An American Autumn

September 25, 2008

Welcome to the fall! Some enjoy the fall because of the weather, the atmosphere, and the seasons. Others dislike it for the fact that that means winter is fast approaching. It’s one of my favorite seasons for a variety of reasons, not the least of which it is the season I most closely associate with my birthday. Of course, fall brings with it a multitude of different experiences for different people. Such as:

The Fall Television Lineup: Each year, the televisions networks reveal their fall television lineup. Nervousness fills studio executives, producers, writers, and budding actors as viewers are now going to be the ones choosing which programs survive and which ones get cancelled after two episodes even though the television critics are required by law to change their pants on an hourly basis because it’s so ridiculously orgasmic to watch but has to be chopped off the schedule because it drew in .04% fewer viewers in the 18-34 age range than Kansas City Prostitutes Drive Big Rigs in the Arctic. So while there is plenty of hope, there’s an awful lot of disappointment, especially as one considers the fact that we live in a world where someone is contractually obligated to actually give Jay Mohr some work.

Football Season: This year is nothing like last year, when entire franchises were being rounded up and sent to Gitmo and Michael Vick was wandering the nation shooting at feral kittens with buckshot. It’s actually quite sedate this year; despite the upset of the Giants over the Patriots, New England was expected to steamroll over all the competition. However, the only drama during week one of the season—aside from whether Baltimore and Cincinnati would actually both slide into negative points—was that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was injured and will be out for the rest of the season, giving him plenty of time to fight for messiahship with Barack Obama and Steve Jobs. Aside from some incredibly arcane disputes about renegotiating the collective bargaining agreement, the entire drama manufactures for this season pretty much boils down to variations of Chad Johnson’s legal name and the concept of Jessica Simpson.

School Starts: Or, in other words, school buses suck. In some ways, the start of school is a wonderful thing. I don’t like too many things in this world, but one of the things I am terrifyingly irritated by are children of the age four through eighteen. And when they are in a building learning the cosine and making closed circuits out of a bunch of C batteries and some old crusty wires from the Nixon era, they are notably not at the mall or in front of me at the checkout counter at the local department store. So carting the kids off to school is a remarkably wonderful thing, if nothing more than the fact that since I’m forced to pay for it anyway I might as well get some peace and enjoyment out of the deal by not having to be made to feel old every time I have to go to the grocery store.

Election Time: While there is a lot of justifiably intense media focus on the presidential campaign, it’s also election time for countless local elections, as many people are fully aware of given the what seems to be approximately sixty thousand road signs you will ignore over the next two months. Everything from comptrollers to commissioners to ward council seats, everyone is trying to get a piece of the sweet participatory democracy pie. And, living in Pennsylvania, we get a super special treat of pretty much election any damn fool to any absurd position, most notably the prothonotary, a completely artificially conceived lie of a position cooked up by the Greeks or the Catholic church or somesuch and forced upon us by a progressive movement hell bent on electing everyone’s dinner every day.

A Lot More Pumpkin Crap On The Shelves At the Grocery Store: Now, don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin stuff. I like pumpkin pies and cookies and bread and roasted pumpkin seeds and all sorts of things that make me quite capable of supply an embarrassingly large percentage of our natural gas needs. But every so many years—and this one looks likely to be one—there are multitudes of ridiculously-conceived items that are pumpkin-themed. I’ve even seen some monstrosity called pumpkin soup, something I suspect is very much so like finding something called watermelon broil or turkey cupcakes. (And please don’t write telling me that these things actually exist. I want to tread water for the remainder of my life assuming those things do not exist in a sane world.)

A Whole Mess Of Deadly Boring Movies Aimed At Scraping Up An Oscar Nomination:
Let’s face it, people are getting over the action-packed summer blockbusters, and are winding down now that the kids are on a regular schedule of not bothering me at the movie theater. The good news is that I can actually enjoy a movie without having to worry about contracting STDs from the approximately 14,000 teenaged sexual encounters that appear to occur once the lights dim down every time I venture into the theater after four in the afternoon. The bad news is that a boatload of period pieces, self-righteous historical epics, and a two-for-one sale at the Oscar Contender auction gets shoveled into the studio schedules, provided not entertainment but boredom packaged in sanctimoniousness. I don’t see why the movie industry needs to do this; the presidential campaign is fulfilling that need this year.


