Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Real Meeting of the Minds

ARNOLD: Nice to see you, Mr. President. It's an honor to haf you here in the great state of Caulifornya.

BUSH: Thanks, Conan, it's nice to be here.

ARNOLD: You really didn't need to come. Like I toll you on de phone, I haf this upcoming re-election well in hand.

BUSH: Always a pleasure to help out a fellow Republican.

ARNOLD: No, seriously, sir...You've got to stop coming around here or ve're going to haf a problem. Seriously. No more visits. Being seen shaking hands vit you right now is like being seen making out vit Lindsay Lohan. It causes a major drop in de credibeelity.

BUSH: Actually, McBain, I had a favor to ask you.

ARNOLD: Alright, alright. Who do you need raped und murdered this time?

BUSH: No, no, not that kind of favor. I was sort of hoping you'd go over to Afghanistan and Iraq and kill a whole bunch of terrorists for me. Sure would help us out in the press. I am getting hammered out there these days.

ARNOLD: Vat makes you theenk I could go over dere and do this sort of thing?

BUSH: I saw this movie once where you went around just killing all kinds of people, all by yourself, sometimes with your bare hands. It was totally awesome.

ARNOLD: Commando?

BUSH: No, it wasn't that one.

ARNOLD: Maybe Predator? Or Total Recall?

BUSH: Wasn't them, either...No, you looked kind of differnt, and you was in a headband with all your muscles sticking out...

ARNOLD: You are theenkeeng of dat last Rambo sequel. That's with Sylvester Stallone, not me.

BUSH: You sure?


BUSH: Yeah, I guess I was only half paying attention. I don't have much patience for art films anyways.

ARNOLD: Much as I'd like to help, sir, I don't reely theenk I'd be too good at fighting terrorists. I haf a heart condition, you know.

BUSH: Yeah, yeah, I know all about that stuff. Cheney's got a bum heart. Me, too, probly...Cause of all that cocaine I was always doing.

ARNOLD: Ah, yes, I know all about that. Didn't you ever see Pumping Iron?

BUSH: Naw, I don't watch gay movies. Anyway, I figured you used to be a diplomat for Nixon, so you could help me out. Your country, by which I mean me, needs you.

ARNOLD: Now you're theenkeen of Henry Kissinger. That's not me. I'm Arnold, the movie actor, bodybuilder and Republican governor of Kaaleafurnya.

BUSH: Oh, yeah, I get mixed up, cause you both talk funny.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Long Day's Journey Into Los Angeles

It's 10 a.m. in Los Angeles, earlier than I'd normally wake up. But I'm still on Florida time, so it feels like afternoon. Also, my body's craving heavy, syrupy food, as I've grown accustomed to actually sitting down and eating a large breakfast. That's a habit I doubt I'll maintain as the weeks drag on.

The car my parents hired to pick us up from the airport arrived at the Delta terminal 30 minutes late.

"Isn't this their entire job, to pick us up on time?" I queried. "I mean, even the amateur airport picker-uppers manage to get there while you're still waiting for your last duffel at the baggage claim. And this woman is a professional ride home from the airport. She does this for a living."

My criticism, which was being offered constructively, was met with a harsh rebuke from my weary fellow travelers. Apparently, people who have been herded around airports and rental car services and then shot through the stratosphere in an aluminum tube while being blasted in the face with bacteria-laden recycled air don't appreciate constructive criticism. Anyway, this was the end of the trip, and it was a shame to leave the week away in Florida on a sour note. Because, overall, I think we all had a pretty good time.

Oh, sure, there were the occasional petty squabbles and inconveniences. Yesterday morning, my brother and I got into an argument about something having to do with celebrities and the papparazzi. I was saying that it's dumb for people like Lindsay Lohan to bitch and whine about the trappings of fame, because she chose a life in the spotlight and could easily give it up at any time. My brother felt that it's unfair for me to judge celebrities, who are free to complain about crap like anyone else, and that I am a total shithead.

Also, there was the incident involving me stabbing myself in the thumb with a fishhook. And the fact that I had to wake up on more than one occasion before 9:30 a.m., which would be an uncivilized hour even if I were not on vacation.

But these sorts of unpleasantries were few and far between. On the whole, it was a very fun vacation.

