Monday, December 5, 2016

The Italian Job

       Were you on the edge of your seat yesterday waiting for the results of the national referendum in Italy? No? Me, neither. The media hyped the referendum as a Brexit level event, but you cannot even claim it fizzled out on the premise. The referendum was no where near as monumental as the Brexit. Yet it was one strange event.
       Here is the deal in a nutshell. The Italian Senate is huge, and full of bickering politicians who cannot get anything done. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi proposed cutting the Senate down to 100 members in order to streamline the passage of legislation to get things done faster. A 'yes” vote on yesterday's referendum meant reforming the Senate. A 'no” vote maintained the status quo. Renzi tied his political future to a “yes” vote.
       But Italy, like much of the Western world, is going through a period of rising support for national sovereignty over globalism. Renzi's reform proposal, backed by his enter/left governing majority, was viewed as globalist. Conservatives sided with tradition in keeping the Senate as is. The “no” vote won, the senate remains bloated, and Renzi has killed his political career.
       Shrinking a legislative body certainly sounds like a conservative idea, but the consensus is Renzi would have used the smaller Senate to ram through his agenda. One assume his agenda favored the European Union over national interests. Or maybe there is simply a populist backlash against the Establishment regardless of the wisdom in it. Whichever the case, Renzi blundered by promising to resign if the referendum failed. While Prime Minister David Cameron was wise to bail and leave the messy tails of the Breit to his successor, Renzi could have hung on to power relatively unscathed. Oh, well.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Saturday Night Live Goes Off the Rails

        Saturday Night Live is two episodes shy of the halfway point to its 42nd season, so far, I am awarding it a “C” for effort, but room for improvement. The show has featured some gems this season, but they have been few and far between. The big problem is how much the show has gone completely off the rails in its response to Donald Trump winning election for president.
       I indulge in a flippant, sometimes nihilistic sense of humor frequently myself. Pretty much anything is open to humor, and sacred cows make the best hamburgers. I am not even offended by the sort of sketches SNL is airing in order to jab at Trump. I am simply pointing out how pathetically embarrassing the sketches are. Take the above screen cap from last night's cold open. That is ale Baldwin playing Trump. The Grim Reaper to his right represents Steve Bannon.
       I do not care one way or the other about Bannon. I am as skeptical of Breitbart as I am any news source wearing an ideological slant on its sleeve. But the strongest attacks I have heard on him are accusations he is a white supremacist. Those accusations are so absurd, even Anderson cooper called out en. Elizabeth Warren for repeating when there is no shred of evidence to prove it. How do you jump from knee jerk, unfounded accusations of racism to comparing Bannon to the embodiment of Death?
        It is absurd to make that leap even for a comedy bit. Th sad part is I a not certain the caricature is for the sake of comedy. The absurdity was not meant to be funny. Witness Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton's somber rendition of “Hallelujah” which opened the first post-election episode. She was fighting back tears. She was not crying over the recent passing of Leonard Cohen. Her sorrow was all about the supposed death to America a President Trump will bring. This stuff is tough to watch if for no other reason than people genuinely believe the loony narrative.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Operation Wandering Soul

       All the creepy videos I have posted thus far became less disturbing once explained. So how about I post one in which the truth is not any more comforting than what the intention appears to be? I encountered a snippet of the above video I a compilation of frightening recordings a few months ago. It sent a shiver up my spine. Keep in ind I am not the superstitious type, either.
     Operation Wandering Soul was a campaign of psychological warfare conducted by the United state military during the Vietnam War. Operation Wandering Soul played recordings of ethereal, anguished voices through the jungles of Vietnam in order to play on the belief of the Vietnamese the souls of those buried away from the homeland would wander the Earth forever in pain. The recording were blasted through helicopter speakers at night to torment the enemy. The military was advised not to play the recordings near South Vietnamese allies since they might be discouraged to fight as much as the Vietcong.
       The success of Operation Wandering soul is difficult to determine. The Vietcong who fired in the direction of the disembodied voices were met with return fir, which negated the results. But the recordings are still a terrifying listen. Much of the disturbance cones fro me not understanding Vietnamese, so the voices sound even stranger. But the above video features subtitles. But reading the translations does not make the Ghost Tapes any less unsettling.         

