Monday, June 30, 2008

With my Italian family here, it reminds me of how much I'd like to be a polyglot. Not necessarily fluent or anything, just enough to get by, and not just in Italian either. My grandma, the family's Italian immigrant, is fluent, and Mom is pretty good, too. On the other side, my aunt (or cousin or something) works in an Italian bank trading American securities and currencies, so her English is quite decent. The son (also a cousin or something) is shy with his classroom English, but it's way better than my Italian. What's interesting to watch are the father, who speaks four words of English (one of which is "golf") and my father, who speaks one word of Italian ("Italia")... and mispronounces it.

There's a weird psychological thing going on here, and I know lots of people think it's an Ugly American trait, but I have a feeling it's more of an isolationist thing: My dad, who's fully aware he might as well be speaking English to a brick, almost subconsciously decides he'll be understood if he talks realllllllyyyyyyy sloooooooow and LLLLLOOOUUUDDDDD. It's super amusing, if only because no one even talks to their dog like this. ("Blah blah Ginger blah blah blah Ginger blah...")

Their father just speaks normally, fast and with his hands, while I smile and pretend to comprehend.

Like I said, I don't think it's an American thing, because when I was on the Contiki tour, everybody spoke condescending, pointless English in that way to the natives — Americans, Australians, Brits, Canadians, New Zealanders. It's just a function of who's around you: if you're from a loose confederation of nations where your neighbors speak one of twenty-three languages and who knows how many dialects, I can imagine you freeze up a bit less when some incomprehensible sounds come your way.

The trick, of course, isn't to speak more slowly (although that can help) or loudly (which won't help) but to speak less, more simply, and with longer words that are likely to be cognates. Pointing helps too. Personally, I think it's a lot of fun, sort of like the world's most restrictive game of Taboo.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My family from Italy, or at least a chunk of it, is in New Jersey for the first leg of their Ameri-Canadian vacation. They wanted to go to New York, but my mom and dad — the Nuclears — usurped the planning and micro-managed them into staying at la casa della nonna, an hour out of the city, and tour-guiding them around town. Someone's been taking lessons from Contiki.

Maybe it's because they're European, but the Italian family is such a departure from the Nuclears: they're fun, and fascinated, and it's not like everything they see and do is utterly perfunctory. Us, okay... my fondest memory from our semi-regular trips to Disney World back in my kiddie days: We were on the now-defunct "Journey Into Imagination" ride, a vivid, whimsical trip through some Imagineer's storybook fantasy, set in the Dreamport and guided by the jolly Dreamfinder in his colorful DreamMobile blimp. (There's a theme here...) There's a catchy-ass song and a flying purple dragon guy and animatronic robots and, maybe three-quarters of the way through, a hidden camera takes a pic of you and the friends and family in the OmniMover, who, let me remind you, are on vacation in the Happiest Place on Earth. The photo of my family: we could not have been more disaffected and apathetic if we were at an estate tax planning seminar.

So yes, it's weird, slightly annoying and slightly discomfiting being around folks who aren't thoroughly jaded. And no, enthusiasm isn't infectious.

A lot tourist stuff I just don't get. Waiting in line two hours for their 86-story elevator ride at the Empire State Building — that makes sense. Wanting to see St. Patrick's Cathedral when you're from Europe, where they have bigger, older, real Gothic cathedrals on every other block? Not so much. F.A.O. Schwarz — yes. Fifth Avenue Apple Store — ...maybe. The official NBA store — who shops there? Maybe if you have a favorite team or something, although I don't think the NBA store sells anything you can't also buy at K-Mart for a lot less, but if you're not from America and have no connection to American basketball... don't you have your own cultural detritus to put on your T-shirts and stuff? Stop stealing ours!

It seems like it's working out for them, though, since they seem to have the opposite tourist philosophy that I do. They're sightseers, so as much as my dad tries to push them into experiencing New York (and America) rather than just taking snapshots of it, it looks like they're enjoying their cursory introduction way more than I ever loved the city. I'm a little jealous, actually.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Have Not Fallen Off a Moving Train... Yet.

