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I Am Grieving So Hard Right Now

They say that famous people always die in sets of three, and the last couple of weeks have sadly provided more grim support for that theory. I want to take a moment to reflect on each of these great men, as each of their deaths taken separately would have been a severe blow — taken together, in such a short time, they have left me utterly devastated.

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Nelson Mandela

The loss of Nelson Mandela, of course, was a total, terrible shock. I am still trying to make sense of it. What a great, great man. You can tell by all the other great people who are mourning him on Twitter how great he was. He fought for peace, and through nonviolence was able to make his country accept minorities like himself, so that he was eventually able to become president of Africa. Remember that song “Sun City”? The video was on MTV all the time in the ’80s, and they were talking about Mandela and apartheid. Stringer Bell from “The Wire” is playing Mandela in a movie coming out soon, and he is awesome, so I am looking forward to learning more about this great man, taken from us far too soon. Who knows what else he might have achieved?

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Lou Reed

Lou Reed obviously needs no introduction. I never actually listened to any of his records, but I love the Tribe Called Quest song that uses that one bass line of his. And his contribution to the art of wearing sunglasses cannot be overstated. They say that only a few people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but all of them went out and started bands. Well, to this day I have never listened to the first Velvet Underground album, but I started a few bands anyway — that’s how huge Lou Reed’s influence has been on my life. I am absolutely gutted that he’s gone, because now I’ll never get the chance to understand his genius.

That guy from the car movies

Finally and most painfully, the tragic death of that guy from the car movies. I only saw the first one, where he’s still a super handsome cop, but he gave a layered, subtle performance, with the fast driving and the hooking up with Jordana Brewster. I hear the later ones where he becomes a super handsome crook who drives fast and marries Jordana Brewster are even better. I tried to get some time off from work so I could fly out to Los Angeles and visit the crash site, but the jerks I work for didn’t see it as a valid emergency, so I was stuck in my cubicle watching YouTube videos of people grieving at the crash site. He touched so many lives.

I appreciate all of your support over the last few weeks, it’s meant so much to me. I may never be whole again, but I owe it to these great men — Nelson Mandela, Lou Reed, and the guy from the car movies — to try to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Cardboard Christmas

the cardboard christmas tree

My six-year-old son has made his Christmas list. Actually, he’s made a few of them, because like everything else he claims to value, he loses each of them shortly after he’s made them. He started working on it right after Halloween, thanks to Christmas’ pre-emptive (and nearly uncontested) War On Thanksgiving, and has been counting the days ever since.

Among his requests to Santa/Grandma/his Mom and me: a full-size catapult; a suit of armor; a BB gun (because I made the mistake of telling him about the movie A Christmas Story); a halfpipe in the back yard; and of course, and most contentiously, a drum set. (As much as I want to encourage the boy’s interest in music, the plain fact is that at present, he has an alarming rhythm deficiency, and I’d just as soon develop those skills on a quieter instrument.)

I believe he was on his fifth draft when a catalog called Smart Kids arrived in the mail (must have been a mixup at the post office), and he spent the rest of the day circling nine out of ten items in the calendar, and then listing each of them in his Christmas list in his mangled, vowel-deficient version of English. (They supposedly call it “emergent literacy.”)

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It’s Not Kanye, It’s Me

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I’m not sure what compelled me so irresistibly to click on Kanye West’s video for “Bound 2” when I came across it on my daily morning Internet news blitz. I find Kanye to be insufferably obnoxious (as I got into here, and I’ve never liked his music at all (which I discussed here).

I also have a distaste for the public persona of Kanye’s wife and costar in the video, Kim Kardashian (which I explored here). So why did I so eagerly watch a video starring two people I don’t like?

I don’t quite know, but I did, much the same way I can’t stop myself from probing a sore tooth with my tongue every 20 seconds, and with similar results.

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Is Obamacare Going To Work?

Jackie GlassAs the glitchy, poorly orchestrated rollout of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, aka the End Of America As We Know It, continues to make the Iraq War look like a gold medal synchronized swimming routine by comparison, the president’s approval ratings, public opinion on the law itself, and general approval of the very concept of government are sinking. The two sides in the debate have dug in and appear farther from agreement (or, more importantly, cooperation) than ever.

The Republicans, who have been less than willing partners (to put it lightly) in Obamacare’s implementation, are taking these first troubled months as proof positive that they have been right all along: that Obamacare won’t work, can’t work, was ill-conceived from the very beginning (a curious position, considering that it was Republicans who originally conceived it, but never mind), is a giant step toward Communism, etcetera.

The Democrats, for their part, are arguing just as rigidly that everything is going to be fine the moment the healthcare.gov website starts functioning, that Obamacare is already a roaring success in the 16 states that have cooperated with it from the beginning, that the only thing stopping the new law from working as designed is the intransigence and sabotage of its political enemies (who, it bears repeating, originally conceived it, but never mind).

