I’ve paid my bills!

Seems that the renewal notice for stallioncornell.com got lost in my hotmail spam folder. Consequently, the site was yanked down all day and replaced by this:

(Click on it for a larger pic.)

That was very disconcerting to see some college chick staring back at me on my own page, but that’s what you get for being delinquent. It’s nice to know she provided searches for both Stallion and Cornell, but apparently the first one yielded a significant amount of gay porn links, so I apologize for that.

Speaking of gay porn links, Languatron took credit for pulling down my site, but backed off when I informed him that hacking into my site and yanking it down constitutes a felony, something I learned these past few days, as Sarah Palin seems to be experiencing similar problems.

Anyway, welcome back.

Dad and Galactica: Happy Birthday!

Today is my father’s 75th birthday.

He doesn’t read this blog unless I tell him to, so I can let all of you in on a little secret. In the tradition of Ronald Reagan, he offers Jelly Bellies to the folks who happen to visit his office. So my wild-eyed sister got the idea that all of us siblings would chip in and have 75 pounds of Jelly Bellies delivered to his office.

That’s a lot of carbs.

On another anniversarial note, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Battlestar Galactica. This is a big deal, if for no other reason than I own the world’s stupidest Battlestar Galactica bulletin board on the internet. I can’t let that occasion pass without some commentary, so I thought I’d take a moment to commemorate the occasion.

People nowadays deride Battlestar Galactica as nothing but a Star Wars knock-off, ignoring the fact that, as a ten-year-old kid in 1978, that’s exactly what I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I watched the lengthy three-hour premiere and found something quite different – and far more satisfying. Unlike Star Wars, this was an elaborate creation myth – the untold history of humanity as seen from “somewhere beyond the heavens.” What’s more, they were drawing from a creative wellspring hitherto untapped on network television – tenets of Mormon doctrine, put on display for the whole world to see.

This disturbed my mother somewhat, as she wasn’t fond of seeing her church teachings dumbed down, science fictionized and broadcast to the masses. But I found it fascinating, if for no other reason than it validated the fact that there were others who believed what I believed, and it gave the proceedings more heft than they would have had otherwise.

Fans of the cheap bastardization of Galactica that now airs on the SciFi Channel ritually denigrate the original series upon which it is based, yet all of GINO’s best moments have been lifted from its source material, which had a vast potential that remains forever unrealized. (GINO=Galactica In Name Only.) Sure, the hairstyles are disco and some of the dramatic conventions seem a little creaky with age, but the central premise remains as vibrant today as it was 30 years ago. My children have all watched the entire series, and the pilot episode, along with “Lost Planet of the Gods,” “Living Legend,” “War of the Gods” and “The Hand of God” hold up surprisingly well. (Stay away from “Greetings from Earth,” though. Hector and Vector make me itch.)

What’s most interesting is how realistic the pre-CGI special effects are. They recycled the same shots over and over and over again through the course of the series, but they’re actually pretty impressive shots. An undertaking of Galactica’s scope has not been seen on network television before or since.

All of my school friends watched the first few episodes of Galactica, but they lost interest halfway through the season. My friend Philip, who I’ve mentioned on this blog, convinced me that I was wasting my time and that I should be listening to Dr. Demento on the radio instead. So I checked out sometime after Hector and Vector, only to be disappointed by hearing “Fishheads” every week instead of getting my Galactica fix. So I returned to the Galactica fold in time to see the glorious final episode, and then to be crushed by the news that the series, which had been once hailed as the sure-fire hit of the season, was being ignominiously cancelled.

