[Image: Pool Cleaners From Distant Planets]

One Nation Under a Delusion

by Rhaab and Myk-El

"I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing." -- Jon Stewart

Bush did this, Obama did that! Obama is going to round people up and put them into camps! Bush is going to cancel elections! No, wait, Clinton already did! Shut up already. You people have no damn sense of perspective.

Newsflash: in representative governments -- whether a direct democracy, a one-step-removed republic, or a mix of both -- you don't always get your way. But the simple fact is that you have a much better shot at it than you would in lots of other systems of government. Don't believe us? Go play a game in Sid Meier's Civilization series and get back to us.

The simple fact is that most of you whiners have no idea how good you have it. Ask the people of Zeon what it's like to live on Ekos. Talk to the Narn about being ruled by the Centauri. Ask our own Myk-El about being under Zod's boot. Chat with the leaders of Alderaan about Palpatine's regime -- oh, wait, you can't.

Even if we just stick with Earth, which most of you seem content to do, there are still a lot worse places to be than the USA. Have you heard of this North Korea place? Yeah, apparently it wasn't just a plot device for that show Alan Alda was on. Absolutely batshit crazy leadership in that country. And what about your supposed ally, Saudi Arabia? Have you heard about how they treat women over there? Half of the population is denied basic rights like education and privileges like driving, not to mention they can be punished for being victims of a crime. (No, really, look it up.)

We get that you feel like things are different from how they used to be. Guess what? That's called being alive. The mythical Golden Age you're longing for never existed. (Don't make us do another paragraph of "just ask so-and-so" lines -- just take our word for it.) If you think that a tax increase of less than 5 percent that affects less than 2 percent of the population is tyranny, you're lacking perspective (again). If you think someone has somehow taken your country away from you, you're misguided. If you believe that having representation in your government -- as in, "no taxation without representation" -- depends on the elected Congressbeing from your district sharing your exact views, well, you're just stupid.

But imagine, just for a moment, that someone came along promising a Utopia that would knock your socks off. Imagine no more sickness, no more poverty, huge jumps in technological acheivement, and that personalized license plates would be required to mean something. Imagine never reading the pseudo-word "xtreme" again. Imagine finding out that Carrot Top was going to go away for good. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Except that's when the real tyranny starts. Those are just a few of the results of us finally gaining power, but we can't promise you'll like all of them. What happens when your favorite reality show gets cancelled? What happens when all of them get cancelled? Maybe you spend 10 hours a day playing online games inspired by organized crime, and then suddenly you get the word that pop culture's love affair with mobsters is over... by law. And don't even talk to us about the professional athletes somehow forced to scrape by on the miserly sum of a mere million dollars a year. Because tyrants don't give a damn about what you think.

We would love to set ourselves up as tyrants over this whole planet -- anybody who has ever visited our website knows that. And no, we wouldn't care what you think, you would never have a voice, you would never be able to vote us out, and chunks of asteroids dropped from orbit would leave your Second Amendment rights at the bottom of the resulting crater. Representative government isn't looking so bad now, is it? Even when you're on the losing side, it's just a matter of time before your team is on top again. With alien overlords, though, about all you can hope for is being somebody who already happens to agree with us.

What are we saying? We're saying that things could be (and often are) worse. We're saying that you might want to tone down the hyperbole, maybe take it down a notch for America. We're saying that people on opposite ends of the political spectrum may not always understand each other, but that doesn't mean they have to try (or are already trying) to destroy each other. We're saying that you should use your freedom of choice, your freedom of choice.

If you don't care for the system you have now, that's understandable. It's not perfect because no system is perfect. But there are alternatives. We're one of them. And we're waiting. Don't think we won't do it. And just remember that a government that can get rid of Carrot Top can get rid of you, too.

Homeworld Improvement, Part 3: Ground Rules

by Rhaab

There's a bit of human wisdom that goes something like, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I liked it as soon as I heard it, but I assumed it was a fairly new concept; after all, it doesn't seem to have caught on. Can you imagine my surprise when I learned that some variant of this saying has been around for thousands of years? At this point, I can only assume that it's being consistently misinterpreted: "Do one to others before they do one to you."

I don't know if a similie involving empathy is too difficult for most of you to grasp, or if you've just got so many official rules laying around that you can't keep them all straight, but you really need to do better than this. Look, I don't have any kind of "in" with galactic society or anything like that, but I can tell you that if you want to be taken seriously as a civilization -- if you want to survive, and expand, and learn the secrets of the universe that you haven't figured out yet -- there are some things you're going to have to give up!

We'll set aside the lesser offenses for now and go straight to the top: you need to stop killing each other just because you can.

Need some clarification? No problem, there are plenty of examples to work with. The ones I'll present are in no particular order, so don't go getting ideas that any of them are less important.

Stop killing people at educational institutions. No matter what they may do, say, teach, or believe at any of these institutions, you need to stop killing (or even trying to kill) at schools. Guns, knives, pipe bombs, it doesn't matter; cut it out. This goes double for anyone who isn't a student at the high school, university, or whatever in question. Adults trying to pick off kids, I'm looking at you.

Stop killing people who are just trying to do their jobs. Let's say that you have some sort of gripe with actions taken by the military. The whole organization has somehow done something that just rubs you the wrong way. A rational person would write a letter to the Commander-in-Chief or to either the House or Senate Committee on Armed Services to highlight his or her concerns, or all three. A slightly less-rational person would make a sign and stand around in a visible place with it, 'cause that always does a lot of good. A moron would phone up the Pentagon switchboard and try to get through to somebody willing to listen. But to open fire at a recruitment office? To put bullets into people who have absolutely nothing to do with policy decisions, and who put in their days promising college money to kids who aren't sure what they want to do with their lives yet? That's a sign you've completely lost your shit.

Similarly, if your tax troubles and nutjob reasoning lead you to the conclusion that you should crash a plane into a building that happens to have an IRS presence -- along with the presence of several other offices that have nothing to do with your crazed vendetta -- then there may not be adequate words to describe what's wrong with you. A tip for anyone else in that lunatic's situation: sell your damn plane and use that to pay your tax bill. Don't like taxes? Take a look at historical tax rates and realize how low they actually are compared to the not-too-distant past. And file on time even if you think you don't have to. As they say elsewhere on the internet, STFU and GBTW. And if any readers are among the freaks that think that guy is some sort of hero, you have no place in society. Either head off to the government-free Antarctic wilderness... or kill yourself.

Stop killing people who follow a different religion from yours. Seriously, people, how difficult is this? I don't care what you think about the Jews, the Whos, the Hindus, the Hooloovoos, or the Bugaloos; killing "them" doesn't put points on the board for whatever "us" you belong to. Sure, they can get annoying when they show up at your door to try to convert you, but have you ever tried being polite? If that doesn't work for some reason, it only takes a small container of blood to repel Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons can be warded off with Irish Coffee. Just plain don't like what they believe? Fine, go believe something else. Murder isn't going to persuade anybody to drop Ahura Mazda like he's hot and start following Quetzalcoatl, so why do you even bother? Oh, and as far as I'm concerned, opening fire at the Holocaust Museum combines elements of this section and the previous one, so it's two offenses in one.

Stop killing people who aren't your color. I have to give you partial credit; this one doesn't happen as often as it did as recently as just a few decades ago. So while that's an improvement, there's the whole problem that, y'know, it shouldn't be happening at all.

Stop killing people who have sexual proclivities that you don't. This applies even (or especially) if you claim that you don't, but you're secretly filled with interest, arousal, denial, and self-loathing. You shouldn't care what people are doing sexually if you're not part of the picture. Are both (or all) people involved consenting adult sapient beings? If someone is getting hurt, is it because they want to? If the answer to both questions is yes -- or if the first answer is yes and the second doesn't apply -- it's none of your damn business.

Believe it or not, what other people do in the bedroom is not a threat to you or your way of life, and neither is what they do outside of the bedroom. If gay people want to get married, so what? How does that harm your marriage? If your children are confused by seeing two men holding hands, so what? Kids are confused all the time, and it's your job as a parent to explain stuff. If you find out the lady down the street makes good money spanking businessmen, so what? It's not your money or your buttocks. If you see people walking around in fursuits, so what? That's what tasers are for.

Now, I do realize that somebody else's sexuality might intrude on your little world from time to time, in the form of an unwelcome proposition. Once again, this is not a threat; it's actually a compliment. Just as I said about people trying to convert you, you should try being polite. You'd be surprised at what it can accomplish. All it takes is a simple "No, thank you." If you're feeling especially gracious, you can say, "I'm flattered, Senator, but I don't swing that way. Besides, my flight is leaving soon."

Stop killing people who perform legal medical procedures. Yes, this also falls under the category of people doing thier jobs, but this happens enough to merit a special mention. Look, I understand why it bothers some of you, but shooting doctors isn't the answer. Take another case to the Supreme Court if it's that important to you.

When is it acceptable to kill someone? Originally, I was going to end this with broad, sweeping generalizations of wars and conquests throughout history, and include some situations where it would be all right to kill someone else. The thing is, though, I don't need the kind of trouble that would come back on me if some psycho's manifesto/blog linked to this. "He said it was all right!" There's a whole lot of crazy on the internet, boys and girls, and I don't want anyone thinking I'm an enabler.

Because of that, unless we're in a one-on-one conversation and I know you really well, I'm not telling anybody what might be the right sort of situation for killing another human. So remember, when you happen upon the "star" of a reality show and start to beat the hell out of this person, make sure that he or she is still alive when you're done.

Homeworld Improvement, Part 2: They're Super, Thanks for Asking

by Rhaab

You know what else you can do to make this planet a better place? You can stop hassling the gay people, that's what.

Some clarification first: Yes, some of you have made great strides in actually treating your fellow human beings like, well, human beings. A great number of people out there, however, are still so primitive it's depressing. Those are the people that I'm concerned with -- despite the fact that none of them are cool enough or intelligent enough to be reading this website. (Hell, some of them may not even be completely literate.)

Additional clarification: by gay, I mean gay, lesbian, bisexual, the people who aren't sure, the people who feel that the contents of their brains don't match the contents of their pants, and so on. I'm trying to encompass what has been described to me as "alphabet soup", with some of the better-known abbreviations including LGBT, GLAAD, PFLAG, and OMGWTFBBQ. I'm sure that there's some sort of descriptive term I could use that would cover the whole spectrum of types of people, both the visible and hidden members of the community. For now, I'll just keep using "gay" as an overall term, but I'll let you know if I come up with something more colorful.

(Side note: I'm not trying to offend anyone by lumping a whole bunch of people into one category; I'm doing it for the sake of convenience as I write. If you do get offended, you aren't the first to get miffed at the PCfDP. In other words, you're just like everybody else, as far as I'm concerned.)

And it should go without saying -- but it doesn't, so I'm gonna say it -- that I'm only condoning relationships and/or sexual acts that involve CONSENTING ADULTS. Some of you anti-gay types seem to equate homosexuality with kiddy-diddling, for some reason. Most of the adult-with-a-minor sex I read about is of the straight variety, usually involving teachers and their students. (Of course, I'm a frequent visitor to Fark.com, so that may have something to do with it.) And don't even get me started on that contingent that believes that gay marriage will lead to humans marrying animals. The great majority of people would never, EVER have that thought occur to them, but you sick freaks go there every time. You pervs can just leave right now, and take your livestock with you.

In the more advanced civilizations, being gay is no more of a big deal than being left-handed. (Or whatever the equivalent is for any given manipulatory appendages.) In the really primitive cultures, everybody's too concerned with survival to worry about what people are doing with each other. If somebody does happen to bring up that Yurg of the Hill Clan doesn't like the ladies, I'm sure the response is something like, "It's odd he doesn't want children when he's so good with his sister's kids." Either that or, "Good for him, we've got as many ankle-biters as we can handle right now."

That's right, gay people can actually be a survival benefit to the group. Not only are they not reproducing (in most circumstances) in times of limited resources, they also have a genetic stake in their siblings and the children of their siblings. In other words, they have enough DNA in common with nieces and nephews to be interested in their success. Anyone arguing that having homosexuality of any sort in the species is an evolutionary dead end was obviously not paying attention in biology class. Similarly, anyone calling it un-natural hasn't really looked that closely at what goes on in nature.

