And yet the folks in this picture will probably still be blindly cheering their own demise. This pleases The Sultan. Greatly.
And yet the folks in this picture will probably still be blindly cheering their own demise. This pleases The Sultan. Greatly.
It’s perfectly normal to have a live listening device inside the privacy of your home, say trendy tech savvy people.
No sane person wants jury duty. But unless you recently ran into a car, know a judge to bribe, or are willing to give the state another reason to claw you, you’re going. And so I did.
I got in there bright and early with several hundred of my fellow citizens. My first impression walking in the door? They’ve got seven televisions in the room. All of them have CNN on, fucking CNN. One of the most solemn and important duties in somebody’s civic life and they’ve got garbage television on the walls. Man, just put some camels and giraffes on there so people’s blood and mental lunacy isn’t fired up by stupid CNN before they go play with somebody’s life in court.
The jury duty leader gives the introductory speech about how she knows nobody wants to be there, but how important it is to freedom, democracy, and justice that we be there. She inserts humor and the crowd is eating out of her hand the entire time.
She’s graded on a curve because she gives the same speech every day, but still, it says something about the state of our political leadership that the most inspirational and motivating political speech I’ve heard in years was given by a jury duty director at a random county courthouse.
They call out the names by the dozen assigning to each case. It’s great to hear the breadth of unique America, name by name. We’re doing just fine people [gives finger to haters on each political side using both hands].
I get picked with 49 others to sit the panel for a criminal trial. This didn’t sound fun. I’d have probably gotten struck anyways because of my day job and second job categories (moving that sweet, sweet Columbian pure across the International Date Line) [sips coffee], but still, even if you know you’ll get struck you wonder.
Lawyers and judges are crazy people. Who only knows what they’ll do with you once they’ve got you. But apparently, most criminal trials they said are quick and easy. It’s the medical malpractice trial you don’t want to get. Four to six weeks. Six weeks? Man, modern medicine is a shithouse apparently.
The 50 of us sit, waiting to be called back to the courtroom. But after sitting in there for five hours they finally start to dismiss everybody. I mean everybody who showed up that day. My case got continued, another one they cut a deal, etc, etc. They sent everybody home. Nobody got selected that day. Everybody was off the hook for three years of jury duty.
Sitting at the bus stop on the way out was like emerging from a hospital delivery room where people got to hold the baby. Everybody was gleeful and talking. Such a release for everybody. Courthouses suck. They’re necessary for modern society, but almost everything that happens in there destroys somebody’s life. So nobody wants to be in there, certainly not to sit a jury for days or weeks.
Would we have done it? Yes, all of us. And I hope we would have served with honor and wisdom. But for yesterday, all of us were making our grand escape. Even the cold rain couldn’t dampen anybody’s spirit.
The country is apparently in trouble. Or so the news reminds you about every four seconds. It’s all crisis, all the time. Mostly because it’s good for ratings. But if you ask me, the country will be alright. Only about 0.0004% of us are truly unhinged. The rest of us? We seem to get along pretty well.
On any given day I see members of different races amicably chatting on the train, folks say good morning to one another without any irony at all, people provide money to a local proprietor in exchange for goods and services, parents love their kids, dogs and cats can live together, and so on.
But there are these fringe nuts who are trying to ruin it for the rest of us. With their violent protests and otherwise baffling behavior. What gives?
On one side we have these creatures who are self-professed Nazis. Apparently these idiots didn’t bother to read the memo from their German and Japanese counterparts dated May 8th, 1945 and September 2nd, 1945 respectively. How big of a loser do you have to be in life to choose Nazi is your chosen appellation? Fuck these guys. Even scientologists are more reasonable than these freaks.
On the other side we have the anti-fa, or anti-fascists, or Antifa, who theoretically exist to battle the Nazis off America’s streets. Because nothing says you’re not a Nazi than by engaging in behavior that includes beating up unarmed protestors, breaking the glass of private business, setting fires, and putting reporters in the hospital for filming them doing it. These shits don’t know nothing about history or anything, they should be wearing brown shirts instead of black, they’d fit right in.