The following year, my mom served as the Den Mother for my Cub Scout pack, and she arranged for a group visit to the Universal Studios special effects studio to see them doing work on Galactica creator/Languatron’s bane Glen Larson’s lesser follow-up project, Buck Rogers. We watched disinterestedly as they took a series of photographs of a white sphere in front of a black background to be used in the show’s lousy “space vampire” episode. If you get a chance to watch that episode, don’t. But if somehow you do, know that Stallion Cornell and his Cub Scout buddies were there at the creation thereof.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I remember talking to the guy giving the tour about my love for Battlestar Galactica. So, at some point in the evening, he took us into what I recall as an Indiana Jones-style warehouse, which undoubtedly housed lost television treasures of ages past. He took us to an unassuming wooden crate and then opened it, revealing not the Lost Ark of the Covenant, but the next best thing – the original working model of the Battlestar Galactica, live and in color.

That’s right, sports fans. Stallion Cornell and the Battlestar Galactica have actually met in person.

I remember being impressed with how huge it was. It certainly couldn’t have accommodated a crew of thousands, but it was probably four or five feet long, which was much bigger than the wussy space vampire ship I had seen a few minutes earlier. We didn’t have long to look, and soon he was boxing the thing back up again, but it was a moment I will never forget.

It was on a summer trip to Utah that I caught the first promo for Galactica 1980 on television, complete with Lorne Greene in a goofy beard, and my heart skipped a beat. Galactica was coming back!

Well, no. What came back was a watery retread of Galactica that was almost too painful to watch. But watch it I did, religiously, trying not to make the “demented” mistake I had made before, hoping that some semblance of the original series would shine through. It eventually did with the “Return of Starbuck” episode, but everything else was dreck. I was left waiting for the promise of Galactica to finally be fully realized sometime in the future.

Well, here we are, thirty years later.

I’m still waiting.

Easy Money

I was a bank teller in Korea Town in Los Angeles way back when, which is where I learned how to say “Na neun se sangh ih suh ka jhang tung tung han salam imnida.” I’m sure the spelling is atrocious, but phonetically, that’s Korean for “I am the fattest man in the world.”

One of the things we tellers did to pass the time was figure out ways to embezzle money. For those of you FBI agents reading this blog, please keep in mind that figuring out ways to embezzle money is markedly different from actually embezzling money, which is not something we did. (Not something I did, anyway. I can’t speak for everyone, especially not Slippery Pete.)

Robbing a bank, for instance, is a pretty crappy way to get ill-gotten gains. In the first place, we were instructed to fully comply with any robber’s demands, whether they had a gun or not. As such, we were only allowed to keep $2,500 in cash in our drawer at any given time, including a dye pack which exploded upon leaving the bank. So anyone who walks up to a teller window and says “Gimme all your cash” isn’t going to get enough to justify the legal headaches and the lengthy prison sentence.

A bank takeover is far more profitable and far more logistically nightmarish. You’ve got to have a lot of people to hold hostages, blow safes, and move mounds of cash. And how are you going to get all the money out of the building with all the people and avoid getting caught? On average, your average Wells Fargo branch back in my day had about $400,000 cash on any given day. If you’ve got a group of, say, eight guys to get all the money, you’re only hauling in fifty grand or so – not bad for a dishonest day’s work, but probably also not worth the subsequent internment and complete and utter ostracization from civilized society.

No, the way to steal money is electronically, and we have to be talking hundreds of millions of dollars before it even begins to get interesting.

The problem there, though, is that electronic transactions are almost always reversible, so the only way to make it work is to hack into the system, get the billion dollars, and then trade it out for cash. But who’s going to cash you out for a billion dollars? Is there even a billion dollars in cash anywhere in the world?

It’s all problematic.

In my estimation, even having a billion dollars that you’ve come by legally ultimately creates problems. It’s pretty hard to have a billion dollars and not have everyone in the world know you have a billion dollars. Certainly the tax man’s gonna hit you up for at least half of it, and then every 501 (c) (3) on earth is going to tell you a sob story to get you to donate. Save the whales! Feed the children! Slaughter cats! Now that’s something I’d pay for.

No, the secret to lifelong happiness is to have an offshore oil rig hidden in the territorial waters of a tax shelter in the Caribbean. You have billions that you can donate anonymously or squander at your leisure, and you can use the rest to screw over the little guy every chance you get. Then I can finally pay someone to fix my toilets and mow my lawn. And cook my meals and do my dishes and fold my clothes. And to exercise for me.