Of course, the people who understand science are almost never the problem when it comes to topics like this. The trouble is almost always with people who selectively follow rules laid down by long-dead desert nomads. They're dead, things were different then, and anyway they were always cranky thanks to sand in every orifice; it's time to reconsider some of their hang-ups. And for those who believe that the rules came from a deity rather than the followers, may I bring your attention to the phrase "selectively follow"? The same God who called homosexuality an abomination used the same word to describe shellfish, and also wasn't too keen on blended fabrics. If you're gonna go along with one quote, don't you pretty much have to live by them all? I don't know -- maybe you're comfortable picking and choosing. All I can say -- as I take a moment to wipe the crumbs of fried shrimp off my poly-cotton shirt -- is that it's not my place to judge.

Returning briefly to a previous topic, I recognize that there are gay people out there who are parents. In many (but not all) cases this is the result of people putting extra time, effort, money, thought -- or all of the above -- into the process of becoming a parent. So why exactly do we want this to NOT happen? Seems to me the people willing to do all that are going to make better parents than Cletus and Brandine, or any number of other "conventional" couples. And let's not forget that some folks prefer to skip the biological aspect and just adopt kids. If you're willing to do that, I don't care what gender you are; in my book, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Look, I'm not telling you that you have to like what they're doing; all I want is for people to stop passing laws based on what they perceive as icky. Of course, there are a whole lot of hypocrites out there who are icked out by guys with each other but have nothing to say about two women together. Don't get me wrong, I like it too. When Dave Bowman told Dr. Floyd that "something wonderful" was going to happen, he was talking about the transformation of the solar system. He could just as easily, however, have been describing college girls making out. I'm not proud of my double standard, but I'll admit it. Anyway, I digress.

I don't want any of those myths about someone trying to convert you, either -- you definitely don't have to participate. I'm not even expecting anyone outside the community to understand it; I sure don't. I grok it not. The closest I can come to the feelings that have been described to me is my deep, ongoing disappointment that I don't have superpowers yet, but I'm pretty sure my friends mean something more significant than that.

Yes, that's right. In case you missed all of the clues I dropped earlier, the guy who wrote this lengthy defense of gay people is in fact straight. (So far, anyway. I mean, I haven't had any quiet time alone with David Boreanaz, so it's not like I've been tested in all conditions.) You don't have to be gay to want people to be treated like people. Of course, there may be some holdouts who would describe all this as some kind of smokescreen or say that I'm some kind of gay agenda undercover agent or something like that. That's OK, you can believe what you want to believe. I know I'm straight, and so does your mom.

Homeworld Improvement, Part One: Do Not Use After This Date

by Rhaab

Some observations:

  1. The human population is higher than at any point in the past.
  2. Supplies of fresh water are scarcer than at any point in the past.
  3. A substantial percentage of the human body is made up of water.

Do I need to draw a diagram for you people?

In simple terms, the higher your population, the more you have to stretch your supplies of, well, everything. If the human brain were as great as all of you claim it to be, this sort of notion would encourage a little self-control. But no! No, it doesn't! Despite being presumably sentient and self-aware and all that good stuff, one human female recently dropped a pair of barbershop quartets out of her bajingo. Another woman is going about it more slowly and methodically but had a considerable head start. Once the little ones learn some motor skills, she could easily command the kids to slash all the tires on a big rig simultaneously, and none of them would need to be ambidextrous.

If you love kids, that's fine, but think of how much more love and attention each child would get if you only had one instead of fourteen or eighteen. If numeric replacement is what you're after, then you only need two children -- one for you, one for the other donor of genetic material. Just don't give me that nonsense that some supernatural entity commanded you to ramp up your numbers until you controlled the planet. First, I have it on good authority that said entity has an incredible (yet dry) sense of humor. Second, there are over 6,000,000,000 of you and counting. Mission accomplished! You can stop now.

Of course, even if everyone on Earth listened to my call for restraint and stopped squirting batter into the E-Z Bake Oven of humanity, that doesn't solve everything. Sure, it would help immensely if more people realized you can enjoy the blender without making a DNA smoothie, but that still only covers the first few gradians of the Circle of Life.

When one of you dies, do you do anything useful with the gift you've just been given? Of course not. Maybe once in a while one of you will give up some internal organs, but that usually requires very special circumstances, doesn't have anywhere near enough volunteers, and will probably end as soon as regenerative replacement becomes cheap and practical. Outside of those isolated cases, you either set the remnants on fire or pump 'em full of preservatives and stick 'em in the ground. Not only is that wasteful, it's inconsiderate of others. You never stop to think about the people in undeveloped countries with inadequate filtration, or friendly military units serving in desert terrain; you just take a perfectly good cache of water, ruin it with chemicals, and dump a bunch of dirt on top. What the hell?

So let's imagine that Arrakeen funeral customs are immediately adopted all over the world. That's great, and it'll certainly put more molecules back into the Water Cycle, but it doesn't completely solve this problem, and it doesn't begin to address any others. Human numbers need to be decreased dramatically for the sake of the remaining population. Now if you're thinking that my idea involves eliminating a group of people based on ethnicity, skin color, religion, or anything of that nature -- or if you want to suggest it yourself -- forget about it. For one, you humans are hard enough to tell apart without having to sort you into categories based on the flimsiest of premises. For another, that sort of primitive thinking makes you a top candidate for being eliminated yourself. At the very least, I'd like to invite you to engage in the reproductive practices I alluded to earlier, but with yourself. I don't mean that in the fun way, either.

No, there's only one egalitarian way to go about this, and that's to set an upper limit to lifespan. Nothing as minimal as the age of 30 as seen in the movie Logan's Run, or the even more laughable age of 21 in the original Nolan/Johnson novel -- I'm thinking more like 70 or 75. Just think about it for a few minutes before you start freaking out.

I admit that there would be some initial expenditures of effort and resources to get rid of everyone above the established age limit. We're not savages, after all, so we want them to go painlessly. But look at the benefits we'd get in return. Going back to the issue of water, think how much more we'd make available, even if it does need to go through the fiilters a few times before it no longer tastes like the backwash in a communal booze bottle. Food's pretty hard to come by for some people, and fewer people means more for everyone. Not to mention the fact that there'll be plenty of Soylent Granny to go around, even if most of it is in the form of jerky.

Who uses more medical supplies than any other demographic? Old people. Who owns a disproportionate amount of prime real estate in warm climates? Old people. Who has a lot of the world's capital effectively out of circulation? Old people. If we just start implementing a couple of simple new practices, the global population will have more to eat, more to drink, more drugs, cheaper land, and a lot of formerly stagnant money being spent by heirs and charitable organizations. Are you really willing to forgo all of that for some hard candy and an annual birthday check for five dollars?

Think before you answer. And remember, it's not like I'm asking you personally to schedule speed-dating sessions for the Grim Reaper. I'm just asking you to go along with it. I can't do it alone; I need help if I'm going to make this world a better place. The needs of the Many outweigh the needs of the Few, or the One -- especially when the One is likely to be plowing through the Many in a farmer's market at highway speeds.

Join Together with the Banned

by Rhaab

As far as I know, the Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets have never actually been banned anywhere, and that's a shame. After all, a lot of well-known literature has been banned over the years, and who wouldn't want to join the ranks of such famous writers (and renowned hacks)? Plus, I know for a fact that there are online communities where you aren't really considered a member until you have haters, so it's not really a stretch of the imagination to extrapolate that to the internet in general, and I'd like to have that feeling of belonging. Finally, let's be honest -- being able to truthfully say that someone has banned our website would be cool. (Who knows? It might even help my unattached friends meet women. I just hope they like shallow, immature bimbos who are into "bad boys".)

Now for the good news. It has come to my attention that the leaders of Turkey are banning any websites with content insulting their country and/or Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of its modern government. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone what this means. Opportunities like this don't come along every day. It's time for some mud-slinging.

All right, it's not much, but everything has to start somewhere -- even trying to rile up an entire nation. Then again, why stop at just one nation? Might as well make a real effort while I'm at it. Here goes:

Dear China,

Your people seem nice, your food is great, and only a fool could ignore all the things you invented and accomplished when you were young. The problem is your leaders. Your leaders are filthy, corrupt, heartless, murdering, communist bastards -- and you should break up with them. They don't treat you right. They can't give you what you really need, not the way a free and open society can. They're just using you. It's all right, you don't have to do it right now. Think it over, and you'll realize I'm telling you the truth. When you're ready, capitalism and democracy will be waiting for you. I know for a fact they want to get to know you better.


There, that should do it, right? Yeah, I thought so, too.


by Myk-El

All good seats pre-sold
Service fees out the wazoo
The TicketBastards

My haiku rant is related to purchasing tickets for show at Red Rocks.  Technically, ticket sales didn't begin until Saturday, May 6 at 10 a.m.  The Wednesday prior, however, it was opened up to pre-registered folks through KBCO.  I decided to provide my information to those Clear Channel whores (Clear Channel owns KBCO, KTCL, KRFX, KOA and several other Denver area radio stations plus hundreds more around the nation) so I could get a shot at good seats.

In exchange for putting myself on their mailing list, I, along with a few others, got the chance to purchase tickets from House of Blues productions (HOB) via TicketMaster super early.  Yet somehow I could not get better seats than the 21st row WAAAAYYYYY off to the side. This works out to there being over 2000 tickets claimed before I got my shot!  Now the maximum you could buy per address was 8, so there were at least 250 purchases prior to mine (probably over twice that) if they are being honest about the tickets available.  Supposedly this advance purchase effort was designed to keep the ticket brokers from stealing all the best seats.  Clearly it didn't work -- or if it did, KBCO and The Fox better have hundreds of tickets to give away in locations better than my own.  Somehow I doubt the later scenario.  In fact, I'd wager that their new system makes it far easier for organized ticket brokers to snap up the best seats.

But this isn't the only time I've had these kinds of issues with TicketBastard.  My father had someone on the inside with the organization sometime in the 1980's when Aerosmith made their comeback.  Even then the seats were no better than 8th row at an arena.  Once, when inquiring about a show (back in the days before internet sales), I found an incompetent person who allowed me to buy tickets a week before they actually went on sale -- and I still couldn't do better than 2nd row off to the far side of the Buell Theater.  I'll spare the full details of the time Rhaab and myself basically rented tickets for three weeks; I'll just state we didn't get all of our money back on a cancelled show.

Those examples say we have a problem here.  I can understand being unable to get front row center, but overall these ticket agencies and promoters are absolutely screwing us here.  The service fees are one thing (over $11 per ticket for my most recent purchase) but now we have to give our information over to a radio station conglomerate, a concert promotional group and, of course, TicketBastard to even have a shot at the best seats.  I'm going to have an e-mail inbox flooded with concert promotional material from now until the end of time, I presume, and I couldn't even get in the first ten rows for my trouble?  I'm really beginning to long for the days where you had to camp out in front of the box office for good seats.  At least it was fair.

Make comments and criticism about this article here.

Why I Like Anime

by Myk-El

I'm taking the time to answer a question that really hasn't been asked of me. Somehow, I get the impression that a lot of folks are curious yet are too afraid to actually ask "Why do you like anime?"

Before I lose anyone else, let me clarify. Anime is the generic name given to all traditional animation produced originally for broadcast in Japan. Purists hate it when it's referred to as "Japanamation". I, however, don't care. The increasing popularity of the Japanese animation style in America has produced several anime-inspired shows, like Powerpuff Girls, Totally Spies and even the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated shorts borrowed heavily. But they are not anime. Some anime the USA at large would likely be familiar with includes Sailor Moon, Speed Racer, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. While you groan, I'll let you know that those were children's shows in Japan and they are children's shows here. Like most things, they have been dumbed down for American consumption.

This is where we need to start pointing out the differences in the way the US perceives animation versus Japan. The major difference in Japan is that not all animation there is for children. Animation is just another medium with which to tell a story. Whereas the perception in the US is that all animation is for children and for the most part, ought to be funny. The efforts of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, and the Encore Action Channel's Animidnight are making headway, but for the most part, they are preaching to the converted. Primetime network shows that are more adult-themed have had a difficult time surviving. The Simpsons is fairly family-friendly so it is difficult to count. Futurama was more adult and had a five-year run -- assuming you could find out when it was airing. Family Guy had to be canceled, picked up on Cartoon Network and sell millions of DVD sets before a near-miraculous comeback - yet has somehow lost a bit of its edge. Still, all three of those enforce the "funny" requirement. Anything that isn't funny is decidedly for children (See Disney).

