabletop reading that I'm sure you'd find right beside the latest TV Guide on every kitchen counter in America. (Except for the fundamentalists who take everything too literally - they read Creationary Psychology, which is a lot like Tiger Beat magazine, but with more Jesus centerfolds to set young ladies' nether regions aflame. Is that a loaf of bread in his pocket? I don't think so! Man, for repressed puritans, they sure are perverts.) Fisher's findings came down to perceiving kissing to be all about choosing the right mate. (And sometimes it's about getting the boys' attention with your best friend at Mardi Gras after a few too many Brewskis, am I right, ladies? ... Ladies? Drat, they all left. What the hell was I thinking with the Brewski reference? Nobody's used that slang in twenty years.)

The mouth is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, with the brain seemingly having evolved an oral fixation that'd make Freud's head spin and perhaps dispense candy. While people have even been stabbed in the back before without noticing - their brain was having none of that - but the slightest touch to the lips or mouth is felt intensely. (Let me tell you, going through major oral surgery - jaw surgery, in my case - is no picnic as a result. And not just the whole no-solid-food-for-months part of it. I thought I would lose my mind by the end.) Naturally, this is why the mouth is often so intrinsic in romantic contact and sensuality, whether in popularized cheesiness like that whole blindfolded-strawberry-feeding thing, or something as widely beloved as oral sex. With so much of the sensing part of the brain focused on the mouth, it's only natural that kissing would be some kind of big deal.

There were some gender differences noted in their study as well. For instance, women place more importance on the taste and smell of who they kiss than men. Historically, women have always been typically known for being more sensuous than men, so this doesn't exactly come as a great surprise. (I wasn't sure how to react when my first girlfriend informed me that I had a scent she'd liked, back when I was 16. My first thought was, as I recall, something along the lines of "Holy shit, do I stink?" Of course, as a lifelong allergy sufferer, I'm lucky when I can smell anything at all, so unless there's particularly strong smelling food around or someone's wearing perfume, I don't pay much attention to that particular sense much of the time, intrinsically important as it is to taste - I pay far more attention to that one.) Likewise, there was a massive gender gap in regards to the importance of kissing before the initiation of sexual congress. (Which would be a great name for a politically-charged R&B album, you realize. Who wouldn't get down to the smooth sounds of Tax Reform and the Civil Rights Bunch? .... Yes, I realize I am quite possibly the whitest guy on the planet.) Most men, as you can imagine, were fine with the idea of getting into the horizontal mambo without so much as the slightest oral contact. (Because that's just how men are, am I right, ladies? ... Oh right, you're still gone.) Conversely, of course, most women felt the opposite. C'mon baby, all I need is 5 minutes, then you can go back to sleep.

Of course, kissing, in being a part of this National Geographic Human Mating Processes special, serves as something of a barometer as to what kind of lover someone would be. Naturally, I'm screwed in this area too, as I never had a chance to get good at kissing to begin with. Damn me and my getting severely traumatized in love halfway through my teens on top of already being an awkward, standoffish nerd to begin with. If only there were some way to twist the very fabric of reality itself in my favor...

Anyway, with these ramblings aside, hopefully they've given you something to think about. And hopefully I'll come up with something more compelling by Thursday morning, lest I just write some random love-themed comedy piece with no real point then.

Remember! Next time you're kissing your significant other, think of science!

Friday, February 8, 2008

If You Love Me, You Will Punch Me In The Face

So, I've been busy with Project 27 Days - making more good progress with editing and polishing - and am feeling kind of uninspired in regards to writing in here at the moment. But hey, you guys like it when I write about the subject of love, right? Right? (Play along, there might be a cure for syphilis in it for you later! But I make no promises.) Valentine's Day, everybody's favorite holiday scheduled right in the middle of suicide season is coming up in just under a week, so let's talk relationships! (Specifically, I'll be looking at this theme here over these next several entries. Enjoy!)

This time, we're looking at a common hurdle shared by all relationships - and yes, I do mean all relationships. (Including the ones between you and your cats, Mittens and Bootsy. What the hell were you thinking with those names? Damn, you're lonely.) This hurdle? Conflict.

Relationships can be tough on everybody involved. People, by nature, annoy the hell out of each other. Sometimes there's no real point to it - it's just a little thing we do. (For the sake of awesome, that is.) Other times, we do it because love and hate are inextricably connected as emotions go, being that they're effectively the strongest emotions the human species possesses. As creatures, we're too complex for our own good, often too much so to completely comprehend ourselves. (Brain chemistry? Neuroscience? You mean hexes concocted by witches!) So we can mix up these emotions, even if only for a moment. Bottom line, we inevitably start to bug each other if we spend too much time together. And when in love, we're prone to clinging together so closely that inevitably, the friction that comes with it leads to static buildup and discharge. (We're all really irritating sweaters. Try wrapping your brain around that one.) When this happens, we get angry with one another.

