Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dick to the Future

I love it when Hitchens has a few scotches and gets really feisty. And his brilliant and brutal take on Richard Nixon's ongoing legacy-of-ugly has him in top form.

Slate: "Caught on Tape" by Christopher Hitchens/6.29.09

Robots & Disgust

Just wanted to put this out there: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the worst movie ever made.

Seriously -- the worst EVER.

It's mindless, pointless, endless, racist, sexist and infuriatingly infantile crap -- and this is coming from someone who really enjoyed the original.

Somebody please kick Michael Bay in the balls for this thing.

Picture of the Week

Shameless Joe Jackson and partner-in-pimpin' Al Sharpton at yesterday's combination press conference/sales pitch for Jackson's record company and other assorted crap, in Los Angeles.

Note the large, stuffed purple gorilla in the background.

Because when I think classy, tasteful and dignified reaction to tragedy, I think Jackson and Sharpton.

Jesus, anybody really wonder why Michael was so fucked up?

Tuesday is Recycling Day

"Monkey Business" (Originally Published, 12.17.07)

It looks like South Carolina will be the next battleground in the seemingly never-ending, Whack-a-Mole style guerilla war on Darwin.

The state which lists on its registry of cultural landmarks that Mecca of grotesque roadside kitsch "South of the Border" (a designation which one would assume takes into account the 200 miles of billboards on either side of it along I-95 shamelessly playing Mexican stereotypes for a cheap laugh) will likely be taking up the "debate" over evolution next month. That's when the State Board of Education will meet to consider whether or not to endorse a high school biology textbook after a series of complaints were lodged against it by a weed researcher from Clemson University who goes by the amusing name of Horace D. Skipper.

Professor Skipper is challenging the book's assertion -- and stop me if you've heard this one before -- that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the basic foundation of any lesson about the development of life on Earth.

With an eloquence one might expect from, say, a Wal-Mart greeter, Skipper rails against the conclusions posited by the authors of the book, saying that when they write about "the origins of life and stuff -- I didn't see where they had the scientific support that I think public schools need in a textbook."

He goes on to say that while he's not for teaching creationism exclusively, he considers it a viable, one would have to assume "scientifically supported," supplement. "If you're going to teach 'historical science,' that would be an alternative," he says.

As if science can ever legitimately be subject to the caprices of perspective.

It's a little like arguing that cavemen once believed 2-plus-2 equals rock, therefore such a possibility should be lent serious consideration 350-thousand years later.

"If we're going to have good, honest truth taught to our students, they need to be taught about weaknesses or gaps in these theories," Skipper says.

The fact that Horace D. Skipper, a weed expert, has any free time on his hands at all being from a state so perpetually overrun by botanical vermin is noteworthy; that he feels it's his place from both a scientific and legal standpoint to insert himself into a controversy regarding a high school textbook -- particularly when there is no controversy whatsoever -- is simply staggering in its level of arrogant stupidity.

In the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, an entire Pennsylvania school district was given the unconditional legal smackdown for trying to pull an end-run on centuries of scientific authenticity through the quiet insertion of ridiculous religious apocrypha. Instead of "creationism" they gave their nonsensical, unprovable hypothesis the impressive sounding label "intelligent design," as if simply removing "God" from the name in fact removed him from the equation. The court easily saw through the charade and ruled that attempting to teach intelligent design to public school students as anything other than irrational voodoo violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Anyone who believed however that, following such an explicit rejection, the God Crowd would slink back to their churches and temples and leave science to the scientists has apparently never lived near a Southern Baptist church and therefore not found him or herself subjected to weekly visits from Stepford-esque Christian-folk all filled with the Holy Spirit and determined to stay put until they can rightfully say that they've claimed another home for Jesus. These people don't give up; they answer to a higher authority than your insignificant little Constitution (and they damn sure don't care what some silver-tongued elitist from New York City has to say about how they live their lives).

The fact that South Carolina is the next stop on what, to the untrained eye, seems to be the intelligent design traveling circus should surprise no one. The state is the official target of the secessionist movement known as "Christian Exodus." For the past few years, it's promoted the mass migration of fundamentalist Christian whack-jobs to South Carolina with the hope of influencing governmental policy there and essentially creating the first "Christian Republic" on U.S. soil.

Think Saudi Arabia, only without the Muslims, the oil, the money, or the culture -- and with an even more direct influence over the American government.

These are people who believe that the U.S has strayed from its Puritanical roots (the ones sane individuals would refer to as nightmarishly oppressive) and are now determined to seize power so that they can cleanse the land, thus preparing it for Jesus's triumphant return which will no doubt play out just like the crap they've read in those Left Behind books. For the rest of us, this means a repeal of our basic rights -- those not supported by Biblical scripture -- and essentially the outright suppression of most of the freedoms we've cultivated throughout the years, particularly the ones that infringe on the God-given entitlement of white men to do whatever the hell they want. If the Christian Exodus folks can't make this work, though, they're content to simply secede from the union -- and as far as they're concerned, South Carolina represents the perfect place to make this little paranoid fantasy come true, as it was the first state to withdraw at the onset of the Civil War.

So how's the effort going so far?

On its website, the group advanced a goal of relocating 12,000 like-minded Christians to South Carolina by 2006.

As of this year, only about 15 families have actually made the move. (By comparison, there are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 same-sex couples in South Carolina; one town alone, Sumter, has the highest concentration of black, gay, committed couples in the country -- a rare trifecta of offensiveness to fundamentalist Christian sensibilities.)

The issue however is not whether a serious threat is posed by the possibility of South Carolina seceding from the U.S. -- there isn't. What's notable is that the Christian Exodus loonies figure they'll find a friendly audience waiting for them when they get there -- that they'll be greeted as liberators, as it were.

Unfortunately, guys like Horace D. Skipper aren't doing much to prove them wrong on this -- quite the contrary in fact. Once again, a very public battle is about to rage over scientific certainty against which there is no legitimate argument. Once again, there will be sleight-of-hand, there will be misdirection and there will be euphemism, but in the end it will all add up to nothing. Once again, it will be reality versus nonsense -- proven fact versus cleverly decorated superstition for which there isn't a shred of evidence.

Just a "historical" tradition of True Belief and blind acceptance.

Headline of the Week

"Obama Responds to Gay Anger: You'll Be Happy in the End"

-- From the Huffington Post

Listening Post

An ambient return to form for Moby and a video directed by David Lynch.

Here's Shot in the Back of the Head.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sometime to Return

A heads-up from Malcontent Central: I just got back from my weekend trip to New York to see my daughter -- but I'm wisely going to take the rest of the day to decompress.

Things should be back to full capacity, or close to it anyway, tomorrow.

Thank you for your patronage.

Listening Post

The world could use a few unabashedly optimistic, arena-style anthems these days -- and this is one of my favorites.

Here's Lostprophets' Rooftops.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1966, it's the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in Sugar and Spies.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All Fall Down

I've gotten quite a few e-mails asking whether I'm going to comment on the not-the-least-bit-surprising revelation that Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has been cheating on his wife.

Obviously, the initial gut reaction of those opposed to the judgmental politicization of sex in this country -- that coming almost exclusively from the self-appointed "family values" crowd -- is to engage in a little schadenfreude and chuckle at the governor's public implosion.

