Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rock Star

Last night, at around 1AM (PST) there was yet another in what is basically a series of endless earthquakes in the LA area. It was small, short, and one of those that natives and long-time SoCal residents view as more fun than frightening.

It measured 4.5, which means it felt as if someone had bumped into your bed, or your neighbor had his subwoofer turned way up and was listening to some serious bass.

LA Rocks!

However, this is LA, and everything here has to have some over-the-top PR and hype.
Seriously. I mean, minor rainfall is breathlessly reported on the news with headlines like “Stormwatch” and other apocalyptic monikers. So, when the gods of the underworld start rumbling and tossing the surface dwellers around, the local media breaks out with some good old fashioned Wagnerian Gotterdammerung stuff. The TV news is filled with images of frightened people describing their terror (“it was so sudden!”) or steps they took to ensure their safety (“we all jumped out of bed and stood under doorways”) and there is the inevitable yokel declaring they are “leaving LA tomorrow.”

Good riddance.

Anyway, sure as night follows day and Bush will blatantly and openly lie next time he speaks, after the sensationalist coverage the news team will turn to their more sober “analyst” to put the quake into perspective. Which means the appearance of my most current crush, Dr. Kate Hutton, seismologist over at Cal Tech.

Kiss me, Kate.

I love love love love me some Dr. Kate. That unapologetic dyke with the premature grey hair and pointy-headed intellectual glasses warms me right up. She is known here as the Earthquake Lady because for close to 20 years, she has been the one to step in front of the cameras and throngs of terrified idiot reporters to tell them that we just had an earthquake.

What I really dig about Dr. Kate is her open and complete revulsion at having to deal with the simpering press. She despises them their stupidity, simplicity, and plasticity. She answers their repetitive and juvenile questions honestly, completely, and concisely, but with a sneer and barely concealed contempt. And with good reason. See, Dr. Kate is an educated, intelligent woman. The press are a pack of telegenic mannequins who would collectively make Ted Baxter look like a Nobel Laureate.

Good night, and good news.

During these conferences the press shouts questions in a state of hysteria, asking the same thing every single time: “Was this the Big One?”

Was this the Big One.

And our intrepid Dr. Kate will look at the reporter with an expression somewhere between pity and disgust, and, as if trying to explain quantum physics to a hillbilly, will calmly say that this, in fact, was not the Big One. She will then explain how the Richter scale works (it’s a logarithmic scale, where every increase in a point equals a tenfold increase in strength), how quakes are measured, basic tectonic theory, and so on. She will use simple words, sort of like someone trying to explain global climate change or Mideast politics to a rabid conservative, and gently calm the reporters who by now are ready to spread Fear and Panic throughout the populace.

Her press conferences serve as sharp relief to those of our Idiot Boy-King: Dr. Kate uses technical and complex words as a matter of everyday discourse. They flow effortlessly and when she speaks, she just assumes you can follow. When Prince George uses complex words they stick awkwardly in his mouth, like he’s trying to eat the rind of a pineapple, and when he says them it’s with a tone of smug undeserved pride commonly associated with a four-year old trying to show off to a mathematician that he can subtract four from seven.

Her mere appearance on the tube will serve as a balm for the terror-stricken rubes, because if Dr. Kate says something, we know it’s true and things are Good. Afterwards, the news anchor (now dripping with relief) will incorrectly summarize what Dr. Kate just told us. That this minor little shake was not the Big One; that quakes of various size happen all along the many faults throughout California every day; and that it was not the high-sign for the Four Horsemen or The Beast to come and feast on our eternal souls.

And Dr. Kate can go back to Cal Tech and do her research and teach. Until the next minor tembler, when once again she will have to come before the cameras and tell the press everything is okay while secretly wishing they would all fall into a very deep and very dark hole, never to be seen again.

I’m with you, Dr. Kate. You rock!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Even better than the real thing

There’s a saying that holds true – particularly here in Ellay – which goes Perception is Reality.

There are countless variations on this, depending on context. One of them is the Sizzle is more important than the Steak, which is used by soulless Marketing geeks to describe the importance of branding. Branding, of course, means the creation of perception about something that trumps reality. Like Nikes improving your sports performance, BMWs making you a better driver, or Chanel clothing making you sexier. It's why you see so many label whores walking around.

And it’s the axis around which the capitalist world revolves, Skippy. If you don’t like it you can shove off to Cuba to be with the other godless Pinko scumsuckers.

Anyway, given this culture of Branding, it’s not really surprising that a recent study shows kids presented with the exact same foods believe that the ones served in McDonald’s packaging tasted better.


Yup. The same exact food. Even if kids were served raw carrots or plain milk, they believed the ones decked with McDude’s logos were tastier. I'm lovin' it because they tell me I do.


Astonished? Then you haven’t been paying attention to life for the past few decades. Particularly not American politics. Nixon was a master at it, though he wasn’t subtle (his Pink Lady smear campaign was a ham-handed bit of slander). LBJ also had an instinctive understanding of it. (Most elegantly expressed in an anecdote from an early, local campaign. Johnson, facing stiff competition, ordered his minions to spread a rumor that his opponent fucks pigs. His staffer replied that no one would believe it, but Johnson, understanding the power of perception, replied, “Yeah, but make him deny it.”) Kennedy, Clinton, Reagan - they all knew it too.

Perception. Packaging. Illusion. Style over substance. Hype. Whatever you want to call it, Americans have pretty much perfected the art of putting lipstick on a pig, or pissing on your shoes while claiming it’s sweet summer rain. I mean, how else can one explain the mad rush and overwhelming public support for our Idiot Boy-King’s invasion of Iraq? It was all sleight-of-hand Marketing manipulation. George Orwell got nothing on Karl Rove. Oceania is at war with Eurasia, and the GOP MiniTruth put out the right branding about Iraq & Saddam. And even though it was plainly evident that everything our government was saying was all bullshit and lies and manipulation, the perception of Iraq's connections to Al Qaeda & 9-11 was more convincing and the rubes continue to believe it to this day. Reality didn't come close to being as real as fantasy. It still isn't. Oceania has always been at war with East Asia, after all.

