June 29, 2009

A Yellow Card for a Coup d'Etat

YESTERDAY'S golpe del estado in Honduras was a rather strange coup d'etat -- if only because it was executed almost perfectly. Within the space of a day, the Hondurans managed to exile their proto-caudillo, Señor Manuel Zelaya; installed a new leader under the conventions of their Constitution; got the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress to agree the measures were perfectly fine; and agreed that a national unity Government would run things until elections could be held. These elections, mind you, would be the regularly scheduled elections due to be held in five months' time. Even more amazingly, the Hondurans managed to pull the thing off with almost no bloodshed.

It is thus no surprise the American Government, which for the past 50 years has almost universally screwed up handling Latin American affairs, would find this a bad thing. Once again, the foreign policy dunces in Washington are falling into the same trap in which their predecessors were ensnared; and once again, Washington will completely blow a fantastic opportunity to turn things in our direction.

Let us not forget that, back in 2002, we had a perfect opportunity to rid ourselves of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez when a revolt broke out there. What did we do? We did nothing, and said it was a bad thing Chavez -- that stupid, cruel strongman who has since ground his country into the dust -- was removed from power. Two days later, the coup collapsed and we've been stuck with him ever since. One would hope we wouldn't be dumb enough to not capitalize on a similar situation in Honduras. Yet instead of just issuing a polite statement of concern and leaving it at that, we have condemned the action and our ambassador to Honduras has declared the United States will only recognize Sr Zelaya as president.

Great. Wonderful.

It is worth noting just why Sr Zelaya was thrown out. It seems Sr Zelaya did not like the idea he would have to leave the Honduran presidency, and decided he wanted a referendum on whether he could run again for the office. The Honduran Supreme Court forbade him from doing so. The Congress was furious at the idea. The military, which has a large administrative role in Honduran elections, refused to help. Yet Sr Zelaya did not desist. He ordered the military to assist; when it did not, he fired its chief. He then tried to run roughshod over Honduras' institutions to bring the illegal plebiscite about. Honduras, for its part, got sick of it. And I'm sorry, but when the Supreme Court, the Congress and the military all combine to get rid of the President, the checks and balances equation works. For more on this, see Mary Anastasia O'Grady's essay in today's Wall Street Journal.

It is also worth noting how the usual suspects have reacted. The Cuban Government declared the coup "brutal" and "criminal." (That's the pot calling the kettle black). The Nicaraguan Government was similarly displeased, as were the useless and wretched Governments of Bolivia and Ecuador. Last -- but certainly not least -- Colonel Chavez himself has reacted furiously to the news. Apparently, Col Chavez is so upset that he has mobilized the Venezuelan military (yawn) and threatened to bring down the new Government.

It is true the Hondurans have given these Governments some reason to complain. Apparently, some of the Honduran soldiers who engaged in the coup d'etat chastised the Nicaraguan, Cuban and Venezuelan ambassadors in the process of removing Sr Zelaya. Although one could theoretically argue the envoys of those three nations perhaps deserved it on general principle grounds -- being the point men for their countries' machinations -- it is very much poor form to subject diplomats to such physical manhandling. It should not have been done, and was reprehensible. So that's definitely deserving of a yellow card.

But only a yellow card, in my mind. So far, we've not heard of the Honduran military machine-gunning protestors, nor have we heard of them liquidating its political opponents en masse. Even Sr Zelaya was allowed to keep his head. Thus far, at any rate, the military and other Honduran leaders have handled the coup about as well as could be expected. True, that may change, but until it does, one cannot fault them for going overboard. Particularly when the coup plotters do have a considerable measure of public support for their action.

Also, it's worth noting the Hondurans do not especially care what the rest of the world thinks, and have decided the best defense is a good offense. Already the Honduran Congress has been telling the U.S. to -- well, go jump in a lake -- and President Roberto Micheletti has been making the case that the transition was perfectly legal. One would hope the U.S. would eventually see the wisdom of this, and at least offer its private support to the new Government while explaining it must do other things for public consumption.

As a general rule, coups d'etat are not the ideal way to bring about positive change, but in this situation I can't fault the Hondurans for throwing Sr Zelaya out. In recent weeks it became clear he was plotting to usurp the powers held by the nation's institutions and seize them for his own benefit. Removing him from office and exiling him will thus maintain Honduras' democratic traditions, and God willing, save it from going the way of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Accordingly, The Rant hopes President Micheletti will steer Honduras through these rough waters with a calm hand and judicious restraint, and puts the country on a fast track back to normality.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2009

A Refreshing Call for Openness, But ...

SO TODAY I chanced across a column from Will Bunch, a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, in which he chides the Washington media for their inept war coverage prior to our invasion of Iraq. Since even the most ardent booster of the operation would have to admit things in Iraq have been problematic, Mr Bunch asks why not enough work was done to examine the policy aspects of the war beforehand.

But he really hits home when he accused the Washington media of being self-serving -- downright venal, really -- in their coverage. Mr Bunch, who here is citing the work of journalist Michael Hastings, writes:

But Hastings focuses on the reason that I find the most chilling: That Beltway journalists felt that staying with "the pack" -- avoiding what would be a contrarian, and thus uncool (my word) position -- was the safest way to climb the well-paying and prestigious career ladder ...

... Hastings correctly notes that there is safety in the pack, that journaliists who got it wrong had the comfort of knowing that so did everyone else -- and that you could always change your position with everyone else as events on the ground changed. The real-world consequences of being wrong...well, those were 11,000 miles away.

This is a well-considered point. With any given issue, there are at least two sides to consider, and when the issues are important matters related to them deserve heavy scrutiny. When we're dealing with a war -- a matter of the gravest importance -- the scrutiny should, if at all possible, be ultimate. Personally, I would not criticize the Washington media as much as Mr Bunch does, if only because journalists must rely on their sources; and if all one's sources are saying X even when one tries desperately to find someone to say Y, there's only so much one can do. Resources are not infinite; time is not infinite; even if one does one's best to look at an issue, things can still go awry.

Still, as I said, it's a fair point Mr Bunch made. Which leads me to my next question: had things been exactly reversed, would Mr Bunch have written such a stirring column?

Let's say, just for kicks, that back in 2003 the press believed the war would be an absolute disaster and we were entering into a ruinous quagmire. Let's further say that, in this alternate universe, the war was a complete success. Not only were we welcomed as liberators, Iraq soon became stable and prosperous and free, and everyone there got along, and the birds flew and the angels sighed. Would Mr Bunch ask why the press screwed up so badly in its initial assessment?

I'm just wondering, because if you ask me, there's a bit of a herd mentality when it comes to how a lot of things are covered these days. Global warming, the housing market, the economy, you name it -- there's often not much difference out there.

Why, I would venture to guess 80 percent of journalists thought, in 2006, the housing market would never relinquish its gains; that on March 6 of this year, 90 percent believed we were headed for financial Armageddon; and that 95 percent now believe global warming is not only certain, but is such a crisis that it requires spending hundreds of billions of dollars to try and stop it.

Were I a cynic -- and I am most certainly not -- I might even suggest that Mr Bunch benefits now from this herd mentality, as certainly no one popular thinks our endeavor in Iraq is going well, and it's a lot easier to castigate others when one has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Now, it may be Mr Bunch has been right all along, and railed against the effort prior to it being a gleam in Rumsfeld's eye; I am not familiar enough with his work to know. But if that's not the case, then I have to ask -- where was this column six years ago?

But I don't mean to take away from his main point. A journalist has to keep his eye on the truth, whether he likes it or not. I just hope this spirit of open-mindedness and intellectual rigor carries through to coverage of everything else.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2009

In Which I Have a Fit of Pique

PRIOR TO RETIRING this evening, I was scanning the newswires when I noticed a story from the Agence France-Presse which rather annoyed me. Apparently, President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court has won favor with diabetic activists. This is because Judge Sotomayor has Type I diabetes, the youth-onset form of the disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin to process the sugar in one's blood.

Now, I will certainly not deny this is heartwarming in a way, particularly if it brightens the day of an eight-year-old some place who can't have ice cream. But what got me was this quote, from no less than the American Diabetes Association:

"As this process moves forward, the diabetes community expects that Judge Sotomayor's nomination will be evaluated based on her qualifications and years of experience -- and not her diabetes. To evaluate her in any other way would be a disservice to the United States."

Wait, what? Where the hell did this come from? Does the American Diabetes Association seriously believe that Judge Sotomayor's opponents will denounce her because she has ... diabetes? Do they expect a scurillous whispering campaign against her because ... she has a relatively common ailment? "Oh, well, she'd be a great Supreme Court justice, but it just wouldn't do if they had to lop off her feet?"

For that matter, since when is there a diabetes community? When have people with diabetes ever decided they're part of a big group? And looking at it on a malady-specific basis, when have diabetics ever been consigned to, say, lepers' colonies? I mean, announcing one has diabetes does not, as far as I can tell, lead one to be cast out into the outer darkness, whereupon there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh but this kind of gnaws at me, as I myself am a diabetic (Type II) and don't exactly appreciate all this sympathy-mongering. It's diabetes. It's not cancer. It's also not AIDS. It's also not tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, leishmanaisis, cholera, progeria, elephantiasis, Kaposi's sarcoma, gout, cystic fibrosis, or muscular dystrophy. Oh, and it's also not leprosy. It's diabetes. It's eminently treatable.

This is not to say that being diabetic is fun. It's not. For one thing, you really have to cut down on refined sugars, and you can forget about things like regular soda. For another, you can forget about getting decent health coverage outside of a group plan, because you now have a pre-existing condition and as such are anathema to prospective health insurers. You can't even sign up for those lame-o event-specific plans that pay you if, say, you get hurt and miss work. (Trust me, I found this out myself).

But worst of all, you now suddenly find yourself set upon by a veritable army of do-gooders who want you to embrace your condition, like it's your long-lost brother Rex who left home many years ago. Great. Wonderful.

I mean, I'm sorry, but if I'm stuck with the Mark of Cain stamped on my medical dossier, I don't see why I should suddenly become one with the stupid ailment. My identity is not wrapped up in the fact I have diabetes. Nor, for that matter, is it wrapped up in the fact I have sleep apnea, wretched sinuses, a nagging pain in my right shoulder and several other ailments of which I'll spare you the details. And I have to say, I resent the idea that a physical malady should somehow put an imprint on my soul.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2009

All the Time in the World

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

LOYAL RANT READERS -- and there are a few hundred left, apparently -- may recall the timeline of events over the past few months. I was quite busy, and then became exceedingly busy for several months earlier this year, only to find myself now not busy at all.

As a result, I now can work on yet another edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! For those readers unfamiliar with this exercise, this involves me looking over the various search engine queries through which people have arrived at the site, and chuckling over them. Then I write (hopefully) clever responses so you too can chuckle at them. So, without further ado, here we go!

QUERY: accidentally served meat in restaurant

ANSWER: I don't understand why this is a problem. Oh, I'm sure it was traumatic and upsetting to get the roast duck served up to you, but here's the thing -- it's meat. Glorious, wonderful meat. As such, you can tell it's meat on the plate, which means you ought have discovered this before you consumed it. Furthermore, unless you possess some odd malady where meat consumption causes your gastrointestinal system to instantly corrode, the arguable ill effects of this are consequently de minimis.

QUERY: student suits against universities involving breach of contract

ANSWER: I always find these amusing, as it helps prove the old maxim that students are generally wrong about everything. I mean, come on now. No one forces people to go to university -- and generally speaking, I have to think university is not the best choice for many people. This goes particularly when one realizes one can be a plumber or electrician and make a decent, middle-class lifestyle.

QUERY: enterprise class of 94 commercial

ANSWER: I hate this commercial. You see, I graduated from high school in 1994. So every time I see it, I realize that even showing up in a rented Cadillac sedan would give me no luck in picking up any of my single ex-high school classmates.

QUERY: bad office team names

ANSWER: The Synergizers sounds pretty bad, no?

QUERY: a man of trained sensibility would have seen at once that the room was

ANSWER: ... a COMPLETE disaster! I mean, my God. Look at those drapes.

QUERY: romantic things to do at purdue

ANSWER: Oh, good luck with that.

QUERY: go to jail for stealing newspaper ?

ANSWER: Yes, you can and should go to jail for stealing a newspaper. Why, a newspaper is a fine and worthy product deserving of your 50 cents each day (or lesser amount, subject to subscription discount). Besides, when you steal a newspaper, the actions of your theft multiply into many dollars. It's true.

QUERY: houston texans anonymous blogger

ANSWER: I'd be anonymous too if I blogged about the Houston Texans. Gad. I mean, why not just show up to the stadium with a paper bag over your head? Better yet, why not just invite Peyton Manning to hit you in the head with a crowbar every week?

QUERY: eminent eminent people one and all members of the society for the prevention of fantasy

ANSWER: Yes, as well they should be. After all, imagination is not conducive to production. In these dire economic times, people must especially not give into flights of fancy, imagination, whimsy or joy. Prevent decadence! Prevent time-wasting! You'll be happier tomorrow for it!

QUERY: explain to me and show me how to do a portfolio i have 90 000 thousand and i want to invest it in 5 different mutual funds i want to ivest $30 000 for a wedding $20 000 for retirement $10 000 for vaction $10 000 for a home $10 000 for education $10 000 for emercy

ANSWER: You have $90,000? Really? Dang. I don't know anyone with $90,000. What's that? OK, so I do. Never mind. But I certainly do not have $90,000. I was kinda getting close to that, once. Goddammit.

Anyway, why the hell are you going to spend $30,000 of it on a wedding? 'Cause let's be clear -- money that goes towards a wedding is not invested, but rather takes the express train to money heaven. Same goes with the ten grand you want to spend on vacation.

The fact you're spending a good forty grand on a wedding and a vacation, and that you're considering investing it in the stock market, is prima facie evidence you should pay me 2 pc per annum plus 20 percent of gains to manage the remainder for you.

QUERY: how far is michagan from ohio

ANSWER: Not far enough?

QUERY: is qdro illegal pension gouging

ANSWER: No, no matter how much you're annoyed with your ex-wife.

QUERY: i have $240 what should i do with it

ANSWER: This really ain't my concern.

QUERY: what does if you seek a pleasant peninsula look around you mean

ANSWER: It means that if you live in Michigan, enjoy the natural beauty and wonder of the state for the three months in which it isn't snow-covered, because you have all the time in the world. You know, because there aren't any jobs.

QUERY: how much money is michigan getting for the stimulas

ANSWER: It could be as much as $3 -- maybe $4. Ask your Canadian overlord.

QUERY: 30 years old getting over high school crush

ANSWER: Oh my. Uh ... look, you've really got to move on.

QUERY: big chair corporation has an roe of 16% and a plowback ratio of 50%. if the coming year’s earnings are expected to be $2 per share at what price will the stock sell? the market capitalization rate is 12%.

ANSWER: It depends on whether the analyst covering it for a major Wall Street firm has gotten dirt on Big Chair Corp. from his hedge-fund friends who are shorting it. Have you learned nothing? Besides, if you want me to apply the Gordon model, you've left out the discount rate and the dividend payout.

QUERY: what does a negative alpha of a stock means

ANSWER: You should vote against all the management-sponsored ideas that show up on your proxy form.

QUERY: the american media has been strangly silent vatican hosts darwin conference.

ANSWER: They're all on furlough.

QUERY: why people hate sport?

ANSWER: Good question, since most people who hate sport don't own televisions, and thus have no basis on which to make their claims. Also jealousy, because really -- who should earn more? An extremely successful athlete at the top of his game in what will almost certainly prove a short career, or an assistant professor of sociology?

QUERY: a day when everything went right

ANSWER: Feb. 1, 2009.

QUERY: what was the reason that herostratus burned down the temple of artemis

ANSWER: He thought it would land him a place on a reality-television show.

QUERY: the profit motive of capitalism market is proof of the foolishness of the system. the society cannot flourish when individuals are constantly trying to squeeze profits from the production process

ANSWER: Please look up an old bit about the "tragedy of the commons" and then resubmit your query.

QUERY: search used cars for sale under one thounsand dollars in cleveland ohio

ANSWER: This recession is really starting to hurt. No, really. It's like the Thirties. Well, except with no bread lines and no 25 pc unemployment and no Hoovervilles and no general societal malaise.

QUERY: no one thanked god academy awards

ANSWER: I did -- because I didn't have to watch the wretched, awful thing. Ugh. The Academy Awards!

QUERY: reasons to date a journalist

ANSWER: There are fewer and fewer these days. Oh, sure, we're still good at dinner parties and fun to be with, and generally all that and a bag of chips. Trouble is, there's that whole "steady income and benefits" thing, which has degraded our dating potential significantly. Seriously. How the hell am I supposed to date anyone when I'm doing all I can trying to keep my head above water and not dip into my seriously reduced retirement savings?

QUERY: my wife put mitchum anti-deodorant on her lips. is it dangerous

ANSWER: I think you should ask your marriage counselor that question.

QUERY: ticketmaster what the hell convenience charge

ANSWER: Well, it sounds better than the Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles Because We're the Only Major Ticket Outlet Charge.

QUERY: which auto companies name is adapted from the latin word for i rolled

ANSWER: General Motors.

QUERY: why give tips to hotel housekeepers

ANSWER: Because they have an absolutely lousy job and it pays pretty much nothing. So tip 'em.

QUERY: why do doctors hate lawyers?

ANSWER: Oh, gee, that's a tough one.

QUERY: if there s a speed limit of 75 miles per hour why cars can go faster than that ?

ANSWER: Because this is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, that's why, and we don't need any lame-o busybodies taking that away from us too.

QUERY: walmart discontinued jimmy dean extra mild sausage

ANSWER: My God. The horror.

QUERY: in the long run we are all dead

ANSWER: Well, there's a cheering thought on which to end this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time when we examine other important issues, such as how to get a decent hamburger in New England -- any ideas? -- and why the Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl XLIV. No, really. They will. You heard it here first.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2009

And Knowing is Half the Battle

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

An occasional Rant feature

Today's Feature: Knowing.

THE BOOK OF MATTHEW tells us that no man knoweth the day nor the hour of Christ's return. In modern times, various wits have used Matthew 25:13 to reflect on man's mortality. With "Knowing," a not all that great science fiction film from director Alex Proyas, questions about such matters naturally present themselves to the viewer. Questions such as, "God, if you're really going to end the world, could you do it with a bit more suspense?"

Yes, "Knowing" is disappointing. Really disappointing, actually, although not entirely bad. The special effects are quite well done, there is one (1) scene of cinematic brilliance that hits all the right notes, and there was one throw-away quip at which I chuckled. Other than that, though -- God, what a stinker.

It's especially annoying because there are bunches of similarities with Proyas' "Dark City" -- and I mean bunches -- except they make clear just how much better "Dark City" was in comparison. Here's just a few, though, to whet your appetite. Consider: both heroes are named "John." Consider: both lead actresses are willowy brunettes. Consider: both movies' supposed bad guys are overcoat-wearing space aliens bent on harvesting man's potential for their own ends. Yet in all three instances, "Knowing" comes up short.

In "Dark City," Rufus Sewell played the man desperately attempting to solve the riddle facing him. In "Knowing," we got Nicholas Cage, whose delivery is ... well, a bit wooden at times. In "Dark City," the lead actress was Jennifer Connolly, of whom I approve. In "Knowing," the lead actress was Rose Byrne, of whom I also approve but who is the poor man's version of Jennifer Connolly. In "Dark City," the motives of the overcoat-wearing space aliens are explained and actually make sense. In "Knowing," the overcoat-wearing space aliens are -- well, as Joe Neumaier put it in the New York Daily News, "Rutger Hauer's family reunion."

Now, you can get away with this type of thing if you're a genius. Like Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick was a genius and relied on many of the same stock characters in his novels, and it worked because the man was brilliant. The people behind "Knowing" are not geniuses, so it doesn't work here. If they were, they would have made a blockbuster.

Anyway, here's the plot. Nicholas Cage plays *cough* Jeff Goldblum *cough* in the role of John Koestler, an widowed astrophysicist who has not gotten over the death of his beautiful wife. Mrs K, you see, had the good sense to die prior to the events of the film because she knew it would turn out iffy. This conceit, by the way, is one of the tell-tale signs that one is watching a science fiction movie, because in the real world the beautiful wife would have married Arthur Miller or something.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Prof Koestler is an astrophyicist, widowed, with a young son. The young son in question is bedeviled because of his loss, and also because the Rutger Hauer Band is channeling into his mind.

As it happened, some 50 years earlier, the elementary school the boy now attends decided to commemorate its opening through creating a time capsule. A student at this school, a tortured young girl who also gets messages from beyond, writes out a message to the future -- in the form of a string of numbers. Fast forward 50 years later, and John's boy gets the envelope with the code in it. One idle evening, Prof Koestler looks over the code and tries to crack it.

John's path -- and that of his boy -- cross with a woman, Diana Wayland, and her daughter, who like the boy is also getting various messages from the otherworldly alien types. Conveniently, Mrs W is the daughter of the girl who wrote out the code half a century ago. Although the girl from the Fifties has herself died, Mrs W is well aware of the code and the warnings contained therein. As such, all four team up in an attempt to save humanity (or at least, themselves) from the doom that may await them.

Of course, this goes to show how stupid the aliens are. After all, consider: you're trying to warn the people of Earth that something is Very, Very Wrong. Clearly the natural course of action is to give your message to a bunch of kids and an astrophysicist -- and not only an astrophysicist, but one who spends his days teaching undergraduates. Then you go around frightening people instead of sending them letters in the post.

And let's be honest: Prof K is not the brightest star in the night sky, either. For one thing, consider where the guy lives. He lives in a semi-restored old Victorian that manages not only to be pretentious and twee, but also the type of place that screams, "Look at me! I pay $5 for a cup of coffee!" True, he does show some flashes of brilliance -- he apparently manages to legally acquire a revolver in no time at all, despite living in Massachusetts -- but then he never actually uses the weapon when any normal person would be kicking alien ass.

Even the ending was a let-down, although there was one particularly good scene in it, which I won't spoil. But perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.

Everything about tonight's movie-going experience was a bit blah. This ranged from the stupid preview for one of the summer's latest stupid flicks for teenagers, in which various pretty sorority girls are dispatched one-by-one for accidentally knocking off one of their sisters, to the stupid preview for a direct-to-video movie for children. The sappy moral message of this film, based on the snippet I saw in the theatre, was that a person can do anything he wants, provided he believes in himself.

Kids? We lie.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 22, 2008

Police Arrest Pensioner After She Refuses to Return Kids' Football

89-Year-Old Mrs Edna Jester
Faces Charge of Petty Theft

--------------
Pathetic Neighbors Call Police After Mrs Jester
Invokes Age-Old Right of Elderly Homeowners

--------------
Bengals Make Mrs Jester Job Offer
--------------

By FLIP ARGENTI
The Sporting Rant

CINCINNATI -- Police in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash arrested an 89-year-old woman after she refused to return a football belonging to a neighborhood child, according to published reports.

Authorities have said the law gave them no leeway in the matter, particularly after Mrs Edna Jester refused to sign a citation promising she would appear in court to answer to a petty theft charge. Their account of the dispute, along with their request that city residents figure out a way to resolve such issues without bothering police, can be found here.

The dispute erupted on Oct. 16. Authorities said Mr Paul Tanis, a resident of the Myrtle Avenue area in Blue Ash, had contacted police after Mrs Jester took his son's football, which had landed in Mrs Jester's yard, and would not return it. Officers responding to the scene had hoped to arrange an orderly transfer of the property in question, but were unsuccessful in doing so. Mrs Jester now faces a November court date to answer to the charge, while the football remains under police custody.

In related news, the Cincinnati Bengals announced Mrs Jester would be offered a position on the Bengals' coaching staff, with owner Mike Brown saying "it was the least he could do."

"Mrs Jester is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," Mr Brown said, "and even if she is found guilty, that would not be a reason to deny her the second chance she would deserve as a result of her conviction. Along with that, I believe Mrs Jester can impress upon the team the importance of holding on to the ball, even in extreme circumstances. We have been lacking in terms of time of possession this year, and I believe Mrs Jester can reinforce the importance of this crucial statistic."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

(I Can't Drive) 75

Rapid motion through space elates one. -- Joyce

THE RANT NOTES WITH disapproval the latest bright idea to come from the establishment, which is that cars ought have speed governors on them. This is because when people drive cars really fast, they sometimes get into accidents. As a result, a prominent doctor -- it would be, wouldn't it? -- has suggested in The New York Times that cars should be prevented from traveling at speeds greater than 75 miles per hour. Ever. Because.

Alarmingly, this idea -- which in a sane and just society would be dismissed out of hand -- has received some acclaim. Ezra Klein, for instance, suggests the idea might be workable if applied to reckless drivers. And Ryan Avent, in responding to a critic who suggests the doctor in question must not drive all that much, writes:

So our blogger recognizes that it is dangerous to drive at very high speeds. And that in fact, some proportion of highway fatalities–less than 30% but likely appreciable–can be attributed to driving at high speed. And yet it was deemed necessary to get in a dig at those crazy eastern elites, who don’t understand the charming, speedy ways of real America? Who will stand up for the right of rural and suburban teenagers to wrap their cars around trees? Who will defend the VERY IMPORTANT commuter riding the tailgates of people driving ten miles over the speed limit, because don’t you know that car can go faster.

Well, Mr Avent, allow me to explain how Flyover Country works.

You see, I'm originally from Michigan -- you may have seen pictures -- and in Michigan, one must often drive long distances to get where one needs to go. Sadly, in Michigan, the population density is insufficient to warrant an excellent public transport system such as exists in Washington, D.C., which according to your blog is where you currently reside. Indeed, I can assure you that in Michigan, there are instances when driving at Very High Speeds is not only perfectly appropriate but an accepted part of the social fabric. Driving at a mere 75 miles per hour on the freeway does not cut it in the Great Lakes State.*

I realize the idea of driving at a speed greater than 75 miles per hour may seem alarming and dangerous -- especially when one considers that in New York and Washington, it is difficult to get anywhere close to 75 miles per hour in heavy traffic. I know this because I used to live in Washington and have driven through New York too many times for my own liking. However, there are places in this country where driving at speeds of 80 miles per hour, 90 miles per hour, or even higher is perfectly reasonable. I know this because I have driven there.

Now, there are times when such speeds are clearly inappropriate -- for instance, during inclement weather. When one is driving through the Cajon Pass in heavy fog, and one must navigate the road through following the tail lights of the car in front of one's vehicle, one must drive at 30 or 40 miles per hour. When one is driving through white-out conditions in northern Indiana, or through a downpour in Cleveland, prudence may even require one pull off the road. But when weather conditions are fine, and it is daylight out, and there is little traffic, and there is great music on the radio, there is no reason not to drive as fast as one wants provided one is capable of handling it.

For instance, on US-23 between Toledo, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Mich., a straight stretch of freeway, I can assure Mr Avent that I have driven 85 miles per hour with no ill effects. In fact, this may have been too slow for conditions, as I have frequently been passed on the right while doing so. When traveling I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I have driven 85 miles per hour and hummed along with the rest of traffic on that glorious desert road. When traveling on certain desert freeways in California, I have found that no speed is inherently unreasonable, although in my age I have held the needle about 80 miles per hour.

Of course, a key element of this is being able to handle driving at high speeds, something which not everyone is capable of doing -- or wants to do. These people should, then, drive at lower speeds, in the lanes set aside for driving at lower speeds. In fact, in my old age, I have found myself traveling much closer to the speed limit on the freeway, in an attempt to save money and take it easier while driving. Driving fast is more expensive, due to greater gasoline consumption, and it also requires more mental energy. One must keep acute concentration on the road and traffic, as opposed to simply keeping an eye on things. These days, I have found the joy in driving slower. (Memo to Mom and Dad: I haven't driven faster than 80 in a long time, so stop worrying).

Furthermore, I readily admit that traveling at extremely high speeds -- say, over 100 mph -- is inherently dangerous. Although my preferred cruising speed is about 80 miles per hour, and there are times when I would like to push it about 90, there are almost no circumstances when I would drive 90 miles per hour these days. Under absolutely no circumstances would I travel faster than 95 miles per hour. When one gets close to (or into) triple digits, you deal not only with greatly reduced reaction times to road obstacles and other concerns, but also physical limitations -- namely, the limitations of most passenger car tires, which generally can't take much more than 100 miles per hour. It is a poor decision to risk a blowout when driving like Mad Max.

However, there's no reason why one must drive achingly slow either -- unless, of course, one wants to. As it happens, there are some insurers who are testing out this concept, and giving their slower-driving members discounts for doing so. That's a much better solution than forcing the vast majority of the populace to slow down via speed governors.

-----------------
* For those readers who do not believe me when I speak of driving in Michigan, I would invite them to travel along I-94 between Kalamazoo and Detroit, especially during rush hour. Try traveling 75 mph. Really. Go ahead. When you get sick of the semi trucks and sport-utility vehicles determined to test how well your rear bumper reacts to high-speed collisions, pull off at the nearest exit, find a quality family restaurant, and relax with a refreshing Vernors ginger soda. It's deliciously different! Also, the bite of the stuff might put you in a scratchy mood, mentally preparing you for getting back on the freeway.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2008

Pravda Means Truth

LIKE MOST AMERICANS, I had thought Pravda -- that infamous propagandist's organ -- had gone the way of the dodo when the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991. So you can imagine my surprise tonight when I stumbled across Pravda Online, which is even in English. There's also apparently a print version, although it's not related to the online version and the two publications are entirely separate. But still. For our purposes, the online version is Pravda. And you know, things ... haven't ... really ... changed all that much. Look at some of the headlines:

"Russia's financial crisis of 1998 plotted by IMF"
"Condoleezza Rice and the insult to international diplomacy"
"NATO must not teach Russia on how to behave towards Georgia"
"Anti-Russian US Senator McCain may take Bush's position in 2008"

Only one of these is clearly marked as an opinion piece. Guess which one!

Although the outlandishness of the copy is a bit disconcerting, in a way it is good. You see, even those Westerners who would gladly sell their own mothers to the bolshies will pause when presented with such ham-handed propaganda. But then, I don't think subtlety was ever Pravda's strong suit.

(And along those lines: Дорогой президент Путин, пожалуйста не отравляет меня с радиоактивным чаем).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2008

Trying to Hack The Rant's Computers is Not in the Olympic Spirit

SO I WAS TYPING AWAY at the computer tonight when I get a notice from my spyware program warning me it has blocked an attempt to violate The Rant's mainframe. Normally, I would ignore this, but being in a peculiar mood this evening, I spent a few minutes tracking down the attack as best I could. Disappointingly, the attack came from Hong Kong.

Dude. It is not in the Olympic spirit to try and hack The Rant's nerve center for nefarious purposes, particularly with the start of the Games just five days away. It is particularly not cool to attempt violating an American's computer with the Olympics so close, as our nations are supposed to be ... what's the phrase? Strategic partners? Yeah. Strategic partners. That'll work.

Anyway, in the spirit of Olympic friendship and peace, I forgive you. As a result, I shall wait until after the Olympic Games to pray for your stocks to turn into air, for your Government to throw you into prison and for you to contract syphilis.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2008

Hometown in the News Again

AP: KALAMAZOO POLICE nab suspect hiding in trash can.

Predicted defense: But your honor, I was looking for soda cans.

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Man Shoots Lawnmower, Claims Property Rights as Defense

A MILWAUKEE MAN faces a felony charge after using a sawed-off shotgun to shoot his lawnmower after the machine wouldn't start, the Associated Press reports. Apparently, Keith Walendowski, 56, justified his action by saying: "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."

Silly man. This is the United States of America.

Of course, even if the United States was still a free country, Mr Walendowski might have faced criminal charges. It will come as no surprise to learn Mr Walendowski was not sober during this incident, and it is the height of foolishness to handle weapons in such a state. Also, the guy used a sawed-off shotgun, which is not exactly a precise weapon. As a result, blasting the lawnmower in a densely-populated urban area could prove risky to any unfortunates in the immediate vicinity.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2008

Kiwi Name Officials: "Yeah Detroit" Banned, "Number 16 Bus Shelter" OK

A NEW ZEALAND JUDGE made a nine-year-old a ward of his court so the girl's embarrassing name could be changed, the BBC reports. This may seem a bit much, but not when you consider the girl's given name was Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii.

Of course I'm not kidding. People are stupid. We know that. However, the frequency and scope of humanity's stupidity -- which is sometimes enough to make one wonder why God gave man free will -- was fully expressed in the BBC's report, which read in part as follows:

Judge Rob Murfitt said that the name embarrassed the nine-year-old and could expose her to teasing.

He attacked a trend of giving children bizarre names, citing several examples.

Officials had blocked Sex Fruit, Keenan Got Lucy and Yeah Detroit, he said, but Number 16 Bus Shelter, Violence and Midnight Chardonnay had been allowed.

One mother wanted to name her child O.crnia using text language, but was later persuaded to use Oceania, he said.

The mind boggles. I mean, what were these people thinking? One would think that even a high school education would give a parent enough sense these days to avoid naming one's child in text speak. For that matter, one would think people would have enough God-given sense to avoid burdening their get with none too subtle clues about the children's place or manner of conception. Furthermore, given the American tendency to indulge in such silliness, one wonders if we shouldn't have a legion of mandarins scouring birth certificates for embarrassing names.

I must admit surprise the Kiwis disallowed "Yeah Detroit," though. It was undoubtedly the right decision -- one expects the parents would not have named their boy Yeah Detroit if they had ever traveled the Lodge Freeway -- but out of all of the wretched names listed, at least that had kind of a ring to it. All they had to do was drop the "Yeah" and it might have worked, depending on the last name. Detroit Smith or Detroit Jones would probably have grown up to be a pretty savvy customer.

As for the parents who tried to name their kid Sex Fruit, well, that should've been enough for the New Zealanders to send them to Singapore for a good caning. And don't get me started on the parents who named their twins Benson and Hedges.

As an added bonus, the BBC has opened the comments section on this post. Among the people who have commented are a Mr Russell Sprout (!) of London.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 04, 2008

OK, Who at State Screwed This One Up?

THE SUN, THAT BASTION of proper journalism, has published a breathless report on a 36-year-old English model who, thinking she would need to shave several years off her age to secure an American modeling contract, embarked on a scheme to gin up identity documents that showed she was eight years younger than she actually was.

Unfortunately for the model in question, the plan unraveled when she submitted her visa application to the U.S. embassy in London. Someone at the embassy did a records check and found Saskia Porter had traveled to the United States previously but that the ages on her documents didn't match up. The embassy subsequently forwarded the case to the British Government, and Ms Porter found herself in the dock. She received a nine-month suspended sentence.

Helpfully, The Sun has provided a picture that -- to borrow from the words of one Sun commenter -- shows Ms Porter with, uh, nothing to declare. Hail Britannia!

Anyway, The Rant is most displeased at the outcome of this matter and requests the embassy issue Ms Porter a visa forthwith. Actually, given the circumstances surrounding this case, The Rant would request the Embassy just ship her a green card, a citizenship application and a welcome kit. The United States cannot afford, in its quest to retain its primacy for all time, to turn away hot foreign women* -- particularly hot women from the British Isles, who share a common language, have sexy accents, and have British pounds or euros as opposed to Yankee pesos. Besides, if we let in Victoria Beckham, surely we can let Ms Porter have a go at things on this side of the pond.

* Unless, of course, the woman in question is Gisele Bundchen.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Weird Senator Suggests Return to National Speed Limit

Then Jove resolved to send a curse
and all the woes of life rehearse;
Not plague, not famine, but much worse --
He cursed us with a Congress.

-- Loyalist anthem

VIRGINIA, WE EXPECTED BETTER. You are the cradle of American Government and as such should be cognizant of the value of freedom. Despite this, one of your senators has made the impudent and wretched suggestion that Congress might want to consider again establishing a national speed limit.

The Rant has a two-word response to this idea. Well, actually, two two-word responses. The first response readers should be able to figure out on their own. The second one, however, is a bit more obscure but one I am sure the Rt Hon Senator will recognize. Those two words are: Danny Rostenkowski.

As Washington has a long memory, I am sure everyone there still vividly remembers that whole debacle, in which an angry mob of senior citizens chased the Illinois Congressman to his car over changes to Medicare. I would suggest that imposing a national speed limit would make that look like a walk in the park.

This is because the only people who would actually support a national speed limit are incompetent drivers, who support a low speed limit because they are incapable of operating a motor vehicle in traffic. Nothing would give these tired prudes more satisfaction than being able to joyfully saunter in the passing lane going 60, and being able to do so with the full force of the law behind them. Perhaps the senator in question is an incompetent driver. Perhaps the senator has forgotten how miserable trips on the freeways are when you can only drive 55 or 60 miles per hour.

I have not forgotten. When I was a boy, my parents would annually gather the family together in a car for a trip to western Pennsylvania, a trip that involved traveling 420 miles from home. I can assure readers this trip, which should have taken about six hours -- seven hours at tops -- took eight hours to complete -- and sometimes more, if bad weather or road construction complicated matters. Do you have any idea how grueling that is? Staring at marker miles along the way and finding you're still in Ohio, and even worse, have 123 miles to go before you get out of it? If you're not sympathetic to that, then never mind the effects it had on me -- think about my poor parents, who had to put up with me for eight hours.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, here's another two words the senator might want to consider: Whiskey Rebellion. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

The last time we had a national speed limit imposed, it took twenty-one years for it to get repealed. This was despite the fact the original reasons for the national speed limit had faded out in the early Eighties. I do not want to wait until 2029 to travel at a reasonable speed on the freeway, particularly as by that time I'll be driving a spiffy hydrogen rocket.

Besides, with the price of fuel, even inveterate lead-foot drivers like me see the wisdom in traveling at a moderate rate of speed, like 60 or 65 miles per hour, as in my car doing so saves $1 per 20 miles driven compared with ... uh, my normal traveling speed. The savings per tank of gasoline is more than $20, which is more than enough incentive to ease off the accelerator a little bit.* All it requires from me is a bit of courtesy to my fellow drivers, which involves me traveling in the slow lane and not in the travel or passing lanes. I'm happy to do that, and I would suggest more drivers are doing so as they too realize the economic benefits of slowing down. Gee, there's a concept; the free market working.

That said, there are times when traveling at a normal rate of speed (somewhere in the eighties) is a good idea. Like if I'm traveling through northern Ohio, particularly that awful stretch of I-80 east of Toledo. Americans' freedom to travel fast on the freeway when they want and need to do so cannot and must not be abridged, and I am confident all right-thinking Americans will resist any attempts to have this wretched, miserable boondoggle of an idea -- an idea from the Seventies, no less -- imposed upon us again.

------------

* My trusty Ford Taurus has an 18 gallon gas tank. If I use 17 gallons while driving on a trip, I can travel 340 miles doing my normal and customary speed, but 486 miles traveling at 65 miles per hour. This works out to a difference of 146 miles, the equivalent of saving 5.4 gallons of gasoline. At $4 per gallon, this works out to a savings of $22 per tank.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2008

Coke Zero, Check. Crowded House, Check. Hubris, Check.

OH NO!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

I MUST BE the only person in the world who dislikes summer. For most people, of course, summer is an enjoyable time: a time for family vacations, a time for months away from school, a time for enjoying the beach and the surf. For me, summer is a time for avoiding the hated heat, the brutal humidity, the wretched stenches of perspiration and rot and filth that goes along with it. I don't mind the mornings or the evenings, but generally speaking, the hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. are better spent indoors.

True, the opposite season ain't exactly a walk in the park either, and the major downsides to winter -- the shortened days, the long depression, the weeks-long deep freeze and the difficulties of travel -- are just as bad. Once February rolls around I have nothing to which I can look forward except months of despair and boredom. The one thing summer has going for it is that it's closer to fall. Ah, fall. I live for fall. The best three months of the year. The season of miracles. The pleasant days and cool, crisp nights.

But it's not fall yet -- and that means I'm in a worse mood than usual. That means one thing: it's a perfect time for another edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! So let's get to it, shall we?

QUERY: the teachings of dua-khety focus on

ANSWER: Dua-Khety was a wise Egyptian who realized that back in the day, life pretty much sucked for anyone who wasn't part of the nobility. Why, even merchants and tradesmen forty centuries ago had a bad lot, but Dua-Khety realized that officials who could read and write were making out like bandits. He told his son this accordingly, and sent his son to a school to learn how to read and write and become a scribe. This was back in the day when writers were lords of the earth.

There was something to that, I might add.

QUERY: if knowing is half the battle what is the other half?

ANSWER: Cynicism.

QUERY: only got four minutes to save the world what is this songs name

ANSWER: MacArthur Park.

QUERY: dollar maximum denomination

ANSWER: $10,000. No, really -- the $10,000 bills are still legal tender, even if they are far more valuable than their face value these days. But the most you'll ever see is $100, of which The Rant does not approve. We need higher-denomination notes.

QUERY: the team of increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched out cast i was

ANSWER: Well, if you could write better, you'd be more popular!

QUERY: allowed to develop through debauched capitalism

ANSWER: The Rant approves of debauched capitalism, particularly if it means my retirement accounts grow fat upon the excess and debauchery.

QUERY: how to get a new air conditioner from landord

ANSWER: Well, if you're like me, you just ... ask, and you receive, because you pay your rent on time and are quiet and a general credit to your building. If that doesn't work, though, you could beg and plead and cry and scream. That might work.

QUERY: teachers foolish enough to post racy photos on line deserve punishment

ANSWER: Teachers who post racy photos on-line deserve my phone number! What? Oh, come on. Laugh with me!

QUERY: i feel better already

ANSWER: Well, don't let it get around. The devil is already laughing.

QUERY: group of law students taking legal action against university

ANSWER: I actually don't mind this. True, one could argue this is biting the hand that feeds them, but I like to think of it as a situation where the law school and the students get hoisted on their own petards.

QUERY: will christian nurses doctors police go to hell if they work on the sabbath

ANSWER: The fact they're Christian would seem to preclude that possibility, wouldn't it? Honestly.

QUERY: caught wearing shoulder pads in a minicamp in 1978

ANSWER: Hogan! I -- know -- NUTHINK!

QUERY: celebrity culture pros

ANSWER:

QUERY: this city is changing right under their noses and they don t know what up here redding we have taken this city for ourselves

ANSWER: Uh, dude? It's Redding. Nobody gives a shit, because you're in the northern end of northern California and we've all written you off.

QUERY: houston attorneys for homeowners/board of directors disputes

ANSWER: Here's an idea: why not just do what the homeowners' association wants? Because you're living in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners' association, and as a result you're screwed either way -- but not using an attorney is cheaper.

QUERY: plantlife patchouli soap- 4 oz $2

ANSWER: Dial's cheaper, you know. Yeah. Dial. One of the good things about this bad economy is that people are finally throwing the ecosmug movement overboard.

QUERY: is it proper to give a girl an engagement ring on her birthday

ANSWER: Good thinking! But make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you proceed -- you don't want her to say, well, no.

QUERY: what happened to the travelling rule in american basketball

ANSWER: Ask Tim Donaghy what happened to the traveling foul.

QUERY: editrix gender-neutral

ANSWER: Any editor who uses a word other than "editor" to describe his or her work is a cad, a scoundrel, and no one you want near your copy.

QUERY: airtime ohare to cancun

ANSWER: ORD to CUN? Roughly 18 hours. Oh, sure, it's only supposed to take about six, but I'm factoring in everything that could and consequently will go wrong. You see, it stands to reason that when you arrive at the airport, the flight will have been overbooked and you will get bumped. When you get on the next flight, something will happen to the main entryway's door handle -- it broke itself! -- and you'll be further delayed. Eventually, you'll have to pay $5 for a snack box but you won't have exact change, so you'll be out of luck there too. Lo siento.

QUERY: football is a detestable show of gladiatorship

ANSWER: Get back to your sociology homework!

QUERY: how can i make a bengals cake

ANSWER: You'll need cake mix, frosting, water and some eggs. After mixing all but the frosting together, lose 12 games in the season and get arrested.

QUERY: southern comebacks for insults northern

ANSWER: Ooooooh. This is a good query. I wish I had a real answer. But I would suggest tailoring your response to your inquisitor's home state or region. Just as Arkansas and North Carolina are very different states, so are Minnesota and Michigan. Some guy from Massachusetts won't blink an eye if you make fun of Big Ten football, while people from Michigan may arm themselves. So keep that in mind. Do remember that Midwesterners are your natural allies, so it might make sense to temper your criticism accordingly, while you can definitely hit hard against some guy from the mid-Atlantic states.

QUERY: do i have to tip the hand car wash attendant

ANSWER: YES.

QUERY: which is lighter coors or amstel

ANSWER: You call yourself a man!

QUERY: who is the 325 pound vegetarian who plays football for saskatchewan roughriders

ANSWER: I don't know, but as long as they keep winning, he can eat whatever he wants.

QUERY: lyrics to tacobells eighty nine cent double cheesy beef burrito

ANSWER: I hope the people at Yum! Brands are reading this. Are you happy now, you rotten bastards? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? The last thing we need are eight million teenagers thinking they too can be the Beastie Boys.

QUERY: three main groups of books in old testament

ANSWER: Well, there's the Pentateuch (the first five books). Then there's the Inspiring Books (Job through the Song of Solomon). Then there's the Dull Books of the Prophets. I know Holy Scripture was inspired by God, but I do think some books may have been a bit less inspired than others. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Also, if you're a Roman Catholic, you get Extra Bonus Books in your Bible, which is yet another reason to consider the Roman Church. (I was not happy when I learned I'd been deprived of these as a Methodist).

QUERY: a haunting

ANSWER: I feel that way every time I watch the St. Louis Rams, but that's neither here nor there.

QUERY: is it illegal to practice law without a license in tennessee?

ANSWER: That you're even asking that question suggests you might want to reconsider your future career as an attorney.

QUERY: a. it's a lot of work b. don't aggravate me c. between you and me i think it stinks d. she is smarter then he is

ANSWER: But aren't they all correct?

QUERY: why did bubba fett nod at princess leia?

ANSWER: OK, first off, it's BOBA Fett. BOBA Fett. Second ... well, I'm sure you saw my essays on the Nod of Respect, so I'll leave it at that.

QUERY: why is it such an embarrassing error to mistake the sex of a new baby

ANSWER: It shows you're color blind, of course.

QUERY: fun ideas for trips with girlfriend not a lot of money

ANSWER: Good thinking -- travel without breaking the bank! Well, here are my ideas. First -- do something that's an honest to God trip but is still close to home. As long as it's a trip where you have to stay overnight, it will work, but staying in or close to your home state is a good way to save money. Also, I'd suggest that women like doing a lot of things that aren't inherently expensive in themselves -- what those are will depend on the woman, of course, but if the activities in question are fun they won't care that you're not spending money like water. Lastly, do splurge one night -- the last night, preferably -- and that will end the trip on a high note.

OK, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! I think I was on a roll with this one. Tune in next time, when the Summer of My Discontent gets channeled into another spiteful yarn! Until then ...

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 28, 2008

A Traitor Walks Among Us!

RADIO TALK HOST Hugh Hewitt has some explaining to do. I can assure readers that on June 25, Hewitt -- I will not refer to him as Mr -- said the following on his syndicated radio program, which is broadcast on more than 100 stations throughout the United States:

By the way, I -- I'm still trying to find two tickets to the Ohio State-USC game. And none of the USC people will give up their tickets to me. I'd pay fair price. They -- they know Ohio State's gonna slaughter the Trojans. They know that they're gonna slaughter the Trojans, and therefore they do not want me there at the bloodbath, since it's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama. I -- I would like to see Ohio State slaughter USC. This is what I'm living for right now. I'm keeping -- all the bad news, I just focus on the Ohio State upcoming slaughter of USC. So if you are a USC fan willing to sell me two or perhaps even three USC tickets to the Ohio State game, hugh@hughhewitt.com, or if you're a Buckeye fan with those tickets back in Ohio, I'll trade you some Browns tickets. New York Giants, Monday night game? Think about it. Hugh Hewitt Show.

These comments have caused certain bloggers to heap much derision upon Hewitt, although they have not focused on the prime issue. Yes, it is true Hewitt deserves a 15-yard penalty for dragging politics -- that awful, wretched curse of politics -- into a discussion about college football, which is pure and glorious and wonderful. But I don't care about that. That is politics, and as such is simply red meat for the mob.

What I do care about, however, is that Hewitt is an admitted Ohio State fan. A passionate one, in fact. Furthermore, I note that Hewitt -- according to this blog -- is also an admitted Notre Dame fan, and again, a passionate one.

True, Hewitt grew up in Warren, Ohio, a wretched burg northwest of Youngstown. This might explain his Ohio State fandom. True, Hewitt attended a Catholic high school while living in Warren, which might explain his Notre Dame fandom -- even if he is a reported Presbyterian.

But, ladies and gentlemen, Hewitt also is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law.

We have a major problem here.

You see, it is not as if Hewitt went to Notre Dame or Ohio State for his undergraduate work, which would partially excuse him from his delusional antics on behalf of those schools. Oh, no. Hewitt went to Harvard. Since we all know Harvard is the Michigan of the East, this only worsens his transgression against the institution which launched his career. Whether he likes it or not, he is a Michigan man, and as such he must root for the Wolverines above all or be scandalized for not doing so.

I mean, really. It was bad enough that Michael Moore, who attended the University of Michigan at Flint, has appeared on film wearing a Michigan State cap. But this perfidy is far more serious than Moore's transgression. Since his sin is more pathetic than reprehensible, Moore could easily be redeemed, for like all Spartan fans he also hates Ohio State. If he would simply drop his Spartan allegiance and return to the Michigan fold, I am sure Michigan's Alumni Directorate (our motto: imperium supra omnes) would not hold any hard feelings.

Yet one wonders whether Hewitt could even be redeemed; indeed, it is even possible he does not want to be redemeed from his wretched existence. Shocking, I know, but we cannot ignore unpleasant realities. Certainly his reported love for Notre Dame only compounds his treachery. It does not matter that Charlie Weis is a nice guy; you don't root for Notre Dame above your alma mater. Here's the truth: that's just wrong.

Given all this, I must ask Hewitt's radio listeners: can you trust a man who openly roots for the enemies of an institution where he received a degree? Furthermore, can you trust a man who would inject politics into the sacred realm of college football? Finally, since we have established Hewitt's perfidy when it comes to his college football loyalties, does it not stand to reason one can trust nothing out of the man's mouth? I mean, my God. Any man who would throw the beloved Michigan Wolverines under the bus to root for that school (and that other school) is ... well, a sad case.

As a result, I call upon fans of the University of Southern California Trojans to OPENLY MOCK Hewitt for his perfidious football loyalties and refuse to sell him any of their tickets for the game between Ohio State and USC. Besides, it's almost certain he will try to lowball you on the tickets, and then get in a snit when you hold out for market price. Ohio State fans in the Cleveland area, who might be tempted to spring for Hewitt's offer of Browns-Giants tickets, should also refuse to trade -- any man who would trade Browns-Giants tickets is a cad, a scoundrel and a fool. The Browns are going to be good this year; the idea one would give up tickets to a great game like that is further proof of Hewitt's inherent weirdness.

And if all that doesn't get Hewitt back in the Michigan tent, maybe we can have him exiled to France or something.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2008

Important Safety Tip: Speak -- and Write -- Clearly

THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION, a British lobby that promotes the interests of local Governments there, has done the world a service this past week. The group wrote a letter to its members warning them they must use plain English if they want the people they serve to have any hope of understanding them. As such, it drew up a list of 100 words and phrases they ought avoid, ranging from "empowerment" and "sustainable communities" to "core value" and "facilitate." Better to use phrases like people power, environmentally friendly, belief and help, the agency said.

As an American, I can sum up my reaction in two words: many thanks. After all, as an American, I am subjected to an incredible and debilitating amount of jargon on a daily basis -- not only from the Government, but from business and sports leaders. I hope the worldwide coverage of the LGA's letter will cause people everywhere to recognize the value of clear yet precise language. This is not merely a selfish consideration, either. My greatest fear is that some American businessman will inadvertently stumble across a lethal combination of jargon from the commercial, sports and Government arenas, resulting in an economic and political panic that will make tulipmania look like a cocktail party:

IMPORTANT EXECUTIVE: Thanks to a bit of trickeration, we were able to audibilize on the ground and commit to a synergy-enhancing deal proving accretive in the third quarter, all while balancing stakeholders' interests with our revenue guidance, which will be in line with our previous estimates, and --
ANALYST (on mute): Dear God! He's mad!
SECOND ANALYST (on mute): SELL! SELL! SELL!

What's that? No, I'm not overreacting. Crises in confidence often start out with small things, don't they?

Anyway, since we're on a crusade to clean up the English language, here is my list of words and phrases that should be taken out in the back and shot. In no particular order, they are:

AUDIBILIZE: This alleged transitive verb is drawn from the world of American football, where a quarterback changing the play at the line of scrimmage "calls an audible." Use a form of change or quick change instead.

UTILIZE: You mean use, so use that instead.

TRICKERATION: Just because ESPN sportscasters use the phrase does not mean you should. Use trickery or deception.

IT IS WHAT IT IS: Athletes and their coaches can gain style points with the public through using more refined language. Try It can't be helped or, even better, The die has been cast. Julius Caesar said that, you know!

INCENTIVIZE: Instead of incentivizing the sales team, you gave them bonus targets.

ENHANCE: You mean improve.

ALLEGEDLY: Avoid this word through writing better. Do not write: John Smith allegedly robbed the Sixth Fourth Bank on Main Street. Rather, write: Police have charged John Smith with robbing the Sixth Fourth Bank on Main Street.

AT THIS JUNCTURE: Unless you're Dana Carvey doing an impression, forget it.

STAKEHOLDER: Group or party.

E- or WEB ANYTHING: Online.

WORKING FAMILIES: The working poor, or the lower-middle class, whichever is applicable.

LOW-INCOME: Poor.

VERY LOW-INCOME: Dirt poor.

WELL OFF: Rich.

WEALTHY: Filthy rich.

HOMESITE: House lot.

USER FEE: Use tax.

PARADIGM: Mindset.

PARTNER: In business, partner should be reserved for a colleague who has equity in your business. Do not use it when you are describing a company with which you do business or have a relationship. Especially do not use it in reference to the consultancy you've hired.

NEXT GENERATION: The (goddamned) kids.

METRICS: Standards.

ENTERPRISE: Corporation; a large company.

AT THE END OF THE DAY: At the end of the day, this is superfluous. Just strike it and say what you actually mean to say.

Well, now that I've thrown that out on the stoop -- oops! -- I hope it will, in some small measure, help people realize that if you say what you mean it can help you achieve your goals faster. Either that, or it will help spawn a resurgent interest in using Latin phrases, which could only be a good thing. For now, vale.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2008

Well, Look Who Doesn't Understand the Internet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS has found itself in a bit of hot water this week. Apparently, the news cooperative was upset a blogger had posted several items relying on AP content, with excerpts of between 39 and 79 words in each of the offending entries. This prompted the AP to send a letter to the blogger in question telling him to remove the items; the blogger then went and told the entire Internet, and everyone got angry about it.

Now the AP has backtracked, realizing it didn't handle the matter well. Still, they're not entirely backing down, as The New York Times -- and not the AP -- reports:

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. For example, a book reviewer is allowed to quote passages from the work without permission from the publisher. Fair use has become an essential concept to many bloggers, who often quote portions of articles before discussing them.

I would be sympathetic to the AP's claims if a blogger in question had copied the entirety of its story, did so without providing a link back to the original piece, and then offered no original commentary of his own. That would be outright theft, and in a situation like that, the AP would have every right to say, "Hey. Wait a minute."

However, it is difficult to be sympathetic when the AP is going after a blogger for excerpting as little as 39 words from a story. That's downright ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous when clever bloggers, such as Patrick Nielsen Hayden, reveal the Associated Press sells rights to private parties to quote from its stories, starting at $12.50 for excerpts between five and 25 words in length. "In this spirit," Mr Nielsen Hayden wrote, "I will shortly be putting up my own Web form through which people can PayPal me money in exchange for my promise to not blow up the moon."

Now, it is one thing to sell reprint rights for a story; that is standard practice for any newspaper. But charging for a quote or two is not only silly -- there's that whole pesky fair use doctrine -- but cheap.

As for these standards to be developed -- well, good luck with that.

You see, here's the trouble. The AP is a cooperative and a wire agency. This means two things. First, nearly all of its copy comes from its member newspapers. Second, when the AP does write about important happenings, the important happenings are usually important enough so that one can also read coverage from major newspapers, or from competing wire services, or from foreign news outlets, or from high-profile bloggers.

As a result, nobody actually needs the AP to do what they're doing; AP copy just happens to be awfully convenient. But it wouldn't be all that inconvenient to go elsewhere. Why, it could take as long as fifteen or thirty seconds for a competent blogger to do some searching and find a story -- usually more in-depth, I might add -- from a local AP member paper; a local AP member paper, I might add, that isn't going to complain when bloggers send traffic its way. Most bloggers just quote a little from stories; say two or three paragraphs. If their visitors are really interested in a story, they'll click through the provided link and read more. This, in business terms, is known as a "win-win." This, in business terms, is known as "free advertising."

Yet the AP apparently doesn't see it this way. They're entitled to their position -- but if you ask me, they're setting themselves up for something like this:

"Xai Jian, best customer!" Indeed!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2008

He Ain't Just Whistling Dixie

REPORT: Kansas man who crashed his car into house blames "brain freeze" from icy frozen drink.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2008

Gimme Steam

OH NO!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

LOYAL RANT READERS are clever folk. You know your culture from your trash, and your plastic from your cash. You know your green from your red, and the quick from the dead. This is likely why "Your Search Engine Queries Answered!" is perhaps the most popular feature here at The Rant, because we take great pleasure in eviscerating those poor souls who are ... well, perhaps not as sharp on the uptake as those who regularly read these pages. Let's see if I'm on the ball this time around.

QUERY: can you burglarize your own home

ANSWER: I shudder to think why I got multiple queries about this, but the short answer is Generally Speaking, No. Normally, you can't burglarize your own home because burglary necessarily involves trespassing, and you can't trespass in your own home. But this gets tricky in many respects -- too many to go into here -- so talk with a lawyer.

QUERY: bud light market to senior citizens

ANSWER: Well, who else would drink the stuff, except for older Americans who grew up drinking watered-down American-style lagers? It's a natural target market for them. Also: can we take the phrase "American-style lager" out in the back and shoot it? Jesus. Our standing in the world is bad enough already without having the United States permanently singled out as the home of wretched horsepiss beer.

QUERY: why dont fans know coors as the official beer sponser of the nfl?

ANSWER: Beats me. They are who we thought they were!

QUERY: weirdest place ever in oregon

ANSWER: For my money, it's Eugene -- but you know what? Oregon is a very big and a very weird state. There may be amazing stretches of weirdness that I haven't even encountered there.

QUERY: satanism rituals witchcraft secret organizations sheboygan county wi history

(NOTICE: Upon receiving this query, Mr Kepple burst out laughing at his desk for a good 60 seconds, and then thought about some Wisconsin housewife sacrificing a casserole during a Black Mass, which prompted him to burst out into even more laughter. Consequently, he was unable to answer this question. We apologize for the inconvenience. Buy more. Buy more now! -- Standards Department, Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc.)

QUERY: about how many taco bells are in the united states

ANSWER: 78,000.

QUERY: how to handle tough guys

ANSWER: One must remember the stereotypical "tough guy" -- that is, a swaggering galoot of average or limited intelligence, not the quiet guy in the corner who is almost certainly armed -- is usually compensating for his own inadequacies. He may not be all that smart; he is almost certainly not well off. As a result, all he usually wants is respect, of which he gets very little in his life. Thus, one should politely reason with the tough guy in a spirit of respect and friendship while at the same time not showing any signs of discomfort or fear, which will only goad his overpowered id. For instance, if you have unknowingly hit on the tough guy's girlfriend, it would be wise to offer your apologies and suggest you didn't realize she was accompanied for the evening.

I generally believe intellectual reason will confound the tough guy where he can't figure you out, or at the very least take all the fun out of the idea of beating you to a pulp. That said, don't provoke the idiot or get into a fight either, because then things could get very serious very quickly, and that will usually end up badly for all parties concerned.

QUERY: what does 4 minutes to save the world mean?

ANSWER: You left the iron on.

QUERY: i want to get rid of my canadian coins

ANSWER: Ah, don't we all. Unfortunately, I don't have any other suggestions other than donating them or putting them into tip jars in places that don't deserve tip jars, like Dunkin' Donuts. Banks are notoriously unreasonable about dealing with Canadian coins, even though they're practically worth the same -- if not more, occasionally -- than their heavier, better-designed American counterparts.

QUERY: stupid american football team names

ANSWER: I've covered this elsewhere -- you've undoubtedly seen it -- but I must say I've seen some stupid English football team names in my day. Oh, and Scottish. Like Heart of Midlothian. Hearts and their supporters -- who booed the Pope, for Christ's sake -- can rot in the fiery bowels of perdition. It is only because God is merciful and forgiving that Hearts have not had Tynecastle Stadium -- with its pathetic capacity of 17,420 -- smitten with a Sodom-esque hail of fire and brimstone. Well, it's either that or because He is patient and works in mysterious ways, and has undoubtedly set in motion plans for Hearts to end up at the bottom of the Scottish Football League's Third Division. In any event, Hearts will pay dearly.

QUERY: could a worm climb in to the toilet

ANSWER: Yes. Yes it could. Lots of things could climb into the toilet. You can solve this problem, however, through heavy application of Lysol.

QUERY: how do rats get in the toilet system

ANSWER: They're very clever.

QUERY: does arthur miller vilify linda as a hopeless idiot who cannot even save her family from demise

ANSWER: How should I know? The only things I know about Arthur Miller are: a) he was a playwright; b) he is a 1938 graduate of the University of Michigan and c) he married Marilyn Monroe. These three facts alone convince me of Miller's greatness, to the point where I don't need to read any of his work. You see, to be honest, I like plays, but I don't like reading scripts of plays. They don't and can't translate from stage to page, and when it comes to reading, I far prefer novels.

This is, by the way, why I consider Cervantes far and away superior to Shakespeare and why I am glad I spent a term in high school studying Don Quixote instead of well, Shakespeare. Anyway, I have no idea who Linda is, no idea why she can't save her own family, and no idea why Arthur Miller would vilify her. That's as I like it.

QUERY: i need love sweet love

ANSWER: Take a number!

QUERY: how to steal coins out of coin machine

ANSWER: Behold, the infighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small.

QUERY: what's the point of god if free will always prevails?

ANSWER: Uh, that doesn't make any sense. For one thing, you can't really argue whether there's a point to God, because that puts a human spin and need on the Almighty. The LORD is the LORD and that's all there is to it, and who are we to question His motives and actions? (See: Book of Job). As for free will, here's a theological primer to that whole subject.

QUERY: monetary units of russia a hundredth part of a rouble

ANSWER: Those would be kopeks.

QUERY: discharge hospital acute care patient won't leave

ANSWER: That's a new one. Most people usually want to get out of hospital. Certainly I do whenever I end up in one; the places smell of death and disease and industrial cleaning products. Or perhaps they just smell of industrial cleaning products, which I now associate with death and disease based on my several hospitalizations over the years. Anyway, I hate hospitals, hate visiting hospitals, and hate being in hospitals. Thus, we can determine the patient in question is insane and should be committed to the psychiatric unit, unless they don't have any money, in which case you should contact your general counsel.

QUERY: a teeanager shoul be allowed more freedom essay

ANSWER: That's the last thing we need -- teenagers with more freedom. Unless, of course, that involves the freedom to work and to be economically useful to society. Although I wouldn't be opposed to lowering the drinking age in return for a corresponding increase in the voting age.

QUERY: basketball is the best fucking sport in the world

ANSWER: Run along, son.

QUERY: what are the laws of pitbulls in newton iowa

ANSWER: Why the hell do you want a pit bull? Get a real dog, like a golden retriever -- a dog that actually does something other than cause property and casualty damage. I mean, think of your family -- do you think your family wants to be known as the people with the pit bull? The neighbors pay attention to this kind of thing.

QUERY: is usaf insane

ANSWER: I will not allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to besmirch the good name of the U.S. Air Force.

QUERY: how many ounces does a punch bowl hold?

ANSWER: 338.

QUERY: why did americans fall for disco

ANSWER: You know how if your foot hurts, but you give your elbow a really bad bang, you focus on the elbow and forget about your foot? Kinda the same deal.

QUERY: pronounce nivea baby name

ANSWER: Well, that's -- wait, what? Someone named their baby after a man's face-moisturizing lotion? Dear God in Heaven.

QUERY: the subway® chain is a national sponsor of the american heart association s start! heart walk. learn more here... (approximately 200 words following deleted for clarity)

ANSWER: If the Subway chain's marketers were responsible for typing that into my search-engine box, they can pre-emptively fuck off for being so completely and utterly lame. However, I am sure they were not responsible for such a thing.

QUERY: loy norrix little shop of horrors stage play cast

ANSWER: What do you mean, a "stage play?"

QUERY: compare and contrast the belize general election to the upcoming u.s general election

ANSWER: Belize has elections? Who knew?

QUERY: write a narrative essay i am 50 miles from gas station my car has broken down now what i have to do?plz complete a 500 words essay.

ANSWER: Here's a better idea. Why not drop out of school and just go straight into an entry-level position involving a lot of physical labor? I mean, if you're too bloody lazy to write an essay that should start and end with the phrase, "Call AAA," then you're probably wasting your time trying to get an education. Then again, you could actually -- wait for it -- use your brain and think of, I don't know, a scenario to get yourself out of a pickle you'll undoubtedly find yourself in someday, because you're clearly not the type to think independently or ahead. Try it -- it gets easier with practice!

QUERY: allergy to pollen spiritual meaning

ANSWER: And the LORD said unto Satan, behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. -- Job 2:6

QUERY: my wife left me because i only make 40000 per year

ANSWER: Well, you're probably better off without her. After all, it stands to reason that with time your income will increase as you gain experience and increased job responsibilities at your work; thus, your income of $40,000 per annum -- which is not really all that bad in most places these days -- will undoubtedly increase. The good news, though, is that your wife did not consider this, which means that she probably won't take you for alimony in the ensuing divorce proceedings.

QUERY: i was made fun of because i sucked at basketball

ANSWER: So play football. Unlike basketball, that's a real sport.

QUERY: 20 thousand dollar diamond ring

ANSWER: That's quite a ring. I always thought I would spend between five and ten thousand on a ring, but don't let me talk you out of it. If you want to spend twenty grand then go for it.

QUERY: pimped out sables

ANSWER: I don't even want to know.

QUERY: suing a stockbroker

ANSWER: Good luck with that!

QUERY: should men look after their wives financially

ANSWER: YES. That's your job, for God's sake. Even if you're not the sole breadwinner, you don't want your wife eating cat food when you're dead. So make sure the papers are in order.

QUERY: soy milk in san miguel de allende

ANSWER: See the expat from New Orleans who owns the bagel shop off the Jardin. If there's anyone who can find soy milk in San Miguel, I'm betting it's him.

QUERY: michigan state sucks!

ANSWER: You'll have no argument from me there.

QUERY: roman punishments treadmill

ANSWER: I've always considered the treadmill as bad as the flagellum.

QUERY: casa carino telephone san miguel de allende

ANSWER: Call Casas Elegantes, which I can assure you is an excellent way to secure lodgings in San Miguel. Sadly, I do not have the $10,200 per week or $34,000 per month required to stay at Casa Carino.

QUERY: manchester wolves game june 6 2008 who televises?

ANSWER: This depends. If you are in the Manchester area, you should go to the games themselves, which are fun and inexpensive. If you are not in the Manchester area, you can download a television viewer from the af2's Web site. I use this to watch the away games and it works extremely well on modern computer systems.

QUERY: cut off your nose to spite your face

ANSWER: I would never -- ever -- do such a thing. Really. Honest.

QUERY: effects of the gallic wars

ANSWER: Rome won.

QUERY: how does today s slavery manifest itself?

ANSWER: Generally through debt slavery or other pernicious scheme, where poor sharecroppers or workers are perpetually up to their eyeballs in obligations to their landlords or bosses. It's not technically slavery, but may as well be given the economics of the situation; the debtors must keep working to pay their debts, which never go down. Outright slavery has generally been outlawed throughout the world, but still exists under cover of secrecy in several countries. If we include in this mix workers who are paid nothing but subsistence wages for their work, and have considerable deductions for room and board taken out of their pay, then ... well, I'd put the number at 100 or 200 million, even if only about 30 million are held under what one would consider traditional slavery.

For more on this, see here.

QUERY: who is benjamin kepple?

ANSWER: Benjamin Kepple is a 32-year-old journalist, professional misanthrope and dedicated football fan living in Manchester, N.H. He is a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., an alumnus of the University of Michigan and passionate defender of the Midwestern United States and its people. His interests include professional football, business and finance, theology, economics and foreign policy. He is not really interested in politics or bad television, although he certainly does own a television so he can watch sports and CNBC. Tall, single, nice eyes, iffy dancer, very good memory, overweight but much less so than in the past. That about covers it, I think.

And that about covers it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time for even more depressing silliness.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2008

Whining Tom Brady Complains About ESPN

SO TOM BRADY HAS WHINED about ESPN's coverage of the "Spygate" scandal, in which his New England Patriots stole defensive signals from other teams, charging the network was seeking to fabricate controversy for its own ends. To this, The Rant would simply say: Shut up, Tom. Please. It's for your own good. Shut up.

After all, as a Steelers fan, I would normally have a lot to say about this. But as a Steelers fan, I take direction from Mr Rooney, who has said to drop the matter. So I have. However, this does not mean I can't discuss Mr Brady himself.

Fans of the New England Patriots, who are loyal to their team and suspicious of outsiders wanting to knock them off their perch, may wonder what justification I have for doing so. Well, it's simple. Although Mr Brady is a superstar quarterback and I am but a writer of extremely minor import, we are both Michigan men. Thus, as a Michigan man with one year's seniority over Mr Brady, I get to talk as much shit about the man as I want.

If you ask me, Mr Brady's whining about the situation is demeaning to our alma mater and generally pathetic: similar to the professional antics of Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards, the one-time Michigan star, before Mr Edwards suddenly relearned to catch the ball. Take your lumps like a man, or at the very least draw upon your inner reserve of mental fortitude all Michigan students get as part of their orientation package. You went to Michigan. You are a Champion of the West. Thus, the slings and arrows of the world should not bother you.

