8.30.2006

Idiots Among Us

Why do I torture myself by checking up on Michelle Malkin all the time? It does nothing but lower my IQ while elevating my blood pressure.

Right now she's linking to some genius who wonders:
As an aside, doesn't the 'no assigned seating' thing strike you as a security risk as well? If some guy with a GPS device is sitting in the exit row next to the door and decides to open it over the greater Chicagoland area, wouldn't having a passenger list and seat map slightly aid in the investigation?
For fuck's sake, you cannot open the exit door during flight:
During flight none of these doors can be opened, for the simple reason that cabin pressure won't allow it. Think of an aircraft door as a drain plug, fixed in place by the interior pressure. With very few exceptions, aircraft doors open inward. Some retract upward into the ceiling; others swing outward or downward against the fuselage; but they all open inward first, and not even the most musclebound human will overcome the hundreds of pounds of pressure holding them shut. At a typical cruising altitude, as many as 8 pounds of pressure are pushing against every square inch of interior fuselage. That's 1,152 pounds of weight against each square foot of door. Flying at low altitudes, where cabin-pressure levels are lower, even a differential of 2 pounds per square inch is still more than anyone can displace -- even after six cups of coffee and the frustration that comes with sitting behind a shrieking infant for five hours.

For good measure, cabin doors are held secure by a series of electrical or mechanical latches, or both. So, while I wouldn't recommend it unless you enjoy being pummeled and placed in a chokehold by panicked passengers who don't know better, a person could conceivably sit there all day tugging on a door handle to his or her heart's content. The door is not going to open -- though you might get a red light flashing in the cockpit, causing the captain to spill his Diet Coke.

These bedwetters think Al-Qaeda's master plan involves Herculean feats of strength in planes, running people over in cars, and, I guess, throwing cell phones at people.

They think they are able to outsmart our enemies, and that's why we're fucked.

What, you can't be crazy no more?

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As soon as I saw that the guy who went pulled a Death Race 2006 in San Francisco yesterday was named Omeed A. Popal, I figured there was a 100,000,000% chance that Michelle Malkin would take the story and run, accuse they guy of being a terrorist and whine about how the "MSM" isn't covering it as a terrorist act. And wouldn't ya know, as sure as the sun rises in the East, she did.

The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and Malkin shouting terrorist at anyone with a funny name involved in any sort of crime.

After Columbine, when everyone was tring to find a reason to explain what happened and why it happened, Chris Rock cut through all the shit and bluntly asked, "What happened to crazy? What, you can't be crazy no more?"

According to Malkin, no, you can't. In her way of thinking, I guess Andrea Yates, who drowned her five kids because they weren't "righteous", is a Christian terrorist.

Or maybe not. I have a funny feeling Malkin's "Not Crazy, Terrorist" only applies to those suspected of being Muslim.

8.29.2006

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

So, my Reagan-loving, gay-bashing, Jesus freak of a co-worker informed me of his love of Dave Matthews Band. This was surprising, as this co-worker shows nothing but disdain for anything and anyone that's to the left of, oh say Hitler, and I know that Dave Matthews views definitely skew to the left. But, hey, music is music, maybe he sees past party ID when it comes to music. So I recommended that he pick up an album I’ve been enjoying lately, Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome.

Bad idea.

My suggestion was met with a hateful glare, as he informed me that he hated Bruce Springsteen because of the Boss’ liberal activism. So, I mentioned that Dave Matthews was a leftie, and even played with Bruce Springsteen at a series of shows in support of John Kerry in 2004.

Oops. I think I may have ruined DMB for him.

But it got me thinking: If you’re a Republican, devoted to the Republican cause, and unwilling to support any “liberals”, well, then what do you do for entertainment? After all, the entertainment industry is pretty much liberal dominated, so what bands do you listen to? What movies do you go see?

For me, being the lefty that I am, it’s easy to hate bands and actors who are conservative, because, well, there just ain’t that many of them. And the those that do exist are pretty awful anyways. I mean Christ, have you heard that "Swing Batter Swing" song? I swear to God, the first time I did I blushed out of embarassment for that guy. And music. And America.

Okay, so let's think about this. Basically, on the Republican side you have all "new country" minus the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Willis, Ted Nugent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, um who else? Ron Silver, Dennis Miller...there's gotta be more. But the bottom line is I could be happy the rest of my life not hearing a song or seeing a movie by any of them.

My compadres on the left may be fruity sometimes, but at least they can write a decent song that doesn't involve Little League chants.

Oh, and I was dead serious about the Bruce Springsteen album (it's covers of Pete Seeger stuff). Download a track:

Bruce Springsteen - O Mary Don't You Weep

8.28.2006

It's All Over, Raiders Win

No need to play the 2006 NFL Season. Oakland is going to win the Super Bowl.

Yes, the Raiders have signed Jeff George.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

What, Andre Ware wasn't available?

8.25.2006

The Legend Of Booger

Last week I watched Better Off Dead for the first time in over 15 years. I completely forgot that Booger was in it. You know Booger- the slob from Revenge of the Nerds? Well, he also plays a slobby dude in Better Off Dead. And, although an IMDB search shows that he, actual name Curtis Armstrong, has been in a shitload of movies, the only other thing I remember him in was the TV show Moonlighting, where he played, guess what? A slob! Go figure.

