Friday, November 26, 2004

My Continuing South'ren Education...
I have begun to realize that one must be careful about one says to a Southerner. The typical, sarcastic banter that is the hallmark of the northerner is often misunderstood and misinterpreted here. It's not that folks are dumb, most are far from it. Rather, I would tend to believe that because most southerners are plain-spoken, earnest folks, they expect you are being plain-spoken and earnest with them when you speak. Very often, in the course of being a wiseass, I often give offense where none was intended. Naturally, once people get the joke, they're fine with it, but there have been a few occasions where I've riled someone up with sarcasm.

Now, who is it that gets their panties bunched by sarcasm? Why, southern men, for the most part.

A little background for you here: there is a palpable resentment in the air for that most vile of creatures, the Yankee. Most folks are content to live and let live, but there are some that just cannot get over the fact that a) the Confederacy lost the war, and b) that we now live in the 21st Century. Granted, not all of the changes that have occurred in a place like Charlotte are welcome. The rampant clearing of land for housing, for example, is giving many the impression of being fenced in, often by people they normally would rather not associate with. There's the competition for jobs. There's the changes in the social life of Charlotte that are changing what was once a quiet city into a bustling, cosmopolitian place. The main complaint you'll hear about all of this progress is about "traffic". The traffic doesn't measure up to Northeastern standards, as far as delays or how horrendous it is, but don't forget that this place was barely on the map, for all intents and purposes, 20 years ago. But I digress.

Anyways, the group most likely to have trouble with all the changes in life here are the men. There's several reasons for this. To begin with, they hate Yankees. They hate Yankees that come here and get high -paying jobs that they can't even more. They hate Yankees with high-paying jobs who are magnets for southern belles the most. Southern men ruled like medieval lords once upon a time, a time when women knew their place, and men got their way because they were "the man". Some have been stuck in this primordial state for far longer than is healthy. They still believe they live in the 19th Century, in the same way Muslims believe we can turn back the clock to the 7th Century.

The hostility I often encounter very much resembles a manifestation of an inferiority complex more than than it does pure aggression. Previous waves of Yankee migration left a bad taste in the Reb's mouths. That previous wave bought into every stereotype you could imagine, and from what I've been able to learn lorded their "sophistication" over the yokels every chance they got. Of course, not all southerners fit the stereotypes; they don't all ride around in pickup trucks, shooting out porchlights and brewing moonshine in the woods. There are some that do, for sure, but in general, the typical southerner that I have been associated with is every bit as sophisticated, as intelligent, and as witty as his northern counterpart. The difference is that they don't feel they have to show it all the time. Yankees do. It's a defect in the model, I must admit.

However, there is one particular sub-group of southerner that is incorrigible. Typically male, he's assured that while you may have a better job, get your pick of the wimmen-folk, and might be able to pronounce the names of French wines, well, dag-nabbit, he can change his own oil. He knows how to grill up some good roadkill, geld a horse, and perhaps, on a good day, walk a straight line after leaving the local watering hole. This kind of guy just can't stand your "Yankee smart-ass remarks" and typically beats his chest about how he could kick your ass, if he was fixin' to. This is also the same guy who, upon finding out you're Sicillian, will want to know if he can see your knife, and if you know Tony Soprano.

So, stereotypes and saucy backtalk peeve him when he's the target, and he can't take it when he gets it back, and because he's typically dull-witted (the stereotype does indeed fit in this case), once you've verbally challenged him by using words you can spell and pronounce properly, he resorts to hostility. This is where you have to be careful with what you say, because while you might be able to take the redneck in a fight, some of these boys are plain crazy. Especially after they've been drinking. It's not unusual to have to kick a guy's behind several times before he finally wises up and get's his shootin' iron. I haven't been in that position (yet), but I've heard about it.

Couple this rampant inferiority complex with raging male hormones, stupidity and the fact that no southerner I've met to this point EVER forgives a slight, no matter how minor, and it's amazing there aren't more murders here. I've seen people around here that hold grudges for 20 years in a dispute over a parking space. It's macho run rampant.

Stubborn and stupid is a very bad combination. There are a few of these dinosaurs running around town, and the best thing to do is to just ignore them. But if you can't, make sure the moron knows you can't be pushed around either, and dammit, if I want to be a wiseguy, I will. They may not be smart, but they do respond to a reciprocal round of chest beating themselves.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Back in the USSR?
Woke up this morning to the news that recent elections int he Ukraine have turned nasty. Apparently, a candidate backed by Vladimir Putin and Moscow has won an election amidst cries of fraud and other nefarious means fo foul play. No, Al Gore was NOT elected President of Ukraine, but he is petitioning the Florida Supreme Court for a recount in Dade COunty.

