Monday, December 31, 2007

Listening Post: New Year's Edition

I actually posted this video once before, quite awhile ago. It seems appropriate tonight though.

Happy New Year everyone.

Here's to a better one.

Coming Soon: A Smokable Cure for Anorexia

God bless the brain trust at DARPA -- the Pentagon's Research and Development wing -- for handing me one last entry this year from the "I Couldn't Make this Shit Up" file.

It seems they've developed a drug that they claim will eliminate sleepiness. It's called Orexin-A and researchers say it's essentially a synthesized hormone normally produced in the brain -- one that keeps the body awake. The medication is adminstered via a nasal spray.

So, in other words, it's a drug you put up your nose that keeps you awake.

Fucking genius -- why didn't somebody think of this sooner?

(On a serious note, what the hell is wrong with this country? The same assholes who bring you the ridiculous War on Drugs -- specifically all that bullshit about a "meth epidemic" -- now trumpet the fact that they've come up with a drug to replace sleep for Christ's sake. Hate to tell you this guys, but a good portion of New York City will be doing it the old-fashioned way tonight: No expensive taxpayer-funded research, just a quick phone call to a guy named "Chucho.")

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Death Be Not Proud (But It Is Cost-Effective)

Even from where I was, in the bed on the opposite side of the room, it was possible to see the gruesome surgical-steel staples bisecting Miguel's head. They ran like a set of corroded train-tracks from ear-to-ear, just beyond the hairline which framed the top of his face.

I'd spent three days trying to figure out exactly what had happened to the man who was my roommate at the Cornell Medical Center Neurosurgical ICU. I watched the nurses run him through the daily regimen of post-op skill tests -- if you consider the ability to open your eyes, follow a finger held in front of your face or correctly state your own name a "skill." Likewise I watched Miguel fail many of these tests over and over again: He could barely keep his right eye open, at one point leading the nurses to get creative and use a piece of surgical tape to secure his open eyelid to his forehead; he never spoke in anything above a barely-audible mumble; his movements were languid and sluggish, as if his bed were sitting at the bottom of an invisible tank of water.

It wasn't until the day that Miguel's children showed up -- when I was forced to sit silently on the other side of the room and watch a tragic bit of theater play out in front of me -- that I finally worked up the courage to ask the nurse just what kind of catastrophe had taken place inside his ruined brain. Watching Miguel interact with his little boy and girl, or at least attempt to, was utterly heartbreaking. He seemed to barely notice they were there -- hardly respond when his wife, a short Hispanic woman who spoke little English and looked like she'd spent the past month sleeping on broken glass, stroked the palm of his hand. The nurses had been kind enough to put a patch over Miguel's dead eye and a Yankees cap on his head in the hope of hiding the most obvious scars of the surgery from his children, but even someone who had never met this man until a few days ago could tell that he was a mere vapor trail of what he had once been. Whoever or whatever had shredded his mind, it had done so with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Where Miguel had once lived, there simply wasn't anyone home anymore.

I wasn't even looking at the nurse when she explained Miguel's situation to me; I couldn't pull my eyes away from the sad scene unfolding directly opposite my hospital bed. In hindsight, it was the juxtaposition -- the image of the shadow man across from me set to the weight of the nurse's words -- that left me feeling as if someone had suddenly sucked all the air out of the room.

Miguel, as it turned out, was recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor -- the exact kind of tumor that had been removed from the same place in my head just three days earlier.

He and I were basically the same person.

And yet there we were: One of us reduced to the mental and motor skills of a child, the other able to watch him intently and try to analyze why.

There was a simple explanation actually as to why I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror of Miguel's one good eye so to speak -- why the layman would never guess that he and I had once shared the same diagnosis. It was because everything that happened after that point had apparently been drastically different, all of it culminating in two forms of surgery which, despite having the same goal, went about achieving it in ways that were light years apart. The operation that Miguel underwent may as well have been done by Theodoric of York compared to the hyper-advanced microsurgical resection that was performed on me by one of the country's most revered neurosurgeons.

Miguel was left with a massive scar; I had none.

Miguel had been in the hospital for well over a week, and would likely be there much longer; I would spend only five days in the ICU, then be disgharged.

Miguel likely had years of mental and physical therapy ahead of him; In spite of a few problematic after-effects and a steady diet of medication that my body and brain would require for some time to come, I'd be back on my feet and feeling relatively normal within weeks. Right now, if I didn't tell you I had undergone surgery just a year-and-a-half ago to remove a tumor the size of a pinball from my brain, you'd probably never guess that anything had happened to me.

Same medical crisis -- completely different outcomes.

And as I sat there just a couple of days after my surgery, staring at Miguel -- at the mess his brain had become and the hardships he was now facing -- I reached one conclusion that seemed to be as obvious as it was offensive.

There but for the grace of my insurance carrier go I.

I work for one of the largest media conglomorates in the world. In fact, throughout the length of my career, I've rarely been employed by a company that wasn't wealthy, multi-national and in a position to offer its full-time staff access to the best healthcare money can buy. Yet something about this fact has always rubbed me the wrong way.

"The best healthcare money can buy."

An ironically sickening reminder that in the early days of 21st century America, there's nothing that's above having a price tag slapped on it -- not even your life.

The parents of 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan understand this all too well. On Friday, they laid their daughter to rest in Glendale, California -- one week after her death, which closed a harrowing three-year fight with bone marrow cancer. Hundreds were on-hand for Nataline's memorial service, including a few celebrities who had taken up the cause of saving the young girl during her last days. Their appeals hadn't been directed at God or Mother Nature -- two entities who tend not to listen anyway -- but toward a much more powerful body when it comes to deciding whether a human being lives or dies these days: an HMO, specifically Cigna Corp.

Just before Thanksgiving, Nataline underwent a bone marrow transplant, complications from which caused her liver to fail. Cigna twice refused to authorize a liver transplant, despite a written appeal from her doctors (the company insisted the procedure was "experimental"); it was only after the case began to receive national attention and young Nataline Sarkisyan's picture began turning up in newspapers directly above captions calling her "the face of a broken healthcare system" that Cigna capitulated, reconsidering its death sentence. The company's chief medical officer issued the most public statement possible in an attempt to cast damage control as legitimate concern. He said that Cigna -- in a show of strength-through-mercy humorously reminiscent of Amon Goeth's decision to spare one life out of a hundred thousand in Schindler's List -- had decided to make an exception for Nataline "given our empathy for the family and the unique circumstances of this situation."

And the angry hordes picketing in front of their Philadelphia headquarters.

"We volunteered to pay for it out of our own pocket. We decided to bear the risk even though we had no obligation to," the good doctor went on to say.

It's a damn shame Al Gore already got that Nobel Peace Prize.

Unfortunately, in one of those unforseeable twists of fate, Cigna's big-hearted largesse came just moments too late. Nataline died a few hours after the decision was made to grant her the liver transplant that would've prolonged her life.

Well, as is repeated so often this time of year, it's the thought that counts.

Earlier this year, a lot of unnecessary controversy was generated by muckraking filmmaker Michael Moore's excellent indictment of the American healthcare system Sicko. I say unnecessary because, despite whatever feelings one may have about Moore or his politics, only the most ruthless capitalist would be unwilling to admit that the way we care for the sick in this country is almost irredeemably screwed up. We've given an entity as unscrupulous and indifferent as the free market control over the single most imperative decision in human existence -- literally, whether we live or die. Regardless of what Fox business-creature Neil Cavuto may have to say on the subject, healthcare and profit are two thoroughly antithetical concepts. Giving CEOs the authority to stand on the edge of the arena and issue a final thumbs-up or down while we lay incapacitated or dying is like charging a lion with protecting the Christians.

