Thursday, February 24, 2011


Is any context necessary for the video I'm about to put up? Yes, but you're not about to get it from me. Just consider that over the past year, this simple comic strip edit...

(coughcoughSOMETHINGAWFULFORUMScough)...has been transformed into this.

And no, I'm not the genius behind either of these. Just a poor slob basking in reflected glory.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flashback: American Idiot! (or "When I think I'm out (of ammo against fools), they PULL ME BACK IN")

(Eric in 2011: Inspired by the Bieberite Grammy fan-tantrum, another flashback to another music-related fit, tied into the now-in-a-long-decline American Idol. This early entry was written before I got over my jones for ALL CAPS SHOUTING. It was also well before Clay Aiken came out, by the way, making at least one joke doubly hilarious (or obnoxious) when viewed in hindsight.)

Chaz was kind enough to bring this to everybody's attention. Apparently, after Clay lost the American Idol finals on Fox, a few thousand diehard supporters decided to write the FCC demanding an audited recount, since they thought the voting was FIXED.

(For those of you who haven't experienced this before, Evil E mode is now engaged...)

The fact that thousands of my fellow countrymen have built this American Idol cattle business up into an ominous JFK-style conspiracy against effiminate-looking pasty-white skinny boys while they seem perfectly alright with the idea that the "justifications" for the most recent war are falling apart like wet toilet tissue is a bit unsettling. These letters are still entertaining to read, especially the ones who think they're talking to the Fox producers instead of the FCC. People who can't figure out who can't figure out who is at the other end of an e-mail address that ends in probably don't need to be taking very much anyway.

Some of the best lines: PEOPLE SHOULD BE HONEST AND TELL THE TRUTH! Although being honest by lying is a helluva trick if you can pull it off.

Even the OSCARS hire outside accounting firms, that independently verify. Gee, you don't suppose that's because the Oscars are a highly respected industry award with a huge amount of history on the line, while Idol is a frickin' game show. Maybe when AI has been on the air for 70 years, you can start making comparisons like that. "EVEN the Oscars" would imply that Anonymous Dork puts AI on a higher plane of, I love that type of uneducated chutzpah.

In a letter that was not only sent to the FCC, but cc:ed to Fox, MSNBC, Paramount, and the Drudge report (yeah, this'll top that Clinton scoop as a career-maker): "My support goes completely to Clay Aiken! What talent! What a remarkable human being and a role model for all of us!" Okay, let's make this one multiple choice:

  • B) "I'm establishing the Church of Clay to further my belief system! We'll be doing personality tests on random people in the street, and advising members not to have anything to do with the Rubenites under pain of excommunitation! Scientology?! What's that?!"
  • C) "Now that I've seen perfection, I have nothing to live for! So I'm going to flog myself to death with this copy of the latest Rolling Stone! And I'm taking you with me!"
  • D) Eric, PLEASE move's getting late, and you're getting stale. (Answer Key: If you chose "D", you get your wish)
At the end of the same letter: I'm voting with my wallet and they can't take that vote away from me!" (letter writer feels for wallet, watches as a pickpocket darts down the street yelling "RUBEN! RUBEN!") "Aw, dammit, not again..."

"I didn't think that controversy would be something that would come up because after all, this is just a TV show. And what did it matter anyway? But it does, when it challenges my beliefs of fair play and honesty, two things which are very important to me." Important enough to be swayed by the plight of a photogenic stranger in a contest you see on TV who still gets to make records and be on talk shows even though technically he LOST? Pardon me for not crying myself to sleep tonight. And anyway, we all know that fair play and honesty are a huge part of the recording industry, right? You can stop laughing any time now.

The line that really made me do a double take, though, was at the bottom of this last letter: How does FOX and/or the production company want to be know among viewers? Is honesty and integrity important or has making money always been the issue here? HELLO? When has THE FRICKIN' FRACKIN' FOX NETWORK EVER BEEN ABOUT INTEGRITY? Or anything OTHER than making money? Remember, this is the same network that ran hours and hours of videos of people caught screwing on hidden cameras and bears mauling kids before they bit the hook on the reality TV trend. Really folks, the Simpsons can only carry your credibility so far.

