Well, consider this to be our collective therapy. And please note that the rants expressed below are only the rants of the individual writers, not necessarily the rants of everyone involved with the Tucson Weekly.
Welcome to the second annual Rant Issue.
THE WHOLE MESS STARTED on a boring, uneventful Saturday night. How boring and uneventful, you ask? I was spending the evening, honest to God, heading to Bed Bath & Beyond to exchange some pillows.
And I will NOT stand for people mocking me because I spent my Saturday night doing such a thing. Pillows are important, dammit. If they're the wrong color, they throw off the whole décor of a room. And we can NOT let that happen.
Anyway, I was on my way to the Grant Road BB&B from my not-so-spacious digs on the alarmingly far eastside. I was heading down Kolb Road just before it turns into Grant, minding my own business, in the middle lane, going the same speed as everyone else. That's when I saw the blue-and-red lights turn on behind me.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Village Inn just past Tanque Verde Road, and the police officer dismounted the motorcycle.
"May I see your license, registration and proof of insurance, please?"
"Do you know what the speed limit is here?"
"Yeah, it's 40 mph."
"You know how fast you were going?"
"Not exactly. But I was going the same speed as everyone else."
"Well, I have you going 53 mph. You want to see the radar reading?"
This was the point at which I started to get annoyed. What good would it do ANYBODY to look at a radar reading? Does this prove anything? The radar reading could be for another car, or due to a glitch, or it could have accidentally picked up George W. Bush's IQ from the universe's collective consciousness or something.
The cop then proceeded to give me a ticket. And you want to know how much it cost me? $163.
Excuse me? One hundred and sixty three smackers for a SPEEDING TICKET?!? That's a lot of money. For some, that would be a crippling fine, one that could mean rent doesn't get paid, or that kids don't get fed. This is obscene for such a minor "infraction." Why the city of Tucson is charging such a ridiculous amount is beyond me. Bastards.
The other option available to me was traffic school, which "only" costs $111--and an entire freakin' day of my time. FOR GOING THE SPEED OF TRAFFIC!!!!!
Anyway, I held in my anger and was polite. The officer returned my license, registration and proof of insurance, and then he said this:
"I hope the rest of your evening goes better."
Furious, I continued to Bed Bath & Beyond, going 40 mph the entire way. I was almost creamed by drivers multiple times. Going the speed limit was far, FAR more dangerous than going 53 mph, if that's indeed how fast I was going.
So let me get this straight: For going the speed of traffic, I got fined an exorbitant amount. Then the officer said something to me that was unnecessarily bitchy. And then, for going the speed of traffic, I was rewarded by almost getting killed.
IS THERE SOME REASON that the United States is obliged to humiliate itself in front of the entire civilized world on a regular basis?
I mean, here we are, with all this science and industry, researching the fundamental particles of the universe, producing cancer-fighting bacteria through the miracle of recombinant genetics, successfully landing not one but two rovers on the difficult Martian terrain--and our hydrocephalic president goes on TV to say that his sky-dwelling god-friend is blessing a NASCAR event.
Why is it that U.S. politicians feel obliged to say that they firmly believe, based on no evidence whatsoever (except the special feelings in their tiny hearts), that 2,000 years ago, some Asian virgin gave birth to a fleshy little god? And that this kid opened the door to the magical place where they go to have love and hugs after their human bodies--and, thus, any trace of what could possibly sustain their personality, memory or existence--have turned into a soupy, post-organic ground sludge?
Look, I want my politicians to believe things deeply. Like, for example, I want them to believe that ~(A ^ ~A). In English, that's, "No statement and its contradiction can be true at the same time and in the same way." In a language that your average president of the United States could understand, what that means is that if that dog ain't no sniff-hound, then that dog ain't no sniff-hound.
Now, if you'll scan your Bible (i.e., the book of the war stories of a semi-literate tribe of barbarian desert dwellers that existed around 500 B.C. --obviously a highly relevant document for policy making), you'll find that it disagrees with this law repeatedly, beginning on Page 1, where "God" makes plants before humans, and then a couple paragraphs later, reverses the order (Genesis 1:11, 1:27, and 2:5-2:7). In my mind, that mitigates against the literal truth of the Bible. In the mind of the president, it seems to mitigate against the fundamental law of logic that's necessary for any kind of reasoning.
