TheodoreSLaBarbera.com

Since 2003, the off-ramp on the Information Superhighway.

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The Worst Wing

Perhaps the single-worst part of any United States political campaign season is when all of the awful, sneering, jock-sniffing Hollywood celebrities come out of the woodwork to endorse their favorite liberal candidates and concerns. They all spout the same, tired, hyperbolic rhetoric no matter who is running: the opposition is a dunce, a buffoon, a threat to the very existential fiber of civilization! It’s become so tiring, and coming from these rocket scientists, it’s no wonder that nearly half the electorate is turned off from their message and is in a state of open rebellion by supporting an anti-politically correct, controversial, outspoken nominee like Donald Trump.

Case in point, the cast of the West Wing have reunited, and they are out on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton.

“There’s no question, this is absolutely the most qualified human being ever to run for President,” says [Bradley] Whitford, who played White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. “She has been a leader in terms of giving people access to health care. And in her children’s health insurance program, equal rights for women, LGBT rights – she has been fighting the good for fight for 45 years.”

Healthcare and LGBT issues! If that doesn’t set someone up as deserving of the highest office in the land I don’t know what does! Pay no attention to how much unsafer the world has become thanks to her poor decisions and policies as Secretary of State. It’s not as if Russia used her infamous reset button to invade and conquer a close ally (and one-time NATO treaty applicant). Or that an Islamist revolution in Libya led directly to the deaths of American lives and further emboldened terrorist organizations such as ISIS.

The West Wing Cast

Seriously, though, look at these unwashed old hippies. Does anyone care what they think?

It’s even more funny (or sad) because–while the show certainly garnered critical acclaim amongst the intelligentsia–it’s not as if the West Wing or its cast were ever really very popular. The show cracked the Top 10 (and barely, at #10) in one year, 2001. Otherwise, it usually labored in the low-20’s or mid-30’s, ranking behind all-time classics such as The Bachelor, Fear Factor, and My Big, Fat Obnoxious Fiancee.

Keep on spreading the good word, folks. Each time you open your mouths and sing Kumbaya, Ohio turns a little deeper shade of red.

Hooray for the Wayback Machine!

Geek Soap BoxI’ve been writing and publishing stuff on the Internet since, by my count, 2003.

It started with a humble, hand-coded HTML and Cold Fusion-powered site located at this very domain, followed by blogs on an array of platforms from LiveJournal to BlogSpot to WordPress to SquareSpace to Tumblr. One “Instalanche” aside, it was never about attracting an audience or making big bucks; I wrote for me, as a catharsis for my soul and to entertain the small handful of close friends from the real world that stopped by to read and comment.

I did also wind up with one major, life-changing thing happening as a result of my writing, of course. I can remember it as clearly as if happened yesterday, when a random, unknown girl (then residing in Pennsylvania) who went by the handle “Miss Understood” started frequenting the blog and leaving her thoughts in the comments. Over time we became e-mail friends, then moved to the telephone, and then finally met one fateful weekend in Savannah, GA. Today, you know that lovely lady as my wife, teejcee. The Internet owed me for a Catfishing-like fiasco (before that was even a word) back in college, and boy did it pay me back in spades.

Sadly, though, nearly all of my writings have since been lost to history. I used to be rather masochistic and self-destructive, and would occasionally delete my entire site and archives entirely purely to spite myself over some bout of depression or anxiety or whatnot. Believe you me, that is a terrible way to live, and I’m glad those incidents are at a minimum these days, as I’ve learned to better love and accept myself and be comfortable in my own skin.

But looking back, man I miss those posts. It ain’t Shakespeare, but a lot of fun was had each night trying to come up with new, interesting content, and in engaging with my buddies in political discourse and the occasional smack-talk. I’ve forever regretted my rash moves to wipe all traces of myself off of the grid, and wish I could have it all back.

Well, maybe I can, at least a little. As fate would have it, the famed Wayback Machine managed to crawl and index some of my sites over the years, and those posts are still up at archive.org in a limited capacity. So far, I’ve managed to find and save maybe 50 or more posts dating from 2006 and 2011, covering topics from the War on Terror to Transformers to Anthony Weiner (who, amazingly, is still in the fucking news for doing the same shit this many years later!).

(As an aside, how ginormous does the Wayback Machine’s servers have to be? It’s a comprehensive archive of whole swaths of the Web over the course of decades now, not to mention all sorts of public domain media such as books, music, videos, and more. The pure size and power of all that data and accumulated knowledge and history proves mind-boggling.)

