Election Debates Not Interesting Enough?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are living in an era fraught with conflict. The global financial system is falling to pieces. Millions of Americans lack the basic health coverage they need. The dangers of manmade climate change are becoming more apparent every day, and our nation lies without a reliable plan for getting the energy it will require simply to maintain a mid-20th century standard of living, let alone a 21st century one. Our leaders and press have abandoned the principles that made this nation great and transformed this land of hope, unity and free will into one ruled by fear, partisanship and oppression.

This November’s election will set the tone for the next chapter of the American Destiny. It is, without a doubt, the most important election of the last several generations.  The two candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, are diametrically opposed on most issues, as usually happens in a two-party system, no matter the mindsets of the majority of voters.

These two individuals will only meet face-to-face three times during the course of this campaign, at a trio of debates broadcast on live television. Three times. Only thrice will Americans be able to perform a head-to-head comparison of the two men who are up for the highest office in the land.

But there’s one problem:

The debates are so goddamn boring.

I mean, do you think Joe Sweatsock/Six-Pack/Izuzu can sit there and watch two people talk for an hour and a half straight? Hell, odds are good he can’t sit through an episode of Law and Order if the courtroom scene is longer than normal! We’ve been raised by the Jerry Bruckheimer school of entertainment – where’s the flash, the pizzaz, the rapidly rotating cameras, slow-mo explosons and sexy chicks with guns?

Well, okay, fine, we’re one for three there. But is Sarah Palin gonna load up her .30-06 and head over to Pakistan to personally hunt down, kill and field-dress Osama bin Ladin? I doubt it. (Fox News, I sense Emmy material here – just find a cameraman who can follow her. I suggest Grizzly Adams. Or that kid from Into The Wild.) So we’ve got to find a way to make these debates more interesting, so the vast majority of Americans who don’t vote…

…hang on, I’m having trouble typing because of the vibrations –  the Founding Fathers are all spinning in their graves…

…whew! It passed. Anyway, we need to make it interesting. So, here’s a few ideas for livening up the debates:

