Sunday, March 18, 2007

Freedom Isn't Free!

Some words for you:

Reading a newspaper the other day (we'll call it "The Daily News"), I read an article about a fella' who died. At one point in the (fawning) article the man was dubbed "patriotic." To prove this point, the writer explained that the deceased always sang along to the national anthem (with hand over heart) and hung an American flag from his front porch 365 days a year. No other proof was offered that he was patriotic. Correction: NO proof was offered that he was patriotic!

At what point in this country's history (in the land of the free) did we decide that behaving exactly like everyone else indicates national pride? When did hollow gestures (rather than real actions) become the litmus test for determining love of country?

Before virtually every sporting event in America the contest begins only after the national anthem is sung. All in attendance are "required" to stand and remove their head gear. Many go further and place their hands over the hearts. Many sing along. Fine, but in a country that supposedly cherishes freedom of expression, why does everyone behave exactly the same way when it comes to showing it? If the national anthem is sung at Yankee Stadium but you choose to stay seated (while wearing a hat) you will surely be cursed, spit upon, or hit. But why? Because regardless of how much you may love your country's freedoms you are expected to CONFORM while the anthem for the land of the FREE spills from the speakers. Irony? Oh, yeah.

The vast majority of Americans are pleased that the "Pledge of Allegiance" is bleated in public school rooms even though the man who wrote the pledge in 1892 (Baptist Minister Francis Bellamy) did not include "one nation under God." As a TRUE patriot, this religious man recognized that America is one nation under the Constitution! He surely would have been displeased when, in 1954, congress added "one nation under God." But regardless of the text, we have here another example of Americans (small children) being indoctrinated with nationalistic nonsense. Pledging allegiance to America?! I don't know about the rest of you but I'll leave the cultish chanting to the brain-dead and pledge allegiance to NO nation. What does "pledging allegiance" even mean?! Hell, if I get a "better offer" from Finland, The Czech Republic, or South Korea I'll leave America tomorrow! And given the direction this country has moved in the last five years, this doesn't sound like such a bad idea...

But let me be clear here. I do think it's fine to love your country but -how about it, folks- can't we show a little individuality and creativity? After all, it is the LAND OF THE FREE!! Celebrate that fact! If the national anthem is sung at a basketball game, instead of taking off your hat, why not stack three more on top? Why is this unpatriotic? Says who? No one. Instead of asking our kids to place their hands over their hearts, why not encourage them to have fun and place their hands on anything that comes to mind (elbow, nose, teacher's butt). Who dubbed non-conformity unpatrotic? I don't know but I bet he was no fun to be with.

Instead of hanging a flag from the front porch (more tiresome, unimaginative conformity) why not show your country how much you love its freedoms by hanging an enormous ball of aluminum foil or 722 bananas from the front of your home? That's so much more patriotic than a flag, don't you agree? Of course you do.

Finally, in courtrooms across the land (where freedoms are protected) folks are "expected" to put one hand on the Bible, raise the other, and "swear to God." Huh?! What century and country is this? What is the point of this bizarre, ancient practice? Well, it's the same nonsense as with all of the above topics I rambled about. In this country we show our sincerity and patriotism by falling fully in line like brainwashed North Koreans at Kim Jong Il's annual autumn jamboree.

Well, at the price of (slight) social isolation and the moderate stress of "bucking the system," I AM NOT DRINKING THIS PATRIOTIC KOOL-AID! The pressure to conform is ferocious, never-ending, and often irresistible. But each time we do so we sacrifice a little bit more of ourselves and disrespect the very country that offers us almost limitless possibilities for personal freedom.

Rockets red glare,
Paul C. Rosa

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NCAA Sweat Shops....


One of the most exciting and popular sporting events in America is the NCAA ("March Madness") Basketball Tournament. In three short weeks, the original 64 teams are whittled down to the "Final Four" and these teams compete over three days to determine the national champion. The "lose or go home" format results in incredible, almost desperate play, and the results are often electrifying. But could there be a down side to all this unfettered glory? Well, leave it to (pain in the ass) Paul to spoil this spectacular, sweaty parade....

