Saturday, June 10, 2006

Adventures In Customer Service

Eatery's English-only sign raises ire

The owner of a Philadelphia cheesesteak joint located in a neighborhood with a growing Hispanic population has put up signs demanding that all orders be given in English.

"They should be glad that I put the sign up. I'm trying to help them to speak English," said Joey Vento, 66, whose grandparents moved to the United States from Italy. "Without the English language, they are going to have a lot of problems in this country."

I'm sure Philly's Latino population is gratified that the city's purveyors of meat sandwiches are so concerned with their welfare.

Hey, I agree that it's necessary for immigrants to learn English. But this is less an immigration or racial issue to me than one of lousy, arrogant, and condescending customer service.

If I want to order my goddamn sandwich in Lithuanian, I ought to be able to. I am, after all, the customer here. The guy with the money that makes it possible for you to stay in fucking business. Remember me? So Just make the sandwich, okay?

And remember to hold the tomatoes this time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Just in Time For The Summer Blockbuster Season

Cliché: The Movie

Feel free to post your (least) favorite movie Cliches here. The lines that, if you hear them again, you may go mad.

My contribution:


The Worst Person In the World, Redux

From The Borowitz Report .com:


Conservative pundit Ann Coulter today challenged Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to what she called “an insane comment contest” on live TV to determine who is the insane comment champion of the world.

Appearing on Fox News this morning, the sharp-tongued darling of the right wing said that while she respects Mr. Ahmadinejad’s work, she believes he will be “no match” for her arsenal of crazy, unhinged remarks.

“I’ve heard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nutty rants in the past, and while I think he comes off like a total bananahead, in a one-on-one with me he will be the picture of sanity,” Ms. Coulter said.

In Iran, President Ahmadinejad accepted Ms. Coulter’s challenge and said that while he was “confident of victory” he recognized that besting her in an insane comment contest “would not be easy.”

“In any competition involving verbal lunacy, Ann Coulter is the favorite going in,” Mr. Ahmadinejad. “I will need to train for this for months.”

There's more if you follow the link.

Borowitz rules.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Worst Person In the World

"I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

--Prominent Republican Commentator Ann Coulter on the widows of men who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Now, when Michael Moore called Dubbya a "deserter", Peter Jennings demanded that General Wesley Clark, who Moore was supporting, "distance" himself from the remarks.

When Harry Belafonte called Dubbya a "terrorist," Tim Russert demanded that Senator Barack Obama "respond," despite the fact that the only thing tying Obama and Belafonte together was the general shade of their respective epidermi.

So I guess we can expect a barrage of questions to Bush Administration officials about Coulter's vicious remarks, right?


Good News From Iraq

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in air raid.

So our troops can come home now, right?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bush Fails Again

Couldn't even get a majority in the Senate for the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment.

That's the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED Senate, in case you've forgotten.

So how is this miserable failure to get even their own party unified behind this amendment supposed to "energize the base"?

Republicant's indeed.

Good Day In Hell

Sorry, I couldn't resist:

HELL, Michigan (Reuters) - The road to Hell was crowded with the curious on Tuesday -- as well as devils-in-disguise, hearse enthusiasts, Christian protesters and merchants trying to cash in on the apocalypse.

Hell, Michigan, a tiny town about 60 miles west of Detroit, threw itself open for a once-in-a-millennium party to mark the passage of June 6, 2006 -- or 6-6-6, a number long associated with the Antichrist.

Home to only about 70 souls on an average day, Hell's population swelled to the hundreds by Tuesday afternoon, with dozens waiting in line to buy T-shirts emblazoned with "666."

"We can't even keep those in stock," said Chad Wines, an employee at Screams Ice Cream, working to keep up with demand for souvenirs and ice cream on what proved to be a hot day in Hell.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I couldn't pass it up," said Paul Groenendal, one of dozens of leather-clad bikers who rode to Hell for the street party.

Groenendal, who wore devil horns glued to his bald head as well as a skull and crossbones rings and matching necklace, joked he was in Hell to "make deals and collect."

Auto salvage worker Ken McKeny, 43, pulled his customized, casket on wheels into town with the "4MLDHYD" license plates, part of a Michigan-based hearse enthusiasts group that call themselves "Hearsin' Around."

"I went to work this morning but my boss told me to get out and go to Hell," he said.

A crowd gathered as Gabrielle Olney, 20, visiting Hell with her mother and grandmother, crawled into McKeny's green metallic casket. "It was just something to do," said Olney, a college student. "I figure you've got to try everything once."

Nearby a handful of Christian protesters were righteously indignant to the revelry. "I'm here to tell people that they don't have to go to hell," said one woman, who gave her name only as Donna. "Hell is not a joke."

Paradise, after all, is only a day's drive away -- less than 300 miles north in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I'm Sorry, He's Not at His Desk Right Now, Can I Take a Message?

