Saturday, August 30, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Arrested Development: NIMBYs on The Loose
As much as I would love to talk about the tv show, this blog isn't about that. I'm still holding out hope that I'll be on the film's production. No, this is about another stop in progress. And as a public transportation advocate with self-diagnosed Asperger's, I have learned quite a bit about NIMBYs and the boondoggles they protest against. Today I'll teach you what I know about these important issues the way people used to learn from each other during the early days of the Internet.
"NIMBY" stands for Not In My BackYard, though it's often confused with the lesser known meaning, Not In My Butt You jerk, first coined by my ex-girlfriend on an awkward Valentine's Day. NIMBYs are self-important middle class cretins who wish to preserve the status quo at the expense of progress. NIMBYs are usually middle class because poor people have no rights and upper class folk rarely live near live railroad tracks. And if they do, they probably own the railroad.
Anything that gets in the way of driving their kid to soccer practice, such as a trolley line or an S&M dungeon, is called a "boondoggle" by NIMBYs. NIMBYs don't live in cities, they live in "communities". They often depict public works projects as evil monstrosities infecting their humble little towns with noise, pollution, and cooties.
NIMBYs will often complain that there aren't enough prisons, but then scream bloody murder when one is built in their town. NIMBYs will often complain about traffic and then threaten protests when a rail line is planned to be built nearby. NIMBYs will often complain about the lack of safe, reliable porno shops, but then file lawsuits when one opens in their kid's school.
NIMBYs don't know what they want, but when they get it, they howl.
Because the word boondoggle is thrown around far too often and the word NIMBY not nearly enough, I have decided to highlight some high-profile projects and set the record straight. Is it a boondoggle or is it NIMBYism? You just might find out in today's update, but probably not!
The Big Dig
The Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, otherwise known as the "Big Dig" to those wishing to save the time and effort it takes to speak the words Central Artery slash Tunnel Project, has become the national whipping boy for corrupt public works projects.
All public works projects are corrupt to some degree, but these guys just went too far. It's like when you cheat on your taxes or your spouse. It's okay in moderation, but blows up in your face when your wife finds out you've been cheating on some other woman's tax return. No wait. That's not right at all.
Envisioned as a way to relieve traffic on Boston's crowded highways, the "Big Dig" quickly turned into a sticky situation for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Hey Romney, you could learn something here.
Among the allegations charged was that the concrete used in the project was just oatmeal mixed with bubblegum. Thousands of leaks were discovered by a bunch of trouble making nerds from MIT. Subsequent investigations found that subcontractors were using apes to do utility relocation and that the apes left banana peels all over the damn place which resulted in a three day strike by the sanitation commission. The apes were released back into the custody of the Transportation Security Administration and went back to work.Rarrr! I am the concrete God. You go splat now! Rarrr!!!
Big Dig bitching reached a threshold when a concrete ceiling tile fell from a tunnel and killed some woman. The tunnel was declared a crime scene and the criminal investigation revealed that free flowing vehicular traffic angers the concrete Gods and a woman had to be sacrificed to appease them.
Of course, few Boston commuters, if any, are refusing to use the new infrastructure in protest of any wrongdoing by Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firms in charge of designing and building whatever the hell they were put in charge to build (some kind of elevator?). Traffic has improved immensely in the Boston area and the fact that the thing is even useful at all saves the Big Dig from full boondoggle status.
That's why the Big Dig only gets four floating heads of Mitt Romney out of five.
So now you know a littl more about these NIMBY's. If you ever want to hear their whales live, turn on KCRW on any Tuesday night and you'll hear them bitch and complain about everything from hobos sleeping at the bus stop to pissing away millions on over hyped and destructive events like this years GLOW event. With your help, you to can stop these progress stoppers from keeping us stuck in the stone age.
California High Speed Rail
In what is likely to become the biggest struggle in the history of public works projects in California, high speed rail will finally go to the voters this November after it was taken off the ballot in 2004 and 2006 by an actor we voted to be governor.
If Proposition 1 passes it would provide nine billion dollars for the construction of a high speed rail line from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco. And we're not talking some phony baloney Acela Express bullshit. This train will hit speeds of 220 miles per hour in California's Central Valley. Unpleasant illegal immigrant farm workers are but a blur at such speeds.
