Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What happened to all the 'manly' men?

Question: What is more sad and pathetic than the sight of an able bodied average American guy standing next to his car on the side of the road with a flat tire, cell phone to his ear calling AAA to come rescue him?

The answer: nothing.

What happened to us formerly red blooded, All-American guys over the last few decades? Have we guys all become helpless weenies? A nation chock full of what Arnold Schwartzenegger would call 'girly men?' Maybe so. I drew this cartoon above a few years ago after reading an article from Popular Mechanics, whose editors compiled a list of the basic skills that they deemed every American guy should possess, and it appears below.

Read it and weep:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data \
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Install a wireless router system.

When I read this list, I agreed that most of these are all skills that fathers used to teach their sons in days gone by, and I scored a perfect 100%. But I am an old guy, with perhaps tired old notions of self reliance, determination and a willingness to get your hands dirty from time to time. In that bygone era, dads used to take their 10-year old boys out in the back yard and show them how to build a tree house. That right of passage taught young boys many skills to include using hand tools, planning, organization, safety and pride in workmanship.

Sadly, those days are gone thanks to several factors such as advances in technology, and the slow and steady urbanization of the country. Most folks don't have backyards with substantial trees able to support any kind of tree house anymore unless they are out in the country. And even if they do, they have busy body home owners associations keeping their eyes peeled for these unsightly tree houses, those images of Americana now lost to our modern sensibilities. Rather than make excuses for why guys are turning into helpless losers, I suggest that this trend need not continue.

Take a long, hard look at this list, guys. If there are a few things here that you don't have a clue as to how to proceed, man up. Find out how, and go do it. If you can't start a campfire, then you have no business calling yourself a guy anymore. Just turn in your man card, and we will scratch you off of the man list, and don't bother coming to the man meetings anymore. And one final thing: change your name to Shirley. Or Pam.

(re posted from a few years ago due to popular demand)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

'Ugly people need not apply.' A reprint of reality

In Utopia, people would be judged not by the 'arrangement of their skin, but by the content of their character.' (apologies to Martin Luther King for butchering his phrase in his 'I have a Dream' speech).

I just thought I would wander off the conservative reservation for a bit, and point out that the pretty people in this world get a leg up in almost every endeavor, while the less than pretty folk get the shaft when trying to compete for a share of life's goodies against these good looking hunks and babes.

Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton are rich and famous for one thing only: their looks.  They are as dumb as a bag of hammers (my apologies to all of those bags of hammers out there, you are WAY smarter than either of them), they both dropped out of third grade, and treat everyone around them like a bags of dirt. But none of that matters.  They are lookers, and as such are entitled to fame and riches. Life is like that, you know, whether you think it should be that way or not.

There has actually been legislation passed prohibiting discrimination in hiring by race, sex, age, color, creed, religion and sexual orientation. You will note, however, that general appearance does not make the list.  In the real world, the ugly among us should not even bother to apply, and maybe even do us all a favor and just drop dead.

After all, let's get real, shall we?

All of the above politically incorrect rant makes an irrefutable point: we all prefer watching pretty people read the news on TV, rather than a wart covered, wrinkly obese slob, right? It's not even arguable. Please point out a homely news person on Fox.  Go ahead, let me know the name of that ugly reporter.  I'm waiting............ (insert crickets chirping here).

We all discriminate against fat, zit faced, ugly old people. We do it every day. Virtually all of us (and Roger Ailes, CEO of the Fox Network in particular).

But is it right? Is this the way things SHOULD be?

In Fredd's Dreamland Utopia (where most liberals always hang out), we would ideally be judged by our credentials, attitude, love of life, respect for others, tolerance, people skills, gumption and verve, period. Looks? Not applicable.

But then, reality rears its ugly head and will always remind us all with its' cold bucket of water that we don't dwell in Dreamland Utopia. Let's get real. The Uglo-American segment of society can just forget about getting ahead in life based on their credentials, etc.

