Friday, October 30, 2009

All FUCOPs Must Die


Most of you don't know this, but I work for a company that produces audio books for the blind for good ole Uncle Sam. It's a government program (which the Republicans were trying to cut a couple years back) that allows anyone in the country who is legally blind and/or physically unable to turn pages to receive a machine and check out audio books from any local library around the country. These are different from the audio books you get when you're on your lonely car trips. These are verbatim and unabridged and can range from your typical best seller to any genre book to nonfiction, histories, and medical texts concerning blindness, diabetes, etc.

I don't narrate these books myself. I review them--making sure there are no technical errors and that the narrator is coherent and correct and consistent. We reviewers sometimes move heaven and earth to make sure something has the correct pronunciation. We also make sure that the narrator is consistent with their pronunciation. There may be five different ways to pronounce a single word, but the narrator must choose one and stick with it the entire book.

It's not just about "pride in one's work." If the narrator is not coherent, correct, and consistent, the Guvmint might reject the book; and we'd have to go back and correct the errors. Sometimes, we even have to re-record the entire book. As an example of what a stickler Uncle can be, I once had a book rejected because the narrator pronounced the LA road, La Cienega, the Spanish way instead of the LA way. I knew the difference. I stay with my aunt on La Cienega when I go out to LA. But I thought that since the narrator was technically correct, I'd let it pass. The kicker was "La Cienega" only appeared once in the entire 450-page book (I know, I had to go back and scan the entire thing myself).

However, Uncle can be capricious. He can zap you for one word, or he can let HUGE mistakes run through an entire book and never catch it.

This inconsistency makes us reviewers even more the sticklers because you just never know. This doesn't hold true for a lot of the narrators, though. The better ones are sticklers, too. And, believe it or not, there have been heated arguments over the pronunciation of words that you wouldn't believe. One time, I thought I was going to get socked in the face over the word "Devereux."

But that only applies to the better narrators. I once heard about a study of workplace competence. It appears that the most competent people in any workplace are the ones who fret over their competence the most. The utter fuck-ups think they're the cock on the walk and can't be told shit. You can definitely see that rule in effect here when it comes to the narrators. It's the absolute idiots you can't correct, who will refuse to make corrections no matter how grievous, and who get morally outraged when you tell them they're wrong.

Such a person is exactly what I've been dealing with all week.

I am currently reviewing a book about a recent Supreme Court decision (I don't want to be too specific here--I don't want to get the book rejected). The lead attorney in the case has a foreign name which the narrator has repeatedly butchered throughout the book's entire 317 pages. And he is such a maestro with the cleaver, that he decided to butcher the name TWO DIFFERENT WAYS!!!

The FIRST pronunciation was so bad, I went searching for the guy's name and found it instantly on YouTube. Apparently, this attorney is also a legal scholar and is becoming less and less obscure every day. He has been on more than news show as a talking head.

This is a huge red flag for us. If Uncle can find the name really quickly, we know we have to change it.

I informed M. Talènt, and, of course, he got pissed. His first claim was that he called where this guy teaches and talked to him. When I said the guy's all over YouTube, M. Talènt then claimed that he got the pronunciation for the guy's voice mail. After I emailed The Guy and got his name's pronunciation directly from him, M. Talènt finally admitted that it was The Guy's assistant on the voice mail.

But none of that friggin' mattered. M. Talènt refuses to change the name. He is right (though horrifically wrong), and there's nothing I can do about it. Rejection be damned! And I can basically shove my need to do this correctly up my shit-eye!

Indignantly, I asked him which incorrect pronunciation he wanted to use for the book, since he pronounced it incorrectly several different ways. Missing my indignation (his was too loud to hear mine), he actually did choose.

So, for the past few days, I've been marking down each time he says The Guy's name. Mind you, The Guy was the lead attorney in this book about a legal case. In most of the book, his name appears 5-10 times per page. Each side recorded is about 88 minutes long. It usually takes me 1 1/2-2 hours to review each side. This is taking me about 3 1/2 hours each side. There are times when I have to stop three times per recorded minute to mark down M. Talènt's mispronunciation only to have him "correct" it to his preferred mispronunciation!

I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome marking down page after page after page of "corrections" this whole time, fuming in the fact that this book will probably get rejected and dreading the fact that Uncle may very well not reject this book, further encouraging M. Talènt to continue his asshole-ish ways!!!

Finally having enough, I cursed to myself, "This festering unwashed cunt of putrefaction must die!!!"

Then I started ranting about all the other FUCOPs who've been pissing me off lately. The banks for taking my tax money and for refusing that fixer-upper wanted to take off their hands--just letting that could-be beautiful house rot! Dick Cheney for his constantly popping up like a herpes-laden jackass-in-a-box, criticizing Obama as though his the Bush administration didn't drop us headfirst into this clusterfuck our country's in. And Joe Lieberman for threatening to filibuster public-option legislation.

