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Friday, December 31, 2010

Stupid or Liars?

The War, December 2010*

As far as who should be our supreme military leaders, what would we prefer? Lying bastards or dumb motherfuckers who don’t have the slightest knowledge of modern warfare? I suppose there is no reason why they can’t be both and, in fact, this seems highly likely given our current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Way back near the beginning, in those halcyon days of “Mission Accomplished;” back when conservatives were actually calling for opponents of the war to actually apologize for having the audacity to question the wisdom of invading Iraq; back when Fox News was declaring that every ice cream truck found in Iraq was a mobile chemical weapons laboratory; way back in 2003 if anyone were to make a comparison between our military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and our utterly failed policy in Viet Nam they were practically lynched by conservatives and the war cheerleaders in the press (this was just about everyone in the media).  It was a sad moment in America. It was bad then but it’s worse now—the wars are barely mentioned any more.

Back in 2003 I didn’t compare Iraq and Afghanistan with Viet Nam; I said that invading these two Muslim countries presented far greater difficulties. For one, I said that the cultural differences were much greater between the invaders and the occupants in these Middle East nations. This was back when your average slob didn’t know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite (unfortunately for America, the principal architects of the war didn’t know the difference, either). I remember arguing with a young, pro-war yuppie couple at a bar in Seattle and I told them that they would soon learn the difference between these two Muslims sects—or at least our soldiers would.

After only a few months the war pretty much went completely to shit by any measure any sane person could make. Instead of being greeted as liberators the Iraqis saw it as a good opportunity to loot, and then an even better opportunity to vent a little internecine bloodshed.  During all of this our military and political leaders seemed illiterate—at least as far as being able to read the writing on the wall. How long did it take the average, mildly intelligent American to realize that we were never going to prevail in Iraq or Afghanistan? That instead of another VE Day we would be seeing a rerun of our ignominious flight from Saigon only 30 years earlier?  One of the few remaining American journalists, James Fallows, wrote in The Atlantic back in 2005 that we were doomed to fail so why not cut our losses, get the fuck out of both of those shitholes (my words), and fail then instead of years later? Because fail we have.  

Many years ago, back when horse’s ass William Benet was the drug czar, a journalist asked him to point to a single statistic that hinted that we were actually winning our “War on Drugs.”  The journalist warned him not to throw out a bunch of meaningless bullshit about arrests made and drugs seized but to point to anything to show that this thing was, in fact, even winnable. Benet couldn’t supply an adequate response and trailed off, Rain Man-like, in just the sort of shit he was asked not to provide.  This is what we have now with Petraeus.

Somewhere in the huge juggernaut that is out military-intelligence industrial wasteland and black hole of tax dollars there must be at least one forward thinker who has had the balls to say publically that there is no military solution for our problems with fundamentalist Islam.  Yet after nine years in Afghanistan and almost eight in Iraq were are still being shown PowerPoint presentations on how we will “win” the war.  I put win in quotations marks because no one has ever really said what winning will look like.  So is Petraeus a fucking liar or a complete fucking retard? And which of these two is the most dangerous for the world considering the might and power of the American military?  As I said earlier, he could be both.

I propose a simple solution. I say that we replace our military leadership with American public servants who have actually performed well at their assigned duties and let them run the military. Let’s have the Postmaster General give a go at our military problems. After all, the mail actually works in America.  Our elite military academies seem to produce nothing but “yes” men/women and not much in the way of innovative thinking.[i]

*How many more anti-war essays will I have to write? How many times in human history has war been a terrible decision and completely avoidable? If you can remember back that far, Jimmy Carter didn’t commit the United States to a single act of war. I opposed his failed hostage rescue attempt and suspect that he was, himself, held hostage by his military advisors. It was an insane idea from its inception and was obviously an attempt by our bored military elite to have an Israeli Entebbe-type raid to put on their resumes.

