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12/30/2009

Decade of Attrition

What a mindfuck of a year. Starting out with such promise and becoming so freakishly unpredictable and complicated.

Stimulus packages, health care clusterfucks, celebrity deaths by the half-ton, rude dipsticks, lying pundits, racism, bigotry and Tiger Woods. Top it all off with last week’s terrorist attempt and we are clawing to have this year over with. Thank God for The Hangover or else this year would be a total waste.

But it’s not just the year. Time recently ran a piece on this being the decade from hell. I’m inclined to agree. Think about it. The 2000 Election fiasco, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Katrina, Bush, Cheney, the housing collapse, Bernie Madoff, Virginia Tech, the tsunami, the recession, the fall of the American auto manufacturer… Jesus. This decade took a lot of harsh turns and didn’t care much what damage was done.

I, for one, am happy to be done with it.

I think many people are.

I also think there’s a lot to be said for resiliency. There’s a lot more people who could have gone down in the last ten years, and I firmly believe there are a lot of people who, in spite of the hard times, wanted to give in or had their backs up against the wall.

But somehow, we’re still standing.

I’ll say this much, humans are stubborn animals. ‘Cause if the 2000’s couldn’t take us out, I don’t know what possibly could.

Time to let it all go… so let’s do this.

9/14/2009

Town Hall Lynch Mobs: America's Getting Ugly (and here's why)

Recently, there have been a number of town hall forums to discuss and debate questions and concerns surrounding President Obama's recent push for health care reform. In the midst of legitimate dialogue, there has been an ugly, paranoid and feverish undertone the likes of which I've only seen in the movies.

We've had a woman sobbing about how she wants her country back. There have been the usual catcalls and accusations of our President being a socialist, even a communist. There have been claims by protesters of being "proud right wing terrorists" that were echoed and applauded by the hosts. There have even been people toting semi-automatic weapons out in the open, falling back on their Second Amendment rights. Then we have a congresswoman referencing the "Great White Hope," an allusion to the famous quest for a Caucasian boxer to dethrone Jack Johnson in the early 1900's. Top it all off with a Republican House Member shouting at the Commander-in-Chief last week, calling him a liar. Not to mention the genius who was sitting in the crowd wit ha sign around his neck reading, "What Bill?"

Enough.

Look, while I voted for Obama, I've been concerned about his handling of health care reform. I thought it could've been stronger prior to last night's make-or-break joint session, but to be honest the ongoing tone at these pre-arranged, preconceived town hall meetings has been leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

And the Republican party has been making me fucking sick.

The use of fear mongering and scare tactics to try and hold onto whatever antiquated beliefs they have is bad enough in and of itself. But to use such outlandish methods as what's been mentioned above is just about unforgivable. More significantly, it smacks of racism in the first degree.

I knew from the onset of Obama's election that sooner or later, the issue would arise, but I had hoped it wouldn't be this soon in the game. That said, I can't say I'm surprised. What the GOP is doing right now is catering to that latent ugliness that does unfortunately exist in some Americans. There's nothing to do to curb that belief in them; it's something they won't easily let go of.

But that said, what they (the Republican party) are doing right now is letting the masses know that it's OK to bring your bigotry to the forefront. It's the equivalent of saying, "Hey, we won't judge you for your narrow-minded beliefs. We accept your state of mind and welcome you into the fray." If the GOP weren't hosting stacked town halls, you wouldn't have people proudly calling themselves terrorists or brandishing weapons. I don't care what you say, it's not OK.

Y'know, I'll be honest... I'm not one for partisanship, I really do try to look at things as objectively as possible. But with that being said, I hope Joe Wilson's outburst buries the party for another four years. If they're that willing to sink to underhanded means and pettiness to make their point, they don't deserve to be in power. Not in this country or anywhere.

