Foreign Policy Fixes: The Middle East

These are turbulent times. Even places that are not usually so turbulent seem to be getting pretty turbulent. Unfortunately, the Middle East is still leading the pack as far as regions that are quite turbulent.

Turbulent.

There are so many complex issues that cause tension in the Middle East. There are intractable religious, political and philosophical differences at play, and of course the eternal dispute of who exactly invented the falafel.

But no problem is unsolvable. Not when delightful 80s cartoon icons THE CARE BEARS are on the case.

(L) The Care Bears, being pursued by evil fiend Beastly (R).

The Care Bears (L), being pursued by evil fiend Beastly (R).

In the spirit of remaining committed to the idea of offering up potential foreign policy fixes – based largely on inadequate research, internet skimmings, lessons learned from Operation Dumbo Drop, and cartoons – we humbly offer this Care Bear path to peace in the Middle East.

12. Ease tensions through inter-community “Care Bear Countdowns.”

11. Acts of forgiveness, reconciliation and compromise to be rewarded with cash prizes, hugs, and Grams Bear’s famous oven fresh care cookies.

10. Increase interfaith hand-holding by 300% by 2015.

9. Weekly, highly concentrated Care Bear Stares into volatile neighborhoods.

Care Bear Stare!

8. Netanyahu and Abbas to perform a musical number together about sharing, under the stern but capable direction of Grumpy Bear.

7. Flood the region with regular rainbow assaults.

6. In conjunction with the NSA, build a ‘Non-Caring Person’ database/watch list of those exhibiting uncaring tendencies; monitor them closely, and eventually persuade them to care again through a barrage of uplifting positivity and self-affirming encouragement.

5. Everyone gets a Cloud Car to ride around in.

4. Repeat offenders and unrepentant non-sharers will be paid a visit by Braveheart Lion.

3. Those who display a callous attitude or are mean will be immediately sent to the Care-a-Lot Rehabilitation Facility for an indefinite period of time.

2. The age-old sowers of discord Professor Coldheart, Beastly and Shreeky must be neutralized once and for all.

1. Oopsy Bear will be given some sort of mundane, ancillary task to avoid screwing this whole thing up.

Oopsy Bear, what an idiot.

Oopsy Bear, what an idiot.

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Food Feuds

Today we’re having a look at two spicy, bitter culinary rivalries. Who was the first to make a dish? Whose is the best? Can we resolve the great Slovenian-Austrian sausage fight? Is Tampa’s bread enough to usurp the Cuban Sandwich throne?

Let’s strap on the ol’ feedbag of information and scarf down some facts.

MIAMI vs. TAMPA: THE CUBAN SANDWICH

Let me begin by saying I have nothing against Tampa. Actually that came out wrong, I have plenty against Tampa. Those smug, highfalutin west coast Floridians are always dumping on us east coast Floridians like we’re all a bunch of second-class citizens, when the reality is that we record a very comparable amount of arrests for drunkenly trying to ride on large aquatic fauna every year.

Tampans (is that what Tampa natives are called? St. Petersburgers?) are rightfully proud of being the hometown of baseball legend Fred McGriff, in addition to above-average theme park Busch Gardens, but for them to challenge Miami on anything related to Cuban food is a step too far.

To make a long story short, Tampans claim that the “Cuban Sandwich” was invented in Tampa in the 1890s. At some point they made the dubious decision to add salami into the mix. There is essentially universal agreement on the sandwich’s other acceptable components: mojo marinated roast pork, ham, pickle, mustard and Swiss cheese, though Tampa’s bread is a bit different.

So Tampa’s claim to the Cuban Sandwich crown is hinging upon decidedly non-Cuban salami, and a slight bread variation, which is easily the least important part of any sandwich anyway. Let’s be honest bread is just a needlessly distracting, superfluous meat-blocking impediment.

I don’t care if NPR recently declared Tampa the winner of this food feud; Miami is the epicenter of the Cuban-American community, and as such shall have the final say on all matters pertaining to comida Cubana.

FEUD WINNER: MIAMI

AUSTRIA vs. SLOVENIA: KRAINER SAUSAGE

Sausage fight! Sausage fight! In this mighty meat melee between Austria and Slovenia, the world hasn’t seen a sausage-heavy confrontation of this magnitude since… I don’t know maybe last week’s Green Bay – Chicago Bears game.