[i] I attended a military school with some West Point graduates and more petty and childish individuals would be hard to find. They constantly mocked and made fun of another student in the class who wasn’t a West Point grad. My good friend and I—the only enlisted schlubs in the class—were exempt from their ridicule because we were kicking their asses academically. I’ve also studied with Ivy League students who I found to be whinny cunts probably incapable of handling any sort of difficulty most lower-middle kids like my friends and I dealt with on a daily basis. “My tests are so hard. I have a paper due.” Please.  I’ll admit they were smarter than I but I’d like to see them graduate college while working some shit job 35 hours a week or make it through basic training in the military.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Harvest

People here can’t shut up about their pueblos, or native villages. Just about everyone here in Valencia except me has one and they talk about theirs in reverential tones.  They sneak away from here every chance they get to visit for holidays, long weekends—or puentes (bridges ) as they are called in Spain—and even entire summer months.  If they are friends of mine and their pueblo is nearby, I am generally rewarded with huge bags of produce from the countryside. I came home last night with a bike basket full of oranges and mandarins.  The winter harvest is in and I’m covered in an avalanche of oranges and the only way out is eating. Perhaps I’m just being polite here but I have noticed that oranges always taste better when they are gifts from friends.

I need to do my part in orange consumption as do all local citizens as the trees are practically breaking with fruit this time of year.  With the temperatures hovering around zero this becomes even more of a civic duty as the cold snap has caused some growers to rush oranges to market.  I’m pretty much a full-time glutton so when I have half an excuse I can at least feel better about this deadly sin (one of my favorites).    

You would think that there is a similar emergency regarding pork if you examine my current consumption trends. I went to a Christmas party on Sunday and ate my weight in Spanish cheeses and Serrano ham.  At the party I joked with a couple of friends about taking the pig leg off the carving station and walking around with it as if I were gnawing on it like a piece of chicken. My friends were slightly amused with my attempt at humor but more than anything I think they had actually been considering doing exactly that with this heavenly ham. The problem with a good Spanish ham is that you can’t just eat it off the bone; you need to carefully cut it into paper-thin slices and this requires quite a bit of skill. I often buy ham at the market where it is cut by a machine and it’s just never the same as when you get it from a restaurant or bar where something resembling a renaissance craftsman is at work. My own ham carving skills are on a par with a clumsy cub scout chopping down a tree.

I’ve actually been making a concerted effort to lose some weight during this holiday season. The motivation being that I don’t want to replace my entire wardrobe with black cassocks. If I do succeed in slimming down you can look for my Pork, Oranges, and Cheese Diet Book on the newsstands. If my diet book isn’t published then you can just read about me in the paper when the fire department has to knock out a wall of my house so that I can get outside.  And the rescue workers better not try to take the ham bone away from me.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Strip Clubs: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!

What could possibly be more American than a strip club? Perhaps only a strip club with an American flag flying proudly in the parking lot. We thought it would be useful to throw out a few ideas on how to move this cultural icon smoothly into the 21st century. This venerable and august institution has been around for as long as there have been married men with wives who were unwilling to slowly take off their clothing to obnoxious, brassy music. Once again we are seeing public opinion moving against clubs. Many people have begun to look at strip clubs as part of the collective societal problem and not part of the solution. Believe it or not, there are many who feel that strip clubs are a repugnant anachronism which objectify women and encourage the basest instincts among our male patrons. How have we let this happen?

Over the centuries there have been major innovations which kept strip clubs on the cutting edge of societal exigencies. Must we remind you that strip clubs have led the way on some of the major issues in human history? To give but a few but important examples we will begin with plague-ravaged 14th century France where club owners would bar employment to anyone with outward manifestations of the disease. It has not been categorically proven that some owners would allow infected dancers to work if the pustules augmented the erotic appearance of the performer. And how many people are aware that the corn dog was actually invented by a club owner in 1963? This American nutritional hallmark was part of the club’s happy hour buffet, another club innovation. The velvet rope for waiting lines was also a strip club discovery. Think about that the next time you are at the bank. We could go on and on but instead we will only say, “You’re welcome, America.”

Where others see a problem we see only opportunities. In order to more accurately reflect the multicultural make-up of modern American society strip clubs now distribute free phrase books to non-English speaking patrons. It is our desire here at The American Strip Club Heritage Foundation that the language of stripping become universal, a sort of smutty Esperanto if you will. We think everyone is a winner if we encourage our Latin American and Asian immigrant customers to scream out—in grammatical English—vulgarities like “Show us your tits!” and “Spread’em, baby.” We also suggest customers say “Please” and “Thank You.” Our new motto is “English First, Erections Second, but Always Be Polite!”

