Friday, June 30, 2006

Makin' Copies

I know we aren't really supposed to laugh at other people's misery, but this guy was askin' for it, wasn't he?


Since I was on vacation, I forgot about this week's Top 10.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Back From Vacation

Just after Christmas The Viscountess looked over at me from behind her laptop and decreed,

“We won’t have enough money for a vacation this year.”

“Bloody Shite,” I muttered. “Maybe we can get away for a weekend?”


A couple nights later she said,

“I’m going to win us a vacation. I downloaded some software that keeps track of contests that you have entered. I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks after dinner surfing the ‘net for vacation contests.”


And for the next week or so, that is exactly what she did. I’d see her tapping away on her laptop, cursing because the auto fill wasn’t working correctly or shaking her head because she stumbled upon a timeshare scam.

A couple weeks later we were inundated with brochures.

“Hawaiian Getaways!”
“Come to the Keys!”
“Kentucky Vacations.”

It must have been sometime in March when she messaged me at work:

TheViscountess: I did it! I won us a vacation!

Al: Really? Where? Italy? Bermuda?

TheViscountess: Er, nothing like that.

Al: Well, where then?

TheViscountess: The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Al: Ok. They want to sell us a timeshare or a condo, right?

TheViscountess: That is what I thought! But no, it is legitimate. I spoke to the lady at the chamber of commerce and everything. 3 nights at our own cottage, meal cards at local restaurants, and passes to the attractions.


The cottage was beautiful. It had a full kitchen, 2 full baths, TV with DVD player and a Hot Tub. The first full day we were there, it rained. We went to “Forbidden Caverns” then we saw “The Great China Circus.” Both were excellent things to do on a rainy day in the Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee.

That night, we went to Gatlinburg for dinner and then walked the shops.

That is when it hit me.


I am not an American. I mean, not really. I was born and raised in the suburbs of NY City. That is not America.

Gatlinburg is America. Confederate flags. American Flags. Tattoos. Obnoxious t-shirts. Body piercings. Country music. Profanity. Obesity.

And Jesus.

Jesus. People saying "grace" before meals. Crucifix's. Fish. Bumper-stickers. "God Bless America."
Everywhere you look.

Gatlinburg, TN. is America, and it makes perfect sense that George Bush is their president. Who else would be?
I know when it comes to Christianity and religion, I'm in the minority and I have to learn to live with it, but I can't for the life of me come to some kind of closure regarding the fact that the actual culture of Christianity in America is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the ultimate pacifist. He had compassion for the poorest people, and held rich people in contempt. While I do know Christians who actually respect the teachings of Jesus, the actual Culture of Christianity in the American South is pro-war, pro-gun, and it celebrates selfishness and greed. It is a Culture of Hypocrisy. I just have to learn to live with blatant contradiction...
Anyway, we had a real nice time, and I'm thankful that we had the opportunity to go. We relaxed - just the two of us and it was a great couple of days.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Speaking Of Irony

Go read Mr. Cranky's review of "An Inconvenient Truth."

From the review:

"Gore shows us tons of pictures of melting polar ice caps, holes in Greenland, and receding glaciers around the world. Just who took these pictures? Since Gore invented the Internet, he must have heard of Photoshop. Hell, I could make a glacier recede in about five seconds with Photoshop. I also know some swift boat veterans who would be happy to frag Gore and cast some doubts on his claims (though frankly, you get enough whiskey and baskets of cheese fries into those guys and they'll frag anybody). "

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Ass

I haven’t had much motivation to write since the layoffs at my company last week.

Previously, when we had layoffs you could rationalize it with thoughts such as these:

“That guy did have a pretty bad attitude.”
“She was nice but she just couldn’t do the job.”
“He was lazy.”

Not this time. This time top performers were let go. There was this one gentleman from Scotland. Everybody loved him. Customers, his direct reports, his peers. Everybody. Calling him competent would be insulting. He was great.


His visa is of a type that is tied directly to the company you work for. This means he has 10 days to settle his affairs and get out. He can come back for 90 days to finish up – but airfare isn’t cheap especially when you are out of a job.