I loathe NJ Transit, our statewide embarrassment and financial sinkhole of a mass-transit system — for their trains' unfailing ability to arrive five minutes late, their abysmal service and obnoxious staff, and recently, their conviction that I'm going to fall out of a moving train unless I'm five-point restrained in their industrial-springy seats with some dude's newspaper tickling the back of my head. For at least the past twenty years, you used to be able to stand in the vestibule between trains during the ride — not that you'd want to, or anything, but it beats the dreaded middle seats, and the vestibule smells like train, instead of pee. NJ Transit would leave the doors open and everything, and this was even back when I was a kid, and even though the eighties had childproof bottles and childproof doors, there was nothing but common sense keeping us children from jumping off the train, adventure-style.

Cut to today, when now you can't ride in the vestibule at all — again, not that you'd necessarily want to — but, and I'm sure this was a coincidence, but there was an article in the Times about NJ Transit train doors opening before the vehicle has come to a full and complete stop. This can be dangerous:

“I typically stand between the cars, and it could be very dangerous because people could be leaning against the door,” said Neil McGrath, who commutes between Princeton and New York. “It’s kind of dodgy. You could easily get thrown out of the door.”

To highlight the danger posed by devil-possessed train doors, the Times article includes this tenebrous photo of a lady who was standing nearby a train door as it opened. I'm amazed she survived.

The real problem with NJ Transit, aside from their lack of maintenance capacity, is that they're total dickweeds about it, almost like it's our fault. The morning conductor, who is otherwise okay, basically took a "because I said so" approach to dealing with passengers who missed their vestibule rides (and if you have to stand, the vestibule gives you a lot more room than the train car aisle does), and a fair number of them complained. "If you don't like it, take it up with NJ Transit headquarters," he P.A'ed, like that's just what people need in the morning; we have an entire day to look forward to middle management passing the buck.

But today's evening conductor was a risible asshole about clearing the vestibule; he literally said, "I will not move this train until everybody is inside the cars!" Dude, you're not our second-grade teacher, okay? Shut up and get us home, Public Servant! If it's that big a deal, how about sticking a few more cars on the train... problem solved.

Considering the difficulty I'm having Googling incidents of lucid adults falling out of a moving train (the first news article dates back to 1896), I sense that the danger here is greatly exaggerated. Certainly it's not greater than the thousand people a year killed by flying coach. Don't see anybody quite so eager to take up that cause.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


AM New York has an article "10 to lose: Ugly buildings NYC would be better without," and I'm so happy to hear that other people — real urban aesthetics professionals — also despise AT&T's foreboding Communist-era concrete behemoth on Thomas Street. I always assumed the building just housed switches, routers, and other telco equipment and it's built from an entirely functional point of view, but it looks like it's straight out of a Kafkaesque nightmare and needs, like, a plant or something.

I can see making those blank walls into a graffiti artist's canvas brightening up the neighborhood.

Another building that needs tearing down, stat, is the Astor Place Tower sitting, or oozing, on the corner of Lafayette and Broadway and sticking out like twenty-two inch rims on a 1974 Datsun. These trippy post-modern buildings are popping up all over lower Manhattan, especially on the Lower East Side, which is still home to a bunch of dirty tenements... or spruced-up tenements now available for lofty rents. Much as I like the neighborhood, I'm not a huge fan of its look and I have no issue with these heavily angular (or heavily un-angular — I'm not an architecture critic, in case you couldn't tell) fiberglass and glass-glass mixed-residentials springing up. It's the ones that keep springing up and up, growing above the neighborhood like a condominium freak crying out for attention that bother me.

I'm sure they have great views for the privileged few at the top, but they're fucking up the views from the street for the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vocab Off!

I must be in a feeling sad for people mood cause I never go to these teeny-weeny bad acoustic concerts, some guy, a guitar and a mike playing in front of ten people — technically nine and a volunteer sound guy. He's okay; my ears aren't burning but it's not like I'm not seeing him go triple platinum, or even triple aluminum, but then he strums a final chord and there's what I believe they call a "smattering" of applause. Again, ten people; the praise is just so anemic it makes me want to cry. Me, I'm cupping my hands so it looks like I'm clapping, but I don't want to draw attention to myself. I'm for a new rule in society, if there's fewer than, say, fifty people then no clapping. We all snap like beatnik poets, which is supposed to sound weak and laconic. You still probably wouldn't hear me though.

Such a nerd, though — I came for the... god, such a motherfucking nerd... vocabulary bee.