But for some reason, watching that press conference yesterday had a surprising effect on me. It didn't automatically bring any sort of smug, self-satisfied grin to my face. In fact, Sanford's shocking level of openness about his affair made me feel very, well -- sad. I truly felt sorry for him -- and for his family, whom he obviously really does love, despite his actions.

Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to say what I think I'm going to want to say about this whole thing -- and I likely won't have time tomorrow either, given that I'm leaving for New York to see Inara.

But at some point very soon, once I've digested it a little, I'll put together a piece on the Sanford affair.

And it will probably revolve around a single question: Is marriage really even worth attempting anymore -- any marriage?

Thinking Outside the Inbox

It's been a while since I posted one of these, but this little gem just has to be shared. The magazine this PR firm is promoting is very real. This announcement popped up in my e-mail inbox yesterday.



Phone: 646-XXX-XXXX



New York, NY (June 24, 2009) - VAIN Magazine debuts as the premiere source for the everyday woman. Catering to issues all about you, this magazine for ages 18-38 is the place for empowerment, inspiration, venting and tips that will guide you on your path toward perfection. The magazine highlights celebrities, career professionals, the latest trends in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, and delivers expert advice on everything the VAIN woman desires to know.


VAIN is the creative brainchild of veteran journalist Rachelle Gauthier. The former managing editor of RIDES Magazine and published writer saw a need for women's lifestyle magazines that embody the daily accomplishments and challenges of ALL types of WOMEN. 'I wanted to create a publication that celebrated uncelebrated women and provide a platform for young females to find inspiration,' said Gauthier. 'We're all VAIN in some capacity. We take pride in our appearance, profession, education, health, community and environment, and we invest time and money in things we deem most valuable. VAIN validates our efforts, and our advertisers recognize the value of our reader.' She recruited a team of seasoned professionals to help bring her vision to light with collective experience from Coach, American Airlines Publishing, StarZ Entertainment, The New York Times, Essence, the medical field and more.

With offices in both New York and Los Angeles, VAIN is currently available online and will launch in print this FALL 2009. The magazine that's all about you will be distributed across the nation at select specialty boutiques, on college campuses, on newsstands and at various VAIN-chic events.

Launched in 2009, VAIN is the leading women's magazine that captures the essence and core of all women, with a direct focus on self. VAIN applauds the appearance and achievements of these individuals who strive for success daily. The ultimate women's lifestyle magazine features everyday life issues, trends, fashion, beauty, cars, culture, politics, financial advice, food, exercise, music and celebrities, while encompassing real-life people, raw and untouched. VAIN women are beautiful, jugglers of sin and virtue. We are who we are... no apologies."

Now you know what to get the shamelessly self-obsessed woman in your life this Christmas. Oh, and guys -- if you stumble across a copy of this magazine on your new girlfriend's nightstand, get out while you can.

Listening Post

It seems to kinda sorta be new music week around here, and these guys -- an alternative act from France -- are getting a lot of play on my iPod right now.

Here's Phoenix's 1901.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Project Office Mayhem

Your assignment, as usual: Quietly put the following link up on every computer in your office, then crank all the speakers to full volume.

Mischief points: 35,000

If you happen to work in a church or at the offices of the RNC: 1,452,093

Jesus Raves

A Cut Below

From the Adventures in Inadvertent Tastelessness file:

Last night, for reasons that I'll go to my grave not fully understanding, I watched the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th on pay-per-view. Produced in association with Michael Bay (I'll give you a minute to groan) and directed by Marcus Nispel (or is it Sardo Numspa? Or maybe Nipsey Russell?), the new version of the slasher "classic" pretty much follows the same formula as the original, only with a lot more nudity.

Strangely though, despite all the color-corrected gore and gratuitous exploitation on display -- I mean, come on, a topless girl gets a machete through the head, but she's then lifted up so you can get one last look at her breasts -- there was one scene early on that I found more shocking than the rest. And the best part is that I guarantee you it's something that wasn't done intentionally. The producers probably didn't realize the juxtaposition of images they were putting onscreen. (And I guarantee you the film's core demographic of brain-dead teens had no idea.)

In the opening moments of the movie, the audience is treated to flashbacks of the deranged Mrs. Voorhees as she tries to kill the last survivor of the unfortunate counseling staff at Camp Crystal Lake, circa 1980 -- whom she blames for the death of her son, Jason. These scenes are intercut with the opening credits, which are shown on a plain black background. For the most part, there's nothing interesting about this -- until they get to the scene where the counselor turns the tables on Jason's mom and lobs her head off with a machete.

The camera then slowly creeps up on the headless body of Mrs. Voorhees, lovingly scanning it and the detached head.

Then the whole thing cuts to the name of the movie's director of photography, in large white letters across the screen.

And his name just happens to be?

Daniel Pearl.

Home of the Whopper (and by Whopper We Mean Penis)

I wish I were making this up, but, no, this really is the international ad for Burger King's new "Super Seven Incher."

In case you can't read the copy at the bottom -- just count the double-entendres:

"Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER. Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce."

Can't wait for this campaign to dovetail into those TV commercials where the creepy "King" suddenly appears over the woman's bed at four in the morning.

Stay classy, Burger King.

Quote of the Week 1973

"There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape."

-- Richard Nixon, in a newly released White House recording made not long after the Roe v. Wade decision

How much do you love that interracial sex comes before rape?

(h/t Cesca)

Listening Post

I've raved quite a bit lately about Spinnerette -- Brody Dalle's current project and the new band I'm most excited about at the moment -- and this acoustic version of the first single off their full-length album will give you an idea why.

Brody's voice on the record is fantastic, but here -- all passionate, smoky growl -- it's just mind-blowing.

This is Baptized by Fire.

Just for the hell of it, here's the original studio version (and I have a feeling this is going to be my official "summer song," for more reasons than one).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Little Ponies

I was gonna make one of the many possible obvious cracks about Sarah Jessica Parker's twins being born today -- since let's face it, the woman really is such low-hanging fruit on the joke tree.

But you know something? The picture to the left is funnier on its own than anything I could've come up with.

The New York Daily News: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick Welcome Twin Girls/6.23.09

(For the record, I'm just trying to get Matthew Broderick to punch me.)

Picture of the Week

Over the weekend during Pat Buchanan's "Building the New Majority" conference -- at which he gathered with various avowed "white nationalists" -- one of the main topics of discussion was the promotion of English-only initiatives. Buchanan and company ridiculed Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the fact that she had to learn English as a child through reading classic literature, and they claimed that without the adoption of English as the official language of the United States, President Obama would force American school children to learn Spanish. All in all, a lot of proud white-guy chest-thumping at the importance of knowing English.

Now take a close look at the spelling on the sign.

(h/t Cesca and Think Progress)

Let the Rhythm Hit Him

I almost wasn't going to post anything about this, seeing as how any publicity from any direction will only perpetuate the inexplicable "nanoriety" of that idiot Perez Hilton. But man, if I don't point and laugh hysterically at this, I'll seriously be neglecting my obligation to make fun of those who truly deserve it.

