Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Listening Post

If there were any justice at all in the universe, Lil Jon would be dead and Matthew Good would be huge.

Good's new record Hospital Music is out today. Buy it immediately if not sooner.

Here's one of his best singles, Weapon

Monday, July 30, 2007

Listening Post

Four-and-a-half minutes of absolute perfection.

Blue Six's Harbour.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Sacrilege

Louis CK asks a simple question about the Catholic Church -- and the answer is "child rape."

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Funniest Thing You'll See All Day

G-Rated Filth

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From his new album Werewolves and Lollipops, Patton Oswalt does his hysterical bit about G-rated filth.

As you might expect, it's anything but G-rated, so consider yourself warned.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reviled About Harry

I've been thinking a lot about a guy named Bill Cosford over the past few days.

If you lived in Miami during the seventies, eighties and early nineties, chances are you recognize the name -- likewise if you happen to go to the University of Miami or have gone there within the past decade or so (as the on-campus theater was officially dedicated to him in 1995).

Cosford was the film critic for the Miami Herald from 1973 until 1994 when, following a ski vacation in Colorado, he contracted pneumonia which killed him in a matter of days. During his lifetime and particularly his tenure at the Herald, Cosford was known both for his love of good movies -- as well as the better aspects of pop culture in general -- and for his scalpel-sharp wit, which he wielded unforgivingly in his reviews and occasional columns, making him seem at all times like a slightly more misanthropic version of Hawkeye Pierce.

Never was his brand of merry troublemaking better on display than when, in a column decrying the loss of criticism as an artform, he figuratively bitch-slapped ready-and-eager-for-prime-timers Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert for putting themselves above the films they were charged with reviewing. (If I remember correctly, he essentially told them where they should shove those "thumbs.") This brought a quick, angry and entirely condescending response from Ebert who, in predictable fashion, ran down his almighty resume, which includes an oft-touted 1975 Pulitzer.

The Herald printed Ebert's letter, along with Cosford's rebuttal which read simply: Are you the bald one or the fat one?

Bill Cosford was the evil antithesis of Dr. Seussian dingbats like the late Joel Siegel. He was Bill Maher with a pop culture jones. He was a punk with a pen.

Needless to say, he was also my fucking hero growing up.

My worship of Bill Cosford as a teenager was so fanatical in fact that upon enrolling at U.M., the second thing I did was attempt to sign up for a course in film criticism which he taught as an adjunct professor. (The first thing I did was get myself a show on WVUM, U.M.'s radio station and a campus institution that I would quickly attempt to destroy from the inside-out through a series of on-air pranks, profane humor and generally juvenile and despicable behavior. For the record, they let me keep the show for five years, which was two years longer than my actual collegiate career.) Unfortunately, when it came to actually getting an audience with Cosford, I apparently wasn't the only one with an apostolic respect for the man: I found myself locked out of the class.

Which simply meant that I was forced to take it without officially being enrolled.

When Cosford found out about this, I'm pretty sure he had the locks changed on his condo.

It took almost no time for me to realize that my wholly on-spec endeavor was worth the unnecessary effort; his class had a more profound and lasting effect on my Anschauung than most of my other classes combined (ie: Ethics in Journalism, given the state of the media I would eventually become a part of, was worthless; Institutional "Manipulative" Psychology, given the state of the media which I would eventually become a part of, was not.) Bill Cosford's take-no-prisoners, authoritarian view of criticism -- as well as the wise-ass nature of the way in which he hammered it home -- was absolute, and over time it became a philosophy that I learned to both adhere to and perpetuate.

Cosford's view was that he had no view, only the truth.

As far as he was concerned, the word of the analyst -- be his or her topic social, cultural or political -- was nothing short of gospel.

He taught those in his class that they were never to dilute their assessments by referring to them as simply "assessments;" you never said "I believe that..." "As far as I'm concerned..." or "In my humble opinion..." In the Cosford-Kai Dojo, your opinions weren't humble, they were fact -- and you defended them as surely as you'd resist the notion that the earth wasn't round. It would be easy to disregard such audacity as sheer arrogance, and no doubt many readers did, but to those under his tutelage, even as briefly as I was, this dogma became yours. You learned your craft -- learned about the topic at hand so that you could make an informed observation -- then you issued your edict. You never shied from healthy debate, but at the same time you never waffled.

If you ruffled a few feathers, so be it -- that's part of your job; you forfeited your position among polite society when you signed up to be an honest and critical writer in the first place.

I had assumed by now that I understood this fact and was well-acquainted with the bitter "reward" reaped from infurating a certain portion of the general public.

And then I went and pissed off the Harry Potter kids.

By now, those for whom the conclusion of the Harry Potter and the... series is nothing less than an event of life-or-death significance are probably aware of how the final chapter unfolds. As I'm not one of the former, I can in no way attest to the latter, but I do know this: My entirely made-up "spoiler," which was published merely as a kind of adolescent joke last Thursday, wasn't even close. That's fitting, seeing as how it was never intended to be.

It was, as I said, a joke, and one that in no way put anyone's enjoyment of his or her beloved weekend diversion -- no matter how rabid that particular Potter-head might consider him or herself to be -- in any sort of jeopardy.

Yet given the level of unbridled bloodlust that flooded my comment section, e-mail and MySpace account, you would've thought that I'd not only divulged the real ending of the latest and final Potter tome, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but actually tied J.K. Rowling to a chair and forced the Potter Nation to watch me squirt her down with lighter fluid and burn her alive -- along with, apparently, its collective childhood.

