Friday, August 31, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Clint Eastwood Spoke to an Empty Chair at the Republican National Convention

10. Thought he was starring in the conclusion to his seminal “Clyde” trilogy, “Any Which Way But Sane.”

9.   Was promised Morgan Freeman voiceover for chair on televised broadcast.

8.  Chair only remaining actor who will tolerate Eastwood’s tyrannical directing style.

7. Thought Chair was articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking chair.

6. Promised he could do for Wal-Mart’s Furniture Department what “Halftime in America” commercial did for Chrysler.

5.  Teaser for his new MTV Reality show "Eastwood vs. Chair."

4. Guy is 82 years old, really thought Obama was sitting in chair.

3. Was told he was hosting the Oscars, Obama would be CGI’d in later.

2. Chair needed a job, wouldn’t take government handout.

And the number one reason Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention……..

1. HE BUILT IT!   Thank you ladies and gentlemen!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Arrivederci, London: V (5) Stories from the XXX Summer Olympic Games

I started this blog in 2006, and every two years since, I have dutifully recorded my musings on the Olympics, whether Summer or Winter. I’m all about consistency, so what follows is the 2012 London edition, with five stories about the XXX Summer Games I think you should know about. You won’t find anything about Michael Phelps here, nor Usain Bolt. No commentary about Jordyn Wieber, NBC’s coverage or the Opening/Closing ceremonies.  These are just the stories that I thought were particularly interesting, stories you might not know if you have some kind of life and didn’t spend the last two weeks watching 800 hours of coverage like I did. So, without further ado: V stories for the XXX Summer Olympiad:

1. The Montenegro Women’s Handball Team

Montenegro, as a sovereign nation, does not have a rich and storied history in the Olympic Games. In fact, it doesn’t have much of any history. Up until 1992, it was part of Yugoslavia, and even then, when other nations got to branch off on their own, like Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro continued to be part of a Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with Serbia. Montenegro did not become an independent nation of its own until a mere six years ago, which means their first participation in the Olympics as their own country was only four years ago, two years after they were formed. Unsurprisingly, they failed to medal.

In London, their chance for a large medal haul was similarly non-existent. Their best chance of any medal at all seemed to come from the men’s water polo team, as Yugoslavia had traditionally been a water polo power. Unfortunately for the Montenegrins, their arch rivals, the Croatians, knocked them out of the bronze medal game and sent them home hardware free. 2012 might have been another year of waiting to put Montenegro on the competitive map then, if not for the women’s handball team.

These gutty Montenegrin women made a statement in their first game, blowing out Great Britain by the unlikely score of 31-19, which spurred them on to a berth in the quarterfinals against the favored France, who they edged out with a 23-22 score. They pulled off a similar nail-biting upset in the semifinal against Spain, winning 27-26 and earning a gold medal shot against heavily favored Norway.

The Norwegians had won five of the last six European championships and were the current Olympic and World champions. They were the undisputed queens of the sport. Montenegro, in contrast, according to their coach, selected their team from a pool of about 100 women in the entire country who even knew how to play handball. If Montenegro were to win, it would have been the equivalent of the Miracle on Ice, only if the game were played in 1780 instead of 1980. With less than a minute and a half remaining, Montenegro trailed the Norwegian goliath by only a single goal. Sadly for the stalwart Montenegrins, Norway was able to pull away, and secured their gold medal with a garbage goal as time expired for a 26-23 victory, but Montenegro’s silver medal, and coming within inches of gold, was no doubt an inspiration to newly formed and forming countries everywhere.

2. The United States Handball Team

This story is not nearly as inspiring. There IS no United States Handball Team. Well, there is, but not with a presence at the Olympics. And why the hell not? Why don’t we play this sport? It seems to have everything. It’s got jumping, passing, fast ball handling, lots of scoring and physical contact. It’s like a combination of every major sport we play in this country. If there were a Major Handball League in this country, I would totally watch it. But no. We’re not interested. Are we just full up on sports? I don’t get it. Also, why is LaCrosse not an Olympic sport? It doesn’t seem much different from a lot of other team sports played in the Olympics. I guess it’s not played in enough countries but again, I don’t really understand why.

