Archive for November, 2006

new and improved is getting old

November 28, 2006

Ta-daa!  tis the season for the new and improved!  Am I the only person out there that wonders what was so bad with the old and merely sufficient?  Don’t get me wrong, there are things that always need improving, like relationships.  But after a hundred or so years on the market how much better can soap flakes be?  If a product wasn’t as good as it could have possibly been I have just two questions… why did the FDA allow it and can I sue?  After all, I think I was misled and lulled into a sense of false security when I faced the world with a deodorant stick that might have failed me or a detergent that didn’t get my shirts “whiter than white”.  (which is what? bright?  I don’t remember that in the  color spectrum).

Maybe I’m out of sync with the rest of society (I hope so) but does it really make sense to be caught up in a buying frenzy on Black Friday when we know in advance there won’t be but about five of the advertised PS3’s actually on the premises?  After all, in a couple of months there will be plenty of them collecting dust on the shelves, I can be patient.  And I know that my PC is outdated by the time I get it home and take it out of the box, but won’t it let me surf the web just as well as the “new and improved” one that will be outdated as soon as I go to the store, make the purchase,  get home and remove it from the box?

There are such catchy phrases out there that totally stand without reason and the general public continues unawares.  Like did you know there is no Heinz 57 varieties?  This guy Heinz just liked that number and made up an advertisement surrounding it.  There are actually about 1100 Heinz varieties today (after decades of new and improved), but I imagine that isn’t as catchy as “57”.  Also, changing the labels every time a new product was added might be too confusing to the buyer, or we might realize what a huge conglomerate Heinz really is.

These days new and improved has made great headway in the automotive industry, which has always had our safety in mind when designing vehicles.  I found that out when the plastic calipers wore out on my brakes and my Chrysler dealer told me (as he replaced them with metal ones) that the reason plastic was used in the first place was for fuel economy.  How much more can metal calipers weigh than plastic ones?  And on my brakes? isn’t that like… an important component in the safe operation of my mini-van?  I could throw out the ashtray and compensate for the additional weight of metal (given the choice).  Remember the automotive industry refused to put seat belts and airbags in their cars until the government stepped in… then they became new and improved.

New features on telephones have got me riled, too.  Can’t I just make a phone call?  I mean, it is cool that I can store numbers and change the dial tone and play MP3’s and take pictures and clips with sound and down load and text message and surf the web and brush my teeth ( what! yours doesn’t allow you to do that?) but dude,  I just need to phone in my order for pizza.

I am mesmerized by the commercials on T.V.,  especially the one I saw recently about a men’s cologne.  It begins by showing all these really hot babes running and swimming and fighting their way to one location.  Hundreds of them, all determined, all focused, all clambering to the same spot where this one guy is splashing himself with this “new and improved” fragrance.  Who wants to be mauled, stretched, pulled apart and stomped to death by these rabid females?  Weird! It makes me wonder what the bottled stink before made them do, rappel mountains and hewn canoes out of logs to jettison themselves down treacherous rapids and over thunderous water falls with? 

Gee,  …that would have sufficed.

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Michael Richards… and the hits just keep coming

November 21, 2006

whew!  just when you think there is nothing new in the world Michael Richards inserts his big Kramer foot in mouth… and what a dirty little mouth it is!

Actually, it isn’t new anymore, is it?  Already people are comparing Richards ill advised outburst to Mel Gibson’s drunken racist tirade and are all aghast over it.  Like it is so shocking, like racism is a thing of the past.  Well folks, we know it is not.  40 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  assassination we are still caught in the throes of prejudice.  Why?

Personally I think it is all taken out of context.  I wonder if there would have been as much of a flap if a black comedian had been chiding white folks for interrupting his act by heckling.  And there is no doubt that Richards over re-acted, but I have heard comedians spew worse and been applauded for it.  So the audience can be fickle, down right rude or unresponsive.  The experienced entertainer has to soldier through and wade into those moods, take it on the chin and move on.  Apparently Richards didn’t know how or didn’t think before he re-acted.

Problem is… he used the “n” word, and he is white.  There seems to be no worse slang out there in the English language than that one, and yet… it can be used by blacks and be seen as an endearing term.  So…  how it is used and how it is heard or applied makes the difference.  Sometimes we just might take it wrong.