Poor guy. Basically, in the 80's his roles evolved from this:

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To this:

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To this:

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What a wide and varied career! What range! How he has no Oscars I have no idea.

I kid Booger, for he must be doing something right. Revenge Of The Nerds was a good flick (at least the first one), Better Off Dead was even better (okay 15 years later- a little cheesy, but c'mon, it was 1985) , and Moonlighting was the shit until Bruce Willis and Cybill Sheppard humped.

So DeNiro he is not, but in the world of slob type casting, Curtis Armstrong reigns supreme.

The Phantom Menace

Back in 2002, when there was grumblings about attacking Iraq, it confused me, as I thought that we were not quite out of the woods in Afghanistan yet. I foolishly assumed that all of our resources should be devoted to a nation-building project there to ensure it didn't backslide back into an Al-Qaeda refuge. But no, now it was all Iraq all the time. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

"Um, guys, what about Afghani-"

"IRAQ!IRAQ!IRAQ!IRAQ!IRAQ!"

So, since now Iraq had suddenly become such an issue, the question was: why? Well, now we know all the reasons given to us, WMD and ties to Al Qaeda, were lies and exaggerations. Many people knew this beforehand, but their voices of reason, logic and, uh, facts were drowned out by the constant fear mongering. Iraq was a pitiful country with a weak leader that was fully contained, yet we were led to believe it was the number one threat to the future of civilization.

So now, all I hear about is how the situation regarding Iran is a "crisis" that must be dealt with immediately. Um, why? Nevermind the notion of fixating on Iran while still bogged down in the" clusterfuck that is Iraq. I'm simply asking why this is such a huge crisis? They want nukes and we don't want them to have nukes. Okay. That's been the situation for as long as I can remember, so why the fuss now? I hear a lot of potentially's and probably's and might's, but no one coming out and saying, "Hey, here's what Iran is doing, and here is our evidence". Maybe Iran is the monster it's being portrayed as. Hell there's a pretty good chance they are. But we've been down this "trust us" road before, and look where it's gotten us.

Look, I'm not saying Iran is some innocent utopia of butterflies and puppy dogs. I'm just asking that before you try and scare the shit out of me about the upcoming Iran-instigated apocalypse, how about some evidence? Until then, I'm not gonna sweat too hard about Iran. Label me as having a September 10th mindset. Fine. But at least I'm not a gullible bedwetter.

8.23.2006

Nickel & Dimed

This is exactly why I'm reluctant to sign on with a cell phone company and why I canceled my cable TV.

The federal government has required DSL providers to pay a universal service charge, which ranged anywhere between $1.25 and $3.00. The DSL companies would simply pass that charge on to customers. Well, now the government does not require that charge. So your DSL bill should drop by that amount, right?

Wrong.

While they dropped the federal charge, they simply added another surcharge of a little less than $3. They say this new charge is "intended to help offset costs we incur from our network supplier in providing Verizon Online DSL service. But guess who Verizon's network supplier is? Yup. Verizon.

These companies keep playing us for suckers and we keep buying it. I know, I know, "It's a only a couple of bucks. Calm down." Well, generally I don't have a couple of bucks to spare, much less give away. $40 a month to talk on the phone and and $70 just to be able to DVR the Daily Show are things of the past for me. I don't want to get rid of broadband, but if these greedy bastards don't quit trying to squeeze every last penny out of me, I may have to on principle. In 2000, when it was kinda-sorta new, my cable internet bill was $45. Today, six years later? $45.

8.20.2006

Beatnik Termites

Ok, this is just a test, and I'm sure there will be more tests coming. I'm going to try and provide some occasional mp3's of bands I like, and I'm not sure quite how to do it. So, if it doesn't work, well, I tried. If it does, there will be more. But you'll probably hate the stuff anyways.

Okay, so the first band I'm trying this with is the Beatnik Termites, a pop-punk band from Ohio. These songs come from the 1995 album 'Taste The Sand'. It's real sugary, surf influenced stuff. Their 'regular' singer has a nasally whine, which I kinda like, but I prefer the guy on these tracks, who has a deeper voice.

Okay, let's try this (just click to download):

Beatnik Termites - 08. Voice On The Radio.mp3
Beatnik Termites - 03. Denise Denise.mp3
Beatnik Termites - 10. Undesirable.mp3

8.19.2006

Money Talks, Bullshit Walks

Christ.
Congress appears ready to slash funding for the research and treatment of brain injuries caused by bomb blasts, an injury that military scientists describe as a signature wound of the Iraq war.

House and Senate versions of the 2007 Defense appropriation bill contain $7 million for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center — half of what the center received last fiscal year.

Proponents of increased funding say they are shocked to see cuts in the treatment of bomb blast injuries in the midst of a war.
Disgraceful. It’s one thing to talk the macho talk about patriotism and supporting the troops, it’s another thing to ACTUALLY support the troops, especially when you're actually in a position to do something, instead of using them as a political tool.

The center requested $19 million. The Defense Appropriation budget is $19 BILLION. Yes, they wanted a whopping .2 percent of the budget, and these idiots just couldn't do it.

Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," says Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee. "They didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year."

Riiiiight. Suddenly they've become fiscally responsible drunken sailors.

So Republican priorities: repeal estate tax, tax cuts for the rich, ban gay marriage, oppose stem cell research, send troops to war and then forget about them.