But you can't plan a rail project in California without hearing wails from NIMBY scum. Concentrated NIMBY opposition has already surfaced in the communities of Menlo Park and Atherton, where the Bay Area's Caltrain corridor may be widened to accommodate high speed trains.An example of mass transit in California.
Officials there plan to join a lawsuit in order to invalidate what is called an environmental impact report and call a do-over, which would add millions of dollars and wasted time to an already expensive project. And NIMBYs wonder why these things go over-budget so often.
Not to be outdone by the NIMBYs in Menlo Park, the California High Speed Rail Authority, the braindead politicians put in charge of overseeing the rail line, is doing their damnedest to kill the project as well.
Long criticized for releasing overstated ridership figures and understated construction cost figures, the authority has decided to award the contract for the project to Parsons Brinkerhoff, the very same firm partly responsible for the Big Dig debacle.
Does anyone at the CHSRA read the newspaper or what? Eh, maybe it's not so bad a choice. Besides, every second chance begins with a first step. If you want respect, you've got to take it. After all, life doesn't hold tryouts. Backstabbing. Spotlight-grabbing. Secret-blabbing. An engineering firm's life is all that.
The NIMBYs don't get it. The city council says forget it. The supporters who voted it in now regret it. But does California High Speed Rail got game? Bet on it. Bring it on, this Fall.
That's why California High Speed Rail gets two California State Senator Tom McClintocks out of five. Look, taxes are going to go up anyway. We might as well get a cool train out of it. You don't want your tax dollars going towards fixing the states debts, right? Vote yes on Prop 1! If you don't live in California, just go back to quietly talking about us behind our backs you Northeastern bastards.
Bridge to Nowhere
As if this update wasn't img-timeline enough, have you guys heard about this BRIDGE TO NOWHERE? Not the cool one in Azusa that I always rant and rave about. I'm talking about the one in Alaska. Yeah, they wanted to build a bridge almost as long as the Golden Gate in order to serve a population of 8000. Holy cow! What a barrel of pork!
I guess when it comes to Ted Steven's pet project, we're all sort of NIMBYs. I mean, Alaska is kind of America's backyard right? Or is that Canada? You know what, forget I said anything.
Anyway, it gets my highest boondoggle rating ever, five disembodied heads of Senator Ted Stevens out of five.
Subway to the Sea
Hi, I'm Sally Struthers. I'm here today to plead with you to help support a transit project in dire need of some love. Have a look at this amputated leg of the Los Angeles subway.
In its infancy, this little subway was attacked by NIMBYs who didn't want colored folk coming into the westside of Los Angeles. They disguised their intentions to kill the subway as concerns about methane gas pockets or dinosaur farts or whatever. They passed measures to ban the use of tax money to fund subway construction and effectively starved this poor subway almost to death.
For only pennies a day you can help this subway reach Santa Monica as God intended.
Okay, enough Sally Struthers nonsense. There's a time and a place for everything but now isn't it. Frankly, the Los Angeles Purple Line extension to Santa Monica is quite possibly the most important public transportation project in the history of ever.
Ridership would be 600 billion boardings per year and even the woolly mammoth bones under the La Brea Tar Pits would use it. White people might even ride it, which is an experimental new concept for mass transit in Los Angeles.
Because of the importance of this project I can only muster up one Zev Yaroslavsky, the politician who is credited with killing the subway, out of five.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
George Lucas' baffling desecration of the beloved, sacred Star Wars franchise continues with The Clone Wars. This animated debacle alternately resembles fan fiction and parody, though it's completely official and serious. Somehow, it graduated without merit from "straight-to-DVD novelty" to "theatrical release."
The Clone Wars starts with the signature "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" scrolling script, before staving off a unanimous "tl;dr" response from young viewers by letting an old-timey radio announcer narrate the rest of the nonsensical introduction. The only part of this voiceover babble that matters is that gastropod kingpin Jabba the Hutt's larval kid Rotta has been kidnapped. Given that 90 percent of the action relates to this development, the film should've been titled Saving Baby Rotta, or Rescue Hutt. Granted, the kidnapping was a strategic move related to the Clone Wars, but films usually name themselves after the specific storyline on which they're focused instead of the broader conflict. That's why Schindler's List wasn't called World War II.
