Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ihre Papieren, bitte!

Once again, we have been given evidence to prove that Arizona is where bigots go to die.

I mean, let’s be honest. This is a state where, every summer, 90% of the population spends their days sitting in the shade panting and watching their dashboards melt. This isn’t someplace you go without first suffering severe brain trauma.

So, to prove that they can be just as prejudiced as South Carolina, Arizona decided to pass a law which would allow the police to pull over anybody swarthier than Karl Rove and ask to see their paperwork. Of course, the police are just checking their documents to make sure they’re here legally, right? (Not to get all Godwinny here, but isn’t that exactly the same reasoning used by the police in 1930s Germany?)

So what we have here is a law that is opposed by police and churches. The top lawman in Pima County, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said that the law is "racist," "disgusting," and "unnecessary," and he’s not going to enforce it.

Even Tom Ridge, Bush’s former head of Homeland Security, is uncomfortable with the law, saying it allows the police to question people without probable cause. So why is it going into effect?

Well, Grampa McCain was on Fox News to say that we needed it because of “the drivers of cars with illegals in it (sic) that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway."

Of course, while McCain has had issues with things like honesty for some time now, this statement is kind of fascinating. I mean, he’s talking about an actual crime:
This particular scam is called the "swoop and squat." (The first car "swoops" in while the second car "squats" in front of you.) After the "accident," everyone in the car you rear-ended—usually crammed full of passengers—will file bogus injury claims with your insurance company. Each will complain of whiplash or other soft-tissue injuries—things difficult for doctors to confirm. They may even go to crooked physical therapists, chiropractors, lawyers, or auto repair technicians to further exaggerate their claims.
But think about it for just a second. It would be kind of stupid for an illegal immigrant to intentionally draw attention to himself when the police are on their way, and they’ll be getting driver's licenses and suchlike documentation from everybody, isn't it? This scam is strictly for the criminals with legal, documented identities.

Representative Brian Bilbray is trying to claim that the law won’t involve racial profiling, because the police can spot them by their clothes and shoes.

Jeff Palast has an interesting point:
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote -- and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters ... directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: after all, they give their names and addresses.

So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?

No, not one.

Which raises the question: were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens Brewer tagged them, or just not-quite-white voters given the José Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?

The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. "We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost 2 years, I didn’t find one prosecutable voter fraud case."
At least three Arizona cities are considering taking legal action to block the law, and lawsuits have already been filed by police officers and Latino groups.

And Governor Jan Brewer better hope that one of those lawsuits overturns this law before another American citizen is detained for not carrying his birth certificate.

I mean, admittedly, the evidence over the last decade shows that Republicans don't want to actually read the Constitution, but does the following statement sound familiar to anybody?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

It’s a shame that I’m so damned white. Because Arizona is right next door, and if I looked in any way Hispanic, I would be driving their highways (at the speed limit), with a video camera operator in the passenger seat. And the first words out of my mouth, every time I got pulled over, would be "why are you stopping me, officer?"

Because you want to sue early. This law is going away soon, but I predict that it won't go away before Arizona writes somebody a fairly sizable check for having their Constitutional rights violated.

Update (5/1/10): Well, Governor Brewer went on Fox "News" to whinge to spokesbarbie Megyn Kelly about the unfair treatment she's been receiving.

She complained, for one thing, about the comparisons to Nazi Germany. Well, OK then. I guess that all Nazi comparisons might currently be under GOP copyright, so perhaps we should compare this legislation to laws in other countries where citizens were required to carry identity papers. That's only fair, right?

My favorite part of this long loving massage that Kelly gave the governor would have to be this quote, though.
You know Arizona has been under terrorist attacks, if you will, with all of this illegal immigration that has been taking place on our very porous border.
Really? Because according to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, crime in Arizona has been steadily dropping since 2005, thanks to policies put in place by Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, the current US Secretary of Homeland Security.

In fact, study after study shows that the immigrant community commits less crime than native-born populations.

To be honest, a 2007 study by the University of Munich noted that Arizona "historically has not had a terrorist attack," although if you go back 15 years, the Arizona Viper Militia had been stockpiling weapons and planning on blowing up a federal building in Phoenix, but were arrested before they could do anything.

So, that argument is really a non-starter. And the governor is either an idiot, a liar, or simply paranoid.

I'm not sure which.

Regarding bus schedules and communication

Rebecca Torres
Albuquerque Transit Department

Dear Ms Torres,

You know, some days go better than others. For example, let’s look at today.

I ride the #1 bus north on Juan Tabo in the morning, and transfer to the #5 on Montgomery Blvd going west. Now, at the time that I do this little maneuver, the #1 bus is supposed to arrive at the stop at 7:06 a.m., I get off and walk about 50 feet, and the #5 pulls up at 7:10. It’s a good system, but since there’s only 4 minutes between them, I realize that things might go wrong. I’m understanding that way.

