advice from a fake consultant

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On Being Bumped, Or, Let’s Have Another Roundup July 4, 2011

So I thought I was going to have another Jay Inslee story for y’all today, but it turns out that I’m going to have to do more research before we can “come to press” with that one.

But that’s OK, because the world’s been busy doing a lot of other things – and while many of them get media coverage, some don’t get a lot of notice at all.

And of course, there are also those stories that look one way at first glance…but look a lot different when you dig a bit deeper.

We’ll hit a few of those today, have a bit of fun doing it, and get ready for what promises to be another busy week of strategically not doing things in Washington.

To make things even better, some of the stories will be real, and some won’t.

We’ll see if you can tell the difference.

Wat baten kaars en bril, als den uil niet zienen wil?
(“What use are candle and glasses, if the owl does not want to see?”)

–Traditional Dutch saying quoted in Peter Tate’s book Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend, and Superstition

Let’s begin by closing out some business from our last story: I mentioned that I received a parking ticket from Seattle Parking Enforcement Office J. Hell, on Republican Street, while attending an event hosted by a Democratic candidate for Governor, and I suspect that some of you think I made all that up.

For proof, I was going to copy the ticket and post it for folks to see…but, instead, check this out: Officer Hell actually made the “Seattle Times” back in June, and you can see her hard at work in that story booting a car, which Seattle does after four unpaid parking tickets.

And now, on to the new business:

Have you seen the Viagra commercial where the guy is driving his horse trailer, and it gets stuck in the mud, and he uses the horses to pull himself out?

Well, think about it just a minute: he’s a guy, and he already has a great big pickup truck, a cowboy hat, and horses…which he’s actually using to pull his great big pickup truck…and you’re telling me he doesn’t already have a boner?

If he can’t achieve an erection at that point, what the hell good is Viagra gonna do?

And speaking of erecting new things…

In what I consider to be one of the best things to happen to politics (and the financing of television productions) in years, Stephen Colbert has been given permission to form his own SuperPAC.

Colbert indicates that he intends to use any money donated to the PAC to produce certain campaign commercials, among other things – but according to the FEC advisory opinion, he is not allowed to expend any of his unlimited corporate contributions to run another effort like 2008’s “Hail to the Cheese” Campaign, which was intended to merge corporate money and politics in an obvious and highly visible way.

By the way, that FEC advisory opinion is available for viewing, if you’re so inclined – and in a most fascinating footnote, it unintentionally explains the existence of Fox News as a legitimate press entity:

A news story, commentary, or editorial that lacks objectivity or is satirical can still be considered part of a press entity’s legitimate press function, even if that news story, commentary, or editorial expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.

And speaking of unlimited corporate money…

Monaco was the location of a Royal Wedding this weekend, with Monaco’s Prince Albert, resplendent in his military uniform, taking up the role of groom.

Military uniform?
Monaco?
Really?

As it turns out, tiny little Monaco actually does have a military, and the Prince represents 1/113th of the entire force – which means if they ever try to invade the Vatican, the Swiss Guard will outnumber ‘em by about 19 guys.

(By the way: the Prince is reported to have some DNA testing in his near future to determine the paternity of what could be his third and fourth illegitimate children…which is presumably going to make for a bit of a frosty honeymoon.)

What else is going on?

Well…I was watching CNN and they suggested that people bearing retirement age should try making a budget that would reflect how they’ll be living after retirement and try living on that now.

And I though to myself: “I should try that”.

So I did…and now I’m wanted for bank robbery in four states.

Thanks, CNN.

And finally…

In a story that is exclusive to Your Erstwhile Reporter, I am now able to report that Ohio Governor John Kasich, in an effort to simultaneously reduce unemployment and “send the proper message” to his workforce, will announce on Tuesday that he intends to hire 6,000 new state employees who will have only one duty: to travel around and visit all male State employees, at random, once a month…and kick them in the balls.

In order to help female employees really “get a feel” for the new work environment, former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has been brought back to reform and “restock” the Dannettes; he’ll then be employed as the “Charlie” overseeing Ohio State Government’s newest “Angels”.

So there we are, with this weekend’s Roundup, and we should be back shortly after Tuesday with either the Jay Inslee story that was supposed to be here today – or a substitute, depending on how our research goes.

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On Living With Idiots, Or, An Open Letter To Islam September 9, 2010

Dear Islam,

You know, it seems like every time I write a letter I have to begin by apologizing for not having written in so long, and that’s the case again today.

