Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rush Limbaugh Is Bald and Fat and Ugly

Any minute now, I’m expecting news that Rush Limbaugh has been fired. After all, if Don Imus was canned for making a racial slur, shouldn’t Limbaugh receive equal treatment for proving himself an ageist and a sexist?

I refer, of course, to Limbaugh’s recent comment that Americans aren’t ready to elect Hillary Clinton as president. Because we won’t want to watch her age on a daily basis—getting all gray-haired and wrinkly on us.

There are so many things wrong with that statement, I don’t even know where to begin.

How about with the notion that, to a certain extent, Limbaugh has a point. Women in our society are no longer allowed to grow old. I mean, the fairer sex has always been held to a higher standard than men in terms of personal appearance, but the extent to which this is now true would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening. Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are having their fat sucked, tummies tucked and their boobs boosted; their foreheads are frozen, their lips are plumped, their cheeks are injected with collagen. A Ginsu knife commercial has nothing on all the slicing and dicing that goes on in the plastic surgeon’s office these days.

Why? Because we’re deathly afraid of not looking 18. Of being betrayed by un-taut necks or that flabby, flappy skin under our arms—or anything else that indicates we’ve lived a life.

I look in my medicine cabinet and I see under-eye cream and upper lip cream and regenerating serum and age-defying moisturizer and good-bye cellulite gel, all in an attempt to shave a year or two off my age. So that I won’t be marginalized or labeled irrelevant. And sometimes I think, “This is insane.”

But then Rush Limbaugh says that regular appearances by an older woman on our TV screens is almost too horrific to contemplate. It might scare the children. And there’s no hue and cry to tar and feather the sort of idiot who would make such a disgusting, prejudicial comment. So I have to assume that people agree with him.

Pass the Botox.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

People, people who hate people

Oh, let’s see, what’s going on in the world today:

Britney Spears’ sister is pregnant at 16. Lynne Spears’ parenting book on hold. Some stories just write themselves.

Roger Clemens denies steroid usage. I believe him, yes I do. But in case I didn’t, I would always have the following technicality to fall back on: Baseball didn’t agree on a steroid policy until 2002, and Clemens’ alleged abuse took place between 1998 and 2001. So there.

President Bush signs bill boosting fuel standards. The legislation also calls for higher efficiency in light bulbs. Incandescents are out, compact fluorescents (CFLs) are in. Call me a cynic, but what are the odds that Dick Cheney, or Al Gore for that matter, owns a stake in a CFL manufacturer? These bulbs are being pushed on us like clear coating on a new car buyer. And they suck. In an “Inconvenient Truth”-induced moment of environmentalism, we purchased a number of CFLs. Yes, they’re a bit pricey, but hey, they last forever, right? Wrong. They all burned out faster than their global warming brethren. We replaced them with incandescents. I’m pretty sure that Greenland then melted and flooded Iceland, causing the entire country to evacuate to Newfoundland, which was ill-prepared to handle the influx of refugees, who got tired of living in tents and crossed the border into Maine, which welcomed them during the cranberry harvest but now wants to deport them back to Iceland, which no longer exists. Our bad.

Candidates asked to name their favorite electronic gadget. Hillary Clinton says iPod. Barack Obama answers “BlackBerry.” I love my iPod; I quit my job when they threatened to give me a BlackBerry. The former says, sometimes I need to take a break from the crazy world around me and rock out to Modest Mouse. The other says, yeah, I’m that irritating guy who can’t even walk down the frozen food aisle without texting my BFF.

Finally, most of you likely missed this headline: “‘Pigeon Man’ struck, killed by van.” I feel so conflicted, especially this close to Christmas. On the one hand “Pigeon Man,” a 70-something retiree who lived only to squat on a hydrant and have pigeons land all over his body thereby blocking an entire stretch of sidewalk that leads directly to Walgreens, is dead. :( On the other hand “Pigeon Man,” a 70-something retiree who lived only to squat on a hydrant and have pigeons land all over his body will no longer block an entire stretch of sidewalk that leads directly to Walgreens. :) I believe that Chicagoans fall into one of two categories—people who feed pigeons and people who hate people who feed pigeons. The Chicago Tribune falls into the former camp. For a completely biased, one-sided propaganda puff piece on the life of Pigeon Man, go to

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Average Joe

So I took one of those online quizzes that asks a bunch of questions on various social and political issues, and based on your answers, tells you which presidential candidate lines up most closely with your own opinions. I discovered that Joe Biden is the man for me. Curious. I took the test again. Same result. And I thought this was odd, because who knew Joe Biden was running for president.

I jest of course. I mean, I’m perfectly well aware that Mr. Biden has tossed his hat in the ring. And that he’s actually fairly well qualified for the job. But he’s been pretty much ignored by the media, I guess because he’s not new and shiny. Or it could be his name.

