Monday, December 14, 2009

Forward this Post or You'll Have Bad Luck

This morning, I inadvertently became part of one of the most annoying things about e-mail and the internet: mass e-mail forwarding. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Honest, I didn’t.But sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I have a compulsive need to educate the ignorant. It’s a curse, really, my cross to bear.

Let me backtrack. In my introductory post about Dick, I mentioned that one of his many irritating tendencies is forwarding of chain letters. I think it might be his primary hobby, and there’s a good chance it’s what he spends the greater part of his working hours doing. So this morning, when I opened my e-mail I had no less than 8 forwards from Dick. Five of them required me to click some attachment to see some photo. These are usually pointedly gross so they get immediate “click-delete” treatment. One of them was a suggestion for everyone to put “In God We Trust” in their e-mail signature. Another was a story about a giant Alligator someone killed in Alabama, complete with some poorly PhotoShopped images of an Alligator taking down a full sized buck. I glanced at that one for a couple of seconds and then deleted it.The final e-mail was titled “Proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution”.

As you can guess, this e-mail was an example of the most common purpose of mass e-mail: political rabble rousing. It was as insidious or overt as some of the other messages I see from time to time, but it didn’t lack for ridiculousness. The United States Constitution, the e-mail suggested, should be amended for the 28th time to include the common sense provision: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States". Well, gee whiz! Who couldn’t get behind that? I mean, I love the Constitution and all but just the other day I was saying to myself, “Self, why doesn’t the constitution have any amendments that use a lot of words to say nothing at all?” And now, problem solved!

It gets better, too. You might not have known this, but amending the U.S. Constitutions is an exceedingly easy thing to do. To wit: “[We] Only need 3/4 of the State Legislatures to pass this to become law...AND IT IS VETO PROOF including no appeal to the Supreme Court.” See, piece of cake. Let’s get right on that.

Wait? What? That’s not right?

No. No, it’s not. You see, having paid attention during elementary school social studies class, I can tell you that it is actually more complicated than that. An amendment to the constitution, shockingly, actually requires an act of Congress. A prospective amendment requires the “Yay” vote of 2/3 of both the United States Senate (67 of 100) and House of Representatives (290 out of 435). Only after does the proposed amendment go the states for ratification, requiring ratification of three quarters of the states (38 of 50) to become the law of the land.

Well, damn. That sounds a lot harder.

I probably should have just let it go and sent that e-mail to the recycle bin with the rest of them, but I couldn’t help myself. So I responded to the e-mail (I did not reply all to a bunch of strangers; that would be obnoxious) and pointed out to Dick that amending the constitution was actually a fairly difficult thing to do, which is why we’ve only had 27 amendments in more than 2 centuries.

Dick, for his part, took my e-mail and forwarded it to all hundred plus names on his mailing list, taking care to add his own rant about how actual process pretty much guaranteed that such an amendment would never pass. And so, whether I liked it or not, I became part of the wonderful world of e-mail forwarding. At least I brought some actual facts to the process with me. That’s rare in e-mail forwards.

I don’t really get how some of these things explode the way they do. I know some older people that won’t purchase things on the internet because they’re worried about their credit card info being stolen, but if some stranger of unknown origins at some undisclosed location in the country tells them that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, they take it as gospel and share it with all of their friends. I heard it on the internet, so it must be true. What kind of system is that? And there’s no limit to the ridiculousness that people will believe. One time I joked with a friend of mine that I was going to start the most ridiculous internet rumor I could think of, forward it to a couple of people and see if I could get it to show up on Snopes. The rumor was that Barack Obama and his democratic allies in congress were planning to secretly vote on a law to rename the state of Alabama as “Al’Obama” to honor Obama for becoming our nation’s first black president and introduce a touch of Islamic culture to our map. I would have done it, too, except I’m half afraid it would work and people would actually believe it.

And then I’d have three different versions of it forwarded to me from Dick, and I only have so much space in my mail box.

