Friday, February 19, 2010

A Few Things That Annoy the Hell Out of Me

We’ve become a nation of complainers. We whine about the things that offend us as if we expect the entire universe to be restructured according to our whims and pleasures. Rather than focus on the many good things we have, we focus on the things we don’t like and bitch about them. Well ... I say why buck the trend? So, in what has become a great American tradition, here are a few things that get on my nerves.

I am not a sports fan. There was a time when those who are sports fans didn’t bother me at all. Of course, that was a long time ago. Before I reached the age of 10. Normally, I’m a pretty live-and-let-live, to-each-his-own guy. But it’s difficult to retain that attitude toward sports when you’re a male living in America and have no interest in them. Case in point: I was recently standing in line at a grocery store when the man in front of me -- a man I’d never met before -- turned around, grinned and said, as if he knew me, “Hey! How about that Super Bowl, huh?”

I raised my eyebrows slightly, smiled a little and said, “What Super Bowl?”

His grin fell away and he frowned. “You didn’t watch the Super Bowl?” This question was asked in the same tone of voice with which one might ask the question, “You ate a live baby?”

I maintained my expression of innocent curiosity -- an expression I have developed precisely for this specific situation, because it occurs so frequently -- shrugged one shoulder a little and asked again, “What Super Bowl?”

I should point out that this guy was a good deal bigger than I, which is why I immediately began to question my tactics when a flash of offended anger passed over his face. Then he closed his eyes, nodded knowingly and smiled. “Oh, okay. Heh. Yeah, that’s funny.” He turned his back to me then, confident that I was just having a little fun with him. He stayed that way for about half a minute, then turned to me again. “You did watch, though, right?”

“No. Who played?”

His eyes widened and the color left his face as he stammered, “Whuh-what? Y-y-you don’t know who played?”


He narrowed his eyes then, cocked his head and looked at me askance, as if he were about to tell me I should return to the Middle East and rejoin my friends in Al Qaeda. And then he did something that I’ve noticed before in similar situations. (I’m not making this up, by the way.) He looked at my left hand. He checked for the ring on my finger that would tell him whether or not I at least had the good manners and taste to go through the motions of getting married, that I was willing to play along with the conventional heterosexual game of choosing a mate of the opposite sex and living as if I didn’t love show tunes and Joan Crawford movies and didn’t pay an unhealthy amount of attention to things like window treatments and floral arrangements. Then he gave me a weak, forced smile, nodded once as if to say, Okay, dude, you enjoy yourself, and he said no more to me.

That was just a little over a week ago. Now we’re in the middle of the Winter Olympics. Everyone has Olympics Fever. This is a virus to which I am immune. In order for me to give less of a flying fuck at a rolling donut about the Olympics, it would be necessary to alter the laws of physics. I would think that my lack of interest in the Winter Olympics would, if anything, suggest to the sports-loving doubters that I am, indeed, heterosexual. After all, some of the events are a little less than macho. Some of the events are a little less than sports, if you ask me. The one that makes me laugh the hardest is the event in which people prance around while flailing long ribbons through the air. When little children do this, it’s called playing, and they don’t get medals for it -- they get called in for dinner at six. Wait ... is that one in the winter Olympics or summer Olympics? See? I don’t know anything about this shit!

How about figure skating? Puh-leeeze. And curling? Curling? Really? The fact that curling is considered a sport and has been made an Olympic event has probably improved the self-esteem of millions of shuffleboard-playing Floridians over the age of 70. And then there's the luger who died at the beginning of this year’s festivities. Don’t get me wrong -- I’m saddened by the poor guy’s death, as I would be in any case. This was a human being with family and friends who loved him and no doubt have been devastated by the loss. But it’s not like somebody held a gun to his head and forced him to go 90 miles an hour down an ice ditch in a toboggan. And contrary to the opinions of some people on Twitter, I am not a heartless monster simply because I failed to wear sackcloth and ashes and rip my hair out all day while uttering long ululations over the death of someone I’d never heard of before.

I guess it’s not really the sports themselves that I find so annoying. It is the assumption by others -- most others, in fact -- that because I am a man, I must be a sports fan, and if I’m not, then I must be gay or somehow less than a man. Which, of course, is preposterous twaddlecock. And by the way, anyone who equates being gay with being less of a man reveals more about himself than about anyone else -- and he reveals nothing good.

Cell phones
This is an open letter to all the people who say they must have a cell phone, to all the people who walk through life constantly yammering into one, to all the people who have those damned Bluetooth things attached to their heads and walk around looking like a geek in a Borg costume who can’t find the Star Trek convention:

Dear Cell Phone People,

The cell phone has become a part of our lives within the last decade or so. Human beings have existed on this planet for about 200,000 years. Turn it off for a while and give us all a damned break, will ya? You’ll live.

