Friday, October 31, 2008

Listening Post: Bonus Halloween Edition

Just for the hell of it -- before I sign off for the day in order to give myself time to get the bowl of cough drops ready for the trick-or-treating kids and drink a few glasses of Maker's Mark: Two videos perfect for Halloween, from two visionary directors.

One remains the most disturbingly chilling video ever made -- pure hallucinatory madness. The other hits a note of creepy unease that can't quite be explained but is undeniable.

Happy Halloween, folks.

Aphex Twin -- Come to Daddy (Dir: Chris Cunningham)

Nine Inch Nails -- Closer (Dir: Mark Romanek)

Fear of a Black Aura

In the immortal words of Dave Barry: I swear I'm not making this up. The following is an e-mail chain sent to me by an alert reader (thanks Jon Rey) after it was sent to him by someone he knows, and so on and so on. Normally I'd say that it's shocking in its hilariously jaw-dropping stupidity, except for two things: 1) we've seen this kind of thing over and over during this presidential campaign, and 2) not only are there people out there who believe horseshit like this, but unfortunately their votes don't count less than yours or mine. So without further ado -- behold what you should apparently really be terrified of this Halloween: BARACK OBAMA'S DARK, SATANIC AURA!

Dear Friends,

I also know this friend, and I feel like what she is telling is the truth. She has a remarkable gift, and I appreciate the fact that she has been willing to share this because it is a lot of the same feelings I have had about him although I can see no auras.

I love you all and pray that each of us will be making the right decisions in the voting that we do. Please get help from the spirit and vote as your heart dictates. So much depends on the outcome, but I guess in reality if we as a nation could return to righteousness that would be the best outcome of all.


I know this person very well. She is a good friend of mine. She is very honorable. I have never known her to lie. She has indeed been blessed with a special gift.


Dear Friends and Family,

The Lord finally gave me permission to share this. I hope it’s not too late.

As you know, I have the spiritual gift of seeing auras. When I look at people, my spiritual eyes see shades of gray, from white to black. Over the past two months, I have seen pictures of Barack Obama, from childhood to now, bleeped on various news channels. It has been interesting to watch his aura get darker and darker the older he got. I was definitely not prepared for what I saw during the last presidential debate. Senator Obama turned and looked directly at the camera while answering a question. I saw that his aura was black, not just the dark gray I have been seeing, but black. Superimposed on the black was a hideously evil face, like a gargoyle’s face, or the scariest evil monster you can imagine. Then the words “Pure Evil” came to my mind. This disturbed me so much that I began to cry. I didn’t cry out of fear of Obama, but out of concern for our country. Imagine having the devil himself run this great country. If Obama wins, Satan will be running the country.

Until that night, I was going to write someone in on the ballot. That night I realized that if I wrote someone in, I would be handing the election to Obama. I realized the only chance we have is to vote for McCain. He is the only candidate close enough in numbers to possibly win. If we don’t vote for McCain, we would essentially be throwing our vote at Obama. I would never tell people how to vote. We need to think about the repercussions of our vote. Pray to know who to vote for. One vote could make the difference, and with so much hanging in the balance, it could REALLY make a difference.

Take this message and do with it as you will. I hope you pray to know what I am saying is true, get your own confirmation. If you find out what I am saying is true, and I am sure you will, pass this message on. We only have a week to get this message out, a week to help people know what they are really up against.

Yup, she's absolutely right. This message needs to get out so that people understand what they're up against. Now if anyone needs me, I'll be sitting in the corner hitting myself in the head repeatedly with a phone book.

Here Kitty, Kitty

Call Me Crazy

Mine's "Drown Wing Palin."

The Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

The Dumbfuck of the Beast

The following was originally published here two years ago, on Halloween of 2006. I'm resurrecting it mostly because it relays, in off-the-cuff fashion, a story concerning my brief time at Dade Christian School in Miami -- coincidentally where Rapture Ready dingbat Victoria Jackson graduated. It'll explain quite a bit about the origins of her inane beliefs.

I always found Halloween to be kind of a silly holiday. I certainly understand its pagan roots, but at this stage of civilization -- things being what they presently are and all -- I can't help but feel that the inflated emphasis on ghosts, witches, black cats and the like as objects of fear is, well, Rockwellian in its quaintness.

I mean, could any of Edgar Allen Poe's delusions -- even at its most brutally drug-induced -- ever have metastasized into something as perfectly evil as Dick Cheney?

Terrorists want to kill me; My President doesn't have a brain, yet still inexplicably walks, talks and smirks; His second in command is regularly seen growling, and shoots his elderly friends in the face; Human viscera line the streets of Iraq; and you're telling me the ranch-style house up the street with a couple of tombstones in the front yard, a vegetable with a face carved in it, and the all-night Monsterfest on A&E is supposed to scare me?

Sure thing.

That said, I'll relay a truly terrifying tale from my short time at one of the most frightening places on Earth: Dade Christian School.

The God-fearing men and women who run the place were -- and no doubt still are -- committed to making sure that all of their students have a Halloween that's happy, safe, and free from the torment of eternal damnation. That's why every year the school has its own Halloween party in which each child is encouraged to dress as -- wait for it -- his or her favorite Bible character. Needless to say, this typically causes some confusion, seeing as how the whole "beard and robes" thing was pretty much the only look going back in the day.

Upon learning the theme of the traditional Dade Christian Halloween-Without-Hell Extravaganza, I of course began peppering one of my teachers with question after ridiculous question about what my costume could and couldn't entail:

Could I pour salt all over myself and be Lot's wife?

What about water? Would dousing myself in water help me to stand out as obviously being Noah?

Could I just come naked and be Adam?

If I dressed as Pharaoh, could I cast the entire school into bondage?

Isn't Satan technically a Bible character?

These annoyances continued until the teacher finally ended them in the usual way: by sending me to the Dean's office.

Surprisingly, he wasn't expecting to see my face again so soon -- being that a few days earlier, an angry and frustrated faculty chaperone had deemed that I be exiled to his office for reading the novelization of Halloween III: Season of the Witch during the entire bus ride to and from our class trip to Disney World.

You know something? Now that I think about it -- maybe dressing as a Christian really is the scariest costume imaginable.

Happy Halloween kids -- and whatever you do, stay away from Old Man Cheney's house.

Scare Tactics

TITLE: "Top Secret"
KILL DATE: To air only once, on all networks simultaneously at 9PM EDT


(Cue upbeat synth music. Fade in image of three faces pivoting back and forth in time to music: John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Joe the Plumber)


Happy, Happy Halloween... Halloween... Halloween!

Happy, Happy Halloween... McCain-Palin!

(Voice Over)

It's time, America!

Time for the big giveaway!

Gather 'round the TV all you lucky Democrats with your ironic John McCain, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber masks.

Make sure you've got those masks on good and tight.


Watch the magic McCain face.

Watch McCain.




Listening Post: Halloween Edition

What else would you expect today?

Here's a pretty well-done montage of generally gruesome scenes from various horror movies set to Ministry's goth anthem, Every Day is Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Showless Joe

I guess he had to snake a drain or something.