Michael Richards obviously cannot act or speak impromptu.  Perhaps he thought his audience was agreeing with his being irritated and maybe they responded favorably at first.  There have been those who have heckled and been chastised for it by other audience members.  Ofcourse the recording that has been splashed all over the media hasn’t shown or implied that. 

56 years ago there was a Senator named Joe McCarthy who stirred up people about communism and in effect, made America paranoid.  We feared the “red menace” and were certain that they were out to get us.  Anyone thought to be associated with communism was considered to be a traitor.  Woe to the one who might have sympathized with any such people.

Now while we are being “politically correct”  if you are thought to be a “racist” it can tarnish your name and ruin your career?  Better not like that individual or you’ll be branded a racist, too.  I don’t get it.  I think we need to work on tolerance.  Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes to be prejudged or categorized because of their race, national origin or skin color… but it happens all of the time. 

Does that make it right? No.  Will it go away soon? No.  Has anyone besides Michael Richards and Mel Gibson ever used a racial slur in their speech (or thoughts?)  Yup.  Maybe even you and me.

I remember one time a child was running, slipped and fell down.  Stunned, he looked to his Mother for a reaction… as if to ask, “Am I hurt?  Should I cry? What should I do?”  The Mother simply smiled and said “Whew! that looked like fun!”  He got up happily and went on his way, unconcerned… unfazed by what had just happened.

If we make things out to be a big deal, they usually become one.  If we brush it off and go our way, the impact is gone… the incident minimized and soon forgotten.

But Rev. Al Sharptongue says it is not enough that Richards apologizes?  One of God’s ministers refuses to forgive?  Gee, Al…  where does prejudice end?  Do we have to run Michael (whose name means, “who is like God”) into the ground?  Humiliate Michael Richards in full view of the general public?  I wonder WWJD?  Yes, what would Jesus do, Reverend Sharpton?

Michael Richards apologized… that is good enough for me.  

get to know “The Road to Escondido”

November 19, 2006

I remember calling a local FM station a while back and complaining about their song selections.  While continuing a friendly banter with the DJ,  he asked me what artists I thought should be featured and one I had mentioned was JJ Cale.

“The only song he has to his credit is “Crazy Mama”, not much else.”  came the miffed reply.  I did mention “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” but by then those songs had already become staples of Eric Clapton.  That seems to be the way it is for JJ Cale, writing songs for someone else to perform, record and make their own.  Like Tom Waits ” Ol’  ’55” being recorded by the Eagles or Jesse Winchester’s “Oh!  What a Thrill” taken on by the Maveriks,  JJ Cale is largely known as a tunesmith.  “Call Me the Breeze” is another example of this, written and recorded by Cale but recognized as a hit from Lynard Skynard.  He has even stated his own albums are made in hopes of enticing other artists to record the songs contained in them,  a tactic  Jesse Winchester has used.

So when I heard of the collaboration between Eric Clapton and JJ Cale I was immediately enthused.  Having long been a fan of both, I knew this rare blend had to be a classic and I have not been disappointed.  Cale has a funky blues/jazz sound which plays perfectly into Clapton’s “slow hand” style.  There are several big name guests including John Mayer and the late Billy Preston which make this production seamless and appealing.

But songs like “Sensitive Kind” and “Magnolia”, though recorded by other artists in the past,  have proven to me the soft spoken ability of JJ Cale to express a tenderness that few have rivalled.  Though Clapton may have taken the spotlight due to his long standing, well deserved time as a mega-superstar, the songs contained on “The Road to Escondido” could have been easily carried by JJ Cale himself.  Maybe they wouldn’t have garnished as large of an audience as a solo effort, but they would have shined all the same.

But like one of JJ Cale’s own songs from the new CD asks, “Who Am I Telling You?”  Check it out yourself.  Maybe discover JJ Cale all over again for the first time.

peace.