If you ask me, all these people can be explained in one simple phrase: They all hate America. They all hate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They hate everything that makes us happy and great. It’s in their interests to turn us all against each other. And their political minders are just as accountable. It seems the President and about 2/3 of Congress and other local politicians have determined their selfish electoral futures depend on siding with evil.
But we can’t develop a plan to solve the deep seated corruption within America’s two major political parties. That’s impossible. We’re not the Aztec demon god Itzpapalotltotec. Hell, even Itzpapalotltotec wouldn’t want any part of that. You’d be like, “Itzpapalotltotec, we need to fix the Democrats and Republicans, for you see, …” and before you know it Itzpapalotltotec’s scrambling out the room saying he’s lost his keys and needs to go find them.
But we can develop a plan to solve the Nazis and the Antifa. Because it’s far easier to get idiots to do your work for you. And boy oh boy are these evildoers idiots.
Here’s our plan, bear with us, it’s rather involved:
1) We rent the CBS Studio for The Price is Right. By the way, if you’re young and haven’t seen this show, you should watch it at least once. It’s nice to remember an America where the worst thing that could happen to you in a given day was that a conglomerate would hock their poor quality vacuum to you.
2) We rename the show to Your Side is Right.
3) We invite the top 100 leaders from the Nazis and the Antifa. We do not tell them who the other 100 are. We tell them that whoever wins the Showcase Showdown is allowed to appoint the next Governor of their State and their next Senator to Congress.
4) Once we’ve got all 200 of them inside the Studio, we lock the doors. The American Communist Party and the Tea Party will provide security outside the Studio. Any Nazi or Antifa who tries to escape will be shoved back inside by Commies and Tea Party folks armed with American flags. They’ll use the flag halberds to poke them back inside. We also provide an ample beer supply so the Commies and Tea Party have something to do while the show occurs. Hopefully they all drink it, talk to each other, and learn they all aren’t such bad people after all.
5) Our game show announcer is Clint Eastwood. Because he’s a American icon, bitter, and is still rolling strong at 87. This guy is going to die directing a film on set, which is the most epic Clint Eastwood death ever. We get Eastwood into the Your Side is Right announcer’s booth and he’ll call down the contestants. We place the most expensive bottle of bourbon money can buy in there and our producer will remark to Eastwood as he’s seated, “We don’t care if you drink this.” So we’ll get his guttural voice bringing down each contestant with ballads such as, “It’s Darren, yes Darren Winslow, you’re the next pathetic piece of [beep] Nazi [beep] on Your Side is Right! You [beep] filth [beep].”
6) Our host? Acclaimed actor, cage fighter, wine connoisseur, and amateur bridge player Edward Thomas Hardy. As a limey he’s a neutral third party, doesn’t take shit from anybody, and can beat up any one of the Nazi or Antifa losers while also drunk and bored. We also give him a bottle of bourbon on a small table center stage. Hardy gets the contestants up on stage and the Nazi or Antifa guy thinks he’s going to get a chance to win a car. This is a big deal for the dude as he’s always lived with his parents and bikes to his job at the Sizzler. Hardy does the usual host shtick ala Bob Barker where he chats with the contestant before the potential prize is revealed. In his brutal Cockney accent, with his palm uncomfortably firmly gripping the guy’s shoulder, he’s like, “Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Your Side is Right. [polite applause] Yes, yes very exciting. Tell me guy, [beep] [beep] [beep] [beep] you think [beep] [beep] [beep] [beep] when we [beep] [beep] [beep] [beeeeeeeeep]!”