For what it's worth, I went to an actual locally-owned record store (NOT AMAZON, you lazy tools) the other day. There was a stack of Clay CD singles by the cash register, while they were down to their last Ruben. I should've pried a bit more into how the sales were going, and I just might the next time I go there, but the point remains: a lot of people in this country need to grow the hell up. It really is only television.

And yes, I say this knowing I just wasted a big chunk of blog real estate lacing into people lacing into a lighter-than-air TV show. Never said I didn't have room to improve. Just look at this haircut, for instance...

--Original Post: July 12, 2003.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Real Reason You Should Be Asking Who Esperanza Spalding Is

At the risk of hammering at this a while longer, here's the lead track from the album that broke Bieber fans hearts. I bought the album from Amazon MP3 this afternoon (during their usual post-Grammy sale) and it's excellent stuff.

That Thing I Was Going To Show You On 15 February, 2011 (Audio Daily Double)

Dick Cavett, a marvelous man, has written a book about his experiences as a talk show host (Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets), and he’s making the rounds of broadcasting venues that still talk to authors (which means talk radio…and maybe C-SPAN if we’re lucky). However, I’ll bet my bankroll that none of those interviews will begin with a Gymkata reference the way his chat with The Sound of Young America's Jesse Thorn did.

The Sound Of Young America is a Public Radio International offering, and if this sounds like something you’d like to hear coming out of a real radio, call your public radio station and tell them. Use a pledge check if you think that would help.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Esperanza Spalding vs. A Gathering Of Angry 12 Year-Old Girls

File this late night session under "Daaaaaaaaaamn, do you kiss your mom with that mouth, Bieber fan?": Esperanza Spalding--and yeah, she's a new one to me, too--won the 2011 Best New Artist Grammy on Sunday night, beating (among others) fresh-faced inescapable pop star Justin Bieber. The hipster scum laugh up their sleeves at the mainstream values of Grammy voters (at least they did until Arcade Fire took Best Album), but that gold gramaphone is still a marvelous way to attract attention to yourself. First sign of that: soon after Spalding won, her Wikipedia bio lit up with all kinds of edit action, mainly from enraged Bieber fans who apparently aren't used to being told "NO." A few simple samples:
  • First, some authentic-sounding Bieber fan invective: "Recently, she won the best new artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards JUSTIN BIEBER DESERVED IT GO DIE IN A HOLE. WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWAY?" Because gosh-darn it, I'm peed off at Bieber catching cow cookies from everybody! Pardon my language...
  • An almost-hidden-but-not-quite snipe: "Esperanza Justin Spalding (born October 18, 1984 in Portland, Oregon) is a Grammy-Award winning American multi-instrumentalist best known as a jazz bassist and singer, who draws upon many genres in her own compositions. Recently, she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards by stealing it from Justin Bieber." Apart from that petty tag, note the added middle name, which doesn't quite take the biscuit the way the "Esperanza Quesadilla Spalding" edit did.
  • Some were a little more volatile. "Her mother, who raised her and her brother as a single parent, was an independent, industrious woman. SHE IS F****** REATARD THAT NO ONE HAS HEARD OF SO B**** PLEASE DIE !" Note that this drive-by vandal thinks in terms of curse words but still can't muster up the cojones to actually write them out.
  • "She now has the 2011 Grammy for being the Best new Artist! Even though no one has ever heard of her! Yay!"
  • The most recent drive-by at this writing shows something approaching sad resignation. "She won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, which is a shame because no one is better than the Biebs."
  • The winner of the "Why Does This Make Me Think of John Hodgman?" Award: "Spalding currently lives in Austin, Texas. Also, testicles, that is all.."
  • And finally, one from the opposition camp: "On February 13th, Esperanza won the Grammy for Best New Artist, beating out Nominee and gay favorite Justina Bieber."
In the interests of full disclosure, I also found a "DAMN IT MUMFORD AND SONS SHOULD HAVE WON THE GRAMMMY!!!!" edit, but it doesn't really constitute a trend. Don't sweat it, guys.