  • Improv. For each question, the moderator pulls from a hat an activity the candidate must perform while answering; for example, “Hop on one foot,” “do the macarena,” or “pretend you’re being chased by Hovitos.”
  • Props. Now some of you out there might say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t new! Ross Perot had his charts during the 1992 election!” Well, that is true. But what you’re forgetting is that Ross Perot doesn’t matter. Besides, charts are boring. Accountants use charts. I’m talking baseball bats, golf clubs, stepladders, samurai swords, guitars, oil barrels, chainsaws, squirt guns, and anything else they can get off of eBay small enough to fit on stage with the candidates. 
  • Color. Not only are the debates boring to listen to, they’re boring on the eyes. The stage is always the same bland shades of red, white and blue. Let’s get some florescent greens in there! Some neon orange, Day-Glo yellow, phosphorescent purple, so on and so forth. And don’t just paint the lecterns and the walls in solid colors – splatter the stuff around like Jackson Pollock was in charge! In fact, just have a couple interns walk out just before the debate starts and throw paint all over the stage. Of course, the candidates and moderator must be present at this time.
  • Attire. The candidates always wear the same two-piece suits to these things, and it’s boring as hell. Middle Americans fucking hate suits! For the average American, the only time they have to wear a suit is for weddings (boring once you’re married) and funerals (depressing), and the people who wear suits all the time aren’t the kind of person Joe Sweatsock likes. You know who wears a suit every day? Car salesmen. Stockbrokers. Insurance agents. And of course, politicians. The loathed. If the candidates want to reach out to the voters, they shouldn’t dress like someone who looks down at them from behind a desk. Let’s have a Casual Friday debate, so they can come in in chinos and sweaters. How about a vacation-theme debate, so they can finally use those linen pants and tropical silk shirts they bought before they realized Hawaii wasn’t a swing state? Or a Halloween debate, so they can come in dressed up in whatever costume they want? You can learn a lot about somebody by who they dress up as for Halloween. (And I know the LGBT vote is pretty much solidly locked up already, but this would be a chance for all those stuffy Republicans to finally give into their closeted desires and cross-dress. Can you imagine a Halloween-theme Republican primary debate? “Wow, Joe, we’ve never had six candidates dress up like Dr. Frank-N-Furter before!”) Or hell, at least relax the dress code to give them a little more freedom with the suits they usually wear. I want somebody to wear the half-and-half suit Tommy Lee Jones wore in Batman Forever. Say it’s to show how you want to bridge the divide, or something.
  • Animals. No politician wants to be seen as anti-environment, even if their voting records shows a contempt for the natural world similar to the disdain usually reserved for ten-mile traffic jams and six-hour John Tesh concerts. So how about bringing out a few living friends for them to coddle in front of the cameras? Imagine how perfect it would be if Dick Cheney were stroking a cat on his lap during a debate. But I’m not just limiting it to household pets or barnyard critters – let’s bring out Jack Hanna’s whole fuckin’ menagerie. Let’s have a Siberian tiger roam the stage as it likes – I don’t care how big your ego is, if a 400-lb cat wants your seat, you’re giving the damn thing up. Have some monkeys in the front row, so the politicians can see what it really means to have shit thrown at them. We’ll need a couple small, inquisitive mammals who love to run around and are likely to climb up somebody’s pants – that’s good for a few minutes of fun. And we certainly have to find out what animal each politician is most afraid of, then release the biggest, ugliest version of it in the hall without telling them beforehand in hopes that it’ll spring out at an opportune moment. these guys say they can handle crises – let’s see how they take it when a three-inch tarantula crawls up their leg.
  • Danger. There’s no drama to these things, because there’s no risk! Even on some goofy reality show, there’s always a risk somebody’s gonna get maimed, pass out, or vomit all over somebody. (Although to be fair, sometimes it’s just because the host lacks personal hygiene. I’ve heard Jeff Foxworthy smells like an abandoned refrigerator filled with roadkill. They actually smear Vicks VapoRub over the nostrils of contestants on his show.) Let’s have the floor electrified, and the amount of current flowing through it is controlled by the audience. If they don’t like what the candidate’s saying, they can click a button that incrementally increases the amperage; the more people dissatisfied, the hotter the floor. That’ll teach them to respect the will of the people. Also, these guys have absolutely no respect for the time limits of the debate – let’s fix that. Maybe the ceiling begins descending when the candidate starts speaking, and the longer they speak, the closer it gets to their heads. Talk too long, and they have to start crouching over or sitting on the floor; talk way too long, and suddenly it’s a one-candidate race! Or maybe something a little more low-tech, you know, to save some money. How about this: once a candidate goes over the time limit, a midget comes out and punches him in the nutsack. 
  • Combat. This is a bit extreme, I admit, but let’s be fair: how many of us out there have thought, “Why couldn’t the world’s leaders just fight one-on-one instead of having wars?” This is just an extension of that line of reasoning. It would only be undertaken in cases where the race was very, very close, and the verbal sparring wasn’t having any effect on anyone. In that case, I don’t think many Americans would be opposed to a well-organized fight. We can start out simple – fists only, no hitting below the belt, first one down for a ten-count loses – and as each round progresses, get more intense; kickboxing, UFC, and eventually get up to knife-fighting or swordplay. In the event that the election itself ends up being another clusterfuck like it was in 2000, we can bust out the dueling pistols. Imagine that – the two presidential candidates, after a grueling, contentious campaign that tore the country apart, end it once and for all back to back on the White House lawn, each holding a loaded gun, waiting to take ten steps, turn, and take their opponent’s life in order to fulfill their dream of achieving the presidency.
It would make great TV.
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Change is Good. Haven’t We Figured That Out Yet?

Shocking Fact: I am a Facebook user.

Yes, amazingly, this 21-year-old college senior has an account on America’s second most popular social networking site. I used to have a Myspace page, too, until I realized I was doing all my “social networking” on Facebook anyway, which has a much more pleasing layout and doesn’t bombard me with porn spam.

Even more incredibly (especially for anyone who knows me), I was on Facebook before it was cool. I joined up in the summer of 2005, just when it was gathering momentum. Back then, you had to be in college to join! In fact, it was so early in Facebook’s life that there were quite a few colleges not registered for it, cursing those school’s students to a life of personal interaction.