This message has been brought to you by The American Strip Club Heritage Foundation, Akron, Ohio.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Potato, Po-tah-to, Catalan, Valenciano

The longer I live in Valencia, the more my Spanish improves, the more I feel that I should be learning Valenciano or Catalan. The truth is, I can’t even tell these two languages apart and the other truth is that I have had my hands full learning Spanish. Another problem is that almost no one speaks Valenciano here in Valencia. In four years I have never had anyone address me in Valenciano in Valencia. Out in the villages it is spoken more but here in the capital to me it seems like somewhat of a secret.  I still have a very long way to go with Spanish but there is room in my schedule for a little Valenciano.

I met some people from the Catalan city of Girona. In Girona people speak Catalan almost exclusively and this young couple admitted that they speak Catalan better than they speak Spanish. Between themselves I noticed that they spoke only Catalan. I felt like a total dumbass for not speaking Valenciano, or very little but that is just the way it is here in the capital of the Valencia Community.  We talked a lot about Catalunya, the language, Barça, and mushrooms. Something that I already knew about our neighbors to the north is that they are wild about mushrooms. My new acquaintances from Girona told me that venturing out into the mountains for mushrooms is a regular activity for almost everyone in Girona.  That sounds like a great tradition to me; I love wild mushrooms and can never get enough of them.

I have decided that it’s time to start learning Catalan/Valenciano, at least passively. I can at least watch some television in Catalan or Valenciano. I’ll start this evening with a program that the folks from Girona told me about called Caçadors de Bolets (mushroom hunters).  People would have to be truly crazy about mushrooms to watch a program about people looking for them out in the woods of Catalunya. The most important Catalan word in this television show is one English speakers already know, mortal. It always good to know which mushrooms you can eat and which ones will kill you.

We watched the Barcelona FC – Espanyol football game one Saturday evening and witnessed the tremendous welcome received by Andrés Iniesta from the Espanyol crowd.  I’m not a Barça supporter like the two from Girona but I have to say that it has been an honor and a pleasure to watch this great team play these last few years. This year’s Barça is probably the best team in the history of the game but only history will bear that out. As you can probably guess Barcelona FC is sort of representative of Catalunya independence and Espanyol fans are Spanish nationalists, at least that is the general breakdown from what I’ve been told.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Madrid-Valencia: 90 Minutes by Rail

The new high speed rail line between Madrid and Valencia was inaugurated this past weekend amidst heavy fanfare, pomp and circumstance, hype, and a lot of well-deserved pride on the part of the Spanish. Spain now has more high speed rail kilometers than any country in Europe. These rail lines, called AVE for Alta Velocidad (ave is also the Spanish word for bird) now link Madrid with Sevilla, Barcelona, and now Valencia.  A round-trip trip now takes less time than a one-way rail voyage took previously which means it’s feasible to go to Madrid and come back the same day. I told some friends in Madrid to expect me to stop by soon for a cup of coffee.

There are a lot of complaints from Spaniards that this rail line is expensive and out of reach for the average rail commuter. Many argue that the money spent on this service would have been better spent upgrading existing tracks. I can go both ways on this issue. I’m all about democracy but these high-speed lines are just so fucking cool. I’ve taken the one between Madrid and Sevilla and I must say that it is truly a marvel. I can’t wait to try out this new line. I have been meaning to visit Madrid again and this gives me a great excuse. While I am there I was thinking that I may return via the AVE line to Barcelona and then return to Valencia from Catalunya. That way I can cross the Madrid-Barcelona line off of my to-do list. After that I need to do the Chunnel trip from London to Paris.

As Spain and other European countries race to extend their high-speed rail networks the United States has retreated into an anti-tax mentality and half of the populace spits on the ground at the mere mention of the word “government.” The myth of the rugged individual maybe appropriate for cowboy movies but it’s not way to build a society.  Back when Jimmy Carter lowered the speed limits in America to a maximum of 55 mph the country should have realized that the automobile was not the answer to the ever looming problem of transportation. 