Round one: Come up to the microphone, Scripps style, and use the following three words in a sentence. Jingoist, laudatory, nebulous. Penurious, perfunctory, sacrosanct. It's all the fast-paced action of vocabulary combined with the incoherent ramblings of the crazy guy on the sidewalk who blurts out random words. Augury, avarice, burgeon. Some guy named Sid, who I'm sure I've seen at other geography bees, bar trivia contests, Scrabble nights, etc., where he probably also annoyed the living shit out of me: "The ornithologist's augury was he saw as a burgeoning field because there's avarice and money in ornithology." No style points.

Ornithology — twice! Then the guy has to yell at the judges because their definition of "augury" wasn't specific enough. An augury is a prophecy read from birds' entrails, except according to the American Heritage Dictionary (it's on my computer), it's not. On one side, they're lexicographers, but Sid's opposing argument is, well... loud.

Did I say "nerd?" I meant "hipster." I'm live-blogging this, for Christ's sake!

And points off to Meg for trying to subvert the game with her sentence. "Quixotic means idealistic, comma, hubris is like pride, comma, and castigate means a dressing down, comma. I mean period."

Sid: "Semicolon!"

Round two: Know your prefixes. Nychtophobic. Aurivorous. Which nobody knew, cause again, it's a contest for twenty-something hipsters and not socially maladjusted seventh-graders with stacks of root word flash cards. So they dumb it down for us with clues... not like funny ones or anything, just plain old Wink Martindale type shit. That's disappointing, really — I expected the hipster grown-up vocabulary bee, of all things, to be a mock ironic celebration of how much better we are than those knuckle-dragging blue-collars, and caked with extra irony since each of us, as an individual, was above the insecurities assuaged by calling someone who's not in the room a dummy. But it's just this chick in an inappropriate tiny white dress playing Alex Cameron, Doctor of Pronunciation, and some folks defining words. I'm not really having fun — this Meg girl is standing right behind me, either watching me type or not at all aware of my existence (and I'm not sure which is more awkward) — but I don't think anyone else is either.

What little crowd there was is getting sick of clapping every time someone guesses a synonym for the word.

Round three: Multiple choice. The words are getting pretty obscure, the kind that if you saw them in print, you'd be able to make out the meaning from the context and your past experience with English, but just hearing them is a garble of mismatched syllables. But it's multiple freaking choice. We've gone from hoping someone will use three words in a clever, amusing sentence down to a pop quiz.

Bonus round, this one's for the grand prize, the "25-Foot Long Crossword Puzzle:" Great, more words! You get the definition and you have to come up with the word, which ends in "sion." Whoever gets the most words in a minute wins. This isn't bad cause I can play along and feel stupid when I can't figure out the answer or even stupider when I figure out an answer that ends in "tion."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So It's Come to This: A Review of ABC Family's The Middleman

I was desperate for entertainment last night, and ABC Family had this first-run show among television's reality detritus re-packaged as summer reality detritus. The Middleman started out with a few bonus points, just for having no association with ABC Family's darling professional moralizing showrunner Brenda Hampton. As far as magical cyber-realism superhero shows go, it's not all that insufferable. The pilot, or the arbitrarily-named Pilot Episode Sanction, sets up the premise and the kind of pot-induced homages and humor we're in for. Struggling artist and X-Box fanatic Wendy Watson gets recruited by some nebulous organization to fight, literally, comic-book evil, and I always feel embarrassed for the actor who has to deliver that exposition: "The National Security Council's supercomputer was downloaded into your brain!" or "It appears the plasmatron laser fused your DNA with that of a squid!" Not just that could never happen, but, really, come on now, that could never happen.

At least The Middleman runs on a stylistic level that's aware of its absurdity, the comic book tropes its imitation flatters, and (to a lesser extent) the trite superhero conventions it adopts for narrative simplicity. The pilot's first half is the same setup — random encounter with evil forces, protagonist brought to the secret lair, she's resistant to the whole ridiculous idea, etc. — and neither all that promising nor indicative of the way The Middleman embraces its crazy fantasy in the show's second half. I'm not saying it was totally successful, but you'd expect one of those ABC Family shows to delude itself into thinking that a mad scientist breeding an army of super-intelligent remote-controlled gorillas in order to take over the world (there seems to be a step missing in there...) is the most Emmy-worthy thing ever, rather than a dumbass idea with possible comic potential.

