This is not a political blog. I have no desire to rant and rattle on about my political views and why you should or should not vote for this one, that one, or the third one who really shouldn't even be running because he's just mucking up the chances of the second one. There are plenty of blogs exactly like that, though, so if that's the horse you want to ride, well, do a search and saddle up, cowboy.

This is not a blog about the short-comings of the American education system or the stupidity of the next ( or any) generation. If you think the school system failed you and you can still read this, then congratulations,Kilroy! You managed to rise above it. Kudos to you.

This is absolutely not an anti-American blog. I may have named it "Stupid America", but as corny as it sounds, I really do love this country. I will, however, admit I am often embarrassed by it. I just don't understand how a country that once gave us Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Sojourner Truth and Walt Whitman could now be serving up Real Housewives, teen vampires, info-mercials, Humvee limousines and all things Kardashian. Where, exactly, did we go off-script? This blog is my journal of musings on American culture and mores as I try to find some answers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baby, You Can't Drive Your Car

     I learned to drive when I was 16, even though I went to high school in the middle of Manhattan and took the subway everywhere I needed to go. In fact, I had been taking the subway to school by myself since I was 12 years old. That's what a lot of New York City kids do. But I still couldn't wait to get my license. It seems every American kid, no matter where they live, wants to get their driver's license when they turn 16. Learning to drive is like a rite of passage in the United States.  It's the closest thing we have to a national coming-of-age ritual. There are plenty of people in the States who don't, but for the most part, we are a nation driven to drive. Unfortunately, that doesn't always mean we are driven to drive well. Every day, just when I am certain I will never see someone driving as badly as I did the day before, someone proves me wrong. I think lately, Americans on a whole are driving worse than ever. There are so many news reports of road rage incidents, accidents being caused by someone texting or talking on the phone and not paying attention to the road, pedestrians being hit and the driver who did it speeding away as fast as they could. And way too many cases of drunk driving. In the last month alone, I have heard no less than seven reports of someone driving the wrong way on a major roadway, and in almost all of those cases, alcohol was involved. Two of those cases happened just last night, locally! I shudder to think how many times this happens weekly or even daily across the country.
     Lately, I've got a new pet driving peeve. When I am driving on local roads, either urban or suburban, I constantly have to switch lanes or swerve into the lane to the left of me, ( if there is no traffic in that lane) or stop all together, because someone emerging from a parking lot or side street has stuck the nose of their car directly into oncoming traffic. This happens so often now, I have to wonder why. Why is it suddenly OK to obstruct oncoming traffic, to jut out way beyond a stop sign or driveway in order to get into the oncoming flow? Sometimes they even try to cross two or three lanes of oncoming traffic flow, as well as a double yellow line, in order to make a left turn.  Are people that bad at spatial analysis ( probably, judging by most peoples' parallel parking aptitude) or are they just that rude?( yes). But I am really curious as to why, all of a sudden, this is such a common thing to do. Are they being taught that it's ok?  Is there a driving school somewhere that teaches special courses in jerky driving?  This new pet peeve even tops my last one, which is people driving on local well-lit streets with their high beams on. Not even on the highway. On local streets and boulevards. Why do you need your brights on to drive in the Metropolitan New York area? The only places I can think of that are more brightly lit are possibly Tokyo and Las Vegas. Oh, and the face of the sun.  Possibly.  Rounding out my top three pet driving peeves  is people who don't use their directionals. I'm not talking about signaling to turn into your driveway from a side street or signaling to turn on an empty country road ( though I do-force of habit regardless of where I am). I'm talking about drivers who can see there are cars waiting to know what they will do, and pedestrians who are waiting to see whether they can cross a street. These drivers just don't seem to think they need to signal. Why should they do something like that, why tip their hand?  And why in the world would you signal to change lanes on a busy highway? You would lose the element of surprise. Those directionals are obviously pointless. They should replace them with some kind of tricked out running lights or something else really useful. Maybe a horn that plays "la Cucaracha". Sweet.