The most shocking and infuriating two minutes of Sicko, and the most effective, as Moore wisely allows the guilty parties to do all the talking for him, provide an irrefutable answer to the question of just how things got this way -- how a system that was once predicated on a commitment to good healthcare for all Americans became a cynical money-generating engine that's perfectly willing to let people suffer if it means turning a profit. Moore plays part of an audiotaped conversation between Richard Nixon and his flunkiesque Assistant for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman. The conversation is staggering insofar as the complete lack of shame on display (even from two men whose ignominy was already the stuff of legend). Ehrlichman advises Nixon on a plan to overhaul American healthcare that's being put forth by industrialist Edgar Kaiser -- the founder of Kaiser Permanente. Nixon says to Ehrlichman, in classic insufferable, who-gives-a-crap-about-the-little-people fashion, "You know I'm not keen on any of these damn medical programs." Erlichman reassures him by saying the magic words: "This is a private enterprise one. Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. All incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give them the more money they make."

Nixon's reaction?

"Well that appeals to me."

Thus were sown the seeds of the modern HMO; the day after that conversation took place, on February 18th, 1971, Nixon proposed a new National Health Strategy based on managed care from private companies. It worked toward obliterating social medical programs -- because "Socialized Medicine" had long been dirty words, the product of anti-Soviet paranoia -- and masked greed under the guise of providing Americans with the best care money could buy, which was great as long as a patient had money to afford the best care.

Nataline Sarkisyan's family had health insurance, and maybe that's the most appalling aspect of her story. She never should have died because she was one of the "lucky ones"; the services were in place to save her life. Her parents fully expected that when their child got sick, there would be no questions, no arguments, no delays -- there would just be the care she needed. They lived in the most powerful, wealthy and technologically-advanced country in the world after all, and they both had good jobs and did their part to contribute to society. They were living the American dream. They were part of it.

Now they're left demanding answers -- wanting to know why, in this wealthy nation, there was even a question as to whether it was fiscally prudent to save the life of their daughter.

The fact is this: It's always cheaper to refuse care, and when making money is the motive, believing any consideration other than cost to be paramount isn't just naïve -- it'll get you killed. It's simply never a good idea to trust anyone who stands to profit.

The mammoth company for which I work made sure I had the best possible medical care when I needed it -- they paid for it. I never feared coming up with the money to see a doctor which meant that I discovered the tumor in my head before it grew to the size of a golf-ball which meant that it could still be removed through a procedure done by only three hospitals in the country.

It's because of all of this that I sit here today able to tell you about it.

I'm not sure Miguel could say the same.

And I doubt his wife and children believe that my life is worth more than his.

Hey Kid, Major League Baseball Called... They Want to Give You a Job

"I'll take 'God Fucking Help Our Country' for a thousand Alex."

"Okay, the answer is 'Lie, cheat, and kill my father in Iraq.'"

"Uh... What is 'How far will a six-year-old girl go for Hannah Montana tickets?'"


(L.A. Daily News: Girl Who Lied in Essay Will Miss Hannah Montana Show)

Friday, December 28, 2007

There Will Be Blood

I write for a living, and yet no matter my powers of adequate depiction and analysis -- nor anyone else's for that matter -- I still adhere to the old adage that sometimes, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

John Moore, a photographer for Getty Images, was there yesterday as former Pakistani Prime Minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was savagely murdered right in the middle of a crowd of her supporters.

The moments he captured are simply beyond description.

The photo above appeared on the front page of this morning's New York Times. It's one of the most astonishingly powerful images I've seen in my 38 years on this planet.

It says everything that needs to be said.

Listening Post: Bonus Friday Edition

Yes, I'm basically filling up space since this is a holiday week. But since I'm consistently shocked at the kind of reaction I get to these dumb little musical interludes, I'll try not to feel too bad about playing VJ.

Alien Ant Farm has always deserved to be known for more than just their admittedly enthusiastic cover of Michael Jackon's Smooth Criminal. They write really catchy songs and play them with a good amount of muscle while still managing to never take themselves too seriously.

Here now, two songs from Alien Ant Farm. First up, a really clever take on U2's classic video for Where the Streets have No Name. AAF set up on a building across the street from the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles the day that it was hosting the 2003 BET awards and shot this video live as a veritable who's-who of the hip-hop world showed up to walk the red carpet.

This is These Days.

And, from their debut album ANThology, this is Movies.

Listening Post

Oh yes my friends -- don't even question it. Just bow before the awesome bad-assosity of Shalamar and that smooth motherfuckin' pimp, Morris Day.

Shalamar -- Dead Giveaway

The Time -- Jerk Out

Mal Appropriate

The video isn't exactly the best quality, but the idea behind this is inspired coolness at its finest.

A salute to Captain Malcolm Reynolds, set to Rage's cover the Cypress Hill classic How I Could Just Kill a Man.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monkey Business

It looks like South Carolina will be the next battleground in the seemingly never-ending, Whack-a-Mole style guerilla war on Darwin.

The state which lists on its registry of cultural landmarks that Mecca of grotesque roadside kitsch "South of the Border" (a designation which one would assume takes into account the 200 miles of billboards on either side of it along I-95 shamelessly playing Mexican stereotypes for a cheap laugh) will likely be taking up the "debate" over evolution next month. That's when the State Board of Education will meet to consider whether or not to endorse a high school biology textbook after a series of complaints were lodged against it by a weed researcher from Clemson University who goes by the amusing name of Horace D. Skipper.

Professor Skipper is challenging the book's assertion -- and stop me if you've heard this one before -- that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the basic foundation of any lesson about the development of life on Earth.

With an eloquence one might expect from, say, a Wal-Mart greeter, Skipper rails against the conclusions posited by the authors of the book, saying that when they write about "the origins of life and stuff -- I didn't see where they had the scientific support that I think public schools need in a textbook."

He goes on to say that while he's not for teaching creationism exclusively, he considers it a viable, one would have to assume "scientifically supported," supplement. "If you're going to teach 'historical science,' that would be an alternative," he says.

As if science can ever legitimately be subject to the caprices of perspective.

It's a little like arguing that cavemen once believed 2-plus-2 equals rock, therefore such a possibility should be lent serious consideration 350-thousand years later.

"If we're going to have good, honest truth taught to our students, they need to be taught about weaknesses or gaps in these theories," Skipper says.

The fact that Horace D. Skipper, a weed expert, has any free time on his hands at all being from a state so perpetually overrun by botanical vermin is noteworthy; that he feels it's his place from both a scientific and legal standpoint to insert himself into a controversy regarding a high school textbook -- particularly when there is no controversy whatsoever -- is simply staggering in its level of arrogant stupidity.