I might've feared for my life had the threats of physical violence I received not come from, well, Harry Potter fans -- but it was disconcerting nonetheless for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that an averagely-written children's book had the ability to inspire such maniacal devotion among those who had, in every other facet of their lives, stopped being children a decade or so ago.

It's this fact that comprises my main argument against the Harry Potter phenomenon. It's a little like Christianity: The book that it's based on isn't awful per se, but the extremist adoration that it inspires is utterly creepy. (I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, if a couple of millennia from now, the world is overrun by warring factions of Potter "believers" who've adopted this fantastical crap as a religion.)

I suppose it should be mentioned that I did actually read the first couple of Potter books -- at the behest of a friend of mine who was in her mid-20s at the time and had assured me that they were an exceptional read; I didn't much care for them, although I'm certainly willing to acknowledge that the later chapters may be more up my alley, so to speak. As I said though, my issue isn't so much with the books themselves as with the otherwise intelligent adults who behave as if the fate of this fictional character is inextricably linked to their own. While there's quite a bit of sense to the ubiquitous argument that Pottermania is inherently a good thing simply because it happens to have encouraged an entire generation of kids to read, the argument that invariably begins with, "Well, I grew up on these things," is ridiculous at face value; I grew up enjoying a lot of things that I abandoned as the years and -- believe it or not -- levels of maturity piled on.

I liked Duran Duran as a kid. They've released plenty of material since the heady days of Rio, and yet I haven't waited in line at midnight for any of it, nor have I midlessly shouted down those who want to know why I never grew the hell out of such a questionable phase.

If that analogy doesn't work, let me try another one -- one sure to generate even more unnecessary controversy and hostility among the fanboy crowd: Star Wars was the be-all-end-all when I was seven years old; looking back on it now it isn't half as brilliant as I remember, and with the exception of the inarguably excellent Empire, every movie in the series since has been average at best -- despite an overall claim to have grown with its audience.

No, I didn't dress up as Darth Vader and hit the Ziegfeld early for any of them -- and it's not just because I didn't feel like being rightfully and mercilessly mocked on national television by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

It's because I grew out of it.

To those who never could say the same of Harry Potter, that's certainly your choice -- although from what I've read, I'm not entirely sure that the epic tale of the boy wizard is any more worthy of such glorification from adults than, say, M. Night Shyamalan's last idiotic "fairy-tale," which was filled with just as much mythical nonsense as the Potter saga (although admittedly a hell of a lot less ill-advised hubris).

But to hitch your very happiness to such a mindless diversion, and to live in fear that someone might take that away from you -- might "spoil" your shot at joy itself -- simply by saying something you don't want to hear?

That's more than a little crazy.

Last week, I was out to dinner with a group of friends when the subject at the table turned to music, in particular, albums that changed our lives. I mentioned that the first record I ever bought had been Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (an album that was, up until the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller, the best-selling in history). For some reason, this elicited laughs from one person at the table, a guy from Jersey -- go figure -- who insisted that I had no idea what I was talking about.

He asked me why I held the album in such high regard, and I answered him.

Why was Fleetwood Mac's Rumours one of the best rock albums ever recorded?

For the same reason that it's inexcusably ludicrous for otherwise sane adults to attack somebody for making a joke that purports to give away the ending of a fucking kids' book: Because I say so -- and because it happens to be right.

Who knows, maybe Bill Cosford would've disagreed with me on both counts.

Listening Post

Well, better late than never I guess -- not that it matters much by this point.

Back in 1995, I was one of maybe three people who bought the debut CD from a band called Sybil Vane (always a fan of literary references in music). The Seattle Sound was at its pinnacle, and Sybil Vane offered the then-popular blend of swirling guitar psychedelia, heavy, droning drumwork and Wall-of-Grunge production by Rick Parashar -- all combining to create a sound that made you think the batteries in your old cassette Walkman were dying.

What made them stand out though, was the alluring voice of their enigmatic lead singer, April Devereaux.

She took what might have been an otherwise unmemorable set of songs and turned them into something magical -- sort of My Bloody Valentine and PJ Harvey meet supergroups like Mad Season and Brad.

Alas, Sybil Vane pretty much vanished with little fanfare.

Until now.

Thanks to the advent of sites like YouTube, the band's stunning video for the single Pixy can now be seen by the masses. For a band that hasn't existed for almost a decade, it's surprising that it's generating any kind of buzz at all, but it is -- no doubt due partially to the fact that April Devereaux appears nude in it (something which disgracefully kept it from airing on MTV during its initial release).

It's a gorgeous video and a great song.

Click here to see Sybil Vane's Pixy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

¿Cómo Ahora Vaca Marrón?

True item: A cow escaped from a farm in suburban Miami Tuesday morning and led police on a wild chase that lasted three hours, at times blocking traffic along several busy streets.

Authorities tried over and over to cajole the animal into returning to its pen, but it refused to cooperate.

You know why the cow ignored the cops?

They were speaking English to it.

Gods & Monsters

Slowly but surely, the first real images are surfacing for a couple of next year's more anticipated movies.

First, behold, the truly re-imagined and brilliantly disturbing new vision of the Joker.

And, word is the official name of J.J. Abrams's mysterious Cloverfield project may in fact be Monstrous (or maybe it's just the perfect description) -- and this could be the teaser poster:

THIS... IS... BLOGGER!!!!!!!

