Friday, November 30, 2007

Does This Address Make Me Look Fatwa?


I wanted to go into lengthy detail about the absolute, undeniable, laughably stupid, balls-out obscene ridiculousness of the whole mess going on in the Sudan regarding the Western teacher now spending 15 days in jail for "insulting" his fucking holiness the prophet Muhammed by inciting a bunch of school kids to name a teddy bear after him, but it's so insane that I can't even begin to wrap my head around it.

Today,once again, thousands of devout Muslims marched through the streets -- this time in Khartoum -- demanding that someone be executed for not showing the supposed proper respect to the lunatic nonsense that is Islam. (For those keeping score, that's the "religion of peace.")

I could spend hours railing against this kind of crap, but it's a Friday evening and I'm eager to get my drink on -- as the prophet would no doubt intend -- so I'll refer you to both a column that I wrote some time ago and the brilliant and thoroughly blasphemous words of a friend of mine, made yesterday in reference to this whole fucking miasma.

(Deus Ex Malcontent: Killing in the Name Of/5.17.07)

(Votar Says: Allah Hu Ack'Bear)

Listening Post



Happy Friday kids!

It's Ned's Atomic Dustbin -- All I Ask of Myself is that I Hold Together.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

WWJD? WTF?


I'll make this quick.

Last night, CNN held another of its über-hyped YouTube debates -- this one involving the mostly pathetic pack of Republican contenders for the highest office in the land.

During the proceedings, at least two of the viewer-submitted video questions focused on the subject of religion.

One man wanted to know if seemingly lifelike automaton Mitt Romney believed that every word of the Bible represented a clear mandate from God; another asked elfen dweeb Mike Huckabee the ubiquitous question, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Whether either or both questions were meant to be sincere or utterly facetious is anyone's guess; needless to say though both candidates wasted no time ascending their respective pulpits in as pronounced a manner as possible -- declaring their eternal allegiance to our Lord and Savior.

Back in June, I wrote a pointed little column in which I expressed a whole buttload of indignation over the staggering number of times that religion had already reared its ridiculous head in this race. (Faith No More/6.8.07) At the time, I put it this way:

"The question being posed to those who may be charged with the awesome responsibility of leading us out of this dark time in our history is not 'What will you do to assure some measure of success in Iraq?' or 'How will you repair the damage done to our nation's reputation worldwide?' or even 'What will you do to protect us from all the enemies we've made over the past six years?'

It's 'How does your faith guide you?'

For the record, faith is defined as an unshakable belief that isn't based on proof.

One thing it is not, is a plan.

At this fragile point in our country's history, the fact that our presidential candidates feel that they have the luxury, even for a moment, of being able to mouth metaphysical politics-as-usual platitudes is simply terrifying. Discussing something as abstract and ineffectual as faith at this moment is akin to extolling one's own favorite lottery numbers. Neither offers a concrete method of action.

Faith won't defend this country from our growing list of enemies. God won't save us from the mess we're currently in.

We need something more than wishful thinking, and we don't have the time to talk about anything less. We've all seen where it's gotten us lately."


These comments were in reference to a series of ratings-baiting news reports on so-called "Faith in Politics," but last night, listening to two grown men -- men who, in the early years of the 21st century, wish to take the reins of the most powerful country on earth during a period of unprecedented turmoil -- not only invoke asinine, 2000-year-old superstition but actually lend it such an extraordinary level of significance made my blood boil.

Considering the state of things right now, any creedence at all given to the tenets of an ancient book of magical stories, almost none of which can be proven true, isn't simply stupid -- it's fucking dangerous.

The next time Romney, Huckabee or any other political figure begins reverently heralding God or his son Jesus Christ, replace those names with, oh say, Zeus or Apollo. Imagine our leaders invoking these spirits in the year 2007 and you begin to realize how frighteningly absurd the whole thing is.

What would Jesus do?

Who gives a crap.

Wednesday, November 28, 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: 633 (321,000 if you happen to work at the corporate offices of Taco Bell; 1,575,210 if you work at the Anti-Defamation League)

(El Mariachi Hitler!)

Listening Post


Remember when electronica was supposedly going to be the next big thing?

Although the genre certainly made its mark in television commercials, and continues to, it never really became the blow-out musical trend here in the states that many had predicted. (When you think about it, the overhyping of something as generally soulless as the electronic movement could only have coincided with the overhyping of an impending cyberpunk zeitgeist like Y2K and could only have served as a backlash to a musical trend as organic as early-90s rock.)

Despite electronica's largely unfulfilled promise, there were a few acts that gained a respectable level of much-deserved crossover success (Moby, The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld). But there was one that not only made an impact, but always could've and should've been the dominant bridge between the powerhouse fury of punk and rock, and the DJ-driven hip-hop and dance beats of electronica.

The Prodigy.

Liam Howlett, Keith Flint, Maxim Reality and Leeroy Thornhill represented more than just the usual "Two Turntables and a Microphone"; they were a real band -- the Guns N' Roses of the techno scene. Unlike many of their counterparts, they were as bone-crushingly heavy and powerful as they were danceable. Their live show in particular was a visceral experience on par with seeing any band that boasted a phalanx of guitars and a wall of Marshall stacks.

The Prodigy was always electronica for people who didn't much like electronica.

The "band" still exists, despite DJ Liam Howlett's decision to essentially go it alone in recording the 2004 album Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Howlett, along with Keith and Maxim are now in the studio recording a new Prodigy record, but I have a feeling that nothing will ever top the sheer mind-blowing ferocity of their breakout release -- 1997's The Fat of the Land.

Here's The Prodigy's second single from that album, one of my all-time favorite songs: Breathe.



And of course, the clip that MTV once called "The Most Controversial Video Ever Made." Director Jonas Akerlund's explicit masterpiece of first-person sickness, misogyny, wanton aggression and illegal indulgence -- all topped off with the greatest final-shot twist in music video history: Smack My Bitch Up.

Happy Christmas (War is Over)

So less than 24 hours after posting yesterday's negligently clever column making fun of the so-called "War on Christmas," I casually glance up at the television screens in our newsroom and what do I see The O'Reilly Factor proudly proclaiming in big, bold letters?

CHRISTMAS WINS!

Thank God -- all that bloodshed avoided.

Seriously, would somebody please hit this idiot in the face with a 2X4 or something?

Consider it a Christmas gift to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Thin Red & Green Line


The following e-mail correspondence was released to the public on December 16th, 2011 via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (Amd. Public Law 104-231) and was collected at an undisclosed time via the U.S.A. Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56). It includes content which will remain classified by the United States government due to its sensitive nature regarding matters of national security until the following date: January 1st, 2050. Please be advised that despite FOIA provisions, the publication or broadcast of this communication may be subject to restriction or amendment as dictated by the Fox News "First Look" Act of 2009 (Public Law 134-793).

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 10th, 2008
TC: 13:21:06
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

I didn't think it would be this cold in Kansas, but the truth is it feels an awful lot like home right about now, except for all the unfriendlies.

My platoon's dug in far behind enemy lines. We have been for quite awhile now, just how long I don't want to say -- long enough that I've seen some things that will haunt me forever.

I keep going back to the same questions Mom: How did it get this far? How did we get into this mess? How did this bloodbath start?

The first time I heard somebody say that there was a "War on Christmas" I laughed. I figured it was just bunch of overblown garbage used to sell an idiot's books. I thought it was a scare tactic.

Then came all the court cases, the lawsuits against any businesses that used "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." The threats, the intimidation. Christians saying that they were being persecuted. Forcing their beliefs on so many until finally somebody decided to force back. I guess that's when I stopped laughing.

I can't even remember when war was officially declared.

