Thursday, December 27, 2007

Face the Fiction

I hereby call on our elected officials to do something about Annenberg Political Fact Check, a non-profit organization bent on destroying our cherished system of government.

Their staff of so-called “journalists” cull false or misleading statements from political advertising and debates and expose them at They actually research the issues, which most of us don't know how to do without sacrificing at least a couple of hours of TV time per week.

The Annenberg people, shameless anarchists that they are, have no affiliation with any political party or lobby, so they are free to attack both left and right.

(I don't have to tell you how shockingly un-American that is.)

For example, Hillary Clinton recently released an ad saying members of the National Guard did not have health insurance coverage until she came along.

FactCheck points out that a) this is not true, and b) the ad does not mention that National Guard personnel don't need health insurance, because they are, in fact, invincible.

(Think of the great ferocious warriors throughout history: Beowulf, Napoleon, Washington... did any of them need health insurance? Let's get real, here.)

On the other side, FactCheck got all up in Mitt Romney's grille for citing some newspaper articles that supposedly supported his policies. This doesn't add up, because, as everyone knows, Romney supporters can't read, let alone work for newspapers.

Whatever you choose to believe, these treasonous twerps need to get off their high horse and realize that our country was born and raised on deception. It's the American Way.

Half the people who voted for George Washington thought they were voting for King George III. Andrew Jackson convinced everyone he would look out for the common man, but they didn't know he meant that in a paranoid-schizophrenic kind of way.

William Henry Harrison managed to get elected without revealing to anyone that he was about to die of pneumonia. Franklin Roosevelt knew Americans would never vote for a “cripple” for President, so he took careful pains during public appearances to give the impression that he was actually running for County Clerk.

Political campaigns spew lies like a 1987 Chevy pickup spews thick plumes of toxic black exhaust, clouding our vision and choking off our will to participate.

We can't focus on the issues because we don't know what to believe. So we focus on personality traits instead. Politicians who seem like they can relate to the average guy (see Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) will always win.

Personally, I don't want to be able to relate to the President. That would mean the President is too much of a TV-watching, cardboard box-collecting slob and not enough of a public policy super-genius.

In my mind, our President ought to be the most absurd brainiac geek available.

But most Americans are narcissistic enough to vote for the swarthy, lying scumbag who seems most like them.

This has always been true. And where has it gotten us? We're now the most powerful, respected, and admired nation in the world (Even though I've never traveled abroad, I know this is true because all the politicians keep saying it).

So the system works fine just like it is. Down with FactCheck, before they ruin everything that made this country great.

And especially before they get ahold of anything I've written.

Friday, December 21, 2007

We Regret the Era

A lot of people take a week off around this time of year, but not journalists.

Instead, we just recycle a lot of old material so we can go home early.

That's why you see so many “year in review” specials.

Personally, I've always enjoyed looking back at (what every news anchor in the world is required to refer to as) “the news that was.”

But 2007 brought us saturation coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, the NASA love triangle, Virginia Tech, lead-laced toys, steroids, and scads of other things that were not particularly pleasant or funny.

So instead, I'm going to rely on the second-most popular way people in the news biz manage to not work too hard during the Holidays: use other people's stuff.

I found a website called “Regret The Error” ( that reports and archives newspaper corrections. Recently the site gave out its awards for the media mistakes that stood out most in 2007.

Topping the list: Coverage of the Kirsk disaster.

The Kirsk, you may remember, is the Arctic-bound Russian submarine that exploded and ran aground and sank and lost its tax-exempt status back in August.

(All hands were lost, which one would think would be the least of the crew's problems in that situation. Losing their hands, I mean.)

Anyway, Russian state-owned TV apparently didn't have an actual picture of a submarine, much less the Kirsk. So they filched one from the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic.

Before long, thanks to the Reuters news wire, the fake submarine was splayed all over American network TV, masquerading as the Kirsk.

