Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My generation and the American Dream

Now, most of us (particularly those who procrastinate by way of reading blogs) are fully integrated into the "real world". The real world, narrowly defined, largely consists of having a job. To be more specific, it means having a career. It seems, however, that no generation has been more averse to joining the "real world" than my own.

There exist vast swaths of the 22-34 population that has never really had a career. Eschewing the concept of the American dream, or perhaps terrified that they are charting a course from which there is no return, they stubbornly refuse to do certain jobs, or devote themselves to finding jobs that suitably match their abilities.

Some have opted to advance their education. Given that college has apparently been relieved of any responsibility to prepare students for anything that can earn a paycheck, this is seldom a career-minded mover. Others have opted to join programs that offer them a miserable stipend for menial labor, accompanied by the opportunity to go some place reasonably exotic. Some have cut out the middle-man, simply spending their own (or their parents, or MBNA's) money to go exploring.

Among those who do seek work, a goodly number find work that identifies with their activist leanings, or puts them in a situation where they are, ostensibly, helping people. They work for what I would call the "white collar minimum" (about $26-30k a year in Minnesota), and compete fiercely among themselves for jobs in social work, tutoring, environmental activism, etc... For many, the competition for these jobs is so intense that it actually sends them back to school. Ironically, they often go to pick up a degree that has not tangible relationship to their desired job placement in the first place (hello, Peace Studies).

So we have a generation of heavily travelled, hyper-educated men and women who are functionally destitute. They may hide their poverty behind a facade of self-fulfillment, but many people are reaching their 30s with no credible ability to, say, raise a family. Contrast this with the other end of the spectrum: Career-minded, investment-savvy types who latch onto careers, buy houses, and invest heavily in their 401k. Indeed, in spite of the restlessness of our peers, our generation is known for getting ahead of the game in preparing for the future.

If these characterization seem unfair, it is because I wholeheartedly embrace the later route. The idea of bouncing around the globe incessantly, or expensively educating myself has never held much appeal. Among those who do boast advanced degrees, I see precious little evidence that they are better for it. Those who have traversed Europe seldom bring a cultural sensibility that would bespeak their travels.

It seems, honestly, that these activities serve the purpose of delaying the inevitable. While I can understand this impulse, I have never understood this quandary related to establishing a path in life. There are several reasons for this. I can't say that I have ever really had the luxury. I grew up poor, and cannot see these actions for anything more than the expensive indulgences they are. As a Christian, I have every confidence that heaven will provide unimaginably opportunities for inner and outer exploration. Studying in Los Angeles and Melbourne probably assuaged the urge to travel.

First and foremost, however, I have seen the ravages of this transient lifestyle. I saw my parents, health failing, reaching into credit card debt to fill prescriptions, working lousy jobs to pay the mortgage, and retiring with no financial security. I grew up with no stability as a child, living in 9 different houses by the time I was 6 years old. I felt like a Gypsy.

In fact, I am forced to wonder what will happen to the preponderance of those who steadfastly refuse to "settle down". Sure, some will come to their senses. Others are (frankly) living off their parents' hard work. But there will come a time when recess will be over, and those folks will want their bite of the american pie, trying to save for the future, raise kids, and pay off six figure debts simultaneously.

Can our economy handle this burden? Will our government create a de facto bailout in the form of debt amnesty for college loans, and grants for those who came late to the retirement game? Will those of us who have foregone the pleasures of the ten year vacation be forced to subsidized those who eagerly indulged. I hope not.

Further, what of the character of our workforce? Will those who were dragged to the mat kicking and screaming become the thought leaders and entreprenuers that sustain an economy? Will we lose out, yet again, to our harder working compatriots in Asia? Can a society comprised of such a broad leisure class remain productive? The example of some European countries suggests the answer is a resounding "no".

There is no problem with pursuing an advanced degree, or taking some time to travel and "find yourself" or whatever... But what happens to the American dream when nobody is there to dream it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bad Poetry Day

In my softest voice
you’ll find
such trifles
as gummy bears

Unpeel my organs
unveil the chambers
a velvet bed
of forgotten dots

Waiting to bounce
from a padded box
sprinkling the night
like north stars

That the heart
had eyes to match the pulse,
infecting the blood
to happliy hush

The demeanor,
that it would sit aloft
like an uninvited guest
in an attic of bats

Alas, dimension and shape
calcified by harsher strings
would render silent
the loudest choir

A disinterested, poorly researched obituary

Today I lift my Monday whiskey up high to Barbaro. To many, Barbaro was a horse who fough valianty for years after a life-threatening injury at the Kentucky Derby. For others, Barbaro will always be remembered as a Triple Crown Threat who won many horse races. In one race, the infamous "four mile dash" at Poughkeepsie fairground, he literally lapped the field.

What I will remember about Barbaro is the number of times I complete forgot the horse existed. That a horse could be that injured and that oft-forotten is impressive. Frankly, most of them just take a bullet to the head on the track. Lethal injection? Well, that's anti-climactic. At any rate, this horse lived to be forgotten, by me and just about anyone who doesn't gamble compulsively, four or five times, minimum.

