Welcome to the blog for the common man (woman, child, and pet), a place to discuss politics, culture, and life.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Check Him Out

The Common Man invites you all to join him at his new website, www.the-common-man.com. Come one, come all for the reboot and the expansion pack.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Serious News and Pithy Comments

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. By the thundering silence inspired by The Common Man's absence, he assumes you were all struck mute (or the typing equivalent) by his refusal to show up on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week. Cowboy up, readers.

The Common Man was conspicuously absent because, frankly, he didn't feel very well for a few days there. He was not sick, mind you, for The Common Man does not get sick. But he had the stuffy nose, cough, and general achiness that mere mortals would associate with the flu or a cold, but which, in him were not signs of any kind of illness. Just so you're clear.

In the meantime, here's what's happened while The Common Man has convalesced:

If you think the U.S. has problems with it's border security, you should check out the border between Egypt and Israel, where upwards of 50,000 Palestinians poured through a hole they had just blown through the security wall to go shopping in Egypt. The Common Man cannot imagine what kind of sale must have been going on at the Egyptian malls for this kind of Exodus. It's not even the day after Thanksgiving.

Presidential candidates thankfully keep bowing out, meaning that debates become less crowded and candidates have the chance to talk more. Dennis Kucinich bowed out just today, far earlier than he did in 2004. He joins Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo among candidates The Common Man knows about. Thompson, of course, withdrew two days ago after taking forever to decide to get in the race, skipping fundraisers, and speaking very, very slowly for several months. The Common Man wonders if Thompson didn't really drop out after Iowa, but that it took a month, between his reluctance to hold events and his slow talking, for him to get around to telling everyone. Anyway, fear not, you can still have a Ron Paul/Mike Gravel November crazy-off to look forward to.

Heath Ledger's death is sad, of course, because he was young and he leaves behind a daughter. The most profound impact this will have on The Common Man, however, will be making The Dark Knight even creepier.

Finally, in news that should have happened a long time ago, truly messed up singer Amy Winehouse has decided to go back to rehab. Winehouse was filmed smoking a glass pipe commonly associated with smoking crack, the other day, perhaps signalling that she is in some kind of distress. As for The Boy, when asked if he wanted to go to rehab, he still shook his head "no, no, no." (bonus points if you get that joke. by the way, will Winehouse ever be able to sing her one hit again, now that she actually has gone back to rehab? Is it now invalid? Thoughts?)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Send Out the Clowns

Most of you understand, The Common Man is certain, that clowns are not cool. Sadly, while seemingly everyone knows this instinctively, there has never been enough evidence to formally prove that, indeed, clowns suck and everyone knows it. And so, every day in this great nation, thousands of Americans put on facepaint, big shoes, and rainbow suspenders and call themselves Coco, or Dummo, or Bill O'Reilly and generally annoy the piss out of everyone they meet in the name of "entertainment" and "making people happy." The Common Man has long wished for ammunition to wave in the face of these white devils, telling them to scram before they disturb The Boy.

Thankfully, according to this Reuters article, researchers at Sheffield University, in England, has done a study into clowns, clowning, and the overall effectiveness of clowns. Finally, there is scientific evidence that, indeed, clowns suck. In a survey of 250 patients, ages 4 to 16, in British hospitals, not one child claimed to like clowns. Penny Curtis (The Common Man loves British names), a lecturer at the university, explains that "We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable." Though the study certainly can't claim any kind of universality (250 subjects is simply too small a polling sample), the fact that none of the patients liked clowns is incredibly telling. So eat it, Binko.

Clowns, of course, are pouring out of their comically undersized VW Beetles by the dozens to protest these findings. In a follow-up article, Daisy D. Dots, aka Elaine Vercelloni, argued that, in her 21 years experience of undoubtedly disturbing clowning, "gives people, kids and adults a reason to be silly, to imagine and gives their minds a vacation if only for a moment." Yet, this doesn't really address the issue that most clowns that The Common Man has had to suffer through are painfully oblivious to the fact that no one likes them and just want them to go away. Indeed, how can you trust the opinion of a clown, when, frankly, they've made the terrible life choices that have led them down the clowning road to begin with.

Even those clowns who possess the slightest bit of self-awareness, and realize that their dire, perpetually smiling visage frightens people are still nuts. Pipsqueak The Clown, aka Heather Myers, argues that "There are those who are afraid of clowns, this is unavoidable, the same way that there are those afraid of dogs and spiders." But here's the thing, no one chooses to dress up as a dog or a spider, knowing that they're gonna freak some people out. Clowns who ignore or deny the effect that they have on the general populace, who in their guts find the nonstop happiness and chicanery dated and odious, are guilty of being a public nuisance. Bring in the paddy wagon, throw 57 of the buggers in the back and be done with them.

