Friday, September 21, 2012

Meme Madness

I love internet memes - you know, those mostly one-panel images you see on websites that are basically a photograph but with a caption superimposed, most often in the "Impact" font, the font-of-choice for memes.  Quirky and off-the-wall, they can take an innocuous photo of something innocent and send it flying down some dark hallway of the human psyche.  You can take a 30-year-old photograph and with the right caption, make it as fresh and relevant as if it were shot yesterday.  The same meme photo can be used and re-used countless times, making it infinitely recyclable, and each one can be as funny and new as the original.

Making internet memes is a snap, it's coming up with the photo and accompanying concept that's hard.  Sometimes you'll see a photo and the right caption will just jump out at you.  Other times you'll think of a caption but then spend a huge amount of time finding a photo that will work with it.  But that's the challenge and the fun.  When you get the perfect picture together with a great caption, well, it rarely gets better than that.

The internet's life-blood is snark, and memes are no different.  Just to level-set: "snark" is a combination of sarcasm and wryness.  A very dry sense of humor is a necessity, along with total irreverence and a complete disrespect for authority figures.  It also helps to have a basically foul temper and cynical outlook, and a big dollop of innate bitchiness will come in quite handy.  Obviously, snark and I were made for each other.  Add the visual delights of photography, and you have a bottomless pit of fun.

But hey, memes can also be useful, and helpful when it comes to spreading an important message.  Below is one of the first memes I created for Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue, for the annual message we put out around Easter. It was seen by over 1,700 people and shared over 500 times.  Click for larger image:

Rabbits and memes are a match made in heaven, and much fun can be had when those two get together.

They can also be sweet and aww-inducing, like this one of Kenai blissfully relaxing in the arms of his foster (now adoptive) mom:

But the most fun can be had through smart-assery, of course, with politics and politicians being prime, irresistible targets.  Here's one I did for the repulsive mountain of flab known as NJ Governor Chris Christie:

Religion is also a huge target just begging to be disrespected, and I am more than glad to step up to the plate and fire away.  Here's one I did for the Agnostic page on Facebook:

And another one:

Memes are loads of fun to think up and create, I feel like I'm just barely getting started with them.  I plan on doing many, many more memes in the future and launch them into cyberspace, spreading cheerful (or mean-spirited, as the case may be) snark far and wide.  This is a medium tailor-made for me, combining bad attitude with good visuals, and I could not be happier or more thrilled.

There are plenty of memes which I love and which inspire me; this is one of my current favorites:

This takes a bit of explaining, because a lot of people have absolutely no idea what is going on.  A huge amount of meme info and history can be found on this great website,, the internet meme database.  The caption by the seal in the corner is a mangled version of "Oh my God - Penguins!" and its origin is with this meme which first appeared in March 2012:

This is a photo of a rather scary-looking young girl holding up some copies of her favorite children's literature, a mystery series on the order of the old "Hardy Boys" books called "Goosebumps."  To translate what she's saying: "Goosebumps - my favorite books." explains it as "the phonetically written captions are meant to sound like a speech impediment caused by the use of an orthodontic retainer."  Soon the initial keyword "Ermahgerd" ("Oh My God") was created, and in six short months this meme exploded on the internet and spawned many, many tasteless variations, leading to the "Perngwens" one above.  Yeah, it 's a little harsh to make fun of speech impediments (I should know) but this is just too good to pass up.

So, that's today's crash course in internet memes.  As I said I absolutely love these things, and feel I have found one of my true callings.  My most cherished dream is to come up with a meme which will go global and be enshrined on  Other than winning several hundred million dollars in a lottery, that is something that I really, really want.  Oh, I also want world peace, but I really like memes, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Forty-Seven Percent

Yesterday marked 49 days until the elections.  Seven weeks, and yesterday was a day not quite like any other.

A surreptitious recording of Republican Mitt Romney at a fundraising event last May in Boca Raton, Florida, was leaked to the media, and it was incendiary.  Mitt was in his natural element, talking to a bunch of super-rich supporters who paid $50K per plate to get past the front door, and I have no doubt he really meant everything he said.  After all, the event was nominally closed to the new media, and he was among his people.  He had no reason to put on any airs for them.

At one point Romney make the astonishing statement that he considers 47% of the American electorate to be freeloaders and victims, and are dependent on the government for all their sustenance.  50 million Americans are, according to Romney, shiftless, lazy, and looking for nothing other than a handout.  They feel they are "entitled" to have the government provide food, housing and medical care for them, and do absolutely nothing to fend for themselves or pay their own way.  They take everything and give nothing in return.  Frankly, I would like to get in on that gig.

