Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time Marches On, Unfortunately

As July turns into August, I have the sense that time indeed is passing and another year is slipping through our fingers. Time really does seem to go by faster as you get older, you'd think it would be the opposite. Midsummer's Night is coming soon, I think it's August 3rd or 4th, and it is starting to get dark a tiny bit early than a couple weeks ago.

Some other things have happened recently as the summer drags on. This is day 104 of the Gulf oil spill and there is much relief that the underground well is not uncontrollably spewing millions of gallons of crude oil. They say the well may be permanently "killed" in a week or so. Does that mean the crisis is over? BP would like to think it is, but there are still 90 days worth of oil meandering around the gulf and it really isn't going anywhere. What, if anything, they can do about oil in the middle levels of the ocean no one knows. There are reliable reports that BP is doing or thinking about doing some unsavory things:

First of all they are pulling back on the fishing boats and other commercial water craft they have employed in the cleanup, like it's winding down or something.

Second, they are quietly getting the local hydrologists and environmental experts under contract for them to do "environmental assessments," with the sneaky caveat that any findings they come up with are the property of BP and cannot be released directly to the general public. The first thing you do in any state of war or catastrophe is control the information. When you control the information you control public opinion, and that in turn will allow you to do anything you want.

The third thing is that BP is thinking about taking a $10 billion tax write-off for the oil spill. And amazingly, under our tax code, it is perfectly legal to do that. Only in America can you cause the greatest environmental disaster in history and get to write it off on your taxes. If they are even a tiny bit smart, they will realize it would be the greatest public relations disaster in history if they went through with that. But something tells me BP is quite comfortable that they will be able to do so, despite their homey and faux-sincere ads about how terribly anxious they are to clean up their mess they created and they will be around until the bitter end. Or until the tax write-off runs out.

In other news of grotesque corporate mendacity, some 17 big-name banks who accepted government bail-out money also used $1.6 billion of said money to reward their top executives with huge bonuses, as the U.S. economy nearly imploded. Now Kenneth Feinberg, the so-called "compensation czar," whose job it is to oversee how executives are paid at banks who accepted the government's financial lifeline, has stated he can't do anything about that. The only thing he can do is "shame" the banks into giving the money back, he said, at which point the banks showed him their collective middle-finger and Feinberg crumpled like wet cardboard, saying that he thinks the banks have been "shamed enough already." Oh, not nearly enough, you mealy-mouthed asshole. They still need $1.6 billion worth of shaming.

The primary election season has officially started here as the early-voting ballots arrived in the mail. I read through the voter's guide a few days ago and there is almost no one I'm interested in voting for. They are all slightly different versions of the same pinheaded idiots that crop up every damned election cycle, each promising to change everything and work hard to make the lives of the "little people" better, but that never ever happens. As usual, choosing someone to vote for comes down to a depressing toss-up as to which candidate is the least offensive and will cause the least damage. And that is a hell of a messed-up way to choose your government.

The local candidates for Congress are really ugly and appalling people, loudly trumpeting the fact they are "conservative Republicans." The infamous SB 1070, the Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration was gutted by a federal judge hours before it went into effect, pleasing absolutely no one - friend or foe - and already it is being slung back and forth between candidates, with one candidate condemning the other for opposing it. There is such an undercurrent of racism and hatred in this state, it's really becoming obnoxious and toxic. It's so hard to understand how this country has become so polarized, and more importantly, is there any cure for it? Sadly, I can only see it getting worse and worse until finally something awful and terrible is going to happen to us all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama's White House: Its Own Worst Enemy

There are times when the Obama administration really seems to working well, passing legislation which appears to benefit working-class Americans over the obscenely wealthy (the recent financial services reform bill as an example), generally triumphing over the obstructionist Republican party and keeping some of the lofty campaign promises Obama freely made. Other times it appears as if the White House is secretly working for the far-right conservatives who leave no stone unturned in their self-declared war to make the current administration a failure in everything they attempt. The recent debacle with Shirley Sherrod, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows in very painful clarity an example of the latter.