As noted in previous, and apparently largely unread, posts, I spent several days with my family visiting my Uncle and his girlfriend Debbie in Ponce Inlet, a narrow strip of land dangling out to sea from Daytona Beach. All in all, the area reminded me a lot of old pictures of Orange County, California, before it grew into the bloated, overpopulated urban monstrosity we all know and love today. Back when there were oranges and other naturally-occuring phenomenon in evidence all around, when the streets wound between and around actual trees and vegetation, and not Golden Spoon frozen yogurt shops and 18-screen cineplexes.

Ponce Inlet and the surrounding areas (including the oddly-titled Wilbur By the Sea) are kind of like that now. It's a really beautiful area with mostly nice weather, and there are basic comforts like big supermarkets and malls and movie theaters, but it's still kind of unsettled and wild. The streets don't have street lights. Half of the bars look like places where anyone without visible bicep muscles and scars will get the shit kicked out of him. There are lots of gorgeous villa-style mansions and yachts, but also a surprising amount of liquor stores, serial killers and Confederate flags.

About those boats...My Uncle has one, and I went out with him and my father into the actual inlet the morning that we left the Daytona area. It was a great ride. Much of his neighborhood remains governmentally-protected wetlands, so there's a surprising amount of wildlife around every turn, when it's not being scared away by some doofus on a Sea-Doo swilling domestic beer and splashing his friends.

That sign, for example, indicates that the area is a Manatee Zone, populated by large, gray, somewhat hippo-like creatures who are slowly going extinct. One Manatee came up right beside our boat while we were heading back to my Uncle's place. Honestly, despite the fact that itwas a lot of fun, and this might affect the value of my Uncle's real estate, I'm not positive they should let all these boats and pleasure craft out on these heavily-populated waters. Fortunately, no manatees were harmed in the making of this vacation, but I could easily see a boat propellor or jet ski moron turning one of these charming creatures into ground round. (What Dave Barry, I believe, has called "the meatloaf of the sea.")

(Trivia: In the background, you can see the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, one of the few American lighthouses I've ever seen that's still fully functional and operational.)

The next day, after a delicious meal at one of Central Florida's many, many, many, many, many International Houses of Pancakes, we took off for Orlando, Florida. Home of about 100,000 theme parks and some of the most insane, ridiculous heat imaginable. Why, you may ask, would all these companies decide to build family-themed, outdoor attractions in a region that, temperature-wise, rivals the Earth's core?

What kind of maniac would feel not only this heat but this retarded humidity and declare, "Yes, this is where I will encourage people to over-exert themselves over the course of 12 hours, with young children and the elderly in tow! Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun!"? Is the Walt Disney corporation really just a front for bottled water companies and Skin Cancer concerns? Are they marketing some kind of new heat stroke medication under a different name? After two hours, everyone in the park looks more exhausted and beet-red than W.C. Fields on the Heineken Brewery Tour. It's like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes around every turn. All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia. Or the fucking Arctic Circle. Or, hell, Narnia. Eternal winter under the oppressive thumb of a Turkish-delight armed tyrant sounds good when you're pouring buckets of sweat in a 90 minute line.

Yes, we went to a Disney Park. The Animal Kingdom, actually, which turned out to be a lot of fun. It's kind of like a zoo combined with a theme park. There are some rides, including a kickass one they just opened called Expedition: Everest, but mainly it's a safari tour around a simulated African environment and a lot of exhibits and walking paths where you can see animals.

Unlike, say, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, a place run by zoologists and conservationists concerned mainly with protecting endangered species, the Disney park is all about giving you your money's worth in animal sightings. Go to a real zoo, and there's a chance you won't get to see your favorite animal, because they're sleeping or hiding in the shade or something. But at the Disney park, they make sure you get to actually glimpse a gorilla and a tiger and an elephant and a giraffe. They don't want angry Solvenian tourists up their ass about paying $63 to stare at dirt and grass.

