Archive for category Articles I Probably Shouldn’t Have Bothered Writing

Honest Validation of Unfair Cheese: Slayer and The Perils Of Free-Market Fanaticism

In Slayer’s song Blood Red, singer Tom Araya bellows forth a challenging and powerful lyric that cuts to the core of today’s debate between a managed, centralized economy and a free market system where the “invisible hand” balances the wants and needs of the consumer against the production capabilities of the market.  When he shrieks “Honest validation of unfair cheese” at the 41 second mark of the song, it is clear that he is undercutting a basic free-market premise posited by thinkers the likes of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek.  The words are enlightening and deeply meaningful, particularly for an electorate on the cusp of deciding what sort of financial decisions it plans to make as it marches forward into a new millennium.

In order to understand the meaning behind Araya’s lyric, it is first critical that we understand the meaning of “unfair cheese”.  Nothing is more disappointing to a lover of cheese than when, upon returning from the supermarket, a shopper finds moldy, poorly preserved cheese in their bag.  Who is supposed to ensure the consumer is safe from a flood of this “unfair cheese”?  If the supermarket is left to its own devices, it might well sell all the out of date cheese it could possibly get away with.  After all, as Buddy Holly said in his 1981 hit song “Who is watching the detectives?”  In this case, maybe we need someone to even watch the people who are watching the detectives.  Or, it is possible we may need to hire detectives to watch the detectives who are watching the detectives.

Back to the cheese thing.  If it weren’t for the Better Food and Cheese Act of 1938, under the esteemed and underappreciated Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, humans would be consuming pounds upon pounds of rotting, vile cheese.  The Act empowered the police to arrest and jail any store clerk found selling “unfair cheese” for a period no less than five years in prison.  Higher quality cheeses began to appear.  Productivity flourished.  It was during this period that Gorgonzola cheese was first produced in a laboratory.  It was originally meant to be used as a weapon against the Soviet Union, but later it became appreciated for its velvety texture and tangy flavor.  In the preceding two hundred years, America’s cheese growers had not produced as much as a single new breed of cheese.

So, when Araya asks for “honest validation of unfair cheese”, he’s really questioning whether a purely free market can produce the quality goods needed in a modern economy.  Sure, it’d be nice to believe that the market is such a perfect force that can correct itself and keep the desires of its members in line, but it’s this sort of utopian thinking that caused the Great Wall of China to fall in 1990.

We cannot simply rely on market forces to purify the market.  Human nature tells us that humans, in a perfect state of nature, will do some really unnatural things.  In short, only a neutral arbitrator with no stake in the outcome can possibly make decisions that protect the consumer.

Only when the positions of these regulators are depoliticized and not influenced by corporations or individuals with expensive cars will we truly see an “honest validation of unfair cheese”.  Only then will children of all races and all creeds, of all nationalities and all socio-economic backgrounds, of all hair styles and all blood types be able to sit down at the table of friendship together and eat the same safe and healthy cheese.  Only then will we truly be free.

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9 Comments

On An Easter Egg Hunt With The Cancer Bats

So there I was, participating in that most shameful American rituals, the Easter Egg Hunt.  Swarms of children knocking each other over, screeching at the tops of their lungs in the desperate hopes of laying their greedy little mitts on as many plastic eggs as they possibly can.  The whole exercise functions as a wonderful metaphor for American style consumer capitalism.  A bunch of wild-eyed humans released upon an uneven field with the goal of filling their baskets with as much stuff as possible.  Sure, everybody gets something, but those who are bigger, stronger, faster and, most importantly, start at the front of the line tend to get more.  All the while, this being a function of one of the local mega-churches, crackpot religious explanations are given for nearly everything.

“You know who really put these eggs out here, son?  Jesus Christ.  See, he works through us.  Remember that when you are eating those Skittles,” muttered a used car salesman looking church elder with game show host hair.

It was around that moment that I realized that if I didn’t put my headphones on immediately and listen to something angry I was going to tear my shirt off and run around howling like Lon Chaney.  These were the exact conditions under which I came into contact with the new Cancer Bats album “Dead Set On Living”.

I should admit up front that this hardcore punk metal hybrid thing never really did much for me.  Around the time Hatebreed and Converge were coming out I was busy trying to prove to the world that I was so metal that unless it came out in Europe, was from a band that had been around since Carter was President or had been approved by at least six members of the Central Committee that I couldn’t be bothered it.  It is really a shame, because I missed some pretty intense music and probably would have been easier to be around had I been a tad more open-minded.

