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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comment Feedback from "Vegan Shoes?"

I dunno, comments lately (on my BlogSpot) have been getting weird.

I'm used to the "you're a hateful douchebag" comments, but sometimes I just don't get people...

So here are some comments I've gotten on my last post, "Vegan Shoes?":

"Most vegan shoe sites take care to mention that they're either fair trade or made in the USA and that very fact alone shows that people who adopt veganism have a much wider reaching awareness about their own personal impact on people, animals and the rest of the world outside of themselves.

I can understand resistance to accept that leather and sweatshops cause suffering and that there's simple alternatives to that way of living. As Americans we're brought up to be at least marginally isolationist and blind to social problems, especially when it's linked to eating habits or capitalism. What I don't understand though, is dullwitted humor directed at people who are intelligent enough to accept this and want to do something about it."

Okay, I really wasn't trying to make fun of VEGAN SHOE STORES, for the most part. I was making fun of PETA and the fact that a majority of their "best vegan shoe stores" weren't actually vegan. And the few that were, I barely made fun of. Oh, this one has a stupid name. And this one goes a little over-the-top with veganness. And one of them embraces pleather at a level no sane entity should.

But expanding my little diatribe to American isolationism?

Fact is, you just don't need to call them "vegan shoes". 90% of the time, you can just call them "shoes". A very small minority of shoes are not animal-friendly and contain leather. If you're worried enough to consider the veganness of your shoes, then you're wearing FAKE leather and want the fashion sense of leather without the guilt of killing animals.

And hey - you can call my humor "obscene", "evil", "dark" or even "ignorant" - but "dullwitted" just won't fly. Being evil doesn't make me dumb. And just because you don't agree with the punchline doesn't make me stupid for telling the joke. It sometimes makes YOU stupid for not getting it.

"live in the darkness and torture that all those animals go through

Well, at least you admitted what factory farming really is.

Too bad you're too ridiculous to have a normal human reaction to the suffering you're completely aware of though."

"Admitted what factory farming is"? Is there a human left on the planet who doesn't know that animals destined to be food or clothes don't tend to lead happy and fulfilling lives in the great outdoors? I was talking about how emo vegans empathize with the animals rather than just sympathize. And I believe I DID have a "normal human reaction"; I didn't fucking care. We're humans and we're better than the rest of the animals. Do you know why we're better than cows who get turned into leather to make some bitchin' shoes? Because WE WEAR SHOES. Do you know why we're better than the animals we slaughter to feast upon for supper? Because we have carnivore teeth in our mouths. That's right - we have some of the same teeth that wolves have and are specialized for tearing up the meaty goodness. If wolves have the ability to round up tasty deer and breed them in captivity instead of hunting for them and chasing them down, don't you think they would?

Well we do that. Because we're that good. We're better than those animals, so we get to eat them like we're supposed to.

"If I had as much time as you clearly have on your hands and I chose to spend it ranting about vegetarians, I'd probably shoot myself, because my life really would be THAT empty."

followed by

"Great Comment! That is precisely how I feel about this poster! I only read it to see how much more stupid he is getting."

What makes this hilarious to me is that I wouldn't have to write this crap if PETA didn't have the time on their hands to write about it in the first place. If PETA seriously thinks that the best way to obtain their objectives is to create a nonsensical list of the best places to buy vegan shoes and Target is on the list, which is in NO way a vegan-friendly place with their leather, meat, cheese and industrial meat-based kitchen tools - then SOMEONE should take the time to fight back against THEIR idiocy.

PETA is in the wrong. PETA is where you'll find the true stupidity. My making fun of them and pointing out these idiocies does not make me stupid and does not make my life empty.

And I'd single people out, but for SOME reason, every one of those four comments was posted by Anonymous. At least I have the courage to write this stuff and put my name on it.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Vegan Shoes?

In my constant search of things about which I can rant, one of my bookmarked sites is the PETA media page. It's fun to see what crazy letters they're sending to celebrities, which cities are hosting the circus (which means PETA urges them to ban bullhooks, cattle prods and also the circus), and where they plan to parade out their "Lettuce Ladies" who pander to men who are manly enough to enjoy ogling hot chicks in bikinis but pansy enough to enjoy that the bikinis are lettuce leaves and care about whatever message PETA paraded them out to send (this week it's Canadian KFCs to promote the fake-chicken sammiches). Today I stumbled upon a media center bulletin titled "PETA Names the 10 Best Stores for Vegan Shoes" and thought:

"I didn't know they made shoes that eat meat and dairy!"

Aside from that obvious joke, I really don't understand what "vegan shoes" really are, other than the subset of shoes NOT made out of an animal. Or made of dairy products or eggs? Do they really make shoes out of eggs or butter somewhere? Can you get a pair of extra sharp cheddar stilettos? Man - this really is just a nonsensical topic that brings out all sorts of jokes and ridicule, isn't it?

So my first thought is that these stores are all places where they only sell those kinds of non-animal-based shoes and don't test their shoes on animals and don't also sell cheeseburgers as well as shoes. That would kind of make sense; find 10 stores that don't sell leather shoes and call it a day, right?

Well apparently such is NOT the case. Because the first store on the list is:

Zappos.com: Now PETA seems to be flaunting this website for the fact that it carries "Stella McCartney's line of vegan shoes for Adidas", which I guess isn't sold everywhere? The problem is that Zappos.com is a freaking HUGE website. You know what else you can get at Zappos.com? BRUNO MAGLI Raggoso Alligator Loafers. Suck it, PETA!