3. American Women and Teamwork

The fact that American women are phenomenal in the Olympics, that they often outperform our men percentagewise and are responsible for a massive inflation in our medal haul is no fresh news. If the US Women were an independent country, they would have ranked fourth in total medal count for men and women combined, ahead of everyone except for China, Russia, and the host nation Great Britain. In total gold medal count for men and women combined, they would have been exceeded only by the Chinese. If you’re happy about this, you can thank Democratic Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, who wrote and sponsored the Title IX legislation all those years ago (40 years, to be exact). What’s really astonishing, however, is the level of dominance by American women in team sports. The U.S women won Football/Soccer, basketball, all around team gymnastics, both track and field relays, two out of three swimming relays, beach volleyball, doubles tennis, women’s eight rowing and water polo. We also threw in a silver medal in volleyball for good measure. If they hadn’t cut softball out of the games, there’s little doubt our women would have won that too. Do American women simply work better together than the men? Or is it that Title IX thing again? Whatever it is, we can thank women’s team sports for letting the US swell out their chests with pride at another Olympics.

Wait a minute. Did I just say WATER POLO? People play water polo in this country? Does anyone remember going to see the WATER POLO team in college? As you might guess, this is the first gold medal ever for American women in water polo, and the first American water polo gold medal at all in over 100 years (yeah, I didn’t know water polo was that old either). Why water polo, traditionally the province of Eastern Europe? Why not? In fact, since 2000, our women’s water polo team has quietly medaled in every Olympics before finally taking the gold this year. Maybe it’s the fact that water polo, like soccer, is an area where women have an opportunity to shine rather than be overshadowed by their male counterparts as they might be in sports like basketball. Maybe it’s just that American women intend to eventually dominate every team sport imaginable. US Women’s Handball gold in 2016, anyone?

4. Claressa Shields

And while we’re on the subject of American women, let’s shine a little spotlight on Claressa Shields. While America was marveling to the gymnastic feats of Aly Rasmussen and Gabby Douglas, 17 year old Claressa Shields from Flint Michigan was carrying the once vaunted U.S.A. boxing team on her back. Shields was the only gold medalist in boxing from the U.S. this year, and one of only two medalists of any color (another woman, Flyweight Marlen Esparza, took a bronze), saving the U.S. Boxing team from their worst showing ever, which remains Beijing’s single bronze in the last Olympics of the men-only era. Middleweight Claressa, whose father went to jail when she was two, was undaunted by tough living conditions and a natural bias against women in boxing, not to mention her young age, and went on to qualify for the Olympic trials and charge through the middleweight division, securing her gold with a 19-12 victory over a tough Russian fighter, Nadezda Tolopova. She did it all with an Ali-like style and grace, strutting her stuff and sharing her joy with the camera, doing it all with far more charm than ego. And if you thought Gabby Douglas had the most winning smile in the Olympics, then you didn’t get a chance to see Claressa crack one when talking about her gold medal victory.

5. The Decathlon

Guess who won the Decathlon in the Olympics this year? The U.S. Specifically, Ashton Eaton, in one of the most dominating performances ever, spurred on by the silver medalist, Trey Hardee, also an American. Wow! Finally, the U.S. has the world’s greatest athlete again, you say! We’re on top again for the first time since Bruce Jenner back in Montreal in 1976! What a triumph for American sports! If you are thinking this, it might interest you to know that the U.S. has won the decathlon a bit more recently than 1976. In fact, we won it… in the last Olympics. Yes, the winner of the 2008 Olympic Decathlon was none other than Brian Clay, of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Before that, you only have to go back three games to Dan O’Brien. So why don’t decathletes get any press anymore?

What was so special about Jenner? I mean, I know, now he’s Kim Kardashian’s stepdad, but he’s always been the only decathlete most Americans have ever heard of.

Even in 1992, there was the big “Dan vs. Dave” hype leading into the games, with viewers being exhorted to speculate whether Dan O’Brien or Dave Johnson would take home the Olympics’ top prize. I don’t remember any “Ashton vs. Trey” commercials.

