Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Enemy Of My Enemy...

There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the merits of the hit show 24. The program has been described as propagandist and fear-mongering among other things, but has nevertheless retained a loyal fan-base.

In the past, I've considered myself a part of that fanbase but my loyalty is waning, and not because of those concerns. Although I can't say I'm able to determine exactly when, it seems as though the show "jumped the shark" at some point. 24 has a number of cookie-cutter elements in its style and plot that seem to be recycled year after year, and while that's obviously not an opinion that the show's producers are hoping other viewers share, it's also not necessarily the worst thing seeing as how you've always had to shut your brain off to enjoy the show anyways. I also understand that despite complaints that 24 has attempted to snowball the fear of terrorism–taking what exists in some natural and perhaps rational form and allegedly making it into something that causes both social prejudices and political biases–it remains a business enterprise that cares first and foremost about entertaining its audience. In order to do so, the show has had to broaden its scope–or up the ante, if you will–every year since its inception, building up to its recent nuclear detonation in Los Angeles. While the producers may or may not have ulterior motives, I abstain from judgment because of that single predominate fact.

Aside from the nuclear bombing, what I've noticed this season are the obvious links to the seemingly forgotten 1998 film, The Siege. Just as in 24, The Siege featured a heroic federal agent (played by Denzel Washington) doing his best to end a horrific string of terrorist attacks before an overzealous government can destroy what's left of the Constitution by interning Muslims in the name of national safety. It has been suggested from the first episode of this season's 24 that this will happen sometime over the course of the season's "day," so I'm sure that it will, as the show has always been anything but understated in its foreshadowing. However, just as in The Siege, there are a number of "good guys" campaigning against such an action, and so I'm equally certain that there will be a resolution by season's end in which racial profiling in its largest and most grotesque form is determined once and for all to be wholly un-American and against what our men and women have always fought for. Along with the excellent, excellent movie currently in theatres, Children of Men, and the classic novel 1984, both The Siege and this season's 24 begin by scaring you–or at least establishing a scared society–and then (in 24's case, hopefully) go on to show how dangerous that fear can become. This time, Jack Bauer won't save us from who we supposedly hate, but being the All-American that he is, will instead save us from becoming what we're supposed to hate. Of course if he has to torture a few dozen people along the way, oh well, because that is, after all, apparently what audiences want to see...and Dubya's already seen to it that it be allowed anyway.

Among the other dangers you'll find while patrolling the boob tube:

In regard to the NFL Playoffs, Colbert warned us and now it's happened: The number one threat to America, Bears, devoured Saints on Sunday, and not just any Saints, but New Orleans Saints. As if that's not enough, Patriots were also defeated, and by Peyton Manning of all people.

Grey's Anatomy continues to expose the truth that only the best HMO's offer doctors who are so attractive that they can't resist sleeping with each other before, after, and perhaps even during surgeries. Meanwhile, Ugly Betty reminds us that ugly people do indeed exist and that we have to tolerate them despite it, and perhaps even go so far as to look for this so-called "inner beauty" thing.

Perhaps no one watches it, but that doesn't change the fact that America's Funniest Videos is still on the air, which makes you wonder if the -est suffix has remained for too long. By this point, they must surely be reduced to "America's Funnier Videos Than Yours", or "America's Funny Videos of Cats Doing Silly Things," or perhaps "YouTube For People Without The Internet."

FOX News continues to prove that conservatives are funnier than liberals without even trying.

(Speaking of which, Colbert and O'Reilly recently exchanged appearances on each other's shows, and while I was expecting my head to blow up at some point, it sadly did not. If this had been a Pay-Per-View wrestling event and if I were a redneck or lived in my parents' basement, I totally would have asked for my $39.95 back. Stewart-Carlson II this was not.)

Monday, January 22, 2007


In the news media system, there are two separate yet equally unimportant groups of headlines: the inane, whose comedy is entirely superficial, and the slightly more interesting, which are simply not compelling enough for me to endlessly blather on about. These are their stories. DUN-DUN!

In Tallahassee, Florida, it was the duck who got the last laugh, surviving a gun shot wound and two days in a refrigerator. When the hunter's wife opened her refrigerator door, the duck popped its head up and smugly suggested that she ask about Aflac at work. Veterinarian David Hale explained the initial confusion, quipping, “This duck is very passive. It’s not like trying to pick up a Muscovy at Lake Ella, where you put your life in your hands.” Ornithologists everywhere expressed their amusement with raucous laughter and tomfoolery.

