"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A winter poem

Dearest readers...

As I sit by my cozy fire this weekend writing the blog and answering emails, I thought I would forward on to you an inspirational message I received from a close friend on this cold winters day.

I found this beautiful winter poem and thought it might be a comfort to you.

It was to me. It's very well written and I hope that you enjoy it too.


by Abigail Elizabeth McIntyre

It's Cold!!

The End

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Secret Agent of Change" or, "Just Call Me Mr."

You may recall -- unless you have a really short attention span, in which case you should click here -- that a few days ago I came up with what I thought would be a really nifty theme song for Barack Obama. By making this idea public on the blog, I may have even secretly hoped that the candidate himself might hear of it, and realizing that my brilliant mind could be a great asset to his organization, offer to employ me as his Media Director -- or at the very least his official Theme Songs Czar. Hey, I'm qualified: I enjoyed listening to Tom Lehrer back in the 60's, so I know the value of a cleverly satirical melody with political overtones.

But then I realized that anyone from the Obama group might have a difficult time finding my post without constructing a very specific search query, so I thought I might help bring it to their attention by writing them about it. There's a place on the "contact us" page of Obama's website for "other thoughts and questions" which would seem to be a highly appropriate place to address the topic of, "hey, you should check out this song that is guaranteed to make people boogie in the aisles at your campaign stops." (I'm all about the helping.) The form required me to enter my first and last name, so to avoid any possibility of confusion due to the fact that my real name would have no obvious connection to the blog, I typed "Last name: Toast", and "First name: Mr." into the contact form. I even hinted in my message that I was one of those "undecided" voters that candidates devote so much attention to, and that I might be persuaded to actually vote for Mr. Obama if he could adequately address some of my serious concerns about the future of this nation, for example:

• Appointing a presidential commission to study the possibility of designating beer as the "National Beverage of America", a panel for which I would gladly volunteer to be a member;

• Offering large lump-sum tax-free cash compensation as reparation to certain individuals who have suffered lasting psychological damage as a result of tragic past events in our nation's history -- and by "certain individuals", I am referring to readers of this blog;

• Sending Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin to the Guantanamo Bay Terrorist Detention Center to investigate conditions there, and conveniently "misplacing" their return tickets home;

I have many more concerns, but these will do for starters.

To be honest, I really didn't expect much to happen; but amazingly, not long after clicking the "submit form" button, I'll be damned if I didn't get an e-mail reply! Although I must say I was initially a little disappointed, I still knew that someone had actually read my message and taken it under advisement, because the email was addressed to me personally!
Dear Mr.:

Thank you for contacting Obama for America, and sharing your ideas for Senator Obama. The volume of messages we are receiving has exceeded all expectations. While it is difficult to respond to thousands of messages a week as efficiently as we would like, the level of interest and nature of the comments reflected in these communications are very gratifying.

Barack knows well that Washington does not have a monopoly on good ideas, and neither does he. That is why it's important to hear from everyone, and we will take your ideas under consideration. Your thoughts on our campaign and America's future are deeply appreciated.
Do you see that, people? My thoughts are "deeply appreciated" by an actual presidential candidate! How cool is that? As if that wasn't enough, a few days later I received another email, this time no less than a personal message from Barack's wife, Michelle Obama. (I hope he doesn't mind his wife carrying on these conversations with total strangers on the internet; you know how freaky the web can be.) But as I read Michelle's letter to me, I realized that I actually had something special that she and the rest of the Obama organization urgently wanted:

Thank you so much for writing. Right now, all across the country, thousands of Americans are taking their seat at the table and shaping the outcome of this election. One of the more than 100,000 donors who have given in 2008 is promising to give again if you make your donation today. Now is the time to own a piece of this campaign. We are building up our organization to compete in all fifty states, and your gift will help us reach our goal.
And that "something" ... is money.

This week has seen regular correspondence from the Obama team asking me to input my thoughts, my ideas for the future, and most importantly, my cash. It is good to know that I'm such a valuable asset to the organization. Today I received a message from former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, alerting me to a slime email that is circulating that claims Obama is a Muslim who refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, as well as other falsehoods. I'll have to admit I was skeptical at first when I saw the return address "John Kerry" in my inbox and thought it might be spam, but the Senator again addressed me personally:
Dear Mr.,

I support Barack Obama because he doesn't seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating -- he seeks to end it. This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.

As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove's twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone's character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it's not enough to complain about a past we can't change when our challenge is to win the future -- which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.

This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack's Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of "Swiftboat" style anonymous attacks.

