Archive - Jan 7, 2005

Dead Rat As Mental Palate Cleanser

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Memo to Petty, Small-Scale Idiots: THANK YOU.

I mean, I hate you on general principle, because you're FUCKING DUMB, and hating you is both my avocation and my pleasure. But as bad as you are, sometimes, your existence actually brightens my day. And for that, I thank you.

If I think about you, I don't have to think about Alberto Gonzalez, who, despite the Democrats actually putting up a show of force (for which I thank them as well), will inevitably be our next Attorney General. If his detractors are right, he's an advocate of torture, mocker of the Geneva Convention, and chief mastermind behind the culture that led to Abu Ghraib, abuse at Gitmo, abuse in Afghanistan, other abuse in Iraq that continued for months after Abu Ghraib became public, and all the prisoner mistreatment since. If his DEFENDERS are right, he's a lousy lawyer and sycophantic yes-man who tells Bush whatever he wants to hear, using shoddy reasoning and just enough big words to ensure the President can't actually understand what he's writing.

And I bet you anything John McCain votes for Gonzalez confirmation, in a complete betrayal of everything McCain's carefully crafted image claims to stand that nobody will notice or remember the next time it becomes necessary to brand him a maverick independent. These fuckers boil my blood, and the only way I can reduce it to a mild simmer is to hear about Midwestern dipshits like Austin Aitken of Cleveland, Ohio.

There are two kinds of "frivolous lawsuits". The first is when a corporation violates reasonable safe practices, and severely injures someone, but does so in a way that seems innocuous until you look at the details. Because people never look at the details, the case gets branded as "frivolous", and quickly devolves into an urban legend, with the injury being minimized, the award being maximized, and the accident sounding more and more like the victim's own fault. For example, the McDonalds case with the coffee in the lap of the old woman. Look it up sometime, and compare what actually happened, and what happened after the initial damage award, to what you THINK you know about the case. Odds are, you'll be surprised.

The other kind of frivolous lawsuit is in fact where some fuckoid whose actual injuries, even the ones they're claiming, are ridiculous; the means by which they received them questionable, and the way in which the defendant corporation is responsible is iffy at best. In other words, Austin Aitken vs. NBC.

Austin Aitken was watching "Fear Factor". Already, I can feel your sympathy justifiably fading. Aitken was, by his own admission, a regular viewer of "Fear Factor". Hold on to your draining compassion, you'll need some to spare. Aitken saw a "Factor" episode in which contestants ate rats that had been put in a blender. At which point Aitken got dizzy, vomited, and hit his head on a doorframe while staggering across his living room. As a result, he is seeking $2.5 million in damages.

I've thrown up. I've hit my head on shit. Neither of these have been fun experiences. I can imagine doing both would be even less fun. But suing NBC over it is just stupid. Especially the way Aitken did it. A paralegal, Aitken submitted a four-page, HAND-WRITTEN lawsuit, and admits he pulled the dollar figure out of his ass. It's ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I just put any figure. You really think I expect to get $2.5 million?" No, no I don't. Especially when your lawsuit includes wording like, and I quote: "To have the individuals on the show eat and drink dead rats was crazy and from a viewer's point of view made me throw-up as well as another in the house at the same time." Apparently, in addition to being a paralegal, Aitken is fluent in paragrammar and parasyntax. Hope he's got good penmanship, at least.

But by far, his most astonishing claim is that he did not change the channel because he couldn't do it quick enough. Now, I don't watch Fear Factor, but I do have a pretty good general knowledge of reality TV structure. And reality TV shows never spring ANYTHING on the viewer as a surprise. There's always a long buildup. Plenty of announcements. Lots of long, slow camera pans across faces as Joe "I Wish I Could Still Respect You For Your NewsRadio Work" Rogan explains in painstaking detail that the contestants are about to eat rat puree. And although Rogan has many, many faults as an entertainer, speaking quickly and using complex sentences are not among them.

There is simply no way in Satan's red hell that Aitken could not have known he was about to watch the preparation of Rat Julius. Even given his already-demonstrated thickness. NBC knows the people watching Fear Factor are gonna be a bit slow on the uptake. They take that into account.

But Aitken's suing anyway, because, well, he can. What's he got to lose? Four pieces of paper, a bit of ink, and one hell of a carpet cleaning bill, that's all. Oh, and what last vestiges of self-respect and dignity he may have had in his life, but Aitken did say himself that Fear Factor is "sending the wrong message to viewers that cash can make or have people do just about anything beyond reasoning." And Aitken's received that message loud and clear.