Cthulhu ’08

At long last. The coveted Bit Maelstrom endorsement goes this year–as it does every year–to that Elder God of Unfathomable Evil, Cthulhu!I have to wonder: Can a guy possibly get elected President when all the focus is on the other guy. Love him or hate him, Obama’s got all the attention.

I loved this take off his logo, which you can buy on assorted merchandise at Cafe Press.

Hats Off, Gentlemen! A Genius!

I haven’t blogged anything about George Carlin’s demise because, really, where do I get off? Arguably the greatest comedian of a generation, and easily the most professional stand-up since the days of Vaudeville.

I mean, he did (by my count) 12 HBO specials in the past 30 years, with virtually all new material every special. 12-18 hours may not seem like a lot, but find a comedian who’s done more. And Carlin’s TV credits go back over ten years further, and I’m pretty sure that was after a decade or more of uncredited work.

The dude was polished. Even if you didn’t like the material, his style was undeniable.

And yet, it can be hard to watch a lot of those shows. The older he got, the angrier he got. The gentler parts of his routines vanished over the years.

I suppose some would argue that his political statements were what made him “important”, insofar as he was, but it seems to me he was at his most brilliant in his whimsical and absurd moments. And when he summed something up about human experience, like the stuff/shit routine and “Everyone driving slower than you is an asshole. Everyone driving faster is a maniac” bit. When he brought us together, in other words.

His political statements–well, to be fair, his most overtly political statements were deliberately crude and dismissive. He saw himself as above those things.

But his socio-political “arguments”, if you want to call them that, were crude in the sense of being at the level of an angry 13-year-old. The perfect role for him was as Cardinal Glick in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, since the “arguments” in that movie are pretty much at the same place. (And I love that movie, but much like a Carlin routine, it’s best when it’s making with the funny, and very weak when the philosophy comes out.)

Even then, though, his delivery was brilliant. And if you agreed with him (see clap humor), his show was great. He was better–and more subversive–than both, because he phrased things in such a way that you often wanted to agree with him.

Another funny thing about Carlin was that, while liberals are often accused of loving Mankind and hating people, Carlin seemed to hate Mankind and love people. That is, his schtick–particularly in the last years–was geared toward how horrible Man was, yet in describing his travels he had nothing but praise for the people he met (cf. Michael Moore).

Regardless of your political orientation, it’s hard to deny the man’s craftsmanship and dedication. The only comparable figure I can think of is the late Johnny Carson–and he was on hundreds of times a year for decades, and never had any forbidden words to fall back on.

I won’t say “Rest In Peace” because that would’ve just pissed him off. And I sure won’t make any comments about heaven. I’ll just say, “Hey, how’s death working out for you?”

Shame he can’t answer. I’m sure it’d be hilarious.

You Keep Using This Word “Warming”….

As the facts trickle in and global warming slowly recedes from the zeitgeist, we’ll see this pattern of how the increasing coldness doesn’t mean global warming isn’t real, then silence, then the increasing peril of global coldening, and finally how the cooling is our fault.

At some point, the cooling hysteria will reach a fever pitch, and a few sober-minded people will recall how familiar this all is, but the new acolytes will claim that it was only a few voices and media hype but this time it’s SCIENCE!

More on the Sexualization of Children and Miley Cyrus

There’s one other element of the Miley Cyrus/Hanna Montana picture “scandal” that perhaps colors my commentary about the impact on society, “think of the children”-type stuff.

No matter how much kids idolize her, that picture of her back isn’t going to nudge anyone into doing something very naughty.

But even if your kid has enough common sense to keep her clothes on, it’s guaranteed that one or more of her peers don’t. At least in a school setting where she might have hundreds of peers that you don’t know at all.

That’s obviously not a concern of mine. Someone recently asked me the old warhorse about “socialization”.

“Aren’t your kids going to miss out on social school things?”
And I asked, “Well, what did you learn at school, socially speaking?”
“Cheating, vandalism, sex, drinking… I see your point.”

As they say at the Institutes, the only thing that a five-year-old can teach another five-year-old is how to be a five-year-old–and he already knows that. You can imagine (though you probably don’t have to) what 10- and 15-year-olds have to teach each other.

The peculiar zoo/prison-type environment of the current school systems are particularly bad. Kids go from a tightly controlled situation (the classroom) where normal kid behavior is absolutely prohibited to the free-for-all Lord-of-the-Flies of the playground where bullies reign and teachers have a “let them sort it out for themselves” attitude.

I’ve only found a few schools where ethics mattered. Mostly it’s “zero tolerance” and “zero brainpower”. So the kids establish a system much like prison. (I have to say about that last link that I did not experience what Paul Graham did, but that’s a topic for another time.) Popularity and survival are closely linked–something that the adults who put their children into this situation routinely deride. (Let the unfairness of that sink in for a moment: Parents put their kids into school to “socialize” them–education being a lost cause–and then mock them for thinking their social status is important.)

And for some, the peer pressure is obviously overwhelming. They’re the ones who are influenced by trashy pop queens, and they’re the ones who bring pressure to bear on your children.

Of course, the other side of the coin is–well, let’s say you were going to send your child to a Catholic seminary. Can you imagine the reaction? Why, everyone knows what pedophiles priests are! Don’t you watch the news?

Well, I’m not suggesting there’s bias or anything, but the rates of pedophile teachers is probably higher than it is for priests, but we only hear the occasional sensational story, rather than the real numbers. At least priests don’t have a freakin’ union and require tax-dollar bribes.

What I’m gettin’ at is this: If you send your kid to a school, you’re subjecting him to far greater pressures than a Miley Cyrus picture. Hannah Montana is at the end of a long list of things undermining whatever sense of ethics or morality you’re trying to inculcate. (Actually, I don’t think you have to do much with kids, who have an innate sense of justice and more dignity than most adults, but they can also be undermined with the 35 hours a week the school gets.) Your job has to be build up what the schools work so hard to tear down. For some kids, this will be easy as they tend to reject authority anyway. Others will need approval so badly it’ll be nigh impossible.

Having said that, society can be judged on its kindness to outliers. It would be great if our society didn’t encourage situations that are dangerous for kids who don’t have the best parental supervision or who just are easily influenced. But more on that when I review the Traci Lords bio.

And now, a good list.

Mahalo has a list of the best fictional brands, starting (resaonably) with ACME and including an assortment of advertisers both memorable and obscure.

Mooby’s, Hudsucker, Brawndo….

But they are all recent. I think the oldest ones are Hudsucker and, oh, there’s Soul-Glo from the ‘80s movie Coming To America.

Spoofing advertisers pre-dates the ’80s, though. I imagine it dates approximately to the, uh, first advertisers.

Heaven Can Wait (the original) featured the Strables who were…pork kings? There was a jingle for “Strable on the table” that Don Ameche liked to mock. Or his grandfather did, perhaps.

Rod Serling liked to skewer advertisers, though he never really paid them back for trashing his shows. I remember distinctly the contempt dripping from Static, where inane commercials for chlorophyll accompanied equally inane programming. (The protagonist rushes to his magic radio, which plays 20 year old radio programs. Heh. Radio commercials were awesomely stupid, too, but nostalgia is nostalgia.)

Just off the top o’ my head….