It’s a wonderful world we live in.

This Is The Angry

Okay, this is weird. I'm hanging out at Naked Lounge, cuz I'm such a party animal on Saturday night, and I'm secretly watching Kevin Seconds write lyrics. Weird in a cool way.

When Is a Terrorist Not A Terrorist?

Let's say there's a guy, and we knew he planned the bombing of a plane which killed 73 people. And let's say this same guy helped plan the bombing of a series of tourist hostels, which killed someone. We would consider this guy a terrorist, no? We would want him to face justice, right?

That guy is Luis Posada Carriles, and no we don't consider him a terrorist> Actually, we are preventing him from facing Justice.

Q: Why would we do that?

A: Because his victims were Cubans.

Posada, among other nefarious deeds, helped plan the bombing of Cuban Flight 455 in 1976 which killed 73 (by the way, the U.S. knew in advance the bombing would take place) people and the bombing of three Havana hotels in 1997 which killed an Italian tourist. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in the 80's, was imprisoned in Panama for trying to assassinate Castro in 2000 only to be pardoned by the outgoing president in 2004. He sought asylum in the United States, which has been holding this psychopath for entering the country illegally, but has refused to extradite him back to Venezuela.

But isn't a terrorist a terrorist? Why the sudden nuance? And a bigger question is raised. If terrorism is used for caused you agree with, then is it still terrorism? Republican Senator Mel Martinez does not think so. According to him, “If Luis Posada Carriles bombed an airliner, without condoning any specific act of violence, there was a hostile state of affairs at the time...We need to talk about the future, not the past.”

Oh, reaaaallly?

So, if a country or entity, let's say, oh I don't know, AL QAEDA?, asserts that there is a “hostile state of affairs” with us, then suddenly bombing planes out of the sky is A-OK? Isn't that exactly what they did assert? And since it's been five years since 9/11, using Martinez' logic, shouldn't we just move on, because after all, it happened in the past?

Well, Senator Martinez, thanks for giving Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and any other countries 'hostile' towards us the green light to engage in terrorism. And yes, Senator Martinez, by not coming out strongly against Posada's terrorism, you are condoning it, regardless of your pathetic attempt at denial.

It's amazing to me that all of our supposed ideals go out the window when it comes to a completely harmless regime in the Caribbean and and the entire nation's foreign policy gets hijacked by its vocal enemies in Miami.

8.18.2006

Killing An Arab

Every year when Bush goes on one of his 30 or so vacations, the White House feels compelled to issue his reading list, like somehow we give a fuck. First of all, I don’t care. Second of all, I don’t believe for a second he is reading any of the books mentioned. Third of all, I don’t care.

Now let’s get back to second of all. If I don’t think he reads the book list, then why do I think they issue it in the first place? Well, my paranoid suspicion is that it is intended to be a subliminal clue into Bush’s mind. Which is why I find it awfully weird that The Stranger by Albert Camus is on the list.

For starters, there’s no fucking way Bush is reading French existentialist literature. But more creepy is that the Cliff’s notes version of The Stranger is as follows:

Guy, for no real reason, kills an Arab (hence the title of The Cure song), shows absolutely no remorse, and as he is to be executed for his deed, hopes upon hope to be hated for his actions. The last line of the book:
For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.
Hmmmm. What message is being sent here? Kill innocent Arabs and show no remorse, and rejoice in the hate you receive from it? A few weeks ago when Bush wouldn't shut up about eating a pig, I joked that he was doing it purposely to offend Muslims. Now I'm starting to think I was on to something.

8.16.2006

What Your Company REALLY Thinks About You

This is why you should never be married to your job.
Bankrupt Northwest Airlines Corp. advised workers to fish in the trash for things they like or take their dates for a walk in the woods in a move to help workers facing the ax to save money.

The No. 5 U.S. carrier, which has slashed most employees’ pay and is looking to cut jobs as it prepares to exit bankruptcy, put the tips in a booklet handed out to about 50 workers and posted for a time on its employee Web site.

The four-page booklet, “Preparing for a Financial Setback” contained suggestions such as shopping in thrift stores, taking “a date for a walk along the beach or in the woods” and not being “shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”
In a surprise twist, I googled the pay of Northwest’s CEO, expecting to find some sort of outrage, but it turns out:
Northwest Airlines CEO Doug Steenland took a 23.5 percent salary cut in 2005 as Detroit’s largest carrier attempts to work its way out of bankruptcy.
Steenland, 54, earned $516,333 in 2005, down from $675,000 a year earlier. He turned down a bonus of $675,000 in both years.
Still, it’s always worrisome when your employer encourages you to be more like George Costanza.

8.15.2006

Bedwetters and Tracfones

When catch.com was active, Kevin K. coined the term "bedwetters" to describe the RW bloggers who freak out about any and everything. Now, I tend to despise blogger catcphrases, but this one seems particularly apt. So I'm gonna steal it. And to apply to today's post: Bedwetting + Racism = Michelle Malkin.

Here's the scary, scary story:

Three guys bought an abnormal amount of Tracfones. That's it.

Oh wait, I forgot, they're Arab-Americans.

So, of course, they are terrorists who are plotting to blow up a bridge.

Based on JUST the cell phone purchases, the men were arrested, and charged with terrorism.