Bourgeois Bohème: Okay, this site ONLY sells shoes and accessories that are "free from animal ingredients" and vegan-friendly. However, this site DOES sell faux-leather products - which I thought PETA was supposed to be against. After all, the activist group is known for throwing paint on ALL fur, whether it's real or fake, because even if it's fake it still PROMOTES the real stuff. That's why I haven't been able to figure much out with PETA lately. I can understand that fake-meat products are designed to satisfy a "meat craving" as you wean yourself off meat products or if you want to enjoy meat products because that's what your body naturally wants and you're an idiot and feel too guilty so you have to grab some fauxburger instead. But wearing fake leather? That's an IMAGE thing you're craving. You WANT people to think your shoes are made from 100% dead animal because that's what leather is and that's what you want it to look like (even if it's not). The real scariness about this company is this excerpt from their FAQ asking about the company really being vegan:

"We are a vegan owned and run company and make sure that everything we sell and use (including our office cookies and cakes!) are vegan and 100% cruelty free."

It must really suck to work there if you're a normal meat-and-cheese-eating human being.

Moo Shoes: I seriously don't understand the name of this company. I saw "Moo Shoes" on the list and all my brain could muster was COW + SHOE = LEATHER SHOES. I don't know how you can have the word 'Moo' in the title and not have any cow in the product list. If I were searching for a real authentic leather boot, I'd expect to find one at Moo Shoes. And I would be sorely mistaken and possibly homicidal with rage at the blatantly-false advertising. The website claims it's the the first cruelty-free store of its kind in New York City, but I'm guessing that if you walked in with a turkey leg in one hand and a "Fake Leather is for Fake People" sign in the other, you'd experience some cruelty from the high-strung vegan salespeople.

Payless Shoe Source: There's not much to say about Payless that I haven't already said about Zappos.com in the sense that "yes, they sell shoes not made from animal hides, but they also sell shoes that ARE made from animal hides." The proof is in the pudding, as I really ONLY buy my shoes from Payless and they happen to be these awesome leather ones that I'm wearing right now. Okay, I also buy a snazzy Velcro pair every now and then because my laziness knows no bounds. Well, it knows the specific bound of "not having to tie shoes" - but at least it's consistent!

Target: Yet another large store that HAPPENS to sell shoes that don't have leather (which makes PETA happy), yet also definitely sells many shoes that ARE made of leather (and possibly makes PETA cry). The bonus for me is that this isn't just a clothing/shoes store (despite it being on PETA's vegan shoes list) and you can also buy tasty non-vegan food items like an anti-vegan basket of Hickory Farms meat and cheese or something that promotes the meaty lifestyle, like a freakin' MEAT GRINDER! If you happen to buy some vegan shoes here because of PETA's awesome list, you should definitely thank them with a Hickory Farms gift basket.

Chinese Laundry: Okay, I'm not sure if this even is a shoe store based on name alone. It's only by daring to click the link provided by PETA that I found out that yes, they do sell vegan shoes. They have their own little category for all of them. Of course, since they want to be a REAL company, they also will sell you non-vegan shoes, like this leather shoe with an added snake skin print twist. I was afraid this would be another stupidly-named all-vegan company like Moo Shoes up there, but they reserved all their stupidity for their non-shoe-related borderline-racist name of Chinese Laundry and left out the all-vegan part.

Life Stride: Okay, so based on PETA's description, I thought I'd be in for another challenge here. They describe Life Stride by saying that their "nearly 100 percent vegan line of business and casual shoes" can be bought at many major blah blah blah... Did you see the word NEARLY printed in there? I did. And sure enough, you can find, oh, at least 172 kinds of leather shoes on their website. I'm still starting to think that a "vegan shoe store" in PETA's eyes means that they don't ENTIRELY sell leather shoes. If you can find ONE pair of plastic shoes there, it can count as a vegan-friendly shoe store. Which is like saying that an all-beef hot dog stand is vegetarian friendly because they'll sell you an empty bun.

AlternativeOutfitters.com: Okay, I have to give this company credit - they're another 100% vegan-friendly store and all my efforts to find leather and fur and beef jerky have come up empty. However, there's a disgusting amount of usage of "PLEATHER" at this store. I can stand seeing the words "fake leather" or "faux-leather" or something that sounds sensible. But if you say the word "pleather" out loud, don't you get this nasty taste in your mouth and the irresistable urge to punch something to make the sadness go away? I know I do! So since I can't ridicule this site by pointing out any not-purely-veganness and I've already poked fun at crazy vegan company info and I can't claim the company's name is something stupid... I'll just have to point out that you can buy an IRREGULAR Tan Vegan Belt with "Rhinestone and Turquoise" Buckle. If you look at that product and would ever consider purchasing it - do humanity a favor and kill yourself.

T.U.K.: This website kind of looks like it was built by a gloomy 14-year-old gothic kid from MySpace. The link they give you takes you to a selection of vegan-leather heels all in pink and black "retro" styles. But don't worry. Just because you want to live in the darkness and torture that all those animals go through, doesn't mean you can't wear their tanned and flayed flesh on your feet - as is evident in the BLACK STUDDED LEATHER CREEPER SNEAKER WITH BONDAGE STRAP. I kind of giggled - and were it not for the fact that they cost $50 (+S&H), I'd consider getting them because they look so faux-awesome instead of being faux-leather.

Journeys: Just your run-of-the-mill store that happens to sell some fake-leather products (PETA's link takes you to the Girls section rather than a vegan section for some reason) but sells a lot of products with real leather. My favorite product that I randomly clicked on when I searched for "leather" is this belt buckle shaped like a pair of blue sunglasses. How would they show up in my search for leather? Description: To be used with leather belts only. I honestly don't know what kind of belt buckle can ONLY be used with leather, but I like to think that it would sit at the "cool buckle table" at the metaphorical belt buckle high school cafeteria.

So there you have it - a scathing endictment of PETA's 10 Best Stores for Vegan Shoes.

Let the comments commence!!

(Sorry for such a link-heavy post today.)

Feel free to Digg it anyway!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RedEye Criticism

I'm getting a little tired of the constant stream on nonsense being paraded around on the covers of the RedEye newspaper every day. At least once or twice a week, it's a fluff story about some trend in Chicago (or in the U.S., or in life in general) with an accompanying picture of some Chicagoan who falls into the trend. It's got little, if anything, to do with real news - and is accompanied by half a page of statistics about the trend and sometimes a SECOND story wedged in the margin about how the trend relates to ACTUAL news, like maybe a news story where this trend played a role.