By now I'm sure you've all heard that Perez -- née Mario Lavandeira, self-proclaimed "Queen of Something-or-other" and sycophantic fame sponge -- got his ass kicked by a manager for the Black Eyed Peas at this weekend's Much Music Awards in Toronto after calling Will.i.am a "faggot." You may even know that rather than dialing, say, 911, he called for help via Twitter (insert head-shake here) and has since posted a tearful, hissy-fittish response to the attack on YouTube, one that rivals human trainwreck Chris Crocker's infamous "Leave Britney Alone" video for sheer self-serving hilarity.

So I won't bother rehashing any of that in great detail.

I'll simply relay a personal story.

Several years ago I worked alongside a guy who moonlighted as a gay model; to this day, he's one of the coolest people I've ever met. One day, the two of us were sitting at work when a local reporter appeared on television, on a competing station -- a guy who my friend knew from the club scene and called a whiny, melodramatic, embarrassing gay cliché. My friend looked at him in disgust, then turned to me and said, "I swear, I just want to beat the shit out of him. And it wouldn't be fag bashing -- it'd be idiot bashing."

Thus, in the spirit of that sentiment, I'll only say this: It's a shame the Peas' manager wasn't carrying a baseball bat.

Now I'll turn it over to Kelly Clarkson, who I love more than ever after this interview in which she basically laughs her ass off at Perez's ordeal.

Tuesday is Recycling Day

Like most people born and raised there, I have a love-hate relationship with Florida. On the one hand it's got the Keys, the beaches, all-night bars, a great winter climate; on the other hand, it's completely overrun by unadulterated crazy. The following piece features a pretty entertaining personal story about my home town of Miami, made even moreso by the fact that despite all my complaining, I may wind up once again settling in the place that I just can't seem to escape.

"Into the Wild" (Originally Published, 1.5.08)

By now it's pretty much common knowledge that Florida is the most batshit lunatic place on Earth.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating that the entire state is basically the basement of "The South" and as such it acts as a makeshift dungeon into which all the dregs of Southern society can be dropped and allowed to go about their corrupt, under-educated, spouse-abusing, child-porn-downloading, meth-addled lives.

Think Escape from New York, but with rednecks.

Case in point: About a decade or so ago -- before the arrival of Elian Gonzalez and the subsequent pandemonium that finally alerted the rest of the world to the hostage crisis that's been going on in South Florida since the inmates took control of the asylum -- a news item made the rounds that would leave those who witnessed it both scarred and speechless for years to come.

It involved a Santeria priest, a live goat and a room full of reporters.

Basically what happened is this: Miami's amusingly large community of believers in silly Afro-Caribbean superstition had been feeling the heat from local authorities for some time; animal rights activists and good, old-fashioned sane people were finally beginning to question some of the methods and practices of the Santeria "religion," particularly when it came to the slaughtering of live animals as various sacrifices to one god or another. I'm not exaggerating when I say that not only is it common to see live goats and chickens roaming the front yards of some Miami homes -- blissfully unaware of their impending date with a kitchen knife, one would imagine -- but the City of Miami courthouse employs a special detachment of janitors dubbed the "Voodoo Squad" which is specifically tasked with the removal of the chicken parts, blood and fairy dust sometimes left outside of courtrooms. (Ostensibly, such magical detritus is offered up by friends of defendants on trial in the hope of, say, getting Raul "Pachuco" Diaz-Gonzalez-Martinez off on felony drug charges via the appeasement of Papa Chango.)

In an effort to allay the outrage of the few decent people left in the Greater Miami area, a local Santero made what would quickly become a horrifically ill-advised decision to hold a news conference at which he would demonstrate the "humane" way that animals are handled during Santeria rituals.

Now, if you live someplace, oh, I don't know, normal, none of this sounds the least bit terrifying -- absurd maybe, but given that the laws of decent society and general sanity would apply, you'd likely be safe in the knowledge that what seemed as if it were about to happen wouldn't actually happen.

Again though -- Miami.

So there he was: a self-proclaimed practitioner of the light-arts of Santeria, dressed in a pristine white robe, standing in the middle of his own living room, holding a large knife and calmly, amiably addressing about a dozen reporters -- a surprisingly insouciant live goat lounging at his feet, thoroughly oblivious to the surreal bit of theater going on around him.

Once the holy man was satisfied that everyone was in place, the show began. He spoke a few words, an invocation of the spirit world I'd imagine, then in one fast and fluid motion reached down and grabbed the goat -- who had by now finally wised-up and realized that something was very wrong -- and slashed it deep across the throat with the giant knife.

I truly hope that someone had enough of his or her faculties intact to take a picture of the gaggle of reporters at that moment. I have no doubt that their expressions were well beyond anyone's power of adequate description.

The goat struggled for a second, then the blood sprayed out of the vicious wound in its throat like a geyser. The priest grabbed the animal and tried to hold it over a small bowl that had been placed on the floor in front of it and surrounded with an assortment of religious knick-knacks. Needless to say, attempting to aim an eruption of blood of that size is easier said than done; the stuff was going everywhere. It was creating a huge crimson bloom on the terrazzo floor and had already forced the reporters to take several steps back in some combination of shock, revulsion and a desire not to get goat's blood all over their shoes.

After what seemed like an eternity, the poor goat's struggling was reduced to a few sickening twitches and it went limp; one would hope the embarrassment killed it before the hemorrhaging did. The scene was absolutely quiet -- an entire room full of reporters, the kind of people you typically couldn't get to shut the hell up if you poured concrete into their mouths, stunned into silent submission.

And at that -- with a dead goat lying at his feet and a bloody knife in his hand, wearing robes stained a gruesome red, in the middle of a living room that looked as if the Manson family had just dropped by -- the priest non-chalantly stood up, looked directly at the reporters and their cameras and said, completely straight-faced:

"Now there -- did you see anything inhumane?"

I once asked Miami Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen if he'd ever consider moving away from South Florida. His response: "Are you kidding? Why would I leave all this great material?"

I bring this up because, once again, I've been reminded that what's "normal" in Florida pretty much meets the legal definition of insanity anywhere else.

In yesterday's Miami Herald, I noticed a headline which read -- and no, I'm not kidding (as if there should be any doubt after that last true tale) -- "Goat Abuse Sparks Outcry."

I of course immediately wondered if, ten years after the fact, someone had finally locked up the infamous Santeria Slasher, but as it turns out the story in question is even more twisted -- if such a thing were possible.

The subheading read, "The case of a goat who was raped and killed has pushed for a bill that would outlaw bestiality."

Just in case you missed it, let me repeat -- a goat who was RAPED and killed.

Read on.

"A Sunrise state senator and a St. Petersburg representative have filed legislation to make it a first-degree felony to have sex with animals.

''It's true. It's sick. There needs to be a law,'' said Democratic Sen. Nan Rich, a longtime crusader for children and animal rights. ``There are 30 states that make this a crime. Florida isn't one of them.''

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he would sign the bill into law if it made it to his desk.

Rich said she was as shocked as she was ''disgusted'' when she learned of the rape and asphyxiation of a family pet goat named Meg who was pregnant with twins last year in the town of Mossy Head in rural Walton County.

A suspect in the case, a 48-year-old man, is serving an 11-month, 29-day jail sentence on animal-theft charges in connection with the attempted abduction of another goat in a separate case, according to Walton County Assistant State Attorney James Parker.