The movie establishes its key elements early: Blathering expository dialogue, numbingly staged Jedi-vs.-robot battles, flickering hologram correspondence, horizontal screen wipes. This sequence repeats several dozen times, and while the order of the procession occasionally changes, the components never do. Robots miss hundreds of point-blank laser shots, their multicolored projectiles whizzing past the Jedi like harmless neon donut sprinkles. Once it's clear the good guys can't get injured, let alone killed, these scenes become monotonous and maddening, like waiting for your turn at a two-player game while the jerk hogging the controller uses an invulnerability cheat code.
Annakin Skywalker gets assigned to retrieve the aggressively "cute" Rotta, a manifestation of Lucas' cynical belief that even a vomit-tinted slug can move plushy toys if it's fitted with doe eyes. Annakin teams with Ahsoka, a "Girls Rule!" cliché of a protégé who looks like her head's being straddled by a disemboweled zebra. She calls her tutor "Sky Guy," in one of her many clunker quips that only register as attempted jokes when Annakin responds with an irked "very funny." However, Ahsoka does produce the movie's best unintentional laugh when she acknowledges a spinning trio of approaching enemies by blurting "oh great, rolling death balls."
Ziro The Hutt, Jabba's uncle, generates the film's second brush with inadvertent humor when he cries "run for it!" and attempts to slither away from capture. He's a flamboyant lavender lump of wet stool, decorated with feathers and slathered in blacklight paint. Ziro speaks in English, using a squishy approximation of urban patois. He sounds like a drag queen pimp, but the club he controls doesn't seem to be a gay bar, because the flaming homosexual droid C3P0 remarks "This part of town is definitely not my part of town" when he enters.
As for the recognizable characters, Yoda rolls out his usual grammatical transpositions, which, while largely tiresome, become somewhat hilarious when he's angry. ("Get past it, we must. Get past it, we will!" Yoda's eyes narrow, his mouth clenched as if he's trying to keep the froth of rabidity from seeping between his teeth.) Samuel L. Jackson's vocal performance as Mace Windu feels lifeless, probably because he had to sedate himself to keep from embellishing phrases like "criminal scum" with emphatic profanity. Padmé Amidala, voiced by Cat Taber (Final Fantasy XII'sPenelo) rather than Natalie Portman, attracts attention during her late-movie cameo by donning an embarrassingly obscene painted-on outfit on loan from the hentai wardrobe.
The Clone Wars plays like an interminable cut scene from an ugly polygonal PSone game. It looks unbearably cheap and fake, like the CGI equivalent of those '50s science-fiction movies with model spaceships and Styrofoam planets hanging from visible strings. It's superior to the Holiday Special, which consisted largely of unsubtitled Wookie grunts and torturous musical numbers, but whereas that travesty was immediately disowned and remains commercially unavailable, The Clone Wars promises prolonged misery: It serves as an inept prequel (Lucas specializes in these) to a television show of the same name that debuts in October.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Let's go Camping you Nerds!
Greetings and salutations ladies and feminine gentlemen of the online world! Welcome to another wonderful guide from the internet! Summer is upon us and that means only one thing. Ok, well besides crappy summer blockbusters it also means that camping is coming back in style! In the months to come, it will start to warm up to the point of cooking eggs on the sidewalk so we will be free to romp outdoors once again. Now, I know when you computer nerds hear the word "camping", you start sweating and have to take your panic attack medicine, but I'm here to show you that it can be fun and relaxing, even to physical rejects such as yourselves(no offense). So, I implore you to join me in a grand adventure that will undoubtedly leave you lost in the woods eating your companions. Please do not skim this article just reading the captions under the pictures, because there's going to be a pop quiz later on. Let us begin with a little history of this great pastime we call camping.