Seriously, is this the face of a person you'd let near your child?
What about these?

This guy?

What about this clown? Sure, he's funny (not in the executive or legislative branch. now that's comedy), but he'll eat your puppy in front of your child. Do you want that? Do you? The Common Man didn't think so. He wouldn't either.

So the next time you see a clown, you tell them about this study. Ask them about their lives. Ask them who they're really clowning for. And if they still won't stop, The Common Man says to hit 'em right in their red, squishy nose. Smell your flower now, Clarabell.

So Late (or Early) That Titles Are Irrelevent

It's very late. Or perhaps it's early. The Common Man isn't sure, but it's quarter to four in the morning and he can't sleep. He did sleep, from 10 until 2, on the sofa in the basement, but he's been unable to sleep since then, having been convincingly awakened by taking the dog outside in the snow and rocking his little son back to sleep (on a side note, The Uncommon Wife is right to insist that The Common Man not fall asleep on the floor in the basement, because he won't sleep there all night and then he'll wake up and he'll be AWAKE). X-Files is on now, and it's not helping The Common Man get to sleep like it usually does (nobody does dry monotone like David Duchovny).

Why is The Common Man up so late (or early)? Why is he watching TV at 4 in the morning? The Common Man and The Boy are alone for the next couple days, as The Uncommon Wife is visiting friends of the blog Bill and Kristine Parker, and as yet unborn baby Parker (who The Common Man anticipates will be a friend of the blog at some point). The Common Man spends much of the day with The Boy (except for nap time) even when his mother is in town, but has come to take night time, when The Boy cuddles with his mother and The Common Man gets some time to veg, for granted. The Boy has morphed into an incredibly active, vibrant, and willful child, who loves playing with the volume on the stereo, electronic equipment of any type, and pulling at his puppy. And since The Boy's taken to pinching lately, playing with puppy is taking a form that The Common Man is uncomfortable with. Ralph the Evil Dog may love The Boy like no one else, but even puppies have their limits, and The Common Man doesn't want Ralph to feel anywhere near his.

Speaking of The Boy, he played outside in the snow for the first time today. Bundled up in his snowsuit and his boots (he refused to wear his hat and gloves), he hilariously crawled about in the new, fluffy powder, laughing and smiling away. The Common Man and he rolled in the snow until The Boy lost one of his boots. Then playtime was over. But it was a largely successful operation.

Anyway, The Common Man is going to try to get his beauty rest now. It's late, after all. Or early. Whatever. And there's a full day tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

They're baaaaaack...

Well, just two episodes in and The Common Man is already sucked into American Idol. He's gotta watch something, after all, writers' strike and all. That said, this is always the part of the season that makes The Common Man somewhat uncomfortable. He hates the "contestants" who show up in the hopes of getting five minutes on TV. He hates the oversimplification of peoples' lives and stories, making them into caricatures. He hates that the producers choose the most embarrassing and disturbing contestants to show the national audience. It satisfies are collective schadenfruede, seeing clearly disturbed and unstable (and probably mentally retarded) people get humiliated by Simon's droll sarcasm.

Thankfully, Simon seems to have toned down his reactions this season, especially in light of some of his more controversial, hasty and callous comments last year. But Paula and Randy seem to have gotten a case of the giggles.

Still, here are a select few of the best lines from tonight's show:

After a woman went into labor in line in Dallas: "I only thought it was appropriate to name him Idol." Seriously.

Simon didn't come down on me like I thought he would, 'cuz he goes down on everybody.

My dad would say "I hate you," not like "I'm so jealous, I hate you," like, "I really hate you."

I love Celine Dion. She's my idol. I listen to her every day. She gives me warmth and strength when I sing. (ed. note: It must be a very cold and frail warmth and strength.)

Randy: I actually like you dog, I like the whole Randy Travis/George Strait thing man, 'cuz I grew up with that man.

I've got my eye-liner, or guy-liner, I should say.

Paula: Why do you have Simon's name on your hat?
Strange Asian man in white and silver costumenamed Reynaldo: For two reasons: Everyone everywhere, as long as there is free radio and television, speaks the name Simon. Secondly...
Randy: We don't want to know.

