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Friday, June 25, 2004

I Just Want to Be Entertained

“I just want to be entertained.” I hear that sentence a lot from people trying to justify wading up to their ears in the sewage that makes up a lot of popular movies and television programs. Why are so many people terrified to do anything to improve their intellectual well being? These same people are often terrifically ambitious about improving their monetary or physical well being.

Take a look at a lot of the patrons of the gym where I go. The place isn’t exactly cheap so I would imagine that most of the members are doing fairly well financially to afford a luxury like a fancy inner-city health club. Now go and look at the magazine rack of the periodicals left there by members. Fucking People Magazine is about all you will find, that or some other rag that drools over celebrities (Entertainment, In Style, Cosmopolitan, etc). Call me a snob but I would just as rather scream over the gym intercom that I am a fatuous, brain-dead zombie than read one of those awful rags.

My other pet peeve at the gym (as anyone who reads Leftbanker already has been bored to tears hearing about) is the constant playing of CNN on the TV’s. CNN is the People Magazine of television news. On that channel today some Republican mouthpiece said that the movie Shrek II would be more factual than Moore’s film. I don’t know about that but I can say that CNN has spent more time reporting on Shrek II than about how the war in Iraq has affected Iraqi citizens.

What we refer to as art and entertainment these days contains very little substance. Many modern writers who I admire greatly have almost nothing to say about the culture we inhabit. When a writer writes about being a writer then you almost always know that the writer has completely given up on trying to understand the world around them.

I find it odd that people are so threatened by an artist such as Michael Moore who chooses to actually say something in a film. I don’t think Moore is any sort of intellectual but his heart is in the right place as far as I’m concerned. I do find him to be a highly entertaining and funny filmmaker.

In a culture of coma-inducing tripe like Dodge Ball and American Idol, passively watching the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 may be the first political act a lot of people in this country ever commit. I only hope that their second political act will be to vote in the coming election.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Waaiting on Somebody

I was just wondering if I could stare into the blank screen of my laptop for the entire time it takes for the battery to fizzle out? I have run out of other things to do here while I wait for inspiration to arrive. I feel like someone waiting for a blind date to show up. I hope he’s cute. I’m wearing black work out clothes so at least I won’t look fat. Today it looks like I might get stood up. Inspiration often pulls that on me. If I had his number I’d call and leave a nasty message.

I don’t have his number so I sit and wait. Whenever the door opens I look up hopefully but it’s not him. There is nothing in the paper to piss me off significantly enough to compel me to write some sort of blow-hard opinion piece. No shortage of blow-hard opinion pieces out here on the internet, we’re full of opinions.

I did get a kick out of that story of how the State Department claimed back in April that terrorism declined sharply in 2003. Yesterday the State Department announced that the earlier claim was incorrect. “I’m sorry, did we say best year? We meant worst year for terrorism.”

I’m too depressed about the bottom-dwelling Mariners to write anything about baseball. The M’s lost 2-10 against the Rangers. How could M’s fans be further humiliated? Maybe they could dump a bucket of filthy mop water on the first 10,000 fans before the next home game. How about after every loss for the remainder of the season clowns standing at the exits hit each fan in the face with a pie or hit people over the head with a dead chicken? Fans of a last place team would take that sort of abuse passively enough. Almost anything is better that getting beat 2-10 by fucking TEXAS!

Should I wait a little more for Mister Inspiration or should I just say “screw it” and pack up? I’ve got better things to do than wait around for that creep. I have a book I’m almost finished with. I haven’t played my piano in so long I’m afraid that it may have gone feral on me. I have a good excuse for not playing: I have a bunch of winter clothes on the bench that need to go downstairs for Seattle’s two month summer. My piano could be the world’s biggest and most expensive laundry hamper. It certainly hasn’t qualified as a musical instrument in a while.

I’m sorry I’ve had to drag you into this mess. You don’t need to hear about my relationship with Inspiration. I guess I don’t need to tell anyone who reads this tripe I write that, for me, inspiration is like a cross between Sasquatch and a dead-beat dad: dubious at best and quite possibly abusive. Inspiration is like my imaginary girlfriend who I tell people lives in Canada. Inspiration gives me a black eye and I tell people at work that it was my own fault.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Putting on Our Thinking Caps

I came across a few things that I have been pondering. I read that there were over 250,000 breast enhancement operations performed last year in this country. On the cover of a magazine in the grocery line there was some woman who had undergone plastic surgeries (plural--very plural from the looks of her ‘before’ picture) as part of some TV show. The headline on the cover asked if perhaps TV had gone “too far.” Unless the show is called Frankenstein I would have to say that, yes, they probably went too far. And then I started thinking about all of those fake boobs again.

Consider 250,000 breast enhancements, each adding--on average--four cubic inches to the bust; that is an annual increase of 1,000,000 cubic inches in bust for the nation. I’m not a scientist so I have no idea of the medical results of this staggering figure but as a philosopher I can ponder the moral, ethical, and environmental implications.

If we look at this from a conservation standpoint I think we are on to something here. I propose that instead of using saline implants we use landfill matter to make fake boobs, ditto with collagen lip injections. We could reduce landfill usage by 35% annually. The new breast implants would need to include vents for the methane fumes released by landfill matter but that would be a simple procedure (a vent disguised as a piercing?). Indoor areas with heavy breast implants traffic—an Academy Awards presentation, for example—would need extra air circulation, but the benefits of this proposal far outweigh the adverse results.