For example, yesterday, when the #1 didn’t pull up to Montgomery until a little after 7:30, I didn’t get particularly upset. Stuff happens. Admittedly, that was the second time this week that stuff had happened, but sometimes, I’ve found that it’s just not worth getting upset.

However, this morning, as we were pulling up to the light on Montgomery, and I watched the #5 cross the road while we were still 50 yards away, that made me a little unhappy. But I stood up and walked to the front of the bus, and asked the driver if he could let me off there, figuring that I could dash across the street and maybe catch it anyway.

And when the bus driver informed me that he couldn’t do that because he would get written up, I accepted that; it might be true. I didn’t say a word. But then, when he followed that up with “I heard what you said back there,” it is always possible that I might have gotten tense.

You see, I had apparently let an impolite expletive escape my lips when I saw the bus go by. It was rude of me, and I apologize for it.

But you know, it is entirely possible that I cursed twice more at that point. Once, when I asked him if he was actually going to try and berate me for an accidental utterance caused by his inability to follow his own schedule. And as I got off the bus, when I suggested that he should have a nice fucking day.

And to be entirely honest, I might not have made that last suggestion, if he hadn’t informed me that I should probably take another bus from now on. Thinking about it, I’m relatively sure that it was at that moment that I felt I should contact you and ask you to have a talk with that particular individual.

I didn’t get his name, but I’m sure that you have the ability to discover who was driving the #1 bus northbound, which would have left the Wenonah and Tramway Park and Ride at 6:46 a.m. (and since that’s only 10 minutes before they’re supposed to pick me up, I’ll admit that I’m a little confused that they so consistently fail to arrive at my stop on time, much less manage to drive less than three miles north).

And when you have that little talk with him, after you suggest that he might want to follow the assigned schedule a little more closely, you could point out that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States grants us the freedom of speech. I mean, looking at him, it’s been a decade or three since he went to school, and he might have forgotten that little fact.

But more importantly, if you could suggest that there are times when he might not want to make a bad situation worse, I would take that as a personal favor.

Thank you for your time.

Update (5/5/2010): So, this morning, I sent this one, and copied the next person on the seating chart, who happens to be Executive Assistant to the Director, Doreen Delacruz. I'm starting to wonder how long this is going to go on. There's only two more layers of supervision over there, and the second one is the mayor.

Ms Torres,

Regarding the email below, I note that you haven’t yet responded to me. I hope that would be because you’ve been swamped and haven’t found the time to do so.

Really, that’s kind of a shame. (Remember that last line, about not making a situation worse? Yeah...)

I was waiting at my stop to my usual time (6:57 a.m.). And as the bus approached (four minutes late, incidentally, so it was 50/50 whether I’d be making the transfer anyway), I saw him through the windshield. Same driver as on Thursday (whose name, for reasons which should become obvious, I still don’t know). And he saw me. He was, in fact, looking directly at me, completely deadpan. As he drove past without stopping.

See, I get on the #1 bus at Juan Tabo and Mountain, the first stop north of Lomas. It’s a fairly open piece of road, with an empty Pizza Hut parking lot behind me. So even if he hadn’t been looking at me, it would be difficult for him to claim that he hadn’t seen me.

I’m curious. Is this considered acceptable by the Albuquerque Transit Department? For small-minded, judgmental drivers to vindictively decide whether a customer will be riding his bus, based on the fact that his virginal ears were assaulted on one instance with unpleasant language?

I’m not a particularly vindictive person, and fortunately I didn’t have an early meeting this morning. I’m not going to make some unreasonable demand that he be fired – if nothing else, in this economy, it would be extremely hard for him to be hired anywhere else, especially at his age.

However, I would appreciate it if I didn’t have to deal with this kind of behavior any more. Perhaps they’re looking for drivers in the South Valley?

I’ve been a customer on your buses for several years now. I normally have a good relationship with the drivers. In fact, the next bus (which did, in fact, stop for me – bus number 314, on route #1) was driven by Carl, and I have nothing but good things to say about him. He knows that I’ve got an iffy transfer to the #5 bus, and he consistently calls ahead for me without being asked.

I don’t think that it’s unreasonable of me to be a little unhappy about this. I called 311 and explained to the operator what had just happened – the report number is 5704092. I would appreciate a response this time. My telephone number is (redacted).


Update (5/6/2010): And so, this morning, I sent another e-mail. This time, I copied both Ms Delacruz, and the Director of ABQ RIDE, Bruce Rizzieri. (That's what they call it - Ay Bee Cue Ride, all in caps. They even have their own Wikipedia entry.) You know, most people get normal hobbies...

Dear Ms Torres,

Thank you for calling me back yesterday afternoon. I appreciated hearing from you. However, I still have an issue – technically, I suppose, the same issue, but as it is ongoing, I felt I should give you an update.