   

prime time ugly and hidden camera chic

November 19, 2006

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder…  ahem,  that is…  the beholder.  There is a billion dollar industry out there trying to make us all better looking.  Is that an appeal to our vanity or is it to help make us more acceptable to society?  I wonder…

Lately it seems we have been privy to a lot of hidden camera high jinx ala Alan Funt.  Reality shows and sitcoms are portraying ugly people in situations that appear to be day to day and are capturing the public’s reaction to them.  Maybe that is a good thing, that we have empathy for one another.  Walk a mile in their shoes.  See things from their prospective.  Our society is prejudiced to young,  good looking people and I think that is only natural.  If you look at the animal kingdom you’ll find there is physical attraction in amongst the mating rituals.  Why not with humans?

Of course, beauty is only skin deep.  An attractive person can hide an ugly personality or a sinister ulterior motive.  I find it hard to feel sorry for Tyra Banks when she gets snubbed for being unattractive for a few hours but has the rest of her life to live as a super model.  Does a few hours in a fat suit make you an authority on prejudice directed towards over weight people?  I know there are people out there who have become successful despite being bathroom scale challenged, even in the entertainment industry.

If a news piece is slanted towards going “undercover” to show the public snubbing fat and/or ugly victims, are they going to include the clips of people that DO act courteous or polite?  While they are at it, why not include the nasty bullies that show intolerance for the elderly or the poor or the un-educated?  Prejudice exists in various forms, it has been around since the dawn of time and it shouldn’t be dealt with as a passing “hot topic”. 

Take for example the TomKat wedding.  Is all that hype and expense really necessary?  To me it is a big build up that can only lead to a small let down.  A marriage ceremony isn’t the end of a relationship,  only the beginning of a commitment that is life long.  A starting line that doesn’t kick off a race in sprint fashion but a slow marathon, an endurance run to the finish.  Would the public have been that interested if Tom and Katie had been fat, ugly ordinary people?  Probably not, but the moral and social fabric of our society is built in real situations, not fairy tales.  It will interesting to see how their relationship plays out in the tabloids.

In the mean time, what to do about our distaste for the unattractive humans in our midst?  Do these programs depicting unpleasant interactions “undercover” really solve anything? If it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder the emphasis should be on the individuality of the subject and not their outward appearance.  Lipstick and rouge won’t keep you warm at night, neither will charm or a bright smile.  Our own self worth should come first.  Tyra Banks with a 54 inch waist might be a nicer person than Tyra Banks in a bikini because she has to work harder at being human.  The world doesn’t cater to her as a fat, un-attractive person?  Oh,  the humility!

 If we set our standards then we can only disappoint ourselves.  Let the superficial idols come and fade away, walk like you have the secret to life’s mysteries because in essence, you do.  Happiness comes from within, nurture that and you will be prepared for the next hidden camera agenda, come what may.  

We should be making everyone work harder at acceptance and good looking people have the biggest astigmatism.  They have to get over themselves…   

’53 Studebaker goin’ for broke…

November 14, 2006

Yeah, today was one of them days when you just wanna say “phooey” and haul buggy.  I don’t know why, but sometimes the world looks different no matter what color shades I am wearing.  My mood ring turns into a black hole and some kind of nonsense continuously bounces around inside my head saying things like,  “Who needs this?”

I don’t like it when I get that way because when I get that way I am definitely not the kind of person I want to hang around with and so I say things like, “Snap out of it” but when I get that way I typically ignore people like me anyway so I am stuck being in a bad mood, dang. 

I try to think of the old stand by relief aids like, “It could be worse” or “It’ll be better tomorrow” but on this particular day the old stand bys are doing just that, standing by… while I get into Stevie “Guitar” Miller and wail…

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“Pack my bags…  don’t be  too slow,

should have quit you, baby… a long time ago.

Left you flat…  and split for Mexico.”

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Sometimes just the thought of being able to chuck it all and split to Mexico sounds so appealing, but then I think… “Dude, you can’t ‘split for Mexico’ when you don’t know anybody there or even speak the language!”  Which is frustrating because that is what being free is all about,  saying cool stuff like…

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“I’ve had enough of your lies… I’ll be gone a long time,

’cause you and your Mother, baby… are like a nursery rhyme.

You’re much too slow… I’m goin’ to Mexico.”

