Killing the Holiday Spirit

Posted by Mr. Wister on December 23rd, 2008 under Economy, Mental Masterbations Tags: , , , , ,  •  No Comments

A quick social commentary on the state of our society with respect to the holiday season that is upon us.

It is a sad fact that during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve in the U.S.  more people are stressed out and in overall bad moods than any other time of the year. I don’t need any emergency room stats to back this up. All you have to do to verify this is walk into your local Walmart, shopping mall, or Target store.  You will get pushed, shoved, stepped on, and possibly killed.

Everyone is stressed out and in a terrible mood for absolutely no reason. Don’t try telling me we’re in an economic downturn – just look at the crowds filling shopping centers and superstores the weekend before Christmas. People are out spending the money they don’t have. They’re using plastic as if it was going to melt in their wallets come January 1st.

Here’s a suggestion for the US Federal Reserve and government in general: If you want to cure an economic meltdown, short of starting a real war (not the sort-of, vaguely defined ‘war on terror’ or ‘war on drugs’) it may be time to found a new holiday. Perhaps a time shortly after the holiday’s-proper around the end of January. (Note: Valentines Day nor President’s Day really count.) Make it a holiday that allows people, nay, it requires people to spend their money.  This will thaw out the credit market faster than a 60 degree December day in the Northeast. Call it “Peculium de Dato”, or a more Americanized “Peculiar Day”.

Give it a history, say, it was an old tradition started in 1791 when the citizens of the newly founded colonies celebrated their independence by giving each other strange tidings and looks to uplift the spirits of people they passed on the street. After all, winters were harsh, and heating in homes wasn’t as ‘advanced’ as today.  Of course, like most things, over the years its been commercialized.

So, make it “tradition” to hand out “peculiar” or strange gifts to the ones you love, hate, or meet on the street. The real point is to spend money, which is really what the holidays have become lately. Make them wrap the gift in peculiar boxes, in peculiar gift warp, with a gaudy peculiar bow.  Make people trudge through the snow, or freezing rain, to malls and boutiques everywhere. Make them send peculiar cards to relatives, friends and aquaintances they only see or talk to once or twice per year.

And of course, decorate your house in peculiar fashion, hang peculiar fire hazards in the wet and cold weather. Make is customary to visit each other on this day, exchange the gifts, gorge on a small feast and forget for just a few moments about how in debt you really are. That $10,000 debt sitting on your credit card will turn into $25,000 easily even if you never spend another dime using it. What a bummer.

Back to the holidays, though. As a society, most of use have psychologically strayed from the holiday spirit. We have the act of “giving” down – if you think of giving strictly as presenting a half thought out gift that was obtained on sale at extraordinary marked up prices. But we’ve lost the spirit of giving. We’ve lost happiness, and we’ve lost love. Not to be all sappy, but this is what the holiday “spirit” is.

I would give anything to see the retail profits around the holidays go down while family-together time goes up. I want to see malls empty while home’s fill. I want to see broken homes mended with loved ones while retail prices are “fixed.” I want mall traffic to go down while hallway traffic in parents’ homes goes up. I want to see more memories around the traditional Christmas tree than boxes under the tree. I want to see more games be played and less movies being watched.

This will most likely never happen on a grand scale. After all, you can see the vital role this plays in our economy. And we’re creatures of habit – and we love to shop and spend.

But I challenge you this year (or next year) to buy one less gift for someone in exchange for a show of appreciation and love, and a visit for that someone throughout the year – when they least expect it. It is the best gift of all, and one that doesn’t require wrapping. It can’t be returned for a crappy gift card or store credit. It doesn’t require postage, can’t be bought online and can’t be emailed or sent via Instant Message.

Best of all, it is the gift everyone wants – whether they realize it or not (unless they are a complete douchebag). And you don’t have to risk your life or venture out in the weather to multiple stores before finally settling on a mediocre representation of your true feelings towards someone.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Senator Caroline Kennedy?

Posted by Mr. Wister on December 18th, 2008 under Politics Tags: , , , ,  •  No Comments

Could there possibly be another Kennedy in the Senate, this time representing the hopes and dreams of one New York State, who electorally and statistically, is one of the most important states in the union?

Apparently public service is in the Kennedy blood line. But then again, there’s more in the line than just “public” service.  Like liquor.  And loose change from someone else’s sofa. And crabcakes.

So good for her, she wants to be senator from New York.  She can join the crowd. A few years ago, after Hillary left the White House, she decided to run for a coveted New York Senate seat, and enough people liked her just enough to put her in the job.  Until now. In all likelihood she will be leaving for a cabinet position.

