Tuesday, December 29, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Farewell '09, and good riddance

I'm sure we can all agree that with very few exceptions 2009 sucked poopypants.

Here's to a new start in 2010. Stay safe and stay clean.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

I wish you a hopeful Christmas

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
Then I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’d be snow at Christmas
They said there’d be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Protection racket

I have to hand it to the Obama administration. They have really renewed the faith I have in our federal government.

Not that my faith was faltering in any way. Thanks to the Clinton and Bush administrations, I've had a very strong faith that our federal government can take on any bad situation and, through incompetent meddling and corrupt special interest influence, make it even worse.

My Obama loving friends told me more than a year ago that this administration was different. This time they would get it right, they're changing the political paradigm. But I never lost my faith. And now this administration ends the year with the worst first-year approval rating of any president ever.

That's due in part to the recent hot mess that is the so-called health care reform bill. It's pretty much universally reviled -- even by the most ardent Obama supporters -- as a special interest sellout. But some, even as they bemoan the terrible legislation, still want to give credit to the administration for doing some kind of reform.

But here's where I point out that putting the word "reform" in the title of the bill doesn't make it a reform bill, just as putting the word "Patriot" on a bill doesn't make it patriotic.

In fact, it's clear even to the most casual observer that rather than reform a broken system, this bill actually makes it more corrupt. And I'm not talking about the millions of kickbacks and earmarks some Senators are bringing home. Not a bad gig when you can get hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money for voting for terrible legislation. This is not an exaggeration.

Of course, the real sweetheart deal goes to the very insurance industry that is one of the main root causes of runaway health care prices in the first place. The "reform" bill requires EVERY PERSON to buy health care insurance -- the so called individual mandate.

So, almost overnight, the government is creating millions of new customers for an industry that is already raking in record profits. Is it a surprise that insurance corporation's stock prices spiked the day after the Senate attained bought a key vote on cloture?

Personally, I wonder how the individual insurance mandate is even legal. I mean, how can it even be constitutional for the government to order me to by something that I can't afford or don't want? What, are they going to fine me money that I don't have then throw me in jail if I don't pay it? Seize my house, car, digital TV converter box?

Is this the America we live in now?

Oh yeah, I forgot. I guess it is.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beating up Bill

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the anniversary of the Bill of Rights was a couple of days ago and nobody noticed.

In a more rational time in our history, our country's founding fathers were more concerned about the corrupting influence of governmental power than they were with making sure there were no performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Because of this rational concern one of the first and most important things our federal legislature did was pass a set of constitutional amendments aimed strictly at limiting government power.

It was a great idea. Unfortunately, they forgot to include an 11th amendment that went something like "No, really. We really mean it. You can't do the stuff that these first 10 amendments say you can't do. Really. Seriously, just stop it."

With a complicit congress, our last few presidents have done a pretty good job of telling Bill of Rights to sod off. Let's review, shall we?
  1. Free speech – Today you can be thrown in jail for videotaping your sister's birthday, or fined into poverty for endorsing a product on your blog. Hurray for free speech!

  2. Bear arms – In a lot of places, you can still legally own a gun (at least for another year or two). Of course, "bearing" it will usually get you tossed in jail. Or worse.

  3. No quartering – This is probably the only right that Americans still have intact. 1 for 3! Huzzah!

  4. No unreasonable search – Oh sure, but what's a little domestic spying among comrades?

  5. Due process – I guess you could say that the city of New London, Conn., went through due process before condemning, confiscating, and destroying Suzette Kelo's home at the request of a large pharmaceutical corporation. Of course, you would totally be wrong despite what the Supreme Court says.

    And don’t even get me started on the whole red light camera scam.

  6. Speedy trial – I wonder what the kind gentlemen at Guantanamo Bay would say about this.

  7. Civil trial by jury – With the low level of education in this country, I'm not so sure this is a right you would want to exercise. Besides, with the country simultaneously becoming both a police state and a nanny state, this one probably won't last long.