Sherrod gave a speech in the not-too-distant past regarding the DOA's history with poor farmers. A conservative blogger and disgusting toady to the right-wing named Andrew Breitbart found the video record of the speech and excerpted a two-minute segment, lifting it entirely out of context and posting it on the web as proof that the respected and highly-regarded Sherrod was racist against white people. If you listen to the whole speech nothing could be further than the truth, but that didn't matter. The clip was launched on the Internet and it went hyper-ballistic in minutes. It didn't take long before Fixed News, I mean Fox News, picked it up like a dog eating another dog's feces, and ran with it. The idiotic and incompetent Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, saw the clip and did not bother to do any sort of calling-around or fact-checking, and God forbid he would think of going directly TO HIS EMPLOYEE Ms. Sherrod and get her take on it. No, he just took the clip as being the Gospel truth and demanded her resignation. She in fact had to pull over in her car and submit her resignation via Blackberry.

Now, a huge screw-up by a high-level government stooge like Vilsack is not that much of a surprise, but what is truly, awfully astonishing is the White House doing the exact same thing - hearing about a video clip storming the Internet and also assuming it was valid, and then calling for Sherrod's head. Are they kidding us? They believe every ridiculous thing they see or read on the Internet? That's like watching Battlestar Galactica and then calling 911 because you think your neighbor is a Cylon. Are they four years old or something that they have to be cautioned not to believe everything they see or read on the Internet?

After this catastrophe exploded on the mainstream media, Breitbart was universally denounced as a non-journalist, a hack of the most base and vile nature, a totally amoral muckraker and someone who is not even worthy of the most utter contempt anyone can muster. After the White House figured out that 5 tons of the stinkiest manure imaginable just hit the giant fan they were standing in front of, they started furiously backpedaling, but as if often the case it was too little, too late. Vilsack started dithering around like a dog chasing his own tail, and Obama himself had to call Sherrod directly and apologize for the stupidity and incompetence of his staff. I so would have loved to listen in on that little chat, although I'm sure Ms. Sherrod (whose own father was murdered by a Ku Klux Klansman when she was a teenager and who has every conceivable right to have a problem with white people, but doesn't) showed enormous grace and magnanimity to the President who clearly felt like a moron for falling into a trap set by the right-wing, one that worked perfectly and flawlessly.

As my dear friend Julia pointed out, Obama is simply too much of a gentleman to go after Breitbart and call him an asshole, a craven coward, a galaxy-class douchebag and an ass-sucker of the highest magnitude, even though that and a whole lot worse is absolutely true. If this had happened in the previous administration, George Bush might have been too oblivious and distracted to care, but you can bet the mortgage that Cheney would have been all over it, sprouting horns and breathing fire into the face of whoever was responsible. Vice President Joe Biden is too enamored with his "elder-statesman" role to kick someone's ass, no matter how well-deserved, so the hatchet job should have fallen to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the White House's yappy little attack dog. Like a chihuahua with a bad attitude, Emanuel has a reputation for savage, one-on-one political combat and has a scorched-earth policy in regards to his political enemies. But they must have put little Rahmie on a short leash made of prozac recently because he was very conspicuous in his absence and his silence.

Bottom line, the Obama administration showed blinding, unbelievable incompetence by charging like a runaway freight train directly into a trap set by a brittle, angry, paranoid right-wing pundit, and they gave the far right exactly what they wanted - the legitimacy of knowing that the White House listens to what they say, unconditionally regards it as credible and reacts accordingly. The conservative movement in all its variations has stated in the clearest possible terms that they and Obama are deadly enemies in an almost classical, epic battle between good and evil, and they will take any action, tell any lie and exploit every opportunity, no matter how underhanded, immoral or unfounded, to discredit and embarrass this administration. This incident with Shirley Sherrod shows in a most discouraging fashion that the administration is all too willing to play along and provide them with a huge, slow-moving target that is too stupid and too incompetent to fight back, or even realize it is under attack.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Famous Tweets Throughout History

I remember reading a little while ago that some experts think Twitter has "peaked;" that is, the number of new people joining for the first time has leveled off. We're not sure exactly what this means, but maybe the once-darling of the brave new world of "social networking" is not as popular as it once was. Facebook, on the other hand, is going gangbusters in its drive to take over the entire planet. They just passed 500 million members, which is like the entire population of the United States, Japan and a couple of other countries combined. Someone said recently that if their growth continues at its present rate, everyone who is on the Internet will also be on Facebook by 2012.

