Monday, May 28, 2007

An Open Commencement Address to the Class of 2007

Distinguished faculty, honored guests, friends, countrymen, liberal elitists, Boggle club members and the graduating class of 2007: It is with humble zeal I address you all today in a rayon gown.

I like gowns. And I love pomp. I love circumstance.

Today, we stand at the horizon of infinite tomorrows. Looking back on this day, from the future, we will look much smaller and — quite likely — thinner. But this will mostly be an optical illusion caused by our rearview time mirrors. And also, maybe something to do with years of eating lots of lasagna. The point is, stuff is changing.

When you arrived here four years ago, fresh-faced and full of vim, our governor was still a closeted gay American. The Concorde made its final commercial flight. Britney Spears had a number one album on the Billboard 200. And hair.

In 2003, America ended major combat operations in a freshly liberated, candy-littered Iraq. Louisiana had a dirty but vibrant city at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ruben Studdard was your American Idol. Times were good.

Now, only four years later, Detroit has hosted WrestleMania 23. It's International Heliophysical Year, and we know how crazy that can get. DNA tests have revealed photographer Larry Birkhead to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby. The House of Representatives has elected its first-ever woman speaker. Courteous terrorists are waiting for us to leave Iraq before attacking us here. The Mega Millions jackpot reached $370 million. What could possibly be next?

But it is not your job to tell the future. It is your job to go and get a job. And sure, if you really want to, you could get a job as a psychic who predicts the future. Or even work for Bill Kristol at the Project for the New American Century. Think tanks are fun. In case you're wondering, think tanks are similar to battle tanks, but they don't get targeted with improvised explosive devices.

You should not be cowed by the ferocious job market. Some economists will tell you that graduates today risk being the first in decades to earn a standard of living inferior to their parents. But why listen to economists? If they're so smart, wouldn't they be Wall Street investment bankers, cashing in on the bulls and bubbles while lounging in goat cheese baths and stroking their pet llamas? I know I would.

But no. I chose to become a reporter. And not just any kind of reporter, but a newspaper reporter. In a time of unprecedented wealth tempered by international uncertainty, I joined a distrusted industry that's in an unprecedented panic stoked by alleged doom. Why?

Well why not? Doom can set you free. Whenever I interview people who almost died or lived through some horrible loss, they almost always embrace the precious time they have been allotted. So should you, though I know life can seem endless when you are young and wearing a flat, tassled hat.

If you're anything like the graduates now running our country, you likely won't heed good advice anyway. But there are two things I know for sure, and I will leave them with you to do with as you wish.

First: Never play leap-frog with a unicorn.

And most importantly — the easiest to remember, but for some dang reason the hardest to follow: Clean your belly button. Oh. And be good to one another.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"We Made Brownies, And I Think We're Dead"

Former Dearborn, Mich., Police Officer Edward and Stacey Sanchez call 911 after getting reeeeeeaaaalllly stoned from brownies they made with confiscated marijuana. Somehow he was allowed to quit without being charged with anything.

Best bit: "What's the score in the Red Wings game." Because that winged wheel logo is awfully trippy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

National Public Ransom

NPR is finishing its spring pledge drive (just in time for summer!) today. I listen to NPR all the time in my car while balancing it out with vitriol from WABC and CDs or iPod music when I've had enough reality.

You can't argue with the value of commercial-free, listener-supported programing. Brian Lehrer, Leonard Lopate, Fresh Air, Car Talk, Studio 360, Sound Check -- all great stuff. So am I a freeloader for not pledging to donate $120 (just $10 a month!) to help support what I've been getting for free? Should I be guilty for never giving money to NPR? Or bums on the street? Or any charity, for that matter?

Probably. But when it comes to NPR, I think enduring their endless pledge drive banter is payment enough.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Stuff I learned watching the Republican presidential debate on Fox (besides the fact this campaign will certainly give me an ulcer before it’s over):

I'm sure you fine folks weren't watching, and I only caught about 30 minutes with half an ear tuned in. But here's a quick summary.

Ron Paul was making a whole lot of sense about the risks of U.S. intervention in the Middle East and the blowback we can expect from meddling with people we don’t understand who hate us. But then he made some loopy mistake about how our bombing of Iraq in the 90s helped contribute to 9/11. Which allowed Giuliani to break format with a self-righteous I AM THE GOD OF 9/11 superiority, demanding Paul retract his statement.