In the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, an entire Pennsylvania school district was given the unconditional legal smackdown for trying to pull an end-run on centuries of scientific authenticity through the quiet insertion of ridiculous religious apocryphy. Instead of "creationism" they gave their nonsensical, unprovable hypothesis the impressive sounding label "intelligent design," as if simply removing "God" from the name in fact removed him from the equation. The court easily saw through the charade and ruled that attempting to teach intelligent design to public school students as anything other than irrational voodoo violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Anyone who believed however that, following such an explicit rejection, the God Crowd would slink back to their churches and temples and leave science to the scientists has apparently never lived near a Southern Baptist church and therefore not found him or herself subjected to weekly visits from Stepfordesque Christian-folk all filled with the Holy Spirit and determined to stay put until they can rightfully say that they've claimed another home for Jesus. These people don't give up; they answer to a higher authority than your insignificant little Constitution (and they damn sure don't care what some silver-tongued elitist from New York City has to say about how they live their lives).

The fact that South Carolina is the next stop on what, to the untrained eye, seems to be the intelligent design travelling circus should surprise no one. The state is the official target of the secessionist movement known as "Christian Exodus." For the past few years, it's promoted the mass migration of fundamentalist Christian whack-jobs to South Carolina with the hope of influencing governmental policy there and essentially creating the first "Christian Republic" on U.S. soil.

Think Saudi Arabia, only without the Muslims, the oil, the money, or the culture -- and with an even more direct influence over the American government.

These are people who believe that the U.S has strayed from its Puritanical roots (the ones sane individuals would refer to as nightmarishly oppressive) and are now determined to seize power so that they can cleanse the land, thus preparing it for Jesus's triumphant return which will no doubt play out just like the crap they've read in those Left Behind books. For the rest of us, this means a repeal of our basic rights -- those not supported by Biblical scripture -- and essentially the outright suppression of most of the freedoms we've cultivated throughout the years, particularly the ones that infringe on the God-given entitlement of white men to do whatever the hell they want. If the Christian Exodus folks can't make this work though, they're content to simply secede from the union and as far as they're concerned, South Carolina represents the perfect place to make this little paranoid fantasy come true, as it was the first state to withdraw at the onset of the Civil War.

So how's the effort going so far?

On its website, the group advanced a goal of relocating 12,000 like-minded Christians to South Carolina by 2006.

As of this year, only about 15 families have actually made the move. (By comparison, there are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 same-sex couples in South Carolina; one town alone, Sumter, has the highest concentration of black, gay, committed couples in the country -- a rare trifecta of offensiveness to fundamentalist Christian sensibilities.)

The issue however is not whether a serious threat is posed by the possibility of South Carolina seceding from the U.S. -- there isn't. What's notable is that the Christian Exodus looneys figure they'll find a friendly audience waiting for them when they get there -- that they'll be greeted as liberators as it were.

Unfortunately, guys like Horace D. Skipper aren't doing much to prove them wrong on this -- quite the contrary in fact. Once again, a very public battle is about to rage over scientific certainty against which there is no legitimate argument. Once again, there will be slight-of-hand, there will be misdirection and there will be euphemism, but in the end it will all add up to nothing. Once again, it will be reality versus nonsense -- proven fact versus cleverly decorated superstition for which there isn't a shred of evidence.

Just a "historical" tradition of True Belief and blind acceptance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Project Office Mayhem

Your assignment, as usual: Quietly put the following link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 3,110

(The Da Vinci Coda)

Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid

(Click here, if you dare.)

Get the Huck Out

I have nothing personal against Mike Huckabee. As today's Republicans go, his lack of arrogant swagger and seemingly honest and genuine populism is, I admit, mildly refreshing.

This is in no way meant to imply that I want him anywhere near the White House between now and Armageddon, which if you believe Huckabee is likely just days away.

Rolling Stone columnist and unrepentant prick Matt Taibbi managed to hack his way through Huckabee's "Aw Shucks" charm and what he found underneath is as surprising as it is, well, not surprising at all.

( "Mike Huckabee is Not a Sane Man" by Matt Taibbi)

Listening Post

Manic Street Preachers -- If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Let Them Eat Christ!

On this Christmas morning, as is customary, the Pope ascended to the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square and indulged the teeming, drooling masses with his annual holiday address.

This year, Pope Benedict XVI -- the former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger -- called upon world leaders to end war, confront rampant immorality, promote a culture of life, yadda yadda, yadda. You know -- the usual.

As for those who live and die at the mercy and whim of these world leaders -- the broken and destitute, the desperate and war-ravaged -- well Pope Benedict has a stirring and powerful message for them as well.

"May Jesus's birth bring you consolation."

Why thank you, silly little flamboyantly-dressed man, I feel better already.

Hey, look at it this way folks -- it could be worse. The last time a German stood on a balcony and addressed 50,000 of his insanely rabid disciples, half of Europe started grabbing up canned goods and clearing out space in the attic.

The Last Stop on the Night Train

One of my fondest childhood memories involves riding around in the car with my father on Sunday mornings, listening to Weekend Jazz on WLRN in Miami.

It was my Dad who instilled in me a love for jazz, and among his favorites was one of the most virtuoso pianists to ever lay hands on a keyboard -- Oscar Peterson.

On Sunday night, Oscar Peterson died of kidney failure at his home just outside Toronto.

He was 82.

Thank you Oscar for a lifetime of musical brilliance, and thank you Dad for making sure that I heard it.

Oscar Peterson and the legendary Count Basie -- Slow Blues

Monday, December 24, 2007

Grousing Toward Bethlehem

Two weeks ago, my wife and I were having dinner with Drew Curtis -- owner and operator of and the man single-handedly responsible for making Admiral Ackbar into a pop culture force to be reckoned with -- when we got to talking about the number of people reading this site. When I told him the kind of traffic I'm pulling down daily, due in no small part to his continued patronage, he informed me that my readership puts me in what he says is the top one-percent of all "personal blog" sites (which I concede is still a little like being the toughest guy at an Erasure concert).

Although there's nothing scientific about any of this, and if I spent too much time worrying about such things I'd make myself crazy, the mere thought of it is a little overwhelming. I started Deus Ex Malcontent -- this little experiment of mine -- as a way to pass the time following my brain surgery last year; I honestly never expected the kind of circulation, not to mention the consistently passionate reaction, it's stirred up over the past year and a half.

Why do I bring this up?

Because I want to say thank you.

The people who read and comment on my occasionally insightful or personal, but more often than not just silly, ramblings honor me in ways I can't properly describe. I'm both proud and humbled to be graced with such an audience day in and day out.

Really, you guys are fantastic, and as surly as I can sometimes seem, don't think for a second that I don't appreciate the fact that you read my stuff.

I'll have a couple of very big things to announce over the next few weeks, and yes, I will in fact be doing another year-end list along the lines of last year's (2006: Year of the Douchebag/1.5.07).

For now though, have a great holiday.

Merry Christmas kids.

Official Cheap and Easy Holiday Post

Because it's Christmas Eve, I'm nursing a hell of a cold, and I'm far too tired to crank out anything of substance, I give you this -- the best use an exercise ball was ever put to. (I can watch this over and over and it never gets any less funny.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

They Evolved. They Rebelled.

Happy "Holiday Weekend Friday" kids.

Listening Post (New Wave Edition Part 3: Covers)

Rounding out the trilogy with two more songs from the 80s: One a cover released during that period; the other a cover of a song from that era.

The Power Station

Say what you will, The Power Station was an experiment that worked. They fused the smoothness of Robert Palmer with the crunch of Duran Duran's Andy Taylor and John Taylor -- allowing them to actually play their fucking guitars for a change -- and the balls-out heft of drummer Tony Thompson. Add to that Bernard Edwards's oddly stripped-down, garage-like production and you had something bordering on magical. Their debut record wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was damn good. Unfortunately, the group's relevance disappeared into a cloud of smoke and mirrors the minute Palmer bailed and notorious band-killing asshat Michael Des Barres was enlisted to replace him on tour. For a brief moment in time though, The Power Station were the kings of power pop.