Often called "camping", camping was invented in 1105 by a French monk named "Coleman" who one day got really sick of his constantly nagging wife and sat in the woods for the weekend. It caught on all over the globe, soon spreading to England, Spain, Germany, and America. Men everywhere fled their sass-mouthed wives, hiding in the wild under bark and dirt. Some loathed their wives so much that they never returned home and became the first mountain men. Many great men throughout history enjoyed camping, such as: Abraham Lincoln, who had a really ugly wife; Teddy Roosevelt, whose wife wouldn't leave him alone about cleaning the garage; and Jesus, who didn't have a wife, but liked to go camping for 40 days at a time and talk to a chipmunk he called "God". But it was around the 1960's in America when camping became a family event. White families everywhere would flee the urban areas burning their cities down, returning after the hoses and dogs had been unleashed. Despite the newest generation's dependency for technology, and their inability to leave the house without blogging about it, camping is still growing in popularity. To make way for the new camping megastores needed to supply the populace, large tracts of forest had to be torn down and their resident creatures placed in death camps. These megastores offer a full line of crap that you will need to survive in the wild. Hope you brought your credit card - credit card of fun that is!
Bring a gun to protect yourself from goblins.
If you were a turtle, then the camping backpack would be your shell. If you are a turtle, then log off the Internet and go back to the swamp where you belong. The backpack is your "house" that you carry all supplies in. There are two kinds of backpacks: internal frame and external frame. I forget what the difference is, but I think it has to do with the frames. Backpack size also varies. If you are going to be outdoors for over a week, then get one big enough to hold 4 small Indian children. If outdoors only for a few days, a bag that can hold 2 ½ Indian children should suffice. When shopping in a camping store, do not listen to the salesperson that claims they are trying to help you. Camping salespeople are terrible heathens and like to pester and trick you constantly. Take my advice, NEVER turn your back on a salesperson to inspect a piece of equipment. They'll knock you out with a pipe and offer you as a human sacrifice to the camping gods.
This is your only protection from the elements, so you want to make sure you have a good one. Tents are broken down into seasons, such at 2, 3, and 4 season. If you are planning to escape your wife during the winter months, you want to make sure that you have a 4 season. Tents also vary in size. From small one-person bibby tents, to 12 person Caligula-style orgy tents, the store should have everything to suit your needs. But whatever you do, don't go in one of the display tents. The salespeople like to trap customers in these tents and throw them from moving trucks into rush hour traffic.
A sleeping bag is designed to enclose the camper, adding warmth and padding to an outdoor sleep experience. Once fully encased with just your head popping out, you should feel very comfortable and will look like a tasty burrito to any passing bears. There are three types of filling for sleeping bags: down filling, made from feathers; synthetic fiber, made from the crushed dreams of my childhood; and crème filling, not unlike the tasty goodness that Twinkies are filled with. It is advisable not to try out the sleeping bags in the store, as the salesperson might start hitting you with an aluminum bat while you are immobilized. Salespeople are the worst humans ever, even worse than the Nazis.In the Destroyed Village, a good place to camp is behind the wall
There are dozens of smaller things one must be sure to have with them when going camping. I haven't gone camping in like, a long time, so I'll just name the stuff I can think of. You will need plenty of food on the trip. Science these days has created dehydrated meals that only need hot water added to them to become a nutritional bag of swill. It's also a good idea to bring boots because if you try to go in flip-flops, you won't get very far (trust me). Pack an axe with you just in case you run into any aggressive trees. If a tree's branches start to sway, this means it's about to attack and needs to be cut down. The park ranger didn't agree with my theory when he stopped me after I cut down a couple dozen hostile trees, and claimed it was just the "wind" moving the branches. Let's just say that park ranger doesn't disagree with me anymore. Permanently. (We smoked a doob and he subscribed to my "far out" ideas. He was cool.)
Now that you are suited up like an outdoor samurai, it's time to learn about what you will be interacting with out there in the wild. Animals and insects get really pissy when you tromp into their territory wearing your fanny packs and Mickey Mouse ears, while blasting Van Halen from a boom box and emitting a whirlwind of Mars Bars wrappers behind you. I think it has to do with our pheromones. So, in order to live side by side in harmony with the creatures of the forest, we should educate ourselves about them. You could try to educate the animals about us, but have you ever tried to keep a half dozen squirrels sitting in their desks during acorn season? I have and let me tell you, I ended up nailing them to the goddamn floor just to get to Chapter Two. So, let's take a peek at some of the life forms you will be encountering during your camping adventures.
