Poopy Politics

Yeah, Eliot Spitzer resigned. So what? I don’t live in New York, and while all reports are that this guy is an insufferable, self-righteous prig, he has had no impact on my life whatsoever. His resignation will likely mean little or no change in how New York is governed, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is What It All Means.

Blech. What it means is that the media is uncomfortable reporting on sex scandals that involve Democrats. Sure, they’ll do it, but they’ll wring their hands the whole time and neglect to put a little D by the name of the offender. Contrast that to how they excoriated Larry Craig (R-Idaho) for his foot-tapping, and you see the latest example of a double standard. But who was looking for more evidence? How can anyone possibly argue that the mainstream media doesn’t tilt hard to the left? It’s just part of the landscape, and it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The only thing interesting in all of this is discovering how much this guy paid per hour for his hookers. Over five grand?! No wonder I’m faithful to my wife. I can’t afford not to be.

Other than that, this story just adds to the political noise.

Similarly, Obama and Hillary’s travails stopped being interesting a long time ago. But does anyone else notice that all the grunge is coming from one direction? Hillary’s people shamelessly denigrate Obama based on his race, and he shrugs his shoulders and moves on. Yet one of Barack’s lackeys has the temerity to call her a “monster” and instantly the lackey gets the sack. So many papers insist on talking about the Democratic infighting as if it’s a two-way street. How can anyone ignore the obvious – that Hillary Clinton is a shameless, corrupt, Machiavellian banshee? Say what you want about their politics, but Barack is manifestly more decent than the scheming Clintons. I just don’t see where there’s room for argument on this.

The only political story of any interest is the idea of Mitt Romney being considered as McCain’s running mate. I don’t know if it’s a good move for Mitt, since McCain’s going to lose, and Mitt runs the risk of turning himself into Jack Kemp or John Edwards. But if Mitt were on the ticket, I’d be forced to vote for McCain. So it would be a good move for the GOP, certainly. But I doubt it will happen, because McCain is a grudge-holding jerk.

Who gives a crap?

Actually, the crap section of yesterday’s post is much more interesting to me than anything in the political world these days. Not so my family. In private messages, my sisters have made it very clear that they do not find defecation in the open air to be a mystical act. My wife also expressed her extreme displeasure in my interest in the subject.

To them, I say – pshaw. Pooping costs lests than $5,000 an hour, but I refuse to do it outside, because then I’d have to clean it up.

Daylight Savings, Dumps, and Oil Demand

Daylight Savings is an idea that has outlived its usefulness.

It certainly wasn’t invented by anyone who had young children. Because young children don’t adjust to daylight savings for weeks. You keep having to put them to bed long before they’re tired and then wake them up an hour before they’re ready. It’s even worse with little babies, who get up whenever they feel like it and whenever you don’t feel like it.

I suppose it’s better in the Fall than in the Spring, when you lose an hour, but the baby will still scream according to their internal clock, which stays constant year round.

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Is there anything more satisfying than taking a dump?

My Esteemed Colleague, who has joined me on many a crank call, has written a startlingly insightful essay about defecation. You can read the whole thing here, but I quote just a few excerpts to further discussion:

  • “Naturally, defecation should be a primal pleasure, releasing endorphins and flushing the entire body with waves of tinglies and satisfaction. When one defecates upon the earth, in the open air, a special connection between the body and the earth is confirmed. It is truly a gift of self, a returning of what has been eaten from the earth to the earth. It is a mystical act.”

And:

  • “Defecation so practiced brings a euphoria similar to and often superior to that of orgasm. This is one of the gifts that nature gives to a body in balance, in the circle. This euphoria can last for up to an hour after defecation.”

The key to having a primo defecation experience, according to this writer, is to do so outdoors, complete with “groans and howls of delight.”

