Friday, January 30, 2004

This has to qualify as my singlemost favorite news story *EVER*. The picture says it all, methinks. The world does not get any more absurd than exploding whales on main street.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

This is in response to a recent blog entry on glassmaze (, all pardons to any bruised dogmas, but I know that any of my peeps have stuck by me this long have thick skin:

A very good friend of mine is a free-trade prosthetizer. He loves free trade. Religious people read the bible, he reads the Economist.

He argues that only low-end jobs will go away (manufacturing, assembly etc) and America's advantage over places like India in terms of education and infrastructure will make it able to add more higher-end jobs relying on our ongoing technological "edge". Aside from relying upon the expected (and highly suspect) claims of what historians have termed American exceptionalism, the downward trend in American education (as measured by math and science aptitude) makes the hope that we will maintain our edge naive at best. At worst, it is a self-serving argument by people who want to justify the benefits of outsourcing without regard to the other very substantial social costs involved.

Countries like India, as evidenced by the recent "outsourcing" trend to Mumbai and Bangalore, don't have to have working roads or an integrated economy: their populations are so large that if only a fraction of their people are able to effectively provide a service, they will become *major* threats to well-paid American workers. Especially since Indians will not demand the same sorts of protections and wages that American workers enjoy thanks to the union movement (which free traders universally decry). Anyone who feels that plants closing and companies moving away will not adversly affect this country should take a look at Pittsburg or Baltimore. Sure, economic booms and busts are inevitable, and jobs may go overseas despite anyones best efforts, but to be happy about it and claim that it benefits America as a whole is misguided.

What is being discussed here is central to free trade. Free trade is fine up to a point, but in the end -- with no recognition that local wealth and education is based on the continuing existance of available jobs -- it is only a means for capitalists to make money. Free trade provides ZERO benefit for workers in countries that are not willing to subvert wages and work quality in order to survive. Sure, prices might become lower for those very same workers/consumers as companies are able to reduce their own costs, but in the end it is a self-defeating cycle that leads to downward wage pressure in all previously affluent societies.

In the end, free trade is little more than a means of doing an end run around workers who have rightly demanded (and, to a degree, won) a more equitable share of the riches that capitalist companies can provide (to say nothing of the eggregious lack of environmental standards overseas or taxable revenue).

I might be more sympathetic to the whole "downsize or perish" pressure if CEOs weren't making 100x what they made 20 years ago.

Rich people invented the "free trade" dogma. It is a system designed for them and for the owners. The rest of us -- especially in countries like America -- will pay for it. There is simply nothing free about it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

How to Remain Healthy:

Lately, people have been trying Atkins, a diet that says, essentially:

1. Remember how your mother always said the best way to lose weight is

to eat less, excercise more and eat your veggies? Forget everything

your mother said.

2. Don't avoid eating fat, just avoid eating stuff that stops you from

burning fat. Bread is a good example of this.

3. People accumulate fat by leading a sedentary life: browsing web

pages, sitting in cars, reading books.

4. Read my book.

Another popular diet takes a whole different approach, namely:

1. Remember how your mother always said the best way to lose weight is

to eat less, excercise more and eat your veggies? Forget everything

your mother said.

2. Don't avoid eating fat, just eat less, excercise more, and eat your


3. People accumulate fat by leading a sedentary life: browsing web

pages, sitting in cars, reading books.

4. Read my book.

The Clay Sails diet plan involves yet a third approach:

1. Get your wife/husband to nag you mercilessly about every calorie you


2. Excercise more. Especially common sense when selecting books to


3. Never ever ever believe the hype surrounding a fad diet. (Historical

perspective, for the record: all fad diets appear to have "real

scientifically proven" results. This is not a new phenomenon.)

4. Eat your veggies.

5. (This is the most important one) buy my 7781 page "How-to lose

weight by using this Book". If you carry it with you and consult it

before every meal, you are virtually guaranteed to lose weight.

But I am not here to promote my new, as of yet untested, weight loss

plan. Hell, I am lunching on frosted donuts as I write.

