Monday, June 30, 2008

Talking Points


A quick reminder that tomorrow morning, July 1st, I'll be on XM Satellite Radio's "Morning Briefing" show with Scott Walterman.

I should be on around 7:20am and you can find the show on XM's POTUS channel, 130.

As with Sirius, if you don't have an XM subscription, you can listen online.

You can also build a bomb out of old playing cards, but that's not really important.

Listening Post



May as well start off the July 4th workweek with a little fireworks.

Directed by Spike Jonze and banned from daytime MTV in the mid-90s -- due mostly to the comically absurd anti-Beavis and Butthead hysteria grabbing Skittish America by the throat at the time -- here's the now-legendary video for Wax's California.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For Madison


I haven't held much back when it comes to what I discuss on this site. I've always been willing to get into a host of varied topics, no matter how strongly I may feel about a certain subject or how personal a particular matter. As far as I'm concerned, almost nothing is off-limits around here.

And yet one thing has been since the very beginning.

Highly observant readers, ones who've trolled the comment sections either joining in the various debates or just playing the part of the collective voyeur, might have noticed that on a select few occasions, I've dropped a hint or two about the fact that I'm a father. I don't mean a father to my and Jayne's unborn child, Inara -- although I am indeed that. I mean a father to another young girl -- my firstborn.

Her name is Madison, and she turns 16 years old today.

I've avoided ever bringing her into the conversation here -- she stands as the only thing I've consciously avoided talking about -- simply because I never wanted the past indiscretions I've chronicled to shine a negative light on her. I always felt as if she were too good for all this nonsense and I refused to sully her by bringing her down to what some might see as just another character from my checkered past -- one more person I wrote about consistently.

Maddi was always better than that. She always deserved more.

But while I tried to keep her out of the "public eye" -- and please take that with the grain of salt with which it's being given -- I might have also inadvertently made it seem as if she wasn't worthy of mention. And let me tell you -- nothing could be further from the truth.

"The truth" is that Madison is quite possibly the smartest, savviest, coolest, most indescribably beautiful young woman I've ever known. To be able to call her my daughter -- to know that I somehow had a role in creating her -- humbles me beyond deepest humility. It leaves me groveling at how utterly undeserving I am to have been blessed -- yes, I'll use that word -- with such an incredible child. I won't go into detail about my relationship with my now 16-year-old daughter -- one that's had its ups and downs, its familiarity and its distance; one which has grown in strength considerably as of late -- but I will say that of the things I'm most proud of in this world, nothing even comes close to how honored I feel to be able to call myself Madison's father.

I love her so very much.

Happy Birthday, Maddi.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dope Fiend Theater


In the name of cheap weekend programming, we're starting another new franchise around these parts beginning tonight. (Deus Ex Malcontent assumes no responsibility for any permanent psychological damage that might be caused by the following.)

I'm not even going to bother labeling the next couple of videos; just remember to swallow that blotter acid about 20 minutes after first putting it on your tongue, then sit back and watch the weirdness.





Voting Ourselves Off the Island


Just a quick housekeeping note, literally: It's moving day for Jayne, Mr. Jayne, and the kid that just won't stop growing in Jayne's belly. We clear out of our Manhattan apartment later this afternoon and head off to our new townhouse in Astoria.

In other words, I'll likely be out of the loop until tomorrow night or Monday morning, but I've already set up a little something special to automatically post later tonight. Feel free to come back and take a look after 10pm eastern -- if you dare.

Saturday Morning Cartoons



There are so many quotable lines in this six-and-a-half minute clip that I wouldn't know where to begin.

From 1954, here's Foghorn Leghorn in Bob McKimson's Little Boy Boo.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Foreign Affairs


Just a week after a startlingly candid appearance on The Daily Show -- one in which she thrashed the U.S. news media for its anemic coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- Lara Logan has been transferred from the CBS News Baghdad bureau to Washington, D.C. In addition to the reassignment, Logan's getting a new title: Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent. (If moving an international reporter stateside and giving her a confusingly contradictory title makes any sense at all to you, congratulations, you can be an upper-level news manager.) Now it's being reported, however, that Logan -- who's admittedly as beautiful as she is bright -- was recently involved in a somewhat contentious love-triangle while stationed Baghdad. Supposedly, Logan was sleeping not only with a married U.S. State Department contractor, but also with CNN war correspondent Michael Ware (whom I've met a couple of times and share several very good mutual friends with). While Logan's sex life is honestly none of my or anyone else's business, so long as it doesn't affect her ability to do her job, reading about the details of this story brought back quite a few memories for me. In March of last year, I wrote a piece that, for the first time since starting this little experiment of mine, got into some detail about my relationship with my ex-wife -- the woman whom readers of Dead Star Twilight know as Kara. The overall point I was trying to make was that it takes a certain type of person to work in a war zone -- and to actually be drawn to work there. My ex-wife was this type of person. I'd imagine Lara Logan is as well. Here now, is that column from last year: "Bulletproof Hearts."

I don't function very well without my wife. Though I have no doubt that many would view this as an opportunity to lecture me on the gathering storm of inevitable co-dependency, I actually believe it to be somewhat quaint and, in my case, a damn nice about-face from a past that's overflowing with positively atrocious behavior. Unfortunately, this simple truth means that when Jayne and I are apart for extended periods, I find myself oddly disoriented, unsure of what the hell to do or how to do it.

Case in point: she's gone right now -- away at a conference for two days -- and I've probably opened and closed the refigerator door ten times without actually removing anything. I just stand there vacantly staring into it as if expecting the margarine to stand up and begin explaining string-theory to me. So far at least, it's failed to do so and thus the mysteries of the universe remain just that -- mysteries.

I admit to having the monotony broken a short time ago by one of the more maddening quirks of the apartment in which my wife and I pay an unforgivable amount of money to live. Our intercom system -- the one which lets us know that any manner of small, non-English-speaking persons has arrived with our food delivery and would now very much like to be buzzed in -- creates a sound that rivals a jackhammer in volume and ability to irritate. This would be little more than a minor inconvenience were it not for the fact that the button tends to get stuck, which means that if we can't explain the situation to the person six floors below -- this is where the whole non-English-speaking thing becomes a pitfall -- one of us will be forced to go downstairs and unstick the button while simultaneously stifling the urge to beat the utterly confused bastard at the door into a coma.

It's even more annoying when someone walks by and hits the button just for the hell of it.

Having not ordered food -- I'm still determined to allow my refrigerator the time it apparently needs to show some initiative and suggest something worthwhile -- I assumed that one of these phantoms was the culprit when the jackhammer unexpectedly went off in my apartment a half-hour or so ago. As is typical, I swore loudly, then put on my shoes and took the elevator down to the street level. When I threw the front door open in a rage, standing there, a few feet from it, was a small Asian man with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

"Did you hit 6C?" I barked.

He returned a look that I recognized; it was the same one my dog used to make when he had recently come to the conclusion that my couch didn't meet the required level of canine fecal matter necessary to be considered truly tasteful.

"No -- no," he returned, looking anywhere but directly at me.

I huffed, fixed the button and went back upstairs.

A few minutes later, I was making yet another trek to the refrigerator when I noticed a white leaflet on the floor directly in front of my apartment door. It was then of course that the full breadth of Fu Manchu's nefarious plot became clear: He had basically just punched a bunch of buttons until somebody finally let him in, then he littered our building with restaurant fliers.

Normally, this would've been thorougly infuriating, and it was -- until I picked up the flier and took a look at it.