My biggest disappointment with the show — aside from Wendy's least-flattering superhero costume and/or security guard's uniform circa 1986 ever — is the show's failure to live up to its tone. The Middleman kept reminding me of Bryan Fuller's aesthetic, with a cheap, retro vibe, bizarre over-exposition, loquaciousness, and alternately brisk and cautious speech patterns almost lifted from Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies... but whoever's behind The Middleman is no Bryan Fuller. It feels like the style in The Middleman competes with the characterization, and some of the tics bring the script to a halt. Wendy's boss and title character is perpetually and irrationally cheerful and super-consciously refuses to cuss — he sounds like a lobotomized Ned Flanders — and the worst part is it's just a setup for a particularly ill-executed joke. I can see a Fuller character like Charlotte Charles thinking of and soliloquizing someone's refusal to cuss as a surrender to and acceptance of destiny's random influence and one's insignificant but not inconsequential role therein, plus the Fuller speech would be amusing.

I guess the style substitutes for the humor ABC Family censors wouldn't work with — be shocked, it's sanitized and, save for one good joke at the end, the sort of stuff where you know why it's supposed to be funny but it's just not — or the inherent superhero violence that the censors cut, or the weird sexuality in concept only. It covers up the dishonesty, poorly — because there's no way any of that stuff would happen in the real world.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ben Stein Gives Fashion Advice

Ben Stein — the guy from the Clear Eyes commercials — went on an angry rant on his semi-regular CBS Sunday Morning editorial, complaining the usual conservative complaints about how much better things were in the olden days. What's destroying society this time? Neckties — they're headed the way of the ruff and cravat, and the percentage of American men wearing ties regularly is at an all-time low. I'm still waiting for the day when I can walk into work in my little footie pajamas, but it's a step forward, no longer having an arbitrary piece of fabric choking you all day long.

When I was a lad and a younger man, men wore these to show they did not work with picks and shovels and pitchforks.

Ties were a symbol of white collar status, although even some workmen wore them under their leather aprons.

If you had on a necktie, it showed you had some sense of organization, some sense of dignity about yourself.

Even schoolboys wore them. At fabulous boarding schools like Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire, where my handsome son went, boys still wear them. It showed, to use a word that you rarely hear, class.

And what, Mr. Stein, is wrong with working with picks and shovels and picthforks? Someone's sounding awfully elitist, with his Hollywood connections, Ivy League education, son at a "fabulous" (read: gay?) boarding school, and silk strip dangling off his collar for no reason other than to show off his "class." The cultural shift — lagging behind the cultural shift — must be a little humbling for Ben. Back in his Nixon-speechwriting days, Ben and his tie lived with presidents and CEO's in the moneyed elite, the people who could do their jobs while sitting in a thick leather chair. They left our cranky old fogeys behind with the junior associates, assistant managers — the subordinates who don't get a say in the matter.

"Power is being able to dress the way you want," argues a Joseph Abboud executive. Save for casual Fridays, I am more powerful than any lawyer, banker, or trader in New York. Ah, it seems the tables have turned.

What Ben needs is a Xanax and an invitation to the twenty-first century and away from his Eisenhower-age nostalgia. He's looking to his comfort zone, where "men were there to work, not to play," as the very thought of Ben Stein playing boggles the mind. I bet he wears his tie and loafers to the beach and has no clue why that "Bueller, Bueller" was funny coming out of his mouth. Back in the day, Stein's nameless economics teacher character would've been able to punch any insolent student who laughed at his monotone, in the eighties we could mock him and now we just exploit him to sell eye drops and Creationism. Pushing the status quo must be a relief for the poor man.

It's as if the tie makes the man for Stein, and our supposed progression towards a slacker culture could be reversed not by reinvesting in our infrastructure or education — that would be expensive — but just wrapping our necks. But why is Stein moaning in the first place: he and his whole tie rack will do just fine no matter where the culture strays — rich people just enjoy that privilege. It's from that privilege that blinds Stein to the real forces shaping the zeitgiest. There was opportunity back in the fifties, hence some reasons to not slag off. By the Ferris Bueller days, with the birth of elitism and the expansion of our class stratification, the payoffs of hard work only went to the power-suit elite, or to the lucky, undeserving asshole who skips class and somehow winds up leading a parade down Michigan Avenue.

