Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It couldn't have happened to a nicer douchebag

Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty on corruption charges. In an election year when Republicans can't do anything right, this clown pushed for an expedited trial in the hopes of clearing his name before Election Day, only to berate prosecutors from the stand and turn the case against himself. The Washington Post's Colbert King explains in his blog post yesterday:

Stevens, despite his years of service to the nation, failed to realize that he wasn't up on a Senate dais looking down at browbeaten witnesses or back home surrounded by Alaskan cronies and sycophants; that, instead, he was in a city that has long experience with politicians who become high and mighty, who start to think they're above the law, and who begin to regard gifts and tangible expressions of affection as entitlements.
It also didn't help that he claimed that gifts of home furnishings from contributors (such as a $2700 massage chair) weren't gifts but loans. I suppose people in Alaska regularly loan out expensive furniture for years at a time. Last night I spoke to Liz, who was a Senate page for a semester in high school, and she confirmed that Stevens had a reputation as a jerk. (Although she did say that Stevens' secretary had a steady supply of delicious salmon jerky and elk jerky that she would pass out to pages.) I hope the voters in Alaska will realize that they've got a corrupt politician working for them, and throw this guy out on his ass. Let him go to prison and explain to his fellow felons how the Internet is a "series of tubes."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mahler makes me giddy

Last night was the first rehearsal for NYRO's December concert, where we're playing Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Regular readers of this space will recall that I am a huge Mahler fan, so I am understandably excited to be performing one of my favorite works. We played Mahler's 3rd Symphony two years ago, and that concert is on a short list of my all-time greatest performances. I have high hopes that this year's gala concert will be an even greater success. For my part, I was grinning like an idiot throughout most of the sight-reading last night, despite missing notes and entrances. I'll have to channel that enthusiasm into my practicing, of which I have a great deal to do. Mahler's music isn't easy to play.

For those in the New York area who may be interested in attending the concert, it will be on Saturday, December 13. Watch this space for more information as the concert date approaches.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zima is no more

MillerCoors (I didn't know that was the corporate name) has ended production of Zima, the Sprite of malt beverages. When it first came out nationwide in the summer of 1993, my high school friends who went to Pitt introduced me to it. I wasn't a hard-core beer drinker at the time, and here was this vaguely fruity-tasting thing that was just as cool as beer to drink at a party. Cooler, even. So I became something of a Zima fan. I would seek it out at parties, ask my friends to get it for me, and told everyone I knew to try it. It was a wild ride.

Soon, the wheels came off my Zima party bus. I had a small party for my friends in the Georgetown orchestra in the spring of 1994 and got a six-pack of Zima along with beer and hard liquor. Liz drank a couple of bottles of Zima, then switched to the crappy vodka I had on hand. Her evening ended with her getting sick all over my apartment, then looking like death for a few hours before she pulled back from the abyss. A few months later we had a party to celebrate the end of the semester, and I had five beers and one Zima. But that one Zima got me drunker than anything else I had that night, and I think I made a fool of myself that evening but I can't remember the details. I'm sure there were other instances like these; Zima was a fixture at most parties that year.

It wasn't long before we realized that a) we got too drunk too fast on Zima and b) it tasted like lime juice spiked with urine. Also, everyone we knew thought Zima was for girls. We moved on to beer and bourbon, Zima tried to re-brand itself as a drink for men, and then Smirnoff Ice came along and put Zima out of its misery.

I salute you, Zima. By being so awful, you taught me what good alcohol should taste like.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I didn't think it could get worse than the previous clip of the racist asshole in Johnstown, but I was wrong. Check out the video in this Gawker post from a line outside a rally in Bethlehem, PA.

I'm never moving out of New York.

Why am I not surprised?

I don't keep a close eye on western Pennsylvania politics anymore, which is why I read about Sarah Palin's campaign stop in Johnstown on gawker.com this afternoon. According to my hometown paper, the rally was a big success for the McCain campaign in front of a "raucous crowd." A crowd which also included this racist moron. This older gentleman brought a stuffed Curious George doll to the rally, put a Obama sticker on its head, and called it "little Hussein." People like that guy, and the rest of the adoring crowd that showed up to shower Sarah Palin with its affection, are among the reasons I don't live in Johnstown any longer, and truth be told, why I don't go home that often. When I grew up there, I encountered too many closed-minded racists and anti-Semites for me to feel completely comfortable in that environment. It doesn't help that the area is still economically depressed, with people out of work, a combination that fosters negative attitudes like the one displayed here. I'm really disappointed by what this video shows of my hometown, and fearful that recent polls that show the Obama ticket leading substantially are overinflated by people who don't want to be perceived as racist by the pollsters. If McCain and Palin win this election by encouraging idiots with outdated values, our nation will have taken a huge step backwards.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I refuse to freak out

Many of my friends at work are asking the question "Have you looked at your 401K lately?" It's become an issue of sarcastic pride. Who's lost more? Who's most worried? Who has done something rash with their investments?

I've looked at my retirement account, and I'm down since the beginning of the year. But I refuse to do anything irrational with my money. While I am worried about the economy, I'm not going to retire for at least 30 years. Over the long term, the stock market is an excellent place to keep your money. I'm confident that the market will eventually recover and that my portfolio will grow again. Until then, I will continue to buy shares in my mutual fund at a premium, and take advantage of my employer's generous matching benefit. If you're my age (34) or younger, I don't see any reason to worry about the short-term stock market gyrations. Those of us in the early to middle stages of our careers should ride it out and see what happens.

I am more concerned about bank failures and returns on my savings accounts. I keep my money with some of the larger banks, so I don't think I'll see a failure, but I do think I need to watch my interest rates with caution. I have the recent windfall from my lease buyout to keep safe until such a time as I want to use it as a down payment for buying a house or apartment. I can't afford to take a loss on that money. And I'm worried long-term about the nation's unimaginable debt.

Which brings me to the topic of the election. The Republicans have gotten plenty of campaign fodder from the old saw about Democrats being "tax and spend liberals." But the past eight years of the Bush administration's fiscal policies have grown this country's debt to an inconceivable $10 trillion dollars. When you cut taxes, then fund two wars without end, you need to find the money to pay for it somewhere. Apparently we found it in China. My generation and future generations are going to pay for the sheer irresponsibility and mismanagement of the current administration. If I didn't have enough reasons to vote for Obama/Biden before this past month, I certainly have enough now. If nothing else, I believe that Obama affords us the best chance to repair our image overseas, extricate ourselves from Iraq, and get our financial crisis under control.

That turned into an unintentional rant, but I'm going to leave it there.