February 2010 Archives

A Call To Action

We are under attack.  A relentless, non-stop attack.  Our foes do not speak our language nor do they care to.  They don't look like us, act like us, think like us, behave like us, or even like us.  For far too long we have turned a collective blind eye to the problem, either pretending it will go away on its own or kidding ourselves that it only affects other people.  We need to stop hiding our heads in the sands and wake up.  We need to fight back hard using all our available weapons before we are overrun by our enemies.

I am referring, of course, to the Simian Menace.

Monkey attacks on humans are at an all-time high.  The deputy mayor of New Delhi was recently killed by a marauding band of Rhesus macaques.  He was sitting on his balcony, reading his paper, probably wondering what sort of mischief Marmaduke had gotten himself into, when suddenly the bloodthirsty primates tossed him to the street.  But it didn't end there.  Worshipers at a Shiva temple in the area of the deputy mayor's murder describe how they are regularly attacked by these godless cretins, and even have their cell phones stolen.


And it isn't just happening in India.  The Simian Menace has been reported in Gibraltar, Thailand, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, as well as many other places.  A gentle practicer of the martial arts in China tried to rehabilitate some monkeys by teaching them Tae Kwon Do.  How did they respond?  By channeling their energies into spreading peace and harmony with humans?  No.  They beat their instructor up using their new fighting skills, even clobbering the guy with a stick.   Great!  Now we have some pissed off monkeys running around and they know how to fight.  Officials are not sure if these assaults on humans are part of a larger coordinated effort to rule the world, but simple deductive reasoning can fill in those blanks.

Quick! Name the first monkey that pops into your head.  "King Kong!" you say.  "He's an ape, not really a monkey, but that's OK because they're all part of the Simian Menace" I would reply.  A giant (probably steroid-injecting) ape who steals women and tries to destroy New York City.  Definitely a bad guy.


How about the second most famous monkey/ape?  Mojo Jojo, obviously.  He was always trying to destroy Townsville and kept the Powerpuff Girls extremely busy thwarting his evil plans.  Plus, he's always referring to himself in the third person, which makes him a complete tool as well.  So far the ledger of famous monkeys is: Really bad guys: 2. Good guys: 0.

We could go on and on (the evil little monkey in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" who stole Indiana Jones's gun, General Thade from the remake of "Planet of the Apes") but it would simply re-enforce what we already know: they're mad because we evolved and they didn't.

In retrospect, we should not be at all surprised that they have organized and are waging war on us.  They've been openly hostile to humans for as long as we've been able to articulate the words "poop-flinging monkey."  Does any other creature treat us so poorly?  Would it be even possible to muster the words "poop-flinging giraffe"?  And the famous Trunk Monkey is a natural fit.  We'd never even imagine a Trunk Puppy, would we?

Et Tu, A.I.?

I have been a fan of the band U2 for more than 20 years.  I have seen Bono in the flesh sans sunglasses and sporting a ginormous mullet.  I have been a fan so long that I have seen the Edge without a hat.  It was through my fandom that I was introduced to Amnesty International.  The band has long been a vocal supporter of the human rights organization and has encouraged young people attending their concerts to become involved with the group.  As a young, idealistic high schooler, it was very appealing to me, especially since they claimed to be a politically-disinterested organization.  Their plank of neither supporting nor condemning any particular form of government gibed with my conservative beliefs, and was refreshing since so many of my liberal friends seemed to equate "human rights" with "I hate Ronald Reagan."


Amnesty International (A.I.) is based upon a simple premise: publicize the plight of prisoners who are jailed for their political views.  Their aim has been to bring to the world's attention governments who torture and persecute their citizens.  The more attention that can be drawn to governments being heavy-handed in squelching free speech and human rights, they reason, the faster this sort of thing will end.  It is a noble aim and they have done an awful lot of good over the years.  Icons like Nelson Mandela might still be imprisoned today had Amnesty International not championed their causes.

But now, they seem to be just another interest group that has lost its focus and is heading into irrelevance and marginalization.

Their slide from standard bearer for prisoners of conscience to agitators for leftist causes started shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when they compared the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a Soviet Gulag. A.I. continued to lose it focus by endorsing abortion rights for women, condemning passage of the PATRIOT Act, criticizing the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for detaining illegal aliens, and signing onto a document essentially blaming US foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks (citing the US's failure to promote fundamental rights around the world as a reason for the attacks).