It's time for them to give up the Borg mentality of one collective and start getting moderate. Encouraging the bigots and degenerates of America to put their hate on display is criminal. To top it all off, the overwhelming majority of their arguments have been debunked on multiple occasions. From fake birth certificates to allusions of death panels, the eagerness to spike the public punch with false information is alarming to say the least. I hate to admit it, but they weren't this abusive when they were in power for eight years.

The "O" in "GOP" stands for "Old." That may be true in terms of their beliefs, but there's nothing "grand" about where this party is going. It's disturbing, disgusting and detrimental to the well-being of our country. I have to wonder if they really have considered their long-term health, or if they are that daft to the concept of progression. Whatever the case is, I personally am praying for the lot of them to be muzzled. That goes for the pundits, too.

If people are that insistent on spewing such outlandish hatred, they deserve more than censure. They deserve to have all their rights revoked.

7/27/2009

The RX Crux: When Will The Other Shoe Drop?

More than a month after the untimely death of Michael Jackson, the skeletons moonwalking in the closet are now slowly emerging and uniting to perform the entire ensemble dance routine from "Thriller." This is hardly surprising given the unusual nature of Jackson's life, especially over the last fifteen years. Everything from the true identity of his kids' biological parents to the long-hidden video of his 1984 Pepsi commercial accident to recent word about a possible secret son have been tossed around every major media outlet and medium imaginable.

One recurrent topic, unsurprisingly enough, has been that of Jackson's health. The aforementioned accident during the filming of a Pepsi commercial left Jackson with second and third degree burns to his scalp and face, purportedly igniting (no pun intended) his long-running addiction to prescription medication.

I'm waiting for precedents to be set, especially with the news revealed today that Jackson's in-house doctor prescribed him the drugs believed to kill him. When you think about it, this story could transcend just another iconic footnote in pop culture history and genuinely become a major catalyst for change. One would hope.

Over the weekend, I was with some friends and struck up a conversation about steroid use. Obviously it's been all the talk in the realm of baseball for a number of years. Just last week, MMA fighter Josh Barnett was suspended from an upcoming superfight with consensus number-one ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelienenko after testing positive for a banned substance; namely a metabolite (2a-methyl-5a-androstan- 3a-ol-17-one) of the anabolic steroid Drostanolone.) With baseball already being a known realm for steroid abuse and this being Barnett's second offense in seven years, we postulated about how deep this could run. Eventually, the conversation transitioned quickly to what would possibly happen if NFL players were ever implicated in illegal substance. Almost immediately, all parties conceded that while steroids may be present in professional football, there is likely an even greater dependence on prescription painkillers.

I firmly believe that while PED's aren't exactly good for one's long-term health, painkillers are probably even more detrimental when taken in excess. Think about it... it's no secret that professional wrestling has laid an unfortunate claim to multiple deaths before the age of 50. And yes, in many cases, the departed were known to use PED's. However, one topic often glossed over is the presence of painkillers in the equation. Given the incredibly physical nature of their business, many wrestlers rely heavily on painkillers to numb their bodies in hopes of coping with their grueling schedules. This combination takes a toll on their hearts, ultimately resulting in massive health problems.

The thing is, whether you're a wrestler, a pro athlete or the King of Pop, if you have the right balance of fame and resources, you too can have your on live-in or on-call doctor whenever you need to feel better.

With all the history we have in this nation about the very public "war on drugs," you would think some kind of legislation would come forward to regulate painkillers a little more. These drugs are far more dangerous than the average joint, I don't care how you try to justify it. In fact, when it comes to dealing with pain, pot is probably safer than these pills. I don't even know why I wrote "probably."

Look, it's clear that when you have easy access to these prescrips, it's not hard to develop a chemical or psychological dependence on them. In fact, you need look no further than the average college campus to get a feel for how prevalent they can be. In a day and age where Adderall can be taken down like a bag of Skittles to get through finals week, do you really think it's difficult to get a hold of Percosets or Vicodin? And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don't believe these drugs are that severe? Think Jackson was just too accustomed to living to the excess? Chalk up all those wrestler deaths to their just being roid monkeys? Two words: Heath Ledger.