Now back to the other matter. Please tell me that there really isn’t a TV show in which people get all kinds of plastic surgery. Please tell me that this is just a practical joke on me, because I can take getting laughed at for being so gullible as to believe that there actually could be a TV show where people get plastic surgery just for the hell of it. I would rather get laughed at for that than know that I live in a culture that is so incredibly bored and fatuous that people watch TV shows about other people getting cut up and rearranged.

If that isn’t a big joke on me then the next question is: Where do we go from here? Let’s all pretend that we are Hollywood entertainment big shots sitting around a conference room discussing the future of television. How do we go even lower than a show in which people are butchered by doctors? How about a game show where contestants pig out at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then see who can take the biggest dump? I know that is disgusting and puerile but I’m thinking that someone has pitched that idea to producers in America’s entertainment capital. Maybe it is already in development.

How about a show where you get to throw your TV off a cliff and it lands on a Hollywood producer or a talk show host? How about a show where you watch people at the library reading books and becoming more interesting instead of morphing into a pile of horse manure right there on their arm chairs in front of the tube? Would you watch a horror movie called Planet of the Women with Natural Breasts and Very Little Make-up?

BONUS BIT I have long felt that our national motto of E Pluribus Unum is obsolete and in need of an overhaul. Today I found its replacement. On the side window of a dirty van someone had written, “Show Us Ur Tits Now!" I think this phrase better defines the America of the early years of the 21rst century. I like the “Now” part as it adds the quality of an implied threat to this command.

Monday, June 21, 2004

How To Goof Off in a Café

If this essay sounds familiar that is because I have plagiarized myself and distilled a couple of essays to come up with this one.

My introduction to European café etiquette started when I was a 19 year old summer school student in France—my first time in Europe. I would go to a café for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, drink it, pay the check, and leave. I quickly noticed that everyone who was there when I arrived was still there when I stood up to leave. I became self-conscious of my haste. I quickly began to see cafes as a sort of game; a waiting game.
I began to take note of the other patrons when I first took a seat. I would nurse my coffee or glass of wine to make it last while I waited for other people in the café to call it quits. I would write letters to pass the time, or read, or simply people watch. I quickly learned that there are worse ways to spend time than sitting on the terrace of a Parisian café. I have since come to believe that there are few better ways to spend and hour or two or three.
I got pretty good at the waiting game my first summer in Europe, but I never won. It didn’t matter how patient I was; I could have been in the middle of the best book I had ever read; I could have been engaged in the most interesting conversation of my young life (that wouldn’t have been saying much at 19); it didn’t matter. There would always be some grizzled old French guy in a beret and a seemingly bottomless glass of red who wasn’t about to be hurried out of his café by some hyperactive American kid raised on too much sugar and television. I would tip my imaginary beret to him as I left. “Today you win, but tomorrow is another day, yes monsieur?” For all I know that old French guy never left that table, ever, but I liked his style.
Back in America this sort of behavior would be called loitering. Loiter: to spend time idly. In America we have equated loitering with not spending money, or not spending enough money, or not spending money fast enough, and we have made that illegal. After several years of living and traveling around the Mediterranean, the most café-influenced culture on the planet, I learned that if loitering were against the law there you’d have to build a pretty big fence to contain the guilty. In the Mediterranean they have a different word for what we would call loitering. The closest English equivalent to this word would be ‘living.’
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of the café in the quotidian life of many Europeans. Cafes are a meeting spot for friends, or a place where you won’t feel out of place sitting by yourself. You can read the morning paper, or write a letter. They are a place to be among people, or a refuge from the crowded street. A café is a good spot to begin an evening out with friends, or the last stop on the way home. A café terrace is like your living room with better coffee and a view.
I had been brought up to believe that consumption was the purpose of going to a bar or restaurant. I soon learned during that first summer in Europe that what you bought at the café was definitely not the main point of the whole exercise. That glass of wine was merely the rent you paid for the wonderful piece of café real estate that you had chosen or had chosen you. The food and drink aspect is a secondary concern.
When I go to Europe the first thing I do is head for a café.  When I come back home cafes are what I miss the most.  The explosive growth of coffee shops in America is a response to this basic human need for community.  Coffee shops aren’t quite the same thing, they aren’t as utilitarian, they are a lot more casual, but they are a good start.   
The primary function of a cafe is to offer a shared public space. The public space you are sharing may be next to some movie star at an ultra chic Parisian café, or next to a shepherd in a remote Greek mountain village, but the idea is still the same. It doesn’t matter what language you use to order your beer, the same rules of the café apply. Sit back, slowly sip your wine, and try not to think of loitering as a bad thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Seattle International Juggling Festival

(based on a true story)

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege…nay, it is my honor to bring to you today the Seattle International Juggling Festival. All of the greats in the industry have gathered here today at the Seattle Center to settle, once and for all, the question of who is the world’s greatest juggler. There can only be one. All others must perish in their bloody quest for the ultimate glory. Win or die!

To call this the “Super Bowl” of juggling is an insult to every participant. Would you call the Nobel Prize the “Super Bowl” of Science and Literature? Would you call landing on the moon the “Super Bowl” of the space program? Like those achievements, the Seattle International Juggling Festival dwarfs the Super Bowl in greatness.

I asked at the information booth who were the foreign participants that would qualify this as an international festival. They told me that they had one Canadian guy who had signed up months ago. He may not show up because he is still distraught over the Canadians losing the Stanley Cup Final, which for Canadians is like the Nobel Prize, a moon landing, the Super Bowl, and the International Juggling Festival rolled into one.

