Thursday, June 29, 2006

Whose Smoke Screen Reigns Supreme?

I typically watch George W. Bush's international press conferences just for the comedic value; when he's on camera with a head-of-state from another country, viewers get the dichotomic hilarity of watching Lancelot Link smirk and preen like Jack Nicholson working his way through a million-dollar gift card from Heidi Fleiss, while squirming uncomfortably because, in truth, he couldn't find his guest's homeland on a map that showed only that country.

But today's press conference was special.

That's because, no matter what our idiot-in-charge did -- he couldn't overpower the sheer, huggable adorableness of Japanese prime-minister Junichiro Koizumi, whom at any moment I expected to smile, and -- with a mischievous glint in his eye -- walk over and unveil the secret ingredient.

Allez cuisine!

Generation Y... As In "Y Didn't My Father Do The World a Favor and Smother Me at Birth?"

Dear God, I hate MySpace.

I hate it as much as I hate those damned Brazilians and their futbol.

Just take a look at this poor kid.

There's just no hope for her. She may as well resign herself to a life of bathroom blow jobs and illegitimate pregnancies.

And Jesus Christ what it must be like for this kid's father -- knowing that the angelic baby girl he once held in his arms and had such high hopes for is doomed to never advance beyond a 5th-grade reading level, and will wind up wasting her teenage years working at Hot Topic or Orange Julius, only to eventually develop a debilitating coke habit and die in a puddle of her own sick on a stripper pole in Smyrna, Georgia.

If he has anything resembling shame or human dignity, he'd end her suffering. He may as well get it over with before he sees her turn up on teenwhorethreesomes.com. I figure he's got about two months left -- three tops. Come on Dad, you created this mess, time to clean it up.

America, take a look at your future and assure me again that global warming is the biggest threat to this country.

This has been a "The More You Know" public service announcement... now back to My Name is Earl.

Requiem

Staff Sgt. Raymond J. Plouhar has died in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

It happened on Monday in the volatile al-Anbar province.

His father describes him as somebody who always befriended those who didn't have any friends.

He once donated a kidney to save an uncle.

In 2004, Staff Sgt. Plouhar was one of two Marines seen vigorously recruiting teenagers for military service in Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 911.

It would almost be funny if it weren't so utterly tragic.

He was scheduled to come home in 38 days.

Staff Sgt. Plouhar leaves behind a wife, and two children who aren't old enough to understand war, irony, or the fact that their father's death will surely be exploited by both sides of the obscene struggle for hearts, minds and votes here at home.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm Super... Thanks for Asking!


Alright, so we've all heard the rumors -- and unfortunately I can't confirm whether or not Star Jones was promptly fed to Rosie O'Donnell immediately following her surprise announcement on The View yesterday; although from what I hear Star hasn't been seen since the show and Rosie was spotted coughing up a hair weave and a size ten Prada shoe with a pricetag still on it.

But that's not the rumor I'm talking about; this one deals with the new Superman's -- shall we say -- alleged preference for other "men of steel."

Superman Returns director Bryan Singer and his neophyte star Brandon Routh have both denied that there's any gay subtext in the new movie; but unlike Singer -- who's openly gay -- Routh has denied his super little ass off that he loves the cock.* Whether or not there's a handgun with the Warner Brothers logo pointed at his temple during these denials, who knows, but with a $200 million dollar investment on the line -- and memories of Batman and Robin still fresh in the WB's head -- it's probably a safe bet.

With that in mind, Brandon Routh's recently released "Celebrity Playlist" on iTunes makes for curiously hilarious reading.

First of all, the guy writes like a fifteen year-old girl -- right down to his affinity for putting exclamation marks after every sentence! Apparently, he can hardly contain himself that Apple has given him the opportunity to relay some of his favorite songs to you! It's a little like watching a Japanese cartoon show, go! He has happy fun cool sexy songs, HA HA!

Thank God they don't make a computer that would've allowed him to dot his "I"s with little smiley faces.

Once you've swallowed that many exclamations (although I seriously doubt Brandon has ever swallowed anything that has a period attached to it) you can move on to the fact that there are three, I repeat THREE references to an amorphous "female" in Brandon's life. In his description of Cake's Love You Madly, he writes, "It always puts me in a good mood and I can't help but think of my girl." For the Foo Fighters' See You, Brandon ups the ante and shows a truly gentlemanly side by saying that the song, "Makes me think of my lady when we're apart."

And if there's still any question in your mind after those declarations, Bran drops all pretense of subtlety and just picks Beck's Girl.

Now you'd think that Warner's army of publicists would at least know that the best way to dispel rumors of their star's homosexuality would NOT be to get Anthony Michael Hall's character from The Breakfast Club to write about his mystery girlfriend who conveniently lives in Niagara Falls.

So, as a courtesy to the people at Warner Brothers -- who I should mention are paid much more than me -- allow me to present my suggestions for "Brandon Routh's Unquestionably Heterosexual iTunes Playlist."

Smack My Bitch Up -- Prodigy
Cheatin' Woman -- Molly Hatchet
I Smell Pussy -- G-Unit
Sex Farm -- Spinal Tap
One in a Million -- Guns N' Roses
Anything from the Afghan Whigs
Ike's Theme -- Ike Turner
Butch -- Imperial Teen
Who's Your Daddy -- Toby Keith
Crazy Bitch -- Buckcherry
Cleveland Rocks -- Presidents of the United States of America
Pimp Juice -- Nelly
Love Gravy -- Chef (this could go either way; of course for all we know so could Brandon)
I Wish I Was Queer So I Could Get Chicks -- Bloodhound Gang
I'm Not Gay -- Saphin

Feel free to add your own!

*Before you start with the hate mail, it's a line from a movie. Blame Kevin Smith, everyone else does.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hard Times

"It's incredibly obvious isn't it? A foreign substance introduced into our precious bodily fluids... I first became aware of it during the physical act of love. Yes, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I was able to interpret these feelings correctly -- loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred. Women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women -- but I do deny them my essence."

-- General Jack D. Ripper
Dr. Strangelove

When I heard the news about Rush Limbaugh being busted with Viagra that apparently hadn't been prescribed to him, I first thought about responding by simply writing HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! until it filled up the entire page. I mean, let's face it -- why bother trying to wax esoteric about the fact that Rush's malfunctioning penis could screw (no pun intended) his plea deal with prosecutors in Florida.

But then I realized that there actually is a bigger (no pun intended again) issue here. These are tough times for the folks on the far-right. Gone are the days when their bullying and bloviation actually worked on most of the American public. Coulter may have finally dug herself a hole she can't get out of; Whether he chooses to admit it or not, O'Reilly's ratings are actually down; and of course the man behind the message -- their messiah, George W. Bush -- is seeing his approval numbers tank.

Maybe Rush's inability to get it up and keep it up is symbolic of the GOP's "loss of essence."

Let's hope these feelings are interpreted correctly.

This can only be the work of the terrorists.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Weekly Reader

Last week I promised to post an excerpt from my book every weekend. I'm going to keep that promise, but I'm going to change the format a little bit. Because the excerpts are so damned long, and tend to push everything else either all the way to the bottom, or off the page entirely, I've started a separate blog. The only posts on that blog will be book segments.

The title of the book is "Blow Up the Outside World" -- taken from the name of the Soundgarden song whose lyrics seemed especially appropriate.

Therefore, the address of the excerpt blog is www.malcontent-outsideworld.blogspot.com.

There's also a link at the top of the links to the right.

The basic story behind the book...

When I woke up in a dark hotel room, pretty much everything that had happened to me up to that point was a blur. I wasn't quite sure where I was. I wasn't quite sure how I'd gotten there. The reason was because I hadn't slept -- really slept -- in more than a month. Somehow though, I must've managed to pass out hard in that hotel room, finally, because when I pulled myself up out of bed, stumbled across the floor and flung the curtains open, my reality hit me like a sledgehammer.

I was staring out at the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center.

It was September 13th, 2001.

Everything pretty much came back to me then.

Two weeks earlier I had been in rehab in South Florida for a VERY nasty drug addiction. I hadn't slept because I was detoxing and going through the nightmare of early recovery. When I got out of rehab, my wife at the time had left me. I had no job. I had no future. I had nothing. I was staying in the guest room of my parents' home outside Miami, trying to talk myself out of suicide.

When the attacks of September 11th happened, as much as I hate to be postmodern, I thought of the words of Tyler Durden.

It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything.

I took a leap of faith by packing my bags and driving north. My thought was that an opportunity to do something -- anything -- for those who were going through infinitely more pain than I was just might be the only thing that would give me some purpose again and keep me alive. I would've handed out water if I that's what they'd needed.

As it turned out, I got a call from an old friend of mine at NBC who offered to put me to work on the biggest story in American history. It changed my life.

I lived in a hotel for four months -- the same hotel I woke up in that first morning -- I met families who were going through hell. I hope I made some kind of a difference for them. I worked with some of the most talented people in the world. I rebuilt my life during one of the most difficult and unique times in history. America had never seen a time like this, and I used it become a new person.

Strange days indeed.

But that's only half the story -- or actually, only a third.