Ledger died when he was just 28 years old. For perspective, I'm 28 now. It was attributed to a bad combination of multiple prescription meds after resulting in sleep deprivation and depression from getting a little too "into" his role as the Joker.

So the question is, what's it gonna take? We live in a prescription-happy culture. Whatever your stance may be on health care, the way it stands now is that too many of our physicians are simply too quick to whip out their ballpoint and write a solution to be cashed in at the local Walgreens. That goes for many psychologists, too. We're a nation predicated on instant gratification in the 21st century. We want it fixed and we want it now. Doesn't matter whether it's our carburetor or our psyche.

I could get into a whole "chicken-and-egg" examination of this paradox and where it began. However, the key thing is what can possibly be done now to rectify the problem.

We've spent so much damn time trying to regulate drug cartels and dealers on the street, maybe it's time to govern these doctors a little more closely. Not everyone has a Michael Jackson-sized payroll to have a live-in doc. However, if people want it or think they need it, they'll go to great lengths to get it. History has proven that.

If there is one possible silver lining in Jackson's shocking death, perhaps it could be in the potential for a precedent being set against pill-pushing. It's just too bad it takes the loss of a public figure of incomparable magnitude to even initiate the dialogue.

6/25/2009

The Winner, and NEW Political Extramarital Affair Heavyweight Champion of the Wo-o-o-o-o-orld...

Now when I brought back the blog, I initially commented I wouldn't be doing tags. However, I feel this situation demands--nay, requires--a tag. One that I will use for the most appropriate stories, which, tragically, happen more than we know or would care to acknowledge:

"You can't make this shit up."

Seriously, as if Eliot Spitzer didn't set the bar high enough by having an elicit affair with a bloody call girl... and as if John Edwards didn't top him by having an affair during his presidential bid in lieu of his wife's heroic cancer recovery story... this is just... I have no words.

I really do believe power goes to people's heads. Especially in politics. What's shocking is just how severely it impairs their better judgment.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford took an unannounced weekend trip. Without telling anyone. Over Father's Day weekend.

Then when he resurfaces, he states he went hiking. In the Appalachians. On "National Hike Naked" Day.

Where to begin?

First off, as the single most visible political figure in your state, how did you think you could saunter off to South America in secret without your absence being noticed? I mean, I know Governors get Sunday off... but this is absurd to no end.

Moreover, in the spirit of preserving the illusion of your blissful marriage, couldn't you pick a better weekend to knock Argentinian boots? Seriously guy, Father's Day weekend. You have two sons. Couldn't you at least attempt to keep up appearances?

I think that's what really stuns me... the outright disregard for covering his tracks. If you're gonna be unfaithful as a public figure, at least take the proper preventive measures to ensure no one gets wise. This dude just threw all caution to the wind.

I once thought Bill Clinton could never be topped in this category, for the simple fact that he got caught three times. How do you not learn after fucking up twice?

But in this instance, it's the quality and not quantity that puts Sanford over the top.

So there you have it. A new standard in gross stupidity. Of course it comes courtesy of your friendly neighborhood governor. I hope the people in Argentina are nice 'cause it's going to be a good long time before this cat is received warmly by his fellow Americans.

6/17/2009

The Revolution will not be Televised... But it will be Tweeted.

Following the current revolution and riots in Iran has been an intriguing study in the true impact of the Internet in the 21st century.

When this strange, intangible phenomenon became mainstream in the mid 90's, capturing everything in sight (or "in site" as it were) and prefacing the world with the now-familiar "www," I don't think anyone really anticipated the impact it could have.

In a little over a decade it has gone from a time killer used largely for pornographic delight and illegal downloading to a viable source of information.

And truth.

The exposure of the Iranian predicament is evident of that shift. The Internet has become far more sophisticated, evolving impressively along with its most popular "children." The most benignly intended websites such as Twitter and Facebook are now vessels of information we would probably not know otherwise.