There's only one good way to cook a brace of coneys. These furry little guys hop and frolic to and fro around the countryside in a carefree manner. If you are out in the forest, you are sure to encounter them since they are plentiful in number. However, they do tend to cause trouble in the campsite like chewing on tent cords, stealing firewood, and planning attacks when they ally with the aggressive trees. I've never seen them do these things, but I can tell they're plotting against me just like the others. I wouldn't advise killing any rabbit you see though. If cartoons have taught me anything, it's that rabbits are beyond smart and would just have any murder attempt on them backfire on you. Just to play it on the safe and allow said rabbit to make a wrong turn in alberque.Taunting bears with bags of food will let them know who the master is.
Bears are basically the same as teddy bears, but instead of being huggable and lovable, they like to rip your head off with their huge paws and gnaw on your face. These creatures are known as the "king of the forest", and are very territorial. There are some basic rules on what to do if you encounter a bear on your travels. Chances are that the bear can smell you before you even see him, so there is no sneaking around him. You must show the bear you are not afraid and throw stones at its head. When you hit it in the head with a stone, there is a chance that it'll get super angry and charge. When this happens, run for your life. If you are a smoker, then just lie down and accept your death. If you see some cubs, then you can probably take them out since they're smaller than you. Hit them with big sticks until you knock them out and then look for their treasure trove of honey. (Bears love honey.)Bugs
Bugs are gross! Make sure you bring some spray or something because bugs really suck. The best time to go camping is early spring or late fall because of the lack of bugs. Once I was camping in Yosemite during mid-summer, and the horseflies were so big that they devoured my traveling companion while he was taking a nap. Spiders are also a big hassle. Be prepared to have a nest of these creepy crawlers implanted in your ear cavity if you happen to fall asleep outside. To prevent this, I recommend not falling asleep at all while camping.If you see a C.H.U.D, give up and embrace sweet swampy death.
I'm not going to even get into the wood C.H.U.D.s. If you see one of these, it's already too late for you.
Nature sure seems dangerous, but just remember that as long as you have no fear, you won't even know what hit you. Now that you have all your equipment and some information on a few of the creatures you will encounter, it's time for you to leave the confines of your smelly monkey cage, and get into the crisp cool air of the outdoors. Are you ready???
Too bad, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. Go back to playing Word of Warcraft, eating microwaved White Castles, and writing your Harry Potter fan fiction. Tomorrow we shall continue our rugged outdoor rabblerousing adventure that will probably leave you trapped under a log, chewing your own leg off in desperation. Toodles motherfuckers!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Evil Has A New Name
I experienced my minor league epiphany while reading an article on the Internet that could be summarized as "people think black is bad." The article was going on and on about how society conditions us to view the color black as a negative. The theory goes that, racist or not, we assume the worst about anything black. Black people, black birds, black eyes and black holes are all victims of our anti-black prejudice.
I don't know if I agree with the article's premise. I wasn't even convinced after some fancy online test from Harvard flashed a bunch of words and pictures at me and declared that I hate black people.
I like black people. I like black cars. I like Darth Vader and night time and those vinyl pants hot chicks wear in action movies. I could go on forever. Paint it Black, one of the best Stones songs. Blackwater is my favorite mercenary company.
You get the picture. Black is just fine with me.
Regardless of what Harvard said, black wasn't my bad word. Maybe the article had a point in there somewhere. Maybe some other word or concept was the hook on which I hang all of my negative prejudices.
I searched my mental dictionary.
Colors were right out. I have mixed and complex feelings about every color other than aquamarine, which I have a longstanding rivalry with completely unrelated to any stereotypes.
Political affiliations tend to be either too general or too specific. I don't dislike most Republicans, but I hate every single neocon. Neocons are demonstrably evil, so that word doesn't really work. The same goes for nationalities. My infamous hatred of Eskimos is based on the way they treat seals: they eat their eyes. Call me Mr. Biased, but that's one step away from eating souls and I think that qualifies as bad.
