Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deep Thoughts with Alastair McCandless



Author's Note: I've noticed that many of the people who use google to find the site end up on this page. The post below is very old and pre-walk, although you can see some of the stirrings toward that future in my mind. For the recent Wilderness Walk for Wounded Warriors posts just click on the Thoughts Askew banner atop the page and you will be sent to the newest stuff. Cheers!

As I count the down the days until my trip to Costa Rica I have been in a reflective mood. Mainly I have been reflecting on how I am sick of my job, but I won't go into that right now (unless you are hiring, if so let me know -seriously). When my mind has left the travails of working life it has settled on a grander notion - togetherness.
I don't mean that you must root for the Cubs just like me (I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy - apologies to Tedo and Ken, I should have never dragged you along on that doomed ride). In fact, sameness in thought or deed is not to be celebrated at all, one of the greatest features of our human race is the differences we have. Instead, I mean that we need to get a grip on the petty bullshit that divides us. Male/female, black/white, gay/straight, Christian/Muslim, or American/Mexicans (or Chinese, French, Senegalese etc.), none of those differences should matter in the way we treat one another.
When we allow ourselves to be divided by these separate categories we split ourselves into we serve the interests of people who gain power by playing on these pointless hatreds. I know my Aunt Edith would be disappointed in our behavior. She was born with down syndrome and she loved everyone equally (except for a vendetta she had with one other woman at Friendship Village where she lived, must have had to do with a man) and unconditionally. She taught me the importance of unconditional love and I hope one day to be able to meet her standard. I definitely still hate more than one person, but I'm working on it goddamnit.
Of course there is a point somewhere amidst all of this rambling and it is this: don't put up borders or fences between you and other people and don't let the opinions others may have of certain people effect your beliefs - find out for yourself in each and every case what the truth is about a person. Happy Holidays and fuck you Bill O'Reilly I love Christmas, but I will use whatever greeting I deem appropriate. Sorry Aunt Edith, I am will try to get better at this love thing :) Just don't tell me I have to hug Bill O'Reilly.

Cheers to you all! - Alastair

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Name Game Part 2


Welcome back sports fans, the time has come to reveal our second list of great names from baseball's past. Round two will cover gents with last names falling somewhere between the unstoppable pitcher Omar Daal, whose name always makes me yearn for Indian food, and Mike Fyhrie whose name is reminiscent of the digestive repercussions resulting from the spiciness of said cuisine. So without any further ado, here is my team - suggestions for improvement are always encouraged.

1B - Babe Danzig: Sadly, the Babe had only a short stint for the Red Sox in 1909. After his release he threatened the Red Sox with a hex involving vampires, serpents, as well as the shedding of the blood of the non-believers. His curse proved less effective than Ruth's and may have long been forgotten, but the goth metal greatness of his progeny will be remembered forever.

2B - Boob "Gink" Fowler: Apparently the original name Fowler (who played for a few years in the 1920s) went by wasn't funny enough so someone decided to give him the nickname Gink. What does Gink mean? According to my Google machine, gink is a man or boy considered to be odd. If your first name was Boob I think a certain level of oddness would be forgivable.

SS - J.J. Furmaniak: Thanks to two brief major league stints with Pittsburgh and Oakland, J.J. makes our list solely for being such a major fan of my alma mater. I am a staunch believer that our mascot should be named in his honor.

3B - Bob Dillinger: I can't have one of these lists without including a celebrity and public enemy number one just happened to play six years for the St. Louis Browns among other teams shortly after his death. Now that's dedication to your sport!

OF - Johnny "Ugly" Dickshot: By far the MVP of this motley roster, I will let Ugly speak for himself. Just follow the link if you don't believe that a human being could actually go through life with this name.

OF - Jack Daniels: A Boston Brave in 1952, "Sour Mash Jack" as he was called, will patrol a spot in the outfield next to Ugly Dickshot, and in fact Ugly will likely blame his poor performance on Jack Daniels, as many a man has from time to time.

OF - Steamer Flanagan: Despite rumors to the contrary, 1905 Pirate Steamer is actually from Kingston, Pennsylvania, not Cleveland.

C - Pickles Dillhoefer: Dillhoefer's lack of success for three National League teams during the years of World War I and after could be contributed to the simple fact that he was a grown man whose teammates called him Pickles. With the dill last name I suppose it was unavoidable, but goddamn it man - maintain some small shred of dignity!

P - Bull Durham: Born Louis Raphael Staub, Mr. Durham realized that he would never become a professional baseball player with such a silly moniker. One name change later and the former Louis was able to enjoy a six year career from 1904-1909 with perhaps the most appropriate name in the history of the game (although Matt Batts would surely argue this question).

P - Cy Fried: A name like Cy Fried conjures up thoughts of the pitching greatness of his namesake, Cy Young, after whom the most coveted pitching award in baseball is named. Fried, whose career lasted all of 2 innings back in 1920 was unable to reach the level of Young's success, falling only 511 wins short of his win total of 511 (while appearing in 7,354 less innings). Fried also boasted a terrific 16.20 ERA. Note to those who are not a follower of the game: 16.20 is the opposite of terrific.

P - Frank Funk: I am so jealous of the stadium announcer who, when calling Frank from the bullpen, got to say, "We want the Funk, got to have that funk..." during the all too brief four year stint the pitcher spent with Cleveland and Minnesota in the early 1960s.

P - Roberto Duran: By the end of Roberto's 1997-98 career as a reliever his 6.58 ERA had Detroit Tiger fans screaming no mas, no mas!
Editor's note: I couldn't figure out how to insert the accent so think Spanish there, the joke has nothing to do with anyone's mother.

P - Emerson Dickman: I couldn't leave you without one more opportunity to be brazenly crude and Dickman, pictured above, was nice enough to pitch five years during World War II for the Boston Red Sox.

Honorable mentions: Joe Frazier as in down goes Frazier (on strikes), Whammy Douglas, Buttercup Dickerson, Charlie Frisbee, and Kosuke Fukudome.

See you soon for our next edition and make sure to thank your parents over Thanksgiving for not giving you such a shitty name (assuming you are not on this list).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Throw that Money Honey


Conservatives, since they are usually devoid of any ideas of their own outside of cutting taxes, tend to deride most efforts by Progressives to solve problems as "throwing money at the problem." I have tried for years to become a problem myself so that people would throw money at me, but so far to no avail.
There is one issue in South Carolina politics where I feel the tossing of a few thousand Benjamins would be an integral part of the solution (yes only part, but enough to get people jumping up and down in defiant anger). I speak of the realm of education, where there are two linked problems that could be solved with an influx of green: low teacher quality and crowded classrooms.
First year teachers are paid a salary of 28,000 dollars a year (varies slightly from county to county, sometimes from district to district) with the possibility of earning more if you gain national accreditation, a masters degree, or a PHD. Lawyers and doctors routinely earn six figures a year. Where do you think talented people tend to go? Sure as hell not the barely able to feed yourself, much less your family salary, not if they have a choice in the matter.
Only the crusader type of person, who believes above all in the value of education would chose the field of primary education over one where they could make actual money. Outside of these holy warriors you get people who just need a job and go through the motions, doing enough just to not get fired.
There are, fortunately some great teachers nonetheless and many of us even in South Carolina were blessed to sit in their classrooms. I can think of a few myself, but there just aren't enough and they exist at an even lower rate in the poorer rural areas of the state (like the Corridor of Shame) where the low salary is combined with lousy working conditions and the exciting nightlife that goes along with living in places like Jasper County.
A fairer wage would draw more applicants and allow for a higher caliber of teacher, lowering classrooms sizes and giving the children of South Carolina a much greater chance to succeed. Study after study has shown the import the correlation between individual attention and student success.
So rear back and start throwing those dollar dollar bills ya'll. I think we owe it to our young people not to short change them - I can think of a lot worse things for my taxes to be spent upon.