And they can certainly forget about sitting behind the newsdesk, for the ugly need not apply. Indeed, they should do us all a favor and drop dead. Or, if they choose to keep on living for reasons unknown to us all, at least they should wear paper bags over their heads.

But life is like this, and we all know it. But it still ain't right....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Best Television Shows airing these days

Back in the day, cable TV had almost nothing worth watching.  If you wanted true entertainment in the 1950's through 1980's, you tuned into the three major networks: NBC, ABC and CBS.  From 'I Love Lucy', 'My Favorite Martian,' or 'The Addams Family,' quite a few shows were on that were quality shows that the entire family could watch without dad reaching over to cover his 9 year old daughter's eyes and ears as is the case today with almost every prime time major network show.

Fox is a Johnny-come-lately nework that essentially has always been edgy, and not very family friendly from it's early days in the 1980's, and the other three big networks have gravitated towards Fox's example: edgy, raw and raunchy: 'Two and a Half Men,' Modern Family' and '2 Broke Girls' are simply sewage that are unwatchable by anyone, despite their Nielsen ratings.

Anymore, (with the exception of football, a topic for another time) there is virtually nothing on network TV worth watching except one show airing Fridays on ABC: 'Shark Tank.'  This great exception to the garbage on all networks anymore is highly entertaining, as well as informative and motivating.  The premise consists of a panel of rich guys (and one token rich girl) listening to a never ending stream of poor guys pitching their ideas to the rich guys hoping that one of them will invest in their business.  It really portrays what it takes to make it in America, and what doesn't make sense as well when the rich guys send bad ideas packing.  Well worth watching.

In what has become a complete reversal from the good ol' days, network programming is for the most part a barren viewing wasteland, and the only programming worth watching is now available on cable:

American Pickers.  The basics of this History Channel show on the surface consist of two guys picking through people's garages and barns, essentially digging through garbage looking for antiques.  But deeper into this premise is a great deal of Americana, the history of popular culture and what was 'in' back in the day.  Whether the guys find an original 'Mr. Potato Head' game in its original box, or a 1937 Indian Chieftan motorcycle, the producers spend time explaining these items' importance to the culture at the time.  This show is not just two guys digging through other people's crap, it is a journey back into the pop culture of a day gone by.  Excellent viewing.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  Now going into it's 6th year on The Food Network, Guy Fieri cruises around in his most excellently restored 1968 Camaro in search of outstanding food of all corners of the U.S.  Although this great show is primarily a cooking show and as such has a predominantly female viewing audience, guys will also get a great deal out of this show as well, as Guy Fieri is the consummate entertainer, and is as quick on his feet with the joke as anyone in the business.  A lot of fun to watch, and the producers have selected restaurants from almost every state in the union, a little geography lesson can be had on every show.  Great entertainment.

Wheeler Dealers.  Basic theme: two Brits, a short fat Brit and a tall skinny Brit find classic automobiles such as Jaguars, Ferraris and even Dodge Challengers, and fix them up and sell them for big bucks.  Mostly a guy show, anyone who is even mildly interested in cars and mechanics will love this show airing on The Velocity Channel, as these two guys can make the restoration of a bug-eyed Sprite (which Brits call a 'Frog-eyed Sprite') a riveting viewing experience.  An American viewer simply need convert Brit to Yank to understand that a 'spanner' is just a wrench, a 'bonnet' is not something women wear on their heads but rather the Brit word for car hood.  Once you get the hang of it, Wheeler Dealers is a real class act.

Cash Cab.  A comedian (Ben Bailey) cruises around New York in a cab wired with TV cameras, asking trivia questions to actual cab patrons.  The more questions they answer correctly before arriving at their actual destination, the more money they win.  If they bungle three questions before they arrive, Ben boots them out onto the mean streets of New York with nothing to show but a cab ride.  Past contestants have proven to be quite knowledgeable in trivia, and others demonstrate such an ignorance of the culture around them that one wonders how they manage to feed themselves.  Great stuff, I tell you. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

For Carnival, the chickens have come home to roost

As a guy who has taken a cruise or two in his day, dumb ol' Fredd would like to weigh in on Carnival's woes: something like this was bound to happen, it was just a matter of time.