All these in-public tantrums don't do the Bieberites any favors, since many of us always assumed they were all 12 years old anyway, but they really should be grateful that the new artist Grammy skipped over their golden boy. After all, Amy Winehouse got one of those too, and look what happened to her.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have To Show Up: No More Mubarak

The news showed up while I wasn't looking: Mubarak finally gave the Egyptian masses what they were asking for.

Two quotes come to mind here:
  • "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."--Gandhi
  • "90% of life is just showing up." --attributed to Woody Allen, but who the hell knows.
The world can be such an evil bastard, with so many darkly clever ways of breaking dreamers on the wheel, that it's worth marking the times when everything just works. The men who set themselves on fire were mocked, and people started showing up. People were beaten, killed, and more people showed up. The rocks started flying, and that just made them surer that what they were doing was the right road. The man who was in the seat of power tried to sing them to sleep, and they made it clear they didn't want a story at bedtime. And it worked. It's always amazing when it happens like this.

Now comes the real heavy lifting. I usually chafe at crossing politics and religion, but one thing is true for both: being saved--that is, waking up to a new reality (or a new truth)--can happen in a moment, but staying saved is an ongoing process. The long road is ahead of you. It can be difficult and rocky, and it can test you, but it's worth making that trip. Today is the day they know it can be done, and a large number of people in Tahir Square tonight won't accept half-measures again.

So come on, guys. Make the new order work. Don't make me look like an idiot for all of the above.


(Eric in 2011: Once again, the events of the world conspire against my natural mellow nature. Today's flashback takes us back yet again to a happier time...unless you were a cartoon kid being used as a teaching tool.)

Most of us remember the police officer that showed up to tell our elementary school class drug horror stories designed to scare us straight. Some of us even remember taking the list of spices alleged to have psychoactive properties in the booklet the officer gave out and trying something with them ("I think I'm feeling it...did we use all the mace yet?"). I'm convinced they put those in the "information" booklet just to give the more gullible kids something to try and fail at.

However, now it's the information age, with computers, the Internet, flying cars...all that whatnot. So of course, we can't just have community outreach programs to keep the kids on the straight and narrow. We have to have websites like Arizona's Law For Kids. And since it is the Internet, Law For Kids has to have awful cartoons.

As educational tools, the cartoons just don't cut it; in a few of them it's impossible to see what the point is. And kids can tell when you're just not trying. For our purposes, which is cheap laughs at bad art, it's a goldmine.

Let's go over a few of these:

DRAG RACE DISASTER (Flash animation): Chuck, Elsie, and Melissa are kicking back, doing a little drunk driving and drag racing to start the weekend off right, and Chuck cracks up his car trying to outrun the cops. To undercut any moral they might've had, we find the kids riding bikes on the sidewalk on a sunny day. Come on, guys, this is supposed to be "scared straight" territory! At least show them walking sullenly everywhere they go, or in a hospital bed. THEN we'd know that "Chuck, Elsie, and Melissa were lucky." The real kicker is that they make a big show of naming the kids, like they're more than barely animated ciphers. Really, if they're not even going to have dialogue, why bother?

It's also an interesting touch that the guy is the only one drinking a beer, while the ladies are downing wine coolers. Female teenage alcoholics are apparently much pickier these days. Some of the boys, on the other hand, are still trying to drink that blue stuff they dip the barber's combs in because they were told it'll really get 'em FACED.

I have a theory that after losing his license, Chuck became the kid in the Chronic Future video, which is another strike against drunk driving.

