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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Have a Nice Day, Convict

How is a fairly misanthropic person like me supposed to deal with grotesquely cheerful coffee shop employees hurling imperatives like “Have a great day,” and other corporate-approved forms of non communication? As a transplanted easterner I find this faux friendliness particularly disturbing. I have found Seattle to be an especially friendly city--whatever the hell that means. I think what that means is when you walk down the street and make accidental eye contact with the person walking towards you, there is a good chance they won’t bark out, “What the fuck are you looking at?”

I think a lot of east coast manners have trickled down from our violent prison system. From the death row school of etiquette common on the streets of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Miami, and a lot of other violent eastern cities, we come to the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, British Columbia didn’t learn their manners in the prison yard, they inherited them from their parents who seem to have been Ned Flanders and Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. People here prefer to keep Darwin in the textbooks. Survival of the fittest isn’t something you learn walking on a downtown street.

Perhaps Seattle, being slightly behind the times, will adopt the gangster, prison-chic attitude of personal relations that is the style in bigger American cities. I think that politeness is some sort of recessive gene, a trait that will be overrun and conquered by rudeness. It has been extremely difficult for me to adapt to west coast manners. The attitude here is not exactly “Love Thy Neighbor,” it is more like “There is nothing gained by being a complete asshole to total strangers.”

After serving my sentence in a couple of eastern cities I have been slowly evolving into a polite Seattleite. When someone—usually a service industry employee—practically ordered me to “have a nice day,” I never knew how to respond. The same was true of other linguistic sawdust like “Have a good one.” I know these people mean well but I never knew what to say in return. I usually just gave an audible grunt that sounded like something between a burp and a fart. It’s not that I was trying to be rude; I honestly didn’t know how to answer. Some of the responses I used in the past didn’t work out so well.

--Fuck off!
--No, YOU have a nice day, goddammit!
--OK, I WILL have a nice day and when I do you’ll feel like a total idiot with your insincere taunts.
--What do you mean by “nice?”

I finally settled on “Thank you.”

I can be excused my rudeness because in other cities far to the east of Seattle, these kind of exchanges are meant to put you off guard. Street smart people know that what comes next is someone trying to put a shiv in you, or beat you to death with a lunch tray lifted from the prison cafeteria. What I have learned in my stay here in Seattle is not to read too much into what people say. Like on the east coast, when someone tells you to fuck off, most of the time it just means to fuck off. Don’t look for some hidden meaning. When someone here tells me to have a nice day, sometimes that is all they are saying.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Words Are Fun

Good title, bad picture.
The Title

I have finally decided on the title for my book of Leftbanker essays. Words Are Fun seems dumb and unthreatening enough so as not to scare away people who aren’t too familiar with reading.

The Foreword

“I died laughing.”
Arthur Q. Benchley (1958-2005)

That is an actual testimonial from a former Leftbanker reader and the finest compliment I have ever received. My condolences go out to Arthur’s friends and family. Contrary to popular belief, laughing is not an easy way to go. Consult with a physician before reading. I would imagine that Arthur had some other health issues, but if he wants me to get credit for his demise I don’t see why I shouldn’t exploit it to sell some books. I don’t think he would have minded, but we’ll never know.

I wrote these essays in the morning the same as some people do the crossword puzzle. I could never make it through a crossword puzzle so I started writing humor. If you don’t think any of these essays are funny, don’t worry. This probably just means that you are a normal, well-adjusted person. Instead, you probably like reading books about country veterinarians or heroic, crime-fighting lawyers. There are none of those in this book. If there are any, something bad probably happens to them. Comedy is cruel that way. Please don’t blame me; I don’t make the rules.

Most of this stuff was first posted on the internet. Some people call the internet the information superhighway. I call it the virtual sewer. I pulled all of these words out of the gutter, hosed them off, and now you can read them in a handy book form. Words are fun. Go have fun.

Sincerely, Leftbanker
Seattle, Washington

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi:

Separating Change and Progress

Our idea of what skills are necessary to make someone competent to exist in the world change rapidly. The man who prided himself on his ability to program a VCR had little time to lord over those of us with flashing zeros on our machines. VCR’s went the way of those funny bicycles with the huge front wheels.

There are contests where geeks compete to see who can text message the fastest. We have no word “messager’ to denote one who text messages, not yet anyway, and before we make such a word let’s be sure that this phenomenon will endure long enough to be worth a print cycle of Webster’s Dictionary. I have a feeling that text messaging will very soon go the way of acid-washed jeans and wine coolers—two other things I never tried.