We don't get much information out here and I'm worried that our transmissions are being monitored by electronic surveillance. XXXX XXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXXXX What we hear are mostly rumors. Is it true they nuked New York City? The last I heard, the Army was moving in to crush some kind of uprising that torched the Rockefeller Center tree and destroyed all the Christmas windows at Saks. If it's true, man, all those people. It wouldn't surprise me if it is though. After the 103rd Irregulars took out John Gibson live on the air back in March, and Fox News decided to relocate from New York to Orlando, it was only a matter of time before the religious nuts in the military finally leveled that city. They've been looking an excuse for years.

I don't know if communcation's been cut off from California, but our new captain says that after we captured Santa Cruz and Santa Monica and renamed them (although I understand the decision, I kinda think Odin Cruz and Odin Monica sound a little silly), the Army's 1st Air Cav launched an assault on San Francisco. He says they came in off the horizon in a fleet of low-flying gunships, blasting Burl Ives's Holly Jolly Christmas as they opened fire. Cap was there and says it was the most terrifying thing he'd ever experienced, the smell of flaming egg nog in the morning. Scared the hell out of the locals.

I hope you're safe Mom. There's a big mission coming up for us, maybe I'll be able to tell you about it next time I write.

Love,

Gran

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 15th, 2008
TC: 9:17:54
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

Last night, the Marines' 101st Airborne Crusaders -- they're nicknamed O'Reilly's Raiders -- dropped on our position. It was a violent fight. We lost thirty men, including one of my best friends, a guy named Muhammed. Thing is, the Raiders don't just kill you. No Mom, they want to make damn sure you know that Jesus is the reason for the season. After the battle, we found out that they'd taken a bunch of our guys, tied them up with strings of Christmas lights, then forced them to eat mistletoe and myrrh. It's a poisonous concoction. A terrible way to die from what I hear. Another reason to hate Christmas.

But I'm still not sure all of this is worth it. We hit them and then they hit back, then we hit back harder. I don't even know if the brutality of the Raiders is a response to our own "Special Ops" unit. They're known as the Season's Reapers. There are rumors going around that they've been kidnapping carollers and tacking their Santa hats to trees... with the heads still in them.

This morning we torched a Christmas tree farm near the Colorado border. The cloud of smoke from the inferno blotted out the sun. It was like hell on earth.

Give my love to Dad.

Love,

Gran

Communcation Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 19th, 2008
TC: 21:06:33
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

We're XXXXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX XX and I'm not sure what sort of weapon they've got, but it's XXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXX. I've never seen anything like it. All of a sudden there was this bright flash of white and XXX XXX XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXX XXXX garland and pine needles raining down...

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 19th, 2008
TC: 05:45:21
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

Things are bad here. Word is the military's moving reinforcements into our position. It's conscripting the Kwanzaa Regiments into service by promising them freedom after the war -- plus Cadillac Escalades with 27 inch chrome rims. The only ones still standing with us now are the Jewish Brigades. They're known as Zion's Lions. Strong fighters, but they make these fire bombs they call Mazel Tov cocktails using bottles of Manischewitz -- problem is that the stuff doesn't light very well.

It's now turned into a guerilla fight on both sides. Our best weapons right now are IEDs: Improvised Explosive Decorations. We plant them on the side of the road, and their guys just can't help but stop to take a look at them -- since they love Christmas and all. We fill the ornaments with explosives and BOOM! ... that's the "Last Noel" for them.

What's the word on the net from the front?

They say there've been some major victories for our side on the ground, but I'm hearing some rumors that really scare me.

Is it true we're putting dwarves into internment camps?

Love,

Gran

Communcation Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 24th, 2008
TC: 16:03:50
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

So this is it, the final offensive, the one that could finish this war once and for all. After the American Family Council -- those crackpots out in Mississippi -- firebombed the Supreme Court, we knew we needed to make a statement. We needed to do something big and public.

That's what will happen in a few hours.

It ends tonight.

Wish us luck.

Your loving son,

Gran

Communication Intercept #XX,XXX,XXX (USAPA)
Transmitted on: December 26th, 2008
TC: 11:20:04
From: PFC Granville Sawyer, 57th Overlanders (Tactical Infantry)
To: Mrs. Myrna Sawyer, Seattle, WA


Dear Mom,

How will history remember this war? How will it remember those who fought against Christian fundamentalist terrorism, or those who fought to preserve a beloved tradition? Who will judge all of us?

After the capture of NORAD two nights ago, and the live feed that was beamed to every home in America, after the retaliatory annihilation of the entire coast of California, after the truce that finally followed -- after the bloodbath, what's left?

Now I can tell you, I was part of the team that seized NORAD. We took Cheyenne Mountain and just as the facility was about to go live with its traditional "Tracking Santa" broadcast, we cut in and rolled our own pre-recorded phony news report to stations throughout America. It showed NORAD following "Santa's sleigh" as a blip on a radar. It showed NORAD firing missiles at Santa, and destroying him high above the North Pole. It showed the end of Santa -- the end of a Christian icon and the end of Christmas.

It was nothing but theater, but it served its purpose.

The nuclear launch that followed, from the military's Washington, DC bunker was devastating. Millions were killed in California.

Which is why both sides realized it was time to end the nightmare.

Hopefully this armistice will mean that I'll be coming home to you Mom.

Although I finally have access to a TV, and while flipping through cable channels this morning, I came across Fox News, and there was Bill O'Reilly...

...saying something about a War on Easter.

End of Correspondence

Bang Your Head, Wake the Dead (or Not)




Kevin Dubrow: 1955-2007

Kevin Dubrow's Career: 1983-1985

The Rock Says This...


At some point, I'll probably succumb to the traditional pain-in-the-ass brother-in-law archetype and find myself asking my wife's younger brother for a loan.

I say this only because I have no doubt that he's going to wind up being sickeningly rich in the near future.

His name is Michael Chobot and he's currently a film student at Penn State -- a somewhat simple designation which attenuates the enormity of this kid's talent. The truth is that while he's only in the early stages of learning the art and science of making movies, he's exhibited wildly creative, almost wunderkindian abilities for as long as I've known him and I'm sure well before even that point.

The following animated short is something he created for one of his classes. While you're watching it, keep in mind that not only did he write, direct and edit the thing -- he also scored it; he regularly composes and performs his own music.

He's like Robert Rodriguez, only without Rose McGowan sitting on his lap and Lou Dobbs trying to have him deported.

Here's Rock Paper Scissors.



When you're rich and famous Mike, just remember who showed your stuff to a handful of bored shut-ins gave you your first worldwide exposure.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Season's Readings


I have absolutely no idea why, but for some reason the readership of this little experiment of mine has doubled on-average over the past month or so (and no, that doesn't mean I've gone from 10 readers to 20 you asshole).

Honestly, even I'm a little surprised by the number of daily hits we here at Malcontent Central are getting these days.

With that in mind, I'm going to once again resurrect the best stuff in the archive for the perusal of those new to this site.

Think of it as the blogging equivalence of Daughtry playing that I'm Coming Home song twice in the same set at the Shawnee County Fair in Topeka in about five years -- just in case anybody came in late and might've missed his hit.

Enjoy kids.

(Deus Ex Malcontent: Un-American Top 40/8.3.07)

Listening Post


Back in 1994 I was lucky enough to interview what at that time was an up-and-coming young electronic/alternative band called God Lives Underwater. They had recently been signed by Rick Rubin to American Recordings and were in Miami to support the release of their first full-length album Empty.

The band was basically the brainchild of two musicians, David Reilly and Jeff Turzo -- both of whom eventually went on to not only record their own material but to help produce and remix stuff for bands like Skinny Puppy.

