Monday, November 24, 2008

Pleb the Builder!

One of the chief disagreements that Wifey and I have had regarding our charming European home is the lighting in the living space on the ground floor. This common area houses both our living and our dining room, and in the past we have illuminated it via several Ikea pole lamps.

I like Ikea pole lams. They’re cheap, which is nice. They’re portable, which is also nice. And when your spouse turns them off, if she does it slowly you can imagine that you’re at an upscale gentleman’s club and she’s about to give you a private dance, particularly if you choose that moment to jam a fiver in her panties and grope her.

Or maybe that’s just me. Okay, I don’t use the fiver, but I do grope. It’s one of the best non-verbal ways to say “I love you”, right?

Wifey, however, does not like the pole lamps. In fact, she finds the bottom level of our house much like a dungeon: dark, cold, and filled with people that she really doesn’t care for.

Some time ago, I accidentally installed a new wall lamp in one corner of the room. This unit has been operating now for a month without either burning the house down or going on the fritz, so Wifey decided to give me a little more challenge: she bought a chandelier.

I came home from work one evening to discover the thing in a box on the table, and her proudly telling me that she’d gotten it on sale: only sixty euros. That’s a hundred bucks in non-Monopoly money, which is actually pretty good for lamps here.

Needless to say, I was terribly excited with the thought of climbing atop a ladder, drilling holes in the ceiling, and hanging a forty-pound mass of metal and glass directly overhead. So I did what any husband does when faced with a similar situation: I procrastinated.

Weeks passed, and although eating around the box with the chandelier posed some problems, it eventually got to where we viewed it as one of the family. It was a lot less trouble than the kids, I can tell you that.

All that changed Friday . Wifey went out with friends, and I had to cut out of work early to pick up our children. Plus the two children of her friend. Plus the daughter of a woman that we don’t particularly care for but whom Wifey shuttles around sometimes. Other than the times that she gets so annoying you want to toss her in a creek in a burlap sack, this kid’s not so bad. So I hear; I spend all my time with her looking for burlap sacks.

Well, we got home, and the children went upstairs to play. I was a little disgruntled with Wifey, so I decided that the best way to take it out on her was to finally hang this stupid chandelier.

No, I hadn’t been drinking, but I do suspect mental illness played a strongly contributing role here.

I got the mounting bracket up, then hung the thing up, then realized it was time to go again, in order to get all the children ferried to their varying activities. “I’ll be back,” I said to the unwired chandelier waiting for me.

Jokingly, I told the children I was going to leave it hanging a few hours to see if it fell down.

Several hours later, we returned, to find not only Wifey but also the chandelier, right where they should be. Wifey was somewhat less than impressed, as the chandelier didn’t yet work, but did appropriately ooh and aah that I’d gotten it hung.

She did not ooh and aah when I said “if you think it’s hung well, come check me out.”

Come Saturday morning, I jumped on the task with both feet: Operation Light-the-damn-dining-room had begun! I spent some time swearing, splicing wires, and getting everything just so. My shoulders aching, I prepared to make the final tie-in of wires to chandelier.

“Do you want me to do anything?” Wifey asked.

Since children were present, I couldn’t say what I was thinking, so instead I opted for “just sit there and look pretty. I’ve got it all under control.”

Just as I said this, the house leapt six feet into the air. Either that, or the chandelier fell six feet as I knocked it off its hanger. The net effect was the same: with a loud crash, glass went everywhere, Wifey’s table, which she loves, was brutally scratched, and I had just payed a sixty-euro dumbass handyman tax to stimulate the local economy.

Wifey’s chandelier, whom I had eaten dinner next to every night for the past three weeks, was utterly destroyed.

Have you ever done something stupid, and just after, wished that you’d be injured so that you’d get some sympathy instead of blame? I felt just like that. In fact, I leapt off the ladder, hoping to break my leg or shove a shard of glass through my foot, but instead I ended up just smashing more glass flat.

If you thought the house was cold before, it was nothing compared to how cold it was gonna be, trust me.

“Never mind,” I said. “We’ll just pop out and get another lamp, right?”