And it's not like only the current loser-in-chief feels obliged to debase himself by publicly refuting the intellectual basis for all of Western culture. No, his syphilitic predecessor did it; so did the mass-murderer of Panamanians before him, the deranged thespian before him, and the inflation-mad yokel before him. In fact, in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, it is against the law for an atheist to hold elected office. I wish I was making this up: It's in the state constitutions of each of those states that if you're a fan of scientific reasoning and refuse to believe in the angry desert god of the ancient Levantines, you have no business in public life.
This is why two U.S. states have, during the last 10 years, voted to replace the widely accepted and nearly incontrovertible theory of genetic adaptation to changing environmental conditions, commonly called "the theory of evolution," with their own theory: A great big giant man created the world by talking loud. And why not? I mean, there's no reason for the United States to be a world leader in science in the 21st century. I think we, as a country, have earned a break, and should just try to coast through the next 100 years.
And don't tell me I'm showing improper disrespect for your religious beliefs. You can't be a good Christian and have respect for my religious position: You have to believe that someone who holds my views deserves to suffer eternally in the worst possible torment. Look up the word "respect," and you'll see it doesn't mesh with that. So maybe I respect you as a person, or maybe not, but if you think that some Asiatic holy man is gonna let you live forever, then I think you're an idiot.
And if you're so gauche as to believe that, could you please keep it to yourself while running for public office, so that I can at least fool myself into thinking that you'll make policy decisions based on positions that are well-founded, well-reasoned and evidentially supported? I mean, for Christ's sake!
GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY seems to exist for a singular purpose: to find the most incomprehensibly inconvenient way of conducting business and force it down the throats of the citizenry. The overwhelming attitude of the bureaucrat is: "Sit there; shut up; don't ask questions; listen to whatever I tell you, because you don't have a choice."
King among bureaucracy in Arizona seems to be the Motor Vehicle Division. All I was looking to do after I came to Tucson was legalize my Jeep and get a really cool sunrise (or is it a sunset?) license plate with a purple cactus on it.
It's bad enough in this day and age of telecommunications that we have to visit two places to complete the registration process. First comes the emission inspection. Second comes the trip to the MVD itself. And when you get to the MVD, you wait with a lettered-and-numbered tag that is longer than the plate-numbering system itself. And when your letter and number is called, you have a mad dash to a counter that's always at the other end of the building. Of course, you can't even do this on a Monday if you plan on going to the mega-mall MVD office just off Palo Verde Road. IT'S CLOSED MONDAYS.
I'm sure for most, this is a task that might be annoying, but it doesn't rise to the level of a postal response. For me, the story is different: Imagine if your Jeep was bought in Alaska, a state so remote that vehicle registration is unnecessary. (OK; my Jeep wasn't exactly legal there. But it was Alaska, so who cares?) And what if you got a cardboard temporary tag from Alaska, which was reduced to mush in the torrential rains on the drive down, leaving a lumpy gray mass hanging from the plate holder with no legible letters?
And what if the Jeep didn't have a catalytic converter--deep breath, then GASP. Yes, it was removed by a previous owner. And what if the emissions testing people passed the Jeep on the catalytic converter test, but failed it for other reasons? (I guess some of them missed that catalytic converter class during training day.) And what happens when you call the MVD, explain this to them, and ask them what to do?
You get a "cannot compute" response.
Despite the lack of help, I ran out and fixed the Jeep as quickly as I could. Luckily, I found a fixit shop run by a local businessman who was out to make a buck by pleasing his customers, not screwing them. It was refreshing to walk in the door, explain everything and have my mechanical woes melt away in less than a half-day (actual repair time).
So it was back to the MVD to actually accomplish something. I got the same long lines and same dumb looks. Then, I discovered that the little mom-and-pop MVD offices don't take credit cards: cash or check only, please. And if you're paying in cash, non-sequential bills are preferred. Anyway, I didn't have the almost $400 in tax and registration and who-knows-what fees.