The story is told in three separate timelines which run concurrently throughout the story. I detail the time leading up to my decision to go into rehab -- when I carpet-bombed my marriage and job in Los Angeles by doing enough drugs to kill an elephant. I also detail my time in rehab -- when I came to the realization that recovery would have to be on my own terms. And of course, there's the period following the attack -- when my entire life changed at the epicenter of 9/11. That tragedy -- shared by millions -- provides a pretty startling backdrop for one very personal story.

Anyway. I've been writing all day dammit. I'm tired. All I can say is, I hope you enjoy.

Oh yeah, and today's excerpt involves an ex, who as it turns out was living in New York at the time of the attack.

And one more thing -- the wife I'm referring to in the story obviously isn't Jayne, the really amazing woman I'm married to now and have written about extensively on this blog. I suppose I'd be giving away the ending if I admitted that it was. Suffice to say that if I had salvaged my marriage with my ex-wife, I probably would've eventually killed myself anyway just for the quiet.

Cheers kids.

Friday, June 23, 2006

So MySpace... My Old Nemesis... We Meet Again

Two perfect examples of why MySpace just sucks. No seriously, it's the fucking worst.

#1) Its corporate owner, Rupert Murdoch, is posed smugly on the cover of this month's Wired magazine. He of course also owns Fox News Channel and is solely to blame for its existence.

#2) It gives people like this access to the rest of us. One look at this trainwreck and you know you're seeing douchebaggery in its purest form. I will seriously give my life savings to anyone who will build Skynet and send the Terminator back through time to kill this kid's mother.

The Gang That Couldn't Bomb Straight

America has enemies, and it faces serious threats from these enemies; anyone who denies this is an idiot.

This indisputable fact, however, is the main reason why this morning's ridiculously absurd dog and pony show in Miami and Washington is so goddamned offensive -- not to mention dangerous.

In case you've been nowhere near a television, radio or bullhorn in the past several hours, the justice department is claiming that it's struck a decisive blow in the war on terror by arresting and indicting the Marx Brothers. Essentially, FBI agents have broken-up a "terror cell" in Miami which it says had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda and was supposedly planning to blow-up the Sears Tower.

Now when I first heard this, my immediate reaction was that the feds were talking about the Sears Tower in Miami -- a completely worthless landmark right in the middle of the barren crack-den which the chamber of commerce instead calls "Downtown." In fact, I'm still kind of convinced that this was the true intended target of these so-called terrorists. The reason I say this is because -- as I would've expected when I heard the words "terrorists" and "Miami" in the same sentence -- it's obvious that these idiots couldn't blow-up a fucking balloon. It would be pretty much par for the course for these guys to believe that destroying an empty building would strike fear into the heart of America.

For the most part, the group is comprised of Haitians and Cubans; and while certainly a fine representation of the entire population of Miami, they're NOT the folks you'd expect to see taking part in any kind of anti-American activity that didn't involve rallying in front of the immigration office. Ironically, Haitians actually do have a legitimate beef with this country. The staggering inequity of the policy which allows them to be turned around at sea and shipped back to hell, while others just sail right in, is definitely worth getting angry over. The Cuban culture, meanwhile, has produced some of the most inept terrorists in history -- thing is, they've only terrorized Cuba, which is why our government has never actually referred to them as terrorists. Still, it's doubtful that either of these groups would ever pose a significant threat to this country.

So why all the excessive back-patting and self-congratulation from Alberto Gonzalez and company?

Is it really all that cynical at this point -- given all we've seen and heard -- to once again question the timing and motive of this "important victory in the war on terror?" How many times has the Attorney General, the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI rode in like the goddamned cavalry to save Bush's ass when his poll numbers drop or bad news slides across his desk?

This is dangerous not because these bumbling morons might've been planning to bring America to its knees by driving their cabs simultaneously into a Burger King, but because most of us have become so jaded and suspicious of asinine news conferences warning that the sky is falling, that we WILL NOT believe the real threat when it happens. This my friends is why our president has become so alarmingly handicapped -- because we simply don't believe him anymore. It's a crisis of faith that only gets worse everytime the U.S. officials whose job it is to protect us, trot out yet another life-threatening scenario that probably isn't.

Whether or not we really ARE being bullshitted no longer matters.

Oh, and by the way -- we're often reminded of the "quiet victories" in the war on terror; the ones that we don't hear about; the ones that prove how this administration's policies and tactics really are keeping us all safer. Dwell on this: if the justice department trumpets the arrest of a couple of Haitians playing cowboys-and-terrorists down in Miami, don't you think sombody REALLY dangerous would be given his own presidential address in fucking primetime? Nothing that makes the White House look good is done "quietly."

Sleep soundly America. You're in good hands.

And once again we raise the nation's Cynicism Alert Level to red.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Tao of Keith


Keith Olbermann has a reputation -- one that's fairly well-known throughout the television news business.

We've all heard the stories; they're the stuff of legend.

He's impossible. He's unbalanced. He's a nightmare. He's completely fucking nuts.

Well guess what? None of it matters. None of it. The reason is because when the lights come up and the camera comes on, Keith Olbermann becomes one of the smartest, funniest and most talented people on television. His show, "Countdown," is not only the lone bright spot on MSNBC's otherwise painfully dismal lineup, it's the best news show on television. Period. Whether or not you agree with Keith's obviously left-of-center politics, his show provides an essential counterbalance to the legion of media out there who are content to either be complicit in forwarding the agenda of those in power, or worse, to simply sit back and do nothing.

Translation: he picked up a rifle when the rest of us abandoned our posts.

In its best moments, Countdown shocks viewers with its willingness to do stories and take positions that other newscasts won't, often for the reasons I described in a previous post (Journalist, Defend Thyself, June 7th, 2006). Olbermann wears his passion and his politics on his sleeve, and does so with an appropriate amount of razor-sharp wit and, occasionally, unapologetic outrage. His constant prodding, berating and exposing of the guy who shares his time-slot at the other end of the dial -- Bill O'Reilly -- is a joy to watch. Somebody's gotta do it, and Keith does it so very, very well. Detractors always revel in pointing out that O'Reilly's ratings are higher, as if this fact is somehow proof of the quality of his show. It's not. Britney Spears has sold a lot more records than Queens of the Stone Age; it doesn't mean she doesn't still suck.

There's a reason Olbermann signs off nightly by using the words of Edward R. Murrow -- "Good night, and good luck." For the time being at least, he seems to be the only one who remembers what Murrow stood for and fought for. He's not afraid to stir the pot. Bottom line: Countdown has balls, and lately it's pissed some people off. There's an almost irrefutable correlation between Olbermann taking a certain amount of shit, and the reversal of fortune for the present administration, specifically as it applies to its folly in Iraq.

I once heard that you can judge someone by the enemies he makes; I also happen to know that in the world of TV, if you're not a threat, you'll simply be ignored. If people are bothering to talk about you -- to respond to you -- then you're on their radar.

Hence why it was so gratifying and amusing to get a look at an interesting little exchange that took place last week. Basically, it revolved around a series of e-mails sent back and forth between Olbermann and two right-wing critics who decided to poke him with a stick. Lloyd Grove, a gossip columnist here in New York, and a guy who can always be counted on to provide excellent housebreaking material for that new puppy, giddily published the e-mails for all to see. His intention it seems was to expose Olbermann as a rampaging hot-head while simultaneously shocking readers with the heretofore unknown revelation that adults sometimes use foul language.

It apparently started with an e-mail from the unknown antagonists (Notably, Grove wouldn't print their names) in which they taunted Olbermann by saying that dead al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was obviously his "hero." It was just the kind of juvenile crap you'd expect to hear from the few Bush supporters left these days.

Olbermann could've -- and many say should've -- blown it off; but he didn't. His e-mail reply?

"Hey, save the oxygen for somebody whose brain can use it. Kill yourself."

Over a period of God-knows-how-long, Olbermann responded to the continued abuse by asking his unknown tormentors if they were "still watching that evil fuck O'Reilly?" and by telling them at one point, "Go fuck your mother."

Okay... was his reaction kind of immature and ill-advised? Yes. In fact, after the exchange went public, Olbermann was forced to issue an apology, saying, "I should not have replied to these... hateful e-mails, but I wonder how many of us could receive literally hundreds of them, questioning our patriotism, religion and ethnic origin, without succumbing to the natural wish to confront such hate." The fact that he "succumbed" from his official NBC e-mail address didn't help matters.

But was it wrong?

We've all heard about the dangers of what happens when we allow ourselves to surrender the position of moral authority. We've listened to mom say, "Don't stoop to their level." We've watched Tubbs convince Crockett not to shoot the murderous bastard he has at the end of his gun, saying, "Don't do it man, he's not worth it." We'd like to believe that taking the high road is, without exception, preferable to getting into a shouting match, or a fist fight, or a battle of obscene e-mails. Well, sometimes it is -- and sometimes is isn't. Sometimes the high road leads to a cliff.

