Monday, November 30, 2009

The Biggest Peacock on the Block

So it looks like the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast cable is now all but certain.

What this will do is create the largest, most vertically integrated, most powerful media company in the world -- one which stands unique in the business because it will be the first to control both content production and distribution on a massive scale. We're talking about the ability to dominate not just the film and television markets but internet service as well, which could put Comcast in the position of being able to do everything from price-gouge consumers, to restrict its wealth of NBC and Comcast programming -- Bravo, E!, SyFy, USA, Telemundo, MSNBC, etc. -- to actually force customers to buy specific services only offered by Comcast if they want access, either on TV or the net, to NBC programming and Universal films.

In other words, say hello to the Goldman Sachs of media companies. Comcast NBC Universal will own a stake in almost everything you see and hear.

Josh Silver of Free Press sums it all up perfectly:

The Huffington Post: "Too Big To Block" by Josh Silver/11.13.09 (Updated)

Freedom Fries

I love the holiday season: the chill in the air, the smiles on the faces of the people you meet on the street, the joyous sights and sounds of Christmas everywhere you turn, and of course, that special little thrill -- the one that comes with knowing that you may get exactly what you want under the tree this year.

Especially if what you want is to see a convicted child rapist and international fugitive out of jail and back home in his palatial Alpine chalet and to hear the indignant applause of bombastically pompous Frenchmen.

Yes, folks, lock up your daughters: Roman Polanski is a free man for the time being. And cover your ears to keep your brains from staging a revolt and trying to escape your head any way they can: Bernard-Henri Lévy, everyone's favorite self-proclaimed philosopher, intellectual-at-large and all around elitist prick, is breathing a sigh of relief.

I keep wondering how this man can be any more of a piously condescending European cliché, and yet he continues to step up his game, consistently knocking it out of the park again and again. He's the A-Rod of A-holes.

His take on the release of Polanski from a Swiss prison:

"The decision to free Roman Polanski is a wise decision. It honors the people who took it. It shows that the arguments developed by the movie director's partisans -- including those published on the French review's website of 'La Règle du Jeu' -- have finally been fruitful... At this very moment, I am thinking about Emmanuelle, his wife. I am thinking about his two kids who saw their dad's name ignominiously dragged through the mud. I am mostly thinking about him: Roman Polanski, who I don't know, but whose fate has moved me so much. Nothing will repair the days he has spent in prison. Nothing will erase the immense, unbelievable injustice he has been subjected to. Nothing will take away the hysteria of those ones who have never stopped pouring contempt upon him, hounding him through hatred and asking for his punishment as if we were living the darkest and most ferocious hours of the McCarthy era all over again. At least the nightmare is about to end. At least the end of the hell is looming. And this, for the time being, is what does matter."

Feel free to take a minute if you feel like you need to.

I'm not even going to bother refuting or assailing any of the unmitigated crap Lévy is once again melodramatically spewing; it just isn't worth it. I actually sort of feel like thanking him for turning out the most sociopathic screed that I've seen from anyone not Glenn Beck in at least a couple of months.

At this point, I'll only say this: Doesn't the CIA have special ops teams trained to silently go into hostile countries, black bag fugitive criminals and, I don't know, render them to places where the justice system actually works and being the guy who directed Rosemary's Baby doesn't buy you a Get Out of Jail Free card for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? And now that I think about it, isn't there occasionally, you know, "acceptable collateral damage" on missions like these?

Be a real shame to find out Roman Polanski was suddenly missing and that Bernard-Henri Lévy had been mysteriously run over by a truck.


DXM: The Fall of Roman/9.29.09

DXM: The Fall of Roman: I Rest My Case/9.29.09

DXM: The Fall of Roman: Art Attack/9.30.09

DXM: A Petition To the State of California in Support of Roger Avary/9.30.09

Headline of the Week (Early Contender)

The Huffington Post: Swine Flu Kills 5 at Hajj/11.29.09

Oh, irony -- you're so good to me.

Free Association

I'll make this really quick.

The left needs to be very careful about making too much of the fact that Mike Huckabee once commuted the prison sentence of the man who allegedly killed four cops in a Washington diner yesterday morning. It's not that there isn't a story there -- particularly if it's true that Huckabee, during his time as governor of Arkansas, may have been overly lenient with dozens of violent criminals who eventually wound up back in prison -- but it's photo composites like the one above, from the Huffington Post, that deserve to cause concern. Some could easily argue that juxtaposing images of suspect Maurice Clemmons, sporting a full-on "dangerous black man" scowl, diminutive Mike Huckabee and the four white cops that Clemmons supposedly gunned down in cold blood, makes the left as guilty of race-baiting as the cynical Republican operatives who put together the infamous Willie Horton ad against Mike Dukakis.

I'm obviously not suggesting that the reality of the situation be ignored or adjusted: Clemmons is black and apparently very, very dangerous; his alleged victims are white, as is Huckabee. Facts are facts, and they're unavoidable -- hope for convenient political correctness be damned. I'm also not saying that the left shouldn't at least make sure questions about Huckabee's record when it comes to violent criminals are asked, because we are actually talking about a man who comes from the party that consistently promotes itself as being the one that's "tough on crime" (as opposed to those pussy liberals across the aisle). But in exposing what could be the right's hypocrisy, the usual suspects on the left need to make sure not to engage in their own equally condemnable brand of hypocrisy.

There's a right way and a wrong way to go about this, no pun or irony intended. I'll be curious to see which way the left chooses.

Quote(s) of the Day

"'Sesame Street' can awkwardly slam FoxNews from the comfort of their stodgy old PBS studios… Meanwhile, we have the cool kids on our side: Dennis Miller, Greg Gutfeld, Andrew Breitbart and yes, even Glenn Beck."

-- From the blog post "Sesame Street Trashes Fox News," written by "Stage Right," at web-douche Andrew Breitbart's site, Big Hollywood.

"I first saw that episode last year and couldn't believe what I was hearing. We're watching Disney more now, but I have to monitor to make sure I explain things to my daughter when it does get left leaning."

- Breitbart commenter MerNJ

I never really bothered getting into one of the most absurdly egregious examples of the right losing its shit over absolutely nothing -- that would be the umbrage it took at Fox News supposedly getting dissed by Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch -- because I really figured I'd cut the Tea Bagging Army some slack on it. They've become so damn adept at playing the role of the professional victims these days, I wanted to let the dumbest thing yet that they've gotten themselves into a pants-peeing twist about slide. But then I went back a couple of weeks and read the Breitbart piece and thought the better of it, because it's one thing to be stupid; it's another thing to be stupid and arrogant about, of all things, the fact that you've got Dennis Miller and Glenn Beck on your side.

As for the second quote, it just works so beautifully on so many levels.

Listening Post

A lovely little slice of melancholy on a Monday morning.

Here's new music from the Eels -- Little Bird.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Road Ruiner

You might remember that a couple of months back, I went into pretty good detail about how monumentally moved I was by Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. For anyone who missed it, either the column or the novel itself, the book is simply a flat-out masterpiece. It's honestly -- and I'm sorry for the hyperbole but I don't think I'm overstating it here -- damn near a life-changer, the kind of searingly powerful piece of writing that comes along only a few times in a generation. It's just that good -- that potent.

