Excuse me, I don't "loot." I have a college degree.

yahoo photo number one:

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.

yahoo photo number two:

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday.

This one is too easy. I never knew "finding bread and soda from a local grocery store" could be made so innocuous or menacing based on the switching of one word and skin tone. For shame.

(shamelessly stolen from this quality livejournal)


I have this thing about the news media and hurricane coverage. Irrespective of the fact that The Big Stinky (New Orleans) is currently in the process of being washed out to sea, I still can't believe the way cable TV news conducts itself during these fiascoes.

Hurricanes have always been gold for the media. They’re slow (guaranteeing several days of fill), they’re destructive (guaranteeing good video), and generally considered to be terrifying. But not only is hurricane coverage unbearable in its quantity, the awful part is that it’s always the same; every channel, every year, every hurricane.

Blow-dried, pensive anchor in studio: “How’s it looking out there?”

Live shot of storm-addled and soaking wet correspondent (with obligatory background debris flying about): “It’s really really windy!

Anchor: “OK, thanks for that report. We’ll have another live update in 15.”

From there, they cut to a meteorologist who will spend a few minutes pointing at a flashing, luminous satellite image of the storm moving towards the coast. Finally, the cycle ends with some stock footage of harried citizens buying jugs of water in grocery stores and boarding up windows or fleeing the area on gridlocked highways.

Cut to the human interest story about the retards intent on riding out the storm on their front porch, flashlight in one hand and Old Fashioned in the other. Cue the montage about past hurricanes (remember that wacky Andrew? Good times. Good times.) and bring out that clip of a wrinkled Asian scientist explaining the NOAA hurricane rating system. Did you know that a Category 4 has sustained winds of 131-155 mph? Well it's a goddamn fact.

Any force of man or nature that can level thousands of square miles of Florida or the deep south is a-o-fuckin'-k in my book. Have you seen rural Mississippi? The hurricanes can't come fast enough. Christ, let's drop a daisy cutter or two and help ol' Katrina out.

In closing, hurricanes and tornadoes are not random. They form when moist air masses from the Gulf of Mexico mix with NASCAR collectibles, the sound of Larry the Cable Guy, and the aroma of grits.

A Collection of Crazy mike Cab Adventures: Part One

This past weekend I had another close encounter with a cab driver, a situation that was exacerbated by my level of drunkenness. This brings the noteworthy stories that involve drunkenly dealing with a chicagoland cab driver to three. I would like to share these stories with you now.

DISCLAIMER: It is part of offical ginandtacos.com policy to not make this webpage into a livejournally diary of personal stories (current music – jade tree comp), but it is our policy to show the highs and, as will be apparent soon, lows of excessive gin and taco consumption. I hope you understand.

Jamaican Love Advice, February 2002.

Fellow ginandtacoer Erik Martin (who will be writing again shortly after his release from the Betty Ford clinic next week) and myself were drinking around the southwest burbs of Chicago. We had just seen an afternoon movie, whose name escapes me, and we wanted to spend the rest of the day bendering it up around the area.

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a little more geekery.

A9 Blockview maps.

Everyone, if you haven't already, check out a9's online map service. It's not as streamlined and user friendly as google maps, but it does offer a new feature for several cities.

Click on one of the cities listed, and then click on the map – you'll find a series of pictures in the bottom right corner. Keep playing with it, and you'll see that you can view images block to block across the city. It becomes addictive.

Google Talk

Google Talk appears to be offically open for business. As it's in beta-test, it requires a gmail account (yell in the comments if you need one) to register. It's compatible with AOL-IM (and many others), and features voip. I'm curious if the recent stock offering is part of a move to allow google talk to call into phone networks; we'll have to wait and see.

Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, lives up to the hype (reviews here). Picture a sandbox world, like Grand Theft Auto, except you get to smash just about everything available. Run up the side of buildings and do a piledriver off the top, punt cars and use lightposts as javelins – the level of destructive creativity is amazing. The demo I played allowed you to take a car, rip it in half, and make metal gloves out of it. I've heard you can flatten a city bus and use it as a skateboard. Brilliant!

"But Mike," you say, "I'm too old, and too mature to play a video game. Especially one based, on all things, The Hulk. For shame." Lame, but understandable. Here's a quick highbrow beard that you can place around your enjoyment of this game, if you're the type that needs it – Thomas Pynchon's essay on the Luddite movement:

[Luddites] were bands of men, organized, masked, anonymous, whose object was to destroy machinery used mostly in the textile industry…[their] anger was not directed at the machines, not exactly. I like to think of it more as the controlled, martial-arts type anger of the dedicated Badass. There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he Is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect….When times are hard, and we feel at the mercy of forces many times more powerful, don't we, in seeking some equalizer, turn, if only in imagination, in wish, to the Badass — the djinn, the golem, the hulk, the superhero — who will resist what otherwise would overwhelm us?

