Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm Perfectly Happy With My Lifestyle, Thank You

So, I just recently got back from visiting my family back in Georgia. And honestly, while I was there, I think I was confronted about changing my religious or political affiliation about half a dozen times. Now, most of these weren't direct, face-to-face, confrontations. Only two of them were. They were mostly things like billboards (Sean Hannity saying, "Stop Hillary"), books ("Why the Founding Fathers were Conservatives), and various religious displays (A manger scene at City Hall, churches with signs saying that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus is going to Hell, that sort of thing). What really got me was the woman knocking on my door, dragging her helpless, brainwashed child around, and telling me that Jesus was the only thing in the world that offered hope to anyone (incidentally, this encounter made me lose a lot of hope about the future of our country). Of course, none of this includes the minister who officiated my wedding asking if we'd found a church in LA- I expect him to. It's his job and he didn't mean any offense by it; he was just making conversation.

What it all boils down to, though, is that this community is on the defensive. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why. It is probably at least 90% Christian and easily 70% conservative Republican. There isn't much threatening their dominance in the area. And yet, they act like conservative Christians are the minority in the town and that they have to fight to keep it that way. They are essentially making up enemies and pretending they are under siege, and that if their whims are not catered to, then they will disappear. For example, saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is not trying to exclude Christians, it's try to include everyone else. But try telling that to most people in my home town and you'll get a lecture about how the country is a dangerous place for Christians these days.

I got to thinking about it and honestly, in the year and a half I've been in LA, I can't think of a single incidence of such confrontations happening (unless you count the crazy bums and weird religious groups on Hollywood Blvd who are little more than tourist attractions). There are a ton more people here, all on top of each other, and this sort of thing just doesn't happen. The diversity is much greater out here (ie- there are things other religions that might encroach on Christianity), but no one seems to bother each other. The political arguments here rarely get past the bumper sticker stage. It's not like we don't have both sides of the political spectrum out here, but people just don't seem to get as angry about it. Most people have adopted a kind of laid back, live and let live attitude. It's pleasant. I didn't even notice it that much until I went back to Georgia and realized how different it really is.

I have a theory about city living. The more diverse a population is, the more we start to realize how very little race, religion, and affiliation have to do with a person's character. You see more lots of different people around you and realized that we're all pretty much the same. Every group of people can have its jerks and its good guys, it doesn't matter. Yet, the farther you get from the cities, as the cultures start to homogenize and people start living with people exactly like them; the more you start to see the fear and anger kick in. I'm reminded of the line in Beauty and the Beast-"We don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us." My middle school music teacher spent an entire day lecturing us about that line when we were singing the songs from that movie, and now I understand why. It's a pretty stinging observation about provincial life.

I'm not quite sure how to end this post, so I'll just say this: If everyone in the world was exactly like you, it'd be a very boring place.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Medicine and Marketing

Where Have I Been?
Originally uploaded by EliCubs
So, I've been sick for the last several days. It's just a head cold, but still not a lot of fun. When I first started showing symptoms, I overloaded on Zinc lozenges and that managed to keep me from getting a sore throat. At first I was thrilled, but I didn't realize just how miserable congestion can make someone.

I started taking decongestants. Now, Sudafed has always worked for me. But anything containing pseudophedrine has to be purchased from behind the pharmacy counter because it apparently can be used to make meth. When I bought my medicine on Saturday at Walgreen's, the pharmacist was not in and I had to buy the Sudafed PE, which is phenylepherine instead of pseudophedrine. Which brings me to my point (yes, I have a point).

Sudafed has been marketing this as their "New Formula." "New," in the marketing sense, implies "improved." Neither is actually true. Phenylepherine was the decongestant of choice before pseudophedrine was developed. It was developed because phenylephrine doesn't work. At all. I would have had better results taking sugar pills. It's not a new formula, it's a step backwards. But, rather than force people to buy stuff that works with slightly more hassle, they release a product that doesn't cure them but is easier to get to. That's the point- Drug companies don't want to make you better, they want to make you poorer.

As of right now, only the United States and New Zealand (or maybe it's Australia, I don't remember) allow drug advertisements on television. Soon, it will only be us. As a result, we seem to have non-stop commercials for medicine that cures diseases we don't have. Restless Leg Syndrome may be real, but does it really need a cure? We sit and watch ads that manage to convince us we have diseases so we will go to our doctors and beg for prescriptions. And it's working. The drug companies can charge whatever they want for these pills because they know hypochondriacs will buy them.

I don't know what the solution is, but health care is becoming unaffordable because we're wasting money on over-medicating. Is it really good to have this many chemicals in our bodies? All I know is if I DO have Frisbee Lip, Irritable Ring Finger, Chicken Sandwich Pancreas, or the Knee Cap Heebie Jeebies, I can live with it.

Now, if they have a pill for Crumbling Nostril Syndrome...that's another matter. Side effects include sleepiness, nausea, rectal bleeding, urinary seepage, and, in about 10% of all cases, death. Please consult your doctor.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Joy of Spam

Today I had a message in my Spam folder with the subject line, "Overstep the bounds of your imagination- Enlarge your Phallus!"