Besides, on a practical matter, whining about Spygate means we all have to keep hearing about Spygate, and I'm sick of hearing about Spygate. As far as I'm concerned, it's over and it's done -- finito, kaput, an ex-scandal. I am far more concerned about next season and the things the Pittsburgh Steelers, and everyone else in the league, are preparing so they can knock the Patriots on their asses this fall. That's what I want to hear about, not some lame-o scandal that, although entertaining for a time, was not the blockbuster we thought it would be.

As an aside, I would note it is now just six months and two weeks before the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers travel to play the Patriots in New England. Bring it!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 07, 2008

So I Missed Something Here

ACCORDING TO The Los Angeles Times, Border Patrol officers working California's southern border are arresting and deporting illegal immigrants as the immigrants are heading back to Mexico.

OK.

Did I not get the memo or something?

I mean, I don't know about you, but it seems to me that if you have legions of illegal migrants trying to get into the country every day of the year, and you have legions of illegal migrants already in the country, it might make more sense to devote attention to those groups before focusing on the folks that are going back home. I mean, call me crazy, but an illegal migrant leaving the country and returning to his nation of origin isn't much of an illegal migrant.

Now, the Government does have a rationale for this practice -- according to the Times, the Government believes it a "productive way to stop dangerous criminals, drug shipments and money launderers."

I do wish the Times had gone into more detail about that point, because it might have helped justify why the Government is doing this. Certainly the money-laundering aspect of things makes sense, because we know that narcotics cash is smuggled across the border into Mexico. The criminal aspect also makes sense, if the Government is searching for dangerous criminals whom it believes are heading to Mexico. The drug shipment aspect seems a bit much, because the drugs would be going the wrong way, but then again, I am not a policeman.

Still, even if that was the case, wouldn't it make sense to just conduct searches of the vehicles as a matter of policy and then arrest only those who were actually caught trying to smuggle cash or escaping justice? Arresting illegal migrants who are spitting distance from their home country just doesn't seem very efficient.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2008

I've Only Got Four Minutes to Save the World

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

ALTHOUGH I CONSIDER myself a loyal and right-thinking American, willing to stand with my country right or wrong, I must admit there are times when I despair greatly for the future of the Republic. Sometimes I despair when I look at certain past decisions of the nation's Government (e.g., the Seventeenth Amendment and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment). Other times I despair when I consider present developments in society, such as the fact people actually send text messages whilst driving motor vehicles. Then, there are my search logs, which cause me the most despair of all.

I mean, I'm sorry, but what am I to make of the fact that the phrase "melty crunchy spicy grilled" was the second-most searched for term on The Rant this month? I'm not even including certain variants of the phrase, such as "what is the melty crunchy spicy grilled" and "crunchy melty spicy melty."

These folks can't all be foreigners trying to learn the finer points of modern American culture -- since nearly all my visitors are from the United States, one can thus deduce that actual American citizens are typing these terms into their search engines and arriving here. This bothers me. I mean, I'm willing to laugh at certain foibles of American life -- like that Johnny Bravo episode where our dimwitted hero, upon encountering his VCR clock blinking 12:00, thought what any reasonable person would have thought -- "that time had stopped for everyone but me!" But this ... oy vey.

Anyway, if you've come here searching for "melty crunchy spicy grilled" or any of its variant phrases, I would encourage you to ... I don't know, look harder for gainful employment. Also, it probably wouldn't hurt you to eat a salad. But I digress. Let's move on to the deeper and, in many ways, more disturbing aspects of The Rant's search logs in this latest edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

---------------

QUERY: currency speculation

ANSWER: Alarmingly, currency speculation was the third-most popular query here at The Rant this month. Folks, if you're interested in currency speculation, I guess I should start by applauding your interest in financial matters. That said, if you do take part in forex speculation, you're going to get chewed up and spit out. This is because the leverage used in these transactions (100 to 1 is typical) can be disasterous for novice investors. Also, novice investors don't have a chance in hell of beating the experts at their own game. However, if you must pursue this silly notion, I would advise waiting to do it until everyone stops talking about currency speculation.

QUERY: anheuser busch tattoo

ANSWER: Do you have any idea how much money it costs to remove a tattoo? I don't either, but I'm sure it's not cheap. Don't make a stupid mistake that you'll later regret, particularly as someday you'll make more money and start drinking real beer, and not watered-down American-style pilseners that taste like horse urine.

QUERY: is kalamazoo dangerous

ANSWER: Well, as with any city, it depends in which part of Kalamazoo you are. But generally, it's about as dangerous as any struggling small post-industrial Rust Belt city. Which is to say, yeah, kinda sorta.

QUERY: circle and exclamation point warning light in 2005 mitsubishi endeavor

ANSWER: This warns drivers about losing style points for buying a Japanese sport-utility vehicle. Particularly if you're in Michigan. If that's the case, good luck with that.

QUERY: potted meat in the can for low carb diet?

ANSWER: For the record, The Rant believes potted meat should not be part of anyone's diet if at all possible. It's potted meat, for God's sake.

QUERY: dummest small claims

ANSWER: Pot? It's kettle on line three!

QUERY: now that s what i call music song list

ANSWER: Now how would I know that? Do I look like Rick Dees? Don't answer that!

QUERY: what is market rally

ANSWER: A market rally is when the hedge funds and speculators who control the markets change direction suddenly and bid up the price of securities through buying, thus temporarily creating the illusion that small investors have gained wealth. Give it time. It'll change.

QUERY: nebraska football

ANSWER: *snicker* *guffaw* ... what's that? You want a real answer? Fine. I shall summon the words of the famed actor Joe Lo Truglio ("You loser! God, you are such a loser!").

QUERY: what happens if i drink too much beet juice

ANSWER: Your tongue turns purple and you get jaundice.

QUERY: the chance of plaintiffs winning against corporations improved between 1988-1992?

ANSWER: The chance of plaintiffs winning against corporations improved when juries decided they didn't like corporations and wanted to "send a message" instead of actually dealing with the claims at hand.

QUERY: grand rapids sex group

ANSWER: I don't want to know.

QUERY: an instance of cultural misunderstanding that happened to you

ANSWER: I walked down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley in a suit once. No, really. I did. This prompted many instances of cultural misunderstanding. Goddamned hippies.

QUERY: what does a woman wear to james bond party

ANSWER: Very little?

QUERY: 1979 business week ran an infamous cover story titled "the death of equities"

ANSWER: Yeah, that was a lulu!

QUERY: ways to spell the name benjamin

ANSWER: There is ONE way to spell the name Benjamin. ONE WAY. Don't screw it up! Also, if you're going to name your son Benjamin -- a good, solid name, by the way, and evidence of your sophistication and cleverness -- DO NOT call him a nickname other than "Ben." That's all you get: Ben or Benjamin. Not Benny, not Benji, just Ben or Benjamin.

QUERY: based on value line s forecasted information what is the range of possible intrinsic values for geico?

ANSWER: I'm just stunned to learn Value Line still offers its print product. Wow. Anyway, I'm not a subscriber so I can't tell you, but certainly Value Line is an excellent and wonderful source. I remember those black binders -- I wonder if they still have them!

QUERY: if i pay off the mortgage to buy half my girlfriend s house what are the tax implications? we d change the title to joint tenants.

ANSWER: Never mind the tax implications! If you're going to buy a house with the girl you should start thinking about something a bit more serious, shouldn't you?

QUERY: appropriate actions to take against a narcissistic boss

ANSWER: Quit and get a new job.

QUERY: clever comebacks like did i invite you to my barbucue? then why are you all up in my grill?

ANSWER: That's not clever, primarily because it uses the word "grill" in a non-ironic slang sense. Not cool.

QUERY: which 15th seeded school upset iowa st. in the first round of the 2001 ncaa menýs basketball tournament?

ANSWER: Murray State.

QUERY: eugene oregon where to stay weird places

ANSWER: The whole stupid town is weird. Thus, you're weirded out by default. You'll fit right in!

QUERY: what musical note does a car horn beep in?

ANSWER: In my experience, it's either an F or an A note -- usually an A note -- but it varies by make and model.

QUERY: matthew mcconaughey rooting for duke

ANSWER: He would do that.

QUERY: matt hasselbeck post game interview lavender argyle sweater

ANSWER: He would do that.

QUERY: waitress places check in front of female meaning

ANSWER: I have to think that's a not-so-subtle slap at the man she's with. A proper waiter should always place the check in front of the man, who should not let the woman see it, unless he wishes to openly advertise that he's leaving a decent tip.

QUERY: i live in washington dc can i file a complaint against my neighbor for all the noise

ANSWER: Good luck with that!

QUERY: lazy high school student

ANSWER: Can you blame him?

QUERY: students who do their homework do better on tests than students who dont

ANSWER: One would hope so.

QUERY: i was ecstatic they renamed french fries as freedom fries. grown men and women in positions of power in the us government showing themselves as idiots

ANSWER: Yeah, you know, because that's not normally the case.

QUERY: why must celebrities have uncommon names

ANSWER: They're not as bright as they think they are.

QUERY: i want a guy with smooth liquidations i want a guy with good dividends meaning

ANSWER: She'll eventually want half.

QUERY: indeed economic commentator ben stein has promoted the notion of market manipulation from the shadows largely in the form of hedge funds

ANSWER: You know what? He ain't wrong, either.

QUERY: which of the following is correct? a.it s a lot of work b. don t aggravate me. c. between you and me i think it stinks d. she is smarter then he is.

ANSWER: All of the above.

QUERY: why was pete postlethwaite chosen to play kobayashi?

ANSWER: Because Pete Postlethwaite rules, that's why.

QUERY: overachieving douchebag hot girlfriend

ANSWER: If there is one thing I've learned in life, it is this -- love is strange. As frustrating as it can be to men, who tend to analyze relationships like they're assigning bond ratings, trying to apply rules of logic and traditional analysis does not work when one deals with love. Thus, it makes no sense trying to understand why Hot Woman A is dating Douchebag B. Your job, consequently, is to get over it and find a hot girlfriend of your own, and experience the joy of it accordingly.

QUERY: how to strategically plan for a beauty pageant-what steps must be taken

ANSWER: I have no idea. I know little about beauty pageants. It may be wise to plan out answers beforehand for the inevitable stupid questions the judges ask the contestants, though.

QUERY: why do people tend to give leaders too much credit or blame for organizational outcomes?

ANSWER: Because the leaders are making all the money.

QUERY: what should you do if you do not know the answer to a client s query?

ANSWER: Find the answer.

QUERY: society distracted with sport and celebrity

ANSWER: Yes, but that's all part of Secret Master Plan 46B, which the Legion of Doom is conducting under the Superfriends' noses. Don't resist it -- at least, not with the sport. Sport is fun and enjoyable and celebrates the grand virtues of American life. In the meantime, save your money and start investing so you can be part of the investor class which will rule American life in about 20 to 30 years or so -- at least, they will until the Wonder Twins take the form of inflation and recession, respectively.

QUERY: price ceiling of $1 000 per month might be set on two-bedroom apartments by santa monica municipality of california affect the supply and demand curve

ANSWER: That's the type of typically stupid idea Santa Monica would come up with, but I'll tell you the answer: it will send the supply plummeting. We already know demand is very high for Santa Monica apartments and supply is limited, and price equilibrium has been established at that point. If you screw with the equilibrium, you'll create a shortage because supply will fall while demand will increase. In fact, I'd go so far as to say two-bedroom apartments would disappear if this came to pass -- the owners would simply turn their buildings into condominiums.

Well, that's a fitting end to another edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time when we discuss the Cincinnati Bengals, the ECB's Volcker-like focus on inflationary pressures, and why television still sucks. Until then, have a great weekend!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2008

Pa. Couple Sues Google Over "Street View" Feature

ANYONE WHO HAS USED Google Maps recently has undoubtedly taken a look at their "Street View" feature, which allows one to view a street-level picture of the destination where one is traveling. This can be rather helpful if a traveler has never been to his destination before, as knowing what a particular building looks like can be a lifesaver.

But Pittsburgh residents Aaron and Christine Boring -- yes, Boring -- do not think the "Street View" feature is helpful. You see, they recently bought a house for $163,000 in the Steel City, and a big reason they did so was because the house was secluded, according to court papers. The house is located on a clearly-marked private road and has a fifty-foot right of way. Perhaps understandably, the Borings were not pleased to learn that Google's camera squads drove by their house and took bunches of pictures of it. Not so understandably for a privacy-seeking couple, the Borings filed a lawsuit against Google. Since Google is Google, the suit has received much media attention and is now linked on the Drudge Report.

Oops.

The Borings' attorney claims in the lawsuit -- which is available on The Smoking Gun's Web site -- that the couple have suffered "mental suffering" and that Google's actions have "diminished the value of their property." As a result, they want Google to scrub the pictures from their Web site. Oh, and monetary damages.

I will leave it to others to discuss whether the Borings' case is justified, although I myself wonder if they might have a case. I mean, if your lawn looked like this, wouldn't you be mortified to have that on the Internet?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2008

Hail to the Burgers

GAD, I MISS COLLEGE. Why, you ask? Well, one of the nice things about college was that it was very easy to get upset over things of practically zero consequence. At my alma mater -- the glorious and wonderful University of Michigan -- some students are upset over yet another of these piddling matters.

You see, there's a new burger joint in town. This burger joint, known as "Quickie Burger and Dogs," has as its logo a woman in cowboy dress riding astride a succulent, tasty burger, and grasping a mug of beer in her outstretched hand. This has angered a group of students on campus, who complain the logo is offensive and degrading to women. They want the owners of the establishment to change the logo accordingly. However, thanks to plucky bloggers, this eminently local and penny-ante dispute has now received national attention.

I must admit I find this whole thing very strange -- and here's the most important reason for that:

Now, although I am sure the good people at Quickie Burger have excellent food, provide prompt service and let patrons watch television while eating, there's already a perfectly good burger joint in town. That would be Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, at 551 S. Division St. That's less than half a mile away from Quickie Burger, which is at the corner of State and Hill.

So it seems to me that people truly upset about Quickie Burger's logo -- all six of them -- should stop whining and Take Bold and Decisive Action: namely, go to Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, which has been Cheaper Than Food since 1953. What's that? You think some of the students, because they're complaining about a sign logo, might not eat meat? Everyone knows Blimpy Burger has vegetarian options, such as the Veggie Burger Blimpy Style.

I mean, as long as the students follow Blimpy Burger's Important Ordering Rules, they'll be fine. True, if they inexplicably fail to follow the Important Ordering Rules, they "may risk the scorn and derision of the cooks and be subject to groans of agony from the patrons in line." You think I kid? That quote's from Blimpy Burger's own Web site.

Of course, healthy competition is good for everyone, and I am sure the burger market in Ann Arbor is big enough for both restaurants to coexist, even if they're within half a mile of each other. I am also sure that Quickie Burger, based on reports of its popularity, serves up a good burger. Still, speaking as an alumnus of the University, I can't see why anyone would eat a burger at any place other than Blimpy Burger: if only because the roughly 2.1 billion burger combinations available at Blimpy Burger allow everyone to get what they want, made how they like it.

The Rant, for the record, orders a quad with blue cheese and grilled onions, on an onion roll, and has an order of fried mushrooms to go along with it. How could it be otherwise? For some things, like Blimpy Burger, are timeless. Also, I can assure you that when I walk into Blimpy Burger next month and order this, it will be just as good if not better than when I had this very meal ten years ago.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

Saving the Planet and Other Ill-Advised Plot Devices

OVER AT STEPHEN SILVER'S site, the following was listed as his "quote of the week" -- and it was so good I'm blatantly using it as the basis for my own blog post. Mr Silver, in noting an enjoyable post from The Onion AV Club's Web site about "amusingly-misguided eco-friendly entertainments," recognized in particular Item Eleven, which references no less than Saved By the Bell. Yes, that Saved By the Bell, God save us.

The AV Club writes as follows:

Similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's epic capitalist fable There Will Be Blood, only dumber and cuter, the '90s teen sitcom "Saved By The Bell" explored how wanton greed and blatant disregard for the harmful side effects of oil prospecting can wreck the souls of men, as well as blond boys who talk to the camera. "Saved By The Bell's" oil episode begins, in the series' usual inexplicable fashion, with irrepressible preppie Zack Morris making friends with a duck named Becky he has accidentally hit with a baseball behind the high school. Just as Daniel Plainview's son H.W. comes to represent all the inner good the father eventually betrays, Becky is a metaphor for Zack's kinder, gentler side, which is soon poisoned by dreams of vast wealth after Slater discovers oil in the football field. In spite of the efforts of the muckraking Jessie Spano, whose Upton Sinclair-esque newsletter No Oil In Bayside is ignored by the 10-person student body, oil companies come in to drill the field. Tragically, there's a spill, and Becky is killed. Zack Morris—and the audience—learn a sad, valuable lesson: If you discover oil in the football field behind your high school, keep it a secret. Otherwise, your beloved duck friend will die. Unfortunately, this environmental lesson is applicable only in a world controlled by hacky sitcom writers.

Thanks to the Magic of the Internet, I did about two minutes of research and discovered this particular episode aired on Oct. 26, 1991. Do you have any idea what the price of oil was back on Oct. 26, 1991? I'll tell you -- $23.12 per barrel. $23.12! I mean, my God, gasoline was at 64.72 cents per gallon on the NYMEX. It's a hell of a lot easier to pontificate about the Myriad Evils of Crude Oil Exploration when the stuff and its distillates can be had for a song.

Of course, this was "Saved by the Bell," so it had no bearing in reality. After all, let's say this scenario happened at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, Mich., back in 1991, and the football team discovered there was oil at the 50-yard-line. The following would have happened:

One. Kalamazoo, being a God-fearing town, would not drill for oil on the football field, which was holy and sacrosanct. Instead, it would drill for oil in someplace more convenient, like the baseball field, the teachers' parking lot behind the school, or the Robert I. Quiring Gymnasium. It's oil, for God's sake.

Two. The idea of drilling for oil would lead to all manner of arguments in the local press. These arguments would all come to a crashing halt once people realized a) this would create industrial jobs, and b) this could conceivably result in lower schools taxes.

Three. A chain restaurant serving bland American fare -- like a Bill Knapp's -- would be built next to the drilling site. This would be universally hailed as Kalamazoo's latest step forward into the modern age. Remember, it was 1991 -- this was all we had. I mean, as much as I love the auld sod, you'd have trouble finding good Italian food in Kalamazoo back in '91.

Four. Once the students at Loy Norrix realized oil drilling was taking place -- this would be about when the well's gas flare was going full-bore -- it would cause protests among the preppier and with-it students, who labored under the delusion that protests which high-school students conducted had any bearing on the machinations of the larger world.

Five. The protests would fade away when the students got distracted -- for instance, if a really good fight was taking place in the "M" wing -- or more interesting things to do presented themselves, usually involving driving at unsafe speeds.

Six. Morning classes would be skipped. (No, wait. That was later, in '94. Apologies).

Seven. Some time later, after the precious oil had been flowing from the ground for months, a teacher would attempt to appear cool and with it through uttering the line, "I drink your milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!" Little inspiration would result, and the school's abysmal drop-out rate would continue unabated.

(You think I kid. If I remember right, when I started at Loy Norrix back in the day, I had about 400 students in my freshman class. When I graduated, I had ... oh, 235 or so classmates. That doesn't appear to have changed much, either -- in an Oct. 30 AP article printed in the Detroit News, "Michigan stung by study's dropout list," my alma mater was listed as one of several Michigan high schools where no more than 60 pc of the freshmen starting there made it to their senior year).

And that was back in '91. Now that oil is more than $100 a barrel, a drilling operation could literally open Pandora's Box in the process and it wouldn't stop the well from being built. Not that I could blame folks, either -- things are tough back home.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the works mentioned in the AV Club's article hailed from the Nineties -- when it was more important to care about environment issues than actually do anything about them. Strange how that all turned out. But do give the whole list a read -- if you liked No. 11 on it, you'll undoubtedly like Nos. 1-17 inclusive.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2008

US Air Force: Blogs "Sap and Impurify" Precious Mental Readiness

By SKIP ARGYLE
Rant Defense Weekly

WASHINGTON -- The US Air Force has banned its servicemen from accessing blogs for official use, warning the Web sites could "sap and impurify the precious mental readiness" of its airmen.

The news was first reported in the Air Force Times, and media outlets such as Wired then picked up the story. The news outlets reported that although many blogs are banned, through a process the USAF's Cyber Command oversees, many regular news services remain available to airmen. Wired writes:

AFNOC has imposed bans on all sites with "blog" in their URLs, thus cutting off any sites hosted by Blogspot. Other blogs, and sites in general, are blocked based on content reviews performed at the base, command and AFNOC level ...

The idea isn't to keep airmen in the dark -- they can still access news sources that are "primary, official-use sources," said Maj. Henry Schott, A5 for Air Force Network Operations. "Basically ... if it's a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it's fairly cut and dry that that's a good source, an authorized source," he said.

The policy is the brainchild of Brig. Gen. Thaddeus "Buck" Surpelson, who reportedly believes blogs provide "information notably lacking in purity of essence."

"These Web logs, or 'blogs,' have no regard for the proper dissemination of information. For this reason, I want to impress upon you gentlemen the need for extreme watchfulness," Surpelson said recently at a meeting of Cyber Command officers, according to a source present. "We all know the Reds are tricky, and can broadcast disinformation through a variety of means. Trust no blog, no matter its credentials, unless the author is known to you personally. Even then, be wary, for its author may be a secret Communist agent."

"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify the precious mental readiness of our airmen," Surpelson said.

Among Air Force personnel, opinions on Surpelson's directives are divided.

"Gee, those Communists sure are tricky," said Senior Airman Clyde Percival, as he browsed one of the few remaining sites available to airmen, a Web site devoted to the life and music of John Philip Sousa. "I had absolutely no idea that Instapundit, Powerline, Dean's World and all these other sites I enjoyed were actually written by seditious, Commie-loving turncoats, ready and willing to destroy our way of life at a moment's notice. Thank God we were made aware of this before it was too late."

"What do you mean, 'we're not fighting the Russians?'" Percival added.

"This is completely insane. For that matter, Surpelson is completely insane," said an Air Force lieutenant, as he pounded his computer's keyboard in vain. "I can't even call up my favorite football blogs. What the hell was he thinking? Communists have not infiltrated the National Football League!"

"Never mind the fact a lot of these blogs provide a window into the morale and everyday conditions facing our airmen, which many of them understandably won't openly mention to their superiors," said the lieutenant, as he desperately tried to find news about the Denver Broncos.

Interestingly, the new Air Force policy still allows airmen to access Web sites such as The New York Times and other mainline media. Some speculated this was done to prevent the major media from taking notice of the ban, although others said the move was made with more practical considerations in mind.

"I hate to say this, but The New York Times does a much better job of providing information about our war plans than strategic command does," said an anonymous Air Force captain.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

TSA Starts Blog

NO, REALLY. IT'S NOT A JOKE. The Government agency that pretty much everyone loves to hate has started up its own blog. Based on the public reaction to the thing, it seems clear the TSA's blog, "Evolution of Security," is the most anticipated Government blog since the RSHA's "Today's Papers, Please" and the KGB's "Chek This."

Of course, I kid. I would never seriously compare the TSA to the RSHA, the KGB, or any other really nasty security agency now in history's dustbin. For one thing, that would be unjust. For another, it might get me listed on the agency's no-fly list, even though I am not an angry-looking Saudi national. One must pick one's battles to fight, and it doesn't make much sense to pick a battle where losing means I'll have to drive twelve hours to Cleveland for the holidays.

Besides, I actually had good experiences with the TSA on my recent trip -- not only in Manchester, where the TSA officers are always polite and friendly, but also in Los Angeles, which was a pleasant surprise. In fact, due to clever planning on my part, I actually made it through security at LAX's Terminal 6 in about 30 seconds on my return flight. There was no wait time, and the terminal was deserted. Flying a red-eye has its advantages. (Manchester, as usual, was a breeze).

Still, on an overall basis, I do think the TSA would do itself a lot of good if it gently reminded its officers about the importance of courtesy when dealing with the traveling public. I daresay 90 pc of the complaints about the agency would disappear if TSA officers dealt with every passenger in a consistent and courteous manner.

Most people, including myself, are fine with the various regulations TSA has put in place. Most people, including myself, are fine with "additional screening," even though we are not angry-looking Saudi nationals. Most people, however, are not fine with getting a heap of verbal abuse while trying to deal with the TSA's often-byzantine procedures. While I have never personally been subject to abuse from a TSA officer, I have received enough smart-alecky remarks and barked orders to annoy me -- mostly at CLE, I might add. To be perfectly blunt about it, when passengers get crap from baggage screeners, it doesn't help the TSA perform its mission or get passengers on the agency's side.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

Post-Vacation, I'm Tanned, Rested, and Ready

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

BEHOLD! I HAVE RETURNED from my vacation in the West, and it was good. I'm tanned, rested and ready to get back to work. Cleverly, though, I have arranged things so I don't have to return to my day job until Tuesday. Thus, I'll be taking things easy over the next few days -- and doing some blogging as well.

As it's been a while since I've done some blogging, and it has been a while since I've done an installment of Your Search Engine Queries Answered!, I figured this would be a perfect time to look over the innumerable search-engine queries received here at The Rant. Hoo boy. They don't disappoint, either. Although I can say with authority that 2008 is thus far going gangbusters for me personally, the quality of and brainpower behind the queries I've received hasn't improved. But don't just take my word for it ...

QUERY: europe is know as old continent small continent or white continent?

ANSWER: Europe is known as the Slow-Growth Wealth-Eating Continent.

QUERY: the benjamin 1000 us dollar

ANSWER: The Benjamin is actually slang for a $100 bill. There are no $1,000 bills anymore, which is a shame and a travesty. For this, we can blame President Nixon. Nixon's move withdrawing large banknotes from circulation, although supposedly done to fight organized crime, was the type of move we would expect from President Wage and Price Controls. Now that inflation has eaten away the value of the dollar, we should reinstate large bills -- at the very least, $200 and $500 notes. After all, if even the Europeans have 200 and 500 euro notes, large bills can't be that bad.

QUERY: is there a colored $2 bill?

ANSWER: Yes. It's green.

QUERY: how much is $202.80 in indian rupees

ANSWER: It's about 8,000 rupees -- to be exact, 8,023 rupees and 42 paise. That's actually something of a tidy sum in India, where 54 pc of the population lives in households earning under 90,000 INR per annum, and 77 pc of Indians live on less than 20 INR per day.

QUERY: how to get rid of canadian coins

ANSWER: Beats the hell out of me. This is one of my pet peeves with the modern American banking system, which is stupidly greedy when it comes to dealing with Canadian coins.

It was not always this way. For instance, when I was a boy growing up in Michigan, Canadian coins would frequently leach into the local financial system. However, the banks there would gladly accept small amounts of the coinage at parity with the greenback as a courtesy to their customers, even though it meant a tiny loss in doing so.

Today, however, trying to deposit small amounts of Canadian coinage in a bank is a process akin to having a root canal. For instance, before I went on vacation, I cashed in the value of my NFL coin bank at my local credit union. After doing so, I had 26 Canadian cents left over that the coin machine rejected. The cashier promptly informed me she could do nothing -- nothing! -- with the coins, even though the Canadian dollar is practically equal in value to the US dollar. The coins are now back in my NFL coin bank and I haven't any idea how to get rid of them, other than go to Montreal.

QUERY: bad side of poverty

ANSWER: There's a good side?

QUERY: risk involved when financed by rich relative

ANSWER: Oh boy -- the dreaded intra-family speculative business relationship. This has plenty of risk for the borrower and the lender. The greatest risk here is that it will sunder the familial bond between the borrower and the lender, which is a heck of a risk to take for what is probably an ill-advised business venture.

For the lender, the smart move would be to consider the loan a gift, if you're willing to make it. That's because most business ventures fail. Furthermore, if a relative comes hat in hand to you, it suggests that he can't raise capital through traditional means, thus adding to the risk accordingly. So if you're going to loan five or ten grand so your brother-in-law can raise alpacas or something, you may as well write it off in your mind.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get a return on your investment (or, more likely, of it). If your brother-in-law sets up a corporation, perhaps you could figure out a way to buy convertible preferred shares in it for your money, thus enabling you to reap dividends in the short-term and, if all goes well, equity in the long-term.

As for the borrower -- well, you had best do everything you can to pay back your lender, because otherwise it could make family gatherings a bit strained. After all, the last thing you need is to show up at Thanksgiving and have to make small talk with the guy whose ten thousand bucks you lost.

QUERY: the profit motive of capitalism market is proof of the foolishness of the system. the society cannot flourish when individuals are constantly trying to squeeze profits from the production process

ANSWER: Idiot! The profit motive is why capitalism succeeds and socialism fails. If no one has any interest in how well the production process performs, the efficacy of the process is eroded because -- to be perfectly blunt -- nobody gives a shit. On the other hand, if people profit personally from success, then they have a vested interest in seeing things go well.

As for societies flourishing, I recall one researcher -- whose name escapes me at the moment -- who found that Soviet-style socialism destroys roughly seventh-eighths of a nation's potential economic output.

QUERY: foreign currency cds

ANSWER: Oh Christ, not this idea again. I wrote about these here, and why they're not a good idea for most people. The two major points are these: the increased interest you receive isn't an adequate reward for the risk you take in investing in the foreign currency, and there are better options out there if you're looking for a dollar hedge.

QUERY: how high is etfc going to go

ANSWER: Oh, well, let me go check my crystal ball for you. Hmmmm ... it says, "Concentrate and ask again." Gee, I guess the fates aren't interested in answering your query.

QUERY: there was a big party at morgan stanley after the mexican peso devaluation people from all over wall street came they drank champagne and smoked cigars and congratulated themselves on how they pulled it off and they made a fortune.

ANSWER: Wow -- Wall Street folks making a fortune. Those were the good old days!

QUERY: currency speculation on your pc

ANSWER: Bad idea! Bad! Bad! Bad!

QUERY: what exactly did jerome kerviel do wrong?

ANSWER: Why, he lost, of course. You don't think he would be in the clutches of France's financial police if he had made money, now do you?

QUERY: traders are mostly shocked at socgen trader kerviel s apparent lack of profit motive.

ANSWER: Yes, of course they are. After all, profit is good, and personal profit is even better.

QUERY: what was the name of luca pacioli's first book which described the double-entry accounting system?

ANSWER: Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita.

QUERY: i won a car how much income tax do i owe

ANSWER: You must count the value of the car as income, and pay tax accordingly, at a rate between 0 and 35 percent, accordingly.

QUERY: why is it when one christmas light goes out they all go out

ANSWER: Christmas light thetans! Hey, it's as good a reason as any.

QUERY: flourless pasta flourless pasta flourless pasta

ANSWER: Was it necessary to repeat your query thrice? No. It wasn't. So no gluten-free flourless pasta for you.

QUERY: captain planet the planeteers rap lyrics

ANSWER: I just threw up a little in my mouth.

QUERY: the psychology behind people who live in a fantasy world

ANSWER: How should I know anything about that? Do I look like I know any St. Louis Rams fans?

QUERY: the famed football phrase frozen tundra described what cold hard gridiron

ANSWER: Ford Field.

QUERY: peyton manning insulting commercials

ANSWER: We've all come to expect a bit of snide-ness from America's most hated quarterback. Wasn't it great during the Super Bowl, when we only had to watch like one commercial with Quarterback Sign My Melon in it?

QUERY: detroit lions funny

ANSWER: Well, yeah, I suppose so, in that "Three Stooges" sort of way, although I think "sad" and "pathetic" are more apt descriptions.

QUERY: steelers stealing signals

ANSWER: The Pittsburgh Steelers would never steal an opposing team's signals, because the Pittsburgh Steelers do not need to do this. For one thing, they're perfectly capable of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory on their own. For another, Mr Rooney wouldn't like it.

QUERY: how to say nothing in 500 words

ANSWER: I don't know. Go talk to Maureen Dowd.

QUERY: punitive and liability damage for dog bite of scrotum?

ANSWER: Jesus God in Heaven! God! God! God! Don't say things like that! I'm going to have nightmares for weeks! And I may just sue you for bringing it up and traumatizing me!

Anyway, the answer to your question is ten million dollars. Clearly. God!

QUERY: who is going to hell

ANSWER: That's a bit above my pay grade.

QUERY: valentines day sayings for university of michigan fan

ANSWER: How about, "I've got something for you that will take your mind off the basketball team."

QUERY: pathetic valentine

ANSWER: Two words -- supermarket flowers.

QUERY: sweet love word to male lover

ANSWER: "Yes."

QUERY: do men want well-educated professional women

ANSWER: I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what's best
I want a girl with shoes that cut
and eyes that burn like cigarettes

I want a girl with the right allocations --
who's fast, and thorough, and sharp as a tack --
she's playing with her jewelry, and putting up her hair
she's touring the facility, and picking up slack --

I want a girl with a short skirt and looooooong -- jacket!

Oh, and smooth liquidation, and good dividends. Come on, now -- I need backup. Na na na na na na, na na na na na na --

QUERY: where can i find a raison d etre purse

ANSWER: I don't know, but I like the marketing.

QUERY: diamond in ring from costco broken

ANSWER: How the hell does a diamond break? It's a diamond. It's the hardest substance on earth. Not only that, it is one of the toughest naturally occuring substances, meaning you'd probably have to drop a refrigerator on the stupid thing for it to actually damage it.

Maybe this wasn't a diamond after all. Maybe it was cubic zirconia. Also, dare I ask, why buy a diamond from Costco? Sure, the price, but I remain to be convinced that a superstore known for selling giant packages of household supplies would be the best place to buy a diamond.

QUERY: is five thousand dollars enough for an engagement ring

ANSWER: I would think you could get a decent diamond ring for five thousand, if you were clever in how you bought the diamond. As I understand it these days, a one-carat stone is enough.

QUERY: why is there no tab energy drink in the stores

ANSWER: The Coca-Cola Co. is being merciful, I guess.

QUERY: dangers of tab energy drink

ANSWER: Drinking Tab energy drink can make you look adolescent, or in some cases, foppish.

QUERY: markup on coffee

ANSWER: Astounding. Coffee futures are going for about $1.43 a pound right now. A cup of coffee at some fancy cafe is what -- $3 or so? According to these guys, one pound of coffee beans will make roughly 10 pots of coffee, or 3.2 gallons, which works out to like 25 16 oz. cups of the stuff. That works out to $75 based at $3 a cup. Given that good Kona coffee beans can be had for $25 per pound, you're paying a 200 pc markup to buy coffee from some snot-nosed punk rocker. That, of course, is a generous assessment, considering that most coffee is cheaper. If you figure you can buy regular coffee beans for $10 a pound or so, that works out to a 550 pc markup.

Anyway, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time when we discuss important topics such as ... well, smooth liquidation and good dividends. Yeah. Na na na na na na, na na na na na na ...

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2008

Sacramento Up to No Good Again

IF YOU EVER WANT to find out whether your new neighbor or coworker from California is an economic refugee from the Golden State, just ask him what he thinks of the state's capital. If various expletives are used prior to or following the word "Sacramento," you'll have a pretty good guess. Although people living in California generally view their famously worthless and corrupt Government with contempt and scorn, those who no longer live there generally place it one notch below cholera in terms of the things they'd prefer dealing with in life.

Well, now the geniuses in charge of California have come up with yet another scheme to make life in the Golden State intolerable. It's bad enough they screwed up deregulating the state's electricity market, but now they're going to directly put the burdens of their incompetence on California homeowners, viz. and to wit:

What should be controversial in the proposed revisions to Title 24 is the requirement for what is called a "programmable communicating thermostat" or PCT. Every new home and every change to existing homes' central heating and air conditioning systems will required to be fitted with a PCT beginning next year following the issuance of the revision. Each PCT will be fitted with a "non-removable " FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose. During "price events" those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes. During "emergency events" the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them.

In other words, the temperature of your home will no longer be yours to control. Your desires and needs can and will be overridden by the state of California through its public and private utility organizations. All this is for the common good, of course.

For the full story on this latest brilliant idea, visit the American Thinker, which has a big story about the proposed regulation. What makes the story really amazing, though, is that the proposal for this came out of Sacramento, which last time I checked was roughly six degrees cooler than hell itself during the summer. For that matter, most of California is just a few degrees cooler than hell itself during the summer.

Thus, this proposal is completely insane. The last thing the long-suffering people of California need is for the technocrats in Sacramento to start deciding what allowable interior temperatures will be, particularly if some of those people have weak constitutions or otherwise need their homes rather cool. There's no way individual situations can be accommodated in a one-size fits all demand-restriction scheme.

Of course, demand issues wouldn't be a concern if California had adequate power supplies. Making the supplies adequate means building power plants. Although plenty of people in California hate the idea of having a power plant next door to them -- or within 100 miles of them -- there is a solution to this. Namely, put the stupid plants out in the desert.

There are vast swathes of desert in eastern California and they are perfect spots for power plants -- even nuclear power plants. It's understandable that people in Santa Barbara don't want a power plant in their neck of the woods. People in Barstow, however, would probably be down with one. Hell, you could put a nuke plant in Needles and even if the thing blew like Chernobyl nobody would notice for days. What's that? You think I'm joking? Have you ever been to Needles?

----------

TOURIST: I didn't realize they had casinos in Needles.
LOCAL: Uh, we don't.
TOURIST: Well, what's with the neon blue glow around everything?
LOCAL: Oh! That's part of our celebrations for the Needles cactus festival!
TOURIST: No kidding?
LOCAL: Yeah! We do this every year!
TOURIST: On a Tuesday?
LOCAL: Yes! The second Tuesday in April! Yeah, that's the ticket. I'll ring that up in a minute for you, I've got to get my containment suit -- I mean, my special ceremonial Indian craft handling suit -- ready.
TOURIST: Well, that makes ... hey! Wait a minute! Isn't there a nuclear plant around here?
LOCAL: It's only a model.
SECOND LOCAL: Shhh!

---------

Anyway, my point is clear: California needs power but doesn't want the plants producing it near people. There are millions of acres of empty space out in the desert: space now home to sand and rocks. Problem solved, and solved without having Sacramento keep your house at 80 degrees at night.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 17, 2007

Ladies Night Post Prompts Angry Response

BACK IN JULY, I wrote a rather scathing post about men -- or, as I wrote at the time, the "weak, soulless excuses for men these people are" -- who were all hot and bothered over the practice of nightclubs offering "ladies' night" promotions. Some of these men have actually gone to court, in an attempt to prove the promotions discriminate against men through offering women free admission or cheaper drinks, and I was appalled at such conduct.

After all, I argued, no real man would argue against "ladies' night" promotions. That's because "ladies' night" promotions are net positives for men in attendance at these nightclubs, because they boost female attendance at these venues, and men approve of partying with women. Plus, even if one wants to argue about whether these practices discriminate against men, the supposed damage is so small that no real man should complain about it. I mean, I'm sorry, but paying $5 to get into some nightspot when women pay $0 -- and on some crappy night, like a Tuesday -- is not morally equivalent to facing a literacy test when registering to vote.

Anyway, I wrote this post back in July and since my comments weren't working, it disappeared into the vast Internet ether and no one said a thing. There were no angry retorts on other blogs, no impassioned e-mails, no nothing. So you can imagine my surprise when over the past couple of days, I did get comments from two men who vehemently disagreed with me. Since my original post was so old, I thought I should respond with a new post to trample out the vintage address these disagreements.

I would note that, to properly address my commenters' concerns, I am responding line-by-line to their posts. Those readers who would like to read their posts in their entirety, without my interruptions, may do so at the original post in the above link.

Anyway, our first commenter, who went solely by the name of "Thomas," writes:

Dude, you think Mr.Hollander's lawsuit is a joke? Do you know that in several states, this practice is illegal? in Hawaii, Iowa, Oregon, and in California also??

So what if it's illegal in several states? That just shows the various states you mentioned -- particularly Oregon -- are screwed up. It does not take away from my fundamental point -- that this state of affairs is not something which men should get all hot and bothered about. Just because the state legislatures of Oregon and Hawaii and Iowa and California took an extra dose of the stupid pill does not mean the other states in the union ought follow them in their idiocy.

This is discrimination, period. I personally don't care, this is what the law calls " De Minimis", they don't really enforce it. But any man, has the right to demand equality.

If you personally don't care, then why did you write the comment? Besides, if it is truly a de minimis matter, then it's not something to get worked up about, then is it? As for "demanding equality," if this is all men have to get worked up about, there's precious little deserving of complaint.

What about homosexual men? why they have to pay more if they are not interested in females? The tell me that they can go to " gay nightclubs", that's nonsense. They can go wherever the hell they want to go.

I'm sorry, but that's a bit of a non sequitur. A homosexual who goes to an establishment offering a "ladies' night" promotion is not being treated differently than any other man, thus nullifying any charge of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Also, since no one is forcing him to go to any particular establishment, one would be hardpressed to say that he was being damaged as a result of paying a few dollars more for his cover charge or drinks than women at the same establishment.

The state of New Jersey made ladies' night legal, but that can't last for long, somebody will take it to the Supreme Court, and guess what? The law in NJ will get overturned. True, one out 700,000 men would demand equal pricing, men have lots of ego, lot of pride, and they don't want to be humilliated due to peer pressure, being called names. Other men don't care at all, they don't have nothing to lose, that is Mr. Hollander.

Sure, somebody may well take it to the Supreme Court. Get back to me when the Supreme Court agrees to hear such a case. That's another kettle of fish entirely.

Btw, do you know that most female lawyers agree with him? I guess he can get laid with them, or he still can get laid moving to Thailand. This " sex-rationale" is just stereotype and just plain stupid.

So what if "most female lawyers" agree with Mr Hollander? I've made no claims about what women may or may not feel about the matter; I am arguing the point solely from a man's point of view.

Anyway, that was our first comment. I think our second commenter, who went by the handle of "dudeasp," had a better grasp on my argument, even if he erroneously believes I am wrong. "Dudeasp" wrote as follows:

I am a traditional 30 something male. Who always pays on a date. And I don't have trouble finding dates or girlfriends. So please don't accuse me of being gay, or not being able to get laid just because you can't defend your position. I don't have any problem in that department.

Hey, pal, you brought it up, not me!

OK, now that we have established that. I think women should pay equal cover and equal prices for drinks. As a gentleman, I want to deal with ladies, not rude obnoxious golddiggers. And furthermore, I don't want to subsidize a bunch of girls whom I don't know, nor want to know. It is just plain wrong, and has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with chivalry.

I would agree that it is sound advice to avoid "rude obnoxious golddiggers," as you put it. However, I don't believe one can assume that women who go to a bar or nightclub because they're offered economic incentives to do so count as golddiggers. I mean, in most cases, we're talking about five bucks. The good life can't be achieved on five bucks.

As for the subsidy question, how can you argue that through your paying a cover charge that you're subsidizing women at an establishment? It's the bar or nightclub owner who is doing the subsidizing, in the hopes he'll gain more business through offering those incentives.

Besides, no one is forcing you to go to the establishment in question. So if you don't want to "subsidize" women that you have no intention of getting to know better, then don't go to the bar offering the ladies a price break. Go to your neighborhood bar or take out that girl from the office for a nice seafood dinner. It's hard for me to sympathize with your position when you admit from the get-go that you have no intention of meeting the girls at a bar offering one of thse promotions. OK, fine. Go somewhere else. Problem solved.

Its a matter of fairness and justice, and a bunch of women milking the system and men for what they are worth.

Last time I checked, it was the bar and nightclub owners who were all for "ladies' nights." As a result, I don't think you can argue that "ladies' nights" are Strategy 37B of the Great Feminine Global Conspiracy and their Grand Campaign to Make Men Obsolete by 2050. That you would argue that women are abusing the system and men for their own gain, to be blunt, suggests you have far deeper issues than I can hope to address in this post.

What is chivalry these days anyway, what is the womens role in chivalry? Ever ask yourself that? What standard are women held to? What is our expectation of them in terms of chivalry? I do my part. Feminism has killed their role.

No, I have never asked myself that. That's not the point. You call yourself a gentleman and I like to think I am one myself. The whole idea of being gentlemanly is that you hold your own conduct to a higher standard regardless of what happens around you. Let's say you're out on a date, and you do the gentlemanly thing and you move to hold the door open for your date, and your date responds with a smart-aleck comment. Now, you might not think much of that; after all, you were only trying to be nice and do what you felt was proper, and it might not exactly inspire you to ask her out for a second date. But why in the name of God would you let that concern you? It goes with the territory in this day and age; surely it is not difficult to adapt accordingly.

Its not about the money, its the principle. How would this play out if the roles were reversed? Should historically girls colleges give male admits a free ride, while only women pay tuition? That sounds like an idea? What would the feminists say about that?

Beats me. However, I have heard no complaints about preferences given to men who undertake studies in traditionally female-dominated fields such as nursing. That said, I don't think widening the argument makes a lot of sense in this case. After all, we're not talking about college admissions or awarding contracts -- we're talking about whether having women receive discounts at a nightclub really and truly hurts men. In my view, the answer is a clear and definitive No.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2007

Firing Blanks

Oh No!
It's Time For Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN!

Today's Feature: "Hitman"

Plot Spoilers Ahead

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME since I have written up a "Bad Cinema With Ben" feature -- more than a year, actually -- but I am pleased to report that finally, I have come across a movie bad enough to write about. The dearth of posts on this subject was primarily the result of me watching good movies, which aren't as fun to write about because everyone else has already said everything that needs said.

Of course, I could have watched a good movie Friday after I got out of work -- and "Hitman" would certainly be my third choice if one looks at the eight choices on offer at the theater. Let's look at the list.

Four of the films were out of contention immediately. "Bee Movie?" It's been done. "Fred Claus?" So. Not. Money. "Enchanted?" Wikipedia called it a "comedy-fantasy-musical," and I'll pass. Then, last but not least on the immediately out-of-contention list, was "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium." Given the title, I initially thought what any right-thinking American would think -- that the movie took place in and around a seedy Brooklyn sex shop, the type of place where people furtively buy adult novelties and pay quarters to watch pornographic videos. However, as it turned out, this movie was actually some sort of family film. That also ruled it entirely out of contention.

Next on the list was "Beowulf." I would have been down for Beowulf except Grendel's mother somehow turned into Angelina Jolie, and as such was treason to the old epic. Grendel's mother is not supposed to be hot, even if she's hot in a way I don't particularly dig. Then, you had "The Mist" -- my No. 2 choice on the list. But then I remembered that old Stephen King story scared the hell out of me back in elementary school and there was no frickin' way I was going to bring back those memories. Finally, you had "American Gangster," which I should have watched because it was clearly the best movie at the multiplex. But the showing was too late and the movie is like three hours long and by the time it had finished I would have been due for afternoon tea, and that would not have worked. So I went with "Hitman."

The previews to "Hitman" were particularly uninspiring. First, there was a trailer for "I am Legend," which involves Will Smith as the sole survivor of a horrible plague which has turned everyone else into crazed mutants. Gee. This sounds familiar. Then there was a trailer for "Jumper," a movie about annoying people with the ability to teleport. I am not a fan of superhero movies, so I thought this looked dumb. Also, there was a trailer for "Wanted," yet another uninspiring movie about some lame-o who discovers that his father was an assassin and gets recruited into a shadowy agency that apparently conducts assassinations as part of its work. This movie also had Angelina Jolie in it, which didn't impress me.

Thus, a question: why is it all of a sudden we're seeing myriad television shows and movies about lame-o beta males getting drafted into the service of shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work? I can only assume they are popular and indicative of market demand for such product, but nonetheless I find them disturbing. Quite frankly, I do not want lame-o beta males anywhere near shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work. Shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work are expensive, and as a taxpayer, I want maximum value for my killing-America's-enemies dollar. Get some Navy SEALs in there or something, not some whiny sunken-chested 24-year-old who will get all antsy and angst-ridden about knocking off Castro. Simply put, I want to see leaders in these movies, not some hormone-addled snot whose attraction to the alpha female lead brings to mind Charles Colson's famous quip: "Grab 'em by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow."

Along these lines, I was particularly annoyed with the "Wanted" trailer because it openly pandered to soft and weak notions about the meaning of power. Morgan Freeman's character, who is apparently Chief Spook in the film, delivers a lame soliloquy about how one can decide to be a "sheep" or "wolf," the former living a boring life in an office environment and the latter being a maverick and thinking outside the box and committing various violations of the U.S. Code. Now, perhaps it's just me, but this is kind of pathetic. Unmanly is what it is. In this day and age, power is not about blowing stuff up or driving dangerously -- power is about not having to raise one's voice.

But I digress. We were discussing "Hitman," were we not? Yes. Anyway: stupid, stupid film. One would think by now that Hollywood would have realized that you have to make the movie first and then develop the video game to make a boatload of cash, not the other way around. Yet here we were with another video game-turned-movie franchise. Oy vey.

Anyway, here's the plot. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is a master assassin who was trained from birth to do this work in some evil mystical school devoted to producing master assassins. No location for this school is ever shown, but it's fair to say it's in Secaucus, N.J. Anyway, after Agent 47 goes through his training, his evil masters inexplicably tattoo a bar code on the back of his bald head. I'm sorry, but what the hell's that all about?

TRAINER ONE: Quality control wants us to do what?
TRAINER TWO: We've got to tattoo UPC symbols on the back of everybody's head. Didn't you see the memo?
TRAINER ONE: What memo? Jesus Christ, I work for the funny farm. That's the stupidest --
TRAINER TWO: Well, if they wanted your opinion, they'd've asked for it, wouldn't they?
TRAINER ONE: Help me out here. We've spent millions training this kid and now we're going to put a freshness seal on his head?
TRAINER TWO: Yes, and we've got to do 40 by the end of the week. Now get the needle ready.

I mean, come on. Right there we've crossed the line into Cosmic Stupidity of the Highest Order. I'm sorry, but if you're training master assassins, the last thing you're going to do is put an identifying seal on them that everyone's going to notice. Of course, no one ever notices the fact Agent 47, nor any of the other hired blades, has a goddamn proof of purchase seal in plain sight on the back of their heads. This is just dumb.

Anyway, despite having an even worse disguise than Clark Kent, Agent 47 is very good at what he does. He is so good at what he does that he has come to the attention of Interpol and various Government agencies. Interpol is annoyed with Agent 47 because he's going around killing people and causing property damage and assaulting customs officials. Various Government agencies like Agent 47 because he's a subcontractor, and allows them to do their work without having to pay the salary and benefits associated with full-time help.

We learn early on in the film that Agent 47 has been hired to do away with the President of Russia, who is not Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. He does so impressively, yet we soon learn he has not killed the President, but rather a body double. Or vice versa, I couldn't tell which. Anyway, Agent 47 realizes he has been set up and now has to escape a rather nasty situation.

Into this mix comes the intrepid investigators from Interpol -- which represents our second Cosmic Leap of Stupidity. This is because Interpol, being an international agency, has no power at all. About all it can do is ask really nicely for people to keep an eye out for nasty criminals operating across borders, and even then it's a crapshoot. Yet here we have Interpol agents rushing about and giving orders to -- wait for it -- the Russian FSB.

Now, in real life, this would be the end of the movie, because the FSB officers would shoot the Interpol guys and send a mesage back to Interpol HQ saying, "Oops." Yet through the entire film the Interpol guys rush about and try to catch Agent 47, whom as we noted has a giant frickin' UPC code on the back of his head.

Agent 47, meanwhile, realizes he has been set up and absconds from the scene with the girlfriend of the late/not yet dead Russian leader, who for some reason is in St. Peterburg and not Moscow. This leads to a variety of implausible chases and fist-fights and explosions. Along the way, Agent 47 manages to dispatch several of his targets to Hades in a variety of inventive ways. He then sets in motion an elaborate plan to kill the Russian president, who may or may not be a body double, and the President's scumbag brother, who is engaged in the traditional Russian profession of arms-dealing. This eventually leads to an enjoyable scene in which a helicopter gunship strafes a cathedral. The triumphant Interpol investigators capture Agent 47, who then escapes, thanks to the benificence of his friends in the American Government. The movie ends with Agent 47 cleverly faking his own demise to fade back into the shadows.

There are a lot of negative things one can say about this movie, even if it wasn't horrendously bad in terms of its acting. The plot was stupid. The script was stupid. The idea was stupid. Oh, and the bar code bit? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Quite frankly, the whole thing reminded me of that story a while back about the crazy Canadian guy who got charged with killing a bunch of people, yet was let into the United States with a blood-encrusted chain saw. It's entirely possible Agent 47 could have gotten away from The Powers That Be's notice one single and solitary time, but beyond that, the guy was going to end up in a cement mixer.

It's a shame this movie didn't end up in a cement mixer, but was instead greenlighted with a reported $70 million budget. It has thus far returned $8 million, according to Box Office Mojo, in the past two days. Perhaps when all is said and done, the only folks taking one between the eyes will be those who bankrolled "Hitman."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2007

Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

IN ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, there's a scene in which one of the Watergate plumbers is being arraigned and he is asked his occupation. "Anti-Communist," he responded. It was not an accurate answer but one that expressed how he saw himself in his heart. Along those lines, my occupation can be summed up in those great lines from Billy Preston: don't you remember I told ja / I'm a soldier / in the War on Poverty.

For the most part, I'm devoted to fighting that in the financial sense of the phrase, but any poverty will do -- particularly if it's intellectual poverty. Based on the search-engine queries I get here at The Rant, there exist in the United States and elsewhere giant reserves of intellectual poverty. These are so vast, in fact, that if we were able to refine that intellectual poverty and use it to power our automobiles, the Middle East would wake up tomorrow and discover it was suddenly broke.

Sadly, however, those reserves only serve as grist for the blog-entry mill, and as such really can't be monetized. This is a shame because intellectual poverty these days is in such great supply that it is the intellectual equivalent of solar power -- cheap, efficient and inexhaustible. Still, the situation isn't all bad, as stupidity makes for great blog entries, and hoo boy did I receive some lulus in the search-engine log this month. So let's get to it!

QUERY: the philadelphia eagles rap song for 2004

ANSWER: The last Eagles song I ever heard of was, "I Saw Mommy Booing Santa Claus," so I really don't have an answer to this one. However, I'm sure the chorus has some variant of the phrase, "We blew it again."

QUERY: what high did mary lou retton attend?

ANSWER: Mary Lou Retton is high on life and as such would never attend any gathering where illegal activities were being conducted, much less take part in those activities. Although that DOES remind me of that old "In Living Color" sketch where Mr Rogers went around committing all sorts of acts and was able to get away with it because he was Mr Rogers, and no one believed he would do such things. I mean, can you imagine if Mary Lou Retton -- Mary Lou Retton, for God's sake -- ever got in trouble? It'd be like when Elvis died all over again.

QUERY: bengals cake

ANSWER: To properly decorate a Cincinnati Bengals-themed cake, make sure to include the phone numbers of all your local bail bondsmen as part of the decorative icing.

QUERY: how many bengals have been arrested

ANSWER: I lost track after the first dozen.

QUERY: what is wrong with brady quinn

ANSWER: How much time do we have?

QUERY: brady quinn is an ass

ANSWER: Well, let's just call that Item No. 1 on the list.

QUERY: how to get brady quinn s autograph

ANSWER: First, remove your wallet from your pocket and put all your currency on a table. Next, reach over and grab your ankles. You'll get it eventually. Let's call that Item No. 2 on the list.

QUERY: photos of ben roethlisberger being sacked by the colts

ANSWER: You have SO come to the wrong blog.

QUERY: saskatchewan roughriders fans are idiots

ANSWER: I'll hear no talk against my beloved Melonheads, who are clearly so starved for football action up on the prairies that they root for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

QUERY: consider yourself one of the lucky ones

ANSWER: I do. As Mayakovsky might have put it had he lived in a better age: "You now -- read this and envy: I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers."

QUERY: oakland can still win wild card

ANSWER: Well, yeah, the season hasn't started yet. Give it a few weeks.

QUERY: ace of base foreign affairs

ANSWER: OK, that's an important safety tip for Americans who might have to call upon the services of the Swedish Government in hostile countries -- you may be subjected to bad dance music.

QUERY: shots of jose cuervo country song

ANSWER: Fifteen shots of ... uh ... gee, there's a worm in this and everything!

QUERY: 1980 s song- chorus goes woo oooooooo

ANSWER: Oh, well that REALLY narrows it down, pal. Honestly, I can't -- hey, wait. That actually does narrow it down! It's "Stuck on You" by Huey Lewis and the News!

QUERY: vehicular vandalism missouri punishment

ANSWER: Death. Well, it should be.

QUERY: how many ounces does a punch bowl hold

ANSWER: 256.

QUERY: physical imperfections are also beautiful

ANSWER: Um, no, they're not. Trust me -- as a physically imperfect person myself, I know this full well. I've got to rely on my wit and charm and intermediate knowledge of the financial markets, and all that said, I think my physical stature counts for a hell of a lot more in those equations. Unfortunately.

QUERY: kate winslet weighs

ANSWER: That's about the last thing on my mind when I see a picture of Kate Winslet.

QUERY: does ladies night mean ladies only?

ANSWER: No. That said, you probably shouldn't let that answer get your hopes up.

QUERY: 36 000 americans wear what per good housekeeping magazine

ANSWER: Hmmmm. Well, it's got to be one of two things -- either "nothing" or "thong-th-thong-thong-thong!"

QUERY: shannyn sossamon no longer dating dallas clayton

ANSWER: My God. The horror.

QUERY: why do women have more pairs of shoes than clothes

ANSWER: I suspect it has something to do with the fact that women need lots of shoes to go with their outfits. I am not an expert on this subject because I order my shoes through the mail. Well, I would if I didn't ask for a new pair of shoes every Christmas and got them. I have bad feet so I wear one brand/type of shoes pretty much constantly; they're nice enough for work but also good for wearing around the house.

QUERY: engagement ring he dumped me and wants it back

ANSWER: Uh, you might want to check your local laws, but I don't think you have to give it back. He's the one who broke the promise, not you, so I'd say you get to keep the ring on general principle grounds. Whether you can do so on legal grounds is another question, though.

QUERY: lauren jones has signed off from the ktyx-tv eye of east texas

ANSWER: I'm glad to see that Texas' broadcast journalism standards may soon get back to their formerly high station. She was quite pretty, though. Maybe Fox News has an opening!

QUERY: men who disappear then reappear in dating

ANSWER: Gee, I wonder what they're after!

QUERY: reasons to date a journalist

ANSWER: As Jacobs once put it, "Journalists are two inches taller, better dancers and much more fun to be with." We're useful at dinner parties, know all the good restaurants in town and have plenty of roguish charm. Which is good since we're all broke.

QUERY: valentine smart remarks

ANSWER: If you want your Valentine's Day to be, uh, memorable, you'll steer away from the sarcasm, son.

QUERY: contracting scabies from a motel

ANSWER: Next time, stay at a place that doesn't charge by the hour.

QUERY: jury duty is fibromyalgia an excuse

ANSWER: No. You'll just have to get a good's night sleep beforehand.

QUERY: the most insane qdro ever written

ANSWER: Heh, she got you GOOD, didn't she? Sorry, buddy, but I think you're out of luck.

QUERY: \ capital one\ \ bomb

ANSWER: Dear God! The mortgages! What's happened to the mortgages?!

QUERY: foreign currency cds

ANSWER: I had a long post on this a while back. Do a search in the search box for it. The long and short of that post, though, is that you're better off sticking with boring old dollar accounts because the higher interest rates aren't worth the risks one will take with the currency fluctuation.

QUERY: are coffee drinkers wealthy or poor and middle class?

ANSWER: But everyone loves coffee!

QUERY: us culture of nivea skincare products

ANSWER: The success of the Nivea line of skincare products shows that even if you hire the most smarmy-sounding announcer in the world, a guy whose very voice wants to make you punch him in the face repeatedly, it will not stop you from selling bunches of product.

QUERY: diarrhea mcdonald s salad

ANSWER: No, you can't sue.

QUERY: expensive yuppie drinks

ANSWER: Cosmoapplevodkatini! Yay cosmoapplevodkatini!

QUERY: will sell grade hardwood for pre-1964 silver coin

ANSWER: Howard Ruff? Call your office!

QUERY: how to currency speculate

ANSWER: That you're asking this question suggests you should stay very far away from the exciting and volatile world of forex trading.

QUERY: is it stupid to use a large brokerage firm?

ANSWER: Well, that all depends on how much money you have. If you have only a little, it makes sense to start with a firm that caters to your needs appropriately, and doesn't ding you here and there with fees. Brown & Co. had a great advertising campaign to this effect a while back -- to the point where "free tcotchkes!" became a private Kepple catch-phrase.

QUERY: movie hardcharging stockbroker

ANSWER: Aren't they all? I mean, I never heard of a good movie in which the main stockbroker character cleared out at 4 p.m. every day and went home to the family.

QUERY: i can t afford living room furniture

ANSWER: Go to a decent second-hand shop and see what you can pick up. If you're like me, and you don't particularly care about furniture, a second-hand shop should get you some great bargains. I once bought a good sofa that way and it was all of $130 or so. Barring that, contact your local social-services agency, who have furniture for even cheaper. DO NOT go to some rent-to-own place, because you're going to pay three times what the furniture is worth when all is said and done.

QUERY: rich person who gives away money

ANSWER: You have SO come to the wrong Web site.

QUERY: broker small investor ~$1000

ANSWER: You want to find a good broker that doesn't charge you up the wazoo for fees and caters to small investors. Consider Scottrade -- they have low minimum balances and very low commissions.

QUERY: america what if you don t tip

ANSWER: It is very bad if you don't tip. For more on this, see Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," specifically the scene where Mr Pink refuses to put in a buck for the breakfast waitress. Consider the reaction he receives -- from HARDENED CRIMINALS. Friend, that is the best-case scenario for you. Be a man and tip at least 15 pc of your bill, preferably 20 pc.

QUERY: spoilt milk upset stomach

ANSWER: Oy vey.

QUERY: this is to bring to your notice that we are delegated from the united nations in central bank to pay 150 victims of scam $500 000 usd five hundred thounsand dollars each. you are listed and approved for this payment as one of the scammed victims to be paid this amount get back to this office as soon as possible for the immediate payments of your $500 000 usd compensations funds.

ANSWER: Is it just me, or could spammers make off with like half of the nation's wealth IF ONLY they learned how to write a proper letter?

QUERY: all the email adress and names of peoples associated in privet companies in america

ANSWER: Oh, sure, that's easy. Let me check.

QUERY: chubsy from geico commercials

ANSWER: Chubsy was from the Capital One commericals. And the answer is always No.

QUERY: suing your stockbroker?

ANSWER: God help you! You probably can't. This is because investment firms are clever and usually force their customers to go through arbitration.

QUERY: kalamazoo internet creeps

ANSWER: Well, that's the least surprising search-engine string of the day.

QUERY: why is michigan a part of the midwest

ANSWER: Gee, I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it's IN THE MIDDLE of the bloody region.

QUERY: lloyd carr retiring?

ANSWER: Oh, God, I could only wish. Then Ron English could be Michigan's football coach. Then we could get a coach who could ACTUALLY WIN A BOWL GAME.

QUERY: yeah though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death i shall fear no evil for i am the toughest and meanest son of a bitch there ever was.

ANSWER: Yeah, well, the laws of physics don't care. So you can be tough and mean all you want but if someone has an equalizer than you're out of luck.

QUERY: turn off the seat belt noise from 90 accord

ANSWER: I thought those type of annoying safety features were considered benefits among those who owned Japanese cars.

QUERY: speed trap somerset pennsylvania turnpike 55mph

ANSWER: The whole bloody Pennsylvania Turnpike is a speed trap. Still, thank you for letting everyone know about this. Important driving tip!

QUERY: how many shots of novocaine for deep cleaning

ANSWER: Three -- and my God, the third one was a doozy.

QUERY: fourthmeal wrong message

ANSWER: Of course it's the wrong message. It's a Taco Bell advertisement. Everything about Taco Bell advertisements send the wrong message -- particularly the idea that one can be slim and sexy while eating calorie-laden and fat-laden crap that tastes ... well, it doesn't really have any taste, now does it?

QUERY: stolen recipe collection

ANSWER: Despite your suspicions, Mrs Johnson down the way did not steal your recipe for sausage with sausage and sausage gravy casserole.

QUERY: ben kepple wikipedia

ANSWER: I do not have a wikipedia entry. However, if I did, it would read something like this: Benjamin Kepple is a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., and later attended the University of Michigan. He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, and woe bestride those who do not recognize his genius.

QUERY: nerd in high school

ANSWER: Oh, yes. I remember those days well, for I too was a nerd in high school. It may be tough getting through these next few years, but remember -- the wonderful days of college will soon be here. Also, remember that success is the best revenge. One of the cool things about my high school experience is that, as far as I know, I am the only member of my graduating class to have appeared on television. This was a situation that my good friend Simon From Jersey, channeling Chevy Chase, summed up as, "I'm Ben Kepple, and you're not."

So that DID provide a bit of satisfaction -- but to be perfectly honest, only in a very marginal, that's-just-kinda-cool way. You see, when you get older you really don't think about high school. Like, at all. Because it was high school and so penny-ante the idea that you worried about all that crap is just amazing. So content yourself with the knowledge that you'll soon be out in the world and get to take advantage of all its blessings.

Well, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Until next time, this has been Benjamin Kepple, saying, "My God. Look at all this crap. Who are these search-engine people, and how did they get here?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2007

"With God, All Things Are Possible"

THAT MAY BE TRUE, but if I lived in Ohio's Cuyahoga County -- hi Mom! hi Dad! hi Jesse! -- I would be somewhat concerned knowing my county government basically cribbed its entire civilian evacuation plan from Kansas City. Here are the key quotes from the The Kansas City Star:

While he found the imitation flattering, D.A. Christian, Kansas City emergency management director, said Cuyahoga County might have been misled.

The alliance’s report, he pointed out, is based largely on the relative abundance of highways leading out of Kansas City.

“They didn’t even look at the evacuation plan,” he said.

Melissa Rodrigo, manager of Cuyahoga County Emergency Management, said she figured that if Kansas City scored high enough on the study to gain national attention, the city probably had an evacuation plan worth checking out, even if the two are not directly related.

Last week, Cuyahoga County commissioners unanimously adopted the plan, which has been in the works for more than a year.

But two commissioners, now worried that the plan is not tailored to the county’s needs, said it needed to be re-evaluated, the newspaper said.

For example, Kansas City’s plan includes nothing about being sandwiched between two nuclear power plants. Nor does it factor in Lake Erie blocking all possibility of a northbound escape.

Yeah, those things might be SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT for Cleveland and its surrounding environs to consider, if only because of the high probability the nuclear power plants will be directly responsible for the events requiring a mass evacuation. After all, the same geniuses running these plants blacked out half the eastern U.S. a while back.

So, Mom, Dad, Jesse -- you might want to look into mooring a boat somewhere along the Cuyahoga River, so you can steam out into Lake Erie ahead of the screaming, desperate mobs of angry citizens who can't figure out why authorities are telling them to take I-35 out of the city. Barring that, you might want to stock up on canned goods, plywood and that plastic sheeting stuff, just in case disaster strikes and you end up under the benevolent dictatorship of the Pepperwood North Homeowners Association until the federal Government gets around to restoring order.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

Oh, No He Didn't

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE having the tranquility of one's weekend shattered. Here I was, sitting back and enjoying a nice dinner, when I stumbled upon a wretched and foul essay from Stephen Bainbridge, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Prof Bainbridge was apparently annoyed at coverage of the Iowa GOP's straw poll and as such wrote an essay that not only condemned Iowa, but also South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Prof Bainbridge essentially argued that New Hampshire was small and full of white people, and as such the state shouldn't have such a powerful say in choosing Presidential nominees. Instead, he argued, California should have a powerful say in the matter:

As I watch the coverage of the Iowa straw poll, I can't help once again feeling incredibly annoyed with the political process.

I live in California. Our population is over 37 million, representing 12% of the total US population. Indeed, if we were a separate country, our population would be larger than that of all but the 34 biggest countries in the world! We're responsible for 13% of US GDP. Indeed, if we were a separate country, we'd be the 7th largest economy in the world. We produce cutting edge technology, world class wine, and much of the nation's food crop. We ought to matter. And yet, we're virtually irrelevant to American politics other than as source of money that candidates then go spend in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Now, others from all over the nation have said similar things before, so that itself wasn't really worthy of writing about. But then, at the end of his essay, Prof Bainbridge delivered the coup de grace:

How is it that we persist in allowing these unrepresentative, yahoo infested, pissant states decide who gets to run for President? The notion that the Ames straw poll matters would be preposterous were it not so pernicious.

I about choked on my broccoli when I read that. Unrepresentative? Yahoo infested? A pissant state? My reaction, after I performed the Heimlich maneuver on myself for a couple of minutes, can be summed up in four words: Oh, no he didn't. So, as a Michigan native who once lived in California but who has lived in New Hampshire for more than six years now, I would like to say the following to Prof Bainbridge:

You can kiss my freedom-loving, clean-air-breathing, ten-minute-commute-driving, no-sales-or-income-tax-paying, unrepresentative fat ass.

Now, in a follow-up post commenting on the reaction to his article, Prof Bainbridge tried to play down his remarks, saying he had been sarcastic and those who didn't originally see that ought lighten up.

Unfortunately, Prof Bainbridge has apparently forgotten Machiavelli's old maxim that wars start when you choose, but they do not end as you please. Furthermore, as a one-time Angeleno myself, I believe I'm in a perfect position to counter Prof Bainbridge's argument that California -- California! -- ought have a big say in choosing the nation's Presidential nominees.

I mean, my God. What a horrible idea. California? That wretched, bloated bastion of criminality and corruption? The same California where, as the state's present governor once described it, the legislative process thrives on "dirty money, closed doors and back-room dealing?" The same California which has ungovernable cities, appalling schools and pollution so thick that in summer you can practically cut it with a knife? California should have a big say in choosing the nation's Presidential nominees? Why? So the rest of the country can be as unlivable as the Golden State?

For that matter, I am sorry, but I do not see how a state's prowess in agricultural and vinicultural matters should have any bearing on its place in the Presidential nominating process. Prof Bainbridge, in noting California's accomplishments in food and wine production, apparently thinks these things are important. But there are plenty of other states that do just fine in those fields. Plus, when it comes to cutting edge technology, there are other states that also produce lots of it -- and given California's miserable business climate, their importance is increasing even as the Golden State's declines.

Indeed, it is telling that Prof Bainbridge offers no political rationales for his argument other than to say that California has a whole bunch of people. That's not as surprising as one might think. After all, compared to Iowa and New Hampshire, where the citizenry are actively engaged in political matters and study candidates as thoroughly as Prof Bainbridge studies one of his precious cuvees, California's public is largely apathetic towards the political process. Since California's Government has arranged things so that each party has a lock on the state's legislative districts, and major public policy matters are decided through interest-group-backed referenda, this malaise is perhaps to be expected. However, even I was surprised that Prof Bainbridge would so cavalierly try to brush California's dysfunctional political environment under the rug.