This year, CBS is paying $420,000,000 for exclusive coverage of the (three-week) NCAA Basketball Tournament. But the players don't get a dime of this stunning loot. Zip. Zero. Huh?! Could this truly be?! CBS is willing to pay almost half a billion dollars to broadcast these elite athletes but the athletes get none of the cash? Why?

Well, it's explained (by those in power) that these are "amateur athletes" and that's that. We are also (in the same breath) reminded that the athletes are indeed paid in the form of college scholarships, often worth tens of thousands of dollars a year. But if they are amateurs who are already being paid (i.e. "not amateurs"), why can't the 800-900 athletes competing in this monstrously-lucrative tournament (99% of whom will never make it to the pros) also share in the enormous profits that they themselves create? That's when the tepid explanations from the "experts" usually dry up, it seems.

Beloved coach Mike Krzyzewski (of Duke University) has a $6.6 million dollar contract with Nike and, in exchange, forces his players (surprise, none of them ever dissent) to wear Nike apparel and shoes. His players provide the speedy "billboards" for Nike's products and the beloved coach sits on the sidelines and hauls in millions. Um, that's bullshit. Plenty of other college coaches enjoy similar contracts with other athletic companies. The players never get a nickel, while exclusively offering the valuable service! Can someone please give me another example (anywhere on earth) where an individual brings in hundreds of thousands dollars yearly through his/her OWN efforts but receives no compensation whatsoever? Hell, even the Indonesian sweatshop workers who toil in Nike factories (true!) receive a bit of pay!

But those who support the present system (often those who also profit from it) claim, "Well, these universities provide the valuable opportunity for players to 'showcase' their talents and impress the NBA, where they can go on and make millions of dollars." Absolutely true, but this does not mean the system is fair. For example, let's say you have a successful job interview. The boss-man who hires you then explains you will be paid nothing while you remain with them but, after four years, you will be much more marketable and can earn a very tidy wage elsewhere. How long would it take you to stop laughing in his face? But if ALL companies decided to take this approach, you really wouldn't have a choice but to work for nothing for a few years. It is patently unfair but the alternative is worse. That's college sports for ya.' Modern day slavery with the tantalizing (tiny) possibility of eventual marketability.

Colleges insist that these are "student athletes," as a way of dismissing the notion that they should be paid. But anyone who's attended a major university in America knows full well that the athletes are encouraged to take special (easy) classes in order to receive passing grades and are pressured to dedicate countless hours each day to practice. "Impressive graduation rates" are often mentioned when discussing certain programs (like Penn State) but even a mentally retarded lad could graduate from most of these institutions! Years ago an NFL player (Dexter Manley) confessed that he could not read or write, even though he graduated from Oklahoma State University! As coaches are under enormous pressure to succeed (or get fired) they are of course also under extreme pressure to dissuade activities (such as studying) that take players away from the practice field. Remarkably, some special student-athletes heroically still manage to do well in school. Kudos to them. They are in the vast minority.

The elite players (usually the ones competing in "March Madness") are specifically recruited to win games but, more importantly, to bring millions of dollars to the university (and the NCAA in general). And the NBA (surprise, surprise!) now has a rule that forces athletes to play one year of college ball before attempting to play in their league. Hmmm, an 18-year-old adult can fight and die in an unprovoked war but may no longer offer his job skills on the open market? The NBA and college basketball insist that an 18-year-old is too "immature" for the NBA but many of the best players in the league came straight out of high school (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady)! The argument is, of course, bullshit and it's all designed to further stuff the pockets of the wealthy.

