Saturday, March 4, 2017

Everybody wants to rule the world.

No, this isn't an analogy. There's no Trump joke here. Hell, I'm not even going to mention that this was the theme song to Dennis Miller's political talk show back in the '90s. (Dammit.)

It's about the song by Tears for Fears that reached #1 on the singles charts worldwide in the mid-1980s. Honest.

My morning routine involves the clock beside my head going off to the radio at 6:25. I'll hit snooze once, and at 6:34 the radio comes back on and it's time for the phone-in trivia show that gets my brain going. But, hey, jackass, don't fall back asleep, because there's a really annoying alarm clock set to go off at about 6:40 across the room!

If I've gotten up and turned off the annoying alarm, I'll occasionally listen to the song they play after the trivia thing -- and this was what they played on Friday morning. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

This is a song I've known since I was a kid, of course; I was 7 when it was released. And I know that our local-yokel AM radio station would play it... but I'm not sure I'd ever heard it on a decent set of speakers before.

There are a lot of layers here. It's catchy as hell. It's dominated by synthesizers, of course, but there's a decent amount of guitar in it (and a heck of a good solo; it's not complex, but that guitar tone is magnificent). It sounds very English, and the video documents English peoples' obsession with American culture.

This is all very weird, of course. I've never been a big '80s-music guy, and I can remember being annoyed by all kinds of bars that would have "eighties retro" nights in the 1990s. I mean, come on! It's the '90s, there's a ton of good music being made now, why do we have to listen to friggin' "Mickey" by Toni Basil again?! JEEEZ.

When I was in elementary school, I listened to a lot of '50s and '60s music. In high school, late '60s/early '70s stuff. As the years have rolled on, I've gotten interested in music from later and later, and I suppose I'm now into the '80s; the live version of "It's My Life" by Talk Talk slays me. What a talented band.

I started paying attention to music in the mid- to late-'80s, so maybe that's where I'll hit a ceiling in terms of musical obsessions. I've always enjoyed stuff from the '90s, so perhaps I'll just sorta dislike the late '80s; I don't really see any redeeming qualities in the musical stylings of Tiffany and Wilson Phillips, and I doubt I ever will. But hey, who knows?

Friday, February 10, 2017

"I'm going to be so presidential, you will be so bored."

(That was Candidate Trump a few months ago, to a reporter. I believe this was just after he secured the Republican nomination.)

We're not even a month into the Trump presidency, and the wheels, while not coming off quite yet, are starting to wobble and shake. (I feel like there's a "loose nuts" joke to be made here somewhere.)

It's getting bad out there, though. Hell, Jason Chaffetz -- a Republican member of the House from Utah -- went back to his district ("the fightin' 3rd!") for a town hall meeting at a local high school auditorium, and the dude was nearly shouted down off the stage. Utah, for crying out loud! If that state was any redder, it... uh... would be very red, I guess.

Just saying, Utah is extremely Republican.

And this reaction was unexpected. To me, anyway.

But I digress.

So far, Captain Dickweed has managed to annoy several countries, ban a lot of Muslims from entering the country (but, remember, (a.) Sean Spicer says it's not a "ban," and (b.) no citizen of any country featuring a fabulous TrumpTM brand property will have any problem sailing right through customs), play some golf, have his spokespeople get made fun of on SNL constantly -- you know he watches every week, he's gotta -- and turn the US into an international laughingstock.

It's gonna be so hard to bite my tongue when I'm in Florida next month. It really is. If I chat up some locals, I think I'll just ask them, "So, Trump. Your thoughts?" -- and then say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN RETURN, and wear the BLANKEST POSSIBLE EXPRESSION I CAN. You know, the kind of expression when a student asks an exceptionally dumb question, but you don't want to make them feel terrible, so as they continue to ask their dumb question you're trying to look as neutral as you can? Yeah, that one.

I still stand by my prediction that he won't be president on January 1, 2019. Drinkin' Buddy Dave and I have a bet on this, and there's a cool hundred bucks riding on it. Totally gonna collect on it, too. (We've decided that, if the change-over of power day is that day, we'll call it a push and we'll each get our money back.) Hell, DBD was going to give me odds on it. I told him to shove his odds where the sun don't shine. Then, I believe we cracked another beer.

Because, really, these days, that's about all you can do. (That, and go to protests and write your member of Congress and engage with your fellow citizens and support the causes you feel need supporting and for crying out loud don't grab anyone by the pussy.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Here's what's going to happen.