The L.A. Times: McCain Calls Out to Joe the Plumber at Rally, Finds He's Not There/9.30.08

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"Is this really what it has come down to? We are fighting two wars, our economy is a disaster, and Senator Dole's message to voters is to falsely accuse her opponent of not believing in God?"

-- CNN's Campbell Brown, referring to the ridiculous campaign ad in which Elizabeth Dole accuses her opponent of being "godless"

Insolent Jest

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the legendary Friars Club here in New York City as a guest for its roast of ex-Star Trek star and current professional kitschy homosexual, George Takei.

If you've seen a Friars Club roast on television -- or any roast for that matter -- you probably think you have a pretty good idea of what it's like to attend one of these things. Suffice it to say, though, that whatever you can imagine, it's not even close to the actual experience of being surrounded by some of the funniest people around minus any sacred cows, sense of decorum, good taste, or general concern for the feelings of others.

My wife and I figured it would be funny.

We had no idea that we'd spend two-and-a-half hours laughing so hard that we wouldn't be able to breathe.

They made fun of tragedies. ("That joke was deader than Shatner's wife at a pool party.") They turned seemingly inviolable topics into punchlines. ("He's the most effeminate Jew in the closet since Anne Frank.") And of course, they mercilessly mocked George Takei's sexuality. (Gilbert Gottfried stepped up to the podium and did, no bullshit, ten minutes worth of "faggot" jokes.)

Was it offensive?

Oh, I have no doubt that most decent folk would've fled in horror.

Was it funny?


Nothing was off limits, and that's what made the whole thing such a scream.

By now, regular readers of this site have probably figured out that I'm not very easy to offend. Sure, ignorance and stupidity piss me off to no end, but generally the kind of thing that will cause one group of people or another to demand blood, or at the very least an immediate public apology, will barely get a reaction out of me (and if it does, that reaction will usually be to laugh my ass off not only at the offending behavior itself but at those overly sensitive enough to take it so goddamned seriously). Don't get me wrong: Despite what you read here, I don't wander through my day wondering whose buttons I can push next. I may say some pretty obnoxious things from time to time, but rarely is any of it offered with malice or the intention of riling someone up just for the fun of it. That said, I'm a very firm believer that almost anything can be a legitimate target for a little ribbing -- myself included. What makes mocking or satirizing ostensibly untouchable cultural institutions like God, the church, political figures, and even, yes, Oprah so much fun is that they are held as sacrosanct by so many -- and that makes them, in a word, oppressive. There's a visceral thrill to be had going against the grain once in a while and defying the tyranny of political correctness. But more than that, it's necessary. Unassailable ideals and social mores are dangerous, and while holding something above criticism or ridicule, no matter the context or intent, may seem like the ultimate form of respect -- in fact, it's nothing more than the product of fear or idolatry. Just ask the editors of a Danish newspaper that dared to publish comic images of the Prophet Muhammed a couple of years back.

Which brings us to Denis Leary.

The acerbic comedian-turned-actor-turned-author has been buried under an avalanche of criticism lately in response to some of the comments made in his new book, Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid. First, Leary was pounced on by autism activists -- including shrill, militant mom Jenny McCarthy -- for supposedly implying that autism isn't a real disease.

He writes:

"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a fuck what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you -- yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."

Although this is an unsurprisingly simplistic view of the problem of autism -- a statement I qualify because, needless to say, Leary's a comedian and not a doctor -- it's worth noting two points: First, that the above quote has provoked the ire of people who, for the most part, haven't read the rest of the book and therefore can't appreciate the larger point Leary's trying to get across; second, nowhere does Leary say or even insinuate that autism isn't a real and serious condition -- only that it's likely being overdiagnosed. And guess what? About this, he's absolutely right. Our media-saturated, scared-to-death culture ensures that diseases, like anything else, can become trendy -- that if you ram the idea of an "epidemic" down the throat of the American public long enough, certainly one involving a condition as mysterious as autism, it will almost surely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. While I've done several stories on autism during my journalistic career and have no doubt that outside factors have contributed to a rise in the number of legitimate autism cases, any idiot can see that autism has become the new ADHD: Edgy parents looking for an explanation as to why their kid can't function "properly" approach doctors with an idea already in mind that their child might be autistic. And who put that idea there? A media machine which understands that your fear translates into its revenue.

But if you think the whole autism thing was trouble for Denis Leary, you obviously haven't heard how some in the gay community are responding to a chapter in his book entitled "Matt Damon is a Giant Fag."

In an interview with the gay magazine The Advocate, Leary defends his right to call gay men "fags," insisting that despite whatever authority we've given the word, it's still just that: a word.

"I don't believe in the power of words. My parents came from Ireland, where 'cunt' is literally a word your mother and father would use to describe the weather or the car: 'That cunting car won't start!' And I come from a Catholic background where the nuns were always telling you, 'Don”t do this, dont say this.' So any time anyone tells me I shouldn't say something, my reaction is, 'Why not?'"

Leary points to the fact that there's another chapter in Why We Suck called "We'd Hate You Even if You Weren't Black" (which I suppose doesn't justify the former insult so much as prove that at least Leary's an equal opporunity offender).

Whether or not Denis Leary hates homosexuals I can't say for sure. I do know, however, that simply using the word "fag" doesn't automatically make someone a homophobe any more than simply using the word "nigger," irrespective of context, automatically makes someone a racist. I get that it's sometimes tough to tell a person's intent simply by his or her language -- and that the knee-jerk inclination might be to make broadstroke declarations banning anything that anyone may find offensive -- but that's when it's best to consider the source. Denis Leary, once again, is a comedian. He's made an entire career out of being an asshole; he even recorded a song in the early 90s proclaiming as much. Only a moron -- or, more likely, someone looking for something to be pissed about -- would pick up a book written by Leary and expect not to have his or her magnanimity challenged. Leary's stuff isn't designed to be everyone's cup of tea, but neither is it supposed to change the world. If you really think a book called Why We Suck should be filed under the self-help section at the bookstore, you need to have your head examined. It's meant to be funny. It's a fucking joke.

And if it's one you don't particularly appreciate, then by all means don't buy the book.

I certainly understand that the difference between a Friars Club roast and a mass-marketed book is just that: One is reaching a mass market, while the other is a private function in which everyone on hand realizes and accepts what they're getting themselves into.

But is a book, or a radio show, or a TV show aimed at a specific audience really all that different?

If you don't go looking to be offended, chances are you won't be.


DXM: The Nth Degree/11.21.06

DXM: Why So Serious?/4.25.08

My Surly Little Snow Bunny

Listening Post

These guys are the coolest thing to come out of Tennessee in a very, very long time.

This is Kings of Leon, doing Sex on Fire live on Later with Jools Holland.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Agit-Prop 8

Troublemaker Glenn Greenwald posted a little something earlier today on that he expressed a pretty hefty amount of indignation over -- and with good reason I suppose. It's basically a video ad produced by a Christian group in California called Clay Music Ministry in support of Proposition 8. For those not in the know, that's the controversial referendum that would turn back the clock and strip same-sex couples of the right to marry in California.