I'd like to get M. Talènt and all these other FUCOPs in a room and see just how good their health care is.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keep It PA, Phils

It's hard for us Pittsburghers to keep up our end of the bargain--what without our having neither a professional basketball nor baseball team. What? ... What was that? ... Who? ... Seriously ... since when? ... No shit. The Pirates! ... I thought they were a farm club.

Anyway ... apparently we Pittsburghers do have a baseball club. Aside from that, though, we've been doing a pretty good job of late, giving our beloved Keystone State the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup this year. Now, you have us the World Series last year, but you have got to repeat!

The fate of the free world depends on it! The Yankees are evil and represent all that is wrong with the world. You gotta win!




Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WILT: What I'm Listening To, Vol. 1

All right, in 2009 I suffered from an affliction that can only be described as "musical bulimia," having gone months starving myself of new music only to binge to the point of near death--or at least, financial collapse. Ever since we've been to Canada, I've been on a music-buying binge that (if Missus Unknown found out) would surely be the death of me. So, here's what I've been listening to these past four weeks in no particular order. I hope you enjoy it while you can. I won't be indulging this lunacy again anytime soon.

The Temptations -- Puzzle People

All right, I have a confession to make, and I hope you don't judge me too harshly for having actually said this but ... but ... well, to be honest, I'm not much of a Motown fan. Yes. All the music was great. Yes. Barry Gordy was a genius. Yes. All those groups and their music will live for all time.

I just wasn't that into it. Motown was always my folks music--"old folks music." I give the Motown Sound its propers, even today. I don't know. I guess I just like Stax better.

As part of that whole thing, I was never really into the Temptations either. They always signaled the end of the basement party and it was time for me to wake up and get my pajamaed behind in the car. All the old folks were going home. And talk about corny ... I once saw the Temptations perform at Sea World!

However, nobody ever told me about the Temptations and their "psychedelic funk" experiments they conducted in the late '60s/early '70s with Cloud Nine, Puzzle People, and Psychedelic Shack (are there others?). Now I have some newfound respect for the geezers.

The funk on Puzzle People is rough and rugged like the first few Sly and the Family Stone albums and a lot of fun. Sure, they never should've covered the Beatles' "Hey, Jude," but their cover of the Isleys' "It's Your Thing" is pretty nice. There's the classic, "I Can't Get Next to You," my second-favorite Temps' song (the first being "I Wish It Would Rain"), "Message from a Black Man," and a real ass-shaker in "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down."

Lawd hab mercy!!!

The Heavy -- The House That Dirt Built

Whee dogey!!! I got this bad boy in the mail yesterday and have been pretty much listening to it solely ever since. I went absolutely ape-shit over their hard-driving, funky-ass debut, Great Vengeance & Furious Fire. This is more of the same--though less funky with a harder rock edge--and they're a little more imitative than you'd expect from their debut. But this is definitely no sophomore jinx. You must needs check out this CD.

Passion Pit -- Manners

Man, I wish I would've liked pop/rock sooner. Then, while I'd been a music critic, I could have all the references and snarky, hip lingo down to describe bands like these. Aside from telling you that I absolutely love this CD, I'm really and truly at a loss for words. The best I can do is cut and paste what I wrote Sammy about them on Facebook:

I don't know exactly how to describe them. Maybe something like--2Gs electro-rockers with a taste for late '80s dance music and a dash of the Beach Boys. Something along those lines. Maybe.

Q-Tip -- The Renaissance

I was gettin' all into this album, diggin' all the smooth grooves and crisp beats, refreshed that I can pretty much play this one around Pooh without worrying about her calling her classmates "nigga" all day, when Triple T, whose damn near half my age, burst my bubble. She was ranting what bullshit! this album was. I wasn't like, "Aw, kid, you don't know nothin' 'bout no good music," because I know it's not true. Then it suddenly hit me, "Oh my God, is this the opening salvo for 'Old Folks' Rap'? Are there soon gonna be 'Smooth Rap Flavas' radio stations? I can hear it now ... Now homeyz and homettez let's relax our minds and let our bodies be free and get down to the sounds of Digables, De La, and the Fugees."


Various Artists -- Bridge into the New Age

This compilation should be renamed Afro-Hippy's Delight. This is a collection of Prestige releases from the early '70s with artists who were influenced by Miles, Trane, and the Black Power movement. McCoy Tyner, Alice Coltrane, Gary Bartz, Norman Connors, Joe Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, and Idris Muhammad. If there's one disc in this whole list I strongly urge you to get, it is most definitely this one.

Dave Pike -- The Doors of Perception

Vibraphonist Dave Pike is a fan favorite among dancefloor jazz crate diggers the world over. Only the first song is as far-out psychedelic as the album's title and cover would have you believe. Mostly it's the groovy vibes one would expect from a genre posthumously labeled "dancefloor jazz."

