Friday, June 29, 2007

Blog Mood: Blue
If I were a goofy teenager, I'd type some sad-face emoticons and list my blog-mood as "blue" today because of the heinous decisions coming out of the Supreme Court. All hope that the court hadn't truly swung to the Neolithic is lost. 5-4, 5-4, 5-4, 5-4. That is the new world order. 5-4. Brace yourself, because it's going to get really, really ugly.

For several years, I worked for the Department of Education, including several projects aimed at closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students. Someday I'll write about those experiences but for now it just breaks my heart to see so much good, hard work tossed aside by what is, undeniably, a racist agenda. Of course, desegregation isn't… *sigh* … wasn't perfect. But it absolutely made real progress toward mitigating one of Kentucky's worst problems: the unending cycle of poverty. When a policy is making unsatisfactory progress, you shore it up, you don't abandon it.

Perhaps JCPS is clever enough to find ways to avoid re-segregation in our public schools. If, as it appears today, their hands are tied, you can absolutely count on poor neighborhoods getting poorer. The resources inside public schools will exactly mirror those outside public schools in rich and poor neighborhoods alike. Everything from the pencils and chalk to the teachers and administrators and, more than anyone, the students will suffer. As Justice Stephen Breyer said, "this is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret"

I want my America back. My blog-mood is "blue."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I am totally stoked about my future
Thanks to the pharmaceutical industry and the news it bought and paid for.
From this week's LEO

The future of breathing
You don't have to be Al Gore's PowerPoint designer to see that Louisville's got an air-quality problem in summer. The bad news: our ground-level ozone currently hovers at about 75 parts per billion, making it the most unpleasant air this side of the Clinique booth at the mall. But hey, look on the bright side: The other 999,999,925 parts of the billion aren't smog. Yet, even at that concentration, the city is soon to be once again out of compliance if EPA administrator Stephen Johnson gets his way. Johnson pulled off the fancy trick of pissing off both environmentalists and the pro-pollution lobby by proposing a stricter standard of 70 parts per billion instead of the current 84.

Environmentalists are upset because they believe the standard should be a stricter 60 parts per billion, which would better safeguard public health. The pro-pollution lobby claims the EPA's proposal would be bad for business, presumably allergists and cancer wards. After a public comment period, the new standard will go into effect next March.

So who are the evil bastards spewing all that ozone into the air? They are us. Much of the lung-irritating ozone comes from industry, but most of it occurs when we put our running lawnmowers on our idling boats and tow them to the airport with our pickup trucks and fly them all in circles over Smoggytown. Most experts believe we'll never solve our smog problem without drastic measures, most notably the M-word: mass transit. With political courage and personal sacrifice both sorely lacking, the outlook for breathers doesn't show much promise.
From this week's LEO...

'Tis summer, the republicans hate gays
It's gay-bashing season in Kentucky, also known as "an election year." Republicans, campaigning behind a morbidly flaccid governor and a spectacularly failed president, are trotting out the ol' tried and true: homophobia. Last week saw a minor stampede by republicans to be on the wrong side of this generation's noisiest civil rights issue.

Caught in the crossfire are University of Kentucky employees, Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, and super-sexy hetero stud muffins Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo. UK, hoping to become more competitive in the fornication-friendly world of academia, cleverly rewrote its health-benefits package to include "an unrelated adult," whether or not that adult and the employee are knocking boots in the conventional sense. In other words, UK hopes to provide the necessary benefits to snag top-level faculty and staff, whether they are married, unmarried, gay, straight, or just plagued by that annoying friend who moved in back in '05 and won't get off the couch.

Naturally, the announcement got heterosexual-marriage advocates hotter than last month's issue of Maxim. Kentucky Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson sent an op-ed piece to local newspapers around the state dragging Conway and Mongiardo into the mess, calling them "Gretels," which caused citizens statewide to snicker uncontrollably.

