Saturday, December 29, 2012

Facebook games

When I first got on Facebook, I played some of their games. Gave up after a while, but not before I had a buttload of "friends" who I've never met. I suppose I could go through and delete them, but I don't care enough to do that, and some of them have actually been interesting.

But the other night, I was finishing my drink before I started the dishes, and, for lack of anything else to do, thumbing through Facebook. And I came across this message.
K: Kade is complaining of hear pain and can't sleep does anyone know what I could do even if I took him to the ER Walgreens is closed
Huh. Teenaged mother, hoping for help. I took another drink, and noticed the top three comments.
A: Try olive oil with garlic. Take cotton balls and put them in his ears. The warmth will help him feel better.

K: I'll try that thank u

C: peel and cut an onion in half. place the sliced part of the onion over his ear and have him hold it there until there is relief. The onlion will draw out the toxins that are causing him pain. Works for me everytime. When ur done, look at the onion. The proof is in the rings.
I nearly swallowed an ice cube. Really? Predatory peddlers of woo? Hell, for all I know, they're all from the same town in [click] Wisconsin, apparently.

What the hell: give me a second to change into my superhero costume, and I'm...

Unfortunately, my Captain Obvious underpants were in the wash, and all I had left in the back of the closet was an old Dazzler costume from the 70s, when I... well, let's just skip it, OK? It's a long story.

I'll just have to go in as me.

Me: Oh, god. A little onion juice in the ear could make an infection worse. Same with garlic. Jesus, people, this isn't the 14th century - magic doesn't work. Homeopathy doesn't work. The ER could give him medicine that could help - it might be a cold, it might be infection.
Was that harsh? There are some who might say it was a little harsh.

The ladies, however, weren't done.
A: Garlic actually does work. But I prefer my 14th century methods as opposed to running out and getting tons of medicine before trying a home remedy.

C: excuse me? dr's even tell u to use onion capsules. This works jsut like it did in the "14th century"

Me: Yeah. Really helped with the Black Plague, didn't it?

C: sure, do u see the plague now?

Me: Yeah. I live in New Mexico. Look it up.
You know something? Some of those people may be right. Apparently, I can be a dick.
Me: Let's go over it one more time. If it says "alternative medicine," it's crap. if it works, it's called "medicine."
I'm also not above stealing jokes from Tim Minchin, either.
C: i dont see "alternative medicine" written on an onion, do you? hmmmm that why most pills and medicine contain garlic and onion.

Me: Because sympathetic magic is crap. Because an onion doesn't "suck out toxins." That's called "crap"

A: That's why there's MRSA. And tons of drug overdoes from taking medicine as prescribed. In the morning she can go to the doctor, but for tonight if this provides relief let her do it. Calm down, your jizzing all over your medical magazines.

Me: Yup. Overuse of Methicillin has led to MRSA. Meanwhile, underuse of it leads to situations you can find in third world countries. It's a fine line, but waving your wands isn't going to drive the spirits away.
Has anybody noted that I didn't mention their miserable spelling? Or the fascinating claim that onions and garlic are in most pills?
Me: Heat can help with inflammation, if that's the problem. If it's an infection, those darned antibiotics that Andrea hates can knock it out pretty quick. Aspirin has very few side effects (and comes from willow bark - oooh... natural!). Medicine helps, magic doesn't. Raised 3 healthy kids. Saw a lot of bad advice. Good luck, Ms K.
Oh, one last note The next morning, her status read as follows:
K: Well didn't want it to happen but I had to take Kade to the ER he has a bad ear infection but I won't complain it's only his third ever
See, that's the thing. You can be a dick, and still be right.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blow me, Pink.

I really hate to be the arbiter of morality.

Anybody who's ever met me knows that I don't have any significant objections to what my grandmother used to call "strong language." Anybody who's read my stuff, or walked near me, or sat next to me in church...

A very wise man once said "sometimes, you just have to say 'what the fuck'," and I've always tried to live by those words.