Various Artists -- Cold Heat

If you like your funk as hard and fast and as nasty as a Pamela Anderson sex bout, then this disc is for you. As the subtitle says, "Heavy Funk Rarities -- 1968-1974." Most of you would probably have never heard of any of these people. But for one brief, shining, recorded moment, they were some of the funkiest cats to ever be put on wax. You fans of the Budos Band, Sugarman 3, Poets of Rhythm, and/or Sharon Jones really need to check this one out.

Quincy Jones and His Orchestra -- The Quintessence

Well, as many of you know, Impulse Records is the "house that Trane built," featuring a lot of the experimental jazz that exploded onto the scene in the late '60s/early '70s. So, when I saw that Quincy Jones actually recorded an Impulse release, I was intrigued. I wasn't expecting (nor would I have wanted) some heroin-induced free jazz. But I know Q did a semi-funky release for CTI back in the day. I was wondered what he concocted for Impulse. Nothing far out at all. It's Quincy Jones, after all. And being Quincy, it's good.

Chakachas -- Jungle Fever

If you scour the internet for Belgian funk (and why the hell would you?), the closest you'll come is the Chakachas. So, when my wife went to Belgium last year, I had her look for some of their stuff. They apparently looked at her like she was some kind of crazy American. As well they should've, the Chakachas were just a bunch of middle-aged, married Belgian guys who cut an album of funky Latin grooves and then vanished into obscurity. If it weren't for their uber-funky international hit, "Jungle Fever," this disc probably never would've been released. Aside from that masterpiece, though, the album's worth a listen. It's boogaloo fun!

Traffic -- John Barleycorn Must Die

Well, I always hated Steve Winwood--master of schlocky '80s "blue-eyed soul". But I also hated his twin, Robert Palmer. Then I heard Palmer's Sneakin' Sally through the Alley and had to give the man his due. When I was browsing through the CD shop, heard the first two rock-jazzy songs on this CD and found out it was Traffic, I thought I might have to do the same for Winwood. After all, I do love "I'm a Man." Alas, I was wrong. I'm not at all a fan of the last four tracks on this album. Needless to say, I was disappointed and felt more than a little betrayed.

K'Naan - Troubadour

Speaking of feeling betrayed, a dear friend who shall remain nameless who, oddly enough, is not Nameless, has been absolutely raving over this brother for millennia. I bought this disc on the power of her rantings alone. Boy, I don't know if I'll ever listen to the woman again. Actually, I don't know if we can actually remain friends. I mean ... Mrs. Unknown summed up our disappointment somewhere in the middle of Troubadour, when she asked, "Did this suddenly turn into a pop album?"

Gilles Peterson -- Digs America 2

This compilation is subtitled, "Searching at the End of an Era." There is something to that. Crate digging is becoming a harder and harder obsession to satisfy. And how many more of these crate-digging expedition compilations can there possibly be for the funk/jazz/soul junky? But all of us know that Gilles Peterson is the best at this game, and this disc does not disappoint. I mean, who else could find a song done by Chuck Mangione's brother? He's also got an obscure Al Jurreau on here. And you'll simply love Irene Kral's "Going to California".

Plasticines -- LP1

One of my side CD-buying projects is to actually purchase hard copies of discs that I may or may not have come across in their digital form. This may or may not have been bought with that in mind. Besides, I love these French femmes (and Go Betty Go's) jaunty, pop "post-punk" sound. They're a lot of fun to listen to, and every once in awhile I understand a word or two of what they're singing--when they're singing in English, that is.

Wayne Shorter -- Super Nova

I'll confess: it's been a real long time since I've listened to music I've really had to think about. This one's going to take awhile for me to digest. I just couldn't resist the line-up here with John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and Chick Corea on drums and vibes?!

The Mar-Keys -- The Great Memphis Sound

I love me some funk! I love me some Stax! So this CD from the Stax session band is like having your hog maws and chitterlings, too! And no, I will not compare them to Booker T. and the MGs' sweet cornbread soul. They're all delicious.

David Axelrod -- The Axelrod Chronicles

David Axelrod has been the source of many a great sample (just ask Madlib, Mos Def, the Beatnuts, Rob Swift, Sadat X, Kool G, De La--you get the idea) and not a single one of them was found on this CD. This collection is a bit too post-Mr. Magic fusion-y for my tastes, but there are a few really funky tracks. I'll give it a few more listens. I am trying to branch out these days.

R.E.M. -- Murmur

When I came across this CD, I thought, "Oh hey, I used to like R.E.M. in high school. Maybe I should get this." As soon as I popped this bad boy into the CD player, I realized, "Oh yeah, I didn't like Mumur. I liked Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Life's Rich Pageant, and Document." Oh well, what can you do?

Dmitri from Paris -- Sacrebleu

My boy Jet has been screaming about Dmitri from Paris for the past year or so now. I've always been meaning to check him--or at least his Playboy Mansion series out forever--but have just never gotten around to it. I stumbled across Sacrebleu and figured I'd give it a try. This CD is most definitely Bossarific. It's interesting, since lounge's ubiquity has come and gone, to hear where it basically came from. Still breezy and chill and a great album to listen to. After all, how derivative can you sound when you were the first?