7) As the game show progresses, instead of being able to bid on a car or hot tub or whatever ultimately worthless material possession we instead treat our Nazi and Antifa friends to a bath of irony. Each one is trolled into their own personal hell. When the Nazi guy is on stage he gets to bid on a handwritten Torah or a trumpet once used by Miles Davis. The Antifa dude gets to bid on Hitler memorabilia or a hand-carved wooden plaque detailing the First Amendment. When they try to storm off stage Hardy grabs each by the back of the neck and pulls them back to the set, reminding them of their goal to win the Showcase Showdown to appoint the Governor and Senator, “Look [beep] blighter, you’re here to WIN right, right?”
8) We make sure Eastwood rigs the cards so that an equal number of Nazis and Antifa reach the stage, the Big Wheel, and ultimately the Showcase Showdown.
9) We do everything possible to antagonize emotions on both sides. We make the room real hot and stuffy, we deliberately deny use of the bathrooms and forbid all water and snacks, cell phone signals are jammed so max focus is on stage. Hardy constantly reminds the audience and the contestants of just exactly where they are and what’s at stake. Such throw away comments emerge from his mouth after he sips from his bourbon:
“Well I know who’s going to get to [beep] determine the future of this country.”
“One of you all owns the streets. Not sure whom. But I’d sure love to [beep] find out.”
“I love a good show. Don’t all you [beep] love one too? But to me, the greatest show of all, is who gets to rewrite history. You [beep].”
10) By the time the Showcase Showdown occurs we’ll have the place seething with rage and hate. There will literally be condensation of darkness dripping down the walls. Everybody’s exhausted and shouting. As the Showcase Showdown product displays play out, and all of sudden Hardy’s gone. He’s not there on stage anymore. Eastwood’s gone too. These 200 freaks are all alone.
11) Did we mention that upon entry we did not make use of the metal detectors? Whatever these 200 people were carrying when they walked in, they’re still carrying. Eastwood’s voice comes out through the speakers in a recorded announcement, “The winner of the Showcase Showdown and the chance to appoint the Governor and Senator is the last one out the door. Have fun. [beep]”
12) Several hours (or days, either way works for us) later only one man will leave the Studio. The Communists and Tea Party will be dismissed. The Studio will be burned to the ground. Eastwood and Hardy will escort our winner into a nondescript black van. He will never been seen again. America will thus be improved.
13) We need your support! We need money to make this idea happen. Tom Hardy doesn’t work for free. We have to pay CBS for the Studio. The Nazis and Antifa need paid travel expenses because most of them are unemployed. Etc.
Please kindly submit your donation to:
The Arcturus Project – Your Side is Right
C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Abuja 900001, Nigeria
Your cooperation, as always, is greatly appreciated. Only via your financial help can we improve America. Either that, or you can hold the door open for a total stranger sometime today, and smile at them. Either way.
Let’s begin! Spin the wheel!
Lawmakers announced in a remarkable joint statement from the steps of the Capitol that an agreement was reached to reform the nation’s health care system. A prepared statement read by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) presented the initial details of a bill which would significantly alter the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) joined their Senate counterparts but did not address reporters until after the initial briefing. “It was a tough negotiation, neither of us really got what we wanted,” said Ryan, “but I’m confident we’ve arrived at the best possible solution for the country.” Exact details and the bill’s specifics will be released later this week.
Narrating several critical all night discussions deep within the Congressional offices, Pelosi outlined a bitter but ultimately productive process. “It got pretty heated in there, sometimes we weren’t sure if we’d pull it off. But I’m pleased we stuck with it. This bill will help Americans.” Pelosi was also pleased that the new so called ‘American Health Care Bill’ meant the Republican leadership would pull back their bill to repeal Obamacare.
From the White House, President Donald Trump released several Twitter statements expressing his praise for the joint effort:
“So glad those folks got it done! #fullofwin”
“Democrats wrote Obamacare alone, shoved it through. Republicans wrote their repeal alone, tried to shove it through. No more!”
“This is a big fucking deal. #America”
The gravity of the issue at hand is said to have compelled Senate and House leadership to carefully craft a series of key working groups that ultimately lead to the compromise. “We felt that with a topic that impacts 20 percent of the American economy, and literally effects the beating hearts of 300 million Americans that we needed to do it right, and do it right now,” said McConnell, clapping Schumer on the shoulder, “this guy and I are getting wrecked off the same whiskey bottle tonight.”
