Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Sorry I've been MIA over the past couple of days, folks. Spent a little holiday time up in the mountains of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania* with my wife, our baby, and a whole lot of extended family.
There wasn't much in the way of wi-fi, but we did manage to put a tiny local pub to good use for a few nights. Highlights included Jayne dancing and shouting along to P!nk's So What, me and a future cousin-in-law -- a kid named Brian who sports a kick-ass Exploited-style mohawk -- downing a bunch of Jager-bombs, and a final bar tab that cost all of us what two drinks in New York City would've.
By the way, if anyone in that area has seen my wife's shirt, she'd very much like it back.
Regular posts resume tomorrow. Hope everyone had a great holiday.
*Fun Fact: Susquehanna is considered a holy place by Mormons because it's where Joseph Smith -- Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Con Man -- supposedly translated the magical golden plates that comprised the Book of Mormon, given to him by the Angel Moroni, into English. Yes, people believe this crap. I had planned to get a picture of me throwing up on the town's memorial statue of Smith, but unfortunately we were far too drunk to find the thing.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I posted this last year on Thanksgiving but it's worth repeating:
On this, the day that we celebrate the beginning of the first -- but certainly not last -- great American land swindle, I ask you to remember the plight of flightless birds everywhere. Sure, that farm-raised turkey is now on your plate, but at one time it had dreams of majestically taking to the skies, just like its feathered brethren.
Just like the poor Kiwi.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Back in 1990, near the peak of her international fame and right about the time she was officially canonized by Miami's Cuban exile community, Gloria Estefan was involved in a nasty tour bus accident. For those who don't remember, Estefan had to have two titanium rods implanted in her spine as a result of the crash and many wondered whether she'd ever walk -- to say nothing of doing that conga -- again.
During the year of intensive physical therapy that followed the surgery, Estefan was closely monitored by every local TV station in South Florida -- each one keeping a constant vigil at the side of Miami's patron saint as she attempted to work her way back to full body-shaking strength.
In particular, WSVN dubbed its coverage "Road to Recovery" and featured nightly updates on Gloria's progress. Although it felt like overkill, even at the time, there was nothing inherently awful about the way the station went about reporting the Gloria Estefan story.
In fact, it was only in retrospect that whole thing would seem kind of tasteless.
Two years later, Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. It devastated the region, killed 65 people and left thousands homeless. As the area struggled to revive itself in the wake of the storm, WSVN once again tagged its coverage "Road to Recovery."
Though I hadn't yet worked for the station when the Estefan incident happened -- I was nothing more than a 20 year old viewer at that time -- I remember talking to one of my WSVN co-workers in the fall of 1992, as our hurricane recovery coverage ramped up, and wondering aloud, "So let me get this straight: We're indirectly comparing the worst disaster in South Florida history with Gloria hurting her back. Shouldn't we at least come up with a slogan we haven't already used to death on something that now seems really inconsequential?"
Why do I bring this up?
Because although WSVN couldn't have anticipated the much more worthy "Road to Recovery" story to come when it used the line to describe Gloria Estefan's personal tragedy, Rolling Stone damn well knew the pedigree attached to the phrase "Yes We Can" -- the unspoken cultural trademark it now carries -- when it chose to bastardize it for the cover of its latest issue.
A photograph of Britney Spears adorned with boldfaced type proclaiming "Yes She Can!"
It's certainly not inherently offensive to co-opt Barack Obama's campaign slogan -- the one which not only helped define him as a candidate and win him the election, but which served as a battle cry for a nation desperately in need of something to believe in. For Christ's sake, though -- Britney? That's who you're going to ascribe this powerful phrase to after adjusting it to meet your trivial needs?
Britney Fucking Spears?
Just a few short weeks ago, the statement "Yes We Can" sounded like a clarion call across America -- an affirmation of absolute purpose made by the first black president of the United States as a means to inspire millions.
And you're equating that with Britney no longer shaving her head in public or attacking paparazzi with an umbrella?
I'll occasionally spend a good amount of time trying to come up with creative titles for the pieces on this site in an attempt to fulfill my obligation to be a smart-ass. But I always try to be cognizant of the line that separates clever from stupid (which is not to say that I always respect that line). Doing a groan-and-eye-rolling twist on an expression of momentous significance is easy and cheap -- a fast grab at the lowest-hanging fruit on the "wit" tree -- and it's way beneath the editorial board at Rolling Stone.
I'm willing to concede that I may be taking this too seriously; some will argue that it's just a political slogan, after all. But I can't be the only one who thinks that even if there's no parallel with larger events to be drawn from the Britney cover -- even if it doesn't tread on sacred ground, like telling a 9/11 joke on 9/12 -- the whole thing is just really fucking cheesy.
"Yes We Can" isn't simply another catchphrase to be milked to death by anyone looking to sell a product.
Rolling Stone could've -- and should've -- come up with a better tagline.
Maybe "Road to Recovery."
Hey, it worked for Gloria.
This is one of those unsung videos that no one ever considers when listing the best of the medium.
It's a clever artistic triumph -- and one that could be lauded for no other reason than the way it brings the Joan Miró painting from the cover of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's landmark album Time Out to vivid life.
An homage to the incongruity of life in the 1950s -- when innocence and industry brushed up against atomic paranoia -- here's Donald Fagen's New Frontier.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I'm confused -- getting your job back at CNN is considered winning?
And before anyone asks -- no, this doesn't include me.
AFL-CIO: Judge Orders CNN to Rehire 110 Workers Fired for Belonging to a Union/11.25.08
The real question is: Who broke her jaw?
The Huffington Post: Page Six: Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut/11.25.08
Just wanted to give a very warmhearted thanks to Nancy Stevens -- self-proclaimed "sixtyish wife, mother, grandmother, Lutheran, thinker and quilter" who blogs near Philadelphia -- for the beautiful quilt she made for Inara.
As you can see, the little one loves it -- and of course Jayne and I are just blown away by the kindness.