Carnival Cruise Line operates on the low end of the cruise scale in terms of amenities, luxury and cost.  Carnival has long been widely regarded as the 'K-Mart' of cruise lines.

And Carnival did quite well in that niche - up until about a year ago, when the chickens started coming home to roost, if I may borrow a line from Dr. Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

My family and I have taken five cruises to the Caribbean: two on Carnival (Carnival Victory and the Carnival Ecstasy), two on Princess Cruise Lines (Grand Princess and Ruby Princess), and one cruise last year on Royal Caribbean's Allure of The Seas.

I base my opinion here on what my own eyes have soaked in during my voyages, and the tales of my fellow passengers as to their experiences with various cruises they have all taken in the past.  Without exception, Carnival rated at the bottom of the ladder in each category: amenities, luxury of experience and cost.

Both Princess and Royal Caribbean have meticulously maintained vessels, professionally trained and tenured staff, and above average general cruising experiences. 

Carnival, well, where to begin. 

Before all of their woes made front pages this week, Carnival has had problems in the recent past, to include the capsized Costa Concordia (owned by Carnival), and an engine room fire crippled a Carnival vessel several years ago, stranding passengers much the same as happened to the Carnival Triumph last week.

Carnival is the least expensive cruise available.  The prices are perhaps 15% or more below any other Caribbean line.  They are universally known as the 'party cruise,' since their rates attract the lower income party crowd during Spring Break, and other times when college students crowd the decks, screaming drunkenly into the wee hours of the morning and beyond. 

In order that Carnival offer the cut rate cruises, something has to give: the management at Carnival scrimps on maintenance much more than other lines.  They go longer between refurbishments of each vessel, and the turnaround between each voyage doesn't include a complete coverage of the punch list that develops each voyage from normal wear and tear from passenger use (and abuse).

On both of our Carnival cruises, our staterooms had a minor maintenance issue which we had to report as our cruise was underway.  A maintenance crew member showed up each time, and both times we were informed that the repair could not be effected until after we were back in the U.S. port.  While these problems were minor (trim coming off the walls, and bathroom locking hardware falling apart), we did not notice anything amiss in our staterooms on other cruise line vessels.  Only Carnival.

As K-Mart suffered market loss through their chosen strategy in the retail industry (low cost, low margin), so goes Carnival's brand name in the long run in the cruise line industry.  It is becoming clearer that a lack of maintenance is the culprit behind the crippled Carnival Triumph's problems.  Unless Carnival take drastic steps to change its image, and perhaps jack up its rates enough to handle additional needed maintenance, we may see the line go under, if not in the short run, for sure in the long run.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Portlandia - most liberals believe it exists, or at least it should

Portlandia.  The place where young people go to retire.  Where everyone sleeps in until 11:00 AM, and everyone is in a band.

Portlandia is where you can go into a record store and sell your band's latest CD.  It's a place where you don't have to work very hard, if at all.  And if you do work, it's only a part time gig where you have plenty of time for rehearsal with your band, and it still covers the rent for the studio apartment you share with three other Clown School classmates (who are also in their own bands).  To get around in Portlandia, you don't need a stinking, gas guzzling, planet wrecking car.  Nope, you are doing your part in saving the planet because you can bike everywhere, and there are 600,000 linear miles of bike paths within Portlandia, give or take a mile or two.

I know some real people who live in Portlandia.  They are as liberal as the day is long, and they love this concept.  They are a fabulously wealthy couple, the guy being a retired titan of industry, the gal still runs her own business which caters exclusively to her fabulously wealthy friends.

And these two, while grudgingly acknowledging that Portlandia is a parody of the town they live in, secretly believe that this is the way things should be.

