Monday, February 28, 2005

Cheering Heckyl & Jeckyl As They Take Down The Queen...

It is rare that a story about crows warms the heart, but this one really does. Six ravens live in the Tower of London. There is a myth that if the six ravens leave the Tower of London, it'll fall and so will the British monarchy. And if that happens, we'll lose interest what's going down between Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, as they will become just be another unattractive middle-aged couple getting hitched.

A bunch of crows have decided that the Tower of London is their turf, not some pampered monarchial ravens. The arrival of these crows has threaten to harm or kill the ravens. They have taken to stealing the ravens' food and spreading disease like joy.

And there are some damn good vittles to be stolen. Every morning, the "ravenmaster" brings these ravens chicken hearts bought from gourmet British grocery, Smithfields, and biscuits soaked in blood. That sounds delicious to a hungry crow. These crows eat better than most child refugees (somewhere in some camp in Darfur, some kid is asking what is for dinner. "Rice? Again?").

But, you don't get the nice digs and good grub just for being a raven. No, these ravens must have decorum. The monarchial ravens have to act "right;" according to the abive-linked Reuters story, "[t]he Governor of the Tower has been known to dismiss ravens for 'conduct unbecoming.'" One raven named Nigel was dismissed in 1993 for coming on to Princess Anne, because, frankly, no animal in their right mind should.

The "ravenmaster" -- Yeoman Warder Derrick Coyle -- has the unpleasant task of culling the crow population by killing a fair number of them. I, for one, hope that Yeoman Warder Coyle fails in his efforts to defeat the crow menance. I think it would be funny and quite satisfying if the myth were true and the British monarchy was indeed taken down by a bunch of crows with the mange.

Second Best Search Referral Ever...

A Yahoo search using these terms brought some unlucky pervert here: "spy camera in bowl pissing."

Imagine how disappointed s/he was when the reference on our site was to the "bowl cam" featured in the puppy bowl, which showed cute pups drinking water after some vigorous play. Not some sort of degenerate tale or pictures of people pissing on each other or in see-through toilet bowls. That said, if it's who I think it might be, I say: welcome R. Kelly!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

My Favorite Search Referral Ever...

As many of you know, hit counter programs allow you to determine how people made their way to our site. Today someone did a Yahoo search for "horny guinea pigs" and ended up at Banality Fair. See the "Guinea Pigs" post below about the search for an AIDS vaccine, and you'll see how they might have ended up here.

Yes! Whoever you are you sick fuck, thank you for making my day! Awesome! Banality Fair has finally arrived.

Manley Gets It Together...

I was happy to read this story in the Washington Post about Dexter Manley's successes battling his addictions. For those of you who don't know who Manley is, he was a star defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins in the 1980s, terrorizing quarterbacks throughout the NFL and amusing us fans with his antics.

I mean, he was really very funny and nutty. That's because like most NFL stars in the 1980s, he was an amiable coke fiend. I find it amusing how sanctimonious we are about the current steroid scandal in baseball, yet we were cool with Lawrence Taylor being coked out of his head as he broke records and legs (he ended Joe Theismann's career when he snapped leg in two in 1985). Because, man, could he rush the quarterback. We tolerated Mark Gastineau's stupid sack dance, because if he didn't have that form of release, he was so high and juiced up that he was likely to rip the head off an eight year old. Like he did during a Jets loss in Miami in 1986.

It was a different time in the NFL then. Instead of loud former athletes mouthing off tame nonsense, NFL pregame shows featured analysis from bookies with names like "Jimmy the Greek" (CBS) and Pete "The Axe" Axthelm (ESPN) . Frankly, they knew a lot more useful information about the games and teams as well because they had a lot more at stake than their reputations. Cash.

And colleges didn't give a shit about the education of its "student"-athletes back then. Dexter Manley graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1981. And he couldn't read. Seriously, he was illiterate and didn't learn how to read until he was thirty.

But, there is always a chance for redemption. Manley has been clean for almost three years and is now working with a community outreach group called Second Genesis that is trying to help high school kids keep on the straight and narrow. But, from the description in the Post story of a recent speech Manley gave in D.C. about his own trials and tribulations, it looks like he might have his work cut out for him:

"Dexter Manley had lost them already. He'd spent barely five minutes on stage, and the 400 Anacostia High School students sitting before him had grown tired of his speech, turning instead to their own entertainment.

The group of girls near the back wall stood and danced. A boy sitting up front slipped on head phones. All around Manley, students chatted derisively about the dangers of drugs and drug use -- the topics of the day -- until the chaos swallowed the keynote speaker."