The reprehensible thing about the video is that it features grade school-aged kids singing about the perils of gay marriage.

And yet watching it, somehow all I can do is laugh.

Asian kids?


Why do I get the feeling that the Christians are holding those children's parents in a shipping container down at the Port of Long Beach along with 120 other illegals who paid five grand a piece to be smuggled out of wherever?

"No singy -- no mommy. Understand, kid?"

(By the way, how much do you love that the little girl's t-shirt says "OBEY" on it?)

(Update: Apparently, the good folks at the Clay Music Ministry pulled the embedding on the video. Click it twice to see it on the YouTube site.)

In God We Trust (To Save Our Floundering Campaign)

Wow -- just, wow.

This is what Liddy Dole is being forced to stoop to save her senate seat: basically accusing her opponent -- who looks to be ready to whip Dole's ass next week -- of being "godless."

I wish I had a punchline for this, but it sort of makes its own gravy.

By the way, that last voice you hear in the spot -- the woman shouting "There is no God!"? Dole's playing that up as if it's the voice of her opponent, when in fact it isn't.

Sneaky and fucking stupid.

Yup, sounds like just another day at the office for today's Republicans.


I stand corrected: Today is the greatest day in the history of everything.

The Huffington Post: Joaquin Phoenix Says He's Quitting Acting/10.29.08

Project Office Mayhem: Halloween Edition

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: None -- just get out of the room as quickly as possible.

Now Watch the Magic Pumpkin

Trick or Trick

Think Progress: Phony Board of Elections Flier Tells Virginia Democrats to Vote on November 5th/10.27.08

And Baby Makes Three

Inara -- three months old today.

Listening Post: Fear of a Black Rock Planet Edition

The latest issue of Spin magazine features a fantastic retrospective on the birth of the Black Rock Coalition. For the uninitiated, the BRC was founded in the mid-80s by Vernon Reid of Living Colour; it was an organization aimed at helping black bands and artists who dared to do the unthinkable as far as record producers and promoters were concerned -- that is, play guitar-heavy rock and roll -- get a leg up in the industry.

Early members included, of course, Living Colour, as well as 24-7 Spyz, King's X, Bernie Worrell, and Nona Hendryx, but the bands they helped push into the relative mainstream were as diverse as Fishbone, Bad Brains and early Faith No More.

Today, the Black Rock Coalition continues to thrive. Here in New York City, TV on the Radio and Pillow Theory (whose frontman, Kelsey Warren, has been one of my closest friends since college) are members officially and in spirit.

Here now, the mighty music of early Black Rock Coalition.

Living Colour -- Type

24-7 Spyz -- Don't Break My Heart

King's X -- It's Love

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Premature Ejection

Interesting little item from the Iowa State Daily -- the official student newspaper of Iowa State University: According to a report in the online version of the publication, several people in the audience for John McCain's RNC-sponsored campaign rally at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls last Sunday were escorted out of the building before the event even began. The reason appears to be simply that they fit some generic description of potential troublemakers -- in other words, they were of college age and, I'd assume, didn't smell like stale Coors light and chewing tobacco and weren't chanting "USA! USA!" every couple of minutes.

What makes this interesting is that, if you believe the report, a few of those arbitrarily ejected by police at the request of the McCain camp were in fact McCain supporters (although perhaps not anymore) and are now demanding to know why they were forced to leave the rally when it hadn't even started and they hadn't done a damn thing wrong.

They're essentially saying that they were profiled by the McCain people.

That's one possibility.

Another is that John McCain just wanted those kids to get the hell off his lawn and didn't care whose kids they were.

Read on:

Iowa State Daily: Audience Members Removed at McCain Rally in Cedar Falls/10.28.08

(Thanks to alert reader Michael Yeager for the tip.)

Quantum Physical

Today is the greatest day in the history of everything.

The Times of India: Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko's Sex Film Leaked/10.27.08

Quote of the Week Month

"I don't want a political label, but Obama bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ and I'm scared to death that un-educated people will ignorantly vote him into office."

-- Former Saturday Night Live castmember and current nobody Victoria Jackson, on her blog

Picture of the Week

Tuesday is Recycling Day

For whatever reason, quite a few people consider this to be one of the best things that's ever appeared on this site. I actually think it's a bit of a mess -- which I guess makes sense considering the subject matter.

The Dreams In Which I'm Dying (Originally Published, 12.19.06)

During most of the trip, we listened to BBC Radio One, which as good fortune would have it is one of the 653,287 channels available on Sirius satellite radio -- a special feature my friend Chris was sure to request when he rented the car we would be using to cruise around Las Vegas. The music on Radio One is generally very good (a lot of material not heard here in the states). The DJ's are, well, to co-opt an appropriate phrase, bloody brilliant (Scott Mills spent one afternoon buying Christmas presents for those on his list by calling QVC and ordering whatever happened to be on-screen at that particular moment, despite not being able to see exactly what kind of God-awful crap he was purchasing). The news being reported by Radio One at the time however, was ominous (a prolific serial killer was working his way through Ipswich's prostitutes, evoking memories of another legendary British murderer with a taste for women of the night). These snippets of carnage from eight time-zones away provided a strange contrast to the neon-lit, sugar-coated, overglossed surroundings in which we had chosen to immerse ourselves for five days. Vegas after all, in spite of an undeniably malevolent underbelly, is still America's playground -- a place where people come from miles around to indulge in gambling, $5.99 prime rib and the comedic stylings of Carrot Top, who as it turned out was annoying nightly in our very hotel.

There were moments though that I couldn't help but wonder if the fictional forensic detectives of the Vegas CSI wouldn't somehow be able to assist the overwhelmed DCIs in Ipswich with their hooker killer -- or at the very least turn down the lights in their squad room to make it look less like a police station and more like a lounge with a $20 cover charge.

Needless to say, I tried to put the serial killer out of my mind and go on about my way enjoying the massive hotel suite my wife had secured for the two of us -- with its whirlpool bath and unrivaled view of the strip; the days driving out to Red Rock Canyon and beyond; and of course the nights eating venison at Bobby Flay's and caviar at Red Square, losing money at the Hard Rock casino, drinking beer by the gallon and dancing on the tables at the Hofbrauhaus, and the highlight of the trip -- hosting an impromptu party in our room which involved several bottles of Makers Mark, a deck of cards, Cuban cigars, and watching Jackass Number Two on Spectravision.

Good times and good friends, making good memories. It's tough to ask for much more.