Despite falling from the seventeenth floor of the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency, a 29-year-old man walked away survived with only a broken leg. Wisconsin native Joshua Hanson was in town for a dart tournament but instead crashed through a seventeenth floor window and fell all the way down to the awning below. Minneapolis police Lt. Dale Barsness called Hanson "a lucky guy" after failing to realize that despite surviving a fall from the seventeenth floor, the man had fallen out of a building from the seventeenth floor. The general manager of the hotel, Tom "Captain Obvious" Mason, noted that "this has never happened before." No word on if Hanson was credited with a bullseye.

Testing the "no such thing as bad publicity" theory, Julie Winnifred Bertrand, the world's oldest woman, died Thursday in Montreal at the tender age of 115. Bertrand held the title for only a month following the death of 116-year-old Elizabeth Bolden of Tennessee, continuing the curious string of bad luck for all those inheriting the moniker. Here's hoping 114-year-old Emma Faust Tillman can break the curse.

Friday, January 19, 2007

American Schadenfreude

No, this isn't an O'Reillian post about the "far left loons who put their ideology above the welfare of the country," "who want us to lose in Iraq." Rather, this concerns the opinion of an equally unparalleled pundit, Rosie O'Donnell.

Like so many others in the past days, O'Donnell reacted uproariously to the "meanness" exuded by judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and particularly, Simon Cowell in this week's season premiere of the juggernaut that is American Idol.

After showing a clip of Cowell telling the ocularly-challenged Kenneth Briggs, “Your dancing is terrible, the singing was horrendous, and you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes. What are they called? Bush baby,” O'Donnell responded, "Isn't that what America thinks is entertainment?"

To answer her rhetorical and facetious question, yes.

It's become part of our nature to enjoy the miserable failures of others. It begins in grade school, and though we claim to outgrow our immature mockery, a part of it remains with us forever, rearing its head with such innocent transgressions as snickering at a stranger as he trips on an unseen gap in the sidewalk.

Certainly there are lines to be drawn, but that doesn't stop us from overstepping them. Cowell's analysis would largely be considered such an overstep–if not an egregious one–but I would imagine the sad truth to be that Mr. Briggs has constant encounters with various Little Red Riding Hoods observing, "Oh, what large eyes you have!" We all have faults, some more obvious than others, and we all have to deal with them, some with more difficulty than others. To think that the outside world will soften the blow is to live in a world where husband and wife sleep side by side in separate beds, where good always conquers evil and everything happens for a reason. It's not that world anymore, and I don't know that it ever was.

Those who fight to keep our world "the way it was" often blame the violence found on television and in video games, but is the bigger worry that we're becoming increasingly immune to mayhem and bloodshed, or rather that we're devolving to a more apathetic state, numb to the misfortune and even misery of others be they real or imagined.

COPS has been on the air for nearly eighteen years and has been widely syndicated for much of that time. Do viewers keep tuning in to understand the inner workings of the police force and to monitor the efficiency of the justice system, or do they watch for the consistent entertainment of stereotypical antics followed by a suspect lying face down in the dirt? Are high-speed chases televised with the hope of a peaceful resolution? How many auto-racing fans wouldn't admit to hoping to witness a devastating crash? The popularity of Girls Gone Wild is obviously due to the girls' stripping of their clothing and the ensuing uninhibited "wildness," but I would also suggest that the stripping of their dignity and the loss of the respect of their friends and family is of additional appeal to some viewers, if only subconsciously.

Just like those who represent it, society doesn't need to be coddled, however it does need to be accepted for what it is, as well as what it isn't. A part of all of us wishes that we were the next American Idol, whether as a singer, dancer, athlete, artist, actor, or writer, or even as a doctor, lawyer, policeman, fireman, or soldier, and that part of us would bury its heels in the faces of those below us if it meant a step up.

I'm not saying it's right, but it's completely American.

(Television isn't all bad though, as evidenced just last night by NBC's The Office, 30 Rock, My Name Is Earl, and on this night, particularly Scrubs:)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Danger, Will Robinson!

Despite its failure to make significant breakthroughs to eliminate voter discrepencies, revolutionize peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,produce anti-RPG weapons, or annihilate cockroaches once and for all, technology is advancing at a record pace, constantly offering new and exciting possibilities. It's also responsible for the following:

Steve Jobs recently unveiled Apple's new iPhone, boasting an array of features including mp3 and video playback, e-mail and internet access, along with a camera and photo-viewer, all in addition to its normal cell phone capabilities. It remains uncertain whether the iPhone will also include a self-igniting function. Also, despite its capacity to hold thousands of phone numbers, it will lack the miraculous technology to help its nerd owners get any numbers. (Read this paragraph to read: "I want one.")