That is pretty astonishing when you think about it. What makes Facebook so much more appealing than Twitter? Facebook's content is of course much richer than Twitter, with pictures and millions of other applications available. Twitter is just text, but with the immediacy of instantaneous posting, although Facebook is not that far behind. Facebook is not limited to 140 characters per entry, so a much richer, detailed experience is allowed. Although that is not always a good thing.

I admit to not being a fan of Twitter. I tried it once and found it a horrendous, ridiculous waste of time. My life is just not that interesting that I feel the need to post endlessly about the minutiae with which I deal. What is it that I need to tell my friends on such a critical basis? "The sky is blue today!" - check, got that. "Rabbit took a dump in her cage, missed the litterbox by three inches." - That's lovely, I'm sure people need to hear that. "It's a 112 degrees today." - wow, some things are best left ignored. To be fair, Facebook can also get cluttered by random, meaningless observations, and sometimes people reveal an amazing amount of information about their private lives that would definitely be better left private.

But the other day I let my imagination run free (I know, historically not the best thing to do, but bear with me here) and tried to think what some of the prominent figures of history would have Tweeted had there been the internet and Twitter around. Here, then, are some of history's famous events, served up in concise, 140-or-fewer-character info-nuggets:

@abelincoln: "I just want to stay home and soak my feet, but the missus wants to see some dumb play at the Ford. Whatevs."

@georgewashington: "They want to name that city on the Potomac after me. are they kidding me? that sh*thole is a swamp. after all I've done for them, f**king ingrates!"

@galileo: "New telescope's great! watched the mayor's wife get ready for a bath Yowza! moon is full of holes, looks like crap, nothing interesting there."

@kinghenryVIII: "Just got rid of #5, or was it #6? Don't know, can't keep track any more. If this marriage thing doesn't work again, I'm going gay."

@leonardodavinci: "Jeez, can't wait to finish this painting. I hate doing portraits and this Mona Lisa chick is creeping me out with her weird smile."

@cleopatra: "OMG! Marc Antony is a hottie. Julie Caesar called me Queen of Denial, WTF? Out of eye shadow again, LOL!"

@michaelangelo: "Jesus Christmas my back is killing me. last time I do a chapel ceiling. will paint a couple more naked people and call it a day!"

@darthvader: "Kids can be a bummer, tried to talk to Luke yesterday and he pulled a saber on me, wtf? This helmet gives me a headache."

@chriscolumbus: "Been sailing west for weeks now. better see some chinese guys in silk suits soon or else my ass is grass back in Genoa."

@kinglouieXVI: "What's a guy gotta do to have some fun around here? Itching powder in the queen's knickers again?"

@GOD: "I am so done with these damned people, same stupid stuff over and over again. Should have stopped with animals and left well enough alone!"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stupidest State Contest - Midyear Update

The race for 2010's Stupidest State award has been a nail-biter, even at the 6-month mark. Let's take a look at the field of competitors and see if we will have any breakthroughs in the quest for this coveted, prestigious award. But first, a word or two about the competition itself:

The Stupidest State award is given each year to one of the 50 United States (Guam and Puerto Rico don't count because they are in their own category of stupid) that has shown a staggering, mind-boggling level of idiocy in a whole array of objectionable and completely subjective measurements. These measurements are:

1) General level of innate stupidity among residents. This is when stupidity is the result of some large-scale genetic abnormality or environmental catastrophe which automatically dooms everyone in that state to a profound level of dopiness. It also includes some kind of cultural mandate or a completely degraded educational system, which will guarantee that even if you're born with normal intelligence, you will grow up really dumb no matter what. Example: Texas.

2) Venal, corrupt or insane governor/executive branch. When the head honcho of state government is a classless, raving idiot (don't try to hide, Rod Blagojevich, we see you) it's tough for a state to get out from under that. Unless the state legislature has the intelligence, integrity and morality to force the governor into taking the right actions. HAHAHAHA! Example: Illinois.