We only get a few days of real summer up here every year, and I was out having fun at golf tournaments and doing a bit of climbing around the local hills—and you know, I do love doing a bit of nothing at all from time to time—but while I was away, things have gotten even crazier than usual around here…and I’m sorry to say, you’ve been on the pointy end of the crazy stick, which is something that never should have happened.

Things have been so nutty that you’re probably thinking America has something against Islam—in fact, you might be wondering if we have something against our own Constitution.

Well, we don’t, most of us, and I’ll take a few minutes today to help y’all understand just what is going on in this country.

So you’re going to be hearing a lot about this disturbed guy in Florida who thinks that he can save the world by burning Qu’rans on September 11th—and you’re going to be asking yourselves: “Why would America allow anyone to do that?”

Well, the answer’s kind of paradoxical, and it has everything to do with the same Constitution that protects freedom of religion in the first place.

You see, it also protects the concept of freedom of speech…which, in itself, probably requires a bit of an explanation.

Freedom of speech, as you can imagine, isn’t absolutely free (for example, there is the famous “yelling fire in a crowded room” example), but to a far greater extent than you might think, we really are able to say things that would shock most of you not living here.

At the moment, just to illustrate the point, we have all kinds of people suggesting the President is taking the country in the wrong direction, or a secret Muslim (as if that were somehow bad)…or even that he’s some sort of weird mixture of Stalin and Hitler and Satan Himself who was born in Kenya…and every one of them is free to stand on any street corner and hold a sign proclaiming exactly that, just as much as they want.

Matter of fact, those are the same people that are mad at you, Islam, for the moment, even if they know nothing about Islam…and that brings me right to the next thing I need to tell you.

The only reason a lot of Americans are mad at you, Islam…is because there’s an election on, and the only way Republicans can win elections is to try to scare Americans into thinking that the United States will instantly collapse from whatever useful threat they think up—unless enough of us vote Republican.

Now in normal times, Islam, Republicans would be trying to scare us about gay people trying to eat our babies, or something equally stupid, but that hasn’t been working as well as it used to lately—and what they would really like to say this election cycle, they can’t (“Those Jesus-hating liberals elected a nigger and now they’re gonna impregnate your daughters and gay marry your sons!”)…and that leaves you, Islam, as the next most desirable overt target for Republican fear-spreading professionals.

(You and, of course, those “illegal aliens” who are busily beheading people in the Arizona desert every night.)

Now there is no doubt that a portion of our population is entirely ready to jump on this bandwagon with no encouragement at all, and that’s where we get the fools who think having a Qur’an BBQ party somehow makes some kind of sense.

My guess is that about 20% of us are that stupid—and based on our current population, that means about 60,000,000 fools are bumping and stumbling their way across the American landscape on any given day, struggling, as Aimee Mann says, “with the undertaking of simple thought”.

Apparently because it’s just hanging there, many of them sort of slide down and congregate in Florida, and sure enough, a few of them did gather together in that particular State to form into the human blood clot that planned this little 9/11 protest, and that’s how we got to where we are today.

Now I’m sorry that we can’t just bring this to a stop, but we do allow idiots to say their piece in this country, whether it’s a good idea or not…so they do, even if the Government and The Not Blindingly Stupid Among The Population don’t like it…and all I can really tell you by way of consolation is that as soon as Election Day is past, much of this will come to an end—unless it works so well that Republicans keep it up for a few more election cycles, until it fails to work any more.

Anyway, Islam, try not to let it upset you too much, try to keep in mind that this is really about American electoral politics and the desperate need to create fear (which is all the Republicans have left)…and most importantly, try to keep in mind that if good old-fashioned American racial segregation was back in style then no one would even be talking about you—instead, the same people that are on your back today would all be doing their best Dr. Laura impressions 60 or 70 times a day, and they’d go right back to assuming Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs are all the same people, just like they did in happier times.

So that’s what’s been up around here, and I hope to hear from you soon as well—and of course, if you’re in the neighborhood sometime, drop me a note and we’ll go grab a coffee and laugh as the fools walk by.

Your friend,

fake

 

On Canadian Cultural Imperialism, Or, I Explain Red Green June 8, 2010

Filed under: Culture,LGBT,Red Green — fakeconsultant @ 8:11 am
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We are again having to take a short bypass on our planned writing journey; this time to a place that’s, according to their Facebook page, about 148 beer stores north of Toronto, Ontario (which, for the benefit of the less-geographically aware reader, is in Canada).