Back in 2008, I speculated that the problem might be that Clay was half African-American. I hoped that I was wrong, but I did note that Dan O’Brien was also half African-American (Not Dave, and when he dropped out of the picture, leaving the field wide open for Dan to win in 1996, O'Brien did so with little national fanfare). Well guess what, sports fans?  Do I need to tell you the ethnic background of Ashton Eaton’s dad?

I really, really hope this is a coincidence, as my fear, if realized, is not really in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to wait until another American white guy wins or is speculated to win the Olympic decathlon to find out. In the meantime, I’m going to go ahead and just hope that the lack of Eaton coverage was due to the fact that there were so many other great things to focus on in these Olympic Games, not only those I’ve mentioned here but stories like Great Britain’s tremendous performance as the host country, the valiant efforts of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani’s defying of religious sexual oppression to become the first Saudi Arabian women to compete in an Olympic Games, and much more.

Well, I could go on and on about the Olympics, I guess, but it seems I already have, so I’ll close here. See you in Sochi!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The XXX Olympics: 10 Olympic Athletes that Sound Like Porn Stars

In honor of the XXX Olympics, here are ten athletes whose names sound like porn stars. Disclaimer: I'm not trying to suggest any of these people are anything but talented, respectable athletes. That having been said; they have porn star names.

                                  Shannon Boxx  USA  Soccer

Julietta Cantaluppi  Italy  Gymnastics

                                                                    Chris Adcock UK Badminton 

Destinee Hooker USA Volleyball

Lars Boom Netherlands Cycling


Karen Cockburn Canada Trampoline

Oliver Buff Switzerland Soccer
                                                                             Francesca Fox UK Gymnastics  

Hana Horakova Czech Republic Basketball

James Harden USA Basketball

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

800 Things Wrong with "In Time"

I recently saw the movie “In Time” starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it was far from the best. It was way too long, especially for a movie about two people who essentially become Sci Fi Robin Hoods/Bonnie and Clyde. Also, the conceit of the film does not seem to have been thought all the way through. The concept is sort of a modern day “Logan’s Run.” Everyone is genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. The catch is, you then have a year to live. You can “earn” more time the same way people earn money in our world, but you also have to pay for everything with your time, so a sudden jump in your rent can literally cost you your life. A cup of coffee costs a few minutes, whereas a night in a nice hotel might cost you a whole month or more. People are confined by toll booths to different “time zones,” where the people in the ghetto rarely have more than a day in the bank (actually, on a clock genetically built into their arms) and people in the highest zone (New Greenwich) are essentially immortal, with hundreds or even millions of years to spend according to their whims. When Will Salas (Timberlake) is suddenly gifted 100 years by a suicidal New Greenwich citizen, he decides to use his new time to go on a crusade and collapse the system from the top on down.

This is kind of a clever idea, and an obvious allegory for the vicious class system that are own nation enjoys, but as I said, all the details don’t seem to have been worked out. To wit, I present the 800 (and by 800, I mean five) plot holes in “In Time.” SPOILERS AHEAD!

1. Short Timers

The stride in which people in this society take having hours or minutes to live is completely unbelievable. Sure, it’s all they’ve ever known, but this is essentially like watching yourself bleed to death and thinking “oh, it’s cool, I’ll figure something out.” In this world, the ghetto is littered with people who “time out.”  What’s important to understand is that there’s no way to protect your time. Anyone can take time from anyone else simply by grabbing their arm. The person can resist, of course, but if you’re strong enough, they can’t stop you. Yet there is only one small gang that ever goes around stealing time. In reality, if you had five minutes to live, you’d grab the next person you saw and beg, threaten or beat them in order to get a few more minutes. Yet in this ghetto where everyone has less than a day to live, there is virtually no violence. It’s implied, but we never see it, despite the fact that it should be happening ALL THE TIME.

2. The Casino

In one of the most ridiculous scenes in the movie, Timberlake faces off against Vincent Karnheiser (Pete Campbell to you Mad Men fans) in a high stakes no limit hold’em poker game. The actual hand is as ridiculous as you would expect from a poker movie scene. On a board of Q 5 6 J, Pete, holding top set, bets FIFTY YEARS, and Timberlake, who’s never had more than a day before in his life, calls with 4 8 offsuit! Naturally, a 7 comes and Timberlake wins a huge pot, but this isn’t the craziest part of the scene. The craziest part is that on the river, Pete essentially puts Timberlake all in. Timberlake calls, by putting his clock in a reader and letting it tick down to nothing. Of course, when it actually hits zeroes, he’s dead and there’s no coming back, so he’s relying on Pete to show the losing hand and for the computer to register it before he checks out, which naturally, is exactly what happens. If this were real, no casino would want players dying at the tables. Just like our world, you would exchange your time for chips and then play with those chips, so that going all in wouldn’t FUCKING KILL YOU.