The company is in the black. Making a profit. Just not enough profit. Stocks prices had dropped in the last few months, but the market over all hasn’t been that great.

In all, 200 people were let go in the US. 150 new people were hired in Bangalore.

What has happened in America sickens me. If you work for a corporation, you are working to make 2 or 3 people wealthy. And those 2 or 3 people are busy working out how to eliminate your job.

I’m sure the officers and the executives feel pretty badly about it. They went to Vegas this week to cheer themselves up…

Monday, June 19, 2006

An Absence of Irony

My friend, “Decatur Dem” left this as a comment over at Neddie's:


I remember a conversation several years back with a surgeon I was working with, a Texan, arch-conservative, arch-fundamentalist, graduate of Texas Christian if I recall correctly. Somehow the Joe Walsh song "Life's Been Good to Me" came up:

I have a mansion, forget the price
Ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice
I live in hotels, tear out the walls
I have accountants pay for it all

They say I'm crazy but I have a good time
I'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime
Life's been good to me so far

My Maserati does one-eighty-five
I lost my license, now I don't drive
I have a limo, ride in the back
I lock the doors in case I'm attacked...

"I can't stand that man," he said. "What kind of life is that?"

"Er... Irony? I think he's just being ironic."

"I don't believe in irony." (Said in a tone that invited no further discussion). "Where I come from, you say what you mean."

Stunned me right into silence, then changing the subject. Pretty clearly, he saw himself and all right-thinking Texans as straight shooters, and all irony users as duplicitous pantywaists. Even though the song is, actually, kinda conservative, since it points out the silliness of rock star hedonism, and does it so well, too.


So, that explains it, doesn’t it? If you hate irony, if you don’t get irony, if you distrust people who employ the use of irony to get an idea across subtly, you vote for George Bush. Not an ironic bone in that man’s body. He says exactly what he means.

“You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..."

George W. Bush – 1989

“My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

George W. Bush – 1999

“Listen, I'm just as shocked as you are that I'm sitting here talking about the presidency -- it's never been a part of my -- my life's ambition hasn't always been to be the president.”

George W. Bush – 2000

“It was amazing I won. I was running against peace and prosperity and incumbency.”

George W. Bush – 2001

“If I answer questions every time you ask one, expectations would be high. And as you know, I like to keep expectations low.”

George W. Bush – 2002

“I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are ... probably read the news themselves.”

George W. Bush – 2003

“One of the most amazing events of my life, at least as the presidency, was to go to the NASCAR Race here at the Daytona 500.”

George W. Bush – 2004

“It's a myth to think I don't know what's going on. And it's a myth to think that I'm not aware that there is opinions that don't agree with mine. Because I'm fully aware of that. ...I see a lot of the news. Every morning I look at the newspaper I can tell you what the headlines are. I must confess, if I think the story is, like, not a fair appraisal, I'll move on.”

George W. Bush – 2005

“You know, it's amazing, when people say to me, well, he was just breaking the law. If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefin' Congress? Heh!”

George W. Bush – 2006

Source – Dubyaspeak.

Don't forget this week's Top 10.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Butterfly Batted Her Wings In China

They unceremoniously laid off 15% of our division's workforce yesterday without warning. They let some of the best people go because the idiots who made the decisions didn’t know who was who, or worse, let them go because their competency was a threat.

Corporations have become nothing more than vessels to make a few people extremely wealthy at the expense of our entire way of life. There is no semblance of community and no responsibility to the society whatsoever. Indeed, whole companies have been destroyed either deliberately or through negligence with the desired result of two or three people walking away with millions.

Watching this last night cheered me up a bit in the aftermath. Thank chaos for Steven Colbert.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Who Is This Man?

