Recent Political Thoughts

I hardly ever write about politics any more, and not just because I’m so disillusioned with it, but because I’ve realized how little it really matters to a full and joyous life. Still, the condition of society is something I think about a lot. Here, for the record, are a few things that have crossed my mind recently that I think are worth sharing.


In January, I resigned from the Republican party. I was never a “capital R” type, anyway, but I mostly vote Republican, and to participate in primary elections around here, one must be so registered. Now I realize I can have a greater influence on things through recommendations, though.

I withdrew, of course, because of Trump. I don’t want to scribble a screed here, but suffice it to say, I think he’s a bad man, one so thoroughly foul that to be on his side is to be tainted.

“But what about all the good things he’s done!” say supporters.

  1. He really hasn’t achieved as much as you think he has.
  2. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36

That second one, especially, encapsulates why I don’t care as much about the political realm anymore. How in the world do so many “conservatives” not see that winning these transient, pitiful little squabbles now means absolutely nothing in the long run, in a world where the social fabric continues to unravel ever faster? We’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We can’t hold families together, we can’t keep jobs even when they’re available, we can’t even stop record numbers of people from drowning their sorrows so ferociously that they actually die by the thousands each week. But hey, we scored some kind of win on paper in Washington, DC, so hooray for us! What a farce.

“He’s better than Hillary!”

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These Two Screen Shots Should Come In Handy

These screen shots will make good responses online when people do these two annoying things:


When someone claims that their policy view is the “inevitable” one, the one “on the right side of history,” or that their beliefs are the ones that always and automatically represent “progress”–



When someone randomly spouts emotionally charged political ideas–


(I look forward to seeing this one used against me…)

The Fake Flanders Bible

By1mwXIIMAAvSBeIt’s been more than 20 years since the episode of The Simpsons aired where Bart and Lisa have to play Bible Bombardment with the Flanders family, leading an exasperated Ned to demand of the Simpson children, “Don’t you know anything? The Serpent of Rehoboam? The Well of Zohassadar? The Bridal Feast of Beth Chadruharazzeb?”

I don’t recognize any of those references, so I finally decided to look them up, and…nothing. I can’t find them in the Bible anywhere. Clearly, Ned Flanders is such a serious scholar that he knows about secret parts of the text that the rest of us can’t find.

*sigh* This is even more disappointing than when I saw Pulp Fiction and went home to look up Ezekiel 25:17. Alas, it’s not even close to the real thing.

Latest Terror Atrocity: “Police Are Baffled”

This CNN report is beyond clueless.

An amateur video shows the woman walking outside the metro station saying, “I am a terrorist. I hate you — the enemy.”

Police are not yet calling the case terror-related…

A motive for the apparent murder was not clear; the investigation is ongoing.

Clearly, the obfuscation is intentional. Again, I’m reminded of The Simpsons: “Police Are Baffled.”


The Simpsons and the San Bernardino Shooting


The media and government’s response to things like the San Bernardino shooting reminds me of this scene from the “Treehouse of Horror IV” episode of The Simpsons:

News anchor Kent Brockman: Another local peasant has been found dead, drained of his blood with two teeth marks on his throat. This black cape [clearly marked “Dracula”] was found on the scene. Police are baffled.
Police Chief Wiggum: We think we’re dealing with a supernatural being, most likely a mummy. As a precaution, I’ve ordered the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum destroyed.

In our case, I suppose it plays out like this:

Mainstream media: Another mass shooting has occurred, in a well-planned and coordinated attack. Pro-ISIS propaganda was found posted online by the suspects, and their house was full of pipe bombs. The motive is unclear.
President Obama: We think we’re dealing with racist conservatives, most likely Christians. As a precaution, I’m going to demonize them and push for even more gun control.

I realize I just compared President Obama to police chief Wiggum. My apologies to police chief Wiggum.

James Joyce: “Spring forth, burly protector, and save me!”

I read this article recently: When James Joyce Got Into a Bar Fight, He’d Yell, “Deal With Him, Hemingway!”


Which immediately reminded me of the 6th season Simpsons episode “Lemon of Troy,” where Martin Prince bites off more than he can chew while confronting punks in Shelbyville.  He says, “Nobody manhandles the bosom chum of Nelson Muntz. Spring forth, burly protector, and save me!”  Which he does, reluctantly.


That might be a good comparison to use in future classes: Ernest Hemingway = Nelson Muntz while Martin Prince = James Joyce.  Pretty much sums it up.

“Stop Grabbing the Electric Cupcake”

A valuable life lesson

A valuable life lesson

An analogy I came up with last week to help enlighten my students, far too many of whom have tried to slide by, giving the minimal amount of effort they could and still pass the class, and who (shockingly!) failed my class for the last grading period:

There’s a classic episode of The Simpsons where Lisa is doing a science experiment at home.  She puts a food pellet in a hamster cage, but attaches it to a little wire that’s hooked up to a battery.  The hamster nibbles at the pellet, gets a bit of a shock, and quickly gets as far away from it as he can.

Lisa notes in her journal that the hamster has learned a lesson.

Then she puts a cupcake in the kitchen, and likewise puts an electrified wire in the back.  Bart comes by and grabs for the cupcake.  It zaps him but, unlike the hamster, Bart does not learn his lesson.  He keeps grabbing the cupcake, and keeps getting zapped.  He’s immediately addicted to a pointless cycle of self-destruction.

Here’s the application:

Bart is like too many students who, seeing how delicious that cupcake is, keep letting their hunger for it overcome their common sense.

The cupcake is the elusive goal of getting by in a class without having to work very hard.

The wire and battery represent the inevitable failure that follows this course of action.

After all, as Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  How many kids must be thinking, “THIS time my plan to goof off and somehow be just good enough will surely work like a charm!”