It looks as if I’m quoting him to mock him, but I am not. I have to concede that his central premise has merit. I thoroughly enjoy the process he describes, much to the disgust of Mrs. Cornell. Yet I haven’t done it outdoors since my Boy Scout days, so I may lack the necessary experience to offer a considered opinion.

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You cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.

Demand for oil is way up, yet environmentalists insist that the United States not respond by creating the commensurate supply. Then they’re aghast that gasoline will soon be approaching $4 a gallon.

Conventional oil production in the United States peaked in the 1970s, which, coincidentally, was the last time we built an oil refinery. Even if we upped production significantly, we’d probably not see prices fall, because we’d have to ship the excess oil overseas to be refined.

There’s more oil in shale in the Four Corners area than in all of Saudi Arabia. It could make us entirely energy independent and fuel our nation for hundreds of years. It would cost about $40 a barrel to recover. So why don’t we recover it? Because environmentalists want this area left entirely pristine, despite the fact that it’s primarily scrub and juniper bushes and not much else. 

As soon as I can strap a windmill on top of my car and go 75 miles per hour, I’ll stop worrying about oil. Until then, it’s about time the enviros gave us a break.

What, Me Worry?

Around Christmas of 2002, I broke my arm. I told everyone I did it while I was wrastling a bear, but, in actuality, I slipped and fell on the icy steps of my front porch. Had there been a bear on my front porch that particular morning, though, I would have wrastled him but good.

Anyway, they prescribed Vicodin for me to help with the pain. I dutifully took my prescription according to the doctor’s recommendations, until three or four weeks after my fall, I asked Mrs. Cornell:

“How long should I keep taking these?”

“You need to keep taking them for as long as you have pain,” she said.

“I haven’t had any pain for a long time,” I answered. “I just like how these make me feel.”

She made me stop taking them after that. Dang it.

I’m a big fan of drugs. With my hacking cough/cold, I’ve been a Nyquil and Dayquil junkie these past few days, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a good thing I’m a Mormon, because otherwise I’d probably be a lush.

That’s why the recent article about depression in Utah didn’t surprise me much. In case you missed it, it seems Utah leads the antion in terms of diagnosed cases of depression, most notably Utah women. The article concludes that Mormon women are far more depressed because A) they’re expected to be perfect, and B) their education system is underfunded. (Don’t worry, fellow Utahns – Explanation B didn’t make sense to me, either, and I have a California public education, which was overfunded.)

In my non-professional opinion, I think Utah women are diagnosed with depression more often than the national average because A) non-Mormons self-medicate with alcohol, and B) Utah women are smart enough to get a doctor’s help to treat depression. The only way a good Mormon takes drugs of any kind is if a doctor tells them it’s OK. But a cold beer is available to most folks without benefit of a prescription.

That’s not to say that the Mormon peer pressure isn’t extensive. But given the tone of the article, it’s clearly an attempt to slam the church under color of objectivity. The article refers to the “Mother of Zion syndrome,” as if it’s actually some kind of recognized psychological disorder. I think the author was suffering from “Mitt Romney withdrawal syndrome.” We all respond to the syndrome in different ways. I become a political hermit, whereas this reporter finds some other excuse for bashing Mormons.

With Mitt Romney on the sidelines for the next four years, we can reasonably expect the number of anti-Mormon media slams to subside. But only if the media continues to take its medication.

I’m sick.

I don’t like being sick. And I don’t have time to be sick. But sick I am. Hacking cough, raw throat, chills, and a basso profundo voice. 

Everyone likes to hear about other people’s illnesses. 

World Premiere of John Adams

So for reasons I cannot explain, I managed to wrangle an invite to the premier of HBO’s John Adams series, held tonight in the US Capitol building. Star Paul Giamatti, Producer Tom Hanks, and original biography author David McCullough were all on hand for a reception held in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and teeming with politicos like Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy and politico wannabes like Chris Matthews. Also lobbyists.