Last year’s international status was achieved with the entry of Ivan the Cossack from Russia. Ivan the Cossack, formerly known as “Ivan the Baby Juggler,” is now serving a life sentence in a Washington state prison after last year’s botched performance. I’ll spare you the details. Steps have been taken to avoid another catastrophe. This year, directly beside the information table, there is a coroner’s booth with a sign that reads, “Death certificates in 30 minutes or it's free.”

It’s not all carnage here at the festival; there is lots of juggling. Juggling is the art of throwing three or more objects into the air and waiting around for about ten seconds until gravity does its cruel work of pulling them all to the ground. Juggling provides up to ten seconds of entertainment at a pop—nearly ten times the amount of entertainment of an entire reality TV show.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Learning to Crawl

Well, I guess you have all been wondering what is going on around here at Leftbanker. I’m sure you’ve all noticed a dry spell in the Leftbanker humor department. I thought I could ride it out. I was thrown off the ride. I thought I could fake it for a while. You have a better chance of jumping off a tall building and faking like you can fly than you do of faking a sense of humor. I needed--desperately needed--professional help.

The workmen came over and looked down in the basement for almost two hours. When they finally came upstairs they were covered in filth and stunk to high heaven. They told me that things were horribly gunked-up down there. They told me the problem was going to cost me a bundle and there was no guarantee that things would ever be the same again. They hadn’t seen so little trace of humor since they did some work on the last season of Friends. They said that this clog, this humorless matrix, could very well equal that of the Whoopi Goldberg career--a humor-free vacuum so impenetrable that even her family and friends are unable to emit mildly polite laughter. Mother of God, how could things have become this bad?

I told the workmen that I wasn’t washed up. I told them that I was just regrouping and that I would return with humor that would dwarf anything I had come up with in the past. They listened politely to my rants. When I started telling them knock-knock jokes they took action. One of them wrapped me in a blanket so I wouldn’t go into shock while the other shoved a stick in my mouth to keep me from biting off my tongue.

That was a little over a week ago and I’ve been pretty heavily medicated since. I have started humor group therapy. For my first project I drew moustaches on women models in magazine ads. I know it may sound stupid but try drawing a Hitler moustache on all of the gals in an entire Victoria’s Secret catalogue: it’s funny. I thought that I performed rather well in the bodily functions workshop and I scored perfect 10’s on the “Mocking Foreign Accents” exercises.

I can’t say when I will be back. I may never return. The doctors told me that sometimes people snap right back while other folks lose it completely and spend the rest of their lives stumbling around babbling incoherently or, worse yet, laughing at Dilbert cartoons or volunteering to be part of the studio audience for Funniest Home Videos. I don’t think that I have lost my sophistication when it comes to humor--I just can’t write anything funny—but I did find myself chuckling at a TV ad of a lizard selling insurance. I just need to take it one day at a time.

Monday, June 14, 2004

A Close Brush with Tedium and Pointlessness

You almost made it. You were almost able to click on this page and not have to wade through another tedious, pointless essay. I almost closed the lid on my laptop and called it quits. But I didn’t close the lid on my laptop and call it quits. I have decided to crank out another essay that I would like to think is more pointless than tedious, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Not that one of my essays can’t be both tedious and pointless, if anyone has the talent to pull that off I can. It could be both, in equal parts. It could be completely pointless and mind-numbingly tedious. I may have accomplished that feat already only one hundred and something words into this misguided foray into the written word.

If I had to choose I would rather write something that was pointless but not tedious. You can entertain while being pointless, if you don’t believe me just watch CNN, but CNN is only entertaining if you realize that it is pointless. If you actually think CNN is a news source then it is no longer entertaining; then it is pointless and tedious.

I came across a report put out by the Bureau of Mines that I had to bring to your attention. In the study it is estimated that by the year 2008 the national per capita annual consumption of coal will reach 1.8 metric tons. This increase is due almost entirely to the electricity needed to fuel the growing number of tanning salons across the country. The Commerce Department has decided to place a tax on tans to help pay for the extra electricity consumption. Ethnic and racial minorities will be required to get a note from their mothers to be eligible for a tax exemption.

That isn’t what my essay is about because that isn’t a joke worthy of an essay. But what if I told you that in today’s Wall Street Journal an economist at Salomon Brothers has estimated that Americans spend 2.3 Trillion dollars annually on products and processes that make them more fake. These products that make people more fake include, fake nails, fake tans, fake boobs, fake eye lashes, fake hair, scalp paint, fake hair colors, and so on. If you use more than three products that make you fake may I suggest one of those fake novelty moustache, nose, and glasses instead? You will save a ton of money and you will achieve your goal of people not being able to recognize you when you go out in public.

That isn’t what this essay is about either because that is probably dumber than the first attempt at humor. Let me start over.

I saw a bumper sticker on an old Volkswagen bus the other day that said “Free Tibet.” Now I know that Tibet is kind of a crappy old country but I don’t think we should be able to get it for free. I think we should at least trade them something for it even if we don’t feel like forking over any cash.

La tierra es de quien la trabaja. Zapata

I saw that on a t-shirt for a Santa Fe bar. That was the most profound thing I had come across for the entire day. It’s not like I wasn’t trying. I am rereading Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy (If you don’t speak pretty good Spanish I would think that McCarthy’s books would be rather bewildering), I read some news both online and in print, I listened to some music, played some music, and yet the deepest thought I ingest for the day is a quote on a t-shirt.