After yesterday’s experience, I walked two blocks to the Lomas bus stop, where other passengers were waiting as well. One of them, an older gentleman named Robert, has been riding the same bus that I have for about two years now, and, while we were waiting, we got to talking about my fascinating experiences of this last week. He thought they were unusual, too.

Sensing that this wasn’t going to go well, I courteously allowed everybody else to board before I got on. And the driver set his brake and informed me that I was going to have to ride another bus.

I stayed friendly. Admittedly, mostly because it was roughly what I expected. But, to make this easier on you, I asked him his name. I thought his response was fascinating, though. “I’m not going to tell you.”

That seemed like an interesting answer, so I verified with him that I’d heard him correctly. To which he said “That’s right. But there’s the bus number.” And he pointed at it behind me.

So, admittedly, while I didn’t have his name (and I apologize for adding to your workload, but I’m afraid that you’re going to have to look it up), but this all occurred on Route 1, bus number 308, at 6:58 a.m.

While I was writing this down, he informed me that I needed to get off, because the other passengers needed to get to work. Still writing, I suggested that I did, too. And I verified that Robert had heard our little exchange. (He had, but looked uncomfortable – I don’t think he likes confrontation.)

So, when I finished writing, I politely informed him that since, as he had pointed out, the other passengers did, in fact, need to get to work (or school, in many cases, but I suspect that very few of the students would be depressed at being delayed), I wouldn’t hold things up any longer. As I got off, our anonymous bus driver told me that he was going to make sure that I couldn’t ride any buses from now on.

Now, here’s my question. Have you, in fact, given bus drivers the ability to unilaterally decide that paying customers are no longer allowed to be passengers? That seems like a self-defeating policy to me. What, for example, do you do when some self-important moralist decides to he doesn’t like an otherwise nice guy like me?

I mean, admittedly, after 21 years in the military, I have a stubborn streak (you may have figured that one out already), but I’m told that I’m remarkably friendly.

If, in fact, this ability to ban passengers does exist, I’m sure that there must be a hearing process for reinstatement, and I should probably request such a hearing. Either way, though, I really was hoping to get some resolution on this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Update III: The Final Chapter (?) (5/11/2010): Now, yesterday morning, I noticed that the bus drivers had all changed routes (which they do periodically). My first thought was that, since the Transit Department knew this was coming, they were just using the Power of Positive Indolence to make the problem go away.

But then, at 10:00 this morning, I received my first written response. Gotta say, it was more heartening than any other part of this process.

Mr. Minnich,

I have reviewed the videos from April 29th, May 5th, and May 6th to see exactly what happened with this Bus driver. For the incident on the 29th, the driver did as he was trained and should not have left you off the bus on the south side of Montgomery. I apologize for him running late and you missing your connection but drivers are only allowed to stop at authorized stops.

On May 5th, it was obvious that the driver passed you up at your bus stop and this issue is being addressed. Drivers do not have the authority to pass up any passenger at any location. As far as I’m aware, the driver did not receive the authorization from any Supervisor to do so either.

On May 6th, when you attempted to board the bus at Lomas and Juan Tabo, if the driver felt that you boarding the bus was going to be a safety issue, then he should have contacted a Supervisor or Security to have you removed. Based on what I have seen on the videos, you may have been upset about what has happened to you but you don’t appear to be a safety issue to this driver.

As I said earlier, these issues with the driver have been addressed and hopefully should not happen again. I would like to arrange to have a Supervisor meet you on the bus when you ride the next time to make sure that everything goes smoothly. If you can let me know when that will be, I will get it all set up.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


Danny R. Holcomb
ABQ Ride Customer Service Manager

I actually hadn't known until yesterday that there were that many cameras on the buses. Then I noticed the forward-facing one by the door, and asked the (new, and somewhat chatty) driver about them - he pointed out about 3 more. So there I am, backed up by the taped evidence.

Seeing this whole scene ending with me, fully vindicated, riding off into the sunset, I responded to Mr Holcomb.

Mr Holcomb,

Thank you for getting back to me.

It looks like the drivers have all changed routes, so, unless he stayed, I don’t see where I’m likely to have a problem any more. (The power of positive passive-aggressive behavior, I guess – if I’d just been patient, it all would have cleared up anyway.)

I’ll admit that I’m a little concerned that this driver might easily treat other people this way – possibly somebody not as willing to make waves (which, you might have noticed, isn’t an issue for me).

Thanks for taking care of this.

And within ten minutes, I had another response (though the mills of justice grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small):

Actually, this driver took the same bid, which means that he will be on the same route 3 times a week. This is why I would like to get everything resolved once and for all.