Long story short: it's gonna play out a lot like Rob Ford, but shorter.

Long story long:

Trump gets inaugurated. Initially most of the Republican caucus plays along with some of his less-asinine policy planks, but I doubt any wall gets built. He pisses off an ally or two -- maybe he'll have a beer with the president of Taiwan, perhaps? -- but after a while most world leaders just try to avoid and ignore him.


Trump: "Hey, president of West Slobovia, you really should come on over to America. It'll be tremendous."

President: "Uh... thanks, Don, but I've... got a thing. It's over in East Slobovia. Gonna take a while. Whoops! Toaster's on fire, I'll call you back." (click) *

Trump, on Twitter: "West Slobovia's leader is weak. Can't even take flaming kitchen appliance. As overrated as M. Streep's career. SAD!"


After about eight months, some prominent congressional Republicans start to cautiously speak out openly against Trump. He fires back with something ridiculous and offensive, because he's a ridiculous person with the thinnest skin imaginable. But, this just gets the ball rolling.

Behind the scenes, and tired of his antics, some bigwig Republicans will work with the inteligence agencies Trump seems to love to antagonize to cook up something bad enough to get him impeached, and eventually forced to resign (or perhaps removed forcibly, after having done something clearly unconstitutional). Trump will lawyer-up, but it'll be futile and he'll be removed from power. My guess is that he'll be president for less than two years.

Now, it doesn't matter if the thing that brings him down is real or not. It looks like there's probably enough awful stuff floating around out there that you don't really need to make something up; you just have to package-up some bad things he's done in the right way, sell it to the American public, and there you go. I mean, hell, a lot of Americans still probably think they invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. You can sell anything to Americans if you're convincing-enough... as Trump himself learned.

But, yeah: President Pence by 2018, I imagine. And, because the Republicans looked like idiots, the Dems will take a lot of seats in the midterms and maybe get at least one house of Congress back.

* When I was a kid, we had a toaster that often didn't pop back up on its own when the bread was toasted, so if you didn't keep an eye on it, the bread could catch on fire. My mom was on the phone with the contractor who was going to build an addition on our house, and she'd forgotten about the toaster... which now contained flaming bread. She very calmly told the guy on the phone, "Sorry, Bob, my toaster's on fire, I'll call you back." She then unplugged the toaster, sat it in the sink, and opened the window to let the smoke out... and called Bob back, of course.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Eve Of Destruction.

It's not just a song by one-hit-wonder Barry McGuire:

It is, of course, a reminder that, in nine short days, Donald Trump is sworn-in as president of the goddamn United States. And, naturally, people are seriously losing their minds.

Today we saw a shit-show of a press conference in which Trump dismissed CNN as being "fake news." Now, CNN may not exactly be the revered institution it once was, but when Fox News's Shepard Smith is going to bat for you, and telling the world that he believed CNN was indeed following standard journalistic practices in its reporting, you know the world's gone crazy.

Did Trump hire Russian whores to do a golden shower show on the bed the Obamas slept in? I'm not sure. I would say there's a non-zero chance of that happening, though: we know Trump is a sexual predator, has probably committed statutory rape, and didn't flinch when Howard Stern described his daughter Ivanka as "a piece of ass." As someone posted on Facebook earlier today, and I'm paraphrasing, "It's like when we heard Rob Ford smoked crack, and we hadn't seen the video yet. We knew we'd see it sometime." And the way the Russians would bug a room if they knew someone like Trump was gonna be there, I'd say there's a more-than-halfway chance that it's gonna surface eventually.

I listen to Marc Maron's WTF podcast regularly, and in a recent episode he interviews Bruce Springsteen. They're talking about the election -- Bruce is a Democrat, natch -- and I think they sum it up pretty well.

Marc: I dunno, are you scared now?

Bruce: Yeah. Yeah, of course. I mean, how could you not be?

M: Right. Have you felt this fear before?

B: No. I've felt disgust before, but the never the kind of fear that you feel now. It's as simple as the fear of, is someone simply competent enough to do this particular job? Forget about where they are ideologically, do they simply have the pure competence to be put in a position of such responsibility?

M: When you've done the amount of self-work you've done, and you've grown up, and you know people, it's sort of like, they elected the most insecure, y'know... needy, volatile dude. And to do this job, that, somehow or other... I don't think it embodies strength to a lot of people, but it does embody "fuck you." It's just like, they voted for... "Who ya votin' for?" "The 'fuck you' guy."