After eating lots of finger food – I liked the chicken and artichokes, not so much the beef gristle on a stick – we all trekked down the stairs over to the Cannon House Office Building, where we sat in unbelievably uncomfortable banquet chairs that seemed almost to be stacked on top of one another. We then listened to some blowhard congressman from Adams’ hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts – he pronounced it “Quinzy” – and he proceeded to waste our time as he introduced his faithful colleagues, none of whom you’re ever heard of. But then he introduced Tom Hanks, who I’m sure you have heard of, and he apologized for the uncomfortable chairs and told us that this wasn’t how they did it in Hollywood, and said “That’s what you get for living here. What can I say? Move.”

He won us over instantly. But my picture of him (left) is pretty bad.

He told the story of how John Adams successfully defended the British soldiers who instigated the Boston massacre, thereby demonstrating that our nation was ruled by law, not men. Then he introduced Adams biographer David McCullough, who was gracious and elegant as he excoriated the rising generation for being historically illiterate.

Then the screening began.

What we saw was the second episode, which covers the time frame surrounding the Declaration of Independence. It lasted an hour and a half and is presumably the second of six such episodes for HBO, based on McCullough’s book. What’s ironic about this is my family recently watched 1776, the musical version of these events starring a tone deaf William Daniels as John Adams and White Shadow Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson. The HBO series could not be further removed from the singing KITT version.

In the first place, nobody sings. Indeed, you wonder if any of them have ever even heard music in their lives. There’s nothing pretty about these people – they’re muddy, sweaty farmers with grit under their fingernails, scraggly wigs, and bad teeth. You can almost smell them from off of the screen. The only exception was Laura Linney, who was a strong, steely presence as Abigail Adams but still looked, even without makeup, like she was regularly getting her eyebrows waxed.

Giamatti, on the other hand, somehow managed to be dumpy, short, and commanding all at the same time. He was a revelation as John Adams, as was Tom Wilkinson as an unlikely Ben Franklin. As soon as I saw Wilkinson, I had no idea who he was playing. Then he was addressed as Dr. Franklin, which stunned me. He hadn’t done much to mask his British accent, and I thought I would end up being distracted by having such an iconic actor playing such an iconic historical figure. It didn’t take long to lose him in the role, and the dialect actually helped the process along.

That’s because each of these characters had a unique dialect that demonstrated the transition from British English to American English. It was really quite an accomplishment, as I doubt I would have noticed had I not been so keenly attuned to Wilkinson’s natural manner of speech. Every effort was made to keep this thing authentic, which could have turned this into just another museum piece, but instead made it vibrant and immediate. It’s terrifying to watch as Abigail Adams is awakened at night by canons being fired from the ships gathered in Boston Harbor. You’re aghast when you see the foul circumstances that confronted the original Continental Army. (Although I could have done without the gruesome smallpox inoculations. Authentic pus doesn’t earn anybody credit in my book.)

Everyone rises to the occasion for this. Stephen Dillane is a perfect Thomas Jefferson – laconic, detached, and more than a little bit strange. And the guy who played John Dickinson – Cesar Woljnak, or something – he’s not listed in imdb, although I’ve seen him in a bunch of stuff – he was perfect. Absolutely perfect. His final speech where he pleads for Congress to reject independence almost had me rooting for the Redcoats. Some folks with me thought David Morse was too soft as George Washington, but I thought he was entirely adequate.

The performances take a back seat to the expert writing, which catches the flavor of McCullough’s heady book without drowning you in detail. They manage to include almost all the language of the entire Declaration in the final frames, but it feels dramatically relevant, not like a recitation. The show is always engaging, It’s heartening to see Tom Hanks putting something like this together. When a guy can do anything he wants in Hollywood and he chooses to do something like this, you know there’s hope for the world.

Also, smallpox is gross.