This leaves the question of why animation? If you write it and treat it like any other genre, what's the advantage? Okay, you kinda got me there. Truth is, anime is different in a couple of ways from what can be done with live action. One, you can put your characters in much more danger with no risk to performers or stuntmen. Plus it's easy to put sensational features in the setting --giant robots, monsters, incredibly short skirts, and more -- without making them look less realistic than the actual characters. This is a major bonus. Despite advances in special effects, it's hard to meld computer images with live action and have it look smooth (See Hulk, The Not-So-Incredible).

Another advantage is that they treat series differently. Much is released directly to video/DVD. But more to the point, there isn't the same drive to get renewed as in the US. This is an advantage to storytelling because concepts that would be compressed into a 2-2.5 hour movie can be stretched into a 13 or 26-episode run. Character development is not only possible, but basically required.

What it all comes down to is the story. Like all TV and movies, some of it is good, a lot of it is bad. The good ones really know how to do it. Sure, you might have giant robots, but that isn't the story, that's just part of the world the story takes place in. The motivations of the characters can be explored and more often than not, we get a more gray (rather than black and white) look at good and evil, even in the children's stories.

Cartoon Network has been showing a series called Paranoia Agent. It's supernatural and psychological. The closest parallel I could draw is to Twin Peaks and that's not really a good comparison. This show is not for kids or the stupid. It's brilliant, engaging and I'm very much looking forward to the conclusion on 8/20. It's just been 13 half hour episodes -- 6.5 hours of storytelling, including commercials and credits.

I could go on for a lot longer giving recommendations (though I will give some if asked, I have e-mail). My only real point is to express to those that are uncertain about anime that it's not all silly, poorly-translated and with questionable art. Some of it is beautiful to behold, well written and serious. It's not all cat-beings, boys that turn into girls and vice-versa, animated sales pitches for trading card games, magical girls and giant robots. Some of that can be fun as long as you set your expectations appropriately. It's drama, action, comedy, romance and mixes thereof. Most importantly, it's storytelling. Frequently good storytelling and a welcome escape from the routine TV created here. That's enough reason for me.

Mutants Need Love, Too

by Rhaab

"The freaks come out at night"

"If you came to see a freak show
They're sitting in the front row"
-- Colorado rock band Kindred,
gone but not forgotten

I've been seeing some strange and scary people lately. Before I go into detail, I should mention that I am not, have never claimed to be, or even pretended to be, one of the beautiful people. I can't even say I've really had a lot to do with them. I'm a geek. My friends are all geeks of varying degrees. Sure, the female friends -- especially my girlfriend -- tend to be easy on the eyes, but they're still geeks. They tend not to be girly, except on special occasions, when they clean up NICE. As for the guys, we tend not to dress up, either, and even when we do -- well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I still felt like a few different types of dork during a recent event.

My point is that we're not a bunch of fashion models, so somebody has to be WAY OFF in what they're wearing for us to notice and talk about them. And yet we seem to have no shortage of people to discuss when we go out for live music, which is one of our favorite things to do as a group.

Sometimes it isn't even a matter of what we see; sometimes our other senses have to take the punishment. Not long ago, I was with my lady Marji and my good friend Myk-El at a fine establishment called Patrick's to enjoy the music of Saucy Monky. Not a lot of folks in the place, and we were the only ones near the stage, so there wasn't a lot to comment on -- or so we thought at first. Eventually we were passed by a man on his way to the bathroom, a man fairly nondescript in appearance, but possessing a Smell that hit us like a wall. The weird thing is that we didn't even smell him or his Wall of Cologne until he was a dozen steps or more beyond our table! "It's like the tail of a comet," I said, as soon as I found enough oxygen. Immediately, our oxygen supplies were in danger again, as we laughed at that and each other's guesses about how he got that way. I think the winner was Marji's suggestion that he marinated himself.

He passed us again, with the same effect as before. I started thinking that maybe a comet's tail wasn't really an adequate description. I imagined all the little cologne particles flying off of him, but the ones in front aren't moving as fast as he is when he walks. So there's a compression wave built up in front, building up more and more of the Smell until finally when the particles slip far enough to the sides to escape, they smack into the surrounding air with violent effects. I've encountered some pretty strong smells in my time, but this was my first experience with an olfactory boom (which is like a sonic boom, but the nose suffers instead of the ears).

That's a pretty rare example. Usually, our noses only pick up typical bar smells and our eyes are what take in our reasons for hilarity, disbelief, and even groans of pain. After all, what reaction other than disbelief can you have when you see someone walk onto a dance floor in what appears to be some sort of naval officer's uniform -- and you live a thousand miles inland? My military knowledge is limited, but after checking him for rank (high) and insignia (none), I concluded that he was, in fact, a member of the Commodores, and I was mildly disappointed that he never joined the band on stage. Yes, bands can be resistant to having strangers grab a microphone, but I'm sure that once they recognized their distinguished visitor, it would have been easy like Sunday morning.

Later that same evening, another man was pointed out to me as surely being a member of the Gap Band, and I had to agree. The build, the clothing, the facial hair, the Aussie bush hat as featured in the video for "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" -- it was all there. Was there some sort of reunion of popular 1970s music acts going on in town? If so, how is it that the generally musically aware folks I spend time with were all ignorant of it? Can it be that, instead, we were witnessing examples of Retro Gone Horribly Wrong?

In a word, yes. And not just on that night, either. Our next trip to the same venue (which will remain nameless to protect the innocent) gave us a good look a man who looked like he had almost, but not quite, made the audition to be a replacement member of the Village People. I might not be so quick to characterize him just based on the mesh shirt, but then there was the vest over it, with its pattern of white tiger stripes -- try not to make a connection to Siegfried and Roy, I dare you. He also had an absolutely incredible mustache that wrapped around his face in a way that suggested he didn't have just his own, but was also looking after the mustaches of two of his friends who were out of town. He was having a good time, but in addition he was also clearly happy -- or at least some synonym for "happy", perhaps one usually used to characterize the 1890s. Not that there's anything wrong with being "cheeful"; it's just that a strong signal like that can overload a person's gaydar, possibly leading to a chain reaction that damages other delicate electronic equipment. So have some consideration for others when you dress for the evening, that's all I'm saying.

Just so no one thinks I'm specifically picking on the rainbow-flag contingent, I mean for that advice about dressing with consideration for others to apply to everyone, especially the straight women. I know it'll sound like I'm stereotyping again when I say that the lesbians I've observed tend to be sensibly (even conservatively) attired, but I can only report on what I've actually seen. They tend not to be offensive, appearance-wise; indeed, the only offense I can think of that any of them offered was the one who gave my girlfriend some uninvited gropes. Straight women, on the other hand, have been committing flagrant violations of aesthetics all over the place. Here's a tip: it's not cool to dress like a pre-packaged plastic pop princess if you're old enough to be her mom.

You can wear the lacy, semi-see-through top if you want, but only if you wear more than just your bra underneath it. Ask yourself, "Does anyone other than my husband/boyfriend/lover-on-the-side/um-friend want to see me wearing this?" when you pull an item of clothing out of your closet, BEFORE you put it on. Especially the jeans that have been slit all the way up to your thighs, then strapped back together every few inches, creating an effect of little windows up the sides of your legs. That's fine if you're a twentysomething, but not if you were a twentysomething twenty years ago. (An um-friend, incidentally, is a partner in a purely sexual relationship. The term is derived from how they are typically introduced. "This is Antonio. He's my ... um ... friend.")

I don't want to give anyone the impression that all we do is engage in random, pointless mockery or denounce poor fashion decisions. For one thing, the mockery is specifically targeted, not random; for another, the point of it is to amuse us. As for the fashion, again, none of us have been on any magazine covers, so it has to be a pretty blatant wardrobe train wreck for us to sit up and take notice. Our primary interest is spending time with each other and listening to talented bands perform good music. The mockery is just bonus entertainment. But deeper down than that, we aren't just concerned with entertaining ourselves; we've learned a lot of things, too. Yes, a night at the bars and clubs can be educational.

For instance, I've learned that positive stereotypes can be just as untrue as the negative ones. As you might have guessed from my earlier description, not all gay men have good fashion sense. We expect this to be universally true, but it isn't; it's not necessarily a bad thing to expect this, but it has no more value on an individual basis than any other preconceived notion. Similarly, not all black men can dance. The effortless skill that the "brothas" have on the dance floor is something that my awkward cracker ass can't help but admire, but it isn't always there. I've seen proof with my own eyes. And while we're on the subject of skin color, the so-called "white man's overbite" is not, I repeat, NOT limited to my fellow honkies. The overbite knows no racial boundaries.

I've also learned that a short man can, if he's lucky, score with a tall woman; or, if he's even luckier, two tall women. I know he had to have been enjoying himself, dancing with an Amazon on each side of him, and to hell with anyone who had a mental image of a regular-size hot dog in a jumbo bun. It didn't matter to him, 'cause odds were good he was gonna get some. Which brings me to what may be the biggest lesson I've learned.

Some people are strange not by nature of their attitude or disposition Their weirdness comes not from a dissatisfaction with society, or a sometimes too-strong identification with worlds of fantasy; they're weird because they can't help it. My group of freaks is odd in our patterns of behavior, but some freakiness is genetic. Everyone is a combination of their heredity and environment, and being abnormal can come from either direction If any of my friends ever reproduce, they're likely to have unusual children, but that should be more from upbringing than anything else. Some of the people we've seen, though, will have (or already have) kids that are bizarre becasue of inherited traits; that's what happens when mutants breed.

From what I've seen, the desire to breed (or at least perform some acts associated with breeding) is just as strong in the mutants as it is in the rest of us. How else can one explain the inappropriate clothing, the humping both on and off the dance floor, or the high atmospheric content of both pheromones and desperation? Mutants need love, too. Or, in a pinch, they'll settle for lust. Some of them don't appear to be picky at all and will take whatever comes their way.

It's not up to us (unfortunately) to determine if they'll be successful or not; enough efforts are made that some of them will be able to reproduce, and so we'll no doubt have mutants and weirdos with us for the long haul. If this is troubling to you, my advice is to treat it like a live nature documentary happening right in front of you, or one of your higher-quality wilderness tours. Look away when you can't handle the gross moments any longer, whether the nauseating footage happens to be of a lion dismembering a zebra, or a scantily-clad, middle-aged geography teacher on the prowl for good lovin'. Enjoy the outlandish moments for the spectacle they are, no matter what species happens to be doing a ridiculous mating dance. Travel in groups for safety. Learn as much as you can. And whatever you do, no matter what, don't let anything get any bodily fluids on you; you don't know where they've been.

Water Music

by Myk-El

As I'm sure you already know, we have our reviews divided up into things we like and things we hate. Sounds like anyone we see will be one or the other, right? Not exactly. You see, we've observed countless bands that just weren't worth commenting on. For us to write a review, something must have happened to generate a reaction.

Over the last several years, we could have made a gigantic list of groups we've seen that just weren't anything special. Bands that were competent, but either came off as bland and/or mediocre (contrary to popular belief, it does not mean bad; instead, it means average, OK, pedestrian, fair...I could go on). I've described it as "water music". This isn't a comment on the famous composition by Handel, but a comparison to the essentially flavorless liquid everybody drinks. This hypothetical list would include Colorado bands like The Fray, Love .45, Sad Star Cafe, Newcomers Home and several more bands that have come and gone when the flavor of the month changes. This is not to say there is no talent in these bands, but that the results are not exciting.

The unfortunate problem is that, like real water, it's being bottled, packaged and described as somehow better than what you can easily get out of your tap at home. Some people even swear it's better, yet cannot adequately explain why this is so. This describes many national acts, but the best example ever would be Hootie and the Blowfish--a notable band at the time because of the mere fact they didn't suck while most of their contemporaries did.

One problem with this is that when one of these acts make it big, it spawns the signing of similar bands and the formation of countless impersonators. It discourages young bands to find their own voice and encourages impersonation of what's popular. In short, it holds back the progress of music.

The other problem is that it makes it difficult for those of us observing any given music scene to comment. We have as hard time saying what's wrong with them as their supporters do saying what is right. But not saying the music is bad doesn't translate to it being good, even though that seems to be the perception. It's part of a trend toward praising adequacy. This trend goes against what the Pool Cleaners stand for. And we're not alone. We recently became aware of a group called H.O.P.E.. While their focus is on TV and movies as well as music, the principle remains the same. If you are reading this, chances are you are like-minded and we ask you to join them and us in our crusade to raise the standards for entertainment.