In honor of Drs. Amy and Peter McCandless, my parents, who have over 70 combined years of experience in the field of education. I love you Mom and Dad!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Medicinal Porpoises


I ended a long run of success in the field of doctor avoidance last Friday, when I finally cracked after a long bout with parental pressure and visited the offices of Passport Health here in Greenville.
We are taking our family trip this year to Costa Rica and I was in need of a vaccine or eight, having not experienced the lovely sensation of being jabbed with a needle for seventeen years. My doctorless streak was a little shorter, dating back to a 1998 visit caused by the fact that the Court Ridge pool at that time was the only place on the planet dirtier than my friend Tim's favorite pornos. Apparently, chlorine can only be expected to do so much in the war against bacteria.
My absence from medical clinics really dates back from childhood trauma that occurred whilst in the office of my personal physician, Dr. Fairey. There are indeed certain effects on a child's psyche when a man named Fairey grabs your balls and asks you to cough. I'm not going to blame the guy for turning me gay or anything, but I figured I should continue to avoid doctors just to be safe. God knows what else they would do to me, right?
On Friday I found just exactly what they could do, breaking my long fast under pressure from my mother, who steadfastly refused to forget that I had not been given a vaccine for twenty years or that I was traveling to a country that along with rain forests and volcanoes, possesses many opportunities to obtain a vast array of exotic diseases.
Passport Health, which I visited in order to attain my vaccination, also managed to remind me of the dastardly dangers Costa Rica holds. As soon as I met my doctor she presented me with a portfolio on the country which explained the 250 different ways in which I could possibly fall ill or die during my tropical vacation. I'm hoping for dengue fever - I've never heard of it and I always wanted to be the first person on my block to die from something.
After having the life scared out of me by the pamphlet of doom, I agreed to four vaccinations (as well as a prescription for malaria pills). I wasn't too worried, thinking they would spread out the shots over a couple of trips to the clinic. Naive me! It turns out that they are legally allowed to pump various weakened viruses into my arm like I was a heroin addict in dire need of a week's worth of fixes.
I was then led into a room where two women awaited. I imagined one would give me the shots while the other held me down and covered my mouth so that the people in the lobby would not hear my anguished screams. Instead, they did the good cop, bad cop thing. One spoke to me about a book I was reading while the other jabbed my arms with pointy things. I highly recommend the technique, as I was distracted and hardly noticed the application of my many-flavored vaccine cocktail. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the deed was done and I had experienced hardly any discomfort.
I have to say that all in all my experience was a good one, the doctor was very pleasant and helpful. She gave me vaccines for Hepatitis A/B, typhoid, and tetanus and managed to do it without causing me discomfort or giving me Herpegonasyphlaids. Despite their best efforts, though, I'm still pretty gay.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bowfinger 2: Going Down and Collumbia Bound


20th century Faux Studio announced today that filming has finally begun on the long-awaited sequel to 1999's hit "Bowfinger," starring Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin.
According to studio executive Richard Steele, the movie had been held up by poor scripts and an inability to convince Martin and Murphy to do another picture in the series. All that seemed to change only six months ago when the most recent rewrite of the script reached Steele's desk.
"Thanks to our great writing team we finally found a vehicle that could support the talents of Heather Graham, the only one of the actors from "Bowfinger" who had signed on to do the second film. I think you will agree "Bowfinger 2" is one of the most original screenplays in years."
The sequel will be called "Bowfinger 2: Going Down and Collumbia Bound" and features Graham, reprising her role as Daisy. The character of Daisy in "Bowfinger" is a bit of a whore who uses her seductive powers and lithe body to sleep her way all the way to the top during the production of a movie directed by Steve Martin's character Robert K. Bowfinger. Graham has boldly resisted the urge to avoid being typecast during her career, also playing a whore in "From Hell," "Austin Powers 2, "The Hangover," "Boogie Nights," and "Swingers."
In "Bowfinger 2" we find Graham moving on to bigger and better things. Nowadays Daisy, whose last name we discover to be Halley, has parlayed her success in Hollywood into a political career in her home state of South Calorina.
She yearns to one day be the first female governor of the state, but the old boy network appears in front of her like a brick wall to stop her progress. Halley is forced against her will to go back to her old ways, having affairs with politicians on each rung of the ladder in the Republicanian Party in order to advance her ambitions.
Halley starts at the very bottom of the barrel by having sex with a mere blogger by the name of Will Fulks (played by Viggo Mortensen) and moves on to the upper echelon with other trysts, including one with a lobbyist, Larry Merchant (played by Bob Costas).
Her open legs open doors and soon she is battling for the Republicanian nomination for governor. Saboteurs within the party don't want a woman to win and suddenly reveal Halley's affairs. Republicanian party hack Jake Notts (played by Abe Vigoda) also tries to use Daisy's half-Indonesian background against her, calling her a camel jockey.
The scandal threatens to destroy the Halley campaign. Daisy, hurt and confused, goes for a hike on the Appalachian trail to clear her mind. While there, she meets a mystic named Mark Samford who, after getting to know her carnally for a day or two, tells her what she needs to know to defeat her foes. Thanks to his sage advice she manages to win the nomination. For fear of ruining the last five minutes of the movie I will stop here, but some questions remain unanswered.

Will our hero Halley beat her opponent, the Democritic Vincent Sheehan (played by Gary Oldman) and become governor? Will she move on to greater heights, even the White House? Who will she screw along the way? Carl Rove(played by a bowl of jello) or Rupert Murdock (played by Satan)? To find out what happens next, make sure to be the first in line for tickets when "Bowfinger 2" is released in December of 2011.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Historical Name Game


In the past I have brought you my all-star teams for football and baseball composed of the greatest names in the current game. Today we will travel back to the past for Part One of a several part series detailing the greatest names in the one hundred year plus history of Major League Baseball. Without further unnecessary bullshit intro here is the starting nine for players with last names starting with A, B, or C:

1b: Davey Crockett - Davey was king of the wild frontier, fought at the Alamo, and even found time to compile twenty nine hits for the 1901 Detroit Tigers.

2b: Putsy Caballero - Putsy, real name Ralph (is that worse than Putsy, why would he accept this nickname) played several years in the 40s and 50s for Philadelphia's Phillies.

SS: Creepy Crespi - a Cardinal during the early years of World War II, Creepy doesn't actually look as Creepy as Birdie Cree (pictured above, he did not make the team - hopefully he won't bring his zombie ass to my house seeking vengeance), who just so happens to be the player pictured above.

3b: Jim Cockman - I'm just a sucker for a Cockman I guess. Soak that sentence in while you learn that Jim played a bit of third for the New York Highlanders back in the year nineteen aught five.

OF: Coco Crisp - a modern member of the team, I have discussed Coco in some depth before and shan't again as I bore of the subject terribly.

OF: Milton Bradley - see Coco Crisp.

OF: Frank Buttery - Frank and his buttery nipples patrolled the outfield for the Middlestown Mansfields in 1872. Damn the Baseball Encyclopedia has some obscure shit, someone will have to tell me where the hell Middlestown is and what a Mansfield might be outside of some chick from the 50s with boobs large enough to disrupt the Earth's orbit.

C: Matt Batts - such a baseball appropriate name, I had to give Matt,a backstop for several teams in the 40s and 50s, the nod over runner-up Hick Cady.

Utility: Stubby Clapp - possibly my favorite name of all time the Clapp had a short stint with the Cardinals ten years back.

P: Emil "Hill Billy" Bildilli - if it weren't for the existence of the Big Unit, this WWII era Browns pitcher would have questionably the greatest baseball nickname of all time.

P: Jung Bong - such a short career for this guy, who must have gone into Ricky Williams-like retirement, that he has never made my all name team despite pitching for the Braves just a few years back. Let's hope he comes back for another hit or two.

P: Boof Bonser - see Milton Bradley.

P: Sugar Cain - Sugar's real name was Merritt so you can understand him being okay with a nickname so corny Coke could use the run-off as syrup for their sodas for time eternal. He pitched for three teams in the 1930s American League if you give a fuck.

P: Phil Collins - Phil, a national leaguer who toed the rubber for three clubs in the 20s and 30s was born long before the singer, so you can understand if he does not want to change it - because he's not the one who sucks.