Friday, December 2, 2016

Open Your Heart to Everyone

       A former teacher of mine posted this video on Facebook a couple days ago. She awarded it Best Christmas Commercial of 2016 even though December has just begun. Concur. It is a touching commercial with an important message about acceptance.
       She not only earns points with me for sharing the commercial, but for correctly referring to the main character as Frankenstein's monster. He is too often mistakenly called Frankenstein. Frankenstein was the doctor who created him. I would expert nothing less than such level of accuracy from a retired English teacher.
       Frankenstein's monster has always been my favorite classic monster. There is the clash of science versus religion in Mary Shelley's novel to appeal to me. But I feel an empathy with the monster. He is different than everyone else. He feels alienated because virtually all of what can be considered a normal life is unavailable to him. Yet he must find his own place in the world. I identify with his struggle. I therefore appreciate the measure of acceptance he finds in the above commercial.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Eat Your Heart Out, Charlie Brown

       I put out my Christmas decorations this afternoon. It is a charlie brown tree, but the little fellow put me in the spirit of the season. My stocking is hung out for Santa. Ready for that lump of coal I so richly deserve instead of Reese Witherspoon in the Slave Girl Princess Leia outfit I put on my list every year. Maybe next Christmas.
       December will be especially monumental this year. I will turn forty on the eleventh. It may sound strange, but I am eager to leave my 30's behind. The last ten years were a disastrous decade. Even though I have now physically escaped all that made me miserable during that time, there is an emotional boost to beginning a new part of life in new, better surroundings.
       The year will draw to a close as December winds down. While I have mostly enjoyed a good year personally, it has certainly been rougher than usual for the world at large. No wonder so much of it is in revolt over the status quo. I will say much about the good and the bad in reflection as the year fades into twilight. Until then, hopefully December will turn out well for all of us.   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Naive Realism

       Remember what was dubbed by the media as Bush Derangement Syndrome after George W. Bush squeaked by in his presidential victory in 200 and reelected in 2004? Bush Derangement Syndrome was an intense and irrational hatred of Bush 43 alleging he was corrupt, stupid, greedy, racist and every other stereotypical epithet thrown at conservative by members of the political left with less than stellar critical thinking skills. The epidemic at the time count as the tragedy. The current purple-faced rage against the impending presidency of Donald Trump is the farce.
      Do not get me wrong. Observing the Trump Derangement Syndrome contagion has been amusing. On election night alone, the political left went from crowing over the first woman president to increasing discomfort over how well Trump was unexpectedly doing to full blown meltdowns as he won the White House. Even the absurdity of the subsequent riots were entertaining, if for no other reason than the mobs were full of professional protesters engaged in the outrage of the moment. Especially since said outrage was over losing a free and fair election. So you can probably see how one could consider Trump Derangement Syndrome a fare.
       It is not all about Trump. The political left turned it ire on Trump's supporters early and often. (Which is also how many of them vote, but I digress.) These attacks are nothing new, nor is the type confined to politics. I spent quite a bit of time in the late '90's immersed in Christian apologetics, and the motif is much the same. Many discussion devolve from a legitimate difference of opinion to trading insults as excuses for opponents' belief.
       There is a term for this in sociology. The belief someone disagrees with you because he is stupid, mentally ill, or morally degenerate is called naive realism. I would say it I prevalent in politic. Then I would extend its prevalence to the internet. Finally, I would just declare it is everywhere people are. It is a natural result of the human desire to never be wrong. If there is a disagreement, there must be something wrong with the other person.
       The problem is often no distinction is drawn between knowledge and intelligence. Knowledge is what one knows. Intelligence is the capacity to learn knowledge and understand it. One can be a genius in one's field of knowledge and poor in another. Witness Dr. Ben Carson. He was a brilliant neurosurgeon, but believed the Egyptian pyramids were built as grain silos. At least he did not believe the pyramids were intended as UO landings sites. There is a difference between one being wrong, and being wrong and you are stupid because one is wrong.
       The best way to avoid falling prey to naive realism is to avoid discussing politics and religion. If you cannot resit, you will have to grow a thicker kin. Either way, take heart when subjected to naive realism, it often means your opponent has run out of intelligent counter arguments. So there is that.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tara the Android

