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Alex Baer

Snuffed 'n' Stuffed

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After a scan of the majestic shoreline called humanity on some days, it's no wonder some of us swing around and paddle back out to sea, sometimes at great speed, perhaps harboring hunches we were simply all at sea to begin with, or, maybe, that we hadn't put in enough time yet, practicing the Dead Man's Float.

On our deregulated, tea-bagged, and GOP-sandbagged beaches,  there are seldom enough lifeguards handy, especially when you really need one -- like when your muscles tense up, you feel the undertow pulling you down, and panic sets in, just from a fleeting second's accidental  consideration of "Trump" and "launch codes" in the same thought.

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(A Dead Man's Float, by the way, might be two scoops of jalapeno ice cream in a blend of chili pepper vodka, hot sauce, Pepto Bismol [the original neon pink stuff], Tabasco sauce, and garnished with a Carolina Reaper -- the world's hottest pepper, so says Guinness.

They are expensive, these things, at $45,000 per throw, but it helps to remember that the cost of a funeral is included in the successful completion of legal paperwork required by anybody ordering one.)

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Last Updated on Friday, 12 February 2016 17:14 Read more...

Of Beasts & Burdens

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"It's not every day that you see a nation's leader not only fall on his sword, but, then, take the time to pick up a pike, mount it securely to the wall, back up, and then charge into the tip of that sharpened spear as well, and at full speed" said a well-known and respected host during an equally recognizable organization's news discussion program.

And this was only the beginning of the program.  Even more ladles of steaming, chunky, even luxurious, honesty were being promised, in the run-down of guests and topics for discussion.  The tape was never aired, of course, for a host of obvious reasons, and some oblique ones, too.

However, I got hold of this program after it was copied and sent around to me, and some others, by virtue of long-time friendships among the technical staff of a certain news group.  You'd know the organization in an instant if you looked at the tape and saw the set, but I no longer have the tape, not that anyone believes me.

I burned it, because of what else I saw, and what I knew it meant.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 February 2016 22:43 Read more...

Apps, Ops, Oopses

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Today, we'll take a rest break from the Sham- (I mean) CAMpaign Trail of Shame, Pain, and Champagne, where psychotic breaks from traditional Reality are the unexceptional rule.

It's difficult to believe, all right -- here we are, standing around, and we're NOT talking about the latest app to put everything Candidate Braindrool says on your Facebook's speed-dial-Insta-Twitter-Text-Mail-Fax-Forwarding option!

So, it's Trump and Bernie in New Hampshire.  Sure thing.  How's the family?  Looks like snow...

Meanwhile:  Take a look around, remember this moment, take a pic with your phone, and grab a bite of delicious, hot, fresh-baked French Toast Sticks from one of the other gadgets on your MetroDataDream 300 (TM) utility belt -- the one with your choice of bacon or sausage, ejected like a coin changer from the device, which also doubles as a blueprint scanner, alarm clock, Belgian-waffle-maker, and is a portable, multi-track, music-video recording studio and personal life raft and Armageddon bunker.

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Speaking of utility belts, does anyone know why everyone is trying, I guess, to be Batman, Batwoman, BatPerson, and/or just plain Bats?

For years now, everywhere I go, people are all dressed in black, sporting black sunglasses, driving all-black cars, with all blacked-out windows, beneath black-and-blue skies.

  • Is this an attempt at way-coolness, or just a prickly path of intimidation and push-back, a way of blocking out views into your vehicle, of carving out a piece of privacy for yourself in this increasingly public and un-private world?
  • Is this a cult thing, or is it all about maintaining a New Mexico standard for non-melting dashboards, even in the shimmering, blistering heat of a North Dakota winter?

Perhaps blackened-out windows are just one way to ensure and guarantee car wrecks, and, thereby, guaranteeing free, periodic replacement vehicles after pileups, with the new ones partially subsidized by those of us who are able to actually see through all our vehicle windows, especially at night, or during driving-unfriendly, driving rainstorms?

No matter.  Onward.  Back to Un-Politics.

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So, to repeat somewhat:  Here we are, refusing to examine the operational flow of Perfectly Chowder-headed Notions and Totally Horrid Ideas in the Mass Republican Lemming March and Evident Psychosis Parade of Quixotic Candidates for the Worst Job in the World -- the one with one of the Better Perk-Allure Quotients.

It's a good question, possibly:  Why would we abandon so many opportunities for up-to-date fulfillment and enlightenment, via the news, and. therefore, avoid lightening our terrifying loads of obsession to microscopically-focused network blabbery, simply to absorb important, broad-scale logic and facts regarding our next national -- and world -- leader?