"2006: Year of the Douchebag" (Originally Published, 1.5.07)
The Ground Rules
First, if you haven't done so already, please read part one of this segment before continuing; it will help you to understand both the rationale for creating this compilation, and the specific definition of the word "douchebag" which has been applied in the decision-making process. That said, as this list is intended to prove that 2006 was, in fact, a transcendent year in the realm of douchebaggery, it will not feature or highlight any person or persons who did not contribute any more douchebagginess this year than they had in previous years (e.g., George W. Bush cannot be granted a position on this list, despite the fact that he is a douchebag of earth-shattering proportions, simply because he did nothing this year that we haven't already come to expect from a douchebag like him; the same holds true for Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, O.J. Simpson and Matt Drudge. It should be stated however that Dick Cheney, despite shooting an old man in the face in 2006, is not on the list primarily because he isn't a douchebag so much as he is pure, unadulterated evil). Only those whose douchebagginess was specifically prominent or noteworthy between the dates of January 1st, 2006 and December 31st, 2006 will be eligible for consideration. Also, among the factors taken into account in determining a person's or group's ranking on this list, special recognition will be given to those who are not only douchebags themselves, but who influence others to become douchebags and therefore contribute to the overall cause of continued worldwide douchebaggery. Finally, the likelihood that a person's or group's douchebagginess will never rise above that displayed during the past year will also be considered when determining their rank, and the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln.
And so, without further ado -- send in the douchebags.
#10 -- James Frey
Massengill Scale: 2 pts Vinegar/8 pts Water/100 pts Bullshit
The Facts: Living proof that, as we often tell our children, you really can be anything you want to be in life -- as long as you're a talented liar and have the blessing of Oprah -- James Frey went from being a hack screenwriter to being a hugely successful hack novelist thanks to his best-seller A Million Little Pieces. Unfortunately, he never bothered to tell anyone that he was, in fact, a novelist. It wasn't until January of 2006, when The Smoking Gun website revealed that 90% of Frey's "memoir" was nothing more than fabricated nonsense, that Little Jimmy's pieces really began to fall apart. Not long after that, Oprah revealed that 100% of Frey's supposed tough-guy persona was fabricated nonsense by bitch-slapping him on national television and banishing him to the Phantom Zone of cultural obscurity as only Ms. Winfrey can.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Attempting to perpetuate the well-crafted illusion that he's Mickey Rourke circa 1987, Frey, in his follow-up "memoir" My Friend Leonard, detailed the difficulties he had as an "artist" watching his brilliant screenplay ruined by a moronic director, a lousy actor and an uncooperative studio in what was an obvious attempt to blame anyone he could think of in an effort to distance himself from 1998's decidedly un-bad-ass flop Kissing a Fool, starring Douchebag Hall-of-Famer David Schwimmer.
Mitigating Factor: He did embarrass Oprah; that's gotta be worth something.
Dishonorable Mention: Judith Regan, who managed to prove that there are grotesque spectacles even Rupert Murdoch will refuse to be associated with, when she watched her pet project -- O.J. Simpson's sickening book and TV special -- die its own violent and public death at the very last minute. Her job soon followed suit.
#9 -- Danny Bonaduce
Massengill Scale: 4 pts Vinegar/6 pts Water/32 pts Vodka/15 pts Anabolic Steroids/127 pts Ham
The Facts: What can you possibly say about a man who has the word "douche" right in his name? 2006 was a big year for Danny Partridge, as he proved that there was absolutely no depth of ludicrously shameful self-exploitation he wasn't willing to plumb to remain on television -- even if it meant being sandwiched (no pun intended) in between Celebrity Fit Club and The Surreal Life on VH1. Breaking Bonaduce proved to be a modest success, as Danny drank, stomped, cursed, raged, threatened to kill his wife and just generally confirmed that either child stars should be required to prove at a certain age that they're well-adjusted enough to be allowed to go on living -- or that Los Angeles should just be sunk into the Pacific Ocean with a cluster of nuclear missiles.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: There are so many to choose from, but in the end it's no contest -- Danny's "suicide attempt" in which he used an unbroken disposable razor to supposedly try to slash his wrists.
Mitigating Factor: You have to hand it to someone who thinks he's willing to die to remain culturally relevant; Howard Beale would be proud. Also, we never expected much out of Danny anyway; he was on The Partridge Family for Christ's sake.
Dishonorable Mention: Sadly, Flavor Flav, who continues his single-handed decimation of the legacy of the brilliant Public Enemy with his unforgivable antics on The Flavor of Love.
#8 -- Warren Jeffs
Massengill Scale: 10 pts Vinegar/0 pts Holy Water/70 pts Kool-aid
The Facts: Sure, Ted Haggard made bigger headlines, but was he on the FBIs Ten Most Wanted list last year? Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- a frightening off-shoot of Mormonism which still practices polygamy -- has painted himself as the one true prophet of God since the death of his father, the equally cuddly Rulon Jeffs (who, incidentally, was the inspiration for Harry Dean Stanton's character on HBO's excellent Big Love). As the prophet, seer, revelator and Jesus's hand-picked douchebag, Warren took it upon himself to set up arranged marriages for girls as young as thirteen -- marrying as many as eighty women and children himself (he still refers to all of them as his "wives") and banishing boys and men whom he believed to be threats to his sexual supremacy. He was arrested on August 28th of last year, and is now facing charges of sexual assault on a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual assault on a minor, among others. He's also encouraged his fundamentalist followers not to pay federal taxes, but has insisted that they draw as much as possible from social programs like welfare -- a process the FLDS church refers to as "bleeding the beast."
Mitigating Factor: None whatsoever. Jeffs is living proof that douchebags can occasionally be evil, dangerous fuckers. Accordingly, somebody should put a bullet in him.
Dishonorable Mention: Yeah, Reverend Ted was a pretty big douchebag, wasn't he.
#7 -- Rosie O' Donald
Massengill Scale: 1,357,423 equal pts Vinegar and Cheeseburgers for her; his consistently diluted by Grecian Formula and the Lip Gloss of girls young enough to be his great-granddaughter
The Facts: Who would've thought that the holiday season -- traditionally a time of peace and love -- could bring us such unrestrained bile from two such hideous creatures? Already Lifetime Achievement Award-winners from the Academy of Douchebag Arts & Sciences, Rosie O' Donnell and Donald Trump showed the newcomers how it's done, by pulling off the extraordinary feat of actually, somehow, outdoing all of the ridiculously pin-headed things they'd done throughout respective careers both long and illustrious. Their bitter dog-fight on national television just before the holidays, with each assuming a role of laughable self-righteousness, was the stuff of douchebag legend. Rosie accused Trump of being a lecherous, narcissistic shithead -- which of course he is; Trump meanwhile accused Rosie of being a fat, loudmouthed slob -- which of course she is. Most heart-warming during all of this: the spectacle of the once-venerated Barbara Walters being forced to step in and referee the idiocy. It almost made you long for the subtle, classy days of Star Jones.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: For him, it was the initial action that started the whole thing; namely, his smug "pardoning" of Miss USA Tara Conner -- which called to mind Amon Goeth's disturbing attempt at displaying power through mercy in Schindler's List. For her, it was pulling her fat hair over her fat head and snorting like a pig in what was supposed to be an impression of Trump -- one that instead wound up looking like just another night at the O'Donnell dinner table.
