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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Letter from America XXVII - July 2014

Congratulations Houston!
Congratulations Houston! Regular readers will have tired (long ago) of my bemoaning Houston's maniacal, third-world driving but now it's official. A recent survey of 'road etiquette' and aggressive, discourteous driving behavior has concluded that Houston is the worst city in the entire US of A (Atlanta came second and Baltimore third). In the interest of balanced reporting (quite rare over here - more on that later), Portland, Pittsburg and St. Louis boast the most courteous drivers; driving in each of these cities has been likened to  - you guessed it - good ol' you-go-first-no-no-you-go-first England. I suspect they meant the UK but didn't know the difference! But anyway, well done Houston – an accolade well deserved!

Google driverless cars
CNN Breaking News!!!!  Malaysia Airways flight 370 still hasn't been found.

As if it hasn't already done enough damage to road safety by inventing Google-goggles, Google has now invented a driverless car! It is amazing what an interweb page can do when it puts its mind to it. The car, without brakes or steering wheel, is able to transport passengers from A to B and presumably to C, without any form of human intervention. Nobody doubts that it will be able to navigate because it has access to stuff like GPS and clouds and Google maps but how will it behave in heavy traffic? How will it know when to indicate, when to change lanes, how to avoid other vee-hicles? I suggest they test it in Houston where it clearly doesn't matter. Maybe they already have; we will never know.

CNN Developing Story!!!
CNN Developing Story!!! A Boeing 777 will struggle to maintain altitude once the fuel tanks are empty (see pic). Every time I watch CNN I feel a little bit dumber afterwards.

But back to the subject of driving: Though I work for a very small company, every second year we must undergo so-called 'Defensive Driving' training among numerous other safety and compliance programs; this on account of having a (very) 'big brother' investor with a misconception that dementia starts in adolescence and thus grown-ups have memories at the goldfish end of the 'goldfish-elephant' spectrum. Wow, that's a nice piece of glass … dum dee dum … wow, that's a nice piece of glass ...

Wow, nice piece of glass!
Every two years, exactly the same course starts in exactly the same way by plotting the students' own opinions of their driving ability on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 5 being average) and then marvels (in a way that only goldfish can marvel) at how everyone thinks they are 'above average drivers'. Every time it takes my tongue days to recover from the biting [even if we ignore the statistical/mathematical irrelevance of the question since every student also has an 'above average' number of legs – think about it].
Drive different!

Note that the term 'defensive' already implies 'protection from attack' and this is very appropriate and necessary in Houston. Apart from the false sense of security (aka invincibility) afforded to drivers of the disproportionate number of 3-ton pick-up trucks and SUVs, the appalling driving in Houston may usually be attributed to a dangerous cocktail of crass bullishness, selfishness, ignorance and distraction but there is another more sinister hazard: insurance scams. Driving noticeably expensive (aka pretentious) cars - Aston Martins and Maseratis might be excellent examples - attracts a reckless underclass of scammers who will deliberately try to cause an accident to reap the benefits of your third-party insurance and take advantage of the gullible American justice system. Several times I have been targeted. Without warning, a 'sacrificial' car will swerve in front and slam on brakes to cause a rear-end collision and then claim thousands (if not millions) of dollars compensation for whiplash, permanent disability, trauma and, of course, the ubiquitous PTSD. Chances of falling victim to this scam may be reduced somewhat by the cowardly and heinous act of "profiling" (what once we were allowed to call "using common sense and experience to assess risk"). Tatty car? Crumpled rear end? Sunburned paintwork? Wrong wheels? Wrong exhaust? Panel-beating rap music? Arm out of window? Sideways baseball cap? Furtive glances in wing-mirror? ….. beep, beep, profile alert! I think I'll move over a lane.

Word Crimes!
By the way, my use of the term "underclass" above is not intended to be derogatory. In point of fact, the Houston underclass are far more imaginative and inventive than 'the great washed'. Whereas we normal, intelligent, sane folk might only see a nice, open-top car parked with roof down, the Houston underclass, with vastly superior cognition and lateral thinking ability will see, not only a nice car, but also a trash can, an ashtray and a spittoon. Thankfully, the sub-species has yet to develop to the point of seeing a urinal but it is only a question of time - the only drawback of Darwinian (d)evolution.    