      Then there are the random acts of driving stupidity that I see constantly. A few weeks ago, on my way down to Philadelphia for a family function, my brother, my mother and I were driving through Staten Island on a heavily traveled highway when we saw a car weaving slightly, and not keeping constant speed. The driver  would go very very fast in spurts, trying to get past whatever trucks were next to him, or he would slow down to a crawl for no apparent reason. He would waver and take up two lanes so often, it was not safe to try to pass him. We all assumed he was drunk, or perhaps over-tired and it was effecting his driving. Finally, there was a chance to pass him, and my brother did just that. As we passed, we saw what was causing the erratic behavior. The man was driving and reading a newspaper. At speeds upwards of 55 miles per hour.  I'd seen people drive and read papers in traffic jams, where they would inch forward at speeds of ten or so miles per hour. I think this is stupid enough, since one of these shining diamond intellects rear-ended me while doing just that.  When I looked at him in my rearview mirror, he gave me this stupid shrug as if to say, "hey, what can ya do? I was just readin' here", as if it was fine and dandy that he hit another car, since it wasn't a major accident and there was no damage. This time.  I've seen plenty of stupid drivers like him reading and texting in traffic jams, but I have never before seen someone driving at that speed while seriously reading, not glancing at, but reading a paper.  This is topped only by the women who put on their makeup in their car while driving to work or to the restaurant/bar/club where they are meeting their equally idiotic friends at breakneck speeds. You can see them everywhere, if you look. They are  using the rearview mirror to apply their mascara and eyeshadow, fix their lipstick, spray their hair into place. Sometimes they are stopped at a light. Sometimes they are barreling down a highway.  I always wonder what their driving records look like. I knew a girl from Austria who was living in Key West years ago, and she used a moped scooter to get around the island.  I realized what a good choice this was when I sat on the moped once and found that both her rearview mirrors were adjusted so that she could look at herself when driving, not at surrounding traffic. Mopeds don't go very fast, but motorcycles and cars do. A moped was a good choice for her. A bus or taxi would have been better.
      One time, when I was working with(for) my mom one summer during college, we were driving on Queens Boulevard, near the 59th street Queensborough bridge ( just now re-named the Ed Koch bridge, after a beloved mayor of New York) when a livery cab cut us off. Hard. My mom had to step on the brakes quickly and hope no one rear-ended us. It was an area of massive traffic. Queens Boulevard's nickname is "The Boulevard of Death", because of all the pedestrians who are killed while trying to cross it each year. To be fair, many of these pedestrians try to cross not at a light, but at a random point, and Queens Boulevard is, in some areas, 8-10 lanes wide. At other times, they do try to cross at lights that do not afford them enough time to finish crossing, and drivers speed outrageously there, so something bad is bound to happen. And happen it does. Again and again. But we were in a car, not trying to cross the Boulevard. We were ok, but the guy was a really bad driver and a worse jerk. My mother had honked her horn when he was cutting her off, mostly to tell him we were THERE, since he didn't act like he'd seen us, taking up actual physical space in the lane next to him.  But I'd be lying if I didn't say she was honking partly to express her opinion of him and his driving. Well, he was not going to take THAT. No one was going to honk at him. He would show us. So he put his car in reverse and tried to back it into our car. I thought this was so ridiculous, I burst out laughing. My mother, though shocked, also thought it was pretty funny, but she was very cautious and just stopped, waiting for a chance to change lanes and get the hell away from  him.  I think he saw me laughing, and this made him even angrier, so he tried to back into us again, two more times. We passed him and he was gesticulating and twitching like a dog full of fleas. We probably should have taken down his license and reported him to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, but this sort of thing happens every day in New York. It was all in a day's drive.  My mother and I still recall the time "that crazy guy tried to back into us in traffic". We laugh now, and we laughed then. I wonder if the cab driver remembers the incident or if it was just par for the course for him. Judging by the driving I see on a daily basis, I would think "par for the course" is a safe bet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Blog By Any Other Name...

      So, I was on Google, and I did a search, typing in the URL for this blog. Well, it came up, "Stupid America" and then, the one snippet of text that followed was, "They're just asking for it". Hmm. That doesn't make me sound like a terrorist or anything... I mean, what the hell, Google? You couldn't find anything else to put in there? Do you want to put me on the no-fly list, is that it? What did I ever do to you, you massive cyber search engine? Did I cross the virtual line? Are you upset because if you were indeed not an internet search engine, but a flesh and blood human entity you would be shopping at 4am on Black Friday? Well, get over it.