Will she be better for New York than Hillary? Well, that remains to be seen. Is she as qualified as Hillary when she took the job. No. Is she as qualified as any other candidate in the field of other hopefuls? No.

So why the buzz around her? And why is she favored?

Easy. She’s a Kennedy. The name alone brings an instant image, and instant opinion to anyone’s mind. Whether it is of Edward, Jack, Booby, Jackie (take your pick of countless others) there’s still the image.

With a (last) name like hers, its easy to instant garner national attention. And seize on it too. In a recent press conference, she gave a speech in front of a large picture of John F. Kennedy. She is taking full advantage of her blood line, and, well, good for her. I can’t say I’d do it differently.

But here’s where the prevailing mind of David Patterson, the governor of NY, must take into account. She has no public experience. In fact, as touted on an NPR affiliate this morning, in her own words, she is qualified because “…she has spent a lifetime around public policy issues…”

“I’ve worked in NY City public schools, I’ve written books on the Constitution, I’ve raised my family…and now its time with the problems that we have for me to really step forward and do more…so I’ve asked Governor Patterson to consider me among the many qualified candidates…”

Spending a lifetime immersed in public policy is nothing new, folks. We all are immersed in some sort of public policy – its not hard. If you ride the bus in the morning, you are immersed in some public policy. Did you vote? Did you listen to the issues at hand at some point? Consider yourself immersed.  Maybe its just my own way of looking at this, but being around public policy and actually being able to point to definite action to which you were a catalyst weighs more than just saying that you were surrounded by public policy. Plus for Caroline, just sitting down at the dinner table with her extended family counts as public immersion.

Next, just because you’ve worked in some capacity in a public school doesn’t make you qualified as a senator. You can teach high school civics or kindergarten cookie (oops, sorry, its probably carrots now…) and nap time. It makes you special in that you are helping to shape the future leaders…but it doesn’t mean you should represent the same kids and their parents in Washington.

It’s wonderful that she wrote a book on the Constitution. But is that a qualification? Is that on the job requirement sheet handed to Patterson? Would you appoint Stephen King to a post in the Health and Human Services Department because he’s written books describing heinous crimes? Or to a mental health post because he writes about psychologically questionable characters? No, that would just be plain dumb.

And as admirable as raising a family is, representing people who you are most likely out of touch with across a diverse state like New York does not make you qualified. Using this logic, I am actually more qualified than Caroline. I mean, I’m raising a family too. And I definitely make less than her, so I’m more in tune with ordinary folks and the “problems of New Yorkers” than she is. And I’ve written books too. And I read books on the Constitution. I’m surrounding by public policy and listen to NPR…oh, that’s right! And I go to my kids plays and am involved at parent-teacher conferences in a public school too.

I’m every bit as qualified as she is. We all are.

The problem is our last name isn’t Kennedy.

Photo Credit: Chitose Suzuki/AP

Photo Credit: Chitose Suzuki/AP

Remember the Democratic Primary of 2008? Of course you do. Clinton was all but nominated as the heir, the one that would bring a Democrat back into the White House. She had every possible advantage when the campaigns started out – money, name recongition, a long public service record. Yet, she failed to win the nomination. She felt as though the nod was owed to her, a down payment for this country’s grateful debt owed to her and her sacrificing years of familial obligation in favor of public service.

Kennedy might be heading down that same road. The fact that his is not an “election” of a senator certainly helps her cause. She doesn’t have to really give any policy speeches, or talk about her gaffes, her qualifications (which she really has none) to the public, because New Yorker’s aren’t voting. It’s one man’s pick.

Patterson should pick someone whom he feels can not just “do” the job but excel at it. The long term goal should be re-election. Pick someone who can be re-elected with only a few years worth of experience under their belts.

Again, I ask the question, is that Caroline? Are we ready to give up a junior senateseat to someone with no experience just because public service is in their blood, or just to make a big splash in headlines across the country?

Senator Caroline Kennedy, D., NY?

Let’s hope not.

(The audio of the referenced story can be found here.)

An excerpt from the Presidential Shoe Diaries

Posted by Mr. Wister on December 15th, 2008 under Politics Tags: , , ,  •  5 Comments

Dear Official Presidential Diary,

Today was my last trip to the Iraq as the unofficial ruler of that country. I am still lamenting my loss in the election of 2008 – that my chosen successor, John McClone, had not prevailed in the general election in the greatest country under God, the United States of America.