Reilly and Turzo struck me as genuinely good guys: they were smart, personable and the music they were cranking out at the time showed tremendous promise.

Unfortunately, right after the release of GLU's 2004 album Up Off the Floor, Reilly fell into a coma -- the result of pain medication for an abscessed tooth -- and died.

Jeff Turzo however went on to join a new band with a friend of his, Matt Mahaffey. They formed Wired All Wrong, whose debut album Break Out the Battle Tapes was released in September of last year. It's quite honestly one of the most infectious, kick-ass party albums your likely to ever hear.

So, let's follow the lineage.

First up, from the 1998 album Life in the So-Called Space Age, this is God Lives Underwater with From Your Mouth.



Then, putting to good use the versatile and thorougly surreal video for the disco classic Apache, here's Wired All Wrong's Nothing at All.



Do yourself, and by proxy decent music lovers everywhere, a favor and pick up the Wired All Wrong album. You won't regret it, or my name isn't Belvedere Jehosephat.

Never a Dull Moment


I meant to post this yesterday but I'm still on holiday time, so -- you know.

Old Cylons, a young Adama, hot lesbians, a Matrixian repetition of the now-familiar phrase "All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again," and Starbuck as the destroyer of humanity.

I just frakkin' love Battlestar Galactica.

Why in the name of the gods do we have to wait until March for the new season?

(EW.com TV Watch: "Battlestar Galactica: Razor: Close to the Edge"/11.26.07)

(Battlestarwiki.com: Battlestar Galactica: Razor overview and analysis)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Praise Of...


Can't Hardly Wait

I have a rule which essentially dictates that any movie named after a song generally isn't worth seeing (the exception being movies named after Motown songs, which are not only not worth seeing but are typically outright crap).

1998's Can't Hardly Wait should fall neatly into the former category for reasons far beyond its dubious title, swiped wholesale from one of The Replacements' catchiest singles: It's a teen comedy, it stars an unfortunately fully-clothed Jennifer Love Hewitt, it gives even two minutes of screen time to Eric Palladino, etc.

Yet for some reason, Can't Hardly Wait is just fucking great from start to finish.

It's funny, sweet, surprisingly realistic in its depiction of that singular moment between high school and college, and for the most part it doesn't treat its characters -- or the audience for that matter -- like idiots. (Even the obvious onscreen caricatures seem to be fleshed out to the point of being forgivable diversions.) The movie is a veritable who's who of young actors in the infancy of their fame: Seth Green, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Freddy Rodriguez, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Jaime Pressly, and Selma Blair all have lead or bit parts; even the fat kid from Stand By Me, Jerry O'Connell, practically redeems his entire career from that point forward by turning in the movie's best cameo.

Can't Hardly Wait manages to hit another homerun by filling the soundtrack with music not just from the era its inevitable teen audience would've expected at the time, but with songs from both the 80s and 90s -- adding a touch of John Hughes-ish nostalgia intended to help it both appeal to an older crowd and make the movie's admittedly simple themes somehow seem universal.

Most of all though, the movie makes me laugh -- and for some reason I'll never quite understand, my wife and I find ourselves throwing out lines from it all the time; it's quotable as all hell.

"So, he's sorta tall... with hair... and he wears t-shirts sometimes?"

"Nobody drink the beer -- the beer has gone bad!"

"Shut up about the dog, okay?"

"There's a mirror right there -- take a look -- you're white."

"Someone in there called me a fag!"

"Would you like to touch my penis? I am a sex machine."

"92% of the women at UCLA walking around going 'Class, or sex -- what shall I do?'"

"Why y'all gotta waste my flava? Damn."

"I can't feel my legs... I HAVE NO LEGS!"

If you translated everything into Spanish and changed the soundtrack to Shannon's Let the Music Play on repeat, it'd be just like my own high school experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dream of the Blue Turkey


On this, the day that we celebrate the beginning of the first -- but certainly not last -- great American land swindle, I ask you to remember the plight of flightless birds everywhere. Sure, that farm-raised turkey is now on your plate, but at one time it had dreams of majestically taking to the skies, just like its feathered bretheren.

Just like the poor Kiwi.



Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Montana Über Alles


Let me make something clear right off the bat: I don't normally go around taunting small children.

About a month or so ago, a friend of mine was in town -- a guy I hadn't seen since the two of us were a couple of kids watching The Wrath of Khan for the 130th time and trying to concoct viciously creative ways to destroy our neighborhood via a seemingly bottomless arsenal of fireworks. Eager to catch up after all these years, we made the decision to hook up for dinner on a Saturday night at one of my favorite local restaurants, Balthazar; having traveled to New York City quite a few times in the past, he'd made a slew of new friends up here and asked if one of them could join us. I of course had no problem with it and when I arrived at the crowded upscale bistro -- after a hearty hug from my old partner in crime -- I was promptly introduced to a guy named Jeff who bore a somewhat frightening, doppelgangerish resemblance to Scrubs star and wuss-music connoisseur, Zach Braff.

The similarities were so striking in fact that after successfully emptying several glasses of fantastic red wine, I decided to have a little fun at the expense of the table behind ours. I had noticed the three slightly mousy middle-aged women decked out in full Dress Barn gear discreetly craning their necks in our direction since we first sat down. Every so often, they and the little girl at their table would steal a quick glance over their shoulders -- their faces registering slightly quizzical excitement -- then titter away to each other in hushed sybilance. Finally, I flashed a warm smile at them -- one that I hoped said "Why hello sisters from Michigan making your first trip to the big city! Welcome! Have no fear -- I have no intention of robbing or violently raping you or your child!" -- and blurted out what they no doubt wanted to hear.

"Hi ladies, do you know who this is?" I said, gesturing toward Jeff/Zach with my wine glass.

"We were wondering --" one of them came back sheepishly.

"Yes," I said, cutting her off. "It's Zach Braff -- you know, from the hit NBC television series, Scrubs?"

The second woman spoke up, stifling a giggle. "We're from Wisconsin." Close enough. "We weren't really sure if it was him."

This immediately made me wonder if the television reception was somehow inferior in Wisconsin, and if so, why the FCC hadn't seen to the problem.

A moment later, having wrapped up dinner, our new friends were up from their table and headed for the door, but not before stopping to get one last look at the famous face of my dining companion -- the focal point of a brush with greatness that would no doubt provide endless excitement at the next Junior League meeting or church pot luck dinner.

Jeff smiled demurely, giving off an almost supernatural level of Braffitude.

"Are you on TV too?" the little girl practically shouted into my ear, her braces gleaming in the candlelight; she was smiling so wide that I was concerned her rubber bands were going to snap.

"Me?" I said. "Nope, sorry. I work in television but I'm not actually on TV."

And that's when it happened -- the moment that, if you know anything at all about the pre-teen set these days, you could've seen coming light years away.

"Have you ever seen Zac Efron?"

Ah Jesus, that kid from the fucking Disney High School Musical thing.

The look in her wide eyes was positively feral. She looked like she'd just mainlined an entire bag of sugar.

After a brief pause -- "Actually, yeah."

"YOU HAVE?!?" She literally jumped. I was concerned she'd slip on the puddle forming directly beneath her.

"Yeah sure," I deadpanned. "I just saw him a couple of days ago on the cover of Rolling Stone. Something about him being the 'next teen hearthrob' I think."

Everything about her seemed to spontaneously slide downward five inches or so. Her face deflated. Her smile drooped into a desolate frown. Her shoulders collapsed. You'd have thought I'd just told her that her entire family had been killed when their plane collided with Santa's sleigh.

"Congratulations, kid. You're officially the youngest girl whose heart I ever broke," I muttered, downing a giant gulp of wine.

