Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The best slogan for future Republican candidates? "Hopeless."

The media spends 96.3% of its time fretting about the evils of old white men, so it is no surprise they are framing Republican problems as resulting from being too white, old, and evil.
The Republicans have certainly taken the bait. Last year's Republican Convention was so conspicuously diverse I'm surprised the keynote wasn't given by an AIDS quilt. Of course, these efforts did nothing to dent the "old white men" narrative. The old white men albatross, and its impending demise, was all the press talked about.

The Republican Party IS in major trouble, and part of the problem is old white men, but not for the reasons the media is highlighting.

The OLD part is a key issue. The country is getting older, and old people demand benefits. They will vote to secure benefits more often than they'll vote to preserve social mores. The press needn't fret: those old white men are going to vote for more Social Security and Medicare, regardless if the candidate promising to secure them is vowing to put a pink car in every garage and a transgender chicken in every pot.

So where does this leave Republicans? Let's examine their traditional hobby horses:
Religion: no longer the safe sell it once was. Prayer in school, "under God;" these topics have faded from view. The new religion is diversity (TV is now controlled by diversity televangelists). Being "God's party" no longer rings the cash register.

Culture war: Like being "God's party," "defense of marriage" posturing has become more of a liability than a vote getter. Many visible Republican pundits and pretty much all prominent Republicanish CEOs - are pro-gay marriage. Young people don't care about the "sanctity of marriage." Not even young Republicans are gung-ho.

Militarism: At least for now, blind support of every crank military adventure is on hold, so the relentless push to annihilate Persians and Arabs isn't the vote getter it was a few years back. Plus Obama is happily annihilating plenty of Third Worlders, so even if demand for this empire expansion returned, Republicans would have a harder time declaring that if they aren't in office America will suffer a Third World Civilian Murder Gap.
Second Amendment: All they have left are guns. As strongly felt as gun loyalty is, gun voters aren't evenly spread throughout the nation. Gun issues are a huge loser in key spots like New England, CA, Ill, NJ, and NY. Having that block of electoral votes in your pocket pretty much sews up the presidency for you, so no matter how loud the Second Amendment boosting becomes, the votes just aren't going to be there.

Second Amendment trumpeting is difficult at the national level, so all the Republican Party can put forth is fiscal austerity. It is the most politically correct Republican hobby horse remaining. Trouble is no one really likes fiscal austerity in practice. Young people demanding student loans don't love it. People receiving Medicare and Medicaid don't invite it to Thanksgiving. And when it comes to Social Security recipients, the only part of their life they aren't nostalgic for is the time before they started receiving Social Security. The weight of these demographics (especially the elderly part) portend a continued diminishment of the Republican Party.

But because fiscal austerity is the safest play left to them, it is now all the Republicans are talking about. They're doubling down on it. What they may not realize is that by talking about nothing else, they magnify their image as stingy, Granny starvers. Doesn't matter that they never follow through on any of their promises of fiscal conservatism (notice they said they wanted to "replace" ObamaCare. So we're supposed to believe RyanCare would be a budget saver?). So at a time when fiscal austerity is particularly unpopular, they are completely draping themselves in it. Doesn't make me want to run out and buy long-dated Republican options.

If you follow mainstream news, you continue to get the impression the Republican brand still matters. The mainstream needs the fake right-left template to concoct simplistic right-left narratives. And progressives still love the idea that they're right-thinking martyrs in a country full of cavemen (remember the political "analyst" who whined that Rick Perry was going to be President?), so they have no interest in letting the "bad guys" leave the stage. None of this coverage or commentary is accurate, but then, when has the news ever been accurate?
None of this matters anyway. America is effectively a one-party system. The "conservative" side is only there because, well, it's harder to continue robbing people if you don't give them imaginary choices.

My Twitter feed still beams with hope:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seven candies that are harming society

1) Candy corn

Candy corn is the only candy where the candied version is less of a treat than the actual vegetable. But if you get a pile of these non-treats, don't despair. They make for excellent earplugs.

2) Mounds

No one ever eats Mounds. Instead, they collect their Mounds and immediately try to barter with them on the secondary market. Trouble is, you can never get the other kids to trade you anything for a Mounds. Bitcoin gets fewer upturned noses. If you're lucky, there'll be a clueless foreign exchange student in your school you can trick into swapping a Mounds for something respectable. But be aware of the risk he reports you to the embassy.

3) Mallo Cups

Don't let the cup shape fool you into thinking you're about to experience candy bliss. Mallo Cups resemble black holes for a reason. Every Halloween there are warnings about dangerous candy stuffed with razor blades. Mallo Cups are actually much more dangerous to the giver, because if you give someone a Mallo Cup with a blade in it they'll probably use it to shiv you. Actually, a Mallo Cup with a switchblade center isn't so bad. At least if you cut your tongue off you never have to worry about reliving the horror of tasting Mallo Cups.