It’s a crazy place, where duct tape is more truly the coin of the realm than loonies, but we’re going to try to explain it all today…and in the effort we may even learn about a few things that really matter, like the unimportance of importance, and the kind of quality of life that comes from having a junk pile and a sense of adventure.

So grab the bug spray, Gentle Reader, because it’s time to visit Possum Lodge.

“You want to make it two inches — or, if you’re working in centimeters, make sure it’s enough centimeters for two inches.”

Red Green

Possum Lodge itself is in the remote north of Canada (right next to Possum Lake), but Lodge members live all over the place.

So how do you spot a Lodge member?

You’ll often find them out in the shed, sorting through the pile of junk, looking for a part…but you might find them at the auction, looking to buy a used police car, or out on the lake, fishing.

Lodge members typically have been with the spouse for long enough that passion has been replaced by realpolitik; that’s certainly true of Dalton Humphrey and his wife Anne-Marie (Dalton owns the “Everything Store”, by the way, and since it’s the only store this side of Port Asbestos, the prices are way too high).

A great way to understand the friendly cynicism of a Lodge member is to check out the Possum Lodge Word Game. In this episode, Red’s geeky nephew Harold is the timekeeper, and Edgar Montrose, the “local explosives expert”, is trying to say a certain word…

When today’s Lodge members were kids, they were the ones who would take things apart, just out of curiosity—and a true Lodge member won’t be able to put the thing back together exactly how it came apart…but that’s why they make what Red calls “the handyman’s secret weapon”, duct tape.

Today, jury-rigging things together in an effort to make something new isn’t just a matter of curiosity…it’s a lifestyle. Check out this example of Red rigging two cars together to make one all-wheel-drive car:

This next video is even better: you get to meet Winston Rothschild (he of the most necessary Rothschild’s Sewer and Septic Sucking Services), and you get to learn how to build a self-operated dog wash at the same time…which, in real life, almost never happens.

“Buzz” Sherwood is the local bush pilot—and the “Buzz” in his name does not refer to how low he flies. Matter of fact, with Buzz also being the local hippie and all, the nickname really refers to how high he flies, if you get my drift.

For these guys, camping can be…it’s…tell you what…just watch this:

Now if this was all there was to our little tale, it would be OK, but this has actually been the set-up for what Paul Harvey would have called “the rest…of the story”.

“I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to…I guess.”

–The Red Green Show’s “Man’s Prayer”

You see, I met Red Green about two weeks ago (to be more accurate, I met Steve Smith, who is one of the two co-creators of the Possum Lodge franchise, in his Red Green character), up at the ol’ True Value in West Seattle, and we had a most interesting conversation…and it won’t be at all what you think we might have talked about—sorry, aboot.

You see, I was recently notified by email that I’m gay, and the night before I was actually attending a meetup with some of my gay friends, and as it turned out, they, being a bit more the “dazzling urbanite” type than myself, had no idea who Red Green really was.

Right that minute, I figured I would put a story together that tried to explain Possum Lodge, not just to the gay community, but to anybody who doesn’t fully understand how a bit of indolence can be a beautiful thing.

And (with apologies in advance for the lack of sound) that’s what we’re talking about in this next video, where Red is preparing to autograph my roll of clear duct tape (and yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as clear duct tape):

So as you can see, we’re talking about all this, me and Red there, by the duct tape display, and he sorta leans over conspiratorially and tells me that he actually has a pretty substantial gay audience—and that in fact, Possum Lodge is the kind of place where nobody would really care if you were gay, and, as far as anyone can tell, a few of the members may very well be gay.

And that made a lot of sense to me, actually, because The Girlfriend and I play mini-golf with a woman who drives a pickup truck that’s just about the same age and size as Red’s “Possum Van”, and she’s constantly workin’ on stuff, which means when you go over to the house it’s often like attending a live segment of “Handyman’s Corner”…and to tell you the truth, she has that kind of not-in-a-particular-hurry personality that would probably fit right in at the Lodge…and, as it turns out, she’s gay.

So how about that for a bit of a story: an introduction to a way of life you may have observed from a distance but never understood, a chance to have a few laughs on Red, and—most surprising of all—a chance to discover that, even 148 beer stores north of Toronto, there’s a place for all kinds of folks to come together and do just about as little as possible for as long as they can get away with it…or at least until the wife finds out.