Here's their impressive cover of T-Rex's Bang a Gong (Get it On).

Lazlo Bane

You may not know it, but you're probably already well-acquainted with this Santa Monica band: They do the song (I'm No) Superman -- better known as the theme to Scrubs. Although they're by no means the kind of band that's ever going to align the planets, they're about as harmlessly likable as any other band from the Southern California coast, and they happen to have a surprising level of good taste when it comes to the music they choose to cover. I mentioned awhile back -- during a column dealing with a victim of the Virginia Tech shooting (And All that Could Have Been/4.19.07)-- that Men at Work's Overkill remains one of my all-time favorite songs. It's as close to a pop masterpiece as you're likely to get, a point proven by the fact that it's been covered several times since its original release and never seems to lose any of its potency. Ten years ago, Lazlo Bane took on Overkill, but added a clever twist: They enlisted the help of the original voice behind the song, Men at Work's Colin Hay, during their recording session. The result is a really fantastic cover of a really enduring song (one that unfortunately wasn't included on the band's inspired all-covers iTunes release Guilty Pleasures).

Here's Lazlo Bane's version of Overkill.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And Now, a Message to the Screen Actor's Guild from Chez's Evil Twin, Garth*

Fuck you people, just fuck you.

I swear to Christ, if I had any kind of worthwhile financial incentive to offer I'd put a fucking bounty on the head of that nebbishy little twat Alan Rosenberg and every other member of the Guild's senior management -- then I'd probably do my impression of the Terminator on Crank and fly my ass out to Beverly Hills to personally hunt down anybody else who's ever tried to pompously convince America that acting is the finest and most worthwhile profession a human being could possibly undertake. (Yes William H. Macy, Richard Dreyfuss and Sean Penn -- that means you assholes.)

It's bad enough that once a year you pretentious turds gather to blow yourselves and each other at the SAG Awards ("By actors, for actors" as you say, which is really no less obnoxious than anyone who throws a party for him or herself -- moreso actually given that it's not necessary since everyone else already lavishes attention and praise on you people at every fucking turn) but to affect such an air of nobility in regard to your supposed "craft," then turn around and try to cast the worst kind of drivel as art while snubbing real talent is as fucking laughable as it is unforgivable.

What the hell am I talking about you ask?

I'm talking about Grey's Anatomy -- one of the worst goddamned shows on television; the kind of dumbass schlock that should've been canceled after two episodes -- once again being recognized with a SAG Award nomination for Best Ensemble Cast, while once again one of the best shows on television gets nothing.

If you fuckers can explain to me why, as the series enters its final season, you still fail to recognize the unequivocal brilliance of Battlestar Galactica, that'd be just awesome. For the past three years, Battlestar has won rave reviews from critics, been voted one of the best shows on television in God knows how many magazines and newspapers, and consistently brought a level of excellence in acting and complexity in storytelling that's rarely seen on the small screen. It's a credit to television, if such a thing is possible.

The show is so good -- the acting on the show is so good -- that overlooking it isn't merely an insult, it's a goddamned travesty.

Look, I understand that the Emmys and the Golden Globes and their ilk basically boil down to a popularity contest: the academies and associations that vote on them feel like they have to justify their beloved guilty pleasures by bestowing on crap shows and movies -- and the actors and actresses in them -- the mantle of quality where there really is none to be found. But you guys -- you're supposed to be the people who recognize and reward the true talent; if you don't, your credibility as an organization is shot, and from what I've seen you arrogant pricks would rather step on a live landmine than undermine the supposed dignity of this silly profession you've chosen. (Yeah, I get it -- it's a tough life waking up for all those auditions and eventually, if you're one of the lucky ones, being paid an obscene amount of money for standing in front of a camera and pretending to be someone else. You shame me with your heroic perseverence in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Someone should name a fucking cancer ward after you.)

It works like this though: nothing you say or do should be taken seriously -- least of all your stupid little self-congratulatory awards show -- until you fuckers can admit that Katee Sackhoff and Edward James Olmos have created infinitely richer, better characters than Katherine Heigl and that kid from Can't Buy Me Love.

But since you couldn't do it this year again -- fuck you.

Just fuck you.

(*As always, the opinions of Garth do not necessarily reflect those of Chez, who in fact liked Richard Dreyfuss quite a bit in Jaws, The Goodbye Girl and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.)

Three Wise-Asses

An unholy trinity of random and admittedly ridiculous observations:

Red Tag Sale

Later this morning, the Von Maur department store in Omaha that was the scene of a violent rampage earlier this month will re-open its doors for the first time since that shooting. On December 5th, a heavily-armed teenage washout named Robert Hawkins killed eight people before doing what he should've done years earlier -- namely, ending his own worthless life. Last night, a memorial was held on the steps of the store; it was presided over by a local pastor who assured the crowd of mourners that Hawkins's act had transformed the otherwise average department store into what he calls "a holy place."

In keeping with the proud American tradition which dictates that nothing honors the dead or demonstrates resolve in the face of adversity like spending money -- best exemplified in the wake of 9/11 -- those on hand last night vowed not to let the terrorists win.

"I won't let this stop me. I'm going to be here tomorrow and I'll have my credit card," said one man with noticeable conviction. "It'll be hard at first, but we'll get past it."

Praise Jesus.

Jingle Balls? That's 10 Bucks Extra

That Christmas present you're buying may very well have been made by a former prostitute.

From Belle Meade, Tennessee -- apparently the sweatshop capital of the contiguous 48 -- comes the story of Thistle Farms. The candles, soaps and balms which make up the company's line of products are, as it turns out, manufactured and sold at least partially by one-time hookers and drug addicts now enrolled in a residential work program. The women say their new roles whoring for the private sector (as opposed to Bishop Don Magic Juan) have filled them with a sense of pride (as opposed to various communicable diseases).

Although Santa always has looked quite a bit like a pimp.

"Is St. Nick gonna have to choke a bitch?"

One Big, Fat Ray of Sunshine

If there's a more surreptitiously subversive TV commercial than the current one for Dunkin Donuts which features hyperidiot pretend chef Rachael Ray, I'm completely unaware of it. The writers for this 30-second spot, with obvious knowledge of just who would be reading their copy, must've had a field day slipping in as many applicable double-entendres as they could conjure.

When describing her love for Dunkin Donuts' coffee -- which judging by her near-seizure-inducing demeanor, she needs none of -- Rachael exclaims, "It's a no -brainer!"

Even better than that though, and more hilariously appropriate given Rachael's expanding waistline, is when she proudly proclaims that when it comes to her favorite coffee, "I always have, like, a million pounds on-hand."

Yup Rache -- sure looks that way these days.

(Yes, the above picture is Rachael as I like to remember her: thin, cute and with something in her mouth so she can't fucking talk.)

Listening Post (New Wave Edition Part 2: Hidden Gems)

It was pretty damn cool to hear that old Heaven 17 and Human League stuff yesterday, so I'm going to keep the 80s vibe going for another couple of days.*

There were plenty of one-hit-wonders from that era that honestly never deserved to be (e.g., Frankie Goes to Hollywood is of course remembered for Relax, but their second album, Liverpool, was much better than anyone gave it credit for). If you spent a lot of time listening to what was considered Alternative back then, you probably knew that what was being played on the radio and on MTV rarely represented a band's best work.