He's trying though. And despite the cynicism of the Post author, if he reaches one of those 400 students -- and he probably did -- then, he deserves our respect.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Into the Belly of the Beast

I had the pleasure of spending two days in Ft. Worth, Texas this week. It was only the second time I've made landfall in Texas. (The other time was a two-day trip to Dallas for a wedding when I was 18. I went with my then-girlfriend, who was also my first girlfriend, because it was her brother getting married. I really don't remember any of it, because all my conscious energy was absorbed my the terrifying anxiety caused by spending a weekend with a girl's family. Here's an amusing anecdote from that trip: We had driven from Kansas City with my girlfriend's parents. On the way back, they let me drive a leg through Oklahoma. The car -- probably a mid-80s Oldsmobuick -- had a digital speedometer and cruise control. My girlfriend's mother was obsessive about maintaining the speed limit, and I decided to push her buttons a little by setting the speedo at precisely 56. [All highways were 55 at the time.] She insisted I was going to get a ticket. I didn't. Ha ha.)

Before heading to Ft. Worth this week, I'd come to see Texas as a God-forsaken repository of all that is evil in America. where the darker aspects of American culture are made embarrassingly obvious. When I arrived, to my surprise, I found I was exactly right. My cab driver was a Middle-Eastern man. (I felt too self-conscious to ask his nationality.) We established after a few moments of friendly banter that neither of us had any kind feelings toward our President. So he shared with me a few interesting liberal-bonding stories. The best was a story about the French woman he chauffered from the airport. After learning she was French, the cabbie advised her not to tell anyone in Texas she was from France. He told her it wouldn't go over well. She laughed. A few days later, she called the number on his card for a ride back to the airport. When he picked her up, he saw she had a red abrasion on the side of her face. He asked what happened, and she explained that she had been out at a bar with some friends. Some men sitting nearby overheard her accent and asked where she was from. "I didn't take your advice," she told the cabbie. After telling the men she was French, a heated political discussion ensued. What exactly transpired next is detailed in a police reports, and concluded with one of the men striking her hard enough to cause a strawberry patch on her cheek.

There's probably more to the story than that. (Maybe she pulled a gun on the man. A French gun.) But even a small amount of truth would still be pretty repulsive. That story colored my whole trip. The hotel seemed dirtier and browner than it otherwise would have. The people seemed fatter and more SUV-loving. The neon steakhouse signs seemed more garish. I was glad to go, back to good old wholesome Washington, DC, where I can safely mock the President without fear of being attacked by eavesdropping ruffians.

I will mail a shiny quarter to the first person who can substantiate one claim the cabbie made to me. According to my cabbie, 8% of Americans moved to Canada after Bush was reelected. I wasn't sure how to react to this. You don't want to tell the man in control of a 3,000-pound steel box containing you hurtling down the highway at 70 m.p.h. that he's full of shit. So I said, "Wow. That's incredible." It did make me wonder a little about the French woman with the bruise, though.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Upcoming Protests of Note...

As a public service, Banality Fair is proving some information on some protests that our audience may want to participate in to advance society towards important and meaningful goals:

1. A Day of Protest to Save Star Trek "Enterprise" -- Quick, join the Trekkies tomorrow, February 25, in LA as they rally to save a show that only they watch.

2. Have a "Beef" With Kentucky Fried Chicken? -- Join the Bay Area Vegetarians as they harrass KFC customers in Santa Cruz on Saturday, March 6. Speaking of Kentucky Fried Chicken, its mascot, of course, was that enigmatic Colonel Sanders, with his antebellum white suit and wry look.

I'll let you in on a very true secret -- I was officially appointed a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Seriously, I have an official certificate to prove it. How/why? Not a terribly interesting story. It begins and ends with "I don't know why, except I know some people who know some people..." The back story notwithstanding, I -- along with Tiger Woods and Ann Margaret and assorted others -- hold that esteemed title. At one point, I insisted on my friends addressing me as "Colonel _____ (insert real last name here)." Didn't take.

I am not quite sure what it requires me to do. If the South rises again, am I to lead a Confederate garrison? Talk about a conflict. I am sure the more pressing question you have is: What is the "Colonel's" secret recipe? I am not saying whether I know or not, but if I did and told you, I'd have to kill you. It wouldn't be the first time people killed for spices (see, e.g., Christopher Columbus).