Meanwhile, The Family Foundation's anal-sex expert David Edmunds wrote a passionate Courier-Journal op-ed in defense of Holsinger, citing Holsinger's recognition that the "reproductive and digestive systems are separate and unique," which is clearly the kind of insight one looks for in a surgeon general (and the kind of op-ed one savors from the commonwealth's most-distinguished editorial page). Holsinger, who, like Edmunds, apparently never has sex unless it's for reproductive purposes, wrote a paper in 1991 condemning anal sex, which outraged the gay community. That outrage in turn outraged many local heterosexuals, who claimed, "hey, we like anal sex too!" With the outbreak of Puritanism, it might seem like nobody's getting fucked in Kentucky, but that's not true: The countless hardworking, talented gay workers in Kentucky get nailed just about every time they open a newspaper - or spend money on healthcare.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

From this week's LEO

Synfuelly delicious
When Governor Fletcher announced he might call a special session of the General Assembly to pass legislation giving tax incentives to a super-secret alternative energy company, rumors ran wild about what the exciting new energy might be. We here at LEO are totally betting it’s dilithium crystals! No, wait: the flux capacitor! Or maybe it’s the bullshit-burning engine, which could tap the abundant resources coming out of Frankfort. But the fuddy-duddy money is betting it’s coal-to-liquid fuel technology.

The technology to convert coal to diesel, gasoline, or “synfuel” has existed since the 1920s. It’s easy to make, runs in standard engines, and costs about the same as gas from oil. Nazi Germany and South Africa notoriously made synfuels when the world cut off their oil supplies during their respective atrocities. The US has never embraced the technology, partly because its leaders have traditionally been oil men, and partly because "coal-to-liquid" is harder to rhyme than "bubblin' crude." But with Team Bush’s Middle East in flames and Kentucky sitting on mountaintops of coal, synfuels are a natural for the Commonwealth... to whore out to some megacorporation to get rich on.

So why the secrecy? Aside from the fact that it’s just good fun making the media squirm, it’s also an election year. One school of thought is that the Governor wants to sneak in some pro-Goober legislation along with the alt-fuel bill, perhaps propping up much-need support for God, the flag or heterosexuality. Or maybe it’s more convenient to sleep with the company behind closed doors a few times before you let it schtup you in public. Whatever it is, it better be sweet. A special session costs $60K per day and the Governor lags about 20 points behind Democrat Steve Beshear in the polls.

Update: Fletcher announced a special session to begin July 5 to consider tax legislation. He declined to express support for heterosexual marriage. People fascinated with that topic should be sure to enjoy Family Foundation's David Edmunds' CJ editorial on anal intercourse, which helpfully explains that the "reproductive and digestive systems are separate and unique."
From this week's LEO

Temperance on Market
With everybody else complaining about too much dry, Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton is worried about too much wet. Specifically, she’s concerned about the recent proliferation of liquor stores in her precincts in Shawnee and Portland. Citing a link between hooch and crime, a group headed by the councilwoman lined up the necessary 25% of residents and petitioned the County Clerk to allow the neighborhoods to vote to make it illegal to sell booze there. The plan calls for a September 11 wet/dry vote.

Neighbors are worried about crime in the West Market Street area, which has more liquor stores than a Quentin Tarrantino film festival and a Dean Martin standup routine combined. Pleas by local residents to state officials to deny liquor licenses have gone unheeded, forcing the residents to push for the wet/dry vote.

The group faces an uphill battle. Not only does alcohol make furniture more comfortable and others more attractive, it also produces two trump cards in America: economic development and tax revenue. When residents in Old Louisville tried to go dry last year and residents in the Original Highlands tried to put the kibosh on that neighborhood’s Disneyland of Drinking in 2004, the measures failed for just those reasons. If a simple majority of residents vote the Shawnee and Portland precincts dry, the businesses would have to close by December.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Today's new word

open source teledildonics
Death vs. the mall
In a recent OFGS reader poll, you overwhelmingly voted for death over spending a week at the mall. In fact, 100% of voters chose death. Thank you all for voting. I commend your taste. Now, it's time for a new poll:

Miller: unfunny vs. creepy
Once upon a time, Dennis Miller was funny. He was great as the host of Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." And he came up with that great "Rants" gimmick, which was one of the smartest comedy bits of all time. But after 9/11, Miller's brain broke. He quickly devolved into a bigoted, narrow-minded jingoist, pandering to the red-state Bible thumpers, cracking jokes that portrayed all Arabs as terrorists, and desperately trying to lend neocons street cred. Of course, it didn't work. Just as the neocon agenda crashed and burned, Miller's career became a comedy Baghdad: he got cancelled, cancelled and cancelled again. The problem wasn't that his idiotic political stance was untenable. It was something even more unlikely: Over the course of just a few short months in 2001, Dennis Miller, once of the smartest, funniest people in showbiz, stopped being funny.