It was relatively unassuming -- the latest in an infinitude of Chinese restaurant menus my wife and I find under our door. This one however was inscribed in bold letters with what has to be the best blurb in the history of promotion -- an endorsement so impressive that it no doubt has the Zagat and Michelin people contemplating a change of career.

It read simply:

"The best Chinese food I never try it before!"
-- Said by many customer


And with that, all was forgiven.

After a quick internal debate over whether or not my mastery of the English language was strong enough to become one of the restaurant's "many customer," I threw the menu away and went back to the refrigerator. Still no string-theory.

I'm loathe to admit it, but years ago I likely would've looked upon this sort of reprieve from a current relationship as an opportunity to at most fool around with someone other than my partner, or at the very least masturbate in every room of the house. The former is out of the question these days because I'm very much in love with my wife, the latter simply because, A) my sex drive isn't quite what it used to be since undergoing brain surgery last year, and B) I live in New York City, which means that there's only one room in my residence to speak of; any attempt to vary my masturbatory patterns would be sorely lacking in creativity. Instead, I willingly turn my attention to a combination of writing and mental preparation for tonight's season finale of Battlestar Galactica.

Oh yeah, and watching Blood Diamond again.

I say again because my wife and I curled up on the couch last night and watched it together, each of us enjoying the movie quite a bit, which is what led me to make the rare commitment to a second viewing. In addition to being a disturbing and wholly necessary tutorial on both the reality of the diamond trade and the brutality of the constant political upheaval in Africa -- upheaval which goes largely ignored by many here in the states -- it boasts excellent performances by its lead actors. Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are each phenomenal and unquestioningly deserved their respective Oscar nominations; Jennifer Connolly manages to capture the enigmatic quality -- equal parts seductive and repellent -- that drives someone to willingly and consistently travel to the worst places on the planet and risk his or her life in pursuit of the news.

I'm very familiar with this quality -- I've had plenty of personal experience with it -- and yet it remains "enigmatic" simply because I have yet to fully understand it, and I'm not alone in this nescience. I know this however: It's very easy to fall in love with; it is almost impossible to live with.

A couple of weeks back, I left the insular quiet of the Upper East Side and hopped a cab down to, quite literally, my neighborhood's polar opposite -- the Lower East Side. I had been invited to a small party by one of my co-workers and relished the chance to spend a little time engaging in a ritual which long ago became foreign to me: drinking and complaining about the business. Before I even left my apartment, the party already had the distinction of being the first social event I'd be attending in years without Jayne on my arm (she wasn't feeling great and had decided to sit this one out). When I arrived, I quickly realized that the gathering was unusual for an entirely different reason: In attendance were reporters and producers from several networks' Baghdad crews, all of whom were not only familiar with my ex-wife, but had shared the kind of indescribable, singular intimacy with her that can only come from dodging mortar rounds together for extended periods of time.

They knew everything there was to know about her -- which meant that they almost surely knew everything there was to know about me.

A quick history lesson: My ex-wife and I were the worst couple imaginable.

Each of us was insanely passionate, notoriously short-fused and brutally caustic. Like many couples whose individual partners share combustive characteristics, we created a volatile mixture which simmered for quite some time before finally exploding altogether. It's only in hindsight however that our most indomitable shared trait becomes clear: Neither of us was willing to accept that we were exactly the same; neither wanted to admit to having the same negative personality traits as the other -- it was easier to just blame each other and be done with it. I needed an escape, so I did drugs; she had looked for an escape from the beginning, so she subconsciously pushed me away. I was selfish and irresponsible -- constantly looking for something more, while trying to keep the status quo; she insisted on keeping the status quo solely out of obligation, while constantly craving something more. We both loved strongly, but neither of us would truly commit. We were each flawed in ways neither was willing to discuss or possibly even admit to. Our relationship never should've lasted more than a month at the most. We were foolish for trying to turn it into a lifetime.

The most common word I've heard used to describe my ex-wife is "rigid." She's indeed tough-as-nails -- exuding a masculine sexuality and drive that makes her enticing in a way that seems almost supernatural. It's likely always made her an object of infatuation to those who perceive the idea of taming her to be the ultimate challenge. I have no doubt that it's the progenitor of this kind of rough-and-tumble bravado which drove her to take a job as a network field producer. What that progenitor is, I now have my suspicions.

Back to the party -- it was about an hour after my arrival that it became clear to the Baghdad people just who I was.

The reaction was, well --

"YOU'RE CHEZ?" one woman practically screamed, with equal parts shock and bemusement -- immediately calling the others over so that they too could get a look at the circus freak.

I just smiled and nodded in resignation.

Yes, yes -- it's me -- THAT GUY. The asshole -- in the flesh. Thanks for coming. Make sure you tip your bartenders and waitresses on the way out.

I was almost sorry I didn't have a pedestal handy.

Understand, it's one thing to have an unseemly past -- one in which you regret nearly everything you did and didn't do; it's something else entirely to meet people for the first time who already know every repugnant detail -- every rotten secret -- from that past. Disconcerting doesn't even begin to cover it.

For the next half-hour or so, I did my best to keep the conversation upbeat -- despite the knowledge that I had already been judged and convicted and now stood before my ex-wife's co-workers as exposed and vulnerable as the day I was born. I spoke highly of my former love; I spoke truthfully about my own mistakes -- my search for a measure of redemption -- and my recent successes and newfound happiness. I spoke honestly about my love for Jayne and the strength of our relationship; I smiled a lot and did my best to take the whole uncomfortable situation in stride.

I learned that my ex-wife is now dating a photographer who works with her. In fact, one noticeably strange moment came when someone actually suggested calling my ex, right there and then, and putting me on the phone. Another woman quickly dismissed the idea, intimating that it would upset the current boyfriend. Admittedly, the possibility that I might be perceived as a threat was something that I turned over in my mind for a few minutes, curious as to whether my memory existed as some sort of specter in my ex's life -- confused at this thought, given her abrupt and unequivocal exit from our relationship.

After awhile, the garrulity turned toward another topic and I was left to drink my beer in relative peace. Thankfully, my inquisition at the hands of the Babes of Baghdad was quickly followed by a quiet conversation with the host of the party -- my co-worker. She's a cool, sweet, funny, smart and attractive twenty-five-year-old with whom I've forged an odd little bond recently. This was initially due to the fact that she'd been unlucky enough to fall hard for an overseas field producer herself, and was facing the same obstacles and difficulties I had once faced in dealing with that particular personality type.

I offered an opinion or two -- refusing to lecture -- confident in the belief that she's doing just fine figuring it out on her own.

Discussing it with her, however, had a surprising affect on me: It helped me to at least better understand what years ago was so torturously incomprehensible. I listened to what was happening to my friend and I recognized the behavior immediately. The man she cared about sought solace in her arms, but was never fully there. His passion was alluring and consuming -- but also fleeting; despite the trappings of adulthood -- particularly the dangerous, important job -- he was, in reality, little more than a selfish child.

It all finally added up.

"Baghdad" isn't merely a place -- not for people like the man who has my friend's heart; not for people like the woman who once had mine. It's an idea. It's where you run to when bullets and bombs don't terrify you but commitment to another human being and the very thought of an ordinary life does. It's where everything is transient, nothing lasts, and caprice is not only accepted but rewarded -- rationalized as an unavoidable by-product of the job -- in actuality, the very reason the job held such appeal in the first place.

The progenitor I mentioned earlier -- the basis for her bravado?

Fear.