Santana -- Amigos

Just got it. So haven't heard it yet. But this is '70s Santana--before he went totally for the queso--it's gotta be good, right?

Outkast -- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Every collection--no matter how obnoxious (and mine is obnoxious) has holes in it. I was just filling one with this purchase. I doubt if I'll be listening to this one too much. But it never hurts to have it.

Oh No -- Exodus into Unheard Rhythms

Oh no! I thought you was Madlib and "Oh No" was just another one of his pseudonyms. But no! you're his little brother. You ai'ight, though. I guess I'll have to give you a few more listens before I pass judgment--though I gotta tell ya, I am a little disappointed.

The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra -- The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra

Yeah, remember those two mysterious, Milli Vanilli-dread-lookin' violin-playin' androgyns on Soul II Soul's "Keep on Movin'"? That was the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. I remembered liking this back when it came out in '88, saw it in the store, and said, What the hey? Well, the "Hey" in this matter is that The Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra is now like the Meg Ryan of my music collection: Cute in the '80s but most definitely has not aged well.

Fever Ray -- Fever Ray

Another attempt to branch out. They said something like "Karin Dreijer Andersson, Fever Ray, a singer for The Knife ..." And I said, "All right! I have no fucking clue what you're talking about! Give me two!" The CD just came in the mail on Saturday. So, I haven't had much of a chance to listen to it yet. So far, though, she gives me sort of a Björky/Kate Bushy/Laurie Andersonish feel--which probably means I'll fall in love with it and my wife will curse the day I ever heard of Fever Ray.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Peepee in the Potty!!!

"I peepee in the potty, Daddy."

--Poohbutt, 10/26/09

Since we're about to move and subsequently switch daycares, Mommy and Daddy have decided to delay toilet training our little Pooh. However, our daughter did get a potty for her birthday. So, for the past nine days, Pooh has come home, shouted, "Peepee in the potty," ripped off her pants and diaper, and proceeded to sit on the potty for hours at a time--or so it felt. She's been conducting almost all her evening business on that damned potty--eating, drinking, watching Krtek--everything except the business that the potty was designed for--leaving it as dry as the day we bought it.

That has all changed tonight!

Mommy and Pooh called Daddy at work to tell him the good news.

How proud can one Papa be?

Before you know it, we'll be having to give her a new nickname!

Stop Yer Bitchin'--You Lost!!!

Last night at work, while still basking in the afterglow of the Steelers' glorious victory over the Vikings, I ran across this article, Vikings Gave This One Away, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The writer, Sid Hartman, claims that the Purple Poopy Eaters (Poohbutt's term--not mine) could've won the game if it hadn't been for their numerous errors. Well, duh.

The Vikes did commit a lot of penalties and did lose two turnovers at the end of the game that the defense converted into touchdowns. But they did not "give" the game away. It's a nice premise--one all us fans rely on--but it simply did not happen. In fact, I would argue that it never does.

In that same game, the Steelers also made errors that could've cost them the game. Kicker Jeff Reed decided to poussé push returner Percy Harvin, allowing the much bigger, stronger man to scamper 88 yards to the end zone, and Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on the Vikings three yard-line when the Steelers were marching to put the game away.

The point being, good teams not only make errors during games, but they also cause their opponents to make errors themselves. Brett Favre fumbled the ball because he was stripped of the ball. He threw the game-winning interception because the pass rush made him rush his own pass, Chester Taylor wasn't ready, the ball bounced out of his hands into Keyaron Fox's, who rumbled into the end zone.

These "errors" were forced errors created by a good team. They weren't given, they were taken. Much like hard work can create good luck, "errors" are created by good teams. That's what makes them good. That's what makes them winners. The Vikings didn't give the game away. It was taken from them.

Hartman's "analysis" was annoying enough, but what really got my goat was the comments section, where the Vikings loyalists proceeded to whip the biggest scapegoat in all of sports: the refs.

Now look, every time one's team loses, the first blame almost always goes to the referees. We fans generally just can't believe our team lost--can't fathom that they might just actually suck and got what they deserve. So, we are always pointing to the refs as the key difference. We fans are like any other delusional psychotic--we would all succeed if the world just weren't against us. That world being the men (and one day women) in the zebra outfits.

It is true that the Vikings' being called for defensive delay of game was about as confounding as interpretive dance, and the tripping call that negated that Vikings' TD was specious at best. But these Vikings fans chose to forget that the Steelers also had a TD called back on an offensive pass interference call on Heath Miller who was chucked into another defensive player on the other side of the field from where the TD pass was thrown!

Those negated touchdowns were both bad calls. In fact, they actually negated each other--which rarely happens in sports. It wasn't the refs' fault that the former led to a Vikings' turnover and Steelers TD and the latter resulted in a Steelers' field goal.