We all know what happened after that: as more and more college life began to move online, more and more people began clamoring to use the service; eventually, Facebook was opened up to the general public and everyone and their mother (including my mother) joined. So what was once a cool way for college students to share pictures of each other drunkenly making out with strangers and make plans for the weekend has now become the sort of place where your boss makes “funny” posts on your wall and 13-year-olds poke each other incessantly because they think it’s amusing. (Facebook Rule Number One, people: never “poke” someone unless you actually want to fuck them!)

Meanwhile, Facebook creator and college student Mark “Richy McFuckFace” Zuckerberg increased his net worth from $37 and a tuna sandwich to $1.5 billion, even though he totally stole the program from Seth Green when he was sleeping.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Facebook unveiled its new look, and ever since, people on it have been going apeshit about it. Not by actually doing anything, but rather by writing about how much they hate New Facebook…on New Facebook. Mostly by doing what people always do on Facebook when they want to rally together – joining groups. Currently, the most popular is called “1,000,000 Against The New Facebook Layout,” which is rather modest considering it actually has 2,407,758 members; there’s also “Petition Against The New Facebook,” which boasts 1,542,122 members, and “I Hate The New Facebook,” with 1,378,088 members.

So given all this hubbub, you’d think these changes must be pretty drastic – the online equivalent of New Coke, right? Well, not quite. Basically, they just moved the buttons around a little, changed the size of the windows, stuff like that. The biggest difference is on people’s profiles – instead of displaying all of a person’s info/conversations/pictures/random shit on one page, it splits it up into a couple different tabs. Personally, I think it’s a good thing; profiles were getting fucking huge, between the dozens of quotes and goofy applications people tacked on there.

But if you don’t like it, that’s totally fair – you’re entitled to your opinion as much as I am. Likewise, if you’d like to half-assedly protest by tacking your name onto a list of two million other people then calling it a day, be my guest. But when CNN posts YouTube videos from their iDiotic iReporters on the front page of their website, it’s being blown out of proportion.

There’s a hell of a lot of better things to put on the front page of CNN’s website than some bullshit about people whining because the online community that’s sucking the last scraps of creativity and desire for human interaction out of America’s youth decided to change so drastically it takes you FIVE FUCKING MINUTES to figure out how everything works. Here’s n idea, CNN: How about just a big, banner headline that says “BUSH ADMINISTRATION CONSISTENTLY LIED TO NATION, DRASTICALLY ABUSED POWER AND DESTROYED THE CREDIBILITY OF AMERICA AS AN INTELLIGENT NATION WHILE TEARING THE COUNTRY APART WITH PARTISAN POLITICS. ALSO, THEIR REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE REALITY MAY HAVE DOOMED US ALL.” 

I know it’s a little long. It’d probably have to be a scrolling headline, like when your iPod displays a really long song name. But for the love of God, it would do a lot more for the mental health of this country than this Facebook crap.

As for those of you out there who’ve joined Facebook groups to protest this change, I have news for you. The people in charge really don’t have to take notice when 1% of you are unhappy. Jesus, 70% of Americans are unhappy with George W. Bush, and see how much he cares?

You Only Bag Twice.

Why does it seem like wherever I go these days, anything I buy gets double-bagged? Grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores – no matter where I go, if the total weight of my purchases exceeds that of a small kitten, they throw a second bag inside the first one.

Are they making bags weaker these days then they used to? Seems like just five years ago, if you wanted them to double-bag your stuff, you had to ask them to – but the clerk would roll his or her eyes at you, because you were clearly some kind of excessive worrier concerned that your bag would tear open during the fifty feet you carried it from your car to your house. Either that, or you were painting the house, and too cheap to spring for a drop cloth.

I’d guess this is just a reaction to a few noisy PITA (pain-in-the-ass) consumers who bitched to the right people about having their bags tear open, and the powers that be decided it would just be easier to double-bag everybody’s shit rather than receive a few complaints from people who didn’t think to ask for two bags and would rather blame someone else for their problems.