JOYRIDING: We see a boy and a girl get into a car, a cop pulls them over and frisks them. The girl says "But I wasn't driving!" and the state trooper barks "EVEN THE PASSENGER GETS IN TROUBLE!" At least I hope he's a state trooper; his hat is a little bit too plain to be a genuine officer. It's possible that he's a mentally unbalanced guy who always wanted to be a cop, but ever since the accident cost him his eyebrows, he drives around in a shoddy imitation of the uniform he admires, a flashing light he bought at Radio Shack wired to the family sedan. On weekends, he pulls over "race mixing" teens to lecture them (with brute force) about BLOOD PURITY. She was just riding in a car with him, officer; no hanky panky involved. Ah, but EVEN THE PASSENGER GETS IN TROUBLE, as you will soon find out after the strip search.

I'm sorry, I got freaky there for a second. Of course, the cop is legit, since this is a site about kids and the law, but what law are they breaking here? From what we're shown, they were pulled over and frisked by an angry trooper for not wearing seat belts. Arizona is obviously taking "click it or ticket" a few steps beyond. Next step: death penalty for jaywalkers. The kid on your shoulders while you cross against the lights gets tossed to foster care because EVEN THE PASSENGERS GET IN TROUBLE.

LEARNER'S PERMIT: Pretty benign, although that kid does have a crazed glint in his eyes. I'd rather not be stuck behind him in traffic. Also, it's nice to see that Arizona put a DMV station in Gargamel's house instead of one of those stuffy concrete slab buildings. It gives license renewal a nice homey feel, and keeps the Smurf population under control.

MARIJUANA and SCHOOL THREATS : There's a reason I'm taking these two together (and you should read them in order for the full effect), because they both use a kid they call M.P. We're not really supposed to be thinking about continuity here, but taken as a sequence, does this tell us that smoking pot turns you into a squealer? A kid lights up a doobie, and all of the sudden he's ratting out teenage Hank Hill for making prank calls. They call him "Tommy" here, but any Dragnet fan knows that the names in the case histories are changed to protect the innocent. So M.P. gets Hank/Tommy permanently expelled, jaw hanging open in shock, and they still toss him in prison five years later. Maybe he's just overly paranoid, since he's already breaking a few laws and probably got pulled over by the fake state trooper earlier in the day.

The dangers of being in a Mike Judge cartoon.
Actually, all these kids look unspeakably afraid, like they were clued in to the fatalistic drama their ethnically-diverse lives were being plugged into. They're in a constant state of terror because they know that no matter what good intentions they have, turning in guys who make death threats or trying to get friends off the weed, M.P.'s still going to end up in jail by panel 5 for lighting that blunt, while Mikey is fated to be a nameless drone pointing at an incomprehensible chart. Or maybe the artist just got lazy and used clip art.

It's interesting that the Principal's desk plate is turned facing himself; maybe he just needs to keep reminding himself that he's not the janitor.

--Original post: September 23, 2004

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Guy Has A Name Now

The formerly anonymous blogger ("formerly" because obviously "they" know who he is now, and so do we) who since 2004 has posted the Rantings of a Sandmonkey blog will be on the non-international version of CNN during their 8pm EST show. Now that his blog has finally been restored to the land of the living and apparently more celebrated than ever, now's a good time to get acquainted with his work. "What do we actually want from the west?", an entry from 2005, caught my eye, since it gives the impression that a lot of Egyptians and Mubarak had a real Ike and Tina Turner-style relationship...and in spite of the events of the past week, some of them are still feeling the urge to let the old bastard in just one more time. An excerpt:
The people that are angry at the US and the EU for exerting pressure on Egypt to reform confuse me because they are protesting against a generally good thing that is in their benefit. They remind me of the battered wives that go bail out the husbands that are in jail for beating them: They know that they are giving their abusers sanction to keep beating them, which they don’t like, but they don’t want them in Jail for it either. Like the Wife on Cops that yells at the officer “That’s none of your business! Let my Husband Go!” for arresting her Husband for giving her a black eye. Their rational: “Such reforms should come from inside and shouldn’t be forced on us. What, are we helpless children or something, that we need the USA to demand Democracy in our name?”