Bad calls are a part of the game. So are good calls. As well as no-calls. It is hard to believe that, with 22 testosterone- and adrenaline-charged pituitary cases charging and crashing into each other, there isn't a penalty occurring on every, single play. Whether they're called or not shouldn't matter. A team's charge is to win the game--no matter what the referees are doing.

Look, we NFL fans are lucky that our refereeing isn't as horrid as the NBA's--where a foul is only called if a player doesn't have enough outside endorsements. Allen Iverson's dribbling motion is the exact motion for the carrying call. Yet, he has probably never been called for palming the ball, which he does every damned time he touches the ball. Last year, I watched LeBron James pick up the ball and take three, friggin' steps to slam the ball home (for those who don't know, you're only allowed one and a half). Centers used to be called for fouls for having their faces impede the progress of Shaq's elbow every time he went up to dunk.

Last year, I briefly tried watching the Lakers/Nuggets playoffs. Then I saw three defenders get out of Kobe's way and let him drive the lane in order to avoid the inevitable foul (I guess he inherited the benefits of the "thinking-about-fouling-Jordan" foul). The last time I checked, unless the guy hits a home run, your job as a defender is to stop a rapist bastard from scoring! When the announcers started screaming orgasmic about what a phenomenal athlete Kobe was, I turned the TV off in disgust. Shit, even I can score if the other team lets me.

We football fans don't have to put up with such bullshit. And neither do NFL players. Sure, they get bad calls against them, but they also get good ones that benefit them. And they probably don't get called for half the crap they pull on the field.

I'm not a referee apologist, but it's not as though these guys have an easy job chasing all these genetic freaks around on the field. Then they've got the fans, announcers, sports "pundits" (how the hell do you get that job?), and instant replay second-guessing their every move. Of course, they're gonna make mistakes. They're human. But stop acting like making a phantom call is the same as invading a country for their phantom WMD!

Teams know what they're getting into whenever they enter any game. They know that referees can blow calls. They're job is to win no matter. It doesn't matter to them. It shouldn't matter to us. We fans--all of us--need to get over our "Magic Bullet" referee conspiracy theories and just realize our teams generally lose because they faced a better team.

Of course, I'm probably just saying this because my team won yesterday. And back in February, my team won the Super Bowl. Oh yeah, and in my lifetime, they have won six of them bad boys.

So, actually, what I guess I'm just saying is ...



Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Eric Holder Song of the Week



Friday, October 23, 2009

Just a Friendly Game of Baseball

You want some m*fin' populist rage, mainstream media?! I got your m*fin' populist rage! Swingin!!!

Gee, Martha, these raging populist sure are profane.

Thank you, Monkey Business Blog, for sharing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pry My Pepsi from My Cold Dead Hand

This past Thursday, I was listening to pundits debate the merits of Congress's new sodee pop tax on The Diane Rehm Show. I found my own "populist anger" bubbling to the top as the "experts" talked of the evils of sugar and how it contributes to obesity and how a tax would curb people's thirst for the drink and curb obesity. It isn't that Congress wants to raise taxes and revenues. They are only "looking out for the health of the nation."

Now, look. I am not one who is against taxation. I actually believe that taxes provide services. I don't always agree with what my taxes go for (hello, Iraq war!), but I'm not against taxes on principle. And even though I find blue laws pretty ridiculous, I'm not really against sin taxes. If someone wants to tip the ole bubbly, why not pay a little extra? It's not necessary. Hell, maybe it'll even throw an extra textbook into my neighborhood school.

But I am against this tax. Not because I'm a fat piece of shit who needs his Pepsi. I am a fat piece of shit--but my sodas (like the sodas of many obese people) contain aspertame. I'm assuming I won't be affected by this revenue raiser. I just don't buy the premise--that Congress is looking out for our nation's health. First, as my brother pointed out to me, sugar is basically in everything--from your soda and sugary drinks to your prepared food and even your "healthy" bran cereals. If you're really going after sugar, why not go after everything? And, if you're really concerned with our health, I can think of three other much more detrimental elements in our society that would be a helluva lot more effective:

1) Guns Yeah, I know, NRA freaks, guns don't kill people. People kill people. But you know the people who purposely kill the most people (outside of the health insurance industry)? Motherfuckers with guns!!! So, if Congress were really and truly worried about our health, why don't they take on the NRA and pass effective gun control legislation? Oh, I think we know the answer to that.

2) Automobiles Car accidents sure do kill a lot of people. Also, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the US is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. That's right. Cars, people. Our love of the auto is burning a hole through the ozone. That's gotta be pretty unhealthy. And what about respiratory illness? Forensic pathologist Michael Baden once wrote in his book, Unnatural Death, that a coroner can examine a corpse's lungs and tell whether they lived in a city or in the country. Apparently, a city-dweller's lungs--now take a deep breath--are incredibly gray from all the car emissions. Now, that's healthy!