Whether you find yourself personally affected by The Road or not, it seems almost impossible to deny McCarthy's skill in creating something of such breathtaking poetic beauty; you'd have to be an idiot -- or maybe someone who gets a visceral thrill out of being a contrarian just for the hell of it -- to argue with the fact that the man can write like a son-of-a-bitch.

Well, I'll let you decide which one of the two Salon's Stephanie Zacharek is. Her review of the film adaptation of The Road -- a movie which hits theaters this weekend -- is actually not much more than an excuse for her to air what are obviously some long pent-up grievances against the book. Now of course everyone's entitled to his or her opinion and God knows I've taken plenty of shots at people higher up the cultural food chain than I am, but Zacharek's review comes off as laughably petty -- to say nothing of mildly disconnected from reality; her denigration not just of the book but of McCarthy's writing in general left my fucking jaw hanging open -- not because I think it's impossible to criticize Cormac McCarthy, but because Stephanie Zacharek calling Cormac McCarthy "gracelessly repetitive" is like the president of the Amarillo High School A.V. club calling Stanley Kubrick a "painfully tedious" filmmaker.

Salon has some really terrific writers and reporters -- Joan Walsh, Mike Madden and Glenn Greenwald immediately come to mind. Then it has the wonder twins of movie and TV criticism: Stephanie Zacharek and Heather Havrilesky, respectively. Havrilesky in particular is to me what Tom Friedman is to Matt Taibbi -- a writer so bloody awful that I can't help but read. Her regular column is sort of like -- to borrow a line from the movie Go -- The Family Circus of commentary; it's impossible to ignore because it just sits there every Sunday, waiting to suck.

Don't believe me? Try to make it through this.

As for Zacharek's review of The Road, you have to see that for yourself as well -- and make sure to pore over the comment section to see how many others feel the same way I do.

Salon: "The Road: Post-Apocalypse Now" by Stephanie Zacharek/11.25.09

Listening Post

Perfect for a Sunday morning -- three acoustic songs from Duncan Sheik: For You, Genius and Good Morning.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Must the Show Go On?

You know, I swear to Christ, between Jon and Kate, the Octomom, those clowns the Heenes and their "Balloon Boy" and now these people -- a couple trying out for Bravo's The Real Housewives of D.C. who somehow managed to crash last week's White House state dinner -- just how much more is it going to take for America as a country to finally make the intelligent decision to ban reality TV altogether?

As cynical as I can be, I've always believed that if left to their own devices most people will generally -- though certainly not always -- do the right thing. And if they don't, there are usually enough of us around willing to either ostracize or kick the living crap out them until civilized society's demands are made crystal clear. But somehow reality television upset this delicate balance because watching the megalomaniacal human train wrecks eager to do anything -- seriously, anything -- for 15 minutes of fame is just too obsessively mesmerizing for anyone to stop what's become an ongoing, nonstop cycle of narcissistic self-expression and shameless self-indulgence.

So really, it might be time for some Benevolent Dictator at the top of the network or governmental totem pole to ban this vacuous horseshit outright -- before somebody shoots up a nursery school as a pitch for a potential new show on VH1 called The Flavor of Death.

Of course that would mean we'd likewise have to clamp down on the supposedly respectable news media that's also more than happy to create and perpetuate pseudo-celebrities. Things could get complicated.

Well, look -- if we are going to continue giving the thumbs-up to the cultural virus known as reality TV, might I at least suggest that on the next season of Survivor, we strand the White House Secret Service on an island somewhere?

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1953, it's the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in Zipping Along.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Truth Gone Wilde

Your entertaining tidbit for the day:

The Huffington Post has a humorous little diversion posted today that reveals the real names of some well-known celebrities.

This one just about spit coffee all over my keyboard: Olivia Wilde's real name is Olivia Cockburn.

There are so many possible jokes here that I'm just not even gonna bother -- suffice it to say, the name she was born with is infinitely more appropriate.


Yeah, yeah -- I know. Picking on Sarah Palin is low-hanging fruit; it's been done to death, right?

The problem is, it's never more than maybe 36 hours before Palin says or does something shockingly stupid that just plain makes for good copy. I'm not talking about the usual Palin brand of dumb -- I'm talking about something that ups the ante and honestly cries out to be circulated far and wide, just because it's entertaining. At this point I look at the Palin Traveling Circus (read: book tour) the way I look at the Sex Pistols' 1978 tour through the Southern U.S.: It's a train wreck that you just can't turn your head away from no matter how hard you try -- only the Palin tour lasts longer and, if such a thing were possible, is filled with more outraged rednecks.

Today's highlight comes courtesy of a Canadian comedian who approached Palin at her stop at a Borders in Columbus, Ohio -- scene of these now-famous interviews with astonishingly uninformed Palin fanatics -- disguised as a Canadian conservative supporter. Mary Walsh is the host of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, basically Canada's answer to The Daily Show. Walsh approached Palin at the signing and asked her if she had "any words of encouragement for Canadian conservatives who have worked so hard to try to diminish the kind of socialized medicine we have up there."

Despite the fact that her handlers tried desperately to keep Palin from answering what they no doubt knew was a loaded question -- since they, unlike her, have at least the IQ of a Saint Bernard -- Palin as usual just wouldn't be told what to do. Her answer: "Keep the faith, because common sense conservatism can be plugged in there in Canada too. In fact, Canada needs to reform its health care system and let the private sector take over some of what the government has absorbed."

Now I'm not going to make too much of the fact that Palin was tricked by a Canadian comedian for the second time. (Remember "Nicolas Sarkozy?") It's easy to fall victim to a good joke. But the level of both laugh-out-loud arrogance and abject stupidity that it takes for someone in her position to heap criticism on and suggest the reform of another country's health care system -- it's just fucking mind-boggling. Obviously, her handlers knew that this was exactly the way she was going to answer, which is why they tried in vain to shut her the hell up. Mary Walsh said later that, in fact, questions of any kind were forbidden at the Palin book signing she attended, which isn't surprising since what this proves is that, as usual, Palin has a very specific set of talking points that she parrots without ever deviating from her script no matter the question she's asked; her answer to Walsh's question pretty much proves it when you compare it to an interview she gave Rush Limbaugh earlier this month in which she said those same magic buzzwords, "common sense conservatism," over and over and over again.

Needless to say, Canadians aren't likely to take the advice of any outsider as to the quality and effectiveness of their health care system, let alone somebody as patently ridiculous as Sarah Palin. Even the staunchest Canadian conservatives would be reticent to attempt to privatize a system that, according to a recent study, 90% of Canadians support and 82% believe is better than the American system.

But, you know, that's not gonna stop Palin from offering her sage advice to our neighbors to the north. As you're probably well aware, she's all about "going rogue."

Still, you Canadians had better watch out. You've just been warned. If Sarah Palin ever becomes, God-freaking-forbid, President Palin -- we're invading your ass and forcing you to do things the right way, the American way. Oh, we won't use our military to subdue you -- we'll just put our health care system in place and let that kill you off.