Fear of never being able to lead a quiet life; fear of becoming restless and unwittingly hurting someone who loves you; fear of failure. The job becomes the perfect excuse for never having to take on that most daunting yet rewarding of life's responsibilities: the care of a human heart.

About two-thirds of the way through Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio's character asks Jennifer Connolly's why she does what she does -- why she puts herself in the line of fire time and time again. He asks if she's a thrill-seeker; she responds, "Three out of four ex-boyfriends say that I'm not happy unless my life is in a constant state of crisis."

At least one ex-husband understands, and he's happy not to be a part of it anymore.

He's grateful though for the learning experience -- and even more grateful for what's come into his life since.

Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution


Just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who showed up last night for Gelf Magazine's "Non-Motivational Speaker" series event here in New York City.

Hopefully, Robert Lanham (of FREEWilliamsburg.com), Moe Tkacik (of Jezebel.com) and myself didn't make your brain hurt too badly.

Either way, it was great meeting everyone who stopped by and a good time all the way around.

Up Next:

On Tuesday, July 1st, I'll be on XM Satellite Radio's "Morning Briefing" show with Scott Walterman. I should be on around 7:20am and you can find the show on XM's POTUS channel, 130. As with Sirius, if you don't have an XM subscription, you can listen online.

Listening Post



This is seriously one of the best covers I think anyone's ever done. It just floored me the first time I heard it.

Here's Jose Gonzalez, turning Massive Attack's Teardrop from dreamy into powerful and passionate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And Now, a Word from "Jon Klein"


I'm filing this one under "For Entertainment Purposes Only," simply because there's no way to verify the authenticity of what you're about to read -- and I tend to doubt that the real Jon Klein, even when you consider his purported level of arrogance, would be balls-out stupid enough to publicly comment on this site.

That said though, I received a response to yesterday's short post on personal blogging by members of larger media outlets that reads as follows:

From: Your Former Boss

Chez, I've had enough of it. When you came to work for us, you implicitly made a pact to give your time and your skills to us. We paid you a salary, you give us your skills. We didn't need skills in the bedroom or skills in the kitchen or any of that; that's the stuff for your off time. Your production skills were what we paid for, and that includes your thoughts on media, your writing talent and all the rest.

Frankly, while working for us I don't believe you should be writing anything without permission. Not a novel about space aliens infesting a Mormon commune or a book of your favorite family recipes.

We, and many other business besides, pay good money for our workers and provide benefits and for that we expect...no, demand...loyalty.

You broke that trust, and that is why you are currently surviving on the benefits of unemployment insurance. Be glad we let you get that without challenging your right to it. After all, you broke trust. You broke your implied word that came with being our employee. In short, your termination was well deserved and if I had my way, you'd be paying us back for every hour you spent work on this blog while working at CNN.

Sincerely,
Jon Klein


For those lucky enough to have no idea who this person claims to be, Jon Klein is the president of CNN/U.S. and was, in fact, my "boss" during a substantial portion of my time at CNN. I've been told by several people since being fired from the network that Klein -- the real Klein -- actually is strangely Queegian enough to troll the internet looking for negative press about him and the little ethically-challenged fiefdom that he's built on the once-hallowed ground on which CNN sits. But once again, I just can't believe that he'd let his ego get the best of him and make the entirely ill-advised decision to engage in a public war of words with, well, a blogger (although, we've witnessed a lot of very bad, ego-driven ideas involving television types played out in public lately; take, for instance, the nightly fusillade between Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly, bringing the vast resources of NBC and News Corp., respectively, to bear against each other in what's essentially a playground brawl). For what it's worth, even my own sense of self-importance isn't weighty enough to make me willing to believe that I'm important enough of an issue for CNN to have drawn its president out of his office and into a pissing match.

However, the comment does sound quite a bit like Klein: it's highly articulate, avoids going completely off the rails at any point, and is full to the brim with hubris. And the only thing I can say for sure is that it was written by neither myself nor someone I know.

So, just for the hell of it, I'll respond to this mystery person:

From: Your Former Employee

Mr. Klein,

I'm going to operate as if the comment recently made on my site, Deus Ex Malcontent, really is from you. I admit that I do this more for myself than for the benefit of you or even my readers, as I'd love nothing more than to finally address you "face to face."

The truth, sir, is that since your appointment to the position of president of CNN/U.S. in late 2004, you have consistently betrayed the principles and ethics upon which the network was originally founded -- the standards the public relies on from an organization such as CNN. You've done this by abandoning your background in real journalism, conveniently turning up your nose at it in favor of assuming the role of a highly-paid corporate hack whose sole interest is a twofold goal: assuring the mightiest stream of revenue possible for the Time Warner shareholders through the garnering of ratings by any means necessary and, in turn, ensuring that his own job is never in danger. This kind of end may certainly be a practical one in this age of news-for-profit, but unfortunately the tactics required to meet it -- the lengths you must be willing to go to in order to grab the ratings which pull in the money -- often run wholly anathema to the canons of honest, respectable journalism. Put simply, creating political conflict where this is none and inflating the conflict that already exists for the sake of generating viewer interest is reprehensible; allowing demagogic blowhards like Lou Dobbs and Nancy Grace, and Vaudevillian buffoons like Glenn Beck, to even walk the halls of CNN is a startling forfeiture of credibility; fostering an environment in which managers find it acceptable to make inexplicable comments like, "What can we do to not lead with Iraq?" is almost beyond belief; ruining what should, by all accounts, be the gold standard of U.S. televisions news, CNN, is absolutely unforgivable, sir. Unforgivable.

I refuse to once again list the failings of you and your organization as of late -- failings which are, in no uncertain terms, so absolute from a journalistic perspective as to be mind-boggling. I refuse because I've spent the past four months spelling them out ad nauseam for anyone and everyone to see. CNN/U.S. may indeed be making money hand-over-fist for its keepers at Time Warner, and this fact may indeed be all that really matters in your eyes -- but this in no way justifies the depths to which you've allowed the network to sink in pursuit of these vast profits.

It's about more than money -- more than the razzle-dazzle, and the shock value, and the over-the-top celebrity-fellating-and-generating ethos. It's about journalism. It's about bringing truth to power and, dare I say it, responsibility. And it's these principles that you've sacrificed time and time again, Mr. Klein. And though I have no doubt that you'll dismiss this criticism, as you tend to do to any and all outrage aimed in the direction of you and the institution you've created/destroyed, ask yourself this some time: "If the person currently castigating me through Deus Ex Malcontent and The Huffington Post is so wrong, so completely off-base in his reasoning, why are not one or two, but three of my senior managers in constant e-mail contact with him, agreeing with his arguments and feeding him inside information?" For the record, I'm not referring to a few disgruntled "bottom-feeders" within your organization; I'm talking about managers whom you think highly enough of to enlist them to represent CNN/U.S. as panelists at this year's National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

Think about that, sir.

As for myself -- my admittedly insignificant little drama in the much larger and more important picture, and your supposed irritation with it -- I can only say this: You may have paid me, but you didn't own me. I worked for CNN, not the CIA. I gave my job 100% and have the sterling employee reviews to prove it, but what I did on my own time, and not as a representative of the views and opinions of you or anyone else at CNN, was mine and mine alone. I regret nothing, and if you honestly do believe that you and the entity you lord over should be afforded absolute control of those who draw a CNN paycheck, you really are as laughably megalomaniacal, not to mention paranoid, as your many detractors claim you to be. I'm not sure if even the real Jon Klein, at his most delirious, would be short-sighted enough to actually threaten me with the revocation of my unemployment benefits or insinuate that I could at some point be taken to court for my personal actions during my time under the employ of CNN, but if by the slightest chance it really is you spouting such draconian invective, all I can say is, in the words of the very president the media in general failed to take to task for so long: bring it on.