So it was back to the MVD yet again. This time, I went to the mega-mall MVD (but NOT on Monday, even though the mom-and-pop offices are open on Monday). Get a letter and number. Wait. Wait. Wait. Late for work. Wait. Finish filling everything out. Hand the clerk cash.
He gave me the "you are the dumbest person on the planet" stare. He said: "You know, we do accept credit/debit cards here," bubbling with pride. It seems that the mega-mall MVD is trying out the concept of 21st-century existence. But NOT the mom-and-pop offices.
Sigh. Well, at least after all that, I can finally show off that pretty sunrise plate. Or is that a sunset?
I WANNA KNOW WHO INSERTED in the Walgreens employee manual the provision for clerks--nice people, all--to lick their fingers.
And who put it into the Universal Civil Service Code or the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees agreement that court clerks must lick their fingers before counting the pages of records I want?
We were taught since childhood not to lick our fingers. "Goops," I remember from some childhood book, "lick their fingers. The Goops, they lick their knives."
Gimme a knife so I can slice the tongues of these clerks who lick their fingers and then touch what I'm about to buy.
I care less than others about Walgreens' proliferation on each-and-every-corner--though it is eerily reminiscent of Karl Eller's trashing of Arizona with his hideous Circle Ks. On the eve of Walgreens' local explosion, a commercial real estate broker with a puffed-up ego told one of the dailies that Walgreens were "7-Elevens on steroids." That's a quote as unoriginal as the store designs.
The really galling thing about Walgreens' explosion is that the company yanked its downtown store--in that odd government space next to the asbestos-filled Home Federal Tower/Great American Tower/County Legal Administration building, the one that the county supes paid nearly $11 million for to bail out one of the supes' S&L pals. Those cool clerks at the downtown store were to only ones who didn't lick their fingers. It saved me from having to use a Wet One. Maybe that's why they closed the downtown store: There was too much employee resistance to the lick-the-finger procedure. All other locations are licking up the slack. Foothills, eastside, midtown, northwest.
I don't want my pictures, cars, water, Diet Pepsis, Kit Kat darks, meds or The New York Times once the clerk gives a lick to the fingers to 1) get change, or 2) pull a bag. I have to eliminate the risks by 1) telling the nice clerks (and they are pleasant) that I don't need a bag, or 2) by having the precise amount of cash.
Didn't anyone tell Walgreens that money is dirty? It's filthy. Lick the fingers, and you filth up my goods with your germs and the germs of all those who walked before.
It's no better at the courthouse (though not all clerks there are guilty). Sorry, Mr. Editor, I can't write that story. I don't have the records. They were licked and had to be destroyed.
They don't lick the copies of court records up in the library-like clerk's office at the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
I have hope. The answer is protection offered by our outstanding, nanny state legislators, including two of our very own all-star Democrats, state Rep. Linda Lopez and state Sen. Gabrielle Giffords. Lopez (a Midwesterner who retained her politically beneficial name even after the divorce) is a proven nanny. She's going to ban smoking in Arizona. I hate cigarettes. My huge nose allows me to detect cigarette smoke for several miles. So I feel so much safer knowing that Linda is going to keep Arizona's air pure.
Linda will need help on the lick ban, and who better than Giffords, a natural born LEADER? Giffords couldn't save one of our two trauma centers, but she is on national leadership committees. Her press releases say so.
I am counting on Linda Lopez and Gabrielle Giffords to protect us from finger-licking clerks. I see a new division with Health Services or Environmental Quality.
Thanks in advance.
YOU'RE CURLED UP ON YOUR favorite spot on the couch, calmly watching a television program. As you munch on a snack and sip a beverage, the annoyances of the day are melting away--until the commercials begin.
All of a sudden, loud voices peddling everything--from tires to toilet paper--blast your eardrums. You can't escape. You're in commercial hell.
Sometimes, there are moments of reprieve in the loud and pervasive world of television advertising. Jack in the Box often provides a needed laugh, and car commercials offer a sense of adventure and speed. But alas, not all promotions can be pleasurable.