I'm convinced Ron Paul got flummoxed – but only slightly – when discussing the pre-9/11 landscape. He was speaking of U.S. involvement in the Middle East overall, and used the bombing of Iraq as a particularly bad example, somehow falsely linking Saddam and 9/11 again. He couldn't have possibly meant it as the trigger for 9/11, and would have been better to point out the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, as bin Laden has to explain his justification for the attack.

Paul, to his credit, stuck to his guns in the face of Mr. 9/11 and continued to make the larger point of U.S. foreign policy actually, you know, affecting foreign attitudes toward America. Radical stuff, eh?

Paul mocked the attitudes of Republicans who persist in the fantasy that al-Qaida and radical Islamists “hate us for our freedom.” Because they are so very much involved in planning attacks on Norway, Sweden and Japan.

In today’s Rovian Republican Party, you can’t even broach the subject of why and how our actions might have consequences. Ron Paul should have made it clear that these actions in no way justified 9/11 – only true America-haters believe that. Groups like al-Qaida can’t ever be appeased, only destroyed. But the Muslim world is not a monolith with al-Qaida at the head. Before the Iraq invasion, they were marginalized and virtually shunned. Now we’ve really set the shitstorm in motion, just like they wanted.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the supposed “conservative” party shouts down a debate about the sensible notion that U.S. foreign policy can have repercussions. That it’s only prudent to understand our enemies and sometimes alter our strategy based on the avenue least likely to get us attacked by a growing hoard of once-moderate and now-radicalized Muslims. Can any rational person believe we are safer now than four years ago? The GOP is now trying to ban Ron Paul from future debates, to the detriment of that fallen party and any legitimate interest in national defense.

On a side note, after the debate Giuliani continued to walk the line between his social liberalism and his need to earn Christianist votes in the primary election. He gushed over statistics showing how during his time as mayor, abortions decreased and adoptions increased. Um, Rudy. How, exactly, did you accomplish this? Might as well take credit for the excellent rainfall you received during your tenure.

Actually, there is deep irony in this. Even Rudy’s opponents often credit him with the dip in crime while he was mayor (even though it began under Dinkins, thanks to increases in the police force he instigated). But the authors of Freakonomics credit the decrease in crime on – get this – abortion. Children who disproprotionately grow up comitting crimes in their teens and early 20s because they were born to single and/or teenage city women of limited means and social standing, weren’t in their teens and early 20s in the 90s. Why? Because starting in 1973, they had been aborted. Thank you, Roe v. Wade. Sorry, Rudy.

Back in the debate, McCain and Giuliani insisted that the terrorists will follow us home from Iraq. "America's Mayor" actually had the audacity to point to New Jersey’s Fort Dix Six as evidence of this. Because ethnic Albanians who have lived here for decades are somehow related to the war in Iraq how?

After the debate, Alan "Puppy Dog" Colmes actually asked the pro-torture/they'll-follow-us-home candidates some hard questions. But he never followed up with the obvious rejoinders: What is stopping them from following us home now? How can you use the Fort Dix thing to support this argument? We're still in Iraq! They're here! What's the connection?

Mitt Romney strikes me as the kind of president who has been plotting a way all his life to get to power so he can eat the blood of babies and start a nuclear war. He’s Martin Sheen from The Dead Zone. I'm not sure why I believe this. Maybe because he supports doubling the size of Guantanamo Bay so the terrorists have no access to lawyers. As though you are a terrorist because you’ve been accused of being a terrorist after being rounded up by foreign militias on the battlefield. As though the hundreds of people we’ve released from Gitmo are all of a sudden no longer dangerous after four years. As though the president of the United States should not stand for civil liberties and protections against tyranny. But no. Romney – like Bush and Cheney and “Fredo” Gonzoles – are all hunky-dory with tyranny.

Tom Tancredo had the audacity to follow up McCain's unassailable case against torture (because, he noted, no knowledgeable military brass support it: doesn't work, endangers our troops, and they know there is more to a war than the battlefield. Also, um, McCain was tortured for five years in a Vietnamese prison so maybe he’s kind of an authority?) Tancredo said if the U.S. suffered an attack at home with another likely on the way, he'd want Jack Bauer time. He actual invoked a fictional character to support his stand on torture. Fucking Joel Surnow.

The most vexing aspect of the torture debate was that it was predicated on a scenario set up by Twit Hume involving suicide attacks in the United States. So the candidates had free reign to invoke the ticking-time-bomb defense, which most resembles “24,” least resembles real-life, and is no basis for a sound, universal interrogation policy. Do these crazy people realize how talking tough to the American people makes us into monsters around the world? That it was torture by Egyptian authorities that turned al-Qaida number two honcho Ayman al-Zawahiri from a radical into an ultra-radical bent on mass killing and global jihad at all costs?

