God Save the Queen’s Face

June 5th, 2012 / #observations, #politics

It occurred to me recently that America’s a funny place. I mean, most places are funny places in the sense that they’re full of funny people who do funny things for funny reasons, but America is funny in an Itchy and Scratchy type of way instead of a Monty Python type of way.

Take the recent hoopla over the Queen Mum’s diamond jubilee: an entire nation – with the notable and slightly bitter exception of Prince Charles, perhaps – looking on to collectively celebrate sixty years under one monarch.

I don’t claim to know anything about British politics beyond Ed Milliband’s dweebish caricature in the press and that some dude exists named Nick Clegg. And this critique certainly isn’t meant to offend Her Majesty. But to an American, the entire idea of a Diamond Jubilee is a pretty silly concept.

Setting aside for the moment the adorable name – a jubilee! – this entire affair smacks of a family gathering for Grandma’s birthday, only on a much larger scale. Some siblings adore her, some abhor her, and all are just sort of… waiting. “Congratulations for living another year! You’ve made it now! You’re sure you’ve got your will signed?”

Which brings me to America and how it’s funny in a much less charming way.

While Britain swirled with the excitement of a jubilee this week, we Yanks latched on to a story (or series of stories, rather) about zombies. Of course, I (and apparently most other news outlets) adopted the colloquial “zombie” term because it’s easy, vivid, and fun. What we were actually tracking was a homicide where the killer was a weird guy on weird drugs.

After considering the memery of cannibalism Stateside and the Buckingham blowout, I tried to think – really, think – of someone the entire country could rally around in the way that Britain’s rallied around the Queen this week.

It almost certainly couldn’t be a politician. I say this partly because of the way the media frames politics as a bitter, partisan, zero-sum game, but also partly because of the growing multitude of communication channels that exist among the electorate. People are encouraged to project their views in ways that were never available before, and we all know what opinions are like.

So, as sad as it is, we’d probably have to rely on some celebrity if we want to stand united behind someone. But it’s got to be the right celebrity.

Could you imagine the fallout from Tim Tebow Day? As much as I’d love to celebrate that holiday by circumcising poor Asian children and shouting 58 Hail Urbans, a vast majority of the country wouldn’t see things my way.

Perhaps you’d prefer Kim Kardashian’s Rhinestone Jubilee?

It’s my party, and I’ll cheer if I want to

In general, writing about politics is a bad idea.

Wait, scratch that: writing about politics in a forum where lots of other people will read it is a bad idea. So I’ll continue.

But first, a disclaimer: I hate politics. That’s a funny thing for a former political science major to say, I know, but I mean it. After spending the four most formative years of my adolescence sitting in classrooms learning about Washington’s committees, subcommittees, whips and weasels, the promised land of graduate school has offered a welcome respite from the sort of tug of war approach to political discourse that most of my classmates engaged in. It’s not that I didn’t like my classmates as humans (for the most part), but I found it pretty sad that they fell so easily into the common trap of treating politics like a baseball game: I root for my team, you root for yours, and we’ll see who can hit the ball farthest when it’s my turn to bat.

Maybe this is the cynic in me, but it seems like this rah-rah competition is not the most efficient way to govern. After all – and I know a lot of people would disagree vehemently with this assessment – most politicians are pretty similar. Sure, they might have widely different priorities in terms of particular issues. But the end of the day, most politicians are slaves to the ballot box and, above all, human.

Given my understanding of the way this country works, I do as any normal person who’s upset with the system would do: I treat politics as the biggest, most convoluted reality television show ever conceived. Catty congresswomen, old white bigwigs who can’t keep their junk in their pants, an insane billionaire looking to hijack the most powerful office in the world – America has it all.

So, you’ll forgive me if I perceive people who are staunch supporters of either side as the equivalent of Team Snookie. The way the electorate clings to one party line or the other without considering the strengths and weaknesses of other opinions seems pretty silly to me. In school, kids learn about the ever-important “marketplace of ideas.” This term no longer applies to American political discourse, however. Now, political junkies do their idea shopping at one of two strip malls on opposite sides of town. Very impractical.

Which leads me to the news du jour: the recent assassination of international terrorist and all-around bad guy, Osama bin Laden.

Like most Americans, I waited with bated breath for Barack Obama’s announcement in the late hours of May 1. And like most Americans, I was thrilled when the announcement came. But what struck me about the news was not the event itself, nor the reaction to the event, but the secondary reaction to America’s initial reaction to the event.

In the hours and days since a gaggle of George Washington University students – college kids, mind you – triumphantly gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue, it has become chic for bloggers, tweeters, and serious media people to reflect back upon that night’s scenes of euphoria with reserved derision. To cheer the murder of another human, they reason, is uncouth. Some have even suggested that when folks lit off firecrackers in front of the executive mansion, a bit of American credibility was lost in the eyes of the world.

