I caught enough of the Orange Bowl last night to give me pre-irritation (yes, that's a real world -- just ask any parent) at the Superbowl half-time show. College bowl game organizers have fallen under the delusion that the Superbowl half-time show is worthy of emulation. Last night's horror featured four pop "music" bands arrayed in a square in the center of the field; each had stretched before it a throng of girls dressed in what appeared to be colored tin foil. While the bands sang Milli-Vanilli style, the girls twirled and generally engaged in dance moves too mature for the daughters of good parents. The musical arrangement was a montage, i.e., each band sang only a few verses from one of its songs.
Because the game featured the University of Iowa against the University of Southern California, the organizers apparently felt compelled to give equal representation to the countries represented by each school, so two of the bands sang in Spanish, and two in English (though one of the "English" speakers was a rapper who was thoroughly incomprehensible, beyond urging the ladies to "shake what ya mama gave ya, yo"). The music was quite bad and therefore nondescript, and the mess ended with a feeble climax of fireworks.
I swear the planning for these things must go something like this:
"Okay, picture this: we get George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Julio Iglesias to do a rap of 'We Are the World,' while a 12-foot peace sign made of 'No Blood for Oil' flyers painted by San Francisco schoolchildren rises up behind them. Five hundred dancers dressed in hippie clothes will do a moondance in the field in front of them."
"What about James Brown? It's not a Superbowl without James Brown."
"Right. We have James parachute in from a stunt plane that flies a banner reading: 'James is da bomb.'"
"No, no, no, that is soooo 1995 MTV. Let's have the music fade away, followed by James Brown reading a Maya Angelou poem . . ."
"Ooh, I like it! Which poem?"
"Who cares? They all sound the same."
"Yeah, 'hello rock, I was a teenage prostitute . . ."
"Right, so we have Brown read the poem, and as it concludes, we have Aerosmith break into 'Dude Looks Like a Lady' . . ."
"Isn't that homophobic?"
"George Michael won't like it."
"No, let me finish. We flip that around by having Lou Reed bust out from behind the stage, in drag, to sing the chorus with Steven Tyler."
"Dude, you are a freaking genius."
"Wait, it gets better. They then break into 'Walk on the Wild Side.'"
"Great -- only we can't have that line about 'all the colored girls say.'"
"Good point. How about 'all the people of color say?'"
"Mmm, too unwieldy."
"All them other girls say?"
"No, it sounds like we are dissing the colored girls."
"All the mother pearls say?"
"No, bad. All the southern girls say?"
"Hey, yeah, and we could have a band of Hooter's gals singing back-up."
"No, remember we've got to work Shania Twain in here somewhere, and she gets pissed if there are any southern girls dressed more sluttily than she is."
"Right. Ooh, I've got it. All the cover girls say."
"Yes! We could get some supermodels out there . . ."
"Dressed like a male Lou Reed, with leather and frizzy black wigs . . ."
"And we have the Hell's Angels drive them out onto the field!"
Substitute Christians being eaten by lions for Lou Reed dressed like a chick (and I'm not sure which is worse), and you've pretty much got the planning sessions for the Roman arenas. I wonder, how atrocious would the half-time entertainment have to be before a majority of the crowd would feel compelled to boo? In other words, just how little taste does the American public have?
A headline from the weekly news flyer on my commuter train:
"Men Usually Quiet About Colon Health"
And some of you were thinking you don't have anything to be thankful for this year. The author believes this is a problem, because men who are "quiet about colon health" are less likely to ask their doctors to give them the old Vaseline-assisted check-up. I think a nation full of less stoic men, however, would be unpleasant.
"C'mere, kids, and let me tell you about my colon."
"Not again, Uncle Herb. We're tired of listening to your colon stories."
"Nonsense, Junior! We can never get tired of our colon, and do ya know why?"
"Because our colon never gets tired of us. That's right! Why, I remember a year I had to work second-shift, and my poor colon got abused on a regular basis."
"Herb, this isn't another county prison story is it, because I've talked to you about sharing that with the children."