Go ahead, make me a martyr. Make me truly famous.

Make my voice deafening.

Sincerely,

Chez

Talking Points


One final reminder: Tonight I'll be taking part in Gelf Magazine's "Non-Motivational Speaker" series here in New York City.

As a prelude to that appearance -- at which I'll talk a little, answer some questions, and read from Dead Star Twilight -- Gelf Magazine has posted an interview with yours truly on its website.

Feel free to check it out, and remember that if you happen to be in New York tonight, by all means stop by and let me buy you a drink.

(Gelf Magazine: "Insolence is Bliss" by Adam Rosen/6.20.08)

Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series
Happy Ending Lounge
302 Broome St.
(between Forsyth and Eldridge)
212-334-9676
Doors open at 7:30.


(More Information)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goodbye Larry


Well, here's a shock.

Ferret-like Philadelphia news anchor Larry Mendte, one half of the long-running comedy team of Mendte and Lane, was canned Monday from his main anchor job at KYW, CBS 3. The move comes as the other half of the team -- cop-punching, bikini-pic mailing, foul-mouthed, hot-but-stupid ex-anchor Alycia Lane -- files a lawsuit against KYW and its CBS overlords, charging them with invading her privacy and trashing her, uh, good name. Mendte garners a hefty portion of Lane's substantial wrath; she claims he went through her private e-mails and leaked what he found to gossip columnists -- an accusation which brought the feds down hard on Mendte, as rifling through someone else's computer is a federal offense. Reportedly, keystroke-logging software was discovered on one of the CBS 3 computers, though whether the hard drive in question was Lane's or the software was put there by Mendte is unknown.


Mendte's sacking means that CBS 3 has fired its entire main anchor team over a period of six months.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the people bringing you your local news.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer: CBS 3 Fires Mendte/8.24.08)

(Philly.com: Alycia Tells Her Side/6.20.08)

Listening Post


Two songs from one of my absolute favorite bands of all-time: Concrete Blonde.

First up, from their 1990 album Bloodletting, this is the gorgeous and haunting Caroline.



And from Concrete Blonde's 1989 album Free, here's God is a Bullet.

Survey Says...


I meant to get into this a couple of weeks back, when it first began making the rounds on the internet. Unfortunately for the author of a study on personal blogging and the media, bad timing prevailed and I felt like I had to shelve his story for a little while, as I had just spent a couple of days working on the piece detailing my return to the Time Warner Center four months after being fired by CNN (The Outsider/6.9.08) and wanted to leave it at the top of the main page for awhile.

I felt awful about doing this, given that my story was apparently the partial inspiration for his decision to contact 250 newspaper editors and ask the following question:

"Would you allow your staff writers, without prior approval, to blog during their free time after work as long as they don’t write about the beats they cover for your newspaper?"

What Simon Owens discovered -- besides the fact that most newspaper editors and publishers can't be bothered to respond to an e-mail if it comes from one of the unwashed masses, as only 39 people responded to him -- was that the issue of personal blogging for members of the so-called mainstream media is a startlingly divisive one.

"Twenty-two — 56% — said they wouldn’t mind if writers blogged on non-beat issues without obtaining permission. The remaining 17 — 44% — either required disclosure of the blog, issued caveats over what subjects couldn’t be covered, or had outright bans on having personal blogs at all."

For my part, I feel like everything I could possibly say about this subject has been said (which is one of the reasons I pushed this story back a couple of weeks; I had originally intended the Time Warner column to bookend my original piece on being fired by CNN and act as a sort of "final word" on the whole thing). But Owens put a good amount of effort -- well thought-out effort -- into gathering these figures, the results of which prove that a clear and specific policy on blogging is imperative in each and every media workplace these days in order to avoid the kind of situation I ran into. What Owens's actions themselves prove, however -- the very act of a blogger reaching out and undertaking a careful survey, then writing a column which pieces together the results -- proves a point that I've been attempting to hammer home for quite a while: true journalism is no longer only the dominion of the major media outlets. Simon Owens used his intellect and his computer to conduct a study which attempts to shed light on a important (and newsworthy) social debate. What's more, he didn't do it for a paycheck -- he did it because he just wanted to know.

It's that kind of curiosity that's the backbone of what a newsperson does every day, and it doesn't require sanction or validation from an official media organization to be considered journalism

(Bloggasm: 44% of Newspapers Wouldn't Allow Staff Writers to Blog During Free Time Without Prior Approval/6.9.08)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Resistance is Futile


To: Chez Pazienza, AKA "Deus Ex Malcontent"
From: General Malaise, Cmdr. DUNCECOM Allied Forces
Date: June 24th, 2008


Mr. Pazienza,

First, allow me to say that you have fought the good fight and, as such, have been an honorable opponent in the face of overwhelming odds. There is no condescension meant in the demand which I must now make, nor should any shame be taken by you regarding what, I believe, you now have no choice but to do. You've stood valiantly against our assaults for more than two years, weathered the daunting firepower of some of the strongly and most finely-crafted idiocy we could bombard you with: the Don Imus "scandal," Sex and the City mania, Ben Stein's "Intelligent Design" movie, anything Al Sharpton has had to say, Hannah Montana, NBC's "All American Summer" lineup. Once again, to your immense credit, you have withstood it all, and even fought back vigorously.

But you must now, this morning, concede that you have been beaten. It is time to put down your pen, take a step back from your keyboard, unplug your MacBook and surrender, if for no other reason than to prevent any further anguish to either side in this fierce battle.

Surely you understand -- after reading the recent article on CNN.com., originally posted on Oprah.com -- the hopelessness of resistance at this point. We hesitated for some time to commit to the nuclear option against you, but we feel that you left us no alternative but to publish the aforementioned article, entitled "Empathy Deficit Disorder: Do You Suffer From It?" and documenting, mostly through a series of testimonials from the dumbest women we could assemble, a completely new disorder that pop psychologists (in our employ) just pulled out of their asses on a whim. The forces of DUNCECOM were fully aware when we contracted the creation of this so-called "condition" the fact that it sounded a lot cooler and less threatening than sociopathy (think "Sociopathy-Lite, for Housewives!") and was essentially the same thing. We also understood that upon reading it, the inside of your brain, Mr. Pazienza, would detonate in a massive explosion that would kill millions of innocent brain cells; despite the awareness of such collateral damage, however, we once again felt that this drastic action had to be taken to force you to finally concede defeat.

Please know that this will only be the first strike in a larger campaign of atom-splitting stupidity against you and the dwindling few intelligent members of the general public, if you do not surrender immediately and unconditionally. We have several more nonsensical media-driven, Oprah-approved cultural and medical breakthroughs -- complete with guest shots on the Today show and best-selling self-help books -- waiting in the wings, all carefully engineered to produce the kind of physically painful chain-reaction of catalepsy in your brain that will render you completely unable to crawl out from under your covers and utterly terrified of the world beyond your home.

It doesn't have to be this way, but make no mistake, we will not hesitate to mentally crush you if we have to.

Just wait until we unleash the new season of VH-1's "Celebreality."

Believe me, you don't want to see Richard Grieco and Peter DeLuise in 43 Jump Street, or Wentz and Simpson: Swinging Celebs.

Please, do the right thing. You have no choice.

We await your reply.