Mitigating Factor: The fact that they finally just killed each other in the end -- or maybe that was only a dream I had.
Dishonorable Mention: I said almost made you long for Star Jones. In 2006, the second most despicable woman on television went out with the kind of grace and dignity we'd come to expect from her. It was technically no more heinous than anything she'd done previously, however Star deserves mention simply because, thankfully, you're likely to never hear from her again -- unless of course you frequent the all-you-can-eat food & fixins bar at Sizzler. Just listen for the shrill screams of, "Don't you know who I am?!"
#6 -- Michael Richards
Massengill Scale: 130 pts Piss & Vinegar/2 pts Water/375 pts Racist Venom/1 pt Junior Mints
The Facts: All he had to do was keep his big mouth shut, collect the small fortune he was making in residuals, and live out the rest of his days being remembered as the man behind one of the greatest characters in the history of television. Did that really sound like such a difficult thing -- such an undignified legacy? Instead, like Danny Bonaduce (#9), Richards suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder -- meaning that he goes batshit when all the attention is suddenly taken away from him. His bizarre tirade against a group of black hecklers -- in particular, his revisionist history lesson about the proper way not so much to lynch a person as rotisserie roast him -- left a lot of people scratching their heads; among them, Jerry Seinfeld, who looked about as uncomfortable defending his friend and former castmate as the rest of us did watching Richards's painfully insincere apology -- or any sitcom since Seinfeld that's featured a former star of the show.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Somewhere between the fourth and fifth "nigger."
Mitigating Factor: At least there was something memorable about Richards's stand-up routine.
Dishonorable Mention: Malibu's own Ambassador to Israel, Mel Gibson.
#5 -- Madonna
Massengill Scale: 63 pts Malt Vinegar/120 pts Kabbalah Water
The Facts: Watching Madonna pathetically rage against the dying of relevancy is as humorous an endeavor as it is tragic. Over the past several years, the woman who was once the world's pop culture inamorata has recast herself as a fag-hag diva, a British socialite, a disciple of nonsensical Jewish mysticism, a rapper, a desperate lesbian dominatrix, "Disco Granny" from the old Studio 54, an overly Pilatesed piece of beef jerky, and -- most recently -- a writer of children's books and proof that Africa is in desperate need of its own Amber Alert system. As expected, Madonna's "adoption" of a child from a Malawian village was less about helping a young boy than it was about Madge turning Africa into her own personal puppy-farm from which she could grab a living, breathing accessory -- and get her name back in the papers to boot. As I wrote at the time, if it comes down to the question of what's better for a child: living in a hole, subsisting on a spoonful of Red Cross grain every two days and probably dying of AIDS by the age of four, or being raised by Madonna -- I think the answer is obvious.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Madonna asserting her intention to return to the same village to "adopt" yet another child. I said it once before, but it bears repeating: You know what Madge? Why not just do what your kind has done for centuries -- build a gingerbread house in the woods and let the kids come to you.
Mitigating Factor: Bedtime Stories is still a pretty damn good album.
Dishonorable Mention: Madge may be as douchebaggy as they come, but at least she didn't get anyone killed last year; Nancy Grace on the other hand, did. TV's wretched legal pit-bull managed to both browbeat a woman into suicide and irreparably tarnish the otherwise decent name of CNN in one Southern-drawled swoop. Sure her fiance' was murdered years ago, but you know what? He got off easy. Remember how I said that Star Jones was the second most despicable woman on television?
#4 -- The 109th "Do-Nothing" Congress of the United States of America
Massengill Scale: 117 pts Vinegar (for BBQ Sauce)/67 pts Bottled Water/10 pts Commandments/1,243,547 pts Money from Jack Abramoff/maf54 pts Salacious E-Mails/8 pts Years for Duke Cunningham/24 pts Average Hours of Work per Week
The Facts: It would take a year-and-a-half just to build the infrastructure necessary to fully document the transgressions of the 109th Congress -- unless of course you offered to take bribes from lobbyists or kickbacks from contractors, which would certainly speed up the process. Last year we were reminded over and over again that Washington, D.C. was originally built on swampland; you'd be hard-pressed to find a larger collection of toads, snakes and blood-sucking insects anywhere else (and come to think of it, Dennis Hastert does look an awful lot like a turtle). From their average three-day work-week, to their literal kicking down of Terri Schiavo's hospice door to ram a feeding tube back down her throat in the name of Jesus, to their casual use of terms like "Nuclear Option" to crush dissent in the minority; from Mark Foley's obsession with young boys, to Duke Cunningham and William Jefferson's obsession with big money, to Tom DeLay's obsession with recreating America as a theocracy; from Jack Abramoff writing checks to buy influence, to GOP lawmakers giving our Idiot in Charge a blank check to conduct his failed war -- it's a wonder this country survived long enough to vote most of them the hell out.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: You want that infrastructure built by when?
Mitigating Factor: The mind is capable of astonishing acts of repression which aid in self-preservation. Now that so many of them are relegated to the history books -- if not simply relegated to their cells -- the whole thing feels like nothing more than a very, very bad dream.
Dishonorable Mention: You thought that Rush Limbaugh couldn't get any more painfully cretinous, did you? Then you watched him flail around like a beached whale in a gruesome parody of Parkinson's sufferer Michael J. Fox and you thought, "I was wrong." Yes you were my friend -- yes you were.
