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Monday, August 14, 2006

Clearly,, the Spanish-American War had the finest headwear of any military conflict.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush Being Bush and Sheriff Romney's Back in Town

Yesterday at the G8 summit, President Bush used an expletive to describe the ongoing violence in the Middle East. The media reaction to this has been akin to that of third graders when the teacher lets slip a frustrated curse under her breathe. The president’s language should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially people who make a living regurgitating what the man has to say.
Many of the major news outlets have been using the same short AP story to report the more sensational portion of the news. ‘What an idiot this guy is, he left the mic on and swore during a world summit,’ many must think. Why is America, and by extension, the Press, so shocked when Bush’s humanity leaks through his otherwise unfathomable persona? Johnson was the most foulmouthed president since the invention of voice recording, but I don’t recall reading about any giggle-fests breaking out in the newsrooms of America when LBJ used all manner of horrid speech to describe friends and enemies alike.
That AP article quotes Bush as saying “See, the irony is what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive)," with the deleted expletive clearly being the word “shit,” (oh my stars!) as heard on the fine video CNN has provided. There is a stunning lack of context for that quote. Who is “they,”? Israel? Lebanon? This uproar is over a quote that leaves out the very subject of the sentence in question. Don’t leave the modifier hanging like that, Associated Press, you know better.
The incident should be welcome verification to doubters of the president’s involvement and interest in his job. He showed personal frustration during a candid moment, not indifference or ignorance. Bush’s “cowboy” image is an extension of his genuine personality, a personality that includes a Texas-drawled profanity once in awhile. It’s perfectly expectable that he’d use that type of language in conversation with Tony Blair, a man he’s been friends and allies with for years now. In the fall of 2000, Bush called New York Times reporter Adam Clymer as “major league asshole,” in a candid remark to Dick Cheney. This is how the man communicates when he’s thinking on his own, not a sign of immaturity or ignorance. If anything, it’s a sign of Texas.
To see Bush giving a shit to the point of using the word “shit,” is impressive in and of itself. Blair didn’t respond to the comment by politely nodding and asking if he could talk to Dick on the secret puppeteer earpiece now, he responded as one Head of Government does to another. We should all rest a little easier knowing that the president has the ability to speak for our country at these types of summits without his handlers and shadowy shock troops feeding him lines. Or maybe we should be very upset that Cheney and Rove let him fly solo like this.
Blair is the one that should be worried about how he looks in the footage, not Bush. Tony Blair has been labeled a Bush crony since the Iraq invasion and his pandering responses to W’s irritation don’t help his case. He volunteered to go to Syria to lay the groundwork for Condi Rice’s upcoming visit. Why is the Prime Minister of The UK playing second fiddle to the US Secretary of State?

The Governor’s Back, and he’s packing charts!
For the first time in months, Governor and presumed presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been all over the local media for something other than not being in Massachusetts. Taking a page out of the Perrot playbook, he’s been on most every front page and 5pm newscast telling us, with helpful visual aids, all about how he’s going to figure out this Big Dig Tunnel mess. Mitt’s got drawings of bolts and ceiling panels, a bright national spotlight and a magic marker he is certainly not afraid to use to prove to all Americans (especially those in Iowa, New Hampshire and undecideds in Ohio) how he’s going to fix the tunnels, clean up the bureaucratic mess of the Commonwealth’s biggest tax sinkhole and make Boston safe for everyone.
Today’s Globe shows Romney up to his eyeballs in public outrage and loving every minute of it. He’s more or less taken over NECN for the past week, guiding the press through every nook and cranny of the tunnel problem with a Jerry Lewis-like stamina for television endurance.
Before Romney blew into town with his crisis-management guns a'blarin', Attorney General Tom Riley captured the headlines with his prompt announcement of an investigation into the matter. It would have been interesting to see Riley and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy go toe-to-toe in dealing with the fallout of the big dig, but Mitt and his fantastic hair (which only gets more fantastic after a good dry-erase board workout) have stolen that opportunity away from us.

Also: Shut up, Mike

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reexamining Large Flightless Birds

Somewhere between the small western Massachusetts towns of Montague and Turner’s Falls, one of those inexplicable random notions hijacked my train of thought like a hungry hobo looking for a meal or, failing that, a stabbing victim. The idea immediately took over my total attention, forcing me away from the daydream I was having about what horses would say to each other if they could speak.

