Saturday, November 28, 2009

What's the (Squirrel) Poop?

I was in Prospect Park today here in Brooklyn and noted that this is indeed the busy season if you happen to be a squirrel.

The furry little guys were out in full force digging through the leaves for acorns to bring back to the homestead for the winter. They were scrambling around madly and occasionally fighting with their fellow bushy-tailed rodents over the best nuts. A similar scene was playing out in malls all across America.

I'm not sure what path my brain took to get there, but the whole thing got me to thinking about squirrel poop. Nobody ever mentions squirrel poop. Dog poop, bird poop, cat poop, horse poop...they're all part of city life. Squirrel poop? Not so much, apparently. But squirrels must poop, right? They're animals, and mammals at that. They eat, they scamper about, they have butts. Ergo, they poop. So where is it? It must be there, right?

But nobody ever says, "Aw, fuck, I just stepped in squirrel poop!" And you never hear anyone holler, "I looked up and a goddamn squirrel pooped right on my head!" Are the poops just too small to see? Birds that are much smaller than squirrels manage to make their poop known. And I've seen some dogs running around that shouldn't be picking any fights with your garden variety squirrel.

Any scatologists out there that can enlighten me on squirrel poop? Google isn't exactly doing it on this topic. And I wanna know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ken Ober

Well, here's another one who dropped off before his time.

Ken Ober was known to many as the host of MTV's "Remote Control". It was the first, and probably best, of many game shows on the channel that subverted the format with jokey categories and gimmicks like a chair that sent contestants flipping over backwards when they lost and a spinning wheel from which contestants were supposed to identify music video "artists".

I had my shot on that wheel in the show's final season. The episode I was in aired on St. Patrick's Day 1990 but it was taped on a freaking freezing Manhattan day the prior December. I remember I had planned to wear my NYU sweatshirt on the show but they changed us all into green shirts and stupid hats for the occasion.

Ober didn't come backstage to greet the contestants. He just showed up on set. But he did show me some personal grace. There was a question about which four characters besides Barney and Fred could see the Great Gazoo. Deductive reasoning got it for me. Dino was one, of course. And the other characters must be the ones who weren't going to blab to anyone about it. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, who didn't talk. And Dino's counterpart in the Rubble house, Hoppy the Hopasaurus, of course.

Ober, and everyone else on the show, seemed awfully surprised that I actually answered the question. I think it may have been intended as a stumper. (They often put in questions for which they didn't expect an answer.) After the question, an interruption from "Ken's mother" took place. Ken said "Wow, Mom, I'm just dusted that that kid got that one." Then he looked at me and gave me the thumbs-up while Mom said something stupid.

I ended up winning the day, even though I did something really stupid and almost lost because of it. (I won't go into it here. Ask me about it some time.) And I correctly identified all but one video in the Grand Prize round, missing out on a trip to, where else, Ireland. The video I missed was by Bobby Brown. My response upon learning what I missed? "I hate Bobby Brown!" I said this on national television at the height of the man's popularity. I really heard it from the studio audience, who had been totally with me up to that point.

The whole thing was totally fun and I went home with a bunch of prizes, including a motorcycle that I never rode, all of which I had to pay taxes on. Boo.

Thanks, Ken, for giving me my first and only (so far; I'll get on "Jeopardy" if it kills me) game show experience. You'll be fondly remembered.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dumb Letters: Betraying America by Upholding American Ideals

It's a sign of how low we've sunk that bringing criminals to trial is now considered by some to be a capitulation to terrorists. I would have thunk that letting them go and giving them Hershey's Kisses would be capitulation. But apparently putting them on trial in a court of justice is now tantamount to surrender. I guess the lynch mob is a sign of progress for some people.

A story in the NYTimes about the impending 9/11 trials in New York City elicited letters ranging from those proud of our (occassional) adherence to our own standards of human rights to those out for heads on a stick. This is my favorite.

The plan to bring the terrorists to New York City is an abomination and easily the most pernicious step the Obama administration has taken to date.

Wow. Strong language. Merriam-Webster's defines "pernicious" as "highly injurious or destructive" and notes that it infers "irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting ior undermining". The implication here is not one of poor judgment but of actual conspiracy. It's a willful act of treason against the president's own country. Beyond that, the writer calls it only "the most pernicious" of what are presumably many pernicious things the Big O has done. This guy must really hate America. I won't even get into abomination.