Besides, to be perfectly blunt, California's political process hasn't exactly produced a lot of winners over the years. Generally speaking, the leaders who emerge from this vapid rathole are second-rate at best, and more often than not are enslaved to the interest groups who support them and the close friends who leech off them. I mean, a look at California's leaders throughout the years is to examine a Gallery of Political Mistakes, a bipartisan collection of mediocre and ultimately useless officials.

----------

GOOD DECISION! Over the years, California has produced several politicians who, in retrospect, might not have been the best men for the job.

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Of course, depending on one's point of view, history notes one California politician who governed the nation through a time of relative peace and prosperity, a time when our nation served as a city upon a hill to the rest of humanity. However, as this politician got his professional start in the unimportant state of Iowa, I am confident the people of California would not attempt to use his success as a way of bolstering their credentials.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Fool, Money, Soon Parted; You Know the Drill

A FLORIDA MAN who bought a $400,000 Lamborghini is facing charges after crashing the automobile just shortly after buying it, according to the Orlando Sentinel and bunches of other Florida media outlets.

According to authorities, Orlando-area dumbshit motorist Ronald Tridico was speeding when he went around a curve on State Road 429. Upon losing control while maneuvering through the curve, the Florida Highway Patrol said Mr Tridico overcorrected and his car skidded 1,200 feet before crashing. That's nearly a quarter of a mile, and suggests that Mr Tridico was traveling awfully fast when the incident occurred. Mr Tridico faces was arrested on two charges, according to the Sentinel: police arrested him on "suspicion of driving under the influence" and on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Here's the key quote from the story:

The 39-year-old Windermere resident told troopers that another vehicle had cut him off. But judging by the skid marks, authorities didn't believe him.

"Just because you can afford a $400,000 car doesn't mean you know how to drive it," said Sgt. Jorge Delahoz, a Highway Patrol spokesman.

Tridico was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and leaving the scene. The man's wife suffered a minor injury to her arm but refused medical treatment, Delahoz said.

While I am glad to see that no one got badly hurt in the wreck, I do think it necessary to say to Mr Tridico: SMOOTH MOVE, RON. That should make you real popular down at the country club, or whatever upscale establishments of which you are a member. Hopefully in future he will learn to a) respect the machine that he's driving and b) not drive like a maniac. And he's damned lucky the crash was a single-vehicle accident; if it had involved another vehicle, God knows how serious it might have been.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Oh, the Annoyances of Modern Life

OVER AT DAVE BARRY'S BLOG, Dave's research assistant Judi Smith has written a post about an issue troubling millions of Americans -- that goddamned e-mail feature that pops up and asks you to send a reply to the sender informing them you have, in fact, read their e-mail.

Of course, I certainly don't mind sending a response if I have a business relationship with the person, and the e-mail in question is an important one and one where the sender truly needs to know if I got it. Unfortunately, this is only the case with approximately 3 pc of the e-mails I get that have the feature activated. As for the remainder, not only do I not know the senders from Adam, the topics of their e-mail are inevitably banal and useless. As such, I react like any American would in such a situation: I openly pray for God to quickly deliver His swift and terrible justice to the sender, and dispatch the wretched cur to the special place in Hell where such people go. (Flatterers: 8th circle, 2nd chasm).

I mean, look. I'm busy. If I'm interested in your e-mail, I'll -- wait for it -- actually write back asking for further information. Until then -- for the love of God -- chill. Sure, it may be that your e-mail is semi-interesting, and if that's the case I'll get back to you in a couple of days when I'm not busy with other, more important things that my bosses wanted done yesterday. In the meantime, have a nice lunch out. Have a martini. Make paper airplanes out of the Dunleavy Report and shoot them around your cubicle. Do not bother me.

And especially don't bother me with a follow-up phone call the next day enquiring if I got your e-mail. Holy cow. Of course I got your e-mail. If I was interested in it, I would have called you and we would have had a nice talk. Calling me -- especially if I'm up to my eyeballs in real work -- is not a way to get me excited and interested in your product or service.

I wish I knew who came up with the brilliant idea that such a feature was not only a good idea, but that it must be used on every single e-mail that gets sent out, no matter how trivial its importance. They could use a good kick. I mean, 99 times out of 100 a simple e-mail will do the job. They all get read. There's no need to be pushy about it.

If there's a silver lining to this mess, though, it's that most people -- being smart and industrious -- intuitively know that a simple e-mail works. They know that responses might not be immediately forthcoming, for one of 100 reasons, but they trust the information got there.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2007

Slamming the Trunk

IT'S ALWAYS SWELL when the tranquility of a nice Sunday afternoon is shattered through reading something so patently stupid it boggles the mind. Sadly, I myself experienced this just a short while ago when I discovered a silly and wretched commentary from Mrs Penelope Trunk, a business journalist who wrote an essay entitled, "It Doesn't Matter That Journalists Misquote Everyone." As Loyal Rant Readers might imagine, this essay sent my blood pressure through the roof and I spent a good ten minutes pacing around my living room in a state of intense agitation.

So what was it about Mrs Trunk's column, you ask, that got me in such a state? Well, there were two things in particular that annoyed me. The first was the column itself, which amazed me with its breezy stupidity. The second was that Mrs Trunk, who is a financial journalist in only the most generous sense of the phrase, has no business lecturing real reporters about how we go about our trade. For that matter, I doubt she has any business lecturing business people how to go about their work.

Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this thing, let's review Mrs Trunk's qualifications. According to her biography, she spent ten years as an executive in the software industry. This sounds impressive until you consider her work was in marketing. She then founded two companies, although the names and eventual disposition of those companies is unclear. Mrs Trunk was then able to parlay this -- and for this I give her credit -- into syndicated columnist work.

Mrs Trunk's column appears in more than 200 publications. This sounds impressive until you consider how much syndicated columnists get for each column they write (hint: it ain't much). She is also a careers columnist for The Boston Globe and Yahoo! Finance, and has written a book called "Brazen Careerist: The NEW Rules for Success." As Mrs Trunk's book is presently ranked No. 8,864 in terms of sales on amazon.com, I give Mrs Trunk credit for writing a book that people want to buy, as I approve heartily of writers making money. This does not, however, take away from the fact that her work is the business-journalism equivalent of soft-core pornography. Sure, it's fun to read and people like it, but it also doesn't require a lot of mental energy and it covers stuff that people intuitively know already.

Speaking of mental energy, I would invite readers to peruse Mrs Trunk's brief biography on The Huffington Post's Web site, where her essay appeared. Whether she wrote it herself, or allowed through her own inaction for it to appear as it does, she should be ashamed:

Penelope Trunk is that author of the book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (Warner Business 2007). She is a career columnist at The Boston Globe and Yahoo Finance. Her syndicated column has run in more than 200 publications. She writes a blog called Brazen Careerist that receives about 350,000 page view a month. Earlier, she was a software executive, and then she founded two companies. She has been through an IPO, an acquisition and a bankruptcy. Before that, she played professional beach volleyball.

Let's see -- one, two, three, four, five, SIX errors in seven sentences. Mrs Trunk is "the author," not "that author;" she is a careers columnist, not a "career" columnist with lifetime tenure; her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications; and "page views" is the proper plural. Errors five and six involve comma placement; there should be a comma after "Warner Business" and arguably no comma after "executive." What's that? So the last two are quibbling matters. I don't care. Six errors in seven sentences, folks. This is not exactly a confidence booster here, particularly for someone who makes a living telling people how to win friends and influence people.

But I digress. Back to Mrs Trunk's column, the column that aggravated me so. The first few sentences rather annoyed me.

As a journalist I hear all the time from people in business that they are misquoted. And you know what? People need to get over that, and I'm going to tell you why.

Now, one might think this lede is actually sympathetic to journalists, particularly business journalists. But here's the thing. Journalists have an obligation to get their quotes right and their stories right, and to present what people say accurately. Sources shouldn't have to "get over" it if a reporter screws things up. Sources, who take time out of their day to help reporters on deadline, deserve better.

I'm certainly not going to deny people get misquoted in the press. This is because reporters are human and, from time to time, screw things up. However, there's a difference between "I didn't like the story the reporter wrote" and "the reporter screwed up what I said." It's sloppy for Mrs Trunk to breezily lump the two together. Sure, people sometimes tell others they got misquoted because they didn't like how the story turned out, and it's a useful face-saving measure. But if a reporter screws up in expressing the views a source has stated, the record needs to be corrected.

Mrs Trunk continues:

The reason that everyone thinks journalists misquote them is that the person who is writing is the one who gets to tell the story. No two people tell the same story. ...

Journalists who think they are telling "the truth" don't understand the truth. We each have our own truth. When you leave out details, you might leave out what is unimportant to you but very important to someone else, and things start feeling untrue to the person who wishes you included something else.

Recruiters, by the way, know this well. If I get fired from three jobs but I only report that during that period I taught dance lessons to toddlers, I am not lying. I am merely telling the part of the story that I want to tell. No one can tell every part of every story. The details are infinite. But in this case, the fact that I left off the details most important to the recruiter makes the recruiter feel like it's lying. But it's not. I'm telling my version of the story.

So everyone feels misquoted because people say 20 or 30 sentences for every one sentence that a journalist prints. It's always in the context of the journalist's story, not the speaker's story.

Here's my advice: If you do an interview with a journalist, don't expect the journalist to be there to tell your story. The journalist gets paid to tell her own stories which you might or might not be a part of. And journalists, don't be so arrogant to think you are not "one of those" who misquotes everyone. Because that is to say that your story is the right story. But it's not. We each have a story. And whether or not someone actually said what you said they said, they will probably still feel misquoted.

How Mrs Trunk got to write a column on anything is absolutely amazing.

One barely knows where to start in condemning this milquetoast, limp-wristed wreck of a column, so we'll start with the idea of objective truth.

Although it is fashionable these days for people to claim that truth is relative, this collegiate idiocy does not tend to stand up in the business world, where numbers are numbers and facts are facts. If I report that Company X has paid $Y for Building Z, then I'm putting it out there as the truth. Either I'm right -- and I nearly always am -- or I screwed up and I'm wrong. If Company A lays off B number of employees and does so for reason C, and tells me as such, there's the truth right there.

So the truth here isn't all that difficult to understand. It is in fact out there. It's not all that difficult to report. So for a glorified marketing consultant to tell me that truth is relative is downright ridiculous.

It's also downright ridiculous for Mrs Trunk to suggest, as she does, that selective recall somehow allows one to present "the truth" when it does not paint a complete picture of a situation. Lying through omitting crucial details is still lying, whether Mrs Trunk wants to admit it or not. If a reporter wrote a story about a business deal, and purposely left out crucial details so that Situation A was presented as reality when it was in fact Situation B, then the reporter has committed a fraud upon his readers.

What really gets me, though, is that Mrs Trunk -- despite existing at the margins of journalism -- has the audacity to tell others in her field they ought not arrogantly assume they don't misquote sources. Leaving out instances of human error, real reporters who deal with real business matters work very diligently to make sure they get the story right. For this dilletante to suggest otherwise is brash and insulting.

The real frustrating thing about Mrs Trunk's column is that it again reinforces the idea that journalists are hopelessly biased and spend hours each day trying to think up ways to screw the God-fearing American public. Consider, over at Dean's World, writer Dave Price's reaction:

Sadly, such notions of rigorous intellectual honesty and absolute truth don't even rate lip service from our media, thanks to attitudes like this. Instead of being a reliable source of objective, factual news, the media forces anyone seeking truth to de-filter the narrator's bias from every "story" -- often with extremely troubling consequences.

See what I mean? Journalists have enough problems without people like Mrs Trunk making things worse. Then, there's Mr Esmay's comment to Mr Price's response. Mr Esmay writes:

The most obnoxious example of this sort of press behavior is the "reports" they give on poll results. Newspapers are especially notorious about this: instead of printing the questions exactly as they were asked, and then just giving the numbers, they "interpret" the poll for you. That's where bogus things like "most Americans believed Saddam was behind 9/11" bullshit stories came from, just for example.

As someone who has written a few "poll" or "report" stories in his day, I've always worked to summarize the poll or report as opposed to interpreting it. It's just data, after all, and the readers are more than capable of intrepreting the data themselves. The important things to summarize are the poll results, its methodology, its margin of error -- and of course, where the readers can find a copy of the whole thing if they're interested in learning more. That's not to say there's no place for intrepretation -- after all, the data may show trends and those trends are worth reporting -- but again, data is data. There's only so much reading of the tea leaves one can do, and if reporters must go all out looking for deeper meaning, they should get other sources to do the interpreting.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2007

75 Word Brief Contains Four Typos, One Error

THE WRATH OF AN AGGRIEVED WRITER can be terrible yet beautiful to behold. For instance, witness Giles Coren's famous 2002 response to a sub-editor's mistake in The Times of London, in which the sub-editor had changed a crucial word in a book review Mr Coren wrote. To start his review, Mr Coren had written: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Very clever. All 26 letters of the alphabet in a 35-letter sentence." Sadly, one of the "the's" got replaced with an "a," thus bolluxing up Mr Coren's lead.

In response, Mr Coren wrote a response that is particularly unsuitable for those who find strong language offensive, and I can assure readers it is so foul it makes a 16th century English sailor look like the Archbishop of Canterbury. But now that you've been warned, let's just say the man was not happy:

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The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. How fucking difficult is that? It's the sentence that bestrides the fucking book I reviewed for you. It is the sentence I wrote first in my fucking review. It is 35 fucking letters long, which is why I wrote that it was. And so some useless ---- sub-editor decides to change it to "jumps over a lazy dog" can you fucking count? Can you see that that makes it a 33 letter sentence? So it looks as if I can't count, and the ----ing author of the book, poor Mr Dunn, cannot count. The whole bastard book turns on the sentence being as I fucking wrote it. And that it is exactly 35 letters long. Why do you meddle? What do you think you achieve with that kind of dumb-witted smart-arsery? Why do you change things you do not understand without consulting? Why do you believe you know best when you know fuck all? Jack shit.

That is as bad as editing can be. Fuck, I hope you're proud. It will be small relief for the author that nobody reads your poxy magazine.

Never ever ask me to write something for you. And don't pay me. I'd rather take £400 quid for assassinating a crack whore's only child in a revenge killing for a busted drug deal - my integrity would be less compromised.

Jesus fucking wept I don't know what else to say."

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Now, I should note that -- being pedantic -- I went back through Mr Coren's original e-mail missive and fixed all the capitalization. I did so because sentences without capitalization annoy me to no end and I'll be damned if they appear on The Rant. Also, I redacted two instances of a particularly offensive word; click on the link if you wish to see the original. However, as I kept Mr Coren's missive otherwise intact, I am confident history's judgment will be on my side.

Anyway, Mr Coren's response naturally caused other writers to ask the obvious question: how the hell do you get £400 for a book review in this day and age? That aside, though, I was reminded of Mr Coren's outburst when I read the reaction Patrick Hughes had to a write-up of his new book in his local paper, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun.

On the good side, the paper had given Mr Hughes a 75 word write-up about his new book. On the bad side, Mr Hughes discovered the write-up had four glaring typographical errors -- including one in the brief hed -- and a stupid style/factual mistake at the end of it. The mistakes are so egregious, in fact, that they challenge Mr Coren's charge that the screw-up with his book review was "as bad as editing can be." (Go give it a look. If you're a journalist -- and many of my readers are -- you'll be crying your eyes out with laughter).

As one might expect, Mr Hughes is not happy. His response, in part, reads as follows:

So, uh, fuck the Gainesville Sun. It sucks. If that sorry sham-ass excuse for a newspaper ever came into contact with real journalism it'd flame on like a vampire douching with holy water. I hope Osama bin Laden packs a Ford Pinto with fire ants and SARS and flies it into the building. I hope Chris Benoit comes back from the dead to babysit its kids. I hope its editors never ever learn how to spell "the," and all its advertisers get mad and leave, and the only people willing to buy any space in it until the end of time are American Apparel and Hitler. Seriously — fuck you, Gainesville Sun. Fuck. You.
Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2007

Should've Seen This Coming Dept.

FROM AUSTRALIA'S HERALD SUN: A HONG Kong woman who blinded her boyfriend in one eye in a fight six years ago has been jailed for jabbing a chopstick into his other eye.

Well, I've got nothing to add.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2007

SI: Bengals Owner on Par With Team

CINCINNATI BENGALS OWNER Mike Brown has been ranked the worst owner of an NFL franchise by none other than Sports Illustrated magazine. Columnist Michael Silver charges that Brown, in addition to overseeing a team whose players suffer an amazing number of brushes with the law, also said some rather stupid things at a recent NFL team owners meeting. In bestowing Mr Brown with the last-place ranking, Mr Silver writes:

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"Boy, Brown has sure done a fantastic job of bringing the Bengals into the 21st Century. Once known merely as a pathetic football team whose on-field ineptitude mirrored management's cheap, clueless approach -- the Bungles -- Brown's team has now become a national punch line, his players the poster children for malfeasance. Welcome to Sin City, or Cinci for short.

Until very recently, Brown sat back and watched as clowns like Chris Henry did incomprehensibly stupid things like get arrested for handgun charges while wearing his own jersey and kept their roster spots. You'd think someone who employs so many miscreants (10 Bengals players have been arrested in the last 14 months) would be careful about invoking the names of certain notorious villains, but this is what Brown did in front of more than 50 of his peers at last March's owners' meetings. In the midst of a complaint about the current stadium-building plan that is part of the league's revenue-sharing arrangement, Brown was reminded by a fellow owner that he had taken advantage of the same plan (and a provision that allowed him to waive the club-seat premiums that normally go to visiting teams) upon opening Paul Brown Stadium several years earlier. According to a witness, Brown replied, "Look, it seemed like a good thing in the beginning. A lot of people think a lot of things are good in the beginning. A lot of people thought Hitler was good in the beginning."

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Well, now. That's just like school on a snow day, isn't it?* At this rate, Mr Brown's going to make Donald Sterling look like a paragon of sports management. I mean, it says something when you get ranked worse than the Fords.

In Mr Silver's column, other owners in the NFL's AFC North Division fare considerably better. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Dan Rooney -- and Art Rooney II -- were ranked ninth. Why the Rooneys were not ranked No. 1 is ridiculous, but Mr Silver seems to acknowledge this truth in his essay: "Last year I had Rooney ranked 10th, and many of you folks reacted like I'd just rated democracy as the 10th-best form of government."

Steve Bisciotti of the Baltimore Ravens was ranked 13th -- which seems a bit high, but hey -- while Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner was ranked 22nd.

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* (No -- class!)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2007

Let's Review: We Won, They Lost, and That's Final

UH OH -- SPACESHIP EARTH IS facing yet another crisis of unparalleled proportions! The crisis this time apparently stems from the fact that mankind, which has spread over the earth and subjugated it to our mighty productive will, is using an alarming share of the world's plant resources. According to a team of German and Austrian scientists, this state of affairs means that other species are losing out, and that's bad.

Why exactly this is bad, I'm not exactly sure. After all, it's not like the other species of God's green earth have automobiles, electricity, air conditioning, refrigerators, or Coca-Cola to produce on a daily basis. Hell, they don't even have opposable thumbs. So I'm not exactly sure why we should be all that concerned, given that mankind is only using 24 percent of the Earth's plant resources in our continued efforts to shape nature to our liking. The rest of the world's species will just have to cope. Well, that is, if the soulless beasts had the capacity to cope, instead of relying on their base, animalistic instincts for survival.

Besides, if nature's lower orders were really all that concerned with the fact that mankind was using up all the plants, they'd do one of two things. One, they'd mount some sort of organized counterattack, or two, they'd invent some nifty device to capture the Sun's inexhaustible energy. Last time I checked, they haven't yet managed to do either of these things, although I understand raccoons cause all sorts of trouble in the suburbs.

Perhaps the most blatant idiocy in the news reports about this study came from an Australian agriculturalist. A University of Melbourne professor, with the ridiculous name of Snow Barlow, told the Sydney Morning Herald her view of the study, which was this: "Here we are, just one species on the earth, and we're grabbing a quarter of the renewable resources … we're probably being a bit greedy."

The mind boggles that Dr Barlow has been allowed to teach a class in anything, much less agriculture. But Dr Barlow's comment somewhat misses the point, which is that mankind is the dominant species on earth, and as such might have a perfectly good reason for using that much. Of course, if you ask me, I'm rather annoyed the percentage is that low. After all, three-quarters of the world's plant energy is apparently being wasted and used for no productive purpose, and that can't be good. So I would call upon the world's agriculturalists to figure out a way to boost this measure accordingly. We might just need it for the next crisis facing Spaceship Earth.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2007

Those Lazy, Hazy, (and Very) Crazy Days of Summer

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

ONE OF THE THINGS I like about summer here in New Hampshire is that, for much of the season, the temperatures are actually somewhat pleasant. For instance, this entire week the mercury should not crack 80 degrees, and the nights will be cool and comfortable. This week is especially nice because of the Fourth of July, and aside from the occasional ruckus -- a few nights ago, either someone was setting off fireworks or al-Qaeda was shelling my neighborhood -- folks can take some time just to relax and have fun.

Unfortunately, this doesn't hold for the rest of the country, where the stifling heat and wretched humidity keep people indoors far more often. This gives them plenty of time to go on-line and do on-line searches that, if they didn't prompt howls of laughter from my end of the computer, would amount to some type of Biblical plague, viz.

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AND LO! THE MULTITUDE DID pour forth onto the Internet, and soon discovered the search engines which brought forth wisdom such as existed in the Tree of Knowledge. And the multitude began to search for the answers they sought, saying, “Come, let us search for the answers we have sought, for everything on-line is apparently in English. Behold, the people is one, and we have all one language; now nothing shall be restrained from us.”

So the multitude went forth and Googled about all that which they had wondered, and it was good. But some lost their way from the narrow path, and began searching for homework answers and celebrity news and other information on seemingly unrelated Web sites, saying, “Come, let us search for homework answers and celebrity news and other information on seemingly unrelated Web sites, for it will be easier and there’s a small chance this might actually work.”

And lo, many of those came to Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant to have their search engine queries answered. And Kepple said, “Behold, the multitude have stumbled upon The Rant looking for wisdom, and except for a few people asking decent questions, the multitude are out of their ever-loving minds. Let us go and confound their queries, so they may not receive their answers, but be thrown down like Capernaum into the depths, and subjected to mockery and schadenfreude and the occasional answer that seems helpful but really and truly is so very wrong.”

So Kepple wrote installments of his “Your Search Engine Queries Answered” feature, but to his surprise the multitude did not scatter upon the face of the Earth, but rather kept visiting his site in increasing numbers. And it was good – until a day far in the future, when Kepple found his scheduled stay in Purgatory had been markedly increased, and he had to carry heavy rocks and deal with the purifying fire and watch endless reruns of Three’s Company until his eyes bled.

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What's that? You think I'm kidding. Oh, no I'm not. I can assure you that even though July is just two days old, the searches that have been coming in are downright -- I mean, they'd be unbelievable if I didn't see them with my own eyes. I mean, look at this first one:

QUERY: captain planet planeteers knitting patterns

ANSWER: Wait, what? Captain Planet? Knitting patterns? Captain Planet is bad enough but Captain Planet knitting patterns -- I mean, come on. The show's over. The kids, unless their parents are rabid environmentalists who live in the Pacific Northwest, won't be enthused. Besides, while all cartoons have an element of ridiculousness in them, Captain Planet was particularly ridiculous. You know, because a bunch of teenagers acting like a mini-United Nations are naturally the best choice to save the world from the supposed depradations of nuclear power and gunky engine buildup.

Besides, as this clever video shows, The Power Was Not in Fact Yours. The Power is ... Ted Turner's!

But moving on --- well, before we do that, dig Robot Chicken's "Charlie Brown Special" parody. Best line: "I fear that having a positive attitude, with strong Christian overtones, won't save us this time -- I said, strong Christian overtones!"

QUERY: florida gators

ANSWER: Well, you won't find much about the Gators here at The Rant, but you'll find plenty of information here about the team.

QUERY: couple misbehaving at stadium

ANSWER: If a couple is misbehaving at a stadium -- by which one means being involved in activities that don't involve watching the sporting event at hand -- it is perfectly acceptable to ask a stadium usher to intervene and have the usher ask politely for them to stop. Barring that, throw your hot dog at them.

QUERY: kansas city police videotape romantic encounters in mall parking lot

ANSWER: Generally speaking, it's a poor idea to engage in romantic encounters in places where the local vice squad can actively arrest participants in said encounters for not bothering to get a hotel room.

QUERY: sweatshirt coca-cola jesus christ

ANSWER: Now that's a Midwestern trifecta of clothing-design genius!

QUERY: can you catch the ball off the wall in the endzone in arena football

ANSWER: Yes -- you -- can. This is part of the enjoyable fun of arenaball.

QUERY: danger of tab drink

ANSWER: This depends. The regular Tab drink is good for you and has saccarhine, which everyone loves. The new Tab Energy drink, on the other hand, may cause those who drink it an unfortunate case of "trying to fit in with the crowd but failing miserably at it."

QUERY: eeob haunted

ANSWER: The Old Executive Office Building -- now known as the EEOB, for Eisenhower -- is in fact haunted. It is rumored the ghosts that haunt its hallowed halls include John Nance Garner, Raymond Moley, and Harold Stassen, the last of whom is occasionally seen in the dead of night around at that entrance heading over to the West Wing, looking rather forlorn. Also, the entire Nixon Cabinet.

QUERY: vernors in new hampshire

ANSWER: You can't get Vernors in New Hampshire. It's Vernors! As such, it's only available in the Midwest. Still, you wouldn't want to bring any here. The New Englanders are already angry at the Midwest for our power-plant emissions and if you brought in Vernors they'd really get angry and suddenly the Government's fuel-mileage standards would go to 60 mpg. Let's not provoke them.

QUERY: planning a cheap hippie wedding

ANSWER: First off, in all seriousness, I must congratulate you on having an inexpensive wedding. There is nothing wrong with having a nice wedding but generally speaking people these days spend far too much money on the events. That said, I'm concerned about this whole "hippie wedding" thing. Many of your guests will undoubtedly not be hippies, so it would be advisable to:

* spare them the agony of listening to bad self-written vows, particularly if those vows include some silliness about reducing the couple's carbon footprint.
* have at least one entree with meat -- glorious, wonderful, fat-laden meat -- for guests who are not vegetarian and who think organic farming is a recipe for contracting salmonella.
* have the guests forego their commitments to the environment for just one day and insist they wear traditional deodorant, particularly if the ceremony takes place in a stifling hot church.
* ask for gifts that are easy and useful for all involved: such as those newfangled low-wattage eco-friendly light bulbs.

QUERY: living very cheaply

ANSWER: It's surprisingly easy to live cheaply. Basically, you have to spend less than you earn. Now, after that, you basically have to lower your fixed expenses as much as you can. One you've done that, you save a bunch afterwards. The end result is that you have a nice cushion on which you can fall back if there's any hiccups in life, and you don't have to worry about paying various outlandish bills.

QUERY: low carb low sugar diets and night terrors

ANSWER: That sounds like a reasonable and expected side effect to such a wretched diet. Your body is clearly screaming out for Haagen-Dazs, so treat yourself to a scoop before bedtime once in a while.

QUERY: what is the number one thing men do to aggravate women

ANSWER: I'd have to say leaving the toilet seat up, although there are so many other things: prolonged unemployment, drunkenness, carousing until the wee small hours of the morning, losing one's pay at the track, slouching about the house -- I mean, we could spend hours listing contenders.

QUERY: which hit eighties movie featured rejuvenated senior citizens ?

ANSWER: Red Dawn.

QUERY: as a man i hate mice

ANSWER: A good thing, too! Mice spread disease and cause property damage. They are an utter scourge and must be wiped out with extreme prejudice.

QUERY: sample letter to movie critics

ANSWER: Dear Movie Critic: I am shocked and appalled at your (miserable / illogical / ungodly stupid) review of (film). Everyone knows that (said film) is a (masterpiece of cinema / crime against humanity) that should (be shown again and again in college town movie theatres / be shown again and again in college town movie theatres). How you ever got to be a critic of anything is absolutely amazing. Please do us all a favor and (go back to writing on the metro desk / take up more fitting employment, such as a convenience store clerk).

QUERY: americans stop buying french products

ANSWER: Uh, I think M Sarkozy's election officially put the French boycott to bed. Which is good, because I like Roquefort and pinot noir and Michelin tires.

QUERY: where s bile stored if you do not have a gall bladder?

ANSWER: It's not. It goes straight into the intestines, which can cause a bit of irritation for those who have had their gall bladders removed. Of course, this also may explain why The Rant has not expressed any emotion other than cranky sarcasm for the past few years.

QUERY: strange brew tavern topless pictures

ANSWER: If this is the same tavern I'm thinking of, I can't believe for a moment the pictures came out in that dimly lit, smoke-filled establishment. Apologies.

QUERY: minnesota viking sending naked text message

ANSWER: This should surprise no one.

QUERY: steelers baby gifts

ANSWER: A good idea -- but be careful. After all, for all you know, the recipient of said gifts may grow up to become a fan of a different team (*cough* the Browns *cough*) and may in later life be traumatized by said baby gifts, particularly if there are pictures floating about showing said baby wearing said gifts. I know, I know -- what are the chances of someone giving up their allegiance to the beloved Steelers for a second-rate, struggling franchise?

QUERY: photos and pictures of ben roethlisberger being sacked

ANSWER: You have SO visited the wrong site.

QUERY: bud light real men of genius cincinnati bengals

ANSWER: We salute you, Mr Hapless Cincinnati Bengals Fan! ("Mr Hapless Cincinnati Bengals Fan!") You're there every year, hoping against hope to beat the Steelers in the playoffs. ("Got those lotto tickets!") ... of course, I kid. Bengals fans who are interested in their team's players will find more information here.

QUERY: as an customer support executive how can i make customer satsify

ANSWER: OK, first off, let's get something straight. You're not an executive. You do not have a company car, an expense account, a country club membership, or a key to the executive washroom. Hell, you don't even get to use the middle managers' washrooms. You're making an hourly wage.

However, here are a few tips. First, do what customers want -- within reason -- with a minimum of feedback. Second, don't use any corporate or internal jargon when responding to a question. Third, if you don't know something, say so. Fourth, be friendly and polite if the customer is as well.

QUERY: sarah lucas i can eat a lobster impeccably

ANSWER: I'm glad Ms Lucas can do so, because I certainly can't. Indeed, to this day my family still talks about the Drawn Butter Incident as if it resulted in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

QUERY: throwing out cigarette window freeway ticket fine california

ANSWER: That would be $271 plus court costs. Sacramento thanks you.

QUERY: if there was one defining attribute of the patriots success it was coaching synergy. the public's attention the new england patriots' first pro-football championship offers a refreshing example of the power of true teamwork.

ANSWER: Oh, shut up.

QUERY: what the world needs now is love sweet love it s the only thing that there s just too little of what the world needs now is love sweet love no not just for some but for everyone

ANSWER: Oh, shut up.

QUERY: burgled stolen lava lamps

ANSWER: Attention all cars, attention all cars, suspect is wearing bell-bottoms AND has his shirt unbuttoned to the waist. Assume ... well, dangerous, anyway.

QUERY: maureen dowd times select content how we re animalistic -- in good ways and bad

ANSWER: One of the nice things about "Times Select" is that it's put all of its opinion columnists "behind the pay wall." This means that I haven't been exposed to a Maureen Dowd column in years, for which I am very grateful to the New York Times Co. Inc. You know, because nothing says "paper of record" like a column in which the writer has trouble constructing a decent paragraph and whose insight consists of observations that any college freshman with an iBook could've come up with.

QUERY: I hate Peyton Manning

ANSWER: Heh. Did you know that if you Google "I hate Peyton Manning" that this site is ranked 10th out of 384,000 possible hits? It ranks seventh out of like 3,800 if you put the phrase in quotes. I'm proud that my utter disdain, contempt and scorn for Mr Problem with Protection has been so noticed. I hate Peyton Manning.

QUERY: stupid raider fans

ANSWER: I don't think Raiders fans are stupid. Hapless, yes; tormented, yes; kicked in the teeth one too many times, yes. After all, you'd be angry too if you had Al Davis in charge of your team. But while some Raiders fans are obnoxious, classless boors with a penchant for drunkenness and doing strange things in support of their team, one can't say Raiders fans are stupid. Besides, they're Raiders fans. The way Oakland's been these past few years, you've got a better shot rooting for Detroit.

(Fire Millen).

QUERY: really inexpensive cleveland browns t-shirts

ANSWER: Wait until November or December. You won't have too much trouble at that point.

QUERY: example of predestination

ANSWER: Super Bowl III -- Jets 16, Colts 7.

QUERY: starship song played in for a better life commercial

ANSWER: We built this business on rock and roll!

QUERY: bad egg sulphur smell linked to spiritualism

ANSWER: Well, yeah -- generally because the smell is linked to conjuring up horrible demons from the world of the dead. But you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

QUERY: in r.i. does a landlord have the right to refuse renting an apartment eo an owner of a pet companion dog

ANSWER: I have no idea, but it's Rhode Island, so I'm guessing the answer is No. In fact, I'll go so far as to suggest that about the only right landlords in Rhode Island have is to prevent prospective tenants from crashing a unit en masse and demanding squatters' rights to the place.

QUERY: united states wants to rule the world

ANSWER: We've got enough problems as is without having to rule more than six billion angry, disaffected people who already blame us for all their troubles.

QUERY: $3.75 for a coke at the movie theatre

ANSWER: There's a very good reason we don't want to rule the world -- we're already paying $3.75 for a Coke at the movies and God knows we don't want it going any higher. I have to admit, though, this is one reason why I don't go to the movies nearly as often as I did before. I don't mind paying $8 or $9 to watch a movie, even if it's crappy (which provides the extra bonus of having something to blog about). But when one adds in the concessions costs, the price of a ticket goes up to $15 or $16 with the purchase of just one popcorn and soda. That's a little steep for a movie that, seven times out of ten, isn't all that great anyway.

Anyway, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time when we discuss ... well, I don't know yet, but I'm sure it will be fascinating as always. Until then, keep an eye out for more fun content here at The Rant -- your Maximum Leader for making fun of people's stupid search engine requests.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

So ... I've Been Busy ...

IN ROBERT ALTMAN'S "California Split," there is a good scene where one of the main protagonists suddenly shows up following a long and unexplained absence. Wearing a giant sombrero, Charlie appears on scene outside the apartment of his good friend, Bill. Bill, who has been wondering just where exactly his friend has been, greets Charlie with a caring, heartfelt response showing just how much he has missed him:

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BILL: WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?!
CHARLIE: Three guesses! I'll give you this much -- my hat is a very big clue!
BILL: Why didn't you tell me you were going?! Maybe I would have liked to have gone with you ... you don't know what it's been like here!

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I'd like to think -- vanity of vanities -- that Loyal Rant Readers are reacting similarly to my long and unexplained absence from the blog as of late. Sadly, I have not been in Mexico, which is a shame, because I like Mexico. Also, I had a couple of days this week where I would have given my right arm to be in the Glorious Republic. I've just been incredibly busy with work. But I'm back.

During my absence from the blog, I stumbled across a rather disturbing article which addressed a subject Rant readers know is somewhat near to my heart: the proper naming of one's children. Admittedly, I haven't any children myself, but I still am something of an expert on this topic.

As proof of my expertise, I would simply note that my commentary on this subject has been linked by no less an authority than the Dutch edition of Wikipedia. What's that? Well, so what if the page isn't in English? Everyone in Holland can read English, so it still works. Plus, my inclusion in the page's reference materials clearly shows the Dutch are God-fearing, right-thinking people who address this subject with the respect and careful thought it deserves. This stands in sharp contrast to the New Zealand couple whom I am about to castigate with furious justice and righteous anger.

According to media reports from all over the world, the Government of New Zealand has blocked -- at least temporarily -- a couple from naming their child '4real.' Yes, with the number -- '4real.' The Government's action was based on a rule forbidding parents to start children's names with a number, undoubtedly because it would screw up the Government's computer systems and lead to a real-life Catch-22-type incident in which the computers would make the little tyke eligible for benefits regardless of his other circumstances.

But the Government's action has not gone over well with Wellington residents Pat and Sheena Wheaton, the boy's parents. The Wheatons claim they chose the name once they were presented with ultrasound images of the scamp, and the boy's impending arrival hit them like a ton of bricks. Either that or they were both recovering from a downright amazing party the night before, I don't know which.

In any event, Mr Wheaton is not thrilled with the Government's actions. "For most of us," Mr Wheaton told the press, "when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and... there's no direct link between the meaning and the name. With this name, everyone knows what it means."

Well, there's no denying that, although I doubt Mr Wheaton has considered the meaning that would be instantly conveyed to any and all who met his son: that the boy's parents were not only cruel, but idiots besides. Hell, the boy might as well wear a giant neon sign proclaiming this state of affairs. One also doubts that Mr Wheaton has considered the boy's classmates, particularly in New Zealand's equivalent of junior high school, would be attuned to this and mock the child mercilessly throughout his formative years, leading to endless bouts of therapy and disillusionment as an adult.

If Mr and Mrs Wheaton were so truly concerned about their boy's name being meaningful, they could have made things a lot easier through giving the boy the name of an older male relative. Thus, the parents could simply tell the boy he was named after one of his grandfathers, or some great-uncle, or what not. It seems unlikely that course of action would result in a name that would be as embarrassing as '4real,' and both the boy and his parents would have had an acceptable rationale for the child's naming -- even if the boy's name was somewhat outlandish, like "Wayne" or "Harvey."

Now, it is worth noting the Government of New Zealand has not officially put the kibosh on the Wheatons' plans, but rather is "discussing" things over with the parents. This is the type of milquetoast response one would expect from New Zealand, which is so loathe to taking decisive action that it effectively scrapped its air force some time ago and won't allow nuclear power anywhere within its domain. Thus, there is the very real possibility that this ridiculous name will be accepted. Should that actually happen, I believe the following courses of action would be in order:

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1. All the Kiwis who have attacked the United States for its supposed lack of culture should officially STFU.
2. New Zealand should allow our nuclear-powered ships and submarines access to its ports, provided we paint our reactors with pretty flowers and rename the power sources "eco-friendly and sustainable engines."
3. New Zealand should provide the United States with tribute for wimping out on its ANZUS treaty obligations, with said tribute to be payable in yummy, succulent lamb meat. Annual payments of 100,000 lambs seems a fair initial estimate for said tribute.

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On a related note, The Rant notes disapprovingly that an Englishwoman has given her daughter a full 25 middle names -- all of which are the surnames of famous boxers. The only saving grace for such wretchedness is that the boxers' names in question are middle names, and as such can be somewhat concealed. That said, I still think it's ridiculous. Choosing a proper middle name is almost as important as choosing a proper Christian name, and it is poor form for parents to waste this on a wretched vanity.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2007

In Which My Quest Against the Forces of Stupidity Continues

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A regular Rant feature

LIKE MANY AMERICANS, I often find the start of spring brings with it a ponderous, seemingly terminal case of ennui. After all, this time of year is somewhat of a spiritual and cultural dead zone. Lent and Easter has passed, football season is still far away, and anticipated vacations and other fun are simply circled dates on the calendar. They are only weeks ahead but their arrival still feels like an uncertain hypothetical, similar to the idea of one’s retirement day.

Still, though, there are some things which remain a constant in life. These can be good things, such as the love of family and friends, or bad things, such as the utter evilness of the Baltimore Ravens. Then, there are the ugly things -- such as the outpouring of imbecilic search-engine queries constantly received here at The Rant. Oh, dear readers, if only you knew.

But in times like this, one must look to the constants in one’s life for support. May God help the poor wretches who stumble here looking for answers. Oh, and I’m sorry for being away all this week – I had a busy week at the office and so wasn’t really up to blogging. Without further ado, though, let’s get right to it!

QUERY: how many carbs in bacon grease

ANSWER: You see what I mean? Jesus Christ – it’s bacon grease! There aren’t any carbs in bacon grease! That’s because it’s bacon grease, which is entirely fat and doesn’t have a bit of carbohydrates in it. Honestly – who would wonder about this?

QUERY: good reason to wear pajamas to bed.

ANSWER: Well, you won’t have to worry about bacon grease dripping from a BLT, that’s for sure. Gad.

QUERY: gin drinking before breakfast

ANSWER: Ooooooh. That’s gotta hurt. You really should wait until noon for a good shot of the stuff.

QUERY: can there be a chicken white castle crave case

ANSWER: But why? No one craves the chicken sandwiches from White Castle. That’s like … I don’t know, craving the fish sandwiches from White Castle. They’re not on the menu for craving. They’re on the menu for people who, for whatever reason, aren’t craving the regular White Castle burgers for which everyone else has the jones.

QUERY: white castle fish sandwich

ANSWER: As my good friend Simon From Jersey has put it, “If you can’t see the ocean, don’t get the fish.” In this case, even if you can see the ocean, you might want to heed that advice.

QUERY: home remedies for meth mouth

ANSWER: Talk to the guy who wrote in about gin drinking before breakfast.

QUERY: blimpy burger ann arbor mich

ANSWER: Finally, a decent query. OK, Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, based in Ann Arbor, is the best place for hamburgers in all of Michigan, if not the Midwest. The Rant’s traditional order, for the record, is a quad with blue cheese and grilled onions on an onion roll, with a side order of fried mushrooms. Plus, it’s “cheaper than food.” If you go, remember: order from the fryer first, and the staff are supposed to be rude.

QUERY: how many presidents appear on the $2 bill?

ANSWER: I’ll let you know after I go back to Blimpy’s, which should be in about two weeks or so.

QUERY: are $2 bills widely circulated

ANSWER: The last time I saw one was at Blimpy’s.

QUERY: whose inscriptions are on the following bills $1 $2 $5 @10 $20 $50 $100 $500 $1000 $5000 $10000 $100000?

ANSWER: It is worth noting that the $100,000 denomination was not an actual banknote, but rather a gold certificate used solely for interbank transfers. However, the personage on the certificate was none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a lot to do with it. The $10,000 note had former Treasury secretary Walter Forward on it, while the $5,000 note had the picture of former Vice President Schuyler Colfax. The $1,000 note bears the picture of Calvin Coolidge, and the $500 note features the noted statesman and military leader, Franco Harris.

QUERY: who is that irritating woman in the bob s discount furniture ads

ANSWER: I didn’t think anyone could be more irritating than Bob in the Bob’s Discount Furniture ads. Well, aside from Gilbert Gottfried, but Bob is close. The irritating woman, though, is a close second to Bob. Gawd.

QUERY: sick of neighbor asking to borrow my lawnmower

ANSWER: So tell him it’s broken, already.

QUERY: why was grant selected to be on the $50 dollar bill

ANSWER: That’s a very good question indeed!

QUERY: hedgefunds are morally disgusting

ANSWER: You’ll feel better once you consider that no one is forcing people to give their money to the hedge fund operators. This, then, proves Mencken’s dictum that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

QUERY: coinstar takes pesos?

ANSWER: God! Now there’s a scary thought – the idea of Coinstar machines taking pesos. I mean, do you know how hard it is to get change in Mexico? After a few weeks, Coinstar Inc. would have a death grip on the Mexican economy as people everywhere went scrounging for change, any change, for everyday transactions.

QUERY: if a driver averages 55 mph and drives eight hours per day five days a week what could a driver earn in a year?

ANSWER: Based on 40 cents a mile … oh, $44,000 a year or so.

QUERY: funny eros banknotes

ANSWER: Banknotes aren’t supposed to prompt eros. I mean, in any sense that phrase can be taken.

QUERY: quit job go hiking

ANSWER: Ah, the old quit job go hiking idea. Actually, I always thought it would be a cool thing to do something like that

QUERY: investing is stupid

ANSWER: This sounds like someone who has not fully weighed the possibility of spending his golden years inside one of those grim high-rise housing projects for the elderly.

QUERY: do we tip car wash attendants?

ANSWER: Tip the car wash attendant only if the car wash attendant performs actual work, such as wiping down the inside and making sure the car shines when it comes out of the wash.

QUERY: why wearing fur is greedy

ANSWER: Why indeed, one wonders. Extravagant, yes. Greed-driven, no.

QUERY: what huge city is called city of brotherly shove on account of its supposed rudeness?

ANSWER: Shreveport.

QUERY: police academy-8 not released

ANSWER: That’s the best news I’ve heard since I found out Terrell Owens signed up with the Dallas Cowboys.

QUERY: a little piece of heaven detroit stripper dancer

ANSWER: Are you sure those phrases go together?

QUERY: opus dei financial interests budweiser

ANSWER: I find it impossible to believe that Opus Dei would have any financial interest in the Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. This is because Opus Dei promotes sanctity through honest work and labor. Light beer that tastes like bilge water does not promote sanctity.

QUERY: seat belt beep where does it come from

ANSWER: It’s coming from INSIDE THE CAR! For the love of God, GET OUT OF THE CAR!

QUERY: what does a circle with an exclamation point mean on the dashboard of a ford taurus

ANSWER: According to my owner’s manual, it means the transmission is due to fall out of the car within the next five miles. That, or you have the parking brake on.

QUERY: mr coffee beeping annoying disabling

ANSWER: I have no idea how you would disable the coffee machine beep. You should contact the Jarden Corp., makers of Mr Coffee and related niche consumer products used in and around the home.

QUERY: automatic driver s dome light stays on 99 mercury sable

ANSWER: Use WD-40 to spray the locks and related mechanisms around your car’s doors. Usually, a dome light issue like this stems from crap getting into the locks and gumming things up.

QUERY: return to the 55 mph speed limit

ANSWER: I’d rather eat glass.

QUERY: worst western movie

ANSWER: I’m sure it involves “F Troop” in some way or another.

QUERY: fortune & fake impersonate priest new york

ANSWER: There’s a Rat Pack joke in here somewhere.

QUERY: bengals stink

ANSWER: That’s what happens when your team goes to jail.

QUERY: what causes feverish and hot when the thermometer doesnt show high temperature?

ANSWER: Examinus schoolis.

QUERY: how could the teachings of the dalai lama help if the students are teasing another student because of the way she/he talk looks or dresses?

ANSWER: Never mind the Dalai Lama – tell the little brats not to pick on the kid and show some bloody respect. If this fails, send them to the principal. They’ll learn quick enough.

QUERY: cool crisp air in arrogant ann arbor michigan

ANSWER: Ann Arbor is not arrogant. Ann Arbor is just better, more hip and generally just more with it than you are, particularly if you’re from East Lansing.

QUERY: robert-hargreaves superpower synopsis

ANSWER: It’s about America in the Seventies. As such, it’s very depressing and bleak. Also, Hargreaves spends a lot of time writing about John Lindsay, whom no one remembers any more. Mr Lindsay had the bad fortune to be mayor of New York from 1966 to 1973. Mr Lindsay’s term in office is a key downward indicator in Kepple’s Grand Theory of American History, which posits that the nadir of modern American political and cultural power was reached on July 12, 1979.

QUERY: long lasting cold/sinus problems

ANSWER: I hear you, my brother. It is not fun to suffer long-lasting cold/sinus problems, unless you get some really swell medication. Then, it’s pretty copacetic.

QUERY: what would gaia and captain planet suggest doing about allergies to pollen

ANSWER: I don’t know, Babs. Maybe Gaia and Captain Planet would suggest being one with the pollen, and reveling in its glory and majesty as it spreads life over the Earth. The Rant’s prescription for dealing with pollen allergies, however, is to root out and destroy the wretched, foul plant life that thinks it can just spread pollen everywhere. Only when nearby plant life is crushed will we God-fearing allergy sufferers be able to breathe freely. If that’s not your thing, I suggest moving to Death Valley or the Atacama Desert.

QUERY: mocking britain

ANSWER: As Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Head of the Commonwealth, Lord High Admiral, Defender of the Faith, etc. etc. is visiting the United States at present, The Rant will refrain from mocking Britain and her subjects.

It should be noted that The Rant, being an American blog, does not pay fealty nor homage to any foreign sovereign, although The Rant will always have a soft spot for the House of Wurttemburg, which rules, although not anymore in a literal sense. It’s the only royal house to which I’ve been able to draw any connection with the Kepple family, by which I mean that they actually ran things in a place where I know my ancestors lived. Later generations of Kepples settled in the tiny village of Dehlingen, in Alsace, which was part of a tiny manor that itself was one of approximately eight million possessions of what I believe was the House of Wittelsbach. So there’s not really that local connection, if you see what I’m getting at. But anyway.

QUERY: casa carino san miguel de allende

ANSWER: Ah, Casa Carino! I’ve seen pictures. It’s very nice. If you have an extra $34,000 lying about and a month or so of time, let me know. I’d like to join you for a visit.

QUERY: what kind of men are attracted to narcissists

ANSWER: Well, I’m guessing those who are narcissists themselves.

QUERY: josh and vegan and bond trader and los angeles

ANSWER: Don’t call him back. I mean, let’s examine the three key phrases here: bond trader, vegan, Los Angeles. This means he’ll always be at work or stuck in traffic, and then when he gets home will be picky about dinner plans. That’s not a recipe for romantic success, if you ask me.

QUERY: why women are attracted to assholes

ANSWER: Actually, now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve come to realize this line of argument is pretty pathetic. The real question here is why women are not attracted to the questioner. Perhaps the questioner ought work on whatever these issues may be, starting with the issue of self-confidence. I mean, hell, I know I’d be a heck of a lot more attractive if I started working out and lost weight. I’m going to work on that again soon, but I’ve had other issues I’ve been dealing with in the meantime.

QUERY: ripped out my heart by a beautiful romanian woman

ANSWER: My sympathies. Outsourcing romantic companionship, the situation which seems to be described here, is often fraught with peril. Why not try a bit closer to home?

QUERY: north carolina s winter tempters

ANSWER: What winter?

QUERY: cure for celebrity worship syndrome?

ANSWER: It beats the hell out of me. It’s one thing to follow celebrity antics but another to voluntarily forfeit the intellectual capacity that God has granted one. I think a lot of the whole syndrome has to do with people living vicariously through the supposedly more exciting lives of celebrities. So perhaps taking up a hobby might help.

Well, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time for more of the same!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

Shock Horror as "Up to 80 Percent of Blogs" Host "Offensive Content"

LET'S JUST GET the obvious retorts, comebacks and insults out of the way now. That way, it will be easier to condemn the people at ScanSafe Ltd., a milquetoast English computer security firm that may soon prove as popular in the blogosphere as Arthur Batchelor.

Well, perhaps that's a bit harsh -- after all, ScanSafe, unlike Able Seaman (!) Batchelor, has not made the Royal Navy an utter laughingstock. Still, one does wonder what the people at ScanSafe were thinking when they developed the criteria for their most recent Global Threat Report, in which the firm says up to 80 percent of the world's blogs may have offensive material on them. Let's review some of the responses one might conceivably make when faced with such a claim:

* "What? Only 80 percent?"
* "Gee, thanks, Captain Obvious."
* "You're paid how much? And why, exactly?"
* "But Chad Johnson doesn't have a blog."
* "Ah, shit."

Of course, having just one profanity on a page is grounds for ScanSafe's system considering a blog's content as potentially offensive. This is a bit much, if you ask me -- if only because it's not all that accurate a gauge. After all, here at The Rant, I routinely mock and insult people I consider wretched, doltish or generally irritating. Why, in a typical week, as readers know, I may very well insult bad drivers, unthinking movie directors, dimwit criminals, irritating goody-two-shoes types and the entire state of Oregon. Yet I may do this without any profanity at all -- although there's certainly room here for a well-placed curse.

Heh. Oregon. Christ.

Anyway, I'll finish up with an excerpt from the actual press release, in which ScanSafe trumpets the virtues of its system to an audience it apparently thinks ain't all that with it:

"Blogs are a great vehicle for self-expression and the exchange of ideas," said Dan Nadir, vice president, product strategy, ScanSafe. "Employees visiting these sites can unknowingly expose corporate networks to legal liability, viruses and loss of proprietary information."

Why, in the name of God, would a writer put those two sentences back to back?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2007

If Knowing Is Half the Battle ...

... THEN NOT STUPIDLY TEMPTING FATE must be the other half.

At least, that's the conclusion I draw from this recent article in The Times of London, about which the headline says a lot: Catapult boy is eaten after taunting crocodile in pen.

Well, that leads us to The Rant's Post-Commercial Pre-Credits Moral Lesson of the Week for Kids!

Last week, of course, we learned about why you should never get involved in the Japanese yen carry trade unless you're under proper adult supervision. And then, the week before, we learned about how being irresponsible caused Shipwreck to spend months having his life turned upside-down by the Office of Naval Intelligence.

This week, kids, we've got another Important Safety Tip for you! When you're out "hanging" with your friends, don't break into your local zoo and taunt the angry wild animals with slingshots and sticks. The angry wild animals do not see you as the troublemaking yet lovable young urchins you are. Instead, they see you as steak tartare.

Plus, you don't want to end up as that One Kid From School Who Died in a Horrible Accident. Like that one guy I knew back in seventh grade who was on the wrong end of a truck-skateboarder accident when I was on vacation, and ended up getting buried out in Kalamazoo's Mount Ever-Rest Cemetery. What's that? No, I'm not kidding, they actually called it that. I mean, Christ, can you imagine the indignity of it?

Anyway -- now you know, knowing is half the battle, and The Rant has now satisfied its FCC quota for providing family-friendly content. And now, these messages!*

---------------

* Buy more! Buy more now!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2007

An Open Letter to That Guy in the Sedan

TO: That Guy Leaving the Mall of New Hampshire
About 9:30 A.M. in the Tan Toyota Sedan (yes, you)

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: Badassery

-----------------

Dear Sir,

As a fellow motorist, I couldn't help notice your vehicle as I left the Mall of New Hampshire this morning. It is rare that one sees such an awesome display of cluelessness and braggadocio in the same instant, and the image of your vehicle was burned into my mind as I left the plaza. To spare you public embarrassment, I have redacted the numbers of your license plate from this post, but you should be aware this will not stop others who see you out from pointing and snickering in your general direction. You should also be aware your profane rear-window display does not, in fact, proclaim the message you are trying to get across.

Generally speaking, someone who is a badass does not need to proclaim this with a profane rear-window display. Rather, a badass person will engage in badass conduct, such as flagrantly violating municipal ordinances, drinking before noontime and smuggling cigarettes up from North Carolina. However, in the rare event a badass person would want to deface his vehicle with a giant, off-center rear window display, he would damn well make sure he spelled every word right.

You see, sir, proclaiming yourself the "badest bitch," as you put it, does not cause others to consider you a tough guy. Rather, you look like an ill-educated high school dropout -- a yutz, a schlemiel, a schnook so gullible you make Kevin Federline look like F. A. Hayek. In short, you do not come off as a bad moth--

But anyway. All that was bad enough, but your car made it even worse. You were driving what looked like a Camry or a Corolla. To be perfectly blunt, I haven't seen anything so pathetic since back in '79, when Carter got attacked by that swamp rabbit. I mean, are you kidding me?

Let's review for a moment the folks who drive Toyotas. Oh, that's right. Soccer moms, mid-level managers, couples with dual incomes and three kids who are well on their way to joining the upper middle class. Notice how this group does not include "young people who desperately want to appear like tough guys." Crikey. Go out and buy a Mustang or something.

What's that? No, I'm serious. If you really have such little self-confidence that you must proclaim yourself a badass with a window decal, you may as well go out and buy a car with at least a little bit of backbone, or flair, or whatever you want to call it. But make sure your decals are spelled right this time around.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

Trial Balloon

ONE DAY IN FEBRUARY, a Tennessee blogger displeased with the experience she and her job-seeking husband had at a local career-search company came home and wrote about it. Representatives of the company soon found out about her post, and had to decide how to handle the matter. Clearly the best decision was to hire a law firm, which then threatened to sue the blogger in question unless she retracted her remarks.

Based on the reaction to the firm's demand letter, one might suggest it would be a good idea for the company to drop the whole matter.

It's not just that people across the nation have become rather upset, or that the local newspaper has taken notice, or that Instapundit is broadcasting it out to tens of thousands of people. It's not even because all that happened in just a matter of hours, and that the wave of publicity is still swelling. It's also because the potential plaintiff and his counsel now have a good idea of how a jury of God-fearing citizens would receive their claim.

Thus, it might be smart for the company to just -- I don't know -- pretend the whole thing didn't happen, if such an arrangement can be made in the wacky world of law. Barring that, maybe a gift certificate or some concert tickets might work.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2007

Great Moments in Broadcast Journalism

WELL, I DARESAY someone at WAGT-TV in Augusta, Ga., got cashiered over this rather unfortunate mistake during one of their recent news broadcasts. (Watch very closely for this, uh, adult slipup).

(via Corey Spring)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

ROTFL

I JUST ABOUT FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR:

For those collegiate journalists out there now, don't be too upset: you'll understand soon enough!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

And They'll Never Have That Recipe Again

OH NO!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

An occasional Rant feature

WHILE RESEARCHING an earlier post about bad disco songs from the Seventies, I stumbled across some interesting information about Donna Summers' infamous 1978 rendition of "MacArthur Park." Many people have made fun of it for its nonsensical lyrics, which famouly discuss the inconsiderate antics of a buffoon who leaves a cake out in the rain. The loss of the cake, as readers will recall, sends the song's singer into hysterics and despair.

Much to my surprise, though, the clumsy and stupid analogies used in these lyrics actually referred to romantic love. Like most reasonable people, I had simply assumed that leaving "the cake out in the rain" referred to a narcotics bust, in which a sizable quantity of methamphetamine was abandoned in hopes of escaping the police. How else to explain the singer's wailing over the cake, for which she would never again have the recipe, written as it was on flash paper and fast-food napkins? But as it turned out, I was wrong.

Romantic love has been on the minds of many people arriving here at The Rant this month, due to the high profile of the Valentine's Day holiday. It's safe to say that many of them, based on their incoherent and downright weird searches, will never have that recipe again. Yes, these sad and desperate individuals are almost certainly sleeping out on the sofa due to their mistakes. But without further ado, let's start the show:

QUERY: sweet love is the answer

ANSWER: That might be so, but it's still not going to solve Venezuela's inflation crisis or its confiscatory scheme of price controls for basic staples.

QUERY: how is poverty bad?

ANSWER: As a famous philosopher, Young MC, once said: "Got no money and you got no car -- then you got no woman, and there you are."

QUERY: eugene oregon cheap romantic outings

ANSWER: Ah, Eugene! I once spent a weekend in Eugene. It rained the entire time, though, so I didn't really get to experience much. Then again, maybe I did.

Anyway, the good news is that you're in Eugene. As a result, there's an extremely good chance you're a college student and/or dating a college student. There's also an extremely good chance you or your date: a) has a thing for patchouli; b) has an unhealthy interest in the outdoors; c) is on some weird organic/macrobiotic diet; and/or d) believes in economic theories which make Hugo Chavez look innovative.

These parameters will almost certainly mean you'll be able to cut corners somewhere along the line, particularly if you can argue that buying flowers oppresses Third World families and drinking expensive wines would mean further oppressing farm workers. And if that fails, remember, they could be tainted with pesticides! Before you know it, your date could be downright happy with a whole-wheat spinach and hummus wrap from some vegetarian place.

Of course, I said could. The far better idea would be not to be cheap in the first place. Flowers are always a good bet, particularly because buying them from a local florist helps strengthen one's local economy. Oddly, there are no local alternative currencies trading in Eugene -- you'd think Eugene of all places would have one -- but it's the thought that counts.

QUERY: burger king commercial crossanwich french things

ANSWER: Now look. The Croissan'wich IS NOT FRENCH. The Croissan'wich -- and its cousins, the Double Croissan'wich and the Enormous Omelet Sandwich -- are products devised to sate the morning hunger of Americans in as little as one minute. They are not designed for gourmet consumption, for lingering over a cup of coffee with. They are designed to deliver meat and cheese, and meat and cheese, quickly and competently.

Also, those who would serve their Valentine croissanwiches are engaging in conduct just as creepy as the Burger King ... um ... King mascot. Creepy is not cool.

QUERY: I want my wife to wear more revealing clothes

ANSWER: So you want your -- wait, you want what? OK. Um. OK. Well, I have no idea HOW to answer this, but I suppose you could address it in one of two ways. First, you could just ask. Second, you could just buy your wife the revealing clothing and suggest she wear it to, I don't know, the office St. Patrick's Day party or something. I have no idea how this would turn out, and for all I know you'd get slapped for it, but -- well, let's move on.

QUERY: eharmony disasters

ANSWER: Well, how about its commercials, with that loathesome fuckwit spokesman eHarmony had? What's that? I don't care if he founded the company. He's as irritating as that guy in the Bob's Discount Furniture ads. Well, actually, he's even more irritating. I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm going to trust the guy who tells people up front he'll charge them for furniture delivery, rather than the guy telling them he'll find people happiness.

QUERY: wedding registry and upper middle class

ANSWER: Crate and Barrel! Williams-Sonoma! Restoration Hardware! Hell, anyplace that throws around words like "premium" and "upgrade" will work. (For an excellent look at these types of things, The Rant would refer readers to Silverstein and Fiske's "Trading Up: Why Consumers Want New Luxury Goods and How Companies Create Them." I got these examples off page 62.)

QUERY: britney spears a good role model

ANSWER: Oh, God, I can't believe people are still asking this. NO.

QUERY: did wilbanks and mason get married?

ANSWER: Oh, God, I can't believe people are still asking this. NO.

QUERY: tent with all the names of past lovers on it

ANSWER: The tent with all the names of an artist's past lovers painted on it, which the decadent English art world actually proclaimed an important work, may sadly have been destroyed in a 2004 fire. I do not know for sure; but in any event The Rant would offer its condolences to the art's insurer.

QUERY: lyrics she said she'd like to score some reefer and a 40

ANSWER: Ah, that would be Bowling for Soup's "Girl All the Bad Guys Want." The Rant would like to offer its condolences to the young man who entered this search string, as he is undoubtedly trying and failing to impress the girl all the bad guys want. (Confidence, my son, is good).

QUERY: southeastern michigan and honeymoon suite

ANSWER: Ooh. I haven't the foggiest on this one. But the Atheneum in Detroit might work. So might the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

QUERY: christian meaning of sayings on valentine conversation heart candy

ANSWER: I don't think they had theology matters in mind when they dreamed up those things.

QUERY: intentional tort damages kick groin

ANSWER: Well, not knowing anything else about the case, I suppose I'd have to say a reasonable award would be ten million dollars. Plus $100 for me, because I winced at the very thought of the searcher getting kicked in the groin, and I think men everywhere can agree that should be actionable too.

QUERY: someone left a cake out in the rain

ANSWER: Yes, someone left a cake out in the rain. But the good news is that the cake CAN be made again, through mixing generous portions of humility, fidelity, and tender loving care. For this recipe WAS sanctioned through the letter of PAUL to the ILLYRIANS, and Paul SAID to those who would chastise him, "You trying to flex on me? Don't be silly."

Well, that's it for this edition of YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED! Tune in next time for answers dealing with health issues, financial matters and the lameness of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who despite his Super Bowl victory still stinks. Until then!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2007

An Open Letter to America's Radio Personalities

MEMORANDUM

TO: American Radio Personalities

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: On-air music descriptions

Dear Radio Personalities and Associated Personnel,

AS THE OWNER OF an older automobile, I don't have many of the newer accoutrements which come with cars these days, such as satellite radio, high-definition radio, or even a compact disc player. As a result, I rely heavily on my AM-FM radio for news or entertainment while I drive. (I also rely on a small and rapidly-decaying tape collection, but that's another post entirely).

Due to this heavy reliance on the radio, I have noticed over the past few weeks that you, the nation's radio personalities, are promoting weird and unnatural ideas in connection with the music of the Eighties, Nineties and Today. Specifically, I refer to the weird and unnatural idea that Oasis' "Champagne Supernova" is a "blast from the past," as well as the horrible thought that any S Club 7 song, much less "Never Had a Dream Come True," was something that would jog one's memory.

I mean, come on. "Champagne Supernova" was released in 1996, which was all of ten years ago. I was in college, for God's sake. Even under the most generous of circumstances, this is not what one would consider a "blast from the past." Oh, no.

Generally speaking, I think it's fair to say that "blasts from the past" have to have some age to them -- two to three decades' worth, at the very least. Not only that, but the songs have to rule -- and, as such, playing these songs must generate some nostalgia for them among listeners. "Champagne Supernova" wasn't a bad song, but there's no way that thing has the nostalgia power of ... oh, "The Power of Love."

What's that? Yes, I did just cite Huey Lewis & the News. Any song from Huey Lewis & the News counts as a "blast from the past" because Huey Lewis & the News ruled, whereas Oasis arguably hijacked the Beatles' legacy and cheapened it for their own material gain. But you can see, radio personalities of America, where this is going. So, let's review:

-----------

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Jefferson Starship
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Hanson

BLAST FROM THE PAST: early Bob Seger
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Blessid Union of Souls

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Crowded House
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Third Eye Blind

BLAST FROM THE PAST: early James Taylor
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: 98 Degrees

----------

I hope this list proves useful going forward, particularly when faced with tough questions about whether middling stars should be introduced with the same respect and cheerfulness with which one would introduce, oh, shall we say, Springsteen.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2007

Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain

OVER AT Dean Esmay's site, Mr Esmay has posted a short item about a rather interesting poll -- a poll which lists, apropos of nothing, the worst songs of the Seventies. (I'd link directly to it, but the Internet is acting up, so just scroll down until you find it.)

Anyway, the poll understandably tags Paul Anka's "Having My Baby" as the decade's worst song, and it also highlights such wretched non-classics as Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love." **shudder** But amazingly, the poll made no mention of Donna Summer's 1978 rendition of "MacArthur Park," which has GOT to be up there. Oh, and while we're on the subject of 1978 disco releases, where's Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife?" I mean, come on. On general principle grounds alone, any compliation of bad Seventies-era songs has to include at least one of those two.

Also, for the record, I would include this post and the poll to which Mr Esmay linked as further evidence of my grand theory that July 12, 1979 -- the day of the "Disco Sucks Riot" at Comiskey Park in Chicago -- was the last major lowpoint in modern American history.

UPDATE, 9:49 p.m.: Internet's working again -- here's the post.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

Well, There's Potentially One Less Thing to Worry About

THE PLAIN DEALER of Cleveland reports that a trucker stands accused of throwing chunks of iron ore at motorists on US 422, a highway southeast of Cleveland. The trucker reportedly told police he threw the iron ore out of anger that the oncoming drivers wouldn't switch off their high-beams. The paper says:

Bright lights gave truck driver Glenn Rogers Jr. a not-so-bright idea, according to the Geauga County Sheriff's Office. Rogers told investigators that he hurled hunks of iron ore at oncoming traffic to express his displeasure with staring into approaching high beams, Chief Deputy Scott Hildenbrand said Wednesday. Rogers was trying to "knock out" headlights with his tosses, Hildenbrand said.

Authorities said that Rogers may be responsible for dozens of smashed windshields reported on Geauga roadways -- predominantly along U.S. 422 east of LaDue Reservoir -- over the past three months.

Rogers, 40, of Elyria pleaded not guilty in Chardon Municipal Court to three felony charges of vehicular vandalism. Police Prosecutor Dennis Coyne said additional charges are expected when the case gets presented to the county's grand jury.

Rogers spent Wednesday in the Geauga County Jail and could not be reached. His fiancée and mother attended the morning court hearing, but declined comment, as did his attorney, public defender Robert Umholtz.

Fortunately, my travels along US 422 are well west of the reservoir, even when I'm driving to the Cleveland area from points east. But still, this is one of those vaguely disturbing stories that makes me wonder about Back Home sometimes ...

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

One Light Goes Out, They All Go Out

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Edition of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A very special holiday edition of an occasional Rant feature

AH, DECEMBER! With Christmas Day fast approaching, Americans everywhere are doing their holiday shopping, getting ready to visit relatives, and planning to enjoy some time off around the end of the year. As such, it will surprise no one to learn The Rant has accordingly seen more disturbing and alarming search-engine queries than ever. Gad.

Now, this is not to say I don’t like the Christmas season – I do very much indeed. It’s just I don’t understand certain recent developments surrounding the celebration of Christmas. For instance, I fully appreciate and value the fact people like to go out shopping for Christmas gifts, even when the malls are horribly crowded and parking is impossible to find. That said, I don’t understand why people start their shopping around the time I’m having a second piece of pie on Thanksgiving night.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but joining an angry mob in an attempt to buy purposely-limited quantities of cheap Chinese electronics ain’t my idea of fun. I also don’t know what prompts people to assault other shoppers over parking spaces, why some radio stations play Christmas carols all the time during December, and who exactly is responsible for pushing back the Christmas shopping season to Columbus Day. Fifty years ago, this would have been seen as prima facie evidence of decay in our Republic. Today, it’s – well, it’s seen as prima facie evidence of decay in our Republic. Yet it goes completely unchecked, apparently because we’re all too busy making sure the shipping companies are getting our packages sent on time.

But anyway. It’s Christmas time, so I can assure you even I have a smile on my face – well, I will at the end of the week, anyway. Now let us talk of many things.

QUERY: class of 94 here i come

ANSWER: As a member of the Class of ’94, I can assure readers that I hate this fucking commercial. That’s primarily because it makes me feel old. I’m not old. I’m only 30. I have no business even thinking about high school reunions. For that matter, I have no business thinking about lots of life’s important milestones which traditionally come before one’s high school reunion. Thus, I would prefer not to think about the fact my tenth high school reunion – if people my age organize such things anymore – has come and gone.

QUERY: funny side of daylight saving

ANSWER: Hey, here’s an idea, why not look for the funny side of a root canal? Why not look for the funny side of getting beaten about the head with a tire iron? Now look, there’s nothing funny about daylight saving time, which cruel German imperialists first put into practice during World War I. It’s worth noting these are the same cruel, pointy-helmeted imperialists who saw nothing wrong with chemical warfare. Yet today, hardly anyone complains when Americans’ precious sleep cycles are disrupted and shattered for weeks at a time.

QUERY: sick Christmas music

ANSWER: Well, first on the list has to be that horrible Paul McCartney song from the Seventies, which I shan’t name lest anyone get it in their heads and – oh, damn. Too late, I see. Sorry. Anyway, this particular song is so hideously bad that it’s almost enough to make me root for the soon-to-be-former Lady McCartney in the couple’s divorce proceedings, if indeed Lady McCartney can in fact lose her title in such a manner. Almost enough, but not quite.