The thought that burrowed its way straight through my mind was simple, but carried with it what can only be described as potentially catastrophic ramifications.

Is Big Bird a Muppet?

Take some time to think about that. Really consider for yourself how you feel about and define “Muppet” and how you approach pop culture classifications in general. Keep in mind that the term “Muppet” was created by Jim Henson to describe his half puppet, half mop creations. They are typically hand puppets with some added facial controls and boneless arms controlled by a stick attached to the hand. The Muppet brand name, however, extends to all the other Henson character beyond The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. I disagree with that definition and will stick to the popular idea that Muppet = mop + puppet.

My immediate reaction was that of course Big Bird isn’t a Muppet; he’s a guy in a suit. He’s no more a Muppet than any other costumed Jim Henson character. Is Jareth from Labyrinth considered a Muppet? Certainly not! In order to be measured among the pantheon of Muppetry, a character must be at least partially a puppet and have undeniable mop-like properties. This is why furry creatures like Grover -

I just remembered how the Big Bird idea germinated in my thoughts. I saw an enormous orange cat slouching itself down the road and thought of Garfield. Whenever I think of Garfield the comic cat, I then think of President James Garfield, which of course leads me to the other hilariously named President of the late nineteenth century, Grover Cleveland. Now, there isn’t a functioning subconscious born after 1970 that won’t automatically leap from Grover Cleveland to Grover the (in retrospect, seemingly bi-polar) blue monster from Sesame Street. It was then just a short hop to Big Bird and my current quandary. My mornings are spent on a very long bus ride of free association.

Back to the topic at hand. The mop definition is why furry or “felty” creatures like Grover or Ernie are Muppets, but a decidedly non-moppish Henson character like the leathery Yoda is not. So where’s Big Bird fit in? His feathers certainly land him in with the moppish camp, but if he’s just a man in a suit he’s no more a Muppet than Godzilla is.

Cleary, some research was required before this would be settled in a satisfying way. An unaccredited NPR interview with Carroll Spinney, the actor who plays Big Bird, is very enlightening. “Spinney stands inside Big Bird with his right arm extended above his head,” claims the article. “His right hand is the bird's beak, his arm the bird's neck. It's not very comfortable, especially if you're claustrophobic. He can't see out, so a tiny TV set strapped to his chest shows him what he looks like to the children viewing the show at home.”

Eureka! If this story is true and not some kind of elusive cover-up arranged by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it would seem that Big Bird, specifically his head, is indeed a puppet, making the big guy a certified Muppet.

Does this evidence conclusively solve the mystery of Big Bird’s breed? Hardly. People keep cherished characters close to their heart and can be very inflexible when it comes to changing their perspective on a character that practically raised them. I welcome any further thoughts, arguments or threats to extend and broaden this important debate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The column I wrote the other day for the Collegian:

Ponderance, poetry, and poop - Opinion

No form of written self-expression is quite as distinctive as bathroom graffiti. The intriguing balance of wit, insight and vulgarity yield hasty but thoughtful messages meant for the world to read and embrace. I myself have been an avid fan (and sometimes practitioner) of this kind of artistic endeavor for a long time. Since coming to UMass and being surrounded by the bright minds of academia, I've noticed that whether it's displayed in calligraphy near some of the finest academic minds on a university campus, or scrawled illegibly inside a musty bus terminal stall, restroom graffiti doesn't change much.

The significance of this most personal of writing comes from the public nature of its display. There is no specific audience for restroom wall literature, since, as one of the most famous bathroom-related books tells us in no uncertain terms, Everyone Poops. The writings are to be read and understood by everyone that may walk into that stall at any given moment. This gives the slogans, poems and other messages a kind of every-man quality that is to be admired.

But UMass is a menagerie of different academic interests, each with its own mindset and sense of humor. Shouldn't graffiti in these specialized areas differ according to these distinctions?

To find out, I began a small and informal study of this campus' bathroom walls. My research was limited to men's rooms for obvious reasons (my apologies to any journalism professors I have shamed by not going that extra undercover mile) and took place mostly around the south side of campus. My results yielded some interesting quotations and vast amounts of typical toilet humor. Here are some of the highlights.