And if you're Michelle Malkin, you push this story as hard as you can. If you're Michelle Malkin you KNOW they're guilty. You go even further and call Dearborn, Michigan, "Dearbornistan" because it's full of filthy Arabs. When the men arrested say that they were buying the phones because they could resell them at a profit, well why would you believe a filthy, lying, terrorist Arab?

Oh, but wait, the FBI checked out the men's story, and it turned out to be true, but not before accustations of plots to blow up bridges were released with absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

I'll let you know when Malkin issues an apology or mea culpa. Don't wait up, it might be a while. She is, after all, an insecure racist who probably pisses herself at the sight of her own, dark shadow.

8.11.2006

Sports Gossip

I don’t know why more people, especially women, aren't into sports. After all, the vast majority of good sports stories happen off the field. It’s pretty the same as Hollywood tabloid gossip for men. You can keep your Britney, Jessica, and Tomcat gossip. I'll take sports. And this week has been a fantastic example of what I'm talking about.

You have a Jude Law schtooping the nanny?

I raise you a Paul Lo Duca (catcher for the New York Mets) cheating on his Playboy model wife with a 19-year-old.

Youthful insults!
“He’s fun – for an older man,” bombshell brunette Krista Guterman, 19, said of the All-Star stud, whose wife recently slapped him with divorce papers charging adultery.
Plus: Text Messaging!
She said that less than hour after leaving the bar, she received a casual text message from Lo Duca, telling her “hi.” She said they met again soon after, and he began calling her several times a week.
Special Bonus: MySpace!
The teen even dedicated part of her myspace.com Web page to Lo Duca – and posted a sexy photo of her perched on his lap at The Coyote bar in Island Park.
And, menage-a-troi imagery!
When shown a photo of Lo Duca’s Playboy-model wife, Guterman exclaimed, “She’s hot!”
Then we have Schizophric Ryan Freel (outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds) and his little buddy, Farney:
Ryan Freel said not even Farney believed that Freel made the stupendous diving catch on Albert Pujols Tuesday.
Farney? Who’s Farney?

“He’s a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him,” said Freel, acting as if he finally crashed into too many walls, ran into too many catchers and dived into too many dugouts. “That little midget in my head said, ‘That was a great catch, Ryan,’ I said, ‘Hey, Farney, I don’t know if that was you who really caught that ball, but that was pretty good if it was.’ Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell ‘em I’m talking to Farney.’ “
And finally, we have the one, the only Maurice Clarett. Just a few years ago Clarett, as a freshman, led the the Ohio State Buckeyes to a national championship. Obviously he had a lucrative, promising future ahead of him. Since then, though, nuttin’ but trouble, trouble, trouble. And now this:
Maurice Clarett, already facing a trial Monday for robbery, is back in the Franklin County jail today under a $1.1 million bail after being arrested overnight for carrying a concealed weapon after a highway chase.

Mitchell said Clarett was found with four loaded weapons and wearing body armor. After being chased by police, his SUV struck a cruiser, and officers had to use Mace to subdue him. A stun gun was ineffective because the former Fiesta Bowl star was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, Sgt. Michael Woods said.

A half-bottle of vodka was found in the car

So you’re headed out to run some errands, get some groceries, whatever. You know, innocent stuff. Let’s see what do you bring if your name is Maurice Clarett?

Loaded assault rifle? Check.

One handgun? No.

Two handguns? No.

Three handguns? Check.

Grey Goose Vodka? Check.

Kevlar vest? Check.

“Compact disc of children’s songs recorded by Ohio prison inmates”? Che….WHAT THE FUCK??

I'm not making that last one up, either. It was in the SUV.

The story is actually sort of tragic. Watching someone's downfall at such an early age is never pretty. But there is one indisputably funny aspect to it. At the time of his arrest, Clarett was going to play in an indoor football league. The name of the team?

The Mahoning Valley Hitmen.

Ah, irony. Luckily for Clarett, Hitmen coach and owner Jim Terry has apparently seen some fucked up shit in his life.
The arrest will not affect Clarett’s status with the team, (Hitmen coach and owner Jim) Terry said.

“We gave him a chance and now we’ll wait to see what happens,” he said. “I’ve seen far worse situations than this.”
Okay, gossip-hounds, I admit, the sports world will have a hard time topping the likes of Michael Jackson, but always remember it gave you OJ, so show some respect.

8.10.2006

Me and Ned

Man, if I thought the left-wing focus on the Lamont-Leiberman race was annoying, the right-wing reaction to it’s aftermath is downright unbearable.

By their reaction, you’d think that Ned Lamont is now going to seize dictatorial control, single-handedly withdraw our troops from Iraq, raise everyone’s taxes, make Kos information secretary, introduce re-education camps, and form an alliance with Osama Bin Ladin. Because he’s the evil, sinister Ned Lamont. You know, this guy:

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Dude, Ned Lamont makes Andy Griffith look like Vin Diesel. In fact, my major problem with Lamont was that he’s too wimpy and bland and predictible and failed to capture my imagination like Barack Obama. Yet, because the voters of Connecticut picked him over Leiberman in a democratic Democratic primary, the world is somehow now unsafer, and Al-Queda is emboldened. Now, for right-wing bloggers and columinists to say that sort of thing, well, I expect that. Par for the course. But the Vice-fucking-President? Here was Dick's totally sane analysis (I'm going do the ... thang for the sake of space, but I am in no way taking this out of context. The full transcript is at ThinkProgress):
And as I look at what happened yesterday, it strikes me that it’s a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party...when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman...especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.
The thing that’s partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.
You have got to be shitting me. Your Vice President thinks that Osama Bin Ladin gives a flying fuck about a Democratic primary in Connecticut.