And if you ask me, that’s a pretty good message for the start of summer.

 

On My Approaching Gay Anniversary, Or, I Break The Fourth Wall May 28, 2010

Filed under: Bilerico Project,Culture,LGBT,Uncategorized — fakeconsultant @ 7:52 am
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So once again my writing schedule is going to be turned upside down by unforeseen events—but it’s going to be worth it, as I have one of the funnier stories to tell you that I’ve brought to these pages for some time.

It’s a tale of catering and rejection and redemption, all in one, along with a bit of the Harlem Renaissance thrown in for good measure, and the big circle that was created was officially closed last Saturday night.

So come along, Gentle Reader, and I’ll tell you the story of how I was officially notified that I’m a member of the gay community—by email.

“Did you know that dolphins were just gay sharks?”

–Heather Morris, as Brittany, from the television show “Glee”

So it all started with Groucho Marx.

I’m a huge fan of the Marx Brothers, and I had the chance to borrow the DVD set of his 1950s game show, “You Bet Your Life”. The very first episode of the series featured Gladys Bentley, who proceeded to pound out some of the best boogie-woogie piano I’ve ever heard; investigation revealed that the same person who was living as a woman in the 1950s was living, under the same name, as one of America’s best-known male celebrities in 1929.

A story emerged, a couple of thousand words later, of a person who had been a central part of the Harlem Renaissance, who had married a woman in a big public ceremony—again, in 1929—and who, by the time she made that “You Bet Your Life” appearance, had rejected it all in an effort of return to the “straight life” she had never really known in the first place.

So I posted the story, as I normally do, across a number of websites…and then I got the email.

The message was from the Bilerico Project website, who wondered if I might be interested in becoming a contributor. As they noted in the email, Bilerico is one of the premiere sites on the Web serving the LBGTQ community, and, as a member of that community, they knew I’d be glad to have the opportunity to associate myself with the site.

I immediately ran off to inform The Girlfriend of my new status—and I almost as immediately sent a message back, telling the folks there that I’d be thrilled…with one caveat.

I felt that they had to be informed that I’m a male who’s been with the same woman for 28 years…which, if you know anything about long-term relationships, pretty much makes me asexual.

We all had a good laugh over that, and despite the fact that I had “come out” to them, they were still willing to accept me as I am, and as a result I happily contribute to Bilerico to this very day.

Because I post to so many sites, I’m always trying to catch up with what’s going on everywhere, and just in time I happened to notice the story from one of the proprietors of the Bilerico Project, Bil Browning, who wanted us to know that he’d be in town over the weekend, and that a meetup was planned for Saturday night.

Off I went, and a great time was had by all, so far as I could tell, anyway, but we decided to go to a second bar…and that’s where the story gets good—at least for me.

So in a previous life I was a caterer, and if you’ve ever worked with a group of “food people”, you’re probably associated with the gay community on a daily basis. On our job it was not unusual to go into Seattle after work and hang out, and because one of our little group was gay, we would go to gay bars from time to time.

Now our gay friend was obviously there to hook up, and he would, but the two of us…well, not so much.

Nonetheless, my other friend (who we’ll call Dave, to protect the innocent), who was, to be honest, a better looking guy than me, would have men approach him, from time to time, to say hi.

It was never an issue, and we would explain…but you know, after a while I found myself wondering…”hey, what’s wrong with me?”

Even after Dave moved to the Portland, Oregon area we would still hang out, and one night we hit the downtown bars—including two gay bars that are immediately next door to one another.

Sure as day follows night, Dave gets hit on by all sorts of men…in fact, folks who were expressing a variety of gender presentations came by to say hello to Dave during the course of the evening—and me…nothing.

Even The Girlfriend, who had watched all this happen in Portland with her own two eyes, began to give me a bad time about it…and she’s still giving me a bad time about it, even after a decade or so has gone by.

OK, so it’s last Saturday night, and we’re standing around in the second bar, in our little group…and somebody walked past and randomly groped me!

Oh, I was dying.

I tried to explain to the group what had just happened, but as you might imagine, they were just looking at me all kind of confused (and probably thinking…”what a dweeb”).

I had to leave fairly early, as I had another event to attend the next day, so after I finished my beer I left, and almost as quickly as I could get out of the bar I had The Girlfriend on the phone to tell her the good news.

