Archive for February, 2008

Superdelegates explained

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I discovered “Red State Update” today, a series of tongue-in-cheek parodies of redneck politics. (Sadly, even though it’s a joke, some folks actually think like this.) But we won’t worry about that now; Jackie and Dunlap finally clear up the confusion behind those mysterious “Superdelegates”, and delve into the heretofore unspoken relationship between politics and comic books. Damn, this stuff cracks me up.


Thanks and a special tip o’ the Toast hat to Gwen at The Super Happy FunTime Blog!

Never fear, Cap’n Toast is here

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

As the Texas primary looms closer on March 4th, I’ve been getting increasingly urgent messages from my good buddy Barack Obama. He’s been very pleased to tell me how well things are going, and how he’s been kicking Hilary’s ass. (Actually, I believe the exact phrase he used was “we’re on a roll” but I knew what he really meant.) More excitingly, Obama’s campaign recently wrote to offer me the chance to become a Precinct Captain here in my little corner of East Texas. According to the email:

Signing up as an Obama Precinct Captain means making a personal commitment to the campaign. But along with that commitment comes the opportunity to be a big part of our strategy in Texas. Here’s what Obama Precinct Captains need to do:

* Identify Obama supporters in your community and recruit more — campaign staff will provide you with a packet of resources to help

* Support Barack in your precinct on March 4th, 2008 and help mobilize neighborhood supporters to join you

You don’t need any previous experience to sign up. You just need to support Barack and be ready to turn your energy and enthusiasm into action. It requires some responsibility, but don’t worry — we’ll be here with all the materials, training, and support you’ll need every step of the way.

I have to admit this seriously appeals to me, as back in my college days I used to be somewhat of a political activist. In 1968 I helped organize local protests against the Vietnam War, mobilized buses to take people to rallies in Washington, and even cut off my long hair to go “Clean for Gene” McCarthy. Yes, I was all the picture of fresh-faced, bright-eyed, clean-cut college student respectability as I canvassed door-to-door trying to get people to vote for him and answer any questions they had about his positions on the issues (at least as best as I understood them at the time). It was a real feeling of empowerment to recruit and mobilize and all that good stuff, and I felt like I was having an ever-so-small yet perceptible impact. McCarthy eventually failed to win the nod (Hubert Humphrey was nominated following the death of Robert Kennedy), but at least I was out there working for something I believed in. After all the talk of “change” this year, you may note that it was being used as a campaign theme 40 years ago.

The main problem for me now, however, is the physical exertion required for all that recruiting and mobilizing; it’s not so easy tromping door-to-door when you’re sucking on an oxygen canula. However, I can speak on the telephone without difficulty, so I’ve decided to contact the Obama team and offer to help in that regard. I suspect they’ll be more than happy to have me make phone calls on their behalf for an hour or two each day.

You may find it surprising (at least, it certainly is to me) that after months of indecision I have come down firmly on the side of the Obama camp. I’m sure she’s a fine person, but there’s always been something about Hilary that has made me hesitate from the very beginning — I can’t tell you with any certainty exactly what that “something” is. Perhaps it’s her “professional politician” aura that comes from years of association with a political dynasty (i.e., Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, etc.), which makes me wonder if she’ll say almost anything to get elected, or if she’s in the race more for personal glory than for wanting to improve the state of the nation. Or maybe she just plain scares me. I get the distinct feeling that if I were to ever cross her, I would be extremely likely to have my balls cut off. That sort of strength might be a good thing when it comes to dealing with the dangers of the world a president has to face, but after suffering through eight years of one mini-dictator I’m not sure I’m ready for another one, even if she might be way more competent and benign than Shrubya.

Nope; I think the simple answer is that I’ve caught Obama Fever. I don’t really know what kind of president he’ll make, or if he’ll get cooperation from Congress once the post-election honeymoon period is over, but I have a growing sense of optimism that things will be better, and sometimes you just gotta go with your gut.

As you surely know by now, Texas and Ohio have a major importance to the Democrats this time around which hasn’t been seen in very many years; most primary balloting has established a clear front-runner by the time they get to us. If Obama continues his momentum and extends his winning streak here, you might as well stick a fork in Hilary’s campaign: she’ll be done. She can go back to serving her constituents in New York, write a book, and maybe take another shot at it in 2012. There’s no doubt the Lone Star is a must-win for her, and if she is able to pull it out of the fire — particularly in the unlikely event that she decisively pummels Obama by double digits — it will give her new life and it’s on to Mississippi a week later, then Pennsylvania in April. But personally, I believe that Obama is unstoppable at this point.

But can he win the general election in November? A McCain-Obama matchup is going to be interesting, to say the least, and McCain is already taking direct aim at him as his presumptive opponent, stressing how his own combat and P-O-W experience makes him uniquely qualified for the role of commander-in-chief. “Where is the audacity of hope when it comes to backing the success of our troops all the way to victory in Iraq?” McCain said in a statement today after yesterday’s Democratic debate in Cleveland, during which Obama pledged to end the war by 2009. “What we heard last night was the timidity of despair.”