Maybe I should just do hard drugs instead.

I stole the name “Slippery Pete” from Seinfeld.

Making A Statement

I went to the BYU football game this weekend.

You may not understand what a big deal that is. See, I was a USC student who did all his laundry in the dorms during the football games because there was nobody else around. I decided early on in my academic career that I would avoid football games at all costs, because I was Making A Statement.

I wish I could remember what that Statement was.

I used to make a lot of Statements. I used to take a lot of stands. Like the time I refused my nomination as Vice Versa King for the girl’s choice Vice Versa dance during my senior year in high school. The problem was they had already printed the ballots when I Made My Statement. I was the Senior Class President, so my job included distributing the ballots in individual classrooms – ballots that had my name crossed off in see-through ink.

So naturally, everyone wanted to know why my name was scratched off the ballot. I told them I was Making A Statement. (I think, on that occasion, the real Statement was that no girl had asked me to the Vice Versa Dance.)

As Senior Class President, it was also my job to crown the Homecoming Queen. The problem was that I didn’t have a date to the Homecoming Dance. I think I was Making A Statement then, too – I maintained that school dances were for more bourgeoisie folk, and they symbolized some kind of oppression or something. I can’t really remember. I do remember, however, feeling too socially awkward to actually ask a pretty girl to go out with me.

That’s a Statement, all right, but not the one I intended to make.

That was one of the worst nights of my life. I showed up to the dance in a suit and did the honors, crowning our lovely Homecoming Queen with all the requisite pomp and circumstance, and then I ducked out the back door and made a break for it. Some friends of mine told me they had come outside to say hello to me, and they saw me in the distance as I ran toward my car and then pealed out of sight.

I tried to strike a blow against bourgeoisie oppression, but sometimes screeching tires make our Statements for us.

So, anyway, back to the BYU thing. My Statement to avoid college athletics has lasted my entire lifetime, and I’m now 40 years old. This was, in fact, the first college football game I had ever attended. How sad is that? Pretty sad. Not as sad as UCLA’s performance in that game, though – they lost 59 to zip.

That’s a Statement nobody should ever be forced to make.

Talk Radio

Saw pieces of the Palin interview on the web both yesterday and today, and I’m more than a little disgusted at how she was treated, and not just by the insufferable Charlie Gibson, who was smug and condescending throughout, but by the whole process. The whole thing was filmed with a single camera that allowed the viewer to see all of Gibson’s face but just the side of Palin’s head. I can’t remember any other interviewee subjected to such an unflattering camera angle. It would have been nice to see the expression on Palin’s face as she answered the unnecessarily confrontational questions.

Given how mercilessly ABC had stacked the deck against her, I think she acquitted herself admirably.

It’s moments like this that remind me why I don’t watch network news and never really have. I remember in high school being disgusted by reporters and anchors who loathed everything about Ronald Reagan and wishing there was someone out there who represented my side. Today, finally, there are such people, and most of them are found on the radio. It’s no wonder that Pelosi and the Dems want to resurrect the Constitutionally-contemptuous Fairness Doctrine to shut these people down. But it’s also childish for them to think their message isn’t being heard.

Tell you what, lefties – you give us ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times and every other major metropolitan newspaper, along with the tenured faculty of every major university in this country, and we’ll be happy to forfeit Limbaugh and his ilk. We’ll even throw in Fox News, which is far less conservative than its critics would have you believe. (It really is fairly balanced – it just refuses to treat conservatives like nimrods the way other networks do.)

Still, not all right-wing talk radio is created equal. For those who may not have the radio on as often as I do, I thought I’d give you the rundown from best to worst, leaving the worst for last because they’re more fun to write about.