And think about the car and obesity. I heard once that the average New Yorker walks an ungodly 12 miles a day, while your average suburbanite barely walks 1/4 mile a day. How often do we suburbanites walk to the store, the train station, to a neighbor's down the street? Nope. We hop in the car. If someone actually did a study on this, I'd bet they'd find that the car is the leading contributor to America's obesity problem.

3) Television I bet TV would also probably be in the Top 5. My wife once told me about a study of a rural Canadian town where the adult population was incredibly active with bowling leagues, hiking clubs, etc., after work. They were so active it absolutely amazed the sociologists. However, when the social scientists returned a year later, they found a lot of these clubs were dead. That rural Canadian town had gotten satellite TV. True or not, think of how many times we meant to go for a walk, a jog, or go to the gym only to settle on a nice, quiet evening in front of the boob tube. They don't call us "coach potatoes" for nuthin!

If Congress were really and truly concerned about "the health of the nation," why not go after these things as well or instead? Why are they just going after sugary drinks? What could this all be about?

Well ...

This recent debate reminds me a lot of my time working for a homeless advocacy/care provider back in Atlanta. Some 15 years ago, my then-future wife and I were administering educational evaluation tests to a bunch of homeless children. During one visit to a day shelter, we listened to a preacher excoriating the women there for their "profligate ways." He was basically calling them all whores and bad mothers who needed to get off the bottle and the crack and get their lives right.

While more self-righteous (and imbued with the authority of God--cough, cough), this preacher man was actually voicing a common refrain I constantly heard while working for/with the homeless. People inside and outside of the community constantly criticized and judged the poor and homeless. While it was OK or at least tolerated that others had sex outside of marriage, had children out of wedlock, and often drank or used drugs, it was definitely verboten for the poor.

These criticisms were nothing new, of course. With the failure of LBJ's War on Poverty and poverty's face turning from hard-scrabble white Appalachians to angry, black Welfare Queens, there had been a steady, decades-long backlash targeted at the poor. By the '90s, folks were more critical and sympathetic and blamed the poor for their own plight. Instead of sympathy, they were fed a constant diet of derision. So no sex outside of marriage, no out-of-wedlock births, no drinking, and NO DRUGS!!! We Americans felt that we had the right to tell the poor exactly how to live.

Of course, that phenomenon was nothing new. Our country has a fine tradition of telling others what to do. Black folks have been hearing it for five centuries now. There were the Indian schools of the late-19th and 20th centuries where Indian children would be taken off their reservations, have their haircut, and be force-fed the virtues of America and a Judeo-Christian God.

Many don't realize that our American anti-bacterial obsession with cleanliness started as a crusade of cleanliness waged against the supposed "filth" of recent immigrants and, of course, black folks (Booker T. Washington often preached the "gospel of the toothbrush"). These Clean Crusaders were so successful that they then moved on to the prohibition of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

The '90s saw the War on the Impoverished, culminating in Welfare to Work programs. And the last two decades saw a War on Smokers as second-hand smoke--and not the car--became our nation's greatest health care crisis (I wonder if maybe the car is the reason that 10% of men and 20% of women with lung cancer never smoked). We have successfully vilified smokers. We now tax cigarettes heavily. We have eliminated cigarette smoking from most workplaces and have banned smoking in restaurants and bars.

Of course, this was all done in the name of "health." Cigarette smoking is indeed dangerous. It is one of the main contributing factors to so many people's health problems it cannot be ignored, let alone encouraged. And there's something to the argument that one person's rights end where another's begins. I highly doubt that spending a couple of hours in a smoke-filled bar is actually more dangerous than walking along a traffic-choked street. But nobody has the right to smoke (or drive, for that matter). So, why spend those hours in a smoke-filled bar if one doesn't have to. Of course, why any establishment didn't have the right to decide whether they'd be smoke-free or not was never really an important part of the debate. In fact, it went mostly ignored. Smoking is bad. Smokers are bad. We must ban it wherever possible!

And the War on Smoking has been an unqualified success. One can no longer smoke at work or at a bar. Some politicians are contemplating banning smoking on city sidewalks. Big Tobacco lost a huge lawsuit last decade. And less Americans smoke now than they ever have.

With that victory under their belt, now folks have moved on to fat people. How does that your rights end where mine begin argument apply to obesity? Why, health care costs! We all pay more in insurance premiums, etc., as health insurers pass on their expenses taking care of fat people onto everybody else. In light of this, we have decided it is all right to tell the obese how to live.

A couple years ago, municipalities all across the nation started banning trans-fats from restaurant food. Now, Congress is contemplating a prohibitive, regressive sin tax on sugary drinks. Next, they might go against sugary food (except your bran cereal or high-fructose corn syrup "juices"--since those are "healthy"). And only they know what their next ban will be on our nation's War on Fat.