Holiday Safety

by Rhaab and Myk-El

The issue of holiday safety has been on our minds a lot lately as we enter the high-density cluster of days of celebration at the end of thecalendar that most of you seem to use. And by holiday safety, we don't mean preventing a fire on the dry, dead chunk of tree that you've brought into your home and wrapped with electrical wiring. We're not talking about falling off the roof as you put cryptic patterns of lights all over your house. We're not even referring to the many tragic incidents in which innocent people have had the lower ends of menorahs lodged in various bodily cavities.

Instead, we're worried about something much more wide-spread and threatening, something that is guaranteed to happen on an annual basis, something which baffles us extra-terrestrials to no end, but which you Earthers seem to take for granted. Why is it that Christmas is always in danger and needs someone to save it?

We did some research, and we found only one day that even comes close to Christmas for level of endangerment, and frankly, it's not that big a deal. After all, Christmas is popular all over the world, and this Columbus Day is celebrated by just a fraction of the globe. Plus, there's no elaborate plan or supervillain involved; it's just a bunch of people arguing over interpretations of the role and activities of a guy who was, let's be honest, fairly minor in history. (If he hadn't made the trip to North America, someone else would have. And it's not like he was the first, anyway. Where's Leif Erikson Day?)

Once we drop Columbus Day from consideration, what's next? Sure, Halloween comes under fire now and then, but the whining of ignorant religious fanatics doesn't count. The sort of noteworthy threats that Christmas faces--the kind that are easily adapted into one-shot specials, "very special" episodes of existing series, TV movies, theatrical movies, and direct-to-rental releases--come around maybe one time for every fifty that Christmas faces, possibly not even that often. And yeah, maybe someone will take a swipe at Hanukkah now and then, but their hearts never really seem to be into it. Anyone going after the Festival of Lights is just going through the motions, satisfying an obligation. It's almost like there's some sort of affirmative action for villainy.

You never hear "Remember when Mothers Against Drunk Driving almost put a stop to Saint Patrick's Day?" or "The ghost of Louis XVI is trying to prevent Bastille Day!" No one ever says "Whew! We wouldn't have been able to celebrate Independence Day if we hadn't reminded the Parliament of Great Britain that they already recognized us as a sovereign nation!" Nobody takes potshots at Thanksgiving. Valentine's Day is always safe, for some damn reason. And not even the Communists have tried to get rid of Chinese New Year.

Which brings us to another point. The Commies would be a formidable foe if they tried to stop Christmas everywhere, not just in those few parts of the world they still control. But no, they stay inside their borders on December 25, and holiday endangerment is left to less competent evil-doers. And when we say "less competent", we're being polite; more often a better term would be "half-assed". There are no criminal masterminds plotting in hollowed-out mountain fortresses, and there's no twisted scientist unleashing an army of deranged mutant killer monster snow goons. The North Pole has never been ravaged by the mystical and technological might of Doctor Doom. Santa Claus has never been forced to kneel before General Zod. The most credible threat to Christmas that we're aware of was some previously-unknown green hermit, and he wimped out after hearing the singing of Roger Daltrey and the rest of the Who. Something like that, anyway.

Capable and famously-cranky villains are in short supply when late December rolls around. No Saddam, no Osama--but the Martians stepped up to bat for their try at Christmas, as seen in the informative documentary Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Come on--the Martians? Not even the Ewok race takes their silly asses seriously. And sometimes there isn't even any malicious intent to blame for Christmas being in jeopardy. Sometimes the need for saving comes about as a result of bad luck, poor planning, or simple negligence.

For instance, one of the most legendary tales of the near-cancellation of Christmas concerns nothing more than bad weather. Never mind the fact that if the system was centered over the North Pole, Santa could have taken off and been very unlikely to hit anything anyway. Never mind that you'd think this would be familiar from countless annual trips out from the Arctic within days of the northern hemisphere's winter solstice. Never mind that if the bad weather were really far-reaching, he could have made his rounds in the southern hemisphere first and waited for things to clear north of the equator. Instead, Christmas is "saved" by a misfit ungulate with a birth defect.

Nor was he the most unlikely hero ever to accomplish this. If the bad guys in this yearly battle look half-assed, the parade of nobodies who have thwarted them tend to top out at quarter-assed at best. You would expect Christmas to be saved by someone with real power, like the President of the United States. Or perhaps it could be rescued by the Pope, who represents millions of believers in the core reason for the holiday. If they're unavailable, then it would be reasonable to assume that someone would step in who has a personal stake in things working out, but as far as we know, Christmas has never been saved by the CEO of Toys R Us. Somehow, it's almost always some unregarded everyman who pulls the day's chestnuts out of the open fire.

Again, the real wonder of it all is that everyone seems to think this is normal. If anyone tried to interfere with Mother's Day, the screams of outrage would echo for days. Any mush-brained racist who made serious progress towards stopping MLK Day would be slapped down, and rightly so. An attempt at getting rid of Arbor Day would be met with angry cries of "Dude!" from tree-huggers and neo-hippies everywhere. But when Christmas is on the chopping block--again--it's business as usual.

When John Q. Public thinks of the matter at all, it's in terms of tuning in to watch the dramatization of the latest crisis. Does he think for a moment of volunteering to do his part? No! Instead of offering his services to help save Christmas, he yawns, reaches for the remote, and leaves things in the hands of the misunderstood child down the street, or possibly in the paws of the talking pet from the next block over. It makes us wonder--is the population so indifferent to this situation because it happens on a schedule... or because they've been conditioned to be?

What if there's more here than what we see on the surface? Could there be some vast conspiracy arranging all of this? Are they behind not just the endangering of Christmas, but all of the rescues as well? Is it just a big misdirection, distracting us while something far more sinister goes on? And why is Christmas always saved by someone so ordinary? Is it to convince us that any one of us can make a difference against the bad guys, when the real truth is that we're all helpless victims?

After we started asking these questions, we did some more research. We spent days on the internet, we cross-referenced for hours in libraries, and we talked to hundreds of people, each with a different piece of the puzzle. What we found IS THAT THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY IT WAS FOOLISH OF US TO EVEN MENTION SUCH A THING. WE ARE SORRY IF WE TROUBLED ANY OF YOU. WE'RE SO RELIEVED ABOUT THE WHOLE THING THAT WE'RE GOING TO GO OUT OF TOWN TO CELEBRATE. DON'T WORRY ABOUT US; WE'LL HAVE FUN, AND WE'LL CONTACT YOU WHEN WE GET BACK. HAPPY HOLIDAYS. OR ELSE.

Building a Better Geek

by Myk-El

It's been said that everyone has a little geek in them. Some varieties of geek are more publicly acceptable than others. For example, sports geeks--those guys wearing little other than body paint in freezing weather at a football game. They come in costume, can name everyone who's played on their team, ever, including the third-string quarterback from the 1987 replacement player squad during the players union strike. Yet somehow these freaks are somehow more tolerated by the public than the geeks I'm really here to talk about.

I'm talking about the Monty Python-quoting, Babylon 5-watching, scientific humor T-shirt-wearing, coming in costume for kicks, proud-to-be-otaku folks one might run into at a sci-fi or anime convention. Yes, I'm one of them. The difference between me and a lot of them is that I realize I'm a geek and also realize that my sort of geek isn't as accepted because of some unfortunately well-earned reputation problems.

Yes, fanboys and fangirls of fringe entertainment media elements like anime, comic books and science fiction aren't always welcomed by those on the outside. If you want to get an idea of how we appear to an outsider, check out the book Bimbos of the Death Sun This is a book that has been making it's way around among the celebrity guests of fan conventions for its accurate portrayal of the environment. Plus, it's a pretty good read. A trusted friend had me read it before my first con and I recommended it to a trusted friend before she went to her first con. Most in the fan community can read that book and pick a character and go "I know that guy. I hate that guy." Most, however, don't know it when they ARE "that guy." So let me tell you this, you are that guy to someone. Maybe you aren't that guy all the time, but when you get that many geeks together in one place, their ability to function in polite society seems to diminish. It's okay, though, I'm here to help.

The first point I want to make is about money and the convention (con) environment. Cons usually take place at hotels. Frequently nice ones. Places that provide bellhops, proper maid service and have a decent lounge/restaurant with a wait staff. Why don't you tip these people? Near the end of the rush to check in on day one of NDK 2004, Rhaab overheard a bellhop comment to another that he'd only received two tips that entire day. I know the hotel was sold out. The least you could do for the guy that helps you get your laptop, costume, props, clothes, DVD collection and whatever other crap you brought into the hotel is hand him a buck or two for his trouble. And after three days of messing up a room, would it kill you to leave something for the person who has to clean up after your nasty ass? And then there are the poor folks on the wait staff at the nearby restaurants. It's a sucky job and they have to deal with folks speaking what must seem like a foreign language around them for a long weekend. I know you have the cash, so instead of spending $35-40 on the import soundtrack to Vandread (available for much less, including shipping with a casual Google search) in the dealer room, why not show these hardworking folks a little love? If not, I don't want to hear any bitching about how rude the hotel staff is.

While we're on the subject of dining out during the con, let us use our indoor voices around the dinner table. I'm guessing you don't speak that loud when you dine with your parents. Why change now? Also, think about where you take your food. There is a take-out/delivery only pizza place across the street from the hotel where a few cons in the Denver area take place. There are also a few fast food places around there. Frequently, customers of the pizza place would buy their pizza, and rather than cross back to the hotel where space was set up for such things, they'd go to one of the nearer fast food places and take tables away from that establishment's customers while not purchasing anything from the business they actually ate in. Just because you "ate there yesterday" doesn't make it right. All I'm saying is show a little courtesy.

I'm not saying you need to appear "mainstream" by any means. I'm in favor of embracing your geekiness. It's more a matter of trying to make it so the non-geeks become a little less unhappy to see us, especially when some geeks go out of their way to make them uncomfortable around us. You've probably heard the phrase "freaking the mundanes" at some point. You know what? It's overrated. It's not hard to do, and quickly loses its amusement value. I get a lot more enjoyment out of freaking the freaks. It's a greater challenge and I don't get tired of it quickly.

And why freaking the mundanes becomes so easy is simply because it happens so often unintentionally. You know that one person in your circle of geeks that's into something really obscure who can lose you and all the other geeks in your group? (If you don't, chances are you are that geek.) We do that all the time to the non-geeks. It's just not safe to expect anyone to recognize a movie line, lyric or book quote without citing the source unless you know for a fact your audience loves the source as much as you. This is why quoting Yoda is much more safe than quoting Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.

It's also unfortunate to see geeks conform. Being a geek is about being an individual. It isn't supposed to be like this example. It's nice to find others of similar philosophy, but what's the point if we all end up looking exactly alike? I don't mean to pick on the dewey-eyed cat girls that invariably show up en masse in costume at anime cons specifically. They just happen to be one example of many.

Finally, staying on the subject of dress and costumes, there's one thing we need to do, not just to improve our reputation to the outside, but to help each other. We need to spend a little more time dealing with hygiene. After wearing the same costume for three days without being able to wash it, staying up to all hours and being stuck together in crowded rooms and packed lines, you are going to start to smell pretty rank. I'm sorry, but it's true. Once again, R.K. Milholland said it best. Become familiar with deodorant, use of soap and such. We'll be doing each other a big favor. Plus, it will greatly increase your chances when hitting on other con attendees.

I hope the geeks reading this will take this under consideration. It might not seem like much, but it's important. It might not make the world happy to see us, but a little less scorn would be nice. Thank you for your time and attention, and when it comes to being a better geek, remember: "Do or do not; there is no try."



Before I get serious--well, as serious as I get, anyway--I'd like to thank everyone reading this without prompting of any sort. If you found this on your own, odds are that you're my kind of person, and therefore exactly the wrong kind of person to be reading what I'm about to say. That's all right, though! You can help me reach the people who DO need to read this, the sort of people, for instance, who think I should have typed "alright". Help me make the universe a better place; show this article to someone, or send him/her/it the link, or even copy and paste the whole thing into your e-mail if you want (as long as my name stays on it, thanks).

Now, if you're reading this because someone pointed you in this direction, that person may be trying to tell you something. Maybe this is someone you work with, trying to tell you why there's never any traffic around the water cooler when you want a few sips. Maybe this is someone who loves you enough to not only put up with your flaws, but to try to help you correct them. Maybe it's just someone in your life who is far too gentle to say to you what I have to say: "Shut up, you're wrong."

You can try to deny it all you want, but I'm one of the owners of this club and right now I'm the guy with the microphone. If you don't like it, go set up your own website. (Or, assuming someone has been kind enough to reprint this elsewhere, you should talk to the same people I did.) I know you're wrong because I see it and hear it all the time, everywhere I go. It's most obvious here in the online world, though--if the collective density of the internet were any higher, you'd be unable to log off without reaching escape velocity.