“Wha?” Wifey had lost all capacity for rational speech. “Guh?”

“Great! Let’s go!”

So off we went. Turns out, though, the lamps were on sale for a limited time only, and now cost 120 euros. Well, not so bad: almost 200 euros for a lamp. Still less than I expected to pay. Right? Right?

“Hey,” I joked. “You wanna get two for when I smash this one also?”

This joke did not pan out as I had hoped.
Upon return to the house, I did what I should have done in the first place: I punished the children and sent them to their rooms. Helps me focus. Then, with a degree of skill that would make any home-improvement Bob from Vila to Thebuilder jealous, I wired up and hung my very own lamp.

And lo and behold, there was light. Lots of light. The bottom floor is now no longer dark. It’s still cold and full of objectionable people, but I’ll be darned if I’m moving out or paying exorbitant heating rates.

I have, however, moved all those Ikea stripper-pole lamps up to the bedroom, where they belong.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cultists, the NFL, and you

Some people worry about foreign strife, while others are kept up at night by a tanking economy. But unlike such ephemeral concerns, the thing that worries me is that a current NFL personality will start up a cult of personality that will end up making the Manson Family look like the Simpsons.

Okay, that was a bad analogy, because the Simpsons are awful, and just watching them will make you want to gouge your eyes out. How about they make the Manson Family look like the Osmond Family?

You're probably thinking to yourself: there goes Plebian, being crazy and worrying about something that could never possibly happen, and making up exaggerated scenarios for comedic effect.

Well, you've got some nerve, you know that?

Anyways, think about all the cult-like leaders currently roaming the landscape in the NFL right now. Think about the disproportionate influence that previous NFL personalities have held over this country's culture in the past. Why, Jim Brown alone was responsible for 23% of all Blaxploitation films in the early 70's.

Here are the guys I'm keeping an eye on:

Brett Favre

I once had a sportswriter friend who criticized Brett Favre at a Sports Illustrated Christmas party, saying that he threw too many interceptions and his personality was essentially Terrell Owens, only without the charm. They never found the guy's body.

Really, has anybody ever enjoyed the free pass from criticism that Favre has enjoyed throughout his career? From flagrantly mispronouncing his name to screwing his former team (in a plethora of ways), Favre can do no wrong for fans and the media bobbleheads.

How can I get to be Favrian? "Well, you cost the company six gagillion dollars, but it was a gutsy move to gamble all our money on 00 on the roulette wheel, so I'll let it pass. Just try to be more careful in the future, okay?"

Cult-O-Meter Risk: LOW. If he did start a cult, it'd probably get intercepted by the Feds pretty quickly.

Norv Turner

Everybody knows Norv Turner's downsides: he looks like a creepy neighbor you expect to turn up on one of those "Wanted" posters in the post office, his only claim to coaching genius is being lucky enough to have Troy Aikman, Emmet Smith, and Michael Irvin on his offense, and his teams are perennially tagged as "underachieving" without anyone ever pausing to think that maybe it reflects on him.

The potential upside to having Norv Turner as your coach? You'll get a new coach within a few years who can rebuild the shattered husk of a team he leaves behind. Note that this didn't work out so well for Oakland, though.

One amusing thing is watching sportswriters and bloggers continue to labor to find excuses for why San Diego "underachieves" without throwing up their hands and saying "look, obviously, the guy sucks as a coach."

Cult-O-Meter Risk: NEGATIVE. Turner would probably take over a successful cult, but then run it into the ground and end up turning all the members Presbyterian or something. Any chance we can get him into Scientology?

Heath Shuler

How is it that an average college quarterback for Tennessee got so heavily drafted, deep-sixed his own career with an ill-advised holdout, flamed out in the NFL, then got elected as a Representative for North Carolina, and is now being touted for the Senate?

I dunno, but it doesn't happen without some really creepy explanation involving either pictures, fraud, or mass hysteria. And great cults are built on all of those things.

