Bernie Bashing and More Really Bad Ideas



The top of my latest really bad ideas roundup goes to Democrats looking for a scapegoat. I've had it with the constant carping that Senator Sanders cost Hillary Clinton the election. The brain-dead Democratic Establishment has managed to brainwash loyalists into treating Sanders like he was a sexist third-party spoiler. What nonsense! He ran against Clinton as a Democrat in the primaries and supported her in the general election.  I wonder why Clintonians think we have primaries in the first place. The nomination wasn't Clinton's by birthright, for heaven's sake. Odd that those Clinton loyalists didn't accuse her of racism for contesting the 2004 primaries won by Barack Obama.

Enough with Democratic alternative facts!  Here are some real ones based on polling data:

·      8% of Democratic voters switched to Trump
·      8% of Republican voters went for Clinton
·      Just 1.1% voted for Jill Stein and the Green Party
·      3.3% voted Libertarian, most of whom were likely disaffected Republicans
·      43% of Democratic voters thought Clinton to be "untrustworthy"
·      35% of registered Democrats stayed home, but so did 32% of those registered with the GOP and 33% of independents
·      Independents now make up 43% of the electorate and vastly outnumber those registered as Democrats (29%) or Republican (26%)
·      Clinton lost the independent vote by a devastating 11%
·      Clinton won the overall women's vote, but 52% of women never attending college went for Trump
·      Clinton won the college-educated vote by 9% but…
·      Just one-third of Americans have a college degree

The data is clear: As Forbes observed, non-voters decided the election. In the critical state of Wisconsin, for example, Trump polled no more votes than Romney four years earlier, but Clinton polled 230,000 fewer votes than Obama. Add to this the fact that Democrats have indeed become a party of elites; they poll very badly with independents, non-professionals, and those with lower educational attainment.

Clinton lost. She was a poor candidate. Turn the page. All the carping, whining, and scapegoating serves only to make Democrats look like the party of acrimony, delusion, atrophy, and the past. Unless that perception changes, Democrats are doomed to be the Federalists of the 21st century—a regional party confined to the Northeast and West Coast. 

It really irks me when high-tech complicates simple things. The Chinese firm Shoulian Zhineng has taken this to hitherto unknown lows. It seems that some businesses are plagued by restroom-users stealing toilet paper. The solution? Dispensers using facial recognition software. Inconvenience meets creepiness. A machine reads faces and then dispenses a single two-foot-long stream of toilet tissue. Don't even try for more. Not surprisingly, some of these $700 machines have been sabotaged—and rightly so. Yes, you read that right–$700 to prevent people from lifting a 70-cent roll of toilet paper. As bad ideas go, this one stinks to high heaven. If toilet paper theft  has really reached  epidemic proportions in China, isn't the real solution to improve economic conditions so that people don't have to debase themselves this way?


Flying simply isn't much fun these days. Name a beloved American airline. Yeah—I give up as well. That said, it's a really, really bad idea to fly on either Frontier or Spirit. Normally I don't get excited about Internet customer reviews; they are the forums of either the disgruntled or shills, and a larger sample size is needed for them to be remotely scientific. Still, it's hard to ignore reviews when no one has anything good to say about these two carriers. Each reinterprets the word "discount" as "you don't count." No-frills doesn't even begin to get it. Water will cost you $4 a pop on Frontier, which also offers you a whopping 24 inches of seat space with a 4 inch clearance from the passenger in front of you—assuming that patron doesn't recline. Check a bag and it's more than $60. Want to arrive on time? Hah, hah—that's a good one! A Boston Globe reporter wanted to try Frontier to see if it was as bad as billed. His verdict was that it was worse! Moreover, he "saved" just $60 after paying for several "frills." I recall an old slogan about the Yugo, considered by many to be the worst car ever sold: "If you can only afford a Yugo, you can't afford to drive." You see where I'm going with this?