That being said, Pink's latest hit bothers me just a little.

There's a difference between "some inappropriate language," and the carefully calculated insertion of cuss-words, specifically to make your song appeal to 13 year olds (when the radio-edits are specifically built in to the phrasing, that can often be a giveaway).

I'm not the biggest Pink fan, but I like her well enough. And several of her previous hits had a "bitch" here or a "damn" there, and I had no problem with that. But with this, it's like she decided that part of her popularity was due to the prurient value of her language.

(That's your new vocabulary word of the day, folks.)

I don't know anybody who says "I had a shit day." Maybe that's local slang from someplace; as an adjective, the word should be "shitty." But then she goes and conjugates it (or, you know, would have, if first-person, second-person and plural had different forms in English).

I'm not likely to clutch my pearls and swoon about this being Hollywood having an agenda and trying to destroy civilization as we know it. This isn't some Satanic influence over a singer, this is just a musician trying to make money with some carefully-inserted controversy.

But that's kind of fucked.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He's more than just an abbott - he might be the pope.

There's something about the music of Declan Patrick MacManus that I can't get out of my head.

The son of a jazz trumpeter, Ross MacManus (who performed under the stage name "Day Costello"), Declan took his manager's suggestion and formed his own stage name by combining Elvis Presley's first name with his father's stage name, and Elvis Costello was born.

His voice, which is admittedly harsh and slightly nasal, throws off a lot of people, but I have no problem with it. He has spanned the entire range of musical styles in various songs: jazz, pop, punk/New Wave, classical, country. He's mostly avoided metal, probably for a good reason.

I'll admit that I died a little inside when he worked with Burt Bacharach in the late 90s, but I might forgive him for that eventually. (And yes, I do own a copy of his album of country and western murder ballads.)

I actually started listening to him in the 80s, which remains my favorite era in his musical library. Several of his songs during this period are carefully layered, wall-of-sound style romps, layered with some of the most amazing lyrics, filled with amazing imagery and wordplay: he once self-mockingly described himself as "rock and roll's Scrabble champion," but his early lyrics are probably what attracted me to his music in the first place.

He has always been stubbornly anti-authoritarian, both politically and in his own life and career. He started with Stiff Records, which were only distributed in the UK. Protesting the fact that he could't get distributed in America, he was arrested for busking outside of a convention of CBS executives. It seemed to have worked - within months, he had a contract with CBS.

But then, on his first appearance on US television, the record executives wanted him to perform the first single that had been released off of My Aim is True, called "Less than Zero." It was a song about Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, and Costello felt it would have no bearing on the American audience. So he famously stopped a few bars into the song and said "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here." He then burst into "Radio Radio," which skewers the power of music executives.

(If you're interested, you can see that here - somewhere between Warner and NBC, it's a pain to find an embeddable version.)

Elvis Costello has literally worked with all of the greats in music - Paul McCartney compared their collaborations with his time with John Lennon. There are few voices in music who have moved me as much as Mr MacManus.


Full disclosure - I wrote this under the influence of Imperial Bedroom, one of the two Costello albums I got for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The place where optimism most flourishes...

The Republican party has been sinking slowly into the depths of madness for almost 40 years now.

An argument can be made that the problem began with Ronald Reagan, but if you look back at Nixon and his hatred of the "elite, East Coast liberals of the media," you can see where the Fox "News" mantra about "liberal media destroying the country" began.

(Plus, Nixon was a paranoid totalitarian who kept an enemies list and had a racist side he tried to keep hidden. He'd fit right into the new Republican Party.)

Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the GOP had an open money-faucet flowing into the election. And despite that, the Republicans took a magnificent electoral pummeling. You would think that this might have caused Republicans to look into their souls, and perhaps reevaluate their priorities. Instead, they've decided to double down on the crazy.