A chimpanzee in a Louisiana sanctuary has given birth despite the fact that all resident males have had vasectomies. The facility, Chimp Haven, provides long-term care for chimps "retired" from laboratory research; there is no word on how the other chimps feel about sharing quarters with a screaming toddler through their golden years. Once the identity of the father is determined, the Chimp Haven staff plan to take him back to the veterinarian for another vasectomy attempt, relying on the hope that he fails to remember what happened the last time they got him in the car by telling him that they were "going to the park."

Along with vasectomies, liposuction surgery doesn't exactly represent cutting edge technology, but a starving artist in Santiago, Chile has found a disturbing new use for it. "Ladies and gentleman, bon appetit and may god bless," Marco Evaristti told his dinner guests after serving them meatballs that were cooked with the fat extracted from his own body. Not mentioned was the fact that the accompanying "angel hair" pasta was actually his own back hair. God bless indeed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When Athletes Attack

Every so very often, the wide, wide world of sports collides with the much more narrow and boring world that we actually live in. The nature of these intersections are as remarkable and astonishing as they are contrived, coincidental, or completely fabricated. Reader discretion is pretentious.

The Texas Rangers have offered 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Sammy Sosa a non-guaranteed contract, giving him the chance to make the team in spring training. Sosa made his Major League debut with the Rangers in 1989, but was traded away a month later, only a few short months after Dubya had become managing general partner of the ballclub. Sosa hit the first home run of his career while wearing a Rangers uniform and then went on to hit the 587 others for teams not run by future Presidents. Fifth all-time in career home runs, Sosa hit 64 homers as recently as 2001, but has been away from the game for the past two years after earning receiving $17 million in 2005 while hitting only 14 home runs with a .221 batting average. If the pattern follows Dubya to the capital, his successors in the White House will withdraw troops from Iraq once it's far too late and the situation is a total embarrassment.

Despite just forming an exploratory committee on Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama was ready to announce that his home state's Chicago Bears would defeat the American sweetheart New Orleans Saints in Sunday's NFC Championship, saying, "I am happy for New Orleans. I think it's a wonderful story for their city, but this fairy tale ends when they come to Chicago." Meanwhile, the cohesive entity known to all simply as "Brangelina" can be assumed to support their New Orleans Saints counterparts in the matchup, having recently bought a fixer-upper in the Lower Ninth Ward $3.5 million, six-bed mansion in the French Quarter, and of course, being saints themselves. Regardless of who wins the NFC Championship on Sunday, ask John Kerry and he'll tell you that they're only going to lose to Manny Ortiz and the New England Patriots two weeks later in the Super Bowl anyway.

The NFL has rejected Britney Spears' offer to appear in a Super Bowl commercial for its NFL Network, citing through a source that, "She's too much of a train wreck. Besides, we already have Paris Hilton." The spot involves "an eclectic group of celebrity friends" attending Cincinnati Bengal receiver Chad Johnson's Super Bowl party, including Hilton, LL Cool J, and Martha Stewart, as well as hopeful participants Alien Janet Reno and Predator. Aside from Spears, it seems as though whether you're a multi-billion dollar corporation, a millionaire playboy, or a hundredaire undergrad, you may need to reevaluate your standards when Paris Hilton is deemed acceptable. However in the end, the entire discussion may be moot because if the advertisement accurately represents the NFL Network, no one will see it anyway.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


In the news media system, there are two separate yet equally unimportant groups of headlines: the inane, whose comedy is entirely superficial, and the slightly more interesting, which are simply not compelling enough for me to endlessly blather on about. These are their stories. DUN-DUN!

In the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday, the New England Patriots came from behind to upend the Whale's Vagina Chargers, 24-21. Larry David is in negotiations to pen a Sour Grapes sequel with the lead role awarded to star Chargers running back, LaDainian Tomlinson. Just as he did on Sunday, Shawne Merriman hopes to make a cameo appearance, barring any difficulty fitting his steroid-engorged head in the camera frame. In the meantime, Merriman waits at home with the Lights Out, enjoying a tub of popcorn as he watches the NFL Playoffs unfold.

It's been discovered that in 1956, the French government proposed to unite the nation with Britain, going so far as offering to accept the rule of Queen Elizabeth II. Joan of Arc could not be reached for comment, but pundits have gone on to discuss the possible unions of Israel and Pakistan; the United States and Mexico; as well as Luxembourg and anyone.