3. The Time Zones

All that’s separating the ghetto from the next class of time owners is a toll plaza. No tanks, no phalanx of armed men with guns, the only way they can stop you from moving up in the world is by charging you an excessive amount of time to cross into the next zone. There’s nothing stopping you from rushing the barrier, as evidenced when it is crashed through in the middle of the movie with no consequences. In a world like this, it would take exactly two seconds for the time disadvantaged, who are nastier and outnumber the time rich, to revolt, charge the higher zones and take all their time.

4. The Security

One of the most unlikely things about this scenario is how easy it is to take someone’s time. Essentially, it’s like having every dollar you own taped to your body. If this were really how the world worked, someone would very quickly find a way to lock time, so no one could take it against your will. At the very least, someone would invent some goddamn armored sleeves so no one could grab your arm and “clean your clock” (from the movie, yes, very clever) in your sleep.

5. The Bus

This one was my biggest pet peeve about the movie. In the first major plot point of the film, Timberlake’s mom, played by Olivia “Thirteen” Wilde, is getting ready to take the bus home to celebrate her 50th birthday with her son. However, she is shocked to learn that the bus fare has jumped from one hour to two, and mom has only left herself 90 minutes to get home. The charmingly sympathetic bus driver’s advice is, “you’d better run” and she does, only to fall seconds short of connecting with Timberlake in time for him to give her some life saving minutes. The two bitter ironies of this moment are 1) Timberlake has just been gifted 100 years, 50 of which he was probably all set to transfer over to mom and 2) Mom gave Timberlake 30 of her minutes that morning so he could have a nice lunch (which, idiot, maybe make him a fucking sandwich?).

But wait a minute. The cost of bus fare is TWO HOURS? This makes no sense at all. First of all, the standard of this currency is completely out of wack. A nice cup of coffee costs 4 minutes, a nice lunch costs 30 minutes, and a ride on the bus costs TWO HOURS?? Any moron who would take the bus in this kind of economy deserves to die. The second issue is that the bus fare has jumped from one hour to two overnight. This type of inflation is absolutely ludicrous. It’s explained that the rich intentionally jack up the prices of everything so that the lower classes will keep dying, because “for a few to be immortal, many must die” although why this is is never really explained. But doubling overnight? Even if such a thing could happen without an immediate revolution, you can be sure the proposed rate change would have been on the news for weeks, and there’s no way she wouldn’t have known about it. But she doesn’t seem terribly surprised, and neither do any of the passengers who have just been gouged for double the normal bus fare. I mean, why would you spend more time to ride the bus than it would take to get there on foot? You’re all 25! Get a bike!

I’m sure there are 795 more things wrong with this movie (I didn’t even get into the whole “timekeepers” concept), but my time is finite too, so I’m going to end this rant here. Good try, but I think the screenwriter should have spent a little more in time figuring out how this would all actually work.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who Said It? Osama Bin Laden or Rick Santorum?

Identify the author of each quote, Osama Bin Laden or Rick Santorum:

1. "Our values are based on religion, their values are based on a religion of self."

2. "The Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning."

3. "Acquiring weapons is a religious duty. I thank God for enabling me to do so."

4. "There are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire."

5. "Thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again."

6. "The wind of faith is blowing."

7. "This is not a political war. This is a spiritual war."

8. "Suffering is a part of life. And it's not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life.

Highlight here for answers: 1. Santorum, 2.  Bin Laden, 3. Bin Laden, 4. Santorum, 5. Bin Laden, 6. Bin Laden, 7. Santorum, 8. Santorum

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Down on Democracy

I would probably be described as a liberal by most who know me, and the more right wing propaganda I hear, the more liberal I seem to get. Therefore, it might come as a shock to hear me say that I’ve just about had it with Democracy, but hear me out.