Let's start off with one of the biggest examples: the whole issue of free speech (such as what I'm engaging in right now). There are a whole lot of you who toss out the "right to freedom of speech" mantra or some variation on it, but the majority of you don't seem to know what it means. I imagine a large number of you don't even know the source of it. (I know the right is guaranteed in all of the really civilized countries, but I'll stick with the USA since I'm familiar with the document in question.) Here's a hint: it's a legal document, but they didn't think to put it in the first draft, so they put it in the first of ten add-ons (or "plug-ins", if you like) that they stuck on the end of the document all at once. The gist of it is that it's against the law for the government to make a law telling you what you can't say. It doesn't say a thing about what individuals can tell you about your unnecessarily verbose ass in their homes, in their places of business, or on their very own websites.

One case in particular comes to mind. I'm going to keep this in general terms, not just to protect the innocent (screw the guilty jerk), but because I got a lot of this second-hand (from a source I rely upon without hesitation). Once upon a time, there was a message board that belonged to a musical group. All of the registered members of this board were fans, but one was a very naughty fan. He was an incessant chatterbox who put up pointless posts, derailed threads, and generally made a nuisance of himself. He was politely asked, more than once, if he could perhaps restrain himself, but those requests were ignored. He was punished for his wicked ways and banned for his uncontrollable urge to come as close as possible to posting 60 or more messages per hour. He tried several times to get around the ban by logging on under different names--not to apologize for what he had done, but to keep up the same behavior! Finally, he was asked not to come to the group's shows any more. This set off a tirade of name-calling, demands for apologies, and accusations of denying this webdork his freedom of speech. If you're the webdork in question and you happen to be reading this, I need to tell you something: shut up, you're wrong. The right to freedom of speech comes from a bit of text that starts off like so: "Congress shall make no law..."; it does NOT say "The lead singer of your favorite band shall not slap you down like the little bitch you are."

Perhaps his worst crime was posting a message, then logging off to respond to himself under a new name. (Some message boards let unregistered guests post; some people think nothing of creating new log-ins when they have some twisted need to fulfill.) I've witnessed an amazingly severe case of this on another board, and had nothing but support for the admins when they reluctantly denied access to the trouble-maker. There would be message threads with numbers of posts well into the double digits, each one of them from the same person! Guess what--you're going to get spotted. If the other users can't figure it out based on your unvarying writing style, the moderators will see the same IP address on every one of your pointless ramblings.

Do you think it's funny to have online conversations with yourself? Do you think it's clever? Do you think other people won't mind that you've got a lot to type but nothing to say? Shut up, you're wrong. Oh, sure, maybe do it once or twice as a joke. Or maybe you forgot to say something in your first post and can't figure out the edit function. Maybe you have so much to say that it actually goes over the character limit for individual posts. That's fine. Say what you have to say, assuming there's actually some content there, but at least have the Hendleys to do so under the initial identity you established for yourself. (This term is derived from "Hendley the Scrounger" in The Great Escape, a composite character based on men who must have had absolutely immense pairs.)

Of course, you can stop at just one post and still have nothing to say. I don't mean an off-topic paragraph, or a cryptic quote, or even a response consisting of nothing more than an emoticon following a quoted-in-full epic diatribe that makes my ranting look like a sniff of disapproval--although that last example is pretty heinous. I mean when you go in and say the same damn thing everyone else is saying.

The worst case I've ever seen of this was also on the same message board that had the flood of self-responding mentioned above. On this board, there is a certain topic that never fails to get legions of netfools falling all over themselves to denounce said topic. The pattern usually runs to about three dozen posts. The first one brings up the topic, and there are three replies saying "yes, I like that" mixed in with 32 variations on "that sucks". I would have ignored the most recent storm, same as usual, if not for a post that read something like this: "Why are threads about <this topic> always so long? I don't understand why <this topic> is so popular anyway." Why are the threads so long? Because of you and idiots like you! Don't think for a moment, though, that I waited until writing this article to clear this up. I actually replied to the thread and, foolishly, tried to explain to the knuckle-dragger who put up that post that it was largely his fault. He responded that his opinion was valid, that I was the one saying nothing rather than him, that I was going against his freedom of speech, and finished off by calling me a Nazi. I sincerely hope that he's reading this, or otherwise has this message delivered to him: shut up, you're wrong.

To begin with, your opinion isn't valid when all you're doing is jumping on a bandwagon and bashing for the sake of bashing. Asking why a thread is so long when you're mindlessly agreeing with the last dozen people and adding nothing new, that's just sheer idiocy. Regarding your freedom of speech, try to have someone explain to you what I wrote a few paragraphs back. Don't even get me started on the Nazi thing; I freely admit that I've never been all that snappy a dresser. On the other hand, guys like you make me think that mass killings aren't across-the-board-no-exceptions evil. Next time around, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and all of those other factors will be irrelevant, but if you're stupid, we're coming after you.

Being stupid doesn't have to just apply to dumb things said in a serious way; a string of dumb jokes will do just as much to announce your impaired status as a moronic opinion on an important topic. It might even do more. Sure, we all make dumb jokes now and then, but more advanced people (me, my friends, all the readers I thanked in the first paragraph, etc.) do so despite the dumbness of the jokes, not because of it. We also indicate, somehow, that we know full well what we just said, either through tone of voice, gestures, or appropriate notation in text. You can generally tell who the idiots are by the way they behave when making the same sort of joke. Instead of pretending to flinch from the well-deserved beatings coming their way, they put on a look of expectation, anticipating laughter that isn't coming. If they're online, instead of following the punchline with an apology ("Sorry, I couldn't resist!") they post a few hundred bytes' worth of emoticons--and they almost always use more emoticons than the rest of us, both in sheer number and variety.

Eventually, someone gets fed up with the non-stop stream of witless humor, especially when the wanna-be comedian keeps using the same lines again and again, and they aren't even part of a running joke or well-established classics. The fed-up person says something about the attempted humor, and almost invariably, the response is this: "You should try to have more of a sense of humor." You know what my reply is to that? Shut up, you're wrong. I have an amazing sense of humor; I happen to be one of the funniest people I know. The problem is not that I don't have a sense of humor, it's that you're not very funny, and let me tell you, there are few sins that rank as high in the Book of Rhaab as not being as funny as you think you are. Work on your timing, work on your delivery, learn the rules of comedy, learn when and how to break the rules, and stop relying so much on material concerning the following topics: bodily functions, air travel, differences between males and females, differences between white people and black people, supposed inferiority of people from the south-eastern United States, and "cute" things said by children. Once you've done all that, we'll let you try to be funny again. You think you don't need to learn about humor to use it properly? Shut up, you're wrong.

Those are just a few examples of the many ways people are frequently wrong. Wrongness of all kinds is rampant everywhere, and many sufferers don't even realize that they're clueless. Some can be helped with just a few words, but some need a good smack. For instance, most holders of public office. Oh, and the loud-mouthed fanboy who was wrong about not needing to use his "indoor voice" in the KFC across the street from the anime convention I was at recently. (Yes, I was in costume; I dressed like a normal person, which really made me stand out in that crowd.) If you find someone who needs to be smacked, there's no reason to be uncivilized about it. There should always be fair warning that violence is about to begin. When you announce your intentions, why not begin educating and correcting your target at the same time? All it takes is four little words: "Shut up, you're wrong!"

Cut the Crap


The Truth Shall Set you Free

by Myk-El

It's amazing the amount of deception that goes on in human relationships. It is especially disturbing considering how highly desired (supposedly) honesty is in a potential mate according to Earth's own residents. There are countless surveys out on what humans look for in other humans and honesty appears on every one of them. That brings me to what pissed me off enough to write. It starts with this news article. Go ahead, read it. The rest of my rant will still be here when you're done.

Done now?


So to sum up, a major cellular provider is offering a service where, for a fee, someone will interrupt your date via cell phone call and offer you a chance to get out of it. It's an easy opportunity to blow off someone you probably haven't given a fair chance. For those of you indignant at this concept, you really don't need to stick around. I hope you will, because it'll be a fun ride, but the concept bothers you, so you aren't my target. Thanks for stopping by, though.

Now, for the rest of you who either think, "This is a great service. I would use that." or "What a wonderful capitalistic venture. They are fulfilling a need."... we need to talk (which everyone knows is a phrase that means "you need to listen").

If you fall into the second category, I'll make it short. For one thing, you're probably in the industry. I'll need to make it fast to hold your attention. At best, you're pandering. At worst, your setting back the progress of human and human/alien relationships, you douches. This is not a good thing. Not that you care. People have had friends call them for the same reason since the cellular age began. Why shouldn't you have a piece of the action? Well, I'll tell you. It's about character and integrity. This service is self-serving to the point of being self-indulgent and it's bullshit. Pure, undiluted and unfit to fertilize bullshit. Can you hear me now? Good!

Look, I've been on some uncomfortable dates. There's no sense lying about it. But at least I did my best to have a good time and learn from it. And what a novel concept learning from a bad experience is. A bad date SHOULD tell you what you aren't looking for. You should be able to pick up warning signs so you can avoid making the mistake with someone else.

That brings me to the folks that would actually use this service. Shame on you! First, shame on you for even having your phone on during a date. This sort of behavior is only acceptable if you are in a profession where you are on call. And that's only acceptable when you couldn't get anyone to take your place. If you need to be reachable when you are out, that should be stated to your date up front with a good reason. But most of all, shame on you for being a coward that can't tell the simple truth "I'm sorry, this isn't working for me." Is this concept that hard? Come on, repeat after me:

"I'm sorry, this isn't working for me."

There, that wasn't so bad. You don't even have to use those words. I even prefer "Eww! Get away from me!" to using this "escape a date" concept. At least it's honest. And that's all I'm asking for.

On our front page we state "we have come for sex." Now THAT is an honest statement. And it isn't a very restrictive statement. It could be monogamous, even within the confines of a bonded pair couple, or what you humans call "marriage." Or it could mean depraved, kinky orgy sex with multiple anonymous partners and a goat. It depends on which Pool Cleaner you talk to and what kind of a mood he's in.

The lesson is to just admit your desires. It's really not that hard. This "escape a date" sort of deception diminishes us all. If you just admit what you really want, the odds of getting it increase a great deal. Thank you.

P.S. Cingular and Virgin wireless have begun to introduce the service. Please take note of this and don't provide them with any business. They, however, are cordially invited to have sex with themselves. Of course, if they don't want to go through with it, they can always ask a friend to call with a pretend emergency.

Musical Eugenics

by Myk-El

Not all that long ago, the Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets received criticism for being overly hard on some bands in our reviews. Imagine that, critics being criticized. In response to this, we ask "What took you so long?"

Really, we've had the site up since September, 2003. Since then we've handed out 90 hot pokers worth of bad ratings. You'd think we would have pissed someone off earlier than this. But you know what's really odd? No, really, take a guess and keep it in mind here for a moment. Okay, was the three of clubs your card? Wait...wrong guessing game. No, what's really odd is that no one has accused us of being cruel just to be cruel.

Maybe Simon Cowell has gotten US society used to blunt criticism. Perhaps we've been mostly ignored in hopes we would simply go away (which we won't). It's even possible that our readers generally regard our opinions as accurate. I, however, have my doubts on the last one. Though it should be pointed out that a regular reader who is a part of the local Denver scene said he was actually worried we were losing "our edge" until a recent bad review reassured him.

Pool Cleaner Rhaab recently wrote about musical Darwinism. And what he said there is true. Ultimately, though, critics do not have the power to make or break a band. It's the fans that have that control. In fact, criticism interferes with natural musical selection.

Does it interfere in a bad way? No, we're doing them a favor by pointing out where they are weakest. Let's take an example. The first time I saw Matthew Moon, he was opening for the late, great Warren Zevon at a place called the Casino (Now Cervantes). Matt was nearly booed off stage. The crowd was ugly. I'd say he would have easily scored double digit hot pokers on that night. I haven't talked to him about if/how this affected him, but since that happened I've seen great improvement in his music. I doubt he'll ever be my favorite artist. At his best, he couldn't crack the top 10 in my Denver list, but he's much stronger now than he was then and I think he has that negative audience reaction to thank in part.