"Good meeting you -- sorry about Garden State," Jeff said with a wave to the backs of the dejected little rugrat and her family, who were now making as quick an exit as possible.

If Zach Braff has received any confusing hate mail recently with a Wisconsin postmark, I apologize.


It's probably right about now that I should mention how much I hate Disney.

I hate the Walt Disney Company for roughly the same reason that a seemingly normal Midwestern pre-teen came very close to experiencing her first orgasm in the middle of a pricey French restaurant in SoHo: because the cult of Disney has exerted and continues to exert an almost undefinable form of mind control over America's kids, hypnotizing them into swallowing wholesale an inexhaustible supply of cleverly marketed but wholly mediocre crap.

I hate the Walt Disney Company because it's somehow also able to cast the same strangely anodyne spell over America's adults, cynically brainwashing a group of people who should know better into ignoring the decades of misdeeds the company has been guilty of in favor of buying into the eerily Stepfordesque image it expertly perpetuates.

I hate the Walt Disney Company because the heartless barons behind it expect you to believe that it isn't a company at all -- that it's still just Mickey Mouse and not guys like Mickey Eisner and Mickey Ovitz.

I hate the Walt Disney Company because everything about it is a lie. It sells phony perfection -- and we happily buy it.

Disney is the definition of bullshit.

About ten years ago, troublemaking Miami Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen wrote a brilliant, hilarious and entirely terrifying little book called Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World. Having grown up on Hiaasen -- his muckraking spirit was part of what inspired me to become a journalist -- and being lucky enough to have met him several times while in Miami, I looked forward to every new book of his; this particular one though was like a revelation. Hiaasen managed to sum up the palpable unease I felt when it came to Disney, and he offered more than a few examples of the malignance lurking just behind the carefully constructed facade that the company showed to the world.

Just from a mischievously miscreant point of view, Hiaasen's assertion is that Disney's prime evil lies in its constant quest to improve upon reality.

He writes:

"Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil; so uniformly efficient and courteous, so dependably clean and conscientious, so unfailingly entertaining that it's unreal, and therefore is an agent of pure wickedness. Imagine promoting a universe in which raw Nature doesn't fit because it doesn't measure up... Team Rodent doesn't believe in (things like) sleaze, nor in old-fashioned revulsion. Square in the middle is where it wants us all to be, dependable consumers with predictable attitudes. The message, never stated but avuncularly implied, is that America's values ought to reflect those of the Walt Disney Company, and not the other way around."

Now before you begin chalking such indignation up to nothing more than sour grapes, general misanthropy or a lack of fairy dust sprinkled in one's hair, best to keep in mind that Disney has, throughout the breadth of its hegemony, engaged in corporate malfeasance so goddamned abominable that all the wishing upon a star in the universe couldn't put it right. Again, the goal of much of it has been nothing less than the creation and perpetuation of a strange utopia which doesn't exist in nature but which Disney believes should.

Disney has a script, and it will force any and all under its governance to adhere to that script word for word. There ain't no room for ad libbing when Chairman Mouse is in charge.

This is the company that drilled and dug into the fragile wetlands of Central Florida and deforested a massive area of land surrounding Walt Disney World, all to ensure that the water in the park's Bay Lake was the correct shade of deep blue.

This is the company that found itself accused of quietly poisoning and beating to death a group of federally protected large black buzzards that had the bad form to make a home atop one of the hotels on its Orlando property, potentially endangering Disney World's most salient ingredient -- the one tourists from around the world have come to expect with the certainty of a morning sunrise: absolute, inoffensive predictability.

Likewise, this is the company that needlessly killed hundreds of lemmings during the filming of its Academy-Award winning 1958 nature "documentary," White Wilderness.


Oh yeah, you didn't hear about that?

The story of White Wilderness is by now as legendary as the mass lemming death march that the film purports to show. Unfortunately, only one of the two tales -- that would be the former -- is true. Put another way, lemmings don't in fact throw themselves off cliffs; it's a myth that persists to this day thanks mostly to the good folks at Disney, who, during the making of White Wilderness, managed to capture this incredible, impossible migration on film. The movie's crew had heard the rumor about the sad fate of those suicidal lemmings and decided to travel to Alberta, Canada to see it for themselves. When they arrived, they found that not only was the story a bunch of nonsense, but that there weren't even any lemmings in Alberta, Canada -- they live almost exclusively above the Arctic Circle -- nor was there even a nearby ocean. Undaunted by such minor factual hurdles, the crew bought hundreds of lemmings from a group of Innuit schoolchildren in Manitoba (no doubt mesmerizing them with images of Mickey Mouse, the way a child molester might) and hastily constructed a snow-covered turntable which they then put the lemmings on top of and rolled cameras. The lemmings essentially ran in place, with only the background moving.

Once that was done, it was time for the money shot.

The film crew went to a nearby river, once again made sure the cameras were rolling, and then threw lemmings into the icy water by the handful. The poor lemmings of course drowned, but hey, Disney got its movie -- and an Oscar for that matter.

Knowing this story, it should surprise no one that Disney was responsible for creating a series of pro-American propaganda films that were aired all over Iraqi television -- it obviously has no issue with the innocent dying for a lie.

There are so many more examples of questionable corporate behavior: from strong-arming local governments that stood in the way of Disney World and Disneyland's "progress," to eventually creating its own puppet government -- the Reedy Creek Improvement District -- in Orlando, in charge of its own police force which answers strictly to the whims of the Mouse, to the purchase of a Caribbean island notoriously popular with drug-smugglers which the company benignly rechristened as a family friendly stop for its Disney Cruiseline, to the suing of a daycare center in Hallandale, Florida which dared to paint images of Disney characters on its walls. (The company claimed the daycare was violating its intellectual property rights.)

But Disney's true villainy lies once again not in what it's doing behind the scenes, but in the innocence of the scenes it's created to hide behind. Disney has what could be the largest and most offensive gap in the corporate universe between its image and its reality.

And most of that image is aimed at snaring your kids.

It's the perfect, self-perpetuating marketing technique -- literally raising the company's own consumers from birth.

Disney grabs your children right out of the womb, enticing them with colorful banalities and nurturing them through product placement and its own televised propaganda wing -- Cap Cities/ABC TV -- until brand name recognition is practically Pavlovian. As they grow, Disney plays the role of their BFF -- growing alongside them and responding to the very wants and needs that it's surreptitiously insinuating into their consciousness.

In effect, creating its own demand for dreck like High School Musical.

Or -- God save us all -- Hannah Montana.


I don't envy parents of young girls right now. I would probably consider going the Disney-approved-lemming route if it meant that I could avoid having to indulge a screaming 'tween desperate to lick the sweat from Miley Cyrus's ass crack. The High School Musical craze was utterly surreal to me; this Hannah Montana shit is just flat-out baffling. I'd like to think that the pre-teen worship of the young Miss Cyrus is at least amusing to most parents, who unlike their kids remember a time when her father Billy Ray was the most ridiculous man in America. Of course that's assuming that most middle-American moms these days would be unwilling to admit to their complicity in the God-awful "Achy Breaky" craze -- the one which held this country hostage for what seemed like an eternity during the early 90s.

Now, proving that Billy Ray Cyrus's sperm would indeed mutate exactly as many had feared, his daughter has taken her rightful place as the new Gozer the Gozerian of popular culture.

She's Blossom without the nose. She's Hillary Duff without the idiot from Good Charlotte. She's Hannah Montana!

And she's turning millions of girls below the age of 14 into little Veruca Salts, angrily demanding that their parents drop everything to buy them CDs, DVDs, concert tickets, lunchboxes and anything else adorned with the image and featuring the painfully average vocal ability of Miley Fuckin' Cyrus.