So what are these insane views on Iraq this loony left winger has:
Looking forward, I salute the patriotism and wisdom of Congressman Murtha and others who emphasize that “stay the course” is not a winning strategy for Iraq or America. Our best chance of success requires that the Iraqis take control of their own destiny. America should make clear that we have no designs upon their oil and no plans for permanent bases. While we will continue to provide logistical and training support as long as we are asked, our frontline military troops should begin to be redeployed and our troops should start heading home.


Man, what a Grade A whack job! Some might even say unhinged. Bringing soldiers home from an unpopular and unwinnable war? Fuck that! I mean, Christ, only like 60% of Americans agree with that crazy, wacky position. And everyone knows that 60% of Americans hate America.

The most disappointing part of this right-wing idiocy regarding Ned Lamont is that I thought with the primary over I could fucking stop hearing about it. But now I've been sucked into this ridiculousness.

If I wasn't a fervent Lamont backer before, I sure the hell am now.

8.09.2006

Under The Banner Of Heaven

My previous review of Under the Banner of Heaven (“Mormons are fucking crazy”) was a little unfair. I don't think only Mormons are crazy, I think all deeply religious people are crazy, and the mildly religious people are mildly crazy. They may be normal in every other way imaginable, but when it comes to their religious beliefs, something goes awry. Like David Cross says, "Where are the Unicorns?" I think that of all religions. But Under the Banner of Heaven is not about all religions, it's about Mormons. So, that's who I'm going to write about, now that I've offended all my religious friends.

UTBOH is written by John Krakauer, who also wrote Into The Wild and Into Thin Air, two books I have never read, because they have always seemed a little too “Oprah's Book Club”-ish for my tastes. But since I had a trip planned that included Salt Lake City, I figured why not learn a little about it's dominant cultural feature: Mormonism. I will have to reevaluate my judgment of Krakauer, because UTBOH is a very good, very informative, and very well written book.

UTBOH uses the murder of a mother and daughter to frame a general history of the Mormon religion. That the the woman was a Mormon (sorry, I refuse to call a toddler a Mormon, Catholic, or any other religion), murdered by her fundamentalist Mormon brothers-in-law, in the name of God, serves to underscore the fine balance between religious devotion and insanity.

I admittedly didn't know much about Mormonism before reading the book. I just knew all the stereotypical things (no caffeine, etc.) that get joked about. During my lifetime Mormonism has a enjoyed a sunny, innocent, quirky reputation. So I was very surprised to learn that in many aspects the religion is much "quirkier", and much more violent, than I ever imagined.

From its inception, Mormonism has had aspects which made me incredulous why anyone would join. Magic underwear, magic glasses. The Garden of Eden being in Missouri. Just goofy, harmless stuff. But its historical roots go beyond that sort of goofiness into darker aspects. Mormons today might try to argue the point, but really there is no argument: Mormonism was founded as a racist, sexist, and violent religion.

RACISM

I knew that Mormonism was a white religion, with the occasional Samoan thrown in for some reason, but I had no idea why. Well, now I do: because it was incredibly racist. In the Book of Mormon, “black skin” is explained as a curse placed upon the children of Cain (the “Mark Of Cain”). Some non-Mormon religious people held this belief also, but that hardly seems like an excuse to me. As with many Biblical issues, there is room for debate as to what was meant by all of this. But Brigham Young erased any doubts on where the Church stood in regards to blacks.
"What is that mark? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see.... I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain."
Young also used the Cain argument to support slavery, even though Joseph Smith was anti-slavery.
"Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the 'servant of servants;' and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree."
Furthermore, when Utah was granted statehood, Young made sure that it was admitted as a slave state, again even though church founder Joseph Smith was anti-slavery (he was of the “separate but equal” mindset). So, during the Civil War, the sympathies of the Mormon church laid with the Confederacy, although one supposes this was partly because of the Mormon “oath of vengeance” against the United States (we'll get to that later).

The result of all this was that blacks were not allowed into the priesthood until 1978. Undoubtedly, the Church has made a lot of progress righting its historic wrongs, but today's Mormon fundamentalists kick it old school, with people such as Prophet Onias, who wrote that blacks are,
"beasts of the field, which were the most intelligent of all the animals that were created, for they did walk upright as a man doeth and had the power of speech."
SEXISM

UTBOH also makes it clear that the early Church and its modern day fundamentalist sect saw women as wholly inferior to men. Joseph Smith actually wrote,
“Here, the wife is pronounced the husband's property, as much so as his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, or his horse...”
This outlook towards women would manifest itself in the most controversial aspect of Mormonism: polygamy.

