Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I really hadn't planned on posting two Death Cab for Cutie videos so close together; it just sort of turned out that way.
They released the best single of the year (I Will Possess Your Heart) and also happen to have recorded a song that's become kind of a tradition around here on New Year's Eve.
Here's The New Year.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I get that the Roots released a near masterpiece this past year, and that the rest of the world was busy fawning over Kanye and his Auto-Tune and Lil Wayne and his ridiculous grill, but in 2008 the hip-hop album that moved me most was one I'd been waiting to hear for years: the triumphant return of Q-Tip.
Here's Renaissance Rap.
Monday, December 29, 2008
There was enough good music released in 2008 that it should be tough holding up one song above all others. Artists like Coldplay, the Black Keys, TV on the Radio, Portishead, Snow Patrol, Vampire Weekend, P!nk and the Kings of Leon all released terrific albums this year -- and each had at least one single that rose to the level of greatness.
But in the end, it's simply no contest.
The year's best song was one that surprised with the sheer audacity of its eight-and-a-half minute length, mesmerized with its powerful hooks and moody, atmospheric layers and just plain stayed in your head for days after hearing it.
Death Cab for Cutie's I Will Possess Your Heart was hands down the best single of 2008.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I was just going over the last year of posts in an effort to find a few to whittle down into a year-end list of my favorites and I came across this little gem. It was originally published in April of this year and features a plea to the Catholic League, specifically William Donohue, that has yet to be answered. I guess that means I'll just have to try harder in 2009.
I've gleefully pissed down the back of religion quite a bit this past week, so I see no reason to push the issue too much further at the moment.
That being said, (translation: ignore the last sentence) I was meandering the internet last night when I came across an interesting fact: Sithian enforcer to Emperor "Papal"tine, Vatican PR pit bull, and all around über-tool William Donohue -- president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights -- claims that "no one has insulted Catholics more than Bill Maher."
Donohue says that Maher "has consistently been listed in the Catholic League's Annual Report on Anti-Catholicism" for acts of bigotry, and has a habit of "slandering all priests as molesters and mocking the Eucharist."
I, for one, am wholeheartedly offended by all of this.
The reason of course is because, as far as I know, I'm not listed anywhere in the Catholic League's Annual Report on Anti-Catholicism. (I assume that if I were, I'd have gotten a plaque or something.)
True, Bill Maher has a much larger audience than little old me, but I feel like I've really done my part to openly insult the Catholic church, its cadre of pedophilic priests and its dangerously powerful "Holy Father." As for mocking the Eucharist, I was once thrown out of a theology class for calling communion wafers "Jesus Chips," so I think that qualifies me for at least a distant point on Donohue's radar.
That's why, my friends, I'm making an appeal to you for help. My goal for the next 12 months is to gain at least an honorable mention on the aforementioned Anti-Catholicism Report. I already make fun of the church and its laughably ridiculous and intransigent 11th century belief system whenever possible; I show the entire institution zero respect; what's more, I know the Bible inside and out -- having been raised Christian -- which puts me in a position to understand the organized insanity of which I speak.
With all due respect to Maher, I think I find the church even more immoral and worthy of ridicule than he does.
So come on, Mr. Donohue -- mention my name the next time you're on O'Reilly; call me an intolerant threat to your poor little disorganized and put-upon congregation; insist that I'm going to hell.
You know, whatever.
I'll be awaiting your castigation.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Just wanted to take a minute to let everyone know that, obviously, the output around here has slowed over the Christmas holiday weekend. Jayne and I are in Pennsylvania with family and therefore I'm talking a little time off.
That said, I'm not taking much time.
Monday, the year-end countdown begins:
This Stupid Year: The Ten Most Ridiculous, Shameful or Generally Unfortunate People and Events of 2008
Strap yourselves in -- it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Hope to see you there.
Friday, December 26, 2008
I swear, this story sounds like something I'd make up to satirically mock two of my favorite targets -- two of the most self-righteous, full-of-crap entities in the world.
The Huffington Post: PETA's "Person of the Year" is Oprah/12.19.08
These guys remain one of the most underappreciated and yet influential bands ever to come out of Great Britain. They were the almost singular bridge between the dour alternative music of 80s England (The Smiths, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen) and the rise of Britpop and the indie-rave wave (Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, Jesus Jones). When you think about it, this band is basically the Faith No More of the UK.
Here's That Petrol Emotion, with Big Decision.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Given that it's Christmas Eve and all, I really have to take this opportunity to thank all the nice folks who've either bought a copy of my book, Dead Star Twilight, or contributed money to this site via the PayPal tip jar in the right-hand sidebar over the past few days.
You guys keep Deus Ex Malcontent running, not me. While I'm doing a lot of freelance writing these days -- some profitable, some not so much -- this site is a labor of love. Still, it's one I wouldn't be able to justify were it not for the comments, e-mails and, yes, contributions from readers.
I try to show my appreciation as often as I can, but I'm not sure it's ever enough.
Thanks for reading and for keeping this site in business.
Have a great holiday.
"Physically, (Tucker) Bounds might be the human being who most deserves the name 'pinhead.' His long, lean frame almost begs you to shove him inside a locker. Listening to Bounds, it's easy to let his empty blather wash over you in a sea of meaningless syllables as you imagine the years of schoolyard assaults and gym class humiliations he must have had to suffer before launching his career as a professional asshole. It almost made us pity the guy. Then we'd pay attention to what he was saying, and we'd want nothing more than for a bully to run into the studio and 'pants' him on national television."
-- 23/6, looking back on the short-lived political ascendency of former John McCain spokesman and shameless bullshit artist Tucker Bounds
Probably the two best acts to be spawned by one band.
From the genius that was Bauhaus, here's one from Peter Murphy and one from his bandmates, Love and Rockets.