Every year, I look at the list of the most popular baby names because I’m always on the prowl for something to mock, and every year Joe is loitering somewhere in or near the top 10. It survived the Scott craze of the ‘70s and the whole Tyler takeover of the ‘90s and continues to hold its own against Noah and Henry and Jayden. Yet not a single U.S. president has ever been named Joe.

This does not bode well for Mr. Biden. Or Mr. Huckabee. Mike, or Michael, is another perennial crowd pleaser that never seems to go out of fashion. But, like Joe, also a no-show on the list of Chief Executives.

During his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama was fond of calling attention to the improbability of his candidacy—who, the thinking went, would vote for a guy with such a “funny” name. (And this was way before we knew “Hussein” was part of the package.) Yet in the current contest, Barack might actually have an advantage.

If the American public has demonstrated a certain reluctance to elect a Joe or Mike, they have no problem with more exotic appellations. The role call of Commanders in Chief is littered with Millards and Rutherfords and Grovers (twice). We even elected a Ulysses. Why, Barack seems almost tame by comparison.

As for candidate Romney, well consider him doubly blessed. On his campaign buttons he’s Mitt—his middle name—which isn’t quite Ulysses, but then again President Grant’s mama named him Hiram. On his birth certificate he’s Willard—shorten to Will, sounds like Bill, and you’ve got yourself a president.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Naughty: “The Office.” “Lost.” “Once.” Judd Apatow. Smartest Man in Hollywood, maybe. Funniest? Not according to the Golden Globes. None of the aforementioned was nominated.

Nice: Madonna. Newest inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. She. Does. Not. Belong. Even Santa makes mistakes.

Naughty: Roger Clemens. The biggest name named in the Mitchell Report on alleged steroid abuse in baseball. I say alleged because I adore The Rocket. Maybe he had his stool pigeon of a trainer shoot him up with various banned substances from 1998 to 2001 or maybe his stool pigeon of a trainer is a liar, liar, pants on fire. What else you got for evidence? Those side-by-side photos of a whippet-thin Clemens in his rookie season and the St. Bernard he now resembles? A) Everyone’s metabolism slows after 30 and B) when you’ve got a multi-million-dollar contract, you can skip the ramen noodles and go straight to steak. Does it sound as though me doth protest too much? Am I defending the indefensible? Perhaps. But I’m not ready to toss out a man’s entire career (including the awesome Mike Piazza bat throwing incident) based on a single error in judgment. Oh my god, I’m like those mothers of serial killer sons. Not my Roger. He was always such a nice boy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Grammy nominees were announced yesterday and Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” is up for Song of the Year.

I’m not sure how to respond to that, except to say…

Hey there songwriter
I can not stand your stupid ditty
I am disgruntled with the lyrics
And will tell you without pity
Get a clue
No one can rhyme as bad as you
I swear it’s true

Hey there songwriter
Do you own a dictionary?
‘Cause you might not sound so sappy
With a broad vocabulary
Close your eyes
Pick random words to memorize
That’s my advice

Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Rhymes are killing me

Hey there songwriter
I know poetry is hard
But I have to tell you boy
That you would never catch the Bard
Doing what you do
You made a couplet out of “good”
With the word “good”

Hey there songwriter
Can we talk about your grammar?
You wrote a line that sounds like Yoda
I want to hit you with a hammer
What did you do?
Skip every English class in school
That wasn’t cool

Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me

I know you think you’re pretty smart
Your single topped the music chart
But one-hit wonders always fade away
4 Non Blondes and Bow Wow Wow
Ask yourself, where are they now
And could this be the future you will face
So if you want a long career
One that lasts beyond this year
Next time write a tune that’s not so trite
You know I’m right

Hey there songwriter
Feels great to get that off my chest
Your song’s been driving me crazy
Now I can give my angst a rest
I’ve had my say
Don’t make me waste another day
Trying to find all kinds of ways
To escape the song you play
Just go away

Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Oh your rhymes are killing me
Rhymes are killing me

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pay Attention to Me

We just watched “Superbad” on DVD and I didn’t think it was funny. I’m not saying I didn’t find a single laugh in the entire movie. I just thought that an hour and 40 minutes of teenage boys mimicking blow jobs and hand jobs and anything else that passes for sex was perhaps an hour and 30 minutes too long.

Clearly there’s something wrong with me.

Entertainment Weekly just proclaimed Judd Apatow—who didn’t write, direct or act in “Superbad” but somehow gets credit for it anyway—as the Smartest Person in Hollywood. “This year, he didn’t just bring the funny; he changed the whole funny business,” raved EW. “Apatow is defining humor for this generation.”

So I had better get on board.

It’s not like I didn’t enjoy “Knocked Up,” Mr. Apatow’s other big hit in 2007, though if you think about the movie too long you start to wonder why you’re rooting for an intelligent woman to settle for a doofus. But at least the film was populated by adults, albeit not necessarily grown-ups.