The one-of-a-kind Reynaldo: Simon, you are a great person. You give chance to everyone to sing to the whole world. Thank you. You are heaven's chosen to give chance to any talent for free of charge. You know they call you negative words. But there are people who like you and admire you. One of them is me. You are my glory, Simon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sometimes, Even When You Win...

For a personal account of how and why the Michigan primary being held today is so screwy, The Common Man urges you to check out Rainster's blog. It's rife with the same disappointment and bitterness The Common Man often feels toward the democratic party that he wants to embrace, but is having trouble with. Awesome.

That said, what will be particularly interesting, coming out of Michigan, is how Hilary chooses to promote her inevitable "victory". Certainly, great deal will depend on how much of the vote she actually carries. It's an interesting conundrum: how do you tout a win when your top competitors were not running the race? Congratulations, you beat all 2 foot 9 inches of Dennis Kucinich, and the carcass of Dodd to a bloody pulp, but that's hardly something to brag about.

It's a shame that Michigan's "leap" forward in the primary season will cost them their delegates. On the one hand, The Common Man is happy that the penalty brought a small amount of sanity back to the primary process. Yet, can anyone really blame Michigan for trying to increase its influence on the race? As a state in deep crisis, with the highest unemployment in the country, and little promising news on the horizon, Michigan absolutely must get a candidate that is sympathetic to its troubles in order to keep its head above water. Why the hell wouldn't they jump forward, even if it costs them their Democratic delegates? Their exposure today is huge, and it gives candidates and pundits an opportunity to talk for the better part of a week about how much trouble the state is in and how important it is to get the state working again.

What is worrisome for Democrats, however, is the lack of exposure that some viable candidates are getting in a key swing state. If voters are particularly moved by a candidate on the Republican side, he could wrap up the state for the general election before that race has even started.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Good Books

The Common Man has a morbid obsession with books and movies about the end of the world. Or at least the end of civilization. It's not that The Common Man wants to see the world burn. Far from it. Indeed, unlike those escapist nutjobs who cheered back in '96 when the aliens blew up the White House in Independence Day, The Common Man loves this world and this country (for all its faults) and does not yearn for a massive blizzard or devastating plague to kill everyone, so that the planet is cleansed or some such nonsense. Rather, The Common Man likes watching and reading about the end of the world because, as he sees the world being torn down, he gets to see what holds it together. That's why The Common Man has really enjoyed the last two books he's read, Max Brooks' World War Z and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.

Brooks' novel, billed as an "Oral History of the Zombie War," is a cross between an ethnographic study and Night of the Living Dead Brooks assumes the persona of a U.N. appointed researcher, looking into the aftermath of a massive zombie uprising and how humanity survived. From the outbreak's beginning in China, to survivor's tales in Japan, the United States, Russia, South Africa, Canada, and Antarctica, Brooks' researcher criss-crosses the globe to get answers.

Unlike most sci-fi and horror novels, WWZ is able to circumvent most of the fright and the gore that would turn off casual readers. Instead, because readers know in advance that these men and women survive, they can act as calm observers to the ways that governments and individuals respond to the chaos around them. Readers get to examine not just what causes society to fall apart (overconfidence, style over substance, isolation, paranoia, and greed) but what stitches it back together again (religion, propoganda, cooperation, and physical connections rather than virtual ones).

It's a fabulous, fast read, in an accessible style and well paced. Each of the stories is sharp and memorable. It is biting in its critique, and generous in its reverance for humanity. Yet, it also wonders just at what point people start to lose that humanity when faced with crisis. The Common Man has never read another book like it, and recommends it highly, even for those who don't normally go in for sci-fi.

Matheson's I Am Legend, on the other hand, is old school sci-fi. Written in 1954, Matheson's novella has been adapted into film four times, most faithfully in Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth. As most of you know, thanks to Will Smith, the story revolves around the lone survivor of a plague that has killed most of humanity and transformed others into vampires. The book centers around Neville's attempts to retain his humanity in the face of the crushing horror he witnesses every day and night, his struggle to find purpose and meaning in life when everything that used to give his life meaning has been stripped away, and what makes up identity and civilization.

The writing style is dated and it's easy to overlook the references (and critiques) of the Cold War and nuclear testing that always seem to pop up in '50s sci-fi. The story really is a downer, as Neville's slow downward spiral is inevitable in the face of the tragedy that has befallen him. But it's a compelling vision and a true classic of the genre. If you like science-fiction, this is a great book, especially the version just released by Tor Books (for the movie) that also has other Matheson short stories (including the excellent "Mad House," the story of a failed writer and professor whose frustration and anger are channeled into his home, which begins to fight back).