Danny R. Holcomb
ABQ Ride Customer Service Manager

And then, an hour later, I had a phone message, from yet another Transit guy named Leo Cordera, who chatted with me for a while, and told me that he'd be on that same bus on Thursday (since I wasn't riding tomorrow) to ensure that everything was settled.

So, like somebody said once, we shall see what we shall see...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Are the Tea Parties racist?

You know, a lot of media time has been given to the teabaggers. And one question seems to be at the forefront of what passes for "minds" in the media. Are the Tea Parties racist?

Well, realistically, if you allow racist forces to link up with your movement, then you are (thanks to "guilt by association") going to be labeled racist. So, you know, live with it.

On the other hand, if studies are showing that you're much more likely to be racist than the average citizen, then... well, sorry. Once again, you've earned the label.

You'll find apologists trying to claim that it's all some kind of plot. ("See? It's the Man, tryin' to bring us down!")

Unfortunately for that argument, there's all kinds of evidence to tell you they might just be a little untrusting of the darker skin tones. But then, just to put the final nail in the coffin... just in case all the evidence from the rallies themselves aren't enough...

Here's David Duke, the Grand Wizard himself, telling you why the Teabagger movement fits right into his pocket.

Make of it what you will. We report, you decide.

Obama Didn't Create the Tea Party

By Paul Waldron (The American Prospect)
The prevailing narrative about our current political moment goes something like this:

Obama took office facing some large challenges. Then he overreached, by doing all kinds of big-governmenty things. This provoked a backlash, and now we're fighting over it.

We see the latest version of this narrative in today's David Brooks column, one of surpassing more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger Brooksness. As a moderate, Brooks is deeply saddened by all the arguing that's going on. "Just as America was leaving the culture war and the war war, the Democrats thrust it back into the government war, only this time nastier and with higher stakes," he laments.

The problem with this narrative is that it assumes that if Obama had taken some other course of action, the Tea Partiers would never have gotten so mad, and we would be having a much more civil discussion. But that's just absurd.

Let me offer just one piece of information. The latest poll from Brooks' own paper, one that included some extended analysis of people sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, included this question: "So far, do you think the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans, decreased taxes for most Americans, or have they kept taxes the same for most Americans?" There is a factual answer to this question: the administration has decreased taxes for most Americans. The stimulus bill included tax cuts for 98 percent of working families. The only tax increase that has actually taken effect since Obama took office was a small increase in the federal cigarette tax. The health-care reform does include tax increases on the wealthy -- but they are a small percentage of the population, and those increases don't take effect for a couple of years.

So how many people think Obama has raised taxes on most Americans? Thirty-four percent. Among those who say they support the Tea Party, it's 64 percent. Only 10 percent of the public, and only 2 percent of Tea Party supporters, gives the correct answer, that Obama has cut taxes for most Americans.

What does this tell us? That what the administration actually does has virtually no impact on the beliefs of the people driving our current political conflict. There was no course of action Obama could have pursued that would have made them more favorably inclined toward him. They will believe what they want to believe. If they don't like taxes, they'll assume Obama raised their taxes. Brooks, and people like him, can certainly argue that the steps the administration have taken constitute an unacceptably large expansion of government. I think they're wrong, but there's a case they could make. What they can't say is that the anti-government fervor on the right is Obama's fault.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Here in my car, I feel safest of all...

Does everybody remember how, early last year, President Obama bailed out the American car companies? Now, when Bush the Stupider bailed out the banks, he just handed them sacks of money with no stipulations, trusting that the honor of the bank owners would force them to repay the money. Now, when Barack the Obama went to the rescue of the auto manufacturers, he required a stake in the company be given to the country, in order to put slightly less risk on the taxpayers for the use of their ducats.

In a sane world, this would seem like a reasonable precaution. But, because the United States is filled with people so brain-meltingly ignorant that it's a surprise whenever they fail to crap themselves, this seemed to cause many of these babbling Beck-watchers physical pain, and they immediately set up howls of protests. People who couldn't define socialism (and frequently couldn't even spell it) began shrieking "Socialism!" in annoying, high-pitched voices, almost as if they knew what they were shrieking about.

But what did we hear yesterday? That GM is repaying all $5.8 billion dollars in full, and earlier than they agreed.

Now, customarily, when a supervillain like the Great Obama sees his fiendish plans foiled, he shakes his fist at the sky and shouts something like "Curses! Foiled again!" But nobody even flinched.

Not that our unhinged friends are likely to admit this. Because if they were to admit that they were wrong about one thing, perhaps they might discover that they're wrong about any number of things. And if their faith in their own omniscience is ever shaken, they might suddenly disappear in a cloud of logic and despair.

Update (4/28/10): Well, this is an interesting development (if by "interesting," you mean "spine-tinglingly dishonest and potentially fraudulent"). You know those GM ads where the CEO, Ed Whitacre, tells you how he repaid all this money?

