Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad (as required by Internet Rule # 47854b)

Ramblings Post #240
There are certain Rules. You don’t put pineapple on a pizza. Chocolate is the best flavor. You don't buy beer, your rent. Reading is fundamental. You don't hit a girl. Two plus two equals five for large values of two. You don't talk about fight club. And if it is a hot topic, your blog must comment on it...if only in passing. So, today, we discuss a television show I never really saw.

He was the danger - (pic from Huffington Post via AMC)

I have watched a few clips and maybe one and half episodes of Breaking Bad. Well, the second half of one episode and then the episode that followed it in the marathon I stumbled into. As it happened, the whole episode I did happen to see was the where they killed off Gus Fring, and had I completely understood what was going on - I did to read the Wiki later -  I would have been much more impressed than I was just piecing things together.

I think it was because I missed the beginning of the series that I was never really able to get into it, but there were still other things I was kinda irked about. The original premise - Schoolteacher with cancer turns crime to provide for his family after death - just smelled wrong. I'd already seen the lead character with cancer trope go wrong for Showtime, because if the show becomes popular and you need more seasons, the quick fix is the cancer goes into remission, whoosh! It's a way too easy writer out, and wrecks the motivation aspect. But then most television writing has to be so conditional...the afore mentioned ratings, character popularity, who agreed to come back next season, etc...that a writers room can churn out something worth watching nothing short of extraordinary.  Still, I don't appreciate "trapdoors" like that. I expect more creativity.

The continuing theme of "anti-hero" is starting to get less than enjoyable as well. We've starting celebrating killers and thieves in our popular culture. Not "bad" people, like we did in the 70s, but people who are actually bad. There is a book series that I like, but I cannot read, because the bad guy gets away with too often. This show reminds of that - not characters who live their lives and do things because that's how they have always done them, but people who actively chose to do these "bad" things when other possibilities existed. But then fans never really talk about his motivations, and the clips of him with is family never seem to have the right flavor.  

But, the episodes I did see I liked. They were gritty not flashy, the characters seemed very grounded. That the drug lord ran an actual business and drove a station wagon I found refreshing, instead of the the usual nightclub. Ultimately however, the story was in my mind far too sprawling at the point I entered it. The Wiki just kept going and going. Maybe in the future, when I have extra money to go with some time, I'll get the whole box set (or rent the whole box set) and watch it all in one mindless torrent. Maybe.

"Like, literally the best work of art that television has ever produced.” That's the quote I keep hearing, comparing it to things like the Wire and the Sopranos. To that I have to ask... um, how long have you owned a television? How many channels do you get? Do premium channels not count?

Maybe I need to watch another couple of episodes. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Chair Recognizes....(sigh)

This is a political post.

The other day, Presidential hopeful and Barack Obama Legitimatizer, one Ted Cruz stood up in front of the Senate of these here United States and decided to make a stand. Not against the congresses entrenched partisanship, our lack of commitment to government and instead gamesmanship. Or even that they'd raised the price of the brownies in the Senate cafeteria.

He stood up for 21 hours and talked about everything under the sun to, well, it wasn't to stop a vote. Not like in the movies or nothing. Principles! Yes, principles that it. He stood up to argue on principle that the government should defund Obamacare, because it's hurting the country (although it hasn't actually started yet). Just like the Sequester that is hurting the country. That he did vote for. 

And he did this,  theoretically, to the person the program is named after. The man's signature piece of legislation. The one he will be known for. We've accomplished so little in the past six years, and now we want to take back one of the few things we actually did get done. Because....AMERICA!

If I was Obama, well I probably wouldn't have made a it to a second term, but anyway...if I had been the position the President was in I would have gotten together a motorcade, stopped by the local Five Guys and gotten the two patties and the large fries, dropped by the Senate,  got a front row seat and watched for a while. With a little easel behind me with cue cards, just to see if I could get him say something stupid. Well, stupider.

I am belittling the man's accomplishment. Because this was no 300-style epic stand against the invading horde. Not the Tank Man in Tienanmen Square or the stand at the Alamo. This wasn't even Custer at Little Big Horn. This long rambling "green eggs and ham and another thing speechifying" didn't delay a crucial vote, nor did it break new ground, it wasn't sweeping, informative, inspiring or  moving, most of it wasn't even on the topic, no, it was...