"No, Erma, now pipe down! Now where was I? Oh yes, second shift. I would eat greasy pizza night after night, sometimes a Philly steak sandwich or just a roll of that Hickory Farms beef sausage."
"You don't know the half of it! Why, I don't think my colon saw a vegetable the entire winter of '68! But did it give up on me? Heck no! It kept right on processing, because that's what our colon does! It's God's way of saying 'Eat lots of red meat!'"
"I don't think God said that."
"Well of course he didn't say it, that's just a figure of speech. The point is, our colon is a thick pink snake coiled up inside our guts, waiting to mush up and extrude anything we stuff down our undiscriminating gullets. But if you abuse Mr. Colon for too long, he'll grow long black tumors that eat away your flesh. Okay kids?"
"Children! Time to eat!"
"I'm not hungry."
"I feel sick."
"I want my Mommy."
A nation of men quiet about their colons? Not necessarily a bad thing.
So we're back from Christmas vacation. One downside of having my name on this website is the fact that many people I know read it. So I'll be cryptic. Here's a nice rule to follow: if you have small children and you plan to spend time with other people who have small children, and further, one of your small children has a bad cold, it is common courtesy to warn the parents of the other small children.
In other words, much of our Christmas week involved wiping snot from our little guys. This is not as much fun as one might think. And of course they still want kisses, which means now I have it.
Oh, the indignity of it all. I'll spare you more details.
A friend from my grad school days once remarked that, unlike other professions, we political scientists are afforded no deference at the family dinner table when the talk turns to our area of expertise. If the subject is, say, a severe hematoma of the upper left quad, then Aunt Jill the physician is the person everyone listens to. If the topic is stocks, then everyone listens to Uncle Mort the investment banker, who is joining you for Christmas dinner via speakerphone from his minimum-security prison cell.
But when the talk turns to politics, do they listen to the political scientist? No. As I think back on the people I went to school with, I must conclude that this is a good thing.
So over dinner, several family members get into the inevitable Iraq/War on Terror conversation. To give you a flavor for the discussion, a few quotes selected primarily to make the part about me below sound especially good:
"We aren't the world's policeman."
"No wonder people over there hate us."
"The Europeans are sick of us meddling."
"We're just doing it for oil."
And so on. I kept my mouth shut. That's right. I kept my mouth shut. For this reason, I shall be abstaining from any sacrifice during the 2003 Lenten season.
A day or so later, my mother-in-law, bless her soul, asked me what I thought about the conversation.
"I'm no expert on foreign affairs," I demurred. I'm shy that way; can you tell?
"C'mon, Tony, I want to know what you think."
"Well, since you asked, we aren't the world's policeman, until the world goes and gets itself in another bind, usually involving the Germans directly or indirectly, and requiring some sort of rescue of the French, during which they will try to overcharge us for amenities. Come the wet-ass hour, to quote Al Pacino, we are everybody's daddy. So no, the Europeans don't want us involved, because they are too busy having fun pretending, now that we've defeated the U.S.S.R., that somehow they can manage their own safety without actually having armies, and while selling technology and weapons to terrorists and communist China. About the time they have their fat heads in a noose, made of rope they've sold at EU-subsidized prices to their executioners, then they'll start carping about how isolationist and hard-hearted we are. So the Europeans can bite me. And another thing -- it may be fashionable for liberals whose sole source of education is the E Channel to deride Ronald Reagan as an idiot, but he is a hero, that's right, a hero to millions of East Europeans, because he had the moral courage to call the Soviet Union what it was -- an Evil Empire -- while the slack-shouldered agnostics ladling out second-rate education in our nation's colleges were too busy sipping cappuccino and banging co-eds to recognize that communism is responsible for more state-sponsored murder than ten Nazi holocausts. So to answer your question, no, we aren't the world's policeman, but when there are people out there who want to kill me and my children, and they are actively seeking the means to do so, then my personal philosophy is that you kill them and everything within a ten-mile radius of them, post freaking haste. And if the U.N. doesn't like it, they can pack their louse-filled bags and hold their busy little seminars on gender inequality and structural racism on somebody else's dime. Since you asked, I mean."
This website may not change the world, but by golly, it sure makes me feel better.