Peter Murphy -- Cuts You Up
Love and Rockets -- All in My Mind
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"And Now, a Very Special Holiday Message from al-Qaeda" (Originally Published, 12.20.06)
In the name of Almighty Allah, and all praise is due to Allah, and may peace and prayers be on the Messenger of Allah, and on his family, companions and allies. Muslim brothers everywhere, peace be upon you and may you know the mercy of Almighty Allah and his blessings.
The rest of you can burn in hell.
Hah, hah -- no -- I kid, I kid.
It's me again, Ayman al-Zawahiri. You might recognize me as the co-star of the hit TV series Death to America, which airs monthly on al-Jazeera. I also had a big part on Extreme Makeover: New York and DC Edition a few years back, and -- well -- between you and me, I even tried my hand at doing a couple of music videos. Yeah, I edited a bunch of scenes together that really highlight the relationship between Meredith and Dr. McDreamy and set it to some of my favorite Goo Goo Dolls songs. They're on al-Qaeda's MySpace site now. Feel free to take a look -- I'm very proud.
But hey, enough about me, right? It's the holiday season for most of the non-Muslim world, or as we in al-Qaeda like to call it -- the Muslim world. So just to show you that we're not all streets-running-red-with-the-blood-of-the-infidels, we wanted to personally offer you all a special holiday message.
Why would we do something like this you ask?
Well look, it's been a pretty good year for us overall. Thanks to your dimwitted Imperious Leader, we've been able to swarm all over Iraq like teen pregnancy on a Birmingham trailer park. We now have more recruits to our cause than we know what to do with -- so many in fact that we're thinking about starting a new chapter of al-Qaeda. We're still trying to come up with a name for it, but so far al-Qaeda 2: The New Class seems to be pretty popular around the camel. We figure we might even be able to get Screech to do a commercial for us, seeing as how that guy will do anything for money these days.
Then of course we'd have to kill him because he's a Jew, praise be to Allah.
Getting back to what I was saying, it really doesn't matter to us that you good folks finally came to your senses and realized that the drunken idiot you sent to the White House twice is completely out of control. It's certainly a step in the right direction for you, but hey -- what's done is done over here. You can't put the genie back in the bottle -- ya know?
Sorry -- just a little Persian humor for you. Hussein the Hilarious, circa 1438. You should always respect the classics.
Anyway, lately we understand that the whole Iraq thing has taken a backseat to something truly Earth-shattering that's happened in America. Something which has dominated your headlines and held the attention of your entire nation, paralyzing every man, woman and child with anticipation and an unquenchable desire to have one question answered -- quite simply the most important question America has ever faced:
What will Donald Trump do with Miss USA, Tara Conner?
Look, forgive me if I laugh a little about this, but is this the freedom you people are supposedly "protecting" abroad -- the one your sons and daughters are dying for in Iraq?
The right to continue to worry about stupid, trivial garbage like this?
That's what this is all about?
I live in a cave for Allah's sake, and even I could've told you what an asshole like Trump was gonna do. He was gonna do whatever he had to do to make sure that the 20-year-old beauty queen from Kentucky never told anybody that he'd been boning her for the past six months. Still, come on. Rehab? Isn't that place getting a little crowded over there? How'd you manage to slip her in between Mark Foley and Ted Haggard?
No, seriously -- how'd you manage to slip her in between Mark Foley and Ted Haggard?
Think about it -- that Lindsay Lohan girl is never sober, never wears underwear and never lacks for a place to put down a rail of cocaine the size of the USS Abraham Lincoln -- and yet you people put her on the front cover of Vogue. This kid does what any kid would do if you swept her up from a debutante ball outside Lexington and dropped her simple ass on top of Chamillionaire in the TRL studios in New York and you decide that she needs rehab?
Wow, are you people hypocrites. And you wonder why we keep our women under sheets and hit them with rocks until they're dead when they misbehave, Allah be praised.
I've got a much better idea for you. Why not just have Trump build Skynet and send the Terminator back through time to kill this girl. Wait, that was Sarah Connor? Crap. What do you want from me? I live in a cave. Satellite reception's awful and our movie package only includes Starz! and Encore. You try making pop culture jokes when the most recent movie you've seen is Grumpier Old Men, or as we like to call it -- Two Old Jews Now Put Asunder by Almighty Allah, His Name Be Praised.
In the coming New Year -- 2007 on your calendar, 1373 on ours, again -- we in al-Qaeda expect to continue our campaign of terror against you for your continued insult and humiliation of our Muslim faith, the one true God, Allah, and his prophet Muhammed. I just figured I'd go ahead and be up-front about that. But that being said, we concede that there is one line in the Koran about being tolerant of "People of the Book," and as far as we can tell -- that means you Christians. So, with it being your Christmas season and all, we wanted to at least pay a little lip-service to the conciliatory spirit by wishing you all a healthy and safe holiday -- seeing as how, if we get our way, it will probably be your last.
And for our Jewish friends, Happy Hanu -- Channuk -- Chahn -- oh fuck it, just drive yourselves into the sea already.
I've gotta run now. I'm trying to figure out how to put my dick in a box as a gift for Osama.
Yes you infidels, we have YouTube, Allah be praised.
"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it. We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."
-- JP Morgan Chase spokesman Thomas Kelly, being shamelessly cryptic about what his company is doing with the $25 billion in taxpayer money it received in the emergency bailout.
I swear, people -- the fucking guillotine.
I've copped to my love for Rush, Billy Joel, Genesis, movie scores and various relics of 80s synth-pop, now it's time for me to just come right out and say, without shame, that I think Todd Rundgren is a goddamned musical genius.
If you know anything about Rundgren, this isn't much of a bold statement to make. But if you're not really into him -- or, perish the thought, have no idea who I'm even talking about -- admitting your appreciation of him pretty much tells everyone that you were one of those people who thought Alan Alda was the sexiest man alive back in the 70s. That's because Todd Rundgren is a sensitive, thinking man's rock star -- the original emo god.