B: (laughing) That happened.

M: (laughing) That happened!

It's a solid interview, and definitely worth a listen. And I think Marc hit the nail on the head. People are hurting, and someone very forceful comes along to tell them exactly what they want to hear.

That said... a lot of people, myself included, don't think that Trump's going to last four years in office. Something's going to bring him down -- personally, I think there'll be a conflict of interest scanadal which will force him to resign. Others have suggested a heart attack. One colleague even floated the idea of an assassination at his inauguration; I thought that was a serious chance for Obama, but hey, I guess anything is possible. My guess is that we'll be talking about President Pence (ew.) by the middle of 2018.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Just talk to people.

There's this ad, this holiday season, for Amazon which shows a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam, sharing a cup of tea at the priest's place, then both getting up and grimacing at their painful knees. Then, after the imam leaves, they both get the idea of ordering some sort of knee brace/pad combo for the other (off Amazon, of course), and the commercial ends showing them both putting on the things and then kneeling down at their respective places of worship.

It's a lovely commercial, and it shows that, hey, maybe despite some outward differences, we all get creaky joints when we get older.

That's probably the biggest thing I've learned from my job. Goodness knows we get kids from every imaginable background -- that's Scarborough for ya -- and it's always interesting to learn about their lives, where they come from, and what their families do. But the thing that always strikes me is about how similar we all are.

Parents want the best for their kids. Kids want to be happy and pursue their interests. Kids and parents butt heads occasionally. Teenagers are funny, weird creatures, discovering themselves (and, hey, each other from time to time). Kids sure as hell mix-and-match amongst themselves, culturally speaking, more than their parents probably know about (or want). Consequently, a lot of teenagers behave one way with their family, and another way amongst their friends.

White kids have it the easiest, of course. I occasionally say to brown kids, "You should really try having white parents sometime. It's way easier. They'd say, 'Oh, you want to be a garbageman? Well, honey, just be the best garbageman you can be.'" They inevitably laugh, roll their eyes, and say, "Yeah, that would never happen with us."

In the end, I often wonder what sort of attitude I'd have towards non-white people if I'd have stayed in rural southwestern Ontario. Would I be as open-minded? I'm not sure. I doubt it, to be honest. Kinda stings to say that, but hey, I think that's just the reality of the situation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Well, that happened.

The 45th President of the United States is Donald Trump.




This is a disturbing result, without a doubt. He's a lunatic.

But, I'll say this: the guy told a big chunk of Americans exactly what they wanted to hear. He knows how to play to a crowd. Mind you, a good deal of what he said was outright lies -- but, apparently the US is in a "post-fact" phase of its life right now, and it doesn't matter.

There are a lot of Americans for whom life has gotten tougher over the past few decades. My parents retired about fifteen years ago from a company with whom they both spent 35-40 years, with good pensions. They were never let go, their job was never shipped off to Mexico or China, and they earned decent money with high school diplomas. They both grew up relatively poor, and elevated themselves squarely into the middle class: two vehicles, owned their home, vacations in Florida, raised two kids and sent them off to uni/college and out into the world.

And a lot of people these days couldn't ever dream of that luxury. Precarious employment at best, dodging downsizing all the time, in debt up to their eyeballs and beyond, and a general lack of hope for a better future. Things haven't gotten better, they've gotten worse (unless you're in the 1%, of course) -- and it's even tougher if you've just come out of uni, $40k in the hole, and can't even find your first job.

Alright, then... who's to blame for this lousy situation? Is it a series of government policies that quietly but steadily dismantled safeguards in the banking system so that the foxes ran the henhouse and allowed things like subprime loans to get out of hand? Is it a climate of corporate greed that let businesses shut down factories with good jobs in the US and reopen them in foreign countries, where workers get paid a pittance and you can just flush everything down the drain? Is it a general unwillingness to let the government build programs that actually help people in meaningful ways, thereby lifting up all boats (so the saying goes), because of baked-in hatred for all things governmental?

Nope. It's not. It's those damn Mexicans, coming in illegally and stealing all our jobs. It's those damn Muslims, not assimilating into White Christian English America and installing Sharia law. It's the blacks and the gays, getting all uppity and asking to be respected and, y'know, not killed by cops. It's the tree-huggers, because it's cold outside today and therefore climate change is a hoax made up by China and Al Gore.

All of these explanations are wrong, of course, and the data clearly back me up on this. But it feels right, doesn't it? It meets the Colbertian definition of "truthiness" -- go with your gut, not your brain. And the actual explanations as to how we all got to this point take too long to explain, not to mention implicate the general public in its own downfall by allowing it to happen.