While reading this week’s Democratic Underground’s Top 10, this particular story aroused a bit of ire:

"Wheelchair-confined Richard Paey committed almost exactly the same violations of Florida prescription drug laws that radio personality Rush Limbaugh did, with a different result: Limbaugh's sentence, in May, was addiction treatment, and Paey's, in 2004, was 25 years in prison. Both illegally possessed large quantities of painkillers for personal use, which Paey defiantly argued was (and will be) necessary to relieve nearly constant pain from unsuccessful spinal surgeries after an auto accident, but which Limbaugh admitted was simply the result of addiction. (In fact, if Limbaugh complies with his plea bargain, his conviction will be erased.) Paey's sentence now rests with a state Court of Appeal. [Tampa Tribune, 2-8-06]"

According to Florida’s legal system, attempting to ease the physical pain from an auto-accident and spinal surgery using pain-killers merits a 25-year jail sentence, but easing the emotional pain from being a rich republican conservative blowhard radio asshole is understandable and excusable with just a slap-on-the-wrist. I guess the Florida legal system agrees with Rush Limbaugh’s opinions regarding the illegal drug use, except when the person caught using drug’s illegally is a rich republican conservative blowhard radio asshole:

"We have alcoholics and drug addicts in our society, don't we? And what do we say about them? 'Well, they can't help it. Why, it's genetic. Why, they have a disease. Why, put one thimbleful of scotch in front of them and they can die.' We totally exempt them from any control over their lives, do we not? Some athlete will spend two years snorting lines of coke. 'He can't help it. You know, it's -- it's just -- it's not -- it's -- it's genetic. These people -- they're predisposed to having this addictive syndrome. They -- they can't help.' Yeah, like that line of cocaine just happened to march into the hotel, go up to the athlete's room and put itself right there in front of him on his blotter."

"And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs,
using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good
because we know what happens to people in societies and
neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if
people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought
to be accused and they ought to be convicted and
they ought to be sent up."

"What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."

- Rush Limbaugh


By the way, check out this most excellent post from Media Matters regarding the soulless, heartless hypocritical plagiarist Ann Coulter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Obscure Gems - Number 1 in a Series

This is Neal Morse. Not widely known outside of the “neo-prog” movement of the 90’s. With his band Spock’s Beard and side project Transatlantic he was at forefront of some of the best post 70’s prog I’ve heard. Some die-hard prog fans are quick to point out the fact that these groups wear their influences on their sleeves, and I can’t argue with them. Listening to Spock’s Beard is like the Stars-on-45 version of Yes-Genesis-ELP-Kansas-Gentle Giant-King Crimson medley. That doesn’t bother me the way it bothers Soundsurfr and Xtcfan, because Neal’s songwriting is top-notch and the music is memorable. The arrangements may be derivative, but Neal's melodies are original and quite tuneful. I unapologetically love the prog music of the 70's and this stuff gets close.

Even more obscure than Spock’s Beard is Neal’s solo career. He cut two albums in the 90’s that went nowhere fast. He dabbled in all sorts of music, including pop. Neal has since quit Spock’s Beard to record “Christian” music. He continues to make some pretty good records musically, but I’m just not interested in hearing about his “journey” and how he was “saved.” As a friend of mine once said, “Do Christian carpenters only build churches?”

From his first self-titled solo record, here is Neal Morse playing every instrument but drums (Spock’s own Nick DiVirgilio) on “Nowhere Fast.” This one qualifies as one of The Viscount's Obscure Gems.

Nowhere Fast (listen)
By Neal Morse
From "Neal Morse"

There is this girl I know
She hates my guts I love her so
But I've got a simple mind
It thinks just this: she will be mine
I tell her "I like your dress"
She says I'm sick, disturbed, obsessed
Well I don't know what that's about
She won't say why she won't go out with me

She keeps tellin' me she doesn't need a reason
And all my friends think that I'm bein' outclassed
But I just got to be her first or at least her last
And I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast

I had a shirt designed, it has her face pressed into mine
I never wear it, I keep it new
She says she'll kill me if I do
I'm puzzled and perplexed, I'm overwhelmed and under-sexed
And I still can't figure why she says she'd rather die than be with me

She keeps tellin' me she doesn't need reasons
And all my friends think that I'm bein' outclassed
But I just got to be her first or at least her last
And I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast

She'd like to see me drown in my own tears
Well that's all right
Even if it takes a hundred years
Well that's all right
Yeah that's all right

She keeps tellin' me she doesn't need reasons
And all my friends think that I'm bein' outclassed
But I just got to be her first or at least her last
And I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
I'm getting nowhere fast
Getting nowhere
I'm getting nowhere fast
Getting nowhere
I'm getting nowhere fast


For the prog fans, I’ve posted my favorite “Spock” track – click here to listen to “The Doorway” from the hard to find “Beware of Darkness” album.