So here now, two songs from separate bands who each had one radio-friendly smash that defined them -- but shouldn't have.

Modern English

Everybody remembers I Melt with You; it was possibly the most overplayed and overrated anthem of its generation. But Modern English cranked out several other equally catchy and far better songs during their career. This is one of my favorites: Ink and Paper.


Like most people, I'll be happy if I never hear I Touch Myself again. This is a far cry from my feelings -- specifically the ones in my nether regions -- when I first heard it. The reason it made me turn to Jello back in 1991 had nothing to do with the fact that a gorgeous woman was singing about touching herself; it had everything to do with the fact that Chrissy Amphlett was singing about touching herself. In the years leading up to the release of that song, I'd spent a substantial portion of my teenage years releasing the product of my lust for Chrissy into various sweat socks. She was -- and looking back on that period still is in my mind -- one of the hottest women ever to grab a mic and sing rock n' roll (1988's Temperamental remains among my all-time favorite albums).

This song is proof of her hotness and of the Divinyls' awesomeness.

From 1983, it's Boys in Town.

(*Deal with it.)

Eat Me

Rudy Giuliani shouts "Me want food!" before tearing into the skull of a young boy, thus ushering in the Zombie Apocalypse

St. Louis, MO (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was admitted to a Missouri hospital late Wednesday night with what doctors initially called "flu-like" symptoms.

Giuliani campaign spokeswoman Kate Levinson says the former New York City mayor began complaining of the symptoms -- which included fever, stomach cramps and an apparent slowed blood pressure -- shortly after a campaign stop in Kansas City. It was decided that he should be taken to the Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis for a series of tests.

Doctors have been reluctant to talk publicly about what they believe might be wrong with Giuliani, although one, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that as far as he could tell, the candidate was suffering from "some kind of acute and extremely virulent strain of rabies."

Less than an hour after Giuliani's admission to the hospital, unmarked vans began arriving and cordoning off the surrounding area and parking lot; several armed men dressed in what appeared to be biohazard suits were also seen entering the double doors of the emergency room.

Since then, almost no information has been made available to the media, aside from an official statement from a representative of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases claiming that the situation is "under control."

(You've gotta give me credit for being able to reference both 30 Rock and World War Z in the same post.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Speaking of Stupid, Pregnant White Trash...

As if the story itself wasn't priceless enough, has taken the extra step of carving out a little space amidst the usual wall-to-wall tales of missing white people, water-skiing squirrels, celebrity vs. paparazzi videos and other assorted twaddle on its main page to ask readers this pressing question: "How Do You Talk to Kids About Britney's Sister?"

In addition to representing the kind of purported commitment to "community service" that only the most lunkheaded of news managers could enthusiastically tout, a sidebar story like this one (it's of course followed-up with the personal insights of just a few of the concerned parents who took the interactive bait) is all-but-guaranteed to deliver on the unspoken promise of comedy gold.

Among the responses sent in by America's army of rubbernecking moms and dads:

Sheila Anderson of Boone, Iowa writes, "I hope the little baby lives in a happy and loving environment, but as past cases like the little "Baby Grace" story show us, all strikes are against the child when born to teenage parents."

I think that barring an accident in which Britney stops by and mistakes it for an eight-pound ham, it's safe to say that the child won't actually end up dead -- although kudos to Sheila for regurgitating the syrupy vernacular rammed into her consciousness by an unimaginative media (using the word "little" twice; mentioning "Baby Grace"). Somewhere out there, an idiot consultant just got his wings.

George Romaka of Honolulu, Hawaii takes the velvet-gloved, non-judgmental approach that we've come to expect from America's Christian white-guy contingent: "This is one of those things that should just not happen. These days, by the age of 16, kids... know more about sex than their grandparents. They know about abstinence. She and her boyfriend made a mistake."

Just remember kids, George votes.

Kymberlie Piekkola of Buena Park, California (and only a woman from Southern California would insist on spelling her first name that way) has this gem: "My 9-year-old says it best. Girlfriends mean kissing, which leads to sex, and sex makes babies, so wait to be picky and make a nest before you make the babies."

Jesus Christ Kym, your 9-year-old says that? What the hell are you feeding him -- ginseng and Stephen Hawking's plasma? Congratulations, you gave birth to the fucking Golden Child.

Bill Braskey of Manhattan, Kansas is determined not to let his overbearing nature and unresolved personal issues interfere with the healthy development of his daughters: "I will tell my little girls that they shouldn't be having sex until they get married at the ripe old age of 30."

Patricia N. of Nashua, New Hampshire seems to be taking the whole thing in stride: "Enough is enough. Now we have a child glamorizing teen pregnancy. Boycott anything to do with the Spears family. Boycott Nickelodeon. Write to them and tell them you will no longer allow that station to be viewed on any electronic device in your home."

The "N" stands for either "neurotic" or "Nazi" apparently.

Larry Lines of Houston, Texas writes (an astonishing feat in and of itself by the way), "Teen parents are not pariahs... Keep your judgment to yourself, or I will start criticizing your parenting skills."

You so don't want to live anywhere near Larry.

Donovan Leslie of La Grange, Illinois is looking at the big picture: "I really hope all those girls watching Nickelodeon won't try to follow in her footsteps."

Coming soon to Nickelodeon: You CAN Screw that on Television.

Frances Cleveland of Alabaster, Alabama has this to say: "I have a 9-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. After the Vanessa Hudgens nude photo scandal and now this, I think we're going to stop watching television for a while."

I for one managed to avoid the Vanessa Hudgens photos altogether and therefore can't offer any sort of informed opinion on the scandal one way or the other -- except to say that Vanessa's pubic hair rocks.

Finally, there's this letter, from someone apparently within CNN itself who will only identify himself as Lou D: "You know whose fault this pregnancy is? Those fucking Mexicans."

All kidding aside though -- if we can just figure out a way to knock up Mylie Cyrus...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Project Office Mayhem

Your assignment, as usual: Quietly put the following link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 175

(Manson Scat Duet!)

Listening Post: New Wave Edition

A serious blast from the past.

From 1983's The Luxury Gap, this is Heaven 17 -- Let Me Go.

And from that brief period when all the New Romantic bands tried butching up and growing facial hair, it's the band that spawned Heaven 17 -- The Human League -- with The Lebanon.

What Child is This?

Jamie-Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old star of Nickelodeon's Zoey 101 and sister of professional laughing-stock Britney Spears, says she's pregnant.

"It was a shock... so unexpected," she said in an interview with OK! magazine.

The younger Spears (although not youngest by any stretch of the imagination these days) says that she intends to have the baby and plans to raise it in her home state of Louisiana, "so it can have a normal family life."

The pregnancy puts on hold a book on parenting that the mother of Britney and Jamie-Lynn had planned to write.

I am making none of this up.

Which means that there's no way that I could possibly improve on it comedically.

I can tell you that it's a little like the movie Juno, if Juno had had the IQ of a ham sandwich -- or maybe that it's time this country seriously considered enforced abortions -- or possibly that since it's so close to Christmas, Jamie-Lynn Spears is still a virgin and is actually about to give birth to the Christ child.