Now at the moment, I'm not reallyup on Ukrainian politics, though I do plan to get up to speed on this. It has been reported that Russian troops have landed in the Ukraine, I'd bet under the guise of "restoring stablility and order", but it's pretty clear what the real reason is: Putin wants to reconstitute as much of the old USSR as he can. Ukraine, once the jewel of Eastern Europe, has been a target for every nasty dictator from Ivan the Terrible to Napoleon to Stalin to Hitler and now, Putin.

The Ukrainians have taken to the streets to demonstrate for democracy and to lend support to the losers in this election. Good for them. We here in this country, however, have a duty to not let them face Russian tanks alone. We failed in Prague and Warsaw when they were threatened by the Red Army in the 1940's, 50's, although we did stand up for Lech Walensa in the 1980's, and for East Germans in 1989.

We have a responsibility to help the Ukrainians in any way we can, even if that means committing troops, in my opinion. We cannot make the case that the cause of freedom and democracy is necessary to improve life in the Middle East and then turn around and let Moscow trample on it someplace else. There are things we can do, all of us, right here at home.

Remember, while you enjoy your turkey dinner and football today, thousands of Ukrainians are putting their lives on the line to fight for the same things you take for granted. "But Matt", you ask, "what can I do?".

For a start, write letters. Write your Congresscritters, Senators (except Kerry, Leahy and Sanders, they loved the Soviet Union and miss it), and ask them to do whatever Congress can to make the Russians back off. I'm sure there's an econimic aid package floating around Washington somewhere that can be voted down. Write to the media and ask them to investigate and report, not in a Dan Rather kind of way, but in a way that shows people here just what is really going on there. Demand truth, and perhaps we'll get it.

Get to the Russian and Ukrainian Embassies and demonstrate for freedom. Get to your churches and synagogues and pray. If there's any kind of relief funds to be set up for this, then by all means donate what you can. All of you who volunteered to be human shields for Saddam Hussein, let's see if you're willing to do the same for a much more worthy cause now.

I'll write more on this as I learn more, but we cannot let this state of affairs continue.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Right Stuff...
Vis-a-vis the Condi Rice "controversy" (there's that word again!). I defy the critics to find someone of comarable qualifications for th job of Secretary of State. Why we're having this debate as to whether or not she's qualified for the job is beyond me. The important thing, despite her credentials, is that the President feels she's qualified, and in a perfect world, this would be enough.

But democrats and so-called liberals just don't see it that way. The recent spate of criticism, jokes, unflattering cartoons,just goes to prove it. What makes this woman such a target for them?

To begin with, any true liberal a generation ago would have been absolutely ecstatic about the prospect of a black female reaching the heights of government that Miss Rice has. They might even have forgotten the part about her being a republican, but that's arguable. The fact remains that 20 years ago, perhaps even 10, the announcement that an Anfrican-American female was up for the job would have been enough to inspire parades in her honor all across America. She would have been held up as a paragon, a shining example that America was finally learning to leave it's racist, sexist past behind and a reaffirmation that in America, talent counts and overcomes.

But that was then, this is now.

Liberals are great talkers. It's always talk, by the way, and never action. Action, even individual action on any topic, would entail personal responsibility, which is something that all liberals can agree is bad juju. If liberals really believed all the crap they have spouted for near on 40 years, this event would have been a "ho-hum, move-on-folks-nothing-to-see-here" occurance. it would have been so normal as to not elicit a whisper.

The real issue with Condi Rice, from a liberal perspective, stem from the argument that liberals have never backed up their talk with action (Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton all had opportunities to elevate black folks, and did nothing. When blacks were prominent in any capacity, it was always as window dressing). Liberals now have to labor against their own rhetoric. What makes it even more painful for them is that it took a republican to name not one, but TWO, African-American Secretaries of State.

So, because liberals who have talked the talk, but never walked the walk come up against this reality, they must panic. They must castigate. They must demonize. Because they're the ones who REALLY CARE FOR OUR LITTLE BALCK BROTHERS, REALLY!, then Condileeza Rice must be some sort of faux-black automaton, somehow lacking in her blackness and perhaps, dare we say it?, a puppet of the bourgeoise, republican oppression mill.

The same thing can be said about Ward Connerly. Or Clarence Thomas. Or J.C. Watts. Hell, about any black that somehow manages to rise to power or prominance within the REPUBLICAN fold. They MUST be window dressing, a prop to make republicans LOOK like they don't want to reintroduce slavery, while they labor away to stock the salt mines with oppressed, African-American slave labor.