Today was no different, as is evident in the two-page spread about some guy who had a vasectomy at age 27 and how many men have vasectomies.

Okay, I'll give them credit that they at least do their research on the trend, providing a doctor's or professional's commentary to supplement the opinion and story of the random person they chose in Chicago who graces the cover and another picture in the article.

In today's case, they supplement the "guy who just never wants to have a kid" opinion with an actual doctor who has an anecdote about some 18-year-old who wanted a vasectomy and the doctor said he was too young and to wait a year and then he came back a year later and the doctor did the procedure. It further goes on to describe the "extreme counseling" that these doctors have to take their prospective clients through before agreeing to do the procedure.

I enjoyed the fact that they mentioned that vasectomies take 15 minutes and cost $1,000 - but that vasectomy reversals take 3-4 hours and cost $10,000 to $25,000 and don't always work. Oh, and a lot of guys who have vasectomies early on tend to wind up getting reversals after a divorce, because most women out there are turned off by the idea of never getting to have kids.

But I digress. My real beef here isn't with the vasectomy article - it's that it's taking up two entire pages in my RedEye today!

I just don't understand how the RedEye decides to go with these stories. Do they work backwards, stumbling upon some new numbers from the U.S. Census or a research study that shows this is the new trend in employment or lifestyles - and THEN create the fluff story around it by tracking down someone picturesque who is a victim/supporter of the trend? Or do they stumble upon some weirdo and jot a couple of notes down and then do the research to find out that person isn't alone and then they go back for the photo shoot and a couple more readable quotations?

I'm half-inclined to just send them my contact information and say "hey, let me know when you plan to do a fluff piece on any of the following things: people who like anime, men who have beards, fat people in Chicago, people in Bridgeport, people who hate PETA, or the idea that we should eat away our pet overpopulation instead of spaying/neutering them."

I can see it now - a dorky photo of me, possibly stroking my beard - with an article about how beards are making a comeback. And they can have statistics like "only 1 in 100 men today are sporting a beard or mustache, but only .005% of the male population can be described as having a 'kick-ass neckbeard'." And they'll take up the entire margin with celebrities who have beards. And they can pose the question, "Are beards in or out? Send us your comments!"

What do you think? Are beards in or out? Do you hate fluff pieces as much as I do? Oh wait, is THIS a fluff piece? Leave us your comments!
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Families Flying with Small Children

We're in the middle of an era where airline travel is now a matter of dollars and cents and what they'll charge you for and what they won't. We're livid with the new ways they're trying to save money because their biggest methods involve charging us more, cutting off services and using practices that in most people's minds should be illegal. (That's right, I'm talking about "overbooking" and selling more tickets than there are seats on the plane as insurance against cancellations - which I'm sure makes sense to the airlines but it sounds like purely illegal activity in MY book.) Anyway, with all the rage regarding the possibility of being treated as nothing more than sacks of meat freight and paying tickets based on our weight - we seem to have overlooked an interesting trend that this blogger sees as a potentially good idea and a potentially bad one.

More airlines have stopped letting families with small children board before the general public, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

There are, of course, two schools of thought regarding this course of action.

1) This is a great idea, because it's more efficient and those not travelling with small children that get seated faster.

The numbers don't lie. It's primarily an efficiency thing. So before you accuse any of the airlines of being anti-parent, anti-children, anti-family or anti-caring-about-those-travelling-with-small-children, please bear in mind that test after test proves that it's an inefficient way to board a plane. Just ask Delta, the leading airline in service experiments:

"If you're bringing on people who need assistance — younger kids — all at once, you potentially create a bottleneck on the front end, as opposed to randomly dispersing them based on where people are sitting in the aircraft," explained Delta spokesman Anthony Black. "The best process is to board the aircraft normally."

And doing so, he said, saves an average of 10 to 12 minutes over allowing families to preboard.

You know, it's hard to argue with 10 to 12 solid minutes of difference between a plane being ready for takeoff and a plane still stuck on the tarmac with flight attendants telling you to stow things completely under the seat in front of you.

Meanwhile, the parents in the family units travelling with small children generally need extra time to deal with their extra baggage (both the luggage and the human varieties) and the fact that they have limited hands/arms with which to deal with it all. But does it make more sense to let them take that extra time BEFORE allowing the rest of the passengers to have THEIR time dealing with baggage and settling in? Or should they be stuck managing things when the rest of the passengers are - taking the same amount of extra time, but at the SAME time as other people?

Normally, I'd say good riddance to the families-board-first initiative - but I'm also aware of the lesser-talked-about second school of thought regarding this issue.

2) This is a horrible idea, because children could wind up ANYWHERE.

Speaking as a non-travelling-with-small-children passenger, there's one benefit I've found to having to wait those extra minutes while the breeders on my flight get to take their sweet time buckling in Junior. That benefit is that when it's time for ME to board, I have a visual of all potential child-endangered seating. If you don't want a brat kicking your chair or be in a onw-row vicinity of a screaming baby - the best strategy is to let them on first and then pick the spot that's clear of their threats. I work to identify all snot-nosed kiddies in those 30 seconds of travelling down the claustrophobic aisleway so I can pick a window seat as close to the front but as far as possible from the broodlings.

Without this system - if you let all general passengers start boarding in one group - my seat's perimeter could be invaded by Children of the Corn in a later boarding group! While no parent is really going to raise an eyebrow to someone passing up their row to find other available seating, getting up to get the hell out of there once they have arrived is probably going to be a confrontational issue. Especially if it's interrupting their several-minute procedure of getting settled in. Which means you're either stuck being a jerk or stuck with the little ones the entire flight.

Now please don't think of me as some ogre who's against children and thinks that they're all a bunch of snot-nosed poopy-pantsed screaming bundles of pure evil and annoyance. I've personally had very few flights that have been affected by young people - and those that were involved babies with colic who frankly disturbed the ENTIRE plane, no matter where you were located. But then again, I've made it a point to take these proactive measures to ensure that I DON'T have a lot of flights being affected by your little ones.