Quote of the Day

"Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post-World War II era. We're still weeks away from the end of '09, but it's not too early to pass judgment. Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want -- just give thanks that it is nearly over."

-- From Time magazine's cover story this week, "The Decade From Hell"

In case you've somehow, impossibly, forgotten just how bad a decade it's been -- just how drastically this country has changed, how thoroughly unrecognizable America is from what it was just ten years ago -- watch this slide show.

Listening Post

Since I already brought up the subject of silly Veganism once this week, let's play a little Moby. As much as he seems at first glance to be the easiest human being in the world to make fun of -- I said seems, not is -- the man continues to make really interesting music. I was admittedly ready to give up on him when it looked like, after the brilliant Play, he was beginning to do nothing more than rehash his own work -- but then came this year's Wait for Me, which was very, very good.

And now he's released a deluxe edition of that album with new music and a second disc comprised entirely of gorgeous ambient mixes of the songs on Wait for Me. (I've already downloaded all of disc 2 seeing as how I'm an absolute fiend for Moby's ambient material.)

Here's one of the new tracks, though. It's One Time We Lived.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

Ten years ago today, depending on your perspective:

Either the Child foretold of by the ancient prophecies -- the heir to the throne of Moses, King David and Jesus, who had spent days at sea being cared for by a reverent school of dolphin personally dispatched by God -- arrived on our shores to bring hope to an enslaved people.

Or Miami just completely lost its mind and began the swift and very public descent into full-blown Lovecraftian madness.

I swear, I'm still suffering from PTSD over the Elian Gonzalez saga.

When I hear this kid's name it's like a Vietnam vet hearing choppers.

The Miami Herald: Uncle Keeps Elian's Memory Alive, 10 Years Later/11.25.09

(The real gold of the story is in the comments section. Enjoy.)

Quote of the Day (Thanksgiving Edition)

"When I drive past a house during the holidays, and I see the smoke billowing out of a fireplace, I know, that inside that house, on that kitchen table, there's a turkey carcass, open-winged, open-legged, its body ripped apart and eaten by the entire family. If that turkey could talk, its last words would probably be, 'I'll see you all in hell!!'"

-- Bob Saget

The Huffington Post: Bob Saget: Why I Love Thanksgiving/11.20.09

(He even manages to make it through an entire essay without using the word "cock" once.)

Dream of the Blue Turkey

This little clip has become something of a yearly tradition around these parts:

On this, the day that we celebrate the beginning of the first -- but certainly not last -- great American land swindle, I ask you to remember the plight of flightless birds everywhere. Sure, that farm-raised turkey is now on your plate, but at one time it had dreams of majestically taking to the skies, just like so many of its feathered brethren.

Just like the poor Kiwi.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Listening Post

Being that it's Thanksgiving, I was ready to post Pat Metheny's Last Train Home -- a gorgeous song from his 1987 album Still Life (Talking).

But while looking for it on YouTube, I came across something I hadn't seen in years. Something really wonderful.

There's a great little gem of a movie from 1985 called Fandango that starred Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Sam Robards. It's essentially a road picture set in the late 1960s; a group of college friends pile into a car and set out across Texas looking for one last adventure before they go their separate ways -- with at least two of them going to Vietnam.

I'd try to describe to you what makes the movie work, but to be honest it's something you have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say, I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie that truly captures what it feels like to simply be young and alive like Fandango. It's funny, touching, bittersweet, passionate and just plain magical.

The film's final scene involves a wedding that's been hastily put together through a little good-natured trickery (the set-up is some of Costner's best work and reminds you of the kind of charm he could wield so effortlessly on-screen during those first years of his career) in a tiny Texas town. The aim is to marry Sam Robards's character to someone who in the movie credits is known only as "The Girl." She's played by Suzy Amis. What's never described anywhere in the movie is what the history is between Costner's character and Amis -- you only know that there was something between them a long time ago, and that Costner considers Amis to be the love of his life. She slips through his dreams at various points in the movie like a ghost, without saying a word. When they finally meet face to face before the wedding, for what you know is the first time in years, he says with a wistful smile, "Don't I know you?" She smiles back sadly and says, "You used to."

In the end, the entire town comes out for the wedding -- and what happens next is honestly one of my favorite scenes I think in any movie. Fandango uses music in ways that don't just enhance the film -- they imbue it with, once again, magic, from Carole King's It's Too Late to Blind Faith's Can't Find My Way Home.

To this song from Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, originally from their album As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls.

Maybe I shouldn't share this, I barely know anymore. But before I even watched this -- the moment I discovered it -- from completely out of nowhere and with a lightning-fast speed that absolutely shocked me, I started crying uncontrollably. Just, a tidal wave of overwhelming sobs.

Here's the wedding scene from Fandango.

The song is It's For You.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feast of Burden

Last month while in Washington D.C., I ate at a place downtown called Founding Farmers. If you live in the D.C. Metro area you're probably, at the very least, familiar with the restaurant and if you'd like I can give you a minute to stop salivating. Yeah, it's that good.

Founding Farmers's claim to fame is that it's a certified "green" restaurant, which means that in addition to closely monitoring its carbon output in an effort to reduce the strain on the environment, the food it buys and serves comes only from family farms, ranches and fisheries. Self-proclaimed foodies will recognize this distinction given that the green-market trend has been all the rage over the past couple of years; a lot of America's most famous chefs have jumped on top of the nearest tables to shout to the masses about their decision to forgo large farms in favor of nothing but locally grown product.

So do all those steps taken to promote sustainability make a difference in the taste of the food at at place like, say, Founding Farmers? Honestly, I have no idea. The meal I had was spectacular and it's always nice to know that while I'm enjoying it I'm also behaving responsibly -- given that I'm probably having a couple of drinks and will almost surely not be behaving responsibly later in the evening. But considering the fact that high-end restaurants almost always seek out the best and freshest ingredients anyway -- whether they're locally farmed or not -- does the extra flair of going green-market really show on the plate? I'm not talking overall quality or various health considerations here -- just taste.

I bring this up because with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I want to throw a question out there: Do you really care where your food comes from?

Before you answer, know that I don't mean would you just shrug it off if you knew that Upton Sinclair's severed right leg had been hefted into a meat grinder somewhere and then sprinkled over your Campbell's Minestrone. I mean, if you know that the food you buy at the grocery store or order at the local TGI Friday's has passed USDA inspection -- and it tastes good to you -- do you spend a lot of time worrying about the conditions in which it was grown, farmed or raised?

Be honest.

In case you haven't heard, the "publicity sluts" at PETA -- the words of the group's, ahem, "controversial" leader Ingrid Newkirk, not mine -- are once again at war with NBC. You may remember that earlier this year the network refused to air an ad during the Super Bowl that featured girls in lingerie nearly pleasuring themselves with vegetables; the tag line of the thing was "Studies Show Vegetarians Have Better Sex." (For the record, I haven't seen these studies myself.) Now PETA's been shot down again by the NBC suits, this time over an ad the group had hoped to air during -- wait for it -- the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The commercial opens with a family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner, but when the little girl at the table is asked to say grace, she thanks God for the turkey, which came from a farm "where they pack turkeys into dark little sheds for their whole lives, where they burn their feathers off while they're still alive," and where the turkeys "get kicked around like a football by people who think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads." The girl then gives special thanks "for all the chemicals and dirt and poop that's in the turkey we're about to eat."

