Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Miley Cyrus and Her Twerk

"As long as Miley Cyrus is a slut I don't care...about anything"

--Troy Seman

Once again, America is shocked by another VMA show.  This year, the flavor du jour was little Hannah Montana twerking on Robin Thicke while he performed "Blurred Lines."  I guess she's "all grows up."  The performance by Miley Cyrus shouldn't have been a surprise.  History never fails to repeat itself:  female child stars attempting to make the transition to adult pop star generally follow a predictable path:

1.  As a child star, cultivate a wholesome image.  You probably worked for Disney.  Sell a ton of albums and remain cute looking.  You got the job because you are cute looking and somewhat talented.

2.  In the later teen years, start to do some solo work apart from Disney.  This material is usually popish and light.  Keep the wholesome image thing going.

3.  Around the age of 18 or so, cut off your hair, swear, get caught using drugs, drink heavily, and perform racy lyrics and songs.  Garner as much media attention and shock for yourself as possible.  The more sexually suggestive, the better.  Tattoos are a bonus but not required.

4.  After a few years of getting shock attention and putting out racy albums, you have the option of calming down a bit.  Either way, in your late 20's and early 30's, the world isn't going to be shocked by your behavior anymore.

This formula has worked for Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  Failing to follow the formula risks you falling into irrelevance as you move away from being a child star to an adult performer.

As for Miley's performance at the 2013 VMA Award Show, even Robin Thicke himself said the entire thing was no surprise--his wife wasn't angered because the entire thing had been rehearsed for weeks before.  Like everything else, it was carefully scripted.  Television producers don't like surprises.

America is shocked by these things because of its puritanical roots.  We aren't shocked by extreme violence on television or the images of drone strikes.  Parents let their children see violent movies way before they are allowed to see sexually explicit material.  This is part of the cultural ethos of America and performers like Miley Cyrus know to to take this ethos all the way to the bank.

What shocked me about the performance was how incredibly ridiculous it was.  There were dancing teddy bears with giant asses.  Cyrus wore a skin tight, see through outfit with a teddy bear on it.  Ever since she decided to emulate Pink and go for the punk rock hairstyle, her hair looks like shit.  She kept sticking out her tongue to add to the shock value.  The entire thing was totally banal.  Unlike sexually suggestive performances by Lady GaGa that are at least somewhat artistic, this one just sucked.

Miley Cyrus can do whatever she wants, but I refuse to be shocked when I already know the formula.  It's just too canned to be believable.  My wallet is staying closed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"I Voted for the Black Guy and Got the White Guy"

Today a military judge sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for whistleblowing.  Manley turned over thousands of documents to the journalism website Wikileaks.  One of the revelations was of a U.S. helicopter attack slaughtering over a dozen innocent people, including an attack upon first responders and children.  At the end of the video, one of the pilots says to the other after seeing children were shot "that's what you get for bringing children to a firefight."  These were the children of a man taking his kids to school and stopped his van to help the injured get a ride to the emergency room.

We live in a fucked up world when the Nobel Peace Prize winning president is a war criminal who has killed almost one thousand people in drone strikes.  A man who oversees a vast spying apparatus that records the communications of all Americans, a man who uses the resources of the government to crush whisteblowers and bully foreign governments into grounding the planes of foreign presidents in violation of international law.

Manning should be the one with the Nobel Peace Prize.  Obama should be impeached and sentenced for war crimes.  Most people are too brain dead to even care.  They are too busy pressing buttons on their smartphones and twittering about Kanye and Kim Kardashian's baby.

Manning's lawyers now report that he plans on asking Obama for a pardon.  The chances of this being successful is about 0%.  At the end of the day, the government monolith has crushed a man of incredible conscience and destroyed his life to make an example out of him.  The message is "We are the U.S. government.  We do whatever we want.  If you question us, we will crush you, so don't even think about it."

But people of good conscience like Edward Snowden flip their fingers at such fascism.  They refuse to bow down before the self-appointed masters of the universe.  The smug arrogance of the Obama administration and his pack of minions is disgusting.  In his earlier days, Obama was a community organizer who attempted to help the poor and downtrodden.  Now he uses his power to kiss rich white ass and outdo those who formerly looked down upon him.  He grovels before Mitch McConnell and John Boehner while cowardly playing videogame wars, ordering strikes to those whom he can't see and won't confront.  He's no man.  He's a coward.  If he had one hundredth the character of Bradley Manning, he would pardon him.  But he never will.  