But I digress. You all know the song of which I write, I am sure. It was released in 1979, and I would further note it lends credence to my theory 1979 was the year in which America hit its cultural nadir. It also hit No. 6 on the UK singles chart that year, which I submit is proof Scotland must and shall declare independence before it’s too late.

QUERY: why is christmas a good day

ANSWER: Football! Turkey! Gift-giving! A day off work! Even better, all sorts of goods – including gold, myrrh and frankincense – are frequently on sale following the big day, particularly when the retailers start getting desperate to reach their sales targets. Also, I seem to remember something about a manger and wise men and a really bright star, but it’s late and I’m tired.

QUERY: when the rapture comes we

ANSWER: I don’t know about you, but I’m going to … let’s see here … ah, yes! … “hide in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?’ ”

Before that, though, I’m stealing your sport-utility vehicle.

QUERY: atheist the-divine-comedy

ANSWER: Sixth circle, fiery tombs, so on and so forth – which actually isn’t all that horrible for Dante’s Inferno.

QUERY: why do bad things happen in threes

ANSWER: It’s all a matter of perspective that bad things happen in threes. You must transcend this outlook on life to realize the larger picture, that good things generally happen more often than not.

QUERY: what do we call the imaginary circle around the earth whch lies halfway between the north and south pole

ANSWER: That would be the International Date Line.

QUERY: how long is winter going to be

ANSWER: Two weeks too long, of course.

QUERY: swarming insects michigan

ANSWER: Yeah, that sounds about right.

QUERY: am i here for a reason ?

ANSWER: Well, God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

QUERY: football commentators that hate the ravens

ANSWER: Hi there!

QUERY: taking soy milk in luggage to mexico

ANSWER: Boy, the customs folks are going to have fun with you. I don’t think there’s really any reason why you actually need to lug the soy milk to Mexico. Just drink beer or soda like everyone else.

QUERY: bring back the 55 mph speed limit

ANSWER: Uh … no.

QUERY: what is currency speculation

ANSWER: Currency speculation is just that: speculating that the value of a particular currency vis-à-vis a second currency will rise or fall. For instance, one may speculate that the dollar will rise against the pound, or the yen will rise against the euro, or what have you. Unfortunately, as making any significant sum requires an alarming amount of leverage, guessing wrong has a tendency to wipe out one’s position rather quickly.

QUERY: every man a speculator

ANSWER: Given the increasing amount of speculative offerings out there, we’re getting closer than ever to this. Also, that’s the title of a good history of Wall Street.

QUERY: percent of invited guests who show up to weddings

ANSWER: Speaking of every man a speculator … actually, I have no idea how to answer this question. Furthermore, as a man, I don’t think I have any business offering my thoughts on this question. However, generally speaking, I would suggest not skimping on the lobster or whatever you plan to serve during the wedding dinner.

QUERY: raison why you should not drink soda

ANSWER: That’s like asking for a reason not to drink water.

QUERY: money affects friendship

ANSWER: Thank God it hasn’t in my life, and I’d like to think that’s the case in most people’s lives. I think most people realize that everyone’s situations are different, and that no matter whether one has more or less money than another, there are very real tradeoffs which take place as a result of that income disparity. It is one thing to be envious of a man who makes six figures, but strangely, there’s never any envy of the blown vacations and eighty-hour work weeks and missed family events. Conversely, one ought not be jealous of another man’s time or occupation without appreciating the sacrifices he is making as a result. But I would suggest that any and all such financial issues can be resolved through a healthy dose of self-confidence and, if possible, through living below one’s means.

QUERY: flaunting one’s wealth

ANSWER: Flaunting one’s wealth is classless and gauche. That’s not to say one ought not enjoy one’s wealth, but it’s not right to make a scene with it or otherwise act like some wretched celebutante.

QUERY: two jefferson dollar bills are worth how much money?

ANSWER: They would generally be worth, oh, about $2.

QUERY: low end gin brands

ANSWER: Gin is an excellent spirit precisely because one can purchase the best gin on the market for $20 for a fifth, thus obviating the need to purchase cheap gin, which can be especially vile.

QUERY: fundamental analysts are wasting their time when operating in a semi-strong efficient market

ANSWER: That’s assuming you believe in efficient market theory, which I certainly do not. The efficient market theory, to my mind, requires that people and markets operate in a logical, sane and coldly orderly manner. Yet time and again, history has shown that people and markets can and do go stark raving loony for extended periods of time, all based on the thinnest of hopes and the most outlandish of dreams.

QUERY: what did keynes mean in long run we all dead

ANSWER: (blink) (blink) (crickets chirp)

QUERY: did you find the directing sign on the straight and narrow highway

ANSWER: Yes! And my quarter-life crisis is just ahead!

QUERY: since hong kong government doesn t provide a decent pension fund for the senior citizens reached the age of 65 only stupid assholes want to retire in hong kong

ANSWER: So it’s the Government’s fault you didn’t properly invest in your Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme?

QUERY: parents naming children fights

ANSWER: It is important for each parent to hold Veto Power over the ideas one’s spouse has for naming their children. The spousal veto should ensure both parents can settle on a name both like and which won’t embarrass the child in later life.

QUERY: pimped out mercury sable

ANSWER: Now there’s a phrase I didn’t expect to see.

QUERY: trumpet sheet music for europe s the final countdown

ANSWER: And there’s another!

QUERY: bud light real men of genius cincinnati bengals fan

ANSWER: I find it impossible to believe a Cincinnati Bengals fan could be named one of Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius.”

QUERY: christmas ideas for employees

ANSWER: As I’m not the partying type, I tend to think *not* holding an office Christmas party is generally a good idea. This would probably come as a silent relief to nearly everyone, as well as prevent all sorts of unfortunate incidents from taking place, such as Ted tripping on an extension cord and landing face down in the potato salad. If people really want to have a fun time together around the holidays, they can get together and go out carousing on their own time. It’s more fun for them, less of a liability concern for you, and a win-win alliance all around. Yeah. That’s it. A win-win alliance.

Anyway, in all seriousness, I do hope that all of my readers have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Pleasant Yule – or an enjoyable otherwise-applicable holiday, like Winterval or something. Thanks for continuing to read The Rant despite my all-too frequent absences, and I look forward to continuing to write it in the weeks and months and years ahead.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2006

An Event So Spooky, Even Fred Jones Would Tremble in Fear

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Edition of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

An occasional Rant feature

HALLOWEEN APPROACHES. How I remember its glory and majesty during the halcyon days of my youth! The excitement as the afternoon waned, the fun of carving pumpkins and dressing in costume, the joy of acquiring what seemed like an unlimited amount of sweets – how could any child forget that? Halloween has captured the imagination of so many that I could never do justice to their experiences, although I am certain Ray Bradbury has done so.

Of course, like so many of the antagonists in Bradbury’s stories, I have grown cynical and curmudgeonly. Yet even as I pore over account books and economic histories, my sense of wonder and imagination still has a spark of life about it. And I can assure you that upon reading my search engine queries recently, that spark has grown into a blazing fire, for there are few things as scary as my search engine logs.

I’m serious. The Rant’s search engine logs these past few weeks are so incredibly scary, I’m half-expecting the Harlem Globetrotters to show up as special guests for this post. That’s how alarming the searches are – generally speaking, of course.

I actually got many interesting and pleasing queries, which showed many of those arrving here via search engine were erudite, refined individuals with inquisitive minds. Then there were the people looking for information about the runaway bride lady and alpaca investment fraud and Peyton Manning. These latter folks brought to mind Mencken’s old quip about democracy: that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Before we delve into the deeper recesses of The Rant’s search logs, though, I do want to note one alarming statistic I discovered from analyzing my site reports. This has to do with my earlier post in which I condemned the Molson Coors Brewing Co., its advertising agency and light beer which tastes like paint thinner. In this post, I had condemned a recent advertising campaign the brewer has been running ad nauseum for the past several weeks. Much to my surprise and dismay, however, nearly everyone else seems to like it, based on my site-search statistics. Consider this breakdown:

Searches based on “coors light bill walsh”
or related language: roughly 550

Searches based on “coors light commercials annoying”: 1

From this, I’ve concluded what any reasonable person would given such a result: that all matters relating to cultural standards, and perhaps even governance and public policy, ought be the sole province of me and my friends. Dammit.

Anyway, let’s get to the queries, because God knows we wouldn’t want to disappoint the drunken legions of light-beer swilling sociopaths with an alarming fondness for loser quarterbacks who crack under pressure and unfairly disparage their offensive lines.

QUERY: peyton manning mustache picture

ANSWER: Oh, God, it’s started already. I can only hope the Colts start losing games, or at least lose early again in the postseason, because you know we’re going to get bombarded with the inevitable “Will Peyton finally get a Super Bowl ring?” storyline this year.

Folks, if that actually happens and the Colts make it into the Super Bowl, I may just violate convention and root for the NFC squad – even if that team is Dallas. Hell, especially if that team is Dallas. If Terrell Owens actually gets a Super Bowl ring, it will cause several ESPN football commentators’ heads to explode, thus raising the possibility ESPN would hire commentators I could stand. Please, ESPN, for the love of God, fire Joe Theismann.

QUERY: what does quieres mean?

ANSWER: “Quieres” is a form of the Spanish verb “to want,” and this form, the informal “tu” form, means “You want.” One would use this in the phrase, “Que quieres?” which literally translated is “What do you want?” Of course, if you use the “tu” form of the verb, and you use it with the wrong person, you will be seen as a rude upstart who should be beaten about the head and neck. Use the “usted” (you, formal) form instead, and you will be seen as a man of character and refinement.

QUERY: what does cause celebrite mean?

ANSWER: I’m assuming it means “cause which results in a celebrity increasing his or her Q factor or other theoretically bankable trait.”

QUERY: what does the word laviscous mean?

ANSWER: This refers to thermal viscosity breakdown in your car’s engine.

QUERY: french for creepy croissanwich burger king commercial

ANSWER: Dude, “creepy croissanwich burger king commercial” needs no translation, for watching those commercials results in a universal experience of uneasiness and dread. There’s something wrong with the creepy Burger King mascot with the plastic mask, yet no one really knows what or why.

QUERY: rosie o donnell pleather

ANSWER: Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m scared.

QUERY: hideous chaos

ANSWER: Yeah, but the Oakland Raiders actually won on Sunday.

QUERY: 1970s corporate dress codes

ANSWER: Based on my analysis of Seventies-era culture, I’ve discerned the following rules: 1. Lapels which injure others, or knock over precious goods -- such as one’s small presentoir of cocaine -- are right out. 2. See point one.

QUERY: being sued by neighbor

ANSWER: Ooooooh. That’s gotta suck. Well, if your neighbor has gone so far as to pursue a civil action in a court of law, I would advise getting a very good lawyer and defending yourself vigorously.

QUERY: can a landlord refuse to rent to a 55 year old?

ANSWER: If a landlord is refusing to rent to a 55-year-old, I’m assuming he has a damned good reason for doing so.

QUERY: winning a car how much taxes do i owe

ANSWER: If you’ve won a car, you should receive from the agency handling the contest or giveaway an income tax form detailing the retail value of the vehicle. For instance, if you won a car worth $20,000, that $20,000 would count as income; you would thus owe tax on the $20,000 in whatever bracket(s) you find youself. If all the income were to fall in the 25 pc bracket, that would be $5,000. Congratulations!

QUERY: tab energy drinks dangers

ANSWER: Drinking Tab energy drink may cause light perspiration, extreme instances of polyuria and an affinity for those goddamned tortoise-shell sunglasses that should have gone out with the early Eighties.

QUERY: how to be swell

QUERY: clip from john belushi samurai on saturday night live

It’s like I have these things at my fingertips or something. Pardon the Turkish subtitles. Also, I don't know how long that clip will last, but hey.

QUERY: illinois football is classless

ANSWER: Well, as Coach Zook said, the program’s learning how to win. If you ask me, that’s a humble enough statement to win some style points. Besides, it’s not like Illinois went and desecrated the field at a school with a decent football program.

QUERY: did notre dame plant the flag at msu

ANSWER: No.

QUERY: upscale americana diners irony

ANSWER: Isn’t that the equivalent of saying – oh, let’s say, cassoulet -- is ironic? That’s a bit … actually, that’s a pretty damn good thesis idea! “The irony of cassoulet in early 20th century French cuisine, and its relation to the development of mime artistry.” Go to it, kids!

QUERY: must quit smoking and wear pajamas to bed

ANSWER: Domestication. Awful thing, really.

QUERY: commodification taco bell

ANSWER: Yeah, if there’s any chain that has reduced the idea of food consumption to its logical terminus as a cheap, calorie delivery vehicle, it’s Taco Bell.

QUERY: my power window is stuck down taurus

ANSWER: It’s probably your window motor. That’ll be $250.

QUERY: what is the difference between high and low end vodka

ANSWER: What you pay for the stuff, of course. Go for the cheap stuff, particularly if you’re going to mix it with something twee and fashionable. Of course, you could always drink a decent and God-fearing drink, like gin. Mmmmm. Gin.

QUERY: how well does eharmony work

ANSWER: I wouldn’t know. The mere mention of the word “eHarmony” reminds me of that annoying scoundrel who appears in its television commercials, and as such sends me into apoplectic shock. Why you had to bring this up, I don’t know, but I must severely chastise you for doing so.

QUERY: eharmony dating disaster

ANSWER: Oh! Well. There we have it.

QUERY: suing a blogger

ANSWER: This is a really, really, really bad idea. Particularly because you’ll be exposed to ridicule from the blogger and all of his friends and compatriots from now until the next time the Cubs win the World Series.

QUERY: drawn and quartered

ANSWER: And they were the lucky ones.

QUERY: how much to build servants quarters or guest house

ANSWER: I have absolutely no idea. But if you’re considering servants’ quarters or a guest house, why would you really need to know how much it cost?

QUERY: vegetarianism gall bladder trouble

ANSWER: Peppers always gave me hell when I was having my gall bladder issues. Try avoiding them.

QUERY: sunset time in winter in kalamazoo

ANSWER: About five o’clock. But that’s not what will get to you, oh no. It will be the 9 a.m. sunrises that’ll get to you. You think I’m kidding!

QUERY: hourglass in 700 club news report

ANSWER: This refers to the projected end of the world, which is set to take place on October 12, 2019, or when the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl, whichever comes first.

QUERY: in the state of kentucky does the woman have to return the engagement ring to the man if the marriage does not occur?

ANSWER: In the state of Kentucky, the last thing the man should be worried about is getting his engagement ring back.

QUERY: film critic employment statistics

ANSWER: Generally speaking, this comes down to questions such as, “Are you Roger Ebert?”

QUERY: did the tulip mania really take place

ANSWER: Of course it did! My God, what a question!

QUERY: nauseous dating women

ANSWER: Well, that can’t be good! Perhaps some anxiety medicine might help. Barring that, consider watching more college football.

QUERY: top ten reasons for dating a journalist

ANSWER: Someone’s managed to come up with TEN? Boy, I – oops. Uh, I mean, it’s understandable one would look for the top reasons to date a journalist, given there are so many good reasons, such as our incredible knowledge of a city’s top restaurants, for instance. Yeah. That sounds about right.

Anyway, that’s it for this special spooky edition of “Your Search Engine Queries Answered.” Next time, we’ll discuss important topics such as … why the creepy Burger King commercial guy is standing next to my desk with a croissanwich upon a silver platter. Jesus God help me!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2006

An Open Letter to the Molson Coors Brewing Co.

MEMORANDUM

TO: W. Leo Kiely III, President and Chief Executive

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: Rocky Mountain Taste

---------------------
Dear Mr Kiely,

AS A PROUD football fan for many years, I have frequently encountered advertisements for Coors, Coors Light, and many other Molson Coors Brewing Co. products (including Zima, but we won’t dwell on that). As I prefer heavier beers, I do not drink Coors or Coors Light myself, but have on occasion considered buying them for my guests who prefer lighter libations.

That said, if you don’t stop airing those commercials about the plastic cooler boxes, I’m going to drink enough Miller Lite to make even Bob Uecker throw up.

I mean, my God. I’ve seen some stupid beer commercials over the years, but these latest ads of yours are as foul as an early-Eighties batch of Schlitz. I mean, they’re so bad I cringe whenever they appear on air, an event which seemingly took place five or six times an hour this past weekend.

In the event you’ve blacked out the memory of these advertisements, allow me to recall them for you. These are the advertisements in which a rather irritating group of apparent fraternity pledges purport to crash a press conference with an old-school football coach, such as Bill Walsh or Dick Vermeil. Then, like the scoundrels they are, they proceed to ask the coaches questions about the Coors plastic cooler boxes, and receive supposedly funny answers in reply. The answers are not funny. The campaign is not funny. The whole idea is not funny. Please, for the love of God, stop it already.

But don’t just take my word for it. Observe it for yourself, in all its hideousness:

Simply put, this campaign has all the excitement of a shuffleboard competition in Panama City, and as much style as a pastel sport jacket from 1973. Oh, and that reminds me. It’s no longer 1973. As a result, young American beer drinkers like me don’t consider Coors a novelty beer which should be savored and revered. Instead, we see it as a feeble and pale concoction that tastes vaguely like paint thinner. Not only are young beer drinkers not enthused about “Rocky Mountain taste,” we see it as a clever euphemism to fool the uninitiate – somewhat akin to “Rocky Mountain oysters.”

This is not to say there aren’t times when young folks like a nice, weak pilsner in mass quantities; that is a temptation for any beer drinker. Yet there are proper times and proper places for such recklessness, and proper beers as well – like the Beast, for instance, or even PBR. For football games, and other important events, better beer is needed. The idea that one would drink Coors Light – that Coloradan horsepiss you shamelessly claim is beer – during football is downright insane. I’m sorry, but it’s just not beer if one drinks it out of a plastic bottle.

Now, Mr Kiely, I am sure you are thinking, “But, Ben, you represent but a fraction of the beer-drinking public, with your snippy, arrogant demeanor and fondness for Samuel Adams Octoberfest.” Yes, that’s undoubtedly true. But that’s not to say I won’t drink light beer. After all, there are times when Sam Adams isn’t available for one reason or another, and one’s choices are limited to light pilsner-style beers. Also, light beer can be useful when one must entertain.

But when faced with such situations, one has options. For instance, if one’s lucky, there’s Amstel Light or something. Of course, one could choke down some Bud Light without too much suffering, because it has the “Real Men of Genius” radio campaign, which is hilarious. Also, they had the famous “Whaaaaazup” ads, the Clydesdales, the referee parody ads, and Ted Ferguson, the Bud Light Daredevil. One could also drink – in fact, would probably have to drink – Miller Lite, which continues its long tradition of clever advertisements with those “Man Law” ads involving former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and Burt Reynolds. Besides, these guys had one of the best ad campaigns in history:

You know why everyone was running away at the end? Because that last guy – who seems familiar for some reason – had brought Coors Light, and was tainted with the stench and embarrassment of making that purchase. It was a purchase which said volumes. To the cashier, it said, “Check for ID.” To the man behind him in the express line, it said, “Oh God, the guy’s going to count out change.” To the cute girl in Aisle Eleven, it said, “Here is a man with limited earnings potential and little in the way of conversational skills.” There may be places where this is not the case, but I would submit that such places have not yet seen this latest round of wretched commercials, ads which must be condemned on every possible level. I mean, it says something when you have to put in a disclaimer noting the cooler boxes are for one-time use.

Now, I realize it is not entirely fair to condemn you, Mr Kiely, for the decisions your subordinates make. After all, you are a big picture guy and don’t focus on these types of things. However, I know that you can change things – and even if you don’t, you can drop a note to your advertising agency telling them to shape up.

Speaking of your advertising agency, it took me a while, but I finally found out who the devil is responsible for these wretched commercials. According to the good people at AdWeek, it’s the Chicago office of DraftFCB Group, which I believe has long handled Coors advertising (FCB, I think, was once Foote, Cone & Belding). DraftFCB Group is part of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., the worldwide advertising giant. Ad Week writes:

Naturally, no NFL commercial break would be complete without junk food and beer. Golden, Colo.-based Coors partnered with NBC last week and re-upped its "official beer sponsor of the NFL" status for Coors Light, an estimated $300 million deal beyond its annual spending on the brand (a third of which is already spent on games). The brewer designs packaging around football, and upcoming comedy spots from IPG's Draft FCB Group in Chicago will tout a Silver Ticket giveaway. Four fans break into press conferences held by Dick Vermeil and Bill Walsh, only to grill the coaches with Silver Ticket questions.

The “Silver Ticket” in question refers to NFL tickets which Coors Light is giving away – and quite frankly, I can think of a hell of a lot better ways to promote this fact, such as writing better commercials. But I digress. In discussing the effectiveness of any campaign, it’s important to talk numbers.

Here’s one number I think is important: $58.38. That’s the all-time-high stock price for Interpublic, which it hit in early 2000. Yesterday, it closed at an anemic $9.86 per share, a loss of some 83.1 pc over the last six years. Here’s another number I think is important: $0.095. That’s the dividend per share Interpublic once paid out. But it’s hard to pay a dividend when you lost $276 million over the past year.

I don’t know how in hell an ad agency manages to lose $276 million, not even a big firm like Interpublic, but clearly these folks have some issues. Certainly its FCB unit should be ashamed of producing this wretched, third-rate excuse for a television advertising campaign. If they don’t shape things up, I would suggest you start asking the firm to take proactive measures to turn things around. Maybe watching better ads would help them – better ads like this:

All best,

Ben Kepple

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2006

All Right, Let's Get Back to Work!

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Edition of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

An occasional Rant feature

AH, THE FALL. Here at The Rant, autumn is a time for celebration. It heralds the arrival of crisp, cool days and football season. It allows me to relax a bit from the hectic summer and prepare for the months ahead. It is also a good time for me to go on vacation.

While vacations are nice, they can generate a bit of a backlog when one returns. Such is the case with The Rant’s stockpile of search-engine queries, which have been piling up over the past several weeks. Idiocy from all corners of the globe manifests itself in these strange and often degenerate requests, which stand as depressing testament to the sloth, avarice and pettiness one so frequently encounters in life. I mean, my God, what kind of loser would do a search for “brent musburger women’s lingerie,” as one deranged visitor to The Rant did? What kind of ignoramus would actually inquire as to when earthquake season came around on the calendar?

Well, probably the same type of silly people who posed the following search-engine queries, which led them here to The Rant. But we’ve got two months of searches to plow through, so let’s get to work.

QUERY: eharmony dating disaster

ANSWER: Well, that’s no surprise, considering that schlub who founded it – the guy with the three first names – and his annoying television commercials. I swear, watching those things makes me glad I’m single and free.

QUERY: dating service business risk of getting sued

ANSWER: As much as any other business, which is to say considerable. Actually, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more lawsuits related to dating services.

QUERY: gilbert gottfried eharmony

ANSWER: Oh my God.

QUERY: fiancee doesn t respect me

ANSWER: That’s really not cool, and if she doesn’t respect you during your engagement, there seems little to suggest she’s going to suddenly change her ways once you’ve been married. Consider having a good long talk about the issue, because it needs to be resolved before you get hitched.

QUERY: thus the term soul mate has a surprising twist that goes beyond romantic partners. soul mates may very well be those we know as friends or family and are important to our quest to learn the life lessons we need to know

ANSWER: Oh, shut up.

QUERY: need see sex have no credit

ANSWER: God, that's pathetic.

QUERY: women in love are weird

ANSWER: ANYONE in love is weird. Love is like cocaine for the soul.

QUERY: bumper car sticker that says if people would consider the power of love instead of the love of power

ANSWER: If that’d been the case a few decades ago, I’d be writing in Russian.

QUERY: why do men loosen their ties

ANSWER: We’re uncomfortable and our necks need to breathe. Also, it looks vaguely raffish and as such charming.

QUERY: the musician bjork attacked a reporter who simply extended a greeting at the airport

ANSWER: Well, that’s reason enough, isn’t it?

QUERY: rights of smokers at work

ANSWER: That would be none, unless you work at an office where prevailing work conditions don’t change due to fashion. You should quit smoking anyway.

QUERY: refused drug test at work fired

ANSWER: What, were you expecting a prize?

QUERY: raising and investing in alpacas risks and cautions

ANSWER: They’re frickin’ alpacas, for God’s sake. Alpacas! Why in the name of God would you invest in alpacas when you could invest in something like the S&P 500? It’s not just the financial benefits, either -- the S&P 500 doesn’t need to be fed and sheared regularly.

QUERY: requirement for coffee and tea supervisor of restaurant

ANSWER: Well, being able to boil water might be a good start.

QUERY: tipping hotel housekeepers

ANSWER: At least $1 a day, and more if you make a mess of the place. The hotel will leave envelopes for this purpose. Actually, I’ve found that tipping the housekeeping staff is a great way to get rid of change one doesn’t want to lug around. Just make sure you leave at least one $1 bill, make the tip a few bucks if you use this tactic, and only use it if you’re staying for one night. Remember, the housekeeping staff make little money and are oftentimes immigrants, so you should tip freely and generously.

QUERY: how much taxes are owed when winning a car

ANSWER: If you win a car, you will be provided with appropriate tax documentation which will show the market valuation of the car you won. You must pay ordinary income tax on this amount. As such, if you are in the 25 pc bracket, you would have to pay 25 pc of the car’s value in tax. Which still isn’t a bad deal.

QUERY: in what scripture in the bile would you find a fool and his money is soon parted?

ANSWER: Barnum 23:15.

QUERY: what to do when you get sued for selling conterfeit

ANSWER: Well, you could pay the plaintiff the money you owe him for selling counterfeit goods, which is a hideous economic crime.

QUERY: stop neighbors from stealing newspaper

ANSWER: Pepper spray may work.

QUERY: mansion rentals for sweet sixteens in the los angeles area

ANSWER: When you eventually retire, and you find that you’re cutting your medicines in half and eating cat food near the end of the month because you haven’t saved enough money, don’t frickin’ turn to me to bail you out. Christ. That said, in the event you are perfectly prepared for retirement, what the hell kind of message are you sending to your children with this ridiculously extravagant display?

QUERY: when are you too old to buy an annunity

ANSWER: Well, I don’t think one is ever too old to buy an annuity, at least from the insurance industry’s perspective! That said, there are financial and actuarial considerations to take into account. If one is 80 years old, for instance, there’s a real risk one may not get much use out of the annuity, and should perhaps instead draw down the cash one has. But talk it over with your financial advisor.

QUERY: stomping shoes upstairs neighbors complaints police

ANSWER: Surely the police don’t have to be involved in this. Talk with your neighbors first and if that fails, your landlord or condominium association. Then call the cops if you really must.

QUERY: why is serenading your girlfriend in kalamazoo michigan prohibited?

ANSWER: Because the God-fearing people of Kalamazoo have had enough of this “love” and “harmony” crap.

QUERY: in the early 1990s how many americans were drinking coca-cola for breakfast?

ANSWER: About 37 million.

QUERY: analyzing popular culture paris hilton

ANSWER: I have to admit I find the whole Paris Hilton phenomenon baffling on so many levels, although it does prove the entertainment industry’s grand marketing machine can create a “star” out of whole cloth.

QUERY: barbara tuchman great historian

ANSWER: Yes! Buy any and all of her books. You will not be disappointed.

QUERY: does manitoba allow public nudity?

ANSWER: Last time I checked, Manitoba wasn’t the place one wanted to engage in that type of conduct.

QUERY: manchester weather december

ANSWER: Cold. Hell, it was 40 degrees here last night.

QUERY: lions fans despise ford

ANSWER: Can you blame them? Thanks to the Ford family, it will be years before the Lions even get close to “testing the waters of greatness,” much less make it to the big dance.

QUERY: continuity in coaching pittsburgh steelers

ANSWER: That’s the neat thing about the Steelers – they keep their coaches no matter what. That’s part of the team’s Old School Charm which makes it so popular.

QUERY: steelers the true america s team

ANSWER: Well, it sure ain’t Dallas!

QUERY: steelers coach yelling

ANSWER: Did you see the game at Jacksonville? That had some good video of Coach Cowher dishing it out!

QUERY: did notre dame plant the flag at msu

ANSWER: We’ll find out tomorrow!

QUERY: college football commentators hate ohio state

ANSWER: Oh, come on. Everyone knows they hate Michigan.

QUERY: ohio state fire riots football

ANSWER: That’s the type of behavior one would expect out of Columbus!

QUERY: i hate peyton manning

ANSWER: That’s an entirely understandable reaction. After all, as my good friend Chris has noted, the commercials in which Peyton Manning has starred tend to make fun of average people and their everyday routines. Also, Peyton cracks under pressue and blames his offensive line for his own mistakes. The good news, though, is that one can usually watch large linebackers “sign Peyton’s melon” on Sundays.

QUERY: funny super bowl commercials band attacked

ANSWER: Ask, and ye shall receive! I love this:

Think of this as a reward for getting this far!

QUERY: why the sky is blue

ANSWER: What the hell kind of crazy question is that? How should I know? Do I look like a scientist? It’s blue … because it’s blue. Go to a different blog – they’ll have the answer to that.

Well, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time, after we at The Rant have had a few beers and have watched a bit of football! It’ll be especially entertaining!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

*snicker* *guffaw*

10 oClock News Team Relying Heavily On Work Of 6 oClock News Team

The Onion

10 O'Clock News Team Relying Heavily On Work Of 6 O'Clock News Team

AMARILLO, TX—The re-airing of everything from high-school baseball bloopers to tips on how to beat the heat had viewers wondering what a supposedly qualified news team has been doing in the four hours between broadcasts.

JUST KIDDING, of course.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Snakes on a Plane!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD (expletive) CINEMA WITH BEN!

Today's Feature: "Snakes on a (expletive) Plane"

WARNING: Some tiny spoilers ahead.

IT'S A VERY GOOD THING the marketing people behind "Snakes on a Plane" embraced the devotion of those who wanted to have a bit of fun with the film, because only that saved this wretchedly stupid movie from bombing fiercer than Dresden. That said, the movie is so dumb that it is laugh out loud funny, to the point where I was howling with laughter throughout key scenes, such as when the snakes attack everyone in the economy section. In short, "Snakes on a Plane" is a beautiful thing -- and I encourage everyone who enjoys movies so bad they're good to watch it in the theatre.

It's difficult to say a lot about the movie, because, well, "Snakes on a Plane" somewhat sums it up. But here goes. There are snakes on a plane. This plane is being used as a transport flight for a key government witness in an organized crime investigation. The soon-to-be defendant in the matter, knowing the witness has seen him incompetently execute a man, has put the snakes on the plane to liquidate the witness. At the proper time, the snakes -- primed to be hyper-aggressive -- run amok and start attacking the passengers. The snakes are aided in this, I would note, by passenger actions that violate several regulations of the Federal Avaiation Administration.

Anyway, like I said. Snakes on a plane. As for the passengers on the plane, I was expecting Leslie Nielsen to pop up and announce he'd had the lasagna for dinner. That said, Rachel Blanchard is hot. Also, Gerard Plunkett plays the second-most reasonable character in the entire movie, a suit-clad British businessman who is constantly irritated at the indignities he is suffering. But the most applause must be for Samuel L. Jackson, for without him carrying the movie with his presence and acting and all the rest, the movie just doesn't move.

All in all, though, it was a good show and a lot of fun. Also, for those of you who were wondering, there were a total of five utterances of (expletive), including two at the very end of the (expletive) movie. Yes, that absolutely made it worth the price of admission.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2006

An Open Letter to That Guy in the Other Car

SIR: I’M CONCERNED that after our close encounter in the parking lot of the Taco Bell on Thursday afternoon, you may not have been able to tell exactly what I was saying after you nearly ran into me and the Family Truckster. Therefore, I would like to advise you that you are … uh … an intellectually-challenged personage of unfortunate parentage who should consider remedial instruction in the art of driving a car. Yeah.

That’s just for starters. Personally, if I was a balding thirty-something driving a foreign econobox sedan, and I had a haircut and mustache that made others think I was nostalgic for the late Seventies, I would seek professional help. Fortunately, I do not have these troubles, but you, my friend in the other car, should soon head to Supercuts, where you can get a decent haircut for about $15. It’s possible that a decent haircut could improve your vision, which might prevent you in future from zooming around a corner heedless of other traffic in the area.

Now, I realize you, my friend in the other car, might not realize why I was so upset. After all, both of us were certainly able to stop in time before any collision occurred. However, my giant 32 ounce Taco Bell soda – that was one full quart of Diet Pepsi – was not as fortunate. It flew out of the drink holder and onto the passenger-side floor. The soda burst through the flimsy plastic top holding it in the cup, and covered the entire passenger-side floor in what can best be described as a syrupy ichor. This was impossible to clean up.

What? What did you say? That part of the upholstery was already shot? Look, pal, the damned mess reeks of … well, Diet Pepsi left out in a hot car all day. Now I’m going to have to get the Truckster detailed, and there are few things that annoy me more than having to spend money due to other people’s stupidity. I mean, my own mistakes are bad enough as is.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2006

A Show With Everything But Yul Brynner

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

An occasional Rant feature

WITH THE WORLD CUP on television this weekend, I’ve found myself in the position of needing something to do during commercial breaks, half-time shows, and those annoying breaks between matches.

For the most part, this is because I’m watching the games in Spanish, which is more fun than watching in English. You see, if I watched in English, I’d probably have to listen to some American soccer announcer. This is the soccer equivalent of listening to a European do play-by-play for an NFL game: undoubtedly correct, but not optimal. Also, listening in Spanish – GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! HOLY CHRIST! Beckham just fired that thing in from mid-field! How did he do that?! And how did the Paraguayan goalie let it go in?! Oh, now the goalie’s coming out of the game. Shame, most likely. Of course, I don’t speak Spanish fluently, but you don’t need a lot of it to follow what’s going on.

Anyway, needing something that I can write in short bursts as I go along, here’s an extra-special edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered. Today, I’ll focus on questions about love, money, sport and, of course, those weird queries that make one despair about the human condition. Subete!

QUERY: how many days in a year does it rain in manchester

ANSWER: 365.

QUERY: how much beet juice could i drink?

ANSWER: If you can drink any beet juice, you’re a stronger man than I am. That said, make sure not to drink more than four ounces at a time, as drinking too much beet juice can stain the teeth and cause psoriasis, pleurisy and sluggishness.

QUERY: minivan sliding door chirping

ANSWER: I hate it too. The only way to stop the chirping is to sell the minivan and get a decent sedan.

QUERY: what is peyton mannings favorite thing to eat

ANSWER: That would be a loser sandwich. You know, because he sucks.

QUERY: are steelers americas team

ANSWER: Yes, of course. How could it be otherwise? I’ll say this – it certainly ain’t the frickin’ Dallas Cowboys.

QUERY: when is earthquake season

ANSWER: June 11 – July 31.

QUERY: aussi do not like to fight with yanks at night

ANSWER: Fighting Yanks during the day is also dangerous. That’s because we’re all armed cowboy-types.

QUERY: amscray means

ANSWER: From the French, amscray has a functional meaning similar to the old Gallic retort, votre mere pue d’hamsters. It generally confounds one’s enemies, unless they attack through the hilly Ardennes.

QUERY: what does que quieres mean

ANSWER: From the Norwegian, que quieres means, “God! What a mess!”

QUERY: what does per diem mean

ANSWER: “Breakfast allowance.”

QUERY: what language is silas speaking in davinci code movie

ANSWER: Tagalog.

QUERY: roman tattoo strength and honor

ANSWER: This can be summed up in one Latin word: “Perfututum.”

QUERY: black cherry vanilla awful

ANSWER: It does seem a bit silly, doesn’t it? Here in New Hampshire it is easy to find Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, but difficult to find regular Diet Cherry Coke, even though Diet Cherry Coke is far superior. Why this is, I don’t know, but hey: even the Coca-Cola Co. Inc. needs to earn returns on its investments.

QUERY: what musical note is americas car beep

ANSWER: It depends on the car. If I remember rightly, my own car horn is an A, but many car horns seem to be Fs. This is different than those European airhorns, which are alternating Cs and Gs.

QUERY: ford taurus stuck in drive

ANSWER: It could be worse! That said, if your gearshift is not on the steering column, check and see if anything has slipped down into the shift. I once had a penny get stuck in the mechanism and it prevented me from putting the car into park until I figured out what happened.

QUERY: quit smoking spitting up

ANSWER: All perfectly normal. Your lungs are healing.

QUERY: how to do an essay on stranded on a desert island

ANSWER: Well, this is easy. First, you write about the things you would like to have with you in a perfect world (CDs, books, Kate Winslet) and then write about how you would deal with certain logistical issues, such as finding potable water. See, it’s no trouble at all.

QUERY: ben or benson and food! or drink! or beverage! or restaurant! or cafe! or bar!

ANSWER: Or copyright infringement!

QUERY: things are getting weirder

ANSWER: Q.E.D.

QUERY: did jennifer wilbanks fire dr. tom smiley?

ANSWER: Anyone else know? Anyone? Anyone? Guess not.

QUERY: effects of modern day music on moral behaviour

ANSWER: Perhaps the better query would be “effects of modern day moral behavior on music.”

QUERY: four paragraph lead

ANSWER: That sounds a bit much!

QUERY: risks currency speculation

ANSWER: Currency speculation is extremely risky, primarily because the small trader has so much leverage at his disposal when trading in the forex markets. As such, even tiny moves the wrong way in a currency can entirely wipe out a small trader’s position. In terms of less-risky options, such as CDs, these let speculators bet on which way a currency might go – but the speculator’s assumptions about the currency might well prove wrong. Plus, a CD will likely lock you in to a position. You could always open a bank account in a foreign land, but that’s annoying tax-wise, and you then have to trust the nation’s banking system, to say nothing of the foreign bank itself. In short, you’ll find it a difficult game to win.

QUERY: the idiocy of timing the market

ANSWER: It’s not an easy thing to time the market. Speaking personally, I’m generally not a fan of the market-timing approach, preferring a buy-and-hold/fundamentals strategy. I do think a market-timing strategy can prove successful, but only if one spends a lot of time at it and is very disciplined in his approach. That’s easier said than done.

QUERY: alpacas wall street journal best kept secret of the two thousands

ANSWER: Not anymore. Especially since economists at the University of California at Davis wrote a paper on the alpaca-breeding industry and its potential to develop tulipomania.

QUERY: diamond size social status

ANSWER: I don’t really have an answer to this one. I’ve said in the past that a one-carat diamond is perfectly sufficient for this day and age, but I’m not sure about what larger diamonds say about social status. Sure, larger diamonds connote wealth, but a diamond that is too large makes it look as if one is showing off.

This too is problematic. It reminds me of something I read once about television sets: it’s not classy to buy a large TV if one has little else, but classy to watch old TVs if one is loaded up the wazoo. As such, ostentatious spending is only useful if it goes in line with one’s standard of living, and even then, it might not be advisable because it would look as if one was flaunting one’s wealth.

QUERY: unordinary wedding gifts to special friends

ANSWER: I can understand your desire to get an unordinary wedding gift for your friends, but there is a reason your friends have a wedding registry. My suggestion is to use it. If you would like to give them an extra-special gift, consider a nice housewarming present after they’re married and they’ve set up house.

QUERY: based on value line s forecast information what is the range of possible intrinsic values for geico?

ANSWER: 15 percent or more than you thought!

QUERY: interpretation of keynes in the long run we’re all dead

ANSWER: Uh, I think the man was pretty clear when he said it.

QUERY: manager solutions to lack of productivity due to mid life crisis

ANSWER: Perhaps giving the employee an unpaid leave of absence for a little while might help him sow his oats – that is, if he’s an excellent employee. Other than that, I’m afraid you’d have to execute him.

QUERY: people can’t afford boston

ANSWER: I can understand living in New York and not being able to afford it. I can understand the same for those living in Los Angeles. Boston, not so much. I mean, you can root for the Red Sox anywhere in New England!

QUERY: significance of health and economic of patronising our local drinks

ANSWER: It’s a good idea to support local producers wherever possible, provided it’s at least somewhat warranted. For instance, buying local produce will often mean getting a better and fresher product at a not-unreasonable price So the same would go for buying local beer or patronizing one’s local establishment, etc. etc.

QUERY: how to live below your means

ANSWER: Spend less, make more.

QUERY: what can happen to you if guilty of disorderly conduct nh?

ANSWER: If it’s a misdeameanor, it’s up to a year in your local county house of correction and a fine of up to $2,000. More importantly, though, you’ll be stuck with the opprobrium that goes with having an official societal determination that you were a boor in public.

QUERY: does having sex in denver count for mile-high club?

ANSWER: No – but nice try.

QUERY: can you become a born again virgin?

ANSWER: No – but nice try.

QUERY: love and romantic female bloggers

ANSWER: Boy did YOU come to the wrong site! Also, I’m sure all the romantic female bloggers are taken. I’m sure they’ll let you know when they’re available.

QUERY: trying to get the girl all the bad guys want

ANSWER: Well, I suppose my first suggestion to you would regard purchasing nunchucks. These might come in handy when dealing with the bad guys, who will almost certainly look unfavorably upon your competition with them for the girl whom all the bad guys want. Barring that, I’d suggest buying a good pair of athletic socks, as you can put billiard balls in them and use the socks as makeshift maces.

Flowers might work, too. I don’t know.

QUERY: uconn venereal disease 85%

ANSWER: It wouldn’t surprise me.

QUERY: why is it such an embarrassing error to mistake the sex of a new baby?

ANSWER: Because most people use blue clothes for boys and pink clothes for girls. Not picking up on this should cause one a bit of embarrassment.

QUERY: what men want second date sex ok

ANSWER: Most men these days, I think, would be all right with sex after three or four minutes. Not everyone is like that, though, so just see how things go.

QUERY: should i be dating if I’m going to move

ANSWER: If you’re leaving next Friday for the West Coast, it might not be the best time to start a new relationship.

QUERY: serenade your girlfriend

ANSWER: For most men, this is a bad idea. A really bad idea. Furthermore, it’s a terribly bad idea if you do it in place of something like a birthday gift. Also, serenading one’s girlfriend is illegal in Kalamazoo, Mich.

QUERY: men being cheap and selfish engagement rings

ANSWER: It’s not good for a man to be cheap and selfish regarding an engagement ring – unless, of course, his fiancee is also being selfish and wants a prohibitively expensive ring. However, I am sure that is not the case in this instance. As such, I have absolutely no idea what to advise.

QUERY: if your cell phone rings while you are out to a restaurant having dinner do you answer it

ANSWER: Only if you are around very close friends, who wouldn’t otherwise mind. In all other circumstances, you should shut your phone off (or at least put it on 'vibrate'). This will prevent you from disturbing other people’s dinners, insulting your dining companions and in general acting like an asshat. There is very little which can’t wait until after dessert. If you must take a call, do so out of the dining room.

QUERY: brooding is bad for relationships

ANSWER: Yes, in general, being persistently morbid about minor matters has a way of ruining the mood.

QUERY: why do guys not like public display of affection?

ANSWER: I think it depends on how much affection is being given. I don’t see anything wrong with a bit of it, but when both parties are oblivious to the world in going at it, it’s a bit gauche. As amazing as it may seem, the whole world may not want to see a couple getting amorous in public, or hear all that much about their love life, or what have – OH MY! DID YOU SEE THAT SAVE!

I can’t believe Trinidad and Tobago, after having one of their players sent off, managed to draw Sweden! Good Lord! Wow! Hopefully we’ll see Ivory Coast manage to do the same thing. Anyway, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time, when I’m watching the … well, I’m sure the World Cup will have something to do with it.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Du, Du Machst Mir Viel Schmertzen ...

TRULY IT IS AN IRONY OF IRONIES. In just nine days or so, the 2006 World Cup will get underway in Germany, and those fortunate few who shall watch the matches live will be forced to drink beer from the one nation on Earth where soccer is an afterthought. Furthermore, the beer in question is not even a decent American beer (such as Samuel Adams) but Budweiser -- that fizzy, lighter-than-light, cheap imitation of beer.

You see, Bud is the Official Beer Sponsor of the 2006 FIFA World Cup -- as it is for the 2010 and 2014 contests -- and as such it will pretty much be the ONLY beer on tap. (Under a cooperation agreement, Bitburger will also be available, but you'll probably have to ask).

I have to admit I find this state of affairs downright horrifying, yet at the same time, I find it extremely funny. I mean, not even the Germans deserve to have Bud forced upon them, especially during an event which for many is practically of religious significance. On the other hand, every time I think about this, it makes me want to go into hysterics ("THAT'LL teach 'em to side with the French!").

Perhaps this is my part-German sense of humor at work.

What an indignity it must be for them, though! God! There perhaps aren't many good comparisons for us here, but imagine if your favorite pizza restaurant had its entire stock replaced with those cheese-laden monstrosities from Pizza Hut. Or if all the Mexican restaurants in California were replaced with Taco Bells. Furthermore, imagine that you were looking forward to having those things at the Super Bowl, but then learned you couldn't. You, being rational, would be really angry.

The Germans are really angry too -- well, at the very least, they're rather upset, as you can see on certain Web sites (klicken on the "Gallery" link to see what I mean). Even politicians are getting into the act. Franz Maget, head of the Bavarian Social Democratic Party, in condemning Bud's being on tap, has even gone so far as to say, "We have a duty to public welfare and must not poison visitors to World Cup venues."
Chairman Maget also called Bud "the worst beer in the world."

I do not wish to quibble much with Chairman Maget's characterization, but I don't think calling Bud the worst beer in the world is entirely accurate. After all, the Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. makes roughly thirty beers, beer-related drinks and beverages that kinda-sorta relate to beer.

These include something called "B^E", which the firm describes as a "great mixture of beer and unique flavors" which one drinks "straight up, on the rocks or mixed; and "TILT," a "berry-flavored malt beverage with caffeine, guarana, ginseng and a bright-orange color." Last but not least, though, one must mention that Anheuser-Busch is the company behind "Natty UP," a product described as "caffeinated beer with real beer taste ... not sweet."

"Natty UP. party down," Anheuser-Busch advises.

Clearly, among this stellar line of beers and beer products, Bud is like a bottle of Dom Perignon placed carelessly next to the Franzia display. (Dear Moet et Chandon: please forgive this analogy). But then, comparing Bud itself to Dom Perignon would be like comparing a newt to Erasmus. Now, the gulf might not be as wide in that equation if one replaced Dom Perignon with a quality German beer. But it would still be so wide that any attempt to cross it would remain ludicrous.

In such a situation, one almost pities Anheuser-Busch. Why, no less than The Nation magazine has written sympathetically about the treacherous spot in which the brewer finds itself. (Strangely, the magazine's writer argues the brewery's steps to create heavier beers are a mistake). However, the key word there is "almost." It's hard to pity folks so far behind the curve -- even if one would take no joy should they, in nine days, commit the marketing world's equivalent of an own goal.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2006

60 Percent of the Time, It's Appalling Every Time!

IF DONE CORRECTLY, the application of a permanent tattoo onto the human form can be an aesthetically-pleasing sight, or at the very least a good conversation starter. Sadly, however, the vast majority of people fail to properly plan out their body art, a state of affairs which generally results in situations that are extremely unfortunate.

The most common of these situations results when a foolish white person, often under the influence of alcohol, directs the tattoo artist to ink him or her with characters from a foreign tongue, viz. and to wit:

INQUISITIVE MAN: Say! Nice tattoo! What do the characters mean?
TATTOOED MAN: They mean "strength and honor!"
CHINESE MAN: Actually, they say, "A thousand years' health to His Excellency President Hu Jintao."
TATTOOED MAN: Eh -- what?
INQUISITIVE MAN (to TATTOOED MAN): What are you, some kind of Communist?
TATTOOED MAN: I am not a Communist!
CHINESE MAN: Oh, don't worry, man. Believe me, I've seen worse.

This problem is so widespread, in fact, that there are entire blogs devoted to it, to say nothing of actual news stories. They also make for interesting individual entries on blogs. However, such unfortunate cultural misunderstandings pale next to the pictoral monstrosities with which some people decorate themselves.

I mean, my God -- what the hell were thinking? Especially that guy who got the tattoo of Ron-frickin'- Burgundy from "Anchorman" on his forearm?

I mean, that's just ri-god-damn-diculous.

(via Emily Jones, who also addresses the subject of unfortunate foreign-language tattoos)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2006

A Travesty and Abomination Against Film-Making

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today’s Feature: "The Da Vinci Code"

FOR MANY PEOPLE, the outlandish theology put forward in “The Da Vinci Code” has been a cause for grave concern. I must admit, though, it is not a concern I have shared. After all, the holy and apostolic Roman Catholic Church has weathered the Arian and Pelagian heresies, the Great Schism with the eastern Church in 1054, the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, and Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. portraying priests in 1981’s “The Cannonball Run.” Surely the Church will survive this latest affront to its majesty and dignity.

Still, there’s no denying the film brings up many theological questions. For instance, is the existence of “The Da Vinci Code,” which runs a ridiculous 149 minutes, compatible with the idea of a loving and benevolent God? While it may surprise you, the answer is actually yes. God has given us free will to see the picture or not to see it. Besides, human suffering goes hand-in-hand with the doctrine of original sin, and “The Da Vinci Code” reflects both the existence of original sin and the commission of many new iniquities.

Of course, I should caution my views are solely my own. Those readers seeking an official Catholic opinion on the film ought visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ site, and see what the Church’s licentiates have to say on the matter. That said, “The Da Vinci Code” is an utterly silly and pretentious movie, full of laughably convoluted plot twists which work only because various characters take leave of their God-given senses. Furthermore, I would say the Catholic Church and the prelature of Opus Dei have very little to worry about due to the film’s success. If anything, the movie will get people more interested in both the Church and Opus Dei, and only good could come from that.

In the MEANTIME ...  E-O-Eleven!

FAITH UNDER FIRE: Some theologians believe “The Da Vinci Code” movie could prove as damaging to the Catholic Church’s image as 1981’s “The Cannonball Run” (at left). Other experts, however, argue that given the U.S. Church’s attempts to be “like crazy” and “with it” during the 1970s, such an event would be utterly impossible.

Anyway, here’s “The Da Vinci Code’s” plot. As usual, spoilers follow, so you have officially been warned.

The film begins with Harvard Prof. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) providing aid and comfort to America’s enemies, by which I mean he’s lecturing a group of Parisian college students. Then, as he is taking part in a book signing, a veritable army of French policemen from the Central Directorate of Judicial Police arrive and start asking him all sorts of questions about a body they’ve found – in full view of the college types.

With a police force like this, it’s no surprise it took the French authorities two weeks to quelch last year’s nationwide rioting. Unsurprisingly, it is also the first in a series of classic blunders the CDJP commits under the command of their fearless leader, Capt. Fache (Jean Reno). Capt. Fache brings Langdon to the Louvre for the supposed purpose of having him look over the corpse of scholar Jacques Sauniere, but we soon learn that Opus Dei member Fache plans to arrest Langdon for Sauniere’s murder.

Of course, the audience saw the murder take place a few minutes earlier, just one of several annoying simultaneous-action/flashback type of things which take place throughout the film. An intelligent movie would have had this happen off-screen, but sadly, “The Da Vinci Code” is not all that bright.

The movie starts out with the monk-assassin Silas (Paul Bettany) dispatching Sauniere in the Louvre. Unfortunately, he fires just one shot, which only mortally wounds Sauniere. In addition to violating the First Commandment of Assassin’s School, this apparently leaves Sauniere alive for roughly 45 minutes, giving him plenty of time to scrawl out messages to his grand-daughter, update his living will, add Langdon on MySpace, and what not.

Fortunately for Langdon, however, he is saved from Fache’s clutches due to the convenient appearance of Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), gardien de la paix stagiaire and Sauniere's grand daughter, who quickly convinces him he is in grave danger. Through a clever stratagem, the pair manage to trick the CDJP into thinking Langdon has managed to escape the building. So as the police rush off in their tiny little police cars with the air horns blaring, Langdon and Neveu rush off and begin a mad dash across France for freedom. What a boring mad dash it is, too.

This leads us to three major complaints the educated movie-goer can find with “The Da Vinci Code.” The first is that the main characters always escape situations in which they are trapped via deceptions so simple even a college student could put a stop to them -- if only the people charged with doing the stopping were a bit more patient! The second is that for specialists in their fields, they spend an incredible amount of time engaging in what’s known in science-fiction writing as “the data dump” – that is, explaining things to the reader through unnecessary dialogue.

The third complaint, though, is perhaps the most grave, and that has to do with how the movie looks at theology and the Church. It’s just a mess. I mean, even a movie should do its best to be coherent. Yet “The Da Vinci Code” just pulls things from here and there, and as such, it gets so silly that the plot becomes as thin as a spider web, and it soon breaks apart from its own fragility.

That’s not to say “The Da Vinci Code” is entirely bad – the cinematography is quite well done, and the scenery is downright beautiful. Even a bad script can’t erase the beauty one finds in old churches, and there are many scenes filmed at major landmarks which are downright stunning.

It is in one of these remarkably beautiful places, as the movie enters its denouement, where the germ of evil plants itself amidst a feel-good ending.

You see, Langdon, in an opinion one would fully expect from a Harvard religion professor, tells Neveu something to this effect: first, that what she personally believes is all that really matters; and second, that the historical record shows Christ was a great teacher and inspiration to mankind, and nothing more.

If there is anything evil in this film, it is expressed not in the hours of discussion about clerical plots, secret societies and marginal gospels long ago deemed unworthy, but rather here. Both of these ideas are morally and theologically ruinous. To believe the first is to confuse desire with belief, and to put personal experience above accepted truth – in short, to spiritually put one’s head in the sand like an ostrich. After all, will not God do His judging according to His own standards, or will He use yours or mine or those of your next-door neighbor?

As for the second idea, C.S. Lewis discussed that lie far better than I ever could, in his Mere Christianity. Back during the Second World War, this is what he wrote on the topic:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Now There's Enough Baggage to Fill a DC-8

A CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY has sued eHarmony.com, the Internet dating service, because it won't help the married attorney find a date.

According to the Associated Press, 36-year-old John Claassen of Emeryville is legally separated but not yet divorced, and his divorce should be finalized within a couple of months. However, as eHarmony's company policy requires users to be free of any previous relationship entanglements, Counselor Claassen was not immediately allowed to join the dating service. Instead, eHarmony told him that he should return once his divorce was final.

Clearly, Counselor Claassen's best course of action here was to file a lawsuit against eHarmony, and seek civil penalties of $12,000.

Now, some writers have argued that due to the three magic words -- "under California law" -- Counselor Claassen may very well have a case. They may very well be right. However, given the circumstances surrounding the matter, I have to admit I don't know what to say about it. I mean, am I supposed to pity or congratulate the soon-to-be-former Mrs John Claassen?

(hat tip to Overlawyered)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006

Spam-a-lot

LET IT BE NOTED, for the record, that the wretched and dastardly comment-spammers have moved away from hawking pharmaceuticals, counterfeit goods, on-line gambling and items which claim to substantially improve a man's lovemaking equipment. Based on the comments I just deleted, they have moved on to hawking home-equity loans.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:36 PM | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

That's Just GOT to Sting Dept.

THE SMOKING GUN'S title says it all: "Motion Denied Because You're an Idiot."

I don't know about you, but I think judges ought do more of this. For another example in which the judiciary has cruelly mocked those responsible for silly legal filings, see this post from March 4, 2004. Note the key judicial smackdown, from Judge Gregory K. Orme:

"It is counterproductive for counsel to litter his brief with burdensome material such as:
"WRONG! WRONG ANALYSIS! WRONG RESULT! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!" "

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:07 PM | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

It's Water Under the ... um ... er ...

PITY SHANNON PETERSON. The Denver condominium owner works as a special-education teacher, and as such has a work schedule that requires her to rise in the early morning, bathe and get ready for work, and so on. Unfortunately for Ms Peterson, her upstairs neighbors say the noise from the complex's plumbing is so bad that they can't sleep through her early-morning baths.

Clearly, the neighbors' best course of action was to file a civil suit against Ms Peterson.

Yes, according to the Denver Post, senior citizens Marvin and Goldie Smith have sued Ms Peterson in Denver District Court, charging her with "reckless and negligent use of her bathtub."

What? No, I'm not kidding you. That's what the Post's story said. It also said that Ms Peterson "can't believe she's being used for bathing before leaving for work."

And the Post's story continues:

--------

"I've done everything I can think of to work this out," she said. "I've had maintenance men remove all my tile and insulate the pipes. I've had sound engineers measure my unit and others in the building. Nothing's abnormal. Even the homeowners' board investigated and told the Smiths they should install sound barriers in their unit."

So the Smiths called their son, Sheldon, a partner in the Holland and Hart law firm. He sent a letter, threatening Peterson that her "intransigence ... and tortuous conduct have resulted in incredible sleep deprivation for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Your obstinacy has ruled the day. That will now cease."

He then ordered Peterson to stop running water in her bathtub before 8 a.m. But the homeowners' association stepped into the fray and wrote Smith a letter that his request didn't comply with the building's rules.

Contacted by telephone, Sheldon Smith said Peterson "refuses to cooperate. She complains about everything."

-------

I don't know about you, but I'd complain like there was no tomorrow if my neighbors slapped me with a civil suit because I was practicing proper hygiene. I mean, God Almighty -- where does one begin?

Well, here's the obvious first question. Consider: the elder Smiths filed a civil suit against their downstairs neighbor because of bad plumbing, even though said neighbor had arguably done far more than she was legally and morally required to do in trying to fix the problem. Further, it was a problem that was not even arguably hers. Given all this, was anyone surprised to learn the Smiths' son was a lawyer? Anyone?

I jest, of course. Still, this has to be one of those cases that makes attorneys everywhere groan over their morning coffees. Yeah, I know the story merely discusses a filing and not a result, and I know the story doesn't provide links to all the paperwork. That said, all that can't take away from the fact that a practicing lawyer, certified to appear in a professional capacity before a court of law, accepted this case and sued a person because of that person's alleged "reckless and negligent use of her bathtub."

And in the unlikely event the suit itself hasn't caused you to groan, the quote from the cease-and-desist letter certainly ought. Let's look at those lines again:

"(Your) intransigence ... and tortuous conduct have resulted in incredible sleep deprivation for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Your obstinacy has ruled the day. That will now cease."

Eh? What the hell does that mean? Don't the second and third sentences contradict each other? What kind of cease-and-desist letter is this?

I mean, wouldn't the silky-smooth/iron-fist-velvet-glove idea (Approved Legal Tactic 17A) have worked a heck of a lot better in this situation? You know, something to the effect of, "We would consider it most unfortunate if we had to pursue legal action to obtain a satisfactory remedy for our long-suffering clients. We trust you'll take appropriate steps to make such action on our part unnecessary."

I agree, it also might not have worked, but at least it wouldn't have left the recipient dreaming about ways to injunct the letter into the sending attorney's alimentary canal. Ordering a private citizen to not take baths in one's own home until a certain hour would cause anyone to become annoyed -- and in this case, so annoyed that the recipient freely spoke with a reporter, whose story then became national news. I would imagine that such a result was not what Counselor Smith was anticipating when he first sent his note.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:29 PM | TrackBack

January 02, 2006

An Auspicious Beginning to 2006

THERE'S NOTHING like car problems to sour one's weekend, particularly when they come at the very end of it. Earlier this evening, I spent roughly an hour screwing around with my wretched Ford Taurus, which abruptly decided that it wasn't going to start this evening. Never mind that it worked perfectly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- on Monday, it decided to act up.

The problem revolves around the battery -- which is only two years old -- and its ancillary support systems. The battery is producing power, but not enough of it to kickstart the engine. Also, the battery connections are worn, and the positive battery pole had a shocking amount of acid corrosion built up around it.

Heh. Pun.

Anyway: there was power, but not enough of it. So I think I managed to solve the problem by cleaning the connections and cursing repeatedly, all while working from the light of my cell phone. The only trouble was that by the time I had made significant progress, I had used too much power from the car battery to actually start the car. Thus, I'm now going to have to wait until the morning before I try it again.

It had better work.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:05 PM | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

Oh, This is Just Ridiculous

HOW, ONE WONDERS, did this actually happen outside of a movie set?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:26 PM | TrackBack

Attention Canada: We're Not Kidding

BACK IN 2000, when we were all much younger and the world was a much simpler place, I wrote in the Ottawa Citizen about my disappointment regarding the minor undercurrent of anti-Americanism then existent in Canada. It seemed to me, I wrote back then, that such sentiment was "silly" for Canadians to hold, given how much the U.S. and Canada had in common, and that our two nations should be friends.

Well, it seems America's ambassador to the True North has said something similar, except for one thing. The ambassador was really rather annoyed when he said that, and to the point where one suspects the old friendship between the two countries (as Gordon Sinclair so exemplified) might be wearing a bit thin.

The Reuters news service reports:

In a hard-hitting speech in Ottawa, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins lamented what he called relentless and incessant criticism of his country, which he speculated might begin to sow doubt about the strength of the binational relationship.

"Canada never has to tear the United States down to build itself up," Wilkins said.

"It may be smart election politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner. But it's a slippery slope and all of us should hope it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship."

Now, Ambassador Wilkins is a diplomat. As such, he knows full well that tearing down the United States is a tradition for many Canadians. I've experienced that myself in my personal life. But there's a difference between good-natured ribbing (e.g., a Canadian complaining about American beer) and sentiment expressed with malice aforethought. More and more, though, it seems as if Canadian sentiment towards the U.S. has had elements of the latter as opposed to the former.

That can't be good for our binational relationship, and it's concerning when the U.S. ambassador makes a point of mentioning it. Ambassadors, after all, do not do things in a vacuum.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:50 PM | TrackBack

December 03, 2005

First the Flux, Then the Typhus

Oh No!
Its Time for Yet Another Installment of
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Todays Movie: "Aeon Flux"

WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, Aeon Flux was one of several cool shows on television, a well-crafted and intelligent and clever escape for those interested in science-fiction. I daresay its ten half-hour episodes remain, a decade later, some of the best animated television of all time.

Thats what made Aeon Flux, the live-action movie of the same name, such a godrotting disappointment. I mean, come on. The filmmakers had an amazing reservoir of intellectual capital and story development, plus a pretty impressive cast to go along with it, and what do they produce? A stunted wreck of a film which not only cant compare with its predecessor, but doesnt even stand up on its own merits as a movie. Simply put, Aeon Flux, the film and my own moviegoing experience can be summed up in one word: ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Now, Aeon Flux wasnt horribly bad like Gigli. Oh, no. It just wasnt any good: the acting was wooden and the characters werent developed and the plot was thin and oh, like I said, the whole experience was disappointing. Thats because it all could have been so much better starting with the theatre.

In retrospect, it was probably a mistake for me to choose the giant multiplex out in the suburbs. The place was crowded with unruly children and teenagers whose long-suffering parents were nowhere to be seen. The adults who were present seemed divided into two camps: those thankful for a night away from their wretched offspring, and those observing the whole scene with quiet horror. Near the arcade, there was a group of Beavis and Butthead clones engaged in horseplay; in the center of the lobby, teenagers rushing about hither and thither. One foul high schooler rushed past me as I stood in the ticket line, and without so much as a by-your-leave, stabbed the heel of her shoe into the ingrown nail of my big toe. In short, the scene was a microcosm of what happens when parents fail.

Speaking of failure, general principle requires me to denounce the gastronomic monstrosity I witnessed at the theatre concessionary. I do not refer to the wretched chocolates and the hideous reheated pre-fried snacks and the flavored water, of which the last was on sale for, so help me God, $3 a bottle. Oh, no. One expects such things from the cash-strapped theatre operators. I was, though, horrified to realize just how they served up popcorn these days.

Now, everyone loves popcorn, particularly when it is cooked properly (that is, cooked using oil) and served hot, preferably with salt and a bit of butter to go with it. Yet while this theatre had an actual popper, from which came incredible quantities of hot and delicious popcorn, none of this popcorn was immediately served to the public. Oh, no. Instead, I watched as it was put into giant plastic bags. Then, in horror, I watched as the concessionary workers instead served up popcorn which had been warmed up in some sort of a reheating device. I mean, thats just wrong, especially given that one could buy lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken for less.

But as for Aeon oh boy. Spoilers follow, so if youre still planning to see the movie, dont read any further, because it will likely ruin your enjoyment of the film. That said, quite frankly, you might as well go ahead the movie bites and its not like youre not going to be able to figure things out anyway.

Heres the plot: A few years from now, humanity gets hit with a plague that makes the Black Death look like a nasty summer cold. Fast forward to the 25th century, when the few remaining survivors live in a modern industrial city in which no one actually works and theres no real entertainment available. Its kind of like Pyongyang, except theres plentiful electricity and food.

As it turns out, though, some citizens of the city are in revolt against their scientist overlords, and run around breaking things, overturning carefully-arranged plates of hors doeurves, and so on. Also, theyre trying to knock off Trevor Goodchild, the city of Bregnas chairman and chief executive. Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) is the revolts best assassin, so they choose her to shoot Trevor except she cant, because she and Trev have issues. And besides, Trevors not such a bad guy after all, and

Uh, wait a minute. Yes, he is, even if Aeons in love with him and he with her. That was part of the original dramatic tension. So could someone please explain to me why the movies Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) isnt evil?

In the TV show, Trevor who was a great character was egomaniacal, vain, ruthless and cunning, and at the very least, partially evil. The movies Trevor Goodchild is an emotional, sensitive, mealymouthed sap who cant take five steps without waxing lyrically about helping mankind. The man couldnt manage a convenience store, much less establish himself as the futures Kim Il Sung.

As if to recognize this flaw, the screenwriters threw in an evil Goodchild brother (Jonny Lee Miller) who wants to seize Bregna and rule it as his own private Idaho. This doesnt really work, and it further mucks up a muddled and confused plot, as does the addition of:

* Frances McDormand, who plays The Handler, the rebellions leader. There are two things wrong with this: first, McDormands hair and costume would have led any competent secret police to detain her as a troublemaker; and second, it was Frances McDormand, and all I could think was, Oh geez, Marge Gundersons leading the revolt! Im sorry. I know thats bad of me. But its not my fault: if the script had been better, my mind wouldnt have wandered.

* Pete Postlethwaite, who plays the Keeper. Now, I think Pete Postlethwaite is an amazing actor, and I thought for sure hed get a kickass role. Thats one of the reasons I went to see Aeon Flux. How silly I was. He gets a minor role in which his talents are completely wasted, and it is so frustrating. I mean, my God this is the man who played Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. If there was anyone who would have played an evil brother well, or a loyal second-in-command well, Pete Postlethwaite was it. Instead oh, I cant go on, Im still so annoyed.

* The extras playing the citys citizens, who cant even properly panic when hideous and awful things start happening as their dystopian society starts falling apart. Theres something to be said for running about and screaming.

Anyway, perhaps the most frustrating thing while watching Aeon Flux was knowing that it had the potential to be so much better. Sure, the imagery was beautiful and the colors were vibrant and the black hair really worked for Charlize Theron. But the plot was convoluted and the acting was generally grim and the directing flat-out bit and ah, one could go on. Now that all is said and done, though, I think its worth noting that one can buy the animated Aeon Flux DVD box set for a mere $28. Given the prices of movie tickets and popcorn these days, that might prove a better investment.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:59 AM | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Great Moments in American Journalism

RECENTLY, THE Associated Press issued the following correction:

In a Nov. 12 story about Dolly Parton's brother developing a theater, the Associated Press reported erroneously that she and others sang a few country songs at a groundbreaking. They performed "God Bless America" and "The Star Spangled Banner," not any country songs.

I don't even want to know.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:09 PM | TrackBack

November 03, 2005

Cor Blimey, That's Awful

TO BORROW FROM Mencken: "Thus Kevin Federline's album begins. God knows how it ends!"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Now That's What I Call Music

LITTLE DID I KNOW that when I took part in the latest "meme" floating about the blogosphere, I would realize just how frickin' lucky I am to have escaped my hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich. Based on the music popular at the time I graduated from high school, I have a strong suspicion that staying in Kalamazoo after graduation would have been nightmarish.

But first, the meme. To take part, one must first go to musicoutfitters.com and enter the year in which they graduated high school into the search box. Doing so provides one with a list of the top 100 songs during that particular year. Then, one is to bold the songs which one likes, strikethrough the songs one detests, and underline one's favorite. Neutral songs can be ignored.

Here is my list, from the year 1994:

1. The Sign, Ace Of Base
2. I Swear, All-4-One
3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men
4. The Power Of Love, Celine Dion
5. Hero, Mariah Carey
6. Stay (I Missed You), Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories
7. Breathe Again, Toni Braxton
8. All For Love, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting
9. All That She Wants, Ace Of Base
10. Don't Turn Around, Ace Of Base

No, I'm not continuing. No. 11, if you really must know, is some forgotten R. Kelly song. No. 15 was some awful John (No Cougar) Mellencamp duet, while the performer of Song No. 23 was none other than Jon Secada. Jon Secada. I mean, Gad.

Yet it gets worse. One might think that Underappreciated Talent would be found on the lower rungs of the list, things being what they are in the musical world. Yet one would be wrong. For No. 32 is Michael Bolton's hideous "Said I Loved You -- But I Lied." No. 38 is "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," from Meat Loaf. No. 68 is Aerosmith's "Crazy," and you'd be amazed at what shows up at No. 72. No. 86 is a crummy Phil "I Left My Cool Back with Genesis" Collins song.

I mean, this list is so frickin' bad that my favorite song is -- I'm sorry, I can't go on.

Anyway, in all honesty, I suppose I can only guess at what my life would have been like had I stayed in Kalamazoo. Still, though -- with these songs as the societal soundtrack, if you will, I have a feeling it would've turned out badly, at least for a few years.

(via Sheila)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Diagnosis: "Poor Bastard"

I KNOW THAT life can often throw a wrench into even the most carefully laid out plans and dreams. However, whatever twists and turns life will throw my way, I take solace in knowing I won't have had it as bad as this guy:

A Sacramento man was killed early Sunday in Palm Desert after he was run over by a golf cart driven by a man who was allegedly drunk.

Jeffrey G. Seley, 29, was pronounced dead at about 2:14 a.m. Sunday at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Rancho Mirage, according to a Riverside County coroner's report....

... The driver, Darrin Michael O'Connor, 20, of Westminster, is charged with one count each of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, said Cpl. Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the sheriff's department...

... Exactly how the men got onto the golf course, what they were doing there just after midnight and who notified authorities was not immediately available.