I am here to tell you that yesterday I did my general health a favor by

going to the doctor. Now, for those of you who do not know me, I am not

going to browbeat you with statistics about how when a man gets to a

certain age he requires a regular finger up the ass to ensure that he

will be able to sustain a long and healthy life. First of all, I am not

at that "certain age" yet (but will be at around 114), and secondly, I

would prefer short, sick life to getting an annual meathook in the

colon by a stranger who isn't even decent enough to wear pasties and

call me "hon". (NOte: if your doctor is a fat, hairy man, this image

might cause you say nothing of constipation. But best just to move on.) Fortuantely, all

my doctor needed to do was stare at my tongue and root around my ear

for missing car keys. This ordeal was enough to justify the

considerable trouble I had gone through to get to the doctor's office.

Allow me to elaborate.

It has been shitty cold, icy and slushy lately. This woeful weather is

supposedly anomalous in a climate that, locals *swear* is "mild". Yeah.

Mild like Liza Minelli after half a bottle of pills and a 5th of

scotch. "Thank god we don't live in Minnesota, they say". Chuckle

chuckle. Yeah, sure. Whatever. You don't see me trying to get a spread

in St. Paul now, do you?


At least in Minnesota when a body of water un-freezes it becomes a

lake. Here in Maryland when a lake melts, it becomes...a parking

lot...a highway...and, (if you're like me), the front seat of your

leaky car.

Speaking of which -- the car is partly responsible for my health-minded

adventure yesterday afternoon. Remember how I've been bitching lately

about how expensive that little beast has become? $1000 here, $600

there. Something like $2500 in the past 8 months. Remember? What, you

can't keep my rants straight? YOu only remember me bitching about the

thousands I've spent recently on dental bills ($5500 in the past 2

months, no joke, including another $1500 yesterday *after* I went to

the doctor...and not including the wisdom teeth he said I now need

removed...which my wife assures me is ok because the less teeth I have

the less cavities I will have to get filled in the future). But back to

my car. My precious little 1995 Ford Escort. Turqoise. Grandma's last

set of wheels, (may she RIP). A thing that has gotten a new alternator,

a new radiator, a new set of tires, new brakes, new rotors and a bunch

of other new stuff in the past year.

Well, two weeks ago the blower motor (i.e. the heater) broke. It just

went kaput. *Pfft*. Nothing. Now it gives off no heat except for the

occasional disdainful gasp of warmth that works its way naturally

through the ventillation system when I'm going high speeds. Just a fuse

perhaps, you ask? No. I wish. I replaced the proper fuse to no avail.

Probably that means its the heater core itself -- the second most

expensive repair after the transmission. Needless to say, I ignored it.

Who needs a heater? I need a heater about as much as I need a kick in

my fancy new teeth. Besides, when its 11 degrees outside, I can pat

myself on the back that I wasn't foolish enough to acquire my frostbite

in a place with a *really* cold climate (like Minnesota).

So the heater broke and I've been cold. Big deal. Absent a heater, I am

cold in my car. So what. So what? Haven't you been watching the news?

There's been an ice storm the past two days. For those of you

unfamiliar with the concept (I'm talking mainly to the Californians

here), an ice storm is a bit like electing a movie star for governor

except it comes with a massive quantity of hard-packed ice, has no

star-appeal whatsoever, and cannot possibly making your state the

laughingstock of even bingo addicts in Ohio. In fact, when word gets

out that someone somewhere is suffering from an ice storm, people stop

laughing altogether. Everyone from the Carolinas to Canada engages in

one bit, collective gulp, causing tornados to form in Brazil that will

eventually result in small small pacific islands being devoured by

hordes of wayward butterflies.

So...cold in ice storm. You'll grant me that. Again, so what?