Don't take it from me, though. Try asking AirFareWatchDog.com and their poll about how the flying public feel about those travelling with their little children. There was a news story about it as well, citing that regarding the question of "Should airlines have a section of the plane reserved for parents with babies and younger children?" 58% of pollsters responded that "Yes, they should have done this long ago." 27% said "Yes, but they never will and it'll never work." and the remaining 15% went with "No. This is a bad idea."

85% of people think that child-carrying clans should sit in a separate section of the plane, even though a third of them think it'll never happen. I frankly don't think it'll work, either, but that's from a logistics standpoint. I'm not thinking about the business situation of their "overbooking" and whether it's okay to fill up cancelled Family Zone seats with standby Adult Zone passengers - I'm just thinking about the fact that most people want to stow children away somewhere they can't be HEARD. You can't soundproof a section of an airplane. It'll prevent the kicking and reduce the risk of germ infestation and being nagged or stared at by the unsupervised toddlers you'll occasionally encounter. But it won't reduce the overall noise they generate in a variety of ways.

So here's my idea.

If you're an airline lucky enough to still have TICKETED SEATING, meaning you purchase a ticket and it's got your seat row and number on it - then to hell with those and their small children, because there's no reason to have them waste those 10 to 12 minutes. You know where you're sitting, as does everyone, and you board by groups from the rear of the plane to the front as it's the most efficient method, and that's that.

If you're an airline like so many nowadays with GROUP SEATING, meaning you purchase a ticket and it's got your boarding group on it - then for the sake of those who don't want to be around your little ones, we have to let you on first so we know where NOT to sit. We hate the thought of losing another ten minutes to standing around with an A-Group boarding pass while we wait for the endless stream of priority seating passengers to settle in, but at least we have a chance to save ourselves from being bothered DURING them flight - provided we spent the time and effort to get an A-Group boarding pass and show up early enough to have a pick of seating in the child-free zones.

So that's my idea for how to solve the problem. Of course, my opinion really doesn't matter, since I'm an extra-large sack of meat freight who'll be flying as little as possible to avoid being charged per-pound just to visit family.

Do you have ideas about this issue (other than calling me names or treating me like an ogre)? Leave a comment and join the debate!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

College Presidents Want Drinking Age Lowered to 18

There's a huge debate right now with college presidents from over 100 colleges calling on lawmakers to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 in an effort to curb binge-drinking. Obviously, this had riled the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who argue that lowering the drinking age would therefore increase the number of drunk drivers and risk of drunk driving, which is pretty much the thing that they are against (being mothers and all).

There are several pros and cons to the debate - so here's my two cents.

Right off the bat, I'd like to make it clear that whatever the risks and consequences, I believe that the drinking age should be lowered to 18. I'm not entirely in favor of eliminating the drinking age limit completely, mostly because there are other age limits that need to be removed first. The pessimist in me says that "if teenagers at 14 are stupid enough to be having sex (with each other or older people), then they should be considered stupid enough to be allowed to ruin their lives in all other ways, like marriage, drinking, smoking and anything else that would shame your family and hopefully lead to an early death." The optimist in me says that "the maturity and intelligence curves with today's youth are so much different than they were even when I was a teenager that it makes sense to let them experience other aspects of adulthood at an earlier age."

And believe me, it's difficult for the optimist in me to come up with such a coherent thought when the pessimist in me is peeing on his shoes and laughing maniacally.

My problem with this story and the debate points made within is that the logic simply isn't there for most of it. Shocking, I know, but when you have crazy people fervently arguing their side of the argument as pure gospel - something's going to be wrong with the logic at some point. Don't worry, I'll try and poke fun of BOTH sides of the crazy line, despite the fact that I am biased towards one hopeful result.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. Now, this is logic I can actually agree with. If you increase the legality of something, you increase the chances that someone will do it, and therefore increase the chances that someone will do it and then drive a car. Or while driving a car. Which tends to lead to more results like "fatal car crashes". Point goes to MADD.

Richard Brodhead, president of Duke said that the current law "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks, including risks from drunken driving, and it prevents us from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice." This is logic I can mostly agree with. Universities really can't teach students under 21 about RESPONSIBLE drinking because they're not old enough to drink (even though everyone admits that they do). I agree that when something is illegal, it has to go into hiding in order to stay alive, and that the less oversight there is, the more risky it becomes. If bungee-jumping were suddenly outlawed, there'd still be people doing it but it would be much harder to enforce safety and responsibility and it's likely that more bungee-jumping-related deaths would be a result. Point goes to the university presidents.

Meanwhile, MADD urges parents to think carefully about safety at colleges whose presidents have signed on. "It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses." Okay, this logic I completely disagree with. MADD makes it sound like the presidents of universities who are in favor of this would somehow stop caring about the effects of alcohol on students and would be throwing keggers to get a point across. Duke released a statement from the president that alcohol is still illegal if you're under 21 and the university is obliged to uphold the law - but think about it. Wouldn't you think they'd crack down HARDER? Every time they document a case of underage binge drinking, they get to rack up another point on the "told ya so" meter that proves their point - wouldn't that logically mean they'd be busting people left and right to raise those numbers?? No point for MADD.

A lower drinking age could lead to less binge drinking, experts say, since 18- to 20-year-olds won't have to imbibe surreptitiously. This, I just don't wholeheartedly believe. You have to take into account the various situations that lead to "binge-drinking" and it's just not all underground. Most instances I can think of are parties. Some are underground parties, yes, but binge drinking happens just as much at the public parties. It's a little bit more secretive at the public parties, but it happens there. Even if the party hosts are doing a full ID check, marking off hands and having bartenders ACTUALLY check hands before issuing drinks - binge drinking will still occur with underaged partiers. The hosts are not equipped to check validity of IDs. The partier may alter the hand mark. The partier can get a supply of booze from a legal-age friend (which is how most booze gets to the underaged). The fact is - if you WANT to binge-drink, you're GOING to binge-drink. Removing the obstacles isn't likely to convince people to NOT binge-drink; it would only deter those who SPECIFICALLY binge-drink because it's illegal and they like breaking the law or something. No point for the university presidents.