Well, yeah, he kinda did. And he kinda didn't. See, what he actually did was repay his bailout money with funds from a different bailout fund.

Funny how he doesn't mention that in the ad.

Of course, the people who pointed this out? A bipartisan group of Senators. From the government, who, if they were secretly in charge of GM, would be more interested in hiding the fact that the CEO of GM is kind of a lying bastard, right?

So, what have we learned from this? Well, the first thing we've learned would be that Ed Whitacre is, as I said, kind of a lying bastard. But on the other hand, it just verifies that, even though a high-speed conman would seem to be the perfect candidate for public office, GM is still not the automotive arm of the US government.

Dishonest? Yes. Socialist? Not so much.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Puttin' on the Ritz

In 1929 (twelve years before the US entered WWII), a Jewish man with the unfortunate last name of Berlin wrote a pop song called "Puttin' on the Ritz," which was featured the next year as the title song for a musical starring then-popular vaudeville and Broadway performer Harry Richman (playing a song promoter named Harry Raymond) in his very first movie role, and a 20-year-old Joan Bennett in her seventh.

This was originally filmed in two-color Technicolor, but only black-and-white copies survive today. The lyrics are slightly different from what you may be used to (assuming that you're familiar with the song at all).
Have you seen the well-to-do
Up on Lennox Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air
High hats and colored collars
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending ev'ry dime
For a wonderful time

If you're blue and you don't know
Where to go to,
Why don't you go where Harlem glitz,
Puttin' on the Ritz!

Spangled gowns
upon the bevy
of highbrows
from down the levee,
all misfits,
puttin' on the Ritz!

That's where each and every Lulubelle goes,
every Thursday evening with her swell beaux,
rubbin' elbows.

Come with me
and we'll attend
their jubilee
and see them spend their last two bits,
Puttin' on the Ritz!
This referred to a fad, popular at the time among residents of Harlem, of putting on their best clothes and parading up and down Lenox Avenue.

Update (3/10/2012): Two years after this originally appeared, storeinchitown pointed out something I'd missed. In my transcription, in the second verse, I typed "highbrows" - it was a term I was familiar with. But the line should read:
Spangled gowns
upon the bevy
of high browns
from down the levee,
all misfits,
puttin' on the Ritz!
"High browns" refers to the lighter-skinned blacks who shop owners would hire every so often; I've heard the term before, but you just... OK, I just forget about little bits of racism like that.

It also explains the next line, "...all misfits" - he isn't making fun of the people watching them, but of the darkies putting on airs, like they're as good as us white folks.

The original song just gets worse every time I hear it.

It would reappear in 1939 in the movie Idiot's Delight adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and starring Clark Gable.

This was the only film where Gable ever performed a dance number. And fortunately, after the success of Gone With the Wind that same year, they didn't ask him to sing much, either.

(If you noticed the dancer second from the left edge of the screen was barely in step and not doing the same arm movements as the other chorus girls, that's because she was holding up her top = you see the strap break right about the 24-second mark.)

Around that time (but I'm not sure if it was 1938 or 1944 - many of his live albums from that period were collections of two or more shows), Benny Goodman started performing the song as a clarinet solo. (I couldn't find an embeddable version, and didn't want to pay for it, so the link takes you to the Google player.)

According to Wikipedia:
The song is in AABA form, with a verse. According to John Mueller (in the 1986 "Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films") the central device in the A section is the "use of delayed rhythmic resolution: a staggering, off-balance passage, emphasized by the unorthodox stresses in the lyric, suddenly resolves satisfyingly on a held note, followed by the forceful assertion of the title phrase." The marchlike B section, which is only barely syncopated, acts as a contrast to the previous rhythmic complexities. According to Alec Wilder, in his study of American popular song, the rhythmic pattern in "Puttin' on the Ritz" is "the most complex and provocative I have ever come upon."
For the 1946 film Blue Skies, Berlin revised the vaguely racist lyrics to the version most people are familiar with, and it was performed by the always-brilliant Fred Astaire. (Some of the other videos on this page get extremely grainy on full-screen, but not this one.)

Have you seen the well-to-do
Up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where fashion sits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Different types who wear a daycoat
Pants with stripes and cutaway coat
Perfect fits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper

Come, let's mix where Rockefellers
Walk with sticks or umb-er-ellas
In their mitts
Puttin' on the Ritz
Astaire then performs an extended tap-dance number, after which he ends the song. Possibly for time, or possibly because he was out of breath at that point, they chose not do Berlin's last two verses.
Tips his hat just like an English chappie
To a lady with a wealthy pappy
Very snappy
Puttin' on the Ritz

You'll declare it's simply topping
To be there and hear them swapping
Smart tidbits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Arguably the most famous version was performed in Young Frankenstein by Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle (it was also included in the 2007 Broadway musical of the same name).