Let's take our ever-so-friendly neighbors at Qwest. First, we endured sappy commercials picturing actual employees gushing over their "Spirit of Service." Huh? It took me several weeks and many phone calls to get my voicemail set up correctly. Do you mean spirit of incompetence instead?
Maybe they've re-thought their soft-and-gentle approach. Now, we see "customers" jumping for joy over their phone bill and telemarketing calls. They're even cooking food and having a party for the Qwest guy. A middle-aged woman plants a kiss on the worker as he shows up for the shindig. At least the kid in the commercial has the right idea: YUCK.
C'mon, Qwest. You actually paid someone to come up with that ad? That's sad.
What's also sad is how gullible advertisers must think we are. I love those commercials picturing attractive women gushing over the guys they meet on the phone. Live Links features a perky brunette chattering on about what a great service it is. Do you think someone like her is really on the phone on a Friday night? Sure, they aren't going to hire an ugly woman for this ad, but her fake happiness is annoying.
While Live Links uses the teaser approach, so do many commercials for upcoming television shows. They twist the facts so you'll expect something that doesn't even happen.
For a week, I watched a teaser for The Apprentice, where it looked like a romance would occur between two of the applicants vying for a job under Donald Trump. Who will it be, they asked, flashing the faces of possible lovers.
Some love affair. Amy and Nick sat in the kitchen and had a conversation. Oh, baby. That was steamy.
I suppose phoniness has its inevitable place in trying to sell a product, but I have to draw the line when it comes to feminine products. Where are the women of Madison Avenue? Maybe they stopped menstruating, because somebody is sure out of the loop.
Here's what happens during "that time of the month": I put on my tightest pair of white jeans (with thong underwear), gather five of my girlfriends, go bike riding, canoeing, bowling and then to a party where we flirt heavily with guys. NOT! But wait: I actually do carry a whole box of tampons with me as I go canoeing, in case I have to plug a leak in the boat. Sigh.
The reality is that women are popping ibuprofen, wearing baggy sweats and drinking the rest of the wine in the bottle. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see a touch of realism rather than twig-thin women smiling and giggling at how wonderful it is?
Oh well. I guess for now we have to ignore the absurdities. Maybe someday we'll get out of commercial hell. Until then, thank God for the remote control.
Get a clue, movie-going morons!
I'M NOT MUCH ON GOING TO THE movies to begin with--I don't like crowded theaters full of screaming kids or morons on their cell phones or the sounds of people munching on their popcorn.
But once in awhile, I'll drive over to the El Con for some big-screen, low-IQ entertainment--generally, something that's been out for a few weeks, so the theater won't be so full, and I'll get a decent seat with plenty of personal space.
When I do go to the movies, I take a few moments to check the newspaper for the show times and, because I'm a slacker at heart, I tend to show up just before the show starts, or maybe even a few minutes after.
But there seems to be a universal rule that the later I arrive, the longer the line will be outside El Con's palatial movie house. And the more urgently I need to get a ticket, the more stupid the people in front of me will be.
Why is it that when they get to the window, they have no idea what they want to see, or even what's playing at the theater? I've stood behind people who wanted a complete rundown on every feature on every screen. Then they want to know what's starting when. And then they turn to the people they're with to find out what they want to see--a problem compounded when they're conversing with small children who are utterly incapable of making up their minds.
People, it's not that difficult. Before you drive to the theater, figure out what's playing and when. When you get to the box office, make your choice, pay the attendant and then get the hell out of my way. Roger Ebert ain't selling tickets, so there's no reason to ask for a film review.
Otherwise, wait for it to come out on video and waste your own time wandering around the stacks of DVDs while you try to decide what you want to take home.
OH, I WISH I HAD A SNOWPLOW. Not to help clear the highway to Mount Lemmon. No, I need it down here in the warm desert valley.
In the supermarket.
Is there any other way to clear the aisles of the rude, inconsiderate, inattentive, self-centered people who won't get out of the way?