So, what does this mean for today’s iteration of this site? Well, I think I am going to (very slowly) cut and paste and publish these old posts as I find them, tagging them with the correct dates and content. For some, history has taught us many lessons and the world is a vastly different place, so I might have a quick “TSL Update” at either the beginning or end to remark on what was and what has since come to pass. It will be a fascinating look back into my own personal history, as well of that of America, technology, and so much more. If you want to come along for the ride, you are always more than welcome, dear reader. If not, I’ll keep the new and fresh content up top like any good blog, so you won’t even notice.

What a ride it’s been! Let’s hope the journey in front of us proves just as fascinating and rewarding, if not moreso!

Micro-Review: The Revenant

The Revenant

A review in bullet points, mostly shamelessly stolen from my Twitter account.

  • Watched the Revenant last night with the Mrs. on HBO. I’m personally notorious for dozing off for long stretches of dramatic tilts, but, unexpectedly despite its over two-hour length, the movie managed to capture — and hold — my interest and attention the entire time.
  • Plot-wise, it made for a very good story, although nothing we really haven’t seen before. Despite being loosely based on the real-life tale of frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823, most of the primary storyline borrows from classic tropes regarding survival, revenge, and the eventual redemption of our hero. Perhaps that’s why it proves so compelling.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio deserves praise for conveying Glass’s pain, despair, and determination through essentially a series of grunts and groans (and without working legs!) for nearly half the film. That takes quite the talent, and Leo well deserves his Academy Award for a job well done.
  • Tom Hardy has become one of the go-to actors in Hollywood these days. It’s amazing how well he has performed in a series of diverse roles in some of my favorite movies of recent times, from Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to the titular character in Mad Max: Fury Road to the low-down, partially scalped cretin Fitzgerald in this movie.
  • Wow, the cinematography and scenery were absolutely stunning. Again, well worth the Academy Award.
  • The Bear Scene. One of the most brutal, painful, torturous scenes since The Passion of the Christ. Never mess with a momma bear, folks!

Donald Trump Plays the Media Like the Fools They Are

Mainstream MediaIt’s truly amazing that we’ve come this far, hasn’t it? As I write this post in mid-September, Donald Trump — real-estate mogul, reality television superstar, Internet troll extraordinaire — actually has a fairly decent shot at winning this November’s election and becoming President of the United States.

It hasn’t been easy along the way. The candidate has often done all that he possibly can to wipe out his own chances of success with his quick temper and free-flowing mouth. And certainly the mainstream media and collective intelligentsia have done all that they possible can to defame and discount this historic run, alternating between referring to him as “pure evil,” telling tales of impending nuclear disaster, or playing it loose and fast with the facts behind what he says in general.

But, behind it all, they don’t realize one thing; every time they talk, every ounce of hyperbole directed his way, all it does is boost Trump’s chances. There is a giant undercurrent of loathing and hatred in this country for the media elites, and if they are ripping on someone with profound condescension, to that vast undercurrent of “deplorables“, they are reaffirming why Trump is different and worthy of their support.

Case in point, the “Birther” issue. With two terms and eight years completed, it’s a bit nonsensical that we are even wasting our time with the debate over whether or not current President Barack Hussein Obama was born in the United States and technically eligible for the office he holds. Also, mind you not that this entire conspiracy may have gotten it’s start back in the early days of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for president, or that Obama’s camp did the thing no favors by stalling for seeming years to address the issue convincingly and factually. No, because Donald Trump used to make mention of it years ago–as many of us did at the time–we have to dig deep into the Wayback Machine and use it as a hammer to bash him after the fact.

Take this tweet from the Associated Press, which I singled out back when it was sent:

I’m sure some copy writer or intern at the AP was very smugly satisfied with the language and construction of that tweet. From the “BREAKING” tag to the tone, it’s filled with elitist sarcasm and “of course it was obvious all along” undertones that are designed to make Trump appear to be a buffoon for being so behind the times.

But that’s not really how it played out on television, though. In reality, Trump used the opening of his new hotel in Washington, DC as an opportunity to appear, well, dare I say…presidential. He came out, definitively declared the issue over, stated the facts, and then closed with the brilliant line, “Hillary Clinton started it, I ended it.” BOOM. That is the line that will resonate with voters throughout the country when its all said and done. And by covering the issue with unbridled enthusiasm in anticipation of meltdown, instead the mainstream media provided a forum for Trump to have one of his best days ever. Like Butch said in Pulp Fiction, “this is how you are going to beat them; they keep underestimating you.”