Lioness in zoo kills man who invoked God:

KIEV (Reuters) - A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said on Monday.

'The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions,' the official said.

'A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery.'"

THE DRUMMER, Anthony Neil Smith

80's hair-metal band Savage Night imploded years ago after the mysterious death of their drummer in a suspicious fire. But the Drummer, Cal Christopher, is very much alive, having faked his own death to get away from his creditors, from the IRS and from the rock-star madness in general. Now, someone from his past shows up and threatens to expose him, and Cal has to explore just how far he's willing to go to keep his new life--and how far some people are willing to go to force him to confront the mistakes of the old one.

The Drummer is tightly written, with just enough spice in the spare, lean prose to liven it up without being distracting. The bits about rock in general and the now defunct, what-the-fuck-were- we-thinking genre of "hair metal" in particular (think Cinderella) are wry but affectionate, never going over the top enough to constitute full-out satire. In fact, while the book's about a former heavy metal guy, the prose is more reminiscent of early punk: fast, stripped down and propulsive, with flashes of deadpan, sometimes biting wit. Great stuff, from a writer I can't wait to read more of.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ultimate Power, Terrible Aim

Latest Newspaper Column:

I'm a great believer in the First Amendment. You know, freedom of speech, freedom to practice one's faith, freedom to assemble, all that good stuff. I believe in that. I really do.

But brothers and sisters, some days my faith is sorely tested. When I see people picketing the funerals --the funerals!--of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, my blood pressure goes up. My eyes get red, and my teeth get all pointy. Deep in my heart, something growls, "No. No way. That's not protected." I'm sure you feel the same way. Some of you are probably balling your hands into fists right now at the very idea, going, "Those doggone left-wingers! Have they no shame?"

Well, anyone who'd picket a funeral has no shame, it's true. But it's not left-wingers who are carrying signs and chanting slogans at the final ceremonies for our war dead. It's anti-gay protesters. The "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his band of gay-hating followers at the Westboro Baptist "Church" in Topeka, Kan., have been standing outside the cemeteries, waving placards that say things like "Thank God for IEDs."

It's not just soldiers, either. According to The Army Times, members of the "church" also showed up in West Virginia at a memorial for the men killed in the Sago Mine disaster, this time with signs saying "Thank God for Dead Miners" and "Miners in Hell."

Now, to most people, it would seem illogical to hold a gay-bashing protest directed at two groups of people, namely soldiers and West Virginia coal miners, who are among the least likely people in the country to be gay, at least openly.

But in the mad, twisted mind of someone like Fred Phelps, logic goes through some strange contortions. The soldiers (and the coal miners) died, according to this "logic," because of America's tolerance of homosexuals.

"When God sets out to punish a nation," claims Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred's daughter and spokes-harpy, "it is with the sword. An IED is just a broken-up sword. Since that is His weapon of choice, our forum of choice has got to be a dead soldier's funeral."

I'm a pretty bright guy, if I do say so myself, and I know for sure my readers are a smart bunch. But I'm sure I'm not the only person who read that and went "Huh?" And I'm sure I'm not the only person that gets angry at the thought of these ninnies working out their own homophobia by getting in the face of widows and orphans.

But is this really different from people like Pat Robertson, who blamed Hurricane Katrina on -- get this --- Ellen Degeneres? God struck New Orleans, according to Robertson, because the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (which is, the last time I looked, in Hollywood) picked Ellen Degeneres (who is, the last time I looked, a lesbian) to host the Emmy awards show (which was, the last time I looked, totally lame).

How does this make sense, you may ask? Ellen's from New Orleans. She wasn't there when the hurricane hit, mind you, but she used to live there, so God punished the people who offered her a job several hundred miles away by destroying her hometown.

The Lord of All Things: ultimate power, terrible aim.

But back to Crazy Fred.

When I first heard of Phelps & Company's shenanigans, one of the first thoughts in my head was "there oughta be a law." And now there is. Recently, President Bush signed into law the "Respect for Fallen Heroes Act," which was aimed directly at Phelps and his gang.

The new law bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

So, even though I got what I thought I wanted, I couldn't help but feel a vague unease. Then I remembered. Free speech isn't just for the things I agree with. Free speech is also for the things that raise my blood pressure.

As Winston Churchill once said: "Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage."

We need to be careful that we don't make our laws out of outrage, however justified, because outrage makes for bad laws. Once we set our feet on the slippery slope, who's to say what's next? Restrictions on picketing, say, in front of the Pentagon? The White House?

Besides, this may be a problem that already had a solution. A group of 'bike clubs' (the hairy guys in leather, not the skinny guys in funny shorts) has been going to funerals targeted by the protesters. The bikers place themselves between protesters and mourners, exercising free speech in their own way.

Good for them, I say. The answer to people abusing the right of free speech is not restrictive legislation.

It's to use your own to talk back.