The AVE reaches top speeds of over 300kph and it does it safely. They project that the added traffic on the new AVE will prevent 27 traffic fatalities as people abandon their cars in favor of the more sophisticated rail service now available. The trip takes three and a half hours by car; over twice as long as the train. Flying takes 55 minutes and the plane leaves you 20 minutes from the city center at both ends.  What method would you choose for your trip between Valencia and the capital?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas, Conservatism, and Other Myths

I’d have to say that I don’t even hate Christmas here in Spain. This is because the Christmas holidays are about 95% less obnoxious than they are in America. I rarely hear Christmas music and that is only when I am in a big, commercial chain-type store which is very rare for me. I would have to rate canned yuletide music—or I should say the bombardment of it—as the thing I most object to about the holidays in the United States. How can you NOT fucking hate the music when all of the commercial retailers begin playing it in earnest right after Thanksgiving?  I can imagine that someone has used this as a defense for a crime of passion committed during the holidays and the judge wouldn’t be wrong in letting them off with a slap on the wrist. “On the one hand the defendant opened fire inside a crowded shopping mall, but we must take into account that they had played Jingle Bell Rock three times in the preceding half hour.”

I'm not going to go so far as to say I like Christmas, because I don’t; I just don’t hate it here in Spain. Back in the States I used to say that my favorite day of the year was something like the 3rd or 4th of January when everything was over, like the end of a horrible and bloody war. Here I can barely tell the difference between the holidays and any other time of year. They have nice lights in the center of town and I do enjoying cycling through there at night, but other than that there aren’t a lot of outward manifestations of Christmas. Although there are at least a billion churches in Spain hardly anyone is truly religious. There is almost no one here who claims to be a Jesus freak like about half of the citizens of America these days. Religion just seems like a completely creepy and childish concept.  I can’t believe how many people place it as the center of their lives.

Religion and the political conservatism in America go hand-in-hand in many ways. Both require a suspension of belief in reality and both demand a stubbornness to stick to your beliefs even when faced with irrefutable proof to the contrary. Conservatives cling to the tenets of their faith no matter how ridiculous they may be. Tax cuts for the super-rich are supported by lower-middle class Republicans slobs because this issue is just another article of their faith which they accept without question. Ask conservatives to point to the kind of society they wish to build and they never have a clear answer. Ask them to consider the societies of Western Europe as an example for America and they break out into fits of apoplexy. They can look at societies that are obviously doing a better job of taking care of the populace yet they refuse to see the truth.

By the time conservatives are through dismantling everything Americans fought—literally fought—to achieve in the last century—and that day is near—it will be too late for America. Once we have relinquished all power over to a handful of oligarchs it will take nothing short of another revolution to put the power back into the hands of the people. We have already seen the death of democracy. Obama was elected by a healthy margin and yet was immediately treated as some sort of foreign usurper because he vaguely threatened the oligarchs who hold real power in America.

As tattered as the Spanish economy may be there are no signs of retreating from the gains made in the last 35 years. No one talks about doing away with their excellent health care system in which everyone, rich and poor, are born and die beside each other in the public hospitals. What could be more democratic than that? Even in this time a crisis the government is expanding their already amazing public transportation system. Even if Spain were to go down the drain—and I don’t believe it will—isn’t it better to go down fighting for the people than sacrificing everything so that a few elites can get even richer? I don’t think that any Western country is as ill-prepared to face the challenges of the future as the United States and no country is as unwilling to make the preparations necessary to meet those challenges.  Conservatives completely believe that capitalism alone will save America. It’s like believing in Santa Claus except a lot more dangerous.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bikes and the City

This video should be an inspiration for every city in the world. 

If your city isn’t working tirelessly to be more like Copenhagen then you either need to elect new leaders or move.  Thankfully, Valencia is moving forward quickly in its effort to make this a better city for cyclists of all ages. It has a long way to go but it has also come a long way in my four years here. I effect almost all of my transportation by bicycle. The public transportation here is excellent but for me it is just easier and usually quicker to bike from A to B. In the last two days I have used Valencibisí 9 times for a total of 2 hours and 24 minutes (the website tracks all this for you, as if this system wasn’t cool enough already).  I also rode one of my bikes for a total of about 90 minutes for a two day total of four hours on a bike, and when I ride I ride pretty hard. 

And this cute video from The Office of Bikes of Murcia.

Hace un día maravilloso.
El sol brilla en lo alto.

La sombra de los árboles refresca el ambiente.
Los pájaros revolotean alegres, y su canto me pone contento.
¡Qué bueno es sentir la brisa fresca en el rostro!
Despierta mis sentidos y me hace vivir intensamente.

Una pedalada, y otra más.
Adiós, hasta luego, en el barrio todos nos conocemos.

Es la hora, el atasco de siempre y sus malos humos.
Malas vibraciones, y yo... paaaso de largo.