That’s all I’ve got.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do Not Let it Snow

There are two things that I do not like. Actually, there are a lot of things that I do not like, but there are two things that I don’t like that that are somewhat out of the ordinary among the people that I know. The first thing is sand. I do not like sand. It’s grainy and itchy and if you walk in it for just a couple of minutes, you’re somehow still finding it in random places several weeks after the fact. It’s gross and uncomfortable. I have no problem with beaches. In fact, I enjoy the beach. I simply would enjoy it that much more if I didn’t have to inadvertently take seven and a half pounds worth of sand as a souvenir every time I went. The last couple of times I’ve gone to the beach, I’ve tried to explain this to people, but each time, people have reacted like I was saying I didn’t like football or money or America. Maybe I’m strange.

The other thing I do not like is snow. Snow sucks. It just does. Why do we have to pretend otherwise? Think about it. If someone told you “tomorrow the ground is going to be covered. It’s going to be really cold and slippery, and harder to walk on. The roads are going to be bad and it’s going to take 10 times as long to get your car out of its parking spot,” would you be excited about that. Of course you wouldn’t? But somehow every time there’s even a hint of snow, or a possibility there would be snow, half my Facebook friend list has some happy status update complete with smiley face emoticons. I don’t understand.

Most of this is probably sentimental value left over from younger days. Snow was nice when I was school. We got a day off, and could go outside and play and someone else was responsible for any driving and shoveling that had to be done and for making sure there was something to eat in the house. Win-win-win. Good times all around.

But now, what good does snow do me? I can’t play in it anymore; the neighbors get grumpy if you throw snowballs at them and you get weird looks trying to build a snowman with the neighborhood kids. And I certainly don’t get any time off work when it snows. In fact, I have to get up earlier just to make it on time, being diligently prompt as I am (he said, his voice heavy with irony). Cars need to be dug out and God help you if there’s a layer of ice under the snow on the windshield. You have to choose between uncomfortable boots (have you ever tried to find boots in a size 15, I didn’t think so) and getting snow in your shoes. Snow in your shoes is sort of like sand in your shoes, except the effect is a lot more irritating, if much less long lived. And then you have to drive to work on slippery roads surrounded by both terrified drivers who think going 5 miles per hour and riding the break the whole way is a winning strategy and maniacs who think their giant SUVS make them immune to laws of physics like friction and inertia.

So my question is: what part of that is good? Exactly which of the things I just listed am I supposed to enjoy? Where is the fun? Exactly. So why does everyone still get excited about snow? What is wrong with you people?

That’s all I’ve got.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An American Hero

Since Sarah Palin’s out-of-nowhere debut in the National Awareness last August, she’s been a force of nature, a veritable typhoon that impacted everything in her path, for better or worse. At various times in her year and change on the stage she’s referred to herself as a pitbull with lipstick and then blasted as sexist those who repeated the quote, accused a future U.S. President of “palling around with terrorists”, knocked a respected journalist for asking her what newspapers she reads and blasted a major magazine for putting a picture of her in shorts on the cover even though she posed for the picture. She’s done all of that without having everyone with half a brain decide “she’s a whackjob, next!”. Sure, some people think that, maybe even a majority, but she has somehow maintained a significant and steadfast collection of supporters who at each turn nod their heads and say “you know, that woman makes sense.”

It’s bewildering, but her more significant achievement is that no one has yet been able to take her on any kind of significant level and escape unscathed. You might be able to win an argument with her, or beat her in an election or render her speechless with a basic policy question on national television but no one has been able to do any of those things without some small amount of collateral damage. You can engage her, but you do so at your own risk: the risk of being called a sexist or a socialist or a nazi and having thousands and thousands of letters with those claims flood your mailbox.

There is one, and only one exception to this rule. There is one person who has stared down the Palin monster and come out for the better:

His name is Levi Johnston. If you don’t know him he became a national figure in the wake of the news that Governor Palin’s 17 year old daughter was pregnant with his child. He sat with her dutifully at the Republican National Convention, flashed the tattoo of her name on his wrist, smiled, waved and somehow helped Bristol Palin become a symbol of why abstinence-only sex education is a good idea. (See what I mean about how hard it is to argue with this woman?)