One of the biggest problems with those under attack by the Cult of Bush, is that they've kept deathly quiet in comparison to their antagonists. I can only assume that this is because they're still believing the words of mom. They're still listening to Tubbs's voice telling them that their enemy just isn't worth it. They feel that they're above that kind of anger and frustration. In some ways, their silence only proves what their attackers are saying about them -- that they consider themselves to be too elite and too pristine to be able to engage in the kind of shouting and name-calling which the average Joe understands so well. They spend too much time thinking, and not enough time decisively acting. No matter how hard you try, you can't make avoidance look decisive.

But Olbermann did something that I've been waiting for someone with a forum to do for months -- he stepped off the pedestal and got his hands dirty. Good idea or not, he stopped taking it and told them to fuck off.

Chalk this up to his alleged psychosis all you want; maybe more people should do what he did.

After all, what did you think when Crockett didn't shoot that son-of-a-bitch?

World Cup, Days Twelve and Thirteen

Once again, the African teams keep things interesting. Hell of a comeback.

CIV 3, SCG 2

Meanwhile, England draws but loses Owen in the process.

Eng 2, Swe 2

But hey, how 'bout that Heat!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hips Don't Lie... But They Do Suck


Okay, so I caught a minor amount of crap from friends and readers for my little tirade against MySpace.

Thankfully, the contrived outrage wasn't directed at my opinion of the website itself or its evil creator, Tom -- had it been, I would've ignored it completely -- but moreso at my supposedly inhumane treatment of an old high school friend. You'll remember his name was Carlos and that I ran into him at my ten year high school reunion. You'll also remember that I took the position that his willingness to state without so much as a hint of shame or irony that he was still an avid follower of our current high school football team constituted a, shall we say, lack of personal growth on his part. I believe my exact words were, "get a goddamned life."

Well, a few people took offense to this. Through comment, e-mail and personal interaction, they were kind enough to once again remind me that I'm an arrogant, unappreciative asshole. I can deal with this. My usual reaction to statements like these is to simply raise my eyebrows, nod and smirk a little -- my face conveying something between pitiful recognition and accepted helplessness.

But I also got called a racist and a bigot by a couple of people.

I can only assume this is because Carlos's name would lead one to rightly conclude that he's Hispanic.

My first thought was to respond to the accusations with a couple of Mexican jokes, but that's only because I really am kind of a jerk. Instead, though, I got to thinking about the taboo subject of race and ethnicity in this country. I say taboo because even though we pretend to talk about prejudice, it seems like we never really do. It's the one subject that's truly too delicate to handle with anything but kid gloves. What we get instead are half-hearted platitudes from some, and self-righteous bloviation from others. There's so much rhetoric on both sides of the debate that after awhile it seems as if there's no debate at all.

So in the spirit of increased understanding, I'm just going to say what's on my mind:

I really fucking hate that Shakira song, "Hips Don't Lie," and I think it's kind of racist.

I'll explain why in a second; first, let me go ahead and address the whole Carlos thing. I can't help but think that a good number of the people who criticized my comments about him did so because they made instant judgments about the respective quality of his life and mine growing up. I'm also betting that these judgments were, for lack of a better word, racist. Being that I now live in Manhattan and work in television, they no doubt assumed that I led a charmed life growing up. Being that Carlos may still be working with his dad tiling floors, they no doubt also assumed that he spent his childhood eating Alpo. The funny thing is, no one would be willing to admit it but I have a sneaking suspicion that part of that false assumption comes solely from the impression of Carlos as a downtrodden, undereducated minority -- a victim who needs to be defended in the face of the affluent white prick. And people call me liberal.

The reality, of course, couldn't be further from the scenario I just described. I'm from Miami, and for those who've never been lucky enough to visit the place where all the crap in America flows to, let me clue you in: Cuban-Americans own and operate the city, top to bottom. Carlos isn't a minority. Not by a fucking long shot. He came from an upper-middle class family who set down roots in Hialeah years ago and have found their fortune in this country. His father ran, and probably still runs, a very successful business of his own. His mother was a real-estate agent. Like anyone in Miami over the age of 60, His grandfather sat around bitching about the bearded devil 200 miles to the south and waxing nostalgic about the beauty of Cuba before the revolution -- he also kicked my car when I parked on the lawn, the fucker. The fact is, Carlos's life as a teenager was as good as mine, if not better. Truth be told, that's why I had a problem with him spending his adulthood sitting on his ass in Miami watching Pace High football. He talked about going places. He had every resource and opportunity, and yet took none; proof that the small-town "I'll get out of here someday" mentality, mixed with complete emotional stasis exists, even in a big city.

I find it funny, though, that some people assumed otherwise about him -- and I know they did. I think that's what my mother used to refer to as "judging a book by its cover."

Something you should know about me: I believe that there's value in judging a book by its cover. There's a calculated reason that the cover of a book looks the way it does. It's there to give readers an idea of what's inside -- to be a logical and natural extension of its contents. If you see a book cover with a handgun and a target on it, with Washington DC in the background -- it's probably safe to assume that the story inside involves suspense and intrigue. If you see a picture of Fabio, you gotta figure the book's a romance. If you see the name Greg Behrendt and the words "He's Just Not That Into You," you know it's ridiculous and cynical crap written by an unfunny hack and churned out for really fucking stupid women. Fact is, though, there are elements of your personal "cover" which can't be changed. Your race can't be changed (unless you're Michael Jackson). Your age can't be adjusted (unless you're Joan Rivers). Your physical characteristics generally are what they are. A person should never be judged on these things.

But if you're black, you can choose to dress like a hip-hop thug. If you're a young girl, you can choose to wear tiny skirts, a bellybutton-ring and midriff-bearing tops. Guess what, though -- if you make choices like these, you forfeit the right to bitch when people make natural assumptions about who you are as a person. I'm not saying it's fair. In a perfect world, maybe everyone would be so fully actualized that there would be no prejudice. But you're not living in a perfect world, and ignoring the fact that there are certain consequences to the image you choose to project is just irresponsible and goddamned stupid.

Case in point: I have tattoos. Several. I don't pitch a fit when some people think I'm some kind of serial killer. I don't call them ignorant for not being able to see through to the "real me." I knew what I was signing-on for when I got the things. I accept the consequences of my actions. Maybe I'll prove to them that guys with tattoos are actually quite nice.

Okay, I'm back now after taking a five minute laugh break.

Another thing I've come to believe -- though I try not to prejudge based on race or ethnicity -- is that stereotypes exist for a reason, and that many of them are true. Not across the board, of course. But there's a reason they became stereotypes. No one woke up one morning and said, "From now on, I'm gonna think of all Italian guys as track-suit and gold-chain wearing, pasta-eating, Vitalis-using, bad-suit owning, Mafia capos." Post hoc ergo propter hoc, folks. The reality was there before the image. It created it, and some could easily argue that it now perpetuates it, creating an endless cycle that eventually turns stereotype into archetype. Incidentally, I'm Italian. I know plenty of people who fit the aforementioned description perfectly. Somewhere along the line, there were enough Jews who were thrifty, enough blacks who enjoyed fried chicken and enough Russian women who gave really great hand-jobs at Midtown bars -- wait, that's not well known?

Which finally brings me back to Shakira and her God-awful song. I knew I could somehow pull that off.

I realize that I just said that stereotypes exist for a reason, but I also know that most of society frowns on them, regardless. So why in the hell doesn't somebody complain that just about every Latin "Singing Sensation" tries to perpetuate the idea that Hispanics don't give a shit about music unless they can shake their asses to it? Isn't that mildly offensive? Shakira's a gorgeous woman, with a great voice. She's also made some really decent music. But her new song once again seems to remind the masses that Latinos and Latinas only value music in proportion to how well they can dance to it. Maybe it's just that I did actually grow up in Miami, which means that I still have post-traumatic stress disorder whenever I hear Miami Sound Machine, but I have to think that somewhere out there, there's a group of sad, rhythm-deficient Hispanics who feel the same way about this that Asians with no math skills feel about that particular stereotype.

Oh, and, add Wyclef Jean to the mix and you literally have the worst song in the history of recorded music.

Anyway, the true test of this post -- this airing of my opinion, free of any intended offense or venom -- will be the reaction. What will I be called this time?

I guess I shouldn't get into what I think about the idea of using the term "The N Word" in discussions about racism instead of just saying the actual word itself. So much for being adults.

Like I said, kid gloves.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Today's Words of Wisdom

"Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt."

-- H.L. Mencken

World Cup, Day Eleven

The Saudis eat sand.

Ukr 4, Sau 0

In a related item -- after a classified phone call from Saudi Prince Bandar, President Bush announced that we're invading the Ukraine.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup, Days Nine & Ten

A hell of a weekend.

First of all, God bless Ghana for providing a much-needed Cinderella story. Good for them.

Gha 2; Cze 0

Secondly, the US finally showed up, and managed to do the seemingly impossible -- hold the Italians to a draw with only nine players (nevermind that Italy scored our one goal for us).

USA 1, Ita 1

Alright, once again, SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP BRAZIL. Look, I get it -- their game is on an entirely different level. They're artful and poetic. There's no denying it. But they're the fucking Yankees of soccer -- only with infinitely worse dental work. Speaking of which, if one more announcer expounds on Ronaldinho's "joyous, childlike smile," I'm gonna climb a clock tower. Of course he's smiling; he's anywhere besides the slum of a country he calls home. They're right though, children do smile like that -- mentally retarded children.