       Tara the Android has been floating around the internet so long, you have probably already heard the truth behind her origins. But it is all still an interesting story to tell. The uneasy feeling you get from watching “I Feel Fantastic” will always cast a little doubt on whether she was simply a creative engineering project or something more sinister.
       “I Feel Fantastic' was first posted on YouTube in 2009 by user CreeyBlog. CreepyBlog never uploaded any other content. It may not matter. “I Feel Fantastic” has collected six million views and counting. The video has appeared on countless lists of creepy things found on the internet in order to rack up those numbers.
       Little was known about the video. The only text associated with it was a reference to the Greek myth of Pygmalion. Pygmalion was a sculptor who believed all women were tainted and unworthy of love. He made his own vision of the perfect woman out of ivory and fell deeply in love with her. The goddess Aphrodite took pity on Pygmalion and brought the statue to life. How can this story relate to Tara the Android?
       The internet being a wild frontier of untruths, rumors spread quickly after “I Feel Fantastic” was posted. The most popular is Tara the Android was built by a serial killer who dressed her up in his victims' clothes. He alleged hated their fearful screams of pain, so Tara the Android says “I feel fantastic” instead. The choice of “Please leave! Run! Run! Run!'” should be obvious. The shot of the backyard from the video—an odd inclusion, admittedly—is where the victims are supposed buried. Some rumors added the grotesque element the victims were buried alive with a microphone. Tara's singing is to the sounds of their screams as they suffocate.
       The truth is much more mundane. Tara the android was created by John Bergeron to be the first artificial pop singer. He built her for about $2,000 using a dental school's mannequin. Bergeron originally advertised Tara the Android on a website hosted by the now defunct GeoCities servers. It would appear Tara the Android did not sell, as nothing appears to have been any updates or developments since.
       So how did CreepyBlog acquire the video? Your guess is as good as anyone else's. Considering the user name, one can assume CreepyBlog wanted to preserve the mystery and so posted as little as possible about it. Perhaps CreepyBlog even spliced in the odd fitting shot of the backyard in order to boost the serial killer rumor. As noted, the truth is out there and not hard to find. Tara was a failed business venture by Bergeron. But do not expect to hear it from him. The poor fellow, who lives in Vermont, has been routinely contacted by curiosity seekers from the internet over the last few years and refuses to talk to them these days. Questions of whether he is a serial killer appear to have annoyed him. Go figure.
       Even knowing the truth, I still think the video is disturbing. The primitiver voice synthesize the tonal music, and weird lyrics are enough to make me uneasy. Tara is too artificial in her appearance and movements. The video was filmed at night with the unexplained cutaway to the backyard. It is no wonder Tara the android did not sell. Who would want her around? She is nothing but nightmare fuel.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Bar Bet


       Two guys are sitting in a bar on the top floor of a skyscraper.  one guy turns to the other and says, "I'll bet you $100 I can ump out that window, float for thirty seconds, and climb back in without falling."
       "That's impossible," the other guy says. "You're on."
       The bartender stops to watch as the two guys approach the window. the guy who made the bet opens the window and climbs out. Sure enough, he floats for thirty seconds without falling, and then climbs back in. He demands his $100.
       The other guy is stunned. "Double or nothing says if you can do it, I can, too!"
       "You're on!" the first guy agrees.
       The second guy climbs out the window and plummets forty stories to his death. The first guy quietly walks back to the bar and orders another drink. The bartender hands him his drink and says, "You sure are mean when you're drunk, Superman."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

      It is Thanksgiving. Therefore, it is time once again for that curious exercise in narcissism known as the holiday selfie. Less than a month has passed since Halloween so posting a holiday selfie feels even more egotistical. Oh, well. I did it anyway.
       I enjoyed a tasty Thanksgiving. There were two different, full turkey dinners with all the fixings and several dessert choices. One was for lunch, and the other for supper. Both were cooked by a group of southern ladies who definitely knew what thy were doing. As a bonus, there are leftovers. I was compelled to ask for the insight of religious scholars whether gluttony still counts as a sin if one is really, really skinny. I have received no solid answer yet, if anyone wishes to tackle the inquiry.
       This Thanksgiving, I am Thankful finally enjoy some peace after a tumultuous decade of poor health and a family tree more Dutch Elm disease than anything else. I have not been so hale and hearty in years. I am also enjoying a circle of friends like I have had in a long time. Yes, as a politically minded soul, I am also thankful I will be spared Hillary Clinton for four years.
       It is all good. I hope everyone else had a blessed Thanksgiving. Even though it is consider a secular, national holiday, Thanksgiving is based on the practice of feasting in celebration of God's blessings.    

Happy Thanksgiving!

