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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tea and Onions

The Tea Party is an American grassroots political movement whose ideal candidate is Sarah Palin. That really should tell you everything you need to know about the members of this party, but in the interest of multiple viewpoints, some other highlights of the Tea Party include
- having Orly Taitz as a prominent member, a woman so crazy even Bill O'Reilly has called her a nut. Among her claims of mistrust is that Obama is a Hamas supporter and that the US House of Representatives are building labour camps.
- being the larger umbrella under which the birthers movement nestles themselves. The Birthers are a group of people who allege that Obama is actually born in Kenya, and that the falsification of his papers and installation in the White House is part of a radical Islamic plot to control America.

On the other end of the spectrum is The Onion, which is a satirical news site that is, frankly, brilliant. They put out a combination of written articles, videos, and radio news segments that lampoon everything from current politics to media to sports to relationship matters and basic human behaviour. As an example, of of my recent favourite articles from them was entitled "Unstable relative, toddler compete for attention at family get-together". Other examples of headlines; "NBC announces fall cancellation lineup", "God hinting at retirement", and "Nation demands tax dollars only be wasted on stuff that's awesome". And that's just the tip of the iceberg, with them having news reports on Jennifer Aniston adopting a 33 year old boyfriend from Africa, how the US was condemned for pre-emptively using Hilary Clinton on Pakistan, and how the South African vuvuzela symphony were becoming increasingly irritated by the soccer games that were breaking out during their concerts. This level of brilliant satire is really on par for the course on The Onion, with their video and audio segments being delivered with the most serious voices and expressions possible, simultaneously parodying news anchors and the news they report on. Essentially, it's the opposite of the Tea Party, in that regularly reading The Onion will most likely increase your intelligence, whereas regularly associating with the Tea Party will most likely lower it.

So why am I talking about two entities that are on opposite ends of the spectrum? Well, that's because the Tea Party has recently discovered The Onion, and have done with it exactly what you'd expect stupid people to do; take it seriously, completely failing to see the humour even after it has been pointed out to them. They've taken it one step further, though, picking up a video segment the Onion originally posted in 2008 to poke fun at Bush's congressional policies and the zombie apocalypse simultaneously, and have begun circulating it as recent news and an indication of what Obama's real plans against America are.

Here's the video in question, which was put up by The Onion in January of 2008


Note the date; this was before Obama was even confirmed as the official Democratic candidate.

And this is how the Tea Party members have distorted this segment;

Mind you, if you read the comments, you'll notice one particular individual taking the lack of any information that proves the validity of this video not as a hint that the video might be less than genuine, but rather as an indicator that not only is the video authentic, but that the government is actively covering it up, with co-operation from the entire internet, I guess.

There are so many things wrong here I don't know where to begin. For one thing, if we are to accept, for the sake of debate, that these racist, close-minded individuals are somehow right, and that they've somehow stumbled onto Obama's plan for death camps, did they really think that these plans would be openly discussed on C-SPAN and then put on youtube? Or, for that matter, that they'd send this as a regular bill to be voted on in congress, in some odd "Well, we can't do illegal things without making sure we're following due process" way of thinking?

Another question that begs asking is, did all the people taking this seriously miss the flesh-eating and the otherworldly strength aspects of the speech? Or the fact that the "person" presenting the bill doesn't actually exist? I can understand people not noticing or understanding the date of posting or the Onion symbol; after all, these are people likely unfamiliar with both C-SPAN and The Onion. But really, they do everything in the video to point to a zombie apocalypse short of actually saying "zombie apocalypse", which is part of the joke.

Yet another puzzling issue is the belief of the Tea Party that news like this would somehow fly under the radar. I mean, yes, I'm incredibly jaded about the state of current news, where genocide is usurped by paparazzi pictures for top headline. But even I don't think that if the US congress were planning to put their citizens in death camps that news agencies would not take notice and atleast report on it. I mean, it is a pretty big deal, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on, so how exactly would something like this fly under the radar?