Ultimate UT: George "Nig" Cuppy - Cuppy could play the field and pitched quite well, racking up twenty wins for several years as a Cleveland Spider mound man. The 1890s were different times however, and Cuppy seems from his picture to have earned his nickname from the fact that he was, oh let's say, a bit ethnic during a period when blacks were not allowed to play professional baseball. I guess he just slipped in under the "just a good tan" rule.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not Always a Fool


I know following the title you are probably expecting an autobiographical piece, especially if you are my always overly proud mother. I am, however, talking about our own federal government. I realize it is fashionable of late to kick the American Congress, Bureaucracy, Presidency, and Judiciary for their various foibles and, true enough, there are many of those. Who hasn't had an apoplexy after reading another story about the corruptive influence of lobbyists, corporate dominance of politics, or the sloth-like inactivity of our legislators?
I would like instead though to take some time to remember some aspects of our country's government that have helped our nation to achieve and thrive for so long. Maybe there are some things that we have overlooked in our urgency to condemn the bad that is done up in Washington D.C.
1. The World's First National Parks: We have a national park system that is unmatched in the rest of the world. President Theodore Roosevelt, quite an outdoorsmen himself, established the first national parks in the early twentieth century, while also passing the Antiquities Act, which allowed the president to establish "national monuments" protecting land from development and making certain the land would belong to the American people in perpetuity.
Crater Lake was one of the first five national parks created and the Grand Canyon was one of the earliest national monuments. Today the National Park Service administers 392 separate parks and monuments around the nation, giving Americans the right and opportunity to see beauty that might have been obliterated by development and mining if our government, led by President Theodore Roosevelt, had not taken positive action. I spent some time last weekend enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway, an addition to our National Park System built by the Civil Conservation Corps (a public works project built in the 1930s courtesy of Theodore's cousin Franklin).
2. The World's best Interstate Highway System: Our national highway system is a great example of how government spending can have positive unintended consequences. The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, as the American Interstate System was originally known, was created as an important component of a national defense network. Eisenhower, heavily influenced by his experiences with the impressive Autobahn in Germany, thought a much more thorough system of roads was necessary to protect the United States against the Evil Empire (the USSR not the New York Yankees).
Although Franklin Roosevelt is often accused by commentators of being a liberal spender, it is Republican Eisenhower's Interstate Project that logs in as the most expensive public works project in American history. As of today, the various highways created in 1956 by Eisenhower and Congress have grown to an amazing 46,000 plus miles in length. That is more road than any other country on Earth can boast. The added infrastructure was a great boost to American competitiveness in the global market, bringing down greatly the cost of getting goods to market. The distribution of almost every product you buy involves the National Interstate System (and if not it has surely traveled through an airport or seaport built mainly with federal funds).
The benefits for America don't end there either. With more and higher quality highways, its a lot easier to travel to all those wonderful national parks as well!
3. Electricity: Of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did spend impressive amounts of federal funds in his attempt to haul the faltering American economy out of the Depression (he was unsuccessful as only a much larger amount of government spending and government employment caused by World War II was able to do the job).
One of the Roosevelt administration's most enduring acts was the creation of the TVA or Tennessee Valley Authority. The American South was suffering the brunt of the economic downturn, as over-farmed and over-grazed land, no electricity, and little industry had resulted in crushing poverty for the region's inhabitants. The TVA helped turn their struggles around by "developing fertilizers, teaching farmers how to improve crop yields, helping replant forests, controlling forest fires, and improving habitat for wildlife and fish." (TVA website)
The main impact of the TVA, however, was brought by the dams the project built. These dams were hydroelectric in nature and with their construction light came into a land of darkness. People who had never experienced the joy of electricity were now on the grid.
Later federal projects brought the joy of televisions, microwaves, and computers (arrival time in your area may have varied) to places like my home state of South Carolina. In fact, almost all of the state's power is generated thanks to federal funding and construction know-how (the US Corps of Engineers are responsible for Lake Hartwell for example). Did you know that there are no natural lakes in South Carolina? Lakes Jocassee/Keowee (a state project), Hartwell (Truman), Murray (FDR), and Santee Cooper (FDR again) were all the result of federal and state government plans to develop hydroelectric power.
Even the largest corporations simply do not have the resources do enact these vast projects. Only through taxes and central government are we able as a society to put complicated projects like dams and interstates together. Their existence is of great assistance to private business, however, providing low-cost electricity for industry and a road system that allow for goods to get to market in a much cheaper fashion.
And don't forget, our man-made lakes are also great areas for recreation and most have large areas open to the public year round. So get out there and put your tax dollars to work by riding a jet ski drunk. (Editor encourages jet ski riders to stay sober even if it is a lot less fun)
4. Protection. Over the last century our nation's bureaucracy has grown by leaps and bounds as numerous agencies have been founded, most of whom go by three letters and seem to devote most of their time to spying. Whether they spy on the average American citizen or our country's enemies we don't know, as their activities are kept mostly secret. There are some three letter agencies, however, that are intended to work for the American people, to keep us safe and to defend us from the abuses of others. I will speak briefly about two in particular, the FDA and the EPA.
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, was founded by Theodore Roosevelt after Upton Sinclair's novel "The Jungle" provoked horror from the American people. "The Jungle," was intended to show the horrible working conditions among the meat-packing facilities in Chicago. Instead the book's accounts of disgusting items like human fingers and rat entrails being included in the meat that was sent out to the general public for ingestion caused an outcry for the federal government to take action. "I meant to hit the American public in the heart, but I missed and hit them in the stomach," was Sinclair's witty response to the furor his book created.
President Teddy Bear and Congress acted quickly, with the 1906 passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act, which was designed to protect the American public from misbranded foods and quack medications, in addition to the finger-food being produced by the meat packers. Advances in science around this time also allowed chemists hired by the government to better discover whether a product really produced the magical effects claimed on the label.
The FDA (which was first called by the name in 1930) was the first government agency designed specifically to protect the American citizen's health. The organization oversight authority expanded in the mid 1930s after the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster resulted in the deaths of over one hundred Americans. Apparently antifreeze is not a good thing to ingest.
Various other frauds have been uncovered over the years as pharmaceutical companies that stand to make millions of dollars from various miracle drugs have not always proved to be the most scrupulous folks. Thanks to the FDA I don't have to worry about whether my Viagra will work or that I will be getting a Handburger the next time I go through the Wendy's drive thru.
I am getting kind of hungry after all that food talk, but let's take a minute to look at another government agency that delivers us from evil, the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, as this lazy author will refer to it from now on, also owes its formation to a stunning work of prose, in this case Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." The United States faced a huge pollution problem in the 1960s as industrial pollution was unregulated and out of control. Rivers were actually catching fire do to the amount of chemicals they contained, a function I do not believe God originally intended them to have.
Carson's 1964 description of an environment bereft of life as the result of the overuse of pesticides such as DDT awakened a movement that resulted in the EPA, formed in 1970 by none other than President Richard Nixon ( I hope most of the readership avoided a heart attack after that revelation - yes the environment was not always a wedge issue).
Since that great day the EPA has fought to keep America from turning into one big toxic waste dump. Our nation's symbol, the bald eagle, which was on the verge of extinction as a result of DDT, has made a comeback. Our air and our water are much cleaner than they were in the 1960s. I hear a lot about how regulation is a burden on business and hurts our economy, but I don't want to live in a country like our corrupt neighbor to the South, with their cities soaked in smog and their water even less drinkable than their tequila. No wonder so many of their citizens want to move here.
5. Employment: Our federal government is the largest employer in the country. Its not even a race unless you consider a sprint between Usain Bolt and a tortoise to be compelling theater. Fourteen million plus citizens work for Uncle Sam and another seven million or so toil for various state governments. That is well over ten percent of the adult work force (a total of 155 million or so).
These facts bring up many questions. How much worse would the recent recession have been without these jobs? What is the optimal number of government employees for our economy to run at its smoothest? Is there even such a number? How many government jobs are vital to our nation and how many are superfluous make-work positions or needless bureaucratic layering?
I don't know the answers to these questions and I have argued against some government employment, like our vastly over-sized military, in the past. I do know, though, that many of the people who work these jobs are thanking God, Buddha, Satan, or whomever that they have a steady income during these tough times.

I could continue on, talking about Social Security, Medicare, OSHA, etc, but I think you get the point. I leave you now hopefully with a better impression of the good things that government is capable of when the right people are in charge and motivated to push the forces under their command in a direction that brings positive change to the American people. We sure as hell deserve it for all the other crap we have to put up with...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Patching Up Our Nation?


Reader Warning: Parody in Progress

The United States Senate spent several hours Monday vigorously debating controversial legislation that may affect future political races here in South Carolina. The turmoil is all thanks to an intriguing new law proposed by Senator Ross Noman, a first-term independent from New Hampshire.
Noman's legislation will make it mandatory for all United States Senate and House candidates to wear patches representing each of the top contributors to their campaigns.
"The idea is to bring real accountability and openness into the elections process; those running for higher office will literally be forced by law to wear their allegiance on their sleeves. Following the Supreme Court's January decision to allow unlimited corporate contributions, we need to know now more than ever exactly who is beholden to whom in the political world." Senator Noman said.
Each congressional candidate will be required to have an agreed upon symbol of their top ten contributors sewn in "a visible manner" upon whatever clothing they choose for their various campaigning stops.
The outspoken Minnesota Senator Al Frankenberry supports the bill, saying "Most senators are whores and they deserve to wear these scarlet letters indicating exactly who they are whoring themselves out to."
Several senators countered Noman and Frankenberry, including Jeff Secessions (R) of Alabama. "All of this information is already out there for citizens to lay there hands on, we don't need to put patches on our politicians and send them strutting out in public with these silly outfits. This is America! We aren't a bunch of Nazis branding people for their chosen affiliations."
As the debate continued Noman conceded that Secessions might have had a point twenty years ago "but we have to face the fact that we live in a time where the world moves very quickly and voters have a very limited attention span - the only way to make sure they have this information is to shove it directly in their faces," Noman argued.
Advertising executive John Andrews, whose company Members Only stands to profit from the law, agrees. "We have had great success with similar ideas, such as covering sports arenas and NASCAR racers with corporate slogans and decals."
Which begs the question: if passed will this law bring about recognition of the politicians' corporate ties or will it result in further revenue for the companies whose logos appear on the candidates? Only time will tell.
The measure will be up for more debate Tuesday and should be ready for a vote on Wednesday. Currently forty senators support the measure and forty are opposed, including both of South Carolina's senators. Another ten are still undecided. A similar bill co-sponsored by fifty-three separate legislators will go in front of the House next week.
What will be the consequences of the legislation here in South Carolina? Not much this year, as the bill is not scheduled to go into effect until May 2011 if passed. Those of you waiting for the upcoming battle between Alvin Greene's plain patchless navy blue suit and Jim Demint's technicolor dreamcoat will just have to be disappointed for now.
For a full list of all of the legislation's provisions click here.