Parker said he couldn't prosecute the suspect in the death of Meg because DNA samples taken with a sheriff's office rape kit were inconclusive. Parker said he asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last week to re-test the evidence."

There's nothing about this story that doesn't scream Florida. In fact, if it had happened somewhere else I'd be inclined to say that Florida could've sued for intellectual -- or lack thereof -- property rights.

From a pet goat, to a raped and pregnant pet goat, to a murdered, raped and pregnant pet goat (a no doubt hastily conceived but admittedly inspired redneck plan to both kill off the mistress and avoid having to pay child support), to a lack of anti-bestiality laws in a state that not long ago literally kicked down Terri Schiavo's door and forced a feeding tube down her throat, to the bizarre obligatory outrage from Florida politicians -- those not in jail or currently under indictment -- now valiantly determined to confront the state's rampant animal-rape problem.

It's just all so perfect.

It's just all so -- Florida.

The place where sanity goes to die.

This is why I don't live there anymore.

It just isn't safe for normal people -- to say nothing of goats.

Land and the Lost

If they're looking for somebody to adopt this little guy, I'm right here.

The Huffington Post: Lost Baby Sea Lion Rescued on Freeway/6.22.09

For the record, I have a bit of an obsession with sea lions. If you're interested in finding out why, read on -- although now, when I read this, it makes me very sad.

DXM: Find Your Power Animal/4.4.07

Listening Post

Swedish rock is usually a hit-or-miss affair, but these guys have released quite a bit of great material over the past several years. And their singer, Maja Ivarsson, is just all kinds of cute (even with the silly new wave Farrah Fawcett haircut).

Here's the new single from the Sounds, and one of my favorite songs at the moment -- No One Sleeps When I'm Awake.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Listening Post: Bonus Edition

This morning I posted something from Deadmau5 and Kaskade -- and that put me in the mood to hear more from Kaskade.

Here's the gorgeous stripped-down studio version of 4am.

When there's almost no reason left to believe, isn't that when you're supposed to the most?

Anchored to Reality

"An unreasonable comment to me is beginning with a statement that is contrary to fact and moving on from that premise: ‘Barack Obama is not a citizen; he is a Muslim looking to take down the nation.’ When you begin with that premise, you are out of bounds."

-- Shepard Smith

The New York Times: At Fox, Shepard Smith Draws Ratings and Ire of Conservative Critics/6.21.09


DXM: The S.S. Traitor/6.13.09

DXM: The More Things Change.../11.14.08

Your Money or Your Life

Do yourself a favor and look up "spineless" in the dictionary. If you need help, it's somewhere between "prostitute" and "travesty." If the definition of the word doesn't perfectly describe senator Max Baucus of Montana, or Jeff Bingaman, or Joe Lieberman, or Evan Bayh, or Harry Reid, I'm not sure what does. These guys are part of a relatively small but powerful group of Democratic lawmakers that's banded together, both officially and in spirit, to stand in the way of a plan that would provide accessible and affordable health care to millions of Americans. It's known as the "public option" -- a provision creating a government-funded health insurer, like Medicare, designed not to replace privately owned health care providers but to augment them and, in essence, compete with them.

The reason these lawmakers aren't giving their full-throated support to this initiative, which is being offered as an alternative to our chronically fucked-up current health care model by President Obama? Because they want to build a bipartisan consensus with their Republican counterparts (who are notoriously loathe to embrace anything they can slap with the term "socialized medicine" and use to cynically gain political leverage). Or at least that's what they say. The real reason, of course, is that they're largely in the pockets of what can only be called the Medical Industrial Complex. The fact is this: Most Americans want the public option. Most Americans believe that quality health care isn't something that should be exclusive to those who can afford it. And yet a plan that would help make that a reality is being hamstrung by those who stand to lose out politically and financially if it passes.

Make no mistake: This is the most important issue facing our country. Period. Health care reform matters more than anything. It's one of those topics I haven't broached recently, simply because I feel like Bob Cesca, Lee Stranahan and Jacki Schechner's excellent and almost non-stop coverage of it has said everything I could possibly say better than I could say it. I highly suggest taking a look at their sites, as well as reading today's New York Times editorial by Paul Krugman, and see if you can contain your fury at the fact that anyone in this country has the unmitigated balls to put his or her profit above your health.

The only thing I can add to this discussion is a little first hand experience. What follows is a piece I wrote back in late 2007. It deals with the brain surgery I underwent a few years ago and a fellow patient who apparently wasn't as fortunate as I was when it came to our respective insurance situations. The contrast of his ordeal with mine couldn't have been starker. This column was actually picked up and published in an Australian magazine as an example of the inequity of our broken health care system here in the states.

"Death Be Not Proud (But It is Cost-Effective)" (Originally Published, 12.30.07)

Even from where I was, in the bed on the opposite side of the room, it was possible to see the gruesome surgical-steel staples bisecting Miguel's head. They ran like a set of corroded train-tracks from ear-to-ear, just beyond the hairline which framed the top of his face.

I'd spent three days trying to figure out exactly what had happened to the man who was my roommate at the Cornell Medical Center Neurosurgical ICU. I watched the nurses run him through the daily regimen of post-op skill tests -- if you consider the ability to open your eyes, follow a finger held in front of your face or correctly state your own name a "skill." Likewise I watched Miguel fail many of these tests over and over again: He could barely keep his right eye open, at one point leading the nurses to get creative and use a piece of surgical tape to secure his open eyelid to his forehead; he never spoke in anything above a barely-audible mumble; his movements were languid and sluggish, as if his bed were sitting at the bottom of an invisible tank of water.

It wasn't until the day that Miguel's children showed up -- when I was forced to sit silently on the other side of the room and watch a tragic bit of theater play out in front of me -- that I finally worked up the courage to ask the nurse just what kind of catastrophe had taken place inside his ruined brain. Watching Miguel interact with his little boy and girl, or at least attempt to, was utterly heartbreaking. He seemed to barely notice they were there -- hardly respond when his wife, a short Hispanic woman who spoke little English and looked like she'd spent the past month sleeping on broken glass, stroked the palm of his hand. The nurses had been kind enough to put a patch over Miguel's dead eye and a Yankees cap on his head in the hope of hiding the most obvious scars of the surgery from his children, but even someone who had never met this man until a few days ago could tell that he was a mere vapor trail of what he had once been. Whoever or whatever had shredded his mind, it had done so with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Where Miguel had once lived, there simply wasn't anyone home anymore.

I wasn't even looking at the nurse when she explained Miguel's situation to me; I couldn't pull my eyes away from the sad scene unfolding directly opposite my hospital bed. In hindsight, it was the juxtaposition -- the image of the shadow man across from me set to the weight of the nurse's words -- that left me feeling as if someone had suddenly sucked all the air out of the room.

Miguel, as it turned out, was recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor -- the exact kind of tumor that had been removed from the same place in my head just three days earlier.

He and I were basically the same person.

And yet there we were: One of us reduced to the mental and motor skills of a child, the other able to watch him intently and try to analyze why.