So, I'm just saying this place might suck if you're a warthog. But for a person, it's pretty damn interesting. There were these two gorillas leaning right up against the glass for people to see, and another one sitting just in front of us, eating fruit off of the ground. The animal, one of four bachelor gorillas living at the Disney park, was amazingly human, more so than a good 20% of the people I help at the video store. How can anyone not see that we're directly descended from these creatures? Obviously, it wasn't even that long ago. The gorilla sits around, eats, scratches himself and picks at this butt. That's everyone I know!

We spent most of our day just checking out the animals. And then at the end, we went on Expedition: Everest, which I must say is the best Disney roller coaster I personally have ever been on (bearing in mind that I've only ever been on the ones at Disneyland, and only the ones that were there a decade ago which is the last time I have been to a theme park). You go down a few twists and drops in the dark, and then come to a stop where it looks like a Yeti has destroyed the track. They actually switch the track on you and send you down, backwards, on another track, in total darkness. You actually kind of feel like you're about to tip over. It's sweet.

Then, there's a Splash Mountain-esque drop at the end. I felt it was about the same size as Splash Mountain, but my brother insisted it was a bit smaller. Either way, a good time was had by all.

We stopped to eat at a theme restaurant called the Rainforest Cafe while at the park. The food's alright and the ambience is kind of spiffy (animatronic animals and imitation foliage everywhere). They have this dessert, the Volcano, a coronary-inducing compilation of chocolate brownie, ice cream, caramel and hot fudge. (I think it comes wiht a side of Lipitor).

This is unfortunate, as the vast majority of the Disney Animal Park visitors were the sort of people who really don't need to add magma-themed desserts to their diet. There were fat people everywhere. When we passed the hippo paddock, I'm sure several guests spotted close family members. There were more fat asses on display than an Atlanta strip club on amateur night.

The worst part was, whenever a server brought out a Volcano for a table, he or she were instructed to yell at top volume "VOL-CAAAAAAAAA-NOOOOOOO!" surely in an attempt to make the dessert "fun" and encourage other tables to indulge. We were seated right next to the kitchen, which meant having "volcano" shouted directly into your ear every thirty seconds. Now I know how the Waponi Woo must have felt. (Did you get that joke? Neeeeeeeeeeeerd!)

And then, yesterday, we took a flight home. But only after having to kill several hours in Orlando. We went to this Baja Fresh-esque Mexican place called Moe's Southwest Grill, where all the entrees are named after random movie and TV references. (I had a quesadilla, called a "Sherman Klump." My brother got a burrito named "Art Vandalay." Odd.) And we wandered around a mall, where far too many people were looking at Da Vinca Code-themed books. Will you people get over this idiot crap already, for the love of Christ's illegitimate children?

And then, da plane...da plane...Mainly, it was a nice flight. This airline, Song, which is an off-shoot of Delta, has nice planes with actual TV's in the back of every seat. And you get to watch Satellite TV for free. Now they don't have A TON of channels, but I was able to check out some MSNBC shows and Woody Allen's 1989 masterpiece Crimes and Misdemeanors on Turner Classic Movies. Can you imagine? An actually good, older movie on an airplane? On the way to Florida, I was subjected to the cruelty of Rob Reiner's abysmal Rumor Has It, which somehow still manages to improve on Alex & Emma. Rob...what happened to you, man? You used to be cool...

And that's where you all came in to the story. So, I guess everyone's all caught up, then? Good. Now back to your regularly scheduled bilious rants and half-assed film reviews.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Decider (With Apologies to Destiny's Child)

Now that I'm inside Iraq, it's so much better
You libruls thought it'd be fine with Saddam in power
You thought I didn't know how to fight a war on Terra
You thought you'd listen to Shinseki and Jack Murtha
You thought I relied too much on Condoleeza
You thought I couldn't find any of al-Qaeda

But Ima Decider (WHAT)
I'm not gonna give up
Gonna kill that insurgency
Even if we go bankrupt

Ima Decider (WHAT)
I'm gonna make it
I will decide to keep on decidin'

You thought I didn't really understand the mission
Thought I was incapable of making a decision
My inability to speak caused me derision
You thought I focused too much on religion
You didn't know that I had a vision
You thought I'd encounter an endless insurrection

But I'm The Decider (WHAT)
I'm not a felon
To save my ass
I'll fire Scott McClellan

Ima Decider
So says my Advisors
I'm gonna decide to keep on decidin'

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Star Tours

Long day today. This morning, around 9:30, I was sleeping in the beach-front condo in which my Uncle set us up, when there was a loud pounding on the door. Mercifully, my brother was more alert than I at this early hour, and let the dudes in who apparently needed to fix the air conditioning. Sigh. That was just about it for sleep today.