3) Prevailing religious tyranny. When a state is influenced in every aspect by a toxic, malignant religious mind-control cult, you can be sure that everything they do will be completely idiotic and counter to any kind of common sense. Example: Utah

4) Batshit-crazy or fundamentalist-controlled regulators or legislature. Regulators and legislators at the state level exercise a frightening amount of control over the lives of the residents and can enforce a dense haze of stupidity which blankets the entire state. This can lead to the passage of stunningly stupid laws and/or denial of the theory of evolution, global warming or a million other issues which everyone learns in the third grade and which normal people around the world regard as valid and serious. Example: Kansas

5) Potential for global embarrassment or species degradation. Often a state will collectively reach a level of idiocy that everyone on earth notices and leads to that state being held up as an universal example of the very worst qualities of humanity. In fact the entire human race is negatively affected by the overwhelming, blinding stupidity of this one group of people. Examples: Alabama, Mississippi

So, with the categories in mind, let's take a look (in alphabetical order) at the slate of contenders we have in the running for 2010's Stupidest State, and their current ratings on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being mildly annoying dumbness and 5 being poisonous, terminal stupidity:

ALASKA: There are some states that you can expect to be in the competition every year, such is the depth and breadth of their inborn, ingrained dumbness. Alaska certainly qualifies on its own merits, but its level of stupid has been catapulted to stratospheric levels by its most prominent citizen, the execrable Sarah Palin. Absolutely everything that comes out of this wretched, ignorant woman's trap is light-years beyond stupid and pathetic. It's as if profound mental retardation has become something to be celebrated and publicized. Hailing from Wasilla - "Where you can smell the stupid in the air" - Palin's continued blight of an existence will ensure that Alaska always has a place near the top of this competition.
General level of stupid in the population: 4 (They have to be stupid to elect Palin)
Really stupid governor/executive: 2 (Palin is ex-governor)
Prevailing religious tyranny: 1 (Worshiping polar bears is not a religion)
Batshit-crazy legislature: 2 (I'm sure they are, but at least they're quiet)
Potential for global embarrassment: 5
Overall Score: 2.8

ARIZONA: I suppose I should be ashamed that my adoptive home state is in the running, but how can I possibly deny it? After being here for 17 years I am still amazed and confounded by how incredibly stupid and ignorant this state is. First of all I am continually appalled by the number of really disgusting dirtbags, meth-heads and general burn-outs that populate this state. Arizona really is the septic tank for the entire nation; every rabid redneck and drug burn-out case find their way here after they are thrown out of their own state. When they're not stealing copper tubing to feed their substance-abuse habit, some of these scumbags vote and this results in the most unqualified, corrupt and just plain evil people being elected to every single office in this state, from the governor to the state legislature and on down the line to local sheriffs and city council members. This also means you can absolutely count on the legislature to pass the most deadheaded, moronic laws possible, such as the law to allow bar patrons to carry guns and illegal-immigration bill SB 1070, currently embroiling this state in the most destructive, divisive debate ever.
General level of stupid in the population: 5
Really stupid governor/executive: 5 (Governor-without-a-mandate Jan Brewer is possibly the most incompetent, stupid and just plain loathsome governor since Fife Symington)
Prevailing religious tyranny: 1 (Would be 5 if stupidity was a religion)
Batshit-crazy legislature: 5
Potential for global embarrassment: 4
Overall Score: 4.0

Another state we can count on being in the competition every year is Florida, the Great-Granddaddy of Crazy. Florida has been batshit-crazy longer than anyone can remember. I guess all the crazy old people from all over the country move down there, and that just makes everything crazier. It's recent selection of governors (Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist) make it clear that the populace has a keen eye for the really stupid and gleefully vote the Crazy Ticket each and every time. Whether passing laws to deny adoption privileges to perfectly fine, qualified gay couples, or blaming the last hurricane on the lack of prayer in public schools, Floridians have shown a level of stupidity and staying-power which is truly world-class.
General level of stupid in the population: 4
Really stupid governor/executive: 4
Prevailing religious tyranny: 3 (Way too many Southern Baptists)
Batshit-crazy legislature: 4
Potential for global embarrassment: 4
Overall Score: 3.8