And then, of course, there's the big question of why, as in why Obama would do something even remotely close to this. This one is actually understandable from the Tea Party perspective; what it comes down to is fear. Obama has become the boogeyman to these people, and all of them are projecting their worst fears onto him, be it socialism (a term I'm not sure many of them actually understand) or fanaticism (which, oddly, is wrong only when it's employed in the service of a religion other than their own) or even race (a black guy as president? He must not be a real American!). Some of these fears are that Obama will, for whatever reason, abuse his power to punish Americans...because he's bored, I guess. I mean, with Lost over, there's nothing good to do on Tuesdays anymore, and even the President needs to relax sometimes. Amusingly (or horrifyingly), these same people supported Bush and Co. when they actually did abuse their powers in similar fashion.

Ultimately, these people will be around, no matter what, and they will do their hardest to perpetuate their level of stupidity, no matter what. It remains up to the rest of us sane, functioning members of society to ensure that the outlying crazies never overpower our voice, and that we, in turn, never ignore their presence. The internet helps with identifying and tracking these crazies with greater ease than ever before, but we still need to make sure they remain inconsequential, for everyone's sake. Because if they're like this now, imagine how they'll act with some real power in their hands.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Another video today

This one is a satire of BP's attempts to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (which they've somehow managed to cap as of yesterday, just shy of three months since the pipe burst). With more than 9 million views, I'm sure this is a recognizable video for many of you, but I've found its rewatchability to be unusually high, and it really is spot on, so enjoy.



The creators of the video were New York's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, better known as UCB comedy. They can be found here; http://www.ucbcomedy.com/

Thoughts? Either on this, or the oil spill in general, or on this cap that BP has put on?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Foxconn

Foxconn technology Group is a hardware manufacturing company, with factories primarily in China. Their biggest client is Apple, and these days, that's a very lucrative contract for any manufacturer, especially with Jobs introducing a new hipster must-have product every 2 months. The issue with Foxconn, however, is that they take the phrase "drop dead" very literally; since the announcement of the iPad from Apple, 12 employees at Foxconn factories have died, either by committing suicide, or simply from being overworked. The most notable case is this one, where an employee died after working a 34 hour shift. No, that's not a typo; a person was made to work for more than a day straight, literally until he dropped dead.


Foxconn's response to these rash of deaths, far from considering not overworking their employees, was to install anti-suicide nets across their buildings, so employees who do decide death is better than working at Foxconn can land in the nets and get back to work.

There are several aspects of this whole case that disturb me, chief among them being the seeming apathy from, well, everyone. Jobs has repeatedly thrown his support behind Foxconn and called the deaths "regrettable" and "troubling". The public seems to shrug off news of every death as "the price for cheap products", which is troubling on so many levels, chief among them being the idea that a human life is an acceptable tradeoff for affordability of a gadget. After all, we're not talking about food here; the foxconn employees don't save 10 lives by sacrificing their own. These people are dying in the creation of iPods and iPhones. Are we really gaining anything as a population by feeding people to the slaughter just so we have something to listen to on a commute? Is the iPhone really that good that it's worth a human life? Why are we as a group at the stage where meaningless technology is worth human lives? We're not talking about making pacemakers and defibrillators here; there is not a single Apple product that can save lives, so why is it acceptable in the slightest that people are dying in the manufacturing process?

Furthermore, the defense of "well, it would be costlier if it was manufactured in North America" is not only irrelevant, but it's bullshit. Did I miss the memo where it was decided that $700 ought to cover the fact that someone died making the product? I have a hard time believing that if even one American or Canadian worker died after working 34 hours that the factory wouldn't be shut down, and the company running the factory wouldn't have their clients terminate contracts for fear of backlash (and hell, maybe I'm wrong, and naive for thinking so, which seems imminently probable). But Jobs does essentially the equivalent of "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" and nobody bats an eyelash. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that people are dying and killing themselves out of being overworked, and somehow this isn't a point of mass anger. Not only that, but Apple continues to support this kind of behaviour, and consumers continue to support Apple. Is it latent or subconscious racism? Does the distance add a sense of "out of sight, out of mind" to these cases? Or, (and this is what I'm most afraid of), has our consumerism taken over so completely that we now apply a "by any means necessary" belief to even the things we want and don't really need? The only useful Apple product is their laptop; everything else is a luxury item. So why is it acceptable and, in fact, borderline irrelevant that people died in the making of these products? And not just one or two; 12 people to date. With no consequences whatsoever.