I remember last year when riots broke out in Athens over the accidental killing of a teenage boy by an armed police officer. This was a front page staple for many weeks on major news sites. However, it did not receive the same degree of coverage as the economy or the election fallout. I had it on good authority from a friend living in Athens that what we were seeing in the states was merely a fraction of what was going on.

Fast forward a little over six months later. As mentioned in a prior post, Twitter has taken off at a lightning-fast pace, and Facebook has sought to keep up with the site's novel approach to sharing information. Now in light of Iran's recent presidential election and what is being termed as "The Green Revolution," images and video of the protests are being circulated against the will of the Iranian government.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government requested Twitter suspend scheduled network maintenance so as not to impede the flow of information.

This is incredible on so many levels. It's almost as though the Internet itself has become the answer to Orwell's hypothetical "Big Brother." It may not be that far off... it's often been said that you can try and delete a site, an image, a video from the web. But if it's been posted somewhere online, it will always have a life.

And an audience.

The technological revolution has broken ground on a global scale by spreading infectious truth about an actual revolution. We have come full circle; I believe for the better.

Now that is how you bring about change.

6/16/2009

Enter the Blago-sphere

Rod Blagojevich has to be the dumbest crooked politician ever. And the greediest. At least in the 21st century, and certainly in my lifetime.

For starters, I cannot believe the guy actually thought it was feasible to sell Illinois Senator's position left by President Obama. In this day and age of communication and simple traceability, I struggle to fathom how a man like Rod can walk around with balls that big.

Then to deny any and all allegations, profess innocence and cry "witch hunt" is not only laughable, it's embarrassing. His conduct hasn't even been anything remotely close to amusing. It's been downright painful to watch, the type of crash TV even the most obsessed reality fan could fathom.

Speaking of which, as if this sordid affair weren't already enough to scrape the bottom of the saltiest barrel, it's almost fitting that Blago would volunteer for that "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here" show. I should make it crystal clear that I watch zero reality TV beyond "The Ultimate Fighter." Even then I typically fast forward right to the fights. But the point is, how could you so willingly degrade yourself that much?

Not for nothing, this man was a prominent politician prior to his scandal. Sure, he wasn't high profile on a national level, but he didn't have to be. He held a public office, which is something I've always believes needs to be properly respected and revered by the person laying claim to the title.

There's a saying I've always held dear, whether it's in reference to a prize fighter, a CEO or even a politician: "The title doesn't make the man, the man makes the title."

When you accept a title, especially one so public, you need to uphold the value that comes with it. Respect is earned, not given. And disrespect to a title is pretty damn shameful.

Which is why B-Rod's latest endeavor--starring as himself in a Second City comedy show based on his fall from gubernatorial grace--really crystallizes what a sorry excuse for a person he is. This guy clearly is a leech, plain and simple. It doesn't matter whether he's whoring the Senator's seat or whoring himself for whoring the Senator's seat. A whore is a whore is a whore.

And no amount of lacy lingerie and cheap perfume is enough to salvage his reputation. Or his sorry-ass haircut.

Seriously, people like this should just go away. I've never grasped how people are able to stomach these antics, whether it's a Hilton, a girl next door or the subject in question. We shouldn't enable these people to poison pop culture. And the drivers behind the entertainment shouldn't provide them the venue.

The only differences between this act of sickening self-promotion and O.J. Simpson's failed memoir If I Did It are that Rod didn't kill anyone, and O.J.'s attempt to shine the spotlight on himself never saw the light of day.

That doesn't make me feel particularly better about either fact.

5/29/2009

I Don't Care What You Did Last Summer... or This Summer... or an Hour Ago... or...

Twitter has taken off like a wildfire, hasn't it? And it's funny to see Facebook trying to mimic some of that popularity via its status updates. But I gotta say, I've noticed a disturbing trend for my update-happy colleagues.