Look, I’m only the most tepid of Donald Trump supporters personally. There’s a lot to be concerned about, from his fundamental knowledge of some issues to his lack of depth on others, a frightening combination of arrogance and willful ignorance. However, to borrow from another sage proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and if Trump is going to continue to make the media look like the biased, pseudo-intellectual fools that they are, I’m going to gleefully laugh and enjoy the ride with each and every incident.

Never Forget

9/11 Memorial

15 years. Feels like 100 years ago, and yesterday at the same time. So much has happened, but nothing has changed.

Ad: Thanks for Giving Me Cancer, Mom and Dad!

At their most basic level, television commercials are designed to appeal to consumers on a raw, emotional level. You HAVE to have this product. You NEED this product. It’s all part of the “Ikea Nesting Egg Theory” made famous in Fight Club: how does this brand or product define you as a person?

Even more effectively, some commercials opt for negative reinforcement: instead of building you up, they go for the opposite. You find yourself publicly shamed and humiliated for not listing to the message (cue a sad Sarah McLaughlin song as starving puppies fill the screen). The ad is preying upon your primal fears and guilt to spur you to act from your safe, secure nest at home.

Case in point: this recent ad by pharmeceutical company Merck, in promotion of its Gardasil vaccine for the HPV virus.

So yeah, not only can you no longer get a boner without a little blue pill, because YOU didn’t get your kids this vaccine against the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease (perhaps because you are a God-fearing, Bible-thumping conservative mired deep in repression and denial about the activities of your progeny), you just ensured that they get cancer later on in life! Great job, mom and dad! Thanks!

I guess it’s still better than this head-scratchingly awful 9/11-themed mattress sale commercial, though!

Tim Tebow Takes Another Bow

Tim TebowFor a time, Tim Tebow had it all. He played an integral role on two college football national championship teams, and won the vaunted Heisman Trophy in 2007. Filled with charisma and a reputation as an all-around Christian, polite, good guy, there was little doubt that Tim’s raw talent would propel him into the stratosphere of professional sports. Surely, the day would come when his unorthodox style and leadership skills led some NFL team into the promised land of a Super Bowl championship.

Alas, it never happened. After a flash of tantalizing brilliance in Denver, Tebow flamed out during a disastrous run with the New York Jets. The once brash and confident superstar more accurately resembled a deer in the headlights in the face of the New England Patriots’ hard-charging defense, and, just like that, our hero found himself on the sidelines, a commentator for programming ranging from ABC’s Good Morning America to the SEC Channel’s weekly game-time coverage.

But that fire still burned, as it does for all once-great athletes. The competitive spirit can never be quenched. After failed comeback attempts with various NFL franchises desperate enough to take out a flyer, though, it all seemed for naught. But what about baseball? Tebow was a three-sport star in high school, excelling every bit on the diamond as he did on the football field. Less physically taxing, less mentally challenging, less directly responsible for the outcome of the game on every play, perhaps the Major Leagues could be a place where Tim could finally find himself home.

The dream became real today, with Tebow signing a minor-league contract with the defending National League Champion New York Mets. For the Mets, its a low-cost gamble with high payoff. At worst, the Mets’ young locker rooms get to see how “one of the great athletes of our time” (to paraphrase Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson in the article above) carries himself as a man before the media and shoulders the weight of great expectations. They get a teammate with great character and work ethic to serve as an example for their entire system. Should he make the big leagues one day, his stature and charisma will take the burden off of the other Mets superstars and allow them to more expertly focus on their craft while The Man gets all the press. And if he hits for power, as he displayed during open workouts? All the better, he’ll do it for us and not for a rival such as the Atlanta Braves, who were the rumored favorites to land his services.

And for Tim Tebow, it’s one last shot at glory. The grizzled veteran stepping up to the plate at sunset, looking for one last chance to write that storybook ending and be The Natural. It sure beats sitting in front of a camera and blinding lights, caked in makeup, talking about the players who have passed you by.

Ted Tebowing

Honorary pic of me, back in the days when I had hair, “Tebow-ing” upon news that the New York Jets had traded for the QB.

If You Are a Racist Politician, You Just Might Be a Liberal

Obama, Reid, PelosiHey, can you do me a favor?  Can you remind me just which American political party is the one that’s always portrayed in the media and during debates as the one filled with horrible, filthy racists and elitests?  I don’t see any Republicans making the news lately for absolutely beyond-the-pale outrageous statements aimed towards President Barack Hussein Obama.

No, I’m not even talking about former KKK kleagle Robert Byrd.  Not this time, at least.