El perro del quiosco, cada mañana me acompaña un rato.
Aquí está, ¡hey bonito, vamos!
Los niños salen del cole, ¡qué suerte! Ahora, a jugar.

Hace un día maravilloso.
El sol brilla en lo alto.
Lo presiento, hoy va a ser un gran día.

The shade of the trees cools the air.
The birds fly around happily and their song makes me content.
It’s nice to feel the fresh breeze in my face.
It awakens my senses and makes me live to the fullest.
A pedal stroke and another.
Goodbye, see you, in the neighborhood we all know each other.
It’s time and the usual traffic jam and the noxious fumes
Bad vibes and me…I go by without stopping.
The dog from the kiosk, each morning accompanies me for a while.
Here he is, hey cutie, let’s go.
Kids leave school, what luck! Off to play.
It’s a marvelous day.
The sun is shining.
I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a great day.
(translation by me)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weekly French Class

I came close to canceling my French class on Wednesday because the temperature was hovering around freezing when I woke up. This is as cold as it ever gets in Valencia. I have new windows in the front room of the apartment and even without the heat on it is comfortable. Last winter I suffered a bit at these same temperatures. Although I am fairly comfortable at home I didn’t really feel like an early morning bike ride across town to Cabanyal, but I did it anyway because once I make up my mind to do something I stick with it. I made up my mind two months ago that I was going to make a huge improvement in my French. So I got dressed and grabbed a Valenbisí bike at the corner.

I was wrapped up like a sausage in a thermal sweatshirt and my down parka. I even slipped on my leather gloves just to be on the safe side, but these cold days in Valencia invariably require one other bit of gear: sunglasses. I had a leisurely ride to Cabañal with short bouts of sprinting when I felt like it. I thought that I rode pretty hard on the way home but after checking my times on the www.valenbisi.es I saw that there was only a difference of two minutes (21 and 19 minutes, nothing to be proud of). I could spend two minutes waiting for a traffic light, or not fucking waiting which I am totally guilty of on a regular basis. I had a cop tell me to get off the sidewalk downtown yesterday even though I was riding so slowly I was on the verge of falling over. I didn’t say anything, no smart-ass come-back like I’ve done before, “¿Por esto querías ser policía?” (this is why you became a cop?). I know it’s against the law to ride n the sidewalk but it just seems stupid to dismount when there aren’t any pedestrians around and I’m only going to the middle of the block.

After finishing Albert Camus’ L’Etranger I have been looking for something else to read in French. I wanted something short and not too difficult. I have a couple of texts meant for students of French but they are both way too easy. I found a copy of Soie (Silk) by Alessandro Baricco at Ubik Café in Ruzafa.  I had never heard of the book before but it evidently was quite popular and was also made into a film. It’s translated into French from Italian which makes it easier for me to read and it’s also very short at only 142 pages. I should finish it in less than a week.

My French teacher has a little Bichon Frise which means something like “curly bug” in French. Her dog completely loses her little mind when she sees me. I usually arrive to class just as my teacher is taking the dog out and the little bug will see me a block away and come flying down the sidewalk to greet me. I need to speak French more than this one hour a week but going to class every Wednesday motivates me to read. If I keep up at this pace I know that by summer I’ll be fairly satisfied with my French. Reading in French hasn’t completely usurped my reading in Spanish but I definitely read less now in Spanish. I just need to do more of both.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why So Much Jesus?

In case you were wondering why I put up the sub-header “100% Jesus-Free.”  I noticed that on the top of this blog blogger has put a link to other blogs. It says “Next Blog” or “Siguiente Blog” in Spanish. I clicked on it and the first blog it took me to was that of some church pastor. I clicked again and was sent to the blog of another Jesus freak, and on and on. At least 60% of the blogs I looked at were heavily into The Lord as he is called in some circles. I don’t know if there are a disproportionate amount of Bible-thumper blogs or if that’s all I happened across or if Jesus freaks are more into blogging than non-religious fanatics; I just know that it freaks me the fuck out. What the hell is wrong with America (all the religious blogs were American)? 

Click on "Next Blog" a couple of times and see if you run head-on into religion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Potato and Onion Frittata

I was invited to a birthday party on Sunday and I hadn’t done any shopping for a dish I was to prepare so I had to wing it at the last minute. I made a frittata of potatoes and onion instead of a tortilla de patatas. The Italian version of this dish is much easier to make although I think the end result is much better if you follow the instructions in Spanish. I looked around on youtube for a bit of instruction on how to make a frittata. After watching a few Italian grandmothers in Italian I found a video by Mario Batali and I have to say that my end result looks a lot better than his.