Condi Rice, and the others I've mentioned, don't fit the profle (and yes, that's what it is) that democrats and liberals expect them to fit into: black, poor, democrat, virulently anti-republican, easy vote to pick off, easily bribed into subjection, easily manipulated by people who pretend they care. When facd with the prosp[ect of an independant black that has decided to go republican, the liberal elite goes beserk. It's as if they left the reservation and have become rogue operators.

So, we've heard she not qualified for the job. Yeah, right. We've heard she's merely Bush's puppet, a parrot that will say whatever the boss puts into her mouth. Yeah, right. She's a terrible example for black Americans, making it appear as if the republican party actually cares. Yeah, right.

Condileeza Rice scares the hell out of liberals for three reasons:

a) She's a successful black woman. That in itself is rare (in their minds) enough. And unlike Oprah, she's actually got brains and espouses a Conservative philosophy. She's a horrible example of what Conservatrism actually has to offer Blacks. God forbid that this kind of thing actually SPREADS!

b) Because she's a black woman, you can't necessairly go after her with a hatchet, now, can you? Not without running the risk of being hoisted upon your own petard with the politically correct crowd. Usually the politically correct crowd doesn't care, seeing such activity as merely background noise against which the "great struggle" must be conducted (unless there's a conservative to roast), but still, a few eyebrows might rise.Of course, the hypocrisy would be obvious to the Jesus-land folks, but it's not like we care about them anyway.

c) She's a possible contender against Hilary in 2008. She has to be torn down NOW.

I'm still waiting for Jesse Jackson to hit the airwaves, claiming that Condoleeza is not "authentically black". Merely a matter of time, I know it, and when it happens, I will rejoice. I will rejoice because there, on millions of TV sets around the world, the democratic and liberal elite of this world will have finally, and irrevocably, blown their collective gasket. When you send a black hypocrite out to defend "blackness" you know you're reaching. Condoleeza Rice blows their minds and they do not know how to handle her.

It will get nastier, have no doubt. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

And Another Thing...
Getting back for a minute to the disgusting behavior displayed on our television sets during sporting events, how about that steamy pre-game promo last Monday night?

Do I have a problem with it? Yes. But not for the reasons you think I might.

The "controversy" (it's only a controversy if it happens accidentally, this was planned, so it's not controversy) has had many sides aired out already. There's the racial angle, so thoughtfully anunciated for us by Tony Dungy. There's the salacious angle, being played up by bible thumpers across the country. There's the "they shouldn't have shown it with kids in the room" angle, as well.

Let's get this straight: what ABC did was to promote one show during another. This happens all the time in the business world -- it's called cross-selling. You have one red-hot product to sell, and if you tie it in with another, you supposedly boost the sales of both. Semi-porn and football are hot commodities, and yes, if you put them together, you get something reeking of dollar signs. Don't think so? Just ask the Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleaders or all the big-busted muscle sluts in "Professional" wrestling.

Look at this from a business perspective: nothing sells like sex and the sleazier and the more suggestive it is, the better. So, let's get a hot blonde and a black guy in a locker room, and get the Mandingo thing going. Let's have them drop their towels and suggest they're "gettin' busy", while we're at it. Let's do it while a third of the men in the country are sitting down to dinner, with their wives and kids in attendance. If you believe ABC didn't realize what it was doing, you need to have your head examined. They knew full well what they were doing and they knew what the reaction would be. Now there's gonna be a bunch of horny 18-34 year old males watching "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday nights to see the suggestion of sex.

Now for all the other stuff.

We live in the 21st century and interracial relationships should not shock us so. I know there are still some people on the planet who haven't grown up, but let's face it, we don't live in the Confederacy anymore. Some of these folks would have no problem if their white son brought an Asian girl home, but absolutely gag at the thought of a white female coupled with a black man. Get over it and join the rest of us in this universe. I've dated women of all races, incidentally, and I don't see them as black, white, yelow or brown, I see them as women. I've had occasion to be locked in the same room with people of all races, sexual preferences and persuasions, and while I may not have liked particular individuals, I never once (I hope!) equated one person I hated with an entire race.

Does sex belong on television? Well, it's been there for so long that the question is moot. In my own lifetime, shows like "Petticoat Junction", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Charlie's Angels", "Three's Company", "The Howard Stern Show" and such, have probably made me immune to some aspects of sex that would have been considered shocking 50 years ago. Heck, "Star Trek" had the first interracial kiss in TV history, and Captain Kirk got it on with a a different woman every week. Not like this kinda thing hasn't been done before, folks. Your typical commercial drips with sex: busty beer girls, women mud wrestling, Viagra or Enzyte ads every 15 minutes. Genital Herpes gets mentioned at least twice a day on TV. Still, we put rules into place --- certain categories of entertainment can only be shown on cable, or after a certain hour, and broadcast TV is at a disadvantage when forced to comply with them. They can only push the envelope while cable can toss it to the four winds. However, the envelope has been stretched so far already that when it comes to sex on broadcast TV, we have to shock, rather than just tittilate (no pun intended).