Paramount Pictures might have had a beef with this, except – this is true – nobody noticed. Eventually, a 13-year-old boy in Finland, who is apparently an extreme nautical geek, alerted the proper authorities, whoever they may be.

(What scares me is that this probably isn't the only time a news agency used a fake image because it was too lazy to go get the real one. That must be why I could swear I've seen Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a Star Wars movie one time.)

British tabloids are also a reliable source of misinformation. Often, their corrections are more entertaining than the original story:

“Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms Blair’s representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article.

“They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms Blair has never shared a shower with Ms Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms Caplin.”

Closer to home, The Portland Press Herald tried to contribute to the health and well-being of the public: “A story on Page B4 on Wednesday about foraging for edible mushrooms contained a photo of amanita muscaria, which is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom. It was a copy editor’s error.”

Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It's not like they got taken in by that fake report that Paris Hilton had become an advocate for drunk elephants, like the Associated Press did.

Well, that's it for this year. Here's hoping our 2008 is much less regrettable.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Has The Economy Got You Feeling Tents?

I’m worried about the economy.

Oops! I can’t say that.

If we media types keep having public misgivings about the economy, it might prompt you consumers to stop buying stuff, and then we’d be just a few short months away from martial law and agonized screaming in the streets at all hours.

So let’s just be clear: nothing’s wrong with the economy. Keep making your holiday purchases, and I’ll try to find some black market medication to calm my nerves.

It’s not going to be easy. Why?

For starters, a recent issue of The Economist detailed how the Dollar is quickly losing value compared to other forms of currency, like the Euro, the Yen, and the Parasitic Insects that Monkeys Pick Off Each Other.

We can't have people around the world choosing some other currency (i.e. their own) to measure wealth. That would be a disaster because… well, I sort of zoned out on that part of the article. Just trust me on this.

You see, The Economist is a pretty sophisticated publication. For example: the major “teaser” on another recent cover said, “INSIDE THIS WEEK: SPECIAL REPORT ON AUSTRIA.” I’d like to be the kind of person who cares about a special report on Austria, but I’m just not sophisticated enough. I'd be lucky to find it on a map.

Plus, The Economist doesn’t sully its pages with lowbrow foolishness like photography, bylines, or source attribution.

So the people who run this publication are clearly advanced journalists. But I was still able to glean the symbolic message from the image on the cover, which showed the dollar bill version of George Washington piloting an open-cockpit airplane going down in flames.

(They even gave him cute little pilot goggles -- a considerate, yet sophisticated design touch.)

Part of the problem, apparently, is that the US. “continues to finance its consumption” by amassing debt. This, quite frankly, does not strike me as something we Americans would ever do.

That brings me to the situation with the housing market. Banks have spent the last several years giving out mortgages like candy canes, which means now anyone who ever wanted a house has got one.

This is bad news if you want to sell. A family that bought a $150,000 home just three years ago has seen the value of that home reduced to just a few thousand Parasitic Insects.

Meanwhile, people who were duped into “sub-prime” mortgages with complimentary Invisible Willy Wonka-Style Ballooning Interest can’t afford the jackrabbity payments and are losing their homes. This may be great for the tent industry, but it spells doom for millionaire real estate investors.

I'm tempted to join the chorus of media making a big deal about the cost of energy, but help is on the way on that front.

The Bush Administration will carefully consider our pleas for more low-income heating assistance, then hold a photo-op press conference with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins where he'll announce that we should “leave the thermostat alone” and “go put on a sweater.”

So things are looking up.

Besides, as I said: nothing’s wrong with our economy, especially if we compare it to the economy of Zimbabwe, where the national statistician has given up calculating the inflation rate, which, according to The Economist, has now grown past 8000%.

That makes our 3.5% look quite spiffy.

And it makes Zimbabwe the place to get a nice deal on a tent, if you're in the market.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sumo in America? Fat Chance.

It’s too easy to poke fun of sumo wrestlers. But that has never stopped me before.

The sport of sumo is in serious trouble. Its biggest (ha!) star, Asashoryu, recently forfeited his place in a major tournament, citing various injuries.

