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April 24th, 2005

07:40 am - More bitter, less funny, I know.

The Texas House voted today to ban homosexuals from being foster parents. Drunks and bigots continue to be acceptable.

9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui has vowed to fight the death penalty after his conviction on terrorism charges. Experts give him a pretty good shot given that he is neither retarded nor a teenager.

There was a minor lunar eclipse in the wee hours of Sunday Morning. In Washington, President Bush scrambled to cancel any moon missions NASA had planned, including the proposed base. Plans were reinstated after he noted that the natural satelite had "Magically reappeared."

Tony Garza, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has married Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala. President Bush attended the wedding and stated that while it was acceptable for American dignitaries to take local women as brides, by force if necessary, in the future he would prefer that in the future they have names he can pronounce. At the wedding there were several embarassing incidents when he tried to get his mouth around "Maria."

Bill Frist is planning to appear via videoconferencing at a religious rally against the judiciary called "Justice Sunday." Mr. Frist denied that his 'appearance' constituted an endorsement of the group's radical agenda, stating that he plans to keep a close eye on the Louisville proceeding from Washington D.C. in case any sudden injuries need diagnosis.

Tony Perkins, organizer of "Justice Sunday" has declared that the activist Supreme Court is a greater threat to America than terrorism. He later admitted that that was not accurate, blaming his ability to make the statement on the activist constitution.

The Kyoto Protocols have gone into effect, allowing for global trading of the right to emit greenhouse gases. Surprisingly the biggest buyer of the pollution credits, by far, has been a Latverian industrialist named Victor Von Doom.

New evidence suggests that the divorce rate is both lower than has been previously predicted and is declining. Upon hearing this news CNN's Larry King remarked "I'm working as fast as I can people! I'm just one man!"

In Iraq there has emerged what the Times calls a 'tug of war over truth.' Shiite and Sunni leaders disagree on everything from casualty numbers to whether or not specific crimes and acts of terrorism ever occurred. The political rhetoric has also gotten pretty nasty, with leaders on opposing sides accusing each other of "Lying like a Republican."

The Bush administration has proposed even more changes to the recently altered government food pyramid. Bush has called for a pyramid that more resembles the sorts of things he did in private business, such as one where for every piece of candy you eat you send $5 to the Republican National Committee and get 15 friends to do the same.

11:57 am - Old Man Thoughts Shorter because I need to focus on funny

Back when I was growing up my parents instilled in me a set of values that I have since learned were quite peculiar. They taught me that every human being was a special individual worth valuing no matter what attributes or traits he or she might exhibit. They taught me that the greatest thing one can do with excess resources is to share them. They taught me that aggression is something to be reserved for occasions of real and serious danger, that everyone has an obligation to everybody else and just because someone fails in their obligation does not give you the right to fail in yours. They taught me that when in doubt the appropriate response is to be open, giving, and kind.

These were impossible standards to live up to, of course, especially as a child with the natural greed and selfishness of a child, but that was okay. Being a good person wasn't something you could just DO, it was something you aspired to and everyone is flawed. One of my father's favorite phrases was "Nobody's Perfect" and "Don't be arrogant, there's always someone smarter, faster, stronger etc..." Accept your flaws and other people's too. Treat those in a worse position than you are in the way that you'd like to be treated. These were the lessons of my childhood.

Of course at some point childhood ends (Mine came with a headstone and a date) and you get out in the real world and find out that though the values I've described are oft described as admirable very few people actually care to pursue them. Americans are all about greed and getting what they can when they can. They cheat on their spouses because it's pleasurable and they think they can get away with it. They cheat on their taxes because no matter how often they claim that they wish others would do their part they THEMSELVES do not want to do their parts. They cheat in business because they'd rather be rich than honest. That's the way of things.

The thing is, it used to be that such behavior was shameful. Nobody wanted to be identified with socially destructive behavior because others would shun them. This lead to a lot of lying and hiding and revised history. It also helped keep at least some closer to the 'righteous' path for fear that they would pay a price.

At some point that stopped being the case.

Now we have an America of naked greed and ambition. An America where it's okay not only to push your neighbor to the side so your walk can be a little faster but where you are lauded for doing so. An America where the poor are a disease we could rid ourselves of if only antiquated laws and rules kept them plugged into the big government ventilator. We have an America that cheers shows like Survivor or The Apprentice, where backstabbing, betrayal, and fierce bloody competition are lauded. We have an America that no longer cares about picking up those who have fallen down, it'd rather point and laugh.

There's even a political movement for this new America, modern conservatism. It's built around the idea that true merit comes from acquiring as much power and wealth as you can, and that any other pursuits are horse shit fool's games. It's in bed with the church because church leaders care more about their own power and finances than anything else and both sides can benefit from the union. It's in bed with business because...well...it is business. It cares much more about lining pockets than how much mercury is allowed into the water supply.

The conservative ethos says that if you see a man lying on the ground bleeding you don't give him a helping hand, you take everything he has and if he complains about it you snap his neck with your foot. It claims that everyone looking out for themselves will result in the best possible world. They scoff at collaboration and communal property. They believe that once you obtain wealth you should be able to own it forever and ever and ever like a hoarding squirrel in a tree full of nuts.