These days, hard work on its own gets you nowhere and the tie is a key to a door that might or might not exist. Ben tries to reach the young'uns' demo almost name-dropping Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as guys who wear ties on TV, "It will probably come as a shock to all of the network newscasters and the late night talk show hosts. They're the coolest guys on the planet, and they wear neckties." (That "coolest guys on the planet" thing: I'm pretty sure he ain't talking about Craig Ferguson there.) They're a great example of how out of touch Stein is, with the youth, with logic, and with reality. Ben chastises us, "Start dressing like grownups and acting like grownups. The necktie is a start," as if dressing like grownups isn't merely the most superficial means of acting — pretending — like grownups. Thanks, Dad! I know I'm grounded but I'm gonna sneak out my bedroom window at midnight, too. Me and the gang are gonna smoke some cigarettes, then shoplift.

Stewart and Colbert don't sit us down for talks about being grownups. They treat us like adults, and that's why they don't have to ask for our maturity and energy, and that's why they're the coolest guys on the planet. They really are like the neighborhood cool parents who you can rebel with, against the tie-fanatic monotonous Ben Steins of the world.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My favorite Congressional vegan punch-line possible fairy sprite representative, Dennis Kucinich, I'm happy to say has brought articles of impeachment up against Bush. And I'm also happy to say that they'll go nowhere, which is the best possible outcome given two words: President Cheney.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wanna Play a Game?

I found a box labeled Barista on that stack of random board games Barnes & Noble's got piled up near the Starbucks. The tagline: "Brew the perfect cup!" and "The strategic game of fresh brewed fun!"

I was curious, so here's some more info from the back of the box:

Grande nonfat mocha with a single shot? Or tall soy cappuccino with a double-shot? Match the beverage shown on a roll of dice to make the perfect cup and win! But wait…other players can force you to spill your drink order, or they can change the drink order and mess up your hand! Or maybe a player is closer to finishing the drink order than you are and calls a Barista challenge. Barista is the best game of strategy and match-up fun you’ll ever play with an espresso cup.
Holy cow, that box is excited about coffee.

The Post-Intelligencer — Seattle, where else? — calls Barista "a latte fun," which makes me die a little inside. The spokeswoman for Barista's publisher, Discovery Bay Games, gave it a resounding endorsement, saying Barista "really is a pretty good game." The box is more enthusiastic. Spilling coffee! Changing drink orders! It's everything you love about your local coffeeshop, except the coffee. And in board form.

I do, however, want to know what this Barista Challenge thing is, and if they could maybe import it into Grounded.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Maybe She Just Likes Campaigning...

It's pretty much the same thing we've been saying since the days of her revolving hairstyles: we haven't heard the last of Hillary. She'll help lead John McCain to the presidency next year and run again in 2012. In 2016, Chelsea will probably be on the ticket. By 2024, it'll be Roger handing whatever's pieces of the country aren't in China's or Dubai's hands over to the neo-cons.

Over the speculation about what the hell she's still doing, there's the question of why she's still doing it, whether it's political posturing or waiting for tragedy to befall Barack or what. My theory is she's just an arrogant bitch — whether it's American Idol or the party nomination process, you don't get eighteen million votes, and you certainly don't get to the top, without ego overflowing your cranium. Politicians, unlike the wacko fundamentalists who support them way, way after the game's over and everyone's left the stadium, are supposed to have the grace to at least appear humble. Bush, who, lest we forget, believes he's God's messenger bringing democracy and oil revenues to the Middle East, looks like a doofus — at least until someone challenges him.

Frankly, Hills, it's no longer fun and your militant feminist supporters remind me of those protesters on College Walk I tried to avoid cause they'd spend fifteen minutes of your life telling you how you're a bigot for not supporting their crazy rage-filled anarchic politics. This comes from someone who still would vote for a white guy, John Edwards, if he were still in the race. (Although to be honest, I really wanted to vote for Elizabeth Edwards, whose politics I agreed with and who, in my estimation, would be even less disingenuous than her husband.)

But then again, maybe she just enjoys campaigning, and pandering to the working class.

Monday, June 2, 2008

More Money, More Problems

It's good to know that the economic downturn is affecting the filthy rich — i.e. the same Wall Street dipweeds who lobbied for the de-regulation that caused the downturn in the first place. The Times reports that the priceless art, multi-karat diamond, and private jet rental markets are all suffering as the Greenwich pigs tighten their belts, metaphorically, and loosen them literally — trainers and personal nutritionists are also getting cut back.