That kind of tough talk may appeal to those on the right, but Obama fired right back: “John McCain may like to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars.” Right on, as we used to say.

So we’re getting ready for a good old-fashioned Texas slugfest down here next week. Early voting began Feb. 19th; I’ve already cast my ballot for Barack, and I’ll be on the phone harassing, er, canvassing, potential voters between now and March 4th. Cap’n Toast reporting for duty — let’s rock.

Cheese Closure of the Pygmy Love Queen, and Other Favorites

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Since a number* of readers of this blog are known to spend lots of time in Libraryland, I figured y’all might be interested in the following news item which I ran across today:

The Bookseller magazine has announced the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Here are the titles:

  • I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
  • How to Write a How to Write Book

  • Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

  • Cheese Problems Solved
  • If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
  • People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Vote for your “favorite” in this poll; you may also wish to alert your acquisitions staff, as no doubt you’ll be getting lots of requests for these titles at your own local library.

I’m certain that it was difficult for the editors to come up with only these six finalists, as there are so many to choose from every year. Who could resist curling up at night with last year’s odd-title winner, the thrilling “Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification”. Then there’s the classics, like “Fish Who Answer the Telephone” (1937), “Explosive Spiders and How to Make Them” (1881), “Manhole Covers of Los Angeles” (1974), or 1981′s “New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People” by Robert S. Desowitz, of which one reader says, “Parasites are not only interesting study objects, but you can write very funny stories about them as well.”

Turning to the ever-popular self-improvement category, we have such page-turners as “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” (1995), “My Invisible Friend Explains the Bible” (1971), “Teach Yourself Alcoholism” (1973), and the intriguing “Sex After Death” (1983).

My personal favorite, however, has to be a lightweight treatise from 1954 entitled “The Coming Disaster Worse Than the H-bomb, Astronomically, Geologically and Scientifically Proven, The Coal Beds, Ice Ages, Tides, and Coming Soon, a Great Wave and Flood Caused by a Shift of the Axis of the Earth From the Gyroscopic Action of Our Solar System”. I can’t wait for this one to come out on DVD.

__________
* I believe that number is “two”

Rumblings in the vast wasteland

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Remember that big dusty box in the living room you used to sit and stare at for hours back in the good old days of 2007? I think it’s called a “television set”, and it’s slowly coming back to life after months of reruns and reality shows. First to return with new material since the Hollywood writers strike was settled last week will be The CW’s sitcom Aliens in America, which kicks off with eight original episodes beginning March 2. By April, most programs that are coming back this season will be on the air. Since sitcoms are produced with a shorter lead time, they’ll initially make up the bulk of returning shows; dramas will begin showing up in late March.

Here’s a list of announced returns, courtesy of The Miami Herald:

March 2: Aliens in America (The CW).

March 3: Everybody Hates Chris (The CW).

March 17: How I Met Your Mother (CBS); The Big Bang Theory (CBS); Two and a Half Men (CBS).

March 23: The Game (The CW)

March 24: CSI: Miami (CBS)

March 30: Cold Case (CBS)

April 2: Criminal Minds (CBS); CSI: New York (CBS)

April 3: My Name Is Earl (NBC); CSI (CBS); Without a Trace (CBS)

April 4: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Numb3rs (CBS)

April 8: NCIS (CBS)

April 10: The Office (NBC); 30 Rock (NBC); Scrubs (NBC)

April 11: Moonlight (CBS)

April 14: One Tree Hill (The CW); Rules of Engagement (CBS)

April 15: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)

April 21: Gossip Girl (The CW)

April 22: Reaper (The CW); Law & Order (NBC)

April 24: Supernatural (The CW)

Fox and ABC still haven’t issued comprehensive lists of post-strike programming, although ABC will present new episodes of Desperate Housewives and Lost this spring. Some shows won’t be back; for example, the CW has canceled entertainment-news program CW Now and sitcom Girlfriends. And the network hasn’t ordered new episodes of family-on-safari drama Life Is Wild, an ominous sign. On the other hand, NBC has announced that its first-year dramas Chuck and Life won’t be back this spring but have been renewed for the fall. Same goes for Fox’s 24.

Other shows renewed for next season: ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, Lost, Dirty Sexy Money, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Private Practice, Samantha Who? and Pushing Daisies; CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, Two and a Half Men, Numb3rs, Without a Trace, and all 200 versions of CSI.

As for me, I can’t say the writer’s strike affected my viewing habits at all — which mainly consist of The Daily Show, (endless!) reruns of Law and Order, and DVD movie rentals. Still, I’m glad the strike is over and scribes can go back to work earning their measly $50,000 per episode. It ain’t easy, you know. To quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. There’s also a negative side.”