Ah, just what Americans love: other people telling them how they should feel.

I think much of this backlash to the initial jubilation can be attributed to the Internet. Before social media, people actually had to – gasp! – talk to other people. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I find that I’m moderately reserved when talking to others: if possible, I try to avoid potentially divisive political discussions because, sadly, many people judge others for their opinions. To disagree with this generation of cable-fed political know-it-alls could be detrimental to one’s social life.

Luckily, the invention of social media has allowed us to compose updates that touch on topics we wouldn’t usually pursue in the course of an old fashioned conversation. After the initial reaction to the news died down on May 2, I was barraged with countless tweets, status updates, blog posts, editorials, and columns decrying the initial American response of elation as detrimental to the ideals of peace and harmony.

The simple fact is that as long as humans have free will, fish swim in the ocean, and there is an episode of To Catch A Predator airing on some station deep in the recesses of my 2,000 cable channels, there will not be peace in the world. And to operate under the illusion that America has a responsibility to promote such peace by not doing whatever is necessary to rid the world of crazy people like bin Laden is naive and childish.

True, some would concede: the elimination of Osama was necessary, but the American reaction to the news wasn’t proper. Instead of engaging in a solemn period of reflection, America did what it does best: it reverted into a country of screaming, passionate homers.

Of course they did! And that was probably the best thing about that entire evening. Americans rarely agree about anything. Usually, the only times Americans band together in unity is in the aftermath of great turmoil or great success. Sadly, the former seems to occur much more often than the latter.

On this night, something was different. Gone was the baseball game mentality between folks at different ends of the political spectrum. Gone were the cheers and jeers amongst the electorate of government officials. Sure, there were people in front of the White House with Bush-Cheney and Obama-Biden campaign signs that likely wouldn’t agree on much, but everyone could agree on one thing: this was great news.

I’ll admit that America’s jubilant reaction to the news might rally anti-American sentiment abroad, sure. But perhaps it was worth it. After all, what doesn’t seem to provoke those who hate America? The War on Terror hasn’t provided much good news around which most Americans could rally in a long time, but Osama bin Laden’s extermination was a welcome diversion from the silly two-sided battle Americans fight every day.

The fact of the matter is simple: this inning, everybody won. Enjoy it, because it probably won’t happen again for some time.

Is not Oasis the greatest British band since the Beatles?

September 10th, 2009 / #observations, #politics, #television

Just a quick thought on the Twitterverse fodder of the day: I think Joe Wilson is doing a great service to America by gradually introducing a House of Commons type discourse to the Congress. If we could get anything half as entertaining as the Prime Minister’s Questions, CSPAN could well become a legitimate factor during sweeps week this year.

Oh wait, it would be going up against Jay Leno’s new show. Never mind, I think Congress is more entertaining as it is.

I am the Nostradamus of crass commercialism

February 10th, 2009 / #politics, #valentinesday

Hey, remember this?

Yeah, I was right.

Maybe he should hang out with John Edwards at some locale other than Fantastic Sam’s

January 24th, 2009 / #hair, #observations, #politics

Random political observation: This Blagojevich fellow needs to ditch the 14 year-old boy haircut. He looks too much like a quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

Where can I pick up my commemorative Barack Obama pogs?

January 22nd, 2009 / #cults, #politics, #valentinesday

Oh, Barack Obama.

It must be pretty comforting to know that after your Presidency is complete in eight years, you will have quite a source of income based solely on your image. Think about the possibilities, dude. When you leave Washington to go back and farm corn or whatever it is those in Illinois do, you can simply live for the rest of your life by selling stuff with your face all over it to the legions of Americans who think you are Jesus.

I’m talking about an action figure line, maybe some designer clothes at Wal-Mart a la the Olsen Twins, maybe even a blockbuster action film!

Seeing the countless racks of wares with your (likely unlicensed) image throughout the last few months, I have come to the conclusion that this whole Presidency thing is more of a time killer until you can evolve from the prince of politics into the messiah of the marketplace.

Barack Obama t-shirts, Barack Obama stationary, Barack Obama DVDs, and Barack Obama salad dressing to take the place of Newman’s Own. Heck, it’s only a matter of time (read: a month) until kids start showing up to school with Barack Obama valentines for all of their good friends. The possibilities are endless!

Bitter? No. I just wish people would pay to have my face on crap.

I much prefer bandwagon fans in the realm of sports

November 7th, 2008 / #complaints, #politics

If you know me, you know of my traitorous opinion of my own major. I’m a political science major, but I work in the Journalism School. I hate the kids in my classes. And yes, I couldn’t stand the last election.