There Goes Another Candidate: No, Seriously, There Goes Another Candidate Edition

June 11, 2008

Well, the primary season is effectively over, barring Barack Obama getting caught as a member of the National Rifle Association or John McCain getting caught with cholesterol. While this means that the election is headed for a long, hot summer of talking heads, attack ads, and trite, overused phrases referencing scandalous minutia only the practitioners of talk radio or 24-hour news networks could possibly care about, one has to stop and wonder what will happen to those vanquished in this fight. While we know that John Edwards will go back home to practice law, and Mike Huckabee is going back to Arkansas to sell used cars or whatever it was that he used to do, and Dennis Kuchinich is going back home to Mars in his chariot powered by the souls of dead unicorns, the big question mark hovers in the room: What is Hillary Clinton going to do?

Hillary, of course, has plenty of choices in this liberated world! Why, it was only a few generations ago that women had a limited number of choices for their lives: housewife, teacher, nurse, or marrying that guy so no one would know that he’s gay. If only we had had a candidate that could have represented how far women have come. But now, well, the opportunities are endless! Or at least seven bullet points long:
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Hillary As Attack Dog: Vanquished opponents and former Presidents normally make good attack dogs when they’re not playing golf with oil fascists or diddling the maids at their Presidential libraries. They can lob incendiary bombs at the other nominee without much blowback, since they normally have nothing to lose beyond a sweet gig at MSNBC, something that doesn’t pop up very often on Christmas lists. Hillary can do this with particular adeptness, as she’s displayed to Obama over the past six months or so. For example, she can wail on McCain for his voting of the authorization of force on…well, never mind. She can differentiate how she voted on the Campaign Finance Reform Act…oh, wait. At least she can point out their differences in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill…er, you know what? Never mind.

Hillary As Fundraiser: The Clintons have long, deep roots in the progressive community, and having Hillary on top billing for any fundraiser will make the first-rate Hollywood moguls and second-rate music producers and third-rate Southeast Asian financial conglomerates crack open the vault and pour money into Obama’s campaign. The real treat, though, is that Hillary’s loss makes plenty of supporters feel guilty, and there are no more effective practitioners of liberal guilt than Democratic primary donors. She’ll be laughing all the way to the First Bank of the Fish Who Need Bicycles.

Ed Rendell As Hillary: While Hillary’s ambition is to claim the presidency, in her wake she has created those that supported her, and now are basically clones of her without all the baggage. Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, is one of those. While large sections of the American population have an opinion on Hillary, far fewer are aware of Rendell, and Rendell has made fewer enemies on the national stage beyond Kansas City hockey fans and cheese steaks. This could spell trouble for Hillary, since an astute look by Obama at a 1) popular governor in a 2) swing state that is 3) very close to Hillary’s positions without 4) everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line grabbing the pitchfork and foaming sweet tea at the mouth at the mere mention of her name. Granted, selling Rendell means convincing everyone that the nation needs to be a lot more like Philadelphia, so it may be a good idea to stock up on Tovex.

Hillary as Vice President: She’s on a lot of lists to be a potential vice president, a thought that is both natural and unusual at the same time. It’s unusual in that for the last sixteen years Hillary has sacrificed foreign-born children in her back yard as a nightly ritual to become President; settling for vice president seems sort of anti-climactic. However, getting to the Presidency via the #2 slot has worked pretty well in the past. Just ask Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Dan Quayle.

Hillary As Senator From New York: Most people assumed that Hillary was elected to the Senate from the state of New York to represent her core constituency: carpetbaggers supporting abortion on demand who wanted really, really badly to run for President. All that changed when it turned out that she actually wasn’t a grandstanding hellion but a reasonably well-behaved junior Senator, a lot more responsive to the average New Yorker’s political sensibilities than Al D’Amato and a lot less likely to be wandering in downtown Albany in an unbuttoned dressing down smelling of Ben-Gay and gin than Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Granted, you could saw off everything from Schenectady westward and not have an impact on her support, but the entire world kind of revolves around the Big Apple anyway, so who cares?

Hillary As First Lady: While she won’t be the first lady of an Obama presidency, she can certainly act like one. Touring the country as the almost-winner while still retaining her cordial hostess skills may provide the Democrats with a softer side of politics. Granted, both John McCain and Barack Obama are pretty much pussies anyway, but let’s just say there are significant portions of the electorate thinks Aquafina is too tart and the band Kansas has too hard of an edge to them.

Hillary As Hillary: She won’t be baking cookies at Denver, of course. Although one has to wonder exactly what else she has to do with her time. Besides bitch-slap Gina Gershon, of course.