So there you go: after years of “what’s wrong with me”, I’ve finally achieved validation, in my own weird way, The Girlfriend can no longer give me a bad time…about this, anyway…and I got to meet up with online friends that, if I hadn’t of been paying attention at just the right time, I would have missed.

Not bad for a Saturday night, if I say so myself—and I have a Sunday story, too, starring the inimitable Red Green, but we’ll save that for another time.

 

On Murdoch And Google, Or, Hey, Rupert, Where’s My Check? November 20, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Culture,Economics — fakeconsultant @ 5:30 am
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Our favorite irascible media tyrant is in the news once again, and once again it’s time for me to bring you a story of doing one thing while wishing for another.

In a November 6th interview, Sky News Australia’s David Speers spent about 35 minutes with the CEO of NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch; the conversation covering topics as diverse as software piracy, world economics, the role of Fox News (and Fox NewsPinion©) in American politics, a strange defense of Glenn Beck, and, not very long afterwards, an even stranger defense of immigration.

We have heard a lot about the…how can I put this politely…challenges Murdoch seems to face associating factual reality with his reality, and we could have lots of fun going through his factual misstatements—but instead, I want to take on one specific issue today:

Rupert Murdoch says he hates it when people steal his content from the Internet to draw readers to their sites…which is funny, if you think about it, because he has no problem at all stealing my content (and lots of yours, as well) for his sites.

(To begin, a quick note: all the Rupert Murdoch quotes you’ll see today came from the YouTube, specifically the Sky News Australia interview, which is there posted in its entirety. Although each quote presents Mr. Murdoch’s words exactly, they aren’t necessarily in their original order; that’s so we don’t go jumping around from topic to topic too much in this story. When that happens the quotes will be split into separate paragraphs, each with their own set of quotation marks. Words in italics were words Mr. Murdoch himself emphasized.)

David Speers began the interview by asking Murdoch about the concept of public access to free news content online:

“Well they shouldn’t have had it free all the time, I think we’ve been asleep, ar, and, it costs a lot of money to put together good newspapers, good content, and you know they’re very happy to pay for it when they’re buying a newspaper…and I think when they read it elsewhere they’re going to have to pay…”

And it’s not just the public, either. Murdoch is particularly incensed at the idea that one news organization would intentionally steal content from another:

“Well…the people who just simply pick up everything and run with it…and steal our stories, ahh, we say they steal our stories they just take them, ummm, without payment…”

“…if you look at them, most of their stuff is stolen from the newspapers now, and we’ll be suing them for copyright. Ummm, they’ll have to spend a lot more money on reporters, to cover the world…when they can’t steal from newspapers…”

Mr. Murdoch is, after all, running a business…but beyond that, he acknowledges that the News Corporation “experience” is also critical, and that creating that experience requires him to deploy top-notch talent.

For that reason he is dismissive of the suggestion that he might establish a free site augmented by a “premium” site that charges for…well, premium content:

“…there’s also, in in a newspaper, uh we got a newspaper, or a news service, there’s a thing called editorial judgment, there’s a thing called quality of writing, um, quality of reporting, and, ah just to say you know we’ll take what’s average stuff that comes from an agency and uh, not charge for that, it’s okay but I think you’re really degrading the whole experience if you do that…”

And this is the part of the story where I come in.

It was with great surprise that I heard Mr. Murdoch saying all this, because, for the longest time, Murdoch’s own newspaper, “The Wall Street Journal”, has been carrying my stories (along with hundreds of others daily) on their WSJ.com website. In fact, my most recent story, “On Determining Impact, Or, How Stimulative Is Stimulus?” ran on their site just a couple of days ago, on November 18th.

Now don’t get me wrong: in contrast to Mr. Murdoch, I like being carried in as many places as possible, even if I don’t always know about it, and I’m glad the WSJ likes the work, so I am surely not complaining…it’s just that I was surprised to discover that News Corporation’s editors, exercising on a regular basis what can only be considered fine judgment, had apparently recognized the “quality of writing, um, quality of reporting” that I bring to the table, and, in an effort to enhance the experience they provide their clientele, have been regularly posting that writing…and Mr. Murdoch hates news organizations that steal content…and yet, despite all that, News Corporation never seems to send me a check.

So, Rupert…where’s my money?

But it’s not just bloggers and the WSJ: the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes is owned by IGN Entertainment, which is owned by FIM, which is part of…wait for it…News Corporation.