An avid eater, Barbaro was once featured in an ad for Applebees' new boneless Buffalo Wings, along side veteran comedian Denis Leary. After consumely roughly 300 of the bite sized nuggets, Barbaro became ill, and the directors were forced to use a take with vomit clearly running down the horse's leg.

Ironically, this was the very leg that later broke, causing Barbaro's trainers to put him to sleep.

Barbaro authored three novels, including "Life and times of the Queen" later remade into the Oscar nominated "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren. Barabaro actually had a guest role in the film, playing (of all things) a dead horse, symbolically beaten in an abstract rendering of the paparazzi's treatment of Princess Diana. It was macabre foreshadowing of his own demise. The scene was deleted in later cuts, though directors say the scene will be reinstated for DVD release.

Barbaro also appeared on the live stage, appearing in an off-broadway production of Equus, which earned mixed reviews before Barbaro returned to the racing track.

Barbaro's body was laid to rest late this afternoon, after a poorly conceived (though well publicized) attempt to flush him down the world's largest toilet. The event, sponsored by American Standard, was widely decried as "completely beyond the pale of anything resembling human dignity", by the New York Times.

Contrary to popular belief, Barbaro was not bred for racing. He was a pack horse, part of a team consigned to pulling tourist up the pichuyane mountains of Belize. He was discovered by a rich billionaire Milos von Heisner, who was scouring the countryside for an heir to his fortune.

It was love at first sight. Milos raised the horse as his own son, and Barabaro began racing in the streets of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His first official AHA (American Horseracing Association) race came in July of 2005. He won the race handily, and timekeepers were forced to review the tapes to ensure that their timing devices were not malfunctioning.

As it turns out, they were malfunctioning... Barbaro finished two seconds faster than the time indicated.

Barbaro was an instant celebrity, and many have speculated that his fame led to his life-ending injury. After his fall at the Derby, Mr. Von Heiser became Barbaro's personal attendant, even sleeping with the injured beast.

After a year long battle with his knee injury, Barbaro finally died the way he lived. Quickly.

Barbaro was a horse. He is not anymore, per se. May he rest in peace.

Friday, January 26, 2007

An Interview With Hillary

From time to time, my blog offers the opportunity to talk with famous newsmakers, and otherwise notable personas. Today, I would like to welcome Democratic Senator, former first lady and presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton. Hillary, welcome to TPWK.

Sen. Clinton: Welcome.
TPWK: Excuse me, did you say welcome? Cause I...
Sen. Clinton: Welcome.
TPWK: Um... Welcome, yes. Well, let's get the ball rolling. Now, some have criticized your recent position on Iraq, claiming that you are capitulating on this issue in an attempt to appease primary voters. What do you say to your critics on this.
Sen. Clinton: All I know is that I like Pecan.
TPWK: Pecan. You are talking about the high-priced nut often used in baking.
Sen. Clinton: No, sillyhead. I'm talking about good old American pecan pie. I was just having some with my friends Tom Hanks, Colin Powell, Katharine Hepburn and Judy Garland.
TPWK: At least two of those people are dead.
Sen. Clinton: Everyone loves pecan pie, living or dead. I respect the dead.
TPWK: Hard not to. So, what is your strategy for appealing to moderates who might be uncomfortable with...
Sen. Clinton: Excuse me. I'm not uncomfortable.
TPWK: You are. You are speaking now to your own comfort level.
Sen. Clinton: Crazy guy. You said moderates might be uncomfortable. Well, I'm a moderate, and I'm not uncomfortable.
TPWK: Okay, I see what you did there. I think one thing everyone wants to know is how involved your husband will be in your campaign.
Sen. Clinton: I don't have a husband.
TPWK: The what now? You've been married for decades.
Sen. Clinton: That's true. I am married, but not to a husband. Marriage is very popular in America.
TPWK: Correct.
Sen. Clinton: Husbands, less so.
TPWK: So are you actually claiming to be married, but to not be married to Bill Clinton.
Sen. Clinton: Former President Bill Clinton, who oversaw the most prosperous years in American history?
TPWK: Um, that's...
Sen. Clinton: Why wouldn't I be proud to be married to such a great man.
TPWK: I have no idea.
Sen. Clinton: Did you know that I have more than 44,500 cookie recipes?
TPWK: That is impressive, though not necessarily moderate.
Sen. Clinton: I'm just a woman who likes making some damn cookies. Yes, cookies and light cussing. Those are hobbies of mine.
TPWK: Very relatable. So, I do have to ask. Barack Obama has thrown his hat into the ring, and some Democrats are more excited...
Sen. Clinton: Barack Obama. Isn't he a homosexual?
TPWK: Not to my knowledge. Though he has admitted to using cocaine in the past.
Sen. Clinton: Oh, that's it. Of course, you never know what those cocaine people will do. Once an addict, always an addict, right?
TPWK: I'm not sure that characterization is entirely fair.
Sen. Clinton: Although I do have to say that I applaud his candidacy. It would be wonderful to have such a very black man in office. I was just talking about that, on my recent trip to South Carolina, how wonderfully, wonderfully black he is.
TPWK: How magnanimous of you to honor him as such.
Sen. Clinton: You didn't try my cookies.
TPWK: Well, I did find it odd that there were more than twelve dozen freshly baked cookies behind you.
Sen. Clinton: Here, try this one.
TPWK: Mmmmm... It's not bad.
Sen. Clinton: I made it with applesauce. That's a great way to keep the calories down. Just a little tip from Hillary to my ladies. Ooooh! Snap! Bling! Bling!
TPWK: What just happened there?
Sen. Clinton: Beyonce in the house!
TPWK: Well, that's all the time I have for today. I would like to thank Sen. Clinton for joining me to... Where did she go?
Sen. Clinton (driving a tractor): How do you like my new wheels? I call it Hillary One! Time to go get us some ehtanol. This is the great state of Iowa after all.
TPWK: I'm in Minnesota.
Sen. Clinton: What the hell am I doing with you then? (drives away)
TPWK: You just ran over an illegal immigrant!
Sen. Clinton: Yeah, I'll get McCurry on that. YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL IT'S TRUE! MY FAVORITE SONG YAAARGHHH!!!!
TPWK: ....
TPWK: She'll do great.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union 2007