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I’m Enlisting In The War On Christmas

war_on_xmasIt’s become a new holiday-season tradition: every year about this time, the right-wing loonies on the Internet and Fox News start their jabbering about the supposed “War On Christmas”: The insdious, ongoing (imaginary) effort by the “Secular Left” to stigmatize, suppress, and ultimately destroy the holiday.

Anyone who’s ever spent five minutes in an American city in November or December knows perfectly well that Christmas is doing just fine. It feels the height of understatement to say it is in no danger of extinction.  But the fact that some people prefer to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” to strangers, thus acknowledging the possibility that said stranger might not actually be Christian and celebrate one of the other holidays that happens in December, represents to some an assault on their right to celebrate Christmas.

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Daylight Savings Time Doesn’t Save Daylight

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Last Saturday night we all moved our clocks back an hour, as we do every fall. It was great news for the Saturday night revelers, as they got an extra hour to drink and snort themselves awesome, not so great news for the bartenders serving them, or those of us with young kids who get up when they get up, no matter what the clock says.

It was already getting dark earlier and earlier before the clock turned back an hour, marking the end of “Daylight Savings Time,” so now we can look forward to the sun being all the way down tonight at 4:30pm. (I guess it’ll also be light out at 6:30 tomorrow morning, which is good for milkmen and farmers, I guess.)

It’s always struck me as strange that we can just change the time. The idea that the government can just get together and decide that it wants the clock to say 6pm when it’s really 7, or vice versa, seems a bit draconian, the kind of thing that libertarians and tea party types forever hollering about totalitarian dictatorship ought to have a problem with. You mean the GOVERNMENT can just CHANGE THE TIME — the one absolutely universal commodity known to every plant and animal on this planet — because the farmers want it to stay light longer in the summer? OVERREACH! FASCISM! SOCIALISM! DEFINITELY SOME KIND OF -ISM!

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I Agree With Glenn Beck (On One Thing)


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One of the great things about Facebook, other than the pictures of food you’re not eating, cats you’re not petting, and concerts you’re not seeing, is the way it brings you things on the Internet you’d never see otherwise. Like today, I found myself on Glenn Beck’s website, nodding in agreement. (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.)

It seems the lovely lady who cuts my hair (hi Amelia!) commented on something one of her friends posted, and since Facebook insists that I see every little bit of my friends’ activities on Facebook, even the ones that involve people I don’t know, I saw her comment and the original posting, which was a discussion between Beck and Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe about college.

Specifically, that the idea that a college education is a mandatory prerequisite for a successful or prosperous life is not necessarily good advice, particularly as baseline tuitions climb past $25,000 a year.

 

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My Horrific Obamacare Horror Story

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I was so excited to sign up for new health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s hard-won reform law that promised to bring premiums down and make insurance available to everyone, regardless of their prior medical history. My wife and I have been getting soaked for over $500 a month to insure ourselves and our son, so I eagerly logged onto  to shop for a new plan as soon as the site went live on October 1.

Things did not go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped.

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“Reality Is Going To Bring A Backlash”

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Please, please, please let these jackasses run on a third-party ticket

As the deadline for raising the nation’s debt ceiling got closer and closer this week, there was a little tiny part of me that couldn’t help hoping the Republicans would stick to their ransom demands and force the country into a default.

Sure, every economist, banker, business leader, financial reporter, and lemonade stand owner has been howling for the last two years that a debt limit breach would have unimaginably awful consequences for the U.S. economy, crash the markets, push us back into another recession, destroy jobs, cancel Christmas and your birthday and so forth.

But there’s still a part of me that wanted to see what would really happen. You know that part in Pulp Fiction when Travolta is about to stab Uma Thurman in the heart with the adrenaline, and Rosanna Arquette is sitting behind him watching in excited fascination?

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Why Kanye West Can’t Break Into Fashion

kanye-west-s-long-interview-on-jimmy-kimmel-live-bumps-musical-guest-arctic-monkeysIn one of the oddest, if not exactly surprising, pop-culture developments in recent memory, the classic “Fish Sticks” episode of South Park actually came true last week, as producer/rapper/irritant Kanye West took extreme umbrage to a mild joke about him on a late-night talk show and showed the world the gaping hole in his soul where the sense of humor is supposed to be.

It seems that Kanye gave a long, ranting interview to the BBC, mostly complaining about his failure to break into the world of high-end fashion design. Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel took the transcript of the interview and used it for one of his recurring bits, “Kimmel Kid Re-Kreation”: a couple of 9-year-olds acted out the interview over milkshakes, interviewer kid nodding reverently while Kanye kid shouts increasingly megalomaniacal boasts.

As even Kimmel admitted, it wasn’t really that funny, but it also wasn’t exactly a character assassination. In any case, it sent Kanye into a rage, and he lashed out at Kimmel on Twitter, granting the host his long-held wish, as he said on his show soon afterward, to be in a rap beef.

All of this is just the backstory for last night’s big showdown: Kanye was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the two came face-to-face to hash out their differences.

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