Finally, A.I. officially passed over into the Land of Irrelevance this month when they suspended the head of their Gender Unit, Gita Saghal.  Her transgression?  She criticized A.I.'s alliance with Cage Prisoners,  Cage Prisoners describes itself as a London-based human rights organization, but its director Moazzam Begg is an enthusastic defender of the Taliban and the group's been a champion of many accused al Qaeda terrorists.  The most notable of these is Anwar al Awlaki - who has been associated with three of the 9/11 hijackers, was in regular communication with the Fort Hood shooter, and most recently was spiritual adviser to the underwear bomber.  In between all that he issued a fatwa calling for the murder of the Dutch cartoonist who dared to depict Muhammad in print.

How did A.I. defend itself against charges that it was allying with a Taliban-loving radical fundamentalist?  The only was a good knee-jerk leftist organization can: they blamed George Bush and his anti-terrorism policies.

Sahgal has been trying to get her organization to distance itself from this group for some time but has been repeatedly rebuffed.  Finally, she made her concerns public during an interview with a British newspaper.  For that, Amnesty International relieved her of her duties.  Clearly, A.I. have lost their moral compass and need to return to their roots before they drift too far to the left and loses all credibility.  People like Gita Saghal, who stand up for what is right and suffer the consequences for doing so - are the very reason A.I. was founded.  When faced with the choice of tossing aside a man who has devoted his life to radical Islam or a woman who has devoted her life giving a voice to political prisoners, they chose the latter, much to their shame.

So You Want To Be A Superhero (Part 2)

Step 3: Deciding what to wear

One thing you need to come to grips with, post haste, once you decide to take the plunge into superhero status: your crime-fighting clothing will make you look like a refugee from a gay pride parade.  There is no getting around it.  Tighty-whitey underwear (of whatever color) worn on the outside, some sort of large belt, spandex shirt and leggings, and some ridiculously-high boots are all staples.  The only flexibility you will have are in choice of color, whether or not to go with a cape, mask vs. no mask, and whether or not you'll wear gloves and a hat.

You have to be smart when you accessorize.  Superman went glove-, hat-, and mask-free.  So he simply had to go with a cape, otherwise, he's just a fool in a leotard and under(outer)wear.  I am sure if you were to ask him about it, he would express regret over the decision and would have put the gloves on.  Now, if you're, say, Bat Man, and you need the cape in order to fly, then you have no choice.  But judging by today's sensibilities, unless you are Liberace or one of the members of KISS, think long and hard before you go with a cape.


Step four: Sidekick?  Or lone wolfing it?

Are you going to go at this thing alone?  Or would you like a hand?  Before you answer, know this: if you make the wrong choice, it could be disastrous.  If you are always making stupid decisions and need to be bailed out by your monkey sidekick on a regular basis ("Shape of shoe horn!" "Form of an ice cube!" Yeah, I am talking to you, Wonder Twins) then you definitely need someone watching your back.  But if you like to go your own way like Wolverine, a companion can only get in the way.  Worse, he can cause all sorts of mayhem.  While not technically a superhero, Scooby Doo had two completely useless sidekicks in Daphne and Velma.  The former was always getting taken captive by the monster while the latter was constantly on all fours, feeling around in the dark for her glasses.


Nobody wants a needy sidekick.  In fact, most superheroes do not need a junior partner of any sort.  After all, what is Bat Man without Robin?  He's still freaking Bat Man!  But what is Robin without Bat Man?  Squat.  But, be advised that if you are presented with a willing partner, think twice before dismissing him out of hand, as you may just be laying the groundwork for your own demise.  Recall that Mr. Incredible spurned IncrediBoy's offer of help and it nearly cost him his family.  Bottom line: be smart about this decision.  If you want to take a cue from the Fat Kid...he doesn't have a sidekick, per se, but could really use one because he is always running out of nachos and could use someone to run to the store so he doesn't miss "American Idol."


Step five: Your secret identity

Unless you're Santa Claus, you don't live and work in the same clothing and personae.  It could get you killed, or worse, you could be hounded constantly by autograph seekers and bill collectors.  So, you need to hide your true identity while you are not fighting crime.  But how should you do it?  The two current schools of thought are: 1) Nerdy and Forgettable and 2) High Profile and Hunky.  Nerdy and Forgettable lets you hide out in plain sight, overlooked and underestimated.  Clark Kent and Peter Parker are guys you'd look past and never even think they were capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound.  It gives them the freedom to go where they want unnoticed.  That's cool if you don't want women to ever give you the time of day and desire no social life of any kind.  But if you like to occasionally go out on dates, you may want to consider the High Profile and Hunky route.  Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy who has hot tub parties with super models while vacationing in the south of France.  He hides on the front page of the social papers, banking on the fact that nobody would ever think a cool cat like that would dress up in his pajamas and beat up bad guys.  So, nerdy reporter or uber-rich chick magnet?  You'll have to make that tough call on your own.  For what it's worth, the Fat Kid has always assumed the nerdy chess player secret identity, even long before considering crime fighting as a profession.  That's what we in the business call "deep cover."