You’d think that in this time, when we’re beginning to realize just how much our polluting is messing up the planet, companies would be taking measures to decrease the amount of trash they’re putting out there. But instead, they’re doubling the amount of plastic and paper bags going into the system.

So from now on, I’m gonna ask for single bags as often as I can. Obviously, bringing your own bags is still best, but you don’t always know when you’re gonna need to duck into Rite-Aid for a tube of anal lube for your friend’s birthday present. And if your friends go through so much anal lube they need a container heavy enough to warrant double-bagging…you might want to think about finding some new friends.

Punch A Smoker Day.

We need to do something about smokers. It’s time to cut this shit out, people. It’s disgusting. The smell of cigarette smoke is probably the third-worst smell on the planet, surpassed only by the smell of old cigarette butts and AXE spray deodorant. 

Now, if the smell just happened to stay with the smokers, that’d be one thing. If I found myself close enough to smell them, I’d walk away. But the damn smell carries forever, because these assholes are literally blowing it into the atmosphere as though they were small chemical plants in desperate need of a mint. Which means that you can’t simply keep from smelling it by not associating with these people. 

And what boggles my mind is that people are still smoking. Even after years and years of being told how bad it is for you, hearing how cigarette smoke contains 4000 toxins, after learning it kills 5 million people a year, after seeing those really creepy ads on TV where the old lady is still smoking through her tracheotomy hole (which I would try and post, but it’s too fucking creepy for me to look it up), there are still people out there who are smoking the goddamn things!

And if it was just old people who started back in the 50s when doctors said cigarettes were good for you because they helped control hunger and fought communist red blood cells inside your body, I’d be willing to cut them some slack. After all, nicotine is one of the more addictive drugs out there, and if you’ve been on the nicotine train forty years or more, I doubt getting off is particularly easy. 

But it’s the people who are just starting to smoke that blow my mind. Look around – most of the smokers I see aren’t old folks – they’re fuckin’ kids! People in their twenties and teens, sucking down smoke like it’s the key to six-pack abs and peace in the Middle East.  This is utterly retarded. Every one of these kids must know cigarettes are bad for them, yet they do it anyway – and the rest of us are the ones who end up having to put up with their airborne, particulate crap.

That’s why I propose an annual “Punch A Smoker” day. New York City should be the one to start this – we’ve already got some of the strictest anti-smoking laws in the country, and every New Yorker’s got enough repressed frustration in them to take a swing at somebody. (Hell, the subway alone will piss you off enough to go a few rounds with Apollo Creed.) And since so many of today’s smokers are yuppie douchebags, this’ll give the old New Yorkers a chance to work through some of that pent-up anger at watching their city get swallowed up by coffee bars while their rents go through the roof. 

Anyway, on Punch A Smoker Day, if you see anybody smoking outside, you get to take a swing at him or her. However, there are a few rules to this:

First, you only get one punch per smoker; this isn’t supposed to be a bloodbath, just a friendly five-fingered reminder to our neighborhood cigarette users of what they’re doing to our noses and lungs. No brass knuckles, no curb-stomping, no Macing, no Tazering, no clubbing with baseball bats, no gunning down, no detonating, no acid-scarring, no boomeranging (or bataranging), no lynching, no running down, no stabbing, no farting in their faces, no sticking into wood chippers, no attack dogs, no attack Velociraptors, no robot assassins from the future, and most definitely no strangulation between the thighs of Russian agents who look like Famke Janssen. Just one punch, anywhere on the body.

Second, no hitting people of the opposite sex. Guys, hitting women isn’t cool, even if they’re smoking; and ladies, if men are gonna be asked to abstain from hitting you, you should return the favor. There’s plenty of smokers of each sex to be decked – no need to cross gender lines. (Transvestites and transsexuals should stick to the gender they identify closest with.)

Third, pipe- and cigar-smokers are exempt from being hit. The problem here lies with cigarettes, not the other forms of tobacco. After all, pipe smoke is rather pleasant, isn’t it?

Fourth, no cheap shots. The smoker has to be able to see you coming – no sneaking up from behind, no hitting in the back. And no hitting in the reproductive organs – let the cigarette poisons render the smokers infertile, not your fists.