#3 -- Almighty Oprah
Massengill Scale: 0 pts Vinegar/12 pts Water/23 pts Oxygen/16 pts Nitrogen/10 pts Nuclear Fusion, Allowing Her to Become Pure Energy at Will
The Facts: Understanding that Oprah is not all that she appears to be is a little like being Rowdy Roddy Piper's character in the John Carpenter cult-classic They Live: you've got the glasses on and you seem to be the only one among the sleeping sheep who has any idea that there's a wolf in your midst, and of course when you try to warn others, no one will believe you. Each year, this multi-media leviathan grows larger and more powerful, threatening to eventually become a black hole which will consume all culture as we know it -- absorbing and assimilating it like the Borg then spitting it back out in a fresh, new package of Oprah-approved, soccer-mom-ready banality. What makes Oprah eligible for inclusion on our countdown however isn't so much her homogenous appeal to the lowest common denominator -- or the fact that she seems to drag every bit of authentically vital art down with her; it's the simple fact that she is quite possibly self-obsession and solipsism incarnate -- no matter how hard she works to make people believe otherwise. Last year alone, she berated James Frey (#10) not because he lied to America but because he lied to her; she held a "Legends Ball" in which she supposedly paid homage to black female pioneers and trendsetters just like her; she prepared to open an unnecessarily expensive school for young girls in Africa, making sure the cameras were always there to get pictures of her (wearing long, false eye-lashes and heavy make-up no less) as she came riding in to the rescue in her learjet; and of course, her face once again adorned the cover of every single issue of her magazine throughout the year. There's nothing genuine, uncalculated or purely altruistic about Oprah -- all there is, is one big fucking douchebag.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Her convenient and insincere co-opting of black street lingo in an effort to defend herself against accusations made by 50 Cent that she discriminates against hip-hop stars by not inviting them to be guests on her show.
Mitigating Factor: 50 Cent blows.
Dishonorable Mention: Unfunny comic and hack author Greg Behrendt, who last year managed to further assert himself as the poster-boy for blurring the line between the authentic and the artificial by parlaying his job as a writer on Sex & The City into a talk show which deals with -- wait for it -- relationships. As I wrote at the time: a substandard comedian takes a gig on a show about women who sleep with the Manhattan phone book but can't make any of their relationships work and uses it to write self-help books for the kind of vapid women who watch the show and can't make any of their relationships work, then gets his own talk show where he attempts to tell the same women how to make their relationships work. If that's not enough to cement his position as a grade-A douchebag, just take a look at him.
#2 -- Perez Hilton
Massengill Scale: 10 pts Vinegar/10 pts Water/10 pts Flirtinis/100 pts Semen
The Facts It would be easy to run down the Britsay Federlohans of the world, or detail the ways in which the heir/heiress crowd was a blight on humanity last year -- but that's to be expected. In this case I'm going to defer to the sage advice of the ancient philosopher Obi-wan Kenobi, who said, "Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?" If you've ever caught yourself thinking that if everyone would just fucking ignore them, these attention-whores would go away once and for all, then by all means aim your ire where it belongs. Born Mario Armando Lavendeira Jr., this sycophantic uber-douchebag spun around like Wonder-Woman and was reborn as Perez Hilton, self-proclaimed "Queen" of the gossip bloggers -- and 2006 marked the year of his ascendence. What separates Mario's site from other tongue-in-cheek celeb-bashers -- some of which I count myself a fan of -- is his complete lack of any discernable talent (a child could draw little semen stains and write "slut" on paparazzi pictures), as well as his propensity for playing favorites; in particular, his hands-off approach to his celebrity namesake, dyna-whore Paris Hilton. Mario also has a habit of trying to out male stars he believes to be gay, and often likes to party with the very celebrities he's crucifying on his website, which essentially makes his critical opinion worthless. He's basically an oversized and overpaid sixteen-year-old starfucking groupie, and the kind of offensive flaming-gay stereotype that would make even Paul Lynde roll over in his grave.
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Anytime he appeared on E!, the network that's to Los Angeles vacuity what the old Tass News Agency was to Soviet communism.
Mitigating Factor: Give me a minute. Nope -- not a one.
Dishonorable Mention: I may be willing to neglect Britney and her bottomless nights on the town and Lindsay and her bottomless coke bullet, but at least one target of the online tabloids deserves attention: Brandon Davis -- he of the now-legendary "firecrotch" tirade, and the unbelievable asshole who's never worked a day in his life -- is quite possibly the single most loathesome creature on the planet. Someone kill him -- please?
#1 -- Dane Cook
Massengill Scale: 0 pts Vinegar/231 pts Watered-down Jokes/135 pts Warm Keg Beer/76 pts Hair Wax/362 pts Stolen Material/1,664,347 pts MySpace "Friends"
The Facts: Where to even begin. If there's a patron saint of America's collegiate douchebag set, it's Dane Cook. He's influenced more modern-day, popped-collared frat-boys than Coors Light, the 136th viewing of Fight Club, and the delusion that "let me get you another beer" constitutes a great pick-up line. Likewise, he's greased the loins of more stupid lower-back-tattooed college girls than GHB. These unparalleled contributions to worldwide douchebaggery alone would probably earn him the top spot on the countdown, but when you factor in Cook's own titanic ego and equally monumental lack of actual talent, it's a lock. A lot has been made of his affinity for stealing material from truly gifted, hard-working comics like Louis CK and Joe Rogan -- guys who don't sell out arenas, as Cook did last year, simply because they lack the one quality which is truly responsible for Mr. Stupidfinger's otherwise unjustifiable success: his relative easiness on the eyes. Cook knows how to promote himself and how to play up his pretty-boy image, which has made him the perfect comedic icon for the MySpace generation: all style and absolutely no substance -- the equivalent of the borderline retarded class-clown willing to do anything for a laugh who, thanks to the internet, now has the ability to beam his ridiculous, repetitive schtick out to millions, turning the entire world into the class that's forced to put up with him. In 2006, HBO -- in a move that almost negated all the years of excellent original programming for which the network was responsible previously -- gave Cook his own live special and even green-lit the tediously unfunny vanity project Dane Cook's Tourgasm. Both were savaged by critics, but as anyone who's ever gone to college knows, frat-boys always chalk denunciation up to jealousy -- thus did Cook and his loyal cadre of juvenile zealots. He made the move to film by starring in Waiting and Employee of the Month, both of which went nowhere, perhaps portending the merciful end of Cook's fifteen minutes. It simply can't come a moment too soon. Truly great comedy is born out of insecurity, pain, and an incisive drive to shake up the status quo (Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, Patton Oswalt, David Cross); it damn sure doesn't come from the guy about whom the other frat-brothers say, "You GOTTA come meet this guy, dude -- he's fucking HILARIOUS!"
"Wow, what a douchebag!" Moment: Impossible to nail down just one, but his legendary habit of running long during stand-up performances at comedy clubs -- consequently knocking off the comics scheduled to follow him -- is probably a good jumping-off point.