There was a simple explanation actually as to why I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror of Miguel's one good eye so to speak -- why the layman would never guess that he and I had once shared the same diagnosis. It was because everything that happened after that point had apparently been drastically different, all of it culminating in two forms of surgery which, despite having the same goal, went about achieving it in ways that were light years apart. The operation that Miguel underwent may as well have been done by Theodoric of York compared to the hyper-advanced microsurgical resection that was performed on me by one of the country's most revered neurosurgeons.

Miguel was left with a massive scar; I had none.

Miguel had been in the hospital for well over a week, and would likely be there much longer; I would spend only five days in the ICU, then be discharged.

Miguel likely had years of mental and physical therapy ahead of him; In spite of a few problematic after-effects and a steady diet of medication that my body and brain would require for some time to come, I'd be back on my feet and feeling relatively normal within weeks. Right now, if I didn't tell you I had undergone surgery just a year-and-a-half ago to remove a tumor the size of a pinball from my brain, you'd probably never guess that anything had happened to me.

Same medical crisis -- completely different outcomes.

And as I sat there just a couple of days after my surgery, staring at Miguel -- at the mess his brain had become and the hardships he was now facing -- I reached one conclusion that seemed to be as obvious as it was offensive.

There but for the grace of my insurance carrier go I.

I work for one of the largest media conglomorates in the world. In fact, throughout the length of my career, I've rarely been employed by a company that wasn't wealthy, multi-national and in a position to offer its full-time staff access to the best health care money can buy. Yet something about this fact has always rubbed me the wrong way.

"The best healthcare money can buy."

An ironically sickening reminder that in the early days of 21st century America, there's nothing that's above having a price tag slapped on it -- not even your life.

The parents of 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan understand this all too well. On Friday, they laid their daughter to rest in Glendale, California -- one week after her death, which closed a harrowing three-year fight with bone marrow cancer. Hundreds were on-hand for Nataline's memorial service, including a few celebrities who had taken up the cause of saving the young girl during her last days. Their appeals hadn't been directed at God or Mother Nature -- two entities who tend not to listen anyway -- but toward a much more powerful body when it comes to deciding whether a human being lives or dies these days: an HMO, specifically Cigna Corp.

Just before Thanksgiving, Nataline underwent a bone marrow transplant, complications from which caused her liver to fail. Cigna twice refused to authorize a liver transplant, despite a written appeal from her doctors (the company insisted the procedure was "experimental"); it was only after the case began to receive national attention and young Nataline Sarkisyan's picture began turning up in newspapers directly above captions calling her "the face of a broken health care system" that Cigna capitulated, reconsidering its death sentence. The company's chief medical officer issued the most public statement possible in an attempt to cast damage control as legitimate concern. He said that Cigna -- in a show of strength-through-mercy humorously reminiscent of Amon Goeth's decision to spare one life out of a hundred-thousand in Schindler's List -- had decided to make an exception for Nataline "given our empathy for the family and the unique circumstances of this situation."

And the angry hordes picketing in front of their Philadelphia headquarters.

"We volunteered to pay for it out of our own pocket. We decided to bear the risk even though we had no obligation to," the good doctor went on to say.

It's a damn shame Al Gore already got that Nobel Peace Prize.

Unfortunately, in one of those unforseeable twists of fate, Cigna's big-hearted largesse came just moments too late. Nataline died a few hours after the decision was made to grant her the liver transplant that would've prolonged her life.

Well, as is repeated so often this time of year, it's the thought that counts.

Earlier this year, a lot of unnecessary controversy was generated by muckraking filmmaker Michael Moore's excellent indictment of the American health care system, Sicko. I say unnecessary because, despite whatever feelings one may have about Moore or his politics, only the most ruthless capitalist would be unwilling to admit that the way we care for the sick in this country is almost irredeemably screwed up. We've given an entity as unscrupulous and indifferent as the free market control over the single most imperative decision in human existence: literally, whether we live or die. Regardless of what Fox business-creature Neil Cavuto may have to say on the subject, health care and profit are two thoroughly antithetical concepts. Giving CEOs the authority to stand on the edge of the arena and issue a final thumbs-up or down while we lay incapacitated or dying is like charging a lion with protecting the Christians.

The most shocking and infuriating two minutes of Sicko, and the most effective, as Moore wisely allows the guilty parties to do all the talking for him, provide an irrefutable answer to the question of just how things got this way -- how a system that was once predicated on a commitment to good health care for all Americans became a cynical money-generating engine that's perfectly willing to let people suffer if it means turning a profit. Moore plays part of an audiotaped conversation between Richard Nixon and his flunkiesque Assistant for Domestic Affairs, John Ehrlichman. The conversation is staggering insofar as the complete lack of shame on display (even from two men whose ignominy was already the stuff of legend). Ehrlichman advises Nixon on a plan to overhaul American health care that's being put forth by industrialist Edgar Kaiser, the founder of Kaiser Permanente. Nixon says to Ehrlichman, in classic insufferable, who-gives-a-crap-about-the-little-people fashion, "You know I'm not keen on any of these damn medical programs." Erlichman reassures him by saying the magic words: "This is a private enterprise one. Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. All incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give them the more money they make."

Nixon's reaction?

"Well that appeals to me."

Thus were sown the seeds of the modern HMO; the day after that conversation took place, on February 18th, 1971, Nixon proposed a new National Health Strategy based on managed care from private companies. It worked toward obliterating social medical programs -- because "Socialized Medicine" had long been dirty words, the product of anti-Soviet paranoia -- and masked greed under the guise of providing Americans with the best care money could buy, which was great as long as a patient had the money to afford the best care.

Nataline Sarkisyan's family had health insurance, and maybe that's the most appalling aspect of her story. She never should have died because she was one of the "lucky ones"; the services were in place to save her life. Her parents fully expected that when their child got sick, there would be no questions, no arguments, no delays -- there would just be the care she needed. They lived in the most powerful, wealthy and technologically advanced country in the world after all, and they both had good jobs and did their part to contribute to society. They were living the American dream. They were an integral part of it.

Now they're left demanding answers -- wanting to know why, in this wealthy nation, there was even a question as to whether it was fiscally prudent to save the life of their daughter.

The fact is this: It's always cheaper to refuse care, and when making money is the motive, believing any consideration other than cost to be paramount isn't just naïve -- it'll get you killed. It's simply never a good idea to trust anyone who stands to profit.

The mammoth company for which I work made sure I had the best possible medical care when I needed it; they paid for it. I never feared coming up with the money to see a doctor which meant that I discovered the tumor in my head before it grew to the size of a golf ball which meant that it could still be removed through a procedure done by only three hospitals in the country.

It's because of all of this that I sit here today able to tell you about it.

I'm not sure Miguel could say the same.

And I doubt his wife and children believe that my life is worth more than his.

Quote(s) of the Week (Early Contender)

"While we regret that we participated in the market euphoria and failed to raise a responsible voice, we are proud of the way our firm managed the risk it assumed on behalf of our client before and during the financial crisis."

-- Goldman, Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, "apologizing" for his company's role in crashing America's entire economy

"We’re proud that we kept the extreme crapness of our mortgage securities secret from everyone but our clients, and fobbed off the nightmare leverage they created on dumbass AIG and all the pensioners and teachers and other idiots who bought this stuff. Go fuck yourselves and suck on our yachts."