It's gotten so bad, what with Christmas (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company) approaching and all, that people are now joining in a class-action lawsuit against Miley Cyrus's online fanclub because they feel that they were lured into buying up memberships with seductive promises of a first crack at tickets to the sold-out Hannah Montana tour.

Let me say that again: People are suing because they couldn't get tickets to see Billy Ray Cyrus's daughter. Who needs the striking late night writers? That kind of comedy gold writes itself.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, a 35-year-old man hung on to a nine-foot-tall statue of Hannah Montana's golden calf-esque likeness for six days to win tickets to a sold out HM show. "I'm ecstatic. It's like a dream come true," he said just moments after the final challenger died of shame, releasing her grip and ensuring his victory.

Look, I'm the first one to agree that the mitigating factor of a phenomenon like Hannah Montana is that, for most young girls, it likely represents the final relatively harmless stop on the pop culture line before MTV gets its hooks into them and graduates them to full-blown sluthood with noxious crap like The Hills. But even MTV -- which is owned by Viacom -- is either unable or unwilling to make use of the kind of full-spectrum corporate synergy that Disney brings to bear when it comes to marketing pabulum like Hannah Montana and High School Musical to America's kids. The onslaught from film, broadcast television, cable TV, DVD, publishing and music outlets is simply unavoidable. A child has almost no choice but to hop on the bandwagon.

Which of course is exactly the way Disney wants it, because for those engineering another generation of consumers -- Imagineering, if you'd like -- Hannah Montana is just the next phase in a lifelong strategy.

I have no doubt as to what that little girl from Wisconsin is already bugging her mom for this Christmas.

Sure, it's a small world after all -- but it's all Disney's.

Something Fucking Awesome This Way Comes


I'm just positively giddy with excitement over the new trailer for J.J. Abrams's no-longer-top-secret project -- now officially named Cloverfield.

The HD version of it that's now available on Apple's trailer site allows you to watch the action frame-by-frame, which of course I've already done several times. My favorite image by far -- the one that made me literally bust up into hysterical cackling while sitting at my desk this morning -- is of the building I work in half-collapsed, with various sheets of paper and debris raining down.

This will be the first true "New York City Gets its Ass Kicked" movie since 9/11 -- and, from the way things look, the best ever of that thoroughly enjoyable genre.

I'm just hoping that whatever huge creature it is that's tearing apart my home in the film -- it has the good sense to stomp on those stupid bitches from Sex & the City.

(See the new Cloverfield trailer in HD here.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Listening Post: Guilty Pleasures Edition


Okay folks, many of you have spent the past year-and-a-half (or however long you've been reading this occasionally unrestrained dreck) complaining that I'm an intellectual elitist who delights a little too much in ridiculing any taste or opinion I consider inferior to my own.

To those who feel this way: now's your chance to have your revenge; I'm handing it to you on a silver platter.

I admit having to stifle a wave of borderline nauseaous laughter at the fact that at last night's so-called "American Music Awards," both Daughtry and Rascal Flatts -- rather than having a pair of those phallic trophies rammed up their respective asses -- managed to walk away "winners." (Once again, if someone would please give Chris Daughtry his job back pumping gas at that Chevron in Lubbock, I'd be eternally grateful.) That said, I'm also forced to admit that while I detest both of the above blights on the musical landscape, there are a few bands and artists which many would consider cut from the same worthless cloth as any Daughtry or Rascall Flatts for whom I have an inexplicable and indefensible affinity.

I'm willing to loudly proclaim my devotion to My Chemical Romance and even my strange attraction to Kelly Clarkson, but for these I pretty much have no excuse.

So here you go -- feel free to mock away: It's five of my favorite guilty pleasures.


Saliva

For the most part, Saliva sounds like about ten other bands I can think of off the top of my head (at least one of which is on this list). At the same time though, there was something about their big label debut Every Six Seconds that caught my ear and kept it. Their singles have always been average at best, but it's the songs in between -- like Storm from 2002's Back Into Your System -- where these guys actually shined.

Yes, I know, you can save the reminders that this song has been adopted by the WWE -- it's still not a bad single.

Saliva's Ladies and Gentlemen.




Breaking Benjamin

The aforementioned band that Saliva sounds quite a bit like?

Breaking Benjamin.

Once again, I don't like everything they do -- but the songs of theirs that I like, I really like.

This is one: Polyamorous.




Jimmy Eat World

Technically, I'm not sure I should feel too guilty about liking Jimmy Eat World; I'm including them because I have several friends whose opinions I respect who seem to feel that I should not only be ashamed of myself for loving this band, but that I should consider either a steady diet of Nick Cave or outright suicide as a means of atoning for my crimes against quality musical tastes.

Maybe it's the fact that Jimmy Eat World, for the most part, regularly churns out unabashedly optimistic youth anthems -- the kind that just a few decades ago were the bread and butter of bands like Journey.

Regardless, not one but two songs from the band's 2004 album Futures haven't left my main iPod playlist since the record's release: Polaris and 23.

From their new album, Chase this Light, this is Big Casino.




Puddle of Mudd

Fuck it, I'll say it: Puddle of Mudd's Come Clean was, at the time of its release, the best debut rock record I'd heard since Alice in Chains' Facelift.

I still like them.

Sue me.

Here's Control.




Limp Bizkit

I've saved the best (read: most embarrassing) for last.

My name is Chez -- and I'm a Limp Bizkit fan.

I'm the first one to admit that the world always would've been a better place if Fred Durst had been aborted in the first trimester, but for some reason the first time I sat down and gave Significant Other a real listen, I couldn't help bobbing my head and, yes, wanting to rush right out and start breaking stuff.

I'll do you even one better: I think Chocolate Starfish was a fucking great album from start to finish. A little on the self-indulgent side sure, but anything that ends with Scott Weiland's sullen contribution to Hold On earns a place in my heart.

Here's the Bizkit at their most simultaneously bloated and viscerally brutal -- Boiler.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Government which Governs Least Annoys Most

Quote of the Day:

""Congress does two things very well: one is nothing and two is overreact."

-- Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. (Referring to the recently passed bill which cracks down on mortgage lenders who steer buyers toward risky subprime loans)


The U.S. Congress, particularly for a Republican, is pretty much the only fucking place in America where the easiest way to get and keep a job is to basically insist that the entire institution and everything it stands for is shit. Imagine for a minute walking into your office and applying for employment, then telling not only your prospective boss but every other employee there -- as well as the media -- that the whole goddamned place is an inefficient, corrupt mess and that nothing can fix it. Now imagine being allowed to repeat this ridiculous public mantra every single day for the duration of the position that you, for some unknown reason, were actually given.

You know what, you pompous asshole? Somebody out there hired you to change things -- to make the system better. Shut the fuck up, stop bitching about it and get to work.

Into Thin Airhead

Screw it, let's stay with the George Bernard Shaw theme for a little while longer. Shaw once said that martyrdom was the only way a person could become famous without ability.

He of course was lucky enough to be dead by the time reality television began trampling our culture like the crowd at a Who concert.

The most egregious "Reality TV" of all remains, needless to say, the news. Find your stupid ass in the middle of a mildly interesting collision of unusual circumstances and you're set for at least the next 15 minutes.

Just ask the unfortunately named Kyla Ebbert.

You might remember the 23-year-old Ebbert as the one who induced two or three seconds of eyebrow-raising last summer when she was pulled off a Southwest Airlines flight for supposedly being dressed "too provocatively." Apparently in the alternate universe catered to by Southwest Airlines, a bleach-blonde in a sweater, tank top and miniskirt constitutes an actionable offense -- remember though, these are the same idiots who couldn't get a flight out of LAX on time if you jammed an alarm clock up their collective asses.

