Friday, December 30

Kim Jong Il: Hero or Villain?

It was a banner year for super heroes.  A record number of villains were brought to justice in less than twelve months. World renowned evil doers; Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Osama Bin Laden and most recently Kim Jong Il exited the stage of breaking news and have now taken their place in world history alongside Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.
However it now appears that there is some debate regarding Kim Jong Il’s level of evilness. Previously Kim was believed to enforce executions, mass starvation and forced labor camps. Recent news from North Korea seems to indicate that Kim’s reputation as oppressive communist dictator was a misperception by the western world and in fact he should not be included on the list of 2011 villains brought to justice.
Apparently Kim was a man of great intellect and displayed a dizzying array of talents. It really should come as no surprise that Kim had special talents as it’s now publically known that in nothing short of a miracle he was born on Mt. Paektu under the contradictory sky of a simultaneous bright star and double rainbow.
Kim’s list of talents is so long it’s hard to know where to begin. As a fashion icon he purportedly set global fashion trends that extended beyond the borders of North Korea. Oddly, no one in North Korea wore his fashion creations but North Korean government media reported that his style was imitated on all corners of the globe. Perhaps Kim is responsible for the very large sunglasses and platform shoes worn by Elton John?
He was also a natural athlete of unparalleled skill. North Korean government media reported that he was in fact one of the best golfers in the world. Kim was reported to have made five holes in one during his first round of golf (making him the first and only golfer in recorded sports history to have done so). It’s tragic that golf fans never had the opportunity to witness Kim play against Tiger Woods, his only real competition.
North Korean media was able to factually report Kim’s film talents because he was a prolific film producer and director. He was self-taught in the art of film production owning more than 10,000 movies and a movie studio. In 1978 he kidnapped Shin, one of his favorite directors and detained the director in North Korea for eight years while the two ‘collaborated’ on many films (including one on the life and times of Genghis Khan). Shin Sang-ok and his wife finally escaped in 1986. This story alone would make an excellent film plot however it seems likely that the actors, crew, director and producer of said film might also find themselves detained if the film ever made it to the screen.
Some reports of Kim’s extraordinary contributions to human history are so grand they are difficult to believe and one is forced to question either the news source or the legitimacy of the information. News outlets have reported that the North Korean government media stated that Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger, a pill that makes people taller and that he doesn’t defecate. It has also been said that he only eats grains of rice that are of equal length and requires official female staff to inspect each grain for quality assurance.
The real tragedy therefore is not Kim’s death, but rather that his great contributions to the planet were not recognized by the western world during his lifetime. It must have been his great modesty that prevented Kim from globally publicizing his fabulousness. Unfortunately it is only now that he is dead and unable to accept the applause, accolades or substantiate any of these fantastic assertions that the western world has learned of his true achievements.