Guess I'll be starting that vacation a little late.

The juvenile carpet-bombing of Wikipedia by the "Malcontent Nation" (with all due deference to Stephen Colbert) has begun.

I'm already having kick-ass leather vests made that look a lot like the ones worn by The Warriors.

I love you guys.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Defining Moment

(Update: Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'll leave this post up, but it may as well be written in Swahili. No one had any idea how difficult it would be to get past the Gestapo-like contingent of humorless administrators at Wikipedia. Thanks to everyone who gave this little juvenile online prank a shot; I'd go into battle with you anytime.)

Now that the new look and domain name are in place, the time has come to take my next bold step toward, you know, like, inevitable world domination -- and for this I've decided to ask your help.

The original plan was to create a Wikipedia entry for both this site and for the idiot who runs it (that would be me), but after sitting at the computer for no less than a full five minutes, my wife and I realized that we really couldn't come up with much to say about either.

And that's when she devised a plan that's equal parts brilliant and terrifying: let you, the readers, do it for us.

So, that's exactly what we've decided to do; we're leaving it up to all of you to log into Wikipedia and create an entry for both "Deus Ex Malcontent" and my full name -- which I won't divulge, but suffice to say that the more resourceful of you can easily find the necessary information and the rest can feel free to make something up.

Harry Potter fans, this means you can finally have your revenge.

Everyone else that I've pissed off throughout the past year and a half, you now have a golden opportunity to verbally pound me into paste.

Friends, and those who enjoy this site on a semi-regular basis, now's your chance to say something kind about me.

I promise not to interfere with your construction of the entry for at least a week -- meaning you have seven days worth of free reign to concoct any back story you'd like for me and/or this site. You have oodles of material here to work with --TV news career, rehab, brain tumor, general assholean behavior -- but in case you require them, here are a few more facts about me:

* My middle name is Jehosephat.

* I was the first African-American to swim the English channel.

* Thirty Helens agree: I rock.

* I wet the bed until two years ago.

* I am the final remaining Cylon.

* My first pet was a mouse which died when I accidentally left it out on the patio in 30-degree weather.

* Crystal Light -- I love Crystal Light.

* When writing or relaxing around the house, I generally wear a pair of baby-blue boxer shorts with little cartoon alligators all over them.

Once again friends and foes, this is your chance -- have at it.

Take your best shot.

We're Expanding to Better Serve You

You've probably noticed a few changes here at my silly corner of the internet -- unless of course you're one of those people who've found themselves completely engrossed in Harry Potter's valiant life or death struggle over the past few days. (Sorry folks, I don't think that's ever getting old.)

Basically, this little experiment of mine has finally grown up; it now has its own private domain name and a much nicer masthead -- thanks to the lovely and talented Stacey over at Litely Salted, who came up with the design and implemented the change-over.

You may run into a few glitches over the next day or two as the final adjustments render, but be patient.

I promise I'll make it worth your while by eventually finding some other group of obsessives to torture just for the hell of it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


So, now that the dust has settled and this thing is finally out, was my for-the-most-part-made-up Harry Potter ending anywhere near correct?

Friday, July 20, 2007

And Here I Thought Oprah's Bitch Was Named Gayle

It's rare that I post written material directly from another source, but I swear to Christ -- after reading it several times, I have no idea how I could possibly make this piece of wire copy from the Associated Press any more frighteningly batshit lunatic than it already is. In fact, I almost feel like attempting to improve on or alter it in any way would be like trying to touch up the Mona Lisa; it's that perfect.

Seriously, Breton couldn't write florid surrealist drivel like this:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oprah Winfrey is mourning the death of her 2-year-old golden retriever, Gracie.

"Weeks have passed," Winfrey says in the August issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. "And the pain has not subsided. Every time I think about it, my heart starts racing and I feel like I just got stabbed in the chest."

On May 26, Gracie choked to death on a plastic ball that belonged to Sophie, Winfrey's 12-year-old cocker spaniel, while out with her dog walker and two other golden retrievers, Winfrey says.

"I ran barefoot out of the house and found the dog walker and one of my security guys pumping her chest," Winfrey, 53, recalls. "Just as I reached them, the security guy looked up and said, `I'm sorry, ma'am. We tried everything. I'm sorry. She's gone.'"

Winfrey -- who "stood there dazed, stunned, crying" as Gracie was placed in a golf cart -- says she learned this lesson: Enjoy life but remember to slow down, too.

"She never stopped moving. Was energy in motion. ... I have never seen a being, human or animal, always so full of joy," Winfrey says of Gracie, who ran amok and gulped food and treats. "This dog lived every moment as though it were her last."

Winfrey says she "got the message" to slow down and catch her breath when Gracie died.

"I don't believe in accidents," says the host of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "I know for sure that everything in life happens to help us live.

From the desperate efforts of the dog walker and the "security guy" who no doubt felt their own lives hanging in the balance as they did everything short of donating their own hearts to save Oprah's four-legged beloved, to the bouts of "the vapors" she gets every time little Gracie comes to mind, to the spiritual lesson gleaned from her loss, everything about this is almost otherworldly in its complete detachment from the reality you and I experience on a day-to-day basis.

Add to that this little nugget of self-absorbed sociopathy: The story of Oprah's trauma -- although not surprisingly featured at length in Oprah's own "O" magazine (the one on whose cover Ms. Winfrey's face appears every single month) -- wound up in the hands of the Associated Press in the first place, and by proxy every other news organization in the world, thanks to a PRESS RELEASE which was issued by Oprah's communcations department.