NEW JERSEY: Sad little New Jersey hasn't been in the running for a while, not since The Sopranos finished up, but unfortunately for them the recent elevation of "guido culture" in the form of an astonishingly awful reality show Jersey Shore has popped them back into the contest. This has rocketed the perception of New Jersey residents as a bunch of really annoying buffoons. Now everyone in the world thinks the state is overrun by short, stubby women with enormous fake boobs and an exaggerated sense of their own self-worth, and meat-headed men with the brains and maturity level of foul-mouthed ten-year-olds. Even worse, some of these Jersey Shore people weren't even from New Jersey - they were from New York - but that doesn't matter, New Jersey gets the blame for these idiots.
General level of stupid in the population: 3 (5 near the ocean or in Atlantic City)
Really stupid governor/executive: 0 (I don't even know who the governor is)
Prevailing religious tyranny: 2 (Overly-teased hair and obnoxious accents don't really count as religion)
Batshit-crazy legislature: 2
Potential for global embarrassment: 5
Overall Score: 2.2

SOUTH CAROLINA: This is so exciting, because every so often a new state will pop up in the contest, seemingly out of nowhere. South Carolina had been previously written off as a huge parking lot/trash dump for North Carolina and a support system for moderately interesting places like Myrtle Beach and Charleston. But they have shown a dazzling talent for pure idiocy in a very short time. Their breathtaking rise to the top of the stupid heap started with their hormone-driven ex-governor Mark Sanford who deftly combined a talent for lying and cheating on his wife when he told everyone he went hiking in the Appalachians and instead took a detour way south to go bump nasties with some Argentine strumpet. Then he had the audacity to come back, tail between his legs, and wonder why everyone wanted him to step down from the governorship. Those are some balls you got (or had) there, Mr. Sanford. Then there is Senator Jim Demint, who would love to make kissy-face with all those ignorant racists in the Tea Party and who has never passed up a single opportunity to advance the wishes of his wealthy Republican puppet-masters. And there's much more, but I'll just throw in the little tidbit about South Carolina being the home of Bob Jones University. Look them up, you will be appalled.
General level of stupid in the population: 5 (There has to be very high lead levels in the water)
Really stupid governor/executive: 5
Prevailing religious tyranny: 5 (Fundamentalist heaven)
Batshit-crazy legislature: 4
Potential for global embarrassment: 5
Overall Score: 4.8

Well, there you have it, the race so far. Alaska and Florida are hanging in there strong, perennial competitors that they are. Arizona is making a full-court press and is a force with which to be reckoned. New Jersey is being dragged into the competition somewhat reluctantly but that's okay, and South Carolina is making an amazingly strong bid for Stupid Supremacy. It will be an interesting time now through the end of the year as the midterm elections come up, and we should always be alert for a state to swoop in out of the blue with a level of stupidity that will dwarf anything we've seen so far. Isn't life grand?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Suck It, Cleveland

There certainly has been a lot of publicity in the world of professional basketball regarding one Lebron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and going over to the Miami Heat. You would think that God came down to the Vatican and told them, "Listen, I'm done with you people and I'm not your God anymore. I'm becoming a Buddhist." The announcement brought a lot of weeping and wailing and rending of garments (literally - there were lots of videos of people ripping apart Lebron James tee-shirts and actually setting them on fire) from the benighted residents of the Mistake on the Lake (as Lake Erie-hugging Cleveland is sometimes unkindly called). But what does this very public NBA beat-down of Cleveland really mean in the long view?

I will gladly admit that I am probably one of the least sports-oriented people on the planet. I think all sports are a complete waste of time and a really frivolous and unproductive way to let your life slip away. I realize it's all just entertainment, and I see very little difference between the Big Three sports (baseball, football and basketball) and professional wresting, something at which everyone finds justifiable to sneer and regard as a vulgar, down-market, lowest-common-denominator pastime for the unwashed masses who live in trailer parks by the railroad tracks. So the James ship-jumping didn't even register on my radar. I ranked it alongside or just a little below the latest panty-free romp by some trashy D-list Hollywood celebutard or Sarah Palin's most recent bout of intellectual diarrhea. But to a lot of people this was an earth-shaking event which took on a life and importance usually reserved for terrorist attacks or medical breakthroughs.