Pizza Hut hired an Israeli ad agency and posted its handiwork: an imprisoned Palestinian hunger striker secretly snacking on—you guessed it!—a slice of P-Hut 'za. Wow! That is soooo funny. Are you freaking kidding me? Pizza Hut apologized. Oh swell. That's what idiots do these days when their idiocy goes public. Who thought this was amusing? Fire them. Fire also the head of the ad agency that either green-lighted the ad or was asleep at the wheel. Now let's turn to Pizza Hut. It boggles the mind that anyone associated with the company could have allowed this to go forward—even in an age in which it seems to be okay to insult the weak. Sounds like the Democratic Party isn't the only entity that needs a top-to-bottom makeover. How about a new ad: "Pizza Hut: Awful food for Awful People."


The Sleepwalker a Thrilling Mystery

Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday, 284 pages

The tenor of Chris Bohjalian’s new novel is established by the Sylvia Plath epigraph that opens the book: “I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in me.” It is, exactly as billed, a story in which a major character, Annalee Ahlberg, sleepwalks.

Annalee is in her late forties, but still strikingly beautiful and the mother of two precious daughters: Lianna, a senior at Amherst College; and twelve-year-old Paige, precocious beyond her years. Annalee is an architect and her husband, Warren, a professor at Middlebury College. They live the life of the privileged upper middle class—complete with a sprawling Victorian home in the nearby village of Bartlett—except for two complicating factors: Annalee has had multiple miscarriages and she’s prone to sleepwalking. Hers isn’t the kind in which she cluelessly raids the fridge at 3 am; she roams in ways that put her in danger. Lianna once found her naked on the bridge railing high above the Gale River; one slip and she surely would have died.

Bohjalian is a masterful storyteller who knows how to build suspense. He also does his homework. Annalee is a major character, but in absence. One night, when her husband is at an academic conference, Annalee disappears. What became of her? That’s the heart of this novel and, along the way, you will learn a lot about sleepwalking. Perhaps you find this thin material from which to construct a mystery. I assure you that you’re wrong. What happened to Annalee becomes the consuming passion of Warren, his daughters, and Detective Gavin Rickert, who knows a few things about sleepwalking as he too has been treated for that disorder. Coincidentally, Annalee was in his support group. Or was that merely a coincidence?

Bohjalian probes lots of things, including how sleepwalking is treated and how families deal with unresolved grief. Lianna is the functional adult in the story—the one who deals with the prosaic details over which her flighty father stumbles, provides emotional support for her sister, serves as the mom substitute who takes Paige to swim meets, and is the reliable link between the investigation and the investigators. All anyone has to go on is a small piece of fabric from Annalee’s nightgown discovered near the river. Is Annalee in the river? How does one deal with the uncertainty? As the main adult in the room, Lianna unearths things about her parents that children don’t usually want to know, all of which raise questions. Who are the self-identified close friends Lianna only saw as casual acquaintances? Did her mother have a lover? What does her sleepwalking counselor know about her condition? Why did it reappear after many years? Is the condition heritable?

The Sleepwalker is a taut mystery. Parts of it will creep you out; other sections will make your skin crawl as well—but for reasons that are different from what you first imagined. It’s a credit to Bohjalian that he can make us feel such things and keep us unbalanced and uncertain in the process. To be fair, some may find contrived detail, and I can imagine that some readers will be perturbed by they feel is as an inappropriate relationship. Like all mystery novels, of course, the lead detective spends more time on Annalee’s disappearance than would ever happen in real life.

No matter. This book is the epitome of a page-turner. As an added bonus, Bohjalian frequently sets his novels in recognizable Vermont locations. There is no Bartlett and the actual Gale River is in New Hampshire, but there is a Bartlett Falls on the New Haven River near Bristol, Vermont, which is probably the model for Bohjalian’s village and stream. He uses actual places when scenes shift to Burlington. All of this is to say that The Sleepwalker has an added layer of enjoyment for those who know the Middlebury-Bristol-Burlington area. But you will devour this book even if you’ve never set foot in the Green Mountain State.