-- General Malaise

To: General Malaise, Cmdr. DUNCECOM Allied Forces
From: Chez Pazienza, AKA "Deus Ex Malcontent"
Date: June 24th, 2008


General Malaise,

Fuck it. Meet me at the Starbucks on 75th and 1st (the one on the southeast corner) and bring the paperwork -- and a bottle of Effexor.

-- Chez

(CNN.com/Oprah.com: Empathy Deficit Disorder -- Do You Suffer from It?/6.18.08)

Sour Girl


There's an article in Salon.com this morning that asks "Did Maureen Dowd Go Too Far?"

First of all, and for the record, News Writing 101: Want people to read? Title your headline in the form of a question. It's literally the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree of cheap journalism tricks.

About the piece itself though, columnist Sarah Hepola lambastes the media's half-assed -- and by this point, wholly predictable -- attempt at ex post facto soul-searching in the wake of its allegedly unfair and sexist treatment of Hillary Clinton. Hepola argues that Maureen Dowd, in particular, is getting off too easy; she says that the New York Times columnist's occasionally scathing pieces targeting Clinton during her divisive run for the White House amounted to a form of crass sexism. (Don't try to figure it out; I gave it a shot and it only made my brain hurt.) But the author makes special note of Dowd's notorious wordplay.

"Over the top? Maureen Dowd? Tell me when she has ever been anything but. (And we haven't even discussed her truly offensive use of puns!)" she writes.

The punchline?

The column appears in Salon.com's new blog section aimed at female readers.

It's called "The Broadsheet."

(For a couple of really hilarious puns, by the way, a little further down on the Broadsheet you'll find a story about a 5'8", 300 pound model named Velvet D'Amour. The piece is called, appropriately, "Girl Crush," and at one point in it, D'Amour unleashes this unintentional zinger: "I've been called a whale at a swimming pool. I'm very confident in my body and I know that I'm not going to stop myself from getting exercise by virtue of someone putting me down. But I know that there are tons of women who would never go back to that swimming pool.")

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Death is Caused by Swallowing Small Amounts of Saliva Over a Long Period of Time"


When I was a kid, I spent quite a bit of time surreptitiously rifling through my uncle's record collection. He was heavily into Sly and the Family Stone, The Who and Fleetwood Mac, and my stealth missions to his turntable were always edifying -- making me feel like I was getting just a tiny taste of the music and culture I already appreciated and would soon come to love inside and out.

I stood in awe of the kind of stuff my uncle listened to.

But nothing prepared me for the first time I snuck off with his copy of George Carlin's 1974 album Toledo Window Box.

Honestly -- it was a revelation.

I'd never heard anything so clever, so brash, so sly, so acerbic -- or anyone so skillful at filtering his indignation through seemingly harmless wordplay, so absolutely goddamned funny. The only word I could come up with, even at the time, was "genius." I grew up worshipping at the altar of Carlin for years after that early indoctrination; he was everything I wanted to be, and remained that way throughout his lifetime -- right up until his death yesterday at the age of 71.

The irony that I can't find the words to describe my heartbreak, when he probably would've had no trouble doing so, isn't lost on me.

Just know this: Anyone who currently uses a public forum to comment on the general absurdity of life, and tries to be mildly entertaining doing it, owes a debt of gratitude to George Carlin -- one that can never be fully repaid.

He was one of my idols, and today the world feels like a less educated -- and infinitely less funny -- place without him.

Listening Post


True rock n' roll story: I was lucky enough to be in the audience the night that The Nymphs imploded live onstage.

For those unfamiliar with the band, The Nymphs were one of the seminal alternative outfits to come out of L.A. in the early 90s -- part of that very brief movement that saw metal, grunge and psychedelic glam all intersecting. Like most of the other bands that became associated with this sub-genre -- Jane's Addiction, Mother Love Bone and so on -- The Nymphs were almost always assured of eventual self-destruction, one way or another. The minute you heard them and saw them, you knew there was just no way they were gonna last, especially not when you considered the fact that their singer -- gorgeous ex-model and professional addict Inger Lorre -- was completely insane. If you paid any attention at all to alternative music around 1991, you were well aware of the various stories of Lorre's sociopathic antics: that she'd once given her boyfriend head onstage; that she ran naked down Melrose Avenue after a band photo shoot; and, most memorably, that she'd gotten drunk and pissed on Geffen A&R legend Tom Zutaut's desk after he confronted her about her "issues."

Suffice to say, Inger Lorre made Courtney Love -- who seemed to follow in her footsteps -- look like a choirgirl.

Lorre's unpredictably lunatic behavior finally reached a boiling point with the rest of the band in 1992.

While they were opening for Peter Murphy.

In Miami.

I was already a big fan of The Nymphs -- crazy hot singer and all -- and therefore a friend of mine and I had made sure to get to the show at the Cameo Theater on Miami Beach in time to see them. When the house lights dimmed, the twin guitars began to crunch, and the stage lights came up to reveal the four guys in the band minus Lorre, I gave it no thought, figuring she was just waiting to make a grand entrance. But as the music went on for several more bars and Lorre remained MIA, I started laughing, turned to my friend and shouted to him over the noise, "She's not here! Inger's not even here!" As the two of us continued to stare at the stage with our mouths hanging slightly open, poor Nymphs guitarist Sam Merrick stepped up to the mic and started uncomfortably warbling his way through the first few lines of the song.

And that's when Inger Lorre finally made that grand entrance. She appeared out of nowhere, sprinted across the stage and grabbed the mic -- knocking Sam aside.

She managed to get about three words of the song out before the music came to an ugly halt, seeming to slowly disintegrate as one band member after another just gave up and stopped playing. One by one, each of them walked offstage, a fatigued and disgusted look on his face.

The band broke up almost immediately after that.

Inger Lorre went on to suffer a full-fledged nervous breakdown.

For the record, The Nymphs at the Cameo in 1992 may not have been the longest show I ever saw -- but it damn sure stands as one of the most entertaining.

From the band's debut album, here's one of the many songs I never got to see live that night: Sad and Damned.



And, also from The Nymphs' debut, it's Imitating Angels.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Big Willie Style


If I did a regular "Picture of the Week," this week's would come courtesy of my friend Steve Bunche: great guy, talented comic artist, true original, purveyor and arbiter of all culture -- foreign and domestic, popular and obscure -- and noble modern-day Samurai.

I lift this shot from his excellent blog "The Vault of Buncheness." The picture was taken last week, as the marquee was being dismantled after the premiere of the new Will Smith vehicle Hancock in London's Leicester Square.

As Bunche puts it, "Now that's a movie I'd see."

For the record, it's good to know that no one will have to work overtime to come up with a title for this movie's all-but-inevitable porn knock-off.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Centurion Candidate


Over the past several months, I've written only occasionally about the current race for the White House. Sure, lately the number of pieces having to do with the upcoming presidential election have increased, and I haven't held back when it comes to criticizing the actions of some candidates while lauding those of others -- but Deus Ex Malcontent has yet to officially endorse any particular person.

Until now.

So, for the office of President of the United States, I'm getting behind a man with a lengthy military record.

A man who spent time in an enemy prison camp and was severely tortured, leaving him both physically and emotionally scarred.

A man who has serious anger management issues and is quick-tempered to the point of being slightly unhinged.

A man who's often confused about just who the enemy is, makes glaring misstatements, and sometimes can't seem to think clearly.

A man who once called for a long, drawn-out, win-at-all-costs war, even going so far as to contemptuously dismiss any political dissent.

A man who, despite his impressive title, doesn't have the full support and confidence of his peers.