Hey, SOTU time! I have to watch, which means you have to read about it (or, you know, come back tomorrow). Live commentary below.

Yeah, the President’s coming! Woo! Just watching him meander to the podium gives me chills.

The Republicans are doing some sort of soccer chant. Nice.

The President just handed Madame Speaker a manilla envelope. I think it would be funny if it was just full of pictures of him.

Nancy Pelosi reminds me of that weird aunt who you don’t know very well, and who always snaps at you for playing with your toys in grandma’s kitchen. That or a poodle on meth.

Classy start with the nod to congratulating Pelosi on being the first woman speaker. Well, we’ve got our first woman. Now we just need our first good one.

Charlie Rangel is looking faaaaaaaaaat!

“When not even C-Span is watching,” Nice. Score a populist cheap shot at C-Span. What did C-Span ever do to you?

“Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience.” That’s not exactly how I would describe them…

I would just observe that the Democrats are opposed to school choice. Duly noted.

Yeah, this healthcare deal isn’t gonna fly. The Unions get free healthcare (and lot’s of it). This would be a de facto tax on union employees.

Is there a principled opposition to medical liability reform? I have yet to hear it.

I think they should have a jumbotron behind Bush, so that people know when the cameras on them. I wanna see Hillary stick here tongue out and yell “WOOOOO! Florida basketball!” (Florida being her favorite team because they are leading in the polls).

Ethanol… The farm lobby’s practical joke on America. Is he gonna talk about the war now? Cause this is boring.

I love the way Bush pronounces terrorists. So heavily accented, and yet precise at the same time. It has special meaning when he says it.

Are the Democrats all reading Beatrix Potter books? What is going on?

For the record, the Democrats are opposed to the idea of victory in Iraq. I would be too, if I were them. It would mean the end of ‘em. It isn’t just the terrorists who have “shoreless ambition”.

Hey, he mentioned Darfur. The President just saved Darfur! Finally. Glad that’s over.

Hey, it’s the NBA’s Dikembe Mutombo. This is Mutombo’s house. Nancy Pelosi has no idea who Dikembe Mutombo is.

So, are we going to introduce everyone who did something good in 2006? This could take a while. I wonder if Bush will mention my blog… Hmmm. Nope.

This was a great speech for the most part. Whose giving the Democratic response? I can guarantee you it’s a southerner. Jim Webb?

Hmmm… C-Span is following Bush out the door. This is a new one. Michelle Bachmann just about sexually assaulted him. That was weird.

I was right! I am so smart.

Jim Webb looks and talks quite a bit like Dwight Schrute.

Jim Webb would like to find a new way to measure our economy. Of course. This measurement will not be concerned with jobs, or economic growth, or the stock market. Let’s go with the price of gas. What? Are you kidding me? Um… How about college tuition? That’s going up isn’t it? College tuition is now our leading economic indicator.

Um, white collar jobs are not disappearing. Is it at all necessary to deal in fact when making a rebuttal?

Jim Webb has carried an 8X11 framed picture with him for fifty years? Seems cumbersome. If he doesn’t literally carry it, then what is he really saying? That he hasn’t thrown it away?

The majority of our military does not support this war? I call BS.

He doesn’t want a precipitous withdrawal. Oh, good, he’s opposed to phased redeployment. Also, he wants to return our troops in short order. So he’s for phased redeployment. Glad we got a consistent message there.

And so Jim Webb comes to his proper conclusion. That was kind of creepy, overall.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Request

Can I tickle your chin?

I think you might like it. I don't know for sure, but...