The members of Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets really think Denver is on the cusp of becoming a serious musical breeding ground. My fellow Pool Cleaners and I have discussed which band we think has the best chance of breaking through on several occasions. You see, I used the term "breeding" intentionally. Breed implies that we're growing beyond mere natural selection. Nature can't be overruled, but it can be guided to something. Call it musical eugenics. It isn't just our right, but our duty as concerned observers of the Denver music scene to point out weaker members of the herd. Maybe they can become stronger and contribute to the well-being of the herd. If so, we'll say how. Maybe they should be prevented from breeding. If so, we'll say so. Or maybe the herd needs to be thinned out. We'll say that, too, but ultimately, we don't make that call. We're, at most, the shepherds of music. The fans are the predators and their money determines who survives and who doesn't.

So, we're going to keep up our end of the bargain. We're listening and we're all too happy to point out weaknesses. We'll do our best to be constructive, but anyone going above 15 hot pokers is probably best off being taken out of the musical gene pool. We may not find anything worth saving. However, if we like a band, we'll kiss their asses as well as anybody. But we can only do so much. We implore the audiences to take responsibility for ensuring bad bands don't breed. Don't clap just because it's polite to do so. Let them know what you think. Good, bad, indifferent...make sure your feelings are known. If your favorite venue books a bad band, let the venue know (e-mail, tell a bartender, just do something)...then if they book the bad act again, don't show up. Heck, we've probably been overly nice by simply playing cards through bad acts (for which we've been called "harsh" and "f*cking rude").

Like I said though, fan dollars make the choices. We'll follow the buzz, give our opinions and do our duty. We'll keep the people informed. I just hope they start making better choices.

The New Sound Throw Up

by Myk-El

A crime was committed in Lodo Thursday. A robbery, even. 250 dollars and an opportunity were taken. The victim? Three local bands. The crooks? The organizers of the Coors Original New Sound Throwdown.

For the last few weeks, the Blue Mule has been host to a battle of the bands of sorts. The four winning bands move onto a final competition on July 10. On June 17, we had a quality line up featuring On Second Thought, Blister 66, The Trailer Park Playboys and The Mercury Project. This was a judged competition, but the only category we were made aware of was audience reaction. They implied there was more. They lied.

The winners were The Mercury Project...and I think the fix was in. In fact, this might have been the biggest miscarriage of justice since the O.J. verdict. First, the contest was supposed to start at 8 and we didn't get to see anything until 9. I can't say why the great delay, I just know that it meant more time for Mercury Project to get their people in the door. If the band had ANYTHING to do with the delay, they should hand the $250 back and forfeit.

Yes, they had the biggest and loudest fanbase, most of whom left within 15 minutes after the end of the show. The much smaller audience further put the other bands at a disadvantage. Plus, the band they were cheering for hardly put on the best show--third best performance, tops. Their singers' harmonies were off and the sax player was flat the entire night. Yes, these things happen at live shows, but since the other acts were in tune, those faults should have counted against Mercury Project. Apparently they didn't. Just like any political process, it merely came down to popularity, not capability, and I can't abide by that. Certainly not when audience reaction was only part of the equation. But it bears mentioning that On Second Thought had a full "OST" chant going during and after their set. Sure the crowd was smaller, but every bit as rabid. That has to count for something. The Trailer Park Playboys started with a relatively hostile crowd, probably due to the severe style change between them and Mercury Project. But the crowd had been won over by the end of their set. Again, it should count for something.

The Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets aren't happy. We've judged similar competitions before. We will again and we know this wasn't on the up and up. But we said we aren't going to criticize without giving options. Our feeling is that the second place act from July 17 needs to be allowed to compete in the finals as well. After all, we've seen a tie already. The more the merrier, we say.

Musical Darwinism

By Rhaab

It's a jungle out there in the world of music, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Competition is fierce, survival can be difficult, and there's someone trying to take a bite out of you more often than not. In this jungle, the ultimate goal is for your songs to continue on rather than your genes, but the idea is very much the same. (Just don't tell the groupies that passing on genetic material isn't important to music.) Or, since the jungle thing has been done, maybe it would be better to compare the music world to the Galapagos Islands. It was there, after all, that Darwin made his observations that led him to the Theory of Evolution. (He also seems to have observed the Theory of Gravity, as his writings include no reports of animals being flung off into space by the Earth's rotation. I mention this because if you're going to disbelieve one, you might as well disbelieve the other.)

Random mutations appear in the form of new sub-genres, styles, or as a synthesis of musical elements. Some of these mutations happen to be beneficial in terms of surviving the environment -- in this case, the huge, collective mass of people known as the Audience, or sometimes just the buying public. A really successful survival strategy tends to show up again and again. Lots of mammals got huge during the Ice Ages, and even the Rolling Stones did songs best described as Disco during the late 1970s. Of course, if the environment changes, what was beneficial before might not be so great any more. Lots of big animals died when the planet got warmer. Similarly, has anyone heard from the Trammps lately? And if you have, was it a collect phone call?

The deeper you look, the more parallels you see. You can even find an equivalent for popularity backlash in nature. At various points in the past, the Audience decided to turn its collective back on Disco, Grunge, and nice-guy rappers other than Will Smith, just to name a few examples. Don't think that's ever happened to animals? The dinosaurs topped all the charts for millions of years. Then, 65 million years ago, Mother Nature stopped buying any of their albums and we haven't had any nostalgia tours, either. No Godzilla at Budokan, no Jurassic Park on the road with Linkin Park, no nothin'. Sure, there are dinosaur relatives like birds and ordinary reptiles around, but the fact that you enjoy Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi doesn't necessarily mean that you're a Blues fan. (Sorry, guys.)

There's a problem, though. In both cases, there's something interfering with the mechanisms of natural selection. I'll get to the world of music in a moment. Now, out in the world of life forms, there's this particular brand of tool-using primate that has reached a fairly high level of sophistication, relatively speaking. (That's right, monkey-boy, this alien's talking about you.) Humans have developed a number of innovations that extend the lifespan of those who would have been meals for other creatures long ago in the wilderness. Don't get me wrong -- this is right and proper, and has been done by dominant species on countless planets. Wheelchairs provide mobility, computers aid in communication, and guns keep wild animals out of your settlements. Add those three elements together, mix in a few more perks of civilization, and you‚ve got a list of reasons why you still have Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds on Earth. The problem comes when you start making allowances for the less-than-brilliant among you.

Here's the short version: Many humans are stupid. Warning labels prevent them from doing stupid things. This allows them to survive and pass on their stupidity to the next generation through both heredity and environment.

Make no mistake -- I've got nothing against ignorance, because it can be cured. Small children don't realize that wearing a cape from a costume shop won't allow them to fly like Superman, so they need to be told. Maybe it never hit you that batteries contain weird chemicals, and that's why you shouldn't throw them in the fire to get rid of them. I'll let labels like those slide. If, however, you don't make the mental leap that hot coffee is, in fact, HOT, then by all means put it in your lap. Preferably before you have children. If any adult human anywhere thinks that it would be a great time-saver to use the hair dryer while still in the shower, I say go for it. While we're at it, let's be sure to let all the teenagers know that whether they imitate things they see in movies is strictly up to them, and would anyone like to come over and watch a Jackie Chan movie marathon with me?

On the music side, the enemy isn't stupidity, it's complacency. Too often, we're willing to just listen to what's put on the speakers, no questions asked. The band is completely artificial, having come from hordes of pretty people put through a grueling audition process? Not a problem. They can't play any instruments? Set it down right here. They don't even write their own songs? Mmm, boy, give me more of that. And I really like the fact that each one comes with a pre-packaged image. Now, which one is the tough one again?

Even here, in the area of music journalism, bad acts tend to get off pretty lightly for their crimes. Yeah, the Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets are guilty of slacking off, too. Sure, we've written a small handful of negative reviews, but nowhere near the number of bad acts we've seen since hooking up with Higher Listening. Recently, the Pool Cleaners received some feedback on one such review, which said, among other things, "I have only read good reviews of [insert name here] in the past." The simple, sad truth is this: Acts that critics like get good reviews. Acts that critics don't like generally get no write-up at all. We can't speak for anyone else, but we plan on changing our ways. Ignoring bad performers benefits no one. If lions ignored the sick and the weak, the entire continent of Africa would be covered in stacks of gazelles twelve deep. No one wants that. We promise you this, though -- if we write a negative review, it's not going to be just an attack. We'll try to be constructive, and let you know where a performance could be better. Unless, of course, you're just so phenomenally bad that there's no hope for you. If that's the case, we'll see if we can get you a spot at the museum next to the dodo.


by Myk-El

Herman's Hideaway has been one of the best places to go see local music for a very long time. While it's always been a little non-smoker hostile, the sound is usually great, they almost always start on time, and the cover is reasonable. Best of all, it was a place where it was about hearing music, having a couple of drinks and generally enjoying yourself. Notice I said "was". Something has changed in the last three months.

The crowds they are allowing in have become big, way too big. If it was one night, I'd think it was a fluke. But the last four trips I've made have seen crowds to the point where you can't so much as maneuver through the crowd as push people out of the way as you make your way to wherever you go. Don't get me wrong, Herman's has never had what I would call a small crowd on Friday or Saturday that I've seen, but it was manageable. Frankly, the venue has become audience hostile.

My last time there, I saw a very small woman--around 5' tall and slender--trying to get to the bar from the dance floor ducking and dodging every step. The look on her face said she wasn't very happy. And then there's me. I'm nearly 6 feet tall and weigh well over 200 pounds. I'm one of the bigger folks you'll find in the audience and two Pool Cleaners are bigger than that. We can't get around in that place. That fact alone makes it dangerous.

I'm not certain what the rules are regarding fire safety, but in light of the nightclub disasters in the last couple of years, particularly the infamous Great White show, if something went terribly wrong in there, I'm sure more people would be hurt than could safely escape. Not only that, two of the last three shows I saw there were the first two I've ever scene where there was a very good chance a fight would have broken out. In the first case, if Jim Dalton of the Railbenders hadn't said something, I'm fairly sure it would have gotten out of hand. In BOTH cases I'm certain 50 less people in the room would have made a huge difference in preventing tempers from flaring.

It's hard to have a good time in that environment. But I'm not going to complain without offering some suggestions. Most important, Herman's needs to start capping crowd size. If this means a slight increase in cover charge, I'm okay with that. They should look at actually using tickets: print up tickets equal to what it can hold. I know this might hurt some bands coming up that use those free tickets you can download and print from a website, but I even have a solution for that. Instead of the download, these bands would be provided a promotion code their fans can use at the door. People using this code get different-colored tickets so they can track numbers on who are using it. Everybody wins.

The last thing they need to do is use their staff to make sure people aren't blocking the major paths. I can't tell you the number of times people walk in the door and stop while deciding where they want to go. Or they block the exit from the dance floor to the bar. Or they stand around in the path to the rest rooms. Someone there needs to take some responsibility to keep those paths open.

This isn't a difficult problem to solve. But until we get some assurance Herman's will improve the situation, I won't be going back, nor will any of the other Pool Cleaners. No one needs to spend money to have a bad time.


by Sh'wn

On Monday, February 16, the Colorado Humane Society shelter was broken into by a person or persons unknown and several puppies were taken. Now, if that were the end of the story, I'd have no problem, but here is where it gets horrible. A theater employee taking out the trash behind the Olde Town movie theaters found two of the puppies. The two puppies were bound with duct tape and in a plastic kennel, which had been set on fire. The first puppy (named Ashley by the Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital) survived and is in serious but stable condition. The second puppy died in the fire. Three hours later, an employee of Bally's Fitness Center (near Southwest Plaza) "smelled something burning" and went to investigate. The worker reported seeing a man holding two puppies and standing over a third, which was on fire. When the man realized he'd been spotted, he dropped one of the puppies and ran away with the other, leaving the burning dog to die.

Usually, I consider myself an enlightened and (for the most part) compassionate being. I believe my fellow Pool Cleaners to be the same as well. That is why I find this kind of thing monstrous. Now I have a question. I understand that it is a felony punishable by many decades in a "correctional facility" or even execution when a defenseless child is murdered. But why is it when animals are tortured, starved, drowned, set on fire and otherwise murdered and or abused it is either a misdemeanor or a felony with less than a ten year prison sentence? Are those puppies or kittens any less defenseless than immature human offspring? I don't think so. In fact I have known some of the "lesser" animals that are more useful, caring and not to mention intelligent than some human podlings-- hell, or even some human adults.