I seriously doubt if any Americans noticed the grammatical error in the Smith Driving strap-line, "Drive Different" (trademarked or not) but, what's worse, fewer Americans would actually care. Follow this link to a very catchy song by "Weird Al" Yankovic entitled "Word Crimes" which just about sums it up (or should that be "that just about sums it up"?) Word Crimes!

Sidebar. I had learned that the Defensive Driving course instructor, a very convivial, erudite gentleman in later years, was an ex-policeman and so asked, casually, over lunch, "When you were with the HPD, were you 'highway patrol'?" "No," he replied, calmly, "Chief." …oops

Normal bodies!
CNN Breaking News!!!!  Flight 370 still hasn't been found.

In stark contrast to the somewhat cliched American political-(over-)correctness, the 2014 "Miss-I-wish-for-peace-on-earth-USA" contest has just been aired and, as usual, provoked a somewhat contrived controversy. The usual ragtag group of 'chapsticks' and 'double-bag-jobs' (aka feminists) feigned outrage, as they always do and secured a minimal amount of airtime. But what is their problem? While I think the American kiddie beauty pageants like the infamous "Toddlers in Tiaras" are just plain sick (and so too are the parents), what can possibly be wrong with ogling beautiful women walking around in beautiful bikinis if the beautiful women walking around in beautiful bikinis want to be ogled (you can always change channels before they open their mouths – an action highly recommended: Miss USA interview). But this year there was a small measure of appeasement – one of the would-be 'Miss USAs' had a 'normal' body!! Miss Indiana was neither bulimic, twiggy nor 'bosomly augmented' like the majority of contestants and the twitterazzi exploded in surprise and appreciation. However, anyone who judged her body to be 'normal' obviously hasn't been to Walmart or Galveston recently.

Creaky voice disfavored
Needless to say, she didn't win. By the way, believe it or not, in American Beauty Pageants, plastic surgery is not only allowed, it is positively encouraged to the extent that the Miss USA Beauty Pageant has actually funded breast implants for some of the contestants!!! - American superficiality at its very best! Incidentally, though you may have heard it here first, the so-called "American vocal fry" is now becoming recognized as, at best, a disadvantageous irritant. A study has shown that beauty contestants (Miss USA was the case in point) and job applicants with this weird affectation are less likely to be favored than those who speak normally. Conclusion – while 36DDs will likely open many doors for you (if not metaphorically then literally) nobody likes the sound of creaky hinges.

Around the same time as Miss USA was televised, the BBC published an article suggesting that media and hollywood attitudes to beauty may be changing; this in response to a number of 'strange looking' celebrities 'making good' in the USA. The UK's Benedict Cumberbatch, with looks as peculiar as his name, was cited as an example of a 'stereo-a-typical' character inexplicably attractive to Americans. The French have an expressive expression "jolie laide" (directly translated meaning "beautiful ugly") to describe this phenomena though, to my knowledge, nothing exists in English. This got me thinking. I would like to introduce a counter-rationale that someone can actually be so 'stereotypically-over-beautiful' that they are, in fact, ugly. Let's call it "laide jolie" or "ugly beautiful". A perfect example of this would be Fox News' Kimberly Guilfoyle (see pic). A much augmented Victoria's Secret model of the '90s, her 'attributes' are exaggerated with copious quantities of make-up before she is planted, sideways to screen, in a mini dress and 7" heels so viewers can ogle her profile. Facial close-ups reveal lipstick applied like Batman's Joker and false eyelashes the size of 'up-and-over' garage doors. I only have a 40-inch HDTV (tiny by US standards) but I swear that every time she blinks my candles flutter.