Despite an excellent turn of events which deposited our tired asses on a flight back to New York that was practically empty -- allowing us the comfort of stretching out and relaxing -- mine and Jayne's return to reality was marked by the kind of general malaise we've come to expect whenever one of our mini-vacations comes to its inevitably abrupt end. Neither of us was ready to return to the day-to-day drudgery of our lives here in the Manhattan meat-grinder -- she with her very long hours, me with my very bad hours -- both of us slaves to an unpredictable subway schedule and a pathetic wage. For me personally, it was a situation made worse when I in fact returned to work to find that the "big story" holding the rapt attention of my superiors centered around three missing mountain climbers who'd gotten themselves lost somewhere on Mount Hood in Oregon. It seemed nothing less than an attempt to create and perpetuate a national obsession with an ongoing incident that in my mind merited no more than a passing glance or two before each weather segment -- one which had been blown so far out of proportion as to become an infuriating waste of time and resources, both for the overworked rescue crews forced to put their own lives in jeopardy to help find these three idiots who were selfish and stupid enough to take the risk of going up the mountain in the first place, and for the network news crews covering the search. My first day back however did yield at least one hilariously Darwinist moment which helped to put the possible mindset of the missing climbers into quick perspective: with cameras from around the country trained on her, the mother of one of the hikers made an impassioned plea to Mother Nature herself, saying, "I want the mountain to release our sons. The mountain has no right to keep our sons." It was at this moment that I realized that the cost of the search -- whatever that may have been -- was money and effort well-spent.

Later, during that first day back at work, it was announced that an arrest had been made in the case of the Ipswich serial murders.

I read over the incoming wire reports carefully, then purposely ratcheted my focus away from them -- well aware that my co-workers might consider my fascination with the case to be unduly morbid and probably a little disturbing.

I chose instead to concentrate on the surprising fact that I, yes I, had been chosen to receive the honor of being named Time magazine's "Person of the Year."

And I hadn't even prepared a speech.

As the magazine described in tones both glowing and effusive, I had apparently changed the world over the past year by taking control of what I and those around me saw, heard and felt. I had changed the political landscape through blogging. I had taken record executives out behind the figurative tool shed with a figurative rifle by downloading whatever kind of music I wanted to hear -- callously and insousciantly tossing aside their notions of what should and shouldn't be popular. I had become my own network executive by ordering television shows quite literally "on demand." I had made myself seen and heard through sites like MySpace and YouTube and through that, had become the single most powerful person in the world -- master of my own little info-tainment universe. I was the king of all I surveyed.

My immediate reaction to this, the official coronation of the new "Me" generation, was to feel a smile curl at the sides of my mouth. Certainly the editors of Time had made a choice which was not only assuredly clever, but one with which no one reading the magazine would dare argue. It was the ultimate crowd-pleaser, slyly cast in the form of a desire to appeal to no crowd whatsoever.

My second reaction was to agree that indeed, in some ways I was worthy of such an honor. Over the past year, I had, after all, started my own website which I continued to use to air my views, hone my skills, promote myself as a writer and develop a surprisingly extensive fan-base. I had staked out a virtual apartment on MySpace which I used to promote my other site and further increase my visibility; I had also made a few new "friends" in the process -- one even being BBC Radio One DJ Scott Mills, from whom I fully expect to receive a set of QVC's Fenton Art Glass Legacy Bell figurines at any moment. I had contributed to the financial ruin of one of my old haunts, Tower Records, by downloading my music on-line and, in a somewhat ironic twist given my chosen profession, had even thumbed my nose at the television ratings system and the advertisers it kept in business by opting to watch Battlestar Galactica on its new Chez-approved, on-demand time of 10am Sunday mornings.

These quiet musings led me to wonder whether I'd be a just king or an iron-fisted demagogue -- whether I'd rule my domain with justice and mercy, or oppressive brutality. I had been single-handedly responsible for killing off the old world and shrugging off its bonds, I deserved to wallow in the spoils, didn't I?

But then came another reaction -- one I've grown far too accustomed to lately -- and it brought my dreams of avarice crashing down around me.

I felt tears begin to pool in my eyes, and I was forced to get up from my desk and surreptitiously make my way to the bathroom where I found an empty stall in which to sit and quietly cry.

This is the way it's been for some time now.

This is because I suffer from severe depression.

There's a difference between being melancholy and being truly, clinically depressed. I've always reveled in a certain amount of melancholy, and mined that territory to fuel my artistic endeavors throughout the years. It's a well-worn stereotype that writers have an inherently sad streak -- being that the very act of writing is one done in isolation, far outside the scrutinous realm of polite society. This, however -- the way I feel these days -- is different. Despite my wish to believe otherwise, I'm forced to acknowledge that the brain surgery I underwent back in April of this year changed me fundamentally -- both physically and mentally. I've mentioned before that the face I see in the mirror no longer resembles the face I've been staring at for years into decades, and I've come to realize that this is not simply a natural product of the aging process. The pinball-sized tumor which lived in my head for God-knows-how-long warped my brain chemistry and destroyed a good portion of the gland which regulates my hormones. The result is that my skin -- once a supple and oily indicator of my Italian heritage -- is now dry, cracked and papery-thin due to a lack of testosterone. The lack of that same hormone has also decreased my sex-drive to practically nil, and although I admit that it's somewhat refreshing to be mercifully free from the tyranny of my own penis for the first time in my life, it's put a strain on the desire of my wife and I to start a family.

I'm constantly exhausted. I rarely have the drive to do anything other than sleep. I have painfully vivid dreams from which I typically wake up sobbing. I feel desperate and alone, even when I'm surrounded by people I love and who love me. I'm a walking pharmacy of pills and hormone replacements.

I sat in the bathtub in Vegas, crying to myself, when no one was looking.

I have no doubt that there are outside factors contributing to my current state-of-mind: turning 37 and being forced to take stock of a life which bears little resemblance to the one I had hoped to make for myself and my loved ones; the continuing pressure of a career which I lost a hunger for years ago; the long, cold nights and short days of winter; as I recently stated in no uncertain terms, the overwhelming feeling and punishing belief that I'm damaged beyond repair; and then, most recently, the last-minute collapse of what would have been a stellar and potentially lucrative book deal. It's all been a lot to swallow whole.

At the core of it though, is the tumor, and its lasting effect on who I am -- on my sense-of-self. It's a disconcerting feeling beyond description to simply not feel like the person you've been for so long. It's also a feeling that can't be put into words in any meaningful way. How do I feel? I can't explain it; I just don't feel like me.

The most portentous by-product of this feeling -- the very recent weight of it -- is the effect that it's had on my writing. I promised long ago that this little experiment of mine would never become so self-indulgent as to be an ongoing description of what was happening to me right now, at this moment. To put it succinctly, this blog would never be a "blog," in the traditional sense. I wanted to write about universal themes and voice my admittedly worthless opinion on a host of issues and, aside from a few rare occasions when I've felt the absolute need to wear my heart on my virtual sleeve, I hope I've done just that. Anything else wouldn't make for any sort of good reading by anyone -- not even myself. That's the problem I now find myself faced with though: I've used this site not so much to help me cathartically work through my own personal tragedies as I have to spin some of that pain and discomfort into gold in the hope of landing an audience, and in turn, a career as a writer. This is a different situation if only because it's caused me -- for the first time since starting this site seven months ago -- to be an unfocused mess who can't seem to string together a series of clear thoughts, much less perform at my usual level of semi-hilarious pithiness.