Throughout his career -- which has spanned four decades -- he's released some of the most enduring yet strangely underrated pop and blue-eyed soul music in the business. He's always been on the cutting edge of experimenting with new sounds and new technology and even when he wasn't recording his own albums, he was writing or producing for others (The Tubes, XTC, Bad Religion, The Psychedelic Furs); he's been the guy behind the guy (or the girl, or the band) on dozens of hit songs and albums, and he's been a major influence on everyone from Matthew Sweet to Trent Reznor.
He's been mentioned on 30 Rock and, dubiously, was Mark David Chapman's second biggest musical obsession.
Bottom line: Rundgren rules.
No, I won't put up Bang the Drum All Day, but here now are three of my favorites from Todd Rundgren.
First, from 1982's The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, it's Hideaway.
Next, a classic that I think is one of the best pop songs ever recorded: Hello It's Me.
And finally, from Rundgren's band Utopia (who were also brilliant, first album to last), here's Crybaby.
Monday, December 22, 2008
No, stupid. His biggest mistake was choosing you.
The Huffington Post: Sarah Palin: McCain's Biggest Mistake was Sheltering Me/12.22.08
I'm writing today to issue a plea on behalf of the sane, reasonably well-adjusted people all across this country of ours. It's, admittedly, a move borne out of desperation and spawned from the mind of someone who's been pushed to the brink of madness, but I would only hope that this fact underscores the anguish being felt by the American people and therefore the seriousness of what I'm about to say.
Please, in the name of all that's decent, stop, stop, stop treating the Duggars like they're celebrities.
This morning, like clockwork, the Duggar family -- Jim Bob, Michelle, her clown car vagina, and the 18 kids whose names all inexplicably begin with the letter "J" -- made their traditional appearance on NBC's Today to show off the latest addition to their constantly expanding litter. As always, they basked in the glow of the national media spotlight, were treated to oodles of warm encomia, and took the opportunity to joyfully drop the name of the Lord every few seconds like there was some kind of Skinner Box treat in it for them.
The Today show has become something akin to the official press secretariat of the Duggars -- excitedly fawning over each birth and the fresh pregnancy announcement that invariably, immediately follows it as if this information were something that actually mattered to anyone. But, obviously, Today isn't alone in its cultural elevation of the Duggars from crazy homemade cult to all-American heroes.
And make no mistake -- these people are indeed crazy.
Completely out of their fucking minds.
You know something, though? That's okay. They're entitled to live their lives however the hell they want; as long as none of their kids -- born an average of one a year since 1988 -- ends up on welfare and we the taxpayers have to foot the bill for little Jolene or Jonah. I honestly couldn't care less that there's an insane family living in Arkansas cranking out children because God says so. The problem is that you, the media -- NBC, ABC, TLC, etc. -- keep giving these people face time, thereby convincing them that everyone in this country not crazier than a shithouse rat actually loves hearing the latest news about Michelle Duggar's de-elasticized cervix. I'm not suggesting that you're encouraging them -- since you couldn't, as they take their cues from a supposedly higher authority -- but you are giving them the chance to hawk their books, TV show and the assorted other crap that allows them to afford to continue spitting out kids like chocolates coming down a conveyor belt. These people shouldn't be cast in a positive light. They shouldn't be cast in any light at all. If they want to keep trying to single-handedly overpopulate the Earth for Jesus, they should have to pay for it without the help of your unwarranted free publicity, media.
Let's see how long they'd last once the gravy train you guys happily play conductor of dries up.
Like Paris Hilton, whose career you're also guilty of perpetuating and foisting on an exhausted public, the Duggars are famous only for their unusual sexual habits.
And like Paris Hilton, they've never deserved the wealth of attention you've lavished on them. They're religious zealots who won't stop having babies. That's it. Nothing more.
So once again, knock it the hell off. Stop shoving this family down our collective throat.
If the Duggars one day make the announcement that they've decided to start using contraception, or if one of their kids comes out with horns or something, feel free to give them a couple minutes of airtime. Until then, remember that you're the mainstream media -- not Procreation Quarterly and not a carnival barker.
Leave the freakshow to the circus folk, okay?
Thanks and Happy Holidays,
There's almost no better proof of how little the old school media giants understand the non-linear thinking of new media than the fact that Universal Music Group refuses to allow videos from its artists to be embedded into blogs and third-person websites.
Well, there was no better proof -- until Warner Bros. decided to pull all of its music from YouTube.
That amounts to hundreds of thousands of videos.
It's making the move because contract negotiations broke down with Google over content sharing. In an official statement, Warner said:
"We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide."
Except of course that YouTube -- not to mention anyone who pulls a video from there and places it on his or her own website -- isn't receiving a service so much as providing one: Each time I post a music video here, I'm publicizing that band and hopefully encouraging people to go out and buy its music. For this, I receive no compensation from the record company; I do it out of a true passion for the music and the artist. What Warner Bros. and its artists have with YouTube is a genuinely symbiotic relationship; each side is benefiting equally.
But of course, Warner and most of the other dinosaur-like behemoths in the recording industry -- including the RIAA -- don't see it that way. They can't. They still think in terms of protecting their fiefdoms at all costs by stringently dictating how the music of their artists is distributed. They believe that any use of their music constitutes them doing somebody a favor when, in reality, it's often exactly the opposite.
In the end, you the music lover are going to suffer a hell of a lot less than the bands you won't be able to see and hear.
You know, in another time and place, the struggling masses would've carried these people kicking and screaming to the public square and joyously guillotined them.
The Huffington Post: Bailed Out Executives Got 1.6 Billion in 2007/12.22.08
These guys were never as well-known as their Seattle contemporaries, but they were always a great band -- at times including members of Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone.