No, if I wanted a suitable "bad" adjective it had to be almost as universal as a color. I was wracking my brain and coming up with nothing until, as usual, the TV provided me with my answer.
Domino's Pizza, the second worst pizza franchise in the United States, was airing an advertisement for some grotesque version of a bread stick. It was covered in melted cheese and oozed oil like a strafed tanker truck. Purchasers of this delight were instructed by an excited voice to, "Try it with our ranch dipping sauce!"
The thought of bathing that sodden log of cheese-topped bread in ranch dressing was about as appetizing as spooning vomit off the floor of a gym shower with a Dr. Scholl's I pried off the underside of a medical waste bin. Just like that, I had it.
My evil word.
Ranch = Evil
The Domino's commercial started me down the right track towards understanding my aversion to all things ranch. I didn't accept ranch as the answer right away. I subjected it to rigorous analysis. Some Harvard level shit you might have heard of called "social science." It's like science, only you do it however you want.
Hypothesis: Fuck "Ranch."
Method: Identify and evaluate legitimate uses of "ranch."
I'm pretty sure this is what they serve in the cafeteria in 1984.
Ranch: A rural compound for the confinement and work of live animals. These are usually then shipped elsewhere for large scale slaughter. SEE ALSO: Uh, just the fucking Holocaust, dudes.
Ranch House: A house only worse. Built as tract housing mostly during the 1950s through the 1970s out of brick facades and ornamental window shutters. Was replaced in the 1980s and onward by wood pulp, vinyl siding, and value-adds.
Ranch Dressing: A dressing made from mayonnaise, cream, bile ducts, processed horse gelatin, owl beaks, corpse hair, and aphid pressings. Popular throughout the Southwest and Midwest United States as a condiment for stuffed-crust bacon pizza.
Dude Ranch: A ranch for Europeans and big city types to get out into the country and live exactly like real cowboys lived in the Wyoming Board of Tourism brochure. The experience usually includes a real ranch meal catered by the El Paso Olive Garden and a stay in a real "ranch room" complete with wagon wheels, old cow skulls, and five channels of HBO.
Conclusion: Ranch bad.
Experiment 2: Word Association
Method: Listen to "ranch." Start a 60-second timer. Write down every word that enters you head.
Conclusion: Noooo RANCH! Ranch!!!!
Method: Search Google for "ranch" and attempt to find any place where the word "ranch" is used in a positive context.
You know that smell your car gets on a really hot day when that 2 year old french fry in between the seats starts to bake? Yeah, all of the girls at the Bunny Ranch smell like that, latex, and body spray.
Bunny Ranch: Seems like a good time if you want to pay to have sex with former porn stars. Overpriced and under-serviced, you'll be lucky if you can talk some whore with an ironic name like Charity down to 600 bucks for a hand job while she farts in your face. If you want her to cry afterwards they up-charge you for a "girlfriend experience." Total bullshit.
Cancer Ranch: For kids with cancer to ride horses until their bodies are devoured by the ravenous monster clinging to their ruptured cells. Feel good moment of the week: Tuesday pick up, when the man in the big car comes to pick up all the kids "sleeping" in the basement.
Conclusion: Ranch is where all good things are remade as bad.
I did not come by my conclusion easily, but I think it is clear: nothing is worse than ranch. I wear my prejudice gladly. If you've come this far, I think you will agree.Ranch is blacker than the darkest black. It is empty and devoid of life, joy and happiness. It'll suck your soul out and turn it into blu cheese. Ranch is evil.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Congratulations Michael Phelps!
At the halfway mark of his last individual race, Phelps seemed tired, defeated. He was in seventh place. The crowd had turned against him. He phased in and out of existence in our dimension.
Then he seemed to gather his focus, to gain strength. Abruptly, his human form morphed. He became elongated. His torso stretched the entire length of the pool with his feet still clinging to the far side. His distended body bridged the gap between defeat and victory, and he held the gold medal up triumphantly after recompressing his spine.