UPDATE, Friday 10:02 AM: The Sacramento Bee has more on this story, particularly in terms of background.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

Fox in the Doghouse

IT SEEMS Mexican President Vicente Fox is in rather a lot of trouble north of the border. You see, when President Fox was in Puerto Vallarta last week, he was apparently trying to explain the importance of Mexican workers vis-a-vis the American economy. Instead, the following insensitive statement came out of President Fox's mouth:

"There's no doubt that Mexican men and women -- full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work -- are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

When I first heard about this, I was downright stupefied. I mean, President Fox ought know better than to say such a ridiculous thing. And if the comment wasn't bad enough, he's sticking to it.

President Fox is lucky the NEWSWEEK Koran story fiasco is now using up most of the media's/blogosphere's oxygen. As such, any fallout from his unfortunate remark will be limited.

However, fallout has a way of lingering about, and time may show that President Fox made an extraordinary blunder on Friday. After all, it could be embarrassing if people really began looking at how ethnic minorities and illegal migrants are treated in the United Mexican States.

UPDATE, 10:31 PM: President Fox has apologized for his statement, and said he "regretted" any hurt feelings it caused.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:21 PM | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

It's Like Dean Martin Impersonating a Priest

SO THE HUFFINGTON POST had its big launch on Monday! With a promised cast of hundreds of celebrities, writers and other folks ready and waiting to dive into the blogosphere, plus a whole host of coverage from the mainstream media, commentator Arianna Huffington's giant group blog was set to make a huge splash. And in this, it succeeded. Unfortunately, the splash was the blogging equivalent of doing a bellyflop in front of ALL the popular kids at the pool.

I mean, it's not good when the major story about your blog's launch comes from the L.A. Weekly, and it's the blogging equivalent of a zeppelin raid on London. Nikki Finke, who wrote the Weekly's story, wrote that Ms Huffington's "blog is such a bomb that it's the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one." This is one of the kinder things which Ms Finke wrote in her article.

I suppose my own thoughts, for what they're worth, is that I find The Huffington Post a bit disquieting. You know, kind of like how watching Dean Martin impersonate a priest is a bit disquieting, or kind of like how watching an old episode of Dragnet can sometimes be a bit disquieting. ("You think you're pretty cool and far out, don't you, son?")

I mean, that's the vibe I get from the thing. It is authentic only in its inauthenticity. It is trying to be cool and with it, and it's trying to reach out to the young people, and it ain't working. Where are the comments? Where's the search feature? Sure, I can comment on news stories, but I don't care about that -- I want the ability to comment on the blog posts. What the hell? And there are no trackbacks either -- not that they work anyway, but you know, what gives?

I mean, for God's sake, The Huffington Post has a User Agreement. I dunno, maybe big blogs and corporate-level endeavors really need these things, but Gad. By the by, dig the fourth article -- which may remind some of another Article Four -- as it is representative of the Agreement as a whole:

4. (a) Unless expressly permitted, you may not copy, reproduce, distribute, publish, enter into a database, display, perform, modify, create derivative works, transmit, or in any way exploit any part of this Service, except as permitted under the last sentence of this Section 4(a) and except that you may make one print copy that is limited to occasional articles of personal interest only. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing (but subject to the last sentence of this Section 4(a)), you may not distribute any part of this Service over any network, including, without limitation, a local area network, nor sell or offer it for sale. In addition, these files may not be used to construct any kind of database. Just as THP from time to time excerpts materials from other sources in order to support the various commentaries and writings contained herein, we respect the right of others to make "fair use" of the materials contained on THP; accordingly, you may from time to time excerpt and use materials set forth on this site, provided, that you must give the original author credit and such use must be for a non-commercial purpose only and not, for example, for re-sale.

Well, just for that, I'm going to print out TWO copies of the User Agreement! Look! My hand is OVER the printer's power button! HA! HA! HAHAHAHA! Well, I would print them out, except the copyblock of capital letters in Article Six is hurting my eyes. The goggles! They do nothing!

But anyway. All of these things could be forgiven if The Huffington Post didn't have two major flaws. Simply put, the thing's not particularly funny and it's not as interesting as it could be. There's no utility in the damn thing. I mean, I got a chuckle out of one post; the rest either weren't intended to be funny or were, but failed at it. As for the interesting part -- THP is thus far covering a lot of stuff that I can get somewhere else. That's all well and good, but one thing I like to do is read the debates which real people have about various issues, and I can't really do that on THP like I can elsewhere.

So -- at the end of the day, I see things like this: THP wasn't a bad idea, but could have been done better. That said, it needs to improve quickly, unless its backers want it to end up like Tina Brown's last talk show.

(UPDATE, 1:19 A.M.: Make that very quickly. Lileks just said he wasn't impressed).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

More Shenanigans from Home

GEE. WOULDN'T IT BE NICE if my hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich., was actually in the news because something good happened there?

Yeah, yeah. I know. Too much to ask, apparently. Dig this story from Editor and Publisher magazine:

When reporter Craig McCool and photographer Mairin Chapman of The Kalamazoo Gazette went to a local party to research a series on drinking among young adults, they saw nothing wrong with partaking of the libations themselves.

But editors did. The result: The two were dismissed, and the paper ran an editor's note this weekend explaining the incident.

"Their conduct is unacceptable and violates the standards that we uphold every day as journalists," Editor Rebecca Pierce said in the note, published Saturday. "We don't condone it and we can't ignore it."

Pierce, who could not be reached for comment Monday, seemed to indicate that the pair's transgression took on more severity because it involved their reporting on how heavy alcohol consumption can be dangerous. "It's a sad statement to our readers that our behavior in any way would obscure this serious and pervasive problem in our community," the editor added in the note.

Well, it certainly wasn't bright for these two to go out and drink while on assignment. Jesus. When you're working, you stick to water or diet soda. There's no reason at all why these two couldn't have asked for water or some Diet Vernors*, both of which should have been easily obtained even if they were out on North Pitcher Street at 3 a.m. But they have been cashiered and that is that.

As a former Kalamazoo resident, though, I have to ask: why the big focus on Demon Rum? There were a few more pressing problems last time I checked, but maybe Kalamazoo's leaders have cleaned up all the drug trafficking and violent crime, fixed the roads, attracted bunches of new employers and while they were at it, got a bunch of decent restaurants**.

Somehow I doubt this.

After all, we are discussing Kalamazoo, Michigan -- a fourth-rate, crime-ridden Rust Belt city, the type of place where people move because there's work, and only because there's work.

Not that there's much work to be had, of course. For at 8.2 pc, Kalamazoo's unemployment rate is almost European in scale. Its crime rate is so stunningly high that it makes New York look calm in comparison. And if you really want proof about how bad it is, go check out my old high school's Web site.

Yeah. Hoo boy.

-------------

* Note to New England readers: "Vernors" is Michigan's version of "Moxie." It is known for its "distinct" (read: undescribable) flavor, which is so distinct that things are said to taste like Vernors instead of vice versa.

** Actually, it's been ten years since I've been back, so maybe ol' K'zoo DID manage to get a bunch of decent restaurants over the years, even though it lost population. Then again, maybe it didn't manage. But there's a silver lining to every cloud -- for Theo & Stacy's is still open!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

And Now, a Musical Interlude

THERE IS NOTHING, we submit, as annoying as the self-important musician. As evidence of this admittedly broad generalization, we present to readers this interview in The Observer with someone called Bjork.

Bjork, as we understand it, is an Icelandic musician who does not much care for American culture, although she bravely stomachs spending most of the year in New York. This would be run-of-the-mill for most musicians of the hate-America stripe, except Bjork is particularly ineffective in getting her message across. Consider this quote from The Observer's interview:

"A lot of the time I get obsessed by little nerdy things in my corner that no one else is interested in. I have that nerd factor in my character. So for once I was interested in something everyone else was interested in. I'm not going to talk like I know about politics, because I'm a total amateur, but maybe I can be a spokesperson for people who aren't normally interested in politics.'

Her last album Medulla was certainly her most political - but in a unique way. She came up with an a capella album featuring only human voices: yodelling, beatbox, Icelandic choral music. It was, she says, a way to counter 'stupid American racism and patriotism' after 9/11. 'I was saying, "What about the human soul? What happened before we got involved in problematic things like civilisation and religion and nationhood?"'

Um, mankind discovered fire. But it was very hot and scary and imperialist in nature, so it took a while before enterprising people figured out how to harness it, which led to ... well, we digress. We don't want to lose sight of the main point, which is that a rational human being in today's world actually concluded an obscure yodelling record would somehow impact the cultural force flowing from a nation of 300 million people. Why The Observer's scribe missed this, we don't exactly know, but we find it unfortunate the scribe felt compelled to write a fawning, obsequious mass of drivel instead of a news article.

But one does not expect much in the way of critical analysis from this musician. After all, earlier in the story, The Observer writes, "She would never wear jeans and a T-shirt, she says, because they are 'a symbol of white American imperialism, like drinking Coca-Cola'."

Gee, and here we thought Bjork would mention the U.S. Naval Air Station at Keflavik. Still, as we said, one cannot take such a person seriously, particularly when her views are so ... downright childish.

BUT MOVING ON. In other Musician Antics news, we note that the bus driver for the Dave Matthews Band has pleaded guilty to dumping a septic tank full of human waste off a Chicago bridge. Such an act might have gone unnoticed, except the waste was dumped onto a passing tour barge with 100 passengers.

We have to admit we feel rather sorry for the band, whch had nothing to do with the incident in question but now will almost certainly have to pay for it. We approve of their donations to the Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District in amends. But now that the driver has pleaded guilty, we would also like to see restitution paid to the poor bastards on the scenic tour. We think $5,000 would be sufficient remedy for each passenger subject to the unfortunate incident.

(via Tim Blair and Simon From Jersey)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

It's as Bad as Battlefield Earth!

AS A PUBLIC SERVICE to our readers and the Internet community at large, we have wasted most of an hour tonight watching "The Gastineau Girls," the new reality-television program from the E! Entertainment Network. Since the New York television critics all panned the show and no one in the provinces gave a damn, we figured SOMEONE had to watch it and record its badness for posterity.

Because it's bad. It's embarrassingly bad. It's so bad that spoilt milk gives off a better stench, so bad that a dinner of haggis and kippers would be more palatable, and so bad that four weeks on the Islip garbage barge might prove preferable. In fact, it's so bad, it's the reality-television equivalent of "Battlefield Earth."

We mean, good God. What the hell were the people at E! thinking when they gave the green-light for this train wreck? Not that E! is known for quality or brain-enriching programming, but this show was so astonishingly stupid that it should have given even those geniuses pause. Really.

Basically, this show follows the lives -- such as they are -- of Lisa Gastineau and her 22-year-old daughter, Brittny. Yes, Brittny. Anyway, prior to the show, Mrs Gastineau was best known for being married to Mark Gastineau, the former New York Jets football player, and for her role in Gastineau v. Gastineau, 151 Misc. 2d 813, 573 N.Y.S.2d 819, 821 (Supp. 1991). Prior to the show, Miss Gastineau was known for being ... well, Mrs Gastineau's daughter. Why exactly these two were considered suitable stars for a reality TV show is beyond us. There ain't that many Jets fans out there, after all.

We mean, you know it's bad when the show needs a lot of help from some poor actor forced to play the role of a supposed apartment doorman. We can assure readers this is a role so unfortunate that studios ought pay a luxury tax, to the Screen Actors Guild, for the sole purpose of keeping actors from having to do things like this. It'd just be the right thing to do, you know?

Anyway, back to the Gastineaus. Aside from serving as living proof for Juvenal's embittered declaration (intolerabilius nihil est quam femina dives), neither of these two ... do anything. We mean, it's pathetic. There's a bunch of complaining about all the daughter's crap in their shared apartment, which soon turns into more complaining that the daughter has wantonly violated Mom's lease agreement by harboring a rather large dog at home. Then, we get to watch even more complaining and whining, which is interspersed with silly attempts to find work and remarks about how wonderful it is to be pretty and have lots of gaudy jewelry. About 45 minutes into it, a pet psychologist had been summoned to deal with the dog's neuroses, and it was at this point that we reached for our Bad Television Sickness Companion.

In short, this is a television disaster not seen since the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978 -- you know, the one featuring the 15 minutes of un-subtitled Wookie conversation and the surprise appearance of Jefferson Starship. We strongly suggest that everyone concerned take steps to ensure "The Gastineau Girls" show meets a similar fate. Let it be quietly dropped from the airwaves, and never mentioned again.

Now, we realize that E! might not be amenable to this suggestion, coming as it does from a mere pajamahadeen. Therefore, we would ask the city, county and state of New York to take all measures necessary to shut down future production, or at the very least put out some kind of disclaimer telling the provinces that New Yorkers really aren't like this. Otherwise, the very heart and soul of New York -- to say nothing of its tourist trade -- could be in dire peril.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

A Very, Very Bad Idea

WE HAVE LEARNED, via CBS News, that certain states -- hi, Oregon! -- are "mulling" a scheme in which drivers would pay tax not on the amount of gasoline their cars consume but rather on the miles those drivers put on their vehicles. For reasons we don't entirely understand, this proposal has been put forth as a reasonable policy solution, when it's clearly a Communist plot designed to subvert our rights and freedoms.

Admittedly, the idea has not gone far. Notice how the CBS correspondent uses the word "mulling" to describe what Oregon is doing. This is a fancy journalism word which means "let's run it up the flagpole and see if someone salutes," and that's where the folks in Oregon are at with this thing.

Still, we're disappointed to see that CBS was only able to find one guy to say on camera the idea was a bad one, especially considering the one guy was a college student. Surely they could have found someone else to shoot the thing down -- or, at the very least, point out that Oregon has other weird ideas, such as refusing to let its citizens pump their own gasoline.

But then again, perhaps we expect too much -- after all, the CBS brass are all in New York, where the idea of actually owning and driving a car makes about as much sense as stabbing oneself with a spork. For those of us out in the provinces, though, this is an idea which would make any sane person suffer a case of apoplexy. And were such a plan enacted in our home state of Michigan, we daresay the place would actually revolt.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:26 PM | TrackBack

February 08, 2005

DPRK Calls for "Team America" Ban

THE NORTH KOREANS are officially upset about "Team America," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has reported.

It seems the film -- which mercilessly mocks Dear Leader Kim Jong-il -- has prompted the DPRK's embassy in the Czech Republic to demand a ban on the movie. Czech officials, naturally, rejected this out of hand.

Now, if this was the DPRK's public reaction to the film, we would love to know what the DPRK's private reaction was. Has the Dear Leader actually seen it? If so, how many people did he throw in the shark tank afterwards? And what were the embassy officials thinking anyway? You'd think the smart ones would have known this would have done absolutely no good.

Besides, it's not the Czech Republic they ought worry about -- it's Poland.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:24 PM | TrackBack

February 05, 2005

The Dumbest Thing We've Heard in Months

A COLORADO WOMAN has won $871.70 in small claims court from two of her teenaged neighbors after the girls -- wait for it -- left cookies on her doorstep.

The Denver Post reveals the story in its entirety. This story, by the by, would be downright hilarious if the facts therein weren't God's honest truth. We note the following excerpts from the story as prima facie evidence of that:

Inside one of the nine scattered rural homes south of Durango that got cookies that night, a 49-year-old woman became so terrified by the knocks on her door around 10:30 p.m. that she called the sheriff's department. Deputies determined that no crime had been committed.

But Wanita Renea Young ended up in the hospital emergency room the next day after suffering a severe anxiety attack she thought might be a heart attack.

A Durango judge Thursday awarded Young almost $900 to recoup her medical bills. She received nothing for pain and suffering.

"The victory wasn't sweet," Young said Thursday afternoon. "I'm not gloating about it. I just hope the girls learned a lesson."

Well, we're sure they did -- it doesn't pay to do nice things for one's neighbor, if said neighbor is a wretched damnfool moron so clueless she can't discern the difference between an anxiety attack and a heart attack. An anxiety attack does, as Ms Young related in the story, include symptoms like an upset stomach and shaking. Symptoms of a coronary, on the other hand, include severe pain in the chest and elsewhere in the upper torso, shortness of breath, nausea, and death. If one is too dim to discern between one and the other, one ought not sue for damages because of this.

Ms Young -- who also had the gall to claim following the case that the girls showed "very poor judgment" -- also said she thought the girls ought not have been running to and fro in the dark. Her exact words were: "Something bad could have happened to them."

Well, something bad did happen -- they got sued by their crank neighbor. By the by, just as further evidence that Ms Young ain't the brightest bulb in the lamp store, consider Ms Young's stellar reasoning during and following the cookie-leaving incident:

But Young, home with her own 18-year-old daughter and her elderly mother, said she saw shadowy figures who banged and banged at her door. When she called out, "Who's there?" no one answered. The figures ran off.

She thought perhaps they were burglars or some neighbors she had tangled with in the past, she said.

We don't know about you, but last time we checked, burglars do not make a point of banging about the door of a home which is clearly occupied. This is because doing so causes a homeowner to get out his twelve-gauge. However, we will admit we're not all that surprised to see Ms Young admit she has tangled with some of her neighbors in the past. They're probably not all that fond of her either.

Further evidence of Ms Young's wretchedness is this: the families had offered to pay her medical expenses to drop the matter, and she refused to accept. Again, from the Post:

The families had offered to pay Young's medical bills if she would agree to indemnify the families against future claims.

Young wouldn't sign the agreement. She said the families' apologies rang false and weren't delivered in person. The matter went to court.

Good God, can you blame them for not delivering the apologies in person? After all, if Ms Young can have an anxiety attack over having cookies left on her doorstep, what would happen during the apology session? But still, we submit this fact does not put Ms Young in a good light, given she would not accept what any typical person would consider a more-than-reasonable remedy. Given the excerpts of the apologies in the Post article, we also don't see how any reasonable person could consider such apologies insincere.

The worst part of all this, of course, is that the two teenaged girls -- who are both around the age when they'll graduate from high school -- did the cookie-baking as a way to avoid a dance party. This dance party, they said, would have -- wait for it -- drinking and cursing. Not only that, one of the teens got permission from her father to do the baking after she got her livestock-tending chores done. This whole mess is a textbook instance of bad things happening to good people.

The cookie defense fund is here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 15, 2005

Getting Our Blood Boiling

WE HAVE NOTICED, in the past few days, that certain well-meaning but stupid people are putting really long and really off-topic essays in our comments boxes. Even though such a trend is to be expected under the laws of economics, this is most annoying.

After all, we do realize our comments feature represents an easy and convenient way for readers to post their opinions, and at no cost to them. Sadly, certain people have taken advantage of this in the past few days, and have posted extremely long compositions --- 2,000 to 3,000 words in length -- reflective only of their own warped world view or their own personal troubles. Such people seem to live in a fun fantasy world where actions do not have consequences, and where the costs of an inherent good count for nothing as long as they reap the benefits. Thus, we hope to disabuse them of such socialist thinking.

We would remind these certain few that while The Rant is provided free for the enjoyment of its readership, The Rant is not without its costs. Indeed, aside from the main American office in Manchester, N.H., and our corporate headquarters in Bermuda, we also have satellite offices in Grand Cayman and Chennai, India. We are also mulling the idea of opening an office in Liechtenstein. Therefore, you can see it takes a lot of time and effort to produce The Rant on a daily -- or near-daily -- basis.

It also, of course, takes money. We can assure readers that our costs have tripled since we first began the blog, and costs would increase further if we exceeded our bandwidth allotment. We can also assure readers that according to Ned Henries, head of The Rant's Information Technology Department, our comments feature is quite widely-read -- even if just one comment is posted. Thus, Mr Henries explains, every time a massive essay is posted in the comments, it could be read (or at least accessed) two or three hundred times before IT staff realize it exists. As such, our bandwidth usage increases greatly because of such scheming. Plus, the IT staff must deal with removing the post and spend minutes cursing the writer. As such, this increases our marginal cost of operating the site.

Increasing our marginal cost is bad. However, the business of business is to turn increasing costs into profit; and Mr Henries has discovered a neat way to turn this into a revenue stream for The Rant. While charity forces us to water down Mr Henries' scheme, it remained a good one, and as such, here it is:

People who abuse the comment system -- that is, through posting patently ridiculous essays of at least 750 words on matters irrelevant to the post in question -- may be subject to having their e-mail and other identifying information harvested by our crack IT team. Our crack IT team may then sell this information on the open market to the highest bidder. We might just do it for free, but we'd prefer to get something for our pains.

We would hasten to assure regular and long-time Loyal Rant Readers they have nothing to fear from our new Abusive Comment Scheme. After all, they have been models of decorum and fair play during all of this, and they most of all deserve protection from comment abusers. We're also pretty sure many of them face similar troubles on their own blogs, and have wondered themselves about how to deal with this.

We see this "solution" as a "win-win" for everyone: not only will our regular readers get to enjoy harangue-free comments again, we'll get to turn a real problem into something which "adds value" to our "core business model." Therefore, it seems to us that no one can reasonably complain about it, and those that would should get their own blogs.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 11, 2005

It's Like a Bad Joke Dept.

A UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI law professor, who holds three doctoral degrees, reportedly gets stuck in the middle of a classic Internet e-mail/check swindle.

Involving $1,681,582.50.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:51 PM | TrackBack

January 10, 2005

Disconnect with Reality Dept.

WIN MYERS, over at the always-excellent Democracy Project blog, has the details on a disturbing and rather weird report from The New York Post. It seems a national cable information network has allegedly forced out an older female staffer, and replaced her with younger employees to boost ratings. The younger employees also supposedly wear sexier clothing. The former forecaster detailed her charges in the Post story, of which Dr Myers has made note.

Dr Myers is writing about nothing other than ... The Weather Channel.

No, we're not kidding. Go check it out.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:38 PM | TrackBack

Whence Came All These People?

IN THE LATE 18th century, the French writer Hector St. John de Crevecouer wrote that question in examining just who these people called "Americans" were. In the early 21st century, we at The Rant were forced to ask the same question when accidentally confronted with a list of various celebrities who may or may not prove "this year's hottest couple." (See the poll, at right).

Now, as is typical for these types of things, the list in question maddeningly referred to many of these celebrities by their first or last names alone, viz. and to wit:

Kournikova & Iglesias
Beyonce & Jay-Z
Britney & Kevin
Cameron & Justin
Martin & Paltrow
David & Victoria Beckham
Elton John & David Furnish
Hugh Grant & Jemima Khan
J.Lo & Mark Anthony
Jude Law & Sienna Miller
Liz Hurley & Arun Nayer
Rod Stewart & Penny

We recognized a few of the names on the list, of course, but we must admit we were a bit stupefied upon encountering some of them. This greatly bothered us. For the way this list was presented, it was as if people were more interested in celebrities than pressing matters like benefits law or state pension-scheme reforms! And clearly, we were Missing Out Greatly if we knew the answer to questions such as "Are QDROs Issued Nunc Pro Tunc Valid under ERISA?"* but couldn't tell you who "Arun Nayer" or "Penny" was if our lives depended on it.

Therefore, we turned to The Rant's pop-culture expert and lowly unpaid intern, Edward "Ted" Callahan, who is receiving credit at the University of California-Santa Cruz for his work here. Mr Callahan gave us an answer to our simple question, "Whence came all these people?"

--------
* Yes, according to benefit lawyer B. Janell Grenier (see link above). Counselor Grenier answers the question regarding nunc pro tunc ("now for then") in depth, but the basic premise is this: a Qualified Domestic Relations Order generally allows attachment of one's pension-scheme payments for child support, alimony, etc. We know this only because we read it in our pension-scheme booklet last week, and pensions are covered by ERISA, the federal law governing a lot of retirement-related stuff. Receiving a QDRO in the mail is generally a sign your life is unpleasant.
----------

A transcript of our conversation follows:

Mr CALLAHAN: Hey, chief.

Mr KEPPLE: Hey, Ted. Say! You get that thing with the RIAA straightened out?

Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah, just last week. It's great to be back, although I enjoyed hiding in Belize!

Mr KEPPLE: I'll bet. What'd they sue you for, anyway?

Mr CALLAHAN: I downloaded a copy of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." I didn't pay for it and I did it on purpose -- and I'll do it again!

Mr KEPPLE: Stevie Wonder? You got sued over Stevie Wonder?

Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah. Oh, God, it was awful. And then, when I tried to call the media, the editors and reporters laughed so hard they fell out of their chairs. Is it my fault I liked the song? IS IT?

Mr KEPPLE: Uh ... right. Anyway, Ted, you've got to help me with this celebrity-related stuff. Whence came all these people?

Mr CALLAHAN: Did you just say "whence?"

Mr KEPPLE: Since you've been gone, the Standards Department got all sorts of teeth, what with Sarbanes-Oxley and all. "Whence came" is apparently a good phrase to use in place of "who the hell are."

Mr CALLAHAN: Dude. Censorship sucks!

Mr KEPPLE: What are you talking about?

Mr CALLAHAN: You can't say hell anymore? What about (DELETED) and (DELETED) and (DELETED-DELETED-DELETED)? ... God.

Mr KEPPLE: It's not censorship. It's business. Get over it.

Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah, all right. OK, anyway, you were asking about the people listed in this Internet poll. Kournikova and Iglesias, that's the tennis player and the musician.

Mr KEPPLE: Ah, right! Uh. Wait. Aren't they forty years apart? Maria Kournikova's only like 17.

Mr CALLAHAN: No, no. That's Sharapova. This one's older and not as talented. Anyway, she's marrying Julio's son, who's a singer.

Mr KEPPLE: Beyonce and Jay-Z. She's the singer, and ... wait, what does he do again? Oh, that's right! He did "California Love." I love that song.

Mr CALLAHAN: No, no. That was Dr Dre. Jay-Z did ... you wouldn't have heard of the songs.

Mr KEPPLE: Britney and Kevin. Maybe we can skip this one.

Mr CALLAHAN: It'd be best, sir. The IT Department ran an analysis on their relationship like you asked. It broke the UNIBLAB 6000.

Mr KEPPLE: What! We paid hundreds of dollars for that machine!

Mr CALLAHAN: It blew out all the vacuum tubes! Oh, God. Even worse, (Chief Technology Officer Ned) Mr Henries got entangled in one of the tape drives when it blew. The Fire Department's still trying to get him unstuck.

Mr KEPPLE: Good God! ... uh. Moving on. Cameron and Justin. Well, we certainly wish Mr Bueller and Mr Timberlane the best of luck.

Mr CALLAHAN: That's Ms Diaz, sir. She was in that one movie you liked, "There's Something About Mary."

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God! Of course! With Chris Elliott! Now there's an underappreciated actor, eh? Did you ever see "Cabin Boy?"

Mr CALLAHAN: Sir?

Mr KEPPLE: C'mon, Callahan, you're hip and with it! "Cabin Boy!" Well, I never saw it either. But Simon from Jersey liked it, I think.

Mr KEPPLE: Martin and Paltrow. Well, they can't be that important if the list refers to their last names, so let's move on. David and Victoria Beckham. Oh! She was in the Spice Girls! The redhead!

Mr CALLAHAN: No.

Mr KEPPLE: Whatever happened to the redhead anyway? God. She was hotter than ... well, we don't know, but she was superfoxy.

Mr CALLAHAN: She did some work for the United Nations, and ...

Mr KEPPLE: THE UNITED NATIONS?!

Mr CALLAHAN: It wasn't like ...

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God, no. Not the United Nations!

Mr CALLAHAN: I'm sorry, sir.

Mr KEPPLE: So am I! Well, never mind then. As for Mr Beckham, well, hey. Real Madrid. Oy vey. Elton John ... nah, that's not going anywhere either ... say, Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan are on this list! Sweet!

Mr CALLAHAN: We all thought you'd approve, sir.

Mr KEPPLE: God, yes. Gee, that's pretty cool, I knew about one of these celebrity couples, right? Boy, Mr Grant got himself quite a catch, didn't he? Hope it works out for both of them. But who are these other people?

Mr CALLAHAN: Well, there's this one actress dating this one singer, and she was in Gigl --

Mr KEPPLE: Not Gi --

Mr CALLAHAN: Really, she was in Gi --

Mr KEPPLE: Why is she still on any list anywhere?

Mr CALLAHAN: We don't really know. The IT Department is looking into it now. We should have results shortly. But the Visicalc spreadsheets aren't working like they ought ...

Mr KEPPLE: Well, let's move on. Jude Law ... he was in that one movie with Tom Hanks, the mob movie. She sounds American.

Mr CALLAHAN: Very good, sir!

Mr KEPPLE: Well, moving on here ... Liz Hurley, never mind ... Rod Stewart and Penny. Penny? Doesn't she have a last name?

Mr CALLAHAN: Yessir. Here's a photo, sir.

Mr KEPPLE: Good Lord.

Mr CALLAHAN: Quite.

Mr KEPPLE: Maybe I ought to've been a musician.

Mr CALLAHAN: It does have its advantages, sir.

Mr KEPPLE: But I still don't understand where all these celebrities came from! It's like ... like we're deluged with these people, who crop up everywhere, yet no one really and truly deeply cares about them or their middling careers or anything else! I mean, Rod Stewart, for God's sake?

Mr CALLAHAN: We have a theory, sir! We're calling it The Dave Clark Five Law. Basically, what we've found is that the entertainment media likes new celebrities to present challenges to the old, because it increases sales, and recycling news about unpopular or minor celebrities also increases sales among those folks' fan bases. Hence, it pays for everyone to keep promoting various stars in concert with recording firms and movie studios and all that. And everyone involved makes money!

Mr KEPPLE: Really?

Mr CALLAHAN: Pretty much.

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, well, that's all right then. It's the market at work, and God knows I can't argue with that. But how do I keep on top of all this news, to keep current and with it?

Mr CALLAHAN: Television, sir.

Mr KEPPLE: God help me.

--------
SO THERE you have it. Clearly, we need to watch more badly-presented entertainment news -- after all, doing so might have Tangible Economic Benefits! We'll make sure to keep Rant readers updated on the latest news involving New and Important Stars such as Lindsay Valderrama and ... well, other New and Important Stars! Just as soon as we can find a way to cash in like everybody else, of course.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Comrades! Struggle Valiantly to Get a Haircut!

IN AN EVIL SCHEME to convince the Western world there are absolutely no problems whatsoever in North Korea, Pyongyang has declared war upon the latest social menace lurking about: men with bad haircuts!

No, we're not kidding. The BBC reports the North Korean Government is singling out and humiliating men with bad haircuts, going so far as to harass their wives and condemn their workplaces. Yes, they can do that there. And the campaign -- "Let Us Trim Our Hair in Accordance with Socialist Lifestyle" -- is moving fast; so fast, we daresay they'll have a concentration camp People's Glorious Revolutionary Retraining Facility up in no time.

However, we have to think a Lot of People are going to get in Serious Trouble for publicizing this all over North Korea. After all, a certain someone perms his hair regularly. Surely the bureaucrats in Pyongyang are not suggesting their Dear Leader was in error when he decided Elvis was a paragon of the juche (self-reliance) idea.

Still, we are glad to see North Korea, as we said, has absolutely no problems with which to deal. Therefore, it seems to us the world could dispense with all those offers of economic aid and technical assistance with the country's nuclear-power plants -- which of course are used for entirely peaceful purposes. After all, North Korea doesn't need our help anyway. For that would contradict the juche idea, and how could one ever argue with the juche idea? One could not.

But let us not dwell on such small matters. After all, life in North Korea doesn't just mean taking part in the Festival of Patriotic Songs every other weekend -- it also provides many other benefits! As One Free Korea notes:

Besides plenty of "solidarity," what else can you find in Pyongyang? Bowling! A KFA tour means you get the near-exclusive use of what's obviously a multi-million dollar bowling alley bought with money that didn't go to buy food or medicine for starving people that North Korea wants us to believe it really, really wishes it could feed, but for all those natural disasters.

They have bowling TOO? Gee, never mind the haircuts -- comrades! Let us struggle to get strikes and spares for the advancement of the nation!

(via NKZone)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 06, 2005

A Meddler and a Cad

MEMO TO RICHARD GERE: Don't try to help.

Please, just don't try to help. We know you mean well, we know you're sensitive, we know you're with it and such -- but that said, don't try to help. Especially when you're attempting to help boost turnout in an election for top offices in the Palestinian Authority. Not only do the Palestinians not care what you think, they actually get somewhat annoyed when they learn you're a Yankee. The Reuters news agency has more on this interesting story:

Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, Gere urged Palestinians in a television commercial broadcast ahead of Sunday's poll in the West Bank and Gaza to get out to vote for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in November.

"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important. Get out and vote," Gere said in the advertisement. He repeated the final phrase in Arabic.

But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing Navy officer in the 1982 film "An Officer and a Gentleman" and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.

"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar told Reuters.

We realize this snippet from the Reuters story will prompt many of our readers to consider important questions, such as: "What the devil are they talking about, captivating good looks?"

We mean, come on. It's Richard Gere. We're sorry, but we don't see it. We'd give him handsome, in a sort of vague and roundabout way, but he ain't what we'd call captivating. Harrison Ford is captivating. Robert Redford is captivating. Paul Newman is captivating. But Richard Gere? No.

To us, at any rate, Mr Gere is just above Ben Affleck in terms of looks and just below Gilbert Gottfried in terms of being annoying. That's even kind of unfair to Mr Gottfried, because he knows full well he's annoying, and has fun with it. Mr Gere, on the other hand, would cause us to suffer an unfortunate nosebleed not five minutes after meeting him, because he's so damned sensitive about everything.

So it's a pity Mr Gere wasn't a bit more sensitive about the "speaking for the entire world" bit while he was at it. Sure, one can't complain about the message itself, but what an awful way to put it! We don't know about you, but if we were in the place of that poor soap-factory worker, we don't think we'd be all that happy if some rich, spoilt movie actor were to lecture us from on high about our election -- especially if he claimed to have the world behind him.

But we suppose we ought cut Mr Gere a lot of slack. He did not, after all, write the advertisement, and it could have been any of a hundred celebrities in his place had he chosen not to take part. So we cannot fault him for his intent, or even for his follow-through. We can wish, though, that he had used his alleged charm to convince the folks behind the advertisement that their American-style script might not have been the best motivator.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 30, 2004

"Ozzy Shouldn't Have Done This"

FANS OF POPULAR CULTURE will recall that some years ago, there was a rather enjoyable cartoon program known as "Beavis and Butthead," in which the two title characters were mocked mercilessly.

For reasons we can't entirely understand, the show generated all sorts of controversy, despite the fact that it implicitly criticized absentee parenting, political correctness, and general stupidity. Had people watched it more closely, they might have realized this. That said, there were things so obvious in this world their inherent wrongness even got through to Beavis and Butthead. One of these was a particularly unfortunate music video from Ozzy Osbourne; and during their viewing of this train wreck, Butthead remarked, "Uh ... Ozzy shouldn't have done this."

No, he ought not have. Nick Coleman, who has skillfully used his membership in The Newspaper Guild to secure his wretched column at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, ought not have done this. Basically, he suffers an apparent nervous breakdown in print, accusing the guys over at PowerLine of ... well, something or other. Like them, we can't really figure out what he's angry about. He does, however, make career-ending references to the PowerLine guys' menhood, as well as several other embarrassing remarks.

You'll have to take our word on this, as Mr Coleman's column cannot be fully accessed unless one provides his or her name, address, e-mail, gender, birthdate, blood type, Social Security or Tax Identification number, car registration, immigration status and various other biometric and public health records to the Strib's Data Guardians. In return for this, you apparently get updates on the Vikings football franchise *snicker* *guffaw*. As we'd rather eat glass than do this, we assume you'll feel the same way.

We would note, though, that Mr Coleman does consider himself a journalist. After all, consider some of the Important Work which Mr Coleman has done over the years. In one of the column excerpts we found on-line, Mr Coleman writes:

In 1990, I reported that this newspaper's endorsement of DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was decided by then-publisher and Perpich crony Roger Parkinson. He had quashed the decision of the newspaper's editorial board, which had voted in favor of the Republican challenger, Arne Carlson.

The truth got out, the Republican won and the public was served.

Yeah, that's Brave Reporting right there. Why, it may have required -- wait for it -- minutes of griping and moaning with fellow writers to get the scoop! And what an outrage! The paper's publisher ... was, well, doing what he had every right to do as the boss of the outfit. It's the editorial page, after all, right? But Mr Coleman and the editorial board didn't agree with it! Therefore, it's an outrage!

We're sorry, but no. It is outrageous, though, that Mr Coleman has written at least two columns attacking these bloggers for ... blogging. And it's pathetic when, in response, the bloggers kick his butt all the way to Duluth.

Mr Coleman ought to have learned by now that if a journalist is going to slam a blogger, he has to have cause. This cause must necessarily be more than "the blogger doesn't like my column." Furthermore, if a journalist does such a thing, he needs to do such a complete job that the blogger thinks the wrath of Heaven has fallen upon him. There is no place for any emotion, save properly-applied humor, in such work. Just get out the scalpel and chainsaw, and use them accordingly.

Now, we realize readers may wonder why, if Mr Coleman writes such a lousy column, he is permitted to keep his job. Well, as we said, Mr Coleman does work at a Guild shop. So the man's pretty much golden. But we do know this is not the first time Mr Coleman has gone bye-bye in this manner.

Therefore, if the Strib is obligated to pay Mr Coleman his minimum compensation of $65,884 per annum (not including merit pay, differentials, and other pay schemes which may exist at the Strib), why not have him do something that won't regularly embarrass everyone else at the office?

We suggest general assignment. It's fun, and it's something new every day, and it requires one to write clearly. It sounds like Mr Coleman needs to rediscover all three of these things.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:17 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

DEEEEtroit BASKetball, and Other Items of Note

AS WE HAVE been away for much of this week, we have subsequently found ourselves rather out of the loop when it comes to the news. Therefore it was only natural that lots of interesting things would happen during our absence. So, in an attempt to catch up, we would present some quick observations on these events, viz. and to wit:

* DEEEEEtroit BASKetball: Brendan Loy has a good rundown of a particularly nasty fight between members of the Indiana Pacers basketball squad, and bunches of Detroit Pistons fans whose drink-fogged minds kept them from realizing it's not advisable to throw things at really big and really angry athletes. To get a full sense of the bedlam which erupted at the Palace at Auburn Hills, click on the above link.

Naturally, the melee has prompted much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth among the chattering class, who are shocked! shocked! to see that violence and unsportsmanlike conduct would happen at a basketball game. Our own thoughts on the matter are as follows:

1. Based on our limited knowledge of the incident, it appears most of the fans who were involved in the riot and were injured as a result got what they deserved. On general principle grounds, if a fan is stupid enough to charge out onto the court and lunge towards a player in a threatening manner, he is asking for trouble.

2. The Pacers players who went into the stands to fight with the fans showed amazingly bad judgment. Such a reaction to a short-term problem will only bring long-term headaches. Furthermore, if they go after the wrong fans -- and at least one fan says he was wrongfully assaulted -- it will really cause them grief down the line. The three Pacers players involved reportedly received an amazing 70 games' worth of suspensions. That's a LOT of money to throw away, to say nothing of the damage to one's career, endorsements, etc.

3. It might be a good idea for teams to put some sort of limit on alcohol sales during sporting matches. We're not suggesting a ban, because that would punish everyone; but we don't see why a team ought let certain fans drink to excess when they clearly can't hold their liquor.

Finally, we *do* hope this won't happen again, as we rather like John Mason's catch-phrase, and would prefer not to use it in such a scurrilious manner.

UPDATE, 8:33 PM: The NBA has suspended one player for 72 games, and eight other players a total of 70 games, the New York Times reports.

* * *

* THERE'S GOLD on them there tickers. We were quite pleased to see that GLD, the new Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) which lets one buy gold just like one would any equity, did so well on its opening day. Each share is the equivalent of 1/10th of a troy ounce of gold. While we are generally skeptical of gold as an investment -- if one must advertise on television, there's probably a reason for it -- we do think it could prove a useful hedge (1) once one has acquired significant assets.

As the fund makes it a lot easier to buy the stuff, and without having to worry about theft or loss, it is definitely a net positive for everyone. This goes especially for small investors, for no longer will they have to pay a premium to purchase gold in its coin form. We are especially hopeful GLD's success will lead to the introduction of other commodity-based ETFs, as it would let people invest in these goods without much of the risk that currently exist when dealing with the futures markets.

(1) Do note that when we speak of using gold as a hedge, we mean as a hedge against two particular things: first, stagflation or hyperinflation, and second, a collapse of civilization. As both these things are highly unlikely, we can see no reason why one would want to invest more than 1 to 2 pc of one's holdings in specie; and if one has under $1 million in investable assets, we can't see why you would screw around with it at all.

We should also mention that we are NOT licensed financial advisors, and as such do NOT take responsibility for your investment decisions. Read the prospectus carefully before investing, there's a high degree of risk, investors can and do lose money, perhaps you should look at Treasuries instead, void in Vermont.

* * *

* FILE TO THE "YOU DON'T SAY" DEPT. From The Guardian newspaper, based in London:

A former royal secretary told an employment tribunal today that Prince Charles is the head of a "hierarchical and elitist" workplace where staff are expected not to "rock the boat."

We do not, of course, take lightly the serious allegations made within the article, which we encourage all readers to read. Those charges, which involve the conduct of a minor official against the complaintant, ought be punished severely if true. So we want to be absolutely clear about that.

What amazes us, though, is how shocked and outraged many Britons are about the alleged elitism on the Prince of Wales' part. Did we miss something here? After all, we are discussing a monarchy. This would seem to suggest that elitism was part and parcel of the whole deal. If the people of Great Britain do not want their hereditary royalty to act as if they're entitled to the perks and privileges which go along the job, then perhaps they ought reform or scrap the whole institution.

But that, of course, is a discussion for the people of Great Britain alone. As for us, we're going to have some dinner. We'll report with more details about our fabulous trip to the nation's capital soon.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

Idiocy, Compounded

WELL, GAD. Remember back in August, when a clothing-store clerk in Pennsylvania actually accepted a $200 bill as Legal Tender? Well, the authorities have taken pity on the woman who bought the goods with the gag-store banknote.

In deciding to drop all the charges against the woman, provided she paid for her purchases with bona fide currency, Westmoreland County prosecutors wisely avoided a show trial. As this would have been done at great expense to Westmoreland County's taxpayers, some of whom are our relatives, we approve. Besides, based on the comments of her lawyer, we can only conclude the former defendant is as dumb as a bag of rocks.

The Associated Press reports:

GREENSBURG, Pa. - A case of funny money has ended happily for a woman who had been charged with passing a bogus $200 bill with President Bush's picture on it.

Prosecutors in Westmoreland County dropped all charges Friday against Deborah L. Trautwine, 51, after she paid the store in real currency.

Trautwine "wasn't aware that it ... wasn't actual legal tender," said her attorney, Harry Smail Jr.

The AP has more -- do go read it. Our question is this: how in hell could a person of sound mind and body not realize the note was fake? The AP points out, for instance, that there's no such thing as a $200 bill, and the serial number was clearly made up, and Ronald Reagan signed the bill, and the back side had a "We Like Broccoli" sign on the White House lawn. Plus, the notes aren't even printed on standard-issue paper. All of these things should have tipped off a functioning adult.

We realize it's cruel and horrible for us to make fun of someone whom, according to a respected attorney, truly did believe this note was the real thing. But this has just left us gobsmacked, it really has. On the other hand, as the store clerk also accepted the bill as legitimate, it does make us wonder. Perhaps an enterprising person could do well with this.

CLERK: OK, ten gallons of gasoline and a pack of Marlboros ... that'll be $24.40.
US: Here! Have this newly-minted $30 bill!
CLERK: What?
US: It's a $30 bill. You know, honoring famed Vice President Schuyler Colfax!
CLERK: Oh! He was vice president under Carter, wasn't he?
US: Yes -- he -- was. Plus, if you hold it up to the light, you can see the security features the Government put in the bill.
CLERK: Let's see ... "THIS IS, VIZ. & FORSOOTH, HONEST-TO-GOD AMERICAN CURRENCY." Well, that's good enough for me! Say, you have any more of these? These are cool.
US: Yeah, out in the trunk.

Of course, we kid. After all, Americans -- these two noted exceptions notwithstanding -- are intelligent and fiscally-prudent folks. Besides, as everyone knows, clerks are naturally suspicious of any bill larger than $20, and they have that marker thing they use to ensure the bill's legitimate, and most of them actually look at bills before they throw them in the drawer. Although, if it truly were that easy to fool cashiers, this trend could really get out of hand ...

MAN: Gee, I'm going to like this new television set! Here's $400.
CLERK: Uh, you're paying me with one bill. And it's not even green.
MAN: Of course it's not green! Don't you read the news, son? New security features to fool counterfeiters! You see, if we trick them by printing foofy Communist-style money, they'll stop counterfeiting and such.
CLERK: Well, that'd explain the red color then. But who's this angry-looking dude?
MAN: Why, it's John Nance Garner! You know ... uh ... he was President after FDR.
CLERK: The one who dropped the atom bomb?
MAN: Exactly!

But again. Obviously, such a transaction could never take place, for store clerks these days are often students, and they would immediately reject the proferred bill because Garner was, well, something disagreeable. Still, if anyone is interested in our $30 bills or even larger denominations -- such as our one-of-a-kind $750 note paying homage to Calvin Coolidge -- we invite them to contact us via the address at left.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Report: We're All Doomed

GEE. SCIENTISTS report Mars is growing warmer through some kind of global-warming process. This has, naturally, led at least one blogger to ask a rather disturbing question:

On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if two planets so close to each other are both experiencing a rise in surface temperature, isn't it just possible that it might have to do with that nearby star they both orbit? I'm just asking is all. I mean, what if...

What if, indeed? Well, we've figured out some potential answers to this pressing question. As we see it, given these phenomena, there are four perfectly reasonable outcomes that could occur:

One. The Twilight Zone Outcome.

Both Earth and Mars have somehow been knocked out of their orbits and will soon enter some hideous death spirals leading straight into the sun. Therefore, we're all -- yes, that's right. Doomed.

Two. The Martian Chronicles Outcome.

Wow! Mars is heating up! Say! Now we can go colonize it and destroy its ruined cities and set up a parochial yet oddly dysfunctional society! Plus we can strip-mine the place and seize its mineral wealth for our own. Yes, that will work perfectly. Must -- create -- ruined -- future!

Three. The Day After Tomorrow Outcome.

JACK HALL: Dear God! Mars has ... reached a critical desalinization point!
AGENCY HEAD: We've been through this once already. Jesus. You're not expensing another trip, and that's final.
JACK HALL: What if I put on a chicken suit?
AGENCY HEAD: Dammit! No!
JACK HALL: But we've got to do something! Mars is in danger! If it heats up ... um ... then that could mean ... ah ... my son is there! Sweet MERCY! Sam! I'll come to get you, Sam!
AGENCY HEAD: Do I have to call security again?
JACK HALL: But you've got to believe me!
AGENCY HEAD: Mmmm. Yes. You mean like I'm supposed to believe this expense report for "important research" in Maui? Dammit, Hall, you study frickin' Antarctica!
JACK HALL: That was for extremely urgent anthropological and cultural studies necessary to my ...
AGENCY HEAD: You're going to study my fist if you keep this up!
JACK HALL: But this is import ...
AGENCY HEAD: If you don't get the hell out of my office, I'll send you to the Hurricane Observation Team! Not only that, I'll put you on a rat-trap so frickin' unseaworthy that --
JACK HALL: Fine! Then I'll go tell the United Nations!
AGENCY HEAD: Oooooooooooh!

Four. The "Ah, it's Mars" Outcome.

MAN: You see Mars is heating up? Now it's less of a barren, frozen wasteland than it was before!
UNLUCKY DATE: Ah, it's Mars.
MAN: Well, yeah. But ... ah ... you know ... that's bad and such.
UNLUCKY DATE: Don't we have more important things to worry about, like creating an equitable and efficient property-rights mechanism in the developing world?
MAN: Um.
UNLUCKY DATE: You know, to help make it easier for people to join the formal economy, thus unlocking capital and increasing their standard of living?
MAN: Say! How 'bout those Eagles?
UNLUCKY DATE: How 'bout Rothelisberger?
MAN: We could just skip dessert.
UNLUCKY DATE: Why? You're paying, and I've got to get something out of this. I'll have the chocolate mousse with Grand Marnier. Extra Grand Marnier.

Out of these four outcomes, we can see the second outcome is the most likely to occur, and thus the one for which we should all prepare. For the first is physically impossible, and the third is based upon a movie. As for the fourth ... Gad, you didn't think the fourth was the most likely, did you? Oh, no.

Clearly, the fourth outcome is the least likely of those presented. After all, on a truly horrible date, a woman would have used her innate self-defense mechanisms to escape from the situation. By this, we mean that as the guy was waiting for the minestrone to arrive, his date would have politely moved to Vermont.

Furthermore, the idea that a Steelers fan would date an Eagles fan is so ludicrous as to not be believed. Really, now. Even for this entry, that's silly.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 30, 2004

The Stakes Are So Small Dept.

WE HAVE LEARNED, via Simon From Jersey, that the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has started offering its students a course on -- wait for it -- "American Idol."

We would direct readers to read all of Mr Einspahr's essay, as he did a nice compare and contrast between his college experience and that of students at UNC-Charlotte. We must add, though, that our initial reaction was similar to that of our fellow Michigan alum:

My friends and I took Astronomy, Philosophy, History, Logic, or Computer Programming to fill our extraneous requirements, not this shit. I never had TIME to take a class like this, let alone get OFFERED one. Maybe it was the Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus II that got in the way. Or that the few free credit hours we DID have were spent on our diversity requirement, which if you were studious, could be filled by a meaningful course like Biological Anthropology. I wanted to take a class in the music school, but it was on Music Theory and 16th-19th Century composers, not on 2nd-rate imitators butchering shitty songs in between shameless self-promotion and commercial whore-mongering. It's just getting embarrassing to read this shit. What's next, a class on the effect the show "Friends" has had on consumer culture in the midst of 1990's economic prosperity???

Dammit, Simon, don't give them any ideas.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:24 AM | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

Cinematic Sins Reveal the Worst in Us

WELL, WE NOW have certain proof that we're in serious need of a good two weeks in the country. For the past hour and a half, we have been watching "Bedazzled." Yes, that movie with Elizabeth Hurley playing the Devil.

You know, it's bad enough we honestly can't remember how we started watching this, but perhaps even more disturbing is that we're continuing to watch it. We mean, it's not as if Ms Hurley makes a convincing Devil; it's like she's the third-rate, temporary fill-in for George Burns. Mr Burns, of course, had that role figured out back when he played it. He wasn't about to let any greedy human weasel out of his or her contract. That's because he was evil. That's what he did. And then he enjoyed watching the human squirm in the midst of it all, which was really evil. Besides, if we recall right, he also drove that kick-ass evil KITT-like corvette.

Ms Hurley, on the other hand, is turning in a performance that would get her sent to the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters, as a certain diabolic missive once termed it.

Despite this, though, we actually find ourself rooting for Ms Hurley, even though it is wicked for us to do so. You see, we're already so annoyed with the main character that we can't wait for her to cast him down into ...

What! No. NO!

OK, dig this: The guy has not only managed to weasel out of his stupid agreement, he's gone and Developed a Spine. Now he's Bested the Workplace Bullies and Found a Different but Great Girl who is Not the Girl He Originally Liked. Even worse, he's realizing The Truth Lies Within and other Pop-Culture Platitudes About Life. We'd like to think that's a very sly joke on the part of the screenwriter -- perhaps the guy isn't out of the woods yet -- but no, all is well and he has a new and improved outlook on things. Hey, and look! The Devil's just a very likable evil spirit after all, isn't ... she. He. It. Blah.

Oh, God!

--------

(As penance for the above really nasty post, we will re-read The Screwtape Letters for much of this evening).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:44 PM | TrackBack

October 23, 2004

The Circles of AOHell

THIRTY MINUTES, 17 seconds. This is how long it took this evening for us to cancel our dial-up Internet service with America On-Line.

It was a process which required two phone calls, several instances of raising our voice, one demand to speak with a supervisor, and one threat of complaint to Government regulators, but we finally managed to convince the wretched malcontents to cancel our service. We no longer needed it, you see, as we finally signed up for a cable modem. But we remain so infuriated with the downright underhandedness of AOL's cancellation process that we figured we'd tell the world. After all, this is a company that prides itself on being customer-friendly. And since we are vindictive beyond belief, we figure the best way to punish AOL for its insolence is to warn as many of its potential customers as possible about AOL's customer service.

We suppose we should start with an explanation of how we signed up for the service in the first place. This is easy: it came with our computer, and it was convenient for us to sign up. All we needed it for was the connection, and as everyone knows, it is a pain in the ass to switch one's e-mail back and forth. So we have remained with it for the past few years. But when we finally got a broadband connection, we clearly had no use for a dial-up service; and as Mr Kepple pointed out to us, cancelling our AOL service would save us a good chunk of change.

So, with those parameters established firmly in our mind, we called this evening about 6:30. After a few minutes wading through AOL's unpleasant computerized answering system, we were put on the phone with a customer-service type. At first, we were inclined to like the guy, as he was a southerner, and we figured he was working in one of those economically-depressed areas where one is grateful for call-center work. This camaraderie lasted roughly 45 seconds. For the next 10 minutes, we can assure you our conversation was unproductive. It was a classic attrition strategy, in which they do everything they can to keep one on board with the service. Despairing of actually getting our account cancelled -- it was as if we were talking to David Spade in one of those commercials -- we agreed to settle for a free month's worth of service on AOL's broadband platform.

We then had dinner, put our laundry in the wash, and called back. By now, we were downright annoyed. Our first call, from soup to nuts, lasted for 17 minutes and 35 seconds, and the thought of spending even more time on the phone was not making us very cordial. This time, though, we resolved to be fully firm and go on the warpath.

This time we were transferred to what was almost certainly a foreign-run call-center operation. We suspect this for a few reasons: first, there was a tiny but noticeable delay in the voice transmission; second, the operators spoke English fluently but did not have the native ease which one would find in an American; and third, the folks had a slight accent to their speech.

This somewhat rattled us, as we felt bad about having to be a jerk to the foreign staff, who of course make practically nothing in Bangalore or wherever these things are based. But we did not feel bad for long, as despite our explanations, we went through the same goddamn spiel a second time. Eventually, we got a supervisor on the phone, and after a pointed mention about potentially filing a complaint with Federal regulators, he agreed to cancel our service, gave us a confirmation number to that effect, and the hassle was finally over.

Still, though. Half an hour to cancel service? Even with the obligatory pitches and cajoles, this is a process that shouldn't take more than five minutes. Our only thought is that this whole process speaks much about the company -- which has seen its stock price fall nearly 80 pc over the past few years. It seems to us that if they're going to such pathetic lengths to keep what customers they have, there must be a reason for it. And we suspect that reason is not one which would bring applause at the annual shareholders' meeting.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

America 3, Britain 0

WE ARE QUITE pleased to note this morning -- after everyone else, as per usual -- that The Guardian has abandoned its attempt to influence the American election. We first noted our displeasure here, and we are glad to see that reason finally prevailed among The Guardian's staff.

We are inclined to be gleeful about it all, given the reception which the idea had on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, as The Telegraph noted:

(Ian Katz, of The Guardian) insisted: "Folks in Clark County itself have best recognised the spirit of the enterprise. Local media coverage has been consistently fair and good humoured."

"Good-humoured" headlines in the local newspaper, the Springfield News-Sun have included "Butt Out Brits, voters say" and "Trashing letter campaign" - a reference to the fact that the first woman to receive a letter from a Guardian reader, Beverly Coale, threw it away, fearing it was from a terrorist.

We congratulate Mrs Coale for her unceasing vigilance in this regard. Especially because, as Tim Blair noted, she could have recieved the letter which one Ken Loach dashed off before tea-time. The text of Mr Loach's letter includes these two heartwarming paragraphs:

You seek to dominate all others by demanding access to all markets on your terms, so that local industries and small farmers go to the wall.

You have supported brutal dictators, like Augusto Pinochet, General Suharto and Saddam Hussein, who, over the years, have murdered and tortured with your administration's approval.

We would love to know how the Ohioan recipient of Mr Loach's letter responded when he or she saw it. However, as we likely won't learn that, we would offer our own succinct response. It has two words. We trust Mr Loach would have little difficulty in figuring it out.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

October 20, 2004

Que Quiere?!

Oh No!
Its Time for Yet Another Installment of
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A recurring Rant feature

WE CAN ASSURE readers that our search-engine logs are starting to get a bit depressing. It is not merely that the searches are getting weirder as time goes on, although that is somewhat troubling. What really amazes us is the volume. You would be shocked to learn how many people do searches regarding, to choose one popular phrase, loss of consortium. But that is not the only non-unique search. Apparently, many search-engine users who arrive at The Rant are looking for private details about celebrities lives, plagiarism-worthy essays, and resources related to the federal prisons system.

This would be disturbing enough, except for the massive number of strange queries from individuals. These queries are so ah, different that one might say the people entering them are constituents of The Twilight Zones Dimension of Mind. Its getting downright creepy. Fortunately, however, we here at The Rant exist to fulfill our readers requests. Hence, let us turn to the latest edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

QUERY: what does per diem mean for workers

ANSWER: The per diem (lit., one meal) often refers to a stipend given to employees who are traveling, but who for some reason do not merit an expense account. As such, this stipend is sometimes only enough to cover the cost of one meal, generally a breakfast croissanwich from Burger King. If one is lucky, one can also buy those French toast sticks, and save them for lunch. Some workers, though, may receive enough cash to stay at a Holiday Inn. Remember: the idea behind the per diem is to spend as little of your own money as possible, with the hope of ending up-limit for your trip.

QUERY: invest $100 000 in (firm deleted) and receive a golf vacation

ANSWER: You seem more interested in the golf than the brokerage. Why not invest $90,000 with another brokerage that doesnt have to lure you with a golf vacation, and spend the $10,000 on a trip to Pebble Beach? Heck, that $10,000 might even buy you a really great set of clubs, plus a lesson to help eradicate that troublesome slice of yours.

QUERY: stealing from large corporations

ANSWER: Stealing from large corporations is a bad idea. For one thing, its wrong. For another, they have many nasty and sneaky ways of catching you doing so. For a third, when they do catch you, you will be subjected to a most painful and grievous disgorgement process that may involve prison time. Instead, we would suggest that you demand stock options or other appropriate compensation increases at your next review session.

QUERY: more wealth more evil

ANSWER: Or: more wealth more good. It stands to reason that anyone with more of anything can have a correspondingly greater impact because of that. But merely having those things does not prepossess one to become more good or more evil.

QUERY: dave coulier net worth

ANSWER: Your life it lacks meaning, yes?

QUERY: saddam hussein saves a bunch of money on his car insurance by switching to geico

ANSWER: Oh, if only they'd make THAT into a commercial.

QUERY: need to find an rich person an man that gives away out free money right now to day

ANSWER: Boy, YOU came to the wrong Web site, didnt you?

QUERY: not just whistling dixie

ANSWER: Youre still not getting any of our money.

QUERY: mercantile insurance company ltd. bangladesh lottery result

ANSWER: Your bank must love dealing with idiots like you.

QUERY: peace corp disqualif

ANSWER: Its no wonder, given your spelling. On the other hand, though, how the devil does anyone get disqualified from the Peace Corps? Its the Peace Corps. As far as we can tell, the only exclusion it ever did was to get people excluded from the infantry.

QUERY: jennifer lopez not a good entertainer

ANSWER: Were sorry, we deal with queries here at The Rant, not statements of fact. Please rephrase your request.

QUERY: determining the use of ethos, pathos logos

ANSWER: Good luck getting a jobos with what youve learned in THAT class.

QUERY: understanding reality television

ANSWER: Weve decided to put this into a simple and easy equation for you. Non-union actors + hot people + no shame = $$$$$. And yes, it IS all about money. This is how it has always been.

QUERY: american culture concerned with popularity

ANSWER: We dont know if its applicable to the culture as a whole, but certainly many Americans are concerned about their popularity. We have not been one of these people, as those who know us can attest, for a very long time.

QUERY: not taking things too personally

ANSWER: That has a LOT to do with why we care little about popularity. If someone does not like us, we figure theyll get over it eventually.

QUERY: ben and stimpy

ANSWER: We are not the blogging equivalent of Ren Hoek.

QUERY: interpersonal relationship of metrosexuality

ANSWER: Its all all about you.

QUERY: clothes make the man

ANSWER: Faugh.

QUERY: what is it like to be overly thin in American society?

ANSWER: You are so asking the wrong person. We havent been overly thin since the third grade, and that was because we were a sickly child. So we dont know. We would, though, venture to guess this is a good thing until ones metabolism gives out.

QUERY: can employers still make women wear skirts?

ANSWER: Say. Theres a tough one. Boy. We have no expert knowledge on this particular subject, but we would say that we think an employer can certainly require an appropriate dress code in a workplace. Yet unless the skirt is part of a uniform, we do not see how one could require wearing a skirt.

QUERY: descriptive essay on an undesirable place

ANSWER: Were sorry, but The Rants expected essay on this topic (Holy Christ, Were in Sheboygan) is not due until later this decade. Please check back then.

QUERY: santa red suit communist

ANSWER: Weve suspected this for a long time. After all, he gives away toys away for free, and thats communism at its finest.

QUERY: the joys of market speculation

ANSWER: O ye who churn your account, begone from here.

QUERY: former stockbroker what can I do?

ANSWER: Consider a career in personal financial-planning. Theres definitely a market in that, as many Americans have no idea what to do with their money.

QUERY: why music today stinks

ANSWER: In a word, Autotune.

QUERY: stesichorus homer

ANSWER: Stesichorus rules. He is perhaps the first Greek known to register his disagreement in writing about the story of the Trojan war. This was because he was bitter:

The story is not true.
You never sailed on the benched ships.
You never went to Troy.

QUERY: young posh and loaded ben

ANSWER: Well, we suppose theres something to be said for two out of three.

QUERY: under thirty years old high cholesterol

ANSWER: This is very not fun. We know.

QUERY: men are wrong

ANSWER: You must really be fun on dates!

QUERY: why do men act strange when their attracted to you

ANSWER: Hormones have much to do with this.

QUERY: how do men respond to love?

ANSWER: They respond well. We can assure readers that we ourselves stop smoking, lose weight, become cheerful and enjoy life when we are in love. Readers are therefore asked not to draw anything at all from the tone of our recent posts.

QUERY: christmas making-out

ANSWER: Do it AFTER the kids go to bed, for Gods sakes!

QUERY: plastic surgery ali landry

ANSWER: Naaaaaaaah. Not that we would know personally, of course but boy! That guy who played A.C. Slater really screwed things up, didnt he? God. What a schmuck.

QUERY: a really good thought before I go to sleep

ANSWER: See: Landry, Ali.

QUERY: one dollar movie theatre by crossroads mall in okla city ok area

ANSWER: Ooooh. Dollar theatres still exist? Amazing. Anyway, we would definitely suggest attending the dollar theatre if you are looking to catch great first-run releases such as Whos the Man?, Lucas, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Well, thats it for this months edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Next time, well discuss the euro, Wyomings state song, and health-chest congestion (all of which, we would submit, are unfortunate things).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 02, 2004

In the Future, Everyone Will Get Linked for 15 Minutes

YOU REMEMBER Bill Burkett? The guy at the center of the CBS Memogate scandal? He apparently has his own blog. No, we're not kidding.

Now, we say "apparently" because we are allowing for the possibility Mr Burkett has nothing to do with the blog, which was started on Sept. 29. However, the blog is entirely devoted to Mr Burkett's plight vis-a-vis CBS, the domain name is billburkett.us, and the one poster ("Administrator") has a username of "billburkett." So if Mr Burkett is not writing it himself, he certainly has a defender out there who is.

Anyhow, Mr Burkett (or, if not Mr Burkett, his proxy) is getting a rather ... warm ... welcome from the blogosphere. Note this entry from Sept. 30:

Articles and posts will be removed periodically to keep this site refreshed.

This is not a site for harrassment. Posts that deal without fact and are deemed harrassing in nature will not be posted.

(link via Dean's World, which reminds us: Dean will be on Boston-based WBIX radio today from noon to 2:30 p.m., on the "Pundit Review" radio show. That's 1060 AM on your radio dial, or you can listen live here).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Brit Faces Full-Court Press

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC recently offered its readers a truly amazing account of the wedding ceremony between Britney Spears and That Dopey Looking Guy. There was an immense spite to the work which coursed through it like electricity, and its tone was so powerful that one could almost sense the writer gnashing his or her teeth during the creation process. The Republic's copy desk then provided a delightful finish with a truly obnoxious headline: "Spears, Casanova in first-crass ceremony." But do not take our word for it -- witness it for yourself:

The good news now that Britney Spears has finally married minor-Moesha-cast-member impregnator Kevin Federline, in a small ceremony Saturday evening in Studio City, Calif.: Finally, we can stop reporting on her taste-challenged marriage preparations ...

... The New York Daily News says that just after the couple placed platinum wedding bands on their Cheetos-stained fingers, Spears ditched her gown for a velour sweatsuit, the better to get down to Journey's "Lights." The rest of the wedding party was outfitted with comfy loungewear, too, some emblazoned with the words "Pimp" and "Pimp Daddy."

The 20 or so guests at the surprise ceremony dined on chicken fingers, crab cakes, ribs and Waldorf salad, according to Access Hollywood. No truth to the rumor that the guests pelted the happy couple with Slim Jims as they left for their honeymoon.

Now that, we would submit, is writing. Mean, vicious, unwarranted, uncalled-for writing -- but boy! there's talent there!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:10 AM | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

Oh, God, No!

WASABI CLOGS the sinuses, a new study reveals. Apparently, the burning green substance may have all sorts of wonderful health benefits -- it may help prevent cancer, blood clots and even cavities -- but it will offer no relief for those of us who suffer from hideous sinus pressure:

"Actually, wasabi is a congestant," study author Dr. David S. Cameron told Reuters Health. "It makes the space of your nasal passages smaller, but it makes you feel more open."

Cameron explained that wasabi probably clogs up sinuses by increasing blood flow to the lining of the nose. That extra blood takes up space, he said, which constricts the nasal passageway.

Wasabi may make the nose feel more open, Cameron noted, by causing changes that increase the cooling effect of air breathed through the nose, or by stimulating flaring of the nostrils, which enables air to flow more easily though the nose.

Wasabi -- for those unfamiliar, it's a sort of Japanese horseradish -- is our favorite condiment on Earth. If this report is any guide, we may have to decrease or even cut out our Wasabi consumption when our sinuses are flaring up.

We cannot fully express our disgust and anguish upon learning of this development. We gave up ice cream and we gave up fruit juice and we gave up regular soda and all sorts of other things -- and now we have to give up wasabi? Good Lord, next thing we know, we'll have to start taking our meals through a straw.

We would respectively request the medical community start working on -- we don't know, something, anything -- to fix this.

MORE BAD NEWS: Public-health researcher issues study that will "help localities pass smoking bans." Gee, that's just swell.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 17, 2004

Our Pride and Joy, &c.

Oh No!
Its Time for Yet Another Installment of
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A recurring and popular Rant feature

WE WERE QUITE pleased to see that many searchers who visited The Rant this month likely learned something through their queries. For all those who entered queries on subjects ranging from medieval banking houses to net-worth statistics, and from spiritual matters to the writings of C.S. Lewis, we sincerely hope you found the information for which you were searching. We also hope you return often.

Then there were the people looking for images of Officer Sweetchuck from the Police Academy movies.

It is a phenomenon we do not entirely understand, but then, we cant entirely understand why people searching for weird things end up looking over The Rant. One would think the search-engine algorithms would direct said searchers to sites which were more relevant to their queries. However, they arrived here, and their data was harvested accordingly. Let us study, then, the thought processes of these unfortunate souls.

QUERY: devastation dave zip zap rap listen

ANSWER: Thats Devastatin Dave. Anyway, we did some searching on-line and actually found an mp3 of Devastatin Dave zip-zap-rapping. We are not providing a link on public health grounds. Its kind of like a cross between Vanilla Ice and the Sugar Hill Gang, that is, if someone had mixed Hank and Master Gees drinks with roughly two pounds of Xanax. Word to your mother, kids!

QUERY: jessica simpson discussion idiot

ANSWER: We are no longer convinced that Mrs Simpson is lacking in intelligence, primarily because Mrs Simpson has amassed a great deal of wealth and publicity for reasons we cant entirely fathom. Therefore, we suspect that when one removes the glitz and glamour, she is quite a canny operator or simply smart enough to surround herself with canny operators working on her behalf. Either way, Mrs Simpson has secured her place quite well, and we withdraw all our prior criticism on that front. We remain, however, less than enamored with her songs.

QUERY: jen schefft engagement ring

ANSWER: Were sorry, but your query is long past its expiry date for freshness. The Rant does not answer stale and outdated queries.

QUERY: think too hard

ANSWER: Dont strain yourself.

QUERY: philadelphia eagles & boston bar

ANSWER: Save yourself time and trouble. Beat yourself with a crowbar, repeatedly.

QUERY: what is bulb of the lamp

ANSWER: Not the brightest bulb in the lamp store, are you, son?

QUERY: amor vincit omnia

ANSWER: Interdum.

QUERY: stop reality television

ANSWER: Were with you on this one.

QUERY: mandatory tipping restaurant parties

ANSWER: In many restaurants, parties of six or more diners are assessed mandatory gratuities of 18 pc. This practice ostensibly prevents said diners from being cheap when tipping the waiter. However, we believe the practice actually protects waiters from the ineptitude of the kitchen staff in most of these establishments. Also, the practice is one of many ways in which a bad restaurant can strive to show it has class.

QUERY: burn fur coat

ANSWER: What the hell good would that do? The animals are already dead. Burning the fur coats not going to change that fact. Besides, youll pollute the atmosphere, and we couldnt have that, now could we?

QUERY: why is god a good role model

ANSWER: Speaking personally, we always thought that whole business about the cross proved instructive.

QUERY: knitting before christ

ANSWER: Were not theologians, but we dont think He would be displeased if you gave the potholders you made to your church.

QUERY: satanic idiocy

ANSWER: We dont mean to be pessimistic, but underestimating evil probably isnt the best idea.

QUERY: circles of hell salesman

ANSWER: As far as we can tell, wicked salesmen condemned to eternal pain and suffering can end up in any of the circles. However, if the faults which led them there are related to their work, the salesmen will likely end up in Circle Four (avarice) or Circle Eight (fraud). In Circle Four, the salesmen will stand between the giant weights which the greedy and prodigious roll back and forth against each other, vainly attempting to sell both parties service agreements in case the weights stop working. In Circle Eight, the salesmen will undoubtedly attempt to sell various protective devices guaranteed to protect sinners from the horrible boiling pitch engulfing them. This will continue until either a) the second death, i.e., final annihilation, arrives as promised, or b) Heavenly Justice decides the other sinners are being overly punished for their sins. Should that second eventuality come about, however, we understand that Geryon will be used to advertise Hells various automotive-financing plans.