Racist with "silly rabbit"
Another example of "laide jolie" would be the plastic gold-digger, V. Stiviano, the 31-year-old bimbo-mistress of the 80-year–old racist basketball coach, Donald Sterling (see pic). In an embarrassing interview Stiviano revealed that Sterling calls her by the pet-name, "silly rabbit" probably on account of her intellect (or lack thereof) and her looking about as natural as Roger's Jessica. By the way Donny, have you ever wondered if you are in the wrong sport?

CNN Breaking News!!! We will tell you that flight 370 still hasn't been found - right after these commercials.

Conservative vs. Liberal
Whereas, in the UK, the BBC and, to a lesser extent, ITV go to great lengths to be unbiased and non-partisan, the reverse is true in the USA. Fox News (conservative) and CNN, CBS, MSNBC (liberal) are diametrically opposed and blatantly distort the news to political advantage. Flicking back and forth between channels to compare the spin, it is often difficult to recognize parallel stories. Furthermore, and equally worrying, all news channels ignore 'news' that may be unpalatable to both sides. For example, Americans were lead to believe that Bush and Blair deposed the evil Saddam before he was able to use his WMDs to dominate the world and then transformed Eye-Rack into a strong, stable, haven of peace and tranquility – so what is happening now? What is happening now is of no surprise to any sane person who watches the BBC.

What fairness and accuracy?
As if to prove my point, in 2003, a study released by the American Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) watchdog (ha!) stated that US news networks disproportionately focused on pro-war sources and left out many anti-war sources (well done Sherlock). According to the study, "viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro–war source than an anti–war source; with U.S. guests alone [which is all that really matters over here], the ratio increased to 25 to 1". The rest is history! In summary, the 'information' presented in American news programs is about as reliable as the information presented by Terry Bradshaw in the commercial breaks in between. I am paying a $9.99 dollar/month supplement to my cable provider just to watch BBC News and BBC World (and worth every cent). By the way, if Obama does decide to go back into Eye-Rack to properly finish off what Dubya and Tone started, he will, at least this time, have an exit strategy - code name "2016".

The recent horrific tragedy of MH17 raises even more questions and suspicions about what we are all (mis)lead to believe by the media; if you have interest (and time) read the following article: False Flag now I really don't know what to believe.    

Supercilious book salesman
Incidentally, a sad fact: more Americans watch "Honey Boo Boo" than watch "NOVA", the superb, multiple-award-winning science series inspired by BBC2's Horizon. What does that say about America? 'Nuff said.

CNN Breaking News!!!!  Flight 370 still hasn't been found.

Fox News is reigned by a supercilious book salesman known as Bill O'Reilly who boasts about running a "no spin zone." Oh really, O'Reilly! His program has more spin than a backstreet launderette but somehow he manages to evade challenge by the predominantly middle-aged Fox viewers who are typically right of Attila the Hun. But things are changing; a younger, more female reporter has risen to the fore.

Megyn's face of disdain
Megyn Kelly, (in-)famous for insisting that both Santa and Jesus are white … err … is obviously much easier on the eyeballs and as sharp as a lemon. Unfortunately she looks like she is sucking on one when she dislikes or disagrees with something or someone. Once she learns to disguise her disdain, she will gain popularity and the aging book salesman will be compost. By the way, O'Really's latest book that he repeatedly and unashamedly promotes in his 'unspun' news program is entitled, "Killing Jesus" ... err ... hasn't that story already been told? - I think I know the ending. By the way, a passing thought, what would Christianity be like today if Jesus had just got ten years with chance of parole? As Mr. Bunuel once said, "Thank God I'm an atheist."

"Politically safe choices"
Hillaryous Clinton has also just published a book called "Hard Choices" though, by rights, it should have been called "politically safe choices." Described, by critics, as "a newsless snore", it is obviously an extremely well timed and well calibrated distortion of the truth to distance herself from Barry's screw–ups before she runs for 'pressie' in 2016. The interviews that followed, however, were not as well calibrated and numerous 'Romney-esque' gaffes distanced her from any sense of reality. Apparently Teflon Bill and her were "dead broke" when they left the White House … so desperate, in fact, that they actually considered selling some art? Then it emerged that Teflon alone has earned over $105million from various speeches but "they pay income tax on all of that unlike some people who are really well off". The problem with Hillaryous is that, when she is pushed or annoyed, she says silly things that she really means. By the way, I suspect that they might be saving most of their millions, surreptitiously, for Chelsea's plastic surgery.