Don't forget this week's Top 10.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday.

This business with Ann Coulter has really gotten me down.


She represents everything that is wrong with the human race. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't actually know people who adore her. Who defend her. Who agree with her. Who wish they could sleep with her.

But I do.

Here’s my song for my birthday.

Cynical Days (listen)
By Colin Moulding
From XTC's “Oranges and Lemons”

Another year's gone by, the world's grown older
Sometimes I heave a sigh, people grow colder
Every day I do my best to show,
I can make it in this world I know
But all the bad thoughts that people bring
My faith in human nature's getting pretty thin

Help me get through these cynical days
Help me get through my cynical ways
You say it's just a passing phase
You've got to help me get through, these cynical days

Another see through scheme, people are shallow
The dark night's closing in, my dark thoughts follow
I try and make my world a better place
(my efforts seem in vain)
But I'm competing in a human race
(falling deeper down the drain)
That value things that just don't count
Makes me wonder what it's all about

Help me get through these cynical days
Help me get through my cynical ways
You say it's just a passing phase
You've got to help me get through, these cynical days

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Christian Video Game - Kill The Unbelievers

I think someone must have slipped me some really potent acid just before 9/11/2001 and I'm now in a psychiatric ward in a catatonic state dreaming of a world where all of this surrealism is normal.

This is so absurd, so ironic, and so blatantly contradictory, and yet so fitting for what we have all been living through.

While you're at it, check this out too.

You can read more about these items on this week's Top 10.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Attack on Reason

This new attack on reason has left me feeling defeated, demoralized, disappointed, disillusioned and despondent. As hard as I try, I just can’t see how legalizing same-sex marriage would be an attack on anything, let alone an "attack on marriage." I can’t see how it would have any impact on my own life or my own marriage or anyone else's for that matter. I can’t see any disadvantages to it for anyone. I can’t see how banning it would make things any better for anyone. My company recognizes domestic partnerships between two consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation. My marriage is still intact.

I was legally married to a member of the opposite sex in 1984. We were married in a Methodist Church by an ordained minister of that faith. That marriage was recognized by the US government and by The Methodist Church, and (presumably) received God’s blessing. It resulted in 3 children. The marriage failed and I was legally divorced in 1996. There were many reasons as to why this happened, but the prospect of legalizing gay marriage or even the mere existence of same-sex couples was irrelevant.

I have since remarried. Again to a woman. This time I was married in a government building by a judge. Not so surprisingly, the existence of same-sex couples married or not has not been a factor in the success of my current happy marriage either.

The point? My marriage is recognized by the US government, but it (presumably) didn’t receive God’s blessing. I am legally married as defined by the laws of our (barely) secular nation, but I don’t believe most churches recognize my marriage. I know the Catholic Church doesn't. This suits me and most likely them just fine. Churches are not forced to recognize legal marriages. I’m not only comfortable with this arrangement – I’m thrilled with it. Churches are free to believe in any stupid superstition they care to believe in and I'm free to reject their idiocy. Churches preach lies as truth and label truth as fiction every day. The fact is, I'm legally married. Their opinion of my maritial status is irrelevant. This is called "Freedom of Religion" and this is why the forefathers were careful to create the "wall of separation between church and state."

Same-sex marriage is no more a threat to other peoples’ marriages than my opposite-sex marriage. Discrimination is wrong. Organized, concerted discrimination for political gain as currently being practiced by The President and his minions in the Republican Party is despicable, disgusting, deplorable and demeaning.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bob Dylan And Johnny Cash

Go over to Anita's place and pick up the link back to The Heretik's.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Peter Gabriel - Imagine

One day my son said to me (he was about 12 at the time.)

"Sometimes I get Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins confused, except that whenever I think to myself that 'this song is lame' it turns out to be Phil Collins..."

Here then is Peter Gabriel's awesome interpretation of "Imagine," as performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics. I wish he would do this one in the studio. It most certainly is not lame.