…[the novel Frankenstein] remains today more than well worth reading, for all the reasons we read novels, as well as for the much more limited question of its Luddite value: that is, for its attempt, through literary means which are nocturnal and deal in disguise, to deny the machine…To insist on the miraculous is to deny to the machine at least some of its claims on us, to assert the limited wish that living things, earthly and otherwise, may on occasion become Bad and Big enough to take part in transcendent doings. By this theory, for example, King Kong (?-1933) becomes your classic Luddite saint.

Before you point out that I'm advocating to "deny the machine" by playing a digitial simulacra of denial on a machine, all I can say is you were the one with the problem, and that Frankenstein was also printed on a press, and I can't even hear you as I'm riding a tractor-trailing symbol of capital-technocratic hegemony as if it were a skateboard:


So how often does your priest, rabbi, clergyman, etc call for somoene to be assassinated? If you're a card-carrying member of the Christian Coalition, the answer to that question is "occasionally". That word, of course, lacks a pejorative sting. But the fact that the answer isn't "never" is ridiculous enough to preclude arguments about scale.

Furthermore, how often does your clergyman lecture you on politics? I'm an admittedly lapsed religious practicioner, but after 18 years of Catholic education I can't remember one instance of a Priest ever standing up and delivering a homily about the Supreme Court, the inheritance tax, or whacking a world leader. Why? Well I always thought the reason for this was obvious – we don't go to church to get lectured on current affairs, and religious groups are tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan organizations for whom engaging in political advocacy is illegal and inappropriate.

"Apparently I am an elected official of some kind."

Yes, Pat Robertson (who entertains me less than James Dobson simply because he's bat-shit insane as opposed to calculating and rational) is calling for the United States to make haste to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Quoth the rocket scientist:

  • "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."
  • "(He is) a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly."
  • "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
  • One of my favorite people in this world is very religious and often says that the media loves making Christian leaders look stupid. In reality, the only thing that makes them look stupid is accurately quoting them. To claim that the media is framing them is just another weak variant of the "I got a bad grade because the professor hates me/because I'm black/etc" excuse.

    The media didn't make James Dobson tell his followers that SpongeBob SquarePants is subliminal gay propaganda. The media didn't make all these tools anoint themselves as physicians and constitutional scholars overnight during the Terri Schiavo ordeal. And the media didn't do anything to Pat Robertson today that Pat Robertson didn't do to himself.

    If these religious nutjobs have suddenly decided that they're political figures and sources of public policy information, then they (and their followers, even the ones who don't buy most of what the Robertsons and Dobsons say) have to deal with the fucking consequences.

    If Robertson (and Dobson, and Reed, and Falwell) appoined themselves de facto advisors to the Republican Party, then welcome to the jungle. Don't start bitching now. "Oh, the media's making fun of me." That's politics, and you chose to make yourself a part of it. If you don't like it, stick to religion. After all, that's what you tell the IRS your organizations do, right?


    Am I the only one who has a hard time taking the daily horse-race coverage of the Iraqi Constitution seriously?

    Unless it's bulletproof or made of some sort of Earth-space metal compound that repels terrorists like Kryptonite, I really can't see how this document changes or will change anything. Let's all shit ourselves with excitement – a government that couldn't run its Iraq for five minutes without a massive occupying force from the U.S. has a Constitution! This is even neater than those elections they had!

    The Council debates the use of the phrase "cannon fodder" in the Iraqi Army charter

    That Iraqi Assembly sure is cute. They're like a high school student council with more spirit. As you recall from your high school days, the primary function of the student council was to teach kids how democracy works – you debate, bargain, and vote with big smiles on your faces in order to legitimate decisions over which you have no control to begin with. And if you start getting any big ideas, the Principal comes down the hall and straightens things out.

    I wonder if they included something about getting a new salad bar in the Iraqi National Cafeteria?

    "Hey, where did this 'Article 27 – Oath of Undying Fealty to Exxon' come from?"

    Keep this in mind as we watch Washington react to the rumored nationalization of Iraq's oil reserves and the use of sharia as the foundation for the legal system in the draft "Constitution". Something tells me that a few last-minute suggestions from Washington will end up sneaking into the final product.

    Set Phasers to Bad-Touch.

    Back in April, the LA Times wrote a story about the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit and their battle against child pornography. It was all fine and good, until this random factoid was thrown in the article:

    On one wall is a "Star Trek" poster with investigators' faces substituted for the Starship Enterprise crew. But even that alludes to a dark fact of their work: All but one of the offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie.

    As you could tell, with it's sinister implications ("dark fact") and the paper's editorial decision to stand by the statement, what should have been a cheap shot turned into a flash on the internet (see here and here); fans lined up on one side saying that there is nothing in the canon that would condone or de facto approve of pedophilia, and cops on the other side leaking disturbing anecdotal evidence of a connection, including the following story:

    The first thing detectives from the Toronto police sex crimes unit saw when they entered Roderick Cowan's apartment was an autographed picture of William Shatner. Along with the photos on the computer of Scott Faichnie, also busted for possessing child porn, they found a snapshot of the pediatric nurse and Boy Scout leader wearing a dress "Federation" uniform. Another suspect had a TV remote control shaped like a phaser. Yet another had a Star Trek credit card in his wallet. One was using "Picard" as his screen name. In the 3 1/2 years since police in Canada's biggest city established a special unit to tackle child pornography, investigators have been through so many dwellings packed with sci-fi books, DVDs, toys and collectibles like Klingon swords and sashes that it's become a dark squadroom joke. "We always say there are two types of pedophiles: Star Trek and Star Wars," says Det. Ian Lamond, the unit's second-in-command. "But it's mostly Star Trek."