I can see how this could be reasonably important to the two cities involved, and also for the couple of other towns that tried to lure James to their teams. Looking a little bit below the surface you see this mostly revolves around money. Lebron James is a major draw for the sport, much as disgraced Ambien enthusiast Tiger Woods is to golf. James certainly puts butts in seats for the games in which he plays, and that translates into elevated ticket sales and corollary expenditures like paper cups of warm beer and hot dogs that have been boiling in a gigantic pot since Memorial Day. Throw in other taxable merchandise such as shirts, coffee mugs and bobble-heads, and you've got a tidy little revenue stream for whichever city can lay claim to being the fiefdom of King James.

But there are two things that I apparently never got the memo on regarding professional sports. One is the enormous disconnect I perceive between what pro athletes are paid and what their services seem to be worth. Does Lebron James, or any athlete for that matter, deserve an eight-figure salary for working only part of the year doing what most people regard as a game? As far as I'm concerned, and I've said this at least one other time in this blog, any police officer, teacher, nurse or firefighter anywhere in this country performs a more valuable service in one day than Mr. James or Mr. Woods or any other athlete performs in their entire career. But this is what I call (somewhat melodramatically, I admit) the "poisoned fruit" of our capitalistic economy; that is, you will get paid according to the demand for your services, not their intrinsic worth.

The other thing I don't "get" is the emotional connection that fans like to imagine exists between a professional sports team and whatever city they are playing for at the moment. Fans in Cleveland took Lebron James' decision to bolt as a personal insult of the highest magnitude. Plenty of them seemed deeply distressed and offended, as if the honor and virtue of their mother was very publicly questioned. You can see the flip side of that outrage when a team wins a very critical game or a title - fans go berserk and rampage the streets, flashing their "number one" finger at the news cameras and somehow interpreting the outcome as a major accomplishment on their part. People, listen to me: they are professional athletes. They are play-for-pay, and they could care less if their paycheck comes from Cleveland or Miami or Phoenix or Boston or Los Angeles. Their fan base is nothing but a monolithic, faceless cash machine to them. Thus, one day Lebron James can be the shining light of Cleveland, worshiped by hundreds of thousands of residents, and the next day he is reviled and cursed as a modern-day Benedict Arnold times a thousand, and his images are being ripped down all over the Cleveland area. If all that love, hero-worship and emotional attachment is real, how can it be turned on its ear in a second?

Interestingly, the general manager, I guess, of the Cleveland Cavs really jumped the rails when he lambasted James on an official website in very strong, colorful terms as the perpetrator of some horrendous, unforgivable crime against his adopted home town. Realizing that James bailed on the team because he considered his chances for bringing home an NBA title better down South Beach way, the manager blurted out a public promise to the Cleveland fans that he will "personally guarantee" them an NBA title next season. Whoa, over-promising a little there, dude? Let's do the math on that one, shall we:

1) The Cleveland Cavaliers did not secure a title this year +
2) Their super-star player will not be with them anymore. =
3) NBA championship next season? NOT LIKELY.

Cleveland has been one of those hard-scrabble, rust-belt cities who have been gleefully trashed on a regular basis for decades, if not centuries, by the rest of the country. Sure, the city is run-down and dirty and a pale shell of its former glory, but what older U.S. city east of the Mississippi isn't? I lived in Cleveland for three years while attending college, and it's really not that bad a place. Faint praise, I realize, but I'm doing my best here. I can see how the long-suffering, perennially ragged-on hometown fans kind of snapped whenever their star player bolted from lovely Cuyahoga county. But in the grand scheme of things, residents of Cleveland should not pin their sense of self-worth, or the worth of their city, on the money-driven choices of a professional athlete. Maybe they should have taken the high road, wished James luck in dealing with those horrendous palmetto bugs and the alligators that will be sauntering across his lawn, and turned their attention to making their team and their city as good as they can be. Screaming and cursing and banging your head against a wall is not the way to go. It's bad for the wall, and it earns you nothing but a headache.