Final thought:

It is only June 14th, it’s not even summer. Doesn’t everyone in the country still sleep under cotton sheets and a heavy down comforter? Doesn’t your building still have the heat on at night? Where is that wool sweater of mine, the turtleneck? Isn’t it a great day to go see a movie in out of the rain? I see the sun peaking out from beneath those heavy clouds. Better lather on some sun block before leaving the house. Don’t forget to take a jacket!

10th floor reading room. Posted by Hello

This is a shot of the new Seattle public library. It has been called the first library of the 21rst century. I like tha sound of that. Click on the image to imbiggen.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Cars: Loud, Ugly, Expensive, and Fattening

In a study of 10,500 metropolitan Atlanta residents published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 91 percent of all respondents said that they didn’t walk to any destinations. For every extra 30 minutes people spent in their cars each day, the risk of obesity went up 3 percent. The typical white male living in the suburbs is 10 pounds heavier than his urban counterpart. The study was done by Lawrence Frank, an associate professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

I live on the flip side of this life model. I walk or ride my bike to well over 91% of my destinations. The only brush I have with the horrible congestion that is supposed to exist in the Seattle metropolitan area is when I listen to traffic reports on the radio. When they talk about back-ups on the 5-10 they may as well be talking about Iraq as far as it concerns me.

I was driving out to the Cascades to go hiking last weekend and I needed to get gas. Iraqi SUV juice in Seattle was $2.50 a gallon. I ended up paying $2.38 a gallon at a station in North Bend. It was the most I have ever paid to fill my tank (in the USA), something like $28. I have a fuel efficient car (VW Jetta) and I drive so little that I wouldn’t care if gas went to $10 a gallon. My car is almost exclusively a recreational vehicle; it’s like a boat or a snowmobile or something.

I was out the other night with a friend who doesn’t live downtown. She was driving and picked me up at my apartment. We were going to a restaurant and we needed to park. I told her to pull over at an open spot ahead. She protested that we were still three or four blocks from our destination. I know how bad parking can be and I convinced her to take this spot while the going was good. For people who live in town a 3-4 block walk is nothing.

I was trying to have a phone conversation with my brother as I was walking down First Avenue in Seattle yesterday afternoon. I had to duck into a doorway to escape the constant barrage of noise emitted by the automobiles along the street. I rarely notice just how much noise pollution vehicles add to the urban cityscape. I finally walked down into the Pike Place Market where there are few cars. The noise level decreased dramatically even though there were hundreds more pedestrians than on the street above.

In my final criticism of automobiles I refer once again to the construction project in front of my building (Picture somewhere below). Parking isn’t allowed on the street until construction is finished. The street looks beautiful without the litter of automobiles on both sides of the tree-lined avenue.

We rarely consider the full expense we are paying as a culture for the privilege of using cars as our primary means of transportation.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

End of the Cold War Remembered

There is a game called Jenga in which you begin with a monolith of wooden blocks. Each person in turn removes one of the blocks until the structure tumbles. I am reminded of this game when I hear that Ronald Reagan ended communism. He didn’t end it. It was doomed from almost the beginning and perhaps only American anti-communism kept it going for so long. Cuba has persevered not in spite of our anti-Castro policies but because of them. Reagan simply removed the last block that sent the Soviet Union tumbling to its inevitable demise.

I would like to think that President Jimmy Carter dealt the Soviets a harsher blow than anything Reagan accomplished when Carter withdrew the American team from the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. This was seen as a fairly unpopular move here in the USA. There was endless commentary on what our athletes sacrificed by sitting out these games. I would say that there was more press coverage then of the plight of the Olympic athletes than you hear now in the press about our soldiers fighting in Iraq. Our soldiers can’t make a tiny splash when they dive or get perfect tens on the balance beam; why should we revere infantrymen who only risk their lives to implement American policy?

Boycotting the 1980 games was a stunning blow to the Soviet Union. It robbed them of the publicity and prestige they so desperately needed at a time when their empire was rotting from without and within. They were taking it in the shorts as a result of their ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan and the boycott was another nail in their coffin, another brick out of their monolith. An economics professor who had spent a lot of time in the U.S.S.R. told my class back in 1977 that the Soviet Union was a third world nation and was hardly a worthy adversary for the richest nation on earth. We were made to fear communism for whatever reason politicians feel that fear is necessary to rule.

You can write your history of how communism was vanquished and I’ll write mine.

P.S. Even if we were to agree that Reagan ended communism, my question is this: What the fuck good did it do us? There was a span of about 45 minutes after the fall of the Berlin Wall when we talked about the “Peace Dividend” before Bush Sr. started waging war in the Middle East.
If you can't say something nice say it here.

No argument here. It does my heart good to see more cold water thrown on the pile of people experiencing their latest--and likely last--Reagasm. Now watch while they try to name absolutely everything after their doddering deity. It began years ago here in DC; now I expect the pox to spread nationwide.  


