Category Archives: The Contrarian

Shut the Pod Bay Doors, Hal


I’m not so much a gadget freak as a gadget mutant alien virus.

My technology jones runs deep. I have four outdated cellular phones, a half dozen MP3 players and four digital cameras. My middle name could be iSucker.

I even like the ads for electronic stores. When I lived at home, I would seek the Sunday fliers for Best Buy and Circuit City, simply to marvel at Moore’s Law, the theorem that technology doubles every 18 months — so your computer and cell phones should be twice as fast, hold twice as much data, every year and a half — with requisite price hikes.

So Cyber Monday has become my Black Friday, as it has for millions of Americans: Roughly $6.6 billion sales are logged on Cyber Monday, a figure that must give brick and mortar shops a raging erection. Though it’s surprising that the ever-clever internet denizens didn’t come up with something more clever than Cyber Monday. If the creators of e-shopping really wanted to mock traditional stores, which is clearly part of the strategy, they would have called it “African-American Monday.”

Regardless, Amazon has gone nuts over the phenomenon it helped manifest. The site has created a cyber-flier that is replete with gizmos and whatzits. It’s terrific reading.

There’s a laptop about the weight of a candy bar. There’s an Alexa-powered webcam that looks like it came from NASA, with night vision and motion detector alerts sent to your phone.

But my favorite by far was Furbo, a remote dog treat dispenser.

The idea is fascinating. A remote camera keeps an eye on Fido, using your computer and even cellular phone to monitor the pup, scold it to stop incessant yapping, and reward it when it’s good. Tell Spot to sit, and you can remotely eject a dog treat to your canine.

This is the stuff of The Jetsons. As I read, I wondered: Are we really this bored and wealthy?

Turns out the answer is “goddamned straight.” Furbo had 1,049 reviews and a four-out-of-five-star rating. It also had 271 questions from interested buyers: Could you use your own dog treats? How long is the warranty? Does it works for cats? (For what do you even reward a cat? A furball-free day?)

As I scrolled through the questions, I noticed it didn’t address my primary one: What happens when a dog jacks its leg to pee on it? I’m guessing it happens, as there’s an entire YouTube cottage industry of dogs peeing on myriad targets: cats, new shoes, sunbathers, etc. Teddy once peed on chair at the dog park. An occupied chair.

So, on a smartass-ian lark, I asked the simple question 271 others  would not: “Is it urine-proof?”

I expected that the seller would not even post the joke. At best, I would get a similarly snarky response, like “No, but it is fecal-resistant.”

Instead, I immediately received a spate of replies. “No, it’s plastic but still an electrical device;” “Perhaps — I would elevate it to the height of a treat jar,” etc. Apparently, the question raised a real issue — one not mentioned in the entire ad for Furbo.

But there was one reply in particular that caught my eye, from Lisa S. I knew it would have the inevitable, anonymous air of the internet era, which has ushered mankind into the Iron(y) Age. The primary advancement of the period: veiled asshole-nish. The letter began with “I don’t know,” which begs another question: Then why reply in ‘Answers?’ It also was clearly her chance to brag on her pets.

“I don’t know,” she wrote. “Mine sits on the counter and my dogs are housebroken.”

So I sent her the only response I could think:

“Oh, I don’t have a dog.”

Have a holly jolly!






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Livid, from New York, It’s Saturday Night!


First: How is it that Donald Trump has not responded to rapper Eminem’s scathing video beat down of the administration, in which he told his fans that if they were supporters of the Pumpkin-in-Chief, they should stop following buying his music?

It was a rare non-response (which has become as much a tea leaf into his thinking as the Tweets he does make) from a president who likes nothing more than to enter a social fray in which he can offend.

Confusion is the only scenario I can think of that led to the silence:

Flunkie: “Sir, social media is buzzing about Eminem’s video criticizing you.”

Trump: “Those sons of bitches. Was it the green one?”

The Incontinent Id did offer some interesting fantasizing last week. Namely, wondering aloud if the media’s daily excoriating of him wasn’t tantamount to unequal political coverage.

Of course, one of the greatest memories in the history of memories didn’t use the word “tantamount.” Multi-syllabic words are not his friend (except bigly, which actually is a word, coined in the 1400’s). Instead, he mused aloud whether he should yank NBC’s broadcasting license.