Listening to the driving groove of the opening track “R.A.T.S” while watching a husky five-year-old girl rip an egg out of the hands of some pigtailed three year old seemed particularly fitting.  The whole scene was menacing.  The tone of the album helped me imagine the children turning into brain-thirsty zombies.  Somehow, instead of the eggs being filled with the sugar-laced, sunshine of God’s love, they were contaminated with some CIA tested drug that morphs children into predatory beasts.

The Cancer Bats singer Liam Cormier takes some getting used to.  He’s of the high pitched death wail school, which usually makes me a bit edgy.  It gets better as the album goes on, particularly because he offsets it from time to time with an almost David Lee Rothian snarl.  The guitars are what really what grab you.  They tend to create short, punchy, memorable riffs that carry you endlessly forward and flow from a nearly bottomless pit of energy.  About three listens to this record are all you need to be thirsting for it every second of the day.

Meanwhile, the kids began to get this panicked look around the time they realized the eggs were nearly gone.  Something like the expression they’ll have in twenty years when they are sitting in their car waiting to get gas for three hours.  I cranked the music louder steeling myself for some sort of toddler riot.  I knew I could handle a few of them, but if the whole group turned on me they’d tear me to ribbons.  Finally, mercifully, the eggs had all been collected and the mob was redirected with little violence towards a sea of bouncy castles in the church parking lot.

The whole experience was perplexing for me.  Here I was, surrounded by all that is supposedly good and right with the world. Except every bit of it felt dirty and degrading.  The only thing that seemed remotely moral to me was the driving rhythm of the music in my headphones.  I sunk into a moment of genuine despair as I realized that I might never be able to reconcile my values with those of my culture.  Maybe I was an alien.  Maybe I was simply wired wrong.  Would I ever be able to understand how people could find joy in moments like this?  Then, out of nowhere, my beautiful three-year-old daughter took my hand, looked at me and smiled.  And everything was okay.

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Metalhead Insult Form Letter

Occasionally we receive insulting or life-threatening posts or emails here at Tyranny of Tradition.  While we enjoy these greatly, we have begun to notice an alarming trend.  Most of them are either poorly written or possibly symptomatic of a severe break with what we commoners like to refer to as “reality”.  In order to improve the quality of these insults, we have created a form letter for those of you that struggle with expressing yourselves in writing. 

The answers are based on the most common, clichéd insults or recycled comments that we have received over past year and a half.  We left out any profanity or pseudo-ironic internet abbreviations that tend to be a major part of these letters so that we could focus more on content.  Questions 6 and 7 are meant to be representative of the majority of our insulters, so feel free to add your own information after the word “Other” if the responses don’t properly represent you.  Please use this form if you feel the sudden urge to attempt to humiliate or degrade us.  It will save us the many seconds that were wasted trying to figure out what you were talking about.

Dear ________________________________,

     A.  Internet Warrior

    B. Poser

    C. Guy who lives in his mother’s basement

    D. Troll

   E.  Idiot

Your blog sucks.  I read your last post and you are ______________. 

      A.  not funny

     B. not heterosexual

     C. a little troll who lives in his mother’s basement

     D. a butthurt, hipster English major

 E.  overweight

 F.  skinny and frail

  G.  the type of guy who thinks his beard and haircut makes him look like Kerry King when in fact it just makes him look homeless

   H.  Both E and G

   I.  Both F and G

J.  All of the Above

I hate you.  Your blog is _______________.

      A.  second-rate Onion

      B. a third-rate Onion

      C. just like The Onion

      D. like that internet site that does parodies of news articles

I hope you _________________. 

      A.  drown in a lake

      B.  die in a fire

      C.  get a girlfriend and stop writing

      D.  start doing something productive with your time

      E.  stop spamming pictures of Scott Baio onto my Myspace profile

      F.  move out of your mother’s basement

G.  Learn the proper uses of there and their

Your writing reminds me of _______________.

      A.  Everybody Loves Raymond

      B.  dog vomit

      C. The Onion

      D. the last Morbid Angel album

I spend a lot of time judging other people’s writing in my time as _____________ and yours is the worst I’ve ever read.

      A.  a metal message board moderator

      B. inmate 657891 at the Dannemora Correctional Institute

      C.  the president of the fan club of some black metal band that no one has ever heard of

      D.  a highly bored casualty of the current downsizing trend

       E. Other___________________________

  If I see you on the street I’ll probably _________________.

     A.  stare at you with a menacing look and hope that you notice my Burzum hoodie

     B.  tell you how much I love your blog

     C.  mutter under my breath about you living in your mother’s basement and hope you didn’t hear me

     D.  ask you if you write that blog that’s like a metal version of The Onion

E.  drive a spike through your head and dance on your corpse while singing “Transylvanian Hunger”

     E.  Other_____________________________

You suck,

Your fake internet name here_______________________________________

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17 Comments

I Fired Bill Ward

Dear Reader,

I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.  The firing of Bill Ward from Black Sabbath was my decision and my decision alone.  You all are creations that exist only in my mind.  Bill Ward and Black Sabbath are mere hallucinations that I invented.  I have been alone here on earth since those terrible months back in 2004.  I invented all of you. None of what you know to be reality is actually real.