3. Like your girls hairy with a confused sense of right and wrong? The anti-globalization protestors are descending on D.C. April 15-17 to (i) screw up my commute to work and (ii) protest the World Bank and IMF, institutions they don't understand but for the inclusion of the words "World" "Bank "International" and "Monetary" in the organizations titles. Here are some of the antics the anti-globalization folk will be up to:

"April 15th: Serve a notice of eviction - The protest will gather at the G-7 Finance Ministers meeting, location TBA at Noon. Protesters will wear hard hats, and carry "tools and banners." After a close inspect(ion) of the World Bank and IMF’s structural integrity the people will post a notice to all that the institutions will be demolished do to a lack of structural soundness and usefulness to the community within 24 hours."

Cute! I am sure a starving Dinka kid made a refugee by the civil war there would find this gesture touching and meaningful.

"April 16th: The Demolish Team Arrives…. Converge at the World Bank and IMF, 18th and H Sts. NW at Noon. The people have served notice to the World Bank, IMF and wealthy elite. Their greed and destruction will not do. 24 hours since first posting the eviction notice we will demolish the institutions (symbolically of course)... March to Dupont Circle with music and puppets. Once in Dupont four construction zones will be set up in four themes, peace and true security, health care/housing/education, a clean environment, and direct democracy. Here participants can help in the construction of what represents these themes. "

I know many people who work for the World Bank. The World Bank has pushed some ill-advised policies, to be sure (e.g., the structural adjustment fiasco of the 80s and 90s). But, I am 100% sure that these international public servants, in their hearts, are not greedily working to destroy developing countries. But, hey, the prostestors have not, after several years of annual World Bank/IMF protests, let the facts get in the way of a good story yet.

4. Gay? Knock it off, says the troubled gang at Focus on Family. Not technically a protest, but for a fee, the FoF crew can help you see the "truth" about homosexuality at their "Love Won Out" one day semininar. The next one is being at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville on April 16. They've even brought in the world renown Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the Clinical Director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, CA, who he specializes in the treatment of men with unwanted homosexuality. One of the testimonials struck me: "One thing I especially appreciated was hearing from former homosexuals. Anyone can give facts and figures, but honestly, if I want to learn how to build a house, I go see a carpenter." And if you really want to learn how to screw a member of the same sex...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Astronomers: Just Making Shit Up

I have been a little dubious about the study of astronomy. Like the neglected children of the scientific world that they are, they are always making these outlandish claims hoping you'll pay attention. You're always hearing stories about the Hubble spotting the creation of a galaxy a billion years ago. The evidence they always offer is this a blurry, still photo of a light flash. We're supposed to take their word for it that this is some magnificent act of creation. And they won't let you hold the picture. They hold it themselves, at arms length, imploring us to "see, see." Right, a billion year old act of creation. Everyone knows the earth was made about 5000 years ago by a bored God issuing all kinds of edicts: "Let there be Light. Let there be there be Water. Let there be Animals. Let their be Fish. Let their be Reptiles. Let there be Fish mixed with Reptiles called...Amphibians. That sounds cool. Let there be Birds. Let there be Mammals. Let there be Man and Woman. Ok, now I'm bored."

And then there are all those "giant asteroid almost hitting the Earth" scares. This scam involves astronomers trying to get us freaked out about a giant asteroid coming within 28,000,000 miles of the Earth. Whew, that was close call. Last time I heard about one of these asteroids, I was actually foolish enough to take out asteroid insurance. Now I am covered in case of a catastrophic asteroid impact. I bet the dinosaurs wish they had that kind of insurance.

Then I came across this story, which absolutely confirms that astronomers are just making shit up. According to the story, astonomers have discovered an "invisible galaxy." Perhaps named Harvey. According to the story, the "invisible galaxy" is made of "dark matter" (creative name), which has an incredible amount of gravitational pull. Scientists believe that these invisible galaxies may be kind of like the cosmic glue that holds the galaxies of the universe together.

I thought I would give this theory fair consideration. So, I debated it with my girlfriend, "invisible Angelina Jolie." But, as always, all she wanted to do was fool around. I had to mull this over on my own, and Dr. Joseph K concluded that this nonsense about invisible galaxies is made up of cosmic crap and does not hold together.

Thanks... a thought gone further off track for the link. Appreciate it and look forward to your comments, participatrion, etc..

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Budget Cuts

As is being widely reported, Bush is pushing numerous budget cuts and reductions in his 2006 budget. As a follow up to my post about the AIDS vaccine program and the underfunding of preventitive care in minority and poor communities, it is clear that AIDS prevention and treatment is not a high priority: among the many cuts is the CDC's Preventitive Health And Health Services block grant program. One of the many goals of this program is to fund providing funding support for screening services to people for hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, cancers, and infectious diseases for underserved and uninsured populations.

Among those many proposed budget cuts, one not so tough cut was the funding for the office for the U.S. Institute of Peace. I applaud this move; it is time to end the irony.