Step five: Building your secret hideout

While it is not an absolute requirement if you are a good guy, a secret lair/lab is a must for the evil doers.  Bat Man has his Bat Cave, wherein he tinkers with his props and monitors the happenings of his arch nemeses as well as his many, many girlfriends.  Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, which (for some reason) is at  the north pole.  He should rename it the "Fortress of Freeze Your Butt Off," because the only useful thing about being that far north is that you are outside the blackout zone of every major sports team and can get their home games on television whether or not they sell out.  If you are like Spider-Man and are too poor or too cheap to build a secret hideout, you can always hang around the Halls of Justice, where the Justice League (or was it the Super Friends?) meet.  If people ask why you always seem to be there, just  tell them that your secret lair is getting fumigated because of a termite problem, so you need to crash at the Halls of Justice until it's safe to sleep at home.  Unless it's Wonder Woman and she has that rope tied around you, they'll probably buy it and leave you alone.

If you are a bad guy, you have to spend every penny you steal on a high tech, super elaborate  facility, with death rays, a tank full of man eating sharks, and a ginormous television that will show you anything you want to see - especially if it is Aquaman being slowly lowered into a volcano, bound and gagged and dangling by his feet.  Of course, you will never actually watch your evil plan come to fruition, because you will just assume that your evil contraption will finish lowering Aquaman to his death so you get in your super secret rocket ship and fly away, and when you do that he will escape and foil you.  You spent all that money on the television - would it kill you to spend another two or three minutes making sure that your plan to kill Aquaman comes to pass?  Please!?!? Don't forget to place your secret lair on a remote island that is shaped like a skull.  That is a requirement if you are evil.

Step six: Your name

Some would think that naming yourself should be step one, rather than the last step.  They would be wrong.  After all, you are really, really limited in what label you can place upon yourself.  After all, if Spider-Man weren't Spider-Man, what else could he be called?  I know that he chose "The Human Spider" as his name, but let's face it, that was kinda lame.  So, Spider-Man was really the only thing he could be called.  So, to name yourself, basically go one of three routes: 1) Color + Object/Monster (Green Goblin, Green Lantern), 2) Synonym for "Good" + Man/Boy/Woman/Girl" (Superman, Wonder Woman, Wonder Twins) 3) Some descriptor of your superpower, with the optional "Man" or "Woman" at the end. (The Flash, Plastic Man, Storm, Aquaman, Fat Kid).


So, there you have it.  Everything you need to get started with your life of crime/crime fighting.  Once you get into it, you'll find you need to add some details to give it some pizazz.  Like you'll have to come up with a catch phrase.  Superman has "Up, up and away!," Shazam has "Shazam!" (not the most original catch phrase) and the Fat Kid has "I'd like a refill."  If you're a bad dude, you should work on your maniacal laugh and consider having some sort of lap pet which you can stroke menacingly while you describe your evil plans to whatever superhero you have captured.  There are other nuances, but I think you get the idea.
The other day I was in line at the drive thru, patiently waiting for my turn at the window so I could pick up my milk shake and enjoy that cold, chocolate goodness on my way home from the gym.  The dude at the front of the line was having some sort of trouble with his order and it delayed the rest of us.  After a few minutes, I said to myself "If I had superhuman strength, I could go up to that dude's truck, pick it up, place it aside, and get this line moving again."  But unless you count being able to recall pop trivia (especially 80's music), I am totally devoid of any super powers, especially superhuman strength.  So wait there I did.  And waited.

As I waited (and waited) I pondered.  If I could have any super power, which would it be?  Strength?  Flight?  Superior vision?  If I could be a superhero, what sort would I be?  Good like Superman?  Evil like Dick Cheney?  Tortured like Spider-Man?  Reluctant doers of good like the X-Men?  And are the X-Men even superheroes?  How about the Hulk?  Is he a superhero or just some green freak who can't control his temper?

And finally, the key thought implanted itself into my sugar-starved brain: How would you go about becoming a superhero? I thought to myself "If I am wondering how to become a superhero, surely many, many other folks are, too."  So, after much research, I have developed a how-to guide to becoming a superhero.


Step 1: Don't just fall into it.  You will regret it!