Mitigating Factor: The fact that -- though the frat-boys in question would never admit it and may not even be aware of it -- Cook is responsible for the secret gay urges of even the most homophobic of college studs.
Dishonorable Mention: Andy fucking Milonakis -- basically an unattractive Dane Cook for the pre-teen set, and hence the future of douchebaggery in America. Anybody know where to find the Seven Daggers of Meggido?
Final Disclaimer: You may have noticed that aside from a brief bastardization of his good name, I've neglected to mention the man many would consider to be 2006's Douchebag Emeritus, Kevin Federline. The bottom line: it's just too easy. Consider K-Fed this year's automatic induction into the Hall of Fame, with the only mitigating factor being that you'll never see him again, once again unless you frequent Sizzler; he'll be the one serving Star Jones.
Monday, November 24, 2008
So I watched the 24 movie on Fox last night, and now I can't help but wonder something.
After the Bush administration came to power nearly eight years ago -- and certainly following the 9/11 attacks -- the popularity of The West Wing began to plummet. Some thought it was simply too depressing to watch a show which offered a noble, Capra-esque vision of government after the controversy of the 2000 election and the fact that the new ruling party preached the gospel of government as the ultimate unnecessary evil. Some just figured that the show suddenly seemed hopelessly dated. Either way, the direction of the political winds in this country, as they so often do, had a profound effect on the pop culture zeitgeist.
Now we're left to wonder: What will become of 24?
With the arrival of Barack Obama and the seismic shift in America's political landscape, I can't help but wonder if torture and terrorist threats and underhanded governmental skulduggery isn't so -- Bush years.
Really, is Jack Bauer still relevant?
I ask this while acknowledging that 24 has been one of my favorite shows since its debut in 2001 (timing which ironically helped to inextricably link it to the Bush era). I'm sure it will still be exciting and dramatic -- a blast to watch week to week -- and that there remains a large audience out there for it. But as a cultural phenomenon -- can it hold up?
It's already got the year-and-a-half-long break to contend with (which, on the plus side, might have provided enough time to get the rancid taste of last season out of the public's mouth), but is it now, like The West Wing before it, hopelessly dated?
Only time will tell.
I started playing drums when I was five years old and quickly came to understand that as important as practicing and learning your rudiments may be, there's actually something even more essential for a young drummer: knowing who you'll never be as good as in a million years.
Put another way: Buddy Rich was the greatest drummer that ever lived. So good that he made you want to put down your sticks and go take up needlepoint. So good that you completely overlooked the fact that he was an abrasive, surly son-of-a-bitch who knew how goddamned brilliant he was and would bring an astonishingly creative vocabulary of obscenities to bear against you if you dared to argue with him.
From 1978, here's a great clip from The Muppet Show featuring a truly inspired drum battle between the mighty Buddy Rich and, yes, Animal.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I was going to lay off -- I swear.
I figured I'd milked the "CNNfan" meme for all it was worth and therefore it was time to put it to bed and move on before the whole thing got stale.
Then came this comment, left at my friend and fellow ex-CNNer Jacki Schechner's site:
"A CNNfan Christmas Wish
CNNfans love CNN Internet Reporter Jacki
But Jacki Schechner's gone from CNN TV
Sadly as far as we, CNNfans can see.
We don't know just who to blame for this Catastrophe !
But our one CNNfan wish on Christmas Eve is to watch Jacki, under the lights of our Christmas Tree, right on CNN TV."
Yeah -- feel free to take a minute to let that sink in as you sit there with your mouth hanging open.
And Jacki, honey -- if you catch even the slightest whiff of chloroform, run like hell.
Friday, November 21, 2008
About a dozen people have sent me this video today, and I can certainly understand why. It's like a Dali painting -- it really, really is. Just sit back and let the surrealism wash over you like warm bath.
If you need a setup, here it is: What you're about to see is a dumb animal being slaughtered on national television.
And some turkeys dying.
Whenever I feeling like laughing until my sides hurt, I watch these: two drop-dead hysterical videos created right about the time that Warner Brothers was toying around with the idea of "reimagining" the Looney Toons characters.
You know, I've never read the Twilight books -- for all I know they may be great.
And a Ferrari may be an amazing car -- that doesn't make the guy driving it any less of a douchebag.
Seriously, remember what you used to call the girl back in high school who was really into silly vampire mythology?
Chances are you didn't call her at all -- and neither did anybody else.
Well, you knew this was coming.
Apparently "CNNfan" -- AKA "Max," AKA Tom Joyce, AKA "Guy most definitely not sitting in his mom's basement pleasuring himself to holograms of Jessica Yellin and fantasies of a threesome with Heidi Collins and Rick Sanchez" -- is off his OCD meds again because I received yet another transmission from whatever planet he lives on. I was going to delete the e-mail below from my inbox last night, but then I figured it'd make for a cheap Friday morning laugh and, more importantly, would require no expenditure of effort on my part -- so why fight it? If you can make any sense of this thing, you should probably put yourself under the care of a therapist immediately.
Feel free to come up with your own answers to his "interview questions." I'll send the best ones back to him.
By the way, if the bodies of me and my family turn up in a ditch out in North Jersey at any point in the near future, you'll know in whose direction to point the cops.
"An interview with Chez Pazienza Former Senior Producer of CNN American Morning
The CNNfan community has a few questions we hope you can answer for us:
1. Do you feel that CNNfans help CNN Producers win Emmy Awards?
2. Why would an Emmy Award winning CNN Producer punish CNNfans?
3. Are CNNfans to blame for you having lost your job at CNN?
4. Was it awkward to incorrectly characterize a CNNfan as Jon Klein?
5. You wrote that CNN pushed your former boss out two weeks after he fired you, because of the nasty things you blogged about him. Are you blogging nasty things about our CNNfan community to get CNN to push us out too?
6. Are you the hatchet man for our CNNfan community?
7. Would you please remove all nasty comments in any way related to our ICANN registered traditional domain name: CNNfan ?
Thank you Mr. Pazienza. You may be gone from CNN, but you are not forgotten by our CNNfan community; approaching our fifth anniversary at CNNfan.com
CNNfan for real CNN fans . The Original . Online since January 4th 2004. The Longest Running Fansite in News.
When responding please bare in mind that our CNNfan community really is global and has been for 5 years. Our CNNfan members are from many countries all over the world."
(How perfect is that picture, incidentally?)
My trip down memory lane reaches its inevitable end with six-and-a-half minutes of absolute perfection.