People have taken his firing as an opportunity to smear the impeccable character of Sharon Osbourne.  Sharon is a warm and wonderful woman.  When I created her, it was based on a memory of a loving Sunday School teacher I had as a child.  Blame me, the creator of this sick and twisted world for the firing of Bill.  She doesn’t deserve your scorn.

Honestly, I was bored.  I’m really running out of things to do here on earth since the plague wiped out the rest of the human race.  I spend most of my days scrounging for food, but when I need entertainment, I make up ridiculous stories about “your world” in my mind.  I’m so good at it that you, my illusions, have begun to think you are real and that the fantasies I create for you are the truth.  I sit here for hours in my cave making up things like President Obama or the taste of new kinds of orange sodas or LeBron James or designs for Nike running shoes as I await my death and the end of the human race.

Please understand that I have big plans for Bill.  There is a scenario I am working on know where Bill is forced to fight off a swarm of three-headed dragons that emerge from behind the sun next year.  His firing might give him the time he needs to prepare to save your fictitious little universe.

Sharon and Ozzy are to be treated well.  One or two more bad words about them from any of you and I’ll think you away completely. It will be as if you never were.  You may awaken in an endless maze with minotaurs in it or you may not awaken at all.  No one will even have a memory of you.  Am I clear?

Anyway, please make a point to go out and support one of the greatest metal bands ever on this year’s reunion tour.  You won’t be sorry you went!

Thanks,

Keith Spillett

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8 Comments

Desperately Seeking Stupid

“Beware of the hobby that eats.”  -Benjamin Franklin

The modern world can easily be a paradise for the highly committed and deeply disturbed among us.  A person can amuse themselves endlessly with useless acts of rebellion meant to add luster to the dreary, humdrum, day-to-day flatness of life.  Abbie Hoffman once figured out how to obtain a free buffalo from the Department of Interior.  He was a bit more creative than I am.  Having become sick of ending up with piles and piles of junk mail I set my sights on turning this annoyance into an affirmation of the uniquely twisted nature of today’s world.

It all started at Kroger on a rainy Friday afternoon many Octobers ago.  Kroger is a supermarket chain that exists down here in Atlanta, Georgia so that people have a place to go if Publix is too crowded or closed.

I had recently been forcibly removed from the place for getting into a shouting match with three employees over my belief that they were intentionally overcharging me for the 35 boxes of store brand pudding I was trying to purchase.  I was in the mood for mischief, but not the type that would again lead me to being tossed onto the ground and called a “pudding hoarder” by an overzealous store security guard.

At Kroger, you can get a card that, in exchange for surrendering loads of personal information, can help the cagier shoppers among us to save lots of money through special discounts.  Of course, once your information is in their hands who knows where it ends up.  They can sell it to anyone they want.  They can give it to the KGB for all you know.

For fun, I decided that if they were going to get someone’s name, it ought to be The Boston Strangler’s.  So, now when I look in my mailbox and some company is trying to send me coupons for, say, diapers, those coupons are addressed to Mr. Albert DeSalvo.  Kroger and the other litany of corporate octopi that spend thousands of dollars to figure out whether I might buy more or less than 100 dollars worth of Kleenex per year are actually trying to appeal to a maniac who terrified the people of Boston for months on end.  Cracks me up every time.

My fake criminal spree continued at CVS the next day where I signed up for their consumer rewards program as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.  The following is a re-creation of an actual conversation that took place.

CVS Customer Service Agent:  Do you have a CVS card?

Me:  Sure.  Here it is.

Agent:  (swiping card) You saved $3.52 on those cans of formaldehyde Dr. Kevorkian.

Me:  Thanks!

Agent:  Hey.  You are not the famous Dr. Jack Kevorkian are you?

Me:  No.  That’s my brother.

Agent:  Your parents named you both Jack. 

Me:  Yes.  And we are both doctors. 

Agent:   Oh.

If you were to ravage my mailbox, you’d see a regular who’s who list of famed murderers.  Target knows me as Ted Bundy, Hobby Lobby calls me Ed Gein, Iams Dog Food thinks I’m David Berkowitz and The Omaha Steak Company sends their annual Steak of the Month mailing to a connoisseur named Jeff Dahmer.  It’s really rather a strange feeling to see pictures of smiling, deeply contented people in a Macy’s catalogue that has just been sent to Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez.

