Archive for December, 2006

First they Came for the Trans Fats, and I did not Speak Up

...and then there was no one left to speak up for me. Pity the poor citizens of New York City. Their most basic human rights have been stripped away. The freedom to choose has been stripped from them by a big brother who says he knows what's best. Adam Smith, George Washington, and Milton Friedman are spinning in their graves, and the Statue of Liberty sheds a single, rusty tear as she gazes across the at a once free people. No, I'm not talking about illegal domestic wire tapping, or the denial of the First Amendment via remote "free speech zones." We all know that those are required to combat terrorism, and triffling privileges like those are a small cost for combating terrorism. I am talking about a much more important freedom: the right to choose to eat foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, rich with trans fats. "Dear god, say it isn't so!" you shout. "What will they ban next?" Probably baseball and apple pie. But while I would join you in protesting and future attacks on baseball and apple pie, I am afraid I cannot join in your outrage over the trans fat ban, for three reasons: First off, trans fats are really, really bad for us. Consuming them results in much harm and no benefit whatsoever. I'm not going to say anything more about this point, the research is out there. Secondly, a trans fat ban does not really take any choice away from consumers. How can that be? Let's perform a scientific experiment. Walk into a restaurant, sit down to order, and examine the menu. Exercise your right to choose by picking out the food with the most trans fat. Having a hard time? That's okay, ask the waiter or waitress which food has the most trans fat. Still having difficulties? Demand to speak to the manager. See if that helps. Although trans fat content above .5 grams has been required on packaged food labels for almost a year, there is often no way to know the trans fat content in restaurant food. You have no way to choose because to have no basis for making a choice. This is not a case of nanny-state Marxism injecting inefficiency into the free market, this is a small, but very real, market failure--a very common case where one (or both) sides of a transaction do not have the information needed to rationally pursue their own interests. A sufficient amount of transparency a necessary condition for a free market. If lack of information and transparency is the problem, why not simply require labeling in restaurants instead of banning trans fats outright? Quite frankly, holding restaurants (especially sole proprietorships and "mom and pop" shops) to accurate food labeling would be much, much more costly to them than an outright ban. No more chefs deciding today's special on based solely on their skill and artistry - everything would need to be vetted and nutrition calculated. A huge apparatus of state would need to be created for testing and enforcement. I can't see too many libertarians in favor of that. Third, banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with make food better, not worse. The truth of the matter is, if they had managed to somehow eliminate trans fats in secret, you would not have even noticed. Trans fats are not used to enhance the flavor of food; the most they can do is effect the texture of foods that have been sitting out for a long time. Restaurants do not use them because they are what consumers demand or prefer - they use them so that they can leave the same oil in the fryer for a longer period of time and sell girl scout cookies baked long ago as if they were fresh. If anything, a ban will result in fresher food. Costs may go up for restaurants, but not by an inordinate amount - Denmark banned trans fats in 2003, yet you can still get McDonald's french fries without taking out a loan. Taste is, of course, very subjective. There are plenty of chefs swearing they cannot do without. But keep this fact in mind: very, very little food made in the 1980s or earlier had anywhere near the amount of trans fat found in foods today. And yet historical records show people living in such ancient times considered their food "yummy" and "delicious." Removing trans fats is in fact a return to cooking "just like mom used to make." Finally, I can't take seriously any argument against the ban founded on "first they said this was bad, now that" cynicism. I know, I know... first they said saturated fats were bad, so you stopped eating butter. Now they say trans fats are bad, so you can't eat margarine anymore. Clearly these "scientists" have lost all credibility and are just toying with the public for their own amusement. I hate to have to be the one to break it to you, but this is actually a perfect example of how science works. The scientific method is not a way to prove, beyond all doubt, that something is true with a capital 'T.' It is a way to come up with the best explanation given the data available. That best explanation will almost necessarily change over time - first came enough evidence to accept that fatty foods were linked to heart disease. Then, as more information and finer measurements were taken, it was discovered that saturated fats, in particular, a re very bad. Then, after the food industry started replacing saturated fats with trans fats, more and more data because available leading to the conclusion that trans fats are even worse than saturated fats. I am sorry if this is distressing to you. If you want (relatively) unchanging truth, you are more than welcome to turn to the various religions of the world. But keep this in mind: unlike other systems, science and its application have consistently generated real-world results, such as vaccination, air planes, antibiotics, the internal combustion engine, rockets, nuclear weapons, and the XBox 360. Perhaps ten years from now we will discover that only trans fats with certain numbers of carbon atoms are really bad, and some are okay. Oh well.