But just a few days later, he played in a charity soccer match, during which he performed what the Times of London called, “extraordinary acrobatic leaps.”

Sumo wrestlers define honor, machismo, and toughness in Japan. Playing soccer is harmful enough to that image. But doing a triple lutz during the match? When you’re supposed to be injured?

No wonder Asashoryu had to spend three months in exile.

Then of course there was the teenage sumo wrestler had died after being beaten with a baseball bat and burned with cigarettes as part of his training program. Japanese were shocked to discover this sort of thing was common practice.

And lots of people are becoming more and more irritated at the fact that women are not allowed in the ring – not just for competition, but for any purpose whatsoever. A woman would not even be allowed to sweep up after a match, because her presence would be considered a defilement.

So it should be no surprise that Sumo has been hemorrhaging fans even faster than John McCain.

But one more recent, gut-wrenching revelation has hurt even worse: it turns out sumo wrestlers don’t really “wrestle,” as much as they simply try to push each other out of a circle.

Ouch. And we thought baseball was in trouble.

Fortunately, a national hero (me) has come forward with a comprehensive, three-step plan to save sumo wrestling’s image and broaden its appeal internationally, just like baseball has survived by attracting fans from such foreign lands as Asia, Latin America, Texas, and the planet Roido.

Step 1: Give them some decent clothes. In spite of its powerful train-wreck allure, most Americans can’t bear to watch sumo wrestling because they don’t trust that those thong diapers will stay in place.

Step 2: Incorporate sumo into our political process. Why not renew the public’s interest in democracy while we’re at it?

Picture Hillary and Obama each crouching in four-point stances, staring with intense focus across the ring. Then the whistle blows, and they rush forward and collide, chests first. A flurry of pushing, grunting and slapping ensues before one of them finally starts to think maybe being in Congress wasn’t so bad after all.

Why should low center of gravity not be the most important quality in a presidential candidate?

It’s no worse than how we settled the 2000 election.

Step 3: Market sumo to children. Sports are pushed on kids at younger and younger ages, which stems from government studies that come out every two weeks complaining about the collective flabbiness of our youth.

If it’s true that kids would rather sit around and gain weight, why not introduce them to a sport that requires just that? It’s a win-win.

As you can see, this process doesn’t just rescue an ancient Japanese sport; it improves the lives of everyday Americans, as well – especially those who already think of Hillary Clinton as a defilement.

All right, on second thought, let’s just forget the whole thing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snow Jobs

This week I'd like to devote some space to vehement, angry rhetoric against the most vile, disgusting, reprehensible creatures in the known universe.

No, I'm not talking about the people who made the “Holiday Greetings from Budweiser” commercial from 1983 that gets replayed every year – you know, the one with Clydesdales pulling a sleigh full of cheerful people through lots of blowing snow in some place that's probably supposed to look like Vermont.

I've spent limited time in the Green Mountain State, but I'm pretty sure their blizzards don't come with blue sky in the background any more than ours do.

But I digress. The evil humanoids I actually want to discuss are the folks in the service department at the dealership where my wife and I bought our car.

(I don't want to name this dealership, because I'm not sure if it advertises in this newspaper. So for now I can neither confirm nor deny that the dealership I'm talking about is Darling's Honda-Nissan off the Hogan Road in Bangor.)

I've weathered many attempted rip-offs by this anonymous establishment, which I'll refer to as “DHN” for no particular reason. So I was not surprised to have the following conversation with the nice lady at the service counter after one of their “technicians” had looked over our car:

Lady: “Well, you definitely need new brakes. And you should also replace the timing belt, since that was due at 105,000 miles.”

Me: “When we bought the car from you, we were told the timing belt had already been replaced. That was at 100,000 miles.”

Lady: “Well, we have no record of doing that here. We strongly recommend that you replace it, or else it will snap and cause your engine to explode.”

Me: “Uh-huh...”