Finally, if a smoker extinguishes his or her cigarette and swears that he or she has learned a lesson and will not smoke again in public, he or she must be left unmolested. However, the smoker in question must put the cigarette out, preferably by dropping it to the ground and crushing it out with his or her foot. If he or she simply drops it, a non-smoker must request the smoker put it out first; only if he or she does not comply can the non-smoker let fly.

Hopefully, this initiative will catch on in other major metropolitan areas, until Punch A Smoker Day becomes a national phenomenon. Tobacco lobbyists will probably try and keep Congress from passing any national measure in favor of the issue, so we’re gonna have to try and build grassroots support at first.

Now, I know there will be people out there who will say that it’s “immoral” to punch people for smoking cigarettes, that it’s “mean-spirited” and “cruel.” They have a basis in fact, I’ll be the first to admit. But is a single punch going to do more harm to someone than years of cigarette smoking? Hit someone once, they might be bruised for a week or two. But cigarettes cause, and this is from a 2004 press release by Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson, “abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataract, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis, and stomach cancer…in addition to…bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, and throat cancers, chronic lung diseases, coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases, as well as reproductive effects and sudden infant death syndrome.” 

The statement goes on to say, “smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general,” and adds that “quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, reducing risks for diseases caused by smoking and improving health in general.”

And what would be a better motivation to quit then getting punched in the face?

A Deliberation Upon the Film “Hancock.”

I didn’t mean to put up two Will Smith-themed posts in a row, but there’s been something on my mind lately. By now I’m sure you’ve seen some sort of advertising for the Fresh Prince’s new blockbuster superhero film – a movie trailer, a billboard, a magazine ad, a Taco Bell cup, something. Basically, the premise appears to involve Will Smith as an alcoholic superhero with the basic Superman power set – flight, super-strength, invulnerability, super-speed – but any similarity to the Man of Steel ends there. 

Whereas Superman is kind, selfless and polite, John Hancock (Smith’s character) is a drunken douchebag who tends to cause more property damage than the criminals or disasters he tries to stop. He’s not just careless – he’s an outright jerk. A scene in one of the previews shows him throwing a kid several thousand feet into the atmosphere just for calling him an asshole, only to catch the child at the last second before the 10-year-old’s life concludes as a bloody smear on the asphalt.

Now obviously, we all know Big Willie’s character will be redeemed by the end of the movie; any story has to have character movement in order to be successful, and when an actor known for being likeable takes on a character who starts off as that much of a jerkoff, we know he’s gonna end up Doing The Right Thing. Indeed, Hancock’s redemption appears to be the main plot of the film; after he saves an advertising exec (played by Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman), the exec decides to dedicate Hancock to reshaping his public image and becoming the wisecracking Justice League member we all expect any superhero played by Will Smith to be. And along the way, Hancock tries to bang Bateman’s wife, Charlize Theron. Classy. 

But as a fan of superheroes in general and Superman in particular, two things hit me when I heard about the movie. First of all, I wondered, isn’t this basically like saying, “What if Superman had stayed fucked-up after Richard Pryor used that ripoff Kryptonite on him in Superman III?”

But secondly, it got me thinking about the “real-world” ramifications of having a reckless hero like the film shows. Think about it for a second: Hancock is, unless this movie happens to take place in the DC Universe and they just happen to leave that out, presumably the most powerful being on the planet. In the trailer, he’s seen smashing a freight train simply by standing in the way of it. This puts him in the same power-level range as Superman or Thor. But unlike those heroes, he’s a jerk, who has no qualms about causing millions of dollars in property damage or threatening lives.

In the film, it gets played for laughs – yeah, yeah, Hancock’s a jerk, what are you gonna do. But can you imagine what would happen in the real world if this happened? An alcoholic superman shows up, invulnerable to guns or bombs and strong enough to tear apart cities with his bare hands, and refuses to respect the rule of law. Do you think the police would simply throw their hats on the ground in frustration every time Hancock caused a 40-car pileup by flying through a road sign? Do you think people would really let their kids walk up to this man while he sleeps on a park bench, let alone call him names? Do you think the government would stand idly by as this man flies above the streets, knowing if he wanted to stroll right into the state house – or better yet, the White House – and declare himself ruler-for-life, all they could do is pray he’d change his mind and head home because his buzz was wearing off?