What a precocious little scamp, that kid. I know somebody who won't mind being sent to her room without supper.

Obviously, NBC standards and practices brought the ax down on the ad like it was the soft flesh of a turkey's neck. Even more obviously, it doesn't matter one bit -- PETA never really intended to get the thing on the air anyway. As far as the group is concerned, the controversy over once again having a commercial banned from network television is as valuable in pushing its message as actually getting it broadcast. Although it admittedly would've been entertaining to watch the fireworks had an unsuspecting America suddenly seen its parade -- and its Thanksgiving preparations -- interrupted by Little Miss Turkey Shop of Horrors.

Was NBC right to shoot down the ad? Yeah, actually -- it was. It's rare that I choose decorum over a little good-natured subversion, but even I'm capable of accepting that there really is a time and a place for everything. You don't beat the viewers of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, many of whom are children, over the head with incendiary political messages -- particularly not ones that deal in turkey feces. First of all, if your supposed goal is to stop people from eating turkey on Thanksgiving then the ad's completely ineffective anyway, given that there isn't a soul out there who's going to throw out his or her entire meal at 10am on Thanksgiving morning -- even if the kids are now crying at the thought of little turkey heads being crushed underfoot. If PETA's intention were really to make a difference on Thanksgiving day, the ad would've been running for weeks now.

Beyond that, though, the ad itself is somewhat disingenuous -- which isn't a surprise if you know anything at all about PETA. It ends with the tagline "Go Vegan," which essentially means that entreaties made to viewers to consider their own health when they sit down for dinner -- you know, all those chemicals and dirt and poop -- are nothing but, pardon the pun, red herrings. Vegans generally don't choose not to eat animal products out of a concern for their own well-being; they do it out of a concern for the animal's. It would've been one thing if PETA had been pushing vegetarianism; an argument can be made there that eating vegetables is, for the most part, less dangerous in the long run than eating red meat, or even chicken or turkey, these days. But the reality is that PETA doesn't really give a crap about you, or your family for that matter -- all it cares about is the animal you want to have for dinner. PETA doesn't want your Thanksgiving turkey to be treated more humanely in the days and months leading up to you eating it -- it doesn't want you eating it at all.

There's been a lot of debate recently over a new book called, pointedly, Eating Animals, by entirely too pretentious best-selling author Jonathan Safran Foer. In it, Foer retreads ground already well-broken-in by guys like Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. The main gist of Eating Animals is that the industrial agribusiness system in this country -- the big "factory farm" as we know it -- is slowly poisoning both us and the environment. Foer makes plenty of points worth giving serious consideration to -- admittedly, it's a daunting notion to entirely trust a profit-based leviathan like the American factory farm industry with the food we put into our bodies -- but it should surprise no one that he approached the material with a conclusion already well in mind and is hamstrung by his own sanctimony and desire to push a personal agenda. Still, that's not stopping some of the usual suspects within the always delightful liberal intelligentsia from glomming onto Foer and his findings; after all, if you happen to agree with his agenda, why wouldn't you?

Environmental activist Laurie David, who produced Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, took to the pages of the Huffington Post a few days ago to slam a write-up of Eating Animals (a book she calls a "game-changer") by the New York Times. David was furious that the author of the book review had the temerity to ask a question that rightly gets leveled at PETA and animal rights activists quite a bit -- namely, why when there are people who are starving around the world, people who could ostensibly be fed by large farms, should anyone really worry about the plight of an animal stuck in a cage that's too small? David's evisceration of the writer was based around an argument that really caught my attention. Her point: Caring is not a zero-sum game. According to David, there's room to care for both the humans suffering from hunger -- and other various tragedies and crises for that matter -- and the animals suffering in factory farms.

Except there isn't -- not for everyone.

And here's where I answer my own question from earlier: No, I just don't have the time or the inclination to concern myself with how the animals I eat are treated.

I of course don't want to see animals tortured needlessly, but as heartless as this may sound I think I'm like a lot of Americans when I say that I actually do have only a limited reservoir of empathy and compassion and I've learned to personally prioritize the way in which it's dispensed. The reason for this isn't so much that I honestly just don't give a damn, it's that I understand that if you let every injustice claw at your insides you eventually lose the ability to function. Call this a cop-out or a defense mechanism or what have you, I simply have more pressing issues to concern myself with than whether the bacon I ate for breakfast was comfortable up until its untimely death. Once again this will sound awful, but as long as you're not slaughtering the thing in my front yard, I'm good. I eat meat -- and turkey and chicken and fish and just about anything else -- because I enjoy it. I'm an adventurous eater and always have been. As Anthony Bourdain famously said, "My body isn't a temple, it's an amusement park."

This way of thinking is also very likely the reason that I don't spend too much time dwelling on just what might be in the food that I eat. I actually do eat quite healthy these days, but not healthy to the point where I pick apart every little thing to ensure that it's never been near a chemical or pumped with an occasional preservative. Admittedly, both Jayne and I are much more careful about what we feed Inara, but she still eats animal products and neither of us lets it paralyze us with fear or make us run screaming into the streets at the horror of a cow being bled out.

Why? Because I believe that a person's wants and needs are more important than the well-being of cattle. Call me a savage -- that's just the way it is.

But that's obviously not the way PETA thinks. In the eyes of PETA and Ingrid Newkirk -- who's been called everything from a demagogic militant to a full-on sociopath, with good reason -- the safety of an animal, any animal, is not only as valuable as the wants and needs of a human being; it's just as important as the very life of that human being. Newkirk after all is the same woman who once wrote Yassir Arafat to plead with him to stop using donkeys in suicide bombing attacks (while ignoring the people he was killing); she's the same person who backs the terrorist Animal Liberation Front in its campaign to free research animals that save human lives every single day; the same woman who wants to ban seeing-eye dogs; the person who wrote to Al Gore to lecture him on the fact that he eats meat, which she claims is antithetical to caring for the environment; the one who says fish should be called "sea kittens."

The woman who believes, "The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being."

This is the kind of lunacy Ingrid Newkirk espouses and acts on day after day after day.

But here's the thing: Ingrid Newkirk may be completely off her rocker, but she's by no means stupid. She has to know that her methods, tactics and beliefs will do little more than rally millions to stand not simply against her cause but vehemently against it. Newkirk and PETA don't just antagonize those you would think they're hoping to win over -- they create an army of people who out-and-out hate them. Trying to hit America in the face with turkey torture during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not what you'd call a good P.R. strategy. It's a great way to make people despise you and your cause -- which doesn't save one single animal. All it does is feed your gargantuan ego and your need to, literally and figuratively, stir the pot. It seems as if these people aren't activists so much as narcissists -- as if theirs is at times an entirely self-indulgent endeavor.

That's too bad, because you would think that the plight of defenseless animals would be an easy sell -- and, yes, a necessary one.

Although I've already admitted that I have the ability to put that plight out of my mind and just enjoy my meal, which I'm sure is why PETA is hoping to force me and millions of others to confront the realities of the modern American food chain.