These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we've learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.

We need you to email the truth to your address books. Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let's prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful.

Thank you,
John Kerry
Kidding aside for a moment, this is an important issue, and if someone happens to forward you this particular slanderously distorted email, I hope you will reply with the facts and set them straight. The truth should be the truth, regardless of what your political leanings happen to be.

In conclusion, while there's been no definite word as to whether he wants to use my theme song suggestion, I'm still glad to know that I qualify for these regular updates from Senator Obama. Who knows, I might even vote for the guy, especially if he promises to investigate the conspiracy regarding the "Seabed Nectar" secret ingredient in Slusho, which causes people to burst open at the seams. (Do not drink Slusho! You have been warned!)

Monday, January 21, 2008

End could be in sight for TV writer's strike

Encouraging news for TV fans over the weekend: the Director's Guild of America (DGA) has reached a tentative agreement with the studio conglomerates (AMPTP). The new terms set residuals on so-called "new media" which almost double the previous rates. While the striking Writers Guild (WGA) is a separate entity from the director's association, it has been widely speculated that any deal with the studios achieved by the DGA would serve as a template for the writers to reach a similar settlement.

The leadership of the Writer's Guild is closely examining the DGA deal, but issued a public statement today that I thought was a bit provocative, containing this less-than-conciliatory remark: "For over a month, we have been urging the conglomerates to return to the table and bargain in good faith. They have chosen to negotiate with the DGA instead."

Nevertheless, most rank-and-file members are optimistic about the terms of the DGA's contract. Noted director Oliver Stone said, "I've read the bullet points, and it is a step in the right direction, it shows that agreement is possible, and it brings a spirit of hope that hopefully will extend to the WGA and the AMPTP. If it is not taken in that spirit, that would be most unfortunate." Many Hollywood notables attending this week's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, are also eager to go back to work. "I'm very pleased with the new [DGA] agreement and I hope it helps speed up the negotiations with the WGA," actor George Clooney said in a statement.

Talks between the writers and the studios, which have been at an impasse for weeks, could resume as early as tomorrow, according to Variety magazine. However, don't look for your favorite shows from before the strike to reappear any time soon. There has been much bad blood generated on both sides by the walkout, so it's likely that several more weeks of negotiations could pass before any agreement is hammered out. Also, the delay involved in ramping up the studios to begin production (even assuming that the writers already have scripts in their laptops that they've been withholding due to the strike) could be lengthy. Still, it looks like progress is finally being made.

Today's Bible lesson

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then, using God's great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, "You want chocolate with that?" And Man said, "Yes!" and Woman said, "and as long as you're at it, add some sprinkles." And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, "Try my fresh green salad." And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, "I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them." And Satan brought forth deep-fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it "Angel Food Cake," and said, "It is good." Satan then created chocolate cake and named it "Devil's Food."

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and high in nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald's and its 99¢ double cheeseburger. Then said, "You want fries with that?" And Man replied, "Yes! And super-size them!" And Satan said, "It is good."

And Man went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created quadruple-bypass surgery.

Then Satan created HMOs....

(source: unknown)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sofa-spud's lament

As the Hollywood screenwriter's strike drones into its 11th week, the Writer's Guild (WGA) seems to be losing public support in its struggle with the studios. Initially, audiences expressed the most concern about missing the political satire they've come to love on late-night talk shows, but now that Letterman, Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have returned to the airwaves after negotiating independent agreements to continue their shows without their striking writers, public sentiment has largely turned to apathy. A recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted online by market research firm Synovate found that 75 percent are not very concerned or not concerned at all about the TV-viewing implications of the writers strike. Indeed, many people are openly hostile to the writers, feeling that their demands are unreasonable. For example, here's a sample of comments from the online edition of today's Miami Herald:
The real "damage" is what these writers generally do to standards of taste, imagination and experimentation by churning out week after week after week of recycled, formulaic, mindless crap. If this strike has driven even one shitcom couch potato or brain-dead housewife addicted to slop operas to read a book or go for a nice walk in the sunshine, it will be a net gain for audiences all over America.


It is good for the industry. Like a wildfire that clears the brush for new ground. Hopefully it forces most of the garbage shows and executives out of Hollywood and we get something better. How many serial killer shows can you watch. Stupid.