What it all boils down to is that lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 won't solve the binge-drinking problem on its own. What it WILL do is open the doors for the universities to counsel students about responsible drinking and hopefully reduce binge-drinking in that manner. However, this also means the university can regulate drinking at parties with more scrutiny. Odds are that this change would create a rise in the number of parties, which will create a demand by the universities to limit the number of allowed parties, which will drive the partying underground instead of the alcohol.

Again, people binge on alcohol because they have a reason to. The reasons are probably stupid or something that a therapist should be handling instead of Captain Morgan, but the list of reasons probably has nothing to do with it being legal or not. The binge-drinkers that would be counseled out of the binge-drinking habit would probably be offset by the number of binge-drinkers who always wanted to be binge-drinkers but had that specific obstacle of illegality in the way all this time and never had the means to bypass it before it became legal.

Even so, the U.S. has the oldest drinking age in the world. Most countries allow drinking at 18. Some at 16. Some don't even have a limit at all! We've already admitted that at age 18, you can sign up for the military (to get shipped off to a country where to don't have to be 21 to drink), vote in general elections (to vote to make the drinking age 18), enter into a legally-binding contract (which often has the stipulation of making sure you're not drunk before you sign) and get married (probably the #1 reason why married men drink, if they're 21). It makes sense that the drinking age should be 18, if not lower.

What really irks me about this whole thing is that the university presidents are the ones rallying to lower the drinking age to 18 - not the general public or anything. They're doing it for the expressed purpose of reducing binge-drinking in their universities. Frankly, the number of 18-to-20-year-olds in college is such a small fraction of the 18-to-20-year-old population in general in the United States. It's NICE that we have some seemingly-responsible adults backing up the arguments to lower the drinking age, but that's not going to win the war.

The final point of the match has to go to the university presidents, because part of their campaign is supposedly going to be newspaper ads in the "public phase" - which is exactly what needs to happen if we want to make this law actually change.

What do you think? Are you picking a side in the debate? Do you think my points were awarded fairly? Does your wife make you want to drink heavily? Leave a comment and join the debate!!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Letter to RedEye: Manly Hair

In response to a horrendous article about several men who remove their body hair for various reasons and detailing the numerous ways that men can remove their body hair and posing the question, "Should men be removing their body hair?" or something like that:

I think it's time for hairy men to be proud of who they are. I remember a time when there were huge uproars over supermodels and their effect on women and teenage girls who were destroying themselves with diets and plastic surgery. So why is it that nobody is batting an eyelash when men are being just as vain with diets and fashion and "manscaping" just to look like the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog models? It's a double-standard!

There are only two situations in which it should be socially acceptable to remove your manly hair:
1) You are a model or actor or another profession in which the absence of hair naturally accents toned muscle mass and that's how you make your livelihood/paychecks.
2) It is a hazard for you to have this hair for aerodynamic or flammability reasons.

Aside from those, manly hair is manly and should never be looked down upon. What should be looked down upon is the continued persistance of "metrosexuality" and other effeminate trends. For the love of beer and steaks - they even have pantyhose for men now! I may not know a thing about pantyhose (being a manly man and all), but I'm guessing if you fall into the "man leggings" category, you've already shorn off your leg hair.

I find it depressing that most screen time that male body hair can get is when it's the butt of a joke (see: 40-Year-Old Virgin). I'd like to think that maybe Hollywood can grow up and let men be men and that includes having body hair. Hopefully the recent trend of beards coming back into popularity may suggest an eventual turn AWAY from smooth and back TOWARDS the roughness. I love having a beard and I get compliments for it, too.

I feel confident that your reader response has turned up a majority of females who like the body hair on their partners. That's how our brains are programmed. Plus, I didn't spend several years of puberty waiting for a bumper crop of manly hair to sprout just to wax it all away!

Oh, and sorry, ladies - this hunk o' man meat is spoken for.

Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

(As always, I'll bold anything if this gets posted. I even got to send a picture with it because they're trying to lure in more reader response with the promise of posting your picture if they print your "mini-article" reader response.)

Do you agree about men and body hair being manly and not something to remove?


"Hi Aaron,

Thanks for your letter. We appreciate the feedback!"

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PETA vs Illegal Immigration??

Every now and then, life likes to throw these little puzzles at me. I am anti-PETA. I am also anti-illegal-immigration. So when the two seem to be doing battle, it's really hard for me to choose a side. Unfortunately it doesn't really matter what I think, since the battle seems to be prematurely drawing to a close. It turns out that idiocy and propaganda are no match for criminals. I wouldn't say I'm giving a tip of my hat to PETA for their attempt to stop some illegal immigration, but I will admit that in this battle, my finger is wagging less furiously at them than it's waving at illegal immigrants. So what is this situation I'm referring to?

PETA attempted to rent billboard space on the border fence to post warnings to potential illegal immigrants that there's more to fear than the Border Patrol - they could also become obese by eating our meat and should go with veganism in Mexico.

I can't make this up.

The billboards, in English and Spanish, would offer the caution: "If the Border Patrol Doesn't Get You, the Chicken and Burgers Will — Go Vegan."

"We think that Mexicans and other immigrants should be warned if they cross into the U.S. they are putting their health at risk by leaving behind a healthier, staple diet of corn tortillas, beans, rice, fruits and vegetables," said Lindsay Rajt, assistant manager of PETA's vegan campaigns.

I'm just so confused by the sheer idiocy of this "campaign" that I don't know where to begin.

First of all, they're trying to say that meat is as bad for illegal immigrants as the BORDER PATROL is bad for them? That makes as much sense as telling a robber holding you at gunpoint for your wallet, "You know, if the police don't catch you - old age certainly will." Because people WANT to grow old. Just like how Mexicans crossing the border WANT the luxurious lifestyle that Americans have and cheap meat is certainly one of those luxuries.