To find out just who has contributed (and how much) to politicians in the races near you check out followthemoney.org.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chicago: The Return


Chicago is known for several things that suck: the band of the same name, the eponymous musical featuring hamster ass, and my beloved Chicago Cubs. I shall be making another visit to the city this weekend and my goal is to avoid all of these things.
Except maybe the Cubs - I am like a deer in headlights when it comes to my beloved baseball team, unable to get out of the way as yet another season heads wildly off the tracks. Sadly, the team is being unfairly forced by Major League Baseball to play its last 40 or so meaningless games. If I indeed do make the trek to Wrigley Field, there better be enough beer left in the city of Chicago to help me cope with the inevitable result.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The M&M Match Game


As a self-proclaimed lover of music, its probably not surprising to hear that I also tend to prefer Hollywood productions that come with an excellent accompanying score or soundtrack. Therefore, in the spirit of the list-maker in "High Fidelity" I thought to record for posterity a few of my favorite flicks based on the ability of the music contained within them to lift the quality of the on-screen action. Ironically, "High Fidelity" does not actually make my squad. Nick Hornsby would probably also be disappointed that I was unable to limit my choices to a mere five. Hopefully you will indulge me.
So what is the criteria? I tried to only use one movie per director or musician. I chose to highlight the director in cases when soundtracks are involved and the composer when the music is more of a classical score. Don't look for "Sound of Music" or "West Side Story" here. Since pretty much all musicals stink like the rancid sulfur of Hades, none were able to make the cut.

1. "Pulp Fiction" and Quentin Tarantino: Almost all of Tarantino's productions could qualify here, with "Reservoir Dogs" and "Kill Bill" getting a lot of consideration. There was only one soundtrack, however, that played at almost every party I attended in college and that was "Pulp Fiction." Tarantino interlaces key dialogue from the movie in between songs that are easily identified with various scenes. Any time I hear Urge Overkill's "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" I think about how much it would suck to overdose on heroin and take an adrenaline shot in the belly while some crazy bitch with seventeen piercings cackles like a lobotomized loon. Even artists like Kool and the Gang, Dick Dale, the Statler Brothers, and Chuck Barry, whose genres I would normally never listen to on my own, fit like a glove, adding memorability to the action (or opening credits in the case of Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie") they accompany. A+ on all accounts, fifteen years later this soundtrack still finds its way into my CD player with regularity. I probably give the film an additional viewing on a yearly basis as well.
Suggestion for further reading: My friend Kevin makes a great argument for "Jackie Brown" in the comments section.
2. "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" and the Coen brothers: Although Tarantino was able to get me to listen to hip-hop, surf rock, and 1950s rock, he was unable to match the Coen brothers in one area. Their accomplishment is the soundtrack to "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou," which made me entirely reconsider my feelings toward bluegrass. Previously, I had viewed the genre as redneck mountain music unworthy of my attention. Because of "OBWAT," my eyes have been opened to the glorious sounds being made in them there hills. Rarely have I been as enamored with a voice as the first time I heard Gillian Welch singing the sirens' song to the escaped convicts as they lay along the river's edge. Ralph Stanley's "Oh, Death" also sent chills up my spine, showing the inexplicable beauty a voice can have even in old age. I could mention many more, but we'll just say that bluegrass owes the Coen brothers a debt of gratitude for bringing their songs into the consciousness of many who would have never considered listening to it before. When I am tuned into "This Old Porch" on WNCW on a Sunday afternoon, I know exactly who to thank.
3. "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" and Guy Ritchie: Outside of deciding to marry the succubus that is Madonna, Guy Ritchie has made few mistakes since his directorial debut only two decades ago. "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" can certainly be listed at the forefront of his successes. A brilliant gangster flick interweaving the stories of several hapless groups of London felons, Ritchie's masterpiece uses a variety of music sublimely in an effort to underline the emotions of the characters. For the heroes of the piece, these run the gamut from extreme sadness to uncontrolled glee. Stretch's "Why Did You Do It" describes perfectly the crew's desperation after a hideous gambling loss incurs impossible debts with a local thug, while "Zorba's Dance" illustrates the mounting excitement of the group as they appear to have dug themselves out of their dilemma. It doesn't stop there though, the film is a constant thrill ride of twists and turns and the music matches the action like the perfect tango partner, in-step with the beat every second of the way.
4. "Almost Famous" and Cameron Crowe: Very few directors are better suited than Cameron Crowe to design the soundtrack to a movie. As a young man Crowe was a writer for "Rolling Stone" magazine, a story told in the semi-autobiographical account, "Almost Famous." I could have easily picked the "Singles" soundtrack for Crowe's entry, as the music contained within helped jump-start the grunge movement and the careers of bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice-in-Chains. "Almost Famous," however, is just a much better movie and a lot of the credit for that goes to the musical choices Crowe made. I had always been a fan of the Elton John song "Tiny Dancer," but the tune had never made me cry like it does during the bus scene in "Almost Famous." Much of the music in this movie is familiar, as the film is describing an important era in classic rock history. Despite this familiarity, I never feel jaundiced or bored with the music here, as every song seems as fresh and new as a Summer's Eve douche when placed in the context of "Almost Famous"'s metaphorical vagina.
5. John Williams. Please forgive me for being wishy-washy on this one, as John Williams is without a doubt worthy of his own special rules. The composer of the scores to the "Star Wars" movies, "Jaws", and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is clearly worthy of different treatment. My heart still races as if I was nine years old when the "Raiders" theme plays on ITunes. As a result, I have chickened out and refused to pick a single movie. Let's just leave it at this: his work has taken good cinema and advanced it into the realm of the great. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are among the many who owe this great musician an unpayable debt. Fans of music and film will just have to get in line behind them to give Williams the plaudits he richly deserves.
6. "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and Ennio Morricone/Sergio Leone. There is no more famous whistle in the history of mankind up to this point than the one that starts the theme to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Most of the score riffs off of this original bit of music, with instrumentation changing to represent each of the three main characters. The movie is the third in a series of so-called "spaghetti westerns" by the Italian director Sergio Leone. Composer Ennio Morricone designed the score, using a complex array of instruments and sounds like gunfire, yodeling, and the aforementioned whistling. Morricone's music deepens the emotional connection the audience has with the actors, but adds a unique aspect of humor, as the score is often used to laugh at the foibles of the fumbling character Tuco. Congratulations to Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone for creating a unique Western unlikely ever to be matched.
7. "The Graduate" and Simon and Garfunkel: One of the greatest pop music duos of all time was united with a young Dustin Hoffman to make 1967's "The Graduate." Director Mike Nichols also probably deserves a lot of credit, but this isn't an Oscar speech so we'll try to keep it brief.
There aren't many movies in the romance/drama category that I can manage to avoid sleeping through. Its possible I may be a situational narcoleptic - when boring crap comes onto the screen I just seem to start snoring. "The Graduate" never seems to trigger my ailment, however, and that is due to the great work of Simon and Garfunkel, whose soundtrack includes some of the best songs ever written. Everyone knows "Mrs. Robinson" (and her domineering character played ineffably by Anne Bancroft) and "Scarborough Fair", but for me the key moment of the film comes when "The Sounds of Silence" plays. No line in all of music symbolizes to me the pain of the possible loss of a relationship better than "...silence like a cancer grows." So beautiful and so terrible at the same time, but worry not - there may be redemption for "The Graduate" yet if he can just make the ceremony or get into the field of plastics.... I always forget which one.....
8. "Fight Club" and the Dust Brothers/Pixies: A dark movie with an equally dark soundtrack, "Fight Club" satirizes the American way of life in a manner that only Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the book upon which the film is based, could pull off successfully. The Dust Brothers provide the majority of the sonic sensations throughout, using their upbeat electronica to help drive the mayhem towards a successful finish. At the climax of the cinematic experience, the Pixies show up with "Where is My Mind?," a perfect concluding piece for the main character (played by Edward Norton), who appears to be literally and figuratively losing his mind due to a combination of his insanity and the force of cold lead. Yet, much like Norton's character in "25th Hour" this guy refuses to die and the buildings his crew has demolished fall like dominoes as the Pixies' song plays....chaos yes, but still a strange beauty pervades throughout the madness of the moment.
Honorable Mentions: "Last of the Mohicans" and Joel McNeely. "The Matrix" and the Wachowski Brothers. "The Crow" and Alex Proyas (thanks Kevin!). Also, the Corey suggests that even if you don't enjoy the idea of watching a McCandless (hits too close to home for me) slowly starve to death in the desolation of Alaska you should at least check out the soundtrack to "Into the Wild."