And don't even get me started on the fans; a group of people who look like a bizzare genetic experiment gone horribly awry -- one that fused the Latin American chapter of the Shakira fan club with an especially acid-addled group of dead-heads.

Bra 2, Aus 0

And then there's the French. Jesus, what happened to these guys? Thank God for Thierry Henry -- whom I bow to anyway because I'm an Arsenal fan -- but they should've made short work of the Koreans. Instead we get a draw. Guys, this is no way to prove how superior you are to the rest of us.

Fra 1, Kor 1

Friday, June 16, 2006

Brit Happens


Set the Way-Back machine for just after September 11th, 2001.

Remember all that talk from the media -- and everyone else for that matter -- about how "everything had changed." "Things would never be the same." Our worship of all things trivial and fucking inane would be wiped clean by the blood of 3,000+.

Uh-huh.

Now watch NBC and Matt Lauer perform the journalistic equivalent of giving head in the bathroom of a bus-station by devoting an entire hour to a one-on-one interview with Britney Spears.

Best moment: Lauer asks her how she feels about some people calling her a "redneck" (because he can't say "white trash"), which is a hilarious question, given that she spends the entire hour loudly chewing gum.

Yep, the world is now a better place.

Jay-Z/Cristal: Collision Course

A few years back, during the truly dark days of stupidity in this country -- I'm speaking of course of the Lead-Up-To-Iraq/"Freedom Fries" era -- I remember stopping to notice a car whose bumper proudly proclaimed "Boycott France!" At the time, it was a pretty popular sentiment, and one which jingoistic jerks like Bill O'Reilly were happily perpetuating.

Here's the thing though: this particular bumper belonged to a 1991 Ford Taurus that was in, shall we say, less than pristine condition.

Now sure, it's possible that the owner of the car -- realizing that he personally couldn't possibly have a dog in this fight -- was encouraging the more well-to-do folks who might find themselves on the road behind him (those that weren't dodging his muffler anyway) to pick up the mantle that he could not. Win one for the Gipper so to speak.

Or it could be that the car's owner was in fact David Cross, or someone with an equal appreciation for the hilarious nature of irony.

But no, in the end, all I could come back to was the thought that the driver of the '91 Taurus truly believed that he could, in fact, help to bring an entire country of culturally-elite snobs to their weak little knees by... well... not eating french fries.

"Oh yeah Cletus, the fucking French are just shaking in their boots that you've cancelled your order for the case of Chateau D'Yquem '76 and decided NOT to take the family on that vacation in Cannes."

Welcome to America -- land of completely ineffectual gestures that require no real effort aside from spending a dollar on a bumper sticker.

Now as it turns out, Bill O'Reilly and his ilk have something in common with -- of all people -- Jay-Z. Both have called for a boycott of French products. Jay's ire is slightly more focused though; he's got a problem (one of his 99?) with Cristal champagne. The rap mogul says that the erstwhile official beverage of hip-hop's elite will not be served in his club, nor at any of his parties. This after Louis Roederer's managing director basically dissed Jay better than Nas ever did. Roederer is the parent company which owns Cristal, and when asked about the champagne's popularity with those who lyrically tout their allegiance to all things bling, Frederic Rouzaud said, "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Ooooh, snap!

Time to bring it down to basics...

Ok, so it's easy to knock the French. They're elitist assholes; but they're not dumb -- they know full well that pissing off a couple of rappers isn't going to hurt their worldwide take... not one bit. In fact, while Jay is busy shouting from the rooftops that Rouzaud's comments are racist in and of themselves, he's probably missing the larger and in fact more insulting aspect of what the Frenchman is saying. If you gave him the benefit of the doubt, you could argue that he has no problem with black people -- just semi-illiterate neanderthals who, when they're not talking about killing people, are pretending that class is something you can buy. There's merit to this. Rappers never talk about a good scotch, even though that would carry equal if not more heft in the refinement department. That's because it's not about refinement; it's about show. It's about proving that you're no longer the kid from the projects and goddamnit, you're gonna be respected. The most obtuse way to command that kind of respect: champagne and jewelry -- the more obvious, the better. What Rouzaud's implying though, is a complete attack on that way of thinking. He's saying that no matter how much money they make, rappers will never "arrive." They'll never be part of the ruling class.

Chris Rock once said that the reason for this is "rims" -- and he's absolutely right; the worship of expensive champagne proves it.

Meanwhile, for the French, champagne IS about refinement, and not about excess. Hence why Rouzaud's comments are so condescending. He knows rappers just don't get it. There's a Zen-like quality to true class; if you have to talk about it, you don't have it.

I like Jay; as rappers go he's got talent -- which unfortunately means that he can do slightly more than make two fucking words rhyme. Still, his stand against Cristal is about as worthless as a Vanilla Ice beat. The unfortunate fact is that he holds sway (no pun intended) over far too small a group to make a real statement, and much of that group can't afford the stuff anyway. That's not a "dis" -- simply a fact. The Cristal people know this.

If it makes him feel better though, Jay should know that I for one won't be drinking any Cristal in the near future.

World Cup, Day Eight

Jesus, the last time the Serbs took a beating like that, NATO jets were involved.

Arg 6, Ser 0

Thursday, June 15, 2006

World Cup, Day Seven

Rule Britannia!

Eng 2, Tri 0

England advances... and Rooney returns!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Follow-Up Now...

Oh I just love it when something comes along that's so spectacularly awesome that I couldn't improve upon it comedically if I tried.

Turns out the crafty 16 year old Michigan girl who managed to fly all the way to the Middle-East to meet a guy she'd connected with on MySpace.com, was in fact flying there to marry him. So says -- are you ready for this -- the distraught family-members of the would-be groom, all of whom SHOWED UP AT THE AIRPORT TO MEET THE KID.

In an interview, the groom's heartbroken mother said, "She was going to sign a marriage contract as soon as she got here... She wanted to convert to Islam and wear the head covering and live with us and adopt our culture."

These kids. Last year she wanted to go on tour with Fall Out Boy -- this year she wants to live in a war-zone and swear eternal subservience to Allah and her husband.

I just can't get the image out of my head of the family, waiting there at the end of the airport concourse, holding a little sign that says "Infidel."

World Cup, Day Six

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I (Stab) New York

A 21 year old tourist from Houston, Texas was stabbed this afternoon while standing on a subway platform with his girlfriend.

It happened for no apparent reason.

Welcome to New York kid.

MySpace, The Final Frontier... For Idiots

There's this kid I used to know back in high school. His name was Carlos. Nice guy. I wouldn't have called us best friends, but as high school slackers are sometimes prone to do -- that being indiscriminately flock to each other -- we didn't give a second thought to hanging out in the same group on occasion. We'd have a couple of beers, which at that time still carried the unmistakably great taste of both novelty and parental prohibition; We'd steal parking meters from the lots along Miami Beach; We'd go to Fire & Ice, which at that time was the only decent alternative club in Miami. We'd wait in line all night for concert tickets when the band was worth it; We'd make fun of, well, everybody; We'd generally revel in the complete lack of any discernable responsibility other than to simply "show up" to life.

I'll never deny that those were damn good times.

At my ten year high school reunion, I ran into Carlos again, gave him a hug and tried not to spill my drink on him. He told me he was working for his father's home tiling business -- which as far as I was concerned was a far more noble vocational endeavor than what seemed to be the stand-by/fall-back profession of most male members of my graduating class: Hialeah or City of Miami cop. A few minutes of down time with the student body of Pace High School's class of '87 and you'd understand that these miscreants should barely be on this side of prison bars themselves, much less be handed a Glock and the badge that allows them to use it. I'm sure the notion of that hair-trigger weapon at their side, free meals at Denny's, a steady paycheck and the opportunity to harass black people with impunity won many a former delinquent over to the side of law and order.

Carlos and I did the nostalgia thing for a few minutes, and then he said something that I didn't quite understand because it seemed apropos of nothing.

"You know, our football team is really great this year."

I stood there for a moment, sure that the look of utter bemusement on my face would carry enough insult to drive him away in disgust. What the hell was he talking about? The Dolphins? That was impossible, seeing as how I had distinctly heard him use the words "really great," and not "fucking suck like no team has ever sucked before." I don't remember him going to UM with me, but I guess that as a lot of folks in Miami do, he could very well have adpoted them as his own and formed enough of a personal relationship with them in his mind that he saw nothing wrong with using a personal pronoun.

And then it hit me; he was talking about OUR team. Our school's team. Our high school football team. Our CURRENT high school football team.

"Uh, really? You still follow Pace football?" I said.
"Yeah man, we've got a great quarterback this year. Dude, Remember Javier? He's the assistant coach these days."
"That's --" oh dear fucking God think of something decent and cordial "-- really great. Glad to hear that. I'm gonna go to the bar... and stay there."

Almost ten years later, as I approach my twenty year reunion, my point is this: I have no burning desire to hear from Carlos ever again. I didn't really feel much of a yearning to in the time before that ten year watermark. I feel the same way about most people from my distant past. There are a select few I've lost contact with that wish I hadn't, but for the most part those I wanted to remain close to, I have. I've kept in touch the way millions have for years -- through personal contact, the telephone, and more recently, e-mail.