Well, heck.  Here, in the World Nobody Invented Yet We All Somehow Have Anyway, apps always give way to ops -- photo ops, ops plans, black ops.  Probably, somewhere, there are even Ops ops, which might be, well -- I dunno -- ops plans for Medical Operations, perhaps, to be performed by the Republican charitable group [sorry for the oxymoron there] called Doctors Without Consciences or Hippocratic Oaths, now on station in war-torn [enter name of One Percenter estate or Armed Takeover Group Site here].

Well, we must calm ourselves in this tricky interim period, now that we're down to a desperate, vapor-thin nine month timeframe margin now -- which is, holy cats, only a month and a quarter in dog months, and, like, 28 or 32 hours in fruit fly time!  Even less in Sparkly Thing Land!

I know, I know -- it's a pivotal, and yet, traumatic time, with Ben "Got Anything I Can Cut Up Around Here, Like Common Sense?" Carson sliding away, and Rand "Was I Really Here?" Paul down the tubes, Mike "I Feel I Can, I Feel I Can" Huckabee off in the spin-out ditch, and all the other wannabes piled up in assorted heaps of Perrys, Walkers, Jindals, Grahams, Patakis, and Santorums, all struggling to break loose with vast Containment Buildings and Cooling Towers of Nuclear Crazy in their ready reserves...

Tragic, they probably all feel, not being able to stay in the race longer, scoop up more money, name recognition, and more Secret Service Stardust, with their Little Champ 5000 Campaign Loot-Scoopers.

[place commercial here]

...that's right!  The first Campaign Treasure-Scrubber for Deep Dark Anonymous Money!

[There's a model for Foreign or Domestic, owing to the up-sizing of foreign currency bills the size of beach towels, in relation to our standard-size BingoBux].

The Treasure-Scrubber lifts, sifts, separates, stacks, and bales hundred-dollar bills, or other large-format, bathmat-sized currency, while creating convincing, IRS- and FEC-approved donation receipts, randomly using names from any phonebook in our nation or any other!

Plus, if I'm not mistaken, and you act in the next 10 minutes, you can get a free Adjustable Intern Selector, and, on top of that, a free Slush Fund Exchanger, to help provide maximum campaigning flexibility for business and pleasure, the time-honored GOP way!

And now, back to Crystal Reeder with more Trauma 2016 election coverage!

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OK, commercial's over.  We can get on with business again, now that the money-go-round cash maw has been stuffed and sated, for a couple of minutes, anyway...

... and so, fellow Americans, we will work through this difficult time together, and help one another through news and information which has very little to do with politics:  Cute! Little! Animals!

Yes, there are other animals in the Earthly Bestiary than Politicus Absurdus, Campaignus Ridiculus, Speechus Maximus, and Runnus Amokus.  Here are a few headlining samples:

  • A sea lion was found asleep in San Diego restaurant;
  • A 600-pound pig became an accidental polling-place crasher in Pelham, New Hampshire;
  • A mouse-catching cat, Felix, living at the Huddersfield train station in England, was promoted to management for good works, and given a reflective vest, name badge, her own cat door in ticket barriers, and many Facebook fans;
  • A goat in India was arrested for trespassing (as was its owner) after jumping a fence and grazing in a judge's garden, and not for the first time -- both are now free on bail;
  • 18 elephants will be flown from Africa to America in a Boeing 747 and sent to 3 zoos;
  • In a Glasgow animal rescue shelter, a dog-sized rabbit, named Atlas, is seeking a home;
  • Lemur sunbathes in meditative poses at British zoo, is named Dalai Lemur.
  • ...and, a 3-clawed lobster was caught in Herring Cove, off Novia Scotia.  They named him Baba.
(Lost opportunity, there -- could've named him Trey, or Tres, Claude.)

Rounding things out, we also have tales in stock, for immediate delivery, of an albino turtle found on an Australian beach... a study which shows wolves howl in dialect... two new discoveries of giant-mouthed, plankton-eating fish... and, a 23-year-old Florida man being arrested for throwing a 3-and-a-half-foot-long alligator into a Wendy's drive-through window.

  • True thing. Please place this item into the True Thing Kevlar-Lined Satchel, along with all the other crazy True Things you've heard which have happened in Florida -- Land Without Effective Medications or Societal Behavior-Braking.  Thank you!

We've also learned this week that some bears in Helsinki are coming out of hibernation early, owing to the mild winter... that robot cats can be creepy, or not... and that a hedgehog was trapped in a potato chip wrapper for a number of hours before being rescued by two members of the Pickles Hedgehog Rescue in Cheddar, England.  The rescued hedgehog has been named Crispian.

While we're in the neighborhood, of both potatoes and England, a radio listener there says he eats 40 bags of potato chips a week to help bolster the sagging market in crisps there... while, perhaps on the same mission, a "Mr. Crisp" potato-ship sandwich shop has opened in Keighley, England, following the lead of a shop in Belfast.