In conclusion, college sports (especially football!) is nothing more than an agreement by those in power to exclude ALL of its most vital workers from sharing in the stunning wealth they alone create. The only people who have the power to render this colossal "business" bankrupt (the players) are also the only ones who are not paid. And God forbid they try to unionize. Let me assure you, they will be crushed as swiftly and surely as those noble souls who occasionally try to stand up to Wal-Mart or McDonald's!

After 4-5 years of college, where they were dissuaded from preparing themselves for the real world, a few dozen lucky players "graduate" to NBA riches. The remaining 99% are tossed to the curb, only to be replaced a few months later by other youngsters (usually poor and academically unprepared) who naively consider themselves lucky to be there. They're not.

-Paul C. Rosa

Monday, March 12, 2007

Prove It?

It is 1:18 a.m. EST and you don't care,

"I am as open-minded as the next man, as long as that man is no more open-minded than me." Anyone who knows me well knows that this has been my (unofficial) motto since I graduated in the top 62% of my Pittsburgh high school class of 1980. And it has served me well, ladies and gentlemen, through three marriages, seven children, nine careers, and a long struggle with pathological lying.

When it comes to open-mindedness, I find that I am completely accepting of other folks' beliefs as long as they are not pushed in my face. Aside from some Christian conservatives who have told me I should accept Jesus as my personal savior, I rarely encounter the self-righteous, especially in New York City. Here, not minding your own business can get you killed lickety-split and that's one of the city's many strengths.

But sometimes I simply don't feel like minding my own business so I now welcome your taunts of "hypocrite," "son of a bitch," and (oddly) "omnivore!" But I shall vent nonetheless. Short of doing so, this blog entry would end right here but you shall not be so fortunate. I think some beliefs are simply bullshit and I'm going to discuss a few below. Care to join me? Come on, it'll be good, sarcastic fun!

There's no such thing as a "psychic." How can I be so sure? Well, thousands and thousands of people claim to be psychic but not a single one can prove they predicted something awful would happen on the east coast on 9/11 in the year 2001. Not ONE psychic had the "skill" to let easterners know that some sort (any sort!) of danger loomed large on the eastern seaboard that day. Furthermore, shouldn't "psychics" know which people wish to talk to them and then simply call them collect? And why do they have doorbells on their office doors? Shouldn't they be able to buzz people in the moment they arrive? Thus, I have proved that there's no such thing as a "psychic." It's bullshit.

There's no such thing as a faith healer. We've all seen clowns like Peter Popoff frothing at the mouth while they "heal the sick." Paralyzed people walk, blind people see, and arthritic people play the banjo. "So?" you may say as you ponder a second Fresca. Well, have ya' noticed that they can only "heal" those who have nothing visibly wrong? How can we be sure the above folks were indeed afflicted as advertised? We can't. The faith healers never seem to be able to help people with weeping sores, hairlips, or decaying teeth! Indeed, whenever there's a chance to visibly prove to the skeptics that they indeed have special powers they are as absent as George Bush from the National Guard! Isn't God willing to prove his power? Not even once? Faith healing is bullshit.

Astrology is bullshit. Hundreds of people I've met over the years who respect astrology have guessed my zodiac sign and roughly one out of twelve have guessed it correctly. During moments of staggering boredom I have read my horoscope in the paper and am often rewarded with such deep insights as "Hard work will reward you." These gems are usually about as revealing and vague as your average fortune cookie ("Be nice rather than mean."). The very idea that one's personal development would be shaped by the positioning of the planets at the time of birth is so preposterous that, as a gesture of protest, I will use no punctuation at the end of this sentence

Christian Scientists are full of shit. They do not believe in medical intervention except for the setting of broken bones. HUH? The good Lord can take care of any illness but when it comes to a few broken bones the Big Man is rendered helpless? Please. As with the faith healers, it seems these folks will not give God the chance to truly prove his powers! If a kid dies from cancer or leukemia parents can simply claim that Billy or Suzie would have died anyway (no matter what) and "God has his reasons." And no one can prove otherwise. But if a leg is fractured in six places the brats will immediately be taken to the Emergency Room! Could this be because parents do not want to take the chance that, since God would fail to heal the bone EACH AND EVERY TIME, their faith might be exposed as lunacy? Why waste money on braces when God could straighten the teeth? Why wear eyeglasses? Hell, why even shower if God has the ability to make one clean? Christian Science is bullshit.