This is actually one of the most underappreciated alternative singles of the mid-90s.
Here's Love Battery, with Harold's Pink Room.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It's rare that something angers me so profoundly that I spend a good portion of the quality weekend time I have with my family letting it get under my skin.
This is one of those times, unfortunately.
I never believed the passage of California's Prop 8 -- which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in that state -- to be a product of hate. Ignorance, yes. Fear, definitely. Stupidity, absolutely -- but not, for most of its supporters, an out-and-out hatred of gay people. There's no doubt that, in the classic "hate the sin, love the sinner" vein, many opponents of gay marriage hold what they perceive to be the homosexual lifestyle (and the nagging fear that it will somehow encroach upon their clean, bucolic suburban existences) in greater contempt than any one gay person. This distinction, I'd imagine, provides little comfort for the 900-thousand or so gay and lesbian men and women living in California who've just been told by their neighbors that they're second class citizens -- but it still doesn't make the passing of Prop 8 proof that millions of people despise homosexuals.
Which doesn't mean that there isn't a small and very vocal contingent among Prop 8's supporters -- including the sponsors of the initial bill -- that does openly despise gay culture and what it believes gay people represent.
They consider homosexuality to be evil in every sense and will fight tooth and nail to eradicate it (which only proves the ridiculous folly of their belief system, since you can't "fix" gay and you damn sure can't make it go away).
These are the people who are now one-upping the ban that's already been imposed on any future gay weddings in California.
They want to not only ensure that no more same-sex couples marry -- they want to retroactively nullify the unions of an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who were married during the few months that it was legal to do so in the state of California. The imaginatively-monikered "Yes on 8" campaign has now filed a brief arguing that because the new law states that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be recognized in California, any gay marriage is automatically invalid. The wording of Prop 8 never expressly outlined what would happen to the unions of those couples who'd already tied the knot, but if you couldn't see this draconian push to thoroughly extinguish the concept of gay marriage coming from a mile away, you're so naive that stepping outside your front door for any reason would likely be hazardous to your health.
These fanatics -- and that's exactly what they are -- don't simply disagree with the idea of same-sex couples marrying, they consider it a sinful blight on humanity and something that would put our society one step closer to being smitten, wholesale, by a vengeful God.
And who's heading up the court battle for the intolerant extremists looking to abolish gay marriage in its entirety?
Yes, that Ken Starr. The ultra-conservative and ethically-challenged legal attack dog who dubiously spent several years and millions of taxpayer dollars trying to bring down Bill Clinton back in the 90s -- the far-right butt-boy who issued the infamous "Starr Report" which purposely, pruriently read more like soft-core porn than a legal document. Starr's now the dean of the law department at Pepperdine University in Malibu (side note: don't go to law school at Pepperdine) and obviously is the perfect choice to pick up the long, hard spear, wrap both hands around its shaft and lead the charge to wipe gay marriage off the map in California. With Starr at the helm of the operation, you know exactly what you're getting, why you're getting it and the kinds of people behind the whole thing.
Opponents of the move, meanwhile -- who argue that it's unconstitutional and outright wrong to attempt to apply Prop 8 retroactively -- are scheduled to file their own brief tomorrow. It would be wonderful to believe that the opponents of this reprehensible effort will be successful, but they have yet to even slow the offensive that's been steamrolling over them the past few months.
There's no denying, however, that their cause is just. Their cause is, ironically, righteous. It always should've turned the stomachs of decent, freedom-loving Americans that there were those in our ranks who stood violently against the idea of an entire swath of the population being granted the right to marry the person of his or her choosing. It really should've provoked outrage that a group of our citizens had been granted a civil right only to have it put to a vote and subsequently revoked. The fact that the above has been allowed to occur, and now, to add the worst kind of insult to injury, those for whom the concept of such a right is nothing less than sacrilege seek to pull an end-run on the law and abrogate the contract of those who availed themselves of that right when it was legal -- well, that's just fucking despicable.
When federal Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the bootleggers and speakeasy proprietors arrested during the 13 years that alcohol was illegal in America weren't automatically freed from prisons, en masse. This is because if you engage in an illegal act, the eventual legalization of that act doesn't instantly absolve you in the eyes of the law. You did it while it was illegal, you broke the law.
That's the way it works.
Unless, apparently, you're talking about same-sex marriages.
Then, in a slap-in-the-face double-standard, you're expected to accept that the legal, ostensibly binding commitment you made in good faith can be subject to any future changes the state feels like implementing. Basically, your marriage -- the most important contract you enter into -- can be "grandfathered" to death.
To call it unfair would be a laughable understatement.
It's wrong. Period.
Just fucking wrong.
What follows is a related piece published here last month. It was written in response to the initial passage of Prop 8.
There's a guy I know named Omar who's been one of my best friends since we were both around 16.
He's been beside me through some of the worst times in my life, providing a kind of unwavering moral support and unconditional love that really can't be done justice with something as mundane as a well-placed word or two. He's more like a brother to me than a friend and I, quite honestly, would go to the ends of the earth for him if he required it. We've always championed each other and I have no doubt that we always will. Our friendship is one of the most important, and certainly the most enduring, things in each of our lives.
If Omar called me tomorrow morning and told me that he'd found somebody he wanted to share the rest of his life with and was planning to get married, I'd congratulate him, send a big hug his way, and ask him where he wanted me to be and when he wanted me to be there. There's no way in hell I'd miss his wedding.
The thing is, I don't have to worry about that.
That's because Omar can't get married -- at least not officially -- because he's gay.
Last week, while America was celebrating what feels, even now, like a rebirth and a restatement of purpose in the wake of the election that will put Barack Obama in the White House, millions in California were reeling from an election day shock -- a decision at the polls that inexplicably aims to undo a very real "march of freedom" within this country and cement the status of gay Americans as second-class citizens.