Did this ass hole make any glaring omissions? Please contact the author at the comments section below to rip him a new one for his ignorance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quiz Time


Wondering if we spend enough money on our military to keep our country safe? Take the quiz below.

http://www.sporcle.com/games/BPol/military_spending_dollars

Boy those other countries sure must be unsafe. Poor Sweden doesn't even make the list. It must be a very dangerous place to visit, with terrorists probably running all over the place.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Donut of the People


Warning: The following is satire. Attempts to take the material seriously could result in serious brain injury.

The 2010 race to become South Carolina's next representative in the United States Senate has taken a startling twist today, as a new candidate is poised to enter the race. Claiming that neither Jim Demint or Alvin Greene is fit to serve in Congress, a box of a dozen donuts have succeeded in filing their petition to run in the race as an independent candidate.
By gathering the requisite five thousand signatures, the box of donuts is expected to throw a spanner in the works. According to political commentator Janet O'Neal, "The box of donuts is an unknown quantity. Will they steal votes from the Republicans or the Democrats? How much appeal to they have exactly. A lot of people out there hate politicians, but love donuts."
Bill Campbell, an experienced political consultant who helped a sourdough bagel to a seat on the San Francisco city council just last year, has been signed on to run the donuts' campaign. I interviewed him earlier this week to ask him about his plans for the November election.

"We expect to conduct a race based on a five-pronged strategy, designed to appeal to every citizen of South Carolina," Campbell began.
"The donuts will clearly appeal to the youth vote, a demographic set harnessed so effectively by Barack Obama in his recent presidential campaign. Kids love sweets and that will play to our strengths.
"Secondly, donuts are holey and that will gain them a lot of ground amongst the heavily Southern Baptist population in the state, who are greatly concerned with moral issues.
"The third prong is our immense money-raising capability. The donuts have an endless array of relatives willing to sell themselves at schools and churches in order to raise money for the campaign. We should have a war chest easily able to keep up with DeMint, the only other candidate bothering to do any fund raising so far.
"Next, we already have a campaign slogan that could be considered a master-stroke. I don't know if the time has come yet to unleash that part of our arsenal."
After being pressed Campbell admitted the slogan was "Hot, Fresh, and Now."
"We are going to use the words to illustrate a metaphor that our candidate represents. The American people are tired of the stale, maggot-encrusted dough that is politics in the United States. They want something hot and fresh, something "now" as it were, that truly represents them, not the special interests in their ivory towers in Washington."
Curious, I asked what his last bit of strategy entailed.
"Finally," stated Campbell, "the box of donuts is chocolate, a fact which will clearly appeal to the African-American population, who yearn desperately to see one of their own color represented in the Senate for the first time since Reconstruction."
I then pointed out that there was already a black candidate in the race, the Democrat Alvin Greene.
Campbell quickly responded, "Yes, but I think it is clear by now that a box of donuts has a better chance of being South Carolina's next senator than Alvin Greene does."

P.S: Can't get enough of the absurd world that is South Carolina politics? Check out the Discust.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

USA Open Live


Newsflash: Pebble Beach golf course, just outside of Monterey, California is not a terrible place. A natural beauty carved by God and turned into a golf course by man, there are few more scenic places in the United States. In fact, during my visit I pronounced it positively tolerable. The US Open was played at the site this year and I decided to go, along with some friends I bought in college when I joined Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. For some reason they seem to still like me ten years later. Maybe I should start reading the fine print on these contracts.
We decided to grace the tournament with our presence on Friday, the second day of the four day event. Friday is also the last day before the cut, the halfway point in the tournament when the worst players amongst the field are removed by grisly methods I shall not delve into now for fear of frightening my younger readers.
As a result, a group of 200 players were still involved in play when we entered the course via the 18th hole around ten in the morning. We were a little late arriving as we had stayed at the house to finish seeing the USA soccer team get raped by a referee from Mali while playing Slovenia. It truly is the worlds' game. Who the fuck knows where any of these places are?
Anyway, back to our story - as we arrived a massive group was brewing around the fairway. One of my friends remarked that the course must have a million people on if all the holes were so crowded. Having noticed that the threesome on the green had a following consisting merely of friends and family, I suggested that we had stumbled upon Tiger Woods and his posse.
Wanting to get a shot at the man who has been such a great player and the center of tremendous controversy of late, we blended into the mob. Despite my height, though, the 36,000 people in my way prevented any sight of the ballyhooed Woods. Also, the dastardly security guards had taken the blow up doll I had brought to present Tiger so that he would get in less dutch with the wife. Foiled in our efforts, we moved on to check out the other holes.
Nestled on a bay on the rocky Northern California coast, Pebble Beach is blessed to contain some of the most dramatic holes in golf. In order to prepare for the tournament, many of the fairways have been moved to the land's edge - which means a several hundred foot fall for any golf ball that gets too close. One hole boasts a second shot taken while staring a hundred foot high cliff right in the face. Let me recommend using a club with some loft for that one.
Our favorite hole was the 7th, the shortest par three in professional golf, just one hundred yards long. Even grandma can reach that green in one shot. But not Charles Barkley - have you ever seen that guy try to hit a golf ball?
Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, talking about attention deficit disorder and writing and about how they are a bad mix. Or maybe the US Open at Pebble Beach, yeah that's it. We sat in the grandstand at the seventh hole for about an hour and enjoyed the cool breezes as several groups of golfers went through.
The weather at Pebble Beach and the surrounding area was a godsend after experiencing the first few weeks of a South Carolina summer. Temperatures varied from 50-70 degrees depending on how close you were to the water and whether the sun decided to make an appearance. I wasn't at all surprised that an Irishman won, as I remarked several times how similar the place felt to the coast of Ireland or the United Kingdom.
The rest of the day we spent wandering from hole to hole, spending a little time at each so that we could watch the great Ian Poulter show off his talents. Poulter is known mainly for his flashy pants, usually displaying a colorful plaid pattern that should have been abandoned along with the rest of 1970s fashion when the apple fell on December 31, 1979. No matter what hole we visited, Poulter's group was playing there. I suggested we adopt the name "Poultergiests" and start a fan club. For some reason everyone thought that idea was idiotic.
Sadly, I have no pictures of the day since camera and cell phone use is banned on the premises during the tournament for those without media credentials (You should have hooked me up Colin). Instead, you will just have to stare at some stock footage of John Daly's gut. He didn't play there, but he was hanging out at the Hooter's down the road. Hey, natural beauty is all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

P.S.: Seriously though, here are some pictures for those interested in seeing what I have failed to properly describe.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kabulshit