Now, Miller is getting his just desserts. He's signed on to do a game show on the Game Show Network, the place where washed up performers go to become high priests of consumerism while sexually harassing their hand-model co-workers. He's also hosting a right-wing AM radio show, where he'll be forced to listen ad nauseum to the wackadoo views of the gun-humping, racist, anti-science cretins he used to make fun of on SNL. A Vicodin addiction, three divorces and a 100-pound weight gain are just a matter of time. It's hard to say which is more mystifying, Miller's blind march toward fascism or his inexplicable humor drought. This week, OFGS wants to know:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Joel Stein chooses a leader
This is awesome. Oops - I wasn't going to say "awesome" any more. It's pupil dilatin'. The presidential candidates' Myspace sites are almost too stupid to believe. Don't miss Stein's reviews.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fiction into film
Various authors pick their favorite movie adaptations of novels.
Make Your Own Bush Speech
This is pretty spot-on.

"...If you go to a Kinks concert, you're going to hear 'Lola.' If you go to a George Bush show, you're going to hear about the time he let 19 guys fly four planes into three buildings and a field.
And how, since then, to put an end to murder, we've killed and killed and killed and killed."
Monkeys fly out of self's butt
Dems, NRA agree on gun law terms
From this week's LEO:

Two simple rules for creme-rinsing the hairball
When two drivers pulled up to a four-way stop in a Stony Brook parking lot at the same time last week, they solved their right-of-way dilemma the old fashioned way: with pistols. When the dust settled, Richard Koenig, a retired J-town rageoholic had blasted Darren Pickerill, a 33-year old Hummer owner, seven times in the head, chest and arm, earning the right to, you know, go first. Both men were packin' legal .40-caliber semiautomatic handguns, widely believe to compensate for small body parts, most notably the brain.

Coincidentally, Stony Brook is the site of the worst incident of road rage I've ever witnessed. One day last winter I dropped the family at the Imax theater and pulled around to find a parking space. A woman in the car ahead of me beat another driver to an open spot he thought was his. He got out of his truck, stormed over to the now-cowering woman, and screamed at her through her closed window. He finally gave up, got back in his truck and sped off – about 40 feet, to another open spot.

Maybe we should cut the drivers a tiny bit of slack because the incidents happened in Stony Brook, where road rage is just one way of letting others know you care. The Hurstbourne Parkway corridor is a driver's nightmare of gridlock, offering fume-buzzed commuters a scorched-earth landscape of big-box stores, car lots and chain restaurants to look at while AM radio hosts whip them into a furor on their 20-minute trip to go 2 miles. But it's not always that nice. Sometimes there's a wreck.

Other cities should send planners to Hurstbourne to study how not to design their 'burbs. When I worked on Bunsen Parkway, I could see I-64 from my office window but it took 15 minutes to drive there. My pals and I called the road "the Hurstbourne hairball." We credited anyone who navigated it safely with "creme rinsing the hairball."

My wife, a therapist trained in nonviolent communication, cautioned me not to look for simplistic answers to the bizarre shooting incident. "There's almost always a deeper cause," she said. "Maybe both men felt that they weren't being seen, weren't being heard." I guess they fixed that. But I get her point. Bad suburban planning, road rage, and our gun-loving culture might have been contributing factors, but two Yosemite Sams shooting each other over a right-of-way dispute at a four-way stop says a lot about the society we live in. Each man might as well have been looking in a mirror.

My own reaction to such a sad event is to slow down, go to the woods, get away from the fumes. It might not solve the alienation problem in our society, but it can't hurt. In the meantime, here are two simple rules you need to follow to be safe at four-way stops in America:

1. Always assume the other driver is armed.
2. Whoever's quicker on the draw has the right of way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A different world
On a bicycle, you experience the world differently:

1. Garbage trucks and dumpsters. On a warm summer day, driving behind a garbage truck with your windows rolled up and the air conditioning blasting, you don't fully appreciate the hard work our friendly garbage collectors do. Try it on a bike and find out what all the fuss is about. Did somebody smear some poop on a dead raccoon and inject it with hoof fungus and burning hair from an undercooked Beef 'n' Cheddar? I think someone did!

2. Lawn sprinklers. If a clumsy homeowner has set his sprinkler so the spray flies into the street and hits your windshield, you might become mildly annoyed at the wastefulness and possible rain spots on your new Hummer. But on a bike, you've got to stop and clean your glasses. On the other hand, it can be refreshing.

3. Bumper stickers. Riding a bike gives you a better opportunity to enjoy bumper stickers. In the Highlands, there are some good ones.