A man who's had a contentious, volatile relationship with his wife, an aging bottle-blonde he blames for publicly humiliating him and against whom he's resorted to at least one unspeakable act that he now refuses to talk about.

A man who can't make a decision without first consulting his friend and superior, and who would likely attempt to continue the kind of rule that's been in place for the past several years, simply because he doesn't know anything else.

A bitter and angry old man with a practically non-existent head of thin white hair and a knack for contorting his face into a near-perpetual steely grimace.

So, who is this man?

Well, of course, he's...

Colonel Saul Tigh.

Why, who did you think I was talking about?


Vote Tigh in '08.

He has a plan.

Here's Johnny!


***NEW JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL***
DISTRIBUTION: Nationwide
EMBARGO: None
RUN TIME: 1:00
MIXED AND READY FOR AIR 06/21/08
KILL DATE: TBA

***TRANSCRIPT***


(Cue patriotic music, standard oversized billowing American flag background.)

Hi, I'm John McCain.

You know, recently, there's been some talk floating around the interwebs about how I once called my beautiful wife Cindy, well, a "cunt" in public. I'm here today to set the record straight.

I did in fact call her a cunt... but I'm afraid that the true meaning of the word is being misconstrued.

You see, "cunt" is just old white man lingo for "woman." In the same way that nigg... uh, I mean, blacks... sometimes say "bad" when what they really mean is "good," or when they say "dope," or "fresh" or "funky soul makossa" to mean that they like something... that's what I'm doing when I call my wife a cunt. In fact, Cindy and I have even taken it a step further and made that sort of my pet name for her. Not a day goes by that I don't turn to the love of my life and say, "God, you're such a fucking worthless cunt, and if I weren't running for office I'd kill you in your sleep... now go make me a sandwich."

See? It's just the kind of thing old white men say to their wives.

I don't believe it's fair to criticize cultural differences, especially ones that so many out there and in the media seem to misunderstand. I mean, think of how silly it was when Fox News called the "pound" that Barack and Michelle Obama share a "terrorist fist jab." That's a cultural thing among nigg... uh, I mean, blacks. You wouldn't come down on them for doing something that's popular within their world, would you? No, of course not. But just like a lot of Obama's culture seems strange and foreign to normal people, some of the customs and language of old white man society must also be confusing to those few unimportant voters who won't eventually become old white men themselves. For instance... Cindy and I have our own version of the "pound," and it really is more of a fist jab... like when she wears too much make-up like a cannery row whore and I have to jab my fist into her eye socket.

Once again, it's just something bitter, crazy old white men do... although I learned a couple of "improvements" on the technique during my years being slapped across the face while having "DI DI MOW!" screamed at me and a revolver put to my head.

So before you criticize me for calling my wife a cunt... or criticize any surly elderly man you see engaging in behavior that became unacceptable in decent society a century or so ago, just remember...

It's an old white thing.

You wouldn't understand.

(V/O Track: I'm John McCain, and I approved this horseshit.)

Saturday Morning Cartoons



One Word: Leopold!

From 1949, one of my all-time favorites -- Chuck Jones's Long-Haired Hair.

Q & A


I've already mentioned that this coming Thursday, June 26th, I'll be taking part in Gelf Magazine's "Non-Motivational Speaker" series here in New York City.

As a prelude to that appearance -- at which I'll talk a little, answer some questions, and read from Dead Star Twilight -- Gelf Magazine has just posted an interview with yours truly on its website.

Feel free to check it out, and remember that if you happen to be in New York this Thursday, by all means stop by and let me buy you a drink.

(Gelf Magazine: "Insolence is Bliss" by Adam Rosen/6.20.08)

Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series
Happy Ending Lounge
302 Broome St.
(between Forsyth and Eldridge)
212-334-9676
Doors open at 7:30.


(More Information)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Falling Man


I love it when just the headline of a story makes me bust up laughing.

Behold:

(The Huffington Post: Glenn Beck Falls Down the Stairs)

Last Exit to Manhattan


With the upcoming addition to the little family that Jayne and I are putting together comes the need for more space.

And so, I'm happy to say that we're finally getting the hell out of the Upper East Side and moving into a very nice two-story townhouse in Astoria.

Signed the lease yesterday.

You're all invited to the housewarming party.

Listening Post



Perfect for a Friday, here's something from the new My Chemical Romance live album and DVD, The Black Parade is Dead.

It's Dead!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Logan's Shun


Immediately after being fired from my job at CNN, I wrote an extended piece decrying the direction that American television news has taken in the last several years (Say What You Will/2.18.08). The one paragraph in that column that best summed up the deplorable state of modern broadcast journalism -- and therefore went on to be quoted quite a few times as the piece made its way around the internet -- was this:

"During my last couple of years as a television news producer, I watched the networks try to recover from a six year failure to bring truth to power (the political party in power being irrelevant incidentally; the job of the press is to maintain an adversarial relationship with the government at all times) and what's worse, to pretend that they had a backbone all along. I watched my bosses literally stand in the middle of the newsroom and ask, "What can we do to not lead with Iraq?" -- the reason being that Iraq, although an important story, wasn't always a surefire ratings draw. I was asked to complete self-evaluations which pressed me to describe the ways in which I'd "increased shareholder value." (For the record, if you're a rank-and-file member of a newsroom, you should never under any circumstances even hear the word "shareholders," let alone be reminded that you're beholden to them.) I watched the media in general do anything within reason to scare the hell out of the American public -- to convince people that they were about to be infected by the bird flu, poisoned by the food supply, or eaten by sharks. I marveled at our elevation of the death of Anna Nicole Smith to near-mythic status and our willingness to let the airwaves be taken hostage by every permutation of opportunistic degenerate from a crying judge to a Hollywood hanger-on with an emo haircut. I watched qualified, passionate people worked nearly to death while mindless talking heads were coddled. I listened to Lou Dobbs play the loud-mouthed fascist demagogue, Nancy Grace fake ratings-baiting indignation, and Glenn Beck essentially do nightly stand-up -- and that's not even taking into account the 24/7 Vaudeville act over at Fox News. I watched The Daily Show laugh not at our mistakes but at our intentional absurdity."

Now keep all that in mind as you watch this interview -- somewhat startling in its candor -- with CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan. It's from, ironically, The Daily Show.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You Cun't Say That on Television


I wish I could add something to the clip below, but not only can I not make it any funnier than it already is -- I can't put a finer point on just what it says about both the mainstream news media's velvet-gloved treatment of John McCain and its spinelessness in general (especially when compared to the kind of no-holds-barred coverage that's become synonymous with quite a few internet outlets).

This is the latest video from the satire troupe Public Service Administration, and it's in reference to McCain calling his wife Cindy a "cunt" in front of a flock of reporters back in the 90s.

Didn't hear about that?

I'm shocked.

"My Ass, Let's Go... They're Filming Midgets!"


I'll make this quick.

See In Bruges.

The pitch-black comedy/gangster flick is now available on video, and if you're one of the many who missed its short run in theaters, I highly recommend putting it on your Netflix queue somewhere. It stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson -- both of whom turn in fantastic performances -- as a couple of Irish thugs briefly exiled to the bucolic Belgian town of Bruges after a hit goes terribly wrong. The movie features so many conventions you've seen a hundred times before -- from gangsters on the run, to the fish-out-of-water scenario, to the surreal, Lynchian idiosyncrasies of a small town -- but they're all combined so expertly and with such a deft touch that the resulting amalgam feels completely fresh. Credit for both the purposely dreamlike feel of the film as well as its whip-smart dialogue goes to writer/director Martin McDonagh -- the celebrated playwright behind The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, both of which Jayne and I were fortunate enough to see on Broadway and are still raving about.