And the thing that got me screaming at the television was when Rudy defended torture in the post-show Hannity masturbation session by saying, as president, he'd be sworn to uphold and defend the United States of America. WRONG! It's the CONSTITUTION you are upholding and defending, you lisping, crazy-woman-and-cousin-marrying, ego-maniacal, crony-enabling, pandering dipshit! Without the Constitution, this country just ain't worth defending. Without our Constitutional liberties and protections, all we have left is just some land and our fears.

Blargh. I watch this stuff because this country is slipping farther and farther toward a point of no return. If any of these clowns are elected next year, I don't think there is any turning back. We will become everything the world hates about us. More so.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Jerry Falwell died yesterday. And it's in truly bad taste to rejoice in the demise of a fellow human being, even if he was a putrid, intolerant force of evil in the world. So I'll let Seth McFarlane and the "Family Guy" folks do my dirty work. Also, these comments on Gawker are pretty damned funny.

Even better: Christopher Hitchens' touching eulogy on CNN last night.

Money Quote:

He woke up every morning pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking "I've got away with it again." I think he was a conscious charleton, and bully and fraud. If he read the bible at all -- and I doubt he could read any long book at all -- that he did so in only the most hucksterish, as we say, bible-pounding way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I Pity The Mother

A special gift to all you mothers out there: Mr. T's "Treat Your Mother Right." Enjoy the magic, mothers. You deserve it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

General Surrender

In clear, forceful language, top U.S. commader in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus responds to a survey of troops revealing their shameful attitudes toward treating innocent Iraqi civilians.

He demands respect for civilians and derides the futile, poisonous practice of torture. Just the kind of stuff the militant right wing uses to piss all over Democrats -- and sensible moderates of all stripes -- for embracing defeat. Now they can tell it to Petraeus. What a weeny.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Camp Gitmo

It's more than a little sick when your government feeds you twisted lies and you find the truth in a sarcastic comedic speech on a TV show with William Shattner.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Must Remember to Tivo This

By TPerl

I don't know much about "Robot Chicken" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, but this trailer looks fucking hysterical. The Admiral Ackbar line at the end still has me laughing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Perl About Town

By TPerl

I'm not really sure how this happened, but I am currently in the midst of the most socially active four weeks of my life since college, it seems, and definitely since having kids.

Week 1 (Thursday, April 26th): Attend Yankee Stadium and see Phil Hughes medicore ML debut (and the Yanks lost)

Week 2 (Tuesday, May 1st): Attend MSG to see Rangers Game 4 in a luxury box

Week 3 (Saturday, May 5): Flew down to New Orleans for the day to attend my friend's bachelor party (which started Thursday). Highlights of the trip included Jazzfest (even though we could barely get near the stage for the Allman Brothers), the topless girl riding the mechanical bull, and the best part in my opinion was getting in to see Gov't Mule in a very small venue with a great up-close view (see picture above). Warren was solid, with the most interesting jam coming by way of Hunger Strike -> Dear Mr. Fantasy -> Hunger Strike.

Week 4 (beginning Friday, May 11): Vacation with the family in Holden Beach, NC. I know this isn't as impressive as the 3 events preceeding it, but trust me, try driving 8 hours with 3 kids in a minivan and then talk to me.

I know things will be back to normal soon. But right now, it's the Summer of Perl (in the Spring).

And for those of you who only perked up when reading the words "topless girl riding the mechanical bull", here's a picture for you. I edited it so as not to get Bones into any trouble, so don't complain you perverted little fucks!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Quick Buck

In dark times like this, when our president and his minions continue to present an alternate reality, when the nation's highest law enforcement officer sees fit to stumble and bumble before Congress, when the creeping dangers of irrational religion threaten to tear apart the fragile fabric of society...we must ask ourselves a simple question: Bullshit? Or Not

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Word Salad

I abjure the hidebound timorousness that vituperates turgid language for its turbidity. What's so hard to understand?

Well, for one thing, that sentence.

But after dedicating my life to the quotidian prose promulgated by the penurious martinets preserving pedestrian newspaper linguistics, I will venture to catechize this pertinacious interdiction through blandishment and periphrastic legerdemain.

Or maybe I should just get this out of my system.