A few hours later, my father, brother and brother's girlfriend and I were on our way to Kennedy Space Center. I had envisioned a dry tour around a scientifically-impressive but ultimately dull facility. Once, on a Vegas trip, my parents took us to Hoover Dam, and this was among the most boring possible vacation destinations. Leaving Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of America, to walk around a large dam for several hours is like leaving Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory to claim a half-eaten granola bar across town.

But instead, the Kennedy Center's an interesting place. In addition to the launching pads for most rocket and shuttle launches, it's also a huge wildlife preserve. We saw egrets, wood cranes, gophers, alligators, even a bald eagle, which I'd never seen before.

The day's highlight, however, was probably checking out the Saturn rocket, the propulsion unit that powered the vast majority of Apollo missions.

I don't know if you can really appreciate the scale of this bad boy from the photo, but it's friggin' huge. Suspended over the entire large room, which also features a moon rock exhibit, a mock-up of and a spacesuit, a gift shop and a cafeteria featuring delicious freeze-dried ice cream dots.

We also took a bus tour around the grounds, where they bring you pretty close up to the launch pads themselves. They still use the same ones that launched the missions that first went to the moon back in the 60's. A real palpable sense of history around the whole place. It's really something impressive to see.

I know it looks really small...They got us a bit closer, but this turned out to be the best shot.

Also massive is the VAB, the Vehicle Assembly Building. They actually build spacecraft inside the building, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty and big enough to fill with almost 3 Empire State Buildings, by volume. You can see the back of my brother's girlfriend's lovely scalp in the shot, because I am a poor and uncareful photographer.

Again, the photo doesn't do justice to the scale of the actual building. That American flag? It's the size of an NBA regulation basketball court.

Finally, we took a look at a simulation of the Apollo 8 launch, housed in the actual Mission Control facilities from the 60's. It was like a mix of a science museum and one of those Universal Studios backlot "experiences." Only not totally cheesy and hosted by Ron Howard.

The only downside to the trip was the massive line to get on the bus to take you back out of the park. It was huge. Took forever for us to get through. And there was this one woman near the front of the line with this bulbous gut that proved quite troubling to my entire family. I thought she might be pregnant, but if this was the case, then the baby had accidentally slid down several inches to reside in the stomach area as opposed to the uterus. Instead, I think she was just a chick with a beer gut who insisted on wearing midriffs for some inexplicable reason.

So it's been a super-long day and I'm about to head out to bed. I'm somehow doubting I'll get a chance to blog until I get home on Friday, so you'll just have to do without my witticisms for a few days. I'm sure you'll make it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Florida on 12 Brain Cells a Day

Here I am, writing to you live from my Uncle's living room in Ponce Inlet, Florida. I won't be able to make this post as amusing as it might be, and for this I apologize, but my mother's sitting next to me on the couch looking over the laptop, so I'll have to censor all the swear words and overly honest commentary.

We flew in to Daytona Beach International Airport the other day. I'm not 100% convinced it's actually an international airport. Most of the flights go to Atlanta and back, and though it's occasionally difficult to understand people from the ATL, I'm not sure it counts, technically, as international. My Dad suggested flights might go to the Virgin Islands, but is this enough to qualify your airport as International? I think, if your plane's not landing somewhere they want to kill all the Americans, it's not truly been an international flight.

Daytona Beach announces to you immediately that it's the Birthplace of NASCAR. Honestly, the whole town is pretty much structured around this fact. All around the airport, before you even have a chance to find the baggage claim area where you'll be spending the next several days of your life, you see the huge signs announcing that, yes, you have arrived in the actual place where guys first figured out that rednecks would pay them to drive around in circles on the off chance that you might crash and seriously hurt yourself. The main road? International Speedway Boulevard. The main tourist attraction? The Daytona NASCAR museum. There are even tourist trap souvenier stores specializing in nothing but NASCAR-related merchandise.