If I haven't seen you in a very long time, chances are there's a good reason for it.

Another symbol of high school that I never felt the need to relive at any point in my adulthood, was the adolescent rite of passage that came with the signing of yearbooks. Yes, I get it. BFF and all that shit. Remember when, and let's hope we never lose touch. The way I decorate my yearbook and personalize it tells the world just who I am. It's a form of artistic expression!

Sure thing Da Vinci.

But now as it turns out, this late in my life, the two main benefits I had hoped to reap from growing up -- ignoring my past and doing away with teenage fucking idiocy -- have been put asunder in one fell swoop and in high-tech fashion, all by a guy I've never met. His name is Tom.

Tom wants to be my friend. He wants to be your friend. He wants to be the world's friend. So far he seems to be succeeding. 72 million people and counting have taken him up on his seemingly innocuous Mister-Rogers-cum-Weezer-fan offer. I however believe that Tom's true identity and mission have yet to be revealed. Simply put, he is Satan, the Prince of Darkness -- and he intends to enslave all mankind.

He's doing it via the use of his insidious creation -- the most cunning and nefarious invention to come to prominence in the early days of the 21st century: MySpace.

In deference to the three people who don't currently inhabit a "virtual apartment" on MySpace.com -- it's essentially a place on-line where you can instantly have access to all those people you do your best to ignore or forget about every day. It's where millions flaunt their individuality by going to the same website. It's where teens try and pick up teens; adults try and pick up teens; and bands try and get teens to buy their crappy music. It's where you can debate the great moral and social issues of our time, like who was better, Biggie or Tupac. First and foremost though, it's where you can gather "friends" like fucking Pokemon cards; Tom -- he of the goofy smile and aw-shucks persona -- being the first new friend to say "Howdy!"

Over the last couple of months, the site has come under fire not for its very existence -- which I think is a mortal sin in and of itself -- but for the way some are using it; It's a veritable on-line petting zoo for pedophiles. Just last week a story broke about a 16 year old Michigan girl who met a West Bank man on MySpace, then lied to her parents to get a passport which allowed her to fly to the Middle-East to meet him. I won't even get into how goddamned clueless two adults have to be to let themselves be outfoxed by someone who more than likely dots her "I"s with hearts and speaks in teen cellphone text code. A wiley one that kid. Either way, this is just the latest bad publicity for MySpace, but this is America and I'm not one to blame Tom for the way some have chosen to abuse this great power he's given them. You can't blame Albert Einstein for Harry Truman's itchy trigger finger and love of the warm glow of mushroom clouds.

No, I actually think MySpace's far more insipid transgression is its knack for turning scores of otherwise normal adults with jobs, responsibilities, families -- LIVES -- into the idiot kids you used to hate in high school for wasting so much time and effort putting together what they truly believed would be their ultimate legacy: their "Slam Books." MySpace isn't destroying our kids. They're allowed to be stupid -- they're young and don't know any better. It's destroying our adults, by turning them back INTO kids.

Now I know what you're thinking, "But come on, it's just a little fun -- and it's a great way to hook up with old friends."

I promise you that this will be the last thing you think just before Tom flips the switch and sends the subliminal signal through the broadband and phone lines, ordering you to put on your Silver Shamrock halloween masks and watch the computer monitor... WATCH. WATCH CLOSELY.

Besides, think for a minute about how you react to the guy who wanders around the party trying to cozy up to everybody and be his or her friend. That's the guy you usually want to punch in the fucking face, right? Now multiply that party by the population of the entire planet.

That's Tom.

Fuck MySpace, and while I'm at it -- fuck Pace Football. Grow up and get a goddamned life Carlos.

World Cup, Day Five

Dear God I fucking hate Brazil. Somebody please beat those bastards.

Bra 1, Cro 0

Meanwhile the French continue their valiant quest to never score another goal at a World Cup.

Fra 0, Swi 0

Monday, June 12, 2006

Life of Brain

I'm out of Vicodin. This could be a problem.

Now before anyone starts thinking that my resemblance to TV's Dr. House extends to a years-long addiction to painkillers, I should probably mention something that I've neglected to up until now.

A little over a month ago, I had brain surgery; had a tumor the size of a pinball removed in fact.

I realize that some who've read my past posts will now nod their heads in recognition, saying to themselves "Ah, that explains it." Understand though that the personality that I've exhibited on the computerized pages of this little experiment of mine is the same personality I've had all my life. I've always been this way. Probably always will be. See what a childhood spent idolizing Bugs Bunny and Hawkeye Pierce gets you? Unfortunately though, I can't truthfully say that the surgery has had no serious effects on me -- nor can I say that these effects won't last for quite some time.

Today was my first day back at work after a two-month medical leave.

Maybe it would be best if I rewind a little, knock chronology for a loop like a Tarantino movie.

The first week of April, I noticed the first tremors of a headache. They began the morning after an exceptional dinner here in New York with Drew Curtis of Fark.com. My first thought was that Drew had once again poured so much great wine down the throats of myself, my wife and everyone else at the damned table that I was simply nursing the appropriate hangover. A little sleep, a couple of aspirin and I'd be fine. Except that I wasn't. I woke up the next morning with my head pounding even harder. The pain was fucking excruciating. In deference to T.S. Eliot, in short I was afraid.

I made it through about an hour of work before going home and trying desperately to sleep. Not a chance. That night was without question the worst 12 hours of my life -- and I've sat through David Lynch's "Dune." I felt like something was trying to claw its way out of my head by gouging out my eyes from the inside. For awhile I remembered a story I saw about a guy whose sinuses were riddled with strep bacteria, and in a matter of days it had eaten away his face. I honestly figured that was what was happening to me.

I didn't sleep for one minute that night. I spent the entire time crying and counting the hours and minutes until I could go to the doctor.

I have bad sinuses to begin with, so I chalked the immense pain up to a nightmarish infection or case of sinusitis. The next morning at 9am sharp I was at my doctor. It's worth mentioning by the way that at the time, my wife and I lived in Brooklyn and the closest hospital to our apartment provided the kind of care you might've recognized if you'd ever seen the movie "Jacob's Ladder" -- hence why I didn't go to the emergency room. One bad experience there for Jayne was enough to steer me clear. Either way, when I arrived at my doctor's office in Lower Manhattan, the nurses literally thought that I was trying to milk the office for good painkillers, as some are apt to do on occasion. They found it hard to believe that the crumpled pile in the waiting room could really be as messed up as he purported to be. A CT scan and a bottle of codeine capsules later, still no answer as to what was causing the headache.

It took three days of still unabated, gut-wrenching agony before I could get in for an MRI.

It took the technician conducting the MRI about thirty seconds to figure out what was wrong with me.

"You have a brain tumor, and it's hemorraging into your head." He told me; even drawing a crude sketch to show me just where the tumor was -- directly between my eyes, resting on my pituitary gland. I was in the emergency room at Cornell Medical Center about an hour later, fetally curled up on a rolling bed, begging someone to please turn the fucking lights off. Over a period of about two hours, they readied me for surgery and walked me through exactly what needed to be done to remove this alien egg from my brain. As far as everyone was concerned, I was going to be cut open and it was coming out that night. That was the thinking anyway -- until God showed up.

I realize that a lot of debate has raged throughout the centuries over the exact name of God. The Hebrews called him Yahweh; The Muslims, Almighty Allah; The Christians, the Lord Our God -- or simply "I am who am." As it turns out, his name is actually Ted. Okay, so I have no idea if that's his nickname. It may very well be Theo for all I know, as that sounds far more scholarly.

Dr. Theodore Schwartz walked into my room like Elvis taking the stage in Vegas. The guy just owned it. He grabbed my chart and my MRI, asked me how I was doing and got a couple of pained mumbles out of me, then basically told me that the plan had changed. As it turned out, I was the perfect candidate for the kind of surgery which he performed exclusively -- that being minimally-invasive endoscopic tumor resection. Translation: they go in through your nose instead of opening your skull like a tuna can. Who was I to argue.

For the next couple of weeks I was on platelets to stop the bleeding, steroids to shrink the fucker and vicodin to kill the pain; all the while concerning myself day and night with the upcoming surgery which could -- despite the "minimally-invasive" reassurance -- leave me permanently stroked out and drooling on myself while the government fought to keep a feeding tube jammed down my throat. I wasn't scared, I was fucking petrified. I spent my nights watching my wife sleep, trying to accumulate as much of this simple experience as I could in the hope that it might somehow stay with me should my world suddenly go dark and everything I know to be me slip away into oblivion. I prayed -- yes, prayed -- not to survive or remain the person I'd always been, but rather to hold onto her image and keep it with me wherever it was that I went. I wanted these moments to be the trail of breadcrumbs that I could somehow use to get back to her.

She was the last thing I thought of as I went under.

There is no darkness by the way. No peaceful fade to black. There's just a complete excising of a period of time. A jarring, faster-than-light hyper-jump. One flash of white and I was in ICU -- choking on a nosebleed and seeing my wife, family and nurses through a fish-eye lense. I was alive though. The operation was a success. They got it -- and got it all.