Can I?

Let me know.

Sincerely,

Pat Buchanan

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Monday Musings

Disneyworld is great. The amusement park is frequently cited by cynics for it's proclivity toward histrionic displays of unadulterated joy, and the "criticism" is apt. Employees (sorry "cast members") literally dance. So what? I didn't pay $66 for them to be pissed off at me. I took my wife to Disneyworld for her birthday, not to experience a sad dose of irony. I paid for happy, and I got it. Compare this to the detached malice of employees the Wisconsin Dells, a destination to which I would not return even to retrieve a lottery check. If Disneyworld is the happiest place on earth, well, there are worse things.

That said, the Small World ride truly defies any attempt at parody. If one were to produce a personalized set of refrigerator magnets related to this attraction, suffice to say the terms "Meth" "Busby Berkeley" and "Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God." would feature prominently.

I am of the mind that men shouldn't spend a lot of money on jeans. The only people who are going to be impressed by this behavior are fashion-crazed women who are looking for men who are similarly inclined. Fashion-crazed women are among the least impressive of God's creatures, and everyone else will look down on you.

Listening to people talk about their babies (and, by extension, listening to my wife talk about other people's babies) reminds me of the book of Numbers. It's there in the Bible. It is undeniably true. But if that's all there is too it, I want nothing to do with it. I am making a resolution to have my doctor tell me the height and wieght of my baby. I will inform my wife if there is anything to worry about, but otherwise keep this data a secret. If you want to know about my future baby, you will have to ask real questions. Don't ask them now. I don't have a baby.

People always ask my wife when we are going to have children. Everytime someone asks, the only thing that goes through my mind is that I really, really, really do not want to have a retarded baby. It is my ultimate fear, moreso than death. With every healthy baby at my church, I feel like a winning lottery ticket has been pulled, thereby increasing our odds of pulling a loser. Frankly, I would prefer stillbirth. That isn't the way I should think, of course, but if I thought the way I should think, i wouldn't have this blog, would I?

I know, I am supposed to use the word "special" instead of retarded, but after that callous tirade, that would seem beyond absurd, wouldn't you agree?

Today, I met one of my old college friends for lunch. Invariably my college friends ask me what I am doing with my music. The answer is nothing because I am heavily involved at church. To them, this must sound awfully close to "thanks to Jesus, I don't need to lead a fulfilling life". That's a more scarily accurate interpretation than I would care to contend with right now.

When St. Paul first elected their new mayor, I wrote "enjoy the rapes". Well, that one sure isn't funny anymore, is it?

On a recent trip to my wife's hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota, we frequented the local (soon to be ghost) mall. On one of those obligatory mall stages, there was a modestly attended show featuring a midget who sang Christmas karaoke. According to my wife, she (the midget) is always doing this. She was alright, though certainly not very tall. Also, I didn't step into the Hickory Farms sausage store, on account of a run in with an overaggressive sales clerk (not the midget).

I guess I can't say the word "midget" anymore (they prefer the term "Inuit"), but this was South Dakota, so I am perfectly safe calling it "Christmas" karaoke.

You know what is just awful? Slush. Even people who take perverse pleasure in the presence of snow have to admit that slush is pretty terrible. It may be the one compound on earth that has the capacity to singlehandedly induce depression.

Only I could (unintentionally) begin a blog with "Disneyworld", and end with the word "depression".

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The first 100 Hours

Well, the Democrats have forged their 100 hour plan, crafting a plethora of legislation that more or less resembles every Democratic ideal that has popular public support. I do find it curious that the Democrats ran as a powerful alternative to the warmongering cowboy in office, and then offer up a tepid menu of tweaks to a number of social programs and economic policies. Does anyone think that voters raced to the polls, anxious to subsidize student loans? Not likely.

At any rate, here is a point by point analysis of the Democrat's plans. As usual, if you want to discuss the merits of my critique, I'm all ears. If you want to point out that a) I'm conservative or b) I'm a dummyhead, I'm only partially ears.

Spending and Taxes

The Democratic house announced a PAYGO system, or at least what they deem a PAYGO system. PAYGO usually refers to the idea that no spending should be allowed for which the budget cannot compensate. This is included, but there is also a provision stating that tax cuts must be paid for as well. Relative merits of this idea aside, it does reflect a major difference in worldview. In the Dems mind, that tax cuts constitute a governmental payout, as though the government begins with money, only to have it subtracted by handouts to various taxpayers. I think this philosophy is dangerous, though this particular stipulation is unlikely to have any real impact, considering that Democrats are opposed to the President's tax cuts anyway.

Homeland Security

Democrats are crafting legislations to secure our borders, and reform or flawed immigration system. This is likely residual action stemming from the Dubai port fiasco (or rather, appearance of fiasco, given the our border security never would have been threatened by the company's ownership of the port in the first place). It allows the Democrats to seem credible on security (which they are not) without really doing anything. The call for increased scrutiny of sea cargo is unlikely to prevent any terrorist attack.