Well, cold is unhealthy for one and the whole point of this discussion

is to demonstrate that I was healthy yesterday because I went to get a (3

year out of date) annual physical. But absent a heater, a car has one

other problem: it has no front defroster. Every breath I exhaled, every

wisp of steam from a life-sustaining warm beverage (whose succor can

combat the effects of having my own personal glacier on the passenger

seat floor), will materialize on the windshield in the form of opaque


Which led me to a catch-22: if I rolled up the windows to build up

(body) heat on the inside, steam would form that would obscure all

vision and might not cut the ice anyway. If I left the window down, the

inside of the car would be so cold that every single droplet of frozen

rain would remain present and frozen on the outside of the window. This

is exactly what happened. The instant I got onto the freeway, a

carapace of ice formed on my windscreen thicker than that which formed

on Hillary Clinton's thighs the instant Matt Drudge outed Monica to the


Yet I still had 20 miles to go, and 40 minutes get there, otherwise I'd

miss an appointment I'd waited four months to get and take a day off of

work to go to. If I missed it, how would I ever find out if I was

healthy or not?

Reasoning thus, I did what any health conscious individual would do: I

sped down the road hell-bent for leather, leaning out the window,

scraping ice on the outside as I drove, blasting music to create

vibrations strong enough to loosen the smaller bits of ice. I guzzled

tepid coffee to sustain my inner strength, and prayed that the misty

blob hovering before my eyes was not either:

a) the onset of frostbite on my iris or

b) a snow plow behind a screen of mist, glass, and ice

I paused at every stoplight to scrape (effecting an odd sort of

"chinese fire drill" in which I exchanged places with myself).

Eventually I made it to the doctor's and found out that despite my

stressful travail, lo! I am perfectly healthy.

I even think I lost some weight in the process.
Watching Simpsons reruns last night. Saw one of my fav's: the one where Homer takes cannonballs to the belly for the Hullaballooza festival.

This episode contains my favorite set of lines from the show ever:

[upon seeing Homer get on stage]
Jaded Festival Goer #1: Its that *cannonball* guy again.
Jaded Festival Goer #2: Dude, are you being sarcastic?
Jaded Festival Goer #1: I don't even *know* any more.

Heh. Its the best and most succinct indictment of gen x I've ever heard. In fact, the whole episode, which features Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins, takes pot shots at the silly, afected, gloomy, self-indulgent, middle-class malaise that overcame America's youth during the gogo 90s.

When I heard Billy what's his names voice (from Smashing Pumpkins) it immediately sent me back to my college days, when hardly a moment passed without hearing his wheedling, sniveling voice and inflectionless fuzz-guitar distortion.

Shame on sucky bands for making America's youth feel like suburban life, with all of its luxury, comfort, and opportunity, is something to be deppressed about. Do I love featureless avenues and shopping malls on every corner? Not really, but it sure beats waking up at 4 a.m. to inject cattle with BGH (or sheep with GHB, for that matter). It sure beats living in a crowded tenament with no prospect for advancement. It sure beats living in a war zone. Fuck whiny bands who are too cool for the rest of us.

Speaking of which, today I heard an "alternative" group on some cookie cutter pop station singing about his girl's "bad day". She smeared her lipstick. Lost her purse. Cried at something. The guy singer sounded genuinely sorry that his lady's day hadn't been pristine. Sheeit. Some people got *real* problems. Its a waste of my ears.

I think I'll make a song about how much I hate shallow musicians.

Yeah, that's my ticket.

Monday, January 26, 2004

I was catching up on some much-belated blog reading this morning when something flickered into mind:

What happened to the bruhaha over the CIA agent who was exposed by "someone very high in the white house"? (You know, the diplomat who said there was no Niger/Iraq connection, whose wife was burned by someone hell bent on revenge, rumored to be Karl Rove)

I've got two theories:

1. Somebody high up muzzled the story with bribes, threats and misinformation.
2. The "ongoing" internal investigation by the Attorney General has mysteriously ground to a halt.
3. Democrats are quietly loading it into the leftmost barrel of their sawed-off scattergun, hoping to (metaphorically) fell G.W. the Giant himself whilst in the midst of a heated campaign.