My political leanings aside, these past few months have been a complete burn on my patience. It seems that ever since two months ago, legions of folks who had little to no knowledge of or interest in politics suddenly came out in droves to support their candidates and strive to alienate anyone and everyone that disagreed with anything they said. If you don’t believe me, check the archives of the Alligator from the last few months. Politics really does bring out the worst in people.

But that is only half of my disgust with the entire process. Beginning on the day students came back for the Fall semester, there were countless political activists all over campus. First, it was whether or not I was registered to vote in Alachua County. Then, it was whether or not I was voting early. Then, it was whether I supported Senator Obama or Senator McCain.

Jesus Tapdancing Christ. It was so annoying. I couldn’t walk from class to class without being ceaselessly pestered multiple times. I know this sounds petty, but I’m sure that anyone who was on campus for these past few months will agree with me that it got a bit out of hand. I’m looking forward to getting back to dealing with Brother Micah telling me that I’m going to Hell and the Gideons giving out free Bibles.

Now that it’s over, though, I am elated to not have to deal with the sheep of both parties suddenly caring more about the direction of our country than they ever had. Now we can all concentrate on the most important things of the season: my birthday and football. Oh, how glorious it will be.

POWW! Right in the kisser!

Okay, this is going to be my only post on this topic for two reasons. First, I hate politics and talking about them (perfect for a political science major, right?). Secondly, this topic is being covered extremely well at a multitude of other Web sites, like Aaron Sharockman’s blog at the St. Pete Times site.

But, here goes.

Recently, the Rays have proposed a new waterfront stadium in downtown St. Pete at the site of Al Lang Field, where innumerable baseball greats have played for almost a century. To me, this is an excellent thing. It will get rid of seriously outdated and ugly Tropicana Field and make St. Petersburg a popular destination again. However, there are quite a few dissidents to the idea. The movement against the idea of economic prosperity and all-around awesomeness that will arise from a new stadium is led by a certain group of old farts who will not be alive in a few years when the stadium becomes a reality who call themselves POWW (Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront).

See, all of the members of POWW rely on misinformation and the art of crying loudest about the whole ordeal. Let’s look at some of the silly things they have to say:

They claim that building a new stadium would take money from the pockets of current residents of the county. It won’t. The Rays are fronting much of the money, and the remainder will be paid by existing hotel bed taxes that Pinellas residents do not pay and the sale and development of the land upon which Tropicana Field sits, which borders on slum land at present.

They claim that it is “too darn big.” To support this claim, they show us an image of how big the (awesome looking) stadium would be compared to the Bank of America building. Here it is (notice that there are absolutely no measurements nor sources on this image):

Now, look at a similar image I made, using their outline of the Bank of America building and a scale of 1 foot = 1 pixel (you will have to click to see this image full size):

Yes, it seems that in POWW’s image, the stadium is magically taller than in my measured and sourced image. Curious.

They claim that the whole new stadium would be a traffic and parking nightmare. It won’t be. The Rays have done copious studies and have discovered that there will be plenty of spaces around the stadium. And if we have to walk a few blocks to see the game, what of it? It’s Major League Baseball. Only 29 other cities in America have the privilege to watch this great sport, and I guarantee you that most of them require folks to walk a little bit to get to their stadiums. Lord. Quit your bellyaching, everyone.

As for traffic, has anyone thought that this new stadium will be only 15 blocks away from the current site of the Trop? I don’t know about everyone else’s experiences, but I have absolutely no trouble going to and from a baseball game currently, and I am sure 15 blocks will not suddenly cause me to sit in traffic for hours before and after a game. And even if traffic is worse, I would have no problem with it. Have you ever been to a major city like Chicago or New York during baseball season? Any traffic jams we might have in dinky little St. Petersburg will pale in comparison to the traffic jams baseball fans have been dealing with for a hundred years.

They claim that the new stadium would be bad for business. Yes, I understand fully how building a new stadium on the site of a completely vacant baseball field and attempting to redevelop 86 acres in an area that is in dire need of financial upbringing could be terrible for business. Wait, what?

POWW would like to have us believe that these promises of economic prosperity were made and never delivered upon when the Florida Suncoast Dome (now Tropicana Field) was built in the 1980s. Of course your economic revitalization will fail if you have an empty dome in the middle of the ghetto for half a decade. Jeez.

They claim that there would be terrible environmental damage if the stadium is built, since the plan calls for filling in .6 acres of Tampa Bay and turning it into land upon which the stadium can be built. Now, excuse me here, but Jesus Tapdancing Christ. This is the lamest excuse they have. It’s a little over half of an acre. And to save what? Manatees? Christ. What have manatees ever done for us? Oh, that’s right. Nothing. I’m not even going to go into the ridiculous hippie nature (no pun intended) of this argument. Moving on.