The shows can't get any more stupid or worse in their banality. The network bigwigs are already addleheaded coke fans (not the diet variety). Quick: name three tv shows that are made for people with an IQ above 100.
I guess as a blog writer, I should theoretically be in solidarity with the WGA but I'm having a hard time seeing their demands as realistic. The issues are complicated, and I don't pretend to understand them fully, but the crux of the disagreement deals with how writers will be compensated for programs appearing in "new media" such as Internet downloads, streaming, smart phones, etc. The studios want to continue to pay the same percentage of residuals that they negotiated for home video (VHS/DVD) content back in the mid-1980's, but the writers are in essence demanding a "do-over". They feel like they got short-changed 20 years ago; bitter and resentful ever since, they're now unwilling to make what they see as similar concessions for "new media" distribution. Plus, the writers are asking to be paid even for non-scripted programs such as reality shows (e.g., American Idol) where there is no pre-written dialogue, which doesn't seem right to me.

As is usual with most disagreements involving compensation, it comes down to how you define the word "fair". AMPTP president Nick Counter says: "We are ready to meet at any time and remain committed to reaching a fair and reasonable deal that keeps the industry working." Meanwhile, the WGA says: "Writers want to go back to work and will do so as soon as the AMPTP returns to the negotiating table and bargains a fair deal."

In the meantime, everyone loses -- the studios, the writers, the viewers, and most of all those people who support the television and film production industry such as cast and crew members, caterers, prop and costume rental companies, and the like. Recent estimates by ABC News put the loss to the industry at over a billion dollars so far. There is some hope that contract negotiations currently underway between the studios and the Director's Guild (DGA) will lead to a deal that will serve as a model to coax the writers and studios back to the table. "I hope it sets a good template for everybody," writer Leonard Dick said of the DGA talks, as he and about 200 others picketed outside Warner Brothers. "We want to put everybody back to work. My kids are sick of seeing me around the house."

How has the strike affected you? Are you watching less TV, or channel-surfing more instead of tuning in specific programs? Are you spending more time on the Internet or (gasp!) reading? Please comment.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chikkin's Revenge

Still yet more proof that I have way too much time on my hands: After ruminating on yesterday's post for a while, this fell out of my head today (with a little help from Photoshop).

There's nothing like the concept of interspecies annihilation to get the ol' creative juices flowing, I always say. I suspect this is one reason why some people are vegetarians.

Common-sense quote of the day

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."
- Douglas Adams

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eat Mor Chikin, Use Mor Kompewter

So I'm in Houston today, having another round of pulmonary function tests. There's great news to report: my numbers are UP since last time -- woo hoo! My FVC (or Forced Vital Capacity, a primary measurement of lung health) has gone from 56% in October to 60% today. I will therefore dodge the transplant bullet for at least another three months.

What does this have to do with "chikin", you ask? After leaving the hospital this afternoon and before beginning the long 3-hour drive home, I was hungry and decided to stop at a nearby Chick-fil-A for supper. While dining, I noticed that a number of folks had their laptops out and realized this particular restaurant had Wi-Fi, as is the growing trend these days -- even at fast-food joints like Micky Dee's. I had left mine in the car, but I was parked right next to the entrance and figured I would be close enough to still be in range, and might check e-mail from the parking lot before heading down the road. However, some public hot spots require a password, or a register receipt number, or something similar for access. So, as one of the friendly employees walked past me, I caught his eye and asked, "Excuse me, do I need to do anything special for Wi-Fi access here?"

He looked at my table (which at that moment contained only my Original Chicken Sandwich and an order of Waffle Fries) and hesitated only momentarily before replying:

"Well, yeah, you need a computer."

Duh. Do I really look that stupid? Have they actually had customers who needed to be told this?

But I just laughed, and found that I indeed had to register first but could do so online once I connected to their network. I got the laptop from the car, and that's what I've done. Since traffic in Houston is so god-awful at this time of day, I may linger here for a while to let it clear out a bit, and have a slice of pie and some coffee before doing battle with the freeway crowd.

In any case, this post represents a landmark of sorts, being the first time I have actually blogged from a public place. Other customers occasionally are staring at me; I wonder if they think I'm downloading porn or something. Maybe I look like that sort of a guy.

Nope. Only a low-life Blogging Degenerate. That's better, right?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Theme Song

Every presidential candidate needs a snappy theme song to whip up the crowd's enthusiasm at public appearances. Remember Bill Clinton, and Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)"? A great choice, and I honestly believe that the optimism expressed in this song played no small part in his 1992 election. The 2008 pack needs something similar, and today I had a flash of inspiration.