In case you missed that, let me reiterate: Oprah sent out an official press release to inform the world that she's heartbroken because her dog died.

I realize that by this point it would take nothing short of shoving a Jesuit down a flight of steps in Georgetown or possibly a tactical nuclear strike to end Oprah's evil hegemony, but in the name of all that is righteous and decent in the universe -- would somebody please find a way to put this woman out of our misery once and for all?

Oh, and to the starfucking media who aided and abetted this crime against sanity by replacing even 20 seconds of news on the loss of actual human life in Iraq with this trivial crap -- fuck you, just fuck you.

As a Service to the Community...

Ron dies. Hermione dies. Harry sacrifices himself to destroy Voldemort.

They're all reunited in the Deathly Hallows Ghost World, along with Harry's dead parents -- so in essence, it's a happy ending.*

Oh, and Bruce Willis has been dead the whole time.

Now go do something constructive this weekend.

(*Is this correct? Supposedly, but who the hell knows. Either way, if you feel like your life has just been ruined A) you deserved to have it ruined, and B) you needed to get out more anyway.)

(UPDATE: As it turns out, I've just received word that in fact EVERYONE dies in the end -- meaning you as well. Apparently, the final page of the book has been coated with a tactile cyanide complex designed to kill the reader immediately upon finishing the story. Have no fear though, Muggle -- at least you'll be reunited with Harry et al in the Deathly Hallows Ghost World.)

Byrd Dog

Nearly-dead Senator Robert Byrd took the floor yesterday on Capitol Hill and rambled aimlessly for nearly 20 full minutes about the inhuman "barbarity" of organized dog fighting.

I'd never recommend sitting through every minute of this admittedly hilarious nonsense, but do yourself a favor and push about 5:44 into this clip and when you get there, remember these words:

"I think we're all indebted to Gabby Johnson for clearly stating what had to be said... Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, but it expressed a courage that is little seen in this day and age."

TGIF: Tasteless Garbage Is Fantastic

Do yourself a favor and swallow your coffee before watching these.

Happy Friday kids.

1. Ladies, meet Harry the Hamster.


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2. Let's all go to the lobby -- Aqua Teen style.

Listening Post

Stereophonics -- Moviestar

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Win-Lose Situation

It's not surprising in the least that two of the most painfully overrated shows on television are now officially in the running to win Emmys for being the best in their genres.

Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty picked up nominations for Best Drama and Best Comedy respectively this morning, thereby not only negating the value of an Emmy entirely, but also perpetuating the tried-and-true cycle of creative mediocrity on network television.

Make no mistake -- both of these shows offer up little more than a weekly dose of vacuous crap.

Feel free to read on:

(Anatomically Incorrect/6.2.06)

(The Ugly Truth/2.22.07)

Once More with Feeling

According to a wire report in the Associated Press, blind Harry Potter fans won't have to wait to find out what happens to their favorite bespectacled teen wizard.

The braille version of the seventh and mercifully final Potter tome, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be released at the same time as the one for folks with perfect 20/20.

You know what though, you're blind -- haven't you suffered enough?

On the plus side, at least if you're 36 and reading this tripe you won't be able to see everyone making fun of you.

Oh, and you'll finally get to legally run your hands all over Hermione's little bumps.

Just make sure you leave one paw free there, tiger.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

If the Wyoming Sniper Had Only Gone This Route, Two People Would Still Be Alive

Click the picture to enlarge.

And I'm Feline Good

Kitten Eating Corn

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Anybody Checked the Statue of Liberty to See If It's Missing a Head?

You've gotta hand it to J.J. Abrams; he's really going all-out to build anticipation for Cloverfield.

CNN.com: Explosion Rattles Midtown Manhattan

(Actually, what this proves is something Denis Leary said years ago -- that there are more interesting ways to die in New York City than anywhere else on earth. Sure you can be stung by a bark scorpion in Arizona, but having a steam pipe explode under your feet -- now that's post-modern.)

Malcopedia: Irony

i-ro-ny -- (AHY-ruh-nee, AHYR-nee)

Incongruity, often humorous or tragic, between the perceived and expected outcome of a series of events and the actual outcome

2. The use of words to express something other than and especially opposite the literal meaning

Example: A military-trained sniper took his own life after firing a single bullet through a window, hitting and killing his estranged wife as she sang onstage at a bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The song she was singing at the time: Toby Keith's I Love This Bar.

Listening Post

VAUX. 'Are You With Me' September 2005

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Unfortunately, the sonic onslaught from this band officially ends ten days from today; that's when they'll play their final show -- at the Bluebird Theater in Denver.

This is VAUX -- Are You With Me?

I'm Ashamed of Myself

Sao Paulo, Brazil (AP) -- At least 200 people may be dead after a TAM Airlines passenger plane crashed into a building while attempting to land at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport. The Airbus A320 with 176 people on board was approaching Sao Paulo from Porto Alegre when it apparently slammed into a highway and skidded into the front of the building. The plane had 176 people on board; there were an undetermined number of casualties on the ground.

Sao Paulo Fire Department Col. Manuel Antonio Araujo confirms that forensic experts have already begun attempting to identify the victims, but admits that the process will be a difficult one due mostly to the fact that no one in Brazil has dental records (see below).