California's Proposition 8 was unlike anything I'd seen in my lifetime: a clever end-run around the law which attempted to actually take away the rights of a specific segment of the population -- rights that had previously been granted by the California Supreme Court. It was anathema to everything America purports to stand for -- justice and equality for all, without exception -- and yet it passed handily and did so in one of the most progressive states in the country.
It was, it is, a national embarrassment -- and one that never should've been allowed to happen in the first place.
It's true we live in a democracy and that each of us has a say in determining our leaders and the manner in which they govern, but there are some decisions that should be beyond the whim of the electorate -- out of reach of the most ignorant, timid or demagogic within our ranks. There's a reason our court system is charged with interpreting the Constitution and enforcing its tenets: We pay those entrusted with this awesome responsibility to be a little wiser than the rest of us -- to literally lay down the law when no one else can, or will.
Some things aren't up for debate in this country.
Our fundamental freedoms cannot be put to a vote.
Not here -- not in America.
There should be no doubt that eventually we'll look back on this disgraceful moment in our history the way we now regard segregation, pre-suffrage, or the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II: with shame, sadness, and a host of unanswerable questions as to what we might possibly have been thinking. We know this because, as much as those who stand against it will hate to hear this, legal gay marriage in the United States is an inevitability. We know this because of the basic nature of freedom: it expands.
It will not be contained -- and it most certainly will not be restricted once it's already been allowed to flourish. Isn't this the very principle that's guided our foreign policy for years? Are we so blind or so unforgivably hypocritical that we can't recognize when the truth of that ideal is staring us right in the face?
The genie is out of the bottle.
There's no putting it back in, and it was inexcusable that we sought to restrain it in the first place. That's not what this country is about.
My friend Omar, like all Americans, should have the right to marry anyone he wants -- to live his life however he chooses.
And not you, nor I, nor anyone else has the right to take those rights away from him.
One of the most surprising and inspired musical collaborations ever turned out one of the best albums of the decade.
Here's Loretta Lynn and Jack White with a song that -- and I'll set myself up for plenty of ribbing here -- Jayne and I have done karaoke a couple of times (my voice is passable in a Paul Westerbergian kind of way; Jayne's is just incredible, she could be on Broadway).
It's Portland Oregon.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
But of course.
McClatchy: Drug in Palin Future Mother-in-Law Case is Oxycontin/12.19.08
What do you want to bet Rush Limbaugh will be uncharacteristically silent about this?
Oh and incidentally, am I the only one who thinks this woman looks like Catherine O'Hara's Cookie Googleman character in Best in Show?
I love this 1957 Warner Brothers short because it's the Trainspotting, or maybe Lost Weekend, of cartoons.
Incidentally, see what happens when you deny your basic impulses, Pastor Rick?
Here's Birds Anonymous.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Believe it or not, I actually try hard not to be too self-indulgent when it comes to what gets posted on this site. I may voice my opinion, relay personal stories, or just generally poke fun in every direction, but I always hope that whatever goes up here is something that someone will want to read; it's not often that I throw a post into the mix without caring one way or the other whether it's going to be entertaining to you nice people.
But I guess this will be one of those rare occasions that I do just that.
Or maybe it won't be -- because maybe there's someone out there who feels the same way that I do about the musical score from the 1987 movie Less Than Zero.
Yesterday, while tooling around YouTube, I stumbled on a series of musical pieces -- each covered only with a static wallpaper shot -- that absolutely blew me away, because the music in question was something I'd been searching for for more than 20 years. While an official Less Than Zero soundtrack was released two decades ago (featuring the Bangles' Hazy Shade of Winter, LL Cool J's Going Back to Cali, etc.), the actual musical score by Thomas Newman was never made available to the public. I could never understand why, since the music Newman wrote for the movie remains, in my opinion, some of his best work -- and this is a guy who went on to compose the brilliant scores of movies like American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption and Road to Perdition.
The ethereal, atmospheric score for Less Than Zero -- particularly the character suites, some of which call to mind the heartbreaking beauty of Barber's famous Adagio for Strings -- is something that moved me in indescribable ways the first time I saw the movie, and continued to with each repeat viewing.
I've been searching for this music in one format or another for years. And yesterday I sent a message to the person who had uploaded the videos to YouTube telling him as much. About 20 minutes after I wrote to him, lo and behold, the Less Than Zero score began appearing in my email inbox -- one MP3 file at a time.
Maybe there's no one out there who grew up in the 80s and appreciated the music from this movie the way I did. Maybe I'm the only one within the sound of my voice who remembers it and loves it. If this is true, then sorry to waste your time.
But if there's anyone reading this who knows what I'm talking about -- who doesn't think I'm completely crazy -- and who remembers how great the Less than Zero score was, I'm about to make your day.
Here now, three pieces from that unreleased soundtrack.
I Need $50,000
(Thanks to CuervoBlack06, whoever you are, for giving me a really great Christmas present.)
This morning on the Today show, Pastor Rick Warren and his bountiful, artificial chin-creating goatee -- which is, seriously, so impressive that it could very well be its own sentient being -- talked one-on-one with Ann Curry about the reservations many Barack Obama supporters have about his role in the upcoming inauguration.
In other words, he sat there with the kind of Fallwellian, self-satisfied smirk on his face that can only come from knowing that you've got a hotline to the Almighty and 20-million dollars in the bank.
For the most part, the interview revealed little we didn't already know about the way Warren sees the world (gay bad, God good), but watch the clip below and pay special attention to the money shot at the one minute mark.
I'm not sure what's funnier, Warren's comment or Ann Curry's reaction to it.
Everybody fill your diaphragm with a shot of Jack and raise it to the Duggars. They've just announced that their 19th baby is on the way.