...grandstanding. This was his I would like to be President next time around and now I have a glorious moment to point to where "I stood alone" against the Marxist Socialist Fascist Time Traveling Kenyan and his liberal hordes! This was his chance for unfettered camera time. I know, because when I clicked that link to the CNN live feed at 3:35am he was still talking...telling me it was 3:35am. This is cold calculated political maneuvering. When his campaign starts he will pluck from it choice sound bites and piece and parcel of heroics to display. And if he opponents are smart, they auto tune him rambling on and on about nothing when he had the chance to make real arguments. 

Is this what government has become? An extra long episode of American Idol sans judges? A reality show we're ashamed to say comes on The Learning Channel? 

(sigh) This is why I try to watch as much Cartoon Network as I can.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kenya. A candle for you as well.

Ramblings Post #239
It is the mature person who realizes that tragedy is a very personal term, localized to the individual or small group who connects to a given situation in a specific way. It is the wise person who realizes that just because tragedy is personal does it make it any less horrific.

Nairobi, Kenya. Africa in the 21st century.
I want to call it an incident, so as to not glorify the actions of the perpetrators, but its too much more than that now and the term doesn't do the pictures I've seen justice. The world is clearly much smaller than we thought. This whole thing is shocking on a number levels, in the sense that the concept of the mall has become universal, and though the idea of indiscriminate killing was fresh in our minds, the scale and the particularly graphic images set in locales that closely resemble those we walk through every day sharpens our perception.

Half a world away, yet just around the corner.

I have on my kitchen counter bookends from Kenya. I know they're from Kenya, because Schmoopy got them for me. She's originally from Kenya. I met her when she was still fresh and new, nights on the chat at work, me explaining American idioms and her giving me a better perspective of the world. She goes there once a year to, I guess, keep in touch with reality. Another few months it might have been me sitting up waiting for a text to let me know I could breathe again. She's become like a little sister to me in many ways.

I can offer to those who have seen the horror or have felt the pain little other than prayer. I hope that it is enough.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

More Moments I Meant to Comment On

Ramblings Post #238
Standing there, the force of the wind holding him vertical more than the muscles in his legs, he tried to focus on the sign in the distance, the marker that would tell him if he was on the proper path or if he started his trek in the wrong direction. Stiffly, each footstep like a slog through a million years of humanity he approached. He reached up and raised his goggles, the lenses now a haze. The markings took shape to his weary eyes, and as he came to realize them....

I've had...something this week. At first I thought it was allergies, then the sniffles, then the dreaded summer cold. But then I got chills, my stomach was upset, I think I had a fever (I'm a guy, I don't own a thermometer), and there was the sneezing and the itchy eyes and I was always tired, so I surmised it must be a cold. Or the flu or maybe the plague, or cancer, or whatever it was the commercial was selling that pill for, and now my body clock is screwed and I need to get back to right.

But a lot of things happened this week that had I been fully cognizant I would have commented on so now I need to catch up. Hopefully some this is actually still relevant.


I think I spoke to soon. This new season is kind of why we love football. Because even though we have been proven true in our predictions for greatness in Seattle and Denver, there are the pleasant surprises like Kansas City and the early season woes for Pittsburgh. Hey, I know a lot of obnoxious Steeler fans, gimme a break! And as Philly is now 1-2, somebody has discovered how to tame that potential beast we all saw that first game. The rest of the NFC east, please take notes. And, double bonus, the Cowboys with a win can be first in the NFC East this week. At least before the inevitable let down in December. Hey, we take our moments where we can get them!

The new Pope

My conservative FB friend is one those individuals who has a "unique" understanding of religion. And by unique I mean her interpretation is THE correct one. If your vision of how things are supposed to be differs from theirs, then you are wrong. No debate, you wrong. This understanding of hers exists in a state of superiority over all authorities, biblical scholars, possibly the bible itself and up to and including the Pope. Because according to her, the Pope is off his nut and needs to get his mind right. I pray for her pastor, and hope he's on his game every Sunday.

The New TV season

I don't watch near as much new Television as I used to. Syndication and online episodes are my friend. Is a new season still a thing?