The men's rooms of Herter Hall, home to the Foreign Language, Classics, Comp. Lit. and History departments, didn't have nearly as much fine-tuned wit as I've come to expect from the humanities hub of campus. The third floor (nearest to Comp. Lit.), however, holds a bevy of tasteless, unprintable limericks I hope you all seek out and enjoy for yourselves.
Isenberg School of Management, the sparkling jewel in UMass' crown of alumni gratuity, offered some commendably vulgar, but nonetheless uninspired dirty messages. I had expected such a fine building (which never fails to remind me of a junior high school for some reason) to have freshly painted stalls with gold-plated toilet seats, but the restrooms were just as well-kept as the rest of campus.

The Fine Arts Center provided some decent quotes from our more introspective and theatrical friends. After wading through the declaration "College is a wasteland" and various sexually-confused name-calling in one stall (what the hell are you doing in the theater department if you think theater is gay?) I came across this gem:

"Theater is Life. Cinema is Art. TV is furniture." - Could have used some more naughty words, but soulful all the same.

Bartlett Hall's first floor bathroom (nearest the Journalism office) had some excellent and remarkably long-winded graffiti. One shit-stall Shakespeare must have spent a very long time concocting the novel-length epic on the right-side wall. I won't reproduce it here, but rest assured it's the kind of depressing and monotonous prattle you can expect from someone who just realized that the degree they've spent four years working on will land them a wonderful job editing obituaries in a city they've never heard of. There is also a wonderful little rhetorical question concerning one billion dollars, a three-way and your parents.

The third floor of lovely Bartlett Hall features the finest piece of visual art I came across, a piece entitled "Autobot Bong" showing the famous product logo transformed into a configuration we're not likely to ever see on Toys 'R Us shelves.

Finally, I found the perfect combination of vulgarity and profundity I was searching for. Those lovable clowns from the Philosophy department captured both the depth of their studies with the simple Cartesian pronouncement of "THINK." and the wonderfully crude little elegy:

"Brokenhearted where I sit,
tried to fart
but out came shit."

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Ten Greatest Television and Movie Germans

10. Sigmund Freud – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

“What is a geek?”

When Socrates calls you a geek, you know you are one.

9. Kroenen – Hellboy


He wasn’t just a Nazi killing machine, he was a mechanical, clockwork Nazi killing machine made out of sand and sprockets held together with Occult magic. In the ridiculous opening scene of Hellboy, this guy shoots about a dozen American soldiers square between the eyes with a luger, one of the most inaccurate sidearms ever created.

8. Oglethorpe – ATHF

“What do you know of fire? You prance around like you have laser eyes. You don't!”

Yes, he’s an alien. But he’s an alien with a German accent. His pointy body and scemes to destroy the Earth and steal free cable could only come from the mind of the vicious Hun.

7. Col. Wilheml Klink


Nothing in high school was more traumatic than watching the actor who played Col. Klink, Werner Klempere,r play different Nazi in the in the not-so-zany historical drama “Judgment at Nuremburg.” Why? Because they hanged poor Col. Klink! Didn’t they know that Stalag 13 was the happiest, most carefree prison camp in the whole of the third Reich? Klink was a push over, and he probably didn’t even like Hitler.

6. The Hessian Horseman – Sleepy Hollow


Burton missed a great opportunity by not giving Christopher Walken any lines other than “Graah!” to deliver with what can safely be assumed would have been the greatest German accent ever.

5. Dolph Lundgren – Anything

He is not human, he is a piece of iron!”

I don’t care if he’s Swedish, he’s been a German in every film he’s ever made, even in ones that require him to be American or Russian.

4. German motorist – Supertroopers

He was going vay too fast.

3-1. The Nihilists – The Big Lebowski.

First we have that third guy no one cares about, but his girlfriend gave her toe, so he counts. Second, Peter Stormare is the most Swedish man on the planet, but he’s such a fantastic actor he can play German flawlessly. And not only a German, but a German porn star named Karl Hungus. And then there is my number one movie German – Flea as Kieffer. Flea has 2 film cameos I can think of and the other is as a hippie licking acid off of Johnny Depp. Plus, he plays a mean trumpet. What a career this man has had!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Testing out this crazy blogging craze. Maybe I'll start a podcast next week.