QUERY: is seattle depressing

ANSWER: Yes. The rains bad enough, but you also have to deal with the people who live in Seattle and believe it the best city on Gods green Earth.

QUERY: third street promenade california cheap parking

ANSWER: *snicker* *guffaw* *snort*

QUERY: proper way to do a chin-up

ANSWER: Pull.

QUERY: song analysis lying eyes

ANSWER: Its still only September. Consider taking something useful, such as Accounting 201.

QUERY: public nudity in public place

ANSWER: This would be as opposed to what?

QUERY: he is having his dinner anyway

ANSWER: Well, bully on him!

QUERY: dean esmay

ANSWER: For the last time hes over here!

QUERY: prospectus argentine bond

ANSWER: Dude. Its Argentina. Why are you even considering it?

QUERY: bill cowher yelling

ANSWER: Well, its either that or scowling, isnt it?

QUERY: jokes about pittsburgh steelers

ANSWER: Uncle Dave? Youre being paged.

QUERY: dave kepple

ANSWER: Uncle Dave? Maybe a blog is in your future.

QUERY: essay dennetts dangerous idea

ANSWER: We dont know if dangerous was the correct word to use in this instance. Stupid, yes, but not dangerous.

QUERY: short romantic speech

ANSWER: Eleanor, gee, I think youre swell, and you really do me well youre my pride and joy, etc.!

QUERY: kate winslet pounds

ANSWER: Oh, God -- Kate Winslet! Foxy foxy foxy foxy foxy.

QUERY: dating a journalist

ANSWER: This is an excellent idea, and we certainly encourage people to date and marry journalists, especially young and smart and witty journalists who have that roguish sort of charm about them.

QUERY: attitudes of americans to englishmen

ANSWER: Americans generally like the English, as we feel a cultural kinship towards the auld sod. Also, your accent lends you an air of sophistication and intelligence, which if you combine it with a shade of aggressiveness, will get you all the girls. With the pound so strong these days, it would be unwise to screw this up. Do note the easiest way to do so is by expressing opinions on politics and religion, unless the Americans to which you are speaking agree with you. If they do not, expect to be informed in no uncertain terms that Britain is, depending on your views, a rotting bolshy cesspit or a racist bastion of imperialism.

Englishmen, as a rule, should take note that Americans can generally be divided into three groups. The first knows little to nothing about the rest of the world. The second will quiz you on myriad topics related to British life, such as the Conservative Party, the proposed blood-sport ban, and popular reaction to the revaluation of homes for council tax purposes. The third will have some knowledge about Britain, but nothing acute.

You will be most safe in dealing with this third group, provided you are polite and suffer their curiosity. Do note, though: if dealing with people from the first group, do NOT act as if they are idiots. They will pick up on your condescension and deal with you accordingly. If dealing with people from the second group, do NOT tell them they are awfully smart for Americans. They will respond with an all-out attack, ranging from insulting your political leaders to mocking Britains caste system. However, should you inadvertently insult your hosts, remember that four out of five Americans dislike and distrust the French Government. Hence, changing the subject to matters related to French foreign policy may prove a safe out. Proceed with caution, though, as pollsters report 20 pc of Americans still think France is our ally.

QUERY: theres no accounting for taste

ANSWER: Preach it, brother.

QUERY: moral corruption

ANSWER: Yes, it IS that time for all the weird search queries, isnt it? Glad you brought it up, because the searches are weirder than ever this month.

QUERY: free sneezing porn

ANSWER: See what we mean?

QUERY: women bathing in custard

ANSWER: Good googly moogly. NO.

QUERY: hippie girls naked

ANSWER: Dude! Give it up already!

QUERY: naughty conversation starters for adults

ANSWER: Inform everyone at the party that Louie will soon be in attendance.

QUERY: crass consumerism college

ANSWER: Phew. Were back to the relatively normal searches.

Anyway, yes, college is rife with crass consumerism, as many students have lots of money but no bills. The fun part is that many students indulge in crass consumerism while professing to hate it. We are sorry, but if you want a simpler life, kids, you ought ditch the sport-utility vehicle which your folks gave you.

QUERY: should heirloom rings be given as engagement

ANSWER: We dont see anything wrong with this. After all, you are getting married, and if you can save yourself five thousand on the ring, thats a real bonus.

QUERY: ben kepple role model

ANSWER: Oh, God well, we do try, although the very prospect is scary.

QUERY: facts about ben kepple

ANSWER: Were two inches taller, a better dancer, and much more fun to be with, if we do say so ourselves. Also we are useful to have at dinner parties.

QUERY: ben kepple pics

ANSWER: Um. Gee. Thats somewhat flattering. Now might be a good time to remind readers (especially our single female readers) that we can be contacted at ben at benkepple dot com. Again, thats ben at benkepple dot com.

QUERY: dreaming about ben

ANSWER: Really?

QUERY: nice guy not attracted to him

ANSWER: Dont worry, weve very much gotten used to this. God save us.

Well, thats it for this months edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next month, when we examine breakthroughs in food, the astonishing badness of Leonard, Part Six, and those GEICO auto-insurance commericals. Much good news to come, we can assure you. As for us, we're .... outta .... here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Distinctive Aura of Crappiness

THERE ARE few things in life which we reckon are doomed to fail right from the get-go. Even the most badly-conceived business venture may have a chance at success, and even the most foolish ideas may become workable inventions. Yet once in a great while, an idea comes along that is so particularly horrible that it carries with it a Distinctive Aura of Crappiness.

We would submit this proposed film, which People magazine informs us about, has that in spades:

Paris Hilton, 22, is still in line to play Daisy Buchanan, the object of bootlegger (and lavish partygiver) Jay Gatsby's affection, in a proposed movie remake of the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby, to be produced by 'N Sync veteran Lance Bass, reports FOX News and The Washington Post. Though Bass initially planned to star as Gatsby, The O.C. actor Chris Carmack reportedly is now in line for the role (played by Robert Redford in the much-maligned 1974 version; Mia Farrow played Daisy), and The Sopranos daughter Jamie-Lynn DiScala also is said to be penciled in for a role.

Dear God in Heaven. Doesn't the very idea seem to reek of failure? After all, if Redford and Farrow couldn't pull it off, how the devil would Paris Hilton and That Guy manage to escape the putrefying stench of stupidity and incompetence that would surround such a production?

(link via Sheila)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 29, 2004

As the Saying Had It: If Silence is Golden, They'd Be Bankrupt

Oh No!
Its Time for Yet Another Installment of
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A Recurring Rant Feature

NOW THAT The Rant is becoming more popular, according to our Information Technology Department, we have noticed that an increasing number of visitors are arriving here via search engines. This phenomenon has allowed us to harvest a significant amount of data from these visitors, and concurrently enabled us to draw several conclusions about the American search-engine-using public at large.

Dear God in Heaven what in hell goes through peoples minds when they enter these search terms? We know we are not the only blogger to encounter such things, but this is getting rather ridiculous. Anyway, here are a few of the things we have learned about this group of search-engine users:

Item. Many people who arrive at The Rant via search-engines appear to believe they can find vast quantities of high-quality sexually-explicit material here, and furthermore, receive this material for free. Our question is simple: what are these people thinking? We mean, come on. Aside from the fact we have no supply of such things, everyone knows that when there is a great demand for a given product or service, the supply will be priced accordingly and that applies for these goods too. We do cede the possibility the search-engine users may simply be canny, but this is still ridiculous.

Item. Others who arrive at The Rant via search-engines appear to believe they will find "scoops" about how certain celebrities lost weight or otherwise achieved figures that in an earlier age were associated with those living at municipal poorhouses. They will find no such things here, as it is fundamentally impossible for the regular citizen to achieve similar results. For one thing, regular citizens do not have the luxury of time, something which popular entertainers can use to exercise and such. For another, regular citizens do not have the benefits of makeup artists, tailored clothing, fancy hairstylists, etc. etc. We do not mean to be cruel pointing these things out, only to suggest peoples drive for such things may be a negative externality arising from the celebrity-driven entertainment industry. So please stop worrying over such matters.

Item. Lastly, we would note that many people seem to arrive at The Rant over and over again using the same search queries, as if they thought wed have something new and exciting even when we didnt the last time. So, for those of you who KEEP LOOKING for information about transformed organizational models and how far can I go on $40,000, its NOT GOING TO BE HERE.

But enough. Lets see what the 10 percent of our total visitors were looking for when they arrived here via search engines:

QUERY: sample legal client letters defamation

ANSWER: You know, its a serious offense to practice law without a license. To assist you in avoiding possible criminal penalties, though, heres a quick little example:

Dear Mr Jones,

We were recently notified about your claims regarding our client, and your assertions as to his moral character and standing in the community. Furthermore, we wish to inform you that your statements (Damned Lies) have caused our client emotional distress, mental anguish, back pain, loss of consortium, and a wicked bad case of the gout.

As such, we write to inform you (The Rotten Bastard) our client has directed us to sue The Rotten Bastard at our earliest opportunity, unless The Rotten Bastard retracts his Damned Lies to our clients neighbors, friends, and the television news crew to which The Rotten Bastard spoke. Furthermore, our client wishes for The Rotten Bastard to inform his relations and in-laws (Scumbags) to cease and desist from impugning our clients integrity among residents in town.

We trust you will take appropriate action to rectify this unfortunate (Avoidable) matter in a timely fashion.

Sincerely,


John Smith, Associate
Blood, Sweat, Tears & Phlegm, P.A.

QUERY: build condo land cost

ANSWER: Location, location, location. Dude. You should know that already.

QUERY: net worth mean distribution 2003

ANSWER: You want the median distribution. Its a better statistical picture.

QUERY: investment blogspot

ANSWER: Youd now have to buy shares in Google (NASD: GOOG) -- *cough* -- to do that. If youre willing to pay $100+ per share to do that, well, thats your business.

QUERY: blogspot bandwidth what is

ANSWER: From our own experience ... well, we have not used the service in a year, so it may have changed.

QUERY: first class cabin lavatory

ANSWER: If youre looking to join the Mile-High Club, you had best not do it on any flight on which were flying.

QUERY: wall street alpaca 2004

ANSWER: We dont know why everyone is so interested in alpacas as an investment opportunity all of a sudden. Theyre alpacas, for Gods sakes.

QUERY: utilitarian view on bribes

ANSWER: The utilitarian view on bribery is that it is a bad thing. Let us say that Employee A of Company B bribes Poor Corrupt Official C in the small Central Asian nation of Stanistan. This might be eventually uncovered some time down the line, in which case Federal Agency D (the Department of Justice) will make life living hell for Company B due to that pesky Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Therefore, we can see that bribery would be a most unfortunate course of action for any company official to consider if he is attempting to win business overseas. Youre going to have to do things the old-fashioned way and get a local partner, who will proceed to loot the enterprise and make lots of dubious commitments on your companys behalf, for which you will still be footing the bill some two decades later..

QUERY: historic tulips bulbs

ANSWER: Theyre tulips, for Gods sakes. We went through this once. Do you really want to start trouble in Holland again?

QUERY: labor shortage demography

ANSWER: This is so cool. Basically, in about ten years, all the baby boomers are going to start retiring, meaning a wonderful shortage of labor will result. As such, all of us young folks are going to make out like bandits.

QUERY: early to bed early to rise crap

ANSWER: No disagreement here, my friend.

QUERY: sacto volkswagen bugs for sell

ANSWER: Sale. S-A-L-E, sale. Aiya.

QUERY: what is mandatory retirement scheme?

ANSWER: How old are you? Sixty four? Well, buddy, youre about to find out.

QUERY: dennett where am I?

ANSWER: Hey, if you dont know, dont look to us for any answers.

QUERY: serenading your girlfriend

ANSWER: You know, quite frankly, we cant think this is a good idea. This goes especially if you are in high school and trying to think of great ways to impress your date. We would suggest that taking her to a restaurant where she could order, we dont know, lobster or something, would work better.

QUERY: the torture scene in 2fast 2furious isnt possible

ANSWER: Son, NOTHING in 2fast 2furious was possible.

QUERY: define acedic

ANSWER: Being in a state of acedia, that is, spiritual sloth. Great, great word.

QUERY: sexy female friend in dhaka

ANSWER: You like asking for trouble, dont you?

QUERY: essays about impact of hotels logos in dubai

ANSWER: Drop the class. Drop it now.

QUERY: pittsburgh steelers americas team

ANSWER: Right on.

QUERY: celebrities who are impulsive

ANSWER: Most of them, if the "news" reports are any guide.

QUERY: the lyrics to the chipmunks song things out there

ANSWER: Its queries like this that make us fear for the safety of the Republic.

QUERY: why people enslaved in vices?

ANSWER: Why indeed? Personally, we believe its because the vices which offer short-term happiness but long-term trouble are easier to obtain than the long-term benefits of living a virtuous life.

QUERY: wicca spells to give me the powers of speed good hearing high jumps good fighting and fast healing.

ANSWER: There are two possible answers to your query. The first is that Mortal Kombat, no matter how fun, is just a game. The second is that these things may be possible, but only if you invoke Dieter, God of Health Club Membership Contracts. Sacrifice to him, on each Tuesday of every other month, mind you, the following: four raw carrots, one rose bush and an alpaca. In six months, or less, you will receive a letter which you must forward to ten of your friends or risk contracting the scabies.

QUERY: black spots on the ceiling

ANSWER: You might want to call your insurance company. That, or get mildew remover.

QUERY: i feel depressed because of the crucifixion

ANSWER: Understandable, but do recall that in the Christian tradition, there was a bright side to it.

QUERY: plastic surgery christians sin?

ANSWER: All depends on your personal motivations for having it. If you are having plastic surgery because of your own self-conceit or to get back at someone else or what not, then yes. If you want to feel better about yourself, then no.

QUERY: simon einspahr sick day

ANSWER: Hes over here.

QUERY: escorts kalamazoo

ANSWER: First we laughed at this. Then we realized it was theoretically possible, although not probable, that perhaps some of the students who attended our high school back in the day could have ended up in such a position. Now we are depressed.

QUERY: were not going to take it we are not going to take it anymore lyrics

ANSWER: This is a tough one.

QUERY: new haven best pizza in america

ANSWER: What are you, coked up? Everyone knows that the best pizza in America is in New York, if they like thin crust, or, if they like deep dish, Chicago.

QUERY: eighties movie featuring rejuvenated senior citizens

ANSWER: That would be Red Dawn.

QUERY: i worship celebrity

ANSWER: Get help.

QUERY: wormsley w. the white man will eat you!

ANSWER: OK, the questions are starting to get a bit weird.

QUERY: which auto companys name is adapted from the latin word meaning i rolled?

ANSWER: That would be Mitsubishi.

QUERY: ugly nude playing cards

ANSWER: Oh dear.

QUERY: how to do a legal grind

ANSWER: Dip it low. Pick it up slow. Continue as directed. Now if youll excuse us, The Rants Standards Department has just sent us an angry memorandum.

QUERY: what age to teach children to use a gun?

ANSWER: This is a better question for someone with familiarity with weapons, as we not only do not own a weapon, we have never fired one.

QUERY: dear god we could use some good news right now

ANSWER: Couldnt we, though?

QUERY: should a woman wear something under her white shirt?

ANSWER: No.

QUERY: This is The Rants Standards Department. Please review Subject Matter Memoranda 14 through 16, which you authored last December, regarding prurient or otherwise objectionable content.

ANSWER: All right, all right, all right.

QUERY: office dress code short skirt

ANSWER: Do NOT wear a short skirt to the office. You are a professional, and as such, should endeavor to pursue your work without causing any distractions to your coworkers.

QUERY: The Rants Standards Department thanks you for your adherence to Subject Matter Memoranda 14 through 16.

ANSWER: Youre quite welcome. (Stupid corporate governance regulations wed fire these impertinent dullards if we had the chance, but NO, the Board the Board! said we needed them. But Bennnnnnnnn, we need internal controls, blah blah blah. Gad.)

QUERY: american life too hard

ANSWER: Of course its hard. You dont want to end up like the Europeans, do you, with their economic stagnation and pension-system troubles? No, you do not. That would be bad.

QUERY: paris hilton starve

ANSWER: This sounds more like a request. Be nice!

QUERY: affair=moral turpitude?

ANSWER: Of COURSE it is, you pox-ridden layabout!

QUERY: americans are going to the polls on guy fawkes day

ANSWER: Yeah, but nobody in America remembers who Guy Fawkes was, so thats not much of an issue, is it? Which reminds us why is the day named after the guy who tried to destroy Parliament? Why not name the day after the guy who discovered the plot?

Well, thats it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next month when we examine well, more of the same, except we expect the queries will be even more outlandish and silly than ever before. Its happened every month since weve had this thing, and we see no reason why it wont continue. Until then, good luck and Godspeed. Or something.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:04 PM | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

Celebrate! Celebrate!

WE HAVE RECENTLY learned that many bloggers are shocked and appalled at seeing one of their colleagues wear a T-shirt they found offensive and gauche. Apparently, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame has modeled a shirt which has pictures of various firearms on it, along with the tagline "Celebrate Diversity." This has prompted great scorn from certain other bloggers. In the aggregate, these bloggers claim Prof Reynolds' promotion of the shirt stands as prima facie evidence that he is a) clueless, b) racist, or c) both.

The first criticism which we saw of the matter came from one Duncan Black. Dr Black, whom we understand is an economist, wrote the following upon seeing Prof Reynolds in the shirt:

oy. I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of hours. I want to make clear that this isn't a shot at instapundit, cheap or otherwise, but something I think it's necessary to point out. I'm no fan of the guy, and think he's quite frequently been the transmitter of some truly hateful ideas (blaming the victims of genocide, for one), but in this case I think he's just clueless ...

... There's a serious subtext here which is totally obvious to me that I think should be pointed out. Now, I don't think everyone who has purchased a shirt like this has purchased it with the subtext in mind, but nonetheless the message is clear.

The caption is "celebrate diversity." The colors of the caption are commonly used pan-African colors: red, yellow, and green. While, for many, the "joke" (though, I'm not sure why it's funny) is that here diversity is a diversity of guns. Ha ha. But, look, the clear message here is that the way to celebrate diversity, particularly that pan-African diversity, is to buy a bunch of fucking guns. In other words, celebrate diversity by arming yourself ...

Perhaps it's just us, but we have never much cared for this trend in which people who criticize others feel the need to slap some sort of veneer over their criticism. It sounds like a great party trick an old friend of ours once told us about in the event we needed to detach ourselves from a conversation. All one needed to do, our friend advised, was to loudly say something like this: "But, Ted, I'M NOT SAYING YOU'RE CLUELESS."

Well, Dr Black is loudly saying this to Prof Reynolds. Therefore it is a shot, no matter how much he might want to paper over it. Had he merely been concerned, he would have simply sent Prof Reynolds a private e-mail to that effect. Instead, he decided to write about it in a blog entry, an act which he could reasonably assume would cause great controversy.

Now, we admit we do not fully understand the thrust of Dr Black's complaint. For one thing, as he admits later in his post, Prof Reynolds is wearing a different version of the shirt without the pan-African colors. Oops. Gee, that would seem to discredit his entire argument, wouldn't it?

But that is not the only counter-argument one could make. Another would be that this shirt is similar to those posters, popular among undergraduates, which proudly note the opportunities one has in college to drink. Further, since the shirt itself has the firearms as its main focal point, one cannot find anything suspect in that. Lastly, we would submit that the T-shirt vendor almost certainly did not intend to use these colors in the way Dr Black seems to think the vendor is using them. Such a move would represent the type of cleverness or stupidity one usually only finds in devotees of Keynesianism.

Dr Black, however, is far more restrained in his words than other bloggers, particularly one Steve Gilliard. Mr Gilliard writes as follows:

I think Glenn Reynolds is either the most clueless law professor at the University of Tennessee or the kind of sick racist who doesn't have the balls to wear a Klan robe or burn a cross. There are thousands of gun shirts. You want to walk around with an MP-5K shirt, you can find one. AK-47, no problem. But that noxious shirt is one no decent person would wear, because there is no joke in it. A number of handguns and "celebrate diversity" on it implies something pretty dark and evil. Especially with the colors used on the white shirt, red, yellow and green. You would have to be a moron not to see the pan-African connotation with. I mean, you have easily made that shirt with the tag line "variety is the spice of life", the joke made, and not even the most hypersensitive liberal could say a word. Reynolds even jokes about wearing it to a faculty meeting, something he doesn't have the balls to do because he would be called on it ...

... Reynolds has said any number of biased, unfair and truly repellent things on his site. Which is his right. But this crosses a rather broad line. I mean, where does he keep this shirt, next to his Wehrmacht World Tour and Hitler: No More Mister Nice Guy shirts.

I think it's time we start asking people, like his boss, how his views and public statements coincide with the education provided by the University of Tennessee.

Oh dear.

Now, one can see from Mr Gilliard's words that he is a very sober person, the type who probably finds no room for humor in things he considers important, the type who probably gets frustrated when people don't see things the way he does. So we can deduce he means what he says here, even though one would have to be a moron to equate wearing this T-shirt with support for a regime which exterminated ten million people in concentration camps.

In any event, Mr Gilliard does not stop there. With a broadside that will undoubtedly depress political staff and newspaper letters-editors, he encourages his readers to write Tennessee-area newspapers as well as that state's Congressional delegation. He writes:

What to say?

Just ask them if they agree that a professor at the state's public university should be advertising a shirt which opposes diversity. Do they find the message on the shirt representative of both the school and the state's policy of allowing access for all citizens to it's law school, especially after the state's regretable history of racial bias and segregation.

I don't think anyone should call for him getting fired or shutting down his website or anything draconian like that. Just inquire as to whether they share his beliefs, if he is a fitting representative of the University of Tennessee's College of Law, and if that shirt and his public association as a professor at that school represents the values and ethos of his employer, the state of Tennessee.

After all public employees across the United States have been sanctioned for expressing racially hostile opinions...

Again we have this paper-thin veneer of civility, that curse of our modern age. One would have to be a -- well, charitably inclined person -- not to suspect Mr Gilliard's intent with his raving about. It is unfortunate that Mr Gilliard, unknown and unrecognized, sees fit to attack the learned Prof Reynolds in such a manner.

However, while Mr Gilliard and Dr Black both miss the target completely with their work, we do feel Mr Gilliard has noticed one thing which Dr Black missed. Namely, Mr Gilliard recognizes the shirt could be construed to poke fun at the whole modern way we promote diversity. The shirt obviously does not oppose diversity in itself, which all recognize as a good thing -- but it could, were one looking for such a message, be construed to criticize the way that message has been disseminated.

Of course, that modus operandi is an easy target. We note that in present-day America, celebrations of diversity do not generally involve celebrating at all. Instead, they involve dreary employee-training videos informing workers of Basic Professional Etiquette, and boring mandatory seminars in windowless rooms where workers are browbeaten into accepting that they and their organizations are inherently discriminatory. At the extreme, such celebrations may even involve Government inquiries into the conduct of private businesses -- and those despite the fact that nearly all of the businesses being investigated have been celebrating diversity with full force and cheer for years, if not decades.

We do not submit that such celebrations should come to an end, of course. But we do think that if the celebrations were done in a different manner, they might prove more effective, and would improve employee productivity and morale. A cash bar would be nice too.

(via Capitalist Lion)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:07 PM | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

A Cavalcade of Idiocy

IT IS NOT OFTEN we find something so particularly stupid it makes our blood boil any more, but we must thank James Lileks for alerting us to a gross instance of such imbecility. We must also thank the good people at Pfizer Inc. for developing the sedative that we took immediately after reading about it. Without them, our system would have undoubtedly collapsed again and we'd have spent a week in hospital.

Mr Lileks, you should know, has alerted the world to this fun group of people. This fun group of people apparently believes that capitalism oppresses the common people or some such nonsense. Therefore, they came up with the idea of switching bar codes on various store products. They also developed a rant against bar-coding. It may be satire, although it was so unfunny that we wonder if they weren't actually serious. Hell, it was so unfunny we're surprised they left the old saw about bar codes being a satanic plot out. You know, mark of the Beast and all that.

Anyway, Mr Lileks has done the yeoman's job of ripping all this idiocy to shreds, but our main complaint is broader. Quite frankly, we don't understand how people can attack capitalism as a system when they have no demonstrable grasp of how economics works. As Exhibit A in this case, we present the following rant from this fun group of people:

It is our contention that with such gross injustice on the part of these large corporations, that consumer theft is a process that works to radically liberate the stolen capital. Whil Consumer theft is still below the yearly estimated averages of Corporate theft, it is working hard to bring justice where courts have failed. It should also be noted that the risks associated with consumer theft are usually much greater than those associated with consumer theft. This means that an 18 year old girl stealing a set of AA Batteries from Wal Mart faces tougher faces most likely a longer prison sentence than a board of directors member of Enron corporation responsible for villions of dollars in theft. It's a tough job liberating capital, but due to uncontrollable circumstances our heroes are out there in the aisles everyday.

Good God. We mean, they didn't even edit the thing before they posted it, something which Mr Lileks also gleefully notes. It amazes us that such people think they should be taken seriously. (VILLIONS of dollars indeed!)

Now, in the interest of harmony, we certainly do not mean to suggest that everyone who takes a certain economic view of life is lacking in intelligence. This is clearly not the case. Still, why -- HOW -- can people continue to believe, in this day and age, that outright theft is liberating capital? For one thing, it's stealing, and that's wrong. For another, stealing goods in and of itself does not represent any type of capital gain, as the capital is not generally convertible.

If Person A takes a box of cookies from the store, Person A has .... cookies. We sincerely doubt that Person A is going to stand in a back alley trying to unload his illegally-obtained 8.6 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm (R) Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Dark Chocolate Brownie Cookies. And even if he did, he would not profit much from it, as they are already cheap. Cookies are not a scarce good.

Now, we will cede that if Person B steals a consumer good -- say he absconds with a spatula from the home goods department -- he will not be spending the capital he would have spent on the spatula in the first place. Yet this savings would be so low that Person B cannot help but dissipate said capital on something like his electric bill. Capital is no good if it is wasted. So, clearly, stealing goods is almost always useless -- even on a large scale. Look how often we hear about thieves who abscond with a freezer-trailer of meat.

This leads us to our final point, which is by far the most important. Namely, theft -- no matter how large or small -- destroys capital. It is not merely that theft acts as a disincentive to produce things, either.

Let us say that Shopkeeper C loses $30 in goods every day due to outright theft from the wretches taken in by this fraud of an idea. We can easily see that $30 per day adds up to $10,950 per year. This is enough money to provide some poor high school kid with a job for the summer. It is probably enough to spend on capital goods, such as a sandwich wrapper or something. If that money is pumped into the economy, it creates more money.

If people want to be better off, they can start by helping the authorities crack down on theft of material goods from honest merchants and enterprises. Think about it.

This fun group of people claims that retail losses run $33.21bn per annum. Shoplifting reportedly accounts for $13.28bn at the high end. Now, think about what would happen if that $13.28bn was injected back into the economy.

* It would have the economic impact of lowering gasoline prices 10 cents per gallon, based on a $1.3bn/penny economic impact.
* It could fund New Jersey's Government for about six months.
* If the benefits were distributed equally among every American, it would represent an average cash benefit of roughly $13 to each American household, based on 103m American households.
* If every household in America put that $13 in a banking institution, it would have the effect of increasing the money supply by $117 billion, based on U.S. banks having a reserve requirement of 10 percent. We do not claim this would impact interest rates at the national or international level. We do, however, submit this could make getting a car loan slightly easier -- after all, the banks aren't going to just sit on the money. And that would create MORE money, and so on. That's how capitalism works.

Given all this, we can't see why people smart enough to put together a Web site, no matter how badly-edited, would encourage theft. Oh, they say it's satire in their disclaimer, but they're doing it just the same. Then they have the gall to attack perfectly legitimate forms of commerce as theft -- although that does not hold, apparently, when it comes to giving them donations, donations which by their definition are tainted with workers' blood and the stink of capital. As they say:

Donations are accepted and gifts given in return not as a way to make a profit but only as a way to support the existence of this site which we hope to see become a discussion point for the large gap between corporate and consumer theft.

Oh, come now. Surely such an enlightened group can fund such an endeavor out of the goodness of their hearts!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A SPECIAL Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Recurring Rant Feature

BASED ON AMAZING feedback from readers to our previous installment of "Your Search Engine Queries Answered," we present a special SECOND monthly edition of this popular Rant Feature. Apparently, many of our readers just had to come back for more. So here goes:

QUERY: heather nauert

ANSWER: Out of your league.

QUERY: 1992 pimped out subaru legacy

ANSWER: He's pretty fly for a white guy, isn't he?

QUERY: notel motel

ANSWER: Hotel! Motel! Holi-day INN! We'll be back with more "Rap Music for Suburbanites" after these messages. We said a hip hop, the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop, you don't stop, rock it out baby bubbah to the boogie -- da bang bang the boogie to the boogie da beat.

QUERY: moral turpitude examples

ANSWER: We happen to have some right here!

QUERY: public nudity

ANSWER: This, along with the search string 'sex actress,' is routinely among the top five searches which lead people to The Rant. Thus, we are the Internet equivalent of a really cold shower.

Ah, schadenfreude. It's such an awful thing -- but so great at the same time.

QUERY: southern california gangster girls naked

ANSWER: Observe the Aeon Flux fan, all grown up.

QUERY: greenspan porn

ANSWER: OK, now we just spewed an entire Diet Coke with Lime all over our keyboard. Time to move on!



Markets rose sharply yesterday as FOMC Chairman Alan Greenspan
testified before Congress about his weekend on Cialis.

QUERY: why does the automobile industry rely on just-in-time delivery in its manufacturing processes and wholesale/retail operations?

ANSWER: It worked for Toyota. Plus, it cuts down on unneccessary purchases, and as such keeps inventory costs to a minimum. However, there are also many added benefits for companies using the system, such as a dramatic improvement in product quality. For much more on the just-in-time inventory system, see this page from which we learned rather a lot.

QUERY: what does the acronym amscray mean

ANSWER: There's a little "X" button in the upper-right hand corner of your browser window. Click it, please.

QUERY: why is reality television bad

ANSWER: Have you watched any recently? Good God. We're still traumatized from when our brother exposed us to five minutes of "The Anna Nicole Smith Show." Apparently it's gotten even worse.

QUERY: why do we watch reality television

ANSWER: Beats the hell out of us why you do.

QUERY: amor omnia vincit

ANSWER: It's true. There is no greater civilizing force on earth than love -- power and money and learning pale in comparison to it. You know, it's almost as if love acts like a shield; it protects a man from his wretched earthly desires and keeps him focused on the things that matter. That's to say nothing of the ...

Oh! Sorry. Got lost there for a moment.

QUERY: rail thin and sexy

ANSWER: Mutually exclusive. We are sorry, but we're just not into the whole "Hi! I look like I'm a heroin addict!" thing.

QUERY: short skirt long jacket cake lyrics meaning analysis

ANSWER: Smart women rock.

QUERY: tallahassee popcorn popper rental

ANSWER: If you don't have the capital to buy the popcorn-popper outright, you are in serious financial straits.

QUERY: 10 places people would most likely to visit in manitoba

ANSWER: If you find one, do let us know.

QUERY: oregon is a weird state

ANSWER: Well, yeah.

QUERY: can spoilt milk make you sick

ANSWER: Maybe all those warning labels on electrical products, such as DO NOT USE UNDER RUNNING WATER, were designed for people like this.

QUERY: alpaca pyramid investment fraud

ANSWER: You invested in alpacas? Hmmmmm. Did we mention we're selling shares in Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc.? Now listed on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market!

QUERY: (name deleted) hedge fund

ANSWER: No whammies! NO WHAMMIES! -- STOP! -- Oh, dammit.



Hedge fund manager Ted Whammy goes to work as a customer watches.

QUERY: chipmunks song

ANSWER: ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLVIN!

QUERY: girl all the bad guys want review focus on the family

ANSWER: It's just a guess, but we're betting they didn't much care for it.

QUERY: mike tyson has the true spirit of christ

ANSWER: Homer Simpson said it best: "I'm a Spaulding Gray in a Rick Dees world!"

QUERY: hedgehogs log ramps belgian gates

ANSWER: It's either the weirdest eighth-grade science project America has ever seen, or the European Union is truly out of control.

QUERY: does society put too much emphasis on wealth

ANSWER: Of course it does. Why the devil do you think everyone is so concerned with what other people are making?

QUERY: spells to win the lottery

ANSWER: See what we mean? Here we have a person attempting to harness the evil forces of the spiritual world for shameless personal benefit. He will assuredly fail in this endeavor and get snickered at for owning patchouli.

QUERY: commercials are pornography for capitalism

ANSWER: Yeah, but the socialist pornography consists of television test patterns and movies where people get to enjoy decadent potatoes for meals, sometimes as much as three times per day.

QUERY: spell to win a lottary

ANSWER: Bad news. You lost.

QUERY: national spelling bee sermons

ANSWER: And lo! Clarence DID spell the word SERAPHIM and he DID win the Ernest Kringely Elementary School spelling bee in SIXTH grade. Then it was on to the REGIONALS, where he was summarily drummed out after misspelling the word MALLET. He misspelled it with an O. And the multitudes DID snicker at his distress and his physical CLUMSINESS, and he was NOT invited to join the FOOTBALL squad. Thus endeth the lesson.

QUERY: i broke off my engagement who get the ring

ANSWER: Not you.

QUERY: breaking up chest congestion

ANSWER: A really hot shower does wonders for this. Make sure to breathe in the steam; in fact, if you have a shower where you can blast the hot water without having to get in it, that works best. Spend a few minutes in it, but make sure you don't get overheated. Then hack all the phlegm out.

QUERY: volkswagen bus van nude

ANSWER: Dude. It's not the Seventies any more. Give it up.

QUERY: alderson federal prison photo

ANSWER: Whoa. Gee, and we thought we had problems.

QUERY: mercury sable overheating

ANSWER: It's either the fan or your radiator, although we suppose it could also be a coolant hose problem. Get it checked out before your car blows a gasket or something.

QUERY: gee our old lasalle ran great

ANSWER: ... THOSE ... WERE THE DAYS!

QUERY: kangaroo meat taste like

ANSWER: Chicken.

QUERY: aware of one's heart beat

ANSWER: Yes, actually we are. It bounces around like a racquetball inside our chest, as someone once put it, due to our particularly horrible lifestyle.

QUERY: i want to be featured in ben kepple's next month's your search engine queries answered

ANSWER: Promptly dealing with our readers' concerns -- that's what we're all about here at Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc. (A Bermuda Corporation)! Tune in next month when we address cable systems in Fond du Lac, Wis., whatever happened to Fiona Apple, and people who want to redecorate paneling.

Oh, God. We almost don't want to know.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Why California Taxed Us at 9.3 pc

WE NOTE WITH DISPLEASURE this excerpt, via Meg McArdle, from a story in The Wall Street Journal about Internet crime:

Come September, Mr. Fawrup will be on a new antifraud beat. He's been reassigned to a unit in Commerce, Calif., that investigates people who try to redeem empty cans, bottles and plastic from out of state. The project director of the high-tech crimes task force, Lt. Rick Craigo, says Mr. Fawrup will be replaced. But both men agree their numbers are still too few to catch most Internet evildoers. Says Mr. Fawrup: "I've been able to do so little."

Now, we know readers will think we're upset California treats Beverage Can Fraud as a Public Scourge -- but we're actually not all that mad. We have learned that people have allegedly conducted some significant fraud over the years -- such as this reported $3 million fraud a few years back. Yes, you read that right -- $3 million! Clearly, with potential profits like that, policing is warranted.

What does annoy us, though, is that California had to do things its way -- which is to say it fouled things up immensely -- when it created the law in the first place. A system like Michigan's would have been far smarter. With that system, one takes one's bottles back to any store and redeems them for cash.

The advantages to Michigan's system are clear.

First, all retailers collect the deposits -- we assume they make money on the recyclable material, and we imagine as a whole retailers get to keep any overage that occurs because some folks throw the recyclables out.

Second, it turns the recyclables into a valuable alternative currency. We can assure readers that when we were in school, back at Ann Arbor, empty Coke cans were as good as money.

Finally, though, it cuts down on fraud -- scofflaws are caught when they do stupid things, such as spend three hours at an automatic collection site. Also, retailers can set limits on how much one redeems at any one time (e.g. $10) and an alert shop clerk can keep an eye out for Ohio cans or some such. The end results are that the regular police deal with any lawbreakers, there are no costly special police agencies, and the state does not lose out on revenue. That means in Michigan, folks like Mr Fawrup can deal with the really bad criminals, and people don't get infuriated with their Government's incompetence.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:40 PM | TrackBack

Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Recurring Rant Feature

YES, IT'S TIME AGAIN to provide Quick and Easy Enlightenment to those Rant readers who have arrived here via a search engine. Readers unfamiliar with this recurring feature, which we write about once a month, should know we provide this service regularly for these readers. And boy, you would not believe the searches we get -- for we can assure you all of these queries come from our actual search logs.

So let's have at it:

QUERY: dean esmay

ANSWER: He would be over here. That said, on your way out, please pick up a copy of Form 1252, Explanation for Why You Came to The Rant When It Was Much Easier to Go to Someone Else's Site in the First Place.

QUERY: fingernail strengthening

ANSWER: Hoo boy, they're getting weird on us already. Ah, gee -- fingernail strengthening -- Gad. Um. Get one of those mini treadmill things like they have in the Bud Light commercials, and you'll be set.

QUERY: emoticon burglar

ANSWER: Good God! They've taken all the smiley faces! THEY'VE TAKEN ALL THE SMILEY FACES! Jenkins! Sound the alarm! Stone! Man the helicopters! We're facing Threat Level One! We've got to ...

...oh, wait. They fell down behind the desk. Never mind, everybody.

QUERY: magnet therapy for lumber spondylosis

ANSWER: It sounds like it'll take a lot more than some frickin' magnets.

QUERY: what were they thinking stupid names celebrities give their children

ANSWER: We don't know either.

QUERY: i need a woman in london to marry as my life partner with their e mail address name in 2004

ANSWER: You need analysis.

QUERY: reduce man breasts

ANSWER: Jogging! It's the wave of the future! On the other hand, if you actually do have a hormonal imbalance, you'll want to talk with your doctor.

QUERY: utilitarian views of interoffice dating

ANSWER: The utilitarian view regarding dating coworkers is that it would be a bad thing. This is because Party A (the man) and Party B (the woman) could enter into a relationship, and decrease their usefulness to the corporation as a whole. Then, when the relationship eventually collapsed, it would reduce the usefulness of Parties A and B to practically nil, making coworkers C through F angry and frustrated about doing their work. There is also the potential that Party G (the Equal Employment Oppportunity Commission), Party L (a practicing attorney) and Party M (a federal mediator) could get involved, which would have severe consequences for the corporation. Therefore, we can see the utilitarian view of dating coworkers is that it is to be strongly discouraged.

That said, when did strict utilitarians start getting dates?

QUERY: mcdonalds fiesta salad calorie content

ANSWER: Here's a hint. It has taco meat and sour cream. Get the grilled chicken caesar salad instead. And no croutons!

QUERY: who did ali landry marry?

ANSWER: A bum.

QUERY: effects on the american economy when jobs are lost

ANSWER: Well, they're not good.

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ANSWER: We don't want to know.

QUERY: midriff in the office

ANSWER: Cover it.

QUERY: wedding reception boxed wine

ANSWER: Please be advised that under the laws and statutes of certain States, serving boxed wine at a wedding reception does free the brother-in-law from any legal consequences stemming from his subsequent debauchery and violence against the other guests. However, you may wish to also upgrade your umbrella liability-insurance policy as a result.

QUERY: tax implication futures trading

ANSWER: Well, at least you'll have losses to counter-balance any potential gains.

QUERY: scots invention double entry bookkeeping

ANSWER: The Italians invented it. Luca Pacioli, 1494.

QUERY: threaten neighbor with gun

ANSWER: Not a good idea.

QUERY: how to live on $40 000. per year?

ANSWER: You'd be surprised how easy it is. In fact, millions upon millions of American families live on even less per annum. That said, if you live in a city, learn how to cook pasta.

QUERY: dating a journalist

ANSWER: We at The Rant are experts in this field, and we can assure you that all journalists are witty, smart, handsome and potentially wealthy mates. For more information on dating journalists, write us at ben-at-benkepple-dot-com. Heck, to date a journalist, write us at ben-at-benkepple-dot-com. Again, that's ben-at-benkepple-dot-com.

QUERY: is retirement suppose to be fun?

ANSWER: God, we hope so.

QUERY: utilitarian perspective on non smoking laws

ANSWER: The utilitarian view on non-smoking laws is that they are a good thing, as it gives justification for utilitarians to be preachy and annoying towards smokers.

QUERY: smoking cessation vacation

ANSWER: Take at least two weeks. You'll need it just to sweat all the nicotine out of your system. But beware the dreaded side effects, such as being happy, sad and angry all at the same time.

QUERY: kordell stewart s hail mary vs. michigan

ANSWER: Why don't you go to hell?

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ANSWER: What the ... how? HOW did you arrive here at The Rant with a search like that?!

QUERY: this quiet earth movie

ANSWER: We liked it! Good good foreign film.

QUERY: nudity in american culture -porn -escorts -hot -racy

ANSWER: Observe the graduate student, and pity him.

QUERY: transubstantiation and carbs

ANSWER: The Body of Christ, as far as we know, is perfectly acceptable under all forms of no- and low-carbohydrate diets.

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ANSWER: We're sorry. You've entered a logical paradox that our system cannot reconcile. Please try again.

QUERY: sale of the beverage champale in the atlanta georgia area

ANSWER: Oh, God. Champale. Folks, if you knew what this stuff is, you'd be as concerned as we are about this entry.

QUERY: christians saying gosh

ANSWER: It's acceptable. Trust us.

QUERY: ben kepple getting his head cut off

ANSWER: Ah .... hooo boy. Uh. Gee. That really is in the log file. Fortunately, however, we know full well there is no way this malcontent can get through The Rant's triple-redundant office security system and our heavily-armed security squads!

Well, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered. Tune in next time when we look at alpaca pyramid investment frauds, fault lines in Wisconsin, and why anyone would engage in a "rent-to-own" transaction over a popcorn popper in Tennessee. In the meantime, we're going to hide underneath our desk.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Upward and Onward

OVER AT SAMIZDATA, Dale Amon has posted some interesting excerpts from court filings in a, well, novel property-law case.

It would appear that Gregory Nemitz, a resident of Carson City, Nev., has laid claim to the asteroid of Eros (Asteroid No. 433), which orbits the Sun at an average distance of some 146 million miles. Mr Nemitz has come up with the idea of setting up a colony on Eros to exploit its mineral wealth -- and if the idea is to work, the developer must have ownership of the rock in its entirety.

(Yes, it is amazing that we allow people to file such lawsuits -- although, as we understand it from Mr Amon, the idea is to force the property-law issue and not the claim. That said, we would note Mr Nemitz's case is now before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after a U.S. District Court slapped it down. Given the Ninth Circuit, we are half-expecting to read in the papers that Mr Nemitz has been awarded ownership not just of Eros, but half the asteroid belt).

Anyway, the Government's defense in this case is that Mr Nemitz cannot own Eros. It cites the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which forbids national Governments from appropriating celestial objects or otherwise making claim to them. Therefore, it reasons, Mr Nemitz is -- to use the legal term -- Shit Out of Luck. Furthermore, it is Most Certainly Not going to pay the $20 parking fee which he charged it for letting the Shoemaker craft land on Eros some years back.

As you can see, Mr Nemitz has been clever in planning all this out. A pity he put the cart before the horse.

For we do fear his plan falls short in a few key areas -- the most important being that he cannot enforce his claim. For that matter, none of the various people who have attempted to claim extraterrestrial land over the years can enforce their claims. This is, quite simply, because they can't get to the properties in question, and no Government has jurisdiction in these areas.

Yet what happens when either or both of those two conditions no longer holds? That to us is the real interesting question.

We would submit a lot of these legal issues will be based -- at least at the outset -- around the old squatters-rights concept. It is true this could lead to a situation one step short of anarchy: if some idiot tries to evict an honest citizen from his moon condo, because of a "title" to the land issued in 1955, the idiot may just get his space helmet filled with buckshot. But it does not have to be that way (and for a lot of examples why, see the work of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto).

After all, what if a link was made between property-improvement and its titling? We don't see why such a system could not be established in future to deal with land and property claims in outer space, whether through Governments based in space (in 1000 years, they might exist) or through Earth-based Governments which had made the sensible decision to scrap the Outer Space Treaty and open the last frontier up to development.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Rant Statement on Celebrity-Related Discord

By HARRIS SCHWED
Financial Rant

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc., an Internet content provider based here, today issued the following transcript from a conference call discussing celebrity-related matters:

---------------

Mr KEPPLE, Chief Executive Officer: Good morning! Thanks, everyone, for your time. We know you're busy.

ANALYSTS: Good morning!

Mr KEPPLE: We have joining me today Quinn Quimbley, our vice president of sales and marketing, as well as senior vice president of finance Ted Hamilton. First, we'll deliver some short remarks, and then open the floor to questions.

After careful consideration, the Company has determined the entertainment industry's top performers have contributed to a general rise in discord among certain segments of the North American market. We understand that while only a fraction of these performers are responsible for this phenomenon, the result has been a general upward tick in negativity directed towards celebrities as a whole, and a significant increase in negativity vis-a-vis this fraction. The Company, after performing due diligence and thorough analyses of these data, sees fit to offer guidance that while there may be some risk, perhaps even high risk, of economic consequences for the aforementioned performers, the general effects upon the Company's activities will range from negligible to considerable, and that on the upside.

ANALYST: What?

Mr HAMILTON: Twenty -- percent -- margin!

ANALYSTS: YIPPEE!

Mr HAMILTON: Good gravy, folks, we mean the pot is clean! People can't get enough of all these crazy celebrity shenanigans! It's unbelievable! We've got rising indicators across the board!

Mr QUIMBLEY: I just bought a boat!

(EXCITED CROSSTALK)

ANALYST: Sir, this is Pieter Henrie with Land o' Shinar plc. What's this mean for the future of The Rant's celebrity coverage?

Mr QUIMBLEY: We see coverage on this front holding about steady, perhaps a slight increase over the next quarter. A thorough analysis of our past content shows no heated condemnation of celebrity antics, but rather a detached bemusement with it all that still makes our points. We will continue avoiding comment on these pronouncements of theirs. However, we believe the increased interest among certain market segments will drive revenues related to this sector higher.

ANALYST: A question for Mr Hamilton, if I may. Sir, this is Mark McAdoo from CuttlefishSpork Dominion. Do you see any expansion in terms of your labor force?

Mr HAMILTON: Did I mention we're having a stock buyback next quarter?

ANALYSTS: YIPPEE!

Mr HENRIE: I'll get my bonus. I'LL GET MY BONUS!

Mr QUIMBLEY: Everybody SAMBA!

(EXCITED CROSSTALK)

Mr McADOO: Um, you didn't answer my question.

Mr HAMILTON: Oh. Yes. Right. Well, Mark, as you know, we've always maintained high staff levels both here at our Bermuda headquarters and in our satellite offices, particularly in Grand Cayman, Hong Kong, and the Isle of Man. Plus, as you know, we recently established an office in Liechtenstein to further pursue our integration plans with our European distribution arm.

Mr McADOO: You still didn't answer my question.

Mr KEPPLE: Ha, ha! Mark, that's just a polite way of saying, "No, and you must be insane for wasting your one question on that." Next question, please.

ANALYST: Mr Kepple, this is Herbert Jones with ASK GmbH, and ...

Mr KEPPLE: Oh! How are things at Achtung Schnell Kauf?

Mr JONES: Fair to middlin'. Anyway, sir, how did the Company arrive at these conclusions?

Mr KEPPLE: Well, we gave considerable thought to this matter, especially given our past product lines, but we do think we arrived at a satisfactory conclusion to the question at hand.

We knew going into it that we cared little for what celebrities thought about such matters, as we had already made up our minds long before they came out with public pronouncements on this or that issue. Further, we knew that our sources of information -- namely, everything from Government reports to essays from respected writers -- proved better-sourced when compared with the one-off statements which these celebrities presented as gospel. The end result was we had no reason to even pay attention to these celebrities' opinions on anything, thus leaving us free to "enjoy the music," as the kids say.

Mr HAMILTON: Speaking of, I've got a Bose stereo in MY Lamborghini!

(EXCITED CROSSTALK)

Mr JONES: So these opinions were nullities, in your view?

Mr KEPPLE: Well, no, that's far too harsh. Our point is simply that people don't generally form their opinions based on what a celebrity thinks. Obviously, if a celebrity has truly studied an issue carefully, reading up on it and perhaps calling some of the experts on both sides, their opinions on that issue -- provided they are reasonably formulated -- could sway us. For instance, plenty of musicians have written eloquent articles about the business practices of the recording industry, which we have read with interest.

Mr JONES: Do you think celebrities' opinions change people's minds?

Mr KEPPLE: Not particularly. They're behind the curve. Well, except for Bono. But he was clever -- he picked an issue few people care about, and studied up on it. So whether one agrees with him or not, you have to at least give him a bit of respect for bringing up debt relief. As for whether celebrities should offer up these opinions in the first place ... hey, that's their business. It's their business, of course, that will prosper or suffer as a result.

ANALYST: Mr Kepple, this is Scalawag McGillicutty of Harpoon Hedge and Pequod. Does this mean you'll cut back on criticizing celebrities' actions?

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God, no!

Mr McGILLICUTTY: Thank God for that.

Mr KEPPLE: Good Lord. The very idea! No, we can assure you that we'll continue being right bastards when it comes to the quickie marriages, inappropriate public behavior, and general stupidity. Oh, and by the way, we're going to float some long-term debt soon. Any takers?

Mr McADOO: WE'LL DO IT!

OTHER ANALYSTS: US! PICK US!

(EXCITED CROSSTALK)

Mr KEPPLE: Well, thank you all for joining us today, and -- ah -- yes, we'll talk regarding the subordinate debentures. No, we don't know if they'll be callable yet. What? Two percent? Heh. Try one.

Thank you all, and good morning.

(END TRANSCRIPT)

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July 16, 2004

Giving the Other Fella Hell

GAWD. CAN YOU IMAGINE just how much fun the guys at the New York Daily News are having right about now? How often do journalists have the opportunity to get snippy in print with their hated rivals -- and yet not have to do any of the work that would normally entitle them to do so?

It's just unbelievable. What with Newsday getting slammed for adding a bit of nitro to the tanks and The New York Post getting slammed for -- well, lots of things -- we suspect the Daily News folks spend editorial meetings just biting their lips, mightily trying to keep themselves from laughing hysterically at it all. And as long as they can get through the next few weeks without a major screw-up of their own, they'll be golden.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Dear God, No!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today's Feature: (WORKING TITLE) POLICE ACADEMY 8

OK, FINE. So the creative brain trust behind the "Police Academy" franchise has only announced that an eighth "Police Academy" movie is in the works. So the movie will not actually hit theatres for months or years. So the film could, in theory, prove a hit with the God-fearing American Public.

We don't care.

For let's face it: the likelihood of "Police Academy 8" proving to be an enjoyable film is on par with the Juche Idea being accepted as a workable form of Government. Consider: these movies were so bad that Steve Guttenberg could only stomach appearing in four of them. Consider: these movies were so bad that Bobcat Goldthwait was the real star in several. And if that's not enough, consider this reportedly-true line in the DVD set's commentary, which writer G. Noel Gross noticed: "Hello, this is Michael Winslow from Police Academy one through infinity, and I could sure use a JOB right about now!"

Well, Mr Winslow apparently isn't alone. Consider these chilling words from the man behind "Police Academy," taken from a Reuters news agency report.

"I felt it was time to start again," said series creator Paul Maslansky. "I saw that 'Starsky & Hutch' and a number of other revivals were doing really well. 'Police Academy' has such a great history. I thought, 'Why not?"

According to Maslansky, who will serve as an executive producer, the talent from the first seven features has expressed a keen interest in the revival, with Maslansky looking to combine both new and the "original talent" for the next "Police Academy."

"We became very much like a family," he said. "It's is very unusual to have seven films with virtually all the same major cast."

Now, we have to give Mr Maslansky some grudging credit -- after all, he fully admits in the cited passage that his sole aim is to make money from his franchise. As a capitalist, we admire this, and we acknowledge his right to do as he pleases in that regard.

That said, we would submit there are some things in this world people ought not do. Making an eighth "Police Academy" movie has to be up on that list.

We mean, these movies wrecked the careers of pretty much the entire cast -- when was the last time you saw Tim Kazurinsky in anything? And the whole schtick with Sgt Jones doing the impressions? That was funny once, when he ruined that professorial type's date in the restaurant. It's not funny any more. It's dead, gone, buried, hit the showers, pushing up the daisies and thoroughly shot.

God. You know, we were going to write up a faux plot for "Police Academy 8," but we're so disgusted we're not even going to do that. Besides, you all know how it would turn out anyway. There would be a not-so-thrilling opening scene, in which some sort of crime took place. Then a high-ranking officer would scream at Mahoney. Then there would be zany hijinks involving Jones, Hightower or Sweetchuck, which would end with a high-ranking officer screaming at Mahoney. Then Mahoney, or his sap designate, would end up two steps away from being cashiered, so the rest of the gang would have to save the day. Cut to a happy yet not all that funny ending.

We would submit the American Film-Going Public cannot stomach an eighth variation on this very, very bad theme. Therefore, we call upon Mr Maslansky to please cease and desist from this craven scheme, and return to making documentaries or whatever it is he does now. Please. We're beggin' ya.

(link via Ben Domenech)

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July 09, 2004

The Nightcap

HAVE WE MENTIONED we really, really -- really want a (blank)(blanking) (blank-blanked) godrotting cigarette right about now?

Ugh. It has to be the withdrawal doing this to us.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Our Latest Malaise

A study by Common Purpose - a body that runs leadership development programmes - into the hopes, aspirations and frustrations of some of the country's most talented and high-flying graduates in their late 20s and early 30s, found widespread disillusion, disappointment, and in the most severe cases, despair.

Many felt bored, under-stretched, stuck in a rut, without purpose and often bogged down with debt and responsibilities. The majority wanted to find an escape route, and at 30 not a few were preparing to take one.

-- The Independent, July 3, 2004.

WHEN WE GET FRUSTRATED with the various annoyances existing in our life, we will admit to sometimes having the evil and unpatriotic thought that we should pull up stakes and move abroad. It is not a thought which lasts long, of course. In part, that is because we realize one can't simply walk away from one's problems, but mostly because we realize America still offers us the best hope for our future. Besides, we happen to live in one of the best and most free parts of the United States at that.

Furthermore, when we put things into perspective, we can say we enjoy a lifestyle that is downright nice: a good job which we like, a good place in which to live, pretty much all that we need and want. Those are not things which are as easily obtained elsewhere.

So why, then, is it we so often feel empty and unfulfilled, and we are so often in foul moods? We can't believe quitting smoking is the only cause of our present irascibility, our disinterest in and detachment from many facets of life, and what we suppose could be described as a general feeling of malaise. Nor do we think we especially need any time off; we did just return from vacation, and we do go crazy after a few days if we don't do anything productive.

We can only assume it is a touch of depression; that has had a tendency to crop up in our life. Certainly that diagnosis would explain a lot: why we are always tired, why we can't especially get enthused about things to which normal people often look forward, why we have almost zero interest in dating or parties or going out with friends -- even why blogging sometimes gets a bit tough. It would also, we think, explain why we have thoughts about escape, even though there is no rational reason for them: we want something in our life to be different, although we don't know what. This is, of course, irritating to the highest possible degree.

But enough of this. We're going to do some reading and go to bed. Perhaps we'll feel better in the morning.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:46 PM | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

Dean Esmay Threatened with Lawsuit

OH, THIS IS JUST SWELL. Dean Esmay, everyone's favorite blogger -- and the man chiefly responsible for The Rant's swell digs, we might add -- has been threatened with a lawsuit. The link contains the full story.

We are heartened, though, to see that Mr Esmay has not only made the threat public to his thousands of readers, but has responded in the manner that one would expect upon receiving such a threat. OK, he was considerably more polite and elegant than we would have been, but we were nonetheless quite impressed with his response.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:11 AM | TrackBack

June 19, 2004

Because "Call Me Crazy" Didn't Have the Same Ring

WE WERE NOT PLANNING to resume posting until Monday evening, but upon our return to the Granite State, we found an e-mail from a good friend informing us that pop singer Madonna has changed her name to Esther. Yes, Esther.

Our friend's reaction to this news -- "Oy gevalt" -- sums up our own feeling on the matter, but we were not about to let the matter go unmentioned. We just needed sleep after our fourteen-hour drive.

So, now that we're rested, we would ask: what the devil is this all about? Is this yet another attempt on Madonna's part to give executives at her record firm more ulcers and indigestion and sleepless nights? No. It could not be. This would mean dealing with someone who had a bit of depth to their character, and we find none in her. Rather, her reasoning appears as out there as she is:

"My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and I wanted to attach myself to another name," Madonna, 45, told ABC News.

"This is in no way a negation of who my mother was. I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name."

We don't get it. We ourselves took on another name when we were confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church, but that doesn't mean we make a big deal out of it or advertise it or would scrap the names our parents gave us. As for the whole "energy of a different name" business, this makes about as much sense as our declaring ourself Irwin, Demiurge of Tax Accountancy. Heck, if that's the idea, we ought declare ourself Constantine XII Palaiologos and demand the Turks return Constantinople to its rightful heirs.

However, we are not entirely appalled at this development. For we can imagine that one or two millenia hence, the historians of that time will pore over the news reports and wonder, a la A Canticle for Leibowitz, why this person appears as Madonna and later as Esther. Given the state of our culture in this day and age, it would not be surprising to find they came to the same conclusion as the monks in Walter Miller's book did.

That is, the situation was prevalent in more than one nation, and on a cultural level, Madonna/Esther were probably the equivalent of another name entirely: "Legion."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 03, 2004

D-O-L-T-S Protest Spelling Bee

IT WOULD APPEAR that Noah Webster's disciples have struck again, this story says:

Members of the American Literacy Society picketed the 77th annual spelling bee, which is sponsored every year by Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard.

The protesters' complaints: English spelling is illogical, and the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that they say contribute to dyslexia, high illiteracy and harder lives for immigrants.

"We advocate the modernization of English spelling," said Pete Boardman, 58, of Groton, N.Y. The Cornell University bus driver admitted to being a terrible speller.

Protester Elizabeth Kuizenga, 56, is such a good speller that she teaches English as a second language in San Francisco. She said she got involved in the protest after seeing how much time was wasted teaching spelling in her class.

Good God. Where does one begin with this? We mean, aside from the fact calling these folks the "American Literacy Society" is like calling La Cosa Nostra "The Society of Legitimate Businessmen Who Have Never Been Charged With Any Crime?"

Now, the reason we mention Mr Webster is that he had a thing for phonetic spellings, and as a result of his meddling, American English actually has plenty of changes compared to the Queen's English. On the other hand, if we recall correctly, many of his phoneticisms were deemed silly; and as such, the American people didn't accept them. This is why we still write, for instance, head instead of hed, except when you are writing layout code. So, to make a long story short, we tried it once. It didn't work. No reason to screw things up again.

Still, we don't know if certain easy words to spell (C-R-A-N-K-S comes to mind) would be affected by a phonetic change. And while we certainly are sympathetic to those with language difficulties, we do also know these difficulties can be overcome. Hence, screwing up the English language is right out. One in five Americans may be functionally illiterate, but we do think that a combination of various factors (whether one grows up in a home with books, whether one reads newspapers, quality of education, etc.) which are not directly related to the language cause that.

Finally, we must point out two things. The first is that language is always changing, and even today we create new words and let others rust away. The grammatical rules have nothing to do with this: consider how the acronym COBOL, for instance, would be recognizable to many folks over the age of say 50, but acronyms such as LOL and ROTFL might not make any sense. To take this to a further extreme, consider this:

English, 14th c.

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

English, 2004

When in April the sweet showers fall
That pierce March's drought to the root and all
And bathed every vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;

The second thing we would note is that it is illogical to protest English spelling when doing so does one absolutely no good. Perhaps it would have made more sense for the protestors to do some book-learning (or teach others) instead of traveling across the country to demonstrate. We're just saying.

Of course, we do not wish to sound as if we are entirely antagonistic to the protestors' cause. After all, Ms Kyzenga -- oops -- may have a point. Simplification might have its uses: for instance, it would be so much easier to write Frisco instead of San Francisco. But then, it wouldn't be proper for us to do that, now would it?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:11 PM | TrackBack

June 02, 2004

Englishman Humiliated for Botched Home Renovation

THIS IS WHY we leave any repair work in our own rented space to the professionals. The BBC reports that one Christopher Pendery, 27, of Loughborough, will serve 160 hours worth of community service for causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage to his rented home.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Mr Pendery -- who like us can be fairly called incompetent when it comes to renovation work -- had perhaps the most piteous defense ever given in a court of law. True, given the sentence, it may very well have worked. But to have one's own defense lawyer call one "stupid," and to then have the judge concur ...

It's just got to be mortifying.

(via Natalie Solent)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

Official Ruling Affects Vacation Plans

IN A MOVE WE FIND deeply distressing, the Government of New Jersey has ruled that bars and night clubs may no longer offer women free admission to or discounted drinks at their establishments. As we are going to spend three days in the Garden State later this month, we must protest this arbitrary and capricious decision to make our evenings out with friends less enjoyable.

Fortunately, the state's governor has decried the matter; but it would appear that Drumthwacket cannot actually override its regulators' decision in the case. The Associated Press has the full story:

The state's top civil rights official has ruled that taverns cannot offer discounts to women on ``ladies nights,'' agreeing with a man who claimed such gender-based promotions discriminated against men.

David R. Gillespie said it was not fair for women to get into the Coastline nightclub for free and receive discounted drinks while men paid a $5 cover charge and full price for drinks.

In his ruling Tuesday, J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of the state Division on Civil Rights, rejected arguments by the nightclub that ladies nights were a legitimate promotion. Commercial interests do not override the ``important social policy objective of eradicating discrimination,'' he ruled.

Well, we'd like to thank the State of New Jersey for potentially making our vacation less fun!

Sure, we know that as a member of the affected class, we are supposed to be happy knowing that everyone else will now be able to pay the same bogus cover charge and inflated prices for watered-down liquor that we do.

But here's the trouble. You see, because women will now have to pay the same going rate, it is entirely feasible to extrapolate that in two weeks or so, a woman who could well be The Lady We End Up Marrying would NOT be at the same bar we were, because the after-effects of this ruling would have discouraged her from patronizing the bar in question; while before, she may have been given positive incentives to attend that establishment. That sucks.

Furthermore, the knowledge this could happen has caused us great emotional distress and mental anguish, which will lead to a general feeling of malaise and spite, which will lead to us Not Spending The Money We Otherwise Would Have Spent in the Garden State, which will then lead to less-than-anticipated tax revenues for the State of New Jersey.

So really, New Jersey -- thanks a lot! We hope you're BLOODY WELL HAPPY knowing you've made life just a wee bit more difficult for us. For now, if we wish to properly party, we may have to spend $27 on a round-trip train ticket from Trenton to New York.

Although, now that we think of it, that isn't all that bad of an idea.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

This Glacial-Paced Flick Can Wait 'Til The Day After Tomorrow

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today's Film: "The Day After Tomorrow"

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, it seems those in charge of promoting various movies take pride in the scenes which earn their films restrictive ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America. True, they don't generally go over the top in such matters; we have yet to see a ratings warning trumpeting the very hot love scene between Actor A and Actress B. However, "The Day After Tomorrow's" warning still has that breathless feel to it: rated PG-13 for INTENSE SITUATIONS OF PERIL.

The hell they were. Gawd.

Never has a disaster movie portrayed the end of the world as we know it in such a lacksadasial manner. It was as if the entire cast and crew got doped up on Xanax before filming, and then transferred that lovely feeling of sedation onto the silver screen. This laid-back feeling wasn't limited to the human actors in the movie, either; the two true Scenes O' Destruction could be best described as underwhelming and uninspired.

Of course, the disaster scenes weren't entirely disappointing. Seeing tornadoes erase a good portion of Los Angeles was cool, although only because we got a chance to look for our former residence near Venice Beach. A decent job was done with the tidal wave hitting Manhattan, although we must say we remain amazed at how actors are able to outrun even the fastest-moving natural disasters.

"It's like my stock options after the tech bubble burst." In this scene from "The Day After Tomorrow," Sam Hall (Jake Gyllenhaal) really regrets his decision to leave General Electric for a job on Silicon Alley. (PHOTO CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox)

Anyway, here's the plot. Dennis Quaid plays Jack Hall, a climatologist for the U.S. Government who traipses around the world doing research. When he's not doing this, he spends his days annoying high-level Government officials and making dire predictions at United Nations climate conferences. Normally, this would get him shipped back to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, but a giant storm conveniently breaks out in the interim. This gives him a chance to further harangue said top-level officials.

Meanwhile, Scottish researchers are doing all the heavy lifting. They figure out the Gulf Stream is shutting down, which is leading to havoc all over the globe. They last long enough to get this critical data to the Americans, who then analyze it and realize the world is in deep trouble. However, they conveniently arrive at this conclusion too late to save New York or Los Angeles. This sets up the stage for Jack to undertake a quixotic quest to save his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is holed up with a few fellow survivors of nature's fury at the New York Public Library.

But wait, you ask. If Hall is a climatologist, and has reason to believe the world is in deep trouble, why would he have let Sam go on a trip to New York with classmates from school? Other reviewers have also asked that question, and our answer is: beats the hell out of us. Also, to be fair, it wasn't entirely clear the world was going to hell in a handbasket when Sam's folks signed his permission slip.

Here in New York, though, there are Subplots Aplenty: such as scenes dealing with Sam's crush on classmate Laura (Emmy Rossum), an argument over which books to burn for warmth (leading to the best lines in the film, we thought) and so on. In short, it's all very contrived, but they get a few good lines out of the whole deal.

But the fact it's so contrived also leads to the question: why the devil is the movie so bloody slow?. Good Lord. All the good stuff is over an hour into the film, and the second half doesn't even come close to carrying the burden of stupid dialogue, outrageous plot points, and everything else which the filmmakers forced onto it.

The really damnable thing about "The Day After Tomorrow" is how bloody laid-back it all is. That's what really does it in.

Look, we don't think it's too much to ask for a little bit of insanity to break out among the characters portrayed. Western Civilization is, after all, ending; and as such, one would expect a good portion of the populace to riot and loot, to say nothing of running around screaming in terror. Yet this was the most orderly civilization-shattering destruction ever seen on screen.

The true scope of how pathetic it all was really comes to light when one compares "The Day After Tomorrow" with "The Midnight Sun," an old episode of "The Twilight Zone."

The thing which Rod Serling got -- and which Roland Emmerich still hasn't -- is that generally speaking, people don't hold up too well under these types of circumstances. They just don't. As an example, here's one scene from "The Midnight Sun" which puts it all in perspective. Norma and her landlady, Mrs Bronson, are listening to the radio in Norma's apartment:

NORMA (to Mrs Bronson): I think I was the calmest person in the store. One woman just stood in the middle of the room and cried. (pause) Cried like a baby; pleading for someone to help her ...

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is station WNYG, coming on the air to bring you essential news. First, a bulletin from the Police Department: keep your doors locked, and prepare to protect yourselves if necessary with any weapons you might have. The majority of the police force has been assigned to the crowded highways outside this deserted city, and citizens remaining in New York may have to protect themselves from the cranks and looters known to be roaming the streets.

From the weather bureau ... the temperature stood at 110 degrees at 11 o'clock this morning. Humidity 91 percent. Forecast for tomorrow ... forecast for tomorrow ... hot. More of the same, only hotter -- I don't care! Who are they kidding with this weather report stuff?

Ladies and gentlemen! Tomorrow you can fry eggs on sidewalks, heat up soup in the ocean and get help from wandering maniacs if you choose! What d'you mean, panic? Who's left to panic? Heh. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm told that my departing from the script might panic you, and -- let me alone! D'you hear me? Let me alone! Let go of me!

(instrumental music)

The entire episode is full of things like that, and it's an accurate portrayal of what happens to people when catastrophe strikes. It is not flashy or showy or preachy. There are no amazing scenes of destruction. But it is very well done.

Interestingly enough, aside from one major twist at the end, "The Midnight's Sun's" plot is exactly the opposite that of "The Day After Tomorrow." It is a shame that statement can be applied across the board in comparing the two. For had things been different, "The Day After Tomorrow" could have been a pretty good movie. Instead, it was so poorly received that once it finished, people bolted for the doors; and a couple of folks even got up and left before it was over. Perhaps they just wanted to go outside and enjoy a few minutes of the sun.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

At Least It Wasn't Tuna Fish

WHOA. NOW HERE'S SOMETHING you don't see every day.

According to this news report, a criminal on trial in Beaumont, Texas, successfully disabled the electroshock-belt he was wearing ... with a ham sandwich. The unidentified man, who was later convicted on aggravated robbery charges, proceeded to attack a witness who had testified to his anti-social behavior.

(via Geoff Brown)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

On the Straight and Narrow Highway, a Directing Sign is Found

Oh No!
It's Time for Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Recurring Rant Feature

------

YES, IT'S TIME AGAIN to provide Quick and Easy Enlightenment to those Rant readers who have arrived here via a search engine. Readers unfamiliar with this recurring feature, which we write about once a month, should know we provide this as a service to readers who inquire about varied topics. For these folks, it's a reflecting sign which they can let shine within their mind, showing them the colors that are real.

OK, so we don't know exactly what that means. But our marketing people said using that phrase would prove we're "far out" and "with it." Anyway, let's let the spinning wheel spin, shall we?

QUERY: michelle duggar

ANSWER: We would direct readers to our entry from April 9 about the Duggars of Springdale, Ark. Apparently they now have fifteen children, and still want more.

QUERY: public nudity

ANSWER: For the last time, we most certainly do NOT have anything related to that here. We have every intention of keeping our site safe for God-fearing Americans who visit during their lunch hours, or what was their lunch hour before work forced them to eat at their desks.

QUERY: random knowledge

ANSWER: We can't believe we're the 15th site on Google for this term. On the other hand, our post about random knowledge is certainly random knowledge indeed, as nobody remembers John Law anymore.

QUERY: mohawk hairstyles

ANSWER: Ah, yes! Reminds us of our college days!

QUERY: britney spears not a good role model

ANSWER: Yes, but what's your point?