Visiting Washington DC with his family, Milwaukee native Paul Martinez expressed surprised delight, “This is why we brought the kids to DC, to see how special democracy is. We had no idea this would happen today though,” chuckled Martinez. “Totally,” stated his wife Nicole, “we were just hanging out by the Reflecting Pool and my sister texted me that we had to see this speech. We loved it! This is why we elect them to serve us out here.”
Well, this didn’t take long. This Amazon Echo contraption has only been ordering pizza, shoes, demolition cord, Uber rides, autogyro rides, and aged cheese for just a few months. Now it’s already being asked to solve a murder. No pressure little cylinder dude.
Apple at least got to wait a few years before being blamed by the Feds for allowing terrorists to potentially raid a nursery by refusing to give up iPhone data. Amazon didn’t get any such grace period. Nor will any other technology company / invention I suspect.
The background here is pretty simple. Amazon has data, government wants data in the hopes it can help solve crimes, Amazon (citing privacy) refuses to give up data. How can the Echo do this you ask? Why just let the BBC tell you, the Echo:
The “always on” machine makes recordings of audio it hears from a fraction of a second before it detects a wake word – either Alexa or Amazon – until it judges the command to be over.
This audio is then transmitted to Amazon’s computer servers, which interpret the request and tell it how to respond.
Although no recordings are meant to be made at other times, the device often becomes activated when it misinterprets speech as being its wake command.
So basically what we have here is it’s become clearer that yes indeed, the Echo is in fact a live listening device that folks (for whatever reason) have installed in their own home. So when the following things occur, the Echo is listening and potentially recording:
1) You get murdered in your own home
2) Your dogs hijack your internet while you’re at work to purchase more kibble behind your back
3) You say or do intimate things with your significant other
4) You and your kids get in a fight
5) You comment to another human how tasty a meal is
6) You express all your hopes and wildest dreams to another human, your dogs, or an inanimate object such as a painting, piece of artwork, or stuffed animal
7) Aliens kidnap you, repurpose your home’s guest bedroom, and make you write regularly for a shitty blog
8) You say off the record (on the Amazon record) belligerent comments about your boss, the one who employs you and pays your bills
9) You say off the record (on the Amazon record) belligerent comments about your family, the ones who love you and cherish your existence
10) You say (offhand) to your significant other that you’d punch Jeff Bezos in the face and neck, if you met him randomly on the street
In order to conduct its basic functions, why does the Echo even need to store anything on Amazon’s servers (Amazon Web Services)? That the cops could later get a warrant for? Even if the Echo needs to talk to Amazon’s servers to best interpret your audio request, why do they store the data for the long term?
Because by storing everything you say on their servers they can run programs to mass analyze what you and everybody else said. They’ll then use the algorithm output to find better ways to sell you stuff. It’s not about privacy. If it was about privacy, Amazon would morally never collect and store things you say in your own home on its private servers. They want your money.
I’m not saying Amazon should go ahead and hand it over to the Feds, don’t get me wrong. The government is among the most egregious and worst violators of your privacy there is. Your local sheriff probably has the power to look up your favorite beer if he so chose.
But I do have a problem with Amazon (or any other company) waving the privacy flag in defense, when in reality the six biggest violators of privacy on the planet are Google, Apple, the NSA, Facebook, the KGB, and Amazon. Not necessarily in that order.
Know your risk. I use Google’s products almost every day. But I understand they’re data hounds. So I hedge my risks as best as I can. I knowingly accept some of the badness. For example, did you know if you’re logged into Gmail that every other piece of browsing activity you’re doing is logged on Google’s servers? So if you’re checking e-mail (on any browser type) and then tab over to search for directions to Hitler’s death house, Google will know and log it. It is for this reason that I will check my Gmail, then actually log out and close the browser, before I do any other web related activity. There are also cookie and history deletion methods I regularly execute with Google.