My few days in the hospital were eye-opening in ways I'll explain at a later time. There are too many intimate intricacies to get into right now.

For the past month I've spent most of my time indoors, hence the creation of this blog as a way to pass the time and keep my mind somewhat active -- although some readers might argue that the amount of brain power I've used here has been negligible. I've seen a lot of doctors in an effort to regulate the hormone levels which the alien egg threw completely out of whack by destroying a good portion of my pituitary gland. My body does things that no one younger than Bea Arthur's lesbian lover can fully understand. I've taken a lot of pills. A lot. I've suffered through three infections which required fluid to be drained from around my eye, two back teeth to be pulled, and my stomach area to be treated for shingles. I've played a lot of games of Black and Hitman: Blood Money (a helpful tip: it's more fun when you just kill everyone in sight).

Which brings me back to the present. I'm not fine. I don't much feel like myself these days, but I never lose sight of how much worse things could've been and could still be right now.

I'll take hot flashes over years of physical and mental therapy any day.

I'm humbled and grateful, and glad to be back at work -- and especially glad that I never had to use those breadcrumbs, although I'll never regret having had them with me.

Come to think of it, I still keep them close to my heart.

World Cup, Dark Day

Shit.

Cze 3, USA 0

Breaking News

Dan Abrams has apparently been named General Manager of MSNBC.

In a related item, Morris the Cat has been named CEO of the Purina Corporation.

Distractions


I could write. I really could. I could take the time to sit down and compose something decent.

Or I could watch Robot Chicken and then go to bed with my wife (see above).

Which would you choose?

Yeah, I'll even skip Robot Chicken.

Ten bucks says this gets more comments than anything else.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup, Interlude

I love Tommy Smyth. Not only is he a great announcer -- putting aside the fact that he sounds as if he spends his spare time trying to stop those kids from getting his Lucky Charms -- but he has a real passion for the game.

That said, is it my imagination or does he occasionally make comments that make him seem like Pepper Brooks, the Jason Bateman character from "Dodgeball?"

World Cup, Day Three

Ole'! ... Ole'! Ole'! Ole'!

Mex 3, Ira 1

Fuck Iran.

Tomorrow: USA vs. the Czechs

Saturday, June 10, 2006

World Cup, Day Two

Go England!

Eng 1, Par 0

Friday, June 09, 2006

You Know, I Learned Something Today

To paraphrase Trent from "Swingers," my little blog's all growns up.

Holy crap. You get an article posted on Fark and the weight of the world comes down on you.

Look, I'm not going to address the complaints and concerns of every single person who saw, was offended by, disagreed with or generally commented on my post on the so-called liberal media -- at least not while the World Cup is on (see previous post).

There are a few things that I will respond to, seeing as how it's halftime between Poland and Ecuador -- two teams I don't care much about anyway -- and because they're questions which will probably come up time and time again throughout the course of this blog.

First of all, believe it or not I'm not liberal. Read long enough and you'll see me insult the hell out of the left as eagerly as I pound the right. I don't like hypocricy, no matter which side it comes from. For the record, I also fucking hate hippies.

Which brings us to point number two -- my language. If you really believe that just because I occasionally use four-letter words that it somehow degrades or negates my point-of-view, I'm happy to dig up Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce and have them both beat you senseless. The reason that my attempt at erudite observation is sometimes laced with "colorful metaphors" is pretty simple... I get really pissed off.

I realize that discourse in this country has reached a real low point and that the gulf between the left and right is vast, but in writing about what I consider to be the verbal gang-bang against the media by blowhards with microphones, podiums, pulpits and blogs (yeah, go ahead and remind me of the irony) I chose to dispense with the olive branch and grab the handgun. I did this because, yes, there is a part of me that says that for too long the far-right extremists have taken shot after shot without anyone shooting back. Don't believe me? Two days ago the Today show invited Ann Coulter on to "discuss" her new book entitled -- oh how I love this -- "Godless." Now I could spend hours being snarky and joking about how her audience can't comprehend more than one word at a time, hence why all of her books have such succinct titles. That would get me called the usual names: elitist, typical liberal, New York intellectual -- for the record, Coulter herself lives not far from my apartment.

Bottom line: after watching Matt Lauer talk to this raving crazy bitch like she was someone whose opinions actually matter, then graciously thank her for being on the show, I couldn't help but wonder where the hell the media's spine was. This is a woman who -- when she's not insulting the 9/11 widows -- is bitching incessantly about the very media which consistently elevates her and perpetuates her celebrity status.

I think that when I see something that egregiously idiotic, it's perfectly within my right to dispense with the esoterica and ask why the hell Lauer was giving her a forum in the first place -- or why at the very least he wasn't laughing in her face and kicking her scrawny ass off the set.

One more thing, for the people who wrote that the reason they turn to Fox News, Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh to get the truth is because we've given them no choice -- they just can't trust the mainstream media anymore; that's like saying you're tired of being married to Ike Turner, so you're going to leave him for Scott Peterson.

Look kids, the media is far from perfect. Our job however is to bring truth to power, no matter who that power is. We've failed at that miserably over the past several years. We've allowed ourselves to be played by the very power we're supposed to question, and be berated by its friends and allies.

That's bullshit.

Back to the match. Have a nice day.

Two Words: World Cup

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Journalist, Defend Thyself

The question I'm most often asked at cocktail parties is, "Was that you rolling Swedish meatballs to the dog -- across my white carpet?"

The second-most often asked question is, "Do you think (the TV network I work for) really does have a liberal bias?" This assumes of course that they know exactly what I do for a living and where I do it.

My answer is typically the same; It's some variation of the word "no."

Let me set the record straight. Whether or not the people behind the scenes or in front of the cameras hold liberal views near and dear to their hearts is irrelevant. That's because there isn't a moment when these beliefs aren't superceded by something else entirely -- something large and unseen, but certainly felt, looming over their shoulders. I'd like to believe that -- as most people in this business were taught in J-school (the slacker presently at the keyboard notwithstanding) -- the awesome responsibility to be fair and impartial would be the priority that dogs journalists in their waking and working hours. Although some might argue that fairness IS the eventual byproduct of the specter to which I'm referring, it's not the specter itself.

What I'm talking about -- that feeling -- that motivating factor -- is fear.

Moreso than in any period I can remember, journalists have been demonized by right-wing demagogues, including those in the White House, and have been forced to play defense to a seemingly never-ending series of accusations of bias and outright dereliction of duty. The eerily synchronized cries of foul from these thuggish but obviously well-organized clowns have created a vast echo chamber which is responsible for helping to turn the supposedly free voice of the press into one voice -- their voice. The reason for this? We drank the Kool-Aid.

Rather than standing up for ourselves against the onslaught of bullshit accusations from the likes of hypocritical fuckheads like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Tom DeLay, we rolled over and -- for some completely unknown reason -- believed it. Contrary to the left-wing slant we've been accused of presenting, the result has been an over-compensation in the opposite direction. We're TOO careful not to offend those who accuse us of bias -- not to give them any more ammunition, so to speak. We do this as if something, anything, we do will appease our tormentors, when in reality it isn't a fair shake they're after in the first place. The creation of a perceived enemy bent on persecution as a means to foster unity and strength-of-will is older than Joseph Goebbels himself, and the "liberal media" has been a convenient boogeyman for the right and its cheerleaders for as long as we've allowed them to get away with it. Complain. Accuse. Repeat.

Indicted for campaign finance violations and abuses of congressional power so egregious they make the Kennedy car-crash controversy look like a fixed parking ticket? All your stated reasons for taking this country into an unnecessary war turn out to be complete horseshit? That same war claiming the lives of American soldiers and innocent civilians daily? Not a problem -- just blame the over-educated elitists on the coasts who control the airwaves and have decided to conspire to withhold the truth from you.

That's why more Americans turn to Fox News!

The rise of the Fox juggernaut has probably had a more adverse impact on responsible journalism than any single recent event short of Alberto Gonzalez threatening to throw reporters in prison. It would seem a simple task to avoid the nonsense that Fox foists on its acolytes, and it would in fact be -- provided Fox didn't have something all programmers and news directors covet and are willing to adjust their own coverage to get, often at the sake of the muckraking spirit of true journalism. That something, is ratings. It's only in the quest for the almighty "numbers" that networks will pursue the relatively small group of people who hang on every word of a laughably Vaudevillian buffoon like Bill O'Reilly, rather than writing them off as the kind of fucking idiots you just can't reach and therefore don't want watching you anyway.

The important point which today's news departments seem to forget is that, once again, those who accuse the responsible media aren't looking to play watchdog, they're simply looking to ensure that their war never really comes to fruition, let alone ends -- like the schoolyard bully who keeps shoving and taunting, safe in the knowledge that if he's imposing and boisterous enough, the target of his wrath will never dare to take the first swing that would start an actual fight. The reality is this: as long as the complaints continue from the right -- and they most certainly will because up until now, they've worked splendidly as a means of distraction -- news organizations, at least in television, will never... NEVER get Fox's audience. Network general managers can skywrite "trustworthy" above Topeka; news managers can hire Irving Kristol and shake him like a magic 8-ball for answers during political coverage; promotions managers can sponsor a network NASCAR team. None of it will make a goddamned difference to the "Fox Fans." NONE of it.