No matter, there is still important work to be done before January. I was advised by my closest advisors that a trip to the terrortory known as the Middle East, the area that was once a safe haven for terrorists and people who hate freedom, as we love freedom, would be advisable. So I have come to view this as an opportunity to say farewell, and reap the grateful thanks, in public person, of the freed Iraqi people. I was looking forward to being welcomed as a liberator, a champion of freedom. The bells of the Baghdad cathedral would ring 44 times, since I am the 43rd president to take office, with one for good luck.

I packed late last night, and boarded Air Force One. The flight was smooth, there were no problems, although I am becoming tired of seeing “The Parent Trap II” paired with “Black Hawk Down” on every flight to the Middle East. The director’s clearly do not have a grasp of the military, as we do not paint our helicopters black. In fact, most of them are green. I call it “freedom green”.

We landed shortly after my nap in Baghdad under heavy security. To my surprise, no bells were tolling to announce my arrival. Perhaps the press conference, my farewell conference was more like a surprise party. I like surprise parties. Especially the ones for me.

Well Bob, the secret service gentle…agent, and his name isn’t really Bob, I can’t say his real name, otherwise, he wouldn’t be a secret service agent anymore. Well he told me there are rumors on the Internets, in chatter rooms, that I might be coming to the Iraq to say goodbye and good luck. So my arrival had to be secret. Of course, I could understand this.

I was whisked into the press conference room which looked nothing like the pictures I was shown. That’s the last time we book a conference at the Best Western Baghdad! I stood at my podium, and opened my folder. I was expecting applause and graceful calls for a speech, which I of course was all too…I was all too proud to recite.

Then out of nowhere a man wearing a robe stood up and shouted at me. He removed his shoe and hurled it at my head! Luckily I remember my national guard training, and hit the ground as if I passed out drunk. I arose to find a second shoe coming in my direction. I did not want to catch it, because he may have an Iraqi foot still in it, or worse, laced with athlete’s foot.

After a few moments, the anti-peace loving man was detained, and removed from the room. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you shoe wearers! I snickered at my joke. I’m so funny – no wonder the country I love elected me twice!

I looked at the shoe, and it was a size 9. He must be a terrorist dressed in a normal irate Iraqi man’s clothing. His shoes were a size 9, and according to the terror alert level handbook published by the CIA, many detained terrorists confessed to wearing shoes slightly too big for their feet, so they can carry materials of mass destruction between their toes.

Well, my speech went well, and I took a short tour of the pool area. I was advised not to take a swim, however. It seemed someone has mistakenly ordered chlorine gas form instead of a liquid, like a bottle of Clorox bleach.  That was okay – I misplaced my swim trunks somewhere on Air Force One anyway. I think I may have flushed them again. They are probably on someone’s head in Barcelona by now!

On the way back to Air Force One, I was given a short tour of the city. The Baghdad fire department must be short staffed, because there were all these fires! What a shame, such a beautiful city. How could these people want to burn and ruin such a wonderful, ancient city?

I waved farewell to the peacelovers of Iraq. See, that’s what I call them. Peacelovers. Because like me and the American people, we love peace. And they love peace. We are common brothers and sisters under God. And even though we have our differences, we also have different similarities. Like the ability to love one another as you want to be loved.

Well, it is getting late, and I have a lot to do tomorrow. I have to walk the dog, pick up his mess in the rose garden, and take a helicopter ride over where an ice storm hit the New England states. I don’t understand why it is called “New England” – we speak English everywhere in America. plus I think I have to hug more mothers. That’s one part of this job I do not like. I mean, its not fair that they are sending their sons and daughters to the Middle East to fight and someone shoots them in the name of Hee-Haw, or as they spell it, ji-had. (See my peaceloving comments.) Don’t these people understand that when I declared “Mission Accomplished” it meant the war was over?

I want to go skiing tomorrow. Perhaps Dead Eye Dick and I can take a few trails after I survey the damage and shoot something. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to spot an illegal immigrant trying to sneak over the border from Canada to Mexico.

We’ll reconvene this intercession…intervention tomorrow, or when less time permits more thoughts of humble humility and…um…I like America.

- G.W.B.

American Decadence and the death of Detroit

Posted by Mr. Wister on December 15th, 2008 under Economy Tags: , , ,  •  1 Comment

December 14, 2008.

I’m watching Sunday Night Football on NBC (Giants at Cowboys) and silently reflecting on the current financial crisis. I’m almost ashamed to admit that, but for a while nothing really worthwhile was happening in the game. I really don’t care about either team…I was waiting for a random quote from John Madden about someone’s groin or for him to explain the intricate details of football strategy (“You see, the team that scores the most points…usually wins.”)