4. Crazy people. It's much easier to enjoy the company of crazy people on a bicycle. Sometimes they say funny things, like, "Are these leaves good to eat?" or "Jesus is my homeboy, bitch!" Also, if you smile, they sometimes smile back at you.

5. Going incognito. You'd think the lack of a hunk of steel surrounding you would make you stick out like a sore thumb. But nobody expects to see YOU on a bicycle. Cyclists are those weird, frighteningly thin people in too-tight pants who disobey the rules. Avert your eyes at all costs! If I had to go into the witness protection program, the first thing I'd do is get on a bike. You become invisible.

Monday, June 11, 2007

One for Dad
Oh, how my father would have loved this headline.
Synapse-rich assholes demand our worship
In a recent poll, I quoted Carl Sagan, who wondered what someone with twice as many neurons and synapses as we have would possibly want to say to us. To determine the answer, I asked OFGS readers to vote on it. The result? "Worship me, you consumers of infotainment!" Here's how the voting broke down:

27% Worship me, you consumers of infotainment!
13% Ain't no Jesus gonna come out the sky
13% A little lower, a little lower… ah, that's the spot, yeahhhhhh.
13% Until you can figure out how to reproduce without men, there's not a lot we can do for you.
7% Are you going to wear that?
7% Um, you do know what's in that Twinkie, right?
7% We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun and have it out on Highway 61.
0% Please stop ruining our picnic.

There were two write in votes:

"Will you run that by me one more time?" and "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon!"

Thank you all for voting. And now, a new poll:

Armageddon or the mall?
The History Channel recently featured a program called "Countdown to Armageddon," which included expert analysis of various ways the world might end. Asteroids might collide with Earth, "super volcanoes" could block out the sun with ash, global warming could destroy all life on our planet, or killer viruses could wipe out humanity. If you could have your choice of these disasters, would you rather die that horrible death or spend the rest of this week at the mall?

Today's new word

Zoloft remix
Nice little editing job by my friend Scott. I especially admire Scott's restraint in not giving the little egg thing any hands.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

From this week's City Strobe:

Tricky Mitch gets a billboard
When an obviously sarcastic I-65 billboard appeared last week co-starring Mitch McConnell and a lightbulb, curious commuters wondered what it was all about. Was the lightbulb meant to symbolize Mitch's utter lack of ideas except those that parrot Bush Administration policies? Or was the incandescent bulb meant to illustrate his scorn for the environment in the era of compact fluorescents? Or maybe it was a transparency-in-government group trying to shame the senator out of his career-long efforts to keep campaign financing shady. Ding! It's that one.

The billboard – and its accompanying are part of a campaign by ethics watchdog Sunlight Foundation to stop McConnell and another secret senator from derailing the Senate Campaign Disparity Act. That act would bring senators into the 1990s by requiring them to file campaign finance reports electronically, instead of the carrier-pigeon method they use now. Filing electronically would not only increase transparency, it would save money.

Senators who support the bill say McConnell isn't trying to stop the measure, but is using a parliamentary trick to avoid unanimous consent, thereby opening an avenue to attach "poison pill" changes to other aspects of campaign finance law. The cleverly capitalist campaign winks at McConnell's longtime money-equals-free-speech stance by bribing citizens to capture him on video explaining himself. Be the first to submit such a video and you could win $500. Seems like an easy way for the money-grubbing McConnell to pick up a quick $500. We'll be glad to loan him a tripod.
From this week's City Strobe:

Eye in the sky
Thinking of adding a new bowling alley onto the manse? Be prepared to close the skylight when you're bowling naked. And be prepared to pay taxes on the addition. That's because Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Tony Lindauer just bought a new $200,000 "pictometry" software system that will use 3D aerial photography to make sure your house's square footage is accurate for tax purposes. The additional property taxes could rake in $300 million for the county, once Lindauer gets a load of all the new room additions, garages, pools, cabanas, marijuana solaria, billiard rooms and meth lab add-ons.

The software examines aerial photos from a 40-degree angle on all sides, so don't try to hide your new den behind one of those Wile E. Coyote painted landscapes, either. The system currently uses photos from March, when Big Brother snapped every building in the county using digital cameras and a Cessna airplane. If you think the spycams are a creepy invasion of your privacy, fuggadaboudit. Google, Microsoft and other companies have been documenting the planet from space for years. Last week, Google raised some eyebrows with its new "Street View" tool, which shows photos of nose pickers and hookers in several major cities. (Check it out at Proponents are quick to point out many humanitarian benefits of pictometry, including firefighting, police, and disaster-recovery applications. Say cheese!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hey, there's a new issue of Garbanzo! on the e-stands, and it's chock full of tasty chick-peaness. In fact, it puts the peaness in chick-peaness. If you've ever farted into a tape recorder or wished your unsolicited email rhymed (and who among us hasn't?), get on over to the tang magnet a recent press release called "funny and short!"