There's a sad irony to all of this; walk into any television newsroom in America -- cable or broadcast -- and you'll hear occasional rumblings from the adminisphere that Fox is at best a factor to be ignored and, at worst, one to be shunned and ridiculed. Put simply, this is trying to have it both ways. Either you ignore Fox, and forfeit the right to complain if and when they trounce you in the ratings -- or you admit that you're no different than them; you're simply the political flip-side of their coin.

That's when you can do what the bully isn't expecting you to do -- what he's praying you won't do. That's when you take a swing at him and knock him on his ass.

Just a note... the always brilliant Peter Daou helped to inspire this post with his own call for the media to finally stand up and grow a backbone. You can see it here:

http://daoureport.salon.com/synopsis.aspx?synopsisId=66bdbd93-f28d-490d-9394-d5230142f3ce

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Drive Me Crazy

I'll never doubt the alarmists again.

I woke up this morning believing that in spite of the ominous succession of numbers on the calendar page, today was sure to be a day like any other. I gave the Dark Lord Satan too much credit -- figuring that making his presence felt moreso than usual on this particular date would be too obvious and heavy-handed, and would look -- for lack of a better term -- like he was showing off.

He was obviously well aware that the Christians would safely tuck their fearful little asses away en masse inside the closest steeple-topped structures they could find, and on the flip side, the usual hoardes of gangly and sinister-looking yet wholly misinformed kids in their Marilyn Manson t-shirts and matching outerwear in every conceivable shade of black, would put down their ten-sided dice and head off into the woods in the hope of luring him into making a personal appearance -- only to return with little more than a nasty rash from poison ivy.

I figured Satan would want to play it like the 9/11 terrorists -- employing the element of surprise by striking on a date of seemingly little significance.

In short, I thought for sure that Beelzebub would be sitting this one out.

I later found out that Scientology had decided to enter the world of NASCAR.

Yes, the "church" that brought you Tom Cruise's complete mental breakdown and career collapse, Isaac Hayes' rumored departure from South Park, Kirstie Alley's unfortunate decision to wake up every morning, and -- well -- Battlefield Earth, is now going to sponsor a car on the NASCAR local circuit. The "Dianetics Racing Team" of course derives its name from the laughably bad opus that serves as the cornerstone of Scientology's teachings. It was written by the religion's founder -- failed sci-fi writer, borderline paranoid-schizophrenic and all around whack-job L. Ron Hubbard.

In case you missed any of the 175 million in-depth television investigations done in the wake of Tom Cruise's oh-so-newsworthy transformation from beloved movie star to bat-shit pariah, Hubbard believed that an evil galactic overlord named Xenu killed off a race of beings known as Thetans, then trapped their souls here on Earth where they could attach themselves to you, me and everyone else and make us all behave very badly.

He wrote this awesome revelation -- this basis for his religion which he hoped would better mankind -- on a cocktail napkin. Absolutely true.

Now for the mere cost of every single thing you own or ever will, Scientology will teach you how to rid yourself of these Thetans. Tommy Cruise did it, and look where he is!

But... NASCAR?

It's safe to say that despite the incredible mind-controlling abilities of Thetan-free Tom -- abilities to which potential audiences for MI3 would seem to be impervious -- it's gonna be a hard fucking sell for the Hubbardlings. Let's face it, anything with the word "Science" in its name is sure to be as popular with the NASCAR crowd as a gay next-door neighbor. This only helps to prove the obvious -- that most NASCAR fans already have a religion, thank you very much, and if you think it's Islam, I've got the location of some weapons of mass destruction for you. The idea of Hollywood's most self-congratulatory elite hitting the heartland to help Larry the Cable Guy free his mind and listen to a voice other than Jesus's is priceless comedy, but not much else.

If you're a believer though -- as I am -- that the real Satan on this date of pure evil is just the usual unbridled stupidity, then not only does he exist, and not only is he making himself heard loud and clear today, but we may as well just give HIM his own NASCAR racing outfit.

Go Team Satan!

Monday, June 05, 2006

This Moment of Beautifully Cruel Irony is Brought to You By...

Mom always used to say that God answers your prayers, it's just that sometimes the answer is "no." What she didn't bother to mention is that every once in awhile the answer is more along the lines of "go fuck yourself."

A Russian man is dead after walking into a den of lions at the Kiev zoo. It happened Sunday night in front of a crowd onlookers -- which made it all the easier for his final words to be recorded and immortalized.

Just as he lowered himself into the animal enclosure, he reportedly shouted, "God will save me!"

God unfortunately, was out getting a Slurpee at the time.

Needless to say, the lions weren't amused by the intrusion and promptly severed the guy's carotid artery.

You might think I'd use this little item to once again rail against the dangerous stupidity of unwavering faith and religion and all that ridiculous shit, but I'm not going to do that. I'm not sure that this kind of thing proves there is no God, so much as it proves that if there is one, he's got his priorities seriously out of whack.

Hell, even I think he should've put this poor sap's prayers for survival above my prayers for something to make me laugh my ass off on a slow Monday night.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Listening Post

Shameless plug time. Well, it's actually not a plug for me personally, so maybe it's not really that shameless. What the hell good is a forum like this if I can't push my friends on the public?

Just a note that two really great bands now have their stuff available on iTunes.

Check out Pillow Theory's brand new release "Outpatience." I have no idea how they did it, but they somehow managed to get legendary genius -- and by "legendary" I mean "hermit-like," and by "genius" I mean "asshole" -- Steve Albini to record the album for them. I'm assuming they had to fly to the Dagobah system and find the right tree trunk, but whatever they did, the results are great.

Also grab "Only Human," from Crease. Damn good, rock-n-roll from a band that's always been about ten times better than anything AOR continues to shove down the throats of most American markets. The first single off the record, "Nothing is Real," is catchier than syphillis.

Give 'em a listen before they're forced to do something stupid for publicity like hiring the bald kid from American Idol.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Anatomically Incorrect, or "You Worked Hard to Get Through Med School & Become a Doctor, But You'll Settle for Being the Dumb Girl Who Sleeps Around."


If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm not a big fan of stupid people. It just seems that with everything going on these days, we can't afford any intellectual stragglers -- particularly not ones with voter registration cards. You don't have to be a genius, but for Christ's sake try; there are a lot of people depending on you.

While the stupid rank high on my list of dislikes, there's a subset of this group that ranks one notch higher: stupid women. I've always kind of felt like this was a pretty feminist position to take, although I've been told otherwise -- typically just before getting a drink thrown in my face and/or politely being asked to sleep on the couch. The fact is that I've always felt that women are generally a little sharper than men. They tend to have a better balance of compassion and reason and as far as I know are mercifully free of that ridiculous appendage between their legs which shuts down any and all cognitive functions. Women can be wise, thoughtful, and above all discriminating when it comes to their sexual partners, whereas every day across this great land of ours, operators receive embarrassing 911 calls quietly begging them to rush paramedics to Suburbia, USA, where some unfortunate idiot has gotten his penis stuck in a drainpipe. When women say that they can be just as crass and horny as men, my question is always the same: "Why the hell would you want to be?"

The bizarre desire to co-opt even the most offensive of male characteristics is just one facet of the problem however. The other side of that coin is that, ironically, women are allowed to get away with being stupid far more often than men. Complain all you want girls, you understand, because at some point there's a pretty good chance that you've thought to yourself, "Well as long as I've got these, who needs a brain?" This is the Jessica Simpson model of female empowerment. Once again, I'd like to believe that it's a feminist stance that disagrees with this, and it used to be -- back before "feminism" was defined as standing on top of a bar and stripping in front of a bunch of like-minded, Prada-clad career women, drunk on appletinis at some Cake party, or maybe flashing your breasts for Girls Gone Wild.

With this in mind, I offer what will seem like a non sequitur, but bear with me.

The other night, my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching TV when we began debating which fictional television hospital we'd most like to be taken to, should we ever come down with some kind of life-threatening disease. (If you're married, you understand this kind of interaction completely, if you're not -- oh what you have to look forward to.) We agreed that at the top of the list of places to be treated would be the Princeton/Plainsboro Teaching Hospital -- home to the irascible but brilliant Dr. Gregory House, of Fox's House. At the bottom of the list -- a no-brainer, literally: Seattle Grace Hospital. I'd love to think that most of you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, but the ratings say otherwise. Seattle Grace is of course the principle location of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, the Melrose Place of doctor shows.

Tune in any week and you can watch the show's cast of formerly B-list actors -- fronted by the squinty-eyed Ellen Pompeo as Meredith "My Name's in the Title" Grey, and the kid from Can't Buy Me Love -- jump into bed with each other while all around them patients convulse and die. Hell, in last year's season finale, the most cringe-inducingly annoying of the bunch -- surgeon-in-training Izzie (Dr. Fucking Izzie?!?) -- accidentallly killed a guy due mostly to the fact that she had fallen in love with him. Word has it the show's rabidly loyal female fan-base actually lit up ABC's phone lines to complain about the offing. Don't worry girls, I hear he survives in the re-runs.

