Monday, January 30, 2006

Flat People

NASSCOM Chairman Som Mittal

Very rarely do books climb to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list so quickly and remain there for so long that their publishing house is able to include “National Bestseller” on the hardcover edition.

However, this is just what happened to Thomas L. Friendman’s geocorporate (Is this a word? Not according to Microsoft Office. Seems like it should be.) globalization study The World is Flat.

Friedman is unabashedly pro-big business, (Walmart’s much-criticized policy of locking poor Sam and Wilma Hickock from Fairmount, Tennessee, a town I just made up, in the building after closing hours so they won’t be tempted to smoke cigarettes outside or drive to a 24 hour McDonald’s instead of stocking the home appliances section is dismissed by the author as nothing more than a misjudged attempt at cost-cutting.) but he does manage to present the confusing early years of the 21st century in a clear and concise way.

Among the things you will learn in The World is Flat is that the dot-com bubble burst actually served as a spring board for globalization, rather than a deterrent, as most people believe. The millions of miles of fiber optic cable laid ‘round the world has now allowed Ikshu Patel of Nagpur, India to work 19 hour days without a lunch break for an American Software company while the rich, lazy American youth migrate to New York City in a misguided attempt to become actors and spend their unemployed days writing ridiculous blogs for no money about things they don’t really understand and that only a handful of people will read anyway. (Hi Mom.)

Also in the book, Friedman outlines the global policies of America’s increasingly anachronistic political parties and suggests a future course. Once upon a time in America, the Whigs and the Socialist Worker’s Party (which still exists but more in theory than in practice) were replaced by expanded versions of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Now, Friedman suggests, we must make way for the political parties of the future, the Wall Party and the Web Party. (This dude is nothing if not literal.) In his view, the Wall Party will combine the interests of socially conservative Republicans who want the damn Towel Heads to go back to their damn country with the currently deflated interests of American Unions who would like the damn Mexicans to go back to their damn country. This Wall Party will butt electoral heads with the Web Party which, according to Friedman, will combine the interests of the corporate elite, who want the damn Mexicans and Towel Heads to do their damn work for them, with the interests of the social liberals who want the damn hillbillies and rednecks to respect Mexican-Americans and Indian-Americans, as well as the Hollywood liberals, who are basically a bunch of fags that want to love everyone.

These two movements will create policies that eliminate foreign borders and pave the way for a concrete corporate takeover. (Picture a map of the world which denotes the interests of invested capital (i.e. Starbucks country) in place of territorial borders.) This has already happened in The Sunshine State where the Disney Corporation has established it first colony, Celebration, Florida. (For the residents of this toon town, fake snow is manufactured in the winter time and fake joy is manufactured all year.)

The 21st Century has barely begun and already we’ve seen many exciting and profitable developments. No one knows for sure where this amazing journey will lead, but one thing that is certain is that it will be piloted by mainstream American business, which has proven time and time again that it has the personal interests of private citizens close at heart. (See Wikipedia entrees: “Whiskey Rebellion,” “Slavery,” “Plantations,” “Industrial Revolution,” “Railroads.” “Sweatshops,” “Union-busters,” “Boss Tweed,” “Corporate Manslaughter,” “Clearstream,” “ExxonMobile,” “Harken Energy Scandel,” “Tobacco Industry,” “Refco,” “Enron,” “Worldcom,” et al.)

It’s gonna be one sweet ride.

(P.S. There are millions of puns with the word "flat" in them. Got one, Jer? Leave it in the comments section.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Ultimate Cool Table

Are you Bilderberg material?

Renowned author C.S. Lewis claimed that within any group formulated for a specific purpose, an Inner Ring of better informed and well-regarded individuals would develop. In high school there was the inevitable clique of “cool” kids. In offices, the Inner Ring is generally comprised of workers that drink together after hours or enjoy a special position with their bosses. Lewis surmised that many of the decidedly “evil” acts committed by human beings were a result of an unspoken fear of being excluded from this circle or an intense desire to become a part of it.

In the world of international politics, this Inner Ring is called The Bilderberg group.

“When you have scaled the Bilderberg,” according to lauded business magazine, The Economist, “you have arrived.”

Originally formed in 1954, in order to strengthen relations between Western Europe and North America, the Bilderburg Group takes its name from its first official meeting place, the Bilderburg Hotel in Arnhem in the Netherlands. It still meets annually, (every four years in the United States) and, while its guest list is public knowledge, the debates and minutes of the group are kept entirely off the record.

The guest list of the Biderberg conference is a veritable who’s who of power and influence. It never exceeds 130 people and mixes “politics” and “business” almost as if there were no boundary between the two.