However, the provision to redirect homeland security funds to high-risk terrorist targets makes eminent sense. This is exactly the sort of no-brainer reform the Republicans should have enacted, but did not out of a desire to cater to powerful members in the Nebraskas and Oklahomas. On that note, it will be interesting to see if this provision passes through the Senate, where Nebraska Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel will have veritable veto power over any legislation that might take valuable (jobs and) funding away from their home state.

Lobbying Reform

Democrats are proposing some window-dressing legislation that will curtail outright gifts from lobbyists in the form free trips, flight discounts etc... Given that most gifts are forbidden anyway, and that the most onerous example of K Street influence comes in the form of campaign contributions, this will do nothing to assuage the so-called "culture of corruption". In fact, with the passage of this law, Congress and lobbyists will have a certain immunity from charges of influence peddling that may lead to more corruption down the road. Again, however, this is a missed opportunity by Congressional Republicans.

Work Week

The Democrats initially tried to enact legislation that would demand a full work week from our representatives, but quickly retracted it once they realized that this would apply to them, as well as the Republicans.

Minimum Wage

Congress has raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25, requiring all business to comply within 26 months. The debate over minimum wage reflects an unparalleled disconnect between perception and reality. The majority of minimum wage earners do not, in fact, live in poverty. Further, the majority of large corporations will be almost completely unaffected by the change, by virtue of the fact that they do not have minimum wage earners on staff. While this legislation is implicitly aimed at the Walmarts of the world, the big box chains may stand to benefit, as the increase in labor costs will disproportionately affect the much vaunted mom and pop shops that have been going out of business.

In reality, the change will have minimal impact, though the concept that minimum wage can alleviate poverty has been thoroughly discredited. Minimum wage increase has always been the symbolic hobbyhorse of the political left, who use it to curry favor with poor voters, about whom they could care less.

College Loans

The Democrats have passed legislation that will cut the interest rate on federal loans. This is a cute way of getting taxpayers to further subsidize college education. This is a curious decision for the party that portends to champion the cause of the poor, as the majority of the benefit inures to the most expensively educated (and, overwhelmingly, the upper and middle class). Of course, the lower interest rates will encourage students to take out more loans, which will, in turn, foster the spiraling cost of a college education.

If your son or daughter wanted $160,000 from you to attend Macalester College (which barely even cracks the top 25 of liberal arts schools nationwide, you would probably stare at them and laugh. Paying for someone ELSE'S son or daughter? That's not even funny. In reality, we should be using federal money to incentivize real change in our post-secondary institutions, such that the cost of a college education more closely reflects the economic benefits of a degree.

Social Security

The Democrats have pledged to fight any proposal to "privatize" Social Security, even though younger workers overwhelmingly favor the personal accounts proposed by the Bush administration. Social Security is an issue that endears the party to old people, who don't really understand how the process works, and are terrified by change. Eventually, Americans will realize that Social Security was a Godawful idea in the first place, and will work to phase it out. How much you wanna bet that happens, oh, say, a couple of years before I retire? In the interim, we can expect benefit cuts and tax hikes to support the system in its present form. How the promise not to act could be construed as a legislative action is beyond me.

Embyronic Stem Cell Research

Recent research suggests that amniotic stem cells may serve as an alternative for medical research that is free from ethical concerns. Nonetheless, Democrats passed legislation that will allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is a winning issue for the Dems, who I suspect will try to supress/ignore information about amniotic stem cells in order to paint Republicans as anti-Science for demonstrating reasonable concerns about the ethical implications of harvesting living human cells for the promise of science.

Taxing Oil

Ah, yes, the big bad oil companies. The Democrats have proposed $15 billion in new taxes for oil companies. Alright! Finally! Someone is sticking it to big oil. Revenge for all those years of high prices. Of course, the oil companies will simply pass the new fees onto consumers, which will raise the cost of fuel. I'd say we are cutting our nose off to spite our face, except that it is Democrats who are doing the cutting, and they are doing it to secure our vote.

Overall

The proposed reforms will be negligible in impact, though certainly from the reason the American populace wanted a political sea change in the first place. The pre-election narrative of ending corruption and righting the foreign policy ship has evaporated to reveal a hodgepodge of liberal pet policies, tethered by an absolute unwillingness to formulate any substantive change of course abroad.

Some liberals are worried that Americans will blame Democrats for our failures in Iraq, because they oppose the President's plan. It think they are right to be worried. By failing to offer meaningful alternatives, they are essentially declaring that there is NO way to salvage our effort in Iraq, or the broader war on terror.

They wanted a crack at changing the course of policy in this country, and that comes with a measure of responsibility. History (and, certainly, voters) WILL hold them accountable to advancement toward this goal. If the first 100 hours are any indication, advancement is not on the agenda, which begs a reasonable question of why Democrats and their loyalists were so eager to take charge in the first place.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

American Idol Redux

So, American Idol debuted tonight, and my very own Minneapolis was featured. Regular TPWK readers know that I was, absurdly, an American Idol wannabe.