I guess when you get down to it, my problem with “Superbad” is that it was all about teenagers. Who I try to avoid whenever I can. I didn’t much like being one and I certainly don’t enjoy their company now. Especially not on an “L” train when they’ve just been released from school.

I know they can’t help it, but teenagers are annoying. And stupid. And loud. And annoying.

And almost every movie in America is made with this audience in mind. Except end-of-the-year Oscar bait, and frankly, I’m tired of being depressed every holiday season by joyless fare like “No Country for Old Men.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I believe at the end, Javier Bardem kills Santa. It reminds me of the time I spent the month of December slogging through Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” I should have just gone to an animal shelter and watched puppies being tortured. Same effect.

So what’s on my wish list this Christmas? For Mr. Apatow to make a movie for me. Something that snaps, crackles, and pops with witty dialogue but isn’t set in a high school locker room. Think Jane Austen without all the accents and costumes (but not “The Jane Austen Book Club”). I’d offer more suggestions, but if I could come up with a plot, I’d write the screenplay myself.

C’mon, Mr. Apatow. You’re the Smartest Person in Hollywood. How hard can it be?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Biggest Losers

Enjoying the holidays so far? Sitting around the yule log, are you, sipping hot cocoa with loved ones? Gone caroling? Ice skating? Had cause to wear something with sequins? I know it’s only December 4th, but already the month feels like it’s slipping away, and so far the only deviation from my regularly scheduled activities is that I watched an episode of “Life” last night.

The worst is yet to come, and by that I mean the inevitable question of “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” I have no idea. But I know what I’m not doing New Year’s Day. Watching Ohio State play LSU for the national championship, surrounded by fellow Buckeye fans.

Back in the day, the college football and holiday season culminated on Jan. 1. Back in the day, most of my family lived within a 10-mile radius and would gather to watch the bowl games and try to figure out a way for Notre Dame to wind up with the #1 ranking. That this actually happened once was enough to keep us delusional for the next 20 years. (We weren’t alone in clinging to this fantasy—just ask the programmers at NBC.)

While it may not sound like it, this was great fun. And then somebody went and invented the BCS. And now the college football season culminates on Jan. 7. Which is a Monday and not even the holidays anymore. I mean, even teachers have gone back to work by then.

So, as the perfect storm of sporting events took place this past weekend—West Virginia and Missouri choked, OSU vaulted to the top spot—I found myself cursing a system that should have been cause for joy.

I guess moving the BCS title game away from all the other lesser contests makes sense from a ratings perspective. After all, my extended family, lolling around my aunt’s living room as the Orange Bowl merged into the Sugar merged into the Fiesta, only counted as a single television set. Now that we’re spread out over several states, with no chance of traveling to watch the Big Game together (on a Saturday, maybe, on a Monday, no chance), why that’s about a 10-household gain for the network. Multiply that by millions of geographically-challenged families and the increase is exponential.

A big win for them. A big loss for us.

Happy holidays.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Case of the Mysterious Pepper Spray

News: 1. Information about recent events. 2. New information of any kind.

It’s the oldest, most hackneyed trick in the book to start a piece of writing with a definition of the topic at hand. Which makes perfect sense when talking about “news.”

Did you know, for example, that holiday traffic—both on the road and in the skies—is a nightmare? Or that in December it might possibly snow? Thank goodness every television station and newspaper was on hand to report these stunning new developments.

We live in an Information Age, and this certainly has its benefits. For example, at any given moment, the news crawl at the top of my computer screen can distract me from important work at hand—like typing this delightful blog—with eye-catching headlines about surgeons in Rhode Island who keep operating on the wrong side of people’s brains. That’s good to know.

As with “The Facts of Life,” you take the good, you take the bad. In the case of the 24/7 news cycle, the bad boils down to an awful lot of repetition and the fact that Ann Curry can pop up on my television morning, noon and night. Anyone else had it up to here with Election ’08—way back in ’06? Or the disappearance of Stacy Peterson (who, by the way, is not the only missing woman in America, and not even the only missing mother from the Chicago suburbs)?

There are too many news outlets with too much time to kill, er, I mean fill. Everything is treated as vitally important, which means that news of actual substance gets buried between reports on man bitten by shark and woman who survives lightning strike. If you’re at all familiar with the tale of Miss Puerto Rico and the case of the mysterious pepper spray, you know what I mean. If you’re still trying to figure out the difference between Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, I feel your pain.

Maybe we get the news we deserve. For whatever reason, we’re mighty intrigued by the gazillionth Power Ball winner and less so by the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Not necessarily because we have the attention span of a squirrel or the empathy of a tree frog but possibly because it’s not in our nature to seek out ways to depress ourselves. It’s an interesting phenomenon, one that I’d like to examine in greater depth. But right now, I’m dying to learn more about “Giant Truffle Auctioned for $330,000.”