05 in Review – Industry to Christian right: "Fuck you."

As we wrap up yet another year (and as I prepare to name the 2005 Ginandtacos.com Cocksucker of the Year) I want to recap my favorite news story of the last 12 months, one that received relatively little mainstream coverage.

The American Family Association (AFA) is a typical organized political smear campaign led by self-promoting men of the cloth and legions of sheltered suburban housewives. They specialize in boycotts. Check out their website. They have about a dozen boycotts going at any given moment. Kraft (for sponsoring the Gay Games), Old Navy (for advertising during "Desperate Housewives" – not because their clothes are made by pre-pubescent children. This is of no concern to the American Family Association), Hardee's (for having Paris Hilton as a spokeswoman), and more. One of the most recent boycott targets was Ford. Ford even earned its own website, boycottford.com (which, for reasons that will be clear in a minute, now simply redirects to the AFA site).

Ford committed the crime of promoting the "homosexual agenda." Its main offenses were advertising in gay publications and including material in their corporate policies about, you know, not discriminating against gay employees or potential customers.

Boycotts work. They really do. Back in 2004, when several TV stations were being required to run a slander film on John Kerry shortly before the election, I wrote every single one of the top 20 advertisers at my local affiliate stations and promised to start a boycott if they ran ads during the program. About 90% of them wrote back immediately and said they would not. In turn, the TV stations refused to run the movie. Yes, thanks to the internet, small bands of ideologues can create an anti-Corporation Y campaign out of thin air. And businesses are afraid of that prospect. Very afraid.

The AFA knows this, and it is quite used to saying "Jump!" and hearing "How high?" in response. Just ask Disney. The AFA's nine year Disney boycott ended only with a major shakeup in high level management and a withdrawl from Mirimax distribution (home of films such as Kids and Dogma). Let's face it, no major business wants to end up in the crosshairs of thousands of hysterical, none-too-bright Bible thumpers who have nothing better to do with their time. So the Ford announcement was expected to drop the company to its knees. In fact, the AFA was so cocksure that they released a statement of "victory," declaring that Ford was pulling all ads targeted at gay publications.

Better luck next time, AFA.

In fact, Ford decided (admittedly, after some waffling) that they would expand their advertising to include more of their brand names, more publications, and more explicit tailoring of their efforts to the gay community.

An isolated incident? Last summer Ginandtacos.com pal James Dobson announced that Focus on the Family would close its accounts with Wells Fargo bank (and institute a boycott) because:

* Since the 1980s, Wells Fargo has given more than $14 million to organizations serving the GLBT community nationwide.
* The company has donated to several local non-profits and national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
* 2004 and 2005 HRC Corporate Equality Index: Perfect score of “100”
* 2003 Diversity Inc.com: #7 Top Companies for GLBT Employees
* 2000 GLAAD Fairness Award
* 2000 Advocate Magazine: Top 10 Workplaces for GLBT Employees

Heinous sins indeed. The company's response? "Wells Fargo firmly believes it is our responsibility to serve every segment of our community, and we view our support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as part of our broader commitment to diversity." Translation: Fuck you, James. Most of your followers hoard their Dairy Queen paychecks in penny jars under their mattresses anyway.

For the first time, 2005 saw corporate America having to choose between discriminatory bigots and those wacky homos – and choosing the latter. Maybe it's a cold business decision and gays simply outnumber right-wing peabrains today. Who knows. But hopefully it's a sign of things to come in the future. Nothing warms my heart more than large, powerful organizations telling James Dobson and his pals "Sorry, we don't negotiate with terrorists." Maybe Bush is right in that regard.

Humans 2, fascists 0. Ginandtacos.com looks forward to the day when it too is boycotted by Focus on the Anus, the AFA, or some equally reactionary, self-aggrandizing group of theologians.

Most questionable Christmas gift, 2005.

As the large suburban mall was closing last Thursday at 11pm (!), and I grew increasingly desperate to get all my obligatory gifting done that night, I went to the "smelly crap store." Here's an analogy – "Best Buy Gift Cards:Men::$20 spent at the Body Shop:Women." It's the best way to reinforce gender notions (men like blinking lights and circuits, women like candles and lotions that smell like the color magenta) for the least amount of energy, care, thought or concern.