It is almost certain that such a monumentally misguided decision will have a chilling and deleterious effect not only on our ability to prosecute current and future detainees, but also on our ability to prosecute the overall war on terror. These are war criminals, not American citizens.

So if you aren't an American citizen you must be a war criminal. It's one or the other. And if you aren't an American citizen you apparently have no rights whatsoever. That's us, America, the shining beacon for the rest of the world, where all men are created equal, as long as they were born here. (And white.)

The reason you have a Guantánamo in the first place is to avoid the circus that this will inevitably become.

Actually, no. The reason we have a Guantanamo in the first place is because we needed a place where no laws exist. We can't give people American trials there because they aren't in America. And we can't give them Geneva Convention rights because they aren't in Cuba. They aren't anywhere so we can just make up whatever rules suit our purposes.

And any trial has the potential to become a circus. If that potential was a factor in whether to prosecute any trial then we wouldn't bother with half of them. I guess we shouldn't have tried O.J. Simpson or Bernie Madoff or David Berkowitz or Charles Manson or Timothy McVeigh. Can't risk a circus now.

In so doing, the president has placed politics above principle and consequently has violated his most sacred oath: the protection of American citizens.

Politics? What politics? There's nothing more boring than justice, dude. The Idiot had no problem trampling on our constitution for political reasons. The principles that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are dealing in here are the ones in that same constitution. You know, the one that says that everyone (everyone) gets their day in court. And their day in court is also ours. They get to plead their case but we get to plead ours too. Don't like it? You can leave.

And here's some news for you. I know that listening to The Idiot for 8 years may have given you some goofy ideas about what our government, and specifically our president, is supposed to do. But, putting aside the fact that this decision will not endanger American lives in any way (do we really think that they'd let this go to trial if they didn't have a slam-dunk case? or that they'd really let them go if they were actually acquitted?), no American president has ever taken an oath to protect the American people. They take an oath to uphold the constitution. You can read it here. It's short and sweet. Our ideals are more important than any life or lives. And way more important than yours.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This was one of the most humiliating losses in New England sports history. And no one should have to tell you that that's a pretty high bar to jump.

I won't be the first to say it and you can be certain that I'll be far from the last. But I'll say it anyway.


Okay, technically, I do know what he was thinking. He was thinking that all my offense has to do is get two yards on this next play and the game's over. But if they don't, Bill? Then you have problems. And everyone in New England cursing you out for weeks, possibly years, on end.

Ordinarily this situation (4th & 2 on your own 28 yard line) is a no-brainer. You punt. You simply punt. There isn't even anything to consider. Even if you're fairly confident that you can get those two yards, the potential downside is too horrifying to risk it. The only reason Belichick would go for it would be to keep the ball out of the increasingly dangerous Peyton Manning's hands. But if you're concerned that Peyton Manning can take the ball 70 yards on you, shouldn't you be even more concerned about leaving him only 29? Huh?

It also sends a terrible message to your defense. Boys, we can't trust you to keep a team from going 70 yards in under two minutes and driving it all the way into the end zone. How pathetic is that?

The Pats had already done some dumb things in the game. They tried to sit on their lead (which, truth be told, should have worked) in the fourth quarter. And they blew two timeouts in bizarre fashion, which precluded them from challenging the spot on The Play of Stupidity. Although they probably would have lost the challenge anyway.

But another play that no one is mentioning in the shuffle was almost as important. Here's the situation. Manning and the Colts are storming down field in what looks like an inevitable touchdown drive. Their first play is an easy 15-yard pass to Reggie Wayne. On 1st down from the 14, Manning hands it off to Joseph Addai. He zips through a giant hole and looks like he's headed for the end zone. Vince Wilfork and Ron Brace make a herculean effort to drag him down at the 1. Great play? Maybe if there were only 5 seconds left. There is 1:20 left on the clock. This is important.

If Addai scores the touchdown, the Pats have 1:10 or so (after the kickoff return) to try to get into field goal range. Even with no timeouts, it's possible. After the tackle, the clock runs down to 0:36 before the next play starts and when the Colts finally punch it in there are only 16 seconds left.

Now, I'm sure some will say that you never let someone score on purpose. You give your defense a shot at stopping them. And yes, they may have stopped them. But Belichick already made it quite clear that he didn't think he could stop Manning from gaining 70 yards. Why would he think he could stop him from getting 1?