Of course not.

People would be scared shitless of this man. They’d run screaming wherever he went. Sure, crime would be down – nobody would even think about breaking the law after Hancock accidentally killed a mugger in a drunken rage by punching him through the skull. The police would be powerless to stop him, and they probably wouldn’t even try, not after it sunk in just how powerful he was. It would fall to the government to find some way to stop him before he decided he’d rather be in charge of Earth instead of the little politicians. They’d work on developing their own super-soldiers, probably by scraping Hancock’s DNA off the sidewalk wherever they could and using it to reverse-engineer his powers onto some Special Forces volunteer. Once they got their super-soldier ready, he’d try to take Hancock down; there’d be a massive fight that would level entire cities, the sheer impact of their punches leveling blocks. Thousands of civilians would die, collateral damage in the War on Hancock. If everyone was lucky, the super-soldier would manage to kill or disable Hancock, then not decide that he, in turn, was a better choice for supreme ruler of the world; if Hancock won, the government would probably have little choice but to launch nuclear missiles at him, in hopes that in his weakened state he’d be killed by the blast along with hundreds of thousands more within the blast radius.

But what if all along, all during that, it turned out Hancock was just a poor, sad man with an alcohol problem and a bad temper? A man who tried to help at first with his extraordinary gift, but wound up causing more harm then good. It might not take many accidents in the line of superheroism to end up having people fear him; a dropped airliner here, a fractured dam there, pretty soon he’d be public enemy number one, even though he just wanted to help. Nobody could blame him for turning to the bottle when all his dreams went up in smoke. Nobody could blame him for getting mad at the people he was trying to protect for forsaking him. And nobody could blame him for defending himself when the government sent someone to kill him.

Now that would be a movie I’d like to see.

Epic Secrets Revealed!

So I was mowing the lawn and letting my mind wander, as I often do, when I started thinking about 2007’s feel-good Christmas movie of the year, I Am Legend, in which Will Smith takes on thousands of zombie vampires in the deserted streets of New York and doesn’t live to tell the tale. Good times.

Seriously, I really enjoyed the flick. Living in New York, I’ve often wondered what the place would be like if everyone disappeared, and the movie did a great job of presenting it. That said, the idea of the end of civilization isn’t exactly new fodder for movies – hell, this was the second remake of the first movie, which in turn was based off a book – but it was still entertaining enough that I saw it twice, and haunting enough to remind me that Will Smith was nominated for two Oscars.

But anyway, I was thinking about the poster for the movie, where Will Smith and his dog are walking along a pier by the shattered remains of the Brooklyn Bridge.

There was something familiar about it… post-apocalyptic survivor, last hero on Earth, gun in his right hand, loyal dog heeling on his left, strolling along one of the important sets of the movie…and then it hit me. I’d seen it before.

 

I don’t know if this was intentional, accidental, or a sly joke reflecting the $6.60 price of a gallon of gas in I Am Legend (hey, 2009’s not that far away!), but the similarity is pretty obvious, as you can see below.

 

On a related note, with the DVD version of I Am Legend out now comes the alternate ending, which you can watch below:

If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve either watched the video or don’t really care, so you won’t mind if I give away what happens:

Will Smith Lives.

Yes, the zombie vampires allow the Fresh Prince to walk away with his newfound friends, thus allowing them to drive off across the George Washington Bridge to Bethel, Vermont. (I think all Vermonters knew before this, by the way, that our state would ultimately be a haven for humanity in the event of apocalypse, and especially in cases of vampirezombiepocalypse. After all, how are those monsters supposed to survive up here? It’s below freezing eight months of the year, and all they have on are tattered shorts.)

But this only made me wonder…um, didn’t they blow up all the bridges?

And finally, yeah, they really should have used real actors for the vampire-zombies. Those CGI ones just look bad. And what’s with their jaws dislocating like that? Was there python DNA in that virus they were infected with?