      I don't know, maybe I should change the name of the blog. Maybe I should call it "Stupid New York", since I am a native New Yorker and there is plenty of stupid going on here at any given moment. Or maybe I should just call it, "I am writing about whatever the hell I feel like writing about". But that would be cumbersome. And it would describe most blogs, wouldn't it? Except the baby picture blogs, which are just the modern version of random strangers whipping out their wallets to a captive audience and showing pictures of their little dear ones. And the Jesus blogs, which are mostly about Jesus, but maybe that  IS what the bloggers feel like talking about, so really, it would fit the aforementioned descriptive title.  Perhaps I should call this thing, "I Love my Stupid Country, which is America". Or, "My Country, tis of Thee and Me". Yeah, maybe.  Or I could give it a name out of left field, like, "Zanzibara". Of course, that name would denote some sort of exotic content, the desert wind tickling your face as you enter in search of, what? Spices, a fertile oasis, a place to park your camel.  What about "Fish Pickins". I don't know what that means, so it would definitely be out of left field. "Hello and welcome to Fish Pickins. Today I'm gonna rant about Cheerios and Lego. Also I will post pictures of my pet hamster and talk about the time I tap danced on stage with the Rockettes. This blog has nothing to do with either fish or picking them." At this point I should make it clear I have never tap danced with the Rockettes, either on stage or off, and I do not have a pet hamster.  I could probably rant about Cheerios, though.  Lego too.
      I wonder if the name of this particular blog is the reason I got 10 hits from Saudi Arabia in a single day. I don't know, could be. The Saudis are supposed to be our allies, but that never stops anyone from enjoying a joke at someone else's expense. I have lots of friends who email me blonde jokes, after all ( because I am a blonde, naturally. And I do mean, naturally).  They were probably disappointed when they didn't see the punchline to "How many Americans does it take to close their National Deficit?"  I don't know the punchline to that one, so I can't post it.  I apologize to our Saudi friends. If anyone knows the punchline, feel free to share.  In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with this: Did you hear about the blonde who put lipstick on her forehead? She was trying to make up her mind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dark Black Friday Of My Soul

      Black Friday. The very words make me shudder. In America, Black Friday refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving, the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season.  Every year, after their Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, thousands upon thousands of Americans get in the car and drive to their local malls to stand in line outside various retail outlets, waiting for them to open ridiculously early in the morning so that they may get "amazing deals!" on "a huge selection of fantastic merchandise!". During the past decade or so, Black Friday shopping has been elevated to something more resembling a contact sport than a day at the mall. Retailers who traditionally opened at some time around 7am the day after Thanksgiving first started opening at 6, then 5, and now they open at 3 or 4 in the morning, with some opening at midnight, and others just not  bothering to close at all or opening late on Thanksgiving night. This year, many stores opted to stay open on Thanksgiving day as well. They figured, what better way to get a jump on competitors than to start the sales on Thursday, turkey and family be damned?! I'm not talking about supermarkets, whose services are often necessary on big food-centric holidays, and I'm not talking about small  businesses that cater to neighborhood crowds. These are major retailers like Walmart, Toys R Us, Old Navy and even Sears. Seriously, how much more money does Walmart really need that they couldn't see fit to give their employees a nice Thanksgiving Day off?
     And how badly does anyone need an iPod or flat screen TV that they sacrifice one of the only major holidays everyone in the country celebrates ( the other being Independence Day, of course)  to join the huddled masses like an immigrant at Ellis Island, waiting beside the "Golden Door" of......K-Mart?  Why would you want to ruin the holiday by bundling up ( well, maybe not in Florida or Louisiana, but definitely here in the Northeast) and standing for hours in the cold pre-dawn November darkness to go shopping?  Is saving that extra 15% really worth it?  Yes, I know there are plenty of people who cannot stand to be around their families, either nuclear or extended, for more than a few hours at a time. And yes, Thanksgiving is a day famously full of family strife and foibles. Thanksgiving is one of those extra-sensitive days when an argument about canned vs. fresh cranberry sauce can result in someone getting cut out of the will. But if we didn't have these special family moments, think of all the therapists who would be out of business, not to mention what it would do to stand-up comedy. Family strife creates jobs, people! Keep it up.