The news media went absolutely berserk, as they should, and despite everything else going on in the world this was the big news story.  The liberal media had a feeding frenzy, and there was an overabundance of red meat to go around.  Even a number of more conservative media outlets and newspapers leveled some withering, merciless criticism on Romney, pointing out in no uncertain terms how totally off-base he was.

The Romney campaign went into major crisis mode, but no amount of whiplash-inducing spin could pull this mess out of the toilet.  You could just see his campaign managers running around their office in a panic, bumping into each other, not knowing which forest fire to put out first.  But the best was yet to come.

The Romney quote really making the rounds is something that you would never believe a candidate for national office would say.  Romney said his "job" is "not to worry about those people" because they will vote for Obama no matter what.  So, he is writing off nearly half of the electorate because they do not pay federal income tax, and Romney's tax-cut message would be lost on them.

It is certainly true that a lot of people pay no federal income tax.  The tax code is structured in such a way that people of very low income, or senior citizens, or members of the armed forces do not have to pay federal income taxes.  That doesn't mean they pay no tax at all.  They pay all the other taxes everyone else pays - state tax, local tax, sales taxes, payroll taxes.  As a matter of fact, middle and lower classes workers pay payroll taxes, and after you earn $106,800 you pay none at all.

Through all of this, Romney looks the same he always has:  ridiculous, stupid, awkward, creepy and floundering around like a fish out of water.  His performance in his quest for the White House as been a breathtaking series of gaffes and misstatements, from when he managed to insult the United Kingdom over London's Summer Olympics to writing off any chances of peace in the middle East.  He has resolutely refused to turn over anything more than the minimum amount of information regarding his federal income taxes, something which has gained new urgency lately given his assertion that a lot of Americans are bums and leeches.  I am convinced that he refuses to make public his tax returns because they will show that HE has not paid anywhere near his fair share of federal income taxes, and perhaps none at all for a number of years.  I have four words for him, and I wish every news media outlet in the world would keep repeating them over and over to him:  What are you hiding?

Even his phony, brittle wife Ann has reinforced all the negative impressions about her and her husband when, in an interview, the subject of his tax returns came up and she snarled in as imperious a tone as she could muster (and she's had a ton of practice) that "you people" (meaning the press and the American electorate) have gotten all the tax information that you're going to get, so be satisfied with that and STFU.

Still, no one is counting Romney and his campaign out because it doesn't matter to most of his Republican supporters what stupid, ill-advised and idiotic things he says or does, they will support him no matter what.  Facts be damned, those people will vote for Romney even if he was proven to be a child molester who set a nursing home on fire while selling China white heroin to grade-schoolers.  Republicans are never, ever encumbered by facts or reality.  Their racist hatred of Barack Obama is stronger than any love of country or sympathy for their fellow citizens.

Presidential candidates have recovered from serious setbacks in their campaign before, but it's hard to see how Romney can run a credible, viable campaign from here on.  It would be very interesting indeed to watch Romney's chances flame out and crumble, but it's impossible to overestimate the capacity of the American voter to see what they want to see, and ignore everything else.  And above all, this election season is one where substance takes a distant back seat to style, and if your candidate says or does something really stupid, the best thing to do is double-down, dig your heels in, and deny, obfuscate, and deceive.  After all, Republicans could not care less about facts.  They have put all their faith in voter suppression drives, and none in the voters themselves.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Gathering Storm

It's Labor Day 2012 weekend, and tomorrow marks the traditional start of the presidential election campaign.  There are 65 days till the election, and it's safe to say that all forms of media, especially television, will be flooded with diatribes from both sides, vilifying and demonizing the other, in their insane quest to pick up as many votes as possible, by any means.

This year, it's going to be different.  We have something called the Citizens' United ruling in place.  In a moment of stunning, breathtaking insanity, the Supreme Court decided that it's perfectly all right to inject a monstrously huge amount of money into an election system already choked and corrupted beyond recognition by dirty money.  In a move that seems incredibly un-American, extremely wealthy individuals can pour money into what are called "super PACs", completely anonymously and shielded from discovery and in effect, buy the American democracy.  Democracy, like justice, has always been available for purchase by the highest bidder, but this ruling makes it much, much easier for the election to be swayed by whichever side can line up more billionaire donors.  If this doesn't go against everything on which this nation was founded, taking elections away from the common people and giving them over to the super-rich, nothing does.