And wait a second - are they trying to insinuate that a Mexican diet is naturally a vegan one and that by abandoning their motherland, they'll be tempted into the seedy underbelly that is the meat-eating population? I haven't lived in Mexico or anything, but I'm pretty damned sure that just about all of their signature regional dishes tend to have meat and cheese in them along with the "staple diet of corn tortillas, beans, rice" and so on.

In fact, a comedian said it best that just about all Mexican dishes are a combination of tortillas, meat, cheese and some vegetables. In a taco, the meat and cheese goes on the tortilla and you fold it over (or fry the tortilla and put the meat and cheese inside). In a burrito, you put the meat and cheese on the tortilla and then roll it up. In taquitos/flautas, you put the meat and cheese on the tortilla, roll it up and then fry it. In enchiladas, you put the meat and cheese on the tortilla, roll it up and then put sauce on top. In quesadillas, you put the meat and cheese on the tortilla and then cover it with another tortilla. In tostadas, you fry the tortillas, then put meat and cheese on the fried tortilla and cover it with another fried tortilla. Hell, in nachos, you fry up the tortilla, break it into pieces, then add meat and cheese on top!


At least when you're bitching at Americans to become vegans, you're speaking to a group of people who have absorbed so many different cuisines - they can hopefully find enough non-meat and non-dairy dishes in all of them to possibly sustain themselves.

If you tried to convince a Mexican that "arroz" is just as good as "arroz con pollo" - I doubt you're going to make any headway.

I'm also questioning why the proposed billboards from PETA were going to display Spanish and English. What illegal immigrant is going to pay attention to the English side if you're giving them the Spanish? Are there really that many non-Spanish-speaking illegal immigrants from Mexico who would need the English version to read the propaganda? Or are they suggesting there's a huge American tourist population near the border fences who can't read the Spanish?

Either way, I don't really give a shit how this turns out. I'm glad that PETA is trying to piss off a group of people who are not ME. I'm glad that PETA is making a very feeble, yet not-even-visible effort to fight illegal immigration. I'm glad that in the offchance that their ploy works, it means less illegal immigrants taking America's jobs and eating America's meat (leaving more for me to enjoy). It's more likely that they will still cross but maybe will only take America's jobs and eat less of America's meat.

Of course, the thing is really a moot point because a government spokesperson in Washington said the request will be denied because it would limit visibility through the fence - the way that Border Patrol agents can see illegals approaching.

What do you think? Are you on PETA's side or the side of illegal immigrants? Does your brain hurt trying to ponder that as well?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Thought: Olympics

Just a random thought.

If the original Olympic Games celebrated by the ancient Greeks were initially competitions of just young men who all happened to be nude . . .

. . . then aren't the Olympic Games just the pinnacle of dick-waving competitions?

Isn't the entire thing just an "Our country has a bigger dick than your country" competition?

I mean some of the competitions would be about the fastest dicks, or the most agile... It's a very muddled analogy once you remember that women participate now.

I mean, the Olympic Motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius," a Latin phrase meaning "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." If that's not the motto of a penis competition - I don't know what is.

And the whole thing gets hilarious when you throw the penis competition analogy into the Olympic Creed:

"The most important thing . . . is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

My mind is in the gutter today - it's my defense against the insane piles of work I'm responsible for today...

Pole vaulting: It's not always about bringing home the gold - sometimes it's just about sticking your pole in there and enjoying the thrill of just being there and seeing how far you can go. And the home-court advantage can make all the difference.
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fast-Food Moratorium in South L.A. (Part 2)

For those of you just joining, I highly recommend a visit to Part 1 of this article just to catch up: Fast-Food Moratorium in South L.A. (Part 1)

In this piece, I want to break down the law's language in traditional George Carlin format, pointing out that this law pretty much would ban ALL new restaurants and not just fast-food restaurants - except for a few choice words and I'll explain how any fast-food franchise can easily duck under the law because of them.

Just as a reminder, here what the law considers to be fast-food restaurants:

"any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."

Well, let's start at the beginning...

"which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises": Those are the only two places you CAN consume food! AT the place and NOT AT the place! I mean ANY food location nowadays, no matter how fancy and sit-down or greasy and take-it-and-leave, gives you the option to place an order for take-out. They understand you might not have the time to eat it THERE. Or you may just prefer to eat it NOT THERE, like at HOME. Also, you might as well just say "which dispenses food" - since food is generally dispensed for consumption. That's the general idea of food - that you consume it. I suppose this means a business that dispenses food for you to WEAR would be allowed to move in? So far, this ban applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except the food-as-clothing industry).

"and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu": ALL MENUS ARE LIMITED! You're not allowed to walk into a Burger King or a P.F. Chang's or a Fogo De Chao and order up a yak salad with ostrich chutney garnish. All menus are finite, limited by the abilities of the chef, the availability of ingredients, and the personal desire of the restaurant. They don't want to include endangered animals for you to eat - that's their prerogative. The McDonald's fry cook isn't skilled enough to POACH your eggs that go on your McMuffin - tough luck, pal. It's illegal to obtain and cook human flesh for consumption - don't expect to see the phone book as an addendum to your table's menu. So far, this ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except for hypothetical hypno-restaurants that can put patrons in hypnotic trances and convince them they've eaten anything on an unlimited menu while serving them Kraft Mac & Cheese).

"items prepared in advance": Well of course they're prepared in advance - when did you plan on preparing it? In the guy's stomach? All restaurants have to prepare food before they serve it to you. If you wanted to add the stipulation "prepared in advance of ordering", there's still prep work. Any good restaurant has to save time by pre-assembling items, or even marinating meats in anticipation that someone will order it that night, or using bread that has already been baked or pre-mixed dough even. I'm incredibly skeptical that there exists a single restaurant that can make every item on its menu FROM SCRATCH and not until the order is placed and it can still be served fast enough that the customer doesn't leave, possibly mumbling, "if I wanted incredibly slow food made from scratch, I'd be at home with my wife instead of at a fancy restaurant with my mistress..." Fact of the matter is, this ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (unless all they do is raw, uncooked, unprocessed food, and at that point you might as well be foraging in the woods for sustenance and saving yourself $20 per person).