The Looming Government Shutdown

There is a point in a long con where things get dangerous, where you forget that the whole thing is a con and you start believing in your own shenanigans. I realize that the GOP of late likes to re-write history to fit it's narrative, but have they forgotten what happened last time they actually got that far? To point of actually shutting down government? The aftermath wasn't pretty for them. And since to get the majority they have now they had to rise to new heights of gerrymandering creativity, has the idea that which can be created can be taken apart just as easily just not occurred to them?

Grand Theft Auto V

Well, damn. And, thank god for gift cards.


For the record I still use a Blackberry. I've been meaning to upgrade but I'm, er, how can say this, um, ...economically challenged. But it looks like I need to step it up before my cell turns into a little black brick that I like to hold to my ear from time to time. I knew they were in trouble but wow.

Had I left the house to go anywhere other than the grocery store to get various medicines, none of which seem to be working,  there might be more. Okay, there wouldn't be much more, but there might. There is always hope. I'm re-reading my accumulated library in hopes of an epiphany, or at least some inspiration. Time goes on. We go with.

Barkeep, let me get a Benadryl and Claritin smoothie, with a shot of Tylenol and a shot of Mucinex. And three shots of vodka for flavor. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A candle in DC, another in Chicago.

This is a political post. 

First, I hope those in pain at the loss of a family member or friend find solace in the arms of other family and friends, and come to cherish those relationships for we know not when they will end.  May they grieve as it needs be, and carry on as they should, and find happiness with life once more.

Now, there was a time, just last year as a matter fact, where a bunch of people getting killed at one time was a cause for alarm. Aurora, Colorado. Newtown. Boston. Now it barely registers. Actually, I'm almost certain the death of the black people in Chicago will be, by comparison, relatively ignored.  In the past, and by past I again mean just last year, the press would swarm for days on end to get us A story, any story. Now it seems that one tragedy rolls into the next, and trying to find a reason for these things happening we re-hash the same excuses, start the same discussions that get us to nowhere closer to addressing what has become a problem with mass killings. 

Fox news immediately trotted out the violent video game rationale I thought had retired five years ago to become a gentleman farmer. My conservative FB friend immediately brought up the "my gun sat on the porch all day and didn't kill anyone" story. Neither of these seems to be able to connect the idea of violence with the tools that enhance it, quickly defending the right to bear arms, possibly while the alleged assailant was still reloading. And this was merely on the suggestion that the incident at the Naval Yard might reopen the debate about gun control.

We as a society have become are so polarized by our circumstances that honest discussion may no longer be possible. Who knows what such a talk might reveal? Perhaps after a complete and honest look at the whole situation, the conservative viewpoint might prove to be the correct one. Logical arguments could be made, heretofore unrealized rational arguments might be conceived. But, we'll never know that because we can't even have the conversation! And that's the worst outcome of all.

And when people stop talking, how soon will the divorce follow? Um, not divorce, sorry, got the wrong term there. Well, maybe not quite the wrong term.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Can't win for Losing...

This is a political post. 

So like Syria. Again.

In a few of my previous posts, I have alluded to Obama as a kind of political Batman, someone who has all the angles figured. In the comic books, the Caped Crusader is a meticulous thinker, considering the all the possibilities and keeping something in his back pocket, er...utility belt, for each one. But sometimes, because they also make movies of Batman, and there is only so much they can cover in a movie (to our great disappointment), our hero sometimes finds the solution to the problem just plops down in front of him, all nice and neat. 

That is what I believe happened this time. Obama got lucky.

I keep looking at John Kerry and I can't believe I voted for him in 2004. How he went from dinner with al-Assad in 2009 to calling the man a two bit dictator boggles my mind, but then maybe he ordered the souffle when Kerry was ready for the meal to over? Luckily, the Secretary of State's dismissive off the cuff solution of the Russians taking over Syria's chemical weapons seems to have found a life of its own, gone viral as they say. And I believe it really was an off the cuff remark because the more I hear him the more difficult that is to believe it might have been a setup and he turned in an Oscar worthy performance. Out of sheer luck, his solution was exactly what was needed: A quick and relatively painless negotiated end to this specific type of hostility.