Afghanistan has been in the news a lot lately with the recent firing of General McCrystal. His comments disparaging the administration published by Rolling Stone magazine have led to McCrystal's replacement by General Petraeus as commander of our forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus's job will be to determine the length of our stay there. Stunningly, I have an opinion on the matter.
As I was saying, when we should leave and in what increments is the main object of debate at this moment in our nation's history. I was originally a supporter of the conflict in Afghanistan (but not Iraq) as I believe it is important to bring Osama bin Laden and his minions to justice for the terrible 9/11 attacks. The years have soured me on the viability of completing our mission there since bin Laden has clearly skipped town and headed to neighboring Pakistan. I wonder, what are the reasons for our staying further?
Many would say that we are there to prevent further terrorist attacks on our soil. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were able before the invasion to use the country as a safe haven for their attacks on America and her allies. The logic goes that if we leave they could do so again.
IMHO this argument has more holes than a block of swiss cheese after being used for machine gun practice. Even with our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq there have been attacks on our homieland's cribs. They have been unsuccessful, but that is just our good luck so far. If we want to be loved our government needs to make substantial changes to our foreign policy.
I could talk about how our special relationship with Israel raises Muslim ire or how our energy policy forces us to regularly deal with some pretty terrible people in the Middle East for quite a few pages, but I would rather point out more succinctly that our presence as an unwanted force brings about the likelihood that more terrorists are being created every day. I have many friends in the military and I know they do their best to avoid hurting civilians, but no matter how hard they try all it takes is one mistake or one bad seed from our side to create an angry orphan who has seen his parents blown apart at the hands of US forces.
Even though I know our military tries to do things the right way, they are working on a daily basis with the Afghan government. I trust those bozos about as much as I would trust a Catholic priest to babysit my kids (were I to miraculously have any). Corruption has long been a way of business in the country, as it is anywhere that has such a decentralized regime combined with extreme poverty. A nation with a medieval economy based on agriculture rather than industry, Afghans have to make ends meet any way they can, and often that is by means that would be considered questionable by Western sensibilities.
Opium is the route many have chosen and the authorities in the Afghan military and government are directly involved through ownership of the fields, bribery, or willingness to look the other way. Bribery, or "baksheesh," is just another cost of doing business in the country (and in many other Middle Eastern lands). Our presence in Afghanistan has not discouraged the farming of opium - in fact according to organized crime expert Misha Glenny's data, the drug's cultivation increased 1,000 percent in the first year after our occupation began in late 2001. The Taliban went from suppressing its growth to using the plant as a source of quick capital so they could refresh their weapons cache.
Our military has tried hard to stop the opium growers, but reaching them is easier said then done do to the country's geography. Yes sir, yet another problem hindering our chances of success in Afghanistan is the terrain. Some of the highest (literally and figuratively I suppose) mountain ranges in the world dot the landscape and the country is relatively large and inhospitable.
Most importantly there is zero infrastructure. Roads are few and far between - making it from one place to another is extremely difficult. I friend of mine who has spent several tours there with the Army Special Forces detailed to me how they would travel overland for several days to try to catch a force of Taliban by surprise, only to be spotted by villagers (usually children) who would warn the Taliban of the nearby US presence, allowing them to escape.
The rugged landscape also feeds corruption, allowing "warlords" enter the power vacuum and to take over turf like the head of an LA street gang, little worried that the government in Kabul will interfere in his domain. Many warlords have absolute power within their fiefs and cooperation with Kabul or the Taliban can be based on the whims of the individual warlord or the size of the bribes he receives.
There is no doubt we are a superior military force when opposing the Taliban on the battlefield. Every major offensive bent on removing the enemy from a certain geographical area has ended in success. Unfortunately, the Taliban can move to another place and resume operations and the whole process has to be started over again, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
Nevertheless, our commanders will continue to insist they can do the job, even though the situation is impossible. Why? Because if they do admit to the odds being stacked against them, another general with a more positive attitude (i.e. unrealistic) can easily be brought in to take their place. President Obama can't pull us out of Afghanistan - he believes the political backlash would destroy him. The politicians and the generals can't be seen to fail - their careers depend on success as the only option. Who or what will pull us out of this quagmire into which we have been immersed I can only wonder.
The land of Afghanistan has been referred to as the graveyard of empires, with the Russian and British empires both experiencing the wrath of the people and the land, who eschewed their presence there. We in our hubris will share the same fate - the only question is when and how many more great American soldiers have to be killed and maimed in the process as we continue on with this madness, the longest war in our nation's great history.

And now, your moment of long-term memory loss....

"This was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."
-- RNC Chairman Michael Steele on Afghanistan

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strip Poker


I recently returned from a two day trip to Las Vegas, part of a week long vacation I took out west with some of my friends. Contrary to the title of this article I actually managed to get out of the city with most of my clothing intact. I'm not really much of a gambler so I avoided most of the games. In fact, I don't really even understand what is going on with craps, roulette, baccarat, etc. I did play the slot machines, which were pretty simple. You insert some money, push a button and then watch the wheels spin around and make some noises. Then you repeat this action until all your money is in the machine.
My only other wagering was done at the New York, New York casino sports book where along with my friends I placed a five dollar bet on the under in the Toronto vs San Diego baseball game. The teams took merely three innings to outscore the under and demolish our chances. Fortunately, the bookie had erred and given us a receipt for the Anaheim vs Milwaukee game instead. This game featured more runs than the Cubs have scored all season and was also a loser, if only barely since I think the Cubbies have a total of six for the year.
Not wanting to throw all my hard-earned cash into the wind and watch it blow away to the four corners of the Earth I walked much of the strip along with my buddies, who we will call Corey and Mark for the purposes of this story. I was left in awe of the amazing architecture evident in every direction. I had always thought the Eiffel Tower was in Paris. New York, New York was one of the most impressive hotels, featuring the major landmarks of our nation's largest city thrown up haphazardly as if the planet had swallowed the real city and regurgitated it in the Nevada desert. A roller coaster circled the property in order to bring the atmosphere in line with what Salvador Dali would have wanted.
We stayed at the Excalibur, a cheap knockoff of a thirteenth century castle built to resemble something your little brother constructed at the age of four with his Lego set. On the positive side, there was an In and Out burger nearby so the dude was at least able to abide.
Walking down the Las Vegas strip affords you the opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people, most of whom are Latinos snapping their fingers in unison like the Sharks in West Side Story while they attempt to pawn off free passes to various strip clubs. One man did offer us a chance to see naked midgets jumping off of diving boards and I do admit we gave serious consideration to his proposal. This is something I do not believe you can see regularly in Greenville yet. Oh well, maybe next time.
My favorite casino was the Venetian, which boasts gondolas floating on a man-made canal within the premises as well as a ceiling painted as if it were the blue sky overhead. Another section of the hotel had elaborate frescoes that were as impressive at first glance as anything you can find in the cathedrals and palaces of Europe.
We also entered the famed Bellagio, where we were able to dine on their buffet, a massive spread which resembled a culinary Noah's ark, with seemingly every type of food from around the world represented. Unlike Noah's tiny skiff, this battleship contained enough food to repopulate several worlds rather than only one. I was reminded that I needed to apologize to Adam Richman for accusing him of glorifying gluttony after I hypocritically partook in three full plates (not to mention Burritozilla, but that is for another time). I vote we give every Haitian who lost his home or business during the recent massive earthquake there a free year long pass to the buffet to help ease my guilt.
Honestly though, as much glitz and glamor as exists all along the strip I had little interest in gambling, visiting strip clubs and prostitutes, or going to the various shows. Even superstars like Wayne Brady, Tom Jones, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow and the Thunder from Down Under can only keep my attention for only a few minutes or so. Well maybe a little longer in the case of the Thunder from Down Under.
Despite the easy availability of all these things, my favorite place was O'Shea's, an Irish bar/casino where we were able to obtain cheap beer and play beer pong. Call me a provincial redneck or an unenlightened slob if you will, but its the simple things that make me happy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Return of the Queen


Just got back in from my week long trip to Las Vegas and Monterey, California. I learned many things, including what Carlos is not supposed to do at the table. A review of my accumulated musings will appear here in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

South Carolina Asks North Carolina to Get the Fuck Off


The state of South Carolina finally snapped Thursday after centuries of suffering in silence, demanding that the state of North Carolina "get the fuck off."
According to historians, North Carolina has been carelessly and inconsiderately sitting directly on top of South Carolina for about the last three hundred years or so.
South Carolina's proposal has brought mixed reactions across the state. Geologist Kevin Smithfield is concerned about the repercussions should North Carolina take the hint and actually depart its present location. "We've never in all of our planet's history had a land mass of this size just run off and take up a new position on the map. How will the fault lines be effected? Will Virginia, Maryland and the rest of the Northeast coast collapse in a heap like the last disastrous move of a Jenga game and crush South Carolina under their combined weight? These are all things South Carolina should have considered before making these rash demands"
Local pothead John Parker Williamson claims Smithfield is in wrong to be worried, pointing out that, "The world can just flip itself upside down and then South Carolina will be on top, problem solved."
Others are downright cheery regarding North Carolina's proposed departure. Travel agent Lisa Sundberg suggested in a recent interview that if North Carolina were to move down the coast a little bit it would become a Caribbean hot-spot right here in the United States.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley agreed with Sundberg, saying "I believe North Carolina's relocation to be great for our city. Here is yet another reason to come to our great city; we have Spoleto, historic plantations, and now 400% more beaches than before. Obviously this new property will be annexed immediately by the city of Charleston"
At this date we can only speculate what our northern neighbor will actually choose to do. The Tar Heel state has refused any comment as of press time. Whether the state will respond to South Carolina's ultimatum is still unclear.
If North Carolina does decide to evacuate, the geographic rearrangement may not be over. Florida is also rumored to have asked Georgia to get its ass out of its face.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The World Cup of Senseless Violence


Soccer's World Cup begins on June 11, creating a tremendous opportunity for the nations of Earth to get together in South Africa and celebrate peace and brotherhood through a shared love of "the beautiful game." I will now dissect the teams, looking at who has contributed the most to Red Cross efforts in Darfur.
On second thought, instead of that boring hippie crap let's pick the winners of the eight groups through the most violent, yet educational means available, a comparison of the military histories of the countries involved. Instead of just one group of death, we can have eight - let the senseless bloody carnage commence!