And what is the Rotten Tomatoes business model, exactly?

That would be to be the website that gathers movie reviews from a community of reviewers, posting them all in one space, and to use those reviews as the basis for the “Tomatometer” ratings they apply to movies…the Tomatometer being the central brand identity around which the entire franchise is built.

What’s not included in the business model?

Paying money for those reviews, a fact I was able to confirm after an exchange of email today with the folks at Rotten Tomatoes.

So, Rupert…where’s their money?

We could end this story right here, but there is one other quote from the Sky News interview that deserves to be put in the record, not only because it’s a comment on Murdoch’s view of the newspaper business, but also because it may be instructive as to how he views television as well:

“…people who have been buying papers for 20 years, um, even bad newspapers, it’s hard to see them, um…can’t stop buying all papers or even changing newspapers…”

(For the record, I attempted to obtain a comment for this story from Dan Berger, who is News Corporation’s primary press contact, but that effort was not successful as of the time this went to print.)

And with that, we come to the “wrap it up” part of the story:

Murdoch is quite upset at the idea that other news organizations will steal the stories that he invests time and effort and money into creating, and yet at the same time he’s absolutely dependent on acquiring content for his own sites that he doesn’t pay for—and my guess is that virtually every one of the people who have been providing him this content, myself included, are at least reasonably happy with the process that got us here…but we’d be even happier if he would get those checks out to us in time for a bit of extra Christmas shopping.

Oh, yeah, and one other thing: when it comes to news, Murdoch believes that brand loyalty is apparently capable of trumping quality of content in the eyes of at least some beholders…and in truth, I think he’s right.

 

On Being A Government DJ, Or, “Torture? You Call That Torture?” October 25, 2009

It’s become more or less common knowledge that US forces have been using music as an operational tool for some time now, and I’ve begun seeing lists of the songs that are being used either to inflict pain, to demoralize, or to just generally disorient various people in various sorts of situations.

There are others, wiser than I, who will opine as to the questions of efficacy and the moral issues surrounding these kinds of operations; I will opine, instead, as to the quality of the songs used.

Frankly, had anyone asked, I could have put the torturers onto much better musical choices, just by selecting from my own “My Music” folder–which left me thinking: “hey, it’s the weekend…why not do exactly that?”

Got any psychological warfare mission planned for the weekend? Expecting to have to direct amplified sound at an angry mob in a defensive maneuver Saturday night? Planning a Halloween haunted house that goes a bit…fuurther?

Come along with me then, soldier, and I’ll provide you a playlist that should do the trick in almost any foreseeable emergency.

vistrola.jpg

Before we go any further, a word of warning: some of the links in this story will lead to material that is extraordinarily offensive and, in some cases, exceptionally distressing in nature.

If you are reading this, and you’re, say, eleven years old, go get your parents and make them read this with you so that they can also learn about some sweet death metal; later on you can all listen to better music in the car on family outings.

What’s On Guantanamo’s iPod?

So the obvious first question: what songs are the government using?

If the lists that I’ve been seeing can be believed, there is a fair collection of songs being used to create “environmental manipulation“, including songs like Eminem’s “White America” and Kim, the obvious choices like Born in the USA, songs from the super-patriotic county song genre like that “boot in your ass” song, sexually suggestive songs like Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty (which has a waaaay dirtier video than lyrics…), and a heavy diet of heavy metal. (According to Justine Sharrock’s reporting at Mother Jones, MPs on duty in the detention facilities would often be making the choices about what detainees would hear.)

“The healthy man does not torture others — generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”

Carl Jung

The odd thing about the metal: most of the songs seem to be far more tame than what they could have found–and a lot of the songs are actually among my “Rocktober” favorites…although at least one song was new to me, and I liked it, too.

Examples included Nine Inch Nail’s March of the Pigs, AC~DC’s Hell’s Bells, Drowning Pool’s Bodies, Mettalica’s Enter Sandman, and a song by Deicide that I had never heard before…but, to borrow from “American Bandstand”, it had a great death metal beat and you could mosh to it.

Now if it had been me in there, I would have suggested, for starters, some good old New Orleans Goatwhore, like Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult, or maybe some delightful Cannibal Corpse (Barbaric Bludgeonings being a good place to start), or perhaps something that draws from Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” concept, like Upper Decker, by The Red Chord.