Justin Sullivan, managing director of Regent Jet, which leases private airplanes, said most clients in real estate and on Wall Street are switching to chartered jets over private jets, and cutting their flight budgets by about 25 percent. One New York real estate developer cut his budget to less than $250,000 a year from $1.5 million a year.

“A year ago, he would have only flown Gulfstreams,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Now it’s moving to the point where he’s flying Beech jets and Learjets.”

A year ago, I would've only eaten Frosted Flakes, but it's gotten to the point where I'm eating generic brand "Sugar Flakes." Let's all pray for the economy before I have to start buying that bottom-shelf cereal that comes in plastic bags.

The economic fallout is also affecting the personal lives of the super-rich, with one guy confessing to his divorce lawyer "that his net worth had decreased to $8 million from more than $20 million, and he thinks that his wife will leave him. He has hidden their fall in fortune by taking on debt to pay for her extravagant clothes and vacations." I can't help myself: Ha, ha! You're trapped in a loveless marriage with a gold-digging bitch!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So Now, is "Retarded" a Compliment?

I wouldn't call "elite" a poor word, even as it's the latest in an otherwise benign vocabulary to fall victim to political pundits' Orwellian twisting of our language to their scurrilous ends. Misunderstood, maybe. Susan Jacoby traced the word's history in an op-ed article for the Times, calling for an end to our willful idiocracy and putting "elite" back where it belongs, in the pantheon of praises. "Elite," she claims, used to simply mean "the best of a group," until the political bloviators, "the left and the right" apportioned it for the us versus them group identity reassurance behind all of history's conflicts. It's insulting, when you think about it, because when Hillary took a swipe at the "elite opinion" of economists opposed to her ill-advised gas tax holiday, she basically said to her audience of knuckle-dragging Pabst-drinking cousin-marrying coal miners that they're too damn stupid to understand the forces affecting the long-term price of oil, so here's something your tiny brains can wrap themselves around: coupons! Obama rightfully called the gas tax holiday "a phony scheme." He said, "Nobody believes these savings would actually be passed on to consumers. Everybody believes that the oil companies would just jack up their prices to match whatever the reduction was on the gas tax."

But I would've liked him, or anybody besides Jon Stewart, to respond in mock incredulity, "Really, you're gonna fall for this bullshit? Cause I have this pyramid scheme you can get in on..."

The machinations behind this word are so bizarre, not like the previous political curse word, "liberal," originally meaning "generous" and which only needs to be seen in a different hue to mean "ready to take your money and hand it to someone else." "Elite" never meant "the best of a group." It is, and always was, a put-down drawing a clear line between people's fundamental places in society. "Elite" means "better than you, Loser," and I suddenly have a dusty glimmer of admiration for pompous opinionators like Dobbs or O'Reilly, humbling their huge Ivy League egos to the dustbin with the rest of us, then dropping the e-word like it's the next big thing after "fuck."

This is brilliant, though, at least in a cynical, disillusioned way that yearns for the tyranny of Plato's truly elitist philosopher-kings. Washington first creates a national insecurity complex by delineating the restless minority elite from the complacent commoners, then exploits it through the comparison, reminding Americans how powerless, dumb, and let's face it, obese, oily, and ugly we are. Hillary or McCain (or, fine, Obama too) come off their salon for a brief appearance and they're forgiven for their stature. "That troll Dick Cheney is talking with us! Not like those snooty economists. He understands the issues facing us!" And I have no doubt that Cheney does understand the issues facing me, as an average (or non-average) American. The man's not retarded — he's antipathetic and doesn't give a rat's ass about the issues facing me, but that's because he's an elite and sneers down upon the rest of us.

I don't see any reason that the divide is a necessity in our society, other than the personal disillusionment and existential crises that lead us to think, "Why even bother?" In the antiquated European system, being an elite — royalty — is something truly innate, down to your DNA, but there's no reason to continue the Eastern tradition over here. Not that I believe the Upper East Side gentry, or our nation's McCains, Clintons, or Obamas, will be all too chipper letting the Lower East Side into their private kindergartens and rooftop bars (at least pre-gentrification), but the updated G.I. Bill that McCain opposes seems like a good place to start breaking down that divide.