Plus, the chant factor for his name is pretty high: "Shuuuuulllleeeeer." Go on, say it. Just not while smoking dope, or you'll end up peeling him grapes in your underwear. And trust me, that's no picnic.

Cult-O-Meter Risk: MEDIUM. Did you know that he has a realty business based in Tennessee, yet is a Representative from North Carolina? If he starts nosing around Guyana, we'll bump him up to SEVERE immediately.

Tony Romo

Not only does he have Favrian-level apologists who never point out that he chokes in big games, and not only does he have movie-star good looks, and not only does he have hagiographic media coverage, he has the praise of Jessica Simpson, saying that he's "calmed her down."

Anybody who can calm down a Hollywood Starlet has Rasputian powers beyond wildest imaginings.

And that's without starting to discuss T.O. shedding great big tears over him.

Cult-O-Meter Risk: BE AFRAID. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why I Love Toyota's 'Saved By Zero'

And why you should, too. Let us count the ways:

1) It's from a car company that's not begging for billions of dollars in tax money so it can continue to hemmorhage cash.

2) Anything that keeps The Fixx off the streets is a good thing. It's been a long time since "One Thing Leads to Another", you know? They could use the residuals. Either you let Toyota pay them, or next thing you know they'll be in the bailout line, too. And next you'll have Thomas Dolby and Rockwell asking for a handout to boot. Are you ready for that?

3) Peter King hates it (point 8b). And if it gets under the skin of an odius hypocrite like King, then it must be for the good of society.

4) ESPN's Sportsguy hates it too (point 17)! It's like garlic for Boston Red Sox fans or something! And Lord knows we need something to repel them. Somebody start playing this outside Ben Affleck's latest movie set, stat, and save us from another Fever Pitch debacle.

5) Anything that sets off those two I back whole-heartedly, in an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of way. If I still read Dr. Z, I bet I'd find the trifecta of evil are united against this commercial, making it the new James Bond.

6) I live in Europe, so I don't see US commercials, so quite frankly, even if it's awful I don't have to suffer.

7) The song pretty much sums up the Democrats this year.

8) Come to think of it, it sums up the Republicans, too, except they lost. Sunk with Zero might be more appropriate.

9) Quick: name another memorable car commercial. Just one. Can't think of one? That's because now you've been...Saved by Zero!

10) Because I hate the dancing transformer car commercial, that's why. See? I could name one, because I haven't been...SAVED BY ZERO!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

IBMS: Oil Companies No Longer Evil

The International Bureau of Moral Standards today announced that oil companies were no longer evil, owing the precipitous drop in oil prices, and that their executives would no longer be considered undesirable people and their profits considered excessive. They have instead been downgraded to “greedy”, in line with most other capitalistic enterprises.

IBMS head Doris Grey-Sterling told reporters that “this is truly an exciting time to be alive, what with oil companies no longer headed by evil, devilish men devoted to destroying the poor, and Americans finally proving that they’re not racist. In fact, everything is beautiful, and we look forward to four years of peace and harmony now. I can’t remember a time when things were possibly better, except perhaps the halcyon days of 1925 to 1928.”

In other actions, struggling artists and journeyman infielders were continued listed as “noble” while all lawyers outside of the public defense and community organizer roles maintained their “soulless” status.

Political Dictionary

Ageist: (??) This word has no apparent meaning.

Candidate: (n) The least worst person from each political party who is put forward in an election. “I couldn’t decide if I thought the candidates this year were more pathetic than the ones in 2004 or not.”

Columnist: (n) Someone who wants to see the Democrat win. “Even though I am a conservative opinion columnist, I must say I like the cut of Obama’s jib, and recommend him as our next president.”

Discredit: (v) To destroy all shred of respectability; note that this does not appear to be possible in most places. “You’d think that airing ignorant conspiracy theories about major public figures would discredit certain highly popular writers, but somehow they keep their job.”

Harpy: (n) See Entertainment Dictionary entry on The View

Hick: (n) Non-Washington Republican. “The hicks might enjoy all that aw-shucks stuff, but to those of us in the know, it seems so dreadfully hoi polloi.”