So in this situation, what do you do? Fight and get it out of your system? Try to ignore the issue, bottle up your anger, and let it corrode you inside like rust on a sewer pipe? Stratego? Given my own unhealthy penchant for bottling up my emotions, I'd probably pick the second one. But truth be told? I'm wrong. The correct answer is, as you no doubt ascertained half a minute ago already, the first one. (Sorry, Stratego fans, looks like there is a bad time for it after all. You lose this round.) When conflict arises, to put it in semi-obscure video game reference terms, you've got to Fight It Out! By which one means, as a recent study concluded, you need to be willing to let your anger out, to blow off some steam at each other - if you can't reconcile as a couple following a conflict, after all, you fail at the relationship.

Conflict resolution is serious business - it's something that you either learn in life, or you don't. As the study found, one can potentially learn from the example of one's parents, but more often than not, couples don't know how to go about handling their conflicts. Some amount of experience with serious relationships would somewhat remedy this, you'd think, but then, everybody experiences many aspects of daily life in different ways - conflict included. You can't bottle up your anger, spending your time brooding and essentially resenting the other person until that ultimately brings the relationship to an end - you aren't a teenager, are you? As such, when conflict arises, as painful as the experience may be - crucial as painful experiences are to human development - you need to address it and resolve it. Relationship problems don't just disappear, no matter how much you may wish they would.

If you simply contain your anger, it'll stress you out even more, and as I'm going to write on at some point as well - stress kills. You don't want to die from stress, do you?

Letting your anger out, on the other hand, is actually healthy, unpleasant as the emotion itself is. The study found that people tend to make better decisions when letting their anger out, with the emotion causing the brain to ignore other cues and focus on the matter of what's made you angry. (Take note that this is not always the case. Domestic abuse, for example, is often the result of a fit of unbridled rage. Despite what the study says - and this entry's title - beating your significant other is never a good decision. Don't be one of those people.) Likewise, a past study showed that release of anger can lead to feelings of optimism and control over one's situation. (Which isn't necessarily good if it isn't a situation you have any actual control over, or any real reason to be optimistic in regards to - that's pole-vaulting over into delusion territory.)

In short, though this goes without saying, as it's on every daytime TV talk show, in every self-help book, and pretty much anyone giving advice on relationships will reiterate this point - communicate with each other. Respect each other enough to be open and honest with each other, even about unpleasant things, and unpleasant emotions. Don't lock them up inside where they'll eat away at you. Trust each other to listen and try to understand one another. You might then have a legitimate shot at overcoming whatever obstacles and conflicts you yet face as a couple. Hey, who knows? You might even not be completely miserable with each other someday. Let's just try to keep the fisticuffs to a minimum, eh?

Man, what a sappy entry. Damn you, Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

What Makes This Bowl So Superb?

At last! Here we are! What you've all waited for! Even if you haven't! The second-ever installment of Spiral Reverie's whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it feature, "Ben Doesn't Know Anything About Sports!"

Today's a big day. What day is it? Why, it's that day America's masses most inclined to inevitable heart disease - the kind that comes from negligence, not genetics - cling together like positively charged ions (Or negatively charged ions, or... science isn't my forte either, okay?) in front of their TV-boxes to bask in the sterility-inducingly warming glow of that there big football game. They pour bag after bag of crunchy fried pig remains - "pork rinds," they call them - into a bowl, with maybe some high fructose corn syrup-based dip on the side for extra flavor on which to gorge themselves during the game - hence why today is known as The Super Bowl.

Personally, I don't see what's so superb about it. The big winner is decided, blah blah blah, who cares? They're just going to do it again next year. And the year after that. And they'll probably be doing it long after you're dead, too - barring any major nuclear accidents. But then, I'm sure the mutants would form their own leagues too. They might even form their own separate leagues for flying mutants, and flying mutants who prefer flag football to all this tackling bullshit - to clean up their language, these future mutants seem to find that sort of behavior overtly homoerotic. But then, these mutants aren't too fond of pants either. Time travel was not a comfortable experience.

To find out more about this most spectacular of food receptacles, I talked to three unsuspecting football fans when out and about walking the great prairies and plains of modern America.

The first interviewee was a man by the name of Jason Burtwick, 28, a full-time bag boy and aspiring frat boy who got kicked out of community college for accidentally making a pipe bomb out of a beer bong and nearly killing several of his classmates in Street Dance 101.

Q: So, how 'bout this big game? Is it going to be a sports-filled time or what? There might even be some athletics!
A: No shit, asshat. It's gonna be the bomb - the bomb diggity. That's like a bomb with even more digging involved.