One of my all-time favorite songs -- Mother Love Bone's Crown of Thorns -- performed live not by the original band but by the band it evolved into: Pearl Jam.
And as a bonus, my favorite Pearl Jam song, performed live in Italy and set to images from the show.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I really hate to pilfer from Cesca twice in one day,* but I figure if I give him due credit and encourage you to buy his book (which is damn good) he'll let me have a little leeway.
He snagged this image from the Minnesota Public Radio website; it's just one of the many "questionable" ballots that have turned up during the Coleman-Franken recount.
My favorite part about this isn't just that some (apparently high) Minnesota citizen decided that it was imperative that he vote for the "Lizard People" for U.S. Senate -- but that he wrote in "Lizard People" for president as well.
I'd make fun of him, but for all I know he sneaked onto one of the visitors' ships, saw Diana eat a guinea pig, and now knows something the rest of us don't and is acting accordingly.
I for one welcome our new lizard overlords.
*I do, however, enjoy saying the word "pilfer." Really, say it a few times. Pilfer, pilfer, pilfer.
Because we seem to have a real "religion" theme going today -- and because, once again, I'm really pressed for time and worthwhile new material -- I figured I'd resurrect (no pun intended) one of the most popular and provocative columns ever to appear on this site. It's from October of 2006.
There are times when living in this city isn't simply tolerable but downright wonderful. Yesterday, my wife and I spent the afternoon wandering through the labyrinthine Museum of Natural History -- taking in the myriad exhibits on the science of the universe and mankind's growth throughout the millennia. We followed this up with a walk through a street fair in the kind of crisp air which can only herald the dawn of autumn, then an evening at my agent's place on the Upper West Side, drinking wine on the terrace and watching twilight descend over the city in shades of blue and purple, providing a view which was beautifully augmented by the rise of a giant and glowing full moon.
This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on a leather coat and wandered out onto a relatively quiet York Avenue to grab a cup of coffee and a few provisions for the refrigerator. Given that I had no intention of straying very far from my apartment, I neglected to bring along my iPod -- an accoutrement which is attached to my person with the regularity of a soldier's sidearm. The lack of Dave Brubeck pumping into my head (the perfect soundtrack to a Sunday morning in Manhattan, I believe) of course meant that my ears were open to the sounds of the city itself.
It meant that I was able to listen to and fully appreciate the conversations taking place outside of St. Monica's Catholic Church on East 79th Street.
On the steps of the church sat a mother and what I assume were her two young children; she was explaining to them Christ's inarguable plan for their lives. Not far away, I strode alongside a family which had apparently just exited Sunday mass; the children were -- as children do -- innocently questioning the dogma which the priest had just laid out for them in no uncertain terms. It made me smile and shake my head -- a somewhat ironic gesture for a somewhat ironic moment.
Here were a group of children -- willing to no doubt thoroughly buy into the existence of Santa Claus -- asking logical questions about a professed truth which even to their young minds seemed incomprehensible. Their parents' predictable response to this curiosity?
Just trust us; you have to believe because that's the way it is.
Suffice to say, it took me back.
As it's Sunday, perhaps a confession is in order: I was raised in a Christian household.
To many, this will come as absolutely no surprise; it takes a fierce knowledge of -- and an even fiercer indoctrination to -- a given belief to eventually wage war against its tenets in any meaningful way. At some point -- exactly when, I can't recall -- I made a personal decision that religion in general and Christianity in particular, was nothing more than absurdist wishful thinking -- and that in this day and age, it's more likely to get you killed by those with equal but opposite views of the hereafter than it is to create a more ethical and moral Earth for the totality of mankind to reside upon.
Needless to say, a majority of America and the world disagrees with me -- which as far as I'm concerned in no way substantiates its opposing position. For some reason, we've come to accept Validation Through Democracy: the idea that the larger the group to adhere to a belief, the more likely it is for that belief to be accurate. Obviously, this is nonsense; it's entirely possible for a very large group of people to believe something that is completely false. At the risk of proving Godwin's Law -- it's important to remember that Hitler once had the overwhelming support of his people.
Many of those who are true believers in the concept of religion -- of course -- are parents. It is also -- of course -- these parents who instill their religious beliefs in their children; essentially creating an inherited fear of God in the same way an inherited eye-color, acquiescence to the parents' ideas of right and wrong, and even the parents' political beliefs are passed along. The end result is that religion becomes simply another ill-fitting hand-me-down. As I witnessed first-hand on the street today -- kids will believe whatever their parents tell them; insist that they must be "saved" and accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and it will take years for them to believe otherwise (that is, if they ever do -- as opposed to simply passing down to their own kids the beliefs they themselves never thought to question).
If you'd like a frightening example of the dangers of this kind of indoctrination, go see the new documentary Jesus Camp. True, the film highlights only the most fervent of Christian extremists, but make no mistake that the ambition of these extremists is to claim the United States of America for Christ. They want nothing less than the dawn of a new theocracy, and -- to borrow a line from George Benson by way of Whitney Houston -- they believe the children are their future.
The film focuses on the "Kids on Fire" camp which is located (ironically) at Devil's Lake, North Dakota. While there, children are forcefully instructed how to become "Christian Warriors" -- the eventual frontline in the battle to win the hearts, minds and souls of America; it's essentially a Jedi camp for Fundamentalist Christians, with a rather unassuming pastor named Becky Fischer playing the part of Yoda. Some of the film's most trenchant images are of children -- most under the age of ten -- weeping openly, speaking in tongues, praying before a large cardboard stand-up of George W. Bush (an image, coincidentally, with roughly the same IQ as the real President Bush), and talking about their initial desire to be "saved" because -- at the astute age of five -- they realized that they simply needed something "more" in their lives.
It would all be hilarious, if it weren't so utterly disturbing.
Some have seen the movie and have called the tactics and methods used on these children nothing short of brainwashing; Unfortunately, it's simply parents doing what many parents do: passing their beliefs down to their children, and giving them no other real option. Kids generally want to please their parents during their formative years, so if, as a parent, you tell your kids that they should believe the sun revolves around the Earth -- or that they need to be saved by Jesus Christ -- you can be all but assured that that's exactly what they'll do.
Understand, neither Pastor Becky Fischer nor the mothers and fathers who send their children to Camp Kids on Fire care one bit about my opinions or beliefs; to them, I'm to be at the very least pitied for what will surely be an eternity in hell -- or at the most, despised for openly wishing to inflict my belief in logic and reason on the rest of the planet, which would inevitably turn it away from their "One True God."