"prepared or heated quickly": I don't think there's much to say about this. If you're not preparing or heating your food at a decent pace, you shouldn't qualify as a business. It's called "the danger zone" and it's a temperature range at which bacteria can grow and multiply and infect your food. The longer food goes from storage to preparation to your mouth, the more likely you are to get sick and sue for food poisoning. ALL FOOD BUSINESSES know that and do those things in a timely fashion. Also, "quickly" is too subjective of a term - any cooking that takes shorter time to cook than "leaving it in the sun, possibly on a metal pan" can be deemed to have been cooked "quickly" by the Amish. This ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except Brother Jebediah's Sun-Cooked Meat Emporium)

Now, we finally come to "no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers", which technically seem to separate the actual restaurants from the "fast-food joints" that the law is trying to stop from opening new locations. But don't worry, McDonald's and Burger Kings, they're both easy to step around.

"no table orders": Okay, so you have to be able to take orders at a table in order to qualify as a true "restaurant"? Note that the law doesn't even say anyone has to be SITTING at a table. The table area is just the place where all orders have to be taken in order to qualify. Rather, at least ONE order has to be taken from a table to simply NOT fall into the category of "no table orders". So how do you side-step this one?

Put a table over the counters. It doesn't matter if there's one long table placed over the entire counter, or a cheap IKEA table draped right on top of each counter segment with the cash register placed on top and your McJob cashier/waitstaff standing at the "table". You can even place a small table in front of the drive-thru speaker and one in front of the pay window and pick-up window. "Thank you, please drive to the next TABLE." Voila - you're taking table orders and you can move right in with a new location!

"food served in disposable wrapping or containers": Okay, I have to start off with the obvious jab that everything used to serve food is disposable (in the definition that everything is "able to be disposed of"). A restaurant can give you your burger on a plate, but a plate is just as disposable as a paper lining you'd find wrapped around a McDonald's cheeseburger. For the sake of argument, I will admit that one definition of "disposable" means "INTENDED to be disposed of". I guess McDonald's could just print pictures on all wrappers and containers and call them "collectible" and you can complete the set - that would insinuate that they should NOT be disposed of, but rather collected for some reason. You'd think that the real clencher here is that McDonald's food is wrapped or put into containers (while a restaurant will not wrap food it's serving to you), which means it's just fast-food that this clause affects. To be fair, any legit restaurant will let you place a to-go order and all of that food will be in disposable wrapping or containers! It doesn't say that food is ONLY served in disposable wrapping/containers, right? Which means that any restaurant willing to place a to-go order or let you take food home in a doggy-bag is going to be banned. Once more, this clause of the ban would apply to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except those snooty enough to deny you eating their food anywhere other than their restaurant).

So really, all it comes down to is whether or not you'll ever take a food order from a table. All other pieces of this "law" boil down to no food businesses at all being allowed to set up shop in South L.A. (other than those wacky/insane exceptions). Any fast-food place would be able to open up shop as long as they stick a table somewhere and let someone order from it, as I've suggested above. Frankly, the law suggests that you must hit ALL of those marks to qualify not being able to open a new location - which means that once you miss the mark on ANY (like taking orders from a table), you've got free reign in South L.A.!

Take that, Los Angeles City Council! Your law is useless and a waste of taxpayer money for all the debate and insanity that must have transpired before you foolishly signed this moratorium into effect.

Don't you agree? Have I missed anything? Can you understand how each piece of this law is vague and moronic? Was my homage to George Carlin acceptable?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Don't Talk to the Police!

I found this website while cruising Fark yesterday morning and started watching the first video. I was just so intrigued by it! I mean I've never been in a courtroom or arrested (came close once) or really talked to any lawyers for extended periods of time about this subject, but to watch these videos - it was a true eye-opener.

After watching these videos, you will never want to talk to the police. At all. Ever.

The first video is the law professor, James Duane, of the Regent University School of Law. He basically outlines all of the main reasons why you should never talk to a police officer about anything, in any capacity, when you are a suspect in a crime or accused of a crime or arrested for some crime. He also does this WITHOUT malice towards the police. It's not the police officer's fault, because it's YOUR fault for being an idiot and talking to them.

I think the most enlightening piece of this video is when Prof. Duane explains that anything you say to the police can be used AGAINST you in a court of law; it CANNOT be used FOR you. If you say something to the police that helps your case as a defendant, and your lawyer asks the police officer to corroborate it, it is inadmissable because it's hearsay.

There are a lot more compelling reasons, and I have to warn you that it is a 27-minute video. And it's just Part 1.

That's right - just the first part. Because the guy wants to be "fair" - he invited a POLICE OFFICER to take half of his hour's time to either agree or disagree and present whatever he wants to say on the subject of never talking to the police. So Officer George Bruch of the Virginia Beach Police Department gets 21 minutes to have his say. And he says that Duane is basically right. He just gets up there and admits the many ways that people are stupid and admit things to the police because they were stupid enough to talk to them in the first place.

He also gets to clarify certain nuances of his job and admits to several tricks he gets to use in order to get the confession he needs. The one that stood out most in my mind was something I already knew, but was illustrated brilliantly as Bruch was detailing how he fools people. He has a tiny little tape recorder in the interrogation room. He lulls people into false security by asking them if he can use the tape recorder to record the interview because he has poor handwriting or can't write fast or something. (Asking is a courtesy, since he can do whatever he wants and they have no right to say no to him taping the interview, and gives them false power.) Then if he's not getting what he wants, he reaches over, stops the tape recorder, and says, "Let's talk - off the record."