Enter Trump. He tells you what you want to hear, and he tells it loudly and repeatedly. George W. Bush did the same thing with Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction; by the end, you had people looking to kick Saddam's ass because NINE-ELEVEN, NEVER FORGET, THESE COLORS DON'T RUN.

Thirteen years ago, the US was fed a never-ending stream of lies about Iraq and its supposed weapons of mass destruction. This election, the US was fed a never-ending stream of lies about how Hillary Clinton was the devil incarnate. Both times, a good chunk of the American public fell for it. (And, just think, back in 2003 there wasn't even Twitter.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

This whole election thing.

Listen. We've gotta have a talk about Donald.

The Republican party, for all its faults, has been good the past few decades for rallying around whoever's leading it. There may have been ideological chasms within the party, but gosh-darn-it, they kept them pretty quiet.

I think this is fairly common within most right-wing parties lately, frankly. Ol' Stevie Harper kept his ducks in a row in Canada for over a decade, but of course this was also due in part to his personal OCD tendencies. He forbade people to talk to the media: his cabinet, public servants of all stripes, his dog (probably).

Fast-forward to the past few months and the Republicans. A lot of the party's stalwarts are in open revolt against their candidate -- and, rightly so, because Trump is a total dick. But, you know, the primary process produced this result, and that's what those parties go with these days, and a lot of people voted for him, as opposed to Marco "The Golden Boy" Rubio, Ted "The Canadian" Cruz, and Ben "Living Proof Brain Surgeons Aren't Necessarily Smart" Carson.

So, people in the primaries voted for him. And a lot of people have bought into his message -- and, incredibly (to me), stuck by him despite all of the crazy things he's said (and all of the insane tapes that have come to light recently).

Two things jump out at me about this.

One, the True Trump Believers (TTBs) will stick with him, no matter what he says. And, because his schtick is "anti-establishment" and always has been, any ridiculous, offensive or incredible thing he says will only cement the TTBs' belief that their man is who he says he is: an outsider who says exactly what's on his mind (even if that includes, say, explaining to a reporter privately about his propensity for grabbing women by the pussy).

It's not unlike people who believe in a divine power, and are faced with a shitty situation. You go to church every week, read your bible, say your prayers, and your young daughter still dies from leukemia? Well, "the Lord works in mysterious ways." And "it's all in God's plan." He's "testing our faith." From my perspective, though: mysterious = dickish, this "plan" seems to cause one of the humans he "loves" an extreme amount of personal anguish, and if your God is omnipotent why would He want to "test" your faith in Him? To a sceptic, this makes no sense.

Two, this is indeed going to split the Republicans in two, at least for now. You'll have a small stump of Trump devotees, and you'll have a group which will follow the more-mainstream branch of the party (your Paul Ryans, your Mitch McConnells; questionable people, but hey, that's where a lot of 'em are at). It's hard to say which camp the Evangelicals will end up in; my money's on the conventional-Republican side of things.

I think that by the 2018 midterms, the Trumpites will have shriveled up into a small branch of the party; maybe they'll even take up the banner of a currently-much-smaller party (like the Libertarians, the Constitutionalists, the New Black Panthers (heh)). Then the mainstreamers will regain the Republican name, and things might go back to what passes for normal in that wacked-out country down there. Memories are short.

After the Democrats thrashed them in the 2012 election, there was legitimate soul-searching amongst the leadership of the Republican party. They produced a report which said, quite rightly, they need to learn how to appeal to non-white voters, women, and younger voters.

But this was the party's leadership talking, not the rank-and-file. So what did said rank-and-file do in 2016? They nominated Donald Fucking Trump as their guy to run for president. Thus, there's a huge disconnect between the average Republican voter -- the kind that would vote in a primary, anyway -- and the leadership of the party. Hell, this leadership wanted Jeb Bush as their dude, and we all know how that turned out.

Now, yes, of course, there was a massive split on the left as well: Clinton vs. Sanders. But let's not forget how Bernie, even after the dirty tricks pulled on him by the party's elite, both before and during the convention, still comes out stumping for Hillary. For once, the left-wing party (heh) is the united one! Their hands certainly aren't squeaky-clean, and yes, I'd have loved to have seen Sanders get the nomination, but that wasn't going to happen, let's face it.

All of this to say, I'm schadenfreude-ing pretty hard right now.