You see, in the theory that "we can't afford to lose a single vote," the GOP embraced people who should be shunned by any reasonable human: conspiracy theorists, racists, and all the worst examples of the darkness and pettiness that creeps into the fringes of society. And for a number of reasons, those people have moved into the leadership of the party, and make up the public face of the GOP. Now, the entire party can be broken down into four types of people: the lunatics, the con-men, the marks, and the Old Guard.

You have the lunatics: they don't just spread the lies - they believe them, down to the depths of their souls. In essence, they're just marks or rubes, with a little more charisma and no fear of public speaking. People like Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert.

In days past, they might have been found on streetcorners with bullhorns, and people walking past, looking the other way. Now, they're elected to office, or given TV shows.

Then you have the known liars, who see the truth as something that needs to be to be bent to match their political agenda: Rush Limbaugh; the late, unmourned Andrew Breitbart; Karl Rove; and now, Mitt Romney. People who will lie, and then double-down on those lies, without compunction or shame.

(Please note: this is by no means an exhaustive list; not even scratching the surface. Just four of the biggies off the top of my head.)

And then you have the hapless rubes who believe them: the Teabaggers, the Fox "News" viewers; the easily-deluded fools who desperately cling to any idea that fits their preconceived world views, because it's so much easier than actually thinking.

And finally, you have the Old Guard. People like my father, who bought into the Republican line back when they had some shred of morality left to them, and haven't looked closely at the people who now make up the party. It's not clear whether they're a minority, or simply not loud enough to be heard over the din of the lunatics and criminals, but they don't seem to have any interest in being visible.

And it doesn't matter if the lies are easily debunked: the Republicans want to believe them, so little things like "facts" and "truth" get ignored for weak twistings of logic, and occasionally for simple repetition of the same lie, over and over again.

It doesn't matter how many birth certificates you release, the birthers will just keep on going.

Former Ron Paul staffer Eric Dondero has declared that he's "soured on electoral politics" and is now promoting "outright revolt." Of course, his definition of "revolt" is pretty much just to be a dick to anyone who doesn't express rage and hatred for the duly-elected President of the United States.
Starting early this morning, I am going to un-friend every single individual on Facebook who voted for Obama, or I even suspect may have Democrat leanings. I will do the same in person. All family and friends, even close family and friends, who I know to be Democrats are hereby dead to me. I vow never to speak to them again for the rest of my life, or have any communications with them. They are in short, the enemies of liberty. They deserve nothing less than hatred and utter contempt.

I strongly urge all other libertarians to do the same. Are you married to someone who voted for Obama, have a girlfriend who voted 'O'. Divorce them. Break up with them without haste. Vow not to attend family functions, Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas for example, if there will be any family members in attendance who are Democrats.

Do you work for someone who voted for Obama? Quit your job. Co-workers who voted for Obama. Simply don't talk to them in the workplace, unless your boss instructs you too for work-related only purposes. Have clients who voted Democrat? Call them up this morning and tell them to take their business elsewhere.
So, yeah. He's going to have a lot of friends.

But the right wing refuses to accept the simple fact that they were beaten by Obama fair and square. Exit polls clearly showed that Obama destroyed Romney on the issues, but what is the chant we hear from the right? "He ran a negative campaign!" Or, to put it another way:
What they won't say is that President Obama won a mandate for his vision, or that the GOP has veered too far right in its outlook.

"The president won the election. But I think it wasn't on the issues," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday at the annual Republican Governors Assn. conference. "He ran a heck of a good grass-roots organization and was able to basically convince enough people that they couldn't trust Gov. Romney."
Face it. The truth is, Obama didn't have to work to make Mitt Romney seem unlikable. The person doing that job was Mitt Romney.

Another theme that's being repeated over and over is "Obama cheated!" (Because, you know, hundreds of repeated attempts at voter suppression by the right don't mean anything at all! Hey, if you didn't win, it must not have been cheating!)