Lady: “And your check-engine light is on because you need a valve adjustment. If you don't do this, giant spikes will shoot out of the seats and stab your family to death.”

Me: “I see. How much does that come to?”

Lady: “$7,834,784,309,323.33.”

I declined, but still had to pay them $130 just for checking the brakes and hooking the car up to their diagnostic computer, which apparently takes five hours.

This included a surprise “shop supplies” charge, which the lady explained was for partially-used containers of fluid.

Me: “None of the work on my car required any fluids.”

Lady: “They charge it to everybody, no matter what. They even charge it to their employees.”

While I waited for the valet (of course they have a valet) to get my car, I moped over to the waiting room, where a stack of outdated magazines was watching soap operas.

Somehow they couldn't afford decent TV reception; “The Young and the Restless” had more snow than that Budweiser commercial.

I spent another $13.75 in quarters on handfuls of peanuts while reminiscing about the time DHN told me my exhaust pipe was definitely going to rust off any minute now, and they needed a $300 part to fix it. I declined, and drove the car another three years before anything happened.

Anyway, when the valet finally brought my car back, I drove it to my local service station, which did the same work for about half the price.

Let's hope I don't die.

Words, Mere Words

Chances are you are finding these words in a newspaper, on my blog, or inscribed on a roll of toilet paper in a bookstore restroom (my first draft). In any case, you are a consumer of words.

Look at you go, you word consumer! You just continue to gobble them up, this very instant, zooming from paragraph to paragraph like it's nothing.

Where is your conscience?

America is already the most consumptive society in human history, even without your gluttony. Do you know how many Africans would kill for the same supply of words you digest in two minutes on the commode?

There's no disputing it: we take our words for granted. In fact, some book I saw said that only 1000 words make up 90% of all writing. Worse yet, these are lame, boring words, like “paragraph” and “conscience.”

I will now make it my mission to promote appreciation and understanding of obscure, under-appreciated words.

Many of the rare jewels of our language are fun to utter, and you can drop them into conversations to make yourself sound more interesting and credible.

Take bludgeon, for example:

“Dad, I don't know how to tell you this, but I was driving a little too fast and I bludgeoned the car.”

“Wow, son. That's quite a vocabulary you have there. I'd be impressed, except 'bludgeon' means to beat something with a club. Come closer and I'll demonstrate.”

Another word that will help you win friends, and score a lot of points in Scrabble, is coccyx (which means tail bone, but sounds like something else).

“Sorry, boss, I can't make it to work today. While engaged in a strenuous workout I somehow bruised my coccyx.” Let's hope you still have a job when you get back.

Don't you think all those TV medical dramas would be more interesting if they spiced up their vocabulary? Instead of the word “stat,” for example, how about the word pronto?

“I need 30 cc's of morphine, pronto.”

I became especially fond of the word slaughter when I realized you can't spell it without laughter. This oddball fact just fits my personality somehow.

My personal favorite word of interest is phlegm.

“Hey, how are you today?”

“Not bad, but I have a cold.”

Now try the same conversation, inserting the word phlegm. Notice how the user suddenly becomes less boring:

“Hey, how are you today?”

“Not bad, but I'm drowning in phlegm, which basically means some colony of wretched organisms the size of Don Imus's brain is slaughtering my immune system.”

“Wow, I thought you were going to say, 'Don Imus's coccyx.”

“Yeah, but that would be just wrong, on various levels.”

Then there are words we all use, but we don't really know where they came from, or what they mean. For example, do you know the difference between a couch and a sofa?

A couch, it turns out, has only one end raised and half a back. Most of us have sofas. I have a love seat, ironically named because there isn't room to do anything on it except belch and eat pretzels.

Likewise, a loofah is not a sponge, but a tropical plant used as a sponge (according to the dictionary).

I always knew there was something fruity about that thing my wife hung in the shower.

That's it, I'm out of words for this week. Keep checking back, because at some point I need to discuss important actual words like “mastication,” “kowtow,” and “fartlek.” I'm sure you can't wait.