(Yeah, yeah I know -- "going to hell" and all that. Save it. It's a joke, albeit a very tasteless one. If it makes you feel any better, as I typed the words I winced like Tina when she knew she'd just pissed off Ike. But if you're really that offended, feel free to direct your comments here.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bench It Like Beckham

America, if you actually were to begin with, you can stop cheering now -- or at the very least looking on with a modicum of fascination.

Sure you've seen the good looks, the chiseled physique, the designer wardrobe, the rumors of a conversion to Scientology and his almost-lifelike wife, Stepford Spice. And you've no doubt heard about his legendary prowess on the pitch (that's a "soccer field" for you neophytes).

But that was just the excellent work of the starfucking media and a PR/hype machine that's second to none.

Now however, less than a week after his extravagant coming out party -- the one that might eventually rival the mass flagellation sure to greet the returning Christ-child -- the man behind the sequined curtain has made his first appearance.

The real David Beckham has finally arrived.

For the record, I had really hoped that he wouldn't; I had really hoped that this time would be different.

I had really hoped that this time, Beckham wouldn't be such a, well, pussy.

Yesterday, the coach of Becks's adopted team, the L.A. Galaxy, announced that his shiny new star midfielder was complaining of a sore ankle and therefore might not make his scheduled debut this coming Saturday against London powerhouse Chelsea (who, by the way, is guaranteed to kick the Galaxy's collective ass all over the field with or without Beckham in the lineup).

The game is sold out. It'll be carried live on ESPN. It's the latest, and possible biggest "big chance" for soccer in America -- and Becks may be sitting it out.

Understand, I take nothing away from Beckham's substantial talents: He's far and away the best place kicker in the game -- having an almost supernatural control over the ball -- and on the field he's much more of a team player than anyone would expect from such a high-profile, brand-name star (although I still contend that he wouldn't be the star he is today were it not for Ryan Giggs playing the Pippen to his Jordan all those years at Man United). But it's tough to forget -- and avoid drawing comparisons to present events -- the apparent ease with which he pulled himself out of a crucial match in last year's World Cup.

I'm talking about England vs. Portugal.

Team Captain Beckham complained of an upset stomach and wound up sitting on the sidelines while England went down in flames -- with incorrigible thug Wayne Rooney brutally stomping on fellow Premier Leaguer Ricardo Carvalho and squaring off with his own EPL teammate Christiano Ronaldo, and the Brits eventually losing 3-1 in a heartbreaking penalty kick shootout. Beckham was said to be near tears following the loss, but it was tough to feel sorry for him (the rest of the team was a different story) simply because it seemed almost a given that it should've taken nothing less than a sucking chest wound to keep him out of a game in which the stakes were so high.

And now, once again -- even after an exceptional climax to his career with Réal Madrid -- he's making it clear that he may be ready to opt out of a pivotal match. He cut his first practice with the Galaxy shamefully short yesterday, which seems suspect when you consider that the aforementioned final game with La Liga was almost a month ago to the day.

And that Beckham didn't even arrive in the United States until last Thursday -- which happened to be twelve days into the official start of his contract.

It's pretty much understood that the Galaxy isn't paying for Becks's ability to play as much as for his ability to fill stadium seats; L.A. in general wants "Beckham Inc." more than "Beckham PFA." Still, Beckhamania already may not be enough to bring soccer into the mainstream into the United States -- God knows everything else has failed miserably -- but it surely won't be if the man with the magic feet doesn't put them on the pitch when it counts most.

Like now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Listening Post

They're without a doubt one of the most influential and yet sorely underrated bands of their generation.

Faith No More -- Ashes to Ashes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Career Suicide Blonde

If you have an IQ slightly above that of a toaster oven and pay attention to the news only when it's something actually worth paying attention to, you might've missed the ridiculous controversy that's been the talk of Chicago over the past few days.

It involves a (now former) local television reporter who was caught on camera by a competing station visiting the home of a missing woman's estranged husband.

In a bikini.

With her kids.

According to Amy Jacobson -- who up until two days ago was an investigative reporter for WMAQ, the NBC owned-and-operated station in Chicago -- she was invited to come over to the house by the sister of Craig Stebic while she was on her way to the beach with her children. Stebic's wife has been missing since April 30th.

Since no reporter had yet landed an interview with Stebic, Jacobson made the necessary detour and just happened to be on the patio deck while a camera crew from WBBM, the CBS owned-and-operated station in Chicago, was shooting.

WBBM's news-director Joe Ahern, purportedly sensing impropriety afoot, immediately decided that the video was "newsworthy" and by that afternoon pictures of Amy Jacobson -- standing by Stebic's pool, sans full clothing -- were splattered all over WBBM's air.

Since the incident, Jacobson has embarked on a round-the-clock contrition tour -- apologizing to anyone who will listen for what she admits was a monumental lapse in judgment. It hasn't, however, been enough to save her from the axe; WMAQ fired her within 24 hours of the tape's airing, leaving the 11 year veteran (an eternity in local news incidentally) devastated, according to friends.

I'm not going to delve too deeply into whether Amy Jacobson deserved to be fired for her admittedly stupid mistake; she didn't, and the fact that she was no doubt encouraged to do whatever was necessary to get the story and was then unceremoniously kicked to the curb when the tactics she employed left egg all over WMAQ's face -- well, that's just par for the course from the gutless wastes who run NBC these days. (They were willing to can Don Imus, a guy who was irrelevant to be sure -- but an irrelevant rainmaker; there was no way a local nobody like Jacobson was safe.)