Finally, Andrew Taylor of England says he's lost 28 pounds on the all-potato diet, and vows to stay with it for a full year.  He adds he's sleeping better than ever and his concentration is "off the scale."  Yes, he is seeing a doctor to keep tabs on his health, but there's no word on who may be keeping tabs on the doctor.

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Back to animals again for a moment, and a bit further back, to yesterday's head-scratcher about people spending loads of money for football games and parties:

A California theme park has offered an alternative take on the Super Bowl, employing its 7-year-old, two-toed sloth, Chewy, to mug for the Sloth Bowl on YouTube.

  • True thing. Please place this item into the True Thing Kevlar-Lined Satchel, along with all the other crazy True Things you've heard which have happened in California -- Land Without Effective Medications or Societal Behavior-Braking. Thank you!

And, speaking of Captain Crazypants, passengers -- as we re-enter political airspace, you should remain seated and strait-jacketed, please -- I am still thinking about the amount of money spent on things-Super Bowl...  money which might be spent on other things.

I mean, five million dollars for a 30-second commercial?  Hello?

Or, how about more than 52-hundred bucks for one seat at the game?

Yes, well -- it's the sliding-scale notion of economics:  If you don't own the scale, then every move is a slide for your life.  Like the edible gold showing up on pizzas, cakes, ice cream, and now, probably, on diamond-encrusted, sterling silver crab cakes.

But, if you think that's nuts, how about the guy -- Justin Kerrigan -- who spent $21,000 on four Super Bowl tickets, and figures his trip to the game and back will cost him about $30,000 in all?

Oops -- Small Detail: He hasn't told his wife.

Oops, again -- Big surprise: He was interviewed on TV, at the airport, and told the reporter, in apparent deadpan seriousness, that he would appreciate it if the reporter not tell his wife.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen -- get ready to party, because.... I think we just found our next Republican Presidential Candidate!

It's Justin... Justin Time!


Resources:

RoboCat:  http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160129-are-these-robot-cats-cute-or-creepy-watch-this-and-decide

Dumbo Air: http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/08/18-wild-elephants-to-be-captured-and-flown-to-a-zoo-in-boeing-747-5668645/

Feeling chipper again: http://metro.co.uk/2012/11/01/hedgehog-crispian-saved-from-crisp-packet-in-dramatic-3-5-hour-six-man-rescue-in-weston-super-mare-somerset-611807/

Tix trix: http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/08/denver-broncos-fan-spends-21000-on-superbowl-tickets-and-doesnt-tell-his-wife-5669151/

Bonus: P. J. O'Rourke is a Republican, but he's still funny in a good way, sometimes. Here is a link to his top-of-mind summary of the 2016 campaign so far, which is sure to offend almost everyone: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35521558

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 22:05

Pinging in the Brain

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Some stories seem to fade as soon as they appear, while others keep popping back into awareness, wanted or not.

In the language of The Hunt for Red October, which we screened again Sunday, some stories are "one-ping-only," while others pull "Crazy Ivans" for months and months at a whack.

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Yes, we have no TV access in our Little Boonieville, so our screen is used in a quaint, old-fashioned way, as a monitor for selected discs -- movies, documentaries, TV shows.  Yes, we miss the still somewhat-sane channels, like PBS or BBC, but we do not yearn for the wallet-hosing expenses associated with cable, satellite dishes, pay-per-peek, uplinks, downloads, nor wireless brain-stem implants, where you change channels by winking and wincing.

So, instead of submersing ourselves into the Neanderthal abyss of the fleshed-wall-slamming, faux-warfaring antics of Concussive Brain Damage Theater, aka The Big Game, we sank down instead to the Bigger Deep, and ran the gamut of the Laurentian Abyss instead.

No, we're not snobs, we're simply not gluttons for punishment or pain.  I mean, how many clanging, banging, crunching, clashing crashes does anyone have to watch to keep reproving what is already known -- that there are immovable objects and irresistible forces, and that most people attend NASCAR events, and football, for the gladiatorial bloodletting they hope will appear?

Or, for that matter, that humans, once bulked up, and Hulked-up, to the size of small landmasses, via the joy of mad-scientist chemistry sets run amok, are capable of swatting away opponents, such as Jeep Cherokees, with relative ease?

Or, for that matter, that the rare and precious gift of squeezing out perfect pigskin spirals is on a heavenly financial plane far above that of the grubbier chores of, say, merely leading a country, or readying children for their lives, or helping the elderly and ill transition away from their own?