But according to the pundits, well, at least the conservative pundits, Obama lost. To whom I'm not exactly certain, but somehow in a game we weren't playing, we lost. But then these are the people who, after I re-read the text of the President's speech for the third time, seem to believe through their on-air comments that the President wasn't clear enough in his plan or motivations. How much clearer he needed to be I'm unsure. Maybe they wanted a list of targets,  the bombing schedule, and the missile serial numbers? The funniest complaint I read online was wanting to know how much it was going to cost. I'm not sure how to put this, but why would sunk costs be a factor? The navy's costs aren't really going to go up that much from fifteen to thirty missiles launches, will they? We've already bought the ships, paid the sailors...and we've got spare tomahawks, we won't even miss these.

The President's Administration managed to get Syria to the bargaining table and agree to give up its chemical weapons without a shot fired. But we still lost. Giving credit to Putin and the Russians makes us look bad. We let Putin take the reins of the world according to Fox News. Only, as it turns out, this plays out along the lines of a plan outlined by Roger Ailes, head of Fox News. But now it's a bad thing because Obama is doing it. Which is par for the course in Fox News' semi-reality. These are the same people upset that the First Lady suggested we all have an extra glass or two of water a day. You know, something every gym teacher, physical trainer, doctor, any person trying to lose weight and your mom has suggested at one time or another? You know, water?  

One headache down, Eight thousand five hundred seventy...

So to sum up, the Obama Administration stumbled onto a way to get a potentially explosive situation handled without a shot fired...which according to his critics is bad. Confused? You should be.

Question: Does he still have to give back his Nobel Prize?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

They Need to Be Ashamed of Themselves

Ramblings Post #237
Corporations, and the internet, are stealing my childhood. It's just a matter time before we see Dudley Do-Right in a "Come to Canada" promotion and Shaggy from Scooby Doo promoting a drug rehab center. It's bad enough they're using songs I used to jam to sell Eggo waffles. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say that for a minute, I used to kick that MC Hammer. Brother could dance. I used to do the dance for one his videos as my morning workout.

I turned on my TV and saw the ad for the new hamburger from Burger King: The French Fry Burger. In the ad, a little girl tells her mom at the end that "they stole my idea!"

This is Burger King's ad from their website

No little girl. Burger King stole MY idea.

I've been putting French fries on my hamburger for over thirty years. There are people from college that I might see once a year who remember that I put fries on my burger. I chose my burger places, limited that they are, by how the fries are, because I don't like to put bad fries on my hamburger. On the rare occasions I eat a Whopper, I actually drive across the street to Krystal's to get the fries because they're better over there. That and for some reason the 24-hour BK stops serving milkshakes after 10pm.  

And they're doing it wrong. Four fries? You're supposed to put a mound of fries on it, then press down a little. Further I see mayo and there's probably a pickle in there...ugh. Stole my idea AND messed it up. Ugh.

Okay, I'll admit I started doing it because I was copying my older brother originally. I was like five, he was eight, I thought he was cool. Well, he stopped, but I didn't. The burger I had last week had fries on it. The burger was from Wendy's, but I put fries on it.

Burger King might not want you to know that you can do that.

Barkeep. Something, well, that a word?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Are You Ready for some Football?

Ramblings Post #236
I like football. I used to play when I was younger : Pop Warner, School Yard, B-Team, JV and Varsity. Some politics and an untimely injury ended what dreams I had of playing college football, although I'm not sure if my heart would have been in it. When it us in the dirt I was a pretty fair quarterback, but when I got to pads they put me at defensive end. I eventually moved to offensive line. Where I would now be way too small. Size, strength, speed and wisdom is what you need to play. And, to quote 70s action star Lee Majors, I have the wisdom to realize I don't have the other three.

All summer long you tried to remember to figure out things to do on Sunday afternoons. You might watch a movie, or have a late brunch. Maybe even try a little gardening, do some laundry, or sit around eating a box cereal and playing Civilization V,  trying to figure out why your neighbor who claims to be your friend keeps trying to start coups in your allies. Wait, that last one might have been just me. But now, it's football and all is well with the world.

But then it arrives. You gather your things : chips, wings, steak subs, fries, beers, snacks. You get those things that need to be done finished, so as to remove distraction. You get the best spot on your couch, or get if you're lucky head down the stadium and let that breath, that one you've been holding since the start of pre-season, you let it go.