In 1982, a synth-pop version of the song was recorded by a man whose parents had given him the first name of Taco, and it was his only American hit. Perhaps because Taco was living in Holland at the time and had been born in Indonesia, he didn't understand that including performers in blackface might not be greeted well by the American audience. MTV forced him to re-edit the video to remove the controversial scenes.

It's been performed numerous other times, by an assortment of bands from Shiny Happy Guns (covering the Taco version on their first album) to the Jackson 5 (covering the Astaire version as part of a medley in their 1977 TV show).

But no matter who performs it, for me, Peter Boyle's harmonies will always be a vital part of the song.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Porn Jesus

See, back in 12th century Italy, some unknown painter made an "icon crucifix" (Jesus nailed to a tree, surrounded by a bunch of things - people, in this case - who were important to the story), and hung it in a small church in San Damian. It became popular when some rich guy from Assisi named Francis got sick, and hallucinated that the crucifix spoke to him. (Not as uncommon as you might think - my son had a fever when he was a kid, and thought that one of the posters on his wall grew green tentacles that were reaching for him.)

It's a decent painting, but nothing special. Jesus just hanging there, with sparks apparently flying from his head, and the people standing around talking about how he didn't put enough work in his lats or quads, and his pecs were pretty much non-existent, but look at those abs! Boy's been doing his crunches, all right. Ripped! (I mean, you know, stylized in a way that was popular back then, but tight. Prominent.)

Unfortunately, when something becomes popular, some people copy it without really paying attention to some of the details of what they're doing. And maybe some proportions get gradually farther off, some lines are emphasized more, and sometimes, the errors mount up in ways that nobody anticipated.

Like this crucifix in Oklahoma.

I mean, good Lord! They said Jesus was hung on the cross, but I don't think that's what they meant! Is this how they roll in Oklahoma? "My God's Cock is bigger than yours"? Why else would Jesus be packing heat like that?

I've got to say, it's a nice touch that the people aren't just standing around talking, but are openly staring at His midsection. After all, even in the Zero-th Century, you've got to be impressed by the Holy Staff. It's like a baby's arm! Possibly a whole baby!

It's an interesting way to build up your diety, really. I mean, it's obvious that after Jesus, no man was likely to satisfy Mary Magdalene again. God loved His only Son, and blessed Him with a Python that would send most women screaming in fear.

(Except that He's Jesus, so fear isn't allowed. Wow, leave it to those wacky Catholics to bring a whole new, somewhat disturbing meaning to "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, they comfort me.")

Shouldn't It get its own halo? Hell, at what point is it classified as a birth defect? (Except, of course, it's Jesus, so It must be the perfect Penis. So never mind.) The man's a tripod! He had to sleep on his side or risk spraining Something.

Thank God that the ancient Romans had cesarean sections, because you know that Jesus would have gotten wedged halfway out of the birth canal. ("Here, Joseph, would you like to cut the... NO! Not that one!")

Talk about your grail runneth over! Imagine the bris - it must have lasted all night! (Is that the root of the word "hubris"?) I guarantee that the rabbi saved the foreskin, which means that somewhere in Bethlehem, there's a Torah bound in one impressive relic.

Of course, with gay porn like this hanging around the altar, you do have to wonder why the Catholic church still opposes gay marriage. Come on, guys! Come out of the closet! You're still celibate (well, the good ones are), and your Pope openly wears a dress! Does it really matter if you swing right or left when you aren't technically swinging at all?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I'm down to pretty much two games in Facebook. I still play Zoo World (which I got into mostly for the Trophy Wife), and Treasure Madness (although I've pretty well mastered the puzzles in that).

The Trophy Wife discovered that you can take those ads in the sidebar, and report them, to make them go away. Well, she did that today. It was an AARP insurance ad, asking "How do you know when your old enough?"

So she clicked on the ad and reported it. For one thing, she isn't old enough. But specifically, they used "your" instead of "you're."

Yes, the gay cruise lines don't bother either of us. But by god, the freakin' AARP should get their grammar right!

I don't block a lot of people, but there are a few who end up looking like that homeless guy on the corner, screaming at the sky and anybody who walks by. I don't understand some of these people, who post every detail of their pointless, wasted life on Facebook. "The sun is brite 2day! Im hot!" It's the same thing I don't understand about Twitter. Folks, nobody cares that your dog is so damned "kewt," especially if they've never seen your dog. Leave the useless comments inside your head. Or maybe say them to an uncaring room. Don't fill my wall with the minor, meaningless details of your life. And if something seems interesting enough to post, can you please figure out how to spell it? (Oh, and that caps-lock button? It's not doing you any favors.)

And finally, there's a guy on Facebook named Royal W.W. Donnelly, who was useful to have as a friend in Zoo World, for a while. He discovered a way around their rules, which allowed him to offer dozens of animals , instead of the one-per-day or whatever it is.