Strangely enough, one of my private prayers to the gods of “Why on earth are we doing this?” had been answered – in the form of a Cadillac commercial.

Before I get to the commercial itself, let me preface this. I’ve been toggling back and forth on the whole Detroit bailout bill that died in the Senate last week. Part of me says “Yes. We need to bailout GM, Ford and Chrysler. These are important institutions that can not fail.” The American economy is reliant on these entities. And there are such great memories of the wonderful American cars people remember from their childhood. GTO Judge, the legendary Jeep, Firebird, Corvette, Mustang. The list goes on and on. It would be a shame to see the parent companies of cars like these vanish in the thinning economic atmosphere known as 2008.

But then I thought “Wait a minute. That’s not fair. These companies must have done something wrong. Not every major company in this country is in the crapper yet. Why are they so special? And how come foreign car makers in the US aren’t facing similar troubles?”

Then, lo and behold, TV provided me with the answer. In the form of a Cadillac commercial. Cadiallc, of course a GM brand, was showing off their new Escalade model. An SUV…of course. And the commercial started innocently enough….with moderately to proportionally hot women getting in this guy’s Escalade with reindeer names. “On cupid and donner….” the guy would exclaim until some other guy tried to get in his SUV…or more appropriately now, the “pimp party bus”. Now maybe it was just me being fixated on the girls (still), but I don’t remember seeing anything about the car itself. No mention about ABS, air conditioning, standard equipment, safety rating, you know, the usual car crap people care about.

Or so we thought! Apparently, hot girls in a black SUV are enough to get Americans scrapping together the lose change in their pockets and sofa cushions to run out and buy it. Then the price – it topped $57,000.

Now, I know it is a Cadillac. And it is an SUV. And gas is cheaper now. But seriously. Over $55,000 for a car that will lose about $15,000 of that price when I get a mile from the dealership? That’s seriously messed up. It costs more than my house, for crying out loud!

Maybe I’m not the “target” demographic. I mean, maybe there are other people out there watching SNF on NBC and they can afford to drop that on a Caddy SUV. But here’s the problem. I was watching, so, I am the target demographic.

Let’s throw another car in the doughy, hot model mix. Next commercial series, instead of the Caddy SUV, I see an ad for the Pontiac G6. Loaded with this, blah blah blah. My interest is piqued because I have a thought in my naughty little head. No girls coming out of the car, no guys driving it, nothing like that. C’mon show me the price. $18,000.

Okay, not bad, much less than the Cadillac…as it should be.

Next commercial series, one for a Nissan. I’m not sure of the model, it may have been an Altima. Under $10,000. And according to everything I’ve read and understand about cars, the Altima is a pretty damn good car.

So, I can drop $57,000 to ride in style with a bunch of girls in a Caddy (until they realize I have no money after paying for the ride…hope it has a feature to disable the door locks to prevent them from jumping at the next light). I can drop $18,000 for a so-so looking car that is American made (no girls included). Or, I can drop less than $10,000 on an Altima which is also so-so looking. But with the Altima, I can afford to take some girl to a fancy restaurant, and still have change left over to pay for prophylactics!

And after that steamy revelation in the backseat of the Altima lounge of love, I have made my decision on the fate of the Detroit 3.

Fuck em.

Look, there’s no mistaking that well, mistakes we made. There were major mistakes. When a company makes a boo-boo, they pay for it. When they make several of them, they pay through the nose. And when they continually make mistakes despite obvious signs of “Hey! You’re doing it wrong stupid!”, they deserve to fail. That’s the way it works. Reorganize, sit down, figure out what you did wrong, and try again.

Don’t take my money and continue to piss it away.

Look, when GM bought the Hummer brand, was there anyone in management there that wasn’t forced into early retirement who said “Whoa! I know Americans like SUVs and big cars, but this isn’t sustainable!” When American companies like Ford, Chrysler, and GM pumped out SUV models faster than “down home” mothers pumping out babies, car makers like Honda, Toyota and Nissan were focusing on fuel efficiency, hybrids, and sustainable business practices. They kept expenses in check, and grew profits modestly. Now, they look like geniuses while the Detroit three crawl to Washington on a weekly basis begging for money like used up crack whores on 57th street.

Face it – American car companies have a long history of bad decisions. Each time, they managed to escape their mistakes somehow. They haven’t learned a thing. And all these PR spots of American car companies “caring” by trying now to develop efficient, high quality cars make me want to roll down the window of my Escalade and puke GM-Blue Kool Aid.

Why can’t an American car company produce a high quality, award winning car comparable to Altima, Accord, etc. for the same price? Labor? Unions? Materials? Bullshit. “Foreign” car makers like Toyota have plants in the US too. Same labor. Same materials.