Except at a few places--alas, the best places, like Trader Joe's and the 17th Street Market--every aisle is wide enough for one shopping cart to pass another. Or it would be, if every aisle weren't blocked by some cretin who has parked a cart in the exact center of the available space, or alongside the one spot where the manager has piled a box of goods in front of the shelves.
Or maybe the cart is off to the side where it belongs, but said cretin is standing beside it, not behind it, pondering the deep philosophical and aesthetic issues attending the selection of fatty snacks and zit creams.
Let me make something clear. I'm not complaining about fat people or old people. I'm complaining about all the damn idiots from every demographic subgroup and human subspecies who lack the common courtesy to remember that they aren't the only people in the universe and should be sensitive enough to the needs of others to move over a mere 12 inches so the rest of us don't have to undertake evasive maneuvers halfway between bumper cars and Twister.
It's all I can do to keep from slapping them with a wet bunch of kale.
And the problem doesn't stop at the supermarket's sliding door.
Most of Tucson's sidewalks are as empty as the heads of those human barricades in the frozen-foods aisle. But there are some stretches of concrete that pedestrians actually use--along Fourth Avenue, at the UA and at a few other sites. Or I should say that pedestrians would use them, if it weren't for the clusters of marching morons.
Typical scenario: I'm walking along Mountain Avenue or Second Street, the two busiest vehicular thoroughfares on the UA campus, and bearing down on me from the opposite direction is a pack of feral sorority girls, three abreast, gum snapping furiously in their jaws. Truly, a frightening sight.
Do they re-configure their group to accommodate oncoming pedestrians? Of course not! They wouldn't have to do it in the wide-open spaces of a shopping mall, so why do it here? That would require thought and an awareness of their surroundings.
So into the gutter I go. I'd barrel right into them, if I weren't so polite and sweet-natured.
This is simple, people: Pay attention to what you're doing. Develop at least a minimal sensitivity to your immediate environment. Share some precious space on our overcrowded planet. Get out of the damn way.
I've got a clump of wet kale in my fist, and I swear, next time I won't hesitate to use it.
THERE WAS A HAPPY ENDING, sort of, to the Paco de Lucia fiasco.
Local fans of world music learned late last month that the folks at Centennial Hall had to cancel the Spanish flamenco guitarist's concert scheduled for Feb. 4. The reason? Our Big Brother overlords in the federal government decided that Tucsonans--and other music lovers around the country--shouldn't hear anything played by bassist Alain Perez Rodriguez. He's a Cuban after all, from an Axis of Evil nation, and the Bush Administration, armed by the Patriot Act, barred Perez Rodriguez from the United States.
Never mind that he's a professional musician who's played with de Lucia for 20 years, that he's lived in Spain for 15, and that he played at Centennial and elsewhere in the United States two years ago, AFTER Sept. 11. Like the other international musicians denied visas by the Homeland Security Administration--including lovable 76-year old Ibraham Ferrer, formerly of the Buena Vista Social Club--Perez Rodriguez is a foreigner presumed dangerous until proven otherwise.
"It's crazy. I can understand not letting combatants in, but bass players?" said Ed Brown, interim director of Centennial Hall's UApresents. "I can't recall anybody blowing up planes with a bass."
Homeland Security eventually wised up in Perez Rodriguez's case and issued him a visa, eight days AFTER the scheduled Tucson show. So now the tour is on, but four cities had to be dropped. Because of Tom Ridge's unseemly interest in what art American citizens patronize, world-music lovers in Tucson, Albuquerque, Chico, Calif., and Arcada, Calif., won't hear a single note of de Lucia and company. But there's more than that immediate injustice at stake. The feds' capricious actions are inevitably causing a chilling effect: Cash-strapped arts organizations are thinking twice before scheduling artists from countries on the Bushies' bad list.
UApresents is a case in point: They lost a big pot of money on the de Lucia cancellation.
"It's risky (financially) to present world music to begin with," Brown said. "If it happens to us more than a couple of times, we'll have to think about the bottom line."