What You Should Be Watching: Post-Holiday Gifts to Yourself

By the time Christmas is over, you're going to have some gift cards to spend and some returns to make. Forget buying books or CDs with your Borders gift card (dude, CDs are so 2005) - instead, stock up on some television show boxed sets. Instead of shoveling the driveway or doing whatever people do in the winter in places where it doesn't snow, stay inside and rot your brain AGAIN with these hours upon hours of television goodness. All commercial-free! The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThis is hands-down the best Holmes series out there. Jeremy Brett (as Holmes) basically turned himself into a raving lunatic to bring us the most true-to-story Sherlock possible, and the writers of this first series worked hard to keep true to Doyle's works as well. Fans of House and CSI will appreciate the original "so clever it hurts" character after which Greg House and Gil Grissom are often cited as being modeled after. Brett is a sexy bastard as well. There's other Granada Television (of Great Britian) Holmes series starring Brett, such as The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, which are also good but Adventures is the place to start. The original 13 episodes, included in this set, had the best scripts and Brett was still at the top of his game. As the later series came about, the quality of Holmes stories left from which to choose became a stumbling block for the writers. Brett also started losing his mind a bit and his health got worse. By the time The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was shot (the final series), Brett was literally having to be propped up in order to appear in the shows. But this first series is can't-miss. Sets are amazingly accurate, Brett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke as Watson give spot-on performances and the scripts couldn't be more accurate. Investing in this series will definitely up your geek cred by letting you discuss Holmes with your bookstorecoffeeshop buddies as if you've actually read the books. Freaks & Geeks Freaks & GeeksI'm a sucker for all things 80's and also for all things geek, so when I picked this box up I immediately joined the ranks of the fans crying "why was this show cancelled?!" The show is about the Geeks - Sam, Bill and Neal - and the Freaks - Daniel, Nick, Ken and Kim - who go to high school in Michigan in the 80's. Their paths both parallel and cross, as Sam's older sister tries hard to get in with the loser/stoner Freaks while trying to shed her actual identity as a Geek. The acting is great and the writing is even better. It stands to reason, as writer Paul Feig has gone on to work on shows such as Arrested Development, The Office and Weeds. And the show's executive producer, Judd Apatow, worked on The Larry Sanders Show, The Ben Stiller Show, and was co-creator of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So how did this amazing show get canceled so quick? The Jocks, of course. No one wanted to watch a show about those kids no one talked to in high school. Well no one but the millions of people who identified with said kids - but they aren't the ones in charge. Put this one in the pile with Newsradio and Arrested Development as "shows that were too good for television" and trust me on this one. And, if you're buying it from Amazon, don't be afraid to bundle this purchase with the Undeclared boxed set too. Undeclared is sort of a follow-up to this show, also created by Feig and Apatow. Different characters and different time frame, and it takes place in college, but the quality is still there. The Simpsons (Seasons 1-9) The Simpsons"But I've already seen all of the episodes of The Simpsons!" I know you have, Spiff, but I think you can watch them again. Each boxed set comes with over 9 hours of episodes PLUS commentary on every episode. The first couple of seasons got off to a rocky start, but once the writers and actors hit their grooves the show became a classic. Now that the show is in season 18, people are complaining that the air is slowly leaking out of the Simpsons bag. Fair enough, but this didn't become one of the top television shows ever for no reason. For those of you who feel a little left out when your pals start quoting every line, picking up the boxed sets and watching every episode through will not only make you more culturally aware but kill a lot of time. For those of you who are doing the quoting, the commentary for each episode is worth the price of the set. And watching The Simpsons without commercials sort of takes away the pain when an episode isn't wowing you right out of the gate. Seasons 4 through 12, I think, are the best to look for (obviously, they've only released up to 9) so if you're not seriously into it you can pass up the first few seasons. This may not be a series you can watch again and again but you can be sure that if your current Netflix selection is a little dull or if you need some indoor activity for these insanely long hours of winter darkness, popping in a few episodes of The Simpsons will bring you a few dozen hours of solid comedy television. The Office (UK) The OfficeI can't believe how people love The Office (US) so much and keep telling me they're not interested in the UK version. The ORIGINAL version. Starring Ricky Fucking Gervaise for God's sake. What's your hangup? Sure, Steve Carell is awesome and that kid who plays Jim is alright but they can't replace the original. Gervaise is, to put it in words you will understand, "off the hook" - an even goofier boss. And Tim (the UK's Jim) is more sad (and played by Arthur Dent!), Gareth (Dwight) is more pathetic and the entire office has a bit more of that very creepy and depressing vibe to it. Now, I'm not knocking the US series. From what I've seen of it, it's cool. Plus it's on TV right now which is more than we can say for the UK version. But you've got to see Gervaise doing "the dance" and see Mackenzie Crook (Gareth) wearing bike shorts. You've got to see the pub quizzes and the Christmas parties and "the kiss." Everything you love about the American version is here and perfected the first time around. The UK show only lasts 2 seasons (with a Christmas special) and is quite neatly wrapped up with no loose ends. Trust me on this one - it's like the difference between American Coke in a can and Mexican Coke in a bottle (made with real sugar). The American version is great and handy but if you can get your hands on the "original" it'll be pure enjoyment. The Kids in the Hall (Complete Set) The cleverest sketch comedy show ever. Took forever to get these shows to DVD so count your blessings and pass the Tim Horton's. Newsradio (Seasons 1-4) When was the last time you thought about this show? Oh...every time I mention it on this blog. Right on. Well, what are you waiting for? Jeeves & Wooster (complete set) I said it before in this entry and I'll say it again - Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry kick ass. This is one of those shows you can watch over and over again and not get bored. Like Holmes, it's a perfect adaptation of classic British literature. It's fun to watch and it makes u look sm4rt. Arrested Development (complete set) I know it's almost a cliche to say this is the funniest show on television ever (American television - see The Office (UK)) but it really is friggin' hilarious. It goes by so fast, you have to watch it a couple times to fully appreciate it. Which is why you need the boxed set.