Love, and other forms of temporary insanity

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Today is the day many people have been waiting for all year: the day to tell their dearly beloved sweethearts how much they mean to them and how important they are, and buy them presents, candy and/or flowers. They might also get a cheap card for their husband or wife from Walgreens while they’re at it.

Yes, today is the favorite holiday of cynics (who nearly always refer to Valentine’s Day as “V.D.”), those who believe in their hearts that the significance of the day is way overblown, hyped beyond all common-sense reality by a greedy floral and greeting-card industry who are trying to turn every calendar event (St. Patrick’s day? Arbor Day, anyone? Bueller? Anyone?) into in excuse to purchase cards and gifts. These skeptics are quick to point out that Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that features a weapon-wielding angel as a mascot, and will make comments such as:

“Valentines day is just another stupid holiday created by the manufacturing companies in compliance with jewelry, candy, and cards. They make you feel obliged to get something for the ones you love. PUH LEZZE! It’s just another corrupt system using guilt on the people.”

or

“I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. I would even go so far as to say that we should dig up Saint Valentine and martyr him all over again just for the fun of it.”

Of course, it could be argued that these are simply the bitter words of sad, lonely, twisted souls who have failed in their relationships due to their own selfishness, and want to ruin the holiday for everyone else. Or, they might possibly have been subjected to this example of romance run amok, which cannot be watched for more than thirty seconds without one wanting to claw out their own eyeballs.

Another possibility could be that they have seen any of numerous recent items in the news which would tend to discourage even the most optimistic of romantics. For example, consider this story from Germany involving a woman who is suing a web site at which she auctioned herself off to the highest bidder for sex. Six men were “winners” of the contest, and one got her pregnant. Unfortunately, she didn’t bother to get any of their names, so she’s suing the site’s operator for their identities so she can force the men to take paternity tests.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, South Korea, mobile phone provider KTF is offering their customers a service called the “Love Detector” which analyzes the voice patterns of the person you’re speaking to, and displays a “love meter” bar on the screen of your handset during the call. “We created this service because we thought people would want to know what others were feeling about them,” said Ahn Hee-jung, a KTF official. After the call is finished, the user receives an analysis of the conversation that breaks down the amount of affection, surprise, concentration and honesty of the other speaker.

In Charleston SC, WKLC-FM, also known as “Rock 105″, is observing the holiday with a special Valentine’s Day contest (as radio stations often do). The prize? A free divorce. The winner’s name will be drawn at random from all entries, and Charleston lawyer Rusty Webb will handle the actual filing. “Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do,” said station Program Director Jay Nunley. “That’s going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life.”

Finally, if you happen to be one of those jaded, cynical, Anti-Valentine type of folks, I’ve got just the perfect job for you: UK Honey Traps, a private detective service based in Worcestershire in the heart of England, is looking for new recruits. Your work will take you to nightclubs and bars, where you’ll be looking to strike up conversations, flirt, give out your phone number, and try to make future dates. The hitch is, you’ll be targeting the husbands or wives of clients who pay you to test the loyalty of their partners, and will document the entire shameful affair for the client with hidden cameras and audio recorders. According to the web site, the agency is looking for “confident, bubbly, outgoing men and women with an ability to think on their feet.” Becoming a honey trapper demands reliability, honesty and accuracy, it says, and because most of the trapping takes place outside office hours, it can offer “an ideal second career.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dear New England Patriots:

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I wasn’t going to write this letter to you, I swear. I’m not usually the sort of person to put their heart on their sleeve like this, but ….

How could you?

How could you have let me down this way, after we’ve been together for so long? I mean, not only have we been with each other for years, we practically grew up together! I was there for you when you needed me; remember those nights we spent in Fenway Park, way back in the good old days, before you moved to Foxborough? They were so very special for me, but I know now they must not have been for you. Even when things got tough, I made excuses for you to all my friends. “You know how guys are,” I told them after that recent nasty videotaping incident. “They must have just been shooting the Jet’s cheerleaders or something, and got the coach’s signals by accident.” How could I have been such a fool to let you use me like that? My God, I was so blind.

But today was the worst ever; you knew it was supposed to be our big day together. I had such great expectations, and was in such a good mood earlier this afternoon. Everything was ready at home, the food, the drinks, and my friends and I were all prepared to celebrate with you … but then … it was almost like you hardly bothered to show up. When you did, you seemed like, all defensive and stuff, and just didn’t show me that magic “spark” that I’d seen so often before. Oh sure, you finally made an effort, but by then it was just way too little, too late.

I have to tell you how disappointed I am. You’ve hurt me so badly, and I’ve decided I just can’t go on like this any more. So I’m sorry, but it’s over between us. I may not have anyone else in my life right now, but I’ve got lots of time, and maybe by next season I’ll find someone who knows how to treat me right and won’t crush my dreams into the ground like a used cigarette butt, the way you did today.

I wish you luck, seriously. Even though we’re through, I’ll always remember the good times we had. In the meantime, I think you should know:

I’m fucking Matt Damon.