Guys, let me serve public notice right now: I don't need to know your every move. I'm not the FBI, nor am I the federalis. I'm not a sadistic T-800 sent back in time to hunt you down only to spawn some crappy sequels from the year 2000 on.

I like Twitter, I appreciate the concept and see its usefulness. It's especially interesting to see how big companies, sports teams, news networks and even athletes on what's going on. Bill Simmons of ESPN has commented on how revolutionary this could be regarding the sports world, and I agree. There's oodles of potential with this site. Facebook has obviously caught wind of it, and, like MySpace before it, has tried to capitalize on that appeal.

However, Simmons has also provided resistance to Twitter, which is understandable. He did not want it to become one of these "frequent personal update" motives, such as, "I'm walking my dog," or, "Grabbing a skinny mochaccino at the Starbucks on Main." He did see the potential for one-liners, though. And I like that. A way to entertain/engage/inform his readers and fans... just a way to be creative.

But there are some who take the former road to new levels of extremism. This is what originally left me leery of the website. I have a handful of friends who do nothing but offer personal updates with these sites. And it gets to be overwhelming at times.

More than that, it tends to be obnoxious.

There is a certain self-importance that comes with always putting the focus on oneself, and I fear Twitter and Facebook are only serving to augment that egocentric theme.

Now granted, I'm as guilty as anyone of offering the occasional window into the life of Rick, but I try to limit it. I also try to put a humorous spin on things that are happening to me. Sometimes I succeed.

What really kickstarted this for me was a pair of trips about three weeks ago to New Orleans and Washington DC that saw me observing more than usual. Little things that I just felt the need to tweet about by text. It was actually an interesting experience, and that's where I saw the potential for this site. Well, at least for me.

Truth be told, it inspired me to climb back on the fin-adorned soapbox know as Landshark Sandwich and return to commentating (as opposed to commenting) on social trends, quirks, absurdities and curiosities. So I can't be completely against the site.

But that said, all things need to be in moderation. Daily updates that would put CNN's news ticker to shame are unnecessary and heavy-handed. If it's something like a promotion or a new car, then yes, by all means celebrate and tweet to your heart's content. You deserve to inform your friends, you have the right to and it's justifiable.

But if you feel the need to provide information every hour on the hour about your daily fiber intake or the magical musings of The Secret, spare us all. Please.

Some may enjoy such mundane self-glorification, but most of us will roll our eyes and mutter about what an annoyingly arrogant prick you are.

One thing I have learned in life is that certain accomplishments warrant announcement and pride. Others simply deserve the quiet appreciation for your personal growth, and that's greater than any cyber-pat on the back you get.

Please, tweet with caution. The 11th Commandment was really "Keep thy business to thyself."

5/27/2009

Back with Another One of Those Block-Rockin' Beats

It couldn't have lasted long, this makeshift "retirement." I'm too outspoken for my own good to be so objective I can't speak out. I need to be unfiltered and this forum works for me. So here's where we'll stand:

"Landshark" will be where I vent my opinions, frustrations and observations of universal human absurdity on an "as-needed" basis. Given all that's going on right now, that could be frequently.

New to the blog will be titles (long overdue and wonderful in summation). I doubt I'll use tags since the range of topics could be expansive. Moreover, I prefer readers to read a piece based on overall appreciation for the blog rather than specific subject matter. If it isn't to your liking, simply go ahead and "X out."

I also have a Twitter account that can be reached at www.twitter.com/LSharkSandwich. Feel free to leave feedback or check in on my random thoughts.

Furthermore, there will be zero revisionist history. Any and all grammatical or spelling errors will remain, no titles will be added, nothing about the prior posts will be changed in any way shape or form. As you're about to learn, revisionist history never works anyway...

Lastly, "Rolling" will be an ongoing work in progress taking a more sophisticated look at American culture. Posts will likely be less frequent than here as they require much more research and time to temper an objective response.