Michael Phelps eats 12,000 jars of mayonnaise a day. With his hands.
Michael Phelps set another world record today at a Taco Bell in Lexington, Kentucky. "We've had people come in here and eat a lot of burritos at once with some Mt. Dew, but nothing like this," said night manager Denise Franklin. "That boy ate a whole mess of burritos tonight. He really did."
The muscular swim god strode into the fast food franchise ten minutes before closing time, and ordered twenty burritos and a medium soda. "He was real calm," said Franklin. "He could see what he wanted to do and that he was going to do it. No question."
Phelps worked his way through the burritos at a blinding speed, starting out strong by eating three at once and then washing them down with only a small gulp of Sprite. "There was some hesitation round about number fourteen," said his coach, Bob Bowman, "but he pushed past it and did the job. That's why he's the best."
As he gulped down the last burrito, Phelps let out a howl and pounded the small plastic table, then he left so the employees could mop the floor and go home. The former holder of the record for most burritos consumed at this location of Taco Bell in Lexington, fifteen year old Jeff Duncan, expressed suspicion that Phelps is practicing post-burrito purging, but Phelps insisted that his burrito record is clean.
Congrats to Michael Phelps!!! You're an American hero!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Killing With Extreme Prejudice
I hate wasps.
I don't think that makes me special. Given enough time and a confined area a wasp will make monsters of the best of us. Leave Gandhi alone in a Prius with an agitated hornet and even he would be wielding a rolled-up copy of Hustler trying to brutally rupture a wasp between a passenger-side airbag and the thighs of some girl named Haley. Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Gandhi. I leave you in the car for five minutes to return some DVDs and you ruin my copy of Hustler? There's stinger all over this taint.
Wasps are bugs. Giant, ugly, pissed-off bees. They don't make honey and just ceaselessly build half-assed portions of a hive at the right-angles of your house's exterior. Go out and mow the yard and they will pull some Hound of Tindalos shit, all coming at you from under the gutters and the eaves.
It's hard to guess what motivates them. It could be the vibrations of the lawnmower, it could be they don't like to see someone enjoying some taco and s beer in a public park, or they just might have the same sort of hatred for us that we have for them.
Having been stung twice by wasps in the first week of July I made their extermination something of a personal crusade. Brooms handled most of their nests and after a few clearance missions I learned that a well-aimed blast of the hose directed at their grotesque mockery of a beehive would drown them before they could even come buzzing at you from their hexagonal corridors. Things seemed to be moving along pretty well, but the wasps were still appearing whenever I would go into any park.
Five minutes and one sting to the eyebrow later and I had retired to my office to draw my plans for a final solution to the wasp question. I might have also done a lot of holding a paper towel full of ice cubes to the throbbing pain in my face. Their base of operations in the plastic closet was a problem. Their nest was located above and to the left of the doorway and could not be seen from the outside. It wouldn't be easy to vanquish this last colony. This was war, but I was not alone.
I was in my garage searching for a secret weapon when my Arab neighbor Kafir pulled up on a motorcycle. He was decked out head-to-toe in white leather, with a white scarf hanging around his neck and a white helmet on his head. He looked like something out of a Saudi Arabian techno video.
Kafir and I aren't close, but I consider him a friendly acquaintance. Hardly the sort of person I would expect to ride up on a motorcycle and offer to help with something as daunting as the extermination of wasps.
"Grass a problem?" He asked, noting the weed whacker I had taken up to feel the heft of as a wasp-crushing implement.
"No," I replied. "Grass is fine. It's the wasps."
He shrugged, so I pantomimed a buzzing insect landing on my eyebrow and then stinging me.
"Ah," he said, understanding. "The hostile bee! He is a beast!"
"Yeah," I said.
I hung the weed whacker up on its hook and continued my search for some sort of weapon. I fantasized about a morning star made out of lava. Something that would simultaneously crush and burn the wasps almost instantly.
"I help," Kafir said. "The wasp, he not sting through this."
Kafir slapped his leather jacket.
"Too thick!" He exclaimed.