  8. No cruel punishment – Well, unless you happen to be a "enemy combatant."

  9. Rights not enumerated – Just to review, the founders were saying that, just because we're layin' it down that we have these rights in these 10 amendments, don't assume that we don't also have other rights that we haven't mentioned. Like, maybe, the right to keep the money we earn at our jobs.

  10. Powers of States and people – Again to review, the founders are saying that if the Constitution doesn't say the Federal government can do something, then the Federal government can't do it. For example, neither the constitution nor any of the amendments thereof mention anything about spending $650 million to make sure everyone has a digital television converter box.
So, can we just stop referring to America as a democracy? Or even a democratic republic? I don't know what we are, but it's pretty clear the constitution has about as much authority anymore as an Bannister Mallcop.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Christmas Halo

Nothing captures the true meaning of the season like a visit from Santa Claus. But maybe he shouldn't always drop in unannounced.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Random Photo XXII: No need to be koi

The weather outside was frightful, but inside the greenhouse at Family Tree Nursery the weather was downright pleasant.

We took a break from some light holiday shopping to sit among the citrus trees and feed the koi. Before we finished, I realized that the scale of this gillty pleasure was rather small.tagged: , , , , ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Blogthing: Tiger Hunting

In case you haven't yet had your fill of schadenfreude at Tiger Woods' expense, Kansas Sity Sinic has pointed us toward the Tiger Hunting flash game.

Obviously I'm not going to be very good, not being a European super model and all. But still, give it a try and see if you can beat (heh) my high score of 51 (which, coincidentally, is the number of strokes it takes me to finish the first 6 at Dub's Dread). One good sign is that these kinds of memes are usually a trailing indicator of pop culture. In other words, unless Woods does something to make things even worse than they are now, we should be moving on to a new target du jour any time now.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bullitt list -- 12.10.09

Today's category: Really?!?!!

  • Alright, I've got a lot to say to say and not much time to say it. I'm starting on the other side of the pond, but believe me there's more later about our own effed up country. But before we get to that...

    Really, East Africa? Really!???

    The AP reports that more than 10,000 East African albinos are in hiding after more than 50 African albinos have been killed since 2007.
    The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to $75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.
    In the latest reported killing last October, "albino hunters" beheaded a 10-year-old boy and cut off his leg as well.

    Can someone explain to these people what century it is? I thought we got past this witch doctor crap and moved on to the violent racism crap.

  • Next, on to the UK...

    Really, Leeds University? REALLY?

    You're seriously advertising a job that pays a guy to go to strip clubs and conduct "research"? According to the ad "prior experience of conducting research in the female sex industry" is essential.

    So again, really? No, seriously, really? 'Cause I might be interested in a new gig. Do you pay for relocation?

  • Oh, and while we're in Europe, really Italy? REALLY? Why give up centuries of tradition for a mere boost in worker productivity.

    The Italian Program Minister (really?) is urging Italian workers to give up the traditional 2-hour mid-day lunch break to increase the country's productivity.

    Now look. I like Italy. It's one of my favorite countries. I find the culture fascinating, and lazy workers and corrupt public officials are part of the culture.

    Besides, I think Italian productivity may be a bit overrated. Do we really need more $500,000 cars and $50,000 dresses? I mean, really...

  • Okay, bringing it back home now. You guys remember when liberty used to mean something in America? Yeah, me neither. But it seems like there was a time when it was more than just a punchline in an election year stump speech.

    Well, those days (if they ever really existed) are long gone as evidenced by two recent events.