Monday, February 21, 2005

On President's Day, Banality Fair Recognizes: Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur is kind of the Ringo Starr of Presidents. Arthur kind of gets a bum rap for being associated with Senator Conkling (NY) and the cronyism, patronage and corruption that shrouded the then very important Customs House in the late 1800s. As Vice President, he even went so far as to stand with Conkling against President Garfield -- Arthur's boss and perpeutal nemesis to Odie -- in the battle to reform the Customs House. One of the major battles of the Garfield-Conkling Customs House war was the battle over lasagna tariffs. Garfield, of course, was pro dropping the tarifs; Conkling sought to raise the tax on lasagna imports and would probably have skimmed some of the receipts to line his own pockets. The impasse was broken when both realized lasagna didn't exist in America yet.

But, once he became president (succeeded Garfield after he was assassinated by a crazy lawyer who had been rejected for a consular position), Arthur actually reversed course and worked diligently to crack down on the patronage, ineptitude and corruption of the late 19th century U.S. civil service.

He was a hardcore anti-immigration advocate though. According to his official White House biography, "The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law. Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and lunatics." The lunatic ban made particular sense because by 1882, certain states, like Missouri and Connecticut, where anywhere from 75-80% crazy already. The whole state of Rhode Island was actually surrounded by protective padding until 1914.

Arthur fun fact #1: Ever the fashion maven and trend-setter, Arthur was one of the first 19th century dandies to make the lush side whiskers, clean-shaven chin look popular and sexy. Also, one of his major projects as President was to remodel the White House to make it more "homey."

Arthur fun fact #2: I didn't make most of the above up. Seriously, there really was a President of the United States named Chester Arthur. And most of Connecticut is still fucking insane.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Banality Fair Goes To Atlantic City

Spiral Stairs, Joseph K and related others hopped on a bus this frigid morning and headed to Atlantic City. Two things of note:

  • Against the basic odds, the Banality Fair gang all won. We commandeered a Blackjack table for four hours and everyone came out in the black. We had two alternating dealers. Marie was surly, her attitude made worse by her having what appeared to be the plague (at one point, she wretched out something viscous, drippy and awful), but she gutted it out and dealt some good cards with a salty efficiency. Ren, on the other hand, was marginally more pleasant but treacherous, basically getting a 19, 20 or 21 almost every hand. Spiral Stairs and wife basically doubled their money; Joseph K almost tripled his buy in. But, Banality Fair did not do nearly as well as Spiral Stairs' wife's colleague who won an absurd amount of money playing many black (i.e., $100) chips.

  • Then, there was Blanche. My goodness. She was a bartender at one of the bars at the Tropicana who not only dispensed overpriced, weak drinks, but also sang at the same time. Well and without missing a note. "Did you every know that your my hero...what'll you have?" "A vodka tonic." A nod. "Your everything I would every need." Or whatever that lyric is. Pours drink. "I could fly higher than an eagle...$6.50 please." "Keep the change." "Because you are the wind beneath me wings." At one point, she was processing three complex orders at the same time while singing "Boogie Oogie Oogie" (or whatever that damn song is called) at the same time, which blew at least my mind. She kept that up the whole six hours we were at the casino. She possessed a rare, unknowable skill that was simply brilliant.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

School Prayer In Virginia

I can't help myself. Normally, I ignore the Metro section of the Wasington Post, but the wacky Virginia state legislature is in session, so the fun on those pages never stops.

The Virginia state legislature now wants to make prayer a constitutional right in schools. I think I read somewhere that children from religious families tend to do better in school, which means that the discipline and dedication that religious students have directly contributes to their academic success. Or, perhaps, God rewards suck-ups.

More importantly, maybe I am missing something, but I am not so sure students cannot, on their own, pray -- at least silently -- when at school. I don't recall teachers or principals stopping any of my classmates when they sought support from God to mask their complete lack of preparation for a test. Or perhaps to supplement that preparation.

I think this development is more about a cynical effort to radically reinterpret the views of the "Founding Fathers" (read the article to see how the bill's sponsors are justifying their amendment) to slash the separation between church and state. The only possible purpose for including this new language in the Virginia constitution is to allow teachers or other school authority figures to slowly seep their views into the educational process. Allow them to pray and therefore influence their students. After all, the bill's sponsor was inspired by criticism of his injection of religion into an anti-drug speech he gave when he was a state trooper.

The separation of church and state is not a reflection of government being "anti-religion" as the bill's sponsors claim. Rather, it is about separating the personal from the macro-political. Religion isn't suppressed or oppressed when the mechanisms of government are not used to advance it. Religion is advanced when, outside the mechanisms and authority of government, it inspires.