Host: (n) Someone who wants to see the Democrat win. “It might have been short-sighted for some talk-show hosts to go so overboard endorsing Obama.”

Inevitable: (adv) Doomed to failure. “Hillary Clinton will inevitably be the next president of the United States” or “A far more conservative Romney will inevitably win over the maverick John McCain.”

Integrity: (n) Quality which may never be questioned. “Nobody doubted his integrity, they just said he was misleading about a whole lot of things.”

Journalist: (n) Someone who wants to see the Democrat win. “I question Chris Matthews’ objectivity as a journalist.”

Libertarian: (n) Wonkish oaf who is never happy, despite probable rampant drug use. “As a libertarian, I hate every candidate, yet am too incoherent to form a political party of my own.”

Presidential Election: (n) Quadrennial Event where America comes together to vote for the president of the entire world, who will give hope to the hopeless, champion international justice, fix problems at home and abroad, and manufacture a diet soda that makes your farts smell like rainbows. “I just hope those dodgy Americans get their presidential election right this time.”

Recount: (v) Process whereby votes are added to one candidate or another until the desired party gains victory. “Hey, Dave, recount those votes until Franken’s up by a hundred, would you?”

Sportswriter: (n) Someone who wants to see the Democrat win. “I know I pledged to be only a sportswriter this year, but can’t you just feel the betterness of everything now that Obama has won?”

Vice-President: (n) Single most important position in the government which must never be handed over to someone who is not an expert on every single subject known to mankind, up to and including who is the current Miss Djibouti and what the name of the Prime Minister of Fiji’s cat is. “The best thing about having Biden as vice president is it means his idiocy is out of the Senate, where it can do real harm.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

McCain Eager to Return to Regular Job

With the presidential campaign finally over, Republican nominee John McCain told reporters today that he is eager to return to his true job in the Senate, where he hopes to be able to pick up again right where he left off.

"I love the Senate," said McCain in a relaxed interview Wednesday, his first after losing the presidency to Barack Obama. "I have a lot of old friends there, I like working on new legislation, and it's the only place where I can really indulge in my favorite hobby: sticking my thumb in the eyes of conservatives."

McCain said he didn't expect there to be any repercussions for his heated rhetoric on the stump. "I think that most of my Democrat friends understand what politics is about and won't hold it against me. Anyway, all of the worst stuff came from that crazy Alaska woman I was forced to saddle myself with in order to appeal to my base. I always thought that we needed more bipartisanship, which is to say, Democrats in charge of just about everything."

He said that his first priority would be "forming gangs in the Senate to find compromise on any and every issue of importance: energy, defense, the second amendment, whatever. The important thing is that we centrists gang together and meet our far-left opponents halfway, because that's what democracy is all about."

Scientific Community Excommunicates Heretic

Spokesmen for the UN's IPGM (International Panel on Giant Monsters) today announced that they had delivered their harshest sanction yet on a former internationally-renowned scientist who had begun to question their conclusions on Giant Monsters.

Guy Renauld-Fourtier, spokesman for the IPGM, said in a press conference that "further dissent shall not be tolerated, and those who speak out against the pre-drawn conclusions shall be cast out, harried, and ultimately forced to either recant their heresy or spend their lives without ever having a government grant again. And this is for the good. No data will even be considered which might go against our preconceived hypotheses."

The condemned scientist, Michael Crayton, had recently issued a controversial paper titled "Attack of the Boondoggle: how fake giant monsters are causing real economic hardship." In it, he not only questioned the efficiency of the Kong Protocol, which calls for installing giant cyborg monkeys across the globe as an anti-GMA system, but he further questioned whether or not giant monsters are real at all.

"How do we know that there are hundred-foot, fire-breathing reptiles just below the surface of the ocean waiting to destroy us? Just because somebody claims there are?" he wrote in an editorial in noted right-wing crank newspaper The Wall Street Journal. "This whole thing could just be a way to enrich alarmists, while ignoring the very real problems of water shortages, traffic congestion, and the continual fouling of the air by rising burrito consumption."