I'll bet we'll be seeing three men in a suitably-discreet manage-a-trois scene on "NYPD Blue" or something any day now. The subject is pretty much closed --- if we took it away, no one would watch television, which might be a good thing come to think of it.

As for the NFL, they had to have known this was going to take place. One of their star players was going to be involved in a promo for their Platinum-plated showcase (MNF), and the event was going to take place in one of their locker rooms. The lawyers knew. After the fallout from the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, you would think the NFL would tale pains to ensure that that kind of behavior would not be associated with football again. I guess not. It gets people watching more Monday Night Football just in case Nicolette Sheridan performs fellatio on a koala bear as an encore.

However, I did object to some of the gratuitious nonsense that came out in the aftermath. Did Tony Dungy have to bring race into it? Did he have to mention Kobe Bryant? Might as well have mentioned O.J. while he was at it, too. Kobe had nothing to do with this --- this was business, Kobe was a felony. He whined about the stereotype of "black athlete as sexual predator" and that offended him more than anything. He was worried about perception in a sport where drug use is prevalent, women dance in scanty clothes around the sidelines, where guys routinely disrepect each other for a spot on ESPN, and where at any given time, at least one of the players is under indictment, on suspension for drug use or, under arrest. How about getting worked about THAT, Tony?

What was inappropriate about this promo was that it had nothing to do with football. It was crass commercialism and a cynical ploy to bring the bible thumpers and the self-righteous out to watch "Desperate Housewives", just to so they can sit there and rail about "how it shouldn't be on TV", but still get aroused by it.

You know, I forget who said it, but it's still appropos; "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public". That's what drove this whole thing --- the networks treat us all like sheep that occasionally need to be shocked so that they can get more attention. They didn't underestimate anyone's intelligence --- they already knew no one was going to figure it out because they'd be blinded by the sex.

Thugs on the Court...
Normally I don't follow basketball. It was not my favorite sport growing up and I was never really any good at it anyway. I believe that for that reason alone, I never took an interest.

However, I do watch SportsCenter on ESPN. I do watch the news (go Fox!) about 12 hours a day, as well. What I saw today made me a) laugh and b) wan't to vomit.

Here in Charlotte, the only sports talk you typically hear is about NASCAR or the Panthers, but today, everyone was talking about the nasty altercation that took place the night before in Detroit, where the Pistons and the Pacers decided to get down and dirty with under a minute to go.

By now everyone knows the story; Ron Artest of Indiana smacks Ben Wallace of Detroit in the back of the head. Why Artest had to foul him is beyond me (I know at least THAT much about basketball), and why he chose this particular way of doing it eludes me as well. Suffice it to say, that Wallace was not amused, and a shoving match ensued. The shoving match quickly degenerated into a bench-clearing brawl which eventually included the entire arena.

Now what struck me as funny about the whole thing is how basketball players fight. I was raised on hockey, where fisticuffs are as common as fleas on a dog (or at least they used to be), and boxing, so, I know a good fight when I see one. I know a good fighter when I see one too. Which is why this was comical.

Basketball players fight like spastic girls, merely pushing and slapping at one another. At least baseball players (the second worst sports pugilists) attempt to tackle each other and rol around in the grass. These slaps are typicaly delivered over someone's back (typically the poor referee who tries to get in between the combatants, or another player, preferably taller than the aggressor). When two players do finally get some room to throw down, they lunge at one another in a way that reminds one of an ungainly teenager making his first stab at a virgin's privates --- clumsy and usually inaccurate --- before they fall over one another or someone breaks it up. They then posture like pro wrestlers and display a nasty attitude to their would-be opponent, which is supposed to indicate macho, but it was obvious from the start that the aggressor's true purpose is to cover for the fact that he throws punches like a girl.

Now we've all seen boxers stand toe-to-toe and hockey players trade punches for what seems hours at a time, and they do so because one of the manly rules of their respective sports is that you have to show up. You can't take a punch and run to a referee, you can't give an opponent the idea that you're soft, or you're finished. So, if it means taking a bunch of stitches, or a broken nose, or losing some teeth, that's the price you pay for standing up and being counted, no matter how bad it hurts. It's part of being a man. Basketball players do not fall into this category, in my opinion, when it comes to being tough. In the NBA, attitude is supposed to substitute for real guts.