When and why did this happen? When did it become okay to admit that you only care about yourself and everyone else can just DIE as far as you're concerned. When did hated and loathing become acceptable values? When did it become okay to say "I want everything I can have, and if my greed conflicts with your health then MY GREED SHOULD WIN." I don't understand. It's not good for society, it's not good for ANYONE. It's a horrible horrible Hobesian state of nature and it deserves not embrace but scorn.

Yet it's winning.

And I think about my walks with my father and how we'd look at the homeless and imagine a society where they would have a clean place to sleep and good food and the medicine they needed, and we'd smile.

09:31 pm - Why I never fixed my iPod

Last year my birthday came one day later than expected because it was leap year and they add a day just to fuck with us. Having to wait 364 days for another 24 hours of celebrating my birth is bad enough, but being forced to wait 365 is damn near intolerable. So it was that when my birthday finally rolled around I had high expectations for the gifts I would receive. I was hoping for something spectacular, like a troupe of Arabian dancing girls, or the world's largest microchip. What I got was an iPod, a gift completely inadequate for the gloriousness that is me, but one I had indicated that I wanted. I accepted it as graciously as possible (Temper tantrum is a very strong word, but I won't denying there was a little more kicking and crying than I'd have liked) and retired to my quarters to fill it with the greatest music known to mankind, all of which resides in my CD collection. There was some comfort in knowing I'd never again have to reach further than my pocket to hear the dulcet tones of Ace of Base.

My iPod and I got along well at first. It played the music that I told it to and for my part I only filled it with the choicest of tunes, masterpieces by artists ranging from Alabama to WHAM! Things were good. I was able to navigate the busy streets of New York with virtually no human contact, having long ago learned how to avoid eye-contact with the peons around me, lest they view it as some sort of sign of respect or acknowledgment. Now I had my musical cocoon, wrapping me in the immortal harmonies of Kenny Loggins and keeping their vulgar conversations from my ears. I was invincible, striding down the street with only my sense of smell to tell me the difference between Broadway and a field of happy posies.

Occasionally as I strode along a fellow iPoder would try to make eye contact with me, a desperate plea for acceptance, I avoided them of course, far too concerned with the gentle lyricism of Frankie Goes to Hollywood to acknowledge another person whose taste in music was clearly inferior to my own. They might be listening to something outrageous, like Cutting Crew or the Knack, pretenders to Frankie's poppie throne. I began to worry though, worry that my iPod was signifying that I was one of them. A member of the underclass of deviants that fill up their 20 gigs with unreleased Aimee Mann songs and go out to try and have sex with someone wearing thick black glasses.

It was about this time that my iPod began to fail. It was subtle at first, it would refuse to play a song or two, maybe Green Day's Basket Case or Sublime's Caress Me Down. Nothing too serious, Total Eclipse of the Heart still worked fine. Then slowly, over time, things got worse. Good songs started having troubles too, things like Voices Carry or Let's Hear it For the Boy. I tried reformatting, but it would just move the problems from one song to the other. The iPod was taunting me. It had waited until I came to rely on it, to be seduced by its vast musical library, and now it was lashing out by denying me access to the very music it promised to deliver. Naturally I became irritated, but what could I do? I had come to rely on its beautiful music to carry me through the day, and now it was betraying me. For weeks I made due listening to whatever music it would allow me to hear, knowing that somewhere along the way I had become the servant and it the master, but that there was nothing I could do to break its hold over me. Mozart, Wagner, Junior Walker & the All-Stars. I listened to whatever songs it chose to let me hear and I stopped fighting it. I served it faithfully, keeping it clean and recharging it from time to time, and it led me around by the nose like a prize bull, fat for slaughter.

But I was not the one who died. No. One fateful day in February my iPod and I went out to videotape the unveiling of the Gates in Central Park, and as if by magic when I headed back to the subway after hours of grueling work in the cold I found my iPod covered by a thin black soot in my pocket. When I attempted to turn it on it would not work. My musical shield was broken and I was left alone, in the street, the sounds of car horns and babbling children stinging my unprotected ears. The ride home was long and loud, and I faced it aurally naked. Someone asked me for the time and I, having no way to pretend I had not heard him, gave it over without a fight. I was beaten.

When I returned home I resolved to have my iPod fixed as soon as possible so that its music might once again grace my ears and take me to new heights of pleasure. I was busy though and a week passed without it. A week where I learned that I did need my iPod to survive in the world, no. Although many unpleasant sounds reached my ears I found that I was strong enough not only to survive but to thrive despite them. I rediscovered the beauty of birdsong and the wind in the trees. I learned the joys of eavesdropping on private conversations and hearing the humiliations of rejected pick-up artists. It was a revelation.

Freed from the iPod's tyranny I could not go back. I put it on a high shelf and vowed never again to take it down. I covered it with paper to keep my eye from crossing its sleek plastic body and once more being seduced by the promises held within. Promises that were soon revealed to be lies! And yet when its warranty period came up I renewed, my mind filled with shameful lust and desire. And I have not thrown it away, it sits untouched and alone, waiting for me to break down and restore its evil powers. It waits in silence and without fear, its evil heart stilled for now but always ready for its next opportunity to corrupt and rule my mind. Sometimes I fear that it will wait forever.
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