-- Matt Taibbi, translating the above "apology"

Listening Post

This is one of those near-perfect, life-affirming songs you just want to close your eyes, bob your head and drift away on.

It's Deadmau5 and Kaskade, with I Remember.

(The extended video, featuring the full conversation between Stephen Graham and his real-life younger brother, can be seen here. It's one of the most oddly inspiring things you'll hear first thing on a Monday morning.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daddy Care Day

I never thought of Father's Day as a particularly trying holiday on the psyche. It's not the kind of thing that evokes images of soldiers dodging bullets on a beach or an entire race of people escaping bondage at the hands of its oppressors or anything like that.

But when you're not with your new baby girl for her first Father's Day, it's damn near excruciating.

For all the dads out there -- thanks for everything, and hold your kids extra tightly today.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.

Listening Post

You can never get enough Marvin.

From his landmark performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980, here's Trouble Man.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Still on my Bugs and Sam kick, and this one's a classic.

From 1953, it's Hare Trimmed.

Listening Post

These guys always should've been big in the states, but alas the golden age of Britpop came and went without them ever really breaking here.

Here's Mansun -- Negative.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Retort

Somebody give this kid a job immediately. What he did is the high school version of the Kobayashi Maru; he deserves a commendation for original thinking.

AOL: Student Artist Hides F-Bomb on Yearbook Cover/6.17.09

By the way, can we declare a moratorium on the term "F-Bomb?" It's fucking ridiculous and needs to go the way of "bromance," Perez Hilton and those ubiquitous and painfully ugly Ed Hardy t-shirts.

The Verminator (An Update)

Hey, now that I think about it, you know what would've been great?

If Obama had given the interview to the fly and swatted CNBC's John Harwood to death.

The More Things Change...

You know how sometimes a song you never really liked much to begin with will get played to death all over the place so that you really begin to hate it?

Then a little bit of time goes by during which you mercifully don't hear that particular song and you're able to kind of put it out of your mind.

But then it comes on again suddenly and you think to yourself, "Ya know, maybe it'll be a little less irritating and thoroughly worthless this time around since I haven't been pummeled with its nails-on-a-chalkboard sound in a while. Maybe I just need to hear it with 'new ears' and give it another chance."

Uh-huh. And what's your usual reaction about ten seconds into it?

The Washington Times: Bush Takes Swipe at Obama Policies, Says Private Sector will Save Economy and Terrorists want to Kill Americans/6.18.09

Right about now is a good time to mention that Bush's approval rating upon leaving office was 22%. President Obama's is 63% at the moment.

Oh, and this is my favorite quote from the above column -- the one that proves that even after all this time, Bush hasn't mastered that pesky English language thing:

"I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind."

You gotta give him credit. Bush knows his audience and he knows they want him to break out all the old hits -- including at least one sentence filled to the brim with glaring grammatical "Bushisms." Think how disappointed we'd all be if he hadn't flubbed something? It'd be like going to see the Stones and them not doing Satisfaction.

"Satan iz In Yur Music Lifting Yur Tables"

I'm not sure I've ever grabbed both a link and a headline from someone, but not only did this clip make me laugh my ass off -- the title, from Bob Cesca, was, on its own, enough to make me just about fall out of my chair.

Listening Post

Great new solo material -- and an evocative Radiohead-esque video -- from Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle.

This is I Am Lost.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"He isn't the Buddha. He's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."

-- PETA president Ingrid Newkirk (ironically the one animal on the planet that most cries out to be humanely put down) commenting on Barack Obama's swatting of a fly during an interview with CNBC's John Harwood

Quote of the Week Month Year

"David Letterman will rape you with his mouth!"

-- Protester outside the Ed Sullivan theater last night calling for David Letterman to be fired in the wake of the joke he made about Sarah Palin's daughter

A huge crowd of 15 whole people showed up at the protest organized by Palin supporters and aimed at getting Letterman canned. Needless to say, these people made Glenn Beck and the teabaggers look like a Mensa meeting.

You can watch the footage of the demonstration for yourself here. I guarantee you it's the funniest thing you'll see all day.*

*Unless you happen to be Trig Palin's babysitter.

(h/t Cesca and Oliver Willis)

Can't Stop the Signal

A quick follow-up to Monday's post about the cable networks' failure to properly cover the situation in Iran over the weekend:

To be honest, Twitter kind of annoys the hell out of me. I get that just about everyone's on it these days, and that it certainly provides real-time information in ways that other social networks might not be able to (which gives 99.9% of its subscribers the chance to relay such ground-breaking information as the fact that they really liked that new episode of How I Met Your Mother, or maybe that they're having a particularly troublesome bowel movement). But for me, after blogging, MySpace and Facebook, I'm just all shared out. I'd say that there's an entirely separate column to be written on the cultural phenomenon of surrendering every last vestige of your personal privacy; obviously, though, that's already been done to death by social anthropologist types far more learned than myself.

All of that said, there's no denying that the rise of Twitter -- and the prevalence of networking outlets in general around the globe -- has brought hyper-connectivity to an entirely new level within our society. More than ever, we really are "one world" thanks to the ability of each of us to log on and share our thoughts and experiences.

Which is what makes the situation going on in Iran right now, literally and figuratively, the first honest-to-God "Internet Revolution."

Since almost the very beginning, the oppressing of an entire people was relatively easy. You used military might to subdue them, true. But you also made sure to keep an iron grip on the media so that no one inside your culture or outside saw anything you didn't want them to see. What we've witnessed in Iran over the past several days is the collapse of control on the part of a somewhat dictatorial government -- and not just in a military or political sense. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration ran every play in the trusted totalitarian crackdown playbook: It attempted to shut down television stations and newspapers, it tried to disrupt cell signals, it expelled journalists it found annoying by refusing to renew their visas -- and yet in the end it couldn't stop the story from getting out. That's because there are now 30-million some-odd journalists in Iran and it can't expel them all. Anyone with access to a mobile phone could shoot video; anyone who could get to a computer or could upload video to Facebook remotely had the ability to put the story out there for the world to see. The government was powerless to censor any of it.

It's really an amazing thing to behold: a truly landmark event not simply for Iran but for the entire world and how we connect with each other -- and what we can do with that connection to actually better our lives.

I've made the point before that the ascendancy of new media as a cultural force has brought with it an unprecedented level of transparency -- it's made it much harder for a few to lie to many outright. Neither the suppression of information nor the oppression of people survives very long in sunlight -- and with everyone being given the ability to be his or her own crusader, through something as simple as a blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, there's a hell of a lot of sunlight out there right now.

Just ask the government of Iran.

The truth, like everything else these days, can be spread virally. And hopefully, it really will set you free.

Listening Post

All hail new music from Dinosaur Jr.

This is Over It.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the Week (Honorable Mention)

"Of course it's accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."

-- Sarah Palin, finally accepting David Letterman's apology and ending our long national nightmare

Right, joking about teenage girls is positively Neanderthal, but knocking them up is apparently A-OK. By the way, I thought Sarah Palin didn't believe in evolution.

Punchline Bag

Lee Stranahan's latest piece for the Huffington Post is freakin' brilliant. It imagines Sarah Palin -- Alaska's answer to William J. Lepetomaine and she of the misplaced and thoroughly ludicrous indignation over David Letterman's crack about her kid -- being named the nation's first "Humor Czar."

