Thou Shalt Not THE LIGHT IS %@$&ing GREEN!!! GO!

June 21, 2007

In an ongoing effort to become a kinder, gentler church, the Vatican has recently turned its attentions away from such hot button issues such as abortion and birth control and turned it towards the small activities that affect our daily lives. The church recently released the “Ten Commandments of Driving,” a list of rules and regulations that good Catholics should follow.

Some think that creating such as list is kind of insulting, given how many more important theological concerns there are in the world, such as transubstantiation or whether having a reserve bid on eBay on a piece of marble toast with the image of the Virgin Mary on it is a form of usury or not. I would think they would want to concentrate more on such things like “The Ten Commandments of Not Having Sexual Intercourse With Altar Boys,” but Martin Luther kind of severed any pull I might have with the Catholic Church about five hundred years ago.

The concept of a German Pope telling us to keep ‘em on the ten and two is mildly amusing in and of itself. One can only assume that Ratzinger, at some point since his installation to the papacy, has taken the Popemobile out of the garage and took a spin around the autobahn, where traffic laws are merely suggestions and speed limits morally relative. And he even sits enclosed in Italy, where, if the motion picture industry is anything to be believed, all Italian citizens are legally bound to travel from city to city in Fiats and Ferraris, all roads are by law 90 degree turns around perpetually escalating mountings, and driver’s ed courses routinely teach young Italians how to drive with a glass of Pinot Grigio in one hand and a girl around another.

I’ve read the New Ten Commandments, and they’re actually pretty boring. Mostly it appears to be the “forgive the one who double parks” variety, which is actually kind of a shame. If I were to have directed all of the energy I’ve devoted in my lifetime to what I would do to the vehicles of double parkers, I would have invented cold fusion and been married by now.

As usual, the document itself lends to that special brand of confusing legalese that only the Catholics can produce en masse. You’d think they’d learn, after that whole “No, you can’t eat meat on Fridays oh wait yes you can” debacle from the past nine centuries. Though in this case there are a few easy translations. “Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination” pretty much means “Cancel Pimp My Ride, for the love of all that is holy, which is us.” “Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events” means “Stay off the cell phone, jackass.” “On the road, protect the more vulnerable party” I assume alludes to Geos and Fiestas. And “Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so” means take the keys from the drunken uncles. And (hey, this is the Catholic church we’re talking about) women and possibly homosexuals.

Still, it’s a little disappointing. Most of it is about forgiveness and caution, and that’s just not what everyone was looking for. The real Ten Commandments were about murder, adultery, and jealousy. The new commandants are about yielding and avoiding rubbernecking. What a ripoff, I say! I have my own personal Ten Commandments, which I’m certain you had no idea were coming:

I. Thou Shall Give A Courtesy Wave. We’re Not Barbarians Here, Now, Are We?
II. Thou Shalt Not Procure One Of Those Disgusting Novelty Set Of Testicles That You Hang On Your Trailer Hitch, Because That’s Just Plain Wrong. I Mean, C’mon, Is This The Third Grade? Was The Store Out Of Those Stickers With A Knockoff Calvin Pissing On A Competing Automobile Manufacturer Logo?
III. Thou Shalt Not Secure A Bumper Sticker Onto The Back Of Your Vehicle Whose Writing Is Too Small To Read Without Squinting Then When You Get Close Enough To Read It It Really Wasn’t All That Funny Or Interesting.
IV. Thou Shall Realize That When A Sign Says “Right Lane Ends,” For Instance, This Means “Right Lane Ends,” and not “Speed Up In The Right Lane, Then Expect Everyone To Bend Over Backwards Letting You Merge Because You Decided To Ignore The Sign Unlike Everyone Else.” Pecker.
V. Thou Shalt Not Park In The Fire Lane And Walk Into The Store For Twenty Minutes. At Least Have Someone Sit In The Passenger Side For Appearance’s Sake So You Don’t Come Off As A Complete Prick.
VI. Thou Shalt, Upon Hearing The Song “Since You’ve Been Gone” By Rainbow on the Radio, Be Morally Obligated To Drive As Fast As Your Vehicle Will Go And Sing It At The Top Of Your Lungs.
VII. Thou Shalt Not Have More Than One Beanie Baby In The Back Seat Window. And Even Then.
VIII. Thou Shall Pull Over And Let Real People Drive When You Get Scared Of Going Over 10 Miles Per Hour Once You See The First Drop Of Rain.
IX. Thou Shall, Upon Hitting A Deer, Stop, Get Out Of The Car, Heave The Carcass Of The Deer Triumphantly High Above Your Head, And Destroy all Parts Of The Deer In A Violent And Bloody Ritual In Front Of All The Other Deer So Maybe They’ll Finally Get The Message That Perhaps Jumping in Front Of Underinsured Cars Is Not The Wisest Of Career Moves.
X. Thou Shall, Upon Hearing Someone Brag About Their Hemi, Be Morally Obligated To Murder That Individual On The Spot, So That Future Generations May Still Taste Hope.