5 Survival Tips for the War on Christmas

Since many of our troops are committed to the War in Iraq, we find ourselves once again facing an even more dangerous situation here at home. That's right, the War on Christmas. Because the politically correct mainstream media refuses to cover this silent scourge, it's a little-known fact that the War on Christmas now accounts for more deaths in the United States than any other single cause except for diseases and misfortunes. Every time the clerk at the Seven-Eleven says "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas," it is a terrorist attack akin to flying a building into a plane, except this happens 1000 times every day. So what can you do to survive this trying ordeal (and maybe kick some butt back)? Here are five tips for surviving the War on Christmas: 1. Remind everyone that America is a Christian nation, founded by Christians on Christian moral standards (as Jesus said, "If they raise the tax on tea again, I'm going to fucking riot!"). They have no choice but to celebrate Christmas, and wish you a merry one. It's in the Constitution... or the Bible maybe... whatever, same thing. 2. Build a Yuletide fallout shelter. You can find construction plans for a sturdy backyard bomb shelter for sale via mail order - check the back pages of a 1966 Popular Science magazine. When the big one hits, it won't be the godless atheists you are fighting - it will be your own neighbors. Stock plenty of provisions such as egg nog, canned Christmas Goose and mistletoe. When the evil radiation of agnosticism begins to clear, send out a dove and do not leave the shelter until it returns with an olive branch. 3. Refuse to shop at any big-box retailer whose employees do not vigorously and specifically bombard you with Christmas blessings. Remember, multi-billion dollar corporations have feelings and care about you as a customer - going to Best Buy instead of Circuit City really makes a difference in the world. Boycott any store with a "Season's Greetings" banner, except for the big sale next Sunday, because seriously, I heard they will have this DVD player for like $29 and they will only have 10 per store so I'm going to camp out Saturday night. 4. Don't forget the true meaning of Christmas. A lot of secular humanists and other fascists will blather on about the spirit of giving, the importance of charity, fellowship and good will towards your fellow man, and other hippy garbage. Also, Santa Claus Frosty the Snowman are not the reason for the season. The true meaning of Christmas is how important it is that Jesus' mom did not have sex before he was born. This is very important. 5. This last tip is absolutely the most important thing you can do this holiday season to survive the War on Christmas: whine and cry about it day and night. Bitch and moan to your friends, family and coworkers. If you have your own cable news show, talk about how offended you are, and how the liberals have gone too far this time, and how political correctness is sending America down a slippery slope toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Maoism. For god's sake, write letters to the editor of your local paper! Construct unfunny "observational humor" jokes to point out how ironic it is when liberals oppress Christians in the name of multiculturalism (BTW you don't understand irony). Strain to work in that zinger that your golf buddy faxed you in 1993 about 'Billary' Clinton, make relevant pop cultural references to the ACLU and feminists! Pontificate over and over about how much better things were in the good old days, when every five and dime had a big, gory crucifix on the wall and we went downtown to see the department store displays but then we saw a black person once in 1973 so we moved far, far out to the suburbs and I hear they are opening a Country Kitchen isn't that exciting! Why don't you call, what am I, chopped liver? You kids get off my lawn! Remember, when a cashier making $6 an hour doing a boring, repetitive job is required by company policy to numbly acknowledge your presence, and they don't do it in your preferred manner, you are being oppressed! You should feel indignant - who will protect Christianity if not you? It's not like you're part of the overwhelming majority. It's not like all three branches of government at the federal, state, and local level are dominated by Christians. You are the scrappy underdog in this Culture War (by Bill O'Reilly), imagine a Hanukkah boot stomping on the face of humanity for all eternity! Thanks to Business Week for bringing this issue to my attention.