DC Memories

I have lived seven of my thirty-nine years in or near our nation’s capitol. Of course, six of those years were the first six, as I was born in the District of Columbia at the long-forgotten Columbia Hospital for Women. That was always a source of embarrassment for me, as being born in a woman’s hospital made me feel unmanly. I have since come to terms with it, though. Really, it’s cool. It’s still awkward on public forms when I have to fill in the city and state in which I was born, since I wasn’t born in a state. Now I know how babies born in leap year feel. (I don’t know what that means.)

We moved to California shortly after my sixth birthday, and I didn’t return to DC until a family vacation in 1993. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to remember – about the landscape, about the people, about everything. I had a very clear memory of walking home from church and having my father explain to me that people sweat in the wintertime, too. I refer to this as the pivotal “Sweat Discourse.” I could probably reproduce it if I wanted to, but I don’t want to, and neither do you.

After I got married in ’94, I lived in DC with my new bride for nine months before heading back to Jackson Hole to launch the second season of the Grand Teton Mainstage Theatre. I spent several months as an intern for Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, who taught me two very important life lessons:

1. Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.

And, more importantly:

2. Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day.

I returned to Washington in 1999 when I accepted a position as a Senior Associate at Burson-Marsteller, an international public relations firm. What I didn’t realize was that the client I had been hired to represent – Iridium Satellite Phones – had gone bankrupt a few days before I arrived. So I had a cushy little cubicle on K Street and, literally, nothing to do. It was then that I started surfing the Internet to kill time and sought out information on a nascent Battlestar Galactica revival. If it weren’t for Burson-Marsteller, Languatron and I would never have met. That sounds gross. I should take it back, but the truth stands, despite my best attempts to, you know, not let it stand.

Anyway, I got a job offer back in Utah that matched my salary, so I left after three months. So I can say that I’ve worked in DC for a full year, separated by more than half a decade.

I love DC. I love the monuments, especially all lit up at night. The cherry blossoms in the spring around the Jefferson Memorial are something everyone needs to see before they die. I love reading the Washington Post and, when nobody’s looking, the Washington Times. I love the public transportation system, which is clean and efficient and actually gets you to useful places. I’ve toured the White House and the Capitol – I was actually a semi-official Capitol Tour Guide when I worked in Sen. Simpson’s office – and I could wander through the Smithsonian all day long – and have. As much as I get disgusted with the current political scene, I see the Washington Monument or that big old Lincoln dude and I realize the country’s probably going to pull through.

That’s reassuring, because our next president is really going to suck.

Hanging Out in DC

I don’t care who you are, the Washington Monument is inspiring.

I’m in DC until Thursday on a business trip, and I had to schlep a camera and a tripod with me. Since Delta only allows two checked bags, I had to put everything in one big honking suitcase, and it weighed over fifty pounds. So I had to take out a pair of Levis and two pairs of shoes to save eighty bucks extra in weight overage fees. So I’m lugging around a camera case, and a pair of jeans and four separate shoes, and then the line through security was backed out to the parking garage.

Rage was building. Pure, Languatronic rage.

Early in the day, this was going to be the sum total of my post – how much I hate to travel, how airline security blows, etc. etc. But I’ve already done plenty of that on this blog, and, much to my surprise, the flight was actually pleasant.

Why, you ask? Three words: personal video monitors.

I fly Delta more often than not, but this was the first time I’d been on a Delta flight with JetBlue-style monitors. It was heaven! I bought a movie and three HBO shows for $11 total, and it was more than worth it. No commercials, no airline favorite recipes/waterparks/wine tasting festivals videos, and, best of all, I could watch good stuff the whole flight.

And it was good stuff indeed – for the most part.

Is there a better, more reliable, more versatile comedic actor working today than Steve Carell? My wife and I are well into the third season of Netflixed DVDs of The Office, which never fails to have us laughing out loud. Yet the first movie I watched on the plane was Dan In Real Life, and Carell’s character couldn’t have been more different from the smarmy office boss he plays on TV. He’s made a career out of playing smarm – and playing it well, I might add – so it’s surprising when you see how disarmingly genuine he can be. He’s perfect in this role as a struggling single father facing an awkward romantic dilemma, and I tried to imagine what the film would have been like with Jim Carrey or Will Ferrell in the lead. Actually, Ferrell can do sweet – he was great in Stranger Than Fiction – but Carell has him beat by a mile. He’s not just a comic trying to act – he’s an actor. Who would have thought?