I’m not so sure if the Vatican will agree. But if a German can become Pope, anything’s possible.

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The Bottom Redline

April 4, 2007

Recently, comedian Eddie Griffin wrecked a Ferrari during a charity event. He didn’t wreck it in the politely-exchange-insurance, call-you-at-the-office manner; rather, it was in a full-fledged, grade A class 1 totaling beyond repair manner. He walked away without a scratch, thank goodness. This rather unfortunate even would perhaps only merit a vague mention in two months’ time in the Celebrity Poop inside jacket column in the Sunday supplement, except that this particular make of Ferrari was worth $1.5 million dollars. Perhaps I should have bolded that. $1.5 million dollars. Three things should be apparent at this point:

1) A rich person’s idea of charity is to race cars worth over a million dollars, despite the overwhelming evidence that the only point in racing cars is hoping that at some point someone is going to wreck.
2) The charity was in the form of a car race, since car races are a traditional form of fundraising, oh, and, by the way, Redline, a movie about rich men who race expensive cars for kicks and wagers, starring Eddie Griffin, comes out April 13th.
3) The car was being driven by someone whose sole experience in racing is limited to driving Undercover Brother to the cheap bin at the Wal Mart.

The entire episode is strangely ingratiating. The movie they were promoting was about bored rich billionaires who race their expensive cars around, and there was a wreck because…a bunch of bored billionaires were racing their cars around. It’s life imitating art, though in this case it’s more like staged Hollywood produced media event imitating a staged Hollywood produced media event. Though in real life, I’m assuming Nadia Bjorlin went home alone that night.

Charity or no, there is something fetchingly alarming about rich people pissing their money away. Now, I fancy myself a pretty hardcore off-the-chart free marketeer, one who equates the celestial paradise somewhere along the lines of a rather sadomasochistic Ayn Randian eBaying of commerce and government services. What people do with the money they earn is of no business of mine. But some days, surveying what rich people do with their money makes me want to rally the masses, grab a Spanish double-loaded rifle, and march the proletariat straight to Tiananmen Square, with me in the tank sitting on a crate full of little red books and bread vouchers.

Stories of the nouveau riche’s pecuniary excesses are hardly a new phenomenon. Tales of ancient Rome are rife with decadent Senators, libertines, and future members of Harvard School of Business. And the media absolutely loves to report on these stories because people love to listen to them, and think, “Yeah, I might not make the mortgage payment this month, and I may be doing a criminally negligent job saving for my daughter’s college education, but at least I didn’t spend eight thousand dollars on a Hungarian swan display for my nephew’s bar mitzvah.”

Recent displays of conspicuous consumption aren’t all that hard to find. Probably the most recent tale of excess was that of convicted Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowki. He was convicted, in part, due to his wife’s week-long birthday party, cleverly disguised as a “shareholder meeting.” Among an embarrassingly long list of crimes, one of them was somehow hornswaggling the company into paying for half of what can charitably be called the single greatest depraved orgy even organized by mankind in the last ten centuries. The party itself was an almost picture perfect demonstration of decadence at its best, rife with hired oily gladiators, ice sculptures peeing vodka, cakes formed into the shape of a set of breasts (along with a festive set of strategically placed sparklers!), and a rather cavalier attitude towards the Greek jurisdictional interpretation of adultery. (I got a $20 gift certificate to the Eat ‘N’ Park on my birthday, by the way.)

There doesn’t seem to be a considerable difference in the behavior of businessmen versus celebrities in this particular regard. One might plausibly expect celebrities to acquire money, then find new and creative ways to blow it out their honeyhole. Businessmen, on the other hand, tend to at least pick up some of the financial lessons necessary to get rich in the first place, such as “buying pastries in the shape of barnyard animals may be a fun diversion, but if the markup is 60,000%, perhaps there is a better allocation of funds to be found.” But apparently not necessarily. For every Michael Jackson who buys giraffes like most people buy DVDs, there’s a package on the doorstep of Tyco International with a $6,000 shower curtain in it.

Sometimes, the amount of wealth wasted is subtler. Or, rather, they waste it with “good intentions,” which is code words for “they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.” Donald Trump routinely throws money away every few years in an established money trap known as “marriage.” And George Soros’s own extravagance should not go passed unnoticed, since he contributed around $23 million in the political equivalent of a fantasy sports league.

Griffin’s limited foray into expensive waste seems doubly distressing. His wealth is closer to the Andy Richter There-By-the-Grace-of-God-Go-I end of the scale as opposed to the Warren Buffet end. But one has to think about the super rich in this world. If someone of Griffin’s modest wealth is out wrecking million dollar cars…what exactly are they going to destroy?