I expected to get in and out of the store taking a minimal (though not-inconsequential) amount of offense. However inside I saw a display table of something that disturbed me enough to share with you all – Memoirs of a Geisha Beauty Collection.

I have not seen the movie or read the book, and it is the season, so I'll step softly here. But does anyone really want to adorn themselves with the scents/makeup of a child sold into sexual slavery entertainment, whose virginity is auctioned off to pay off debts, whose role functions to give hope and dreams for comfort women and any other host of "a lot of work had to be done at the hierarchical level to convince a culture this was an art form" issues etc. etc. You can watch the poor ad copy writer struggle, describing the perfume as "captur[ing] the mysterious sensuality of geisha by highlighting the warmth of the wearer's skin with a scent that is understated, exotic and completely sensual."

For the record though, if any (and I'm assuming there are a few) of our readers have mail-order brides, I think I just found your present for you. And for those of you with Real Dolls you wanted to take into the Geisha realm she (the doll that is) would appreciate it as well. And before you comment, no problem, you're welcome, and have a Merry Christmas Happy Holidays all of you from ginandtacos.com.


The ratio of "people I like for whom I buy Christmas gifts" to "people I do not like but for whom I am obligated to buy Christmas gifts" is dangerously close to 1:1. As I currently live slightly above the Federal definition of the poverty line, I end up getting nothing for the majority of my actual friends.

This could easily turn into a discussion of commercialization of holidays, the bizarre tendency of our society to equate shopping with affection, or any number of other social theories that might help explain this behavior. Instead I simply wish to salute the gifts that scream "I don't particularly care about you, but I am obligated to get you something." Standing head and shoulders above the other contenders in this field is the $25 Best Buy gift card.

Card: $25. Passive-aggressively communicating ambivalence through gifting: priceless.

Honestly, is there any gift that more clearly says "I put absolutely no thought into getting you something" than a Best Buy gift card? Gift certificates in general are an extraordinarily lazy gift, but the Best Buy card goes above and beyond the norm – it's the most generic of gifts from the most generic retail outlet.

The Borders/BN gift cards are a close second, but they lose out based on the fact that the purchaser is at least acknowledging that the recipient likes fancy book learnin' and other non-battery powered pastimes. It's an informal rule. If you're in college you get a Borders card; if not, then welcome to Best Buy.

Any other worthy nominees? Feel free to list them in the comments. And feel equally free to use this link to buy a gift card for that not-so-special someone in your life.

Take that Barbie!

"Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling."

The closest thing to a tortured barbie picture I could find in my (albeit exceptionally short) internet search.

Recent marketing research has found that young girls tend to mutilate and torture their Barbie dolls. This, I am assuming, is not exactly what Mattel had in mind.

By what Mattel didn't have in mind, I of course mean:

"The meaning of 'Barbie' went beyond an expressed antipathy; actual physical violence and torture towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender,"


The researchers are quick to point out that this is not in fact anti-social behavior, but rather an innocent rite of passage into womanhood. I am not entirely certain that I would agree with this. However, since their sample group of 100 children seemed to indicate that this behavior is quite widespread I suppose we will just have to accept their conclusions.

Either that or just use it as another excuse to accuse the British of being fucked up.

Orcanizing humans.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings: I'm not the biggest McSweeney's fan, but sometimes they hit it out of the park. And I couldn't stop laughing when I read the Unused audio commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for Return of the King. There's a larger version of it in book format, that includes a mock Dinesh D'Souza and Ann Coulter commentary session for Aliens (I'm dying to read that). Here are some excerpts from the webpage to get you to check out all four parts:

CHOMSKY: Now here Denethor is about to commit his act of protest against the madness going on outside the gates—heroically burning himself in protest of Gandalf's colonial war.

ZINN: There's a sacred quality to this. It's imbued with spirituality.

CHOMSKY: And beauty. And symbolism. Of course, Gandalf corrupts the holy sanctity of this suicide ceremony by riding in on Shadowfax.

ZINN: Sam's jealousy has taken a dark turn. He completely lacks sympathy for Gollum's plight, and uses Gollum's mental illness—I think one can call it that—as a justification for his own murderous thoughts.