Q: Is digging typically a part of bomb-related processes around here?
A: Are you trying to fuck with me? You already yelled at me until I told you why I got kicked out of school. If you don't watch it, I'm gonna have to break out a whole shipment of whoop-ass on your ass.

Q: You seem to be fond of the word "ass." Is this indicative of that perhaps football fans exist in a state of arrested development, fundamentally drifting along in their anal phase?
A: I don't even know what you just said, but I like chicks.

Q: That's okay. So, who're you rooting for, the New Hampshire Bellboys or South Florida Geriatrics?
Those aren't the teams, dude. What are you, living in a cave or something? 'Cause there's bears there. I bet I could wrestle a bear.

Q: Can we get back to the previous question?
A: Oh yeah. It's the New England Patriots and New York Giants this time. And I'm not rooting for either of those teams. Their fans are dicks, man. I'm a Carolina fan.

Q: That must be very sad for you, then. One last question - who do you think is going to catch the Snitch?
A: What the fuck are you talking about!?

At this point, Mr. Burtwick became violent and unruly. He had to be tasered repeatedly and animal control was called. Last I've heard, he was relocated to the African savanna where he now lives peacefully amongst a pod of hippos that gradually learned to accept him as one of their own.

The second interview took place in New York City, with a man who requested he remain anonymous and be referred to only as Mr. Nobody. But this was a stupid request, and it is only by that I was too lazy to write his name down that he continues to be anonymous here - if it were up to me, I'd be giving you his social security number about now. But fortune does not smile upon us all, I'm afraid. Damn you, Mr. Nobody!

Q: These New England Patriots - what makes them so patriotic? Fox News keeps telling me that this segment of the country is full of America-hating communists.
A: Why'd you ask me 'bout the Pats, huh? You know where you are now? Those schmucks wouldn't know the foot from the ball, I tell ya. They sure ain't patriotic like New Yawkers, we had 9/11 and everything. 9/11 was ours.

Q: So you're telling me that the Super Bowl isn't so much about artery-hardening, blood-thickening consumption habits as it is 9/11?
Were you even listening? It's about America, it's about freedom, it's about my freedom to walk away from these stupid fuckin' questions of yours any time I choose.

Q: But then how will the internet learn about the Super Bowl? C'mon buddy, this is about education. Future generations need to know about their ancestors fighting amongst themselves over ball games.
A: Did you just call football a ball game? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you did. And that, my friend, is your first mistake.

Q: But the word ball is right in the name... it only follows that-
A: No, no, football is a metaphor. John Madden was yammering about it last week. I forget his point, but there's more to it than just throwing a ball around.

Q: Why do they call it football anyway? I mean, I don't know anything about sports and even I know that the "football" the rest of the world plays makes a lot more sense.
A: They run, don't they?

Q: This is true.
A: Then they use their fuckin' feet! Use your brain, dumbshit!

Following this interview, I was beaten severely by goombahs who just happened to conveniently be in the area. I nearly died, and years later, here I am finally relating this story to you. I'm not sure if it's more depressing or relieving, finally getting this off my chest.

Lastly, I traveled back in time to 1934 to learn about the early Super Bowl. I didn't care anymore by then, so I just shouted at a random stranger. Everything was black and white. It was pretty weird.

Q: Hey buddy, how 'bout these Super Bowls, eh?
Super Bowls? I'm afraid I can't help you there. We've got a Dust Bowl out there though. You can go see that if ya want. Presuming you're not being crippled by the depression like the rest of us.

Q: Nope. I've got magic powers. I'm talkin' 'bout the Super Bowls. C'mon, you must know something.
A: I don't know what you're getting at. Say, that's a pretty fancy toboggan you've got there.

Q: It's a time machine. I'm from the future and I used it to travel back in time.
You sure you're feelin' alright?

A: What a weirdo.

And that, my friends, is how "weirdo" was introduced into the American vernacular decades before it was originally conceived.

Wait - what was I supposed to be doing again? The Super Bowl? No. No. Who cares? I'm done.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I Hope You Can See This, Because I'm Doing It As Hard As I Can

Well, it's February now. A month that holds many meanings for many people - well, mostly two things: a shitty commercialized love holiday so saccharine and contrived that it threatens to not only make us all diabetic, but to make our jaws fall off, and that yearly football game where everyone sits around on their asses and clogs their arteries while yelling at the TV and inviting a coronary - yeah, that one. I'll be getting to both of these matters later on, so look forward to it. (Or don't, but you won't get any satisfaction out of that. Is this any time of year to tempt seasonal affective disorder? Is it?)

