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April, 2009:

#11. Televised police chases

Police Helicopter Chase

The great men’s entertainment network SPIKE TV made news yesterday when they announced that they had partnered with the U.S. Navy (yes, the one we taxpayers foot the bill for) to create a new TV show called Pirate Hunters.

While SPIKE TV’s announcement was another great example of American capitalism and marketing at work, it was not an all-together novel idea. After all, in the land of HBO onDemand and American Idol, one TV event is still king: the televised police chase.

There is no TV event we Americans love more than a police chase. There is no event we won’t step away from to watch a police chase on TV.

Busy at work? Turn on the TV!

At the dentist? Hold the cleaning Doc. There’s a chase on TV!

Paying your respects? The departed will be there in 15 minutes, where is the nearest TV!

The whole Police Chase genre started in 1994 with the O.J. Simpson “low-speed” police chase. The chase, which progressed at about 35 miles an hour down the interstate, was so slow that people who heard about it on the news had time to line overpasses to watch, as if it were some sort of parade. In fact, what it was, was a late model SUV driving under the speed limit for over 50 miles, pursued by scores of police at as many as twelve TV helicopters.

But the multi-hour, dull spectacle of it all won us Americans over. According to Wikipedia (I didn’t bother following the internal references) over 94 million people tuned in to watch the O.J. Simpson chase on TV.

Let no one say that Americans’ have a short attention span or that we only like shows with fast cars and explosions. We might like explosions and spectacle well enough, but what we really love watching are slow-moving white trucks.

O.J.’s Sunday drive paved the way for a completely new genre of TV. Now, whenever there is the hint of a police chase, all the networks need to do is make sure there is a helicopter on the scene and we Americans will watch transfixed. Only in the end, that it was domestic dispute that consumed the resources of 3 police departments, 5 regional news agencies and wasted countless man hours of TV watching.

But at least we got to see the police do their job: entertain us.

God Bless America!

[Photo courtesy of Craig O’Neil]


MINUTEMAN UPDATE: Profiting from piracy

USA Today is reporting that Spike TV has teamed up with the US Navy for a new reality TV show called Pirate Hunters.

USA Today has the rest:

 “the pilot Pirate Hunters: USN (working title), an up-close and behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. Navy operation to end this deadly threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.”

We’re assured that “cameras will capture every element of life aboard two US warships, the USS San Antonio and USS Boxer, as they patrol 1.1 million square miles of ocean for the pirates who call this region home.”

Only in a great nation like ours can we go from a national triumph over piracy to profiting from it in under 24 hours.

God Bless America!

Travel Tips #1. So you’re going to Europe for Spring Break

turisti_ROMA 09 (travel guide)So you’re trying to take advantage of the financial crisis for some dirt-cheap trips to Europe. Or maybe you’ve seen all there is to see in America and are looking for something new. Or perhaps you just figured this early in the spring is the time to go to Europe, since it is not too hot and people won’t be that smelly yet.

Whatever your reason, great! You’re going to Europe, it will be fun, and there is nothing like a good trip abroad to drive home the small things you love about America.

Here are five important travel tips you won’t find in the books that will help you overcome some of Europe’s shortcomings and make your stay more enjoyable:

1. BUY A CASE OF BOTTLED WATER FROM THE STORE – There is no free water in Europe, not even at many restaurants. The travel books will tell you to use a refillable bottle, but no one really likes to use those, they make the water taste bad. Besides, do you really trust the Roman-era pipes that you’re getting the tap water from? Your best bet is to buy a case of bottled water and carry a bottle or two around with you every day.

2. FORGET TRAVELER’S CHECKS AND CERTAINLY DON’T BRING CASH No one takes traveler’s checks except for American Express, and you don’t really want to spend 10 minutes signing your traveler’s checks just to buy a coke anyway. And don’t think you should bring cash and change it. Europe is full of pickpockets. If happen to evade the pickpockets, the moneychangers will be more than happy to shake you down. They have ATMs in Europe. Bring your debit card and withdraw cash as necessary. You’ll get the best exchange rate and you shouldn’t be screwed on fees too much. Check with your bank before leaving.