Now Ebbert, in a completely expected development, has parlayed her moment in the limelight into a five-figure nude spread in Playboy. (Well, on Playboy.com, which is I suppose the farm league where the magazine can make a buck or two off of girls who really only merit a second look when they're either dressed like tramps or completely naked -- the Paris Hilton model of female beauty, if you will.)

Ebbert's pictoral, which she insists is "tasteful and classy," is tastefully called "Legs in the Air." The former Hooters waitress goes on to say that she doesn't think posing nude will in any way interfere with her dreams of one day becoming an attorney.

She's right -- posing nude probably won't stop her from becoming a serious professional; being dumber than a dead hamster might though.

But what do I know? I sit here quoting Shaw while this girl at least understands that fake boobs and a willingness to show them off will get you further these days than even martyrdom.

Listening Post


I've mentioned the sheer exuberant excellence of Spring Awakening before (Not the Same Old Song and Dance/10.12.07), but some things just bear repeating. I've seen the show twice now and I'd have no trouble seeing it again and again.

Unfortunately, the recent stagehands strike has ground a good portion of Broadway to a halt, so in the spirit of get-the-hell-back-to-work reconciliation, I offer the video version of Spring Awakening's breakout hit The Bitch of Living.

The music for the show was written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, it won a slew of Tonys last year, including Best Musical, and it features a young cast of relative unknowns -- which only adds to the joyous sense of uppity rebellion pouring out of every number.

This song, like most in the show, is about sex (masturbation in particular), but being that the whole thing is set in 19th century Germany, Sheik and Sater still have the humorous forethought to slip in a "God is Dead" reference.

Gotta love that.

Here it is, The Bitch of Living.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Skeleton Key


In addition to all the other brilliant things that he said throughout his lifetime, George Bernard Shaw offered up what could be the most insightful advice ever given on the subject of surviving the trials and tribulations of love, marriage and family.

He insinuated that if you can't keep a skeleton in the closet, the smartest thing you can do is teach it how to dance.

As many of you know, my wife Jayne and I have been going through a period of very serious turmoil recently. I've made no attempt to either hide or downplay this fact during the past couple of months.

In spite of the fact that I reveal so much of my personal life here on this site, prudence would suggest that I keep any positive news on the relationship front to myself, pending a little breathing room. But given that both Jayne and I have received so many e-mails, comments and MySpace messages with warm wishes -- and I really can't express how much I appreciate the outpouring of support -- I feel like I should at least keep those who care filled in.

Although we can offer no guarantees and are operating solely on the "One Day at a Time" plan, Jayne and I have made the mutual decision that our marriage is worth working on -- that we're worth working on. Despite our seemingly intractable declarations of separation and possible divorce (and please understand that at no point should the seriousness of those claims ever have been in question) both of us understand and accept our responsibilities to ourselves, to our families and to the promise we once made to each other.

As for how we feel about one another: Love was never the problem, although who knows -- in the end, maybe it'll be the solution.

Once again, there are no assurances, but when are there ever?

For the time being, at least we have our dance partners back.

Listening Post: Something Old, Something New


Two of my favorite songs from two different eras.

Great Northern is a fantastic band out of L.A. which features Solon Bixler, one of the early members of 30 Seconds to Mars.

From their full-length album Trading Twilight for Daylight, which was released last May, here's Home.




When I was growing up, there were few bands I loved like The Waterboys.

Mike Scott, Karl Wallinger and company recorded some of the most powerful, passionate and, as it would turn out, enduring music of the 80s or any other decade.

This song is not only brilliant from start to finish, but it features one of the greatest singular moments in recorded rock and roll. When Scott sings, "You came like a comet, blazing your trail" and the sound of that triumphant shot echoes across the vocals, I get chills.

Every time.

Here's the live version of Whole of the Moon.

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: 300 (345,987,003 if you happen to work with an overabundance annoyingly vocal Christians)

(Big Baby Jesus Thrust)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Deader


So, Kanye West's mother -- rather than tolerate one more day of her son's petulant whining I'd imagine -- has opted to take the easy way out and die.

This of course isn't the least bit funny.

What is mildly amusing is that Dr. Donda West, apparently not content to simply get by on her Ph.D or the very big brain behind it, may have died while undergoing -- wait for it -- cosmetic surgery.

Think of it as the hip-hop mom equivalent of your average rapper being crushed by a falling 22" spinning rim.

Can we get a moment of silence in the rap community for Dr. West?

And can we make it last for the next hundred years or so?

(Yeah, yeah, I know -- I'm going to hell. Feel free to direct your complaints here.)

Listening Post



These guys are just a special brand of cool.

The first single from their most recent album To All New Arrivals, this is Faithless with the spectacular video for Bombs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where the Truth Lies


"There will be time, to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet."

-- T.S. Eliot

"THE TRUTH CAN BE ADJUSTED"

-- Poster for Michael Clayton


In the pantheon of exceptional lies ever told, it probably doesn't even merit a seat. The Great Teacher's Note Cover-up is initially noteworthy insofar as it was the first time I attempted to put one over on anyone -- in this case, my mother and father -- in such a grand fashion. It obviously wouldn't be the last.

When I was a first-grader at Miami Lakes Elementary, my teacher Miss Feingold made a hobby out of issuing lengthy written diatribes decrying my lack of attention, lack of respect for authority and general lack of interest in anything she had to say. I remember she would give me a look which I now know to be the bitter snarl of the miserably undersexed, then tuck the official teacher-parent document into my backpack and send me on my way -- safe in the misguided knowledge that, perhaps because she was an adult and in a position of some power relative to my own standing, her silly little rant would reach its intended target unscathed.

Believe it or not, her missives actually did find their way into my parents' hands most of the time. This had almost nothing to do with a desire to do right by Miss Feingold and everything to do with the fact that, as a child, I fully believed that my father could read minds, see through walls, be in seven or eight places at the same time -- invisibly -- and make me disappear from the face of the planet as if I'd never existed, should the mood strike him. I never wanted to run the risk of not giving his omniscience its due, and wind up paying dearly for it.

Well, almost never.

The timing of one specific note was such that even the threat of filicide wasn't enough to keep me from ensuring that my parents would never lay eyes on it. It was opening day of the big Miami Lakes carnival -- an annual event that I awaited with the same kind of desperation that a death row inmate waits for that last minute call from the governor -- that Miss Feingold apparently realized it had been some time since she'd pointed her resentment for a 20-something-year tradition of failure in my direction. She penned a nasty note detailing my supposed unwillingness to complete my assignments as instructed -- what she called "lazy" I called "unchallenged" -- and as usual sent me home, this time with what amounted to a ticking time bomb sure to destroy my hopes of going to the carnival once it reached the hands of my father. (In hindsight, I'm almost certain she picked that particular day deliberately.)

Needless to say, I had to take decisive, deceptive action to save my dream of ferris wheels and cotton candy -- so I torched the thing.

It's really a testament to my belief in the investigative abilities of my father, who at that time was a Miami-Dade cop, that I felt the need not only to hide the offending letter but to literally obliterate it. I figured wherever I hid the note, he would find it: whether I dumped it in a 7-11 trash bin or buried it in the next door neighbor's backyard or mailed it to Alaska, one way or the other he'd sniff it out, track it down and pull it out of his ass one night at the dining room table, just to see the look on my face. It was with these superhuman powers in mind that, later that afternoon, I grabbed a book of matches from the aforementioned 7-11, then ran to an alley near my house, set Miss Feingold's words on fire and -- just to be absolutely sure -- buried the ashes in a field a few blocks away.

Later that night, I went to the carnival; I had a great time.

By the way, I fully expect a phone call from my father at any moment informing me that I'm grounded.