Ineffectual or devastating?
CNN Breaking News!!!!  Flight 370 still hasn't been found.

Despite the massive and repeated devastation over the years, America is still on 'first name terms' with its hurricanes but therein lies a problem. Hurricanes are named in alphabetic sequence alternating between male and female but no consideration is given to how intimidating the name might sound and whether or not it reflects the expected severity or effect of the storm. Names like Vladimir, Saddam, Myra and Jackie have wicked, vicious undertones, conjuring images of wanton destruction whereas names like Benny, Barbie and Cindy sound all too innocent and instill a dangerous sense of complacency. There was a suggestion that names should be ranked against implied power and likely devastation but the whole scheme fell apart when they came to Barry and Hillary – how can names sounding so ineffectual be so devastating? By the way, the next hurricane will be named "Cristobal" - I give up.

Darwin rules OK!
No sooner had I made the comment about "ridiculous religions" in my last letter (and suffered the all-too-predictable backlash), than a 'church' in Kentucky hit the headlines. Apparently members of the "Full Gospel Tabernacle" believe that their God calls upon them to handle venomous snakes during their 'services' to demonstrate that they have full trust in Him. The problem was that nobody told the snake. Pastor Jamie Coots was bitten (what a surprise) and the idiot then died after declining medical treatment! It is estimated that there are 125 'churches' in the USA that handle snakes after some distorted interpretation of their 'scriptures' proving one thing and one thing only – Darwin rules OK! I intend writing a letter to Joel Osteen suggesting that he and his Missus take up this noble tradition. On reflection, I have too much respect for snakes.
Ping!  … CNN Breaking News!!! What was that?

Well done, Barry!
Though American foreign policy tends to falter on every election, one thing has always remained unequivocal, sacrosanct, cast in stone and crystal clear to all the scumbags of the world: The USA does not negotiate with terrorists  - oh, until a dumb, short-sighted president decides to negotiate with terrorists. Well done Barry! – in one ill-considered moment you have changed history and, for all of us who must travel to 'plastic watch countries' like Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, without a motorcade of security, and already look conspicuously pink, you have just made us even more vulnerable. What's more, you have established an 'exchange rate' (1 USA citizen = 5 Al Qaeda) and not even a special discount for wimpy deserters! Even the Travelex crooks at international airports are not quite that bad. Talking of airports, I feel sorry for anyone stuck behind these guys at TSA security as they made their way back to 'Cudda' (that's American for Qatar). I suspect that it won't be long before the commodities page of the New York Times reports Gold $/oz. = 1245.99, Oil $/bbl = 98.56 and, appropriately next to 'pork bellies', USA Citizen/Terrorist = 0.200.

You are ZZ-Top right?
It was amusing to see the American attitude to hero Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl change, not when it became apparent that he was a wimpy deserter, but when his father appeared in the White House rose garden with Barry. There is a deep fear of long, wispy beards in the USA; if you are not a ZZ Top fanatic, a character in reality TV's series, Duck Dynasty or a brilliant goal keeper then you are Al-Qaeda. Barry was so shocked by the beard that he forgot to take a "selfie". But anyway, albeit at a very high price, Bergdahl is now safely back in Texas and awaits his appointment with the VA. Ha! Revenge is sweet!
Worst performance in 50 years!
You may have noticed that FIFA, the non-profit organization with over a billion dollars in the bank, organized a few games of footie recently. They think it's all over and it is now. Embarrassingly (for some), England, the football/soccer capital of the world, was eliminated from the competition after failing to win a single match in the group stages. But why does this come as such a surprise? Football in the UK is business (not sport) and English 'local clubs' (ha!) much prefer to contract football-pro(stitute)s from abroad than develop domestic talent. The problem is, come the World Cup, they all go home. The Times Headline News (with full-spread picture) summed it up: "Bryan from Fulham, the man who put England out of the World Cup" (they might just as well have added "and we know where you live"). They then went on to mention that Italy's winning goal was scored by Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and both Uruguay's goals were scored by Luis Suarez of Liverpool (the idiot with more of an appetite for footballers than football). All this resulted in England's worst performance in 50 years!