Valentine's Day Post

A couple of you have commented about how much you thought the Valentine's Day post sucked. Two things. First, it did. Second, it was a joke post. I couldn't try and spew out similar tripe right now because, unlike on Monday night, I haven't drunk a few beers on an empty stomach.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Watch Where You Point That Thing...

I live in the fine Commonwealth of Virginia. I remember there being numerous ballot initiatives during the 2000 election. One of which was an amendment to make the hunting a constitutional right. Being clueless about the southern parts of the state, I thought the initiative was ridiculous and refused to even vote on it, assuming it would fail. It won by a large margin, something like 65-35. I didn't blame myself for the not voting against the consitutional amendment. Rather, I blamed the obviously ineffective bear and deer lobbies and their failure to convince the electorate of the larger implications of a "yes" vote on the amendment. How do you expect Smokey to prevent forest fires, when he cannot even protect himself from being shot?

The amendment is now at the center of a bizarre struggle in Virginia as to whether hunters should be required to not get drunk before exercising their now constitutional right. According to the Washington Post, a huge battle is brewing in the Virginia state legilature over whether the state should make it a crime to hunt if your blood alchohol level is above 0.02%.

Many hunters who want to get drunk before shooting vicious, dangerous deer are up in arms because they feel that the legal blood alcohol level is too low and because of certain provisions in the proposed bill that assert that hunters exercising their right to hunt to Virginia have given -- by statute -- their implied consent to be tested for intoxication on demand.

Just another case of a heavy-handed government undermining a clear principle: the right to hunt also includes the right to drink Bud in the process. Drinking and shooting stuff with high-powered rifles go naturally hand-in-hand. At least one hunting-drinking advocate laid out the argument against the limits quite eloquently: "'I'd have no problem with the .08, but .02 is ridiculous,' said Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights advocacy group. 'You can reach .02 by taking some cough syrup.'" I have this image of a drunk hunter who just shot his friend blubbering, "But officer, I didn't mean it to be this way. I had a cold. A bad cold. A, Robitussin cold."

In any event, it important to be wary of how basic household items might intoxicate a person, with tragic effects, e.g., Listerine or sherry enemas.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Guinea Pigs...

I used to own a couple of guinea pigs when I was in college. Attila and Cleopatra. They were horny (Cleo was a screamer, if you know what I mean) and shit a lot. I never wanted to use them to test shit on them. I am not quite sure how guinea pigs, or rabbits for that matter, became the animal of choice to test lip gloss and eyeliner on. Could you tell if a guinea pig was wearing lip gloss?

In any event, I was scanning the radio stations tonight on the drive home and heard an advertisement -- sponsored by the National Institute of Health -- seeking volunteers for the HIV/AIDS vaccine project on two separate R&B (read black) radio stations. I haven't heard any similar talk radio or pop stations or any other stations whose audience is more diverse or predominantly white.

The testing AIDS vaccines on people of color has been in issue that has torn scientists. The matter is not so much whether the vaccine actually causes AIDS in its subjects -- it doesn't. The issue is whether the community that you are using to test the vaccine is getting exploited in some way for the ultimate benefit of others. There was a fascinating article by Michael Specter in the New Yorker last year exploring the ethics of targeting Africans to test the efficacy of a vaccine.

Scientists argue that the best way to test a vaccine's efficacy is to target groups with high infection rates in any trials. That explains why the NIH may be targeting the African American community, which has unfortunately developed an alarming infection rate particularly among African-American women recently.

According to Specter, some of the more vexing ethical issues in testing the vaccine in Africa were: "Will people used as subjects benefit from the research? (Africans served as essential participants in trials for the principal vaccine now used against hepatitis B; yet when the vaccine finally arrived they could not afford it.) Should volunteers get better medical care than other people in their villages? Should they get better treatment than other members of their own families? Are we exploiting research subjects if we don't promise special treatment? Are we bribing them if we do?"

Similar questions apply to the targeting of the African-American community here to serve as the subjects of AIDS vaccine trials. The Government has neglected the health needs of the African-American community for as long as this country has existed. However, when it comes to exploiting the health problems that harm the African-American community in particular, the Government does not hesitate.

For example, President Bush does not talk about increasing the life expectancy of African-American males. Instead, he uses the shorter life expectancy of African-American males as the basis for a perverse argument to garner support among African Americans for his unnecessary Social Security reform. His message is basically: you all die earlier, so you definitely don't want a program that starts paying benefits when you are 67, you need something different -- how fucking cynical.