In any case, psychologists have stated that people who are cruel to animals are more likely to be involved in other serious and violent crimes. So it seems to me, that under the current system, we are giving a slap on the wrist to all of the potential future Jeffrey Dahmers and John Wayne Gacys out there and saying "That was naughty, don't do it again." A perfect example is the case where a couple of teenagers set a cat on fire and then threw it out of a window. Those kids got three months of probation. Why is it those kids got probation when if they did the same thing to a human, they'd be locked in a hole so deep they wouldn't remember their own names? Or more likely they'd be executed.

Anyway, I just want to say that I hope the police catch this monster before he can do this again. Also, I'd like to offer my best to Ashley. I wish her a complete recovery and a loving home with a caring family.

Reason #342 Why I Don't Watch Television

By Jeph

Recently, I had gone up to Myk-El's pad for the 'meet-up' prior to the Anitra Carr show at Soiled Dove. Myk-El and Rhaab were there, and the television was on. I forget what was acting as background, but the sound was thankfully muted during the commercials when The Ad came on.

For those of you who don't know, Quizno's (they sells sub sandwiches) debuted a new ad a few weeks ago. Apparently it involves a gerbil-like creature twisted into a potato shape speaking an unknown tongue describing the virtues of the product being served.

Shortly after I picked my eyeballs up and replaced them in my head, Myk-El explained to me that this was why his universal translator packed up a week prior.

Now, I don't expect to ever fully understand you humans. After all, you think it's fun to watch people backstab each other on national television for obscene sums of money. But I have to question the ability of anyone who thinks that a mutant Jigglypuff is useful as anything other than a way to block off pipes when you're trying to get the 'fresher cleaned of hair from the last Wookie who used it.

Television was only useful to me as a means to learn about you. Other than that, it's stupid, the ads are stupid, the shows are stupid, the suits running the networks are stupid, the advertisers pulling the strings of the suits are stupid, and even many of the people who keep the whole gastly mess afloat are stupid.

(Actually not all the shows are stupid; I've had the treat of watching the cancelled show 'Firefly' on DVD, and I admit that it reminds me of home in ways not all good, but that it was a bang-up good series.)

I willingly participate in your society, masquerading as human. I willingly even indulged in things that people in my home galaxy would consider 'stupid', 'strange', and even 'disturbing'. But, please!

That is all.

Support your local Arts and Entertainment

By Myk-El

I'm talking about your entertainment dollar today. Here at Pool Cleaner Central, we enjoy live entertainment, particularly music, but we don't like paying a lot for it. Tell us it costs $100 to go see The Who's most recent reunion/farewell tour, and we're likely to say "gee, we'd like to go. You paying? No? Well, have fun, we're going to pay 7 bucks and see the On Second Thought reunion. Thanks for the invite, though." Yep, we're cheap, but that's not exactly my point even though it's close.

Normally, we'd be all over a Who concert. If you saw footage of their performance at the concert for New York after 9/11, you know they still put on a great show. But what are my incentives to go? They put your average big name rock show on in an arena that has piss poor sound. Radio stations and concert promoters ensure that you won't get a seat in the first 20 or so rows unless you're caller number 9 when KROCK plays "White Room". So you can't see and you can't hear. Why are you even there?

I've been to one concert at The Can here in Denver. It will be the last one I pay to see there. It was Aerosmith with Cheap Trick. It cost me $80 per ticket and I paid for two. I was 100 or so rows away off to the side. I couldn't make out vocals during the Cheap Trick set. I could only see thanks to jumbotron and the sound was distorted all the time, but I had a good time because both bands are such strong live acts. You could sense the energy and love of performance. But then a short month later, I'm watching Opie Gone Bad with Kindred (who really need to get back together) for $7 bucks at the Soiled Dove; a club that holds a couple hundred in Denver. The sound is better, both are fantastic live and both played for 90+ minutes and I had a better night. It was a better concert value.

At least once a month, the Pool Cleaners get into our public identities as "The Lads" and see The Indulgers. This is usually at a bar and the vast majority of the time; we get there so early that we don't get charged a cover. When we don't arrive early enough to avoid a cover charge, the cost is usually a buck. One single dollar for what usually is between, 2.5 and 3 hours of music.

I could continue to give examples of cheap entertainment, but let's look at some numbers. According to NPR, ticket prices are up from an average of $25 per seat to $46 from 1994 to 2002. Gross receipts for concerts are up, but ticket sale numbers are going down. I don't have exact numbers on overall inflation over that period, but I know it isn't 84%. We're getting screwed, and some of us apparently realize it since we aren't buying as many tickets. However, so long as concerts are making money, things won't change.

So, this is where the market needs to start making demands. Find a local band you like and see them once a month or more if you can. We're happy to help those in Denver looking. We're trying to get a 10% share of CD sales based on Pool Cleaner recommendations, so it's in our best interests to match you to the right band. Opie Gone Bad usually plays about 2 hours when they are in concert and it's usually $7. That's less than the regular cost of a first run movie in the theater. You might even catch a good opening band, though it is rare. Once you find that band, buy their CDs. Don't copy from a friend, support the musicians. They don't always get paid much for live gigs, usually a base amount and a cut of that night's drink sales. But make it profitable for the band and the club and have a good time. If you are having a good time, that's what really matters.

How does this affect the big venues? Well, it doesn't - not directly at least. But if you are hanging out at Herman's Hideaway, you aren't at Fiddler's Green. Maybe they'll have to lower ticket prices. At best, I figure maybe it will at least keep prices stable until our economy recovers and the cost of living pay increases catch us up a little. For those bands who are about the music, any loss in profits won't bother them. For the bands that are about the money - screw 'em!

This also applies to other kinds of live entertainment. Check out a play at the Arvada Center or try dinner theater. Go see live comedy at Wits End when Don Reese or Allyn Ball is in town. While you are there, put in a business card so you can get back in for free sometime. Weather permitting; check out a street performer on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Need more suggestions? contact us and maybe we can be talked into creating a PCfDP cheap (less than $10) entertainment guide for Denver.


A Quick and Easy Guide to Close Encounters

Spielberg fans in the audience know that there are at least three categories for "close encounters", which is just a generic term for contact between intelligent species from different planets. A close encounter of the First Kind is "sighting of a UFO", which is awfully vague, because it could cover anything from a weather balloon to Ernest Borgnine launched from a catapult--but it's the standard definition, so we won't quibble with it. The Second Kind is physical evidence, which is easy enough to obtain at sperm banks all over the world--just hand over a decent amount of the local currency and ask to see the glowing specimens. A close encounter of the Third Kind is defined as both "contact" and "one of the only good reasons to visit Wyoming."

You may be wondering, though, "Is that it?" Like any reasonable being, you might wonder if there are more classifications. Why stop at just three? If you happen to be one of our visitors who came here by way of Shamrocker, then you know for a fact that there are at least five kinds.

To make it easy for everyone, I've compiled a list. This is the standard for close encounters used all over the galaxy, so it can refer to members of any two (or more) species meeting each other. To keep it simple for our friends here on Earth, though, I've defined the role of visitors as aliens, and the visited as humans. It's also useful to know when the encounter is assumed to be one-on-one, or in large groups, so I've invented some notation to cover that. H is for human (duh), A is for alien (obviously). If it's just one, you get just the letter. If it's more, you get a plus sign added. If it can refer to either an individual or a group, you get a question mark. Here's an example:

               03     H?/A?           contact
This means that a close encounter of the Third Kind is contact between one or more humans and one or more aliens. Simple, right? The notes following each entry will make it even simpler! Soon you'll be an expert at describing your close encounters with us (and other aliens) by using the following list:

               04     H/A           sex
Simple one-on-one xenophilia. Our favorite kind of close encounter.

               05     H/A+           beat-down
Blunt objects are optional, but usually featured. Think LAPD from Outer Space. Participating aliens are encouraged to accessorize with horrorshow kicker-boots.

               06     H?/A+           gang-bang/orgy
Aliens need not all be from the same species. Please note, however, that "A+" refers to number of participants, not number of organs. A backseat romp between a Japanese high school student and one tentacle monster still counts as Fourth Kind.

               07     H+/A           gang-bang
One tentacle monster with lots of females comes (Get it?) under this category.

               08     H/A           used vehicle sales
A car, a spaceship, whatever. Why is it number 8? It just is.

               09     H+/A?           raising the dead
This one has to do with aliens turning dead humans into zombies, for whatever reason. Could be an attack plan, could be a college prank. It almost always involves a zombie who resembles Bela Lugosi in no way whatsoever.

               10     H?/A?           spontaneous dance routine
Just like in the movies. Very disturbing when it happens in real life.

               11     H/A           telemarketing
A capital crime on most planets.

               12     H?/A?           exchange of baked goods
I'm not sure why this is on the list. Long ago, someone somewhere seemed to think it was important enough to get its own category.

               13     H?/A?           mockery of superstitions
Mocking primitives is great fun for most aliens. Please note this encounter doesn't need to be purely verbal; smashing a mirror over a human's head with the intent of making a point is perfectly acceptable.

               14     H?/A?           getting drunk/high together
Your thang can be alcohol, sour milk, or even Reese's Pieces as long as it gets you at least a little bit wasted.

               15     H?/A?           discussing religion and/or politics
Almost always a bad idea.

               16     H+/A+           poetry readings
Dirty limericks are very rarely represented, unfortunately.

               17     H/A?           poking around for the hell of it
Sometimes includes actual scientific study.

               18     H?/A?           sports
Almost always involves a stupid human doing stuff he really shouldn't be doing, like in that episode of "Babylon 5". Also includes any game of cricket, for obvious reasons, even if only humans are playing.

               19     H+/A?           interfering with a developing culture
A common pastime of space-travellings species, for both fun and profit. Includes "teasing".

And that's it! There may always be others added later, but since a lot of races favor prime numbers (much like you folks seem to like your "round" numbers), there would probably need to be at least four good suggestions to take the total to 23, just for the look of things. If you want, you can send in suggestions to me, and I can pass them on the appropriate people. If it gets accepted, your idea could come into common use all over the galaxy!

Just remember the one point of contention: anal probes can be classified as encounters of the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Seventeenth, Eighteenth or even Nineteenth Kind. Context is very important.


by Rhaab, Myk, and Jeph

Once upon a time, there was a TV series that showed how much hope humanity has for the future. Many years and many spin-offs later, this thing you call "Star Trek" doesn't seem to say much more than "Everyone in the galaxy has a bumpy head." We're living proof that this is not true.

What the hell happened? Well, it's funny you should ask. We've been giving that a lot of thought, and here's what we've come up with on the subject. Before we get into it, though, it should be made clear that we're not the only ones who have noticed this. While there are still a few Trek Zombies out there--the folks who automatically accept and tell themselves they enjoy anything with the "Star Trek" label--there are many former fans who confine themselves to season premieres and finales. In effect, these are the lapsed Catholics of Trek, the ones who go to church on Easter and Christmas.

We don't believe that Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Trekiverse, is to blame. Even when the stories sucked (see most of TNG Season 1), his heart was in the right place. And what's more, the stories started getting better while Gene was still alive. If you do want to see Roddenberry torn up, however, feel free to consult the work of literary bad-ass Harlan Ellison.

In truth, there are many people to blame. Without naming names (mostly 'cause we can't be bothered to look 'em up), we'll start with the writers who relied too much on cliches, gimmicks and technobabble, rather than doing a little homework or working a little harder. Not all the writers, mind you, but the ones at fault know who they are. There's a reason that terms like "particle of the week" exist in the vocabulary of Trek viewers.

Then there are the continuity issues. Sure, in any given series they tended to stay more or less consistent on the large scale. Once we found out Riker was from Alaska, he didn't start talking about his happy childhood in Key West. On an episode-to-episode basis, however, they were less than impressive. We offer for your consideration the example of back injuries. On "Babylon 5", Garibaldi was shot in the back and spent several episodes in a medlab bed. After he got up and about again, he still walked with a cane for a while and mentioned being in pain. On TNG, on the other hand, Worf had his entire frigging SPINE replaced! Brand new spinal cord with vertebrae to match! There was talk at the end of the episode about how long the physical therapy and general recovery would take, and yet the next time we saw Worf he was perfectly okay!

Don't even get us started on continuity on a series-to-series basis. Is there any part of Original Series history they've left alone? We're not interested in nitpicking--nobody's worried about the reference to the first moon landing being in 1970 in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday". After all, this was written a couple of years before Apollo 11 touched down in 1969. But when you ignore the Eugenics Wars, you completely negate the existence of "Wrath of Khan", arguably the best Trek movie ever. Which also wipes out "Search for Spock" and "Voyage Home". Do you realize what that means? It means that there is absolutely NO gap at all between The Motionless Picture and Star Trek V. We go from one straight into the other! Dogs and cats living together--mass hysteria!