       Why you should call it "dressing" instead of "stuffing."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Booth & Hamilton: Theater of the Absurd

       November 22nd is a day associated with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But JFK's assassination has never particularly interested me, and I have even visited Dealey Plaza near the fortieth anniversary back in 2003. I was playing the visit by ear. I just happened to be in Dallas at the time. Perhaps it is my aversion to immerse myself in too many conspiracy theories, but I find other presidential assassinations far more interesting. In particular, Abraham Lincoln's.
       It might be obvious why Lincoln's assassination is on y mind right now, but first a related anecdote. A few days before delivering the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln saw his eventual assassin John Wilkes Booth playing a villain at Ford's Theater. A gentlemen seated with the president  noted a particularly heated bit of dialogue.
       “He seems to be reciting those lines to you,” he told the president.
       “He does talk very sharp at me, doesn't he?” Lincoln acknowledged.
      It is fairly common knowledge Booth was an actor, but it is not so well known that was a famous actor. While it is true John lived in the shadow of his brother, Edwin, John was still popular. The East Coast upper class certainly knew who he was. One might be inclined to make a Jeff and Beau Bridges comparison or maybe the Baldwins it is difficult to say when there was no tabloid fueled celebrity culture like there is these days.
       John was a Confederate sympathizer, although he never joined the Confederate Army. He is often branded a coward in this regard. I am curious how deep his political motivations went. There is some merit to the idea John killed Lincoln as a way of separating himself from his more talented and well-regarded brother. Someone with enough fortitude to assassinate the president is difficult to all a coward.
       Flash forward to this past weekend when Vice-President-elect Mike Pence took in a showing of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Pence was booed by the audience and lectured publicly about inclusiveness by the cast. One can argue whether taking such an action against an elected official is appropriate—I say no—but what is clear is how on edge Pence's secret Service detail must have been.
      Fortunately, a comparison of Booth and Hamilton is essentially “first time tragedy, second time fare.” Thankfully, farce sums up pretty well the celebrity reaction to conservative gains in the political arena, particular to President-Elect Donald Trump. Seriously...how many of those ding-a-lings who promised to move to Canada if trump won are actually leaving?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Progressive Bubble

       Saturday Night Live has compelled me to post one of its clips several times this season. The show is no longer the must see show it once was, but it can still serve as an on point cultural barometer. My fellow conservatives are often critical of SNL's progressive bias. Considering last week's somber cold opening sincerely mourning Donald Trump's election as president, the point is difficult to argue. But as a rebuttal, I present “The Bubble” from last night's episode.
       “The Bubble” is a sharp jab a progressive elitism's tendency for intolerance of contrary ideas, absorption into like-minded entertainment, and adoption of patronizing, often contradictory views on race and gender. The humor is biting towards progressives and not for the first time. Even in last week's installment, the second sketch featured Dave Chappell and Chris Rock exposing upscale, white progressives watching the election returns as sheltered and clueless.
       I will take a step back here and declare much of last night's episode mediocre. The problem is not clear. Kristen Wiig was decent, but I never cared much for any of her characters. If I made a list of former cast members I would like to see return as host, Wigg would rank slightly about Anthony Michael Hall near the list's cellar. But I is only fair to note SNL suffers from weak writing when it airs three new episodes in a row, too.  Check the clip out. As always, a trigger warning is probably necessary for the satirically impaired.             

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Electoral College Conundrum

       No conundrum actually exists with the Electoral College. I just needed a similar word beginning with "c” in order for the title to sound right. This post is not a violation of my pledge for no further commentary on the election. This post is a comment on the post-election. Admittedly obtuse, but it is the lawyer in me shining through. Everybody hates lawyers for good reason, right?
       A grass roots movement of Hillary Clinton supports has began an effort to lobby members of the Electoral College pledge to vote for Donald Trump to switch to Clinton. The movement is asking the Electoral College to do something it has not done in its existence—deny the presidency to the election's winner. There is virtually no chance such a reversal will happen. The best evidence is the possibility has not motivated Clinton to form a transition team to select a potential staff just in case, nor has it slowed Trump's transition effort. Clinton supporters, many of whom are probably Bernie sanders supporters instead, know this, as quite a few have resorted to making death threats against electors. Because progressives are tolerant a non-violent.
       The rationale to reverse the election results mostly boils down to Clinton winning the popular vote while losing the Electoral College. The argument is moot on the surface because popular vote is not the deciding factor in electing the president. The same people who urge reversing the election results because of the popular vote would not be doing so if Clinton and Trump's roles were reversed. But it has been a popular thing with the losing side since the messy results of the 20000 presidential election. The left is still bitter about Al gore losing sixteen years later.
       Nevertheless, it is reasonable to ask if the Electoral College should be abolished as the means of electing the president versus to popular vote. The Founding fathers did not think so. They set of the system to keep large states from exclusively electing the president. Considering how Clinton’s large numbers are coming from densely populated, mostly coastal cities, you can see the founding Fathers' rationale is validated. A candidate would only need to campaign in a select few highly populated areas in order to win. The president would then pursue the interests of those populated areas and ignore the interests of other, less densely populated areas in order to assure re-election.
       While it is true the Electoral College system does often compel candidates to focus on a few swing states every election, they are swing states because they could realistically be won by either candidate. Thanks to shifting cultural and demographic winds, the number and location of swing stats changes every election cycle. Densely populated areas generally do not change as rapidly. The electoral college is the fairest way for the entire electorate to have its say. The fact that both conservatives and progressives have won the presidency, it is evident the system works.
       The bottom line is yes, the Electoral College could conceivably hand the election to Clinton. There might even be an elector or two who reneges on his vote for Trump as a matter of conscience. But 99% of electors have honored their pledge since the beginning of the Electoral College. The Electoral College has never revered election results and is not likely to do so when it meets December 19th. You probably do not want them to do so, anyway.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stick a Fork in Post-Election Analysis