Tuesday, December 6

Out Herman Cain, enter Bobby Valentine

I feel like the class clown has been sent to the principal’s office and now the rest of us are all stuck in the classroom listening to the teacher.  The curriculum is complicated, the classwork is tedious and I just want the class clown, Herman Cain to come back and entertain.
I’m not ready for Cain’s departure and I’ll be so disappointed if he doesn’t participate in Donald Trump’s debate circus. If Cain could somehow show up for a cameo performance the entertainment value of the debate would take on epic proportion. Perhaps Cain could imitate Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and return to the campaign in disguise. In 1999, as Manager of the Mets, Valentine was ejected from a game and snuck back into the dugout wearing an unsuccessful disguise that consisted of sunglasses and a mustache. If Cain just gets slightly more creative with his costume he might be able to pass himself off as a reporter or possibly a new Trump ‘apprentice’.
Cain’s book tour added liveliness and flair to an otherwise run of the mill race for the GOP presidential nomination. Many have chided Cain for his perceived moronic quips, but I quite enjoyed the distraction. Now we have no other choice but to pay attention to the issues and address the topics up for debate. There is no more excuse to argue over pizza toppings and ice cream.
One of my favorite Cainisms was his description of himself as an ice cream flavor “black walnut…which tastes good all the time.” Later, in an interview with GQ magazine Cain was asked “If Mitt Romney were an ice cream flavor, what flavor would he be?” Cain answered that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is "just plain vanilla." He went on to say that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is "rocky road" and Rep. Michele Bachmann is "Tutti-frutti. I know I'm going to get in trouble!"
Ice cream analogies I completely understand and can discuss at length. Tax code changes and foreign policy will require me to not only read the paper, but I might also have to form my own opinion. Cain was the perfect excuse to avoid serious discussion.
I was once asked in a job interview “What vegetable do you think you most resemble?” I delivered an eloquent speech likening the many artichoke leaves to the many layers of my complex personality and triumphantly concluded that in my core I was a person of great heart. The interviewer said it was the best response he had ever heard. I left the interview and decided that I would never work for a company that determined its employees professional abilities based on a vegetable analogy. My capacity to spin words and use a thesaurus reflects that I can talk the talk, not that I can walk the walk. Likewise, how can a presidential candidate be taken seriously when renaming other candidates as ice cream flavors.
Cain’s rich vocal tone and cadence, dramatic gestures and willingness to answer even the most puerile questions made him a highly entertaining candidate. However his ability to entertain and distract was no reflection of his capacity to perform the position of president of the United States.

Thursday, December 1

Virginia's State of Mind: It shall now be known as Black and Blue Friday

American conspicuous consumption shone bright as shoppers erupted into physical disputes over coveted kitchenware and electronics on Black Friday.

As a gentle reminder, that's the Friday after Thanksgiving Day when we all sat around a turkey dinner and purportedly gave thanks for the wonderful blessings in our life. For some, there weren't enough blessings and the Black Friday sales offered the opportunity to buy all the blessings that might be missing.

Based on the quantity and gravity of shopping related injuries, Black Friday might be more aptly named Black and Blue Friday.

What could anyone possibly need to purchase on their Christmas list that would be worth risking bodily harm or arrest? I can't think of any purchase that might lead me to shopping fisticuffs. I guess if I were desperate enough I might get violent over penicillin or tampons but I can't imagine duking it out with other shoppers over a waffle iron. Customers at a Wal-Mart in Little Rock, Ark., erupted in frenzy over a limited quantity of $2 waffle irons. The precious moment was all caught on an iPhone and is now available for viewing on YouTube in perpetuity.

The Black Friday sale at a Wal-Mart in the Los Angeles area should have been rated R for violence. The Xbox video game console which normally retails for about $320 was heavily discounted. One woman, in desperate need of the console, edged out the Xbox competition by incapacitating fellow shoppers with pepper spray. She pulled out her pepper spray and took out a minimum of 10 shoppers faster than Clint Eastwood with his .44 Magnum. After she disabled her competition, she secured the Xbox console, waited in line at the cash register, paid for the Xbox and drove home. Amidst the melee of the pepper sprayed adults and children the police were unable to apprehend the pepper spray shopper. She later turned herself over to police.

Apparently if pepper spray is used for anything other than self-defense the sprayer can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony depending on the situation. Not surprisingly, the Xbox pepper sprayer has claimed that she used the spray in self-defense. The store video of the event has not been released but even without the video I surmised that the actual events do not match her claim of self-defense. I think it is more likely that the self-defense story was provided at the advice of an attorney. It's a good thing she got the Xbox on sale as she will need the extra money to cover the attorney and court fees.

Many retailers have offered Internet sales on the Monday following Black Friday as a safer alternative to in-store discount shopping. I avoided Cyber Monday for fear there would be a viral attack on my computer. The pepper spray and waffle iron people are way out of my shopping league and I wouldn't put it past them to concoct a cyber-virus to thwart other Internet shoppers.

Is it not concerning to retailers and customers alike that personal safety must now be evaluated before a shopper takes to their Christmas list? When did holiday shopping become a contact sport?

In the immortal words of Santa Claus, "be good for goodness sake!"