1) Rush Limbaugh

There’s a reason he’s number one. He’s really quite good – funny, smart, and idea-based. And contrary to myth, lefties who call his show don’t get ridiculed or shouted down. They get defeated with clear, reasonable arguments. He’s also far less kooky than the kooks at DailyKos realize – he rips into fringe conspiracy theorists with glee and venom on a regular basis, be they righties of lefties. He’s probably the best representation of mainstream conservative thought in the country, and he deserves to be where he is.

2) Phil Hendrie

Sadly, no station in Utah carries this genius host anywhere, which is a real shame. He went off the air a few years ago, but apparently he’s back on in some markets. He ran a strictly comedy show for most of the time, but after 9/11 he became a hardcore conservative and even had a blog titled georgewbushisgod.com. (It’s gone now, sadly.) His show is the funniest thing in any medium, as he pretends to be his own callers. So he spends an hour debating with himself over ludicrous issues.

He’s been, just to name a few:

Steve Bozell – a constant whiner who wants to sue the National Weather service for not warning him of strange El Nino gusts that blew his mother’s ashes up his nose.

Margaret Grey – a snooty, elitist journalist who thinks she has a constitutional right to free gasoline provided by the LAPD

Doug Danger – a “gay man and a gay journalist” who announces his homosexuality on every possible occasion, especially when using his Vons grocery card

Lloyd Bonafide – a very violent Korean War veteran who pounds on teenagers every chance he gets

And the list goes on.

He’s very funny, but for those of you with delicate sensibilities, he can be quite filthy, too. Be warned.

3) Dennis Prager

I haven’t heard enough of him lately, but he’s hands-down the smartest radio host out there. As a practicing orthodox Jew, he places every political issue inside a moral framework, providing a context that can’t be found anywhere else. He tends to wander away from the timely to focus on the timeless and the philosophical, which sometimes works and sometimes feels like eating sawdust without butter. But he’s almost always worth listening to.

4) Glenn Beck

Yes, he’s a Mormon, so that’s a plus, but he’s also the funniest guy doing a primarily political show. He’s lifted some of Phil Hendrie’s shtick, which you might not notice if you’ve never heard the real thing, but it still works. The only problem with him is that he tends to think the world is going to end every other Thursday. He warns of doomsday scenarios on such a regular basis that you sometimes have to take the guy in small doses – or at least hope that he moves beyond his rants to focus on his comedy bits like “Moron Trivia” and “Arguments Against Idiots,” which are unfailingly brilliant.

5) Dennis Miller

The guy’s funny and conservative, so what’s not to like? I’m not sure. I think it’s that his in-jokey, relentlessly hip pop culture references grow tiresome after about five minutes. But as a convert to the conservative cause, he often has insights that the Limbaughs of the world might miss, and it’s fun to hear him eviscerate opponents even if his argument isn’t sufficiently strong enough to keep up with the raw power of his unbridled wit.

5) Laura Ingraham

Her voice takes some getting used to – it’s far too nasalized – and she has a tendency to shout down those she disagrees with. I don’t know how she gets so many prominent liberals to debate her on her show, because they never get a word in edgewise. But her commentary is solid, mainstream conservatism, except for when she goes off an immigration, in the which case she gets very tedious very quickly.

6) Michael Medved

Sort of a bloodless Dennis Prager, Medved’s cerebral approach to the issues of the day is usually in line with my thinking, but the delivery is so unfailingly passionless that it’s hard to sit through much of his show at any length. He also has an annoying tendency to only take calls from people who loathe him, which makes him look magnanimous, I suppose, but it also creates an argumentative atmosphere that is more off-putting than open-minded.

7) Sean Hannity

We’ve now crossed the line, over into talk show hosts I really, really don’t like. Hannity gets great guests, but as a host, he’s just awful. Like the worst on the left, he thinks ridicule is an effective substitute for argument. He’ll shout down opponents with various assaults on their patriotism and variants of “Aw, come on! How can you possibly believe that?” Sean, they just told you what they believe – how about refuting it with facts instead of burying it with high volume contempt?