This leads me to confession number two: for a very short time (not even a full year, for reasons which should be obvious) I went to a Fundamentalist Southern-Baptist school.
For the record, my parents sent me to Dade Christian School not because they were zealots or in fact subscribed at all to the school's extremist take on Christianity; I went there because it was right up the street from my home as a teenager and because it actually did offer an excellent education. Unfortunately, with that education came indoctrination; Dade Christian was -- and still is, unless raided by the ATF at some point -- the kind of school which force-fed students Evangelical dogma to the point of exerting a chilling level of control over not just their lives in school, but at home as well. Children weren't allowed to hold hands -- in school or out -- dance, attend rock concerts or generally do the things that normal kids often do. Important to mention at this point is the fact that the students who either truly believed the teachings of the school or simply hoped to ingratiate themselves with the teachers could be counted on to report the behavior of those kids who broke the rules outside of the school gates back to the almighty administration. Dade Christian School operated as if it were an occupied city -- complete with traitorous spies and a Vichy student government.
It goes without saying that I was less than popular with the occupying force -- acting as the metaphorical insurgent who wandered the streets painting a giant red V over each Bible verse.
The clash of beliefs however reached critical mass in the wake of a tragedy.
A few years before enrolling at Dade Christian, I became friends with a young girl who lived up the street from me. Her name was Debby, and she and I would meet most afternoons to play kickball and generally get into trouble. We had both recently passed the point in life where boys and girls loathed each other, which meant that there was an odd but undeniable undertone of intimate curiosity to our relationship. We liked each other -- quite a bit in fact; we had the kind of relationship which was tinged with a level of youthful discovery that in retrospect brings a bittersweet smile to my face.
At some point however, it just stopped; she still lived up the street from me, but for a reason unknown to me at the time she simply seemed to disappear.
It was later, during my first day at Dade Christian, that I ran into Debby again. She was warm and kind to me, but strangely distant. I did my best to put it out of my head; I figured I would need all of my mental faculties to resist the school's relentless day-to-day proselytism.
Debby and I never really talked again; we never got the chance to.
A few months after my encounter with her, there was a fire not far from my house. I awoke to the sound of firetrucks screaming past my window and quickly rushed outside to see what was going on -- running after the trucks until I saw what exactly had dragged them to my quiet neighborhood in the middle of the night.
Debby's home was on fire.
I stood silently, bathed in flashes of deep-red as the lights from the trucks created a chaos of long shadows and violent bursts of color. I watched Debby's mother -- whom I'd never actually spoken to -- cry loudly and collapse into a firefighter's arms. I never saw Debby come out; the reason is because she didn't.
I walked home numb -- a lack of feeling which lasted well into the next day at school. It was there -- surrounded by tearful students and teachers, comforting each other with the knowledge that Debby was in a better place -- that something overcame me. My numbness was replaced by something else: sheer fucking rage. I didn't doubt the honesty or sincerity of those who grieved at Dade Christian School, I did however doubt that they ever knew the Debby that I did; they never saw the truly beautiful young girl underneath the thick topcoat of artifice with which they had covered her through the perpetual insistence that there was something wrong with her -- that she needed to be "saved," and needed to denounce her humanity -- herself. To those who truly believed the teachings I was inundated with daily, Debby was simply another lucky Christian soul gone to heaven.
My anger finally exploded just a few days later, during the memorial service held for my friend at the New Testament Baptist Church, which ran Dade Christian School. It was there that something so hideous happened that I have no doubt of its impact on my view of religion since. During the service, the silver-haired pastor -- a man who looked as if he came right out of Central Casting -- stood on the stage and uttered these words:
"Perhaps something good can come from Debby's death. Perhaps it can teach you all that you can be taken from this world at any moment, and that you cannot take your immortal soul for granted. You have to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior now, because there may not be a tomorrow."
He then urged those who were saved or wished to be to come up to the stage to bear witness for all of those in the crowd.
It was at that moment that I got up and walked out.
I was in the outer lobby of the church -- pacing and shaking with what I feared was an uncontrollable fury -- when one of my teachers, one I happened to like, came out to find me. She asked me if I was alright, and that was when I let everything inside me come bursting out.
I tried to keep my voice down, but I wound up seething and spitting anger through clenched teeth. I told her that what was going on just behind those double-doors was wrong. I told her that she couldn't possibly condone that kind of macabre exploitation of a student who sat in one of her classes just days ago. I told her that there was no reason for Debby's death, nor the death of any other kid -- and that justifying or rationalizing that kind of tragedy was simply outrageous. I told her she couldn't possibly believe in a god that would allow such groundless suffering. I told her the death of a young girl was just fucking wrong.
And then I cried.
Rather than defend the grotesque spectacle taking place just a few feet from us, the teacher simply nodded her head in acknowledgement.
But there were others who didn't -- who wouldn't; they were children -- like the baleful faces at Camp Kids on Fire -- who have been the targets of so much religious agitprop throughout their formative years, from parents who believe that they're doing God's will, that they truly believe that the death of one of their own would offer a silver-lining in the form of an object lesson from on high. At the risk of being too provocative, you have to ask yourself: if this kind of manipulation of children were coming from anyone but those who preach the dominion of Jesus, would we as a nation tolerate it?
Yesterday, my wife and I visited the Museum of Natural History. As we took in the exhibits on the earliest incarnation of the universe, the earliest incarnation of man, and the fossils which act as a concrete testament to the existence of dinosaurs -- it dawned on me that there are children in this country who believe none of it. They deny proven fact because their parents do. They've learned to demand nothing less than a new age of unreason.
Which is nothing compared to demanding that the death of one of them be accepted as the unquestionable work of a god who operates in ways we're not meant to understand.
The best we can hope for, is that they grow out of it.
I promised myself that I'd believe it when I heard it -- from start to finish.
And now I have.
Guns N' Roses mythical new album, Chinese Democracy, really will be released in two days -- but it's available for you to listen to right now on the band's MySpace site.
Go ahead and satisfy your curiosity.
MySpace.com: Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy
"Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school."