The thing is, it still won't change my mind about my Thanksgiving dinner or anything else I choose to eat.

And I doubt I'm the only one who feels that way.

Quote of the Day

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

-- Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino last night on Fox News

Right. Unless you count the one that killed more than 3,000 people on September 11th, 2001 or the anthrax attacks that killed five people shortly after that.

This quote, which by the way wasn't taken out of context, came during a debate on Hannity about whether President Obama is "playing politics" with the Fort Hood shooting by not calling it a terrorist attack -- which Perino insists it is (to plenty of "harumphs" from that idiot Hannity).

In case you haven't been paying attention, just six days ago Obama nominated Perino to be on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S.-sponsored broadcasting internationally. Now by law the board must be bi-partisan -- but still, while I'd never suggest that an appointment should in some way buy Perino's silence, you'd think that a certain amount of professional decorum would at least compel her to check the thoroughly inflammatory and detached-from-reality rhetoric for awhile.

You'd think, anyway.

Let's Hug It Out, Bitch

Today's thing sure to make you think somebody dosed your coffee comes courtesy of the "Christian Side Hug."

Because "front hugs be too sinful." And besides, "Jesus never hugged nobody like that."

There's some debate over whether the church youth group above is dead serious or is poking fun at the strict rules against actual human contact placed on Christian kids by teachers, Jesus Camp counselors, etc. It's admittedly tough to fathom the notion of Evangelical satire, but you can decide for yourself.

Regardless, Christian Side Hugging is apparently a legitimate phenomenon -- and this thing is just surreal on so many levels -- so sit back, watch, and let the batshit crazy wash over you.

Sacrificial Lambert

I'm not going spend more than a minute or so on this because I honestly just don't care all that much that Adam Lambert has managed to piss off a substantial portion of perpetually uptight America.

Late yesterday, Good Morning America made the decision to cancel this morning's appearance by Lambert -- not too surprising given that ABC was fielding outraged phone calls all Sunday night into Monday following his amusing antics at the American Music Awards. Guess GMA didn't want Lambert getting any more gay all over the unsuspecting folks in the flyovers and down south. (Either that or they just felt it would be best to keep him away from Sam Champion.)

Turns out, though, that CBS's Early Show will take up the slack and put Lambert on the air this morning -- a move that a lot of Lambert's fans are now singing the praises of. If you thought you'd never see the day that teenagers and homosexuals were shouting "Go CBS!" -- yeah, me neither.

Not so fast, though. While there's no direct connection between Adam Lambert and CBS parent company Viacom that I can see -- in other words, Viacom doesn't own the label putting Lambert's brand "spanking" new album out or anything -- the media giant does own MTV, which just premiered Lambert's video last night and no doubt wants to maintain a good relationship with a guy who with one performance managed to fulfill his destiny of becoming the next monster pop sensation. These days, thanks mostly to the internet and multi-media saturation, MTV needs hitmakers and big audience draws more than the latter needs it.

Besides, CBS knows Lambert on the Early Show will likely be a ratings bonanza. And in the end -- setting aside the fear that an angry mob led by the Parents Television Council will set fire to your corporate headquarters -- that's the most important consideration of all.

Listening Post

This is one of my favorite live performances of all time. Still gives me chills watching it.

From 1985, it's Queen at London's Wembley Stadium for Live Aid -- Hammer To Fall.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gentlemen... BEHOLD!

I couldn't have said it any better than Cesca: BEST CAMPAIGN WEBSITE EVER.

Vote George Hutchins!

Seriously, this thing looks like it was designed by this guy:

(Update: Ah, the plot thickens. There's an equally hallucinatory website, much like the one above, pushing the "National Independents Movement." Both URLs were registered in Canada, so either this is a brilliant practical joke or, well, who knows. Either way, the graphic to the right, part of the NIM site, isn't all that funny considering the climate right now. Oh, and the NIM site also has a link to a YouTube channel that features -- are you ready? -- Nazi propaganda, pro-Israel propaganda, seemingly white-supremacist ravings, and, uh, Kate Bush videos. Anybody know what Negativland is up to these days?)

(Update II: Okay, it's definitely white supremacist stuff -- but it's the goddamned weirdest white supremacist stuff I've ever seen.)

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: 8,198,000

The Hampster Dance! (An Oldie but a Goodie)

Tuesday is Recycling Day

Looking back, this quickie piece from early 2007 is especially amusing given that, A) in a show of resignation to the fact that it really is an inescapable black hole, I'm actually spending quite a bit of time in Miami these days, B) City Commissioner Tomas Regalado has just become Mayor Tomas Regalado, and C) Castro did, in fact, outlive the Orange Bowl.

"Miami: Putting the 'Fun' In Funeral" (Originally Published, 1.29.07)

This coming weekend my hometown of Miami will clear the dead bodies from the streets, kill as many of the man-eating cockroaches as possible, spray a little extra Windex on the glass case covering the giant statue of San Lazaro out in front of the Elian Gonzalez Memorial Crappy-Old-House and Museum, and of course, beg its twitchy population to please not shoot the tourists -- all in preparation for Super Bowl XLIXCCBMWNAMBLA. South Florida will once again serve the purpose for which it's suited best -- namely as an ultra-hip place to go for a weekend of drunken debauchery, followed by a quick departure lest you eventually find that your name has somehow turned up on 327 absentee ballots in favor of electing Raul "Chucho" Pajon as mayor of Hialeah in the next general election.

Make no mistake: Miami shines up real nice and it throws a decent tailgate party. This is important to keep in mind being that the city is now planning, quite literally, the ultimate bowl bash.

Call it the "Castro Bowl."*

Like someone who's escaped a cult and now devotes his life to making others aware of the secret torture he was at times forced to endure, I've more-than-once mentioned the irrepressible lunacy that accompanies my hometown's obsession with Fidel Castro. I've also reacted to controversial statements made by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who called Miami a "Third World country." The fact is there's nothing "controversial" about it; Tancredo's kind of right -- even if he is an idiot. But now there's this: a story in today's Miami Herald detailing a plan by city leaders to throw a giant "Castro Death Party" in -- oh, this is beautiful -- the Orange Bowl. In keeping with the aging Cuban exile community's long-standing tradition of class and restraint, its leaders -- in particular, city commissioner and unparalleled dingbat Tomas Regalado -- are recommending that Miami's legendary football stadium be the central location for a massive festival of brassy music, salsa dancing, fried food, t-shirt stands, ass-grabbing by teen hoodlums, and no doubt anything else they can think of that will reinforce the worst kinds of Hispanic stereotypes.

So far most of the city's leaders are on board, however in a rare and stunning moment of lucidity, Cuban-American activist Ramon Saul Sanchez is warning that a giant party celebrating the death of a Third World dictator might not do much to help Miami shake its image of actually being part of the Third World. Sanchez also brings up an obvious point: The death of Fidel won't mean the death of a communist government in Cuba; Castro's equally ruthless brother Raul will simply take the reins and it'll be business as usual. Rejoicing in the death of Fidel is like celebrating the resignation of George W. Bush -- sure it may be fun for a few minutes, but then, well, Cheney.