Now for the vomiting part.

Someone please explain this to me; Artest starts a mini-brawl, then lays down on the scorer's table? Where is the display of machismo in that? Where is the logic? What the HELL was that all about, showboating? Good idea -- start a fight, run away from it and then assume a position of total submission. Of course, laying out there on the table as if he was about to have prostate surgery, Artest became a target for that other retarded denizen of the NBA --- the fan. You know, the guy who paid an inflated ticket price to watch a man bounce a ball up a hardwood floor and then throw a hissy fit that the other girls couldn't help but join in?

A fan tossed a beverage at him. Why is a question. Fans are not suppposed to get involved, although I do understand that some sports fans do quaff adult beverages in unseemly quantities and they ocasionally do stupid things too. The beverage caused Artest to fly into a rage and make an attempt to assault the fan. His teammates joined him. More fans joined in. A melee reminiscent of the Zulu attack on Roark's Drift ensued, as assholes and elbows flew everywhere.

This will make ya sick when you watch it.

At the end of it all, we have a game cut short, three players suspended, at least two fans assaulted and children crying their eyes out watching a battle take place.

When something like this happens, I start to think about what the heck is actually going on here. How could a basketball game turn so violent? Now, I understand the competitive nature of professional athletes. I understand that Artest, although he's an ass for starting the whole thing, doesn't deserve to get beer tossed on him and disrespected like that. I understand that some fans (in any sport) are a little too drunk, stupid or obsessed with the personalities in the game, and often do dumb things like this. But heck, it's not as if basketball is a CONTACT sport!

Across the border in South Carolina, not 12 hours later, the SC-Clemson game was also marred by a sidelines-clearing melee. Now football IS a contact sport, and yes, tempers can flare. But at least in football, you get a chance to get even when you drill a guy on the next play, and provided it's done legally, I have no problem with that. But this is getting ridiculous.

A great number of athletes today are absolute punks. Manyof them just have that punk look to them and it wouldn't suprise you if after a game, they were waiting outside grocery stores for little old ladies to "escort" home. In the aftermath of the basketball brawl, I discover on the news that 40% of the players in the NBA have prior criminal records. Football has similar numbers. I remember last hockey season when the Pittsburgh Penguins signed a player who had served time for statutory rape and hockey fans were furious that he was allowed to play. The man played home games only, since he was on parole at the time. Still, that's one guy in the whole league. Yes, in recent years, we have seen incidents like the McSorely clubbing of Donald Brashear, the Pearl Harbor job Todd Bertuzzi did on an Avalanche player and the thuggery of Matt Johnson on Jeff Beukaboom, and a host of others. However, hockey has a remedy for those kinds of things: the game allows fighting, which is a safety valve on flaring tempers. The NHL, by cracking down on fighting in recent years, has removed that safety and we've seen ever more vicious incidents a s a result.

But your typical NHL'er does not usually come from an impoverished background (hockey equipment is VERY expensive), where his talent allowed him to sail through schools without producing, flirt with the criminal justice system and come away from it only slightly singed because of his talent, and then have millions of dollars in contracts, signing bonuses and endorsements thrown at him before he even finished high school.

This happens regularly in the NBA.

Consequently, the players have no self-restraint since they've gotten away with everything in life. They have attitudes that develop from zooming from street kid to multi-millionaire in a relatively short time, and the maturity level of the typical democrat. In this case, was it really a surprise that Ron Artest just coincidentally has a rap album coming out, too? It's par for the course --- get an immature illiterate, thrust more money than he's ever seen in his face and tell him he's something special 24-hours a day, and just expect him to NOT be a punk. All we see nowadays at what used to be pleasant events (sporting events) is spitting, punching, assaulting, trash-talking and taunting, designed to get a 5 second spot on SportsCenter. The raunchier and more disgusting the behavior, the more air time it gets. The integrity of the game, the pride of accomplishment, the thrill of comeptetion is gone: it's now all about attitude and self-promotion.

The NBA, and all sports for that matter, have to start holding players accountable. Commisioner David Stern did the right thing by announcing indefinite suspensions for all the major players. The DA in Detroit is investigating possible criminal charges. Fine. But in the end, you know what will happen: the players will be reinstated, if any charges are pressed there will be community service as punishment. The principals will be able to go back to making a shitload of money for playing a game. We go back to worshipping them as celebrities. The cycle begins again.

We all complain about our society going to hell in a handbasket, and that SOMETHING should be done. How about we clean up the crap that inhabits our sporting venues first?