And thus ends my senseless rant. I hope you did not find it offensive in any way and I urge each and every one of you to accept others as they are!

-Paul C. Rosa

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Til' Death Don't Us Part


A ring. A princess dress. A dull tuxedo. A place of worship. A bunch of ladies in matching, colorful dresses. A reception. A big cake. A drunk Uncle. A honeymoon. Even those with severe learning disabilities associate these buzz words with weddings. Every pretty little American girl dreams of growing up and having "Daddy" spring for a lavish wedding, spending enough money on a 6-hour event (including reception) to save the lives of hundreds of impoverished people. But what the hell, ladies and gentlemen, brides and grooms... Ya' only get married once! And those folks from Darfur should pick themselves up by their bootstraps...once they can afford boots. Or even straps.

Actually, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce (ironically, it's a much higher percentage in red states) and, as we all know, well over 50% of the remaining "successful" marriages are studies in strain, stress, and barely-controlled homicidal tendencies. So why is marriage such a big deal? Why is it such a revered institution? Because it represents what most of us truly want, a lifetime spent in bliss with someone who spiritually lifts us up and (at night) allows us to touch their "naughty bits." Nothing wrong with that, dadgummit.

Marriage is such an important aspect of (accepted) American life that many people who come to detest each other will stay together for decades rather than face the surly glances of their fellow (unhappily married, jealous) constituents. Politicians who wish to be elected have plenty of explaining to do if they were divorced in the past (though it didn't stop Ronald "AIDS doesn't exist" Reagan, the ONLY divorced President ever!). Divorced politicians are considered to be (mostly by tiresome conservatives) morally weak and unwilling to commit to their holy wedding vows which trumpet "til' death do us part." But those who remain married have no obligation to show supporting evidence that their unions are based on love, respect, and blissful sexual compatibility. It is simply assumed that these people are morally superior when in fact the vast majority of them are unhappy (the above statistics support this)! How very, very odd and how very, very American. Suffering is better than truth.

Of the 50% of Americans who remain married, probably half of them remain unhappily married "for the kids." The assumption here is that Jimmy, Lucy, Trent, Sally, Butch, Felicia, Carole, One-Eyed Joe, Brad, and (adoptee) Soon-Quee are better served by two parents who detest each other than two parents who live peacefully apart. Huh? This notion that kids are too naive to recognize tension and misery in their parents is pure hogwash. Kids can always tell and demonstrating to them that marriage represents an ungodly, inescapable trap is a disservice of the highest order. Frankly, it's a form of child abuse.

Many tiresome folks (again, usually red staters) will sniffle, "Since the 1950's the institution of marriage has been in steady decline. Bullshit. Perhaps people these days don't work hard enough on their relationships but at least those who absolutely SHOULD divorce are doing so. Fifty years ago women were almost entirely dependent on their husbands for financial stability and social acceptance. Divorce was considered a humiliating failure and neighbors and clergymen alike would gather in musty coffee shops and speak poorly of the shattered woman's character. This absurd notion that people should stay together through thick, thin, thinner, and translucent is destructive and smacks of ancient religious nonsense. People simply grow and often in entirely different directions. Respect the truth and move on, regardless of how painful it may be in the short term.

Sure, people should work hard on their unions (married or not) but shit happens. If both parties are miserable and cannot alter these feelings, they should ignore their stuffy, sex-starved priests and follow their hearts! Have a sit-down with the kids and carefully explain to them in loving terms that the gig just ain't working. Assure them that its not their fault, promise to be there for them and begin packing hubbie's battered suitcase for his extended stay in "The Grimy Bachelor Apartments" (at the corner of Sinner Street and Bible Boulevard). Of course it is the religious folks who always are quickest to condemn those who divorce. But are they being just a teensy bit hypocritical? Let's learn some fun facts....