So where do I go from here?

To a counselor of course and -- despite advice to the contrary from internationally-renowned neurologist Dr. Tom Cruise -- to a psychiatrist.

The one promise that I'm willing to make is that I will do my absolute damndest to make sure that my output on these pages doesn't suffer. Over the past seven months, this has been one of my few true joys -- one my wife has recognized and encouraged -- and I refuse to allow it to suffer, even if I do occasionally. The show must go on, and it damn well will.

On my second day back at work, after spending an evening pondering whether or not I was worthy to be crowned "Person of the Year" by the gentle mental giants over at Time, I learned more about the suspect in custody in Ipswich.

I learned that he was 37-years-old.

I learned that he had a site on MySpace.

I learned that he too, had been named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Listening Post

South's 2001 album From Here On In was one of my favorites in the days immediately following 9/11.

And this song should easily explain why.

Here's Paint the Silence.

When Teddy Met Sarah

So does this mean we can now say that Sarah Palin has spent time "palling around" with a convicted felon?

Monday, October 27, 2008

CNN: Comedy News Network

I've gotten a couple of emails inquiring as to why I'm not commenting on CNN's new "satirical" news show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, featuring occasionally funny but somewhat culturally irrelevant comedian D.L. Hughley, uh, breaking the news (get it?). It premiered this past Saturday night and I have to be honest: I had a thing and didn't manage to catch it.

I could easily run down the reasons why the show is likely doomed to fail, regardless of its quality, beginning with the fact that it's the partial brainchild of the most unimaginative, reactive man in television news -- CNN President Jon Klein -- and that he and the rest of the powers that be at CNN will never truly take the reins off the show for fear of tarnishing the network's reputation as a serious news outlet (as if Lou Dobbs and Nancy Grace don't already do that in spades).

But instead I'll leave it to my good friend and fellow ex-CNNer Jacki Schechner to explain, in a quick little quote e-mailed to me today, just what's wrong with D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.

"Nothing about TV news surprises me anymore. But I guess what struck me here is that CNN’s been looking for the answer to The Daily Show for years. And they just don’t get it. The Daily Show succeeds because it points out the absurdity of networks like CNN. CNN can’t repeat that success without acknowledging its own idiocy. But for Jon Klein to think they can is indicative of just how not in on the joke they are."

Yup -- that about sums it up.

All of Our Operators are Currently Busy...

Talking Points Memo: Call Center Workers Walk Off Job In Protest Rather Than Read McCain Script Attacking Obama/10.27.08

Go! Buy It

After an inordinately long wait, Bob Cesca's book, One Nation Under Fear, looks like it's finally about to hit the market.

Do yourself a favor and pre-order a copy since Cesca's a good guy and deserves it and if you've read any of his Huffington Post stuff you know the book will be well worth reading.

Bob Cesca: One Nation Under Fear (via

A Series of Bars

In prison, the term "Bridge to Nowhere" has an entirely different meaning.

The Huffington Post: Ted Stevens Convicted on All Counts/10.27.08

Everything to Lose

David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, an avowed neo-con, and an all-around Republican heavyweight (albeit a hugely wussified one) -- and he's just written the most daunting, defeatist article to come out yet on the GOP's hopes at the polls eight days from now.

"There are many ways to lose a presidential election. John McCain is losing in a way that threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him.

I could pile up the poll numbers here, but frankly . . . it's too depressing. You have to go back to the Watergate era to see numbers quite so horrible for the GOP.

In these last days before the vote, Republicans need to face some strategic realities. Our resources are limited, and our message is failing. We cannot fight on all fronts. We are cannibalizing races that we must win and probably can win in order to help a national campaign that is almost certainly lost. In these final 10 days, our goal should be: senators first."

While this is shocking in its candor, what Frum has to say about the possibility of a Democrat-controlled executive and legislative branch is shocking for another reason: its hypocrisy.

"The political culture of the Democratic Party has changed over the past decade. There's a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism. This is the culture of the left-wing blogosphere and MSNBC's evening line-up -- and soon, it will be the culture of important political institutions in Washington. Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named "fairness doctrine"; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not."

I would hope that Frum was forced to stifle a chuckle as he typed these words, since it's positively laughable that an apostle of the neo-con gospel could actually claim the high ground when it comes to the enforcement of petty grudges and the suppression of opposition. I have to assume he's hoping that everyone forgets that it was the GOP who, at various points over the past several years, attempted to disqualify the votes of many underprivileged, redistricted areas to create a Republican majority, invoked executive privilege to keep its own dirty secrets, and generally kept the Democratic minority securely underfoot -- laughing its ass off while doing it.

While waging an angry vendetta against those who gleefully oppressed them for so long would be a terrible idea for the Democrats should they take a good portion of the government on November 4th, their outrage would certainly be understandable given the behavior the Republicans exhibited when they had the unequivocal majority.

For the right to not realize this -- or worse, to play the victim -- is ridiculous.

The Washington Post: "Sorry, Senator. Let's Salvage What We Can." by David Frum/10.26.08

Little Miss Sunshine

Listening Post

The visuals in this homemade clip come from the 2002 Tom Tykwer film Heaven, starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi.

They don't necessarily create a flawless pastiche, but to be honest I could watch pictures of traffic lights changing to this song -- which I consider one of the most alluring and perfect pop songs to come around in many, many moons.

From last year's Under the Black Light, this is Rilo Kiley, with Dreamworld.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Joe the Punter

At the beginning of the third season of Battlestar Galactica, most of what remains of the human population has been forced into an uneasy communal relationship with the Cylons after their surprise invasion of New Caprica. "Communal relationship," however, is a gross euphemism, as the reality is that the humans are little more than slaves to their Cylon overlords: they're under vigilant watch and forced to live in constant fear; they're subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly threatened with overwhelming force should they conspire against the military state; they're tortured in prison camps if they get out of line.

During this period of subjugation, a few humans -- either through rank opportunism or simply a resignation to the inevitability of the situation -- choose to cooperate with the Cylons and the puppet government they've created. They serve in office, join the secret police which is tasked with hunting down and "dealing with" insurgents among the population, and work in administrative positions.*

After the humans are freed in a daring rescue and are finally back with the fleet, those who collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica are systematically hunted down by a secret tribunal, "tried" and, if convicted, executed. This sentence is carried out by putting them into a launch tube and firing them out of the air lock into space.**

Why do I bring this up?

Because Joe Lieberman is now talking to anyone who will listen about how much "respect" he's always had for Barack Obama.

No doubt sensing which way the political winds are blowing and hoping not to be rendered utterly irrelevant by them, the one-time Democratic vice presidential candidate turned full-time GOP attack dog seems to be trying to hedge his bet in the final days before America goes to the polls. For months Lieberman has played John McCain's sycophantic Renfield and led the charge against Barack Obama, accusing the Democrat of not putting "country first" and insinuating that he may be a Marxist. But now that the McCain campaign looks to be headed for an embarrassing defeat, Lieberman -- feckless little weasel that he is -- may be looking for a way back into the fold that he so categorically turned away from. It's one thing to think independently and put conscience above party; not only is this generally the correct way to behave -- it's the only way for anyone who considers him or herself to be intellectually honest. Lieberman didn't do that though -- not by a long shot. He used his position as someone who was nominally an insider within one political party to work toward the goals of another, basically taking on the role of double-agent. And what's worse, despite his claim of "respect" for Barack Obama, he helped mastermind a series of vicious attacks on the man he now fears may wind up being president and worked as hard as just about anyone to ensure his defeat.