For anyone who watched the show, Minneapolis was portrayed as a city bereft of talent. Awful singer after awful singer was paraded before the judges, only to have their dreams ripped to shreds. Of course, this is why people watch the show. Ha, ha, how can those people think they are so fantastic? They are idiots.

Well, here's why they think they are so fantastic. At the beginning of the audition, there is a massive audition that the producers call a "cull" (in reference to the process by which retarded animals are slaughtered before they have the chance to reach your local purveyor of meat-related goods).

10,000 folks showed up to the Target Center, dreams in hand, including one cynical Republican blogger (Again, weird... Why didn't anyone stop me? You call yourselves friends?). Each person got about 20 seconds to show their stuff for American Idol sub-producer lackeys who make half of what I do. After several hours, 9,900 retarded animals are "culled", leaving 100 folks who must, therefore, think of themselves as "da bomb" as the kids are saying these days.

After the "cull", the remaining calves er... contestants are brought through a serious of further auditions with producers whose salary more closely resembles what liberals would call "a living wage". These producers make the final decision as to who gets to see the much ballyhooed judges, whose salary comprises the majority of the production costs of the entire show.

So, before entering the room, these "idiots" have had numerous professionals, at escalating levels of discernment, tell them how outstanding they are, before the other shoe drops, and Simon makes some clever quip about how they deserve to be raped in an alley or whatever. So that's why they think they are good.

And so, watching the parade of delusional (and sexually androgynous) castoffs, I harkened back to my audition. The relative merits of my own audition aside, I saw any number of tremendous singers shown the door by aforementioned sublackeys after just 20 seconds. All well and good... The show needs to be entertaining. People want to see the delusional idiots, and so that's what the good people of Fox give them (see: "til' death").

But to intentionally select excruciatingly bad singers from a pool of 10,000 auditioners, whilst discarding hundreds of very talented singers, and then pretend that Minneapolis was unable to field singers of "American Idol" caliber? At what point does "reality" television cease to be at all real?

Again, the show certainly has a winning formula, and I love laughing at unattractive, incapable people as much as the next person. That's why I vote Republican.

The first auditioner, a heavy-set gal who was desperately in love with Jewel (who happened to be the guest judge) was displayed in a featurette. She works at the Mall of America, like everyone who lives in Minnesota, and the camera followed her throughout her daily routine. Alas, she is a mediocre (though certainly not terrible) singer. So she was told (by Jewel et al...) that she didn't have any talent.

The camera watched her cry for nearly a full minute. At first I thought it was sick. Then, I wondered if it was even real. Either way, why am I watching? I am not a stupid person. I have yet to purchase an American Idol album. Hell, I probably hate your favorite band, much less the insipid crap this show produces. But when I'm done here, I will dutifully set my Tivo for the full season, careful not to miss a sinlge week.

In D.F. Wallace's Infinite Jest, there is an entertainment that is so powerful that, once one has viewed it, they are so stimulated they go into a catatonic state and die. It is a theme repeated throughout out film and literature, an entertainment so powerful and captivating that it renders the minutiae of life utterly null.

American Idol seems to be a step toward that sort of entertainment, a king with no clothes that is so precisely calculated (under the pretense of spontaneity, no less) that its very mechanisms play upon specific neurons and dendrites within us. America perceives Minnesota to be a loser, and so the show makes it precisely that. A jest, indeed.

P.S. The dude who looked like he could play bass for Jet didn't make it... He was briefly featured in the "oops, I forgot my lyrics" section... Serves him right. Now he can sell the $300 jeans his parents bought for him and get a haircut.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

An Iraq Discussion

Lib = Liberal guy
Mod = Militantly moderate guy
Con = Conservative guy

Lib: Boy, Bush sure is a moron. More troops for Iraq? Hah, try more oil for Halliburton.

Con: Well, it seems he is responding to the incessant demand for more troops to accomplish the job.

Lib: What? Everyone knows that Bush is a warmonger.

Mod: Well, that isn't true, but Bush is awful, and I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans.

Con: Why? For months, everyone has been saying that we went into this effort without enough troops. Since no credible person is calling for immediate withdrawal, doesn't this make sense as the next course of action.

Lib: Whatever! You stupid moron. Bush just wants more blood for oil so he can help his karlrovedaddybushneoconwarmonger allies just like he did with Hurricane Katrina.

Mod: Both of you have equally valid points.

Con: How so?

Mod: Um, Chuck Hagel.

Lib: Chuck Hagel! Chuck Hagel! Chuck Hagel! Chuck Hagel! Chuck Hagel! Chuck Hagel!

Con: Okay, what about Joe Lieberman?

Lib: Neocon Zionist Bush Cronyist. NZBC, that's my new nickname for him...

Con: Cronyist isn't a word.

Mod: But, you see his point. Lieberman IS Jewish.

Lib: NED LAMOOOOONT!!!! THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!!!!

Con: The people re-elected Lieberman.