Wait, they actually had their 18th today?
Oh well -- same thing.
Yahoo: Arkansas Family Welcomes 18th Child, a Girl/12.19.08
Related: DXM: Family Units/5.9.08
This is seriously the most entertaining thing you'll see all day.
The Pew Research Center conducted a nationwide survey compiling the list of the words most closely associated with George W. Bush.
Heavy profanity was apparently not included.
Feel free to rectify that and add your own suggestions.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
Anchorage Daily News: Bristol Palin's Future Mother-in-Law Arrested on Drug Charges/12.19.08
So let's see -- a pregnant teenage daughter, a self-proclaimed "fuckin' redneck" future son-in-law and his busted-for-drugs mother.
Sarah Palin's supporters were right: She's just like them.
With the holidays here, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who's read and supported this site over the past year. Beginning with the loss of my job at CNN -- which opened the door to a host of new and better opportunities -- through the Huffington Post contributions, the release of my memoir, the presidential election coverage and beyond, it's been an unbelievably successful year around these parts. I honestly never imagined that I'd have the kind of steady traffic that I do these days, and I certainly couldn't have predicted that my voice would be heard by the number of people that it is. My opinions are just as inconsequential in the great scheme of things as they ever were, but thanks for listening to them and either agreeing or pushing back. You nice folks who make this site a part of your day mean the world to me.
Now that I've buttered you up -- albeit sincerely -- I figured I'd take this opportunity to make one final year-end sales push for my book, Dead Star Twilight. Thanks to the number of people who've bought and downloaded a copy of DST over the past eight months, the manuscript is now in the hands of a few publishers who may want to do something more with it, and of course my meetings in L.A. a couple of months back went very well, so who knows -- maybe 2009 will bring big things for the Pazienza family. Even if nothing else comes of Dead Star Twilight, beyond its distribution here, though, I'll be more than satisfied with what we've accomplished by making it available online. I'm glad that so many of you have read and enjoyed it.
If by some chance you haven't gotten around to picking up a copy yet, now's definitely the time to do it. Just click the link in the sidebar to the right and follow the download instructions.
Just to whet your appetite, I've published a new mini-excerpt from the book directly below this post. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks again.
The next morning, I call in sick to work. I pack a small bag and drive to Culver City—to the address that Dr. Die Hard gave me months ago—to the hospital. I check myself in. The nurse takes any sharp objects I have: Scissors, razor and so on. She asks me if I have dentures. I tell her no and allow myself an absurdist thought at the possibility of a black-market where addicts deal in the high-stakes trade of false teeth. She assigns me a room and gives me a small paper cup filled with colorful pills which I take without question, probably for the simple reason that they’re drugs and I’m a drug addict—the name kind of says it all. I lay myself down on the uncomfortable bed, turn off the light and wait. A couple of hours later, I’m a zombie.
There’s a silhouette carved into the fluorescent white light from the hall outside my room. Even in my heavily-sedated state, I can tell it’s a very nice silhouette too—all curves. It’s saying something that I can barely hear.
“Huh?” I say, hardly opening my mouth to form words.
“I said, do you smoke?”
I have to think about it.
“Wanna come outside anyway?” the silhouette asks.
I raise myself up off the bed somehow and scuff my feet across the floor in the sneakers that I didn’t bother to take off before I laid down. I follow the sterile light into the bright hallway. My eyelids are heavy. My whole body feels heavy. Everything’s tilting. I glance down the hall to my left and see the silhouette there. She’s no longer a silhouette, but a young girl lathered in the achromatic glow of the hospital hallway.
“Come on—this way,” she says with a smile.
I follow, drifting down the hall until I get to the elevator, which she’s holding for me. I get in. The doors close.
“Your first night?”
I just nod.
“You’re seriously doped up then,” she says with a Cheshire grin.
I just nod.
“You won’t remember in five minutes, but I’m Nicole.” She runs a hand across my shoulder. “I’m what they call alumni. I’ve already been through the program—just back for a meeting tonight.”
I don’t say a word. My eyes flutter. Her voice sounds like it’s coming from the end of a long pipe. It reverberates around inside my head.
She takes my hand and reads the wristband.
“Chez, huh? What kind of name is that?”
I slowly turn to look at her. My face probably registers confusion.
“Italian,” I mutter—at least I think I’m saying it out loud.
The doors eventually open and I follow Nicole out into the lobby and to an enclosed area where alcoholics and addicts have gathered to smoke. It’s night—but I don’t know what time. I realize that I’m in another world now. I’m on an island. This isn’t Los Angeles anymore. This isn’t home. This isn’t anything I recognize.
I watch Nicole light up a cigarette and join in a conversation with a couple of guys. She’s very attractive. Very L.A. I don’t know how long I stand around before I remember something that seems important. My cell phone is in my back pocket. I need to call someone. I need to prove to myself that the outside world still exists—that it hasn’t disappeared and left me here on this island alone forever. I stumble away from the group and take out my phone and flip it open. I focus my eyes as best I can and dial my parents. My mother answers. I tell her where I am. I tell her that I’m finally getting help. I tell her that I love her. I listen to her choke on her own tears. I tell her that I’ll be better soon. I murmur something incoherent. My voice trails off and is eaten alive by the echo in my own skull. I’m suddenly interrupted.
“Hey, you’re not allowed to have a phone here. Didn’t they take that away from you when you checked in?”
I just stare at the orderly who’s talking to me—then at my phone—then back at him.
“Obviously not,” I answer.
“Well, you have to get off the phone.”
“I’m talking to my mother. Would you like to say hi?”
“I don’t care. You have to hang up.”
I go back to my call.
“Sorry mom, some fucking asshole is telling me that I can’t talk to you.”
I smile at him as he takes the phone out of my hand in slow-motion.