A list of the 2005’s attendees includes the President of the Federal Reserve, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, the head of the European Commission, over 20 CEO’s of major international corporations, and countless advisors to heads of state across America and Western Europe.

Left-wing punching bags Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have been present at past conferences, as well as John Kerry’s former running-mate John Edwards, who may have earned his vice-presidential nomination by impressing the Bilderberg group with a speech on foreign policy. According to the New York Times, the U.S. Senator’s speech was so well-received that members of the conference broke a long established rule and applauded at its finish

The BBC News calls Bilderberg the “the most controversial and hotly-debated alliance of our times.” (Full article here A good introduction to the group, minus the, let’s call them mildly outlandish, claims of internet conspiracy websites a la Timothy McVeigh.)

Supporters of the group defend its off-the-record policy debates by characterizing it as a relaxed atmosphere where powerful, intelligent people can speak candidly to one another without worrying about how their remarks will be reported in the press. In fact, the only possible “illegal” thing about the Bilderberg conference is the armed police guard that stands outside the hotel where the conference is being held. Critics argue that these men are supported by public tax dollars and shouldn’t be utilized to protect a private gathering.

Last year’s conference took place in Germany, outside of Munich. To date, there is no word on where this year’s conference will be held or who will be in attendence.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Scoring with Lynn

"Your, what is that?"

In its infinite wisdom, the governing body of the great state of Pennsylvania has finally given its residents a political race with issues they can understand on an intimate and personal level.

In short, "Which football team do you like better?"

Former wideout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lynn Swan, has officially announced that he will challenge incumbent Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell in the 2006 campaign.

Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia, is best known around the tri-state area for his insightful (read totally useless- ed) analysis after Eagles football games on Comcast Sportsnet. He has, as of late, been a vocal opponent of Terrell Owens, Andy Reid's clock management, as well as America's reliance on foreign oil. Since replacing Republican mayor Mark S. Schweiker in 2004, Rendell has raised the Pennsylvania governor's office to a place of national prominence (read: interviewed on CNN occasionally - ed).

Now, as the Black and Gold march toward Super Bowl Sunday, the one time ballerina and all-time Pittsburgh receptions leader (actually I think that's Hines Ward but the sentence was too good to pass up - ed) has securely fastened his chin strap and entered the political arena.

Not since Joseph Ritner ran and won on the Anti-Masonic ticket in 1835 has a political announcement in PA been greeted with such widespread intrigue. Younger residents of the Steel city, which is currently ranked last among major U.S. cities for singles, may finally have something to celebrate. If Ben Rothlisberger can lead his team to victory on Feb. 5 and Swan can compile enough swing votes to overcome the rest of the black people in Pennsylvania, just think of what it could mean for all the sex-starved fraternity brothers at Pittsburgh University. It may be just enough to convince a few coal minor's daughters to climb the steep hill that leads to their campus, down a few Boilermakers in celebration, and, well...who knows where that could lead?

But I digress.

For now, it seems the usual partisan bickering and ugly, sound bite driven politics that generally accompany a high profile political race will be replaced by a simple "if...then" scenario.

If you like the Steelers, then you vote Swan.
If you like the Eagles, then you vote Rendell.
If you like the Philadelphia Soul, then you write in Bon Jovi and throw your panties at the moderator.

Simple. And in this time of national crisis, that's what we need.

A simple election for a simple people.

Canceling the Stars

After a ridiculously heavy holiday marketing campaign, (the entire subway station at 8th & 42nd, literally the whole thing, was covered with posters of Heather Graham’s smiling face) the geniuses at ABC have decided to shut down Emily’s Reasons Why Not after just ONE episode.

The show was built around Heather Graham’s character, Emily, a self-help guru, who through the course of an episode would search for five reasons not to date a new guy after her heart was broken by former boyfriend, and egotistical author, Mark Valley. Reviews for the show were mixed, but hardly as scorching as one would guess after such an abrupt cancellation. Variety Pilot Review here:

The whole ordeal will certainly do nothing to improve “Rollergirl” Graham’s faltering career, as she struggles to shed her current “hot but untalented” label.

“She is about as engaging as rock salt. She is an excellent candidate for the cover of Maxim, but she is unfortunately the No. 1 reason not to watch "Emily's Reasons Why Not”
- Alessandra Stanley, NY Times.