The problem with this war as well as with the wars that preceded it is that it does not matter. America's dirty little secret is that, while harmful, cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity aren't what really lead us to our premature graves. It is class! Study after study have shown that the poorer you are, the shorter your life span. It is counter-intuitive and goes against the grain against the personal-responsibility narrative that courses through American history, but it's not so much your personal habits that will dictate your life expectancy--but your bank account. In fact, if you watch the PBS documentary, Unnatural Causes, you'll discover the unpleasant fact that that fat slob, alcoholic CEO will outlive his health-conscious, exercising dock worker every time. It's not so much what you ingest that will dictate how long you live, it's the stress you have to swallow every day that will kill ya.

Of course, we Americans never acknowledge how class dictates one's life. Everybody can be middle class, right? Work hard, live right, yadda yadda, and we can all be rich!

But don't expect a War on Stress any time soon. Don't hold your breath waiting for a War on the Rich where we seriously vilify and curb the way they live. Hell, Congress refuses to stop the bonuses going to the bank officials who caused the global financial crisis.

Instead, we'll have a War on the Homeless, a War on Smokers, a War on the Filthy Immigrant, and a War on Fat. We'll target the most vulnerable among us--how they live, what they eat, and now what they drink! We'll turn up our noses any time we see someone with a beer belly downing a Pepsi--and feel better about ourselves.

No, being fat is not a right. But neither is driving and that causes more harm to the common weal than any can of Coke ever has. But there would be an absolute uprising if we targeted drivers. So, we'll have this dirty little war against fat people. We've been vilifying them since Twiggy. They won't cause a fuss, they won't fight back. You'll never hear them say, "You'll have to pry my Pepsi from my cold, dead hand."


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rape Is Not a Family Value

Yet, Senate Republicans found it in their hearts to defend government-employed rapists. Don't let it be said that anything (not even rape) will stand in the way of their free-market "principles."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Health Care Quote of the Day

"Well, first leader Reid has the option of putting [the public option] in the final bill. If he puts it in the final bill, in the combined bill, then you would need 60 votes to remove it, and there are clearly not 60 votes against the public option. And so we’re urging him to do that, and he is seriously considering it. Once it passes the Senate, if that were to happen, it is in the House bill, it is in the Senate bill, and it would have to be in the final product. So, it is very important to see if the public option is in the bill leader Reid puts together. He hasn’t yet made up his mind, but many of us who believe in the public option are urging him to do so. So far, we are getting heard."

--Sen. Chuck Schumer on The Rachel Maddow Show

Well, the gauntlet has been thrown down, let's see what Reid ends up doing with it. I'm guessin' he'll punt on the opponents' 1.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Krtek--Ještě jednou

Funny. When I briefly lived in the Czech Republic back in '93, I knew absolutely nothing of my little buddy Krtek here. Not funny ha! ha! or even funny as in I'm a connoisseur of of international children's cartoons and should've known about this Communist answer to Mickey Mouse. It's just funny because my girlfriend at the time was actually a working animator.

As far as I know, her studio didn't work on the cute little mole's misadventures. I only saw one cartoon she worked on--which was a traveling stick figure who sailed on a newspaper boat that had my name "Bill Campbell" on its sails (which was really creepy since it'd been produced two years before we'd met). The only other stuff I saw was her stills for a German cartoon, Old Shatterhands (a German wet dream about the Old American West, which could've only been offensive).

Still, in retrospect, one would think that an animator would've at least mentioned an old, childhood favorite. Hell, maybe she did. For all I know, she talked about it all the time. My understanding of the language was quite limited. Like most English I hear, it probably just went in one ear and out the other.

However, now, no matter how much I try, I can no longer turn a deaf ear to Krtek. That's right. The Nejlepšís have struck again!

For years, Šárka and Petr-Pavel have been plotting their revenge, devising and revising, trying to get me back for formerly bad-mouthing their former countrymen (they're Slovak). And now they have truly gotten their revenge--through our poor, innocent daughter, Poohbutt.

She now has a Krtek doll and several Krtek books--which have given me migraines trying to read. But last month they delivered their master stroke, the fatal blow, the coup de grâce. Yep. You guessed it. Krtek DVDs!

Now, you've got to understand. Mrs. Unknown and I are pseudo-hippies. The Missus read somewhere that TV scrambles baby brains faster than Glenn Beck mutilates logic and, if you want to avoid a future of short yellow buses and future Glenn Beck fans, you need to turn off the boob tube. It wasn't that big a deal. We don't watch much TV ourselves. So, there wasn't much of a sacrifice. Therefore, aside from the Steelers and The Wire, Pooh hasn't been exposed to too much cathode ray poison. As a consequence, our girl isn't a fan of all the shows and cartoons most kids her age are. I couldn't even name what any of those are. But I'm pretty sure none of them include our main mole, Krtek.

But, boy, is he our little girl's favorite.

"Kirtek (the poor dear can't roll her Rs yet) and Mouse are friends!!!"

She trumpets at least seven times a day.