I spend the rest of the night submerged in dark water, my arms moving languidly around me as I try to grasp and hold on to thoughts of Kara—thoughts of my life and the shit I turned it into, thoughts of everything and nothing—as they glide past me in all directions. I exist between sleep and awake. Between darkness and light. Between life and death.
I down four more cups of pills over the next twenty-four hours.
It’s a Friday night—I think.
I’m standing at the edge of the TV room, staring through the huge plate glass window that stretches across the length of the space. I’m ten floors up. Outside, Los Angeles shimmers soft pink into the distant horizon. I stare at it. I stare at it from my island—from the parallel universe, surrounded on all sides by the real world with which I can’t interact. I’m nothing more than a ripple in the fabric of time and space right now. A vapor trail. I don’t exist to the outside world.
Without thinking, I reach over and grab a chair from the card table next to me. With every bit of strength I have left, I lift it above my head. My world once again moves in slow-motion. I throw it. I heave it as hard as I can. It hits the giant floor-to-ceiling pane in front of me and shatters it. It explodes in a shower of splintering glass that momentarily distorts and destroys the image of the city on the other side.
I scream as loud as I can.
I smash the protective bubble—and cry out as the world beyond flows into the room—into this parallel universe. I flood the island.
I snap back to reality.
I’m still staring out the window.
A realization surfaces from deep beneath the chemical wash that’s keeping my will and my sanity under control. It’s the realization that I’m not actually on an island. I’m not in a parallel universe—and that’s the problem. I’m in a hospital in Los Angeles. The world is out still there—right outside this window. I checked myself in here for a five day detox. At the end of that time, I’ll be released back out into the world, back out into L.A., and back out into the same danger that I came here to escape. The dealers will still be there. The temptation will still be there. Elliott Smith is out there somewhere right now, doing heroin and writing music. If he can’t kick it, what chance do I have?
The realization is that all of this is useless.
The realization is that I’ll never stop doing drugs as long as I’m in L.A.
I make a choice.
I have to go back to Florida.
But first, I have to leave this place.
I have to leave this place, now.
Arianna Huffington latest column takes an interesting look at the relation between an unrepentant Dick Cheney and the character Clint Eastwood plays in his new movie, Gran Torino.
The Huffington Post: "Cheney and Clint: A Tale of Two Dicks" by Arianna Huffington/12.18.08
If I were in high school right now, I'd be drawing little hearts on my notebook with my name and the name of the lead singer of this band -- Suzanne Santo -- inside them.
Here's honeyhoney, with Little Toy Gun.
And yes, that's Keifer Sutherland in the video.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sock and Awe: The "Hit Bush in the Face with a Shoe" Game
I greatly respect both Barack Obama's genuine desire to ensure that Americans of every stripe have a voice in our new government and his political savvy in reaching out to his ideological adversaries. But none of that makes me feel any better about the fact that Pastor Rick Warren -- he of those insipid Purpose Driven Life books and the Saddleback Mega-Church in Orange County, California -- has been picked to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration.
That Warren's hyper-conservative beliefs stand in such stark social and cultural contrast to Obama's own worldview would be reason enough to question the choice. It's easy to understand why some Obama supporters -- particularly gay voters, who see Warren and his flock as having been instrumental in the passing of California's Prop 8 -- feel like it's a very personal betrayal.
My discomfort, though, has less to do with any one issue than it does with the idea of the highest office in the free world once again cozying up to the lowest common denominator among America's faithful -- validating that group's absurd, irrational and often aggressively exclusionary belief system. While having someone like Rick Warren -- a man who's bested only by Jesus and Elvis in the hearts and minds of the NASCAR demographic -- up there next to our new president on inauguration day does send a clear message that all views will be given consideration from this point forward, it may also send a signal to those who happen to hold the one view that's been allowed to dominate the discourse for the past eight years that they'll continue to be deferred to.
It's not so much that Pastor Rick is getting an audience with the new president of the United States -- it's that he'll be seated at his right hand on day one.
This could very well be part of a smart strategy, showing even those who stood against Obama during the campaign that, as president, he wants to take immediate steps toward healing the nation -- or it could just be that since Obama and Warren are reportedly friends, the choice makes a certain amount of sense. Regardless though, and as much as I trust Barack Obama's judgment, it ties my stomach in knots to watch another political administration treating the Rick Warrens of the world as if they're anything more than simply the CEOs of Jesus Inc. -- carnival barking purveyors of "Evangelitainment," with ostentatious, monolithic temples and excellent PR firms.
Warren's undeniably overpowering presence on inauguration day makes it seem as if God -- specifically the Pentecostal or Southern Baptist version of God -- will continue to be granted ascendancy within our government.
And after what this country has endured the past eight years -- the heinous sins committed by those who claim to be acting on God's behalf and who seek the unconditional allegiance of those who worship him -- this should be the last thing any clear-thinking, rational American wants to see.
What follows is a related piece published here in August of this year. It was written the day after Pastor Rick Warren's "Compassion Forum," held at his Saddleback Mega-Church, in which both John McCain and Barack Obama answered questions put to them by Warren. They were questions dealing mostly with "values, virtue and character," and ones which needed to be answered because, in the words of Rick Warren, "God says so."