Why does this make me laugh?  I’m not sure. It’s childish, insensitive and really asinine.  Murder is certainly not funny, particularly the sheer perversity of the acts committed by my alter-mail-egos (except, of course, Kevorkian, who really doesn’t belong in this group of sickos).   Maybe it’s a way of trying to make sense of the perpetual flow of slickly produced come-ons that follow me around where ever I look.  Maybe it’s an indicator of my inability to understand the nature of evil.  Maybe I just need another hobby.  It’s hard to say.

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A Schizotypal Review of Moneyball

(Middle-aged woman with red hair walks on the elevator.  I am pacing back and forth.  My facial muscles are twitching.  I begin saying “Vermont” over and over in a loud voice for no particular reason)

Me:  Vermont….vermontvermontvermont…..VERMONT!!!!

Woman:  (frightened)  Sir, are you okay?

Me:  No.  No.  I’m not okay.  I’m NOT okay.  I’m not OKAY ALRIGHT!!!!

You know why?  Do you?  Moneyball.  That’s the problem.  Moneyball.  I stayed up all night watching that film.  Over and over.  I read the book.  I mean, I loved the book.  It fueled my deep and undying passion for baseball stats.  It was fascinating.  VERMONT!  I mean, Michael Lewis is a heck of a writer.  But….THE MOVIE!!!!   Ehhhhh!!!!  Vermont!

Woman:  (staring straight ahead in utter terror)  The….movie?

Me:  It’s absurd.  Absurd!  They turned the thing into a Merchant-Ivory picture!  All the edge of a five-year-old butter knife.  All the dullness of Out of Africa with the “fight the system”, Occupy Someplace message that Americans love.  Mr. Smith Goes To Oakland.  Blah blah blah.  Of course, the big climax is the film is the main character turning down a whale’s colon full of money for “the love of the game”.  If there was ever a part of me that didn’t want so see Hollywood attacked by human eating vultures it died in that moment.  VERMONT!!!!!!

Woman:  Buh…

Me:  Good lord!  How many shots of that stupid “Awwww shucks”, wax-lipped expression on Brad Pitt’s stupid face can one man handle?  Who wants to watch this guy do a 2-hour impression of the offensive line coach at Auburn?  And the fat kid?  What’s his deal!!?!!  If I was Paul DePodesta I’d rather them got Anthony Perkins to play me.  They even put hipsters in baseball movies now for godsakes.  VERMONT!!!!!!  And his daughter?!?  Good lord!  They put her in the movie twice for the sole purpose of playing that god-awful song.  TWICE!!!  Awful!  Those noises she makes.  She sounds like a porpoise giving birth…

Woman:  (reaching into her purse for either a whistle or pepper spray)  Sir, please…….

Me:  Look!  You asked me what I thought about the film!  I hated it.  Vermont!  If you watched the film you’d think the A’s only had Scott Hatteberg, Chad Bradford and David Justice.  They had Zito!  Mulder!  Hudson!  Dye!  Tejada!  Harang!  Ramon Hernandez!  Not a one of those guys were Moneyballers.  And their division sucked!  Those were also factors….don’t you think??????

Woman:  Uhmmmm….

Me:  You’d think Billy Beane had a blind second baseman and 9-year-old playing catcher.  You’d think Billy Beane climbed Mount Mariah and talked the good lord out of making Abraham sacrifice his son.  You’d think he cured smallpox by dialing a few numbers into his computer.  VER—–MONT!!!!!

Woman:  Sir!

Me:  And another thing, what did Art Howe ever do to become the worst movie villain since Jack Nicholson put on face paint?  Sure, he wasn’t exactly a great manager, but watching this film you’d think he had Frank Menechino’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.  He’s an American League manager!  Of course, he’s cold and disinterested!  You would be too if you had to watch 162 games a year without even getting to call one double switch.  Let’s face it, it’s the most mind-numbing job this side of being Underwear Inspector Number 8 at the Hanes Factory.

Woman:  (angrily)  Are you finished?

Me:  Am I finished?!?  Am I finished?!?  VermontvermontVERMONT!  You know what stings the worst.  The reviews!  Reading reviewer after reviewer practically break their collective arms trying to heap praise on this piece of garbage because the director “gets out of the way and let’s the film tell it’s story.”  According to most of the Gatekeepers of Good Taste, the best thing an American director can aspire to be is irrelevant.  Where are the 12-minute tracking shots?  Where is the juxtaposition between Billy Beane and a Chicago Slaughterhouse in the 1890s?  No homage to Eisenstein’s Odessa Step Sequence? Only two films get made in Hollywood anymore, the one about the likeable but eccentric character triumphing over some overblown problem or the one about the co-ed trapped in an elevator who can only survive by gnawing off her own leg.  America used to stand for something!  Is this really the best we can do? VERMONT!!!!