Driving an automobile is a skill that those of us who drive completely take for granted. I have been driving cars—legally or otherwise—since I was about fourteen. I have become so good at parallel parking that I have picked up the nickname “Urban Parker.” I know plenty of people who live in the city who don’t know how to drive. They never saw a need for it. Staying out of cars must increase your life expectancy by a few years. As dumb as I think text messaging is, not many people die from it. It’s too late for me to unlearn my driving skills, but let’s just say that I don’t practice much these days.

I don’t even want to start with video games. I came of age before video games. Before I left home there weren’t any sort of video games on the market, maybe not even on the horizon. Video gaming is definitely a skill I can live without. Call me out of touch but adults who play video games freak me the fuck out.

The French rap artist, MC Solaar, has a cool song called Obsolete in which he laments the passing of former cultural icons pushed aside by the advent of the modern technological world. The idea of the concierge was a concept I first learned about in tenth grade French class. Our teacher spent a lot of time explaining to us about the importance of the concierge in urban French society. I think that this was the first word I learned in French for which we didn’t have a corresponding English equivalent. It took some doing for us to get our little suburban kid minds around the idea of someone whose job is to let in residents in an apartment building, and a lot of other tasks that our parents made us do on weekends. In the MC Solaar song he tells that the concierge has been replaced by a digi-code system. I guess that’s one less thing for American tenth graders to worry about.

I am no Luddite. I have no problem letting go of the past. Just because I am willing to say goodbye to what were once cultural icons, this does not mean that I am also willing to grab a hold of every dumb fucking gimmick that I am presented. I hated typewriters and I love word processing. I always hated albums and I got on board with digital music early on. This doesn’t mean I am any sort of beacon. I thought cell phones were retarded right up until I bought one, years after their advent. Will I ever text message? Maybe. Video games? Never.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Intelligent Design Not Very Intelligently Deconstructed

Hello, I’m Peter Brady PhD, professor of biology at the University of Washington in Seattle. I’m here today to put an end to all of this nonsense about Intelligent Design. ID has been put forth by religious people in America who feel threatened by science. These people feel the need to present a counter-explanation to evolution concerning the development man. They feel that the science of evolution challenges their religious beliefs. They think that science should only be used to make pills to make their sagging dicks hard, or to grow hair on their heads to fill in their comb-overs.

Intelligent Design says that man is much too sophisticated and wonderful to have come about by chance from the evolutionary soup of prehistory. That is a nice thought, but it completely flies in the face of science and common sense.

Let me ask you this; if humans were created intelligently, why are we so incredibly disgusting? Do I have to remind you of what we humans leave in our wake? OK, I’ll remind you: Shit, piss, snot, dandruff, pus, BO, scabs, blood, puke, spit, ear wax, boogers, farts, belches, and these are just the ones that I can mention on this very family-oriented web site.

If we were created by God, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Krishna, or whatever word your church uses, then why are we so alarmingly revolting? If an all powerful being designed humans, I would say that the big guy has the sense of humor of a not-very-well-adjusted third grader. Not that there is anything wrong with having a child’s sense of humor; I would just expect more out of a god if I believed in one. Go visit an outhouse at a primitive camp site and take a deep breath. After you stop gagging, if you ever do regain the faculty of speech, I guarantee that “intelligent” is the very last adjective you will use when describing humans. If I were a god and I wanted to intelligently design humans, I would make their only byproduct something inoffensive, like steam or the scent of gardenias. I also wouldn’t design humans to be capable of emitting a veritable arsenal of vulgar noises.

What will be the next bit of science that these people will attempt to refute? How about gravity? Let’s come up with a counter theory to gravity because it challenges our religious values. Instead of gravity we will call it God’s Velcro®. Jesus makes us stick to the planet because he loves us. Let’s start putting stickers on our children’s text books warning them that gravity is only a theory held by a handful of mad scientists who are all atheists and probably gay.

Instead of dreaming up all of these crackpot counter-theories, wouldn’t it be easier and more fun to bring back the Inquisition?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Blonds Have More Funny

How do you know if you have a blond secretary?
There is White-out® on the computer screen.

That joke is not only completely devoid of humor; it is also incredibly demeaning on many levels. Why is this sort of hurtful and vulgar humor still tolerated in this country? Why do we still allow people to make incredibly insensitive jokes about blond women? The same people who wouldn’t dream of tolerating a racial joke will laugh their guts out at virulent anti-blond wise cracks. Blonds seem to be the last group for which we allow unfavorable stereotypes to persist.