Gen. John Kelly couldn’t get to him in time to tell Trump he doesn’t have the legal authority to do that. Or perhaps Sarah Huckabee Sanders scolded Kelly that it’s disrespectful for a Gold Star family member to differ with a president. Regardless, the Tweet went out like a silent fart at church.

Still, under the broken-clock theory of logic, Trump occasionally (if unintentionally) strikes on a salient point. What if he could revoke FCC licenses? The question is less one of power than programming. Trump has floated the idea of equal air time before. But what would Republicans put in its stead? The GOP is terrific at bellyaching (Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh), less so at belly laughs. 

Consider: Name one politically satirical TV show that is conservative. There was once Dennis Miller of Saturday Night Live fame, but his humor became so obscure even he didn’t get his jokes. Other right-tilting comedians include Tim Allen, Jeff Foxworthy, Adam Sandler and Larry the Cable Guy. But they joke about politics about as often as they do pedophilia.

Now consider the other side of the ledger. There are no fewer than seven big-budget comedy shows making Koch-like money skewering President Carrot Top: The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyer and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper. And that doesn’t include Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, The Trump Show on Comedy Central, or the increasingly leftward leanings of mainstream comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. All but Klepper were born during Democratic presidencies.

What gives? The most common answer I get is “Republicans aren’t funny.” But we know simply from the success of Republicans’ non-political entertainment that this isn’t the case. Sandler’s movies clear $83 million a flick. Allen’s Home Improvement ran for nine years and took more than a dozen Emmy Awards.

The issue, then, must be the material more than the emcees. And here’s where you find the comedic difficulty of conservatism.

Like journalism, comedy requires editorial freedom to work. It also requires watch dogging, critiquing and whistle blowing when the system goes off the rails — hardly a skill set sought in quarters that seek order or discipline, like the military, government or church.

Picture a Republican TV show that excoriates Trump for a boneheaded comment. Or teases the religious right. They’d be shut down in a week — by Republicans. When you take god or the president off the comedy menu, you’re left with a plateful of limp-noodle punchlines. And little to aim at besides people telling the jokes.

Which as been the sole stratagem left standing for the alt-right. A day after the Vegas shooting, Sean Hannity went on the air to play a montage of comedy shows that took a moment to recognize the massacre — and make a call for a change to gun laws.

Hannity vomited some nonsense about the left’s unquenchable desire to politicize American sadness.

But the shows were right, if only on a visceral scale. We are sad. And mad. And goofy and dumb and eager to address issues of the day, bigly (it means “to handle with great force, often emotionally”). So loosen up, Foxtards. There are literally millions to be made with just a dash of humor.

But here’s a tip. When you go looking for the show’s band leader, don’t bother Eminem. I don’t think he likes you.


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When the Media Really Is Fake


What happened last night in Vegas is unspeakable. So of course Sean Hannity spoke.

“This is no time to politicize the tragedy,” he belched on Fox.

What insanity this? He then went on a rant against the “liberal media,” who would surely try to make this a political hot potato.

Do you not already smell that potato, Sean? You just popped it in the oven.

What’s far worse, however, is the logic the state’s news service used in ducking the issue that rains on us like Irma’s hellfire. By that logic, when would it be a good time to bring up any issue you’d care not suffer? There were 11,680 gun violence death in 2016, Justice Dept. says. That’s 30 grieving families a day, Sean. Okay to discuss when they’re in mourning?

Heck, why politicize Puerto Rico when all of those Americans are without water and electricity? Why talk about police-related shootings when at least two families’ lives have shattered?

Now is exactly the time to talk politics. This week’s column was supposed to be about the brilliant Ken Burns series The Vietnam War. We will save that fawning for later.

But it is interesting the series arrived days before the massacre. Through 10 episodes, we learned how to measure human losses on the military scale. Should they have waited longer to say something? After all, 58,000 American families were grieving, right Sean?

Movements — and the laws that follow — are smelted in the fury at injustice.

How else to describe this? When one man can  kill 59 (so far) and injure another 525?

That’s not even a shooting. It’s a military incursion. So please, Sean, unless you have something politically constructive to say — in any direction — amidst this insanity, do shut the fuck up.



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