But then they broke up (Conveniently after the election. Weird.) and the world had what it needed. A hero that could stare down the Palin machine and not blink. A hero to stand in front of the proverbial tank with the proverbial flower and not blink. That hero came in the form of a 19 year old high school drop-out from Wasilla, Alaska.

It might seem ironic that Sarah Palin’s kryptonite would be a 19 year old apprentice electrician and aspiring actor, but in actuality, Levi makes a perfect foil. You see, unlike a politician or media figure, he doesn’t have to worry about public image or approval ratings or getting elected to anything, ever, because that was never going to happen anyway. He doesn’t have to worry about bad publicity, because when you’re trying to make a buck as a reality star (or playgirl cover boy) or prolong your 15 minutes of fame, there is no such thing as bad publicity. It’s all gravy. And because of his relationship with Bristol, it stands to reason that he knows where the skeletons were buried.

Because of all this, Levi has been the one person who has managed to get under Sarah Palin’s skin in a meaningful way, and it’s because he has nothing to lose. The Palin camp criticizes him for the playgirl spread, he points out she was in swimsuit contests. They play hard ball on his custody rights, he blabs about it on day time talk shows. The Governor makes a disingenuous Thanksgiving dinner invitation on Oprah, he responds with “whatever, f*ck off”. (I’m paraphrasing).

And that’s the essence of Levi’s power: the ability to figuratively look at the governor and say “Oh yeah? Well, I knocked up your daughter, how do you like them apples?” And there’s no way she can hit him back because anything she says only elevates his profile, which is exactly what he wants in the first place. He’s got “f*ck you” power over her more than anyone else in the country. Don’t you think President Obama would have liked to tell Governor Palin where to stick her “pallin’ around with terrorists line? I’m certain that Joe Biden would have (and probably had to be reminded not to a dozen times). But they couldn’t, because they actually had to worry about alienating people and winning an election. Levi can drop down to her level and start digging. And there’s nothing she can do about it.

While others may criticize Levi Johnston for being a media whore or for milking his 15 minutes of fame, for taking off his clothes for money or for trying to get paid for what amounts to not knowing how to use a condom, I applaud him. And since he happens to be doing an important public service along the way, I say more power to him. Go get ‘em, Levi. Stick it to the (wo)man and make a buck while you can. Because after all, what's more American than that?

That’s all I’ve got. You betcha.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MNF Live Blog! Live! Part 4

Continued from part 3

10:57 The Ravens run a half back pass, because, hey, why not? It doesn't work. 4th down.

10:59 The announcers get bored and start talking about Lebron James. I don't blame them.

11:01 Chris Carr continues to suck at returning punts. He must have faked his references or something. How else does someone get $5M to do something they suck at?

11:05 The Ravens get a 15 yard penalty and then run the ball for a gain of 1 on first and 25. It's like they don't know I have money riding on this. Meanwhile, Jaworski claims Mark Clayton, who hasn't missed a game in 2 years, is always injured.

11:12 I've been trying to find something to write about for 7 minutes, no luck. Meanwhile ESPN has resorted to showing John Gruden's college game film.

11:14 Chris Carr forgets about the fair catch rule for the league record 469th time and gets hit in the mouth as punishment.

11:19 The crew decides to cover their asses with the "been in a coma for 36 hours" demographic by talking more about the Pats-Colts game from last night. For the record, I think he should have punted. But I don't have three Super Bowl rings.

11:25 We've now entered the make excuses for Brady Quinn portion of the evening. While this is going on, Cleveland decides to give up and punts on 4th down with 4 minutes left.

11:30 Two minute warning as the Ravens lifelessly bleed away the clock. This is the worst shutout in team history. What an abhorrent game.

11:33 With 1:55 left, the Browns use their last time out. I guess because their fans haven't been through enough without drawing out this game.

11:35 As the last seconds wind down, Gruden "doesn't know if Brady Quinn was very good tonight." You think so, doctor?

11:37 On the last couple of snaps, Quinn takes his last chance to heave two throws 50 yards out of bounds. And finally, mercifully, this abomination of a football game is over. I've never been so dissatisfied with a win.

Thanks for following. Good night.