Simlarly, it is my understanding that federal government funding to help address the AIDS crisis in the African-American community -- or African communities worldwide -- is far short of what is necessary. Yet, the Government has plenty of time to flood the airwaves of African-American radio stations begging for AIDS vaccine guinea pigs. Hopefully, the level of spending of treatment and health education efforts in predominantly African-American communities will be ultimately proportionate to the money spent on low-probability preventive programs.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day...

So, this day is supposed to mean something to someone, somewhere. Words, concepts, fictions, to make us more comfortable about sharing our lives with someone. Fictions. Made real by sociological mores, boundaries and human-made wonders. Fictions, like I said.

Well, what does it mean to me. I could strip it down to its basics. It's about celebrating longing that is within grasp, held. Shifted from a fiction to reality, it is warm, substantial and meaningful. Eclipsing the physical, the valuing of the metaphysical. We live, we bleed, we die. What more is there. That. This is what is more

I am not without longing. I am not without the abstract, the possible. I am with, however, the loud, shared unknowns. Valentines Day, happy or otherwise.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sunday Afternoon With Fat Albert And The Gang

I just blew three hours watching Fat Albert cartoons on video. Ah, remember when fat kids were seen as funny and filled with wisdom beyond their years, and not an epidemic?

As pathetic as a thirty year-old sitting around watching three hours of kids cartoons sounds, I am not at all ashamed. Mostly, that is because I am generally shameless.

Leaving aside the Brown Hornet and Legal Eagle interludes (too preachy and goofy), the Fat Albert episodes were generally amusing. Except for the scared straight episode where Fat Albert and the gang get in trouble and are sent to prison to see how bad it is; a bunch of grasping, scary pedophiles say all kinds of inappropriate stuff to them.

In any event, watching the episodes made me nostalgic for my misspent youth, many hours spent hanging out with my cartoon friends. To be even more precise, I should replace "cartoon" with "only" in the previous sentence.

I used to really be into the Fat Albert jokes where someone in the gang was making fun of one of the other scrubs. The most common such joke ended in "Nooooo classsss."

For example:

"Russell: Rudy, man, you are like a weekend.

Rudy: How's that?

Russell: Nooo classss."


"Russell: Dumb Donald, you're like a summer vacation.

Dumb Donald: How's that?

Russell: Noooo classss."

Many of the jokes involved a similar pattern or using a metaphor to describe one of the gang, to hilarious ends.

"Bill: They oughta call you a tea kettle.

Russell: Tea kettle?

Bill: Yeah, cause you get everyone steamed."

Good, good stuff.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Down's To My Last Damn Nerve

All women who make the mistake of having a relationship with me have labored under the same foolish conceit: that somewhere beneath my salty, curmugeony exterior there a sweet, kind nougaty core. Face it, ladies, I am a salt lick, not a Baby Ruth.

But, today, I wonder if I may have hit a new low. I found myself seething at a five year old with Downs Syndrome.

Some background before you turn away in disgust. I was on a plane flying back from LA, trying to gut out a moderate hangover after a boozy night out with some friends in Echo Park. I had settled in with some newspapers and a pillow and was hoping to waste away a four hour flight reading and napping.

Sitting in front of me was "the kid" as I'll call her. She started out being pleasant enough, turning around occasionally and smiling. I smiled back. She kept smiling. I turned back to my newpaper. She'd turn around and sit back down. The same pattern repeated itself over and over for the first hour of the flight. Her mother thought it was cute and took a nap (in that precise order, I believe). Benign stuff.

But, then things escalated. I was reading a suprisingly gushing review of the new Will Smith movie in the Wall Street Journal, when I was clobbered in the head by a small shoe. I looked up, and there was the kid. Smiling. She had decided to mix up the pattern and add throwing her shoe to it. The impact of the shoe on my head must have been loud because it roused "the kid's" mother.

"Sorry," mother said.

"Quite alright," I lied.

"The kid" got creative with her next thrown object, this time throwing the in flight magazine at me. Not painful, but disruptive as it hit me just as I was doozing off, optimistic the hangover would be gone when I awoke.

I fell asleep eventually, waking up with "the kid's" mom apologizing. The kid had apparently decided to turn around, face me and spit up some cereal on my suit pants. I snapped (internally) at this provacative act. The kid was in the seat in front of me. There was no reason for her to be turning around and spitting stuff up on me unless she has some sort of personal beef with me. And, now I had one with her. Thankfully, "the kid" fell asleep after that and I didn't have to deal with her aggressions any more.