So, what should become of Lieberman on November 5th if Obama wins the presidency?

Three words: Suck space, Joe.***

*I realize that the profiteering confederate is pretty much an archetype by this point and that a stronger analogy would've been, say, those very real people who cooperated with despotic regimes during wartime, but I'm all about pop culture and happen to like Battlestar Galactica, so deal with it.

**I'll overlook the fact that, in the context of the show, the secret tribunal is supposed to be a nefarious entity -- a vigilante group which does more harm than good -- and that Gaius Baltar is eventually acquitted of collaborating with the Cylons. I can do this because it's my blog -- so once again, deal with it.

***No, of course I'm not suggesting that Joe Lieberman be shot into space. It's a metaphor. For sending him somewhere he'll never be heard from again. Like space.

Sunday Sacrilege

Red Yawn

From aforementioned indie filmmaker Lee Stranahan.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Listening Post (Bonus Saturday Night Edition)

This song is flat-out bad-ass in every possible way.

Crank the volume to 11 -- it's new music from Shiny Toy Guns: Ricochet.


Picture Photoshop of the Week

From independent filmmaker Lee Stranahan:

"Details are still sketchy, even to me. I am thirsty and I need a hug. All I know is that I drove into the 'right' side of town with an Obama-Biden sticker on the back of my car when I was approached by thugs riding snowmachines. They said they'd seen my YouTube videos. I could feel the hot breath as the short one threw me to the ground and said I was dressed like a trollop and he was going to 'spread my wealth.' Then I blacked out. (No pun intended.)"

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"I'm going to be as restrained and measured as I possibly can about this. But this is the most mindless, ignorant, uninformed comment that we have seen from Governor Palin so far, and there's been a lot of competition for that prize."

-- Newsweek's Richard Wolffe on Countdown, reacting to Sarah Palin's offhand dismissal of fruit fly research which, apparently unbeknownst to her, has already led to advances in understanding autism

Listening Post

New music from Kaiser Chiefs.

This is Never Miss a Beat.

The Speed of Lies

Once again, it's rare that I repost something originally published within the past couple of months, but I feel the unfortunate need to resurrect this piece simply because the story it concerns has once again reared its ugly head. Over the last couple of days, professional buffoons Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Jerome Corsi have all alleged that Barack Obama's trip to Hawaii wasn't actually about visiting his ailing grandmother but was instead a stealth mission aimed at quietly dealing with the "ongoing rumors" that his Hawaiian birth certificate is phony and that he's not, in fact, a U.S. citizen. Here now, my column from August 28th of this year.

If you believe Philip Berg, Barack Obama is unfit to be President of the United States; his candidacy is nothing more than a dangerously specious house of cards that will almost surely collapse if allowed to continue.

According to Berg, Barack Obama harbors a secret which disqualifies him outright from running for the office of president -- and it's only a matter of time before the truth comes to light and the resulting embarrassing debacle leaves the entire Democratic Party in chaos.

See, If you believe Philip Berg, Barack Obama isn't a U.S. citizen.

Last Thursday, Berg -- a Philadelphia attorney who's something of a notorious presence within that city's legal community -- filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania demanding that an injunction be issued against the official nomination of Obama. The suit charges that the Illinois senator is constitutionally ineligible to become president on the grounds that he has yet to produce a valid U.S. birth certificate -- Berg claiming that the current one on file from Hawaii is a forgery, proven so by "three forensic experts" -- and that he maintains an unresolved dual-citizenship and owes allegiances to both Kenya and Indonesia, where his father was born and where he lived as a child, respectively. Berg says that he has access to copies of Obama's Jakartan school records which show the candidate registered under the surname of his mother's 2nd husband, Lolo Soetoro, and listed as an Indonesian citizen; as if to hedge his bet, he insists that even if Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate is indeed shown to be authentic, the school registry should be enough to keep the candidate out of the White House.

If these allegations sound familiar, they should; in one form or another, each of them has been bandied about the internet or bullhorned across conservative radio for months now in an ongoing effort to paint Barack Obama as "different."

Oh yeah, and they're all basically bullshit.

A couple of weeks back, the Annenberg Political Fact Check -- an organization whose credentials are pretty much bulletproof -- set out to settle once and for all the debate over Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. The word "debate" deserves no small amount of qualification because, in reality, there never was a legitimate claim to be made that the document was phony -- simply a lot of fantastical conspiracy theorist innuendo, perpetuated and amplified at lightning speed by a million far-right dolts with computers and delusions of Sherlock Holmesian cleverness. Annenberg dispatched staffers to examine the birth certificate and ruled, to the surprise of no one with a modicum of common sense and two brain cells to rub together, that it's 100% legit; Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. As for the claim that Obama holds a dual citizenship or is in any other way beholden to a foreign country -- that was exposed as nonsense months ago.

And yet Philip Berg filed his lawsuit anyway. He filed it knowing full-well, one would have to imagine, that most of its claims are bogus -- that they already had been or easily could be debunked.

So why? What the hell would possess someone to willfully propagate claims that are tenuous at best and outright false at worst -- even going so far as to do it in court?

Because these days, when it comes to politics particularly, the truth is negotiable -- and there's value in the lie.

Whereas once there were a select few sources of information, and those sources were generally deemed credible by all but those on the furthest fringes of the public, now anyone can be his or her own news source. And while -- as this site, ironically, has advanced -- the rise of citizen journalism and hyper-connectivity has been good for the ethics of media as a whole, it's also created a treacherous wasteland of journalistic mini-fiefdoms, each spouting its own version of reality and together making it impossible, at times, to tell honest, well-researched fact from made-up crap conjured out of thin air to further an agenda. Whether the message comes in the form of an e-mail forwarded to your inbox by that paranoid uncle with the survival bunker in his basement who you're always hoping skips Thanksgiving, or as a bitter flamewar on every news aggregation outlet across the blogosphere, the internet has replaced television as the most effective and least regulated tool for political propaganda in America.

Which is why, ironically, it's now become the partial responsibility of television to help keep the corruption in check. It's too bad the good folks in the TV news media are usually unwilling to do it.