Let’s start with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he of the vow towards creating the “most ethical Congress in history.”  Apparently, he has some theories as to why and how Obama became the 44th POTUS.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered an apology on Saturday to President Barrack Obama after making off color race remarks.

Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, was quoted in a new book as having said that Obama did not have a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one” and that he was popular because he is “light skinned”.

Not to be outdone, though, former Democrat President Bill Clinton — he of countless scandals, alleged corruption, and his own rhetorical stylings of being the “first black president” — apparently longs for the good old days of segregated country clubs or perhaps even the plantation lifestyle.

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

A lot of the liberal mentality, as held by the masses that populate the coasts and other urban areas, is genuinely rooted in a (misdirected) means towards promoting equality and justice for all persons, of all faiths and colors.  Make no mistake, though: the ruling class that these liberals elect, though, share no such dream.  They know that they only way they can maintain power is to promote policies that actually incentivize poverty and welfare and inhibit increased distribution of prosperity.  Given that the unfortunate racial makeup of these downtrodden communities, one cannot help but wonder who the true racists are.

Poor Design: Time Warner Cable

Undoubtedly, when I return to the office tomorrow, I’ll hear cries and wailing anguish from the Powers That Be about how they know so much more than I do about Web design, communications, and marketing — despite the fact that I’m the only one with a masters degree (sort of) and a decade of experience in the field.  But it’s all good.  In this digital day and age, a Web site is a company’s primary public relations and messaging vehicle, so a little “heat” comes with the valuable territory.

That being said, sometimes issues present themselves that, in fact, are the fault of the company and present a bad face to the outside consumer.  These issues, from poor interface to technical snafus to simple matters of infrastructure, are ultimately as important as whether or not the Flash movie on the homepage is called a “leaderboard” or not, and, without prompt resolution, render all other debates moot.

Today’s journey across the Web begins with Time Warner Cable of New York and New Jersey.  Approximately one year ago, TWC did a fantastic job of upgrading its Web site and online account information into an aesthetically pleasing, Web-2.0 look and feel, complete with colorful prompts, modal windows for user interface elements, and a crisp, simple, elegant design.  All in all, the site is a joy to use and pay my monthly bill on — and let’s face it, eliminating as much of the pain as possible for the customer when forced to fork over large sums of cash ultimately cannot help but improve the overall accounts receivable outlook for any organization.

Too bad the darn site just doesn’t work in my Web browser of choice, Google Chrome.  By this, I don’t mean it merely displays a little wonky or feels a bit “off,” I mean the site literally shuts down and tells you to get the fuck out:

[Editor’s Note 01/17/17: As far and as long as I have searched through my own personal archives, this image appears to be lost forever. Which renders the whole post moot, of course, but I repost anyway for the sake of history and to one day build a comprehensive archive.]

 

I won’t pretend that, as a Chrome user, I’m not a tad on the bleeding edge of early adopters when it comes to browsing software.  That being said, the days of dominance of Internet Explorer are slowly coming to an end, and whereas a Web team could once build sites and programming solely for Microsoft’s platform of choice, today the line is becoming a bit more blurred.  The decision to “close off” the entire site is also somewhat perplexing: there are any number of PHP, .NET, JavaScript, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and Cold Fusion sites that work across any system — I browse (or have helped build) hundreds of them every day.  What sort of weird, proprietary client-side code is Time Warner running that just completely renders a non-standard browsing experience a total failure?  That must be a bear of a code base to maintain and update.

Poor design.

Introducing: The Alarm Clock From Hell

I have always had massive issues getting a full and rest-filled night’s sleep.  My anxious and over-worked mind finds it nearly impossible to wind down in the evening, and when factoring in some pretty significant issues with loud snoring/sleep apnea, it’s no wonder I’m always tired and ready for a nap.

My worst sleep-related flaw, though, has to be snoozing.  I set my alarm clock on work days for 6am, but damned if I get out of bed before 7:15, usually with a massive rush to get showered/dressed to follow.

So, to combat this latter symptom, I asked for a Christmas gift from my folks: a helicopter alarm clock.  No, it’s not a giant transformer or shaped like a chopper.  It features an actual, working propeller that, when the alarm goes off, takes off and flies around the room until you physically get out of bed, track it down and stop it. Don’t believe me?  Here’s the video:

Eh, so it’s a work in progress that will likely wind up just crashing into the ceiling and hitting me in the head every morning.  But kudos to the designer for engineering a seemingly brilliant solution to an age-old problem.

Now can someone assist me with that night-time “Brain Power Off” button?

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