Why do blonds have a few more brain cells than horses?
So they don’t shit in the parade.

How would that make you feel if your little eight year old daughter—a blond—was going to twirl a baton in a big parade down main street this Saturday? Do you think that joke would raise her self-esteem because she would see herself as vaguely superior to horses because there aren’t guys with shovels walking behind the baton twirlers? No, I think she’ll be crying in her room for the next two days. Go right up there and let her know that if she shits in the parade it won’t be the end of the world. Stage fright often takes the form of incontinence. Let her know that her “little problem” is no “big deal.”

What did the blond say after sex?
“I’m just a big dumb whore.”

That last one isn’t a real joke; I just made it up. Not bad, eh? You heard it here first. I suppose that you could use that response as the punch line for all blond jokes. Not that I would, because blond jokes are demeaning.

Why can’t we stop this onslaught of vulgar humor directed at our nation’s blond women, natural or otherwise—mostly otherwise? From now on all jokes should be about Michael Jackson. I think that MJ is ridiculous enough to be the butt of all of our jokes. If we could just talk him into dyeing his hair blond we wouldn’t have to throw all of these perfectly good blond jokes on the scrap heap.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why Rush Limbaugh Hates Us

Rush Limbaugh is a very angry man. He hates liberals. He detests liberals. Rush thinks that liberals are the worst scum to ever have walked the face of the earth. Can you blame him? When he was a boy he was sexually molested by a liberal. Although the police report doesn’t specify, the offender may have even been a hippie, possibly hippies, quite possibly many, many, MANY hippies*. Please think about that the next time you judge Rush harshly over his moronic views on national politics or his jingoistic opinions on foreign policy.

I know what you are all saying, being the hyper-liberal, ultra-politically correct, do-gooders that you all are. You are saying that there is nothing funny about a child being molested. It isn’t funny unless it happens to a know-nothing, draft-dodging, proto-fascist sack of shit like Rush Limbaugh who is now marketing T-shirts mocking prisoner abuse at Guantanamo.

As a matter of fact, Rush was an adult at the time of the hippie gang rape. Does that make you happy? Does that assuage your guilt over the rush of pleasure you experienced upon hearing of young Rush’s misfortune? He just looked younger than his 18 years because he was such a corpulent little red-faced cherub. He was so plump and cute back then that you would never have guessed that he would turn out to be the grotesque caricature of a capitalist pig that he is today.

Think about that story the next time you hear one of his radio rants against liberals. Through his angry words it is impossible not to hear his desperate cries for help. With every slanderous word he hurls at liberals you can almost hear him pining for the time he spent an entire three-day weekend working a port-a-potty glory hole at a Grateful Dead concert. The only way poor Rush can perform marital relations with his sixth wife is if he fantasizes about a psychedelic school bus filled with long-haired Viet Nam War protesters.

Every angry word that Rush utters against welfare cheats and environmentalists is simply the work of a man in complete denial. It’s sad to think that in order for Mr. Limbaugh to fulfill his true sexual orientation he has to wear a disguise consisting of a tasteful floral sun dress and a hat with flowers and fruit on the brim. Then he cruises bars frequented by union workers or PETA volunteers. His fetish for liberals has gotten so bad that he actually carries around a picture of Fidel Castro wearing a Speedo® in his wallet. He spends thousands of dollars every week calling an 800 number that charges $5.95 a minute to tell you personal things about Noam Chomsky.

*I thought about that last ‘many’ for a while and I just felt it added immensely to the humor value of that particular sentence. Any humorist worth his salt knows that three of anything makes it funnier.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Head of the Class

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t the valedictorian of my class in high school. If all of the K grades were a race to the finish at graduation, I stopped being a contender sometime around second grade. By the time I graduated from high school I was so far at the back of the pack that if I had been any further back I would have been held back. Not only did I not know who was the valedictorian of my class, I don’t think that I understood what it meant to be a valedictorian. Valedictorian would have been just another word on the SAT test for which I would randomly choose ‘C’ as the answer.

I now know that the valedictorian is the top student of the graduating class, an honor some students will take drastic measures to pursue. I have read accounts where some kids actually studied and did homework. The things is, nobody told me about the whole valedictorian thing. I didn’t know you were supposed to study and do homework in high school so you could be the head of your class. I feel that I was cheated out of my chance to be the class leader.