Jun 09 2004, 01:16 pm 

I sent your commentary to NPR. 
Farmer Ned 

Rock on, Farmer Ned. It's about time somebody takes the initiative to step in & act as Leftie's literary agent. 
Everyone knows Fonzie defeated the Commies. All he meant to do was rescue Richie, Ralph Malph, and Potsie from a KGB prison, but he figured while he was in the U.S.S.R. he might as well take care of the Kremlin too. Jeez...I thought everyone knew that.  
Carter? What a weak-ass fuck! You just don't get it, do you? So maybe skipping out on the 1980 Olympics mussed some commie hair; it was Reagan who put it in plain English: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" What part of that don't you get? 
Type-A Hippie 

If Type-A is in the house I guess this means Rush Limbaugh isn't on the air today? Gosh, Mr. Type-A, when you put it so eloquently (profanity and frat boy cliches like "What part of that don't you get?) I guess I will change my mind along with my whole way of thinking and get on the Reagan hagiography bandwagon. 
Please pay no mind to the collective action of tens of millions of Americans over 44 years to combat Communism (like Leftie's Jenga metaphor); no, according to the Reagan revisionists, ole Grandpa Happy did it all himself. Plus, like a rock star, communism basically choked on its own vomit. I guess I "don't get" your happy myths and ideological fantasies. I certainly don't get anonymous dorks who spew out silly piffle like "Type-A Hippie" much like doofus high school kids covering their mouths and shouting "blow job" loudly during a pep rally.  

After the demise of communism in Eastern Europe there was an awkward period where there was no *real* enemy of the West. At least we have a new enemy now, so our governments can spend our tax dollars making aerospace companies rich. 
Ron Reagan is a jelly doughnut.  
 Farmer Ned 
Can I be a "frat-boy" and a "doofus" at the same time? No matter. You 'lefty-s' are apparently such sensitive organisms all it takes is mere disagreement for you to lapse into ad-hominem attacks. Isn't it about time liberals started to develop a sense of respect for a type of intelligence that differs from their own? Carter is "smarter" than Reagan. So what? You may disagree with the specifics of Reagan's plans all you like, but don't kid yourself that Carter could have accomplished half of what he did. His unique combination of personal charm, pragmatism and force of will earned the grudging respect of the Soviets, and it should have yours, too. 
Type-A Hippie

Tell me where in my essay I showed disrespect for Reagan. You called Carter a "weak-ass fuck," do you remember that? You can’t even write two successive comments without creating some major inconsistencies. Stop mouthing off Rush Limbaugh-speak boiler-plate criticisms of the Left and develop some original thoughts. 

I served under President's Reagan, Bush I and Clinton. Force of will? Bullshit! What about hard work in service of the nation? What about critical patriotism? Reagan WAS pragmatic enough to know that tax cuts in the early 80s had to be reversed, yes. What was the national debt after his 8 years of service? It seems to be that it was about $4.5 Trillion--3x that amount before his Presidency. In order to "balance" the budget one year, he moved our military pay day from the last day of the month in September, to the first day of the month in October (the next fiscal year). Again, pragmatic--but certainly economic slight of hand. So, my guess is that if I have not grudgingly accepted the “realities” of President Reagan’s charming character and pragmatic policies, then I am worse than the Soviet Commies, right? Nice oblique ad hominem attack, T-A-H! It’s only thorough the force of will that I can think of the Ronald Reagan’s presidency without vomiting. How long did it take for us to dig out from voodoo economics? I’d certainly rather be a “tax-and-spend liberal” than a “don’t-tax-and-spend” conservative. At least then the public would have something to show for the mounting debt. 
Farmer Ned

Kevin Philips commentary on NPR's Morning Edition was pretty fair to Reagan. But I got the sense that he was holding back a bit. We'll see what he has to say later, after all the pomp in DC.  Farmer Ned 

Listen to Tom Frank on NPR's Fresh Air today, 6/10/04. *Type-A-Hippie: Tom Frank was a young Republican by the way. Tom Frank wrote an article in Harper's last month--an essay (excerpt) from "What's The Matter With Kansas?" 
Farmer Ned

First sayeth Type-A Hippie: Carter? What a weak-ass fuck! You just don't get it, do you? So maybe skipping out on the 1980 Olympics mussed some commie hair; it was Reagan who put it in plain English: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" What part of that don't you get? Then sayeth Type-A Hippie: You 'lefty-s' are apparently such sensitive organisms all it takes is mere disagreement for you to lapse into ad-hominem attacks. You BEGAN your argument with an ad hominem. How funny. This is the rhetorical style of cowardly bullies: call someone an asshole, and when they call you one back, cry about the fact they called you an asshole. I am sure you are, "Type-A Hippie," the paragon of strength, courage, and moral clarity--at least in your own mind. But you're probably some pasty-faced little shitheel who barely has the "moral courage" to pump your own gas. I am a sensitive organism, yesiree. All my life that's been my curse. Such a fragile little flower, little old me. Always the coward, so thin skinned, so afraid to face the slings and arrows of rational discourse. It is hard to take an anonymous shit-slinger seriously. Type-A doesn't even leave an e-mail address, nor a link to his (her?) weblog, which is probably filled with great words of wisdom about duty, honor, country, and all those other lofty attributes (he/she) embodies so magnificently. And when you think about it, that's pretty much what the neocons are all about. Words, not action. Gathering together all the neocons out there, you couldn't even field a boy scout troop that wouldn't shit on itself if left in the woods for a second, let alone field an army of bold and courageous souls ready to battle with the forces of evil. "Type-A Hippe": You fragile little organsim, leave an e-mail address or weblog link that belongs to you. Then lecture me about intestinal fortitude, you cowardly little dingleberry. 

One more thing: If you read my weblog, not only do I give my name, I pretty much tell the whole world the exact location where I live, and I even further tell where I hang out. In other words, you know where I am at. I am not such a 'sensitive organism" that hides behind anonymity. You want to come lecture me about courage and moral strength, I welcome you to do so to my face, little one. I've never met a neocon yet who had the guts to say to my face what they shout behind the thousands of miles of wires (via the Internet) or meter-thick concrete walls that separate us. I am not a violent person, but I welcome any gutless turd like this Type-A person to say these things to my face. I'll even buy you a beer and allow you five minutes of uninterrupted time to get it all out. And then I will buy you another beer; after all, nothing you can say to me would hurt me or piss me off. If it makes you feel better, however, I don't mind being your scratching post. When you are prepared to reveal enough about yourself to clearly indicate who you are, instead of hiding behind your cowardly anonymity, I will take to heart your condemnation of me as a "sensitive organism."