Polygamy is one of Mormonism's core tenets. There's simply no denying it. Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion, was pro-polygamy. Brigham Young? Pro-polygamy, going so far to say that those who denied plurality of wives would be damned. The shift away from polygamy was simply a political move to gain mainstream acceptance. In the same manner that individual Mormons use revelations from God as a means to an end (more on that later), the Church as an institution did the same to back out of its pro-polygamy stand. In 1880, Prophet John Taylor was defiant, saying,
God is greater than the United States, and when government conflicts with heaven we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different.
Yet just 10 years later, owing to increased government hostility to polygamy, Prophet Wilford Woodruff spoke to God, who told him it was His will that the church stop sanctifying plural marriage.

As the church lady would say, how conveeeeeenient. Sure sounds to me like God relented to the United States.

As I mentioned, another one of the key tenets of Mormonism is that revelations from God are not reserved for priests or other holy men. Anyone can receive a revelation directly from God. Often, the revelations are used simply to codify the obvious, such as when, in 1830, Joseph Smith “received a revelation in which God, noting the hostility in the New York air, commanded him to move his flock to Ohio.” Ah. Kind of like the time I was walking down a darkened alley, and I saw some mean looking dudes with baseball bats, and God commanded me to run like the motherfucking wind.

But frequently, revelations from God seem to be conveniently used by men to get what they want, especially from women. In UTBOH, a great example of this comes when one of the murderers' wives threatens to leave him. He suddenly receives a revelation from God, which God tells him to give to her:
Thou are a chosen daughter, but My wrath is kindled against thee because of thy rebelliousness against thy husband, and I command thee to repent.
How conveeeeeeeenient. First of all, why didn't God just give the revelation directly to her, instead of pussing out and giving it to her husband? Second, this revelation occurred in the early 80's, so what's with all the “'thee's” and “thy's”? I'm not saying God should be saying “dude”, but, come on.

Anyways, when his wife doesn't heed the revelation and leaves anyways, there's another revelation, this one to kill those responsible for aiding and abetting his wife's desire to leave: specifically, his brother's wife. The level of detail in the revelation is gruesome. It actually specifies that the victims should not be shot, but should have their throats slit.

VIOLENCE

Which brings us full circle to the theme of violence, which is the main theme of UTBOH. Violence is everywhere, and often condoned by Church leaders. Joseph Smith introduced the concept of “blood atonement” under which certain sins could only be atoned for by spilling the offenders blood, a policy which became church doctrine. In this thinking, execution by hanging or lethal injection isn't good enough, since no blood is literally spilled. Firing squad has been the preferred method in Utah, to really make sure things get good and bloody (this has been recently changed, with the permission of the church).

After Joseph Smith was killed, Brigham Young did not tell his followers to turn the other cheek, or to trust in God to get them through this difficult time. No, instead upped the ante on Smith's blood atonement by requiring Mormons to take an “oath of vengeance” which swears Mormons to “avenge the Blood of the Prophets”. This oath was directed at the United States government as a whole. So, from 1845 to 1927, almost 65 years, the official stance of the Mormon Church towards the United States was vengeance. Of course, later, the mainstream LDS Church played this aspect down, but it's all there in black in white.

But it must be said that there are many moments in the book where you feel outright sympathy for Mormons. There is no doubt that Mormons were harshly persecuted. Yet, it often seemed like their actions provoked persecution. In their defense, Mormons simply wanted a land to call their own, away from the United States, but manifest destiny scuttled that plan. But when your guiding philosophy and ultimate goal is to establish a Mormon Kingdom, there's a pretty good chance there might be tension with your non-Mormon neighbors.

But the persecution by various government officials did not go unanswered. Orrin Porter Rockwell, a Mormon hero known as the “Destroying Angel”, tried to assassinate the ex-governor of Missouri, who, as governor, has a history of Mormon harassment. Orrin Porter Rockwell plays a pretty major role in the history of Mormonism, and he was a pretty violent guy. Which begs the question, was Utah Senator Orrin Hatch named for him? It would seem pretty odd if he wasn't. Yet it also seems odd to name your future Senator kid after a violent vigilante.

CONCLUSION

As I read UTBOH, I began to think of my feelings about the Catholic Church. If you are Catholic, you should be anti-death penalty, anti-abortion, and you should not ever use birth control. Why? Because that's what the Church says, and as a Catholic, you hold the Pope, the leader of the Church, to be infallible. You can't have it both ways. So it puts me in the weird position of respecting the consistency of hardcore Catholics who I vehemently disagree with more than moderate Catholics who I often agree with. The same thing happens with Mormonism.

While portraying the fundamentalist sect of LDS as “crazier” than mainstream LDS, there is the realization that the modern LDS Church really has abandoned the core doctrines the Church was founded on. Undoubtedly, this gentrification of the church was necessary to its continued survival in the United States. One concludes that the only thing that seems to have kept mainstream Mormons from being more forceful in their beliefs in doctrines such as plural marriage, exclusion of blacks, and blood atonement is how it's viewed by the rest of the country. This seems like an awfully politically correct way to run a religion, and in a weird way makes me respect the devotion of the fundamentalist sect, who I think are awful people, more than the mainstream, who I find for the most part sincere.

So when I finished the book, I had a newfound interest in Mormonism which made my trip to Utah more interesting, although Salt Lake City wasn't nearly as bizarre as I hoped. More boring and ugly than bizarre. I learned that Steve Young, former 49er's quarterback, is a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young. I also learned that, before moving to Utah, Missouri was where Mormons called home, since they believed the Garden of Eden to be located there.