Well, he's done now. Gave up on it. He was overwhelmed with the Facebook messages:
Needy clingy people are annoying in a 1 on 1 scenario, can you imagine some 21,000 people crying every single minute because you're not doing what THEY want? I don't care if it's talking about sex, being nice to them, saying hi to them, giving them the spawn they want, helpin fix their computer, or just outright talking on your wall... I literally feel like deleting facebook completely because of the demands made on me daily.
He was annoyed at the close-minded and straight-laced people:
If you do not like the personality of the person who is doing everything they can to help you.. delete them, don't report them, just remove them.. I say fuck, if you don't like the word you shouldn't be on my wall.
And he is apparently extremely tired of the computer-illiterate.
6. Technical issues, while a lot of us major gamers are great with computers and obvious can fix most of your drama, remember if you called a tech, they'd charge you $60/hr.. and you expect us to do it for free. 99% of the time we're happy to do it, but sometimes you just gotta go google your problem and fix it yourself, I'm tired of drawn out emails trying to get the info I need only to find out you pushed the wrong button.

7. Virus's, be less moronic, if you see a link that says you get free something or another for the game your playing, and it's not part of the game itself, it's a virus. I have personally run months without any type of scanner and been fine, just don't click the shit.. However, if you're a moron, and you click it and get a virus here are some links for you.
So he's gone undercover into a new Facebook ID, to avoid the whiners and idiots. Oh, and he also posted:
go here.. look at the bottom left.. click donate.. send me 5 bucks and I'll add you to the new account.. (*shrug* why not people are click happy an don't read)
It's hard to argue with his reasons, really.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Brief: Haley Barbour: "No, We're Really Just Stupid Fucking Rednecks"

from the Rude Pundit
Every time someone wants to elevate the South, to say that it's finally learned to grapple with its past and come to terms with it, as when, say, Virginia and North Carolina went for Obama in 2008, another leader comes along to say, in essence, "That was a nice moment. But, please, remember, we're really stupid fucking racist rednecks."

This week, that duty went to Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a man who talks like Foghorn Leghorn with a mouth full of balls. On CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley (tagline: "Can you fucking believe we finally gave Candy Crowley a show?"), Barbour said of the recent kerfuffle over Virginia's governor declaring April "Remember the Losers" month (or "Confederate History Month") without mentioning slavery in the initial proclamation, "I don't know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying...To me, it's a sort of feeling that it's a nit, that it is not significant, that it's not a -- it's trying to make a big deal out of something doesn't amount to diddly." That last part wasn't about slavery, per se, but about the outrage over the lack of mention of slavery.

Barbour gave some historical background to the South's continuing glorification of the Confederacy: "My state legislature has made a legislatively enacted holiday, Confederate Memorial Day, and done it for years under Republican governors, Democratic governors. And for seven years as governor, I have issued a proclamation because of what the legislature has done. My Democratic predecessors did so as well [as did the Democratic legislatures]...I'm unaware of them being criticized for it or them having their supporters feel uncomfortable with it."

Do we even need to say why most of their supporters are perfectly comfortable with Confederate Memorial Day? Do we even need to say why dissenters in Mississippi might stay silent?

By the way, last year's charming proclamation of Confederate Memorial Day, right towards the end of Confederate History and Heritage Month, read,
"[T]he month of April...shall be set aside to honor, observe, and celebrate the Confederate States of America, its history, those who served in its armed forces and government, and all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear from its founding on February 4, 1861, in Montgomery, Alabama, until the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah sailed into Liverpool Harbor and surrendered to British authorities on November 6, 1865."
One can assume that the slaves didn't exactly hold the cause "dear." But then again, it's only about "citizens."

Doing anything remotely related to the Confederacy without mentioning slavery is like having a funeral for someone you know is alive. You can pretend as much as you want. That won't make the living any more dead.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Kentucky Fried Something

Kentucky Fried Chicken has had its ups and downs in the fast food world.

Harland Sanders worked a series of odd jobs throughout his life, including farm hand, streetcar conductor, army private in Cuba, blacksmith's helper, railyard fireman, insurance salesman, tire salesman and service station operator for Standard Oil. In 1930, he started selling his fried chicken at the age of 50, in the front room of a gas station in North Corbin, KY, during the first Great Depression. Sanders Court & Café was so successful that Kentucky Governor Rudy Laffoon declared him a "Kentucky Colonel," a title that means absolutely nothing unless you're in Kentucky - admittedly, my father-in-law, Kentucky Colonel Hal Blankenship, used the laminated card they gave him to get into Travis Air Force Base at one point, but that was the exception, not the rule.