The idea of Democracy, one person one vote, with everyone getting to participate, sounds great in theory. Here’s the problem: Most people are morons.

When I was 16, I made up my first statistic: I proudly announced in English class that 7 out of 10 people were idiots. I had no data, but I stand by that figure. If anything, it’s only grown. Think about the kind of people who get to vote in this country:

Everyone who believes that Evolution is a less valid theory for how we came to be than “God did it,” gets a vote.

Everyone who thinks homosexuals are less than people (just like they used to say about Native Americans, blacks, and so forth), gets a vote.

Everyone “Pro-Life” advocate who wants the death penalty gets a vote.

Everyone who sells heroin to children and doesn’t get caught gets a vote.

Everyone who knowingly manufactures a dangerous product gets a vote.

As far as I know, people with dementia can vote, as well as the mentally challenged, sociopaths and alcoholics.

“But that’s what’s great about America!” you exclaim! “No matter who you are, no matter what walk of life you come from, you get your say!” But is that really great? Is that really what’s best for all of us?

I can sense the alarm bells going up. “But without Democracy, there will be tyranny! Fascism! Nazism!”

No Democracy = No Civil Rights?

I disagree. I think people have a misconception that a democracy is required for equal, civil rights for citizens. Not so. Even if our leaders are not democratically elected, that does not mean they have absolute power. For those of you who think so, I’d like to point out that we don’t in fact, live in a Democracy right now. Actually, the founders created our government as a Republic specifically to guard against the “Excesses of Democracy.” Although our country may not now be a classic republic, we are, at the very least, a representative democracy, not a real one.

Even now, you don’t get to vote on whether this country should have the death penalty, or whether or not there should be limits on abortion, or how much to pay members of Congress. You can only vote for someone who you hope will vote your way on these issues. You can’t even vote for President. All you can do is vote for an Elector and hope he will vote the way he promised.

On the state level, you may have varying degrees of democracy. The state where I live, California, happens to be very democratic, mostly, I think, because legislators are lazy. Every Election Day, there are a ton of laws and propositions that we really get to vote on. This system has given us things like Proposition 8 and a host of Pro-Business, anti-environment legislation that I don’t really completely understand and neither do any of the other voters, except the ones who represent the corporations that spend billions steering the vote the way they want it (a popular tactic is to send out “Voter Guides” that tell you all the “good” (pro citizen) ways to vote, EXCEPT for their pet proposition, where they flip it to trick you into voting their way).

So clearly you can have civil rights without democracy, because we do right now. And if my state is any indication, more democracy is not always better. So why not make it a meritocracy? Why shouldn’t you have to be intelligent to help determine the course of our nation? Or at the very least, why shouldn’t you have to prove you understand the issues before you decide how everyone else will be affected by them?

My Proposal


In my mind, you should have to take a test to vote. Now, this immediately raises big flags among the liberal community, because it raises the specter of the old racist “literacy tests” that were used to block African Americans from getting to vote for years, and similar tactics (e.g. Voter ID requirements) are still being used today. But hear me out. I’m not talking about a test like the SAT. I’m talking about a test that specifically measures the issues you will be voting on. It doesn’t matter which way you vote, you just have to prove that you understand, at least in a rudimentary way, both sides. Is that really so much to ask?

Minority Rights


But what about minority rights? Wouldn’t such a test mean that those with limited access to education, i.e., minorities, won’t get to vote? In my fantasy, each district across the country would have an Education Center, where every citizen would have free access to all the education they needed to pass the test. Even if the individual could not read or had a learning disability going in, there would be an Educator at the center to make accommodations for them. Now, I know the idea of having the government pay to educate its citizens is anathema to Conservatives, but really, isn’t that part of the problem?

Abolishing Democracy


Do I really want to abolish democracy? Not quite yet. I’ll admit I may not have thought this all the way through, and this country has survived for…. (quick, it’ll be on the test!) 235 years under the current system, but it is food for thought, isn’t it? A society where we know all our elected officials were placed there by informed, educated voters, and not shepherded in by special interest groups taking advantage of the fearful or ignorant in order to grab wealth and power? I mean, it’s worth a shot, right?