    And Jesus wept. It was really only a matter of time until someone combed through old episodes looking for evidence of a connection, and sure enough that just happened today on the Huffington Post. As I've lived in an apartment with all the dvds for the past two years, and my love for the movie Free Enterprise and William Shatner is worn on my sleeve, I should probably take apart the argument not only out of principle, but and out of a desire to not be "profiled" at any point in the future. I'll do this now.

    Continue reading


    This past weekend the mighty TremFu ventured to Fort Wayne, Indiana at the request of some (new) acquaintances who apparently wanted to inject some rock into their lives. It was not until we arrived that I found out we were playing at a bar called the Brass Rail. Our Chicago and Champaign-Urbana readers are well aware that there is also a Brass Rail in downtown Champaign.

    Two thoughts, one considerably less plausible than the other, entered my mind at this point. I considered the possibility that Brass Rail is some sort of chain-franchise operation that licenses dingy bars serving a mixed clientele of drunken hillbillies and college hipsters. Then I wised up and realized it's probably just a coincidence. Nevertheless, the extent to which Brass Rail-Fort Wayne is almost identical to Brass Rail-Champaign was hard to ignore.

    Is the name some sort of reference that I'm not getting? What is it about the name "Brass Rail" that lends itself to PBR, $5 pitchers, and creepy old alcoholic men leering at 22 year old rockabilly girls? I urge our readers to report any other Brass Rails of which they are aware. This merits further study. (Note: there are Brass Rails in San Diego and Minneapolis, both of which are gay bars, and one in San Francisco that is a strip joint. I'm confused.)

    In any case, Fort Wayne surprised me. Not an altogether bad place, contrary to my expectations. Good people, (at least) one good bar, and a lot of enormous apartment houses that look like Victorian castles. And an Arby's that never closes. Thanks to the Twin Rays, All Nite Skate (our hosts), and Michigan-based Lone Wolf & Cub. And Omar's pregnant cat…..what the hell was its name? Something horrible. He introduced it as "This is my cat _____. That is the worst cat name ever." Someone help me out or this is going to drive me crazy.


    All men are genetically programmed to get a thrill out of seeing how far below the "E" their car's gas needle can go before re-fueling. We feel some small measure of victory when we pull into work in the morning with the "low fuel" light on and then drive home at the end of the day without having addressed this earnest warning. I'm starting to think the Democratic party is made up entirely of men who are operating it on the same principle.

    One of my favorite websites is PollingReport.com. Not because its polls are reliable or especially accurate, but mostly because it's entertaining. Its hypotheticals are the political junkie's equivalent of sitting around a bar talking about who would win a game between the 1927 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox.

    They have a section devoted to 2008 Presidential Election preference polls conducted by various media and dedicated polling organizations. I find the sum of it to be unbearably depressing. This is best explained by way of examples. The following poll is representative of the standard Democratic Primary line of questioning:

    "I know it is early, but if the Democratic primary for president were held today, which of the following would you support for the Democratic nomination for president? . . . " (Ipsos-Public Affairs poll. Dec. 17-19, 2004. Nationwide.)

  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton 33
  • Senator John Kerry 19
  • Senator John Edwards 15
  • Retired General Wesley Clark 11
  • Governor Bill Richardson 3
  • Senator Evan Bayh 2
  • Senator Russ Feingold 1
  • Governor Tom Vilsack 1
  • Governor Mark Warner 0
  • Other (vol.) 3
  • Unsure 9
  • That rotating sound you hear is William Jennings Bryan rolling over in his grave. Even Mondale and Dukakis are probably shitting themselves laughing. Is this it? Is this really the best of what they have to offer? An intolerable bitch who used to be First Lady and three losers from the 2004 race (followed by the usual smattering of Governors that no one knows). Great. Good luck with that.

    The only person on this list who is electable is Bill Richardson. Of the established veterans, he is the current highlight of the Democratic party. But of course he'll be outspent about a billion-to-one in the early primaries by Hillary and won't amount to anything as a candidate. For shame. Richardson is one of the Clinton acolytes who actually understands the idea of expressing a vision and projecting confidence.

    In the late 1990s, after the 1996 election fiasco and the failed impeachment witch-hunt, the Republican party set itself up for success by flushing itself of its old, stale faces – Dole, Gingrich, Kemp, etc – and handing things over to a new generation. The Democrats seem unwilling or unable to do so right now. You know a party is in really bad shape when two guys who have been in Congress for about five fuckin' minutes (Barack Obama and Harold Ford) are the best thing they have to offer. But that's reality, and they'd be smarter to deal with it rather than put off rebuilding for four more years while the Ghosts of Elections Past take one more lap around the track.