I've played the song "Mama" by The Housefellas (feat. Christine Moore) a few times on my radio show and always liked it, but I suddenly realized today that with one simple word change, this tune would make the perfect theme for Sen. Barack Obama's campaign. It's got a funky, exciting groove and the words are spot on -- just substitute "Obama" for "Oh Mama" as you listen to my 3-minute edit of the song, and see if you agree:

Let's get it started y'all!
Let's get it started for Obama!
C'mon yall ... let's take it higher! C'mon!
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)
Obama, Obama (Bama ... Bama ... Bama)
You set my soul on fire
You set my spirit free
Your love just keeps on higher
Your love is burnin' in me
It'd take a thousand lifetimes
To say the way I feel
Your light it keeps on shinin'
And now I know it's real
I know you'll take me higher
Into another world
Just keep the fire burnin'
Just wanna be your girl

Sing it again...
Obama, Obama (sing it again!)

Crowds already go wild for Obama, and I can easily visualize thousands of delegates in Denver next August in a mass frenzy, jumping up and down and chanting the refrain "Obama, Obama" in unison (sing it again!) as he makes his entrance onto the convention stage. What do you think? Am I on to something?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Brother can you spare some change?

Welcome to the first Wind In The Wire blog post of 2008! Yes, I've been slacking off lately but I decided that I simply must get off my lazy ass and write something, anything -- mainly so I wouldn't have to continue to look at those two butt-ugly corn-bag-throwin' redneck dudes from the video in my last post at the top of my page. It was starting to get embarrassing.

But I hope everyone had a great holiday. I'm writing this on the eve of the New Hampshire primary election, and by the time you read this the citizens of The Granite State will have spoken, and having decided the fate of the nation and perhaps much of the world by their vote, will have gone back into hibernation until 2012. I was born and raised in New England myself, and yes, it gets that freaking cold up there in January. Perhaps it's the frigid weather, or the fact that the race for the 2008 White House has been going on since, oh, mid-2002, and now that the new year has arrived, has reached a full-blown fever pitch. In any case, the mood in New Hampshire, according to respected serious political journalist Dave Barry, can be currently defined in one word: "testy". He says:
This was clear during the big televised two-party debate sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, Mountain Dew, MySpace, eBay, Viagra, Microsoft and the Select Number Sleep Comfort Bed. The debate, moderated by avuncular newsman Charlie Gibson, was the pivotal moment of the New Hampshire campaign, and across the nation more than 20 million interested American households tuned in to the NFL playoffs, which were going on at the same time.

But those who watched the debates saw history in the making, as it became clear, over the course of the evening, that one person, and one person only, embodies the wisdom, the judgment, the maturity and -- yes -- the simple humanity that this nation desperately needs in its next president: Charlie Gibson.

Unfortunately he can't afford the pay cut. This means we're stuck with the actual candidates, who, as I say, are in a testy mood, as was evidenced in the Republican debate when John McCain and Mike Huckabee, during a particularly testy exchange over illegal immigration, gave Mitt Romney a wedgie. The Democrats, meanwhile, continued their ongoing obsessive argument about change -- who is the most for change; who has done the most changing; who can change with the changing times to bring change to those who need a change; who has taken the time, with all this tromping around New Hampshire night and day demanding change, to change their underwear; etc.
I haven't commented much on the election in this space so far, despite my unabashedly liberal bent ... probably because I'm having a hard time deciding who I like, or more precisely, who I despise the least. I think a lot of people find themselves in this position at the moment. Fortunately for that big amorphous blob of "undecided" voters like myself, there is no shortage of automated survey tools on the internet that will cheerfully spit out an ideal candidate based on your own positions on the various issues. I call these "Pres-O-Matics", and here are just a few of them:


http://glassbooth.org/ (an especially good one)

http://www.selectsmart.com/president/2008.html (has some ads)


Finally, USA-Today's "Candidate Match Game" has neat graphics featuring pop-up candidate heads. If only the actual voting in November would be this much fun.

The problem I've found after trying several of these sites is that they each suggest a different candidate even though I input the exact same information about my preferences on the issues. One will say "Oh yeah, you like Hillary, all right", while another screams "Obama's your man", and still yet another says "If you were gay, you would totally do Dennis Kucinich." So I'm confused.*

It's damn lucky for me that I don't play the ponies; my talent for "picking a winner" -- as evidenced by my Fred Thompson prediction last year -- obviously sucks. Nevertheless, Obama seems to be surging, so I'll go out on a limb here and say I think he has the best chance to win in November. It will be interesting to see how it all goes; indeed, there will be no escaping it, unless one relocates here until 2009, which I am seriously considering. One thing we can say for certain: there will be change.

*BTW: for the record, I am not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.