As you can see from the photo I used my ginormous clay baking dish which you can use on top of the stove or in the oven. I am a little short on non-stick skillets these days which is why I didn’t want to make a Spanish tortilla. I intended to make my frittata in a frying pan but, as usual, I was making way too much food. For this dish I used 12 eggs. Any chance I get to cook for a lot of people I jump on it with both feet.

Frittata of Potato and Onion

12 eggs
1.5 kilos potatoes
3 onions
I cup Greek yogurt
200 grams Mozzarella cheese
200 grams ricotta cheese
Olive oil, salt

I chopped the potatoes (unpeeled) and parboiled them first (something I would never do with a tortilla). I drained them and threw them in the clay dish on the stove top along with the diced onion and olive oil and some butter. When this was thoroughly cooked I added the beaten eggs which were mixed with the cheese and yogurt. On a very low flame I cooked the mix stir just a bit. After the eggs begin to set you stop stirring except maybe a bit around the edges. When the bottom of the eggs has set you transfer the dish to a preheated oven and cook for a couple of minutes. You don't want it to brown. The color of this dish in the picture is perfect and means that you didn't burn it. 

This dish was lighter and fluffier than a tortilla but the potatoes weren't nearly as flavorful as in the Spanish version. It was a lot easier to make, as I mentioned. I served this montadito style which is little squares of the frittata mounted (montadito) on a slice of baguette (very Spanish). 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blasts from the Past

Just a few older essays that I think were kind of funny that you may want to read. These five essays are all from December of 2005.

While Visiting the Louvre

Sex Sells

Privacy Problems

What's that Smell

Oral Junk Mail

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Drastically Abridged Bucket List

Bucket lists are for bored people who think that they don’t have enough to do already. Maybe they don’t have cable TV? Here are five things you can cross off your list before you make a list. Or maybe you’re like me and you don’t make lists, not even for shopping. How hard is it to remember that you need toilet paper? You definitely shouldn’t need a list to remember to have some sort of meaningful life.

1) Threesome With Two Nurses
Every guy thinks he should be with two nurses at the same time before being released from this hospital we call human existence. Let’s not be sticklers for details by worrying too much if they aren’t actual board certified health professionals. And we suppose that it’s OK for you to buy the nurse outfits yourself, but don’t you think you’re being a tad optimistic buying four uniforms, even if they were on sale?  Good luck to you! Just be sure to check first with your doctor; this list is about things to do before you die, not things that can kill you.

2) Learn To Play a Musical Instrument
This is a good one for most people but not for you because you’re completely tone deaf.  So please spare yourself and your loved ones the agony of you practicing the tuba for six months before the neighbors have the police arrest you for acoustical vandalism. If there’s no such thing as a law for acoustical vandalism then there will be soon after you start your lessons. Face it, you can’t even hum on key.

3) Learn a Foreign Language
Also a good one for many people but not for you as your pronunciation is so bad in the foreign language that every word out of your mouth is like an ethnic slur.  Instead of learning a new language just work on mocking other people’s foreign accents in English like Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther.

4) Learn a Martial Art
This may be a little too ambitious so how about we compromise and just say that you should watch a Steven Seagal movie marathon on a Saturday afternoon? Make sure you have a good supply of alcohol on hand because there’s no way the movies alone will keep you entertained.

5) Climb Mount Everest
Yeah right. Its summit is 8,848m or 29,028 feet above sea level. In the shape you’re in you couldn’t walk that far on flat ground in less than about four days. You need bottled oxygen for two flights of stairs. How about you try scaling Magic Mountain out at the local water park as a warm up expedition? Remember, if you go on Thursday they have free donuts until noon.

I think the smart move here is to make a list of stuff you’ve already done so that you can die without a bunch of regrets over stupid crap you didn’t do. Things like “Visit Iowa” aren’t particularly impressive but more so than than not “Jumping Out Of an Airplane.”

I was asked to make this a little less insulting to readers which takes a bit of the fun out of it for me. You would understand why if you had looked at a bunch of whinny assholes on youtube reciting their bucket list of shit they should have already done. So I changed it all to self-deprecating humor so as not to offend the little college douche bags who probably won't even read the magazine anyway.