According to the Oxford University Press, there are some 750,000 words in English, including variations and distinct senses, technical jargon and derivative or obsolete words.

A linguist once told me just 50 of these words represent 40 percent of usage and 99 percent of usage consists of just 16,000 words.

English is a rich, constantly evolving language with a solid core. It seems a shame we limit ourselves to so little, especially in the newspaper business.

Sentences like the first few above serve no purpose beyond farce, as their dense pomposity only stultifies comprehension as though soused in some jejune writer's bacchanalian word orgy. There I go again.

If an average reader needs to stop and look up a strange word, or if a reader simply continues to read without understanding the point, a writer has failed. If anything, a journalist often seeks to prune complicated gobbledygook into plain speech.

For example, tintinnabulary is a peculiar word I only learned four years ago while studying for the GRE. It's an adjective to describe something pertaining to bells or the ringing of bells. It has a delicate onomatopoeia reflecting both the tinkling of tiny bells and the gonging of more hefty bells.

In reality, it's something of a useless word — describing something about something that could be better shown than explained.

But a properly chosen, less common word can elevate a sentence — carrying the reader along to a new level of understanding. And then we just need to take that dictionary off the shelf.

I'm particularly fond of the term phlegmatic. It's more common derivation, phlegm, helps envision what the adjective seeks to describe: something calm, sluggish or unemotional.

And I love how we can choose among a smorgasbord of words to call someone stubborn: implacable, inexorable, intractable, intransigent, obdurate, obstinate, pertinacious, recalcitrant, refractory, renitent and untoward.

Is it any of these — or worse, hoity-toity — to insist on using an occasional wholesale word in our retail world?

Grant Barrett is a vice president of communications and technology for the American Dialect Society working as a lexicographer on two dictionary projects while co-hosting a weekly national radio show on language. Though he's been learning English since birth and studying it most of his adult life, he still encounters new words every day.

"Most words are new to most people most of the time," Barrett said.

Which might get us all off the hook. And that's no badinage.

The Suite Life at MSG

By TPerl

Last night, I experienced for the first time what few real sports fans ever get to do - I watched Game 4 of the Rangers-Sabres series from one of MSG's "luxury suites".

Since I was a luxury box virgin, and I'm sure many others still are, I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into what it's like.

First off, there's FREE food and booze - just wine and beer, but who's complaining. There's a mini-fridge stocked to capacity with cans of Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Heineken keg cans, and Becks - I would have preferred bottles, but I guess it's a safety risk.

The suite area opens about an hour prior to game time, and apparently there's always a pair of Ranger alumni standing there waiting to sign autographs and chat it up. Last night, two members of the 94 Cup team were there - Adam Graves and Glenn Anderson - pretty fucking cool. I couldn't really think of much to say to either of them, other than to thank Graves for giving the fans a great 1994. Also, I thought they'd look bigger in person.

The boxes are up high, encircling the entire arena, but they have a surprising good view of the ice. There's actually two tiers of boxes where we were, and ours was the lower tier, which put us even closer to the action. Plus, I think our corner location gave us a great view of every part of the ice - there weren't many places where our view of the puck was obscured.

The layout was similar to a small hotel room. When you first enter, there's single bathroom - and by the way, having a bathroom right there with no wait is fantastic. You'll never miss any of the action waiting in line, and considering the amount of free beer in the room, frequent bathroom trips were a necessity.

Then you enter the main lounge area, with a counter and stools facing the action, and behind that a bar with two TVs (we had the Mets on one and the Yanks on the other), two leather chairs and the hot food buffet. There are many food options to choose for the suite, but ours had chicken fingers, ravioli, cheeseburgers, waffle fries, pigs-in-blankets, shrimp cocktails, and what I think was ceasar salad (which nobody ate). Needless to say, I stuffed myself silly on these unhealthy delights.

Even Glenn Anderson couldn't help but stop by our suite to glad-hand the big shots (well, big-shot imposters anyway) and sign a few more autographs. I guess Gravy was too busy.

And finally (with all apologies to Bones), there actually was a hockey game going on as well - the Rangers won 2-1, with Henrik doing everything but stand on his head between the pipes, which shouldn't take away from the fact that he got the benefit of a missed call at the end.

Anyway, unless I win the lottery, I'll probably never sit in a luxury box again. But if you have a connection somewhere, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has been frustrated by the ridiculousness these days of spending over $100 on a ticket, hot dog, and a beer just for themselves, nevermind with a date or worse, a spouse and kids.