It was true, the wasp's stinger seemed unlikely to penetrate the hard leather of Kafir's ridiculous motorcycle costume. A plan took shape. A plan that resulted in me standing three feet away from the plastic closet with a hose dribbling water onto the lawn.
Kafir edged closer to the door, his helmet's visor down. The idea was that he would slap the door open and I would hit the surface of the door with the hose and deflect the water into the shed at the proper angle to douse the wasp's nest.
In retrospect I should have just burned my house down and collected the insurance. People throw around the phrase "utterly inept" a little too much. They use it to describe bad baseball teams or accounting errors. Utterly inept should be reserved for those almost magical moments when a human being (or two) is so completely bereft of any trace of eptness that nothing but calamity can follow.
I definitely should have burned down the house.
"Ready?" Kafir asked.
I took carefully aim with the spray attachment for the hose. I nodded my readiness. Kafir made his move, lunging forward and slapping the door with his splayed fingers. It slammed open and I squeezed the sprayer in my hand, unleashing a solid stream of liquid death on the wasps. Only the door had hit the side wall of the shed and had bounced closed again.
The stream of water rattled the shed like a drum and the door swung open very slightly. Just a tiny crack really, but it turned out to be more than wide enough to allow something as big as, say, a large bee to come rocketing out through the opening. Okay, it was more like ten giant and enraged bees. And they all made right for Kafir, who began to scream and flail his arms.
"No, no, no!" Kafir shouted. "No, back! Fuck shit! Get back! Ah! Back!"
Sure enough, the wasps that landed on his arms and chest could not pierce his leathers with their stingers. The interesting thing about motorcycle helmets is that they aren't air tight. For a wasp the size of a lima bean, a sliver of exposed flesh around Kafir's throat must have been like a red carpet. I didn't realize it at the time, but nearly half of the wasps had almost instantly flown either inside the helmet or straight down the front of his motorcycle jacket.
A stream of muffled Arabic expletives and the occasional "fuck shit" emerged from behind Kafir's visor.
The neighbor I had talked to three times in the past was suddenly screaming and flailing his arms. I shot him with the hose almost instinctively as he collapsed in my neighbor's delicate flowerbed and began thrashing around in her pink and white perennials. I sprayed Kafir again with the hose as he struggled to open his visor and get at the wasps that were punishing his face with their insectoid anger.
Unbeknownst to me, the wasps on his body had been successfully dislodged by the hose and all of Kafir's flailing. These turned on their new enemy with the ferocity of tiny beavers with miniature knives tied to their tails. I dropped the hose immediately and began a hysterical dance as the wasps abused my body in ways indescribable in a decent society. How one of the wasps ended up in the leg of my shorts is something I'm not proud of, but for the next two days my groin was decidedly asymmetrical.
Kafir managed to get the best of his wasps first, and he helped me defeat the last of mine by stomping on my chest with a white cowboy boot. A little fun fact on wasps: they can sting multiple times while being crushed beneath the toe of a cowboy boot.
An hour later, Kafir and I sat defeated on the old couch in my garage. We held a beer to various parts of our body, groaning and whistling as each sting reasserted its domination of our nervous system. Kafir didn't even open his beer. Despite his embrace of American culture, he still doesn't drink.
"We not talk of this again," Kafir advised.
He looked at me with his one good eye, the eyelid of his other eye having swollen to the size of a decorative gourd and become useless.
"Yeah," I agreed. "This never happened."
The next day I did what I should have done from the beginning. I closed the door of the shed, tipped it onto its front, and dragged it, construction equipment and all, to a retention pond just down the block. The pigeons that like to cover our sidewalks in a thick carpet of their excrement scattered as the shed splashed into the murky water. I folded my arms across my chest and watched with satisfaction as the shed began to sink.
Only it wasn't sinking. Whatever asshole designed the shed apparently made it seaworthy. I had just launched the wasp ark of my suburban subdivision. Going by the buzzing echoing from within the shed the passengers of the vessel seemed agitated.
I did what the situation called for at that point. I whistled nonchalantly and walked as quickly and as innocently as possible back to my house. Surely some sort of animal exists in retention ponds that can eat a shed full of construction equipment and angry wasps.