Since Jimmy Carter isn't part of this discussion, I don't believe I was making an ad-hominem attack. More of a profane interjection, I'd say. Unless one of you is J.C. posting under a pseudonym! (Skipping out on your Habitat for Humanity duties, Jimmy?) But, in all fairness, "weak-ass fuck" was language too harsh to begin a discussion with the sensitive souls here. FYI, Mat, I don't have my own 'blog. Sorry about that. And I should give out my email address so I can, what, receive verbal spam from the likes of you? No thanks. If I want to be called a "dingleberry" I know where to go, don't I?
Type-A Hippie 

See what I mean? I rest my case. Fly away, little sissy. 

Type-A-Pussie: Matt's a veteran. Leftbanker is. I am. We all served during The Cold War. We did more for you than Reagan ever did. But I'm sure your parents have you convinced that Reagan was a hero. He wasn't. Neither were we. Oh yeah, and Matt, Leftie and I are smarter than either you or Reagan. And for us, just knowing that is more valuable than you will ever know. Farmer Ned a/k/a Dave Pechman Denver, CO 
Farmer Ned 

You're a big stupid head. 

No, you are.
Type-A for Anonymous 

You got me there. Boy, do I ever feel stupid.

Type-A Anonymous 

Don't gloat, nobody likes a gloater. 

My bad. Sorry. 
Type-A Anonymous 

No problem. Anyone want to go to the pub for a beer? 
Your Gracious Host

I'm in. 
Farmer Ned

Type-A, spew that Reagan bile to the 240 Marines that died on his ill-fated attempt to stop the fighting in Lebanon. And that invasion of Granada, that really sent a strong message to the Russians as to our military strength. Least we forget Col. Ollie North. There was a patriot – and convicted felon. Swapping weapons for coke with the Contras was great foreign policy. The citizens of California still don’t recognize Reagan’s governorship after he gutted the best public school system in the nation. I guess we’re still waiting for the private sector to step up and fill in that academic shortfall. I’ll never lived down the fact that I voted for him the first time. 
Wow, I step out to do some yard work and I miss even more name-calling. Flame on, guys! I guess I'm just not smart enough, or tough enough, or veteran enough to hang around with this little daisy-chain of friends. Leftbanker, as I said before you're a pretty good writer, that's why I read you. But you've got to outgrow this little support group of yours, and I think you know what I mean. 
Type-A Hippie 

Yeah Leftie, that's what I keep telling you at the AA meetings, you are way too dependent on this support group. Ronald Regan was the second worst president of the last 50 years (can you guess the worst).

Martin Sheen? 
The Management

Hey, "The West Wing" is a guilty pleasure! Quick-witted, smart people who can think on their feet and great dialogue. I can only imagine the clicks and grunts that pass for conversation in the Bush White House....
kevin m.

Well, you know, Martin Sheen also kinda "played" the President in The Dead Zone in one of Johnnie's premonitions. And, hooooo-doggies was he evil! So Mr. Sheen gets my vote as the 2nd worst President. 

The truth: Citing make-believe Presidents is not quite as insipid as giving real ones make-believe credit for their make-believe accomplishments, as we are learning this week on the Reagan hagiography orgyfest. But I think America loves its mythology. We love our fairy tales as long as we get to be the hero at the end, even when we've erred horribly or done great harm. It is easier to wax mythologically than to be self-critical and honest. It is easier to lie to ourselves than to stand up and take blame for our stupidity, ineptitude, and incompetence. If we are truly the leader of the free world, then we need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard than we do when we perpetuate these silly myths, lies, half-truths, and fairy tales. Reagan was a horrible, bumbling, half-witted President who surrounded himself with some nefarious courtiers (Meese, Deavers, Poindexter, McFarlane, North, et al.). They preached America and democracy but then did everything in their power to piss on the American Constitution and its democratic principles. They had no respect for the law when the law was antithetical to their narrow set of false values. Reagan no more won the Cold War than FDR won WW II or Lincoln won the Civil War; wars are won by common men and women, by private citizens who put down their plows and pick up the rifle to defend America. This concept may be too difficult to explain to a generation that loves its mythology, and further loves to preach patriotism and democracy yet doesn't have the guts or will to get dirty and actually serve those causes with anything more than empty words and a raised fist. Let's not forget this SIMPLE fact about the Reagan Administration, all ye hagiographers: they broke the law and most were convicted of doing so. That they fell on their swords to protect the old man doesn't absolve the bastard from blame or guilt. So go ahead and immerse yourself in the myths and lies about Reagan being spewed out this week like fact. It only leads to more American cultural rot and further erodes the already greatly diminished ability of this Republic to remain democratic. 

Great Leftie Overlord . . . Founder of the Faith . . . Keeper of the Flame . . . C'mon everyone knows that good conservatives pay OTHER people to do their yard work. Trickle-down theory, you know. Let's see an essay repost regarding crab grass, Leftie. Your loyal Minion, Farmer Ned.
Farmer Ned

P.S. Reagan also cured acne. I heard it on liberal NPR. 