Reality TV
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “reality” as follows: “The quality or state of being real; a real event, entity, or state of affairs.” The genre of television that has come to be known as “reality TV” does not -- I repeat, does not -- fall under this definition.

People who know they are being observed behave differently than they would if they weren’t being observed (or at least didn’t know it). This is known as the Hawthorne effect, and it applies perfectly to this brain-deadening phenomenon we know as “reality TV.” There is no “reality” in TV. Expecting “reality” from TV is like jumping into a swimming pool and expecting to stay dry. The instant cameras are involved, “reality” goes right out the window. The people on those shows know the cameras are there, they know they are not only being observed but are being vomited into living rooms all over the country. And when you take even a cursory look at the people who are the focus of “reality” TV, it quickly becomes clear that they know little else. I remember a time when obnoxious, self-centered, idiotic assholes were avoided at best and told to shut the hell up and go away -- or simply punched in the face -- at worst. Now they’re given TV shows. In his Westminster Abbey grave, Charles Darwin is spinning like a turbine.

If there are extraterrestrials monitoring our television broadcasts, then we are doomed. If they become convinced that we’re all like Jon and Kate, or those subhuman knuckle-draggers on The Jersey Shore, or -- good grief, I'm scaring myself -- Bret Michaels or the Kardashians, then it’s only a matter of time before they obliterate this planet and everything on it to keep us from infecting the rest of the galaxy.

Survivor really could be an interesting show -- if all those attention-starved drama queens actually were trapped on a deserted island with nothing to eat but each other. The last person still alive would be the winner -- and no picking your teeth on camera!

Please don’t get the idea that I know about these shows and the people on them because I watch them. I’d rather eat my own lungs with a spoon. Unfortunately, it isn’t necessary to watch “reality” TV in order to know way too much about it. The decisions of the judges on American Idol are now routinely reported as “news” by that pandering circle-jerk of slobbering ratings whores known as the American “news” media. Jon and Kate -- a couple that makes the Kramdens look like they had a healthy, loving marriage -- and that simpering life-support system for a uterus, that batshit-crazy baby-cannon, Nadya “OctoMom” Suleman, got more “news” coverage than the president, the war and the economy combined. There are people holding jobs, driving cars and voting who can tell you who was last kicked off of Dancing with the Stars but who wouldn’t know the vice president of the United States if he walked up to them on the street and said something typically stupid and inappropriate.

Put simply, we have lost our minds. But hey, if you don’t like “reality” TV, you can always switch over to NBC and watch people shove a rock around on some ice.

John Mayer
When is this guy gonna shut the fuck up?

Sarah Palin
I am of the opinion that both political parties -- the Democrats and the Republicans -- are nothing more than fronts for corporations who indirectly (and directly, too, I suspect, but I couldn’t prove it) stuff the pockets of politicians with loyalty-buying cash and are designed to keep everybody pissed off and busy fighting while the corporate overlords go about doing whatever the hell they want to do. Both parties accomplish nothing but division, rancor and disinformation and are about as useless as tits on the pope. I point that out only so you’ll know that what comes next is not motivated by any political party loyalty.

Could somebody please stuff an apple in Sarah Palin’s mouth, whip up a nice glaze and bring out the spit? Does this woman have any self-awareness whatsoever? Does she possess so much as an ounce of embarassment or shame? Does she ever stop and listen to what comes out of that inexhaustible mooseburger-hole in the bottom half of her face? Does she even know what a double-standard is? Is her watch broken? Is that why she doesn’t know her 15 minutes are up?

Let’s take a look at the Sarah Palin stupidity tote-board just from the past week or two. Rahm Emanuel, who is not known for his tact, uses the word “retard” in a diatribe and Sarah Palin, who has a son with Down syndrome, demands that he be fired for being so hateful and insensitive. Around the same time, radio comedian and Republican party mind-control czar Rush Limbaugh commends Emanuel on his use of the word “retard” because, Limbaugh says, he was referring to liberals, who are, indeed, “retards.” Sarah Palin says Limbaugh’s use of the word is okay because it was “satire.” Then, when a real source of real satire, the Fox animated series Family Guy, features a girl with Down syndrome who identifies herself as the “daughter of the former governor of Alaska,” Sarah Palin throws a tantrum and claims Family Guy was mocking the fact that her son Trig has Down syndrome. Rather than responding to it herself, she once again shoves one of her children forward to respond for her. She posts her daughter Bristol’s comments on Facebook which slam the folks at Family Guy -- a show that routinely jokes about AIDS, cancer, death, bestiality and pedophilia, to name just a few of its targets -- for being insensitive. While being interviewed by Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly -- a man renowned for his sensitivity and tact -- Sarah Palin herself calls the Family Guy folks “cruel, cold-hearted people.” Andrea Friedman, the 40-year-old college graduate actress with Down syndrome who voiced the character on Family Guy, writes a letter stating that she was not making fun of Palin’s son Trig, but that she was making fun of Sarah Palin. “I thought the line, ‘I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska,’ was very funny,” Friedman wrote. “I think the word is ‘sarcasm.’ In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.” Now, Palin’s supporters have taken to the internet to say that Friedman could not possibly formulate this statement on her own, what with the Down syndrome and all, and is being used as a pawn by politically motivated manipulators so she should not be taken seriously. So, essentially they’re saying we should pay no attention to Friedman because she’s, um ... er ... retarded.