What's truly offensive though, insofar as it assumes a spectacular level of stupidity from the rest of us, is WBBM's sanctimonious assertion that it had only the noblest of journalistic intentions in airing the video of the Stebic/Jacobson pool party in the first place -- citing the public's supposed right to know and employing the ubiquitous defense wherein its managers purport to have "thought long and hard" (no pun intended) before making a decision that they no doubt figured would almost certainly increase ratings exponentially.

If you believe for a second that Joe Ahern, when presented with salacious pictures of his competition's star reporter, ran it to air faster than you can say "Sweep the leg Johnny" because he truly believed that his little exclusive was newsworthy -- congratulations, you're just about as bright as the average local news station needs you to be.

There's an unspoken "gentleman's agreement" in most news markets that the scandal and gossip of one station won't become fodder for another. The reason for this is obvious; it's the same reason that mistreating POWs is an entirely ill-advised endeavor -- it's only a matter of time before the tables are turned. Traditionally, local TV stations are populated with the largest group of drunks, drug-users, sexual-deviants, and generally dysfunctional misfits and lost souls not also confined to 6-by-10 foot cells.

I have yet to work in a newsroom that isn't bursting at the seams with amoral behavior -- the kind that would make the sickening, secret undercurrent of Blue Velvet look like an episode of Leave it to Beaver; the kind that would make for the most titillating of prurient headlines were someone actually willing to report it.

But rarely is anyone, and often with good reason. There have been times when I've marveled at how an honest news item involving a competing local anchor or reporter can be swept so quietly under the rug, but likewise, I have -- on rare occasions -- watched the line between the legitimate and the frivolous blurred to the point where the dignity of that same anchor or reporter can be gleefully sacrificed on the altar of ratings-driven Schadenfreude.

Like now.

I concede that to the average person, it's probably difficult to feel any kind of sympathy for Amy Jacobson. Make no mistake though -- a shark's sudden willingness to rip its own kind to pieces, as opposed to innocent people, in no way makes the shark a more honorable creature. This would be particularly true were that shark to suddenly stand up and begin attempting to justify its actions through self-righteous bullshit.

WBBM ran the video for one reason and one reason only, and it certainly wasn't that Joe Ahern felt he would be shirking his journalistic responsibility by choosing not to run it. The video was aired because it was an almost surefire ratings grabber.

Except that it wasn't.

On the evening that Ahern decided to air a piece of video which had no actual story to back it up -- merely innuendo and a call for the audience to "make up its own ending" -- his station, WBBM CBS 2, finished where it always does in the ratings: Dead last.

A pathetic and desperate gamble -- one that cost a woman her job and surrendered what little journalistic integrity WBBM may have had in the first place -- paid out absolutely nothing.

Amy Jacobson did what has, sadly, become expected of today's news reporters.

Joe Ahern did what is, infuriatingly, becoming all too common for today's news managers.

Both should've done better.

(Update: As of Friday morning, Craig Stebic is regarded as a "person of interest" in the disappearance of his wife. In other words, he's a suspect; the half-assed "person of interest" designation rose to prominence immediately following the whole Richard Jewell debacle. Since Jewell's investigation in the aftermath of the Olympic Park bombing back in 1996 -- a crime with which he was never charged but was nonetheless tried and convicted of by a frenzied and irresponsible media -- police are now careful to rarely name an official suspect in high-profile cases.)

IRAQ Zzzzzzz

You've gotta love our idiot president.

Five years into this worthless war and he's still spouting the same delusional crap -- like an autistic kid who repeats one or two words over and over.

But credit to him for cleverly trying to win back the love of his prodigal son, the White House press corps, by buying them a shiny new car -- or in this case, building a new state-of-the-art press room.

It looks nice from what I could see during today's news conference.

Unfortunately, the designers forgot a couple of necessary features.

Like a gong.

And three seats for Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan and Rip Taylor.

Listening Post

We all need a song that makes us cry every time we hear it.

This is mine.

Badly Drawn Boy's Promises.

You Can't Handle the Pool

Jack shows you how to cool off during these hot days of Summer.

(Today's "Project Office Mayhem" assignment: quietly put the above link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume. Mischief Points: 12)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Terror Alert Level Has Been Raised To "BOO!"

Homeland Security Director and winner of the "Balok Puppet" look-a-like contest at Trek-Con 2007 Michael Chertoff is issuing an ominous warning about the potential for upcoming terrorist activity.

During a nationwide news conference yesterday, Chertoff said that we have two earth minutes to surrender or be annihilated he believes al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on the United States to be carried out this summer.

And just what startling new information made him feel it was imperative that he immediately take to the airwaves and make everyone aware of the imminent danger?

He said he has a "gut feeling," and that al-Qaeda generally finds summer "appealing."

That's all.

So, in case you missed that, let me reiterate: The man in charge of keeping every man, woman and child in America safe from harm is basing his threat matrix on, if I remember correctly, the kind of thing that used to get Starsky & Hutch thrown out of Captain Dobey's office every few episodes -- and because "terrorists like summer."

Well, every time this administration has claimed it has legitimate proof of something it's turned out to be bullshit.

At this point, why shouldn't Chertoff just go ahead and let himself be the ex cathedra equivalent of that homeless guy who carries the sign that says: WHY LIE? I NEED A BEER!

Say My Name, Bitch!