These days, any intrusion by the government against our civil liberties is justified in the name of "security."  All our rights can be taken away so long as they try to scare us into becoming a police state.  These are not the values that America was founded upon.  These are not the values embodied in the Bill of Rights. 

As a liberal, in my ideal world Bernie Sanders would be president or Elizabeth Warren.  But in the next election it will likely be Hillary Clinton vs Chris Christie or Rand Paul.  Hillary has already shown that she approves of spying, foreign wars, drone strikes, and coddling Wall Street.  Christie is the same.  As much as I disagree with Rand Paul about social welfare programs (I fully support them) and healthcare reform, I will probably vote for Rand Paul anyway.  Why?  Because he believes in maintaining civil liberties.  He is opposed to drone strikes despite the huge force of the military-industrial complex being behind it.  He is against the unhealthy marriage of large corporations with the government.  And he is opposed to foreign wars which only cost huge amounts of money and American blood.  Most of all, Rand Paul is less full of shit than others.  Unlike the liar Obama, you at least know what you are getting. 

This is a sad day in America.  Look at the actions of a country to decide whether it is righteous or not.  We can talk all we want about liberty, freedom, and free speech.  But when this government crushes whistleblowers, harasses journalists and members of their families, and bullies other governments to chase down whistleblowers, we are no better than Stalinist Russia or Syria.  We must expect and demand more from our leaders and our government.  

The entire Bradley Manning trial was a farce.  It was a show trial reminiscent of Stalin's purges, right up to the part where Manning gave his "confession" for hurting the United States.  Total bullshit.

Edward Snowden was smart to leave the U.S.  He would never get a fair trial here.  Never.  Snowden would be well advised to never return to the U.S. or one of its colonies, aka Britain.

Today the Constitution was used as toilet paper and it fucking stinks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fix It Yourself

In an age of economic insecurity, one has to develop self-reliance to survive.  Food costs going up at the supermarket?  Time to start planting your own garden.  Mechanic asking too much for that tune up?  Time to go to the library and find yourself a copy of the technical repair manual and get yourself some basic tools.

When my computer stops working, I have no problem troubleshooting and solving both hardware and software problems.  This is mostly because I've always been interested in computers.  I don't mind fixing my broken computer.  When some problem confounds me, I look up the answers on the Internet.  Google is the greatest repair tool ever made.  Somehow, somewhere, someone else has encountered the same problem as you, and more likely than not there is a solution somewhere.  For me, perseverance is key.  Don't give up and eventually you will solve the problem.

I've always been intimidated by cars.  Opening the hood, I see a tangle of tubes, wires and blobs that make no sense to me.  I've tried to repair my car in the past to no avail.  I don't have a car lift and painful arthritis limits my physical abilities.  Unfortunately, however, my vehicles don't seem to be considerate of my mechanical limitations.  Both my Ford Escape and my Toyota Avalon are currently experiencing issues.  After looking up the repair costs for both vehicles, it become apparent that without a little self-help and yankee ingenuity, I wasn't going to be driving them anytime soon.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," or so goes the saying.  I found myself stuck without answers.  So I decided to tackle the repairs as I would a computer problem--using Google and Youtube, along with using the Haynes Repair Manuals for my vehicles as a guide.  What do you know, the amount of information available to DIYers is amazing in the information age!  My Escape needed a tune up but half the spark plugs are buried underneath a labyrinth of tubes and components.  Youtube rescued me.  There turned out to be a video which showed me exactly how to change the spark plugs.  After watching the video two or three times, I was able to take on the job myself and complete it successfully.  What a tremendous sense of relief I had when it was completed and everything seemed to work fine.  And unlike my previous experiences, there weren't several "bonus" pieces left after I put everything back together.

With my new found confidence, I decided to tackle my electric dryer.  It sounded like a cat was being drowned whenever it would run.  After watching a Youtube video in which a repairman takes apart the same model dryer and replaces the blower wheel and the belt, I decided to give it a shot.  Judging by the sounds my dryer was making and consistent with the video, I was able to diagnose the problem, order new parts for $50, and put the thing back together again.  Now, instead of wanting to put it out of its misery, it quietly hums along as my clothes dry.  I just saved myself about $450.  Now that is a payday.

I'm not coordinated--dare I say "geeky."  If I can make some basic repairs on my own, I know you can too.  And who knows, you might save yourself a fortune and build your confidence in the process.  Half the time the broken thing is worthless in its current state so you have nothing to lose.  A broken dryer remains a broken dryer.

Good luck!