The fact that Sarah Palin actually ran on a presidential ticket should cause this entire nation to hang its head in shame -- but, then, we still seem to be holding our heads up after Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, so perhaps I expect too much. Palin’s thin-skinned pettiness, her vindictiveness and her outright lies (death panels, anyone?) disqualify her as a person -- male or female -- who can be taken seriously. Her supporters support her only because she is on their team, a member of their political party whom they would support if she stood on her head and said that up was down. Their support is partisan only and intellectually dishonest. She is indefensible.

The Twilight books and movies
If you’re a vampire and you have to sparkle, get a room.

Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck is known for his tearful (to say nothing of paranoid and delusional) speeches on his Fox News show. In this video, you will see Beck posing for photos. Something is rubbed under his eyes to stimulate tears. While he’s waiting for it to take effect, you’ll hear him say, “My eyes are getting used to it.”

Glenn Beck is part of a long American tradition. Guys like him used to be called “snake oil salesmen.” They could also be found setting up large tents in which they held Elmer Gantry-style religious revivals that worked believers into a frenzy and pulled in lots of cash. Beck is the new incarnation of that traditional figure. Rather than selling “snake oil” or religion, Beck peddles the new religion -- angry political discontent (which is perfectly legitimate, until it enters Beck's realm of delusional craziness) and paranoia. He presents himself as the “everyman,” the “regular guy” -- even though he’s worth millions and lives in palatial homes and flies around in jets. He doesn’t come right out and directly say that Barack Obama is preparing to throw us all into concentration camps and build mountains out of the skulls of dissenters, but he poses these ideas as questions, and then says, with boyish innocence, “Hey, I’m just asking questions, that’s all!” Even Beck himself admits that he is a “clown,” that he is nothing more than a “performer.” And yet, millions of full-grown adults watch his show, listen to his radio program, buy his bestselling books, and take him very, very seriously.

I’m scared, Mommy.

After the recent earthquake in Haiti – which resulted in a death toll that still has not been calculated – televangelist Pat Robertson removed his head from his colon long enough to point out that the Haitians brought this horrible disaster upon themselves by making a pact with the devil and pissing off Jesus. More offensive than this statement -- which, in my opinion, amounted to nothing short of evil, inhumane hatred -- was the response -- or rather the lack of response -- from Christians. Did they rise up in outrage to say that this chuckling douchebag did not represent them? No. They remained silent -- at least until non-Christians voiced their disgust with Robertson. Then the Christians spoke up in protest -- not to protest Robertson's remarks, but to protest the disgust others were expressing. The typical response I got and the typical response I observed in other exchanges went something like this:

“I’m not a supporter of Pat Robertson, but I am a Christian, and I just want to say that he does not represent Christians because all Christians are different and have a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints.”

(That wide variety of opinions and viewpoints was not reflected in the response I heard repeatedly from a wide variety of Christians.)

“Yes, what Robertson said was stupid, but he and his organization did send a lot of money and help to Haiti in response to the earthquake, so at least he’s putting his money where his mouth is, and what have you done for Haiti lately, by the way? I don’t necessarily agree with what Robertson said -- although it is historically accurate -- but I support his constitutionally-guaranteed right to say it. The only reason you’re complaining is that you have a problem with religion, some kind of vendetta, and you’re just bitter and angry, and you should really stop it because it’s very negative.”

Negative, huh? So saying that hundreds of thousands of Satanic Haitians deserved to die because they made a deal with the devil isn’t all that objectionable and is canceled out with some charity work, but voicing any criticism of it is bitter and angry and very negative. Okay.

A common part of these responses from Christians was the claim, “I’m not a supporter of Pat Robertson.” Another frequent comment was a phrase I’ve encountered a lot in recent years: “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual.”

Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. Christians who defend Pat Robertson don’t really support Pat Robertson, so he managed to become one of the richest and most powerful figures in American Christianity with virtually no support from anyone. Also, religion is now recognized as such a bad thing that even believers do everything they can to distance themselves from it and want everyone to know that they are not religious, but they are spiritual, but even though they’re not religious, they think that people who criticize religion are bitter and angry and should shut the hell up and stop being so negative.

Pardon me while my head explodes.

Okay, that's my rant. Feel free to gripe about the things that annoy the hell out of you in the comments below.