Here’s a breakdown on the situaish…

Slovenia wants the very tasty Kranjska klobasa (or krainer sausage) to be given a protected and official status, as they claim it was invented in (what is now) Slovenia in the 1800s. But Austria has stepped in and made it clear that they do not approve of the Sound of this particular litigious Music, as sausage-eating, sausage-making and boasting about Austria are a few of their favorite things.

Apparently Austria’s claim to the sausage throne consists of the fact that they invented a similar but modified cheese-filled version, the Kaesekrainer*, in the 1980s. They also bemoan the fact that when the sausage was originally invented, the area was just part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and thus cannot be claimed exclusively by Slovenia.

Slovenia continues to push for a ruling stating that only sausages made in Slovenia in accordance with the original recipe would be allowed to be identified with the Kranjska or Krainer moniker. Austrian sausage-sellers wait on edge, as they believe changing the name of their porky product would be bad for business.

And of course there is an immense amount of sausage pride at stake here. That can’t be underestimated.

While the two countries await an official European Union Commission ruling on the matter, The Mighty F is always ready to issue a snap judgment based on little more than emotion, speculation and gut feeling.

FEUD WINNER: SLOVENIA (Sorry Austria, but a tie or a close ruling will probably never go to the country where Hitler was born.)

*A good lesson to all you aspiring inventors out there. If something’s already been invented, just stuff it with cheese, and bam, that’s a new thing.

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Fifteen Favorites From 2013

We did it! We completed another year discussing things that start with F. I thought for sure we’d run out of compelling things to talk about by now, but the letter F continues to yield a rich supply of fascinating, fantastic minutiae.

2013 was another banner year for TMF. I want to thank all of you for your kind and continued support for this incredibly silly endeavor, which hopefully will continue to serve as an enjoyable escape for F enthusiasts — and Indonesian spambots bent on selling me low price fashion design purses — for years to come.

OK enough with the platitudes, let’s have look at fifteen of the finest flashes from the year that was: 15 of our favorite posts (along with choice excerpts) from 2013!

15. Fourteen Freds“…but the Crime Dog is the best of the bunch. The Tampa native managed to smash 493 career dingers despite his awful swing that looked like an old left-handed man swinging a cane at a mosquito…”

“Another all-time great Fred, Mr. Rogers is still inspiring all of us to be better neighbors. Last year after reading a story about Mr. Rogers, I removed a spiteful cactus wall I’d planted just to anger my neighbor.”

14. FreebirdYou’ve probably heard the song. You most likely know at least some of the words, have cranked it on the radio, and dare I guess, you’ve fervently air guitar’d along with it at some point.  But for those of you in far-flung places like Australia, Belgium, or Ohio, you may not fully appreciate the true meaning – the profound cultural weight – of Freebird.”

13. Frightening Fish“Despite Sebastian the Crab’s misleading portrayal in The Little Mermaid of life under the sea being some sort of delightful Calypso paradise; the reality is not quite so idyllic. The truth is that there are many alarming things lurking under our waters…”

12. 440s – 450s A.D.“Legend has it that during this time, Polynesian bigwig Hawaiiloa and a group of intrepid sailors sailed thousands of miles from their home in the South Pacific and managed to reach Hawaii. (Just another early example of Americans goin’ big, punching limitations in the face, and rockin’ it superpower-style).”

11. Fillmore, Millard“Did he enable a little bit of slavery here and there? You bet. Was he anti-Catholic, anti-Mason and did he generally loathe immigrants? His Know Nothing party affiliation would suggest probably so. Is he almost always rated as one of the worst U.S. presidents of all time? Strike… Either way, it’s redemption time for one of our most obscure, forgotten leaders.”

10. Flossing (Scared Straight)“Y’all just take a seat right over there. I wanna talk about your teeth. I used to be just like you. Cruisin’ through life, not thinking about my teeth. Sure, I knew in the back of my mind it was wrong to not floss; I had seen the commercials and whatnot. Momma always told me it was important. I suppose I knew there would be consequences one day.  But I didn’t care; I was young and invincible, right? <really starts yelling and getting into frightened kids’ faces> Look at me! Look at me now! Y’all don’t wanna be like me! Bleeding gums, needing a prescription mouthwash and a special toothbrush… You think this is funny? Advanced stage gingivitis homey!” Continue reading

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Four Fingers

We are all familiar with fingers in terms of those things that serve as our hamburger-grasping hand digits, but what are some other fingers that are also important?