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
1. South Africa: The South Africans have surprised a couple of times, with victories in battles during the late 19th century over the British Empire courtesy of their Zulus and later on the Boers taking place on their home turf. Of course, both groups were later stomped out like the ashes of a near-dead fire by the British juggernaut. However, these whites (Boers) and blacks (Zulus) have united into a force the country has never heretofore known. They also own the home advantage and no home team has ever failed to make the second round - expect Bafana Bafana to go on to round two.
2. Mexico: Although well known for their trouncing at the hands of the Americans in the 1840s, the Mexicans have been known to surprise - with a successful revenge incursion into the United States led by their great striker Pancho Villa in the early twentieth century. A French force was also expelled from Mexico during the 1860s. The Mexicans also spent a lot of time during the last century practicing by killing each other - expect them to be prepared and move to the final 16.
3. Uruguay: I was not aware of this but apparently Uruguay is a small country stuck between the butt cheeks of Brazil and Argentina in South America. Hopefully planes fly there since they will finish on the bottom of their group and be sent packing with alacrity.
4. France: The French have struggled in the last one hundred years, with defeats by the Germans, the Germans again, Vietnam, Algeria, and god knows who else. Their glory days under the management of the great field general, Napoleon, referred to by soccer military historians as "The Special One", are far behind them. Expect the French to beat Uruguay, lose again to Mexico, and fall in a close contest to the home side, ending their 2010 campaign with the traditional spectacular failure.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
1. Argentina: The Argentian side is known mostly for the Falklands War of 1982. A few years earlier, the national soccer team had irked mighty England by cheating - using a method known as the "hand of God" to score a goal, defeating the English. The wrath of the scorned Brits was quick, they invaded the Falklands, a group of islands off the coast of Argentina. Due to a poor defensive backfield the majority of the Argentine soldiers were quickly massacred. Expect poor defense to be the Achilles heel of this Argentina squad as well. They fail to advance.
2. Nigeria: On the down side, the Nigerians have also been conquered by the British. On the plus side, like the Mexican team, the country boasts several different tribal groups as well as large Christian and Muslim populations, which have spent a lot of time killing each other in recent years. Unfortunately, I think they lack the experience necessary to advance out of this tough group.
3. South Korea: With the help of their allies the Americans, the South Koreans successfully repelled forces from North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union during the 1950s. Just watch reruns of MASH if you'd like to check out the highlights. With nearly 40 United States military installations in their country, expect the powerful friends of South Korea to help launch them into the next round.
4. Greece: Clearly the top of Group B, Greece can boast Alexander the Great amongst their former stars and home victories over the Persians at Marathon and Salamis (not to be confused with the deli meat), not to mention their great tie while playing a man down in the battle of Thermopylae, where they showed their amazing ability on the defensive side of the ball. Despite falling on hard times in recent years with losses in several wars against Turkey, expect the Greeks to win the group behind the strength of their defense, which is known to bore opposing teams and fans into tears of submission.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
1. England: A dominate world power from the 18th century up until World War II, England has perhaps the most experience in the field, with many great victories, mainly over the French. With a record of 0-1-1 against the United States and a clear record of being their boy-toy over the last fifty years, I find a second place finish in the group likely.
2. USA: The most unstoppable military force on Earth has claimed victory in two World Wars, a tie in Korea, a disputed loss in Vietnam, and wins over Grenada, Panama, , Yugoslavia, and Iraq (twice) in the last century alone. With an annual military budget just under one and a half trillion dollars, the United States is without equal in the field. The US side will steamroll the competition in the early rounds.
3. Algeria: The Algerians own a hard fought home victory over the French during their war of independence in the 1950s and 1960s and can also brag that they are the home of Zinedine Zidane, the dangerous Italian head-butter from the 2006 World Cup Final. Their guerillas invented many of the terrorist tactics still used by their Islamic brethren today. Unfortunately though, their victory is over the French after all and does not count for much in such a loaded section. The Algerians will finish a tough third.
4. Slovenia: Using vodka and hefty bribes, the Slovenians managed to win a playoff against Russia to make the World Cup. Interestingly enough, Slovenia is a former part of Yugoslavia, which broke up in the 1990s. The Slovenian soccer team will also break up after being clubbed to death like a baby seal by their three superior opponents.
Note: The above imagery nearly made me cry. Why do babies have to be so cute?

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
1. Germany: Obviously the class of the group, these Nazi bastards should advance easily based on their past victories over France, France, France, and France. Belgium, Denmark, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Namibia, and Tanzania can also be listed amongst their conquests. Only the USA and England (and Russia who failed to qualify) have given them trouble in the past. First place all the way for the Krauts despite the loss of midfielder Michael Ballack to injury. Deutchland Uber Alles!
2. Australia: Although not a country with a great military tradition Australia has shown great tenacity when given a chance to show their might. Just watch the film "Gallipoli" and you will see wave after wave of Aussie charge into machine gun nests with absolutely no hope of success. The saddest part of the movie is when Mel Gibson fails to die at the end. I feel the never say die yet die repeatedly attitude of the Australians will suit them well in this group, I expect them to surprise and advance in second position.
3. Serbia: The Chicago Cubs of war (I know you thought it would be the French) the Serbs are still mad about losing the battle of Kosovo to the Turks in 1448. That losing tradition has continued in the recent past while the country went under the alias Yugoslavia. Civil War losses to the Bosnians and Croats were followed by crushing bombardments by the USA and the defection of Montenegro, Macedonia, and even Kosovo itself. No one loves Serbia and neither does this prognosticator - say goodbye to the fourth place Serbs.
4. Ghana: The West African country of Ghana was ruled mainly by the Ashanti dynasty until the colonial period when they were steamrolled by the British bulldozer, much like the rest of the world. Considered a great civilization and a military power in its region during the medieval period, Ghana lacks the firepower without the absent Michael Essien to contend with the modern weaponry of this group, although even they can kick the sorry Serbians' asses. Third place and a trip home for these challengers.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

1. Netherlands: The Netherlands or Holland (if you're into the whole brevity thing) have a long streak of success starting in the the 16th and 17th centuries with their successful rebellion against the Spanish, after merely eighty years of warfare. Clearly sticktoitiveness is not lacking in the Dutch spirit. Wins over Sweden and Indonesia and an impressive draw against England followed over the next fifty years, establishing a solid reputation. Van Gogh also cut off his own ear to impress his girlfriend which is totally bad ass. Too bad she turned out to be a dike. I predict the Dutch to advance second in the group and that you will vomit on an unfortunate pet of your choice when the complete puntacularity of the dike joke hits you.
2. Denmark: If you turned the map of Europe upside down, Denmark would be Germany's penis after it was put into a paper shredder. Their military has also been hacked up a bit over the past century with the Danes competing in eighteen different wars that historians have bothered to name as well as myriad rapes and pillages during the Viking era. Placed in the right group Denmark would have had a great chance, but the Dutch and the Japanese should prove to be too much. In addition, the refs have been cracking down on the hacking of players with axes this year and the Danes will likely struggle with red cards - 3rd place.
3. Japan: Renowned for their samurais, ninjas, and Kurosawa movies, Japan holds a high place in the history of beating the shit out of people. With two big wins over China, one thanks to the divine wind or kamikaze and the other due to the fact that the Chinese had all cracked out around the opium bowl. Another win against the vaunted Russians was followed up by a hard fought loss to the USA. Known for their advanced strategy and sneak attacks (surprisingly they are rarely caught offside), this offensive-minded Japanese side should ambush the opposition and finish top of the group.
4. Cameroon: Cameroon doesn't have much of a military history, but they do have Lake Nyos, which leaks a lethal gas into the atmosphere when it is feeling chippy. If the Cameroonians can trick any of their opponents into nearing Nyos they may have a chance. Otherwise they are pretty much fucked.

Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay
1. Italy: Far and away the class of a very weak group, the Italians, who once went by the name the Roman Fucking Empire split a lot of ass cheeks in twain with their boots in the old days. Fighting successfully against the Carthaginians, Gauls, Germans, Persians, Dacians, and many others, the Romans established an empire that has never been rivaled in the history of mankind. Sadly, the last 1500 years since the fall of the Romans has included quite a few defeats, but what the hell - everyone has a bad millennium. Besides, the Sicilians alone could defeat these cream puffs. Three easy wins and a pass to the round of 16 for the Italians.
2. New Zealand: I gave the New Zealanders short shrift earlier when discussing the Australians at the battle of Gallipoli. Those battalions were known as ANZAC and included quite a few Kiwis as well. These islands also boast a tough indigenous group of warriors called the Maori that have cannibalized the flesh of their human enemies on occasion. Expect opposing teams to be intimidated by the sight of the Kiwi defense gnawing on the skull of their star striker. Author's Note: Maoris are offended by cannibal humor finding it in poor taste according to spokesman Tamati Kruger - or did he said cannibalism tastes poor? I may have misquoted. Anyway New Zealand should eat their way through to the next round with a second place finish in the group.
3. Slovakia: Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia, but they rid themselves of those worthless asshats in a desperate attempt to qualify, which they somehow managed to do. Sadly, without the Czech part their country is now often confused with the Greek dish souvlaki. Expect the Maoris and Italians to make souvlaki out of their fresh corpses. The Italians will do the cooking, of course. Mama Mia! 3rd Place.
4. Paraguay: A small country wedged between giants Brazil and Argentina in South America, Paraguay is a great example of the importance of coaching. Led by José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia from 1811-1840, the young nation managed to stay out of the affairs of their neighbors and enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity. When Francia retired due to death in 1840, Carlos Antonio Lopez (who apparently was kind of a fat ass) and later his son Francisco took the reigns and succeeded in getting the Paraguayan military some much needed practice. Of course, they lost all of these wars, most notably the famed "War of the Triple Alliance" ( a menage a trois never works out in the end), where Brazil and Argentina managed for the first time to agree on something, mainly that they hated the Paraguayans.
The retirement of the indefatigable Chilavert, who played all 11 positions for Paraguay from 1990-2006 will also hurt the squad. Recently, the country's military has tried to get their game in shape for the World Cup by staging a coup d'etat against the civilian government. Unfortunately the coup failed miserably and so will the Paraguayan soccer team - 4th place.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Cote d'Ivorie, Portugal

1. Brazil: Although not known particularly for their martial prowess (with the exception of the aforementioned thrashing of Paraguay), Brazil does have an impressive array of footballing weaponry, mainly the deadly feet of their starting eleven, which I would take over a saturating artillery barrage any day. Great players of yore like Pele, Socrates, Gattuso, and Ronaldo have left their mark on a grand tradition inherited by current superstars Kaka, Poopoo, and Doodoo. Coached by the defensive mastermind Dunga, expect Brazil to explode in a diarrhetic orgy all over the faces of their hapless opponents and achieve first place amongst the G crowd.
2. North Korea: As the owner of a tie with the United States in their 1950s conflict (with assists from Russia and China)and the only country in Group G with nuclear capability you would expect the Koreans to waltz through to the second round. As I have mentioned before, however, leadership is crucial and North Korea is burdened with the absolutely batshit crazy Kim Jong-Il at the helm. If anyone can fuck it up its that guy. Follow the link for more funny thanks to the genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. 3rd place.
3. Cote d'Ivorie: As you can tell Cote d'Ivorie was conquered by the French. This alone does not bode well for their chances. The country at least had the dignity to go by the name the Ivory Coast for awhile, but as you see even their nation's name was eventually degraded by the frogs. With the announcement that their best player, Didier Drogba, had broken his arm all hopes of a second round birth faded away. 4th place.
4. Portugal: During the 15th century the Spanish and the Portuguese actually had the gall to divide the world into two halves. According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, half of the acreage belonged to Portugal and the other real estate went to Spain. What's more, the two kingdoms had the military prowess to back up this outrageous development scheme, which would have made even Donald Trump blush red with envy. Portugal has lost most of their colonies from that era, including Brazil, who shook free from the boot of foreign domination in 1825. During this World Cup, expect the golden boots of Christiano Ronaldo to bring back that time of glory - 2nd place and a shot in the final 16 is assured.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
1. Spain: The yin to Portugal's yang (does that mean they are the top or the bottom?) Spain also laid claim to half the world at one time. Like Portugal they have had a bad run of things lately with losses to France, England, seventy five different colonies, and a complete and total ass-kicking at the hands of the USA in 1898 when according to legend Teddy Roosevelt took turns beating up every member of the Spanish member individually, kind of the like the bloody fight scene in "Kill Bill Part 1". Even worse, they lost to the US soccer team in a meaningful match last year - no respectable team does that. Despite all these things, I believe they can manage a 2nd place in a weak group.
2. Switzerland: The Swiss misses have made a habit of hiding behind their mountain walls and avoiding conflict over the centuries. Neutrality has always been the nation's declared policy in the past. Well, guess what? There will be nowhere for the Swiss to run away to in South Africa - 4th place.
3. Honduras: No team of all the 32 is more qualified to win the World Cup than Honduras. They actually participated in a war that was started because of a soccer game. The "Football War" of 1969 with El Salvador resulted in thousands of casualties and no clear winner: except for the game of soccer. 1st place for this amazingly passionate and perhaps insane footballing nation.
4. Chile: One would think that Chile, who gained their independence from Spain, would therefore be the stronger team in the group. Not so fast my friends, as that raging douchebag Lee Corso would say. At the time of the Chilean revolt the French were actually at the helm of the Spanish government thanks to a succession crisis that had brought one of the Bonapartes to the throne. The efforts of field general Bernardo O'Higgins (his real name - frankly I don't think I could have made up a better one) helped to break the Chileans free from the French yoke after a ten year struggle that ended in 1820. As you know, we can't give much credit to a country for beating up on the French, so alas 3rd place belongs to Chile.

For some serious info on the World Cup let my good friend Robert drop some mad knowledge on you at http://www.futbolusa.net/

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Jump" to Conclusions


1984 has come and gone so long ago I have only vague memories of the time. Partying like its 1999 brings thoughts of long ago fraternity parties (yes I went to a couple after graduating). In the year 2000, is a phrase usually used to indicate the beginning of a nostalgic tale. 2001 may have been a space odyssey, but it is now so long ago. The only possible conclusion after analyzing all of this evidence? We are living in the future.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Death Toll Rises In SC District One Primary


The body count has continued to rise today in South Carolina as the deadly primary race between Carol Campbell III, Paul Thurmond, and seven other irrelevant candidates rages onward into the night.
Reports vary, but so far between 200 and 300 lifeless bodies have been pulled out of voting machines throughout SC District One, where the election is taking place. Ambulances have also been in constant use carrying survivors suffering from embolisms, strokes, and cardiac arrest.
"We have found several voters whose heads have literally exploded - the carnage is gruesome beyond measure," stated Charleston county coroner Jack Trevanian.
The cause of these grisly scenes is still being debated, but prominent sociologist and Coastal Carolina professor Peter Wellington-Brown believes he knows the root cause of the mayhem.
According to Wellington-Brown, "South Carolinians are used to having one household name to pick during an election - say a Thurmond or a Hollings, a Campbell, or even until recently a Ravenel. When faced without one of these names they tend to just pull the "All Republican" lever and walk out, job done."
The problem in this case, Wellington-Brown argues, is that the primary involves only Republicans and has two names nearly everyone recognizes. When faced with choosing between the Campbell and Thurmond dynasties, the brains of many voters have gone on lock down, leading to the catastrophic events.
Awendaw's Ellis Walter agrees with the professor's assessment. "I got into the booth and when I saw the two names I reckon I just started sweating and shaking uncontrollably - I just pushed a random button and got the hell out of there before it was too late."
A 1991 survey, wherein 78% of South Carolinians admitted to being unaware that long-time Senator Ernest Fritz Hollings was a Democrat, also seems to back up Welllington-Brown's theory.
There have been occasional fatalities in the past due to confusion over who to vote for in water commissioner and agricultural secretary races where there is no party affiliation, but a battle between two heavyweight brands for a major state office is a first in recent South Carolina history. Also, the aforementioned positions are viewed as being so astoundingly boring that they draw little interest from the electorate.
Long-time U.S. Congressman Henry Brown vacated the seat earlier this year, creating a vacuum filled by the two serious candidates, as well as several other random people no one has ever heard of before.
Governor Sanford is staying strong amidst the chaos and is encouraging citizens to continue to participate in the democratic process. Sanford is also staunchly defending the state, which he believes has been unfairly targeted by mass media in the past. "The dynasty is a deeply-rooted tradition in American politics," Sanford argued, "just look at the Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy families. Clearly there are idiots all over the country who make these hugely important decisions based on names rather than policies."

For similar insanity check out the Discust.com