But honestly -- other than that, I got nothin'.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Rest My Case

Just a little over 12 hours after posting my self-indulgent list of a few of the women in the news business who are blessed with both beauty and brains -- the overall credits to the industry as it were -- the gods of irony drop this little nugget into my lap.

Alycia Lane is a former reporter and anchor for my old station in Miami, WSVN. She always fell neatly into the ever-expanding "Hot-but-Worthless" category -- but since moving on to Philadelphia, she's really gone off the fucking rails.

Nice to see that she's continuing the proud tradition of lunatic amorality that I've come to expect from South Florida news alumni.

(AU: Bikini-scandal Newsreader Punches Cop/12.17.07)

Good going there Tyson.

Why, It's a Christmas Miracle!

Anybody seen Olbermann today?

( Small Explosion Reported at Fox News Building in New York/12.17.07)

Girls, Girls, Girls

(Part 1: Heaven's Cates/5.4.07)
(Part 2: Screen Savors/5.9.07)
(Part 3: Rock & Roll Queens/6.14.07)
(Part 4: Funny Girls/8.17.07)

Part 5: The Journalists

Having worked in television news for far too long and consequently having known more than my fair share of female journalists, I think I'm tolerably qualified to say that -- as with their male counterparts these days -- they tend to fall into one of two categories: the smart and dedicated who are truly interested in telling a good story and aspiring to the highest standards of excellence (in other words, the ones who take their job and their responsibilities seriously), and the ones who enjoy seeing themselves on TV or on paper and are in it pretty much for their own personal gain. Unfortunately, the attractive journalist who has to prove that she falls into the former category rather than the latter is practically an archetype by this point; I've met plenty of very smart women who also happen to be great looking and who've spent a good portion of their careers frustrated over their inability to be recognized for their talent and intelligence in a position where such consideration is paramount. There are a whole lot of gorgeous TV news anchors and reporters out there -- and quite a few of them are dumb as a box of rocks. But whereas an attractive man's lack of two brain cells to rub together tends to reflect only on himself and go no further, a beautiful woman's dopiness is seen as an indictment of female journalists in general (as well as, one would hope, the lecherous, pudgy white dipshits in upper management who keep hiring her ilk). I realize that the same can be said for most businesses these days, but in the world of journalism there exists a positively monumental chasm between the indispensible and the worthless, and yet the dregs are often the ones raking in a fortune, while the truly gifted are working impossible hours, sometimes in dangerous situations, and are generally being paid crap for their trouble. Imagine being faced with that latter situation and having to work against the stereotype perpetuated by the other half of the equation. In all facets of journalism, there are women who manage to be both beautiful and brilliant at the same time. Quite a few in fact are astonishingly sexy because they're brilliant.

Here are just a few, from a cross-section of media.

Jamie Tarabay

Anyone whose bio reads that she currently lives "at an undisclosed location in Baghdad" is damn serious about her job. As a bureau chief for NPR, Jamie Tarabay has spent the past several years traveling from one war zone to another, covering some of the most important news events of this generation. She's Australian by birth, Lebanese by heritage, and only 32 years old -- which makes me feel very, very lazy.

Jancee Dunn

I've been a fan of this self-proclaimed "Jersey Girl" for quite awhile. Jancee Dunn started out as the only bright spot in the MTV2 VJ lineup, then went on to write for Rolling Stone, where she's now a contributing editor. She was also a special correspondent to Good Morning America for a few years and is the author of But Enough About Me... How much do I like Jancee? I'm willing to overlook the fact that she occasionally writes for Oprah's magazine.

Arianna Huffington

I love Arianna Huffington. There, I said it. Not so much a field journalist as a columnist and commentator, Arianna somehow pulled off what was seemingly one of the most absolute about-faces in political affiliation history. Over the course of a few years, she reinvented herself -- in a way which was astonishingly believable, her motives never really coming into question -- turning her back on the Republican party she once counted herself a member of, and emerging as an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration. Her online newspaper and blog, The Huffington Post, is required daily reading and she can often be seen on Real Time with Bill Maher, as she and Maher are close friends (she was a regular contributor to his previous show, Politically Incorrect). She's also the author of On Becoming Fearless.... in Love, Work and Life. On top of all that, she's just really, really sexy.

Jennifer Eccleston

There are fansites aplenty devoted to Jennifer Eccleston, and a few of them even recognize the brain behind her admittedly gorgeous face. Jennifer's been to every hell-hole on Earth during her career, reporting for Fox News, NBC and now CNN. At the risk of sounding patronizing, she's put herself in the line of fire time and time again when she quite frankly didn't have to. This is not in any way an obscene claim that unattractive journalists have no choice but to take the tough jobs; that's not the case at all. My point is that there's an entire vat full of myopic news directors growing somewhere that would be more than happy to make her an anchor and pay her a fortune to read a teleprompter in the comfort of an air-conditioned studio for the rest of her career. Maybe it's stupid of me to credit someone for simply doing something she loves -- something she considers rewarding -- but I've watched big money and a luxurious lifestyle occasionally tempt even the strongest journalist toward ruin. Jennifer is still out there, and news audiences are better for it.

Lara Logan

See above. The crap Jennifer Eccleston has sometimes had to deal with? CBS's Lara Logan has had it worse. Yes she's stunning -- she's also a good journalist. Enough said.

Ariel Levy

I interviewed Ariel Levy awhile back and was impressed with quite a bit about her: She's smart, spirited in the best possible way, she's not afraid to joust at some pretty big cultural windmills and yes, she's very attractive. This last quality might not matter one way or the other were it not for the fact that the Goliaths she frequently takes on include Girls Gone Wild, the porn industry, and so on. These are the kinds of entities that usually pull the frat boyish argument that a jealous desire for inclusion -- and the lack of such -- is the true motive behind the venom of any female detractor. Admittedly, Ariel may have had her conclusions all laid out before she even researched her very good book Female Chauvanist Pigs, but to put it bluntly, somebody had to say it. Ariel makes no attempt to hide her loathe for women who feel that stripping or screwing in front of a camera somehow qualifies as empowerment. Her stance: You're free to do whatever the hell you want with your life girls, but don't you dare think that the power that comes from having tits and being willing to show them off makes you some kind of latter-day Betty Friedan.

Erin Burnett

If there's a flavor-of-the-week among the "Hot TV Newswoman" set, it's Erin Burnett. The host of CNBC's Street Signs is known as much for her looks as her knowledge of the markets. Her background with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup ensures that she knows what the hell she's talking about, but I'm mentioning her here not because of her journalistic abilities, nor even because of her looks per se. She's worth talking about because of the reaction she consistently elicits from her supposedly professional male co-workers; all in all it's pretty fucking sickening. Over a period of just a few weeks, MSNBC's resident loudmouth Chris Matthews and his populist knucklehead colleague Joe Scarborough both behaved like horny schoolboys during separate live interviews with Burnett; this all happened on the air mind you. While Erin was attempting to talk about the subprime mortgage crisis -- a topic of tremendous importance -- Tweety Bird Matthews essentially ignored the words coming out of her mouth in favor of drooling over her mouth itself. He even admitted to being distracted by her beauty, thus proving both my initial assertion about the difficulties many women face in this business and the fact that Matthews is an idiot.

Maureen Dowd

A couple of weeks ago I called New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd the sexiest brain in journalism. That just about says it all.

Next: The Classics

Listening Post

The perfect song for going back to work on a Monday morning -- particularly when it's 14 freakin' degrees outside.