Saturday Night Live Shocks America

The shock is that it's actually funny. [youtube]1dmVU08zVpA[/youtube] And in case you missed it, the other funny sketch from the past 5 years: [youtube]SRkFW1gjeL8[/youtube]

Ask a Stupid Question: Unicorns

unicorn6.jpgYahoo has started a new feature on its website called Yahoo! Answers. On it people can ask any sort of question they like and have it answered by other people on the web. Now if your like me your probably thinking why would I want to ask people on the web they're all a bunch of furry loving idiot losers who are only answering questions in between looking at whatever disgusting subfetish furry site they happen to be masturbating to at the time, and you'd be right. So I took it upon myself to ask these morons a stupid question and then post their answers on this site so that they can be publicly mocked. For my first question I picked a topic that I'm sure has been on a lot of people's mind for a while, Are all Unicorns gay or just some? Here is the original thread and below I posted the stupidest answers with my own evaluations of them. unicorn11.jpg I guess if you were wearing a unicorn it would like pretty gay, plus I'm sure PeTA would be pissed. unicorn2.jpg Wow thanks for typing all that out for that lame joke at the end that doesn't even make sense. What does Heterocorn even mean I mean it's not a pun or anything. Maybe if they were called Homocorns then it would make sense. I guess Unicorn and Bi-Corn kind of works, but you ruined it with the hyphen stupid. That joke should be gay unicorn are called Bicorns because they have horns stuck in both ends. unicorn3.jpg Okay unless you are a thirteen old girl masquerading as a 40 year old bald loser then you have no business reading fantasy novels about unicorns. But I do hear Peter Jackson will be directing the first "Spellsinger" movie, oh no wait that only happens in the pathetic fantasy world in you mind. unicorn4.jpg Um...Unicorns are real if you read the bible it says they were their before the great flood, but did not get on the ark because they were too busy horning each other (horning being the gay Unicorn equivalent of fisting) to get on the ark. However, some did survive in the underwater city of Atlantis, with the Lesbian Dragons. So unless your saying the bible and Jesus are wrong then I guess you are. And finally the dumbest answer. unicorn5.jpg Yeah cuz if I did I'd land on his horn, oh wait that's right Unicorns have four legs so if I did jump on him I would just land on his back and we'd ride away over a rainbow bridge into the clouds. Well I don't think we really answered the question here, but gay or not Unicorns still can kick your ass with that horn of theirs. Well until next time I'm off to finish up reading the Spellsinger series, then pretend I'm an anthropmorphic Unicorn in a world of other anthropomorphic mythical creatures who love and accept me, and also make me wear a diaper.