There Goes Another Candidate: Pennsylvania Dreams Edition

April 17, 2008

I have the misfortune of living in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Well, that’s not really fair. I rather like this state of mine, of course, what with growing up and living here and all. But it does come with one major drawback, aside from having roads that are about as well-kept as a Namibian mountain pass and a winter season that lasts upwards of a decade or so, is that we are currently in a midst of a drag-down, knock-out, piss-cutter of a primary battle for the Democratic nod for the presidential campaign.

In decades past, the Pennsylvania primary was relegated to comfortable irrelevancy. With an election all the way the hell in April, candidates knew full well they wouldn’t have to bother with pandering to Pennsylvania’s former steelworkers, cranky social conservatives, and Amish radicals. Since the national primaries tended to be front-loaded—2012’s primary actually just started last week—most nominations were all wrapped up by the time the Keystone State bothered to have a say.

Which, normally, is a good thing, since the average Pennsylvanian’s opinion is pretty much boiled down to two sentiments: “Give me my Social Security check,” and “Give me my Social Security check right now.” Sure, there are other considerations, such as guns and the NFL playoffs, but these tend to be drowned out by the sheer number of old people that live in Pennsylvania, where the average age of a newborn is about 45.

Pennsylvania’s always been a bit of a dry rot when it comes to national politics. Despite being one of the original thirteen colonies, they’ve had a rather small percentage of national prominent politicians. We’ve only had one President, and that was the blank-face James Buchanan, known mostly to historians as the guy who actually invented a way to freeze time for four years. And the only members of the current congressional delegation to be noteworthy as of late is Arlen Specter, the guy who tried to sell the fact that a bullet went from the grassy knoll to Hanoi and back en route to its deadly target, and Jack Murtha, who would have had a front-row eyewitness account of the Haditha attack had it not been for the fact that he’s been clinically dead ever since he turned two hundred years old.

Enter Mssrs. Obama and Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is looking at a do-or-die situation in Pennsylvania, with “do” being “still having only a 50/50 shot of getting the nomination” and “die” being “drop out and make around $4.5 million per year on a speaking tour.” Under normal circumstances, Pennsylvania would be a shoo-in for her. It’s a big, clumsy, industrial state, the kind she does well in, with one foot in a decaying industrial economy and one foot in the high-tech boom, assuming that assisted living facilities are classified as high-tech. Blue-collar workers gravitate towards her, much like they did in Ohio and would have in Michigan had Michigan held an actual primary.

Hillary also has another powerful supporter in the governor, Ed Rendell. Rendell has been an energetic campaigner for Hillary, and somehow manages to translate his political capital and position into mass popularity. No offense to the man, but if anyone were to create the image of a politician from scratch that is the personification of the slouching, tie-askew, back-slapping, smoke-filled room occupying, cigar-chomping, OTB-dwelling, deal-making, fast-talking confidence man, that person would be dead after Rendell hires some guy to put a slug in his temple.

Then again, the story of Pennsylvania is really a story about Philadelphia, where Barack Obama is doing extraordinarily well. His message of hope and inspiration appeals greatly to those in Philadelphia, who have to deal with Cheez Whiz on steak sandwiches and the occasional firebombing of entire city blocks by the police department.

The biggest news around the state, though, is Obama’s contention that Pennsylvanians are bitter about their economic outlook, and so “cling” to guns, God, and anti-immigrant sentiments to make up for the loss. For many, this was seen as condescending and elitist, with Obama under the misunderstanding that if presented with high-paying, good jobs, we would all trade our guns in for Dick Dawkins books or something. It doesn’t appear as though Obama understands that the only thing to get between a Pennsylvanian and his gun is the bullet.

The candidate’s tactics seem to be a touch odd, though. Clinton’s main contention is that everyone has already gone through her baggage and sifted through a darkened attic full of cattle futures, Travelgate, and a steadfast refusal to bake cookies. Obama, for his part, finds himself defensive after it was revealed that his neighbor’s future wife once babysat someone who was a roommate with a college student who once read a book called “Vladimir Lenin: Was He Really All That Bad?”

Both senators are presenting Pennsylvanian with the same choice as they are giving the nation: a candidacy of hope, inspiration, and results, or a candidacy with a slightly different mix of hope, inspiration, and results. When the results are in, either one candidate or the other will be the victor, or, most likely, a stalemated outcome that doesn’t produce any clear-cut winner and this whole thing drags out until they’re pulling random people off the street to vote in San Juan to crown the victor. Of course, there’s going to be one clear winner: Pennsylvania. When this is finally—finally!—over, Pennsylvania can go back to being complacently ignored.

Now, that’s something worth clinging to.