We good.

Now, permit me to begin by unloading on our former VP, Dick Cheney. This man has made a point of remaining in the public spotlight since the end of Bush's term in January. In spite of the public perception of him both as a politician and human being, he insists on remaining "relevant." At least by his standards.

Now, most of this has been central to accusations of torture under the former administration. Cheney continues to hem and haw around the facts regarding waterboarding. Claims of innocence or debates around the so-called "enhanced interrogation technique's" status as torture are asinine and embarrassing.

Cheney didn't speak this much when he was VP. Never thought I'd admit to this, but I almost wish Bush would resurface for a few comments. At least he could be fodder for the late night show hosts.

But Cheney's reasons for being so vocal are what really frustrate me. This is less about exoneration and more about vindication. Revisionist's history is a topic that aggravates me. From Christopher Columbus to Han Solo shooting first, trying to paint the facts differently always comes back to bite you in the ass. Yet some continue to hold dearly to a mere illusion of reality, perhaps driven by their own imaginations.

Consequently it comes down to a matter of delusion. At least in Cheney's mind. There's something so alluring about "preserving one's legacy." Truth of the matter is, history will speak for itself.

You can't get around it. You can't change what people feel. The information that was once suppressed is now out there, and it ain't pretty. The best Mr. Cheney can hope to do is "defend" the previous administration's decision to apply torture tactics. And I use quotations because there is very little doubt that waterboarding is torture, plain and simple.

The only people who are leaping to its defense are the far, far right. These are also the individuals in the GOP who are slowly alienating themselves from the moderates in this country. Believe what you wanna believe, but don't try to delude the masses into singing along with you.

I've been watching these people closely since November and even more closely since January. All promises of bipartisanship have been tossed out the window, and the Cheney's, Limbaugh's, Palin's, Jindal's, Steele's, O'Reilly's, Coulter's, Hannity's and Hasselback's of the world are looking very, very foolish right now. Something smells like sour grapes.

And it sounds like a half-assed attempt to cover up a Mona Lisa of shame... painting by numbers which don't add up.

Y'know, I never thought I'd say this, but for once I have to give credit to George W. Bush. He has largely stayed out of this mess, and all related clusterfucks courtesy of his former associates and supporters. He's been content to live out in the Lone Star state as... well, a lone star. And good for him. After all the damage he's done to his party, he's finally making amends by not adding to an already piss poor reputation.

For his former understudy, however, the tone has been markedly more vocal.

Winston Churchill once said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." History, however, will not be kind to Dick Cheney and his colleagues in the Bush Administration, because there is no way to rewrite it. What's done is done, no way to sugarcoat it.

You've already scribbled your legacy down, Dick. Soak it up. The folks at Gitmo did, after all.

1/28/2009

Six years, two months, one day and now 150 posts deep. What a good run it has been.

However, like the gubernatorial career of Rod Blagojevich, all things must come to a decisive end.

My posts these last few years have been a mix of examination, frustration and absurdity. I feel it's time to focus on really observing the trends that we endure in this country.

1/20/09 seemed like a good time to start given the momentous event we experienced as a nation. Now whether you voted for the man or not, you have to admit the mere fact we have a President of African-American descent--no matter what the percentage--is a massive step toward progress.

It's also got me thinking about this country's habits, our motivations and thought processes.

I've spent so much time sounding off on people in the limelight, silly trends, media and the like, I've never stopped to take a look at the one common thread that connects them all: our culture.

So it is with this in mind that I close the book on Landshark Sandwich and crack open a new themed blog: Rolling with Culture.

My take on our culture in contemporary American society; the anomalous entity that has driven me to write these rants for so long.

It's a greater challenge for me as a writer to try and dissect the abstract, make sense of it, or at lease give it an objective view. And it's important to challenge oneself whenever possible.

It's been fun, kids. Now go visit http://rollingwithculture.blogspot.com.

Goodnight and have a pleasant life.