As I said, The Great Teacher's Note Cover-up was not by any means the most impressive lie I ever told nor was it the most creative instance of my burning and burying the facts; what was significant about it though was that it marked the first time I realized that lying, despite the admittedly considerable risk involved, had the potential to yield immeasurable benefits. Even more significant was that I suddenly understood that it was indeed possible to do it and not get caught and, most edifying or troubling depending on your point of view, that I could do it without so much as a word of protest from that underdeveloped thing supposedly known as my conscience.

So do it I did -- over and over for a period of my life that I can now say, in retrospect, lasted far too long for me to be able to consider myself a decent and worthwhile person when the totality of my existence is taken into account.

There were times that I simply bullshitted. There were times that I outright lied to people's faces. There were times that I rationalized what I knew to be insincere behavior: I told myself that the truth would hurt too much, so really why bother with it? (In the end, you're doing someone a favor by not telling the truth; it would only cause unnecessary trauma, right?) Providing the ultimate irony was the fact that I worked as a journalist; my job was to tell the truth, and yet in my personal life I told lie after lie after lie. Even when the lies occasionally unraveled, I told more -- at times forgetting what was real and what was nothing more than my own personal pageantry.

I lost track of who I was; I damn well became something I never wanted to be.

Here's the thing though: in spite of the lies I told myself about why I was lying in the first place -- the things I said in the hopes of calming my conscience once it finally did begin putting up a fight -- I somehow always understood that the truth mattered, and that I had no excuse for what I was doing.

I'll say it again -- the truth matters.

It matters, despite what we've come to believe.

At the risk of sounding grandiose, we for some reason now accept that the truth is like anything else in our society: fleeting, malleable -- up for debate, at the whim of democracy or subject to adjustment by whoever shouts the loudest. We're expected to believe that all supposed "truths" are equal and are therefore deserving of equal consideration. This is a lie in and of itself.

Not only do we seem to not mind being lied to, we've come to expect it. Bill Clinton can take you for an idiot by forcefully declaring his lack of sexual contact with a chunky White House intern; Dick Cheney can insult your intelligence by literally trying to make you believe that your eyes, ears and gut are, ironically, lying to you about what's going on in Iraq; Paris Hilton can claim, with a completely straight face, that she doesn't do drugs. The fact that they each have the ability to do it isn't a surprise; the fact that they think no one will care enough to call them on it -- their firm belief that they can get away with it -- is just fucking deplorable.

We're willing to seriously debate the concept of "intelligent design," despite there not being a shred of proof to back it up; we give it creedence simply because there are enough morons out there who believe it, as if reality is subject to the whims of whomever. The problem with this kind of debate is that if we consider all so-called facts to be equal, if pick and choose what we hold up to evidentiary standards, we render the truth worthless.

One more time -- the truth matters.

It matters, because it's a standard by which we measure a lie.

Chuck Klosterman's written a lot over the years about his fascination with questions of reality -- what's real and what isn't, and how can we tell the difference. He makes no apologies for his populist references, and I won't either in this case.

In one of his better essays, Klosterman waxes philosophical on the movie The Matrix. One of the underlying questions posed by the movie -- one of the more subtle aspects of the film that's tough to spot in between crap being blown up and Keanu Reeves turning in yet another mannequin-like performance -- is whether it's preferrable to live a comfortable lie or a harsh reality. His argument, and it's a damn good one, is that if nothing about your life is real -- if it's all a lie -- then the lie becomes the truth. Once again, there's no standard by which to measure the fakery, so it makes no difference either way.

But what if only one part of your life isn't real?

Is it better then to be comfortable, despite not being aware of what's really happening? Is there really bliss to be found in ignorance?

Better yet, is a lie that hasn't been discovered really a lie?

The answers to these questions of course are no, no and yes. Bullshit is bullshit regardless of whether you personally can smell it.

The truth matters.

It matters because any decision made without all the facts can never be the right decision.

If my father had received that letter from Miss Feingold all those years ago, he likely wouldn't have allowed me to go to the Miami Lakes carnival -- or maybe he would have.

I'll never know, because I never gave him the chance.

Friday, November 09, 2007

F-Troops


Messages From Our Troops To The Families They Can Barely Remember

Finally, a Sensible Take on the 2008 Presidential Race


“I cannot believe that it possible a woman can become Premier of US and A. In Kazakhstan, we say that to give a woman power, is like to give a monkey a gun -- very dangerous. We do not give monkeys guns any more in Kazakhstan ever since the Astana Zoo massacre of 2003 when Torkin the orangutan shoot 17 schoolchildrens. I personal would like the basketball player Barak Obamas to be Premier.”

-- Borat Sagdiyev

Finally, a Sensible Take on the 2008 Presidential Race: Part 2


"This whole race sounds like the start of a bad joke: A black guy, a woman and a Mormon walk into a bar..."

-- Scott Walterman, Senior Director of News Programming, XM Satellite Radio

Listening Post



Happy Friday kids!

It's UNKLE's Hold My Hand.


Also, a little bonus for you. The Killers have always been hit or miss: Mr. Brightside was average at best; All These Things that I've Done was just fucking incredible. Their last album came down once again on the average side of the fence, but the new single -- the first from the album Sawdust -- is damn good. Although embedding has been disabled on it, here's the link to the video for Tranquilize.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Use Your Collusion


At first glance, it looks like an only slightly unfamiliar parallel universe -- a funhouse mirror world.

An embattled and power-hungry leader who seized the reins of his country years ago, by means many still contend were illegal, suspends constitutional rights -- claiming it necessary to defeat the forces of terrorism and a nefarious "activist judicial" element.

A military crackdown is imposed on all those who protest or resist.

Violence erupts in the streets and the country itself is plunged into chaos, a situation made more frightening by the fact that the nation in question is a nuclear power.

On the other side of the globe, another questionable regime which inextricably linked itself to the failing stratocracy can now offer only feckless soundbites -- politically necessary pleas to that country's beseiged leader to end the turmoil and once again allow freedom and democracy to reign.

It's the most gruesome of ironies that the current state of Pakistan sounds an awful lot like the most conspiracist vision of where the United States has long been headed. Is it therefore even the slightest bit surprising that our president and his cadre of dangerous acolytes have willfully backed the dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf -- a man who came to power by overthrowing an elected prime minister -- for so long?


Pakistan as it now stands represents possibly the most flawless archetype for the complete failure of the Bush Foreign Policy (with only the touchy situation our military folly in Iraq has created between Kurdish rebels and Turkey even coming close in any way). Our country has once again put itself in the firing line of those around the world who would call us hypocrites for bombastically routing one despot while coddling another, the latter indulged simply because he knows the magic word of the current era -- "terrorism" -- and is willing to use it to his advantage.

Musharraf's supposed stand against terrorism has been his golden ticket since day one.

If all of this seems slightly familiar, it should. Back in the 70s and 80s, this country intractably, stupidly, supported corrupt government after corrupt government -- killer after killer -- provided any be willing to state openly that there was no greater threat than communism. Not the systematic torture of its own people. Not the utter lack of any freedom of its own of which to speak. It's no secret that we've forged dubious alliances throughout the decades with those with whom such "friendships" are politically expedient -- a means to a supposedly greater end. (Think back to that picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein himself when the two men shared the common enemy of Iran.) Rarely though has one of our puppets turned on us so quickly, so drastically and in such a publicly embarrassing manner.

Watching George Bush politically tap dance while all but begging his ally to reinstitute democracy and stop crushing dissent -- while certainly good for a smirk at the flawless irony -- is so painful that you almost want to look away. "He's just so screwed," always seems to come to mind as I watch the Texas Bull-in-the-china-shop try to navigate the razor's edge dividing political necessity from outright farcical hypocrisy.