States with highest divorce rates: Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming, Indiana, Alabama (ALL RED STATES!).

States with lowest divorce rates: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, (ALL BLUE STATES!).

-Bachelor Paul

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Be Young, Have Fun, Buy Useless Crap!


Advertisers are so monstrously effective at manipulation that they routinely compel us to buy expensive things that are completely useless! Take bottled water for example. In the vast majority of American cities, the tap water is just as good for you as the bottled variety. In fact, if water is bottled and then sold within the same state, the health regulations are not as strict as those for the local tap water! People buy the stuff for $3.50 a bottle because they believe, well, it MUST be better for you. Nope, it ain't.

Some women (and a few men) will spend $50, $100, $250 for a small bottle of skin moisturizer. "Why the hell not?" they may roar, "I'm worth it!" Of course you are because, God forbid, any of us actually look our age. Such aging would be unseemly and disquieting. But guess what? In a recent laboratory test of dozens of different moisturizers, Vaseline Intensive Care (at about $3.00 per gallon, with complimentary soup ladle) tested as high as any of the expensive ones! The cheap stuff does just as good a job when it comes to softening skin!

A similar test was also conducted with shampoos. Ya' know the $45 bottles of shampoo (8 oz.) you can purchase from your (learned) hair stylist? Well, I hate to burst your bubble (lame pun intended) but laboratory tests concluded that the 15 oz. supermarket shampoo (at $4 per bottle) leaves your hair every bit as healthy and shiny. That's right! You've been wasting your money, Ms. Aniston!

Third example: People in the "land of the free" spend BILLIONS of dollars on vitamins in order to remain healthy and strong. "Well what the hell is so wrong with this, you bitter, annoying comic?" you may roar between breathless gulps of Diet Mountain Dew. Well, Dieter, unless you have vitamin deficiencies or an abysmal (KFC-based) diet, vitamins are completely useless. Eighty percent (figure made up out of whole cloth) of citizens get enough daily vitamins to render the store-bought pills utterly redundant. But we buy em' anyway because the people in the commercials are!

What the marketing cretins have so effectively done is to convince us that growing old is an unacceptable horror and we should spend as much money as possible fighting it. Even the elderly buy into this nonsense. While we should be revering them for their wisdom, their chewy chocolate chip cookies, and their potential inheritance windfall (hee), they are pathetically describing themselves as "82 years...young." How freakin' offensive. Pepsi once used as its slogan, "Be young, have fun, drink Pepsi!" I wrote to them, asking how elderly people were supposed to "be young." They brightly replied, "You're only as old as you feel." Infuriating! What the hell is so wrong with being 82 and FEELING 82?! No wonder aging in the good ol' U.S. of A. is such an emotional nightmare (accompanied by the inevitable physical difficulties).

Of course it's no longer enough to slather one's body with all manner of unnecessary, ineffective products in order to appear several years younger (it never works). Many of us now find it necessary to invest in plastic surgery. BOTOX to the forehead, facelifts, lip plumping, belly-button smoothing. Indeed, plastic surgery often makes the patients appear younger but, with each passing procedure, less "human." The wildly-creative Joan Rivers, for instance, looks to be about 40 years old (she's 73) but also appears to be from another solar system. It's sad. But we still can't get enough of her well-honed, biting wit! And her daughter? What a prodigy!

In some places (like Japan and Italy) old people are treated with dignity. Would it be too much for us our old people to move there as well? Do they not deserve the same respect? Of course they do. So be a good son or daughter, buy dear old Mom and Dad airline tickets, and secure your eventual place in the house of the Lord or something.