Everybody SHOULD be in a band, right?.  Everybody SHOULD be able to sleep in until 11.  And if you want to go to clown school, who is to say you are wasting your time?  Huh?

The sad reality is that most liberals throughout the country truly believe in their heart of hearts that Portlandia should be a reality, and that it is possible to create a society that enables everyone to do whatever they want to do without constraint.  To be whatever you want to be, regardless of the consequences.

There is absolutely no thought, however, given to exactly how this Portlandian lifestyle will be sustained.  No consideration as to who will pay to keep the lights on in the garage so that everyone can practice their bass solo for the next gig (which will be every night). 

The saddest thing about Portlandia is that there is a very large metropolitan area (Portland, Oregon) whose residents for the most part think that the rest of the country (in Red States) have completely lost their minds and are mostly stupid, or are in denial that Portlandia is the Utopia to which we as a nation need to aspire and achieve this Nirvana on earth.  To them, conservatives are either mad or imbeciles when they pooh pooh the notion that Portlandia is a concept that is mostly based on a fairy tale.

It's a good thing that most of the rest of the country outside of Oregon doesn't subscribe to this moronic TV series, now going incredibly into its third season. 

Well, gotta sign off, now.  I'm working on a new bass riff for my band, 'Brain Dead.' 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Don't let THIS crisis go to waste, Rahm: 42 murders in Chicago so far

This is a perfect crisis for Rahm Emanuel, who tells us we should never let a crisis go to waste.  He says that in a crisis, you could do things that you otherwise couldn't do.

Or you could do things that you otherwise WOULDN'T do, in Rahm's case.  So far this year, 42 murders have taken place in Rahm's city (Chicago, Illinois), and most law enforcement officials will tell you that normally the murderers stay indoors during the winter months, and 42 murders in January spells impending disaster once the weather turns nice in the Windy City. 

Rahm Emanuel's knee jerk reaction was to his credit a good one: take 200 pencil pushing desk bound cops, give them guns and push them out onto the mean streets of Chicago.  Rather than HIRE more cops, since Chicago is one of the brokest, poorest, cash strapped cities in the country and can't afford to pay for more cops.  They already spent millions and millions on social programs, beautification programs, and the ever present misallocation and flat out corruption and theft.  There's no money left for additional police, since the liberal Chicago machine Democrats already blew it on liberal programs or just stole it for themselves. 

But Rahm Emanuel is onto something that everybody knows works: put more guns into the hands of good guys to thwart the bad guys.  As was recently put out by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, God's truth is this: "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."  No truer words were ever spoken.   This works every time it's tried, everywhere it's tried, throughout time eternal.  And Rahm made this decision within hours of 15 year old Hadiya Pendleton getting shot in the back and killed by a gang thug to put an immediate 200 more guns into good guy hands to combat this crisis. 

What this crisis can do for Rahm is force him to do the right thing: lift the handgun ban in Chicago, and allow the good guys in his city, you know, the residents who live there, to put guns into use against these wanton, brazen murderers who fear nothing currently.  They don't fear the police, since there are not enough of them.  They certainly don't fear the residents, who have been disarmed for decades now.

But Rahm is hardwired to resist such a good idea, since he (stupidly) believes that only the government can be the good guys.  Putting guns into the hands of ordinary citizens is just not something Rahm Emanuel can even comprehend.  Citizens are NOT good guys, in Rahm Emanuel's way of thinking.  Only GOVERNMENT employees can have guns.  Only GOVERNMENT employees can be good guys.

The murder rate in Chicago is out of control.  The gangs rule the south and west side of Rahm's town, and the only way to solve this crisis is to put a whole lot of guns into a whole lot of good guy hands.  And Rahm doesn't have a penny to spare to buy more good guys.  He already has a few million good guys from whom he (and his liberal ilk) have TAKEN all of their guns. 

Rahm Emanuel needs to change his way of thinking, and that is not likely to occur.  I am just wondering who the 'eff-ing retard' is in this town, anyway, to use Rahm's own words.