Cliches, gimmicks, technobabble, particles of the week, radiation of the week, insane god-like beings of the week, and revisionist history--it's an ugly list, isn't it? Directors who let these things happen again and again get to shoulder part of the blame, as do the producers who approve the pitched stories that become these awful scripts. And of course, some of the actors get their share of blame as well. Are we going to name names this time around? Hell, yes. Don't look for any Shatner-bashing here, though. It's good for a laugh, but it ain't Bill's fault.

First on the chopping block is Garrett Wang in the role of Harry Kim. Clearly some work went into creating this role. Questions must have been asked like "What if a member of the crew was a two-dimensional being in our three-dimensional universe?" or "What if Riker had never grown a beard?" Rumor has it that the role was originally slated for an actual piece of cardboard. When the Screen Actors Guild pointed out that there was no cardboard currently in their ranks, the casting director found the next best thing: our man Garrett. If we're not careful, we could easily ending up writing a whole essay on the shortcomings of both Garrett as an actor and Harry as a character, but that's not the point. If you want to hire an Asian capable of showing a little depth, take a look at the highly under-rated Daniel Dae Kim in "Angel" and the all-too-brief "Crusade".

Kate Mulgrew taught us that there are two ways to do things on a starship: the right way and the Janeway. It's easy to do the Captain Katherine Hepburn jokes, but we won't. It's no coincidence, however, that the actress was cast in the role of Hepburn at some point. Just so we're clear, though, our complaint about the character is NOT that she's female. Stop by "Babylon 5" some time and check out all the grrrl power going on over there. Susan Ivanova, Lyta Alexander, Elizabeth Lochley, Delenn, "Number One" of the Mars Resistance--all of them very strong leaders that any of us would gladly follow into darkness, into fire, into death. All of them, incidentally, happen to possess vaginas. Janeway, on the other hand, is about as commanding as a substitute teacher on the last day of school.

Sure, we could go after other actors, but they carry only a fraction of the responsibility for the decline. You can only pick on brothel employees so much for the fall of the Roman Empire. Anyway, most of the actors struck us as just trying to do the best they could with the material they were given.

So where did this material come from? We've already mentioned writers, directors, and producers, but the top of this totem pole of interstellar doo-doo is one Rick Berman. You knew we'd get to him eventually, right?

Without being on the inside, it's hard to tell what Rick's biggest crime is. It seems, from this distance, to be a Lack of Vision. How else would you describe a man fully willing to hire soap opera writers who had never done science fiction scripts before? What else can you say about a man who freely admits to not understanding why "Nemesis" tanked? But maybe, just maybe, Rick does have a vision of sorts, no matter how twisted and malformed it may be. If this is the case, then his crime is a Lack of Willingness--specifically, the willingness to fight the Higher Powers (a/k/a the Suits at Paramount) to make suggestions, changes, and improvements. So either he doesn't have any Vision, or he doesn't have the photon torpedoes in his pants to back it up.

You may be asking at this point why this matters. (You may ask yourself, "What is this large automobile?") Certain shows started gaining in popularity around the time that Trek began to lose popularity. Each of these shows had behind them a single person with a Vision, a guiding hand, and the willingness to stand up to network execs to get that Vision across. B5 had J. Michael Straczynski. Joss Whedon was responsible for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", and the wonderfully written "Firefly", which was doomed from the start by being placed in a poor timeslot. With "X-Files", Chris Carter was in charge. Rather than debating the merits of these various shows against, say, "Voyager" or "Enterprise", we'll just toss out the names and let them speak for themselves. Otherwise, we'll be here all day.

Above everyone and everything else, we have the faceless corporate entity that is Paramount. The collective arrogance of the people in charge at Paramount is hard to top outside of the software industry. To a greater or lesser degree, everything they've done for years has been accompanied by the implied statement of "If we call it 'Star Trek', the fans will enjoy it." Someone once said much the same thing, clearly and openly: "If it's good for GM, it's good for America." This was shortly before the American automotive industry got its legs kicked out from under it.

Not only does such an attitude convey arrogance, but also an obvious lack of respect for the fans. But the most clear-cut cases of fan-dissing come up when you talk about Paramount demanding that fans shut down their Trek-related websites. Sure, these folks were using copyrighted material, but odds are that you'll find the great majority of them were making no money whatsoever from their fansites, and probably even losing money. These websites were put together out of love for the shows, movies, and books. They were, in effect, providing free advertising for the Trek franchise in general. Paramount and their pack of attack lawyers weren't having any of that. We're probably taking chances just by writing about Trek.

Finally, hand-in-hand with the arrogance and the disrespect we have the greed. Yes, entertainment is a business, just like everything else, and everyone's in it to make money, but it's possible to go Too Far. Somewhere along the line in the quest for profit, the focus became the amount of Trek available rather than the effort put into it. Look at all the books, toys, models, and other tie-ins and try to tell us that they're concerned with quality rather than quantity. If you can do it with a straight face, you have an exciting future ahead of you in politics.

Can anything be done about this? We think so. Step one is to let the franchise rest for a while--nothing on TV or in the movie theaters for at least five years, preferably ten. At that point, it'll be capable of a fresh start, and a lot of the disappointed fans will hopefully have mellowed enough to forget the glaring flaws of the last two shows and the last movie. The second step can wait until the downtime is almost over: finding a new "caretaker" for Trek. It needs to be someone with respect and love for what's been done before, an idea for where to take it in the future, and whatever it takes to make a stand for consistent quality. There's a name we've tossed around among ourselves, but no matter what impression we've given you of the Pool Cleaners from Distant Planets, something like that isn't for us to say.

Is anyone going to listen to us on this? Probably not. No matter how many places we put this online, we may be doing nothing more than shouting in the middle of the wilderness. Every now and then, though, those voices from out of nowhere get heard.

An open letter to Spammers

By Myk-El

I spend a good portion of my working day processing customer requests to block e-mail spam that comes into my organization. We've invested thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours in the fight to stop spam. This is a fight we cannot possibly win and you and I both know it. I even had a customer call me today to ask if we still wanted to be alerted. He said "I guess it just dawned on me how futile it is." Why do we fight you? Because someone has to fight back and I don't see many volunteers.

What I don't get is the reason behind all the work. Do you know how many variations on the word "penis" we have blocked right now? If you do, that makes one of us. I've lost track. We've got it blocked with accents, umlauts, tildes, spaces and numbers in place of the vowels. So then we had to start blocking "manhood" and then "genitals." It never ends. Don't you get the hint? We're quite happy with our size. We're fully capable of surprising our partner on our own. We can become aroused without benefit of chemicals. And we SURE AS HELL can take care of our own refinancing thankyouverymuch. You aren't going to generate business off of those who work to block you. How does simply delivering the message benefit you?

I read an article about spam spreading out of e-mail and into web logs (blogs) and IM software (neither of which I use). It mentioned that e-mail spam accounts for an estimated 50% of all e-mail. 50%!!!! At no point in the dark days before "Do Not Call" lists were my phone calls 50% telemarketing, though it might have felt like it. I'm not even sure if half the snail mail addressed to me is advertising. Maybe, I'm not sure. TV still puts on 44 minutes of programming per hour in prime time. But 50% of content being advertisements?! I'm not even going to get into the bandwidth argument. You are wasting precious system resources, and I'm paying for it.

I guess that's what it comes down to. I'm paying for this shit. I pay $22/month to have e-mail and internet access. I get my 10 little megabytes to host this meager website for that $22 and I'm upset enough to use part of that to address you bastards. That's what makes this different than snail mail. In that case, it's the advertisers that pay for all of it. Heck, the amount they send through the mail keeps our postage for everything else relatively low. This is the reason I had the issue with the free speech argument the telemarketers are making. It's not free. I'm paying for phone service and I should have some input on who gets to use it. Same issue here. If I tell you not to send me mail, stop. Don't circumvent my block rule. It's only going to make me angrier and less likely to give you my money.

That is really all you want, right? Well, you aren't getting any of it. I have a line starting here, going down the block and out of the neighborhood full of people far more worthy that want my money. That includes those bastards who hold my credit card accounts. So, please, give up or get bent.

Myk-El from Krypton

P.S. If I do find any of you bastards, I won't kill you. I'll make you wish I would, though.

P.P.S. I mean it!

P.P.P.S. Fuck you all!


Intergalactic, Planetary, and Everything in Between

I realize it can be tough for a race that hasn't done much more than toss a couple of probes outside your solar system, but you really need to learn the proper terminology if you're going to get anywhere. And no, I don't mean the jargon surrounding warp drive, hyperdrive, or even Infinite Improbabilty Drive; I don't understand that stuff myself. I'm talking about just one word: intergalactic.

Most of you Earthers appear as blazing beacons of ignorance when you use the word, because you use it in a way that seems to mean "anything having to do with space". Don't try to deny it--I've heard it in your TV shows and movies, as well as read it in your reviews and summaries of those same entertainments. Sure, sometimes it actually applies, but that's pretty rare. Even in your science fiction, the majority of the action takes place in just one galaxy. Why? Because galaxies are mind-bogglingly HUGE, and really, REALLY far apart.

Let me clarify: "intergalactic" doesn't mean "out in space". It means "between galaxies", or "involving more than one galaxy". Our own galaxy (yes, I'm from here, too) contains hundreds of billions of stars, and is so wide that it takes light 100,000 Earth years to cross it. Most space adventures, whether real or imaginary, are _intra_-galactic in nature; or, if you prefer, interstellar. (If you guessed that it means "between stars", award yourself a cookie.)

Some events aren't even interstellar in scope; if it all happens in one star system, you could call it intra-stellar, but most folks would probably just call it interplanetary. If it's all one world, you can call it intra-planetary, or just "planetary" for short. When your poets known as the Beastie Boys chanted "intergalactic planetary, planetary intergalactic" (in a work titled "Intergalactic"), they were giving opposite ends of the size spectrum.

Sure, there are some beings (like Jeph) that actually made it here from other galaxies, but they're pretty rare. Their journeys usually involve freak wormholes, travel times of thousands of years, or immensely powerful yet mentally unstable beings--much like the ones depicted again and again in your "Star Trek".

So go forth armed with this new knowledge, and the knowledge that humans are a little closer to the stars because of you. You'll get even closer every time you give a wedgie to someone who uses one of these terms improperly. Tell 'em it's your duty to humanity, and Rhaab said it's okay.

Bunch of Savages in this Town or Return Your Shopping Carts for Peace and Understanding.

By Myk-El

Having studied your planet's history, I have developed a theory that the decline of your Western Civilization began in the supermarket parking lot. This has something to do with the savages that do not return their carts to either a cart return or the store depending on what is closest. Honestly, I can't think of a good reason why someone who took their cart from the store to their car cannot return their cart. As easy as it is to simply put the cart away, leaving it where you parked is an increasingly common sight. Inconsiderate is the key word. Since all aliens know English, I know it means "not thinking about." In most cases, it is not thinking about the possible consequences of their actions.

I began to see this trend toward inconsideration in the parking lot. Not returning carts was first, followed by not correcting poor parking and then intentionally taking up two (or more) spots because whoever it is likes their car too much, and in good parking spots. What most folks think about with the stray shopping cart thing is minor auto dings, but it goes deeper. Think about the poor folks that have to retrieve those carts during nasty cold winter weather, blazing summer heat or the odd thundershower. It raises the price of groceries because more people are needed on staff to clean up after these savages, not to mention how slow the bagging of your groceries can be because they only have a couple folks working the 10 open lanes while everyone else is tracking down some stray cart a lazy shopper left out that rolled to the far end of the lot. And I know it is laziness. There used to be a store that had nearly all of their carts returned, as they should be. Why? Because you needed a quarter to get them in the first place, this money was returned to you upon the cart's return. That's all it took to ensure safe cart return 99% of the time, the worry of losing 25 cents!

I still think people are embarrassed by getting caught being an asshole, but I think the money is even more important. I've only actually caught someone in the act of abandoning a cart once. When I did, I stared him down in a condescending way. His response was to attempt to keep the cart from moving and adding a supposedly reassuring gesture that it was safe where it was. If he had a quarter in it, I bet he would have returned it. He was red faced, so it's a start. Since we can't charge money to people for being rude, this is what I think we all need to do; embarrass the rude into politeness for the sake of continuing polite society. We can't always catch them in the act, but when you do, make sure they know you aren't happy. And don't forget to keep up your end of the bargain and return those carts.

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