3. BUY IT NOW If you see something you want, buy it now. Things in Europe are not open reasonable hours, and sometimes they are not even open the hours posted in the window. Don’t stop and think about the purchase, buy it now. You’re an American, after all. Impulse purchases should be your specialty.

4. IF YOU SEE A FREE TOILET, USE IT No matter how bad the free toilet is, use it. The next toilet you find is likely to be smellier and cost you two Euros to use.

5. GET USED TO ESPRESSO AND SPLURGE FOR IT EVERY MORNING. The barista won’t like it and she will take 20 minutes to serve you, but it is worth it – as the Nescafe instant coffee they’ll try to push on you if you order coffee is undrinkable.

MINUTEMEN UPDATE: America 1, Pirates 0

pirate flags

From the Barbary Pirates to the Pirates of the Caribbean to their contemporary brethren off the coast of Somalia, Americans have always had a fascination with pirates, and with kicking pirate ass. So it should come as no surprise that when a band of Somali pirates attacked the American crew of a freighter loaded with humanitarian goods, the crew didn’t surrender like they were some kind of Russian military cargo ship loaded with battle tanks.

No sir.

The crew fought back and managed to retake the ship.

The Scottsman has the story:

THE American crew of a hijacked US-flagged container ship retook control of the vessel from Somali pirates yesterday, but the captain was still being held hostage in a lifeboat, according to Pentagon officials and a member of the crew.

 The crew member said the 20-strong ship’s complement had managed to seize one pirate and then successfully negotiate their own release.

The man, who answered the ship’s satellite phone but did not identify himself, said the pirates were in a lifeboat.

However, he added that they were holding the ship’s captain hostage.

The news came some hours after Pentagon officials said the Maersk Alabama was no longer under the command of the Somali pirates who seized it far off the Horn of Africa.

US officials say an American warship, the US navy destroyer Bainbridge, and half a dozen other vessels are headed to the scene.

Maybe if the crews of those other ships the pirates attack would show some backbone, we could get this problem under control.

God Bless America!

Why Europe Sucks €3. Cheek kissing

italian man

Pucker up! I just want to say "Hello"

They say that cheek-kissing greetings are a longstanding cultural tradition that shows the openness and hospitality of Southern European culture.  

This is hogwash.

Greeting someone by a kissing them on the cheek is much more intimate than a normal handshake, and also forces you to lean in and get a good whiff of the other person’s scent.

In a place as cursedly hot and shower-deprived as the Mediterranean, do you really think that people would go through the motions of kissing perfect strangers on the cheek after a long hot day just for culture’s sake? Of course not.

The truth of the matter is that, by and large, Southern European men a quite fond of the ladies, and they are keeping the cheek-kissing tradition alive became it gives them carte blanche to kiss every woman they meet.

That’s right. Cheek kissing is nothing more than cultural oddity kept alive for the sake of womanizing.

Don’t get me wrong. You’ll see people greeting old women, hot, sticky men and business colleagues alike with a kiss on a cheek. But that is just because those Southern European men are committed to keeping this tradition alive. They are nothing if not committed. As any traveler who has been to Southern Europe or France will tell you, the men there always seem to grip the waist more firmly and let the “simple cheek kiss” linger longer on young, pretty women.

So next time you’re traveling in Europe, go ahead and call their bluff. Simply offer your hand to the numerous smelly men who will insist on a greeting kiss. They already think that Americans are crass anyway, so you won’t be offending them. Besides, you know the whole cheek-kissing thing is a sham. 

Thanks to Evan B for the suggestion!

*Poor Michelle Obama. She had endure a cheek kiss from French President Nicolas Sarkosy, and she didn’t look to happy about it. The things people do for their country.**

**Note, in that same picture, you don’t see President Obama trying to cop a feel on Carla Bruni. No sir, a simple hand shake will do.  

 


#10. Super Big Gulp

Super big gulp

Europeans love human rights campaigns, especially if those campaigns are somehow related to ending hunger. That is all well and good. Few things, after all, are more tragic than hunger.

But as any traveler who has been to Europe can confirm, Europeans completely ignore the logical companion of such programs: ending thirst.