It's funny, it's tragic, it's surprisingly moving.

In Bruges is a damn good movie.

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: 666

(The Slayer Tornado Siren)

Meet the Ex-Press


Just a minor housekeeping note, in the form of a shameless plug:

I'll be appearing as part of Gelf Magazine's "Non-Motivational Speaker Series" next Thursday, June 26th at 8PM. The evening of drinking, conversation and unintentional comedy will be held in the event space of the Happy Ending Lounge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. If you happen to live in the New York City area, here's your chance to pelt me with rocks and garbage; feel free to drop by, as I talk a little bit about the state of TV journalism, answer a few questions, and read excerpts from my memoir, Dead Star Twilight.

Did I mention that the place is a lounge, which means that there's alcohol? Oh, and that admission is free?

Hope to see you there, folks.

Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series
Happy Ending Lounge
302 Broome St.
(between Forsyth and Eldridge)
212-334-9676
Doors open at 7:30.


(More Information)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cyrus the Virus


Back in high school, a friend of mine and I had a kind of litmus test -- an instant and surefire barometer -- used to determine whether someone was a complete fucking idiot.

That test: sunglasses indoors.

I'm not talking about the person who walks inside from a sunny day and happens to leave his glasses on for a few minutes; I'm talking about the one who seems to go out of his way to purposely keep his eyes covered in the hope of, I'd imagine, escaping detection from that flock of adoring fans and the strobing flashes it'll soon be aiming in his direction.

Whenever my friend and I spotted this special brand of clown, one or the other of us would make a point to walk up to him and say something like, "Hey, you know, if it's too bright in here we can have somebody turn the lights down for you."

Sunglasses indoors screams one thing: douchebag.

So it's no surprise that during his interview this morning on the Today show, Billy Ray Cyrus kept his oversized neo-Elvis shades on the entire time.

Which confirms something I've suspected for quite some time but have hesitated in officially declaring.

Billy Ray Cyrus is the world's biggest douchebag.

Seriously.

From the over-the-top Beverly Hillbilly aesthetic -- the blonde highlights, ridiculous soul-patch and Gucci calfskin jacket meets University of Tennessee t-shirt he wears without even the slightest hint of irony; to the preening, ego-laden seriousness with which he takes his role on Nashville Star; to his insistence on spouting trite "country wisdom" every chance he gets -- as if he's still some dumb-ass hick living in Appalachia and not worth a goddamned fortune; to his comical belief that Achy Breaky Heart was actually some sort of cultural touchstone; to the fact that he's the father of America's most virulent social disease -- Miley Cyrus -- and a guy who's managed to shamelessly exploit his daughter merely for the opportunity she's handed him to thrust his own worthless ass back into the spotlight; everything about Billy Ray Cyrus's ill-advisedly inflated sense of his own self-worth makes him a walking joke -- a living, breathing advertisement for the necessity of safe and legal late-term abortions -- the kind of guy that, if you wanted to create a "douchebag army," you'd need only a tiny sample of DNA from.

This morning on Today, Cyrus was in fine form -- which means that he was a pompous idiot. As he adjusted himself on the high stool opposite Meredith Viera, assuming the one-foot-on-floor and the-other-on-rung-of-chair pose common to douchebags everywhere -- as if he were a J. Byron model, circa 1979 -- I waited patiently for him to apologize for his appearance. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he might have recently undergone some sort of eye surgery that had left his pupils dilated and therefore required him to wear sunglasses at all times. But no -- of course not. He was simply wearing them because he's just that cool.

Once again -- douchebag.

Viera began the interview by asking him about the full-length feature film he's now shooting with his retarded daughter and will soon foist on a defenseless American public.

Cyrus did a quick shake of his chemically straightened mane and said, "Yeah, it's gonna be great. We've got a great director, a great script, a great team of folks, and we're shooting in the great state of Tennessee."

I'm kidding about none of this and, as such, would highly recommend that Billy Ray invest some of that money he's making in a fucking thesaurus. And for the record, that "great director" he's talking about is Peter Chelsom, who helmed the forgettable TNT/TBS staple Serendipity and the atrocious Beatty/Keaton/Hawn "comedy" Town & Country, which was released in 2001, making it the second unfunniest thing to happen that year. In Cyrus's defense, I'm not sure that anyone who was raised thinking The Dukes of Hazzard is the height of artistry would be qualified to recognize a decent director when he sees one.

Viera then brought up, of course, the almost baffling success of his kid, Miley Hannah Cyrus Montana.

"Condé Nast says Miley will soon be worth a billion dollars," she enthused.

I held my breath and waited for Billy Ray to respond with an angry, "What'd you call my daughter?!" But no such luck. Instead, he flashed a full row of those perfectly capped teeth and reacted with what I guess was supposed to be pride but what looked eerily lupine. Suddenly, the utility of the sunglasses became obvious, as they were probably hiding the big-ass dollar signs in his eyes.

After awhile, Viera finally got around to the heavily promoted nexus of the interview: Billy Ray Cyrus's supposed "first public comments" regarding the media-driven scandal over his daughter's sexed-up spread in Vanity Fair. At first, she asked Cyrus whether he was even there when the most controversial of the controversial photos was taken -- the one with Miley looking like she'd just woken up after a one-night-stand with the Joker. Billy Ray insisted he wasn't, adopting a sudden air of bullshit humility as he quietly proclaimed that, at the time, he had to get to Washington where his presence was required at a gig honoring U.S. troops returning from Iraq. He dropped the troops at least one more time before the end of the interview.

When asked if he thought another of the photos -- the creepy-as-hell shot of his daughter draped over him while he stared pensively into the distance, presumably at the big bag of money off-camera -- was a little too explicit, as some have suggested, he basically didn't even bat an eye (at least not that I could tell with the sunglasses on).

"Nah, I think it just shows a daddy that loves his daughter a whole lot," he said, then added, apropos of nothing, "We love acting. We love music. We love each other."

"Well, thanks for not making that whole thing any weirder," I said out loud as I sat on my living room couch, munching Funyuns.

Viera then asked why Cyrus didn't fight back against the accusations of those who found the picture offensive. Cyrus, as expected, responded with some good old-fashioned frontier gibberish: "My daddy used to say that the more you stomp in poop, the more it stinks."

It was right about this point that my intestines began moving up through my throat in an effort to mercifully cut off the oxygen to my brain.

The whole thing ended with Cyrus offering one more pearl of wisdom regarding the whole miasma. "You git knocked down, you git back up," he said, smiling with apparent pride at his own profundity.

"Good advice," Viera responded, returning the smile.

I'm pretty sure my jaw went slack, I lost control of my bladder, and the upper part of my body tipped sideways until it plummeted into the couch like a falling redwood.

And all of this was before Today brought out The Clique Girlz -- three bleach-blonde 'tweens named Paris, Destinee and Ariel who look like Hot Topic exploded all over them and whose music is about to "take America by storm."

Wanna guess whose tour they've already opened for?

Congratulations Billy Ray, you pass the test with flying colors.

No Country for Old Men


Just how badly outgunned is John McCain in this presidential race?

Read on:

(Salon.com: "Election 2008: Declare a Forfeit" by Gary Kamiya/6.17.08)


(The Huffington Post: "John McCain's Flashback Campaign" by Arianna Huffington/6.16.08)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Inappropriate Comment of the Day




Am I the only one who thinks Patti Solis Doyle is kind of hot?