Self-appointed GMA spokesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner John K. Mondale, in London for the opening of the shadow puppet version of his groundbreaking film An Uninvited Guest, said from Zuirch that he felt the punishment was too lenient.

"Ostracization isn't enough for him, in my opinion," said the former US Vice President. "He should be stoned, or drawn and quartered, or at the very least have his tongue cut out to prevent him spreading this vicious, foul lie that there aren't any giant monsters about to devour us all. If you want more of a quote than that, you have to give me an award."

Closer to home, the ACLU said that they weren't concerned with the silencing of the scientist because "free speech only applies to that speech which conforms to the government-regulated perception of truth."

(Editor's Note: It's been a while since I did one of these. The first one is here.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's next for Ted Stevens?

With a possible conviction hanging over his re-election, Ted Stevens may be persona non grata in most places. But at least one town in Alaska has already started a "Stevens for Mayor" drive, and said that regardless of his pending legal troubles he will always be welcome there.

Stevensville, Alaska, is a small town located forty miles outside of Fairbanks. The main employer of the 1400-person town is the nearby Ted Stevens Prison, which is where the embattled Republican Senator may end up serving any jail time if he fails to win his appeals. The town is also home to the Ted Stevens Moose Museum and a VECO construction office.

From his house just off the Ted Stevens Expressway, resident Johnny Mackerson says that Stevens' experience would help the locals to "maximize the benefit of our great infrastructure here, from the Stevens Snowmobile School to the Stevensville Arena, home of the Stevensville Bagmen, four-time ice football champions. And with the soon-to-open Tedbridge over Stevens Gorge, we hope to be able to add lots of exciting outdoors activities."

Spokesmen for Stevens said that while the senator was originally not interested in the post, he has changed his opinion since discovering that the town, a primary recipient of both state and federal funds, has "little to no budget oversight."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Early Election Polling Results

Top-rated pollster John Zigby, who successfully predicted not only the 2004 George Bush victory but also accurately forecast Al Gore's ultimate eating problems, has released his early data from the 2008 presidential race.

As expected, Obama is showing a commanding lead (70% or more) among starry-eyed youth, gun-toting lowlifes, and welfare/drama queens. However, what is also surprising is his good showing among pencil-necks (60%), arugula fanciers (58%), and cigar aficionados (52%), all traditional Republican supporters.

McCain, meanwhile, has seen his support among minorities more than double George Bush, capturing 4% of their vote so far. He also has a commanding lead (80% or more) with bluehairs, gun-clinging bible thumpers, and bitter angry women who despise the patriarchy.

Especially noteworthy was the two-hour line near polling stations in West Virginia to apply for temporary work permits for coal miners to work outside the United States in the event of an Obama victory.

Based on the surveys, MSNBC declared Obama the winner with "seventy million billion" electoral votes. The logic for this was explained by Keith Olbermann:

"McCain is a violent psychopath who will destroy the world. IMPEACH BUSH!"

First Space Votes Make History

In a historical first for any election, astronauts aboard the International Space Station today cast their ballots for president. The voting, widely hailed as "taking Democracy to the stars," went smoothly despite the obvious logistical problems attendant with taking votes from people thousands of miles away from their home states.

"It makes Dixville Notch look like the pompous, backwards jackasses they really are," said spokeswoman Helen Thomas-Crudump from ACORN, which had spearheaded the charge to register the astronauts. "And with seven hundred and forty-five people in the space station, most of them registered Democrats from the state of Pennsylvania, it's clear that we need to make sure that their votes are counted."

She noted that "it's just like Fort Penguin, Antarctica, where over two thousand soldiers from the Third Ohio Infantry are currently serving, who ACORN helped to vote early. We're committed to getting every vote to count, in our zeal even sending the same vote to two or three different precincts."

Not everyone was pleased with the move, however. Joe Biden warned that he felt "this might be the first step on the road to a war with the Klingons, or the Russians, whichever one of them it was that had those big ears and drooled a lot. Oh, yeah, that was Laura Bush!"

When no one laughed Biden promised to "throw your asses all in prison once I'm in the White House."