Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This Started to Sound More and More Like Fanfic as I Wrote It

I don't know if you're aware of this, but we are just a year or so away from the 20th anniversary of the Daily Show. Now, obviously the series is very much in the public eye right now, what with Jon Stewart's impending retirement, but I've been brainstorming some ideas for how to keep the buzz going for the big 2-0. To wit:

1) Bring back the old hosts. Tell me that it wouldn't be absolutely thrilling to have a big twentieth anniversary special where Craig Kilborn and Jon Stewart team up with the new host to tackle a really big news story that none of them could handle alone. There'd be tremendous potential for comedy there, as the three hosts bickered amusingly about whose style was best suited to the situation, along with some witty meta-commentary on how the show has changed over the years. (Maybe have Kilborn deliver a quip like, "You've redecorated, I don't like it"? I'm just blue-skying here.)

Maybe even, for extra dramatic effect, we could find out about a "lost" season of the series, where a comedy legend was the anchorperson? I bet they could get Bill Murray. He'd absolutely kill with the way he kept suggesting that the "new boys" were too young to do proper comedy. Of course, in order to be big enough to bring all four hosts together, you'd need...

2) Returning villains! Really, one of the things that 'The Daily Show' has always been famous for is the monsters. Now, obviously you can't bring back some of the really monstrous villains--Saddam Hussein and Moammar Khadaffi are dead, for example. But there are still a lot of good B-list villains to choose from. Dick Cheney's still out there, and George W. Bush has been laying low for a long while. Ken Starr hasn't been seen in almost fifteen years, and a lot of us still have fond memories of his time on the show. We could see a huge gathering of these classic baddies, led by maybe Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck? It'd be really exciting, especially if they...

3) Incorporate the spin-offs. After all, if it's the kind of crisis that forces all the incarnations of the series to work together, it's got to be big enough for the Host's old allies to return. Picture them standing side by side, Jon Stewart and Craig Kilborn and Bill Murray and (host to be named later), overmatched against the Fox News anchors, when all of a sudden Stephen Colbert shows up! And just behind him is Jon Oliver and Larry Wilmore, and Steve Carell! All the Classic Series correspondents, teaming up with the new blood to help out the Host of the Daily Show in, their...hour of need. It would be breathtaking.

And then the Brigadier could show up! ...okay. Maybe not.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why It's Going to Be Hard For the Republicans to Avoid Jeb Bush

Even though we're almost two full years away from the next Presidential election, we've already got Republicans jockeying for position in their party's not-even-close-to-happening primary season. The reasons for this are many--24-hour news networks start talking about the next election for the same reason that the NFL Network starts talking about the draft five minutes after the Superbowl ends, the sheer amount of money required these days means that you have to have your donors lined up months before actually campaigning, but a big part of it this time out is that Barack Obama isn't running again for fiddly legal reasons, and so these guys think they have a chance of winning. (Say what you will, but Obama was not a candidate that the Republican party wanted to tackle.)

So that means that there's a very crowded field, because a lot of these guys have been waiting a long time for their shot. Which means that each candidate needs to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, and that means they need to start campaigning early. So we've got Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker and Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie and Rand Paul and Rick Perry (did I miss any?) all trying to make headlines for themselves by visiting the primary states early and often and getting to know everybody there, and declarating their opinions all over the news like a cat marking his territory (except that you can probably distill something useful out of cat piss). And it's becoming clear to everyone concerned and most observers that Jeb Bush is slowly turning into the frontrunner.

This means, of course, that the knives are coming out for him. Because if there's one thing it's tough to be in a race this long, it's the wire-to-wire frontrunner. The earlier you emerge from the pack, the longer the other players have to drag you down. So we're already getting a lot of speeches from all concerned about how Jeb Bush is insufficiently right-wing, how he doesn't understand what motivates the modern Republican base, how he may in some way shape or form have expressed empathy for another human being in his know, deal-breakers. Basically, the rest of the field is going hard at Jeb Bush, and they probably won't stop.