And so anyone who dares point out the Emperor’s shriveled and vestigial doodle is visible or 2 + 2 = 4 will be considered either a traitor or deluded. Invading Iraq was a legitimate and necessary move in our battle against Al Qaeda. War is Peace. Arbeit will Macht Frei. And those damned carrots do taste better when served in a Mickey-D’s bowl.

God Bless the United States of America

If you can’t see that, well, then the terrorists have already won.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

It is a kids' game, after all.

Every now and then some sort of argument will arise regarding athletes, salaries, and privilege. It's inevitable with every round of new high-power contract negotiations, or whenever some kid announces he's either leaving college after his freshman year to "pursue his dream" or worse, declaring as professional after graduating high-school.

In the US, this phenomenon of kids becoming pros tends to be restricted to the NBA. However, abroad, particularly in Merry Olde England, it's the realm of football. Oh, it's had it's appearance in soccer here in the US, with underage phenom Freddy Adu signing with the DC United at 14. But England is showing us that we, when it comes to speculating in kiddie-athletic prowess, are mere pikers.

Manchester United, the Montreal Canadiens of the Premier League, have signed 9-year old Rhain Davis, to a contract.

Yep. 9. A kid that still cries if he skins his knee, and who believes that crawling completely under his bed covers will protect him from monsters at night.

Oh sure, the kid's got skills. Check out the YouTube video below to see him shred defenses and leave other 9 and 10 year old boys scattered on the pitch, embarrassed, ashamed, and at the mercy of heaps of humiliation at the hands of their over-competetive fathers.

The thing is, while this kid is obviously ahead of the curve, it seems that he merely looks amazing in comparison to kids who are obviously still kind of new to this whole idea of kicking a round ball.

And it makes sense. See, this kid is a Pom living in Oz. Now, soccer is not the big thing in Oz. As my mate from Melbourne tells me, Cricket, Rugby, and Aussie Football are the kings down there. In fact, soccer has only started to gain any real traction as a result of the surprising showing the Socceroos had in Germany last year. So, the chances are most of these kids are in their first or second year playing, while Rhain hails from footy-mad England, and has a father who would run him through dribbling, passing, and shooting drills for hours since the boy could balance on his two feet, and who would withhold both food and clothing, while threatening to force the boy to eat Kidney Pie and other British "cuisine" as punishment for mistakes.*

The punch-line is, this isn't a rare occurrence. According to a Man U spokesman, "[Man U] signs about 40 players of Davis's age every year [to it's developmental academy] and, as is standard, will decide annually whether to renew his contract or release him."

Reports that Davis is better behaved and less prone to tantrums than Wayne Rooney are as yet unconfirmed. Though nobody doubts it.

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* That's just a guess on my part, but having met a few Englishmen, I would venture to say it's probably accurate.

I Love Little Girls

Q: What's the best thing about taking a shower with a 15 year-old girl?
A: Get her hair wet, slick it back, and she looks 11.

Yeah, I know, kind of creepy. And disconcertingly, there are guys who are even creepier, and who would substitute 10 and 7 for the ages in that joke. In fact, one of them is causing quite a stir in our normally tranquil Ellay.

The guy is Jack McClellan, and for those of you who don't know, he's a proud, self-proclaimed pedophile whose preference is for pre-pubescent girls, and he's been spotted sliming around the greater LA area for a couple of weeks now - everywhere from Santa Monica to Santa Clarita.

Hey little girl, wanna piece of candy?

The thing is, he's not even trying to hide it. He's actively courted publicity by appearing on national news programs; he's started a website in which he rates parks, amusement parks, etc according to the amount and quality of little girls present and posts pictures of those that have given him a chubb; and he has openly defied public sentiment and wrath by not apologizing for himself. The police and courts can't do anything because, well, aside from being almost thoroughly repulsive Ole Jack hasn't actually done anything illegal. His website does not feature pornographic images or fantasy tales of children, and he has not been caught or accused of molestation.

It's a bit of a dilemma for the good people of LA, because they know this guy is a scumbag, but they can't do anything about or to him.

Surprisingly, politicians (who normally shy away from these easy, unequivocal, hot-button publicity-heavy issues) have been very vocal in their condemnation of Jackie-boy, and local community groups have taken to demanding that something be done to stop this guy. Unfortunately, seeing as how there's been no crime, posturing, shouting, and grandstanding are about all that can be done.

Unless some new laws get passed. Which is what some of the more aggressive folks are advocating in order to be sure that guys like Jack are stopped before they start. Now, I'm not convinced it would be double-plus good to start making what a guy thinks or any perversions he holds deep in his bosom a reason to make them an un-person. While the MiniTruth may assure us that only icky guys with icky thoughts would be busted this way, I just get uneasy having to trust O'Brien with the choice of who gets sent to Room 101 and who doesn't.

Big Brother loves you

The problem, however, is that in this age of ambiguous rainbow threat-levels, wild-eyed islamic boogeymen hiding in the shadows, nefarious illegal aliens coming to steal our jobs and destroy our language and cultural heritage, minorities daring to complain about things that offend them, homosexuals wanting to be allowed to marry thereby threatening to subvert our children and convert them to bestiality, and godless liberal traitors working to overthrow our Good and Pure country by not supporting our president during wartime, people are willing to allow laws passed which would criminalize thought. After all, it will help keep us safe, and besides, if you don't have these icky thoughts, you have nothing to fear.


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