That made me laugh. It made me think of an old-timey medicine man or some jolly fat man with a top hat and handlebar mustache calling out to you on the street. "Pardon me sir, perchance you've dreamed in Morpheus' domain of exaggerating the size of your gentleman's parts. Well, dream no more!" I mean, does enlarging my phallus really overstep the bounds of my imagination? No. Dragons, wizards, super heroes, talking animals- if these things show up, that's overstepping the bounds of my imagination. But making my junk bigger?

Which brings me to my other point. Are the people who are really interested in male enhancement going to respond to this kind of vocabulary trickery? "Honey, you tell me who won the NASCAR race today, and I'm going forthwith to inquire upon enlarging my phallus." Have Victorian gentleman come forward in time and started using the internet? Because man, that would be awesome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's...Obama?

I found this picture online today. I like Barak Obama. I like him a lot. He's incredibly smart, a brilliant speaker, and he's got charisma coming out his ears (which is the common place for charisma to spill, incidentally). I think he's got some great ideas and would make a fine president, if not this term, then sometime in the future.

This picture was taken in Metropolis in the southern tip of his home state of Illinois, a town that lives and breathes Superman. Now, as much as I like Obama, is this really the best Superman pose he can muster for the camera? Puff out your chest, raise your chin, and would it kill you to wear a cape? In fact, that goes for all of you presidential candidates- Start wearing capes! The first one to do so in public gets my vote (offer not valid if said candidate is a Republican. Sorry, but I have standards).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Get thee to a Hamburgerery!

Get thee to a Hamburgerery!
Originally uploaded by EliCubs
My new office is across the street from the Hamburger Hamlet. I haven't eaten there yet, but I'm told it's nice. What strikes me is the sign.

Now, I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing that they originally intended the "village without a church of its own" definition of the word "Hamlet." Now, however, based on the sign with the comedy and tragedy masks, they appear to have switched to the "brilliant, violent tragedy by William Shakespeare" definition. This seems like an odd choice to me. What part of the play Hamlet makes people want to eat hamburgers? Is it the ear poison? The regicide? The moss and flower symbolism? Please tell me.

Do the waiters here soliloquize about the virtues of murder and suicide instead of reading you the specials? Are you allowed to put poison on the tip of your steak knife and get into a fencing knife with your girlfriend's brother at the table? Can you have two of your friends sent off by pirates to be executed in England, hoisted by their own petard, as it were? Is the maitre'd a doddering old man who spouts proverbs and gets stabbed behind curtains?

And finally, at that breakfast on the sign, do you think they serve Melancholy Danishes?

Thank you folks, you've been wonderful. Good night!

Monday, November 5, 2007

I am the Hero of the Guitar

I am a guitar hero. If by "guitar" you mean "plastic video game controller shaped like a Les Paul", and by "hero" you mean "guy who plays too many video games." I bought Guitar Hero III for the Wii this weekend (Wii-kend? No.) and I can't stop the rockin'! I have watched friends playing the game before and, honestly, people look kind of lame when playing it. But when YOU are the one playing, you feel like a rock god. It's just awesome. I love making clicky noises on a small plastic guitar and having it translate into the solos from Paint It Black, My Name is Jonas, Anarchy in the UK, Smoke on the Water, and others. And soon, Welcome to the Jungle will be unlocked. I can't wait!

Now, the interesting thing is that I actually play the guitar. The whole time I'm playing the game, I'm no more than 5 feet away from my actual guitars, with which I could make actual music. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at the real guitar. I'm getting VERY good at the fake plastic guitar. I'm not quite sure how proud of that I should be, but I am.

The game is just too much fun. It makes me want to go out and buy a PS2 so I can play the first two versions of the game. I keep hearing songs and thinking, "Red, Blue, Blue, Yellow, Yellow/Green." It's this kind of addiction to games that has kept me away from cigarettes and drugs. When I get hooked on something, I'm hooked good. I guess I should be lucky it's just a video game.

Will this game actually improve my guitar skills (Skillz? No.)? Probably not, although my left hand will probably be more dexterous and strong when all is said and done. But if a band is ever looking for a guy to make clicking noises with an electronic toy, I'm their man.


Thursday, November 1, 2007


When I came to work today, I found this little fella sitting on my desk:

Now, I like the Red Sox just fine. As a Cubs fan, I always commiserated with them (at least until I don't know how to deal with them). Plus, Boston always seemed like a cool place and anyone who hates the Yankees gets extra points in my book. But, I probably never would have bought Red Sox championship gear. Really, I find all championship gear a little silly. Next year, you'll just look like a jerk if you go around wearing it all the time. We get it. Your team won LAST YEAR (I'm talking to you, Cardinals fans). But I digress...

As I said, I would never buy this kind of thing. But to have it given to you...sweet! Free stuff is always good. Just one of the perks of working for the owner of the team that wins the World Series. It would take me two hours to earn what this hat costs, so it's like I worked a little more overtime this week almost...if I had been intending to buy a hat in the first place. Still, swag rules. Working for this company has provided me with some great stuff in just over a year (free hat, free meals, new digital camera). Everything is sweeter when someone else gives it to you. Yes, that's an exceptionally greedy thing to say, and no I don't feel guilty right now. Feel free to shame me later.