Mainstream media managers, as a whole, subscribe fully to the notion that bloggers and their internet realm are of an inferior journalistic stock; they see them as pests constantly circling the carrion of stories already broken by TV, radio and print; they condescend to them, dismissively painting their ilk as pasty, overweight losers, futilely raging against the machine from the comfort of a Middle-American basement, hopped up on Red Bull and basking in the post-orgasmic bliss of an afternoon spent masturbating to Asian porn. Those who adhere to the Mega-Media ethos believe that when a blogger does break a story, the quality of that piece of information can be judged by whether or not it rises to the level of inclusion in a mainstream broadcast, newspaper or magazine. In other words, only those above the radar can make the decision as to what's worth pulling up from under the radar. The problem is, the good stuff -- the powerful investigation, the sometimes penetrating insight -- gets passed over by the larger media outlets because it's, well, boring. It doesn't make for good TV or a quick, sharp read. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the garbage -- the rumor, conjecture, and misdirection -- is often picked up and elevated to the level of "real news" simply because it's so damn juicy and such a sure-fire ratings or circulation enhancer. A crap story thrown out by a few official-sounding blogs -- like the story of Obama's "phony" birth certificate -- can suddenly be granted validation simply by virtue of the fact that the "controversy" surrounding it is being discussed on national television. The lie is amplified inside the 24/7 cable news echo-chamber and, presto, it's suddenly palatable and worthy of serious consideration by 90% of the population.

It would be one thing if mainstream media outlets faced this kind of bullshit head-on and said, "No, this story isn't true, and if you believe it you're a lunatic." But it's better for ratings and revenue to instead ask, "A lot of folks are saying (insert spurious assertion here), but is it true?" (For the record, nobody does this vaguely referenced end-run on responsibility better than Fox News; see "Terrorist Fist Jab.") It goes without saying that this is how political propaganda is perpetuated; by reporting the rumor as its own story -- without sharply and decisively denouncing it -- you're validating it, giving new life to it, and ensuring that enough people will believe it that the very future of the country could wind up eventually hinging on it.

Ask yourself this: How many people still believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim?

Or this: How many people still believe that Iraq was connected to 9/11?

Very few within the mainstream media came right out and unequivocally shot down these ludicrous rumors before they could take root within the consciousness of the masses -- or at the very least, the minds of those who wanted nothing more than to have their preconceived biases confirmed.

There are thousands of Americans who will still claim that they "don't trust" Obama -- and yet they'll base this lack of trust on their willingness to trust an e-mail that got forwarded to them by a friend of a friend of a friend of some guy somewhere.

It's the responsibility of respectable news media everywhere to bring truth to propaganda and refute the fiction proffered for the sole purpose of sowing discord and confusing the electorate. It's incumbent upon the mainstream media, particularly if they value their stature as strongly as they claim, to shine a bright light on the lies, rather than fueling the fire by debating the merits of a story that they know perfectly well has no merits.

Should you believe Philip Berg?

It's a question that doesn't need to be asked, because it's already been answered.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1954, it's Bugs Bunny vs. Yosemite Sam on the high seas in Captain Hareblower.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"I guess this means we've officially buried the hatchet, but if he pulls that fucking shit again, I will drop a building on this guy."

-- Matt Lauer talking about Tom Cruise, who participated in a roast of the NBC anchor at New York's Friar's Club today

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"This is on the record... It is a fact that Barack Obama was palling around with terrorists. It was a fact before Governor Palin said it in a fully vetted speech and it is fact today. It is bullshit to claim or write anything else."

-- McCain Foreign Policy Advisor and monumental asshole Randy Scheunemann, proving that snakes strike out when cornered

Insult to Injury

Well, it's finally happened. We've been leading up to this for months and everyone assumed it had to occur sooner or later, and now it has: We've reached the very bottom of the barrel.

Just a little while ago, police in Pittsburgh confirmed that a 20-year-old McCain campaign volunteer named Ashley Todd -- a white girl from Texas -- confessed to making up a shocking story about being beaten by a supporter of Barack Obama. Todd had originally claimed that while canvassing Pittsburgh, a place she volunteered to travel to in support of John McCain, she was confronted at a bank ATM by (wait for it) a tall black man who noticed the McCain '08 bumper sticker on her car and, as such, proceeded to beat the hell out of her -- even going so far as to cut an ugly "B" into her cheek.

Needless to say, every right wing mouthpiece in the country immediately jumped on the story, salivating at the prospect of a possible game-changer of such monumental proportions less than two weeks before election day. Fox News Executive Vice President John Moody even wrote that, if proven true, the item had the potential to make undecideds across the country revisit their support for Barack Obama.

It looked like a dream come true for the GOP faithful.

Unfortunately for them, Ashley Todd is a fucking retard.

First of all, there were reportedly holes in her story you could drive a truck through. Secondly, she neglected to consider the fact that bank ATMs almost always come equipped with surveillance cameras that can easily be checked (which is one of the first things police did; Todd was nowhere to be found). Finally, and most amusingly, the "B" carved into her face was, in fact, backward -- which meant either that police needed to be on the lookout for a tall, black dyslexic man, or Todd cut the damn thing into her own face in front of a mirror.

As it turns out, the latter of the two possibilities is the correct one. Ashley Todd, criminal mastermind, now admits that she mutilated herself.

The whole thing would be hilarious if it weren't so staggeringly horrifying.

So this is it.

This is what it's come to.

This is what the most extreme faction of McCain and Palin's supporters are capable of in a desperate 11th hour attempt to ensure that Barack Obama gets nowhere near the White House: the most despicable kind of race-baiting. These are the people praying for John McCain and Sarah Palin to win -- the people who will literally do anything, even mutilate themselves, to make it happen. They're vicious, evil fuckers who are too goddamned stupid to see the irony of pulling off a vile hoax in the hope of making the other guy's supporters look dangerous and batshit crazy.

The worst part, though?

That, I swear to God, McCain and Palin actually bear some responsibility for this crap.

They've spent the past month fomenting unspeakable hatred and ignorance, inciting violence by refusing to denounce the vitriolic rhetoric of their most mindless acolytes, and insidiously casting their opponent not simply in adversarial terms but as a mysterious figure who consorts with terrorists and whose election could bring about the end of America as we know it.

Saying this kind of garbage to a bunch of easily suggestible, self-styled patriots with the collective IQ of a herd of cattle is like yelling fire in a crowded theater.

McCain and Palin have been proclaiming the clear and present danger involved in Barack Obama's quest for the White House in terms subtle and unambiguous for weeks; they can't really be shocked that somebody would actually take the matter into his or her own hands. They talked and young, impressionable and galactically stupid Ashley Todd listened -- it's that simple.

By the way, Fox News's John Moody, in that post I mentioned earlier, went on to say that if Todd's claims were eventually proven false -- if the whole thing turned out to be, in fact, a hoax -- that "Senator McCain's quest for the presidency (will be) over, forever linked to race-baiting."

For what may be the very first time, I really hope Fox News is right.

Et Tu, Charlie?

That sound you hear is John McCain's head exploding.

Talking Points Memo: McCain Campaign Advisor Endorses Obama/10.24.08

Thrill Baby, Thrill!

A friend of mine used to regularly warn of the dangers of "men made dumb by pussy."

Although this notion may seem crass as hell at first glance, there's truth in it, unfortunately.

Just ask John McCain.