To them I say : Yes!

I am sorry, but you are defending the person who abused you and oppressed you for the past 24 years. The person who, if it wasn’t for the US pressure and its presence in the region (which you so oppose), wouldn't have tolerated a single word of dissent from any of you and would’ve thrown every Kifaya/democracy activist in jail till Kingdom Come. You are basically angry at the US for doing what you couldn't do, for exposing you for the helpless choiceless victims that you were for the past 20 years. I am not saying that the democracy activists that are protesting now were silent before, I am saying that they couldn't be heard, weren’t allowed to organize and could never have criticized the President publicly before. The US pressure that you decry as foreign intervention every 5 seconds is the reason why you and those people now have voices, whether you like it or not.
Now that we can actually see the full blog, one other source of admiration: any activist whose puts a picture of Johnny Bravo in his masthead has platinum-plated balls.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


So there's this Egyptian activist/blogger who goes by the interesting handle of Sandmonkey, a man who has been doing whatever the hell he can to get the word out in a country where words can get your ass in the soup...or in the ground, as a few people found out last night. He's been writing, he's been tweeting, and (very importantly for the past few days) he's been one of the hundreds of thousands in the streets of Cairo.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty managed to get a few words with Sandmonkey a few days ago, and while he calls his recent experience at Egyptian activism "scary and exhilarating" he very ominously adds that activists have gone missing every day, and detention is the least of their worries. "The Egyptian regime is actually capable of horrifying things." So when Twitter reports started circulating that Sandmonkey had been arrested on the way to the front lines with medical supplies, people started fearing the worst.

At this writing, I can't link to his remarkable blog except in slightly-mangled Google Cache form. Freedom's Zone, Sandmonkey's hosting provider, claim it's just a temporary suspension while they sort out a few technical issues, so I'll be happy to link to where it's supposed to be on the slim chance that everybody involved is due for better days. What's in the cache is recommended reading all the way through, to say the least, since it points out that the issues which drove honest people into the streets didn't just spring from Zeus's head after a Wikileaks-inspired bender.

That final message (hopefully not the Final Message) before his ill-fated supply run is powerful medicine, too good to throw away. So the Internet people are doing what Internet people always do when confronted with repressed things: they mirror it, they mirror it, they mirror it, they mirror it. And really, that's all people half a world away can do with this particular situation. If those three copies go away, post ten. If the ten copies go down the filter hole, come back with twenty five. It might seem like another small gesture, but it's a necessary one. Let's make it inescapable.

(Edit @ 2:22 pm: The man himself updated his Twitter a little over three hours ago: "I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar(t)& supplies taken". Not the ideal end, but under the circumstances, better than was hoped for.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Hoplessly Inadequate Post About Egypt

I can't pretend to know diddly about squat about the Egyptian situation, except that I'm all for a people's right for self-governance and self-determination and loathe any strike against human rights, which means when given the choice, I'm with the people. It's also annoying to the extreme that my country's media has an almost provincial habit of not paying attention to the world unless something's on fire or being shot. With that in mind, here's a blog post from someone who really does know their stuff: "A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt."

Also, if you're not following already, be sure to follow @Jan25voices and Al Jazeera English for the latest updates. Somehow, a guy who never leaves his desk in Washington, DC is woefully inadequate when it comes to figuring out Cairo.

One thing I can say without sounding like a real tool: this was a hell of a time for Lieberman to put the "kill switch" bill back on the table. Way to go, Joe!

Update @ 1:43am Wednesday: Remember that Voice to Tweet thing Google set up? Alive In Egypt is a site dedicated to transcribing and translating them. Here's to hoping they don't need to stay in business for long.