But, frankly, I find her disagreeable. I am not a complete monster though; I mean I do feel conflicted about it. And a bit guilty. There I was thinking things like "what the fuck is your problem" about a five year old with Downs Syndrome. I think my anger is justifiable, but if you say "I had beef with this kid with Down's Syndrome on the plane," most people would think you'd set a new sociopathic low.

How patient is patient enough with a disabled person before you are allowed to get legitimately pissed off at them? Are we never supposed to feel anger towards them?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I Hate Georgetown

If you've visited DC, you've probably visited Georgetown. If you live in DC, you very well may live in or near Georgetown. I am here to tell you to stay the fuck away from that God-forsaken cesspool of excess, amorality, and conformity.

Last night, I had to walk through Georgetown to get to the University. I don't go to Georgetown very much; it is actually quite difficult to get to. The train doesn't go there; parking is extremely difficult; and only native DC residents (of which I am not one) ever ride the bus. (There is an ongoing debate, or at least competing mythologies, about why no train goes through Georgetown. Many will say it is because wealthy Georgetowners didn't want a noisy, hoi-polloi-transporting conveyance rumbling under their 19th century townhomes. But others say that's bunk, that in fact it is because the subway would have to be located extremely deep under the ground in Georgetown, due to its proximity to the Potomac River.) So on those few occasions when I'm there, I approach it with an unfamiliar eye.

Throughout my walk, I became increasingly disgusted with the area, until I was clenching my fists and cursing loudly. I didn't know why, but Georgetown was really pissing me off. But I eventually figured it out. Here is the recipe for creating Georgetown: Take Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Vigorously scrub away all character. (Or at least all that remains in the Village.) Replenish the resulting population deficiency with rich white suburban transplants. Plop it down in a city already hurting for charisma.

Oh, and give it really narrow sidewalks while you're at it.

Voila, Georgetown. All the stupidity, expense, and annoyance of Greenwich Village without any of the charm or character. Why people view it as such a desirable neighborhood is beyond me. It's ungodly expensive. Last night, I bought a Milky Way and a diet Sprite (20 oz. bottle) at a corner deli. The price? $2.90. Don't even try to parse that out. There is no way, outside complex game theory, to make that price anything close to reasonable. I figure about $1 of it paid for the products; about $0.90 went to the store; and the remaining $1 went into the Fund To Pave Georgetown's Streets With Papier Mache Made Of Shredded Money.

What do you get for all this inconvenience? An Urban Outfitters. A Johnny Rocket's. Some optical shops that sell $1,000 eyeglass frames. A steep hill. (Which comes equipped with the staircase from the Exorcist, though. So it's got that going for it.) A university full of the overprivileged and underprincipled. "Quaint" (read: annoying) surroundings.

Fuck Georgetown.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Michigan Radically Reduces Driving Age, Cute Mayhem Ensues

Police: 4-year-old drives mom's car. From what I read, his driving was safer than, say, the average octogenarian.

Given a chance to turn himself in, our toddler rebel decided instead to stick it to the man:

"Weaving and with its headlights off, the car got the attention of Officer Jay Osga, who first thought he was following a car that had been left running at a gas pump.

He flipped on his lights when the car turned into the apartment complex and struck two parked cars. The boy put the car in reverse and struck Osga's cruiser."

The Man had to "recognize" this bad, bad boy's skillz, though: "No charges will be filed against the boy or his mother..."


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Puppy Bowl

The Super Bowl was a good game, but it paled in comparison to the Puppy Bowl that aired on the Animal Chanel at the same time as the Super Bowl. Bored senseless by the sedate commercials, promos for shitty Fox shows and terrible play-by-play analysis, the gang watching the Super Bowl at my house instead watched the Puppy Bowl during any breaks in the action. Incidentally, the next time Cris Collingsworth utters yet another inane bit of football analysis, he should be forced to eat glass.

The Puppy Bowl featured puppies playing with chew toys in a fake stadium complete with fake spectators and flahsing lights. Occasionally, they'd wrestle each other. The laboradors dominated, proving more frisky and athletic. They harrassed all other dogs, particularly this one terrier that had to be shoved into the action and ran away from the labs for most of its appearance during the contest. Innovative camera angles as well; the action from the bowl cam was gripping, as we watched several dogs refresh themselves drinking cool water.

The Puppy Bowl knew had to chose and air interesting instant replays, including one of this puppy scratching himself vigorously. He scratched good. Especially for a rookie; rookies are normally kind of nervous in a big game. Only one intentional grounding call, when one pup shit on the ground. Otherwise a clean game featuring some good puppy competitors.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Football: Image

The NFL has increasingly cracked down on "excessive celebrations," claiming that it is unsportsman-like and damages the image of the sport. That wise view despite the fact that the most popular players are the most exuberant players. And then, there was the mindless shitstorm last year over the appearance of Janet Jackson's none-too-impressive tit. Image.