"In a dramatic twist at the press conference, comic Dennis Miller caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror standing with Palin and Larry The Cable Guy. A look of sudden recognition came over his face before he grabbed a loaded revolver from a Secret Service agent, made a quick reference to 13th century French architect Jean de Chelles and then blew his own brains out. Palin roared with laughter."

The Huffington Post: Sarah Palin Named as "Humor Czar"/6.15.09

Tuesday is Recycling Day

A few years ago, my wife and I went through a particularly trying event in our relationship. There's no need to go into too much detail, as I didn't at the time and it wouldn't add anything to the overall emotion of what you're about to read. The following piece was written immediately after a weekend in which she and I tried desperately to begin cobbling what was left of our marriage back together (in vain, it would seem). It's incredibly personal -- so much so that a couple of months after posting it I removed it from the main page. I'm glad I wrote it, though, and at the time so was Jayne, as it certainly wasn't written to shame anyone, merely to help me express to both her and her family how strong I felt our bond was and how much I loved them. This piece hasn't been seen by anyone other than me in more than three years.

"Till Human Voices Wake Us" (Originally Published, 7.31.06)

In the home in which my wife grew up, there is a clock that's broken. Its hands are permanently frozen -- the smaller one almost directly over top of the 7 and its slightly longer brother, between the 4 and the 5. A stopped clock is of no great significance and usually requires little more than a fresh battery. This clock however is noteworthy because it isn't technically dead. As it turns out, the second-hand is in constant motion; it's wedged squarely between the 9 and the 10 and counts off the seconds without actually making any progress. It lunges forward erratically, then snaps back into place -- like a runner jumping the gun and returning quickly to his original position. It does this again and again and again -- counting second after second after second while going absolutely nowhere.

What's also noteworthy is where this clock happens to be located; it's on the wall above the inside of the shower. In other words, to fully see this strange little phenomenon, you would ostensibly have to be completely naked -- exposed.

This past weekend, I left New York City -- packing my recent heartbreak and a change of clothes into an unnecessarily expensive rental SUV, and heading south. At this point, getting as far away from the place I hang my hat -- or at least my baseball cap -- is a consistently welcome thought. With all due respect to the legion of tourists in their obligatory "I (Heart) NY" t-shirts, I can't say I'm all that fond of the place right now; it holds too many painful reminders of a recent history to which I wasn't privy, but which held an unseen death-grip on almost all parts of my life. Everywhere I look, I now see sickening landmarks -- relics of a relationship I didn't even know had existed. Everywhere I look, I now see the truth.

It makes living here a little like wandering through a waking nightmare.

So, the main point of this journey was to put some distance between myself and the place where two people -- one I've loved, the other I've never even met -- detonated a nuclear bomb whose fallout half-life is somewhere in the 3000-year range. It's not without some irony that my destination wound up being the town where one of those people was raised; and no, it wasn't the one I've never met -- although I hear it's lovely in hell this time of year. What I hoped to find in Reading, Pennsylvania -- besides the legendary railroad and the woman I had sent away a few days previously -- I wasn't quite sure. My general disposition was a constantly ebbing and flowing mixture of anger, sadness, and an oddly Zen-like calm. Mostly though, I found myself silently demanding answers. I wanted to understand. I wanted to comprehend. I wanted to know why.

Reading was the mountain to which I had to go.

Two days later, I have some of the answers I was so desperately looking for; there are others I'll never find; there are still others that simply don't exist. The question now would seem to be whether or not this particular combination of knowledge and ignorance is satisfactory to consider a future with my wife.

It would seem to be anyway.

There are a few additional elements though which -- when poured into the mixture -- make the decision all but crystal clear. To understand them, you have to understand my wife; I have no doubt that I understand her better than almost anyone on this planet. Others can easily spot the beauty and the sexiness -- the sweetness and the warmth; I see the light that radiates beneath even that. She has a humanity -- flawed though it may be -- like no other.

Jayne is a soul in transition.

She was born first, into a family which would grow to become a caring, loving, and close-knit group beyond description. Her father is one of the most unabashedly optimistic and honorable men I've had the pleasure to know; her mother is infinitely complex and fascinating -- the yin to his yang, with just enough common elements to create a bond that's withstood a lifetime of growth. Her younger brothers and sister are each thoroughly unique -- but all carry Jayne's wit, intellect and creative capacity; together they share the kind of bond at which an only-child like myself can only marvel. They've welcomed me and my own family into theirs with open arms, and I couldn't in a lifetime properly express my gratitude.

These people -- this love -- has grounded her in immeasurable ways; it's kept her humble and thankful, no matter the stellar heights she's reached independently. I fell in love not only with her, but with her family -- because they're one and the same. This is a big deal for a naturally detached jerk like me.

Jayne has always longed for more.

For the two of us -- separately and as a couple -- New York City has always represented the brass ring. There was a time when we could think of living nowhere else, whether we were in fact residents or were living elsewhere. For us, the city held our past (we met there), our present (we were married there) and our future (we imagined settling down there for good). It was a place of endless possibilities and constant forward motion. I was excited and proud to watch her realize her dreams there; I was also scared shitless.

I once asked, right here on this little experiment of mine: When can support work against you? What happens when new experiences render a person unrecognizable to you -- even when you share an intense bond with him or her? What the hell do you do when one or both sides of a loving couple become lost in all the chaos?

I can finally answer that.

You return to the center.

In our wedding vows, Jayne and I included a passage from Joseph Campbell which explains the wedding band as a circle whose center is always the couple itself. The idea is that no matter what outside force exerts pressure, each person is expected to return to the center for shelter and comfort from the other. It's beautiful and yet stunningly simple symbolism.

Unfortunately, our center -- the one we agreed upon together -- has been catastrophically damaged.

So, with nowhere else to turn and nowhere else to go, Jayne returned to her original center. Her family was there to offer love and support which -- in spite of my heartbreak and rage -- was exactly what I had hoped they would offer.

Our weekend there together was a fragile patchwork of sorrow and sadness -- anger and outrage. I broke down into desperate sobs more times than I care to relive. She expressed unrelenting sorrow for what had happened -- for what we had lost. She promised to prove herself. I promised to listen. She promised to regain my faith and trust. I promised to show support.

We both promised to try.

The reasons I'll do this...

Because I've made horrible and hurtful mistakes in my lifetime, and paid an equally horrible price for them -- and I never want to see someone I care for go through that.

Because through those mistakes, I learned the importance of forgiveness and redemption.

Because she's shown support for me during times when others would have left my side.

Because I know the real woman -- no matter how lost she may sometimes become.

Because I once held her hand and vowed to never give up on her.

Because somewhere along the line, this cynical bastard found hope -- and she's the one responsible.

Because we have a history that's worth fighting for.

Because I love her -- and I waited a lifetime to find something so precious.

This will without question be the most difficult challenge of either of our lives. I'm frightened, and the sense of safety that I once found in her arms unconditionally has been torn from me. I have images in my head and demons in my heart that I have no idea how I'm going to exorcise -- but I know that I have to somehow, if we're to survive. Things will be different between us for some time to come, but maybe one day they'll be better. Maybe we'll be better.