The Washington Post: "Something About Sarah" by Kathleen Parker/10.23.08

Happy Days are Here Again

The Meta-Metamorphosis of Sarah Palin

Remember Sarah Palin's hilarious appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

The truth is that Palin's SNL cameo was, by almost any reasonable standard, entirely uneventful -- shocking only for its complete lack of shock. I'm not sure what most people were expecting, but given her reputation for self-satisfied feistiness I think it's safe to say that Sarah Palin-as-barely-there-window-dressing probably wasn't it. Think about it: the woman who's been a weekly punching bag for a bunch of New York City wise-asses who can barely hide their disdain for her finally gets a chance to turn the tables and take a few shots of her own on national television and what does she do? Nothing. She talks to Lorne Michaels, shakes hands with Alec Baldwin, doesn't even speak to Tina Fey -- who's been personally responsible for the merciless mocking which many believe has helped to cement her image as a worldwide laughing stock -- but instead allows Fey to shoot her a look of absolute contempt, and throws her hands in the air for an "Alaska Rap" that makes MC Rove's little dance a couple of years back look like Chris Brown.

Sure, the writers likely had plenty of say in just how Palin would be used on the show -- but she's a candidate for the second highest office in the free world. Don't think for a second that she couldn't have flexed some muscle to ensure that she'd come off less like a wallflower and more like the kick-ass Vice Presidentrix holding her own in the lion's den against the snooty liberal onslaught she regularly rails against in small towns across America.

She could've done that. She had the chance -- not to be rude or vicious, but to be sharp and assertive -- and yet she didn't take it.



Because no matter what she says to the robotic throngs of Joe Six-Packs who show up at her rallies -- no matter how strenuously she demonizes the so-called elitism of those Times-reading pseudo-intellectuals on the coasts -- make no mistake: She loved every second of being on Saturday Night Live.

Loved it.

She couldn't get enough of hearing the audience laugh.

It thrilled her to no end to shout, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

She got wet when Alec Baldwin stroked her hand and spoke to her in that soothing tone.

Sarah Palin was, in a word, starstruck -- both by those around her and, yes, by herself and how far she'd come. There she was, living out her Small Town TV Reporter/Miss Alaska Pageant fantasy of being on one of the biggest entertainment stages in the country, surrounded by celebrities. And she was the hottest thing there -- the belle of the ball.

We know this because according to SNL costume designer Tim Broecker, Palin was somewhat of a prima donna, upset that producers wanted her to wear the same kind of red skirt suit that Tina Fey's dead-on impression of Palin wears each week -- the kind Palin herself wore when she first hit the campaign trail. As it turns out, however, Fey's parody may not be so dead-on anymore, at least not when it comes to the way she dresses. Put simply, Tina Fey's version of Sarah Palin's fashion is so September, and Palin saw no reason to go back to that frumpy look, even for a comedy bit -- not when she'd worked so hard and spent so much of the Republican National Committee's money over the past few weeks to carefully cultivate a new image as America's Next Next-to-Top Executive.

By the way, now might be a good time to remind yourself of that whole Obama-Paris Hilton comparison that John McCain shamelessly pushed earlier this year and marvel at how the entire McCain campaign has become one constantly constricting Ouroboros of bald-faced hypocrisy.

Sarah Palin honestly thinks she's a star -- a pop culture icon. She now believes her own hype.

That pandering and sloganeering and droppin'-her-g's garbage? That's all a means to an end. I have no doubt that Palin actually buys into the crap she's shoveling -- that she's a True Believer in the power of Joe Six-Pack and a lockstep warrior for nonsensical neo-con values. It's just that over the past several weeks, it's become glaringly obvious that Sarah Palin's primary concern throughout this campaign has always been Sarah Palin. Like the proverbial ingenue, she was plucked from relative obscurity by a sad, aging once-great looking for that last shot at glory -- a guy convinced that her youth and vitality would be just what he needed to finally thrust him into the big time. And like the Hollywood ending that you could've seen coming a mile away, the ingenue quickly outgrew the one-time father figure and realized that he was actually nothing more than an obstacle on her own road to fame and fortune. Just like John McCain now at least partially blames Sarah Palin's shallow ignorance for his spiraling political fortunes, make no mistake that Sarah Palin -- in a breathtaking lack of gratitude -- likewise blames McCain's doddering buffoonery for hers, which is why, if you pay close attention, you can see that she's already subtly distancing herself from her running mate in what some are saying is an effort to sow the seeds of a personal run for the presidency in 2012.

As he often does, Bob Cesca cranked out a pretty entertaining piece for the Huffington Post recently in which he heralded the death of what he calls "Larry the Cable Guy Politics"; the idea being that for years Republican mainstays like George W. Bush have been playing dress-up, pretending to be just your average uneducated dumb-asses in an effort to ingratiate themselves to the real uneducated dumb-asses they rely on to keep them in power -- the same way comedian Dan Whitney has assumed the entirely fraudulent persona of "Larry the Cable Guy" because it's made him really, really rich. Cesca likens it to the meta-performance of Mark Wahlberg playing Eddie Adams playing Dirk Diggler playing Brock Landers in Boogie Nights. But now comes this little twist: that Sarah Palin, despite actually being a hockey mom and working off the premise that she's just Jane Six-Pack when trying to sell herself and her "vision" to NASCAR America, in reality doesn't think of herself as average at all. She in fact sees herself as a fashion plate, some hyper-hottie in a tight leather blazer and knee-high black boots, someone worthy of a $75,000 shopping spree at Neiman Marcus. Sarah Palin is now everything she ever dreamed of being: Sex and the City, right down to the "city" part. Sure, publicly she rebukes and ridicules those cosmopolitan urbanites in their bustling elitist hubs, but she knows damn well that she can't buy Valentino and Louis Vuitton at the Wal-Mart in Wasilla -- and if you don't think that Sarah Heath Palin has always fantasized about wearing Valentino and carrying Louis Vuitton, I've got a bridge to nowhere I want to sell you. She may still be a backwater dingbat, but she's now a very well put together backwater dingbat -- which I'm willing to bet has convinced her that she's no longer a backwater dingbat. If this is true, then it would mean that Palin has essentially ascended to the same position as George W. Bush and her GOP benefactors: she's only playing the part of the rube and is, in fact, secretly talking down to every one of those pick-up-driving Toby Keith fans who show up to her rallies -- the Dickies-clad folk not lucky enough to have won the Miss Vice Presidential pageant and been scooped up to a life of charter jets and appearances on Saturday Night Live.

But the new and improved Sarah Palin is more than just a simple case of someone taking on a part or putting on airs -- "lipstick on a pig," as it were.

I don't think Charlie Kaufman himself could've dreamed up a more Victor/Victorian mobius strip of meta-fiction than Saturday Night Live sticking the real Sarah Palin into her old red skirt suit to play Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin.

It would be enough to make your head spin were we not already talking about a woman whose willful Extreme Makeover had transformed her, ironically, into the very thing she purports to despise.

Of course, I'm not sure that -- as with everything Sarah Palin has shown us to date -- all the folksy indignation wasn't just bullshit anyway.