8) Michael Reagan

It’s too bad I have him so far down the list, because my problems with the good Mr. Reagan are less political and more dictional, if that’s a word. What do I mean by that? Simply this – the man is incapable of successfully using the English language. To cite the most glaring example, according to Reagan, George W. Bush is the “Prezzint of the Unahed Stayss.” He always sounds like he’s eating a cheeseburger at the same time he’s doing his show. Words are all you have on the radio, Mike! How about learning to pronounce them correctly?

9) Bill O’Reilly

What do you get when you mix arrogance and ignorance and top it off with a cloying “regular guy” shtick? Bill O’Reilly, who manages to combine the worst of Hannity with a poor man’s Limbaugh impression. His thinking on the issues is skin deep at best, and his contempt for everyone not as brilliant as he is is the polar opposite of Limbaugh’s vaunted conceit. Limbaugh boasts of his “talent on loan from God” and such as part of his shtick, but he manages to remain far more humble than his critics recognize. Whereas O’Reilly feigns a working-class-Joe facade while remaining thin-skinned and self-absorbed. Can’t stand him.

10) Michael Savage

No, I take it back. THIS is the guy I really can’t stand. I literally can’t listen to him for more than thirty seconds without yelling at the radio and changing the dial. He’s incapable of humor. He’s all bile, all the time. He’s incapable of reason. People who accuse Limbaugh of hate speech are really thinking of Michael Savage. He hates everyone who doesn’t agree with him and probably a good majority of those who do. I cringe that anyone would think this man a representative of everything or anything I believe. There’d be more truth in advertising if he dropped his stage name – Savage – and used his given name – Weiner. (Seriously. His real name is Michael Weiner. How poetically just is that?)

There are some I’ve neglected to mention here – Hugh Hewitt, for instance, who’s pretty good, Bill Bennett, who’s fairly dry, and G. Gordon Liddy, who’s a sexually perverted wacko felon who has no business being on the radio. But either these guys are no longer on the air here – thank you, Liddy, for leaving town! – or I don’t hear enough of them to be able to cast judgment. Actually, I don’t listen to enough Savage crap to say much about it, but the guy is ubiquitous in this market, and I always accidentally hear a second or two of his trademark acidic sneer on my drive home from work.

The Twin Towers

My sister and I visited the World Trade Center in the fall of 1993, right after I’d graduated from USC. It cost money to go up to the observation deck, which I thought was a little bit tacky. Even so, I paid the seven bucks – I think it was seven bucks – and went up the elevator to the floor surrounded by glass windows to look out on the world.

You could see the Statue of Liberty from up there, as well as Governor’s Island, which I had never heard of until I saw it from near the top of the World Trade Center. The view was focused on the ocean beyond Manhattan, but you could also look out the side of the building and see the other tower staring back at you.

The primary thing I remember about the experience was a feeling of vertigo and instability. I felt so high off the ground that I was afraid to even approach the windows for fear of falling through them. I imagined what it would be like if one of the towers started to sway and hit the one next to it, like a colossal domino. I’m not saying I had a premonition of 9/11 – I doubt anyone at the time could have imagined something that evil – yet the thought of the towers collapsing was very much on my mind. It didn’t seem natural that something so massive could stand firm, unaided, without wobbling once in awhile.

I remembered that feeling when I saw the images of people jumping away from the flames and falling to their deaths. The only time I’d been in that building, I wasn’t even willing to walk up to a heavily fortified window. What would it take to make me willingly hurl myself out of the tower to plunge to my death? Those images brought the horror of the 9/11 attacks home to me in a way that nothing else could.

We’re in the process of forgetting 9/11. We don’t show the images on television; our memorials become smaller and less assuming with each passing year. That’s inevitable, but it’s happening more quickly than I’d supposed. December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy, but fewer people acknowledge it as World War II becomes an increasingly distant memory for those who were there, and simply a matter of history to the majority of us who were not. But had the Pearl Harbor memories faded by 1948 as quickly as the 9/11 memories seem to be slipping from us?