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "OFF THE RECORD". The interrogation room is always miked and always recorded and anything you tell a police officer at ANY TIME can be used against you. He also lists convincing people to write "apology letters" - which are of course handwritten confessions - and the fact that only one person on a phone conversation needs to know it's being recorded for it to be legal. Just him, the police officer.

The most enlightening piece of his segment for me was probably when he stated that he reads people their Miranda Warning - it's NOT a RIGHT - as well as the constant reminder that the police can LIE to you as much as they want during an interview.

To finish, the ACLU has a downloadable PDF 'bust card' with information on your rights when dealing with a police officer.

A brief rundown:
- If you are ever detained, the police can ask you for your name and in some states you CAN be arrested for not providing it. You CAN plead the right to remain silent if you think your name alone will incriminate you, which may be a defense in case you do get arrested in the end.
- If you're stopped in your car, you must show driver's licence and registration. Other than that (and your name), you don't have to answer a thing.
- You don't have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. The limit is a "pat-down" of your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon, and you can make it clear that you to not consent to any further search.
- You do not have to give consent for an officer to search your car if they have probable cause, but you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. You cannot be arrested for simply refusing to consent to a search.
- You do not have to give consent for an officer to enter your house if they hear someone screaming for help or if they are chasing someone. If you are arrested in a building, you do not have to give consent for the police to search "close by", which is limited to the room you were in. Other than this, you do not have to let the police in unless they have a warrant signed by a judge - and always ask to see it if they claim they have such a warrant.
- If you refuse to consent to a blood/urine/breath test while being suspected of a DWI, your license can be suspended.
- You have the right to ask if you are being arrested. If you are, you have the right to know why you are being arrested. If you are arrested, the only information you have to give to the police is your name and address. Beyond that, you have the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer.

I'm pretty sure all of that information is correct. Meanwhile, be aware that it's not just anything you SAY that can be held against you. Don't be difficult, don't be rude, and for the love of all that is good and holy - don't interfere or resist or be violent in any way.

You have the right to remain silent, but you also have the right to be stupid. It's your choice.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Fast-Food Moratorium in South L.A. (Part 1)

If you were to ask me to provide an honest answer regarding the question of our youth (and our populous in general) getting obese - I'd completely agree. The data doesn't lie, and neither do my eyeballs. People are getting fatter - and more people are getting fat. I would never, though, say it was an "epidemic", since that's supposed to be a word meaning a rapidly-spreading disease. Despite some crappy article I read once about how if you have several obese friends then you're more likely to become obese, weight problems are not a disease (social or otherwise). You can't "catch obesity" - not even from toilet seats.

But it's our right to be fat.

It's our freedom of choice to choose sedentary lifestyles or picking up a bucket of KFC instead of lifting weights or even ordering too much healthy food which in turn isn't healthy. You can't blame the gyms for being too expensive (though they are expensive indeed). You can't blame the video game industry for getting you addicted to sitting and button-mashing (thanks to DDR and WiiFit "games"). You can't blame the food places for letting you order too much (I mourn the loss of the "Supersize"). You can't blame the fast food industry for "being there" (unless you're a moron).

So the Los Angeles City Council must therefore be a bunch of morons.

They voted unanimously to approve a law banning new fast-food restaurants from opening in South Los Angeles for at least a year.

Why in the name of all that is good and holy and deep-fried would they do such an idiotic thing?

Because 30% of the kids in South L.A. are obese, compared to the L.A. average of 25% of obesity in children.

That's it. A 5% difference - one extra kid out of twenty happens to be obese in South Los Angeles, so let's ban all new fast-food locations from opening. That sixth kid to tip the scales in every 20-child South L.A. classroom best get ready for an ass-kicking from the other five obese kids for crushing their dream of a new place to gorge on greasy delights! Oh, and by the way, THIS DOES NOTHING! At best, you're forcing people to waddle a little further to get their fix rather than letting a closer location get built. At worst, you're raping the sanctity of the free market. This little charade doesn't change the goddamned MARKET OPPORTUNITY!

Do you know why fast-food locations are doing well in that area and more want to open up? Because that's what the market demands. We just had a Dunkin Donuts / Baskin Robbins open in our building a month ago - even though one exists less than one block southeast from our building. And a few weeks ago, yet another one opened a block northeast of our building. Do you know WHY they're opening up three Dunkin Donuts locations within a block of each other?


I would never expect our city to decide "the downtown area is overcaffeinated and obese and caffeine is a drug and donuts are fattening, so let's ban new donut/coffee locations so that other businesses can move in." Okay, Chicago is the Nanny City, so I might expect it - but it's still a ridiculous idea. If the people wanted a new sit-down food location with healthy choices, then one of those businesses would move in and would prosper. FORCING one of those to open up INSTEAD of what the market wants will result in poor sales and the inevitable closing and moving out of that business. In my neighborhood, we mostly have greasy spoons and take-out Chinese and Mexican places. And some Italian-esque fancy/expensive bistro tried opening up. And nobody came. So they've closed. Twice. Maybe if another burger joint moved in there, business would be booming for them. It's called the FREE MARKET.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who has pushed for a moratorium for six years, said the initiative would give the city time to craft measures to lure sit-down restaurants serving healthier food to a part of the city that desperately wants more of them.

"I believe this is a victory for the people of South and southeast Los Angeles, for them to have greater food options," she said.

You moron! If that part of the city "desperately" wanted more sit-down healthy restaurants, then one would be opening in one of the available spaces. You can't just BAN certain types of businesses from renting that space just because you're "holding out" for one you like. If a business moves in and you don't like it and don't want it, you don't go. And if enough people do that, it goes out of business and closes and some other business can try it out. And if NOT enough people refuse to go - that means that people DO want that service/product and YOU'RE the idiot for thinking that YOUR opinion represents your entire area's opinion.

That's how it's supposed to work - and you shouldn't be allowed to pass an idiotic law to tell people what they supposedly want but obviously don't.

The law defines fast-food restaurants as "any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."

My full rant on this law's language will be found in Part 2... In traditional George Carlin format...

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