I don’t mean to suggest that Europeans don’t care about providing drinking water in drought stricken nations. In fact, I’m quite sure that Europeans have more zeal than most when it comes to third-world well-drilling schemes.

No, what I am suggesting is that Europeans don’t care about ending thirst in their own back yard.

Europe is a land where the provision to tourists of even the most basic human need, water, is a for-profit scheme. Feeling parched after a long day of sightseeing? Get in line and pay 2 or 3 bucks for 12 oz of water. Even if you sit down at a restaurant, bottled, often carbonated, water is all that’s available – and you better not want ice with that.

But in America, you don’t have to worry about going thirsty. At restaurants, we’ve got free water and free refills, and for those who are both thirsty and on-the-go, we’ve invented the Super Big Gulp.

What is the Super Big Gulp? It is 64 oz of your favorite soft drink served in a cup-holder-ready plastic container and sold at a reasonable price.

So if you’re jacked up on trucker caffeine pills and planning on driving non-stop as far as your tank of gas will take you, never fear. For a buck or two, the great men and women of the 7-Eleven corporation will sell you enough of your favorite soft drink to ensure you don’t face the prospect of an empty cup for your entire journey (the prospect of a full bladder is another matter entirely).

But despite its clear utility, the Super Big Gulp has some detractors.

There are those that think the prospect of consuming 64 oz (630+ Calories) of one’s favorite soft drink is excessive or unhealthy. But they don’t understand that America is about freedom from want – and that includes freedom from wanting more to drink.

Besides, I doubt any of the naysayers have ever gone thirsty in a hostile environment like Europe.

God Bless America!

*For those who find the Super Big Gulp insufficient, 7-Eleven has developed the (2L) Double Gulp.


The Enemy

I’ve got to keep it brief, but I stumbled on a radical organization dedicated to overthrowing everything that is great about America today. 

The No Free Refills campaign

Maybe if these “environmentalists” spent more time picking up garbage and less time attacking the things that make America great, people wouldn’t deride the as “tree huggers.”

Until that point, we will just call them what they are: Freedom Haters

There will be more on this topic later.

Obama & the European hospitality snub

When the CEOs of America’s biggest banks came by the White House last Friday, the President’s team faced an interesting challenge: how to subtly overcome the inherent honor of a White House visit and communicate to the CEO’s that they are in big trouble.

The solution they came up with: skip the normal White House welcome, and receive the CEOs the with some European style hospitality.

Politico has the story:

There were signs from the outset that this was a business event, not a social gathering. At each place around the table sat a single glass of water. No ice. For those who finished their glass, no refills were offered.

There you have it.

Free refills and ice are such a part of America that the President of the United States can sunb someone by keeping their water luke-warm and allowing their glass to remain empty.

Friday Poll #3

[polldaddy poll=1514312]

What the readers love about America

America is a big place that is full of great things. We’ve got 300 million people, 50 states, 2 oceans and, of course, free refills.  Since I started this blog a little more than three weeks ago, I’ve been working to catalogue the things that make America great and Europe stink as well as the latest developments in the battle for freedom.  I’ve got a long and growing list of things that will keep me busy writing for some time.

But I would like to know more about what you, the readers, love most about our great nation. What American institution makes you tear up when you see old glory? Is it ice, cup-holders, drive-thrus, or maybe something else? If you’ve got a suggestion about what makes America great, e-mail it to me at nowooski [at] gmail dot com, or leave it in the comment thread below.

In the meantime, our two Friday polls thus far have given a little insight in to what you, the readers, love about America and loath about Europe.

Here are the results from the week 1 and 2 polls:

Week 1: What do you love most about America?

Ice – 50%

Down-Escalators – 31%

Drive-Thrus – 19%

Cup-Holders – 0%

 

Week 2: What do you hate most about Europe?

They make you pay to pee – 67%

Credit Card surcharges – 22%

No 24/7 Big Box Stores – 11%

 

I am not sure what to conclude about you all from this, other than, perhaps, that you’re generally concerned with bodily needs and functions, like having cold drinks and free places to pee.

I’m with you.

God Bless America!

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