Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blowing Smoke Back at North Korea

There have been interesting reports coming this week from North Korea. First off, any reading from North Korea, is by itself, interesting, for there is a dearth of information that flows from the dark country. There’s never any “news,” and rarely even propaganda. If it wasn’t for “Team America” reruns on cable, you could go months without even thinking of Kim Jong Il and his fourth world country.

Biggest shock on the news was the story of a 100,000 demonstrators marching, chanting for the destruction of the United States. Shocking! How could they possibly fuel the activities of 100,000 citizens in a famine-struck country? They must really be angry. That, or it was 100,000 political prisoners being forced to march by the pointy end of a bayonet pressed against the small of the back.

The politics involved in the situation is most fascinating. In North Korea, you have a brutal dictatorship of a truly backward country. This is a country that is literally in the dark, without reliable electricity for much of its territory. They have repeatedly shown an inability to grow enough food for their citizens, and its only cash crop for export is opium poppies, the profits of which they use to build crappy weapons (which, in turn, are sent to Myanmar for money to fund their nuclear research). Throughout all this despair – and believe you be, if you’re not Kim Jong Il or one of his cronies, you live in deprived disparity - somehow its government (read: Kim Jong Il) feels compelled to devote ever scarce resources to building rockets, and most probably, nuclear warheads.

All this for a country whose biggest wireless carrier is smoke signals.

The truly scary part of the entire story is the nuclear component. Earlier this week, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell dismissed North Korean threats as “silliness.” Still, the thought of North Korea; or Iran, for that matter; possessing nukes is as unsettling as having your teenage daughter locked in a sauna with the members of Motley Crüe. Nothing really good can come from it.

The reason it’s so scary is that we’ve been “trained” to think of the North Korean and Iranian regimes as being a bit crazy. We see wild happenings in the street and loud, angry proclamations we don’t fully understand. Crazy plus not understood equals scary.

What we need is scary too, and I’m not talking about the threat of the finest military in the world. No, I am referring to the unpredictable usage of the finest military of the world. We need to impress upon political leaders across the world that we’re a bit crazy too. Think of the signal we’d send if we just quickly invaded Toronto, tore the place up, then gave a big relief settlement to help with the rebuilding. We could state, “Look at us crazy motherf#*kers; look what we did up there. They’re our friends! We like them! Yeeee Haaaa!

That would send a signal, smoke or not.

Of course, that’s just this guy’s opinion.

Thanks for reading. Continue the conversation, either below in the comments or on Twitter @RayHartjen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It Ain’t So Great for Jon, Kate and Their Eight

Americans love a good train wreck. Not a literal train wreck, mind you, but rather the figurative disasters that so frequently flavor our news stories and water cooler conversations. We can’t take our eyes away from the wreckage. At the first screech of the wheels, our heads turn and necks crane, our toes rise us up by their tips, and our mouths hang open aghast.

Okay, so maybe jaws only gape open for the mouth breathing adults who continue to wear Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls despite their falling out of favor about the same time the Star Trek movie came out - the first Star Trek movie.

I’m not sure why we’re fascinated with the downfall of others. Despite being pretty damn well off in this country, we like to see the failures. It’s not so much who wins, but more often who loses. How else can you explain the galling popularity of reality television, where “fans” turn in to see who gets dissed, voted off, kicked off, etc.? Except fans of Bret Michaels’ “Rock of Love” franchise, who, naturally, tune in to catch scantily clad skanks vying for the fleeting affection of an aging, pudgy rock star.

I try to escape the nonsense, I really do. It seems, however, that I’m one of the few diehards who picks up a newspaper anymore (sales of newspapers declined an additional 7% last year, as America grows more stupid by the hour). Seems most everybody else is settling for picking up a mirror or a double-tall, non-fat latte, or as fate would have it both. Thus, while I wait in line at Starbucks for my latte, I have to listen to the yammering stupidity of what passes for news these days; and these days it’s impossible to break clear of either that mousy Scottish singer or Jon & Kate Plus Eight.

To get you caught up to speed, Jon & Kate Plus Eight is the television show that chronicles the lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight, yes eight, children – twin girls and a split set of whatever the hell you call a gaggle of six babies (sextuplets?). The show appears weekly on the TLC network. Remember when TLC went by “The Learning Channel” and ran shows that actually taught you something? Well, now, with Jon & Kate, all it seems to be teaching is planned parenthood.

If you’ve seen one show, you’ve pretty much seen them all. With eight kids, it’s not difficult to imagine a complete madhouse every day – hey, big surprise, that’s what you get! Viewer numbers have grown gradually over the years, but have skyrocketed this season, all in eager anticipation of the train wreck. You see, Jon has repeatedly been seen out and about with female “friends,” and the tabloids (I wonder how their readership stands) proclaim a split is in the works. Without question, TLC loves the attention – never has the network reaped the benefits from such a highly rated show. Last week, despite a big fall off from the premiere a week before, the show drew almost 6 million viewers, becoming the top rated show – broadcast or cable – for women and persons 18-35. Unbelievably, it was even the number 2 show for men, behind only pro wrestling (see: comment above, America growing more stupid by the hour).

Jon has gotten more than a bit pissy lately. I’m sure it has its foundations in Kate being an unadulterated shrew. Compounding matters is Kate attracting all sorts of attention – Kate has the book deal, the book tour, the incredible luxury of being away from the zoo (aka the house) for days and weeks at a time. Jon, Jon, Jon, you know how I feel about accountability. You want a book deal, dumb ass? It’s simple, get off your lazy, whiny butt and write a book. Stuck for something to write? Let me tell you, all of us guys out here are dying to know your secret – write a book on how to pick up hot college girls while being both married AND having 8 kids!

There’s a lot that bothers me about Jon and Kate. Don’t get me wrong, I love their kids – they’re the innocents in the whole deal. The parents are another thing entirely. No violins here for the pity party complaining of the media, paparazzi, and fans invading personal space. Hey, here’s a solution – stomp pimping your kids like they’re $5 hookers pounding the pavement Friday night of Fleet Week. Quit the bitching and sniping at each other – you have 8 freakin’ kids, so don’t you suppose your spouse feels exactly the way you do? Give each other a break, for crying out loud.

But, maybe most of all, there’s just one thing I have to know. Kate, honey, I’ve seen enough of the show to know you are some piece of work. And as you are as vain and pretentious as they come, I know you watch the show. So, as you see yourself on television, which totally beats a mirror and its reversed image, share with me this one thing. How do you explain that hair?

As always, it’s just this guy’s opinion.

All you Tweeples, tweet me up on Twitter @RayHartjen.