     Retailers should be ashamed, and so should every single person who is reading this  blog on the laptop they got at Best Buy as a Black Friday Doorbuster at 4 AM. There is almost no one day we can all agree upon to celebrate our, um, "American-ness".  Independence Day should be the big one, but most people call it "4th of July" and treat it as a summer three day weekend. We display flags and wear Old Navy tank tops with patriotic designs on our way to cookouts or to the Hamptons or Cape Cod or Tahoe or wherever people in any particular part of the country go to celebrate a three day summer weekend holiday.  Sure, we realize what the hoopla is about, and we set off fireworks or watch the big displays on TV, but it's almost more of a summer bank holiday than a celebration of our national identity.  Thanksgiving, for some reason, seems to be more in that vein. It's the start of the Holiday season, it's family and food centered, it's a celebration of the bounty of the land and of the country.
      Not that a celebration like that is unique to America. Almost every culture has some sort of harvest feast day. In Ghana they have a three day festival called Homowo, during which they eat yams mashed together with hard boiled eggs. For three days. That should make you see your leftover turkey in a new light. In Bali they celebrate Nyepi, a sort of harvest fest/New Years' celebration that just seems like a lot of work. Three days before Nyepi, all effigies of the gods must be taken and ceremonially washed in the river  (or other handy body of water, I suppose) to cleanse them anew. The day before Nyepi, a mass exorcism is performed, which could be fun, I don't know. Then, on the day of Nyepi, you do absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. No work, no cooking, nothing. You sit and reflect. And no sex either, so don't even try it. In Northern India they celebrate Lohri, during which kids go door to door soliciting treats and throwing red powder and water on people. Then they have a huge bonfire and save the ashes, which are considered to bring luck. And Martinmas is widely celebrated as a harvest fest in Europe and Latin America. They eat special meat pies and pastries, and often there is a procession of kids dressed up and parading through the streets with paper lanterns. This provides ample photo opportunities for parents so they can  mortify their teens in years to come.
     Yeah, we may not be the only country with a harvest party, but ours is the only one that comes with hand-outline turkeys and pilgrim hats and Squanto. Come on, folks! The first settlers of Plymouth Colony survive that long, cold  arduous winter of 1620-21 with the help of the Native Americans, and then have a bountiful harvest ( also with help, lots of help, from the Native Americans). They celebrate with a three day feast and invite all their Wampanoag  friends to the party, saying nothing of their future plans for "manifest destiny". Then, 242 years later, President Lincoln declares, "Hey! It's Thanksgiving!"( it was celebrated during those 242 years, but Lincoln is the guy who made it official on the final Thursday on the final full week of November each year).  We're supposed to celebrate this day by actually giving thanks- for food, shelter, friends and family, whatever it is for which we are thankful. And hopefully, we take a look around and realize that even in lean times, we are better off than some, and maybe we reach into our pockets and give a little to those less fortunate.  There is absolutely no way that Walmart or Banana Republic fit into that category.
     The people who drew the shortest stick in all of this are the intrepid retail employees. For these poor souls, there is no option. If they are scheduled to work, they work. If they don't, very often they can get into serious trouble and sometimes even lose their jobs. This past weekend, I heard one retail employee interviewed on the local news say, "well, in this economy, I'm just happy I have a job".  OK. I get that. But wouldn't you be even happier if you didn't have to leave your family gathering early so you could try to get some sleep, before waking( if you get to sleep at all) at 3 AM, maybe earlier,  to make sure you look nice and presentable while you cater to the rampaging hordes of cranky people who have made a choice  to shop at 4 AM?  Of course you would. I've worked retail, and I've worked on Black Friday, and I will say this: no one  who works on Black Friday really wants to be there. Not a one. And if you're one of the rampaging horde, make no mistake. They may be smiling but they are looking at you and thinking, "idiot".
     The real culprits, the ones who started all this mess, are the retail executives. Not the store managers or ASM's, but the ones at the top of the food chain. The ones with the corner offices and expense accounts, who, I guarantee you, are spending every Thanksgiving holiday enjoying four consecutive days off, celebrating with their loved ones, watching the game on TV, getting 18 holes in at Hilton Head, or more likely, Poipu Bay golf club on Oahu. What do they care if thousands of employees who are chronically underpaid and receive minuscule raises each year ( we're talking as low as a 15 cent per hour raise) if they even get a raise, have to cut their holiday short?  It's all about the bottom line. The bigger the profit, the better their bonuses at the end of the year.