1. Finger Lakes – The Finger Lakes of northern New York look just like fingers – fingers that have become frozen, gnarled and grossly deformed due to years of neglect, and from being pretty close to Buffalo.

2. Ladyfingers – These are things you desperately cram in your face at parties to alleviate your crippling and woeful inability to communicate with actual ladies.

3. Fingerlings – Baby fish are called fingerlings. Not sure why they don’t just call them “baby fish,” but I suppose “fingerlings” is a better name than “toelings.”

4. Finger Sandwiches – These are other things you desperately cram in your face at parties to alleviate your crippling and woeful inability to communicate with ladies.

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Flight of the Conchords Favorites

Like a glorious (New Zealand-shaped) comet streaking across the night sky, the Flight of the Conchords series on HBO was an ephemeral masterpiece that left us agape with wonder and yearning for more. Two seasons of delightfully earnest New Zealanders Jemaine (Jemaine Clement), Bret (Bret McKenzie) and Murray (Rhys Darby) trying to find their way in New York City was not nearly enough.

They are still with us of course. The Flight of the Conchords band (Jemaine and Bret) recently toured with the great Dave Chappelle, Bret scored the music for the most recent Muppets movie (and another forthcoming sequel), while other stars from the show are slaying it on Twitter and elsewhere. But the show was something special.

While the episodes relied heavily upon the inimitable deadpan of Jemaine, and the easy-going Kiwi naiveté of Bret and Murray, the writing was also brilliant. The songs, the dialogue and lovable characters all meshed and harmonized like a formidable All Blacks attack (token New Zealand rugby reference there… sorry it was either that or a Lord of the Rings analogy, or perhaps a reference to your admirable and robust textiles industry).

There are many great moments and songs from the series that deserve special praise, but here are just a few to honor the memory of a show that was gone too soon.

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Four Freedoms

We are delighted to welcome back our resident historian and stalwart friend today, Mr. Paul Washington. Please take a few moments to enjoy this timely reflection, and to appreciate all those who have sacrificed on our behalf.

In January of 1941, the United States was just beginning to emerge from the throes of the decade-long Great Depression. We were aware of the burgeoning war that had begun across the Atlantic, but our young men would not be called into full-fledged battle until that terrible attack on Pearl Harbor some 11 months later.

It was against this historical backdrop that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress and, via radio broadcast, to the citizens of the United States. He closed his speech with the now-famous “Four Freedoms Discourse,” in which he espoused the four freedoms essential to all of humanity: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
President Roosevelt's speech inspired four paintings by Norman Rockwell.  Clockwise from upper-left: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

President Roosevelt’s speech inspired four paintings by Norman Rockwell. Clockwise from upper-left: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

In light of today being a day set aside to honor our Veterans, we here at The Mighty F would like to take this opportunity to dedicate our little corner of the world wide web to honor those who have fought on our behalf to secure President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.  The text of the Four Freedoms Discourse is below:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”

“The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.  The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.  The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.”

“That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear. Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society. This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”

*Paul is a proud son of Madison County, Florida, home of WWII hero Capt. Colin P. Kelly, Jr., and location of the Four Freedoms Monument, which was commissioned by President Roosevelt.

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Foreign, Familiar Faces

One of the greatest things about our world is that everyone is different. Every person is a unique snowflake.

However some snowflakes are not quite so unique. The truth is that many of us look exactly like other people. In my case that has unfortunately mostly led to Rick Moranis or Steve-O from Jackass comparisons (save one glorious time when a small, possibly nearsighted child misidentified me as very tall NFL quarterback Matt Ryan), but for better or worse, almost all of us look like someone else.

Even the world’s powerful elite are not immune from looking like other people. No corridor of power is untouched by this phenomenon. When I first saw His Holiness Pope Francis I thought he was Rudolph Giuliani. Or maybe Dennis Hopper.

Here are a few other examples of world leaders past and present who look like someone else. Continue reading

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