The most painful thing about Grey's Anatomy, aside from its resurrection of Patrick Dempsey's career, is the fact that it touches a nerve among women who see themselves in Meredith Grey. This has happened before, and at the time it was just as unfortunate. A few years back, scores of young, intelligent professional American women actually had the bad sense to identify with Calista Flockhart's flighty, high-strung, and all around vapid character, Ally McBeal. Now they have a new character whom they feel that they can really understand; she has the brains to be a doctor, but God bless her, she'll put it all aside for what's really important: screwing a married guy. Bring on the Kleenex.

Best of all, like Carrie Bradshaw on the equally insipid but just as popular Sex and The City, what's little more than selfish and immature behavior is passed off as an expression of strength, intelligence and sexual empowerment. Pay attention and you'll probably notice another similarity between SATC and Grey's: a running narration by the lead character. I'll have to assume that the only difference between an empowered woman and somebody who sleeps around for the hell of it is some flowery introspection. Add a little high school-grade poetry at the beginning and end of the show and you've got yourself an everywoman character for the new millennium.

Now, of course I understand that it's just a TV show; I more than likely sound as if I'm one step away from turning into Dan Quayle, jousting at the windmill of fictional television character Murphy Brown. Like any cultural zeitgeist though, Grey's Anatomy has an influence, and like I said at the beginning: can we really afford any more intellectual stragglers -- particularly ones who are being convinced that they're anything but?

I should probably mention that whether or not she'd like to be the beneficiary of Seattle Grace's vast medical acumen, my wife doesn't really mind Grey's Anatomy.

She's damn smart, and even if she weren't -- she's got those.

Who needs brains?

More Required Reading

I'm well past the age of toilet papering people's homes, drilling holes in parking meters and taking the change, and stealing cows, painting them purple and tying them to mailboxes in people's front yards (don't ask). Still, every once in awhile an idea for a slightly more subtle practical joke comes to mind and I'm sorry that I have neither the time nor the energy to pull it off.

If I could, I'd like nothing more than to replace the Bibles in libraries, bookstores and hotels with copies of "The End of Faith," by Sam Harris.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the Bible per se; I simply think it's interesting that one of the standard tenets of the conservative movement in this country is that we all need to be shielded against certain dangerous material, because a fraction of our vast population will take it the wrong way, take it literally, take it to the extreme, and of course by doing so, kill our children. Music, movies, books etc. You know how it works with these dipshits. When a teacher holds an entire class responsible for the actions of one or two, you know whose side of the argument Judge Roy Moore is coming down on.

Astonishingly, the only work which is overlooked by these people is the one that's actually spawned the most misunderstanding; the most venomous hatred; the most killing...

The so-called word of God.

If you haven't read it yet, Harris' book is the final word in logical, rational and -- most importantly -- bulletproof arguments against the concept of God and religion. He fearlessly makes an unfortunate fact clear -- that tolerance and respect for another person's ridiculous superstitions is a luxury that you can't afford in this day and age, because it can get you killed. "The End of Faith" has become, ironically, my holy book.

But this isn't about that, believe it or not. My hope is that you've already read or at least heard of Harris. Since I have, it was seeing his name on a blurb for another book that caught my eye and made me grab it off the shelf. You can find this book in the new non-fiction section of your local bookstore, unless of course you live in Kansas, in which case the natives will be burning it out behind the Wal-Mart right after church on Sunday.

It's called "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism," by Michelle Goldberg, a senior writer for Salon.com. You can't miss the picture on the cover; it shows a horde of the usual docile, glassy-eyed zombies -- arms outstretched as if doing "Jesus Jazz Hands" -- writhing through one hymn or another; their calm demeanor belying the fact that they're the most dangerous people in this country right now. They're the ones the Republicans grovel at the feet of. They're the ones who believe that this country belongs to Christ, and so does your sorry ass -- whether you know it or not. They're the ones who want to replace the Constitution with holy scripture, and will stop at nothing to make it happen.

Pick up Goldberg's book, and be scared shitless. Besides, if you actually are a fundamentalist Christian, you can always just write her off as being one of the ones who killed our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

The Swift & the Shameless

I'm new at this. Sue me. Actually don't -- I've had enough of that throughout my lifetime.

Eventually I'll learn how to add links correctly (read: without having to walk downstairs to kidnap one of the little genius kids walking to the magnet school a couple of blocks away from my apartment), but for the moment I'm just going to do it the old fashioned way: tell you about it and let you go find it yourself.

http://daoureportgrit.blogspot.com/2006/05/exclusive-copy-of-jeb-bush-letter.html

This is from Peter Daou's blog. He's sharp as hell and his wife Vanessa makes the sexiest, coolest downbeat music this side of an ecstasy trip.

What he's posted is a copy of a letter Jeb Bush wrote to the Swift Boat veterans back in January of '05 praising their "willingness to stand up against John Kerry." Jeb even attempts to ingratiate himself to these "heroes" (my word, not his -- but ya gotta figure) by letting them know that they share something in common, besides apparent brain tumors. Jebby refers to himself as someone who also "truly understands the risk of standing up for something." He's probably talking about the time he "stood up" against every intelligent, compassionate and realistic doctor, lawyer and family member -- not to mention the United States Constitution itself -- by kicking in the door of Terri Schiavo's hospital room and sticking a feeding tube down her throat, because Jesus and Randall Terry told him to. But he could just as easily be talking about all the times he "stood up" for big sugar, his campaign contributors and every money-grubbing, environment-killing developer willing to give him a pat on the back over the past several years. Or maybe he's just talking about all the times he stood up to grab an extra donut off the buffet table.

Jeb is nowhere near the intellectual equivalent of an egg-salad sandwich that his brother in the White House is, but with G.W. already giving him a personal endorsement for '08 and beyond, now's not the time to be taking any chances. Saying that Jeb is a better G.W. is like saying that Jessica is a better Ashlee Simpson.

And so we remind America that like his dumber brother, Jeb is not only beholden to some pretty questionable people, but he's also just as willing to draw some interesting parallels to firmly ally himself with them.

It bears repeating one more time that while Kerry was in Vietnam, agree with his views of his time there or not, G.W. was ditching his bullshit service in National Guard. The irony of course being that if Bush were in the Guard today, he'd at least get his ass shipped overseas to actually fight thanks to mismanagement at the very top.

Read the letter Daou posted. Read Daou's comments. He's an excelllent writer and is more than willing to take the time to put his thoughts and feelings into decent prose, while I'm so fed up that I'm ready to skip all the flowery language and just call Jeb and his brother a couple of fucking idiots.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hurricane Jayne


Being from Miami, I was trying to figure out some kind of way to at least reference the start of hurricane season. If the promotions department of every network news organization in the country has done its job, there should be no doubt in your mind that as of today, the whistle's gone off, the workers have punched in, and the big hurricane factory on the west coast of Africa has once again sputtered back to life. The first of those babies should come rolling off the assembly line and be headed right for you and your family any minute now.

Is New Orleans ready?!?!

Is Anderson Cooper ready?!?!

Is the guy charged with holding onto Al Roker's poncho ready?!?!

Given that today's date is pretty much meaningless -- as evidenced by the storm which formed before the season even started last year, or the fact that back in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, the first named storm of that season, didn't hit land until August 24th -- I figured I'd give the hype the respect it deserves and, for no good reason, post a picture of my wife... who I occasionally call Hurricane Jayne.

Beats looking at a radar loop.

Suggested Ways to Mark the One Year Anniversary of the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway

If your name is Beth Holloway Twitty, dignified acceptance is probably an unfortunate necessity -- that means time at home with the family, and away from a television studio. If you're Nancy Grace or Rita Cosby, perhaps a toast to a year's worth of decent ratings, followed by an entire breathless hour on the recent murder of Clemson blonde Tiffany Soeurs.

If you're OJ, how about a nice round of golf on the lovely courses of Aruba as you hunt for the real killers.

Required Reading

Run, don't walk, to pick up Eric Boehlert's "Lapddogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush." It details what anyone with three brain cells left (I thankfully have four) knows about the American media's coverage of the most corrupt and deliberately secretive White House of my lifetime.

From the description:

"The Bush White House never subscribed to the view -- commonly held by previous administrations -- that the relationship with the press is an important part of the democratic process. Instead, it saw the press as just another special interest group that needed to be appeased or held at bay -- or, in some cases squashed. The administration actively undermined the basic tenets of accurate and fair journalism, and reporters and editors accepted their reduced roles without a whimper. To an unprecedented degree, journalists stopped asking uncomfortable questions of people in power. In essence, the entire purpose and pursuit of journalism was sacrificed."

An opulent way of saying that we happily handed over our balls, but the truth either way.

My typical motto when it comes to what I choose to read is, "tell me something I don't know." That's why I read a lot of books about lesbians. This one is worth picking up though simply for the fact that it catalogs the Bush administration's manhandling of the media -- and our response, or lack thereof, to it -- simply and irrefutably. It's all the ammunition you'll need to take on that one GOP apologist at your next cocktail party. Well, that and the cheese log. Those things make great weapons.