Has American greed and the creed of “bigger, faster, more” finally caught up with us and the Detroit 3?

Detroit needs to fail to be taught a lesson.

10 reasons why the new Tom Cruise movie will flop (Valkyrie)

Posted by Mr. Wister on December 15th, 2008 under Entertainment Tags: , , ,  •  2 Comments

In the new flick “Valkyrie”, Tom Cruise plays some army guy who wants to kill Adolf Hitler. He can join the club there – even though I wasn’t alive during the time leading up to and during World War II, I’m fairly sure there were more than just a few people who wanted to do away with the guy.

Aside from the fact that TC is still (in my mind) a crazy bastard, here are ten reasons why his latest movie will flop.

  1. Nobody wants to see a tale of war and “heroism” with failure at the end. Even if TC puts forth a herculean effort in the film and acts his stunning little scientologist ass off, why would anyone want to pay to see a movie where we all know the ending? Unless you fell asleep in history class a few times throughout your mediocre academic career, you’d know that Hitler wasn’t assassinated. He killed himself. And if the movie tries to portray anything different, they’re full of shit…even though Hollywood has been known to do this…
  2. The economy is in no mood for a serious TC flick…err, flop. Let’s be honest. Money is tight right now for everyone. Why would anyone pay $10 to see this piece of garbage? I go to the movies to escape reality, Let me forget that I’m broke, laid off, and pissed off that my 401k slid into the trash like yesterday’s still frozen Hungry Man mashed potatoes. Even if TC gets caught and killed in the end for being a traitor (which he’d better be considering he didn’t succeed), I’d still rather stay at home and download a grainy amateur flick that doesn’t make me want to throw elephant droppings at the screen.
  3. Why would people go to a movie many can’t pronounce? Can you pronounce the name of the movie? Valkyrie? Is it Val-keer-eee-eh? Or perhaps Val-kir-eee? I don’t even think Don LaFontaine (the guy with the cool voice who does most of the trailer voice overs) knows how to pronounce it right.
  4. The war movies with the fancy high tech special effects with planes, dogfights, and explosions seem cool, but remember, they’re just there to beef up bad acting and a worse plot that can’t stand up on its own. (Remember Pearl Harbor? Yeah, the forgettable movie with Ben Affleck. Ahem. TC and Ben Affleck. Need I say more?)
  5. TC is past his prime. There comes a time in every actor’s life where he/she needs to realize that they can offer nothing more “constructive” to the entertainment scene. When that time comes, its time to hang it up and step aside so aspiring actors can step up and have their moment. Can you name 1 TC movie in the last 5 years that was worthwhile? How about the last 10 years?
  6. The holidays are supposed to be the big movie season. Is this really what Hollywood is expecting us to watch? Seriously? My 16 month old has more exciting toys that aren’t as predictable as this movie.
  7. Supposedly the movie is based on real events. Really? (See point #1).
  8. Brian Singer, who is responsible for the directing this movie, had a hand in creating House, M.D., as an executive producer. Has anyone watched House lately? How has it been? Because after the show all but dumped a few of its main characters, relegating them to tiny, tiny roles, I lost interest. Wait, does that mean TC has a small role in this film as well? Brian, you listening?
  9. Distinct lack of eye candy. There is one female in the main credits I saw – Carise van Houten. And she plays TC’s wife or something. Sigh. There should be at least two actresses in almost any film to balance the scales, even in war movies. Not to sound like a broken record, but people go to movies to escape. We want eye candy. We are a shallow movie going society. Men want to see women, and the women want to see me. Women have a place in war just as they do any other movie. I just have a bad feeling that if you go to this movie, you will be bolled over by testosterone…or Xenu…which brings me to….
  10. TC is still a crazy bastard. Sorry, couldn’t resist. How do you mess this up? You have a hot wife, you’re rich, very famous, handsome by most standards, adored by millions, enjoy what you do for a living. So, you divorce your wife, initiate a publicity nightmare by announcing you’re crazy in love with a girl who looks like she’s old enough to be your daughter, go on talk shows and stand on furniture, and start spreading the word about your religion, as if you are a prophet. Hmm, yeah, that might work. Does anyone else get the feeling perhaps TC is still acting to try and one up his ex-wife?

Look, if you’re going to see a movie this holiday season…well let’s be honest, you’re going to see whatever you want. It’s your money. Throw it away however you’d like. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this movie sit near the bottom for a while before it dies a slow, painful death – like TC’s career – and unlike Hitler.