This is a game that was in the bag. That isn't smart analysis. It's just a fact. There is no excuse for losing this game. Give credit to Peyton Manning for taking full advantage of the Pats' terrible decision-making and execution in the fourth quarter, which they started with a 17-point lead. Even with that, not any schmo could have pulled this out. It took a superstar. But the Pats should have known better than to give him the chance. Shame.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dumb Letters: The Oxy Morons

I don't get some people. Here's a couple writing to the NYTimes about what they didn't like about "Sesame Street".

Two decades ago, when our children were young, we weren’t wild about “Sesame Street.”

Most of the puppet characters were male, and the choppy format seemed designed to help reduce a child’s attention span.

Okay, I don't think that the first area of critique is an entirely valid reason for not watching something. If most of the characters were female, would that be okay? And the writers use the word "most". So there were some female characters, apparently. Not enough? What's the right amount? And were the male puppets (that, from what I know, lack genitalia) pushing some agenda of male-domination? If they were, I missed it. Which was probably part of CPW's nefarious plan, I guess.

The second point is a valid critique, althought the letter writers infer an active plot to reduce the chidrens' attention spans by using the phrase "designed to" instead of something on the lines of "had the unintended consequences of". This leaves a bad taste.

And no one really learns anything from a passive experience like television.
“Educational television” is still an oxymoron.

Okay, this is bullshit. We learn passively all the time. I'm all for hands-on education, but it isn't the only way we learn. I taught myself to read by watching "Sesame Street". I learned from it. It's simply impossible that I'm the only one. I continue to learn by watching television. It's not that you watch. It's what you watch. Just like it's what you read, what you listen to and who you talk to. And yet these snobs dismiss the entire concept with "no one really learns anything". So I guess they didn't ever tell their kids not to touch the stove. That would be passive learning. Better to let them learn by touching it themselves. "Educational television" is not now, nor ever was, an oxymoron.

But wait, these people can't leave well enough alone.

Our children preferred a now-forgotten series, introduced by James Earl Jones, called “Long Ago and Far Away,” which presented a wonderful tale accompanied by beautiful art.

There were no product tie-ins like Tickle Me Elmo, though, so that program wasn’t a moneymaker in the way that “Sesame Street” is.

WHAT? They went right from complaining about how nobody learns anything from television to extolling the virtues of...a television program.

And the fact that "Sesame Street" licensed their characters for merchandising is entirely irrelevant to the conversation. The program is the program. The products exist entirely outside of it. You can watch the show without buying the Tickle Me Elmo, believe it or not. I'm really not sure how one program is better than another because it didn't market its characters. Is making money a bad thing? Is it better to give money to CTW, that has a mission to educate kids, albeit in a way that these two chuckleheads find inferior to wonderful tales and beautiful art, or to some for-profit whose only interest is making money?

These are the kinds of people that even liberals would want to slap in the face.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

I was about to write something about Veterans Day. But then I realized that I already had.

Here's a reprint from last year. I haven't changed my mind one bit and have nothing to add.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm always a bit conflicted on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. You see, I'm basically a pacifist. I think all war is stupid and I wonder why anyone would glorify it. But I know, I know, sometimes it's necessary. Unfortunately, I think a very small percentage of wars falls into that category. With 20/20 hindsight we can usually see how things could have been headed off. Alas, foresight is not so keen. And of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences often comes into play. One never knows what is truly necessary and what isn't. Even after the fact. But I think we err on the side of war way too often. We forget that, as Jimmy Carter said, "Although war is sometimes a necessary evil, it is always evil."

Here we must make a clear differentiation between those who fight our wars (and who we honor) and those who make the decisions to send them off to do so (who we generally despise).

When I see pictures of fine men and women at Walter Reed that are missing arms, legs, eyes, large pieces of their heads and even larger pieces of their souls I get pretty pissed. These people signed up to defend us. Few actually do. More often than not, they're on the offensive, thousands of miles away from the homeland. This is an increase of tragedy. The loss is utterly unnecessary.
Our leaders should have to look at pictures of these people all day, every day. They should invent a computer program that simulates the minds of PTSD soldiers and make our leaders feel what they feel on a regular basis. Nightmares, daymares, jitteriness, moral numbness and isolation. And fear. Maybe they'd think twice about sending other people's sons and daughters off to kill and die to satisfy their geopolitical wet dreams. I'd even settle for them thinking once about it. War sucks the humanity out of people.