(Elevator Dings)

Woman:  (finally looking at me with a deeply concerned expression)This is my floor.  I’m going to go now.

Me:  Thanks for listening.

Woman:  You bet.

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Requiem For A Dumb Idea

Every once and a while the free market really gets it right.  Dippin’ Dots, the mothball shaped ice cream that took America by storm back in the 1990s, has finally, mercifully filed for bankruptcy.  The fact that 2,000 of these stands exist today is a shaming blight upon the wooly, pock marked face of consumer capitalism.  I am not much of a dancer, but I need to admit that I actually leaped out of my seat and did a fair Michael Flatley impression when I heard that this frozen pox was nearing eradication.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of having been around me when walking by a Dippin’ Dots stand has been subjected to a mile-a-minute tirade about how “the rat poison of the future should be grinded into the dust of the past” (as I told my wife on our second date).  I actually got in a shouting match with a Dippin’ Dots franchise owner in Poughkeepsie, New York that ended with me nearly getting maced by a mall cop.

What bares further investigation is surely not the uselessness of the product, for who among us can actually defend such swill, but my disposition on the matter.   With famine, war, pestilence and torture all more obvious candidates for my vitriol, what really rankles me is the existence of these pellets of shame.

To be fair, I can’t even be certain I’ve ever eaten the things.  They actually might be quite good.  There is just something about them that makes my internal organs weep.  I feel insulted by their very existence.

I’m certainly not harboring some deep dissatisfaction with the concept of frozen desserts.  I could ingest nothing but ice cream, Italian ices and Sno Cones from now until when my first social security check comes in and be perfectly content.  It’s not like I had to be hospitalized with an ice cream headache for three weeks or got hit by a Good Humor van when I was 11 and have some odd physical aversion to this sort of thing.  I practically sweat gelato.

After almost four decades of being offered a shameful array of stuff that I could not find a use for in a million lifetimes, I think this may be the Dot that broke the camels back.  How many Sham-Wows, how many Pillow Pets, how many steel-belted, titanium, rust-proofed, icy cold scams can a man endure before he reached the point of feeling genuine, hot-blooded scorn?  Every time one of these asinine businesses get started in the name of The American Dream, a little part of me dies.

If the little Chamber of Commerce member in your mind has started to spew rhetorical vomit about how having 67 thousand different brands of oatmeal is good for the economy and, thus, America, tell him that while this stuff may be good if your goal is to create a society who’s members all have amassed personal debt in excess of the Gross National Product of Peru it might not be the best use of their time and collective brain power.

I’m a communist, you say.  Fine!  At least Lenin never had to sit through toothpaste commercials.  If what passes for communism in America is being ill-disposed to living in a 24 hour a day flea market that has been approved by 9 out of 10 dentists, then sign me up.

Truthfully, my real anger is at the feeling of having to participate in the market at nearly all moments.  Sure, I could go sit up on a mountaintop and breathe fresh air all day, but most people’s lives put them face-to-face with The Never Ending Hustle.  In The Great Gatsby, the billboard of Dr. TJ Eckleburg was a façade that hid a part of the soulless, desolate valley of ashes.  The billboards of today merely serve the purpose of hiding more billboards.

I can’t get five steps away from my door without some hackneyed inducement to participate in the ever-glorious marketplace of individual freedom.  Sometimes they are gentle, sometimes they are rough, sometimes they play on my nerves, sometimes they tug on my heartstrings, but the pull is interminable.

Sure, I don’t have to buy whatever this or that company is selling, but I do have to make an effort to tune it out.  Constantly.  And while that effort is minimal, the collective weight of it has worn me down.  After all, you can be crushed under the weight of a hundred tons of feathers just as you can be crushed under a hundred tons of lead.

At some point along the line, a very real feeling of insurmountable weariness has crept into my mind.  Like when you are trying to fall asleep and different vague, unconnected noises continue to awaken you right when you have become completely calm.  Eventually, you can be annoyed into the belief that peace and calm are impossible.

I blame you Dippin’ Dots, because getting my arms around a problem this big and pervasive doesn’t seem feasible.  I’ve forgotten how to take to the streets and I don’t know the mailing address of my duly elected state representative.  I only know the language of futility and those types of words don’t move mountains.  I might not be able stop the endless flow of sugar-coated avarice that flows unabated though our collective veins but I sure know how to smile when the axe of the free market lands squarely on the neck of a hated foe.