As I ran down the list of superheroes (Superman, Spider-Man, The Flash, Bat Man, Kurt Warner) I noticed that none of them (except Kurt Warner) set out to become superheroes.  They allowed circumstances to direct their lives.  That's always a big mistake.  Peter Parker didn't intend to get bitten by that mutant spider and didn't plan on having his uncle killed by that thief.  Circumstances came together and thrust him into the role of crime fighter - a role he didn't want and was not ready to play.  As a result, he was a tortured soul, always conflicted   Ditto Superman, Bat Man, the X-Men, etc.

Beyond the whole issue of being emotionally prepared for all that being a superhero entails, what if you find yourself stuck with some lame superpower?  Would you like to be able to summon a light breeze at will or make it chilly whenever you want?  Totally lame.  Nobody wants that power.  But, if you leave it completely up to chance, that's just what you might get.  So, don't leave it up to chance - go out and acquire it for yourself.

Before you can acquire a power, you must decide which one you would like.  If you want to crawl around like a spider, hang around spiders in genetic research labs.  If you want to be super-fast, super-smart, radioactive, super-strong, etc., then hang around chemical labs, nuclear power plants, or toxic waste dumps, especially during electrical storms.  Very often, accidental exposure to the chemicals/radiation/electricity (you can also use combinations of the three.  Have fun! Experiment!) will render you a changed, super-charged, super-cool individual.  However, if you want to be completely lame, useless, and the subject of universal mockery, then explore the oceans and find Atlantis.  Some magic powers there will turn you into Aquaman.  As for me, I hang around convenience stores a lot.  I am hoping to acquire some sort of snack-based super power.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, OK?

If you are afraid of exposing yourself to chemicals/radiation/electricity, or are unable to do so, then you could go the prop route.  Bat Man and Wonder Woman rely heavily on their toys to fight bad guys.  Bat Man has no discernible super powers, yet is the toughest dude in town.  Wonder how he does it?  Props.

A word of advice, if you decide to go the props route.  Be smart.  Set yourself up with useful props.  Take Wonder Woman, for example.  She has this rope that will force you to tell the truth should she tie you up with it.  That's kinda useful.  She also has these bracelets that deflect speeding bullets.  Definitely useful.  But then she also has this invisible plane.  That sounds useful until you find out that you can still see her when she is flying it.  Not so useful. So, again, be wise.


Step 2: Good or evil?

The decision to be good or evil is a big one, don't rush into it.  While it is, technically, not against the rules to switch sides later on, it's best to clearly declare yourself a "good guy" or a "bad guy" as early as possible.  It establishes expectations. The pros and cons for each are compelling - both sides have their benefits and drawbacks.  Being a good guy means that little kids love you while grownups misunderstand you and (of course) eventually turn on you and blame you for everything.  It's kinda like being a parent.

Being a bad guy has many, many features and only one drawback (you face being locked up in some high-tech prison for all eternity - or until one of the good guys gets a movie deal and needs a super villain, in which case you get sprung).  Just some of the many good points of being evil: you get cooler names, cooler secret lairs, cooler sidekicks, and can get away with calling yourself "Doctor" without anybody checking your credentials (Dr. Freeze, Dr. Doom, Dr. Love, Dr. Doofus etc.)  While you will never get invited to any swanky soirees as a baddy, you won't care.  Super villains are always crashing the big party and making off with the girl/diamond/secret formula.

Also consider this: being on the right side of the law means that whatever alliance you form with others will have names like "The Justice League" while evil dudes call themselves badass names like "Legion of Doom".  I am not trying to steer you one way or the other, but it is something to ponder.  The Fat Kid has already aligned himself with a high profile group: Weight Watchers.

Next time: Sidekicks, secret lairs, and secret identities

Curses! Foiled Again!

My close friends (and probably casual acquaintances) know that I do not like working particularly hard.  In fact, if there is an easy way to do something and an easy way to avoid doing something, there is 100% chance I will take the latter.  However, I also have the other, unshakable desire to not be broke and tossed out onto the street by creditors.  These two essences of my being are, at first glance, irreconcilable, however, with a little work (just a little) the two can be made to fit together in harmony.  It was with this in mind that I set about to devise a master, genius plan to, once and for all, make lots of money while working very little.

I was going to become an international art thief.


No, not the cat burglar kind you see in the movies, where they have to study alarm systems and bypass all sorts of security measures, and then steal the works of art and get away undetected and then try to sell the art without being arrested.  That is all way, way too much work.  Rather my diabolical plan was to buy a few canvases, get paint in whatever colors are trendy this season, slap some of it on there in no particularly meaningful way but kinda make it look like it could almost be something and if you don't see it like I do then you must be some sort of Red State rube, give it some name suggesting political significance to give it some edge and cache' (like "George W. Bush Wants to Kill Your Grandma" or "Dolphin-Safe Tuna Net") and sign it with some exotic one word, artsy-like name (Yoko, for example).