Bartlett is the Best President of all time. He has a nobel prize in Economics, plus he is really smart and stuff. Like remember when he ordered the assassination of Qumari Defense Minister Shareef, that was awsome! But when his daughter got kidnapped, that kinda sucked, I felt really bad for him Yes, I know I have lost all touch with reality, I like it better this way. 

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A Way to Spend a Saturday?

Storm coming up on Rattlesnake Ledge. Posted by Hello

The last few minutes of the day. Posted by Hello

I tried to get some pictures of the mountains today but the weather was pretty bad. I hiked up to Rattlesnake Ledge (top left in the first picture)with two dogs. Just as we got to the top we could hear thunder. I wasn't lookig to get quick-fried so we headed down immediately. My quote of the day: "I like hiking in the rain better than the normal non-rain." We got thoroughly drenched but I hid a tallboy in a stream at the bottom by the car. Nothing like a stream-cold beer after a six mile hike. We left the soaking wet dogs in the car while we got a bite to eat in North Bend, Washington which lies at the foot of Mount Si. The dogs stunk up the car to high heaven which didn't seem to bother them one bit. I had to drive home in the rain with the sun roof open just to be able to breath.

The Space Needle shot shows that Seattle has the best light at dusk, just before the sun drops below the Olympic Mountains.


You work to earn money. You earn money to pay for a place to live and food. All of the money you have left over after that you use to buy stuff. This is supposed to be the fun part; this is supposed to be the pay-off for hard work and toil. For a lot of people buying the stuff is more fun than the actual stuff. They will tell stories years from now about how they found that in a little shop in Tucson, that it was on sale—half price!

It is too easy to pick on malls but let’s take a look at malls. Malls are like amusement parks for people who like to shop. For people who don’t like to shop malls are like hell, but they aren’t built for people who don’t like to shop. They are built for people who love nothing more than shopping. Some people like to just go to malls and walk around and pretend like they are shopping. I would personally rather go walk around a cemetery and pretend that I am dead. I would rather go to a hospital and pretend I have cancer.

Like I said, malls weren’t built for people who equate shopping with cancer and death; they are built for people who equate shopping with dreaming and living. A young girl buys a cute top and day dreams about wearing it on an episode of Friends. A woman buys a Persian rug and dreams about the day the President and the First Lady come over for coffee or whatever it is people dream about when they are buying stuff. About the only thing that goes through my mind when I shop is, “Is it humanly possible for me to live without this?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then I leave it on the shelf. I guess you could say that I’m not a dreamer.

Speaking of dreams, there is a show on TV called The Price is Right. I mention this for any of you who may not have ever been to this country or for those of you who have been trapped in a coal mine for the past 30 odd years. On the show people from the audience get on stage and the cryogenically-preserved host, Bob Barker, asks the contestants to guess the price of a bunch of household products like washing machines and thoroughly tasteless living room furniture. The one who guesses closest wins. I know it sounds stupid but what do we know? Have you had a show on TV since the Nixon administration?

This show is to consumerism what the New Testament is to Christianity; it is the Koran of shopping. I would put forth that if there were a show on TV where contestants had to answer questions about the Bible, not only would it not be popular but not many people could answer correctly. People are good at guessing the price of stuff, people are fucking uncanny at knowing what stuff costs. Not every America shopper makes it on The Price is Right but you will see millions and millions of them out training for the show at the local mall. In a nation that is becoming progressively more fundamentalist Christian, malls draw bigger crowds than churches. I don’t know what to make of that. I’m not too comfortable in churches or malls. I don’t know what to make of that. If shopping is our secular religion then I am still an atheist.

I would have an easier time guessing people’s weight at the circus than trying to put a price on an end table or a clothes dryer. I could better guess the circumference of the earth than the price of a lawn mower. I don’t have a thick green lawn even though I have been told repeatedly to get one. I haven’t answered the tidal wave of e-mails I receive every day that promise I can have a bigger you-name-it. Evidently what I have isn’t big enough or at least it could be bigger, which is always better.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Limitations of the Written Word

What is the literary equivalent of falling backwards on a coffee table and shattering it to pieces? If I write about three people on one bicycle riding down a flight of steep stairs will it be as funny as seeing this disaster on film? I could win a Nobel Prize in literature and I could never write anything funny enough to compare with watching a Pink Panther movie. Is it even possible to write in a slapstick style?

The written word has its strengths and film has its advantages. Sure, it is a lot more fun to see a fat guy doing a belly flop on top of a bunch of girls in bikinis but if you read about that same event you have a better understanding of the characters. You would know that the overweight guy began putting on weight as a kid to compensate for not getting enough attention from his parents.

You would know that his adult life has been a roller coaster of weight loss and gain until he finally gives up and jumps off of the top railing of a patio fence on to a group of scantily-clad sorority girls. In the Nobel Prize-winning book version you would know that he pulled this stunt to gain favor with the elite of his fraternity, a group of Aryan males who have thus far excluded him from their inner circle because of his weight problem.

If all you did is watch the video of the corpulent fraternity boy’s stunt you wouldn’t know that one of the sorority girls just got engaged to the dreamiest guy in the fraternity. If you read the book you would know that she doesn’t think it the least bit strange that her fiancé sleeps in the same bed as his fraternity brother. They have decided to wait until they get married to have sex. He decided that.

I am a reader so I prefer the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel Caddy Shack to the movie by Harold Ramis. Sure, Super Troopers was a funny movie but the novel of the same name by Tom Wolfe dealt a lot more with the inner workings of the Vermont State Police hierarchy.