I mean, have fun, consenting adults everywhere, but everyone gets to choose where to hang his or her entertainment and party hats.  (Just now,  I'd rather indulge in well-done fiction to almost any version of actual reality.  I chalk up this reaction to Major Disbelief Syndrome, from actually paying attention to [involuntary shudder] the GOP duh-bates.)

Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2016 22:26 Read more...

Landmark Decisions

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And now, a word about Landmark Decisions:  Boxy.

(No, not like the hyper vlogger, nor like those who boil down everything to thinking in-or-outside of that very same box -- but, well, squarish.  You know, like a box -- not, um, square-ish, like not being hip or very uncool.  Uh, to quote a Monty Python sketch:  Wait, I'll come in again...)

As I began:  Landmark Decisions -- no, wait, hang on, hang on.  No running away in panic is required here.  There'll be no airing of legal briefs, or any other kind, here today -- much to the relief of all concerned.

No, I was starting to warm up on the weirdly interwoven subjects of Time, Change, Culture, Cars, and Architecture.

Cars changed everything. (The vehicles, I mean -- although "Just What I Needed" surely shifted the landscape of the time a bit.)

As more Americans bought cars and became mobile, a sudden need bloomed for service providers all along their expanding driving routes -- restaurants, gas stations, places to sleep.  The country went from sedate and, well, country-fied, to urgently urban, if not yet urbane.

The pace of change then was the beginning sign of just how quickly things were to continue changing in the decades and century ahead.  Almost overnight, entrepreneurs and speculators streamed in to fill the need of these wandering carloads of spend-thrifts.

Here and there, a sense of advertising and brand identity took hold -- although it would be a very long time before anyone would define the notions as such, mostly because the need to defend a $699.99 pricetag on a pair of sneakers was still decades away.

As competition grew among roadway service providers, the occasional good humor of the snack bar building shaped like a hot dog or ice cream bar grew, too.  Such architectural shout-outs were no longer done simply to humor grandpa's idea of amusing artistic statement and tourism draw -- they were being done to stand out and to be seen, apart from all the rest of the hash-slingers who also hoped to snag a few bucks worth of business from the waterfalls of customers hurtling past in early land yachts.

That was then:  the birth of the Roadside Attraction.  You've seen them in movies (probably a hut which looks like a doughnut or a hot dog), or books (milk-bottle-shaped cafes), or in history books (jug taverns or even tacky wigwam motor courts) -- even in cartoons (the Brown Derby, anyone?).

Then, the nation decided we needed to go a whole faster, and cars kept up with that speed of thought -- but, the roads didn't.  So, we abandoned a wealth of Americana along what became the back roads and scenic routes, and we slid into the fast lane of freeways.

We're going faster, and arriving faster, and are no happier for it, I would argue.

Of course, this may be a Zen thing, where the journey is at least as important (if not more so) as arriving at the destination.  I imagine it depends if you're into the hurry-scurry, helter-skelter sort of a constantly-electrocuted-living lifestyle or not.

Looking out the window on the freeway now at -- there is nothing, or worse, these long, low squashed-flat boxes of buildings with all the invitation and charm of a rusted-through, bent-up tent peg.  Less, even.

No time for art, or for buildings shaped like food, or what is sold inside.  Utility is king, as is flexibility,  for today's thriving business is tomorrow's pension-fund-drained bankruptcy, and XYZ Corp., which makes bovine and dairy calipers and grips will not want to house its headquarters inside a giant, scary-not-funny clown's head.

No, the first right of refusal on a building shaped like an enormous psycho-clown head?  That should absolutely belong to the Republican National Committee, then, if they turn down such a righteous opportunity for truth in advertising, the offers should go even further downhill -- hey, it is possible, you've seen the proof yourself --  from there, to Koch Industries, say, the Heritage Foundation, to Fox, and so on, all the way down to the toadstool-dregs such as fifth-tier right-wingnut radio talk-show hosts, GOP Congresspeople, and useless dipsticks like Frank Luntz.

No, the only visual interruption or enrichment from the freeway is from what I call the Disney-World of ConsumptionLand -- what other people call Factory Outlet Stores and Malls.  If you've never seen these acre-gulping sprawls, it appears they landed as intact fleets, as MotherShips to Capitalism, BOOM, landed, set explosive anchors and turn on the plumbing.

From the outside, the variety of architecture at these spots is arresting, eye-grabbing, but diabetic -- too saccharine-sweet, and too high a dose all at once.  After the flatlands of natural growth, or the specific intentions of box-shaped buildings, ConsumptionLand leaves your eyeballs, brain, and spirit gasping for insulin and Dramamine.

These festive buildings of turreted towers and crenelated battlements are impressive, albeit in a stage-prop, false-front way, perfectly mirroring our Consumption Economy.

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Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2016 18:13 Read more...

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