"We wos gutted!"
Of course, the whole nation was "gutted" but not collectively gutted - individually gutted! Everyone interviewed and I mean everyone – players, spectators, coaches, managers and, of course, the great English 'man-in-the-street' was "gutted". Admittedly some were just "gutted" whereas some were "terribly gutted", some were "totally gutted" and some "absolutely gutted." It would seem that since I left the UK the English vocabulary has withered to a crisp, Roget's Thesaurus has been condensed into a convenient wallet-sized reference card and we now have a whole nation of pilchards. The only saving grace in this whole sorry episode was that registered English football hooligans were prevented from traveling to Brazil and the significant cost of the pilgrimage applied 'natural selection' to the rest. Those wanting to attend an international fight with the hope that a football match might break out were left at home to sit on their dingy sofas and watch the games on their stolen TVs. At least we were spared that embarrassment. Anyway, all the players can now go home and have another four years to work on their diving skills, their writhing-in-agony skills, their tattoos and their silly haircuts.

Soccer in America
Until the 2014 World Cup, the USA thought of soccer as something you take your 10-year-old daughters to play on Saturday mornings. It was a matter of national image and pride to play and/or support 'American football' and leave the pansy, non-contact 'sport' of soccer to girlies and foreigners. That is, until the whole nation woke up to the realisation that they loved soccer; this was the sporting equivalent of suddenly realizing you are gay (nothing wrong with that though). The national team did progress to the knock-out stages and played very well but you can tell that they are still novices – seldom do they try to con the ref. with dives and false appeals. They simply aren't professional but they will learn.

There was also a lot of discussion over the introduction of 'water breaks'. Apparently, nowadays, there is a serious concern that players have a high risk of dehydration – primarily on account of their habitual spitting.

Brazil or "Little Britain"?
Obviously, when a goal is scored in the World Cup, the crowds leap to their feet and dance around in manic celebration but this is not normally expected of wheelchair-bound invalids (outside of "Little Britain"). By law, in Brazil, 1% of space in stadia must be allocated to wheelchairs and tickets are normally significantly discounted. Several fit and healthy Brazilians took advantage of this and conned their way into Brazil's opening match in wheelchairs. Unfortunately, for them at least, they forgot their predicament in the excitement of the first goal. Religious folk thought that the God of football had performed a miracle when they all jumped up and danced around. The police are investigating but they have a strong defense - faking serious injury is an important, if not essential, part of the game.

White Sox KKK
On the subject of sporting spectators, the Chicago White Sox caused quite a controversy when they issued promotional rain ponchos to their supporters. Predictably, the ponchos were brilliant white but, unfortunately, had pointed hoods distinctly reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan. Though Donald Sterling would have been proud, this was not quite the image they desired and particularly on the south side of Chicago. Such innocent and inadvertent poor taste was immediately likened to the Hillsboro baseball bobble-head figures of 2013 (promotional giveaways in a Parkinson's awareness campaign!).
Thousands of unaccompanied minors are now walking into the USA, the land of opportunity and promise, to escape their horrible lives in Central America so literally dozens of Immigration Officers have been sent to the 1,953 miles of unprotected border to stop them. Of course, so as to not appear hypocritical, the USCIS had to find dozens of Native American Immigration Officers. But anyway, this has made Barry even more determined to destroy the ridiculous myth about 'land of opportunity and promise' - way to go, Barry!  
Columbus' "Santa Maria"

CNN Breaking News!!! Marine archeologists have discovered the remains of Christopher Columbus' Ship, "The Santa Maria" just off the coast of Haiti. CNN is proud to be the only channel to have stuck with this story for 522 years.

By the way, still no sign of MH370.

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