That’s it. That’s all you get for free and 30 minutes of my time.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Technological Breakthroughs in Humor

Today I am going to experiment with a completely revolutionary type of humor. This type of humor has been under development at Leftbanker Laboratories® under conditions of extreme secrecy. The conditions are so secret that even I didn’t know anything about the project until I got half-way through this cup of coffee I am drinking. Let me get a warm up and I will let you in on this daring new endeavor. By the way, I think that “endeavor” is a totally appropriate word to describe this bold and daring new endeavor.

I hate drinking luke warm coffee, don’t you? I think I put too much sugar in my coffee, don’t you hate that? OK, I’m stalling; I admit it. I don’t have a bold new approach to humor. While I am confessing things, there are no Leftbanker Laboratories® and they definitely aren’t registered. I just put the little ® symbol there because I think it looks cool and I just figured out how to do it, so expect a lot more use of cool little symbols. I suppose you could call my brain Leftbanker Laboratories® but that is kind of a stretch, and I still haven’t come up with a bold new comedy endeavor.

What makes a lot of things funny? I know, do you? Take television situation comedies; what makes them funny? Certainly not the writing. Have you ever had to sit through an episode of M*A*S*H or Friends? I have read directions on how to put together a bookshelf that has more humor. What makes those shows funny is the laugh track. The more tedious the dialogue the louder the technicians crank up the canned laughter. Not very sophisticated but it works.

Take a blockbuster disaster movie like The Day After Tomorrow. It is supposed to be a sci-fi, disaster, thriller and probably a few other genres. Add a laugh track and it would be about the funniest fucking movie in history. I saw the movie in a packed theater and every person over the age of about ten was laughing quite a bit. Had they intended it to be a comedy they could have inserted canned laughter when the wolves showed up after the twisters, killer hail storms, tidal waves, and the instant ice age. The audience would have died laughing.

In the wake of this startling discovery about humor, Leftbanker Industries® is offering the Personal Laugh Track™ for $39.95. The Personal Laugh Track™ is a small device that fits on your key chain. Simply push the button and the sound of about 25 people laughing hysterically will be broadcast from the device for as long as you hold down the button. Imagine how this will improve the lives of the humor-impaired in this country. The longer you hold down the button, the funnier your joke will be. Example: You are making a really pathetic attempt at humor. You are so utterly pathetic that you resort to telling a joke, a really dumb joke. In the past, you would have simply made everyone within fifty feet of you incredibly uncomfortable, not so with the Personal Laugh Track™.

You: A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

(push the button) Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Your friends (who used to pity you): Stop it, you’re killing us.

And so on for as long as you want the gag to last.

As long as the technology exists I don’t think there is any reason for you to be so tedious and humor-free. Listen, having zero sense of humor is a crippling disease. You were born with this crippling disease and there is finally help for you. I mean, if you had a badly infected foot you wouldn’t just walk around on it until it became gangrenous, would you? You retelling the plot to an episode of Golden Girls is the humor equivalent of that gangrenous foot. You wear glasses, right? Then what is so bad about a mechanical device that will actually make you fit to go out in public?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Just Thinkin' Bout the Day After Tomorrow

Today is June 1, 2004. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Either that or it’s the last day of all of your life up until today. Either that or it’s just another day, a day like any other. A day of such relentless tedium and mediocrity that you wonder what drives you on to live another day. Or maybe today will be remarkably unlike any other day that has ever occurred. Maybe today will be the most famous day in all of history. That would certainly be exciting. I can hardly wait.

A more likely scenario will be that today is just another drop of water that makes its way to a stream, which runs into a river, which flows into the sea. The drop will evaporate into the air and come down again as a drop in a very Ecclesiastical fashion (the upper case biblical Ecclesiastical). From whence days come, thither they flow again or however it goes.

So today probably won’t be all that memorable in the whole scheme of mankind and the universe or whatever. Today will be incredibly similar to countless other days. Sun comes up, sun goes down. People are born, people die. Baseball season ends, Mariners don’t make playoffs, etc. If life is a river why can’t I swim over to the bank and take a nap? I’ll catch up later. Either that or I can just get back in the next time everyone comes floating by.

This all seems more like a merry-go-round than a flowing river; a merry-go-round with those crazy horses that scare the living crap out of kids. Sometimes the crazy merry-go-round of life seems to go really slowly and other times it is going so fast you feel like you need to hang on for dear life. So far, today feels like it is going to be one of those days where the carnival ride of life isn’t going to be all that thrilling, to put it mildly.

Oh my God, is it still today? It seems like it should be tomorrow already--tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Maybe today just seems to be dragging because I don’t have a TV? If I had a TV I could watch an old Steven Segal Movie or a talk show and it would almost be tomorrow instead of the very middle of today. If I’m supposed to be floating down the river of life then maybe I’m stuck on a sand bar. My butt really hangs low in the water so maybe I need a bigger inner tube?

Wait a second. Today is June 2nd. That’s more like it. It already is tomorrow. Time flies when you’re having fun. I feel like I am caught up in a veritable whirlwind of excitement and drama. This is great. What a life I have! I need to get busy. There is so little time. I feel like I am shooting the rapids. Hang on for dear life.

If I have time today I am going to go out and buy the biggest fucking TV you ever seen. I might have to get a bigger apartment while I’m at it. Then I am going to buy the entire DVD set of Steven Segal’s movies. Then I am going to watch every damn one of them. Life is too precious to waste. I’m not a life waster, I’m a life saver. Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow to get my TV. I don’t have any plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow, or better yet, the day after tomorrow.