I think Joan Walsh perfectly put into words my feelings and fears about last night's command performance by Barack Obama and John McCain at the Saddleback Mega-Church in Orange County, California. The candidates came to prostrate themselves before Pastor Rick Warren and, by proxy, his legion of disciples and their particular belief system. This morning in a Salon.com piece entitled "Are We Now Officially a Christian Nation?" Walsh wrote this about Obama, who's taking the walk-of-shame this morning after being used like a drunk sorority sister last night:
"(Obama) did reasonably well, though not overwhelmingly so. I loved his saying he wouldn't have appointed Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court, and his firm support of choice and gay civil unions. He seemed very comfortable talking about his Christian faith. On the other hand, that bothered me a little bit too. I'm not sure why Obama voluntarily sat down for a nationally televised conversation about his private religious faith with a relatively conservative Christian leader, as though that's a reasonable station of the cross, so to speak, for a major American presidential candidate. There's no doubt Rick Warren's congregation has done good things on social justice issues, especially AIDS, but Warren has made no secret of his extreme views on abortion and gay rights (as well as his support for the Iraq war.) Obama visiting the church, speaking there? Smart politics. Attending a nationally televised forum, almost as big deal as a debate, at such a church? I think that was wrong."
Her point, put bluntly: Why should either Barack Obama or John McCain -- let alone both of them -- have to answer to a smugly self-satisfied Rick Warren and his flock? (Besides the most pragmatic of reasons: because they represent a large voting bloc.) If it truly is about a respect for their beliefs, which are no more sound than those of any other religion out there, then why not pander equally to Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus, or, for that matter, Atheists? Obama in particular is finding his Christian faith questioned and doubted at every turn by many of the very same people he was forced -- and yes, I'll use that word because it fits -- to put himself in the line of fire of last night.
If the question of why he allowed it to occur seems too obvious, then try this one: Why have we allowed it? We've seen what happens when our nation is hijacked by one faith above all others and its fundamentalist followers are given an inordinately booming voice in its government. We've lived with the results for eight years. So why aren't the rest of us, the millions and millions of Americans who don't worship at the various altars of Christian dogma, demanding that people like Pastor Rick Warren -- the Oprah of pop-Christianity -- sit the hell down and shut up? Or better yet, why aren't we demanding that our candidates simply not come running like obedient dogs every time someone like Warren snaps his fingers and invokes Jesus and votes and the connection between the two, which apparently will not be denied?
If we're going to continue even further down this path, though -- further than we've already gone -- let's at least be fair about it. I want Obama and McCain to appear before Tom Cruise at a "Scientology Symposium." Xenu commands it.
And after that, they can hit Albus Dumbledore's "Wizard-Con" at Hogwarts to discuss what they plan to do to help protect the country in the coming battle with the Dark Lord Voldemort.
Think this sounds silly? Ask Rick Warren and his church what they believe some time. Trust me: Disneyland isn't the only garish monument to a fairy tale in Orange County.
I'm going through this really weird phase right now where I'm listening to a lot of early 80s alt-pop. Not the usual canonical and enduring stuff like Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, a-ha, that sort of thing; more like the bands that had one or two minor hits in rotation during MTV's infancy, but which pretty much vanished from the face of the pop culture Earth after that.
Expect to see a few of these bands infiltrating the Listening Posts in the coming couple of weeks. Trust me, if you were there for the dawn of MTV's "golden age" it'll really be a blast from the past.
Today, we're talking Golden Earring.
Yeah, they released two of the best driving songs of all-time: Radar Love and Twilight Zone. But for whatever reason this remains the only song of theirs that I still return to every once in a while and still like as much today as I did the first time I heard it.
Plus, this is just a great video. (Come on -- sexually assaulting a nun?)
Here's When the Lady Smiles.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Now I know why California approved Prop 8: They really take the sanctity of marriage seriously out there.
From the Huffington Post:
"A brief tease for the fourth season finale of MTV's 'The Hills' that aired Monday seemed to indicate that (Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag) have made their unofficial Mexican wedding ceremony a legitimate marriage in California. The pair were shown walking into a courtroom with Pratt's sister, Stephanie Pratt, while a judge smiled down on them from the bench.
'I, Heidi, take thee, Spencer,' Montag coos in the preview.
Despite all the official trappings, the tease of legitimate nuptials for the pair may be just that. A Los Angeles Superior Court official said Tuesday that MTV was recently granted permission to shoot in a courtroom in Beverly Hills, but it was done after hours -- and that's not one of their judges sitting on the bench in 'The Hills' footage.
MTV was granted permission to film 'what purported to be a wedding outside of court hours' at the Beverly Hills courthouse, court spokesman Allan Parachini said Tuesday. He did not know who the participants were in the wedding, but Parachini said court officials wanted the filming to be treated as a news event."
So to recap: MTV and these two oxygen-wasting attention whores can perpetrate a fraud, staging a fake wedding to create a phony marriage that every worthless fucking tabloid in America will eat up like Soma, and a California court is more than happy to be complicit in the whole disgusting thing -- but gay people who are truly in love can't get married.
The injustice is so profound that I honestly wouldn't even know where to begin correcting it.
Although I think beating Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag to death with hammers would at least be a step in the right direction.
Just a heads-up from the management:
I'm sick as hell -- fever, coughing, congestion, nausea, the whole bit -- and got about two hours total of sleep last night (which is especially crappy when you consider that Inara slept silently from 8pm yesterday until 7am this morning).
The bottom line is that I probably won't be putting much up today. If I start feeling better a little later that could change, but for now I'm resting comfortably on the couch, trying to think of a way to hook a bottle to the side of the baby's crib so that she can eat gerbil-style for the next six hours while I sleep.
Be back soon.
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: 4,394,600 if you happen to work at the White House, 12 anywhere else in the country
The Bush Shoe-Throwing Video Game
I'd love to see the lawsuits, protests, boycotts, outraged cable TV guest appearances, and the general landslide of indignation that would meet Genesis if they tried to release this song and video today.
From a simpler and somewhat smarter time in America, when we didn't insist on getting pissed off about every little thing, here's the wonderfully politically incorrect Illegal Alien.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
If Hannah Montana and High School Musical don't reignite the Cold War, nothing will.
The New York Times: The Disney Channel Coming to Russia/12.16.08
Update: Sky News profiles how Disney scouts are working to find the new Russian Hannah Montana.