Which may mean no more Cuban bassists or Middle Eastern artists of any stripe. Brown said it was touch-and-go with the Ensemble Kabul last November. The traditional Afghan musicians had so much trouble getting a visa that the concert was almost cancelled. (Study question for our man Ridge: If these Afghanis are playing music, how could they be Taliban members?) Last year, Centennial had to cancel another music concert when the United States banned the Moroccan ensemble L'Orchestre Abdel Krim Rais.
And don't think it's just artists from countries our fearless leaders like to think of as enemies. Canadian actor Geordie Johnson couldn't get a visa to play Torvald in A Doll's House in San Francisco. In December, the American Conservatory Theater gave up trying to get him in the country, and cast an American actor.
One of the many ironies of this iron-fisted arts policy is that the Republicans who so opposed the National Endowment for the Humanities some years ago said over and over that the government should not be sponsoring art and ideas. That's exactly what Bush and company are doing right now: They're making decisions about what Americans can see and hear, in direct violation of our civil liberties. They're applying financial screws to arts groups to get them to stick with a government-approved program. And they're trying to get all of us to sign on to the wild-eyed xenophobic hysteria that passes for patriotism these days.
PARENTS, PLEASE. IT'S NOT a matter of discipline; it's a matter of decency.
Kids are a handful--I don't have to have them to know that. However, it should not be the fate of the serenely childless segment of the population to have to deal with certain parents' lack of attention to their offspring. How about a little responsibility to the public--and to the kids?
Take Exhibit A: Twice in a one-week period, I went to Old Navy for some cheap retail therapy. (I readily admit to using shallow consumerism as a remedy for many ills--but hey, I don't drive an SUV!) I entered the fitting room stall with a couple of frocks and was promptly deafened by a banshee. Actually, it was a toddler--actually, it was three of them, whining about some mysterious grievance. As their mother tuned their cries out, they proceeded to scream and holler in horrendous polyphony. The metallic décor in the room transformed the screeches into the sort of noise they run hearing-loss PSAs about. Meanwhile, the mom blithely continued to neglect them in favor of performance fleece. The fitting rooms rapidly emptied out.
A couple of days later, I accompanied a fellow consumerist, Carly, to another Old Navy location (out of sheer coincidence). As we blissfully wandered the rows of underpriced, overly bright textiles, we were startled out of our reveries when a child across the store threw an award-winning tantrum, putting the shop's incredible acoustics to an incredibly irritating use. This was no mere whine session.
Did Mommy haul her out to the minivan and take the child home, or at least outside? Nope. Instead, she dragged the poor wretch into the capri pants aisle and let her scream, annoying the hell out of everybody within a quarter-mile.
Is it just Old Navy moms who would rather disturb the peace of others than do something about the problem, even if it means missing out on those great pink pants on clearance? I don't think so. The problem is more widespread than that.
In that vein, Exhibit B is truly disturbing. My man-friend, Cory, and I went out for a recent night on the town, including a visit to a local sushi bar. In between bites of luscious salmon skin roll, I turned around to get a little more skin that I'd expected: the bare hindquarters of a little girl, to be precise.
The table behind us was home to a large group of chattering people, including a peculiar woman with an active little girl on her lap, probably a young elementary schooler. Both were inexplicably singing Christmas songs. The woman was holding on to the waistband of the girl's pants and dipping her down so the child's head was going towards the woman's shoes, somersault-style. The obvious side effect of this odd game was that the vast majority of the poor little girl's butt was exposed to the entire restaurant, over and over again. Besides the distasteful nature of the activity, it was atrociously irresponsible. Call me a pessimist, but virtually stripping a cute young gal in public is an Amber Alert waiting to happen. Further, what is it teaching the little girl--that nudity in eating establishments is a good way to have fun?
I could rattle on with examples, as most people could no doubt do, but the deeper issue is that it's usually not the kids' fault. Traditionally, one of the key roles of being a parent is to instill manners and respect, while still allowing the kid to have fun and develop a unique identity. Mom, Dad, please: Your kids are yours for a reason. Don't leave it up to irate journalists to mutter rude things in clothing establishments. Um, not that I did that, of course.