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I’m not sure of the connotations behind being ‘like a nursery rhyme’ but I’m sure that it is bad news otherwise this dude wouldn’t be splittin’ to Mexico in his…

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” ’53 Studebaker goin’ for broke… I’m pushin’ it night and day”

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Now after going through all that I’m starting to feel better about myself and begin to wish I had a ’53 Studebaker just to pretend I COULD go to Mexico if I wanted to… though really I wouldn’t go there.  If I was to up and vamoose  I’d probably go back home to Iowa but there are no cool songs that say “split to I O A”  which is kinda sad, because if a person had a choice between splittin’ for Iowa and splittin’ for Mexico they’d probably pick Mexico without giving it a second thought.  So I find it necessary to write a “split to Iowa” song just to cool up the location for future splitters and blow down dem blues…

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“Pack my bags…   got nothin’ to say,

 shouldn’t leave you, baby…  I will anyway.

you’re like a nursery rhyme…   splittin’ to I O A ” 

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I know it don’t make too much sense, but folks…   this is like therapy to me and I can now smile again.

peace

I don’t know where that came from…

November 12, 2006

 a riddle:  Police enter a warehouse and find a dead man slumped over a table clutching an ace of spades.  The man has been stabbed in the back and there are no witnesses.  With 52 bicycles scattered across the warehouse floor, police say they know why the man was killed.  Do you?

Political correctness, is anyone else besides me tired of that phrase?  There are so many things going on in the world that we should be diverting our attention to, why worry about a simple greeting? what is the big deal about someone wishing you well? can’t we all just… get along?  Case in point:  the Walmart greeter. 

You know who they are, after you walk through the automatic sliding door and grab your cart a kindly looking, older person smiles and says, “Welcome to Walmart!”  Now with the holidays rapidly approaching (you know, the big “C”) greeters have been instructed to say,”Merry Christmas”.   What is the problem with that? 

I read in USA Today that after being accused last year of downplaying Christmas Walmart and other retailers are coming back with a vengeance,  full of holiday spirit.  Apparently just when you think it was safe to ignore the obvious, the majority of the people have made their case for tradition and won.   What person in their right mind could be offended because someone has offered a cheerful greeting?  Even if you find them bothersome, the spirit of goodwill is something everyone should be trying to further, regardless of their religious or political background.  The fact that there are more cases of depression and suicide at this time of the year should prompt us to  be courteous and return (or at least acknowledge) that spirit.  There is always time to get offended around Easter.  How people can demand a blanket approach to what amounts to making us all carbon copies of each other is comical.  I say those critics should be mistletoed…

If someone says to me, “Feliz Navidad”  I don’t have to say, “speak English”.  I can appreciate the manner of the greeting and the tone in which it is offered simply by saying, “thank you”.  The greeting  doesn’t require I answer in Spanish, and my response returns the greeter’s well wishes.  Personally I think holidays are over commercialized but who am I to complain?  If I don’t want to be bothered by Salvation Army volunteers then I avoid shopping centers.  If hearing Christmas music piped in over the PA system gets my dander up I don’t go near the shopping malls.  If I look and see paganistic ritual and bright colors I don’t like then I look the other way.  And if all I can find on T.V. on Christmas day is “It’s a Wonderful Life” then I watch that or turn it off.  Come to think of it, “It’s a Wonderful Life” just happens to be one of my favorite movies and I never tire of seeing it.  Perhaps more people need to see it; because, in a nut shell… it is. 

Maybe those people who have to take offense  are an offense unto themselves.  Maybe they haven’t learned tolerance or accepted the fact that we are different and free to believe what we will because of our conscience.  Some may need their conscience trained, because morality, respect or justice are traits that must be taught, they don’t come automatically. 

I wonder sometimes if people that cry foul aren’t afraid that the light that shines from experiencing joy may not be aimed at them…  and that is the riddle.  Why do some seem to enjoy life more than others?  It is not what we possess that brings happiness, it is our own mental strategy.   Solve that riddle and you may understand the complexity of one of  life’s most frequently asked shopping questions:

PAPER…  OR   PLASTIC? 