Kaiser Chiefs -- Oh My God

Seriously Mindblowing (Update)

(The studio approved trailer is now up, crystal clear and in all its kick-ass glory. Enjoy.)

Here it is -- your first real glimpse of The Dark Knight, and all the reassurance you need that Heath Ledger was in fact the perfect choice to play The Joker.

The reimagined character is infinitely darker than the cartoonish movie and TV portrayals we've become used to; it's instead a throwback to the earlier Joker designs in spirit, and Ledger apparently plays him more like a psychotically villainous version of The Crow than the comparatively cuddly Romero and even Nicholson models.

Mark your calendars now.

To see the trailer, click here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Praise Of...

Jeff Murdock

Every Friday night, BBC America shows old episodes of a sitcom that at one time was Britain's most popular and most daring comedy, Coupling. Basically, the premise of the show centers around the sex lives of its six main characters (three men, three women; think of a raunchier and infinitely funnier version of Friends).

During the winter months especially, when hibernation sounds like the best of all possible options for an evening's entertainment, my wife and I are happy to spend at least the early part of the weekend camped in front of the TV laughing our asses off; we'll watch Coupling even if we've already seen a particular episode several times.

While all the characters are fantastic and each is given more than his or her fair share of great material to work with, none is as brilliantly conceived and brought to hysterical life as Jeff Murdock -- played by Richard Coyle.

For the uninitiated, Jeff is basically a naively sweet guy who's completely obsessed with sex but whose advances toward women are always hamstrung by his own hapless blunderings and bizarre insecurities. He has a million theories regarding relationships with women, all of which have been well thought out -- no doubt the result of all that time spent not actually putting them into practice -- and most of which make perfect (if not somewhat insane) sense. These concepts are usually manifestations of every possible paranoid fear and anxiety he has regarding social interactions.

Without meaning to insult my own country's culture, in the hands of a stateside writer and actor -- and an American version of the show was given a mercifully brief run on NBC a few years back -- Jeff would likely come off as either a leering, feckless frat boy or a pathetic nerd, but the British show's writers and Coyle's ingenious performance make him thoroughly likable and imbue him with more than a little pathos.*

Among Jeff's "social theories":

"The Giggle Loop" is the uncontrollable urge to laugh at an inappropriate time -- such as a funeral. In one episode, Jeff, while sitting at the bar frequented by the show's characters, begins stacking pint glasses one on top of another; each represents a new cycle of the loop. His belief is that the more you think about not laughing, the more you want to laugh -- the urge eventually compounded to the point where you feel like you're going to burst.

"The Sock Gap" is that brief window in which one's socks can and should be removed during the lead-up to sex. Jeff insists that socks need to come off before pants if any chance of sex is to be preserved. He claims (rightly) that the worst possible situation to find yourself in is suddenly being "a naked man in socks."

"Porn Buddies" are two guys who've made a gentleman's agreement that in the event of one's death, the other will immediately rush to the deceased's home and remove all his porn before it can be discovered by family, loved ones, etc. The upside is that the survivor gets to keep all the porn he confiscates.

"The Melty Man" is the enemy of all men. You can't even think his name without him arriving to ruin your sexual experience. He's essentially the sudden recognition of every single thing you're doing in bed, and the question or doubt as to whether you're doing it properly. The Melty Man is the killer of erections.

"Eye Slippage" is the constant danger that while masturbating to heterosexual porn, at the moment of your own climax, your eyes will slip and focus on the man rather than the woman. Jeff asserts that this can cause a painful "lower whiplash effect."

In addition to these concepts, Jeff obsesses over everything from the possibility of suddenly blurting out the word "nipple" during a job interview to whether or not people can tell when he's lying, as his mother claimed to be able to do with ease.

He's basically a lovable basket case, but as far as Coupling is concerned, he's given all the best lines.

My favorite comes during a tense dinner table discussion in which one of the other characters, Steve, is forced to defend the fact that despite having a gorgeous girlfriend, he still owns and regularly watches a movie called Lesbian Spank Inferno. Steve demands to know why sexually explicit material for women is called "erotica" while porn for men is, well, porn. The women at the table are asked what film they consider "erotic," and one of them, Sally, answers The Piano.

When the answer is met with a series of groans from most of the men, she says, "All men hate The Piano."

Jeff says, "I like it. Holly Hunter's naked through most of it."

"She's nude in one scene," Sally insists.

To which Jeff responds, matter-of-factly, "Depends on how you watch it."

Richard Coyle left Coupling just before its fourth and final season. To explain his sudden disappearance, the writers had Steve get a phone call during the first episode of season four.

It was from Jeff -- he was supposedly on a plane bound for the Greek isle of Lesbos.

Although he was sorely missed, I can't think of a better way to write him out.

(*Yes, the U.S. version of The Office is hilarious. It's also a rare exception.)

Talkin' About an Evolution

According to one scientific think-tank, evolution is accelerating.

This is a dream come true for the Creationist crowd: All they have to do is deny it to prove that it isn't true.

( Evolution is Speeding Up/12.14.07)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Listening Post

Happy Friday kids.

Here's My Chemical Romance, with a very cool, stripped-down version of one of the best tracks from The Black Parade.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hall of Lame

It was announced today that Madonna will top the next list of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She'll be joined by John Mellencamp, The Ventures, The Dave Clark Five and Leonard Cohen.

Jesus, the Hall of Fame was kind of a joke to begin with, but did we really run out of quality candidates so quickly that we've got no choice but to go with these dregs?

An insufferable, preening bitch who was never long on talent to begin with and who now follows nonsensical Jewish mysticism, looks like Disco Granny from the old Studio 54 and proves that Africa needs its own Amber Alert system -- plus Farm Aid, the guys who brought you the Hawaii-5-0 theme, The Beatles Lite, and Leonard Cohen (who's admittedly great, but, really, Leonard Cohen)?

In the words of the great Peggy Lee: Is That All There Is?

Come to Frosty

And Now, a Moment of Violence for Ike Turner

"I only punched her with my fist once. I have slapped her, and the times where I slapped her were when she was looking sad."

-- Ike Turner, 1993

"Ike acted like a goddamned pimp."

-- Keith Richards, 1993

Ike Turner -- 1931-2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mr. Clean (An Interlude)

Am I the only one who thinks James Dyson is completely insane?

The commercials for his technologically advanced vaccums, which invariably feature him unabashedly flaunting his nearly DSM4-level obsession with cleanliness and order, always strike me as, well, a little unsettling.

"I just want things to work properly," he says with Queegian deliberateness, seemingly stunned as to why most vacuum cleaners are unable to subvert something akin to the law of diminishing returns.

He admits without so much as a hint of bemusement that his life's work has been a fanatical, Frankenstein-like quest to recreate the vacuum cleaner in his own image and, consequently, fulfill a vendetta against the technology which long ago let him down and left his carpets unclean.

Look beyond the sedate demeanor and the soothing voice and you can practically hear him saying, "Fools! They laughed at me when I said that vacuums didn't have to lose suction! Who's laughing now Hoover?!" Like a mad scientist who fancies himself one of the Mathematikoi -- and who in reality likely suffers from a very acute case of Asperger Syndrome -- he feels the need to constantly demonstrate just how he's reinventing the wheel and how it will eventually help him win the compulsive lifelong war he's waged against the constraints of basic physics.