Thanks to good old-fashioned American knowhow and the virtues of commerce, I can be assured that five even uglier heads will sprout up where there once was only one.  That problem, however, is for another day.  Tonight when I lay my head down on a pillow, I can rest easy knowing that at least one stupid idea is being vanquished from our world.  Sometimes, that’s enough.

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8 Comments

Everything Is Dumb

“It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”

John Maynard Keynes discussing Beauty Contests in the General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, 1936

Do you believe in big government?  Then you must be a communist who looks to manipulate lazy poor people into voting for you by offering them the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives as indolent pikers.  Dumb.  Do you believe in small government?  Then you must be an evil spirited misanthrope who doesn’t care one bit about anyone but yourself.  Dumb.  Are you pro-choice?  Then you must be a maniacal baby killer who seeks to undermine basic human values.  Dumb.  Are you pro-life?  Then you must be one of those religious psychopaths who want to force women back into the June Cleaver model of complete helplessness and social inferiority.  Dumb.  Do you like Obama?  Then you are clearly in favor of the destruction of the American Way of Life.  Dumb.  Do you hate Obama?  Then you are clearly a closeted racist unable to cope with the forces of progress.  Dumb.  Dumb.  Dumb.

It’s all so insanely dumb.  CNN had a question on their Facebook site last night asking all of their likers the question of what should be done about the economy.  Everybody responded with some inane pet theory running the gamut from the flat tax to value added taxes to the repeal of all taxes to forcing the Chinese to send their entire work force to Africa to the Fair Tax to more sin taxes, etc.  2,658 comments in 15 hours.  People inevitably started arguing and quoting dumb things they heard other people say.  People called each other names.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Everybody’s an expert.  Each man a king, each woman a queen.  Dumb.

I am not exempt from this sort of asinine posturing.  I have moments where I forget that I am part of the mob.  Wishful thinking does occasionally overtake my brain.  The wicked, awful truth is by contributing to the blogosphere, I have merely exchanged my pitchfork and torch for a MacBook.   I get worked up over the horrors of military spending or the Ponzi scheme-like quality of modern finance or the disgusting, venal nature of American politics from time to time and write about it.  Dumb.

gay-marriage-terrorism

The truth of the whole thing is far worse than a person can contemplate without a complete psychic meltdown.  It’s not just that we are dumb, that idea by itself is tolerable, even somewhat amusing.  It’s that the product of all modern discourse seems to be dumb.  Let’s assume for a moment that some of us want to use reason as an antidote to the basic dumbness of our world.  Fine.  Good luck.  The non-dumb folks among us are welcome to use subtle, intelligent arguments to understand the world.   It’s a free country, as they say.

Now, let’s say one of the non-dumb want to step outside of the perimeters of their mental world and, say, lessen the suffering of others or effect social change on any level.  Well, those folks will present their ideas to a population that, for the most part, is uncomfortable and even threatened by anything that resembles reason.  Let’s say you are making a reasoned argument for the truth of global warming. How on earth could you possibly explain the nuances of a concept like that to a person who believes that science is completely untrustworthy and dinosaurs weren’t real?  Every time it snows they will thumb their nose at you and scream out “SEE!”  Let’s say you are a bright and articulate religious person and you want to make a reasoned argument for what you believe?  You will be met with every anti-religious cliché in the book and lumped together with sycophants from Jimmy Swaggart to Ayman Al-Zawahiri.  You can’t win.

Eventually, the pure force of dumbness will overpower any even moderately intelligent argument. Seeing this, a person making reasonable arguments might well begin to lose trust in their audience.  In order to enact any sort of change in our world, one must not just have a great idea, one must have an idea that the mob can be talked into.  When the realities of the situation begin to occur to someone with an idea, they naturally begin to tailor their ideas to the wild eccentricities of the mob.

Most people might not understand the nuances of the idea of a welfare state, but they can certainly be convinced that its not right that someone who has a private jet pay the same taxes as they do. Now, the argument has moved out of the realm of thought and into the realm of pure, visceral dumbness.  Pretty soon, an intelligent point about general inequity has become a shouting match between “the defenders of those with private jets” and “those who hate America.”

walker-wisconsin-protest-hitler-sign3

The upshot of all this weirdness is that extremely intelligent people are forced into becoming absurd polemicists.  The merits of the idea take a backseat to the constant push and pull of public opinion.  This idea is perfectly captured in the earlier quote by Keynes.  The whole thing becomes a Faustian Beauty Contest fought not on the merits of what is beautiful, but rather, on the merits of what the mob might find the most beautiful.