51%

November 10, 2006

Well!  those highly contested elections are over and what have we learned?  We don’t want to “stay the course” anymore, but that was conceded several weeks ago.  Rumsfeld was out of touch with reality, but that was made apparent a while back, too.  People want a change so that is what were are (hopefully) going to get.  But is just ANY change a good thing?  I wonder if change just for the sake of change couldn’t be dangerous. 

5 years after 9/11 Americans don’t feel any safer so the Iraq effort appears to have been all for not.   We are no closer to catching Osama Bin Laden than we were on 9/12 and that is perplexing to me.  With all the modern technologies and human effort at our disposal that is the best the government can do?  Terrorism is still a hot topic and on the minds of all of us.

So now with 51% of Democrats in charge what can we hope for?  I’d like to see our government turn back to being a servant of the people.  I’m hopeful that we can inspire our young people to be genuinely interested in our society to plan and work towards the future, not just succumb to it.  We need to be using the best of our knowledge and tools for the benefit of our citizens.  We should realize that we need to concentrate our efforts at home first and foremost, there is too much separating us right now.  Why not be proud of ourselves rather than feeling like we owe the world an apology?

51% is the slimmest of margins, but it is a majority.  If you were a stock holder, having 51% ownership in a company would be controlling interest.  If you were a weatherman and you were right 51% of the time people would think you were fairly accurate.  If you were a gambler winning 51% of the pot would be pretty good odds.  If you had 51% of a pie or cookie, that might be the difference of just having desert or really enjoying it.

But… somewhere out there, lurking… always watching, ready to pounce is… the other 49 and they don’t like to be wrong, or lose or not have an equal share.  In order to work together we need to seek common ground now and be united in effort…  put aside petty differences and agendas. 

What we lack is dignity, a positive view of our own social worth.  All of us combined is greater than what we could ever be alone.  Why not work for the common good?  Why not realize that we need each other and our diversity is what makes us great?

I’d take 51% of a family together than 100% of isolation any day.

more pet peeves

November 8, 2006

People on cell phones really irritate me, and I have owned a cell phone for years.  Why is it that when people talk on their phones they think nobody can hear them?  They get really loud sometimes, like a higher volume will help keep the conversation private?  It’s funny watching people walk along with these crazy gestures, flailing their arms around, rolling their eyes, etc.   Now that we have blue tooth, it looks like we’ve been over run by a hoard of eccentric Borgs.   And I hate seeing people drive while talking on the phone,  it’s like the control of a one and a half ton vehicle is incidental to their important phone call.  Probably the most insulting thing about cell phones is watching people talk on them while they are in a restaurant.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a couple eating together while one is on his/her phone gabbing away.  It is weird how we have all this technology for ultimate communication but we ignore a person we are less than 3 feet from. 

While we are on the subject of driving, it also bothers me to see women putting on make-up while they are trying to maneuver through traffic.  Why can’t they do that at home?  It used to be a secret when someone used a little make-up, but now it is like women can’t get enough of preening in front of a mirror, touching up their faces or just admiring themselves.  But if also seems to bother them if they catch you watching, or if you honk the horn at them because the light has turned green and they have been too involved with making themselves up  to notice.  Also puzzling is a when a woman acts offended if you are caught admiring her good looks.  How many times have we heard women complain that men aren’t interested in their mind or brains but they’ll spend a lot of money on looking sexy, not intelligent.  With marriages having a 50-50 chance of survival, maybe just being attractive is not enough.

With this being a big election day I must say I get peeved at campaigns, too, especially the silly tactics we have to endure.   This morning as I was driving to work I passed a bunch of waving volunteers holding up signs for their candidate while he stood there smiling broadly.  What was particularly amusing about this was the fact that it was drizzling rain at the time.  Now what person in their right mind would vote for a guy who didn’t have enough sense to get out of the rain?  I also hate the placement of multiple signs along the roadway as if drivers don’t have enough on their minds.  Are the rows of signs, wind-up mechanical wavers or T.V. ads going to influence the voting public?  Probably, and that is sad… we the people should not be allowing outside influences like advertisement sway our opinions without regard to months or years of public record or prior activity. 