I never got to give a commencement address. About all that I can hope for is that because of something remarkeable that I may do I will be asked to give a speech to graduating students at a high school or a university. I know that eventuality is rather unlikely, considering that I haven’t exactly been blazing any trails anywhere since my mediocre high school days. If I ever do become rich and famous it will be through no fault of mine. If I have one talent in life it is making sure that I don’t become rich and famous. I survived not being valedictorian of my class; I think I can live without being rich and famous.

Just because I wasn’t the head of my class, and I don’t have a prayer of achieving the kind of status required to be asked to give a speech to a graduating class, this doesn’t mean I can’t write the speech just in case. Lots of people become rich and famous completely by accident. Why not me?

Ideas for Graduation Speech:

I think that the key to graduation addresses is that they be incredibly short. Nobody really wants to hear your speech. Just make it quick so the kids can go out and get drunk, or drunker if they started early. As a humorist, my first idea would be to drink a glass of club soda, walk up to the microphone, and let out a tremendous belch. Although there is a lot to be said for this minimalist approach, I think I can come up with something a little more tasteful.

Graduation speech haiku

Knock-knock joke graduation speech

Graduation Speech sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song

Graduation speech as a crude limerick (This idea would only work for Nantucket High School)

With these brilliant ideas you can understand why no one has asked me to give a commencement address.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Filling the Void

A friend called the other day and asked if I wanted to make a trip out to the technology superstore from hell. He said he needed to buy an external hard drive for his laptop. I’m nothing if not a conformist so I said yes. I had thought about getting an external hard drive, but I talked myself out of it. I can’t really see having a need for extra storage space on my computer. Then I got to thinking that our economy, nay, our entire way of life, is based on buying crap you don’t even want let alone need. Who am I to stand in the way of the juggernaut of the American economy? I grabbed a handful of bills out of the big leaf bag where I keep my money and headed out the door.

The superstore from hell has everything you need concerning modern technology. They even have blank VHS tapes. Who the hell uses blank VHS tapes these days, the Amish? The place is as big and about as attractive as an airplane hangar, but they have a lot of computer garbage—or what will be garbage in six months when all of this stuff is obsolete.

The technology superstore from hell has a large corner devoted to hard drives. We almost bought the 400 gig model, because if you are going to do this you may as well go all the way. The 300 gig models were on sale so my inherent cheapness gene beat out my techno-macho gene. I saw another guy put a 100 gig hard drive in his shopping cart. How is that supposed to make you feel like a man?

I set up the new drive and moved all of my music files off of my laptop and over to the big house. I don’t really have the slightest idea of what I am supposed to do with 300 gigs of storage. Using it for my music is like buying a three-car garage for your skateboard. Every single word that I have written thus far on Leftbanker would represent less than a box of matches stored in that three-car, 300 gig garage. It’s obvious that I need more digital possessions to fill up my new hard drive.

Wars have been fought over storage space. The Nazis referred to the territories to their East, primarily Czechoslovakia, as Lebensraum which translates as ‘living space,’ or in High German ‘storage space.’ You don’t need to wage a war for more space; you can just drive out to the superstore from hell and buy it in increments of 100 gigs. What you do with it when you get it home is your business.

I will use mine for music. Is there 300 gigs worth of music in the whole recorded history of music? I think I will try to find out. I am in need of a thoroughly useless, partly quixotic mission in life. At least until I get bored with it. If I don’t obsess over this I will just find something even less constructive, or more costly, to keep me busy. At least I’m not using drugs, right? OK, so I am doing drugs once in a while. At least I’m not out there reading People magazine.

Most of my free time these days is now spent hounding people about what music they are enjoying. I like to ask people to recommend something to me without reservation. I don’t want them to hedge their recommendation in any way. I want them to say to me, “Go get this piece of music. You will love it.” So if you have some music like that let me know about it.

I heard a pretty kick ass song in a mountain bike video I saw recently. The punk band, Pinhead Gunpowder, does a frantic version of the Joni Mitchell tune, Big Yellow Taxi. If you ever travel to Mexico you should know about Vicente Fernandez. He is sort of like their John Wayne and Hank Williams rolled into one. I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of his songs. Even in the barbaric world of cock fighting, there is the right way and the wrong way to do things.

La Muerte de un Gallero.

Nadie soñaba ni el día
ni cómo habría de acabar.
Don Luís Macarena "el Cojo",
villano de Chicoaltlán,
Deshonra de aquél poblado
y gallero profesional.

Hagan apuestas señores
que un hombre va a desafiar.
Al partido Macarena
Y a Luís muy en especial
que no respeta ni gallos
ni lo que hay que apostar.