Joe Namath had an interest take on this whole image issue, from Paul Zimmerman's A Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football:

"After the New York Jets won the AFL championship in 1968, the league's president, Milt Woodward, mentioned that champagne in the dressing room was against the rules. Joe Namath, of course, had a few words about this, and he paused between swigs of bubbly to take a look at the game of football.

'Mr. Woodward tried to tell me that it was bad for the image of football...that it was bad for kids to see [the players drinking champagne.] But you know what the real image of football is? It's brutality. Why don't they tell the kids like it is? Tell the kids that this guy is trying to hurt that guy and knock him out of the game. Or show them some of the letters I get from people who hope some guy cripples me because of my moustache?'"

Football: A Conflicted View From Within

As we lead up to the Super Bowl, I am going to be posting some of the more interesting passages I have read about football. I love the sport, but it raises all kinds of socio-political issues. What does it say about us when the Super Bowl is a bigger event than most presidential addresses? Where do these men that we love to watch smash into each other come from? Why do we hate those among them who are more than a quiet number on the field who doesn't disappoint us?

The following is from an excerpt from a 1969 Philadelphia Inquirer interview with St. Louis strong side linebacker Dave Meggyesy (as read in Paul Zimmerman's A Thinking Man's Guide To Football):

"Football is just short of war for some of those people...Its like the old Roman sports. Throwing the bomb -- blitzing -- now what the hell does that mean? If society changes like I hope it will, football will be a dead issue. The people will be able to get their hostilities off in a healthier way.

The top football players are psychos. They are very unhealthy people., but society views them as some of our healthiest people. When you have men perpetuating violence in sports, in television or anything of that nature, you can't call that sane. You can't call people who do it sane. You can't call me sane."

Some truth there, and, yet, I love it so.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Whatchoo talkin' bout, Laura?

The expression on that kid's face makes me laugh out loud.

The class in which this vignette took place was apparently called "Passport to Manhood." That makes me wonder what, exactly, Laura just said to that boy to make him so dubious. Leave no child behind!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Can I Get a Witness?

I just ran across an astoundingly odd site called the Gematriculator. Using the ancient science of "gibberish" -- oops, I mean, "Gematria" -- the site offers to assign a precise rating of goodness and evilness to any website or text passage you see fit to enter.

How? The fine gematriculologists at the Gematriculator explain: "Basically, Gematria is searching for different patterns through the text, such as the amount of words beginning with a vowel. If the amount of these matches is divisible by a certain number, such as 7 (which is said to be God's number), there is an incontestable argument that the Spirit of God is ever present in the text. Another important aspect in gematria are the numerical values of letters: A=1, B=2 ... I=9, J=10, K=20 and so on. The Gematriculator uses Finnish alphabet, in which Y is a vowel. Experts consider the mathematical patterns in the text of the Holy Bible as God's watermark of authenticity. Thus, the Gematriculator provides only results that are absolutely correct."

Oh. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before.

Anyway, feel comfortable in continuing to visit Banality Fair: We are more good than evil. The Gematriculator spits out the following certified results (presented in two ways, depending, I guess, on your audience):

This site is certified 32% EVIL by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 68% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Let's run a couple controls, just to make sure.

Yep, Genesis 1:1 to 1:5 checks out. The first passage of the Bible is only 23% evil, and 73% full of Godly goodness.

Stairway to Heaven is even more pious than the Bible! It comes in at 79% good, and only 21% evil.

However, the Gettysburg Address is 64% evil. I guess abolishing slavery isn't worth that much in the cosmic scheme of things.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jimmy B And Me

Ah, the joys of the one and a half day business trips. The rushing around, sitting in airports, and...political celebrity sightings! In past trips, I have exchanged menancing looks with Bob Dole on the U.S. Airways Shuttle up to NYC, blown off friendly overtures from Oliver North and jostled for space in the Dulles Airport moving lounge from Terminal C with Ari Fleischer. That's just on my travels. My non-travel interactions with politicians are another story. For example, at a campaign stop at my college during the 1992 primaries, I told Jerry Brown to his face that he'd lose because he refused to shake my hand (he muttered some nonsense about being late to a speech).

Yesterday, I rode on a flight to Houston (on my way to Austin) with James Baker, III, former Tresury Secretary, Secretary of State, and Shrub's tough in the 2000 election aftermath. I glared at him, but he proved impervious to my glaring. In fact, he smiled, or perhaps grinned, an inordinate amount. A creepily inordinate amount. And, he was taller than I thought he might be.