It’s hard to fault ABC for bailing on the high-priced sitcom. Why pay big bucks for the star power of Heather Graham, when you can throw food stamps at a bunch of “C” list celebrities, rent out a ballroom for 20 hours, and score 7th in the Neilson ratings with their new hit show “Dancing with the Stars”? (7th! That fucking shit is the 7th most watched show in America! – ed)

No word yet on who will replace Emily (at the moment she has been ousted for a rerun of The Bachelor) or on how much longer the recently divorced John Stamos has to prove Jake In Progress can shoulder its Monday night burden as ABC struggles to replace the witty repartee of Al Micahaels and “Turducken” connoisseur John Madden.

Are you ready for some bad television?

Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

Have you been runnin' with the devil on weekday mornings?


Neither has anyone else.

Dismal reviews for "Diamond" David Lee Roth, Howard Sterns replacement on CBS Radio East Coast, along with a ratings free fall, have led many newspapers and media analysts to suggest Roth will be hard pressed to make it through the winter on morning radio.

Billboard Magazine, not exactly a bastion of mainstream media criticism, published this decidedly negative article only a day after Roth's first show:

In it, Michael Clancy, a writer for AM New York (You know, the free morning newspaper all the homeless people on the subway are covered with.) is quoted as saying, "If Diamond Daves first show is any hint, start the death watch for Roth's dalliance in morning talk radio."

Only four days ago, in a "Critic's Notebook" piece for the Arts section of the New York Times, Virginia Heffernan praised Howard Stern's "maestro skills", while somehow also managing to convey her detest for his subject matter. Though her enjoyment of the new, unedited version of the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio seems up for debate, she leaves no grey areas when it comes to her opinion of the former spandex-clad Van Halen front man.

"A doctor's son who worked recently as an emergency medical technician, Mr. Roth is far too square for the morning slot. His stories about his drunken antics of the late 1970's - or, worse, about the 50's in crazy Greenwich Village, where his uncle Murray owned the Caf Wha? - ring obsolete. And he won't reveal much about his life now, refusing to answer even routine questions from fans about his love life. As a result, his sanctimony on subjects from drugs to plastic surgery to celebrity misdeeds, is unearned."

"David Lee Roth's new morning radio show has made one thing clear: Howard Stern is one ingenious pervert."

Full article here:

It seems the only question left for adoring Van Halen fans (Besides "Why the hell do you adore Van Halen?!?") is "What was the biggest let down of the post-80s era?"

Short-lived Van Halen 3 w/ Gary Cherone
Short-lived Van Halen reunion w/ single "Me Wise Magic"
Short-lived reunion tour with Red Rocker Sammy Hagar
Short-lived radio talk show with former front man David Lee Roth

(That's all I can think of. Did Van Halen do anything else in the past 16 years? God I hope not.)

The Chinaman is Not the Issue

Is anyone else getting sick of China?

If your life is like mine (and God help you if it is), your holiday season was awash in ill-informed dinner table conversations about China's recent emergence as an international economic power. Either your uncle, or your cousin, or your fat British friend's terrifying father sat you down and, over egg nog and Xmas cookies, (or over Kosher bagels and fishsticks), regurgitated alarming statistics he'd read in U.S News & World Report about said countrys already dense population and the emergence of a palpable Chinese Democracy. (At which point, if you are like me, you were reminded of the much anticipated but infinitely delayed album release from Guns N' Roses. Come on Axl, put the needle down, call Buckethead, and finish a fucking song.)

Well, now China has added more fuel to the fire:

A Chinese lawyer named Liu Gang claims to own a map, which he purchased for $500 from a Shanghai dealer, that shows both North and South America clearly drawn out, along with Africa and Australia. (The British Isle, however, are absent.) The map was created in 1763, but its cartographer claims to have copied his work from another map made in 1418. This would, of course, pre-date Columbus by almost a century, and give creedence (You like what I did there? Two Lebowski references in one article) to the theory put forward by British author Gavin Menzies that the Americas were first discovered by Zheng He, a Muslim mariner.

This new development, along with the oft-reported notion that the Chinese government is secretly meeting with North Korea's "ronry" leader Kim Jong Il, is making me quite sick of China.

You know what I say? Fine. Maybe you did get here first, China.

But did you crawl ashore under the mistaken notion you were in India? Did you make peace with the indigenous population and accept their gifts while secretly recording in your journal that they were ripe for enslavement? Did you brutally murder millions of people and consciously spread smallpox and other diseases among their population, in what is generally considered the first instance of chemical warfare? Did you drive them off their land and make ridiculous deals with them which you had no intention of keeping? Did you do any of these things, China?

No, you did not. So back off.

NFL Post-Season: Smoking the Experts in the Face (kind of)

So the ESPN analyst team went 2-2 and I went 2-2 betting against them.

Do this qualify them as experts?


Does it completely unfound their basis for existence?