"Tu vida contra mi vida,
y no te me vas a rajar,"
Contesta así Macarena
"y no te me vas a rajar
Tu vida contra mi vida,
y peléala ha que hay."

"Cierren las puertas señores
yo mismo voy a soltar.
Y vayanle enciendiendo círios
al que me vino a insultar.
Un giro Patas Chorreadas
y mi pietro El Aguila Real."

Y en mudesió el palenque
cuando un giraso en el redondel.
Volando arrasa el suelo
sin darle tiempo a Don Luiís soltar,
se le estrelló en el pecho,
se le estrelló en la cara,
y de fieras cuchilladas
la vida le arrebató.
Y en mudesió ése palenque
cuando el giro enloquecido
remataba Macarena.
Poniéndose alegre a cantar.

Cierren las puertas señores,
cierren las puertas,
yo mismo voy a soltar.
Y vallan enciéndiendo cirios
a ése, a ése, que me vino a insultar.
Tu giro Patas Chorreadas,
tu giro Patas Chorreadas,
contra mi consentido,
el más consentido,
mi prieto Agila Real.

Y en mudesió el palenque...

My SUV Has Pedals

After weeks and weeks of spring rains I was desperate to get out and ride my new mountain bike. The weather for the day called for partly cloudy with evening showers--about as good as it gets lately in the Pacific Northwest. I woke up and looked out through the shades and actually saw a few patches of blue sky. If I wanted better weather it could be a long wait this season. Anything other than riding in the rain would be just fine with me.

By the time I picked up my friend and got coffee it was after one o’clock—a bit of a late start for the central Washington trail we had in mind. We just got on I-90 and started driving into the mountains. I actually had to put on a pair of sunglasses for the drive across Lake Washington. I opened the sunroof and put a new MP3 mix in the player. After several weeks of being stranded in downtown Seattle in the rain, things were beginning to look good.

As we neared Snoqualmie Pass it was too cold to keep the sunroof open, it’s only June 12, after all. I stopped at the summit exit to get something to eat for the ride when it started raining. A long-distance cyclist in front of the store looked miserable as he changed a flat tire in the downpour. I wasn’t about to ride if it didn’t get better than this. As we drove to the east side of the Cascades patches of blue were appearing on the horizon.

Forest Service roads aren’t the most exciting places to ride a mountain bike, but most of them in these parts go way up the mountains. They are also dry. The area around Kachess Lake (elev. 2253 ft) has loads of FS roads and I have ridden quite a few of them. I knew that at the very least I could get in a great workout.

I gladly paid six bucks to drive into a state recreation area at the lake. I figured it was better than leaving my car on a deserted road and having someone turn it into a meth lab while we were out riding. We started pedaling up the first FS road just outside the entrance to the park.

We came across a sign a few hundred feet up the road that attempted to paint these FS roads and the entire area known as Box Canyon as a recreational area. I suppose there is a bit of truth to that assertion; I was out mountain biking after all. What this area, along with its huge network of roads paid for by taxpayers, really serves are the timber companies.

This entire valley in the Cascades has been logged several times over. The new growth trees ranged from brand new to perhaps 60 years old. Although this area is primarily wilderness, it has only a fraction of the bio-diversity of old growth forests. Soil erosion due to clear-cutting inflicts intense damage to the mountain tops. I don’t claim to be a scientist, but common sense dictates that it can’t be wise to clear-cut steep slopes all the way to the summit.

This certainly wasn’t the most interesting terrain I have ever pedaled through, but it was an extremely long and steep grind up. After about two hours we finally got to a point where we couldn’t get any higher. I have done this enough times to have the foresight to bring along a thermal sweatshirt. After two hours of sweating my ass off I quickly started to freeze it off at the summit. From here all we had to do was bomb back down the gravel road all the way to the car. I figured it had been about a nine mile climb.

As hard as it was going up, going down accentuates the steepness of some sections of the road. It is more like a controlled fall than riding downhill. The road becomes more intimate on the way down because you are forced to look at more of it. Riding up all you care about is the few feet in front of you. Going down you need to read the line several hundred feet in front of you the entire way.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Confessions of a Technophobe

All of those years of beating up Star Trek geeks is coming back to haunt me. My phone doesn’t have a digital camera, or maybe it does and I just don’t know it. I’m fairly sure that my digital camera doesn’t have a cell phone. I never thought that I would have a cell phone, but I broke down when they became cheaper than home phones. I don’t do text messaging, not yet. When text messaging becomes cheaper than talking, I suppose that I’ll break down and start doing that, too. I’m not some sort of neo-Luddite, I’m not Amish, nor am I a rebel. I am just too lazy to learn the skills necessary to be on the cutting edge of technology.