I’ll never do this Echo thing for any reason. I don’t need Amazon in my living room. If for whatever bizarre factor you need an Echo in your already overly complicated life, okay, I guess. Just be sure you know the intricate details of how that thing works and how you manage your data. For as it stands, it seems the basic default settings of this snoop cylinder are insane. Amazon is a witness to your life and death.
One day, I’m going to come back home from work, and there’ll be an Echo on my dining table. I didn’t buy it, nobody broke into my house, it’ll just be there. I will then club it with a bat, grab my dogs and some canned goods, and run for the hills.
Within the confines of the hovel at my new gig I can hear music played lightly by the gal next door. This is a new concept for me as at the last place playing music without headphones was banned under penalty of confining one to the cubicle overnight while a merger of Bieber and Kanye was played via massive loudspeaker for eight straight hours. Needless to say, nobody violated this regulation. But here it’s considered okay.
This doesn’t bother me as much as I would have expected. Half the time she plays classical music which is soothing to hear as I grind away and contemplate what’d be like to actually one day have a job I enjoy. Sometimes she plays weird pop rock or whatever and I have to break out my headphones to drown it out with music of my own. This is fine too. But being the season, she’s progressed to the occasional Christmas music.
I’m not sure if I can handle this. Christmas is a long 12 days away. A lot of Christmas music is great, classic stuff. But when you really think about it a whole bunch of Christmas music is terrible. The ones where somebody whines about their relationship during the Christmas season are the worst. Nobody cares people, dating is just as much a wheat thresher in May as it is in December. Live with it.
But also, to me Christmas music is an intensely personal experience. At the height of its powers, it evokes memories of childhood where we would all pile into the van to drive to Grandma and Granddad’s place. In the dark, cold Christmas night my Dad would invariably switch over to Christmas music on the radio for the length of the drive. These are nice memories. All my grandparents and my Dad have moved onto the next realm, so the music is especially poignant. As it is, Christmas music almost becomes kind of sad for me, like a requiem.
Lots of people aren’t in the Christmas spirit either this year I guess. Go ahead and read anything online or in the papers recently and apparently the universe is over. Earth is finished. Christmas is cancelled. You’re a walking bleached skeleton. By June of this year, machines or aliens (or both) shall be our masters, dogs and cats will have lived together and procreated creating a master race of pet, The Walking Dead will have somehow become a good television show, and Trump will have become that guy in Star Wars with the wrinkled creepy monster face.
Gee wiz, I had no idea we were that doomed? Though I sadly suppose it’d be the same hysteria regardless of what loser won this last election. Hey you know I didn’t vote for either of them, both of them were terrible, but I never (and still don’t) had it in my mind that either one of them could actually destroy anything. Go read the Constitution, or contemplate how little Obama has been able to accomplish after eight years.
The way I look at, is to default back to my Grandma and Granddad. For you see, they did four Christmas days at war. Think living under Trump or Clinton would have been bad? Trying living through Christmas Day 1942. Unless you happen to live in Syria, we cannot comprehend the struggle and terror of those Christmases where whole cities and countries were being swallowed whole. My Granddad did Christmas Day 1944 under fire at the front within the Battle of the Bulge. Merry Christmas! Signed, your friend, Adolf.
This was a war that killed 300K Americans, probably around 100 million worldwide. One in nine Americans served in uniform. The equivalent number today is if four years from now 30 million Americans were in the military. This is beyond our comprehension.
So later on in their lives I have this idea that Christmas 1956, 1972, or 1986 was always very special for them. They could go back and look at their kids and grandkids and remember just how bad it’d been. Instead of all that nightmare, they could lean back on the couch, sigh deeply, and truly appreciate the joy of Christmas that surrounded them. More than anything, that war defined a whole lifetime’s existence.