So as you're watching this weekend's Super Bowl(TM), remember to give your travel agent a call and let him know that you want to be there for South Florida's real bowl party. Just make sure he knows that the dates are subject to change. This is Castro we're talking about. He may seem sick now, but the man will likely still be alive long after the Orange Bowl has crumbled into dust.

*Sponsored by Gus Machado Buick, WQBA, Westland Mall, Alpha 66, Marisleysis's Hair Salon and Elian Separation-Anxiety Psychotherapy Center, the Gloria Estefan Plastic Surgery Fund and Zapatos de Hombre of Little Havana

Headline of the Week (Honorable Mention)

The Daily Beast: Paula Deen Okay After Taking Ham to Face/11.24.09

Listening Post

As the "Best of the 00s" retrospectives inevitably begin ramping up, this masterpiece of a record will sit comfortably near the top of the albums list.

From Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, here's a song whose lyrics read like poetry.

It's Radio Cure.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

"His frequent speeches before large crowds all across the country are full of obtuse circular arguments about good and evil, and in interviews and small gatherings, like ones he has held for academics and journalists when he visits the United Nations in New York, he answers questions with questions, ending with a joyous smile that reads as a distinct putdown. His logic is seldom convincing, but then he cares little about what elites and experts think of him. He knows that the poor masses like his folksy style. Though he may seem comical, to many in Iran he comes across as daring and confident. They like his audacity, and especially the way he stands up to the elites, belittling their education, their wealth and their blue blood."

-- Iranian scholar Vali Nasr, on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This was posted over at Andrew Sullivan's blog and, as he states so perfectly, proves that fundamentalist politics -- whether Middle Eastern Muslim or American Christian -- must always be confronted with the relentless application of logic and reason.


Remember that video from last year that showed the reaction of a roomful of David Archuleta's rabid 'tween fans as their hopes and dreams were smashed by the news that their prepubescent crush had just lost American Idol?

Well this is almost as funny as that.

Funny or Die: Twilight Fans Get Punked by "Vampire Intervention"

Waiting for Godumb

And the hits just keep on coming.

The Palin Trap 2: A Fork In the Rogue

I hate to post two Taibbi columns in one day, but Jesus is this brilliant. Just a dead-on assessment from his new piece over at True/Slant:

"What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s 'winnability.'

And do you know what that means? That means that just as the antiwar crowd spent years being painted by the national press as weepy, unpatriotic pussies whose enthusiastic support is toxic to any serious presidential aspirant, so too will all of you afternoon-radio ignoramuses who seem bent on spending the next three years kicking and screaming your way up the eternal asshole of white resentment now find yourself and your political champions painted as knee-jerk loonies whose rabid irrationality is undeserving of the political center. And yes, that’s me saying that, but I’ve always been saying that, not just about Palin but about George Bush and all your other moron-heroes.

What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you. Even I don’t know the answer to that question, but honestly, I don’t really care. All I know is that I find it extremely funny."

Honestly, this is a fascinating read:

True/Slant: Taibblog: Yeah, Sarah, There Is a Media Conspiracy/11.23.09

(This time it's an otter. Look at him -- he's saying, "Hi!" Cute, cute, cute!)

On Second Thought

There's a good piece by David Sirota that's making the syndication rounds right now in which he takes aim at the dumbing-down of America as a nation; specifically, he ties it to what may eventually be remembered as the most inadvertently prescient not-very-good movie in history: Idiocracy. Sirota's contention is that while we've known for some time that unapologetic stupidity is steadily gaining an at one time undreamed-of respectability within our culture -- to the point where we're now besieged by it in politics, on cable TV and talk radio, and wherever Sarah Palin's new book is sold -- a couple of things happened recently to either pick up the pace, or at least significantly mark a sudden downward plunge, on the "de-evolution" of America as a society of people with brains at least slightly larger than a couple of Chicken McNuggets.

Last week, two of the Washington Post's top columnists -- White House press corps "dean" David Broder and the Post's foreign policy guru Jackson Diehl -- penned articles that slammed Barack Obama for not moving fast enough on making a decision whether or not to deploy more troops to the increasingly intractable war in Afghanistan. Broder's point was just plain fucking staggering:

"It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right."

Meanwhile, Diehl's point seemed to hinge on the belief -- proffered without evidence, merely speculation -- that even though NATO, the Pentagon and Congress are supposedly unanimous in the opinion that we need more troops in Afghanistan, Obama just can't bring himself to commit, and that should be cause for concern among the electorate.

Sirota's response:

"As leading opinionmakers, Broder and Diehl are paid to carefully ponder issues and then offer their considered thoughts. That's not part of what they're supposed to do -- it's what they are singularly employed to do. It's how they earn their living and credibility -- indeed, it's their entire raison d'etre. And yet, these leading lights of the intelligentsia are overtly preaching anti-intelligence, insisting the president must avoid taking time to think through his actions.

This isn't interpretation -- it's what these Beltway sages are literally saying. Broder is explicitly demanding Obama make a knee-jerk decision -- any decision -- even if it has catastrophic consequences. Likewise, Diehl is calling for Obama to immediately risk thousands of American lives simply because that's what Diehl believes the establishment wants.

Let's be clear -- these are just two of many similar examples. Today, screeds calling for leaders to prioritize lightning-fast decisions over measured deliberations are increasingly commonplace in the Washington intelligentsia, even after an Iraq debacle brought on by the same ideological know-nothingism...

When the supposed guardians of political cognition and empiricism begin publicly flaying leaders for taking time to fully evaluate potential decisions — it's a sign our country is becoming the ignorance-deifying Idiocracy we should all fear."

While I agree with Sirota that calling for a president to make a decision to potentially risk the lives of American soldiers without first really thinking it through is reprehensible and the definition of anti-intellectualism -- unfortunately, I think the problem is even worse than he describes. The reality is that this course we're on -- this downward spiral -- is likely irreversible. The reason is that the ever-increasing speed with which we communicate these days has made introspective analysis not only seem antiquated but downright intolerable. We just don't have time for things like stopping and thinking anymore.

Through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter -- and, yes, even through texting, e-mail and blogging -- we've removed the need for context and contemplation as a prerequisite to opening our big mouths and can now spout an opinion to each other or to the world, occasionally with dire but all-too-avoidable consequences, without giving it, literally, a second thought. We've fractured and fragmented our communication skills to fit the new model of speaking -- one that only requires 140 characters, with as few vowels as possible. Our brains haven't evolved as quickly as our ability to express ourselves. We're officially a nation of knee-jerks.

And by the way, I'm the first one to admit that I've both fallen victim to this trap and have sung the praises of the Brave New, Hyper-Connected World that created it in the first place.

Admittedly, there is such a thing as overthinking -- becoming paralyzed by your own ability to analyze the potential effect of every choice to the point where you become perpetually lost in minutiae and unable to act. Barack Obama is certainly wonky enough to get hamstrung by his own intellect, but have we really regressed to the point where we can't tolerate a few weeks worth of careful consideration before our president makes a choice with such potentially devastating ramifications? Have we already forgotten the last time a U.S. presidential administration, filled with hubris and certitude, barreled headlong into committing American lives to a war before trying to discern any clue what they hell they were doing?