My (Drastically Abridged) Bucket List

I used to think that bucket lists were for bored people who think that they don’t have enough to do already. Maybe they don’t have cable TV? Anyway, my life coach (parole officer) suggested that I should make a bucket list—either that or pick up trash along the highway on Saturday.  If you follow my lead you’ll have five things you can cross off your list before you make a list. Or maybe you’re like me and you don’t make lists, not even for shopping. How hard is it to remember that you need toilet paper? You definitely shouldn’t need a list to remember to have some sort of meaningful life.

1) Threesome with Two Nurses
Every guy thinks he should be with two nurses at the same time before being released from this hospital we call human existence. Let’s not be sticklers for details by worrying too much if they aren’t actual board certified health professionals. And I think it’s OK to buy the nurse outfits myself although perhaps I’m being a tad optimistic buying four uniforms, but they were on sale.  Wish me luck! Just to be on the safe side I’ll check first with my doctor; this list is about things to do before I die, not things that can kill me.

2) Learn To Play a Musical Instrument
This is a good one for most people but if you’re like me you’re completely tone deaf.  So please spare yourself and your loved ones the agony of practicing the tuba for six months before the neighbors have the police arrest you for acoustical vandalism.  I’m a little proud of the fact that acoustical vandalism is a law that was invented just to combat my mistreatment of a musical instrument.  I need to face facts; I can’t even hum on key.

3) Learn a Foreign Language
Also a good one for many people but my pronunciation is so bad in Spanish that every word out of my mouth is like an ethnic slur.  Instead of learning a new language just work on mocking other people’s foreign accents in English like Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther.

4) Learn a Martial Art
This may be a little too ambitious so how about if I compromise and just watch a Steven Seagal movie marathon on a Saturday afternoon? I’ll make sure to have a good supply of alcohol on hand because there’s no way the movies alone will keep me entertained.

5) Climb Mount Everest
Yeah right. Its summit is 8,848m or 29,028 feet above sea level. In the shape I’m in I couldn’t walk that far on flat ground in less than about four days. I sometimes need bottled oxygen for two flights of stairs. How about if I scale Magic Mountain out at the local water park as a warm up expedition? Remember, if you go on Thursdays they have free donuts until noon.

I think the smart move here is to make a list of stuff I’ve already done so that I can die without a bunch of regrets over stupid crap I didn’t do. Things like “Visit Iowa” aren’t particularly impressive but more so than not “Jumping Out Of an Airplane.”  Besides, Iowa is kind of nice. People tell me I should see the big island. I’ll put that on my list.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Letter From a Friend We Should all Read

Obama capitulates to the corporate lords by extending their Bush tax breaks. So much for being a populist. Obama and his inner circle are out of touch with the very base that elected him, and by kneeling to corporate power and sucking its cock, we learn a sad lesson about how little power THE PEOPLE possess any more. A VAST majority of Americans oppose giving tax breaks to the rich. Yes Obama is held hostage by the minority party who represent this powerful interest group. To get the small scraps of extended unemployment, he gave away 10 TIMES that amount to the wealthy class. The average benefit for the wealthy tax cut: $350,000. What do people on unemployment get, about $300 a week? Fuck me. How many people are that wealthy? Maybe 15,000-20,000. For them to hold 10 million hostage is fucking appalling. Buy they have the money and power to bend the will of a supposed populist President.

John Ralston Saul is looking like a fucking genius and sage now. We no longer live in anything resembling a democracy. We live in a feudal state lorded by corporate power. We just spent a trillion taxpayer dollars bailing out 12 superpower banks and Wall Street firms (in the guise of them being bought by one of the 12 biggies), but what exactly did the American people get to cushion this massive fall of capitalism in America? 99 lousy weeks of unemployment benefits. After that they are fucked. These bankers ran their firms into the ground and got the government to bail them out, and now they're all gorging on massive bonuses as if nothing happened. What about all the employees of these banks and firms that lost their jobs, their stock options that aren't worth toilet paper, and who can't find new jobs because there aren't any? What about all the people who lost their jobs in this financial fallout, and the HUGE decline in demand that has decreased consumer activity, which further deflates the economy? NOTHING.