Rude behavior by people who should know better bothers me.  But I also don’t like people who fake being nice like a used car salesman.  I get a little uneasy when people continually tell me how good they are, or how much they like me and are doing me that “special” favor.  If you are good, people will notice and tell others… you don’t have to trumpet your own worth.  I get embarrassed when people put down others to elevate themselves, or when they brag about their accomplishments… fearing, perhaps, that you haven’t noticed.

I hate it when people read magazines in the check out isle.  I know these people are not going to BUY these magazines, they are merely passing the time as they wait to move down to the cashier.  I can’t help thinking that these people are cheating, getting pleasure or information reading material that is meant to be purchased and enjoyed somewhere else.  Not to mention germs from unclean hands, coughing or sneezing on pages then briskly putting the magazines back on the stand for someone else to unknowingly pick up second hand.

Ofcourse, you may have pet peeves of your own, but remember this:  “there is no advantage that you can’t make for someone else”. In other words, when you feel good about yourself it should be because you just made someone else feel superior, not because you showed them up or accomplished what you should be doing anyway.  After all, the offering of yourself is the most precious gift you can deliver.  Do so with humility and grace, because your kindness cannot be taken… only given.   

peace 

I don’t buy 49 bye byes

November 5, 2006

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49 reasons…  all in a line,

 all of them good ones… all of them lies.

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Sometimes song lyrics elude me and I wonder why.  Is there just something wrong with my hearing or is there a deliberate attempt by the artist to put something together that under scrutiny just doesn’t make sense?  Take for example CSN&Y’s song, “49 bye-byes”  I am a big fan of classic rock and CSN&Y in particular, but what is this song trying to tell us?  who is trying to sell us?

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Driftin’ with my lady… we’re oldest of friends,

need a little work and there’s fences to mend.

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I get the metaphor here, relationships all need work and forgiveness but then we get this:

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Steady girl, be my world

’til the drifter come…  now she’s gone.

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See?  He had just said, “Driftin’ with my lady…”  now he says, “’til the drifter come…” so is HE the drifter?  It gets confusing to me because he then states:

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I let that man play his hand

I let them go, how was I to know?

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I think Steve Stills was a bit schizophrenic on the begining of this lyric, or maybe it was the drugs of the time.  That is not to say I don’t like the song… but sometimes you are going along with it ” trying your best just to get around the questions of a thousand dreams”… stuff like that and harmonize with them while you’re toolin’ along with the top down on the convertible without really gettin’ it… am I wrong here?

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Now it’s over, they left in the spring

Her and the drifter, looking for… beautiful things.

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Hmmm… he put up with that set-up all winter long?  Weird.  I mean, I know love can make you do strange things but I would have put her out on her bye byes long before the first thaw…

but maybe I’m just ” seein’ things through a cat’s eye”.

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stuck in Iraq with no clue (with apologies to Stealers Wheel)

November 2, 2006

Well, I don’t know why I came here today,

I got a feelin’ that I won’t get an “A”.

I’m so scared to read my final test score,

if I fail I might be headin’ to war.

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Bush to the left of me, Kerry’s to the right

here I am stuck in Iraq with no clue.

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Yes I’m stuck in Iraq with no clue,

and I’m wonderin’ what it is I can do.

It’s so hard to keep this frown off my face,

in a class that I wish I could ace.

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Bush to the left of me, Kerry’s to the right

here I am stuck in Iraq with no clue.

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Well, you started out of high school

you’re so proud to do the best you can.

Soon you talk to a recruiter,

says “you’re dumb enough to be a shooter.”

Sheessh!   Please!

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Tryin’ to make some sense of it all,

but I can see that it makes no sense at all.

It’s cool liv’n in the low’r 48,

please don’t place me in that quagmire state.

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Bush to the left of me, Kerry’s to the right

where am I?  stuck in Iraq with no clue.

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Well, you started out of high school

you’re so proud to do the best you can.

Then you talk to a recruiter,

says “you’re dumb enough to be a shooter!”

Sheessh!   Please!

.

Well, I don’t know why I came here today,

I got a feelin’ that I won’t get an “A”.

I’m so scared to read my final test score,

and I don’t think I can take anymore.

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Bush to the left of me, Kerry’s to the right

here I am stuck in Iraq with no clue.

Yes, I’m stuck in Iraq with no clue.

Where am I? stuck in Iraq with no clue.