Does it prove I need a girlfriend?


It does.

Very Bad Man, Very Very Bad Man

Oh Pakistan, when are you going to stop harboring Islamic jihadists and lying about it? We could be friends, we really could.

In what is rapidly becoming a national embarrassment for the Great Satan's intelligence sector, the CIA mistakenly killed 18 people, including four children, in a drone plane bombing of a residential area in Damadola Pakistan (which I can't find on a map but assume is near the Afghan border). Full story (unbiased?) here:,16937,1686918,00.html

Not since Jerry lost Babu's visa renewal papers have tensions between the two countries been this strained.

For a full account of the foreign policy debacle that is the Afghan region, you can read Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.

NFL Post-Season: Challenging the Experts

Are sports "experts" truly expert? Let's try to find out. lists these 8 men as their football analysts: Joe Theisman, Sean Salisbury, Merril Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Mark Shlereth, Will Allen, Chris Mortensen, & Mike Golic.

All 8 have selected the Seattle Seahawks to defeat the Wahington Redskins.

6 out of 8 predict the New England Patriots will defeat the Denver Broncos. (Schlereth and Golic like the Broncos.)

6 our of 8 predict the Indianapolis Colts will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Hoge and Theisman like the Steelers.)

6 out of 8 predict the Carolina Panters will defeat the Chicago Bears. (Schlereth and Mortensen like the Bears.)

For fun, I will simply select the opposite of the expert consensus and see how I fair. This makes my teams Washington, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

Also, I predict Tony Saragusa will act like a fucking idiot during the Fox Broadcast.

Selling the Drama

Interested in saving the world from Mulit-Media Conglomerates and Trans-National Organizations?

You can start by renting Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's fine documentary The Corporation (based on The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan) from your local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or purchasing the film from a Virgin Megastore or Best Buy and loading it into your Sony or Panasonic DVD/VHS player.

Proponents of the film call it a brilliant piece of leftist propaganda, while critics call it a brilliant piece of leftist propaganda.

After viewing the film you can read an interview with Achbar on your Apple iBook or HP Compaq Presario here:

In it, he discusses the film's inception and his experiences meeting many of the CEO's and economists (including famous right-wing free trade advocate Milton Friedman) that are profiled and interviewed throughout the piece.

Now, I'm going to watch some news (Viacom, Murdoch, GE) or maybe some sports (Disney) and get some sleep (?).

Movie Openings

Now that December is over and studios have pulled the final dollar off their ageless money tree advertising Oscar hopefuls on buses and cable television stations (How many times have you seen the Munich add in the past three weeks?), not to mention purchasing shameless "For your consideration..." notices in trade magazines, it is time for a new year of artistic fair.

As you may already know, mid-January through early March is a time for studios to dump films that, to put it nicely, didn't live up to executive expectations, hoping to attract an audience simply by capitalizing on the lifeless drudgery of the new year. Executive expectations being what they already are (generally shite), this makes for some pretty crappy cinema.

Let's read what some of our nation's top critics had to say about this week's releases.


"James Franco is a gorgeous, smoldering lover in Tristan & Isolde, but you can't help being reminded of Ben Stiller's Zoolander character."
Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

"...If I had to sum up "Tristan & Isolde" for a term paper, I'd say it's like "Braveheart" without the face paint, "Shrek," except the Lord Farquaad character is a sweetheart, and "Freaks and Geeks" because James Franco is so hot, even in Orlando Bloom-y ringlets. I guess I'd also say it's a WB-esque take on an epic Brythonic narrative with possible Pictish roots. And, most important, it's further proof that good product trumps everything , even good jewelry."


"Finally, a Rashomon for the whole family. This cartoon version of "Little Red Riding Hood" tells and retells its story from a variety of perspectives, all of them boring."

"Still, it's only just a jump shot or two before Glory Road settles into its rudimentary, music-cued rhythms of classroom civics lessons punctuated by on-court action."

"Remember the Titans? Forget about them! Here's a new Jerry Bruckheimer production that places its secular faith in an almighty audience appetite for underdogs, sports, and dramas in which wrongs are righted by good-looking Americans."

Can You Believe This?

Is the world run by a small group of Reptitilian Shapeshifters? A ranking bloodline that includes the Bushes and Great Britain's Royal Family? A lot of people on the internet sure seem to think so.

Before you laugh, take a look at the Alfa Romeo logo
. Is that a lizard eating a man? Why is that the logo of an Italian car manufacturer? Is it odd that current Italian Prime Miniter Silvio Berlusconi has this same symbol mowed into the lawn of his estate?

Ok now laugh. Or