Just a decade ago -- maybe even less -- the notion of taking a little while to think things over before rendering a decision still seemed like the wisest course of action, an action in and of itself. Now? Take even a day or so to measure your options and it's considered glacial -- because 24 hours, one full news cycle revolution on cable and in talk radio and the span in which 850-gazillion tweets were fired back and forth on Twitter, is like an eternity to us. While you were sitting there analyzing, Mr. Smarty Pants, everyone else was actually doing.

But in the end, really, who's doing the right thing?

The Palin Trap

As usual, Matt Taibbi manages to cut to the heart of the matter and pretty much perfectly sum up the appeal of Sarah Palin to her army of apostles:

"Sarah Palin is the Empress-Queen of the screaming-for-screaming’s sake generation. The people who dismiss her book Going Rogue as the petty, vindictive meanderings of a preening paranoiac with the IQ of a celery stalk completely miss the book’s significance, because in some ways it’s really a revolutionary and innovative piece of literature.

Palin — and there’s just no way to deny this — is a supremely gifted politician. She has staked out, as her own personal political turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment. In this area she leaves even Rush Limbaugh in the dust...

Sarah Palin’s battlefield... is whatever is happening five feet in front of her face. She is building a political career around the little interpersonal wars in the immediate airspace surrounding her sawdust-filled head. And in the process she connects with pissed-off, frightened, put-upon America on a plane that’s far more elemental than the mega-ditto schtick.

Most normal people cannot connect on an emotional level with Rush’s meanderings on how Harry Reid is buying off Mary Landrieu with pork in the health care bill. They can, however, connect with stories about how top McCain strategist and Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt told poor Sarah to shut her pie-hole on election day, or how her supposed allies in the McCain campaign stabbed her in the back by leaking gossip about her to reporters, how Schmidt used the word 'fuck' in front of her daughter, or even with the strange tales about Schmidt ordering Sarah to consult with a nutritionist to improve her campaign endurance when she herself knew she just needed to get out in the fresh air and run (If there’s one thing Sarah Palin knows, it’s herself!)...

Sarah Palin is on an endless crusade against assholes. It’s all she thinks about. She doesn’t really have any political ideas, in the classic sense of the word — in fact the only thing resembling real political convictions in Going Rogue revolve around the Trans-Alaska pipeline and how awesome she thinks it is.

Most of the rest of the book just catalogs her Gump-esque rise to national stardom (not having enough self-awareness to detect the monstrous narcissistic ambition that in reality was impelling her forward all along, she labors in the book to describe her various career leaps as lucky accidents or mystical acts of Providence) and the seemingly endless parade of meanies bent on tripping her up along the way. The book is really about her battles with these people, how much they did and do suck, and how difficult and inherently unfair life is for a decent hardworking American gal who just wants to live life, serve God, and try to be president without being bothered all the time."

True/Slant: Taibblog: Sarah Palin, WWE Star/11.20.09

(About the picture: Sorry, kids. I'm just so damn tired of looking at Sarah Palin's face that I went with a baby harp seal. Because who doesn't love baby harp seals? Awww.)

Listening Post

Say what you will, Eminem's one of the most talented rappers and lyricists the world of hip-hop has ever produced.

This song is just spectacular from start to finish.

Here's Lose Yourself.

The Party Line

When I first started watching this, I figured it would be one of those videos where the snarky little smart-asses play the usual game of "Let's Mock the Ignorant Doofs Without Them Even Knowing It." Turns out, though, it's not that at all. The guys who shot this clip come right out and say what's on their minds.

(h/t Cesca)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Headline of the Week

The Onion: American Muslims To Fort Hood Shooter: "Thanks A Lot, Asshole"/11.12.09

Quote of the Day

"We gave up our entire workday, stayed in the cold, my kids were crying."

-- Unidentified disgruntled man outside a Borders bookstore in Nobleville, Indiana, where Sarah Palin was scheduled to sign copies of her book last Thursday; apparently several dozen people were unable to get their books signed and booed Palin's bus as it pulled away from the store and the crowd, which had waited in 38 degree weather for most of the day

This is where you say to yourself, "Jesus, what kind of fool lets his kids stand in near-freezing temperatures all day" and then immediately follow it up with, "Wait, nevermind."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1960, it's Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote in Rabbit's Feat.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quote of the Day*

"We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret... We apologize.”

-- Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd "God's Work" Blankfein, addressing a Directorship conference in New York City; worth mentioning is that while Blankfein admits that Goldman helped ass-fuck the global economy, he's still giving the go-ahead to a record year of bonuses for his executives and the mass-eviction of strapped homeowners during the holiday season.

In other words, thanks for the apology, douche.

(By the way, take a look at this: TDG: God Confirms He's Just Doing Lloyd Blankfein's Work/11.20.09. It's one of the funniest things you'll read all day.)

*The whole quote thing was originally supposed to be a once-in-a-while kind of deal, then it became a running joke that there were several Quotes of the Week; now I'm just gonna have to finally give in and do it day by day.

Blood Suckers

Also flooding my e-mail inbox today: questions as to why I haven't written a long piece eviscerating fans of the Twilight series, considering that I once mercilessly mocked the adult readers of Harry Potter.

The answer is simple, really. It's just too easy. Taking a lot of time out of my day to make appropriate fun of middle-aged women who swoon over Twilight's sparkly vampires, gay porn werewolves and silly sixth grade romance is beneath even me -- and I'm somebody who giddily grabbed the lowest-hanging fruit on the joke tree by calling Sarah Jessica Parker a horse.

Let me get this straight: A somewhat homely, boring Mormon woman writes a series of transparent teenage fantasies in which a somewhat homely, boring, submissive high school girl named -- love the subtlety -- "Bella Swan" is the object of the unwavering affection of a beautiful vampire and a rugged werewolf; there's no sex (because Mormons don't believe in that sort of thing) or violence, really, but there is plenty of laughably written unfulfilled, melodramatic longing and, ironically, toothless and inoffensive behavior from mythological creatures that are generally known to drink blood and eat human flesh; and, oh yeah, the books are aimed at 13-year-old girls.

And you're a mother of two who publicly admits that she laps this shit up?

Congratulations -- you're your own punchline.

I said it before but it bears repeating: Remember what you used to call the girl back in high school who was really into vampires?

Chances are you didn't call her at all -- and neither did anybody else.


So in the last 24 hours, no fewer than two dozen people have sent me e-mails excitedly passing along the news that -- ding, dong, the witch is dead -- Oprah will be closing the curtain on her daily talk show in 2011. One would have to assume that "wiping the puss off the horrific face of a woman who was attacked by a chimp" was the final thing on the list of human experiences that Oprah hadn't yet achieved and once that was done, I mean, really, where else can you go?

Admittedly, this would be great news -- except for the fact that the end of Oprah's stranglehold on the American soccer mom attention span for an hour a day is pretty much meaningless. Sure, her show as it currently exists will be over, but Oprah always be with us. There's no way that anyone who's that thoroughly self-obsessed could fall off the public radar and spend the rest of her life sitting on a couch somewhere dropping bon-bons into her gaping maw like some sweet-toothed megalodon.