Finding a point of view that makes sense becomes a lot like defensive driving.  You are not driving based solely on the rules of the road, rather you drive based on what the idiot in the Camaro doing 100 miles per hour with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in his lap might think the rules of the road are.  Even if you drive well, the moron next to you can still kill you.  So, you adjust to the stupidity of the whole venture.  In that adjustment, ideas that are logical are often jettisoned for more acceptable generalizations that can be absorbed by a mass of angry people.  And those generalizations are met with counter generalizations, which are met with counter generalizations.  The whole thing gets pushed out to the n-th degree.  Suddenly, we are excitedly screaming at each other over what Joe The Plumber thinks.  After a few hundred rounds of this everyone’s an idiot and no one can tell the difference.  Over and over and back and forth.  Dumb.

I offer no solution to this problem.  This may well be how democracy works when you get it out of the textbooks; I’m not sure.  I do wonder what the outcome of this insanity will be.  I feel like I’m chained to 300 million lunatics going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Everyone is paddling in different directions.  Everyone thinks that they know how to escape and are just as convinced that the morons next to them are messing things up.  We argue over how we got in the barrel, we argue over how to best get out of the barrel, we argue over whether The Falls are even real, we argue over how big the barrel is, we argue over who should get out of the barrel first, we argue over whether we should work together or separately. The result of all this strain and turmoil is no different then if we did nothing at all.  We move towards The Falls with no clear explanation of what is happening and no possibility of ever getting out of our predicament.  Dumb.

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American Burlesque or I Just Flew In From Vaudeville and Boy Are My Arms Tired

Last Christmas, my wife bought me one of those human cloning machines that they sell on TV for 129.99.  At first, I didn’t have much of a use for it and it stayed in the back of my closet.  However, I started getting some wacky ideas in June and began sending away for samples of the DNA of famous Borscht Belt comedians.  I got an excellent mixture of Milton Berle, Shecky Greene, Mort Sahl, Buddy Hackett, Henny Youngman (his even came in a small violin case!) and a dash of Rodney Dangerfield.  At a local DNA shop in downtown St. Paul, I purchased the DNA of several 1960s radicals like Huey P Newton, Abbie Hoffman and George McGovern.

Two days ago, I took all the DNA, threw it into the machine and, as per instruction, simmered for 12 hours. I just wanted to see what the combination would create.  I wanted no trouble.  What came out of the machine yesterday morning was beyond my worst nightmares.  It was around 7 feet tall, had a cheap looking tuxedo and a blown out afro.  It looked like a bizarre cross between Strom Thurmond and Julius Erving.  It told me that it must find a club and do stand up comedy.  I tried to stop it, but it tossed me aside and ran out the door.  Minutes later, this creature burst into the VFW Hall located down the street from our home and began doing its routine for the 15 or so semi-drunken patrons.   I was able to get there in time for the second half of the act.  The following is a transcription of what took place.

Creature:   What’s the difference between an American and a gorilla?

The gorilla won’t tell you it’s proud to be a gorilla.

 Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

Woman in the Audience:  YOU SUCK!!!!

Creature:  Thanks, you’re a dear.  I wish I had my hunting license.

Man in the Audience:  Get OFF THE STAGE, Idiot!

Creature:  All right, all right!  What has 600 million legs, over 1 million guns and an IQ under 70?

The American Public

Bartender:  Shut UP!  Please!!!  I’ll call the police if you don’t get off of the stage!!!!!

Creature:  How do you get 200 million Americans to vote?

Turn on American Idol

Thanks!  Tip your servers!!!

Woman in the Audience:  YOU SUCK!!!

Audience:  BOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Creature:  Yeah, George W Bush, George W Bush…..The other day I asked Bush where’s the 20 dollars I loaned him.  He said in the other room under the weapons of mass destruction.  He went to get it and I never saw him again.  But, hey, you re-elected him!!!!  I LOVE THIS CROWD!!!!

Audience:  BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!  (bottle smashes behind The Creature’s head)

Creature:  What’s the best part of voting in Florida?

Knowing it won’t count

Take My Wife, Please!

Man in the audience:  Come back when you’re funny!

Creature: Hey, I forgot you were all Americans.  Do you want me to repeat any of these slowly?

Audience:  BOO!!!!!  (three more bottles smashed against the wall behind The Creature)

Creature:  What do you call an American who works 60 hours a week in order to pay off 25,000 dollars in credit card debt?

Free!  Ya get it!  Free!  You guys are the best crowd I’ve had in months!

Man in the Audience: (over a chorus of boos and bottles smashing) SHUT UP!  We’ll tear your eyes out!!!!!

Creature:  Ahhhhhh….what are you going to do?  Invade Iraq again!

A mob of angry patrons began to storm the stage.  I ran up and grabbed The Creature by the arm and pulled it out of the bar.  A group of three raging men ran after us as we sprinted down the street.  After a few blocks, they stopped chasing us.  We were both exhausted and safe….for now.