The head of the Republican Party in Maine, Charlie Webster claimed that blacks were bussed in to steal the election.
"In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day," he said. "Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black. How did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out."
"I don't know any blacks! They must not exist!"

Sorry, Charlie. There are over 17,000 blacks in Maine, and the state went for Obama by a margin of 108,000 votes. I'd say that a few white people probably voted for Obama too. Whaddya think, Charlie?

And things are only getting worse. From the woman in Phoenix, in despair because Romney lost, who ran her husband down with a car (not because he voted for Obama, but because he didn't vote at all), to the paranoid separatists building an armed compound in Idaho (where you can get a good-paying job making guns).

From the man who murdered his family, and then killed himself, because he was afraid of a second Obama term, to the porn-stached Joseph Farah, who once claimed that Obama's reelection would lead to conservatives being "hunted down like dogs," and is now saying we should boycott the U.S. military because Obama's in charge.

The right wing is insane. And they're not getting any saner.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Random thoughts on a school shooting.

Since Adam Lanza shot 27 people in a Connecticut school, I've been having a number of conversations over the last several days, primarily on Facebook and in what we laughingly call "real life." (I have yet to work up the interest in trolling right-wing blogs, though. Not sure why - perhaps the open futility of logic in this case.)

It's surprising how often I've been hearing the same tropes, too.

You know, if one of those teachers had owned a gun, none of this would have happened!
Actually, one of them owned several guns. Her son used them to kill her, and 26 other people.

And in fact, if you review the data (and this analysis is slightly flawed, but data is data), of the 17 mass shootings he analyzed, 11 were, in fact, stopped by civilians. But only in one of them was the shooter gunned down by someone carrying a weapon (one other was wounded by a civilian with a firearm, but he escaped, and later shot himself). The most common endings for these situations is a gunman shooting himself, or getting tackled by unarmed civilians; police killing the gunman actually came in third.

In fact, the most common ending for armed civilians entering the fray? Increased confusion, more collateral damage, and more wounded bystanders. So, once again, the "conventional wisdom" turns out to be completely inaccurate.

Students were killed because liberals ended prayer in school!
Or any of a thousand variations on a theme. Really, there's only one answer to statements like that.
(On a side note and something of a non sequiter, Westboro Baptist Church announced their intention to picket the funerals of the children. And within hours, the hacker group Anonymous released the contact information of many of the more public members, so you can contact them and tell them how you feel. Just thought I'd mention.)

There've been a few new tropes of late, though. I had the following exchange after tossing out a simple picture like this:

Guy: I would only point out that they should be focusing on the societal issues that causes this piece of dirt to think this was a viable option.

Me: And one of the societal issues? The easy availability of guns. How is it that every other 1st world country can handle this problem but us? Why are we down with the 3rd world countries in per capita gun deaths?

Girl: It's been said many times before: guns don't kill people, crazy idiots with guns kill people

Me: Guns don't kill people. People kill people. By throwing bullets at each other.

Still me: 27 children. Dead. I'm just saying.

Guy: Lol at your wikipedia reference. it would be a little more believable if the dates the data was cherry picked from matched and if the US didn't have three years of data to every others one year (exception being Argentina)

Still the guy: and yes 27 people killed is a horrible tragedy. Maybe we should spend some time grieving first and then discussing why it happened at a more appropriate time.

Me: Huh. Interesting theory. Ignoring your wish to get all the data from a source that doesn't exist, there have been 4 mass shootings this year alone. There have been two a year for the last 3 decades. If we followed your advice and waited until an appropriate time, it's a discussion that would never happen. So, since we obviously need it, when do you suggest? And how many people need to die before we do?
Please note the two newest tropes on display up there:

We should take care of the societal issues that cause the problems, not the problems themselves.


Now is not the time to talk about this. There should be time to mourn. We should wait until emotions aren't running as high.

I believe Jon Stewart pointed out the problems with that last point.

So in the end, there are no new arguments. Just the same ones, louder.