Then - and this is the key - I would take it to a print shop, make a bunch of copies of it, sell the copies for mad money, and keep the originals.  The thing about art collectors is that they a lot more money than common sense.  After all, if they had a lot of sense, they wouldn't be dropping huge piles of cash on things like art, which gets put into a safe so that it retains its value.  And if by chance the art collectors found out that they have paid a ton of money for copies and came to my house and killed me in a fit of rage, then my originals would become all the more valuable.  A real win-win.

While I was wrestling with my moral qualms of taking advantage of clueless wealthy people, my plan was stopped dead in its tracks.  Apparently, somebody had already beaten me to the punch.  Well, not just somebody - a lot of somebodies.  While I was at a local university attending a continuing education class, I happened upon a gallery showing of an area artist's recent work.  After about two minutes of trying to decide whether the painting I was studying looked more like a hippopotamus carrying a balloon and riding in a pickup truck or a swarm of mutant lilacs devouring an eggplant, I decided to look at the description card and see which answer was correct.  It was called "Springtime in Paris, 1965" so my guesses were waaaaay off.  But that's not what floored me.  It was the description of the materials: "Hewlett-Packard photo paper, Canon ink jet printer.  1/10.  $2,500"

Photo paper?  Ink Jet printer?  1/10?  Confused, I asked the curator what the 1/10 meant?  Was this painting, which was a pretty decent size at around 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide, a 1:10 miniature of the real thing?  Is that what the 1/10 means?

After she laughed dismissively at me for a minute or two, she sniffed that this was a print, one of a numbered set, of which there were only 10, and this was number 1 of 10, so this was quite valuable, let me assure you.

You mean I don't get the original?

No, silly boy.

Who gets to keep the original?

Why, the artist of course.  He has it proudly displayed on the wall of his Malibu residence.

Is this how all art gets sold nowadays?

Mostly, yes.

And people know that they are buying stuff off a printer?  And they pay $2,500 for it?


Clearly, art collectors have even less common sense than I had thought.

I Am A Marked Man

Well, I can now add "robbing a bank" to the list of things I am never going to do,  "Knock off a liquor store" and shoplifting might also be on that list, but I think those are pretty much covered by that bank thing, but I'll add them just to be safe.  This might come as quite a shock, and you may ask yourself in stunned wonder "Why?!?"

It's simple.  Up until roughly noon today, I was a rather nondescript dude.  If I were to, say, shoplift some Twinkies from my local Kwik-E-Mart, a witness would give the following description to the police: "He's about 6 feet tall, kinda chunky, fabulous hair, and a winning smile.  Like maybe Gerard Butler meets Brad Pitt with a little Robert Downey Jr. sprinkled in." See?  It could be just about any great looking dude in the metro Phoenix area.


All that has changed.  Now, the witness would have to add: "And he had the coolest tattoo on his right shoulder - a tribal triathlon thing, with swimming, biking, and running represented."  The officer would put out an APB: "Be on the lookout for a handsome fat kid with a great smile.  He is considered charming and very dangerous.  And he is armed with a really gnarly tat on his right shoulder.  Proceed with caution.  Over and out."

Granted this unique marking would readily identify me in a police lineup, so why not cover it up, you ask, when you abscond with the the Twinkies?  But what's the point of getting an awesome piece of art if you're just going to cover it up?  I mean, look at Mike Tyson.  The only way to cover up his body art is by putting a bag over his head.  And are you brave enough to try to do that?  Unless your name is Evander Holyfield or Robin Givens, you don't want to go poking that angry bear with any sharp sticks.  See, Tyson was smart to put that tattoo on his face, daring the whole world to cover it up.

Alas, my life of crime is over before it really had a chance to begin.  Everyone I know has told me that I was the last person on earth they'd expect to get a tattoo.  I am also probably the last one they'd ever expect to rob a bank, so perhaps my life on the other side of the law was doomed from the start.  John Dillinger I am not.

The first thing everybody asked me after I showed it to them was "Did it hurt?"  Let's see....Sixty minutes of being repeatedly punctured by a set of seven needles, which penetrated deep enough to deposit ink into the deeper layers of my skin and draw blood.  Did it hurt?  Of course it hurt!!!!  This is exactly the sort of thing I was referring to in my last blog when I said that there really is such a thing as a stupid question.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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