I can’t stand to plug people’s names into my cell phone, so writing text messages is totally out of the question. About 99% of the names in my cell phone directory are misspelled because I fucked up when I tried to enter them. I haven’t figured out how to make corrections so when my phone rings and the caller ID says ‘Mgjd’ I just answer it blindly. It turns out that it is Mike on the phone and the only reason that the first letter is correct is because that is the first letter on the keypad for #6. I don’t think the code breakers at the National Security Agency could read one of my text messages if I ever get around to sending one.

I don’t wear my technical ignorance like some badge of honor. To be perfectly honest it’s pretty embarrassing these days to be a tech know-nothing. I try to hide my ignorance like people do who are illiterate, and like those poor souls I find most of the modern world to be fairly bewildering. When I get into one of those phone calls that require that I punch in a bunch of numbers I just start pressing keys on my phone until an operator comes on and politely asks me what the fuck do I think I’m doing.

I was over at someone’s apartment the other day and they asked if I wanted to play some new video game. My screen character lasted about 2.5 seconds before it was shot, stabbed, garroted, and then gang raped (Video games these days are really warped). 2.5 seconds represents my entire video game career. Not only did I get killed immediately, I think I actually broke the game. I haven’t been invited to play again.

I have a brand new state-of-the-art laptop computer. I would say that I exploit about .001% of its capacities. That’s like someone giving me a space shuttle and I only use it as a storage shed. My prime objective with computers is trying not to break them. Let’s just say that not breaking computers is an art I have failed to master.

Television remote controls and I have never been on speaking terms. If you were to kick in the door when I am in a hotel you would probably find me watching the farm report just because that was the station that was on when I checked in. I just hit the power button on the TV and leave the remote control for people with engineering degrees from MIT.

Every time I buy some new bit of technology I tell myself that I am going to read the directions and learn how to use it, really use it. I mean, what good is a color photo printer if I can’t get it to print a page of text with a page number on it? I never learned how to program a VCR. VCR’s are all but extinct so I feel that my ignorance has been vindicated.

I’m a writer but I could write everything I know about Microsoft Word on the back of a postage stamp with a heavy felt marker. In the course of writing this short essay I had to rewrite several sentences because the first drafts just disappeared, vanished into cyber space.

I’m not stupid; I can learn stuff. I went to college. I got good grades. Maybe it’s not my fault. Maybe all of this technology just needs to be a hell of a lot more intuitive. Why should I invest the time to learn about some new gadget that will just go the way of the VCR?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Hyper-rich Versus Democracy:

Why You Should be a Liberal

I still believe that America is a place where a guy can make a million bucks. Ronald Reagan

The problem is that we can’t all be millionaires, Ron. After reading the series Class Matters in the New York Times, Reagan may want to revise his quote. America is a place where a guy can make $100 million or $1 billion. America seems to be evolving into a place where you had better make a million bucks, because anything less will leave you out in the cold without adequate health care or a decent college for your kids. We seem to be moving towards a culture of the “haves,” the “have mores,” and those who will do the yard work for those two groups.

We are rapidly becoming a very class-oriented society. The rich are getting a lot richer. The poor are getting poorer, with less access to adequate medical attention and good schools. Upward mobility is being eliminated, which means that if you were born poor chances are you will die poor. Welcome back the Middle Ages. How much longer will it be before we are required to bow to the rich when their carriages pass or their private jet flies over?

The talking point from the conservatives will immediately require them to brand me as someone who “hates the rich.” Anyone who mentions a need for a more equitable distribution of income via a higher tax portion for the rich is a socialist. I would counter that anyone opposing higher taxes for the hyper-rich is against democracy. It is not so much the money that these people have; it’s the power that their money can buy. When 400 of the richest taxpayers earn half as much as the bottom 28 million citizens, the word “citizen” becomes rather suspect (This means that if you took the income of those top 400 and gave it to the bottom 28 million it would mean a 50% pay raise). I am terribly worried about the society in which I live that allows so few people to have so much influence.