Rob Weir


Being Canadian Mockumentary is Cheap but Hysterical

Directed by Robert Cohen
Grainey Pictures, 89 minutes, Not rated
★★★ ½

Premise: People in the United States know nothing about Canada. Concept: Make a comic film that riffs off their ignorance and Canadians' confusion over their own identity. Rob Cohen was the right man for the job. If the name doesn't ring immediate bells, check out the writing credits for some of your favorite TV comedies such as The Ben Stiller Show, Big Bang Theory, and The Simpsons. These are just a handful of the shows for which he has contributed his wit.

The humor in Being Canadian is broad and cheap, but it's also wickedly funny. Early in the film actor Russell Peters complains that Canadians are so invisible that Americans are shocked when one of "their" cultural icons identifies as Canuck. Cohen aims his camera at an effusion of Canadian-born celebrities, including: Will Arnett, Dan Aykroyd, The Barenaked Ladies, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Howie Mandel, Alanis Morrissette, Mike Myers, Catherine O' Hara, Seth Rogen, Rush, Paul Shaffer, William Shatner, and Alex Trebek.

The film opens with an animated quiz designed to prove that outsiders don't know anything about Canada. I actually knew the answer for all of the questions, but I'm hardly typical south of the border stock in this regard. Cohen punctuates the film with interviews with non-Canadians and I sincerely hope the American bubbleheads in the film were plants, or the US of A is in deep polar bear doo-doo. Cohen's thin-as-a-Vegas G-string plot is a road trip from Nova Scotia to British Columbia in nine days, timing his arrival to partake of Canada Day festivities in Vancouver. Along the way he hopes to uncover the Canadian identity. That's actually a joke within a joke given the rivers of ink depleted by Canadian writers on the very subject. Cohen's tone is absurdist and insouciant. For example, his journey across Quebec treads gently on separatist sentiment, but goes long on an unsolved heist of $18 million worth of maple syrup from a provincial warehouse. The entire journey is Michael Moore by way of Saturday Night Live: a series of set-up questions followed by mock interviews, a few serious remarks, some shtick, and Cohen chewing up screen time. Among the questions he poses are explorations of why Canadians are so nice, why they have an inferiority complex, and why their comedians are funnier than those born in the States.

There is great hilarity in explorations of the lameness of Canadian TV, with The Beachcombers serving as corroborating evidence. "It's our Gunsmoke," notes Jason Priestly, in the midst of a parade of commentators expressing incredulity that anything that woeful could have aired for twenty years. I've never seen it, but the clips made Petticoat Junction look like Shakespeare. Cohen also pokes fun at Canadian food, concluding there's no such thing, and marvels that Canada's national sport, curling, is even lamer than The Beachcombers. There's also the delicious insight that "nice" Canadians are obsessed by ice hockey, a sport in which grown men pummel each other. Niceness is again lampooned when Cohen visits a charm specialist and asks her how she'd question a mistaken $300 hotel surcharge for porno movies and booze. Predictably, it begins with, "I'm sorry, but could you please…." In another segment, Howie Mandel goes faux nuclear on toques.

There are numerous cheesy segments, not the least of which is the ongoing gag of Cohen and Dave Foley lying side-by-side in bed—seemingly naked—and musing on all things Canadian. Once was funny, but really…. Of course, Cohen didn't actually make the trip in nine days—unless you believe there was a massive July 1 snowstorm/freeze in Ottawa that roused skaters and skiers from their summer dens. This is, of course, a riff on outsider views that all of Canada is a frozen wasteland. The cartoon apparition of Wayne Gretzky certainly won't make Terry Gilliam quake in competitive fear and the film's "discovery" at the end is saccharine and foreordained. Cohen is almost misty-eyed upon passing through his native Calgary, but he also implies that "passing through" is necessary for an aspirational Canadian. Cohen leaves unexamined the fact that he now lives in LA and that most of the celebs he interviews are longtime friends and fellow exiles. 

But then, again, maybe I'm taking this too seriously. Being Canadian is really a mockumentary posing as a documentary. Much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Does that fuel the stereotype of self-deprecating Canadians? Perhaps, but I'm happy to have Canada as my neighbor and am puce with envy of the civility and rationality of daily life there. And, yeah, most Canadian comedians are funnier than those in the States. The beer and folk music are better as well.  

Rob Weir