Mod: Well, they also bought Ann Coulter's book. You have to see both sides.

Con: Okay, so what would you do to alleviate the situation in Iraq.

Lib: Impeach Bush!

Mod: Well, I think we need to follow the Iraq Study Group's recommendation for diplomacy.

Con: Isn't it a little naive to go to base our entire effort on negotiations with rogue nations?

Mod: Oh, is that what they recommended? I don't read the papers. Aren't I the dickens?

Lib: Maybe if we would give up our imperialist, bloodforoil strategy strategy of murdering Iraqi schoolchildren, we could bring them to the table.

Con: How does our presence in Iraq constitute an imperalist venture, considering that our initial effort was geared toward handing power to the Iraqis?

Lib: PUPPET REGIME! The hanging of Saddam Hussein was a sectarian lynching! Bush should be tried for murder. Send him to the gallows with Cheney and Rumsfeld!!!!!!!

Mod: Well, you have to admit it is a puppet regime.

Con: Even if I concede your point, what is inherently wrong with that?

Mod: Um, puppets suck.

Lib: Con is a Zionist Neocon bitch!

Mod: That was uncalled for, but true.

Con: Thank you both. So are you for immediate withdrawal?

Lib: YES! NO MORE BLOOD FOR OIL YOU IDIOT! WE NEED TO CLEAN THE MESS WE CREATED!

Mod: He's right, we need to clean the mess we created.

Con: So, we must leave but we can't.

Mod: Bush has left us with no good solutions.

Con: What about the one he just proposed?

Lib: Why won't the President send his daughters to war? Bushfoley is a @##Q$* bastard!

Con: Lib, do you realize how insane you sound?

Mod: Um, you can't make that point because Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ann Coulter exist.

Con: So, we must accept the political fringes into genuine debate on account of Pat Robertson?

Lib: Yeah, if you can get your lips off his butt, you Bushcheneyneoconhaggard douchebag!

Mod: I'm just saying there are two compelling arguments here.

Con: Clearly. So, in one word, what is the solution in Iraq?

Lib: Impeachment!

Mod: Lockbox.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wanna Get High?

Hey Unicorn! Do you wanna chill out? You wanna fly?

You wanna get high?




Yeah, know, that's cool. Your the last remaining member of your mystical species. Gotta take care of yourself and all that. But, I mean... Do you? Maybe a little happy grass or magic stardust? Maybe shoot a little moon dew or whatever it is you fantastical creatures do?



I think this will work out splendidly. We can go over to the pink dragon's house, maybe drop some star mist and taunt the invisible wind? You never know what sort of mischief we could get into. We could catch "The Office" after. Dwight's pretty funny, isn't he? Nice horn, by the way. Let's go get high.



Alright, let's go get 'em. I'll talk to the troll of the craggy dungeon. He can usually hook me up if I answer some riddles. If that doesn't work, I'm sure the Elves of Nevermore have some meth. We could just lick pixies if we're really hard up. All I know is, this is going to be a nice time. Me and the unicorn, doing drugs together just like God intended.

Can I ride you? Wait, no, I shouldn't ask that. It's too soon. Too soon. But.... Can I?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Band Name

So, some of my friends are in this band called The ODYC. This is pronounced "The Odyssey", and not "Theodike", which sounds like the name of an Episcopalian blogger. For some strange reason (namely that they are not a boy band) they are looking to change their name and have solicited suggestions. Well, TPWK is always available to help friends in need. After careful consideration, here are some of my recommendations for the new name.

The Tablespoons
Grandma's Sadness
Mahogany Rage
The Vintage 'T's
The Pastor Kids
Uncle Steve
O'DYC
Dwarves of Pain
The Snuff Films
Christian Hygiene
Cracker Stanley
Jeromy Darling and Friends
Christlust
Babypoop
The discrimination
Monkey Drool
Metalrape
Pearl Jam
Poison Cloud
Bruisy and the Bloodyfaces
The bellybuttons
Jiminy Thrillkill and the Haze
The Highly Relevant Christians

I wonder which one they'll pick! I also have a long list of album names I can share.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pat Robertson

Not surprising: Pat Robertson has made another half-assed attempt at prophecy, predicting a major terrorist attack.

More surprising: Christians are fighting back.

See, Robertson has a direct line to God on these matters. The jokes on him though, cause God seems to have no idea what is going to happen. Maybe the open-theists are right. I'd be interested in Greg Boyd's take on this.

At any rate, Christians are taking the self-appointed prophet to task for his armchair prognostications (and, obliquely, his penchant for making a complete and utter ass of himself). While his call for the U.S. to assassinate Hugo Chavez garnered the most ire, he has made a series of increasingly absurd statements about meteors hitting the earth (in judgment of homosexuality), tidal waves hitting Seattle (in judgment of grunge music), and his own ability to leg-bench 2,000 pounds (in judgment of his deliciously toned body).

Of course, the mainstream press eats it up, and Robertson has become a bogeyman for the "religious right", in spite of the fact that the majority of conservative Christians consider him a depressing punchline.