Perhaps the journalist for The Times was putting words into the mouth of Michael Kittredge, the 53 year old, incredibly fatuous super-rich resident of hyper-elite Nantucket, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that the island was like a castle with a moat around it. Today’s ostentatious aristocracy would make the monarchs of mediaeval Europe blush with their excesses. There is a picture on the cover of the June 5, 2005 New York Times showing Kittredge out on his beach digging for clams, looking like Marie Antoinette working at her fake farm at Versailles. Remember what happened to her, Mr. Kittredge

There is no possible way that this lopsided distribution of wealth does not present a serious challenge to our democracy and our ideal that all men are created equal. Not only is the present tax structure slanted to favor the hyper-rich, we have also been told that the inheritance tax (called the death tax) is somehow contrary to the ideals of America. This means that the Kittredges of the country can pass on all of the wealth to their progeny who did nothing to earn it.

The current anti-tax revolution in this country is quickly going to eliminate any advantage that this country has exercised over the rest of the world thus far in the past century. Our lack of commitment to public schools is destroying America’s investment in her people. It is eliminating our ability to innovate. The tax revenues we are giving away to the Kittredges of the country so they can buy 10,000-square-foot homes could be used to construct high speed rail networks like every advanced country is now doing.

We have all of those wonderful private schools; those kids will be our future. Do you think that the children of those richest 400 Americans will lead this country into the 21st century? Sure they will, just like they are leading our troops into battle in Iraq. No, I don’t think so. To the hyper-rich the idea of national defense means living in a gated community, it means raising the drawbridge over their moats.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tell Your Kids the Truth about Lego®

I think that it is about time that we tell the children of the world the horrible truth: Lego is without a doubt the world’s worst toy and has diminished the self-esteem of several generations of American children. I mention this play item because I was recently introduced to a candy that looks like miniature Lego. The candy tastes like ass and I still can’t make any discernible object out of the blocks which fit together by pegs and holes.

When I was growing up one of my friends had a huge collection of these toys that are supposed to inspire creativity and inventiveness in children. On the box for the product there was a happy Swedish kid who was several years younger than I was at the time of my Lego career. This brainiac kid was proudly holding up a perfect replica of a helicopter that he had fashioned from the plastic blocks.

I was never able to make the helicopter, or the castle, or the car, or any of the other things pictured in the directions. I would jerk around for ten minutes and have nothing more than a wall of bricks. I never learned about creativity, I learned about failure. I learned how to give up and stop trying. I learned that when you burned Lego it gives off a toxic smoke that you probably would be wise not to inhale.

I never knew any kid who could make a fucking thing out of Lego. I don’t think that it is even possible to make a helicopter out of tiny colored blocks. There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the chief NASA engineer tells his subordinate engineers that they have to make an air filter out of a pile of stuff that duplicates the raw materials available to the astronauts in the crippled space capsule. Don’t quote me but I think the quote he gives them is, “Failure is not an option.” Even those pocket-protected MIT graduates couldn’t make a helicopter out of a box of Lego’s.

What I learned from Lego is that failure is almost always an option. Failure is often the easiest option and the sooner you learn that as a kid the sooner you can ditch the silly blocks and go outside and dig foxholes in the city park across the street from your house. I probably never spent more than 15 minutes messing with that annoying excuse for a toy. I don’t know if this brands me as a quitter or shows an innate ability to quickly spot a dead end and move on. Explorers spent less time in their futile attempts to discover the Northwest Passage than kids have wasted trying to build a helicopter.

If your kids want to play baseball you don’t hand them some lumber and tanned cow hides and ask them to make their own bats, balls, and gloves. If your kids want a helicopter then buy them a damn helicopter and stop torturing them with the false hope that they can build one from scratch.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Death With Dignity, Inc.

In the wake of the Terri Schiavo affair there has been a lot of talk in this country about wills, living wills, dying, death, dead people, various other dead stuff, “What’s that smell? Did someone die?,” and many things we would all rather not think about. These aren’t pleasant subjects. Either is the matter of armies of living-dead zombies from beyond the grave roaming the earth, but we can’t keep on ignoring these important issues. Finally there is a service to help us deal with some of these pressing matters.*

Death with Dignity, Inc. is a subscription service that will ease any anxieties you may be harboring about the day you are picked to meet your maker. Death with Dignity, Inc. will help you preserve your image when you are in your most vulnerable and possibly most compromising position: Death.

Here’s how it works. We install a tiny microchip in your body that automatically monitors all of your bodily functions. When we receive indications that your vitals signs have flat-lined, our team of professionals will jump into action. We guarantee that our people will be the first on the scene. Our associates will arrive in a discreet van disguised as a cleaning crew. They will immediately begin to sanitize the area by removing anything that may cause you embarrassment. We will basically be doing what you would do yourself if you were about to have company over but were prevented from doing it because you just died. Sometimes company comes at an awkward time.