    Last week a Chicago woman was tossed in jail when a couple of short segments of the movie New Moon were captured on her video camera as she taped her sister's surprise party.
    Managers contacted police, who examined the small digital camera, which also records video segments, Cmdr. Frank Siciliano said. Officers found that Tumpach had taped “two very short segments” of the movie — no more than four minutes total, he said.
    Hey, I'm not advocating pirating movies. But really?? We're going to throw people IN JAIL?! without a trial? For taping a birthday party?! REALLY?!?! Why not just go ahead and tattoo a serial number onto her forearm while you're at it?

    And science help you if you decide your waitress doesn't deserve a tip. Theft charges against John Wagner and Leslie Pope have since been dropped after they were arrested for refusing to pay a $16 gratuity for craptastic service in a Pennsylvania bar.

    But the fact that you can get arrested and carted away to the police station for not paying A FRIGGIN' TIP? Really?!! Do the police/restaurant owners know what a gratuity is?

  • Finally, if you need any more evidence that our country has reached its cultural nadir, reference yesterday's ridiculous Barbara Walters Special. I mean, really. This show gives new meaning to the word "special."

    According to Walters, the most fascinating people of the year include Kate Gosselin, Adam Lambert, Laddie GaGa (I can't believe I just typed that), Glenn Beck and Sara Palin.


    What does it say about a person when they can be fascinated by such vapid pop culture personalities. I wouldn't even know who these people were if it weren't for their ability and eagerness to self-destruct in public.

    Fascinating?! Really!??? This is the best our culture can do? There's no scientific, medical, literary or artistic accomplishment we can point to? You're telling me we're stuck with "pa-pa-pa-poker face, pa-pa-poker face," as our crowning cultural achievement this year?

    Come to think of it, that sounds about right.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

World Class Dirty Old Man

When the first real blast of iron cold arctic air hits every winter, I have this little mental trick that I like to do as I make the frozen trek from the parking garage to my cubicle. I go back in my mind to the last perfect weather day of the year.

That happened to be a few days after Thanksgiving this year.

We were home from our annual Thanksgiving tour of Kansas so we decided a casual family dinner out would be a good way to decompress. We hit up one of our favorite neighborhood eateries, had a nice supper then walk (in my case hobbled) around the local strip mall. We ended up stopping at Foo's for a desert nightcap.

We took our custards to Foo's backroom to enjoy them in the couch lounge area. We were the only people in the room with the exception of a mid-40ish aged guy in the corner setting up a microphone and amps, one-man-band-style.

Presently, he got out his guitar and harmonica. He announced his name, which I missed at first, then proceeded to give us a free private concert.

Harry Hewlett played a set of original songs, his sound very Country Americana, a kind of Hank Williams Senior vibe. Not my cup of musical tea, but it was pretty entertaining for an intimate show over butter-pecan frozen custard.

Hewlett himself has a great sense of humor that comes through in the lyrics to his original songs. A quick Google search pointed me to his début album "World Class Dirty Old Man" at CDBaby.

His sense of humor also came through when he didn't get pissed or irritated at me for turning on my cell-phone light and holding it in the air while I yelled "Play some Free Bird!"

We left before his set was over, but by then another family had made their way into the room. We sent our 7-year-old up with a 5'er to drop in his guitar case. He gave us a shoutout as we left.

According to what (little) info I've been able to find about Hewlett, he plays coffee houses, restaurants and other small rooms around town pretty regularly. If you seem him some night, tell 'im Emawkc says hey. And request some Free Bird.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Beam me up, Frosty

The internet has been great for adding to the canonical base of classic holiday children's programing. We all remember the classic Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph and Santa Clause is Coming to Town stop motion animation specials.

And now thanks to online video distribution, new classics are emerging, not the least of which is today's YouTube Tuesday entry. We follow the exploits of a lovable Snowman as he endeavors to bridge the gap of interstellar communication, bringing the true meaning of Christmas and saving the world.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

A Salute to KU and Lew Perkins

3AM presents Real Men of Genius
Real Men of Genius

Today we solute you...
Mr. Abe Vigoda look-alike athletic director.
You totally look like Salvatore Tessio

Like an old Sicillian don, you've shown you're adept at getting what you want no matter how many lives it destroys.
Is that a decapitated horse head in Mangino's bed?