And then I realized...my last name is Young...and my family's roots (dad's side) are in Missouri. Uh-oh. Could it be.....?

8.08.2006

Real Genius

Remember Real Genius, that 1985 movie starring Val Kilmer and, uh, popcorn? Remember that high school prodigy who Val took under his wing? Well, it was playing at our dumpy Sal Lake City hoteol, and Mark made the following call:

Real Genius Whiz Kid:

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Sarah Jessica Parker:
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And also, you should seriously go see Little Miss Sunshine. Funny damn movie.

8.05.2006

Road Trip Recap, Part II: SLC -> Reno

(Click on shitty pics to see them in their full shittiness)

Okay, so onward to Salt Lake City. On the way, Jesus descended from heaven and guided us:



Ok, not really, it was just a cool picture opportunity. To get to SLC from Denver, you have to drive up to Wyoming and cut west. So getting to see much of Wyoming was a cool little bonus, depending on your definition of cool.



I've mentioned before that people from the East Coast who have never been to California assume we're all surfers or movie stars. Well, I had a similar stereotype about Wyoming. My mental image of Wyoming is cowboy country, and it would be filled with cowboys. And of course, reality would be a lot different. Of course there aren't really a bunch of cowboys in Wyoming.

Wrong.

First image upon crossing the Colorado-Wyoming border:



That my firends, is a big ass steer with big ass horns. The shitty zoom on my shitty camera doesn't do it justice. But I began to think maybe this was true cowboyland after all.
Confirmation came when we took a piss break at a truck stop, where we saw cowboys. Not boot scootin' boogie cowboys. Not achy-breaky cowboys. Not friends in low places cowboys. COWBOYS. The real deal. Spurs and everything. It made me wonder what they think of California cowboys, who play dress up and call themselves country. In California, you might as well dress up as a pirate, because for the most part, that's all it is; a costume.

We also saw some Hell's Angels, and Mark was too chickenshit to take my advice and flip them off. Hell' Angels probably think of those accountants and lawyers who dress up as bikers on the weekend in the same manner Wyoming cowboys view the line dancing crowd.

(Tangent: ENOUGH WITH THE GODDAMNED CHOPPERS & HARLEYS. You set off every car alarm on my street every 15 goddamned minutes with your insanely loud “I'm not a fag” mobiles. You have a tiny dick, we get it. Unless you have an extensive criminal history and some scars (Dude, tangent within a tangent: This dude in the coffee shop next to me just ripped one, and everyone's pretending it didn't happen.], you have no business being on these bikes.)

Southern Wyoming, just like Eastern Nevada, Southern Utah, and Western Colorado, is pretty barren. Notice the unpaved road leading away from the freeway:



This was pretty common in Wyoming, and complete culture shock to a Californian like me who complains about every pothole.

During this trip, I realized how incredibly empty the Western United States is. That's not a complaint, just an observation. But then, out in the middle of nowhere, you'd see road signs like this:



Which just seems sorta dangerous to me when the speed limit is 75.

We hit the Utah border pretty late. Can you tell that I'm pretty tired and road weary at this point? And I wasn't even driving. Poor Mark.



Can you tell I left my razor back in California?

We rolled into SLC after midnight, so we didn't get any dramatic introduction to the city. We would have to wait until the morning to see how beautiful the city of Mormon was.

Turns out, it's not beautiful at all. Yeah, the mountains are pretty, and I guess the useless lake is pretty (or eerie, since it's pretty dead), but the city itself looked like Fresno. Warehouses and trucks everywhere. Nothing exciting downtown. Just boring, boring, boring. We managed to find a coffee shop downtown, and since Mormons don't drink caffeine, I imagine a coffee shop is sort of like a refuge to the non-Mormons of SLC. There aren't Starbucks on every corner like the rest of the U.S., which I thought would be cool, but it's actually sorta creepy. Also, it's true, SLC is WHITE. Saw an asian girl (shut up), but that was about it. But it's not like we went around hunting for ethnic minorities, it was just a casual observation. Oh, and I expected the Temple to be a lot bigger than it is. It was still pretty, though I find the San Diego temple prettier, even though it lacks the historical aspect.

So, disappointed with SLC, we headed to Reno, another long drive. West of SLC is the Great Salt Desert, which is a great desert that is made of, guess what....SALT! It's neat for about three minutes, and then your fucking sick of it. Plus trying to read the messages people had made out of rocks in the salt gave me a headache. Southern Utah is a thousand times more scenic than Northern Utah, so it was nice to see the Nevada border. Eastern Nevada was (shock) also barren, but it was actually pretty, in it's own barren way. I was expecting a lot, lot worse.



And there were still fences. The entire drive, no matter where we were (the one exception being the Great Salt Desert), no matter how many miles in the middle of freaking nowhere we were, there were fences along the highway. For what? To keep the tumbleweed from escaping? I also got to see Mark in all his pyro glory when we went here:



It was like Rush Limbaugh at The Oxycontin Store.

Reno was just Reno, a little gambling, a little Mexican food at El Michoacana, some more Mexican food at Michoacana in the morning, then back to California. And that was that.

So to recap:

I like to eat Pink Taco.
Southern Utah is barren yet beautiful.
Denver is awesome.
Salt Lake City is not.
Wyoming has cowboys.
Mark is a pyromaniac.
Outside of California, Arby's reigns supreme.
Fart jokes are funny no matter how old you are.