We will clean your apartment so others won’t see that you have been living like an animal. Our technical experts will delete all of your sassy pictures of Britney Spears you have stored on your hard drive. We will return your overdue videos so family and friends won’t know that you were on a Ben Afleck movie marathon. We will take out your trash that is filled with empty vodka bottles. Chances are pretty good that when you pass away you will be in a less than flattering position. We will dress you up in your best clothes and sit you in a reading chair with a copy of the Riverside Shakespeare in your lap. A fine glass of port sits on the table beside you. We will supply the port, because let’s face it, you couldn’t keep a bottle of fine port around for more than 12 hours without drinking it. Let me remind you of the time you received a bottle of port at the Christmas party and you drank 1/3 of it while driving home that night.

Perhaps you’d like to leave behind a notebook filled with pictures of the fictitious children you sponsored from Save the Children. That is something you often thought about doing but you could never afford it because instead you were sponsoring five pay movie channels on your cable TV bill.

If you subscribe to our premium service a Las Vegas showgirl will testify under oath that you passed away while trying to nail a difficult dismount while in flagrante delicto with the aforementioned 21 year old dancer. This service is extremely popular with our senior citizen clients who are still trying to impress high school classmates. The sky is the limit when you’re dead so start living, or at least lead others to believe that in life you were living a remotely interesting life.

You spend a lot of time, money, and effort to create a false image of yourself that you show to the world while you are living. In death we can help you create an even more flattering image of you. It will be easier to do this after you pass away because we won’t actually have to deal with you screwing it up for us.

* As far as the zombies go you are pretty much on your own. In my own experience I have found that I can outrun them. Zombies aren’t exactly known for being light on their feet. They always seem to be dragging one foot that appears to be a bit more dead than the rest of their bodies.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Skip the Workout and Lose Weight!

Hello, I’m nationally recognized fitness guru, Ted Hammer, here to talk to you today about my exciting new fitness program, Skipping to Health. You’ve tried running and got shin splints; you’ve tried race-walking and twisted a hip flexor; yoga about broke your back; pilates wiped out your bank account; you have tried every fitness fad to come down the pike and you’re still far from perfect, and in America being anything less than perfect is cause for intense self-loathing—as it should be. Anything other than rock-hard abs, firm breasts, and less than 3% body fat is enough to make me and my fitness associates sick to our stomachs. Right this minute fitness associate Cheri is throwing up in the employee bathroom. Purging a little won’t kill her, she did have five baby carrots for lunch and I was a bit worried about her weight.

After you’ve tried and failed with all those other fitness gimmicks maybe it’s time you tried our gimmick, Skipping to Health? That’s right folks, skipping. Skipping is a low-impact workout that is fun for the whole family. My video series will teach you this ancient fitness technique first developed by the Egyptians over 40 or 50 years ago. Think about this for a second: Have you ever seen a fat mummy? No, you have not seen a fat mummy because those people skipped. I’m here to share their secrets with you for only $49.95 plus postage and handling.

Remember back to when you were a kid. You did a lot of skipping as a child and right now you would move out of your four bedroom house and live in your car to have a waistline like that again. I’m telling you that you can keep your home and still fit into clothes that your teenage children can no longer wear simply by skipping just a few minutes every day.

“But I’ll look silly skipping,” you will say. Sure you will but aren’t you the guy who wears bicycle shorts at the gym? What the fuck do you care about looking silly?

“Is skipping safe?” I respect you too much to lie to you so I’ll tell you the truth for once. Skipping is extremely dangerous. Over 20,000 people die in skipping accidents every year in America. But who cares about safety if it will help you achieve a perfect body? You are willing to undergo surgery, subject yourself to crazy diets, and flail yourself to within and inch of your life at the gym to reduce fat, yet you are afraid to slam into a parked car while out skipping? Get some perspective, people.

Skipping to Health requires no crazy gadgets, which means that you will finally have a yard sale without selling a piece of exercise equipment. The Skipping to Health instructional video comes on a rewritable DVD, so when you realize that it is as worthless as every other fitness product you have wasted money on, you can tape over the video to record your favorite cooking show.


Note to Readers: This may very well be the dumbest essay I have ever written—and that is saying a lot—but we have all seen dumber fitness ideas. Please remember that Leftbanker.com is a parody site so stop sending your checks. I have a good mind to keep the $218,812.75 that I have already received for this fictitious product just to teach gullible readers a lesson.