Ok, so that's three theories. Point is -- I can't keep all the scandals straight. Where is Ken Starr and his supposedly impartial "independent" counsels office now, hmmm?

(I'll give you a hint: you won't find them sequestered underground, reviewing Dick Cheney's energy panel notes)

Friday, January 23, 2004

Well, its been awhile dear readers. Too long, I say, but the hiatus has been necessary: I'm at a new job and not sure how strict my employers are about me multitasking on this blog. I guess I'll find out. One thing is for sure: I can't post nude pics of Dick Cheney. I would definitely get fired for that. Ashcroft might be o.k. Rumsfeld is a no.

I'll be irregularly posting for a bit, but then (I hope soon) I will be back for good.

Onto other things: what's up with Howard Dean getting slammed for that inspirational yell he gave at the end of his speach in Iowa last week? How f*ing rediculous is it to get on a guys case for being excited. Jeez. John Kerry is about as exciting as a bowl of cold soup (Gespatcho excepted). I'm not sure what Dean did to go from everybody's darling to reviled and insane. I think the media just got bored and needed a "new angle". People are acting like Dean just couldn't stand up to the healthy process of media scrutiny, but I see it differently: he got piled on from all sides and had the gall to continually speak his mind. God forbid we get some straight talk in the land of free speach.

Perhaps Democrats realized that a smart, tough and fiesty candidate was risky. Its better for them to lose by putting up some fuddy-duddy establishment senator who will never take a risk or say anything to offend.

Suddenly Dean "isn't presidential" or whatever that means. Getting excited, speaking your mind when no one else will, acting -- god forbid -- *angry* about something, is no longer a virtue. Lets have a statue for an (almost) president. A war hero that looks good on a horse.

Pundits, think-tanks, and elitist east-coast publications started whining that Dean "didn't have a platform". Yet when I listened to him talk, I heard many good ideas from him -- at least as many as from his fellow candidates. Was he negative? Damn right he was. He was the only one, too. Everyone else was too busy running for cover from 9-11 and voting for a bogus war with Iraq.

So three quick thoughts that I would argue them more forcibly but Dean will be gone in a week from now so what's the point:

1. Dean got railroaded by negative media and his "insane" speech is just a titilating, vicious (and effectual) smear based on an arbitrary standard of "presidentialness" that seems to be the wet-dream of East Coast establishment liberals and doesn't seem to be a factor in the success or failure in another recent president.

2. Democrats would rather put up a safe, steady senator who will soft-boil everything rather than risk inspiring anyone to get excited about challenging the status quo. "Electability" is a sham standard invented by people who would rather have a statue to their gallant loss than a man who might peel the crust off the Dem platform and actually kick some a*s by stirring up the party's passion. No wonder only 27% of Democrats vote.

3. John Kerry will *never* win. He is about as thrilling to listen to as a ham sandwich without mustard. Edwards is somewhat promising -- maybe he can make it -- but I don't know much about him. I like Clark, but I'm offended that he thinks I should give a shit about his officer credentials. Lieberman might as well just trade seats with John McCane. Gephardt was done before he began. Al Sharpton is a grandstander. Carol Mosely-Braun is a mystery. With Dean all but gone I can only shake my head and think what a lackluster, uninspirational group of yahoos we're left to choose from.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Al Gore, 2004.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Another morning at the dentist...

Vacation was fun etc. Got to play with lots of little family members that I don't see very often. (No, I'm not talking about the family of elves that live in my unconscious.)

Too busy to write but I thought I'd pose a question that maybe you can answer. Last night, thinking about all of the nasty cinnamon/berry/popcorn smell of the mall, and how we have so many perfumed toiletries, air fresheners, perfumes, aromatic teeth washes etc., why oh why hasn't somebody invented air freshener to go in underwear? It really would be an improvement, methinks.

Inspired by Sex McGinty of Pataphysical Graffitti, I discovered which Simpson character I most resemble:

What lesser-known Simpsons character are you?

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