They even let you drive on the beach here. Can that possibly be safe? Particularly in a town where 90% of the local economy relies on Spring Break-related drink-a-thons? One minute, you're slurping down the day's fourth blended Strawberry Margarita, the next moment, you're hurtling across the sand-covered promenade snugly attached to the undercarriage of a '94 Honda Accord.

I guess the town focuses on NASCAR because the only other notable source of local pride is serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who stalked johns in this area. Tonight, we even drove by the house she stayed in (it's about 5 minutes away from my Uncle's place). Interestingly, right now, there's another serial killer working the town, this time killing prostitutes. It's like a reverse copycat crime, or something. I'm not sure what it is about this neighborhood that drives its residents to kill, but I'm going to go ahead and guess it's the humidity, the massive bugs and the proximity to a NASCAR museum.

My Uncle doesn't actually live in Daytona. He lives in a small community called Ponce Inlet, about 20 minutes down the road. And when I say "the road," that's precisely what I mean. You get on the one road leading out of Daytona, drive down it for a few miles, and then you're in Ponce Inlet. And if you keep going on the road, you wind up in the Atlantic Ocean. The whole inlet is only about three streets wide. His actual house backs right up to a river, where you can even fish right off the dock in his backyard.

Naturally, I have caught absolutely nothing thus far, although I did plunge a fishhook directly into my thumb trying to stab a shrimp. They bought live shrimp for use as bait, because apparently they are appealing to the fish, but unfortuantely it's very unpleasant for the fisherman. Live shrimp are really disgusting and slimy, and hard to actually even grab in the bait box. And then, once you grab one, they squiggle around so much, you just might stab yourself in the hand trying to get them on the end of your rod.

Aside from the fishing and the constant imbibing, I've spent my time mainly playing with my Uncle's girlfriend Debbie's dog, Ivy, who is a 10 month old Cairn Terrier.

She's extremely adorable, but unfortunately has not mastered the art of not peeing all over the house and her houseguests when excited. Right now, she's pushing a tennis ball into my leg trying to get me to toss it down a hallway for the 800,000th time this evening.

We also went to Target today, so we could pick up some CD's for the car ride to Orlando later this week. I bought the new Stereolab album, this first new CD I've actually gone to a store and paid for in some time. Years, maybe. They don't just have Target here...they have Super-Target. It's a Target, a grocery store, a department store and a villainous corporate monstrosity, all wrapped into one. You'd need a team of trained Shirpas just to find your way to the sportswear in this place. 32 different checkout lines...FOR ONE STORE!

There's also a Super Wal-Mart right across the street, but I won't even go to that place. For obvious reasons. These seem to be just about the only games in town, large store-wise. At least, in terms of large stores that don't sell exclusively NASCAR-related merchandise. You want a Richard Petty jacket? Youve got 100 options. Groceries? Wal-Mart or Target.

Driving to the Target today, we noticed more than one man brazenly walking down the street, sporting a mullet. I had always thought the mullet jokes were purely for nostalgia, that everyone had figured out mullets looked ridiculous, and we were all just having a good laugh at the silly fashions and styles of a bygone era. BUT NO! Dudes down here are still thinking that's a good look! For real!

It does seem like pop culture stuff takes a long time to get down here. Listening to the radio today, every song on the classic rock station was played out in Los Angeles by the late 90's. It's nothing but Sublime, Cracker and Eagle Eye Cherry around the clock. Once, they played Audioslave, and it felt like a revelation.

But that's enough bitching and moaning. Actually, we're all having a pretty good time, just relaxing and fishing and hanging out and playing with the dog. I got into a swimming pool for the first time in a decade, so I got that going for me. And tomorrow, we're going to check out the Kennedy Space Center, which should be at least kind of interesting (even though I'm not exactly Mr. Astrophysics).

And then, in a few days, we're going to Orlando to check out some of the Disney Parks, which should be kind of interesting. I want to check out that Wild Animal park, although I'm troubled by the travel guide's indication that the park "combines real and animatronic animals and attractions." Combines real and animatronic animals? Shouldn't the wild animal park have all real animals, don't you think? Is it, like, one actual gazelle and then an entire theme park filled with robot giraffes and dinosaurs? I'll report back when I find out.