Notably, there is an online petition asking Mr. Robertson to cease and desist with his false prophecy. While I have said before that the tar and feathering of Pat Robertson has been less than fair (he is no more absurd or political than Jim Wallis or Al Sharpton) and while I don't think the petition is going to change his mind, I do think it serves a certain purpose.

A petition tells the public that we are actively admonishing someone who is very publically abusing the scripture. Further, it takes the wind out of the sails of those who use Robertson-bashing as a conduit for furthering their own agendas. It is a public disassociation that cannot credibly be ignored.

The language of the petition is also useful, in that it does not condemn Robertson for simply being controversial. There are any number of things you could say about Christianity that would piss people off, but which are manifestly true. The need for salvation is controversial and upsetting to a good number of people. To the secular world, it is offensive enough. If Christian public figures are to be disruptive, they ought to disrupt on behalf of the gospel, not on behalf of their own (loopy) opinions and half-baked predictions.

As for Pat Robertson, he should take this as a sign to repent of the nonsense. He has apologized and clairified in the past, but his statements are beyond apology and clarifications. He seems to exhibit a pathos that relishes ostracization and contentiousness moreso than truth. He takes the wounds without fighting the battle. That is his prerogative. But we are taking the wounds with him, and it is time to recognize that this is unacceptable.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years Dieting Tips

Alright America, you've made the pledge, and now it's time to get busy! Let's shed those extra pounds together. Here are some tips to help you get rid of those "love handles". Ha, ha, that's a euphemism if there ever was one. Maybe they should call them fat handles! Wouldn't that be fun!

Exercise

Any doctor will tell you that you can't lose weight with diet alone. You have to get active! Most people think of exercise as jumping on a treadmill or "pumping iron", but you can find all sorts of fun ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

-Instead of taking the elevator, try taking the stairs. This will leave you exhausted and incapacitated for the next several minutes, and only weird people with food issues do it, but it's a great symbolic effort that will have no tangible results, so just do it! Hey, wait, isn't that Nike's line? Don't tell anyone! What are they going to do, sue the voices in my head.

-Instead of driving to the bank, try walking! Those extra steps are calories melitng away. Your car will thank you, as will the environment! Somebody call Al Gore! I'm just kidding.

-Did you know that most calories are burnt just my normal body movements? It pays to be excessively jittery. Try to flail your hands whenever you are at your desk. Don't do it while typing, of course.

-Maybe even get your ass off the couch for a couple minutes! I dunno, might help.

Diet

-Throw away the donuts! Just kidding. I don't want to scare you. The key here is moderation. You can eat whatever you want, just as long as you eat less of it, which is very easy to do and doesn't run counter to any human instincts at all.

-Try using butter substitutes. They taste worse, but they have more trans fats and less saturated fat, which makes all the difference!

-Contrary to everything your body is telling you, lite Garden Veggie Cream Cheese does not taste like glue. Not at all.

-Chipotle burritos have 1,500-2,700 calories each. They don't taste particularly good, either. But you'll eat them anyway, because you have no discernment. Isn't America wonderful?

-Put those potato chips down and try a healthy snack! Carrots are a great way to eat healthy without enjoying yourself. Instead of candy, eat fruit! Minnesota grociers offer a wide variety of fruit, all of which taste like watery lemonade. Dig in!

Do's and Dont's

Do - Look in the mirror constantly. How else can you remind yourself that you are fat?

Don't - Do meth. I mean, it works. Believe me, buddy, it works, but don't do it. It works, though...

Do - Have a positive self-esteem. There is no reason to look down on yourself. Others will do that for you!

Don't - Be one of those skinny people who does weird stuff like eat 1/2 an egg for lunch. That's freakin' nuts.

Do - By clothes that make you feel sexy! Cause 99% of you aren't.

Don't - Talk to your doctor about diet. They know surprisingly little, and they will NOT diagnose you with a glandular disorder. Nice try.

Do - Have a positive attitude! Almost nobody diets successfully, so your optimism is unfounded, but what else am I gonna tell you?

Here's to a newer thinner (though not necessarily better) you!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cat, you have failed to update your blog

Cat,

I warned you this would happen. You have failed to update your blog for weeks. You started a blog, like starting a blog is not big thing, right? Like anyone can just do it. You went into the whole endeavor all prideful, and now look. No, everyone go see the cat's outdated blog.

Nice work, you smug SOB. What did you have, like ten posts before you got bored? I mean, don't get me wrong. The fact that you had the initiative to shirk millenia of biological evolution and cultivate the ability to start your own blog is mindblowing in and of itself. God gave you a gift, no doubt about that.

But your blog is completely out of date. Think about all the events that have happened. Gerald Ford died. He was President. And, and... He died! Does that mean nothing to you, cat?

Cat? Where are you? Cat? Dammit, don't chew on the electrical wire. How on earth could you think that's a good idea. No, don't do that. I said no.... CAT!