And she asks to watch the cartoon as soon as she gets up in the morning, as soon as I pick her up from daycare, as soon as we get out of the car to enter the abode, as soon as we enter the abode, before we eat dinner, while we're eating dinner, and after we've actually eaten.

The European DVDs, of course, refused to play on our red-blooded, pro-American Chinese DVD player. So, Pooh would climb up onto Daddy's computer chair and smash the keyboard until Daddy started playing her Czech cartoons.

"Kirtek and Mouse are friends!!!"

Krtek and Mouse were 'bout to get they asses kicked! Daddy needs his computer. How was he supposed to blog, how was he gonna play his Challenge Sudoku with little Pooh bogarting his laptop? He doesn't have an iPhone!

However, for our trip to Toronto two weeks ago, Mrs. Unknown caved and bought a portable DVD player for Krtek, Mouse, Pooh, and, frankly, our sanity. So, instead of 12 hours of fussin' and fightin', Pooh sat rapt in her car seat, watching Krtek and his kamaradi frolic through the woods, fighting sturgeon and genocidal farmers with perfect aplomb and not a small amount of wit.

"Krtek and the Campbell Clan are friends!!!"

Tak, máte štěstí, Nejlepšís. Sure, Pooh's gonna wind up some kinda weird post-Communist mole-ologist (or whatever those people are called) and the FBI probably already has a file on her a mile long, but yall did us a good turn on that Toronto trip.

Miluji vas!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank You, Mammy!

Yeah. I thought that'd get your attention. No, I'm not gonna go all Al Jolson on ya. I just wanted to thank Irish Mammy on the Run for adding Tome to her blog roll. As a gesture of my appreciation and, as is my policy, I have returned the favor. Please check her out.

OK, I admit it. I couldn't resist. So, no Al. But here's Liza. Funny, the song sounds a lot different if one doesn't perform it in black face.


Friday, October 9, 2009

OK, Nobel, We Get It ... We Hate Bush, Too!

Yeah, our last President was a complete prick who deserves a smackdown every chance we can get (actually, he deserves to burn in hell--but who am I to judge, right?), but why do yall always seem to feel that you're the ones who need to do it? And in such a limpdick fashion?

You give it to Jimmy Carter in 2002, saying to the Bush Babee, "Why can't you be more like him?" And he takes the opportunity to slam the boy as well. Kudos to you, Jimmy, ya crazy old coot!

Then you give it to Al Gore in 2007, saying, "It should've been you, Al. It should've been you."

And now you give the Nobel Peace Prize to The Big O, saying, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future"?

Don't get me wrong, I love The Big Brother--even when he's pissing me off--he does give me hope for the future, and it tickles me pink to be able to now call him "The Nobel Savage." But come on, the man hasn't even been in office for a year yet. And he hasn't really done much on the global peace front. In fact, he still has to extricate our country from two wars while his generals are begging for more troops in one of them (for the record, history has yet to meet a general who has ever asked for less troops--how can you take their cries but so seriously?) while he continues to saber rattle with Iran. I'm glad he gave up the Bush wet dream of a "missile shield" in Poland and the Czech Republic, but that's hardly Nobel-worthy.

I know the Peace Prize isn't the Lifetime Achievement Award that the Literature Prize is. I know it can be given for extraordinary events. But what Obama's done so far can hardly be called "extraordinary." It's like giving the Literature Prize to Boris Pasternak just because he wrote Doctor Zhivago!

Oh, right. I guess you did do that.

Anyway ... your decision is still a bit of a surprise. I'm sure when you woke Obama up in the middle of the night to tell him he won, he was like, "Norwegian, what?!"

Who knew your hatred for W. was so strong that you were willing to give his successor the award immediately after he took office just because he was not Bush? I mean, if you hate the man so much, why don't you just go TP his house in Texas? Or better yet, why don't you send billions of dollars in development aid to Afghanistan and help build that country. Now, that would show some real cojones and would definitely chaff that cowpoker's ass!

Instead, now Barack's gotta go all the way to cold-ass Norway in the middle of your cold-ass winter to get an award even he probably thinks he doesn't deserve. I mean, yeah sure, the speech will be good, but I can just hear Rush now talking about how the Nobel Peace Prize should be called the Affirmative Action Prize.

(Author's Note: Actually, Limbaugh emailed Politico, saying: "They love a weakened, neutered U.S and this is their way of promoting that concept. I think God has a great sense of humor, too." Of course, what he and other chickenhawks like him don't realize is that nothing weakens and neuters a great power more than being bogged down in a couple of military adventures they have no chance of succeeding in. They are the ones who have castrated American military power. No one else deserves that honor.)


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who Knew Australians Were Republican?

'Cause why else would they find this type of shit funny?

I guess Hillary will be hiring Harry to be our American Goodwill Ambassador of Racial Understanding in the near future.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Soul Sista Saturday -- Canada Style: Jully Black

To celebrate the Campbell Clan's invasion of Canada, we bring you last year's R&B Canadian Sensation, Jully Black! Enjoy the Winehousian goodness!