       There is a popular theory that Black Friday is so named because it is the day when retailers who supposedly operate at a loss much of the year, show profit, and go from being "in the red" to "in the black", from the traditional accounting practice of using black ink to denote assets, red for losses. Yeah. This is a total fabrication. Do you honestly think a stores could stay in business if it was operating at that much of a loss for most of the year? Not a chance.  But even some retail managers don't seem to realize this.
      I remember our Ops Manager at my place of employment ( a big, high-end New York based retailer) reciting this exact story to her bored captive audience at a rally meeting one year. "This is why it is so important for you to get here on time this Friday and really do the best you can to make sure we get those sales!", she whined in her sing-song Minnie Mouse voice.  I think she was honestly trying to make us believe  that if we were even five minutes late for work,or if we did not smile big enough or get enough sales,  the stock market would crash and we'd all be modern-day Tom Joads in no time. Not that she'd  have any idea who Tom Joad was. I think her tastes ran more to Harlequin romances than Steinbeck.  Thing is, she was just as much a victim as the rest of us. She hailed from the Midwest and would have loved the chance to have a nice Thanksgiving with her family there. It wasn't her fault we were all miserable and angry about having to work crazy hours on the day after Thanksgiving.
     Some people think Black Friday is the day the stock market really did crash back in 1929, setting the stage for the Great Depression, but this was actually Black Thursday. Black Friday was used to refer to the Fisk/Gould scandal of 1869. And yes, I did have to look that up.  In the 1970's cops in Philadelphia began referring to the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday", due to the massive amount of traffic and incidents on that day. The name slowly spread, until today there are actually Black Friday shopping tip sites on the internet, and, like I said, it's become something of a national obsession. One which I do not share.  I understand that Friday after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. Why else would Macy's dish out all that dough to escort Santa  down to Herald Square each year?  And when you work in retail, you expect to have to work on some days you'd rather not. But stores should open at normal times, not in the middle of the night, or even on Thanksgiving. And people shouldn't mob the doors and trample anyone in their way on their quest for a cheaper Coach bag or a hard-to-get toy. It's your special Holiday, people. You should enjoy it. And you should give everyone else the chance to enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Things First

      Americans are always so surprised when we find out that people from other countries hate us. "Why would they hate us, they don't even know us!", we exclaim, shocked and taken aback at the hurtful knowledge that there are  strangers in countries where they speak gibberish and wear funny clothes and eat smelly food, who would just as soon spit on us as say hello. And it's not just the French. There are plenty of other hairy unwashed strangers in other weird, odd smelling and dressing countries who also hate us. Go figure. Some people are so negative. Haters.
      I won't even begin to comment on how off the mark some Americans can be when it comes to their knowledge of the world at large. What is interesting to me is the way Americans speak about other Americans. There are certain regional stereotypes that won't give up the ghost.  I think The South has never completely forgiven The North for the "War of Northern Aggression". Upon hearing that I was from New York, a lovely little old lady in Tupelo, Mississippi, once told me that I " should stay on down here, give the South some time. It'll melt your cold Yankee heart!". This was said in the nicest possible way. We were sitting on a porch swing, drinking sweet tea and chatting on a sultry day in early October.  She was quite taken with me, but when she heard I was not only a Yankee, but a New Yorker to boot ( the worst of the worst!), she felt it her duty to try and save me from myself.  I can't really blame her. The South still bears the deep scars of the Civil War, and how could she be sure I had no ancestors who marched with Sherman to the sea or mowed down Confederate troops with General Meade at Gettysburg? Even I don't know that. 
      Likewise, The North never seems to entirely trust The South. Give 'em too much of a chance and they'll try to "rise again" and we'll all be wearing hoop skirts and drinking juleps.  To many northerners, especially those who have never actually been down south, the southern United States is a place full of backwoods hillbillies, women with big hair and, of course, lots of snakes and alligators. I think the movies, "Steel Magnolias" and "Deliverance" have stoked the fires of these misconceptions, but then again, there are a lot of gators in some places. And hair. Of course, there's all those palm trees and lovely beaches in Florida, but Florida somehow doesn't really count as The South. Florida is a separate entity, created  by Disney, Jimmy Buffet and real estate developers. It serves as a place for tanning,sport fishing, good clean family fun and of course, the humane storage of senior citizens. Sure, there are those pesky endangered manatees to worry about, and the whole vanishing wetlands thing, but someone will fix that eventually.