HOUSTON (AP) -- A Houston woman is suing a former high school
classmate who took her name and is now using it in pornographic movies. Kristen Syvette Wimberly, 25, is asking that Lara Madden and the Vivid Entertainment Group stop using and publicizing her name, which Madden took as a stage name. Madden, 25, began her adult-film career in 2004 and has appeared in about a dozen adult films using the name "Syvette Wimberly."

Caj Boatright, attorney for the real Kristen Syvette Wimberly, claims that the events outlined in the case have caused the plantiff significant emotional stress by making her the target of near-constant teasing by her friends and co-workers.

In a related item, Caj Boatright is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous gay porn star who claims that the name "Caj Boatright" was stolen from him and has now been permanently tarnished due to the nature of Boatright's occupation.

Listening Post

I admit that I'm a sucker for simple stories, love stories, sad stories, stories with happy endings, and stories set to good music.

This little video is every one of those and more.

It's The World Spins Madly On, by The Weepies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Choose and Perish

At last, the mystery of "Cloverfield" is revealed!

See for yourself.


Yesterday, while cleaning our apartment, my wife came across a slip of paper which she handed to me the moment I walked through the door after work.

"Why didn't you ever fill this?" she asked, with no small amount of shock.

I looked down to see exactly what it was that she was talking about, and there in my hand lay a prescription from my neurologist -- for sixty Vicodin.

It had been issued to me right after I got out of the hospital.

In April of last year.

Which means that it's no longer valid.

It's times like this that make me appreciate the exquisite healing power of crying myself to sleep.

Who is Ethan Haas?

The mind-blowing teaser for the top secret J.J. Abrams movie known only as "Cloverfield" can now be seen online.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Nothin' But an "N" Thang

The good news: The word "nigger" is dead.

The bad news: Laughably stupid and ineffectual symbolic gestures apparently aren't.

Today in Detroit (city slogan: "Now With 30% Fewer Random Devil's Night Fires"), the NAACP held what it called a "funeral" for everyone's favorite linguistic pariah -- the dreaded "N-word."

During a surreal ceremony that included not only full funerial dress but a horse-drawn carriage pulling a coffin covered with black flowers, city Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick -- who may also be addressed by his hip-hop name, "K-Kill" -- did a fine impression not only of NWA's Real Niggaz Don't Die, but of every uneducated minstrel to ever stereotypically butcher the English language.

“Good riddance. Die N-word. We don’t want to see you around here no more," he said, while somehow keeping a straight face.

Also on hand to pay her disrespects, and coincidentally appease the whim of a rather large voting bloc, was Michigan Governor and whitest-woman-alive Jennifer Granholm.

In keeping with tradition, several 40s were tipped onto the casket as it was lowered into the ground, and after the funeral everyone took their large, ornate hats over to Denny's where they were all denied service.

Okay, so I'm taking a few cheap shots.

It's rare that I launch a preemptive strike against what will surely be the angry reaction to one of my admittedly worthless opinions, but it should be known that each time I tried to put something articulate and serious down in regards to this story, all I kept coming back to was, "Oh come on -- you've gotta be kidding me."

Convincing the general public to drop the word "nigger" from its vocabulary once and for all is a task that's as gargantuan as it is commendable -- and maybe that's why it deserves better than farcical burlesque. I was painfully aware before this morning that America had a grotesque appetite for memorial rituals, but I never thought I'd see one applied in such an unnecessarily meretricious manner. Holding a mock funeral to declare that a word is officially dead and buried is pretty much the quintessential example of an utterly empty gesture.

It's stupid over substance, and it insults the very audience it's trying to play to, in the tawdriest manner possible.

Back in November of last year, I published a lengthy column in reaction to the now-infamous rant by former Seinfeld goofball Michael Richards (The N'th Degree/11.21.06). In it, I put forth an argument which I didn't believe at the time to be very incendiary: That refusing to say the word "nigger" -- instead, insisting on it being replaced with a childish colloquialism like "the N-word" -- is in fact more offensive toward the black community than simply being candid about what is essentially a word, and nothing more.

I wrote at the time:

"Despite whatever heft, whatever power to destroy or dehumanize, that we've unwisely granted a single word -- any word -- in the end it is still just a word, and nothing more.

Except that in the most advanced and preeminent culture to ever exist upon this Earth, in the early days of the 21st century, it isn't just a word. On the contrary, the word "nigger" holds an unparalleled level of ascendancy in our society. There's no better testament to the truth of this statement than the fact that otherwise educated, intelligent people -- the type who normally would rather step on a live land mine than be taken for an idiot -- will gladly allow themselves to be reduced to spouting the vernacular of a four-year-old to avoid speaking it.

No matter the alternative's power to offend and instigate, is there anything -- anything -- more painfully ridiculous than a grown man or woman saying, "The N-word?" It's an absurd verbal tip-toe that not only proves that there is apparently no safe context in which the actual word can be uttered, but also that there exists an unspoken implication that those whom one would expect to be angered by the use of such a word are so stupid that they can't discern between the desire to dehumanize and subjugate and the need to openly discuss, and therefore should be protected from hearing the word altogether -- for the good of everyone. This latter possibility -- an indictment of an entire culture, whether out of condescension or outright fear -- is infinitely more offensive than the utterance of any one word."

Controversial or not -- this statement holds true.

Today's "funeral" was a great show.

It's almost sad that common sense never got such a ceremonious send-off.


Sorry kids, due to circumstances beyond my control I've been Claude Rains over the past few days (look it up).

I should have some new material posted tomorrow.