And of course, they claim that there are better alternatives. On their Web site, under this category, they have a photo of some little leaguers. Now, if that isn’t trying to appeal to people’s warm and fuzzy emotions, I don’t know what is. Sure, POWW can throw a bunch of alternatives up on the board that help their cause, but I have yet to see any solid redevelopment plans that go so far as to revitalize a dying cityscape.

Another thing I’m so sick of hearing about is the heat. People whining about the warm weather in Florida. I love it. Listen, Minor League Baseball has existed in Florida for decades upon decades. Those games occur at the same time of day and the same time of year as Major League Baseball games. I have never had a problem with them, and neither have all the folks who go out to see the Clearwater Threshers, Brevard County Manatees, Jacksonville Suns, or any other minor league affiliate in this state. There will be a sail to cut down on sun on particularly hot days and there will be air conditioning in the concourses. Quit your bellyaching. Heck, join me for a Gator game in the middle of September at 12:00 with body paint clogging your pores and sweat glands and then we can talk about heat. Gosh.

The final misconception about the stadium that is really bugging me is the notion that the Rays are threatening to leave the Tampa Bay area if they don’t get their stadium. They are not. Stuart Sternberg has clarified time and time again that they are not using this whole idea to hold the city hostage. They will stay in the Trop for the remainder of their lease (until 2027, I believe). For those that say they will buy out their lease and move elsewhere, where will they go? There is no market as large and potentially profitable as the one here in Tampa Bay. If you add the Orlando TV market, we would have the fourth-largest television market in the Majors. It would make no sense to leave the area. None.

Well, there you have it. All of the misconceptions and my responses thereto. Before this post ends, though, I would like to mention one thing that I found the other day.

The folks who want to “Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront” have a page on their Web site about “Secrecy and Fairness.” I think this is ironic, because of the images located on their “About POWW!” page.

There, they have a photo of the Al Lang site as it is now, with green grass and water in the background. Below it, an image of the proposed stadium, which they credit to the Rays’ Web site. This is all well and good, but something struck me about the second image.

I opened it in Photoshop, and I opened the original Rays image. I was astonished to find two things:
1. The POWW image is 8 pixels narrower than the original image from the Rays. Is this a subtle way to highlight the height of the stadium (which, I might add, was misrepresented, as you saw earlier in this post).
2. Even worse, POWW actually darkened the original photo. Darker Skies, dimmer water, everything. Any high school journalism student could tell you that this is the pinnacle of unethical photo editing. I emailed the good folks at POWW about it (to their “Invite Us to Speak” email, since they have no other way to electronically correspond), and I have yet to get a response. As of today, the image is still up on their Web site.

Here are the two images (click the thumbnail for a larger version):

It’s interesting that a group so adamantly against the stadium that relies on “fact” would have to go so far as to subtly brainwash the public into thinking that the Rays proposal would be so terrible. They rely heavily on misinformation, conjecture, and unethical behavior.

Heck, I could yell really loud and be right, too.

How to save the world in about 23 seconds

February 8th, 2008 / #complaints, #girls, #politics

Lately, the talk of global warming has enveloped our dear society into an intense struggle between people who think the world is going to end because I drive a car and people who know for sure that our recent climate change is a mere cyclical happenstance.

Well, I prefer not to take sides in this debate, so I offer the topic of an actual conversation I had with a female petition pusher with a boy haircut I had on campus today.

While I concede that global warming could indeed be a possibility, I maintain that I don’t really care, at least for the time being, and I offer the following as my reasoning.

The state of Florida, if global warming is a real threat, won’t be underwater for some time. At least, not in my lifetime. And they keep telling me to care about the fact that the environment is going to Hell in a hand basket and that I should take preventative steps to reduce its effect for my children’s’ sake.

Well, if that’s the case, I’ll have to have children, right?

If that is the case, I will have to, at some point in my existence on this big round ball, plant my seed inside a woman. Ergo, I will have to find somewhere a female who will allow me the privilege of breaching her floppy V.

So, if and when a woman decides it necessary to make love to me, I will begin caring about global warming for the sake of my little sideburned flagellate friends.

The moral of this story: girls, if you really care about the environment, you will have lots of hardcore sex with me. Do it for me. Do it for the environment. But most of all, do it for the children.

This time around, he totally doesn't like Jack's lifestyle

November 29th, 2007 / #observations, #politics

Watching the CNN/YouTube Republican debate last night, only one issue was on my mind.

Tom Tancredo: Mr. Roper reincarnate?

Norman Fell / Tom Tancredo

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