CHOMSKY: You're right. Sam has clearly said that he would kill Gollum if he had the chance, whereas Gollum struggles with whether he should kill Sam or not. Is not Gollum the more ethical of the two?

ZINN: I would like to point out the discipline with which the Orcs march out of Minas Morgul. You know, I think they're a handsome people. I know Men are taught to demonize them, but I think their culture is lovely, cooperative, and utterly unstandardized.

CHOMSKY: This is an insurgency that feels at home in its own land. Orcs don't feel the need to put on false identifying garments that somehow unite them, as the men of Gondor and Rohan do. Orcs are united by the very fact that they're from this place.

ZINN: I agree. But I also think it's unwise to view Orcs uniformly. Do all Orcs want to massacre Men? Surely some Orcs want to do that, but it seems very far-fetched to argue that every single Orc is bent on killing every last Man. It's interesting to note the one group of Orcs that did employ the symbols of Man—the white hand of Saruman—were all wiped out … by Men.

CHOMSKY: Let's not forget this victory is not that of Men over Orcs, good over evil. It's the success of a vile pact between Aragorn and the dead over the vital, living forces of a Mordor insurgency.

ZINN: We've been accused of being Orc apologists. I don't think that's fair.

CHOMSKY: I admire their pluck and I'm impressed by their loyalty to one another and their homeland, but I don't want to glorify them either. For example—

ZINN: The Orcish hazing that goes on.

CHOMSKY: Yes, Orcs do seem to haze one another. Calling each other "slugs" and "maggots," and what have you.

ZINN: But they're pulled from the earth. Being called a slug or a maggot might not be such a bad thing from the Orcish perspective. In the end, we shouldn't be talking about humanizing Orcs. Perhaps we should be talking about Orcanizing humans.

2006 Resolution #1.

No more video games. This isn't that hard for me compared to breaking my, say, taco addiction, or someone else trying to quit smoking. The quantity of video games has been going down in my life for the past several years, having peaked (of course) during sophomore year of college. But it feels urgent after having read two editorials this past week about completely different things (college admissions, the declining quality of newspapers) that both hit below the belt.

First up, Russ Smith's editorial about the declining quality of newspapers starts with this story (all italics this entry mine):

Last Sunday I was in a cab driving down to Fells Point—Baltimore's equivalent of today's gentrified East Village—with my 13-year-old son Nicky, explaining that there was no way an Xbox 360 would be under the family's Christmas tree later this month. Although Nicky has been a gamer since before he could read, in the last year he's lost interest, preferring to spend lots of time downloading music and making short movies.

My wife and I were tickled at this development—not that he admitted it, but the unread copies of PlayStation and Electronic Gaming Monthly on his desk told the story—since the appalling prospect of our elder son gabbing for hours with clerks at Entertainment Boutique or GameStop when he was 25 was reason enough to consider a move to Sicily or St. Lucia. Unfortunately, Nick belatedly got caught up in the hype for the new Microsoft product and was trying to build a case for one of his parents to wait in line for 25 hours at Best Buy when the next shipment comes in. I wasn't buying his rationale, but just for the hell of it decided to test the magnitude of his desire for this cash-eating—$400 for the machine and then games at 50 bucks a pop—monstrosity.

*sigh* While shopping for Christmas presents I had indeed stopped inside a GameStop in the mall and ended up chatting about how turn-based games peaked with Masters of Orion and the first X-Com circa 1994. And I'm now older than 25. Not only do I have the worry that I am letting down my own parents, but I'm also evidently letting down the parents at the New York Press. Great. That was rough, but the Washington Post, writing about a crisis with male college attendance (really? who knew?) kicks this out:

…We still see thousands of men who succeed quite well in the professional world and in industry — men who get elected president, who own software companies, who make six figures selling cars. We see the Bill Gateses and John Robertses and George Bushes — and so we're not as concerned as we ought to be about the millions of young men who are floundering or lost.