One of my friends suggested I consider a Norwegian Black Metal band (which is a good choice due to the Satanic messages that are literally at the core of the music); and you can’t go wrong with either Gorgoroth’s most excellent Carving a Giant or a selection from Emperor’s The Nightside Eclipse (which should also be mandatory for any haunted house soundtrack anywhere).

Did You Say Sex?

Songs with gay-oriented themes work in both PsyOps and “friendly” haunted house environments; my suggestions would include two long-time favorites: The Mike Flowers Pops’ rendition of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (which actually manages to be amazingly perky, unabashedly “pop”, samples “The Macarena”, and, despite all that, doesn’t suck), or, when you’re ready for the big guns, the Keta-Men’s super-masculine, give-it-a-beat, four-part-harmony reworking of Sheryl Crow’s Strong Enough; which should be effective, as I said, for any PsyOps you may have planned–or any friendly haunting.

As for other songs with a sexual connection: well, you could do a lot better than Christina Aguilera. How about, just to get things rolling, 20 Fingers and Gilette’s Short Dick Man …and then, after midnight, you gotta dig up the impotent sea snakes’ Kangaroos (Up the Butt) (which is, indeed, about an Australian lifestyle choice gone horribly, horribly, wrong).

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Apparently songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Mandy”, Air Supply’s Lost in Love, the entire Celine Dion catalog, and Morris Albert’s unforgettable Feelings (unforgettable? After you hear it, you wish you could forget it…) did not make the list (although the public record is incomplete, and that may yet prove to be incorrect). The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack apparently did make the cut, which confirms some theories I’ve had about the Brothers Gibb and torture that date back to the 1970s…but that’s a subject for another day.

It also appears that no one went for the industrial/dance bands, and as far as I’m concerned, no serious haunted house (or PsyOps mission) is complete until the Negativland comes out to play–but there’s a lot of other top-quality disorienting and jarring music available, including music from :wumpscut: and ohGr and Einstürzende Neubauten…or even Twink’s Pussy Cat.

Finally, a few words about what might be the cruelest songs to make it on the list.

The theme from the Meow Mix commercials made the list.

The Sesame Street theme song made the list.

And, finally, in what might be the most barbaric act ever perpetrated by the American Government…Barney the purple dinosaur’s I Love You, a song you always said was torture to have to listen to, has now actually been used to soften up detainees for interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Amazingly, the song that might be the worst ever to have deployed against you in any PsyOps operation–or any haunted house, for that matter–is not on any list I’ve seen so far: the theme from the Disney ride “It’s a Small World“. I can testify to this personally: as a kid at Disneyland I was stuck on the ride, one summer day, for about an hour-and-a-half.

All I can say…is that it changes you.

Check out the link. It’s almost 11 minutes long, and I challenge you to sit through the whole thing. If you do make it, I challenge you to get that song out of your head…ever…again. Good luck.

 

On Improbable Realities, Part One, Or, “I Want A Jet Car With Frickin’ Lasers…” September 23, 2009

When it comes to getting around, Americans love to consider the question of “what if…?”

As a result, our cars have evolved into “land yachts”, our trucks have become “monster trucks”, and the desire to drag our living spaces around with us has morphed into converted busses with rooms that pop out of the side, a Mini-Cooper hidden under the master bedroom floor, and self-tracking satellite dishes that fight for space on the roof with air conditioning equipment.

And for more than a few of us, “what if…?” has even extended to “what if my car…was a jet car?”

In today’s improbable reality I’m here to tell you that Chrysler engineers asked that exact same question, for roughly a quarter of a century, and as a result they actually designed and deployed seven generations of cars with jet engines—and they came darn close to putting the eighth-generation design on sale to the general public.

It’s a story of pocket protectors and slide rules and offices full of guys who look a bit like Drew Carey…but as we’ll see in Part Two, it may also be a story of technology that couldn’t be perfected “back then”, but could be reborn in our own times.

As so often happens, a bit of “setting up” is needed, and to get this story going we need to discuss exactly how jets—particularly gas turbines—work.

In the case of an automotive engine, the idea is that air is drawn into the engine, that air is compressed, fuel is added, and the air/fuel mixture is then set on fire with a spark plug. This rapidly heats the mixture, it expands, and the energy created by that expansion is used to turn a turbine (a variation on a fan) which is connected to the driveshaft that eventually turns the wheels.