(The Huffington Post: Ex-Clinton Campaign Manager Solis Doyle Joins Obama Campaign/6.16.08)

Trim Shady


Snapped this picture yesterday at the drug store up the street from my apartment.

It's a good thing I'm no longer single, because writing about the mere existence of a product like this is going to get me into a lot less trouble than writing about stumbling across a girl who actually uses it.

The Green Effect*


So the weekend box office figures are in, and although M. Night Shyamalan is being credited with "rebounding" somewhat from the unequivocal failure that was Lady in the Water, I seriously doubt he's dancing around his house flipping the bird out in every direction this morning.

The Happening made an adequate 30 million since its release on Friday, but what's worth noting is what, and who, beat it. Rather than sit through Shyamalan's supposedly big-themed "vision" -- something he pushed as high-brow right up until hedging his bet at the very last minute and declaring that he purposely set out to make a B-movie -- millions flocked to see not one but two on-screen characters that don't even exist.

Both The Incredible Hulk and the irritatingly Jack Black-voiced Kung Fu Panda are wholly CGI creations, and both cleaned Shyamalan's clock -- forcing him to settle for third place on a weekend that saw no new studio releases other than his and the Hulkster.

What's more, the bank taken in by The Happening over the weekend will likely be the only first-run money the movie ever sees; there's just no way it's not dropping back 60% this week, as almost anyone who actually wants to see this dreck already did within the past 72 hours.

I'd like to think that all of this will be enough to give the director a much-needed dose of humility and make him think twice about haughtily turning up his nose at -- and raising his voice to -- those who don't defer to his special brand of self-inflated brilliance, but somehow I doubt it.

After this weekend though, let me be the first to spoil the ending of this little saga by revealing the big upcoming twist for you: Shyamalan's reputation as a visionary genius is dead, and the supposedly impressive filmmaking skills he wields have been that way all along.

(Update: And then there's this -- according to IMDB, Mark Wahlberg claims that Shyamalan turned him into a nervous wreck during the making of The Happening by helping him to "get in touch with his inner paranoid." Wahlberg says the nightmares have carried over into his personal life since well after the film wrapped. While I could make oodles of good jokes about Shyamalan giving just about everyone he comes into contact with nightmares one way or another, best I just let the director, as usual, come to his own defense via that special brand of M. Night humility we've all come to know and love. "It's a bad rap. I'm a good guy!" the director says. You know something, Night? At least I admit that I'm kind of a jerk. You on the other hand are made all the more dickheadier by the fact that you actually think you're a prince. Seriously man, go fuck yourself.)

(*For the record, The Green Effect was the working title of The Happening. Ironic, considering that he got crushed by The Hulk.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Listening Post: Return to the 80s Edition (Part 2: Boys Don't Cry)


It'll probably surprise no one to learn that I could be a pensive and brooding kid on occasion. Teenage years are all about discovery -- that and inflating every little problem to the level of stupid, gargantuan melodrama. Spend your formative years watching enough movies and you start to believe that life is nothing if not one big method act. So, with that in mind, these are just a few of the songs that could often be heard pulsing from my car stereo as I sped along the streets of Miami at midnight, trying to "clear my head," believing that the right music, my car and the night air was required to do it.

Yes, this MTV-era music is slightly more personal -- read: self-indulgent -- than the stuff included on the last list, but I guess I'm curious to find out if anyone else feels the same way about these songs that I do (because if you don't, I'll have to put them on again and tool around the city, lamenting how terribly misunderstood I am but how cool I look being that way).


Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel's 1986 album So is a classic -- a near-perfect pop-rock masterpiece. It's one of the few albums that not only came to define the 80s, but has withstood the test of time since. In many ways, it's as fresh, powerful and clever now as it was then. While songs like Sledgehammer, Big Time and In Your Eyes remain seared into the memories of millions, my favorite track on So was always Mercy Street. It was quiet. It was incredibly moving. It was atmospheric. And when I hear it, to this day, it hits me, ironically, like a sledgehammer.

Here's Mercy Street.




Dire Straits

Of all the hits spawned by Dire Straits's astonishing 1985 album Brothers in Arms, it's both surprising and not surprising at all that the one song that's truly held up -- retaining every bit of its haunting, elegiac weight -- is the title track. (If you require proof, note the masterful way it was used in the Season 2 finale of The West Wing.) It may be more than 20 years old, but no matter where I go or what I do, I always make sure that this song is never more than an iPod click away. Ever.

This is Brothers in Arms.




Arcadia

Duran Duran's other offshoot (the more notable being The Power Station), Arcadia, at first glance, probably seemed thoroughly unnecessary when held against the band that spawned it. Despite recording some spectacular music, it's almost impossible to imagine Duran Duran ever having any balls that required being cut off, yet that's exactly what Arcadia somehow managed to do. Still, to its credit, the Simon Le Bon-Nick Rhodes-Roger Taylor creation not only cranked out some surprisingly good material -- full of ethereal layers and truly romantic "new romantic" soundscapes -- but also stood as somewhat of a contradiction: Arcadia was a band formed with the intention of excising the admittedly miminal guitar work of Andy Taylor, and yet Le Bon and Rhodes enlisted the brilliant David Gilmour to play on the album. Regardless, together, they recorded at least a few songs that hold up relatively well.

Here's the gorgeous video for Missing.




U2

Honestly, there's nothing I could say about U2 that hasn't already been said -- except that this is, quite possibly, my all-time favorite song from them.

Here's the title track to the band's 1984 introspective and ambient masterpiece, The Unforgettable Fire.




Mondo Rock

Huge in Australia and practically unknown in the states, Mondo Rock made the kind of powerful and direct alternative pop-rock that seems to grow up out of the ground down under. Despite its complete lack of subtlety, particularly when it comes to the lyrics (which are about the loss of virginity, and led to the track being banned from Aussie radio for some time), I still love everything about this song. Maybe it's the kind of thing that could only have had the effect it did by hitting a teenage kid at exactly the right time -- either way though, it remains one of my favorites.

This is Come Said the Boy.




Genesis

If I go too much into why I like Genesis, early or later incarnation, I really will sound like Patrick Bateman. So, I'll keep it simple: Mama, from the band's self-titled 1983 release, is one of the best songs of the 1980s. No question. While so many consider Phil Collins's In the Air Tonight and its resurrection on Miami Vice to be wholly symbolic of the 80s aesthetic -- particularly the people my age who actually lived in Miami during that decade -- Mama was, in my mind, always the better song to drive to late at night. Don't believe me? Do it now -- tonight. It still works. And incidentally, would somebody please, please wise up and do a really astounding cover of this song? I've always kind of imagined Linkin Park pulling it off.

Here's Mama.




Roxy Music

The night of my senior prom -- an event which culminated in me coming dangerously face to face on the dancefloor with a girl who wasn't my date but whom I'd been in love with for most of my high school years -- I wound up at the remains of an ultra-stylish after party being held in a two-story downtown Miami penthouse. While quietly wandering the place, making my way up the stairs and down one of the long, dark halls, I ran into the same young girl I'd almost kissed a few hours earlier. She had just stepped out of the bathroom and was wearing a white terrycloth robe. I approached her and, without saying a word, she took my hand and wrapped it around the end of the thin strip holding the robe closed and began to make me pull on it. I never took my eyes off her face. As this happened, Roxy Music's Avalon played from somewhere nearby.

Tell me that's not a perfect memory.

Here's Avalon.



Next Week: Return to the 80s, Part 3: Punk's Not Dead