I shudder to think of the kind of callousness that makes something like this go unnoticed by the public at large. I really, really hope that I'm wrong, or that this is an anomaly, or maybe even that it simply hasn't reached the tipping point where it enters the public consciousness. If that's not the case, and we truly are at the point where people's death from manufacturing mp3 players and cell phones is greeted with a "meh", then I think we as a species are beginning to lose our fundamental humanity. And if that's true, it can only get worse from here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Coincidence...or a sign?

So I listen to a variety of podcasts, two of which are the Totally Laime podcast, hosted by Elizabeth Laime, and The Nerdist podcast, hosted by Chris Hardwick. The guests this week on said podcasts were Marc Maron and Maria Bamford, respectively. Now, these podcasts, while starting at around the same time, are run entirely independent of each other. My listening to them on the same day was a coincidence, but all the better to catch what did happen.
Marc Maron, on the Totally Laime podcast, name-dropped Maria Bamford as a comic he enjoys watching. As I was aware that Bamford was the guest on The Nerdist, which was up next on my listening queue, I thought "Hmm, that's odd." And then didn't give it any more thought. And then, on The Nerdist podcast, Chris Hardwick, while recounting one of his drunken nights tales, proceeds to name-drop Marc Maron as a person he was at this particular party with.
Coincidence? Yes, most likely, unless you buy into the theory that all four aforementioned people got together and hatched this conspiracy with the sole purpose of messing with my head, which, I will admit, does sound very likely. Hmm...
Either way, I took this as an indication that I should end my unexpected hiatus from this blog. Should any of you be interested in any of the podcasts mentioned, their official sites are linked to in the opening paragraph.
So yes, I'm back. Hide your daughters.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just a video today

Of an excellently done "Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer" that manages to outline pretty much every Oscar bait cliche in the book in a pretty original fashion. Take a look.



Credit goes to these guys: http://www.britanick.com/ for making this excellent piece. Their youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BriTANicKdotcom

Any thoughts? Anything they missed?

JULY 6 EDIT: The link has been updated, and should work now without the need to sign up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"So you support your country's athletes, eh? You know who else supported their athletes? Nazis, that's who!"

So for those of you who may not know, Canada recently hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, and during the course of the Games, broke the record for most gold medals one by a single country by racking up a total of 14 Gold Medals, culminating in an overtime victory in the gold medal final match between the Canadian and American men's hockey teams on the last afternoon of the games. Altogether, it was a resounding success for the Canadian team, and for the Games in general, despite some tragedies along the way.

Well, Gil LeBreton, a writer for the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, walked through the streets of Vancouver and saw something else altogether. He watched on as Canadians wore their pride openly, and he saw...Nazis.
Yes, that's right; in an article he penned last week, Mr. LeBreton likened the crowd reaction at the 2010 Winter Olympics to that of Germany, then deep in the throes of the Nazi party, at the 1936 Summer Olympics.


The gist of his argument is that Canadians did not pay attention to international athletes at all during the Olympic run. He also implies that the Organising committee was complicit in this, stuffing every event with large Canadian crowds.
He also, paradoxically, seems to state that Canadians wanted to party, and the success only gave them a valid excuse to do so. This is the gem of the paragraph where he reveals that

"There was embracing, all right, but then Canadians have always had the reputation for drinking a lot of beer. The loose marijuana laws only added to the nightly revelry in the downtown streets -- which, frankly, seemed to have little to do with the Olympics."

And he closes with this line.

"Nice party. But so 1936."