I realized later that night that this creature simply couldn’t exist in our world.  It was too jaded, too unwilling to accept compromise, too hateful, too cynical.  I had created a monster that did not belong in today’s America.  It was just going to cause trouble and incite riots wherever it went.  I knew what I had to do.   I crept into the room where The Creature was sleeping and pushed a pillow over its face.  It struggled and screamed, but after a minute or two, it stopped thrashing around.  I went back to my room, turned on the television and fell asleep.  The problem had been solved.

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83-Year-Old Ida Mae Thrasher Reviews In Solitude “The World, The Flesh, The Devil”

The new In Solitude album “The World. The Flesh. The Devil.” is simply remarkable.  Since I first heard it, I have been on nearly a non-stop In Solitude binge.  I’ve listened to it from beginning to end somewhere in the neighborhood of five times a day.  Whether I’m vacuuming, making dinner, or putting all of my issues of Boys’ Life magazine in alphabetical order, the album has been my constant companion.  I had a plan to review it, but I feel like I have lost all degree of journalistic objectivity.  The only way to truly get a fair assessment of this album is to turn it over to a stranger and see what they think.

This was not a simple task.  I live in the American South and, for the most part, strangers are to be feared.  I spent all day Thursday walking around the North Dekalb Mall in Atlanta asking people to sit with me for an hour listen to the record and answer some questions but was refused over and over again.  I even had a woman threaten to get her husband and have him “give me a beating”.  Six hours of rejection and nothing to show for it.  I needed a new plan.

Friday, I went to the park near the local Senior Center.  I immediately descended on a seemingly good natured woman sitting on a park bench who looked like she needed company and, more importantly, seemed like she’d have difficulty getting away quickly.  I spent 10 minutes talking to her about her life and her allergy to penicillin.  Her name was Ida Mae Thrasher.  It was too perfect!  This had to be the one!  I made the offer, but this time I had figured out how to seal the deal.  I offered her a 50-dollar gift card to the local Rite Aid.  All she had to do was listen to the album and answer my questions.  She tentatively agreed to do it and I quickly slapped a pair of headphones on her.

Our conversation after listening to the album went like this:

Keith:  Well…what did you think?

Ida Mae:  It was…..ummmmmmmm…..it was good.

Keith:  Good???  Okay.  Can you be more specific?

Ida Mae:  It was very good.

Keith:  Ida, can you please give me something with a little more detail?  I’m trying to write an article here.

Ida Mae:  Well, I liked the first song.

Keith:  If you want the gift card, you are going to have to give me something more to work with.

Ida Mae:  Well, it was kind of….well….loud.

Keith:  Do you mean the volume?  I could have turned it down.

Ida Mae:  No, it was just….you know….loud.

Keith: (sounding somewhat offended) Listen Ida, loud is a term that applies to volume. Loud is not a valid description.  It tells me nothing.  Tell me something about the amazing guitar solos, tell me something about the raw production style, tell me that you like the interplay between the drummer and bassist, tell me you appreciate that they have taken early 80s sounding British metal and put a fresh and unique spin on it.  What the heck does “it was loud” tell me!?!?!?! 

Ida Mae:  (appearing nervous)It was fine.

Keith:  Okay, maybe I need to be more specific.  Did I remind you more of early Paul Di’Anno era Iron Maiden or Mercyful Fate?

Ida Mae:  Yes.

Keith:  WHICH IS IT?!?!?

Ida Mae:  Both.

Keith:  You are avoiding the question!  I’m seriously starting to question your commitment to heavy metal!!!!!

Ida Mae:  You said I’d get a gift card if I listened to the album and answered your questions.  Well, I did both.  Please give me my Rite Aid gift card and just leave me alone.

Keith:  There is no gift card!  Not for you.  Not with answers like that.  You just totally wasted my time.

Ida Mae:  HELP!!!  Someone get this maniac away from me!!!!!!!!!  HELP!!!!!!!!!!

I had a lot of time to reflect on things while I was waiting for my wife to arrange bail.  This experience taught me a lot.  Some people just aren’t in a position to appreciate great music.  I’m just going to have to live with the fact that the Ida Maes of the world will have to live their lives shrouded in a veil of musical ignorance.  That doesn’t mean you have to.   Buy as many copies as you can of “The World, The Flesh, The Devil”.   Quit your job and do nothing but listen to it.  Make your kids memorize the lyrics and if they don’t, refuse to let them watch television and send them to their rooms without dinner.  It is really that good.

Check out Serpents Are Rising from “The World. The Flesh. The Devil.” here.  The song is 160 percent amazing!

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