If you're new to 'zo!, it's a funny little online magazine of humorous poetry, short fiction, and short essays, edited by Fishsticks McQueen and F. Scott Free. The current issue includes poets Catherine Tufariello, Cathy Carlisi, Robin Chapman, and J. D. Nordell; microfiction by Chuck Sweetman; and amoving fart essay by Kelly Robards. There's also Ask the Bean!, "where tough love is doled out by a tender little legume."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Effing the CC
"Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple."

--Celebrated idiot Nichole Richie, quoted in testimony considered by the 2nd US Court of Appeals before ruling that FCC rules on profanity were "arbitrary and capricious."

The F-word, according to the FCC, has "a sexual connotation in any context." Likewise, all thoughts of sex can be quickly dashed with the words "Nichole Richie."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fast food: Ads vs. Reality
This is an example of the Internet at its finest. Some goober cares enough to photograph fast food and post the scandalous results. I'm a little amazed the photos on the right don't look more disgusting.
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
OK, here's the thing. This book's got it all: comedy, tragedy, office politics, creepy corporate culture, advertising weenies, smart social commentary, and the ever-looming bad guy: getting laid off. It's got some great hooks, too, especially the way author Ferris cleverly uses the editorial "we" throughout the book to make the first-person narrator the collective office worker. It's funny and it works. Having suffered all of these tricky aspects of American life, having worked in an office most of my career, having been manhandled by the dot-com bust, and having been laid off twice – after suffering months'-long paranoia that the moment could come at any time - I should adore this book. But I kinda, sorta, just … liked it.

Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe I think Ferris didn't really quite capture the depravity of the workplace the way Richard Yates did in Revolutionary Road. Or capture the humor of the office the way the Ricky Gervais did in The Office. Or maybe I'm too close to the subject matter and can think of situations that are actually funnier than the situations Ferris describes.

There are definitely some classic bits. I love the way Karen Woo constantly puts the smackdown on Jim Jackers' ever-present idiocy:

"After he was arrested, Joe continued, 'Carl came to my office and showed me an e-mail Tom had sent him. It said that Tom was stopping by the office that day because he wanted to talk to me. I went to see him because I was curious. What did he want to talk about?'
'And what was it?' asked Benny.
'Ralph Waldo Emerson,' said Joe.
'Ralph Waldo Emerson?'
'Is he the guy with the pond?' asked Jim
'You're thinking of Henry David Thoreau,' said Hank
'Jim is thinking of the Budweiser frogs,' said Karen.'"

And there are some good lines about the predator/prey relationship between advertisers and consumers, bosses and workers, corporations and human beings:

"The trick was to play loose with words… When we said, 'Don't miss out on these great savings!' we really meant we gotta unload these fuckers fast. 'No-Fee Rewards' meant prepare to pay out the ass. Words and meaning were almost always at odds with us. We knew it, you knew it, they knew it, we all knew it. The only words that ever meant a goddamn were, 'We're really very sorry about this, but we're going to have to let you go.'

Maybe the baggage this novel carries is that it's a lot like actually being at work. I don't know about you, but I get enough of that shit at the office.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Today's new word

Reader poll: How did it all begin?
In a recent poll I asked readers to identify the origin of the universe. Here's how the voting came out:

Evolution: 48%

A great feathered bird pooped everything into existence after munching some magic mushrooms: 33%

Turtle Mother carried everything out of nothingness on her back: 14%

God: 0%

One voter wrote in, "I'll let you know once we get started."

Thank you all for voting.

New reader poll: Synapse-rich conversation
In his 1985 book, "The Varieties of Scientific Experience," the great Carl Sagan wrote, "...The general view of neurobiologists is that consciousness is a function of the number and complexity of neuronal linkages of the architecture of the brain. Human consciousness is what happens when you get to something like 10 to the 11th power neurons and 10 to the 14th power synapses. This raises all sorts of other questions. What is consciousness like when you have 10 to the 20th power synapses or 10 to the 30th power? What would such a being have to say to us any more than we would have to say to the ants?"