4) Bit-O-Honey

I don't understand how these things continue to survive. I never see them in stores. I never see anyone eating them. Yet every Halloween you're sure to get three or four in your pillowcase. They only seem to appear on Halloween. Sounds like a zombie movie. If only Bit-O-Honeys were as tasty as human brain.

5) Sugar Daddy

Delicious financial arrangement, disgusting candy.

6) Raisinets

How bad are Raisinets? You've heard that the natives sold Manhattan for $24. Well, the original offer was for $10 billion and a box of Raisinets. You can see why the natives renegotiated.

7) Mary Jane

The horrible name is just the beginning. Taffy in any form is a dealbreaker. No one craves taffy. Taffy is never served for dessert. You never visit a friend's house and find a candy bowl full of taffy on the coffee table. In an age where ice cream now contains every imaginable foodstuff ("I'll have the Pesticide Swirl with nightcrawler sprinkles, please."), you never see ice cream with taffy in it. So how could anyone be cruel enough to give these things to unsuspecting children? I guess barbarism lives. The only upside to these killjoys is that they're guaranteed to knock out a few teeth, so at least you'll have some tooth fairy money you can use to go buy some real candy.
7) Any candy that requires modification

How many times have you heard "Aw dude, ___ are so much better when you freeze them," or "Trust me, ____ are great if you dip them in peanut butter."

Yeah, of course it is better because then it's a totally different candy. It's like saying: "My wife is super hot, if you picture her with breast implants, full body lipo, and a face transplant from a model."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An Evening with John Densmore

I've written before about being a zealous, irritating Doors fan when I was a teenager:

I probably had that haircut.

Recently I attended a book reading given by Doors drummer John Densmore. He was reading from his new book The Doors: Unhinged, which uses the story of his legal battles with Krieger and Manzarek to expound upon what he calls "the greed gene."

As I sat in the audience waiting, I began to feel foolish. What was I doing there? Was I another tragic dud fruitlessly chasing down the sensations of adolescence?
Before I could dash, leaving behind a dense cloud of self-hate, Densmore walked out. Looked younger than his age; quite an achievement for a lifelong rocker. He began to talk, and his readings and musings fishtailed across many subjects. Maybe this looseness was a tribute to his jazz drumming roots (don't worry I don't actually mean this sentence).

His central theme was "the greed gene." As he put it, he and the surviving Doors (and other wealthy musicians) already have nice houses and "some groovy cars." Why do they need more? Why risk tarnishing the sentiments fans attach to their songs by licensing them for commercials? He roasted Townsend a bit for taking the opposite stanceDensmore wasn't dogmatic. He said he could understand why young, struggling bands sell their songs to advertisers. But "once you have a toehold of success," how much do you really need?

I don't blame musicians for selling their songs to advertisers. Having said that, I definitely prefer not to hear songs I like converted to jingles. Hopefully in Densmore's position, I would do the same thing, but who knows?

The Doors evidently had the only democratic agreement in popular music history. Everyone got 25%, and everyone had veto power (both arrangements suggested by Morrison). Densmore shared the story of one very famous veto: the time Jim freaked out when the others didn't consult him before agreeing to let Buick use "Light My Fire" in a commercial. The chorus was to be: "C'mon Buick, Light My Fire." Jim contacted Buick and said if they used the song he'd go on television and smash a Buick with a sledgehammer. The Doors and Buick did not break on through to a deal. Jim's stance seems to have had a great impact on John.

Since Jim's death, many other offers for lucrative licensing have come in, and the reason they didn't come off was because John said no every time. Consequently, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek tried suing him for more money than the Doors have generated in total since their inception (an intimidation tactic, obviously). Densmore won, thanks to that unusual arrangement the Doors had. The others had no case, so as John put it, all they could do was try "character assassination."

He didn't sound bitter about it, though. In fact, John said he and Krieger were planning to play a cancer benefit sometime next year.

He was at his best during the Q&A at the end: totally unpretentious, and though he wasn't getting paid for the event, and though he is already rich and doesn't need to sell books, and though his legacy in rock is already secure, he still seemed excited about getting his point across (his new book is self-published, so he is putting his money where his mouth is). Not for a moment did he slide into self-congratulation or sanctimony. With respect to celebrity charity (and charity in general), Densmore pointed out that the word philanthropy has a Greek origin and is supposed to mean "loving mankind." Preening celebrities humble bragging about how charitable they are doesn't fit that definition.

Mr. Densmore seemed like a man who still has some hope. This struck me: The Doors' music is frequently morbid - This is the end, no one here gets out alive, before I sink into the big sleep, I promised I would drown myself in mysticated wine, all our lives we sweat and save building for a shallow grave, the human race was dyin' out no one left to scream and shout, people walking on the moon, smog will get you pretty soon - but never despondent. There is a sense of romanticism to The Doors' meditations on death. Sure, no one gets out alive, but why mope? Doors' songs are more about taking arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them, as opposed to suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I left the reading overflowing with self-hate, but not because I sat and listened to John Densmore.