We'll still have the magazine (which features her face on the cover every single month), her book club (which consistently elevates crap and diminishes truly vital art until it all reaches the same level of easily-accessible, pop culture mediocrity), her radio and cable network (which push the Oprah brand harder than a street-corner pimp), and of course -- her daily TV show.

I say her daily TV show because what's really driving this decision is Oprah's admittedly impressive business savvy. She knows full-well that, ratings juggernaut or not, broadcast television is dying and cable and the internet is now where it's at. In other words, you can pretty much guarantee that she'll be moving her show to her own cable channel come 2011 -- 2012 at the very latest (not coincidentally, the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar).

Make no mistake: In the end, Oprah's decision makes her simply the latest celebrity cash, ahem, cow to dump the networks -- but she ain't going anywhere.

(Update: This is great.)

Who Ya Got?

A couple of humorous dueling quotes as the week of the Sarah Palin media assault hopefully draws to a close. First up, from Christopher Hitchens in his Newsweek cover story:

"The Palin problem, then, might be that she cynically incites a crowd that she has no real intention of pleasing. If she were ever to get herself to the nation's capital, the teabaggers would be just as much on the outside as they are now, and would simply have been the instruments that helped get her elected. In my own not-all-that-humble opinion, duping the hicks is a degree or two worse than condescending to them.

This is not a small matter for the Republican Party. (And again: it was senior Republican operatives, and not jeering liberals, who told my Vanity Fair colleague Todd Purdum about the hectic atmosphere, of hysteria and collapsing scenery, that accompanied their lame attempt to present Sarah Palin as plausible during the last campaign.) The United States has to stand or fall by being the preeminent nation of science, modernity, technology, and higher education. Some of these needful phenomena, for historical reasons, will just happen to concentrate in big cities and in secular institutions and even—yes—on the dreaded East Coast. Modernity can be wrenching, as indeed can capitalism, and there will always be 'out' groups who feel themselves disrespected or left behind. The task and duty of a serious politician, as Edmund Burke emphasized so well, is to reason with such people and not to act as their megaphone or ventriloquist. Sarah Palin appears to have no testable core conviction except the belief (which none of her defenders denies that she holds, or at least has held and not yet repudiated) that the end of days and the Second Coming will occur in her lifetime. This completes the already strong case for allowing her to pass the rest of her natural life span as a private citizen."

And Palin's response to such criticism -- any criticism really, as from what I've read of her book (and no, I didn't pay for it), much of it, not surprisingly, is about settling petty personal vendettas:

"These are probably some lonely people, some shallow people who want to take a shot like that and we need to pray for these people."

Listening Post

The debut album from these guys is so good, so gorgeous, and so unabashedly passionate that I'm not sure I've gone longer than a few hours during the day without listening to something from it over the past month or so.

I already posted Letters from the Sky -- which is a late candidate for Song of the Year as far as I'm concerned -- but here's a very lovely, very quiet version of Human.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Cold Shoulder

Sorry, kids. May as well warn you that it's probably going to be a bit of a slow day around here.

Your humble narrator is sick in bed.

I mean, I like to think that I'm always, you know, "sick" in bed -- but in this case, it means -- oh, forget it.

Listening Post

As supergroups go, these guys can rightly be called one of the best. Here's a surprisingly high-quality live bootleg of Them Crooked Vultures -- Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones -- doing New Fang

And here's the studio version of the song.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dick Lit

As an addendum to today's utterly hilarious, ahem, "outpouring of encomium" upon the new Sarah Palin book by John Ziegler -- and Alert Reader Le Penseur's astute comment that much, much more Republican "encomium" will be spilled on this week's leggy-Palin Newsweek cover -- let's bring back one of the more entertaining DXM bits from last year's election season. It's compliments of the always amusing and apparently horny-as-hell Rich Lowry.

"Rich Lowry: The William F. Buckley of Fuck Talk" (Originally Published, 10.4.08)

Conservative columnist Rich Lowry of the National Review is the target of quite a bit of ridicule at the moment thanks to his rather "descriptive" review of Sarah Palin's performance at Thursday's vice presidential debate.

Here's what he wrote yesterday morning:

"Palin... projects through the screen like crazy. I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, 'Hey, I think she just winked at me.' And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.'"

Now some who read this might regard it as slightly creepy, the seemingly lustful late-night Cinemax pornish ramblings of an overgrown horny teenager -- one who likely typed the words with a single free hand -- directed at his schoolboy fantasy. This is the furthest thing from reality, however, and the criticism and scorn heaped on Lowry has been, in large part, grossly unfair.

As it turns out, Rich Lowry's apparent icky crush on Sarah Palin isn't a crush at all; in fact, he's equally effusive about quite a few other subjects, as evidenced by some of what he's written in the past.

Rich Lowry on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan:

"This thing protects America's economy like crazy. I'm sure that I'm not the only hot-blooded capitalist in this country whose spirits rose when the gavel came down hard in the House and Senate. I'll bet millions of people felt the same way I did last week, that it was captivating to watch the powerful, almost sensuous, undulations of the Dow Jones as it thrust down, then up again, then down again. Over and over, peaking then falling back to collapse in a hot, sweaty mess all over the millions of Americans who were forced to ride it out -- bareback -- and who found themselves hanging on for dear life, wondering if there would be anything left of them when it was all over."

Rich Lowry on the Iraq War:

"Nothing's going to stop the United States' potent injection of democracy deep into the loins of the Middle East. Enthralled by the almost aphrodisiac voices of Generals Petraeus and Odierno, I'm sure my reaction was like most Americans who heard the latest statistics about the overwhelming effects of the surge inside Iraq. Despite several recent explosions into the faces of our strong fighting men and women, the two shining towers of power in the darkest night -- Generals "P" and "O" -- should convince all of us that we can snatch delicious victory from the gaping, yearning mouth of defeat."

Rich Lowry on Cloris Leachman's appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars:

"Cloris jumped off the television and into bedrooms and community rec centers across America like a sweet, tall glass of ambrosial prune juice. Her hypnotic moves radiated heat, sending those hot flashes ricocheting around our heads and hearts. And when she bent over and allowed us a look at the deep, dark canyon dividing her glorious 82 year old bosom, I know I wasn't the only man out there to straighten up and think, 'If I had some spelunking cord and a hardhat with a light on it, I could spend hours exploring that gorge.'"

Rich Lowry on Denny's new Mega Grand Slam Breakfast:

"I'll tell you, the warm, soft eggs -- the ones that make my own spongy ovoids tighten -- dripping that savory, gooey yolk. The salty taste of those tender, lubricious sausages -- the ones that make my own meat stand straight as an arrow -- as they slide down the back of your throat. The symphonious pairing of syrupy goodness and buttery richness. I know I'm not the only man who puts something like this in his mouth, swallows, and then says, 'I want more!'"

Rich Lowry on the resignation of Pervez Musharraf and the dangerous destabilization of the Pakistani government:

"I just came."

(To remove all subtext and translate Rich Lowry's flowery praise of Sarah Palin into what he really wanted to say, go here.)