Yes, Mr. LeBreton thinks that, because Canadians wore Canadian jerseys and supported Canadian athletes, that a comparison to Nazi-ruled Germany was appropriate. Since he didn't see "a single flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings", he was able to jump to the conclusion that we'll start a war in the next 3 years.
The funny thing about the article is that Mr. LeBreton, an American citizen, spends a whole paragraph writing about American achievements before showing his impartiality by talking about athletes from other nationalities, like Apolo Ohno, who is...american.
Even if one were to look past the Nazi comparison, the tone of the entire editorial smacks of unfounded cynicism, as if somehow Canadians were at fault for putting their own athletes ahead of everyone else and not loudly cheering and celebrating when athletes of other nationalities won prizes. But why? When did it become a bad thing to cheer for the team you think represents you? That people identified with nationalities is a natural product of the games, but I don't recall any such sentiment following the Sydney Olympics, the Salt Lake Olympics, the Beijing Olympics, the Greek Olympics, the Turin Olympics. Do you mean to tell me Canadians cheered harder for their teams than people in all those countries? And you mean to tell me this is a bad thing? How?
It seems obvious what Mr. LeBreton wanted; Canadians to lie on the street and cry whenever Americans lost, the government to issue a formal apology every time a Canadian joined or beat an American to the podium, and so on. The fact that Canadians cheered for Canadians somehow irked him, enough to basically call us a nation of fratboys. What we ever did to him will remain one of the world's mysteries.

Following the tide of angry questions thrown his way, Mr. LeBreton issued an apology the next day, which read like this


Essentially, it boiled down to this paragraph

"My intention in Monday morning’s wrap-up column wasn’t to offend Canada, the land of my ancestors, and my hosts of the past three weeks. On the contrary, I was trying to express my disappointment and surprise that, in my opinion, Canadians had failed to grasp the global mandate that being an Olympic host entails."

The global mandate being, essentially, to play gracious hosts to everyone else. Yes, Mr. LeBreton essentially thinks that Canada should've acted like a 1950s housewife throughout the Olympic games. He continues to slam Canada's patriotic display, painting a scene where Canadians were leaving during a medal presentation to German athletes as the straw that broke the camel's back and pushed him to this sentiment.
The real source of Mr. LeBreton's comparison of Canada to a World War instigating government, then, was that Canadians didn't behave the way he thought they'd behave, which is to say, with not an iota of displayed pride. Which is real smart on his behalf, and perfectly understandable. I mean, if we're not going to formulate our sense of identity on the pre-conceived and unfounded notions of a Louisiana-born journalist, how are we going to formulate our sense of identity?

And another point I wanted to add to this whole matter; Can we stop comparing every perceived slight to Hitler and the Nazis? They put people in camps for being different and attempted to conquer an entire continent through war. If your neighbour Hank lets his dog pee on your rose garden, that doesn't make him Hitler. If your professor gives you a low grade, that doesn't make her a Nazi. And if Canadians support their athletes with more fervour than you'd like, that doesn't make them Nazi Germany. So can we stop blowing things out of proportion like this? It serves no purpose other than sensationalization, and it diminishes the horror of the atrocities they did commit. Your pissy, anal boss is not the same person as someone who killed thousands of people in a quest for a master race.

And finally, there's this response I found to Mr. LeBreton's columns


In particular, this sentence stood out to me

"My two cents: Gil, if you have the balls to write a column comparing Canadians to Nazis, then have the balls to tell them to kiss your ass when they show up at your door with pitchforks."