But they're there: The young men who are working in the lowest-level (and most dangerous) jobs instead of going to college. Who are sitting in prison instead of going to college. Who are staying out of the long-term marriage pool because they have little to offer to young women. Who are remaining adolescents, wasting years of their lives playing video games for hours a day, until they're in their thirties, by which time the world has passed many of them by

Now, however, the boys who don't fit the classrooms are glaringly clear. Many families are barely involved in their children's education. Girls outperform boys in nearly every academic area. Many of the old principles of education are diminished. In a classroom of 30 kids, about five boys will begin to fail in the first few years of pre-school and elementary school. By fifth grade, they will be diagnosed as learning disabled, ADD/ADHD, behaviorally disordered or "unmotivated." They will no longer do their homework (though they may say they are doing it), they will disrupt class or withdraw from it, they will find a few islands of competence (like video games or computers) and overemphasize those.

Yikes. This hits harder and longer than the previous jab. Not only because I clearly have an "island of competency" in video games, but I have to stop and consider that everything I enjoy (books, comics, movies, etc.) and the way I enjoy them (geeky, obsessive) functions as an anti-social "island of competency" that I enjoy due to incompetency with dealing with the "mainland." I still don't know if I've recovered from this thought.

But at least I'm leaving on a good year for gaming. For any of you who have done a hard drug once and never again out of fear at how good of a time you were having, you can understand why I cancelled my subscription to World of Warcraft after two months. The game was simple too good (or in another context, the game was cut "too pure"), and I was afraid I was going quit my life to play this game, bottoming out by selling everything I own just to buy a magical sword. But 2005 was the year of WoW, and it deserves it. The game doesn't have any of the pitfalls of the other online universe games I've seen, which are usually just too repetitious to enjoy beyond a few weeks. I did play long enough to enjoy the hell out of the following animated .gif when I found it later:

This was also a good year for comic-book video games*. For those of you like me who enjoy such things, I can highly recommend Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Ultimate Spiderman, and X-Men Legends II. Each can be completed in ~10 hours (so perfect for rentals). The Bagley-inspired comic graphics of Spiderman, along with the Bendis-written wit, make for a fun game. The Hulk sends destruction all across the sandbox map, while X-Men Legends II gives you fun of composing an X-Men team of heroes and villains (Magneto, Wolverine, Rogue, and Jean Grey = awesome), and the usually exclusive joys of leveling up and button smashing.

* The fact that I can even make such a statement means I need to quit.

So that is that. It was a good year, but I have to start admitting that I'm too damn old for this. The next wave of technology will require a level of mental and time commitment that is astounding when I look at it, and it now feels like the appropriate time to head out the exit door. The only question left is what other "islands of competency" are secretly crippling me?


What, too soon?

Well as ridiculous as it would be for a man who died in a plane crash to write a book giving pointers to others, I think the world is about to see the next best thing. Bob "The Kiss of Death" Shrum is writing a book revealing his innermost thoughts on a blueprint to victory for progressive and liberal politics in this country. How scintillating!

You may recall "The Kiss of Death" as the political consultant who has run eight Presidential campaigns for Democrats since 1970…..and lost every single one. The mastermind behind such electoral juggernauts as McGovern, Ted Kennedy '80, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry is about to enlighten us. Please, bestow upon us your fucking pearls of wisdom.

You're kidding, right Bob? You're fuckin' kidding me. Seriously.

This is the man who put Michael Dukakis in a pith helmet and a tank, telling him it would make him look tough. This is the man who talked McGovern into expanding his policy proposals until 50% of the adult population would be eligible for some form of public assistance. He helped Ted Kennedy cripple Jimmy Carter in his own party. And worst of all, he oversaw two of the worst-run campaigns in the history of Presidential politics and watched his candidates twice lose to the semi-literate son of a 1-termer from a decade earlier.

My question, and I couldn't get an answer out of anyone in 2000 or 2004, is how in the fuck does this guy keep getting hired? Did Gore and Kerry really sit around asking "Say, you know what we need? A little of that Dukakis magic!" or has Shrum somehow convinced people that none of these failed campaigns were his fault?

Republicans ought to set up a charitable foundation and pay this asshole millions to keep working on Democratic campaigns. One way or another, you almost have to admire the sheer gall of an eight-time loser writing a far-flung, philosophizing tome about the soul of liberal politics in America. I know I'll be looking forward to his book, due out in 2006 and conveniently located in the Humor section of your local bookstore. Or wait until 2007 and get it out of the dollar clearance pile.