And what a first week it was. I'm trying my best not to jump to conclusions, but Buffalo slowing down the Patriots? So many games coming down to the last second, the last play. And for every bit of heroics, there were the blown coverages, the mistakes. Oh boy were there mistakes. You should have seen some these mistakes. Lavonte David of the Jets has the early lead for bonehead play of the week, with two games left to play, although I think he's going to be hard to top. The previous two front runners, Danny Trevathan of the Broncos, who started celebrating early after a clear pick six but dropped the ball at the one foot line instead, and Darius Reynaud of the Titans, who gave the gift of safety two seconds into the Pittsburgh game, at least didn't give the game away. The phrase I usually use with my Cowboys, "finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" comes to mind. 

And speaking of my Cowboys who chalked up the win against the Giants. I'm still disgusted with them, because the Giants had six turnovers, SIX, and yet the game was in contention up until the last few seconds. It should have been a blow out! At least Romo didn't try to jam it into Dez Bryant like he previously would have. If Dez is double covered, that means somebody has single coverage and Romo needs to find them. And for all the change of play calling hype, they still threw the ball a ridiculous amount of times. At least the mistakes were limited this game for my 'Boys.

Tonight, I'm watching the Eagles, and it's like they unleashed a army onto the field. I was a concerned at how the 'Boys would handle RGIII this season, but he looks rusty. Philly on the other hand looks like a crazed drunken Frankenstein with a chainsaw and howitzer! I need somebody to check the rule book, I'm not sure the Eagles are playing in the right weight class! Wow.

I need to get back to the game, so I'm going to wrap this up. 

Barkeep, some of that Doublewood. Here's to hoping somebody figures out how to stop this Eagles madness before it gets to Dallas.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The President needs to stop mumbling again.

This is a political post.
Things are a little rough right now.
So, Syria.

You would imagine the powers that be sitting around the table riffing through the Iraq file for notes and  muttering that they wouldn't want to go through that again. Well, that's the picture you have if imagine that they have sense. The refresher from Egypt over the past two years should clearly demonstrate what happens when power vacuums exist, which is what will occur in Syria if al-Assad suddenly falls. But, I'm fairly certain the President's staff is missing a key person - maybe the Politics to English Translator, who can stand up and explain exactly why we're even considering this one more expedition, kicking in one more door, so to speak. Because right now, the impetus isn't being properly articulated.  That or the media is still all miffed about the whole NSA thing.

Clarification Note: The NSA thing stems from the Patriot Act, which passed way before Obama became  President. His only crime is not turning it off...provided the self appointed guardians of freedom in the  NSA even told him what was going on.'s his watch, so, there you go.

Just so we're all clear, Obama is not trying to "win" the civil war now raging in Syria, if such a thing can even be accomplished. First, it's not really our business. Second, at this point there are too many players,  too many factions, too many cloudy motivations for a "winner" to even emerge in the region. The political posturing and ideological gamesmanship on display here has far exceed the scope of the action intended by the  original Arab Spring beginnings. The quasi-apartheid/dictatorship of al-Assad is both a bad actor and a stabilizer for the region. The rebels are both freedom fighters and opportunistic fundamentalists. The outside players are all over the map.  No matter what happens in Syria, it will neither be pretty or quick. The best the Syrian people can hope for at this point is that someday their kids have a country to come back to.  

So why? Why even contemplate military action? The quick answer is Chemical weapons. The kind of weapons that fail to discriminate between combatant and civilian. Weapons so bad that the even Hitler, the default most evil man of the 20th century, thought that their effects were beyond the pale. There is evidence they've been used in Syria, and that violates the status quo that nobody uses them...ever. And if somebody gets away with using them, then the next guy, especially in a war with non-state actors, gets the idea that he can too. Which is bad for everyone. Why again, you ask, again. Because if Chemical weapons, and their bad tempered brother Biological weapons become viable weapons...then its just a matter of time before someone invents something nobody can either stop or control. If they haven't already and just haven't found the stomach to use it. 

Not that all this information isn't in most of the articles on the subject, just not in the headline. Or the first paragraph. Or the third.

Learn to speak again Mr. President. This action you've asked Congress to contemplate is based on principle, not politics. This action is in line with the treaties we've legally entered into. It doesn't involve troops on the ground. And, since, you could call in a military strike if you deem it necessary under the War Powers Act anyway, you've asked Congress for authorization because you honor democracy, understand the country is war weary, and like totally aren't a dictator like the people who hate you want to make you out to be. 

Should the President strike in Syria? I don't have that answer. But I do know that he could tell why he thinks we should a lot more clearly.