Plan accordingly.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Listening Post: Fourth of July Edition

On this Independence Day, let's hear from some guys who really know what to do with fireworks: Attach them to large metal boots and fire them into an audience full of crazed Eastern Europeans.


Y Tu Mayor También

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced that his wife of twenty years is filing for divorce. This comes directly on the heels of a public admission that he's been having an affair with a local Spanish-language television reporter.

Why yes, as a matter of fact there is a "leaf-blower" joke in there somewhere -- but if I say it out loud Carlos Mencia will just steal it.

Clearing the Air

You no doubt remember last month's ridiculously over-hyped tuberculosis scare -- the one that had an already skittish America suddenly expected to trade in its surplus duct tape for one of those fashionable duck-billed surgical masks.

Well, it turns out it was all a big misunderstanding and, as such, the nation's Wanton Panic Alert Level has now been lowered to "Burnt Umber."

The Centers for Disease Control had apparently misdiagnosed intrepid world traveler Andrew Speaker from the very beginning, tagging him with the leper-like label of "Highly Feared, Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Carrier," when in fact he merely suffers from the plain old, perfectly treatable brand of TB.

The mistake was uncovered by the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, which only proves that when it comes to knowing how to spot a hypochondriac, leave it to someone who grew up with a Jewish mother.

Last night, Speaker and his wife -- the apparent president-for-life of Atlanta's Junior League chapter as well as living proof that Dress Barn does, in fact, have an excellent selection of sweater sets -- appeared live on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. They decried the CDC's initial diagnosis, saying that the center unnecessarily "created a huge international panic," and "scared millions of people around the world."

Except that it didn't.

True, the CDC made one very large mistake -- but it was the fear-mongering media that turned what, even in its original, incorrect form was always little more than a mild curiosity into a potentially apocalyptic spectacle that inundated the nightly news and daily papers for days on end, running the news cycle down until there was nothing left but bare rims and grinded gears.

As usual, Americans didn't even have the opportunity to turn to the Fourth Estate for calm, even-handed information before the Fourth Estate turned on them -- overwhelming the public with every kind of hyped-up and orgiastically delivered scare tactic in its considerable arsenal.

Speaker is asking for an apology from the CDC; he'll likely get it.

As for the American public getting one from the media?

Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Something Kick-Ass This Way Comes

So, I went to see Transformers this morning.

I'm happy to report that, amazingly, it didn't leave me threatening to trade the life of the girl behind the concession counter for a refund of my ten bucks; In fact, the movie whose teaser trailer once left me snickering my elitist ass off was actually damn good. It's big and dumb as all hell, but it's also thoroughly entertaining.

Believe it or not though, the movie itself was just barely the star of the show.

It was all but outdone by a mere two minutes of film attached to the coming attractions.

I'd recommend seeing Transformers for no other reason than the chance to see what could very well be the most startling, intense, and effective teaser trailer to hit screens in, well, possibly forever.

It's for the top secret project from MI:3 director and Lost creator J.J. Abrams, which so far is known only as "Cloverfield." (Even the teaser doesn't mention the name of the movie, which just adds to the ominous jolt of it.)

I'd pass along what's known about the project so far, but best to let the trailer work its magic without spoiling the initial shock and sense of appropriate confusion it dishes out in spades.

Suffice to say, it comes out of nowhere -- and managed to leave an entire theater in stunned silence.

Whatever the hell it is -- I can't wait for it.

Listening Post

Because it just seems so utterly fitting right now.

From the most recent live DVD -- Nine Inch Nails' furious masterpiece, March of the Pigs.

And, a surprisingly decent live bootleg from Melbourne, Australia: The Beginning of the End.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mere Anarchy Is Loosed Upon the World

Do whatever the fuck you want.

Rob. Cheat. Steal. Murder. Swindle. Pillage. Rape. Conceal. Destroy.

The law no longer exists -- such as this is a land supposedly of laws and not of men. There is no justice. None.

The Vice President of the United States has already proclaimed that he is above such petty regulation, and now apparently so is his former senior aide.

Our lunatic criminal of a president has seen to it by commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence. He'll now essentially go free for committing the same crime for which Clinton was impeached a decade ago. The only possible explanation is that Bush figures the country already disapproves of him and his entire presidency in such overwhelming numbers -- what can another ethical travesty hurt at this point?

So pour into the streets America -- it's all yours for the taking.

The rules don't apply anymore.

If anyone asks, tell 'em George sent you.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Silly Joel

Joel Siegel, the longtime movie critic for ABC's Good Morning America, who was known both for his bounteous moustache and his simplistic, pithy and 100% blurb-ready reviews ("Pirates of the Caribbean is a swashbuckling good time; run, don't walk the plank to see it!") died last Friday after a long battle with colon cancer.

He may be gone, but his god-awful corniness -- as well as his willingness to distill entire films down to one or two ridiculous lines -- will be with us forever, or, as Joel himself might say, "We'll always have puns."

So, with that in mind, I give you ten things that Joel Siegel said just before he died:

1. "This cancer just kills me!"

2. "Just when I thought it was safe to go back into chemotherapy!"

3. "I guess Heaven Can't Wait!

4. "This is even worse than 'Death Becomes Her' -- 'cause death will definitely be coming for me!"

5. "There'll be no "Dawn" after this "Dead!"

6. "'The Terminal' has left me breathless!'"

7. "In hell, no one can hear me scream!"

8. "I died laughing!"

9. "Kevin Smith! From hell's heart I stab at thee -- for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

10. "At least there won't be a sequel!"