-- Irrelevant asshole Newt Gingrich, proving Kathleen Parker's point splendidly (as well as the fact that it will go largely ignored by the GOP)
(h/t Amato by way of Cesca)
As you know, it's incredibly rare that I crib someone else's published piece wholesale and reprint it here. It has to be something I wish I'd written myself, something that makes a point I think needs to be heard far and wide, or both. Kathleen Parker -- the conservative columnist who may have provided the Cronkite-saying-Vietnam-can't-be-won moment during the election when she admitted that Sarah Palin was unqualified to be vice president -- is once again taking a ballsy stand against the conventional wisdom of her party for the sake of saving her party. Her assertion, and one that rings 100% true, is that "God" is killing the GOP.
"Giving Up on God" by Kathleen Parker (The Washington Post/11.19.08)
As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.
Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.
I'm bathing in holy water as I type.
To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.
Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.
The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.
But they need those votes!
So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.
Short break as writer ties blindfold and smokes her last cigarette.
Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.
Here's the deal, 'pubbies: Howard Dean was right.
It isn't that culture doesn't matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs.
Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.
Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.
With the exception of Miss Alaska, of course.
Even Sarah Palin has blamed Bush policies for the GOP loss. She's not entirely wrong, but she's also part of the problem. Her recent conjecture about whether to run for president in 2012 (does anyone really doubt she will?) speaks for itself:
"I'm like, okay, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is.... And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it's something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."
Let's do pray that God shows Alaska's governor the door.
Meanwhile, it isn't necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world's architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.
But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.
Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.
The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won't get whiter. And the nonreligious won't get religion through external conversion. It doesn't work that way.
Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base -- or the nation may need a new party.
DXM: He Blinded Me Without Science/8.12.08
DXM: The Sectarian Candidate/12.6.07
DXM: WWJD? WTF?/11.29.07
DXM: Faith No More/6.8.07
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"We can afford more people on our air and off our air. So, goddamn it, we’re going to have more people."
-- CNN US President Jon Klein
At the risk of once again incurring the wrath of my new BFF, the amusingly unhinged "CNNfan," there's an article in the latest edition of the New York Observer that's really worth taking a look at.
It deals with CNN -- specifically the "Nothing Succeeds Like Excess" mentality the network adopted with respect to its election coverage and the amount of money it had to spend to make it a reality.
Observer columnist Felix Gillette (who, in the interest of full disclosure, wrote a profile on me back in February of this year) chronicles the inordinate number of sponsored debates, the celeb-graced parties, the mobile control rooms, the expensive A-list pundits, the SkyCams, the real-time focus group meters, the risky new show launches and, of course, the pretend holograms -- all of which cost CNN a small fortune.
Gillette talked to network president Jon Klein, who I have no doubt was doing his best used-car-salesman-on-crank routine at the time. Gillette writes:
"'When you have the wind at your back in the form of a very profitable streak, then you’ve got the wherewithal to try things, to embrace innovation, to not cringe,' Mr. Klein told The Observer on Monday morning.
If it had taken place, say, 20 years ago, the spectacle of CNN’s 2008 shopping spree might have blended into the cacophonous jangle of a city awash in media companies awash in cash. But these days, everywhere you turn, the once reliable bon vivant institutions of New York journalism look tired, anxious and ready for bed. ABC News recently relegated its executives to 'B-level' hotels. This year, for the first time since the dawn of the printed word, Condé Nast is forgoing its holiday party at the Four Seasons. Cash bars are in.
All of which makes CNN’s current swagger, from its battery of technology to its cornucopia of talking heads, seem that much more freakish—the aberrance of opulence in the leanest of times."
What's interesting about all this though -- about Klein's bravado in the face of harsh economic times -- is what's not in article.
Last week I got an e-mail from a close friend of mine, one of my former co-workers at CNN, informing me that he was among a group of CNN employees who'd just been laid off -- reportedly, eight people on the American Morning staff. The official word is that the layoffs are the result of restructuring and not a product of budget cuts -- but that's tough not to question when standard operating procedure at CNN is to find new positions within the company for employees to move to should their old ones become obsolete.
A new baby boy, a treacherous job market, the holiday season looming, and now this: out of a job. It's not as if my former co-worker fell into the bottom performance percentile among his peers at CNN, either. On the contrary, he was quite good at what he did. Still, he now joins the growing list of people cut loose from jobs in the media over the past couple of months. Almost a dozen personal friends of mine have been let go from one media position or another and are now looking for work.
Meanwhile Jon Klein's throwing parties and tossing around money like he's Diddy.
In this unsettling economic climate, somebody will have to either pay outright for CNN's magical regenerating checkbook or simply hedge the network's bet. Either way, it obviously won't be Klein.
As we all know by now, it's rarely the people at the top who suffer.
The New York Observer: "The Corpulent News Network" by Felix Gillette/11.18.08
(Incidentally, when you click the link to read the article, make sure to check the address bar at the top of the screen. No idea whether that was an accident, the working title of the piece, or just a really subversive little joke -- regardless it's hilarious.)
Because naming a bridge after Ted Kennedy would've been tasteless.
International Herald Tribune: New York's Triborough Bridge Renamed for Robert Kennedy/11.19.08
For those curious as to just where this season of Top Chef is being shot here in New York City, here's what I wrote about it for the Village Voice this past July.*
First it was the revelation that MTV's traveling petri dish, The Real World, was settling in Red Hook. Now comes word that Bravo's slightly more sophisticated but no less melodramatic reality hit Top Chef is heading to Williamsburg.
According to Gothamist, production assistants have been seen moving equipment into the new ultra-chic 20 Bayard condo building near McCarren Park. When confronted, the PA's reportedly insisted they were just shooting a mayonnaise commercial (incidentally the same thing frequent Top Chef celebrity guest Rocco DiSpirito often tells women to get them to go home with him).
The building features an 8,000 square foot garden, gym, dog washing station and plenty of power outlets perfect for plugging in and recharging Padma Lakshmi each night.
*Yes, I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel in my attempt to stall while I find some decent new material to work with.
This will probably go nowhere (I mean, come on -- it's like the Italian vigili urbani trying to slap the cuffs on Mussolini), but I suppose it's worth remembering that Eliot Ness nailed Capone for tax evasion.
Plus, it's just fun to finally see a headline like this in print.
AP: Cheney, Gonzales Indicted in South Texas County/11.18.08
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I love it when I don't really have to do anything -- just put a couple of recent stories side by side.
The New York Times: Turmoil at The National Review Sees Traditional Conservative Intellectualism and Erudition Threatened/11.16.08
The Huffington Post: Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels Band to Headline Sean Hannity "Freedom Concerts"/11.18.08