At the very least though, there may be a lesson for us in what's now happening on the streets of Pakistan.


The surreal sight of men in suits and ties throwing bottles, holding protest signs and chanting anti-government slogans is tough to wrap your head around, and yet it's strangely "right" on a number of levels. Those taking up the cause of fighting for the constitution and the rule of law in Pakistan are, in fact, the country's lawyers and judges; they're the ones now going to jail in droves (one quarter of the country's legal professionals are now incarcerated) for decrying the current state of martial rule. Yet once again, it really isn't surprising that police on the street and the rulers in the castle keep feel so threatened by this uprising of attorneys; let's face it, there's something ominous about the idea of hundreds of people in professional attire -- those from whom you'd never expect this kind of unrestrained venom -- willing to take a stand and go toe-to-toe with the soldiers of a corrupt government. It shows that they, quite literally, mean business.

Whether intentional or not, they're making a point about protest that we in America would do well to take note of.

A few years ago, journalist agitator Matt Taibbi wrote an outstanding column in which he condemned an American protest movement that's become thoroughly meaningless. The reason for this impotency, he rightly argues, stems from the fact that our model for modern activism is taken directly from the 60s, and that the ridiculous latter-day hippies who organize today's marches, protests etc. operate under the faulty assumption that "individuality" still has the ability to shake the system to its core.

It doesn't. Not even a little.

A bunch of idiots in slightly differing vintage t-shirts and goatees, neo-tribal piercings and face paint -- all forms of supposed individuality that have been co-opted, pre-packaged and done to death -- do little besides prove to the people in power that only a select group ("Those types") is against them, and that its members will always be too busy smoking pot and playing hackey-sack to get organized and pose any real threat.

But, as Taibbi puts it, imagine the looks on the faces of those inside the White House if 300,000 people dressed in matching suits marched silently up Pennsylvania Avenue. It would scare the living hell out of our government.

Maybe it's simply because there's something unnerving about the uniform which outsiders see as dictated by the system being turned against the system.

Maybe it just transforms a bunch of haphazard elements into one larger, cohesive unit in the eyes of an adversary.

Whatever the reason, its presence is being felt in Pakistan.

And once again, these days, Pakistan bears a little too much resemblance to the America that could be.

Nativity Scenes


I try my best not to repost too much wholesale content from other sites, lest I risk violating the Ted Stevens Interwebs Copyright Act of 2006, but every so often you just have to swipe some shit.

These two pictures made me literally spit coffee all over my computer.

They're from one of Fark.com's now-legendary photoshop contests, and I figure as long as I give a shout out to both the site and the photoshop creators themselves -- screen names "Texaco Saves" and "You Really Like Me" respectively -- Drew won't try to set me on fire the next time I see him.

The photoshop theme: "The world today if Native Americans had successfully thwarted Europeans from taking over their land back in the 1600s"




A reminder by the way that Drew Curtis's book, It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News is now available at your local bookstore. It makes a great Kwanzaa gift.

Listening Post



"Everyone is looking for someone to blame.
But you share my bed, you share my name.
Well, go ahead and call the cops.
You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops.
She said baby, I still love you.
Sometimes theres nothing left to do."

-- Tom Waits, "Hold On"

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: 100 (125,000 if you can synchronize all the computers to begin playing the song at the exact same time)

(Poor Hamster)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Forebode Warrior


I seem to remember that in the days immediately following the "assassinations" (see Chris Rock's definition) of worthless airbrush t-shirt icons Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, one or two media outlets actually made the ill-advised decision to jump on the bandwagon of those asking the laughable question, "Did Tupac and Biggie predict their own deaths?"

As if it were somehow spooky that two thug-life dipshits whose nearly every song involved violence of one kind or another might've wound up being killed themselves at some point.

In the spirit of that kind of ratings-driven thinking, I give you last night's episode of Larry King Live (the show with the most unintentionally ironic name in television).

For an hour last night, Terri Irwin, the widow of Steve Irwin -- Aussie stereotype and notorious irritant to 93% of the animal kingdom -- had her own up-close encounter with the elusive Vampire Bat of Brooklyn, talking to Larry King about her life in khaki, as one half of the married team behind television's erstwhile most popular nature show. It was all to promote a book she's written about the intrepid adventures of her late husband, who was killed by a stray stingray barb while shooting a scene for their show along Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

It was pretty much your average interview -- until Larry began baiting Mrs. Irwin with the staff booker "pre-interview"-approved insinuation that Steve Irwin may have, like Tupac and Biggie before him, predicted his own death.

To this, Terri Irwin responded that yes, Steve had in fact foretold that he would "die young."

Larry, likely having just experienced mild incontinence, reacted with shock.

Terri nodded in quiet reverence.

So, just for the cheap seats, let's recap: a guy who, from his 12th birthday on, spent as much time as he could poking, prodding, and generally harassing every deadly creature on the planet once intoned that he probably wouldn't live to see old age.

Thanks Nostradamus.

Although I still believe that Irwin was, in fact, assassinated by that stingray.

Hey, if anybody had a good reason to...

No Residuals, No Peace

New York/Los Angeles (AP) -- The forecast is in from Hollywood: Get ready for a long, cold winter of repeats and reality TV.

Tuesday afternoon, the AP reported that Fox's "Back to You" and "Till Death," and CBS' "Rules of Engagement" will stop production and go on hiatus because of the Hollywood writers' strike. This a day after the late night comedy shows -- including those of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel -- went into reruns.

Members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike early Monday morning after failing to reach an agreement with the major TV networks and movie studios on their contract, which expired Nov. 1. The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing the major TV networks and movie studios, are at odds over how much of a cut writers should get for online distribution and DVDs of TV shows and movies.

According to experts, unless the two groups meet back at the negotiating table this week, the writers probably won't pick up their pens anytime soon.

Despite the dire predictions for television's immediate future, at least one business seems to be thriving in the wake of these most recent developments: the strike is said to be a boon to New York City's "ubiquitous, giant inflatable rat" industry. (See picture, to the left of slightly smaller rat-like creature Tina Fey.)

Listening Post



Although the "video" is nothing more than a still frame taken from the band's website, this song from Radiohead's new album In Rainbows is easily the best three-and-a-half minutes of music they've done in more than a decade.

Here's All I Need.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Who Sold the Dog Out?


I could go on for hours about the sheer perfection of every single facet of the controversy currently swirling around Duane Chapman -- better known as "Dog the Bounty Hunter," a name which is no doubt spoken by uneducated trailer trash with the same kind of fearful hush that the vampires in Blade mentioned "The Daywalker."

The fact that anyone is shocked to learn that a guy who wakes up every morning and immediately decides that he wants to look like a roadie for Molly Hatchet might be inclined to throw around a racial slur when he thinks nobody's listening is shocking in and of itself.

Also not surprising is all the bullshit outrage and phony self-righteous indignation that's coming from network executives who -- as in the case of irrelevant boob Don Imus -- knew exactly what they were getting when they gave Dog his own show and now have the colossal balls to suddenly feign a shred of decency and some semblance of standards.

And finally, anyone who was aghast to find out that Dog's own son sold him out to the National Enquirer hasn't been paying attention lately. This marks the third time in the past year that a kid has betrayed the trust of a father by taking what would've, and should've, been a private family moment and using readily-available new media to shame him into submission. Whether you agree with Dog's admittedly Deliverance-esque opinions doesn't matter in the least; it was never for you to decide in the first place -- not based on a personal conversation between father and son.

I've mentioned this phenomenon before; feel free to take a look: (Big Daughter is Watching You/05.04.07)