Monday, July 5, 2010

After the Fourth

Well, we got through another Fourth of July here in our little corner of paradise. We kind of lucked out this time, because it was sunny, clear and not blindingly hot. Of course the Phoenix version of "not blindingly hot" would cause widespread anxiety in most other parts of the country. We were actually a couple of degrees cooler than average - 104 degrees instead of 107 - but we will take any kind of "cooler" we can get. In most other parts of the country Independence Day sort of marks a half-way point through the summer season. But since we are graced with summertime temperatures through the first half of October, July 4th represents about one third down, two thirds yet to go.

We desert dwellers are now looking to the skies to bring us some relief in the form of the oft-promised but just as often missing-in-action monsoon storms. We get giddy with anticipation around midday as we watch the cumulus clouds pile up in massive, custard-like heaps in the northeast, hoping that later in the afternoon we will be treated to huge, torrential downpours and intense winds. In quite a few cases, all this drama and expectation is nothing but a big tease as storms pop all around us, but avoid the Valley of the Sun as if it were a big leper colony.

It's day 77 of the Gulf oil spill and the undersea well is still blowing oil into the water. It seems barely possible that this can continue for so long, and one wonders where all those millions and millions of gallons of crude oil are going. You can tell that news fatigue is starting to set in - the oil spill gets relegated to a spot on the news programs after the annual hot-dog eating contest and the latest professional athlete signing some preposterous, obscene gazillion-dollar contract.

By the way, is there anything as loathsome and disgusting as an eating contest? I am completely baffled why there is such interest in a bunch of repellent, gluttonous pigs cramming food down their gullets, like some kind of weird post-apocalyptic update of an ancient Roman food orgy. I can only hope that the participants come down with a terminal case of crapulence. Yes, there is such a word as "crapulence." It means "sickness caused by excessive eating or drinking." It's in the dictionary, check it out here. It's like the Word God made up a word as a gift for me. It's much classier than the more colloquial "craptacular." I plan on using words like "crapulent" and "flatulent" in conversation and correspondence as often as I can.

On the immigration front, we had someone named Barry Wong, who is a candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, the governing body that controls utility rates, come up with a rather incredible idea of cutting off electrical power to illegal immigrants. This idea is breath-taking in its insanity and can probably make its own run for the most half-baked, ridiculous idea of the year. How this proposed law could implemented and enforced, Mr. Wong did not deign to explain, but in an area where the temperatures can reach 115 degrees or higher it this would be tantamount to murder. Also, you would have to know where all the illegal immigrants live before you can start cutting power, and most people here illegally go to a lot of trouble to keep that information from the authorities. I fail to see how the whole immigration debate is advanced by this kind of demented logic, but maybe it works as comic relief, in a pathetic kind of way.

Way to go, Cox Communications, for giving me a brand-new cable modem when my old one stopped working last Thursday night. Oh, I should point out that Cox decided they weren't going to support my old modem due to changes in their network, so when I called and complained about my high-speed internet service going away, they said it was my problem and I need to buy a new modem. They very graciously offered to sell me a new modem for the "discounted price of $39.99." I told them they can shove their discounted price up their discounted butts and started up the corporate ladder on Friday morning. After about an hour complaining they relented and delivered a shiny, brand-new Motorola modem to my house. So they get points for a good resolution but they also lose points because I had to force them to do the right thing. The lesson in all this, kids, is the squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease and don't give up when you know you're right. But it is kind of sad when you have to shame a big corporation into fixing a problem they themselves caused.

But hey, things are not that bad for me at all. I have a house full of happy rabbits and doves, lots of good friends, time to enjoy myself and get stuff done, and every reason to believe life will continue to be sweet and each day is to be savored and appreciated. I'm finding out that getting old kind of sucks, but with age comes a peace of mind and a level of contentment that just isn't possible when you are in your twenties or thirties. So I'm going to serve the bunnies their daily salad and think about the cooler days and nights which will surely come around again. In about 4 months.