When Interstate 75 bypassed Corbin, Col. Sanders sold his house and business, and started pimping his chicken across the United States - the first restaurant selling the franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken was opened in 1952 in South Salt Lake, Utah. By the 1960s, the chicken was sold in over 600 restaurants across the US and Canada. (One of the longest-running chains selling the franchised chicken were the Kenny Kings diners, with several branches throughout northern Ohio - the last one closed in 2004.)

In 1964, Col. Sanders sold his interest in the company to a group of investors, but stayed on as spokesman. Since then, the company has gone through a number of hands, including RJ Reynolds, the tobacco giant (now RJR-Nabisco) and Pepsi. They're currently a part of Yum! Foods, formerly known as Tricon Global Restaurants, which spun off of PepsiCo. Yum! Foods is the world's largest restaurant company, owning Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Wingstreet, and Long John Silver's restaurants worldwide, and A&W Restaurants everywhere except Canada, where A&W Restaurants have been owned by Unilever since 1972. (In China, Yum! Foods also runs a chain of restaurants called Dong Fang Ji Bai.)

In 1980, a writer named William Poundstone tested KFC's chicken, and the lab report told him that the "11 herbs and spices" consisted of sugar, flour, salt, black pepper and monosodium glutamate (MSG). He determined that the new owners had been skimping on the spices for years to save money. Col. Sanders himself complained about this after he sold the business in 1964, saying:
That friggin'...outfit... They prostituted every goddam thing I had. I had the greatest gravy in the world and those sons of bitches they dragged it out and extended it and watered it down that I'm so goddamn mad.
In 1991, they shortened the original name to "KFC," because a more health-conscious public was avoiding fried foods. They re-rebranded themselves as Kentucky Fried Chicken again in 2007 - just a few years after Hardee's made a name for themselves with the thunderously unhealthy Monster Thickburger.

Well, having returned the "Fried" to its name, KFC is now introducing an even less-healthy choice for your dining pleasure. On Monday, they're introducing the Double Down, a breadless "sandwich" consisting of two fried chicken fillets, surrounding two slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese, two slices of bacon, and sauce.

The sad thing is, it really sounds good. In a grotesque and entirely unhealthy way, of course. But still good.

That humming sound in Louisville, KY is the sound of Harland Sanders spinning in his grave.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

More people who want to kill you in the name of their god.

Does anybody remember how, early last year, the Department of Homeland Security released a study on rightwing extremists, and the entire right half of the blogosphere just completely lost their shit, claiming that Obama was declaring war on conservatives, and openly lying about the meaning of the phrase "Christian identity groups"?

Yeah, good times.

They ignored the fact that the study had taken several months to put together, and had been ordered by the Bush Administration, but that's pretty standard for the right ever since the that black guy got elected president. That's how they roll. Panic, paranoia, fear-mongering, and incoherent screaming - the four planks of the New GOP.

Well, last weekend, we learned about a group calling themselves the Hutaree, another militia group paranoid about the rise of the New World Order, accusing Obama of being the Antichrist, stockpiling weapons, selling explosives - you know, the usual schtick. We learned about them because the FBI and local authorities rounded up a bunch of them, accused them of trying to overthrow the government, plotting to kill law enforcement officers, and a couple of related charges.

Theirs was a cunning plan. They were going to kill a cop, run back to their fortified bunkers with their guns and their explosives and their faith in the Four Horsemen of the Apocolyse, and wait while the country exploded into civil war.

With a brilliantly simple plan like that, how could they lose?

Well, today, a federal magistrate in Detroit affirmed the charges, rebutted defense lawyers' claims that these were moral, upstanding Christian members of the Michigan citizenry; in fact, the magistrate specifically said that they looked like they posed a threat to the community, and were probably a flight risk.

I do have one little argument with the charges against them. They're charged with attempting to use "weapons of mass destruction." As far as anybody who hasn't spent months poring over the Federal files can tell, that's because they were making improvised explosive devices. Homemade landmines - all conventional explosives.

Unless these fine Prayer Warriors had a hidden stock of nuclear weapons, or at least chemical or biological agents, the Departement of Homeland Security needs to stop weakening the definition of "weapons of mass destruction."

Ordinary explosives don't qualify. Unless you place them directly on a city's main gas line, even if you blow them up in the middle of a crowd you might get 15 or 20 people, tops. Let's hold back the World-Ending-Threat labels for something that might actually take out more people than you can fit in a small room, OK?

Meanwhile, I do have one piece of bad news. Know how we've been forced to view Islam as a "terrorist religion" based on the actions of a few extremists? Completely ignoring the other 1.5 billion followers of what is, by some reports, the world's fastest growing religion. Well, I'm sorry, but, following that inescapable logic, we are now forced to consider the Christian church to be a terrorist religion, with it's requirements that anybody who doesn't fit in or who talks back must be killed.

Keep your eyes on those pasty white people hanging around the Episcopalian church. They're obviously a threat to our way of life.