Balls? It takes balls now to agitate a country like Canada, which prides itself on its peacekeeping status, and has never instigated a war in its history? It takes balls to compare such a country to a party who's pretty much synonymous with evil? And it takes balls to do this from the comfort of your own country? Did I miss the part of history where Canada became the hulking bully in the playground whom nobody insults because that's a guaranteed punch to the face? Because that's what this article seems to be making Canada out to be.
You know who has balls? Jerry Mitchell, whom I've mentioned before, who looked a murderer in the eye and pursued justice for people he didn't know despite having his family threatened. You know who else has balls? Rosa Parks, who faced down an entire way of thinking and a bus full of angry people just because she refused to be treated badly due to the colour of her skin.
Look at those two accomplishments. Compare them to the act of calling Canada a modern day Nazi state, from outside the country, no less. You see the discrepancy? But apparently it's brave to hurl insults from afar now.
But there is a silver lining; if the bar for having "balls" is so low now, eventually just walking out the front door will become an incredibly brave act. Then we'll all look like badasses.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The internet is like a box of chocolates; you never know which kind of crazy you'll get

Stumbling along the internet yesterday looking to see what Janeane Garofalo has been up to lately, I came across a site that had a recent interview with her. What was really interesting, however, was the comments section, where someone left this little gem

"I don't care what the topic is. I do not like Janeane Garofalo. She's constantly preaching how everyone is racist and about all the white power cells out there. Well, sweetheart, do your research and you'll find black power that is alive and well. What about that "little" incident in California when Rodney King was beaten up by those cops? Riots broke out with black people pulling innocent people out of their cars and brutally beating them! Come on sweetheart, look around. Don't be so freaking naive. I'm so sick of big mouth liberals like you. You just love to hear yourself talk. Yes, racism is alive and well within the white community but honey, it's quite healthy within the black community as well. For their to be peace, the black community needs to forgive, forget, and move on! Seriously! Search the internet, honey, and you'll find all the supporting evidence on this that you'll need. Don't do your research to just find what you want to find. Do some real research!!!! What about that actor from Seinfeld that was strong-armed by Reveran Jessie Jackson into apologizing for calling those two black men in the audience niggers. Hmmmm, I wonder if his life was threatened???? hmmmmm? I guess we'll never know, huh? Those two black men in the audience were hecklers. Hell, the black community uses the "N" word amongst themselves so often that they should be used to the word!!!
Janeane, get off your high horse! Seriously, it's closed minded big mouthed liberals like you that are going to bring this country to it's dying days. I worked with a girl just like you that is against guns! Huh! Against guns! Well, honey, when the guns are outlawed, the only ones that will be carrying them are the outlaws! And when someone breaks into that dumb liberal's home and is standing over her bed at night, she'll be wishing she had a gun! What a stupid bitch! I wish Janeane Garofalo's website had a forum or guestbook, so I could post this on there. Janeane, shut the fuck up!!!! You have no idea what you are babbling about!!!"


For fun, and because it's really being handed to me on a silver platter, let's break down the stupidity into bits and pieces.
I'll get the initial fact out of the way; this commenter, who for some reason (likely because of the use of the word 'honey') I think is a woman, and will thus refer to her as she, obviously has a lot of hate for Garofalo, a woman who, despite her views, hasn't ever hurt anyone, and has always backed up her points and stood behind them with conviction. She hates Garofalo so much that she took the time to find a Garofalo interview and post her rant, which is mind-boggling. I can't fathom hating someone so much that you let them consume your life to such an extent.
But let's see what she had to say

"I don't care what the topic is. I do not like Janeane Garofalo. She's constantly preaching how everyone is racist and about all the white power cells out there. Well, sweetheart, do your research and you'll find black power that is alive and well. "

So, in other words, it's ok if I'm an alcoholic because Bob from two doors down is also an alcoholic. So it all...evens out, I guess?
But let's look at her examples of 'black power'.

"What about that "little" incident in California when Rodney King was beaten up by those cops? Riots broke out with black people pulling innocent people out of their cars and brutally beating them! Come on sweetheart, look around. Don't be so freaking naive. "

Yes, her idea of "look around" is to cite a riot that happened 19 years before she posted this comment. Mind you, in contrast, Garofalo's latest example of "white power" cells has been the Birthers in USA, which is the group of people who claim Obama wasn't actually born in America, a claim Garofalo says was born out of pure racism (and which I agree with, but that's another blog entry). 19 years vs. currently ongoing. What's wrong with this picture?