       The election has been over for a week. The final results are carved in stone. You are sick of talking about the election. I am sick of talking about the election. We are all sick of talking about the election. It is about that tie w start talking about the actual turkey we are going to eat next Thursday as opposed to the two turkeys we could have elected president last week. So this will be my final word on election analysis.
       The election boiled down to one thing. It was not that the polls were wrong. It is not that America is a racist country. It was not that America is a misogynist country that will not elect a woman president. The election boiled down to the fact their were lots of people angry and they were ignored by everyone except Donald Trump.
       Yes, a billionaire real estate developer and reality show star was the better champion of the working class. The irony is tough to swallow. I sympathize. Until about nine o’clock on election night, I did not seriously believe it was possible. In hindsight, things look a little clearer. Pollsters underestimated the swarm of Trump votes that would come across the nation period, much less from deep blue strongholds like Michigan and Pennsylvania who felt left behind by the Democratic party. Well thy should, too. Hillary Clinton made little effort to reach out to them until it was too late.
       But it was not only neglect making Trump supporters angry. T was the constant accusations of racism and misogyny leveled at anyone declaring support for Trump. When faced with such a massive and brutal barrage, of course those who supported Trump were going to keep it to themselves. The election of Trump was, as Michael Moore of all people noted, a massive middle finger directed at the politically correct culture that insist there is only one way to vote and anyone does not vote that way I deplorable.
        The media and entertainment business played a vital role in causing the massive, but silent trump vote with their personal attacks and clear bias against Trump supporters. It was difficult to find mainstream media that was not openly aiding Clinton as late as prime time election night. Will they learn anything before next time? Considering much of their post-election reactions, it would appear. Regardless, I am tired of talking about it, so I am now done.

Monday, November 14, 2016

You Were Fine Until You Saw the Pale Horse Rider

       If I thought it was odd Saturday Night Live was in a deeper state of mourning in their first post-election episode than they were in their first episodes after 9/11 and Sandy Hook, I had not seen anything yet. The expected tears and long shot hopes the Electoral College will reverse the election results are there. They are for every losing side in an election. But the reaction I am witnessing now is an unprecedented state of what I will generously call mourning even though whining is likely a more apt term.
        Do not get me wrong. Some of the backlash against Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton is a serious matter. There have been riots all over the country causing injuries and damaged property. You do not have to look too far to find stories of people being beaten by Clinton supporters for wearing Trump campaign gear or even simply admitting they voted for him. It is evil—and definitely not what America stands for—to beat a person for what he wears or for who he casts a ballot. Keep in mind as well 0% of those arrested during the riots in Oregon were not citizens of the state and did not vote there. They were professional agitators paid to terrorize in the wake of a free election.
       Nor am I talking about the poor souls who have been brainwashed by academia, the media, and entertainment to fear conservatives. They genuinely believe conservative are racist homophobes itching for the chance to destroy their lives. They believe this contrary to the history, recent and not so, but since the teaching of history in our educational system is so warped, it is difficult to blame them. For these folk wallowing in ignorance not all of their own doing, I feel pity.
      What I am talking about here is not the roving mobs who only believe in democracy when their candidate wins. It is the weepy Millennials, any of whom did not bother to vote in the first place, acting act in the most pathetic of ways. Have we really reached the point our kid need grief counseling because of election results? Must midterm exams really be canceled to preserve the delicate snowflakes' fragile psyches? I though safe spaces for students to avoid hearing contrary opinions was bad. Over-sheltering the rough edges of life has been taken to a whole new level.
       It happens, kids. Sometimes your man—or woman, this case—loses. It will not be the end of civilization as we now. There will be no ethnic purges. You will be free to live and love as you wish. Accept it, because it is reality. Losing is another part of reality, and something you must learn to deal with. Banish the notion everyone deserves a participation trophy merely for showing up. Understand that with victory comes the agony or defeat. You must be magnanimous in both. Hopefully, you will all learn this before next time around.