The trial of a former Coca-Cola secretary accused of stealing company secrets is set to begin on Tuesday with jury selection. In order to ensure potential jurors' impartiality, each pool member will be subjected to a blind taste-test with those preferring Pepsi excused for cause. In addition to confidential documents, Joya Williams is said to have taken unreleased product samples including what is mysteriously referred to in the indictment as "Project N......." Educator-in-Chief has learned from non-existent sources that "Project N......." is the elliptical code name of the soon-to-not-be-released "Supercharged Diet Cherry Vanilla Mocha Green Tea Quench AM, Ph.D."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hail to the "Educator-in-Chief"

In last night's 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley, Dubya inexplicably labeled himself as the "Educator-in-Chief." Of course when he said this, I immediately went into convulsions–just like that one time I attempted to watch Desperate Housewives– but luckily I have Tivo, so I was able to rewind and listen again:

Pelley: "How can you escalate the war when so many people in this country seem to be against it?"
Dubya: "Uh, I, um, I'm gonna have to keep explaining, that's why I'm doing this interview with you. Scott, sometimes you're the Commander-in-Chief, sometimes you're the Educator-in-Chief, and a lot of times you're both when it comes to war."

I couldn't imagine a poorer choice of words for a man with such a well-documented and much-maligned history involving anything considered edumacational. But then I used "the Google" and discovered that Dubya referenced the same term in an interview with Charlie Gibson last September. I remember watching that interview, but I also remember my ears beginning to bleed at one point, so you'll have to excuse me if I missed anything else noteworthy.

However, I did manage to catch the sparkle of a few other choice nuggets in the Pelley interview. When asked if he'd seen the Zapruder- YouTube-inspired video of the Saddam Hussein execution, Dubya appeared quite disturbed and disgusted, despite personally signing off on one-hundred fifty-two executions in his six-year term as governor of Texas, albeit the majority of which were of the more ethical humane accepted variety.

Dubya also said that he deserves responsibility for any mistakes that have been made in regard to Iraq, claiming that he doesn't want the blame to be placed on the military. Beyond hoping to appear ingenuous, it was a thinly veiled attempt to insinuate that the military was at some point thought to deserve blame. To imply that troops could possibly be considered to be at fault is to imply that Dubya's detractors–namely the Democrats–would prefer to blame the heavily-armored body rather than the head (albeit a very capable head that went on to name itself Educator-in-Chief–no small feat).

At this point, I began to think that if he has indeed finally accepted responsibility–and even blame–then perhaps he would consider stepping down? (Of course thinking was my first mistake, for which I accept all responsibility, but I refuse to step down from my self-appointed post as...whatever it is that I am. But let me continue in thought, as I often do.)

I'm reminded of Home Depot's recently ousted CEO, Bob Nardelli. The role of President is similar to a glorified CEO, and Dubya is likewise quite similar to Nardelli. While Nardelli was a gifted college football player, Dubya was famously known as a star athlete the managing general partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Nardelli was passed over for the top post at General Electric, and Dubya was passed over by the American people for Al Gore. Both Nardelli and Dubya were appointed to their highest positions in December 2000 while subject to great public scrutiny. During Nardelli's tenure, Home Depot's profits more than doubled from $2.6 billion to $5.2 billion, but the company's stock plummeted fifty-nine cents (nearly a dime a year!!), from $40.75 a share to an embarrassing $40.16. Meanwhile, Dubya's approval ratings have fallen from a high in the upper eighties to a balmy low thirties range.

On the other hand, maybe the guy deserves a break because really, how many jobs does he have? Let's see, there's Chief of State, Chief Executive, can't forget Chief Diplomat, Commander-in-Chief, Chief Legislator, of course Chief of Party, and Chief Guardian of the Economy. That's more Chiefs than in the board room of Hard Rock! (crickets...) I think he's also the executioner executor of the Constitution or something like that; that should put the count at eight. And of course he's got to look out for all his cronies...that's a full-time job. Oh, and then he donned the cape as The Decider, so I think we're up to double-digits. And now, Educator-in-Chief, too?

While I'm no expert on economics politics anything, it seems that while both Nardelli and Dubya have had varied, debatable success, they've both also failed to meet expectations and keep their own promises. The key difference is that Nardelli has resigned from his post, having received $210 million in severance pay in addition to the $125 million-plus that he made in his six years at the helm. Which makes you wonder, what would Dubya walk away with under similar conditions?

On second thought, maybe we ought to just let him keep his job(s). How can we afford not to?