Any meaningful ideas and legislation that opposes corporate power and supports the people is wiped out. The public option for health care, which of course makes total sense for small firms like mine that see an annual increase of health care premiums of at least 25% a year, are dying for the public option so we don't have to keep getting raped by our current insurance carrier. Obama and the Democrats capitulated on this even though they could have passed it, and WHY? WHY? I'll tell you why, because the insurance corporations stuffed the coffers of every Democrat in the House and Senate they could sway, the so-called "Blue Dogs," and quashed it.

And how about trying to pass any meaningful environmental legislation? Impossible. You have 70% of the fucking country DENYING global warming, not from a scientific view, but from religious ones, or political ones, or merely to "piss off" liberals. Of course, energy companies are pumping tens of millions into PR campaigns to keep the global warming denial industry poisoning the debate with sophistry and outright lies.

And how about religious corporatism? Check out the attached photo of a "Mega-Church" here in Memphis. They claim to have a flock of 13,000. Holy shit. And I can only imagine the insane shit this congregation is being fed by its "spiritual" leaders. Religion is in total cahoots with the corporatist entities. THEY ARE corporatist entities.

Information is totally controlled by huge media conglomerates. None serve the people in any meaningful way. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow opine for the left, but their shows are sponsored by the very same corporate powers undermining any meaningful "liberal" agenda. And Rupert Murdoch has created in FOX News what even the Soviet's Pravda could have never even imagined, the perfect propaganda machine that controls the thoughts and ideas of tens of millions of drooling peasants.

Finally, we see that the greatest hero of modern journalism, Julian Assange, is now being held without bail in England for supposed sex crimes in Sweden FOR WHICH HE HASN'T EVEN BEEN CHARGED. So much for due process in supposed democracies in Britain AND Sweden. And where are the journalists defending him? The New York Times, is it fighting for his release? No. This despite the NYT has been gorging itself on the leaked data Assange has released. Remember, Assange didn't steal this data himself; he got it from a whistle-blower. So he is doing what every journalist in the world should BE OBLIGATED to do, and that is release this information to the public. Any journo or media organization opposed to this notion is part of the empire, not representing the people.

I think the next revolution is going to be a cyber one. Hackers are the last defense against corporate power. Hell, I'm ready to join the fray. I'm a goddamn hacker extraordinaire if I wanted to be. Instead of toting a M4 rifle, I will join the revolution and shut down Bank of America. Or VISA. Or the goddamn US government. I'm sure this email is probably being read somewhere because of the key words I just entered. If any slimy little fuckstick is reading this, I say, fuck you and come get me, you cunt. I literally have nothing to lose. I've spent the last 20 years becoming a computer god and if I turned into a hacker I could do great harm. I choose not to because I've always thought of myself as a civilized, law-abiding citizen, but there is no fucking rule of law any more. Isn't it fucking obvious? If you have the power you can do whatever the fuck you want. And you can get a so-called "liberal-socialist-populist," popularly-elected-by-the-people, President to bow down before your power and openly fellate your corporate cock.

That's how I feel, that corporate power is the new Caesar and Obama, the defeated leader of the Gauls, has been forced to publicly kneel, naked and humiliated, and kiss the Roman standard and then Caesar's ring. Don't you get that impression?

We're about one more crisis (terrorists, natural disaster) from total authoritarian takeover. You can see any populist and democratic change is impossible. The people are subjects, my friends. The idea of the citizenry is a cruel joke these days. All we have is a gigantic corporatist empire leading the drooling mob that is mostly comprised of docile sheep.

I honestly don't know how I feel any more. We need a new V.I. Lenin and Trotsky in this revolution. Shit, maybe it's me.

Or do I, like Kunstler, just drop out and prepare myself for the giant collapse of civilized democratic culture which is surely in the horizon? I mean, the writing is on the wall. Just recently Camden, NJ announced it is laying off 180 cops. We're talking about the most crime-ridden city in America. Every state and local government is fucking broke and there's no more pork left to prop them up. Raising taxes is never going to happen at any level of American governance, so local governments, and state governments, have no more recourse except to cut everything: education (tens of thousands of teachers are already getting pink slips all across America), infrastructure, law & order, you name it.

I travel this country like few others. Everywhere I go I see horrid and appalling decline and a restlessness at the bottom that is boiling. I am sure the US government has secretly been preparing for domestic disturbances and mini New Orleans trouble ever since. They probably have all kinds of scary non-lethal weapons ready to use on large mobs already. Or even lethal ones, who the fuck cares anymore? They can brand anyone a terrorist and make them public enemies.