To you, KU Athletics isn't just a family, it’s a family business. Whether it's kickbacks to bowl officials, extortion of local businesses, or just your garden variety academic fraud, you know that the bottom line is the bottom line.
Gotta keep the money rollin' in!

And while you don't mind having abusive people on you staff, when your biggest earner fails to bring in fat wads of cash, you know it's time to make him an offer he can't refuse.
Tonight he sleeps with the fishes...

So leave the gun and take the cannoli, oh floppy eared arbiter of lesser men's fates. Because firing the best coach your team has ever had is a sure way to keep the rest of your organization in line.
Mr. Abe Vigoda look-alike athletic director!

RELATED POST: A salute to KU and Mark Mangino

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Random Photo XXI: Lonely Flint Hill

I like the way the sun brings out subtle hues of the Flint Hills this time of year.

I know it's not for everyone. I get that a lot of people consider it barren looking. But to me, it kind of feels like the real-life version of a Mark Rothko painting.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Movie Mini Review: The Blind Side

Title: The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

Plot Summary: An affluent white Southern family adopts an athletically gifted homeless black teen. They provide a bed, home, food and educational assistance that eventually allows the teen to pursue a football career.

My Thoughts: The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis' book (same name) about physically gifted but socially disadvantaged teen Michael Oher.

The story is fairly well known by now, and the movie is directed as the quintessential holiday feel-good hit. It wastes no time charging the emotions with a sad soundtrack to match the tragic life circumstance of the principal character, Oher.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the film, and it could be that I'm just over thinking it.

It does deliver on the tugging-at-the-heartstrings mission of the typical holiday hit. Pretty much all of the ladies in the theater were tearing up within 20 minutes of the start of the movie. By the time Michael Oher admitted that "I've never had a bed before" there wasn't a dry female eye in the house.

But there was something about how the film was executed that just made me felt a little uneasy. It's a good story, don't get me wrong. But I don't know if it was the directing or the editing or what, but it just came across to me a bit exploitative.

One problem is that the story is rife with stereotypes. From the affluent southern bigot to the redneck southern bigot to the black gangster thug to the poor ghetto junkie mother, there was no real character development even in the primary characters.

The other problem I had was what I perceived to be a not-so-subtle mixture of white guilt and White Man's Burden. The implication was that these white folk could save the black folk. It was a simplistic portrayal of race relations, where there was an opportunity to take a serious and sincere look at social issues that still exists.

Finally, Sandra Bullock's portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy really was tragic. I guess it could have been the director's fault, but Bullock managed to take what should have been one of the most sympathetic characters -- the woman who took a black kid from the projects into her home, fed him, clothed him and championed his education -- and make her an unlikable shrew.

Bullock's interpretation of Tuohy was that of an uptight, bossy, entitled harpy. Really, I remarked to my Supermodel Wife at about the 30-minute mark that "That woman hasn't smiled once yet." A few minutes later, she managed to squeeze out the ghost of a grin, but made it look painful, like it was about to break her face.

It was really almost enough to make me racist in reverse.

The rest of the cast did an okay job. Tim McGraw played an Everybody Loves Raymond househusband and Jae Head channeled Macaulay Culkin circa 1990 as the youngest sibling. Kathy Bates... was in the movie.

The best acting job probably goes to Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, though the sparse dialogue and understatedness of the character made it easy for him.

I hate to get too down on the movie. Like I said, a lot of people really liked it and it is a good story -- maybe even inspiring if you don't think too much about it. I would recommend the book over the movie, though.

Final Rating: Two out of five stars.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: You always take things too far...

There are so many lessons to learn in this video, but I think the most important one is that spiders are evil -- like, Twilight Zone evil.

The setup on this one takes a while, but the ending is totally worth it.

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