This time, in this somewhat shorter than usual blurb, I felt that it was time to take a look back. Specifically, a look back to 365 days and somewhere in the area of 12-24ish hours ago.

The place is Boston, Massachusetts, an equally beloved, reviled, and retarded little slice of this place we call Hosertown South: Formerly America. (Thanks, Canadian-sympathetic space invaders! ...Whoops, wasn't supposed to talk about those. Looks like I won't be living to write the next entry after all.) Of course, you could apply this description to virtually any city here, major or minor - and isn't that what makes this country great? (And depressingly nondescript when speaking in wonderfully broad, vague terms?) Specifically, we're going back to Boston on January 31st, 2007, for those of you more chronologically-challenged. (Yes, I know, some of you were really looking forward to a rousing anecdote about Abraham Lincoln - there's no need to be ashamed, who doesn't love hearing about the time Lincoln beat that giant beaver in the curling match to end all curling matches? But I'm afraid we're talking about something far more recent, and far less legendary. We'll never forget your courage, giant beaver.)

That last paragraph sure had a lot of parenthetical asides, didn't it? Of course, they were all critically important.

Anyway, January 31st, Boston, what happened that day? You don't know? Are you new to the internets? Oh, you are! I see, I see. I suppose I can't blame you too much, then. You can safely skip the first Failboat voyage of the day, then. Sit back and let yourself be educated, for there is much for you to learn. (Just when you thought I couldn't get any more pompous sounding.)

On that fateful day, Boston came under attack by the greatest animated fast food threat they'd faced since Savage Steve Holland unleashed Better Off Dead to theaters worldwide in 1985!

Well, technically, it wasn't so much the talking fast food characters from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie that sent the public into a panic so much as LED advertisements with one of their Mooninite Atari pixel art semi-antagonists flipping everyone the bird. And it wasn't so much that the public went into a panic as someone called the police over one of these placards and they were immediately declared to have shared "some characteristics with improvised explosive devices." Kind of like how if you have some cold medicine you're halfway to making crystal meth, or if you have some aluminum tubes, you could very well be producing weapons of mass destruction. Clearly, this is an easy mistake to make. Who wouldn't want to advertise their violent rebellion against society with a Lite-Brite image of a fairly well known cartoon character?

The terrorists are back! Or so the Boston authorities were quick to exclaim. After all, who wouldn't jump at another chance to scare the public? In New England, where progressive, liberal, left-wing thinking is commonplace, what better way to try to scare the public back into submission to the government and right-wing interests - Support that war! Send more troops! It's time to exchange your civil rights for "security!" All Hail King Bushie XIV! (And so on.) - than jumping the gun on calling a little viral marketing possible terrorism!? (Though somewhat in their defense, it probably wouldn't have killed somebody at Cartoon Network to let city officials know about this marketing campaign in advance. But then, I don't know if that sort of thing would be standard practice in a case like this or not.) After all, it's not like Al-Qaeda didn't take down the World Trade Center a bit over 6 years ago, up there in New York. And politicians - the Republicans especially? They sure don't take every opportunity they get to harp on said terrorist attacks to validate their own corrupt political agendas, dangerous, aggressive military campaign, and effectively strip all the rights and power they can from the people. How can we defend freedom and liberty if we have the freedom not to elect violent psychopaths that abuse and have ultimately broken the government system, and treat our soldiers like mindless ants to send to their death in a conflict with a culture and people we neither understand nor have any sort of sympathy from?

Even after the signs were found to be what they are, the facts all known, the guys who put them up were charged with placing a hoax device to incite panic - and made to do community service in the end. Isn't wacky justice fun?

A year later, Adult Swim viewers and the internets alike (Let's face it, they're pretty much one and the same, anyway.) are still laughing. What can we learn from this? It's good to be wary of potential terrorism, sure, but paranoid? Not so much. Do a little research before you jump the gun, especially over something as odd as this. Not everything in the world is a bomb. Also, it never hurts to be at least slightly in touch with today's pop culture. (Even if Aqua Teen Hunger Force was more of a phenomenon 4-5 years ago. Talking fast food getting into surreal and vaguely funny situations isn't as edgy today - not when you could have stop motion '80s action figures making toilet jokes and killing each other.)

It's especially funny to me, in that I'm finally going to start applying to a few New England grad schools soon - those whose deadlines for applications to their Creative Writing programs didn't pass in early January, anyway - and odds are I'll be applying to at least one grad school in the Boston area. Seems like the kind of city I'd enjoy, not having been before, but let's face it - thanks to this incident, Boston's police are still a laughingstock. People of Boston - especially my fellow geeks and nerds - I can only imagine your pain and embarrassment. But if I end up going to grad school in that area, I'm afraid I'm going to be pretty much obligated to make a crack or two about it.