QUERY: right inner tie-rod failing on a 1992 taurus problem

ANSWER: It'll run you $200 and take about three hours to have it fixed. You'll find they generally crap out about every 100,000 miles or so.

QUERY: americans want to rule the world

ANSWER: EV'-RY-BO-DY ... wants to rule the world. That said: no, we bloody well don't. If Americans had wanted to rule the world, we wouldn't have given back the Philippines, now would we?

QUERY: what type of clothes do they wear in the united kingdom

ANSWER: According to this excellent guide book we just bought, the proper Englishman wears a frock coat, a grass skirt, and one of those big giant buffalo hats. Also, remember that when visiting Britain, it is "good form" to compliment the locals on their excellent English, and to make loud and snarky remarks in the pubs about gasoline prices. The stuff costs nearly $7 per gallon at present exchange rates, you see.

What d'you mean, the book's wrong? It's got a Hungarian-English phrase guide and everything!

I will not buy this record, it is scratched.

QUERY: why cant you pump your own gas in new jersey?

ANSWER: Drumthwacket.

QUERY: gucci wholesale ... wait, what?

ANSWER: No, really. Drumthwacket.

QUERY: Oh. Back in 1949.

ANSWER: Ayuh.

QUERY: Thanks. Anyway ... his brainchild now consorts with the bad buys

ANSWER: That would be the pets.com sock puppet.

QUERY: teaching jobs for canadians in turks and caicos

ANSWER: Keep dreaming!

QUERY: what happen in singapore on 28 september 2003

ANSWER: Somewhere, someone got a really large fine.

QUERY: cruel greeting cards honest for sale ex lover

ANSWER: Tell the next person you date about this. They're going to need to guard against freezer burn.

QUERY: jennifer lopez nude in gigli

ANSWER: That would have earned it at least a half-star.

QUERY: 18 liter wine box

ANSWER: You know, if you splurge on the fancy stuff, you'll find it's made from grapes.

QUERY: negative net worth mortgage

ANSWER: Ouch.

QUERY: sample dunning letter from attorneys

ANSWER: Face it, you're going to have to actually hire counsel to represent you in that nasty business involving you, your lawn mower, the neighbor's kid and that very large rock in the yard. Of course, the fact folks are all calling it the "Mikey Smith tragedy" isn't helping matters.

QUERY: why we should not judge people by their clothes

ANSWER: You don't sound like the type who needs to read the answer, but here it is: judging one's friends on the clothes they wear is just foolish; and in terms of choosing a romantic partner, it is again generally unhelpful, given that one wants to ascertain the heart and soul of a potential mate. On the other hand, in business, one should pay acute attention to such things. That is not so much an issue of clothing; after all, con men dress very well. But with just a few seemingly-innocent questions, one can separate out the serious contenders from the intellectual lightweights.

QUERY: argentine bonds prospectus

ANSWER: See what we mean?

QUERY: legal grind la

ANSWER: It's on Lincoln Boulevard, but in Santa Monica, not Los Angeles, if we recall correctly. Offers both good coffee and reasonably-priced legal services. Quite frankly, we're surprised no one in California dreamed up such a concept before.

QUERY: brittany murphy weighs 90

ANSWER: Who's Brittany Murphy? For that matter, if we even knew who Brittany Murphy was, how would we know ... OK, we just did a Google image search. Gad. Well, we certainly can't speak as to her weight, but she is awfully thin. Perhaps it's just us, but we just don't find that look very attractive.

QUERY: land war asia macarthur -sicilian -sicilan

ANSWER: You didn't find what you were looking for here? Inconceivable!

QUERY: where is capitalism not found

ANSWER: Europe?

QUERY: blogspot no longer working

ANSWER: Oh, we know that feeling.

QUERY: yankees suck song lyrics

ANSWER: Whoa-whoa-whoa. YANKEES SUCK! Whoa-whoa-whoa. YANKEES SUCK! Gotta love it.

Well, that's it for this edition of "Your Search Engine Queries Answered," a regular Rant feature. Tune in next month for more amazing searches which actually brought people here to The Rant -- for if this month was any indication, next month's going to be a real lulu.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:32 PM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

Naming One's Children

LIKE MOST RIGHT-THINKING Americans, we too were befuddled to learn that Gwyneth Paltrow, who we understand is an actress, and musician Chris Martin recently named their first-born child "Apple."

Now, this was not merely because the infant weighed in at 9 lbs. 11 oz., and hence was more worthy of the name "Grapefruit." Rather, it was because we couldn't figure out why Mr Martin and Mrs Paltrow, who are reportedly both of sound mind, would give their child such an odd appellation. Fortunately, though, the good people at the Microsoft Corp. have given us a bit of perspective in this regard. Thanks to them, we now understand that in the strange parallel universe in which celebrities exist, such a decision was neither outlandish or impetuous. For in comparison to other celebrities' choices, "Apple" doesn't fall too far from the tree.

What?

Anyway, here's Microsoft's list of the worst celebrity baby names ever:

10. Rumer Glenn, Tallulah Belle and Scout LaRue, daughters of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore

9. Jett, son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston

8. Diezel and Denim, sons of Toni Braxton and Keri Lewis

7. Prince Michael, Prince Michael II (AKA Blanket), and Paris Michael, children of Michael Jackson

6. Speck Wildhorse and Hud, sons of John Mellencamp and Elaine Irwin

5. Pilot Inspektor, son of Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf

4. Tu Morrow, daughter of Rob Morrow and Debbon Ayre (seriously)

3. Audio Science, son of Shannyn Sossamon and Dallas Clayton

2. Moon Unit, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan, Dweezil, and Diva, children of Frank Zappa

1. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, and Pixie, daughters of the late Paula Yates (Tiger Lily's dad is the late Michael Hutchence; Bob Geldof is father to the other three)

Now we know folks will have myriad opinions on which of these names is the most appalling. For instance, it is bad form to name one's child after a cheap clothing material; and if one must name one's child after a motor fuel, one ought spell the name of the fuel correctly. Still, we would argue that the worst is unquestionably No 3, Audio Science.

You see, the trouble with that particular name is that it is adaptable to any profession. It is the equivalent of a librarian naming his son Dewey Decimal, or a plumber naming his daughter Roto Rooter. Speaking personally, we can say we very much like the name Benjamin; and are quite glad our parents did not instead name us Fundamentals Tracking, Zero Coupon, or General Ledger Kepple. Buying Opportunity Kepple would have been right out too.

Now, we know the traditional complaints about odd names for children. The other kids at school will tease the badly-named child mercilessly; the badly-named child will get into fights; the badly-named child will get into trouble with the law, etc. But we do not consider those things to be the worst outcome associated with an unfortunate name for a child.

The worst outcome, rather, is this. The Apples and the Moon Units and the Pilots of this world are now permanently saddled, as if a neon sign was placed over their heads, with an advertisement proclaiming that their parents are idiots. That, we think, is a horrible thing.

It's not just that every child wants and needs deeply, in his or her heart, to be proud of his or her folks. We live in a society which has come to prize intelligence above all other traits, because intelligence usually translates into earning power and hence social status. As such, in later life -- when these children begin their careers and start their own families -- their oddball names will prove a handicap. Now, that may not matter if the children in question have parents whose names everyone recognizes. But we can assure you that we -- and, we would submit, most folks -- haven't any idea who Shannyn Sossamon and Dallas Clayton are. Given that, you think Audio Science would get a job at Sotheby's?

Well, certainly Tu Morrow wouldn't. All the European buyers would blink rapidly upon hearing her name, make stilted conversation and break out into a cold sweat. Then one of them would, out of habit, call her Vous Morrow and that would be the end of everything. The end result is that the buyers would get their Faberge eggs from Christie's.

Of course, we realize the celebrities' children may have worse troubles than an unfortunate name. For one thing, they'll grow up in the public's eye, something which we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. It is hard enough being a kid without feeling as if the whole world wants something from you. But in many ways, as their unfortunate names would seem to indicate, they will have to do quite the job at raising their parents. And that, like their names, goes strongly against the natural order.

(link via Allison Barnes)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:25 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

It's a Good Thing Homer Was Blind ...

GAD. NOW THAT EVERYONE has let the cat out of the bag about "Troy," we realize we really wouldn't enjoy it all that much if we went to see it. This is unfortunate.

You see, when we saw "The Passion of the Christ," we noticed that "Troy" was one of about four films featured during the previews to the former movie. As we were impressed with such gutsiness -- this is back when everyone was condemning The Passion without seeing it -- we thought we would reward the distributors by plunking down $8 when "Troy" finally came out. Sadly, time has worn away our resolve, and the bad reviews we've seen of "Troy" basically finished it off.

Now, we note that Emily Jones has put the following question to the readers of her excellent site: "Is it acceptable for screenwriters and directors to take liberties with original works of fiction when translating them to film or is this too objectionable? Why?"

Our answer to this question is that it is acceptable for moviemakers to take some liberties with original works of fiction. However, they must be cautious; there is a difference between adapting -- say -- any Robert Ludlum novel, and adapting FRICKING HOMER for the silver screen. With the former, they can do anything they like as long as the actors show enough emotion to convey that Ludlum writes in all italics. With the latter, only time constraints should result in leaving things out, and they ought generally stick to the story as written.

Now, when we say "generally stick," we do see reason for exception. Including the Fall of Troy, as the reviewers say the filmmakers did, makes sense in terms of making a movie audiences will want to watch. On the other hand, in the old literature the Fall of Troy was not exactly pleasant. Basically, the poets wrote that it was conducted in such a downright wrong manner that it caused scandal and inquiries and all manner of chastisement. (Of course, this set up the stage for all the later poems, but never mind).

Anyway, our point is that the filmmakers screwed it up, as the New York Post's Jonathan Foreman has pointed out so well. They screwed up the Trojan Horse bit and they kept certain characters alive while killing off others and did far more than we have time to relate. Mr Foreman's done a fine job in this regard; see here for some more choice excerpts.

Still, we must admit we are disappointed to see that no critic has gone nuclear in condemning the film, simply because there is one condemnation so clever and so obscure that it fits perfectly for this occasion. While our failure to see the movie prevents us from offering it as criticism, we would like to offer it up to any critic who needs a quick and snappy review for the film, should they think the moviegoing public ought not watch it.

Now, readers who have studied the classics may be familiar with a lesser Greek poet known as Stesichorus. Stesichorus lived in the 7th and 6th centuries before Christ. He is little known today, but we personally believe he may be the first established curmudgeon in Western history. Sadly, only fragments of his poetry remain. But if the reviewers are correct, there is one fragment in particular which sounds quite fitting for this movie:

The story is not true.
You never sailed on the benched ships.
You never went to Troy.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Elder, on Cinema

WE WERE PLEASED to learn recently that we are not alone in holding embittered, misanthropic thoughts about the state of modern film. Hence, we would present a portion of a column from The Scotsman's Kirk Elder, who has written at length about the issue. We note with a bit of awe that Mr Elder has considerable fortitude in this regard -- how anyone could stomach sitting through one, much less three, truly horrible movies is beyond us. But then we are only one-third Scots.

Mr Elder writes:

But one should never rush to judgment, and since my last memory of going to the cinema was to see Chariots of Fire, in which I appeared momentarily as a spear-carrier, I decided to make a return visit.

It was not a happy experiment. The once-grand cinema has been carved into four small auditoriums, and instead of an informative newsreel, patrons are now bombarded with advertisements for mobile telephones.

I managed to endure three cinematic nightmares before my toothy gnashing caused the management to unload the ejector seat. These were 50 First Dates, Scooby-Doo 2 and Taking Lives. The first of these featured romantic nitwits in Hawaii, the second a computerised dog, and the third a policewoman who, despite being brilliant, didnt spot that the murderer was, quite obviously, the man she didnt suspect.

All three films were grimly competent. The seaside in Hawaii looked endearing, if disappointingly lacking in grass-skirted maidens; the animated dog was almost as revolting as a living canine; and the French-Canadian detectives in Taking Lives looked authentically dumbstruck at the incompetence of their heroine, played by a Miss Angelina Jolie.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:49 PM | TrackBack

May 08, 2004

Think Too Hard, and It'll Suck the Life Out of You

Oh No!
It's Time for Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

TODAY'S FEATURE: "Van Helsing"

GEE, KATE BECKINSALE IS REALLY HOT. It is a shame one cannot say the same for "Van Helsing," the movie in which Ms Beckinsale runs around fighting evil denizens of the underworld, and continually looks hot while doing so. For the film has several noteworthy flaws -- it runs too long and its plot is weak and its dialogue is often grim and the acting is similarly so. Still, we will say this for it: it is a great movie if you just sit back and enjoy all the mayhem -- and as we did just that, we must say we actually kind of enjoyed "Van Helsing." Even if, as we could not help but notice, it was not enjoyable enough to prompt all those in the theatre to sit through the ending credits.

Now, we note that many professional movie critics have poked fun at "Van Helsing's" producer, Universal Pictures, for asking them to not reveal the "surprises" which happen during the last 30 minutes of the film. We personally do not understand why Universal decided to do this. It's not just that such a move only further annoys those professional movie critics who look upon Hollywood with bemusement and contempt; it's that the ending isn't very surprising. In fact, the only surprise was that it wasn't more surprising, because weren't we supposed to expect rather a lot from a film which cost $200 million to bring to market?


THE DASHING, DARING VAN HELSING faces an awkward moment after the lady whom he has been sent to help asks him how he jerry-rigged vacuum-cleaner parts into a spiffy repeater-crossbow. (PHOTO CREDIT: Universal Studios).

Anyway, here's the plot. Abraham Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) -- who in the film has his first name changed to Gabriel for some reason -- spends his days running around Europe fighting supernatural evil in its various forms and being persecuted by the French. After teaming up with dweebish sidekick Carl (David Wenham) in Vatican City -- yes, he is only referred to as Carl -- the two head off to Transylvania to help Anna Valerious (the hot Ms Beckinsale) defeat evil Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who has been terrorizing the good people of Transylvania and not paying his utility bills and generally making a mess of the place. There's more, of course -- but as we'll have to spoil the film to tell you about it, we'll put all this in the "extended entry" box. If you've already seen the movie or have no plans on watching it, though, do feel free to continue reading...

OK, SO WE KNEW there was trouble in terms of the plot from the very beginning. Consider: things start out with a nice scene of angry Transylvanian villagers with torches and farm implements breaking into the castle of depraved Dr Frankenstein. Yet as the villagers are making their way up to Frankenstein's workshop, Frankenstein and his monster escape through a back door which none of the approximately two thousand villagers thought to guard.

Then, as the villagers catch up with the two, and manage to set the windmill in which they are trapped ablaze, a few vampires start flying overhead. Weirdly, this causes complete and utter panic among the multitudes. After all, they're in Transylvania -- you'd think they'd be used to having vampires about. But hey. Oh, also, Frankenstein's monster doesn't die. This sets the stage for the rest of the film's many regrettable events.

Actually, the entire character of Count Dracula in this film is regrettable. Far from being even a refined gentleman, the Count looks and sounds like a heroin dealer who has managed through wit and guile to rise somewhat far up the food chain. This may seem a bit extreme, but only the Count's presumed access to a rather large supply of opiates would explain the carrying-on of his three wives, whom the Count sends to do his dirty work and treats extremely shabbily. We should add that all three of the women playing the Count's brides are quite hot themselves, which lets the filmmakers show them in very revealing clothing. Of this we approved, except that the one whom we liked the most was dispatched shortly after Van Helsing shows up. Dammit.

Speaking of Van Helsing showing up, there was one scene in the movie at which we raised our eyebrows and which will outrage some readers should they think long enough about it. After Van Helsing kills off the foxiest of the three vampire women, the villagers angrily condemn him; after all, they point out, the vampires only killed one or two people a month. But now that they've fought back, the villagers cry, it will really piss off the terror which walks among them. Van Helsing basically responds, "Yeah, but I can beat the scum."

We don't know if anyone else in the theatre -- there were only about 20 people there -- caught this, but what an attack on Old World attitudes relating to some particular real-world events. True, we could be reading far too much into it; but we do note that Van Helsing discovers that Dracula is creating thousands of vampire spawn so as to attack the good people of Transylvania and the world. And since many of these do actually go out and attack the villagers at one point ... well, it sure seemed pro-war to us.

Anyway, we would also note that mild-mannered sidekick Carl is the only guy to score during the entire film, which happens after he saves the village from the little vampire bastards running amok. We approved mightily of this, as the smart guys in supporting roles hardly ever get any action, despite the fact that at first we did not like Carl.

We primarily did not like Carl because the moviemakers portray him as an 1880s-version of Q, down to the secret laboratory; and we think filmmakers, who are wont to steal from the James Bond franchise, ought not do such things. Still, as he had all the good lines and was a very likable character, we were inclined to give him a pass for this.

Naturally, it is Carl who figures out the Big Secret of where Dracula's lair is located, although why this is a big secret in the first place remains a mystery. After all, as soon as Van Helsing and Co. arrive in the tiny Transylvanian village, chaos erupts; and it seems pretty clear that the vampire hordes are emanating from castle up on yonder hill. Yet supposedly no one figured this out for a good four centuries beforehand; and Carl only figures it out after poring through manuscripts for much of the film, instead of looking out the window at the castle in the distance, and drawing the inference. Of course, these are the same people who traveled to Transylvania in part by ship, despite the fact that a land journey by train would probably be quicker.

It was at this point, late in the film, where things really began to go downhill. We would note that the Count's evil scheme required about 1.21 gigawatts of electricity for it to work, but this does not prevent most of the characters from leaping about on live electrical wires in bad weather. (Kids, please don't try this at home). We would also note that these penultimate scenes are where the worst of the crimes against dialogue take place, and we would further point out that well, gee, Kate Beckinsale is really hot.

There is no need, of course, to go on at length about that. But we would suggest that any movie-goers who decide to go watch "Van Helsing" focus on such things, as it will allow them to not think about the plot and the acting and all the other flaws inherent in the film. Instead, just sit back, watch, and enjoy the story as it presents itself on screen. It will be better for you if you do so, of that we can assure you.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:21 PM | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

O, Miserable CD, How We Scorn Thee

SO EMILY JONES has put this question to the readers of her excellent site:

... This time I want you to sack through the CD and record collection. What's the cheesiest piece of music you own? I'll admit to the greatest hits of both Neil Diamond AND Supertramp and will bet a solid tenner that not one of you can trump my vinyl copy of a Partridge Family Christmas album.

We hope Ms Jones will forgive us for taking the long way home with our response, but we think we have a pretty strong case to make that we own an album that puts even the Partridge Family Christmas to shame. Besides, the PFC probably has Bonnaduce on it, so the kitsch value alone perhaps knocks it above this particular crappy two-disc set we own.

Since it takes a special amount of viciousness to properly condemn the musician(s) whose album has garnered such disgust in our heart, we should caution readers that the following entry may contain a bit of inappropriate language. Still, we believe it may be necessary. For this album is so putrid, so miserable, so astonishingly cheesy that we have come not only to detest the artist, but also the record label, the producers, the other musicians performing, and even the poor hack who wrote the stupid booklet which came with the CD. Especially the poor hack who wrote the stupid booklet which came with the CD. True, there is no credit given for authorship of this little volume -- or there may be; it could be the artist himself tried writing; it is all very unclear to us. But that in no way pardons the sinner, whomever he may be.

We mean, as a fellow writer, we're embarrassed for whomever wrote this. You see, the booklet itself is not so bad that it gives the impression the writer got screwed out of his payment for it, or anything like that. That's the problem. It's clear the fellow -- whom, barring any other evidence, we assume is or was a professional writer -- tried to make something out of it, and he and his editors failed miserably. Here's one good example of what we mean:

Originally written for the PBS Special of the same name, the "Saving the Wildlife" album's intention was to bring a higher consciousness to the survival of many species of animals.

Now, our fellow writers will have grasped the problems in a millisecond: the strained tone of this sentence, the misuse of words and phrases, the passive voice, the wordiness, grammar errors, etc.

But "higher consciousness?" What the hell does that mean? God's truth, it's as if the writer is back in freshman English, for Pete's sake -- if I use enough buzzwords, I'll get an A! Don't worry, though. We shan't stop there. Look at this next excerpt:

While the first (album) opens new doors, (the next album) unlocks others. Conceived as looking into an arena of doors, behind which are feelings to be experienced, this album will leave you exploring the portals of life.

Yeah, well, when we listened to the song from it, the only portal we found ourself exploring was the toilet. Gad. Look, buddy. We do not care what your excuse was -- whether you had a bit too much wine the night before proofing, or your hamster died, or the garage-door opener quit and trapped you in the house for two days prior to deadline -- you have no justification for writing like this. You just don't. We hope you didn't cash the check they gave you; it would be a fraud upon our shared profession if you took these people's money.

There is just one saving grace for you, my friend, just one. It is that the two-disc 25 Year Celebration of Mannheim Steamroller set is even worse than your skill with the pen.

Oh, readers. We are just getting warmed up -- so much so, that you can forget everything we wrote in the entry underneath this one. We've got our fire back, by jingo!

We should start by saying that we generally like electronic music. We have a thing for techno and we have a weakness for New Age and we have been spoiled by the efforts of Walter (Wendy) Carlos, whose electronic music is simply fabulous. In fact, Carlos' work is so good that even mentioning it in the same entry as Mannheim Steamroller unfairly sullies it. There is more heart, more clarity, and more pure essence of sound in ten seconds of "Switched On Bach" than exists in this wretched Mannheim Steamroller set.

Now, readers may wonder how the devil we actually picked up a copy of this pseudo-music. Well, it was simple, really. For Mannheim Steamroller actually has one cheesy but admittedly catchy song -- some Christmas offering, we think -- and as it is based on a traditional arrangement it had some inherent time-tested goodness to it. Hence, our fatal mistake was that we thought the band in question's output was similar in quality and scope to that song we heard on the radio.

When we got home and put the first of the two CDs into the player, we instantly felt a sickening pang in our gut. It was as if our ulcers had kicked up; as if we had eaten a badly-cooked meal; as if the garbage bag in our kitchen had broken and spilled its contents upon us. For this was not just a bad CD; this was a lemon, in its soul no different than some old Ford Escort over which an unsuspecting car buyer got screwed.

Every song had all the style and grace of elevator music; every drumbeat came off as flat; every note failed to inspire. The second CD brought the same result; it just mortified us how bad it was. After that first listen, we threw the set in the rack and forgot about it; when we tried to sell it on-line recently, the service which we consulted would not buy it for any amount of money.

But what really got to us, perhaps, was what we can only describe as insult-to-injury. Namely, we refer again to that little booklet. Because if there is one thing in this world that rubs us the wrong way, it is when people have an over-inflated sense of self-importance. And -- what?

READER: I don't mean to interrupt, but ...

Mr KEPPLE: Yeah, we see what you're getting at. This is different, though. We here at The Rant have no illusions about our importance to the world, despite the tone of everything on site.

READER: You're even talking in the plural. That's ...

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, dear. Sorry. Well, what I meant to say was something like this. I run a Web site that has a moderate level of readership of people who like what I write. That in itself is very flattering, and doing this is fun, and I enjoy seeing people react to my work. But I'm far far far from being the best blogger out there, and I certainly don't think I'm anywhere near George Will's league, you know? I just write. It is a drop of water into the reservoir of human thought, and I'm content with that. The use of the plural here is merely a satirical device; those who know me personally can attest to that, I think. Besides, look at Mencken; he was an amazing curmudgeon, but I have never seen anything that suggested he had a huge ego in private life. (If he had one, he earned it).

Mr KEPPLE (continuing): No, my point here is only that there are some people on Earth who think they're really something, and unjustifiably so, and they act a bit snarky. In some cases, of course, this feeling is in fact justified and they have the right to play big shot. But it's just the self-promotion bit from the others that gets to me. There's a line between being justifiably proud of one's work, and expressing that pride ("Gee, I really hit a home run with that!"), and going on and on ad nauseum as if one is the best in their field and a true and unmistakable genius. You know what I'm talking about: Franzen's Disease.

READER: You mean Hansen's Disease?

Mr KEPPLE: No, although it's pretty close.

Mr KEPPLE (continuing): To elaborate: for my fellow creative types who work hard and do their best and most of all -- take risks when they're in the midst of struggling -- I think it is great for them to be justifiably proud of their endeavors. And I really envy them for doing what I don't have the guts to do, namely, that risk-taking. It's just those folks who don't have that same bearing, those people who got lucky but forgot where they came from and who forgot how to be grateful a long time ago, they're who get to me -- if they really have an over-inflated ego. Part of me just wants to say to them, "You made it, man! Stop worrying!" That's my only point here. And I don't mean this as a blanket condemnation of creative types either; God, don't get me wrong!

READER: Fair enough, but isn't having a visceral and knee-jerk reaction to such self-promotion and egotism from such folks a sign that you yourself have not achieved the humility you desire in the depths of your soul?

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God, yes. But give me this. I'm on a roll!

READER: Yeah, but ...

Mr KEPPLE: Please!

READER: All right, but you watch it from now on.

Anyway! Where were we? Ah yes, self-conceit. Back to the booklet. Just look at this; and if we're really wrong here, blast us for it, but this just galls us:

1974 was the year it all changed. The music. The sound. The fidelity. The way we listened. The way we felt, hearing things we'd never heard before.

Now look, these are not words one can justifiably use for a Mannheim Steamroller album. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, yes. Fresh Aire? No. It just doesn't work. The arithmetic doesn't add up. Calling the guy behind Mannheim Steamroller a "musical genius" simply doesn't compute. We realize that millions of people have bought his albums -- hell, even we got suckered into it -- but the fellow ain't the best thing since canned beer. No, we can say with a lot of confidence that such fawning is unseemly, and we are sorry to see that Franzen's Disease is out in force even among some musicians.

But enough. There you have it; the cheesiest and most wretched and simply worst album we own: the 25 Year Celebration of Mannheim Steamroller two-disc set. We shudder that it sits on our desktop even now; we can hear the laughter coming from our friends in trendier locales; we feel their disdain and mockery bearing down upon us. Our very bones send forth the animalistic signals: get it away! it's midnight! no one will notice you run out to the garbage bin with it! just go, go, go!

Still, even as much as we'd like to hide the fact we own this CD, we must admit it. We have had this in our possession for several months now, and have never in our lives regretted a CD purchase more.

That is, perhaps, the true measure of its badness -- for even the cheesy Phil Collins solo stuff and the bad movie soundtracks and one-hit wonders we own -- at least there was one redeeming song on those albums which we appreciated for a time. But with this Mannheim Steamroller collection, we were culturally sucker-punched, and left bruised and battered. The worst part of it, though, is this -- we fear we may have contributed to future productions from the group, as there is no way for us to recover the $26 we expended on this set.

May God forgive us, and protect us.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:32 AM | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

Internet Discontent

WE HAVE SPENT a good portion of this Easter Morning catching up on our favorite blogs as opposed to parking ourselves in a church pew for an hour-and-a-half. So instead of having a religious message -- as we would prefer on Easter Sunday -- we shall instead stoop down to the level of the secular; and look at a particular bit of nastiness making its way around the Internet.

Specifically, we refer to this whole blow-up between Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs and Kathryn Cramer of ... um, Kathryn Cramer. Now it appears that Mr Johnson has taken much issue with some of Mrs Cramer's words, and has linked to them accordingly; and Mrs Cramer has pointedly taken exception to the fact some of Mr Johnson's readers are a bit nasty in their remarks. Arguably, a couple of these remarks are little more than death threats; and as such things are relatively subjective, we can say that Mrs Cramer may feel a bit unnerved by it all.

Given all this, we would say it is particularly unfortunate that some persons fail to see the importance of expressing opinion in a civil matter. So we would say to such people: kindly grow up, would you? You're not in the eighth grade any more. Quit it. And since you're not in the eighth grade any longer, you should be aware that such things may lead to involvement with your local police. We do not care what the topic or the comments were; there is no call for that.

But, that said, we found it interesting that we had rather a lot of trouble finding out what exactly it was that sparked the whole uproar. After all, one would think such a thing is central to the whole donnybrook. Then we found it.

It would appear, according to Mr Johnson, that Mrs Cramer identified one of the civilian contractors killed at Fallujah, Iraq, with a white supremacist of the same name.

Yikes. Now, we have not seen Mrs Cramer's post on that -- but based on the above, we can say that doing so was just indecent -- to say nothing of pretty stupid.

For as folks have pointed out, in a nation of 300 million people, there are plenty of Americans who share the same name. For instance, we can assure you that there is more than one Benjamin Kepple. (We have never learned what our second cousin thinks about The Rant, but we can imagine he is probably annoyed we got the domain name first. Heh). And there are a lot more folks who share this contractor's name compared to our own situation.

However, as Mrs Cramer has apparently deleted the offending post, we can only but assume she has realized she was in the wrong. Whether this saves her trouble from the dead fellow's estate, we shall see.

We do find it amazing, though, that Mrs Cramer has not -- at least, as far as we can tell -- bothered to say that she is sorry about the whole mess. After all, the man had a family. Instead, we note with displeasure that Mrs Cramer has instead attempted to get Mr Johnson's site thrown off-line -- a tactic which has apparently failed rather spectacularly.

That this has failed is a good thing, as we find it unseemly and gauche that Mrs Cramer would attempt to silence someone who has done nothing but point out her ... caring thoughts on the matter.

--------

CORRECTION, 8:25 P.M. We have been informed that Mrs Cramer had in fact apologized for her original post, via Sheila O'Malley, who pointed us in the direction of this entry at "A Small Victory." (See comments on our entry, below). However, the page on which Mrs Cramer made her apology is either unavailable or has been deleted.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

And You Can't Pump Your Own Gas, Either

WE DIRECT ALL RANT READERS to this hysterically funny driving tutorial aimed especially at residents of New Jersey. We can assure you this is one of the funniest things we have seen on the Internet in quite some time.

(via Allison Barnes)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:48 PM | TrackBack

It's Time for Plan B


XINHUA: DECADENT WESTERN ATTACK FAILS AT TRADE TALKS

by Xinhua Staff

Chinese Government officials refused yesterday to revalue the nation's currency, known alternately as the yuan or renminbi, in a meeting with American officials. Here, in this revamped Associated Press photo, former California Assembly speaker Herb Wesson fails miserably in an attempt to convince Chinese negotiators to devalue The People's Money; a move which would make inferior American goods more competitive.

According to a Chinese trade official who would only give his surname, Hu, Wesson's move was met with snickering on the part of the Chinese delegation.

"Flying groin kick! Hmm. Very interesting!" one Chinese diplomat reportedly said at the Sacramento conference. "Sadly, your pitiful Yankee antics are no match for our glorious legions of revolutionary cadres, schooled as they are in Jiang Zemin Thought."

"China will never be defeated," the diplomat added.

Wesson was reportedly recovering in a California hospital following the talks, after his third move (a variation of the classic "Harmonious Thousand-Fists" technique) and his seventh (the old "Drunken Eagle Claw" trick) were rebuffed with great force by a Chinese official. The official, whom sources identified as one Ah Q, body-slammed imitation foreign devil Wesson onto the conference table.

(via Ben Domenech's "Pic Needs a Caption" entry)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:54 AM | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Burning Up His Publisher's Investment

WE HAVE ONE WORD to say regarding this sales report on disgraced plagarist Jayson Blair's book: sweet.

A mere 1,386 copies were sold through last Sunday -- its first week -- according to Nielsen BookScan, which covers about 70 percent of the market. As of this writing, it is also ranked approximately 5,000 in sales on amazon.com. Los Angeles-based New Millennium Press gave Mr Blair a $150,000 advance and printed up 250,000 copies.

It would appear Mr Blair is on his way to committing the second cardinal sin in the writing world, namely: earn one's publisher his advance back, or face ruin and despair. We estimate that Mr Blair has perhaps earned just $6,000 -- maybe $7,000 -- against that sum, which means his work will almost certainly prove a disaster for his publishing house.

If you put up your ear to your computer speaker, you can hear us playing the world's smallest violin!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2004

Is This a Threat, or a Promise?

WE NOTE THAT HOWARD STERN is threatening to quit his radio show again, as reported in this lengthy dispatch from FMQB.com:

"The Howard Stern saga continues. Although Infinity is saying they will stand by their man, Stern is threatening to quit anyway if President Bush signs new indecency legislation into law ... Stern replied by saying that if Bush signs the bill, he will resign as soon as it becomes a law. In fact, he went as far as to say that he's so tired of getting censored every morning that he may resign anyway, even if the bill isn't signed by Bush. Stern lamented that he just wants to do comedy his way, and radio has become too much of a battle."

What, may we ask, is the downside here?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:38 PM | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

The Legal Equal of Pining for the Fjords

IN YET ANOTHER DISPLAY of our peculiarly odd sense of humor, we must share this story from The New York Times with our readers. We must also give Times scribe Adam Liptak major style points for his particular choice of words and quotes.

Mr Liptak informs us that judges are beginning to politely suggest (by which we mean, "cruelly mock in public documents") that lawyers whose writing is at best subpar ought to improve their skills with the pen. We first read his story at the office today, and the following quote from it sent us into such hysterics that we were unable to do any work for a good fifteen minutes. Indeed, our sides ached, we laughed so hard.

Mr Liptak writes:

The judge, Gregory K. Orme, wrote in a dissent in a zoning case that he had been persuaded of the plaintiff's position in spite of rather than because of its filings. He chastised the plaintiff's lawyer, Stephen G. Homer, for his "unrestrained and unnecessary use of the bold, underline, and 'all caps' functions of word processing or his repeated use of exclamation marks to emphasize points in his briefs."

"While I appreciate a zealous advocate as much as anyone, such techniques, which really amount to a written form of shouting, are simply inappropriate in an appellate brief," Judge Orme continued. "It is counterproductive for counsel to litter his brief with burdensome material such as "WRONG! WRONG ANALYSIS! WRONG RESULT! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!"

Mr Homer declined to comment, the Times said. This is a shame, for we here at The Rant want to know if this "zoning case" was actually an argument over a dead parrot.

Mr Liptak also notes that a second judge -- to be fair, the main focus of the story -- docked a lawyer over $30,000 for his badly-written legal briefs.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:01 PM | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Mad Englishmen and Other Topics

WE NOTE WITH DISPLEASURE that one Oliver James, writing in this week's edition of The Observer, has taken a rather sneering attitude towards American religious attitudes in an essay about mental illness.

We are not surprised at Mr James' conclusions, as his entire essay is badly-written from the first sentence. Indeed, in that first sentence, Mr James asserts that "psychiatrists maintain that you can no more be a bit mad than a bit pregnant." Perhaps scholarship holds differently on the other side of the pond, but we have never known such views to hold sway here.

For instance, several years ago, we personally suffered from bouts with clinical depression. This was cured over time with the assistance of medication, and we no longer are treated for it. As such, one could argue that our particular case was less severe than a person who needed both therapy and medication for treatment; and that second case was itself less severe than a depression case requiring hospitalization for treatment. Hence, Mr James' argument that there is in fact a spectrum from sanity to madness is entirely specious; or, as we would say here in the United States: well, duh.

So why Mr James sees the need to bring religion into the debate is beyond us, especially when there is nothing to debate. But, in any event, he writes:

Delusional beliefs, like thinking you are a poached egg, are another crucial sign of madness. About one in seven Americans believe they have seen a UFO, and 3.7m claim they have been abducted by aliens. Half agree with the statement: 'The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.' OK, the Yanks are nuts.

The first point, that one in seven Americans, or approximately 40 million people, believe they have seen a UFO largely cannot largely be chalked up to delusional beliefs. Plenty of people see odd things in the sky. These things are, of course, later found to be passenger jets or weather balloons or weird cloud formations, or some other rational explanation is given for their appearance: such as the testing of an advanced fighter aircraft. But simply seeing an unidentified flying object is not prima facie evidence that little green men are in command of it, and that should be apparent.

True, Mr James points out that 1.3 percent of the American public do believe that little green men are in command of such UFOs, and these poor souls believe that said alien life forms have temporarily absconded with them for unknown purposes. However, given that this estimate was likely drawn from a survey sample of just a few thousand persons, it seems foolish to automatically extrapolate that 3.7 million Americans find the idea of a man from Mars eating cars and bars and now guitars all that plausible. Even if they did, one could simply argue that this myth was easily spread among those few people who are easily suspectible to believing in such things. Being mad is not, in many cases, the same as being witless.

Which, of course, makes Mr James' final point about Americans' belief in the Bible's accuracy and source even more insulting. One ought not compare religious belief to madness or witlessness; to do so is both morally repugnant and intellectually puerile. If one wants to argue the pros and cons of religious belief on an intellectual or theological level, that is one thing. But to dismiss it across the board is to show an amazing amount of disrepect for those who do believe in it.

Now we do not personally believe the Bible is the actual Word of God; as a Roman Catholic, we believe it is the inspired Word of God as written by Man. That is a different interpretation than that shared by many of our Protestant friends; but we have no quarrel with them for holding their views, and we respect their faith, even though we may not personally believe in some particular points of their doctrine.

Yet the way Mr James writes, he puts religious belief on the same plane as whether one believes one will get a check in the mail later this week. This intellectual laziness boggles our mind. It would be no different than us saying, hypothetically, that 15 percent of Britons still believe the old version of Clause IV in the Labour Party's Constitution* is a reasonable policy solution despite history's general verdict to the contrary -- and thus, they are mad.

Now it would be perfectly silly for us to argue such a thing, because one cannot link mental health to political or religious belief. Apparently Mr James sees it differently, and that's unfortunate. But as he does, we would be quite interested to know just what he thinks about certain issues. Perhaps he needs some good time off in the country.

(via Emily Jones)

-----
* The old version of Clause IV essentially calls for the forcible nationalization of industry, a doctrine now thoroughly rejected by all major political entities in the developed world.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:26 PM | TrackBack

February 06, 2004

What? No Loss of Consortium?

WE WERE BEMUSED to learn that a Tennessee woman, prompted by the licentious display during the half-time show of America's most famous sporting event, has gone ahead with a particularly American response to that bawdiness. By this, we mean that she is suing Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, CBS, MTV and Viacom.

The woman alleges that she, as well as other American television viewers, suffered "outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury" from the broadcast. She further alleges that Americans have suffered a loss of "standing and credibility" in the world at large due to the broadcast. She is asking for billions of dollars, but has graciously filed her lawsuit on behalf of all viewers who watched the program.

Quite frankly, we don't know what impresses us more: the fact that she actually went to the trouble to file the lawsuit, or that an actual bar-approved attorney agreed to file it. After all, there is clearly no need for such a suit: the law provides plenty of relief as is, and many are preparing to do a dance routine on Viacom's collective keister. And we do not think much of clogging the courts merely to make a statement.

However, if this act was in fact a statement, we wish that the lady in question and her attorney had gone over the top with things. Never mind "serious injury" -- hell, our spleen gave out just minutes after learning of what happened -- let's throw in something good here: emotional distress, loss of consortium, the gout, scabies, athlete's foot, uncontrollable nausea.

Of course, we jest. We would never suggest that anyone go this far -- especially since the defendants could well use a particularly disturbing new legal tactic* in response:

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, madam. You allege that this Super Bowl incident caused you, and I quote, "outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury," am I correct?
PLAINTIFF: That's right.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well. That's interesting. For I have here in my possession a signed notice from the very next day proving you saved a lot of money on your car insurance!
GALLERY: (gasps)(begins muttering)
JUDGE: Order! ORDER!
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This wasn't serious injury at all, was it? This was actually "good news," wasn't it, ma'am?
PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: OBJECTION!
JUDGE: Overruled. Continue.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Did you or did you not save $143 per year on that insurance?
PLAINTIFF: Well, it wasn't that much, it's an '82 Ford and ...
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your honor, I would like to submit into evidence Exhibit G, this being the sworm statement of Mrs Burton P Schrenk, the plaintiff's neighbor. Mrs Schrenk notes that the plaintiff said, and I quote, "If I hadn't been so sick of the television, I never would have opened that direct mail advertisement." Isn't that what you said, ma'am?
PLAINTIFF: All right, all right! So I did!
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your honor, I move for --
JUDGE: -- Case dismissed!
GALLERY: (now in uproar)
BAILIFF: Stick around, everybody! The next case involves a man dressed up like a rabbit!

Fight fire with fire, that's what we always say.


-------
* Hey, if everyone else is using a GEICO joke, we can too.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:09 AM | TrackBack

January 31, 2004

Utter and Complete Amazement

WE WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND our sincere condolences to residents of Arkansas this morning. For based on these Actual News Reports coming out of your state, you have had a really bad week. Either that, or somebody put something unnatural in The Natural State's water supply -- because a whole bunch of stupid got put on display all at once. Here's a partial sample:

"Both men tried to enter a guilty plea Monday but the proceedings were delayed when both tested positive for illegal drugs.

Among the evidence presented to the court were fingerprints on the box that matched those of the accused and the carcass of the snake. Its fangs were intact, but its body had been sliced in half."

Oh, that did pique your interest, we can tell! And that's just from one of the three stories we linked above, we can assure you.

Just go click on the links, dear readers. It is late here, and as such we haven't the foggiest idea of where to begin with all this. Of course, a good ten minutes of uproarious, sustained laughter has a tendency to distract us from doing any writing.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:41 AM | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Director Rewrites History; We Rewrite Film

OH, GOD. Such was our first thought when we saw a particular article in today's edition of The Washington Times, which informed us that British academics have "savaged" a film director for making a bad movie about the Crusades. As we learn from reading the article, that is not an inaccurate word to use:

Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott was savaged by senior British academics yesterday over his forthcoming film, which they say "distorts" the history of the Crusades to portray Arabs in a favorable light.

The $135 million film, which stars Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, is described by the makers as being "historically accurate" and designed to be "a fascinating history lesson."

However, academics including Britain's leading authority on the Crusades, Jonathan Riley-Smith attacked the plot of "Kingdom of Heaven," describing it as "rubbish," "ridiculous," "complete fiction" and "dangerous to Arab relations ..."

Well, we suppose we can scotch this particular film off our viewing list, given A) our penchant for true history; and B) that Dr Riley-Smith says, in so many words, that the movie is flawed in nearly all respects. From the Times, here's more on the movie's plot:

... The script depicts Baldwin's brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan, who succeeds him as King of Jerusalem, as "the archvillain." A further group, "the Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians," is introduced, promoting an image of cross-faith kinship. "They were working together," the film's spokesman said. "It was a strong bond until the Knights Templar cause friction between them."

Gad. Look -- don't get us wrong. We very much approve when folks of differing traditions work together. But this doesn't sound anything like the Crusades. This sounds like some sort of zany screwball comedy!

Say. That gives us an idea.

Why not throw in a Buddhist monk along with this brotherhood? He can deliver important-sounding wisdom when the hot-headed Christian (Owen Wilson) makes the inevitable call for violent action against the Templars. And then, later in the film, our heroes can stop the fighting by organizing a rap concert! (1)

Oh, we can see it now.

-----------

KING GUY: There lies the enemy! ST JAMES AND AT -- ! (2)
RAYMOND of TRIPOLI: My lord king! Do you not hear that sweet singing from yonder plain below?
KING GUY: Well, as a matter of fact --
BALIAN of IBELIN: Dude! It's the Black-Eyed Peas!

(CRUSADERS halt, murmuring among themselves.)

KING GUY: Oh. Well. Yes, I suppose that could very well be the hit sensation sweeping America playing below the Horns of Hattin. Might I remind you we're fighting for Jerusalem?
RAYMOND of TRIPOLI: M'lord! How can we fight with the glorious strains of "Where is the Love?" ringing in our ears?
KING GUY: Never mind! What part of "extreme danger from angry foreign army" don't you get?
BALIAN of IBELIN: Dude! The Old Man's down there partying! We can score some killer weed!
KING GUY: What! Look here! I order you to ...
BALIAN of IBELIN: (to Crusaders) It's a free concert! A FREE CONCERT!

(CRUSADERS drop their weapons and rush down the hill. In their haste, THE TRUE CROSS is knocked aside and topples. Meanwhile, in SALADIN'S CAMP, a similar situation is at hand).

SALADIN: Observe the Crusaders! Stand ready! Now -- give the devil the lie -- ! (3)
TAKI ed-DIN: Sir! A Buddhist monk has conveniently arrived as you prepare to smash the infidel!
SALADIN: Do make it quick, would you?
BUDDHIST MONK: My lord. "Hatred is never appeased by hatred. Hatred is only appeased by love. This is an eternal law." (4)

(concert music drifts over to camp)

SALADIN: Gee, they're having a lot of fun over there, aren't they? And it wouldn't be noble to attack them while they're getting down in a totally righteous manner, now would it?
TAKI ed-DIN: What! Oh no. You've got to be kidding me.
SALADIN: Sorry, Taki. Let's go join them.

NARRATOR: And thus, it was on this day that both sides learned the value of peace. And everyone lived happily ever after. Well, until Constantinople got sacked in 1204. Hoo boy.

---------

OK, so maybe these ideas wouldn't fit in with the rest of the film. But we're just offering them up. After all, if the movie is arguably complete fiction, why not go the full nine yards? (FIN)

HISTORICAL NOTES: In criticizing a movie based on historical accuracy, we realize the importance of providing well-researched historical facts for our readers, in addition to showing where we have taken a bit of license.

(1) This is a broad application of a theory first advanced by the writer M. Stanton Evans.
(2) As best we can tell, "St James and at 'em!" was not actually a medieval Frankish war cry, but rather a Spanish war cry during the Reformation.
(3) On the other hand, "Give the devil the lie!" was a war cry used by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin. See Runciman's "A History of the Crusades," vol. ii, p. 459.
(4) See the Pali Dhammapada, verse 5.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

We Assure You: We're Not Making This Up

WE'LL ADMIT IT: we laughed until we almost cried at this story. It wasn't just the event itself, which was amazing, or the picture, which was priceless. It was all the other details.

We'll give you some idea about them. Detail one: this event took place in Sheboygan, Wisc., which in itself is funny. Detail two: this event took place at a Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Sheboygan, Wisc., which made it even funnier. Detail three: it involved a young boy named Timmy, as in Timmy-fell-down-the-well-again-go-get-help-Lassie Timmy. Detail four: this Timmy also had to be rescued, although it was not an emergency. If that had been the case, we can assure you we would not be joking about it today.

But detail five -- the most notable detail -- was that this young lad reminded us of ourselves when we were young, when our precocious ingenunity resulted in some rather crazy shenanigans.

In our case, in an event known as the Infamous Kiddie Pool Diving Attempt of 1979, we attempted to jump six feet into a wading pool with approximately fifteen inches of water in it. This plunge, which took place from a sliding door next to which no deck had yet been built, resulted in us breaking our arm. It will come as no surprise to those who know us that in addition to snapping a major limb, we also managed to miss the pool entirely, and landed instead on terra firma.

Fortunately, this Timmy's sharp thinking didn't get the best of him. And we can assure you that Timmy is almost certainly destined for greatness. For he has accomplished a feat which no American before him has managed to do -- he got to all those cheap toys in those rip-off carnival games. And if Timmy could do that at the age of seven, we are confident that in two decades' time, he will be designing that spiffy new hydrogen-powered car we would be considering for purchase.

In the meantime, we hope he got to keep a few toys for his trouble.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ...

... UNLESS YOU'RE A WRETCHED, holiday-hating, anti-religious spoil-fun who can't stand that the vast majority of the people around you are having a fine time celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah.

One such person apparently works at the University of California at Davis, if an e-mail which K-Lo @ NRO received on Thursday afternoon is any guide. We quote the e-mail in its entirety:

Thought you might find this interesting........

I work in a department of about 150 people for the University of California, Davis. We have been told that we can't even call it a "Holiday" party any longer. One sole kook decided that the word "holiday" implies religion and whined to our dean that the word offended her because of that. The dean promptly caved and told us that our party was now being called the "Annual" party.

I would love to hear anyone who can top that. This has to rank pretty high on the ridiculousness meter.

(staring at screen in silence)

(crickets chirp)

(dog howls at moon)

GAD.

Yeah, we know that we shouldn't be shocked and awed at such amazing stupidity and boorishness. The incident in question did happen at the University of California at Davis; the behavior described therein does exemplify a lack of tact that only an academic could possess; and we do recall Kissinger's old dictum.*

Even still, the apoplexy we suffered upon reading that e-mail nearly blew out our spleen. What the devil is wrong with some people? Perhaps the better question would be: Why the devil do the rest of us put up with it?

Well, by jingo, we here at The Rant are not going to put up with it any longer. We have had it up to here with milquetoast greetings and amorphous celebrations. We are sick and tired of kowtowing to this mindless imbecility. And the whole let's-deny-religion-actually-exists-in-life schtick is right out.

So, in that spirit, we wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah this year. And if the mere mention of those holidays happens to offend you, or gets under your skin, or somehow annoys you ...

Well, you'll get over it.

-----
* "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:17 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Keep Building That Fence

BARBARISM is the only word that can be used to describe conduct in a recent student government election at a university in the West Bank, on which the Associated Press recently reported.

The AP reports:

In a West Bank university election for the student leadership that focused on which party had killed the most Israelis, the violent Hamas swept to victory Wednesday, defeating Yasser Arafat's Fatah.

The campaign for the student government council at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah featured exploding models of Israeli buses and claims of prowess based on Israeli casualties.

The amazing thing is that the story gets worse from there; indeed, it is shocking beyond belief. We are not kidding. It is that bad.

So read the whole thing. Observe how the road map to peace is being torn up, shredded, used to wipe up coffee stains on the dash and then thrown out the window.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:55 AM | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

When Nature Attacks

AS PART OF HIS LONG-STANDING QUEST to raise the level of discourse among Americans, Dean Esmay has linked to the text of a Michael Crichton speech on the environment. In this address, Mr Crichton looks at issues surrounding the environment with a very, very sharp lens.

We particularly found one portion of this speech of interest:

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.

Now, we cannot independently confirm the veracity of Mr Crichton's views on this matter, although we do believe them to be awfully sound.

We do believe that it's important to have a clean environment, so folks -- if they desire -- can go and enjoy the country without having to deal with smoggy air and tainted water; so folks can go see the natural wonders God has given us; and so folks can go see how things used to be before Man's guiding hand reshaped the landscape. How we accomplish that as a society is another matter entirely, but we would argue that folks everywhere pretty much agree that goal is a good one to have.

That said, we go further than Mr Crichton in his remarks. We here at The Rant do not merely respect nature; we generally fear it. Indeed, we hold to what we call the Annie Hall Theory of Communing with Nature.

In short, when faced with a hostile living thing such as a giant spider, our initial reaction is to kill it, for God's sake. If we are unable to do so, we have two options: retreat from the field of battle, or somehow prevail upon William F. Buckley to kill the spider. (If readers have no idea what we are talking about, clickez ici).

Indeed, long-time Rant readers know full well about our inability to deal with citified nature, i.e. the scavenging animals which in the summertime lurk around our dwelling and cause trouble. Indeed, we were quite shaken when we last found ourselves dealing with a meddlesome skunk, which had the audacity to attempt spraying us with its foul-smelling ichor one summer evening. Sadly, we were not able to finish the war of aggression which this bold woodland creature began against us; but we are hopeful that the skunk was subsequently contained, and sent someplace to prevent it from ever again unleashing its weapon of mass stinkification.

Given this example, readers will undoubtedly find it no surprise to know that real nature is not something we're all that keen about. If other folks want to go out and enjoy the woods and streams, that's their business. But as for us, we'll stick with the sterile, ultraviolet, tame arena of the indoors. Especially during black-fly season.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 06, 2003

Yet Another Compendium of Idiocy

GAD. WE HAD THOUGHT, for a fleeting moment, that we would be allowed to enjoy the Christmas holidays without any notably stupid incidents taking place in society. Sadly, however, a few Americans decided that not even upcoming holy days would keep them from inflicting such things upon us.

Here at The Rant, we are in a particularly annoyed mood tonight for a few reasons. First, the snow is falling heavily, and does not stop. Second, our newly-purchased copy of Sarah McLachlan's latest CD will not jive with our computer's primary music program, and instead defaults to using the advertisement-ridden, third-rate music program which we do not like. Third, we need junk carbohydrates like you wouldn't believe, but Item One has pretty much stopped us from getting those this evening. Fourth, our nerves are shot. Clearly, you can see why we are not exactly happy and joyous.

However, we are going to put this frustration to perfectly good use, and blog about annoying, inexplicable, frustrating and nauseatingly-inane things. Besides, in about thirty minutes, our sedatives will kick in. That means we have a limited window in which to work before we is stoned immaculate.

So! Let us commence!

KICKING OFF the Parade of Madness this evening is the controversy about the poor seven-year-old whose teacher disciplined him after he informed a classmate that his parents are homosexual.

Two things really upset us about this whole situation. The first was that the teacher went way over the top in dealing with a situation that normal people would have left to the parents of the children concerned. The second was the note sent home with the boy; look at it. It is so insulting and downright mean-spirited to the boy's parents, it boggles the mind. It shows a real disdain for parental authority and responsibility, if you ask us.

While we're at it, we note with shock and extreme displeasure that the teacher, while quick to swoop down upon the boy for his spoken words, has apparently done little to correct his skills with written language. To us, the boy's writing in that letter home is even more scary than the letter itself -- for the boy appears, for all intents and purposes, illiterate.

True, he is only seven years old, and one does not want to be so negative about any youngster's educational progress. But while we are confident his present disciplinary woes will be corrected, we are far less hopeful that the folks in charge of his studies will go as far to ensure he can actually write.

NEXT UP on this miserable parade is the case of a Texas woman who became so enraged at not having mayonnaise put on her hamburger that she ran over a hapless restaurant manager.

The good news is that the manager, a productive and God-fearing person, did not die. Also, the woman who ran over the manager will spend 10 years in prison. The bad news is that for one woman's want of mayonnaise -- wretched, evil condiment that it is -- the good people of Texas shall spend hundreds of thousands of dollars keeping this person behind bars. We think a better punishment could have been meted out.

Before we get into that, though -- what is it about some people that they think they can just hurl abuse at service workers, or for that matter, anyone else? Now, we understand that everyone can have a bad day, but for some people it really seems to be a constant part of their personality. It's just uncalled for, and indicative of some true wretchedness in people's hearts.

Anyway, we think the woman should have been sentenced to ten years of flipping hamburgers and forced to repay the manager, the McDonalds Corporation, and any insurers involved for their losses sustained when said woman completely lost it in the drive-thru.

For as that restaurant manager put it so well: "I put the mayonnaise on her burger. I took the onions and the mustard off. What did I do?"

LASTLY, we would suggest filing this item under the "Ah, Shit!" department, in terms of a good story that went to perdition rather quickly. It turns out that the shopper reportedly trampled in a stampede for cheap Chinese DVD players has a history of filing slip-and-fall claims.

The funny thing about the whole incident is that it is entirely plausible that things happened as the shopper and her sister said they did -- but the prior claims now cast a very long shadow of doubt over their story. If so, that would be quite a way to learn a lesson most people pick up at the age of five: don't act like the boy who cries wolf.

That's all for this Compendium of Idiocy installment. In the meantime, we hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and that the weather where you live isn't too awful. Not that we care about our bad weather any more -- woooooo-boy -- it's so damned pretty ...

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:53 PM | TrackBack

December 02, 2003

That Guy in the Red Suit

WE HAVE LEARNED OF A PATENTLY WEIRD STORY from the AFP today -- so weird that we are inclined to ignore it. However, we present it as proof of our long-standing suspicion that the Old World, with the exception of certain Ideologically Sound Nations, has fallen into decadence and decay.

Folks, it would appear that the Europeans have turned Santa Claus into a Communist.

Don't believe us, eh? Well, we were naturally skeptical of the idea too. But then we read the AFP's story! From it, we learn that good Santa Claus receives cultural subsidies from the European Union; is angry at his reindeer for breaking EU environment regulations; and thinks that modern children these days are too materialistic.

Well, OK. They are. But if Euroclaus here can't see he's part of the problem, what with the socialist bailout scheme he's got going for his inefficient and wasteful toy plant, then he's not going to be much help in fixing things. Gad. We sure as heck see his plan: give the kids loads and loads of free toys today, and tomorrow they'll want all sorts of other stuff for free. Like spa treatments under the government health plan.

Gee. Maybe Santa could spark a return to sanity. He could start by giving the elves less than eight weeks vacation and eleven paid holidays!

But of course, he wouldn't do that -- after all, that would cause IG Spielwaren to start trouble, and that would ruin everything. It was bad enough when Santa Claus suggested the elves retire at 57 instead of 55, remember?

Now, we fully admit that this story is not entirely bad. After all, St Nicholas is a practicing Christian, yet amazingly receives cultural subsidies from the materialists in Brussels.

But what kind of saint would demand payback from little children, as the Santa in the AFP story does? Does he not ask sneeringly, "And what do they give in return?" Yes! He does! Well -- that explains why he got the subsidies, then! Clearly he sold out his beliefs to jump on board the gravy train.

Unless, of course, this is all simply disinformation. It's entirely possible, of course. After all, such a warning from the AFP ("Watch out kiddies -- Santa's definitely in a bad mood this year") could very well be a ruse to cover up for Europe's continuing economic malaise. After all, it's a lot easier to blame some imaginary figure for one's woes, instead of rightfully castigating the stifling status quo.

----
(Hey, what can we say? Satire in, satire out -- and Merry Christmas to everyone).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Ineptitude.

-------

MEMORANDUM

TO: The Sydney Morning Herald

FR: Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant

RE: Webdiary

---------
SIR -- We wish to register a complaint about the "Webdiary" feature in the electronic edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. Specifically, we refer you to this particular entry, which appeared on 20 November 2003.

Please be advised that we think this feature consistently embarrasses not only your fine publication, but also the great nation of Australia.

You see, your publication is a regular source of information for many Americans who do not know where else they may turn for information about your country. As such, folks here rely on the Sydney Morning Herald for timely, informative and comprehensive articles about goings-on there. Webdiary fails miserably at doing any of these things; instead, it seems to offer readers rather a lot of apoplectic ranting about.

Furthermore, these apoplectic rantings, presented as they are in some degenerate corruption of the English tongue, are so histrionic in tone that they make us wonder whether Webdiary is some kind of in-country joke; a joke that we, as foreigners, just don't understand. We would suggest these things are not exactly helping matters.

For instance, we note that in the article we cite above, the lead author of Webdiary, Ms Margo Kingston, is quoted as writing elsewhere: "A growing proportion of the media are behaving as propagandists, not as journalists." It is bad enough that proportion is a singular collective -- the copy desk ought have caught that and reworked the sentence -- but we do not understand how one draws such a conclusion. Surely with the Code of Ethics at the Sydney Morning Herald, a code that we are sure is emulated across Australia, this could not be the case.

That is just one example -- but the collective effect of such writing is that we in America are very much concerned about our Australian friends. Perhaps it might not be a bad idea to take a few weeks off in the country and rest up a bit; soothe the frayed nerves, have a nice glass of Shiraz, etc. etc.

We would have sent this letter to you privately, but we could not find any contact information on-site other than the Letters editor. With all the similar letters we assume he receives, we did not want to burden him with having to edit, proof, and condense our correspondence. After all, he only has space to print 25-30 letters each day. We know you get many more than that there, so we thought we would save him the trouble and print our letter in the public domain.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration in this matter.

Very sincerely,

Benjamin Kepple
Chief Executive Officer
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, Inc.
"Your Hometown Nostalgia Source"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:12 PM | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

Ask a Stupid Question ...

SOME PEOPLE SAY that there are no such things as stupid questions. We here at The Rant know this is patently untrue -- not merely because of our line of work, but because we have a very cool site statistics program. This program, using technological wizadry far beyond our ken, somehow captures all the queries put forth and stores them.

Trust us. There are stupid questions out there. However, as a Public Service to our readers here at The Rant, we are again offering Snappy Answers to YOUR Search Questions. Well, actually not YOUR search questions, because Loyal Rant Readers have no need to search on-site for such things. Rather, these are the search questions of OTHER PEOPLE WHO STUMBLED ACROSS THIS SITE FOR REASONS WE CAN'T EVEN FATHOM.

In any event: let us begin. Search topics are in bold.

big ben

We've heard all the jokes. They're still not funny.

bob guinney

We understand he is on television. Perhaps if you watched that device, you could see more of him. On the other hand, you could always read a book. We would suggest this one.

devastatin dave

You'd find that under the Rap Music Clearly Aimed at White People section.

video immaculate reception

With the Steelers at 2-6, we miss it too. But Gad! what a catch! Thirty-two years later, we still like watching it. Especially since Franco pulled it off against the Raiders.

nude in public

People ought not do such things.

why do we belive in the tooth fairy

The same reason people once believed in universal disarmament back in the Thirties, and the same reason people once believed in a 55 mph speed limit. Speaking of, we still suffer emotional trauma years after we saw a Seventies-era commercial in which a rock musician and an average pleather-wearing guy get into an argument about that issue. ("Seventy!" "FIIIIFFFFFTY-FIVE!") Hence, we hope the rock star, whomever he was, caught social disease.

jesse kepple

This is our younger and more popular brother.

who eat water buffalo

We don't know, but we hope they have plenty of Pepto-Bismol.

guy smoking joint

Not since college, we haven't. And even then, we only toked up three times and we never got high off the stuff. This was because "Ernie," a friend's supplier, was scum.

tanga s jazz

It's in Tampa. We know this because when we were in college, we once attended a conference in Tampa at a luxury hotel. Much to our amusement, this hotel was right across the way from this establishment. We most certainly did not go to what was then the Tanga Lounge there during our trip, but it did become a very, very funny joke at the time.

You had to be there for the joke, we can assure you.

zip zap rap

We understand this CD is a good listen when, as the commercial put it, one wants to sit back and drink an import whilst watching the market reports.

devon aoki profile sex picture

Dude. Go away.

all with toys thomas & friends

Look. Whatever Thomas and friends do in their own bedroom is their own business. Leave us out of it.

bob-guinney

Proper names don't have dashes, unless the person in question is a rock musician and thinks he needs to adopt a silly name to sell records.

earning money in middle ages

This was difficult, not only due to the lack of technology and political stability at the time, but also because savings vehicles were non-existent. Also, money as the ancients knew it had generally fallen into disuse due to the feudalist society in place at the time. That feudalist society largely revolved around payment in goods and services as opposed to cash. However, as time went on, things improved dramatically due to the reintroduction of proper coinage, the advent of double-entry bookkeeping, and the introduction of Arabic as opposed to Roman numerals.

That said, if you've invented a time machine, we'd encourage you to go into banking or trading. That was better than being a serf. Just don't loan money to those warmongering monarchs.

underworld corvin 12th century

It was a stupid movie. We told you that already. Go watch "Lost in Translation" instead.

clubbing baby seals

Well! You, sir, have just won yourself a complimentary drink from Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant. When we go whaling next November, we'll make sure to let you know. Bring your harpoon, and a good winter coat -- it gets cold out on the Gulf of Maine.

That's it for now -- but tune in a couple weeks for more Snappy Answers to YOUR -- um, NOT YOURS, BUT OTHER PEOPLE'S Search Questions!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

EU Caves, Agrees Kilts Aren't Skirts

BRUSSELS HAS AGREED to back down from classifying kilts as skirts, The Scotsman has reported. The move came after the EU's statistics agency agreed to list Scotland's national garment as menswear.

Well, good. The whole story, the first part of which Andrew Dodge has posted, is appalling. First you have some Eurocrat demanding that kilts be declared as skirts. Then Brussels said that if the good kilt-makers of Scotland were not to comply with this demand, they could face fines of up to 1000 pounds. The highest levels of Government had to be called in to have this problem solved.

Now, we here at The Rant are not experts on the matter. We are only partially Scots; perhaps one-third of our ancestry is such, at most. Further, we do note that the modern kilt was the invention of an English (!) industrialist in the 1700s. 'Struth!

That said, even we can tell it is very much still Scotland's national garment, and no whinging excitable Eurocrat should ever have dared to insult the good people of Scotland as such. Of course, there could be one bright side to this whole affair. Perhaps the Scots will start wondering why some foreign lan dhen cac bureaucrat can levy thousand-pound fines on their heads for not filling out a statistics form.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:58 PM | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

More Sanity from The Scotsman

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between an entertainment writer and an Actual Working Journalist? Actual Working Journalists write things like this:

At this point I should point out that (Jennifer) Lopez is not some ancient emperor revered as a living god who has fallen through a rift in the space time continuum and is having a hard time adjusting. She is in fact a light entertainer. To be precise she is an unoriginal, manufactured, future-has-been, whose music is too dull to be played in lifts and who recently made one of the worst films of all time ever, Orca the Killer Whale included.

If it's true she demanded staff (at the North British hotel) did not look at her, what's depressing is not that J-Lo is so deluded about her own importance as to make such a request but that others took her seriously. Someone in her 100-strong entourage of lackeys should have had the guts to give her a reality check. And the management of the North British (OK, OK, Balmoral) should have looked her in the eye - yes, eye - and chucked her out into Princes Street.

Even Philip of Macedon was told regularly: "Remember thou art mortal."

J-Lo needs something similar. "Remember thou made Gigli."

That's Stewart Kirkpatrick writing, in The Scotsman. Go read the whole thing.

------
NOTICE to American teenaged readers: Philip of Macedon was the father of Alexander the Great.

What do you mean you have no idea what we're talking about? Do they teach nothing in these schools? ALEXANDER. Lived in the third century BC, conquered pretty much of the known world, etc. What's that? Yes, one might say the wack fool got as far as remote Indiana.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:31 AM | TrackBack

You Say You Want Some Revolutions

Oh No!
It's Time For Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today's Feature: "The Matrix: Revolutions"

WE HAD A SNEAKING SUSPICION that "Revolutions" would turn out the way it did. One warning sign was that critics weren't as thrilled about the film as they were with the two previous installments of The Matrix series. Another was that the theatre was only 20 percent full, despite there being both a 10:30 p.m. and a 10:50 p.m. showing of the film. As it turned out, those critics were all right about it. Despite our hopes, they were all right about it.

For "Revolutions" has a case of sequel-itis so bad that at one point during the film, right-thinking Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) found himself with some new partners: Agents Mahoney, Hightower and Tackleberry.

Ha, ha! Of course, we jest. But Gad! there were so many awful cliches and so much silliness that we were bloody well near expecting to find Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity) had been replaced with Kate "NEEEEEEEEO!" Capshaw. We are perfectly serious when we say that*. For we found "Revolutions" incredibly disappointing in nearly every respect.

First point of complaint: the acting is even worse in this go-round than in the first two movies. Perhaps it's just us, but we think it telling that Mr Weaving turned in a far better performance than any of the other main characters, and he's playing the part of a robot. Yeah, OK, so he's an evil computer program -- don't you nitpick -- but the point still holds. Mr Reeves delivers his lines as if he had suffered a lobotomy before shooting; and none of the other lead actors are much better.

Now, to spell out the rest of our complaints, we realize we will have to include a great many spoilers in doing so. However, because some Rant readers may still want to see the movie, we are placing said spoilers in the "extended entry" box.

Hence, if you still wish to see the film without having it ruined, don't click on the link. On the other hand, if you would like a rare chance to see us write in an unrestrained fashion -- click on.

--------
* This joke seems so obvious we can't believe we were the first to come up with it. If you know who did, please leave a note in the comments.
--------

SEE? IT WASN'T WORTH YOUR $9 for an evening show anyway!

Anyway, our second complaint has to do with Agent Smith: namely, where the devil is he? Good God. We're guessing it took nearly an hour before we saw our favorite right-thinking plainclothesman show up to knock some sense into those troublesome do-gooders. Even then, it was a brief showing, and we had to wait until the inevitable mano-a-mano fight scene for Smith to really get into good form.

This circumstance, quite frankly, was appalling. Smith was the main bad guy in the first film and also in the second; he is reduced to a shadowy figure of evil in the third and final installment. In place of Agent Smith screen time, we instead get to see bunches upon bunches of battle scenes in which the crazed machines fight the plucky humans.

This is not to say the battle scenes were not impressive; indeed, we admit that they were pretty cool. They were also so extensive we feel the scenes certainly had to satiate any male viewer's inner thirst for watching lots of expensive heavy machinery explode with great effect. That said, they were also so extensive they very much took away from the rest of the film.

There is much more that we could complain about; indeed, we could go on for six or seven more paragraphs. But we shall limit our complaint to perhaps the biggest flaw in "Revolutions" -- namely, the ending.

GAD. This was the most unsatisfying and miserable ending to a movie we've seen in a very, very long time.

You see, near the end, Neo and Trinity go off to the machines' city in an attempt to prevent Zion -- the human city -- from being destroyed. Along the way, there is much trouble after Neo fails to destroy everything in their path, and Trinity is badly injured. To be perfectly precise about it, she is shish-kabobed six ways from Sunday on a variety of sharp metallic objects. Anyway, one would think these wounds would cause her to expire immediately; but no!

Rather, she survives long enough for her and Neo to have an extended conversation about their estate planning. Not even Hamlet went on at such length. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the good people of Zion are dying en masse as they fight on against the loathesome machines. Yet we're supposed to feel, as a much better actor might once have put it, that Neo and Trinity's problems amount to a hill of beans.

Neo, after that, soldiers on into the machines' city: in fact, he gets to the very point where he needs to be so that he may end everything. Then, right as he comes face to face with the machines' collective intellect, he changes into Jacques Chirac and cuts a deal. In return for peace, he declares, he shall destroy Agent Smith once and for all. Needless to say, Neo wins, and the war stops. All the machines go back home while the bruised and battered humans begin looking over their insurance policies.

Now we ask you: what the hell kind of ending is that? Good Lord. It's as if back in 1943, the Allies all of a sudden said, "Hey, we've taken back most of Italy -- that's far enough." After all, in this line of thinking, it's better to have peace in our time than actually free people suffering from tyranny and torment. And, as such, everyone stops fighting, and all is well with the world again; at least, as some of the computer programs note, until the next war breaks out.

We are sorry, but this doesn't cut it for us. Oh, sure, we expect things to go perfectly well over in Europe in terms of fan reaction to the ending, but for us, it just didn't cut it at all.

Sadly, when it came to "Revolutions," there was precious little that cut it at all.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

I've Got Your Spoon Right Here...

WE SINCERELY HOPE the final installment of the "Matrix" series -- "The Matrix: Revolutions" -- does not suck, as certain folks are warning us about the possibility. However, we are about to go find out for ourselves.

Expect a "Cinema With Ben" update in the wee hours of Friday -- look between the hours of 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:15 PM | TrackBack

October 17, 2003

Reds in Space! (Part Two)

AS SO OFTEN HAPPENS here at The Rant, a heated but enlightened discussion about one of our posts has taken place on someone else's site. Why these types of things happen is beyond us, but they do. In this case, it could be that Dean Esmay gets more traffic, perhaps, than Benjamin Kepple! But such is life!