My wife returned to her center, and found that no matter how much she grows, or things change, time there stands still. All you have to do is be willing to expose enough of yourself to realize it.

Listening Post

Iron and Wine's stuff is practically its own perfect little genre of music.

Here's Naked as We Came.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Week (And It's Only Monday)

"I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors -- probably harmless."

-- GOP activist Rusty DePass (and doesn't the name just say it all?) in a comment posted on Facebook; the "it" he's referring to is a gorilla that escaped from a zoo in South Carolina, while the "Michelle" is Michelle Obama

When cornered, DePass of course blamed the racist slur on Michelle Obama herself, saying, "The comment was hers, not mine," and claiming that the first lady had once remarked that human beings descended from apes. (Needless to say, no one's been able to find an instance of her saying any such thing.)

I've already spoken my mind ad nauseam about these rotten assholes and what they've been allowed to get away with. (I think calling the first black first lady of the United States a gorilla reaches entire new depths of disgraceful.) But the Booman Tribune takes the words right out of my mouth when it comes to the implications of inflammatory Republican rhetoric like this:

"They are who we thought they were. Plain and simple... Nasty, racist, hateful, dangerous idiots. And because our media lets them get away with it, they grow more emboldened by the day. And don't tell me this has nothing to do with the increasing violence and threats of violence against liberals, minorities, gays, etc. This is precisely the dehumanizing, demonizing speech which creates a climate which encourages the fringe elements of the right wing to take matters into their own hands, literally by pulling the triggers of guns aimed at people they have been told are subhuman, unworthy of their respect. The implicit message, the subtext of all this ugly language being thrown around by the representatives of the Republican Party and the conservative movement is that rage, hatred and yes, even violence, is an acceptable tactic to employ to fight back against Democrats, and especially President Obama and his supporters.

I remember a time when The Republican Senate Majority Leader was forced to resign for his comments praising Strom Thurmond's run for President as a Dixiecrat. I guess Republicans and conservatives feel less shame now that they are out of power and a Black Man is President. Now it's anything goes. They call him a Marxist. A Muslim. A Terrorist. A Fascist. A Dictator. A man out to destroy America. A man who isn't a real American, who wasn't born in America. Who wants to take away all your Guns. The Anti-Christ in brown colored flesh."

(h/t Cesca)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I got quite a few e-mails over the weekend looking for a comment or two on the situation involving CNN's coverage -- or lack thereof -- of the violent protests in Iran following Friday's election. Chances are if you turned on CNN on Friday night or Saturday, you were treated to the usual reruns of Larry King and other assorted mindlessness that typically populates the network's weekend schedule. Yes, there were the occasional reports from Tehran, many featuring the always-excellent Christiane Amanpour, but overall the coverage of the epochal upheaval in Tehran in the wake of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial defeat of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was staggeringly lackluster. Many expected rolling coverage of an event that was on par with the Tiananmen Square crackdown two decades ago; they got nothing of the sort. In fact, it wasn't until Sunday's Fareed Zakaria GPS that CNN provided any real in-depth discussion or context to the important events unfolding in Iran.

Now to be fair, the other cable networks didn't exactly rise above CNN's paltry standard. Neither MSNBC nor Fox seemed to break out of the slow-news weekend mindset and go balls-to-the-wall with the rapidly unfolding events in Iran. They've both been hammered in the new media press accordingly.

But for some reason, it's CNN's negligence specifically that feels like a truly unconscionable betrayal to viewers. Twitter users, many of whom began following CNN during its ridiculously over-hyped battle with Ashton Kutcher for the hearts and minds of the Twitterverse awhile back, created and responded in droves to a thread called "#CNNFail" when they realized that the network was dropping the ball so spectacularly. In some ways, the outrage is good news for CNN because it proves that people do in fact expect the network to live up to its promise of being the best and brightest source for television news in the country. On the other hand, the anger of viewers proves just how badly CNN screwed up: Having worked there, I can tell you that no matter the day-to-day ratings, the one code that CNN managers live by is that when breaking news happens, CNN wins -- and wins big. Fox and MSNBC may have their disciples, but by and large CNN is the news network. It has a history and a pedigree in the consciousness of the viewer that simply cannot be topped.

Which makes it an almost incomprehensible disappointment that when those viewers tuned in over the weekend looking for the best coverage of the biggest story in the world at the moment -- and I'm even talking about the people who spend a lot of their time bitching about CNN and the state of television news in general -- they got nothing. Worse, they got their prejudices against what cable news has ostensibly become confirmed in cogent fashion.

CNN and the rest of the cable networks blew it.

And I have a feeling that the repercussions from the failure to do the one thing that can still be expected from these outlets -- the wall-to-wall coverage of a big breaking story -- will be far-reaching indeed.

Listening Post

These guys are one the coolest bands on the planet. From their 2008 self-titled album, which seemed to go largely under-the-radar, here's the Secret Machines with the epileptic seizure-inducing video for Atomic Heels.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Picture of the Week

An Iranian protester flashes the victory sign against the backdrop of violence in Tehran following the defeat of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen writes that at one point during the protests, a woman ran up to him, in tears, and said, "Throw away your pen and paper and come to our aid. There is no freedom here."

Listening Post

There's nothing about this that isn't perfect for a Sunday morning.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet, doing Acknowledgement from Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The S.S. Traitor

Well, you knew this was coming.

For having the temerity to point out the obvious -- namely that Fox News's audience is made up at least partly of rabid whack-jobs with a tenuous grip on reality -- there's a push from some on the right to get Shepard Smith canned. Last week on the air, you'll remember, Shep read a few of the e-mails he's been getting recently from the Fox Fanatics, castigating him for attempting to shove a stick in the spokes of their paranoid delusions -- the ones in which Barack Obama isn't a U.S. citizen, America is on the way to full-blown socialism, the DHS report on right-wing extremism was a meaningless political hit job, and James Von Brunn is, in fact, a leftist hippie.

From the Washington Monthly:

"Rush Limbaugh complained that Smith is 'whining and moaning.' Atlas Shrugs' Pamela Geller accused Smith of 'scary stupidity' and being a 'pompous elitist,' before arguing, 'Shep sucks. And Shep has always sucked, and it's time to get rid of the deadwood.... He has got to go.' WorldNetDaily responded by talking about an alleged auto incident involving Smith in 2000. An item on HotAir.com said Smith believes 'his own viewership is teeming with would-be presidential assassins. If he truly believes that, why doesn't he quit?'"

You know, when Shep tore into these lunatics last week, my first thought was, "Damn. He's doing this on the same day that a guy completely blinded to reality by his own hatred shot two people. I really hope Fox security is planning to walk him home after the show." It sounds far-fetched, sure. But is anything that far-fetched given the climate we're seeing now. These people are so militant in their psychotic ideology -- so terrified that their way of life is under attack -- that not only will they not listen to reason, they aren't even willing to hear a dissenting opinion from among their own ranks. This is how strictly the battle lines are drawn in the minds of these clowns.

Oh, and for the record -- Shep isn't going anywhere. Fox loves him, even if some viewers are staging an internal revolt. Plus he allows the network to subtly promote itself as being open to all viewpoints. Not that Fox really gives a shit about the illusion of credibility.

(h/t Cesca)