My own views on the necessity of their vocations aside, I have great respect for the people who don the uniform and serve. There is nothing any of us can do that compares to it. It's something I am constitutionally incapable of doing. Even when they are being sent on fool's errands, they are serving us. They are doing their job for the country they love. And it's not exactly a cushy one. Or a well-paying one.

It's almost criminal that I'm getting paid more for sitting in an office building than somebody who's getting shot at every day. Not to mention the warmongers who sent them to do so. And senators and federal executives get lovely parting gifts, including pensions and lucrative careers on the public speaking circuit. Your average soldier? Not much. Part of their college tuition and medical care. That's the very least we can do. Really. I think that anybody who goes through combat should be taken care of for life. LIFE. And their immediate families should be taken care of too. Why do we give a scumbag like Tom DeLay a bigger pension than somebody who went and got his legs blown off and wakes up screaming every night at 3AM? It makes no sense.

There will always be veterans of the military. I've got some in my family. Although they didn't fight, thankfully. But I want for there to be no veterans of war. It won't happen in my lifetime. Most of the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are half my age. And it won't happen in our children's lifetime. It will probably never happen.

But we should at least work towards making sure that we have fewer and fewer veterans as time goes on. Can we do that, please?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dumb Letters: You Have No Idea What I'm Going Through!

Sometimes I'm just not sure.

This person wrote in to the LA Times to decry the horrible horrible liberals infesting today's Republican party. Didn't know about that? Me neither.

Describing people like Dede Scozzafava as a "moderate Republican" is disingenuous. She's a liberal on almost every issue.

The GOP rebellion is led by those rejecting the left's attempt to undermine their party with liberal Democrats who pose as Republicans.

Wait wait wait. It's the left that's undermining your party? The Democratic Party doesn't even count as left-wing. What leftists get anywhere near the Republican Party? Or want to, for that matter?

You may get an occasional person with a gay relative that keeps their mouth shut on gay rights issues. (Doesn't fight for them, by the way. Just doesn't actively fight against them.) But since when are moderates, i.e. persons who occasionally think for themselves on one or two issues, been some kind of disease inflicted on you guys by the left. What are they, spies? They chose their own party, ya big dummy.

And by the way, a "liberal Democrat" is not the same thing as a liberal. It's all relative. Real liberals are as disgusted with their party as you seem to be with yours.

News stories imply these core believers are extremists -- but these are accusations by a media that for decades have been in the pocket of Democrats and supported radical agendas.

Like the Civil Rights Act. And the Environmental Protection Agency. And the Constitution.

Consider the following alternative scenario: How would liberals feel if the Democratic Party had pro-life candidates who supported the war on terror, reduced taxes, voted against bailouts, didn't want government healthcare and saw the United Nations as a threat to American sovereignty?

Okay, this is the part when I lose him. Is this guy serious? That, by the way, is not a rhetorical question. I really don't know. Is this guy dumb enough to not know how many Democrats support one or more of those positions? Or is he making an ironic point? Does he actually understand and feel our pain and this is his clever way of commiserating and therefore bringing us gently into his point?

Pro-life candidates? How about Bob Casey? And Harry Reid, who is only the Senate Majority Leader.

Supported the war on terror? How about...ALL OF THEM. What was the vote on the Patriot Act again? Oh yeah, 98-1. Thank you, Russ Feingold, for spoiling the no-hitter.

Reduced taxes? Um, yeah. This actually happens quite a bit. The Dems just don't ordinarily agree to give a lot of money to people who already have a lot of money. Like the really really rich people who got really really richer under GWB. You may note that Barack Obama promised to, and did, reduce taxes on everyone making under $250K per annum. And a good chunk of them are now screaming in the streets about how high their taxes are and how they can't take it any more. Because Glenn Beck asked them who they believed, him or their lyin' accountant's tables.

Bailouts? That, I believe, was a Republican plan. Plenty of our guys on board though, yes.

Government healthcare? Joe Lieberman ring a bell? Not Democrat enough? Okay. Ben Nelson? Mary Landrieu? Max Baucus? Max Baucus. You know, the head of the freaking committee that deals with it?

And UN as a threat to American sovereignty? Okay, you got me there. This is the one that makes me think he may be serious. I can't think of a single Democrat that has gone on record with that paranoid fantasy.

You were so close, letter writer. You almost had me. But you pushed it.