But in this case, I'm not sure if it's going to matter, any more than it did for Mitt Romney. Because right now, the Lovecraftian Horror Show That Is the 2016 Republican Nomination Contest (TM) has a field that consists of a bunch of head-trauma patients and Jeb Bush. And, like with Mitt Romney, we're dealing with elementary game theory here--Jeb Bush has pretty much the entire non-head-trauma vote locked up, and while that's a depressingly small percentage of the Republican vote, the head-trauma vote is split between lots of candidates. And if Jeb Bush has twenty percent of the vote, but the eight other guys only have ten percent each, he wins.

Now, if some of the other guys dropped out, then it would spell trouble for Jeb. But each of the other guys know that if they stick with it and let everyone else drop out instead, they'll get all of the head-trauma vote and beat Jeb. Which means that none of them will drop out, which means that Jeb will keep trucking along with his twenty percent, and eventually take the nomination right out from under the noses of all those "true" conservatives who would make much more entertaining horror shows in the general election.

I don't think any of this matters, because I think that America wants to see another Bush in office like Germany wants to see a Chip Hitler candidacy, and Bush is the most electable out of the Lovecraftian Horror Show That Is the 2016 Republican Nomination Contest (TM). By far. But I do think that the coming primaries are going to be some of the most vicious and nasty infighting you'll see in a long time...and coming from the Republicans, that means something.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

OK, Just One More...

If you have a dirt-floor basement where you keep your dancing plants, is it a Groot cellar?

Friday, February 06, 2015

And the Hits Just Keep On Coming!

Did you hear about the mathematician who sold a new line of shoes called "Contrapositives"?

They were just Converses turned inside out.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Today's Thing I Should Be Ashamed Of

I want to createa a pulp pastiche hero named, "Bick Pentameter", and every time he announce himself to an audience there would be a long debate about why he's not speaking in Shakespearean verse.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Five Words That Are Destroying Civilization

...are, "The customer is always right."

I have to be honest; I have never seen these words deployed in a situation where the customer is actually right. I've worked my share of retail jobs over the years, I've done a few stints in the restaurant business and I've certainly been a customer enough times to be present during a situation where someone invokes this particular piece of "wisdom". And without exception, it is used by a deplorable human being in order to bully people who are required by the responsibilities of their position to treat them politely into giving them something they don't deserve.

And it seems like my experiences are representative. There's an ongoing series, "Behind Closed Ovens", on the Gawker network that serves as a clearinghouse for stories about the restaurant industry, and they are filled with people who demand food not on the menu, complain that the well-done steak they ordered isn't sufficiently tender, tip like they've got a lock on their wallet, and generally carry themselves like maladjusted toddlers in public. And when there is the slightest resistance to their bad behavior? "Haven't you ever heard that the customer is always right?"

Perhaps at some point, in theory, this was a good idea. Maybe in some distant era, customers were routinely subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of cruel business owners, bilked and neglected and generally mistreated, until finally that legendary customer of yore insisted that they were, in fact, right! But whatever the origins of this practice, it's become a tool used by jackasses to bully people. They firmly believe that they can demand discounts, comped items, returns on goods not actually sold at the store they're going to, and treatment that goes beyond polite and even past obsequious well into dehumanizing grovelling with the threat of a bad Yelp review, and the way that they're treated on a daily basis proves them one hundred percent correct.

I think this is more than just a problem for the unfortunate individuals who have to deal with them on a daily basis; I think it actually does bad things for our society as a whole. I don't believe that you can teach people that at times, you can treat people like dirt and bully them into submission with impunity without that lesson rubbing off in other areas of behavior. The person who calls the waiter "retarded" for not leaving the pitcher of water at their table--do you really imagine that they're kind and generous in all other areas of their lives?

Frankly, I think there needs to be something of a line in the sand; yes, the customer deserves respect and consideration, but they are not "always right". Nobody is. No business can always satisfy every customer, because some customers have unreasonable expectations. And it's not rude or inconsiderate to let them know that. And the people who work at a business, whether a retail store or a restaurant or an office, are people first and foremost and deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity due to human beings. If a customer believes otherwise, then they are most definitely not "right". And if a manager or an owner believes that a good Yelp review is worth more than the dignity of their employees, then they don't deserve to have a business.

So if you find yourself prepared to use the phrase, "the customer is always right", take a step back and think about how you'd feel if you were on the other side of events. You may be surprised at what you find.