Next year: Seattle. If you like fart jokes and burritos, start making plans.

8.04.2006

Fear Of Commitment

So I find myself at that place in my life where I know I need some stability. I know what I need to do, but I just can't seem to do it. I want to have a relationship, but the fear of being locked into something long term scares the bejesus out of me. If I want someone new, I like having that freedom. But at the same time, the security of settling down with someone also has its appeal at times.

So tell me, why can't I decide on a cell phone plan?

All I want is a free, kick ass phone (camera would be nice), a plan less than $40 a month, and at the most a one-year contract. I can find the phone with a 2-year contract. I can find the one year contract with an expensive phone. I can't find both.

So, help me find a good plan.

I don't care about coverage areas and customer service. I don't talk on the phone enough to stress about it. I'm currently using Virgin Mobile, which is sort of cool, except that my phone is a piece of shit and, because I'm paying for every minute, I tend to rush and/or avoid conversations on the phone. VM has a new plan that's $34.99 for 300 anytime minutes and 1000 night/weekend minutes. That would probably be enough, but I hate my phone and don't want to buy a new one. But right now that's what I'm leaning towards.

So if you have any advice, lemme know.

8.03.2006

Road Trip Recap, Part I: Vegas -> Denver

So me and Mark or Mark and I or whatever the fuck decide to try and visit all the major league ballparks. Not over one summer, but over the course of our lives. Padres, Dodgers, Angels and Giants are all out of the way. Well, I haven't been to Angel Stadium since they reconfigured it, so I don't know the status of that. Anyways, this year we decide to hit Coors Field in Denver, home of the Rockies, and to make it interesting, we decide to drive and make a complete road trip of it.

Now, you're gonna laugh, because when I tell you about our trip, I'm going to sound like Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming are the names of other planets I visited. You must understand, to me, they are other planets. I've only been out of California to visit Vegas, Reno, and Tijuana, and none of those really count, do they?

First stop: Vegas, baby, Vegas.

Not a lot to tell about Vegas, as, for once, it was not our destination, more of a stopover point to break up the drive to Denver. So basically it was fart jokes and eating. We ate at the Pink Taco, and it was pretty damn good, even if it was in the Hard Rock Casino. I know, it's hard to believe any good food could be associated with the Hard Rock Cafe, but stranger things have happened. And of course, Mark was finished with all of his food before I was halfway done with mine. Yet, I'm the fat one. Dammit.


Also saw the fountain show or whatever the Christ they call it at Bellagio for the 142nd time. Goddamn, Mark, it's just water.


Next morning, it was off to Denver. A twelve hour drive seems reasonable on paper. In reality, it's ass-numbingly long. Once you leave Vegas, there ain't much until you hit Colorado in the way of towns. Desolate as it is, though southern Utah is very pretty.

We hit Colorado in the late afternoon.


For some reason, me and Mark expected the dry, arid landscape to suddenly bloom into green mountains as soon as we hit the Colorado border, the result of our cultural ignorance, much the way people from Nebraska think everyone from California surfs, but it was more of the same desert as Utah. But things would get greener and more Colorado-like soon, although we still have no idea what the Rockies look like, since we passed through them at night. I can tell you that Colorado has rest stops every five seconds. I-5 it was not. Also, the signs for towns indicate the elevation, but not the population. This bugged me. I have a need to know exactly how podunk a podunk town is. One of these mystery towns had the best named mini-mart/whorehouse ever:


Okay, so it wasn't a whorehouse. Anyways, we hit downtown Denver the next morning and farted around until gametime. Mark took a billion more pictures, and thought he saw Ryan Klesko on the 16th Street Mall.

The game was cool. The Padres won (although they would lose three of four in the series) and I got lucky and took a picture on the swing Eric Young hit a home run. The Padres cut him a few days later. Go figure.



The next day was an afternoon game, and hoo-boy it was hot. I live in Sacramento, so I can handle the heat, but these poor Denver-ites...they had no idea what to do. It was so hot, we saw a lady outside bleeding from the heat. Never heard of that before. The heat did not, however, keep Mark from making fart jokes any time someone bent over.

After the game, we headed to the Cherry Cricket, I place I had read about on teh intarweb. Good, big, bloody burger. Just the way I like 'em. The way I was scarfing it down, I thought I'd beat Mark for sure this time. But when I came up for air, doh! Foiled again.


And with the Cherry Cricket, our time in Denver had come to an end.

Denver is a really, really cool town. Everyone was really helpful and nice, and there was tons of stuff going on. Having never really gone anywhere out of California, I didn't realize there was a "California" attitude, but there is, and it obviously didn't exist in Denver, which was a good thing. The city was clean, and everything seemed new, even though there is a historical aspect to the downtown area. I assumed Denver was expensive, but a check of the paper proved me wrong. Homes to be had for under $200K, rents for really nice places for under $600. Compared straight up, Denver is a way, way better city than Sacramento. If I didn't love working for the state and have a psychological need to be relatively close to the ocean, I would absolutely consider moving there.

But I'm a California boy, so I had to end my little fling with the Mile High City, and we headed off to Salt Lake City, via Wyoming.

8.01.2006

Back in California

Road trip is over.

I missed Pixie, and Pixie missed me.


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