I get the feeling that if you ever read Yeats to him, particularly the poet's seminal notion that "Things fall apart... The center cannot hold... Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world," he would likely explode in an uncontrollable fit of violent rage, grabbing the nearest sharp object and plunging it into your throat again and again. This would be followed by his spending the ensuing several hours using his own vacuum cleaner in a desperate attempt to expurgate the mess until everything had once again been returned to a place of immaculate order.

Really though, you've got to give credit to a guy who not only puts his neuroses out there for the world to see, but also uses them as a marketing tool to make him a billionaire.

I wish I were that crazy.

Kill Hannah

I realize that the last few posts have been brimming with a pretty excessive amount of venom, and that it's just not the kind of thing folks are looking for around the holidays. So with that in mind, in the coming days I'll try my best to get into the Christmas spirit and refrain from advocating anyone's murder.

Right after I get something out of the way.

A couple of weeks back, I ripped heavily into the incomprehensible Hannah Montana craze that's galloping across our nation's youth culture like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Montana Über Alles/11.20.07).

Well, maybe it's because I'm fortunate enough not to be the father of a borderline-retarded 10-year-old girl and as such don't have to live under the constant specter of this crap, but it seemed as if the national headlines (and by proxy the rest of us) had been mercifully Montana-free over the past few weeks.

Then came this syrupy drivel:

COLUMBUS, OHIO (FOX) -- Tuesday night's Hannah Montana concert at Nationwide Arena in Columbus was a dream come true for thousands of young fans, but for one 9-year-old girl, that dream was nearly a nightmare.

Just 40 minutes before Miley Cyrus was to take the stage, Toledo natives Rachel Dennis and her daughter, Elizabeth, were stuck outside.

"My fiance bought two tickets off Ebay for 260 dollars...and we went to the door to get in and they're not valid," Rachel says.

The man who sold Rachel the tickets seemed legit, but it turns out he refunded the tickets before the sold-out concert,

"They seemed fine, valid...this guy's sold thousands of tickets before."

Just when they'd about given up hope, Rob Bastian came along. He'd planned on going to the concert with his daughter and several others, but after a ticket mix-up at the box office, he decided not to go in after all.

"When we walked by the mom was crying, the little girl was crying, because they needed tickets so I ran back to the lady at the ticket booth," says Rob.

He came back with two floor seat tickets, willing to sell them for much less than scalpers, an offer Rachel couldn't pass up.

Rob says not going to the concert was well worth seeing the huge smile on Elizabeth's face,

"My little girl wanted to go and I couldn't see that little girl not being able to go."

I'd like to think that by unloading the tickets, Rob Bastian -- the Good Samaritan of this heartwarming story -- screwed his own kid out of seeing Hannah Montana, thus ensuring that she'll go on to spend her teen years cutting herself, writing emo poetry, cultivating an eating disorder and finally hanging herself in the basement, but I'm sure that wasn't the case.

One thing I can guarantee is that Mr. Bastian walked away from that arena with a big-ass smile on his face because not only would he not have to sit through the waking nightmare of "Hannah Montana Live!" but he even wound up making a few bucks he could then use trying to drown the knowledge of his failure as a father at the bar across the street.

This whole ridiculous phenomenon is like some kind of running South Park gag. If I told you ten years ago that parents would one day be mortgaging their homes and selling their blood so that their desperate, crying kids wouldn't miss the chance to see Billy Ray Cyrus's daughter, you'd have wisely had me committed.

I mean, seriously, read Monday's issue of the Kansas City Star -- a newspaper which inexplicably allows teenagers to write for it -- and tell me the world hasn't gone fucking mad.

Jeff Buckley dies at 30.

Billy Ray Cyrus meanwhile is not only still alive, but his worthless spawn is a goddamned multi-media sensation -- one that's metastasized inside the collective consciousness of an entire generation of kids.

Tell me there isn't something wrong with that.

Project Office Mayhem

Your assignment, as usual: Quietly put the following link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 73

(Behold... LANDO!)

Listening Post

"So much on my mind that I can't recline.
Blastin' holes in the night til she bled sunshine.
Breathe in, inhale vapors from bright stars that shine.
Breathe out, weed smoke retrace the skyline.
Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call.
I can't take it y'all, I can feel the city breathin',
chest heavin', against the flesh of the evening.
Sigh before we die like the last train leaving."

-- Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli featuring Common), Respiration

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Celebrity Jeopardy

I'll take "Effete Douchebags who Won't be Going Near Anymore Bacon" for a thousand Alex.

("Alex Trebek Suffers Minor Heart Attack"/12.11.07)

365 Days of Night

Where do I even begin?

To learn that megalomaniacal hack M. Night Shyamalan was allowed anywhere near a camera again after the abyssmal creative and financial trainwreck that was Lady in the Water just boggles the mind.

To learn that the plot of his next bloated cinematic punchline revolves around (and no, I'm not making this up) the Earth taking physical revenge on humanity for all the wrongs we've done to it just makes you wonder what the hell they're pumping through the air conditioner at The Ivy these days.

In The Happening (and no, I'm not making that up either) Mark Wahlberg plays a man forced to take his family on the run after the Earth revolts, with trees, plants and so-on all becoming sentient and attacking people by feeding off of their negative energy (and no, I'm not -- oh fuck it). Supposedly, Wahlberg's character figures out what's going on due to the fact that he's -- wait for it -- a high school biology teacher.

That's pretty impressive; my high school biology teacher doubled as the school's track coach and as such couldn't find his own asshole with a full-length mirror and a funnel.

The most obvious question is, who the hell green-lit this nonsense?

After leaving his personal di Medici family at Disney in a huff because he wasn't feeling the love, you'll remember Shyamalan took his ridiculous script for Lady in the Water to Warner Brothers, where it was promptly made and where it just as promptly tanked.

This time around it'll be Fox inexplicably pouring money down a hole. I'm trying to look at the whole thing as a potential win-win situation, since not only is this Shyamalan Schlock sure to go down in flames faster than you can say "I see dumb people" -- but in the process, maybe it can be the first financial domino to fall in Rupert Murdoch's empire, eventually leading to the destruction of the entire Newscorp Death Star and the career immolation of both Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. (Hey, a man can dream.)

The promotional barrage for The Happening has already begun. The movie's teaser poster attempts to remind you that Shyamalan was at one time culturally relevant; it references his two successes with the ominous warnings, "We've Sensed It," and "We've Seen the Signs." It's worth noting that it doesn't go on to say, "We've Laughed at the Lady," "We've Fled the Village," and "Our Spirits have been Unbreakable -- Despite being Asked to Swallow So Much Worthless Shyamalan Crap."

But before this movie sees its official release on Friday, the 13th of June 2008, Night -- as the friends he still has left call him -- may have one last hurdle to overcome: Himself.

Shyamalan has already dragged the production back to his usual fiefdom in Philadelphia, which is not a good sign for those expecting something different this time around, and he's notorious for being, to put it euphemistically, "difficult."

He argues against this assessment, oblivious to the irony involved in doing so.

"That is a misconception, and people who work with me know that I'm collaborative," Shyamalan says. "If you can give me a good idea that can help me to make a better movie, then there is no ego issue in taking that advice."


Shyamalan is an arrogant prick with nowhere near the talent to back up such a staggering level of hubris.

Don't believe me?

Read on.

(Deus Ex Malcontent: Welcome to My M. Nightmare/7.18.06)