In any event, only one writer at Mr Esmay's site has directly taken a pot-shot at our argument about the Communist Chinese's successful space mission. Mr Arnold Harris writes as follows:

Mr Keppel (sic) expresses fears in connection with China's space program which has inserted a orbiter and pilot into near space and returned them safely to earth.

For those who would put too much stock in his arguments, he also expresses the policy that the present Taiwan government in Taipeh is the legitimate government of China's "twenty-two renegade provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities, in addition to the special zones of Hong Kong and Macao."

This is the same kind of mentality that publishes maps of the Middle Eastern states in which no state of Israel appears. (Commonly done by cartographers in Eqypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and much of the rest of the Arab world, and which helps explain why they always lose their wars and are considered "a little people, a silly people".)

With all due respect to Mr Harris, we find his little bullet directed our way a bit of a stretch. Firstly, to compare our non-recognition of Communist China's Government to a denial of Israel's legitimacy is off-base in the extreme. There are many reasons for this, but we shall only offer two in particular, because we find them most compelling.

The first is purely semantic. Namely, Israel is one nation -- it exists as a singular entity, with one Government presiding over all of it. In China's case, the nation is divided -- two Governments preside over different parts of the nation.

Were one to express the view that Israel's Government is illegitimate -- which we, like Mr Harris, think is a stupid, backward and capricious view -- one would be in essence saying Israel has no right to exist. That we reject in its entirety. On the other hand, recognizing one of the two Chinese Governments shows that we most certainly recognize China's right to exist. We just want the democratic Chinese in charge.

The second reason is purely moral. We could go on at length to show why Mr Harris' comparison is very much off-kilter, but we will leave it at the following:

* Number of Chinese citizens intentionally killed by the Communist Chinese Government: roughly 65 million.

* Number of Israeli citizens intentionally killed by the Israeli Government: Zero.


That is clear enough, we hope, to make the point. For if the Communist Chinese insist that we recognize only one China, that is fine. But don't expect us to recognize them as its rightful leaders.

It was not the Republic of China on Taiwan which intentionally killed millions upon millions of its own people. It was not the Republic of China on Taiwan which conducted mass terror campaigns in the pursuit of ideological purity. It was not the Republic of China on Taiwan that sent its own nation sliding backward into penury, starvation and fear. And it was not the Republic of China on Taiwan that approved of its citizens turning into vigilantes and shouting slogans such as this:

If the father is brave, the son will be a hero
If he's a reactionary, the son will be an asshole
If you're a revolutionary, step forward and join us
If you're not, get lost!

Get lost!
We're gonna chase you out of your fucking job!
Kill! Kill! Kill!

Admittedly, the Nationalists were bastards at times too -- but they were never like that. And they figured it out eventually. So today, if we have to side with one Chinese Government over the other -- than we'll side with the folks on the right side.

Oh, by the way: The Washington Times has an interesting report today on the space mission. It turns out the Communist Chinese were putting the Shenzhou V's flight to military use -- and they are dead-set on having their space program work towards military ends.

In short, we were right.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:57 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

October 11, 2003

Amazingly, It's Not a Joke

THIS IS A VERBATIM lead from an AFP story:

The US State Department has lodged a vehement complaint with prominent conservative televangelist Pat Robertson for comments suggesting that its Foggy Bottom headquarters should be destroyed with nuclear weapons, officials said.

Spokesman Richard Boucher called the remarks -- which Robertson made last week on his nationally televised "700 Club" program -- "despicable" and a senior department official said a protest had been made "at the highest level."

If the State Department has somehow achieved a connection with God Himself, we think the American people ought to know about this.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:21 AM | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

Underwhelming and Uninspiring

Oh No!
It's Yet Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today's Film: Underworld

"UNDERWORLD" IS NOT A FILM FOR THINKING MOVIE-GOERS, we are sad to report. Based upon the interesting if somewhat odd premise that two groups of supernatural creatures are secretly warring with each other, we do believe that "Underworld" could have made for a decent or perhaps even good movie-going experience. Unfortunately, we knew not five minutes into the movie that it would be neither decent nor good, and we knew ten minutes into it that we had found ourselves condemned to two hours of anguish and pain.

For "Underworld" is underwhelming and uninspiring in every respect. It is a badly-directed, badly-scripted, badly-written, and badly-rationalized movie that even falls short in the categories in which such bad films are usually good. For while one had hoped the scenery and style and hot girls wearing slinky costumes might have made up for it, "Underworld" failed to live up to its potential in even that regard. All in all, it made for a rather disappointing film experience.

Of course, our streak of bad luck continued as we went into the film. For the lax projectionist started the film late, and the theatre management decided it would load up reams of previews on top of that. And lo, we did watch in bemusement as advertisements for an upcoming stupid horror film and an upcoming stupid crime drama were splashed across the silver screen, to be followed by an ad for yet another upcoming stupid horror film. Interspersed between the first two trailers and the latter were trailers for three films, all of which consisted entirely of recycled or remade content. And, as we were reeling from the nausea and revulsion which these trailers had induced in us, we were thrown into the main film not thirty seconds later.

That says a lot about "Underworld." For one area in which it did excel was throwing the viewer into situations which made absolutely no sense at the time, and only became half-comprehensible about 90 minutes into the picture. Gad.

Anyway, here's the plot. Unbeknownst to God-fearing and mortal humans, clans of vampires and werewolves have been fighting a clandestine war against each other for a good thousand years. As time has marched ever on, the two groups have gone from being hunted down by an angry mediaeval citizenry to successfully adapting to modern, 21st-century life. By this, we mean that the vampires became securities litigators whilst the werewolves became a street gang, albeit a well-spoken street gang. OK, so that's not entirely accurate -- the vampires have actually gone into industry, while the werewolves have gone into the exciting but non-permanent field of anti-government agitation. At least they seem like rebels. We can't tell, because it's not fully explained what it is they do.

Anyway, whilst hunting down the werewolves, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) realizes that the beasties are actually searching for a lowly human. Why this is, no one knows, but the idea of learning more about it is immediately nixed by her incompetent and weaselly superior, Kraven (Shane Brolly). (They named him Kraven. Christ. Idiots!)

As it turns out, the lowly human (Scott Speedman) -- with the eminently European name of Michael Corvin -- is central to the werewolves creating a new line of vampire/werewolf crossbreeds. These hybrid monstrosities would, after passing their Section 7(a) exams, then bring the war to a swift conclusion. At least that's the idea of Lucian (Michael Sheen), the werewolves' leader. As one would expect, Selene and Corvin fall in love, and there is much in the way of hand-wringing about that ("Say! Guess who's coming to dinner?") Then, after a bit of dithering about, this leads to much gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. Denouement follows.

The backdrop for all this silliness is a city in cinema's Twilight Zone. We know this is the case because it has all sorts of pretty mediaeval architecture and gargoyles on the parapet and all that, and because some of the signs look as if they are in German. The license plates on the cars are also done up in that indecipherable and foreign way. On the other hand, everyone speaks English, and speak in a variety of English or American accents, and all the accoutrements -- software, police cars, and so forth -- are all identified in English. One would think the film producers would have been smart enough to realize that a police car ought to say "POLIZEI" instead of "POLICE" on it, or at least given their readers credit for figuring it out themselves.

We cannot begin to explain the full silliness inherent in this film. Gad. First off, the vampires use silver-tinged bullets to kill off the werewolves, as werewolves really don't care for the stuff. Unfortunately, as any student of mythology can tell you, neither do the vampires. The werewolves, for their part, somehow have infused sunlight into their own projectiles. This causes vampires much distress but unfortunately does not seem to jive with physics.

But boy. That's not all. There is a scene in which Kate Beckinsale manages to take two measly machine pistols to shoot her way through a floor. There is a scene in which one of the werewolves somehow manages to outrun a Jaguar XJR sedan. There is a scene in which the high-tech vampiric fortress -- in which there may be 200 to 300 vampires at any one time, despite local fire codes -- has its electrical power cut off with the flip of one switch. Thus proving that vampires are decadent and stupid creatures, as any rational folks would have thrown in a triple-redundancy system.

We also did not think much of the vaunted photography and scenery and costuming that supposedly kept the film from sinking under the weight of its own idiocy. Everyone has already made the comparisons to "The Matrix" movies, and everyone has already concurred with the argument that these failed to jump the high bar. For instance, the vampiric fortress -- for all its Old World charm -- was in sore need of redecorating, having last been redone in 1870 or so. And let's face it -- leather and corsets and all that can be nice, but all that failed to hold my interest for more than three seconds.

So if you must see "Underworld," we would advise waiting until you see it under the "New Releases" section of your local video store, or perhaps under a sign that reads "Bargain Bin." To make any more of an effort for this underachieving cinematic wreck wouldn't be fair. After all, why should you expend so much effort when the folks behind it apparently didn't?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:08 AM | TrackBack

October 03, 2003

Little Guy from Shawnigan Eyes Smoking Big Joint

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER Jean Chretien has once again expressed da Canadian value, as Mark Steyn once termed it. It seems the 69-year-old PM told the Winnipeg Free Press that he may very well toke up after he retires his office, provided a bill decriminalizing cannabis takes effect.

Here are, for your edification, Mr Chretien's own words:

"I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."

Yes, these are in fact the words of the Canadian head of Government. We would suggest that certain Canadians, primarily those who have not yet been cured of the dangerous SMUG virus, reflect on those eloquent statements the next time they criticize Our President for his alleged linguistic deficiencies vis-a-vis pronouncing terms related to atomic weaponry.

Oui, nous ralisons que Chretien est le Qubec, et comme tels
pourraient tre plus comprhensibles en franais. Cela a indiqu,
il apparemment les essoreuses qui aussi.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:14 PM | TrackBack

September 29, 2003

Internet Search Questions Answered

HERE AT THE RANT, it is always a source of amusement to see the content of Internet searches which lead people to our site. This is not to say that some of these searches are not reasonable requests for information available on-line; indeed, some of them are. That said, most of the queries make us fear for the safety of The Republic.

However, in the interest of spreading good will among men, we are providing Quick, Snappy Answers (TM) to some of the searchers who have stumbled across our site, wondering about things which show us they clearly have too much time on their hands.

Q: rob lowe net worth

A: It's more than yours. Next question!

Q: ricki lake metrosexuals

A: Don't watch the former, don't know many of the latter. This may be because metrosexuality largely conflicts with our Scottish heritage, which deems it unmanly to spend large sums of money on hair products.

Q: jennifer and ben breakup september 23

A: So you're to blame for all this! Please -- in the name of God -- stop caring about celebrity events, once and for all. Start reading The Economist instead.

Q: ben affleck and jay lo breakup

A: Gad!

Q: posh and becks slang

A: Bosh and drecks. Hey, it rhymes.

Q: fun and skiing in aspen prospects

A: Few and far between! Oh, yeah, that's exactly what we'd want to do on our winter vacation -- spend time with a bunch of chi-chi fou-fou trustafarians whose idea of engaging conversation is kowtowing before a toilet, offering fervent prayers to Bacchus as their body expels mass quantities of poison ingested a short while beforehand. Go ski in Vermont or something.

Q: inflatable punching doll

A: Consider outpatient therapy.

Q: europe's nudists

A: Now we'll have nightmares.

Q: ben and j-lo what's going on

A: Oh, not you again. Look. There's a wonderful world outside -- why don't you go explore for a bit?

Q: railed or municipality or negated or sunbelt or spleen

A: We don't even want to know.

Q: cluttered or incentives or repetition or colonizing or incendiary

A: Comprador lackeys oppression! Or something.

Q: sabine herold

A: Finally! An actual meaningful request! Well, you can see my entry on Ms Herold here, and ...

Q: just kidding*

A: Why you wretched ... !

Q: ghetto white boys

A: And if you search twice, we're gonna kick your lily ass.

Q: cheering team

A: Huh?

Q: president amin

A: Good riddance.

Q: j-lo and ben affleck did they break up

A: How the devil should we know? GO. AWAY.

Q: latest news on ben and j-lo break up

A: Damn you! WHY must you persist in torturing us, you wretched scoundrel? Did we not make it abundantly clear that we haven't ANY interest in all in that topic? Did we not make it abundantly clear that we thought that was a nonsense story? Why do you read it? Is it to keep you occupied and unworried about issues that will have far more impact on your life?

Q: ben and j-lo back together again

A: GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Q: mansions wedding reception maryland shore

A: We said, GO AW ... oh. Sorry. Got ahead of ourselves there for a moment.

As long as you and your bride aren't paying for the mansion rental yourself, then we wouldn't worry about it. If you are, and you don't have the money, then we would suggest you consider a humbler venue. On the other hand, if you do have it, then go contribute to our continuing economic growth.

Well, that's it for now in terms of Quick, Snappy Answers (TM) to Readers' Search Queries. Tune in at a later date, when we address our readers' questions about economic policy, foreign affairs, and ... oh, you know.

-----
* OK, not an actual request, but hey. We couldn't resist.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

Shock Fury at Depp Comments in Euromag

IT AMAZES US that in this day and age, there are still famous actors who spout off on political subjects, yet don't bother studying up on the subjects of which they're speaking. We find it amazing for two reasons. First, when one is famous and one is also on the record, it behooves one to study the issue to which his remarks apply. Second, the consequences of making unfortunate comments can often be dire when it comes to one's career.

That said, we are not convinced that Johnny Depp, an actor who shot to fame after his stint as "Glen Lantz" in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and starring in some screwed-up Tim Burton film, did not mean what he said to the German newsmagazine Stern. We are also not convinced that he did not say it in the first place, as his people now claim. However, he said enough so that we here at The Rant are convinced he is an idiot.

Mr Depp told Stern, according to a Reuters account, that America is like a stupid puppy:

The 40-year-old actor told the German news magazine Stern he was happier staying in the south of France with his wife, the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, and their two children.

America is dumb, its like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, he said.

My daughter is four, my boy is one. Id like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out, said the star.

Depp slammed George W Bushs administration for its criticism of French opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

I was ecstatic they renamed French Fries as Freedom Fries. Grown men and women in positions of power in the US government showing themselves as idiots, he told Stern.

Except, Depp said later, he didn't say that at all, according to a later Reuters report:

The magazine quoted the actor as saying "America is ... like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive." He was further quoted as saying he wanted his children to "see America as ... a broken toy" that they should explore, get the feel of, then "get out."

Explaining his comments a day later, Depp he had been using a metaphor that was taken "radically out of context," adding, "There was no anti-American sentiment."

"What I was saying was that, compared to Europe, America is a very young country and we are still growing as a nation," he said. "My deepest apologies to those who were offended, affected, or hurt by this insanely twisted deformation of my words and intent."

Now, we don't know about the rest of you, but we didn't understand how ellipses not in one news account could suddenly appear in a second account from the same media source. So we went and sought out the actual transcript from Stern itself. Unfortunately for Mr Depp, it does appear that he did in fact call America a stupid puppy. Using the words "stupid puppy." Ein dummer Welpe. Don't just take our word for it. However, please do note we've cleaned up the transcript, which was probably re-written into German from English, for The Rant's loyal readers:

Q: Das Verhltnis von Amerika und Frankreich ist nicht das beste.

DEPP: Amerika ist wie ein dummer Welpe. Mit groen Zhnen. Er kann dich beien und verletzen. Ein aggressives Land. Die amerikanische Regierung und die Medien haben die Franzosen beschimpft, Prsident Chirac sei ein Tier. Ich war froh, als ich las, dass Pommes frites von "French Fries" in "Freedom Fries" umbenannt wurden. Erwachsene Mnner und Frauen in Machtpositionen, Leute in der Regierung outeten sich auf einmal selbst als Idioten. Ich dachte: Endlich zeigt ihr der Welt, was fr Volltrottel ihr seid. Man muss nur unseren Prsidenten anschauen, unglaublich. Ihm ging es im Irak nur ums Geschft. Um Kontrolle. Geld. Und er ist einer der schlechtesten Lgner, die ich je gesehen habe.

We used on-line translation software to figure out what this roughly meant. The first three lines are literally translated, "America is like a stupid puppy. With large teeth. It can bite and hurt you."

Interesting what was left out of that first Reuters dispatch, although to be fair, that was just written as a news brief. But it would appear that Mr Depp not only compared America to a stupid puppy, he called us an aggressive nation. He also said that President Bush "was one of the worst liars whom he ever saw," and that our attack against Iraq was solely about money. Indeed, Stern goes so far as to call Depp's words violent criticism (lit. heftig kritisiert) of the American Government.

Hence, until Mr Depp wins a clarification, a correction or a court judgment, we shall believe the Germans.

We would add that we do not know which annoys us more, Mr Depp's original remarks or his pathetic attempt to weasel out of them. We are appalled at the idea that America should take lessons from France or Germany in terms of politics or economics -- although we would say that here at The Rant, we have a great deal of respect for our Italian compatriots. Out of all the nations on the Continent, it is Italy which best "gets" how America works, and we personally appreciate Italy's and Prime Minister Berlusconi's support for our nation's foreign-policy initiatives.

But we must say we were pleased to see one little bullet included at the end of the second Reuters story:

His spokeswoman added that the Kentucky-born Depp, 40, lives in the south of France with his family because his wife, actress-singer Vanessa Paradis, is French.

That the lady felt the need to explain that tells us that yes, the shit did indeed hit the fan.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sweet MERCY.

MATT DRUDGE CALLED THEM "The Crappys." After reading this Reuters story about the new awards-program for reality-based television shows, we don't think we could have summed it up better ourselves:

LOS ANGELES -- Would you believe it? Reality television shows will get their own prime-time awards program so that "Joe Millionaire" can rub shoulders with Oscar.

ABC said on Thursday it will, in conjunction with Don Mischer Productions, create a prime-time awards show honoring broadcast and cable reality programs.

Nominees for the two-hour awards show, set to air this fall, will be chosen by a panel of about 200 people, the network said, and winners will be chosen by the public via Internet balloting.

Mischer is a veteran of TV awards shows, in particular the prime-time Emmys, and the new, as-yet untitled program will feature both series honors like "Best Series" as well as reality-appropriate categories like "Best Twist."

Awwwww, isn't that sweet? Personally, I'd suggest categories like "Best Performance by a Weasel of an Executive Producer," "Best Staged Moment Involving Supposed Interpersonal Conflict," "Best Groveling Before Network Executives," and "Best Profit Margin Made from Using Actors Who Didn't Have SAG Cards."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

News From Seattle Even More Depressing Than Usual

WE HAVE LOOKED ON with bemusement at the brewingha!controversy in Seattle over that miserable citys proposed espresso tax. It seems, according to The New York Times, that certain folks there have decided that a ten-cent tax on each cup of that powerful stimulant would be a good thing. This is because the tax would help children. Or, to be more precise, it would create more municipally-funded slots for poor families with young children at child-care centers.

We are not sure whether this would help the children or the parents, but never mind. The dimes really and truly and honestly going to go for the kids, supporters say. Or, to be more precise, services for the kids; but in the minds of those behind a municipal referendum on the matter, that is all the same thing. So if voters approve Initiative 77, the ballot measure that would enact the levy, supporters say the kids would get $6.5 million per annum. Thats 65 million cups of espresso per annum, or 115 cups annually for every man, woman and child in Seattle proper.

Now, whether Seattles municipal taxes should be increased is a matter for the good people of that city. Theyre the ones going to vote on the matter, of course, and we shall reserve our opinion on the general issues of taxation and sin taxes in particular. However, we here at The Rant do feel we can say this. If Seattle voters do approve the measure, theyre even weirder than we thought they were.

Gad. We dont know about the rest of you, but to us the idea of regularly paying $2.50 for a single cup of coffee is anathema. We do not care if it has sprinkles or caramel or yaks milk in it: its a cup of coffee. Hence, while we admire Seattles capable businessmen for conning the American people into regularly spending such sums on the beverage, we have a dim view of the people living in that city. After all, they were the first to succumb to the overpriced-coffee trend; and, if they succumb to this ballot initiative, we think theyll get what they deserve. And again, this isnt a question about whether to raise taxeswe avoid that here. Fundamentally, this is a question about whether a municipality should try an untested and potentially burdensome taxation scheme in an attempt to raise a very small amount of revenue.

For it to work, a few things would have to happen. First, people would have to keep drinking espresso as opposed to any other chi-chi fou-fou coffee drink. Second, firms would have to agree to take on the burden of accounting for each dime on one specific product. Given the labor-intensive and high-rent nature of coffee sales, we suppose that could cost more than the profit each cup of espresso generates. Third, Point Two would not occur, and hence the citys revenues would not be further reduced due to lower overall coffee sales, business failures, job losses, and so on. Fourth, people and businesses would not find ways to avoid or evade the tax, such as going to Tacoma or finding a way to make an espresso substitute. Fifth, people would have to actually give a bean about their coffee money going to the kids. We just think theyll want their coffee.

However, the people behind Initiative 77 believe Items One through Five will take place:

"Seattleites love our coffee and we also love our children," said John R. Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit organization that came up with the idea for the ballot initiative. "We believe that we should have a kid-friendly community in which we actually don't leave children behind. Unfortunately, with current funding, we are leaving a lot of children behind."

Mr. Burbank said the tax was a fairer way to raise money at a time when the economy was weak because it would affect people with higher incomes more than it would affect the poor.

"Lower-income people drink less espresso than upper-middle-class people," he said. "I've already had two tall double lattes, and I'll probably get another today."

He added: "If you don't want to pay it, you can buy drip coffee or tea. But I believe people are more likely to want to consume espresso if their morning purchase doesn't just go to giving them a buzz but goes to children.

This is no different than saying that people are more likely to buy Ben & Jerrys ice cream because part of the profits are given to various charitable causes. And we here at The Rant don't buy that a bit. Thats because during one Free Scoop Day at a Ben & Jerrys retail operation in west Los Angeles a few years back, we were encouraged to donate to one of their hippy-trippy causes in return for a free scoop of ice cream. We vocally refused, and others in a crowd of ice-cream fans voiced their agreement with our refusal. Or they at least found it funny. Hence, we do not see how this would be any different. Furthermore, since coffeehouse workers are not exactly affluent, we fail to see how the potential of putting those adults out of work is deemed acceptable.

We would also add that we see this proposed tax as potentially dangerous. We mean, this is coffee. If coffee houses stop selling espresso or even move away because of the levy, then coffee-drinkers might get upset. If the espresso tax, because it is a tax, was ever increased, then the situation might get worse. And then the coffee-drinkers might get VERY upset. They might even get this upset:


SEATTLE, 2006. HEROIC CIVIL AUTHORITIES lead a charge against a crazed horde of coffee-drinkers in downtown. Meanwhile, in the citys famed International District (inset top), riot police launch tear gas against the maddened crowd. But the riots, caused by sudden and severe withdrawal symptoms among coffee-drinkers, caused millions in damage (inset bottom).

OK, so the chances that would happen are pretty much zero. But maybe a series of tip jars would work better.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

A Cavalcade of Imbecility

WELL -- Mars gets dangerously close to the planet Earth, and now we can see the results!

FIRST UP ON today's Cavalcade of Imbecility are the folks at the Zippo Manufacturing Co. of Bradford, Pa. These individuals came up with the hot idea of creating a Web site devoted entirely to showcasing the tricks that can be performed with their lighters. They shut it down after public outcry, although the company's chief executive and its general counsel defended the site.

We live in an era where people have blamed young children's fire-starting on Beavis & Butthead. Furthermore, we live in an era where people let young children watch Beavis & Butthead. Hence, because so many people are so freaking stupid, but not stupid enough so that they can't figure out how to obtain legal representation, it amazes us that the Zippo people would take such a risk. After all, there's nothing like having some damnfool drunk hurt himself because he got blitzed on a case of Old Milwaukee -- and then decided to perform Trick No. 823-B ("That Scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark Where Indy and Marion Fight the Nazis in Nepal") -- when it comes to "unexpected charges on the expense side." Capital idea there.

NEXT UP IS a Michigan man whom we dislike because he allegedly has caused great embarrassment to our home state. The Associated Press reports that 31-year-old Michael VanStrate, of Owosso, allegedly bit off part of a man's finger, knocked out a 49-year-old woman and smeared cake over the face of a 9-year-old boy. All at a wedding reception.

Police said VanStrate got involved in the fracas after being involved in altercations with other people at the reception. This alleged assratchet faces two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault, the wire agency reported.

No word on whether there was an open bar. Again: we live in a litigious society. A very litigious society.

THE CANADIANS can no longer smile on passport photos. Of course we're not making this up. We're also not making up The Globe and Mail's helpful hints about how to have one's passport photo accepted: "As a general rule, hats are out."

As a general rule? You mean there are cases where hats are acceptable? What, pray tell, might those be?

OUR NEXT ITEM falls under the "Where Are the Customers' Yachts?" category. The New York Stock Exchange has decided to pay chief executive Richard Grasso $139 million in deferred compensation, according to the Financial Times.

For reaction to this development, we turn to William Donaldson, the former NYSE chair who now heads the Securities and Exchange Commission. His reaction is quoted in the FT story:

"I left too soon."

We'll say. Quite frankly, for $139 million, this fellow should be able to spin straw into gold. Of course, now that the tech bubble burst, that's downright impossible to do on Wall Street.

A SWISS MAN burned down three apartments after attempting to destroy a nest of wasps under his flat. The wasps attacked after he unloaded an entire can of bug spray into the nest. When he tried to defend himself with a cigarette lighter -- I don't want to know -- the fumes from the spray ignited.

Next time, call the Orkin man. Your insurer will thank you.

THEY'RE PENNY-WISE AND POUND-FOOLISH in Georgia. Consider that a full 8.6 percent of Atlanta residents surveyed said they'd consumed moonshine in the past five years. Consider that Boone's Strawberry Wine goes for about $2 a bottle down at the corner liquor store. Consider that a bill for an extended stay in hospital starts at about five grand a day, and gets worse when your body reacts to stuff that's brewed in a leaky car radiator.

It may not be brewed from grapes, but it won't kill you. Something to think about when you're deciding between the Champale or the stuff brewed out of your neighbor's old Chevy.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST on the Cavalcade is the Government of France, for its debate over the heat-wave scandal. For those of you who haven't heard, you should know that a heat wave caused 10,000 people to die in la belle France. How to make sure it never happens again? Take away a national holiday, says the Government!

The idea, which the government floated Wednesday, immediately split opinion and provoked one main question - which of France's 11 national holidays should go? Labor Day, perhaps, or a religious festival?

At least two ministers said Christmas should not be touched.

What's this "at least" bit? How about "only?"

Of course, this has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth:

"There's no question of touching holidays," thundered Communist lawmaker Alain Bocquet. "There's no question of erasing May 8 and the memory of victory over Nazi barbarity and fascism!"

And the memory of collaboration! And the memory of Vichy! And the memory of Operation Torch!

Actually, to be fair, we should note that many French people fought valiantly against the Nazis, and that only a few French cared for their German overlords. That said, my friends, this gets even crazier:

Jean-Claude Mailly, a leader of the Workers' Force trade union, said a wealthy country like France should not have to make workers labor longer to finance health care. The union, he warned, would not take kindly to the abolition of the May 1 Labor Day holiday.

"It's enforced charity, totally unacceptable," he said in an interview.

What's so unacceptable, M Mailly? You do live in a socialist democracy, do you not? You do live in a nation which not only taxes income at stratospheric rates, but also one's total wealth, do you not? Explain, please, how enforced charity is unacceptable when it applies to you and perfectly fine when it applies to someone else. Or at least please stay consistent: that's all we ask.

Gawd. I hope some weird physical phenomenon beyond the knowledge of man is responsible for all this. If not, then God help us all.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

Egyptians to sue over Exodus

This is truly the stupidest thing I have heard about in a long time. According to United Press International, an Egyptian professor is preparing a lawsuit based on events in the Book of Exodus:

CAIRO, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A dean at Egypt's University of Al-Zaqaziq is preparing a lawsuit against "all the Jews of the world," accusing them of stealing gold during the exodus.

The university's dean of law, Nabil Hilmi, told the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram Al-Arabi the Jews during the exodus "stole from the Pharaonic Egyptians gold, jewelry, cooking utensils, silver ornaments, clothing and more ..."

Asked why cooking utensils might have been taken, Hilmi said "... this had been the Jews' twisted way throughout history; they seek to cause a minor problem connected with the needs of everyday life so as to occupy people with these matters and prevent them from pursuing them to get back the stolen gold ..."

Hilmi said the "debt" could be rescheduled over 1,000 years, with the addition of the cumulative interest during that period.

Four millenia later, it would appear Pharoah's heart is still hardened.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Science Warns of Celebrity Worship Peril

Well, we're glad to see that a long-held belief of ours here at The Rant has been borne out via recognized scientific research. You see, the AFP wire service has reported that a full one-third of humanity suffers from "Celebrity Worship Syndrome."

In the report, we learn that CWS is "a fascination in the lives of the rich and famous that for some becomes a potentially dangerous addiction." The full study will be reported in an upcoming edition of New Scientist, but let's look at the AFP's synopsis:

They were asked to rate statements such as "I am obsessed by details of my favourite celebrity's life", "I consider my favourite celebrity to be my soul mate" and "If he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favour, I would probably do it."

The responses cast doubt on the conventional view that celebrity worship is categorised into pathological and non-pathological cases -- in other words, harmless fun and obsession. Instead, the replies pointed to a "sliding scale" in which the celebrity devotee becomes progressively more fascinated with his or her idol.

In addition, celebrity fans are significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and social dysfunction than non-worshippers.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

The Worst Movie in Years

Oh No!
Its Time for Another Installment of
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Todays Feature: Gigli

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN. It is rare that a cinematic production achieves such stunning heights of badness that it leaves me speechless, but Gigli left me so spiritually and intellectually drained that I hardly know what to say. It has been a good twelve hours since I left the horrible confines of my least-favorite movie theatre here in Manchester, and Im still feeling shell-shocked.

For Gigli was not merely bad; it was so mind-boggling in its sheer stupidity that I will hate it until the end of time. Furthermore, I will not only hate it, but I will hate anything associated with it.

I hated Ben Afflecks performance in Gigli. I hated Jennifer Lopezs performance in it. I hated the soundtrack. I hated the work of Martin Brest, the director and screenwriter responsible for this violence against the cinematic arts. I hated the studio which gave Brest $54 million to make this putrescent film. I hated the unknown party within that studio who greenlighted this miserable production because he or she thought it would be great to give Bennifer a vehicle as they cavorted into autumn. Speaking of autumn, let me assure you that even though they have nothing to do with Gigli, I even plan to hate this studios upcoming releases for the fall season. Thats how much I hated this movie.

But even though Ive spit all that out, I dont feel that Ive succeeded in expressing my message; these overpowering feelings of disgust and resentment I have towards that unknown person ultimately responsible for this film achieving theatrical release.

Therefore, to do so, I turn to Eli Wallach in the role of Tuco:

Youll pay for this! I hope you end up in a graveyard, with the cholera and the rabies and the plague! Cut me loose! Cut me loose, you filthy bastard! I hope your mother ends up in a two-dollar whorehouse! You slime! You son of a ---!

Judas! You sold my hide! But you wont enjoy that money, not a penny, if theres justice in this world ... !

And thats just the part of Tucos soliloquy that I can actually print.

Now, of course, I write in jest. I can assure you that I do not really wish the person behind Gigli to end up in a graveyard, and that I am entirely joking. Everyone whom I had bounced that line off found it incredibly funny, that's all. But I do want to say this:

That scene involving Tuco, in the greatest Western movie ever made ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"), is a truly wonderful comedic moment. In that 90 seconds, when Tuco condemned Blondie with an endless string of insults, there was more passion and wit and life than Gigli would have had if it was ten hours long. Of course, Gigli was only two hours and four minutes longbut what an excruciating two hours and four minutes!

Before I go any further, though, I feel as if I should offer some caveats to you, the faithful Rant reader. The first is that my review contains more spoilers than an open-air fish market in August. Thats fine, though, since none of you are going to go see Gigli anyway.

But I must say that if you are homosexual, you will find Gigli quite offensive because elements within the movie are insulting to homosexuals. If you are Italian, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie serves up awful stereotypes of Italians. If you are a member or associate of one of the Five Families or any other crime syndicate, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie makes mobsters look like morons. If you are an employee of a law enforcement agency, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie makes law enforcement look incompetent. Finally, if you know anyone with a learning disability or other mental handicap, this movie will so offend you that youll leave the theatre in a state of apoplectic rage, praying to the Lord our God for some sort of divine justice to smite the cruel forces behind Gigli. Then again, if you plunked down $8 for a movie ticket and shelled out $10 for associated concession-stand snack foods, you might feel such apoplectic rage anyway. I certainly didand that was even when I knew what I was getting into!

But what really got me about Gigli was just how incredibly stupid it was. I mean, it was so incredibly stupid.

Heres the pitiful excuse for a plot. Larry Gigli (Affleck) is a yutz, a yutz who has somehow managed to find work with a crime syndicate even though he failed the compentency exam for loansharks. Louis (Lenny Venito), his superior within this syndicate, is constantly and rightfully apoplectic over the fact that Larry is a yutz.

Now, despite the fact that Louis seems to have some modicum of expertise in how to run a criminal enterprise, he still enlists Larry in a wacky scheme to kidnap the brother of a federal prosecutor. This is a particularly stupid idea, and one that Louis superiors later recognize as stupid. Yet Louis decides that out of all the criminal figures he can rely upon, hell give the job to the guy who cant even collect the monies he is sent to retrieve from Louis customers.

Then, Louis wakes up and realizes that he gave this incredibly important job to a moron. Hence, Louis decides to hire another moron to keep an eye on the first moron. Wacky hijinks ensue.



THIS IS HOW WE THINK TUCO (left) and The Man with No Name would have reacted if Angel Eyes Sentenza had forced them to watch "Gigli" instead of torturing them.

Of course, this is where Cosmic Levels of Stupidity rear their ugly head. For one thing, Larry is somehow able to walk unnoticed into a school for the developmentally disabled and leave the premises with his charge (Justin Bartha) in tow. Then, instead of heading out to Lake Arrowhead or some other remote locale, Larry takes the poor kid back to his apartment.

Yep, theres nothing that says secrecy like going back to ones place of residence with a kidnapping victim. Nothing says secrecy like arguing with the door open at your apartment, and nothing says secrecy like openly going around to major attractions in Los Angeles. And nothing says secrecy like using your real name in front of the fellow youve kidnapped, a move so stupid that Jennifer Lopez's character doesnt even make that mistake.

Oh, yes. Jennifer Lopez. Where does one start? Well, we can start off with her character, Ricki. Ricki is a cold-blooded and merciless assassin, yet we are supposed to believe that this same cold-blooded and merciless assassin is a devotee of New Age dogma and other superstitious nonsense. We are supposed to believe that this same cold-blooded and merciless assassin will stand up for the poor defenseless kid with developmental disabilities when Larry starts acting like the jackass he is. We are supposed to believe that Ricki is a competent and learned professional in the arena of crime, yet she and Larry decide its OK to sleep in the same bed whilst the poor defenseless kid is given plenty of chance to call for help or otherwise escape his captors. Also, Ricki is homosexual.

Now, I know it is a movie and all, but even in the movies, an avowed lesbians sexual orientation should not switch back and forth like the gate on a fence. Thats not only insulting, its unrealistic. No one, whether an avowed heterosexual or homosexual, would treat his or her sexuality as a choice less meaningful than what he or she had for breakfast that morning. Especially if the man in question was Larry-freaking-Gigli.

Oh, yeah. Gigli is not pronounced giggly. Its pronounced gee-lee. The movie thinks this is a funny running joke. Well, I tried it at the box office, and this is how it went:

ME: Yeah, Ill have one for Giggly, please.
TICKET-TAKER (groaning): Gee-lee.

See? Not funny then. Not funny in the movie either.

I also should mention that there is practically no violence in this movie, in case any of you saw some published reviews and said, Well, at least theres violence to redeem it a little. Oh, no. The first and only act of overt violence within the film takes place around Minute 107, and even that was dull.

Not that it was really a surprise, since it was truly amazing how dull Lopez and Affleck were in terms of their on-screen chemistry. Gad. Truly this movie contained the absolute worst love scene ever captured on film. It was the most pathetic, most miserable, most feeble excuse for a love scene I have ever seen in my life. Even the soundtrack was flat and limp. And yes, the widely-reported turkey line was as hideous as everyone has said it is.

But really, by that point in the movie, ones anger and frustration had turned to feelings of sadistic glee. One wanted to see the movie get worse, and worse, and worse. One wanted to see awful things happen to the two main characters, and one wanted the clutches of law enforcement to swoop down upon them and deal with them in a most harsh and unforgiving manner.

Still, though, even those feelings of mine gave way to sadness at the very last scene, when a pleasant young actress in a truly minor role was given a chance to have a few speaking lines. As regular readers know, we here at The Rant generally have no sympathy for anyone in the entertainment industry, but I felt so bad for this lady. Here she is, hoping for her big break on screen, and shes stuck in freaking Gigli. Oh, how I wanted to shout, No! Dont do it! Dont do it! Run like hell!

But sadly, it was too late. And while it may be too late for me, I can advise readers of The Rant of one thing: if you or someone you love is encouraged to go see Gigli, dont do it. Dont do it.

Run like hell.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:40 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

Extraordinary in its Mediocrity

Oh No!
It's Time for Another Installment of ...
BAD CINEMA WITH BEN

Today's Feature: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

IT HAD POTENTIAL, we can say that much for "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Sadly, we cannot say that "LXG," as it is known, had other elements crucial to a film's success -- such as an INVENTIVE STORY or a BELIEVABLE PLOT. That segment of the American movie-going public which cares nothing for history will enjoy it thoroughly, I am sure, but both the story and the plot of LXG makes a learned man shudder. (Before I continue, do note that this review contains spoilers up the yin-yang).

You should know that the British Government have recruited the LXG thanks to the depraved actions of The Fantom. This fellow is not, as one might think, a crazed comic-book collector. Rather, he is a scheming neer-do-well who intends to profit greatly from arms sales if he can but plunge Europe into a continent-wide conflict. As such, the peace-loving nations of Europe are counting on the LXG to save them from his mercenary actions. Sounds all well and good, does it not? Aye, until one considers the time element. You see, the action takes place in 1899.

Gee, thanks a lot, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! Why the devil didnt you just let Europe have at it and save everyone all the trouble? At least the Germans wouldnt have been able to use chemical weapons! Furthermore, if this conflict had erupted in 1899, one could still hold out hope that whatever the outcome, there wouldnt have been a Treaty of Versailles to accompany it. The end result was that it was quite, quite difficult for me to root for the good guys, because the good guys were unknowingly paving the way for Hitler.

Dont get me started on the technological silliness inherent in LXG, either. Now I will say that it was nice to see that the producers realized that illumination at the dawn of the 20th century was often the result of gaslight, not electricity. That was believable. It was not believable to think that Captain Nemo, one of the LXGs heroes, was able to build a proto-Bentley from the ground up. It was especially not believable to think that most of the LXG were imbued with the inherent sense of how to drive a manual-transmission automobile. I mean, Gad. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but to completely throw out any sense of realism is another thing entirely.

But lets turn back to the LXG itself. Now, one thing that really intrigued me about the movie was that the heroes therein were merely heroes. Their powers were fantastic, to be sure, but nothing so out of the ordinary that it really got silly. For instance, LXG leader Allan Quatermains main power appeared to be the fact he was a leader, not to mention a crack shot with a rifle; Captain Nemo had a skill set worthy of any modern engineer; and Tom Sawyer was, well, Tom Sawyer. Personally, I thought Sawyers creator, Sam Clemens, would have cut a much more interesting figure, but hey. It is a movie, after all.

Still, it was also frustrating to see that things did get a bit silly in reference to the more outlandish LXG team members. For instance, Dorian Gray is an immortal, whose special powers include SAG membership and immunity to bullets. Mina Harker is a vampire, whose special powers include an encyclopedic knowledge of tort law. Despite the fact that the bad guys are fully aware of these things, no one in the bad guys higher echelons bothered to send out a staff memo on the matter. I dont know about the rest of you, but I tend to think that Mr Gray and Mrs Harker would find themselves a bit less extraordinary if some mid-level henchman had told the men to fix bayonets.

But what more can be said? Lots of Manly Fighting and Impressive Explosions and the Predictable Revelation of the Bad Guys Plans ensue; there is much in the way of a happy ending, such as it is; and one can imagine that the LXG could very well return in some sort of impressive sequel.

One can only ponder what they will save next, in 1907 or 1911 or whatever year Hollywood would have them reunite. Perhaps they would salvage the gold standard, or the balance of naval forces among the great powers, or Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

France Bans "E-Mail" From Lexicon

The French Government has forbidden using the word "e-mail" in official correspondence, the Associated Press reports from Paris. A French hybrid word has been invented to replace it.

Why does France fail to meet its obligations under the Stability Pact? It's because they pay people lots of money to do things like this.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:11 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

Oh No! Its Time for Another Installment of

BAD CINEMA WITH BEN
A Semi-Regular Feature

Todays Film: 28 Days Later

To be fair about things, I suppose I should note right away that 28 Days Later is an excellent film. I would guess that horror-movie fans, of which I am not one, would likely be disappointed with it due to the relative lack of gore. However, if you take 28 Days with that grain of salt, then youll probably be pleased with the end result: a very nice film of the world-gone-to-hell genre, and probably the best of its kind since This Quiet Earth.

Given this, regular readers may wonder why 28 Days thus merits inclusion in the Bad Cinema with Ben Pantheon. Thats a simple question to answer. For despite the quality of the film, my Movie-Going Experience thoroughly sucked eggs. It was so unpleasant and horrid that the English language barely has words to express the trauma it caused me.

Anyway, heres 28 Days' plot. Animal-rights activists invade a research facility at which the British Government is doing clandestine research on primates. These primates are infected with a contagious virus that causes them to go insane with rage. So while this leads to an enjoyable scene in which one of the monkeys tears off an eco-terrorists face, it also means that the fast-spreading virus gets out into the mainstream. Hence, nearly everyone in Britain turns into an uncivilized, screaming, pitch-drunk Arsenal fan.

About half-way through the film, I couldnt help but wonder if such a virus had infected the other people in the theatre.

I mean, my God! is it that hard for theoretically-intelligent people to shut the bloody hell up during the feature presentation? Is the concept of turning off ones mobile telephone so difficult to grasp that audio-visual reminders about doing so are ineffective? Finally, what does it say about us as a society, when such uncultured imbeciles pointedly refuse to see the error of their ways?

Im seriousthis is the type of thing that makes me fear for the safety of the American polity. As a nation, of course, we have decided that people too stupid to master common-sense manners, such as respecting their fellow theatre patrons, can somehow use those same brains to figure out a coherent view about things like Medicare reform or our armaments budget. Dont get me wrong: I like universal suffrage. Its just that Im just despairing for the future.

Further, as if to add insult to injury, it wasnt as if these conversations were actually interesting. Oh, no. That might have mitigated the offense. Instead, they involved loudly explaining obvious plot points that could only be missed if the other parties were in fact blind. If it wasnt that, it involved details of personal lives that I really, really had no need to know about.

What was amazing about last night was my frustration was not confined to the scene inside the theatre itself.

For one thing, when I arrived at the theatre and I was walking towards the box office, I passed by a purple Japanese mini-van. This mini-van was not only unlocked, its sliding door was left open. Now you should know that it rained rather hard here yesterday, and that yesterday evening there were threatening clouds in the skies above. So it amazed me that anyone could forget to shut the door to such a nicely-appointed vehicle (leather interior, nice dashboard, that type of stuff).

What also amazed me was that this mini-van had clearly been left unattended for at least an hour. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people had likely walked by. Yet no one bothered to close this door. So after I dragged it shut, I thought to myself: what kind of apathy has taken hold on people that they wouldnt do the right thing?

Ill admit that I did think about the issue for a minute. I mean, if I closed the door and it wasnt shut all the way, would that somehow make me liable if the door were to fly open on the 293 and the occupants therein were sucked out onto the highway? Would I find myself caught in a classic Good Samaritan case: no good deed goes unpunished? Then, there was another thorny moral issue: should I let these people be victims of their own forgetfulness, just so they would take more caution in future?

Still, I think I did the right thing. I dont know if it rained when I was inside the theatre, but at least I think I saved the owners of that van a bit of headache.

But that wasnt all that bothered me.

You should also know that here in Manchester, all the movie theatres we have are owned by the same large cinema operator. As such, this means it is difficult to find a movie that would not be considered a blockbuster first-run Hollywood film. This means that while I have ample opportunity to see movies about talking fish or robot assassins, I have little opportunity to actually see independent films or even niche films out of Hollywood.

For instance, when I wanted to see Narc back in January, it was only playing on one screen out of about forty that we have in the city. 28 Days was also playing on just one screen in Manchester this weekend.

Now, I dont want that to be seen as a complaint. That is merely capitalism at work, and far be it for me to criticize the unstoppable engine we call market force. But since Im part of an underserved market when it comes to film, I have to make an extra effort to see the movies I happen to like: even if that means going to a particularly hideous theatre.

For I positively detest the theatre in which I saw 28 Days. Its not merely that the concessions are overpriced or that the sound system is a bit dated: its that there is not one shred of beauty in it. The place looks like it was built in the mid-Seventies, and from an architectural standpoint, its just awful.

I dont know which is more noteworthy: its awful outdoor box office or its monstrous concrete faade. Both these things were bad ideas: for the box office doesnt mesh well with our eight months of winter, and the concrete faade is in a section of the city full of concrete facades. You can stand it in the summer or the fall, which are gorgeous here; but in winter you feel as if youre in Pyongyang.

The combination of all these things was incredibly depressing: so much so that I was ready to swear off movie-going altogether and stay at home with a growing DVD collection. But fortunately, 28 Days was excellent: great cinematography; good acting; interesting plot.

Just think how much I could have enjoyed it had my fellow movie-goers given me the chance.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Comics Hijinks

You know, back when I was a boy, comic books never interested me all that much. Now that I'm an adult, they don't interest me much either -- but the news stories that spawn from them sure are interesting!

Iiiiiinteresting. But schtupid.

Anyway, this latest report comes from Fox News. Fox informs us that an unemployed, former exotic-dancer in Tampa claims she is the true creator of "Stripperella," that being the title of a new television show. Said former exotic-dancer has filed suit against Stan Lee, the creator of the show; Pamela Anderson, the lead performer, and myriad corporate entities, and would very much like the program to end.

Now, this is where things begin to get interesting. Let's turn to the Fox News report:

"This office challenges Lee to produce proof of his creative work, as true authorship belongs to Tanga's Jazz," she wrote, referring to an adult club in Tampa where she claims she asked Lee about the concept of Stripperella a year ago during a private dance session ...

"I'm just trying to get this off TV because it's not his idea," (the ex-dancer) told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. "She was supposed to be a nurse, which is what I'm studying for. I can't remember much about Mr. Lee, little bits and pieces come back. You know, I meet a lot of men."

Okaaaaaay.

Anyway, we here at The Rant will just say we would offer this example up as Exhibit A in any argument showcasing why our legal system is sick and needs help. However, we should note we also agree with the point which Allison Barnes made: "Why on earth she would admit to coming up with that crap is beyond me."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:56 PM | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Vive Berlusconi!

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has caused an uproar after he compared a German Member of the European Parliament to an extermination-camp capo, European media have reported. Mr Berlusconi's remark came just two days after he began a six-month stint as president of the European Union.

Hoo boy. Now this is fun on so many levels we're almost unsure of where to begin. But we'll keep it short and simple, using as an example the overblown reaction of Gary Titley, who heads up the (UK) Labour Party's delegation of MEPs:

"Nobody was expecting the Italian presidency to self-destruct on day two. Mr Berlusconi shooting from the hip shows his Jekyll and Hyde character; as soon as he's under pressure he loses it. How can you trust him to negotiate in the Middle East or in trade talks with the Americans?"

Oh, yes, trade talks. Look, Mr Titley, from our point-of-view, a straight shooter on the European side might actually be nice. It would sure beat the usual feebleness we get from Europe's trade negotiators, who can't go five minutes without bleating about "Frankenfoods."

Besides, Mr Berlusconi actually gets along with us, so we doubt that he would ever refer to us in such terms. That's more than you can say for French officials, who openly refer to Americans using phrases like "hegemonic vampire cowboy pig-dogs."

We would also note that we thought Mr Berlusconi's comments a welcome slap-down to socialist MEP Martin Schulz, who saw fit to embarrass Mr Berlusconi with a series of questions related to Italian national policy. True, they may not have been the most diplomatic things to say, and we certainly think Mr Berlusconi could have been a bit more witty.

But when all is said and done, we have one thought: we like this EU President.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 28, 2003

Consulting Firm Claims Ownership of Witty Saying

A Virginia-based consultancy has claimed ownership of the phrase "clue-by-four," according to Perpetual Beta and other sources in the blogosphere. Not only that, said firm is sending out cease-and-desist letters demanding removal of the phrase "clue-by-four" from said Web sites.

One of the best responses I've seen yet on this has come from David Tepper, who informs us that the "clue-by-four" trademark is for a foam board:

I'm damned if I'm going to capitalize or put a in front of a phrase in common use, appropriated by a company I've never even heard of. Personally, I suspect this is just a way for him to get free publicity. Let's give it to him. Let's all point at him and laugh, children.

Yeah, I'd buy that.

A few years ago, the Good People at Despair, Inc. trademarked the ":-(" emoticon, and joked they were going to sue anyone who had used it in an e-mail. This was a really neat trick. The company received worldwide publicity and then joked they would sell Frownies (TM) to the community at large. (By the way, Despair's products are really cool).

Despair did everything right in that instance: they did something really clever, and they didn't actually do anything that might negatively impact ":-(" users. These consultants, on the other hand, have done everything wrong. For one thing, it's been done, which means it is no longer cool and with it. For another, "clue-by-four" has about as much current coolness as the phrase "show me the money!" And lastly, actually sending out cease-and-desist letters only antagonizes and appalls the God-fearing Blogging Public, which takes such things as an invitation to ... well ... Fact Check Your Ass.

Heh. Didn't Layne come up with that? Somehow, I don't expect to see him down at the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office anytime soon!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:00 PM | TrackBack

June 27, 2003

Oh No! It's Time Again for ...

BAD CINEMA WITH BEN
A Semi-Regular Feature

TODAY'S FILM: 2Fast 2 Furious

As I was planning my day this morning, it hit me that it had been a long while since I had taken a chance on a movie at the theatre. True, I had seen The Matrix: Reloaded just a few weeks ago, but I knew beforehand that I would likely enjoy it. Still, it was all the way back in January that I had taken a chance on Narc, the excellent crime thriller with Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. So it was time to give the movies another go.

Now, as I scanned the movies playing at my local chain theatre, I found myself presented with options that ranged from the moderately-good to the awful.

There was Alex & Emma, a movie that might have worked, provided it had a director other than Meathead Rob Reiner at the helm. Then there was The Hulk, but I wasn't going to see that because Oliver said it was boring. Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle looked all right, but I really wasn't in a "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" kind of mood. Also there was some movie about talking fish.

Well, folks, I should've gone and seen the movie about the talking fish, because I got Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy up to my freakin' earlobes with 2Fast 2Furious.

Naturally, these three elements were not portrayed the way I would have liked. You had Democracy, if you consider the anti-social actions of an angry mob to be democratic. You had Whiskey, in two ways: first, because everyone in the movie seemed to be involved in strange MTV-style parties all the time; and second, because I suspect the writers and producers behind this miserable film got smashed a lot while making it. And you definitely had Sexy, in that nearly all the characters were portrayed as oversexed dolts clueless about how to find proper clothing. No, wait a minute. Sexy is not at all the right word to describe that state of affairs.

Anyway, here's the plot. In a strange parallel universe where Los Angeles and Miami are devoid of civilian traffic on their surface roads, decadent and immoral young people race souped-up automobiles for large amounts of cash. Said young people are all shameless and awful stereotypes, we might add. For you have the Rugged White Guy (Paul Walker), the Angry Black Guy (Tyrese Gibson), the Hispanic Gangster-Type (Amaury Nolasco) and the Asian Girl (Devon Aoki).

But in the end, it doesn't matter, because it's not as if any of these characters are three- or even two-dimensional. In fact, the only thing in the movie with any personality or depth is the rat used in a particularly nasty and unnecessary scene. Besides, the story -- or what once may have been a story -- is so breathtakingly moronic that I had to bite my lip.

The first truly-stupid thing about 2Fast is that the law enforcement figures in it are depicted as bumbling, out-of-touch dolts who can't even work out simple matters, such as jurisdictional issues. They are not, however, so incompetent that they cannot corral our Rugged White Guy Hero after a bit of street racing. Since said White Guy is a former LAPD officer -- yes, the film is that carried away -- the authorities are not inclined to be happy with him. However, they will conveniently make a deal with Rugged White Guy if he agrees to work undercover to bring down a Colombian drug lord. He enlists the Angry Black Guy (who also happens to be his Long Lost Pal) in this endeavor. Much street-racing and silliness ensues.

I suppose this could have all been marginally tolerable if every main character wasn't such a blooming idiot. That's the second truly-stupid thing. And let me clear about this: every single actor or actress in this film seemed incapable of delivering their awful lines with any flair or verve. Watching Messrs Walker and Gibson deliver their supposedly-witty banter gave me such chest pains I almost asked other patrons if they had any nitroglycerin. Not even the people you'd expect to be smart -- like Federal Law Enforcement Officials -- came off as such.

But the third stupid thing, which others have also noted about 2Fast, was that none of the main characters suffered the types of injuries you'd expect from such reckless or anti-social behavior. Of course, it helped that this existed in a strange world where Regular Folks All Used Mass Transit, but come on.

So, anyway, here's the final verdict:

I would hope that the good people in Hollywood would take the advice I offer to heart, but I fear that they shall not. According to the film's Official Web Site, the American People paid out $50.3 million to see this foolishness in the first three days of its run. At the rate they're going, Hollywood may just decide a third movie is in order.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 25, 2003

What IS It With Some People?

Robert Prather has written a great post today in which he takes aim at a (likely) European commenter who believes the EU will challenge the United States' primacy on the world stage.

You should know that this commenter also believes that the United States wants to rule the world in its entirety, comparing us with the despotic regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Indeed, he argues, if we do not cease this supposed policy of putting the world's eight corners under our roof, we shall feel Europe's wrath.

Now, at first, I admit this concerned me a bit. After all, you can imagine the danger to America if the French were successful in making working propellers for their aircraft carriers. Of course, I joke. But what concerns me is this idea, popular among some Europeans, that we Americans want to rule the world.

Look. We don't. Really, we don't. The only reason we've engaged in war overseas is because we're concerned about threats to our own way of life and our own people. Eventually, though it may take a while, we're actually going to leave the places we've temporarily subjugated. Sure, we might get some sort of economic benefit from that vis-a-vis Iraq, but you had your chance to join in and share in that. You didn't. Better luck tomorrow.

Really, think about it for a minute. I mean, we don't even want Canada, and if we had any plans for world domination they'd be first on the list. After all, they've got all that oil and uranium and timber -- plus they make really good poutine. Of course, we like the Canadians a lot, and closer cooperation with them on certain issues would make a lot of sense -- but quite frankly, we're not even ready to do that. So you shouldn't expect any occupying troops in Ottawa soon, much less Prague or Bratislava.

Nor should you blame us for our economic strength or our cultural domination. As Mr Prather noted, you could have the same if you made some certain decisions, but you like things the way they are now. Fine. It's also not our fault Europeans and others like buying American cultural goods. We're good at making them. This, we might add, is proof of the immutable law of Comparative Advantage. It's why you buy our movies and our music, why we buy -- well, bought -- your wines and cheeses, and we both buy electronics from East Asia.

It might actually be nice if Europe got a bit more involved in affairs on the world stage, because then we could focus our attention on other matters. Mr Prather mentioned Bosnia as an example of that. Bosnia was yours. We were more than willing to let you handle it. But you didn't. You left it to us to throw Serbia down to the ground.

So, I hope that this serves to quell any rumors that we Americans are plotting to conquer the world. However, do be warned that in case anyone else starts getting sneaky, we're working on even more things to make the world safe for free peoples everywhere.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:08 PM | TrackBack

Brits: Baghdad Bob Behind Bars

by AMBROSE JENKINS-SMYTHE
London Bureau Chief
BENJAMIN KEPPLE'S DAILY RANT SYNDICATE

LONDON -- Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has been captured, according to a report from the Reuters wire service.

The agency's report was based on an article which appeared in The Daily Mirror, a brash London tabloid known for its coverage of sport and the peccadilloes of British politicians. The exclusive was a boost for the paper, whose reputation had sunk to previously-unimaginable lows after it hired John Pilger.

"Clearly this is a boost for Britain's 'Newspaper of the Year,'" said Kevin K. Brinker, a professor in the University of Michigan's undergraduate journalism program. "God knows it needed it. I mean, really. Imagine -- actually reporting on the news as it happens, instead of hyping three-sentence editorials and celebrity gossip."

"Say, is that a spare copy of The Scotsman?" Brinker continued. "May I borrow it?"

No Mirror copy was cited in the Reuters report, but Brinker believes the story may note "SHOCK FURY AT NO. 10 AS COMICAL ALI CRASHES WILLS' PARTY IN PINK DRESS HORROR."

"That's what every other story in the Mirror seems to cover," Brinker said. "Why don't they just offer a lot of crosswords instead?"

As of press time, the story had already hit the widely-viewed Drudge Report in America, although there was not yet any mention of the rumor on a fan site for al-Sahaf.

The chief spokesman for Iraq during the quick conflict between the United States and the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein, al-Sahaf quickly rose to prominence for his daily claims that all was well with Hussein's regime.

As the stupidity of such claims grew ever more obvious, however, al-Sahaf quickly became an object of ridicule and laughter in the West. His reputation was further damaged when the U.S. military distributed playing cards with al-Sahaf's face on that one card that specifies the pack's manufacturer, along with other playing-card features.

Al-Sahaf's whereabouts since that time have been unknown. However, rumors persist that al-Sahaf had surrendered to the Americans in the hopes of opening his own theater in Branson, Mo.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:39 AM | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

It's Not Weather, It's The Third Circle of Hell

I was in the third circle, where it rains
Eternally, icily and implacably;
Weight and direction are invariable.

Great hailstones, muddy water, mixed with snow,
Fall through the darkened air without respite;
They rot the ground they fall on, and it stinks.

Cerberus, a cruel and outlandish beast,
Barks like a dog, from his three throats at those
Who, under that downpour, are submerged.

-- Inferno VI, 7-15

-----

It's raining again here in Manchester -- and yes, it's nearly as bad as the above description.

And quite frankly, it's starting to really tick us off. You should know that since the beginning of this year, we here at The Rant have enjoyed about 90 minutes worth of weather that was sunny, temperate, clear and did not aggravate our sinuses something fierce. The rest of the time, there was always something hideously wrong with the conditions, and we wailed and gnashed our teeth accordingly.

All we want is a day or two of summer. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003

City Official Schemes to Ban Toy Guns

I swear there is a full moon or some similar phenomenon going on tonight, because the news stories that have come over the wire are just plain weird.

Latest up on this Cavalcade of Stupidity is an effort by Annapolis, Md. alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter to not only ban toy pistols in the city, but add penalties if they are used in committing a crime. Let's look at The Washington Times report on the matter:

(Mrs. Carter) said the law would ban all toy guns except for clear, brightly colored plastic guns. Mrs. Carter said the law also would give prosecutors more leverage against defendants who use toy guns to hold up banks or other establishments.

"If someone commits a felony with one, they will not only be charged with the crime but also with using a toy gun," said Mrs. Carter, who has been a member on the Annapolis City Council since 1997.

Mrs. Carter said she doesn't know how much of a fine she will propose. She said she hopes her legislation, which she plans to introduce next month, will set a precedent for other cities to follow. Four of the nine city council members have come out in support of Mrs. Carter's proposal.

Well, it sounds like this measure has a pretty good chance of passing. So I must congratulate Mrs Carter for her brave stand against vicious and brutal criminals who use toy weaponry. Yes, thanks to this law, no longer will career criminals like Virgil Starkwell terrorize the streets of Annapolis.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Canadians to Resume Clubbing Baby Seals

Environmentalists are infuriated after the Canadian Government has given its OK for people to club baby seals in the country's northern wastes, The Washington Times reports.

But the Canadian Government isn't being meek about its decision:

The seals "look like very cute and cuddly animals in the white coat," said Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Canada's Fishery and Oceans Ministry. "People forget they grow up to be 500-pound animals that destroy the livelihood of people and destroy fishermen's gear and nets, and a lot of the groundfish, such as cod, which is necessary for Newfoundland and Labradorians."

He said animal rights activists fail to mention that Canada closely regulates the seal harvest and that only one in 10 seals is clubbed; the rest are shot.

You know, after thinking about it, I suppose that I could have also given this the title, "It's Not Just a Used Car Commercial, It's Official Government Policy."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2003

The Lost Art of Contempt

"Dwight Meredith has a must read post for anyone who has been following the disturbing saga of a certain out of control blogger ...

Such was the first line of Brian Linse's most recent entry this morning, and if you're anything like me, it was a line that made you sit up and take notice.

Mr Linse links to reports that a certain blogger, who bravely uses a pseudonym, has been running amok and nastily criticizing other bloggers in false, yet very personal terms. Other bloggers have also stepped in to declare that such behavior is inconsiderate, uncalled for, beyond the pale, etc. etc. While I'm not familiar enough with the situation at hand to comment on it, I can say that this brings up a question I've been meaning to address. Namely: is it better for one to rhetorically bastinado stupid criticism of one's views, or simply ignore such idiocy?

The answer is: it depends on the situation.

Now I must say that my answer does not apply to reasoned, legitimate criticism of one's arguments. One ought to address such things if one becomes aware of them, because failing to do so can tend to weaken one's position. But that's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is criticism that comes straight from the outfield: badly-formed ideas and ill-thought out rambling so intellectually pathetic that it's downright offensive.

There are times when this merits a response, but only for one of two reasons. First, I think one should respond to such things if one can be really funny about it. The second is when the blogger in question is of equal or greater importance to oneself. In such instances, I feel it would be warranted to either issue a dismissive, one-line response noting the foolishness; or cast said foolishness down to the depths like Capernaum.

But we're not really talking about that either -- primarily because bloggers who have achieved some measure of fame in this endeavour of ours don't often write stupid things. Well, once in a while they do, but you get my point. Rather, the uninformed ad hominem attacks primarily come from previously unheard-of players on the scene. As such folks are unheard-of for a reason, this is where the Lost Art of Contempt can enter onto the scene.

I mean, let's face it. There are some things, some ideas, and some arguments out there that do not deserve the dignity of a response. Combined with the fact that such a state of affairs is intolerable for the yammering morons who enjoy throwing around false, ad hominem attacks, it is a win-win situation for the reasonable fellow who finds himself under fire. Through ignoring such idiocy, reasonable people not only save time, they express their dissatisfaction in a pretty damning way. Best of all, though, is that the stupidity is not given any further exposure.

So while I am sure the folks dealing with this particular situation are well-meaning in openly criticizing this pseudonymous blogger, I would humbly suggest they try a different tack: absolute - freakin' - silence. Cast this odious personage out into the darkness, and go back to enjoying the party as this person wails and gnashes his or her teeth.

Also you could ban said person's IP address.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

New York Woman Kills Man with High-Heeled Shoe

Gad. Those things are dangerous!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:53 PM | TrackBack

So Bryan @ AWS Thinks I'm Insane, Eh?

Bryan, over at Arguing with Signposts, has argued that my love for the Pittsburgh Steelers is proof that I am deranged.

I would first like to express my sincere condolences to Bryan. Clearly, in his days as a football fan, he has failed to grasp just how glorious and wonderful the Steelers organization is. This is made obvious in his post condemning America's greatest football team. You should know that Bryan makes a snarky comment comparing the Super Bowl championships the Steelers have won with the victories scored by the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

That's just wrong.

You see, even though the Cowboys and 49ers have each won five Super Bowls, while Pittsburgh has only won four, there are crystal-clear differences which prove the Steelers are the better group.

To take San Francisco's example, I would note that two of their Super Bowl victories were against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clearly, those can't count as true victories, since it would violate natural law for the Bengals to actually win the NFL championship. I would sooner expect Einstein's laws of relativity to be overturned than to see the Bengals win the Super Bowl. Hence, it is clear that San Francisco has only won three Super Bowls on the team's own merits. The other two were, for all intents and purposes, free for the taking.

Secondly, I do not understand how one can compare the valiant, God-fearing Steelers squad with the Dallas Cowboys. I present this excerpt from the Houston Chronicle of August 4, 1997, to make my point:

... the Cowboys are trying to restore their image as "America's Team" and rid themselves of the jokes about being "America's Most Wanted."

Five players have been suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, including two of the team's biggest stars, wide receiver Michael Irvin and defensive tackle Leon Lett. Lett currently is serving a year's suspension, his second, for drug use.

Last year, Irvin was sentenced to four years probation after pleading no contest to cocaine possession. Earlier this year, he and Erik Williams were stung by a woman's false accusations that they had assaulted her.

Williams had just completed two years probation on a drunken driving charge...

These type of things just wouldn't happen in Pittsburgh -- or, if they did, certainly not on a scale that would expose the franchise to mockery, ridicule, and public disdain. That's not how things are done in Iron City. So I utterly reject these baseless and foolish claims that the Cowboys and the 49ers are better teams than the Steelers.

The Steelers are America's team, and always will be. End of story.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 07, 2003

Official: Cincinnati Bengals Stink, Violate Lease

A county commissioner in the Cincinnati area has sued the National Football League and its Cincinnati Bengals franchise because the team sucks, the Associated Press has reported.

According to the wire service, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune claims the hapless Bengals' lousy performance has shortchanged the county and its taxpayers. It seems the Bengals, who only managed to win two out of sixteen games last season, aren't drawing in enough revenue. Mr Portune alleges this violates the team's lease agreement on its new, sales-tax financed stadium.

Lawyers for the team and the league say that's bunk, according to the AP:

"They're asking you to find, as a matter of law, that the Bengals had some implied contractual obligation to win a certain number of games, unknown, unstated," Bengals' lawyer Robert Stachler told Judge Charles J. Kubicki Jr. in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. "That is preposterous."

Mr Stachler, who as a lawyer is skilled in the art of diplomacy, left unsaid one line of argument which we believe applies here. Namely, that the voters of Hamilton County knew very well what they were getting into when they approved that tax increase back in 1996. The Bengals were awful then, they are awful now, and they will always be awful. Only an act of divine Providence could change this state of affairs.

I mean, they're the Bengals. Gad. I mean, their past record should have told you they're going to consistently underperform. And it wasn't as if the Bengals had some sort of inherent coolness to them, like the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've always been a third-rate team, and they'll never keep any of their good players, and they'll always struggle to win even four or five games much less get to the playoffs.

Don't give me any of that "What about when they went to the Super Bowl?" crap either. Yeah, they got to the Super Bowl -- twice, in the Eighties. And they lost. Even more amusing, they lost to San Francisco both times.

So give up. Go home. Stop whining. Don't worry -- there will be other seasons.
We'll mock you then too, of course.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogs Present Academics with Brave New World of Jargon, Blandness

Well, it's not even 10 a.m., and we at The Rant are so agitated that our spleen and gall bladder have demanded that our brain do something relaxing, such as watch The McLaughlin Group.

You should know that this state of agitation was brought about when we visited an Official Web site at Harvard University about blogs. It was at this point that we realized the academicians had discovered blogs and blogging. Not only had they discovered them, we realized the academics had started to apply jargon-loaded phrases to blogs which really ought not be applied to them. Phrases like "personal web publishing communities."

Now look. If I once more hear the word "community" applied to anything other than a small municipality, or local civic, business or government activities related to such municipalities, I'm going to throw up.

The blogosphere does not exactly conform to the academic definition of community, which generally boils down to "a like-minded group of people who have views with which we agree." More often, the blogging "environment" resembles intellectual cock-fighting. One or more individuals get annoyed with something and pile on that something in an attempt to tear it into tiny bits. Other individuals then oppose this maneuver. As this conflict takes place, a whole bunch of people gather on the sidelines and cheer on their respective squads. Also, there is drinking.

But the above was just one thing on this site that raised our hackles this morning. Now, you should know we learned of it through the yeoman's efforts of Brian Carnell, who gleefully shredded the site's pretentious academic definition of what a "weblog" is. As Mr Carnell's work is laugh-out-loud funny, I would strongly suggest you read his excellent fisking of the site in question. But let's be clear -- the page about which Mr Carnell wrote annoyed me far less than some little bullets contained within another page on the Harvard site.

Specifically, I refer you to the following parts of Harvard's blog site:

"Who can create a weblog?

Anyone who has a harvard.edu email address can create one. For now, we have to create the site for you. And for the next few weeks as we get the site ready, we'll probably ask you to wait ... "

People! You don't have to wait at all. All you have to do is contact Dean Esmay and he'll set you up with a domain name, hosting service, and blog for like $20 upfront and $5 a year month after that. Just think, your own domain name, instead of some unmemorable, lame-o collegiate site. Or, if you're really just starting out, use one of the free services.

"Are there rules? Yes, there are."

Um, I don't like the sound of this ...

"What are they?

We're working on it. We want to be sure that all activities on Harvard-hosted weblogs are respectful of Harvard, and don't exist for the purpose of promoting a product, or political cause or candidate.

Of course the people who create and run weblogs are encourged to review products they like (or don't), to express and exchange their opinions, political or otherwise. That's what the Web is for. But these weblogs may not be used to in any way to convey an endorsement by Harvard University of any product, political party, or anything particular at all. Much in the same way you couldn't use Harvard telephones to run a telemarketing operation, there are limits to how you can use a Harvard weblog."

Now, I suppose one could be charitable. One could say the fellow writing this merely meant to write that bloggers using Harvard's servers ought to make it clear via disclaimer that their views are their own and do not represent the views of Harvard University, so on and so forth. Fine.

But what's this "respectful of Harvard" stuff all about? For students, at any rate, one of the great joys of college life is being disrepectful to one's university and things like its constant fundraising efforts. Sure, it's a private school, they can do whatever they want -- but this comes across as if the heavy, ever-stern hand of the college's Administration is ready and waiting to slap down anyone who criticizes the bad cafeteria food. That, as we would say here at The Rant, is "dumbsville."

We would also suggest that because Harvard Law is considering censoring speech it happens to find offensive, that some Harvard-based blogs might be ... we don't know ... more milquetoast than they otherwise might be? You know, ki