I then watched two episodes of the Ali G Show, with appearances by Borat and the fashion guy that Sacha Baron Cohen does so well. As a budding documentarian myself, I’m stunned how this guy gets away with ambushing his guests – luring prominent Christian conservatives like Pat Buchanan on to ask them ridiculous questions about why incest is really all that bad or why everyone with pubic hair shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

The segment where Ali G is interviewing a veterinarian and keeps confusing veterinarian with veteran was pretty funny, too. You can only take so much of this, though, as Cohen delights in mocking his “guests,” and it eventually becomes more cruel than funny. The poor veterinarian didn’t deserve the aggravation.

The best, though, was the fashion Nazi character, who was interviewing two vapid fashion magazine editors and showing them pictures of celebrities to get their comments. After they rip someone to pieces – Paris Hilton, say – Cohen would, supposedly off-camera, tell them he needed to suck up to Paris, and could they please do it again with positive comments. Which they did, without batting an eye. Suddenly Paris was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Fashion magazine editors don’t get my sympathy.

The last thing I watched was an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show I’d heard great things about and which, frankly, I didn’t like very much. Larry David is the real life George Costanza, and the fictional one wears better.

I got off at Reagan National Airport and hopped right on the Metro to my hotel. I don’t have anything going here until tomorrow, so I went running.

I got off the Metro at the Smithsonian station, and then I ran to the Capitol and back to the Washington Monument, and then past the World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool to the base of the Lincoln Memorial, on past the Korean War Memorial, across the street to the Tidal Basin and then through the FDR Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial, and then back to the Smithsonian Metro. Over 5 miles. I’m a man.

And now I’m eating pizza and blogging. Overall, a pretty dang good day.

Bad Children’s Television

So a Facebook friend asked me to name:

1. The ugliest car on the road
2. The worst television show in history
3. The most annoying children’s show on air today.

My answers were:

1. Not into cars so I can’t name brands. My old minivan qualifies, though. 130,000 miles, a huge dent on the side, and a weird spoiler on top to make the whole thing look “sporty.” We traded it in two weeks ago and got 1500 bucks for it.
2. Galactica 1980, where they find earth. Kids with flying motorcycles and Wolfman Jack. Blech.
3. It begins and ends with Barney.

I thought those were fine answers, but he corrected me with the following:

The correct answers:
1. The Aztec. Unparalleled ugliness. The Edsel is beautiful by comparison.
2. Small Wonder.
3. Caillou. Barney is freakin Citizen Kane. You must find it and try to watch for more than 30 seconds. Mu-ah-hah-hah

Now I have no idea what an Aztec looks like, and I have no idea what Small Wonder is. But I have to concede that’s he on to something when it comes to Caillou.

Caillou is creepy.

The woman who voices the four-year-old kid sounds like a schoolmarm doing an infant impersonation. And the whole thing is narrated by puppets that sound like they’re being voiced by octogenarians. The frames of the show are unfinished, as if they’re part of some watercolor masterpiece. I don’t really understand why. The whole thing feels like it was created by an academic committee in the Canadian Department of Education. Which, I think, it was.

But I still think Barney is worse. Barney makes people violent. Including me.

One thing about Caillou that I thought was cool was taken away from me. I remember when I first heard the theme song, I thought, instead of singing “Growing up is not so tough/’Cept when I’ve had enough,” they were singing “Growing up is not so tough/SUCKS when I’ve had enough.” I thought that was pretty cool, but no.

Now I’m thinking about bad children’s television. I can’t be blamed for what I might do.