Some aircraft and helicopter engines also use this design to turn propellers, but the majority of aircraft jet engines force the expanding air/fuel mixture out the back of the engine in the form of “thrust” that, to put it as simply as possible, “make airplane go fast”.

From an engineering point of view, there are a lot of advantages to a turbine engine.

In contrast to a design that requires pistons and valves and a crankshaft and a cooling system and a system for oil distribution, turbine engines have very few moving parts, are cheaper to manufacture, and require a relatively small amount of maintenance. They also have very long service lives compared to piston engines.

Beyond that, turbines start right up on very cold days. Because jets output lots of heat you never have to wait for the jet car’s heater to “warm up”, and they can burn virtually any combustible liquid or volatile gas as fuel.

Vibration is very low, and you get 100% of available torque at 0 rpm, which means you don’t have to “rev up” the engine to get the wheels to start turning (something that is also true of vehicles powered by electric motors).

“Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines”

John Benfield

So that’s the why…now how about the “who did what when?”

1954, 1955, and 1956 saw Chrysler rolling out the first-generation CR-1 turbine engine. One vehicle was produced in each of those years; the ’55 version was designated the Plymouth Belvedere Sportone CR-1 Turbine Special. (The 1956 version of the same vehicle was rated at 100 horsepower and 13 MPG.)

By 1959 the CR-2 engine was in service, again only in “testbed” vehicles, and it had achieved ratings of 200 horsepower and, after a 1,200 mile demonstration run from Detroit to Princeton, New Jersey, a far more respectable 18 MPG.

Operating these vehicles had taught Chrysler a few things about the disadvantages of turbine designs:

–the gases that come out the back of the car are really, really hot (temperatures can climb above 1000 degrees F.).

–after you put your foot on the gas, there is an annoying delay before the turbines (and the wheels) start spinning faster.

–because you’re basically dumping fuel into the combustion chamber, fuel economy sucks.

–the CR-1 and CR-2 engines did not offer “engine braking”, which means there would be extra wear and tear on the brakes at the wheels, and, because the driver would be constantly “riding” the brakes, increased potential for a heat-related braking system failure.

An engine was coming along that would address these problems, and in 1961 it was dropped into the visually stunning TurboFlite, which looked like a cross between two famous automotive avians: an early 1960s T-Bird and a late 1960s Plymouth Superbird. This Chrysler-designed and Ghia-built car even featured a clear “bubble” canopy that lifted up to allow passengers to get in and out.

The CR-2A engine featured fancy new engineering that dramatically reduced the acceleration delay and provided engine braking, and in 1962 one of the two Dodge Darts that was fitted with this engine was taken on a 3,000 mile national tour (New York City to Los Angeles) to introduce the concept to the public. (Two other cars, both Plymouth Furies, were also fitted with turbine engines that year.)

At this point we need to talk about the most unusual characteristic of this type of car: its singularly unique sound.

If you can imagine the sound of a Learjet taxiing several hundred feet away you might have a pretty good idea of—well, actually, you don’t have to imagine it if you don’t want to. You can hear it for yourself by watching the film produced by Chrysler to document that 1962 cross-country trip.

By 1963, a fourth-generation engine had deployed new technology that recycled heat from the exhaust to “preheat” the intake air. This dramatically reduced the exhaust temperature while making it easier to set the intake air on fire, which significantly increased both fuel economy and horsepower.

Other improvements further reduced “acceleration lag” and provided better engine performance while idling.

There is just too much story for one day, so we will stop right here and pick up the rest next time. Before we finish, a quick recap of where we’ve been, and a preview of where we’re going:

Chrysler, among other manufacturers, was experimenting with using jet engines to turn turbines; the idea being to replace the piston engines used in virtually every car built from that day until this with something better.

Four generations of engine had already been produced, many of the problems that were associated with the original design had been either partially remediated or fully resolved, and a significant effort was underway to introduce the idea of “jet cars” to the motoring public.

In Part Two, Chrysler puts a turbine car in the hands of 200 lucky families, we continue a history that may not be over yet—and in a most unexpected development, we’ll discover the common heritage that links the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, the 1961 Lincoln Continental, the 1964 Chrysler Corporation Turbine Car, and the 2009 Dodge Challenger.

So how about that? A decade-long story of history, engineering geekery, and conceptualism…and all of it presented in the form of useful objets d’art.

And in Part Two: lots more to come.

What’s not to love?