I’ve heard the excuses. We haven’t been attacked since, something that the Bush haters seem to think has happened by accident. That’s a tremendous blessing, but it also gives us the illusion of safety. Barack Obama’s campaign has a distinctly September 10th feel to it – he’s asking us to withdraw, to retreat, to pretend we don’t live in a dangerous world.

And we do. We live in a world where some people rejoice when they see an infidel leaping to certain death 110 stories below.

That’s a terrifying thought. And it’s one that 9/11 should never allow us to forget.

Controversy Round-Up

By now, most of you have heard this clip from the Almighty Obama:


I think it’s clear from the context that he’s not referring directly to Sarah Palin. I also don’t think it matters. Based on the crowd reaction, the true believers took it as a Palin slam, based on her famous “Pit Bull with Lipstick” reference in her acceptance speech. This says more about them than it does about Obama. Still, the whole thing does say something about Obama – not that he’s a sexist, but that he’s a bit of a dolt. He should have known better. And whether you like it or not, elections are often won and lost on this kind of nonsense. It’s too early to tell if this is the moment that cost Obama the election, but it has certainly put him on the defensive.

And in politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

The most interesting thing about this episode, however, is that the sentence leading directly into the lipstick debacle looks an awful lot like the one that appeared in the Washington Post almost a week ago. Rewatch the Obama video and then read the cartoon:

Sad, isn’t it?

The oddest thing about this is that the Democrats spend more time running against Fox News commentator Karl Rove than they do against John McCain. Rove is gone, guys. Every election is about the future. You’d do just as well run against Newt Gingrich.

Another scandal percolating out there is a lefty blog circulating the rumor that Sarah Palin referred to Obama as “Sambo” in private conversation. Yikes! Now I’m not sure when the innocuous “Little Black Sambo” story became the embodiment of all things racist, but it seems to have happened sometime over the past decade or so. This is unfortunate, because I know a little boy named Sam who I often refer to as “Sambo.” Sometimes I even call him “Sambo Wambo,” or even “The Wambo” for short. Granted, this boy is white, but it’s the principle of the thing.

I’m not sure what that principle is, exactly, but as soon as I find out, I’ll be sure to put lipstick on Karl Rove.

Dramatic Children

Mrs. Cornell blames my children’s dramatic proclivities on me, and while I protest that such is not the case, deep down I know she’s got my number. All of my children are capable of dramatic overkill, and they come by it so effortlessly that you know that there’s some genetic predisposition involved. My kids all look like her and act like me. There’s a downside to this, certainly, but overall it’s actually a decent trade-off. If they all looked like me, they might end up suing by the time they hit puberty.

What it means, though, is that every setback is a major trauma, accompanied by much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Case in point: last night young Cornelius was called upon to do his chore to clear the table, and a complete meltdown ensued. It continued, on and off, through the weekly Monday night Family Home Evening activities, until he was finally sent to bed before dessert was served. This sent his personal protest volume up to 11, and finally he began screeching that he needed something to eat.

Mrs. Cornell went in to offer him something to keep him from starving, but thought better of it as he started to pour on the histrionics.

“Can’t I have something?” he howled. “Anything? A CRUST? Nay, a CRUMB?” (Okay, he didn’t say “nay,” but everything else is a direct quote.) Mrs. Cornell then realized that he’d probably make it through the night without wasting away, and she refused to relent. Remarkably, he awoke happy and refreshed to start a new dramatic day.

I think it’s my theatrical background that has lowered my threshold for real-life drama. Actors so often thrive on the larger-than-life that they have to manufacture some epic circumstances when real life isn’t providing an adequate supply. They’re quick to take offense and sure that doom is inevitable when the milk spills, but the sun rises the next day, and life continues regardless of whether they’ve received the requisite amount of attention and/or applause.

I’ve found that avoiding drama whenever possible is a much healthier way to live.