Of this, I offer as further evidence the 1954 movie White Christmas. If you haven’t seen this movie, gather the kiddies and those you love, and watch this movie. It’s just too wholesome good not to watch. It’s got a great fun plot, decent music, good dancing, and is basically just an enjoyable time. But at its heart this is a movie about two guys who got shelled together doing everything they can to aid their former general and his failed business. And they get hundreds of their war buddies to help out. It’s a story where memory of the war bleeds through.
I think that White Christmas connection lasted about seven decades. In an equally godawful presidential election of 1972, you could have voted for Nixon (liar, lunatic) or McGovern (dreamer, lunatic). But regardless of who won, you would have remembered that after Christmas 1943, it couldn’t be much worse.
And indeed, Nixon rightly got his ass kicked out of office and the country somehow didn’t implode. And if your neighbor in 1973 had voted for the other guy, then that was okay because they’d been 19 miles to your left on the front lines and so they were an alright dude regardless of who they voted for.
Now, 75 years later that type of deep societal connection is just about gone. There is literally nothing holding the vast majority of the American psyche together. This is another bother for me with Christmas music. All the good ones were written with this 1956, 1972, or 1986 mindset. These songs were written for people who’d literally been through hell, and could fully enjoy the Christmas meaning and spirit.
“Merry Christmas, Motherfuckers!”
Who would write an appropriate hit Christmas tune today? No Kanye rapper or Bieber-like-man-child has it in them. Even if they did, would anybody listen or would people just hear it and get sad because they’re too mentally wrapped up in what Trump said about the percentage of glycerol in Twinkies on Twitter?
Do you hate your neighbor and fellow human? Maybe you should. Let’s hate everybody! Christmas spirit? Nonsense! Christmas is yet another day on the calendar to contemplate how awful everything is.
“Hmm, 60 million have had Christmas ruined because I should never have run. Hmm, eh, fuck it.” [lights cigar with $1K bill inside $27.3M mansion]
I have in mind, to write this Star Trek episode. It’s a Christmas episode special. In it, Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data roll down to some waste planet accompanied by four Red Shirts. They go exploring around. Red Shirt 1 accidently blows himself up with his own phaser. Red Shirt 2 dies from food poisoning after last night’s failed turkey mole dish (true story). Red Shirt 3 gets dragged behind a rock by what the audience sees as a crab-like shadow.
Red Shirt 4 whilst walking upon a ledge gets scared by a monster neither he or the audience can see, and he falls off the cliff to his death. So then there are Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data investigating the ledge where Red Shirt 4 fell.
Data scans the area and he’s like, “Captain, my scans show there to be zero evidence of alien activity in this sector. It is thus reasonable to conclude, that Ensign Timmy was alone here. Before he fell.”
Spock nods, and he’s like, “I agree, Captain. Fascinating. It is thus logical to conclude, that whatever Ensign Timmy saw, was contained solely within the confines of his mind.”
Then Picard, looking straight at the camera, earnestly, with campy Christmas music playing, in a scene worthy of 1979 says, “Why, it would seem, that even in this Christmas season, our darkest fears can overcome us, blind us, and lead us across a fatal line. Perhaps, it is time, during this season above all, to look deep within ourselves. For our own optimism, our own guidance, our own Christmas joy.”
And all four guys nod happily at this revelation as the music reaches its crescendo.
Then, out of nowhere a giant crab monster jumps out from behind a rock. It attacks Kirk and rips open his shirt.
Then the crab pulls a knife.
Kirk spends four and a half minutes going hand-to-hand with the crab monster, ultimately beating him to death with a rock. And Kirk’s screaming and panting over the mangled crab monster corpse. Picard, Data, and Spock are just looking at him, like, “Dude, calm down.”
Eh, either way.
White Christmas? My friends, it is your choice. In the next 12 days you’ll be bombarded with the black, the dark, the unpleasant. Choose the White. Choose optimism, to love your neighbor, to be kind even to your enemies. This is what it’s about. We need more of it. Now more than ever.