Now, when I see students slacking off, or otherwise doing things that will hurt their chances for success, I tell them, “Stop grabbing the electric cupcake.”  They’re already sick of it.

If only I could get them to strive for the huge chocolate cake of well-earned achievement!

Classic Simpsons Essays

I’ve been enjoying Nathan Rabin’s loving analyses of classic Simpsons episodes over at the AV Club.  Right now he’s in the middle of season 5, and his musings are making me realize that that one might be the best season overall.  Just wall to wall perfection.  Looking forward to more of these.

From yesterday’s brilliant summary of “Bart Gets An Elephant:”

Later, Bill and Marty, the premiere chatter-monkeys of KBBL, face down their greatest threat in the form of DJ 3000, a computer that plays CDs and boasts three different kinds of inane chatter and consequently represents a grave challenge to their jobs after the gabby twosome end up in hot water with management when Bart shocks everyone by taking the crazy gag gift offered in a radio contest (a free elephant) rather than ten thousand dollars.

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Pro Community

Everyone knows I love The Simpsons.  Usually, when talking about it, I tend to focus on the quality of its satiric social commentary.  However, there’s another area where it excels which draws me in, too.

The Simpsons invented and perfected the art of both subverting sitcom conventions while generally operating within and even celebrating those conventions.  It’s a genius balancing act of ironic innovation and standard storytelling, and they were the best.

Until now.  Certainly the reigning champ of satire for at least a decade has been South Park, and now the geek contingent has a new paragon of worshipful TV meta-analysis.  It’s Community.

I’ve watched on and off for all three seasons, but it was only in the second half of this last season that I started watching faithfully.

If you haven’t seen the two paintball-themed, spaghetti Western parody episodes that closed season two (“A Fistful of Paintballs,” “For a Few Paintballs More”), you’re missing some of the funniest TV ever made.

But they just got snubbed in the Emmy nominations for the third year in a row.

Here’s  a great bit from the credits of the second episode they aired.

The Simpsons and the Nevada GOP Caucus

In a classic fifth season episode of The Simpsons, we see brief glimpses of conventions held by the two major political parties.  The Republican convention is a scene of unmitigated evil.  The Democratic convention is shown as a bunch of goofy losers who can’t do anything right.

If those stereotypes held true, then Nevada’s Republican caucus last weekend must have been organized by Democrats.  Actually, that’s the best explanation I can think of: our caucus was so disorganized, so poorly advertised, and so confusing because our political opponents sabotaged it somehow!

But sadly, no, it was our own fault.  The Republican party has a long history of incompetence in Southern Nevada, but this event may be the pinnacle of that shoddy record.  Continue reading

Ten Best Simpsons Episodes

Wired celebrates the new, 23rd season of The Simpsons with a list of top ten episodes.  They have some good ones (notice that most of their choices come from the first several seasons), but this is hardly the best of the best.  My choices:

10. “Bart the Daredevil,” season 2, writtern by Kogen and Wolodarsky

Great quote: “Bones heal, chicks dig scars.” 

Why I love it: What may still be the single funniest joke in the history of television:

9. “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love,” season 3, written by Kogen and Wolodarsky

Great quote: “Bet the eight ball didn’t see that one coming.”

Why I love it: The brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence, perhaps the entire series’ best parody.

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Frank Grimes’s Speech From The Simpsons

Perhaps my favorite episode of The Simpsons is the season eight juggernaut of dark humor, “Homer’s Enemy.”  Here, the unreasonably lucky Homer, who somehow happens to succeed in life despite being a lazy moron, meets the new guy at work, Frank Grimes, a realistic person who scrapes by in life by working hard and being responsible.  Needless to say, Homer soon gets on Frank’s nerves. 

The whole point of the episode is to juxtapose the cartoony Homer with a normal, average person.  By the end, Homer and the world that allows him to exist drive Grimes crazy.  A great B-story here reinforces the point about society’s lowered standards, with Bart walking by an auction and getting the deed to an old factory for a dollar, so that his “years of hard work finally pay off.” 

The best part is in the middle, where Homer tries to make friends with Frank by having him over for dinner.  Despite all of his mature dignity thus far, this is where Frank starts breaking down and ranting.  His speech is below; any time I’ve watched this episode with others, I pause it here and say, “This is how the world makes me feel.  Every.  Single.  Day.” 

I’ve had to work hard every day of my life, and what do I have to show for it?  This briefcase and this haircut.  And what do you have to show for your lifetime of sloth and ignorance?  Everything!  A dream house, two cars, a beautiful wife, a son who owns a factory, fancy clothes, and lobsters for dinner!  And do you deserve any of it?  No! 

I’m saying, you’re what’s wrong with America, Simpson.  You coast through life, you do as little as possible, and you leech off decent, hard working people like me.  If you lived in any other country in the world, you’d have starved to death long ago.  You’re a fraud, a total fraud.  [to the rest of the family] Nice meeting you. 

Live Simpsons Openings

In case you never saw or don’t remember the excellent British “live action” Simpsons opening from 2006…it’s been banned from YouTube and is hard to find now.  It can be found here, though.

Here it is, still managing to slip through on YouTube, with a side-by-side comparison with the original:

Here’s another one, stripped down for Estonia:

And this one may be my favorite, by a high school class:

The Twilight Zone: The Shelter

This is the only episode of The Twilight Zone I can think of where there wasn’t anything even remotely supernatural.  No aliens, no psychics, no monsters; just scared, powerless people in a panic and feeding off of each other’s fear.  As we all know, that’s the scariest thing of all. 

Astute nerds will recognize this plot from its parody in The Simpsons’ epsiode “Bart’s Comet.”