Hungry for pie,
Paul C. Rosa

Friday, March 2, 2007

Body Armor

(Amusing Greeting Here),

One of the sad burdens many men carry for a lifetime is the constant obligation to appear "tough" or "cool." Most men make it their life's (exhausting) mission to appear completely unflappable and tough as nails. We learn this behavior as small boys and hone the facade throughout high school and into adulthood. And how do most men pursue this charade? Well, by appearing exactly like almost every other man in the country! These "fellas," in order to demonstrate their self-assured dominance, choose to slip into their tiresome, identical "costumes" each and every morning and strut around like Silverback gorillas. Laughable.

Go into any sports bar in America (all so horrible) and witness the typical American male on display. Sure enough, 90% of these tedious lads utilize two or more of the following accessories:

1. Tattoo(s), usually including "barbed wire" around a swollen bicep.
2. Baseball cap worn askew. That's right, symmetry is for pussies.
3. Athletic jersey with name of local sports hero on back. Shouldn't this childish custom cease at age 12? You're 45 and you have Derek Jeter's name printed on your back?!
4. Earring. Left side, lest anyone (gasp!) conclude you fancy men.

So, all of this "body armor" is designed to (desperately) convince the world that you are "cool" but also "not to be fucked with." Yawn. If you want to be cool why not dress in a fashion that is completely original?! Lose that stupid barbed wire tattoo and adorn your bicep with a full-color picture of George Bush being sodomized by Osama Bin Laden! Show off that artistic beauty at the local military bar on a Friday night and we'll see just how tough and cool you are! Funny, sure, but tough?

All of the "pro" wrestlers lamely scream and shout about their invincibility while disrespecting their opponents with angry "words that sting." This vaudeville show is completely boring as there is ZERO originality whatsoever! We get it, ya' steroid freaks, you're tough and you're gonna' kick ass. Yawn. How about an ORIGINAL character for once? How about the "Sheepish Shepherd?" A shy lad who, when not tending his well-mannered flock, comes to the big city for some good-natured grappling. In interviews he shows the utmost respect toward his opponents (with crisp grammar), declares he has a "minor" chance of prevailing, and then DESTROYS his moronic adversary.

And where's the sense of humor from these jocks? I don't think any of them have EVER said anything funny in those riveting post-game interviews. They ramble on an on about staying focused and thanking Jesus, the same crap over and over again. Just like they were taught by their peers and their domineering fathers who themselves were lousy at sports a quarter-century earlier. Hey, stud, ya' got a national audience listening! Say something that has not been uttered a million times before! Have fun! Examples:

1. Blame the loss on barometric pressure or Keanu Reeve's lousy acting.
2. Say, "A victory for us would have meant victory for the terrorists and I simply could not permit this."
3. Ignore the question and hop around like a lil' bunny.

PLEASE, say anything but that "time tested" jock bullshit!

And has an athlete ever done something funny on the playing field? Occasionally. But if they get too creative (end-zone dances) the "establishment" starts levying fines because the white folks begin to consider taking their advertising dollars elsewhere.

How about this for fun: Let's say you're an athlete and your team is winning a baseball game 18-1 in the top of the ninth inning. If you hit a single, why the hell not run directly to third base?! Sure you'll be ruled "out," but so what?! You're winning 18-1! Have fun! In 130 years of baseball this has never happened once. Why? Because this would disrespect the "jock code" and show a little originality.

Finally, I'm tired of the dull (tough sounding) sports team names. The Chargers, The Bears, The Patriots, The Vikings. Zzzzzzzzzz...... Why not utilize even scarier names: The Kansas City Kathie Lee Giffords, The Baltimore Ebolas, The Atlanta Al Qaedas, The Arkansas Evangelicals! Come on, a little creativity here, please!!

In conclusion, there is nothing cool or tough about acting like 90% of your "pals." It's lazy, it's uninspiring, but it is incredibly tempting to do so. Fight the urge and be a real man.

-Paul C. Rosa