Another stunning development is the diabolical, blatantly biased laws passed by state governments restricting and complicating the act of voting.  Everything from selectively shortening early voting periods to ridiculous, unreasonable photo-ID requirements, and more, has been utilized by Republican-controlled state legislatures to make it more difficult for the poor and minority voters (whose choices skew very much toward Democratic candidates).  Advocates of these Jim Crow 2.0 laws claim they are necessary to prevent "voter fraud," but it is a scorched-earth, Draconian solution to a very small problem.  Studies have repeatedly shown over and over that voter fraud is an extremely rare occurrence, several orders of magnitude smaller than what would be needed to swing any important national or regional election.  It's like using a neutron bomb to get rid of a fly.  It's so obvious to everyone that these laws are not geared to prevent voter fraud, but instead to make it as hard as possible for people to vote, some of whom have been voting for decades.  And in a democracy, isn't the whole point to make it easy for as many people as possible to vote?  Voters are what make democracy what it is.

The Democrats are having their national convention in Charlotte, NC, this coming week.  It will no doubt be nowhere near as freakish and insanely toxic as the recent Republican psycho-fest in Tampa.  That convention was a hellish parade of the truly ugly and repulsive in American politics.  From a snide diatribe by the repulsively obese Chris Christie, to Anne Romney's scripted-to-the-last-comma snooze-inducing attempt to "humanize" her extremely wooden, awkward and creepy husband, to the much-ballyhooed screed by veep candidate Paul "Lyin'" Ryan in which he STILL hasn't said anything interesting and valuable, the convention was one of the most repellent, distasteful things shown on television so far this year.  Republicans seem to be making a Herculean effort to be the source of the most repulsive media of all time, between the convention and the primary debates.

Still, no one was prepared for the supernova of batshit-craziness when film icon and new poster boy for dementia Clint Eastwood did a stunningly bizarre piece of performance art by talking to a chair where an invisible Obama was seated.  Almost universally panned by pundits and critics, it will go down as one of the weirdest, creepiest and saddest things ever.  It did have one delightful effect - Mitt Romney also gave what was billed as the most important political speech of his whole life after Clint got finished embarrassing himself, but very few people were talking about that the next day.  Everyone was reeling at how pathetic and sad Eastwood appeared on stage, in front of all those puckered, withered and desiccated faces of all those boring old white people at the convention.

This election will also be different in that it will most likely not be a war for the hearts and minds of independent voters, but more of a battle to see which side can get their bases the most riled up.  The country has gotten so very polarized over the past few elections that the number of undecided voters has shrunk to a small sliver.  I can't imagine there are many people who look at Obama and Romney and consider flipping a coin to make the choice easier.  The vast majority of voters, myself included, have had their minds made up for many many months.  The election can be held this coming Tuesday for all I care, I'm 100% ready to get it over with.  There is absolutely nothing in this enormous universe which would make me switch my vote, so why do I have to put up with all the bullshit?  The country is split down the middle, with very few swing votes, and the emphasis now is to get your core constituencies all cranked up and excited to cast their votes.

As is typical for paranoid-hysterics, Republican leaders drone ominously about how the very soul and existence of the United States of America is on the knife-edge, teetering at the abyss of destruction, and everything will surely be lost if Obama gets re-elected.  Notably, a judge in Lubbock, TX opined that there will be "civil war" and a lot of civil disobedience if the election doesn't go their way.  While those remarks can be easily dismissed as mentally-disturbed rantings of some inbred, cousin-marrying Texas hillbilly, it does illustrate the demented fear-mongering to which the Republicans are stooping this year.  Always known as the party of fear, the Republicans are pulling out all the stops in their hell-bound campaign to frighten and terrify all their racist supporters, promising them that the Apocalypse Pizza Company will be delivering an extra-large to their front door if the black guy gets back into the White House.  Desperate, fearful people do desperate things, and crazy, paranoid rednecks do really horrible, ugly, desperate things.

So, no matter who wins this election, pretty much 50% of the people in this country are going to be very, very angry and upset.  Depending on how the Congressional elections go, we may be in line for a gridlocked, hyper-partisan government that will accomplish absolutely nothing.  As the world enters a critical period on so many fronts - the environment, global economics, terrorism - having a paralyzed, divided superpower such as the USA will only make the world a much more dangerous place than it ever has been, or that it needs to be.