"I'm so sick of big mouth liberals like you. You just love to hear yourself talk. Yes, racism is alive and well within the white community but honey, it's quite healthy within the black community as well. For their to be peace, the black community needs to forgive, forget, and move on! "

And her bias against a political movement begins to show, but I love the audacity of this comment. "Yes, we're racist, but you have to stop being racist first! Even though you've got a lot more to be angry about, you need to let it go before I do!"

"Seriously! Search the internet, honey, and you'll find all the supporting evidence on this that you'll need. Don't do your research to just find what you want to find. Do some real research!!!!"

My God, she used four exclamation marks! I'm convinced.

"What about that actor from Seinfeld that was strong-armed by Reveran Jessie Jackson into apologizing for calling those two black men in the audience niggers. Hmmmm, I wonder if his life was threatened???? hmmmmm? I guess we'll never know, huh?"

What? First of all, I was unaware that Jesse Jackson spoke for the entire black community anymore. Second of all, I really doubt that Jesse Jackson has the ability to kill Michael Richards without anyone noticing. Third of all, why would he ever do such a thing? The best thing about this little snippet is that the commenter just assumes Richards' life was threatened, despite freely admitting that there's no evidence to back up her claim. Smells kind of like racism, doesn't it? I wonder if she really is racist. If only she could say something to prove it one way or another.

"Those two black men in the audience were hecklers. Hell, the black community uses the "N" word amongst themselves so often that they should be used to the word!!!"

Ah, there it is. You've got to love the complete disregard for context, although the "they said it, so we can say it" defence is a valid one...when you're in elementary school and trying to avoid getting punished by your teacher for saying cocksucker. Not so much when you're a grown person posting on the internet.

"Janeane, get off your high horse! Seriously, it's closed minded big mouthed liberals like you that are going to bring this country to it's dying days."

Yeah, stop expressing a different opinion! Differences in thinking will kill us all!
Mind you, Garofalo has been on Bill O'Reilly's show defending her opinion, so she may be a lot of things, but close minded is not one of them.

"I worked with a girl just like you that is against guns! Huh! Against guns! Well, honey, when the guns are outlawed, the only ones that will be carrying them are the outlaws! And when someone breaks into that dumb liberal's home and is standing over her bed at night, she'll be wishing she had a gun!"

It's at this point that the commenter really devolves into full-on crazy, as this part of the comment has nothing to do with Garofalo or her views at all. But looking at the content nonetheless, it's fascinating that she says home robberies and rapes (which seems to be what is being alluded to here) don't occur now, or that people who own guns have never been victims of violence. The question here is, if banning guns will lead to such an exponential spike in violence, shouldn't we be worried about the people who legally have guns now? I mean, I'm guessing a large segment of them will refuse to give up the guns, and if only hooligans and criminals will have them after the banning, maybe we should look more closely at what type of people have them now...wait, silly me, trying to counteract the points with reason.

"What a stupid bitch! I wish Janeane Garofalo's website had a forum or guestbook, so I could post this on there. Janeane, shut the fuck up!!!! You have no idea what you are babbling about!!!"

Yes, crazy commenter, it's Garofalo who has no idea what she's talking about. You're the smart one here, with your comments that Jesse Jackson threated Michael Richards' life over his racist comments, and that gun bannings will lead to a desire for guns to stave off the violence that's not occurring now.

I should clarify, this is not a condemnation of her political stance. She's free to believe what she believes in, but really, the opinion is so ill-informed and prejudiced yet so deep-seated, that it's less of a stance and more of a belief. And I really don't see any sane, rational-thinking person agreeing with her completely. She's like the conspiracy theorist you knew in high school, the one who refused to drink out of the school fountain because he thought the government put super-tiny microchips in it to track us; you might think they touch on some valid concerns here and there, but it's overwhelmed in such an avalanche of idiocy that you have no choice but to disassociate yourself.
Thanks, however, go to Al Gore, for making the internet, where we can see the crazies on full display from afar. And really, isn't that what the internet is all about? (well, aside from the porn, that is)