     Some East Coasters and Midwesterners think California is full of spaced-out super liberal ex-hippie vegans who are either A: trying to bring the country to ruination with their spaced-out super liberal ex-hippie vegan views, B: running Hollywood and that's why there is nothing but overpriced banal crap at our local theaters,what ever happened to good old-fashioned entertainment? or C: going to fall into the ocean when that big earthquake finally hits and that's why it would be wise to buy future beachfront property in Nevada and Arizona. The West Coasters often regard the East Coasters as dismal and money-driven.The West Coast may be money-driven, but at least they aren't dismal.  People on both coasts seem to think Midwesterners sit around eating white bread and reading their bibles when they aren't farming, watching wholesome, family-friendly TV, voting Republican and dressing conservatively.  Idaho is full of crazy survivalists. The Pacific Northwest is full of smug, eco-friendly computer millionaires and coffee loving failed grunge musicians. New Englanders hate outsiders. Midwesterners are dull. New Yorkers are rude and obnoxious and think the world revolves around them. Yeah, well. Some of it is true, some of it isn't. It's a big country. There are probably lots of people who do fit the stereotypes, but there are plenty more who don't.
     I spend a lot of time in Vermont. Some of my very best friends live there, and I am a frequent visitor. I know Vermont well enough at this point to navigate through a large part of it without the help of any maps or GPS ( which I hate, but that's a story for a different day). At this point, I feel like I am an honorary Vermonter.  So much so, that when I am driving through the Green Mountains and I see some idiot tail-gating or trying to pass someone who is already going ten miles over the speed limit,  I think,"Hah! Another asshole with Connecticut plates". On the flip-side of this coin, I have gotten yelled at, flipped off and once, a car full of teenagers in New Hampshire actually threw a sandwich at my car, because I happen to have New York State license plates. No, I'm not kidding. It was a big sandwich, too. Probably they paid good money for it at a sub shop, so it must have been a major decision to throw it at my car. How dare I shamelessly drive in New Hampshire with my New York plates?
     Vermonters and, I think, New Hampshire residents, call anyone not from their states, "flatlanders". New York City residents can frequently be heard commenting on all the "stupid tourists" who flock to the city.  Upstate New Yorkers, and New Yorkers from the western part of the state, often have a strong dislike for New York City, mainly because they feel the city takes and takes and doesn't give enough back to the State. New York City residents think of everything above the Bronx as being "upstate". I know this to be true because my own family regards Westchester County, directly above and adjacent to the Bronx, as being just as "upstate" as Malone or Ogdensburg, near the Canadian border.  Hey, if the subway can't get you there, it's upstate.  Likewise, if you don't live in New York or some other big city, you are a "bumpkin", or a "yokel", living out in "the sticks". And even within the city, people who come into Manhattan to enjoy the nightlife and culture of New York are dubbed the "bridge and tunnel crowd". Unless, of course, they hail from certain rarified neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens that are deemed hip enough to trump that moniker. Then they are dubbed, "hipsters", "artists" and "urban pioneers".  This sort of geographic factionalization on such a microcosmic level makes me wonder what residents of St.Paul might be saying about those of Minneapolis behind their backs. Twin Cities, huh? Could sibling rivalry be far behind?
      My point is, we are surprised when people from foreign lands take issue with us and dislike us without, perhaps,  really knowing us. Yet, at the same time, we are very busy actively disliking ourselves.  New York and New Jersey are like two neighbors who each think the other is a jerk. Likewise, I've heard more than one Texan speak ill of the folks from Oklahoma. On the whole, it seems America has a problem with self-loathing. Well, get over it, America. Stop hating yourself, get it together, go play some baseball-no, wait, there's that whole Boston/New York rivalry...ok, then, why not redecorate? What's that? Can't figure out whether to go for the red state or blue state color scheme? Yeah, that's a tough one. Wait, I know. Why not make fun of Canada, that's always a fun time! Those damn Canooks with their friendly people and excellent health care system and sparkling clean air! Talk about a bunch of bozos! They're just asking for it.